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The Key to the Cage

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This is one part of a series featuring Falk Kantor. He is a police detective who loses his fiance, only to reconnect with her. Intrigue, mystery, and a series of ill fate follows him.

Thriller / Romance
Age Rating:

Part I--Love And Aggression

Happy graduation to me, the bored coed thought. Selarah Marx was happy that she was graduating from college an entire year earlier than planned. She was ecstatic that she had been accepted into a Florida police academy. Becoming an officer was what she had always wanted to do with her life. However, her day was far from perfect. She looked around at her classmates. They were the children of very proud parents and other family members. Unlike them, Selarah had no family attending on her behalf. Well, no blood family, anyway, she thought. Her adoptive mother, Arlene, was out in the audience, but she hadn't lived with the woman since her seventeenth birthday.

Selarah didn't know very much about her birth family. She had been in the foster care system for some time. As a child, she was sure there would be no miraculous adoptions for her. However, she was placed in a foster home with Arlene who eventually adopted her. She didn't have much of a bond with Arlene and never knew why.

She hated graduation ceremonies, especially college ceremonies. They were all so long and dragged out. The department from which she graduated was Arts and Sciences. They were about the last group to receive their diplomas. She was lucky to be an honor graduate because she would receive her diploma before all the other students in her group. However, she still had to sit through everything else.

Selarah had been allowed to skip her high school graduation, and would have ducked out of her college ceremony if it hadn't been for Arlene. Sel, please walk this time. You really accomplished something, Arlene had said. She supposed Arlene was right. Of course, she had been told all her life that she had come from a very underprivileged environment. She was a disadvantaged child who had done well. It was all so cliché to her. She didn't care; she simply wanted the ceremony over so she could go home.

Even though she was a bit depressed, she did have a future to look forward to. Within a few days, she would be training at the police academy in Radner, Florida. She didn't know what had influenced her to become a police officer, but the nature of the work had always intrigued her. She had little support from Arlene. Arlene thought that Selarah should have chosen a profession less dangerous and stressful. However, Selarah wasn't afraid of stress or danger. She had always liked living on the edge. A true tomboy at heart, she had never been one to go for a simple goal. She liked fighting and scratching for what she wanted. Selarah was ruthless, and her ruthlessness had earned her a reputation at school.

Fiercely competitive, Selarah found an outlet in sports. She ran track, played women's basketball, volleyball, and had even campaigned to bring in a wrestling team especially for women. She would have gone head to head with any man at school at any sport. However, most of her male counterparts were afraid of her. They were not accustomed to aggressive females, and didn't want to lose to a woman.

Due to her personality, she was not a popular girl at school. There were no other girls her age who enjoyed doing some of the things she did. However, Selarah didn't want to give up what she loved to be part of the gang. She detested the girls in her class. They were little wimps. She made some friends, mostly with guys, but she didn't have many dates. It had nothing to do with her looks. She was a beautiful young woman, but her stiff personality put off most of the guys she met.

It doesn't matter anymore, she thought. She was about to graduate and leave everyone behind. There was no single person she would miss, not even Arlene. She was ready to get on with her life.

"Would the honors graduates from Arts and Sciences please rise?"

The voice of the dean cut through her fog. Finally, she thought. It was her turn.

* * *

Selarah didn't waste any time getting out of her graduation gown or yanking off the funky hat Arlene called her 'go to hell cap.' She had received a few dutiful invitations to after-graduation parties, but she blew them off. She had no desire to co-mingle with classmates who either hated or were jealous of her. She simply wanted to get back to her off-campus apartment and pack. Her academy training waited.

Amber, Selarah's roommate, was home with her boyfriend. She had never cared much for Amber. Her roommate was a 'wannabe' sorority girl who was a walking hormone. She had consented to having Amber as her roommate only because Amber hadn't had any true idea about Selarah's aggressive quirks. Also, there would have been no way she could have afforded the apartment without backup. Arlene surely wouldn't help.

"I thought you were going to go out afterward," Amber said.

Her voice had the high-pitch of an impending tantrum. Selarah could hear a whine just waiting to break out of Amber's mouth.

Okay, you little fuckwad, Selarah thought. You only have to put up with me for twenty-four more hours, then you've got the place all to yourself. She shrugged off her hostility. "No, Amber, I never said I was going out. I have tons of shit to do before I leave."

She noticed that Amber's boyfriend was eyeing her. Amber had only been dating him for a few days. He was new, and hadn't been introduced to Selarah's mean side. However, he was eyeing her in a different way. She knew the look. Her first impulse was to approach him, give his balls a squeeze, and then ask if he'd like to continue undressing her with his eyes.

Her roommate pointedly asked, "When are you leaving?"

And people wonder why I'm never in a good mood. "Unfortunately," she spat sarcastically, "not soon enough."

Selarah left the groping couple on the sofa and headed off to her room. Most of her stuff had been taken to Arlene's the day before. The only thing she really needed to finish up was packing her clothes. She didn't intend on taking much. She had been told by the admissions committee at the academy that she would be supplied with all the clothing that she would need for the week. She only had to worry about what she wanted to wear on the weekends. She didn't intend on needing much for that, either. Selarah knew she'd end up staying at the academy over the weekend, probably doing extra studying. She had no desire to visit anyone. That decision, of course, hadn't pleased Arlene, either.

Arlene had actually claimed to care about Selarah. However, Selarah was a cynical bitch, and didn't believe Arlene cared about anything other than the board payment she had received each month as a foster parent. A portion of her heart felt badly about snubbing Arlene. After all, Arlene was the closest thing she had to an actual parent. But Selarah had long ago shut her heart out to people who said they cared for her. Most of them didn't, most of them only claimed to care to use and abuse.

Her bedroom door opened, and she turned toward it, furious. Amber knew better than to enter her room without knocking. However, it wasn't Amber that she would kill, it was her goofy boyfriend. She stopped packing immediately and glared at him hatefully.

"Just who the fuck do you think you are," Selarah demanded.

She didn't know what the boyfriend's name was. Amber changed boyfriends as frequently as she changed tampons.

He gaped at her. "Well, uh…uh…"

She could feel her blood pressure rising. She didn't have the patience for stuttering. "Uh…Uh… What?"

Selarah immediately decided that he was an idiot. Any man who had not ran for the hills after his first exposure to her attitude was simply asking for his balls to be burst.

"Amber left for a few minutes, and I thought I'd talk to you. I've been wanting to talk to you since I started dating Amber."

Oh God, she thought. I'm going to be sick. The little prick wanted to date her. "You know, I'm not into guys. I suppose Amber hasn't told you," she said, spinning the lie she used to get rid of the jerks.

"Oh," he said in a small voice.

"Would you please leave? I have a lot of packing to do."

He left her without another word. She sighed as she continued to pack. It wasn't that she didn't want to date someone. She simply didn't want to date a person who was interested in Amber. If a guy liked Amber, he expected every girl he met to be like her. Selarah wasn't like Amber, never had been, and would likely never be. She didn't choose to be single, it had plainly happened to her. Any man she ever met would have to understand her personality and be okay with it. Most of the guys near her didn't. She had always known that, and had accepted it.

* * *

"You want me to what," Falk Kantor spat over the phone.

"You heard what I said, Kantor. Gibson can't, and you're the best we got."

Falk Kantor slammed down his telephone. Fuck it, fuck it all, he growled to himself. He was the new guy on the block, and the new guys always got fucked over first.

Kantor was one of the youngest lieutenants the Radner Police Department had ever had. He could also boast that he was the best sharp shooter any PD had ever had. However, he had only been working at Radner for a little under six months, and if a sucker was needed for something, he was the chosen one.

The Radner Police Academy would begin training the next batch of recruits the following day. Kantor's co-worker, Jeff Gibson, had been slated to train students and supervise them at the shooting range. Of course, the new academy hopefuls wouldn't need the training for a few weeks, but they had to have an instructor in place. Kantor's boss, Captain Sturgen, had broken the news to him that Gibson had decided at the last minute that he didn't want the gig. Of course, it meant that someone would have to replace him. Voila, the old 'fuck the new guy ploy' came into play.

Kantor was not pleased, he was, in fact, quite pissed. He had been working on a difficult case, and thought he had it cracked. He was an ambitious young man, and he wanted to make detective before his next birthday. However, apparently, that was not meant to be. Sturgen had assigned one of his colleagues to work the case he had sweated over for weeks.

"Consider it a vacation, Falk," Sturgen had said. "You're working way too hard."

Of course he had been working hard. It was in his blood to work hard. He had come from a large middle-eastern family. As a child, he watched as his parents slaved for what little they had. Kantor was the last of six children, and his parents were uneducated farmers. They were good parents, always providing for their children while doing without themselves. He had loved his family dearly, but didn't want to live life as they had. Not only that, but farming hadn't interested him. As a small boy, he had been fascinated by American movies, especially those that featured cops and robbers.

His parents thought his ambition would lead him into an acting career, but acting didn't interest him, either. He wanted to become a cop, a 'good guy.' While in school, he studied very hard. He applied for and won a scholarship to a prestigious university in New York. His parents supported his decision, and had somehow managed to scrape up enough money to give him as a gift. Kantor was not a man who cried easily, but when he saw the money his parents had broken their backs to earn, tears literally poured out of his eyes. He vowed he would make them proud of him.

