R’ Place by Minerva

R’ Place
(Our Place)
by Minerva

Part 1

“Hello,” Gabrielle said her voice raspy from sleep. She scratched her long red-blonde tresses and rubbed the sleep out of droopy green eyes.

What are you doing?”

“Ummmm, lets see I was outside eating grass from the yard like a rabid dog. What did you think I was doing? Sheesh, I was sleeping Shannon!

“I would have thought you’d be up writing.” There was an audible sigh. “Anyway, I’m depressed, I think I’m in love with Wayne.”

“No, ran out of juice around midnight. Um, excuse me, and you’re WHAT! Well tell him man what are you wasting my time for?! Say are all gay men like this?”

“Like what?”

“Spoiled, pretentious, obnoxious, ummm indecisive maybe? Oh, and do they call their friends at 4am!!”

“Gab,” the laughter was obvious in his voice, “you’re always so sweet to me, and I always seem to get a straight answer from you.”

“Enny hoo, are you still going with us tonight?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’m gonna meet you guys at ten right?”

“Yeah, right,” Shannon laughed again, ” I can’t believe it your first drag show and a gay bar!. Are you sure you’re straight girl? I wonder about you.”

“Hell no, I’m about as crooked as you can get. Still, hey you never know if I find the right woman…” she left the comment hanging in the air.

“Well okay girl, you can go back to your grass now. I‘ll see ya tonight. Oh, one more thing, I’ll tell him.”

“Ya, you had better cause if you don’t I might unintentionally let it slip out –you know say like when I’m sneezing or eating…..”

“Ooooooo, ok ok you’re a hard woman! Night Gab.”

“G’night.”

With an amused look, Gabrielle peered at the now toneless phone. She had known Shannon since college at IU, and even then, he called her at weird hours of the morning wanting to talk about his problems. Fortunately, some things, like their friendship, never changed.

****

Gabrielle glanced out the bathroom window to gage the weather. While she loved living in Indiana, she knew in the winter it went from cold, colder, to just stay in the house. To make matters worse living in a city in the middle of the state, Terre Haute, didn’t help much either. They seemed to get the caste offs in weather, in people, even in politicians. Still, she loved living in a city where the leaves turned the color of her hair and various other shades. For some reason, it settled her to see death and regeneration in an endless cycle. It was a perfect foil to the argument that all things come to an end. She savored the idea. There was something poetic about it. Gabrielle sighed and looked back into the mirror, doing last minute adjustments. Her red-blonde hair lay loose and wild on her shoulders, and she checked her make up. She wiped an imaginary piece of lint off her creased khakis and green sweater, which were just enough to ward off the crisp late October weather.

“Understated and casual, just what I need. Don’t want too much attention from the ladies.” She smiled at herself in the mirror. “Too much—ha, at least I’m admitting that I want some at all. Funny thing this sexuality.” Deep down she had been struggling with her sexual identity for sometime. It was time to stop lying and face up to facts. She tapped her chin, “What if I do meet someone?” Swallowing, “Well, first time for everything I can’t hide forever. It may be a coming out party tonight, and I’m ready for whatever it brings.” With one more deep breath, she grabbed her keys and walked quickly out the door to her car. Driving from one neighborhood to the next, it still struck a cord, even though she had lived here for years, when the scenery changed from practically street to street. It went from affluent with large houses, glittering in the moonlight with their impeccable paint jobs and perfectly symmetrical grass to streets with houses that seemed to be weeping in pain where paint chips peeled, rafters sagged, and lawns were littered with garbage.

She whispered thanks that she lived somewhere in the middle. ‘Some progress for a college town,’ she thought to herself. By some seemingly secret agreement, this is where the cast offs lived from African Americans to Asian to Hispanics. Shaking her head, she whispered in the silent car, “Whoever said redlining was dead was clearly disillusioned.” She closed her eyes briefly wishing she had the money and the clout to change it all because giving to charity didn’t seem to be working anymore. Taking a cleansing breath, she tried to lighten the mood as she drove up into the parking lot of the bar. Appropriately, the bar was located in this same area. The little redhead smirked at the irony.

****

Gabrielle sat in her car in the parking lot grinning at herself in the mirror. She did a little dance in her head that went along with the mantra “Going to a gay bar yeah”. She could tell from outside it was a small place even with the upstairs. It looked like a cross between a barn a house if it was possible, and the paint had long since faded from white to a dusty beige. It had a huge logo with the name R’ Place written across it. There were lights flashing in the windows, and the hypnotic, thrumming beat of club music was very audible.

She walked right into the smoky bar area where a pasty white man with a beard took her ten dollars and tried to card her. Now, she thought THAT was funny. The air was heavy with smoke, the sound of clanging glasses, and laughter. The bar area was surrounded with leather stools with both men and women sitting and waiting for their drinks, each other, and probably even life. There were other tables, small ones away from the bar that were sparsely populated with people holding their drinks precariously, laughing, and even starring at her, noticing a non-reg when they saw one. They were all dressed casually, which afforded her a silent victory for wearing the old stand by khakis. She walked up to the bar, and before she could say a word, “Are you Gabrielle?” the bartender said. Her mouth closed with an almost audible click of the jaw, and she nodded her head.

“They’re upstairs waiting on you.” He pointed to the small winding staircase to the side. “Oh, hold on they told me to send you up with this.” He shoved a pitcher of beer into her hands. Gabrielle gave her best infectious smirk, and the bartender smiled back.

“Thanks, I think,” she said.

Upstairs was a different thing all together. The music pounded and her heart could not help but beat the same rhythm. Dance lights cascaded about the room, putting everyone in it’s technicolor rainbow. In the middle of the room, a long runway extended almost half way out into the audience. Looking around with the benefit of the rainbow, she noticed reds were over on one side, blues on the other, and ahh she spotted her friends over there with the green. She saw Wayne’s blonde head bobbing to the music, and she could see Shannon’s darker one leaning toward him. She walked over oblivious of several sets of eyes following her compact figure. The pitcher sat down with a thump on the table.

Wayne smiled up at her, “Heyyyy gorgeous, thanks for the beer.”

Gabrielle looked at him with shining eyes, “Your welcome, I put it on your tab!” His eyes shown with merriment, and he made an imaginary one in the air and a zero on the other side.

Gabrielle sat down feeling giddy, naughty, and a whole host of other emotions. Adrenaline pumped through her veins. She poured herself a beer—started to sip it but chugged it instead. Shannon and Wayne regarded her with wide eyes.

“What?!” she said accusingly to them both.

“Ohhhhhhh, Shannon exclaimed, “I’m glad you brought your own car. I’m wondering about you tonight!”

Gabrielle gave him a sly grin as Wayne cackled happily, “Gabs, I got a feeling your gonna to be a bad girl tonight.” All three of them laughed.

Wayne draped his arm over her shoulders, “Hey guess what your friend over here told me?”

“Hmmmm, he still wants you to get his name tattooed on your ass?”, Gabrielle laughed.

He smacked his lips, “Noooo already did that—he told me the L word ooooooo!”

“Thats great Wayne,” she smiled at them as Shannon leaned in for a kiss from his lover. Then she hung her head, “I’m glad you two found each other.”

Wayne tapped her chin softly, “Hey gorgeous—you know that someone is waiting to find you. You’re too great a person to be alone, and hell I love ya!” He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.

“Thanks guys.” She felt the blush creeping up her ears.

“Tsk, oh my my my and she blushes sexy too—get this woman a man!” Gabrielle raised an eyebrow. “Or a woman,” he said both eyebrows raised over baby blues.

Gabrielle smacked him on the arm. “Behave you!” Gabrielle poured herself another beer and downed it aware of amused eyes watching her across the table. “Gab, you’re gonna love the show. Some of these guys could fool you in a heartbeat!”

Just then the curtain opened on the stage and a tall, lithe figure stepped out. Long, impossibly long midnight hair cascaded down her back, and the flashing lights did nothing but accent the hollows and plains in the exotic face. The woman sported baggy black pants, and a white shirt cut off around her flat stomach. Her presence seemed to suck all the air out of the room. She scanned the room lazily. Suddenly, the regular lights came on and some announcement about a lost contact permeated the air. Gabrielle sucked in a breath and her beer stopped midway to her lips. All she could hear was the accelerating thump of her heart and the blood rushing through her veins. The most incredible blue eyes finally made it her way, and she gasped.

The woman was breathtaking. Gabrielle could see the clear, smooth olive skin, the play of muscles in the woman’s abdomen, and long, well shaped legs. She felt as if she was seeing an erotic work of art prance around in front of her. The dark woman walked with regal confidence. Her gaze seemed to stop on the redhead, and a knowing smile spread the gorgeous ruby coated lips. Gabrielle felt drops of coolness in her lap, and she almost jumped up when she realized her drink was about to spill. By the time she looked up again, the woman was moving quickly down the stairs. She closed her eyes and commanded her heart to slow down. She rubbed her sweaty palms on her pant leg, and mentally bristled at the fact that some woman could turn her head that quickly, when she just admitted to herself what she really wanted. She could feel concerned gazes and opened her eyes slowly. Shannon and Wayne looked at her worriedly.

Before they could say anything, “Wwho –was that one?”

“Oh, no you mean the woman that just walked by? One of the queens is her brother.”

Gabrielle’s hands were visibly shaking when she sat the mug back on the table. She closed her eyes again.

“Are you alright, Gabs?”

“Yeah its just that—that woman I’ve never seen—God she was gorgeous.” Gabrielle stammered.

Wayne and Shannon looked at each other and almost inaudible o’s came from their mouths. “Oh Ms. Thang is always here, her name is Tara,” Shannon explained. “You seemed to have had quiet the reaction to her?”

“Umm yeah. I need—um where is the bathroom?”

“Downstairs.” Wayne and Shannon said in unison.

“Kay.” Gabrielle got up and walked quickly to the stairs.

“Well,” Shannon said, “I think someone just got a wake up call.”

Once downstairs it was as though she was walking through clear but deep water, moving slowly but able to see everything. The music faded in the background, and each step she took corresponded with the accelerated beat of her heart. Slowly, Gabrielle made it over to the bar. Tara was standing there talking with the bartender. As if she felt eyes on her, the taller woman turned and looked directly at the small redhead. She gave Gabrielle another dazzling smile, and got one just as dazzling and a little nervous in return.

“Um excuse me? Where is the ladies room?” she asked the bartender, aware of Tara’s eyes on her.

“Its right through there.” A rich, velvet voice replied.

Gabrielle gulped. Tara’s voice reverberated through her making her blood hum. The shorter woman was so close to the brunette that she could smell her. It was the smell of something wild, untamable, and it called to her. Gabrielle looked up in the process of saying thanks and became captured by eyes that looked through her. She felt naked and exposed and decided that the feeling was not so bad. There was no need to deny what was going on.

“Hi,” Gabrielle said with a voice filled with unnamable emotion. She cleared her throat, “Um, hi and thanks.”

“Your welcome” Tara purred. “Uh, I didn’t catch the name?”

“G…G…Gabrielle.”

Her smile seemed to get bigger with the stutter in Gabrielle’s voice.

“I’m Tara. Oh, and I’d better let you get to the bathroom!”

Gabrielle smiled sheepishly and made a beeline for the bathroom. Tara looked at Vince, the bartender, who was staring at her knowingly, “What!” she smiled. He just shook his head and grinned.

She sat down on one of the bar stools and ran her now sweaty hands over the smooth wood. She willed her heart to stop ramming against her ribcage. If she closed her eyes, she could see the sparkling green eyes lit with a smile. Her eyes snapped open as her breath caught. She knew she had never reacted to a woman this way especially when they just met, but something was going
on–something unique, something special, something cliche. Tara took a deep breath and felt control skitter away in the wake of lust and intrigue.

****

Meanwhile in the bathroom, after peeing, Gabrielle leaned into the sink and looked at herself in the mirror. Her face was flushed and her eyes were twinkling. ‘I should be scared,’ she thought, ‘having a reaction like that to a woman so soon’ Instead she just giggled. ” Whoa, I must be drunk, but I only had two beers. Sheesh, that woman is intoxicating enough.” Gabrielle felt compelled to know what was behind the blue eyes and sexy smile. She strengthened her resolve and opened the door, vowing to follow her heart if not her body. Half way out the door she noticed that Tara was standing there leaning against a table—maybe waiting for her? Gabrielle squealed and slammed the door shut. Tara glanced at Vince surprisingly and then shot him a die look when he walked further down the bar laughing—loudly.

The nervous woman leaned heavily against the door. She cursed herself for the ever present streak of shyness. “Ohgod oh god! Okay Gabs, get it together girl. Come on. You can do this.!” She repeated it to herself over and over trying to gain courage. Finally, she opened the door. Tara stood there grinning. Gabrielle gave her a shaky smile with some crimson colored cheeks thrown in. The small woman started to laugh and Tara joined in.

“Um sorry bout that –I-I get a little nervous sometimes.”

“It’s okay.” Tara put her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder and let it slide down into the smaller hand.

Eyes zeroed in on each other, revealing secrets, wants and desires. The moment was electric. Flesh burned and hummed like an uncontrollable fire in the making. Gabrielle gasped. The other patrons seemed to disappear. There stood only Tara and Gabrielle frozen in time, in the moment that signified a beginning –an inevitable beginning. The attraction between the two was palpable. The air around them seemed to crackle with energy, ready to devour them both and waiting for them to give in.

The moment was toned down when Tara smiled crookedly, “Gabrielle, um I have to get back to my brother, but can I see you later?”

The shorter woman simply nodded as the noise of the patrons filtered back in. “Okay I’ll follow you back up then.”

Gabrielle nodded again and proceeded in front of her. Tara grabbed her hand and followed her. A flushed face looked back into the eyes that seemed to beckon her not to break the contact. She licked her lips and gave Tara a reassuring smile. As they walked upstairs, Gabrielle kept glancing back into the eyes, into the face that had mesmerized her in a matter of minutes. Tara looked back at her hungrily with a predatory gleam that made the smaller woman shiver. Gabrielle had never been one for casual sex even when she was with men, but she wanted this woman–badly. Something deep inside told her that it would be anything but casual. When they reached the top of the stairs, Gabrielle stopped to look for Shannon and Wayne, making Tara stop close behind her—their bodies touching. Gabrielle whimpered and Tara let out a low growl near the strawberry blonde’s ear at the feel of the contact. The reds, blues, and greens of the light captured them as did the sultry beat of the music. Tara’s arms slid magically around Gabrielle’s waist. “I got you,” she said. Her voice raspy and her breathing harsh. “I gotta go, but I will see you in a little bit.” She squeezed the small waist and walked away.

Gabrielle watched her through lidded eyes as she disappeared behind the curtain. Her body buzzing with excitement and anticipation of what was to come—whatever was to come. She walked mechanically back over to her table, and just as mechanically sat down. Wayne and Shannon looked at each other and then at her.

“Whoa girlfriend, you work fast! What was all that about,” Shannon asked excitedly.

“She—we are gonna meet in a bit.”

“Oh my god Gab, that deserves another beer and another first—your first cigarette!” Wayne laughed.

She accepted the lit cigarette and began puffing. “Damn, this first thing feels good.”

“Uh, do you guys know anything about her?”

Wayne answered, “She is a regular here as far as I know and she seems to be something of a loner. I never see her with anybody, just her brother. I hear a lot of the ladies in here talking about her, but from what they say her armor hasn’t a chink in it, noone can get through.”

Gabrielle smiled in thanks and wondered why her and why now. She was jolted from her reverie as Wayne explained, “Well, here comes another first, the show is starting.”

****

Burlesque style music poured from the speakers as the DJ announced who was performing. When they got to the name Vanessa, Shannon leaned over and explained how she was Tara’s brother. Gabrielle hooted and whistled with the rest of the crowd as the first three queens performed in wild, tight, and unbelievable costumes.

“Oh my god Shannon! That is not a man! You can’t tell me that’s a man!”

As the queen stopped in front of their table wearing a bikini and a smile, dancing and lip syncing to a gritty R&B tune. Shannon laughed and shook his head, “Oh yeah they are! Just trust me on that one. Everything has been tucked and pushed—tis the magic that they possess!”

Gabrielle giggled loudly when the queen came and began to shake her rather shapely ass in her face. She grabbed a dollar off the table, grabbed hold of the bikini bottom and deposited it there. The queen turned around and gave the little woman a soft kiss on the lips. She laughed and clapped happily, having the time of her life. They announced the next performer as Vanessa, who came out in a very short, tight, and sinful little black dress. Gabrielle noticed the resemblance in the flashing blue eyes. She watched hypnotized as Vanessa danced and pranced around to a Shania Twain tune. Her hips swaying, eyes twinkling, she seemed to control the room. She made her way to their table and stood tall and majestic in front of Gabrielle. Her smile was a flash of white as she wound her hands through her hair and gyrated her hips in smaller woman’s face.

Vanessa leaned down and whispered, “She’ll be out in a minute.”

Gabrielle eyes went wide and she blushed furiously. Vanessa smirked. In the spirit of the night of firsts and in surreal fashion, Gabrielle got up grabbed two bucks off the table and started dancing with her. Wayne and Shannon sat there wide eyed and slack jawed. Gabrielle gently grabbed Vanessa’s hips and started gyrating with her. She placed the two dollars in the performer’s cleavage. She whooped and whistled and Vanessa laughed.

The queen leaned in and said, ” I like your style girl! Keep it up. It’s sure to keep my sister interested.”

Gabrielle smirked in thanks and patted Vanessa on the ass as she sauntered off. She sat back down pleasantly winded. Wayne poured her another drink, and Shannon lit her a cigarette. They both silently got up, kneeled on the floor, and began bowing. Gabrielle laughed outright enjoying the attention and the stares of the other patrons.

****

Later, the DJ announced an intermission and opened the dance floor for ten minutes. Wayne got up pulling Gabrielle, with Shannon following close behind. They got to the dance floor and Wayne positioned himself in front while Shannon was at the back. Shannon giggled and said something about a ‘Gabrielle sandwich’. The three friends gyrated against each other laughing all the while.

Wayne turned around as he felt a tap on his shoulder. He stared into the most amazing blue eyes he had ever seen.

“What is it they say? Um can I cut in?” Tara muttered and smirked.

“Sure” he said “but I usually don’t dance with strange women, but if you’re game!”

That got a smoky laugh from Tara and earned Wayne a smack on the ass from Gabrielle.

“You will have to excuse him, Shannon said as he batted his eyes at Tara, ” I don’t let him out of his cage much.”

“Oh my god will you two stop flirting with her –tch it’s shameless!”

Gabrielle whisked around and returned Tara’s smoky grin with a sexy one of her own. Then all of a sudden attacked by waves of shyness, she lowered her head, and said, “Hi” in a soft voice. Tara put her finger under Gabrielle’s chin and slowly lifted her face up to meet hers. “Hi, yourself. Ya wanna dance with me?”

It was then that Gabrielle wondered if she would ever say no to this woman for any reason. “Yes,” she said breathlessly.

They moved effortlessly to the middle of the dancefloor. Tara snaked her hands around Gabrielle’s waist, as the smaller woman moved her arms around the taller, darker woman’s neck. The music was slow, throbbing and sexy. Gabrielle seemed to fit perfectly into Tara’s body. They began to move to the slow, pulsating beat with their bodies so close together a penny could not have gotten through. Tara squeezed Gabrielle around her waist as she began a slow, lethargic grind against the smaller woman’s body. Her hot breath caressed Gabrielle’s neck and ear.

“Gabrielle,” the little woman’s body shook when she heard her name coming from that mouth with that voice. Tara felt it and pulled the woman tighter against her. “This is your first time here isn’t it? I would remember you.” Gabrielle nodded and swallowed. Tara continued, “I-I don’t know what’s going on here but, I have never felt this connected to someone on sight. It-it scares me a little.”

Gabrielle stared at the woman endearingly, who she figured was usually brimming with confidence, stutter as she talked to her.

” I know what you mean. This is definitely new for me in many MANY ways. I’ve never done this before–I-I mean with a woman.”

“I understand, but still, I don’t wanna spoil this—I got a feeling about you, and I wanna take it slow. Okay?”

Gabrielle nodded her head and said softly, “Okay.”

Listening to some little imp controlling her hormones, she leaned in and kissed the tall woman on the chin, and she heard and felt Tara’s breath whoosh out in reaction. The skin was soft as satin under her lips, and her mind went into a tailspin as she wondered what the rest of this woman would feel like under her lips.

Unable to control herself, Tara’s hands slid over Gabrielle’s firm, shapely behind, cupping it in her hands. Gabrielle whimpered as her breath left her and her knees turned to jelly. Tara pulled her heavily against her body and started rubbing and gyrating her hips against the smaller woman in earnest. Legs were parted and in between each other in a tangle. Tara moaned harshly against Gabrielle’s ear as she kneaded the pliant flesh in her hands. Gabrielle could feel the wetness start between her legs, trickle down to her thighs as her now throbbing sex was rubbed against the harsh material of her pants and Tara’s thigh.

The moment was erotic in every sense of the word. Tara looked down into glistening pools of green, and she could see the desire so plainly written and open like a book. Her pale blue eyes glowed and narrowed as she started to grind harder. A whispered, “Oh, god,” was torn from Gabrielle’s lips. She could hear her whimpering with each instance of contact. God, she knew she had to stop—needed to stop –but her body her heart wouldn’t allow it. Blessfully for both of them, they were interrupted when the DJ told Tara “to get her sexy ass off the dancefloor, and let the real queens out.” Tara could feel Gabrielle shivering against her when they finally stopped dancing. She gave them both a minute to compose themselves, grabbed the smaller woman’s hand, and walked over to the table where her friends were sitting. So much for taking it slow.

When they got to the table, they sat starring as if reaching some great epiphany simultaneously. Gabrielle studied Tara’s lips as she turned over in her mind how much she wanted to taste them; how much she wanted to feel them—everywhere. She tried unsuccessfully to get her breathing under control. Still, the longer she looked the more erratic it became.

On the other hand, Tara’s mind raced, and her will was tested. So, much she wanted to touch the soft skin she knew was underneath the clothes. There were visions– Gabrielle writhing and moaning against her with the tips of her hair touching Tara’s face as the smaller woman reached intense orgasm. Shannon cleared his throat several times, but it wasn’t until Wayne joined in that the sexual haze around the women was finally broken, if only temporarily. Gabrielle turned and looked at them blankly, and then realization dawned.

She blushed furiously, “Oh, hi guys um sorry bout that.” Her voice soft and thick with emotion.

Shannon smirked and replied, “Uh huh.”

Wayne was unsuccessfully hiding his smile behind a mug of beer.

“Uh, you guys recognize Tara since your regs here, and Tara these are some good friends of mine –the short dark one is Shannon and the tall balding blonde one is Wayne.” She smirked at her own little revenge on them. They gave Gabrielle a wry look, as Tara threw back her head laughing. “Nice to meet you,” Tara interjected not even trying to hide the last traces of her smile. They both beamed at her.

Surprisingly, there were no awkward silences the group was very comfortable with each other. They talked and laughed over the music and through the rest of the show like old friends, for what seemed like hours. Shannon and Wayne even filled the new clique memeber on Gabrielle’s night of firsts. The female couple sat impossibly close to each other with thighs touching and hands coming into frequent contact. This did not go unnoticed by the others across the table, who decided to do a little extra teasing.

“Say Tara, your brother is a great performer, and oh, what exactly do you do?”

Gabrielle looked at Wayne in horror.

Tara just grinned and replied, ” I own my own motorcycle shop not far from here.”

“Mmm hmm, and is this little shop lucrative?”

“I’m comfortable.”

“And what are your intentions toward our fair one—”

All of a sudden, Shannon sneezed, “Aaaa –she wants you—choo.”

Gabrielle almost spit out her beer; Wayne collapsed in peels of laughter; and Tara struggled with her own mirth. Gabrielle wondered if she should be over there with the reds as much as she had been that color tonight.

“Funny thing,” Shannon mumbled as he wiped his hands, “what can come out of my mouth when sneezing or eating.”

She ducked her head under her hands. Tara tapped her on the back to let her know it was okay. Finally, Gabrielle raised her head still hiding her eyes with her hands. Wayne was hiccuping as the last vestiges of laughter dissipated, as Shannon leaned over hugged and then kissed her on the cheek.

“You guys are priceless,” Gabrielle giggled as the blush ended.

She looked at Tara and smiled nervously, and she got one in return. An announcement came over the PA system that the show was ending. All the queens returned on stage for a final curtain call. Gabrielle looked at her watch. It was 3am!!

“Well, I think that’s our cue to get outta here. We’re gonna go Gabs. Are you okay to drive?”

“Yeah Shannon, I only had three beers. I’m okay.”

As they got up to leave both the men hugged Gabrielle tightly and mentioned to Tara how nice it was to meet her.

“Hey girl, I’ll give you a call sometime today, and good luck to you two.”

“Kay Shan, and thanks again for the night out.”

“Nice meeting you too,” replied Tara.

****

The table was now occupied by the two women, who were rapidly becoming totally consumed with each other. A long comfortable silence lay between them as their fingers intertwined. Tara brought the smaller woman’s hand to her lips and kissed each digit, while maintaining contact with the green fire. Neither one of them had the courage to question the quick forming bond. They just didn’t want it to end.

Suddenly, the curtain opened and Tara’s brother came out minus the drag ensemble. He still had a presence about him that seemed to speak volumes.

“Hey girl, I got a late date, so you take my car to get home since you didn’t bring yours, if that’s where you’re going,” he cackled.

Tara shot him a look, and Gabrielle once again became her color for the night. He tossed Tara the keys.

“Okay, see ya later.”

Tara looked at Gabrielle, “Can I walk you to your car?”

“Yeah, sure.”

With her hand in the small of Gabrielle’s back, generating an unbelievable warmth, they slowly made it out to the rapidly clearing parking lot. Finally making it to the burgundy Accord, Gabrielle rummaged through her purse.

“Um, let me find some pen and paper to so I can give you my number.”

“Hey, just tell me. I’ll remember it.”

Gabrielle looked up into pale blue eyes, illuminated despite the darkness. Her mind screamed, and it probably showed in her eyes how much she wanted to feel those lips on her own.

“I -I um okay.” She recited the number.

At the same time, Tara was going through a struggle of her own. Her hands itched to touch Gabrielle. She put them in her pockets. Still, another danger presented itself—those lips. She wanted so much to taste them. Tara’s eyes followed their movement as Gabrielle spoke. She watched as her pink tongue snaked out to moisten the fuller, sensual lower lip. How she envied that tongue.

Tara looked up into Gabrielle’s eyes, and she saw it. She wanted it too. Silence stretched between them. Tara slowly removed her hands from her pockets, and brought them up to Gabrielle’s face. She caressed flushed cheeks. She slowly gently trailed fingertips over soft lips. Gabrielle whimpered in response. With that one small sound, Tara’s blood was set ablaze.

She leaned in and flicked Gabrielle’s lips with the tip of her tongue. The whimper changed to a cry. Their faces were so close that their breath intermingled. Tara brushed her lips across the smaller woman’s. Gabrielle’s body trembled in reaction. Never had she felt this–never with anyone. Fire shot through them like dry kindling. More, was all she could think. They touched foreheads trying to regain some semblance of control.

“So sweet,” Tara muttered.

A car backfired making them both jump in reaction. Tara took a step backward, and both of their bodies protested the loss of contact.

Taking a deep breath, Tara spoke, “Um, I’d better go. I don’t wanna stop.”

Gabrielle stared into her eyes with blind hunger then at her lips.

“Gab,” she whimpered, “don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like you wanna get under my skin. Like you wanna eat me alive.”

Gabrielle hung her head trying desperately to grab hold of some control. “Kay.”

Tara lifted the little woman’s head. “I’ll call you later today. That’s a promise.”

Unable to resist, she traced soft lips once more with her finger. Gabrielle took it between her teeth, flicked her tongue over it, and sucked it suggestively. Tara moaned and Gabrielle let out a small growl. After a long moment, she was able to gather the strength to pull away. She smiled shakily into green eyes.

“Baby, we need to stop.”

