Crowds of people stood on the docks, some wishing goodbye to their loved ones as the passengers boarded the Love Boat, others hugging their friends before getting onto the ship themselves. At the top of the main gangplank stood the receiving line of Captain Stubing, Cruise Director Julie McCoy, and Captain Stubing's daughter and junior cruise director Vicki Stubing.
On the dock Dawn, a teenaged girl with long dark hair, reached down to check her bags. She stood back up and looked at her tickets and her watch nervously, wondering where Buffy could be. They were supposed to ride to the cruise together, then Buffy had called saying that Dawn should take a taxi down to the dock and Buffy would meet her there. Again checking her watch, she looked in both directions and realized that most passengers had boarded the ship. This is so like Buffy, she thought as she picked up her small bags and made her way up the gangplank.
"Welcome, Ms. Summers," Captain Stubing enthused.
"Your sister has already checked in," Julie offered helpfully. "Your cabin is on the Aloha deck."
"I can show you if you'd like," Vicki told the young passenger.
"You can call me Dawn," said as the two girls begin walking. "I didn't know that Buffy was here already."
"Oh yes, she arrived quite a while ago. We were worried that you were going to be late."
"Oh." Dawn rolled her eyes. "Buffy said we were going to meet on the dock. Anyway, thanks for showing me the room." She let herself in and watched as Vicki walked away. Then she turned her attention to the room itself. Buffy's bag was on the lower berth, of course she picked the lower bed, but her sister was no where to be found. She picked up a brochure describing the ship's amenities and tried to decide what to do next.
In the meanwhile, Xander and Anya made their way up the gangplank. They kissed passionately and more than a bit inappropriately as they walked. Every few steps one of them bumped either into one of the side rails or another passenger, each time apologizing profusely. The side rails seemed unfazed by both the bumping and the apologies. They reached the top of the incline and bumped into Julie McCoy who cleared her throat loudly, echoed by the Captain.
"Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Harris. It's always nice to have a honeymooning couple on board." While speaking, the Captain averted his eyes as if embarrassed to see their displays of affection.
Anya stepped in front of her husband but leaned back against him as his hands wrap around her hips. "Actually, it's Ms. Jenkins. Did you know that economic research shows that changing her name costs a newly married woman $1000 to $3000 in the first three years of her marriage?"
"I didn't know that," Julie said.
"Oh well, it's just a little personal research I've done. Empirical you might say."
"Anya," Xander leaned forward and whispered something in his wife's ear.
"Well, we must be going," Anya said quickly before the two of them stumbled away again kissing publicly and loudly.
Anya barely broke her passionate kiss from the dark-haired young man in answering his question. "It means I made it up."
Stumbling along the passageway, they barely avoided knocking into Tara. As if unaware she was going on a cruise ship, Tara wore boot-cut black jeans, black boots, and a tight black tank-top-the entire outfit showing off both her shapely ass and her blonde hair. As the honeymooners careened into her, she smoothly sidestepped them, putting a hand on their shoulders to both guide them away from her and keep them upright following the collision. The look on her face said that she expected an apology or mumbled "excuse me" from the couple but none was forthcoming and she shrugged before continuing down the passageway.
Turning quickly left and then right Tara emerged onto the deck and moved to the railing to watch the steady stream of rushing passengers who were close to missing their cruise. She checked her watch and lifted one booted foot onto the lower railing, oblivious to the stares she garnered from the male passengers and crew. She didn't even turn around as a woman wearing a lei and Hawaii-print dress removed her sun hat and slapped her gawking husband about the head and shoulders. Nor did she notice a few women seeming to find her as appealing to the eye as the men did.
Her attention was focused on a limousine stopping next to the gangway. The driver jumped out and opened the back door. A middle-aged man stepped from the limousine and adjusted his sunglasses. He leaned down and spoke into the car, looking frustrated and then more frustrated.
"Willow Rosenberg, you are going to miss your cruise if you don't close that computer and get the Hell out of the car!" Tara concentrated on his speech and nodded her head almost imperceptibly. Her expectation that the limo contained one Willow Rosenberg was confirmed.
Mr. Rosenberg continued haranguing his passenger for a few minutes. Finally a slight woman emerged from the backseat, shaking off the man's hand from her arm and reaching back in for a small bag which she hitched over her shoulder. As in the pictures Tara had seen, Willow was 21 to 22 years old, redheaded, dressed in torn jeans and a black No Doubt concert T-shirt. She didn't look like someone who woke up this morning anticipating a four day cruise around the Gulf of Mexico. She looked more like someone whose parents found her in the love nest of some undesirable someone or someones and dragged her along on their vacation to keep her from getting into trouble. Given the dossier Tara had spent the last two days digesting on Willow, she suspected this was exactly what has happened.
"Do I have to do this?" Tara smiled as Willow used her tone of voice to express just how meaningless she found the current activity. Seemingly to show just how little she cared for her father's answer she reached into her shoulder bag and pulled a pair of expensive sunglasses from the pocket, putting them on and looking around the dock.
Mr. Rosenberg didn't answer but took her by the arm, perhaps a little roughly, and guided her toward the gangplank. Once they reached the top they were greeted very warmly and enthusiastically by Captain Stubing and Julie. "It's wonderful to have you with us, Ms. Rosenberg. We're sure you're going to have a great time on board the Pacific Princess."
"Is that right?"
Tara had moved slightly closer and now smirked at the bored sound of Willow's voice.
"Perhaps I could just see my daughter to her room?"
Captain Stubing looked at his watch and seemed to really consider the request. "I'm so very sorry Mr. Rosenberg. We can't allow non-passengers to board the ship this close to our departure. Cruise Director McCoy would be more than happy to help your daughter find her stateroom."
"Oh, fun, fun." Again Tara smirked. This was going be such a fun job. And she would earn more than enough on this cruise to pay for an entire semester of law school.
The Captain and Cruise Director discretely greeted a few other passengers as Willow's father pulled his wallet from his pocket. "Well, I don't think you'll need much money but..."
The redhead's hand shot out quickly to grasp the bills as he rifled through them. "I'm sure it can't hurt." Realizing that she was being a brat, and grateful for the cash, Willow leaned forward and pushed up onto tip-toes to kiss her father on the cheek as she tucked away the bills. "Thanks, Dad."
"Jimmy will pick you up on Thursday, Princess."
As soon as he was off the boat, Willow's cheerful countenance fled. She turned to Julie. "Why don't you just tell me where my cabin is? I'll go find it myself."