Kantor had excelled in his studies. He supported himself with odd jobs on and off campus. When he could, he sent money to his parents. He made it a point to report to them and let them know he was doing well. He missed his family horridly those first few months from home, but he didn't allow his homesickness to interfere with his goals.

A year or so after he arrived in New York, Kantor became an American citizen. When he graduated from college with honors, the FBI immediately courted him. He refused their offer and instead opted to join the New York City Police Department. During his academy training, he had learned to do amazing things with guns. He was a crack shot who rarely missed his target. He had taken to shooting as some people take to swimming. There was no gun he could not handle. He worked for the NYPD, quickly going up the ranks, until he had transferred to Radner in southern Florida. Radner offered an agreeable climate, and would allow him to advance. They were as impressed with his marksmanship as New York had been. Every now and then, he had served as a sniper.

And now they want me to…teach. Yes, teach. He knew nothing about teaching other people. It was not his thing. He was more interested in working his cases than instructing potential officers on the fine points of shooting. He didn't even feel shooting was something that could be taught. A person just did it. Of course, his ego was getting the better of him. He felt teaching was beneath him. He hadn't worked his ass off since he was a child to be a teacher.

"Consider it a vacation," he said to himself, repeating his captain's words.

He stood and stared at the wall for a very long time. Had he ever had a vacation? Kantor recalled that his colleagues always called him a machine. In fact, his nickname was "Machine." He had a social life, but couldn't recall if he had ever taken a break from work since he graduated college. He worked tirelessly, like a machine. He would even substitute for others on the weekends he was off.

"You're burning yourself out, and you don't even realize it," Sturgen had told him.

Perhaps he was. However, he still was not thrilled with the idea of taking any time away from his duties. His captain just didn't understand him.

"Fuck it all," he growled at the ceiling.

"Falk," his British roommate called, "could you hold it down?"

He sat down and began massaging his temples. "Sure, Trevor, I'm sorry." He reached for the phone and dialed up his girlfriend. He needed to get out and get away from his anger, but he didn't want to go alone.

* * *

Later, Kantor stood naked at his window. The sky was pitch black; he couldn't see a star. Nights like these worried him. He had inherited his mother's tendency toward superstition. Something was coming, something significant. He didn't know if it were good or bad, but some sort of premonition was eating away at him, keeping him awake.

A warm body pressed itself against his, and a moment later, he felt a pair of arms encircle his waist. "Falk, meine liebe," she whispered. "What are you doing?"

He turned his head slightly. "Anna, you should go back to bed. I'm restless."

"You mean I didn't wear you out? I'm insulted," she said with a slight laugh.

He afforded a small smile. "You did. This has nothing to do with you."

Kantor knew he could be cold. There weren't many people he would allow inside his heart or mind. Anna worked at the academy as a secretary in the administrative office. He had met her there when he toured the PD and its training center. She wasn't a cop, had no desire to be one, but she understood them. He had been drawn to her vibrant green eyes. Anna was his first serious relationship since coming to Florida.

"You know, since you'll be at the academy, we'll see each other more often," she said.

He nodded. "Yes."

Anna released him and turned toward the bed. He watched her move with fluid grace. She was a beautiful woman, but she deserved more, she deserved a man who would devote more time to her. They had a nice relationship, but he knew he neglected her a lot. It was his career, his driving ambition that kept him from giving more. Sometimes, he regretted ever asking her out.

"Stay up all night if you'd like," she told him. "Unlike you, I must have my beauty sleep."

"I'll join you in a bit."

Would he? He wasn't even sure about that. When there were no stars out, he rarely slept. When he was sure Anna was asleep, he donned sweat pants and a tee shirt. He needed to run, perhaps that would clear his head and drive out the premonition.

* * *

For Selarah, the academy was kind of like boot camp. She and the other recruits were up at the crack of dawn doing calisthenics, running, and then later, classroom activities. It was disciplined and structured. It was a bit tougher than she had expected, but she loved it. The only thing she did not love was her roommate. She had hoped for her own room, but that wasn't an option. Everyone had to share. The girl's name was Becca. Becca was petite with short dark hair, eyes, and complexion. She was aggressive and pushy, just not as much as Selarah. She had made it no secret that she preferred the company of women to men. Selarah had nothing against lesbians; she simply had everything against sharing her space. She had never learned to do that well.

It was no surprise that Selarah excelled in the academy. Her instructors were beginning to note that she was one of the best in the lot. On more than one occasion, Selarah could be seen on the field running, or in the gym working out. Her weekends were usually spent in the barracks in her room. She studied more than any recruit who entered the academy. She was intelligent, aggressive, and wasn't afraid to take a chance. She didn't mind the structure or discipline that other recruits complained about. The academy always expected a lot of drop outs at the beginning of training, but they were certain that Selarah would outlast or outdo every last one of her peers.

One afternoon after a particular grueling day, Selarah made her way toward the supply closet. She had snagged her tee shirt on barbed wire during an obstacle course exercise. It had held her back, keeping her from completing the course. She had never felt so stupid or so pissed. She didn't like making mistakes, and when she did, she was always hard on herself. Griping under her breath, she swung open the door to the supply room. She stood back and gasped aloud.

The blonde secretary from the office was inside the room with a tall, dark-skinned man. He was all over the green-eyed woman. She assumed they were about to have sex, because his shirt was open, and he was working on opening hers when Selarah barged in on them. The man turned toward Selarah, fixing her with a steely glance. The woman smiled, not missing a beat, and whispered something to him in German.

Selarah was confused. She was pissed and embarrassed at the same time. She was pissed because she had screwed up on the course, and the couple seemed to be mocking her. She was embarrassed because apparently the supply room was closed but she hadn't known. They should have locked the fucking door, she thought. Without another word, she closed the door and turned in the direction of the barracks. She could hear the woman laughing in her wake.

Later, Selarah went into her room directly from the shower. Becca was sprawled belly down on her bed. She seemed to be writing a letter. Selarah ignored her for the moment and sat on her own bed. She silently began running a comb through her tangled hair. She was still pissed off about the supply room incident, and she was thinking about complaining to her superiors.

"Hey, Marx," Becca said, "I heard we're getting Falk Kantor as our shooting range supervisor."

Falk Kantor. The name meant nothing to her. "So," she spat, continuing to comb through her hair.

She laughed. "So? What do you mean so? Don't you know who he is?"


"Honey, you do need to get out more. He's only the best cop at Radner. He's like in his early twenties, but already a lieutenant. I heard he shot a fly off a pole at like a bazillion yards."

Selarah looked up at Becca through her hair. "And this is relevant because…"

Becca glanced at Selarah. "Fuck, chick. Doesn't anything impress you? Come on, Falk Kantor. He's the best marksman in Florida. He's like a celebrity."

She had honestly not heard a thing about him. "If he's so damn good, why haven't I seen him? Why haven't I met him yet?"

"Marx, just because you haven't seen him or met him doesn't mean he isn't the best cop in town. I live here, I've heard things, and what I have heard is that he's the best. We're lucky to even have him here."

* * *

"God, I will never do that again," Kantor grumbled as he leaned back and placed an ice pack on his forehead.

Trevor had come out of his bedroom for once. He watched Kantor solemnly. "What happened?"

"I was a little down today, so I had an extra long lunch with Anna. I think we may have had three bottles of wine. I had to take her back to the academy. Foolishly enough, we went into the supply room, and one thing led to another…"

His voice drifted off. He couldn't believe he had been so careless.

Trevor smiled a little. "You're more human when you're drunk, you know."

Kantor smiled, and then groaned. Even smiling hurt. "No booze during the day ever again, I swear."

He closed his eyes, hoping Trevor wouldn't speak for a few minutes. Normally, Trevor stayed holed up in his bedroom, either reading or working on his dissertation. Kantor wanted to take some time to reflect on his day, and then prepare himself for the next several weeks away from his routine job.

His mind drifted back to the incident where the girl had interrupted him and Anna. Even though he had been drunk at the time, he remembered. He hadn't even asked her name, he had been too annoyed by her presence. Anna knew who she was. She said the girl was a top recruit with a bizarre name. The girl had somehow piqued his curiosity, and the detective in him wanted to find out more about her.

After leaving Anna, Kantor went to see the academy director, Corporal O'Neill. O'Neill had been at the academy long before Kantor came. He and O'Neill had hit it off, and he considered the corporal one of his friends. Kantor was not one to mince words, so he came right out and asked O'Neill about the girl. She was a star pupil, just as Anna had said, and her name was Selarah Marx. O'Neill even shared Marx's student file with him. He thumbed through Marx's records, realizing that she was an ideal recruit, just as he had been. She was a rare find, a rare one indeed.

Kantor took the ice pack off his forehead and placed it next to him on the couch. At that point, he noticed that Trevor had made his exit. For once, Kantor felt like talking, but Trevor wasn't in the room.

He sighed. Selarah Marx. He said the name aloud, rolling it on his tongue, just to hear how it would sound. Blessed with a photographic memory, he was able to take her in and keep her image in his memory banks. She was tall, like Anna, with cerulean blue eyes. Her thick blonde hair fell in soft waves down to her shoulders. Her heart-shaped face held high, prominent cheekbones, full lips, an average sized nose, and large doe eyes. She had been wearing academy-issued blue shorts and a matching tee shirt.

"Ah, but the tee shirt was ripped," he said aloud, to no one in particular.

Of course her tee shirt was ripped. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for her to be there at all. He laughed crazily. He felt as if he were losing his mind. Alcohol always did funny things to him; that was why he rarely touched the stuff.