“I know.”

“I’ll call okay?”

“I know.”

One more overheated look passed between them. Tara turned and walked to her brother’s old hatchback. Gabrielle stood there watching and wanting. As Tara got into her car, Gabrielle did the same. She started it and was in the process of pulling out, when she noticed Tara getting out, heading for the hood. She stopped and rolled down the window.

“Having problems?”

“Don’t know, she won’t start.”

She checked under the hood. “Shit. I think the battery is dead. Do you have jumper cables?”

” No, but I got a cell phone, so you can call Triple A, or I could give you a ride home.” Gabrielle’s heart thudded with hope, fear, and anticipation.

“Ahhh, I live on the other side of town. It’s gonna be a thirty minute ride atleast, and it’s probably out of your way.”

“Don’t worry about it. I want to.”

“Alright, let me lock up.” Gabrielle’s heart jumped in glee, and her stomach twisted with erotic possibilities.

****

They drove in a charged silence for the first few minutes. Finally, Gabrielle decided to break it. “A motorcycle shop huh?”

“Yeah, and I thought I heard Shannon say that you’re a writer.”

“Yeah, but you first.”

“Okay, it’s me, a couple of employees, and harleys . I fix them, restore ‘em, and sell ‘em. Oh, and I love doing it. It’s like a childhood dream come true, me and motorcycles. Listen to me, I could go on forever. What about you?”

“Oh, I’m a writer alright. I would say mystery/romance is what I do, and I make a decent living. No, bestsellers yet though.”

“Anything I know?”

“Maybe, I write under a pin name, Sheryl Manson.”

Oh, ohhhh that’s you. Yeah, I’ve read you. Love the strong female characters, and the way operate in the old boy network of law enforcement. Those three women detectives are great. They have a chemistry that comes off the page.”

“Thanks.”

Gabrielle looked out of the corner of her eye at Tara’s profile. ‘God,’ she thought, ‘she’s so beautiful,’ and she shivered in remembrance of her taste and soft lips. “Almost there, take the next turn. Um, Gab?”

Unable to stop herself or the truth, Gabrielle replied, “God, I love it when you say my name.” ‘Aaargh, did I just say that aloud! Oh my God! What the hell is wrong with me?’

She mentally tried to tie her tongue. She could hear Tara suck in her breath. The air in the car crackled with sexual awareness. ‘Um, well I didn’t expect that reaction. I think I’ll go with this to see where it leads. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want her.’ Gabrielle was astounded that she could hold a conversation in her head and still be so aware of the woman beside her.

She could hear Tara swallow as she said, “Next house at the corner.”

They pulled up in the front and just sat there with the only sound being the humming engine. Gabrielle turned to look at Tara, and without warning, she was taken into strong arms and straddling firm thighs. Lips meet wildly and moistly. The hum of the engine did nothing to hide the twin moans of pleasure. The kiss was crushing and hungry; tongues fought for entry; and slid sensually over each other.

Gabrielle’s hands wound their way into thick inky black tresses, as larger hands lifted the fabric of the smaller woman’s shirt to feel hot skin. Gabrielle whimpered into Tara’s mouth at the feelings of large, callused, soft hands cover her naked back. The whimper transformed into a high pitched sensual moan as hands dipped lower into her pants to cover the delectable flesh of her behind. Gabrielle began to grind her hips as the fleshy globes were kneaded and spread.

She searched for contact to ease the pulsing of her swollen clit. Her crotch was coated with wetness, making it feel as though she had nothing on, rubbing her heated center against Tara’s exposed stomach. Both women humped and gyrated against each other as their mounds touched enticingly. Slowly at first then more urgently.

Tara palmed Gabrielle’s cheeks, squeezing them and pulling the smaller woman’s aching center down into her body with increasing quickness. Their bodies slapped and pounded into each other. Tara tore her lips from Gabrielle’s and attached them to her neck sucking and nipping at the rapid pulse. Gabrielle grunted and groaned loudly with each thrust. The windows were foggy from over heated bodies and harsh breathing. Tara reluctantly let go of her neck to watch her, and what she saw made her grind harder and faster. Gabrielle’s eyes were hooded and glowed a dark green with passion, her face was flushed, and full swollen lips were parted.

Tara thought she had never seen anything more beautiful. Their eyes locked, as their bodies strained to draw out every ounce of pleasure.

“Ohhhh, so good, ” Gabrielle whispered through clenched teeth.

Tara’s hands spread Gabrielle’s cheeks wider, and with the thumb of one hand, she started to massage her tight anus.

Unlikely vulgarities spilled from Gabrielle’s mouth. “Unghhh, fuck!,” she cried out as the move pushed her closer to the edge.

“Mmmm, say that again.”

“Fu-ck meeee!”

Tara rubbed faster. Gabrielle began to see her own yellows, reds, greens, and blues behind her eyes. Her body was overwhelmed with sensations. Never had she been so wet. Never had she been so uninhibited. Never had she wanted to be that way with a woman, until she met this woman.

“Going t-to come!”

“That’s right baby, come for me!”

Tara was on fire, and she knew there was no going back. She wanted this woman too much. It all just felt so damn good– touching her, encouraging her, fucking her. Each whimper Gabrielle made tore into her desire, leaving her hungry, exposed, and oh so close. With the tip of her thumb, Tara entered Gabrielle’s anal orifice. Gabrielle screamed as her body was besieged by convulsions and shakes when the orgasm took control. Tara growled as she was pummeled by her own orgasm. Their bodies continued to rub softly against each other. Gabrielle whimpered against her neck. Nothing had ever been this perfect, felt this right, or this precious. Tara played with the wet hair at the nape of Gabrielle’s neck as breathing returned to normal and coherent speech became possible.

“Come in with me,” Tara said hoarsely.

“Yess.”

Somehow they got out of the car and got up the walkway to Tara’s front door. There she stood shakily trying to put the key in the lock. It wasn’t easy with Gabrielle behind her running her small, soft hands under her shirt, over her back, then around to cup her breasts. Tara’s breath caught at the ferocity and boldness of the shorter woman. She thought she hadn’t done this before? She dropped the keys on the ground as those hands plucked at her hard nipples. And she considered taking her right there when Gabrielle whispered how she wanted to see her naked and moaning. Tara praised whatever god that was listening as she finally got the door open. They stepped into the darkness. The smaller woman breathing heavily the taller one with a pulsing body. The light switch was found, and eyes connected once again in need, in understanding, in desire.

Tara almost slammed Gabrielle against the wall as their lips met in a devouring kiss. Gabrielle moaned as Tara sucked her tongue. Their tongues thrust deeply in each other’s mouths, trying to taste, to memorize. They disconnected the kiss to hastily remove each other’s shirt and sweater, then cried out simultaneously as naked full breasts rubbed delectably together. It wasn’t enough.
Tara tore at Gabrielle’s khakis, and the white whisp of underwear was ripped to shreds in a passionate display. They both fiddled with the catch on Tara’s pants. Tara slapped Gabrielle’s hands away as she finally got the catch undone. She removed them and her underwear in one fatal swoop. With a cry of triumph, Tara crushed her body back into Gabrielle’s. Finally, naked skin on naked skin. Their smooth muscled bodies rubbed and touched in places that encited moans, whimpers, and cries of pleasure to be torn from throats. Gabrielle wrapped her legs around Tara’s waist. Causing the taller woman to gasp, when she felt the wetness there.

“So wet.”

“For you.”

Tara cupped the smaller, firm breasts in her hands, loving the weight. She flicked each nipple with her thumb, causing Gabrielle to grind her wet center into her washboard stomach.

“Ohhh god, yess!”

With a look of total concentration, Tara began to tweak and pull the nipples. She watched them as they grew impossibly larger, harder. Gabrielle threw back her head against the wall “Plleasssse!” she whimpered and moaned as she felt herself get wetter, slicker, hotter.

Tara leaned down and sucked a plump nipple into her warm, wet mouth. She circled it with her tongue, and opened her mouth wider, sucking the entire breast into her mouth. Gabrielle screamed, and her vision dimmed. Tara treated the other breast equally. Gabrielle murmured incoherently—past the point of arousal, nearing meltdown. Her thighs were coated with her wetness, and her clit throbbed uncontrollably. She ground down harder on the now slick abdomen.

Tara legs shook. She couldn’t remember ever being so turned on by giving another woman pleasure. She could feel her own juices dripping down her thighs in comparison with the sweet juices coating her stomach. She had to have her; she had to taste her; she had to be inside her. On unsteady legs, Tara moved them over to the couch. Able to gather enough strength, she lay Gabrielle down gently.

“Touch me,” Gabrielle whispered.

“Want more. Wanna taste you. Wanna be inside,” Tara replied brokenly.

Gabrielle whimpered as Tara settled her weight on top of her. She sat up and straddled her abdomen.

“Feel me. Feel what you do to me.” Tara spread her wetness across Gabrielle’s stomach.

Gabrielle moaned and arched into her, causing the dark woman to cry out. “I can’t wait baby. I need—you.”

Tara turned away from her lover. She looked back over her shoulder. “Together,” she whispered. Tara positioned her body so that she was on all fours. Her wet mound was positioned tantalizingly over Gabrielle’s waiting mouth. She could feel her hot breath so close to her sensitive lips. She spread Gabrielle’s creamy thighs, and breathed in the aroma of her arousal. She spread engorged lips, and completely lost all thought as she felt a hot tongue lapping at her own folds. Gabrielle licked and lapped at the creaminess, and she moaned at the sweet, salty flavor. Tara’s hips bucked hard, and Gabrielle grabbed and held on with adrenaline induced strength.

The smaller woman instinctively sucked at Tara’s opening drawing out more juices. With a strangled cry, Tara plunged in herself. Dipping and swirling her tongue at a quickening pace. There was no pretense and no time for slowness. It was all fire. She latched on to Gabrielle’s clit with her lips, creating a suction. Gabrielle cried out and searched for her new lover’s swollen nodule. She found it, flicked it with her tongue, wrapped her lips around it, and pulled on it—hard. Intense pleasure gushed through Tara’s body, and she could feel the orgasm coming from far away. She plunged two fingers into Gabrielle’s opening and began pumping furiously. Gabrielle’s hips flew off the couch, grinding her center into Tara’s face. The room was alive with sounds of sex. Gabrielle panted and cried her pleasure into Tara’s vibrating clit. Tara felt the flush of incredible wetness and the grasping muscles around her fingers, signifying her new lover’s release.

While she felt it coming, Tara’s own orgasm took her by surprise. She tore her mouth away from Gabrielle’s core. She could feel her eyes roll back into her head.

“Unghhhhhhh!” Her body was assaulted by an orgasm that made her knees and arms give out. She jerked forward one last time, but it was enough to send Gabrielle over the edge into bliss.

“Ahhhh, ohgodohgod!!”

Their bodies shattered together. Tara collapsed on top of Gabrielle.

Incoherent whines and whimpers came from the women, and then nothing but oblivion. Long minutes later, the two women sat up staring, touching and softly kissing each other.

“I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Me either. Quite the beginning don’t ya think? Oh, and hey you can add it to your list of first, and last. Cause your mine now.”

“I know.”

****
Story #2: Silent Lucidity
“Damn, damn, damn,” Gabrielle muttered into the still air, as she hung up the phone with a satisfying click.

Sometimes she hated family tradition. She had to go home for Thanksgiving, and she should have known she couldn’t get out of it.

“What’s wrong girl?” Shannon rubbed her shoulders.

“I gotta go home to Gary for the holidays, and that means leaving Tara and telling my family about me.”

She closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

“I don’t envy you that. I told my mom over the phone. Hung up and waited for her to call back.”

“When did she call back?”

“About fifteen minutes later. She was crying saying that it would take some getting used to but she loved me nonetheless.”

“Well, seems like you got the good end of the stick.”

“Yeah, until I told my dad and brother. My dad barely tolerates me now and my brother was talking bout all fags needing to die.”

“Ugh, no he didn’t!”

“Uh, huh but it’s okay, I never liked him anyway—always made me eat glue when we were little.”

Gabrielle raised a russet eyebrow and look at him questioningly. Shannon smirked as she began to giggle.

“Okay, okay you, I gotta start cooking. Tara is coming over in a couple of hours for an early dinner.”

“Oooo, the she-devil herself? I gotta stick around for this!”

“Nuh uh, you’re outta here my friend.”

“Ahh, come on! I love being in the same room with you two,” he laughed, “the energy just crackles around you. It’s down right arousing.”

“Shannon! You’re a nasty man, and I’m sure Wayne enjoys it,” she said smirking. He wiggled his dark eyebrows suggestively.

“Okay, okay I’ll go, but tell her I said hello. We need to all get together sometime soon.”

” Ya mean at the club?”

“Nah, to eat or something. Maybe your place so we can watch yall crackle away!” She threw a pillow at him.

“Kay, I’ll ask about it.”

“See ya later,” he waved as he shut the door.

Gabrielle sat down heavily on the couch, tucking her feet under her. Her mind raced and her heart thudded in fear. The little woman moved a stray red gold strand behind her ear. ‘No more writing for me today.’ She said to herself. She closed her eyes and thought about the ramifications of telling her Bible thumping parents and her hellion sister about Tara.

Gabrielle remembered the upheaval Lilian had caused when she got pregnant at 19, out of wedlock. While her parents grew to love their granddaughter, they still picked at the old wound now and again. What was in for her? She could be disowned, ostracized, or even preached to. Was she ready for that? Ready to possibly lose her family for a woman she barely known for a month?

“Tara,” she spoke her name like a prayer. If she closed her eyes, she could see the long silky black tresses, electrifying blue eyes, wonderful, sensual lips, and the irresistible smile kept just for her.

Her breathing picked up as did her heart but for a different reason. It was already too late to turn away from her lover—too much of her heart had been lost to her. A greater fear permeated her consciousness. The fear of being without Tara.

A whimper wrenched from her throat, as pain crashed through her body. Gabrielle’s heart felt as though it was in a vice, making it heavy and strained. A piercing ache tore through her head, knocking the wind out of her, leaving her nervous and shaky. She licked the sweat from her upper lip. “I can’t lose her. I can’t! They have to understand or to hell with them!” She screamed into the empty air.

****

Tara’s shop was one of many businesses that lined the narrow streets. There were boutiques, a mom and pop store, and even a dollar movie theatre. Her garage wasn’t big, and it did not particularly stand out. Still, it was hers, and that was enough for her and apparently even her clientele. Standing there now behind the counter, Tara grated her teeth and looked at her watch as the man spoke in pleading tones, ” You have to fix her now, while I wait. It’s after five and your my last hope!”

“Mister, this is a bike shop not a car shop!” She sneered.

“Come on you’re my only hope. It’s not even my car. I borrowed it from a buddy. Please ma’am?”

Tara took a deep breath. “I can’t fix it, but I have connections. Let me make some phone calls.” ‘Ahh, the benefits of living in a small town,’ she thought to herself.

“Thanks ma’am, I really appreciate this.”

Tara gave him a wan smile and cursed her pussy cat nature, knowing there was barely any bite behind her worst bark. She was going to be late for dinner and decided where her first call was going to be, regretting that it was going to be a little while longer before she saw the smile, felt the skin, kissed those lips. She smiled to herself remembering how she left Gabrielle shaking and exhausted this morning. Tara growled inwardly as the man’s nasal voce yanked her from her reverie. She gave him a flash of white that could in no way pass for a smile, as she dialed the number.

Gabrielle wiped the drying tears from her face, as she finally got up to putter around the kitchen. The phone rang.

“Hello,” she said flatly.

Tara’s eyebrow rose into her hairline, knowing something was wrong. “Hey what’s wrong Red?”

Gabrielle smiled hearing her lover’s nickname for her. “I’m better now, but I’ll tell you about it later.”

“Okay baby, listen I’m gonna be a little late, but I’ll call you from the car on the way over.”

“Kay. Hurry—miss you.”

Tara bit her lip and smiled outwardly. “Hope you’re well rested, cuz it’s gonna be a long night. I can’t seem to get enough of you.”

Gabrielle sucked in her breath, licked her lips, and cleared her throat. “Please hurry.” Tara chuckled as she said her good-byes and hung up the phone. Gabrielle chopped veggies and sliced chicken. Her problems forgotten temporarily in the warm wake of her lover.

Meanwhile, the man looked at Tara bug eyed. She stared right back at him until he lowered his head. ‘ The bark is good for something,’ she thought. Finally, the man and his car left with the aid of a friend and a tow truck.

The tall, dark woman looked down at her greasy, grimy appearance. Her hands were blackened with oil and lubricant, matching her fingernails. Smudges of the same substance trailed up her arms and smeared along her neck and face. She smelled and looked like a grease monkey. Deciding to clean up instead of having Gab thinking she was a slob, Tara headed to the bathroom. She pat herself on the back for having the foresight of installing a full bathroom, and turned the water on, getting into the shower.

The water beat a sensual path down her long, lithe body, slicking midnight down her back. The sluicing water trailed over the hills of her breasts, sliding through the valley between them. It traveled down the chiseled abdomen, over hard muscled thighs, dipped to graze curly black hair, and cascaded further down well-toned legs until it spilled within the shower stall. Not paying attention to the erotic play of the water on her skin. Tara’s mind was on her lover. She wondered what was wrong with the little woman. Hoping beyond hope that she wasn’t having second thoughts about her sexuality or their relationship. They had so much to learn about each other, and she guessed that Gabrielle knew this too. Still, it was hard to get through the sexual haze that seemed to surround them.

Beyond that, Tara knew what they had went further than sex. There was a connection, a sense of familiarity that made them so comfortable with each other. A connection she couldn’t explain. They had established a routine of seeing each other everyday and almost every night, dinner, conversation where they laughed and learned, and touching that didn’t necessarily lead to sex.
She was really looking forward to them spending their first holiday together. In just a little while her heart and she knew her soul was being captured. She felt compelled to let it happen to open up to receive as well as give. Something she never had before.
“She could hurt me if she wanted to,” Tara whispered into the steamy water, and shivered despite the heat. Her heart and breath quickened in panic. Then she remembered the looks of fascination, tenderness, desire, and of caring ever present in the jade eyes. She immediately calmed, and with resolve, she knew she had to be on her way, with hopes of making her lover feel better any way she could. She left closing the shop for the holidays. She ran out, battling the brisk wind to get to the dark blue sunbird.

****

Finishing dinner a few minutes earlier, Gabrielle decided on a long hot shower. Now, she ran through the house to answer the ringing phone.

“Hello,” she said breathlessly.

“Ooooo, what WERE you doin?”

Gabrielle smiled upon hearing her lover’s throaty purr. “I was in the shower you goof.”

“Oh really,” there was a pause. ” Still naked?”

“Behave you. You are soo bad!”

Tara lowered her voice an octave. “I’m serious Red. Are you still naked?”

Tara’s mind worked overtime at the sudden possibilities. Gabrielle shivered not just from her cooling body.

“Uh, yeah,” she replied over a lump in her throat.

“What room of the house are you in?”

“Um, the dining room. Why?”

Tara voice grew husky. “Get on top of the table.”

“T-Tara, what are you doing? Are you calling me from your car?”

“Yes to the latter, and you’ll see to the first question.”

Unbelievably, Gabrielle scooted herself on top of the table with her body already buzzing with anticipation. Her skin made screeching noises on the wood, and she silently thanked the gods for its sturdiness.

Tara whispered in a husky voice, “I betcha your nipples are already hard, aren’t they?”

“Uh, huh. Oh, god.”

Tara didn’t know what had gotten into her to start this, but it had its hot possibilities. She thanked the gods herself for the speaker feature on her cell phone because she needed both hands to maintain control of the car. The smaller woman lay on top of the cool surface of the table, feeling goosebumps rise due to her body being air dried and something more sensual awakening. Her thighs rubbed together sexily. She caressed her muscled abdomen and curled the phone cord around her finger, as she watched her nipples get more rigid; the skin crinkling before her eyes in response to being talked about. Her breathing caught and accelerated with the beginnings of arousal.

“Betcha wanna touch them don’t ya?”

“Mmmm yess.”

“Betcha wish my hands were teasing and pinching them?”

Gabrielle whimpered, and Tara went on relentlessly.

“Betcha wish my tongue was circling them, flicking them.”

The woman on the other end moaned loudly. As if she could read her lover’s mind, Tara purred, “No, no don’t touch them. Not till I say.” Gabrielle mewed in protest. She sighed in exasperation and wondered what to do with her hands. She wound them in red-gold tresses and whimpered in surprise as it caused a pleasurable tightening in her belly.

“Mmmm, I can just see them now standing up proud and pink like ripe berries. ” Tara tried futilely to taper her own accelerating breathing.

“I love the way they fit perfectly in my hands; the way they feel at the back of my throat. You love it when I suck it all the way in don’t ya?”

A hoarse moan was torn from Gabrielle’s lips, as she moved her hands down up under her breasts lifting them as in offering to her invisible lover. The phone lay cradled in the crook of her neck. Her nipples were painfully hard and throbbing even the slight air circulating through the house tantalized them. Her back arched involuntarily as her breath heaved in and out of her chest.

“Wet your fingers for me baby.”

Gabrielle didn’t question it, she just did as she was told. Tara could hear her tongue and mouth working. “Good girl. No caress your nipples for me.” She didn’t have to ask twice. “Oooh, Fuck!” Gabrielle didn’t know whether it was the anticipation or the warm moistness but just the same she cried out, ending the cry in a harsh whimper. Not coincidentally her sex flooded with wetness. She automatically bent her knees and parted her legs, moaning again as the air kissed her wet mound. Tara growled at the sound, as her stomach twisted in knots of desire. Her blood was set ablaze, and she pushed down harder on the gas, slicing through the arrival time.

“We will baby,” Tara replied her voice broken and breathy with unspent passion.

Gabrielle tweaked and pulled on her aching nipples, and her hips, as if on a string, bucked in response. Her body was covered in a fine layer of sweat attesting to the state of arousal and the restraint she was exhibiting. The smaller woman’s sex was alive, and it hadn’t been talked about or touched. Still, she could feel her clit pulse and jump and her juices ooze from her core coating her thighs.

“That’s it baby make it feel good,” Tara groaned. This was too intense as it seemed to get each time they touched each time they made love, each time they climaxed. Each moan from Gabrielle’s lips pulled an answering throb from Tara’s clit. Her breasts felt heavy, and the nipples scraped deliciously against the fabric of her clothing. This was hot, incredibly so.

“I betcha so wet for me right now. I can taste it. I can smell it. Taste it for me baby.”

A sob was torn from Gabrielle’s raw throat. She extended one hand over her stomach to the apex of her thighs. She dipped in and opened like a flower, sticky with dewy wetness.

“Oh god –s-soo wet.”

Her fingers glided over her own wetness. Her sex so moist and coated it felt like touching nothing—nothing but hot silk. She brought her dripping fingers back up to her mouth and began to suck and lick them—loudly.

“Mmm, sweet.”

Tara whimpered and tried to stay on the road, as control was quickly fluttering out the window. The dark woman wiped her sweaty brow.

“So, sexy. Now.” There was an audible pause. “Fuck yourself for me.”

Gabrielle cried out at the vulgarity, sounding impossibly sweet to her ears, and in blind seeking pleasure, completely bypassing her clit, plunged two fingers into her searing opening.

“Unghnn, shit!”

She pounded the fingers in and out slowly, deeply, curving them to get even deeper. The string pulled and she continued to tease her nipple and her hips raised to meet her hand. Her heightened wetness perfumed the sex laden air with sucking, slapping sounds. Gabrielle’s breath came out in ragged gasps, whimpers and moans. Tara’s hands shook on the wheel, and she felt her own wetness increase, trickling down her thighs.

“Let me hear baby. Move the phone down.”

Gabrielle lowered the phone. The command somehow getting to her muddled brain. Tara’s vision went hazy when she heard the wet slapping sounds. She hastily covered her mound in an attempt to stop the pulsating and imminent orgasm in reaction to the sexy noises. The car swerved on the shoulder before it righted itself. Gabrielle incoherently moved the phone back up to her ear and rasped out, “You hear?”

“Oh hell yeah,” a deep sensual voice whispered. “Baby? Baby!” All she got was a whimper in return. ” Almost there. I’ll be there in less than five minutes. Wait for me. Please don’t come!” Tara said frantically as Gabrielle’s street was illuminated by her head lights. She thought she heard a soft, “Kay. Try,” but wasn’t sure. Gabrielle just lay there floating, slowly fucking herself into a frenzy. Her auburn hair providing a flash background, and her flush body glowed in contrast to the dark wood and the soft light from the setting sun.

Tara kicked off her shoes in the car and prayed that the door was unlocked. Adrenaline pumped through her veins as she ran up the driveway. She said a silent thanks to the gods when the door opened right up. Hands shaking, keys falling on the floor as did shirt, jeans and panties. She could hear the tantalizing sounds of Gabrielle’s moans from the living area. The smell of sex hung in the air. She couldn’t tell if it was her own musky scent or her lover’s. On shaky legs, she walked quickly to the dining room.

She stood at the entrance and whatever control she had left pooled at her feet. There laid Gabrielle, a picture of erotic perfection. A wet dream come true. Her legs were bent at the knee and spread wide, revealing treasures. Her fingers were buried inside her sex moving deeply, slowly. In and out, in and out. When they moved out, Tara could see the coated fingers glisten with creamy wetness. When they moved in, she could hear the noises of wet flesh that set her on fire in the car. Tara looked further up between the legs at the sweat gleaming on the muscled stomach and glowing on her softly bouncing breasts. Her lips were parted, and her hair was slick and dripping in labor. Tara noticed the phone on the floor as she saw a hand and dark, sparkling green eyes beckoning her beseeching her. The tall, dark woman whimpered at the sight, and her whole body shook with intense arousal the likes she had never experienced.

Mustering up enough concentration, like a big, dark panther, she crawled on to the table and kneeled on all fours in between Gabrielle’s parted legs. Tara licked two fingers seductively, and then trailed them along the inside of her lover’s thighs, where they gathered even more moisture. Without warning, she plunged them inside her writhing lover’s opening, mixing them with Gabrielle’s own. Tara groaned, watching them slide in, and she felt Gabrielle’s hot opening suck them in deep. The small woman’s body arched like a bow, and she screamed in pleasure at being so full. “Tara, unghnn!” Tara growled like the cat she was. In response to the passionate intensity of the moment, their fingers moved faster, slipping, sliding , and guiding each other.

Slowly moving up her body, Tara mounted a firm thigh, and Gabrielle gasped at the wetness there. With hooded pale blue eyes flashing, Tara lowered herself until her mouth was centimeters away from a pert nipple. With a grunt and a moan, she began gyrating her hips against Gabrielle’s thigh, leaving a trail of sticky wetness in its wake, and like it was an afterthought, she snaked out her tongue and quickly flicked her lover’s nipple, while her other hand palmed and kneaded the other breast. The flicking quickly changed to devouring as she sucked the breast into her mouth, while teasing the hard point with her busy tongue. Just to add a little more to her lover’s pleasure, Tara found the erect flesh of Gabrielle’s clit, and began to rub it furiously with her thumb. Gabrielle’s brain, her senses, and her body quickly went into overload. Fingers pounded trying to get deeper, moving faster. Whimpering sobs leaked out of Gabrielle’s now sore throat with each thrust, with each suck. Tara moaned into the little woman’s breast as she ground down harder and harder on the accommodating thigh. The table creaked under the weight of the moving bodies.

Gabrielle lifted higher, floating, higher as white light burst behind her eyes. Her orgasm tore through her like a sweet knife drawing out the pleasure that was almost painful in its acuteness. She simply screamed as her body arched and crashed, arched and crashed against the table, finally floating down. Her dark lover was pushed closer to the edge by the sounds of her release. Tara redoubled her efforts to reach her own pinnacle. Their fingers still inside Gabrielle, Tara jerked her fingers quickly not wanting to go alone. She removed her mouth from her lover’s breast, and just lay her head there letting them function as a pillow. The room was filled with her loud sensuous moans, and Gabrielle’s quiet whimpers. Gabrielle suddenly cried out again as she was pummeled by another intense orgasm. Everything went quiet except for the sound of harsh breathing and creaking wood, and then one strangled word spilled from Tara’s lips, “G—Gabrielllllle!” Her body stilled then was assaulted by an array of shivers and convulsions, as one big orgasm and several smaller ones reverberated through Tara’s body. She jerkily continued to gyrate softly, milking the pleasure.