"Oh, I can take you." Tara wondered what the cruise director was thinking using such a bright sunny voice with this girl. It was obvious that she was going to be swayed by neither politeness nor friendliness.
"Excuse me," Tara's voice interrupted the hopeful cruise director, "Can you tell me where the nearest bar is?" She spoke slowly, and glanced at the Willow, noting the thankful look the girl gave her before slipping away.
Willow let herself into her stateroom and looked around. At least it wasn't a typical cruise ship room. Those always looked on television like you couldn't even stretch without hitting something. She threw her bag into a chair, her sunglasses on the desk, and herself into the large queen sized bed centered in the space-just one advantage of the much larger and more well apportioned room. Still, she felt totally frustrated. "I can't believe this crap. Oh, Willow, we're so proud of your degree, we want to give you a wonderful vacation. How about, you've chosen another completely undesirable girlfriend. Hmmph. Not that they found the boys any more acceptable. Oz was 'too much of a musician.'" She wondered if there was anyone interesting on the ship. Four days away from home and prying eyes might just provide some unusual opportunities.
Quickly she reached into her pocket and extracted the wad of bills. "$800, 9, 10, 11, 12. Woo hoo. $1200 doesn't hurt, Daddy-O." She pulled off two of the bills and put those back in her pocket before shoving the remaining money under her mattress. Next she reached into her bag for a lap top computer, iPod, and NintendoDS. She left the computer sitting on the desk and picked up her sunglasses. Reconsidering, she pulled the concert T over her head and threw it in the corner, leaving her wearing a spaghetti-strap top with no bra. "Bye, Danni," she said to the shirt with a laugh and headed out the door.
Dawn walked along the corridors as if searching for something. By chance she ran into Gopher, the ship's purser. "Hi, can I help you find anything?" He said as Dawn smiled widely at him, removed her sunglasses, and started chewing on one earpiece.
"Have you seen my sister, Buffy? She's blonde, about this tall." Dawn motioned with her hand indicating someone a few inches shorter than herself.
"Buffy Summers? I saw her about 10 minutes ago by the pool on the Aloha deck."
"You're kidding." Dawn let out an exasperated sigh. "Ok, I'll go look for her. Hey, is there a shop on the ship? I forgot to bring any suntan lotion."
"Oh sure," Gopher told her before directing her to the three shops onboard.
"Thanks so much," Dawn leaned forward and stroked the young man's chest before turning and walking in the direction he'd indicated.
Gopher gulped and shook his head before turning and walking the other direction.
Tara carried a Dos Equis with her as she searched for Willow. The ship had a number of bar areas and she felt pretty confident that she'd find the redhead at one of them. Her background information on the girl indicated a definite predilection for partying as well as some other interesting information. So far she'd been to two of the nine bars onboard. She was leaving the indoor bars for last, assuming that the redhead would want to sulk near a pool. She wondered as she strolled down another corridor what she had been thinking when she'd gotten dressed this morning. You know what you were thinking. 1. You look damn hot. 2. You look damn hot. 3. Boots have many advantages.
She rounded a corner and slowed as she saw her target settling into a lounge chair near an adult-only pool. Even before the redhead sat down, she'd waved to the cocktail waitress lackadaisically making the rounds. Tara wondered what made her choose this pool, given that there appeared to be no bartender on duty yet. Nonetheless she heard the redhead loudly discussing her drink order with the waitress.
"I'm sure you can do it. Two margaritas and one beer." Tara didn't hear the waitress's answer but she did hear Willow's attempt at persuasion. The redhead handed the other woman a bill. "Just pretend that I ordered one drink, then drank it, then another and drank it, and finally the beer."
Apparently either the directions or the bill did the trick as the cocktail waitress walked toward the bar. Tara glanced at her watch. 1:00. I wonder what time this bar opens. She took the final swig of her beer and tossed it in a nearby bin.
As if in answer, a black man in a tight and starched ship's uniform walked the other direction and to the bar. He whistled as he walked, making Tara smile in spite of her tough demeanor. He was still whistling as he swung the pass through up and stepped behind the bar before screaming and turning his back. Tara speeded up her progress but slowed as she saw the couple from earlier standing up and tucking their clothes in while muttering some sort of apology. They went out through the pass through and she noticed that they were engaged in a heavy make-out session even before leaving the pool area.
"Does that happen a lot?"
The bartender shook his head as he spoke. "No. Hardly ever." He pulled a glass from the stack by the taps. "I'm Isaac. What can I get for you?"
Tara took a seat at the bar. "I'll have a Dos Equis lager."
"Sure." He opened the bottle, wrapped a napkin around the neck, and handed it to her. Seeing that she was staying he asked, "So is this your first cruise?"
Tara nodded. "Yes. I booked it at the last second." Seeing that he was waiting for her continue she did so. "I just had to get away. You know?"
"A ship is a good place for that," Isaac commented. "Although your life will still be there when you get home."
Tara laughed and took a long drink of her beer. "I hope so." She swiveled around to look at the crowd gathering and starting to swim. Some couples swam together while others seemed to be looking for someone to swab suntan lotion on them. She kept an eye on Willow out of the corner of her eye, noting that the waitress had in fact brought the girl three drinks at once and that Willow had already gone through the first margarita. The blonde felt somewhat impressed that Willow was able to maintain a decent speed at her drinking given the attention she was paying to a handheld video game unit. She held the game in both hands, quickly clicking buttons and moving the mini-joystick controller and seeming to guide the unit as if she were driving in a race or flying a space shuttle. The redhead's choice to spend the afternoon at a non-family pool was certainly supported by the colorful language she used in addressing the game unit. A few of her more unique shouts were new even to Tara.
Amused to see what Willow might be playing as well as wanting to get closer to her target, Tara sauntered toward the redhead. As she walked, she allowed her boots to click against the wooden planks of the ship and was relieved as Willow glanced up from her game, back at the game, and then back at her. The redhead seemed completely at ease with the way her gaze lingered on Tara's boots and then her hips and breasts. At least that part of the advance information was correct; Willow was interested in women. Tara remembered a shirt she'd seen in a shop one day that read "My eyes are up there" with an arrow pointing up. She'd been amused but assumed that you'd wear it for guys, not a spoiled, rich, half-drunk young woman.
Given the way Willow had looked at her, Tara discarded her former plan to move in slowly, sit close by, and then make some casual conversation about the weather or time. She stood over the redhead's shoulder and watched the game display for a minute or two, knowing Willow was waiting for her to say something.