He recalled Anna telling him that the girl was a loner. She never went home on the weekends, nor was she seen going out with anyone. Anna had mentioned that she thought the girl's behavior was odd. He also remembered telling Anna that his behavior was just about the same when he had been in training. She flat out asked him why he was so interested in the girl, and he had no answer for her. He wondered what Anna would have thought if she knew he had spoken to O'Neill about her.

Kantor had parted with Anna that evening on slightly shaky terms. She had acted horridly jealous at his questioning. He had told her that he had no interest in Marx; he was simply trying to get information on someone he may be working with. However, even though Anna's beauty could rival that of a super model, she was extremely insecure. He didn't have an interest in the girl, or at least he thought he didn't.

"As if it matters anyway," he said.

Kantor's hangover was killing him. He needed sleep. He would soon be forced to supervise several recruits who had yet to hold a gun or shoot one. He didn't know if he was prepared to do that. He closed his eyes, only to nap for a moment, but he ended up staying there the entire night.

* * *

Selarah stood with Becca and the other recruits their first morning at the shooting range. The famous Falk Kantor had yet to show up. Impatient as ever, Selarah kept checking and rechecking her watch, muttering about the 'ungrateful, late bastard.'

"Hey," Becca whispered, "there he is."

Selarah turned to look at the grand marksman, and she audibly gasped. He was the dark skinned man she had seen with the woman in the supply room. Kantor turned toward Selarah, lifted his eyebrow, and nodded. He recognized her. She wanted to approach him and slap the smugness off his face, but she dared not move. She stood back and assessed him.

Super Cop stood approximately six feet two inches tall. His body was narrow hipped and slender, his arms and legs were long and rippled with muscle, his shoulders were broad. His hair was black and cut short. His face was U-shaped with dark eyebrows, dark brown eyes, high cheekbones, and a somewhat large nose that fit his facial features. He had fashioned a goatee-type beard and mustache. She noted that his lower lip was fuller than his upper. He did not smile or speak; he was all business.

She could hardly look at him. The first time she saw him, his chest was naked, and he was groping the gorgeous administrative secretary. She was still embarrassed about the situation and intended to give him a wide berth. After all, she could always shoot on the weekends. She was sure he wouldn't be working then, not with his super model girlfriend waiting in the wings.

Selarah stood behind the other recruits as Kantor begin speaking about his experience with weaponry. She detected a slight accent when he spoke, but she couldn't put her finger on it. The others seemed mesmerized by Kantor; they hung on his every word. She halfway listened to him. It wasn't that he disgusted her, but she just couldn't face him after what she had seen.

"Marx," Kantor called.

She looked up guiltily. "Y-yes," she stammered. Ugh, she hated it when people stuttered, and here she was doing it herself.

"You may want to pay attention to what I'm saying, since you cannot be certified without this part of the course," he told her stiffly.

Bastard, she thought. "I'm sorry."

He waved a dismissive hand before he continued inflating his own ego. Kantor had called her out, not once, but twice. She wasn't accustomed to men doing that to her. In college, she had always had the upper hand with the guys on campus. Here, Kantor had made it clear that he was in charge. She didn't like the shift, and she unofficially decided that she would beat him at his own game.

Yet, there was something else eating away at her. Selarah wouldn't have admitted it in a thousand years, but she was very attracted to Kantor. He was gorgeous from his black hair to his warm brown eyes, to his lean, taut body. Unlike any other man she had ever thought was attractive, Kantor was not afraid of or put off by her. He was the type of man she had always imagined having, but never thought existed. However, men like him weren't safe. They ended up being trouble, especially to a young simpleton such as herself.

Later that day, after watching Kantor obliterate several targets with several different types of gun, the recruits had the opportunity to put some of Kantor's words and actions into practice. Selarah, normally the first to try anything, stood back and watched the others. Eventually, Kantor approached her.

"You have to take your turn," he said evenly.

He was sure he had put her out by yelling at her earlier. But he also knew she still remembered running into him and his girlfriend. This person before him was not the Selarah Marx he had heard and read about.

"I realize that," she said shortly. "I'm not stupid."

He nearly smiled. That was the person he had read about. He held back, but only because he had an audience. "Put on your glasses and ear protection. You're next."

As Selarah took position, Kantor stood back and watched. She could feel his eyes on her back, seemingly boring into her. Her nerves were jumping.

"You're holding the gun too tightly," he barked. "Loosen your grip."

She sighed and did as he instructed.

"Remember to squeeze the trigger, don't pull it," he barked again.

She was tempted to turn around and shove the gun up his ass, but she hesitated. She wasn't a fucking amateur. With Kantor visually scrutinizing her every move, she aimed the pistol, and squeezed the trigger. When she emptied the gun, she saw that she had a crowd around her. Kantor stepped up beside her to bring her target up close enough to see.

He couldn't believe his eyes, nor could the people crowded around. Each bullet shot had either hit the bull's eye or had hit the border outside it. It was her first time out and Kantor was amazed. He couldn't wait to see what she could do with other guns. Although he was floored, he couldn't show it, not in front of everyone else.

"Not bad," he said.

She turned to him, ready to go off. However, the bewildered look on his face stopped the words from coming out of her mouth. She had impressed the stoic robot.

When it was time to leave, Selarah gathered her things so she could make her way back toward barracks. Kantor noticed she was about to leave, and he approached her before she could make her way out.

"What," she spat, impatient.

"You did great today," he told her. "But your technique needs a little work. You're too jumpy and nervous."

"It didn't help that you were breathing down my neck the whole time," she said, her anger returning.

He nodded. "Okay, I'm sorry about that."

"Good night, Lieutenant Kantor." Without another word, she left him.

* * *

That evening, Kantor invited Anna out to dinner. He hadn't seen her since their supply room tryst. He hadn't actually expected her to accept the invitation, especially since she had gotten so worked up over his asking questions about Selarah Marx.

The two of them hadn't spoken much since arriving at the restaurant. The only time Kantor had reacted at all was when the server asked if either would like a drink. Anna had ordered wine. Kantor absolutely balked. No, there would be no wine for him, not tonight, likely not ever. Anna laughed at his reaction, and the ice was finally broken between them.

"How was your first day at the range," Anna asked after her drink was brought to her.

He wondered for a moment if she were trying to trap him into talking about Selarah. He glanced at her over his water glass. Anna's face was open and expectant. "It went fine," he answered, setting his glass back down onto the table.

"Really," she said with a smile. "Did anyone end up shooting themselves in the foot?"

Anna had always been a playful kind of person. Normally, Kantor would have been amused himself. However, that evening, he was not. She was not taking his job seriously. Even though he resented the fact that he had to work on the range, it was his job, and whenever he was assigned a duty, he threw himself into it, it became his most important job. Kantor sighed, crossed his arms over his chest, and then sat back in his chair.

She immediately realized that she had offended him. She had seen the 'arms over the chest' move dozens of times since they had begun dating. Of course, it usually wasn't her responsible for the offending. "I'm sorry," she said, taking a sip of her wine.

Kantor said nothing at first. He simply fixed her with a stony gaze. Was she really sorry, or was she simply blowing smoke up his ass? "If you were still angry, why did you come out with me?"

"I didn't know I was angry."

He nodded, acknowledging his mistake. "Sorry. You weren't angry, you were jealous."

Oh, it's on now, she thought. "Jealous? And exactly who is making me jealous? Surely, you're not suggesting it's that junior cop of the year who never leaves her room? If I recall, you were asking tons of questions about her. Is it normal for a man to ask the woman he's dating about another woman?"

"Anna, I think I explained this before," he began.

She interrupted him. "Yes, I understand that you want to check her out. However, why her? She isn't the only recruit there who will be working at Radner. Are you checking out the competition?" Kantor looked at her, surprised. "Oh yes," Anna said. "You didn't think I heard about what she did today, did you? O'Neill came in and he couldn't stop bragging about her. At first, I thought you were asking questions because you were attracted to her. Then after today, I realized that you're not attracted to her, but afraid of her. You're afraid that someone else will beat the great Falk Kantor."

He had never been afraid of anything, especially healthy competition. However, he was somewhat afraid that Anna had called him correctly. But there was more, something Anna did not know. He was attracted to the young recruit, but he had a certain personal code he always followed. He made it a rule never to date fellow officers. With that in mind, Kantor was afraid of breaking his code.

Kantor stood, dug out his wallet, and threw some bills onto the table. "Thanks for a nice evening," he said coldly.

* * *

That weekend, Selarah had buried herself in her books. She felt absolutely vindicated that she had shown Kantor that she could do something. She wanted to show him up once and for all. A knock on her door brought her out of her studying. She had no idea who would be visiting her on a Saturday morning. She was one of the few people who had not gone home for the weekend.

Selarah threw her book down on the bed. "Just a second," she yelled, indignant. She approached the door and yanked it open, ready to tell her visitor to piss off.

Her visitor was Kantor. She was shocked to see him, of course. She had never thought it would be him.

"Men aren't allowed over here," she quipped.

"I'm allowed wherever I choose to go," he said smugly.

Selarah suddenly felt under dressed in her shorts and tee shirt. "What are you doing here," she demanded.

"I thought you would appreciate the extra time on the shooting range. I'm offering to help you."

She had never accepted help easily, especially from someone who could out intimidate her. "Who says I need help," she asked pointedly.