Below her, Gabrielle cried out for a different reason, as hot tears ran down her face and into her hair. The sound of her name from Tara’s lips felt like home; felt like forever. Her heart filled and burst with emotion, as she cried in cathartic sobs. Coming down herself long minutes later, Tara finally looked up and whispered her name once more. Gabrielle cried and shivered in reaction. Tara watched through an exhausted haze in total awe that she could mean that much—that the sound of her lover’s name from her lips could mean that much. Tara knew at that moment there was no one else in this world. She had found the other half of her soul. Her heart slammed against her chest and her eyes watered. Silent moments later, as if by mutual consent, they removed their fingers. Gabrielle gasped at the aftershocks. Tara gathered the shaken women in her arms tightly, kissing the tears and mumbling words of understanding—words of love. They drifted into a quiet sleep. There on top of the table in a tangled heap of arms and legs—raven hair spilling into red-gold. Dinner was forgotten.

****

Tara was the first to awaken with the dim rays of moonlight filtering in, illuminating the rooms of the house. Supporting herself on her elbow, she watched her Gabrielle in restful slumber. Unable to resist, she brushed back the hair on her lover’s smooth brow, and kissed the cool forehead softly as not to wake her. Her slightly upturned nose was next, along with the flushed cheeks, and Tara went down further and blessed each collar bone with a kiss. She whispered, “I love you,” like it was the most natural thing in the world, like it was meant to be, and stared in odd fascination at the woman who owned her heart, her soul.

They had much to talk about, and she certainly had much to tell. Tara noticed the rising gooseflesh on Gabrielle’s skin. Talking would have to wait. She untangled herself and gracefully slid off the table. Tara put away the discarded dinner and hung up the silent phone. She then gently lifted the smaller woman, holding her like a fine, fragile piece of china. Gabrielle curved into Tara’s neck with a murmur that made the tall woman smile. That murmur was her name. She made her way to the bedroom and laid her precious cargo on the plush bed. She joined her as the sandman took over once more.

Gabrielle awoke slowly, surrounded by warmth. She opened one crystal green orb to see Tara’s long body hovered around her. The other luminescent orb opened as she smiled. She traced a loving path from Tara’s temple to her chin with only finger tips and whispered, “How can I love so much so fast?” There was nothing she could hide from this woman, her woman, and she realized there was nothing she wanted to. Home. Safety. Warmth. Passion. Love. These were words she associated with her dark lover. The final puzzle piece slid into place, and she would do anything to keep it there, including losing her family. Gabrielle’s eyes were heavy with sadness but resolve, and as if sensing her lovers distress, a pale gaze that seemed to light the whole room opened toward her. Not knowing the right thing to say, but the words were indeed written on her heart. Tara touched a finger to the upturned nose.

She then whispered,”I love you, Red.”

Gabrielle’s eyes closed heavy with emotion, and when they opened, they shined with such love, and devotion that Tara swallowed.

Gabrielle whispered back, “I know.”

Tara threw her head back and laughed at the sheer joy of it. The taller woman was about to speak when she felt cool, small fingers cover her lips.

“No, I have so much to say let me get it out?” Tara nodded in agreement.

“When I first met you, I knew you—I-I mean my heart knew you. I can’t explain the connection. I won’t even try. All I know is, I couldn’t turn away and I couldn’t fight it. I knew it for sure when I heard you say my name the first time. It was like—” she looked up for words, “my heart was coming home.” She smiled, knowing she had found the words. “My heart knew it first, then my body. It should have scared me, since I had just admitted to myself to being a lesbian, but—” Gabrielle looked up into deep blue pools with eyes shining with hunger—”I had to have you, and I knew I was going to get you. I know the time we’ve had is short, but I want to share everything with you—my dreams, my hopes, my pain—everything.”

Tara looked deeply into her lover’s eyes and laid bare her soul in that one stare. She hung her head, then looked back up again, swallowing. Never had she felt so humbled. Never had she felt so enriched. She slowly opened her mouth to speak, and extended her hand to touch a cheek not wanting to sever any contact.

“I’m not much on words. I know that, and I don’t know if this is gonna come out right. Where I was closed up before, I can’t hide from you now. So much has happened and so many people have used me and hurt me just to get what they want, but it was like all that baggage fell away—ya know? I can’t compare you to anyone because you are like no one I’ve ever known, and I don’t know if I deserve you.” She swallowed. “I can’t let you go. I can’t stop touching you. I can’t stop wanting you. I know all of this doesn’t make me weak—I-it makes me strong. You make me feel like I could take on the world, slay dragons and all kind of nasty shit—ya know?” “You know that joke about lesbian’s and Uhaul’s? Well, you could say you Uhauled my heart in a really short period of time.” Gabrielle laughed and nodded her head. Tara raised a small hand to her lips. “I need you,” she said her voice shaking with emotion, “and I love you. I wanna know what pains you, what’s behind that smirk; I wanna know everything.” Gabrielle wanted to weep with joy. There was no way she would lose this happiness, this sense of well-being.

They talked and shared for what seemed like hours. Dreams of being a best-selling author, helping children, home, babies, marriage were discussed. One dream intermeshed with another, overlapping and strengthening the bond. They talked and laughed. Gabrielle had forgotten her own woes and problems in the face of planning, touching, and discovering, in the midday sun. It couldn’t be forgotten forever. The phone by the night stand rung insistently. Gabrielle whispered a silent curse and she reached over to answer.

“Hello?”

“Hi, honey. Your mom tells me your coming home tomorrow. I tried to call you last night, but I got your voice mail.”

Tara was stricken by the look of panic on her lover’s face, and grabbed her hand in response.

There was a strangled, “Uh, Hi dad.”

“So, is it true honey? You’re going to come home?”

“It’s tradition right? I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Okay, but be careful. I know we are only a four hour drive away, but it’s the holidays.”

“Kay, dad. See you sometime tomorrow.”

Gabrielle closed her eyes as she hung up the phone. “Damn, reality and it’s ugly head,” she said to no one in particular. She opened her eyes to see a look of concern on Tara’s face.

“Tara, its family tradition that we all come home for at least one holiday a year. This year that holiday is Thanksgiving. I gotta go to Gary baby. I don’t want to leave you, for god’s sake its our first holiday together.” She sighed. ” Well, you know about my sister. She doesn’t live but a few blocks from them. So, she is coming. It’s just going to be the four of us.”

Tara nodded remembering the conversation a couple of weeks ago concerning her sister and the problems she had. Gabrielle hung her head and began to sob.

“Um, I think—I want to tell them about us, about me. I won’t hide, but I’m so scared of how they’ll react,” the little woman said as tears streaked down her face. “I can’t lose you. I won’t!”

Tara made shushing sounds and she held on tightly to the crying woman. “I’m not going anywhere baby. Promise.”

Gabrielle wiped the tears with the back of her hand. “If it has to come down to them or you, it’s you—I can’t –oh god.” Gabrielle’s heart jerked in pain at the thought of not seeing her niece or her sister again.

“Shhhh, I know. I know. It hurts. Let it out. I love you no matter what.” Tara hugged her tighter and kissed the top of her head. Her own heart lurched to see Gabrielle in this pain, but she wasn’t going to lie to herself because she knew how families could be concerning this particular subject.

They lay there for long minutes with Tara rocking her small bundle, kissing her consoling her, supporting her. “Hey, listen I’ll just be a phone call away—ya know. Call me and I’ll be there with bells on to get you if you need. I want you to call me anyway to let me know that you’re okay?” Tara whispered in her ear. Gabrielle seemed to gain strength, resolve, and conviction in her lover’s arms. “Kay,” she said in a stronger voice. “You’re so good for me. You know that?” she said kissing the taller woman’s chin. Tara looked down at her with a lopsided grin.

“I know.” They both began to giggle at the familiar phrase. “Okay, kay I need to get up to shower and pack. Ugh, at least we’ll have Christmas together, and if all goes well you may get to meet my sis.”

“Okay, but I won’t be upset if it’s just us.”

To lighten the mood, Tara started to tickle Gabrielle. She giggled till she hiccuped, and the whole thing quickly turned into a pillow fight. It ended when Tara finally tackled Gabrielle and imprisoned her under her body. It seems that was when their consciousness sent the message to their bodies that they were naked. Gabrielle became aware of Tara’s solid weight on top of her. The intelligence behind the pale blue quickly discerned the change. Gabrielle’s gaze lowered from Tara’s eyes to her lips. She licked her own in anticipation, in memory of taste, in carnal delight. She arched her smaller body upward, making their nipples graze tantalizingly. The air was stung by a combined whimper and suddenly harsh breathing. Hips touched seductively and parted to make way for thighs. Gabrielle roughly wound her hand through Tara’s hair, and with a grunt pulled her down for a searing kiss. It was hungry, wet, and uneven. Their lips met with bruising force as tongues battled and twisted past each other. Tongues snaked out and met outside of mouths, flicking sexily, moistly.

Fiery hunger burned through their bodies, showing no compassion, forgetting that the bodies exploded in pleasure a few hours earlier. There was no tenderness just animal hunger needed to reach past impending pain to cloud it. The hard tips of their breasts scraped and grazed each other time and time again. Diamond hard nipples rubbed making the sister pair grow and tingle. Thighs pressed against the moist points at the apex, and moans of pleasure were muffled as mouths drank from each other refusing to let go. Electric tendrils of pleasure shot up both bodies radiating from the spine to the fingertips. They were one being blindly seeking. The bed squeaked under the work and bodies glistened. Gabrielle reached down to palm the rounded cheeks of Tara’s behind, pulling and yanking her harder against her. Bodies undulated at unbelievable speed. It was all too hot to last, to intense not to burn out of control. Moans caught by the binded lips became louder as pleasure became more intense. Tara snaked one hand to clasp part of the head board to push harder, faster. Just like a flame being fueled things reached white hot capacity.

Light flashed behind Tara’s eyes as her body imploded from the inside out. Yanking her from reality to put her in a plane of intense spiritual and sexual satisfaction. She all but screamed into Gabrielle’s mouth, as her body jerked and bucked. Her lover drank it in, and screamed her own release that left her floating on a cloud of orgasmic bliss. They came down quickly murmuring words of love, and sprinkling each other with tiny kisses. Moments later they got up by mutual consent, and showered separately not wanting to be tempted by the eroticism of water on flesh. Tara helped her pack a bag an promised to lock up her house. They kissed good-bye once, twice, three,–four times before Gabrielle finally left with promises to call. Tara stood and watched, waving. The concern she was feeling hidden behind her eyes.
Part II
Tara muddled around the house a little longer doing some light cleaning, making the beds, filling the dishwasher, and vacuuming the shag carpets. All the time remembering her first time here. She wasn’t surprised really. The house fit its owner. From the outside, the red brick never seemed austere but rather inviting. The inside was even more so, decorated in lavender and other pastels, soft and intricate like the decorator. Tara smiled remembering the fun and talk they had over dinner. Finishing her chores, she left, leaving the light on out front as a sort of vigil. Finally, she made her way back the apartment she shared with her brother.
It was a house really, and they were renting the first and second floors. The odd orange colored stucco seemed like a stranger, having spent the time mostly with Gabrielle. ‘Well, it’s gonna be home again for a couple of days,’ she said to herself. Tara pulled up to her own driveway and slowly walked in. Where Gabrielle’s place seemed light, their place was decorated in darker blues, grays and black. It was quite a contrast. She smirked in acknowledgement and amusement. Jake was singing loudly and off key, as he was obviously cooking. The smells wafted around the house. He looked up surprised, but smiled nonetheless.

“Hey T. What are you doing home? I thought you and G were spending the holiday together?” He quirked his eyebrow at the look of concern on his sister’s face.

Tara hung her head, and whispered with a voice raw with emotion, “I was, but she had to go home. Something about family tradition.”

“Uh, huh I’m sure there is more to this than what you’re saying.”

“She’s gonna tell them about me, about us I mean..”

“Oooo boy, I see. Well, it seems like she really cares,” he rubbed her back, “so don’t worry too much. Just be there for her when she needs you. Cuz you and I both know—knock on wood—how things can go. We haven’t heard from mom in over a year.”

“Ya, I know. I’m just a little scared is all. Her parents are all religious and shit, and it sorta makes me wonder if they are gonna try to talk her out of it, ya know? I-I can’t lose her Jake. I-I told her I loved her this morning.”

Jake raised both dark eyebrows ,”Oooh, that’s a big one for you. Hell, I can barely get you to say that to me.”

She gave him a lopsided grin and stuck her tongue out. “I lub ya Jakie!!!” She made loud kissing noises. “But, I LOVE her, and I don’t know how it happened so fast. It was sorta like a bomb but the sweet kind, and each explosion just got through a little further.”

He looked at her and smiled slowly. “Mmmm, I’m so happy for you, and she seems sweet and good for you. I like little Ms. Firecracker!”

“Good cuz she is going to be around for a long, long time. I’m just worried about her. Parents can get pretty nasty.” She sighed. “She’s supposed to call when she gets there, so don’t tie up the lines, and come get me no matter what. I’m gonna work on the bikes in the back.”

“Okay will do T. You sure you don’t want anything to eat? I’m making one of my famous clubs and some soup?”

She mumbled as she walked out the back door, “Maybe later save me some.”

****

Gabrielle turned into Lincoln street and was finally just a few hundred feet from her parents house. It was about time. It seemed like she had been driving forever, and she admitted to herself that she had never been so tired of seeing corn fields in her entire life. The city of Gary itself was nothing to see. Boarded up and abandoned businesses and houses lined every street. She remembered it was not always like this. From her youth, she recalled many people crowding the streets and stores from department to candy who’s windows she would look in.

That was before “The Great White Flight” as her mother called it, when African Americans moved in and racist, rich and well off whites moved out. “Just plain silliness on white folks part,” her mom used to say. ‘Good old Indiana and it’s Mid West hospitality,’ the red head said to herself.

She stopped at the corner. This was the fourth time she had pulled over, but the closer she got the more nervous she became. She took a swig from the Evian bottle, and tried to calm her beating heart. She wiped her sweating hands on the side of the seat. Gabrielle had thought long and hard about how she was going to tell them. It ranged from, ‘pass the peas–I’m gay;’ to ‘yes mother I’m seeing someone and she’s great with her hands.’ She almost laughed out loud at that one picturing her mother fainting in the mashed potatoes. Still, she finally decided to tell her sister first, immediately and work her way up from there.

She drove up to her parent’s driveway, and all most at once saw the curtain swing back. Her sister came running out carrying her niece. They hugged fiercely. Where Gabrielle’s hair was almost red, Lilian’s was more of a brunette with complimenting, intense blue eyes, pouty lips, and a wicked smile. She was taller by comparison, with a muscular build. Looks were spread even among the sister’s and so were brains.

They walked arm in arm into the house, heading by mutual agreement to the den for some privacy. Gabrielle yelled, “Mom, I’m home! Lil and I are going in the den to play catch up!” She heard a slight, “Welcome home dear. Oh, okay,” coming from the direction of the kitchen. Gabrielle grabbed her niece, who pulled and tried to chew her hair. She cooed and kissed Jamie on the forehead, ruffled the dark curls, and got a happy gurgle in return. “Hey sweat pea. Oooo you’ve gotten big.”

“Agoo!”

Gabrielle giggled, smiling into the gray eyes, “Yes, you have. Now, go to your momma. I got to make a phone call. Be just a few minutes Lil.”

“Kay. Take your time because we’ve got all night.”

Gabrielle sat down heavily in the plush leather chair, and picked up the phone.

The phone rung twice. “Hellllo?”

“Hey Jake is she home?”

“Oh, hey G let me get her. She was working on the bikes, but I think she’s napping.”

A few moments later. “Hello,” Tara said in a sleepy purr.

Gabrielle smiled, her face flushed, and she shivered inside at her lover’s voice. “Hey yourself.”

She could hear the smile in Tara’s voice, “Hey Red. How ya doin?”

“Just got here, and I miss you already.”

Lilian’s ears perked up at the change in her sister’s tone, and the words she was saying.

Tara laughed throatily, “Mmm nice to hear. I started missing you when you pulled out the driveway.”

The smaller woman ducked her head trying to hide the widening smile and the heightening blush on her face. “Yeah?”

There was an audible sigh. “Yeah.” Tara smiled herself. “Are you okay? Um, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I’m going to be okay because I have you.”

Lilian’s eyebrows shot up and her eyes widened.

“You sure do Red, and you’re not gettin’ rid of me. Listen, call me day or night for whatever reason okay. I-I just need to hear your voice and know you’re alright.”

“Anything for you. You know that.”

Her sister scooted to the edge of her seat.

“Love you, Red.”

“Love you too.”

She silently hung up the phone, and slowly looked up at her sister. “So, how’s school.”

Lilian gave her a strange look. “Nuh uh, what’s going on here. You’re seeing someone and it sounds rather serious.” She grabbed Gabrielle’s hands. “I want to know about him.”

Gabrielle took a deep breath. It was now or never. “It’s a her, Lil. Tara.”

Lilian’s mouth moved a few times but nothing came out. Finally, “Oooo- you’re a -oooo um lesbian?”

Gabrielle eyed her warily. “Uh, huh. You okay with that?”

Lilian smiled wickedly, “Oh, yeah, and actually me and a couple of friends that you know were talking about that the other day.”

Gabrielle leaned in and looked at her suspiciously. “You mean my name and gay came up in the same conversation.?”

Lil bit her lip, “Umm hmm. I was saying you hadn’t been with a man in five years, and Carla said, “Well, she could be gay.”
“I believe my exact words were, “Well maybe. You never know, and I wouldn’t put anything past my sister.”

They looked at each other for a few silent moments except for the cooing baby playing on the floor, and then there was simultaneous laughter. Lilian got up to hug her sister as they both ended up on the sofa, giggling. After long minutes of uncontrollable laughter, Lilian looked at her sister curiously.

“Um, er so what’s sex with women like?”

Gabrielle turned several shades of red to her sister’s amusement. “Oh god Lil, it’s the most intense and sensual experience. The things Tara can do with her hands, and oh my that tongue!”

Lil wriggled her eyebrows. “Oh, realllllly? And Tara’s her name huh? Tell me about her, but first the sex!” Gabrielle giggled. They talked for over two hours about Gabrielle’s lover, and how their parents would take it. They both decided there would be some tears, some Bible passages thrown, some harsh words, but still the final outcome wasn’t known. Gabrielle, her sister, and her niece left the den with the smaller woman knowing someone else was behind her one hundred percent.

Gabrielle touched base with her parents, answering the customary questions about her health, her career, and her love life, which was vague as she could make it. Walking up the stairs to her old room, she made up her mind to tell them in the morning over breakfast. She kept her bag packed just in case and talked to Tara one more time, letting her velvet voice lull her to sleep.

Gabrielle rose the next morning with a nervous flutter in her stomach. Surprisingly, she slept well with visions of midnight hair, dark skin and sensuous lips. She called Tara just to hear an I love you and gain needed strength. Lilian gave her a supportive hug as they made their way downstairs. The mood around the breakfast table was somber for some, for others customary. Food was passed as well as hello’s. Lilian kept looking at her sister wondering when the moment was arriving, and as if by some miracle their mother gave the perfect opening.

“Gabby honey you can help me make the pie your father likes so much.” Her father shook his head in agreement. “And while you’re cooking, you can tell me if you’ve met a nice young man yet. You didn’t answer me earlier.”

Gabrielle put down her fork. She was just picking at her food anyway. Lilian shot her a loving look. “Um, mom. I have met someone, and SHE’S the best thing to ever happen to me.”

There was total silence in the room save the tick of the wall clock. Her mother grabbed hold of her husband’s hand and laughed warily, “Gabby sweetie that’s not funny. We don’t talk about those kind of people in this house.”

“Well mom I’m one of those kinds of people and I love another one just like me. I came home to be honest with you. I don’t want to hide her because she deserves more from me. Now, I know how you and Dad feel about this, but I’m—”

“Shut up. SHUT UP!!” Her father screamed. “You listen to me! You are not one of those perverts. You’re just sick. Sh—she corrupted you that’s all. We can go to Father Steve and pray about this. It can be made right.”

Lilian and Gabrielle looked at each other. The younger sister spoke. “Dad come on. It’s not like that. She’s in love and happy can’t you see that. It took a lot of guts for her to say anything—”

“YOU! You have no right to talk about such things. You have been a disappointment to this family, acting as a common whore. It was your influence that started this—that made way for these–these thoughts!” Her mother cried.

“Dammit mother, don’t talk to her like that. We’re people. You can’t expect us to live up to your standards when we have some of our own! You can’t push your life on us! I’m not going to lie about who I am, and I’m not gonna apologize. You’re supposed to love me unconditionally. You’re my MOTHER!” Gabrielle lowered her voice. “I know this will take some getting used to, but if you meet her you will see what I see. She makes me so happy.”

Her mother held on to her husband’s hand like a vice. ” I can’t understand it. I can’t. I thought we raised you right. Stu, did we do something wrong?”

He shook his head. “No Jean I don’t think so.” He looked at his daughters with tears in his eyes. “What did we ever do to get such god forsaken children? Gabby, I-I don’t know if we can accept this—if we ever can. Give us some time.” He looked at his sobbing wife and back at his daughter. “I think it’s better if you leave as soon as possible—before the night is over.” He escorted his crying wife upstairs.

Gabrielle slumped heavily in her chair, eyes red with unshed tears. She put her face in her hands and wept. Jamie cried in sympathy and in reaction to the tension and the yelling. Lilian rocked her daughter, as she too couldn’t hold back the flow. She reached across the table to touch her sister’s hand. “I’m sorry Gabs. I’m used to them laying into me like that, but I didn’t think they would do this to you. You can come stay with me if you want, and hey,” she rubbed Gabrielle’s wrist, “they might come around give them some time.”

Gabrielle wiped her face with shaky hands. “Yeah right, and thanks for the offer. I’m going home.”

“Okay, but you’re in no shape to drive. You should call Tara.”

The three of them made their way upstairs to Gabrielle’s room. She picked up the phone and waited for her lover to pick up.

“Hello?”

Gabrielle sobbed and covered her mouth. “Come get me, please?”

“Oh, god Red. I’m on my way. I’ll bring Jake with me to drive your car back. Baby? Shhhh, it’s okay. I love you—you know that no matter what. You just hold on okay? And we’ll be there as soon as we can.”

“Okay, love you too. Hurry.” She wiped her nose on her sleeve and tried to stop crying.

She hung up the phone and turned to Lilian. “She’s on her way.”

“Okay. I’m gonna be in my own room then downstairs. You try and get some rest. It’s gonna be awhile.” Lilian sat her now quiet daughter on the floor with a toy and tucked her big sister in. She kissed her forehead, picked up her daughter and left the room. So emotionally drained, Gabrielle fell into a restless but dreamless sleep.

A few hours later there was a knock at the door. Lilian went to answer it. She opened the door. “Oh my.” The most beautiful woman she had seen stared back at her not so friendly. “Whoa, tiger. You must be Tara. I’m Gabby’s baby sister Lil. Nice to meet you.” She smiled wickedly. Tara raised an eyebrow and gave her a toothy grin back. She waved an okay to her brother in the car. She wasn’t the enemy.

“Yeah, guilty. How is she?” Tara asked losing her smile.

“She was upstairs sleeping last time I left her. Come on I’ll show you.”

“Agoo!”

Tara’ s face lit up. “Hello precious, and you must be Jamie?”

“Agoo!”

“Oh, Lil she is beautiful.”

Lilian looked up at her unflinchingly. “Uh, huh.” She thought to her self ‘ whew so are you.’ She led her new friend upstairs.

It wasn’t as easy as she thought—going upstairs. Half way down the hall a door opened. A woman stepped out, and Tara figured it was Gabrielle’s mother.

“So you’re the pervert who took my daughter from me?!”

Tara looked at her sadly. “No, I’m the woman who loves your daughter, and I’ve come to take her home.”

Jean huffed and stared, then went back into her bedroom with a slam of the door. Finally making it to her lover’s room, Tara waited inside when she heard the shower running. She said good bye to Lilian with a hug, and ruffled Jamie’s hair. She sat on the edge of the bed waiting for the shower to stop. Gabrielle patted out of the bathroom naked. She gasped when she saw the figure sitting on the bed. “Hey Red, been looking for me?” Gabrielle walked slowly to the bed in front of her lover. Tara reached out and wound her arms around the naked waist pulling the smaller woman to her. She turned her head and pillowed her face against soft breasts.

Gabrielle whimpered and hugged her tightly. ” I need you. I don’t want to leave this place with bad memories.” Knowing instantly what her lover wanted, Tara turned her head and started to kiss the valley between Gabrielle’s breast. She slid both hands up from her waist to cup and knead full breasts. Gabrielle arched her back with a hot whimper. Tara began to pull and rotate the now erect nipples between her fingers. She watched them as they grew harder, fuller, rosier. She pulled and watched them snap back—pulled, snap back.

Gabrielle felt her legs begin to shake. She guided herself onto Tara’s lap, wrapping her legs around her. Her breathing ragged. She tried unsuccessfully to contain her moans. That damn hidden string made her hips buck and lift against Tara’s clothed stomach. Tara moaned herself, but hardened her determination to stay in control. She turned up the heat a little, knowing what her lover needed, knowing she wanted it hot and heavy. Without notice, she bit into the pink nipple. Gabrielle arched and cried out, trying to push more into that delicious mouth. To even things, Tara pinched and pumped the other nipple with increasing fervor. She whispered hoarsely into Gabrielle’s breast, “Tell me what you want—what you need.”

Gabrielle was desperate to forget, desperate to feel. “Inside me. Pleassse!”

Tara slid her hand from breast down to the fiery bush, teasing the hair, teasing the swollen, thick lips, and then quickly, deceptively, she impaled Gabrielle on three fingers. Gabrielle bit into the dark woman’s shoulder to hide her scream. She slammed her hips down onto the fingers, riding them, her hips moving like pistons. She grunted and bit harder into the shoulder with each thrust drawing blood. Tara tried so hard to concentrate on Gabrielle to ignore her own arousal, her own wetness coating her thighs, but each grunt made her vibrate, made her pulsate. She knew when her lover exploded she would too. Gabrielle widened her legs, allowing Tara to go deeper. Tara rubbed against the point that was high and deep, massaging it with her fingers. She caressed trembling walls, and moaned at the flooding wetness, the sexy slurping, smacking sounds, and the constant moans.

One, two, three more thrust, and Gabrielle’s body began to shake. Tara moaned long and hard, when she felt her own thighs quiver. A symphony of low moans filled the room as they both tried so hard to be quiet. Their mouths met, bruisingly, swallowing cries of pleasure. Their bodies shook together, milking, drawing out anything that felt good. They sat there for long minutes, murmuring, gyrating softly. With a whispered, “I love you,” the tears came. The were quickly kissed away and assurance was given that it would all get better. Believing her, Gabrielle knew her heart had no choice but to do so, they both got up to get ready to go.

We’d better hurry, Jake is in the car waiting.”

Gabrielle nodded and looked one more time at the room just remembering what had happened in the past and what just happened presently. With a soft click she closed the door, and went downstairs. Seeing her sister she said softly, “Thank you for supporting me, for taking me the way I am.”

“Hey, what are sister’s for. Oh, and don’t think I’ll stop coming to visit. We will be there soon enough. We need each other now—more than ever.” They hugged and Gabrielle kissed Jamie bye. Not turning back they got in the car.

“Hey, Red.” Jake exclaimed.

“Hey you, and thanks.”

He turned and looked at her. “Anytime,” his voice filled with emotion.

Tara gave him the keys to Gabrielle’s car, and he got out. She pulled Gabrielle close to her as they cuddled in the front seat. She looked at her lover, “Let’s go home.”