"You should try to get behind the first line of beat cops; that way you can take them out from behind before getting to the Detectives and Sergeants."
Willow didn't even glance up at the blonde standing at her left shoulder. "You're an expert in swat-team infiltration?" She took a long drink on her beer as if to let the other woman know the premium (or lack thereof) that she placed on the advice.
Tara snorted unexpectedly through her nose. "Something like that." She sat down on the next lounge chair and watched the game for a second.
"Shit!" Willow cursed as her screen exploded in a volley of shots followed by splatters of red.
Tara laughed loudly, anticipating the redhead either getting up and walking away or handing her the game.
Her prediction was spot-on. Willow handed her the game controller. "Why don't you show me, Mr. Cash."
Tara took the controller with a smile and stole a long drink from her beer before setting it on the deck between her boots. "Next round of drinks on who gets to level three first?"
"Trying to break my bank?" Willow teased as she waved over the waitress again.
"Somehow that doesn't seem likely," Tara returned. She hit a series of buttons to start the game and couldn't resist a jab. "Just try not to just stare at my tits while I'm playing."
Willow took the fresh drink from the waitress and tipped her generously. "You don't want me to just stare?"
Tara didn't answer but extended the video game so that Willow could see the screen more clearly. The redhead, for her part, split her attention between ogling Tara's breasts and watching the action on the screen. Actually, it seemed that the blonde's technique of sliding close the walls and in shadows was working. On her first try, she got behind part of the line of cops and took them out before her screen filled with the red splatters.
She leaned down and took a drink of her beer before asking. "You want to alternate or do you want me to go again?"
Willow reached out and took the game. "I definitely want my turn." There was no doubt that her comment was laced with flirtation and innuendo.
"I've never had any complaints."
Willow muttered something under her breath that Tara couldn't quite detect. This time through the game the redhead seemed to mimic Tara's technique but still couldn't infiltrate the SWAT team. The computer-generated volley of machine-gun shots filled the air around the swimming pool and she handed the game back.
"I'm drinking Dos Equis lager if you want to go ahead and order now," Tara said as she started her next game.
"I'll get right on that," Willow smirked, doing no such thing. By the time Willow announced that she was going to her room for a "little rest" and taking her game with her, they'd both downed an impressive number of drinks and shared an even more impressive number of flirtatious comments after eventually upping the ante on their contest.
Tara stood up as Willow started to sway. "Are you sure you don't want some help getting to your cabin?"
Willow pulled down her sunglasses and wrinkled her nose at the blonde. "I think I can handle it myself."
"You seem like that," Tara agreed, poking her tongue between her teeth. She stood by the lounge watching Willow walk off and wasn't surprised as the redhead glanced back.
Julie walked on the deck enjoying the dusk. Few people were on the decks at dinner time and she could enjoy the peace and quiet. As she walked past a row of lifeboats she heard a strange noise coming from one of them. The cruise director pulled back the tarp and then quickly threw it back. "Oh, sorry," came muffled apologies. A few seconds later Xander and Anya emerged from the boat, straightening their clothes and hair and ignoring her completely.
Tara waited at the hostess station. After giving her name, she was led through the dining salon to a round table near an attractive selection of plants. She smiled as she noticed Willow studying the menu and already nursing a cocktail. Taking a seat, she decided to start ribbing the redhead immediately. "You could have ordered me something. I think you still owe me 17 drinks."
Willow looked up slowly from her menu as if letting Tara know that she had interrupted something very important. "I'll get right on that." Again she made no such effort, returning to studying her menu.
"I'm Dawn Summers," the teen-aged girl on Tara's left announced.
"Nice to meet you. Tara Maclay," Tara responded, extending her hand and shaking the teen's. "Are you traveling by yourself?" Tara's tone showed her concern and disbelief.
Dawn sneered. "No, my sister Buffy is traveling with me. She's around here somewhere." She waved her arm in the air.
"I'm Cecile," another young passenger said with a friendly smile.
"Anya Emmanuel Jenkins Harris and Xander Harris." The newest addition to the group took a seat and extended her hand rather forcefully while her other hand slid under the table causing her husband to squirm in his seat as he shook hands around the table. Tara chuckled to herself is it became apparent to her that this couple simply couldn't keep their hands off each other.
Finally the redhead looked up from her menu and greeted the group. "Willow Rosenberg." She began shaking hands around the table, holding Tara's for a particularly long time.
"Willow Rosenberg?" Anya's voice cut through the pleasant introductions. "As in Rosenberg, Inc. Willow Rosenberg, daughter of multimillionaire Ira Rosenberg?" When the redhead nodded at the question Anya continued. "Your dad must really have a set on him."
"What?" Willow's confusion and offense was palatable.
"I mean don't get me wrong. He's a capitalist and one of my heroes. Way to step on the backs of the little man, using them to amass his huge fortune."
"Yeah, that's my dad: 'step on the little man Rosenberg.'"
Anya took the drink the waiter handed her and continued her exposition. "I mean I'm all for shipping your kids off on vacation..." Dawn looked ready to hit the outspoken brunette but Anya continued speaking, oblivious to the looks others at the table were shooting her, "but there's all this corporate espionage and the family of three of his executives have gone missing in the past 18 months? All returned 'unharmed' but now he's hemorrhaging upper management? What did you do to piss him off?"
Willow calmly took a drink before answering. "Are you asking if I am such a delinquent that my father sent me on a cruise hoping I'd be kidnapped and sold on the black market?"
"I don't think that's what she's implying." Xander spoke up for the first time.
Willow waved off the man's statement. "Yesterday I graduated from UCLA with my Master's degree in Aerospace Engineering." She took another drink. "I guess he felt like that sort of accomplishment deserved some reward."
"Here, here!" Cecile cheered, obviously attempting to clear some of the tension around the table. "Is any one else going to watch the fireworks tonight? I heard that the back of the ship is the best place to see them."
Tara smiled at the woman's attempt to put the others at ease. She was aided by the arrival of the evening's waitress, a sultry brunette named Faith. The waitress was as respectful as one could be while simultaneously flirting with every person at the table. The reactions around the table were varied. Xander dropped his drink in his lap, Anya flirted back, Willow looked as bored as she had about every other event since arriving at the table, and Dawn surprised them all. "Do you know I'm 17?"
That comment made everyone laugh and they proceeded with ordering their meals. As they waited for the food to arrive and even once it had come, the four single women visited among themselves, attempting to ignore the blatant and tasteless public displays of affection between the newly married couple. "So, um," Dawn was obviously unnerved by the loud smacking coming from the opposite side of the table. Nonetheless, she attempted to soldier on. "Tara, are you enjoying your vacation?"
