Family Forever – A Dylan Morgan Show Story

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Family Forever – A Dylan Morgan Show Story
by Jenny Frame

 

The Dylan Morgan Show Season 1

The Dylan Morgan Show Season 2

The Dylan Morgan Show – Morgan’s Summer Special

 

Disclaimer – The characters in this story are mine. Any resemblance to any fictional characters is purely coincidental. This is an uber story and so the two lead characters may be familiar. Some locations contained within the story are real and some are fictional.

Love/Sex warning/Disclaimer – This story depicts loving, consensual sexual relationships between women. If you are under 18 years of age or if the themes of these relationships are illegal in your country then I suggest you skip this story.

Song/Music Disclaimer – The Songs mentioned in this piece are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.

A huge thank you to my Beta Reader Norse bard. I am very grateful for your help and hard work on this story.

All stories have to come to an end, and this is the final Morgan Show story. These characters mean so much to me. They feel like old friends, and will keep living on inside their little world inside my head, as Dylan never allows herself to fade into the background. J Hopefully they are happy with their final outing, and you never know if they shout loud enough, I might catch up with where their lives are at someday…

Thank you to everyone who has followed this story since its first episode. I am very grateful for your support, and kind messages to me throughout the time I have written Dylan and Emily’s story.

For Lou, as always. AETERNI VESTRI FIDELITER ~ Forever Yours Faithfully

 

The Dylan Morgan Show – Family Forever

 

Another one, honey? Sandy Williams could hear her Grandmother’s voice in her head as she poured her second glass of scotch.

“Just one more, Grandma.” She said to the empty room.

Sandy took her glass over to her leather couch and sat down, lifting her iPad onto her knee as she did. She opened up her mail and clicked the link Jackson had sent her. The video started to play, and she smiled as she watched a news report on her friend Dylan.

Today was a happy day for the Morgan Family. TV star, Dylan brought her family out to Los Angeles to watch her be given the honor of a star on the walk of fame.

The video showed Dylan, along with a heavily pregnant Emily and daughter Molly, pose for photographs alongside her new star on the sidewalk.

Dylan’s wife Emily, who is now seven months pregnant with their second child, looked proudly on as Dylan gave her speech and signed autographs. The large and excited crowd that assembled to see the famous family proved that Dylan Morgan’s star still burns brightly, despite bringing an end to her ever popular show. Far from retiring, Dylan’s production company have so far produced two new shows, one featuring Olympic athlete Sandy Williams, and a new TV comedy. With rumors that Dylan has been approached to star in the new superhero hero film, ‘Champions of the Gods’, it’s unlikely her star will wane for some time.

The video ended with a shot of a proud Dylan, holding Molly with one arm, and her other around Emily.

“You’re a lucky bastard, Dylan. If only there were more Emily’s around.”

Sandy had always had a crush on Emily. She seemed like the perfect woman to her, and had become even more so since her second pregnancy. Emily glowed with a beauty that all who knew her admired. She had often imagined what it would be like to have a wife like Emily and a couple of kids to love and care for, and her heart ached. I want that.

She took a sip of her drink and looked around her new spacious loft apartment. Empty.

Her cell phone rang and the caller ID read Dylan Morgan. She put it back in her pocket and let it ring out. The way she was feeling at the moment, talking was the last thing she wanted. She got up and walked over the bookshelf, where she picked up her grandmother’s photograph. It was taken when she returned from the Olympics. In the picture Sandy towered above her small grandmother who had her gold medal around her own neck.

She looked so proud of me, then.

The phone rang, and when the voicemail kicked in, she smiled when she heard Rosie speak.

“Hey, Sandy. I’m just calling to see how you are? You didn’t show to watch the big game with Jackson, meaning I had to be bored rigid listening to her drone on and on about the stupid game. Are you okay? We’re all kind of worried about you. We’ve hardly seen yes since your grandmother’s funeral. We want to be there for you. Give one of us a call okay? Bye.”

She hadn’t seen or spoken to her friends for a while. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see them, it just reminded her of how alone in the world she was; now her grandmother May had passed.

She put down the photograph, and her gaze wandered over to the publicity posters for the opening day of her gym, Pegasus. It showed Sandy in an action shot, mid stride, muscles pumped and tendons stretched, the image of a perfect body built for speed.

Then she looked down at her nearly empty bottle of scotch, and felt sick. Her stomach swirled with a mixture of guilt and shame. She grabbed the scotch and threw it at the wall, before grabbing her jacket and keys and running out the door.”

Molly held onto her mother’s hand tightly as she skipped down the corridor towards her classroom. “Slow down, Molls. Mama can’t walk so fast now.”

“Sorry Mama.”

Emily smiled at her exuberant little girl. Molly had blossomed since meeting her other mom, and becoming a family. Dylan encouraged her in anything she wanted to do or try, giving her confidence and losing the shyness and anxiety she had learnt from her. Luckily for Molly she also had taken after her mom physically, taking a big growth spurt over the summer.

“I like going fast, like Mom, and Andy.”

“That’s Sandy, sweetie.”

Molly looked up at her with big blue eyes and said, “Yeah, that’s what I say, I run fast like, Andy.”

“You sure do. I’m glad your mom can keep up with you, because I can’t.” Emily laughed.

Molly stopped and yanked on her mother’s arm. “Mom tell Grandpa she going to do a big race.”

Emily raised an eyebrow. “Oh she did, did she? I’ll need to ask her about that.”

Although Dylan was enjoying working from home, Emily could tell that she was itching for a challenge. Who knew what scheme she had come up with?

Another development that had made the family delighted, especially Molly, was Dylan’s parents retiring and moving out to Long Island. After missing so many years in their daughter’s life, they wanted to spend the rest of their lives enjoying their grandchildren.

Although, it had nearly caused another family row when they realized to get a home within a reasonable distance of Dylan and Emily’s, they would need to accept Dylan’s offer to put up the bulk of the money for their new house. Tommy, as proud and stubborn as Dylan, wouldn’t hear of it, but when Pattie made it clear that they would not miss any more time with their daughter’s family, he reluctantly relented.

Tommy and Pattie were now in a comfortable four bedroom home on the beachfront, only fifteen minutes away from them. Molly loved having them near, and both Tommy and Pattie were a great support to Emily during her pregnancy.

They rounded the corner that led to Molly’s classroom. Emily held Molly back when they saw Molly’s teacher, Miss Andrews at the classroom door being spoken to in a heated fashion by a smart suited man.

“Why that man being angry to Miss Andrews, Mama?” Molly asked.

“Just go, Parker. Don’t come to the school again.” Emily heard Amber say.

“I don’t know sweetie.” Emily flinched when the man grabbed Amber’s wrist tightly.

An image of Toni grabbing her by the wrist and the throat, then pushing her against the wall, crashed into her mind.

“Mama? You okay? Man scare you?”

Emily forced a smile onto her face, so as to not to worry her daughter. Ever since Toni had snatched her from her family, and the subsequent mental pain that it had caused her, Molly was always anxious if her mother showed any negative emotions.

“I’m absolutely fine, Molls. Don’t worry.”

Amber looked up sharply when she heard Emily’s voice. She whispered something to her companion, and he let her go. “I won’t take this lying down, Amber. This is not over, not by a long way.”

He walked off and Emily hurried to her. “Are you alright, Amber?”

Amber quickly and discreetly wiped a tear from her eye. “Of course. I didn’t expect to see you this afternoon?” Emily could tell Amber was upset and being entirely too cheerful.

Molly looked up at her mother with a worried expression, so she decided to let it drop. “I’m sorry to bother you; I wanted to talk to you about Saturday?”

“Oh sure. Come on in, Mrs. Morgan, Molly.”

“It’s Emily remember?”

Molly immediately ran over to play with the toys in the toy corner. Amber got her own chair and placed it in front of her desk. “Sit here Emily. You can’t sit on those kid chairs.”

Emily laughed and rubbed her round stomach. “I think you’re right. If I sat in those little seats, I might never get up again.”

She had gotten to know the young teacher well since Molly joined the Da Vinci School, and soon became an enthusiastic parent helper for the class.

Emily sat down, grateful to take the pressure off of her back. At seven months pregnant, her stomach was big and her back ached even after a short walk.

“How are you? You look wonderful.” Amber said.

She gave a hollow laugh. “Oh please, most days I feel like a beached whale.” The elegant and fashion conscious Mrs. Morgan, admired by the public and media, had changed from chic designer dresses to maternity clothes.

Amber looked her up and down. Today she was wearing a gray jersey dress, from one of her favorite maternity clothes designers. “Have you seen yourself, Emily? You ooze elegance, and I for one think pregnant women are beautiful.”

She felt a heat come to her cheeks. “You’re too kind. Tell me, now we’re alone, are you really alright? That man didn’t look too happy.”

Again she saw Amber’s false smile as she tried to cover her feelings. “Absolutely. There’s nothing to worry about. Now, what did you want to talk about?”

Emily decided to let the subject lie for now. “It’s about the school charity day on Saturday.”

When Dylan had been taking part in her Marathon Des Sabels event, Da Vinci had organized a fundraising day to help raise money for Rosie’s charity, ‘In the Pink.’ Unfortunately, because Emily and Rosie had to fly to Morocco because of their partner’s accident, the event had to be cancelled. When Dylan returned home, she and Emily had promised to reschedule the day and make it an event to remember.

“It’s so kind of you both to do this for us. The children are very excited.” Amber told her.

“We are only too pleased to take part. It’s wonderful to have the schools support. I’m only sorry it’s taken so long to get it rescheduled, but Dylan’s work commitments have been more demanding than we expected.”

It was a strange thing, but although they saw a lot more of Dylan at home since giving up her show, she was as busy as usual running her production company, as well as being a silent partner in Jackson’s security business.

Amber shook her head. “It’s given us more time to get everything perfect for the day. Are Ms. Hunter and Ms. Williams still coming?”

“Oh yes, they wouldn’t miss it. “Emily hoped Sandy would be there. She did promise, but no one had heard from her in a couple of weeks. I need to get Dylan to check up on her.

“That’s great. I’m really looking forward to meeting, Ms. Williams. I’m a great fan. She’s such an inspiration to the kids.”

It didn’t go unnoticed by Emily that Amber tended to blush whenever she talked about Sandy. “She’s a great person, and a really good friend to Dylan and Jackson.”

“Great. I thought Dylan, Ms. Hunter and Ms. Williams would Captain a team of kids, and compete for the great prizes you and some of the other parents have donated.”

“Sounds wonderful, I know they’ll love it. I wanted to ask you if you’d like to come to a little party Dylan and I are throwing afterward, at the house? We’d love to have you there, Amber. I know Molly would too.”

Amber looked lost for words at being asked to the home of the famous couple. “Well…are you sure…”

She took Amber’s hand and smiled warmly. “Please say you’ll come?”

“Thank you, yes. That would be wonderful.”

Rosie looked around her small studio full of boxes and thought, there’s so much to do.

It had taken months for her and Jackson to pick out this space, but this glass fronted, former art gallery in Greenwich Village, had been ideal. There was a small space out front for a reception area, and a larger gallery area at the back where she could showcase her design concepts, and an office where she could work. It was perfect.

“If only our apartment hunting was going as well.” Rosie muttered.

Every apartment she and Jackson looked at, they disagreed on. Where Jackson favored the ultra-modern and clean lines of a modern apartment, Rosie wanted something with a bit more character.

In the meantime she split her living arrangements between staying at Jackson’s apartment and at home with her dad. It wasn’t ideal, but although she was concerned at leaving her dad, he had made a good friend in Tommy Morgan, Dylan’s father. They met every week, and either went to a game or had a few drinks and played cards.

Rosie sighed. “These boxes won’t empty themselves. First things first, the coffee pot.”

She crouched down and began to look through the boxes. “Where are you? I know you’re here somewhere.”

At that moment, Rosie felt the hairs on her neck stand up, and a shiver run through her body. She stopped dead; sure that someone was watching her. Rosie had felt this a few times in the last few months, but convinced herself that she was imagining things.

This time it was more intense. Rosie was sure there was someone behind her, and her heart raced with anxiety. Just turn around and you’ll see there’s no one there. Don’t be such a big baby.

Rosie held her breath and turned quickly. There was no one there, but she spotted something at the door. She hurried over to the door and picked up a rose from the door mat, and her heart sank.

Jess. Rosie thought. After the endless calls and texts from her former friend Jess, she had changed her phone numbers, and thought her interest would have stopped. She had no proof but she got the feeling this was connected to her, and if it was Jess, it was getting more troubling than annoying.

She walked out to the sidewalk, hoping she would catch her walking away, but saw nothing. This is insane. It’s just Jess probably. I’m not frightened of her. Rosie tried to convince herself.

All of a sudden she felt a hand on her shoulder and she jumped out of her skin. She turned around and saw her partner Jackson looking at her quizzically. “Shit, Jack. You almost gave me a heart attack there. Don’t sneak up on me.”

“I didn’t sneak up on you. I just walked up normally, and I called your name, but you didn’t hear me. What are you doing out here anyway?”

Rosie had never told her partner about Jess and her phone calls, as she knew Jackson would have gone crazy at Jess. Especially given the history between them. When she and Jackson had argued before, Jess had riled her by talking about her deceased sister, Sarah, to which Jackson had not reacted well.

“Nothing, I thought I saw a friend. What are doing here anyway? I thought you’d be hard at work with the perfect Miss Lane?”

Jackson shook her head, and laughed. Since appointing Paris Lane as secretary to Hunter Securities, she had made little jokes and jibes about her. She trusted Jackson, but there was always the small part of her that was waiting for something to go wrong. When she had first met the blonde and exceptionally beautiful Paris at Jackson’s office, a tiny kernel of jealousy was planted inside her.

“Yeah, Paris and me were busy making out on my desk, and I thought, hmm…I better come see my Rosie girl.” Jackson said sarcastically.

She smacked Jackson in the arm, and walked back inside.

“That hurts you know?”

“Well, don’t say stupid stuff, Soldier boy, and I won’t have to.” Jackson followed her in and locked the studio door behind them. She then grabbed her girlfriend from behind, to stop her from running away. “I wouldn’t have to say stupid stuff if you didn’t make jibes about my very straight secretary.”

Rosie turned in Jackson’s arms and smoothed down the lapel of partner’s suit jacket. “She’s straight?”

Jackson smiled. “Uh-huh. I heard her talking about an ex-boyfriend.”

Rosie looked unconvinced. “Still, she could be open to persuasion, I mean you are handsome and gorgeous, Jack.”

“Shut up, I am not. Besides, she may be open to persuasion, but I am not.” Jackson kissed her nose, and smiled. “I have the most beautiful girl in the world already, so there’s no point in looking elsewhere.”

Rosie felt guilty for thinking that Jackson would be interested in anyone else, even if it was only a joke. The joke covered her many underlying insecurities. “I’m sorry Jack, I just get…”

Jackson pulled her close into her, and kissed her tenderly. “Shh…It’s okay. I know, hippy girl.”

“I don’t deserve you.” Their relationship had gotten so much stronger since Jackson had come to understand her worries about being hurt, and those she loved being taken away from her.

“Of course you do, you deserve to have me drive you crazy for the rest of our lives together. Now, I have a surprise for you.”

“You do?”

“I do. I’ve found the perfect place for us to live, and I’ve got an appointment for us to view it.” Jackson said with a smug smile upon her face.

“Another apartment? I think we’ve seen every one available in the whole of New York.”

“You haven’t seen this one. I promise you will love it, and you will reward me with-”

“A kiss?” Rosie said laughing.

Jackson raised an eyebrow. “No I think I’ll deserve something more than a kiss for this one. Come on.”

Amber pulled up in her driveway and hurriedly made her way to the front porch of her new house. She had arranged for a contractor to come to the house after school, but the surprise visit by her ex fiancé, Parker Harrington, and Emily had delayed her. Fortunately, she left a key under the front door mat, so she had called the contractor and told him to look around until she got there.

She was just about to walk in the front door when he contractor walked around from the garden. He was scribbling in his notebook calculating a price.

“Hi, sorry I’m late. What’s the damage, Mr. O’Hanlon?”

“If you give me one more minute, I’ll be able to give you a price, Miss Andrews.”

She leaned on the porch handrail and it came loose from the balustrade with a creak. God. This place is falling apart at the seams.

She had bought this place so it would allow her to live close to the school, and to give her some independence and space from her ex fiancé. The house was a place she could never have afforded except in the run down state she bought it in, especially with its prize position of being a lakeside property. The garden had a small pier giving her access to the lake at the back. It was her dream home, but she had severely underestimated how much it would take to fix up.

Mr. O’Hanlon placed his pencil behind his ear and rubbed his silver whiskers. “Okay, I think I’ve got the figures for you, Miss Andrews.”

“Great.” Amber smiled and prayed she would be able to afford it.

“Using the cheapest materials, the best price I can come up with is $15,000.”

Amber’s heart sank. She brought her hand to her head and sighed. “What if it’s just the house, forget the garden?

“Hmm…say $10,000? And that’s just changing the cupboard doors in the kitchen, not remodeling it. I can’t say fairer than that.”

She looked around the house and thought, this is the price of independence. That amount of money was small pocket change to her ex fiancé, but she was making her own life now. I’ll just need to do what I can myself.

“Okay, I’ll have a think about it and get back to you.”

He nodded, gathered his tools and drove off.

“I guess I better get used to swinging a hammer.”

Jackson held Rosie’s hand tightly as they walked the few blocks from her studio to the property she had found. She couldn’t wait to show her girlfriend, and was confident it would be perfect.

Over the past couple of days, she had done a lot of thinking as to why their property search had not been working. They had argued often about places they had viewed, but Rosie would never be clear on what she was looking for.

She sat in her office searching the property websites not finding anything new, when she thought to herself, If only she knew I would give her whatever she wanted.

That’s when it hit her. Rosie hated all the really modern apartments because they were like bachelor pads. Places that were clean lines and cold, and gave a feeling of a temporary arrangement. Rosie wanted a home, a home like Dylan had given Emily, but she had been too insecure to tell her.

“Hey, you’re going to pull my arm out its socket.” Rosie complained.

“Do something for me? Close your eyes?” Rosie stopped and folded her arms defensively

“Not likely, soldier boy.” Jackson took both her hands and brought them to her mouth and gave them a tender kiss.

“Please, Rosie. Please do as I ask for once in your life?” Jackson said.

Rosie threw her hands up in the air. “Fine. Honestly, sometimes it feels like you’re ordering one of your freaking army guys and not your girlfriend.”

She closed one eye, and Jackson smiled. “Both closed. Just trust me, okay?”

Rosie mumbled under her breath but did as asked. “Okay, just let me lead you.”

They rounded the corner onto an exclusive street with mature buildings and townhouses. Jackson stopped in front of one with a realtor sign out front. She put her arms around Rosie’s middle, and then whispered, “Open your eyes darlin’.”

She heard a gasp from her girlfriend when she saw what they were looking at, and the exclusive Greenwich Village Street it was located on. “A house…”

Jackson squeezed her a little tighter from behind. “Yes, a three bedroom townhouse to be exact. Plenty of space to settle for a long time, and to grow, if that’s what we want. I realized where we were going wrong, we needed a home. I passed this and thought it’s perfect. What do you think?”

Rosie turned around to face her. “Jack…it’s perfect, but it’s a dream. We can’t afford this house, or this street.”

“I can.” Jackson placed a finger on Rosie’s lips as she was about to argue. “No, just listen. I know we agreed to half everything, all the bills and costs, but I can easily afford the mortgage on this place. With the contracts I have coming in at work, my savings and investments, and my trust fund from my grandmother that I’ve never dipped into, I’m quite comfortable.”

“You have a trust fund? I thought only rich airheads have trust funds?”

Jackson laughed, and said, “My grandmother was from a wealthy southern family. She was old money, and thought my mother married beneath her when she chose my father. She was a funny old coot, but Sarah and I loved her. She left us both a trust fund, and when Sarah died…I got hers as well. I think she would have been happy to help us buy our first home together.”

Rosie stroked Jackson cheek tenderly. She understood the pain Jackson still carried inside of her after losing her sister, and to use this money for their future was not something that her partner would take lightly.

“You’re really serious aren’t you?”

“About you? Always.” Jackson could see that Rosie was warring with herself inside, part of her unwilling to give up that small bit of independence, and part of her wanting to allow herself to take everything Jackson offered her.

“Come and look around at least, before you say no. Please?”

Rosie nodded and squeezed Jackson’s hand tightly. “Okay.”

The realtor pulled up in her Mercedes and got out to meet them. “Ms. Hunter, sorry I’m late. Traffic is crazy. I’m Ruth Webber.”

Ruth Webber was a very elegantly styled, African American woman, and looked as if she was used to dealing with people who had money. Rosie was instantly nervous.

“No problem, Ruth. This is my Partner, Rosie Henderson.” Ruth looked at her strangely.

“Not, Rosie Henderson of Henderson Design?” Rosie looked surprised anyone had heard of her.

“Um…yes…that’s me.” She said shyly.

Rosie saw Ruth look her up and down. “Huh? Imagine that. I expected you to be older. I saw the magazine piece on your work in the Morgan’s Long Island home. It was simply stunning.”

That one magazine exclusive had been Emily’s idea, to get Rosie’s name out into the interior design world, and it had given her fledgling business a huge boost.

Rosie blushed and looked up at Jackson, who was smiling proudly. “Um…thank you, Ruth. That’s very kind.”

“I have an eye for talent, and you have a bucketful. I’d be happy to give your name out to my clients if you have a business card?”

She felt Jackson rub the small of her back in support. “Sure, that would be great.”

“Okay, shall we see this beautiful home first, and then we can get down to business.”

“Lead the way Ruth.” Jackson said, pulling a surprised Rosie with her.

Molly squealed with delight as her Mom chased her and Wolfie around to the front of the house, after having spent the afternoon playing. “I’m gonna get you Smurf.”

“You no get me, Mom. I fast like Andy.” Molly ran through the front door with Dylan hot on her tail.

“I’m gonna catch you.” Dylan closed the gap on her daughter in the entrance hall just as she reached out to grab her, Wolfie stopped dead when he saw one of his squeaky balls. Dylan didn’t stop however, and went straight over him and crashing into the stair banister.

Dylan heard a sickening crunch, as her nose and eyes smashed into the solid wood stair. “Argh!”

Oh fuck. Please don’t say it’s broken. Dylan thought.

She heard Molly run into the kitchen and shout, “Mama, Mama. Mom hurt.”

Dylan lifted her head and the blood poured onto the floor in front of her. I’m gonna be in so much trouble.

Wolfie, feeling bad at her current condition licked her face trying to soothe her injury. “Yeah, thanks a lot, boy.”

She got up and turned around to find Emily walking out of the kitchen. She gasped, and held her hand to her mouth when she saw the blood pouring from her partner’s mouth.

“Don’t get excited Emmie. It looks worse than it is. It doesn’t hurt at all, see?” She touched her nose to demonstrate and yelped in pain.

Emily looked down to her daughter and said, “Go and play with Wolfie, sweetie. I’ll look after Mom.”

Molly looked up at her mom nervously. “You be okay, Mom?”

“Sure, Molls. Off you go.” Molly ran off with her dog leaving Emily staring at her with a look that struck fear into her soul. She took Dylan’s hand without saying a word, and pulled her to the kitchen.

I’m dead…

Dylan sat on a stool at the breakfast bar while her wife tended to her wounds. Emily still hadn’t said anything, and that was worrying.

“Emmie? Say something to me?” Dylan pleaded.

Emily took the cotton wool from her partner’s nose and looked at her carefully. “The bleeding’s stopped. I don’t think it’s broken, but we should maybe have a doctor look at it?”

“I don’t mean like that.” Dylan reached out to Emily, but she moved away, and put away the first aid box.

“What do you want me to say, Dylan?”

“I mean shout or scream at me, anything is better than this silent treatment.” Emily put the box in the kitchen cupboard, and Dylan could see the tension in Emily, even with her back to her.

Emily whipped around with tears already spilling down her cheeks. “You want me to say how irresponsible you are? How you never think of the consequences of your actions? You’re Molly’s mom, Dylan. Not her playmate.”

Dylan’s eyes went wide as she listened to the fury come from her wife. She was used to Emily’s pregnancy mood swings, but this was worse than usual. “Hey, what a min…”

Now Emily had started there was no stopping her. “No I won’t wait a minute. Sometimes I feel like that’s all I am to everyone, a mother, not a woman in her own right.” Emily’s sobs overcame her.

Dylan had heard enough, she was over like a shot, and took Emily in her arms. “Hey, hey, it’s okay, Baby. I’ve got you.” She held her wife tightly, and rubbed her back trying to soothe her.

“What brought this on? It can’t be just me being my idiotic self, is it?”

Emily rested her head on Dylan’s chest and grasped her t shirt in a tight grip. “It’s not. It’s because I feel like a huge mama whale.”

Dylan pulled back so she could look right in her wife’s eyes. “Don’t you ever say that about yourself. You are my beautiful baby girl.”

Emily wiped her eyes as her sobs lessened. “That’s what everyone thinks.”

Dylan growled and with a dangerous look said, “Tell me who said that and I’ll beat the crap outta them.”

Emily pointed to a discarded iPad on the counter. “Look at the web page.” As Dylan lifted it, Emily explained with a sniffle, “I got Jamie to drive us to the store on the way back from Molly’s school, and that was on the front cover of a celebrity magazine. I felt like everyone in the store was looking at me, and laughing.”

Dylan looked at the Internet page that Emily had left open. It showed the website of the magazine Emily had seen at the store. The front page had a picture of Emily taken while out shopping, with the headline, Rumors of twins for the Morgans, as Emily balloons in weight. Friends say Dylan has warned her to lose the weight after the baby, or lose her.

Dylan threw the iPad down on the counter with disgust. “I’m sorry you have to put up with this Baby, but its trash.”

She took Emily in her arms and kissed her. “You’re the most beautiful woman in the world, even more so when you’re pregnant.”

“You’re biased, and I don’t know why you still want to sleep with me.” Emily sniffled.

Luckily for Dylan, Emily had never lost her sex drive during pregnancy, and in fact it had gotten stronger after the dreaded morning sickness period had finished. Dylan was always happy to satisfy any craving her wife had.

“Do you know how many men or women would walk over broken glass to take my place with you?”

Emily softly smacked her chest. “Don’t be stupid Dyl, you’re the star, the gorgeous one.”

Dylan laughed. “Do you think I haven’t seen the Facebook pages dedicated to you? The pictures that people post? Believe me, if I hadn’t got here first there would be a line from here to the city waiting to woo you.”

This brought a small smile her wife. “You’re silly, Goofy.”

Dylan had become used to the emotional mood swings that pregnancy brought, but this had been the worst. If Emily was feeling this way, then she obviously wasn’t doing a good enough job at making her feel beautiful. She vowed to make sure her wife felt like the most beautiful woman in the world.

“You know I can’t keep my hands off of you, Baby girl. I love you and your body. You normally take these stupid magazine articles with a pinch of salt, did something happen?”

Emily wiped away her tears. “I was feeling a little sensitive, I suppose. When I was at Molly’s school-”

“What? Did someone say something?” Dylan was immediately tense and ready to protect her mate.

Emily rubbed the back of Dylan’s neck to try and soothe her. “No, not that. I went in to see Miss Andrews, and ask her to the party we’re having, and…there was a man shouting at her. She seemed to know him but was really intimidated. She told him to go, and he grabbed her wrist tightly. I was…”

Tears came back to Emily’s eyes, as she relived the moment. Dylan led her over to a kitchen chair, sat and pulled her wife into her lap. “Was she alright?”

“Yes, he left and she didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Tell me how it made you feel.” Dylan asked.

“It stirred a memory of…Toni.” Emily rubbed her baby bump as she always did when she was tense. Dylan’s hand covered hers to give her extra support.

“I was about four months pregnant, and just like with this one, I had a big ole baby bump with Molly.”

“It’s because us Morgans are so big.” Dylan tried to lighten the mood.

Emily smiled faintly and snuggled into Dylan’s strong chest. “Yes, well the bigger I got, the more Toni hated it. If we met friends or spoke to anyone who remarked on my pregnancy, she would take a picture of me out her wallet and show them what I looked like when she met me.”

“Fucking bitch.” Dylan muttered.

“This one time, after we got back home, I confronted her about it. I should have known better, she had been drinking that day…”

“Why do you do that? You flash that picture around like you’re embarrassed to be with me.”

“That’s because I am. I got with you because you were the best looking girl on campus. Now look at you? Fat, and getting fatter.”

“It’s not fat, it’s a baby. You said it’s what you wanted.” Emily shouted.

Toni laughed. “I told you what you wanted to hear. I told you that so you wouldn’t leave me, because no one ever leaves me.”

Toni gave her that look that filled her with terror. Emily eyed the bedroom, where she knew could lock herself away, safe and protected.

She went to move, but Toni was too quick for her, and grabbed wrist tightly. Toni slammed her up against the wall. She put her arm across her throat, and spat, “I wish you’d never gotten pregnant, I don’t want this…thing in my life.”

Emily wept and gave Toni a pleading look. “Please Toni, please don’t hurt my baby. Please, I’m begging you.”

Toni looked as if she was physically fighting to try and control her own rage. She pulled back and kicked a chair across the floor.

I ran for the bedroom and heard the door slam as Toni left the apartment. It was that night that she came home really drunk and…hurt me…and I left the next day.”

Dylan could feel her hands shake with fury, but she tried to keep it inside so as not to upset Emily further. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you and Molly, but I promise you will never feel fear like that again.”

Emily soaked up the love Dylan was giving her, and let it wash away her fears. “I always think I’m over it, you know? Then something like that happens and my memories grab hold of me and don’t let go.”

“They might pop up now and then, but my job is to chase them away. You never have to be afraid anymore. She can’t get you, and I won’t let the memory of her hurt you.”

Emily kissed her partner on the lips. “I’m so lucky to have you, honey.”

Dylan smiled and pointed to her busted nose. “Even when I give you this much trouble?”

Emily laughed. “Especially then. I love you, Goofy.”

She lifted her wife’s hand and kissed her engagement and wedding ring. “I love you, Baby girl. You are safe and adored, please believe that.”

“I’ll try.”

Jackson heard Rosie gasp as they walked through the front door, and into a white marble entrance hallway.

Rosie’s eyes looked around with wonder at all the period features Ruth was describing. “It was built in 1882, and combines the quintessential Village experience with the intimacy of townhouse living.

All the rooms have period fireplaces, and you’ll notice the high ceilings and all-hardwood oak floors, which give the property its period charm. The property also has a small private garden and terrace area, to let you enjoy a glass of wine in the evening after a hard day’s work.”

Jackson winked at Rosie and smiled. “Why don’t I leave you with the information booklet, and you can look around in privacy.”

Rosie took charge of the booklet as they walked from room to room. Jackson talked and made comments in every room, but she was worried by Rosie’s silence.

They ended the tour outside in the small but beautiful garden. “Imagine we could eat out here at night, or you could do your design sketches out here. I know it’s not exactly like the Morgan’s Long Island estate, but…what do you think?”

Rosie closed her eyes and took a big breath, trying to quell her anxiety. “It’s absolutely perfect Jack. It’s a home.”

Jackson was overjoyed. She pulled her girlfriend into her arms, but Rosie pushed her back. “It’s just under two million dollars, that’s more money than…well, I can’t even imagine that much money.”

“It’s not that much for a house like this, and here in the village. I’m going to put down a big deposit, the mortgage will easily manageable for me, for us.”

Rosie reached up to caress her cheek. “We are so different. You came from a family where your mother spent her time at the country club, and trust funds are a normal thing. Our family was nothing like that. My dad worked hard, really hard to give us a reasonable home. This is…it’s…”

Jackson could see clearly that Rosie was overwhelmed, she had to calm her down before she would run away from her. “I understand, that’s a big commitment, but that’s what I want with you. I may be paying the lion’s share of the bills and costs now, but your business is going to fly and were both going to bring a lot to this partnership, this family. You heard Ruth out there? You’re going to become a huge success, until then I can take care of us.”

“And what if we break up? I’ll be left unprotected and with nothing.”

“That is not going to happen.” She said firmly.

“Jack, you can’t promise that, nobody can.”

Jackson knew how to make Rosie feel protected and that their relationship was permanent, but now was not the time.

She would definitely run if I brought marriage up just now.

“Listen hippy girl, we can sign an agreement with a lawyer, whatever it takes to make you trust me, trust in us. You won’t be left with nothing, I promise.”

She rested her forehead on Rosie’s and looked deeply into her eyes. “Trust in me. I love you. Let’s make a life together.”

Rosie closed her eyes and sighed. When she opened them again, she smiled. “I think you’re worth taking a chance on, soldier boy. Let’s do it.”

Jackson picked her up and whirled her around. “Woo hoo. I’m going to domesticate you yet, Hippy girl.”

Rosie smacked Jackson’s arm. “Hey. I could change my mind you know.”

“Nah. You love me too much.” She pulled Rosie into a deep kiss, which made her moan, and wrap her legs around Jackson’s waist.

It was then that Ruth came out to the garden, and caught them in their heated clinch. “Well, looks as if you liked the property. Are we going to talk business, Ms. Hunter?”

Jackson gave her with a beaming smile. “Yes, we’ll take it.”

Sandy stood in the apartment she had shared with her grandmother, May Williams, until she had gone to college. When she returned from the Olympics, she had wanted her grandmother to move with her to a bigger place, and a better neighborhood. May hadn’t wanted to leave her old friends and church, but insisted that Sandy go out and get her own place, and make a life of her own.

Some life huh, Grandma? Sandy thought sadly.

Since her funeral, Sandy couldn’t bear to sort out her grandmother’s things. She came here sometimes, like tonight just to feel closer, and less alone. She walked over to the dresser upon which the two pictures May Williams treasured. The first was her wedding photo, and Sandy smiled remembering the grandpa who played ball with her, and encouraged the tom boy in her until he died when she was sixteen.

The second picture was of her and her grandmother on Sandy’s college graduation day. “You were so proud of me Grandma. You supported me, all the way. I never doubted I could win gold, and it was because of you believing in me. You always did, and I let you down when you needed me.”

Sandy felt the pain stab her in her guts, and tears welling in her eyes. She heard her grandpa’s voice in her head. Don’t let them see your pain, Sandy, when your opponent sees your weakness, you’ve already lost.

She gulped down hard. “Fuck this.”

I have to get away. Sandy ran from the apartment and jumped in a cab.

Dylan made sure Molly was sound asleep, went to their bedroom and got changed into her swim shorts and t-shirt.

She had managed to convince Emily to a late night swim, to ease her aching back. When Emily became pregnant, she had an extension built to the side of the property to house a smaller indoor pool and Jacuzzi, so as Emily could take a swim, whatever the weather.

Dylan ruffled Wolfie’s head as she passed him at the top of the stairs. “You watch out for Molly, buddy?”

Wolfie licked her hand in response. “Good boy.”

After Emily had been so upset earlier, she was determined to show her wife how adored she was. She walked out of the back door and across the wooden walkway to the pool. It had been designed to complement the bigger outdoor pool, so that the water flowed through a channel to both and you still felt part of the outside environment.

There was a slight night chill in the air, but when she went through the door to the pool, the regulated warm air hit her. She saw Emily sitting on the edge of the pool, and stopped in her tracks. Her long blonde hair and her white bikini were wet from the shower at the side of the pool.

Emily was perfection to Dylan, even more so now that she was pregnant, her already ample breasts had gotten much larger, and her baby bump that she couldn’t keep her hands off, made her ever more beautiful.

Her wife realized she was being watched, and looked up with a sweet smile that sent an arrow shooting right to her heart, just as it had the first time she had looked into Emily’s eyes.

Sometimes she had to pinch herself to make sure this life she was living wasn’t a dream.

It seemed like only yesterday, she was walking back from the studio to an empty, lonely apartment. Now she had everything she could possibly have dreamed of, and all because she walked into a diner.

“Hey, TV star? Are you just going to look or are you going to swim with me?”

Dylan kicked off her shoes and pulled off her t-shirt. Emily always liked her topless whenever they were alone, so she could see her muscular chest, shoulders and arms.

“I’m coming, Baby girl.” Dylan ran and jumped into the pool making an almighty splash. Emily squealed when the water splashed up on her.

“Dyl. You’re getting me wet.”

“I’m gonna get you even wetter baby.” Dylan said, and then began to swim over to her wife.

Emily turned behind her and made sure the volume of the baby monitor was turned up full, so they could hear if Molly woke up, or needed them.

She giggled when she felt Dylan nibble at her toes under the water. When she surfaced Emily said, “I thought we were meant to be swimming? Helping my aching back?”

Dylan smiled and helped her ease into the water. “I’m going to ease all your aches, Emmie. Don’t worry about that.”

Her eyes were instantly glued to her wife’s breasts, which bobbed tantalizingly on the surface of the water.

Oh yeah…that’s what I’m talking about. I’m gonna kiss them and suck them and…

“Is this really going to help my back, honey?” Emily got no response and saw where her partner’s eyes were concentrated on.

She lifted Dylan’s head by her chin and said a lot louder, “Dylan. Are you listening to me?

“What? Oh? Sorry. What did you say? I couldn’t hear you over the sight of your breasts.” This earned Dylan a smack to her head. “Don’t be bad, goofy. I said is this really going to help my back?”

“Of course. Turn around baby, and hold onto the side.” Emily did as asked and immediately groaned as Dylan dug her strong fingers into the base of her back.

“Oh God. That’s it…ugh…right there honey.” Emily’s eyes closed and she just enjoyed the simple pleasure of the massage. The weightlessness of floating in the water, made the massage feel even better.

Behind her Dylan was grinning at the noises her wife was making, and she planned to make her groan some more.

“Is that the right spot, Emmie?”

“Oh yes…why do your children have to be so big, Dyl? This big bruiser is squishing my insides to a pulp.”

“Us Morgans have got to be big, baby, so we can all look after and protect little Mama Smurf.”

“Why always the short jokes, Goofy?”

Dylan pulled her wife in close, and whispered in her ear, “Because I like you that way.”

In a second she had undone Emily’s bikini top and pulled it off. “Oops. A freak wave blew off your top, baby.”

Emily giggled. “A freak wave? In a swimming pool? Isn’t that amazing?”

“Oh yeah, I better hold these babies and keep them safe.” Dylan took Emily’s breasts in her hands, and held them gently.

She had to be extra careful now and not hurt Emily’s breasts, but luckily they were extra sensitive. “You know how much I love these?” Dylan asked while kissing Emily’s neck and shoulder.

Dylan knew her wife was responding to her, when she pushed her backside into her groin. “They are my happy place.”

“Just a little harder, Dyl?” Emily said.

She squeezed just a little harder, and rubbed her thumbs over her nipples.

“Hmm…I love you to touch me…” Emily took Dylan’s hand from one of her breasts and placed it on her hip.

Emily’s white bikini bottoms were held together at the side by a simple knot. Dylan quickly pulled the knots and disposed of them.

“Oh yeah, baby girl, I love your body so much.” Dylan rubbed her hand over her wife’s hip and buttocks.

Emily turned around and wrapped her arms around Dylan’s neck, and her legs around her waist, as much as her baby bump would allow.

“When I saw you watching me, you looked at me like…like there was no other woman in the world…like…” She ran her finger along Dylan’s collarbone tattoo, the Latin script that displayed to the world what was most important to her. Familia in Aeternum ~ Family Forever.

Dylan inched her lips close to her wife’s and said, “Like you are the most beautiful woman in the world, like I love you…like you’re my reason for living.”

Emily nodded and Dylan kissed her, and pressed her against the side of the pool. She slipped her hand between her wife’s legs and began to stroke her slowly, and softly.

“Dyl, go inside please?” Emily moaned.

She pushed two fingers inside and started a gentle thrust. “I love you baby, can you feel it?”

“Yes…” Emily’s head fell back, allowing Dylan to kiss and suck her neck.

When she felt Emily’s nails start to dig into her shoulders she knew she was close. “Harder, Dyl.”

She was reluctant to be so rough, with Emily being so far along in her pregnancy, and so let her thumb rub against her wife’s clit, and whispered, “Take it slowly baby, and just feel. You’ve got all of my love and attention for as long as you need it.”

“It’s so good…I love the way you touch me.” Emily’s hips began to speed up as her orgasm built.

“You’re so beautiful like this, Emmie.”

“Can’t go slow, honey, I’m going to come. Your fingers feel too good.” Dylan felt the first fluttering of her orgasm, before Emily grabbed onto her hair and her hips began to buck.

Dylan held her tight, as Emily cried out and it echoed around the pool room. She whispered I love yous’ into her ear, until her breathing calmed.

Emily looked at her with eyes full of emotion. “Everything that I went through, all the pain, the fear, I would do it all again in a heartbeat if the road led to you.”

“Don’t worry, baby girl. I have your heart now, and I’ll keep it and you safe.” Dylan kissed her deeply and passionately, her tongue teasing and licking.

Before they got anymore caught up in their passion again, Emily pushed her back. “I have an idea of how to make you feel really good, TV star, and it involves you sitting on the side of the pool.”

“Oh yeah?” Dylan smiled broadly.

“Yeah. Off you go.” Emily watched Dylan climb out of the pool, and the water cascade down her taut muscles.

Dylan looked down to her wife in the water and gulped. She had that coquettish look that meant she wanted to have some fun.

“Sit down honey. I want to play with you.”

Sandy walked through Time Square looking for somewhere to drown her sorrows. She was surrounded by huge crowds but felt so utterly alone, and the couples laughing together that she passed only made her feel worse.

She found herself outside a gay bar she had been at a few times, and walked in, her body aching for drink that would dull her pain.

The place was packed out with people, the music loud, and the lights dim. The perfect place to disappear. Sandy took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer and two vodka shots. The server raised an eyebrow, realizing who she was.

That was something she was learning to despise. She had been somewhat of a national celebrity when she returned from the Olympics, but now that she had appeared on Dylan’s show, and had her own show, she was recognizable almost everywhere, particularly in the gay community.

She downed her shots in two gulps and ordered more.

“Hey? You look as if you need those badly. You mind if I join you?”

She turned around and saw a beautiful looking blonde woman. She had always been somewhat lost for words around women. Her new found fame hadn’t helped her confidence, so she just nodded and ordered more drinks.

“I’m Carmen.” She held out her hand and Sandy shook it suspiciously.

“Sandy.” She waited for the inevitable recognition. “Oh I know who you are. I saw your show on TV. It was amazing.”

There it is. Sandy downed the shot in front of her, and slammed it down. Amazing? I’m a fraud.

Dylan had come up with a show format that would introduce Sandy to the viewing public and help her learn about making TV shows, get some experience for a hopefully successful career ahead.

She and Dylan would take a troubled kid or young adult and give them a new look at life through physical, confidence-building tasks. They would train at the gym, and then take part in a road race, half-marathon or something where the kid could feel achievement.

Sandy thought of those young people and what she had tried to teach them about respecting their bodies, and looked down at the empty shot glasses. The shame hit hard.

Carmen picked up on Sandy’s change of mood. “Is it a problem that I know who you are?”

“I wish no one knew me.” Sandy held her head in her hands.

“Well, why don’t I pretend I don’t know you? And we enjoy a drink huh?” Sandy looked up at Carmen, and through the fog of the alcohol that was hitting her brain, she could imagine this woman was like Emily. A gentle woman who would take care of her, and love her.

“If you want.”

Carmen smiled and edged closer. “So? What are we drinking to forget?”

“Everything.”

Many shots and drinks later, Carmen led her to bathroom, and into one of the stalls. She immediately began kissing her, and Sandy let her.

Sandy ran Carmen’s blonde hair through her fingers, and felt the overwhelming need for someone to lose herself in.

She took control of the kiss and pushed Carmen up against the wall. The kisses were frantic as she desperately wanted to feel someone want her, someone love her. Sandy grasped her breast and with her other hand pulled Carmen’s blouse from her jeans.

She heard Carmen’s gasps and moans, and despite her inexperience, and brain addled with alcohol, she thought something wasn’t right. Sandy pulled back from her frantic kissing to look at Carmen, and her eyes were looking over her shoulder.

Sandy snapped around and saw Carmen hold up her cellphone behind her, videoing, or taking a picture of what they were doing. She grabbed it from Carmen’s hand and shouted, “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Hey give that back.” Sandy who was very much taller than the young woman, held it away from her easily.

“You’re filming me? What? Were you hoping to sell this to the highest bidder?”

Carmen’s efforts to get her cell phone back were fruitless, and she got angry. “Yeah? Maybe I was. Why shouldn’t I make a little money out of you? Maybe the public would see that you’re not the perfect superstar athlete you appear to be.”

Realizing what she was becoming and what had nearly happened to her, brought all her fury and rage to the surface. She threw the cell phone down on the floor, and stamped on it till it smashed.

A shocked Carmen said looked at her with disdain. “You’ll regret this.”

Sandy kicked the phone away into another stall and walked out. The rest of the women in the bathroom all watched her quietly, wondering what had happened. I regret everything. What’s one more?

“Molly. Stop jumping around and eat your breakfast. Sorry Rosie, go on.” Emily was juggling speaking to Rosie on the phone while getting breakfast ready.

The little girl sat down and took one bite of pancake for her, and gave one bite for Wolfie under the table. “Hey Smurf, don’t let Mama catch you doing that.” Dylan said as she walked into the kitchen.

She walked over to Emily and gave her a kiss on the cheek, while she continued to talk to Rosie. When Dylan sat down, Molly looked up and saw her mom’s black and blue eye and nose.

“Mom? You all sore?”

Dylan sat down beside Molly and pulled her onto her lap. “I’m okay, Molls. It looks bad, but it’ll get better quickly.”

Emily hung up the phone and brought over Dylan’s breakfast with a big smile on her face. “Guess what, TV star?”

Dylan looked down at her protein shake and bowl of oatmeal, and sighed. Since coming back from her desert challenge, she had let her eating slip into Emily’s big breakfasts and large, tasty dinners. Now was the time to get back into serious training. She had been offered a couple of action film roles, one a new superhero movie. If Dylan took it, she would need to make sure she was really pumped.

To get back into the right frame of mind, she thought she’d start off by taking part in a charity triathlon being held on Long Island. Once they had eventually gotten to bed the previous night, Emily had asked her about the race Molly had let slip about, hence the healthy breakfast.

I’m going miss the bacon. Maybe I could steal some of the Smurfs?

“Dylan. Are you listening?”

“Oh. uh? Yeah, I was thinking about…bacon…how lucky I am to have such a beautiful wife.” Dylan smiled.

Emily looked skeptical. “Sure you were, TV star. I was saying, guess what news Rosie had to tell me?”

“What?” She took a big gulp of her protein shake.

“Jackson and Rosie are moving in together.” Emily said excitedly.

“They’ve been moving in together for months. I told Jackson just put her foot down like I…”Uh oh.

“Like you what, Dylan?”

“Like…I said she should?” Dylan bluffed.

Molly looked at her mom while eating a tempting piece of bacon from her little hand, and smiled.

“Hmm…no, I mean they are actually are. They’ve bought a beautiful townhouse in the village.” Emily said.

“Wow. They really are settling down. I know Jackson is like a love sick puppy around her, but Rosie’s kinda careful about settling down.”

“She just needs to feel safe, Dylan. Losing her mom so early in her life had a big effect on her.” Emily explained.

“I guess so. Well I’m happy for them, they’re a great couple.”

When Emily turned away to pour the coffee, Dylan said to Molly, “Hey Moll’s? What’s Wolfie doing?”

“Olfie?” Molly looked away to her dog and Dylan took a huge bite of her daughter’s bacon. Molly turned back and looked quizzically at the tiny stump of bacon she had left.

“Mama? Mom steal my bacon.”

Emily put her hand on her hip and gave her a stern look. “Do superheroes steal bacon from their daughter, Goofy?”

“No they just eat little kids.” Dylan scooped up Molly and pretended to snack on her arm, like a dog with a bone.

“Or maybe I’ll just be a tickle monster.”

Molly giggled and laughed frantically. “No Mom. No Ickle monster. Be super ero.”

Emily walked around the table and poured her coffee. “Put her down, TV star, or I’ll never get her to school. Molly go upstairs to your room, I’ll be there in a minute to get you dressed.”

“Yeah, Mama.” Dylan gave her a kiss on the head and she went off running.

Emily went still for a moment, and placed Dylan’s hand on her baby bump. “Baby’s moving.”

Dylan pulled her wife down on her lap and said, “Hey, Baby Morgan. How are you today?”

“Quite active, so far.” Emily snuggled into Dylan, always loving the calming scent of her.

“I can’t wait to hold him, Emmie.” She stroked her hand softly over the baby.

“Him? Dyl?”

“Him, her? I don’t care. As long as baby and Mama are healthy and happy at the end of it.” They had both agreed early on that they didn’t want to know the sex ahead of time. Emily thought it would spoil the magic, and Dylan agreed.

“So what are you up to today, TV star?”

“I need to call my agent, the movie studio have been hassling him for a decision on the movie. Do you think I should do it?”

They had been over and over the subject many times. Emily could tell Dylan wanted to do it, and was excited by the prospect of her first film role, but her pledge to Emily to have a life out of the limelight was holding her back. The part was originally written for a male actor, who had pulled out at the last minute. It appealed to Dylan, because it would allow her to play the part as a strong female lead.

“Dylan, you want to do it. I know you do. I can see the excitement in your eyes at the thought of doing it, but you’re feeling guilty because you promised to scale back your on-screen work.”

She looked at her wife with a look of fear. “How do you do that? Are you a witch or something?”

Emily threw her head back and laughed. “You are funny. No, not a witch. I just know my Goofy that’s all. I want you to do it, because it will make you happy.”

“But…I’m supposed to be in semi-retirement. Making things easier for you and the kids.”

It meant so much to Emily that she was willing to curtail the things she really wanted, just to make her family happy, but she wanted Dylan to be fulfilled career-wise too. “And you have. You’re working from home, spending most of all your time with Molly and me, and let’s face it, you’re always going to be in the public eye, no matter what you do.”

Emily saw the first hint of excitement come over Dylan’s face as she realized she had her wife’s support. “I guess. I’ve always wanted to do a movie, and this part is perfect for me. There aren’t many roles for openly gay actors, or that are going to suit my build. You really think I could do it?”

She kissed Dylan on the lips and whispered, “You can do anything you put your mind to, TV star. Or maybe I should start calling you, Movie star?”

Dylan’s was now openly flushed with excitement. “Nah. I’ll always be your TV star. It is good money…”

“Not that we need it. Do it because you want to, not because you think you should.” Emily soon realized after moving in with Dylan, that no matter how wealthy they were, Dylan never lost her work ethic handed down from her grandpa and father. For her own pride, she always thought she should be working and earning money for her wife and kids.

“You are the most amazing wife in the world, you know that?”

Emily smiled and kissed Dylan on the nose. “I know. Now, go and call them.”

There was a knock at the kitchen door, and Carlo, the security guard Jackson had provided them with, popped his head around the door. “Mrs. Morgan, is it okay to get my cup of coffee now?”

Emily got up quickly when she saw him and walked over to the coffee pot. “Sure Carlo, let me get it for you.”

“Thanks, Jamie has the car around the front whenever you and Miss Molly are ready.”

Dylan’s cell phone rang, and when her worried looking partner left the kitchen, Emily handed the coffee over and said, “Thanks Carlo. Excuse me a minute.”

Dylan ended her call and scrubbed her hand over her face.

“What’s wrong honey?” Emily asked.

“It was Lynn. She had a call from Sandy ‘s PA, he hasn’t been able to get a hold of Sandy for two weeks. She missed a publicity event with Nike, and her gym manager says she hasn’t been there since before her grandmother’s funeral.”

“I know Rosie said she missed a football night with Jackson too. She looked so alone at the funeral. When I spoke to her she seemed to be in so much pain.”

Dylan felt guilty for not realizing she was in need of a friend. “I should have known Sandy was having such a hard time. I called her when we got back from the walk of fame ceremony, but she was in the middle of something and said she’d call back. She didn’t.”

Emily put her arms around her partner and said, “I think she needs to be around people who love her. What do you think?”

Dylan smiled. She was constantly amazed at the caring and sensitive nature of her wife. Emmie always knows what to do.

“I think you’re right, baby girl.”

“Why don’t I get your mom and dad to pick up Molly from school and we can head into the city. Rosie wanted me to go and see their new house anyway.”

“Yes, let’s do it. I’ll call Mom.”

Rosie paid her cab and walked into Jackson’s office building. She always got a thrill when she saw the Hunter Securities plaque on the information board at reception. Life was wonderful for them both at the moment, and Rosie was so very proud of her partner.

The elevator took her up to the eleventh floor where Hunter Securities was based, and walked into the reception. As always when she saw Jackson’s new secretary Paris, her stomach knotted up.

