Impulse: Book Four: Moving On by Mezzo

Impulse: Book Four: MOVING ON
by Mezzo

Part 4 in the Impulse Series

INSTALLMENT ONE

Victoria was sitting at her desk fumbling with her pen. She had been on the telephone for the last hour trying to resolve a problem in their Paris office.

In perfect French, she tried to convince her vice president in Paris to back away from a deal he had been working on. “Jean Pierre, as I said, we can not come down that low on this. If they want to go somewhere else, let them. I don’t care how long you’ve been working on them. You shouldn’t promise things you can’t deliver.” Tori was getting irritated and would soon need an aspirin.

“I don’t care what Chartrand can do. You mark my words. Six months down the line they’ll be knocking at our door begging us to take them back. There’s no way Chartrand can deliver at that price and still give them proper customer service. I know how they cut corners. And believe me. We’ll still be around long after everything has caught up with them.” Tori took a sip of her coffee and looked up as her assistant Jordan dropped a FedEx package on her desk. She covered the receiver and whispered. “Thank you.”

“No problem boss. That’s what you pay me for.” Jordan smiled and went to fill Tori’s cup again.

Tori picked up the package while Jean Pierre ranted and raved. He is such a whiner. “Yes that’s true.” Tori had no clue what he was saying but her response was obviously appropriate.

Tori read the label. It was from Wilkes Detective Agency. That was fast. Good work Sam! Tori openned the tab and pulled out a manila folder. It was labeled: Jenna Carlisle- Confidential. Tori had asked her private detective to do a thorough investigation on Brett’s ex-girlfriend. After four years, the math professor had decided to show up and Tori was very wary of the woman’s intentions. Four years ago, Jenna Carlisle had lost all control and beat Brett unconscious. Brett had been in a coma for a few weeks and had to undergo extensive mental and physical therapy after the incident. Tori was not told of the incident at the time. Brett had refused to press charges only asking that Jenna get the proper care needed to help her overcome her problems. Tori was fuming when Brett told her what had happened between her and Jenna and the executive swore she would rip the woman apart if Jenna made the mistake of coming back into their lives. When Jenna finally showed up a few days ago at one of Brett’s book signings, Tori held back her rage only because Brett had asked her to. Tori wasn’t sure if she would be able to again if Jenna refused to stay out of their lives. Tori was almost hoping that Jenna would give her an excuse to “beat the crap out of her”.

Tori had just about enough of Jean Pierre’s sniveling and had given him more than enough time to wallow.

“So you are saying we can’t do business with them.” Jean Pierre knew not to push Victoria. He had done so in the past and regretted it.

“Oui, Jean Pierre. I promise you. They’re either bluffing or they’ll come back to us. Eventually.” Tori was anxious to read the file in front of her and wanted to put Jean Pierre’s issue to bed already.

“How bout if…”Jean Pierre, though a smart man, could be very arrogant at times.

“I said no!! Enough!!! I warned you about this a month ago and you still pursued it. Now you have to face the consequence. Nes pas?” Tori had had enough.

“Oui! Nes pas. I understand. I am sorry. Ou vois, Victoria.” Jean Pierre sighed and knew he had disappointed Victoria Hull once again.

“It’s okay Jean Pierre. But let us not keep repeating these same mistakes. Ou vois..” Tori hung up the telephone and pulled the file closer.

Pressing the intercom to her secretary’s desk, she spoke. “Barbara….Hold all my calls for the next hour.”

“Yes, Miss Hull. Is there anything else that you need?” Barbara had worked for Tori for the last four years along with Tori’s assistant Jordan.

“No Barbara. I’m just going over a file and I’m going to need a moment to look through it.” Tori was thankful for her staff. They made life so much easier for her.

“Yes Miss Hull. If anything comes up I’ll have Jordan take care of it.”

“Thank you Barbara. I appreciate it.”

Tori sat back in her chair and flipped open the front cover of Jenna’s file.

“Okay Miss Jenna Carlisle….. Now just what are you up to?”

*****

An hour later, Tori was sitting behind her desk looking out the window of her office. She had a picture clutched to her chest and tears were running down her face. Sam’s report was very thorough. Jenna had come from a wealthy family. They had used their influence to cover up Jenna’s run-ins with the law. She had quite a colorful rap sheet and would never have been hired by a university if they knew some of the things that Jenna had done. She was arrested for possession of narcotics, disturbing the peace, assaulting an officer, destruction of property, soliciting of prostitution and domestic violence. Most of which had occurred before the age of eighteen.

The one that captured Tori’s attention was the charge of domestic violence. The words rang through Tori’s head like a hammer pounding away at her brain. She had read through Jenna’s folder and was almost at the end when she came across photographs. At first she had not recognize the subject until she read the attached report. It was the police report of the night that Jenna had beaten Brett. Tori felt like she was being sucked into a vortex. Her heart pounded as she felt all the energy seep out of her.

“Why?” Tori felt a wave of devastation crash over her as she let out a gut wrenching scream. The tears flowed and her body shook.

When Brett had told her what had happened, her recounting hurt both of them at the same time. She hadn’t gone into that much detail. But it was enough. It had been so painful for her. Tori remembered the night they had made love and woke to find Brett in her arms. Their lovemaking had uncovered some unresolved feelings that Brett still harbored. This revelation had caused a very painful yet very necessary moment to pass between them. Brett had accused Tori of not being there to protect her and the older woman had felt much guilt for not being the shield her childhood friend needed to fend off the inflicting pain. But words could never fully describe what the author had endured. It was not as telling as having it captured in living color. Tori could barely look at the photos, but forced herself to so she could fully understand what her precious love had gone through.

“My baby. My dear sweet Brett.” Tori could taste the bile that surged from her upset stomach and ran to the bathroom.

Her stomach wrenched the contents of her breakfast and barely made the bowl as it came rushing forth. Tori rolled up some tissue and wiped her mouth, collapsing on the cold tile floor in anguish. The tears came again as Tori cried and cried as the images continued to flood her mind of Brett lying on the floor unconscious, of her in the examining room, and pictures of her in her hospital bed. She could hear Brett scream and feel every bone-crushing blow. She thought about the woman she held in her arms at night. How she lovingly explored every inch of Brett’s body. How she worshipped and caressed it, wanting nothing more than to be lost in the love that radiated from the pure perfection that lay beneath her. Tori not only loved the body, but the soul, and the spirit that lay within. She couldn’t imagine a world without Brett. And her whole being was drawn to her like a seed that breaks threw the flakes of earth to feel the sun’s rays. The bruises were now healed and no physical signs were left. Thankfully. But what must have Brett suffered in order to heal and pick up the pieces of her tattered life?

Anger now swelled at the thought of Jenna Carlisle. Tori wanted to destroy her. For every ounce of pain that she had caused Brett, she wanted to bury her in an ocean of agony. What had given her the right to do that to Brett? To anyone for that matter?

Tori got up from her position on the floor and looked into the mirror. A wave of guilt now poured forth as she stared at her reflection in the mirror.

“And you…. what did you do?” The tears came again and Tori slammed her hands hard against the granite sink.

“She needed you and where were you? While you were off making a nuisance of yourself around the world, she was fighting for her life.” Tori spit into the sink as she bit into her lip.

The first thought Tori had was to run away and never turn back. The old feelings of not being worthy of Brett returned and Victoria bowed her head in shame. “Fight Tori, fight.” Screamed the voice in her head. Tori lifted her face again to look into the mirror. I won’t walk away this time. Tori had made a promise to Brett and she intended on keeping it. She knew if she walked away now, both her and Brett would be devastated. What they shared was real and no one in the world would take that away. Not their past. Not their present. And most definitely no one in their future. They would be together if it was the last thing Tori ever did.

Tori went to the closet and took out a washcloth. Running it under the cold water, she wiped her face and neck. She dried off, ran a brush through her thick locks, and straightened out her clothes. She put on a fresh coat of make up and tried to conceal the blotchiness of her skin from crying. But it was impossible.

She went back to her desk and finished up the report. The report confirmed Jenna’s medical status. It talked about her childhood and her illness. How the trauma of her childhood had left her with the inability to decipher right and wrong, having an unrealistic view of reality, and an inability to cope with stress and pressure. She had worked through all of these issues in the past four years. Her therapists were now convinced she had the tools to be a productive member of society. She had made great strides and all her doctors agreed that Jenna was ready to return.

To all accounts, that is how it seemed and much to Tori’s regret, she had to accept that Brett was right in getting Jenna the help she needed. In Tori’s mind, Jenna should have been locked away and never allowed to see the light of day.

“Brett…” Tori pictured her lover’s face and all the tension left her body.

“How can you be so forgiving?” Tori thought about their childhood. The countless days that they had spent together on the beach, alone in their rooms, imaginary places that they would go and discover. Those days seemed so far away and yet were so vivid in her mind. Brett’s little hands when they were infants, picking her up when she had first learned to walk, sharing an ice cream cone and laughing uncontrollably at something inconsequential. They had so many of these little moments and even now after only a short time, they had shared some of the best moments Tori could remember having in years. It is how Brett had always been.

She had a way of making things more intense. More real. More satisfying. She possessed an inexplicable way of making you want to live life as if every moment was a precious commodity. Her heart was as pure as a first winter storm. And yet her passion burned as hot as the center of the sun. She lived fully, loved fully and forgave fully. That was the person that Tori loved. That’s why after all these years and after everything she had experienced, Tori continued to love Brett like no other.

“Well if Brett, who has every reason to hate Jenna, can forgive her…..so can I.” Tori turned to the last page of the file and read Jenna’s current information. She sat there shaking her head for a moment and quickly closed the report.

“Damn! So much for forgiveness.” Tori quickly grabbed her purse and coat. Threw the file into her briefcase and headed out the door.

“Barbara…..call Gibeau. Have him bring the car around. Cancel all my appointments this afternoon. Tell Jordan that I’m leaving for the day. I’ll be back tomorrow. If anyone needs to get hold of me, I can be reached on my cell. Thanks.” Barbara turned to see the back of Tori’s head flash by. She jotted down everything that Tori rattled off and called Gibeau first before notifying Jordan.
INSTALLMENT TWO

“Jordan?” Barbara was concerned. Victoria had never left in the middle of the day like this. The only time she did so was when she scheduled it ahead of time and she rarely did that unless it was business related.

“Yes Barbara?” Jordan was working on budget reports for the next fiscal quarter.

“Umm…Miss Hull has asked that all appointments be cancelled this afternoon and would only be available through her cell phone.”

“What?!! Did she forget we have the meeting with Mills Textiles today?!”

“No she didn’t mention it. She seemed like she was in a rush to get to where she was going. It must be very important. She never does anything remotely like this.” Barbara and Jordan worked very hard to ensure things ran smoothly. And usually everything did primarily due to the fact that Victoria Hull ran a tight ship. She expected nothing less of herself and accepted nothing less from her employees.

“I know. But lately she seems…. I don’t know…a lot happier. Until today, she seemed to be right on top of things. You should have seen her in L.A. She had them eating out of her hand. She did mention while we were out there that she was eager to complete her visit to L.A in a timely manner. She simply stated that she needed to return home as quickly as possible. I don’t know how she manages sometimes. I thought for sure we would be out in L.A. for at least a couple more weeks. And then out of the clear blue sky she comes up with a solution that satisfies all parties involved and next thing we’re headed home. You know the funny thing is she did it in a way that kept everyone happy. That hasn’t happened in a long time. She was getting a real reputation there. She was getting to a point where it didn’t matter whose feet she stepped on as long as her goal was achieved. I’m telling you Barbara, something has definitely changed and it couldn’t have happened soon enough. If I’m correct, I’d say our fearless leader is in love. But don’t quote me on that.” Jordan had watched her boss throw herself into her work these past few years. Jordan admired Tori and was fiercely loyal to her, but she wished she would find someone who would put the light back into her eyes. Lately, it seemed the light was coming back and Victoria was not only a force to be reckoned with in the business world-she seemed to finally find peace in her personal life as well.

“So what are we going to do about Mills Textiles?” Barbara knew how important this deal was to Victoria and she would be upset if the deal slipped through her hands or was fumbled because she forgot about the appointment.

“I’ll call Tori and find out what she wants to do. I’m pretty sure I can handle it without her being here. I have all the prelims on my desk and I know what Tori’s going after. So let me see what I can come up with before you cancel.” Jordan took out the paperwork and opened to the cover sheet.

“Okay. I’ll get hold of Miss Hull and patch her through when she calls back.”

“Sounds good.” Jordan read through the notes and jotted down a few questions. A few seconds later Barbara patched Tori through.

Tori had been a few blocks away from campus and had asked Gibeau to drop her off at the English Department when her cell phone rang.

“Hello…..Victoria Hull.” Tori was in no mood. She just wanted to get to Brett at the moment.

“Tori, it’s Jordan. I’m sorry to bother you but…” Tori interrupted her before she could finish.

“Look Jordan. Didn’t Barbara tell you what I said? I’m taking care of something right now and time is of the essence.” Tori concentrated on keeping her voice calm. She tried not to take out her frustrations on her employees no matter how tempting it was.

“Tori, I understand. But what about Mills Textiles? We’ve had this meeting set up for a month. What do you want me to do about them?” Jordan knew an “Oh Shit” was going to come out of Victoria Hull’s mouth in just a moment.

“Oh shit!!! That’s today?! Damn!” Tori sat back in her seat in the limo and blew out a sigh. What to d? What to do? It was 12:30 and the meeting wasn’t until 1:00. She could go back but she really needed to see Brett.

“Look Tori….if you don’t mind, I can do the meeting. I mean… I know the points back and forth. What do you say?” Jordan had sat through all of Tori’s negotiations and, though her boss was a master at playing the game, Jordan knew enough to at least get the ball rolling.

“Hmm…well it could work to our advantage. Not that I doubt your abilities. I just think if I’m not there, they might think we’re losing interest in their business. That their offer isn’t good enough. That’s not a bad idea. Let them squirm a little. Ian just left for L.A. and my father is in Chicago so they won’t be of any help. Okay Jordan. Do your thing. You know what I want out of the deal, so present it to them. Tell them I won’t come to the table unless they come down a few percentage points.” Tori knew Jordan could handle the job. She had been carefully training her for the last few years and had complete confidence in her abilities.

“You got it boss!! By the way, is everything okay? Not that you’re not allowed, but this isn’t like you?” Jordan had complete respect for Victoria. She had seen her at her lowest and had seen her at her best. In all that time, Tori never once gave her a reason to not want to work for her.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Couldn’t be better actually. It’s just there’s a matter that needs my attention today and I’m afraid it just can’t wait. I’m sorry to put you on the spot like this.” Tori really meant it. She valued her employees almost as much as she valued her friends and family.

“Hey, no problem. If I botch it up, I know you won’t fire me. You… won’t.. fire me…. right?” Jordan all of sudden got butterflies and the reality of what she was about to do hit her.

Tori laughed hearing the uncertainty in her assistant’s voice. “No I won’t fire you. But that’s all I’m going to promise at this point. Seriously though…I have every confidence in you. Go get em’, slugger!!” Tori tried to sooth Jordan’s nerves. She remembered what it was like to lead her first negotiations and, fortunately for her, she hadn’t fallen on her face yet.

“Okay, but keep your cell phone on just in case.” Jordan requested.

“Sure. I won’t even put it in my purse. I’ll hook it to my waist.” Tori reassured.

Gibeau pulled the car to the entrance of the English department and turned to tell Tori they had arrived.