****
Story #3: Out on a Limb
Tara lay there somewhere between wakefulness and sleeping. She was engulfed in radiating warmth; in love; in nakedness; in healing light; in her Gabrielle. The shimmering beams of early morning streamed through the opening of the curtains, were deceiving considering the considerable drop in temperature, yet no one stirred. Usually an early riser, she was content to remain spooned around Gabrielle, resting her chin on top of the fiery head. Their legs were a tangled mass, locked together by mutual consent. The smaller woman’s shapely behind was nestled against wiry hair at the apex of her lover’s thighs with the taller woman’s breasts were pressed against her lover’s back. One of Tara’s arms acted as a pillow for red-gold locks, while the other made it’s home under firm breast. The early riser sighed lightly. Heaven. Bliss. Utopia. There was no other way to describe it. Her heart didn’t hurt anymore, and that hollow feeling she used to own seemed to have left long ago, when this woman smiled at her.

She listened to her lover’s light breathing and the soothing sounds of the morning, waiting just waiting and listening for the other shoe to drop. Tara knew Gabrielle was the one, but her questions to herself were—could she keep her and did she deserve her? Never in her life had she gotten what she wanted. Her life was never like the movies. She never got the girl, and she never got to ride off into the sunset. In her version, the bad element seemed to always win. Right now the bad element was Gab’s parents. She had held Gabrielle many a night since Thanksgiving as she cried and awakened from nightmares. Could they win? Her heart clenched, and she whispered into the morning air, “Hell no, not this time. She means too much.” Still, she knew something was on her lover’s mind that she was itching to get off. She tightened her hold on the strawberry blonde, who whimpered in response.

Gabrielle lay there feigning sleep, trying to soak up the warmth from the body behind her. Outside she was warm, comfortable even, but inside she was cold, oh so cold. The only partly warm spot was her heart, and it was because of the woman who held her. She knew this, and she took the whispered words to heart. She wasn’t the only one having a hard time with this. Still, matching the winter chill, was the arctic cold of her soul , which was the responsibility of her parents, and the fear that stemmed from the confrontation. She believed what she told Tara that despite it all her love for her would not change, but could she survive without her family? They had never been very close, but she still loved them. She loved them dearly, and it was that love that kept her hoping that they would call and say we understand. That didn’t happen.

The only solace from the cold was Tara, and of course her friends, including her sister. There were things she had yet to deal with after figuring out who she was. She wasn’t “out” in the public sense of the word. Gabrielle swallowed as unsure thoughts swirled around in her mind. Could she take public ostracism, concerning her friends, as well as that from her family? She remembered what she told Tara about everybody else be damned when it came to them, but being faced with this sort of reality was disheartening. She closed her eyes tightly, took a couple of subtle deep breaths, and then closed the door to her thoughts. Knowing deep inside that these fears needed to be addressed and addressed soon. The worried woman focused on the warmth, on Tara and the incredible heat they shared. Long minutes later, she drifted back into a deep, mentally exhausted sleep.

****

Tara drifted in and out of a restless sleep. Finally, she woke up with the ring of the doorbell. Careful not to wake her lover, she slowly disentangled herself. Grabbing a robe and in bare feet, she padded into the living room. Looking through the peep hole, she saw a serene looking man standing at the door, and as she opened it, the white collar and black suit become visible. A priest. Her brow furrowed in confusion as to why a priest would be on Gab’s doorstep.

“Um, Can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for Gabrielle Howard. Do I have the right house?”

“Yeah, but she’s sleeping.”

The man was quiet for long minutes. He stared at Tara with gentle eyes. She stared back, with her jaw working as she ground her back teeth together in impatience.

“You know what you two are doing is wrong in the eyes of God?”

Tara smiled at him. “You’d better come in Father. We seem to have some talking to do.”

She led him to the couch, and she had a seat in the chair across from him. Tara leaned forward looking him in the eye curiously.

“Her parents sent you.” It wasn’t a question but a statement of fact.

“Gabby has always been a good Catholic girl,” he replied. “But sometimes at vulnerable moments anyone can be lead astray into sin. What you two are doing can not be supported anywhere in the Bible.”

She looked at him evenly for so long that he began to fidget in his seat.

“You can say it Father. H-o-m-o-sexual. It’s okay.” She looked at him with a disarming smile, and tapped her chin.

“Let’s see. So what you’re telling me is that it’s wrong to love. He teaches love. Am I right? He teaches acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. Am I in the right ballpark here? How can you sit there and tell me its wrong to be a part of a love so strong and so pure that it changes you, makes you a better person.”

“But the Lord says—”

She held up her hand. “I’m not finished yet Father. I believe in God. I do. I am also acquainted with the Bible. So, I know that God also says that man should not judge one another. Am I right?”

He nodded his head.

“So, you’re here to tell her that she will go to Hell, Purgatory, or whatever because she loves me?” During this whole exchange, Tara’s voice was soft and respectful. It began to rise a notch.

“Who are you to judge Father? If you take away the collar, you’re just a man, just human. You’re that anyway that would make you more so. No man or woman has the right to judge us. We’re no different Father. No different do you hear me? I can’t help the way I am. It’s not a choice—who on earth would chose such a hard life. Think about this Father before you talk to her, before you end up breaking her heart.”

“I’m not saying its wrong to love young lady, just wrong to love another woman like that. We are all on this earth seeking happiness, but it is the devout that think about the afterlife not just pleasure here on earth.”

Tara shook her head in exasperation. “Did you hear a word I just said? Or are you so far under that you don’t know how to hear anything different?”

“I could say the exact same about you miss.” They were at a stand off.

In the mean time, Gabrielle slowly awakened to the sounds of voices coming from the other room. One she knew was Tara. She scrunched her brow trying to recognize the other. Cocking her head to the side, her eyes widened. “God, tell me that’s not Father Steve,” she whispered. Gabrielle jumped out of bed and searched haphazardly through her drawers finally pulling out old running shorts and a t-shirt. The small woman dashed out into the living room, and she looked from Father Steve to her lover. Tara’s face was showing the beginning of a flush, and her smile was feral. Going into instant protect, nurture mode, she grasped her lover’s shoulders and felt her relax almost instantly. Piercing green raked over the priest.

“Why are you here? They sent you didn’t they?”

When he did not answer right away, her voice raised an octave. “Didn’t they?!

“They are only trying to look out for you Gabby.” He nodded toward Tara. “I just had an interesting conversation with your friend here. She seems to really care about you, but I can’t condone what you are doing.”

Gabrielle answered, “I never asked for your blessing Father. I have my own life to live the way I see fit.” She squeezed Tara’s shoulders. “She makes me a better person—more caring, more open, more everything. That can’t be wrong. You tell my parents that when you report back to them. Right now I think it’s time for you to leave Father. I don’t want this to turn ugly.”

It was his turn to shake his head in exasperation. “If that’s what you really want Gabrielle, I see I can’t convince you.”

He got up to leave. Gabrielle escorted him to the door, silently. He was gone with a final click. She turned to look at her taller lover. As if weighted down, her shoulder’s visibly slumped, and she ran her fingers through bed raggled hair.

“I-I can’t believe they would do this to me.”

Tara looked at the little woman with empathetic eyes. “We got some talking to do, Red. Something’s been on your mind, and I’ve tried to be patient and wait it out. I can’t anymore.” Tara patted her lap. “Have a seat.”

Gabrielle took a deep breath and cuddled up in the soft lap. After a few tense moments, she began to speak. “I’m scared, T. I know in my heart what I told you about not leaving you was true, but-but being faced with reality like this. It threw me for a loop. There is a possibility that my family may never accept me, never want to see me again. I don’t know if I can deal with that, even for you. I don’t know if I’m strong enough.”

Tara’s body tensed all over again. ‘Was this it? Was this how it was gonna end?’ “Um, so what you’re saying is that it’s too much to deal with even to love me?”

Gabrielle closed her eyes. “No that’s not—ugh, I don’t know what I’m saying. This is so hard. I love you. You know that. I just-just need you to help me. Lend me some of you heart and strength for a little while.

Tara closed her own eyes and took in a ragged breath, trying to fight back tears. “Red, don’tcha know you got my heart already baby, and as for me being strong, you help make me that way. I wasn’t kidding when I told the priest that loving you changed me.”

Gabrielle snuggled in closer and rested her chin on top of Tara’s head. “God, I haven’t even told my other friends or colleagues about it yet.”

Tara stiffened even more. She jumped up almost depositing the startled woman on the floor. Her eyes were wild with hurt, her voice heavy with emotion. “Why is it so important what other people think? I mean I can understand you being worried about your family, but those other people shouldn’t mean shit, Gab. Why can’t it just be us living our lives and loving each other, huh?”

Gabrielle looked at her stunned. She didn’t know what to say or to do, so she just lowered her head. Tara sighed and mumbled, “I’m going to the shop. I’ll call you later.” She walked to the bedroom with a purpose and slammed the door. Gabrielle could hear her stomping around and then, the sounds of the shower. She sat down heavily in the abandoned chair. The seat was still warm with Tara’s heat. The little woman sat there trying to understand what she had said to set Tara off like that. She dropped her head in her hands.

Tara quickly washed up, still seething. “Everything is more important than us to her!” She whispered hotly into the water. Tucking in the back of her mind, her own insecurities and questions that needed to be broached, she jerked the handle to turn the water off, quickly dried herself, and just as quickly got dressed with her wet hair plastered back to her head. Now, back out in the living room, she stopped and stared at the bent figure in the plush chair. Tara walked until she was directly behind the slumped woman, and shakily reached out a hand. Gabrielle started when she felt Tara’s presence in the room. She thought that she was going to touch her, but felt her hand draw back at the last minute. She quickly turned only to see a tall figure retreating out the door, and she sat there in stunned silence not understanding the silent treatment or the reluctance to touch.

First, there were tears and then the anger came. She got up, angrily throwing things around the house, in an attempt to clean. Steadily mumbling to herself, “Why doesn’t she understand? She went through the same damn thing with her mom and friends. Didn’t she? I don’t fucking understand her sometimes. She closes herself off to me!” Gabrielle stopped dead in the middle of the room. “But, she only does that when something is really bothering her. There’s something she’s not telling me I know it.” She blew her bangs away from her forehead. “God, our first real fight. Sheesh, it had to happen.” She strengthened her resolve to find out what was going on, but she knew Tara well enough to know that it would be revealed in her own time.

****

Tara went into work with the disposition of a snake, hissing and snapping at anyone who crossed her path. Her two employees learned quickly to get out of her way. Her mind continuously wondered back to the woman she left sitting in the chair. She was losing her. She just knew it. Her thoughts were a jumbled mass of confusion and hurt. “Why did this have to get so hard? I’m not good enough or strong enough to keep her. That’s why she’s questioning everything.” A familiar pain shot through her body. Her heart was hurting. “I don’t know if I can survive this one. I’ve given too much, shown too much to her already.” Tara’s mind reeled with such thoughts throughout the morning, and correspondingly, she worked like a madwoman, trying to keep the impending pain at bay.

Gabrielle shut off the shower and dashed into the bedroom naked to answer the ringing phone. “Hello, Tara?”

“Um, that would be no.”

“Oh, hi, Lil.”

“Well damn, don’t sound too happy to hear from me.”

“I’m sorry. It’s not that me and Tara had a fight, and I thought you were her calling.”

“Uh-huh. Do you want me to call back another time?”

“No, no, it’s okay. It’s nice to hear from you. What’s up?”

“Eh, same old same old. Nothing new, Mom is still barely talking to me, but dad has come around though.”

“Lucky you, I haven’t heard from either of them. Oh, and guess who paid me a visit this morning?” Gabrielle could almost see her sister’s dark brow raising in question.

“Who?”

“Father Steve.” There was an intake of breath.

“Oh no, hold up! They did not do that!”

Gabrielle laughed bitterly. “Oh yeah, they did.” She proceeded to tell her what she heard and what she was present for.

Several minutes later, “Is that what lead to the fight between you two?”

“Sorta, I’m not sure. All I know is that something is really bothering her, and she’s lashing out because of it. I’m gonna go over to the shop later and try to make up with her.”

“Do what you gotta do Gab. She really loves you from what I can tell. Oh, and hey listen, this is probably the worst time in the world to bring this up, but um, I was thinking of paying you a visit for a couple of days, baby in tow. If I’m gonna interrupt your writing or come in between you two, I can reschedule.”

“No, no it’s okay. I’m almost finished with my book, and I got an extension from my publisher. As for the other matter, I think we’ll be alright, and she doesn’t spend the night here every night. I stay over there sometimes.”

Lil laughed lecherously, “Oh yeah, I just bet you do!”

Gabrielle joined in the laughter. “Gutterslut.”

“Oh, listen who’s talking. If I remember correctly, you were going on and on about the varying speeds of Tara’s tongue—”

“Ooook, touché. Anyway, so when were you thinking of coming down? I can’t wait to see Jamie.

“Day after tomorrow if that’s okay?”

Yeah, sure, and if we decide to go out I have this neighbor, a really nice old lady, the kids love her, and she baby-sits for a lot of parents in the neighborhood. She could keep Jamie. Oh, and one more thing, Thanks.”

Huh, for what?”

“You always make me laugh and feel better.”

“Tch, I’m just doing my job, Gab,” she said softly. “I’ll see you soon big sis. Bye.”

“Bye.” She hung up the phone and proceeded to get dressed. There was something she had to take care of or rather someone.

****

Gabrielle sat looking at herself in the car mirror, gathering the nerve to go inside Tara’s Bike Shop. She saw Viv, one of Tara’s employees, leave, and knew it was only John and Tara left. It was an hour after closing, and she assumed they were cleaning up for the night. Getting out of the car, she adjusted her dress, which had unceremoniously began to ride up. Her low heels clicked against the concrete of the street and the sidewalk. She had her hand on the door, when it opened suddenly to reveal a surprised then an appreciative looking John as he stared down at her. “Hey Gabster. The boss lady is in the garage.”

“Thanks John.” She grinned and said in response. She locked the door and drew the shades after him. Once again, she adjusted her dress. The pale yellow jersey material clung enticingly to every curve and kissed her bosom, leaving just enough exposed to be semi-scandalous. The color complimented her fiery hair left untamed tonight and glittery green eyes. The dress was held up by thin straps, and she had boldly left her jacket in the car. The ensemble ended just above her knees, and her legs were covered in sheer silk stockings that hooked to a garter belt of the same pale color, with little else underneath. The nervous woman took a deep breath and walked quickly into the garage to find her unsuspecting lover retrieving and putting up tools.

The hair on the back of Tara’s neck tingled with awareness, and she turned to look over her shoulder. “Hey,” Gabrielle said quietly. Tara’s breath caught and held in her chest at the vision before her. As if her eyes had been starving for a look at her lover, she quickly stood up and faced the smaller woman, swallowing as she drank in the sight. Her eyes blinked once, twice, three times before she realized she had been spoken to. Her mouth suddenly dry, she cleared her throat. “Um, hi yourself.” Gabrielle took a step forward, but on the other end, Tara was rooted to that spot.

“Um, I-I didn’t want to leave things like they were, so I decided to come see you. I hope that’s okay?” Tara nodded and smiled shakily. Gabrielle took another step forward.

“Look, I’m not sure what all that was about this morning, but I obviously hurt you. I never mean or want to do that. I’m sorry.” She looked at her lover shyly. “Um, can you talk to me and tell me what’s wrong? I want us to be okay.”

Tara looked at her with pleading pale blue eyes. She wanted so much to voice her insecurities, her old pain and fears, but she wouldn’t, not yet –not until she knew Gabrielle would be there despite how illogical it sounded.

Reading her love perfectly, “Soon then? When you’re ready?”

Tara looked down at her feet then back up into inquisitive green. “Yeah, I’m sorry too about all this. I didn’t mean to go off like that.” She looked down at her hands ashamed.

“Hey, its okay. Are we okay? I mean for right now?” Tara nodded her head and smiled genuinely.

“I love you, Red. No matter what I say.”

Gabrielle grinned back. “I know.”

Just the phrase got a chuckle from Tara. “Hey listen. I’ll be right back. Gotta take these tools to the back and wash my face and stuff. I must look a mess.”

Gabrielle nodded. After she was alone, she kicked off her shoes and lifted the dress over her head to expose—absolutely nothing underneath except the silk garter. This was her way of making sure things were okay, showing that they were still alive, still thriving, and still wanting. This was her way of showing Tara how much she meant to her. She had to have her, to touch her, to take her. There were no if, ands, or buts about it. So, she followed her unsuspecting lover in the back storage room, her body shivering in anticipation, despite the heat.

Tara quickly threw the tools in the appropriate tool box, and was busily washing her face and hands in a nearby sink. Getting that prickly feeling again, she stood up and turned around. There walking toward her was the picture of perfection, a naked picture of perfection. The silk garter was like packaging holding sweet secrets behind red gold curls.

“Sweet Jesus—”

The wet towel she was using fell from nerveless fingers back into the sink with a wet thud. Her heart beat hard against her chest, so hard and so loud, surely it could be heard. Gabrielle took a step forward, and in response, Tara took a step back totally unnerved by the feral, predatory look of need in her love’s eyes. The game went on until Tara found herself with her back against a side wall, surrounded . Gabrielle’s eyes closed to slits as she took in the uncharacteristic display of fear.

She cocked her head to the side and smiled a smile that was no more than a baring of white teeth. The taller woman’s breathing became erratic, and she licked suddenly dry lips. Gabrielle tracked each move. She watched the pink tongue intensely, and licked her own lips in empathy. Tara shook her head, trying to gain release from the haze. ‘This is Gabrielle. Come on. She doesn’t have it in her to take over like this. Anytime she had in the past was gentle, loving.’ There was no gentleness in her gaze. Gabrielle stepped so close to her lover that they were breathing the same air, so close but not touching. The dark woman whimpered at their bodies being so close scorched by wave after wave of heat that was coming off the smaller woman’s body. It threatened to consume her. The younger woman’s heart was beating double time and rising faster with the level of excitement. Never had she suspected this reaction from her lover. It was too near to total submission, pure and simple. She wanted it all. She could almost taste it.

Gabrielle placed her hands on either side of the lover’s head. The pink tips of her breasts rubbed delectably against the soft, worn fabric of Tara’s coveralls. They stood there staring at each other. One was begging the other to submit to lust, to love, to passion. The other was holding back. Gabrielle held Tara with a gaze so intense it seemed to look through her very soul. Finally, one soul spoke to another and with permission shining in her eyes, she gave in. A small growl of triumph escaped Gabrielle’s throat. In a flurry of movement, the little woman leaned heavily into her bigger lover. One hand buried itself deep into black tresses and yanked the woman’s neck back. Gabrielle’s warm, moist mouth covered her lover’s throat, her teeth biting into the rapid pulse at the base.

Tara cried out and helplessly her body flooded with syrupy heat. Hands that had been flattened against the wall a moment before sought out and grabbed hold of pliant, fleshy globes partly covered in silk. Gabrielle groaned as she nipped and sucked in the flavor of her lover’s skin. She felt Tara’s body tremble as she bit into the strong cords at the side of her neck. Just as quickly as she started, she jerked Tara’s head away from her mouth. She whimpered in protest and was about to beg, but it turned into a low sensual moan as her lips were covered, suffused with the heat of the woman before her. Not waiting for an invitation, Gabrielle opened her mouth hotly over Tara’s demanding her to do the same. Their lips meet powerfully, searingly. Tongues dueled for entry slipping, sliding, caressing each other. Tara whimpered harshly into her lover’s mouth, when the tip of Gabrielle’s tongue flicked rapidly over hers. The aggressive little woman wrenched her mouth free, fighting desperately to draw this out until the fire was scorching. Her tall lover mewed in protest, her eyes dark with desire and confusion. Whether it was meant to quiet her or just to touch soft swollen wet lips she wasn’t sure, Gabrielle caressed Tara’s lips with her fingertips before pushing two deep into the cavern of her mouth.

The dark woman sucked and swirled her tongue around them. Tasting her. Gabrielle pressed down with her fingers, opening her lover’s mouth. She covered Tara’s mouth once again, fingers and all, using them to open her mouth wider, to spear her tongue deeper. Tara’s legs began to shake. The kiss was an exercise in pure eroticism. Each flick of Gabrielle’s tongue stroked a fire and drew out an answering whimper. Tara crushed her lover’s lower body against her, rubbing, gyrating her hips futilely. Her sex throbbed with a life of its own, and she hadn’t even been touched yet. Gabrielle’s fingers left their moist prison, and Tara loosened her hold also. The kiss ended briefly as the petite woman’s hands became busy tearing at the zipper in the front of Tara’s coveralls. Finally, getting it free, she unzipped her quickly, pushing the grease stained fabric off her shoulders to reveal even more clothes. The strawberry blonde pushed the sweat pants and the wisp of underwear down around her lover’s calves, letting free the smell of her arousal into the air already heavy with a metallic tang. It only served to sweeten it.

“I can smell you, so wet,” Gabrielle uttered. Tara only groaned as she quickly kicked free of her shoes and clothing; only to almost sink to the floor herself as their naked bodies met, crushing back together, and she instinctively parted her legs and maneuvered Gabrielle’s thigh between them. Seemingly, the sounds echoed off the quiet walls as they moaned in unison. One because of soft flesh rubbing tantalizingly against her pulsing clit, and the other because of the warm, wet, stickiness of her lover coating her thigh. Their mouths and tongues touched yet again, drinking from each other as if dying from a ravenous thirst. Gabrielle squeezed her eyes shut tightly in an effort to maintain control. Her own pleasure was unimportant. She fought hard to ignore the smell and feel of her own wetness and the throbbing of her own clit. Her stomach was tied in knots of desire, but Tara’s pleasure was paramount. She pushed her thigh upward and heard a groan of appreciation as Tara ground down harder on it. With a helpless response, she gripped the smaller woman’s shapely bottom, pulling it into her to increase the friction. Tara whimpered heatedly into the lush mouth. Gabrielle opened her eyes and watched Tara’s face. Her dark hair was damp with sweat, and her face was flushed. Her eyes were large and dark glittering with arousal.

Just when Tara was sure that the present pleasure was going to stay, it was removed. Gabrielle tore her lips away and lowered her leg to the ground. The brunette looked as though she was going to lunge for her to further the contact, but instead, she almost slammed her head against the wall in exasperation. Gabrielle slid soft hands from her dark lover’s waist under her t-shirt. She watched in satisfaction as Tara arched her back into the touch. She cupped full breasts in her hands squeezing and separating them lightly. Tara murmured what sounded like a plea, and silently her lover complied by removing the rest of her clothing. The mechanic felt wound tighter than a cork. She felt like screaming lest her head would explode. Ever relentless, the shorter woman leaned back to survey her handiwork. The other woman’s breathing was shallow and raspy, and with each breath her luscious breasts seemed to beckon the watcher. Unable to resist, Gabrielle tweaked a nipple slowly between her fingertips. She pulled and watched it snap back into place—harder, prouder than before.

“God T, I love your tits. They—oh God I gotta taste them,” she groaned harshly.

Feeling utterly compelled, Tara had to watch her lover make love to her breasts. What she saw, what she felt, almost made her stop breathing to wallow in the moment. A pink tongue out slowly caressing, tasting each crinkle around its target, making it more pronounced, more wrinkly. She circled her tongue slowly around the dark nipple never touching it. Tara hissed in frustration and thrust her chest out trying to help her find her way. Never wavering from the task, Gabrielle eyes closed, and she moaned in rapture. She had never tasted anything so luscious and meant to savor each flavor each texture as if it was the first time. Intuitively, knowing the nipple was lonely, neglected, she flicked it lightly with the tip of her tongue. Tara sucked in a breath. Unable to turn her eyes away, she watched enamored as her breasts were savored. In a word, it was delicious. Nerve endings crackled raw and exposed, leaving her body humming with electricity. Her sex dripped with readiness, but she distinctively got the feeling that Gabrielle had just begun. She longed to rub her aching center and balled her hands into fists against the wall to keep from doing just that.

With a quick little hot move, Gabrielle sucked the nipple into her wet mouth, continuously sucking and slurping more and more in until her mouth was full. The smaller woman slowly pulled her head back, making sure her teeth lightly scraped against the flesh in her mouth all the way to the nipple, while pumping the other nipple in between her fingers.

“Unngh, oh God!”

Tara’s hips bucked forward searching for any contact to relieve the pressure steadily building between her legs. She growled in frustration when nothing was forthcoming. The taller woman buried her hand in red-gold, begging her to repeat the caress, and repeat it she did, until the only thing from her lover’s mouth was a constant whimper. Tara could no longer contain her moaning responses. She had lost all control, and Gabrielle had her body singing any tune she wanted. Joining in on the erotic symphony, Gabrielle whimpered a tune of satisfaction, making her lover’s blood boil hotter, higher. She removed her mouth from one breast with a slurp and went immediately on to the other, giving it identical treatment. With a free hand, she found and touched her lover’s lips. On a moan, she slipped two fingers inside her mouth. The dark woman closed her lips over them, as her smaller lover began to pump them in and out. It was a hot promise of what was to come. Gabrielle groaned sexily into the nipple, as Tara’s large tongue flicked over her digits. Being inside the brunette felt much like this, all hot, wet and silky with a suction that seemed to pull her deeper.

The moist pink mouth trailed further down her lover’s torso leaving a tingling burning trail in its wake. The fingers slid from their moist home. Unsuspectingly, they found another as they bypassed the small pulsing nodule to get to steaming opening.

“Shit! Oh yesss!”

Gabrielle plunged inside deep feeling the warm wetness coating her fingers. She moaned at the feel of it. With each thrust, she pulled out to the tip only to enter again all the way up to the hilt, adding one finger then another. Tara bent her knees in order to ride the obliging fingers with a grunt, trying to slam her body down on them. She worked her body hard, reflective of the fine sheen that covered it. She held Gabrielle’s mouth to her body not wanting to severe the warm contact. It was fire pure and simple in its intensity. Gabrielle slid down to her knees, and her warm mouth ended up on the inside of a thigh as she watched her fingers work. She watched as they disappeared deep into her lover’s opening; she watched the dark flush of nether lips; she watched the copious fluids cover her hand each time she pulled out. Never had there love making been more profound, more erotic. Gabrielle began to shake in her attempt to maintain control. The sexy smacking sounds, the smell of her lover, the sticky warmth covering her hand grated against her control. She squeezed her thighs together to release some pressure, but it only served to heighten her awareness.

The petite woman’s inner walls clinched in empathy to the pleasure she knew her lover was receiving. Remembering the salty, sweet flavor of Tara’s essence, the strawberry blonde felt compelled to taste it once more. She tapped her lover on the leg and tried to lift her it up. Getting the hint, Tara threw her leg over a shoulder. Gabrielle listened to the not so quiet whimpering sobs coming from her lover, but she wanted them to get louder, longer. The little woman groaned as she kissed the damp hair of the outer lips. She dipped her tongue in deeper licking the stickiness of inner lips with first the tip then the flat of her tongue. Tara’s moans went up an octave. Tara ground her sex into her lover’s face. A strangled cry was torn from her throat when inner lips were met with a warm, wet suction. The pleasure was exquisite, near the edge of pain. Her tongue was slow and deep much like her fingers. Gabrielle hummed in pleasure as she devoured the creamy coating. It was no use. She had to come too, if only to intensify the moment, the pleasure, anything less would be sacrilegious.

As if it had been waiting ions, her clit jumped in ecstasy as it was finally stroked by Gabrielle’s strong tongue. She lapped at the other woman’s clitoris with long, slow, languid strokes guaranteed to increase the fire burning, and the intensity of impending orgasm. Her fingers curved going deeper, scraping against the spot inside that was soft and high, guaranteed to make Tara scream and scream she did.

“Pleasssse! Harder!”