Paris was everything that Rosie was not, or thought she wasn’t. She looked like she belonged as a PA in some fashion magazine company, or Model agency. Although she may have appeared like an airhead, she knew from what Jackson told her that Paris was extremely accomplished academically, and that made it worse for Rosie for some reason.

This is your problem Rosie, your insecurities. She tried to convince herself.

Paris looked up and gave her a polite smile. “Miss Henderson? How can I help you?”

Well, I’m not here to see you, Barbie. “I’m here to see Jackson.”

Paris looked annoyed at Rosie’s tone. They had bristled against each other since the first time that had met, and it didn’t look like it was going to change anytime soon.

“She’s in a meeting at the moment, but if you’ll take a seat, I’ll find out if she can see you.”

Rosie’s hackles were now raised. “There’s no need, I don’t need an appointment to see my partner.”

She walked on passed Paris and stormed into Jackson’s office. “You can’t just go in there, Miss Henderson.”

Jackson was standing in front of a large monitor going over assignments with Pauley. They both looked up rather surprised at the commotion that was suddenly upon them.

“I’m so sorry, Jackson. I couldn’t stop Miss Henderson. I did tell her you were busy.”

Rosie rounded on her and said, “Don’t apologize for me Barb…Paris.”

Jackson could clearly see the tension between the two women, and sought to diffuse it. “It’s alright, Paris. Pauley and I are just about finished. Pauley if you could make arrangements for Sullivan’s assignment, and make he understands how big and sensitive a contract this is.”

“Sure thing, Jackson.” Pauley left taking an annoyed looking Paris with him. When the doors closed, Jackson sat on the edge of her desk, arms crossed and raised her eyebrow.

“What?” Rosie asked indignantly.

When Jackson didn’t respond, Rosie walked to her partner and placed her head on Jackson’s chest. “Barbie makes me angry, okay?”

Jackson sighed and put her arms around her girlfriend. “Look at me?”

Rosie kept her head firmly where it was. “No.”

Jackson lifted Rosie’s head up. “Why does she make you angry?”

“She’s all like, ‘please take a seat and I’ll call Jackson and see if she can see you.” Like I need an appointment or something. I say, ‘I don’t need an appointment to see my partner, Barbie.’ I mean, the nerve of the woman.”

“Darlin’, she’s only doing her job. What if I was in with a client? I mean you wouldn’t want me to walk in on you while you’re consulting with someone would you?”

Rosie pushed away from her, and threw her arms in the air. “Well…that’s just silly. I have nothing to hide from you.” As soon as she said it, Jess floated across her mind, and she felt guilty.

“And neither do I, but this morning I was meeting with a woman who was terrified to even be outside her apartment. She has a stalker, one false move and she would have been out of here.”

She’s right. This is your problem.

“I’m sorry Jack.” Rosie looked at the floor.

Jackson was over to her in a second and held her tightly. “Why does Paris bother you so much? She is no threat to you, Hippy girl.”

“She’s perfect, sophisticated, and your own age. You probably have more in common with her than you ever will me. We are complete opposites, we-”

“Are made for each other.” Jackson finished for her. “You are perfect for me because we are so different. I understand why you have these insecurities, and I’m going to make it my life’s work to have you trust me one hundred percent.”

“I’m sorry. Why do you even bother with me Jack?” Rosie said sadly.

Jackson put her lips to her girlfriends and placed little kisses around her mouth, before whispering, “Because I love you, you’re the most beautiful girl in the world, and you’re a naughty girl in the bedroom.”

“Hey. That’s not funny, Soldier boy.”

“It’s not meant to be funny.” Jackson lifted her girlfriend and walked over to sit them both down on the office couch.

“Well? Am I lying?”

Rosie smirked and smoothed her hands over Jackson chest. “Maybe, maybe not, anyway you corrupt me with that tough, sexy thing you’ve got going on.”

“I corrupt you?” Jackson pulled Rosie down for a deep kiss.

“Hmm…yeah…I’ve never done the things we do…before. I shouldn’t like it, but you make me hot.”

Rosie started to loosen Jackson’s tie. “You make me feel things and want to do things that go against everything I’ve ever thought I wanted.”

This was entirely true, she found herself saying things, and asking for her partner to do things that she would have never even have admitted to wanting before meeting Jackson. The secret wants and desires whispered between the two lovers was something that she had never entrusted to anyone before. She had to admit, they were extremely well suited to each other.

As she felt Jackson push her back onto the couch, Rosie suddenly remembered why she was here. “Jack wait. Did you get the keys to the new house? I’m supposed to be meeting Emily in half an hour.”

Jackson looked a little dazed and tried to shake her lust away. “Yes, I got them. Do you mind if I take a rain check though? Dylan called and told me she was coming with Emily. She’s really worried about Sandy. We’re going to head over to her apartment.”

“Sure. I hope Sandy’s okay. She never called me back come to think of it.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll go see her, and you can show Emily our new home.”

Rosie traced her finger over Jackson’s lips. “Our home. I still can’t believe it.”

“I can’t wait to come home to you every day Hippy girl. I’m never going to get enough of you.”

Rosie giggled and said, “Shh. Barbie will hear you and be jealous.”

“Daddy, I need to go or I’ll be late for my students.” Amber was just on her way out of the door when her father called, lobbying on behalf of her ex-fiancé again.

“He’s an accomplished man, pumpkin. You would have a very comfortable life.”

Amber was tired of having this argument. She had been pressured into the engagement in the first place, and it had taken a lot of courage to end it, but for her own sanity, she had to.

“It’s not enough, Daddy. I want to be happy, loved, and respected. That’s three things Parker can never give me. Now I really have to go and please stop taking his phone calls.”

Amber hung up the phone and let out a big breath. If he knew what Parker was really like, he would never want his daughter near him. That is not an option. She thought sadly.

She quickly ran her fingers through her dark, shoulder length choppy bobbed hair. “Ugh…thank goodness the kids won’t be judging my look today.”

Amber picked up her purse and lesson plans, and hurried out the door.

After meeting up with their friends, Dylan left the car and Jamie with Emily and Rosie. She and Jackson took a cab over to Sandy’s apartment.

As they rode up in the elevator, Dylan said, “So…a house? That’s serious huh?”

“Yeah, it’s the most serious thing I’ve ever done, but I can’t wait.” Jackson beamed with happiness.

“I’m really happy for you, buddy. There’s nothing better than coming home to your girl every day.”

“Yeah, but I have to take it slowly, or I might spook her. Rosie’s a sensitive girl and really careful. If I tell her what I want, all at once, I might scare her away.”

They arrived at Sandy’s floor and walked to the door. “I’m sure she wants everything you do Jackson. It’s worth taking the chance.”

“I hope so.”

Dylan pressed the buzzer and when they got no response, knocked on the door. “Maybe she’s not in?” Jackson said.

“Hmm.” Dylan thumped the door with her fist making a booming noise. They heard some noise from within, and Sandy’s voice shout, “I’m coming. Hold on.”

The door opened an inch and then opened fully. Dylan was shocked Sandy’s bleary eyed expression.

“Dylan? Jackson? What are you doing here?”

Jackson looked at Dylan, sharing in the surprise at their friend’s appearance. “We wanted to check if you were okay, Sandy. We haven’t heard from you in a long time, and you missed game night.”

“You better come in then.”

Dylan could smell alcohol on her friend, and this was confirmed when she walked into the apartment and saw empty, and half empty bottles of spirits strewn around the room, along with pizza and other takeout boxes.

It struck Dylan that this was a similar scene as she would find her brother Joey in the early days before his addictions really took hold and destroyed him. I can’t let this happen again.

Sandy held her stomach and groaned, before running off to be sick in the bathroom.

“What the hell has she done to herself?” Jackson asked Dylan.

“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. Give us a few minutes will you?”

“Sure.” Dylan walked over to the kitchen area, and got a bottle of water from the fridge and went to the bathroom.

She found Sandy sitting with her back against the wall, her head hanging low. “Here, drink this.”

Sandy took the bottle and drained most of it in one go.

“How long have you been drinking?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Months? I don’t know.”

“Why are you doing this to your body? You’re an Olympic champion, you’ve lived clean all your life.”

Sandy looked up at her with a despondent look upon her face. “And what was the point, huh? All those childhood and teenage years of sacrifice. Not going out with friends, not going to parties not drinking, not having fun? All so I can be the youngest gold medal winner at one and two hundred meters, and achieve all of my dreams by twenty five. What’s left Dylan? What am I supposed to do now? I’ve wasted time training that I could have spent with my family, now I’m alone. My grandma’s dead, and I’m alone.”

Emily was right. You need to be around people that care. She crouched down to her friend’s level and said, “You’re not alone, buddy. You have friends that care. I want you to come and stay with us, you need to train and get some new goals.”

“No, no, I can’t be around people, and I won’t intrude on your family.”

“You’ll still have your space, you can stay in the pool house. It has two bedrooms, its own kitchen and bathroom. Besides, you don’t want to miss Molly’s sports day at school, you promised you’d be there.”

Dylan stood and offered her hand to Sandy. “Emily told me you need to be around those who love you. Come home with me?”

Sandy looked really unsure, but she grasped her friend’s hand and pulled herself up. “Thanks Dylan.”

“It’s beautiful, Rosie.” Emily said, as they walked around the new house.

“It is. I never imagined we’d get a place like this, but Jack was determined.” Rosie rolled her eyes.

Emily looped her arm through her friend’s and smiled. “Jackson wants to build a life with you, which is why you shouldn’t get so upset about her secretary, Paris.” Rosie had explained what had happened earlier and how bad she had felt.

“I know it’s my problem, my insecurities, but…ugh. The way she looks at me…well it infuriates me. Like I’m some kid or something.”

“Well just ignore her. Jackson adores you, and she’s loyal to the bone.”

They walked from the master bedroom to smaller second bedroom. The previous owners had it decorated as a nursery.

“Aww look, it’s so sweet. Not as nice as baby Morgan’s nursery.” Emily rubbed her baby bump. “You did a wonderful job on it Rosie.”

“The cot should arrive in another week, does Dylan still want to assemble it herself? I can get it pre-assembled-”

“Oh no, it’s okay. That would hurt Goofy’s pride. She insists she should assemble her baby’s cot. It’s a macho thing.” Emily rolled her eyes.

Rosie eyed her friend’s baby bump, and if she was honest secretly envied Emily. She wondered if Jackson would act the same as Dylan did with Emily. She was witness to the love the couple shared, and the way Dylan preened and strutted around her wife, constantly touching the baby and lavishing attention on her.

Emily saw where Rosie’s eyes were glued to, and said, “Maybe you’ll be decorating your own nursery some day? I bet your dad would adore a grandchild.”

Rosie sighed. “I don’t think that’s in Jackson’s plans at the moment.”

“Why? She mentioned it before, at the barbecue.” Emily was happy to see a chair had been left in the room, and sat down, desperately needing the weight off her feet.

“That was before, she’s caught up in building her business now and-” Rosie hesitated.

“And what?”

She didn’t really want to admit this, but Emily had a way of making her open up. “When we looked at the house, I mentioned about what would happen if we broke up.”

“I bet Jackson refused to believe that.” Emily said with a smile.

Rosie crossed her arms and bit her lip nervously. “She did, but no one knows the future Em. Anything could happen, and I kind of hinted that I wouldn’t be protected, you know by the law.”

“You mean marriage?” Emily asked with a smile.

She felt her face flush with embarrassment. This was not the kind of thing she liked to admitted. “I guess, but Jack said we could just make an agreement at a lawyer, to give me some of the house or whatever. How unromantic is that?”

Emily laughed softly.

“It’s not funny Em.”

“I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing at poor Jackson’s predicament. Remember the heated discussion you had with her?”

“No. We have so many heated arguments, you’ll have to be more specific.”

“You were both at our house for dinner, and we talking about marriage equality? You argued that as gay people we maybe shouldn’t be looking for equality, because marriage supports the patriarchy?”

Recognition dawned on Rosie’s face. “Oh? That? But it’s different now. That was before she went to do that stupid race. I realized I wanted everything that came with commitment. I told her that, and she understood because she asked me to move in with her.”

Emily pushed herself out of the chair, and walked over to her friend. “There’s a big difference between living together and marriage. I’m sure she thinks living together is the most you want at the moment. Talk to her, tell her how you feel. She’s not psychic.”

“Oh no. I can’t do that. Then she’ll feel pressured into to it or something. It’s not just me, Jackson has been a bachelor for a long, long time. She told me I’m her first serious relationship. Marriage might be too much for her.”

“Then, drop hints. Remember what Pattie and I told you about making them think it’s their idea?” Emily asked.

“The women’s handbook?” Rosie smirked.

“Exactly. Luckily for us, Dylan and Jackson never got a copy, and even if they did, they don’t read instructions so we’re safe. Remember, think ten steps ahead.”

Just as she said that, Emily clutched her stomach. “The baby’s kicking. Give me your hand.”

Emily placed her friends hand on her stomach and Rosie laughed in wonder. “Wow. It’s like he’s kicking his way out.”

She imagined Jackson doing the same with her, and knew instantly that she would love them to share this experience together in the future. “Jackson would love this.” Rosie told Emily.

“Then make her understand you want it too. You are a wonderful couple, but Jackson is always frightened of scaring you. So show her. Drop hints, and let her know.”

“I’ll try.”

After heading back home, Dylan and Emily had left Sandy to settle into the pool house, but she soon found her way down to the beach. She stood at the end of the beach walkway, eyes closed and breathing in the salty air. It was a beautiful calm place to get away from the mess that was her life, but when she witnessed the warmth of family and love Dylan enjoyed at dinner, she felt panicked. It was something she craved but it hurt knowing she couldn’t have it. Maybe I was better off back in the city.

“Sandy?”

She turned around and saw the heavily pregnant Emily walking toward her. Sandy immediately went to her offering an arm. “Hey Emily, what are doing walking down here yourself?”

“I wanted to talk you, but when you weren’t in the pool house, I thought you might be down here. It’s a lot longer walk when you’re the size of a whale.” Emily said.

“Don’t say that about yourself Emily. You are beautiful.” As soon as she said it, she knew she had said too much. “Uh…I mean…anyone that sees you knows you’re beautiful.”

Emily smiled sweetly. “Let’s sit down, Sandy. My feet are throbbing like crazy.”

“Um…sure.” Sandy helped Emily lower down to sit on the step.

“Ah. That’s better.” Sandy sat next to her and stared down at her bare feet in the soft sand.

Emily rubbed her baby bump and breathed in the sea air that she loved. “This is my favorite spot. I come down here and meditate when Molly’s at school. It brings me such peace.”

“Yeah, it is. Thanks for having me here, Emily. I know you’ve got enough on your plate with Molly and the new baby coming.”

Emily reached over and covered Sandy’s hand with her own. She felt Sandy stiffen, not because she felt uncomfortable but because she didn’t want to betray her little crush, Emily guessed. “Don’t be silly, Sandy. You are always welcome. Dylan and I want to help you feel better.”

“I don’t want to let Dylan down, she’s done so much for me. I…don’t want to disappoint her.”

“You never could.” Emily backed off a bit, giving the young woman a bit of room to breathe. She could imagine Dylan exactly like this at Sandy’s age. Scared, emotional and not knowing how to deal with everything. “I know you are finding some things difficult to handle, and you don’t want to talk about it, but showing emotion isn’t a weakness.”

Sandy scrubbed her face with her hands, trying to keep her feelings in check. “Dylan is never weak. She’s strong, and in control. I don’t feel that strong.”

Oh, Sandy if only you knew. “Sandy, she is only able to appear that way because she has somewhere to find safety at the end of the day. Somewhere she can feel and speak of her pain and insecurities without fear of being betrayed.”

Sandy looked up at her with watery eyes. “You mean you?”

Emily nodded, and saw Sandy look even more despondent.

“I can’t trust anyone like Dylan trusts you. Some girls…some girls I’ve met haven’t wanted to know me, just what they can get out of me. I can’t trust anyone.”

“You’ll find her one day. You just have to have faith, Sandy.”

Emily started to stand but struggled, and so Sandy helped her up. “I’ll walk you back. I don’t want you to fall or something. Take my arm.”

So much like my Dylan. Sweet with a good heart. Emily smiled and took Sandy up on her offer. They walked back slowly, Emily glad of Sandy’s support.

When they reached the house Emily said, “Sandy, I don’t know if you know about Dylan’s brother Joey?”

“Yeah…uh…he died. I read about it, he got into some trouble with drugs and stuff?”

“Yes. Dylan feels a lot of guilt that she couldn’t help him. She tried, but nothing worked. I’m telling you this because, she thinks of you like a sibling, like a younger version of herself. When she went to see you today, she got a shock. It brought up a lot of feelings from the past, and she is determined to help you.”

Sandy nodded and put her head down, as she remembered the shame she felt at her friends seeing her in such a state. “Yeah, I guess she was disappointed in me.”

“No, she would never feel that. I’m trying to make you understand how badly she wants to help you, but Dylan…well…she doesn’t do to well with expressing emotions, and the only way she knows how to help is to attack the problem with physical discipline. I suppose I’m trying to say, if you need to talk about what’s in here…” Emily pointed to Sandy’s heart.

“I’m here for you, okay?”

Sandy nodded and watched Emily walk back into the warmth of her family home. Never show your weakness, Sandy. If you do you’ve already lost. She heard her grandfather say.

“Fuck this.” Sandy grabbed her jacket from the pool house and left the Morgan property in search of a way to forget.

Walt Henderson was late for poker night at his friend’s house. Along with his new friend, Tommy Morgan, they met at a different house each week to enjoy drinks, and a few games of cards. He hurriedly locked up the and with his pack of beer in hand, walked out of the building and straight into a young woman at the security door.

“Hey, sorry kid.”

“Mr. Henderson?”

“Yeah? That’s me.” Walt felt there was something familiar about this young woman.

“Hi, I’m Jess, one of Rosie’s friends.”

Jess…I’m sure I’ve heard that name before. One of her hippy friends. “What can I do for you, Jess?”

“I’m supposed to be meeting Rosie tomorrow, but I’m going to have to make it a bit later, and I’ve lost her cell number.”

“Well she’s not here tonight kid, she’s staying with Jackson tonight. I could pass on the message for you if you like. I’m meeting here at their new house in the morning.”

Jess tried to cover her surprise. “New house?”

“Yeah, Rosie and Jackson are moving in together, and they’ve bought this great house in the village.”

“That’s great news. I’m sure Rosie will tell me all about it tomorrow, but I really need to get in touch with her. Could you give me her cell number?”

Walt fumbled through his wallet and pulled out one of Rosie’s new business cards. “Here you go. Now I’ll really need to get going kid, I’m late for my poker night.”

Jess gave him a big smile and said, “Sure thing, Thanks Mr. Henderson.”

Rosie put the finishing touches to the casserole she had made, and popped it in the oven when she heard keys in the apartment door.

Jackson walked into the kitchen and smiled at the sight of Rosie in an apron making dinner. “Now that’s what I like to see, darlin’. Get my dinner, woman.”

Rosie gave her a pointed look, and said, “Watch it, Soldier boy. You’ll be wearing dinner if you’re not careful.”

Jackson took off her suit jacket, and placed it on the back of the kitchen chair. “I take it back. Don’t ruin another suit, please?”

Rosie sauntered over to her partner and loosened Jackson’s tie and opened her top button. “Be good then.”

Jackson’s hands went automatically to Rosie’s buttocks and squeezed. “I can’t help it. Seeing you in a frilly apron makes me hot.”

“It does? That’s because you like to subjugate me.” Rosie parted her lips and inched towards Jackson’s.

“I love to subjugate you, Hippy girl.” Jackson emphasized her point by giving Rosie’s butt a smack causing an audible gasp from her girlfriend.

Rosie worked her hand inside Jackson’s shirt, feeling the need to touch her. “I suppose I did promise you a kiss for finding the perfect house for us.”

She lowered her mouth to Rosie’s ear and took it between her teeth. “Oh no, I told you I’d deserve more than a kiss, darlin’.”

Rosie groaned as Jackson started to kiss and nibble at her neck, making her forget all about dinner. “You know I can’t concentrate when you do that.”

“That’s the point. I’ve been horny for you ever since you came to the office this afternoon. Kept thinking about what I wanted to do to you.”

Rosie smiled and slowly took off her tie. “I want to play, Jack.”

A smile crept up on Jackson’s face.

This was an aspect to Rosie’s personality that she had never dared share with any lover before. As much as she liked to always fight for control in every area of her life, in the bedroom she had always felt a need deep inside to give up control. Only in her relationship with Jackson did she feel safe to voice those needs.

That was what was so wonderful about their relationship. Sometimes it was hot and fast, sometimes slow, tender, loving, and on occasion when Rosie felt the need to give up control, she could trust Jackson to take that control and keep her safe.

“Go into the bedroom then. Oh? And leave this on.” Jackson tugged the 1950’s style apron, Rosie had bought Jackson for a joke at Christmas, but had ended up using herself. “It makes me hard.”

Rosie giggled, and turned down the oven to the lowest setting. “Hurry up, Soldier boy. She said, before running off toward the bedroom.

“I love my life.” Jackson said out loud.

Jackson entered the bedroom to find her girl kneeling at the end of the bed, naked apart from the apron that she had requested.

The sight turned Jackson on so much, that she had to stop herself from groaning out loud. Rosie was such a feisty, and determined woman, for her to trust Jackson and allow her this control, was such a powerful turn on.

It had taken many whispered conversations as they made love, for Rosie to tell her lover exactly what she wanted, and what she wanted to give up to her partner. She took her tie out of her pocket, and walked to her.

She took hold of Rosie’s hair gently and whispered in “Lift your wrists.” Rosie raised them immediately and Jackson tied them together using her gray tie. “Look at me.”

Jackson had to stop her from groaning out loud when Rosie, naked, bound and vulnerable, looking up at her submissively. Anyone that knew Rosie, would never have believed she would enjoy this, and that’s exactly why it was such a special gift that Rosie gave her. It wasn’t the sex, nor the kink that turned her on, it was her girlfriend giving her the trust she knew she would never give anyone else, in the past or ever again.

“What do you want? You’re going to have to tell, bad girl.”

She watched Rosie close her eyes for a second and enjoy the handing away her control. The she looked up and said, “I want you to fuck me, Jack.”

“What’s that? Tell me again. Louder.”

“I want you to fuck me from behind…up against the wall. Please.”

Jackson looked at her unsympathetically. “What makes you think you deserve that?”

“I probably don’t deserve it, but it’s what I want.” Rosie pleaded.

“Let’s see if you can be good and I’ll think about it.” She opened up her belt and unzipped her suit pants, letting them fall to her ankles. “Suck me, and make me come quickly.”

Rosie immediately pulled down her jockey shorts, as best she could with her bound wrists, and slipped her tongue into Jackson’s wetness. When she found her hard clit, she sucked and swirled her tongue around it.

“Oh yeah.” Jackson said. “I’ve been thinking about you sucking me all day.”

She stroked Rosie’s soft wavy hair as her orgasm built quickly. “God I love your tongue. Yeah, I’m going to come.”

Jackson held Rosie’s head tight and thrust her hips as her orgasm got closer and closer. She came the second Rosie dug her nails into her thigh. “Fuck, yeah.”

She looked down at Rosie and smiled as she unbuttoned her shirt. “Good girl. Now get up against wall, I’m going to fuck you so hard.”

Dylan’s alarm went off at four AM, and she got up as quietly as possible, trying not to wake Emily. She got dressed quickly and gave Emily a soft kiss. “See you later, baby girl. I love you.”

After a quick look to check if Molly was still sleeping soundly, she ran downstairs, followed by Wolfie. She let him out to the garden, and prepared a couple of protein shakes. Wolfie clearly thought it was far too early to be up and out of his bed, and headed back upstairs. Dylan took the protein shakes and carried them out to the pool house.

She walked in the door, and found Sandy lying face down on the couch, fully dressed, with an empty bottle of liquor on the floor. “What the fuck are you doing to yourself?”

When she got closer and started to shake her friend the stench of alcohol hit her. “Hey. Wake up ‘Ms. I want to ruin my freakin life.’ ”

Sandy awoke with a start. “Wh…what the fuck…where am I?”

“You’re in Morgan hell. Get up.”

Sandy sat up and looked at Dylan standing over her, arms folded and looking pissed. She grabbed her head and groaned. “Fuck! My head. What time is it?”

“Four thirty, and we’ve got work to do. Get your butt up, and get in the shower. You smell like a bar fell on you.”

Sandy staggered to the fridge and took a long drink from a bottle of water. “Why are you waking me? I only went to sleep two hours ago.”

“We start training today remember?”

“Why?” Sandy said nonchalantly.

Dylan could feel her anger bubbling under the surface, but she kept her voice steady. “We are both training for the triathlon coming up.”

Sandy shrugged her shoulders. “What’s the point?”

“The point is that you are going to help me get in the best shape possible for my new movie, and I’m going to help you get your life back on track, and remember that you’re a champion.”

“I’m not a champion. I’m a fraud and a hypocrite. All that shit I told those kids on the show, about respecting their bodies and being a champion at life? Look at me. A pathetic idiot who drinks to forget how fucking crappy and lonely her life is.”

Dylan walked over and said, “You’re not alone, that’s why you’re here. We’re going to get through this Sandy. I promise. Just give it a chance.”

Sandy nodded solemnly.

“That’s my buddy. Here, drink this and then hit the shower.” She handed her one of the protein shakes.

“One more thing. Don’t bring alcohol back here. I don’t want Molly to see you like that.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry.” Sandy took a drink of the protein shake, and immediately held her stomach, looking ill. “Oh God.”

She ran to the bathroom and Dylan heard the sound of retching. “Get it out your system buddy. I’m going to help you feel better. I promise.”

After a grueling five mile run, Dylan and Sandy returned to Dylan’s gym to work on weights and do some circuit training.

The music boomed in the background and the sweat dripped off of them both, but more so Sandy whose body was trying to purge the alcohol from her system.

Sandy lay on a weight bench while Dylan coached her. “That’s it buddy. Two more…1,2.”

Dylan helped her rest the bar bell in the holder. Oh man, I feel like I’m gonna die.” Sandy said.

“Well maybe you’ll think twice about drinking when you have to work out. Huh?”

Sandy sat up and took a drink of water. “Yeah, maybe.”

“So? When does this movie start shooting?” Sandy stood and they switched places.

Dylan took a tight hold of the barbell before replying. “The first batch of scenes starts filming in three months in Midtown. That’s the only reason why I took it, I don’t want to be away from Emmie on location when the baby is just born.”

Dylan started pushing the weight above her head. Sandy looked down at her impressive body and wondered how much fitter she could get.

“You do know that you are ripped enough for the movie already.”

When she put the bar on the rest, she said, “I’ve been sloppy since I got back from Morocco. My muscles are looking like they’ve had too much of Emmie’s tasty food. I need to sharpen up. You should see the costume I have to wear. It leaves nothing to the imagination.”

They traded places again, but before Sandy lifted the weight, she felt she had to say something about earlier. “I’m sorry about this morning. I really am grateful for you taking me into your family and trying to help me. I just don’t feel like I deserve it.”

Dylan began changing the weights on the bar to the next weight up. “You are family now, Sandy. I know you’re grieving but you have all of us to help you. Emmie, Molly, Jackson and Rosie. We’ll get you better before your gym’s big opening.”

Sandy gave her a small smile, but inside she didn’t believe she could feel better. She knew she had good friends, but her heart ached and told her, At the end of the day, She’d always be alone.

Rosie’s eyes fluttered open when she heard her cell phone signaling a text. She looked around and was pleased to see Jackson still sleeping and with an arm around her waist. It wasn’t often she woke up before her partner, so it was a nice change. I must have worn you out Soldier boy.

She looked at her cell and saw ten messages waiting for her. Wow. I’m popular today? Then her heart sank when she opened them. Every one of them was from Jess. “Oh no. How did she get my new number?”

The first few were friendly enough. ‘Hi Rosie, why won’t you talk to me? I just want to be your friend.’

They then started to show Jess’s frustration. ‘Please just let me know you’re okay?’

Rosie realized this had to stop and she had to tell Jackson. Her cell started to ring and she quickly declined the ‘unknown number’ before Jackson heard. She started to stir, so Rosie put her phone on silent, and turned to greet her partner as she awoke.

I’ll need to find the right moment to tell her.

“Morning, lover? You’re a sleepyhead this morning.”

Jackson smiled and looked utterly contented. “Hmm…morning darlin’. Come here.” She pulled her down for a kiss.

“I can’t help but sleep well with you here. I can’t wait to live with you.”

Rosie traced her fingernails down Jackson’s handsome face. “You are a sweet, soppy soldier, aren’t you?”

Jackson caught her girlfriends hand and placed a tender kiss to her wrist. “I mean every word of it. I’ve never lived with anyone before. I never even stayed the night with a woman before. But I want forever with you my Rosie girl.”

“You make me feel so loved when you say things like that, Jack. I want…” Rosie hesitated and tried to form her words carefully. This was a chance to hint at what she truly wanted.

Jackson rolled them over so she was on top looking down at her girlfriend. “Tell me what you want, beautiful?”

I want to marry you and have your children one day. She thought truthfully, but she couldn’t say it out loud. “I want a life with you Jack, a life, a home, to be a family together.”

“And that’s what we’re going to have, Hippy girl. We’ve already got the home and soon we’ll always be together.”

Rosie reached up and tenderly cradled her partner’s face. “I want to belong to you, Jack, and you to belong to me.”

Jackson didn’t say anything back to her, she simply took possession of her lips, and kissed her deeply. “We will have everything you want. I promise. Now I want to make love to you.”

Rosie smirked. “You’ll be late for work. Barbie will be waiting for you.”

“Bar…I mean Paris can wait. I need my Rosie girl.”

Jackson’s hand moved down and her fingers slipped into her girlfriend’s wetness. Rosie groaned in pleasure and from the slight ache she felt from making love last night. “I wanted to talk to you about lunch today…”

Jackson didn’t let up in her attentions, and began to kiss and nuzzle the places she knew made her moan. “Talk later.”

“I don’t think I’ve got any orgasms left in me, Soldier boy.”

She felt her clitoris respond to her partner’s touch, and she pulled Jackson’s lips down into a kiss. As the kiss deepened, Rosie’s cell came to life. Although he had switched her phone to silent, it still vibrated, making a lot of noise on the bedside table.

No. Don’t let her see who’s calling. Shut up phone. She needed to talk to Jackson about Jess in her own way, not while they were in bed together.

Rosie could feel Jack pull away to allow Rosie to check her phone, but Rosie said, “Ignore it.”

“What if it’s a client for you?” Jackson asked.

“Then they can wait, just like Barbie. Make me come hard, lover.” Jackson growled and continued on.

Amber struggled down the hallway to her classroom with piles of decorations and items for the school fun day. As well as the children’s decorations, she had spent a lot of time at home making ribbon and banners, to make the classroom and outside sports fields look the best they could be. It was her first time in charge of a major school event and she was determined it would go well.

As she walked into the classroom, laden down with items, her teaching assistant Zoey, hurried over and took some things from her hands. “Woah. Have you got enough there, Amber? She let out a breath and put the rest of the things on her desk. “There’s still more thing in my car. This was all I could carry.”

Zoey walked over to her and said, “Here, give me your keys and I’ll get the rest while you sort this.”

“Thanks, Zoey. You’re a life saver.”

Amber got one of the chocolate gold medals she had made for the kids, and went over to the class project corner. When Dylan, Jackson and Sandy had been in Morocco, she had used their training and inspirational stories to teach the kids about the importance of exercise and a healthy body. The one part of the project area that caught her eye every day and made her smile, was the cut out model of Sandy; she placed the medal around its neck. “There Ms. Williams, it’s not as good as the real thing but much tastier.”

Every time she looked over at the model, and saw Sandy’s bright smile and warm brown eyes, she couldn’t help but smile. She did truly admire Sandy, following her on Facebook and Twitter, she saw what a positive role model she was for kids and those who want to make their life healthier and better. She could always be relied upon to post something inspirational that made you think about achieving your best. Along with Dylan, they both proved to be excellent subject matter for the kids project.

Amber reached out and ran her fingers across Sandy’s face. You have a perfect body. She told herself there was nothing wrong with finding another woman attractive, and the tingly, excited feeling in her stomach was okay too. It was perfectly natural to have a fan girl crush on someone you admired, it didn’t make you gay, did it?

Amber had these thoughts going over in her mind constantly over the last year. When her ex-fiancé, Parker tried to possessively hold her hand in public or touch her, she felt suffocated, and when she slept with him and felt nothing. She had never felt the feelings you were supposed to have, and for the longest time she blamed herself, until she had worked up the courage to leave. She was certain there was someone out there who could make her feel like she should. It was only in her very private moments that she contemplated that someone may be a woman.

Don’t be silly, Ambi.

While she was daydreaming, Amber hadn’t noticed that her fingers had trailed down Sandy’s shoulder and onto her large flexed bicep, on which Sandy had the Olympic Rings tattooed with her world record time underneath.

“Amber? Amber. Can you hear me?” Amber was suddenly aware of Zoey calling her and realized she had been caught drooling over Sandy’s bicep. She gasped and snatched her hand away, her cheeks turning bright pink.

“Sorry, Zoey. I was miles away.”

“I bet. Here’s your car keys. I piled the rest on your desk. Come Saturday everything will be perfect.”

Amber knew she was caught red handed and the only way to handle it was to carry on regardless. “Um…great. We better get ready, or the kids will be here any minute.”

Rosie looked over to the front door of her studio nervously. After Jackson left this morning, she had texted Jess and asked her to meet her at the studio at lunchtime, and hopefully Jackson would get here on time. She had to get this situation under control. Waiting for Jess was a horrible feeling. She was so glad she had told Jackson. Having her support gave her the strength to face this. At first it had been annoying, but now it was worrying.

The door opened and she saw Jess walking in. Rosie’s heart began to thud. It’s just Jess. Stop worrying.

Jess smiled brightly, “Hi, Rosie. I’m so happy to see you again. I’ve missed you.”

Rosie held on to her sketching pencil so tightly, it nearly broke. Jess looked different, where as she had always gone for the androgynous look, now she seemed to be trying to look butch. Her longer hair was now cut short into a faux Mohawk, and she wore a suit, shirt and tie.

She’s trying to look like Jack. Although with her smaller build and height, she looked more like a little boy trying on his dad’s suit.

Rosie had never been intimidated in anyway by Jess, in fact she had gone on the few dates with her, because she felt a bit sorry for her. She had seen how Jess followed her around like a puppy with her other friends, and finally given in to a couple of dates. Now looking at Jess, so obviously trying to look like her partner, she did feel intimidated.

“You’ve changed your hair, Jess?”

Jess ran her hand through her short style, delighted that it had been noticed. “Yeah, I thought it was about time I manned up. You like it?”

“It’s different. Let’s go through to the gallery out back.” Rosie stood up and walked to the studio door and locked it

Jess followed her through to the back and began looking at some of her show piece designs hanging in the gallery.

“These are excellent, Rosie. You’ve done so well for yourself.”

Rosie hugged herself and said, “I didn’t ask you here for a social occasion, Jess.”

Jess’s face quickly turned from smiles to barely contained anger. She looked at Rosie with a penetrating stare. “So where did you tell your boyfriend you were this lunchtime?”

“She’s not my boyfriend, she’s my partner, and why do you ask?”

Jess walked closer than felt comfortable to Rosie making her back away a few steps. “Because, you have lunch with her nearly every day, here or out somewhere. Hunter doesn’t let you out of her grasp for long.”

Rosie was shocked. I was right. Someone has been there, all those times I felt something. It was Jess. “Have you been watching me?”

Jess softened and gave her a pleading look. “Not watching, looking out for you. I’m so worried about you all the time.”

Rosie took a step back, trying to put some space between them. “Not that it’s your place, but why would you be worried about me?”

“Because she’s totally changed your personality. We never see you anymore at O’Reilly’s. She never lets you out of her sight. You’ve gone from a young, outgoing woman, out partying with your friends to a recluse.”

“If by ‘we’ you mean my friends, then I do still see them, just not at the bar. I meet them for coffee or lunch, it’s only you I don’t see. As for partying, I’ve grown up. I’m in a mature relationship, and if I have free time, I want to spend it with Jackson going to dinner or spending time with our friends.”

Jess shook her head, “You actually believe what you’re saying, don’t you? Jackson really has done a number on you, hasn’t she?”

Rosie felt bad about the tone of this conversation, and just wanted it to be over.

“Jackson has done nothing but love me, and make me believe in myself.”

She saw Jess’s eyes lower to her neck. “Was she loving you when she did that?”

Jess again stepped closer and reached out to touch her neck. “This mark here, and don’t tell me it’s a love bite. I know you don’t like that kind of thing. When were together you wanted soft, gentle kisses.”

She had enough and was going to tell Jess that. “We were never together, Jess. We had a couple of dates, you don’t know what I like.”

Rosie stepped back as Jess closed in on her. She had maneuvered her up against the wall and there was no room to escape. Now would be a good time, Jack.

“If I had known you liked women to be butch and aggressive, I would have given you what you wanted.” Jess grasped Rosie’s jaw menacingly. “I can be that person for you…if you give me a chance?”

“Take your hands off her, and step away.” Jackson stepped out from Rosie’s office.

“You? What is this?”

Jackson strode forward and stood between Rosie and Jess. “This is your one and only opportunity to walk away from this situation with no consequences.”

Jess’s face was incandescent with rage. “Why? What are you going to do? Beat me up? You see what she’s is, Rosie? You need to get away from this thug.”

As much as it would give Jackson immense satisfaction to beat the crap out of Jess, especially after what she had just heard, now was not the time. Someone with obsessive tendencies needed careful handling. She saw it every day with her clients. Stalkers and obsession could not be allowed to escalate. She thanked God that Rosie had told her what was going on.

Jackson moved to within inches of Jess and looked down at her with a penetrating stare. “I don’t have to lay a finger on you, Jess. You know what kind of business I am in. Security. I have contacts in the police, court system and more than one Judge who owes me a favor. Tomorrow, a protective order will be granted against you, and if you contact Rosie, or come near her again, you will be arrested. There will be no second chances, one strike and you are out. I’m sure your employer would love to hear about it all.”

Jess looked extremely panicked. “I’m sorry, Rosie. Please, give me a chance. I can be everything she is, give you everything she does, but I will love you more. Just give me a chance? I know she’s controlling you, and you feel trapped but I can help.”

Rosie growled in frustration, and said angrily, “Let me make this clear, Jess. No one can control me, and Jackson wouldn’t even dare to try.”

Jackson chuckled inside. You’ve got that right.

“No more messages, no more calls, no more watching me. I am with Jackson and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Not only will we stay together, I hope we’ll get married and have a family one day. That’s how committed I am to Jackson. I’m not interested in you, do you understand me?”

Jackson did a double take. Did she actually say that? Married? The realization of what she had just heard made s smile creep up on her. Yes, she did…woah…

Jess looked at her with defeat in her eyes, “Hunter is no good for you. She’ll break your heart.”

“Please leave.” Rosie said firmly.

She nodded and started to walk away. At the door she turned and said to Rosie, “When she breaks your heart, I hope it destroys you.”

Rosie gasped at the harness of Jess’s words, and tears started to roll down her cheeks. Jackson pulled her close, and rubbed her back trying to calm her. “Shh…don’t cry darlin’. She’s got the message. She’s just trying to hurt you.”

“Why did she have to be so cruel, Jack? I’ve never wished harm on anyone in my life, and I’ve always been a good friend to her.”

Jackson kissed her forehead and squeezed her tighter. “I know. You haven’t got it in you to be nasty to anyone. Jess is just obsessed, and twisted. What she feels for you is not love, because love could never motivate anyone to behave like that.”

In a strange way Jackson was glad this meeting had happened. She now knew what was inside Rosie’s head. What she wanted deep inside, and that was a lifetime of commitment, and she was only too happy to give Rosie what she wanted.

I’ve got some planning to do.

It was early Saturday morning, and Dylan and Sandy were working out on the beach. After a swim in the sea, Dylan had marked out a simple circuit in the sand. They had to sprint between two points, and then drop to do one handed push-ups, increasing the length with every circuit they completed, before they moved inside for the strength training part of their workout.

“Woo hoo! Makes you feel alive, doesn’t it?” Dylan said as she completed her pushups. Apart from making love with her wife, this was best physical high Dylan felt you could get in life. Pushing your body and muscles hard, feeling the sweat dripping off your body.

She looked up when she got no reply from Sandy, and saw that she had fallen behind. She was still on the sand doing her pushups slowly and labored.

She can’t be that unfit? What is wrong with her? Dylan kept up her fast sprint and shouted “Pick up the pace, buddy.”

Sandy finished and started the shuttle runs, but where Dylan was sprinted, Sandy was jogging. Dylan turned and ran backwards trying to encourage her. “Come on Sandy. Push it.”

When Dylan turned away from again, Sandy slowed to a stop. Her body and her heart felt completely devoid of energy. She walked toward the shoreline and looked out on the vast ocean.

“Sandy? What the hell are you doing?” Dylan shouted.

She didn’t know what to reply, all she knew was that she wanted to hide under a rock somewhere. Dylan stormed over and said, “What is wrong with you? You’re an Olympic champion. A stupid little workout like this is just a warm up to athletes like us.”

“There’s no point.” Sandy said sadly.

“What do you mean there’s no point? I’m trying to get you back to the strong Sandy. The Sandy that’s a champion, the Sandy that inspires people to be more than they thought they could be.”

Sandy snapped inside. Her head whipped around and shouted, “What if I don’t want to be that person anymore? I’ve wasted enough of my life trying to be that person, and I’ve had enough.”

Dylan was furious. “Wasted your life? Are you fucking nuts? You’ve achieved more in your young life than most achieve over a lifetime.”

“And where has that got me, Dylan? No family, no friends apart from you and Jackson, and an empty apartment every night. I’ve wasted my life chasing dreams, and now women are only interested in sleeping with me because of who I am. I don’t want to get better, I don’t want this.”

Dylan’s anger was on the verge of boiling over. “You want to ruin your life? Go ahead. You can go home and wallow in self-pity, but you’re not going to let my kid down. You’re going to her school today and you’re going to give everything for the kids.” Dylan turned on her heel and stormed back to the house.

Sandy immediately felt bad. She knew how much Molly looked up to her, and here she was letting everyone down, letting her best friend down. What a fuck up.”

Emily was in the kitchen, about to start breakfast when Dylan came stomping in like a whirlwind with anger written all over her face. “Dylan, what…”

“Don’t ask.” Dylan said firmly, and left the kitchen to run upstairs, and slam their bedroom door.

Emily sighed, and turned off the stove. She followed her upstairs as quickly as her pregnant body would allow.

When she entered their bedroom, she heard the shower running, and music thumping from the bathroom speaker. While she was waiting on her partner coming out of the shower, she started to get Dylan’s clothes laid out for the school fun day.

Five minutes later, Dylan walked out of the bathroom with only a towel wrapped around her waist. When Emily looked up, she forgot to breathe, as tiny drops of water ran from Dylan’s muscular shoulders down onto her collar bone tattoo, and her arms. No matter how many times Emily saw this picture, her lust for her partner was never diminished, and in fact got stronger as time went on. Now was not the time to dwell on these feelings however.

“Are you okay Dyl?”

Dylan began to get dressed in the t – shirt and cargo shorts Emily had laid out for her. “I don’t get it. She’s an Olympic champion, and she doesn’t have the motivation to do a simple workout. I turn round and she’s just staring off into the fucking distance. What is wrong with her?”

Emily gave Dylan a look of displeasure. “First of all, what did we say about cursing in the house, TV star?”

Dylan’s eyes went wide realizing what she’d said. “Uh…we agreed that I could if the situation called for it, and it does.”

“No, that was what you said, I didn’t agree.”

Dylan sat on the bed and said, “She thinks there’s no point in training, that she’s wasted her life training her body. It’s insane.”

Emily walked over to Dylan and sat in her lap. “She’s grieving honey. Everything seems pointless when you feel like that.”

“I don’t get it. When Joey died…and I was going out of my mind with anger and sadness. I didn’t have anyone either, but I threw myself into training. It helped me get through each day.”

It hurt Emily to think of Dylan, hurting and alone, without her and Molly to comfort her. She put her arms around her partner and hugged her tightly. “I know honey, but everyone is different. Give her some time, and don’t give up on her. You’ll get through to Sandy. I know you will.”

“Hmm…maybe.” Dylan allowed her hand to caress Emily’s stomach and feel the baby she held there. She felt a sense of calm come over her, and she let out a breath of tension.

“You will, honey. We’ll just keep showing her the care she needs, and Sandy will get better. Bit by bit. Now don’t let her think you’re angry. Go and make up with her before we have to go out today, and I’ll get Molly up and ready, okay?”

Dylan gave her a tender kiss to her lips. “Thank you, baby. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d still be able to help her, because you are a kind soul.”

Emily got up and said, “Just remember that Sandy is not Joey, don’t let your anger of losing him cross into helping Sandy. They are very different people, honey.”

Dylan stood and took her hand, “You always know what I’m feeling and thinking more than I know it myself.”

Emily smiled and said, “That’s because I know you. Come on, let’s get ready for our big day.”

Amber looked into her small make-up mirror and applied her lipstick. She had lost count of the number of times she had checked her appearance this morning. A nervous energy coupled with the fluttering feeling in her stomach, wouldn’t let up.

She didn’t think that it was the enormity of the event. Since the principal gave her the sole responsibility of organizing this event, she had felt nothing but excitement. Amber’s eyes were drawn over to the full size cut out of Sandy with her gold medal around her neck. It made her stomach flutter all the more.

Amber looked back to her mirror and said to herself, “You’re going totally fangirl on her, Ambi.”

One of her colleagues knocked the door and shook her from her thoughts. “All of your guests are here, Amber.”

“Thanks Mel. I’ll just be a minute.” One last look in the mirror, and she put all her make up away in her purse.

Okay, Ambi let’s keep it together and don’t letfangirl out too much.

Sandy felt utterly miserable, and she hated herself for it. Molly was so happy to have her at her school fun day and was introducing her to all her friends, but all she could think of was being alone somewhere she could drown her sorrows.

Dylan had come to the pool house earlier and made her peace with her, but she couldn’t just swallow down all her melancholy feelings so easily. She had to fight to get herself out of her room and into Dylan’s car. She did so by way of some vodka in her water bottle, and broke her promise to keep alcohol away from Molly.

She took a long swig and placed it on the wall beside her. Some athlete, huh?

Further down the sports field, the Morgans, and Jackson and Rosie were chatting with teachers and other parents before the games began. Both couples were holding hands and showing affection to each other in a way that made Sandy hurt for not having the same.

Maybe I should just go back to my loft. Being around a happy family and friends wasn’t helping her as Dylan thought it would.

Her eyes zeroed in on Dylan, as she hugged Emily from behind, stroking her baby bump. She would kick you out if she knew you were still drinking.

She looked down to her side and jumped in fright when she saw Molly about to drink out of her bottle. “No! Molly don’t drink that.”

Sandy grabbed the bottle quickly from her hands, and poured it in the grass beside them. “What wrong, Andy?”

Molly looked as if she was ready to cry, so Sandy got down on her knees and hugged her little friend. “I’m sorry Molly, but it was dirty…em…there was a fly in it.”

Molly’s smile returned. “Okay. I was thirsty, Andy.”

“Your mommy’s got juice for you, look?” Sandy pointed over to Emily, who was holding a juice box in her hand.

“Otay. Tanks Andy.” She ran off quite happily, and Sandy let out a huge sigh of relief. Fuck. Fuck.

She couldn’t believe how close she had come to Molly drinking the vodka. Her hands shook and her legs felt wobbly. She sat back on the wall behind her and covered her face with her hands.

Thank God she didn’t drink it. Dylan would have kicked my ass, and I would have let her. What a fuck up. This has to stop.

Sandy wanted to run, run far away, but she couldn’t let the Dylan and Emily down. She rubbed her face, and tried to take deep breaths. This has to stop, and stop right here.

Amber saw Sandy standing by herself, hands in pockets and looking terribly lonely amongst all the chatter of the adults and squeals and shouts of the children. She wanted to talk the famous woman, and the games would be starting soon, so she plucked up all her courage and walked over.

“Umm…excuse me, Ms. Williams? I just wanted to tell that I’m such a big fan and I loved-”

Sandy cut her off before she got any further, and without even looking at her said, “Yeah, yeah, you’re such a big fan of my TV show and think I’m fucking wonderful. I know it all already so don’t waste your breath.”

Amber felt like she had been kicked in the stomach, her eyes started to fill with tears, but Sandy wasn’t finished. She looked at Amber with disdain and said, “If you’re looking for some attention from the hot shot celesbian then there’s already a line ahead of you.”

Everything she had hoped of Sandy appeared to be a clever marketing ploy. She could even smell alcohol from her. A single tear ran down Amber’s cheek, she wiped it away quickly and hurried off into the crowd of people.

Seeing the young woman’s tears immediately jarred Sandy into guilt. Why was I so mean?

“Sandy? What happened?” Emily had seen Amber hurry off and came to check what the problem was.

“Um…who was that?”

“That’s Molly’s teacher, Miss Andrews. She set up this whole day and was really excited to see you.”

Sandy ran her hands over her braided hair in frustration. This day couldn’t get any worse.

“She said she was a fan and…I…I didn’t want the attention and…ugh. think I really upset her.”

Emily gave her a stern look and took her hand, “Follow me.”

“Emily? Where are we going?” Sandy asked.

The heavily pregnant, Mrs. Morgan couldn’t walk fast, but her fierce countenance compelled Sandy to follow her like a lamb. She was led into Molly’s classroom and over to the class project display.

Sandy looked around at the pictures of Dylan and Jackson’s Moroccan challenge, and lots of her winning her gold medals at the Olympics, including one large cut out of her after winning the gold medal.

“Wow. Um…what is this?”

“Molly’s teacher, Amber has been using you as part of the kid’s project. Do you know why?”

“Uh…no.”

“Because Amber has admired you for a long time, because of your athletic career not because you’re a celebrity. When I first talked to her about you, she told me about all your best times in your trials and everything. She admires you for the athlete that you are, Sandy.”

The strength disappeared from her legs. She sat down on the kid’s desk and held her head tightly in her arms. “I’ve fucked up.”

Emily sat beside her and pulled her into a hug. Sandy hung onto her like she was desperate and was adrift and desperately seeking an anchor.

“I’m messed up.” She fought tears that had been threatening to overcome her with all of her strength.

“Let it out, Sandy.” Emily rubbed her back, showing her the kind of care that she craved in her life. She could easily lose herself in Emily, and that wasn’t right, she had to get some distance from her.

She untangled herself from Emily’s arms and walked over to the classroom window. “I’m not worth bothering with. I’ve been drinking at your home when Dylan told me not to. I need to go back to my apartment.”

“I know you’ve been drinking today. I can smell it on your breath. I won’t tell Dylan about this, but I want you to stay with us. If you go back to the city, I’m frightened that you’ll lose sight of what’s important. You can make this right, if you really want to, and the first way you can do that is by apologizing to Amber.”

She thought of Molly nearly drinking from her water bottle and how horrible she had been to Miss Andrews, and letting her dream of the gym hang in the balance while she punished herself self-indulgently. It felt like rock bottom, at least she hoped that she couldn’t make things any worse.

“I want to get better, Emily, I just don’t know how to start.” She told her honestly.

Emily got to her feet, and walked over to her. “You face up to the things you’re not proud of and make them right, and then you take control back, letting those that love you, help you. We may not be your family by blood, Sandy, but we care about you and love you like you were. Accept that we care and let us help you.”

She didn’t know if she could be the same person she was before, but she was going to try for the sake of those that cared about her. “I want to try again, Emily but Dylan will kick me out if she knew I was still drinking in your home.”

Emily opened her purse and searched for the pack of mints she kept there, and offered one to Sandy. “I said that I won’t tell Dylan, if you give me your word it won’t happen again.”

This is it. Commit or give up. She thought about what her grandmother would say and knew she had to prove to her she could get her life back, and be the good person she always thought Sandy was.

“I swear it won’t happen again, Emily, and I’ll make amends to Miss Andrews.” She took one of the mints to cover the vodka smell on her breath.

Emily looped her arm through Sandy’s and said, “I know you will. You’re a good person Sandy, and things will get better. Let’s go and have some fun with the kids.”

She gave her a smile and prayed that she wouldn’t let her friends down again.

After the success of the school event, Dylan, Emily and their friends returned to the Morgan estate to enjoy the party they had organized.

Emily hovered around her busy kitchen, watching the caterers and waiters Dylan had insisted upon. She wasn’t territorial or stubborn in many areas of her life, but her kitchen was one. Emily hated handing over control of her space, the heart of her home, to others.