“Okay, well I hope you resolve whatever you need to this afternoon. I’ll call you once the meeting ‘s over if not sooner. ….bye.” Jordan hung up, grabbed her case, and said a prayer on her way out the door to the conference room.
INSTALLMENT THREE

Brett had been uneasy all morning and her stomach was at her as well. A colleague had asked if she wanted to join her for lunch and thought that food might ease her nerves.

She grabbed her purse and headed out of her office to meet her friend at the cafeteria.

She got to the line, picked up a salad, and an apple thinking something light would be enough to coat her stomach. That’s what you get for drinking so much and then eating all that junk food at the mall and those nachos at the movie theatre. You think you’re still nineteen and able to eat all that crap.

Brett paid for her food and looked around scanning the large room that was filled with students and teachers. She took one pass. And then another. Then finally spotted her friend waiting at a far table. She went over to her and set her tray down.

“Hey Martha….. I hope you weren’t waiting too long?” Brett’s friend was a professor in the math department. They had become good friends and met regularly during lunch hours.

“Nah, I just sat down myself. I hope you don’t mind? I invited one of the new professors to join us.” Martha had been teaching at the university for the last eight years and was like the campus social director.

“Of course not. The more the merrier.” Brett uncovered her salad and opened her bottled water.

“That’s all you’re having? Are you feeling okay?” Martha had eaten many lunches with Brett and knew her appetite well.

“I’m okay. I’ve had an upset stomach all morning and I didn’t want to eat too much. Besides I kind of over indulged this weekend.” Brett took a sip of her water as another knot twisted in her tummy.

“Well I know you’re not pregnant. How’s that sweetie you keep talking about?” Martha was glad to hear that Brett had found someone special. Brett rarely talked about her personal life but she was all smiles when it came to the new love of her life.

“She’s great. Actually, she’s wonderful. She asked me to move in with her this weekend and I accepted.” Brett absolutely glowed. She had everything she ever wanted wrapped up in a raven-haired, blue eyed, beauty.

“Really? Now there’s something to celebrate.” Martha held up her Snapple for a toast.

“I second that.” Brett was about to hold up her bottle when Martha noticed her colleague.

“Hey there you are.” Martha greeted the new arrival. “Brett Montgomery, please meet…” Martha was interrupted midway through her introduction.

“Jenna Carlisle.” Brett added. Her eyes showed no emotion and only Jenna knew what was going on behind the green eyes.

“Oh….. so you’ve met?” Martha happily exclaimed unaware of any animosity that was flowing between her companions.

“Yes. Brett and I were…” Jenna was about to divulge their relationship and Brett interjected.

“Classmates at the University of Michigan.” Brett glared at Jenna. She didn’t care if Martha saw or not.

“Oh….right. I forgot you attended their Brett. Wow…. what a small world.” Martha slid over allowing Jenna to take a seat next to her.

“Yes. It would seem so.” Brett took another sip of her water and chose to forgo the salad. Her stomach was now churning so hard she thought she was churning butter down there.

“So how are your classes going?” Martha smiled at Jenna and took a bite of her pasta salad.

“They’re going well. I have a great group of kids and look forward to teaching them this semester.” Jenna knew that Brett was fuming but to her credit, she showed no signs of discomfort.

Brett looked at her watch. She had a half-hour before her next class and wanted to be anywhere but where she was at the moment. How could she have kept this from me? Maybe Tori’s right. Maybe she IS up to something. Brett couldn’t believe Jenna was sitting in front of her. After four years of therapy and all the time that had passed, a part of her was still healing from the nightmare that was Jenna Carlisle. Why can’t she just stay out of my life? Brett’s mind was working a mile a minute and didn’t hear Martha calling to her.

“Brett…yoo hoo…” Martha waved her hand in front of the English professor and for a moment didn’t get a response.

“Huh… Oh I’m sorry, I just remembered something. What were you saying?” Brett looked over at Martha and avoided looking at Jenna completely.

“Jenna had asked if we knew of any clubs in the area. That’s not really my scene but I remember you mentioned one that you go to frequently. I couldn’t remember the name. What was it? You know the one on the river?” Martha had no clue what a mess she was making. The last thing Brett wanted was to have Jenna know where and how she spent her time.

“Well I don’t go there that often anymore but it’s called the Grove on the Hudson. It’s a popular place. It has something for everyone. Listen…. I’d love to stay but I have to get ready for my next class. You two enjoy your lunch.” Brett got up, gave them a quick wave, and threw her practically untouched lunch in the trash.

“That’s odd. Brett doesn’t seem herself today. She must really not be feeling well.” Martha took another bite of her pasta and looked at her watch as well.

“Golly where does the time go. I have to get to class also.” Martha wrapped up her things and asked Jenna to let her by.

“Oh yeah…. Well… I was heading out also. Listen, I’d love to catch up with Brett. Do you know where her office is?” Jenna really didn’t want to scare Brett away. She needed to explain herself.

“Oh, I think she’d like that. She’s on the second floor of the English Department. Third office on the right once you reach the top of the stairs.” Jenna thanked Martha and held the door to let her pass.
INSTALLMENT FOUR

Brett walked past her secretary and entered her office. She closed the door and threw her purse down on her desk.

“Shit…Shit…Shit…” Brett had thought about calling Tori, but didn’t want to worry her. She remembered Tori mentioning she had an important meeting and would probably be home a little late.

Brett slumped down into her chair and began to rub her temples. She could feel the beginnings of a headache and took a deep swallow trying to stop a wave of nausea. What is with me today? I hope I’m not coming down with something. I’d love to blame it on Jenna but I was feeling crappy before I saw her.

Brett heard a knock on her door. “Come in.” She answered.

Jenna peeked into the room and Brett’s face immediately turned to anger.

“What the hell do you want?” Brett demanded. She was in no mood for Jenna and would call security if she had to.

“Brett, please let me explain.” Jenna had a look of deep regret on her face but Brett wasn’t about to give her another chance.

“I don’t want to hear another word from you.” Brett got up from her seat and looked directly at Jenna’s face without a hint of fear.

“I’ve had just about enough of you. I want you out of my life.” Brett pointed at the door. Just then, her eyes caught a movement outside and she stared at the entrance.

Jenna looked behind her and shook her head. “You sure keep her on a short leash don’t you?”

Tori stood at the door and Brett could see that Tori wasn’t doing any better than she was. The tall executive slowly walked over and stood in front of the two of them.

“Well Miss Carlisle. When I said New York could be a small town, I didn’t think I would see you so soon.” Tori’s demeanor was cold and her eyes were piercing right through Jenna.

“Tori, it seems Jenna failed to tell us that she is now a professor here at Columbia.” Brett looked up at Tori and could see the veins in Tori’s neck tighten.

“Oh…. I see that little piece of information just happened to slip your mind.” Tori crossed her arms and towered over Jenna. Tori wanted to rip Jenna apart right there. The only thing keeping her in place was how Brett would react.

“I didn’t tell Brett because I didn’t want to worry her. I figured this place was huge and the chances of us running into each other would be minimal. I truly was trying to avoid upsetting Brett.” Jenna reached over to touch Brett’s arm but was stopped by Tori’s hand. Tori grabbed Jenna’s arm and twisted it around bringing it hard against Jenna’s back. She then grabbed Jenna’s left shoulder and shoved Jenna down hard against Brett’s desk, jamming Jenna’s face and most of her upper body against the wood grain.

Tori bent over and spoke menacingly into Jenna’s ear. “Don’t you ever touch her! I don’t know who the hell you think you are but from this day on you forget you ever laid eyes on Brett Montgomery. If you see her coming you walk the other way.” Tori jammed Jenna’s arm even higher and Jenna let out a painful scream. “Brett gave you a second chance at life and I suggest you enjoy it because the way things are going, you won’t have a third. You are a useless excuse for a human being.” Tori was about to hurt Jenna again when Brett’s hand stopped her.

“Baby….. that’s enough. She’s not worth it. Please let her go.” Tori looked back at the love of her life and could see that Brett was very upset. She reluctantly released Jenna but not before she shoved her head against the desk one last time.

“Tori.” Brett screamed.

Jenna fell to her knees and grabbed her arm. “Brett what makes her any better than me? Look at what she just did?” Jenna pointed at Tori and spit out some blood. The inside of her mouth was bleeding from where her teeth cut into her cheek after the fuming hurricane shoved her face into the desk.

Brett got right into Jenna’s face. “The difference between you in her is the fact that you’re still conscious. When I asked her to stop, she did. That’s a heck of a lot more than what I can say for you. Don’t you dare stand there and play high and mighty with me. Of all the universities in this country, you had to waltz into this one. You had a perfectly good job in Michigan. One, I might add, that was still waiting for you after you got out of the hospital because of me. If I hadn’t done what I did for you, you’d be in jail. J.A.I.L. I know you have an excuse for everything. Believe me. I’ve heard them all. I heard all of your excuses and I remember every lie. After everything I’ve gone through for you, with you and because of you, you’d think you could do this one thing for me and stay out of my life. Oh….. and before you start saying I’ve ‘totally misunderstood your actions’, save it. Let me make myself clear. If you were the last person on this earth, I would want nothing to do with you. I don’t want to be your lover. I don’t want to be your friend. And I most certainly don’t want to be an acquaintance. I’ve done more than I’ve had to as far as you’re concerned. Another person in my shoes most certainly wouldn’t have allowed you to get off so easily. But I have. Don’t let me regret it. You probably have changed and I most certainly hope you have. But there are millions and millions of other people in this world and I strongly suggest you try someone else.” Brett went to the door and opened it. Jenna stood up and looked at Brett. She tried to say one last thing. But Brett held up a hand. “Save it. As it is, you’ve made me late for my class.”

Jenna walked out of the office without another word and Brett slammed the door shut behind her. Brett slumped against the door, closed her eyes, and took a calming breath.

Tori stood there watching Brett. She had never seen Brett so forceful. Well not with anyone except her. She was so proud of her and yet, she felt ashamed for the way she herself had acted, losing control the way she had with Jenna.

Brett opened her eyes to find Tori obviously berating herself. She let out an exasperated sigh and walked over to her hero.

“Hey Lancelot. Gonna slay anymore of my enemies today?” Brett reached up and gave Tori a kiss on the cheek.

Tori let out a sigh of her own and bowed her head. “I’m sorry I lost control like that. It’s just…” Brett placed her fingers over Tori’s lips.

“You don’t have to explain. I understand.” A knock on the door interrupted them. Brett gave Tori an apologetic look. “Come in.” It was Brett’s secretary.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but your 1:oo class is waiting. It’s 1:15 now.” Irene could tell that she had interrupted something important. She had seen the other woman walk out and she hadn’t looked too good.

“Thanks Irene. I’ll be right there.” Irene nodded and closed the door.

“I’ve got to go. I wish I didn’t have to. But they’re waiting.”

“It’s okay. When does you’re class end?” Tori felt wiped out and just wanted to close her eyes and sleep.

“It should be over at 2:15, maybe 2:30. Then I have another class that will run until about 4:00.” Brett looked apologetically at Tori again.

“Does anyone else use this room? I could really use a nap. I feel like crap.” Tori’s eyes were bloodshot. She had obviously been crying.

“Be my guest. You go lay down and I’ll lock the door behind me.” Brett stretched up and gave Tori a quick kiss.

“There’s a blanket and pillow in that closet over there. I come prepared.” Brett winked and left the room leaving a much drained Victoria behind.
INSTALLMENT FIVE

Jenna kicked the door to the bathroom open. She looked around the bathroom to see if anyone was there. Luckily it was empty. She gingerly touched her face. Thankfully the damage was to the inside where no one could see. It was just slightly puffy. She tasted the metallic taste of blood in her mouth and spit into the sink. She turned on the tap and watched her blood mix with the water as it flowed down the drain. She reached over and pulled out a handful of paper towels, soaked them under the cold water, and brought it up to her face.

“Ouch….fuck….” She switched the compress to her left hand and tried to work the pain out of her right arm and shoulder.

She threw the compress into the trash bin and stared at her reflection.

“What the hell just happened?” Jenna’s head was reeling. She went through the moments from the cafeteria to Brett’s office and then everything broke loose.

“It’s that damn Victoria!! If she hadn’t walked in, I would have worked things out with Brett.” Jenna remembered what Brett had said and her shoulders slumped. As much as she hated Victoria Hull, she couldn’t deny the truth of what Brett had said.’What makes her any better than me? The difference between you and her is the fact that you’re still conscious. When I asked her to stop, she did. That’s a heck of a lot more than what I can say for you.’

Jenna looked at her reflection and the guilt of what she had done washed over her. She hadn’t wanted to hurt Brett. That was the last thing on her mind. She knew that she had changed and she wanted nothing more than to dedicate her life to making Brett happy. That’s why she moved all the way to New York. She wanted to offer Brett the kind of love that she thought she could now provide for her.

“But how does it look to them? It looks like a psycho bitch that hasn’t shown her face in four years just up and decides to move to where her ex-girlfriend lives and gets a job where her ex-girlfriend works… So, maybe I didn’t think this through very well.” Jenna spit out another clot of blood and shook her head.

“You never do.” Jenna released a heavy sigh and thought about the other things that Brett had said.

“It was true. Everything she said was true. What did you hope to accomplish here? You beat her into a coma and you expect her to take you back with open arms four years later? Maybe you do need to get your head checked everyday.” Brett’s words rang in her head once more.’There are millions and millions of other people in this world and I suggest you try someone else.’

“Brett was right. I need to move on. We both need to shut the door to that part of our lives and move on.” Jenna let out another sigh and checked her appearance one last time before she went back to her office and killed time before her 4:30 class. Her clothes were ruffled and her face was swollen. But there was nothing she could do right now. ” It’ll have to do.” With a heavy sigh, she felt the weight of her action cast over her again. There was no one to blame: this time.

******

Tori tried to sleep but couldn’t. She had never lost control like she had and it scared her. Never in her life had she wanted to kill someone. But she had come very close with Jenna. She knew her feelings ran deep for Brett, but to love someone so much that you would kill for them. Am I really capable of that? She thought about what Jenna had said. ‘What makes her any better than me?’ She remembered the look of horror on Brett’s face and at that moment she realized that she was the one that placed that look there. ” Jenna and I had different motivations. She feared she was going to lose Brett so she tried to control her and she lost control. I tried to protect Brett from a perceived danger and I lost control. I’m not saying what she did was right but given her background at the time, she didn’t know any better. The question is what is she doing here now?” Tori got up from her position on the couch and decided to go to the bathroom and freshen up.

She opened the door to Brett’s office and spotted Brett’s secretary, Irene.

“Hi, um I’m just waiting for Miss Montgomery to return.” Tori smiled at the woman.

“Yes, Brett said you were sleeping and not to disturb you.” The woman returned the smile and was obviously looking Tori over appreciatively. Irene was in her late thirties and had short brown hair, big brown eyes, and a very pleasant smile. Ooh I think we have a sister. Hey what is Brett doing having a secretary that’s a sister? Tori didn’t know how to feel about it so she thought she would leave it be for now.

“Yes well … can you tell me where the restroom is?” Even though the worn out executive looked a little tired, she still looked beautiful to the casual observer.

“It’s down the hall two doors to the left.” Irene was obviously taken with Tori because she had this shy blush on her face and Tori of course noticed immediately.

“Thanks I appreciate it. Oh I’m Tori. And your name is…..?” Tori held out her hand and waited for the woman to answer.