The blonde smiled. "It's been great so far. I see some real prospects." She looked especially long at Willow, pleased as the redhead looked away first.
"Any special purpose for coming?"
"My work had a raffle. I happened to b-buy the winning ticket and here I am."
"Wow, that's lucky." Cecile commented.
"I'm a very lucky person," Tara agreed. "Well, I enjoyed dinner and meeting you all. I guess I'll see you again since we'll share this table throughout the cruise. Good night everyone."
Everyone bid her a vague good night and she started toward the door of the dining salon. She didn't look behind when she heard footsteps approaching but wasn't surprised as Willow touched her on the shoulder. "Do you have plans tonight?"
Tara almost smirked at the redhead's question. "No."
"Man, that sucks." The redhead laughed and walked the other direction, leaving Tara standing staring after her, her expression turning quickly from anger to amusement.
Dawn looked around the room as if expecting to find someone inside. Buffy's suitcase was on the bed and it was obvious that she had been there to at least change clothes but she certainly wasn't in the room now. Dawn kicked at the rack. Then she reached into a plastic bag on her bed. From it she pulled a new pair of sunglasses and suntan lotion. After that she pulled three new blouses from the bag. Each still had the theft-deterrent tag on it. She sat down on the bed with one and began working on the tag to remove it without damaging the blouse.
Tara reached her room and let herself in with her card key. She quickly checked that everything was as she had left it. She pulled her metal case from the top bunk and unlocked it, checking that both guns were still secure. Next she pulled the laptop from under her bunk and opened it, hitting a long combination of keys. After a few clicks of the mouse, she studied the screen which showed four segments, each a different shot of a well apportioned ship's cabin, including one of the suite's bathroom. Onscreen, the door opened and Willow stepped into the room, tossing her keys on the desk. For a few minutes she looked around the room as if considering what to do and then she unplugged her video game from the wall and sat down on the bed to play.
Tara watched the laptop monitor for a few minutes before looking at her watch. As she checked the time, her phone rang and she answered it on the first ring.
"Officer Maclay. Ira Rosenberg." Tara nodded even though she knew the man couldn't see her. She had to force herself not to correct his use of her title. She'd been a detective for three years but she wasn't about to quibble with the way he addressed her. As the conversation continued she kept one eye on the monitor. "How are things going?"
"Well, sir. Your daughter is doing fine."
"Did you hire me to protect her or baby-sit her bar visits?" Tara knew she shouldn't speak to an employer so strongly but he wasn't going to fire her in the middle of the cruise and she was feeling somewhat peckish after her last interaction with the redhead.
"You have her room monitored?"
"Yes, sir. And an alarm on her door that will ring my cell phone if she opens it."
"Good work. I'll speak to you tomorrow unless you need something before that." He didn't wait for her to say anything; he hung up and Tara shut her cell phone.
Tara pulled off her boots and checked the pistol inside the left one, setting the weapon on her bedside table. She got ready for bed and watched Willow until she felt tired enough to fall asleep.
Willow woke slowly shaking her head. "I should probably drink less-and stop talking to myself," she mumbled as she took a huge drink of water from a bottle by her bed. Then she laughed at herself. "Oh, like that's going to happen." She swung her legs over and went into the bathroom, glancing at the clock and noting the time close to noon.
After her shower and getting dressed she took a look at herself in the mirror. The tight white jeans, dark blue t-shirt with the strategically placed tear across the stomach and bare shoulders, dark glasses currently resting on top of her head... "Eat your heart out, Ms. Tara Maclay," she whispered with a smile. Before leaving the room, she quickly counted her money and tucked it back into her pocket. Satisfied, she stopped at a snack bar for a sandwich and a bottle of water.
The Captain and Julie were standing at the end of the gangplank, schmoozing with passengers and reminding them to be back on the boat by 7:00. Willow wondered he actually did any captaining or just sucked up. Captain Kiss-ass might be the perfect name and Julie? Willow wondered if her parents would have been happier with a daughter like the eternally cheery cruise director. Sure she seemed to have the intelligence of a ripe banana but it seemed unlikely that she regularly got lectures from her parents on her sexual habits or the amount she'd charged at the liquor store this semester.
Tara casually followed her redheaded charge down the gangplank. The crowd of other cruise passengers made her stealth easy while Willow's brilliant white jeans made trailing the girl just as simple. Willow didn't seem to know that. They also made her ass look truly spectacular and Tara suspected that her target did know that.
Speaking of her target, Tara watched as the girl ambled throughout the tourist destination. As expected, she stopped in at a few bars and carried her drinks out with her. Like most tourists she stopped to look at small carved icons and tacky T-shirts. Unlike most tourists, or at least in Tara's limited world-view, she also stopped in at a few of what seemed to be the less savory spots in port. A few advertised "Live Sex on Stage" if Tara's spotty Spanish was accurate and Tara shook her head at the girl. Luckily, before Tara had to decide whether to follow Willow into each of the few spots, the girl emerged with another drink and continued her slow exploration of the seedy side of the port.
After a few hours, Willow apparently tired of looking at wooden monkeys and T-shirts that said, "my parents took a cruise to Mexico and all they got me was this crappy shirt" and walked back toward the ship. Tara wondered if the girl would take her game out to the pool once again but instead she went to her cabin, booted up her laptop, and spent the rest of the afternoon playing on her computer. Tara couldn't read what the girl was working on but she wasn't playing video games.
As much as Tara wished that she was outside enjoying the beautiful weather, this was much better than most stakeouts she'd been on over the past few years. The lighting was much better, her food was paid for, and the smell was certainly better. And the target...mmm. Too bad the redhead was such a brat. She was attractive and flirtatious. Tara had the feeling she was ripe for the taming, not that the blonde was going to blow the easy money this job offered, but she could still think about it to pass the hours.
Speaking of passing the hours, her stomach grumbled. As if on cue, Willow stretched, picked up her sunglasses and room key, and closed the cover on her computer before heading out the door. Tara put away her surveillance equipment, wet her hair, changed clothes, and did the same. When she arrived at the dining salon and was led to last night's table, she was pleased to note that Willow was already taking her place but somewhat dismayed to see that none of their dining companions from last night were present. She steeled herself for a frosty meal and approached the table.
"Looks like just you and me tonight."