She stood and clenched her fists in frustration as she watched one of the chefs adding what she thought was too much seasoning to one of the dishes. He seemingly felt her stare, as he looked up and said, “Can I help you, Mrs. Morgan?”

“No, it’s nothing. I just came in to check how things were going.” She lied.

“We should be ready to serve in half an hour. Everything is on schedule.”

She watched in horror as one of the younger caterers dropped one of her cooking dishes on the floor. I should never have agreed to this.

Dylan appeared at her side and started to guide her out of the kitchen. “Come on baby, leave them to their work.” She walked her out onto the deck outside the kitchen, where the tables were set up for food.

Emily sighed. “I never should have agreed to this Dylan, they’re messing up my kitchen.”

Dylan took her into her arms and reassured her with a hug. “Emmie, you’re eight months pregnant. You’re supposed to be sitting with your feet up, relaxing. That’s why I got the caterers; I knew you wouldn’t be able to leave everything to my mom. You would have been on your feet since the crack of dawn.”

“I’m actually still in my seventh month of pregnancy, until Monday, Dylan.” Emily said sharply.

Dylan rolled her eyes. “What was I thinking? In that case I’ll get my tools out of my workshop, and you can start fixing the roof.”

Emily pocked her finger into Dylan’s ribs. “No need to be sarcastic.”

“Hey, that hurt.” Dylan rubbed her ribs.

“It was meant to.”

Dylan led her toward the pool area, where the guests were standing and sitting in groups, enjoying drinks. They approached Rosie who was sitting and talking with her partner. Jackson stood when she saw Dylan and Emily approach.

“Are you okay, Emily?” Jackson asked her.

“Apparently I’m useless.” Jackson looked at Dylan who gave her a ‘don’t ask’ look.

“Sit beside Rosie and have a nice chat, baby.” Dylan supported Emily, while she lowered into her seat.

“There’s no need to be so patronizing, Dylan.”

Dylan ignored what Emily said, and said to Rosie. “Could you make sure my wife stays off of her feet, because she seems intent on working her fingers to the bone, despite being seven point nine months pregnant.”

Emily gripped the arms of her chair tightly, and without looking said in a low threatening voice. “Dylan? Go and play somewhere else.”

Dylan’s face fell, and without saying a word she walked off. Rosie waved at Jackson to go after her.

Rosie and Emily sat in silence for a minute before Rosie said, “What’s wr-”

“My ankles hurt, my back hurts, I need to pee every five minutes, I’m the size of a pregnant whale, Dylan is infuriating, there are people in my kitchen, and they smashed my favorite casserole dish. That’s what’s wrong.”

Rosie brought her hands to her mouth and gasped dramatically, banking on her friend’s sense of humor. “Oh no! Not your favorite casserole dish. Please say it isn’t true?”

Emily looked at her with serious eyes for a few seconds before crumpling in laughter. “Yes my favorite casserole. Oh I’m sorry, Rosie. I’m feeling so on edge at the moment.”

“Hey, I’m here for you Em. You can feel however you like. I know it must be so hard this late in your pregnancy.”

Emily reached over and took her friends hand. “You’re such a good friend, Rosie.”

“You do the same for me. Wait, let me get you a chair for your feet.” Rosie got up and lifted another chair over, allowing Emily to put her feet up.

“That’s better, thanks.”

“I hate to tell you Em, but Dylan is looking over here with that sad pathetic look.”

Emily saw Dylan was standing with Jackson, and Sandy, and looking directly at her. She smiled and blew her a kiss. Dylan was smiling again, and blew a kiss back. “I’m giving her such a hard time. I feel sorry for her, but sometimes Dyl is so infuriating.”

“Listen, I don’t blame you. Jack infuriates me every day and I’m not even pregnant, so you’re doing fine.” She pointed over to Dylan, leading a group including Jackson, Sandy, and some of the other parents into the basketball court. “See she’s perfectly happy now.”

Emily nodded and looked over to the other side of the garden, where Molly and her school friends were having great fun on her play equipment. Pattie, Tommy, Walt and Amber were keeping a careful watch beside them. Everyone’s settled.

Emily let out a sigh. “My emotions are all over the place at the moment. The other day I found myself crying at one at one of Molly’s bedtime stories.”

Rosie laughed, “Was it a sad story?”

“No, it was about a magical elf who saved his friends from a troll.”

“Seriously?” Rosie asked.

Emily nodded and said, “Uh-huh, and don’t even ask about the dreams I’ve been having.” Emily’s cheeks betrayed her by turning a touch pink.

Rosie moved her seat closer to her. “Oh I’m asking, Em.”

“I can’t, it’s so embarrassing. I haven’t even told Dylan.”

“Now you definitely have to tell me. I won’t tell a soul, honest.” Rosie crossed her heart.

Emily rubbed her baby bump, and fanned her face both from the heat and from embarrassment. “Um…it says on all the pregnancy books and websites it’s to be expected.”

Rosie smirked. “Now you have intrigued me.”

“Well…” Emily lowered her voice to a whisper. “You know those dreams you get every so often?”

Rosie’s eyes went wide. “The ones when you…”

“Yes them, well I’m having them every other night.”

“Every other night!” Rosie said loudly.

“Shh. Try and not let the whole party know Rosie.” Emily looked around worriedly.

“I can’t believe it. Those dreams are like…as rare as gold and you’re having them every other night?”

“Yes, it’s so embarrassing. Apparently it’s the high level of hormones. It only happened once or twice when I had Molly, but I was in a very stressful situation, unlike this time.”

“What happens in them?” Rosie whispered.

“They’re different each time, but it’s like every secret fantasy I’ve ever had.”

“Is Dylan in them?”

Emily looked at her friend like she was crazy. “Of course, except she’s not being my Dylan every time. It depends on the fantasy.”

“Woah. You are so lucky.” Rosie sat back in her seat and took her drink from the table to cool her down.

“Not as much as you think. I wake up so horny, and Dylan’s just lying there sleeping but looking so sexy, and then I look at myself and don’t feel so sexy. There’s no way my big body can do the things I’m dreaming about.”

Rosie nudged her friend. “I bet Dylan would like to help you with that. You should talk to her.”

“Hmm…maybe. Dylan is very good at reassuring me but I don’t feel attractive.”

“You’re not still thinking about that stupid magazine cover are you? I told you it was probably written by some jealous idiot wanting to compensate for their own lack of self-esteem. You are beautiful, Em.”

Just as Emily was about to answer, Rosie’s cell phone text alert went, and Emily saw Rosie stiffen. Rosie checked it quickly and shoved it back into her pocket. “What is it?” Emily said.

“Nothing, just a business text. Not…”

“Jess?” Emily asked.

Rosie nodded. “There’s been nothing since Jackson had a word with her, but I’m still nervous every time my cell rings.”

“You did the right thing, telling Jackson. Secrets can take a huge toll on relationships. I know.”

She remembered when she found all the letters from Toni, which Dylan hid. The whole situation had nearly ruined their fledging relationship.

“I know. Hopefully she is finally listening. My friend at O’Reilly’s says that she’s seen her with a new girl. So…”

“Hopefully you’re free and clear?” Emily finished for her.

“Exactly.” Rosie stood and looked over to the deck area. “Oh look? They’re serving the food. Let me help you over, Em.”

After a relatively friendly game of basketball, Dylan, Jackson and Sandy were enjoying a cooling drink by the pool. Across from them, Molly was enjoying having fun on her play equipment under the watchful eyes of her father and Walt. “Mom, mom. Watch me jump.” Molly shouted.

Dylan clapped when Molly jumped into Tommy’s arms. She thought it was a blessing that her daughter had so many people that loved her, as well as her grandpa, she now had uncle Walt to make a fuss of her too.

She nudged Sandy and said to Jackson. “So, what does Walt think of you living in sin with his only daughter?”

“Ha ha, very funny. I’ll have you know Walt thinks I’m a ‘stand up kind of guy’ as he puts it. He’s helping with some of the decorating too. I think he’s happy, although he did give me the, commitment comes with living together speech. He’d probably prefer it if we got married first.”

“Does Rosie want to get married?” Sandy asked.

“I wasn’t so sure before. I mean you both know the kind of things she believes in, but she keeps hinting about wanting us to belong to each other and being a family. I think she is coming round to the idea.”

Dylan shook her head and laughed. “Just ask her, buy a great ring, some flowers and chocolates and take control of the situation. Girls like that.”

“Oh yeah, like you have any say in anything with Emily.” Jackson laughed and Dylan gave her an annoyed look.

“Yeah? Well at least I had the guts to propose, and get my girl.” Dylan looked to Sandy for support and saw she was looking over to the beach walkway, where Rosie was walking down to the beach with Amber.

“Hey, what’s wrong, Sandy?”

Sandy stuffed her hands in her pockets and looked to the floor. “I…I…uh…was kind of rude to Miss Andrews. I didn’t know she was Molly’s teacher, and…well…I made an idiot of myself.”

Dylan sighed. “Well go and apologize. Amber is great girl, and Emmie says she’s not having the best time of it recently. Something about an ex-fiancé giving her a hard time.

Sandy rubbed her face with her hands in frustration. “I feel even worse now.”

Jackson gave her a smack on the back and said, “Go and talk to her. You can make it better.”

“So, I can count on you for Emily’s baby shower? ” Rosie asked Amber as they walked down to the beach.

“If you’re sure it’s appropriate I come along. I don’t want to intrude.”

Rosie chuckled. “Don’t be silly, I know Emily’s become very fond of you in the time Molly’s been at Da Vinci. It isn’t easy for Emily in her position to have a lot of friends. She would love you to be there.”

Amber knew how that felt, the friends she had at college had faded away once she had gotten with Parker, and he had replaced them with superficial people who were more interested in money and position than true friendship.

“I’d be delighted then. If you need any help with any of the setting up let me know. Emily has been really helpful to me at school, I’d like to help her have a special day.”

“That would be great. I’m going to L.A for work on Monday, and Tuesday, but I’ll give you a call when I’m back. I can use all the help I can get. It’s difficult to know who to trust, the media are constantly trying to get information on Emily and Dylan’s private life, so it’s difficult to keep things under wraps. Let’s go and get a drink.”

“Do you mind if I sit down here a bit longer, Rosie? It’s truly beautiful.”

“Sure. Enjoy, I’ll go and make sure Jack and Dylan aren’t causing any trouble. See you soon.”

As Rosie walked away, Amber closed her eyes and breathed in the salty sea air. It was a wonderful feeling, listening to the seagulls, and waves crashing on the shore. It was a different feeling from her lake side home. She imagined having all this on her doorstep and although it would be wonderful, but she would still be alone.

No, she was lucky with what she had. Even though her little home was falling around her ears, on a sunny evening with doors wide open down onto the lake, and playing her piano, it was pure bliss. If only she had someone to share it with. Parker would never have been happy simply holding each other and listening to the sounds of the evening, no they had to be out being seen at the right places and with the right people. The right people being the most false and selfish individuals she had ever met.

She might be alone, but at least she was living a life true to herself, and not trying to please an egotistical man whom she didn’t love.

Amber heard footsteps and assumed it was Rosie. She turned around and her smile faltered when she saw Sandy Williams standing before her. “Can I help you?”

The Sandy who stood before her now was unrecognizable from the one who had been rude to her at the school. The arrogance was gone and she looked totally unsure of herself.

“Um…I wanted to apologize for earlier. I-”

She wasn’t going to listen to this. “You wanted to apologize because you didn’t know I was Molly’s teacher when you said those things to me. So now you’re trying to quickly backtrack and make everything okay?”

“No…no that’s not it-”

Amber held up her hand, stopping Sandy in her tracks. “No, I don’t want to hear it. If I wasn’t a friend of the Morgans you wouldn’t be here trying to say sorry. You’re arrogant, full of yourself, and extremely bad mannered.” Just like Parker.

Sandy caught her arm as she tried to walk away. “No, please…I’ve been going through-”

Amber yanked her arm back from Sandy’s grasp and said, “You know, I don’t even feel angry so much. Have you ever really admired someone, like really admired them and they aren’t what they portray to the world? That’s what meeting you was like. You’ve disappointed me and all the kids who look up to you.”

“Will you let me talk just for one minute?” Sandy shouted.

Amber just kept walking away, showing no interest in listening. Before she moved out of sight, she turned and, “Oh and by the way, if there was such a line waiting for attention from the new hot shot celesbian, I wouldn’t go anywhere near it.”

She marched off leaving a thoroughly admonished Sandy in her wake.

Monday morning came and Emily was attending her appointment with Rain, the therapist whom had brought her back from the brink, after Toni took her. “Thank you Rain. I’m wonderfully relaxed as always.” Emily hugged her therapist and friend. As much progress as Emily had made psychologically since Toni had taken her, she relied on Rains continued support and advice to keep her well, mentally.

“It is my pleasure, sweet one.” Rain got Emily’s coat and helped her put it on.

“And the baby is well, yes?”

Emily smiled and looped her arm through Rain’s as they walked toward the waiting room. “Baby Morgan is well. We had our appointment with the doctor this morning, and everything was great. Just one more month and I might be able to see my feet again.”

Rain chuckled, “You have simply glowed throughout your pregnancy. Remember, do not let negative thoughts into your mind. Those who send out negativity in these magazines are dark people who thrive off the misery of others, do not let them win.”

“I won’t, I promise.” They walked into the waiting room, and Dylan jumped to her feet.

“I see your growling one is as attentive as ever?” Emily laughed at the nickname Rain had always given Dylan. As much as Dylan pretended to be annoyed by it, it described her partner to perfection.

“Dylan is so attentive that she drives me crazy. But I love her.”

With a final kiss to say goodbye, Emily and Dylan headed out to the car. Once Dylan got Emily settled in the front seat of her Porsche Cayenne, she quickly jumped in and said, “How was it, baby?”

Emily gave a long contented sigh. “It was wonderful. I’m so relaxed.”

She heard Dylan mumble under her breath, “Freaky old coot.”

Choosing to ignore it, Emily asked, “So? Was your secret mission successful?”

After their doctor’s appointment, Dylan had dropped Emily at Rain’s clinic before heading off on her own. All she would say is that it was a surprise. Dylan smiled smugly and replied, “Oh yeah. Sure was.”

“And you’re not going to tell me what?” She placed her hand on Dylan’s thigh and began to stroke up and down.

She noticed her partner gulp hard. “That’s not fair Emmie. I promise you’ll find out soon, and you’ll love it. Don’t torture it out of me. Please?”

Emily smiled with a sense of satisfaction. No matter what people said about her in the press, Rain was right, none of that mattered. As long as she could still make Dylan hot under the collar.

“Okay, you can keep your secret for now, TV star.” Now she was feeling more confidence she decided to follow Rosie’s advice.

“You know Dyl, I have something to tell you. Something only you can help me with.”

“Yeah? Tell me. You know I’ll do anything for you, baby girl.”

“Well, I’ve been having these dreams…”

“Okay Molly, first one to tree house wins. Ready, set, go.” Molly squealed as she set off at a fast run, Sandy trying her best to make her slow jog a virtual walking pace.

Since Molly had come home from school with her grandparents, she had spent an enjoyable time playing with the little girl, and not feeling sorry for herself.

Molly got to the tree house and clambered up the ladder. “Me won. Me won Andy.”

She followed her up and gave her a high five. “Good job, Molly.”

They took a seat to allow Molly to catch her breath. It was lucky the tree house was pretty big, so she could just about fit in. Wolfie lay at the bottom of the tree waiting on his little friend coming back down.

“I fast Andy. I win medal like you and Mom.”

Sandy smiled, and thought it must feel amazing for Dylan to be this kid’s superhero. She had to admit she was a little jealous of the family Dylan had made for herself. She had done a lot of thinking the previous evening, Emily’s words reverberating around her mind, not to mention the dressing down Miss Andrews had given her.

I behaved badly, I’ve being doing that a lot lately. When she had gotten back to the pool house last night she got rid of all the secret bottles of booze she had around the place, and made a silent promise to her grandmother to do better. It wasn’t going to be easy, but she had vowed to get the Sandy that her friends knew. First step was confronting how she had behaved and making amends.

“Hey Molly, what’s your teacher like? She nice?”

Molly beamed with a big smile and nodded enthusiastically. “I uv Miss Andrews. She tells us cool stuff and plays with us, and gives us lots of hugs.”

Sandy smiled. “She sounds like a nice woman.” And I treated her badly.

“She teach us all bout you and running fast.” This made Sandy feel even worse. I’m a complete idiot.

Tommy came to the bottom of the tree house and shouted up to them, “Hey sport, Grandma’s got a snack and juice for you.”

“Otay.” Sandy helped her down and Tommy lifted her up. “Sandy, come in and get some coffee. There are some great cakes Emily made.

“Thanks Mr. Morgan, but I’m going to head out shortly. Can you tell Dylan I’m heading into town, but I’ll be back later if she wants to work out?”

“Sure will, come on Molls. Let’s go and see Grandma.”

“Bye Andy. I had fun.” Molly waved to her friend.

“Me too. See you later kiddo.” As she watched Tommy and Molly head off toward the house, her cell phone rang. The display showed it was her gym manager Regan Schwartz.

She had been avoiding her calls for weeks, and Regan was just another person she had to make amends to.

“Hey Regan-”

“Where in the hell have you been, Sandy? I know you had a hard time when your grandmother died, but you just left me to deal with all this shit. A phone call might have been nice.”

Sandy sighed and ran her hand over her tight braids. “I know I’ve fucked up, Regan. I’m sorry, I really am. I’m…I’m going to do better.”

She heard Regan sigh at the other end of the line. “Look, I know things are difficult for you, and I’ve kept everything ticking along. Your agent has managed to pacify the sponsors, but we’re going to need you in the run up to the opening”.

“I appreciate what you’re doing for me and the business. Listen, I’m going to take a couple of weeks to get my head right, then I’ll be all yours. Can you give me that?”

“Sure, I’ll be in touch.”

“Thanks Regan.” She hung up and said, “One down, now I’ve got a very angry school teacher to make it up to.”

She ran back to the pool house to grab and shower and change.

Sandy paid the cab and walked up the dirt road that led to Amber’s house. She had sent a quick text to Emily and asked for Amber’s address and jumped in a cab. The road led to a house looking over the lake, and in the early evening light the spot looked beautiful.

What a great place she’s got. It was then she spotted Amber precariously positioned on a ladder at the front door.

“Is she crazy?” She started to jog quickly up the driveway, just as the ladder started to wobble.

She watched Amber try to grab the guttering, as her old ladder started to move from under her, and the gutter came away in her hand.

Her fall seemed to happen in slow motion, and Sandy was able to catch her in her arms with ease.

Amber grasped tightly around her neck and said, “Oh God. Thank you, thank you.”

“Yo…you.” When Amber realized who had caught her, she started to wriggle from she grasp.

Sandy stubbornly held onto to her longer than she probably should have, but the smaller woman felt good in her arms. “What are doing up a ladder? You could have killed yourself.”

“P…put me down.” Amber tried to struggle out of her arms.

She lowered Amber down gently. “Hey, don’t get all excited.”

Amber was clearly shocked and trying to get in control of her breathing. She leaned over and took deep breaths. “I thought…oh God.”

“Here, let me help you inside.” Sandy put her arm around her shoulder and escorted Amber toward the door.

“No, I’m fine. Don’t…” Amber pushed Sandy away from her.

Sandy felt the hurt inside, but tried desperately not show it. “I just saved your neck you know. I came here to apologize and-”

“Listen, I’m grateful, but I really don’t want to talk to you. You’ve shown your complete contempt for anyone outside your celebrity circle, so take my thanks for saving me and go.”

She used all of her self-control not to show her emotions. “If that’s what you want, I’ll go. Please tell me that you’re not going back up there?”

“Yes, I will be back up there, and am sure I will be many more times before this place is renovated.”

“Why can’t you get a contractor?”

Amber sighed and began to lift the ladder and hammer she had been using. “It isn’t any of your business, but it would take a lot of money for a contractor to get this place up to scratch, and the only reason I got this place on a teacher’s salary is that it’s so run down. So thanks for your concern, but you can go and return to that long line of women who are waiting for a chance with you.”

“Fine, I’ll go and leave you to kill yourself then. I only came here to apologize to you for what I said earlier. I really didn’t mean to offend you, and I’m sorry if I wasn’t what you expected, and you were right I am a fraud.”

Sandy started to trudge away, the sick feeling of shame seeping back into her soul. All she could think of was the drink that would numb her pain.

“Kill him, mom, kill him dead.” Molly squealed.

Dylan sat at the kitchen table with her daughter on her lap, playing on Molly’s iPad. They were currently engaged in killing some cartoon zombies while Emily peeled vegetables for dinner at the table.

“Dylan, do you really have to kill things in every game? What about all the educational games you promised you’d play with her?”

She looked down to Molly and scowled. “Educational?”

“You say it like it’s a bad word.”

Molly appeared confused. “What’s cational Mom?”

“Boring, school work. The Smurf and I like to have real fun.” Dylan said in an effort to annoy her wife.

Emily’s eyes went wide. “Dylan Morgan-”

Before Emily could fully rebuke Dylan, there was a knock at the kitchen door and Sandy popped her head around the door. “Hey, could I talk to you guys?”

“Sure, come on in.” Dylan said.

She gave Emily a smile and whispered, “Saved by the bell.”

Emily shook her head with an exasperated smile on her face. “Take a seat, Sandy.”

Sandy stood nervously rocking on her heels. “It’s okay Emily, I just wanted to ask Dylan if she had any tools I could borrow?”

Dylan’s face lit up like a kid at Christmas, and Emily laughed. “Tools? She has more tools in that workshop of hers than Home Depot, and most of them have never been used.”

“They have too. Who made the toy boxes for Molls and the new baby huh?”

Molly jumped on her mom’s knee excitedly. “Oh! Oh, and Mom’s making me a racing cart, Andy.”

“Wow, that’s so cool Molly. You sure are lucky.”

Dylan lifted Molly off of her knee, and said, “Let’s go show Sandy huh?”

Molly shouted on Wolfie and her dog followed his little buddy outside with Sandy. Just as Dylan was about to follow, Emily took her hand and pulled her close.

“You know I like your tools really, especially when you wear them in your tool belt.” Emily trailed her fingers along Dylan’s silver belt buckle, and felt lust surge through her.

It was one of Dylan’s biggest turn-ons, to look down and see Emily caress and unbuckle her belt, with her perfectly manicured fingernails. “Baby…” She groaned. “Please don’t do that to me. Please?”

Emily’s hand sprang from her belt, and she gave a smug laugh. “Off you go then, Goofy. Go play tools with Sandy.”

Dylan leant down and kissed Emily on the lips. “You are so bad, you know that?”

Emily smiled and nodded her head in agreement. “So, so bad.”

It was then that an idea struck Dylan. After their discussion in the car, driving home from the city, Emily confessed some of the dreams and fantasies she’d been having, and she had been thinking of all the things she would love to do to satisfy her wife’s cravings.

She smiled and gave Emily one more kiss, before saying, “Careful what you wish for Emmie.”

It was Emily’s turn to look confused, and she walked out the kitchen door to meet Sandy.

Sandy stood by Dylan’s workshop, which was next to the garage area, and waved over to Emily’s driver who was washing the Morgans’ cars further down. She smiled as she watched Molly chase around with Wolfie.

What a great kid. Sandy remembered watching Molly and all her classmates laugh and giggle with their teacher Miss Andrews, and again couldn’t believe how she had behaved towards her. Her character had changed so much, and she hated what she had become.

On her way home from Amber’s house, Sandy had been so tempted to go into one of the many bars she passed, but her promise to Emily weighed heavily on her mind. When she stood outside of the last bar she had been struck with an idea of how to make up for her behavior and keep herself occupied.

A crunch of gravel announced Dylan’s approach. “Hey Sandy, sorry…I was held up.”

From the slightly smug smile on Dylan’s face, she could guess what, or rather who had held her up. Now Sandy was spending a lot of time around the family, she had seen that look on her friend’s face a lot of the time, and who could blame her?

Dylan had everything, everything that she had ever wanted, and a part of her was jealous of that. Not in a bad way, she deserved the great family she had, and the perfect woman she had to spend her days and nights with, but it only served to remind her of what Sandy didn’t think she deserved.

“No problem.”

Dylan used a remote on the workshop door, and it started to rise up slowly. “So what do you need tools for?”

Sandy stuffed her hands in her pockets, and kicked the gravel at her feet. “Well…um…you know I wanted to apologize to Miss Andrews for being…well…not behaving as well as I should?”

“Sure, you went over there didn’t you?” Dylan said.

“Yeah, I found her trying to fix up her house. It really is a fixer upper. Beautiful spot, overlooking the lake, anyway, she was up a ladder trying to fix her gutter or something and she fell.”

Dylan raised a questioning eyebrow. “Little Miss Andrews? Hanging off of a roof? I just can’t picture that. Is she okay?”

“Oh yeah, I caught her. She was okay, and…”

“You thought you’d help her out? That was nice of you, but it sounds a big job. Can’t she get a contractor in?”

“I think money’s kind of tight for her. I thought helping her would make up for me being an idiot and keep me busy once we’ve done our morning training.”

“Sounds like a great idea.” The door was now up, and Dylan led the way into her workshop. In the middle was a large workbench, tools hung around the wall, and Emily was right, some looked pristine.

Below were cabinets full of drawers, filled with what Sandy assumed were screws, nails, and fixings of all sorts.

“What a great workshop, Dylan. You’ve got everything here.” Sandy walked around the room, surveying the tools and equipment.

“I love it. It was always my dream to have a place like this. My grandpa and dad were in construction. When I wasn’t training or at school, I would spend time helping them out. It’s helped my dad and me bond again after so long apart. He comes over and we work on stuff, talk…it’s helped a lot.”

Sandy stopped at the corner of the room and knelt down by a mini version of Dylan’s work bench that had toy tools hanging from the back panel. “Wow, this is so cool. Is this for Molly?”

“Uh-huh. It was my first project. She loves to help.”

At the mention of her name, the little girl came running in. “Andy, you see my tools?”

Sandy ruffled Molly’s dark hair. “I sure do. I bet you’re a big help to your mom, huh?”

“Yeah, watch me ammer. I strong like Mom.” Molly picked up her toy hammer and started to smash it down on the wood on her bench.

“You sure are, kid.” Sandy stood up and caught the look of pride on Dylan’s face. It made her think of her own grandpa.

“I used to do the same with my grandpa. He didn’t believe in paying someone else to fix things around the house. So don’t worry about your tools, I know how to use them.”

“I never doubted it. So what do you need?”

Sandy looked around at all the choices and shrugged. “Um, I’m not really sure. I just thought I’d take some basic tools, and then make a list of jobs that need doing. Make a plan you know? I know her garden needs work but inside the house…I don’t know.”

Dylan looked confused. “Didn’t she show you, or tell you?”

Sandy shifted her feet nervously. “That’s the thing. She doesn’t know I’m doing this. She…uh…didn’t accept my apology, in fact she said she didn’t want anything to do with me.”

“So you thought you’d just turn up and start working on her place?”

“Yeah, wear her down kind of thing. I need to make amends somehow, Emily told me she really liked me before…then I was really unkind to her. You know I haven’t been myself.”

“I know, buddy.” Dylan said. “Just be careful, she’s a really nice girl and it might make things worse. Especially as she having a hard time right now. Emmie says some guy was bothering her at the school.”

Sandy didn’t like the sound of that. “I have to try. When she fell…I don’t know…I just felt I had to help. I don’t want her to hurt herself.”

What Sandy didn’t say was that when Amber was in her arms, she felt something. She didn’t understand what but knew she wanted to keep Amber Andrews safe.

“Let’s get you some tools together then. I’m sure she’ll realize you are sorry and what a great person you are.”

Rosie shut the door on her hotel room, and threw her portfolio down on the bed. On arriving in L.A mid-morning, she had taken a taxi straight to her first appointment. The two meetings had been long and exhausting. All she wanted to do was sleep.

She kicked off her shoes and checked her cell for messages, expecting to have one from Jackson, but the only ones she had were work related. She sighed in disappointment. Being away from her partner was getting harder, especially as they were so close to moving in together.

Rosie lay back on the bed and smiled thinking of their latest fight before she left. Despite being a decorator, and being able to get hold of the materials, and Jackson’s promise to allow her to contribute what they would need for the house, Jackson insisted on paying for everything. She remembered what Emily had said to her on the subject.

“It’s a macho thing. If you want a quiet life, go with it. She’s not trying to control you, it’s just about providing you with a home.”

Rosie chuckled to herself. It feels like I’m in one of those wildlife shows. The Alpha female gathers the den materials and struts around, enticing her potential mate into courtship”

She felt a deep need to talk to her partner and picked up her cell to call. It rang for quite a while before she got an answer. “Hi Jack, it’s me. I just got back to the hotel room and wanted to-”

“Hi Rosie, listen could I call you back later? I’m a bit tied up at the moment.”

Rosie sat up, immediately on alert. “What? I thought you were supposed to be doing some things in the house today?”

Jackson didn’t say a word, but Rosie could tell she was in a public place going by the noise in the background.

“I’ve got some personal stuff to do.”

Rosie’s heart began to speed up a little, she could feel something wasn’t right. Jackson wasn’t talking the way she usually did. She was being evasive, and Rosie didn’t like it one bit.

“Personal? Where are you?”

Jackson sighed and said, “Look, I’ll tell you about it soon. Just trust me okay? I’ll talk to you tomorrow, I need to go now, but I’ll be at the airport to pick you up.”

It was then she heard a female voice in background, calling out Jackson’s name. She was sure she recognized the voice but couldn’t put her finger on it. “Who is that Jackson?”

“No one, I need to go okay? I’ll see you tomorrow. Love you.”

“Jack I…” It was too late, Jackson had hung up on her. She was furious. How could she just treat her like that?

Rosie’s finger was poised on the redial, but something stopped her. You have to trust her. She loves you.

She threw her cell phone onto the side cabinet, and lay back on the bed pulling a pillow into her arms trying to seek some comfort.

No matter how much she tried to stop her anxiety, a small kernel of doubt had been planted in her brain and was steadily growing arms and legs as she lay there.

After a few minutes her eyes sprang open. The voice sounded like Paris, Jackson’s secretary. Her stomach felt sick at the thought of Jackson out at this time with the woman that made every insecurity she had bubble to the surface.

“Don’t be ridiculous, it couldn’t be her, besides Jackson loves you.” She said trying to be rational.

Rosie wished she could be home right now with her lover, cuddled up in bed safe in her arms. Jackson always chased away all her fears and anxieties.

That night, Emily checked on Molly to make sure she was sound asleep and went to get ready for bed. Dylan had said she would join her after sending a few business emails she had forgotten to do.

Emily pulled on her black, silk maternity negligee, and sighed as she looked in the mirror. She had always enjoyed wearing beautiful clothes; even when she didn’t have the money for the latest fashion, she always managed to have some essential pieces of the latest looks, thanks to her sewing machine and imagination. Then when she met and married Dylan, she had the means to purchase some beautiful things.

Even though the designer maternity negligee she had on was pretty, it didn’t disguise the fact that she felt huge and unattractive. She silently cursed Mother Nature, who had chosen to make her sex drive go through the roof at a time when she felt her most unattractive.

She walked over to the large glass doors that ran down one wall of their bedroom, and looked over the ocean. Sometimes when she was alone like this, she would take a moment to thank whoever was up above for making Dylan walk into her diner that fateful night. Her life had been a dream since then. Sure, she’d had to go through some scary, painful times with Toni, but every second of pain was worth what she had in her life now.

She had Dylan, who showered her with love and adoration, a family for Molly, and a new baby on the way. She rubbed her hand over her baby bump and whispered, “Joey? I know you’re looking down on us, and I know you probably had a hand in sending Dylan to me. Thank you for everything we have, and our two beautiful children, all because of you.”

When Dylan had told her of the vision she had about her brother, while unconscious on the desert floor, she felt sure that everything they had was meant to be. She opened one of the glass doors slightly so she could feel the fresh sea breeze, as she read her book.

She got into bed and picked up her book from the night stand. She read a few chapters of her romance novel, and came to a passionate sex scene. She groaned and thought, this is exactly what I don’t need before bed.

But it was too late. Her libido, already high made her throb inside, and ache for Dylan. She closed her eyes, and couldn’t help but think of some of the dreams she’d been having. Dylan’s desire for her had not decreased, despite Emily’s worries about her body, and the fact their lovemaking had to be more careful now. She always made her feel wanted and lusted after.

In Emily’s dreams, her body didn’t stop her doing any of the things they both enjoyed doing, or any of the many fantasies she had. Her hand started to wander over her breast, teasing her ever sensitive nipples. She thought about some of the things that made her ache for Dylan.

One of her biggest turn-ons was to please and satisfy her partner before her own needs were met. This was something that had taken Dylan some time to learn throughout their intimate times. Dylan was always eager to please Emily above all, and it had taken a lot of reassurance from her, to convince Dylan that it wasn’t selfish to allow Emily to please her. It was simply something that Emily craved. To give her body over to Dylan’s pleasure gave her such satisfaction and made her ready for an explosive orgasm moments later.

Emily’s hand stroked its way down her stomach until she was at the band of her silk panties. In her head she was woken from a sleep by Dylan’s kisses, and feeling her hard strap-on resting on her thigh, ready and needy. Her dream Dylan whispered, “I need to come in you…” Emily groaned and felt wetness flood her sex.

Wait on Dyl, she told herself. It was then that she heard a deep grinding beat come through the Bluetooth bedroom speakers. Her eyes sprang open, and her heart thudded as she looked around the bedroom.

“Why did that come on?” She looked at her iPhone at the side of the bed, and saw the music wasn’t streaming from there.

She heard a knock on the room door and nearly jumped out of her skin. “Dyl? Is that you?”

There was no answer but the knocking sound came again. She got up from the warm bed and walked over to the door. She opened it and gasped. Dylan stood there, arms stretched above her head, resting on the door frame, in the sexiest outfit she had ever seen.

She wore a pair of worn out jeans, work boots, a sleeveless plaid shirt lying open, with nothing underneath. Around her waist hung a fully loaded tool belt, and a very obvious bulge in her jeans.

“Dyl?” She gasped.

Dylan kept a disinterested look on her face, and slowly took off a pair of aviator sunglasses she had on, and put them in her shirt pocket. “You needed some work done in your bedroom, Mrs. Morgan?”

“What?” Emily felt more than a little dazed, and she had an urge to reach out and touch the hard abs under the open shirt in front of her.

“You called for someone with tools to come and attend to your needs.” Dylan gave her a wink, and Emily smiled, realizing this was because of their conversation about her erotic dreams, and being unable to do everything she fantasized about.

“Oh yes, come in. It’s…just over there.” She pointed vaguely in the direction of the shelf in the corner.

Dylan strode in confidently and said, “You can go back to bed, Ma’am. I can take care of this.”

Emily’s heart and her sex were pounding in anticipation. This was exactly what she wanted, and Dylan was just the most perfect partner for realizing it.

She got back onto the bed, and waited with anticipation, for what would come next. Dylan used her screwdrivers to tighten the screws in the book shelf. After a few seconds she said, “This is a big old house for a beautiful woman like you to live in on your own?”

“Yes, it is. It’s very lonely.” Emily played along.

Dylan turned around and said, “It must be. A young woman with needs and no one to take care of them.”

Emily now on her side, tugged the hem of her negligee up to expose her thigh. “Yes. I get so horny, and wet…” From the look on Dylan’s face, she had caught her off guard with that reply.

“I bet.” Dylan put her hand on her hardness through her jeans and stroked it. “You know you shouldn’t really answer the door with a little silky negligee like that.”

“No?” Emily replied innocently.

“No, you shouldn’t. Just looking at you is giving me a hard on.”

This was better than any dream, she wanted Dylan and wanted her now. “Come and show me?”

Dylan walked over confidently, all the time stroking her hardness through her jeans. Emily sat on the side of the bed, and reached out to touch Dylan’s abs. Dylan groaned. “Yeah, I heard you were a bad girl, Mrs. Morgan.”

“I am. Really bad, let me show you how bad.” Emily grasped Dylan’s tool belt with one hand, and started to undo the buttons on her jeans, but Dylan stopped her.

“Nuh uh. Tell me how much you want it first.”

Emily looked up at her with needy eyes.

“I want to suck you so badly. I want to make you come with my mouth, and I want everything you want to give me, and all for your pleasure.”

Dylan was obliviously turned on. She stroked Emily’s cheek with tenderness, and whispered, “I love you,” before returning to the game. “I need to come.”

Emily opened her up, and pulled out her strap-on. “Oh God.” She groaned. This was the most erotic part of her fantasy, sucking Dylan’s cock while she had her tool belt on.

She tentatively used her tongue to stroke up and down Dylan’s hardness, before sucking in the head. She felt Dylan’s hand caressing her, and encouraging the sucking.

“Oh yeah, you’re good at that. Suck it all up.” Dylan pulled off her shirt and threw it to the side.

Emily had taken her fully into her mouth, and Dylan’s hips began to thrust along with her.

She heard Dylan’s breaths get shorter as her excitement steadily grew. Emily was so turned on, so ready to take everything Dylan wanted to give her. She loved the look of utter pleasure on Dylan’s face, to know how much she was wanted, and that she was the only one who could give her it.

Dylan had confided to her that sex hadn’t always been the most satisfying experience for her, before Emily. As confident as she had been onstage, off it she had been an awkward loner. The only one who Dylan had been able to voice her true needs and wants to, was Emily.

In the safety of their lovemaking, Dylan had become confident to the point of being a little arrogant, but in the nicest of ways. She knew Emily loved her body, lusted after it, and the knowledge gave her a swagger that Emily found sexy as hell.

Emily slid her hands from the belt around to Dylan’s ass. She loved the feel of her hard, muscled backside in her hands.

“Uh, yeah baby, gonna come.” She felt Dylan’s ass go rock hard as she tensed and an orgasm ripped through her.

There was nothing more erotic to Emily than to give Dylan this. The act of giving, nurturing, taking care of her partner, was in her DNA and this feeling was a delicious part of it.

“Fuck…” Dylan groaned.

Emily released the strap-on from her mouth, with a hum of satisfaction, and looked up to meet Dylan’s eyes with a smile. She sat back on the bed and Dylan sunk to her knees gasping.

“I brought you to your knees, honey.” Emily smiled smugly as Dylan struggled to get her breath back. “Am I the only one who can do that?”

Dylan looked up and gasped, “You know it. That…that was fucking amazing.”

When she regained her breath, Dylan quickly took off her tool belt, and crawled towards her with a feral look on her face. “I’m going to make you come so hard, Mrs. Morgan.”

Emily felt like she would come as soon as Dylan touched her, but she wanted to enjoy this so she took a few deep breaths to try to calm her raging libido.

Dylan gently pushed her back onto the bed, and slowly eased off her silk panties. Emily grasped her own breasts lightly, desperate to be touched.

“Dyl, I need you.”

Without ceremony, Dylan’s mouth was on her sex, lapping at her clit. “Oh…right there.”

Lying on the edge of the bed was perfect in her present condition. Her back was supported and could easily wrap her legs around Dylan’s neck. Her hips began to buck and move when Dylan slipped two fingers inside of her.

The rhythm got faster and faster, and Emily’s moans got louder until her thighs clamped tight around Dylan’s head, and she was overtaken by a powerful release.

When she finally calmed and let go of her hold on Dylan’s head, she felt her partner kiss her baby bump and whisper, I love you, before coming up to kiss her, with the biggest smile on her face.

Emily giggled and said, “You are the best handyman I’ve ever met. Thank you for giving me that.”

“Are you kidding, baby girl? I’d do anything for you. Anything to make you happy. So? What other fantasies have you got in that naughty little brain of yours, huh?”

“Come into bed, and I’ll tell you all of them.” Emily gave her a saucy wink.

Rosie walked past the airport security and scanned the groups of people waiting in arrivals. She couldn’t wait to be held by Jackson again, and have all her insecurities chased away. Her heart soared when she spotted her lover talking on her cell phone, with a bunch of flowers in her arms.

Roses, always Roses. Why was I even worrying? This is Jack, she could never hurt me. She hurried over to where Jackson was standing, pulling her suitcase behind her.

She crept up behind Jackson, hoping to surprise her, but as she got closer, she heard some of the phone conversation Jackson was having.

“I need to go. Rosie will be out any second. No, she doesn’t know a thing about it. Okay, thanks bye.”

Rosie’s heart felt like it stopped for a few seconds after hearing those words. Jackson seemed to sense her, and turned around with a huge smile on her face.

“There’s my Hippy girl.” Jackson pulled her in her arms, and kissed her.

Rosie didn’t respond to the kiss, her emotions still in turmoil. Jackson pulled back and looked at her quizzically. “Are you alright, darlin’?”

She looked into the eyes of the woman she loved, searching for answers to all the questions and doubts that were building up in her heart.

Rosie smiled softly and said, “I’m just tired.”

“Well let’s get you home.” Jackson nuzzled into her ear and whispered. “I missed you so much, and I can’t wait to hold you in my arms.”

Rosie couldn’t help but give in to her need to touch Jackson, and kissed her jaw. “I missed you, Jack.” Again she chastised herself for giving into her fears, and felt soothed just to be with Jackson.

“Oh these are for you.” Jackson handed her the roses she had brought.

“Thank you. They’re beautiful.”

Jackson gave her a final kiss on the lips and took hold of her case. “Let’s get going. I want to get you home and spoil you.”

As they walked toward the parking lot hand in hand, Jackson asked, “How was L.A?”

“Sunny, warm, you know.”

“And what about the hot shot producer you met with? Did she try and steal you away from me?” Jackson joked.

Rosie had been meeting a couple of potential clients, one of whom was a well-known TV producer who Dylan had recommended her to. She had a reputation being a bit of a ladies woman, but apart from a bit of initial flirting she had been all business.

“Don’t be silly, why would you say that? I wouldn’t…” Rosie said in an anxious voice.

Jackson stopped dead as they came to a halt next to the car. “Hey, hey, I was only joking.”

But Rosie was deadly serious, she felt she had to make some things clear to her partner, and what better time. She placed her hands flat on Jackson’s chest, and said in an anxious voice, “You know I would never betray what we have, don’t you Jack?”

Jackson let go of the suitcase and put her arms around Rosie’s waist. She looked concerned and confused at the turn their conversation. “Of course I know that, darlin’. Why…”

Rosie caressed Jackson’s cheek and tried to see the truth in her eyes. “No, listen to me. I just need you to know how important you are to me, and how seriously I take fidelity in our relationship. There’s no one for me in the world but you, there’s no one who could ever make me look elsewhere. You are it for me.”

“You know I feel the same. Where is this coming from? Did someone bother you?” The look of concern Jackson had, changed to anger in an instant. “If that producer tried-”

This was not what Rosie had planned. The last thing she wanted was make her concerned. “No, not at all. I…I really missed you, and I wanted you to know that nothing on this earth could make me want someone else.”

Jackson cupped her face, and gave her a passionate kiss. “I love you, and I know you get scared sometimes. I understand that, but don’t let your fears take hold, okay?”

Rosie rested her head on Jackson’s chest, and grasped onto her shirt. She didn’t know how she could have doubted her.

I’m safe. I knew Jackson would make it better. Jackson always makes things better. She pulled herself together and smiled.

“You’re right. I’m sorry I’m so emotional, I’m tired that’s all.”

Jackson gave her a soft smack on the behind. “That’s my girl. Let’s get home. I’ve got plans for today.”

Rosie’s heart soared, as all the stress she had been feeling left her. “Take me home then, Soldier boy. If you’re lucky I might wear my apron later.” She joked.

Jackson laughed and opened the passenger door to help her in. Just before she shut the door, Jackson leant in and gave her another peck on the cheek. “I can’t wait.”

As Amber started to waken, she heard the noise of relentless banging coming from outside. She rolled over and looked at her alarm clock, perched on top of the pile of home repair books, her essential reading these days. “God it’s only six AM.”

“Who’s making noise at this time in the morning?” Her alarm was set to go off at quarter passed six, and she was not a morning person at the best of times.

It was then that it hit her. The sounds of hammering couldn’t be coming from anywhere but her own house. One of the reasons she fell in love with the house was that it sat on a private road with no neighbors in the surrounding area.

“No one should be working out there.” She got up quickly and followed the noise to the back door of the house.

The sight that greeted her when she looked out of the kitchen door was nothing short of surreal. Olympic gold medalist, and TV personality, Sandy Williams was up on a ladder, hammering a missing piece of her guttering back onto the side of the house.

She forgot that she was only dressed in her pajamas, and marched right out. “Excuse me? What exactly do you think you’re doing on my property?”

Sandy looked down and smiled. “Oh, hey, I wondered when you’d get up.” She climbed down a couple of steps, before jumping the rest of the way. She holstered the hammer in her tool belt, and approached Amber with a smile.

“I figured I’d just go ahead and get started on the obvious things that needed fixing, and you could tell me what you need done later.”

Amber held her hands to her head in confusion. “Have I walked into a parallel universe or something? What are you doing here, and do you realize what time it is?”

She couldn’t help but stare at Sandy’s muscled arms when she folded them defensively. “First, I’m here to help you repair your house, and it’s six in the morning or something. I’ve been up since four thirty training with Dylan, so I thought I’d just come over and get started.”

Amber forced her eyes up from Sandy’s distracting arms, and said, “I don’t want your help. I mean, who comes to someone’s house and starts making repairs without asking?”

“Look, I only want to help, and after your little accident yesterday, it’s clear you need it.”

Amber clenched her hands tightly, as a confusing feeling of anger, attraction and frustration surged through her. “Get off my property, now.”

Sandy sighed and looked dejectedly down at her feet, and in that tiny moment Amber felt sorry for her, but it only lasted until Sandy said firmly, “No, I’m not going anywhere. I’m trying to do the right thing for the first time in months.”

“Either you leave or I call the cops.” Amber said.

Sandy laughed and walked back to the ladder. “Go ahead, if you feel you need to do that. I’m sure they’ll appreciate you wasting their time.”

Why is she trying so hard? I don’t understand her. “Why are you doing this?”

Sandy’s boot stopped on the first rung of the ladder, and she turned to look at her seriously. “I want you to accept my apology, and I want to help myself.”

Amber couldn’t begin to understand why this arrogant, superstar athlete was so determined to make up for her behavior. She wandered over to the ladder. “So if I accept your apology you’ll leave?”

“No, because you won’t mean it. This is not complicated, Miss Andrews. Lately I’ve become someone…someone I don’t like too much. Dylan and Emily are trying to help with some issues, and I want to make up for some of the mistakes I’ve made. One of them was being rude to you, and I know how much the Morgans think of you. Molly especially really loves you. I’m angry that I hurt you.”

Amber didn’t know quite how to respond to this. There was sincerity in Sandy’s voice, as well as sadness. “Did the Emily tell you to apologize to me?”

“No, although Emily did give me a few home truths when I told her what I’d done.”

She considered her options, and thought, let her have one day to absolve her conscience then she’ll be gone.

“Okay, if you insist. You can help me with the guttering; I don’t like heights, so that will be helpful. Just one day, okay? Then we call it quits.”

Sandy smiled for the first time, and it was a bright, shining smile that made Amber’s stomach flutter inside.

“We’ll see, oh and I like you PJs by the way.”

Amber looked down and at her Disney pajamas with Bambi on them, and felt a huge blush flush over her body. Oh God, Ambi. Why didn’t you remember your dressing gown?

Without saying a word she hurried back inside the house to hide.

Jackson finished loading up the dishwasher and gave a contented sigh. Since picking up Rosie from the airport, everything had gone to plan perfectly. She picked up food on the way back to her apartment and Rosie had been delighted to find the table set, ready for them to enjoy a romantic lunch.

Afterwards, she ran a bath and told Rosie to take some time to relax while she tidied up. Rosie had been tired and not quite herself since she picked her up. She was always an emotional girl, going from annoyance, anger and back to love and passion in a short space of time. It had taken Jackson some time into their relationship to understand her.

She didn’t always get things right, but knowing some of Rosie’s emotional triggers had helped. Jackson remembered her strange comments from this morning, and it concerned her. One thing she knew for certain, Rosie’s mother’s death had left some deep scars on her soul, and Jackson was determined to give Rosie everything that she needed to feel secure in her love.

She saw Rosie hurry out of the bathroom, with just a towel around her body.

That was quick. Usually she couldn’t get Rosie out of the bath before an hour had passed. Jackson often told her she must have been a mermaid in a previous life.

She walked to the bedroom and found Rosie frantically drying her hair with the towel.

“Is everything okay darlin’?”

Rosie looked up at her with concerned eyes. “Why? What do you mean?”

“You usually take a lot longer that’s all.”

Rosie became very still, and after a few moments said, “I was just getting too sleepy.”

Jackson wasn’t entirely convinced but decided to let it go. She walked towards Rosie and kissed her on the head. “Why don’t you sit on the bed and I’ll brush your hair?”

That made Rosie smile. She got her hair brush and sat on the bed waiting. She could never have imagined before meeting Rosie that she would ever enjoy doing something like this, but it felt wonderful.

She sat behind her and began to gently brush through her damp hair, while Rosie hummed in pleasure.

“I love it when you do this for me.”

Jackson brushed the hair away from her shoulder and gave her a gentle kiss there. Whatever was bothering her, she obviously didn’t want to talk about it yet, so all she could do was show her the care and love that would make her feel secure.

“I love doing it. You have beautiful hair, it feels amazing to touch.”

Rosie looked back and smiled softly. “I bet your tough soldier buddies wouldn’t believe it if they saw you doing this.”

She laughed. “Probably not, but that’s the great thing about loving you, darlin’. You make me want things I’ve never wanted with anyone before.”

Jackson stroked the brush through Rosie’s hair, thoroughly enjoying the calming effect it had on them both. Even though all the knots and tugs were gone, she kept on not wanting it to be over.

“Jack?” Rosie asked in a small voice.

“Hmm?”

“Where were you last night? When I called you?”

Oh…that’s what’s wrong. “I was out doing some personal business, like I said. I’m sorry I couldn’t talk to you for long.”

Rosie looked back at her with irritation clearly etched on her face. “What kind of personal business? I thought we were partners? I thought we were moving in together? We shouldn’t have secrets.”

She is relentless. “We shouldn’t have secrets, but what if the secret was in a good cause? What if I promise you will find out about it very soon?”

Rosie let out a long breath, and closed her eyes briefly. “You promise?”

“I promise. You were really wound up about this, weren’t you?” Jackson couldn’t believe one little surprise would cause so much concern.

Rosie turned around to face her and nodded. “I…”

How could she ever think I’d hurt her? “You need to have faith in me. I will never purposely hurt you. I adore you.”

Rosie snuggled into Jackson’s chest, and mumbled. “I’m an idiot.”

“Can I quote you on that, Rosie girl?” Jackson joked, and she felt laugh softly.

“Listen, I was…talking to Dylan. I thought I’d take her, Mr. Morgan, and your dad on a fishing trip, while you have the baby shower with Emmie.”

Rosie smiled and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. “That is a lovely idea. I know dad just loves spending time with you.”

“I love spending time with him. He’s everything a dad should be, and I never had that with my father.”

The words died in her throat when Rosie stood up and let the towel drop at her feet. “Make love to me, Jack?”

Jackson gulped hard, she wasn’t expecting this. “You-”

The question was stopped by Rosie insistent lips. “I’m sorry I was suspicious. I love you Jack. You are everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and I want you to make love to me so badly.”

There was no way Jackson could turn down such a heartfelt request. She pulled Rosie down onto the bed and rolled her over, so that Rosie was underneath. “I love you.”

When Sandy had finished at the front of the house, she walked around the back to pick up her tools. It was the middle of the afternoon, and she had worked through lunch, only stopping to drink the bottle of protein shake she had brought with her this morning. Normally she was used to eating four meals a day, but she had been slacking with her nutrition since the onset of her problems.

I need to be better prepared tomorrow, so I’m not working on empty. She was thankful she had Dylan’s truck to use, and it didn’t hurt that that it was fully loaded and looked like the coolest truck she’d ever seen.

Dylan sure does like her cars. Sandy thought as she passed it on the way to get her tools.

When she rounded the corner of the house she saw a paper bag and a bottle of water sitting on the porch. On the bag was a simple message. For Sandy.

Since returning home from school, Amber had only briefly popped her head out the door to check on her, before going back inside.

She looked inside the bag and found a tasty-looking sandwich, and she couldn’t stop smiling. It wasn’t much, but it was a start, not only of making things up to Amber, but on her own road to redemption. Sandy took a seat on the garden wall and took out the sandwich. “Hmm…roast beef.” She hummed in delight when she took a bite.

