Impulse: Book One: After All Is Said by Mezzo

Impulse: Book One: AFTER ALL IS SAID
by Mezzo

DISCLAIMERS Copyright: All characters in this story are from my own imagination. Any resemblance to characters living or deceased is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2002 by Mezzo. All Rights Reserved.

Sexual Content: This story involves intimate loving relationships between two women as well as other kinds of loving relationships. At times, these relationships can be rather explicit in nature so if you are under 18 or this kind of fiction is illegal where you live, please find another story for your reading pleasure.

Violence: There is a little bit of violence scattered throughout the story. Although it deals with various issues whether domestic battering, sexual in nature, etc, I have tried to use them sparingly.

Language: I don’t really swear a whole lot in my own life, so my characters tend not to also. But a slip here and there is very possible as well as use of words that may come out in describing many intimate situations. So please be warned and I won’t blush if you don’t.

Hurt/Comforter: Oh yeah, there is definitely that. Life situations that pull at the heartstrings. But please be patient. All will definitely be well. The opening scene is a big one dealing with a loss of a parent.

Special Thanks: I would especially like to thank my soulmate , K.J. For without your love, I would truly never know what it is like to spread my wings. I have loved you from the first time you held my hand and will continue to walk with you in this life and the next.

Comments/Feedback: This is my first attempt at writing so any comments and positive feedback are welcome. I hope my work entertains and my characters give you as much pleasure as they have given me.

I am truly thankful that they allow me to peak into their lives on a regular basis. I myself never know what is going to come next until it truly happens. This is going to be a series of parts and I hope to submit my installments on a regular basis. Thanks again and I hope you continue to join me through the melodrama.

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“Impulse: A sudden inclination or urge”
The American Heritage dictionary

Part 1 in the Impulse Series

 

Installment One
The Hull family consisted of Richard and Dominique Hull, their eldest son Ian, daughter Victoria (Tori for short), son Stephan, and youngest daughter Jessica. They lived a fairy tale life and they spent their days making the most of every minute they had together. Young Victoria was a beautiful girl. She had long black hair and vibrant blue eyes that always seemed to have wisdom beyond her years. She idolized her parents and would watch as the two lovingly carried on at times when they thought no one was watching them. They were the prince and princess of their castle. She made a silent wish that, someday, she would find a love like that.

When Victoria was nine years old, Dominique became very ill and was rushed to the hospital. She was diagnosed with a rapidly spreading cancer in her liver. The doctors tried desperately to fight the disease. Unfortunately, they were fighting a losing battle. When Dominique’s prognosis was bleak, she asked Richard to bring the children to the hospital before she was too incapacitated to speak.

The children gathered around Dominique’s bed, a little frightened by their mother’s appearance. Dominique was having a hard time breathing. Nevertheless, she desperately needed to say goodbye to her babies.

“KidsMommy has something to tell you.” She motioned them to come closer while Richard stood behind them.

“I’m going to have to go away for a very long time ” , she said stopping for a moment to catch her breath and hold back her tears.

“I know that this is a lot for you to understand. I don’t want you to be sad or scared because everything is going to be okay.”

She gave them a smile and then continued. “You know Mommy loves you very, very much and I have been so sed to have you as my kids.”

Her eyes were now filling and it was getting very hard for her to breathe much less speak . Nevertheless, she went on. “There will be times when you wish that Mommy was with you. When you need me to help you with your homework or there is something you want me to see sadly I will not be able to be there. It will be hard not to have me there to see your baseball games, Ian and Stephan.” She gasped for breath. “Or your recitals, Tori and Jessie. But believe me when I tell you that it will be hard for me as well.”

The children ran to her and she gathered them in her arms. Placing kisses on each of their precious faces she confessed, “I think this is what I will miss most of all.” She looked up to see her husband’s sad face. The kids were shaking with tears. Richard went to the bed and picked up Jessie as she cried uncontrollably holding tightly to his neck.

Dominique knew that this was upsetting her children but she knew that they needed to hear what she had to say. Maybe, not now, but someday, they would remember this moment when they were older.

Dominique tried to lighten her tone and gather enough strength to continue. “But you know what? I’m gonna make you all a promise. And you know that Mommy never breaks her promises.” The kids looked up at her and she saw all the love they had for her in their eyes. “Whenever you have something you want to share with me or even if you just want to talk I want you to close your eyes and imagine me wrapping my armsjust like this. around you.” She wrapped her kids in an even tighter embrace. “Even though you won’t be able to see me..I promise you. I will be there.”

Victoria sat up on the bed. “Mommy? I heard Daddy talking to Uncle Gordon and Auntie Janice. They said that you were dying. Is that true?”

“Oh my Victoria . No one can ever pull the wool over your eyes, now can they?”

Dominique beamed with pride as she motioned her eldest daughter to come closer to her. Ian sat on the edge of the bed. Stephan was perched on her right side while Tori sat on her left. Jessica was still secure in her father’s arms. However, she still listened to what her Mommy was saying.

“Yes, sweetheart. Mommy is dying. I’m very sick and unfortunately there is nothing that the doctors can.do. to help me.” Swallowing hard, she tried to get her voice back.

“Is there anything that we can do? We don’t like to see you sick Mommy.” A tear continued to roll down Tori’s cheek, the other children sobbing along with her.

“Yes, there is baby.” She placed a kiss on Tori’s head. “You can be Mommy’s brave little girl just as you’ve always been. I need you to be strong for Daddy and your sister and brothers. I know that it’s going to be hard, but they’re gonna need you.” She gave Tori a wink.

****

Tori had always been such a wonderful child. Each of her kids were but they all had very distinctive personalities. Tori had always been so much wiser for her age and always so considerate of others’ needs. She knew that her eldest would grow up to be an amazing person. She hoped that wherever she was, she would be able to watch in wonder as Victoria blossomed into the beauty that Dominique knew she would be.

Looking at the rest of her family, Dominique knew they would all be incredible people one day.

“Now I want you all to make a promise to me, okay?” The kids sniffled and nodded their heads. ” I want you to promise me that you’ll always watch out for one another. You will always have many friends, but you will only have each other as brothers and sisters. No matter how bad you fight. and I KNOW you do. You have to promise me that you’ll always make up and love one another, okay?”

“Yes Mommy.” They said in unison.

“Good. That makes me very happy. I also want you to promise me something else?” This time the kids perked up. They always wanted to make their parents proud of them. “Daddy is going to be very sad and I want you to make sure that he gets all the hugs and kisses that you can give him everyday. I want you to listen to Daddy and Maggie. When they tell you to do something, I don’t want you to give them a hard time. Because I know that they love you very much and they only want what’s best for you, okay?” This time the kids promised making a cross over their hearts.

Dominique laughed as this gesture sent a flood of happy memories washing over her. Memories of days spent with her husband and children.

Richard knew that Dominique was tiring and would need to rest. Although he did not want to end the kid’s time with their mom, he knew his wife could not take much more. “Okay my loves. Mommy is getting very tired and she needs to get some sleep. So all of you give Mommy the biggest hug and kiss you possibly can. Then you are going to go home with Maggie. She has milkshakes and cookies planned for you.”

Richard’s eyes met with Dominique to make sure that this was all right. He saw the glimmer of tears in her eyes that soon would not be held back. With a nod, Dominique opened her arms to hugs and kisses from each of her children. Trying to convey in that last moment a love she hoped they would carry with them through the rest of their lives.

Richard went over to the bed, “I’ll be right back sweetheart. I’m just gonna get the kids settled and then send them home with Maggie.” He placed a tender kiss on his wife’s forehead and then led their children out of the room. When Dominique thought they had all left, she finally lost all control of the pain that she had been holding back. So lost in her grief, she did not notice that little Victoria had run back to her room.

Victoria jumped onto the bed and held her Mommy. “Please Mommyplease don’t cryI promise to take care of everyone. Youyou don’t have to worry. You have to get some sleep so you won’t feel so bad anymore, okay Mommy?”

“Oh my girl. You will never know how precious you are to me. I don’t know what I did to have you as a daughter. But there is no doubt in my mind it must have been very good. I love you so very much.” Dominique held Victoria tightly to her. Both cried with pain over the days that they spent together and the ones they would never have again.

Richard had seen his daughter run back into Dominique’s room and stood at the doorway watching the scene before him. Walking over to the bed he gathered Victoria in his arms and told her it was time to go home.

With tears running down her face and one hand reaching out to her Mommy, she looked over her Daddy’s shoulder as he carried her out. In a voice that would break ones heart, she said one last time, “I love you MommyI love you.”

*****

Richard comforted his children and wiped away their tears. When he was positive that they would be okay, he had Maggie, the children’s nanny, take them home while he stayed with his beloved Dominique.

Taking a moment in the men’s bathroom, he tried to compose himself as best as he could. He did not want to waste a moment of what little time he had left with the love of his life.

When he entered Dominique’s hospital room, the sight before him broke his heart. His wife was both mentally distraught and physically in pain. He went to the bed and scooped her frail body in his arms. Rocking and loving her, trying to give her the strength she needed to face what they both knew lay ahead.

******

As the weeks went by and Dominique’s health got progressively worse, Richard and Dominique talked whenever her health would allow.

As time escaped them Richard lovingly listened as Dominique slowly came to terms with her fate. They spent the last days reliving memories and conveying last requests. “Richard We’ve lived a charmed life, haven’t we?”

“Yes .. yes we have.. my love.” He kissed her tenderly. Though she was very ill, she was still so beautiful in his eyes.

“Will you promise me that when I’m gone you won’t be sad too long? When you think of me, will you always remember how happy we were?”

“I will try, my love. But you can’t blame for being so in love with you that it takes me time to gather the strength to face my life without you.” Smiling, he looked into Dominique’s eyes. ” But I will try. Because there has never been and never will be anything that I can deny you.” The look in his eyes showed all the love he held for her.

“I know, Richard. You have been the best thing in my life. The one shining light that led me to all my joys.” They shared a tender kiss.

When the kiss ended, she began again. “Richard promise me that you will show our children every day how much you love them. When they grow up, promise that you will try to accept the choices that they make. Be a father that they can come to, who will listen to their problems no matter how hard it is for you to hear them. And whenever possible, guide them when you can. But also give them room to make their own mistakes.”

He gathered Dominique in his arms and tried to hide the tears that threatened to escape. This wasn’t how it was so supposed to end. We were supposed to watch them grow up together. ” Yes my love, how can I not be good to them. They are a part of you and living proof of the love we share. I will always cherish them as much as I cherish you.”

“Oh Richard. These past few years that we’ve shared together have been the most incredible time of my life. I want you to know that I would never give up what little time we’ve had for anything in this world. I would rather have twelve wonderful years with you than a whole lifetime without you. I love you Richard Hull. And I always will.”

“I love you too, Mrs. Hull. I never knew what love was until you. I promise that it will always be you that holds my heart.” Richard buried his face in Dominique’s hair and held her tightly until she fell asleep again.

*****

Richard stayed with Dominique through the night never wanting to leave her side for a minute. Just as the sun peaked across the eastern sky. A quiet calm seemed to radiate that morning. Richard held Dominique lovingly and caressed her hair. Giving her a look of love and acceptance, he let his beloved wife go.

“Oh my, Dominique As long as I live there will be no other like you.” Richard let out a painful cry for the loss of the other half of his soul. He bent down and kissed his wife’s still sweet lips one last time. Though his heart was breaking, he promised he would carry on for their children. Even if it killed him, he would keep his promise to his wife. He would carry on because his family needed him.

**********

Malcolm Hull was the founder of Hull Enterprises. In the beginning, Malcolm worked endlessly to give his family the American dream. After years of working diligently, cutting corners and tirelessly striving to make his mark, Malcolm was able to buy a second hand cargo ship.

He used the ship to carry anything and everything for a price. Sometimes his cargo would be questionable, but discretion was his middle name. By the time Malcolm was ready to retire, he had amassed quite a fortune and had turned one-secondhand cargo ship into one of many.

Though he worked many long hours, he and his wife raised a very loving family. Malcolm loved his work, but even more, he loved his wife and son. He always told his son Ethan that two things mattered most in life: (1) was “that family always came first” and, (2) was that “no matter how hard it was, you had to treat people the way you would like to be treated”. Words that Ethan passed on to his son, Richard, and, in turn, Richard would pass on to his own children.

Although Richard Hull’s responsibilities at Hull Enterprises increased and his father eventually handed the reigns to him, he always remembered his promise to Dominique. With the help of Maggie, her husband Gaston, and their son Gibeau , they did everything in their power to provide a stable home for the kids.

Whenever Richard’s work called for him to travel, he would bring the children with him. He hired the best tutors and made sure that they spent ample time with their friends. Richard and the children continued to live in the childhood home he had grown up in and had shared with Dominique in South Hampton . The kids grew up having many friends.

Many who were kids of kids that Richard had grown up with. One of the families they were close to was Richard’s childhood friends, Gordon Montgomery and his wife Janice. They had five kids: Eric, Lauren, daughter Brett, Scott, and youngest daughter Erin. They were a close knit family and Richard’s kids had grown up thinking of the Montgomery ‘s house as a second home.

Gordon came from a successful family of lawyers and was a partner with the law firm Montgomery, Montgomery and Locke. The firm was one of the most prestigious in the country. Gordon was well on his way to making a name for himself and he would be known for many landmark decisions under his clever mind.

Other close friends were Cole and Pamela Crawford, Adrian Arden, and Alexi Filenni also children of Richard’s childhood friends. They became an inseparable gang with Maggie’s son, Gibeau , watching over them.

Year after year, the kids built bonds that would carry them through for the rest of their lives. One bond that was incredibly strong was one shared between young Victoria Hull and Brett Montgomery. The day Gordon and Janice Montgomery brought Brett home, a three-year-old Victoria stood by the crib in wonder. With blue eyes the size of saucers, Tori begged to get a better look. Getting Janice’s approval, Dominique Hull, who was still alive at the time, led her daughter to a large comfortable chair that was in the nursery. Gordon, Richard, and their older kids watched as Dominique sat down on the chair with Victoria sitting beside her. Janice came over and motioned Victoria to get ready as she placed Brett in her lap.

“Now honey. You have to be very careful. Hold Brett just like you hold your brother Stephan.” Dominique watched with pride as Tori readied herself for the privilege she had been given.

Tori held open her arms and skooched back into her chair, “Okay, Auntie Janice I’m ready.”

The look on Victoria and Brett’s face that day was one everyone would remember. Tears came to Tori’s eyes when she looked at the baby in her arms. She took in Brett’s short light hair and soft cheeks. When the baby opened her eyes, </span> Tori was given a big beautiful smile from a happy baby with laughing green eyes. She caressed the top of Brett’s head with her little hands and planted a tender kiss on the baby’s cheek.

Everyone was speechless. The tenderness of this scene was indescribable. It was as if the two children were old friends and were meeting again.

Dominique watched in wonder as her three year old daughter lavished baby Brett with more love than she had ever witnessed from a child or adult.

“Honey are you okay?” Dominique asked Tori, pushing the hair back from her daughter’s eyes.

“Yes Mommy. Isn’t she beautiful?” Tori had a very thoughtful look on her face. It was as if the most important thought in the world rested in her mind. Looking once more at her mother and leaning in close so her mother could hear her clearly she asked, “Do you think Uncle Gordon and Auntie Janice would let me keep her?” She stated in all seriousness.

With that, all the adults in the room burst into laughter. They all knew that what they had witnessed was something very special. No one was ready to elaborate. However, something told them that what Victoria and Brett shared was going to be something very special indeed. What that was exactly, no one dared to speak.

Janice came over to the chair and knelt down beside them. She took Tori’s hand in hers. “Well, sweetie, I know that you’re Mommy’s little helper. But anytime she let’s you, I’d be glad to have you help me take care of our little Brett, okay?”