“I’m…I’m…I’m Irene.” The woman was absolutely taken. It didn’t help that the tall woman before her oozed sensuality even at her worst.

“Well it’s nice to meet you Irene. I’m sure we’ll be speaking a lot. Especially since I’m close friends with Brett.” Tori winked and tried to be subtle but Irene clearly understood how close her boss and Tori were.

“I’m sure. Brett’s talked about nothing else but you this last month. She seems very happy. Anytime you need to get hold of Brett while she’s here or if you need me to do something for you on her behalf, please feel free to call me.” Irene smiled and Tori gave her one back.

“Thanks. That’s two doors to the left…..” Tori started walking towards the hallway and pointed in the direction indicated.

“Yeah, that’s right, …uh….I mean left. You know what I mean.” Irene had truly never met anyone quite like Victoria. Ooh Brett you lucky dog.

Tori laughed and walked the few short steps to the restroom. Just as she was about to open the door, the door opened and the two adversaries met once again.

Tori and Jenna stared at one another for a moment, the tension between them thick and deadening.

Jenna was the first to break the silence. “We really need to stop running into each other like this.”

Tori looked into the math professor’s eyes and tried to imagine where the blonde-haired loon was going with this line of communication.

“I think your right. It’s doing nothing for my state of mind and it’s definitely not making you any better looking.” Tori could have sworn she saw a look of amusement on Jenna’s face.

“Your right, it’s not.” Jenna looked down in thought. She was thinking about what she needed to say. “Look I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused. I know that’s the last thing you want to hear, but it’s the truth.” Jenna stood at the doorway of the bathroom and Tori just stood there with a perplexed look on her face.

“You’re right. It is the last thing I want to hear. But I have to admit, I’m kind of confused about what you’re trying to achieve.” Tori gave Jenna a concerned look. “Since the day I met you, you have done nothing but make me think the worst of you. For the life of me, I don’t know what Brett ever saw in you in the first place.”

Tori could see that Jenna was hurt by her comment but there was no sign of anger.

“I’ve asked myself that very question a million times. When you sit in a hospital room and have nothing else to do but think about everything you’ve ever done and all that has been done to you, you can do nothing but ask yourself the hard questions.” Jenna looked at Tori and thought that maybe now would be a good time to mend another fence. “Look…. in the last six years, you and I have spent all of what an hour in each other’s company. But in that time, we’ve managed to make idiots of ourselves and well… maybe… if we sat down and talked like civilized human beings, maybe we might come to some kind of truce. I know Brett doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. Believe me. She made that perfectly clear. But I know we both love her and my actions have obviously made an impact on you as well.” Jenna looked at Tori and could see her words were getting through. “Do you want to go get a drink? I know Brett has a class.”

Tori stood there, wondering if this day could get any stranger. She couldn’t believe she was actually thinking about having a drink with this woman. What good could it do? When the words left her mouth, she was just as surprised, as Jenna seemed to be.

“Okay, Brett doesn’t get back until 4:00. It’s 2:45 now. Do you know of some place close?” Tori waited for Jenna to respond and Jenna thought of a few places.

“Yeah… there’s a pub about two blocks away that the faculty goes to. We could go there and be back fairly quickly. Is that okay?” Jenna waited for Victoria’s response and was now just as confused at the turn of events.

“Yeah, let’s go.” Tori thought about this new development and thought it was a good idea. Better to know what your enemy is doing then letting them run around unseen
INSTALLMENT SIX

The two sat at a booth in the back of the pub. The waiter had just arrived to take their orders.

“Ladies… will you be eating with us or just having drinks?” Tori looked at Jenna and the teacher shrugged her shoulders.

“I haven’t eaten a thing so I better get something to coat my stomach if we’re going to be drinking.” Tori looked at Jenna and nodded.

“I’ll have whatever she’s having.” The waiter looked at Tori and she took a quick look at the menu.

“How does a Jameson and Fish and Chips sound?” Tori waited for Jenna’s approval. You could hardly tell that Tori had beaten the stuffing out of Jenna a little while ago.

“That’s fine.” Jenna nodded to the waiter who smiled, took their menus, then went to place their order.

“So where were we? Ah yes. You wanted to know what Brett saw in me. Well it was more like what I saw in her, which you obviously know already. Back then, I was a manipulative, conniving bitch, for lack of a better description. But fitting just the same. Brett possessed all the qualities that I lacked and I was drawn to her as darkness is to light. I wanted to bask in her joy and bathe in her exuberance. I had never felt anything like what I felt in those days with Brett. And instead of cherishing and nurturing it, I tried to control it. Brett on the other hand was so trusting and so willing to love, she never once questioned if I was right for her. I almost felt like a cause for her at times. A pet project for her to mold and develop. Rather like an experiment in unconditional love. But it really wasn’t an experiment. Brett was just being Brett.” Jenna’s face got very sad and tears were pooling at the corner of her eyes.

“You see…. all my life I had been fighting for attention. Add that to the fact that my parents were rich and gave me a credit card when I was twelve. They gave me everything except their love. I learned at a very young age that people and things could be bought and that everyone had a weakness. I learned to find that weakness and exploit it. …. I see from the look in your eyes that you understand this.” Tori looked at Jenna and urged her to continue.

“Well, I spent a good portion of my time trying to get my parents’ attention. Even if it meant making them fly home from wherever they were and bail me out of jail or answer a call from the police department about a party that I had thrown. The heights and lengths I’d go to outrage them just to get their attention got worse and worse to the point that soon even they couldn’t cover it up after awhile. Amazingly enough, I had good grades. I was accepted to any school of my choosing, and this was my parents’ out. They told me that they would pay for my tuition, housing, and allowance every year but I was never to step foot in their home again. It wasn’t like it was ever my home in the first place. But it didn’t stop me from wanting it just the same. When I met Brett, she offered me something that I had been looking for my whole life. And yet when I was given that gift, all I could do was focus on how to keep it from disappearing. I got jealous at every little thing. Brett’s friends, family, work, and please… when I met you that day on Brett’s birthday, I knew that she belonged with you. Oh how I hated you. I prayed that Brett would look at me the way that she looked at you. That light that I saw in her eyes got even brighter that day when you two looked at each other at the apartment. You have no idea, what that did to me.”

Jenna now let the tears come and she took a long draw from her drink. “But even though it was killing Brett to not be with you, I still couldn’t let her go. And Brett being an honorable woman, wouldn’t leave. She would stay with me no matter what. I would constantly get jealous, insult her, and berate her. I’d pick fights with her family and make her choose between us. I did everything I could to test her. To prove that she was just like everyone else and that she would leave me. I was my own self fulfilling prophecy. My own worst nightmare.” Jenna took a moment to calm her nerves and looked to see if Tori had anything to say. Tori on the other hand just gave Jenna the room to talk. She took a sip over her drink and a bite of her meal.

“Go on Jenna. I’m listening.” Tori found that Jenna had indeed taken the time to think about her life and found up to this point she understood Jenna’s actions.

“I could see the light in Brett’s eyes getting dimmer and dimmer and I knew I was the cause. But like a leach, I wanted it all. One night I came home to find Brett studying with, I swear, an exact replica of you.” Jenna rolled her eyes and Tori gave her dirty look.

“And that was the first time that I lost it. It just took one moment of uncontrolled anger to change one’s destiny forever. I threw the girl out. And when Brett questioned my actions, I hauled off and slapped her clear across the room.” Jenna could see the change in Tori’s demeanor almost immediately and knew that the woman was just moments from losing control again. But she continued.

“To this day I don’t know why I hit her. I just know that it’s a part of me. Brett asked me at the time to get help and I went as far as going to two appointments. By the second appointment, the doctor had already diagnosed me and I wasn’t ready or willing to hear what she had to say. Therefore, I left. I lied to Brett and pretended to go to the doctor. When Brett asked to accompany me, I gave Brett an excuse that the doctor thought this was something I had to do by myself and that Brett wasn’t allowed to accompany me to my appointments. It worked for a while. Until Brett started getting offers from various schools and publishing houses. I had already secured my first real position at the university and I was starting to feel afraid that Brett would eventually leave. She came to me one night and told me she was considering taking a position here in New York and she wanted me to come. However, I didn’t hear that part. At least that’s what I used to tell myself. And then I lost it. I completely lost it. Years and years of anger and frustration flowed out of me unchecked. When I was through, the one person who had ever loved me laid at my feet unconscious. I almost destroyed the one person who was willing to give me a chance.” Jenna now dropped her face in her hands and cried uncontrollably.

Tori just sat there. If it was anyone else but Brett maybe, she wouldn’t feel such anger. But then again no one deserved what Jenna had done. She thought about what Jenna had revealed and found that a part of Jenna’s words made sense to her. She didn’t agree with it. She most certainly didn’t like it and a part of her still wanted to kill the math professor. But to what gain? For the first time she understood what Brett was trying to do. She was trying to stop the cycle of violence that would surely perpetuate if Jenna hadn’t gotten help.

Jenna wiped at her eyes and cleared her throat. “I woke up the next day in the psyche ward. I was sedated and I wasn’t at all coherent. I spent the next few months acting like a caged animal. When the doctor asked what I remembered, I said didn’t remember anything. Then I made excuses and eventually, even the excuses sounded hollow to me. I woke up one morning and thought about Brett and everything she had ever offered me. I felt remorse for the first time in my life. Up to that point, I had a reason to do what I did. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Like actions. Like consequences. However, I had no excuse as far as Brett was concerned. She offered unconditional love and I truly became no better than that which I hated. It was that day I sat in front of the doctors and accepted the responsibility for my actions.” Jenna took a sip and knew what she needed to say next.

“Now, Victoria Hull….. You want to know what I’m doing here? You’re right. I had an ulterior motive. I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised to see you with Brett. And yet a part of me was too proud to think that I didn’t have a chance. I have spent the last four years trying to be someone that I could be proud of. I wanted to be me, Jenna Carlisle. Not someone my parents molded me to be or what my countless relatives told me I would never become. But someone I chose to be. Someone that I had hoped that Brett could love. I figured that if she could love the maniac that I was, maybe she could love the person that I had become. But just as you walked away six years ago, I know that that’s what I must do now. I screwed up and I know it. But knowing Brett, can you blame me for wanting to at least try?” Jenna looked at Tori to try and decipher what she might be thinking but her face remained a blank at the moment.

Tori took a last bite and took another sip of her Jameson. She looked at her hands and thought about her next move. She shook her head and thought about all the stupid things she had done in her own past. The story from the bible about a stone kept ringing through her head. She took one last sigh and looked at Jenna trying to see any deceit. She truly couldn’t see any. So she took the leap of faith that Brett had done all her life.

“We’ll that’s quite a story you’ve got there.” Jenna looked at her and hung her head.

“Victoria. It’s not a story.” Tori held up her hand to stop Jenna and continued.

“I listened to you. Now you listen to me. It is a story. It’s one about your life and I can see that you understand it very well. I can’t blame you for falling for Brett and wanting to get her back. But I’ve got to tell you, you’ve got a snowball’s chance. I don’t know what Brett and I have. But we’ve always had it. It’s bigger than the both of us. I’ve done my share of unforgivable deeds, but Brett accepts me none the less. However, unlike you, I’m not going to push her away. I plan to spend the rest of my life making her happy. Unfortunately, thanks to you, I have my work cut out for me. Thankfully, that light that we love so much about Brett still burns brighter than the sun. And I will do everything in my power to ensure that continues even if it means sitting in a pub across from someone who I wanted to kill earlier today.

We’ve both done things to Brett that have hurt her and I ask you now to let her be happy. I don’t know how I got so lucky as to be the one that Brett has chosen to love. Nevertheless, I seem to have everything that she needs to make that possible. I promise to keep out of your life, if you promise to give up this pursuit of Brett. I don’t like being the bad guy. Just like you, I just want to love Brett and build a life with her, but someone has to walk away. And it’s not going to be me this time. If you choose to build a life here in New York, I wish you luck. If there’s anything I can do to help, feel free to let me know.” Tori looked at her watch and it was 3:50.

“I commend you for picking up the pieces of your life and I hope you find someone that you can love and who will fully love you. Thank you for allowing me to see you better and I hope we can finally put this behind us.”

Tori looked at her watch again and rose from her seat. “I’ve got to go meet Brett. Do you want to come?” Tori motioned for Jenna and she accepted. They paid the tab and left to meet Brett.
INSTALLMENT SEVEN

By the time they returned to the office, Brett was already waiting there. When she saw the unlikely pair walk in, she almost passed out. Tori walked over to Brett and took her in her arms. They both needed the contact after the day that they had and they willingly sank into each other’s embrace.

“Honey?” Brett was the first to speak.

“Yes love?” Tori kissed Brett on the neck.

“Is there something you want to tell me? ” Brett stared at the waiting form of Jenna at her door.

“Hmm…Oh yes.” Tori stood up and motioned Jenna to come closer.

“Jenna and I have come to an understanding.” Tori looked to Jenna for confirmation and Jenna nodded in agreement.

“Really? And what understanding would that be?” They could see that Brett was very uncomfortable and wasn’t happy to be dealing with this situation again. Jenna looked to Tori for an explanation and Tori happily obliged.

“Well I agree to not slam her around and she agrees not to do things that would warrant such an action.” Tori gave Brett a little grin.

“Is that so? And what’s to stop me from wanting to beat the stuffing out of her myself?” Brett was still fuming and didn’t want to make light of the situation.

“Well that’s up to you sweetie. But I’m just going by your example and trying to be more understanding. Jenna confessed that she was trying to win you back and I’ve convinced her that she’s wasting her time. Isn’t that so?” Tori turned to Jenna and, with a look of resolve on her face, Jenna replied.

“Yes. I admit that it was my intention to try and win you back. At the time, I was planning this. I didn’t take into consideration that you were with Victoria and, well, I know now that you belong together. I think for the sake of our work, it would be best to put this behind us so that we can come here without any fear of running into each other. I’m so sorry Brett, I truly am.” Jenna looked down and could not look Brett in the face.

“So am I Jenna. So am I. I want nothing more than to put this nightmare to rest. If you’re willing, so am I.” Brett held out her hand and Jenna looked up in surprise. She took Brett’s hand and gave it a squeeze. Her eyes were sad and the reality of the situation came crashing in again. She had it all once.

“Well I better get going. I have a 4:30 class. Take care.” Jenna gave Tori a hint of a smile and Tori did the same.

“You know Brett? Victoria’s not bad once you get past the smug exterior.” Jenna laughed when Tori rolled her eyes and shook her head. Then they looked at each other again and knew it was now Jenna who would be walking away. An unspoken word was shared between them and a guarantee that Tori would forever make Brett happy.

They stood beside Brett’s desk and watched as Jenna exited the room and closed the door behind her. Brett let out a sigh and her stomach relaxed for the first time that day. Tori sat down and pulled Brett down to sit on her lap.

“So how are you doing?” Tori brushed away the loose strands of hair from Brett’s eyes.

Brett laid her head against Tori’s shoulder spent from the anxiety of the day. “I’m okay…I guess…Although I think I’ve been better.”

“Yeah me too.” Tori kissed Brett on the lips and they lost themselves in the security that they found there.

“I was a bit surprised to see you two together. I don’t know how I feel about that.” Brett looked into Tori’s eyes and tried to understand what was going on behind those baby blues.

“A part of you feels like I’ve betrayed you and another part of you loves me for trying to make things better.” Tori saw understanding fill Brett’s face and her eyes began to well with tears.