It was then that she heard the piano music, drifting through the patio doors out into the garden. At first she thought it was coming from a stereo, the music was so perfect and beautiful, but then a gust of wind blew aside the curtain covering the glass door and she saw Amber sitting at a piano.

She sure is pretty, feisty too. Sandy studied every inch of Amber, and thought, Not just pretty, beautiful. Everything about Amber was attractive. Her facial features had a petite, elfin quality, which combined with her quirky brightly-colored dress sense, formed her sweet, innocent, beauty. Sandy closed her eyes, and listened to the sounds of the music intermingling with the chirping of birds, and the gentle lapping of water from the lake behind her. She felt a sense of calm wash over her, and smiled when the image of Amber in her Bambi pajamas floated across her mind.

She tried to imagine the delicate hands and fingers, she had seen earlier, skip across the piano keys. Then the image of keys was replaced with her body, and she saw those same gentle hands caress their way down from her shoulders and arms, across her muscled stomach. She gave an involuntary groan, as her stomach clenched in arousal.

She opened her eyes quickly, and found Amber watching her silently from the patio door. Sandy met her steady gaze and smiled, but Amber walked away without returning the smile. You deserved that.

Amber had every right to be angry, but she had thought it would be a lot easier to make amends for her mistake. She didn’t think she could just turn up and make everything right straight away, but Amber didn’t even want her on her property. You’d think she be happy to get some free labor. I sure picked the wrong girl to make angry.

The thoughts made her all the more determined to show Amber that she really was a good person, a good person who had made some bad choices.

She took a breath and tried to calm her arousal. She had never had a reaction like that to a woman like that before. Even though she harbored a secret crush on Emily, she never allowed thoughts like that to enter her head.

She didn’t want to think about it too deeply, so she finished up her food, and got back to work.

On Wednesday nights, Amber always went straight to her family for dinner after school had finished. She helped her mom cook while her dad sat at the kitchen table chatting, and catching up with all the news. Lately though, her father had been determined to lobby on behalf of her ex-fiancé.

As Amber drove home she thought back to her conversation with him.

“He’s a good man, and a good provider, Ambi. Think about what you’re giving up.”

Amber sighed loudly, and returned to chopping the vegetables. “Daddy, I understand that his company gives you a lot of business, but that doesn’t make him perfect son in-law material. He’s not a good…well it doesn’t matter what he is, the fact is I don’t love him. You wouldn’t want me to marry someone I don’t love, would you?”

Susan Andrews put an arm around her shoulders and gave her an affectionate squeeze. “Of course we don’t, Ambi.”

Her mom turned around gave her father a pointed look. “Do we Richard?”

“Of course not, Ambi.” He replied, thoroughly admonished.

As Ambi pulled up towards her house, she saw the same truck that Sandy had driven yesterday. She got closer and saw Sandy walking round from the back of the house, carrying two timbers on her shoulder with ease.

The sight of Sandy, muscles flexed, striding confidently across her garden, made her stomach flip. Then she remembered she was annoyed with her and pushed her attraction down, deep inside. She parked up, and got out of her car quickly. “Ms. Williams, what exactly are you doing here?”

Sandy looked around and smiled when she heard her voice. “Hey, I didn’t know if you would be back today. I’ve gotten a lot done. I went to the hardware store to pick up some things you need, timbers, paint, but we’re going to need to go back when you give me a list-”

“Stop, just stop. What are you doing here? It’s seven O’clock at night.” Amber questioned her own sanity. Sandy had gone from someone who was an untouchable athlete and celebrity, to an annoying nuisance who seemed intent on turning up at her house every day.

“What do you mean? We talked about this yesterday. I’m helping you out, and I thought I’d stay late. I wanted to give Dylan and Emily some space, I don’t like to get in the way all the time.”

Amber couldn’t help but hear the sadness in that last statement. “I agreed to you helping for one day, just to make up for being a…”

“Complete asshole.” Sandy finished for her. “Yeah, but I didn’t think you meant it. I’m going to help you, I want to make amends for letting myself down as well as you.”

Amber was always a calm personality, but Sandy’s stubborn persistence was infuriating her. “Look, let’s get this straight. I’m not your little pet project to get you through a bad time in your life. I don’t need your charity, so please go.”

She watched Sandy’s confident posture leave her. Her shoulders slumped, and her eyes fell to the ground, and despondently nodded her head. Amber immediately felt bad, even though she shouldn’t. Sandy reminded Amber of one of her school students when they knew they had done wrong, and didn’t know what to do about it, or make it right.

Sandy unclipped her tool belt in defeat and threw it over her shoulder. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I just wanted to do something right for once in my life. I’ll gather up my things and go.”

Don’t give in, don’t give in… Amber told herself as she watched Sandy walk off. Sandy’s problems were none of her business and besides she didn’t need help, but she couldn’t shake the part of her that felt sorry for the sadness she had seen in Sandy’s eyes.

“Wait.” Amber said with a sigh.

Sandy turned and looked back at her. “Look, if it’s so important to you, and you have nothing else to do, then okay. But we do it together, okay?”

Sandy’s face lit up with smiles. “Really?

It astonished Amber that letting Sandy help could make help so happy. She can’t have much happiness in her life. “If you want, but you’re under no obligation, and can stop whenever you want okay?”

“That would be great. I’m going to be staying at the Morgans place for at least a month, while Dylan and I train for a triathlon. We’d get a lot done in that time.”

The smile on Sandy’s face was the same one that she had after winning a race. When she watched Sandy’s athletic events on TV, it had always melted her heart. This Sandy was nothing like the one she had met at the school fun day. “Why don’t you come over tomorrow, after school gets out and we can talk and make a plan?”

“I’d love that. Really, thank you for giving me a chance. I’m not the person who you met that day at school. I promise.”

We’ll see. For all Amber knew, this was all an act, but she believed in second chances. Only time would tell.

Emily was starting to go a little stir crazy the past couple of days. Her painful back and swollen ankles were making it nearly impossible to leave the house, and so Dylan had invited Jackson and Rosie over for dinner. Both Jackson and Rosie had been insistent that they order food in, so as not to have her on her feet.

She kissed Molly and Dylan and sent them off with Jackson to pick up the dinner from her favorite Italian restaurant.

Rosie helped her back into the family room, and she eased herself carefully down onto the couch. Rosie got the footstool and put it under her feet. “Thanks, my feet feel so sore. I don’t know how I can stand upright.”

Rosie sat down beside her and stroked her hand. “Not long now. One more month and you’ll have beautiful little baby.”

Emily rubbed her large baby bump and laughed. “It doesn’t feel little believe me. This one’s going to be a big bruiser. The baby certainly makes me feel hungry enough. I’m sending poor Dylan for takeout at all hours.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t mind. She looks like the happiest person on earth when she’s around you.”

Emily smiled, knowing the truth of those words. Despite all her changeable hormones, she knew with certainty, Dylan was happy.

“It’s your anniversary in a few weeks isn’t it?”

It was nearly a year ago that a tall, mysterious, stranger walked into her diner and changed her life. “Yes, it still amazes me. It seems as though everything has gone so quickly, but at the same time it feels like we’ve been together forever.”

“I know what you mean.” Rosie said with a smile.

“Dylan has organized a surprise for the day. Although what she thinks I’ll be capable of in this condition, I don’t know.”

“Oh, that’s what I was going to tell you. Jackson has apparently been organizing a surprise of her own.” Rosie looked at her strangely, as if gauging her response.

“I wonder what that could be.” I bet I can guess. Thought Emily.

“Do you know what it is?”

“No, I’m sure whatever it is, it will be worth waiting for. Jackson loves to make you happy.”

Rosie sighed dramatically. “It’s probably something like a pre-moving in agreement made with her lawyer. That’s Jackson’s idea of a romantic commitment.”

Emily giggled and said, “Poor Jackson. I’m sure she tries her best.”

Rosie moved closer and looked her right in the eye. “Are you sure you don’t know? If Jack’s told Dylan then you would know. Dylan can’t keep any secrets from you.”

“That is true. She made me promise not to torture the anniversary surprise out of her. Jackson couldn’t have told her about it. I don’t know a thing about it.”

Rosie seemed to accept that. “So how’s Sandy doing? Where is she tonight anyway? I thought she’d join us for dinner.”

“She’s at Amber’s house, talking about house repairs. Remember I told you how she had felt terrible because she upset her?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, Amber isn’t too sure but Sandy is really trying hard. It took her an hour and a half to get ready, and she borrowed one of Dylan’s favorite aftershaves.”

“Wow, that’s not like her. She’s normally tripping over her feet in front of women or stumbling through her sentences around you.”

“You noticed then? It’s just a harmless little crush. She’s longing for someone to care for her, but I know one thing.”

“Ooo…gossip?”

“A certain Miss Andrews has had a crush on Sandy for quite a while. That’s why she was so hurt.”

“Really?” Rosie grinned. “You think a little match making is in order?”

Emily smirked. “You read my mind.”

Dylan and Jackson were driving to pick up dinner. Dylan looked into her driver’s mirror and smiled at Molly in the back seat. She was singing along with her favorite Disney movie, which was playing on the headrest screen, while playing with her handheld games system. It secretly thrilled her that Molly appeared to take after her in so many ways.

Emily often remarked at how they behaved exactly the same. She would sit in her office with the 24hr news, or the music channel playing on the TV, working on her three screen computer, with her iPad resting on her lap and her phone constantly beeping with emails, and ringing with calls.

That’s my girl. It got to the big chorus in the Disney song, and Molly sang along loudly, and Dylan laughed. “Sometimes I can hear that song in my sleep.”

“I’m not surprised. It would drive me crazy. So what do you think about going fishing? We could ask Mark, and Patrick too.” Jackson asked.

“A sort of butch/guy day? Sounds great to me, I don’t get to see Mark and Patrick as much as I’d like these days. As long as Emmie is feeling okay, and doesn’t need me. She’d probably be glad to get rid of me. She says I hover and fuss too much. I mean that’s just stupid.”

“I can believe it. She’ll have your mom, Rosie and a few other’s to keep an eye on her.” Jackson tried to reassure her.

“I guess.” Dylan knew she hovered and fussed, but knowing the miserable loneliness she felt before Emily and Molly came into her life, she was determined to protect everything she had.

“Hey, could you do me a favor?” Dylan said.

“You know it. What’s up?”

She looked to the side quickly, and returned her eyes to the road. “Could you guys babysit Molly and Wolfie on our anniversary? Mom and Dad have a church social that night. They said they would cancel, but I don’t want them to do that. They already help us out enough as it is. They could do with a break.”

“No problem.” Jackson said. “We’d be happy to have them.”

“I really hope Emmie likes what I’ve organized. She loves romance and mushy stuff, I hope it’s okay.”

She couldn’t wait for her and Emily’s anniversary. Emily was a romantic and she was certain she would get huge marks for romance that night. The plans she had made while Emily was at her appointment with Rain, had gone like clockwork.

“I’m sure she’ll love it. This romance thing is hard. I’ve been trying to plan something for Rosie and…well I was so concerned with keeping it secret, she thought there was something wrong between us. I mean…ugh, I can’t do right for doing wrong.”

Dylan looked into her driver’s mirror to check Molly was still caught up in her film. “What are you planning?”

Jackson shook her head vigorously. “No way, I’m not telling you. I’ve got someone helping me who is unlikely to let slip anything to Rosie, and that’s all I need.”

“What? Why not? I’m your best friend.” Dylan said with indignation.

“You sound like a kid, Morgan. I’m not telling you because you’ll tell Emily, and it’ll get back to Rosie.”

Dylan pulled into the restaurant parking lot and parked up. While Molly was still concentrated on her movie, she turned around in her seat and faced Jackson. “I can keep a secret too, besides I told you all about my anniversary surprise for Emmie.”

“The difference being, I can keep a secret. Rosie won’t find out about that till you tell me it’s okay, but Emily can read you easier than she can short stuff in the backseat. ”

Dylan grumbled but what Jackson said was probably true. She nearly got her anniversary plans out of her when they drove home from Rain’s, leaving Dylan to throw herself on her wife’s mercy and plead to keep her secret.

“Wait…” A thought occurred to Dylan. “Who’s helping you? Are you cheating on me with another best friend?”

“Don’t be an idiot. It’s someone…look, it doesn’t matter. All I want for you to do is help when the time comes. I’ll tell you then.

“Whatever you need, you know that, I owe you my life. I’ll always be there for you, but if I find out you have another best friend, I’m breaking up with you.”

Jackson laughed. “You’re an idiot.”

When Dylan took off her seatbelt, Jackson stopped her. “You stay here with Molly. I told you dinner was my treat. Besides, if you go in there, our food will be cold by the time you’ve signed autographs and taken pictures with every single person.”

Dylan flashed Jackson her most dazzling smile. “I can’t help it if I’m popular.”

Jackson shook her head and said as she got out of the door, “And so humble too.”

“Remember to get double portions for Emmie, or she’ll steal my food.”

Sandy smoothed back her hair and turned up the collar of her jacket, trying to make herself as smart as possible. After giving Amber such a bad first impression, she was determined to show the best of impressions now.

She had been looking forward to coming here tonight all day, and she wasn’t quite sure why. She had thought about Amber, and what happened a lot. In retrospect the way she had behaved and the way Amber had called her on it, could be the best thing that had happened to her. It gave her the kick up the ass she had needed to make a change in her life, and Amber’s determination to stand her ground made gaining her forgiveness and friendship a challenge.

Sandy pressed the doorbell and waited for Amber to answer. It was strange, but she felt excited almost, and the last night she had closed her eyes and gone to sleep with the image of Amber playing the piano running through her mind.

Amber opened the door and looked surprised. Her eyes looked her up and down carefully.

“Hi, Amber. I hope I’m not too early?”

“Oh no… Come in.”

“Thanks.”

Amber closed the door and said, “Let’s go through to the kitchen.”

Sandy followed her through to a warm but aged kitchen. “Take a seat.” Amber pointed to the kitchen table and chairs.

“You’ll have to excuse the state of everything. It’s not exactly the celebrity home you’re used to.” Amber said with a sarcastic tone to her voice.

“I’m not used to anything fancy. I lived with my grandma in a small two bedroom apartment until six months ago. I moved into a loft apartment in the village, and hate it. It’s soulless, and I should have never left my grandma’s.”

Amber looked surprised at that response. “Why didn’t you go home then? If you were so unhappy?”

“At the start, I thought it was just living on my own that I hated, and that I should tough it out. Then…my grandma died, and I didn’t have a choice. So, no I’m not used to it.”

Amber closed her eyes for an instant, seemingly realizing she had made a mistake. “I seem to keep making assumptions, don’t I?”

Sandy shrugged. “I can’t blame you after the way I behaved towards you.”

“Even so, I’m sorry, and I’m sorry to hear about your grandma.”

Sandy gulped hard, trying to keep her emotions in check. It was so much harder without the aid of a drink. When she felt the pain bubble around inside, all she could think of was numbing it with alcohol.

“Thanks.” She took a notebook and pen from her jacket and said, “I thought we could make a list of jobs and materials we need.”

“I still don’t understand why you want to do this.”

Sandy put down the notebook and sighed. “Why is it so hard to accept my help? I can see you’re a good person, a good person who could do with a helping hand, and I have plenty of time on my hands, and…”

Amber leaned forward, hearing the clear emotion in Sandy’s voice. “Tell me.”

“And I want to be the real Sandy my grandma was proud of, not the person you’ve seen.”

I shouldn’t care, I know I shouldn’t care. Amber told herself, but that was just the way she was wired. When she saw someone who was troubled, she wanted to ease their burden. “Who is the real Sandy?”

Sandy turned her eyes down to the table. “If you’d asked me six months ago, I would have said athlete. Now? I have no idea.”

This was not the Sandy Williams she had watched win gold. She felt in her bones that the inspirational, enthusiastic athlete, who always had a time for her fans, kind words and bright smiles for the media and her competitors, was not a carefully constructed image. Sandy was that person, but had become lost somewhere along the way, and maybe she could help in her own small way.

“Sandy?”

When she didn’t respond, Amber placed covered her hand with her own. “Sandy would you look at me?”

She looked up with confusion in her eyes. “I believe you aren’t that person I met at school. Call it intuition. I was so hurt because I really admired you, and perhaps I should have let it go as soon as you came to make it up with me. So how about this? I accept your apology, we start again and I get to know who Sandy is while we work together? That is if you really want to help?”

The difference in Sandy was instantaneous. Her whole posture rose up in the chair, and her face was wreathed in smiles. “Yeah?”

Sandy was so eager to please. Whatever was making her so unhappy at the moment, maybe she could help by talking to her. She’s sweet. Amber thought.

“If you’re sure you want to help.”

“Yeah I do. It’ll be fun, really. I haven’t done this sort of work in a while.” Sandy said. Her demeanor was now lighter and happier.

Amber tapped the top of Sandy’s notebook and smiled. “Let’s make a list then.”

After an early dinner and lots of laughter and chat, Jackson and Rosie headed off home seeing how tired Emily had become.

The funniest part of the night was when Molly came into the dining room wearing an adult-sized fireman’s helmet that she had found in her parent’s closet. Emily went bright red and it was left to Dylan to try to explain, but it was clear their friends knew exactly what it was there for, and they found it highly amusing.

After they left, Dylan set about getting Molly to bed, and of course a story was essential.

“What happen when the three bears come home, mom?” Molly was cuddled up in bed with her penguin, Stinky.

Emily said that Dylan was incapable of telling a story sitting down, and she was right. Everything had to be a performance. Dylan stood in the middle of her daughter’s bedroom telling the story in an animated fashion, the book long discarded on the floor as she thought she could tell it better herself.

“So Goldilocks is out cold from eating too much porridge upstairs. Papa bear comes into the cottage and he’s like, someone’s been sitting in my chair.” Dylan said in a low gruff voice, while stamping around like a bear.

Molly laughed her way through the rest of the story, getting no nearer sleep than when they started. Emily had already said her goodnights to Molly, and left Dylan to get her to sleep.

“Goldilocks shouts ‘Help!’ Then runs as fast as she can out into the forest. Papa bear shouts, ‘You come onto my property again, I’ll bite your behind off and have you arrested for trespassing.’ The end.”

Molly yawned and rubbed her eyes. “Doldielocks have pwetty dold hair like Mama.”

“She sure does.” Dylan tucked her daughter in tight and stroked her forehead, trying to calm her to sleep.

“We do snow white and dwarves tomorrow, Mom?”

“Oh yeah. That’s a great idea, Molls.” Dylan thought of the great fun she could have, acting out all the dwarves.

“Now can you go to sleep for me?”

“Put on my songs, Mom?” Molly said sleepily.

Dylan smiled and started the lullaby playlist on Molly’s iPod. The gentle calming music filled the room through the speakers, and Dylan let out a breath. This was her favorite time of day, to see her daughter, settled and snuggled up in bed, and spending time with Emily before going to bed themselves.

As she went to walk out the door, Molly said, “Dive the baby in mama’s tummy a kiss, Mom.”

“I will, Smurf. Sweet dreams.”

How lucky am I? Dylan thought as she walked downstairs. Molly was an adorable kid, and now there was another one on the way. It didn’t get better than this.

She stopped by the door to the family room for a few seconds, to take in the sight of Emily on the couch with Wolfie’s head in her lap. She envied the soft strokes that her dog was lapping up.

“I’ve been replaced already?” Emily looked around and smiled.

“He’s just keeping me warm until you get here, and he does such a good job, don’t you, boy?”

As Dylan approached, Wolfie responded by rolling onto his back with four paws in the air, in a blatant display of claiming.

Dylan crossed her arms defiantly and gave Wolfie a look of mock annoyance. “Hey, get your own girl, she’s mine.”

Emily gave her a pointed look. “She? Who is this she you speak of, Dylan?”

“Sorry. Emily, your Mama, is mine, Wolfie. Now down boy.” Wolfie held her gaze for a few seconds then got up and wandered off to play with his chew toy on the floor.

Dylan flopped down in his place and opened her arms up to Emily to lean against her chest. “Hmm…this is nice. Sandy’s still not back. I hope she’s getting on okay at Amber’s.” Emily murmured.

“She’ll be fine. Sandy’s a good kid, she’s just had some hard knocks lately.”

“I know she is, but Amber was hurt. She was a great fan of Sandy’s and has a huge crush on her.”

Dylan raised an eyebrow. “She does? I never noticed. Anyway, I thought Amber was straight?”

“You never notice anything, Goofy, and just because Amber used to be engaged to a guy, it doesn’t make her straight. Maybe she hasn’t worked it out yet.”

“Hmm…maybe.”

“Don’t tell Sandy about Amber’s crush. It’s just something I’ve noticed, she hasn’t told me, and it would embarrass her.”

“Okay. Amber is a nice girl. I bet Sandy-”

Emily gave her a stern look. “No, Dylan. Don’t say a word, okay?”

“Okay, geez…why does everybody think I can’t keep a secret now?”

“What do you mean?”

Shit. Dylan thought back to her conversation with Jackson earlier. She was right. I am terrible with secrets.

“Nothing, just a figure of speech.” Emily seemed to reluctantly accept her answer and snuggled back into her.

They watched TV in silence for a few minutes before Dylan said, “Well, aren’t you going to tell I am just the best partner ever?”

“Of course you are, honey, but was there something in particular you were thinking of?”

“I cleaned the kitchen for you and put Molly to bed.” Dylan said that as if it should have an accompanying fanfare.

Emily looked at her with a cheeky smile. “How come you say that like you need a round of applause? You do know how many times a day I clean up?”

“But I was being helpful ’cause you were tired. Lots of women would kill for a helpful partner you know.” Dylan said grumpily.

Emily brought Dylan’s arm around her and kissed her bicep. “Aww, I know they would, Goofy. You are perfect.”

I love this woman. Dylan thought.

She put her hand on Emily’s baby bump. “So, how are you and baby Morgan feeling now?”

“We are really tired, and every part of me is aching.”

Dylan whispered in her ear, “You don’t want me to get out my fireman’s helmet then?”

Emily chuckled remembering Molly’s discovery earlier. “Not really. I’m sorry.”

“Hey, don’t be silly, baby girl. I love just holding you. All I want to do is be with you, if I could I’d follow you around all day, but you’d kill me.”

“I sure would. Did Molly get off to sleep okay?”

“No problems. Don’t worry I’ll check on her a few times before we go to bed. Besides we’ll hear her on the baby monitor if she needs us. That’s if Wolfie doesn’t tell us first.”

Dylan was so pleased she had gotten the family a dog. She’d had dogs growing up and knew how great it was for a kid to have that friendship. It also made her feel better when she wasn’t home. Wolfie was not only a playful, goofy pup, he was also an excellent guard dog who would protect Emily and Molly with his life.

“He’s such a good boy.” Emily said. “I’ve never had a dog before, so I wasn’t sure when you brought him home, but he stole my heart, and now he’s just one of my babies.”

Wolfie seemed to realize he was the topic of conversation, and padded over to the couch and lay by Dylan’s feet. She gave him a pat on the head. “Good boy.”

“So? What are we watching?” Dylan asked.

Emily sighed. “I was actually thinking of going to bed. I’m sorry to be so boring.”

Boring? I can be entertained just sitting staring at her all day. “Come on, baby, this is me you’re talking to. I’m happy just being with you.”

She became alarmed when tears welled up in Emily’s eyes in an instant. “What? What’s wrong?” She asked in a panic.

Emily buried her head in Dylan’s t–shirt and managed to say through the tears. “You’re…You’re just so lovely, and I’m so lucky.”

Aha! Hormones…She squeezed Emily tightly in her arms. “Come on Emmie, no tears. You’re not lucky, I’m lucky you put up with me and my craziness.”

Emily looked up at her and wiped the worst of her tears away. “No, you could be out at celebrity parties, dancing with pretty young things, having fun, and instead you’re home going to bed before nine o’clock with a mama whale.”

“Argh! Would you stop with the whale stuff, you are absolutely stunning. Plus you know I never did any of that when I was single. Why would I want to be anywhere else than at home with you and Molly? I have fun with just sitting doing nothing with you guys. Sometimes I’m frightened I’m annoying you by being around you so much. You know I can’t be near you without touching you.”

“I know.” Emily’s smile was back. This was how it went nearly every day. Tears to smiles and laughter, in seconds.

Emily sighed. “I love you, Dyl. I know I’m all over the place at the moment.”

“Hey, I’m going to everywhere, all over the place with you.” Dylan gave her a kiss on the head. “Why don’t we go upstairs to bed and I’ll give you a nice massage.”

Emily sat up sharply, and gave her one of those looks that clearly showed her displeasure. “Uh-uh. I said I’m tired, Dyl.”

She couldn’t understand what she had said wrong. Sometimes she felt her brain was in a constant state of confusion, trying to keep up.

“But that’s why I want to give you a massage. To make you feel relaxed and-”

“You know what your massages lead to, that’s why you like to give them.”

Oh…yeah. Her mind flashed back to the fun they had in the pool. That was supposed to be a massage too. “But…not…that’s not what I meant.”

Emily pushed herself up slowly, so she was sitting up straight. “Dylan, you have never given me a massage that didn’t result in an orgasm for one of us or both.”

“That is just not true.” Dylan crossed her arms defensively. “There have been lots of times.” Maybe not lots…maybe ten…five…definitely more than two.

“Name one.” Emily had this evil smile when she asked a question she already knew the answer to.

Think…think…think… “Oh, oh, the time when you pulled a muscle in your shoulder, reaching for something in the kitchen cupboard. There, ha! I told you. You were too sore to do anything.” Dylan stuck her tongue out at her wife.

Emily just laughed. “Oh Goofy, what will I do with you? You started off well; I’ll give you that, but remember what happened when I turned onto my front so you could massage the other side of my shoulder? For some odd reason, your hands kept slipping onto my breast. Remember?”

Shit… What could she say? It was true. “Well your breast was just sitting there…looking at me. I’ve told you before, my brain goes all weird when I see them.”

Emily giggled and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Aww, poor baby.”

“It doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it if I really tried. I wanted to make you nice and relaxed so you would fall asleep.”

“You’re adorable when you pout. Okay then, let’s see if you are up to the challenge, TV star.”

Dylan groaned internally. Why did she have to say the word challenge. As she helped her wife climb the stairs she thought, I need a new mantra…don’t look at her breasts, or her ass…yeah that’s it. Wait… what about her sexy neck…oh man and those legs. Shit! I’m screwed.

Sandy and Amber made their way through the house making notes and lists of what they needed. They were standing down by the lake on the small dock there. “Wow, this really is a beautiful spot.”

“You think? Most people just see a rundown house. My dad thought I was crazy for taking it on.”

“No way, you’re so lucky. For someone who was brought up in the crowded city like me, it’s perfect.” Sandy walked further, to the edge of the dock, and gazed at the weather beaten boat anchored there.

“Is the boat okay?”

Amber joined her and looked down at it. “The realtor said it was, but I’ve never had the nerve to try it.”

At the moment, all Sandy could think of was taking Amber out in the boat, keeping her safe, and enjoying her company. “Hey, maybe I could take you out one time?”

“We’ll see.” That reminded Sandy that she still had a mountain to climb to gain Amber’s trust.

She lowered her head and kicked a loose stone on the dock into the water. “Um…that’s everything I guess. I can pick up the stuff tomorrow morning and get started, while you’re at work. What do you want me to start on first?”

Amber looked around and thought really carefully. “Maybe the fence? I had an idea that I might get a dog from the shelter, and the fence would need to be secure first.”

“That’s a great idea.” Sandy said.

“I thought so, sometimes it feels really quiet and isolated out here. I would feel more secure.”

“Yeah, you should be as safe as you can.” Sandy said seriously.

They started to walk back to the house, and Sandy said, “Thanks for giving me a chance. I appreciate it.”

Amber said noting but gave her a little smile. “It’s okay. We all deserve second chances.”

I’m pathetic…Thought Dylan, as she stared at the ceiling in the dark of their bedroom. She had massaged her wife with care, love and attention, until she heard soft snores coming from her. Now she was lying next to a naked sleeping Emily, incredibly turned on, frustrated and so very far away from sleep.

Emmie’s right about me. I can’t do it. Why can’t I touch her without feeling like this? Massages are evil. She sat up sharply in bed and said, “Maybe I’m a sex maniac?”

Then she thought back to her single days, and remembered she had only slept with a handful of women, when she had every opportunity to be quite the playboy. But no, she was a loner who was terrified of talking to a woman.

Sex had never been great for her. Emmie is the only one that can work me, that’s why. She lay back down, satisfied she was not a sex addict.

Dylan heard Emily and giggle in her sleep. I wish I was in your dreams with you, baby girl.

The security lights came on outside, and she could hear the noise of a car approaching the house. Sandy’s back. Perfect. Maybe I can distract myself with my buddy.

Dylan gave Emily a kiss, and pulled the comforter up over her. “Sleep dreams, baby girl.”

Sandy flopped down onto the couch in Dylan’s game room, and caught the Xbox controller that Dylan threw to her.

“Call of Duty okay?” Dylan asked. “I feel like killing stuff.”

“Sounds great.” Sandy loved Dylan’s game room. It was situated in the basement of the large Morgan home, next to her gym. It was every guy or Butch’s dream. There was a bar area, with fridges full of beer, juice, soda, and bar snacks.

In the one corner was a card table and chairs for Dylan’s occasional poker nights. In the center of the room was a pool table, and a foosball table. Around the perimeter wall were flat screen TVs, all showing different music, entertainment and sports channels.

At the far end of the room, where they were sitting, was a super-sized TV mounted on the wall, and below, hidden in a shelving unit was every games console on the market.

The funniest thing was the sign that Dylan had made for the door, to purposely annoy her wife. The sign had ten rules for all who entered Dylan’s special space. It was titled, Butch Cave rules…

Amongst the many rules were,

What happens in Butch Cave, stays in Butch Cave.

No sitting in my chair.

No talking about ‘feelings’.

Eye contact is not necessary.

Pizza is a food group.

Beware of the wife!

As much as she maintained this was her personal space, Sandy had noticed more and more of Molly’s toys creeping their way in the room, each new time she visited. There was no hiding it, Dylan was a family woman, and it was clear that’s what mattered to her above all. Sandy prayed that she could have the same one day.

Once Dylan got the game set up, she got them both a bottle of juice and sat down beside her. They played in silence for a few minutes, killing everything that moved on screen, before Dylan broke the silence.

“How’d it go with Amber?”

“Okay, I guess. Getting better I think, but she still doesn’t trust me.” They both kept their eyes concentrated on the game to have this sort of conversation without this sort of distraction would probably be too uncomfortable.

“She’ll get there, and she’ll see what a great person you are.”

“I hope so. I mean she’s a really nice girl. She’s smart, beautiful, and talented; did you know she played the piano?”

“She does?”

Sandy remembered the peace she felt sitting on the garden wall, eyes closed and letting the gentle sounds of the piano and soft breeze wash over her. “Yeah, she’s really good at it, and she’s only got these little delicate fingers. Well…everything about her is delicate. Little nose, cute little dimples in her cheeks, bright eyes that sometimes look green, sometimes gray…”

Sandy forgot about the game as she lost herself in her thoughts. When her soldier was near death, Dylan nudged her, and she quickly took cover.

“You didn’t notice much about her then.” Dylan said sarcastically.

“What? Uh…well…she’s a beautiful girl. It’s kinda hard to miss. She probably thinks I look like a big, freaking, klutz next to her.”

Dylan laughed. “Don’t think so buddy. She likes you, that’s why she was so pissed at you…”

Sandy looked at her friend sharply. Dylan stopped dead, and her soldier on screen was shot in the head. “She likes me? In what way like? Do you know something?”

She shrugged her shoulders and tried to act cool. “Um…no…what would I know?”

Sandy threw her controller to the side, and moved closer to her friend. “You do know something.”

Dylan jumped up quickly and said, “You want more juice?”

“Please, if there’s something I don’t know about Amber, I think I should know. I’d like to be her friend.”

Dylan stuffed her hands into her pockets and let out a sigh. “Please don’t tell Emmie I said anything. She’ll kill me.”

“I won’t, just tell me.”

“Well it’s only that Emmie said she’d always liked you. Followed your career, never missed any of your races on TV, follows you on Twitter and stuff…and that’s why she made you part of Molly’s class project.”

“Yeah, Emily kind of told me that at Molly’s school. It made me feel really bad…wait…Emily already told me that, she must have told you something else to make you say that.

Dylan sighed with a sense of defeat. “You have to promise you won’t say anything to Amber or it’ll get back to Emmie, and I’ll be sleeping with you in the pool house. As much as I like you buddy, I really don’t want to share a bed with you.”

Sandy’s heart started to beat a little faster at the thought of whatever secret Emily had about Amber. “I promise, please Dylan.”

“Well, it’s just that Emmie mentioned that she thought…and it’s just what she thinks remember, Amber hasn’t said anything.”

Sandy was getting frustrated now. It must be something important if Dylan was making such a fuss about it. “Would you just tell me?”

“Okay, okay. Emmie thinks Amber has a crush on you, okay? That’s it, that’s all I know, and Emmie swore me to secrecy. She didn’t want Amber to be embarrassed.”

“Wow…” Sandy stared ahead, quite stunned at what Dylan had said. She has a crush on me? No way.

“There’s no way. Emily must be mistaken, Dylan. Girls like Amber don’t like jocks like me. I mean she’s so pretty and intelligent and kind. Those sorts of girls never notice me.”

Dylan sat back down beside her and patted her on the back. “Why would you say that? You’d be a great catch for any girl.”

Sandy wrung her hands, feeling the discomfort of the conversation. “Nah, they never had before. The only girls that have wanted my attention are more interested in being seen with me than being interested in the real me.”

“Well, Emmie always tells me she’s rarely wrong, so I’d believe her. It’s something to think about huh?”

Sandy nodded trying to appear as cool as she could, but inside her heart was thudding, and she felt something she hadn’t in a long, long time- excitement and hope.

The next day, Sandy set to work on Amber’s perimeter fence. By lunchtime she was hammering the last wood panel onto the fence post. She holstered her hammer on her tool belt and wiped the sweat from her brow.

Man, I don’t think I’ve worked as hard as this in a long time. She thought to herself. What was even better was she hadn’t thought of alcohol once.

She took a second to take a look around the fence, and felt a self-satisfied pride at what she had achieved in one morning’s work. “Water, that’s what I need.”

Sandy walked up to the kitchen door, and fished the key Amber had left her this morning from her pocket. She let herself in and got an ice cold bottle of water from the fridge. She held the bottle to her hot forehead for a few seconds before downing half of it.

As she caught her breath, her eyes surveyed the kitchen, assessing the work she would have to do to bring it up to scratch. She smiled remembering doing a similar job for her grandma. She was on summer vacation from college, and while other kids where going out having fun, she would train at the local athletics track in the morning and fix up her grandma’s kitchen the rest of the day.

They never had much money, but a church friend of her grandma’s had managed to get hold of a discount kitchen for her, and all Sandy had to do was fit it, and learn how to do it as she went. It turned out well, and the smile on her grandma’s face made it all worthwhile.

“I hope you’ll be proud of me again, grandma.” She finished her water and took the bottle to the trash can. It was then that she noticed large publicity photo scrunched under some other discarded packets and tins. She pulled it out, and unraveled the photo. “Woah.”

The picture was an action shot of her, arms lofted in the air, crossing the finish line to win gold and break the world record, and it was signed. She has a picture of me?

It was signed on the bottom, but she was sure she would have remembered signing a picture that Amber had handed her to sign. It must have been one of the many her PR people made her sign.

Amber had a picture of me and she just tossed it in the trash? Wow, she really was pissed. Her thoughts returned to what Dylan had confessed to her last night. Could she really have…

On a whim she took out her smart phone and opened her twitter app to search for Amber. After an unsuccessful search she wracked her brain trying to think what her twitter name could be. Then it hit her, the name she had seen on Amber’s personalized Disney Bambi PJs. “Ambi! It’s gotta be.”

When she hit search, there was Amber’s face looking back at her, and she was already one of her followers. Sandy felt a little guilty about looking through Amber’s old tweets, but she felt compelled to find out all about her.

As she scrolled back, she found pictures of herself and tweets Amber had made about her. Not just the big glamorous events, but some of the domestic events. She really has followed my career.

One tweet on the list really caught her eye, Watch the Sandy Williams show, she helps kids achieve all they can be through discipline and exercise, #Inspirational women.

“She gets me.” Sandy said to herself.

At that second she heard a key in the front door. Amber was back early and she was about to be caught red handed with the photograph. She looked around the kitchen frantically looking for somewhere to hide it.

In a panic she shoved it inside the microwave beside her, and just a few seconds later, Amber walked into the kitchen, and Sandy tried to look as casual as possible.

“Hey, you’re back early.”

Amber seemed to sense something was up, and looked at her strangely. “I always finish early on a Friday. The kids go home at lunchtime and I do my lesson plans over the weekend. So? How’s everything going?”

“Good…I think. Yeah, really good. I finished fixing it up, I was just getting a drink before I start on the first coat of paint.”

“Wow, you’ve done the whole fence already? That’s amazing.” The warmth from Amber’s smiling face, seeped into her bones and started to work its way through all the dark places deep inside of her.

Amber put her purse on the table and said, “Well how about this? I make us some lunch, then I’ll get changed and help you paint?”

There was something in Amber’s demeanor that had changed, the frosty wall that she had put up around herself was thawing, she was sure of it.

“That would be great. Thanks Amber.”

After lunch Amber and Sandy started to work on painting the fence. Amber had to admit to herself that she would have never gotten this far without Sandy’s help. She knelt down and dipped her brush in the paint, and mixed up the pot. She looked up and smiled as she saw Sandy sing along with the music playing from her smart phone.

It was strange. The more time she spent time with Sandy, the more she realized the woman she met at the school fun day was not the real Sandy. Far from arrogant, she would have described the person she just had lunch with, as bashful and sweet. What could cause such a huge change in character, she wondered?

She tapped the brush to get rid of the excess paint and as she went to stand, she found herself face to face with Sandy’s muscular legs. Her stomach did a flip-flop and she silently thanked Sandy for wearing her knee length shorts today and tight t-shirt. Oh God, talk about eye candy.

Again she was hit with the realization that Parker, or any other man had never made her feel this way. She felt more just standing next to Sandy then she had ever felt when making love with Parker.

No, not making love. Having sex with Parker. Amber corrected herself. Sex with Parker was a chore, an obligation, and the thought of a lifetime of an emotionless relationship terrified her more than anything. It was one of the reasons she had broken off the engagement. She wanted to feel, feel something for once in her life.

Sandy offered her hand to her. She took it and she was pulled up to her feet. “You looked like you were thinking hard about something. Is everything okay?” Sandy asked.

“Yes, I was just thinking about…it doesn’t matter.”

Sandy hadn’t let go of her hand, and she couldn’t help but react to the sensation of Sandy’s touch. Their two hands were so different, but in some strange way looked as if they fitted together perfectly. Her lighter skinned and delicate hand, held softly and tenderly, in Sandy’s darker skinned and much larger hand, like they were meant to be.

Amber was hit with an image of Sandy’s hands touching her, sweeping across her body, and it caused her to gasp.

“Are you okay, Amber?”

“Yes, sorry. I’ve a lot on my mind. So where are we at?” Stop thing about her like that.

“I’m finished with my part over there, I thought I’d come over and help you.” Sandy said.

“Great. Let’s do this.” Amber smiled brightly.

They painted in quiet companionship for a few minutes, before Amber thought she would try and get Sandy to talk.

“So, you said you were training for the triathlon with Dylan? How’s that going?”

“It’s going better now. I wasn’t training well at the start but I’m getting my head together now.”

She felt compelled to know what was hurting Sandy, and make it better, but she didn’t know if it would be easy to get her to open up.

“I’m glad, you’re such a fantastic athlete. Are you going to any of the big athletics events this year?”

Sandy looked at her briefly before dropping her eyes to the ground. “I doubt it. I’m not in the right shape, I’ve let my training go downhill over the last six months.”

“Maybe next year then?”

Sandy didn’t reply for a few seconds while she dipped her brush into the paint tin. “I…I’m thinking of retiring.”

Amber looked at her in shock. “Retiring? But…but you’re only twenty five. You’ve still got a whole career ahead of you.”

“I’ve achieved everything, three gold medals, three world records, there’s nothing more for me to do.”

She could feel the frustration and barely disguised anger in Sandy’s voice. “There are always more records to break, more to strive for.”

“What’s the point? I’ve fought and trained all my life for medals that I keep in a drawer, meanwhile I’ve got nothing in my life. Gold medals can’t give me love, friendship and care.” Sandy snapped.

Amber wasn’t upset at Sandy’s anger, she was sad that she carried so much pain inside. She had read about this before, athletes coming back from the high of the Olympic games, achieving all their dreams at such a young age, with a lifetime still ahead of them. Some went into a depression as they struggled to find a new place in the world. It must have gotten even worse when her grandmother died, she was so alone.

“I’m sorry.” Sandy quickly said. “I’m not doing a very good job of showing you I’m not a bad person, am I?”

Amber decided all she could do was trust her instincts, she reached out and touched Sandy’s arm in a soothing gesture. “It’s okay, Sandy. I understand what you’re saying. I can see how you feel out of place, not sure what to do.”

She felt Sandy’s eyes search her own, unsure of how to react to her understanding response. “I…I’ve tried to explain to Dylan, she thinks my life should be a TV career and my new gym. When she won gold she came back to a TV career, and now she has Emily. She has everything.”

“That’s not what you want?”

Sandy shrugged and continued painting. “The gym was my dream, but TV? It was fun helping the kids while we were filming, but when it came on TV and everybody started to recognize me even more than they already did, I didn’t like it. Dylan is good at handling it, it’s just not me. I don’t like the whole world looking at me like I’m a star, something special, cause I’m not. I’m just Sandy.”

Amber had the insane urge to take Sandy in her arms and soothe her.

“Why don’t you talk to Dylan about it?”

“Nah, I don’t want her to be disappointed in me.”

Amber went back to painting and said, “What about your gym? You said it was your dream.”

“It was.” Sandy said sadly.

“Sounds like you’ve fallen out of love with it?” She saw Sandy tense up immediately.

“We need more paint.” She watched Sandy walk off toward the kitchen door where they had piled up the paint tins.

I need to get you to stop running away from your feelings..

Dylan was in her office, reading though the film script that had just arrived by courier. As she flipped through the pages, and some key scenes she felt the tingle she used to get as the titles rolled on her show, and she heard the audience shout and clap for her. She loved it and was so grateful that Emily didn’t seem to mind her getting involved in all the show business craziness again.

She glanced up at her computer and noticed an email had come through from her producer at Morgan Productions. It said that they had the second season of Sandy’s show planned out and locations secured, all they needed was the go ahead that Sandy would do it and sign up.

Dylan let out a long sigh. She had no idea if Sandy would even be capable of taking part in the show, far less want to. This morning she had trained a little better but such a long way from the Olympic champion she was, it was unreal.

I need to get her back to what she was before she loses everything she’s ever worked for. Dylan thought.

With her guidance, Dylan could make her a star, and she would be set for life, just like she had done herself. She started to write back an email telling her producer there were no decisions yet, but to give her a few weeks. Hopefully in that time she could through to her young friend.

I lost a brother to addictions, there’s no way I’m going to fail a second time.

Sandy and Amber stood back and admired their work. “I think we did a good job, you think?” Amber said.

Sandy looked to the fence and then to Amber, whose clothes were covered in paint. “Uh…yeah, but I think you have more paint on you than the fence, Ambi.” She joked.

“Oh I see. It’s like that is it?” Amber put her hands on her hips.

Uh oh. She had thought they had gotten to the point where she could give a little gentle ribbing to Amber, maybe she was wrong. She always got women all wrong.

“I didn’t mean…”

“Well, maybe you need some too?” Amber lifted the paintbrush in her hand, slapped it on both Sandy’s cheeks and ran for the house. “Take that, Sandy!”

“You!” She recovered quickly and caught up with Amber in a few strides. She grabbed her around the waist and swung her over her shoulder, like a rag doll. “You think a little thing like you could run away from me?”

Amber wriggled and laughed, as Sandy walked back up the garden towards the lake. “Maybe you need a dunk to clean all that paint off, huh?”

“Don’t you dare! I mean it, I swear I’ll…”

The more Amber wriggled and squealed, the more Sandy laughed. “You sure do make a lot of noise. What’s that? You want to go for a swim? No problem.”

She let Amber slide into her arms so she was cradling her, and laughed at the pink tinge of anger in her cheeks. “You let me down, I mean it.”

She’s beautiful when she’s angry. Sandy walked closer to the edge of the boat launch, and held her dangling over the edge. “What are you going to do about it, Ambi?”

Amber threw her arms around neck and held on tight. “If I go, then you’re coming with me, Andy, yeah that’s what Molly calls you, and I think it fits. Jump and you get wet too.”

Just to emphasize the fact, Amber gripped her neck more tightly. She did think about jumping in with her, but then she remembered she was supposed to be making a good impression.

“Say please.” Sandy said with a big grin.

Amber gave her a simpering look, and said in a breathy voice, “Pretty please? I’m begging you, Andy.”

Sandy gulped hard, and her heart thumped in her chest. Oh God. Why did I have to say that?

Enough was enough, she was powerless against that pleading look. She gently let Amber’s feet rest on the dock. As Amber’s hands traveled down from her neck and down her biceps, they left a trail of goose bumps in their wake.

They stood looking into each other’s eyes for more than a few seconds, Amber not letting go of her yet. “I’m sorry.” Sandy told her. “I was just…”

Amber smiled. “Just having a bit of fun? I know. You should have fun more often. Let’s go get you cleaned up.”

She allowed herself to be led back up to the house, Amber keeping a tight hold on her hand. I have fun just being around you.

Rosie walked up to her front door and thanked God it was Friday. It had been a tiring week with having to go to LA for meetings. Tonight she could look forward to a family meal with her father and Jack, and then a cozy evening back at Jack’s apartment.

As she opened the door she immediately heard Jackson’s voice, but she wasn’t due to be here for another hour or so. She shut the door as quietly as she could and heard Jack say, “Thank you Sir. I won’t let you down.”

What is she up to? Rosie crept further up the hall, and just as she was outside the living room door, her father said, “I just don’t want her hurt. She’s had so much hurt in her life.”

At that moment she dropped her keys, and the voices stopped. Jackson walked out into the hall and said, “There’s my Rosie girl. I missed you today.”

“I missed you. I thought you wouldn’t be here for another hour at least?”

“I got finished up early.” Jackson caressed her cheek softly. “Your dad wants me to watch the game with him, before he goes to his poker game. Do you mind if we stay here till a bit later?”

Rosie remembered that Jackson had asked her to trust her, and have faith that the secret she was keeping was in a good cause, but it made her feel so uneasy. “Of course not. I love that you want to spend time with him. You really are a good person, Jackson Hunter.”

“Thank you. Now come on in and sit down darlin’. I brought you a nice bottle of wine.”

Whatever Jackson was up to, she had to be true to her word and trust her. That’s what loving someone meant, but it didn’t make her deep seated uneasiness leave her.

“I’m sorry. It looks as if I’ve ruined your t-shirt.” Amber pointed to the wet paint that had rubbed off of her when she was in Sandy’s arms.

After tidying up the brushes and paints, they returned to the kitchen for a drink. “Don’t worry about it. It was my fault for lifting you.”

“It was fun though, right?” Amber asked.

Sandy smiled broadly. “It was great. I can’t remember when I’ve had as much fun. It’s been a long time.”

That thought made Amber feel sad. It sounded like Sandy had no other friends but the Morgans and Jackson and Rosie, and if she was to hazard a guess, she didn’t think she spoke about her emotions too much with them

“I had a lot of fun too. You should really change into a different t-shirt, you don’t want to get paint on Dylan’s car upholstery. Only problem is, I don’t think I have anything approaching your size.”

Sandy looked down at her t-shirt and nodded. “I guess so, but it’s okay, I can just put my jacket over my sports bra.”

Before she had a chance to say any more, Sandy pulled off her t-shirt, leaving her torso, stomach, arms and shoulders displayed in all their muscular glory. Amber tried to say something, but she couldn’t get her mouth to move or stop her eyes roving all over Sandy’s body.

Oh God, Sandy Williams is standing in my kitchen with practically nothing on. The tingly feeling she got while looking at her on TV, or in a photo was nothing like what she felt now. There’s no hiding from this, it was attraction, and not just any old attraction. This was a passionate lust that threatened to make her melt into a puddle on the floor. She imagined Sandy’s solid body on top of her, as she held onto her muscular neck…

“Amber? Are you listening?”

She realized Sandy had been talking to her while she was away in her own fantasy world. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“I was saying, you didn’t mind me calling you Ambi did you? I saw it on your PJs and thought it was really cute.”

“Sure, besides, I called you Andy. I think it suits you.”

Sandy smiled bashfully. “Sure, if it’s good enough for Molly, it’s cool. Umm…I guess I better be going then.” Sandy looked as if leaving was the last thing she wanted to do, and Amber wanted more than anything to invite her to stay for dinner. Her heart thudded, and the question was on the tip of her tongue.

“Umm…Sandy?”

“Yeah?” Sandy said expectantly.

Ask her. Just ask her now. “I won’t be able to help tomorrow.”

Sandy’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. “And…you don’t have to come here if you don’t want to, it’s just that I’m helping Rosie with Emily’s baby shower next Saturday, and we’re going shopping for some decorations and things.”

“Ah, okay. No problem. I’ll get on with a few jobs myself. Jackson’s organized a fishing trip for the baby shower day, so I’ll be going to that. Jackson figured we would all get in the way, and it’ll be Dylan’s last chance for a day out before she’s up to her eyes in nappies and stuff.”

“That’s a nice idea.”

Sandy put on her jacket and said, “I better get going. I’ll see you when I see you I guess?”

“Yes, keep the set of house keys I gave you, then you can come over and start whenever.”

She walked Sandy to the door and watched her drive away. Why couldn’t you ask her to stay?

Inside she knew the reason; the longer she spent with Sandy the harder it became to dismiss her attraction to another woman as a silly fangirl crush. She was scared to think about what that meant.

“That was wonderful, sweetheart.” Walt rubbed his full belly.

On Friday nights Rosie made them all dinner before her dad went to his poker game. She was so happy at how easily her dad had taken to Jackson. She fitted into her family without any problems, and Walt was delighted that she had someone who shared his own principles.

“Thanks, Daddy.” Rosie got up and started to clear away the dishes.

“You’re just like your mom, a great little cook.” Walt had idolized her mother, and so to be compared to her in any way was the biggest complement he could give.

Jackson squeezed her hand as she cleared her plate.

“I tell you what Jackson, when you move in together, you won’t go hungry with this girl cooking for you.”

“Daddy.” Rosie put her hand on her hip clearly annoyed. “I am not going to be Jackson’s cook and cleaner.”

She looked at Jackson and found her sporting an annoying grin. “And if she thinks that’s the case, she’s in trouble.”

Walt chuckled and stood up from the table. “I’ll leave this to you Jackson, good luck. Remember the game’s on in five minutes.”

When he walked out of the room, Jackson pulled Rosie down onto her lap. “Don’t even think about it, Soldier boy…”

Rosie was silenced by Jackson pulling her into a deep kiss. Don’t let her distract you. Wait…

Her mind went blank, and she ran her fingers over the short hairs at the nape of Jackson’s neck. She always loved the feel of it in her fingers, as passion overtook her thoughts.

She scratched her nails from the nape of Jackson’s neck, to her collar and tie. The button was already undone, so she loosened her tie enough so that she could slip her hands under her collar and caress her neck. She knew Jackson loved this, and felt her groan before she ran her hand in a sweeping motion up her thigh.

If they were alone, Rosie knew they would be making love on the kitchen table by now. At a basic level, Rosie was so incredibly, sexually attracted to Jackson. They were like yin and yang, passion and anger, love and hate, and when they came together, the devoured each other. Add to that a deep love and respect, and they were a perfect match.

Rosie pulled away and whispered, “I can’t remember what I was angry about.”

Jackson caught her lip between her teeth before letting it go. “That’s the point.”

“I tell you what, lover. You go watch the stupid game, and I’ll tidy up, but when I get you back to your apartment later, I’m going to ravish you.”

“Sounds perfect.”

Rosie stood and allowed Jackson to get up. She went to the fridge, got out two bottles of beer, and handed them to Jackson. “Now you go and do your perfect son in-law bit with Daddy.”

Jackson laughed and walked off, taking a sip of the beer as she went. After a few minutes of putting away leftovers for her dad, and packing the dishwasher, she heard Jackson’s text message tone.

She turned around and saw Jackson’s cellphone was left on the kitchen counter. She hesitated, knowing if she walked towards it she would see the message display on the screen, without unlocking the phone. Don’t do it. Jackson asked you to trust her. Whatever she’s up to is not anything for you to worry about.