Gabrielle complied. Her fingers slammed into hot flesh. The strawberry blonde created a suction pulling sensitive flesh into her mouth and grazing it with teeth and tongue. Nothing—absolutely nothing prepared Tara for the orgasm that ripped through her with soul shattering force. One hand dug into a nearby table almost splintering the old wood. The other hand tugged bruisingly against Gabrielle’s hair. Blue eyes rolled back into her head as her body was pummeled with convulsions that threatened to bring her to her knees. “Ggabriellle!” The taller woman clawed tooth and nail to stay conscious, and she was conscious enough to hear precious sounds coming from below. Gabrielle’s heart stopped in her chest, when she felt the force of her lover’s orgasm pulling against her fingers. Her own thighs shook, as she milked the bud retrieving every ounce of pleasure. She tore her mouth away as seconds later, “Unnngh!” Her own climax caused her body to quake, and a multitude of colors to explode behind her eyes. She drank in the hot steaming flow of her lover’s orgasm as the ripples subsided within her own body, careful to get every drop. Tara whimpered softly as her knees finally gave way, and she sank to the floor. Gabrielle detached her mouth and engulfed the spent woman in her arms, whispering words of love into her ear and only receiving gibberish back.

While her body had reached its pinnacle in pleasure, she was left hungry for more, but that would have to wait because she gave Tara what she wanted to give her; showed her what she wanted to show her—devotion, love, and desire.

She held Tara tightly to her, kissing her forehead as sanity returned slowly. The tall woman closed her eyes trying to hold onto the floating feeling, never wanting to let it go. Her body shivered still as she continued to sob quietly.

“God, Red you—incredible. L-love you so much.”

“Shhhh, it’s okay. I know baby.” They lay for long minutes. Warm air flowing through the vents heated their cooling bodies. With one final kiss to her lover’s forehead, Gabrielle whispered, “Let’s go home.” She helped Tara up and deposited her discarded clothes in her hands.

“You okay? Do you need some help putting these on?”

Tara smirked, “Yeah, Red, fine just a tad bit shaky is all.”

She bit her lip to keep from smiling. “Kay. I’m gonna go see if I can find my dress, left it in the garage somewhere.” Tara nodded her head.

Gabrielle whimpered when she walked, her deprived center vibrating with each step. ‘Later,’ she said to herself. She put on her dress slowly, and walked back to the store room to see if Tara needed help anyway. Tara pursed her lips and looked at her lover. She took in the flushed face, large, glowing eyes, and the little shimmy in her walk knowingly. She hid a smile, and just raised an eyebrow instead, which was missed.

****

Upon exiting, Tara pulled the front door, making sure it was secure. She turned to the shorter woman, “Okay, let’s go.” She pulled the keys from small fingers. “I’ll drive.” She got a quiet, “Kay,” in return. They talked quietly about nothing in particular on the way home, Christmas, Lilian coming over, Jake being out of town, and future dinner plans with Shannon and Wayne even came up. Gabrielle noticed that Tara seemed a bit more mellow, a bit more there and smiled in satisfaction. Even though, she knew deep down that some talking and revealing still needed to be done. She turned her head and looked out the window as her smile widened despite itself. The smile froze on her face, and her heart dropped into her stomach, when she felt Tara’s hand resting between her legs, massaging her damp mound.

“Mmmm, just like I thought Red, still wet, still waiting,” Tara growled in a low sultry voice.

As if galvanized into to action by the voice, Gabrielle whimpered heatedly and parted her legs wide, ready for what ever Tara was going to do. The taller woman’s fingers dipped in, rubbing softly against inner lips, coating her fingers. She brought them up, and they glistened in the dimness of the car. Able to only briefly take her eyes off the road, Tara made sure the woman watched her as she sucked the fingers dry. “Hmmmmm.” Gabrielle watched and moaned harshly–her breathing turning ragged. Reaching back over between parted legs, just like that, Tara began to rub the engorged nub in small tight circles. Her lover cried out at the attention. One hand gripped Tara’s forearm in a vice like grip urging her on, and the other held on to the fabric of the seat as an anchor.

“Oooooo!”

“That’s it. God, it’s so big, Red. All for me isn’t it?” When no answer was forthcoming, Tara sped up her fingers, “Isn’t it!?”

“Yesss, please inside!”

Tara didn’t care who saw or who pulled over. She had to finish this. It was too hot not too. The dark woman pulled the car to the side of the lonely stretch of road. Everybody else be damned. Deep inside she felt the faint stirrings of renewed desire, but swallowed them down. Once pulled over, she rubbed Gabrielle’s throbbing clit for a few more intense seconds, loving to hear the woman cry out and watch her squirm. Gabrielle sobbed repeatedly into the sex filled air of the car. The windows had long since become foggy with the increase of heat inside. Her hips rose off the seat to meet the talented fingers, and her body sang with incredible waves of pleasure. This is what she had wanted to happen wasn’t it? Somewhere way back in her mind, she knew that paybacks were indeed a bitch.

The next few seconds transformed from hot to white hot. “Come here,” Tara whispered harshly into the sobbing woman’s ear. “Sit in my lap.” Gabrielle obeyed immediately, pulling her dress up around her waist, and she was quickly rewarded by being impaled on three long fingers.

“Oooh, God! Unnngh!”

Gabrielle set her own rhythm hot, heavy, and deep. She rode the digits, taking it all in, hurting the webbing of her lover’s fingers with each smack of her body into them. She was so wet, so turned on, so needy, and getting so much closer. Tara breathed hotly into her lover’s ear, knowing that would intensify the passion Gabrielle was already feeling.

“You’re ready aren’t you?”

Gabrielle bobbed her head up and down enthusiastically.

“Ready to come—for me?”

“Yessssss!”

“Then come on. All over my hand, Red.”

One, two more thrusts and Gabrielle went almost completely still. Her mouth opened and a scream rang out, making even Tara’s ears smart. The little woman’s body jerked spastically. Orgasm tore through her like a dull knife, boring into her, extending the pleasure/pain. Oblivion tried its best to pull Gabrielle under. She fought it weakly, but staved it off nonetheless. She mumbled incoherently into Tara’s neck with her body still reverberating with tiny, potent aftershocks. Tara rubbed her back and kissed her brow to sooth her spent lover. Several minutes later, Tara thought her asleep when she didn’t stir. She pulled her head back softly to reveal her face. What she saw almost made her chuckle. With a dreamy look on her face, Gabrielle smirked and pursed her lips.

“Paybacks. Yah.”

This did bring a chuckle that formed into an all out laugh. “Let’s get you home, Red.” She softly deposited the woman in her own seat. Gabrielle whimpered in protest, her body losing contact with Tara’s. “Shhhh, okay.” She bent over and kissed the small woman on the cheek as she started the car. She watched with a proud twinkle in her eyes as sleep finally claimed her lover. A few minutes later, she parked in Gabrielle’s driveway, and Tara carried her from the car to their bed. She undressed her slowly not wanting to wake her. The tall woman stripped her own clothes and spooned around her lover. Deep sleep claimed them both.
Part II
A day later, Lil balanced her load precariously. Jamie was on one arm with a huge diaper bag to match over that shoulder, and Lil’s own large bag was over the other shoulder. She eyed her sister’s doorbell trying to decide how to ring or if she should just yell for help. It was a little early in the morning so the yelling was out. Turning to the side, she pushed her shoulder into the bell softly, grinning as she heard the resounding *ding-dong*.

Lounging in the living room in her robe, drinking one of Gabrielle’s strange blends of coffee was Tara. She sat in front of the TV. It was watching her instead of the other way around. She looked down into the cup and scrunched her brow trying to figure out what this one was. She smirked and shook her head not understanding why people didn’t just drink coffee black, like nature intended. Her ears perked up, and she looked warily at the door when the door bell rang, wondering if it was the priest again. Tara got up and sauntered to the front door to look out the peep hole. She smiled as she saw little Jamie fingering her mommy’s ear. Opening the door immediately, she whisked the baby out of Lilian’s arms.

“Hey Lil, I didn’t know you were coming so early, and hey there lil bit!”

“Pffffft, boo, agoo!”

“Eh, didn’t have anything else to do today so we set out early this morning.”

“Oh, okay, come on in.” Tara threw Jamie up in the air. “Someone learned a new sound, didn’t they?” Jamie squealed, making Tara laugh. “Well, let me go put some clothes on and wake Gab. We’ll be right back. Won’t we lil bit?”

Lilian shook her head in wonder at the tall woman. She was certainly something. She sat her bags on the couch and sat down heavily. She almost jumped when she heard Gabrielle’s distinctive squeal. She smiled wickedly wondering what Tara had done.

Upon entering the bed room, Tara sat Jamie on the bed, near Gabrielle’s head. How was she to know the little girl was going to pull her aunt’s hair like a rag doll? Gabrielle squealed as she awakened suddenly, “Ouuuuch, dammit! Who—awwww hey punkin!” She hugged the dark haired baby to her naked chest. Tara chuckled as she pulled on sweat pants and a t-shirt.

“I guess you figured out that your sister is in the living room. They just got here a few minutes ago. Oh, uh you might want to put some clothes on before more sensitive parts of your body get pulled—whoa!” Tara ducked out of the way as a pillow sailed for her head.

“Goo, boo-boo!”

“Yeah, what she said, ” Tara laughed. “Okay sunshine, let’s go back out to mom, your aunt will be out in a minute.”

Gabrielle dressed quickly and went out to hug her sister. Lilian rubbed her back and whispered in her ear, “Hey girl, everything okay?”

“Yeah, for right now.”

Lilian looked at her sister inquisitively, but didn’t say anything.

“Come on, I’ll help you take your bags into your bedroom.”

“Alrighty, I hope you got some curtains in there that damn winter sun shines directly into my eye.”

“Yes, you big baby there are curtains in there now.”

Lilian gave her a mock pout, and they walked down the hall laughing merrily, leaving Tara with the baby. Tara sat on the floor, Indian style, and sat Jamie in the gap between her legs. The tall woman bent over and seemingly whispered something in the little girl’s ear that made her scream with laughter. Tara began to laugh herself as she repeated the playful gesture. Both Gabrielle and Lilian came from the back room quietly to observe what was going on. What they saw was baby Jamie all flush and giggly, with a bigger Tara in back of her just as goofy. Lil and Gabrielle glanced amused at each other then back at Tara. As if by some mutual agreement, they both cleared their throats at the same time. Tara’s head jerked up, and she blushed furiously. “Uh, I didn’t have dolls growing up?” Tara said feebly. Gabrielle inserted her tongue in her cheek to keep from laughing. She smiled prettily instead, and said in a baby voice, “Wittle Gabby needs wuvin too.” Lilian screamed in laughter, holding on to the wall. Tara looked at Gabrielle sheepishly and stuck out her tongue. Jamie started to giggle because her mother was, and the rest of them joined in. Still, giggling somewhat, Gabrielle went into the kitchen to start breakfast.

The day went by quickly with all four of them together. Tara called her shop early telling John and Viv to hold down the fort because she was taking a sick day. The entire day was filled with laughter as Lilian told old stories about a young Gabrielle and the trouble she used to get in. Gabrielle had a few stories of her own, which caused her lover to lean on her and laugh. It was also a time where Lilian got to know Tara better, and what she heard and saw she liked. She watched the thoughtful sometimes heated looks and little touches pass between the couple. Her sister looked happy, despite what she had told her earlier. Lilian touched Tara on the leg.

“So, let me hear this famous story about how you two met. I hear its a something else from what Gab told me.”

Gabrielle covered Tara’s mouth with her hand. “No way that will have to wait till tomorrow at dinner. We’re goin out. Shannon and Wayne are coming too, and I’m sure they will be more than happy to add their two cents.”

Tara raised an eyebrow at Lil who grinned in return. “Okay, I’m game. Uh, you might want to take your hand off her mouth now. She doesn’t look happy.” Gabrielle snatched her hand away and grinned crookedly at Tara. She licked her lips and grinned back wickedly. The smaller woman’s eyes widened because she knew something was coming. Paybacks being what they are. Tara lunged at her, tickling her till she hiccuped and begged to come up for air. Lilian looked on amused and Jamie clapped her hands enthusiastically. As the quickly as the day went by so did the night. Little Jamie was already in an exhausted sleep. The grown ups decided to stay up and watch movies until the wee hours of the morning. They laughed, cried and even booed at the bad ones.

****

Lil awakened early to the squirms of her daughter. After getting up, changing her, and feeding her, she made her way to the bathroom still groggy. The light was on in the bathroom and the door was slightly ajar. Before she opened it Lil peaked in, and what she saw completely brought her awake. Tara stood in front of the sink in the nude with a toothbrush waiting in her mouth while she brushed her long main of black hair. Lil blinked and looked again, surely she was seeing things. She opened her eyes. Yep, still there. “Oh, my.” She said under her breath. The woman was quite beautiful with clothes on but without she was—

“Now, you know why I switched teams,” Gabrielle said loudly from next to her.

Lil screamed and jumped at the same time. “Uh, I-I was—and the uh,” she gestured to her bedroom with her hands.

Tara walked to the door to open it wider, wanting to see what all the commotion was about. Never being one to be ashamed of her nakedness, she looked down at Lil and raised an eyebrow her eyes twinkling with merriment. Lil looked down, ‘Oh bad idea,’ she thought, ‘but great breasts. Whoa, down girl. Bad, bad.” Tara looked over at her lover who was smirking in delight. Lil looked from one to the other. “I-uh, I’m gonna—baby yah baby.” She quickly walked away muttering to herself. Gabrielle giggled as she patted Tara on the fanny.

“Baby, you can’t go around seducing the company like that.”

Tara pursed her lips and smiled down at her. Gabrielle followed her back into the bathroom and firmly closed the door. She brushed her lover’s hair as she brushed her teeth. She leaned in and kissed a shoulder when she was done. She looked down and followed the line of Tara’s body. Gabrielle sucked in a breath as her eyes took in the hard, shapely buttocks, and long, long legs.

“You are so beautiful. Do you know that?”

“Only in your eyes, Red, and they are the most important.” Tara turned and took her in her arms. They kissed softly, trying not to start any fires. Gabrielle pulled back.

“Other people’s opinion’s really don’t matter to you?

“No, they don’t.

B-but, how could they not get to you. The things people say—the way they act-”

“No, listen it only counts what you think about yourself. It’s up to you to listen or not to listen to them. Why can’t you see that? Its just like with us—forget it I gotta get out of here and get to the shop. I’ll see you tonight.” Tara pulled away and went back into the bedroom to get dressed.

Gabrielle frowned in confusion then bristled with anger. She hated when Tara walked away from her like that. She took two deep breaths while trying to decide if she should confront her lover and get it all out now or wait like she had been doing. Confronting would only escalate to another fight judging by the mood Tara was in, and if they fought, Gabrielle would get nothing out of her, when she knew something was going on under all that hair. Waiting it would be. Instead of going back to her own bedroom, Gabrielle decided to go talk to Lil, where she sat in the bed embarrassed until Gabrielle assured her everything was okay, getting a renewed laugh about Lil’s little adventure. Quiet minutes later, Lil looked at Gabrielle searchingly. She was too quiet.

“Gab, what’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing. There is just some stuff me and Tara need to work out on our own.” They heard the front door shut and assumed it was the woman they were discussing.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I am. It’s just gonna take time is all.”

Lil stared at her for a few more minutes hoping she would open up. Nothing was forthcoming. “Okay, if that’s what you want. Alright, then let’s get up, and I’ll fix you some banana pancakes, just like mom used to make.”

“Kay, deal.” Gabrielle’s heart drooped a little more wondering if her mom was ever going to come around. The day was full of girl talk and old stories. Lil continuously tried to take her sister’s mind off Tara.

****

Meanwhile, at the bike shop, the snake was back again. John and Viv left her alone in the store room long hours ago. She constantly stared at the back wall, remembering what had just happened in there a couple of days before. Tara ran a greasy hand through her hair, cursing the world and their ignorance. That ignorance and how it made Gabrielle feel could be the death of their relationship, and she knew it. Exactly that had happened to her once or twice, and she had seen it happen to others. This time it would cost too much if it happened. Her hands shook as she looked around the room with eyes blurry with tears. That old pain came back again deeper and more intense than before. Her heart clenched and wept. She cried out in anger and kicked a table, almost breaking the sturdy leg. She kicked it again, ignoring the pain and hoping it would make her feel better, but deep inside she knew only one thing could do that, Gabrielle staying in her life. Her day went by slowly, painfully, but still she couldn’t wait to see her lover’s face again.

****

Gabrielle and Lil waited in the living room for Tara to come over. They had taken Jamie over to Mrs. Tibidault’s house. Lil was relieved when the old woman did seem nice and trustworthy. Jamie took to her almost immediately. Gabrielle looked at her watch.

“Tara should be by soon to pick us up. Shannon and Wayne are going to meet us there by the way. Lil, you are going to love this food!” Gabrielle squealed excitedly.

“I can’t wait to see those two again, and don’t get too excited there Gab. You’re gonna cream—”

The door opened, and Tara rushed in. “Sorry I’m late gang. Traffic was a bitch.” She looked down on at her lover—hey eyes soft and pleading. “Ready to go gorgeous?”

“Yeah.” Gabrielle smiled crookedly. It was a reprieve—for now. They got to the Mexican restaurant in good time. Gabrielle saw Wayne’s car outside. “They’re already inside.” Lil led the way as Gabrielle and Tara tagged behind side by side. Tara’s hand went to the small of her lover’s back to guide her, but as soon as they got inside she felt Gabrielle stiffen. Thinking it was the sudden heat from coming out in the cold, Tara threw her arm over her lover’s shoulders to give her a warming hug. She felt Gabrielle stiffen even more. Tara watched her looking around erratically at the other patrons, who looked back curiously. The tall woman bit down on her jaw as she felt anger rise.

Gabrielle’s heart was beating out of her chest. She looked around at the people, who looked right back at her. Tara tried to hug her, and she stiffened in horror. It was their first time really in public together. She could see the disgust on some people’s faces as her lover hugged her. Gabrielle visibly flinched away from Tara’s touch, wondering what these people were thinking about them. She swallowed as fear permeated her heart, and her breath rasped out in panic. She wanted to run, to get away from the disapproving eyes. She looked over at Wayne and Shannon sitting there laughing—oblivious to the stares. She breathed in deeply and decided to try and fake it through the evening. She walked mechanically over to the table, when she saw Shannon waving.

“Hey all you gorgeous women! Oh, and hey Lil.” Wayne said in greeting. Lil stuck out her tongue and smacked him on the shoulder.

“Hey yourself, smartass,” Lil said in response.

“Hey guys,” Gabrielle said quietly. Tara nodded at them in stony silence.

Wayne and Shannon looked at each other frowning. Shannon cleared his throat, “About time you guys got here. I’m starving!” Lil smiled and looked over at the stiff couple. She frowned into Shannon’s eyes also. He gave her a look that said, ‘ I don’t know.’

Tara tried to swallow her anger and give it another go. She tried to cover Gabrielle’s hand with her own on the table. Gabrielle jerked away with a look of disgust on her face. In one moment everything exploded. Tara jumped up. “This is really fucked up Gab. Look at you—how you’re acting. You don’t even know these people. You’re ashamed of me!”

Gabrielle looked up blindly, finally finding pale blue eyes. She saw the pain in them, and now she understood what had been going on all this time. She had just added to it.

Tara looked at the group her eyes wild. “I have to go.” Just like that she was gone with not even a look back. The restaurant was so quiet the clinking of silverware could be heard. Eyes were riveted on Gabrielle, and she never felt more alone in her life. All this time, Tara had been afraid that she was going to leave because of the stigma their relationship entailed. All this time. She sobbed quietly and looked up to see three pairs of eyes on her. They too were stunned into silence. Gabrielle whispered, “Shan can you take us home. I can’t –Oh, god.” She started to cry in earnest. Lil rubbed her back and looked at Shannon and Wayne pleadingly. They got up silently and helped Gabrielle out of the restaurant into the car. The car was filled with tense quiet as it ate up the miles, except for Gabrielle hiccuping from time to time. They pulled up to her house and Lil helped her out of the car. Shannon whispered, “Call us if she needs anything. Call anyway to let me know she’s okay.” Lil nodded in response.

Once in the house, Gabrielle sat down heavily on the couch. Her eyes staring straight ahead not seeing. Lil whispered something too her about calling and checking on Jamie. Still, she looked straight ahead. “Gab, Jamie is gonna stay with Mrs. Tibidault tonight. I thought that would be best. Do you need me to get you anything, something to drink?” The crying woman shook her head no. They sat like that for hours with Lil having a one-sided conversation, getting only nods in return. Until Gabrielle whispered harshly, her throat raw from crying, “Where is she. I-I need to talk to her.” She picked up the phone and dialed Tara’s cell phone number. It rang and rang, finally saying something about the customer not being in range. She called the shop. There was no answer. Gabrielle slammed the phone down and worry took over. She looked at the clock. It had been almost four hours since she last saw Tara.

****

Tara drove around for what seemed like hours. She sped through the streets as if hoping to outrun her fear. Tears trickled down her face and pain radiated from her chest. She looked up to see a car running a red light, heading straight for her. In a moment of clarity that might have been too late, she met oblivion as metal jarred and crushed together.

She woke up under hot lights, and her head screaming in pain. She tried to shake her head to clear out the cotton wool, and whimpered as the pain made her dizzy and nauseous. Her arms were incredibly sore, and her right eye felt swollen. She looked up into the pen light shining into her eye and said one word. “Gabrielle.”

“Just lie back Ms. White. We found some numbers in your bag, and this Gabrielle person is being called. Just try to relax now. We gave you something to help you sleep, but you’re going to be just fine.”

Tara closed her eyes and let the blackness back in.

****

Gabrielle nearly pounced on the phone when it rung.

“Tara?”

“Uh, no. Is this Ms. Howard? This is County Hospital calling.”

“Yes, yes this is Gabrielle Howard.”

Ms. Howard this is Nurse Ford. A Tara White has been in a car accident, and your number was in a bag the police found. There were others but there was no answer there.”

Gabrielle’s hand flew to her mouth as she looked at Lil with horror in her eyes. “Is-is she alright?” Her voice raising in emotion.

“She is in stable condition, ma’am, but you still might want to be here.”

“I’m on my way.”

“Okay Ms. Howard, come to the emergency room, and ask the front desk for information.”

Gabrielle hung up the phone with a loud click. “Lil—” she said tears steaming down her face.

“I heard. Let’s go.”

Gabrielle ran through the halls of the hospital to the Emergency room. Lil followed close behind . She reached the desk, and between the tears she asked about Tara. The clerk looked at her unable to understand, until Lil intervened. The clerk nodded his head and asked Gabrielle who she was. She gave her name, and he escorted her to a room through a secure door. “She’s been asking for you,” was all he said as he lead her into a dimly lit examining room. Gabrielle sat down in the chair beside the bed and looked at her lover. Her usually olive toned skin was pale and pasty. One of her beautiful blue eyes were swollen shut, and a bandage was hiding the damage to her forehead. Her arms were covered with nasty scratches. Gabrielle sobbed and began to rock back and forth. She did this. Her selfishness did this. “It’s my fault,” she whispered into the air.

“No, it’s not,” came the hoarse reply. It’s both ours for being so stupid and not saying what was really bothering us. Tara reached out a hand. “Don’t leave me Gab. Please.” She said raggedly.

Gabrielle took the hand and kissed it. “Never. Oh, baby, don’t you know you’re my heart? I was going through a tough time dealing with all this crap, but this puts it all in perspective. You are what matters to me. You are my family if need be. I-I’m so sorry I didn’t explain how I was feeling.”

“Shhhhh, it’s okay.” Tara swallowed. “I was so afraid of losing you that I thought if I said something it would become reality. Does that make sense? I mean you seemed so concerned about what other people thought that I was sure I was going to lose you to those ‘other people.”

“So stupid. I almost lost you over something so stupid. Don’t you do this again. Don’t you leave me either. You hear?!”

Gabrielle could see the crooked smile even through the dimness.

“Deal. Come here, Red. I need a hug.” Gabrielle crawled slowly into the bed beside her lover and softly took her in her arms.
“Better?” Gabrielle asked. Tara nodded and kissed the top of her head. They talked for a few more hours about renewed hopes and hidden fears until Tara fell asleep. After a night of observation, Gabrielle took her lover home to tend to the concussion and array of cuts on her own. Lil left the day after, when she made sure things were okay between them. Once home, Gabrielle called Shannon, Wayne, and Jake, who was in Florida to ensure them that everything was fine.

The little woman kissed her lover on the forehead after giving her medicine, and she ducked back into the kitchen when she saw eyes drooping to fix herself a sandwich. She looked offended at the suddenly ringing phone.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Gabby dear.”

Gabrielle almost choked on the sandwich. “Um, h-hi mom. Is everything okay?”

“Everything is fine sweetie. Your father and I have been talking. Your sister came to see us, and had quite a bit to say. Er, what I’m trying to say is we would like to meet your friend when she is feeling better. If that’s okay with you?”

Gabrielle put the food down forgotten and smiled despite herself. “Mom, of course it’s okay, and Mom? I’ve missed you…”

****
Story #4:Possession
Tara took a deep breathe and blew it out with force, disturbing her bangs. She looked over at Gabrielle who was shifting and fidgeting in the driver’s seat. Gabrielle looked back at her with a raised eyebrow, as she chewed on the sides of her fingers.

“Welcome to Gary. What do you think?” asked the smaller woman.

“Moment of truth baby. Moment of something anyway. As for the city, it looks like every other one in Indiana that I’ve seen.”

“Well at least it should be interesting. You scared?”

“Nah, not really. Just wondering how I should greet them. Mom and dad is that too much?” Tara replied.

The strawberry blonde giggled as she pictured jaws dropping and scraping the floor.

“You? Scared I mean, Red?”

“Nope not really. I’m anxious actually. They took the first step so that’s gotta be good right?”

“Riiiiight.” ‘Whew! Gabrielle’s parent’s house’ was all she could think.

They sat in the dark car parked in the long driveway, working up nerve, patience and a plethora of other things the quiet night surrounded them making thoughts reverberate loudly in their heads. Gabrielle gulped. ‘Okay, it can’t get any worse than Thanksgiving. They kicked me out for God’s sake. Unh, huh, who am I trying to kid?’ She bit the inside of her lip. ‘At least Tara’s here. It makes it safer.’ Swallowing again, she pried the fingers away that were squeezing her heart, creating the beginning of panic. When it pumped free and strong again, she breathed deeply, and somehow she knew they could face anything as long as it was together. Besides Lil was going to be there and that should make things even more interesting with the dramatic flair her sister possessed.

Tara drummed long fingers on the door. ‘Ugh, I hope I can get through this. I hope she can get through this. If it turns ugly again, they better not hurt her. I don’t care if I have to tell the both of them off.’ Tara gritted her teeth remembering the nightmares and restless nights of not too long ago. A surge of protectiveness flowed through her body. Her eyes closed to slits, and the pale blue orbs glittered in the darkened car. She balled her hands into fists, readying herself for a mental or physical fight if need be. Totally in tuned with her lover, Gabrielle sensed her struggle. She grasped the larger hand into her smaller one, rubbing the outside of it until it opened. Gazing deep into azure, she tried to convey assurance and draw on strength simultaneously as she held the hand. Fingers laced automatically into a lovers embrace. Gabrielle smirked affectionately and got one in return. Tara raised a soft hand to her lips.

“I love you too, Red.” Taking a calming breath. “Well shall we dance?”

“Oh, yeah let’s do this.”

****

Unbeknownest to the couple in the car, they were observed through a semi dark window by a mother wringing her hands trying to figure out what to say; a father who just wanted things to be okay and get back to normal; and a wickedly smiling Lilian who just knew those two were going to kiss and scandalize her prudent parents. Lil whispered, “Oh, shit!” as she saw them getting out of the car. She looked at both her parents and almost pushed them out of the way to get to the living room in an attempt to appear as though she wasn’t spying. Jean walked briskly to the kitchen, grabbing on to the side of the wall to steady herself as she sped around the corner. Stu shook his cigarette lighter in exasperation as he took a hurried seat in a plush leather chair, next to his other daughter. He shook the lighter more and flicked it, trying to light the cigarette that suddenly appeared between his lips as part of his attempt to look casual.