The stoic robot smiled a little. "You don't have to be so defensive, Marx. When I see a spark in someone, I want to see it develop, not flounder."

A rueful laugh escaped her. "You don't have to worry about anything I do floundering, Lieutenant. You've obviously mistaken me for another female recruit."

She was intent on slamming the door in his face. But Kantor was quick. He grasped the door and inserted his body between it and the frame. Exasperated, Selarah stood back and allowed him to enter her room.

"I've not mistaken you for anyone, Marx. Would you like the extra shooting time or not? I can't force you to do anything, but I was under the distinct impression that you would appreciate my help."

She sighed. He apparently wouldn't leave her alone if she didn't agree to accept his help. She could have refused, but she knew he wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. "I don't normally accept or even need help, but since you're such a celebrated member of the RPD, I suppose I can't turn you down."

He decided to ignore her sarcasm. He gave her his standard nod of understanding. "Good."

"Would you mind leaving so I can get dressed?"

It was Kantor's turn to feel put out. "Oh, of course," he said, trying to save face. "I'll meet you at the range."

* * *

If Kantor was hard on her before, he was merciless on her now. Although she had performed almost perfectly with both handguns and rifles, it wasn't good enough for Kantor. It seemed as if she couldn't do anything right. He worked with her seven days a week and pushed her to the max. She heard very little praise.

After about two weeks of Kantor's constant riding of her, she had had enough. They were working together one Saturday morning when Kantor had pushed her buttons one too many times. She turned on him, with pistol in hand. He reacted as he would if confronted by a perp. He raised his hand and knocked the gun out of hers. Startled, she simply gazed at her hand, and then her eyes fell on the gun before settling on Kantor's face. His jaws were clenched tightly; he was literally glaring at her.

Kantor stalked toward her and grasped her upper arms painfully in his hands. "Don't ever do that again. You must learn to control your temper."

She jerked violently out of his grasp and threw a punch, which he effectively blocked. He grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her back. Her next move was to try and throw him, but if she tried, he'd snap her arm like a twig. She went purely on instinct and stomped his foot. In pain, he immediately released her.

"Fuck you," she spat, "I'm out of here."

Later, Selarah had barely had time to calm down before she heard a knock on her door. This time, she knew it was Kantor. She didn't care. She'd let him knock until his knuckles fell off.

"Come on, Marx, open the door. I know you're in there," Kantor called.

"Didn't I just tell you to fuck off," she yelled toward the door.

"No, you said 'fuck you.' There's a difference."

"Smart ass," she yelled back.

She hated and loathed him. But she also wanted him. It made her sick to lose sight of her own personal judgment in such a way.

"Selarah, please, open the door," he said.

He had never called her by her first name before. He never called any of the recruits by their first names. Was he human after all? Sighing, she opened the door, but would not allow him to enter.

"Are you all right," he asked.

Although her arm was aching, she'd die before letting him know he had hurt her. "I'm fine."

He sighed. "Would you please let me come in? I feel foolish standing out here in the hallway."

Selarah stood back and allowed him to enter her room. Without waiting for an invitation, he sat down on the foot of her bed. She closed the door behind him and stood facing him with her arms crossed. The smug son of a bitch had a lot of nerve coming into her room and making himself at home without even being asked.

"You understood why I did that, don't you?"

She noticed that he had spoken without even looking at her. "Yes, I shouldn't have done that, and I'm sorry. But you have got to lay off. Do you realize how much you needlessly pick on me?"

This time, he looked up and fixed his dark brown eyes on her face. "Yes, I do pick on you. You're good, and…"

She held up her hand, interrupting him. "I've heard that before, and it's a tired excuse. It's obvious that I'm not going anywhere, Kantor. I'm not going to waste any of my skill. I didn't kill myself in college to simply walk away because I can't take it. You should know that by now."

"I can't promise I won't push you ever again. It's just my way. But I will lighten up, and not intentionally provoke you as I did today," he said carefully.

Do all robots apologize in this fashion, she viciously thought. She didn't want to fight with him, but fighting was the only way to keep from wanting him. She was tired, so very tired.

There was one thing she needed to know. "Why do you provoke me? What's your purpose?"

Kantor sighed. He wished she hadn't asked that question, because he really didn't have an answer for her. He knew somewhat of a reason. He was attracted to her, but had no desire to get involved in another relationship, especially with a fellow cop. It went back to his own personal standards, the ones he had groused about when he and Anna had broken up. He was in denial, and it angered him, forcing him to fight the very thing he wanted.

He looked at her when he said, "I can't answer that, I don't know."

"Do you mind leaving now," she asked. "I'd like to be alone."

He stood. "Of course." He approached her and again fixed his gaze on her. "I'm sorry about today," he said, repeating his apology. "Take a break tomorrow, huh?" He left her.

* * *

The Radner Police Academy held a party to honor its new certified officers. It was the only party that Selarah had wanted to attend. Most of the instructors were invited and had attended as well. Falk Kantor was no exception. Of course, he was the first person Selarah saw when she entered the room. Clad in a black turtleneck sweater and charcoal gray slacks, he had never looked so handsome. He stood with Corporal O'Neill and his wife.

As Selarah stood staring at him, she mused that Kantor had kept his word. In the previous few weeks, he had lightened up on her, but he had not stopped pushing her when she needed it. Her attraction to him had not ceased; it had grown and became more like an aching want. However, he had recently begun spending time with a petite redhead. She had seen him with her on more than one occasion.

Yes, I am obsessed, she thought. Since she first saw Kantor with the redhead, she had purposely gone out and followed them. She didn't like herself much for doing that, but she couldn't help it. She was curious about the woman Kantor seemed to be dating. She realized she had no chance with him. He seemed to prefer 'girlie girls,' and she had never fit that mode. She was simply glad he had not brought his new squeeze with him to the party.

Kantor saw Selarah upon her arrival, just as she had seen him. She was wearing a royal blue silk blouse, a long, flowing skirt, and boots. Her face was made up beautifully. As far as he knew, he had never seen her wearing make up. In fact, it was the first time he had ever seen her wear anything other than her academy issues. She was breathtaking, absolutely breathtaking. O'Neill had told him that Selarah would be starting at Radner PD on first shift patrol. It seemed as if he would never escape her. Even the redhead he had been dating casually hadn't made him forget.

For a moment, from across the room, his eyes met Selarah's. He didn't smile; he wanted to play it cool. Instead, he nodded toward her, and she nodded back, likely mocking him. She then turned and moved out of his sight. On impulse, he excused himself and moved away from the O'Neill's. He eased his way through the crowd, offering congratulations, and shaking hands with those who stopped him. He caught Selarah heading toward the exit.

"Selarah," he called, "wait."

She stopped just short of the exit door and turned to face Kantor. He had called her by her first name again. He approached her with a smile and focused his eyes on her.

"I didn't get an opportunity to congratulate you," he said. "You'll do well at Radner."

He had a beautiful smile. She often wondered why he didn't smile more often. She returned it. "Thank you. Coming from you, it means a lot."

Kantor startled her when he gently grasped her arm just above the elbow. He then placed a soft kiss on her lips. It was over before she knew it. However, his kiss seemed to burn her, setting her on fire. The instant he released her, he went back to the party without saying another word to her. She wanted to go after him, but she was humiliated. She had no idea why such a feeling had decided to attack her. Perhaps it was because Kantor kissed her and fled. Was she that hideous? Instead of running after him like a lovesick fool, she left the party to hail down a taxi.

Although a few weeks ago he had sworn off alcohol, Kantor found himself at the bar, ordering a drink. He had kissed Selarah, but hadn't wanted to. He took great pride in his ability to control any type of impulsive behavior. Somehow, some way, that control had flown out the window. He had kissed her before he realized what he was doing. On top of that, he had walked away from her.

Kantor was a sharp man who didn't miss much. He had seen the look on her face before he turned away. It was enough to make him want to shoot himself. There were some things he had realized in those few moments after kissing her. He had never behaved as a human should, and he deserved to be tagged 'Machine.' He was a 'no nonsense' kind of man and realized that he had actually become a machine. However, tonight, he had acted like something else altogether. He officially pinned another nickname on his lapel: 'Asshole.'

He knocked back his whiskey shooter and quickly ordered another. He had lost control. It was something that he didn't do often. He had never let a woman get under his skin in such a way. He knocked back his second whiskey, but didn't order another. He didn't need a hangover, it would only serve to confuse him further.

When Selarah got back to the academy from the party, she immediately changed into shorts and a tee shirt. It was her last night there, and she should have begun packing. However, she couldn't pack, not with her mind on Falk Kantor and his soft kiss. She needed to run; running had always helped.

She got out to the field and noticed that she was the only one running. Of course you are, you twit. You're the only one dumb enough to be out here. However, she didn't care. She had to chase away the demons. Kantor had kissed her, and then he walked away. She hated that he had made her feel so confused. She remembered his kiss, his soft, warm lips. She had wanted more, but he had not been willing to give it to her. Likely as not, the redhead was probably 'getting it' right now. She hated the redhead, hated a girl she had never met. It was insane.

Selarah ran for a while before realizing that someone else was on the track with her. She attached no significance to the other runner. The track was open 24/7, and every now and then, there was at least one other person insane enough to run at night. She could hear the light slapping noise of the other runner's feet, and it was distracting her. Eventually the runner caught up to her. She then felt a large hand grabbing her arm. She immediately took a defensive stance, struck out, and was blocked.