As hard as she tried, the uneasiness she felt was pulling her across the room. She picked it up and read the message was from Paris Lane, and her stomach dropped. I’ve booked everything. You owe me big time, Boss, and I plan on collecting. The message ended with a winking smiley face, and Rosie felt a wave of jealousy rush through her.

It doesn’t mean anything. Jackson told you to trust her, but what if she breaks your heart? She never could. Could she?

Later that night, Jackson walked in to her bedroom and found the light already off, and Rosie turned away from her. Only a few hours ago they had both been ready to devour each other, and ever since Jackson left her in the kitchen at her dad’s house, she was getting the cold shoulder.

She looked. Jackson sighed. Why did I even think I could organize a surprise?

Jackson started to get undressed, and felt her annoyance growing inside. A big part of her wanted to be angry, and Rosie’s fixation with Paris made it worse, but then she always had to remember the reason why Rosie was this way.

To love Rosie she had to accept everything about her, and that included the insecure little girl that still lived inside her. That was part of the reason Jackson loved her. She wanted to protect and take care of that vulnerable side of her, the one she kept hidden behind the sassy young woman she presented to the world.

Hell, she wasn’t immune to jealousy herself, she felt the green mist descend on occasion, if someone ogled Rosie for a little too long, or the whole episode with Jess that made her want to commit bodily harm.

Jackson pulled on her boxers and let her annoyance go as she slipped in to bed beside Rosie. She lay looking at the ceiling thinking, I could be making love to her now if it wasn’t for that damn text.

After a few minutes she heard a small voice say, “I read your text.”

“I know.” She replied calmly.

“You’re entitled to be mad with me, I would be.”

Jackson rolled over, raised herself up on her elbow, and started to stroke Rosie’s hair. “I’m not mad. I just wish you would trust me.”

When Rosie moved onto her back, Jackson noticed she had been crying. “I do trust you, I really do in my heart, but it just eats away at me. This little voice in my head says Paris would be a much better partner for you, more sophisticated, more mature, and more beautiful.”

“Stop.” Jackson placed a finger over Rosie’s lips. “I keep telling you, the only woman my heart, the only one my body wants is my Rosie girl. Do you think Paris would tell to me to shut the hell up, and put me in my place? Would Paris drive me insane by arguing every little advert or magazine picture is sexist or not?”

“She wouldn’t?” Rosie wiped away her tears.

“Nope, she’s a nice girl and everything and she’s excellent at her job, but…well she’s more interested in diamonds, cars and whatever her boyfriend of the week can give her. Not someone I would trust my heart with. I trust you with my life and my heart.”

Rosie reached up stroked her cheek tenderly. “I don’t know why you put up with me. I won’t look at your cell phone again.”

“I don’t have anything to hide, so it doesn’t matter to me, but I promise you’ll find out what I’ve been up to, very, very soon.” She kissed Rosie’s palm before whispering, “You own my heart, darlin’.”

“Not quite the feisty girl you met, am I?”

“You are perfectly feisty. Sometimes you just need a little reassurance.” Jackson lowered her lips to Rosie’s, and kissed her tenderly.

Rosie gasped when Jackson’s hand slipped under the covers and began to softly stroke her sex. “And you need to feel me love you.”

Rosie closed her eyes and gasped as Jackson stroked her tenderly and slowly. “That’s it darlin’, feel how much I love you.”

“Oh God, Jack. I love you. Don’t ever stop.”

Jackson laid her forehead against Rosie’s and began to quicken her pace. “I won’t ever stop loving you. I’ve waited a lifetime to find you, and I’m never letting go of my Rosie girl.”

Dylan and Emily had gone to bed early. Emily was feeling exhausted and lay reading her book while Dylan read through her script, with one hand gently resting on Emily’s baby bump.

There was a quiet calm atmosphere in the room, but Emily could tell her partner was pleased and excited by her role in the movie. Every so often she would snigger, or say things like, “Boom you’re dead, monster freak.”

She glanced at Dylan and said, “Are you pleased with the role then?”

“Pleased? It’s awesome! I’ve got this cool super power and get to kill stuff.”

“Sounds as if you’ll have a ball playing actor, Goofy.” Emily said.

They were interrupted by baby Morgan’s brief kicking session. “Woah, baby is really active tonight.” Dylan put her script away, and turned on her side to talk to the baby.

“Hey, baby Smurf? You all restless to come out and play?”

Emily felt such a wave of love when she saw Dylan stroke and kiss her baby bump. It was such a complete contrast to her pregnancy with Molly. Toni barely touched her unless it was to hurt her or try and get sex from her. Never once did she talk to the baby like it was a person just waiting to join them. She felt herself tear up at the memories.

“Hey, hey, what’s wrong Emmie?” Dylan said pulling her into her arms.

“Nothing, I’m just thinking how lucky I am this time around. With Molly…well the pregnancy wasn’t a great experience. You’ve made it such a loving time, honey.”

Dylan squeezed her tighter in her arms, and thought about all the excitement that was just around the corner. Before long she would be in the delivery room holding her child, like she should have been able to do with Molly. “I’m the lucky one, baby. Sharing this with you is like a dream, and I can’t wait to hold her or him. What was Molly’s birth like?”

She felt Emily tense in her arms. There were a lot of bad memories for her wife, but it always seemed to help if she got Emily to talk about them, and chase them away. “It was lonely and I was scared. I had nobody with me, nobody to tell me that everything was okay. I was talked into an epidural for the pain and I had a panic attack when I couldn’t feel my legs or anything. I don’t want one this time, Dyl, no matter what.”

Dylan immediately felt guilt deep in stomach. She should have been there, to help, hold her hand, and ease her wife’s suffering and terror. The irony was, the night Molly was being born, she was sitting alone in her apartment, just as alone as Emily.

“You won’t feel alone and I won’t let anything happen that you don’t want to. I’m so sorry you had to go through that yourself, but I promise it’s going to be different this time.”

Emily wiped away her tears. “It’s not your fault, Dyl. We found each other and that’s the main thing. I’ve been thinking a lot about the time after I left Toni recently. I suppose it’s from being pregnant again, but I hadn’t allowed myself to think about that time at all, but I have been talking it through with Rain.”

“Tell me, Baby. Get it out, you’re safe now.” The baby was moving around like crazy, perhaps reacting to its mother’s emotional state. Dylan stroked Emily’s bump, soothing and calming the baby as she went.

“When I ran from Toni, I went to a woman’s shelter, and they were wonderful. Helped me get on my feet, get a job and somewhere to stay. Once this baby is born I’d like to repay their kindness and maybe get involved with the charity. Maybe use this celebrity status I have because of you, to shine some attention on them. What do you think? Would you mind?”

“Of course I wouldn’t mind, baby. I think that’s a great idea. They helped you when I couldn’t and I’ll always be in their debt for that. I can help you come up with some ideas to help.”

That got Dylan a huge hug. “You are the greatest, TV star.”

Dylan decided to inject some humor into the emotional discussion. “Yeah I know. That’s what I keep telling Jackson, but she doesn’t listen.”

Emily giggled, leaving her sad thoughts behind her. “I’ll be sure and tell her the next time I see her, honey.”

After a busy morning shopping, Rosie and Amber stopped for a well-earned lunch. As Rosie ate, she kept one eye on her checklist for the party. “Okay, cake and food taken care of, decorations and balloons done…umm…party game prizes and baby bottles for drinks, all done. I think that’s everything. I couldn’t have done it without you, Amber.”

“I’m happy to help, Rosie. Emily has been a great help and support to the school since Molly arrived.”

“I know she appreciates all the work you do with Molly’s class. Emily was really nervous about letting Molly go back to school after…the incident with her ex, but you’ve earned her trust and she so much more relaxed now.”

Amber took a sip of her drink and smiled. “I shouldn’t have favorites but Molly is just an adorable girl, and a great student.”

“I know, makes you want to have some of our own, doesn’t it? Don’t tell Jackson I said that.” Rosie joked.

“Rosie, I wanted to thank you for including me in this, it’s been wonderful getting to know you. Since I split up with my fiancé, a lot of friends have melted away.”

Rosie was surprised, when Emily had told her she suspected Amber had a crush on Sandy, she assumed she was gay. It certainly felt that way. “Oh, you were engaged?”

“Yes.” Amber said with a sigh. “Only for a few months. It was never…I mean he was never what I wanted.”

He wasn’t? Hmm…maybe Em is right. A little matchmaking could be in order. Rosie took the bottle of mineral water on the table and poured them out another drink.

“Well I’m glad we can all be friends. Like I said to you at beach, Emily has to be really careful about friendships and trusting people, so it’s great she has someone else she can rely on. I’m really protective of Emily. Jackson and I both are, she’s been through so much, more than the magazines and press will ever know about, but even through all that she’s had time for me. I don’t know if anyone told you, but my mom died when I was a little girl.”

“Yes, I read about it when Dylan and Jackson did the Moroccan desert race. I’m really sorry, Rosie.” Amber reached across and covered Rosie’s hand with her own.

Rosie smiled softly. “Thanks, I only mention it because Emily has been more than a friend to me, she’s been like my big sister, and without the courage and advice she has given me, I wouldn’t be with Jackson. I would probably have ran at the first sign of trouble, and that would have been my greatest mistake because Jackson is the love of my life. That’s why I’m so protective of her, and I can see you’re going to be a good friend to her, and me.”

“I understand. Thank you for trusting me. It must be so wonderful to be so in love the way you are, and the way Emily is. You are lucky.”

At that moment the waiter approached to clear their table, and they both ordered coffee.

Now for a little meddling. Thought Rosie. “I’m sure the right one will come along for you too. So? Have you forgiven our poor Sandy yet? I know she was really mad at herself for upsetting you.”

Rosie noticed that when she mentioned Sandy’s name, Amber smiled and began fidgeting with her hair. Oh yeah, you’re definitely hot for her.

“Yes, I just had to spend a day with her to realize there was more to her than the arrogant star she portrayed to me. She’s sweet, and stubborn. Wouldn’t take no for an answer about helping with my house. I don’t know why it’s so important to her.”

The coffee arrived and Rosie took a sip of the warm liquid before replying, “I think she wants to feel useful to someone. She’s been adrift since her grandma died.”

“Hmm. She does work hard, and it was fun helping her yesterday.”

“She’s a great person, and so good looking. A great hunk of a butch with such a sweet, caring nature, the best combination you can get. Whichever girl catches her eye is going to be adored by her, and be one of the luckiest girls around.”

Amber became very interested in stirring her coffee all of a sudden and said, “I bet she has lots of offers, a good looking celebrity like her.”

“You would think, but no. Sandy’s a bit like Dylan was, before she met Emily, falls to pieces around girls. She needs the right one to understand her, to care for her.”

Amber looked up and Rosie looked her right in the eyes. “Do you know what I mean?”

“Yes, I know what you mean.” Amber replied, sounding like she understood completely.

“Great, so next Friday you’ll come and help me set up for the baby shower Saturday?”

“Absolutely, I can’t wait.”

Amber went silent for a minute before saying, “I wonder how Sandy’s doing on her own? I left her lunch and snacks in the fridge, but I feel bad having fun with you while she’s working hard for me.”

Oh yeah, you heart her. “Text and find out how she is, let her know you were thinking of her.”

“You think I should?” Amber looked excited but a little unsure.

“Oh definitely. She’d like that.” Rosie allowed herself a self-satisfied smile, as she watched Amber tap a message out on her cell phone.

Sandy, Sandy, you’re going to owe me one.

Sandy was as happy as she had been for a long time. She sang along to the music booming in her ears coming from her wireless earphones, while she cut some wooden planks for the porch. The only thing that would make it better was if Amber was here with her. From a really bad start she had come a long way in a short time, and was slowly feeling happier and calmer in Amber’s company.

I wonder how she’s doing? If she’s having fun. When she finished cutting the wood, she lifted her cellphone and debated texting her. She couldn’t think of any excuse for texting her out of the blue, and thought she’d probably just look stupid.

She couldn’t understand why she had this weird need for contact with her, but she felt it deep in her gut, a nervous excitement that she’d only ever felt before a big race. I wish I could run right now.

Sandy was taken aback at that thought. She hadn’t felt the energy or the need to run in such a long time. Amber makes me want to run.

Before she had a chance to think about that too deeply, her cell beeped with a message. Her heart skipped double time when she saw who it was from. Amber.

The message read…Hi Andy, I wondered how you were doing, and wanted to let you know I’m really grateful you’re helping me. I should have told you that sooner. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the lunch I left you. Maybe see you later? Or if you need to go it’s no problem. Ambi.x

Sandy was more than a little taken aback at the text, and kept reading it over and over. She’s being nice to me, wow. The smile on Sandy’s face couldn’t have been any bigger, and she quickly replied…

Hey, I’m doing great. I hope you’re having a good day, although I miss your company. Lunch was great, you’re really good at making sandwiches. I’ll be here when you get back. Take care,

When she hit send, she said, “Shit! You’re really good at making sandwiches? What kind of asshole line is that? She’s gonna think you’re an idiot.”

Sandy became aware of a presence behind her. She turned around just as a man was about to make a grab for her shoulder. She ripped off her earphones and held him by the shirt front.

“What the fuck are you doing creeping up behind me?”

The man dressed in a business suit looked infuriated at her. “Get you filthy hands off me. I’ve been calling you from the driveway for the last few minutes. If you were paying attention you would have heard me, you idiot.”

“Watch your mouth.” Sandy warned, before letting him go.

The man straightened his tie and suit jacket. “I take it you’re my fiancée’s gardener?”

Fiancée? Sandy felt sick. “What are you talking about? Amber?”

“That’s Miss Andrews to you, and. I’m Parker Harrington, and she is my fiancée. Where is she?”

All of the excitement and hope drained from Sandy’s body. She’s straight and engaged? Why didn’t she tell me?

The realization hit that she had been looking too much into whatever it was that she and Amber had. It was barely a friendship, and there was no reason why Amber would tell her about her personal life. Emily had clearly been wrong about her crush.

“Well? Where is she?”

“She’s gone shopping.” Sandy said flatly.

Parker looked her up and down as if she was a piece of dirt. “Tell her I called. Oh and you can finish up after today. I’ll be sending in my own team to fix up the house and garden.”

Parker marched back towards his car and drove off. Sandy couldn’t conceive of Amber being with someone like that. She was a kind sensitive girl, and he was an obnoxious snob.

Why did I even think a nice girl like Amber could like me?

Rosie walked through her front door laden down with shopping bags. “Daddy? Can you help me here?”

Walt walked from the kitchen with a smile on his face. “There’s my girl.”

He took the bags from her and said, “I thought you’d never get here. Now, go and get ready, Jackson has a car coming to pick you up in an hour.”

This was news to her. She had thought they weren’t seeing each other tonight as Jackson said she had business dinner to attend. She had been more than a little miffed and suspicious about a business appointment on a Saturday night, but after her freak out last night, she had said nothing.

Walt put the bags on the kitchen table, and then took her hands. “Just do what your old dad tells you for once. Go and put on something pretty and be ready to go out, it’ll be worth it, believe me.”

“What’s this all about? Is this what Jackson’s been planning?”

Walt tapped her gently on the nose. “Patience my Rosie girl. Now scoot.”

Jack, what are you up to?

Amber was happy and excited as she drove back from the city. Happy because she had made a new friend in Rosie, and excited because she knew that Sandy was at home waiting for her. She sang along to the radio happily, and was only a couple of miles from home when her cell phone rang.

She answered it using her wireless headset, without looking down at her cell that sat in its holder on the dash holder.

“Hello?”

The voice that greeted her made her heart sink. “I called for you today at the house, where were you?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, Parker, but I was shopping with my friend.”

“Which friend?” He demanded.

Parker’s controlling nature and tone of voice made her chest feel tight. Over the course of their relationship, Parker had gradually pulled her away from her own college friends, till all the people she knew were in his circle. “It doesn’t matter what friend.”

“I already knew where you were, your obnoxious gardener told me that much.”

“My gardener? Who…you don’t mean Sandy? What did you say to her?” The thought of Parker being horrible to Sandy made her flush with embarrassment, and anger.

“She was extremely rude, and I told her so. You don’t want that sort around your property.”

Amber felt herself begin to shake from the anger and suffocation she was feeling. “That was Sandy Williams, Olympic gold medal-winning athlete, not my gardener. I can’t believe you said that to her.”

“It makes no difference. I said that I would be sending in my own team of people to take care of your little house, it will need to be sold when we marry anyway.”

“Don’t you dare send anyone to my home, Parker. When will you get it into your head that I am not marrying you?”

“This is becoming tiresome. Mother is already been organizing caterers for our engagement party, and will call your parents soon to confirm.”

“You haven’t told her we’ve broken up?”

“No, because we haven’t. I’ll give you some time to work out this nonsense in your head and then it’s time to settle down. I want it, your father wants it, it will happen.”

Amber had tears of frustration running down her face. It was exhausting trying to break free of someone who was so determined to keep you, and had such a hold on your family.

“Why are you so set on me, Parker? You could have any one of the airheads who fall at your feet, all of whom are much more glamorous than me.”

“One, they want my money and I can’t trust them. Two because I will not be embarrassed by having you walk away from me. I went out on a limb when I picked you. Mother and Father thought I could do much better, but I insisted. You are not going to make a fool of me.”

Amber had enough, and took her eyes off the road to try and end the call. She desperately pressed at the button on her phone, and after several attempts Parker was gone. When she looked up, she realized her car had veered into the next lane, with a car headed straight for her.

She swerved to avoid it and veered off the road and screamed as she headed towards a tree.

Rosie checked her makeup for the last time, and headed to meet her dad at the front door.

While she got ready her mind whirled with what Jackson’s surprise could be. There was one thought that she kept deep down inside, but she quickly dismissed that after all the she had said to Jackson on the subject of a lifetime commitment.

Walt was waiting by the door for her. “You look beautiful, Rosie girl.”

Rosie smoothed down her short metallic, pleated dress and hoped that Jackson would like it. “You think?”

“Absolutely. Now your Limo has arrived, and…”

Rosie was taken aback. “Wait, Limo? Daddy, what is going on?”

“It’s a surprise.” He clearly was enjoying being in on the secret. “I’ve to give you this.”

He handed over a wooden rolling pin, and tied to it with red ribbon, was a scroll. “Open it.”

What are you up to Jack? She unraveled the scroll and handed the rolling pin to Walt.

Rosie Henderson, I invite you on a treasure hunt…

I think you’ve waited long enough to find out about your surprise. To find out what it is, you will have to find me. If you do, you find your surprise. You will have help along the way, and some gifts you might find useful in your future.

Housewife equipment number one: A rolling pin, to make me a pie or hit me over the head with. The choice is yours.

Clue one ~ There was a star shinning bright where a quirky Hippy girl first met an uptight Soldier boy…

“Car’s waiting, honey. Have a wonderful evening.”

Rosie was rendered silent for about the first time in her life. She took her purse, rolling pin and scroll from her Dad and walked up to the waiting limo. A female chauffeur stood waiting for her with the door open.

“Evening, Ma’am. My name is AJ, and I’ll be your driver tonight. There’s a glass of champagne waiting for you inside.”

“Um…thank you.”

She climbed into the large seated area of the limo and found a glass of champagne with a strawberry in it, on the bar area.

“Jack, this is crazy but I love you for it.” It was then she noticed that her favorite love songs was playing in the car, and her heart melted.

Is she going to…

Her thoughts were interrupted by the driver AJ, who lowered the privacy screen. “Where to first, Ma’am?”

“Uh…” There was a star shinning bright where a quirky Hippy girl first met an uptight Soldier boy.

She smiled and knew exactly where to go. “Greenwich village, I’ll give you the address on the way.”

Sandy had been sitting on the dock for the past hour, just staring at the water, and feeling in a foul mood. She had no right to feel disappointed, she hardly knew Amber but what she had felt since she found out about Parker was disappointment.

What was worse was that someone as kind, as gentle, as beautiful, could choose someone like Parker Harrington. He had treated Sandy like she was nothing, and it made her angry.

She picked up a rock and threw it out to the water where it landed with a splash. Maybe I should just go. She doesn’t need me here

Sandy stood and looked at her watch. Amber was a lot later than she said she’d be. Maybe she met up with her idiot fiancé. Just as she was about to walk away, her cell phone rang, and the caller ID read Amber calling.

“Hello?” There was silence, and then the sound of sniffling. “Ambi? Is that you?”

“Sandy I…” Amber’s voice was small and emotional. “I’ve had an accident…with the car.”

Sandy was already on her toes, jogging towards her truck. “Where are you?”

“The cove road, I came off the road and hit a tree.”

“Hang tight, I’m coming.” Cove road was about a mile from Amber’s house, a small, lonely two lane road that lead to the turn off for Amber’s private dirt road.

“Just stay put, Okay?”

“Okay.”

The limo pulled up outside the Morgan’s city apartment. AJ parked up, and doorman Maurice opened the door. “Evening Miss Henderson. It’s a long time since we’ve seen you here. How are you?”

She got out, and smiled. “Hi Maurice, I’m good. I’m not quite sure why I’m here.”

“I do. Follow me.” He followed him into the foyer of the apartment building, to the security desk.

He walked around the back of the desk, and retrieved a wooden spoon with a scroll tied to it just as before. She giggled as she took it and opened up the scroll. Jack, you are insane.

The scroll read ~ Housewife equipment number two is a wooden spoon. Don’t say I’m not good to you, darlin’.

Clue two ~ We shared a lot at this place. Our first kiss, our bodies, and a meal that nearly blew your head off.

“Jack’s apartment.” She smiled at the memory of Jackson cooking a meal for her, and putting too much chili in the dinner.

Rosie brought the scroll to her mouth to cover her laughter. “Thanks Maurice. I know where I have to go now.”

“You have a good night now, Miss Henderson.”

She skipped out the building to the limo. “AJ? Let’s go.”

The gloom of early evening hung heavy in the sky, as Sandy raced to find Amber. It was a lonely, isolated road and she didn’t want her alone for long. The only time she had felt this sort of panic before was when her grandmother got sick. She remembered the time she had gotten a phone call to say she’d had her first mini stroke, the fear and helplessness was something that she drank to forget.

Up ahead she saw the flashing of Amber’s hazard lights, and as she got closer saw the sickening sight of the front of her car smashed all the way in to the windshield.

Sandy scanned the area and saw Amber sitting on the grass verge at the side of the road. As she brought the truck to a halt, she let out a huge breath she didn’t realize she was holding.

She jumped out of the car and ran over to her. “Amber ? Are you okay?”

Amber looked up and it was clear she was in shock. “I…I crashed. Nearly….” Tears started to tumble down her face as the full extent of what had happened hit her.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay. C’mere.” Sandy pulled Amber carefully to her feet and pulled her into her arms. “Shh, Shh, I’m here. You’re safe now. Are you hurt?”

Amber’s whole body shook in her arms, making Sandy hold her more tightly. She rubbed her back in a soothing motion and pressed her face into Amber’s hair and inhaled its scent, calming her own anxiety.

“What happened?”

“I can’t…can’t. ”

Amber was clearly in shock and it made more sense to get her home and then talk. “Shh…it’s okay. I’ll call the tow truck and get you home.”

While she called on her cell, Amber kept a tight grip on her, and Sandy loved it, loved taking care of her, and she wanted more.

Sandy made Amber a hot cup of tea, and sat down at the kitchen table. “Are you sure you shouldn’t see a doctor?”

“No I’m okay. I just need to calm down, for a bit.”

“Let me bandage your hand at least.” Sandy said.

“I will, just give me a few minutes to catch my breath. It was my own stupid fault, It I hadn’t answered the phone call from Parker, it would never have happened.”

At the mention of Parker’s name Sandy looked uncomfortable. “I met him today. He came looking for you.”

Amber’s heart sank. She prayed he hadn’t said anything offensive to her friend. “What did he say to you?”

“He was really pissed that I couldn’t hear him shouting, I had my headphones on, and then assumed I was your gardener. Told me not to bother coming back.”

Amber closed her eyes for a few seconds and shook her head in disbelief. “I’m so sorry he was rude to you. That’s what I was arguing with him about in the car, and that’s why I crashed. I normally screen his calls, but I can’t do that in my car.”

“He said he is your fiancé.” Sandy said flatly.

“Ex-fiancé, and it didn’t last long, believe me. I never wanted to marry him, but I felt pressured into it…but that’s a long story.” She took a gulp of the hot tea and felt the warmth come back to her bones.

“I’ve got time to listen.” Sandy met her eyes, and they were full of sincerity and compassion. Maybe it would do her good to talk about it.

“Really?”

Sandy reached across the table and took her hand. “Tell me, please?”

Amber took a breath and collected her thoughts. She didn’t know why she trusted Sandy enough to talk about these things, all she knew was when Sandy took her in her arms at the side of the road, she felt safer than she had ever felt in her life.

“My father owns a small architects business. He set it up with his friend after leaving college. It’s a small business, but it’s always supported the family well, that was until the housing market crashed a few years ago. That was when my dad met Parker at a cocktail party.

“Parker’s family owns a hugely successful house building company. He put a lot of work my dad’s way, and kept asking me out. I dated him for a while, but I never felt what I should for him. As time went on he gradually revealed his superior, rude attitude to me. I hated the way he treated people, but every time I would try to bring the relationship to an end, he would dangle a large contract in front of my Dad, and I felt obligated. I don’t know why he was set on me so much.”

“Because you’re beautiful.” Sandy said matter of factly.

Amber’s surprise at that comment made her lose her train of thought. She thinks I’m beautiful? “Not compared to all the glamorous people you meet, and certainly not in Parker’s circles. His mother didn’t approve but he was determined I would be his. All I wanted was to be free, he is a controlling individual, and gradually pulled me away from my own college friends until all I had was his world, and that was a superficial world where all people cared about was money and position.”

“I don’t know you that well, Ambi, but it sounds to me like you would have been like a fish out of water with those kind of people.” Sandy had started to stroke her thumb across her knuckles in a soothing gesture, and Amber loved it.

“You’re right. It was everything that I hate. The last straw came when he tried to get me to stop working with a children’s club I volunteer with.”

“Yeah? Tell me about it?”

“It’s a charity called Team Kidz. All the children come from troubled backgrounds, they get referred to us from social services or church organizations. Once a month we organize activates to help with their education or simply to give them a break from family situations. We’ve been rock climbing, sailing, diving and physical activities like that, cleared up local parks and made community gardens, anything to give the kids a different perspective and give them something to achieve.”

“That’s an amazing thing to do, a kind thing to do. Why did Parker want you to give up that?”

Amber could hear Parker’s voice in her head as she said, “He wouldn’t have his wife mixing with those sorts of people. It would embarrass him.”

“He’s a complete asshole. Who would even think something like that? Idiot.”

Amber sighed. She felt shame that she even knew someone like that, far less was engaged to him. “I know, I just wanted to use my teaching skills to help those kids who needed extra help and attention. I work with students everyday who have opportunities my children at Team Kidz could only dream about. I want to give what I can back to the community.”

“So you left him?” Sandy asked.

“Not only him, I left home. I love my parents more than anything, but I knew I had to build an independent life. My dad couldn’t see passed Parker and he lobbies for him all the time. Luckily I’d saved up enough while living at home to get enough of a deposit for a mortgage on this place. If it hadn’t been in such a bad way, I could never have afforded it.”

“And here you are.” Sandy said.

“Yes, here I am, making a new life and new friends.” Amber looked into Sandy’s eyes.

“Rosie and Emily will be great friends for you, and I’m sure you’ll make lots more.”

“You forgot one friend.” Amber said smiling.

“Who?”

“You. You’ve helped me more than anyone. Thank you.” Sandy got that bashful look that made Amber melt. You are absolutely gorgeous, Sandy Williams.

“Thanks. I’m glad to be your friend.” Sandy looked down her hand, and said, “Let me bandage your hand. It looks painful.”

“Okay, the first aid box is up in the top cupboard there.”

Sandy got up to get it, and asked, “So why is Parker still around if you’ve broken up with him?”

“He won’t accept that we’ve broken up. I just found out tonight, when we talked, that he hasn’t told his parents. His mother is still planning our engagement party.”

Sandy walked back to the table, pulled a chair up close to Amber and began to take out what she would need. “Idiot. He needs to back off.” Sandy said with anger.

“He likes to intimidate women, he probably thinks he can make me change my mind.”

Sandy looked at her with questioning eyes. “He’s never hurt you has he?”

Yes he had, but she didn’t want Sandy to think her weak. So she hesitated before answering. “Um…”

“You can trust me, Ambi. I promise.”

After collecting her next clue and a book called, ‘The Good Housewives Guide’, at Jackson’s apartment, Rosie directed AJ to what she thought would be her last destination.

She walked into their new home and found a wrapped box with a final scroll on top. She opened the box and found a new apron with apple pies on it.

She followed the trail of rose petals that led to the family room. Rosie saw a soft glow emanate from below the door. Her heart began to beat wildly. This was it, the end of Jack’s treasure hunt, and she knew her future lay behind that door.

She held the door handle and hesitated for a few seconds before opening the door. As the door swung open she was faced with a sight that made her gasp. The room was dim, lit only with the glow of tea light candles spread over the expanse of the floor. The lights were carefully arranged to spell out the question, Will you marry me?

Beside the candles, Jackson was down on one knee with an open ring box in her hand. “Jack…”

Nothing or no one in her life had ever made her feel as special or as loved as she was at this moment. She tried hard to get some words out, but Jackson’s surprise had left her speechless.

“Rosie Henderson, will you join me in the patriarchal institution of marriage? Will you let me love you and take care of you for the rest of our lives together?

If you will, I promise to try not to subjugate you, make you wear frilly aprons, except in the bedroom, drive you crazy, but most of all I promise to love you for every day of our lives together. Will you marry me?”

In her most private thoughts, Rosie had imagined this scene. Her rational mind had told her she didn’t need this, but her heart and soul had made their needs perfectly clear. She wanted and needed commitment, but even more than that, she wanted to belong to Jackson, and Jackson to belong to her.

Rosie walked to Jackson and looked down in wonder at the beautiful diamond engagement ring. The diamond was a large round cut stone on a simple platinum band. “It’s…It’s beautiful.”

“Well? Will you marry me, Rosie girl?” Jackson repeated.

With a surety she had never felt before, Rosie said softly, “Yes, Jack. I will marry you.”

Jackson let out a breath and placed the ring on Rosie’s finger with great reverence. As Rosie admired the ring, Jackson stood and took Rosie in her arms and swung her around, looking happier than Rosie had ever seen her, and placing kisses all over her face.

“Thank you, thank you, Hippy girl. I promise I won’t ever let you down. I love you.”

“I love you. No one else in my life has ever made me feel what you do.” Their kisses became more frantic, and Rosie began to pull at her partner’s tie and shirt.

“Oh God, I want you so much. I wish we had a bed here.”

Jackson pulled back from her and said, “Oh but we do, delivered this afternoon. There’s nothing else, but we have a bed upstairs, an ice bucket with champagne, you have your new apron…what more do we need?”

Rosie laughed thinking about her apron with the pies on it. “You think of everything, lover.”

“I did try to. I want everything to be perfect for you. I love you, and I can’t wait to marry you.”

Sandy knelt in front of Amber’s seat and cleaned her cut and burned hands with an antiseptic wipe. She flinched when the wipe touched her hand.

“Sorry, it’s going to be a little sore, but I’ll be as gentle as I can.”

As Amber looked down at Sandy taking care of her, she felt her heart captured. Her own petite hands looked small against Sandy’s, but her bigger hands were used with such tender care. Sandy was a perfect mixture of strength and gentleness. She was big and powerful and yet such a gentle, loving soul and Amber longed to take her in her arms.

“So? You were going to tell me. Did he hurt you?”

Amber felt embarrassed to be even thinking about this, far less talking about it. This is Sandy, you can trust her.

“He wasn’t physically abusive. Well…he pushed and pulled me around when he didn’t get his own way, but I would describe him more as a bully. He used intimidation and threats to get what he wanted.”

Sandy stopped what she was doing and looked up at Amber, feeling fury in her guts. “And your parents like this guy?”

“Oh no, I always hid it from them. You’ve got to understand my dad’s business could be in jeopardy if I told the truth, but if I just tell them I didn’t love him the way I should, it keeps everything simple.”

“I wish I’d knocked the creep on his ass when I saw him this afternoon.” Sandy hated bullies, especially ones who bullied women. Amber was someone who should be protected, cared for, not intimidated.

She started binding the bandage around her hand. “If he bothers you, just tell me. I’m your friend now, and I always stand up for my friends.”

Amber smiled at her, the kind of smile that made her feel like running, and not running from something this time, running toward something.

“Thank you. That means a lot. Let’s not waste any more time talking about him, he doesn’t deserve it. How about I cook us some dinner? It’s the least I can do after you charged to my rescue.”

Yes! I want to stay. “That sounds great, I’d love to stay, but let me order takeout for us, your hands are too injured to be cooking.”

“Sounds perfect.”

Sandy paid for the takeout at the door and brought it back to the kitchen. She stopped in the doorway and watched while Amber set out the plates and cutlery. It gave her a warm feeling inside, similar to what she saw when she watched Emily take care of Dylan and Molly; similar but different. With Amber it was combined with a nervous excitement, and that was such a wonderful sensation after the months of abject despair she had felt.

“Everything okay?” She hadn’t realized she had become lost in a world of her own while Amber had finished laying the table.

“Umm…sorry. I hope you don’t mind having this healthy takeout, I can’t really afford to let my training slip. I’ve been eating and drinking the wrong things for three months or more.”

Amber took the bag off of her, and smiled. “You don’t have to explain, I love to eat healthy food anyway. Take a seat. How much is my share?”

“Huh? Oh, it’s my treat. Don’t worry about it.” Sandy sat at the table and waited while Amber started to put the food in bowls.

“Thank you, you really shouldn’t, I mean you’re helping me out so much and-” Sandy stopped her by covering her hand with her own.

“You are helping me, believe me. I’m so grateful to have met you, even if I did make a bad first impression.”

Amber laughed softly and sat across from her. “I do tell my kids that a good first impression counts, but also that you are judged on your deeds, not just your words. So I think you’re doing great on that count.”

Oh man, there’s that little cute smile again. Shit. Sandy felt her palms begin to sweat with nerves. “Uh, I hope the food’s okay. I know Dylan uses this restaurant a lot when she’s in training.”

Amber began to spoon some food from each carton onto their plates. “It looks and smells beautiful. Let’s see, we have grilled chicken, seared tuna, brown rice, grilled broccoli, sautéed spinach, and tahini sauce.”

She gave Sandy double the portion that she gave herself. “I bet you eat big portions huh, Andy?”

Sandy ate the first forkful of food realized how hungry she had been. It tasted great. “Yeah, I use a lot of energy.”

After she said that, she was sure she could see a pink blush rise up Amber’s face. They ate in quiet companionship for a minute or so before Amber asked, “So, I’ve told you all about my dramas and family. Would you tell me about your grandma, or is that too personal?”

“Not personal, just awkward I guess. I’m not used to talking about it.” Sandy took a drink of water and thought about where to start.

“I lived with my grandparents since ever I can be remember. My mom…she died when I was little and my dad was never around.”

“I’m sorry about your mom. Do you remember her at all?”

“Not really, well I remember a woman picking me up, playing with me on the floor, but I don’t know if they’re really memories or just what my mind thinks I should remember. Do you know what I mean?”

Amber took a sip of water and smiled. “I do. I know exactly what you mean. I don’t think it matters if it’s real or not, as long as it gives you comfort.”

Sandy shrugged and played with the food in front of her. “I guess. My grandma and grandpa, were mom and dad, and more to me. It was my grandpa who got me into sports, football, basketball, I was good at most, but he taught me how to be a winner, that’s the main lesson I took from him. He died in when I was in junior high.”

“I’m sorry you had to lose so many important people in your life.”

Sandy didn’t know what to say next, this was way outside her comfort zone. To talk this way was not something she’d ever done.

Amber seemed to realize her hesitancy and asked, “Andy? What did he teach you about winning? I’d love to know.”

Sandy had to gulp hard as she formed the words in her brain. She looked and looked directly in Amber’s eyes and repeated word for word the phrase that had followed her around all her life.

“Don’t let them see your pain, Sandy, when you opponent sees your weakness, you’ve already lost.”

They looked at each other, neither saying anything for the longest time, until Amber said, “I see.”

It was just two words, not much of a substantive reply, but the way Amber said it, made Sandy feel as if she understood everything about her. As if what she had said had been a key to her whole being, and it should have scared her, but she didn’t feel afraid of Amber having this knowledge about her. She felt safe.

Amber had a soothing quality to her which made Sandy want to talk, talk about things she would barely admit to herself, let alone say to anyone else.

It was then that a conversation she had with Emily came back to her…

“Dylan is never weak. She’s strong, and in control. I don’t feel that strong.”

“Sandy, she is only able to appear that way because she has somewhere to find safety at the end of the day. Somewhere she can feel and speak of her pain and insecurities without fear of being betrayed.”

“You mean you?”

Emily nodded. “I can’t trust anyone like Dylan trusts you. Some girls…some girls I’ve met haven’t wanted to know me, just what they can get out of me. I can’t trust anyone.”

“You will find her one day. You just have to have faith, Sandy.”

As Emily’s words rolled around her mind, and she looked across the table to Amber, it all became clear. It almost felt like she had been kicked in the chest, and an energy surged through her body. Her feet tapped the floor and she drummed her fingers on the table.

“Are you okay, Andy?” Amber asked.

“Umm…uh…yeah, could you just give me a minute?” Sandy headed out the kitchen door leaving Amber wondering what had just happened.

Amber placed her cutlery back on her plate and sighed. Just when I thought I was getting somewhere. It was clear to her that Sandy needed to talk. The difficult time she had been going through was related to her grandmother’s death and her natural low after returning from the Olympics. She really thought that Sandy was opening up, but going by what she had said about her grandpa, and her perception of emotions as weakness, it wasn’t going to be easy.

She pushed up from the table and walked towards the door, but hesitated with her hand on the doorknob. Why am I trying so hard to help her? I’m not a therapist.

In the end, she concluded. It didn’t matter about why, it was who she was. She saw someone in pain and she wanted to help. You pushed her too quickly.

She opened the door and saw Sandy down on the dock, looking out over the water. “Andy?”

Sandy turned and walked back up to her. “Are you okay? The food’s getting cold.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I felt a little light headed, I’m used to eating six times a day and I guess I hadn’t eaten enough.”

Amber held out her hand and smiled. “Let’s go eat then, we’ll leave our talking about the passed for another day.”

Sandy nodded and took her hand willingly. “Yeah, I think I need to.”

The next morning Dylan was woken up by her alarm at half passed four to start training. Unusually Emily wasn’t sleeping next to her. She quickly pulled on her workout clothes and went downstairs to the kitchen. She found Emily, still wearing her dressing gown, and making up her protein shake. She immediately went to her, seeing the discomfort clearly written on her face. “What are you doing up, baby girl?”

Emily stepped into Dylan’s arms and rested her head on Dylan’s chest. “I couldn’t sleep; I was just lying there so I thought I might as well get up.”

“Why couldn’t you sleep?”

“I’m sore that’s all. My back’s killing me, and lying down is just making it worse.”

Dylan started to rub her hands over the base of Emily’s spine. “I’m sorry baby, maybe we should go to the doctor?”

“No, it’s normal to feel sore. We’re only a month away from holding him or her in our arms, I just have to keep reminding myself of that.”

Dylan felt frustrated that she couldn’t do anything to ease her Emily’s suffering, it hurt when her wife felt pain. “I wish I could feel the pain for you baby, but since I can’t I just want you to know I’m so grateful that you’re going through this for us. You’re a lot braver than I could ever be, and I love you for it.”

Emily looked up at her and smiled. “I know, but don’t worry, as soon as I hold this little baby in my arms, I won’t remember the pain.”

Dylan was looking forward to that part the most. She regretted not being able to be with Emily when Molly was born, and she was determined to enjoy every minute of being here this time.

“Maybe our anniversary night out isn’t a good idea. Maybe we should just stay in and watch a movie.”

“No, you’ve went to a lot of trouble and as long as your surprise isn’t rock climbing or something, I’ll be fine.”

Dylan nodded. “Why don’t I just forget about training this morning, and I’ll rub your back and feet?”

“It’s okay. Sandy needs you now, besides, I’m going to make some fruit tea and lie on the lounger on the bedroom balcony. Watch the sea, read my book, and relax.”

“If you’re sure, Mama Smurf.”

Emily smacked her on the butt and grinned. “Get going, Papa Smurf and wake up Sandy . I’ll have breakfast ready when you’re finished your workout.”

They broke apart, and heard a knock at the kitchen door. “She’s up early.” Dylan said before shouting for Sandy to come in.

Sandy walked into the kitchen panting, with sweat running down her face, and a water bottle in her hand. “Hey, how are you both? It’s a beautiful morning out there.”

Dylan looked at her wife quizzically, and Emily shrugged in silent communication. “We’re okay.” Dylan replied. “You’re up early?”

Sandy took a big gulp of water from her bottle and said, “Yeah, I’ve already been out for a run. I woke up full of energy and thought I might as well use it.”

“Uh-huh…well okay.” Who are you and what have you done with Sandy? Dylan thought.

“I’ll have another run with you though if you want. I’ll meet you down at the beach, okay?”

“Sure.” When Sandy walked outside, Dylan said to Emily. “What happened to the demotivated athlete we know and love?”

“I don’t know, but it’s nice to see. She must be making good progress.” Emily went to pour out her fruit tea.

“You don’t think it’s something else making her high, do you?” Dylan had a flash of a memory of her brother as he started on his journey to drug addiction.

“No, I don’t think so honey. She’s made big changes in her life, in a short space of time. When I spoke to Amber on the phone, she said that she was almost unrecognizable to the person she met at school, and she’s worked tirelessly on her house. I think Amber is having a good influence on her.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that she seems really eager to please Amber. That’s a good thing, she needs more friends.”

“Hmm. I suppose.”

Emily handed her the protein shake and said, “Talk to her while you’re training.”

“Talk?”

“You always say that like it’s a bad word, now go.”

Why always with the talking?

Sandy was high on life and nothing else, Dylan concluded. She had barely been able to keep up with her. After a five mile run, they did their circuit training on the beach before a sea swim and were now walking down to Dylan’s gym to do weights.

Remembering Emily’s instructions to talk, Dylan said, “So? How are things going at Amber’s house?”

Sandy smiled at the mention of her name, and talked while she set up the weights on the bench press machine. “It’s going great, I’ve replaced some timbers on her porch and finished building and painting the fence, which is great cause she wants to get a dog to keep her company. I think that’s a great idea, its real isolated where her house is and she doesn’t have a whole lot of friends. She works with this kids charity, and does really good things with them…”

Dylan was blown away. She didn’t think she had ever heard Sandy talk as much as she was right now. Everything was pouring out of her, and she barely stopped for breath. All Dylan could do was nod where appropriate and let her keep going.

“Her ex is an asshole, as well as an idiot. I mean who would be treat a nice girl like that so badly?”

Dylan shrugged, “Some people don’t realize how lucky they are, I guess.”

“Yeah, you’re right. He treated her like a possession not a girlfriend. She’s too kind, too caring, to ever be treated like that.”

Oh man, she’s hot for her. While she would love to see Sandy with a nice girl like Amber, she might not even be gay. If Sandy was rebuffed in the emotional state she was in, she could really go off the rails. I need to talk to Emmie about this.

Dylan handed her the stopwatch, “I’ll go first. Thirty seconds on bench press, pull ups, and chest press to warm up, then we’ll increase the time okay?”

Sandy grinned and looked happier than she had in a very long time. “Let’s do this.”

Sandy’s good mood lasted all week. She trained hard, and happily ran to Amber’s house each day full of excitement. She would work on the house during the day, and count down the hours until Amber came home after school. To her delight, Amber had taken to making her dinner every night. Just to be in her company made Sandy feel calm, and happy. She had even thought about going back to check out the progress on her gym, and that was a huge change.

Amber never pushed her to talk more than she was ready for, but it seemed that through their conversations, she wanted to know more and more about Amber, and that made her reveal more about the guilt that drove her.

On Thursday Sandy had been doing some landscaping in the garden, and after school Amber came to help her. While she was busy digging out an old dead tree, Amber planted some shrubs and flowers.

The tree Sandy was wrestling with was a difficult job. Its roots were strong and deep. She took a breather to get a drink of water and watched Amber potter about with the autumn plants she had purchased.

Amber seemed to get more beautiful to her with each passing day. She’d never been in someone’s company, apart from her family that she could happily have no conversation with but feel contented.

As she was watching Amber, a memory of her grandmother, pottering around her window boxes each day, flashed into her mind.

Amber turned around sensing Sandy watching her intently. She saw the faraway look on her face, stood up and brushed down her pants. “Are you okay, Andy?”

She got no response and so walked over to her. “Andy? Andy?”

Sandy rubbed her face trying to keep control. “Sorry, I was miles away. What did you say?”

She has to talk. Amber took her hand and led her over to the garden chairs on the dock. “Sit. What were you thinking about?”

“Nothing, I’m fine.”

Amber sighed. “Listen, I’m your friend, you don’t have to show me your game face all the time. I’m not competing with you, so if you feel sad, or upset you can show me.”

Sandy looked down, trying to hide the hurt in her eyes. “Watching you made me remember my grandma. She always dreamed of having a garden, but we could never afford a house like that. She had window boxes instead and looked after them every day without fail. Ours was the best looking house on the street.”

“That’s a nice memory. She sounds like a lovely woman. What was her name?”

“May. Everyone in the neighborhood knew May Williams. She helped run the church, helped people out with watching their kids, things like that. After my grandpa died, she worked three jobs just to get us food on the table, and pay for my equipment and training fees. Until I got sponsorship, she was all I had. She made me a champion.”

“And she was proud of you I bet.” Amber smiled.

Sandy nodded, “And I let her down, when she needed me most.”

“How could you let her down? You’re a champion and you’re a good person.”

“You don’t know anything about me.” Sandy spat angrily, and then stormed off to the edge of the dock.

Woah, where did that come from? Amber was determined not to let this come between them, she wanted Sandy to talk and get rid of the negative emotions that she felt. She approached Sandy carefully and touched her arm with caution.

Refusing to turn around, Sandy said, “I’m sorry, Ambi. I’m so sorry for shouting.”

She could hear Sandy’s voice was full of emotion and she was struggling to keep it together. “Andy? Look at me.”

“No.”

She put her arm on her shoulder and said, “Please, trust me.”

Sandy started to turn slowly, and she saw tears in her eyes. It broke Amber’s heart to see such pain in her eyes. “Tell me what happened?”

“I…was working flat out at my gym, to get it fixed up, meeting sponsors, making plans and community programs with my gym manager.” Sandy wiped away the tears on her arm.

“Yes, that was your dream you said.”

“Yeah well, grandma had been in hospital for two weeks, she’d had Angina and had been having some chest pains. I went from the gym to see her every lunch time and at night. The day she…died, we were having some new equipment delivered, and I was running late. The hospital called and said she was asking for me, I said I’d be there as soon as I could…”

Fresh tears started to well in Sandy’s eyes, and she started to turn away. “No, please, don’t turn away, tell me what happened.”

“When I got there, she wasn’t in her room. My stomach just sank like a stone and when I found a nurse she said grandma had a heart attack and was moved to ICU. When I got to where she was…she was gone, and I was too late.”

Amber’s heart was breaking for her. No wonder she was in such a bad way when they met. “I’m so sorry, Andy.”

Sandy scrubbed her face trying to regain control. “I’m sorry, I’m pathetic.”

“No, feeling grief isn’t weakness. Showing emotions isn’t a weakness. I know what your grandpa told you, but I’m not your opponent, I’m Ambi and I’ll never judge you.”

Sandy got a distant look on her face. “I couldn’t feel anything. I walked away from the hospital and felt so alone. I went back to her apartment, and the guilt started to hit me. I let her die alone all because I was too wrapped in myself and my career. I ran from her apartment, and went and drank until I passed out.”

“You can’t blame yourself. There’s no way you could have known what was going to happen.” Amber said, but Sandy wasn’t listening. She was caught up in her pain.

“I’ve never even sorted her things at the apartment. Everything is as it was when she went into hospital. I haven’t been back at the gym since, and all I’ve wanted to do is drink to take away the pain.”

When a tear started to roll down Sandy’s cheek, Amber cupped Sandy’s cheek and wiped away the tear with her thumb. “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but none of this was your fault. Your grandma loved you.”

Sandy looked deep into her eyes and whispered, “You are so beautiful.”

Before Amber had a chance to take in what she had just said, Sandy took hold of her, and kissed her with a fevered passion. She was so shocked at this turn of events she never had time to respond.

As much as she was attracted to Sandy, and dreamed of being in this position, the desperate need she felt from Sandy made it something that felt wrong. She pushed back against her trying to make her stop.

Sandy pulled back with a look of horror on her face. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry.”

Amber reached out to her but she ran off, and heard her truck roar off into the night.

Emily looked at the blush pink jersey dress that was hung up on the door of her dressing room, and felt tears well up in her eyes. The past few days she had been feeling progressively worse. Her back pain was her constant companion, not to mention her ankle and knee pain, and she could barely move without feeling discomfort.

All she felt like doing was hiding under her comforter, away from the eyes of the world, but today was Saturday, the day of her baby shower. Rosie and Amber had put so much work into it, and she didn’t want to let them down. Dylan had helped her with a shower and left her to get her clothes out while she had gotten dressed.

Wearing only in her dressing gown, she opened her underwear drawer to pick out some for the day. She picked up a pair of her larger maternity panties and a pair of her delicate lacy panties that were her usual daywear before her pregnancy, and felt the blackness of her mood overcome her.

At that moment Dylan, who was now dressed, came into the room, almost bouncing with excitement, and clutching her iPhone. “Hey Emmie, guess what my pregnancy app says? At eight months baby Smurf can dream. Can you imagine that? I wonder what they dream about? Do you think the baby knows who we all are?

Emily didn’t answer, the blackness she felt inside had turned into a hot anger clawing inside her, and Dylan’s excited mood only made it feel worse.

She felt the tears start to tumble down her cheeks, and Dylan must have noticed, because she was behind her in a second, putting her arms around her, and holding her tight. “What’s wrong, baby girl? Don’t cry.”

Normally being close to Dylan made her feel calm, secure, loved, or excited and horny, but today her very touch was annoying. In some small part of her mind that was still thinking clearly, she knew she was being irrational and unfair, but her emotions weren’t listening.

She struggled from Dylan’s arms and said, “What do you think? Do you think these make me feel like a woman, an attractive woman who can keep and satisfy her partner who just happens to be the most attractive and lusted after lesbian in the world? No, I feel like a fat slug, or a whale, whichever you prefer.”

Dylan’s eyes went wide all through her tirade, and then her head and shoulders slumped like a little kid who’s in trouble. “I…um…I love you…I…”

She was struggling with what to say in return, and that small part of Emily who was thinking clearly, shouted, ‘Stop it, stop it now. She loves you, and you’re not being fair.’

Suddenly Dylan smiled and said, “Oh, I know what’ll make you feel better.”

She walked off to her dressing room and brought back a gift-wrapped box, and handed it to her. “I was saving this as a surprise for after the baby is born, but I think it will cheer you up.”

Dylan gave that smug looking smile that she always wore when she thought she had done well. Emily held the box and sighed, before starting to undo the ribbon.

Jackson and Rosie had picked up Amber on their way to the Morgans, so she would be free to enjoy a glass of wine with Rosie and the others. Jackson pulled the car into the driveway and parked up outside the house.

“You two girls head on in and I’ll carry the party stuff in with Jamie.” Jackson said as she took off her seat belt.

Rosie gave her partner an incredulous look. “We are not girls, Jack. We are women, in case you haven’t noticed.”

Amber decided to step out the car before any sort of argument ensued. She had felt an air of tension between the two from the moment she had been picked up. On hearing of their engagement, she had expected them both to be full of love and smiles, but apparently nothing was ever that simple between Jackson and Rosie.

Emily’s driver and security man, Jamie approached from the side of the house. “Hi Miss Andrews, Mrs. Morgan and Dylan are still getting ready, but Dylan’s mom is here and will let you in.”

“Thanks, Jamie. Um…Do you know if Sandy is around?”

“She was out earlier, but I think I saw her coming back and going into the pool house.”

She smiled and nodded her thanks. After Sandy’s emotional outburst the other night, she hadn’t been back to Amber’s house, and she was determined to talk it out with her. No doubt Sandy was brooding and making herself feel bad for yet another wrong thing she thinks she had done, but it showed her that Sandy was aching to express her emotions and feelings with somebody she could trust.

She heard the car doors slammed behind her, and Jackson say, “Could we not do this in front of an audience? We’re supposed to be a happy, newly engaged couple.”