A smile lit up Tori’s face and she nodded, “Oh yes Auntie Janice! I would like that very much!”

Janice shook her head and planted a kiss on Tori’s and Brett’s face. “I don’t know you guys”, as she looked at Dominique and then Richard. “I know you told us that Tori’s three, but I think there’s an adult trapped in that little body.”

Dominique smiled and patted Tori on the head motioning Tori to give her the baby. “Okay sweetie, I think it’s time for the baby’s nap. She’s had a long day and she’s going to need to get some sleep.”

“Okay Mommy.” Tori gingerly gave the baby to Dominique. But before she did, she gave Brett another kiss, “I’m going to go now baby so you can get some sleep. I will come back when you’re awakeokay? I love you.” The baby kicked her legs and gave Tori another heart stopping smile.

Tori got up and went to her father. “Daddy I’d like to go home now. I think I want to take a nap, too.” Taking her Daddy’s hand, she led him towards the door.

Richard threw his hands up in the air totally at a loss . This child is making parenting just too easy. I think it is time we get her I.Q. tested. I want to make sure she gets the best education she can get. I sure wasn’t talking in complete sentences when I was three. We had better do our research so her skills are nurtured and she doesn’t get frustrated when she gets older. I am going to have to talk to Dominique about this.

*****

So it began. From that day on, Victoria and Brett were inseparable. Dominique and Richard had Tori’s I.Q. tested and she was off the scale. Dominique and Richard agreed that Tori would have the best teachers to stimulate her need for learning. However, they were adamant about giving Tori a happy and balanced childhood. The teachers that they chose had to understand this. She was allowed to go to school with the rest of the kids but she also had private tutors. This helped to give her a well-rounded education. And one that allowed her to have some semblance of a normal childhood.

During the summers all the kids would go biking, swimming, etc. If it kept them active, they did it. When Brett was old enough, she tried to play with the bigger kids. However, Brett’s tiny little legs would always fail her. Even the kids closest to her age were taller. No matter how she tried, she was unable to keep up. Her tiny legs would tangle up beneath her and she would be reduced to tears.

On one such day, her longhaired blue eyed guardian angel came to her rescue. “Hey there little one. What are you doing sitting by yourself on this rock?” Brett looked up and jumped into Tori’s waiting arms.

“Oh Tori. Why can’t I play like you and the other kids? I feel so bad. Why?” Tears rolled down Brett’s face and she was hiccuping now. She was working herself into a tizzy. Seeing Brett so upset always made Tori upset as well. She would do anything to make sure that Brett’s beautiful smile would always quickly return.

“You know Brett? My mom used to tell me that everyone has a gift. That gift makes a person very special. Some kids can climb trees or run fast. Some skip rocks on the water or even hold their breath long. But you .. You my little Brett have an even better gift.”

Brett looked at Tori inquisitively. Very eager to know what her gift was, “What Tori, what is my gift?”

“Your gift my little Brett is very, very special. You have this big beautiful smile and heart that can make sad people happy. When my Mommy died, I didn’t think I would ever be happy again.But you did everything you could to make me smile. You stayed with me everyday when all I could do was cry. And you fed me all that ice cream cause you said it that always made you feel better. You kept it up until one day, I couldn’t help but be happy that I had you for a friend. That is a gift Brett. A very special gift.” Tori was given a bright shining example of that very gift.

Brett hugged Tori again, “Oh Tori. You have a gift also.”

“Oh yeah what’s that?” Tori smiled at her precious friend.

“Whenever I’m sad, only you can make me happy. I love you.

“You’re my best friend too and you always will be.” Tori wiped the hair out of Brett’s face. “Come on little one. I know if you use that smile of yours, we can get Maggie to give us some ice cream.” As they made their way from the beach to the Hull home, Brett’s infectious laughter carried across the wind. Another crisis was defused that day. As was many more throughout the coming years.

*******

As years went by and the older kids hit their teens, hormones reared its ugly head. A fifteen-year-old Cole Crawford developed a crush on thirteen-year-old Victoria Hull and Ian Hull was falling head over heels for Pamela Crawford. Every day Cole would visit the Hull home.

One day, Tori ran to the door to answer thinking it was Brett. They were going to collect shells on the beach. Always excited to spend time with her childhood mate, she was a little disappointed to find Cole standing there fidgeting nervously.

“Ahuh Hi Tori”

“Hey Cole. Come on in. I’ll go get Ian”, Tori turned and was about to yell up the stairs to get her brother.

Cole quickly stopped her. “No Tori. I’m here to see you. IahI ah.. was wondering if you would like to uh you know uhmaybego out with me. sometime?”

Tori went over to where Cole was standing. With a confused look on her face, she stared at Cole not quite understanding why he was acting so weird. They had always been friends but never had they gone out alone. Usually they were with their whole pack of friends. Why was he asking her to go out with him alone? The only one that she spent time alone with beside her sister and brothers was Brett. She always had time for them. Especially Brett.

“What do you mean, Cole?”

“Well I like you Tori. And I ..would like to go out with you.” Cole looked like he was going to run any minute.

“Go out? Like in boyfriend and girlfriend?” Tori was beside herself. She had friends in school that had boyfriends but she didn’t understand what the big deal was.

“Yeah. Just like that.” Cole was beginning to think it was a big mistake asking Tori out. He really liked her and there was no one else he even remotely felt the same about except her.

“Um thanks, buddy But I don’t think I want to be your girlfriend.” Tori didn’t know what else to say. She hoped that she didn’t hurt Cole. But she saw how her friends acted with their boyfriends and it really didn’t appeal to her.

“Ah okay, I guess. Well if you change your mind, will you let me know?” Cole felt very small just then and wanted to cry but wouldn’t. Not in front of Tori. With slumped shoulders, he walked over to the door.

Brett was now standing there. “Hey Cole. Where you going? You gonna collect shells with us?”

Cole walked past and replied. “No thanks. I’m going homeSee you later Brett.”

Brett was baffled. Cole was always so happy. He always kidded around with her and Brett thought he was very special. They all seemed to have a bond. They were all as close as their own brothers and sisters. However, today Cole just wasn’t himself. “Hey Tori? What’s goin ‘ on with Cole?”

“I think I hurt his feelings. He asked me to go out with him and I said no.” Tori didn’t like making their friend unhappy but she just wasn’t interested. At the moment, the only thing she wanted to do was spend the day with Brett collecting shells on the beach.

“You think he’ll be alright?” Brett was always very thoughtful when it came to her friends. She didn’t want any of them to be unhappy and always went out of her way to try and cheer them up when they were sad.

“Yeah Hey, I thought we were going to the beach? I was thinking I could show you how to skip rocks. What d ya say?” Eager to see the smile that she was sure to find on Brett’s face , Tori held out her hand so she could lead them to the beach.

“Yeah? Do you really think I could learn to skip rocks?” Brett’s eyes lit up. It was so obvious that young Victoria held all the answers for Brett. She loved Tori with every bit of her heart and if Tori said she could do something, there was no doubt that it was so.

“You stick with me kiddo and you’ll be a pro by the end of the day. I promise.” Tori flashed Brett a smile. The same light that covered Brett’s eyes was mirrored in Tori’s when they were together. They were inseparable and that was how they wanted it to be. Tori squeezed Brett’s hand and smiled down at her little friend. With all certainty she captured Brett’s eyes, she continued, “.and you know I always keep my promises.

Brett’s heart filled to overflowing. Tori believed in her and gave her the confidence to do anything she set her mind to. Standing at the edge of the beach, Tori picked up a flat piece of slate and placed it between Brett’s tiny fingers. Covering Brett’s hand with her own, she pulled Brett’s arm back with her’s and with a quick motion set the rock skidding over the ocean tide. By the end of the day, Brett was skipping rocks longer and further than even Tori could. As the sun set, Tori’s face was filled with one of admiration and love for the little imp that sat happily beside her. She would do anything to make sure that Brett would always be happy.

Brett turned to look at her friend as the orange hue of the setting sun cast its glow over Tori’s face. Taking Tori’s hand in hers, she lay her head on Tori’s shoulder and let out a contented sigh. In a voice that could barely be heard, Brett whispered,

“Thank you Tori. I never thought I’d be able to skip rocks. But as long as you’re with me, I can do anything. I love you Tori. You’re my best friend.”

Tori placed an arm around the small blond and pulled her tightly to her side.

“I love you too little one. I love you too. I always knew you could do it. And you are and always will be my best friend.” The two sat there on the cooling sand as the ocean swallowed up the last rays of the setting sun.

**********************

As Tori went through her thirteenth year and entered age fourteen, her need to spend time with Brett was becoming overwhelming. When Tori was around Brett, she always seemed to reach for Brett’s hand. When Brett stayed over at Tori’s house, she would find herself waking up early so she could watch Brett sleep. During the school week, she would quickly finish her homework so she could play with Brett after dinner. The feelings she had for Brett were confusing her and she was beginning to think she was suffering from some sort of sickness. She was afraid that one day she would scare Brett with the way she was acting.

It was just after Tori had turned fourteen that Brett and Tori had spent the day on the beach. Tori was chasing Brett around. Catching up to her, Tori climbed on top of her and tickled her furiously. When Tori stopped all she could do was look at Brett’s beautiful face. Brett made Tori feel so happy. Waves of emotions went through Tori’s head and she didn’t understand what was happening to her. Getting up quickly she ran home leaving a confused Brett behind on the beach.

Tori ran up the stairs to her bedroom. Locked the door. And collapsed to the floor in a flood of tears.

“NoNo No what is happening to me. I almost kissed Brett. I can’t do thatI’m sick. I am really sick. Nobody feels like this. Only boys kiss girls. In health class, they explained about girls and boys. They didn’t say anything about this.” Tears rapidly fell down Tori’s face and she crawled up in a ball on the floor.

A soft knock at the door startled Tori. She knew it was Brett. How am I going to explain this to her? It was breaking her heart not to share her feelings with Brett. But she was certain that her little friend would never understand.

“Tori .. Are you in there? Let me in. Are you okay?” Brett’s little hand tried the doorknob and was disappointed when the knob didn’t move. Brett had figured that Tori needed to go to the bathroom or something. She was confused when she found the door was locked. Tori never shut her out before.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” Came the whisper through the door. “I think I just have an upset stomach. I’m just going to go to sleep and maybe it will go away.” Tori hoped that Brett would leave and let her sort out her feelings by herself.

“I can get Maggie if you want? Maybe she can give you something.” Brett leaned her head against the door trying to get closer to Victoria .

“No No Please don’tI really just need to be alone, Brett. I’ll see you tomorrow okay?”

Brett didn’t like this but Tori hardly ever asked her for anything. So she would let her friend be alone for now.

“Okay Tori, I’ll come by tomorrow. I love you.” With one more glance at the door Brett hoped that the door would suddenly open and she could once again see the face of her friend. When silence was all she was given, she lowered her head and sadly descended the stairs. She didn’t know what was going on and surely was unaware that her world was about to hit bumpy waters.

“I love you too Brett. More than you’ll ever know.” Tori knew that Brett wasn’t at the door anymore but it didn’t stop her from saying the words just the same. Tori felt the tears sting her eyes as her heart begged for mercy.

******

Tori crawled into bed and fell into a deep sleep. In her dreams, she saw herself kissing Brett and feeling emotions she had never known. When the kiss ended ,</span> , she looked at Brett’s face and saw tears streaming down. Brett pushed her away.

“What are you doing? You’re not my friend.” Brett’s face was red with anger and fear.

“Brett, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to kiss you.” Tori desperately tried to reach for Brett but she just kept moving farther and farther away from her.

“How could you? I trusted you and you hurt me. You are not my friend anymore. You’re a monster.” Standing behind Brett was all of their friends and family. They all laughed at her. Taunting her and calling her a monster and a freak.

Tori woke from her sleep shaking and draped in sweat.

She got up to go to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, she looked broken and sad. In her heart, she knew what she had to do. However, the thought of not seeing Brett’s face everyday broke her heart. What choice did she have? She knew that Brett would hate her.

She knew she had to distance herself from Brett. Remembering Cole’s offer to go out with him, a decision was made that night.

“At least this way, Brett will think you’re just interested in boys. It’s better than showing her the sick, misfit that you are.” Tori’s reflection said with tears cascading down her face and an intense pain in her heart. Nothing would ever be the same again and a light that had always shone so brightly in Tori’s blue eyes blew out with the thought of what she was about to do.

*****

Brett had tried to call Tori and see her all week. But Tori was always out. Brett searched for her all over and finally found her at the local ice cream parlor. There in the back of a booth was Tori, Cole, Ian, and Pamela. Brett went over to the booth and saw Cole and Tori kissing. Tears filled Brett’s eyes, not understanding what they were doing, but something told her she didn’t like it one bit. Tori and Cole finally detached themselves and Brett stood their unable to speak.

Tori looked at Brett and wanted to die right there. You can do this. You have to. “Brett what are you doing here?” Tori asked.

“I was looking for you. I haven’t seen you all week and didn’t know what happened.” Brett wiped the tears that were falling down her face.

The rest of the group sat in the booth quietly. They knew Brett was upset and they didn’t know what to do. Tori and Brett were always together and were a little surprised when Tori didn’t invite Brett to join them.

“Well I kind of wanted to spend time with Cole. I’m sorry but I can’t be playing with you all the time.” Tori tried to keep her face as emotionless as possible but deep down she was hating herself for causing her little one such pain. Pleaseplease help me get through this. Tori had been avoiding Brett all week not wanting to confront her friend. But she couldn’t put it off any longer.

Brett felt her heart break into pieces. “So you don’t want to be my friend anymore?”

Tori thought about her next move. She could totally annihilate Brett right their in front of their friends or she could find a better way. Thinking better of the latter, she excused herself from the table, got up, and led Brett outside.

Taking a deep breathe, Tori steeled herself for the task at hand and looked Brett in the eyes. This of course was almost her undoing. Brett’s eyes held such pain and at the same time so much love and trust for Tori that she truly just wanted to toss all reason to the wayside and take Brett in her arms and beg for forgiveness. You have to do this not for yourself, but for her. She’ll hate you in the end. You have to protect her from the monster that you are. She’ll get over this. Now stop being a whimp and do it now !!

****

“Brett, you may not understand this right now. But when you’re older, you will. When a girl and a boy like each other, they want to spend time together.” Tori took a deep swallow and could feel the acid burning a hole into her stomach lining.

“But you and I like each other. Why can’t we spend time together?” Brett was really hurting and she just didn’t understand what was happening. She did not understand why Tori was trying to hurt her. Did she do something to make Tori mad?

“Brett, what I do with Cole, I can’t do with you and right now I like what Cole and I do together. I am sorrybut this is what I want. Please Brett Please understand? We can still do things together. Just not all the time like we used to.”

Brett was crying uncontrollably and she just wanted her Tori back. She didn’t like this game and she just wanted it to end.

Unable to hold back any longer, Tori took Brett in her arms and kissed her on the top of her head. She just wanted to tell Brett it was all right. That they would go back to the way things were. But she just couldn’t. No matter how much she wanted to, </span> this was the best thing for Brett. Someday they would be friends again. But not until Tori could get rid of this sickness inside of her.

Tori lifted Brett’s face to meet her eyes and ran her thumb across Brett’s cheek. “Go home Brett. I promise we’ll do something soon.”

Brett nodded her head and cried all the way home. Tori stood in front of the parlor until she couldn’t see Brett anymore. She had never hurt Brett before and this moment left her wishing that she never had.

*******

Brett watched as the older kids held hands and giggled as if they knew something that the younger ones didn’t .

Brett cried herself to sleep every night feeling like she was left behind again. This time there was no Victoria to help her along when she felt lost. No guardian angel to make the sadness go away.