“That’s exactly it. How did you know?” Brett sat up surprised that her lover had pinpointed her feelings to the tee.

“Well that’s how I would feel. Jenna and I aren’t best buddies now, if that’s what you’re worried about. And I don’t excuse her behavior what so ever. I wanted to kill her today Brett. And when I think of what she’s done to you believe me, a large part of me still does. But then if I allow the anger to fester in me then that’s all I’ll focus on and I don’t want that to happen. I have more important matters to focus on and I don’t plan on wasting another moment on Jenna Carlisle. I’d rather focus on you and the life we share together. I love you and nothing and no one is more important than that.” Tori gazed into Brett’s tear stained face and knew her tears were falling just as steadily.

“Thank you for understanding. I guess I just needed to hear that from you. I’m so grateful that you’re trying to make things better for me. For us. I love you too.” Brett grabbed a tissue and wiped the tears from Tori’s face and did the same for her own.

Brett sat up again remembering that Tori had mentioned early that morning that she had an important meeting. “Hey what are you doing here anyway? I thought you had a meeting today?”

“I did. However, I received the package from that detective I told you about and I found out that Jenna had tenure here at Columbia. I rushed over the moment I found out.” Brett could see the worry lines return at the corners of the executive’s eyes and knew something was still bothering her.

“So you left an important meeting because of me?” In the past two months that they had been together, Brett realized that her lover would move heaven and earth to place her needs first.

“No I didn’t leave the meeting because of you. I just didn’t go.” Tori’s brow furrowed and she really didn’t think twice about what was more important, Brett or the company. There was no question that Brett was more important.

“So what happened? You cancelled or did someone cover for you? I know that you just didn’t go. I know you better than that.” Brett looked very concerned. The last thing Tori needed was heat from the board. She was next in line to take over as CEO of Hull Enterprises and she was sure that there were those that were waiting to see her fail.

“No I had my assistant take over the meeting. While we’re on the subject, let me call and see how things are going.” Tori pulled her cell phone from her waist and dialed Jordan’s number.

“Jordan Scott.” Jordan sounded relaxed which was always a good sign.

“Jordan… it’s Tori. How did it go?” The tall businesswoman waited in anticipation. Now that everything with Brett was squared away she could now focus on the business at hand.

“Tori, it worked like a charm. When they showed up and you weren’t there, they immediately got worried. I think they’re ready to deal now. I told them that until they were serious, you wouldn’t even come to the table. That got their attention and they want to meet next week. You’re not gonna have an emergency next week are you?” Jordan sounded nervous and Tori had to laugh. Her usually cool calm headed assistant was obviously a little worked up from the day’s events. It had definitely been a rough day for everyone involved.

“No Jordan I don’t plan on having an emergency next week. You did great as I expected and you’ll see a nice bonus in this week’s pay check.

“Ooh really?!! Does that mean I can go out and get that Porsche I’ve been eyeing?” Jordan was kidding of course. Certainly a girl could dream.

“What color did you have in mind?” Tori knew she had just rendered her assistant speechless.

“Ah…Ah…I ah was just kidding Tori.” Jordan sat in her seat stunned.

“Well I’m not. So what color?” Tori winked at Brett who was happily still seated on her lap. “Better yet. Why don’t you go pick one out tonight and I’ll have my accountant take care of everything else. I’ll have him call you and you can give him the details. Okay?” Jordan was incredibly silent and Tori thought she might have passed out.

“Jordan? Yoo hoo? Jordan?” Tori looked at Brett having no clue what happened to her assistant.

“I’m sorry boss I was just pinching myself. Wow!! I’ll take over a meeting for you anytime. You’re the best boss!!!” Jordan was blown away.

“Why thank you. I try to be. We’ve been working really hard Jordan and I’ve always been able to count on you. So you deserve this. You have a good night and tell Barbara I’ll see her tomorrow. There isn’t anything that needs my attention is there?” Tori waited for Jordan to ask Barbara if she needed to speak with Tori.

“Nope. Everything’s taken care of. You don’t have to worry about a thing.” Jordan was beaming. Today hit a milestone for her. And she was getting a car.

“Great I’ll see you tomorrow. Have fun tonight.”

“I will…is everything okay on your end? Barbara said you didn’t look or sound too good when you left here earlier. Is there anything I can do?” Jordan truly respected her boss and, though they weren’t all that different in age, she looked up to Tori. Everyone in the company did. If you didn’t, you were definitely playing on the wrong side.

“Everything’s fine. As a matter of fact, I’m just about ready to call it a day. Though it’s been quite interesting. I hope I never have one like this again.” Tori said this more to Brett than to Jordan and they both looked at each other in understanding.

“I know. I’ve had days like that. They aren’t fun. Well as long as you’re okay that’s all that matters. I’ll let you go. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Jordan hung up the phone and closed up shop. She was going car shopping. Whew hoo!!
INSTALLMENT EIGHT

Tori turned off her phone and gave Brett a big hug. Happy to see the day come to an end.

“What do you say we get out of here?” Tori kissed the adorable nose in front of her. Brett looked up into Tori’s eyes. She could still see the haunted look in them and knew that before the night was through, whatever was bothering her lover would need to be addressed.

“I’d love to. As long as you tell me what’s still bothering you.” Brett could express so much to Tori with just a look and sadly she knew that the young professor was right: there was still one thing that was weighing on her.

“I will, love. But not right now. Why don’t we get some take out, bring it home and you and I spend the rest of the evening spoiling each other rotten?” Brett gave Tori a concerned look and she received a faint smile in return.

“And then I’ll tell you what’s on my mind, okay?” Brett conceded and they shared a final kiss before they headed out the door.

“Okay, ooh… I don’t suppose you want Thai? I didn’t get to finish my meal the other night.” Brett bumped Tori on the hip and the older woman just smirked.

“And whose fault was that?” Tori helped Brett with her coat and held the door for her companion.

“It wasn’t mine. I was on my best behavior.” Brett feigned innocence.

“Goodnight Irene. I’m going home.” Brett turned to her secretary who was checking out her girlfriend.

“Goodnight Irene.” Brett bent over the desk blocking her line of sight.

“Huh, oh yes. Goodnight. It was good meeting you Tori.” Irene looked around Brett and her face was a little flushed as Tori winked at her and replied.

“It was a pleasure meeting you as well Irene. You have a good evening.” Tori flashed Irene a big pearly white smile and gave her a signature wink.

Brett observed the whole exchange and just snorted. With a sigh she waved goodbye and led her flirtatious friend out of the office.

“What?” Tori said as she observed her lover’s demeanor. Brett just shook her head and kept on walking.

“Brett, what is it?” Tori knew exactly what she had done. She couldn’t help it. It was second nature.

“Oh you know exactly what you did. I’m just trying to figure out why you did it, HEARTBREAKER.” Brett got to the bottom of the stairs and opened the door, happy to breathe in the cool air on this late February day.

“Heartbreaker? I thought I told you that she’s gone into retirement. What are you implying?” Tori huffed and pretended to be hurt.

“Yes, but she likes to come out every once in awhile to play. I’m just wondering why today? And why Irene?” Brett stopped and gave Tori a smug look.

“Well she’s not my secretary. I would never think of having a secretary that played for the same team I do.” Tori raised her eyebrow and set her jaw. Brett could still see humor in her eyes though.

“Oh I get it. You’re jealous.” Brett kept walking.

Tori furrowed her brow and ran to catch up with her lover. “I most certainly am not!”

“Oh yeah, you are. You’re worried that just because Irene’s a lesbian, she and I might get up to no good some night when I’m tired and vulnerable. She’ll come into my office after I haven’t seen you in a week. In a moment of weakness, I’ll succumb to my need to run my fingers through her thick brown hair and just one look into her doe like brown eyes and I’ll fall. I’ll fall into her arms and we’ll have at it right on my desk. Knocking everything on it to the floor and make mad passionate love, over and over and over again….hot and heav–” Brett was stopped by Tori’s hand covering her mouth.

“Do you eat with that mouth? You’re actually trusted with the youth of America with that mind?” Tori released her hand and stared down at the little nymph. To her credit, Brett just stared back and waited for the taller woman to admit defeat.

“Okay, I’m jealous. If I wasn’t before, your little rant did the trick.” Tori brought Brett’s hand to her lips and kissed it.

“Give me a second?” Tori took out her cell and called Gibeau. “Hey buddy where are you? Yeah the same entrance. Thanks.”

Tori closed her cell and gave Brett her full attention again. “He’ll be right here. Come here… I really need a hug…” Tori opened her arms and the writer immediately sank into her lover’s arms.

“I love you.” Brett whispered lost in the warmth of Tori’s body and her strong secure arms.

“I love you too. You know honey? I think I learned something today.” Tori kissed Brett on the forehead.

“Oh, what’s that love?” Brett looked into Tori’s beautiful gentle eyes.

“I learned how incredibly wonderful you are.” Tori released the embrace and took a step back to get a good look at Brett. “I don’t know how you do it? You’ve taken a totally tragic situation and managed to save a soul in Jenna and make your own life quite successful.” Tori cupped Brett’s cheek and gave her a warm loving look. “You don’t know how much I admire that in you. All my life I’ve been able to sail through. Even at my worst I never had to face the kind of adversity that you’ve had to face and look at you….You’ve had every right to crawl up in a ball and shut yourself off from the world and yet you rise. I love you Brett Montgomery. Just when I think I can’t love you anymore, you prove me wrong. I am hopelessly and unequivocally in love with you.” Brett’s tears escaped her just as Gibeau pulled up. He got out and opened the door for his two passengers. Tori took Brett’s hand to guide her into the limousine. As soon as they were both inside and out of the view of the student population, Brett threw herself into Tori’s waiting arms. They kissed with abandon and all that Gibeau could do was wait until the fire burned out. Somehow, he knew it never would. But he would wait just the same.
INSTALLMENT NINE

Later that evening, the two lovers were found lounging in the jacuzzi.

“Ah…..This is bliss. I’ve got to tell you, sweetheart….. You sure do know how to live.” Brett reached over and picked up her wineglass. She took a sip and let the wine settle on her palate before she swallowed. Turning she offered the glass to Tori and, instead of taking it, Tori motioned her to take another sip. She then bowed her head to drink of the bouquet from Brett’s succulent lips and enjoyed the heady mixture of the writer’s mouth and the perfectly fermented grapes. The need for even greater contact rose and the taller woman guided smaller to straddle her lap. Long slender hands clasped the back of Brett’s head and their mouth pressed against one another in almost painful contact. Tori couldn’t get the images of the report out of her head and desperately needed to replace the images with ones of her own.

Brett pulled away feeling Tori’s desire and yet, she knew there was something more. She looked into Tori’s eyes and saw the anguish that lay beneath them.

“Tori? What’s wrong honey?” Brett caressed Tori’s cheek and waited for her lover to answer.

“Nothing…. I need you. I don’t want talk right now. I just want to love you.” Tori’s face broke Brett’s heart. She had never seen the look of pain in her lover’s eyes like the one that had taken residence there.

“But baby…why are you so sad? Honey I’m worried about you. Please tell me what’s going on?” Brett asked once again. This time showing every bit of concern that she was feeling.

“Oh baby… I saw the police report today of the night that Jenna hurt you.” A sob escaped the usually strong woman and Brett immediately understood why her lover had such a wounded look on her face.

Tori buried her face in her lover’s chest and began to lay kisses in the valley between Brett’s bosoms.

“Please Brett let me love you. I can’t explain it ….but I desperately need to make love to you. Please?” A tear fell from Brett’s eyes. She knew how awful the pictures had been. She had seen them after she was released from the hospital and the police came to ask if she would be pressing charges. It bothered her to know that Tori had seen the photos. It must have devastated her mate to see her in such a state. She knew Tori didn’t pity her. If she was beginning to understand one thing, it was that Tori’s love for her ran deep. Brett looked into Tori’s face and nodded her head.

“Love me?” Brett answered simply. Tori’s tears fell again and she captured Brett’s mouth with her own. The two kissed intensely and the fluid from their joined lips and the saltiness of their tears mingled in hot passionate need.

When the two were breathless and heated, they broke away in frantic desire. Their hands clasped over each other’s body as if they were trying to climb into each other’s soul. Tori trailed her lips south traveling sensually east and west on her descent down the expanse of Brett’s neck and down the heated blush of Brett’s chest. Brett grasped Tori’s head wanting desperately to feel her mouth. The sensation being a fine line between pleasure and exquisite pain as Tori’s tongue skillfully swirled Brett’s rock hard pebbles between her teeth.

“Oh Tori!! What you do to me.” Victoria’s touch seemed to reach into her very soul and embrace her from the inside out.

There was a hunger and intensity about Tori tonight that seemed to want to devour her and yet worship her. At times the touch was gentle and reverent and then the touch would turn to a raging river: a river that flowed over her, sweeping across every surface of her body and spirit eroding away her inhibitions and flooding her with a torrent of emotions.

Tori lifted Brett’s body even higher and Brett stood over her. The water cascaded down Brett’s heated form and Victoria’s passion rose to greater heights as she viewed the beauty that stood above her. She ran her hands over Brett’s delicate skin and replaced every image of pain with one of reverent worship. Brett’s body, soul, and spirit belonged to her, as she belonged to Brett. No one would ever come between them again. And as she lovingly showered Brett’s tender body with loving kisses and gentle nips, she claimed what was rightfully hers. Brett rested her hands on the ledge behind them and Tori slid further down to allow Brett to lower herself upon her eager mouth. Even the fine aged vintage that the two had shared could not hold a candle to the rich robust elixir that Tori now partook.

She wrapped her hands over Brett’s swaying hips and helped to support Brett’s weakening legs. Her mouth hungrily explored and drank of the liquid that seeped out of her very aroused lover. The two worked in tandem and soon Brett was clawing to keep standing. She shouted Tori’s name like a mantra that finally brought her to nirvana. Her legs gave out and Tori supported her and brought her safely into her waiting arms. The two bodies melded together while the soothing vibrations of the waters carried them back to reality.

Tori wiped back Brett’s hair and placed tender kisses on the top of her head. She could tell that Brett’s heart was still racing as she gentle caressed her smooth back to help bring her lover’s pulse back down.

“I love you.” Tori whispered.

“Mmm…yes you do. Like no one else in the world.” Brett replied in a sex-induced haze.

Tori ducked her head so she could taste Brett’s lips again and soon the healing dance was set in motion once more. Only this time Brett took the lead.

Brett kissed Tori hungrily, surprised at how quickly her passion rose again. She knew that Tori had had a hard day and had wanted to make love to her hoping to help dissipate any lingering tension. She pulled away and observed the pout that immediately came to her lover’s face.

“I have an idea.” Brett smiled.

“I like the one you were working on.” Tori countered. She was totally wrapped up in Brett’s kiss and wanted a lot more of it.

“You’ll like this. I promise.” Brett placed a kiss on her finger and trailed it down Tori’s lips.

She got up and stepped out of the Jacuzzi leaving Tori bewildered and frustrated. Brett stepped onto the marble floor and held a towel open for her heated lover. Tori got out of the tub. Her body was rebelling against the lack of attention. Brett wrapped her in the towel and did the same for herself. Brett led them to the sauna and unwrapped her lover from her covering. She laid the towel out on the cedar bench and motioned Tori to lie down on the bench. Without any protest, the tall woman did as directed and stretched her long luxurious body out in all its glory. Brett dropped her towel to the floor and positioned herself on top of her lover. She ran her hands over her lover’s heated skin and their eyes met. Tori bent her head up to capture Brett’s and their lips met in scorching need.