“Whatever.” Rosie said before appearing at her side, and looping her arm through her own.

“I can’t wait to see Em’s face when she sees our decorations. It’s going to be great.” Rosie said.

Amber smiled politely. In the short time she had been around Jackson and Rosie, she had come to see the fiery, passionate relationship they had was something that, far from making their relationship difficult, it made them work perfectly. The couple couldn’t be more different if they tried, but that difference made them perfect for each other. So it wasn’t surprising to find Rosie smiling as if the argument hadn’t even happened.

Rosie pressed the doorbell and Pattie, Emily’s mother in law opened the door. “Come in everyone, Lynn’s already here, helping me with the food, so you’re just in time.”

They walked into the marble entrance hall, and took off their jackets. “Now Rosie, I hear someone is getting married? Show me that beautiful ring on your finger.” Pattie said.

Rosie giggled and lifted up her hand for inspection. “Oh my what a lucky girl you are.”

Jackson came in carrying boxes in her arms with Jamie close behind her, and said, “If only she thought so, Pattie.”

Rosie rolled her eyes and sighed. “Give it a rest, Jack.” The morning had not started well, after a few days of bliss and lots of sex, they had finally found something to argue about. They had been in the afterglow of an impromptu love making session this morning, when Jackson casually told her what a beautiful name Rosie Hunter would be, when they were married. Her anger had been instantaneous. She’d never even given any thought to what she might do with her name once they were married, it had just angered her the way Jackson had assumed.

The initial explosive argument had cooled to the point that they agreed to put it aside so as not to spoil the day, but the atmosphere between them was frosty.

“No bickering today, you two.” Pattie said, “Now Jackson and Jamie if you could just take the decorations through to the kitchen, we can get organized. Then you can head out to play with Molly and Tommy until Dylan’s ready, Jackson. They’re on the basketball court.”

“Mrs. Morgan? Would it be okay if I spoke to Sandy before we get started?” Amber asked.

“Of course, honey. She’s been hiding in the pool house since she got back from the town. Try and get her to come out and join us if you can.”

Rosie touched Amber on the arm and asked, “Is everything okay with you two? I thought you were getting on okay now?”

“Uh…we are. We had a little misunderstanding, and I would like to make sure she’s okay now.”

Rosie was not convinced. She had been looking forward to seeing the two of them together, to see if there was something worth matchmaking about, as Emily had said there was.

After Amber walked off towards the back of the house, they all stopped and looked up the staircase when they heard Emily’s voice scream, “You are the most insensitive person I have ever met in my whole life.” The shouting was followed by a loud slamming door.

“Uh oh, trouble in paradise.” Jackson said.

A few seconds later, a crestfallen Dylan trudged downstairs, holding a bashed up gift box in one hand and some lingerie in the other.

Oh, Dylan what have you done this time? Rosie thought.

Pattie walked to meet her at the bottom of the stairs. “What’s wrong sweetheart?”

“I don’t really know. I came into the bedroom to help her get dressed, and she looked upset, about her body, you know what clothes she could fit in?”

Rosie looked at the lingerie in Dylan’s hand, the very tiny, slinky lingerie and thought, Please say you didn’t…

“Yes, and?” Pattie said with an accusing tone to her voice.

“I’d bought this and a couple of other gifts to give her after the baby’s born, and I thought it might cheer her up if I gave it to her now. Remind her that this won’t be forever.”

Pattie and Rosie both groaned, and Jackson guffawed. “What? It was a nice gift and she threw the box at me.”

“Jackson, quiet.” Rosie warned.

Pattie sighed and took Dylan’s hand. “I know you were trying to be kind, but by giving Emily this, when she feels so low about how she looks, was the worst thing you could do. You’ve made her think that you can’t wait till she’s back to the shape she was in before.”

A look of horror crept upon Dylan’s face as she realized what she’d done. “Mom, I didn’t mean that I swear. I love Emmie no matter what…she’s beautiful.”

“I know sweetheart. Why don’t you go and see to your guests, and I’ll go and speak to Emily.”

Dylan nodded sadly. “Tell her I’m a stupid idiot, mom, and I love her.”

Pattie made her way upstairs, and Dylan followed Jackson and Rosie through to the kitchen, throwing the lingerie in the trash as she went.

Sandy looked at her watch and knew the guests would be arriving now. She hoped she could hide away here until it was time to go fishing, and not have to face Amber. After kissing her the other night, she hadn’t returned to Amber’s the next day.

She couldn’t believe what she had done. She lost control of her emotions and sought comfort in the one person that had made her feel something other than pain, but it wasn’t right to just kiss her. Even if she was attracted to her as Dylan let slip, that would be all over now.

Amber wasn’t like anyone she had ever met. She had lived and grown up with career driven, dominant, winners. Amber was soft, gentle, and happy to give others the tools they needed to succeed, and Sandy craved someone like that.

The worst thing about what she had done was ruin their burgeoning friendship, and the rejection of Amber pushing her away, hurt her a lot. She sat on the couch and stared at the bottle of vodka on the table in front of her.

It was the first time she had contemplated drinking since the incident at Molly’s school, but after a sleepless night, she had ventured into town to buy a bottle, and had been fighting with herself over whether to open it or not.

Sandy jumped when she heard a knock at the pool house door, and Amber’s voice shout, “Sandy? It’s me, can I talk to you?”

Shit. I don’t want to do this, but she knew she had no choice but to answer the door. When Sandy opened the door her first thought was, Wow, she looks beautiful.

Amber had a bright, quirky, girly dress sense that Sandy guessed the kids loved in their teacher, but made her adorable and so very sexy to her. Today she was wearing a 1950’s style red dress with polka dots and bumblebee print.

“Hi, Andy, can I talk to you?”

“Sure, come in.” Sandy remembered the bottle of vodka and hurried over to the table and put it in a kitchen cupboard.

“Take a seat.” Amber sat on the couch, and Sandy sat on the coffee table facing her.

The awkwardness hung heavy in the air, until Amber said, “You didn’t come to the house yesterday.”

Sandy looked down at her feet nervously. “No, I didn’t think you’d want me to, and I don’t blame you. My behavior was totally out of order and I can understand that you don’t want to be friends anymore.”

“Who said I don’t want to be friends?”

She looked up sharply. “You still do? But I…”

Amber reached out and took her hand. “I know what happened, why it happened and its okay.”

“You do?”

Amber smiled so sweetly, making Sandy want to kiss her again, except this time slowly and passionately, learning everything about her.

“You shared emotions that you had kept locked down tight for so long, and you wanted some comfort from someone.”

Not someone, just you. Sandy said to herself.

“I’m sorry, I did it. I mean…I’m not sorry I kissed you, I’m sorry it was…” She couldn’t explain herself without admitting that she liked her, and she wasn’t ready for the inevitable rejection that would bring.

“It’s okay, Andy. Let’s just carry on as we were okay?”

Sandy nodded and was just delighted she wouldn’t have to stay away from Amber. “Thanks. I’m sorry again.”

Amber hadn’t let go of her hand and Sandy loved it. She felt lighter in Amber’s company, happy even, and her craving for the bottle of vodka evaporated for the moment.

“You don’t need to be sorry. Stop thinking of yourself as this bad person, because you’re not.”

“I am. These past few months I’ve done things I’m ashamed of. Can I tell you something that I haven’t told anyone?”

“Of course you can. You have my word I won’t tell a soul.”

There was no way she could look Amber in the eye when she said this, so she looked down at their clasped hands, and was compelled to softly stroke Amber’s smaller hand. “The day at the school, I was drinking.”

“I know, I could smell it.”

“It’s worse than that. I had some vodka in a water bottle, so Dylan wouldn’t know. Anyway I looked down and saw Molly with the bottle inches from her lips. I was so close to completely fucking up. I’d never have forgiven myself if Molly had drunk it. That was my rock bottom, and I really want to get better.”

Sandy was expecting anger, or at least a look of disgust, but instead Amber pulled her over to the couch and opened her arms to her. She took the offer of comfort and held onto Amber like a limpet.

“I’m so sorry you were hurting so much, Andy. I want to help you if you’ll let me?”

Sandy nodded and buried her face into Amber’s sweet smelling neck. It took her all her strength not to try and kiss Amber again. It was what she wanted, so very badly.

“I was thinking, only if you wanted to of course, I could help you sort through your grandma’s things? It might give you some closure if you did that. What do you think?”

She pulled back from Amber’s tempting neck and said, “I’d like that, it would really be a big help.”

“Maybe some of the things you don’t or can’t keep, you could give to your grandma’s church. I’m sure they have someone who would be grateful for it.”

Wow, she is amazing. “That’s a fantastic idea, I’m sure grandma would have liked that idea. She always wanted to help people that needed it.”

“Great, now we have that fixed, do you think you could come out and join your friends, or are you going to hide here all day?”

“I’ll come wherever you’re going.” Oh man, you sound pathetic.

“Great. Let’s go, I think Rosie and I will need someone big and strong to help with the decorations.”

Sandy jumped up fully energized with the excitement of being around, and helping the woman she was falling for, and she was falling for her.

“I’m at your service. Let me grab my cell.” Once she grabbed her phone from the counter, she took the bottle of vodka from the kitchen cupboard and poured it out in the sink. Never again.

After it was in the trash, she returned to the couch in the living room and held her hand out for Amber to take. “I’m ready now.”

Amber took her hand and smiled sweetly, “Great.”

They approached the pool house door, Amber said, “I really like your aftershave by the way, your neck smelled really nice when you hugged me.”

An image of Amber’s lips touching her neck entered her head, and hit her deep down inside. God, I want you so much.

“Mom look!” Molly shouted.

Dylan and Jackson were taking a well-deserved rest on the chairs by the pool, after helping put up the baby shower decorations. A few feet away, Molly and Tommy were working through a few basic Taekwondo stances both he and Dylan were teaching her.

“I see you, Molls. You’re doing great.” It warmed Dylan’s heart to see her dad teaching Molly, and having such a great relationship with her daughter. He had learned the lessons of pushing a kid too hard with her, and now Molly would only know Tommy as a much loved grandpa.

“She’s adorable.” Jackson said to her.

Dylan stretched out her long legs and smiled. “Yeah, she is, but take my advice, buddy. If you plan on having kids with Rosie, be prepared to be in and out of the dog house for nine months.”

Jackson laughed. “Having a rough time, huh?”

“Nah, I shouldn’t complain. Emmie’s got the hardest job. It’s just that I don’t know which Emmie I’m going to be with for one minute to the next. I mean, for the past few weeks, it’s been like she can’t get enough of me…like she wanted to devour me. Then the last few days if I even breathe near her, she finds it annoying.”

“And earlier you made it worse?” Jackson took a drink of her juice.

Dylan blew out a big, sad sigh. “You’re not kidding. She’s got this thing about her body, because of that fucking piece of shit, Toni. It’s so hard to make her see what everyone else does, she’s absolutely gorgeous, even more so pregnant. I was a complete idiot giving that gift, knowing what Toni did to her.”

“It’s hard dealing with insecurities. Rosie makes it a full time job, so I know what you mean. Despite the mood swings and other problems, I’d love to experience having a baby with Rosie.”

“Well, you’ve done the first part. You’ve got your girl, you’re getting married, I’m sure she’ll want to make a family with you.” Dylan smiled.

It was Jackson’s turn to sound depressed. “I don’t know about that. It hasn’t even been mentioned when we’re getting married, and we can’t even agree on her name once we do. I know it shouldn’t bother me, but I would have liked us to have the same name, like a family. She suggested Henderson-Hunter and I said that sounds like a law firm.”

Dylan laughed, “I’m sorry, but that is funny. I suppose it’s harder when she has her dad and loves her family name. Emily couldn’t wait to be rid of Taylor, cause her parents never gave a damn about her. Give it time, I’m sure you guys will work something out.”

Sandy caught Dylan’s eye through the family room windows. “Did you notice Sandy following our teacher friend around like a puppy?”

“Uh-huh. I also noticed how good she was looking. Is she training well?”

“Yeah, she’s like the old Sandy. I’m just worried that she might hit the rails again if Amber can’t give her what she wants.”

“Rosie spent the day with her and thinks she’s a really nice girl…excuse me, woman. I got into trouble for that this morning.” Jackson joked.

“I bet you did.” Dylan laughed. “She is, a really nice girl, and Emily seems to think she’s got the hots for Sandy but she was engaged to a guy.”

“Hmm.”

Molly came bounding over with Wolfie, when Tommy went in for a drink for them both. She jumped up onto Jackson’s knee and gave her a hug. “Dackson, me an Olfie are coming for a sleep over with you.”

Dylan had asked her friends to baby sit on their anniversary, since her parents had a church function that night. “So I hear munchkin. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Yeah, you can get some practice in, huh?” Dylan winked.

“Let me try and get her down the aisle first, okay?”

Dylan got a message on her iPhone, and smiled. “Will you watch Molls for a few minutes, Jackson? I’m out of the doghouse, for the next ten minutes anyway.”

“I’m sorry, Dyl. I’m just…” Emily snuggled into Dylan’s arms. Dylan ran upstairs as soon as she got Emily’s message, only too glad to be back in her wife’s good books.

“You’re doing a difficult job carrying our baby, and I’m an idiot. I know I don’t always say, or do the right thing, but I do try really hard. I’m sorry and I love you.”

“I know you do, honey. I’m just all over the place.”

Dylan pulled her by the hand and said, “Come on, let’s get you to your special day. Your friends are waiting for you.”

Emily slowly made her way downstairs, with Dylan’s help and knocked on the family room door. “Are you guys ready?” Dylan said.

“Yeah, come in.”

Emily gasped when the door opened and she saw room decorated with both pink and blue balloons, banners and other decorations. Over by the sofa was a large white, sumptuously upholstered chair with pink and blue ribbons on it, and an archway of balloons around it. In another part of the room was a long table filled with food and drinks served in mini baby bottles, but the best part of it all were the smiling faces of her friends and family. Rosie and Jackson, Sandy and Amber, Pattie and Tommy, Lynn and Walt, were all there. It was such a contrast to her last pregnancy. Then she had nothing and no one, and now she had everything. It was quite overwhelming.

“I can’t believe you guys did this for me.” The tears that were always a second away started again in earnest. “You’re all so kind.”

Rosie and Pattie came over to her, and guided her over to the decorated chair. “Don’t cry, Emily.” Pattie said. “We all care about you and we’re going to have a great time.”

“Yeah, Em. We haven’t even got started yet, there’s lots of time still to cry. We invited some of the moms from Molly’s class and they should be arriving soon.”

Lynn approached and gave her a big hug. “You look fantastic, Emily. I bet you can’t wait to hold the baby in your arms?”

“Yes, my back and ankles can’t wait.” She joked.

Next came Amber to give her a kiss. “Amber, I’m so glad you came.” Then she whispered. “Sandy looks happier than she did earlier.”

Amber blushed. “We had a good talk about some different things, and we’re going to be good friends.”

Emily looked over to Sandy and saw the way her eyes never left Amber. I think she wants more than to be your friend.

The doorbell went, and Rosie said, “That’ll be some of our guests.”

“I think that’s our cue to leave.” Jackson stood up and gave Emily a kiss before saying, “All those going fishing follow me, Mark and Patrick are meeting us at the harbor.”

Molly jumped around excitedly. “We go fishing! We go fishing, now, Mom?”

“Sure will, let’s go kiss Mama goodbye.”

“We’ll meet you out at the truck, Champ.” Tommy said.

Molly gave her mama a hug and a kiss. “I tach you a fish, Mama.”

“I bet you will, Sweetie. Now be a good girl for your Mom.” Emily told her seriously.

“Uh-huh.” Molly said before giving her baby bump a kiss. “We take you fishing baby Murf, when you’re older.”

Emily stroked her dark head thinking her heart might burst. Dylan leaned down for a kiss. “Have a good time with you friends, baby girl.”

“Be really careful on the boat with her Dylan.”

“Of course I will, Emmie. I won’t take my eyes off of her.”

Emily felt nervousness in the pit of her stomach, but didn’t say anything. Trouble followed Dylan Morgan, and Molly seemed to have inherited a big part of her personality.

“Just promise you’ll be careful, Dylan.”

Dylan folded her arms defensively. “Yes I promise, I’m not a complete idiot. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Later that afternoon, Dylan and Jackson sat in a cubicle of the emergency room of the local hospital. Dylan had a crying, snuffling Molly in her arms.

“It sore, mom.”

“Shh…it’s okay, Molls. The doctor will be here soon.

“Emmie’s going to kill me.” Dylan said to Jackson.

Jackson leaned forward in her chair and shook her head in disbelief. Molly had a fishing hook firmly lodged in her fingertip. They had only been out a few hours on the boat. They were all enjoying themselves and Dylan was having great fun teaching Molly to fish, when the accident happened.

“You know, I think she just might kill you this time.” Jackson said.

“It wasn’t even my fault, I told her not to cast without me, I only turned my back for a minute and heard her scream.”

“It was the wind that blew it Mom. I didn’t mean to be bad girl.” Molly started a fresh round of tears and sobs.

Dylan held her tighter and kissed her head. “It’s okay, Molls. It wasn’t your fault. I should have been watching more carefully.” She looked at Jackson. “I’m sorry the great day you planned for us was ruined. I really appreciate what you organized for me.”

“It’s no problem. All that’s important is Molly, and getting her help.” As soon as the accident happened, they headed for shore and the nearest hospital, and of course wherever Dylan Morgan went chaos ensued when they entered the reception. Patients that were waiting immediately started filming the famous celebrity and her crying daughter on their cell phone. On advice from Jackson, they were quickly taken through to a private room, leaving Sandy, Tommy and Walt in the waiting room.

“Why do things happen every time I take her out?”

Jackson was just about to answer her in a not so polite way, when the Doctor came in with a nurse. “Sorry to keep you waiting Ms. Morgan. The x-ray looks okay. We’ll get that hook out with no problems.”

“Thanks, Dr. Fraser.”

Molly grabbed onto her mom’s t-shirt tightly looking terrified. “Mom I scared. It’ll hurt.”

“Don’t worry, Mom’s here okay?”

The female doctor crouched down to Molly’s eye level and said, “Molly, you don’t need to be scared. The nurse is going to put some special cream on you, then give you a shot to make sure you don’t feel anything. I promise you’ll be okay.”

Molly looked unconvinced, but nodded. Jackson ruffled her hair and said, “You be a brave girl, munchkin. Dylan, I’ll go and let everyone know what’s happening.”

Dylan looked even more terrified than Molly. “Thanks. Emmie’s never going to let me buy a boat now, is she?”

Jackson patted her on the back. “You’ll just have to throw yourself on her mercy.”

As Jackson left the cubicle, she heard Dylan mutter. “I’m screwed.”

A few hours later, Sandy, Molly and Dylan, left Jackson, Rosie and Walt to make their own way home, while they headed back to the Morgan estate. On their way Dylan stopped to pick up Emily’s favorite takeout, hoping to soften the news about the accident. When they got back Sandy took her own food back to the pool house, thinking that Emily might need privacy to kill Dylan.

She ate her food in front of the TV, but kept looking down at her cell phone hoping Amber might text or call. She had sent a few messages back and forth earlier in the day to let her know about Molly, but she didn’t want to appear as if she was contacting her too much. In truth all she wanted to do was talk to her or be in Amber’s company, but she’d made one huge mistake already and she didn’t want to push her luck and make another.

Sandy pushed away her plate and put her legs up in the table to watch TV. After a few minutes her cellphone rang. She glanced down and her heart started to pound when she saw it was Amber calling.

She picked up the phone and said to her herself, “Okay, okay be cool. Don’t say anything stupid.”

“Hi, Ambi.”

“Hi Andy, how are things now? Are you back home?”

“Uh…yeah. We got home an hour ago. Molly’s fine. Dylan bought her some ice cream on the way home and she was back to normal.”

“That’s good to hear. Emily was really worried when we got the call from the hospital.”

“Yeah, Dylan was not looking forward to going home to Emily. We stopped off and got her some takeout, and I just brought mine back to the pool house to give them some space.”

“You should have called me, Andy.”

She sat up a little at that comment. “I should’ve?”

“Yes, you should. I thought you’d be out with…someone or something like that on a Saturday night. I’m on my own too, we could have gotten dinner or…something.”

A memory of the last time she went out on a Saturday night flashed through her mind. She had gotten so drunk that she couldn’t remember much, but she did remember one moment in the night where she had snorted cocaine with some people she had met. It had been a whole weekend of nonstop partying, and culminated in her first and last time of taking drugs. The day after she came home to her loft, Dylan and Jackson had come to see her.

“I’m sorry, I should have called. I would have loved to do something with you. I…uh…don’t have anyone to go out with…like that. I did want to call but I didn’t want to annoy you I guess. I mean, you see me every day at the house.”

There was a silence over on the line for what seemed like minutes, until Amber replied, “You could never annoy me. I love to spend time with you, Andy. It’s a bit late tonight but, would you like to meet up tomorrow? I was thinking about taking a ride out to the animal shelter, look at the dogs-”

“I’d love to.” Sandy said quickly. “I mean…that sounds great. We could get lunch after or whatever.”

She heard Amber giggle on the other end. “I’d love to do whatever with you, Andy.”

The next morning Amber sat on her porch waiting on Sandy arriving to pick her up. She felt a strange mixture of emotions. Excitement at the thought of seeing Sandy again and a sense of unease at what that meant. The more time she spent in Sandy’s company, the more she wanted to.

It would probably all come to an end when she went back home to her loft apartment, and left her recovery on Long Island behind, and the thought made her sad.

Sandy pulled up in Dylan’s truck and got out. Amber nearly swallowed her tongue at the sight of her. Sandy was wearing some loose, low hanging gray cargo shorts, and designer white t-shirt with a black skull design on it. As always the sleeves of the t-shirt clung around her muscular biceps, and her shorts gave Amber a tantalizing glimpse of her muscled legs. Many times Amber’s eyes had wandered over Sandy’s muscled thighs when watching the athletics on TV.

The outfit was finished off by a pair of wrap around sports sunglasses that she pushed up on top of her head when she approached her. “Hey, Ambi. We ready to go looking for a puppy?”

Amber tried to speak, or at least give some type of noise in response, but she was tongue tied. “Are you okay?”

No, I want to kiss your arms, your neck, those rock hard thighs under your shorts…God stop it, Ambi.

“Sorry I was miles away. Yes, I’m ready.”

Once they were in the car and on their way, Amber asked, “So how was Emily? Did Dylan get into trouble?”

Sandy laughed and shook her head. “Nah, well fifteen minutes maybe. Those two never stay mad for long. They adore each other. Although I hear Dylan’s plans to buy a boat are on hold for the moment.”

“Must be wonderful.”

Sandy turned to her and said, “To have a boat?”

“No silly.” Amber giggled. “To be adored, and to love someone so much.”

Sandy didn’t say anything and the silence hung heavily between them. Amber couldn’t see the emotions Sandy was keeping hidden behind her aviator sunglasses, but she could see her grip on the steering wheel tighten significantly until she finally said, “Yeah. Must be nice.”

They arrived at the animal shelter twenty minutes later, and began to look around at the dogs in the kennels. As they walked around Amber noticed they were getting a lot of stares and whispering behind their back. It didn’t occur to her until some kid came up to them with his mother to ask for an autograph, why they were attracting attention, or rather Sandy was attracting attention.

Sandy was a celebrity and not too long ago, she should have been doing the same thing, but Sandy was a different person to her now. Not an untouchable celebrity, but a sweet, caring, gentle, but still gorgeous human being.

After she signed her latest autograph, Sandy said, “I’m sorry about this. I hate being noticed but I don’t like to say no, especially to kids.”

Amber stroked her arm tenderly. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

But it was clear Sandy did. She had seen Dylan put on her celebrity persona and charm her way through a crowd, looking as if she enjoyed every minute she talked to people. Sandy however looked as though she wanted to hide under the nearest rock. She didn’t appear to take well to her famous status at all.

“Come on. Let’s go and look some more.”

They walked passed the cages and talked to every dog. Each one had its merits and Amber would have taken them all home if she could.

“Do you see one you like the best?” Sandy asked.

“They’re all adorable. I don’t know how I would ever choose. Maybe I should come back another time.”

One of the shelter staff approached them, and if Amber had any Gaydar, that she had heard everyone talk about, this young woman would have been pinging off the scale. She felt Sandy’s arm slip around her waist and pull her close. If Parker had done that she would have been horrified, but with Sandy it made her feel warm inside.

“Hi, I’m Dani. Can I help you out? What kind of dog were you looking for?”

“Well a companion I suppose. A dog that loves being around people, oh and good with children.”

“And a guard dog.” Sandy added.

“Hmm, if you’ll follow me.”

They followed her to a cage further down. It didn’t have names or any other information about the dog. “These two German Shepherds came in a few days ago. We aren’t putting them up for adoption until they’ve had all their vet checks, but they should be cleared in the next few days.”

Amber peered through the bars and saw two adorable dogs, looking up at them as if they were smiling.

“Ambi, they’re gorgeous!”

Amber got down on her knees to talk to them. “Hey guys, what’s your names?”

Her heart constricted when both dogs lifted their paws together, before licking her hand through the cage.”

“They’re called Belle and Rocky, and they are brother and sister.”

“How old are they Dani?” Sandy asked.

“They’re eight months old and have had to be rehomed because their owner died. They are fully trained and respond to commands. All the staff has fallen in love with them.”

Sandy got down beside her and stroked them through the bars. “What do you think?”

“They are perfect.” The boy Rocky was giving Sandy lots of attention, and Belle kept giving Amber her paw. Belle looked at her with pleading, but loving eyes.

“We’re really hoping we can get them rehomed together. They would be distressed without each other. Would you like to see them in the play room?”

“We sure would.” Sandy replied for her, and she shot her an angry look. “What did you say that for? How can I take two dogs? I’m single and at work all day.”

“Just meet them at least.”

“Why get attached to something that you can never have?” Amber said, and Sandy looked at the floor.

It was clear that statement was about something more that the two dogs, and both went silent for a few seconds. “Ambi? Sometimes you have take what is offered to you, and trust in it.”

Amber met Sandy’s emotional eyes. “Maybe I’m not sure how to take it.”

Sandy reached out to touch her cheek but was interrupted by Dani returning. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to meet them in the play room.”

The moment was gone.

After having great fun playing with Belle and Rocky, Sandy took Amber for a late lunch. They hadn’t talked about the emotional moment they had shared in the shelter, and returned to their easy, friendly conversation.

When they left the restaurant on the beach front Sandy asked, “Would you like to take a walk on the beach before we head home?”

“That would be nice.”

As they made their way down the beach steps to the sand, she asked Amber, “When did you learn the piano? I heard you playing it and you were so good.”

Amber slipped off her shoes and carried them as they walked on the sand. “I’m not that good. I always wanted to be a pianist, but my hands are too small to take it to a higher level. My grandmother played and she got me lessons and encouraged me. We used to go to orchestral concerts together and after she died, a couple of my friends from college went with me”

“Do you still go?”

“Not since…well for a while. When I started seeing Parker, I got isolated from my friends.”

Sandy felt angry every time Parker’s name was mentioned. She just couldn’t imagine wanting to change anything about Amber. She was perfect as she was.

“It’s so beautiful here.” Amber said as they walked along the shore.

She looked at Amber dressed in her little three-quarter length jeans and a delicate cashmere cardigan and thought, Not as beautiful as you. “Yeah, it is.”

Sandy felt an overwhelming need to hold Amber’s hand, and she got her opportunity when Amber stumbled slightly in the sand. She held her hand to steady her, but she didn’t let go. Neither said anything as they walked on listening to the calm sounds of the beach.

“Do you run on the beach when you’re training with Dylan?”

“Yeah, usually as a warm up, and then we do some circuits. It really wakes you up in the morning.”

“I can imagine. What a wonderful place to work out.”

They walked on in silence for a bit before Amber said, “Can I ask you a question, Andy?”

“Sure, what do you want to know?” Sandy asked.

Amber stopped and turned to face her, automatically taking Sandy’s other hand. “What does it feel like to run in a race like the one hundred meters? I mean what does it feel like inside? When I watch it on TV it’s so quick, but it must feel different for you.”

She felt her heart start to thud at the thought of what it felt like. How could she describe it? “Wow, no one’s ever asked me that before.”

“I’ve always loved watching people who have trained their bodies to the peak of fitness because I’m just not athletic at all, but I’d love to know what you feel.” Amber squeezed her hands in encouragement.

Sandy closed her eyes and tried to visualize a race, as she often did in preparation to a big event. “It starts when I step into the changing room, and my heart begins to thud, knowing what it’s about to do. I get my gear on and play my music through my earphones, and start to close off from everyone around me. After a warm up, I walk out into the stadium, I’m in a tunnel and not even aware of the crowd. I start running the perfect race through my head, over and over again until it’s time. When I’m in the starting blocks, it’s like the whole world is standing still, there’s no noise, nothing but the beat of my heart, I take one last big breath, and the gun goes off…”

She snapped open her eyes and found Amber gazing at her with a glazed look in her eyes, as if she was totally connected to the picture she was painting.

Sandy took a step closer to her and continued, “Everything moves in slow motion, I build up my speed in the first phase of the race, imagining that the other athletes are slow and I’m passing them easily. When I get to the middle phase I’m gliding at top speed, and it feels amazing, like nothing can touch me as I’m racing towards a peak at the end of the track.”

Amber opened her mouth slightly and ran the tip of her tongue over her lips, Sandy took that as an invitation to get closer and put her hands around her waist, pulling their hips together. This feeling she was sharing with Amber was like nothing she had felt before. Every part of her wanted Amber, her lips wanted to kiss her, her tongue to taste everything about her, and her hips ached to be between Amber’s thighs.

“In the final phase of the race, I’m ahead, and striding towards the edge, and there’s no going back now. It’s passed the point of no return.”

Amber was breathing heavily as their lips got closer and closer. “There’s no one who can catch me, I’m too fast, and as I get near the finish line, I strain every last drop of energy out of my muscles and go over the edge into a huge release of energy. The high is something that is…I can’t describe it. Some athletes say it’s like sex. Slowly you hear the sound of the crowd and sometimes you fall to your knees, totally burned out, and it’s over.”

Amber reached up and caressed her cheek. “That was so beautiful.”

This time they both wanted the kiss, Sandy was certain of. Their lips got closer and closer until they were about to touch softly. Amber pulled back suddenly.

“What’s wrong, Ambi?”

Amber was looking passed her shoulder up to the beach wall. “I’m sure I saw a flash go off. There was a man with a camera, but he’s gone now.”

“He’s probably just taking a shot of the view.”

Sandy felt the moment was already gone from them, as Amber stepped out of her arms and hugged herself after shivering.

“We should probably be getting back. It’s getting cold.”

We were so close. “Sure.”

They walked back to the truck, a renewed distance between them. The silence continued on the drive back to Amber’s, neither of them knowing how to handle what had happened. It wasn’t like Sandy’s spur of the moment kiss and retreat. The kiss that so very nearly happened at the beach was very mutual, and based on something altogether deeper than a need to lose themselves.

She pulled up the car in front of Amber’s house, and turned off the engine. “We’re back.”

“So we are.” Amber took off her seatbelt but didn’t make a move out the door. Sandy didn’t know if she would be asked in or not. The silence was awkward and Sandy began to drum her fingers on the wheel.

“So…um…are you going to think about taking Rocky and Belle?”

Amber sighed, and put her head back on the head rest. “I loved them, but two dogs is a huge commitment. I don’t think it would be fair on them. I’d hate for them to be split up though.”

Sandy turned around in her seat and faced Amber. “I think you could do it. They said the dogs were crate trained, and you get long holidays from school, good hours, better than most people who work. They really liked you.”

Amber smiled, “They liked you too.”

Sandy could feel the excitement inside herself build. It was all so simple for her. Amber would get the dogs and they would take care of them together. “I could help you. I’d love to take them out for walks.”

“You won’t be here forever, you will be gone back to your loft in the city, and we might not see you again.” Amber snapped.

She was taken aback at the angry tone in Amber’s voice. The thought of not seeing Amber again was painful to Sandy, and she knew inside that she wouldn’t let that happen, no matter where life took her next. When she tried to picture herself back in her loft, she just couldn’t. The city had been her home her whole life, and while she loved where she grew up, she had never felt more at peace than when she had come to Long Island, and Amber was a huge part of that

“I don’t have the first clue where my life’s going to go in the next few months, what I’m going to be doing, but I know that I will see you again, Ambi.” She reached out and caressed Amber’s hair and cheek.

Amber closed her eyes briefly, before clasping Sandy’s hand to stop her. She placed a kiss on Sandy’s hand and said, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It’s not fair on either of us, and it’s not fair to give Rocky and Belle a home with someone who’s going to be out for most of the day. Thanks for taking me to the shelter. I had a great time.”

“But…” Before Sandy could finish her sentence, Amber was out of the car and heading to her front door.

“I want to make promises. I want you, Ambi.” She said to the empty car.

She took out her cell phone and called the dog shelter. “Hi, this is Sandy Williams. I was in earlier looking at a couple of German Shepherd’s?”

Emily stood in the kitchen, holding a hand fan to her face. The steam from the vegetables cooking on the stove was making her seriously overheated. Dylan had wanted to get takeout so she didn’t have to cook, but she was determined to make the family meal, as they had been relying on restaurant food too much lately. Sandy had come back earlier and would be joining them for the first time in a while.

Everything was in order and cooking well, so she decided she could have a sit down. Meal times were always harder when Dylan was in training. More often than not she had to make two different meals. A super healthy one for Dylan, and ordinary kid friendly meal for herself and Molly. It was a lot of work.

She got a bottle of water from the fridge and sat at the kitchen table. There was a knock at the door, and Sandy popped her head around the door.

“Hey, stranger. Come on in.”

“Um…hi. I could come back later if you’re still busy with dinner.”

Always so unsure of herself. Emily patted the chair beside her and said, “No, come sit and talk to me for a bit. I’m taking a break.”

Sandy looked hesitant, just as Dylan always did when she mentioned the ‘talk’ word. “Okay. I’m sorry if I’m giving you extra work for dinner tonight.”

“Don’t be silly. I have to make a separate meal for Dylan when she’s training anyway, it’s easy enough to double up. You’re having Salmon, sweet potato and veggies.”

“Sounds great.” Sandy sat down and looked around. “Is Dylan around?”

“She’s answering some emails in her office and Molly’ s playing on her iPad beside her, so I could get dinner ready.

Sandy nodded and stared intently at her clasped hands in front of her. “So did you have a good day with Amber?”

Emily could see the tension in Sandy when she mentioned Amber’s name. Yes, I was right. “Yeah, we looked at some dogs at the shelter and went for a walk along the beach. It was great.”

Emily felt the baby move and rubbed her stomach trying to soothe it. She saw Sandy watch her, and then look away quickly.

She sensed Sandy wanted to talk about Amber but didn’t know how to start, so she decided to help. “Did she see any dogs she liked?”

“Uh, yeah. We both really liked these two German Shepherd pups, they’ve been raised together and the shelter wants to keep them together, but it might not be possible. I told Amber that I’d help her with walks and exercise but…”

“But what?”

Sandy began to wring her hands, clearly uncomfortable. “She thinks I’m not going to be around…after the triathlon and I’ve got my life together.”

“I see, and what do you see in your future? Where do you want to be?”

“I don’t have the first clue what I’m going to do next, I don’t even know if I want to do TV anymore. I mean I don’t want to disappoint Dylan-”

Emily covered Sandy’s hand with her own and gave it a squeeze. “You will never disappoint Dylan. She cares about you, and wants you to do what’s best for you, not her.”

Usually when Emily had touched her in the past, she felt the full extent of her crush on her body, but now all she felt was the warmth of a caring touch, not the fiery passion she felt at Amber’s touch. It was so clear to her now that she wanted Amber, but didn’t have the first clue as to how to go about that.

Sandy squeezed Emily’s hand in return and looked into her eyes. “I owe you and Dylan everything. You took me into your home, and gave me a safe place to heal.”

“You’re family now, Sandy.” Emily told her. “Remember that, you will always have a family with us.”

“Thanks, that means so much. I…uh…don’t know where or what I’m going to do with my life but I know that I wouldn’t have been able to feel better without…”

Emily smiled and finished the sentence for her, “Without Amber.”

Sandy nodded, and fixed her eyes back on the table. “She makes me want to get better, and be the best person I can be, and the only thing I do know for certain is that I want to keep her in my life. I won’t ever disappear from her life unless she wants me to.”

“You’re falling in love with her?” Again Sandy couldn’t speak but just nodded.

“Does she feel the same?”

“I don’t know. We keep getting close and then she pulls away or something gets in the way. I don’t even know if she’s gay, or likes women that way.”

Emily took a sip of her water and sighed. “Amber looks at you like she cares, I’m sure of it, but she’s in a complicated situation. She’s just ended an engagement and maybe she’s frightened to let you in completely.”

“Maybe. If all she ever can ever give me is friendship then…well it won’t be okay but I’ll take it. She’s such a beautiful person. So kind, so gentle, so like you.”

Emily smiled. “I don’t know about that.”

“It’s true. You don’t know how rare that is, for me anyway. All my life I’ve been around career driven, winners, but Amber is so gentle. She’s just perfect and everything I’m not, and makes me feel something other than pain. I don’t know what else to say.”

“Ask her out on a date, Sandy. Let her know that’s what you want.”

“I don’t know. I mean what if she says no?”

“Then you give her space and see what happens, try again. She might need time, but you’ll never know unless you ask.”

“She’s coming to help me with Grandma’s apartment this week. Maybe I could ask then?”

“Perfect, take a chance.” Emily pushed back from the table and tried to stand. Sandy was there instantly to help.

Emily looked up at Sandy and offered her a hug, which Sandy took gladly. “Be brave, Sandy. You might get more than you ever dreamed of.”

They were interrupted by a gruff, growling voice behind them. “Every time my back’s turned my wife seems to be in your arms, Williams.”

Sandy let go of Emily like she was on fire. Dylan stood, arms folded, staring at her with a look that could bore through steel. “Sorry…I…I…wasn’t…didn’t.”

Then she saw the corners of Dylan’s mouth go up into a smile, and then she broke out into a laugh. “Your face! Priceless.”

Emily hit Dylan on the stomach and went to check dinner. “Don’t scare poor Sandy, Goofy.”

Sandy clasped her hand to her chest and let out a big breath. “Oh man, you scared the crap outta me. Don’t do that.”

Dylan couldn’t stop laughing at the terror on Sandy’s face. “I couldn’t resist. What we all hugging about anyway?”

“Nothing to concern you, TV star.” Emily said, but Dylan continued to laugh out loud.

Sandy took her seat beside Dylan at the table and said, “Shut up. That was not funny.”

The final part of Sandy getting her life together was going back to her gym, and facing her grandmother’s apartment. So a week later, she and Dylan met to have a walk around.

“This place is unbelievable, Sandy.” Dylan said.

They walked around all the facilities, and were now at the swimming pool in the bottom floor. The Gym was split over three levels, and the central space was open so you could see right to the top floor from the swimming pool at the bottom. Around the open central space on the first floor was the state of the art gym equipment and class room facilities. On the top was the indoor running track, and it was designed so that the athletes could watch both the gym floor and swimming pool level as they ran around the circular space.

Action shots of Sandy and inspiring art work covered the walls and in the changing room facilities. “It’s down to my manager, Regan that it’s got this far. I really dropped the ball when I went off the rails.”

“Hey, I know you had been a workaholic in this place before your grandmother died, so it’s definitely your achievement buddy.”

“I would have never gotten the financing and sponsors off the ground if it hadn’t been for you, Dylan. Not to mention the celebrity memberships you got me. That’s really going to boost membership sales. I owe you so much.”

Dylan shook her head. “You’re family, Sandy, and you’re my friend. I’ll always do everything I can for you.”

They gave each other a slightly awkward bro hug and pulled apart quickly when Regan shouted down to Sandy from the gym floor above. “Sandy? Your guest, Amber Andrews is here.”

“Thanks I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

“So? You going to ask Amber out on a date?”

“I thought I’d try. Once I show her around here, we’re going to my grandma’s apartment to clear out some stuff.”

“Just ask her. Don’t mess around. You like her, she likes you. It’s easy.”

As they walked over to the elevator Sandy said, “And what if she only likes guys?”

“So then you know. Just ask.”

They both met Amber at the reception and Dylan left for an appointment with her agent.

Amber followed Sandy around the gym and couldn’t believe how good everything looked. “I was expecting something smaller, this place is really state of the art, Sandy.” Amber said as Sandy led her into the area that housed the indoor climbing wall.

“I’m really proud of it. It’s always been my dream, and it gives me something to fall back on if I don’t want to compete anymore.”

“Have you thought about getting back to athletics?” Sandy walked over to the climbing wall and fiddled nervously with the ropes that hung from the top.

“I really don’t know. I haven’t thought about running for a long time…well until recently, but it’s not something I can do halfway. I either run to win or I don’t run.”

Amber came up beside her and took her hand. “Well, don’t make any rash decisions. You’re such a gifted athlete, it would be a shame to turn your back on it, unless you were really certain.”

Sandy nodded. “I will think carefully. I promise…Um…I wanted to ask you something.”

Amber felt her stomach knot up with nerves, sure that Sandy was going to say something about how she felt about her.

“Sure, go ahead.” She croaked.

Sandy took her other hand and pulled her closer. “Um…I was wondering if you would…”

“Yes?”

“You would…like to bring your kids’ group here?”

“Oh.” Amber couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.

“I mean, the gym is ready but we don’t open for a month, and thought it would be great to bring them here for the day to use the facilities, and I can organize food and drinks…Whatever you need.”

Despite feeling disappointed, Amber felt like she wanted to kiss Sandy for such a kind offer. Instead she pulled her into a hug. “Thank you, that’s such a kind offer. The kids would love that.”

Amber snuggled into Sandy’s reassuringly solid chest and shoulder. “No problem. I’ll make sure they have a great day. I’d do anything to make you happy.”

She pulled back and gave Sandy a kiss on the cheek. She needed some sort of close connection, even if it was a simple peck on the cheek.

“Let’s go and take care of your grandma’s apartment, huh?”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

The packing boxes were getting fuller as Sandy relaxed into the task of clearing up her grandma’s things. Amber lifted up a silver framed picture and asked, “Is this your grandma’s wedding photo?”

“Yeah.” Sandy walked over to join her. “That’s her and Grandpa. She always said it was the best day of her life.”

“They look happy. I’ll wrap it up carefully, and you can take it back to the Morgans.”

“Thanks.”

She started to carefully wrap the frame up in tissue paper, but could feel Sandy’s eyes on her; and she hadn’t moved from behind her. There was silence for a while until sandy said, “Can I ask you a question?”

Her heart began to thud in anticipation as it had at the gym. Since the beach, or if she was honest for a while, the tension between them had been building. She was sure they would have kissed at the beach if she hadn’t seen the flash of a photographer. Sandy was so much more than her dream of a perfect partner, but did she have the courage to move to the next step? Would someone else come along for her when she moved back to her loft in the city? They spent nearly every evening together and their lives were beginning to merge, and she was so scared of being given her dream and have Sandy walk away.

“You can ask me anything.”

Sandy took her hand and pulled her up. “I was thinking. Um…would you…ah…like to come out with me on Saturday night?”

As she looked at Sandy with her hands stuffed in her pockets, and unable to meet her eyes, all her worries and fears didn’t seem to matter. She could no more turn Sandy down than she could stop breathing. “Sure, I’d like that.”

Sandy immediately looked up at her with a dazzling smile. “Yeah? Really?”

“Of course, really.” You would never imagine Sandy was the popular celebrity out of the two of them, she was so unsure of herself.

Sandy’s brow furrowed and said, “Just to be clear. You’ll go out with me on Saturday in a date type way?”

Amber giggled, “Yes, Andy. A date type way, if that’s what you want?”

Sandy took her hand and held it softly. “Yeah, that’s what I want.”

To break the tension, Amber said, “So where are we going? I need to know what to wear?”

“Dinner somewhere really nice, and then a surprise.”

“I better get out my best dress then. Why don’t we get these boxes in Dylan’s truck and over to the church?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” Sandy was so full of enthusiasm she literally bounced out of the room.

Amber was happy that she could make another human being feel that way, but she prayed that she wouldn’t be left broken hearted if Sandy walked away.

Jackson had three bags precariously balanced in her arms as she tried to unlock her apartment door. It was Saturday, and the Morgan’s anniversary. They were babysitting Molly and Wolfie and Rosie was excited, more excited than she’d expected. They had already gotten food and drinks from the store, but Rosie had sent her back out with another long list for essential items. Jackson managed to get the key close to the lock and then it dropped to the floor. “Shit!”

Her hands were too full to knock, so she used her booted foot to kick the bottom of the door. “Rosie? Can you let me in? I’m kind of laden down here.”

Rosie opened the door with the phone glued to her ear. “It’s okay, Em. It’s just Jackson back from the store. You were saying?”

“Just Jackson?” She grumbled as she dumped the bag on the kitchen table. “Yeah, Jackson the pack horse.”

Behind her, Rosie said goodbye to Emily, and hung up the phone. “What are you grumbling about, Soldier boy?”

“Nothing. Did we really need all these extra things? Molly is one little kid, you know.”

Rosie started to unpack the food and began to put them away. “I know that, but I just wanted to have everything she could need. I want her to be comfortable staying over with us.”

It had surprised Jackson how much Rosie was looking forward to this night. They both adored Molly, but her fiancée had been super excited about the whole thing.

“Did you get the dog treats for Wolfie?”

“Yeah they’re in there somewhere. Is everything okay? What did Emily want?” Jackson asked.

“She was just letting me know that Dylan’s mom and dad were just about to leave with Molly. They’re going to drop her off on their way to their church social, so that Emily is less rushed. She hasn’t been feeling great today.”

Jackson opened a bottle of juice and took a long drink. “Is this night out such a good idea for her? I can’t imagine Dylan want to push her into it, when she’s so close to her due date.”

Rosie placed the chips and cookies in the cupboard, and said, “She doesn’t know. Emily just told her she was tired. She didn’t want to ruin their special night. Dylan’s been planning it for a while.”

“Dylan is going to be angry if she finds out. I know I would be if you were…” Jackson stopped when she realized what she was about to say. The subject of children had gotten her into trouble before, at the Morgan’s barbecue, and she hadn’t dared mention the subject again. Now they were engaged, she didn’t want to spook Rosie in anyway.

“If I was what?” Rosie said with a smile.

Don’t say it. You’ll be in the dog house for the rest of the night, if not the weekend.

“Jack? If I was what?”

She thought, well here goes my night. “If you were pregnant. If you were pregnant and kept something like that back from me. I’d just want to take care of you.”

The expected sharp retort didn’t come. Instead Rosie had a huge smile on her face as she hurried over and threw her arms around Jackson’s neck. “Aww, you’re are so sweet, Jack.” She received kisses all over her face and lips.

That gets me kisses now? Jackson never knew what response she was going to get from Rosie, and she supposed that was one of the reasons she loved her so much. Life was always interesting.

She had noticed that Rosie had visibly and mentally relaxed since they got engaged. It seemed the security of knowing they would be together officially, made her feel so much better.

She put her arms around Rosie’s waist. “It’s not sweet, it’s just true. I always want to take care of you.”

Rosie placed her palm onto her chest and gazed at her engagement ring. “You know, I’ve been thinking.”

“Uh-oh!” For that she received a smack. “Sorry, what were you thinking, darlin’?”

“You know that we were planning on moving into the new house next week?”

Jackson was suddenly on alert. This didn’t sound good. “Yeah?”

Rosie appeared unsure of herself, and nervous. “I was thinking how much nicer…I mean how much more romantic it would be to move into the house after we were married.”

Jackson’s heart sunk like a stone. Although they were engaged, they had never talked about when they would get married. She assumed it would be sometime in the future, when Rosie was a bit older and ready for it. This was a delaying tactic, she was sure of it, and she didn’t know what to say.

Rosie must have sensed her disappointment because she asked, “What is it? Did I say the wrong thing? Is it a bad idea?”

“I thought we wanted to live together now? That’s why we bought the house, not for far off in the future.”

“Jack, what are you talking about, far off in the future? You don’t want to get married now?”

Now she was really confused. “Wait…I…I’m confused. Tell me what you want exactly, please?”

“I would like to marry you in the next month or so, and move into the house as a married couple. I thought it would be romantic, but if you don’t…”

Jackson lifted Rosie into her arms and swung her around with joy. “Yes, yes. I want that. That is exactly what I want, my Rosie girl.”

Rosie giggled. “What did you think I meant?”

“We never talked about it. I thought it might be a long engagement.”

“No way, not now I’ve caught you. You’re going to make an honest woman of me, Soldier boy.”

Rosie gave her a long deep kiss, and when she pulled back Jackson said, “You are so lucky we are expecting company, or I’d lay you down on the kitchen table and make you come so hard.”

“Is that a yes to moving in when we get married?”

“Yeah, and the sooner the better, Hippy girl.”

Rosie smiled and laid her head on Jackson’s chest.

“What are you thinking” Jackson asked.

“I was just thinking about Sandy. She’s been so lonely, I hope her date with Amber goes okay.”

“I’m sure it will. Sandy’s a great kid.”

Rosie gave her a questioning look. “Kid? You do realize she’s the same age as me?”

Woah, that does put things in perspective. “Yeah, well I’m a cradle snatcher. I need someone your age to keep me young and fit as I get older.”

Rosie gave her a quick kiss, and ran off shouting, “Just try and catch me, old timer!”

Jackson set off to catch her, and prove how young and energetic she still was.

Amber was in her bedroom, dressed only in her underwear, looking at five different dresses she had set out on the bed. She looked over at the crumpled autographed picture of Sandy, which she had mysteriously found in the microwave and said, “Which dress would you like Andy?”

The phone rang and she answered quickly, without looking at without looking at the caller read out. “Hello?”

“Hello, Amber.”

Her heart sank. It was Parker, just who she didn’t need to speak to tonight. “What do you want, Parker? I’m getting ready to go out.”

“Where are you going?”

“It’s none of your business, but if you really want to know, I’m going on a date.”

“Yes, and I know who with. What did she do to try and seduce you? Dazzle you with her celebrity lifestyle?”

Amber felt so angry. She was sick of this man. He was the nastiest piece of work she had ever met and she had nearly married him. “How do you-”

“I have a picture of you in her arms at the beach. It’s disgusting. Nobody touches what’s mine!”

The flash at the beach. He must have had someone follow us. “I was never yours, Parker, and I never will be.”

“You are and you will be. Our engagement party is in two weeks. You will be there on my arm or your parents will see this picture, and your father will lose a lot of business.”

That threat was normally enough to snap her back into line, but she was sick of living her life for other people. She couldn’t marry someone like Parker, and live a miserable life based on threats and intimidation. It was time to make some threats of her own.

“Listen Parker, this stops now. My father can get other contracts, because he’s the most talented architect I know, but if you force my hand, I will stand in front of all your family and friends at your engagement party, and tell them, I’m gay and in love with a woman. Plus I’m sure the press would like to know about your dirty little land deal with the mayor? I was there at dinner, Parker. All I have to do is point the newspapers to certain public documents. You can’t control me anymore, because I refuse to be controlled.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone, and then a dial tone. “Yes!” She looked over at Sandy’s picture. “You gave me the strength to break free, Andy. I’m falling in love with you.”

Dylan fixed Molly into the car seat in the back of her parents’ car and gave her a kiss. “You be a good little Smurf for Jackson and Rosie, okay?”

“She will be, won’t you sweetheart?” Pattie said from the front seat.

Molly held tightly onto to her stuffed penguin, Stinky, and frowned. “I miss you and mama’s vanniversary.”

“Hey, we’ll miss you too, but remember we talked about it before? This is the anniversary of when I met your mama, and tomorrow is what?”

Molly smiled as she remembered. “Our vanniversary, Mom. When you came to our old house, and took us to see the animals at the zoo.”

“That’s right, and I got you Stinky?”

Molly cuddled her penguin all the tighter. “Yeah, it was the best day ever, Mom.”

Dylan’s hearted melted on the spot. It was the best day ever, apart from her wedding day. This time last year her life changed, and she couldn’t wait to celebrate. “That’s right, and when we pick you up tomorrow, we’re going to go to the zoo and celebrate, okay?”

“Okay, Mom. I have fun with Dackson and Dosie.” Molly held out her arms, asking for another hug.

“That’s my girl.”

Tommy put Molly’s bag in the trunk and opened the door for Wolfie to jump in the back with Molly.

“We’re ready to roll, Champ.”

“Thanks, Dad,” She looked over to Wolfie and said, “You behave too, Wolfie. Okay?”

Wolfie barked in reply. “Good boy, and watch out for Molly. Oh and Wolfie?”