Janice Montgomery noticed the sadness that had taken residence on her daughter Brett’s face and decided it was time it was resolved. She knew that Victoria and Cole had started going out and she had a feeling that this was why Brett was so unhappy. But this kind of thing was bound to happen. She knew that Brett and Tori were incredibly close and this development with Tori and Cole had to be very confusing for her daughter. This phase happened in every child’s life. How many friendships were lost due to a boyfriend or girlfriend appearing. She hoped Brett and Tori would find their way to each other again. Something told her that there was something between them that would not be denied . Janice prayed that she would have the strength to accept it when it happened.

Going to Brett’s bedroom, she knocked on the door. Opening it, she found Brett lying on the bed trying not to let her mom see she was crying.

“Hey sweetheart How’s my little girl doing?” She placed a hand on Brett’s back.

Brett didn’t look at her mom but answered, “I’m okay. Just doing my homework.”

“That’s good honey. But I’m surprised that Tori isn’t doing her homework here with you”. She felt Brett flinch at the mention of Tori’s name.

“She’s doing her homework somewhere else. She probably won’t be doing her homework here ever again.” Brett burst into tears and threw herself into her mom’s waiting arms.

“Oh my Brett I heard that Tori is going out with Cole. This must be very hard for you to understand.” She felt Brett nod into her neck.

“Brett. you know I was about Tori’s age when I first started going out with boys. It’s what happens when you get to a certain age. I know you think that Tori is trying to hurt you. But she really isn’t. Someday you will like a boy and you will understand what Tori is experiencing right now.” Janice thought about the situation and tried to come up with a way to describe dating in terms that Brett could understand. ” You know how last summer you wanted to try every flavor of ice cream that the parlor had?” She looked down at her daughter. She saw Brett nod. ” Well ..some flavors you liked and some you didn’t. But how would you know if you liked them if you hadn’t tried different ones?” Brett gave her mom a look, trying to understand what she was saying. “You didn’t like mint ice cream, remember?”

” Ew , that was really yucky, Mommy.” Brett face got all scrunched up.

Janice laughed at the look Brett gave her. “I know sweetie. However my point isyou wouldn’t know that unless you tried it. You and Tori have been friends for so long that she knows you well. But there comes a time, when you have to make other friends.” Pausing to see if Brett understood what she was saying. ” Now that you’ve tried all the flavors of ice cream, you have some that you like a lot and some you don’t like at all. But I know that you have one that is your favorite.”

“Yes Mommy I like Rocky Road ice cream a lot.”

“I know” Janice had to laugh at the way Brett’s face lit up at the mention of ice cream. “Right now Tori is trying to find out what kind of boys she likes. Until she finds one that is her favorite. Just like Mommy and Daddy.”

Someday you’ll want to find out what kind of boys you like. When that happens sweetie, I want you to come to me and we’ll talk and sort out all your feelings together.” Janice moved Brett back so she could see her face. “You are very important to Tori and she will always care for you. Just try to be patient with her, okay? Right now, she’s going through a hard time also. She just isn’t sharing this time with you. But someday I know she will.”

“But Mommy I love Tori. I don’t think I could love a boy like I love Tori. She has always been my friend. Why can’t a girl just have a girlfriend?”

Oh boy, I think I’m in trouble here Janice thought. Where’s Gordon when I need him.

“Honey we can have girls that are friends and we can have boys that are friends. Right now, Tori wants to have boys that are friends. Someday when she has had many girl and boy friends, she’ll decide which one is her favorite.” Janice hoped that she had sufficiently explained things for now. She felt she was digging herself into a hole. She knew this conversation would be revisited again. Hopefully not too soon. I think I need to do some research on this subject. I think I had better prepare Gordon as well. Janice thought.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, sweetie?” Oh God what now .

“I hope when Tori decides what flavors she likes I’ll still be her favorite.” Brett kind of understood what her mommy was trying to say. But it didn’t stop her from missing Tori just the same.

“Well my love, we’ll just have to see.” Janice gave her daughter a kiss and hoped this conversation was over for now.

“Well young lady. You go change into your pajamas and get ready for bed. I’ll wait here and we can do our prayers together.”

Janice thought about other ways to help her daughter understand her feelings and decided it might be a good idea if Brett had a diary. Going to the local bookstore, she found a beautiful leather bond one with two angels on the cover. She gave Brett the diary for her eleventh birthday. It proved to be a very good idea. Brett would write down everything she felt and did everyday. This was a catalyst to expose Brett’s hidden talent. Her teacher informed Gordon and Janice that Brett was accepted into the gifted and talented program for her writing skills. Brett had written a story entitled “The Unexpected Knight.” It was very well written for being created by an eleven-year-old and the teacher believed that Brett could be a very a successful writer someday if given the proper training.

*******************************

True to her word, Tori did things with Brett. However, she always made sure they were with the rest of their friends. Being with Brett was easier this way because Cole would always be there to be a buffer. Tori felt guilty for using Cole as she was. But in time she really grew to like Cole very much.

The two were just discovering their sexuality. Though Tori loved Brett, her feelings were wreaking havoc with her changing body. Luckily, Cole was a very special boy and never pressured her to do anything she wasn’t ready to do.

Cole Crawford was the only son of Paul and Diane Crawford. He was the All-American boy with his dashing good looks and a smile that would make girls melt. At sixteen, he was well over six-feet tall. He was captain of the Varsity swim team and tied with Victoria for valedictorian of their class. His father was a Yale graduate, as was his father’s father, and after his senior year next year, he would be on his way to being one also. Although he came from a rich family, he didn’t have the air of being from one. He was so personable and friendly everyone in school loved him.

The girls of course were all clamoring to be his girlfriend. When they found out that Cole was dating Tori, the fourteen-year old school genius, t hey were devastated. When asked why Cole was dating the young Victoria, who’d be graduating next year with them, he would simply reply that Tori was too special to let get away.

For the next two years, the two built a very close friendship. A friendship they would come to depend on long into their adult lives. Cole’s humor and good nature was infectious and never failed to make Tori smile. They made a cute couple. Cole had straight dirty blond hair that was constantly in his face and warm hazel eyes. Contrasting with Tori’s dark hair and piercing blue eyes, the two complimented each other. Cole’s parents loved Tori and Cole’s sister Pamela got along fabulously with her. Pamela was dating Tori’s older brother Ian. They were inseparable. Everyone was sure they would be married someday and the same hopes were cast upon Victoria and Cole. For a time, Victoria thought she might have come to a point where she finally got over her feelings for Brett. Even convinced herself into believing she was in love with Cole. By the time their senior year was close to an end, Victoria had come to the decision that she was ready to take the next step and go to bed with Cole.

After their senior prom, Cole and Victoria went to his parents’ cabin in upstate New York for the weekend. Cole did everything he could to make it special for Tori. He bought her flowers and had the cook prepare enough food for the weekend t aking care of every detail. Right down to the protection.

The prom had ended at ten o’clock and the trip would take about four hours. They had packed before they left for the prom and told their parents ahead of time that they wanted to spend some time together before they went off to college. Cole’s parents, trusting the kids completely, gave them permission and sound advice. Richard on the other hand was more than a little protective of his girl. But since Tori was going off to college, he felt he would have to learn to trust her judgment. This was one of those times he wished Dominique was with him so he could discuss this with her face to face. Having no other choice, he did what he could. Pulling Cole aside, he told him he had better be careful with his daughter or he would not live to see Yale.

“Yes Mr. Hull. Your daughter is very important to me and I would never do anything to hurt her. I would like to thank you for trusting me with her and I promise to take very good care of her. I would never ask her to do anything she didn’t want to do. Her happiness is very important to me.”

Richard looked at Cole and tried to find any signs of insincerity. To Richard’s relief there wasn’t any. He shook young Cole’s hand, “Okay son. I’m taking your word for it because I know you’re a good boy. But most of all I trust my daughter.”

Looking at his daughter, he could see she had already made a decision. Being a teenager once himself, he knew he could do little to stop them. Therefore, he decided to support his daughter. He wanted her to remember her first time as a wonderful experience instead of one of regret. This was one time when Richard had fought tooth and nail with himself. He had promised his wife that he would allow their children to make their own mistakes. He hoped with all his heart that this was not one of them.

They arrived very early in the morning. The time of night where the morning and evening are one.

“Okay Tori wait hereI’ll be right back.” Cole sat Tori on a lounge chair that was on the porch of the cabin. When he was sure she was comfortable, he unlocked the door to the cabin and turned on the lights.

The cabin was beautiful. It had four bedrooms and a master suite w </span> ith a large stone fireplace running through the center of it. It overlooked the lake and with the moon so bright you could see the silhouette of the mountains. The hoot of an owl and the sounds of the crickets filled the air. It was still a little cool to have too many mosquitoes and Tori watched as a moth bounced against the screen of the front door trying to get to the light in the living room. Cole had finally returned. Tori could tell that Cole was just as nervous as she was. As soon as Cole reached to take Tori’s hand they both seemed to calm down. Cole led Tori through the front door and gave her a quick tour of the cabin. Once they reached the master suite, Cole motioned her to go in. Once inside the room Tori let out a little gasp. Cole had lit the fireplace and turned down the bed. On the bed lay a red rose and a note tied to it. Going to the bed Tori picked up the rose and untied the note:

To my dear Tori,

These last two years have been the most amazing two years I have ever had. I know that we are going away to college and it will be very difficult not to see your beautiful face everyday. Nevertheless, we have to be realistic and accept the fact that there is a chance that we may grow apart. Possibly meet other people. We are so young and have hardly seen much of the world.

When we both agreed to share this moment together, I was in shock. I did not know how I was so lucky to have such a beautiful girlfriend. I have loved you since the moment we went on our first date and have been unable to be away from you since.

Knowing all that, I want you to know that if all we do this weekend is enjoy each other’s company, I will have been truly lucky indeed.

You have helped me to be a better person and have taught me the importance of being thankful for what we have in life. Know that no matter where we go or what we do, I will always know that at least once in my life I was truly sad.

I love you,

Tori carefully rolled up the note then placed the note and the rose on the nightstand next to the bed. She looked up at Cole and saw the look of love in his eyes. With absolute certainty, she held up a hand inviting him to come to the bed. That night Cole and Tori shared their innocence and without regret, shared a moment that would always be theirs to remember.

So the age of innocence came to an end.

********************************

Victoria left for Harvard business school at sixteen. She breezed through the bachelors and masters program in three years. She was skillfully sharpening her mind to become a force to be reckoned with . At 19, she was accepted to Cambridge Law School and graduated at 22 with honors . With a law and business degree under her belt, Tori had more offers from corporations and law firms than she could keep up with . She could write her own ticket to almost any situation but the next step had already been made . She was going to do what she had dreamt of her whole life which was to work along side her father at Hull Enterprises. The day of her graduation, Tori was called to the Dean’s office. When she arrived, she was met with a very proud Richard Hull and an equally proud Gordon Montgomery. Richard wrapped his strong arms around his daughter. Conveying all his love, just as he had done countless times throughout her life, “Tori. Uncle Gordon is here to make you an offer.”

Tori took a deep breath as she waited for Gordon to speak, ” Well it is so good to see you, Victoria.” He went over to her and gave her a big hug. He always had a soft spot for her. He had watched her grow up with his kids and she had won him over from the get go. “I know that your father is very eager to get you working at Hull Enterprises. But I have convinced him to let you do your associates with me at the firm once you pass the bar. Eric just passed his and Lauren will be finished law school next year. Once she has passed, she’ll be on board as well. You are one of this year’s top sought after graduates. Not only here in Europe , but also in the States. That is very impressive. We would like to offer you a very competitive package and would be honored if you came on board with us.”

Victoria was floored . She had always admired Gordon Montgomery. Heck, she did her thesis on him. She studied and analyzed all of his cases. One of the main reasons she was as good as she was, was because of what she learned from him. But how could she accept his offer? She didn’t want to let her father down. Ian had just announced that he and Pamela would be getting married and most likely start a family soon. As hard as it was to admit, her brother just didn’t have what was needed to be the next CEO of Hull Enterprises. Hull was not only a Fortune 500 Company, but also one of the most successful companies in the world.

It was evident at an early age that Tori would be perfect for the seat of distinction. She was the one who would sneak into the boardroom and watch her father negotiate deal after deal, wielding his magic over every contract negotiation and every acquisition. That brilliance was not passed on to his eldest son, but to his eldest daughter.

It was Spring Break and Tori had come home from college.

“Hey big guy.” Tori went over to Ian.

They had always been close. Especially after their mother had passed away. Though Ian was the eldest, it was Tori that held the family together. She made sure that they took care of one another and never took each other for granted. Ian and Tori were a tremendous help to their father. They always watched over the younger kids and together they helped keep the family close.

“What’s going on? “, Tori was happy to see her brother. He was finishing up his last year in Princeton and would be working at Hull at the end of the year.

“Nothing. I’m just sitting here looking at this place.” They were standing outside of the Hull Estate on the veranda.

“Yeah? Why you doing that?” ,, ,,,

, Tori asked.

“I’m just trying to understand what our Great Grandfather and Grand Father had to do to buy all this.” He made a show of the vast property. “They worked really hard and they did whatever it took to make Hull what it is today.”

Tori listened intently to what her brother was trying to say, c oncerned by the worry lines that were evident around her brother’s eyes.

“You know, Tori. They were able to raise their families and go to work everyday. Working long hours and for a long time had nothing to show for it. Yet, looking at Grandpa Ethan and listening to stories about our Great Grandpa Malcolm, you could hardly tell that they worked so hard. They always seemed so happy.” Ian paused for a minute to gather his thoughts. “Do you know why I think that was?” He waited for Tori to respond.

“I have an idea, pal. But why don’t you tell me what you think?”

“Well Tori, I think they loved what they did. Hull Enterprises was in their blood. They saw the possibilities and went after them. I’ve watched Daddy all these years and wondered why is it that he never remarried. I think I understand why he hasn’t . He loves Hull Enterprises just as much as they did. I think if Mom had not come along, we probably wouldn’t be here today. He would have been satisfied to live his days running Hull and enjoying every minute of it.”

“So what are you trying to say Ian?” Victoria could see that Ian was working out a problem in his head and was on the verge of coming to some kind of conclusion.

“What I’m trying to say is Though I like Hull Enterprises, I don’t love it. I can’t see the possibilities. I never could. Give me a project and I will get it done. But ask me to create a project and I fall short. I’m graduating this year Tori and all eyes are on me to take over someday. But I’m afraid. I just don’t want the job.” He looked at his sister hoping that she would understand. They had always been able to communicate with very little words and Ian hoped with all his might that his younger sister would understand him even now.

“So Ian, what is it that you see yourself doing? “, Tori asked, concerned that her brother was feeling so much stress from this.

“I see myself getting married to Pamela and having a couple of kids. Going to work at Hull everyday. But not the one giving the orders.”

“Well then. Who do you see taking over after Daddy retires?” Tori knew that the decision was not one to be taken lightly and had an idea as to where this conversation was headed.

“I see you, Tori. I see you taking over. I have seen how natural things at Hull come to you. How excited you get when Daddy talks about his work. I guess I want you to know that if Dad someday offers you the job of CEO its okay with me.”

Tori thought about what her brother had said and for some reason it felt right to her. The company was in her blood. She could see all kinds of possibilities for the family business and was eager someday to achieve those goals. Hearing that her brother supported her and wouldn’t have any hard feelings somehow made Victoria feel a lot better about running Hull Enterprises someday.

“Okay Ian. If someday .. Daddy offers me the position of CEO , I promise to accept. But only on two conditions?”

Ian looked at her and gave her a questioning look.

“Condition one: I’ll take the position only if you are at my side. And Two is an important one. You have to name your first child Victoria. Whether it’s a boy or a girl.” Tori raised an eyebrow daring her brother to deny her.

“You know Tori I would be happy to do that. But I’m going to make you explain to my son why his name is Victoria the first time he gets beat up at school.”