Tori’s body was screaming for attention and its only relief lay in the hands of her lover. Brett was determined to drive Tori to the edge of her limits and at the moment, she was painfully succeeding.

“Please baby. I need you.” Tori was not above begging especially if it helped her to get Brett closer to her throbbing center.

“Patience my love. I promise to satisfy every one of your pleasures by the time this night is through.” Brett captured Tori’s earlobe in her mouth and felt Tori arch against her as electrical pulses traveled down her spine. Brett’s mouth traversed Tori’s body, pampering every inch thoroughly. Her mouth held the skill of a master as it coaxed every inch of the bigger woman’s body to bow down to its command. Brett’s fingers dipped into Tori’s slick center and she captured a very aroused clit between her fingers massaging it to its absolute limit. Tori was so turned on by Brett’s manipulation that an overwhelming abundance of fluid pooled between her legs. Brett’s hand was drenched in Tori’s ambrosia and couldn’t resist the need to taste the salty treat.

Brett stopped her stroking causing Tori to lift her head to see what had caused the interruption. Brett looked up into Tori’s eyes with undisclosed desire and brought her glistening fingers to her lips and polished off every ounce of her mate’s succulent offering from her digits. Not having had her fill, Brett gave her lover a smile and without restraint dove into the offered well. Tori gasped as Brett feasted on her with abandon. She had never felt such desire and her soul soared to unfathomable heights. Brett’s tongue sucked and nibbled, dipping deeper and deeper into her. The creative writer introduced her fingers to Tori’s opening and soon her hips were rocking against Brett’s fingers as it plunged deep into her warm soft cavern. Victoria was completely filled and she clutched the cedar surface beneath her as Brett’s finger reentered her over and over and over again. Brett clamped on to her nipple and Tori’s mind volleyed between the sensations of having her nipples sucked and her center plunged.

“Oh Brett.” Tori screamed. “That’s it. Yes baby. Harder. Uhhhh!!” Tori spread her legs even wider and bent her head up to watch Brett take her right there in the sauna. The steam did nothing to hide her lover as she claimed every part of body.

“Tell me baby. Who do you love?” Brett said in a husky tone.

“You. Only you.” Brett captured Tori’s nipple again and stretched the puckered teat with her teeth.

“Oh, jeez Brett…..” Tori closed her eyes while another intense wave of pleasure surged through her.

Sweat was pouring down the two lover’s bodies allowing them to slide against each other easily.

Brett positioned her center on Tori’s thigh and rubbed her sopping clit against it. Tori could feel Brett’s arousal being painted over her leg. The sensations of Brett’s fingers inside her, Brett’s mouth on her, and that of the smaller woman writhing against her it was all she could do not to surrender to her climax. But she wanted to reach a simultaneous release with her lover so she held on with every ounce of her depleting control.

Tori’s breathing was becoming ragged as well as her lover’s. The motion of Brett’s rocking quickened and the two fell in sync as if they were both in a tunnel traveling together lost in the sensations that their bodies were experiencing.

“Oh baby, uh…oh….sss hhhh…I’m gonna come……” Tori closed her eyes and could feel the gathering of her impending climax.

Brett released Tori’s nipple and their mouths hungrily crashed against one another. They were both seconds away from a powerful release and with one last well-placed thrust, the two lovers exploded in orgasmic propulsion. With their screams dying in each other’s mouths, the tidal wave of their passion washed over them, drowning them in one another’s arms. Tori sank back into the cedar bench carrying her lover with her. Aftershock after aftershock spread through them and they rode the wave until the quakes subsided.

*******

When Tori was finally able to speak, she hazily uttered. “What was that?”

Brett slid up Tori’s body so the two were now face to face.

“I’d say that was 7.4 on the Richter scale.” Brett said still slightly breathless.

“Oh I’d say it was much higher than that.” Tori captured Brett’s mouth and they kissed.

“Oh yeah….definitely higher.” Although they had reached an unprecedented release, they still brimmed with desire for each other. They continued to kiss and knew that with a little more cajoling, they would be at it again in record time.

******

After hours of unabated lovemaking, the two finally made it to their bedroom. No more were the worry lines around Victoria’s eyes and forehead. They were replaced with a look of contented peace. She adjusted the blanket around their naked forms and kissed her lover one last time before they drifted off into sleep.

“I love you.” Tori whispered in the silence of their darkened room.

“Yes… you do,” answered Brett who was on the edge of slumber. “Like no one else in the world.”

It was true. For the first time since they had made their journey back to one another, Jenna Carlisle no longer stood between them. For once, they might actually sail calm waters and forge together full steam ahead. Tori wrapped her arms even tighter around her precious Brett and a smile graced her gentle features.

“I love you like no one else in the world.” She said one last time before sleep claimed her as well.
INSTALLMENT TEN
Cole Crawford looked out the window at the scenery he had seen all his life. After being away for almost four month’s, he looked at his childhood home with renewed fondness. The car pulled up to the Crawford estate as he anxiously prepared to see his family. The car came to a stop and the driver stepped out and opened the door. Cole got out and stretched his legs, happy to finally be at the end of his long journey home. He had been in Asia working to set up a division of Crawford Industries there. It had been quite an undertaking. Now that everything was in place, he could now get back to his life in New York. He got out of the car and helped the driver carry his bags; shouldering his garment bag and taking the handle of one of his rolling luggage.

“Mr. Crawford, sir…. I can get those?” The driver rushed to Cole’s side and attempted to take the luggage from him.

“Please. There are four others in there. Let’s not fight over these.” Cole smiled and the driver gave him a puzzled look.

“Sir…. it’s my job and my employer would have my head if they found out that a client had to carry their own bags.” The driver looked very worried but Cole did not intend to have the man fear for his livelihood.

“Please… there’s only you and me here. Unless there’s a camera in that car, no one’s going to know. I’ve been away a long time and my luggage is very heavy. I promise not to tell anyone if you don’t, okay? Besides while we’re out here arguing about the luggage, I’m losing valuable time that I could be spending saying hello to my family.” Cole pleaded with the driver and the man acquiesced. “Thank you.”

Cole proceeded up the stairs to the front door and as he approached, the door flew open. Cole’s father, Paul, rushed out and gave his son a bear hug.

“It’s good to have you home, son.” Paul Crawford said giving his son a warm welcome. The two had always shared a close relationship. Cole was a carbon copy of his father and they both had the same good looks and warm nature.

“It’s good to be home. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed all of you.” Paul took Cole’s garment bag and the two made their way into the house, they left the bags in the front foyer and went out to the breakfast lanai. Cole’s sister Pamela, her husband Ian Hull, his mother Diane and his niece and nephew, Dominique and Marcus were seated having breakfast.

As soon as Cole stepped out on to the lanai, his sister and mother surrounded him.

“We’ve missed you, Cole. This place hasn’t been the same without you.” Pamela looked up at her older brother and Cole quickly picked his sister up and gave her a big kiss and hug.

“I’ve missed you too sis. Well look at you! For someone who’s given birth just a few short months ago, you look incredible!” Pamela blushed at her brother’s compliment and they hugged again.

“Hey…. don’t I get a hug and kiss?” Diane held her arms open for her son. Cole bent down, swept his mother in his arms, and twirled her in the air. They shared a laugh as they often had. Her son was home and the joy of having her family under one roof again filled Diane Crawford’s heart to overflowing.

“Put me down you brat.” Diane playfully slapped her son on the chest.

“Never. I haven’t been able to do this in four month’s and I’m going to enjoy it.” Cole hugged his mother and felt the love that only a mother could offer surround him. Cole finally placed his mother back on the floor and gave her a kiss.

“I’ve missed you mom. I missed all of you very much.” Cole looked around the table and smiled at the faces that were his family.

“Well you look like you’ve lost weight. I’m going to have to get the cook to fatten you up. Come, join us for breakfast.” They all took their seats and Cole went over to the crib to get a look at his new niece and then picked Marcus up.

“Hey little man. You’ve gotten so big.” Marcus’ face lit up seeing a somewhat familiar face and quickly lifted his arms to be picked up. Cole bent over and lifted Marcus up. He brought him over to the table and had him sit with him on his lap.

“Hey Ian, how are you buddy?” He reached over the table and gave Ian a handshake.

“I’m doing great. Pam and I just came back from a nice long vacation.” Ian turned to his wife and they shared a kiss. “We were having a rough time of it for a while but we’re doing better.” Ian looked at his wife and hoped she felt the same way. Pamela nodded in affirmation and a grateful smile came to Ian’s face. He took Pamela’s hand and brought it to his lips, kissing it gently. “We’re trying to make more time for each other. It’s easy to take one another for granted when you’re working and you have kids.” They had started to go to couples therapy sessions and were committed to making their relationship work.

“That’s good to hear. You two have been together forever. It’s hard to think of either of you without thinking of the other. I admire what you have. I wouldn’t mind settling down myself.” Cole smiled at Ian and they shared a knowing look.

Cole had dated Ian’s sister Victoria in high school and they had seen each other whenever possible throughout the years. Although they were not dating exclusively, Cole still loved Tori very much. A part of him still had hopes that someday they would find their way back to one another. Cole had been patiently waiting while Tori figured things out for herself. Cole knew in his heart that he loved Tori and would patiently wait for the beautiful Victoria Hull. The last time Cole saw her they had spent time together as they had always done the past few years. It was understood that they could see other people. Although Cole hardly ever found anyone that could hold his attention like Tori could, he knew that she had been with many people throughout the years. He couldn’t help himself. He still loved Victoria. If only she would just say that she wanted Cole as much as he wanted her, his life would truly be complete.

Marcus screamed for his uncle’s attention and Cole quickly entertained him.

“Hey little man. What can I get you?” Marcus pointed to his awaiting bowl and Cole fed Marcus a spoonful of cereal making airplane sounds before it landed on the runway that was Marcus’ mouth. Marcus laughed at his Uncle Cole’s antics and begged for another spoonful.

“So son….What are your plans? Are you going to take a few weeks off before you get back to work or are you going to jump right back in?” Paul observed his son and thought it best that Cole take time off before he got back to business. Fatigue was written all over his face and the light in his son’s usually brilliant eyes was somewhat faded.

“Well I was thinking of taking a couple of weeks off. I am really drained. I can’t tell you what it’s been like overseas. The market is so uncertain and it took a lot of shoulder rubbing to get through the red tape, but we got it done nonetheless. I just want to totally vegetate for the next two weeks.” Cole slumped back in his seat as Marcus finally tired of the game and was on his way to a midmorning nap.

“That sounds like a good idea, Cole. Besides things are a little slow right now so you just take things easy.” Paul smiled at the sight of his son and grandson halfway asleep.

“Yeah. I was also thinking of dropping in on Tori. I’m so excited that she’s finally back in the states. I’ve worried so much about her these past few years. I know she did a lot for the European offices of Hull Enterprises while she was there, but I’m glad to see her home again.” Even though he was tired and his eyes slightly watery from the lack of sleep, his energy seemed to pick up at the mention of his childhood sweetheart. Cole yawned and blinked his eyes a few times trying to hold back his sleep.

“We are too. I can’t tell you how good it is to have Tori back here with us. She’s starting to prepare herself and the company to take over as CEO. So far, everyone is very excited at the prospect of that. She’s just brilliant. Our family all agree that’s she’s the best one for the job.” Ian was so proud of his younger sister and was so happy that she was home and finding happiness in every part of her life. He looked at his childhood friend and knew that Cole was in for a bit of a disappointment. Tori and Brett seemed so happy together and from all signs, were very committed to one another.

“It will be nice to be able to see her on a regular basis without having to get on a plane for at least six hours.” Cole got a wistful look on his face when he talked about Tori. He was obviously still very taken with her.

All eyes met as Cole went on about the future CEO. They had promised Tori that they would not say anything about her and Brett. She had asked that she be allowed to break the news to Cole in person. After everything they shared, she thought it only right that she give Cole that courtesy.

Cole looked up and caught the exchange. He wondered what it had been about. But at the moment, he decided it could wait until he got some sleep and was thinking more clearly.

“Well folks….I’m beat. I think I’m going to go upstairs and take a nap. I’ll probably sleep for most of the morning and a good portion of the afternoon.” Everyone understood and Cole gave each of them a quick hug or kiss. He placed his sleeping nephew in his sister’s arms and left to catch up on some much needed rest.
INSTALLMENT ELEVEN
It had been two weeks since Tori had asked Brett to move in with her. They had spent the last two weeks packing Brett’s things and planning the move. Victoria wanted to be there when the movers brought Brett’s things to the penthouse. However, Brett was emphatic about doing it by herself. Tori had been so attentive the last two months since they had been together. She knew that her tall business woman had many issues that needed her attention at work and didn’t need anymore added responsibilities, no matter how willing she seemed to be. So Brett decided to schedule the mover to come while Victoria was at work.

It was a cool March Friday evening when Tori stepped out of the elevator of her penthouse. She had expected to see boxes strewn all over, but was surprised to see everything in its place. Looking around the penthouse, she searched for any signs of her new roommate.

“Honey, I’m home.” It was a great feeling to be able to say that. Her dreams of sharing a life with Brett were finally coming true. The anxious woman waited for an answer, but she didn’t receive one. She felt a pang of disappointment as she continued to search her home for her partner. Maybe the movers couldn’t move her today. Tori searched the whole bottom floor and decided to go search for Brett in their bedroom. She climbed the spiral staircase that led to the master bedroom and again was disappointed when she approached the slightly ajarred door and didn’t hear a sound. She pushed the door open and stopped dead in her tracks when she caught sight of the view before her.

“Hi,” came the smokey voice of her young lover.

Victoria stood at the door in bewilderment, unable to move a muscle or speak a syllable. The best she could do was look on in wonder and swallow in surprise.

“How was your day at the office, dear?” Brett was enjoying the look on Victoria’s face. It was a rare occasion to render the great Victoria Hull speechless, but a vixen named Brett Montgomery knew exactly what buttons to push to extract such a reaction.

Tori heard the words but her brain functions were unable to process a response. This was Brett’s first official day in the penthouse and Tori was planning on celebrating the occasion with her. Brett obviously beat her to the punch and the tall executive was knocked out.

“Do you plan on standing there all evening or are you going to give me a proper hello?” Brett gave Tori a come hither look and spread out on the bed to wait for her lover to snap out of her haze.

Letting out a breath that she didn’t realize she was holding, Tori looked around the room for a moment and saw the candle lit dinner that Brett had prepared in the corner of the room. The new resident had lit the fireplace and spread little tea light candles around the chamber. Rose petals cast over the bed and all over the floor. Somehow, Victoria’s legs had carried her to the side of the bed and Brett was smiling beguilingly up at her.

Brett wore a ribbon that barely covered strategic part of her body and had a bow tied at the cleft of her breasts. There was a note at the end of the bow that simple said, “PULL.”

Not one to disobey orders, Tori reached for the tip of the bow and untied the silky fabric. The bow fell open and the ribbon that surrounded her lover fell haplessly to the bed. Brett stretched back and Tori was helpless to stop the call of the beautiful blonde’s body to her. She stepped out of her shoes and climbed onto the bed. Brett sat up as Tori straddled her and they ensued in a heated kiss that rivaled that of the flame that was burning in the fireplace. Hands frantically traveled everywhere and Brett made quick work of the clothes that kept her from the soft silky skin of Tori’s body. Before they knew what was happening, the two were naked and carried away with the tide of their two bodies crashing against each other.