The dog looked at his master as if he understood every word. “Remember and wake Jackson up in the middle of the night to go pee, okay?”

The thought of Jackson freezing her ass off on the sidewalk during the night made her smile.

“See you later.”

When she waved them off, Jamie shouted over to her, “Dylan? When do you want the car ready?”

Dylan looked down at her watch. “Another thirty minutes, Jamie. Although knowing how long my wife takes to get ready that could stretch to an hour.”

After getting ready herself and helping Emily into her dress, she had left her to her hair and makeup. She had asked Emily again if she really wanted to go out after she caught a few pained looks on her face, but Emily had insisted. Now since she had some time to kill, she walked down to visit Sandy.

“Knock, knock! Can I come in?”

“Sure, I’m in the bedroom.”

She walked to the back of the pool house and into the bedroom. She found Sandy dressed in gray suit pants, and white shirt and vest, and holding a polka dot bow tie to her collar.

“What the hell is that?”

Sandy looked down at her suit with confusion. “What the suit?”

“No, the suit’s great, but what’s with polka dot bow tie?”

Sandy sighed. “I can’t decide whether to wear this or leave the shirt open.”

Dylan crossed her arms and leaned back against the door frame. “I guess that depends on whether you want Amber to kiss you or laugh at you. I mean a polka dot bow tie? What is wrong with you?”

“I’ve seen you wear bow ties before.”

“Yeah for black tie events, not polka dot ones for a date when I’m trying to impress a girl.”

“Hey, it’s called dapper swag, and every butch is wearing one.”

“Well this one isn’t, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jackson with one around her neck.”

Sandy flashed her brilliant smile and said, “Yeah, but you guys are too old to have any swag.”

Dylan looked down at her own outfit of designer jeans, tight black t-shirt with a silver motorcycle and bike shop name on the front, and suit jacket. I’m not old, Am I? “I got plenty swag or whatever you call it. I’m consistently ranked in the top five best looking lesbians every year, on all the gay websites.”

“That’s for your muscles, not your fashion sense.” Sandy laughed.

“Oh so you don’t want to borrow my car tonight then, dapper swag boy?”

“Uh…I’m only kidding, Dylan.” Sandy threw the offending item on the bed, and left her shirt open at the neck. “Seriously, how do I look?”

Dylan walked over and fixed her collar for her. “You look great, honestly. Amber’s gonna swoon or whatever. How you feeling? Nervous?”

“Yeah I guess. I just want everything to be perfect. Thanks for getting the restaurant reservations. I would have never have gotten them at this short notice.”

Sandy was taking Amber to the hottest new restaurant in New York, and she had no chance of getting the reservations herself.

“It’s Lynn you have to thank. That woman can get a table for two anywhere in the world. Just remember and use the right knife and fork.” She joked.

Sandy’s face fell. “Oh shit. I’m screwed.”

Dylan gave her friend a punch to the shoulder. “Hey that was a joke. I’m sure you’ll do great.”

She got her car’s keyless remote out of her pocket and threw it to Sandy. “Catch.”

Sandy plucked it from the air. “Wait, I’ve got the remote to your truck.”

“You need something nicer than a truck to take out a pretty girl like Amber.”

Sandy looked down at the fob and saw it was the silver engraved remote for Dylan’s Porsche 918 Spyder. “No way! That car is your baby.”

“Nah, my baby’s over at the house getting ready for our anniversary dinner. The Spyder is just my bit on the side.” Dylan joked.

She loved the look of awe on Sandy’s face, and loved putting it there. She was like the little sister she never had, and it felt good helping her out and trying to guide her.

“Wow! Just wow, I’m gonna be terrified of driving it over ten miles per hour.”

“Yeah, well, I haven’t driven her much recently. It’s not exactly the best car for a pregnant woman, so it’ll be good to get her out on the road.”

“Thanks, man.” Sandy took her hand and gave her a bro hug. “I’ll look after her real good, and I’ll even ditch the bow tie.”

Dylan laughed. “Good, a Porsche Spyder is enough swag for anyone. You know when I moved out here with Emmie, I had this vision of building my car collection, speeding around the coastal roads with the wind in our hair. The reality of family life is I maybe get to drive to the store on a Sunday in them, if I’m lucky, and if Molly doesn’t want to come along. So enjoy driving something like this before you need cars that can fit baby seats.”

Sandy laughed, “I bet you wouldn’t change it for the world though, huh?”

“Not a chance in hell. Dylan Morgan, family woman, that’s me. So you have a good night, and make Amber swoon, okay?”

“I’ll try. I hope you and Emmie have a great night too. It’s something special you’ve done for her. Really romantic.”

“Romance is my middle name.” Dylan went to walk out of the room, and said as she left, “Remember, you crash my car, I own your gym.”

As she walked away laughing, she heard Sandy say, “Shit, maybe the truck was a better idea.”

Molly squealed in delight as she chased around the apartment chasing Jackson, with the Nerf foam blasters she had gotten her.

“Careful Molly doesn’t hurt herself , Jack.” Rosie shouted from the kitchen.

At the end of the hall, she purposely slowed so Molly could catch her, and she felt the foam bullet hit her back. “Ugh…you got me. Man down! I’m dying.”

Molly giggled at her exaggerated dying scene. “I get you Dackson. I be solder like you.”

Jackson was having a ball. She had never taken part in this kind of play before. Her father certainly never played with her. The nearest she got to playing was when she was enrolled in the marine cadets at age eleven, and that was extremely structured hard work, although she enjoyed it.

She made her breaths raspy, and her eyes close slowly. “I’m d….ead. Or am I?”

Jackson snapped her eyes open and pulled Molly to the ground to tickle her. “No Tickle Dackson.” Molly laughed.

“Okay, but only if you help me with a special mission, Soldier.” She said seriously.

“I help, I help.” Molly got up and Jackson kneeled.

“Okay, Soldier. Here’s the situation. We’ve had orders from high command to take out a Rosie Henderson. She’s been aggravating and downright annoying. Because of that we have to shoot her in the butt.”

“I help shoot Dosie.” Molly said excitedly.

“Okay, we need to move quickly and silently. I’ll go first.”

They crept along the hallway and sneaked a look around the corner to where Rosie was cooking dinner. Jackson held her finger to her lips, and whispered, “On three, we shoot her in the butt.”

Molly nodded seriously.

“Okay. One, two, three, go!”

They both shot the foam bullets at Rosie’s behind and she jumped. “Ah!”

When she turned around and caught them, Jackson shouted, “Retreat to the bedroom Molls. I’ll hold her off.”

Molly shot off, and Rosie stalked towards Jackson who stood up and smiled. “Oh you think that’s funny, do you Soldier boy?”

Rosie twisted the kitchen towel she was holding and was preparing to strike back, so Jackson held the Nerf gun to her chest.

“Oh, you think your gun frightens me?”

Jackson gave her a smug smile. “No, you love my gun.”

“Really?” Rosie never took her eyes off of Jackson’s for one second, as the atmosphere between them became charged.

“Yeah, really. You love it.” Both of their breathing shortened and Rosie used one finger to push the gun down and away from her.

They got closer and closer until their foreheads were touching. “Oh God. I want you so much, Rosie girl.”

“Me too.” Rosie said licking her lips.

From the bedroom Molly shouted, “Dackson? Retweat.”

They both groaned. “I need to retreat, darlin’.”

“I know, but maybe later you could make an offensive strike, in a late night, one man mission?”

“Oh yeah.”

Rosie kissed her lips softly and pushed her back. “Go play, Soldier boy.”

Jackson walked backwards while saying. “I won’t forget this.”

“I’m counting on it.”

Emily and Dylan sat in the back of the car holding hands. Emily had a cushion behind her to try and ease the back ache she had been feeling all day. It had been so hard to get ready to go out for the night, feeling like she did, but she was determined not to ruin their anniversary. The past few weeks she had been feeling progressively sore and exhausted, but today her back ache had gotten a lot worse.

Dylan must have felt the tension she was holding inside because she asked, “Are you okay, baby girl?”

She smiled and told her a little white lie. “I’m fine honey. It’s just my usual aches and pains. So where are we heading?”

“It’s a surprise.” Dylan said then turned her attention to their driver. “Jamie, could you pull over as soon as you can?”

“Sure.”

When they pulled over, Dylan reached into her jacket and took out a black blindfold that they had used on occasion during their lovemaking.

She smiled and hoped Jamie couldn’t see her reddening cheeks. “What are you up to, TV star?”

“I need you to put this on, Emmie. It’s part of the surprise.”

Emily gave her a skeptical look. “You’re not going to do anything stupid are you, Dyl? Remember we have plenty of spare rooms I can make you sleep in.”

“No way. I’d never do anything to make you uncomfortable, you know that, baby. Cross my heart.”

Dylan took her hand and gave it a gentle kiss. “You trust me?”

What could she say to that? Of course she did. “You know I do, but this better be good.”

She put the blind fold on and kissed her tenderly on the lips. When Dylan kissed her, she remembered how much she enjoyed using this item in the bedroom. It heightened all her senses and the very merest of touches turned her on, but just as her body felt excitement at the kiss and the touch, another wave of pain washed over her back and stomach.

There was still a week or so to go in her pregnancy, and she knew from having Molly to expect some practice Braxton Hicks contractions, and prayed that’s what she had been feeling for the last few hours.

They drove for another twenty minutes and came to a stop. “Okay, Emmie. Stay there and I’ll help you out.”

She hadn’t the first clue where they were but she felt the change in temperature as she was led inside somewhere.

“Can I take this blindfold off yet, Dyl?”

“One more minute, Emmie. Give me a sec and I’ll tell you when.”

Emily felt Dylan move off, and heard her footsteps go a few strides away from her. “Okay, take it off.”

When she pulled it off and realized where she was, she clasped her hand to her mouth. She was standing behind the counter of her diner, the diner where she had met Dylan.

Dylan was sitting on a bar chair the other side of the counter, smiling broadly at her. “What do you think?”

It was her diner but it looked so different. The lights were dimmed, and there was a soft glow from lots of red candles spread around the space, while love songs played in the background. Her eyes scanned around the space and took in the sight of heart-shaped balloons and decorations on all the tables and the walls, except for one table in the center of the room which was set up for a romantic meal.

“Dyl…I…how did you do this?”

“Your old boss was happy to let me hire it for tonight. I wanted to take you right back to the beginning.”

Dylan took her hand and stroked it tenderly. “My life was empty without you and Molly. I was only living for work and getting more and more lonely. Then this day last year I wandered in here for coffee and to get out of the rain, and my life changed in an instant. It scares me to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t walked in here, and just went straight home like I usually did.”

Emily could feel her heart ache even at the thought of not meeting Dylan. “Joey led you in here. He knew you were lonely.”

After Dylan had told her about the dream of talking with her brother, when she was injured in Morocco, they both felt that night was meant to happen. There was no doubt in Emily’s mind. “He wouldn’t have let you walk passed that door.”

“Maybe not. You know, I remember everything about that night like it was yesterday. When I walked in, you were facing away from me. I sat down about to check my emails and then you turned around. It felt like you shot a bolt into my heart. I never believed all that love at first sight stuff people talk about, but in that second I knew, I knew you. Like you were someone I’d known before, but just couldn’t remember. That moment changed me, because you didn’t just love me, you let me become the person I was meant to be.”

Emily’s throat tightened and tears started to tumble from her eyes. When Dylan spoke so deeply to her like this, she knew how much she was loved. She didn’t let anyone see her emotions, and the fact that she trusted Emily enough to speak from her heart and to be vulnerable meant more than any other romantic gesture.

“Aww, don’t cry, Baby girl.” Dylan was around the counter in seconds to take her in her arms.

She snuggled into her chest and sobbed, “I can’t help it, you are my dream come true. I would go through anything as long as I got to be with you. You’re my forever, Dylan Morgan, you’re in my soul.”

“I know baby, but don’t get so upset. We’re going to have a great meal, and then I’m going to dance with you to our song.”

Emily felt a wave of pain go from her back across her stomach, a lot stronger than before. She groaned slightly, and Dylan looked worried. “What’s wrong baby? Is this all too much for you?”

Now she was starting to fear this new stronger pain wasn’t a Braxton Hicks pain at all. It felt like a real contraction, but she put a smile on her face and said, “My legs are just aching with standing up so long. Can we sit down?”

“Sure, and then I’ll get the caterer to start serving the food. I think you’re going to love the menu.” Dylan surprised her by lifting her into her arms and carrying her over to the table.

“I’m too heavy, honey.”

“Nah, you’re as light as a feather, Mama Smurf. Now let’s get you some food.”

Once they were both seated, Dylan signaled to a waiter standing just out of sight in the kitchen to start serving.”

“You are gonna love this, Emmie.”

Emily rubbed her pregnant stomach and said silently, Settle down, little one. It’s too early for you to arrive, and your mom is going to freak right out.

“Hmm. This looks delicious.” Amber looked at the beautiful dessert that arrived at the table with glee.

“It looks like a painting or something.” Sandy said.

Amber felt a little guilty about eating such a decadent dessert in front of Sandy while she was in training.

“You sure you don’t mind? I feel bad eating this and you can’t…”

“No, honestly. I haven’t really got such a sweet tooth. I guess that’s kinda helped me over the years. I’m happy to see you enjoy it.”

As Amber started to dig in, she thought about the question she’d wanted to ask all evening. “So…you’ve heard about my one and only disastrous relationship. What about you, Andy? I bet you have lots of girls chasing after you?”

Sandy’s gaze fell to her clasped hands in front of her, in that bashful way that made Amber want to kiss her.

“No, not me. Not that I would have noticed anyway. I was always shy around girls, but it kind of changed when I got outed, and I got on TV. I started getting noticed by girls who wouldn’t have looked twice at me before then. I hated that, and then when things got bad and I started hanging out in bars and clubs, yeah everyone wanted to talk to me.”

Amber lost her appetite for her dessert at that moment. The thought of Sandy alone, confused and in pain hurt her. She reached across and took Sandy’s hand. “Did you meet anyone special then?”

Sandy looked at her with eyes full of emotion and shook her head. “No, there’s never been anyone special. Sometimes I got so low and so drunk that I just wanted to be with someone, lose myself in someone, just to get away from life in the pain. I did sleep with a couple of people but I felt worse after. They weren’t sleeping with me, with Sandy, they were sleeping with a celebrity. It hurt, and I’m sorry if you think badly of me. It’s not me really, the real me.”

“How could I ever think badly of you? You were young, free and single-”

“And I didn’t even remember their names. I had one foot out the door, as soon as it was over.” Sandy took Amber’s hand and clasped it between both of hers, “But that’s not me. I need you to understand, that is not me. The person I’ve been while I’ve been with you, that is Sandy Williams.”

Amber’s hand felt warm as Sandy gently caressed her much smaller petite fingers.

“I know that. I can see you’re a warm, loving person, who felt in pain, and didn’t know how to handle it.”

The two of them simply gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes, as if they weren’t in a busy restaurant anymore. Just two people alone, and enjoying each other. “So, Andy. There’s never been anyone that’s got your heart racing?”

Sandy laughed and shook her head, but Amber wasn’t letting her off that easy. “There has been, hasn’t there? Go on, I can keep a secret.” She whispered.

“No way. It’s more than my life’s worth.”

This I have to know. She’s hiding something. “I’ll make you a deal. You tell me yours…” Was she really going to say this?

“And what, Ambi? What’s it worth?”

Amber’s heart started to beat double time. She’s flirting with me, and it’s working.

“If you tell me yours…then I’ll tell you mine. How about that?”

Sandy’s eyes shifted about nervously. “You have to promise this won’t go any further, because if her partner found out she might kill me.”

Amber narrowed her eyes, and thought hard. “She might…” Then it hit her. At the party at the Morgans, she had seen Sandy’s eyes flit around Emily whenever she was near. “It’s Emily Morgan, isn’t it?”

Amber felt her stomach drop and she pulled her hand back from Sandy. How could she ever hope to compete with the effortlessly beautiful Emily Morgan. The woman who was a pin up for both men and women.

Sandy immediately took her hand back and said, “Hey, not anymore. I mean she’s really beautiful, both inside and out but I think it was more about what she shared with Dylan, what she gave Dylan that I was attracted to. When I saw them both together…I mean you’ve seen them…It’s like they have this special energy between them, they almost crackle with electricity. They adore each other, and the way Emily looks at Dylan, the way she cares for her, that’s what I’ve always dreamed of in a woman, but it’s different now.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah, she’s like family, both of them are. I was seeing something in her that I wanted a girl to give me. I know that now.”

Amber released a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. I could give you that. “I understand.”

“Yeah, you always seem to.”

“It’s not that hard. You just need to listen, to know who you are.”

After a few moments of silence, Sandy sat back and smiled broadly. “Okay then, Miss Andrews. It’s your turn. Who was your secret crush, huh?”

It was now Amber’s turn to squirm under the spotlight. Am I really going to admit this to her?

She took a deep breath and was about to tell the object of her affection who had always been her crush, but the waiter arrived at their table, and said to Sandy. “Can I get you more coffee or drinks?”

“Saved by the bell.” Amber said grinning.

Sandy laughed and looked at her watch. “No, just the bill please. We better get going to the concert.”

When the waiter left, she said. “I won’t forget your part of the bargain, Ambi.”

Dylan watched Emily playing with the food on her plate and grimacing every so often, and felt worried. She had made sure the menu plan included all of her wife’s favorite foods, but she looked totally disinterested.

“Is everything okay, Emmie? Don’t you like the food?”

Emily laid down her fork and sat back in her chair rubbing her baby bump. “The food’s great, honey. I’m just not feeling that hungry.”

She immediately felt guilty. As much as she had wanted to give Emily the perfect night, it was clearly too much for her. She should have been holding her in bed at home, comfortable and relaxed. Not out for dinner.

“Tell you what, why don’t we have one little slow dance to our song, and then I take you home to bed? I’ll even rub your feet without any strings attached. Huh?”

Emily smiled and looked relieved. “I think that would be a great idea, honey. I’m sorry I’m not better company, the night you organized was perfect.”

She indicated to the waiter to clear away the dishes. “Don’t worry about it, baby girl. I should have kept you home resting.”

“If you can help me up, we can have that dance.” Emily said while trying to push herself up.

Dylan was around to help quickly. As she was standing, Emily cried out and looked down in panic.

“What is it, Emmie? Are you okay? Tell me.”

Emily looked up at her with trepidation. “I think my water just broke.”

Dylan felt all the blood drain from her body. Oh shit.

Emily braced herself against the table as another contraction ripped through her. “Oh God!”

She looked up at Dylan to find her looking at her cellphone. “This cannot be happening, Emmie. It says in my pregnancy app, you have to have contractions for a while before your water breaks.”

Emily felt a ball of anger bubble up inside. “Morgan, if you don’t put down that iPhone, I’m going to smash it. I’m having our baby.”

Dylan quickly came to her side and started rubbing her back. “I’m sorry. I just don’t understand how the baby could decide to come with no warning?”

Emily closed her eyes and tried to breathe into the pain. “I’ve been having pain and contractions since lunchtime.”

“What? You didn’t tell me? Why would you do that?” Dylan said angrily.

“Because I thought they might be Braxton Hicks contractions, just some practice ones since we still have some time to go, plus you had gone to so much trouble, I didn’t want to mess up your night.”

Dylan took a step away from her and she could sense she was trying to control her anger. “Dyl, I’m sorry I kept it from you, maybe I did the wrong thing but-”

She wrapped her arms around Emily, and kissed her head. “No, I’m sorry. I should have never taken you out when you were as heavily pregnant as this. I love you.”

“I love you too, but we need to get going. My contractions are five minutes apart, and I’m not going to make it back to Winthrop Hospital.”

Dylan gulped hard as panic clutched at her chest. At first, she had wanted Emily to give birth at the exclusive Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, because they had a lot of experience dealing with celebrity births and the security and press intrusion they entailed. Emily had been determined however to have birth in her local hospital. They had a plan organized with Winthrop to enable Jackson’s security team to work with hospital security, and now they had no hospital and no plan.

She started to pace manically. “What can we do? We can’t just roll up to any hospital, I mean the story would be out to the press in minutes and we’d be…fuck! Think Morgan!”

Emily groaned in pain as she felt another contraction start. “Stop panicking, Dylan and go and call Lynn. She’ll be able to help.”

“Lynn, yeah. Why didn’t I think of that?” She heard Emily let out another yell of pain and she was over in a flash holding her. “It’s okay, baby girl. I’m here.”

“You shouldn’t be. Go and call Lynn, and ask Jamie to contact Jackson. That is unless you want me to have our baby on the floor of a diner.”

My baby’s coming, my baby is coming right now! She turned and ran without looking where she was going and smashed face-first into a pillar. “Fuck!” She could feel her eye puffing up almost instantly.

“I’m okay, Emmie. Don’t worry.”

“Hurry Dylan, I need to get to a hospital.” She watched Emily bent over the table in pain and her panic intensified. “I’ll be back in two seconds, baby.”

Dylan ran out the door and looked up and down the street for Jamie. He hadn’t arrived back yet. She quickly dialed him and asked to get back as soon as possible, and asked him to call Jackson to get her team together.

As she dialed Lynn, she touched her fingers to her eye. There was no blood but it was really tender and sore. “Lynn, we’re in the city and Emily’s gone into labor. We need a hospital suite now. Can you try and get something for us? Great. Call me back.”

As she hung up the call she noticed groups of people on the sidewalk had noticed her, and were filming and taking snapshots of her. Shit.

“Dylan? Can I get your autograph?” One girl said.

“Sorry, it’s not a good time.” She replied.

Just then Jamie pulled up and jumped out. “Jackson’s getting the security team together, how’s Mrs. Morgan?”

“In pain. Can you park around back? There’s a bit crowd of a building up.”

The girl who she had rebuffed earlier shouted, “Hey, what happened to your face, Dylan.”

Crap.

She headed back inside and heard one guy shout. “Maybe Emily smacked her in the face?” The crowd laughed and she headed in. Idiot.

“Pauley, we need people at all entrances to the hospital and people outside the birthing suite. I want you to coordinate with hospital security. The press are going to try everything to get the inside scoop.”

Rosie held Molly in her arms, and Wolfie lay at her feet as she watched Jackson talk on the phone. Lynn had called her first to give her the hospital details, and then she immediately called Pauley. Molly had gotten a little scared when she heard her mother was in hospital. The last time that had happened, it had not been a good time for her family.

“Okay, thanks, Pauley. Keep in touch.”

Jackson sighed when she hung up and Molly said, “Dackson? My mama sick again? Like when the bad lady took her?”

Jackson kneeled down in front of her and took her hand. “No, munchkin. Your mama is safe I promise. She’s just having your little brother or sister a bit early. You’ll stay with us, and when it’s born we’ll take you to the hospital okay?”

Rosie’s heart melted when she saw Molly slide down from the chair and into Jackson’s arms. This was something new for her partner. As someone who wasn’t used to being around children or showing affection, she had initially been quite stiff around Molly, but the little girl had managed to worm her way into Jackson’s affections. The way they had played together earlier had shown her what a good parent Jackson could be.

“Don’t worry, Molls. Everything will be okay.”

Rosie found herself imagining Jackson with a little baby of their own, and she got a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

“What are you thinking so hard about, Hippy girl?”

Rosie gave her an enigmatic smile. “Nothing for you to worry about, Soldier boy. Now I’ll get this little girl bathed, and you call Dylan’s mom and dad.”

She took Molly’s hand and led her towards the bathroom thinking, I can’t wait for a future with you, Jack.

Sandy pulled up outside Amber’s house and switched the engine off. A nervous tension had grown between them, and neither appeared to know how to ease it. More than anything, Sandy didn’t want the night to be over. She wanted more than anything for Amber to ask her in, but she was nervously looking down at her lap and saying nothing.

“I…uh…really enjoyed tonight, Ambi. I can’t remember when I had as much fun.” Sandy said.

Amber gave her a shy smile. “Yes, it was great. Thanks for taking me out, Andy. I’ve never had a date like that.”

“Is that in a good way, or a bad way?” Sandy questioned.

“Oh, good way, a really good way. I meant that no one’s ever been interested in just me. I went to lots of fancy restaurants with Parker, but I might as well have been on my own. If he wasn’t constantly checking his emails and talking on his cell phone about work, he would be more interested in whichever business client that had come to dinner with us. You just wanted to be with me, that was enough for you.”

The tension between them was electric, and Sandy decided to be brave and lean in on Amber. As she did Amber said, “Do you want to come in a coffee?”

Something always seemed to get in the way of Sandy’s plans to kiss her, but at least the night wouldn’t be over. She wanted as much time with Amber as she could get.

“That would be great.”

As Amber removed her seatbelt she said, “You better put Dylan’s car into my garage, so it’s safe. I’ll go and open it up for you.”

“Thanks.”

After safely parking the Porsche, she joined Amber in the kitchen while she made coffee.

Sandy leaned against the kitchen counter and watched Amber intently. She was at a loss at what she should do next. Should she try and take whatever was between them forward, or chicken out and let Amber set the pace? She didn’t know, but she did know that she wanted Amber, so very much.

“Sandy? Sandy?”

“What? Sorry. I was miles away. What did you say?”

“Real coffee or decaf?”

“Decaf please. Um…I really enjoyed the concert. I’ve never listened to that kind of music before.”

Amber smiled at her. “You don’t have to pretend to like it you know. Not many young people enjoy piano music.”

Sandy took her coffee from her and said, “No, it was great. I like whatever we’re doing, as long as I’m with you, Ambi.”

“That’s sweet of you, but next time we can do something you like.”

Next time? Sandy closed the gap between them, buoyed by Amber’s talk of a next date. “No, seriously. I liked it. You know one of the first days I started working on the house, and you still weren’t talking to me, I heard you play the piano, closed my eyes and just listened. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard. It was so peaceful.”

Amber took her hand and smiled shyly. “That’s nice of you to say.”

“Not nice, truthful. Do you think you could play me something now?”

“I’d love to. Come on.”

She dragged her by the hand through to the living room.

Amber sat down at the piano and patted the stool. “Sit down beside me.”

Sandy took off her suit jacket and draped it over the couch. Given her bulky figure she sat on the stool sideways.

“What piece would you like me to play?”

“Play your favorite. I would love to hear what your favorite is.”

Amber opened the piano and ran her fingers along the keys. In that one gesture, Sandy realized how much the piano meant to Amber. She had caressed it like a lover, and Sandy couldn’t wait to be let in on her secret world.

“My favorite piece is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. When I play that I go to a different world, a more peaceful world.”

All Sandy could think of was going with Amber to that different world. She asked, “Will you tell me what it’s like when you’re playing? I’d love to feel what you do.”

“Of course I will.

Sandy watched as Amber placed her fingers on the keys, and closed her eyes. She stayed like that for at least a minute taking some deep breaths in and out, and then started to play. It was slow at first and built up gradually. The music felt to her like it was full of an aching sadness, and a deep longing. She had never truly physically felt a piece of music before, but she was feeling it now, deep down inside.

As she watched Amber, the thing she noticed was that she wasn’t simply playing with her hands, her whole body seemed to be taking part. Her head swayed along with the music and her facial features strained and changed with every emotion the music made her feel. It was truly beautiful to watch, and then Amber began to speak.

“It’s night time, dark outside and something pulls me from sleep. I walk out of the house, and there’s a slight chill to the air, but it’s not cold. I walk down to the pier, and look up. The night sky is so clear, all the stars look like diamonds sparkling in the blackness.”

As the music grew in tempo, Sandy’s heart started to thud and her breathing deepened. Amber had never looked more beautiful than she did just now. The emotion of the music, and the picture it was creating, seemed to make her shine with radiance. It took all of Sandy’s willpower not to touch her.

“A full moon hangs heavy and low in the sky. It illuminates the lake below, and the small ripples in the water make the light dance across the water like fireflies. My chest is tight and my heart is aching. I’m longing for something, every time I come here, I’m aching for something, something that will make my purpose clear, but I’ve never known what it is until…”

Amber’s voice trailed off and the sonata wound down, but she kept her eyes shut.

She was seeing something new, which was evident. Acting on a hunch, she moved closer to Amber and whispered in her ear, “Ambi? Who is your secret crush?”

When Amber’s eyes slowly opened, they looked excited and aroused. She leaned in so that her lips were inches from Amber’s and again whispered, “Who is your secret crush?”

“You, it’s always been you, Andy.” Amber said breathily.

Their lips came together softly, and Sandy gently took her head in her hands. Amber moaned as Sandy’s tongue tenderly licked along her lips. She parted her lips and Sandy deepened the kiss.

This was what Amber had always dreamed of, and feeling the kiss overwhelmed her. It was so different from the fevered kiss they had shared on the pier. That had felt like it was done for the wrong reasons. This felt so right, like she was being worshipped by Sandy.

When Parker kissed her, it was hard and mechanical, and she had felt nothing, but as soon as her lips touched Sandy’s it was as if someone had switched on the light and illuminated her dull black and white world. Now everything was sharp and in color, and this one gentle kiss had made her feel more alive, more passionate than she had ever before. This was what she had been missing.

Sandy pulled back and rested her forehead against hers and said, “I’ve fallen in love with you.”

It was such a simple sentence but it meant so much. Amber stood and pulled Sandy over to the couch. She wasn’t quite sure how to respond verbally, all she could think of at the moment was kissing Sandy until all her feelings made sense.

Sandy felt like she was in heaven. She had dreamed about kissing Amber for so long, and now here she was, kissing her with so much passion that she was afraid of losing control.

Once on the couch, she had pulled Amber onto her lap. As their passion intensified, Amber had undone the top three buttons of Sandy’s shirt and set about running her soft hands over her neck, upper chest and shoulders, and it was a huge turn on.

As Sandy got more aroused, she found that her hands naturally wanted to slip under the hem of Amber’s dress and stroke their way up her thighs. Amber moaned into her kiss, and it encouraged her hands to climb higher until she grasped onto Amber’s buttocks and squeezed. She was rewarded by more moans by Amber and some small rocking motions.

It was Sandy’s turn to moan. She pulled back from the dizzying kiss and started to kiss her way down her neck. Amber’s hands moved from inside her shirt to holding her around the head, and leaned her head back as she gave a low, primal groan.

Just as Sandy was about to take things farther, Amber said, “Andy, wait…please wait a minute.”

Sandy felt dazed from the passion and lust she was feeling, so much so that she didn’t register what Amber was saying until she was pushed her back.

“Andy, please. Can we cool down a bit? I’d like to talk to you before we go too far.”

She took a few deep breaths to clear the lustful fog in her brain and let go of Amber. “I’m sorry, I pushed you too far didn’t I? I’m sorry, Ambi. I just got so caught-”

“No.” Amber silenced her with a peck on the nose. “We were both getting caught up, and I wanted to stop and talk to you before we couldn’t.”

Amber moved off her lap and Sandy took a deep breath and pulled herself together.

“Sure, let’s talk.”

Amber took Sandy’s hand and held it tenderly so that Sandy wouldn’t feel she was being rejected in any way. “You said you loved me earlier and I didn’t say anything back to you.”

Sandy looked nervous and immediately jumped in. “Hey, you don’t have to say anything. I don’t want you to feel pressured into anything. I just wanted you to know what I felt and to know if I had a chance with you.”

Amber had to stop herself from laughing out loud. Her have a chance with me? She could have anyone.

“I think you can tell by the way I kissed you that I’m interested in you. I’ve had a crush on you ever since I saw you race at your first athletic trials. You blew everyone away that day including me.”

Sandy smiled and turned around to face her. “And then you met me and it went downhill from there, huh?”

“Then I met you and found out you were one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and you needed some help and care to get over a difficult time.”

“You’ve helped me so much, Ambi. That’s why I know you’re right for me.”

There was always a tiny voice inside Amber’s head that worried Sandy was just having these intense feelings because she was the only one showing her care, and when Sandy had fully recovered she would leave.

“I do care about you, Sandy. In fact I’ve been falling in love with you too, but I need us to go a little bit slower with this. I’ve just come out of a dysfunctional relationship, and to be honest, I’m scared.”

“Why are you scared, Ambi?”

Amber tried to get her thoughts and fears in some sort of order. It was hard to articulate all the worries floating around in her head.

“I suppose I’m worried about getting involved with you and then you disappear out of my life. You have such a lot going on, and once you move back to the city, you won’t be around much.”

Sandy cupped her cheek tenderly. “I could probably promise that I won’t ever leave, because it’s you I want, but you wouldn’t totally trust me, but I do promise to prove to you that I won’t leave, with each day I spend with you.”

Amber smiled and kissed Sandy’s hand tenderly. She was being as honest as possible and she appreciated that.

“I want to date you, Ambi. Take you out, romance you, win your love forever, so I can prove to you that I’m deadly serious.”

Parker had never said anything like that to her. Sandy Williams was perfect, and she felt like the luckiest girl in the world to be loved by her, but there was one more insecurity still worrying her.

“I would love to date you, Andy, but I just don’t want you to be disappointed in me. I’ve never been with a woman before, and-”

“Hey, you could never disappoint me. We can go as slow as you like, and I won’t push into anything you’re not ready for. Are you sure a relationship with a woman is what you want? I just want you to be sure before we go any further.”

“I was never attracted to Parker, and I’ve always questioned my sexuality, but I was confused because I wasn’t attracted to girls like me. You know girly-girls?”

“Sure.” Sandy nodded.

Amber giggled. “Then I saw you, and I felt so much. When you kissed me, it was like a light being switched on. Everything made sense to me. I am gay, and I like lesbians like you. You know…em…”

“Butches, studs?”

Amber was entering a new kind of world, and she didn’t understand everything but it felt more right than anything else in her life.

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m glad I could switch you on, Ambi.” She joked. “So, can we date, and see how things go?”

“I would like that very much.”

Sandy pulled her into her arms. “Thank you for giving me a chance. I love you.”

There was a loud text chirp, and Sandy pulled her cell from her pocket. “It’s Jackson. Oh wow…”

“What? Is everything okay?” Amber asked.

“Emily’s in labor. She’s having the baby!”

“It’s a bit early. Does Jackson say if she’s okay?”

“No, just that she’ll let me know when she hears anything.”

Amber was well aware how much Dylan and Emily meant to Sandy, and she looked worried. “Why don’t you stay here tonight? I don’t want you to be back at the pool house worrying on your own, and I’d like to spend the time with you.”

“I’d really like that.”

“Don’t worry, Dylan. Everything will be fine. Go and be with Emily.” Pauley said.

Dylan nodded and let out a breath. They were standing outside the premium deluxe suite of Lenox Hill hospital. Lynn had once again worked her magic, and got them booked into the most exclusive birthing suite in New York. Dylan was pleased that they were used to handling celebrity births, and that security would be tight.

“Thanks, Pauley. Be as tactful and accommodating as you can with the staff and the other patients. I don’t want to inconvenience other parents and families, because I know that’s happened before. It’s only the press were worried about, okay?”

“Absolutely, will do.”

As Dylan was about to walk through the door she remembered one last thing. “Oh, can you watch out for my parents? Jackson was going to call them, and they’ll be here soon.”

“No problem.”

She walked through the door to find the Doctor and a nurse examining Emily. She walked over to the couch and took her jacket off. She looked around the room and thought, Lynn’s done it again. This place is like a penthouse suite at the Four Seasons.

It had light hardwood floors, dark wood cabinets, and cream colored walls, and furnished with gray and white couches. To make the stay even more comfortable it had flat screen TVs, state of the art electronics and even a private kitchenette. It struck Dylan just how lucky they were to be able to afford these luxuries, but when Emily had delivered Molly, she had no one and nothing, and it made her feel deep anger and guilt. She decided that she would give a big donation to the young mother’s program at the women’s shelter that helped Emily, as soon as they got home.

“Dylan!” She heard Emily shout, and she hurried over to the bed.

“I’m here, baby girl.” She kissed her and took her hand. “How’s she doing, Doctor Michaels?”

“She’s dilated five centimeters and in the active stage of labor. It’s moving really quickly, so we’ll keep a close eye on her. Your own doctor is on her way.”

Emily had her eyes shut and her cries of pain had changed to a low continuous moan. Dylan had to admit to herself she was scared, she hated to see Emily in such pain, but she had to keep strong.

“It’s early, doctor. Is the baby going to be okay?”

Dr. Michaels was writing in his notes as he answered. “If everything seems normal with mom and baby we shouldn’t have any problems. You’ll be holding a new bouncing baby sometime in the early hours of this morning.”

“Woah.” Was all Dylan could say. Her mind raced at a million miles an hour, not quite sure what to say or do next.

“I’ll leave you with nurse Diane, but I’ll be available until your own doctor gets here.”

“Thanks, Doc.”

After he left Emily started to sit up. “I need to move about, Diane. Is that okay?”

“Sure thing, ma’am. Move around as much you want. There’s a birthing ball in the corner, a lot of women find that helps.”

They both helped her to the side of the bed, and Emily said, “Dyl…Dyl…birth music.”

“Oh yeah, Is there a dock I can put my iPhone on Diane?”

“We have wireless speakers in the room. Please hook up to that.” She said with a smile.

“Wow, you do think of everything.” She got the birth playlist that Rain had helped her make up, and started it playing.

“Hurry up, I need to move.” Emily said.

Uh-oh. She pressed play and the nature mediation sounds started to play throughout the room.

Emily clasped her hands around her neck and slipped off the bed.

“I’ll give you both some privacy, and check on you in an hour. If you need me, just press the call button.”

“Thanks.”

They started to move around the room, in a pantomime of a slow lovers’ dance. Emily tensed and started to moan.

“There’s another one starting. Oh God it hurts.”

Dylan kissed her head and they walked around slowly. “I’m sorry, Baby. I wish it could make it easier. Breathe. Remember to breathe.”

Emily’s whole body tensed as her contraction grew stronger, and Dylan cried out along with her when Emily pressed her sharp fingernails deep into her neck.

“Ah!”

Jackson stood behind Rosie with her arms around her waist by the door of her spare room. It had been a wonderful experience taking care of Molly and putting her to bed, and she had loved watching Rosie enjoy every moment of it. She was so gentle, loving, and patient towards Molly, it was clear that she would make a fantastic mother if that’s what she wanted.

“She looks so peaceful.” Rosie said. “So contented.”

She squeezed Rosie tighter and gave her a soft kiss on the neck. “She sure does, and another little munchkin on the way too. Emily and Dylan are really lucky.”

“Do you think we could have this one day, Jack? I mean, I know I gave you a hard time about planning my future out, but to be honest…I would love to share this experience with you, and I’d love to be a mommy.”

A feeling of warmth and happiness spread throughout Jackson’s body. She was usually so worried to tell Rosie what she really wanted about subjects like this, but she trusted that she was talking from her heart. “I’d never even thought about kids until I met you. It just wasn’t something that seemed possible for someone like me, but now I’ve met you and won your love, there’s nothing that would make me happier.

Rosie reached behind her to pull Jackson in for a kiss, and whispered, “Why don’t you take Wolfie out for his bedtime walk, and we can get an early night?”

Jackson closed her eyes and kissed Rosie tenderly. “I think that’s the best idea you’ve had all week, darlin’.”

Amber had put on a movie for her and Sandy, since they weren’t quite ready to go to sleep. The movie had virtually been forgotten as they held each other close, shared some passionate kisses, and talked about everything, from the work still to be done on the house, to both their wants and dreams for the future.

“So? Where are you going to take me on our second date, Andy?” Amber was snuggled into Sandy’s side.

“Wherever you want to go. I’m happy as long as you’re with me.”

She’s perfect. “That’s nice to know, but I’d like to experience some things that you enjoy.”

Sandy looked as if she was thinking hard and then a smile started to form on her face. “I got it.”

“So where are we going?”

“That’s a surprise.”

“Kiss me.” Amber said simply, and when Sandy lowered her lips towards her she whispered, “Tell me where.”

Sandy tipped her head back in frustration. “That is so unfair, you can’t do that to me.”

Amber was really enjoying the ease she shared with Sandy. It was something natural, and further convinced her that she was absolutely in love with her. She felt safe and already shared an intimacy that she never had with Parker.

She sat up and gave her the sweetest kiss she could. “It’s okay, you can surprise me.”

Amber enjoyed being held by Sandy and although tiredness was beginning to overcome her, she didn’t want it to end.

“I think I’ll need to get some sleep, Andy. It’s been a wonderful night, but I’m getting sleepy now.”

Sandy kissed her head and started to sit up. “No problem. If you just give me a blanket, I’ll be okay on the couch.”

That was the last thing Amber wanted. She stood up and took Sandy’s hand. “Would you come and sleep beside me? I’d like to be close to you.”

She watched Sandy gulp hard, and look nervously around. “Um…I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Ambi. You wanted to take things slowly.”

“I do, but I want to be close to you. I’m sure we can control ourselves.” Amber said smiling.

“You think?” Sandy stood and Amber pulled her towards her.

“Well, probably. Anyway…” She became overly interested in Sandy’s shirt buttons all of a sudden, and wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“Sandy, I’m not trying to tease you or anything like that. Like I said, I do worry about being enough for you…in that way, and I’m nervous, but the more time being close to you-”

Sandy smiled and gently lifted her face up to look at her. “The more you’ll relax?”

“Something like that. Thanks for understanding.”

Amber thanked God she had remembered to take down the picture of Sandy in her room earlier. That would have been embarrassing.

“Take me to bed then, babe.”

Amber felt her heart flutter at the new term of endearment, and pulled Sandy towards the bedroom.

Dr. Meadows had made it to Lenox Hill and was now fully in charge of baby Morgan’s entrance to the world. She gave Emily a physical exam and was checking the stats that Nurse Diane had taken. “Emily, this is going to be a really quick birth. Are you sure you don’t want some pain relief?”

“No epidural.” Emily said.

“Emmie, take it.”

“No…you promised.”

Dylan sighed remembering how Emily explained how she’d had a panic attack the last time she’d had an epidural.

“Okay, okay. Whatever you want.”

Emily lay on her side on the bed, with a pillow between her legs, and Dylan sat by her side.

She felt utterly helpless and useless as she had watched Emily’s pain increase and her responsiveness lessen.

She looked almost as if she were in a trance, trying to cope with the pain. She hadn’t spoken a word for the last half an hour, only uttering long pained and exhausted groans. Dylan didn’t know what else to do except stroke her hair, give her soft kisses and keep talking, hoping she would hear her words of encouragement.

She talked nonstop about how well Emily was doing, what the baby would be like, about what Molly would think, things they would do as a family, anything she could think of to try and distract her wife.

“You’re doing great, Emmie. Just try to keep calm, and breathe. Remember to breathe, remember to breathe.”

Out of nowhere Emily said in a desperate voice, “Shut the hell up, Dylan.”

She had thought she was doing the right thing, surely she was? “But…I…”

Dylan stopped as she saw Emily grip her pillow in agony as another contraction started, and she forgot her warning.

She stood up and began to rub Emily’s back. “Breathe, Baby, remember Rain said you were to breathe into the pain.”

Emily’s eyes opened quickly and she shot Dylan a look of murderous rage. “You breathe into the pain! Stop telling me to breathe, and turn off that stupid nature music. If I hear one more whale call, I’m going to hurt someone, and you are closest, TV star.”

Dylan felt like a naughty kid. All she wanted to do was help and she didn’t even know how to do that. She wanted to be the perfect supportive partner and was failing miserably.

At that moment the Nurse came in to say Dylan’s parents had arrived. “Perfect, go and get some coffee and talk to your dad for a while, and send in your mom.”

“I don’t need a break, Emmie. I can stay.”

“I need break from your stupid remarks.”

“But…” Emily buried her face into her pillow and her knuckles turned white as she braced against the pain. Outside was the last place Dylan wanted to be, but if it made Emily feel better she would do it.

She walked outside the birthing room dejectedly, and Pauley directed her towards the waiting room around the corner.

Her mom and dad were off their feet the second they saw her, and she was glad of the hug her mother gave her. “How is she, sweetheart?” Pattie asked.

“Okay, I think. The doctor says even though the baby’s a bit early, it’s developed enough to be born, but it’s going to be a really quick birth.”

“She’s going to do great, Champ. Emily is a strong young woman.” Tommy said.

That was certainly true, but to see her wife in pain was really hard. “Yeah. Um…she asked for you to go and see her for a bit, mom. Says she needs a break from me.”

Pattie and Tommy exchanged a look, and Pattie said, “Have a cup of coffee and a talk with your dad. Emily will need you back, strong and alert to welcome your little baby into the world.”

Dylan nodded, and let out a breath. “I guess I could do with some coffee.”

Tommy put his arm around her and guided her to the waiting room couches. “Take a seat, Champ, and I’ll get you that coffee.”

Sandy stripped down to her underwear and white t-shirt she had on underneath her shirt, and quickly got under the covers of Amber’s bed.

Amber left her to get changed in privacy while she got ready in the bathroom. Sandy looked around the room and tried to think of ways she could decorate it. Although it had old-fashioned decoration at the moment, it had a lot of potential. It was a pleasant, good sized room with some big windows looking out over the lake.

She turned her gaze to Amber’s side of the bed and smiled at the Bambi alarm clock, perched on top of a stack of home repair books.

She is just adorable. As if to emphasize that point, Amber chose that moment to walk out of the bathroom.

“Hi.” Amber said nervously.

“Hi.” They looked at each other not knowing what to say or do next. It was funny to Sandy that Amber thought she was the more experienced one of the two. Really it was like the blind leading the blind, but she had to say something.

“You’ve got a great room, Ambi.”

Amber shrugged and hurried over to the bed and under the comforter, pulling the covers right up to her neck. “It’s a mess, there’s so much to do.”

Sandy inched over to close the gap between them, and leaned up on her elbow. “It’s not a mess, it has lots of potential.”

“Oh? What would you recommend, Handy Manny?” Amber joked, and with that the uneasiness fell away.

“Well, I was thinking you could…rip up the carpet, polish up the floorboards, paint everything really nice, and maybe change those big windows to glass doors and make a small balcony looking over the lake.”

“That would be beautiful.” Amber was finding it extremely difficult to concentrate with Sandy in such close proximity to her.

The person who she had admired, had fantasized about in her most private moments, was inches away from her and in her bed. She knew she shouldn’t ogle but her eyes couldn’t help but trace the line of Sandy’s muscular neck, and shoulders. “Gorgeous.”

“What?”

It was only then that she realized she had said that last word out loud. Since it was too late to take it back, she looked up in Sandy’s deep brown eyes and said, “You’re gorgeous.”

“No one’s ever said that to me.”

Amber’s arousal was helping her confidence. She reached up and trailed her fingers down the line of Sandy’s neck and shoulders, making her shiver. She was struck by the image of her own fingernails digging into those hard shoulders as she squirmed in pleasure.

“The first time I saw you on TV, I was transfixed by you, your body was like some sort of chiseled, Greek statue. Then I heard you speak about the things you believed in, children in sport, healthy living and community projects, and I think it was then that I lost my heart to you.”

“Really?” Sandy inched closer and put her hand on her hip, and Amber felt tingles throughout her body.

“Uh-huh, but I thought you’d have some six foot tall Amazon type for a girlfriend.”

“Nah, I like quirky girls. I like you, Ambi. You’re my type, you’re exactly what I want in my life.”

It was hard to believe someone like Sandy could want some slightly weird preschool teacher, but the way her muscles tensed and shivered when Amber touched her, told her the truth.

“Ambi, do you know why I knew I was falling in love with you, why you were right for me?” Sandy whispered, as she moved closer to her lips.

“Training and running have always been what made me happy, what made me feel alive and free, but since I came back from the games, I was losing my enthusiasm. Bit by bit I was falling out of love with it. Then Grandma died and it was over, I hated running for the first time in my life. I blamed it for lots of things, things I’d missed out on, and when Dylan tried to get me back into training, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t make it work. Then one day when I was working on your house, it hit me. You made me want to run again, what I felt for you inside made me want to run. I felt alive, you make me feel alive.”

Amber didn’t even stop to think, she pressed her lips against Sandy’s and kissed her hard. She held onto Sandy’s neck as she was lowered on to her back, and Sandy took control of the kiss. She felt hungry for Sandy, and ran her hands up and down her hard muscled body.

She groaned when Sandy moved on top of her. They kissed passionately, slowly losing themselves to each other. She had never felt such a deep passionate need for someone before, and a need for sex, but when Sandy slipped between her legs, she quite naturally locked her feet around Sandy’s ass, and both their hips began to move together.

She grabbed Sandy’s hand and pushed it under her sleep shirt, hoping she might touch her breast that were aching for attention. As suddenly as their torrent of passion started, it ended when Sandy pulled back, breathing heavily.

“No…we have to stop. You wanted to take things slowly.”

Amber could have kicked herself for saying that. In this moment all she wanted were Sandy’s hands on her. “I’ve changed my mind, I want you, Andy.”

She pulled Sandy back down into a kiss and she gave an anguished groan, clearly wanting exactly the same as her, but again she pulled back, but this time held Amber’s hands tight above her head.

“Babe, I want you so much it hurts, but I know you want to take things easy, and as much you might want to make love now, I’m not taking the chance of you regretting it tomorrow, because I want to make something special with you.”

In some tiny part of her, Amber knew she was right. If she wanted to build a relationship, it had to be slower. She nodded sadly in acceptance, and Sandy caressed her cheek.

“I’ve got to take you out on some dates first, remember? And when you’re certain about this, I’m going to kiss every part of you.”

Amber groaned. “Don’t say that, Andy. It’s going to be hard enough to sleep as it is.”

Sandy rolled off of her and laughed. “Tell me about it.”

She snuggled into Sandy’s chest and said, “I know, let’s talk paint colors, huh?”

“Yeah, that’ll do it.” Sandy laughed.

Dylan finished her bad hospital coffee and threw the cup into the bin. “I feel helpless, Dad. It’s like every little thing I do or say is wrong or annoying her.”

“You’re helping, Champ. She’s in unbelievable pain, and you’re the only one she can take it out on. That’s your job, to be there and take what she gives you or whatever she needs.”

“I never thought of it like that, Dad. You think that’s true?” Dylan asked.

“Sure, she’s going to feel so many emotions through her labor. Anger, fear, frustration, exhaustion, and happiness. The last time she had no one to share that with, now she has you to help her through it.”

Dylan scrubbed her face with her hands. She was feeling tired herself, god knows how Emily felt. “I feel guilty I wasn’t there for her and Molly the first time. I can’t imagine how terrified she was.”

Tommy patted her leg. “Don’t think about the past. You can’t change that, just concentrate on what you can give her.”

She was struck with the urge to say something that she hadn’t done before. “Dad? I…um…I’m really glad you’re back in my life. I should have said that before now.”

Tommy looked as if he was struggling to control his emotions. He nodded and then pulled her into a hug, which was unlike him. “Thanks for saying that, Champ. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but allowing me and your mom back into your family is the best thing that’s happened to me. I love you, Champ.”

Woah, wait. Did he say love? Tommy Morgan did not talk about love, but it was the best thing to hear.

“I love you too, Dad.”

They pulled back from each other, both a little uncomfortable sharing emotions. “Dylan?”

Neither had realized that Pattie had come back into the waiting room, during their heartfelt conversation, and quietly observed them. “Hey, Mom. Is Emmie okay?

“She’s asking for you, sweetheart. The doctor says she’s ready to deliver.”

Dylan felt a little lightheaded and weak-legged. “Okay, thanks Mom.”

“Good luck, Champ.”

As she walked passed her mom, she reached up, kissed her and whispered, “Thank you for saying that to him. You’ve made your dad a happy man.”

She smiled and hugged her mom before heading back to the birthing room. She found Emily had been moved onto her back, and was in the birthing position. The doctor and two nurses were around her.

“Don’t push too hard, Emily.” Dr. Meadows said.

She heard Emily yell and rushed to her side. “Emmie, I’m here.”

Emily grasped at her hand and looked desperate, her hair plastered to her face with sweat.

“Dyl, the baby’s coming. I need you.”

She kissed her wife’s head and held her as close as she could. “I love you, baby. I’m here. I’m never leaving you again.”

Dr. Meadows looked up to them and said, “Okay, Emily this is not going to take long. Baby Morgan will be here real soon. At your next contraction, I want you to give a good, long, steady push. Don’t take it too fast.”

Emily grasped Dylan’s hand hard as she started to feel another contraction start. She felt a complete sense of panic at the pain she knew was coming. She was utterly exhausted, even though Molly’s birth had taken longer, this quick birth seemed much harder. “There’s another one coming. It’s too much.”

“You can do it, baby girl. I know you can.” Dylan held her close and she tried to draw some extra strength from her partner, and pushed.

The pain was so bad that all she could think of was pushing this baby out of her, even when the doctor told her to slow down.

“Emily, you need to stop pushing. I can see the baby’s head, you’re doing okay. Just calm down for a few minutes.” Dr. Meadows said.