The two laughed hysterically that day on the veranda. Planning their futures and the deals they would make together. To say that Tori was torn between a rock and a hard place was an understatement. She dreamt of working side by side with her father and brother taking on the world with them. She did not want to keep them waiting. Her father especially had done so much through the years and always put his children first. But a chance to actually work for one of her mentors and heroes, even if it was a temporary position, was still a chance of a lifetime.

Knowing his daughter all to well and seeing the battle that was raging inside her, Richard took Tori aside. “Listen to me sweetie. I know that this offer means a lot to you and I really think it is something that you need to do. If you are going to oversee the legal division of Hull someday and of course take your seat as CEO, this will give you the experience and credibility you will need. Besides I’m still a pretty young guy and I’m not quite ready be set out to pasture.”

A tear slowly rolled down Tori’s cheek as her father amazed her yet again. “Daddy, I don’t know what I ever did to deserve you but I’ll never ever be ready to see you out to pasture. I love you so much.” Kissing her Dad on the cheek and sharing a father and daughter hug, she turned to Gordon. Offering him her hand, she accepted his offer. Determined to be the best damned lawyer she could be i f only to make her father proud of her yet again.
Installment Two
Two years had now gone by and Victoria, now 24, was devastating the legal world with decision after decision in her favor. She was maturing into a devastatingly beautiful woman. With her long flowing jet-black hair and her piercing blue eyes, she mesmerized her opponents. Add to that her quick mind and beguiling charm, many were helpless to stop her. She was fast becoming an unstoppable force. With Gordon’s clever tutelage, she was masterfully learning the art of the game.

Lauren, Gordon’s eldest daughter, was now on board with the firm. Though she and Tori were not as close as Tori had been with Brett, they still were very good friends. Now that they were older, they seemed to find a camaraderie that they had not possessed before.

One day Lauren mentioned that she was going to Michigan to visit her sister Brett for her birthday. Brett was turning 21and was majoring in English Literature at the University of Michigan. She lived with their childhood friends; Alexi Felini and Adrian Arden. They were majoring in Child Psychology and Journalism. They also had another roommate; a math major named Jenna Carlisle.

It had been a few years since Tori had seen Brett. But somehow they had kept tabs on one another. Even if they didn’t speak to each other personally. When Tori received the invitation, she agreed to come with Lauren.

She had many thoughts that inundated her. What would it be like to see Brett after all these years? Had they changed that much throughout the years? Would they still have the bond that they possessed so many years ago? Victoria had resolved many issues that plagued her in her teens and was eager to pick up where she and Brett had left off.

She still loved Brett with all her heart and had a silent hope that maybe Brett might feel the same way. Nevertheless, even if she didn’t, their separation had been too long. Tori would spend the rest of her life hiding what she felt for Brett, if she had to. However, she couldn’t spend another minute of her life not having Brett in it. Even if it was just in friendship.

When Victoria had left home for school, she had learned many things about how the world worked. She had continued to see Cole off and on. Since Cole went to Yale and Victoria had attended Harvard, eventually going to Cambridge, she had many opportunities to discover many things about herself.

Victoria was between classes and was sitting at one of her favorite sidewalk cafes in Harvard Square. Totally submerged in her studies, she didn’t notice the person standing beside her table. If it weren’t for the fact that they were blocking her light, she probably wouldn’t have stopped to take notice. When Victoria began to look up, she found shapely long legs that went on forever and a body that would stop traffic. Victoria’s blue eyes connected with a vision of warm brown eyes and long blond hair. A rush of heat immediately radiated between Victoria’s legs.

With a gulp, Tori spoke, “Hi… is there something I can do for you?”

“Hi…I’m sorry to interrupt. But I see you’re studying for Ethics class. I’ve seen you in class and I thought I’d come and introduce myself. I’m Erika Breslin.” She extended her hand and Tori courteously took it.

“I’m Victoria Hull. My friends call me Tori.”

“My friends call me Eri. And….. I would very much like to be yours.” Erika knew that she was playing with Victoria, but she was helpless to stop.

Tori almost fell out of her chair with Erika’s forwardness. She was immediately attracted to her. However, she wasn’t completely sure that what she felt from Erika was correct. “I think she’s flirting with me. Maybe I should test this.” Tori thought.

“Well, that all depends on what kind of friendship you have in mind.” Whoa where did that come from? Tori heard the words but was amazed that it came out of her mouth.

“Well gorgeous. I guess that really depends on you?” Erika had seen Victoria the first day of class and had immediately fallen in lust. She heard that Victoria was young, but she could not help her attraction. Victoria was a real knock out and the amazing thing was she seemed totally oblivious to the fact.

Erika Breslin, sole heir to the Breslin Fortune, came from a world similar to Victoria’s. But she was not shielded from it as Victoria had been. From her early childhood, she had been primped and primed to be an heiress. She exuded sophistication and class. When she wanted, she could tempt the pants off an unsuspecting prey. She was not hurtful in anyway. She was just used to getting what she wanted. Anyone who knew her would be lucky indeed. But her attention was very short lived. Right then, here attention was focused on young Victoria Hull.

The two had become good friends. Unlike many people that Erika had set her sights on and then became disinterested in, she had truly come to care for Victoria. Tori had so impressed Erika with her unwavering honor and integrity. It left Erika speechless when Tori would display a wisdom and insight that was way beyond her years. Victoria was the full package: beautiful, intelligent, humble, confident, kind, caring, understanding and a number of other attributes. By the end of the semester, Erika Breslin had it bad for Victoria Hull. However, due to what her family expected of her and the fact that Victoria’s heart belonged to someone else, she was happy to enjoy what little time she had with Tori. She gave Victoria a safe haven to explore feelings that she had denied herself for years. Erika showed Tori the many advantages of loving another woman. At the end of that year, Tori went to Cambridge and Erika went back home to New York to take her place in the Breslin Empire. They promised to keep in touch and Victoria would be ever grateful to Erika for her love and unconditional support.

Lauren and Tori arrived at the airport, rented a car and were on their way to the apartment. Tori’s heart was beating so hard, she was sure that Lauren could not only hear it but see it as well. They found the apartment and knocked on the door.

Alexi came to the door. Letting out a screech that could be heard a mile away, ” You’re here!!!!!!!!!.” Running into Tori’s arms she gave her an exuberant embrace. “Gosh Tori, I can’t believe you’re her!!!!! We haven’t seen you in…I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen you. Where have you been girl?”

Tori took in Alexi’s shoulder length, curly brown hair and deep brown eyes. Alexi was such a giddy person. She always had been. When you were around her you couldn’t help but feel happy too. She was the only child of Michaela and Antoine Filenni. Her family had a chain of furniture stores and spent most of their time lavishing their daughter with love. They had hoped that Alexi would take to the family business but wasn’t surprised when she informed them that she wanted to be a child psychologist. They supported her fully and were just happy to have her in their lives. The Filenni’s were told they would have difficulty having children. When after years of trying, the doctor informed them that Michaela was indeed expecting. They vowed to give the child everything his or her heart would desire. You would think that Alexi would grow up being a spoiled brat. But she was the most generous person you could ever want to meet.

They were still standing at the door yapping when Alexi finally remembered where they were. “Oh my gosh!!Ý Where are my manners? Come on in! Brett and the girls just went to the groceries and liquor store for the party tonight.”

Grabbing Tori into a hug again, she took a long appreciative look. “You look… well… you look…….. innncredible!” Tori wasn’t sure but she could have sworn that Alexi was…….. checking her out. Strange…what was that about?

Alexi grabbed their bags and headed for the stairs. “I hope you two don’t mind sharing the guest room. We only have the one.”

Lauren watched as Victoria looked around the apartment. She had purposely not told Tori any details about Adrian and Alexi and especially avoided any real conversation about Brett. She was afraid that if she had told Victoria everything, Tori would choose not to come with her. The Hull and Montgomery families were very close and they all knew that Brett and Tori had shared an uncanny bond. They didn’t understand why out of the blue Tori and Brett’s friendship took a nosedive. They tried explaining it away as teenage growing pains. But when their separation carried over into their adult life, they began to wonder. Lauren had recently asked each of them what had happened. Her sister said she didn’t have a clue. All Brett knew was that even after so many years had passed and they were older, she still ached for Tori as if it was just yesterday.

When Lauren had asked Victoria the same question, she finally got the answer she was looking for after all these years. Tori didn’t tell her in words but her face spoke volumes. Written across Tori’s face was the truth: she was in love with Brett. Tori’s eyes revealed an unrequited love that she had kept secret for a very long time. Lauren had vowed to bring them back together. Maybe not romantically right now. But maybe a small birthday party would be a small start. Even if, at the moment, things looked rather bleak.

Once they reached the top of the stairs, they could see that the doors to the bedrooms were open. All the bedrooms were upstairs and there were only three. Each of them had one queen-size bed in them. As they reached the last bedroom, Lauren knew that Tori was formulating a problem in her head. She’s a damn genius! Of course she is going to figure it out.

Victoria knew there were four people that shared the apartment. However as she counted the beds, she realized at least two of them had to be sharing a bed. She thought about the look that Alexi had given her and a light bulb went off in her head. She remembered that Alexi and Adrian had been very close growing up. The possibility of them being a couple made sense. So… Alexi and Adrian play on the same team. Well good for them.

Tori decided to let them off the hook. “Look…Alexi. I’m sure Lauren would agree. We wouldn’t want to kick someone out of their bed. We could always stay at a hotel.”

Alexi glanced at Lauren with a questioning look. Not knowing how much Tori knew.

Lauren gave Alexi a nod from side to side. Alerting Alexi that Tori was not aware of the apartment’s sleeping arrangements.

“Umm…… yeah. Well….. no one uses this room and it really isn’t a bother. As long as you don’t mind sharing.” Alexi started to feel uncomfortable. She knew that Lauren knew the score but wasn’t quite sure how Tori was going to take the news.

“You know I was baking Brett’s cake when you came in. I had better go see how it is doing. I don’t’ think Brett would appreciate Cajun Cake for her birthday. ” Laughing at her own joke, she motioned for them to come down stairs.

Now Lauren could practically see the smoke coming out of Tori’s ears from thinking so hard.

Just as Tori was about to ask, “What the hell did Alexi mean no one used the guestroom?”, the apartment door opened.

Green eyes met blue ones and an uncomfortable pause set in. Not a sound was heard for what seemed like an eternity as the two souls met again. Their hearts were beating so fast it was as if they were racing to try and get closer to the other. It had been so long and tears began to form in each of their eyes. How could they have been apart for so long?

A very jealous Jenna Carlisle interrupted the moment. She was the first to break the silence not liking what was happening between her lover and this tall stranger, “Baby… maybe you would like to introduce me to your …friend.”

Brett just stood there speechless. What do I say? Brett thought not hearing a word of what Jenna had just said. She was lost in her thoughts. After all this time Tori, you can still leave me weak in the knees. I still love you so.

Jenna stepped forward and decided enough was enough. “Hi. I’m, Jenna. Brett’s… partner. I’m taking a guess that you would be…. Tori.”

Tori was still reeling. Here she was after so many years standing in front of the love of her life. Oh Brett… I don’t care how hard it is. I am finally gonna tell you how I feel. I love you so much. I don’t care if you can’t return my feelings. I just can’t lie to you anymore. Just then, Victoria’s ears caught up with her brain. Wait a minute… Did she say, partner?!!!!! What the hell does she mean calling my Brett, ëBaby’!!!? Victoria thought to herself. She was starting to get a bad feeling in her stomach and felt the walls slowly closing in around her.
Installment Three

Tori realized that Jenna was holding her hand out for her to take and somehow she managed to respond, “Yes. I’m Victoria Hull.” She let go of Jenna’s hand but never took her eyes off Brett.

No… No… No… please don’t let this be happening…This can’t be happening! Tori was beside herself. If she could have gathered the strength, she would have died right there. Tori tried as hard as she could not to show how devastated she was. She was paralyzed to speak and too numb to move, lost in the irony of the situation.

Over the years, Tori had explored a few relationships learning more about herself. With the help of many loving and caring partners, she had learned to accept the many facets of her sexuality. She had come to understand her feelings for Brett were natural. She loved Cole and Erika and had many feelings for her other lovers, but no one after all these years captured her heart so completely as a young Brett had done.

Brett was now 21 and Victoria was 24. Tori had decided they were old enough now to discuss Tori’s feelings for Brett. And even if Brett was unable to return her feelings, she still wanted to try to salvage their friendship. Now it seemed she had come to this conclusion too late.

Why did I wait so long? If I had known that she was capable of loving me the way that I wanted to love her, I would never had let her get away.

Tori was so involved in her inner dialogue that she didn’t notice that Brett was now standing in front of her.

“Tori, it’s so good to see you. I’ve missed you, you big lug.” She hit Tori across the stomach. “Look at you…You’ve gone and grown up and I must say you’ve really filled out nicely. You heartbreaker.”

Tori snapped out of her daze the moment she heard her angel’s voice. As always, she could not help but smile at the gleaming eyes that had always touched her heart. Yet something had changed. She noticed that although Brett’s eyes still shined, they were a little duller than they once were. There was a hint of sadness that now rested in them and it broke her heart to think that someone may have hurt her little Brett. Maybe it was you that put that look in her eyes, you coward. Because you didn’t have the courage to tell her how you felt, you’ve lost her forever.

She wrapped Brett in her arms praying with all her might that she would never have to let go. However, that just wasn’t possible.

Lauren watched as a Greek tragedy played before her eyes. I’m sorry Tori… I’m so sorry that I brought you here. What was I thinking? That is just it. You weren’t. Lauren chastised herself. You thought that if the two of them saw each other everything would fall into place. But you forgot about Jenna.

The pain in Tori’s eyes and the sadness on her face was enough to break your heart. She now knew with absolute certainty that Tori loved Brett more than life itself. She knew that her sister felt the same way.

However, her sister’s greatest flaw and greatest strength was her unwavering loyalty. On the surface, she knew that Jenna and Brett had looked happy. But for some reason something was missing. Lauren could not put her finger on it until now. Every time she saw Brett, she seemed increasingly withdrawn. She tried to get Brett to talk to her but she always said everything was fine.
She prayed that someday Brett would come to her if something were bothering her. Seeing Tori and Brett together was something totally different. It was as if their souls embraced. You could not tell where one soul began and the other ended. What was missing with Jenna was the incredible spark that existed between Victoria and Brett. When they were together, they ignited the room. The energy between them was incredibly intense. They defined chemistry.

Tori’s head bent down and she whispered into Brett’s ear, “I might say the same for you little one. You are a wonder to behold.” Brett blushed and quickly stepped away when she noticed the storm clouds brewing in Jenna’s eyes.

Brett motioned Jenna to come closer and without her usual enthusiasm, she introduced Jenna again. “Tori this is my girlfriend Jenna. Jenna this is my dear friend Tori. I’m glad that the two of you can finally meet.” Brett stated this with an enthusiasm that she didn’t truly feel. In her heart, she wished Jenna’s and Tori’s roles were reversed.

Victoria always tried to do the right and honorable thing. This moment was no exception. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. You are very lucky to have won Brett’s heart. She is very, very special to…” Catching herself, she didn’t want to reveal too much. Pausing she restated what she was about to say hoping that no one noticed her slip.

“She is a very special person. I wish both of you the best.” She would put on a brave front for Brett. There would be time enough for her to cry later and lick her wounds. With a smile she did not feel, Victoria shook Jenna’s hand again.

Jenna released her hand and then took Brett in here arms. Before Brett could stop her, Jenna kissed her with uncomfortable force. Finally letting go of a bewildered Brett, she replied, “Yes she is. And I don’t plan on ever letting her go,” clearly marking her territory.

If Victoria could have slapped the smug look off Jenna’s face, she would have.

You do not have a right to do that. You gave all rights up when you walked away and left Brett, remember? Jenna thought.