Willow looked up and smiled before raking her eyes over Tara's body. Apparently the blonde had gotten the notice that they were on a cruise ship. She now wore a pair of jeans, sandals, and a Hawaiian print bikini top. "See, that's more the spirit," she said motioning toward Tara's top.
Tara took the seat next to Willow and leaned over conspiratorially and whispered, "I'm just glad they let me into the dining salon. I thought I might get told to go change or choose another place to eat." She didn't miss the way Willow leaned closer and looked directly down her cleavage.
Seeing Faith passing by, Willow waved her down. "I'll have a Shiner Bock." She turned to Tara. "The same?" Tara nodded and Willow relayed the answer to waitress. "Spent the afternoon at the pool?"
"A few of them." Tara yawned. "It would get loud or rowdy at one so I'd move to another." Faith arrived with their drinks and took their orders. "What about you?"
Willow smiled at Tara's question. "I went to a few pools too; strange I didn't see you." She shrugged. "Then I spent some time in my room, working on some homework."
Tara took a drink as she assessed about Willow's answer. Ok, well that's partially true and partially not. "Homework?" She raised an eyebrow. "I thought you finished school a few days ago."
Willow looked like she'd been caught at something she shouldn't be doing. "Oh yeah. Well..."
"Oh no. I mean yes. I wasn't doing school work. It's just that I was working on a project for my new job."
"You already started a job?"
"Well, no," Willow explained as she took a drink, "I don't start until next week but there's some really interesting calculations and challenges and I thought I'd get started." Seeing the disbelieving look on Tara's face, she decided to come clean. "Ok, I'm a dork."
Tara laughed at Willow's self-deprecating comment. She had no idea why but it appeared that the redhead was actually opening up to her a little bit. She asked a few more questions about the girl's studies and her upcoming job and found that while she couldn't even begin to follow the explanations of lift and thrust ratios (although she found that hearing the redhead repeatedly saying thrust did appeal to her), she did enjoy hearing Willow talk. They settled into a very enjoyable conversation that lasted throughout the meal.
Faith came by as they were finishing. "What are you two sexy ladies going to do with the rest of your evening?"
"Did you have a suggestion?" Willow asked in a voice of utter disinterest.
Faith laughed at the redhead's tone. "Get over yourself, Red. Charo's in the Tango lounge. The way the two of you have been drinking, you'll love the show." She picked up their plates and walked away from the table, whistling.
Tara stood up. "Well, that's a good enough recommendation for me."
Willow mirrored the blonde's action. "I go where the beer is." She took a skip step to catch up with Tara. "Plus which, I want to hear a little about you."
Tara shrugged as she walked. "I'm not sure you want to hear my story. It's not all rocket ships and space travel."
Willow grabbed Tara's hand and spun her to face her. "I don't need to hear about rocket ships. I already know about them. But I don't know anything about you."
Tara tilted her head slightly as she tried to understand why the redhead was suddenly so interested. "Last night, you didn't seem to want to hear anything about me."
Willow looked at Tara's sandals for a second before raising her eyes to the blonde's face (not without a long pause looking at her bikini top and the assets beneath it). "Last night, I was in a crap mood because my father kicked my girlfriend out of my apartment before giving me an hour to pack and come on a cruise."
"What's different now?" Tara stood in front of the large sign announcing "Tonight! Charo!" and stepped to the side to allow other passengers to enter the club.
Willow looked exasperated at Tara's questions. "I guess I thought I might as well enjoy myself on the cruise since I had to come." She looked again at Tara's breasts and her flat stomach. "And I thought that we might want to enjoy it together?"
Tara looked at the redhead, allowing her to sweat for a few seconds before gracing her with a smile. "Sounds enjoyable, plus which you still owe me some drinks." She walked into the bar, fully aware that her companion was now staring at her ass.
They found a small booth near the side of the bar and immediately waved over the waitress. In minutes she had returned with their drinks. About that time, Tara noticed that Xander and Anya from dinner had entered the bar. He had his hand firmly on his new wife's ass and she looked completely pleased with the arrangement. Without asking, the couple slid into the booth, crowding Tara into Willow. "You haven't been kidnapped yet?"
Tara laughed and then took a drink as she watched the look on Willow's face. The redhead was nonplussed. "Not yet," she said, raising her glass to take a drink as if toasting the possibility.
"I guess there's a few days left," Anya offered. "Or maybe you're not really valuable enough. You know there's an entire study regarding the worth of relatives versus trade or technical secrets. Maybe your father's rivals have assessed your value and determined that they have more lucrative targets." She smiled as if pleased with her reasoning and reached over to pat Willow on the arm. "I'm sure that's it. Now you can enjoy your cruise."
"Yes, I feel much better," Willow again deadpanned.
"Why don't I get a round for the table," Xander offered in an obvious attempt to placate the other women. He quickly motioned over the waitress and ordered drinks. The drinks arrived and everyone toasted to an enjoyable cruise.
Before anyone could say anything else, Captain Stubing came on stage. He announced a "major name in Entertainment" and how honored the ship was to have Charo on performing. Then she came out in a long shimmering gold dress that caused Tara to wonder if many passengers left with long-term retinal damage from attending her shows. As soon as Charo began her lounge act, Anya leaned across the table. "You know, I'm actually shocked. I would think that even given the assessment of your worth, your father would have taken some safeguards for your protection."
"Hey, let's go dance," Xander said as he quickly stood up and practically yanked his wife away from the other two women and onto the small dance floor.
Tara watched them go and start dancing before looking back at Willow. The redhead seemed to be intently studying her drink bottle. Tara extended one finger and touched it to the bottom of Willow's chin, raising it slightly so that she could see her eyes. "Are you o-ok?"
Willow scoffed. "How could I not be? Either my father sent me on a cruise to be kidnapped and held for ransom in a case of corporate espionage or I haven't been kidnapped yet because I'm not worth enough."
"I'm not sure that's what she was..." Tara trailed off. "She's obviously an insensitive idiot."
"What about you?"
Tara quirked up her eyebrow. "What?"
Willow took another drink. "It's still all about me. I just graduated from college. My father kicked out my girlfriend and sent me on a cruise. I am starting a job with an aerospace company in a week. What about you? You haven't told me anything and you're not some secretary who won a cruise in the office pool."
Tara smiled and took a long drink of her beer. "I did win the cruise in the office pool."
"I'm not a secretary."
"No," Willow feigned exaggerated surprise at the revelation by the blonde. Since Tara was taking a moment to answer, Willow did so for her. "You're a cop."
"What makes you think that?" Tara asked without refuting the theory.