"Stop," a recognizable voice commanded.

It was Kantor. Apparently, he had decided to run from the confusion as well. The look on his face told her that he hadn't expected to run into her.

For a moment, he searched her face in the dark. He didn't know what his next move was, and he hated that. He was never unprepared for anything, but this woman had thrown a wrench in his gears.

"I have to go," she said, "I have lots of packing to do."

She turned away from him and started to make her way back toward the barracks. She didn't get far. Kantor caught up to her and grabbed her arm again.

"Wait," he said, spinning her around to face him.

"What," she spat, her voice breaking with tears. She had never cried over a man, and didn't like the weak sound of her voice.

"Fuck it," he grumbled, more to himself than to her. "You're driving me crazy," he said simply. "All night long, I have been thinking about you, about that kiss."

She had too, but she could still remember the redhead, and the fact that he had walked away from her earlier. "Save it for the redhead, Kantor," she spat bitterly.

Frustrated, he sighed. "I don't want her, I want you. I know you want me too, Selarah. I feel it."

Kantor didn't wait for her to react. He grabbed her and pulled her against him, kissing her fiercely, plunging his tongue into her mouth. Her first instinct was to knee him in the groin and break free. However, she couldn't do it. She had wanted him too much for far too long. Their bodies tangled together as they devoured each other with their mouths.

With a moan, she broke the kiss. "Falk," she whispered, using his first name for the first time. "I don't want you to just fuck me. I can have that any time, any place. Make love to me, like you mean it, even if you don't."

He didn't know where he could take her. The barracks were a very bad idea, and he did not want to wait until he got her to his apartment. There was a hotel nearby. He was afraid it would seem sleazy, but it was a chance he was willing to take.

Selarah didn't mind that he had taken her to a hotel. All she could think about was getting him out of his clothes and inside her. It didn't take them long to strip each other down. Entwined together, they made it to the bed. Kantor wanted to go slow, to take his time, but he couldn't. He had lost total control, and for the moment, couldn't get it back. Within minutes, he was inside her, making frenzied love to her.

Kantor awoke later on. Selarah's body was sprawled across him, her head resting on his lower belly. He caressed her hair and let his hand drift down her naked back. She was beautiful just as she was, and he hated the idea of her moving off him. His slight touches awakened her, and she allowed her lips to travel from his belly up to his lips.

"I didn't want to wake you," he said.

She laid her cheek against his chest. Her fingers drew lazy circles around his lower chest and navel. "It's okay."

"I suppose you know why I provoked you," he said with a low chuckle.

She smiled and kissed a spot on his chest. "Yes," she said. "We both need to have control over everything in our lives, especially when it comes to the opposite sex."

"You've read my mind," he told her.

She propped herself up so that she could look at him. "We're a lot alike. I think that's why we fight like we do. I've never known any man who didn't take shit from me, ever. You are the only person I've met who wasn't intimidated by me."

"I could say the same about you."

"So," she said. "How is this going to work?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know," he answered honestly.

She smiled and kissed him. "Good answer."

Toward dawn, Selarah left a sleeping Kantor in bed as she made her way to the bathroom. She needed to shower and get back to the academy. She was supposed to be packed and out by eight that morning. She had progressed about halfway through her shower when Kantor pulled back the curtain and joined her. He kissed her softly and cupped her breasts in his hands.

"You can't do this to me. I need to get back," she said with a sigh. She had begun to grow moist between her legs; it wasn't water.

"I can and will do anything I want," he said with a smile.

And he could, they both knew it. "Come on, Kantor," she whispered. "I have to go."

His hands moved from her breasts to her buttocks. He pressed her lower body into his. His erection was deliciously sandwiched between them. "I want you to stay," he said.

He consumed her with his eyes, his body, and his very presence. There was no way she could ever deny him again.

* * *

A few days later, Kantor helped Selarah settle into a tiny apartment not far from the PD. Her building was located in a bad neighborhood. He had almost protested when he saw the place, but he knew that she could hold her own against any creep that might try to break in on her. She loved the place on first sight, and bragged that she had received a discount on rent because her landlord needed a cop around.

The apartment itself was in need of repair. It was no consequence to Selarah. She spent her first weekend off work painting the place. Kantor had helped with that chore as well. He had painted for a while, but remembered stopping at some point so he could watch Selarah. It wasn't that he was lazy or uninterested in the chore, but he found himself gazing at his new lover with a kind of wonder in his eyes.

After they had first made love, he thought their relationship would go no further. He didn't know if there was enough to build upon. There was attraction and simple animal lust, but if there was anything else, he didn't recognize it. It had happened to him before in the past. He had seen or been introduced to an incredible looking woman only to date her a few times and then break cleanly away. However, something about her had washed away that notion. He couldn't quite stay away from her.

She glanced at him and noticed that he had stopping working. "What do you think you're doing," she demanded playfully.

"Watching you," he said, keeping his normal, stoic poker face.

"Would you mind not doing that? It's distracting," she said with a grin.

"Yes," he said, "I would mind. May I offer some constructive criticism?"

"Since when do you bother to ask," she asked, amused.

He didn't break his poker face a bit when he said, "You're holding that paint brush too tightly. If you don't loosen your grip, you're going to miss your target."

She didn't laugh or say a word. Instead, with paintbrush in hand, she approached where he sat. He looked up at her solemnly.

"Don't point that thing at me," he said, his voice dry and deadpan.

She took the paintbrush and painted a light blue stripe down his nose. He sprang suddenly to life, so quick, and so lithe. He grabbed her and brought her down to the floor. She screamed in delight and assaulted him with the paintbrush. She gave him blue cheeks, a blue forehead, and lips. She was aiming for his goatee when he finally wrestled the brush away from her.

"I simply can't trust you with weapons," he said, kissing her, sharing his blue lips.

Later, they spent an hour washing the paint off their bodies.

* * *

Selarah understood Kantor's personal code. He had broken it when they began seeing each other, however, it came back into effect during work hours. On the job, they weren't a couple. During the day, she was a lowly rookie, and he a celebrated lieutenant. After hours, it was a different story altogether. Kantor spent more time at Selarah's apartment than he did his own.

They kept a fairly good cap on their growing relationship. Not many people at work knew Kantor was with the new officer. However, his friends and colleagues began to notice slight personality changes in him. He was less tense, less like a machine and more human. He astounded his superiors once when he asked for the weekend off. They noticed, coincidentally, that the new rookie on first also had the same weekend off. However, they didn't place much significance to it. After all, Kantor was not known to have affairs with female officers. But Jeff Gibson, Kantor's partner, was the first to notice something peculiar after that particular weekend. Both he and the rookie had come back to work on Monday sunburned.

Gibson had commented about it, but Kantor offered nothing. The only time Gibson got a reaction out of him at all was when he said he'd like to ask Marx out. He really had no interest in her, but he wanted to feel Kantor out.

"I wouldn't do that," Kantor had said. "She's not available."

In his usual hush mouth fashion, Kantor did not elaborate. However, his response was enough to convince Gibson that his friend was very much attached to the new police officer.

It wasn't just Kantor's colleagues who noticed the change in his personality, but Kantor himself became aware that his outlook on life had changed. He no longer pushed himself to work sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. He honestly looked forward to seeing Selarah every night, and was unhappy when she had to work overtime, or if he couldn't see her. He had literally lost himself in her, and didn't mind. It was different with her, different than he had felt with anyone.

There was also the matter of their varied, insistent, and urgent sex life. His hunger for her was insatiable. Despite wherever they were, they found a place to quench their appetites. More than once, they had made love in restaurant bathrooms, in his car, on the beach, in the park… everywhere. No place was off limits. Neither of them gave a second thought about possibly getting caught, or the ramifications of such with regard to their careers.

He recalled an incident a few weeks previously when they had come close to getting caught in the act. They had gone to a movie and sat in a cinema side by side. There were only four or five other people in the room, but they sat in the back, as was their custom. As the lights went down and the sound went up, Selarah put her hand comfortably on Kantor's thigh. His arm went around her shoulders. No big deal. However, it became one very quickly.

Occasionally, they could simply touch each other lightly, and it would be enough to make them hungry for each other. Before long, Selarah's hand was inside Kantor's slacks. Once he was hard and ready for her, she had taken him into her mouth. Just seconds after he came, he saw the approaching light of the usher. Thinking quickly, Selarah placed her jacket over his lap and lay her head down.

The usher's light had shined on them, and he had demanded an explanation. Kantor remembered shrugging and spinning a lie about Selarah being ill and needing a place to rest her head. The usher left them apparently satisfied with his excuse. He and Selarah had laughed about it later, making up their own headlines. His favorite had been: Radner Lieutenant Caught With His Pants Down. Hers: Rookie Cop Caught With Her Mouth Full of Celebrated Lieutenant.

It was totally unlike him to act so out of control. He had never allowed himself to be so irresponsible. But Selarah brought things out in him that he never thought existed. During the day, he was as serious and as straight laced as any other lieutenant at Radner. However, at night, he left it at the door. He was consumed by Selarah and loved every minute of it.

* * *

Several weeks later, Kantor was working night surveillance with his partner and a few other officers. It was a grueling assignment, and Kantor was anxious to be done with it. He hadn't felt well the entire day. He didn't think he was getting ill, however, his stomach was clinched in knots. Kantor had never been so jumpy or out of sorts. The radio squawked to life, and Kantor nearly threw it out the window.