******

The sound of Ravel’s Bolero filled the room as the two lovers lounged on the couch in front of the fireplace. They had made love in various places around the room and had shared the sumptuous meal that Brett had prepared.

Tori was drawing tiny circles on the small of Brett’s back and was contented to lay there with Brett in her arms for the rest of the night.

“Thank you for tonight my love.” Tori placed a tender kiss on the top of Brett’s head and Brett snuggled even closer enjoying the feeling of their joined bodies and the hypnotic caress of Tori’s foot running up and down her leg.

“You’re welcome. I wanted to make tonight very special.” Brett tipped her head up and their mouths met.

“Mmmm…You certainly have. But wasn’t that my job? I mean you’re the one who’s moving in. I’m supposed to welcome your arrival.” Running a finger along Brett’s check, she smiled and locked eyes with Brett’s bright beautiful green ones.

“Please. It’s not everyday that a girl is swept away by a Princess and is taken to the castle to live happily ever after. I can’t tell you how it feels to know that you and I are going to wake up and go to sleep in each other’s arms everyday. To know that when we say ‘we’re going home’, it will be together. You’ve made me the happiest woman in the world. A little Chicken Marsala and linguine can hardly make up for that.” Brett adjusted her head on the older woman’s shoulder and let out a contented sigh.

“A mighty fine Chicken Marsala it was my love. I was just dreaming about it.” Tori licked her lips and Brett’s heart warmed at Tori’s enjoyment of her culinary skills. “Is there anymore? That was wonderful.” Tori’s stomach chose that moment to rumble and they both laughed.

“There’s a whole lot more downstairs. I’ll go get some more for you.” Brett tried to get up but was stopped by Tori’s arms around her.

“One moment…. I’ll go get it when I’m finished singing your praises.” Tori sank even deeper into the warmth that she shared with Brett and they shared tiny nips and kisses between words of love.

“You don’t owe me a thing, Brett. Just having you here, sharing my life with me is all I will ever need. You have made me….hands down….. the happiest woman in the world.” Tori captured Brett’s lips and they savored each other thoroughly forgetting the food as they chased the rest of the night and a portion of the morning delighting in each other’s arms.
INSTALLMENT TWELVE

Brett was applying her makeup in front of the vanity when her beloved appeared from the bathroom. Tori bent down and kissed Brett on the nape of her neck. The scent of apple blossom shampoo and Tori’s jasmine soap filled the room.

“Honey… Did the movers come yesterday? I don’t see a single box anywhere.” Tori looked around again and noticed everything was in its place.

“Yes sweetie. They came. You just happened to be involved with the most organized person in the whole world.” Brett beamed with pride knowing that she was able to settle into her new abode without disrupting the flow of things.

“Is that so? Please share your secret?” Tori sat beside Brett on the long bench in front of the vanity. She specifically had it made so they could both use the vanity at the same time. She took a dab of moisturizer and massaged it into her face and neck.

“Well they took my clothes right from my closet and hung them in a portable one. Then they hung them right into the closet when they got here. They basically did the same thing with everything else. I made a diagram of where every box was to be placed and where I wanted the items to be placed in the room. With five guys and myself, it went by very quickly and I had more than enough time to prepare for last night’s activities.” Brett ogled her eyes and Tori blushed remembering the ‘activities’ that Brett was speaking of. They had engaged in the same activities many times before they finally succumbed to exhaustion.

“I see very clever. Remind me next time to get you to plan our next social gathering.” A light went on in Tori’s head. “That reminds me. How would you like to help me throw a house warming party?” Tori grinned and waited for Brett to respond.

“A house warming party? Ooh, I’d love to. When did you want to have it?” Brett’s eyes were lit up with excitement.

“Oh I don’t know. I guess it depends on how many people we plan to invite. In addition, the weather is a big factor. Do we want the guests to be able to use the veranda? Or do we want to have it completely indoors? Either way is fine with me.” Tori picked up her lip liner and carefully traced the outline of her lips.

Brett fondly looked at Tori through the mirror. She followed the pencil as it colored the contour of Tori’s voluptuous lips and felt a slight twinge in her lower extremities. I am hopeless. Every little thing she does arouses me. Tori caught the look on Brett’s face in the mirror and knew she had been caught staring. Tori smiled and made eyes at her lover’s reflection. They were expected at Brett’s parent’s house for a birthday party for Brett’s younger sister, Erin. They were running late as it was. They had made the mistake of engaging in a shower together and that was never a quick undertaking.

“Well I think the idea of using the veranda is a good idea but not necessary. If you want, we can have it indoors. There is more than enough room to accommodate everyone inside.” Brett quickly glanced at Tori this time. She knew they would be at each other again with very little coaxing if either wanted. They could be hot and heavy at a drop of a hat these days and at the most inopportune times.

“I agree. I guess we could get everything ready and invitations sent in a month. That should bring us into April. And who knows……….. we might get a warm spring and people can go outside if they want.” The brunette gave her blonde companion a side-glance and was immediately enraptured by the motion of Brett brushing out her long flowing locks. The light above the vanity made Brett’s hair glisten and the delicate length of her partner’s neck was so enticing.

“Oh….that should be plenty of time. I’ll talk to Maggie on Monday and we can come up with a menu. Tomorrow you and I can sit down and plan a guest list. That’s if you don’t have any plans….” Brett had no choice. She had to look into Tori’s eyes to receive an answer to her question. Big mistake. Tori was staring starry eyed at her with such desire and the young Montgomery was helpless to resist. Turning she looked up at Victoria and they threw responsibility out the window again. Brett flew into Tori’s waiting arms and together they worked on the tie of Tori’s robe and soon following was Brett’s towel. They were completely naked and speeding for the bed when the telephone rang.

Groping frantically for the phone, Tori was able to pick up the receiver before the party hung up.

“Hello?” Tori answered breathlessly.

“Tori?” Janice Montgomery replied.

“Oh…. Aunt Janice. How are you?” Tori looked over at Brett who at the moment was stifling a scream with a pillow. Tori snickered and then returned her attention to Brett’s mother.

“I’m fine dear. I’m just checking to see if you’re on your way?” Janice knew Brett’s penchant for tardiness and since Tori’s reappearance, that tendency seemed to be getting worse. Ah, young love. To be so in love and reckless. Janice let out a sigh and smiled knowing that her daughter was with the person she had loved since before she could even walk.

“It’s a surprise party dear. And I wanted everyone present before Erin gets here.” Janice knew it was wishful thinking on her part but she could try to help it along just the same.

“Well we only have a few finishing touches and we’ll be on our way.” Brett rolled her eyes at Tori’s play on words and buried a scream in her pillow again.

“Honey…is that Brett in the back ground? She doesn’t sound well.” Janice questioned.

“Oh she’s fine. She’s singing to a rock song on the radio. It’s quite embarrassing.” This comment got a slap from her lover and Tori laughed it off.

“Yes I know dear. Now if you two can get out of bed, I really would like to see you here before the party ends.” Janice laughed as silence came over the telephone line. She was young and in love once too. She was happy to say that she and her husband Gordon still indulged in that love quite often.

“Victoria…are you there?”

“Ah… yeah…Here’s Brett, Aunt Janice.” Tori was staring at Brett horrified at being caught by Brett’s mother. She quickly handed the telephone to Brett and ran to her closet to get dressed.

Brett took the telephone and spoke to her mother. “Ah…mother. What did you say to my girlfriend?” Brett looked on as Tori scrambled around the room frantically trying to get ready for them to go.

“Nothing dear. I just asked that you and Tori get out of bed and try to get here before the party ends. Now that’s not too much to ask now is it?” Janice was finding this situation very amusing. She knew the day would come when she could extract her revenge on her children. Janice remembered a conversation she had with her daughter when she was eleven years old. Brett had asked why a girl couldn’t have a girlfriend and Janice was beside herself to answer her daughter’s questions properly at the time. She and Gordon had quite a few laughs that night. But the truth of the conversation had yet to be seen. Yes. Revenge was sweet.

Brett was speechless. Her mother had a way of knowing things when it came to her life and it always surprised her when it happened.

“Please Mom. I mean really….” Brett could feel her face turning beet red and Tori turned her head to observe her lover. They smiled at one another and the emotions that their touches had sparked were still evident in their eyes. I love you… Tori mouthed and Brett blushed like a school girl.

“Oh honey. I know what it’s like to be in love. Brett… how do you think you and your brothers and sisters came about. It wasn’t the stork. Your father and I had and have a very active sex life.” Janice could almost imagine Brett’s face. The appalling look of shock and distaste that covered her daughter’s face from ear to ear with the thought of her parents locked in a mad passionate romp.

“Okay mom. Way too much information here.” Brett looked at Tori to save her and Tori shook her head as she disappeared into the bathroom.

“Yes dear. Now, I suggest you and Tori get a move on. And I mean out the door and headed in this direction. I want everyone here before Erin gets here so please… do this for your mom okay?” Janice was so thankful that Tori and Brett were together. When they had announced that they were going to live together a few weeks ago, Janice and her husband were delighted to hear it.

*********
Richard, Gordon, and Janice had received a call from Brett and Tori to have dinner with them at Tori’s penthouse. They were all impressed with the luxurious home and were waiting for dinner to be served. Tori and Brett sat across from their parents on the couch in the living room and Brett seemed to be a little nervous.

“Well Dad, Aunt Janice, Uncle Gordon… I’ve asked you to join us tonight because …Brett and I, have decided to move in together. And we wanted your blessing.” Tori brought Brett’s hand to her lips and gave her lover a winsome smile.

Brett sighed happily and dreamily returned the gesture before turning to their parents. “Tori made me so happy when she asked me to live with her. And I can’t think of anything better than to share my life with this wonderful woman.”

Tori shyly bowed her head and smiled humbly.

“I feel the same way love.” Tori leaned over and captured Brett’s lips for a quick peck.

“I know we haven’t been together very long but we’ve known each other since we were kids. And though we haven’t seen each other these past few years, we feel really strongly about one another.” Brett turned her head towards her parents and quiet understanding passed between them.

“Actually, I’m not afraid to admit that I love Brett very much and I don’t want to waste another minute being apart. There’s no one in the world that holds my heart like Brett does and I am honored that she has agreed to live with me.”

The three parents looked on in wonder. They had witnessed their children’s connection from the beginning and could see that it hadn’t diminished. If anything, it had grown even stronger in the past months.

“Well this is wonderful to hear. Don’t you agree?” Richard Hull turned to his friends, the Montgomerys. They agreed wholeheartedly.

“Yes, I have to admit. I’ve always hoped that Tori would become part of the family. To say I’m a very happy father is an understatement. Don’t you agree dear?” Gordon turned to his wife and was surprised to see tears in her eyes.

After Brett had been beaten and was lying in a hospital fighting for her life, Janice wondered what she could have done to protect her children from the evils of the world. How did she fail in her duty to protect her children? After many sleepless nights she realized that that was impossible. While Brett had been seeing Jenna, they had voiced their concern over Brett’s relationship with Jenna many times and could not stop the tide of what had happened. After Brett lay in the hospital and the doctors couldn’t tell them if Brett would survive or what quality of life that she would have if she gained consciousness, she gave up trying to find the answers. At the bleakest moment, Janice prayed that Brett would survive and be healthy. No matter what Brett chose for her life, they would continue to support her. They would support their children and be there through everything. All they wanted was to have happy and healthy children. That’s all a parent could ask for.

Seeing Brett with Tori was an answer to her prayers that far exceeded anything Janice could have imagined for her daughter. Tori was so devoted to Brett. Just one look at them together and you knew you were witnessing something very special. This was something that was sorely lacking in Brett’s relationship with Jenna. Janice had often wondered if she was just being prejudice against Jenna those years back when Brett and Jenna would come to visit. But now she understood that instinctively she knew that Jenna was not the right one for her daughter. It had nothing to do with gender. It had everything to do with whom she felt was truly right for Brett. Aand now it was so blatantly obvious; Victoria Hull filled that bill to perfection.

“Yes, yes of course I’m happy. Tori, I can see that you’ve brought our Brett back to us and for that we are truly grateful. Whatever the two of you decide to do, you can rest assure that you have our complete blessing.” Janice wiped at her tears and gave the girls a heartfelt look of support. “I remember when Brett was eleven years old and absolutely broken hearted by the fact that you had dated Cole. I knew then that you would find your way back to each other and it’s more than evident that you belong together now.”

Tori gave the Montgomerys an apologetic look. Although she would never regret the time she had spent with Cole, she wished that she had not hurt Brett those years ago.

*********

Janice broke from her thoughts and remembered Brett was still on the line.

“Okay mom. Let me finish getting ready and we’ll be on our way.” The two said goodbye and finished getting dressed. When she was ready, she went to search for her errant lover.
INSTALLMENT THIRTEEN

Brett was the first to enter the Montgomery home because Tori had stopped to speak with Brett’s older brother, Eric, outside. She entered the living room and was shocked to find Cole Crawford talking to her father in front of the fireplace. Her father turned to see her standing at the door and he gave her a sympathetic look. They all knew that Tori and Cole had dated in high school and continued to keep in close contact through out the years. The Crawford’s had held out hopes that Victoria and Cole would someday find their way back to one another. The way things appeared now, that hope would not see the light of day. Everyone knew that Cole was unaware of the relationship that had developed between Brett and Tori the last few months. They were sure that it would be quite a shock when Cole found out. Unfortunately, it seemed the day had arrived. Brett and Tori would have to pretend that their relationship didn’t exist until Tori had the time to talk to Cole in private.

Cole turned to see whom Gordon was staring at and a smile came to his face when he recognized Brett at the entrance of the living room. He eagerly crossed the room with Gordon to welcome Brett.

“Hey you! It’s great to see you!!” Cole gave Brett a warm hug and kiss. He was a good foot taller than she was so she had to reach up. He released his hold on her and stepped back. “I picked up your book while I was overseas. Very impressive. I especially like the main characters. Mmm…mmm…mmm. We should be so lucky to find a love like that.” They were all very close. They had all grown up together on the island and, after all these years, all of their families kept in close contact.

“Hello to you too. You’ve been gone for a very long time. It’s good to have you back. And I’m glad you liked the book.” Brett looked into Cole’s gorgeous face and hazel eyes. A pang of insecurity came over her and she tried to bury it. Attempting her best, she couldn’t completely bury the pang of uncertainty that continued to plague her. What could I possibly have that Cole couldn’t give her? Brett thought and then quickly chastised herself. Tori loves you. Stop acting like an insecure child. She doesn’t need you to fall apart.

“Definitely!! You have a real gift there. So tell me, have you found your Marina Masterson? I would not be surprised if someone has come along and swept you away. You must be fighting them off with a stick. You have always been adorable. But I have tell you, Brett, you’ve really… well….you’re just beautiful.” Cole gave Brett an appreciative look. It wasn’t that he was flirting with her. Cole was very genuine in everything he said. A girl could immediately fall for him because there just wasn’t anything insincere about him. Brett blushed and was about to speak, when they heard everyone greet Tori as she entered the room. A hush fell over the room as Cole’s and Tori’s eyes met. They had not seen each other in almost six months and their meetings prior had always been very emotional.