Exhaustion stopped her in her tracks, and she cried out. She heard Dylan say excitedly, “I can see its head…our baby’s got a head.”

If she hadn’t been so exhausted or in such pain, she would have laughed out loud at her partner’s goofy comment, instead she felt an anxiety building.

Emily knew the next push would be the greatest pain, and she honestly didn’t think she could cope. A sense of pure panic and fear spread throughout her, and then the next contraction started. She looked up to Dylan, tears streaming down her cheeks, and said desperately, “I can’t do anymore, Dylan. Make it stop please. I’m scared, I’m really scared.”

Dylan got down on her knees at the side of the bed, so she was at eye level with her. “Emmie, I know you can do this. You are the bravest person I know. You walked away from a scary situation, had Molly all by yourself, and brought her up alone, working every hour you could to give her what she needed. Now you don’t have to do anything alone, I’m here every step of the way with you.”

As she looked into Dylan’s eyes that were full of solid reassurance, she did start to calm. The pain started to become intense and she knew this was it, time to push.

Dylan’s grip of her hand was strong and gave her something to anchor onto. Dylan would keep her safe, she trusted in that.

“Okay big push, Emily. Baby’s head is nearly out.” Dr. Meadows said.

“Keep looking in my eyes, baby girl. Let’s do this together.”

She did as Dylan said and kept her eyes locked on her partner’s while she gave every last ounce of her energy to pushing.

“That’s it, baby. You can do it!”

Just when she thought she couldn’t take anymore, the doctor said, “Baby’s head is out. Well done Emily. The hard parts done.”

A short time later, she screamed out with her final push and the doctor had the baby out. She collapsed back against the bed utterly drained.

The doctor immediately put the baby on her stomach while the nurse wiped its head, mouth and nostrils clean.

She looked down and saw a little dark head. “Oh my God, our baby. Dylan look at our baby.”

“I can’t believe it, Emmie. You did it. I’m so proud of you.” Dylan kissed her and it was then she saw her partner had tears streaming down her face. It was extremely rare to see Dylan cry, and it showed how much the baby meant to her.

“We did it, Dylan. I love you.”

They heard the baby give it first cry and it made them evermore emotional. The nurse moved baby Morgan further up on her chest and Emily kissed its dark head. “I love you.”

“Is it healthy, Doctor?” Emily asked.

She smiled and replied. “A perfectly healthy, but big, baby boy.”

“Oh my God, Emmie. We have a son!” Dylan said with joy.

She kissed her and reached out to gently touch his head. “Hi son, I’m your mom, and this pretty lady is your mama. We’ve been waiting so long for you, and we love you so much.”

He started to squirm and cry, and Emily said, “He’s a Morgan all right. Demanding attention.”

Dylan laughed and gave her a kiss.

“Do you have a name for him?” Nurse Diane asked.

They had made two lists of names, for boys and girls, and had wanted until it was born to decide, but as soon as Emily heard he was a boy, she knew his name.

“Emmie? What do you think?” Dylan asked.

Emily smiled and kissed the baby’s head. “This little boy is Joseph Dylan Morgan.”

Dylan face lit up with the broadest smile she had ever seen. “It’s perfect.”

Dylan had never seen a more beautiful sight in her life. She watched with awe and fascination as baby Joseph fed from his mother for the first time. As soon as he was born, Emily lost her exhausted pained look, and was now glowing with happiness, and had found energy from somewhere.

Dylan had her arm around Emily to be as close to them as possible, and as he fed he held onto her thumb.

“He’s just the cutest, Emmie. Look at his little nose and little lips, little ears.”

Emily laughed softly. The rest of him isn’t so little, nine pounds five ounces. Thank God he came early.”

Dylan couldn’t help but feel a huge sense of pride at that, and gave a smug smile. “It’s the Morgan genes. Were all big.”

“You sure are TV star, but maybe the next one could have some of my petite genes? Just for the sake of my body.”

The idea of doing this again thrilled Dylan. She could never have imagined the joy and satisfaction that being a parent until she met Molly, and as soon as she looked at this little guy she had lost her heart just the same.

“You really want more babies?”

Emily looked down at Joseph and smiled, “Once my body has forgotten the pain, yes I would. There is nothing like this feeling, and sharing it with you is a dream come true. What about you, Papa Smurf?”

“You don’t have to ask me that question, Emmie. I want as many as you want to have.”

“We’ll see then.” She stroked his dark head, trying to calm him. “Hey baby boy, slow down there. He really loves to eat.”

Dylan looked at Emily’s uncovered breast and said, “Can you blame him?”

“Very funny, TV star.” Emily lifted the baby away from her breast and offered him to Dylan. “Why don’t you burp Joey and then we can introduce him to his grandma and grandpa?”

Joey. She got a lump in her throat thinking about her brother and silently thanked him for all he had given them.

“I’d love to. C’mere, Joey.” She took him carefully from Emily, rested him against her chest, and started to rub his back. She closed her eyes for a couple of moments, and drank in her son’s scent and began bonding with him.

“I love you, Joey.”

Amber woke up to the sound of Sandy talking on the phone. She sat up and smiled when she saw her sitting at the end of her bed, still in her underwear.

“That’s amazing, Dylan. Congratulations. Yeah? Okay, I can do that. Just email me a list.”

As Sandy spoke, Amber crawled up behind her, and feeling brave, kissed her on the shoulders and neck. She chuckled when Sandy’s voice started to get higher in pitch as she spoke.

“Okay, Dylan. See you later.” Sandy hung up the cell phone, and turned around in a flash, and pushed her down on the bed to tickle her mercilessly.

“Were you trying to tease me, Ambi?”

Amber giggled and shouted, “Stop, stop, it tickles.”

Sandy stopped and looked down her happy, smiling face. “Hey, babe.”

“Hey, Andy.” She reached up and twisted one of Sandy’s braids around her finger.

“Did you sleep okay?” Amber asked.

“Yeah, the best ever. I woke up with you snuggled into me. I didn’t want to move, but Dylan called my cell.”

“The baby? Is it born?”

Sandy nodded. “Yeah, a baby boy. They’ve called him Joseph after her brother.”

“Aww, that is so sweet.”

“It is. Dylan’s so lucky.” Sandy trailed her fingers gently down her cheek and along her lips. “You are so beautiful, you know that?”

Amber was mesmerized by Sandy’s dark brown eyes. “You make my heart melt.”

Sandy kissed her softly and lovingly, but when she gently scratched her nails down her back, Sandy grasped her thigh, and kissed her deeper.

“No, no, no.” Sandy said pulling away gasping. “Dates first. You want slowly.”

Amber chuckled at Sandy’s admirable self-control. “Okay. So what are you doing today?”

“Dylan’s asked me to pick up some things from the house, and take them to the hospital when I visit. Will you come with me? I don’t want to leave you.”

“I would love to go with you, but the Morgans probably want to keep everything very private.”

“No, I asked Dylan and they would love to see you. I thought I could head home with the Porsche, get a shower and get together some things for Dylan, and then I could come back with the truck and pick you up. How about that?”

“Okay, that would be nice. Oh, but we need to pick up a present at the baby boutique in town before we go. We can’t go to the hospital empty handed.”

Sandy gave her a big smile. “A present from us?”

“Yes. A present from us, Andy.”

Jackson had arranged for one of her security people to drive Molly, Rosie, and herself, to the hospital, so that she could concentrate on getting Molly passed the press pack at the entrance.

As the blacked-out people carrier approached the hospital, she noticed that as well as photographers and the usual band of fans, there were some people with anti-gay placards, marching up and down, just as they had at the Morgan’s wedding.

“Perfect.” She said sarcastically.

She turned to the female bodyguard who was driving and said, “Plan B, Chris, we’ll park and go through the back entrance.”

“Is everything okay, Jack?”

She looked to the back seat where Rosie and Molly were sitting quietly. “Yes, everything’s perfect. We’re going in through the back entrance that’s all.”

Rosie nodded in understanding, and she started to talk to Molly, distracting her from the protesters.

Jackson was aware that Molly was scared by the public crowds that sometimes surrounded her parents after the incident at the Dylan and Emily’s wedding. A protester had tried to grab Molly, and she had never forgotten it.

They managed to slip in unnoticed and Dylan was waiting for them outside Emily’s room. When Molly saw Dylan, she squealed, “Mom! Mom!” She jumped into her mom’s arms and Dylan swung her around before giving her the biggest hug.

“Hey, Smurf, how are you doing?”

“I miss you and mama. Is mama and de baby okay?”

“Sure are, Molls.” Dylan smiled when she saw Jackson and Rosie walking down the hall laden down with flowers and baby balloons. “Hey, you two. I hope she wasn’t too much trouble.”

“She was a little angel.” Rosie said before giving Dylan a kiss on the cheek. “Congratulations, Dylan.”

Jackson shook her hand. “Yeah, congratulations.” She furrowed her eyebrows and gave Dylan a stare. “Did Emily punch you in the face?”

Dylan laughed. “Let’s just say I lost a fight with a pillar.”

“It was a surprising anniversary in more ways than one.” Rosie said.

“You’re not kidding. I’ve never been more terrified in my life.”

Molly was desperately trying to get her attention. “Mom, no talking I want see mama and baby.”

Jackson took Rosie’s hand and said, “Why don’t we let you introduce Molly to the baby in private, and we’ll sit in the waiting room?”

“Thanks, we won’t be long. Emmie’s anxious to see you both. Oh? Did Jamie pick up Wolfie?”

“Yeah, he’s on his way back to your house.” Jackson said.

“Great. Emmie didn’t want him to be scared that he’s left behind. The doctor thinks she can get out late afternoon, so we’ll all be back together tonight.”

Rosie smiled remembering how much she enjoyed having Wolfie to stay. “That’s great. Wolfie was such a sweetheart. Makes me really want a dog too.”

Jackson made a face and Rosie caught her. “You’re going to pay for that, Soldier boy.”

Dylan laughed and started to walk back into the room. “See you soon guys.”

Emily sat as comfortably as she could on the couch of her room. Pattie had helped her to get washed and dressed before making her comfortable on the couch. She had a fresh set of clothes in her bag they had made up for whenever she gave birth. She felt it was important that Molly didn’t see her in the hospital bed, like the last time.

They both hadn’t realized what a big effect her kidnapping had on Molly. It was only in the months after that they began to notice signs of anxiety and panic in her, connected to her mother’s wellbeing.

Dylan put her down, and she looked unsure at first, but as soon as she saw her grandparents sitting beside her mom, and Emily opened up her arms to her she ran towards her mother.

“Careful, Molls. Mama’s sore.”

“It’s okay, Dyl. Come see mama.” No matter how achy and sore she was, she was determined not to show it to her daughter.

Molly gave her the biggest hug, and Emily squeezed her right back. “I missed you, Mama.”

She closed her eyes and allowed herself to reconnect with her little girl. “Me too, sweetie.”

“Were you a good girl for Jackson and Rosie?” Pattie asked her.

“Yeah, Grandma.”

Tommy walked over and ruffled her hair. “You’re always a good girl, aren’t you sport?”

“Uh-huh, Grandpa. Where is de baby, Mama?”

Emily looked up to Dylan and said, “Bring him over Dyl.”

Molly watched her mom with fascination as she lifted a bundle out from the cot, and heard the baby grizzle and squirm.

Dylan sat down beside them and held up the baby for Molly. “This is your baby brother, Joey.”

“Like Uncle Joey?” Molly asked excitedly.

“Yep, we thought it would be a nice way to remember him.” Dylan said.

“He so cute, Mom. Hi, Doey! I your big sister, Molly.”

Emily, Tommy and Pattie all shared a smile. Emily had never imagined her life could get any better but seeing Molly with a sibling was beautiful.

“Dad, could you take a picture of us?” Dylan asked, and handed her iPhone over to him. She and Emily had agreed that if she tweeted a picture of her with the baby, then the press would have something to use and they might not be as intrusive.

“Sure.” Tommy held up his camera, and said, “Smile, you two.”

Tommy took the picture and Dylan tweeted it out to her followers with the message, Meet Joseph Dylan Morgan, twitter buddies…and no, Emily didn’t give me the black eye. J

“That should be okay for now, but I’ll get Lynn to put out a statement.” Dylan said.

Molly tugged on her mom’s arm. “I hold him, Mom?”

Dylan looked up to Emily to see if that was a good idea, and she nodded. “Just kneel in front and help her support him, Dyl.”

She knelt down and very carefully rested Joey in Molly’s arms, but was taking most of the weight with her hands underneath,

Molly looked down at him and said seriously, “Hi Doey, I’m your big sister, and I’m going to look after you like mom did with Uncle Doey. I got loads of toys you can play with, and Wolfie will love you too.”

There was a collective sigh in the room, as the adults listened to the adorable conversation, and when Dylan looked up to her wife, she saw happy tears tumbling down her cheeks.

Later that evening Dylan drove Emily, Molly and baby Joey home. Molly was glued to her mama’s side after her hospital stay, so Emily braved the pain and discomfort to put her to bed, and left Joey with Dylan.

Emily sat uncomfortably on Molly’s bed after finishing her story. “Mama, I can’t wait to wake up and play with Doey.”

She stroked her daughter’s hair tenderly. “I bet he can’t wait to play with his big sister either.”

Molly was so pleased with her new brother. She smiled the biggest smile every time someone said big sister.

“Tomorrow I show him our toys, de tree house, and de beach. He love it.”

“He sure will.” As Joey grew up, she could just imagine all the adventures the two siblings would get up to, and she was sure Dylan would be at the heart of it all.”

“You go to sleep now, Sweetie. I need to go and feed Joey, Okay?”

“Okay Mama.”

Emily gave Molly a few kisses and got up feeling pain in every muscle in her body. She was so exhausted and couldn’t wait to get into bed.

Their bedroom door was ajar and she heard Dylan talking, so she tip-toed up to the door and saw Dylan standing at the balcony doors, with Joey in her arms, talking to him like he could understand every word, and Wolfie lying at her feet guarding them both.

Her heart constricted and she felt tears filling her eyes. She promised herself she would remember this image the rest of her life. There was something so adorable about someone as big and powerful as Dylan being so very gentle.

Dylan was holding up her iPhone, apparently showing the baby something. “Look, Joey, we’re trending on twitter. The world is talking about you being born, cause you’re such a special boy.”

“He sure is.” Emily said.

Dylan turned around and smiled. “Come and get into bed baby, you must be so tired.”

“I am. Joey needs to be fed, can you bring him?”

“Sure. Wolfie? Go to your bed and guard Molly.” Dylan told him.

Wolfie came over to the bed to give Emily a lick before he padded off to his bed. “He’s bonded with Joey already. He’s such a good dog.” Emily said.

“He sure is. Emmie, before you feed Joey, he wanted to give you something.”

Emily looked skeptically at Dylan. “He did, did he?”

“So he told me. He wanted to give you this at the hospital, but it was so busy with visitors and stuff.”

Dylan smiled proudly as she handed Emily a De Beers ring box. “Honey, what have you…?”

She opened the box and found a beautiful diamond encrusted platinum band. “It’s an eternity ring. I wanted to thank you for giving us this beautiful baby boy.”

Again the tears threatened to spill over. “It’s beautiful, Dylan. Thank you.”

“I’m glad you like it. It means I’ll love you for all eternity, and I want you to remember that every time you look at it. The lingerie I gave you at the baby shower was meant to be part of the present but let’s just forget about that. Huh?”

“You are just perfect.” Emily slid the ring onto her ring finger beside her engagement and wedding rings.

“Thank you. You really are too good to me.”

Dylan shook her head. “Nu-uh. Look what you gave me? A little baby boy Smurf.”

“Hand him over and I’ll feed him then.”

Once they were settled, Dylan sat behind her and held her, enjoying being part of this special moment.

“I can’t believe how perfect this feels. I’m loving every second, Emmie.”

Emily turned her head to kiss Dylan softly. “I know. It’s wonderful sharing this with you. In fact it was wonderful sharing it with everyone. Did you see Jackson’s face when Rosie was holding him?”

“Yeah, she had this glazed, gooey face.” Dylan said.

“They’d be great parents, and what about Sandy and Amber? They looked so happy when they came in. Sandy was holding onto Amber like she might disappear.” Emily joked.

“Yeah, she’s totally gone on Amber. I know I was worried about Sandy getting hurt, but this could help her keep well.”

Emily smiled and stroked Joey’s dark head. “Yes, if your heart’s hurting and sad, love is the best cure for it.”

“It sure was for me.” Dylan squeezed Emily tighter and buried her face in Emily’s sweet smelling hair.

Over the next week, Sandy and Amber had dinner together each night, after Sandy had worked on the house during the day, but didn’t have their promised date until Friday.

Sandy prepared what she thought would be a perfect date while Amber was at work.

When she got home, they shared a heated kiss before Sandy told her to get ready. “What should I wear to this surprise date, Andy?” Amber asked.

Sandy smiled and said, “Something you don’t mind getting dirty.”

Amber’s eyes went wide. “Are you sure this is going to be a good idea?”

“Sure, you said you wanted to do something that I enjoyed, so get going, Miss Andrews.”

Half an hour later, freshly showered Amber appeared in jeans and a sweet little sweater. “So where to, Andy?”

“Follow me.”

Amber was surprised when Sandy led her down to the pier at the back of the house. There was a picnic basket sitting waiting for them, and she noticed the old boat that came with the house had been refurbished. “You did this?”

“Yep, but that’s only the start. Let’s go.”

She didn’t know what else was to come but the start was perfect. Sandy rowed them over to the island in the middle of the lake. As they approached she noticed a fire was burning on the shore and a tent with fishing poles beside it were waiting for them.

“Oh, Andy this is so romantic. You put so much effort into this.”

Sandy smiled bashfully and helped her out of the boat. “I hoped you would like it. I used to go fishing with my grandpa, and I thought it would be nice to share with you.”

Amber was overwhelmed that Sandy thought of something so carefully and personally for them to do. She gave Sandy a quick kiss. “It’s perfect.”

“Wait, I’m not going to end up with a fishing hook in my finger like Molly am I?”

Sandy laughed and said, “Nah. Dylan’s not in the vicinity, so you should be safe.”

They sat by the fire and ate after Sandy set up the rods, and showed Amber the basics. They got a few bites, and shared a lot of laughter trying to reel them in. As the evening closed in, they retreated to the tent to escape the slight chill the air. They lay talking about everything and anything while watching the evening set in around the lake.

Amber caressed Sandy’s Olympic ring tattoo on her bicep. She loved how it looked. “This has been a perfect date, Andy. Thank you so much.”

“I’m glad you liked it. I wanted to do something special.”

It was certainly special. The air seemed to be filled with romance with the light of the moon reflecting on the water, and the crackle of the fire that echoed the crackle of energy between them. Amber shivered as she felt it.

“Are you cold, babe?” Sandy asked.

“No, I’m shivering because I want you, and my body wants you.”

She saw Sandy gulp hard. “You do?”

“Yes, when you touch me, it feels like my skin is on fire. Close the tent, Andy.”

Sandy tripped over her discarded boots in her haste to pull down the tent’s zipper. “Shit!”

Amber giggled, and when Sandy looked up, Amber had pulled off her sweater, leaving her in sexiest lacy bra she had ever seen. She crawled over to her, and Amber pointed to her t-shirt. “Take that off.”

She quickly stripped her t-shirt off and sports bra, so she was naked from the waist up, and heard Amber gasp. “Andy. Do you know how perfect you are?”

Sandy wanted to pounce on Amber, her need was so great, but she took a breath and crawled to her slowly, determined not to push her.

She looked down at Amber, and neither said anything but both were breathing heavily, struggling to control their desire. “Ambi?”

Amber took Sandy’s hand and placed it on her lace covered breast, and showed her how she wanted it squeezed.

Sandy couldn’t hold back any longer. She pounced on her lips and kissed her deep and long. Amber groaned and rolled over on top of her as their kisses became frantic. She stopped briefly and sat up to take off her bra. Sandy’s mouth watered at the sight of her breasts with their dark pink nipples hard and ready for her mouth.

“I’m frightened of scaring you, I want you so much.” She told Amber.

“You could never scare me. Please touch me, make me feel like my skin is burning.”

Sandy pulled her back down for a kiss and rolled them over so Amber was beneath her. She groaned at the first taste of Amber’s breast, and the feel of the other in her hand. They were so soft, everything about Amber was soft, and she felt that softness soothing all the hard places in her soul. When she sucked in her nipple and swirled her tongue around it, Amber grasped at her shoulders desperately.

Their passions became so frantic it felt like they were consuming each other. Both of them burning hot with need.

As Sandy sucked and teased her breasts, she popped open Amber’s jeans and pushed her hand inside to the wetness that she had created. Amber’s nails dug into her shoulders and it was becoming hotter and faster. Faster than Sandy would have wanted, but all she could think about was making Amber cry out.

Amber shrugged her jeans down her hips and kicked them off, giving her more room. Sandy stroked her faster bringing more groans from Amber. “I want to make you come, come for me babe.”

Amber had her eyes tightly closed, overcome with sensation. “Inside, please go inside, Andy.”

She slowed the pace and allowed her fingers to slip inside. Amber’s eyes opened and she gave a long groan. “I…didn’t know…could feel like this…”

Sandy felt about ready to combust herself, but she was determined to hang on and give Amber all her attention. She saw Amber’s eyes glued to the bicep muscles in her arm as she thrust, but when she slowed and swirled her fingers, her head fell back onto the ground sheet.

“I’m going to come soon.” Amber groaned.

“Yeah, come for me. I love you, babe.” She sped up the pace of her thrusting fingers, and Amber’s moans got higher and higher pitched, until she grabbed hold of Sandy’s braids tightly, screaming out her release.

She groaned feeling Amber’s orgasm rhythmically grip her fingers. “God, Ambi. That was beautiful.”

“I love you, Andy. That’s never…never…” Amber struggled to speak as she tried to get her breath back.

Sandy carefully removed her fingers, and sucked them clean. Amber’s eyes went wide at that erotic sight, and said quickly, “Show me how to make you come? I want you to come now.”

She knew it wouldn’t take much, she was so close already, so she opened her jeans and placed Amber’s fingers at her clit. She felt Amber’s fingers split around her, and start to rub. “Uh…yeah. Just like that babe.”

Amber wrapped her legs around Sandy’s ass, and she couldn’t help but start to thrust. It felt like nothing else she had ever experienced, thrusting into Amber, with her legs wrapped tight.

Amber’s hand must have been hitting the right spot because she felt her hips start to move with her, and her breathy moans return.

“Shit, I’m coming…yeah…yeah…fuck!”

Then her orgasm hit and her hips thrust frantically then stilled, as the feeling washed over her.

She collapsed down onto Amber totally spent. Amber wrapped her arms around her and rubbed her back soothingly. She knew then that there was no one else on this planet for her but Amber. She was the one she’d been waiting for.

Sandy looked into her eyes, and said, “I love you so much. You are everything I’ve ever dreamed of.”

Amber looked a little unsure. “Was it okay?”

“Okay? Are you insane? It felt better than running.” She knew Amber would realize what that meant to say that.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” She allowed her fingers to trace Amber’s cheek bone and lips tenderly. “What were you trying to say…before?”

Amber blushed sweetly, which considering what they had just done, made her heart skip. “Oh…yes. No one’s ever made me come like that before. You know inside and…well Parker didn’t make me.”

Sandy didn’t particular want to think about him at that moment but she knew what Amber was trying to say, and it made her chest puff up with pride. “That’s ’cause we work. You and me are meant to be.”

“Yes we are. I love you.”

As Amber said those words she felt the last vestiges of the sadness that filled her heart banished by the love that Amber Andrews gave her.

The ringing of the telephone made Amber start to waken. They had come back to the house late last night and made love again, more slowly this time. She was so comfortable with Sandy’s warm body wrapped around her that she was tempted not to answer, but doing the right thing she reached out and grabbed the handset.

“Hello?”

“Hi Sweetheart, its Mom. I just wanted to let you know we’re on our way, and find out if you needed anything picked up from the store?”

Amber went from a semi-comatose sleep state to alert in half a second. She had completely forgotten that she had asked her parents to lunch to see the changes to the house.

She looked down at Sandy whose eyes were fluttering open. “Um…yes could you get some veggies to make a salad? I have everything else.”

“No problem. We’re about fifteen minutes away, but will be a bit longer now we’re stopping at the store.”

“Okay, thanks Mom. Bye.”

She hung up the phone and watched as Sandy stretched her very naked body in front of her. “Morning, Babe. What’s up?”

“That was my mom. I totally forgot they were coming for lunch. I’m sorry.”

Sandy pulled her on top of her. That’s okay. When do they arrive?”

“Probably twenty minutes.”

Sandy’s eyes went wide, and she jumped up in panic. “Shit, they’re going to find me in bed with their daughter.”

“Don’t panic. You don’t need to escape out of the window. We just need to get ready quickly. That’s all. You don’t need to meet them if you don’t want to.”

Amber realized she was going to have to explain to them who Sandy was to her, and come out to them. She hadn’t thought of that before, and it scared her. It had crossed her mind before, but the reality of saying it was completely different, and terrifying. Maybe it would be better if she wasn’t here. Maybe I could build up to telling them?

Sandy dropped her clothes on the bed and sat down beside her. “Hey, I’m not trying to run away. I’ll be happy to meet them, if you’re okay with it.”

Sandy gently stroked her face. “I want you to be my girlfriend, and I want to build a future with you. For so long, I had not the first clue what to do with my life, or even if it was worth living. Then I met you, and I can’t wait for what the future will bring because I know that future is with you. I love you. So I’m ready to meet your parents.”

Amber fell into Sandy’s arms and held her tight. Maybe with Sandy’s beside her, telling her parents wouldn’t be so scary.

“Let’s do it. Come shower with me? There’s a lot you can do in twenty minutes.” Amber said with a mischievous smile.

Sandy didn’t think she had ever felt more nervous in her life, as Amber welcomed her mom and dad into the house.

Both her parents’ eyes immediately fixed on her. “Mom, Dad? This is Sandy Williams. Remember I told you that she was helping with the house?”

“That’s right.” Amber’s father said. He walked to her, and offered his hand and a warm smile. “Pleased to meet you, Sandy. I’m Richard, and this is my wife, Susan.”

Sandy lost a bit of her nerves. They both seemed friendly people. “Pleased to meet you Sir, Ma’am.”

Susan shook her hand and said, “Please call us Susan and Richard. Sir and Ma’am makes sound ancient.”

“Thanks.” Amber appeared at her side, and discreetly touched her on the leg.

Sandy saw Susan’s eyes zero in on the small intimate touch, but Amber didn’t seem to notice.

“Susan and I are both great fans of the athletics. We were so excited when you won your gold medals. The one hundred meters was an outstanding race.”

“Thanks, Richard.”

“Why don’t we all sit down and have a chat?” Amber indicated to the couch.

Again she was aware of Susan noticing just how close she and Amber were sitting. “So, are you still going to race, Sandy?” Susan asked.

“Uh…I’ll never say never, but I’ve got some new things going on in my life just now. My gym’s just opened, and I’m thinking about starting a sports mentoring program for young kids. I’d really like to give something back.”

“That’s a wonderful idea.” Richard said.

“It was meeting Amber that helped me realize that’s what I wanted to do. She’s a wonderful person, and seeing her working with her Kids’ charity really made me think.” She couldn’t help but look adoringly toward Amber.

“I have to thank you for helping Amber with the house, Sandy. I can see you’ve done a great deal already.” Richard said.

Amber stood up and said, “Why don’t I leave you to chat about the house, and I’ll put lunch in the oven?”

“I’ll help you.” Susan immediately stood up and started to follow Amber to the kitchen.

Sandy should have been terrified to be left with her girlfriend’s dad, but he was a warm guy who seemed easy to talk to.

“So tell me all that you’ve done so far, Sandy?”

“So, I thought we’d have chicken salad, focaccia bread and soup, Mom.” Amber said to her mom as she unpacked the salad from the bags. “You don’t mind lunch being so healthy do you? Sandy’s training for a triathlon so-”

“Ambi, stop.” Susan said sharply.

Amber stopped what she was doing, and looked up at her mom. “What is it, Mom?”

Susan took the salad items from her daughter’s hands and asked her seriously. “What is going on?”

“What do you mean?” She knew exactly what her mom meant, and her heart began to thud at the prospect of explaining the truth.

“You know exactly what I mean, Ambi. Your father might be oblivious, but I could see exactly how you and Sandy were looking at each other, and touching.”

Amber’s mouth went bone dry and she somehow forgot how to talk.

“I know you’ve always had crushes on athletes like her, I mean a teenager doesn’t have pictures of other women up on her wall like you did, but I thought it was just a harmless infatuation, and when you met Parker I didn’t really think about it again, until today.”

Amber was in a total panic. She never in a million years thought her mom had noticed the little crushes she had on girls as she grew up.

“Ambi, just tell me the truth.”

Just tell her. Tell her you’re in love with Andy. She had no idea why it was so hard to admit. Her mother was not homophobic in any way, but here in this moment she just couldn’t say the words, ‘I’m gay and I’m in love with Sandy.’

“Ambi? Look at me and tell me.” Her mother said.

Fear and the feeling of being trapped clenched at Amber’s chest, and she said angrily. “Just leave it, mom. I’m not interested in Sandy, we are not together, and we are just friends, okay!”

Susan sighed, looking as if she didn’t believe her. A few moments later she heard the front door slam and Sandy’s truck roar off down the drive.

Amber ran into the living room and found her dad looking perplexed. “Where’s Sandy?”

“We were talking about the house, getting on really well, and then she said she’d get us some drinks. She stopped at the kitchen door, and then turned about and ran out the house. What is going on?”

Amber’s heart sunk like a stone, and tears came to her eyes. “She heard me.”

Susan took her daughter’s hands. “You’re together aren’t you?”

She could hardly speak as the tears ran down her cheeks. “Yes, I’m sorry I lied. We’re in love and we were together.”

Richard looked between his wife and his daughter with not a clue as to what was going on.

“Susan what…”

“Ambi, go after her. Your father and I only want you to be happy, and if a woman does that and you love her, then it’s okay with us.”

“What about Parker and dad’s business? I’ve always been worried about that.”

“Leave that to your father and me. If you are in love with this woman then go and get her. Live your life for yourself, Ambi.”

“In love with a woman?” Richard said.

Susan turned to her husband and said, “Richard, pipe down I’ll explain later.”

“I think I’ve ruined everything, mom. She’s been going through such a hard time, and is so close to the edge. I’ve really hurt her.”

Susan engulfed her in a hug. “Go find her. If she loves you, she’ll forgive you.”

She nodded. “Thanks mom.” She grabbed her car keys and headed out the door.

Amber called Sandy’s cell phone repeatedly but it just rang out, and then was switched off. With no idea where to go, she headed to the Morgan’s beach house. She pulled up at the side of the road and called Emily to see if she had headed back there, but they hadn’t heard from her.

She held her head in her hands and cried. “What have I done? I’ve found the person that I’m meant to be with and I couldn’t even tell my parents that I love her.”

Amber didn’t have the first clue of where to go, she had a feeling of dread that Sandy would have run to the nearest bar and ruined her sobriety, all because she had been a coward.

What could she do? Go and search every bar in the area? “Think, think. Where would she go?”

Dylan paced up and down the family room while Emily changed Joey’s diaper, and Molly was watching some cartoons on the TV.

“Dylan would you sit down? Your making me anxious.”

“I knew this would happen. Didn’t I tell you? If Amber couldn’t give her what she wanted she could go right back to square one.”

Joey wriggled as Wolfie licked his head. Feeling Dylan’s tension, Wolfie had come through and lay beside his new baby friend to keep guard.

“We don’t know what’s happened Dyl. It could be simple disagreement; we have them all the time.”

Dylan sat down on the floor beside Emily and lifted Joey into her arms. Holding her children always calmed her down and brought her peace. “It’s just so frustrating. She’s been doing so well, and she could fall back down so easily. I feel powerless.”

“Think of it as good practice for when our babies are all grown up, and make stupid decisions, and get into all sorts of scrapes.”

Dylan kissed Joey and rubbed his back soothingly. “I won’t let that happen.”

“We won’t be able to protect them forever. We’ve both made mistakes in our life Dylan, just like Molly and Joey will, and like Sandy. When they fall, we will be there to pick them up and show them we love them. That’s what we’ll do with Sandy, if she needs it.”

Dylan smiled at her. “Why do you always know the right thing to say?”

Emily kissed her cheek and stroked Joey’s head. “Because, I’m your wife, and I’m always right.”

“True.” Dylan replied.

“Try not to worry so much. I’m sure Amber and Sandy will work things out. They’re made for each other.”

Sandy stared at the half bottle of vodka sitting in the sand in front of her. After leaving Amber’s, she ran straight to the liquor store, determined to lose her pain with her faithful friend.

She hadn’t had the courage to open it straight away, and found herself driving to the beach where she had almost kissed Amber. That day she had shared with Amber her passion for running and what it meant for her, and by sharing her passion she had opened up and let Amber into her heart completely.

Today when she heard Amber denying what they were to each other, that they loved each other, she could literally feel her heart cracking. Either Amber had been lying about her feelings, or she was too embarrassed to admit to her parents that she loved someone like her.

How could you think a nice girl like Amber would love you? You’re pathetic, you always let down the people that you love, and you don’t deserve anyone to love you.

She stared even harder at the bottle, licked her lips, and could almost feel the burn of the alcohol as it would run down her throat. Take a sip and the pain will go away.

She reached out and started to unscrew the bottle. She brought it to her lips and inhaled the smell of the alcohol. Just one sip.

As she opened her mouth, images of all she had done over the last few months passed through her head. Training with Dylan, playing with Molly, and Emily showing her what someone caring could be like, then Amber. Amber who her heart loved and adored, the woman who had put her in her place, shouted at her, shown her tough love, and how much she still had to give if she chose to, the woman who loved her, she was sure had loved her.

She felt her heart hurt so badly, but instead of drinking she turned the bottle upside down and watched the vodka run into the sand.

“I’m so proud of you.” A voice said behind her.

It was Amber’s voice, but she couldn’t bring herself to turn around to look at her. “How did you find me?”

Amber walked in front of her and dropped to her knees. “I called Emily, but she said you weren’t there. So I tried to think of all the places that meant something to us, and I remembered this spot was the place that I first admitted to myself that I loved you. I hoped it might have been special to you, too.”

Sandy nodded. She hadn’t looked up at Amber yet. If she did, she thought she might lose it and show how weak she was.

“Will you let me talk to you?” Amber asked.

She shrugged, and said, “It’s a free country.”

“I’m sorry for what you heard at the kitchen door. You weren’t supposed to hear that.”

Sandy couldn’t help herself from looking up after that comment. “Yeah, that I can believe.”

“I mean…look…this morning was all wrong. Mom and dad coming over on our first morning after making love was not ideal, and I was uptight, I guess.”

“You weren’t uptight, you were embarrassed by me.”

“That is not true.” Amber said angrily.

“You have to understand, you are the only person I have ever told that I’m gay. Apparently my mom always suspected and she saw the way we were together, and questioned me about it. I was scared to say the words, and that’s the honest truth, but mom wouldn’t let it go so what you heard, I said in anger.”

“It really hurt to hear you say that.”

Amber touched her hand tentatively, and held it softly. “I know. I’m so sorry, but as soon as you left I told my mom and dad that I loved you and I wanted to be with you.”

“You did?”

“I did, and my mom said if it’s what I want they are happy, and I should come and find you.”

“And is it what you want, Ambi? Am I what you want?”

Sandy’s use of her nickname gave her some hope. “Yes, it is. You are what I want, and I’ll tell the world I’m gay and that I’m Sandy Williams’ girlfriend, if that’s what you want.”

Sandy stood up and pulled her up by the hand. “Girlfriend will be okay for just now, but maybe something more later?”

Amber closed her eyes and let out a breath of relief. “Yes, definitely something more, later. I love you, Sandy. I promise I won’t hurt you or let you down again.”

“I know. I trust you with my heart.” She was pulled into Sandy’s arms and kissed deeply.

When they broke apart, she said, “Please don’t run out on me again. I’ve never been more scared.”

“I won’t. I love you.”

She took Sandy’s hand and smiled, “Come on, I want to introduce my girlfriend to my parents. Are you ready?”

Sandy couldn’t help but smile broadly. “Yeah, I’m ready for the future.”

A month later…

The Long Island triathlon had a lot more spectators than usual, mainly due to the two celebrity runners taking part. The atmosphere was happy and excitement filled the air. There were a range of runners, from beginners, to gifted amateurs and professionals.

At the start line Dylan and Sandy stood in line waiting for the start of the race. They stretched as the announcer pumped up the crowd, and announced the professional athletes and famous faces.

Dylan bounced on her toes as the announcer started playing what everyone knew was her favorite song, Titanium.

“It’s amazing to be competing again. Such a buzz.” Dylan said.

“Yeah, it is. I am looking forward to getting back into competing.”

Dylan looked at Sandy and smiled, “You’ve decided then?”

“Yeah, I’ve talked it over with Amber and she said that if I want to help kids, and inspire them, I need to show them what they can achieve if they work hard. Even if I don’t get gold again, I’ve got to keep striving to be the best I can be.”

She laughed, “So basically, Amber said you should race, and you said, yes ma’am!”

Sandy gave her a scowl and a push. “Shut up…well maybe, but I agreed.”

Once Dylan stopped laughing she looked over at the VIP spectator area, and smiled. Everyone they loved was there. Emily stood holding baby Joey, Jackson was beside her with her arms tightly wrapped around Rosie, Tommy had Molly up in his arms, with her mom beside her, and finally Amber, looking so proud of her girlfriend.

Dylan waved to them and said, “Yeah, I would walk to the moon and back for Emmie and my family. Just remember that’s what’s important. Not honors or trophies, but the love that you get.”

“I know, and now I’ve got Amber I’m never going to let her go.”

“She’s a great girl, and you’re gonna have a great future with her, I know.”

Sandy turned to face Dylan and said, “Before we start, I just want to thank you, Dylan. You’ve taken care of me like a big sister and got me here. You and Emily have been so good to me. I’ll never forget that.”

Dylan held out her hand and gave her a bro hug. “I know buddy, but we didn’t do anything. We just gave you a safe place to heal. Now enough of all that sentimental crap, before we start kissing and saying I love you.” She gave an exaggerated stage whisper and said, “Jackson’s always trying to do that.”

They both looked over at Jackson in the crowd and burst out laughing, before Dylan blew her a kiss. Jackson raised an eyebrow, not knowing what Dylan had said but no doubt could guess, because she took one arm from Rosie and draped it over Emily’s shoulder, pulling her in close. Emily played along and gave Jackson a kiss on the cheek.

Sandy laughed and Dylan said, “Oh yeah very funny. You know your girl’s there too you know.”

The announcer said, “And give a big cheer for our very own, Dylan Morgan, who in between changing diapers and night feeds for her new baby boy has been training hard to run in aid of St. Stevens women’s shelter, and In The Pink breast cancer charity.”

A huge cheer went up, and the crowd started to chant, ‘Dylan! Dylan!’

She turned to Sandy and said, “Excuse me, my public wants me.”

Sandy gave her a mock bow, “Oh please, go and greet them. I’m lucky to be even racing with you.”

Dylan stepped forward and made sure to wave to everyone she could. When she stepped back the announcer said, “And racing with Dylan today is Olympic gold winning athlete, Sandy Williams, who is racing for the children’s community group Team Kidz.”

Sandy looked down shyly, but Dylan gave her a shove forward, “Wave, swag boy. You’re no good at being famous. I on the other hand am an expert at it.”

“Yeah you have a big enough head for it.”

“Mama! We see mom soon?” Molly asked her mother.

“We will sweetie, we’ve got the best place to watch her cross the finish line. It won’t be too much longer.”

As the race had moved on the group of friends had moved to VIP sections along the course, and now they were at the finish line waiting for Dylan and Sandy to come through.

“Doey! We cheer for mom and Andy soon.” Molly shouted to her little brother. “Kiss, mom.”

Emily lowered him down so Molly could give him a kiss. “Good girl.”

Rosie and Amber looked on smiling. “She takes being a big sister really serious, doesn’t she?” Rosie said.

“Oh yes. She’s determined to be the best big sister there’s even been, isn’t she baby boy?” Emily said shifting Joey to the other arm.

Rosie noticed she was tired. It was an exhausting time with a new baby as it was without a day out at a public event, where, as always, Emily was watched with fascination by the public.

“Em? Can I take him for you?”

“Oh thanks. That would be great.”

Rosie cuddled Joey and gave him her finger to hold. “You’re such a sweet boy. You are, you are.”

She looked to the side and saw Jackson lift Molly onto her shoulders. When Jackson realized she was being watched, she turned her head, and said. “You look good with a baby in your arms, Hippy girl.”

“I do?”

Jackson nodded. “Yeah.”

Maybe she did, she became all gooey anytime she was around baby Joey and Molly. It might not be tomorrow or even for a few years, but she did want this with Jackson. They had come a long way since she first scowled at the uptight soldier at Emily’s apartment. They both had their faults, but they loved each other for them, and she couldn’t wait to get married to her.

The swimming section of the race was fairly even between Dylan and Sandy, both were strong swimmers but not fast. Not so on the cycling section, where Dylan was fairly strong, but she never let herself get too far ahead of her friend, because this was not about her, from the start, this had been about helping Sandy, and they would see it through together.

Dylan pulled into the transition area and hurriedly set her bike in the stand and pulled on her sneakers. Her long legs pulled her away at speed, but she soon heard the pounding beat of Sandy’s feet catching up with her.

Sandy fell in beside her like they had never been apart, and without even turning her head Dylan said, “What took you so long? I thought you’d gotten lost.”

“Just giving you a head start before I ripped up the running course.”

It was true, although Dylan’s long muscular legs made her an excellent runner, Sandy’s physique and powerful heart made this kind of race a walk in the park, especially in the closing stages.

Dylan looked around at the runners beside them, and smiled, “Let’s step it up.”

Some of the men tried to keep pace but the two women were just too fast. As they made their way around, Sandy slowed her pace down.

“Dylan, can I talk to you about something?”

“Sure, buddy. You can always talk to me.”

“You know I told you about competing again, and it’s going to take a lot of work to get back to what I was.”

“Sure, I know that.”

“Well…about the show.”

Dylan looked around at her, she could feel Sandy was really nervous about what she was going to say. “Yeah, just tell me.”

“I…uh…don’t want to do TV anymore. I really appreciate what you did for me, giving me the gig and it really helped with my contracts for the gym, but it’s just not me. I love working with the kids, but I really don’t like the celebrity thing. I’m sorry if you’re pissed at me.”

Dylan was silent for a few moments while she thought about how to respond. She remembered that Emily had dropped a few hints that this might be the case. Emily always saw things that she couldn’t, she had also reminded her on several occasions that Sandy was not her, and she might want different things. Perhaps on some level she felt a little disappointed, and had thought, and hoped that Sandy could take up her mantle and that she could guide her to the top, but they were different people.

She turned to her young friend and said, “Of course I’m not pissed at you. I want you to do what you want to do, what makes you happy.”

“Really?”

Dylan could tell that Sandy had been purposely slowing her pace for the last half of the race. It was time to let Sandy go.

“Listen buddy, I want you to be who you want to be, not what I want. Don’t hold yourself back from anything in your life, you have a beautiful girl waiting for you at the finish line, go and show her what a champion you are.”

“What…”

To make herself acutely clear, she shoved Sandy and said, “Go! Run and get your girl.”

Eventually she caught Dylan’s drift, smiled and powered away from her faster than she could ever hope to run.

As Sandy pulled away further and further towards the end, Dylan realized that she had done what she set out to do, what she couldn’t do with her brother Joey, helped pull Sandy back from the brink and given her the support to be the best she could possibly be. Sandy crossed the finish line and went straight to Amber, and lifted and spun her in the air.

Epilogue

Four months later…

Sandy stood in front of her bedroom mirror and pulled on her suit jacket. She picked up her polka dot bow tie and held it to her neck. She wasn’t quite sure whether to wear it or not. She looked down at the German Shepherd lying on the bed and said, “What do you think, Rocky? Should I wear the bow tie and annoy Dylan, or no bow tie?”

Rocky barked softly and wagged his tail. “Your right, let’s go ask your mama.”

She walked over to the other end of the room and out of the glass doors onto the balcony. There, sitting at in a lounger enjoying her morning coffee with Belle at her feet was Amber.

“Babe? Bow tie or no bow tie? Rocky said we should ask you.”

Amber got up, walked to her and took hold of the bow tie. She put it around her neck and started to tie it. “Belle and I like your swag, so we say wear it.”

Every time Sandy thought she couldn’t love Amber any more, she always seemed to. These past four months had been the happiest of her life. She never did go back to her loft in the city, she happily moved in with Amber, helped finish renovating the house, and brought Rocky and Belle home from the shelter where they had stayed since Sandy had secretly put a reservation on them. The two dogs loved their new life, and while Amber was at work, they spent their days walking, running and playing with her.

The gym was doing exceptionally well, and Amber was helping her start up her ‘Sporting Stars of the Future’ program.

Life was good and in a couple of months she would be traveling with her girlfriend to the World Championships for her first big competition since she returned to racing.

She pulled Amber into her arms, and ran her hands down the soft silk of her negligee. “I wish we had more time so I could take you back to bed, but you really should start getting ready, babe. We don’t want to be late for Jackson and Rosie’s big day.”

Amber kissed her teasingly, and said, “Don’t worry, I’m just going to get ready now. I’m going to wear your favorite dress, and then later you can take me out of it and have your wicked way with me. Now, go and get Rocky and Belle’s things together to take to play with Wolfie.”

Sandy nodded, and said, “I can’t wait until it’s our turn.”

“You have to ask me first, Andy.”

“Don’t worry I will. Now I’ve got you I’m not letting you go.” Sandy gently caressed her face and whispered, “I love you.”

“I love you, Andy.”

The Morgan property was awash with caterers serving staff, and the wedding planner’s staff. When Rosie and Jackson had asked Dylan and Emily to use their property for their wedding, they had been only too delighted. The ceremony was to take place on the beach, and the reception in a grand and luxurious tent on the estate grounds.

Emily tried to ignore the chaos around her home, and keep her promise to Dylan about letting the staff do their work and not getting involved and tiring herself out. Having gotten herself dressed and ready, she was dressing Joey in his nursery. He was wearing a suit that had been made to match his mom’s and Molly’s suit. She smiled thinking about how much Molly and Joey were Dylan’s miniature versions of herself. If she ever hoped to have a little girl or boy who would enjoy her love of clothes and fashion, she would need to have another baby, which was something they discussed frequently, but if in the end if she had a whole football team of little Dylan’s she would count herself the luckiest woman on the planet.

She heard Molly yell and come rushing passed the nursery. “Molly? Can you come here a minute?”

Emily heard her little footsteps come running back. “Yeah, Mama?”

“Can you find Grandma for me, and tell her I’d like to see her?”

“Sure, Mama.” She ran off again at break neck speed and a few minutes later Pattie came walking into the nursery.

“What do you need Emily?”

“Could you take Joey, and keep an eye on Molly? I want to go and have a chat with Rosie before it’s time. I remember how much I missed a mom on my wedding day, until you came and spoke to me.”

Pattie smiled, and lifted Joey into her arms. “Sure. Come with Grandma big boy. Molly’s playing with Tommy and Walt, so she’s okay.”

“Thanks.”

Emily left the nursery and went to the bedroom they had given to Rosie to get ready. She knocked and heard Rosie say, “Come in.”

When she opened the door she gasped at the sight of Rosie in her modern white dress, and her long brown hair hanging in soft waves down to her shoulders. She looked like a movie star, and Jackson was such a lucky person to be loved by her.

“You look absolutely stunning, Rosie.” The hair and makeup woman took her cue and left the room.

Rosie looked at her shyly as she walked over. “Are you sure I’m okay? It’s all not too much is it?”

Emily took her hands. “Believe me, it is not too much. You are beautiful, and your mom is looking down on you, with pride.”

Rosie gulped hard but couldn’t stop the small tears that came to her eyes. “She’ll have the best seat in the house.”

“She will.”

She handed Rosie a tissue to dab away her tears. “So…Jackson’s subjugated me at last, huh?”

Emily laughed. “I doubt Jackson could subjugate you into anything, Rosie. You have her wrapped around your little finger. No, we both know you want to marry her.”

“I do. There’s nothing I want more in the world. Thank you so much for letting us use your home. It’s perfect and it means so much to us.”

“We love you both, Rosie. We’ve shared a crazy couple of years. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, and you’ve both been there for Dylan and I in our darkest times. We’re family.”

“Can you imagine what I would have missed out on if you hadn’t called me and asked me to decorate your apartment? I would have never have come across the most infuriating, most annoying individual I’ve ever met, and not fallen head over heels with the love of my life. It’s a crazy thought.”

“I believe in fate, Rosie. If Dylan hadn’t stopped off for coffee on a rainy night, I could be standing serving food in a diner right now, and my baby boy wouldn’t exist. Everything happens for a reason, and people come into your life for a reason, that’s why when you find the one, you have to grab hold and never let go.”

She stepped closer to Rosie and took her hand. “You ready to marry your Soldier boy?”

Rosie nodded, “I’m ready.”

Dylan walked into the pool house, where Jackson had spent her last night as a single woman, and shouted. “The best butch is here to make sure you get to the altar, so don’t try and hide.”

Jackson marched out of the bedroom, dressed and ready. “I am not hiding. I can’t wait to get married.”

“I think your bride is ready, I was sent over to collect you.”

Jackson nervously checked her hair and tie in the living room mirror. “Wow, I can’t believe it’s time. Thanks for everything, Dylan. I mean it, the wedding, you and Emily’s friendship…I don’t know if Rosie and me would have lasted a month together without you and Emily helping us and giving us advice.”

“You would have, but we just want to see you both happy. It’s easy to see you’re both crazy about each other, you just had to learn to compromise, and by compromise I mean do what Rosie told you.” Dylan joked.

“You got that right. So, I’m ready. Let’s go.”

“Listen Jackson, I owe you my life, and I’m going to break a rule we agreed to in the desert. “You’re the best friend I could have had, and well…I love ya buddy. I hope you have a good life.” She held out her hand and Jackson took it and gave her a hug. “You too. You’re the most ego driven, big headed person I’ve ever met but you’re the best friend I could have, and I…you know you…sort of love you too.”

Dylan nodded and looked down at her feet, as they both felt the awkwardness of expressing their feelings. “We never tell anyone about this, okay?” Dylan said.

“Don’t worry, I’m never going to admit I said that.”

“Cool, you got everything?”

Jackson looked panicked for a second, and reached into her breast pocket, and brought out a picture of her little sister Sarah, and gave it a kiss. “I’m ready now.”

Later that night Wolfie, Rocky and Belle ran around playing with Molly and some of the other kid guests under the watchful eye of her grandpa, while in the luxurious tent area, that looked more like a five star hotel ballroom than a tent, the guests had finished up with their meal.

It was time to hear the wedding speeches. Dylan told the waiters to go around the guests with the champagne for the toast. She stood and hit her knife against her wine glass to get everyone’s attention.

After everyone quieted down, Dylan said, “Everyone here knows I hate to be the center of attention, so I’ll keep this as brief as I can.”

There was a wave of laughter around the room. “It falls to me as Jackson’s best friend to say a few words about the happy couple, and wish them well for the future.”

Dylan looked to Emily at her side, holding baby Joey in her lap and then to Jackson who had her arms around Rosie and were looking up at her expectantly. “When I was thinking about what I was going to say in this speech, what advice I was going to give Rosie and Jackson for married life together, I tried to think about what was really important to me.” She looked over to her mom and dad, who had come back in with Molly, and now held her in his arms, “And I thought about, how we have the people who are our family, and those we lose along the way.” She saw her dad put his arm around Pattie, and they both gave her a sad smile.

She looked down to Emily and smiled, “We have those that we make a family with, and want to spend our lives loving until our last breath.” Emily reached for her hand and kissed it tenderly.

She looked over to where Sandy and Amber were seated, and smiled at them, before her eyes settled on Jackson and Rosie. “Then we have those friends that become so close to us, and share so much with us, that they become our family. And it hit me. That is what is most important in life, family. Whether we are born to them, marry them, give birth to them, or meet them and share good and bad times with them, its family that is the most important thing in life. So my advice to you, Jackson and Rosie would be to always put family above all else, because if you do that then you will always be happy and loved. So I ask everyone to raise a glass to the happy couple, and wish for them what’s most important in life, Family forever.”

Everyone stood and repeated the toast, “Family Forever.”

The End

I would be delighted to hear your comments about this story at jennyframe91@yahoo.com

Also, please take a look at my website where you can find information on my future stories and books. Jenny Frame

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