He picked it up, pushed the 'send' button, and snarled, "Kantor."

"A call came in for you at the office, Kantor."

He had no idea who would have called him at the office. It wasn't Selarah's style to do it when she knew he was working.

"What is it? I don't have time to screw around," he barked into the mic.

"Marx called in for you, Kantor. Her apartment was broken into, and she was assaulted."

Panic bubbled up inside him, and he nearly lost it. However, he maintained his sanity, and calmly asked, "Is she all right?"

"She refused medical attention," dispatch reported.

"Thank you." Inside, he felt as if he were falling apart. Outside, he clenched his jaws and fought his impending hysteria.

Gibson looked at Kantor. "Go on, Kantor. She probably needs you," he said.

Without a second thought, Kantor left the surveillance van and ran back to his cruiser parked a few blocks down. Once inside the car, his calm exterior began slipping a bit. He floored the accelerator.

After arriving at the apartment, Kantor saw that Selarah's door had been kicked in, and her front window shattered. At first, he didn't see her. He could hear his heart thumping in his chest. His stomach was tied in knots, and for a moment, he thought he might vomit. He was about to barge in the apartment with guns blazing until he saw movement inside. He saw Selarah moving around, going through some of her things. At first, Kantor couldn't move. He stood and watched her for a moment. He was never so relieved in his life to see her.

"Selarah," he called.

She turned to him, and that's when he saw her bruised chin and a long cut running down her cheek. She hadn't exactly expected him to come. He had been on a surveillance run with his partner, and she had only called to leave a message. He was, in fact, still wearing his shoulder holster and gun. He had apparently come directly from the field. She was glad he had come to her; she needed him. After a moment's hesitation, he went to her and took her into his arms. Mindful of her injuries, he kissed her eyelids, her nose, and her lips.

Pulling back to look at her, he asked, "Are you all right?"

She nodded. She was still in shock. "Yeah. I went out for a bit, and when I came back, these jerks had broken in. I walked in on them. They worked me over pretty good, but I got a few shots in."

He took her into his embrace. "Oh God, I thought…I don't know what I thought. Why didn't you call me sooner?"

She moved back a bit so she could look at him. "I took care of it, Kantor. Some of the guys caught them right after they left here. I didn't want to worry you."

Incredulously, he gaped at her. "Worry me? Are you kidding? By all means, worry me. I want you out of this building. I didn't like the idea of your living here anyway. And now, I especially hate it. I want you to move in with me."

She sighed. "Okay, I suppose I can temporarily until I…"

He placed a finger over her lips, interrupting her. "No, not temporarily."

Selarah balked at first. She wanted to ask if he was serious, but she could see the look in his eyes. Despite the temptations before them, they had not strayed from each other. They had begun an exclusive relationship without even realizing it.

Kantor, on the other hand, had never wanted to commit himself to one person, not until he met Selarah. It was true that when they began seeing each other, they only spent time screwing each other's brains out. However, that was all in the past. At the present moment, he knew he couldn't live without her.

"Are…are you sure," she finally spat.

"Yes," he said. "I can't fathom the idea of anything happening to you. I want you to be safe and protected. I don't want to be without you. And for a moment tonight, I thought I was."

"What about your roommate?"

"It'll be all right."

Kantor helped Selarah pack up some of her clothing before they left the apartment. During the drive to his place, he would glance at her every now and then. She hadn't said much since she got into the car. He was worried about her, worried that she had been hurt more than she was letting on.

When they arrived at Kantor's apartment, it was dark inside. Apparently, his roommate had retired for the evening. They left Selarah's things in the living room for the night. Both of them were exhausted. Quietly, they entered his bedroom and closed the door behind them.

"I have to take a shower, Falk," she said. "I feel really shitty right now."

He said nothing as she went into the bathroom and began to undress. He waited for her to get into the shower before he stripped down to join her. When he opened the shower door, she looked at him, not startled, but relieved. It was as if she wanted him to be with her, but had been afraid to ask. She had always had trouble asking for help.

Kantor could see her other injuries. Angry welts and bruises were springing up all over her body. There were even a few bloody cuts scattered here and there. She had been in one hell of a fight, and was lucky to be alive. He could sense she was still in shock. She stood absolutely motionless, as if she had forgotten how to move. He moved for her. Kantor soaped up a sponge and gently washed away the dried blood from her cuts. He even shampooed her hair. She stood with her eyes closed throughout, only moving her neck from side to side beneath the spray of water.

By the time the shower ended, Selarah felt a bit better. She was able to dry herself off and run a brush through her hair. She slipped into one of Kantor's shirts and then joined him in bed. She snuggled as closely to him as she could get.

He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. "A little better?"

"Yes, lots," she whispered.

He wanted to ask again if she was all right, but he didn't want to press the issue. Instead, he said, "I don't think you should go in tomorrow."

"I'm fine," she insisted.

It was time to press the issue. "I don't think so. You've gone through an ordeal, Selarah. From the way your body looks, you were beaten far worse than you said."

She pulled away from him and sat up. Bewildered, he watched as she drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. After a moment, she began to sob. Her cries were deep and gut wrenching. She was not simply crying due to the stress of what had happened. She was hurting, and the hurt was coming out. He had never seen her like this before.

He sat up and drew her unyielding body toward his. She resisted, wanting to be alone with her pain, but he would not allow it. Eventually, her body collapsed against his as she continued sobbing. After a very long time, her tears dried up to sniffles; the sniffles drifted to hiccoughs; the hiccoughs carried her into sleep.

The next morning, Kantor awoke before the alarm went off. He noticed that Selarah was awake as well. She lay propped on one elbow.

"How long have you been awake," he asked, stifling a yawn.

"For an hour or so. I was just watching you sleep."

He turned to face her. "Did you…"

Before he finished his question, she interrupted him. "I called in. They didn't expect me to come in, anyway."

"Maybe I should stay in."

Her eyes searched his face. "No. I won't have that."

He grinned. "No arguments, huh?"

Selarah smiled. "Nope." Her smiled faded. "I'm not accustomed to accepting help. Being with you, I'm learning. I don't like revealing my weaker side, Falk, and last night, it came out pretty hard."

"You don't have to explain," he said. "I understand."

"Yes," she said, caressing his handsome face, "You do."

He kissed her lips softly before pulling away. He got out of bed and made his way toward the bathroom. At the door, he turned to her. "Stay in bed, get some rest."

When Kantor came out of the bathroom twenty minutes later, Selarah was fast asleep. He leaned down and kissed her cheek before he left for the day.

Selarah awoke a few hours later. She rarely slept in, and when she did, she felt guilty for doing it. There was always work to be done somewhere. She could smell coffee brewing and heard soft classical music coming from the living room. Curious, she pulled on Kantor's robe and emerged from the bedroom. Kantor's roommate sat at the kitchen table seemingly poring over several books at one time.

She had never met Kantor's roommate. She knew very little about him other than his name. Like Kantor, Trevor Steeler was tall, slender, and broad shouldered. He had a strong angular face with a square jaw, full lips, and widely spaced hazel eyes. His dark brown hair was shoulder length and slightly wavy. She noted he was wearing reading glasses pushed far down on his nose.

She felt like an intruder skulking about in the shadows. She hadn't spent many nights with Kantor at his place. He was mostly over at hers. This apartment was so much more Trevor's than anyone else's.

Trevor felt a pair of eyes on him, and he looked up to see a very gorgeous blonde studying him. This must be Selarah, he thought. He hadn't met his roommate's girlfriend yet, even though they had been dating for weeks. She was certainly breathtaking, more so than Anna. The only thing that marred her beauty was a bruise on her chin and a scratch down her cheek.

"Hullo," he said with a clipped English accent.

She nearly jumped. "Hi."

"Would you like to join me for coffee," he asked, holding up his cup.

Feeling incredibly awkward, she smiled. "Uh, sure."

She entered the kitchen and grabbed a cup off a rack hanging on the wall. She tentatively sat down at the table and poured herself a cup of coffee.

Trevor looked at her over his glasses and said, "I'm assuming you're Selarah? Falk's girlfriend?"

Well, we're a bit more than just boyfriend/girlfriend, she wanted to say. Instead she said, "Yes. And you're Trevor?"

He smiled a little. "The one and only."

"I can't believe I haven't met you, and I've been with Falk for weeks," she said.

He took a sip of coffee. "I was just thinking the same thing." He wanted to ask what had happened to her face, but he resisted. "I noticed some of your things there in the living room. You've moved in?"

The awkwardness returned. Oh boy, here it goes. "I had a slight problem at my place, and Falk suggested I move in. I suppose we should have discussed it with you first, but…"

He smiled and waved a dismissive hand. "No explanation necessary, really. The more the merrier."

Trevor went back to his coffee and books. Selarah was simply too stunned by his casual reaction to say a word.

* * *

Kantor came home one evening on a break. He was working another surveillance run and would have to go back out again shortly. However, there was something he needed to discuss with Selarah. She was with Trevor in the living room, and both of them were buried in paper. She had come home off shift only an hour or so before Kantor stopped by. She had sat down with Trevor to help him edit his dissertation.

"Selarah, I need to talk to you," Kantor said.

She looked up at him and placed a stack of paper onto the coffee table in a neat pile. "Sure."

The two of them went to the bedroom and closed the door behind them. Selarah sat down on the bed and watched her lover for an undetermined amount of time. He stood stock still, in deep thought.