As the door creaked open and Gabrielle’s voice echoed through, Father and daughter glanced at each other and simultaneously said, “In here!” Lilian pursed her lips and smiled crookedly at her father, who gave her a stern look in return. The pair entered the living room one almost dwarfed by the other but equal nonetheless. Tara’s hand was warming in the small of her lover’s back, and it wasn’t going to move. She made up her mind on the way here to touch Gabrielle often to assure the both of them. Sister’s smiled outright at each other then Gabrielle peered steadily at her father until he offered a tremulous smile and just as tremulous open arms. She sighed in those arms. It had been a long time in between hugs. She squeezed his stocky body. ‘This was definitely a step in the right direction.’ Tara studied her lover with kindness and understanding shining in her eyes. She then glanced over at Lilian who smiled, “Hey blue eyes, you look like your feeling better.” Dark blue eyes scrutinized fading cuts and bruises. Tara sauntered over for a hug, and whispered in Lil’s ear,

“Thanks to your sis.”

Lil patter her back and cleared her throat.

“C’mon let me introduce you. Dad? This is Tara. Tara. Stewart Howard.”

Tara swallowed reflexively and looked him in the eyes aware of her lover next to him gazing at her hopefully.

“Um, hello Mr. Howard.”

She reached out a hand, glaring at him challengingly. With a blank mask firmly on his face, he shook the offered hand.

“So, you’re the one my little girl says she loves.”

Tara nodded her head.

“It’s a two way street Mr. Howard. I love her more everyday, if its possible.” She looked down at the grinning and blushing strawberry blonde with a sparkle in her eye.

He in turn nodded his head and exhibited a ghost of a smile.

“It’s hard for me to understand, Tara, this relationship, but” his voice trembled in unnamed emotion, “she’s my daughter after all and nothing is worth losing her for. Lil over there made me see that. She told me to weigh things to decide which was more important, holding on the an archaic belief or holding on to my daughter. But I-I’m going to need some time, but I’ll get there if you two give me a chance?”

Gabrielle wiped blindly at her eyes as she stared at her father in amazement. “Oh daddy! Thank you. Thank you.” She hugged him again burying her face in the bristly neck, sniffing in the smell of tobacco and after shave that was so familiar. Unable to help herself, Tara slid a hand over the top of red-gold tresses. She looked up to see Mr. Howard flinch at the action, but she ignored it. Gabrielle tore herself away from her father and latched onto Tara, sobbing quietly and happily into her neck.

****

All the while, Jean stood alone in the kitchen holding on to the sink with a white knuckled grip. What her daughter was doing was wrong according to what she was taught. How could she as a woman and as a mother turn away from what she learned, what was instilled in her by parents, priests, family, and the cannons of religion?

Her mind swam as did her soul, pulled in different directions. The effects of it left her dizzy, and she sat down heavily in a nearby chair. Like a mantra, she whispered to herself, “Gabrielle is what matters.” She repeated it over and over again, hoping to make herself believe it. Smoothing her slightly quivering hands over her dark, cropped, and curled head sprinkled sparingly with gray, she took a deep breath then brushed a hand down the front of her blue silk dress, brushing away lint both imagined and real. Steeling herself against negative thoughts, the woman got up and walked slowly to the living room, where several voices could be heard.

****

Searching the room, “Hey Lil, where’s Lil bit?” Tara asked being always on the look out for the energetic girl.

“Oh, she’s at her father’s this weekend.”

Tara tried to hide the frown, which drew a smile from Lil. “Buuut, I’ll tell you what. I can call him and have him put her on the phone. I bet she’ll recognize your voice.”

Tara nodded enthusiastically drawing a chuckle from her now composed lover. “You’re something else with her. Nothing but a big kid,” she said, making her lover blush visibly. Lil walked over to the phone making the promised call. Stu observed the exchange in silence and wondered, thinking there was more to her than the challenging stare and blue eyes.

Lil tapped Tara on the shoulder, “Sorry, he said she’s sleeping.”

Tara sighed, “Well, okay.”

They all turned when they heard a discreet ‘ahem’ come from the vicinity of the entryway. Gabrielle glanced from Tara to her father then back at her mother.

“Um, hi mom. Wondered where you were.”

Jean pointed toward the kitchen. “Just finishing up in there.”

She examined her daughter with an appraising eye. “You look good Gabby. How you been?” Gabrielle stared at her mother unflinchingly.

“Better now mom. Tara’s been taking good care of me.”

For the second time, the older woman studied her guest. Jean held her breath as she took in the fine patrician features, capped off by gentle silver-blue eyes and inky black hair. The woman was much taller than her daughter, making her seem like a little girl in comparison. But she saw it and felt it The energy that crackled around them, the attraction. It was hard to miss. She saw the happy glow on Gabrielle’s face. The sparkling eyes and flushed skin and couldn’t remember the last time she looked like that. The older woman glanced back up at Tara and took a step toward offering a hand.

“My goodness you’re a tall one.”

The woman cocked her head to the side and smirked shakily but crookedly. The other occupants of the room laughed softly. Tara released a breath that she wasn’t aware of holding. Relief or something akin to it flowed through her body. Her heart infused with warmth as she dared to hope that things would turn out okay. Taking in the older woman’s expression, a light bulb went off in her head.

“Ahh, that’s where she gets that look from.” It was the perfect icebreaker.

The comment earned her a slap on the arm from her lover as well as a more genuine smile from her lover’s mother.

“I must say it’s nice to meet you. I’m uh sorry about the last time you were here. I just needed some time, and I still do to get used to this. It’s kinda hard to watch your little girl grow up one way and find out she went another, but I know I must accept it to accept her. It’s gonna take me some time is all. I love her anyway. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mrs. Howard. I think I do.”

Gabrielle touched her mother’s arm. “Mom, I love you too.

She smiled and squeezed a hand so much like her own but older. Younger eyes spoke to older ones sending a silent thank you.

Jean glared down at her husband sitting in his chair. “Well don’t just sit there. Get these girls something to drink, while I set the table.” He gazed up at his wife affectionately.

“Okay ladies what will it be?”

“Gin and tonic for me dad. For Tara too.” She threw a smirk the taller woman’s way. Blue eyes twinkled back at her.

“Ew, that stuff is nasty. For me something sweet. How about a sex on the beach?” Lilian deadpanned.

Stu stopped to examine his younger daughter then rolled his eyes toward the ceiling.

“A white wine you say? Coming right up.”

****

Lil smacked her lips and observed her snickering sister and Tara. A fine sliver of fear forced its way into her jovial mood, making her lose the smile. She had to talk to Gabrielle alone. So much had been brewing inside her for the past few months. So many questions. Maybe it was just curiosity. She remembered admiring Tara’s naked body not too long ago. Then again maybe not.
Refusing to ponder the countless incidents the past few months, she tried vehemently to snap her mind shut, but to know avail. She wasn’t kidding when she asked Gabrielle what it was like to be with another woman. Lilian laughed derisively at herself and thought, ‘ well if I am that would be another argument for genetics.’ Still, the dark haired woman was unable to figure out why this was happening now. Maybe it was because Gabrielle put a name to the feelings she had been having. Guilt laid on her shoulders becoming a heavy burden with just the simple fact of not telling her sister what was going on. There was a reason for it. Fear. Fear on her part that if it was said aloud things would go from abstract to concrete with the snap of a finger. The young woman made a decision to hide behind a semi-genuine smile and laugh hoping to have the intestinal fortitude to talk to her sister later.

****

They drank in companionable silence until dinner was announced. Three people sat at the table their minds heavy with racing thoughts and two sat filled with hope. The dinner was quiet except for the clanging of plates and the clinking of silverware. That was until someone decided to break it.

“So, Tara do you mind if I asked what you do?”

Tara swallowed the remaining piece of roast beef before she answered. “I own a bike—er motorcycle shop. I fix them and sell them.”

Stu’s eyes lit up. “Oh really? I used to ride in my younger days.”

The conversation went on in depth for long minutes. Gabrielle smiled at the excited flush on Tara’s face, knowing she loved talking about her work. She looked across the table at her sister who seemed to be far away at the moment. Her forehead crinkled in concentration under strawberry blonde bangs, trying to guess what was wrong, and vowing to talk to her later. She gazed over at her mother who raised her eyes to the ceiling and shook her head as she listened to her husband pontificate about his ‘younger days.’ Both their eyes sparkled with mirth. Later, much later the conversation ending, Tara looked over at mother and daughters who were talking quietly.

“Mrs. Howard?”

Slightly turning away from the daughter, Jean raised an eyebrow expectantly.

“Uh, I see where Red gets it from. You’re a great cook.”

Both of Jean’s eyebrows rose. “Uhmm, Red?” She swung her eyes over to Gabrielle who was blushing furiously. The blushing woman looked up and gave her lover a mock stern glare.

“Taraaaa!!”

“Oh sorry. My nickname for her.”

Lil giggled openly then did it behind a napkin when Gabrielle shot daggers with her eyes.

Jean pursed her lips, “Ah, I see.” She decided to play along with the game. “Red? Would you like to help your mother clear the table?”

Tara bit back her laughter and peered over her glass at Lil who guffawed.

“Oh geez!” Gabrielle turned a brighter red.

Her father stood up, “Anyone want an after dinner drink? What about you Red?”

Tara couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing at the look of sheer exasperation on her lover’s face. “Aaaaargh, you people are awful!” Still, she smiled crookedly feeling happiness bubble up inside causing her to feel giddy and light. Gabrielle knew it was going well she couldn’t have wished it better. “I love you guys, and thanks I needed this.” Lil smiled brightly, while mother and father acknowledged the moment with slight nods and deceptively watery eyes.

The table was cleared, and the occupants of the house ended up once again in the living room. They all chatted amiably, and after a while, Lil got up to look out the window. The fear was back grasping at her heart. ‘ Maybe if I just ignore it. It’ll go away. Yeah right.’ She took a deep breath her body filling with anxiety, causing her to down her drink in one gulp. Feeling her palms turning clammy, she wiped them on her pants and noticed them visibly shaking.

“Lil are you okay?” Her sister’s voice whispered from close behind.

’Now! Go on tell her you need to talk. Tell her! You can’t keep this inside,’ her conscious screamed.

“Uh yeah I’m fine. Just missing Jamie I guess.”

“Uh huh.” Gabrielle said unconvinced. “Are you sure? You seemed sorta far away at dinner.”

“Yeah Gabs, I’m fine it’s nothing.”

“Okay, If you say so.” She rubbed the dark haired woman’s back to give her comfort. “I’m here regardless.”

Gabrielle left her brooding sister at the window sitting down once again. “Hey mom? I was thinking about showing Tara around. I don’t know how much longer we’re gonna be here tonight so?”

“Okay, hun. Are you two sure you want to leave tonight?”

Tara chimed in thinking of the possibility of not sharing a bed, “Yeah Mrs. Howard I gotta work in the morning. I wanna at least be back in the early morning hours. I can sleep on the way home.”

“Well if you girls are sure?” Tara nodded her head.

“Hey,” Stu interjected, “what are you two doing for Christmas?”

“Don’t have exact plans yet dad.”

“Feel free to come here but no pressure.”

“Kay, it’s a thought, but I was hoping that Lil would bring Jamie and spend some of her vacation with us.” Gabrielle heard a muffled ‘sure’ come from the vicinity of the window. She also noticed the desolate look in her mother’s eyes with the mention of the word us,but decided not to bring it up. She looked down at her watch.

“Well, it’s 7 o’clock right now. I could show you around about an hour or so and we could be back home by 1am.” She looked up at Tara.

“Okay sounds good to me.”

“Hey mom, we’ll come back to say a quick good bye before we leave okay?”

“Sure thing sweetie. See you two later.” Tara waved shyly as the walked out the door.

Gabrielle sat stock still in the driver’s seat then almost squealed with delight, drawing a chuckle from the woman beside her.

****

“I can’t believe it T! I was hoping they would come around. But, I saw the look on their faces when you touched me and I said Lil was coming to stay with us. I guess they really do have a little ways to go, but this was a big step.”

Tara nodded her head. “Yeah Red they seemed to be trying really hard. You did good baby, and I’m glad things worked out.”

She reached over and brought her lover within her embrace. “You were very lucky that they were willing to go this far.” She squeezed tenderly and kissed the top of the silky red head.

“Thanks for being there.” Gabrielle mumbled.

“No place in the world I’d rather be.”

After a few seconds of silence. “Gabrielle?”

The smaller woman shivered, loving to hear her name said so endearingly so full of longing. Happiness strummed through her body. “Yeah?”

“I love you Gabrielle.”

The happy woman whimpered audibly. Nothing could be more perfect; more endearing; more laden with love that Tara saying her name. “I know.” The smaller woman whispered huskily. Tara held her for a few more minutes then deposited another kiss on top of her head before letting go.

Gabrielle turned gazing into the bewitching blue then at lips that marked her body, her soul. She brushed them softly with her thumb outlining them sensually as moisture gathered on her finger. The erotic act was rewarded with a shaky intake of breath. Carefully, deliberately Gabrielle leaned in and brushed warm lips with her own. Their lips clung moistly, enticingly as if they had a mind of their own. Eyes closed and breaths were held. Gabrielle’s body quaked under the onslaught as thick syrupy heat invaded her limbs and pooled in her groin, causing her to whimper into the sweet lips that held hers.

She touched small fingertips to her lover’s flushed throat, beckoning her to open. Tara did with a whimper of her own as tongues slid and battled, moistly. She was irrevocably lost. There was no car, no driveway, no parent’s house. Just lips that owned and branded her. Small hands wound their way into dark tresses, trying to belay her need. Larger hands caressed a strong back, trying to belay her need for skin. Gabrielle thrust her tongue inside with slow, erotic, but confident strokes, murmuring her delight and pulling a cry from Tara that she drank in like nectar. The windows of the car fogged with the growing heat on the inside.

Finally, giving her lover what she wanted, Tara deepened the kiss. Lips were crushed and nipped brusingly. It should have hurt, but it only fed the fire that burned between them, around them. They were brought back rudely to reality when Gabrielle accidentally leaned into the horn in her attempt to move and straddle her lover. Both women jumped and tore their mouths away.
Breathing was ragged and uneven. The smaller woman protested with a whimper. She glanced up at Tara with eyes that spoke volumes. “I wanna be inside you, under your skin,” they said. She had seen that look before at the beginning and numerous times afterward, but it still affected her. Tara tore her eyes away and rubbed shaking hands down her pants leg. Her body screamed. Her libido raged to take her, knowing there would be no resistance. But, they had to compose themselves.

“Gabri-Red, please don’t look at me like that. We need to stop.”

Gabrielle’s hands held the steering wheel in a punishing grip. Her breath whooshed out.

“God, I know. I just need—”

She looked up at Tara , whimpered then pulled her gaze back to the steering column. They sat there for what seemed like an eternity in silence trying to get breathing back to normal, trying to compose themselves. Neither was able to speak, knowing it would only start the fire again. It had been two weeks and two days since they made love due to Tara’s injuries, but they got the go ahead to get life back to ‘normal’ that day. It had been a long dry spell. Finally composed, Gabrielle took a few deep breaths.

“Okay, I’ll show you my high school and some old hang outs and even tell you stories behind them. Shouldn’t take long.” Tara nodded and offered a shaky smile.

****

They drove in a now comfortable silence through the cold, still night. The first stop was the high school. It appeared to be like any other school. A big red building with several smaller red buildings around, dimmed in the street lights, but it came to life with Gabrielle’s description. The smaller woman pointed and spoke in animated fashion. She showed Tara the ‘in crowd hang out’ by a big oak tree that had seen better days.

“My group usually hung out over there.” She pointed to a ragged picnic table illuminated in the poor light.

“And what group did you belong to, Red?”

Gabrielle smiled at the memories and the laughs. “Uh, the geeks of course!”

“No way! Never would have imagined that one.” Tara smirked knowingly, earning a smack on her arm from her lover.

“Anyways, despite being ridiculed, we had some great times. They made high school bearable for me.” She paused as they drove past another spot. “Ooooo,” she stopped pointed toward another knarled tree under a street lamp, “over there is where I had my first kiss!”

Tara raised an eyebrow. “Oh really?” The tall woman opened the door and ran toward the unsuspecting tree. Gabrielle looked on completely startled. “C’mon Red!” She turned off the car and walked briskly toward her lover.

“You’re nuts, T! What are you doing out here?” she laughed her breath a puff of white smoke. Gabrielle turned her back and leaned into the still solid bark.

“This baby.”

Tara leaned her body heavily into Gabrielle’s and kissed her with such force the smaller woman’s legs buckled. Pulling her up, Tara urged her to wrap shaky legs about her waist. The tall, dark woman opened her mouth over her lover’s and speared her tongue inside just tasting the moan that was ripped from her throat. Before engaging its mate to play, she ran her larger tongue over teeth and gums. Finally, flicking back and forth over her lover’s tongue before sucking it deep into the cavern of her mouth, causing the smaller woman to whimper raggedly and undulate her hips in passionate response. Small hands buried themselves in black tresses, pulling Tara tighter into the hot embrace as if she was trying to get inside her skin.

The kiss went on becoming more wild, more wet, and more uncontrolled. Gabrielle was falling higher and higher reaching for some unreachable plateau. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t breath. She could only feel, and she would do anything to increase the pleasure. Her body was on fire from the inside, spreading outward quickly scorching her skin. In one instant, she felt her nipples harden, her heart contract, her stomach twist with desire, and her clit hum in immediate arousal. It was in a word– mind-blowing.

Gabrielle moaned harshly into her lover’s mouth. It seemed so long ago since Tara had kissed her like this. She needed this. They needed this. Never had one kiss been so arousing, so all encompassing. As it continued to spiral out of control, Gabrielle gyrated her hips faster seeking relief from the pounding and pulsing inside. She cried out in abject frustration, cursing herself for not wearing a skirt, despite the cold. Tara fed on the power while giving in at the same time. It was a heady mix.

Her body strained as pleasure permeated her muscles making them pliant. She shivered against the smaller woman, loving the kiss, loving the taste, loving the woman. Tara moaned at the increase cadence of the hips humping against her abdomen, wishing she could feel the wetness she knew was there for she could feel her own making her thighs slick and trembling. She palmed the well rounded, firm globes of her lover’s behind through the jeans, pulling her into her body, trying futilely to compound the friction.

From now on when Gabrielle came home and saw this tree, this little patch of land, she would possess a different memory—they would possess a different memory of a more heated, more erotic, more adult kiss. Tara whimpered deep in her own frustration then growled low in her throat, inciting a series of tremors to pass through her lover. Knowing they had to stop, it was a sound of disappointment as much as a sound of arousal.

With surprising strength, Tara wrenched her mouth away as Gabrielle howled in protest. Their breath was audible as it was visible in the cold air. Tara gazed into her lover’s face to see green eyes dilated and dark with arousal, skin flushed, and lips red and swollen. “Beautiful,” she whispered. Knowing that the taller woman was trying to end the madness, Gabrielle ground down hard with her hips, causing them both to moan harshly.

“Oh, God T please don’t stop. I need—take me!” She pleaded her voice husky with want.

Tara hissed as she felt renewed wetness trickle down her thighs at the spoken words. The hiss turned into a whimper as she leaned in their foreheads touching.

“We can’t, Red. Look where we are.” Her voice was throaty and deep with emotion. “God knows I want to but we can’t baby.” Gabrielle closed her eyes her ache becoming almost a physical pain. She wanted to say ‘so!’ But, Tara was right. Opening her eyes, she looked around wondering if they had been anyone’s entertainment. Taking a few calming breaths, she tried to put a cap on her raging hormones. Then she had the weirdest thought.

“You know it just occurred to me that some dirty old man for a janitor was probably watching us through binoculars wishing he had some viagra.”

Tara’s eyes widened as she glanced around. Their eyes met again and the laughter ensued. Their bodies shook as they laughed, trying to release some of the raw sexual tension they had just experienced. Tara deposited Gabrielle back on the ground and kissed her on the nose. “You’re something else Red.” The statement received a toothy grin in response as they walked slowly back to the car, energy still crackling around them. Gabrielle glanced at her watch. “Oh good we got plenty of time for one more stop,” she said cryptically, getting a raised eyebrow in lieu of words of acknowledgement.

****

Back in the moving car, Gabrielle split her attention between the road and Tara.

“Hey what brought that on back there?” She motioned with her hand.

“What on?”

“You know that kiss.”

“Oh, do I need a reason to kiss you?” Tara smirked.

“Well no, but I got a feeling—”

Oook, I wanted to give you a new memory for that tree.”

Gabrielle smiled and flushed all over again. “Oh, I’ll say you succeeded rather well.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Oh okay we’re here. Welcome to my town’s version of look out point.”

Tara looked around. It seemed to be some property with a pond in the middle. Still, the light from the moon and stars provided a romantic illumination enough to make it sensual. Yep, it was…”You brought me to a make out spot?” Tara looked around noticing several cars with huddled figures, even one with feet hanging out the window. “People still do this?” She laughed.

“What are you laughing about? We’ve had sex in this car twice!”

“Oh yeah I didn’t forget. So?” Tara wriggled her eyebrows suggestively.

Gabrielle giggled. “No, no was hoping we could talk for now. We could do that later we’ve waited this long.”

“Yeah okay. Say Red, you seem familiar with this place. Been here before have we?”

“Welll yeah. Had my share of boyfriends in high school. Came up here around four times I think. Never felt like doing anything more than kissing though, didn’t feel much period, but when I felt like it was time to lose my virginity I just did it you know? Didn’t feel anything then either.” She laughed bitterly. “Always dated boys I was sure my father would like, just to keep the peace.”

Tara stared at her through the dim lighting in surprise. “Really Red? Never figured you for the type to come out here. Learn something new everyday, and I think you broke the mold when you brought me home to meet dad—like those boys I ain’t.”

“That is the truth. But, its kinda weird really. There is a lot I don’t know about you, but I know you . I feel so comfortable like we’ve been together forever. So, familiar.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. Felt it when I first met you. Ask me what you wanna know about me—anything.”

“Kay.” She was quiet for a minute. “Um did you used to come to places like this when you were younger?”

Tara cleared her throat. “I’ve never been with a man Red.”

Gabrielle’s eyes widened in surprise. “Um oh, uh with girls then?”

“No, they were much bolder than that. They took me home to their own bed.”

“Oooh my. Guess you really do learn something new.”

“Does that bother you?”

“No, no it doesn’t just surprised is all plus I have you now. Um, do you mind if I ask how many women—you know?”

Tara looked at her thoughtfully. “Well, I can count them on two hands including you. They were all caring and intense except the one’s in high school were mainly exploration.”

“Ah, I guess I am kinda jealous now. They probably knew what they were doing. Did you learn all those things you do to me from them?”

“They don’t even compare to you Red. You know the saying class by yourself? That applies to you. I never felt with them what I do for you. You make me feel like its okay to lose control to show you all of me.”

“Oh yeah, I know what you mean. Will it sound strange if I tell you that you were the first person to make me feel?”

“No, it doesn’t cuz I feel the same way sorta like can’t hide much from each other?”

Gabrielle nodded her head in agreement. “Uh, T? So you were never in love before me?”

“Came close once a few years ago when I met Caitlin. She was older and I don’t know was just drawn to her. I was cocky back then because I knew my looks could get me what I wanted from women. I thought I could use that to get her. So, I went after her—hard. It took some time for me to realize that’s what she wanted. It was part of the game she played. She talked pretty and sweet telling me she had never felt that way all kinds of bullshit.”

Tara brushed a stray hair back behind her ear and reached for Gabrielle’s hand. “By the time we had sex I was so hooked that I was like a damned puppy, and she enjoyed every minute of it. I told her I was falling in love, and she just laughed in my face saying something about little girls not knowing the deal. Come to find out, she had someone all along so I was just someone to play with. It hurt me bad—real bad. Took me a long time to open up again good thing or I wouldn’t have met you huh?”

Gabrielle squeezed her lover’s hand and watched her through the semi-darkness as she told the story. She sounded so nonchalant about it. Like it was no big deal. She felt anger toward this Caitlin that someone could do that to this woman who has such a good heart. Gabrielle hoped she never met her—it conjured up images of her smacking the undoubtedly beautiful woman on the head. Tara studied her lover, wondering what she was thinking. She had surprised herself being able to tell that particular story without the pain even the name used to elicit.

“Does it still hurt?” Gabrielle asked out of the blue.

Nope. I don’t feel anything. To be angry or hurt would give her too much credit—too much power over me.”

“Ahh, gotcha. Hope I never meet her. I got this urge to beat her ass.”

Tara threw back her head and laughed. “Jake was right in calling you Miss Firecracker.”

“He called me what!? Ew, I don’t think I like that name. I’m gonna talk to him about that.”

Tara tried to hide her giggle unsuccessfully, getting a glare from her lover. She made popping, sizzling sounds just to add to Gabrielle’s annoyed state. As the last vestiges of laughter left Tara, she revealed, “Ya know I think Jake is why I like kids so much. I know you were probably wondering. I pretty much raised Jake when we were younger. He’s like six years younger than me. Mom was never around much, then she disappeared when he turned 18. So, he’s been with me ever since.”

“Damn, you had a lot of responsibility. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had to raise Lil, she was a holy terror growing up. Speaking of which, something’s wrong with her I know it. She was too quiet, for her anyway.”

“Yeah, I noticed that too. Maybe we’ll find out when she comes over in a couple of days?”

“I guess. Hey, what do you wanna do for Christmas? It’s our first holiday together—not that far off either.”

“I know already got your gifts.” Tara smiled broadly.

“Oh really and you never asked me what I wanted.”

“Oh, I know baby. I pay attention.”

“Mmm hmm. Anyways, I was thinking of having dinner just us along with Jake, Lil and Shan and Wayne if they want to come. What do you think?”

“Eh, sounds like a plan to me.”

“God, I can’t wait. It’s gonna be great!”

Tara grinned. The little woman’s enthusiasm was contagious. Gabrielle burrowed further under her sweater and zipped her jacket.

“Damn, it’s a little chilly in here.” She peered out of the corner of her eye slyly. Green met blue. “Yeah, let me guess. You wanna cuddle.”

Gabrielle pursed her lips. “Well if you insist. Let’s get in the back seat.”

Tara smirked and raised her eyes to the starry skies. The woman really was incorrigible, but it wasn’t like she was complaining—not a lot anyway. Gabrielle sat pretty much in the muscular lap with her arms draped around the strong cords of Tara’s neck.

“Mmmm, your always so warm. How do you do that?”

“Hmm, don’t know magic I guess.” She said with a toothy grin.

“Yeah, riiiight.”

Gabrielle buried her face into the exposed neck, breathing in the spicy, sweet scent that was all Tara. With just the tip of her tongue, she tasted the skin and felt more than she saw Tara’s hard swallow.

“Mmmm, good. You always taste good. Everywhere.”

“Red,” she said breathlessly. “Don’t start something we can’t finish. We’ve had enough fires to put out for today. Geez woman, I’m yours when we get home no matter what time.”

“But Taraaaaa! Just one little kiss I promise.” Her lips pouted and she wore an innocent look. Tara looked back not believing a second of it, but she knew she wasn’t going to resist.

“Okay just one, and no tongue either you know what that does to me.”

“Uh, huh.” Gabrielle licked her lips to moisten them and leaned in. Tara found herself watching said tongue and wished—‘oh Lordy.’ Moist, soft, wet lips met hers in the gentlest of caresses. Gabrielle brushed her mouth across full, sensuous lips. The kisses were as soft as silk; light as a cloud, but they settled in the tall woman’s groin with a thud. Tara whimpered and clung to her lover’s lips trying to draw out more. Gabrielle wouldn’t give. Cupping the sides of Tara’s face in her hands, she brushed and lifted, brushed and lifted, making her lover growl in frustration. There was also a poignant need to take over and intensify the touch but the embrace was too sweet to change. They took possession of another memory—one of tenderness and love. The kiss went on for several minutes and near the end of it, the car was suddenly illuminated by bright light.

****

“Hey what are you kids doing out here!” Said a man in a cop’s uniform equipped with a flashlight.