“I’m glad to hear that. Brett deserves all the happiness she can get. Well…., let me go say hello to Adrian. It’s been ages since I’ve seen her.” She gave Brett a smile and a quick squeeze to her arm then walked away glad to be away from the hardest situation she had ever experienced.

Victoria did not want the conversation to continue any longer. She was afraid she would make a fool of herself. All she wanted to do was drop to her knees and beg Brett to run away with her. Run away and leave the world behind.

She went over to Adrian and proceeded to catch up on what she had missed these past few years. Although she was putting up a good front, inside she was barely registering a word that Adrian was saying.

Soon after, Alexi came running out of the kitchen proclaiming that it was time to get the party started.

Funny I’m not in a party kind of mood. Tori thought as she found herself in her own personal hell.
Installment Four
A few hours later the girls’ apartment was wall to wall with people. Tori needed to get some air so she went outside. Spotting the car they had rented, she sat on the hood gazing at the stars.

Whenever Tori needed to think or was upset, she would always look to the sky and locate her favorite star.

“Mom… you said that if I needed to talk to you, all I would have to do is close my eyes and you would wrap your arms around me…Well I think I need you now mom. I have always wanted to have what you and Daddy had. However, things just haven’t worked out that way. I thought I found it. But I never found the right time to express how I was feeling to that person. You see mom… It’s Brett. I love Brett. I always have and I’m afraid I always will. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love her.” Tori took a moment to compose herself not wanting to cry in case someone should happen by. “A long time ago, I made the decision to push her away. I didn’t want to risk hurting her by showing her that I was in love with her. She was so young and innocent at the time and I didn’t think she could understand. Today I found out, she’s involved with a woman. I keep asking myself, ‘What was it all for?’ I feel so lost right now, Mom. What am I going do? How am I gonna live the rest of my life without…”

Just then, she heard someone approaching her. When she turned around, she saw Brett making her way towards her.

“Hey I thought I saw you come out here. Is everything alright?”

Tori nodded, “Uh, yeah. Just needed some air.”

Tori could smell Brett’s perfume from where she was sitting and it was taking all her will power not to throw herself head long at Brett’s feet.

Brett had seen Tori leave the party and hoped that she could finally have some time alone with her. She missed Tori so much and wanted to talk to her. She knew that Jenna would have a fit if she found out she was out here with her. But she didn’t care. She hadn’t seen Tori in so long and wanted to find out how she was. Maybe get some answers as to why they had not kept in touch. Though she never would, she desperately wanted to tell Tori how she truly felt about her. It’s not that she didn’t care for Jenna. Jenna had come into her life at a time when she desperately wanted to feel needed. Brett had never fully recovered from the loss of Tori. Although her relationship was far from perfect, she had tried her best to make it work.

Brett had tried to date boys as her mother said when she got to a certain age. Though it was a pleasant experience, it just wasn’t what Brett wanted. Every time she kissed a boy Tori’s face would appear in her head. She would remember the tenderness and the safety that she felt with Victoria and no one could ever replace that bond that she felt with her childhood friend.

When Brett found out that Tori was going to Cambridge to study, she had decided it was high time to figure out a few things about herself.

Her friends Alexi and Adrian had announced that they were involved with each other when they were in high school. Much to their parent’s horror, they silently hoped that it was just a phase and would eventually die out. However, what they felt for each other was undeniable. They had been close, like Brett and Tori, since they were children and one day nature just took its course.

Brett had always known Alexi and Adrian growing up. They were all the same age. But they hadn’t really become close until high school. They found out that Brett was curious about their lifestyle and helped to explain things to Brett when she showed an interest. When the time came, they all agreed that they would attend college together finding a school that taught everything that each had wanted to major in.

Brett had gone to clubs with Alexi and Adrian but never really got serious with anyone. Then one night last year at the beginning of their junior year, Jenna approached her at the bar that they were at. Although Jenna was not Tori, she had her own charm and appeal. Always seeming so sure of herself was what attracted Brett to her the most. Jenna had short hair similar in color to Brett’s and blue eyes not quite as vibrant as Victoria’s. Over time, they built a friendly companionship. Brett’s need to be needed and Jenna’s need for control seemed to be just what it took to bring them together. Brett’s big mistake was thinking Jenna could provide the security she needed because of her outward confidence. It wasn’t her fault that it turned out to be a facade.

It was just recently that Brett and Jenna agreed to move in together. Brett had started to see a change in Jenna the moment she moved in. Jenna’s possessive streak was starting to bcome more prominent. Every time Jenna saw Brett talking with someone, she always seemed to get jealous.

No matter how much Brett tried to reassure her that Jenna was the only one, it never seemed to appease the insecure woman.

Jenna Carlisle had a rough childhood and had never received the kind of love from her parents that she needed. She was passed on from family member to the next, while her parents traipsed all over the world. Over time, Jenna became very bitter and very rebellious, hanging out with a bad crowd. Fortunately for Jenna, she was very intelligent but not so good for the people around her. Contrary to what people would think, her grades were excellent. She was accepted to all of the big schools.

At age fifteen, she learned that the best way to get what you want from people was to find the person’s weakness and exploit it. Her parent’s weakness was their name and the luxuries that it afforded them. Therefore, she set out to humiliate them in public.

More than once, her parents received a call to school for a conference.

Every time her parents went away she had outrageous parties, where no expense was spared and made sure illegal substances were everywhere to be found. She would even make the telephone call to the police herself.

Countless incidents escalated one after the other. Until her eighteenth birthday, she received a large check for her college tuition and a note. The note stated that every semester, she would receive from her parents: college tuition, room and board, and an allowance. In exchange she was never to step out of line, do anything to embarrass them, or step foot onto their property. If any of these occurred, they would immediately cut her off without a second thought.

She was well on her way to destruction when she met Brett. Brett being a compassionate soul tried to see past all of that. She took on the roll of pampering and nurturing Jenna, taking the time to try and understand her. She knew what it was like to be left out in the cold. Brett would not do that to Jenna. She would be the one that made a difference in Jenna’s life. She would be someone that Jenna could count on.

Brett finally woke from her reverie and looked up to see Tori looking at her.

“I haven’t had a chance to wish you Happy Birthday, Brett.” Tori brushed her hand across Brett’s check. With that simple gesture, Brett threw herself into Tori’s arms breathing in the warmth that Victoria always seemed to exude.

Brett barely heard the next words Tori spoke. “ You …are… aren’t you?” Feeling Tori’s breath against her ear, it took a second to understand what Tori was asking her. Finally, it registered. Brett looked up and with a look of resignation and a deep level of regret she answered, “Yes. Tori… Yes, I am happy.” Though she wanted to, Brett could not stay there any longer without revealing everything that lay in her heart. She could not turn her back on Jenna. Not when she tried so hard to bring Jenna to this point. However, it didn’t stop the fact that it would always be Victoria that owned her heart and soul.

Knowing what she felt for Tori was best left in the past, she gathered her strength to allow Tori to walk out of her life again.

Besides, Tori doesn’t feel the way I feel for her. Brett thought to herself. She still sees you as that little girl. Not the woman you wish she would desire. Brett quickly chastised herself. Stop this Brett, you’re with Jenna now. Stop thinking about something you will never have. Dreaming about something Tori will never feel for you.

She reached up and brushed away the locks of hair that fell upon Tori’s face. Looking into the deep blue eyes that she would always love, she stretched up and gently kissed Tori on the cheek. Softly she whispered, “Take care of yourself, Tori.” With one last bone-crushing hug and a soft brush against Tori’s lips, she said in a whisper, “Goodbye, my love.” Brett turned around in a blurred motion and ran back to the apartment never looking back.

More than one tear fell that night and the sound of two hearts breaking filled the air. Tori walked alone for a very long time playing repeatedly in her head the look that she saw in Brett’s eyes. Is it possible that Brett feels the same way that I do? Tori asked. But now you’ll never know will you? You waited too long and now she has found someone else. Brett’s too good a person to leave someone once she’s made a commitment to. Tori ran down the darkened street and didn’t stop until she was breathless and her legs begged for mercy. She couldn’t get far enough from the pain and anger that was building inside of her. Angry at her stupidity and pain from the loss of love that she would never have.

By the time the sun revealed itself across the sky, coldness began to set over the frost-covered earth and a broken heart. A new Victoria Hull was born that day, a Victoria whose heart had no place for love. Victoria came to the conclusion that night that love did not exist. It made you weak and left you cold. With a determination born of anger and sadness, Tori made a promise that night to never feel that kind of pain again and if she couldn’t have the woman she loved, she would have the world instead. It was time she set the world on fire and every one had better watch out. Victoria Hull was coming.
Installment Five
Victoria stayed with Montgomery, Montgomery and Locke, for two more years and in the end, had more than a few landmark cases of her own. Litigants would quickly settle when they found out that the great Victoria Hull would be representing the client. Victoria had her hands in everything from personal injury to corporate law. Her father was right. This opportunity gave her the legitimacy that she needed.

On the day she was about to leave the firm, Gordon brought her into his office. He was very proud of her but he was also very concerned. She had become a very valuable asset to the firm. He’d even offered to make her a partner if she stayed. However she declined. Victoria was not the youthful, exuberant girl that walked into the firm three years ago. This was a Victoria that even he wasn’t sure he could beat if they met across in court.

Her reputation entered the room well before she was even in the building. Once her presence was known, all eyes waited for the attack. She demanded respect and that is exactly what she received.

Gordon took one last look at Victoria before he spoke, “You know Tori? I have always thought of you as part of my family. A sentimental old man I guess. I had hoped that some union would come between the Montgomerys and the Hulls. I guess for now that dream will have to be placed on the back burner.”

He and his wife had often spoken of the bond that his daughter Brett and Victoria had shared. Watching his daughter waste her time with the likes of Jenna Carlisle angered him to no end. Although he had promised his daughter that he would not interfere, deep down he thought he was making a big mistake by not taking a more aggressive approach in getting Brett and Victoria together.

“I know that where you go now will lead you far away from the safety that your father and I have tried to provide for you and the rest of our children. Understand this Victoria; there will come a time that this fire I see burning deep inside of you will burn so hot that even you won’t be able to put it out. When that time comes remember your family will be waiting here for you to welcome you home.”

Not one to show weakness, Victoria stood up from her chair and ignored what Gordon was trying to tell her. She held her hand out, “Thank you Gordon. It’s been a pleasure.” With that said she turned and left without looking back.

Gordon let out a deep sigh and a deep sadness overcame him. He didn’t know what had happened to Victoria in the past few years. He knew that she was ambitious and very determined. But there was more to what was going on with Tori. He thought about Richard and how he had always tried to do what was best for his kids.

But there were some things that no matter how you tried, you couldn’t protect them from. Looking out of the window of his office, he took in the sea of bodies that filled the streets below. In a world of unknown dangers and unexpected troubles, he worried about his family and the one he found in the Hulls. Lifting his head to the sky, he thought about the young beauty that was taken away much too soon. “Tori’s in your hands now, Dominique. Watch over her and keep her safe.”
Installment Six
The next four years went by in a flurry. Victoria decided to take over the international divisions of Hull Enterprises. Acquisition after acquisition were acquired and assimilated. All of the skills that were taught to her were second nature to her now adding a few of her own.

If she decided something was good for the company there was nothing that would stop her. Hull Enterprises had grown in leaps and bounds under Victoria’s unofficial direction. Richard watched as his daughter, without hesitation, made steps to take on the role of CEO to the company that had been in his family for four generations.

Ian was with Richard in their New York office, while Stephan operated the Los Angeles office. Jessica, the youngest Hull, ran Hull’s Arts and Antiquities Division in San Francisco and Victoria, almost single handedly, ran every thing else from their London office.

As proud as Richard was of Victoria, this was not the little girl that he had raised and loved with all his heart. Richard tried to get Victoria to stop and open up to him many times. However, he had always received the same answer time and time again, “Father, I’m only doing what is best for the company and what is expected of me.” She would run the company well. There was no doubt about that. But where was the little girl who used to share everything with him? The one who had always approached things with childlike wonder?

Many nights he worried over her. Worried that the Victoria that he knew would soon be lost. Never was this company meant to be an empire. It was intended to provide security and stability for their families. But the company was now so far past that.

Victoria was devouring everything and everyone in her path. His children were constantly working and, quite frankly, more than one was beginning to complain about Victoria’s demeanor. Richard couldn’t remember the last time he and his family were in the same country together. Much less the same state. Victoria always refused to come home claiming there was too much work to be done. She threw herself into her work and at times bordered on obsessive. She hadn’t been to a family gathering in years only going to California to visit or the family would see her in London.

The company was so successful and so large that if they were to sell it now this generation and future generations would never have to work for years to come. He knew Victoria would be an incredible CEO someday. But she was losing that balance that she always seemed to exude when she was growing up.

What was most disturbing to him now was her growing reputation. Too many times he had walked into a boardroom and caught the hushed whispers about his ruthless conniving daughter. Where was this coming from? This lust for power? This hunger in Victoria that never seemed to be satisfied? A decision had to be made as far as Victoria was concerned. This could not go on.

In the past, the Hulls were known for their business practices. They always tried to be fair in their dealings. It was not the quantity but the quality that set Hull Enterprises apart. A family based business that brought the same respect that they had for each other into the work place. He was always proud to stand up as the head of his family and as the head of the business. Although lately, these values were slowly slipping through the cracks.

He made a promise to his wife that his kids would always come first and he was damn well gonna do it. Too many times Richard had seen power destroy a human soul. But what he didn’t know was what was driving his daughter to do exactly that. What was behind that tortured look that he saw in her beautiful blue eyes? Who was the person that had hurt his daughter so badly that she was willing to shut out all forms of love including his?

He made a silent wish to Dominique that she would help him bring things under control again. Somehow getting his answer, he picked up the telephone and arranged to get his daughter back.

************

Victoria woke to the insistent ring of an unforgiving telephone, “Damn it! What time is it?” The telephone rang again. “Whoever it is on that phone had better have a damn good reason for waking me up at this awful hour.”

“Hello…” Victoria answered without holding back the anger in her voice.

“Victoria, its Dad.” Richard winched when he heard the agitation in his daughter’s voice.

“Dad? Do you know what time it is?”

“Yes, of course sweetie. I had an awful itch to see you and I caught an evening flight out. I should be at your place in about an hour.” Richard replied in as soft a voice as he could muster.

Finally comprehending what her father was saying, she looked over to the other side of her bed and remembered she was not alone. “ Uh, um… oh, okay. Uh, well I’ll see you in a few.”

All she could see was a mop of golden blond hair sweeping across her pillow and a very exposed leg strewn across the top of the comforter of her bed. Victoria Hull, what is wrong with you? Play hard, pay hard, do you even know what her name is? Tori racked her brain trying to remember. Oh, What was it Mandy…, Sandy…., Candy….. Oh who cares.

Getting up Victoria went over to the other side of the bed and reached for the covers. With no remorse, she unceremoniously ripped them off the bed.

The girl jumped up in complete horror. Totally appalled at being awakened so rudely and so suddenly. She tried to keep from falling to the floor but was unsuccessful in her attempt. “What the hell is your problem?”, she yelled as she got up from her position on the floor.

“Look. My Father’s coming and you have to leave! …..Now!”, Tori barked. Without waiting for a response, she turned on her heals and headed for the bathroom.

“Hey love. Why can’t I just hang out up here? When he leaves, we can pick up where we left off?”

With unbridled anger, Victoria turned around and, if looks could kill she would have disintegrated this girl on the spot. The girl was taken back by the terrifying look she had received. “I AM NOT YOUR LOVE. I AM NOT YOUR ANYTHING. YOU WERE JUST A LAY. Now get out of my home before I throw you out.”