Her calling him by his first name always got his attention. She didn't do it often. "I'm sorry, Selarah. I'm thinking about how I want to approach this."

"Since when do you have trouble speaking your mind," she teased.

He chuckled. "With you? Always," he said. He kneeled before her, inserting his body between her legs. "There's an opening in Narcotics. It was offered to me this morning. It's a challenging job, long hours."

She ran her hands over his face. "And perfectly suited for you."

He looked at her, confused.

"Baby, it's all over your face. You want it, don't you?"

He sighed. "You know me so well." Kantor was about to kiss her when his radio squawked to life. Frustrated, he hit the 'send' button and barked, "I'll be there in a minute."

He gave her a quick kiss on the lips and was out the door.

That night, Kantor slipped into the darkened bedroom. He undressed as quickly and as quietly as he could. He climbed into bed trying hard not to disturb Selarah.

"It's okay, I'm up," she said.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," she said.

"I meant to do this earlier."

He leaned toward her and kissed her softly. Their kiss quickly deepened, and he ended up making love to her. When he came, he whispered 'I love you' in her ear. He had never told her he loved her, never told any woman outside his own mother. He knew it was time to tell her, time to let her know how he felt. He knew he should have said it a long time ago. At the moment, he didn't even care if she ever returned the sentiment. When he looked at her, her eyes were misty with tears.

"I love you, too," she whispered.

He kissed her and held her close the rest of the night.

* * *

After a few months, Kantor settled well into his new job. When he had extended assignments, Selarah would stay home with Trevor and help him with his dissertation. She never thought of Trevor as anything more than a friend, but he had secretly developed a crush on her. As the time passed, his crush grew into an unrequited love that was achingly bittersweet.

Selarah enjoyed spending time with Trevor. He was quiet, warm, and open. Often, he was a willing ear when she had a fight with Kantor. Although Trevor was tempted time and time again to interfere with their relationship, he didn't. He realized that Selarah and Kantor were in love and nothing he could do would break them up for long. He thought his roommate might even marry her. He didn't want to see that happen, but he felt it would.

Very early one morning, Kantor stirred as Selarah slid out of bed. He glanced at the lighted dial on his watch. She wasn't due at work for several hours. He knew Trevor was awake, he could smell the good aroma of brewed coffee and bacon wafting from the kitchen. He almost rolled over and went back to sleep until he heard Selarah vomiting repeatedly.

Without hesitation, Kantor crawled out of bed and stood in the bathroom doorway. By that time, Selarah had recovered somewhat and was washing her face at the sink. This morning ritual had been occurring for two weeks. Kantor had noticed, of course, but he hadn't said much about it, and he didn't think Selarah was aware he knew.

"Selarah," he said, "is there something you're not telling me?"

She turned and glanced at him. "Huh," she spat, stunned. She hadn't even heard Kantor get out of bed.

"I've heard this every morning for about two weeks, and I'm sure the only thing that does this to a woman is morning sickness. Are you pregnant?"

Selarah couldn't read the expression on his face. She often wondered if he used the same expression while interrogating suspects. "I don't know," she said quietly. She waited for him to blow up.

In fact, she was angry with herself. She had been on the pill for years, had taken them ever so faithfully. If she even thought she had forgotten, Kantor would use a condom, no questions asked. Neither of them wanted a child, they honestly didn't even need one, not with their hectic careers.

Without a word, Kantor stepped out of the doorway. She heard him open a drawer. He came back to the bathroom with a pregnancy testing kit. Surprised, she looked at the box, not sure what to say.

"I bought this the first time I heard you in the bathroom. I was just waiting to see if you were going to tell me before I asked."

"Oh," she said before taking the box from him. She stared at it for a long time.

"I know you're scared. I am, too. Do this, and we'll deal with it."

Kantor gave her some privacy and waited in the bedroom. Together, they sat on the bed during the fifteen-minute waiting period. When the time expired, Selarah didn't move a muscle. Kantor walked into the bathroom to take a look.

Selarah watched quietly as Kantor reentered the bedroom. She couldn't read his expression. He sat beside her on the bed and took her in his arms.

"We're having a baby," he told her softly.

She was somewhat bewildered by his reaction. She pulled back from him. "You…you mean you want it?"

"Of course I want it. Why wouldn't I? It's you, it's me."

"But…But we didn't plan to…"

He cut her off by placing his fingers on her lips. "Not many people do plan, it just happens sometimes. I think it's wonderful."

He took her in his arms and held her, but she still didn't know how she felt about it.

As the baby grew within her, Selarah began to feel the same kind of excitement and anxiousness that Kantor felt. Trevor took to the news as expected. He was happy for them on the outside. On the inside, he felt ill. They would be sure to marry now, and Trevor didn't know if his heart could take it.

Kantor was with Selarah as much as possible. However, sometimes, he simply could not be there. He was right in the middle of a huge cocaine bust when Selarah had a doctor's appointment for an ultrasound. Kantor was not happy about it, but since Selarah was a cop, she understood. She brought home some copies of the ultrasound photos and a video. Kantor was taken aback by the images of his unborn son. He could not believe that this tiny life was inside his lover.

When Selarah and Kantor went to bed that night, it was one of the first nights they had had together since Kantor was given charge of the bust. He would return to regular working hours in a few days. They relished the time they had together.

"After this assignment is over, I'm transferring," he suddenly announced.

She leaned over him. "Kantor, are you nuts? You love working Narc."

"I love you and our son more. I want to raise him with you, be around as often as I can. I can't do that working Narc. For God's sake, I missed your appointment today. What if I'm not there when he's born? Our relationship and having this baby has taught me that there are more important things in life than my ambition."

"Falk, are you sure?"

"I'm more than sure."

Kantor slid out of bed and padded over to the dresser. He dug something out of a drawer. When he turned around, he held his hand behind his back. He approached her side of bed and sat down to face her. At that point, he revealed what he had hidden from her. It was a ring.

"I actually bought this before we found out you were pregnant. I didn't want you to think I was asking just because of the baby. I want to marry you if you'll have me." He slipped the ring on her finger.

Selarah gazed at the ring and smiled. "I don't want to be a pregnant bride, Falk."

He laughed and kissed her. When he pulled away, she was in tears.

Concerned, he said, "Selarah? What…"

"It's okay," she whispered, "pregnant women cry a lot."

For the first time in his life, Kantor didn't want to return to work. His brief respite was over, and he had to go back. He was anxious to turn in his transfer request. On the morning he was slated to go back, he stayed home as long as he could. He kneeled before Selarah and kissed her increasingly rounding middle. She giggled helplessly at him. He stood and kissed her long and breathlessly. It seemed as if he was saying goodbye forever instead of just for a few hours.

When he broke the kiss, he said, "I've spoken to my parents and told them about the baby. They also knew that I was going to propose months ago. They're thrilled. They said they never thought I'd settle down."

"Maybe we could visit them," she suggested.

"I'd love that. But first, I have to go to work and put in for the transfer. It won't get done until I leave."

She smiled. "You do have a point."

Selarah took his hand and walked out the door with him. He kissed her again before going to his car. She stood back and watched him as long as she could. Even when he was totally out of sight, she remained outside. At that moment in her life, Kantor and the baby were all she had in the whole world. When he left on dangerous and/or extended assignments, she often wondered if he would return to her. She loved her own work and wouldn't admit it, but she was glad Kantor wanted to transfer.

At dawn, a pair hands shook Selarah awake. It wasn't Kantor.

"Sel, are you awake," Trevor asked.

Sleepily, she sat up and peered at him through foggy eyes. "What is it?"

He swallowed hard, his throat clicked. "It's Falk, Sel, he's been shot."

A ton of adrenaline rushed through her body. She sat straight up in bed; her eyes wide open. "What the fuck did you say," she demanded.

"He was shot. From the sound of it, he's not doing well."

Without another word, Selarah shot out of bed and threw on some clothes. She acted as if Trevor didn't even exist. She stopped for only a few seconds.

"I can't drive up there, not like this. Take me to him, Trevor."

Before the hospital would allow Selarah in to see Kantor, she had to lie and say she was his wife. She was told that a bullet had nicked his heart. He had actually died during surgery, but was brought back. However, no one at the hospital could tell her how long he would live. His heart was in danger of failing, and could do so at any time.

Kantor was unaware of her presence. He had various tubes in his body, running this way and that. Selarah had never seen him so vulnerable. Kantor's partner told her that a former police informant had blown his cover. He was taken to a secluded area, shot, and then left for dead. Luckily for him, he was found minutes later by a couple who had been in the area when they heard shots fired. As she gazed at her lover, pain gnawed at her heart. He could not die, could not leave her and the baby.

Before Selarah had even touched him, one of the machines hooked into him began to beep steadily. Someone in the hall shouted something about a 'code blue.' She then understood. Kantor's heart had stopped beating. Medical personnel flooded the room and Selarah was summarily shoved out of the room. She stood helpless and alone. A pain seized her middle, bringing her to her knees.

Several days passed. Kantor finally awoke. His room was full of nurses and interns, but the one person he needed was not there. He began calling for Selarah and refused to shut up until she was retrieved.

Selarah came to him in tears. "Falk?"

He gazed at her, noticing that something about her appearance had changed. She wasn't pregnant. How long had he been out?

"Selarah," he spat, his voice barely audible.

"It's okay," she said. "You don't have to talk."