Gabrielle jumped up and hit her head on the roof of the car. “Shit! Ow, ow, ow!”

“Oooo are you okay Red?” Tara asked rubbing her head near the vicinity of the thud.

“Hey who is that?” The officer exclaimed. “Oh my God! Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle’s eyes widened as she glanced at her lover, who shrugged in response. “Yeah it’s me—who?” She squinted into the light seeing the beer belly and making out the chubby face. “Oh, good grief. Hello Leonard,” she said in a flat voice. Tara mouthed, “Who’s Leonard?” Gabrielle shushed her quiet.

“Well, well little Gabrielle long time no see and you haven’t changed a bit. Who are you in there with?”

Gabrielle whispered out of the corner of her mouth to no one in particular, “Boy but he has!”

He shined the flashlight into the car, revealing pale blue eyes and long jet black hair. “Oh my God! Is that a woman?”

Gabrielle sighed and rolled her eyes. “Yes Leonard, it’s a woman.”

“So, so you’re one of them lesbos?”

“It’s l-e-s-b-i-a-n Leonard, and yes I am. Now, get that frippin light outta my face!”

Not lowering the flashlight at all. “Oh wow, wait till I tell Barbara. She’s gonna flip!”

“Barbara? Who’s Barbara?” Tara mouthed. Gabrielle shot daggers at her lover, who smiled crookedly back at her.

“This is NOT funny!” The smaller woman whispered. “Oh yeah it is. You’re the one who wanted to cuddle.” Tara whispered back. “Is he an old boyfriend?”

“Hell no! And stop laughing!”, which only mad her laugh harder.

“Well, I’m gonna have to tell you to leave along with the rest of the kiddies.”

“We were getting ready to go back to my parent’s anyway.” The strawberry blonde said through clenched teeth.

“Your parents know!”

Tara was biting her lip as tears threatened.

“Uh, yeah would you like to call, make sure we get home okay? Wouldn’t wanna get grounded or anything.”

Tara almost howled.

“Um, no I’m sure you uh ladies will be fine. Listen, I gotta go break up other—well you know.” He shook his head and walked away, hoping not to see anything like that again tonight.

Gabrielle sighed through clenched teeth. “God that man is more dense than in high school! Fitting that they made him a cop!”

Tara just let it all out almost crying with laughter. Gabrielle crawled into the front seat, while the laughing woman got out and back in the old fashioned way. With her lover still laughing, Gabrielle started the car. She tapped the steering wheel lightly with her fingers and glanced back over at Tara. The smaller woman’s lips quivered then formed into a smile, which turned into a chuckle. Within seconds, they were both laughing, loudly. After several minutes, Gabrielle hiccuped and took a deep breath, wiping her eyes. “Well, that was special.”

“Oh yeah, bet he didn’t need viagra.” They chuckled again. Gabrielle looked down at her watch, “Damn it’s 8:30. We can be outta here by nine if we hurry.”

“A little anxious are we?”

“Oh yeah I am.”

“Let’s go say bye to your folks then.”

****

They made it back to the Howard house in record time to find its occupants in the den watching TV. Lil laid casually on the couch, looking as though she was fighting sleep. Stu and Jean were sitting side by side in two deep leather wingback chairs.

“Hey everybody. Sorry we’re late kinda got side tracked.”

Gabrielle could see Lil’s smirk from across the room and shot her a glare in warning, not to say a word. “Uh anyway, Mom and Dad I wanna thank you for tonight. I know it was hard, and we still have a ways to go. But, this was important to me –to us.” She put her hands in her pockets not knowing what else to do with them.

“The only thing we can do is try Gabby.” Her father responded. “It’s gonna be hard but we’re willing to take that journey now.” Gabrielle leaned down kissing her father’s cheek and taking her mother’s hand at the same time.

“We want what’s best for you. We want you to be happy, and I can see that she makes you that way,” Jean interjected and nodded toward Tara. Tara walked up tentatively behind her lover. Jean glanced up at her and cleared her throat.

“Tara, all we ask of you is to look after her and please don’t hurt her. Despite her appearing all tough, she’s more fragile than she gives herself credit for.”

Tara smiled weakly in acknowledgement. “I know Mrs. Howard. I know she is.”

Tara left parents and daughter alone and made her way over to the reclining Lil. “Hmmm, you’ve been quiet tonight.” Lil shrugged. “Something you want to talk about? You can come to me. We are friends ya know.”

“I’m aware of that T. I-I just got some stuff on my mind. There is no need to burden you. I’ll see you in a couple of days, Jamie in tow.” She smiled crookedly, her smile not reaching the dark blue of her eyes. Tara nodded and noticed. “Okay, if you’re sure?”

“Yeah, I am.” Tara gave her a departing hug followed by Gabrielle, who had materialized behind her lover.

“Okay kiddo. See you and the rugrat in two days.”

“Alright Gab, see you soon.” Lil swallowed and watched her chance to alleviate her problems die with them walking out the door. She knew she didn’t have the courage to bring it up again, settling to deal with it on her own.

****

Within an hour into the drive home, Gabrielle noticed Tara nodding off. “Hey you. Don’t stay awake on my account. I’ll turn the radio on and it’ll keep me going.”

“You sure?” Tara groaned and stretched.

“Yeah go ahead.”

“Mmm okay.” Tara said in a sleepy purr.

Gabrielle flipped the radio on low to a rock station, who happened to be playing a Melissa Etheridge tune. She looked up in surprise when she heard Tara humming. Then she gaped amazed as she began to sing—really well.

“And they don’t understand what they don’t see. And they look through you and look pass me—Oooo you and I dancing slow. We got nowhere to go.” Tara tapered off and turned to look at her gaping lover. “What?!”

“Oh my God you can sing?!”

“Uh, huh.”

“Damn T, you sound really good. You never cease to amaze me.” She thought to herself, ‘You have to start singing me to sleep. That voice would make butter melt.’

The sleepy woman chuckled. “Hope not. Never wanna bore ya.”

Gabrielle pat her love on the thigh. “No chance of that happening. Not one in hell. Now you get some sleep. I’ll wake you when we’re almost there.” Tara leaned over and kissed the smaller woman gently on the cheek in response before getting more comfortable in the passenger seat.

A few hours later, Gabrielle began getting drowsy herself and thanked God they were a step away from her place. She looked at the dash board, showing almost 2am. Hiding a yawn, she rubbed up and down Tara’s thigh to wake her.

“Mmm, huh?”

“We’re almost there another fifteen minutes or so.”

Tara yawned and stretched like a large black panther. “Mmm, okay Red thanks.” She glanced over at Gabrielle. “You look tired. You doing okay?”

“Yeah, I am just a little. I guess it was all that food and the mental strain of the whole evening.”

“Yeah I know.” She rubbed her lover’s shoulder.

“Great, here we go. Shall I assume you’re staying here tonight?” Gabrielle asked batting her eyelashes coquetishly.

Tara chuckled. “Oh Yeah, no way I could make it home right now.” As an after thought Tara added to herself, ‘Plus, we have some catching up to do.’

****

Home never seemed as sweet until one’s been away from it for a while. Gabrielle looked around turning on lights with a little smile on her face, while Tara headed to the bathroom. She heard the shower come on and decided to fix them some cocoa to ward away the chill and the kinks of travelling. Still in the kitchen, she didn’t hear Tara prowl up behind her, on noiseless wet feet, until it was too late. The taller woman swooped down on her lover like prey.

Standing directly behind her and in swift hot motions, she molded her still wet body to Gabrielle and reached around and cupped full breast into her large hands, swallowing them, kneading them, and like a suction, her mouth attached itself to the strong cords of her neck. Gabrielle made a sound in the back of her throat that was surprise, need and arousal. The huntress shuddered loving the reaction, feeding of it like a animal of aggression would feed on fear. With a smack, she released her lover’s neck to move up and whisper hotly in her ear, licking the ridge just for good measure.

“I love those sounds you make. Do you know why?” Gabrielle’s head shook no. “Oh, come on love you know why. Because they make me so fucking wet,” she whispered huskily.

Gabrielle whimpered and her body trembled in response. Her breathing rasped out in a moan when long, sure fingers plucked at her nipples encased in the sweater. In a flurry of movement, Tara stretched the material of the sweater over her lover’s shoulder, revealing creamy flesh. She wanted to make Gabrielle ache like she did; she wanted her to feel this ache, physically, like she did. Like the cunning huntress she was, Tara had her prey cornered and helpless, and God help her she was hungry. She sucked and bit into the flesh as though she was trying to imprint the taste, the texture. The smaller woman cried out as arousal thick and flowing like honey raced through her body settling between her legs. Grabbing the counter for support, she threw her head back to rest against a shoulder. The animal could have her.

“T, Oh God,” she muttered her breathing erratic.

Tara stretched the material on the other side in a brutal show of power, revealing more of what she wanted. The strawberry blonde braced herself expecting to feel the gut wrenching electricity that her lover’s teeth had caused before, but what she got made her moan just as harshly, and electricity arced up her spine just the same. In a change of tactics, the animal in Tara went from hunger to worship and back again. She licked along the ridges of her lover’s shoulder, twirling her tongue leaving wet trails, and planting searing open mouth kisses on the warm skin, making gooseflesh rise. Heady with power and arousal, and with a flick of her wrists, she pulled the garment down, imprisoning her lover’s arms, but exposing full breasts with nipples plump and ripe like exotic berries. The hunger had returned in full force. Trapping her prey again, she would possess what she wanted what belonged to her with every kiss, touch, lick and nip.

“You like this don’t you? This game. It makes you hot, makes you wet?”

Gabrielle nodded her head in acknowledgement. It wasn’t enough for Tara. She palmed the breasts, rolling the flat of her hands over the hard tips, making them more engorged and spark with enjoyment. Knowing her lover needed more, she pulled the tips with firm pressure, elongating them till pleasure was sizzling in the smaller woman’s chest and groin. Gabrielle gasped, biting her lip in sheer bliss.

“Answer me or I’ll stop Gabrielle.” Tara said her voice thick and velvety with controlled need.

The woman shuddered hard and cried out at hearing her name uttered with such desire, such lust and went just a little more mad in acute arousal.

“Oh, God yes. Please don’t stop. Please,” she sobbed.

As a reward, Tara flicked her tongue inside a sensitive ear and over the lobe eliciting quiet murmurs of pleasure and intense shivers. Her lover’s voice alone was arousing and saying her name was even more so, but that in combination with the incredible things she was doing with her hands, her mouth, Gabrielle wanted to weep. Her body felt like molten lead, heavy, pliant, flowing. Her head swam from the lack of blood, which had settled between her legs, where it felt as though puddles of moisture had pooled. Her panties soaked and brushed against the neglected nodule, creating a friction that was by no means enough to satiate her growing hunger. Her jeans felt tight and rubbed against her, over sensitive skin, making new fires, being just another texture touching her in their erotic play. She couldn’t see, hear, or feel anything but Tara, and it was the way she wanted it.

Tara’s body hummed with wave after wave of power induced arousal. No one commanded her lover’s body like she did. No one ever would. ‘She’s mine,’ she thought, ‘and I will make her believe it just like I do.’ Deeming them unimportant, she did not wipe away the beads of perspiration that were formally just water an eon ago. A testimony to the thick juices dripping down her powerful thighs and the passion just as thick running through her veins. More. She wanted more. More skin to taste, to feel, to devour. With a growl, she tore the flimsy sweater in two as her hands finally encased the warm, soft skin of a muscled abdomen.
Gabrielle cried out at the sudden whoosh of air caressing her torso. Then she emitted a low keening sound as hot hands caressed her belly. Her breathing stopped as the shaking began when tips of hard, full breasts branded her back, leaving scorching trails of pleasure. She knew then that Tara was naked, gloriously so. Letting go of the counter, Gabrielle needed something more limber more tangible to be her anchor. She needed Tara. Reaching back, trying to grab hold of a naked waist, thighs, or anything. She sighed as she made contact with a soft, muscled cheek as part of the lower body pressing against her. She sank short nails into the flesh and held on.

Tara moaned in reaction, the power play momentarily forgotten, need becoming paramount. Tara spread her legs further apart releasing the muskiness of her arousal into the air, and commenced undulating her hips against her lover’s thigh. Her engorged lips rubbed tantalizingly over the soft, worn material of the blue jeans, stimulating the neglected clit. Tara pinched and pulled coral tipped breast, adding to both their pleasure. The friction was astounding. Gabrielle whimpered, loving what was happening to Tara, loving her power over her. The smaller woman increased her grip, digging in deeper. Tara whimpered her breathing raspy in her lover’s ear.

“Unghh, fuck you feel so good Red, so good.” Her hips bucked a few more times before she willed herself into a shaky control. Shifting her hands down slowly, trembling, she dipped them into the hem of the jeans, caressing soft skin at her lover’s waist.

“When I’m through with you Red. Your gonna come and come hard.”

A gasp and a quiet moan were the only responses. Tara released the catch and the zipper, spreading her hands wide on each hip, she slowly pushed the material down, panties in tow. Gabrielle quivered and then cried out as the air hit her overheated thighs and wet mound. She was beyond ready. She ached, her stomach twisted with insides pulsating with need. She clenched her teeth to keep from begging. Tara had done her job. With her foot, Tara pulled the clothes the rest of the way down her lover’s legs to pool at her feet, and Gabrielle stepped wide to free herself of them. With her back molded to her lover and in the span of a heartbeat, Tara plunged into Gabrielle from behind with expert precision and without so much as a word. The woman just simply screamed. Her body lunged forward only saved from harm by the firm hand encasing a hip.

Gabrielle sobbed as she arched her hips, trying to move with her lover. Her body was liquid fire and she wanted it doused quickly. Endeavoring to do just that, the smaller woman tried to slam her hips into the long fingered hand, striving to accelerate the pace to no avail. With that one strong hand, Tara guided and controlled her hips, moving them at a pace that was slow and maddening. When one finger retreated, Tara added another and another until there were three.

She thrust deep and slow touching everything, caressing slick inner walls. It was so warm, so wet there with each instance of pulsating suction her clit screamed in cruel empathy. She watched her fingers disappear into their soppy moist home. She watched the drops of sweat run down her lover’s back. She watched her body twitch and shake with each thrust. She watched it all completely and totally enthralled by the site alone. Her own legs quivered, and her own arousal raged. Her own heart threatened to beat out of her chest. Yet she continued to thrust slowly, deeply. She listened as Gabrielle sobbed and moaned in delight, creating a maelstrom in her blood, making it boil.

Tara moaned at being inside, touching her heart, commanding her body. They both sang the most erotic of all songs. One of pure pleasure. Bent over her, Tara continued to rub the hard tips of her breast up and down Gabrielle’s back compounding her pleasure, compounding her own mind blowing arousal. Slow built to quick but just as deep. Tara released her hip, letting Gabrielle set her own pace, and began rubbing, pinching and pulling, the hanging, swaying nipples. The little woman hummed at being so utterly filled; her whimpers sounding like that of a wild, wounded animal, high pitched and guttural. Her hips smacked back against the obliging fingers at the pace she wanted hot, deep, and hard. The sounds, oh God, the sounds made her reel adding to it bringing her closer to the precipice. Her own cries of pleasure, Tara’s deep throaty moans and the light, wet smacking of her body against her lover’s hand were a symphony by themselves. Tara knew Gabrielle was close from the copious juices covering her hand the jerk of her body.

“Gabrielle?” A moan in response. “Gabrielle, play with your tits for me.” Tara whispered rawly. The command somehow getting to her muddled brain, she pinched and pulled her own nipples murmuring at the waves of enjoyment that shot through her body. With her other hand now free, Tara trailed it sensuously over her lover’s hip bone then down further, parting swollen, coated lips and stroked Gabrielle’s exposed clit in quick, firm circles. They both moaned loudly, harshly. One as she felt muscles clench and pulsate around her fingers. The other because her whole sex throbbed with gratification. This felt so good, so right. Fucking her, making love to her, being inside her. Tara’s head swam as her body racked with need. The intensity level was soul shattering. She increased the pace of her fingers. Both hands moved together swiftly, simultaneously, until they were almost pounding. She wanted to feel Gabrielle’s orgasm because she caused it. She owned it and only the most exquisite one would do.

All went quiet except for her own breathing and the constant slapping of wet flesh. And then it happened. Gabrielle close her yes as color burst forth blinding her. It started from her groin moving quickly like searing flashes of burning light through her thighs and stomach, up and won to her legs and arms and shooting through her fingertips and toes. Her mouth opened to release a cry that ended with a name, “Tara!”, piercing her own ears and the before mentioned quiet. Every muscle in her body contracted making hr convulse and shake uncontrollably with pleasure so acute in another woman it could have been painful. Tara stilled her fingers inside, feeling the muscles grasping, sucking, and only when they stopped did she remove them with a wet slurp, her fingers trembling.

“You belong to me. Don’t you?” The taller woman whispered hotly.

“Yesss, yours,” was the breathless response. Gabrielle’s legs gave out, and she sunk in slow motion to the floor, caught by weak hands. She’d forgotten how to speak, how to think, how to breath. Tara held her then laid them both on the floor, cuddling the shaking woman close, whispering endearments and kissing her brow. She clenched her teeth at her own arousal, making her hands shake and thighs quiver. She wanted exquisite and that’s what she got. Surprisingly, she didn’t come with her lover, only increasing her arousal to fever pitch. Bringing glistening fingers to her lips, she licked them cleans and whimpered quietly waiting for coherence to return. Gabrielle’s body vibrated and heaved for long minutes as pleasure slowly worked its way through. Her breathing turned from harsh and shallow to deep and normal. Slightly turning her head, she looked at Tara, who stared back with frightening intensity. “You—incredible,” she whispered with a raw throat. She kissed the intense brow and stretched her body shuddering at another aftershock.

Tara waited patiently. The smaller woman turned back to her returning the stare with equal intensity.

“You want to come for me don’t you?”

” Please—yess,” Tara croaked.

Just like that the huntress became the hunted.

Gabrielle grasped the back of her lover’s neck and engaged her in a kiss that was totally carnal. Tongues flicked, slid, and toyed moistly. She sucked her lover’s larger tongue into her mouth, steadily increasing the pressure, eliciting a hearty groan and a shudder. They lay side by side, facing each other, drinking from each other. Smaller, shorter legs tangled with longer ones and a muscled thigh moved closer an closer to the dark woman’s wet, achy mound. At the first touch, Tara wrenched her mouth away and growled.

“You like that don’t you?”

“Oooh, yess!”

Not wanting to tease her woman, Gabrielle rolled onto her back and whispered, “Show me how much.” Tara whimpered audibly. Her arms shook as she pressed her body into Gabrielle’s. While the cold floor was at her back, the body on top of her was hot, providing erotic contrast. She parted her legs wide over an obliging thigh and gasped at the contact of warm, soft skin. Biting her lip, she looked to Gabrielle, as if asking permission. The smaller woman nodded her head and brought her thigh into full contact with Tara’s soppy sex. In one of her last coherent acts, Tara snaked a hand in between them, parting swollen lips so her clit could brush rawly against the thigh. She moaned and began rotating her hips slowly. Looking into the jade green eyes, she lowered herself until they were breast to breast and wrapped her arms around her, under her, causing nipples to rake across each other with each movement. Tara buried her face into her love’s neck, opening her mouth hotly on the fragrant skin. She groaned again as her hips picked up speed. So wet, so swollen, so ready was she that the friction created threatened to short her brain.

Not being able to hold back, each thrust drew out a whimper, a harsh moan, or a muffled cry. Her hips moved like large pistons and sweat poured from her body. The speed of the pistons increased incredibly when two small hands cupped the soft, fleshy globes of her bottom, egging her on, multiplying the delicious friction tenfold. Gabrielle was astonished by the wetness she felt. She felt humbled by the reaction. Tara slid on her thigh and the smaller woman could feel the hard pebble of her lover’s clit pulse and slide against her skin. Small, soft hands sensed the sweat and the slick juices pooling in between ass cheeks.

“You’re so wet for me—so slick, so hot.” She heard and felt Tara whimper as her hips moved jerkily and out of control. She recognized her own body come impossibly to life with the constant scrape of nipple on nipple and the wet slide of her lover on her thigh. It was too hot; too intense; too erotic for her not to respond. Renewed wetness slicked her thighs. Wiggling down a bit, she came into contact with a firm thigh and began gyrating her hips against it. Tara groaned realizing the implications, and moved her thigh up firmly wedging it between parted legs and parted lips.

“Unghh, fuck T! Harder!”

Pounding together with force, their bodies screeched on the waxed floor. The exchange was too intense to last for long. Gabrielle dug in deeper into Tara’s buttocks and bit into her shoulder. They grunted sensuously as their sweating bodies smacked into each other at breakneck speed. One, two, three, four, more hard thrusts and Tara’s body began to shake. She bit into the skin of her lover’s neck almost drawing blood, groaning low and deep as orgasm tore through her body taking a little more away with each wave like water on the shore, leaving her exposed, raw, and vulnerable.

She sobbed as the convulsions refused to stop, making her body jerk and spasm. Behind closed eyes, Gabrielle saw piercing red and white light as her body was consumed by flames that licked at her skin—at her insides, breaking her, making her again into anything it wanted. The air in the kitchen was thick with the smell of sex and the whimpers of satiated lovers, clinging to each other on the floor, barely moving, just touching and kissing when the energy emerged and in total awe of what had transpired. They had possessed each other thoroughly—mind, body and soul. It was a celebration of life and love and a reconnection for lover’s who almost lost their way.

****

The cocoa sat on the counter cooling like the bodies sprawled on the floor. They laid there for what seemed like an eternity whispering words of love and promises of the future as strength returned. The floor was beginning to get cold. Gabrielle shivered as she yawned, looking at Tara through drowsy eyes.

“I don’t think it’s ever been like that between us T.”

“Me either. I think it was something we both needed. The smaller woman nodded her head and shivered again. The shiver didn’t escape the always aware pale blue eyes. She stretched and went with the urge to yawn herself. “C’mon Red off to bed.”

“Uh, I don’t think I can move.”

Tara smirked.

“Ahh, don’t look so proud of yourself. I remember the sounds you were making my little monkey.”

The taller woman chuckled now on her feet. She squatted back down lifting Gabrielle as if she were lighter than air. “Whoa, its high up here!!” She giggled and kissed her lover’s jutting chin. Tara and her quarry padded slowly into the bedroom. The taller woman deposited her fragile load at the foot of the bed, while she pulled back the comforter. She bent back down in front of the strawberry blonde who cheerfully latched onto her body around her—legs wrapped around waist and arms wound around her neck. Tara gently placed the woman in the middle of the bed, earning a nuzzle for the tenderness. Sleepily, she crawled in after her, molding her body to the small back and branding her stomach with a large palm. They fell into a deep contented sleep as the night began to lighten.

****

The next couple of days were filled, trying to make up for two weeks of abstinence with passionate lovemaking. After such a night, they sat staring at each other across the breakfast table, remembering. Gabrielle smiled goofily at Tara as she sipped her favorite flavored coffee. Tara held and traced petite fingers with her larger ones.

With a slight grin on her face, “Ewww, Red. I don’t see how you drink that stuff.”

“What stuff?”

“That coffee. It doesn’t taste like coffee at all. It’s like flavored sugar or something.”

Gabrielle frowned and looked into her cup.

“Wellllll, my sweet tooth won’t accept anything else.”

“Tch, ruled by baser instincts. For shame.”

“Hey you weren’t saying that last night. In fact, I got the impression that you greatly appreciated those instincts.”

Tara grinned lecherously. “Mmmm, appreciate is not the word for it. I think enjoyed—no something stronger—reveled, yeah that’s the word.”

The smaller woman giggled. But their playtime was disturbed by the doorbell.

Lil stood tapping her foot with Jamie blowing spit bubbles in the vicinity of her face. On the drive here, she debated with herself whether to come at all, knowing that the green eyes of her sister would uncover her sadness. Lil sighed. There was so much to think about, and she had to hide that from her temporary roommates for the next two weeks. The younger woman closed her eyes not looking forward to the difficult time ahead. Still, she had become rather good at faking it, hoping that alone would work.

Tara mumbled as she headed toward the door, knowing the only person in the world who would ring the bell this early would be Lilian. She opened the door and wasn’t disappointed. Tara smirked down at the dark haired, blue eyed woman, who grinned back up at her.

“Well, well hello there big blue. Wouldn’t have thought you would be here,” Lil said sarcastically.

Tara’s smirk turned into a grin. “Yeah, uh huh, gimmie.”

Lil knew Tara was referring to the little girl reaching for the taller woman, but a little imp inside her wanted to play.

“Oh, okay. Here.”

She shoved her luggage into the raven-haired woman’s hands, who looked at her with slits for eyes in response. Lil smacked her lips, still smiling and walked through the door.

“Hey, um, Red I know you’re here.”

Gabrielle walked from the kitchen. “Well of course I am silly I live here.” She gave her sister a hug and kissed her niece, who gurgled happily, on the forehead.

“Where’s your stuff?”

Lil pointed back with her thumb as Tara walked up with several bags slung over he shoulder. “T was happy enough to help me. Weren’t you dear?” Tara bared her teeth in something resembling a smile.

“Uh, huh,” she whispered as she disappeared down the hall toward the spare bedroom.

Gabrille cooed as she picked up her niece. “Hey sweet pea. Did you miss me?”

“Agoo, brr, boo!”

“Ofcourse you did.”

The little girl began to pant and squeal when Tara came back into the room.

“Boo, boo!”

Gabrielle chuckled in Tara’s direction, “Uh, Boo boo, I think she wants you.”

Tara grinned through her blushing cheeks. “Hey, lil bit. Long time no see!” The taller woman threw the infant low in the air. Jamie gurgled with laughter. Lil and Gabrielle rolled their eyes in amusement.

“Uh, should I leave you and my daughter alone?”

“If you want. Lil bit, let’s go watch some TV.”

Tara left the two sister’s standing there. “Um, well Lil. Do you want some coffee? We can take it in the living room to spy on those two.”

Lil smiled wickedly. “Deal.” The two of them almost choked on the steaming brew minutes later as they witnessed Tara trying patiently to explain to the one year old what a tellietubby was. The little girl stood on shaky legs in front of the TV kissing each tellietubby that happened across the screen. Tara looked up at the pair who were trying to hide their smiles behind coffee cups.

“What?!”

“Oh, nothing. You’re just too cute playing with her.” Gabrielle exclaimed, leaning in and kissing her lover on the forehead. Tara smiled crookedly and began to sing the Barney song as the show came on.

“Was that cute enough to get a kiss right here?” Tara pointed at her lips.

“Oh behave, you!”

The taller woman pretended to pout and looked over at Lil. “Do I get anything from you for being cute?”

Lil smiled toothily. “Oh yeah, turn around.”

Tara stood up and turned her back to them.

*SMACK*

“Owwww,” Tara rubbed her behind.

“Was that the payment you were looking for?” Lil asked with eyes sparkling with mirth. Tara looked over her shoulder with a mock snarl. “Better ask your sis bout paybacks.”

“Two pairs of blue eyes stared at the smaller woman. Gabrielle giggled then studied the bottom of her cup innocently and intently.

“Anyways, I gotta get dressed and get outta here.”

Gabrielle and Lil were still giggling at the antics of the infant when Tara returned from the bedroom. “Okay, I need to get to the shop. So, I’ll see my favorite ladies later.” She gently brushed her lover’s lips with her own and kissed Jamie on the top of the head.

“Ahem,” Lil sat with her lips puckered and an expectant look on her face.

“Uh, don’t think you’re quiet ready for me yet Lil.”

The younger woman stuck out her tongue in response. “Behave you two.” The strawberry blonde said sternly. Wanting to get the last word in, Tara licked out her own tongue on the way out the door. After Tara left, Gabrielle and Lil stayed in the living room content to talk there as Jamie played at watching television.

****

“So little sis whatcha wanna do today?”

“Don’t know really. Actually let me ask you. Are things okay between the two of you?”

“Oh, yeah. Better than ever. In fact, she’s not much on words, but I know she wanted to thank you for looking out for me then her when she first got out the hospital.”