Obviously uncomfortable but a little slow on the uptake, the girl replied “Geez… You weren’t complaining last night.” She took her chances again. Reaching out, she tried to caress a very alluring body part. “Come on baby….You know I can make you feel good.” Victoria grabbed her wrist and roughly pushed her away.

“Okay… okay”, the girl replied with her hands up. “I know when to say when.” But obviously not knowing when to shut up. “I know I’m going to see you again. I have seen you tortured types before. Hot and bothered in the morning, but oh so hot at night. When you find the need ….and I know you will…” Giving Tori a wink and a smug look, “You know where to find me.”

“GET OUT!”, Victoria screamed. Where does this girl get off talking to me like that?

With that, the girl gathered her clothes and left. However, her words rang in Victoria’s ears well after she heard the slam of the door. Was she really so predictable? Had her life truly become a string of one-night stands?

Quickly reprimanding herself, she spoke aloud. “I don’t have time for this.”

She made her way to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. That’s right, Victoria. Sweep it under the rug like every other despicable thing you’ve done over the years. Pretend it doesn’t matter. But we know better. Don’t we?

Tori stepped into the shower and tried to wash away the remnants of her latest conquest. No matter how hard she tried, she could never completely wash it all away. Bit by bit she was becoming less and less the person she once was.

When did you stop treating people with respect like you’d been taught? How long do you think you can keep this up before you have to pay the piper? She knew that time would come someday. But God help her, she didn’t have a clue how she’d survive the aftermath.

No sooner had she thrown on some clothes did the doorbell ring announcing her father’s arrival.
Installment Seven

Richard could not help but gasp when he saw Victoria at the door. It was much worse than he thought. He had not seen her in months. They kept in touch by telephone and usually just talked about business. Victoria always closed off whenever Richard tried to inquire about her personal life. She always kept the conversation superficial. Victoria’s face was gaunt and her eyes lifeless. His visit could not have come soon enough as far as he was concerned.

“Father. Please come in.” Tori voice was flat and without inflection.

“Tori, honey. You know you will always be beautiful in my eyes. But even I have to admit, you’re not looking well sweetheart.” He was surprised that Victoria didn’t even offer him a hug or kiss like they had always shared. It took him quite awhile to get used to Tori calling him father. It felt so impersonal to him.

“I’m fine. Really. I…I just got in late and was……a little rattled when you called this morning. But everything is fine.”

Richard thought it was best to let it go. He would be well on his way to getting his little girl back soon enough.

“So what brings you here? If I had known you were coming, I would have made arrangements for you.”

“Don’t worry about that.” Richard replied. “Come on… It looks like we could both use a cup of coffee.” He proceeded to lead her into the kitchen.

Richard had gone up to put away his things in the guestroom and freshened up leaving Victoria nervously waiting in the living room for his return.

A half hour later, he took a sit beside her on the couch. Then, taking her hand in his, he started, “Well Tori…. I know that you’re probably wondering why I popped in on you like this. And there is a reason. You see…. I’ve decided. It’s time for me to step down and let you officially take over the reigns….so to speak.”

“What? This is why of you came flying over to London at this hour of the morning?” A little shocked by this announcement, “Father, you’re okay aren’t you? You’re not ill or something?”

“No. No. I’m in perfect health. But I’m ready. I have been ready for awhile now. I just wanted to make sure you understood me completely when I spoke with you.”

“What do you mean?” She was really concerned at the abruptness with which her father was handling this.

“Tori… I want you to come home.”

“What? Why? I can just as easily run things from here. I don’t need to be stateside to do this!”

“Tori… I commend everything that you have done here. However, before the board approves this transfer, they need to know you are securely at the helm of the New York Headquarters. You do not have to be here Tori. You’ve hired the best people to oversee things here. And as far as the other offices are concerned, you’re just as close to them in New York as you are here in London.”

“What if I told you I didn’t want to go back?”, Victoria answered a little too sharply.

If Richard looked very close, he could almost see that vulnerable girl that he once knew. “ Tori…..why? You used to love home. What are you hiding from? I love you sweetie…You know you can tell me anything.”

Slowly Richard inched closer to his daughter and wrapped her in his arms. “Honey…Please… I miss my little girl. There is nothing you could tell me that will ever change how I feel about you.”

At first, Victoria tried to pull away from her father’s embrace But like a dam, Victoria’s resolve broke. Falling into her father’s arms, she cried for the first time since that night in Michigan. She knew her nerves had been held together by a very thin string.

“Oh, Daddy…” she sobbed. “I feel so lost… so empty. I’m afraid if I tell what I’ve done, and who I’ve become, you couldn’t possibly want me or love me anymore.”

“Sweetheart…. that is not true. I made a promise a long time ago to your mother that I would always respect my children’s choices in life. Although I have learned, sometimes you have to step in. Especially when the choices your children make may endanger them in some way. Please Tori? Please tell me what it is……this burden that you’ve been carrying for so long?” Richard begged. “I promise. I will not judge you. I will even try to help you if I can. If you’ll let me.”

Victoria sighed deeply. With slumped shoulders and a bowed head, she decided anything was better than the hell she had been living. She proceeded to tell her father how at an early age she started having strong feelings for Brett Montgomery. That from the moment she laid eyes on her, she had this incredible bond with her. Brett would always follow her around like an adorable puppy. In return, Tori felt incredibly protective over her. As they grew older, Tori’s feelings began to change from one of a close friendship, to something much deeper. She started to feel guilty. Feeling like her feelings were unnatural. At least that is what she believed at the time. She was told that little girls grew up and fell in love……married nice boys……and lived happily ever after.

However, every night she would go to bed and pray that when she woke up she would not feel the way she did about Brett. Sometimes she prayed she would go to bed and wake up being a boy. Then she could be able to love Brett the way that she had desperately wanted.

She tried to deny her feelings, as best as she could. Nevertheless, they always stayed too close to the surface.

Finally, given no other choice, she purposely stayed away from Brett. Even tried to convince herself that she was just confused and just needed to find the right boy.

When Cole Crawford asked her out, she tried to shut Brett out of her mind and concentrated on going out with Cole instead.

The new feelings that she discovered with Cole were very enjoyable. They even developed into a very close relationship over the years. They confided in one another through so many events in their lives. They counted on one another for not only a physical relationship, but also for support whenever the situation called for it. However, no matter how Tori tried, she just could not see Cole as more than what they were: Very close, loving friends that sometimes slept with each other.

She told her father of her first experience with Erika Breslin. How after being with her, the pieces of her sexuality fell into place.

Even after all of that and a few other liaisons, Brett continued to remain ever present in the back of her mind.

She told her father what had happened that fateful night six years ago in Michigan when her whole world turned upside down. With Brett on one side of the world and her on the other, fate had played a cruel joke on her. For years, she believed that Brett couldn’t possibly love her the way that she wanted. That it was best for Brett not to know what an abomination she was. She was so wrong. By never expressing her feelings to Brett, she left the door wide open for Jenna Carlisle to take what Tori felt was rightfully hers.

After that night, she was determined to shut out any memories of Brett Montgomery. She worked her mind and body to complete exhaustion hoping to forget Brett and the love that she would never have. If she couldn’t have Brett, she would use whomever and whatever she had to satisfy her needs. Even if it lasted for only a moment.

Unfortunately, it was never enough. No matter where she went. No matter how she tried, Brett’s face would be there. She saw her in her dreams at night. She appeared whenever she achieved release with her countless lovers.

She ruthlessly had slain her enemies in the boardroom. Gathering the anger and loneliness she felt to achieve her climb to the top of the corporate world.

However, nothing ever helped. Tori sank lower and lower. So low in fact that, if by some miracle Brett was available, why would Brett want her? The darkness and filth were now deeply embedded in her soul leaving her feeling empty and worthless.

Her father held onto her throughout every painful admission letting her cry for what seemed like hours. She still had yet to look her father in the eyes. She was sure that if their eyes met, she would see the disgust and disappointment there. This would be the last push that would send her into the darkness, never seeing the light again. She felt a hand lift her chin up and met eyes that held only love.
Installment Eight

Richard finally spoke for the first time since she began to bare her soul, “You know, Tori…. Love makes fools of us all. I remember when I first saw your mother. We were at some social function and I spotted her looking at me from across the room. At the time, she was being courted by this aristocratic boob…..” He laughed remembering the man.

“He was shamelessly trying to get her attention. But the look on your Mother’s face was that of absolute boredom.” Pausing, he wiped a tear from his own eyes remembering the first time he laid eyes on his beautiful wife.

“At the time, a part of me, though proud of my family, always felt that I was never good enough for the likes of her. She was like this beautiful porcelain doll.” He paused and looked at his daughter. “You know you have always looked most like her sweetie.” Pulling her closer to him, he placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

He continued, “I felt like such an oaf around her. So awkward and so unpolished. Our money was made off the sweat of our backs and the determination of our wills. Some of the wealthy look down on that: saying that because we didn’t come from old money, we lacked breeding. But your mother…..she never thought that way.”

He looked at Tori with big blue green eyes, “I almost walked away from her. I thought she deserved someone better than me. That even that pompous ass that was bothering her could give her what I couldn’t. Luckily, your mother would have none of that. She asked around and found out that I worked with my father and grandfather at the shipyards”. Richard laughed as he pictured Dominique’s face. “What a spitfire she was… She would go down there everyday and bring me lunch. Everyday she would be there and everyday I would tell her to go home. “You don’t belong here” I would tell her. But being determined like she was, she’d show up everyday just in time for the lunch whistle.”

“One day a shipping crate came crashing down splintering into pieces. Unfortunately, one of the dockworkers was pinned under the rubble. Everyone rushed to get the debris off him. I was so focused on getting the man free. I hardly noticed your mother by my side. There she was in her expensive clothes and her perfectly made up hair holding her own with the best of them. We took piece by piece away until we were finally able to get the man free. Not only did she help rescue him, but as we were working away, she sent her driver to fetch her father.” Pausing, he took a moment to remember his father in law. “Your grandfather was an amazing man and a very gifted doctor. It broke his heart when he couldn’t help your mom when she got sick. I guess when it’s your time, it’s your time.” He broke into a thoughtful pause and sighed.

All the while Tori listened intently as her father reminisced about his first meeting with her mother.

“Anyway, he came and took care of the man’s injuries and rode all the way to the hospital in the ambulance with him. He saved that dockworker’s life that day.” The admiration of his father in law shone on his face.

“It was also on that day I sat down and had my first lunch with your mother. I realized it was not up to me if we were together or not. I couldn’t stay away from her even if I tried.” A smile went to his eyes.

“My heart and my legs were in cahoots and they always led me straight to your mother’s side.”

He turned to Tori and his face turned more serious. “You see Tori? Fate has a way of making those decisions for you. If you and Brett are meant to be together, it will happen. Love will not be denied, no matter how hopeless the circumstances may seem. What I am saying is maybe your true love is Brett. Maybe not. All I know is that you, my love, are far too wonderful a person not to have a true love somewhere out there. Everyone does”, he said with all certainty.

“Though your mother and I didn’t have a whole lot of time together, what time we did have I would never trade for anything. Love is worth the risk and the paybacks are so much greater than the disappointments.” A tear came to his eye remembering his life with Dominique.

“The love your mom and I shared gave us four incredible children. That love is part of you. That love created you and nothing…and I mean nothing…… an ever take that away. I promise… you will have a love like that. No matter what you may think, you deserve it. We all do.” He said this last sentence with complete confidence.

Tori pushed away from her father, “But Daddy, you just don’t under…”

Long fingers rushed out to hush Tori, “Listen, sweetie. I heard every word you had to say. But this is my story and I’m sticking to it.” He winked and held out his arms. Tori again fell into his arms.

“What I see is a beautiful, beautiful woman… who is going to make some woman out there very happy someday…and I’m going to proudly stand by and watch it happen.”

Feeling the kind of safety that only her father could provide, Tori watched in wonder as her father accepted her without condition. Wondering as she had so many times in her life what she had ever done to deserve this amazing man she called Daddy.

Sometimes a parent has the ability to make or break a child. Richard Hull was a shining example of what a parent could be.

That day Richard would have his daughter back even if it took one hug at a time…..one day at a time. He would be there for his kids. After all, he had a promise to keep. He sent a quiet thank you to his beloved Dominique as he felt Tori sink into his embrace. He knew she was home.
Installment Nine

A few months passed and Tori had put into place all that was needed for the European offices to operate without her. With everything in order, she made her way back to the States.

It was now Thanksgiving and she was on her way to the Montgomery home. Victoria was not certain that this was the wisest thing for her to do since she was trying to make a fresh start of her life. However, she felt it was high time she stood and faced your fears.

She had started eating better and had gotten a physical to make sure her health was up to par. With a clean bill of health, she got back on her exercise regimen.

Now looking at her reflection in the window of the limo, she saw a hint of a smile grace her face. It was a rough road but she was starting to feel a whole lot better.

Gibeau, her driver, rolled down his window as he approached the intercom. This would announce Tori’s arrival. The gates opened and the car made its way down the long drive around the circular driveway. Tori got out of the car and went to the front door. Philip, the butler, opened the door and welcomed her to the Montgomery home.

“AH, Miss Victoria it is so good to see you, again. Everyone is in the dining room. They are awaiting your arrival as we speak.”

Tori nodded, “Thank you Philip. It is very good to see you as well.”

The Montgomery home, although very regal, still somehow carried incredible warmth. As they say, it is not the house but the people in it that make a home. The Montgomery family was exactly that: a little peace of home after a long journey.

The conversation she had with Gordon the day she left the firm came ringing back. “Know that when your journey is through, we’ll be here waiting for you.” True to Gordon’s word, they all were.

She entered the large dining room. Seated at the head of the table were Gordon and Janice Montgomery. To their right were Paul and Diane Crawford, Antoine and Michaela Fellini, and Oleg and Felicia Arden.

To Gordon’s left was Tori’s father, Richard Hull, her brother Ian, his wife Pamela, and their two children: two-year-old, Marcus and their brand new baby girl, Dominique Elizabeth. Stephan Hull was next with his new flavor of the month. And Victoria’s sister, Jessica, was seated next to them.

Rounding the table were Brett’s siblings: Eric Montgomery and his fiancé Corey, her younger brother Scott and his girlfriend Belize. Erin the youngest Montgomery was next to Brett’s older sister. Lauren and close friends Alexi and Adrian were next to them. The only other friend missing was Tori’s old boyfriend Cole Crawford. He was overseas.

Not forgotten and most importantly, seated in all her glory was Brett Montgomery. Tori almost passed out right there. No more was there that ever-present youthful look that always made Brett seem so much younger than she was. Now an air of poise and quiet sophistication sat in its place. True to form, blue eyes met green and, as they say, it was all over. Tori’s heart betrayed her again. It was so willing to run unguarded to Brett’s side casting all caution to the wind and sending signals to all parts of her body that her love was near.

Brett had heard that Tori was coming and anxiously awaited her appearance. The moment that her childhood mate entered the room, a flush of heat went to her face and everyone in the room ceased to exist the moment she arrived. Tori looked incredible. She wore a button down midnight blue Armani pantsuit which made her look even taller than she was. Her hair was a little shorter than the last time Brett had seen her. However, the dark tresses still flowed past her shoulders. Tori’s look was sleek and polished. She exuded power and grace. Even more, she oozed of sensuality. Brett was having an intense physical reaction to this new and improved version of Victoria Hull.

Breaking the trance was a loud clearing of a throat. Turning to the direction of the intrusive sound, Tori’s eyes connected with a smirking Gordon Montgomery. Giving Tori a welcoming gesture and an all-knowing wink, he uttered, “Ah… Tori. We are all happy to see you. However, can you sit your butt down? I’m hungry.” Laughter filled the room and Tori’s face turned a beet red. She gave everyone a blanketed hello and took her place between her father and her brother Ian. Of course, she noticed that Jenna Carlisle was delightfully missing. As that realization hit her, a smile crept upon the brunette’s face. For the first time in years, it made it all the way to her beautiful blue eyes.