“Tori!” Cole practically hurdled the coffee table in order to get to her. He ran over and quickly swept her up in his arms. He swung her around and planted a very exuberant kiss on her lips. When Tori was able to recover from the shock and the whirl of energy that Cole had exhibited, she pulled away and let Cole place her back on the floor. Everyone stared at the reunion unable to tear away from the drama that was unfolding before them.

“Cole, oh goodness. You’re home? When did you get in?” Tori was still obviously still in shock. She wasn’t expecting Cole to be there and was caught totally unaware.

“I arrived yesterday morning. I was gonna give you a call.” Cole’s heart was racing and his enthusiasm was overflowing. “I thought we could go out and hit the town. You know….catch up on things. Man, you look incredible.” Cole took Tori in his arms again, unaware of the expressions of the people behind him. Brett was practically in tears and everyone else was beginning to get just as uncomfortable. Cole looked like a teenager again and was totally enthralled with Tori. Tori, on the other hand, was absolutely dazed as Cole swept her up once more.

“Gosh, I’ve missed you. I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re back in the states, baby.” Cole went to kiss Tori again and this time Tori stopped him tactfully.

“Umm yeah. I’m glad to be back as well.” Tori looked over Cole’s shoulder and found Brett staring at her a few feet away. She could see the reddening of Brett’s eyes and her heart broke. Torn between running over to Brett and filling Cole in on the situation, she knew she had to decide quickly.

“Hey…..how bout we take a walk?” Tori saw the hopeful look that lit up Cole’s expression and knew instantly that she was about to hurt one of the most important people in her life.

“Great idea. I’d love to get you alone for a moment.” Cole took Tori’s hand and she stopped him.

“I have to say hello to a few people first. Why don’t I meet you outside on the patio in a few minutes?”

“Okay. I’ll meet you out there.” Cole pointed to the doors leading outside and went to go retrieve his coat.

Tori watched Cole leave the room and quickly went to Brett. She took Brett in her arms and tried to soothe Brett’s uncertainty. Everyone tried to look as if they didn’t know what was going on but it was painfully obvious. Tori gave Cole’s family an apologetic look and they just nodded their heads in understanding.

“Hey, come with me for a second.” Tori took Brett’s hand and they went to the library. Tori closed the door and immediately took her upset lover in her arms.

“I’m sorry you had to see that. I didn’t know he was going to be here.” Tori wiped away a falling tear and Brett just quietly looked down. She knew that Tori would never hurt her without good reason. Nevertheless, her insecurities kept floating up to the surface. She couldn’t help but remember what it was like when Tori started dating Cole when they were kids. Brett was left behind and it took sixteen years to get her childhood friend back in her life. No matter how hard she tried to suppress her feelings, it felt like Tori was slipping away again.

“Hey come on, love. Why the tears, huh?” Tori bent down and tried to meet Brett’s eyes. She lifted Brett’s face to meet hers and the younger woman began to cry again.

“Oh honey, you know I love you. Don’t you? Come on?” Tori captured Brett’s mouth and they kissed intensely.

“If I didn’t love you, would my kiss feel like this?” Tori kissed Brett again. “Would my touch feel this good?” Tori pressed her body against Brett’s and their passion grew. “Would I have to keep sneaking you into your parent’s library to have you all to myself?” Brett smiled at the comment and Tori gave her a big smile. “That’s my girl. I’m sorry that I keep having to have these conversations during your family get togethers. I really don’t plan this.” Brett took a deep breath and gave Tori a bigger smile.

“I know you don’t honey. I just can’t wait until everything’s out in the open and we don’t have to keep dealing with our past relationships. I know you have to talk to Cole and that can’t be easy for you.” Brett placed her arms under Tori’s and wrapped them securely over the top of Tori’s back. She rested her head on Tori’s chest and Tori kissed the top of Brett’s head. The two languished in their connection and shut out the world for a moment.

“Here I am crying my eyes out and you’re the one who has to go and break poor Cole’s heart. I’m the one who should be sorry.” Brett lifted her face up and gave Tori a tender kiss. “He’s still in love you honey. I know how that feels. I’d be lost if you ever told me that you had found someone else.” Brett gave Tori a sympathetic look and they wrapped themselves around each other even tighter.

“That is never going to happen. But thank you for understanding. I know in my heart that there is no one in this world for me but you. It’s just that I can’t help but feel bad for hurting him. He is an incredible man and deserves someone who will love him as he deserves to be loved. Like the way I feel when I am with you. No matter how I tried, I just could not feel the way I feel about you with him. I truly believe that you and I were made for one another.” They fondly gazed into one another’s eyes and it told it all. With one look, their souls connected on a deeper level.

“Listen sweetheart…. as much as I want to stay here with you, I have to go meet him. He is waiting for me. I asked him to take a walk so I can tell him about us. Is that okay?” Tori didn’t want to upset Brett anymore but she couldn’t string Cole along any longer.

“Yeah, he deserves to know. I’ll meet you back at the party when you’re finished.” Tori bent down so their faces were eye to eye. Tori captured Brett’s lips and they shared another searing kiss.

“Mmm…I love Brett Montgomery. Every inch of my soul has your name written on it. Okay…. I’ll see you back at the party when Cole and I are finished. Erin should be here soon so you’ll have a lot to keep you busy while I’m gone.”

“I love you too, sweetie.” Brett kissed Tori once more then returned to the party while Tori went to search for Cole.
INSTALLMENT FOURTEEN

Tori grabbed her coat and found Cole waiting patiently outside. He turned just as she approached and gave her a big warm smile. Besides her immediate family, there were few people in the past few years that Tori had come to depend on. She had locked herself away from the possibility of running into Brett by moving to London. And besides her immediate family, only Cole had really kept in touch with her in the years since she had left home. Watching him look at her as she approached reminded her of the many times that he had comforted her in her loneliness, advised her in her business dealings, and encouraged her in her endeavors. This man so willingly offered her his heart, his mind, and his soul. It tore her up inside to not be able to return his love fully. It really is true that you can’t choose who it is you love. Although Tori did love Cole very much, she wasn’t in love with him and that made all the difference. They had shared their first experience with each other and had been there to see each other through some difficult times. Up until that moment, Tori had never needed to explain to Cole her actions or put aside their relationship because of someone else. When they were together, they were together. They knew that when they were apart they could find comfort in someone else’s arms. Something told Tori that Cole wasn’t as interested in this arrangement as he led her to believe. She knew that he harbored deep feelings for her and secretly hoped that they would be together again. Unfortunately, that was never going to happen and with a tinge of sadness, Tori took a deep breath and resigned herself to the difficult task at hand. It was time to let Cole Crawford go.

“Hey beautiful. I finally have you all to myself.” Cole took Tori in his arms and they shared an embrace. He was startled to feel how tightly Tori was holding him and pulled away to look at her face. He was surprised to see her crying. He could count how many times he had seen her cry and didn’t have a clue as to why she would feel so inclined now.

“Hey, why the water works?” He wiped away the tears and he kissed her on the forehead. “You can’t possibly have missed me that much?” Cole ducked his head to get a better look at Tori’s beautiful blue eyes.

Tori smiled and shook her head. She was so blessed to have so many people that loved her and hated to hurt them.

“I did miss you. You big lug. You’ve lost a bit of weight….” Tori patted Cole on the stomach.

“Yeah, I haven’t been eating as well as I should. These past few months away in Asia were a real bear. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have that over with.” Cole rubbed Tori’s arms to make sure she wasn’t cold. “You warm enough? You want my jacket?” Cole was so sweet. He was going to make someone very happy someday.

“I’m fine, thanks. Listen Cole. There’s something I have to tell you.” Tori looked into Cole’s gorgeous face and saw the concern immediately fill his eyes.

“Is everything okay? I keep getting the feeling that people are hiding something from me. Every time I bring up your name, they get this funny look on their face. Tori….what’s going on? You’re not sick or something? Honey….whatever it is, you can tell me. I’ll do whatever I can to help.” Tori felt like she was three inches tall. Why did Cole have to be so damn nice?

“Everything’s fine. It’s just that…How do I say this…..” Tori looked to Cole for help.

“Sweetie you just say it. There is nothing you can’t tell me. We’ve always been honest with each other. That hasn’t changed.” Cole knew that Tori had led a very different life than what many had thought. He knew that she had seen other people and she had told him years ago that she had been with a few women as well. It truly did not matter to him. He loved her and just wanted to see her happy. He had his share of female companionship, but it never diminished his feelings for her. He would do anything to ensure her happiness even if it meant seeing her with someone else.

“Cole, I’m …I’m seeing someone.” She saw the look of disappointment grace his face but it was too late to turn back now…. not that she wanted to. If she could, she would try to keep from hurting him but she would never deny her love for Brett….. never in a million years. Not now.

“You are? Is it serious?” Tori nodded her head affirmatively. “Is it someone I know?” Again, Tori nodded her head.

“Okay, well are they here?” Cole looked directly into Tori’s eyes and knew that they were. In his mind, there was only one person that could capture Tori’s heart so completely. He shook his head and let out a breathe. “Is it Brett?” Tori’s head spun up quickly and Cole had his answer. He knew that Tori was in love with someone all these years but he tried to deny it. He had seen her shut herself off from the home that they had grown up in and never ever returned, not even for a visit. He knew how close Brett and Tori were growing up and somehow he just knew it had to be Brett.

“Cole I…” Cole placed a finger over Tori’s lips and took her in his arms.

“Shhh…You don’t have to explain.” Cole was a mixture of disappointment, understanding, and, surprisingly, relief. “If it was anybody else in the world, I’d tear out their heart. I would fight them to the finish for you. But Brett, well she’s an entirely different story.” Cole’s eyes now started to turn red and his voice began to crack. So many of his dreams were built around Victoria and the hope that they would be together someday. Somehow, if he was completely honest with himself, he knew that it was never meant to be. “You’ve always belonged to her haven’t you?” Cole could see the pain in Tori’s eyes and knew that this was not an easy admission for her to make.

Tori thought about the question and didn’t want to hurt him but he would want the truth and that is what she would give him.

“Yes…Yes, I’ve always belonged to her.” Tori burst into tears and they both cried outside the Montgomery home on this cool March evening.

“Cole…that doesn’t mean that you mean any less to me. You were my first and that will always mean so very much.” Tori saw the pain in Cole’s eyes and knew that his pride was hurt.

“What had …Why did…” It was no use. Cole knew the answers to all his questions. To ask now would just mean pain for the both of them. He knew Tori like the back of his hand and knew that she would never intentionally hurt him. She loved him as much as she possibly could and there was no one to blame. “Tori…Remember that night in the cabin when we made love for the first time?”

“Yes of course I remember, Cole. It will always be a special moment for me.” Tori gave Cole a tearful but tender look.

“I told you no matter what happened between us I would always feel blessed because you loved me. I know we have something very special and I’ve learned to depend on that. To count it whenever things in the world seem less than certain. I know you love Brett and she is beautiful both inside and outside. I’ll miss what we have. Especially the…. you know.” Cole gave Tori a wink and a cocky grin and Tori rolled her eyes, but smiled.

“But I’m happy for you.” Cole tightened his arms around Tori.

“I’ve been so worried about you, these past few years. You seemed so unhappy and I wished that you could find what it was you were looking for. I’ve been watching you turn into someone even I couldn’t recognize and I can’t tell you how sad it made me.” He kissed her on the head again and Tori sank into his arms.

“When I saw you walk into the living room earlier. I had never seen you look so beautiful. It’s as if that part of you that was missing had returned. You look happy, Tori. You look whole. A part of me wishes that I could have been the one to give you that. But it’s so obvious that Brett was the answer all this time.” Cole adjusted their position so he could look into Tori’s eyes. “I’ll always be there for you, Tori. That will never change. I should have known years ago that you were in love with Brett. It isn’t that Brett is taking you away from me. It’s that she’s taking you back. I’ve been so blessed to have what little I could have of you and I guess I’ve always known that I was on borrowed time. I’m just so thankful for the time that we did have.” Cole wiped away the tears that fell down Tori’s beautiful face taking in every contour, every feature. Throughout the years, they had made love countless times and every time Cole felt blessed. The two childhood sweethearts looked tenderly at one another knowing that their time had come to pass. With a wink, Cole graciously let go.

“So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I just have one question for you Tori….”

Tori gave Cole a questioning look not having a clue what Cole might ask.

“How does Brett feel about a threesome?” Tori gave Cole a dirty look and set her jaw. Cole burst into laughter and Tori joined in.

“You are unbelievable you know that? Believe me big boy… you definitely could not handle the both of us. As a matter of fact, you couldn’t handle Brett.” Tori winked and Cole gave her an inquisitive look.

“Oh really? Is that so? Well it’s about time you met your match, Tiger.” Cole swept Tori up in an embrace and they just stood there in silence.

“Hey, do you want to go for a walk for a while? I’d like to enjoy being alone with you for a little while longer.” Tori said to Cole.

“Sure sweetheart. Can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.” Cole took Tori’s hand and they made their way to the beach.

The two friends laughed for a long time and talked about the many memories that they had shared. It felt good to know their friendship was still intact and they promised to always be friends. Although a part of Cole’s heart was breaking, he also felt a weight leave him. He had wanted to be with Tori for so long that he never allowed anyone else in. Now that Tori had found love, he could finally shut the door to the possibility of them being together. He could heal and move on. In time, he would even allow love to come into his life as well.

“Umm Tori? Have you and Brett considered having a family?” Cole waited for a response from Tori and the question took her a little off guard. She thought about the question for a moment and then answered.

“You know… we haven’t really discussed it. I know I want children and I know Brett would make a great mom. So I guess we will want to have one. I’m going to have to ask her about that.” Tori turned to Cole and wondered why he asked. “Why do you ask?”

Cole put his hands in his pockets and thought about why he had asked the question.

“Well I know that you’re very talented Tori. But I don’t think you could get Brett pregnant or she you. I just thought that if you ever wanted to start a family, I would like it very much if you thought about me as being a father. I don’t know how Brett would feel about it and you of course would have to talk about it. But I would definitely be proud to have either of you as mothers to my kids. Gosh, this is weird. Maybe you should forget I asked.” Tori could tell that Cole was blushing even in the moonlight.

Tori laughed at Cole’s discomfort but was very touched by the gesture.

“Thanks Cole. I appreciate the offer and you’re right. I will have to discuss this with Brett but I think you need to think about what you’re offering. If and when you find the girl of your dreams, you might not want to have children with anyone else. They might not like the idea of you having children with someone else. I know you’re very generous and I can’t tell you how much that means to me, but this isn’t something that you just decide in a single moment.” Tori turned to Cole for a response and she could see that he was thinking very hard about what she had just said.

“I know what you’re saying makes sense and I will think about it carefully, but I don’t see myself changing my mind. I’ve always thought that if you and I were to ever have children they would be fantastic kids. I know that they would definitely be very loved and they would have three sets of the best grandparents on the planet. I know that this is all just talk but I want you to know that I’m here for you. For both of you.” Cole looked down at Tori’s beautiful face with every ounce of sincerity. He would do anything for Tori and though he had every right to be upset, he willingly offered his love and support instead.

“I know and I promise to keep you in mind. My kids would be very lucky to have you and Brett as parents. Thank you.” Tori gave Cole a kiss on the cheek and looked in the direction of the Montgomery estate. They had been outside for over an hour and Brett was probably wondering where they had gone.