Willow laughed. "You happen to know SWAT team infiltration tactics, you check the exits every time you enter a room, and you take all corners extra wide."
Tara laughed back. "That obvious huh? Ok, I'm a detective with LAPD." She took her hand off her drink and extended it to shake Willow's. "Detective Tara Maclay. Pleased to meet you."
Willow shook Tara's hand as if meeting her for the first time. As she did she tilted her head as if assessing her. "Excuse my saying but you seem kind of smart to just be a detective."
Willow laughed. "I meant it as a compliment. Not a slam on detectives. You just don't seem that... I don't know. Hard-boiled. You seem kind of like the bleeding-heart, help the little man type."
"The very people your father steps on?"
"The very same," Willow smiled back.
Tara smiled too. "You're not wrong." She sipped her drink and then explained. "I'm actually starting my third year at UCLA law school. Police work is a family tradition but I guess I kind of feel like I can do more."
Tara looked down at her drink and then up at the dance floor. "Look at that." She pointed toward Xander and Anya who were currently engaged in some sort of movement that could only partially be referred to as dancing.
Just then, Charo also noticed the couple and shimmied over to them. "What are jou doing? Jou have no cabin?" They gave her a look that left no doubt that they didn't enjoy being interrupted and left quickly. Charo, of course, urged the audience to give a round of applause to the newlyweds.
Tara looked back at Willow who was quite amused at the show on the floor. "It's a good thing I had the cruise to come on." When Willow nodded she continued. "I'm on desk duty right now."
"Pissed off the duty sergeant?" Willow posited.
"You know police procedure and rank?" Tara raised an eyebrow.
"I watch a lot of television," the redhead informed her.
Tara laughed. "It's not the same thing." She took a breath. "I was involved in a shooting last month. The investigation isn't over yet."
"Do you have a sexy scar?"
Tara flirted back. "I have a scar. You'd have to tell me just how sexy it is."
"Lead on Maclay," Willow indicated the door with her hand and was pleased as Tara stood and took her hand, helping her from the booth. The two women made their way through the large crowd enjoying the show and didn't notice as Charo called after them to enjoy their evening. They walked silently for a few minutes, the redhead leading them to her room.
Nearing the door, Tara got a smirk on her face. "You remember last night when you asked me if I had plans?"
Willow giggled and turned to press her body against the blonde's, her arms going over Tara's shoulders. "Sorry I'm such a brat."
"That's ok," Tara said, her smirk growing larger. "I didn't have any last night but tonight I happen to have some already." She stepped back and winked before turning and walking down the corridor.
Willow's mouth hung open as she watched Tara go. Then she kicked the wall by her room and let herself in, still cursing.
Dawn hadn't been sure that she was going to get in to the show. She'd spent most of the day sightseeing with a group of teens at the port and returned to the ship too late to eat in the dining salon. Instead she had gotten a salad and fries at one of the on board cafes. The trip had been relatively lucrative so far; she had three new blouses and had picked up some items while in port today.
She approached the Tango lounge looking forward to the show--not to seeing Charo. Honestly, she didn't have a clue who Charo was. Some has been no doubt to be performing on a cruise ship lounge but there was likely to be a crowd of drunks and audience members involved in the show. Surprisingly there was no one checking IDs at the door and she guessed that as long as she didn't attempt to order anything alcoholic, she'd be fine.
Sure enough, the bartender handed her a Coke with no questions and she settled onto a bar stool to check out the situation. Charo didn't seem to be anything special. She spoke with a strange exaggerated accent, swiveled her hips, and wandered around in the crowd asking people about their vacations. As she'd expected, the crowd was enthralled with the performer, their chances of getting lucky on vacation, their drinks, or some combination of the three. Dawn took her drink with her as she got up from the barstool. None seemed to think it was strange when she bumped into a few chairs and even one audience member returning from the bathroom.
She was leaving the lounge and turning right when she felt a hand wrap around her upper arm. "Why don't we go this way, sweetheart?"
Many rapid heartbeats but only a few steps and seconds later, she stood in what appeared to be an exercise room, looking at her apprehender. "What?"
Faith smiled at the teen. "Were you expecting Kojak? Maybe I should have a sucker or something."
"I gotta get some updated jokes," Faith said. "Why don't you take a seat and hand me your bag, kid." Her tone of voice made it clear that she wasn't so much asking as telling Dawn. She shook out a cigarette and then offered one to the teenager.
Dawn handed over her bag but refused the cigarette, crossing her arms over her chest. "Did I mention I'm 17?"
Faith opened the handbag and pulled three wallets and a watch from it. "Relax, kid. Do I look like a narc?" She thumbed through the wallets and took some money from each before tossing them back in the bag and handing them back to the shaking teenager. She quickly folded the bills and put them in her bra.
"This is my ship. Do you know what that means?" Dawn shook her head at Faith's question. "You want to work on this ship, you go through me." She took a quick puff on her smoke. "That penny ante crap with the blouses I don't care about. But the wallets, you've got to work with me."
When Dawn didn't respond Faith explained, "Now if you want to work on this tugboat, standard is six trips per year. I can get you set up on three other ships for a total of 24 trips per year." Dawn sat down on a weight bench as she listened to Faith talk. "You came on this trip with your sister right?"
"Right, so she's not going to let you work that much."
"She doesn't care," Dawn said, looking like she was about to cry.
Faith sat down next to the brunette on the weight bench. "She's an idiot. You're obviously a good kid and smart too."
"I know," Dawn agreed tearily, "but no one pays any attention to me."
Faith put an arm lightly across Dawn's shoulders. "Where's your mom?" Dawn began pouring out her story, feeling like someone was listening to her for the first time in years.
Tara finished checking in with her employer as she was changing clothes. Mr. Rosenberg required two check-ins a day and preferred three. For the amount of money he was paying her, not to mention the cruise, she would call him as often as he wanted. He was pleased with her report on Willow's activities and that there had been no threats in the first two days on board.
She'd been a smart-ass to the redheaded girl. Not that it was any worse than Willow's behavior the day before, but she was kicking herself somewhat. Sure she needed a way to get away to call Ira but now she wondered if Willow would even want to be friendly with her. She absolutely had to admit that the girl was trying. She'd been nothing but pleasant at dinner and after dinner and had asked about Tara.
She checked out her appearance in the mirror and then headed for Willow's cabin. When she knocked on the door, she heard rustling inside the cabin and then Willow's irritated voice. "What?" The redhead pulled open the door and Tara leaned on the doorframe, giving her most sexy, sultry look. Uh oh. She doesn't look friendly at all.