"The baby, the baby…"

She closed her eyes against the pain for a moment. When she opened them, Kantor waited for an answer. "Don't talk, save your strength."

"No," he cried harshly, "fuck that. You're not pregnant, where's the baby?"

"Falk, please."

"Tell me, goddamn it!" His heart monitor began to creep up.

Selarah grew alarmed. "Okay, okay. Calm down."

"Tell me."

She swallowed hard and began to cry harder. "The baby is gone, Falk. I had a miscarriage."

"Because of this," he croaked.

"No, Falk, there were complications…"

"Oh God," he moaned, interrupting her. The pain in his heart was immense. Their baby was gone, and he was destroyed. He didn't think he wanted to see anyone, even Selarah. "Leave please. I can't look at you," he said with tears filling his eyes.

"Falk," she began.

"Go," he demanded.

She left, but only to spare him more pain.

Despite a few setbacks, Kantor healed quickly. However, he had cooled considerably toward Selarah. She came to him daily, but he could not look at her without feeling intense sadness. During her visits, he mostly stayed on the phone with his parents. Kantor didn't blame her for the miscarriage. He blamed himself plenty. It was his fault the baby died and he would never forgive himself.

When he was close to dismissal, he called Selarah in. She didn't know what to expect. He acted as if he hated her, but she could not deny him, she loved him. She sat near his bed and he glanced at her left hand. With a pang, he noticed that she was still wearing his engagement ring.

"I'll be discharged in a few days," he began, "and I'm taking a leave of absence."

"I anticipated that," she said, interrupting him.

"Let me finish, please," he requested calmly. "I'm going back home to stay with my family for a few months. After that, I'm returning to the NYPD. I'll be working in their Narcotics division."


"Don't. Let me finish," he demanded. "I'm going alone and I have no intention of coming back. I think we should end it right here, right now."

In tears, she spat, "You blame me, don't you?"

"No," he spat, horrified. "I don't blame you at all. I blame me. My job, what I do, brought about this miscarriage. It was my fault, Selarah."

"Falk, that's ridiculous," she wailed.

"No, it isn't ridiculous at all. What if it happens again some time in the future? I don't want to hurt you like that ever."

"You're hurting me now. We can start over, Falk, don't do this to us."

"I have to. You will thank me one day. You need someone in your life who has a safe job. You need to marry somebody like Trevor."

"You are the only man I want, the only one I'll ever want."

He wasn't listening to her. "A buddy from Narc is going to help pack my things. I'll call before I come over. I don't want to see you there."

"Falk, please…"

"No," he spat harshly. "It's over. This is for your own good. Please go."

"If you would just listen to me," she began.

Without looking at her, he said, "If you don't go now, I'll call security and have them take you out. Don't make me do that."

He had become the stoic robot again. How quickly he had reverted. She wiped away her tears and slowly stood up. "I hope you realize what you're doing," she said.

He closed his eyes and turned his head away from her. If he looked at her again, he would change his mind.

* * *

The last time Selarah heard from Kantor was two days after his release from the hospital. He had called her at work and told her that he and his friend would clear out his things that morning. He didn't converse with her or say goodbye. He simply voiced his intentions and hung up in her ear.

She went home that night, dreading it. She already ached for Kantor. How would she live without him? She knew she couldn't stay in the same apartment any longer. She would move out immediately.

Trevor was home, seemingly waiting for her return. She had grown close to him since Kantor had been in the hospital. She ignored him for the moment and entered the bedroom.

When Kantor had kicked her out of his life, she had taken off the engagement ring as soon as she got home. She remembered placing it on the nightstand. She noticed it was gone. She moved around the room and opened the closet. None of his clothes were in there. Shocked, she noticed that he had even taken his pillows and stripped the bed. There was nothing of him left in the room, not even his scent. She thought she would miss that most of all. She walked over to the dresser and opened a drawer. Kantor had left a small manila envelope inside. She picked it up and opened it. Several ultrasound photos slid out. He had taken the engagement ring, but left all that remained of their baby.

Selarah couldn't take it. She began to sob uncontrollably. Trevor heard her and rushed into the room. He slowly approached her and took the photos out of her hands. He took her into his embrace and held her until the flood subsided.

Later, Selarah sat on the living room sofa drinking from a huge mug of hot tea. Trevor sat in the kitchen, under the guise of working on his dissertation. However, he kept his eyes on her.

Trevor had been home when Kantor and his friend came to pack. Kantor had tried to keep his cold exterior in place. He hadn't wanted to let anyone know what he was going through leaving the woman he loved so dearly. Kantor had also run across the photos. It was the first time Trevor had ever seen him cry. Trevor could have told Selarah this. It may have offered her comfort, but he didn't say a word. Kantor was out of the picture, and it was his turn.

"Trevor," she called. "Would you come here, please?"

"Sure." He took off his glasses and closed the book he was pretending to read. He approached the couch and sat beside her.

"What's on your mind?"

She held the mug in both of her hands like a child. She brought it to her lips and took a sip of tea. Her wounded eyes met his. "I can't stay here. I have to move out. Even though all of Falk's things are gone, he's still all over the place. I can't even sleep in the bed."

He nodded. "I understand. Why don't we both move out," he said. "I've gotten quite accustomed to having you as a roommate."

She smiled a little. "Trevor, you're really sweet. Are you sure you want to keep putting up with me?"

"Absolutely," he said. "You're the best editor I've ever had."

* * *

Although Kantor had planned to stay with his parents a couple of months, he ended up staying nearly six months. It had taken him a long time to fully recover from the shooting and from leaving Selarah. He moved into a small apartment and began working on rebuilding his life. Along with some of his belongings, he had carried in a box filled with mail. He hadn't realized that this much mail had accumulated since he left. He went through it meticulously. Most of it was related to his move. Kantor ignored a large portion of it, but a couple of letters drew his attention. They were both from his former partner, Jeff Gibson.

Kantor opened the first envelope and pulled out a couple of newspaper articles. Thought you might want to see these, Gibson had scribbled on a Post-It note. The articles were dated three months after he left. The first headline read, Radner Police Officer Saves Hostages During Botched Bank Job. It was about Selarah. He briefly skimmed the article and discovered that she had single handedly convinced a suicidal bank robber to release his hostages. The second article was headlined, Rookie Officer Given Florida's Medal of Valor. Selarah's bravery had been rewarded with the state's highest honor. The last article also reported that Selarah had made sergeant. She was quickly coming into her own. He found a smile touching his lips for the first time in six months. Kantor's smile dropped off as soon as he opened the second envelope and read its contents.

He held a wedding announcement in his hand. Selarah intended to marry Trevor. I'm sorry, Gibson had scribbled on another Post-It note. Anger and grief seized his heart and squeezed it viciously. He wanted to strike out, to murder, to maim. You wanted her to go on, his conscious told him. It was true, he had told her to get on with her life and marry someone like Trevor. But not Trevor! Grief washed over him in waves. Had they been sleeping together behind his back the whole time? He shook his head, trying to force the idea out of his head. Of course she hadn't been sleeping with Trevor before. She had never shown any interest in Trevor at all. Kantor had broken her heart, and she had fallen into Trevor's arms by default. He was sure she didn't even love him.

The wedding was set to happen in five days. A million things ran through his mind. One of which involved going back to Radner and breaking it up. However, that was not his style. He had ended his relationship with her, and she was well within her rights to marry whomever she chose. But it didn't stop him from feeling immense devastation. Regardless of everything, he still loved her, still missed her. Kantor ripped the articles and the announcement into shreds.

* * *

Selarah had wanted a small civil ceremony. She hadn't wanted to invite any guests, but Trevor insisted. He had even gone out without her knowledge and had invitations made. He sent them to all the cops at Radner. She didn't want any of them knowing she had planned to marry Trevor. The news would get back to Kantor one way or another, and she didn't want him to know.

On the day of the wedding, Selarah was holed up in a makeshift dressing room. She wore a tailored linen suit that was a soft peach color. Her hair was pinned atop her head. She had never looked so gorgeous or felt so horrible. She didn't love Trevor. She had only said yes to his proposal because she felt she owed him. He had, after all, taken care of her when Kantor left her.

After moving out of the old apartment, they had chosen another that was closer to the university. For weeks, the two had lived as any other platonic roommates would. However, Selarah had made a few bad choices. One night after work, she had gone out with the guys and drank too much. Already depressed, she came home morose and crying. As was per custom, Trevor took care of her. He stripped her down and forced her under an ice cold shower. When she came out, she was in tears again. He had held her, soothed her, and then began kissing her tears away. She had wanted to stop him, but had been in no shape to do so. Before she knew what was happening, Trevor was making love to her, telling her he would love and take care of her forever. All she had wanted was Kantor, but she had settled for second best.

Selarah later stood with Trevor reciting wedding vows, promising to love him until death parted them. However, she would never love him. Her heart would always belong to Falk Kantor.

A silent witness stood toward the back by the door. His eyes went to the bride. She was gorgeous, hadn't seemed to change one bit. He could still remember the last time he had kissed her. He loved her so very deeply and his heart ached miserably.

When the ceremony was over, the newly wedded couple turned to face the crowd. In the very back of the room, Selarah spied a tall man looming in the shadows. She couldn't see his face. The man noticed that Selarah had seen him. He then turned and walked out the door. For a moment, she would have sworn it was Kantor. Only wishful thinking, I'm afraid, she thought.

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