“Well what do you say we go find that girl of yours? She must be wondering what the hell we’re doing.” Cole offered Tori his hand and she took it. Tori gave Cole another big hug and they shared one last tender kiss. She looked up at Cole with tearful eyes and they both knew that what they had shared would never be the same again. It was time that they moved on and mourned the end of an era.
INSTALLMENT FIFTEEN

Cole and Tori walked hand in hand back to the house and the party was now in full swing. Heads turned as Cole and Tori entered the living room from the patio. Everyone welcoming them back to the party. Tori searched the room and immediately found Brett sitting on the arm of the couch where family members and guests were observing Erin while she opened her gifts. Brett had seen Tori walk in with Cole and tried not to look too anxious when their eyes met. Tori immediately headed for the couch and Brett held up her hand. Tori took Brett’s hand and sat behind her. Brett leaned back and Tori wrapped her arms around her. She kissed Brett on the cheek and without a word, they happily watched Erin open her gifts.

“Oh that one is from Tori and I.” Brett had announced. Erin looked up and saw Tori sitting behind her sister.

“Hey…you’re here.” Erin got up and went to give Tori a hug. Erin was a little taller than Brett was and she was utterly adorable. She had light brown hair and blue green eyes. She looked a lot like Lauren but was a real ham with more energy than an atom bomb. She didn’t have Lauren’s reserve and she was a lot more care free than Brett. Brett was a balance between her two sisters in Tori’s mind. When you saw Erin, you couldn’t help but feel exhausted. She was really hyperactive and most people could only take Erin’s enthusiasm in doses. She was graduating from Georgetown University this year and in the family tradition would be joining the law firm once she passed the bar.

“Yeah, like I would miss your birthday.” Tori got along with all of the Montgomerys and they accepted her as if she was one of their sisters. When Brett and Tori told Erin that they were seeing each other, she exploded with happiness and said it was about time. She then confided to them that she was involved in a lesbian relationship also. She had not told anyone and the news had surprised them both. Brett had encouraged Erin to tell their parents but she claimed that she wasn’t ready to come out. She said she wasn’t ready to settle down yet and since she had only been in one relationship with a woman the experience was rather new to her. She had met the girl in college and they had been seeing each other for the past three months. The girl was living in Washington D.C. and was going to practice medicine at Georgetown hospital when she graduated. Erin was torn between staying in Washington D.C. and coming home to South Hampton. She didn’t know what she wanted to do and she had yet to make a decision. Tori remembered what Erin said at the time.

********

“Hey…. for so long I was just sampling half the platter. Now I’ve got a whole buffet to choose from and I don’t want to limit myself.” Brett frowned at her sister’s comment and looked at Tori for some help. What could Tori say, she herself had been with quite a few people and in the end, she herself was more than certain that there was no one in the world for her but Brett.

Tori bent her head down so she could whisper into Brett’s ear. “Honey, she’s 24 years old. She’s old enough to make her own decisions. Just be there if she needs you and let her make her own mistakes. Let her be the judge of what’s right for her. The only way she’s going to know what that is exactly is if she samples the ‘buffet’ as she has so eloquently stated.” Brett rolled her eyes and turned to her younger sister. How had her parents been able to deal with these issues? She would have to remember to tell her parents how much she appreciated them.

“Well sis, if you need any advice or you need someone to come to….Tori’s available.” Tori shot Brett an evil look and Brett laughed.

“Excuse me Erin. I have a bone to pick with your sister.” Tori swept Brett up and proceeded to tickle her senselessly.

*******

“Come on sis. Open your present.” Brett exclaimed.

Erin picked up the envelope and smiled. “Ooh money. I can always use that.” She had received some peculiar gifts from some of the guests. She knew that it would be a cold day when she would use a George Forman grill. She didn’t even know how to boil an egg. Erin opened the envelope and a key fell out. She looked at both Tori and Brett and they both shrugged their shoulders.

“What is this for?” Erin asked them.

“Let’s just say it’s your birthday and graduation gift. Tori thought you could use this for when you are sampling the ‘buffet’. She says it’s very impressive to both sides of the ‘platter’.” Brett stated this in a sarcastic tone and Tori placed a hand over her lover’s mouth stopping Brett from continuing her rant. Everyone looked at Brett with a confused expression not understanding a word of what she was saying.

Erin took a closer look at the key and noticed the writing on the key. Her face lit up and she jumped up to her feet

“No way! No way! Tori….this was your idea? Have I told you how happy I am that you’re seeing my sister. You are the bomb!” Erin had mentioned that she wanted to get a Porsche Boxster after her graduation and she was saving her money to get one. She ran to her sister and pushed her out of the way. She slammed her body into Tori as they went tumbling off the edge of the couch and onto the floor. Erin encased Tori in a bear hug and kissed her all over her face as everyone watched in amusement.

“Umm Erin? Do you think you’d like to get off my girlfriend?” Brett tapped her sister on the shoulder and stood there with her hands on her hips.

Tori lay helpless on the floor trying to fight off Erin’s attack.

Erin just kept up her onslaught.

“Ah honey, a little help here.” Tori begged.

“Erin.. can you please let Tori get up? I think you’re sister’s about to beat the stuffing out of you.” Janice yelled at her daughter. Everyone else was laughing hysterically at Tori’s predicament. No one knew what Tori and Brett had gotten for Erin but it must have been quite a present.

“Oh Tori, thank you. That was better than sex.” Erin got up and stood in front of Brett.

“You’re the best too.” Erin kissed Brett on the cheek and gave her a quick hug.

“Hey, that’s all I get. I did have something to do with your gift also.” Brett continued to keep her hands on her hips and scowled at her sister.

“Yeah I know. But you aren’t as much fun to kiss as Tori. Ooh she’s hot.” Erin turned and winked at Tori who was still recovering on the floor.

“Okay, so when do the rest of us get to find out what you got for Erin. It must be something else.” Gordon turned to Brett and Tori for answer.

Brett helped Tori off the floor and checked her out for bruises.

“Did hyper girl hurt my baby?” Brett held Tori’s face in her hands and planted little kisses on her lips.

“Yeah, she’s scary.” Tori poutted like a little girl but was thoroughly enjoying the attention she was getting from her lover.

“Excuse me. We’re waiting. You know if you don’t say something those two can go at it for hours.” Lauren turned to the group and held up her hand.

“So what did you get the Brat?” Lauren, Adrian and Alexi were sitting on the floor beside the couch. They knew all too well how Brett and Tori could forget everyone and everything when they were together.

“Well why don’t we take a look….” Tori offered, pointing in the direction of the door.

“You mean it’s here?” Erin jumped up from where she was sitting and Tori quickly hid behind Brett.

“Honey protect me.”

“Stay behind me babe. I won’t let her get to you.” Brett held an arm behind her to keep Tori in place and another in front of her in case her maniac sister attacked again.

“Oh I’ll be good. Is it really here? I figured it was still at the dealership.” Erin pretended to be on her best behavior but no one was buying it.

“Yeah it’s here.” Brett replied.

“Oh…MY… GOODNESS.” Erin ran up to both women and wrapped them both in a hug.

“Umm maybe you’d like to go see it.” Brett barely croaked out from her position sandwiched between Erin and Tori.

“Yeah, Yeah, Oh yeah.” Erin screamed, shattering everyone’s eardrum.

“Well after you.” Brett winked at her sister and every one followed or at least tried to as Erin ran off leaving everyone behind. Erin flung the front door open and stood at the door for a moment. There in the circular driveway was a shiny red convertible Porsche Boxster.

Erin ran to the car and ran her hands over the hood. She opened the door, fell into the black leather seats, and let out a scream.

Gordon and Janice looked at Erin’s enthusiasm and then looked at Tori and Brett.

“You know, not that you can tell but you’ve made her very happy. That is a very extravagant gift, girls. Now she’ll have enough money to get a place in the city and set herself up quite nicely. Thank you.” Gordon and Janice hugged the women and went back to watching Erin drive the car around the drive.

Tori got behind Gordon and whispered in his ear. “Like you would ever let one of your kids go without, you big softy.”

Gordon looked at Tori and he shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a parent’s prerogative to spoil their kids if they want. And I want.” They all looked on as Erin dropped the top and was yelling her head off as she tore down the driveway.

“Well everyone, why don’t we go and polish off the food and liquor. I don’t think Erin will be back anytime soon.” Gordon offered laughing as he heard his youngest child hooting and hollering as the image of her driving off got smaller and smaller.
INSTALLMENT SIXTEEN
The party came to an end and Tori and Brett decided to walk on the beach before they headed home. The moon flickered over the ocean and it was cool but not too cool. Brett was humming a tune and Tori just walked in silence enjoying their walk on this moonlit beach. The wind blew Tori’s long flowing mane out of her face. Brett looked up at the tall beauty beside her. She always knew when her partner was deep in thought because her eyes would get distant and a slight furrow would form between her brows.

“A penny for your thoughts, love?” Brett asked. Tori glanced down at Brett and gave her a warm smile. Their fingers laced together while they walked hand in hand for a few moments in silence.

“Oh I was just thinking about something that Cole had asked me.” Tori kicked at a piece of driftwood as they passed it. Feeling the wind pick up, Tori dropped Brett’s hand and placed an arm around her shoulders to bring her lover closer to her trying to shield her from the cold.

“Yeah, I figured as much. He came over to me before he left and graciously said he was happy that we were together. Cole sure is quite a man, sweetheart. I understand why it was so difficult for you to tell him about us. That could not have been easy for you at all.” Tori stopped walking arriving at a spot on the beach that was very familiar to her. She dropped down onto the cold sand and tried to get as comfortable as possible. The March wind stirred the air around them as it howled out an echo that stretched across the desolate beach. It felt like they were caught in a wind tunnel at times, pushing against them like an invisible wall. Tori pulled Brett down to join her on the sand and made room for her between her legs. She lifted one knee up and wrapped her arms around Brett’s upper body. The scent of the ocean and the smell of Brett’s shampoo wafted into Tori’s nostrils bringing back nostalgic times when they would spend their days on this very beach.

“You know when we were kids, I used to look out onto the ocean and dream up all these things that I would do when I got older. So many of those dreams included you. Back then I never once imagined that you wouldn’t be a part of my life.” Tori turned and looked towards the Montgomery estate. “Look over there, honey. What do you see?” Brett turned her head and saw her parent’s home.

“I see the house. Why?” Brett turned and searched Tori’s eyes in the moonlight. When the moon hit them, they almost looked like brilliant cut topaz.

“You know when we were apart, many nights I couldn’t go to sleep and I felt so restless. I would close my eyes, but your face would pop into my head, and I was so helpless to stop it. After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, I would sneak out of the house and I’d come out here. I could see your room from here and I would imagine you curled up in bed with that peaceful look that you get when you are sound asleep. The last time I did that was the night before I went away to London. I knew you weren’t home. You were still in Michigan. I couldn’t sleep that night. I felt so restless and my heart just ached for some reason. Something just kept calling me out here and your face just wouldn’t let me go. I must have stared at the window of your room for hours because the sun was coming up when I finally decided to head home.” Tori clutched Brett to her even tighter and inhaled deeply.

“I wanted to give you a call that night. I should have listened to my instincts. While you were talking to everyone in the living room tonight, I had a nice chat with your mom. She’s such a wonderful woman, Brett. She told me this story tonight that made me laugh and then she told me about the night you were in the hospital. I asked her what date it was and it was the night that I sat here looking at your room. I know because the next day I flew to London and I remembered the date distinctly. I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was sitting here trying to get close to you. All my life I’ve truly felt like you and I’ve had this deep connection. To deny it is like denying ones self and turning away from that part of you that is missing. Cole asked me if I had always belonged to you and I said yes.” Brett turned around to face Tori. She positioned herself so she sat in front of her with her legs crossed in Indian style. They stared affectionately into each other’s eyes and not a word was spoken but they communicated just the same.

Tori reached out and ran her hand over the silky texture of Brett’s hair and down the soft skin of her cheek. Brett closed her eyes and leaned into the touch.

Tori released Brett’s cheek and placed her hands behind her neck reaching into the back of her sweater. She pulled out the chain she was wearing and unlocked the clasp. Brett stared at Tori, unable to take her eyes away from what Tori was doing and waited as her childhood mate unhooked her necklace and grasped it with her hands.

“Brett….there are so many things in my life that I don’t remember. There are moments in my life that I choose to forget. But every moment that I’ve spent with you, I remember as if it was yesterday.” Tears were flowing down Tori’s cheek and Brett couldn’t help but join her. “I remember the first day that I saw you. You were only a few days old. You’re mom and dad had brought you home and they let me hold you in my arms. I had never seen a more beautiful sight and I remember turning to my mom and asking her if she thought your parents would let me keep you.” Tori still had her necklace clasped in her left hand but she took Brett’s left hand with her right and brought it to her lips.

“You’re mom told me how she tried to explain dating to you when you were eleven hoping to help you understand why I was going out with Cole. She compared it to flavors of ice cream and how you had to try everyone until you decided what your favorite was.” Tori could see that Brett was a little embarrassed by the childhood story. “Do you remember what you said to your mom that night?” Brett shook her head unwilling to reveal her childhood naivete or relive a very painful time in her life.

“Well let me tell you. You said your favorite ice cream was Rocky Road and you asked your mom why a girl couldn’t have a girlfriend. You also said that you hoped that when I finished trying out all the flavors, that you would still be my favorite.” The tears were overflowing and they both were helpless to stop.

Tori released Brett’s hand and grabbed one end of the chain in her hand. She lifted it up allowing the charm that was on it to drop into her right one. Because it was dark out and only the moonlight to go by, Brett could not see what the charm looked like. Taking Brett’s left hand in hers, Tori took the charm in her right and placed it on Brett’s ring finger. Brett looked down and even the lack of light could not hide the ring that was placed there. Two rows of baguettes and a center row of small solitaires ran down the middle surrounding a flawless three-carat solitaire diamond. The diamonds ran the whole circumference of the ring and was set in platinum. Brett brought her shaking hand up to look at the ring and gasped. She looked at Tori and then back at the ring and then back again at Tori.

“Honey?” Tori placed a finger over Brett’s mouth and gently smiled.

“Brett I know that it’s been a ‘Rocky Road’ and girls can definitely have girlfriends. After a very long time of trying all the flavors, you are and always will be my favorite.” Tori got up on both knees and leaned back on her calves. She took Brett’s hands in hers and with every ounce of her being, she offered herself to Brett.

“I used to sit on this beach and imagine all the things I wanted to do when I got older. I would sit here and look at your window and imagine you sleeping. Now, all I want is to live out my dreams growing old with you. I want to go to bed at night and watch you sleep. Not in my mind. Not from a distance. But in my arms every night for the rest of our lives. I love you Brett Montgomery. And if you will have me, I will dedicate my life to making you happy. Please accept this ring, this heart, and this soul…. and marry me?” Tori bowed down and lay her head on their joined hands and Brett laid her head on Tori’s. Brett committed every second of this magical moment to memory and then she lifted Tori’s face to meet her own.

“Oh honey. You have made me the happiest woman in the world and I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone but you. In my heart, I have always been yours. In my soul I have joined with your own. And in my mind, I have committed myself to you countless times. I would be honored to stand in front of all that exists and gladly marry you again and again in this lifetime and the next.” Brett burst into tears. It was almost too much. To receive everything you have always dreamed of was like being washed away in an outpouring of love.

Tori captured Brett’s lips and they kissed with every ounce of their passion. And when they finally left the beach to go home, they left the hurt of the past behind and walked hand in hand towards their future. It was time to move on. But this time they were together.
THE END

One thought on “Impulse: Book Four: Moving On by Mezzo

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