Tara smiled and held up the stack of games in her hand. "I know that you didn't get to play games today. I thought maybe you'd like a chance to get back some of the $39,000 you owe me from yesterday."
Willow folded her arms over her chest. "It's $33,000."
Tara moved closer and extended the game boxes so that they were out of her way. Her lips almost brushed against Willow's ear. "I wasn't going to hold you to it. I just thought you might want to play."
"Are we still talking about Scrabble?" Willow took a step to the side and was glad that Tara immediately stepped into the room and set down the assortment of games.
Tara woke slowly, shaking her head as she started to be aware of her surroundings. Her first thought was that this was definitely not the hard bed in her cabin. Her next brought a smile to her face and she raised her hand to her nose without even thinking about it. She rolled over and patted the space next to her. Quickly she opened her eyes and looked around the room. The door to the bathroom was closed and she assumed that Willow had awakened before her and was either using the toilet or taking a shower although she couldn't hear the shower running.
After a few minutes, Tara got up and knocked on the door. "Willow? Are you in there? Willow?" She opened the door. Willow was not inside the bathroom although a few towels lay crumpled on the floor.
"Crap!" She ran the four steps to the door and grabbed her jacket from the back door as she pulled on her jeans and sneakers. Thankfully, her .25 was still in the pocket of her jacket. She also found a small note, written on the cruise ship's stationary:
Next to Willow's name was a smiley face and a drawing of a hand waving. "Double crap!" Tara pulled on her bra and shirt and pulled open the door to the room. She checked her phone; it showed a missed call which was, of course, the alarm telling her that Willow had left.
"If you are departing the ship today, please remember that you must be on board by 6:00. Please remember that you must be on board by 6:00." She briefly wondered if she should check the ship's bars but decided that hearing the announcement about visiting port over the loudspeaker just as she was panicking about losing Willow was a sign. Also, she figured the girl would be in more danger in port than on the ship. She ran down the gang plank, not even listening to the repeated admonitions to be back on time.
Most of the tourists were moving in a similar direction and Tara blended in with them as she kept her eyes open for Willow. If Willow was here, it shouldn't be too hard to find her. It was close to noon and the port's bars had already opened. Luckily they seemed to be located in one part of the port and Tara could cover a block of bars in no more than 10 minutes. She hoped against hope that Willow was in no danger since she had fallen asleep at the switch, almost literally.
After about 30 minutes, the blonde turned down one particularly seedy looking street and practically walked right into Willow who was browsing at a fruit stand in front of a bar advertising "Live Sex on Stage." She couldn't tell if the girl had already been inside. In one hand she held a plastic shopping bag with a garish design of maracas and flowers, in the other, a mango which she held up to the shopkeeper and paid for before walking down the street.
Tara followed from a closer distance than the day before. With Willow having played her so harshly, she didn't want the redhead to lose her again. She wondered how long Willow had known that Tara was hired to protect her. Willow turned right at the next corner and Tara followed closely.
Willow didn't appear to be aware that Tara was following her. She swung the bag as she walked and certainly wasn't paying any attention to the deserted sidewalks nor the stalled van with two men bent over its opened hood. One was wearing a tight white t-shirt with cigarettes rolled in the sleeve while the other was bare-chested and bald. Tara did pay attention. She speeded up her pursuit of Willow and was nearly caught up to her when the two men stood up from their work and stepped behind the redhead. Tara broke into a run as the bald man tapped Willow on the shoulder and the other reached into his jeans pocket.
Willow got a look of terror in her eyes and looked around wildly, spotting Tara running toward her. The redhead ducked under the grasp of the first attacker but the one wearing the t-shirt grabbed her from behind, wrapping his arms around her waist and lifting her from the ground.
Tara went directly for the man who had a grip on the redhead. She didn't reach him, however, as the bare-chested man stepped into her path. As she ran, Tara reached into her pocket for her pistol but she knew that she didn't want to use it. Using a firearm in Mexico wasn't the wisest idea, no matter how justified it might be. The sight of the gun did seem to cause the erstwhile kidnappers to reconsider their actions and the pause in their motions gave her enough time to launch a powerful kick at the her target. He went down heavily and she turned toward the man who held a struggling Willow. As she took her first step, she felt the first attacker's hand wrap around her ankle. She fell and rolled in an attempt to get up quickly.
Before she could complete the move, she saw Willow thrust her elbow back into her attacker's midsection. He dropped her, stepped forward and kicked. Tara continued rolling but still took his kick to her cheek. She didn't allow the painful shot to stop her as she rose to her knees and then feet and pointed the gun directly at his face. She grasped Willow's hand and pulled the redhead behind her while taking two steps to the side to get both men and the van in front of her.
Tara didn't flinch as the hood slammed shut. She tugged on Willow's hand to ensure that the redhead was completely behind her. A third accomplice, the one who had had slammed shut the hood, shouted to the other two and both kept their eyes on Tara, but pulled open the van door and jumped inside. The van sped away before they'd even closed it.
Wordlessly, the blonde tugged on Willow's hand and the two women began running to get off the still deserted street. They took a quick right and then left and merged into a crowd of tourists. Tara quickly tucked the gun into her pocket but didn't release Willow's hand. Within a few minutes they'd reached and boarded the ship. Willow started toward her cabin but Tara ordered her, "No. This way."
Tara keyed into her cabin and pushed Willow ahead of her. She grabbed a towel and held it to her face, attempting to staunch the flow of blood coming from the 3-inch gash on her cheek bone. Running through the streets of the port had done nothing to slow the flow of blood and she wouldn't be wearing this shirt again. As soon as she'd closed and bolted the door, she turned toward Willow. "Are you hurt?"
"N-no." Willow was visibly shaken by the attack or perhaps by Tara's no-nonsense attitude. The blonde was running her hands over Willow's body--stomach, neck, face and scalp, legs, hips-checking for injuries in a way that was nothing like the way she'd touched the girl not 12 hours ago. "I'm fine. I'm not hurt, Tara."
Tara removed her hands from Willow and looked her in the eye. "Are you sure? Nothing hurts?"
"Tara! I'm fine but you're not." Willow reached up and grabbed the towel, pulling it away and holding a shirt she picked up from the chair onto the blonde's face.
"I need to call in and report." Tara pushed Willow's hand away and held the shirt to her face herself. With her other hand, she extracted her cell phone from her pocket and hit a speed dial button.