Hands were held around the table as Gordon started the traditional Thanksgiving Blessing.

“Dear Lord…. As we gather around this table, we remember all the many blessings that you have bestowed upon us. Like the many friends and families that have enriched our lives, those that share our lives with us on a daily basis, and those we don’t quite see as often as we’d like.” Gordon shot a look in Tori’s direction and laughed as a blush made its way to Tori’s face.

“We thank you for giving us the ability to express and receive love in its many forms. We thank you for the many miracles that you give us everyday. Like the new additions to our families,” looking towards baby Dominique’s crib and the various new girlfriends and fiancées around the table.

“We thank you for keeping us strong and surviving the many obstacles that attempt to discourage us from our path in life. We thank you for the food that we are about to receive and for blessing the hands of those who have prepared the meal. Let this meal nourish us not only today…but whenever we look back at our lives and remember this day with love years from now.

“Dear Lord……Thank you for giving us so much that our hearts are bursting. For the love that fills this room and for the love I see in each and everyone’s eyes. As it is written in the bible, we are all created in your image. Therefore, if we see love in ourselves, so must you be love. So above all else…… thank you for you.” Gordon looked up with eyes that were filled with unshed tears and nodded indicating he was finished.

Tori’s eyes were also filled with tears. She was always amazed at Gordon’s capacity to love. With that thought, she let out an audible sigh. Realizing everyone was giving her an inquisitive look, she let out a dazzling smile and looked at Gordon. “ Sir…. I think we might need to take a recess after that one.” It was now Gordon’s turn to blush.

Tori sent out a thank you of her own. She thanked whoever was listening for giving her back her life and promised to never ever do anything that would take her from her family again. Tori felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see her father smiling at her. Nothing was said but he understood just the same. It had been a long road coming home and though Tori was a little tattered from the journey, she had survived.

All the while, green eyes were sending messages in Tori’s direction. Soon enough, Brett said to herself, “Soon Victoria Hull… I’m gonna get you alone… and when I do….. if I have my way…..you…and I ….are going to have that conversation we should have had……six years ago in Michigan.”
Installment Ten

Thinking back, Brett reflected on everything that had happened since the last time that she had seen Tori.

Her relationship with Jenna had grown progressively worse after that night she said goodbye to Victoria. Any insecurity that Jenna had been feeling just seemed magnified.

She would take every opportunity to remind Brett that Victoria was way out of her league. Jenna told her she knew Brett was in love with Tori but she would not let her go.

Claimed it wasn’t because she was selfish. She just did not want to see Brett get hurt. She told Brett that she couldn’t stand back and watch Brett chase after an empty pipe dream; after someone that was not capable of returning Brett’s feelings.

She was lying through her teeth of course. She had seen the sparks fly when Tori and Brett were together. You had to be blind not to see it. Even if you were blind, there was no doubt that you would have felt it. It was that strong.

She knew that Tori loved Brett as well. But there was no way she was going to lose Brett. Brett was all that she had. She would do anything it would take to keep Brett with her. Victoria Hull be damned. Jenna Carlisle had dealt with people tougher than her. She never lost when it came to things that she wanted. And she sure wasn’t going to lose Brett.

Brett, Jenna, Adrian and Alexi finished their bachelor’s degrees and went on to get their masters.

It was during this time that Alexi and Adrian were starting to get concerned about Brett. Jenna was always intense when it came to Brett. But now was way over the top. If Brett was out and Jenna was home, she would pace around the apartment like a caged animal.

One night in particular, Jenna came home to find Brett involved in a study session with a very beautiful student. The girl had an obvious crush on Brett and to her misfortune, she had an uncanny resemblance to a much-hated Victoria Hull. A raging Jenna confronted Brett and without explanation showed the girl the door. The abuse escalated to a new level that night leaving Brett scared and confused. There was no one there at the apartment except the two of them.

After Jenna’s violent episode, Jenna promised not to hurt Brett again. She claimed not to know what had come over her. Jenna blamed the years of abandonment she experienced growing up and confessed to Brett that she was afraid of losing her. She made the usual promises to get help. She begged Brett not to leave her playing up to every one of Brett’s weaknesses. Taking advantage of Brett’s ever forgiving heart. The next day Jenna made an appointment to see a therapist.

The few times Brett brought Jenna with her to her parent’s home, Jenna did everything to alienate Brett’s family. Claiming that they looked down on her, she felt they didn’t think she was good enough for their daughter. Although there was some truth to that in the eyes of the Montgomerys, it had nothing to do with who Jenna was. They just did not approve of the way Jenna treated Brett.

Of course, Brett tried to convince her family that Jenna was just misunderstood. They did not see the side of Jenna that she was only privy to see. Brett always tried to see the good in people. She looked to make a connection with them. Feeling like she was the one that could make a difference to someone who was lonely, lost, or misunderstood. After all, Tori had abandoned her and she vowed never to do that to anyone.

After that episode, Jenna was on her best behavior. For almost a year, Brett and Jenna had seemed happy. Jenna appeared to want to make a go of their relationship convincing Brett that she was right in being patient with her. Brett felt she had succeeded in turning things around for Jenna through the unconditional love she offered her. She even tried to put on a good show in front of Brett’s friends and family. However, under the surface, nothing had really changed.

Brett continued her studies nurturing her insatiable appetite for reading and writing. Writing in her diary, she developed her skills as a writer. Creating an amazing world that could only be born in her vivid imagination. Her teachers went out of their way to make sure her gift was recognized. Award after award was bestowed upon her. Towards the end of Brett’s last year of her post graduate studies, she was approached by Clarendon Press to publish her work, “The Unexpected Knight”.

Of course, Jenna’s control was beginning to slip away. The last straw was a call Brett received from Columbia University offering her a position on staff. Everything Brett had ever dreamed of was falling into place and Jenna saw herself less and less in Brett’s plans.

Alexi and Adrian received offers for jobs in New York and were already in the process of solidifying their plans. Jenna was offered a position at the University of Michigan in their Math Department.

When Brett told Jenna she was considering taking the position in New York, Jenna lost it. Jenna accused Brett of planning this all along. She claimed that Brett was just using her. That all the work that Jenna had done was for nothing. Of course, Brett didn’t know that Jenna wasn’t actually going to therapy.

Jenna had refused to let Brett accompany her to her sessions claiming the therapist felt this was something that Jenna had to do by herself. She had only gone to a couple of sessions when the doctor told Jenna that she was suffering from posttraumatic illness due to events in her childhood.

The illness had manifested itself in an unrealistic view of reality and an inability to handle everyday problems in a rational manner. Not wanting to accept what the doctor had said, she left and never looked back.

Change is a difficult thing to accept. Although many people may hurt us, especially those closest to us, there comes a time when we have to make a decision to be responsible for ourselves. Sometimes the problems that we face are of our own making. It takes hard work to want to change one’s life. It is so much easier to blame others for what’s wrong with our existence. It is all too easy to use the wrongs that have happened to us as a crutch to keep us from standing on our own reaching our full potential.

The rage that had been kept unchecked for over a year was now boiling over in full force. Brett told Jenna she wanted her to be with her. That maybe she could find a position in the New York area. She begged her to understand how important this was to her.

“NO. This is not going to happen to me again,” Jenna’s mind screamed.

Without thinking, the doors to all of Jenna’s rage were unleashed on an unsuspecting Brett. Jenna didn’t hear Brett’s cries for help or the strangled plea to stop. All she saw and heard were the many years of unacceptance from her parents and the taunting faces of family members laughing at her for not being good enough to love.

Brett was not going to leave her. This time she would not be the one left behind.

Hours later, Adrian and Alexi arrived home. What they found was a sight they would never forget. The apartment looked like a tornado had dropped down on it. There on the floor was a catatonic Jenna rocking a bruised and battered Brett.

It would take weeks for Brett to gain consciousness and years to heal from the mental anguish of what was done to her. This incident was kept under wraps. Brett did not want anyone to know. The only ones who were told were the publisher, the university and Brett’s immediate family. A part of Brett felt so ashamed for allowing this to happen to her.

Jenna was admitted to a mental hospital. Something had snapped that day. When Brett was asked if she would be pressing charges, she asked only that Jenna receive the care that she desperately needed.

Columbia University and Clarendon Press were contacted by the Montgomery family and were informed of the situation. Both the heads of the University’s English department and Brett’s contact at Clarendon told them Brett’s privacy would be respected and the situation would be handled with complete discretion. The Montgomerys were also told that the position would be waiting for Brett when she was ready and for them not to worry.

So the healing process began. Brett went to therapy and slowly but surely her physical wounds healed and her mental wounds, though not fully healed, grew less debilitating. Slowly Brett grew stronger and more self-assured as time went on.

Brett, Alexi and Adrian moved into an apartment in Manhattan on 70th and Park with Lauren. Brett took on her position at Columbia and started writing for Clarendon Press. Within the last four years, Brett released three best sellers and was well on her way to a fourth.

Brett never went to see Jenna again after the incident but was informed of her progress. After 2 years of therapy and an order for continued outpatient sessions, Jenna was finally released.

The university was never told of the true nature of what had happened and was only told that Jenna had to go back home to take care of some family problems. Well it wasn’t all a lie. She did have some family problems she had to address. When she went back to the university to get her position back, she too was accepted.

Jenna had learned many things while she was in therapy. Most of all she finally learned to love herself. She would forever be grateful to Brett for the compassionate way she handled the situation. A lesser person would have hung Jenna out to dry.

Snapping out of her reverie, Brett sent out a thank you of her own. She had so much to be thankful for and she would never take that for granted ever again.
Installment Eleven

The meal was finished and everyone got up to go into the living room. Many had not seen each other in years and were looking forward to catching up with one another.

Tori and Brett tried many times to get to each other. Every time steps were made to close the gap, someone would intercept them and pull them aside to find out how life had been treating them.

Brett had heard from Lauren that Tori had changed. She told Brett many times she was concerned for Tori and wished that she would find someone to make her happy. This comment never fell on deaf ears. However, looking at Tori now, she did not see what her sister was talking about. If it was at all possible, Tori looked even more beautiful to her.

After Brett had tried for what seemed like an eternity to talk to Tori, she finally decided she needed to get some air. She stepped out on to the veranda off the living room and took in a cleansing breath. To her surprise, she felt arms close around her waist and a low seductive voice filled her ears, “Hello little one. It’s so good to see you.” Brett felt chills go up her spine. Brett turned around in the embrace and met with the eyes she had always loved. “Tori. Oh god! It is so good to see you also.” She returned the embrace lavished in the feel of warmth she had not felt in years.

The two melted into each other and stood like that for a long, quiet moment.

Tori was the first to break the silence. “Life seems to be agreeing with you little one. You look amazing. It actually took me a moment to recognize it was you when I first walked in.”

Brett felt the blush seep across her face and felt the warmth that was making itself known in her belly.

With a wink and a smile she answered, “Uh, thanks Tori. I see you can still charm your way around….. you old heartbreaker. Of course you know you always looked beautiful to me.” Take that Tori. Brett thought as she stepped back to see if her words were having any effect. They did.

She’s flirting with me. I cannot believe she’s flirting with me. Trying to get back her composure, Tori quickly averted the attention away from herself. “If you say so. So Brett….. I‘m sure you hear this all the time, but I’m a really huge fan of yours. I’ve been following your writing career and I’m totally hooked on your series. What you’re able to do with words is nothing short of amazing.”

Brett was not really expecting this admission. It’s not every day that the person you base one of your main characters on up and admits they’ve read your work.

******

In her series, a young blond haired, green-eyed reporter named, Nicole Haledon finds herself in many dangerous situations. Determined to make a difference by getting the inside scoop and expose the criminal element that plagues the city, she without regard for herself, willingly places herself in danger to draw out the enemy.

Marina Masterson plays the Unexpected Knight: A tall, beautiful blue eyed brunette, who just happens to be the daughter of one of the CIA’s top undercover agents. Her father is a very powerful and successful business executive and is never suspected of working for the government. This allows him the opportunity to take on many international cases, taking down many an unsuspecting international criminal. When all is said and done, they find themselves in jail never knowing what hit them.

Ever since Marina was a little girl, her father taught her everything he had learned. From running an international business, to being an undercover CIA agent: giving her the skills of an expert assassin and the fine subtleties of a beautiful heiress. Hoping upon hope that one day she might want to take over the family business.

Marina just happened to be around during one of Nicole’s first stories. On this particular story, Nicole was witness to a brutal murder and was well on her way to becoming a victim when Marina came to her rescue.

Since then Marina kept close tabs on Nicole and waited patiently until she was needed again. With Nicole’s penchant for trouble, she never had to wait very long. As time goes on, Nicole and Marina are pushed together with every case.

Helpless to stop, they find they are both in danger of losing their lives and hearts to one another.

*******

Brett’s mind was reeling. Is it possible that Tori knows how I feel for her? I mean….how could Tori not see herself in the stor? Tori IS Marina in so many ways and I’m so much like Nicole. The physical description alone was a dead give away.

Tori watched as a plethora of emotions ran across Brett’s face. Not wanting to embarrass Brett anymore, she continued. “ I’ve always had a weakness for creative people. You’ve absolutely captured me with your writing.” Okay what was that! Now I’m babbling. Tori thought.

This would be a good time to say something, thought Brett to herself. Okay breath. That’s right. Engage the brain. Okay. Now speak. “Well, if you keep that up Miss Hull, there won’t be enough room on this veranda for you and my huge head.”

Tori laughed and took Brett in her arms again. God how I’ve missed you Brett. Using all of her will power, she released Brett enough so she could see the writer’s face. “So tell me where are you living now? Are you still in Michigan?”

“No. I live here in the city with Alexi, Adrian, and Lauren.”

“Really? You’re not living with Jenna anymore?”, Tori uttered trying not to be too obvious.

“No. I haven’t been with her for about four years now. Things didn’t work out… I could tell you the whole sorted story someday. It’s really too long to go over in such a short amount of time. Maybe you and I could get together the next time you come back to the states. You’re still in London right?”

“I was. But I’m going to be living here now.”

Brett’s head snapped up in attention, “Really? When did this happen?”

“Actually today. I mean, I’ve been planning to come back for a couple of months. But I literally just arrived today. My suit cases are still in the trunk of the limo.”

With a power that didn’t match her size, Brett flung herself headlong into Tori’s arms. “Oh Tori. That is so wonderful. I can’t tell you how much you’ve been missed. Not just by me. But all of us. This news is really going to make everyone’s Thanksgiving.”

Feeling a joy that she had not felt in years, Tori held Brett to her with equal enthusiasm. “Well, thank you. You don’t know how much that means to me Brett. I feel like I’ve been away for so long. Everyone has changed and yet it feels like home. You don’t now how much I’ve missed this.” She felt Brett shiver. Thinking it was due to the November evening. “Oh my goodness. Where are my manners. Here it is freezing out here and I’m talking your ears off. Come on before you catch a cold and your father whips my butt.” Taking Brett’s hand, they made their way back inside.

The truth was neither of them really felt the cold. The warmth of their connection had actually surrounded them and for the first time in years, everything seemed right in the world.

All eyes turned to them as they walked in. Knowing looks graced everyone’s face. No one could deny the fact that Tori and Brett made a stunning couple with light and dark complementing each other in subtle but beautiful contrast. Gordon and Richard nodded to one another practically giving each other an imaginary high five. It was wonderful when a plan came together. There just might be a union between the Hulls and the Montgomerys yet. Yes, Gordon thought. There is much to be thankful for. And this year…… everyone’s home.
Installment Twelve

Victoria went about the business of getting settled in her new life. Richard and Victoria agreed that the transfer of power would be better received if it were done slowly allowing the employees and board members time to adjust to Victoria’s coming on board. After all, it was a dream of Tori’s to work side by side with her father.

Ian was also glad that Victoria had come home. His relationship with Pamela was a bit strained what with the new baby’s arrival and the pile up of work that had accumulated. With Victoria and their father putting off his retirement, they could spread the responsibilities out evenly and run the business more efficiently.

Tori had brought in a lot of new business and they could finally catch up on all the work that had backed up. Ian and Richard discovered that Victoria had an incredible sense of the whole as far as the business was concerned. Her approach was a bit unorthodox at times but her reasons for doing it were understandable. While she was in London, it was hard to understand what Victoria’s plan of attack was. Now that she was able to sit down with them and explain her actions for the last four years, everything seemed to make sense.

One day Victoria called a board meeting. Those present at the time were her family and other members of the board. One of which was Gordon Montgomery. When Victoria was finished her presentation, everyone was left sitting with his or her mouth wide open. Victoria’s plans were brilliant. Each acquisition, each negotiation in the last four years was part of a complex puzzle crafted in Victoria’s head. Every business played an integral part in her plan. If Victoria’s master plan came to fruition, Hull enterprises would literally employ hundreds of thousands of people thus providing a stable environment to countless families and boosting many sagging economies. Everyone listened as Victoria went over projection after projection, study after study quoting proven methods and possible outcomes. Hull would be involved in international commerce, state of the art technology, and provide funding for much needed medical research in a bureaucratic health industry. The board had many questions for Victoria. With poise and grace, she answered each and every one with intelligence and ease. When the meeting ended, everyone agreed that Victoria Hull would be the next CEO of Hull Enterprises.

Through all of this, a very proud Richard Hull watched as his daughter captivated the board and assumed the position of the future CEO of Hull Enterprises. His daughter was back and she was better than ever.

*****

Victoria had been staying with her family in South Hampton, but wanted a place in town. Viewing many listings, she finally decided on a property. The moment she saw it she new it was perfect and within 30 days, closed on a very spacious and prestigious penthouse overlooking the park.

She met with an interior designer. Every piece was chosen with her tastes in mind, and a little consideration was paid as to what Brett might like. She knew it was wishful thinking but a girl could dream, right?

With her plans for Hull Enterprises in place, her home found and furnished, the next step was decided.

Victoria had heard that every Friday night, all the girls went over to a club called “The Grove”. Lauren had invited her to come many times but she had always declined.

With everything now in place, she decided to cut out of work early on Friday and go shopping. She treated herself to a new haircut and clothes ending the afternoon at the spa. Feeling absolutely spoiled, she went to the club. She was dressed in a pair of black leather pants, a blue silk blend low cut V-neck sweater that matched her eyes, black Bandolino leather boots, and a floor length leather jacket. She entered the club and scanned the area. It was an old converted warehouse on the pier. Tori had never seen anything like it. The dance floor was huge. Surrounding it were strategically placed bars. Above the dance floor were three other levels all looking down onto it. Two wide spiral staircases were located on opposite corners of the club and two glass elevators balanced the other two corners leading to the upper levels. The theme was tropical in nature with waterfalls cascading down the walls. There were tall coconut trees, other tropical plants, and quaint bridges that spanned over little ponds. Filtered jungle sounds and light misting all over the club completed the mood. When you looked up you found a skylight that covered the whole ceiling allowing you to have an incredible view of the sky. The second level had an arcade, ping pong and billiard hall, a bowling alley, and a skating rink.

The third floor held a food court and “Cornucopia”, an upscale restaurant featuring an array of palatable feasts. The fourth floor had various intimate lounges where people could sit and enjoy a quieter atmosphere. VIP rooms were available as well for private functions.

French doors and windows ran from floor to ceiling along each level allowing you to venture outside and look out onto the river. The first floor opened onto a deck allowing you to walk along the boardwalk.

Tori was amazed with the place. It had every kind of entertainment that you could possibly want under one roof. And it only catered to adults at night. Looking around, she knew there was no way she would be able to find the girls in this place. Pulling out her cell phone, she pulled up Lauren’s number and tried to track them down that way.

Lauren had tried for weeks to get Tori to come out with them. But she was always told that she was too busy. It was understandable. Their father, Gordon, had told them during the holidays of Victoria’s plans for Hull Enterprises. It was quite extensive. Lauren really wanted to get Tori and Brett together but time was working against her. Or at least the lack of it.

After Lauren informed Brett of how busy Victoria was now, Brett decided to wait for Tori to get settled in before she tested the waters. Lauren had told Brett that she thought Tori was interested however Brett wasn’t quite as convinced. Brett hadn’t really dated anyone seriously since Jenna. She was a little gun shy. However, if in the end she might be with Tori, then she could wait. Tori was definitely worth it.

Lauren, Brett, Alexi, and Adrian were upstairs just beginning to order their meal when Lauren’s cell phone rang.

“Hello.”

“Lauren? Hey… its Tori.”

“Hey gorgeous! Where are you?”

“Well I’m at The Grove.”

“No way! So are we.” She looked around to see if she could spot Tori.

“Actually, I’m at the front door. Where are you?”

“We’re on level three grabbing something to eat. You haven’t eaten have you? The food here is incredible.”, Lauren exclaimed.

“No, I haven’t. Okay…well I’ll be right up. See you in a minute.” This was it. She was finally going to get to see Brett and hopefully spend some time with her. She excitedly made her way to one of the elevators.

Looking at everyone, Lauren told them that Tori was on her way and that she would be up in a minute.

Brett immediately felt her heart rate pick up. Tori’s here? Okay… breath Brett… That right, nice… deep…. breath… Whew… That feels better. Okay you can handle this. “Oh my God…”

They spotted Victoria making her way towards them. All eyes in the place watched her come into the restaurant wondering who this beautiful creature was.

“Hey guys. How’s it going?” Tori went around the table and gave everyone a hug, lingering a little longer when she reached Brett.

The waiter quickly came over, obviously in lust. “Miss, will you be joining us this evening?”

Tori nodded and waiters everywhere came running over to set a place for her.

Tori let out a little laugh and thanked everyone for their hospitality. Sitting down, she met four smirking faces.

“What?” asked Tori.

Lauren spoke first. “You know Brett is absolutely right. You are a heartbreaker.”

Tori in all seriousness turned towards Brett, took her hand in hers and looked her straight in the eyes. “You know baby…If I was ever given a chance with you… there is absolutely no way I’d ever break your heart.” With a wink and a smile, she placed a tender kiss on Brett’s hand and then let go. Without another word, she nonchalantly picked up her menu and picked something to eat.

Adrian had just taken a sip of her water when she heard what Tori had said. With an absolute lack of grace she proceeded to cover a very pissed off Alexi with the contents of her drink. Lauren quickly got up and ran over to Adrian patting her on the back to try to stop her from swallowing her tongue. Brett on the other hand just sat there stunned.

The waiter came over and asked if everything was all right. When he received an appropriate answer, he turned to Tori and asked if she was ready to order. Calmly placing her order, she waited until he was far enough away and fell into a fit of uncontrolled laughter. The laughter was so infectious that everyone else joined in.

When they finally calmed down, Tori apologized for what she had done. She didn’t notice the look of disappointment in Brett’s eyes. Brett had hoped that Tori was flirting with her. Instead she took the apology as Tori just being playing and not meaning a word of it.

After dinner was over, they went down to the dance floor. They found a table and ordered another round of drinks. Lauren had spotted a group of friends and said she would be right back. Alexi and Adrian got up to dance because they were playing Adrian’s favorite song leaving a very quiet Brett and apologetic Tori alone together.

“Look Brett, I’m really sorry for what I said up there. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

Brett looked at Tori. “Look it’s okay. I understand. Can we just drop it please.” There was a definite hint of irritation in her voice.

Tori lifted Brett’s chin making sure she had Brett’s complete attention. She tried again. “No Brett. I don’t think you do understand. Yes, I am sorry I picked that moment to tell you. But I don’t regret a word of what I said.”

Tori moved her hand to Brett’s cheek and moved in a little closer. “You have always meant the world to me.” Brett tried to move away not wanting to hear the little girl speech again. However, Tori stopped her.

“Listen to me. I love you Brett…I’ve always loved you…I would do anything and everything to make sure your heart was never ever broken.” Tori watched as a single tear made its way down Brett’s cheek.

Thinking this was not where she wanted to have this conversation, Tori looked around the club and spotted what she was looking for. She grabbed their coats, got up, and took Brett’s hand in hers. “Come on. Let’s go outside and talk.”
Installment Thirteen

They made their way over to Lauren and Tori whispered something in her ear. Lauren nodded in understanding and leaned over giving Brett a quick hug telling her she would talk to her tomorrow. They waved goodbye to Adrian and Alexi and then headed toward the French doors that would bring them to the boardwalk. Tori held Brett’s coat out for her and helped her put it on. Placing on her own, she took Brett’s hand again and they went outside.

They walked hand in hand for a long while in silence. Both were lost in their thoughts. When Victoria finally gathered her courage, she came to a stop. From where they were standing, they could see New Jersey across the river and the George Washington Bridge in the distance. The clanging of a flagpole line and the sounds of the wind across a hypnotic tide filled the crisp cold night.

Victoria had waited for this moment for so long. She wanted it to be perfect. From the corner of her eye, she could see Brett shiver. When she thought about it, she was shivering as well. Okay Tori it’s now or never. Turning, she took a deep breath and tried to calm down.

“Brett…for a long time now I’ve wanted to tell you how I’ve felt. How much you mean to me.” Tori took Brett in her arms needing to feel their closeness. Brett sank into Tori’s embrace. She could not believe she was actually in Tori’s arms again.

“Ever since we were kids, you’ve had my heart.” Tori ran her hand down Brett’s back and kissed the top of her head. “I’m sure you’ve wondered why I stopped paying attention to you when we were younger. Oh Brett. I never wanted to hurt you. If anything, I just wanted to love you.” Tori looked at Brett while she said this. She then ran the tip of her nose up Brett’s forehead and placed another kiss there. Wrapping her arms even tighter around Brett, she inhaled the scent of Brett’s shampoo.

“I was so confused back then. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I just could not get you out of my mind. I wanted you so desperately.”

Brett pulled away from Tori so she could see her face, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Tori what are you saying?”

Tori bent her head down, leaned her forehead against Brett’s, and let out a deep sigh. “I’m saying…I’m saying the reason I…Damn it Brett. I’m saying I was in love with you… I was so in love with you that I used to cry myself to sleep every night.”

Brett was so confused. She hadn’t expected this admission. The last thing she thought Tori would say was that she was in love with her when they were kids. For so long she thought Tori had grown tired of her, lost interest in their friendship.

“Tori, why didn’t you just tell me? Instead of making me think you had just lost interest in me and wanted to be with Cole instead.” Brett desperately needed to understand Tori’s motives.

“I thought if you found out how I felt about you, you’d hate me. I couldn’t bear to see the look of disgust in your eyes. I thought it was better that you thought I was just interested in boys than seeing me as some kind of pervert. That’s why I started to see Cole. Besides honey, you were eleven years old. How could you possible understand what I was going through?”

“What do you mean Tori? How could I possibly know what you were going through? Since the day I was born, you were a part of my life. We did everything together. The sun didn’t shine unless you asked it to. The moon didn’t rise until you said it was time. My world didn’t spin unless you helped it along. When you were no longer there……” Brett stopped and turned her back away from Tori. Her emotions were now too close to the surface. She paused to get her composure back looking out onto the river. In a voice so low, Tori could barely hear her. She continued. ” When you were no longer there,…….a part of me left with you.”

At hearing these words, Tori’s heart broke all over again. What have I done? Tori went behind Brett and cautiously wrapped her arms around her. “Brett it seems my actions have hurt both of us. At the time, I did what I thought was the right thing to do. But no matter what I did to protect you, it just seemed to backfire. It didn’t work for you and it most certainly didn’t work for me. I thought if I replaced you with Cole, my feelings would change. When I went away to Harvard and Cambridge, I thought a little distance between us would be the answer. But no amount of time or distance would ever erase you from my heart and mind.”

Brett stood there in disbelief. So many years she had wondered what had happened to them. Now all the answers were being laid out in front of her.

“When I was working for your father, Lauren had asked me to go with her to see you in Michigan. That weekend, I was ready to tell you how I felt. I didn’t want to waste another minute. Whatever the consequences, even if all I could have was your friendship. Then it would be enough for me. I missed you so much. I felt like a part of me had been missing too. I told myself whatever the outcome, whatever you chose,… at least you would know and I wouldn’t wonder anymore. Then I found out you were with Jenna. I can’t tell you how crushed I was that night. She didn’t deserve you. I felt like she took away what was rightfully mine.” Tears started to fill both sets of eyes and Brett turned around and put her arms around Tori, burying her face in Tori’s chest.

“Oh Tori I’m so sorry.” Brett remembered how they were always able to talk to each other when they were younger and wondered how they could have gotten so lost.

“I must have walked…Oh… 20 miles that night. I just kept picturing your face and the look you had given me. You wanted to be with me didn’t you?” She felt Brett’s tears soak the front of her sweater and felt Brett’s head nod yes. “I knew that…you were always so good about keeping your word. I knew you had made a commitment to Jenna and wouldn’t leave her. I told myself that I would understand if you couldn’t return my feelings. But to lose you to another woman just devastated me. For so many years, I had worked to keep my feelings from you and there you were committed to a woman. The irony of the situation just ate away at me. I kept seeing her touch you and kiss you with that smug look on her face. The thought of never being the one to love you left me sad, lonely and bitter.” Tori remembered the darkness that had surrounded her during the past few years and she could hear it calling to her. “I made a decision that night. I promised that I would never allow myself to feel that kind of pain again. These last six years, I did everything I could to forget you Brett. I did despicable things.” Tori lost her control as a wave of guilt hit her. Her tears spilt over leaving her a bundle of insecurity.

Brett held Tori even tighter. She hadn’t seen Tori this vulnerable since they were kids. “Honey… it’s alright. What ever it is, we’ll work it out.”

“Oh Brett. I’m not even worthy to be your friend, much less someone you could love…” This was not what Tori had wanted to happen. Her past was finally catching up with her and it was time to pay the piper. Her head was telling her the price would once again be a life without Brett.

“No Tori. You’re wrong. We both have done things that have kept us apart. And though it’s gonna take time for those wounds to heal, I can’t lose you again. I will not let you walk out of my life this time. Fight Tori? Fight for what we both know exists between us. Please…Please Tori…. Fight.”

Tori felt a glimmer of hope rise up as she heard Brett’s plea. “Oh Brett… I want to…I want to so badly… If you can find it in your heart to give me a chance, I’ll work so hard to be someone you can be proud of. I need you Brett.” Tori ran her lips down Brett’s cheek and neck not wanting to lose the intensity that was building between them.”I love you so much…You don’t know how I’ve dreamt to hold you, to kiss you, to love you. Oh Brett, I so want to love you.” The tears were flowing freely now and they both held on so tightly to each other neither wanting to break the connection.

Brett was overwhelmed with emotion. Tori was expressing to her everything she had ever wanted to hear. Saying everything she ever wanted to say. Victoria Hull loved her. There was so much wasted time. So much pain endured. She knew there was much left to say. But they would have time. Now they had the rest of their lives. And nothing was going to stand in their way. Brett released Tori just far enough so she could see Tori’s beautiful face and look into her beautiful eyes. “Love me, Tori… Love me. Just don’t ever stop.”

Tori looked at Brett and for what seemed like the first time, the two souls met finally seeing each other for who they truly were.

“Never…Never…I’m never gonna stop loving you.”

Brett and Tori kissed with the heat of passion that had long been denied. They could not get close enough and both knew that that this hunger for each other would never truly be satiated. Nevertheless, they would spend a lifetime trying.

THE END
Continued in Book 2 It’s Just The Beginning

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