Seeing that the blonde was not going to listen to her and get her face taken care of, Willow went into the small bathroom and came back with a wet towel. She could hear the blonde giving a rapid report of the events of the morning. She didn't say how she'd lost Willow's trail and by the time that Willow had returned with the wet towel, Tara was holding the phone out to her. "Your father needs to speak with you, Willow."
Willow took the phone from the blonde and watched as she went into the bathroom to wash her face. Her father went from concerned to relieved as she assured him that she was fine and then to angry when she said that she'd intentionally slipped Tara that morning to explore the port unaccompanied. She didn't tell him that she had left the officer in her bed, just that she'd managed to slip her and that it really wasn't Tara's fault. Regardless of his anger at her antics, he assured her that his main concern was her safety. "I want Tara to stay in your cabin for the remainder of the cruise. For what I'm paying her, she can damn well sleep in a chair. And I don't want you to be out of her sight unless you're going to the bathroom. Do you understand me?" His final words were shouted and Willow felt like a little kid again. She was shaking hard enough that Tara left where she had been washing her face and then holding the towel on it to come over and pat her on the shoulder. Finally the redhead muttered a "yes, sir" and hung up the phone before holding it out to Tara.
Tara reached out for the phone, exposing the cut on her face. The bleeding was slowing but it still looked quite ugly and now the cheekbone was bruising. Willow surprised the blonde as she gently touched her face on the un-injured side. "We need to take you to see the ship's doctor and get stitches, sweetie." She took the latest towel from the blonde's hand, pressed it to the cut, and guided her onto her bunk.
Tara pursed her lips and looked at her temporary nurse, her eyes flashing. "Did I dream the part where you left me in bed and naked this morning to go play the spoiled brat and get yourself kidnapped?" She pulled the, now blood stained, note from her pocket and held it up.
Willow looked at the floor and then dabbed at Tara's cut with the towel before reaching for the first aid kit which the blonde had carried with her when she returned from the bathroom. "I know. I mean I'm an idiot. A jerk. I moron. A brat?" She shrugged and raised both hands, not knowing what to say. "I mean last night was fantastic. Amazing. Really. But I woke up just feeling, I don't know, like resentful that you were hired to protect me and that you hadn't told me. I mean I just felt like, what is this? A job?" The redhead wiped angrily at her tears.
Tara still felt angry at Willow for intentionally putting herself into danger this morning but she also could understand the redhead's feelings. She reached out and took the girl's hand. "I can understand that. I mean I should have been more h-honest with you before... you know?" She blushed as she spoke.
"You think?" Willow's tone was brutal and Tara almost visibly recoiled. The redhead continued, "I mean at first I thought, 'Hey. Here's this really hot woman and she's flirting with me' but then I realized that you were working for dad. I mean why does he always find the really great women?"
"You think I'm 'really great'?"
Willow smiled slightly at how adorable the blonde was being. "Maybe we should stay on topic? I mean I'm resentful of you and you're downright pissed at me for ditching you this morning."
Tara laughed and then flinched as the movement pulled at the cut in her cheek and opened it slightly, causing an increase in bleeding. She gasped and then teasingly admonished Willow. "Hey, that hurt so no more being so cute."
Willow reached over and opened up the first aid box sitting on the bunk. She pulled out a few butterfly bandages and held them up. "I still think you need to see the ship's doctor." She peeled the wrapping off the first one and then pulled away the towel on Tara's face and carefully pinched together the edges, applying the bandage. "You think I'm cute?"
Tara blushed. "Cute, smart, sexy, infuriating ... should I go on?"
"I get the idea." Willow smiled as she finished applying the bandages. She leaned forward and gently kissed Tara. "Feel better?"
Tara returned the kiss, this time opening her mouth and darting her tongue out to taste Willow's. The redhead pulled back only when Tara winced. "Maybe we should take it easy for a little while?"
Tara smiled at the redhead. "That's probably a good idea." Her stomach grumbled and both women giggled. "I think you owe me lunch, Ms. Rosenberg."
Willow extended her hand. "Deal."
Tara looked around and pulled a second jacket from her bag, transferring her phone and gun to the pockets and pulling it on. She smiled slyly at the redhead and leaned close to whisper in her ear. "Maybe later you can help me delete a few hours of last night's surveillance tapes."
Willow smiled sexily. "We could watch them first?"
Dawn recounted her cash and stuffed it in the side pocket of her bag. She looked around the cabin, noting that Buffy hadn't arrived to pack. Since she had finished packing, she picked up her bag and left the room. She smiled as she saw Faith leaning against the wall by the elevator and ran up to the brunette.
"Hey, Dawnster." Faith greeted her with a light hug and then stepped onto the elevator with her. "Is your sister coming?"
"She'll find her way home," Dawn said with a grin. The elevator doors opened and they exited.
"You've got my numbers?" Faith held up her cell phone.
Dawn held up her own. "Right here. I'll see you in a few months?"
Faith gave her another hug. "Be careful, Dawn."
"I will." Dawn waved and bid her goodbyes to Captain Stubing, Vicki, and Julie.
Doc opened the door to his office and snapped on the light. He was surprised as two heads popped up from behind his examining table. He quickly turned his back and waited. The two heads were soon joined by two bodies pulling on clothes and picking up their bags.
"Sorry," Xander mumbled as he and Anya made their way past the ship's doctor.
"Well, it was the only place we could think of that we hadn't...," Xander slapped his hand over his wife's mouth and apologized again.
Tara followed Willow down the gangplank. "There he is." She motioned toward Mr. Rosenberg standing by the back door of his limousine.
Willow waved at her father-not too enthusiastically; after all, she was still Willow Rosenberg.
The two women reached the limousine and Mr. Rosenberg hugged his daughter. "Are you ok?" She assured him that she was and he turned his attention to Tara. "Well done, Officer Maclay. I think you'll find a little bonus in here." He shook her hand vigorously and handed her an envelope.
"Thank you, sir." Tara tucked the envelope into her pocket. It was clear that she had been dismissed but she wasn't sure how to leave Willow.
"I've made some calls," Ira assured his daughter. "You should be safe."
Willow reached over and took Tara's hand in her own. "I'm sure I will be, Dad."
Ira looked from Tara to Willow and back to Tara again. Finally he smiled and motioned toward the car. "Detective Maclay, can we offer you a ride?"
Tara looked at Willow and noted the way both Rosenbergs were smiling at her. "Yes, I'd like that." They all got into the limousine and it drove away.
But don't miss The Love Boat: The Director's Cuts (rated NC-17)