“No need for that. But really Gabs, she seems like a great woman. I don’t really know her that well yet, but I can tell she’s good for you.”

“Yeah, we bring out the best in each other.” She took a sip of coffee. “You know you can rectify that situation of getting to know her.”

“How?”

“Go ask her out to lunch. Talk to her. She’s not much on words, but she makes them count.”

“Hey that’s actually not a bad idea. Will you be okay with Jamie?”

“Oh please, we will be fine. She usually stops for lunch around 1 o’clock. Just go ask her, and when you get back maybe we can talk about what’s been bothering you.”

Lil looked at her startled. She knew she couldn’t hide forever. “It’s nothing really.” Her mind worked overtime trying to think of a believable lie. “Uh, just worried about school is all, but we’ll talk about it later.”

Gabrielle studied her for long minutes. “Yeah okay.” Yet, she still sounded unconvinced. “Anyway, I was also thinking that we should take you to the bar while you’re here and get Shan and Wayne to go with . Oooh, you can meet Jake, Tara’s brother. He puts on a good show.”

“Yeah, I’m game.” “Today let’s just lounge around the house with breakfast first of course. Feel free to help.”

“Sure no problem.”

****

The patrons on the busy mid afternoon sidewalk, seemed to part to let her through. She drew admiring glances from the teenage boys, their fathers, and even some of the women, and envious glares from the rest. She soaked it all in with a tiny knowing smile, fully aware of the way people were affected by her. Her heels clicked on the sidewalk different from the others. She walked with extreme confidence with hips swaying and head held high in the air. Standing tall and lean, her athletic body was encased in a gray pantsuit that fit her body as if the designer had her in mind.

Long, thick, white blonde hair fell past her shoulders with a natural wave, bouncing and moving when she walked. Her face would have made the romantic poets and painters weep with joy with beauty consisting of equal parts innocence and experience. Her eyes were one of her most shocking features. They glinted with the almost exact color of the dark, cloudy sky in addition to the sparkle of keen intelligence and self-assurance shining in them. Her nose was straight and aquiline that crinkled when she smiled. Under it was a mouth blessed with a cupid’s bow made for kissing, smiling, and laughing. The slope of her chin was strong and stubborn with the graceful lines of cheekbone slanting upward, creating hollows that made her seem more vulnerable. Her skin was porcelain pale looking just as fragile.

However, there was nothing fragile about this woman. Inside beat a heart incased in ice. Ice that allowed her to win in business, in the bedroom, and in life. The ice had thawed for only one woman, and in a last effort to protect herself, she made sure it wouldn’t melt further. She hurt her badly. Jerking herself from this reverie, the woman picked up her pace as she neared her destination. ‘While I am here, might as well have a little fun at her expense.’ She smiled to herself. Opening the door to the shop, she smiled even bigger at the familiar sight.

****

Tara kneeled on the floor picking up the contents of the box she spilled, when she heard the door creak open then close. She cocked her head to the side waiting for the customer to speak. Not hearing anything , but knowing someone was there, she quickly finished her chore.

“Well, well there is a site I’ve always enjoyed seeing.”

Tara froze. The silver blue eyes widening then slitting at the familiar voice. ‘No, no, no! It can’t be.’ She screamed to herself. Slowly standing up, she turned with her features an unreadable mask.

“Caitlin.” The older woman studied the body under the coveralls-‘fun indeed.’

“Oh, now, now Tara. We’re old friends, and all my friends call me Catt you know that.”

Tara could feel her body being scrutinized, and steeled herself against it. ‘She can’t hurt you anymore—she can’t.’

“We’re not friends Caitlin. What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I’m in the area for an advertising convention and just thought I’d look you up. You know,” shrugging elegant shoulders, “catch up on old times.” The blonde’s smile was feral.

“We don’t have anything to discuss.”

Twirling the ends of her hair, she laughed, hurting Tara’s ears. “Oh, love. Surely you’re not still angry. That was years ago and you seemed to have grown up quiet nicely.”

The tap of the heels grated on Tara’s nerves as the woman circled her, eyeing her like a particularly juicy piece of meat.

“Uh, huh. Well, I’m particularly busy here, and believe me when I say I don’t want your company.”

Caitlin studied pale blue for long minutes. Then she smiled slowly, slyly transforming from a beautiful woman to an extraordinarily beautiful one. She saw it in Tara’s eyes. There was nothing there to anger—nothing to work with, leaving the blonde pouting internally. “My you have grown up haven’t you?”

“Oh yeah, not into bitter or salty anymore. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. My tastes have changed to something a lot sweeter.”

“Oh, I see you have a little girlfriend. How sweet.” Caitlin responded her voice dripping with venom. On the inside she was screaming hating that she couldn’t get a rise out of this woman.

“My point exactly Caitlin. So now run along. I hear there may be an escort service in town with woman who may be willing to play your games. You need the address? I’m sure you brought plenty of cash.” Tara smiled sweetly. Grey eyes turned decidedly stormy and high cheekbones were dusted with red as the older woman tried to control her anger.

“Well, we’re a little—”

The statement died on the older woman’s lips as Lil came through the door. Not paying attention to the other woman right away, she smiled up at Tara. “Hey, Big blue. How’s about lunch? We can—” She trailed off. Noticing the tension in the room, she turned to study the other woman. Lil’s stomach dropped and whatever thought was traveling through her mind left—immediately.
The young woman openly stared at the blonde. Swallowing was almost impossible in her suddenly dry mouth. She put her suddenly clammy hands into her pockets. Catt stared back as if amused. She raised a perfectly arched eyebrow in question. Lil shook her head as if to clear it, but things still felt hazy. One word formed in her mind. ‘Beautiful.’ Caitlin’s smile widened.
Maybe she would have fun afterall. She studied the brunette in front of her with an appraising eye. ‘Very nice. Very, very nice.’ The older woman almost laughed at the look of curious interest in the other woman’s eyes. ‘Lots of fun.’ The wheels in her mind began to turn.

Tara cleared her throat loudly. Having no affect, she waved her hand in front of Lil’s face then snapped her fingers. “Hello? Lilian you home?” Lilian turned to look at her blankly. “Lunch remember?”

“Huh, oh yeah, lunch. Um, you wanna go? Gabs has the baby.”

“Yeah, sure. Caitlin was just leaving weren’t you Caitlin?”

The woman in question smiled innocently. “In a minute. Is this the girlfriend? How sweet.”

“No she isn’t but just the same STAY AWAY!” Blue eyes flashed dangerously.

“Mmm, well we’ll see. I need to go for now, but I will be seeing you.” Grey eyes bore into Lil, making her swallow and shake. Leaving the smell of Chanel and something sexier behind, Caitlin walked briskly to her rental car. Her eyes glittered in determination. “Let the games begin.”

****

Tara sat across the table staring patiently at the quiet Lil. Something was definitely going on with her, and she didn’t like the way Catt looked at her one bit. Tara cleared her throat and gently touched Lil’s hand.

“You okay?”

“Hmm? Oh yeah, just a lot on my mind.” Like that woman. Caitlin wasn’t that her name? It fit her. She moved like a sleek cat full of grace and stealth. With eyes of extraordinary intelligence that saw through just about anything. Predatory. That was the word she was looking for her, and Lil felt pulled into the hunt. Her heart accelerate, buzzing in her ear along with each breath. “Yeah, I’m just fine.”

“Uh, huh. So whatcha wanna talk about? Trying to get in my head? Tara arched a brow and smirked.

Lil laughed, “Nah, just trying to get to know you better.”

“Mmm, well what you see is what you get.”

“Somehow I think you’re a little more complicated than that. Like who was that woman?”

“Whoa, you don’t pull any punches do you? Alright. She was an old girlfriend. She liked to play games, so it ended. It’s as simple as that. Why do you ask? You interested?”

Lil’s eyes widened. “Uh, no! Last time I checked I still like men!” The smaller brunette wiped her mouth with a napkin. “Sorry for the outburst. That was just unexpected.”

“Mmm,” was Tara’s only reply. ‘ I think we are protesting just a little too much my friend.’ The taller woman said to herself.

****

Lil walked through the door of her sister’s house, hearing soft humming coming from the vicinity of the kitchen. She walked in to see Gabrielle holding Jamie to her chest and stirring something in a pot. The little girl looked more than comfortable with her face buried in her aunt’s neck and little hands holding onto russet tresses. The older woman motioned for quiet, putting her finger to her mouth. She hummed a few more minutes and motioned for Lil to follow her to the bedroom. Once Jamie was resting comfortable, Gabrielle turned inquisitive eyes to her sister.

“So, how did it go?”

“It was okay. Kind of interesting though. When I got there, some blonde woman was there, and you could cut the tension with a knife. Caitlin was her name. Tara said she was an ex-girlfriend. Do you know her?”

Gabrielle’s breathing stopped with the mention of the name, and anger was quick to surface. She visibly shook with it. If hate truly was the other side of love. She hated that woman with the same passion that she loved Tara. The muscles in her body bunched and twisted and her hands folded into fists, as if preparing for a fight. The smaller woman gritted her teeth. “No, I don’t know her, but I know of her.” Her voice was low and dark. Startled, Lil put a comforting hand on her sister’s back.

“You okay? If you’re worried, Tara seemed to dismiss her handily.”

With the same voice, “No, it’s not that. She hurt her.” Gabrielle spoke as if she was reliving the pain herself. “She likes hurting people and given the chance, I’m sure she is here to do it all over again.”

“Oh.” Lil blinked somewhat dismissing it all. Surely a woman that looked like that could not be that cold? How could the coldness they described cause such heat to form inside her? They must be exaggerating. They have to be.’

Gabrielle closed her eyes, trying to remove the red haze clouding her vision. That woman would not hurt Tara again, and if she tried the cliché about redheads was going to become fact. She released an exasperated sigh. She needed to go make sure Tara was okay. “Uh, Lil? I need to go see Tara watch the food.” Before she could respond, Gabrielle was out the door with her coat trailing behind her.

****

The young woman made it to the bike shop in record time. She pushed the door open in impatience and winced when it banged against the frame. Surprised blue eyes looked up from the computer. Green eyes searched the shop, making sure they were alone. Then they searched blue in understanding, uncovering the sadness. With hurried steps, Gabrielle was behind the counter, cradling the raven topped head to her chest. Tara widened her legs and scoot back in her chair to allow her lover closer in the embrace. Large hands caressed and held onto the wool covered back. For several minutes no words were spoken. Tara took a deep breath, “I won Red. She can’t hurt me anymore.”

“Shhh, that’s good baby. I wouldn’t let her if she tried.”

Luminous chips of green turned into cold emerald ice. She would make damn sure of that. Gabrielle shook her head bringing herself out of the haze. She bent to kiss the raven head.

“Is she just here to torment you?”

“No, she said something about an advertising convention in Indianapolis and wanting to catch up on old times. I was in the process of making her leave when Lil walked in.”

“Hmm,” was all the response as Gabrielle filed away what was said for later use.

“You should have seen it, Red. It was driving her crazy that she couldn’t get a rise out of me.” Tara chuckled.

Gabrielle smiled and looked down at her lover. “I’m glad everything went okay. When Lil told me who it was, I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”

Gabrielle lovingly traced the arched eyebrows on the face looking up at her.

“I knew you would come, and I’m glad you did. God,” Tara’s voice hitched, “I love you so much.”

She looked up with blue eyes darkened with emotion. Tara squeezed tighter, pulled her closer as if she was trying to absorb her through her skin. Gabrielle’s fingers went from eyebrows to tracing Tara’s entire face as if memorizing the emotions exhibited in each plane, in each hollow, knowing her own countenance held the same look. Finally, busy fingertips reached lips. Gabrielle leaned forward, wanting to taste the lips that called her, compelled her. When they finally touched it was as soft as a whisper and communicated just as much. Gently, and in caring fashion, they savored the moment. Lips met softly again and again. Tasting. Reveling, and immensely enjoying. Refusing to let it go despite onlookers that gaped into the window as they passed by. Several minutes later, the kiss finally stopped, but the contact remained. Their foreheads touching as did their bodies.”

“Mmm, Red, you make everything seem better.”

Gabrielle grinned and kissed her nose. “Anything for you love. So, how was lunch?”

“Strange to say the least. Something is really up with Lil. I wasn’t going to say anything until I knew for sure, but I think it runs in the family.”

“Huh? What do you—oooh!” Gabrielle covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh my God. Why didn’t she tell me of all people she must know that I would understand what she was going through.”

“Yeah, but baby I don’t think she has really come to terms with it herself. Give it some time. She’ll tell you.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I won’t say anything until she comes to me.”

Tara sighed, “Still, we may have a problem.”

“What?”

“Caitlin looked very interested in your baby sister, and I gotta say Lil looked like she returned the interest.”

Gabrielle stiffened. “Oh no! We’ve got to do something. That woman will tear her apart.” The wheels under the red-gold hair started to turn. Time to call in some favors, and fix this before it gets out of hand.

“Yeah,” Tara added, knowing from experience.

****

Lil sat on the couch looking through the TV rather than looking at it. Her brain refused to erase the image of the tall, lean, leggy blonde. It played over and over again like a scratched record, and like an addict, she relished it and was slowly giving into the magnetic pull. Lil didn’t even look up when Gabrielle breezed through the door, letting the cold air in behind her. It wasn’t until she plopped down beside her that Lil realized that someone was there.

“Lil, honey are you okay? You got this strange look on your face.”

“Huh? Oh yeah, I’m fine. Got a lot on my mind is all. Everything okay with you and Tara?”

“Oh yeah. Just wanted to make sure she was okay. That woman really hurt her with her games. She lies and cheats without a conscious.”

“Um, you never know Gab, people can change.”

“No, I don’t think so. You can only change when you want, and I think she has too much fun and gets too much satisfaction being the way that she is.” Gabrielle looked over at her sister to see if her point hit home. It didn’t. Lil looked away trying to rationalize what she heard. “Mmm, yeah,” was the only response. Gabrielle sighed. “Listen, I’ll be in my office I need to make some phone calls.”

“Kay, talk to you later then. I’m gonna go check on Jamie.”

****

Lil’s sleep that night was restless and full of erotic images, smells and sounds. She felt the slide of soft flesh on flesh, tasted sweetness of tender lips and the salty taste of flesh as if it was under her mouth. She felt the heat, the intensity and the tickle and burn of silky blonde hair caressing her body like it was reality not erotic fantasy. She reveled in it moaning softly in her sleep as the heat of her body increased. She moaned louder, jolting herself awake. Her breathing was shallow and raspy and her body was drenched in a cold sweat. She squeezed her thighs together and gasped feeling the rhythmic pulsing between them. She was wet, incredibly so. She could smell as well as feel it coating her thighs and trickling down to the crack of her behind. She looked over at her sleeping daughter, and rubbed shaking fingers through the soft hair, in an attempt to calm herself. It didn’t work. “I want her. God help me, but I want her,” she whispered into the quiet room, and began to sob piercing the aforementioned quiet.

Down the hall, Gabrielle lay awake for another reason. She had called in a few favors, told some small lies and used her somewhat celebrity status to find out where Caitlin was staying. The hotel manager, and old friend, now thought she was coming to visit a friend from college. With a little more sweet talk, she knew the convention schedule, her room number, and found out that she went out everyday for lunch.

Gabrielle’s jaw worked in part anticipation and part anger. She had to go see her. The thirty minute drive to Indy would be worth it. She had to make sure that the woman knew who she was playing with. She had to make sure that she knew the consequences. She softly caressed the corded muscle of Tara’s forearm and snuggled further into her naked body. Gabrielle knew she had to tell her lover, but there was no need to mention it until after the fact. She would be angry, but she would understand that her sister was involved now. She sighed quietly and willed herself to dose because she had a lot to do come morning after Tara left.

****

Caitlin sat in her room sipping coffee and watching CNN. Her mind wondered to the small brunette with the striking blue eyes. ‘She wants me. I saw it in her eyes, and I will have her.’ The tall blonde shivered in anticipation and lust, somehow knowing she would be the first one to introduce the woman to the pleasure only a woman can bring to another.

Gabrielle stood in front of the door, reaching deep inside to gain the strength to ward this woman off. She knocked on the door. It opened and she looked unflinchingly at the striking woman staring down at her. “Who—” barely got out of Caitlin’s mouth as Gabrielle pushed her way in. Caitlin arched a pale brow, and turned to the woman. “I guess you’re not housekeeping huh?”

“No, I’m not,” the smaller woman answered then went quiet.

“Well, at least tell me who you are before I call security.” She moved to the phone, picking it up.

Looking up again, the smaller woman was in front of her snatching the phone. “Ahh, ahh you don’t want to do that. I’m Gabrielle.”

Caitlin looked at her blankly, and Gabrielle sighed harshly.

“Lilian’s sister.”

The taller woman bristled inside at the familiar name conjuring up the familiar face, but she still kept her face a blank mask. Waiting.

“Tara’s girlfriend.”

“Ah, so your the sweet little thing that she spoke about. You don’t look at all her type. Too innocent, inexperienced looking.”

Gabrielle’s voice lowered and she almost snarled at the taller woman. “Careful lady, you don’t know the first fucking thing about me. So, don’t make assumptions. They could be dangerous.”

The cool blonde was slightly taken aback at the fire coming from the little woman, but soon slipped into her ice mode. “Mmm, so let me guess. You are feeling a little threatened because I’m here. Are we a tad bit insecure. Mariel?”

Gabrielle smiled full of confidence. The taller woman was again taken aback.

“Not in the least. She’s mine. Nothing you can do will change that.” She walked in closer, looking up into gray eyes not the least bit intimidated. “You leave my sister alone. I won’t let you hurt her.”

Caitlin’s smile was feral. “Oh, but she looks like a big girl who can make her own decisions. So, I say let her make the choice. I’m sure she’ll make the right one.”

“Stay the fuck away from her!” Her eyes were flashing green fire and her face was flushed with anger.

“Tsk, tsk. Temper, temper little girl. There is nothing you can do about it.”

“Oh, you think so?” With a flurry of movement, Gabrielle swept the phone and other contents off the in table. The phone landed with a crash against the floor.

“Don’t underestimate me. When you mess with my family all bets are off!”

A startled Caitlin looked up from the couch, where she had fallen in a last ditch effort to protect herself only to see the door slamming shut. She closed her eyes. “Oh God. What have I gotten into?” She swallowed and considered cutting her losses and getting out now. Then the picture of long curling dark tresses formed in her mind. Set off by deep blue eyes and lips she had to taste. “No, I’ve got to have her.”

A half an hour later, Gabrielle walked into her own house. She found a note from Lil telling her she went out and Jamie was with Mrs. Tibidault. “Where are you Lil, and what are you doing?” She said into the unanswering air.

****

Lil sat in her parked car. She rubbed sweaty hands down her slacks, and tried to swallow down the lump in her throat. She had to see her, and this was the only place she knew to come, hoping she would return. Lil almost whimpered, remembering the intensity of the dream. She had to know if it would be like that—she had to know.

“Looking for me I hope?”

Lil jumped and turned to look out the window. ‘She’s here.’

“Yes—yes I am,” she said nervously.

“Lunch?” The cool blonde asked.

“Yes please.” She looked into the stormy gray, getting lost, getting pulled in. They crinkled at the side as she smiled. The brunette looked in them for as long as she could, feeling the flush rise up to her face. Her eyes lowered to the ruby coated lips, and watched as the taller woman wet them with a small pink tongue. Sucking in a breath, Lilian lowered her eyes completely, but not before she saw acknowledgement. She knew. She knew how much she was wanted. Caitlin reared back up to her full height in an attempt to gain some composure. Her heart was slamming against her chest. ‘ No, this is just a game. Just a game, and I got her.’ She opened the door and slid into the passenger seat.

“Good you choose. I’m not picky today.”

Lil smiled wanly, and almost moaned out loud when just the smell of her permeated her overcharged senses, making her insides flood with heat and her crotch with wetness. She closed her eyes, sucked in a deep breath, licked her lips, and squirmed in her seat, feeling the wetness coat her thighs. Not knowing what else to do, the young woman started the car and drove off.

Lilian sat across from the object of her affection, trying to silently gain confidence in order to see what made this woman tick. She sensed that she already had her interest. It was only a matter of keeping it. Lil watched the taller woman, under hooded eyes, eat the Cobb salad, envying the fork and its contents as it disappeared into the sensual mouth. Catt smiled inwardly. She couldn’t remember the last time she was looked at with such curiosity and need. It made her feel down right giddy that this beautiful woman was worshipping her, but she couldn’t afford to think about that too much. She smiled at her, catching the deep blue orbs staring.

“This is a nice place. It must be new, I don’t remember it the last time I was here.”

“Mmm hmm, they just opened it last year I believe. Um, this doesn’t seem like a tourist spot for a woman like you. You’re too elegant to be in a country town like this.” Lilian tapped herself on the back for finally finding a coherent voice.

Catt laughed. “You are right about that one. I’m actually here for a convention in Indy. I’m a senior exec in an advertising firm on the East Coast, Jersey to be exact, and it was my turn to go this year. Lucky me.” She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “I haven’t been back here in quite a few years, since I got that job. It seems to have picked up some interesting additions.” Catt smiled sexily as she raised her glass. “To beautiful new additions and attractions to this city. You being one of them.”

The older woman watched the attractive blush with a practiced eye as it crept up Lilian’s neck to the gentle curve of her cheeks. ‘God everything about her is honest and vulnerable. She could be addictive.’ Lil smiled out right infected by the smile of the other woman. The young brunette swallowed, enjoying the flirtatious attention she was receiving. Gabrielle had to have exaggerated. There was no way this woman could be that cold. The brunette was irrevocably drawn to the blonde woman, making her want to open up and tell all.

“I’m not from here either. I go to school and have a place upstate about five and a half hours from here. My sister talked me into spending part of the holiday with her.”

The taller woman raised an eyebrow.

“You seemed older. How old are you by the way?”

“Oh, I’m 21.”

“Ahh, to be that young again. Enjoy your twenties Lilian. They go by quickly. Take it from someone in their thirties. Anyway, I heard you say something at Tara’s shop about a baby?”

“Yeah, I have a one year old daughter, and I have to say she is the most important thing in my life. She keeps me going you know and loves me no matter what.”

“Mmm, aren’t we all looking for that? It sounds like she’s wonderful, and I’d like to meet her sometime. She does sound like a handful though, being only one and all.”

“Not really. She’s a good girl and really very smart. I usually don’t have much trouble with her.”

Caitlin watched the younger woman’s face light up as she talked about her daughter. ‘She really is beautiful.’ The older woman reached across the table, taking the smaller hand into her own. Lil stopped talking mid sentence and the noise of the restaurant filtered away. Electric tendrils shot up her arm directly to her groin, and she heard the roar of her blood in her ears. Lilian looked at Caitlin with eyes full of panic, anticipation, and desire.

“It’s okay.”

Lil whimpered and tried to pull her hand away.

“No, Lilian. It’s okay to want somebody.”

The younger woman’s chest heaved as her breath rasped in and out of her chest. She bit her lip as another whimper escaped them. Caitlin held on to the table in a white knuckled grip as each whimper tied her stomach in pleasurable knots. The younger woman licked suddenly dry lips. “But, I’ve never been—I mean this is all new for me.”

“I kind of picked up on that. Will it make you feel better if I tell you that I’m feeling the same?”

“Um, you do?”

“God yes. It starts right in the pit of your stomach and flares outward like a thick heat going everywhere, all the way down to your fingertips. The feelings can be triggered by anything; a look, a touch, a smell, a taste. Anything. You feel crazy and out of control like your body isn’t listening to your brain.”

Lilian whimpered again louder and more laced with need. She clutched at the hand holding hers, completely mesmerized by the older woman’s low, husky, melodious voice; her words; and the mouth they spilled from. She couldn’t tear her eyes away.

Caitlin was taken aback by the force of the feelings she was experiencing. She wasn’t supposed to feel anything outside lust, but there was more growing. She could feel it. She had to step back and regain her bearings before things got out of hand, but looking into the deep blue was making it become more and more difficult. The tall blonde caressed the petal soft skin she held. Instantly knowing the younger woman would be just as soft all over. She desperately tried to control her own breathing as heat flowed through her body thick and syrupy. It was impossible not to react—impossible not to say what she said next.

“God, I want to kiss you so much right now.”

Lilian made a sound of pure, raw need, as desire flashed through her body like a raging fire leaving her skin hot and scorched.

“Please, I have to–,” her voice was ragged as her breathing.

The younger woman snatched away her hand, jumped up almost knocking her chair over, and ran toward the vicinity of the restrooms. Caitlin blinked and tried to decide whether to wait or follow her. Her body made the decision for her.

****

Meanwhile in the bathroom, with shaking hands, Lilian patted her face with the cool, damp paper towel, trying to bring her body temperature down. She closed her eyes and willed her heart to be still, and her breathing to return to normal. Instead, a picture flashed in her mind of a blonde head descending, soft lips touching. Lil shook her head to clear it. “I need to get a hold of myself.” She smiled shakily at the woman giving her strange looks as she exited the stalls. ‘I can’t stay in here forever,’ she said to herself this time.

She exited the restroom only to find herself pushed against the wall next to it by a tall, amorous blonde. Caitlin slammed the smaller body against the obliging wall, and blocked any escape by molding her body to the smaller woman’s and positioning her arms on either side of her head. Lil wanted to cry out at the incredible heat that suffused her body. Her skin tingled wherever there was contact. The taller woman groaned as she flexed her hips and began grinding them against the brunette. They both moaned when Lilian’s hips joined in the erotic dance.

“Catt, we can’t do this. What if—Oh God that feels so good,” Lilian said breathlessly, arching her back as she felt the pebbly hardness of the other woman’s nipples poking through and rubbing tantalizingly against her own. They scraped across each other, pulling the fabric tighter, making the material of their clothing feel like a lover’s caress. Caitlin wanted to purr the moment was so erotic. Sparks flew through her body, making her ache even more. The possibility of getting caught making her even more naughty.

She peered down at the captured woman, studying the flushed demeanor, hooded eyes and parted moist lips. She had to taste them. She had too. Catt traced wet lips with her fingertips, feeling the softness. She stared into the hypnotic blue and heard the younger woman’s breath hitch. Slowly, she lowered her head, stopping just short of touching, letting the anticipation grow, so close they could taste the wine on each other’s breath.

Lil wound her hands through luxurious blond locks and tried to initiate the kiss by pulling the woman’s head down. No such luck. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, full lips swooped down, devouring. Lilian cried out. The sound muffled by sweet lips and a demanding tongue. Caitlin groaned and deepened the kiss, spearing and darting her tongue within the warm cavern of the young woman’s mouth, possessing every crevice.

Wetness flooded between Lilian’s legs, making her grind harder, faster, and unevenly. Catt grasped the moving hips and slid eager hands around to cup the shapely bottom. She pulled the smaller woman into her, trying to increase the friction. The usually cool, aloof blonde had never been so aroused by a kiss. Warning bells sounded off in her head, telling her she had to get control, but the little noises Lilian was making in the back of her throat, ate away at her resolve and served to strengthen her desire. She wanted so much to bunch the other woman’s skirt up around her hips and explore the wet flesh she knew was waiting. She wanted to make her come right here. Right now. She increased the cadence of her hips enjoying the needy whimpers that spilled from the brunette’s lips.

Lilain felt as if the top of her head was going to pop off. Her body hummed with arousal that was dangerously close to a quick orgasm. She didn’t care if anyone was watching. She didn’t care if they got caught. All that mattered was the searing sensations coursing through her body. There was no way she could stop. No way she could deny it. Desire overrode the panic and fear she felt earlier. There was no turning back. The young woman knew what she wanted.

Lilian surrendered completely, returning the passion in the kiss and the touches. Warning bells went off louder when she felt the shorter woman’s surrender. Gathering strength she didn’t know she had, Caitlin tore her lips away. They were swollen and throbbing just like the woman’s she was kissing. She rested her forehead against the other woman’s and began to slow down her grinding hips. Lilian whimpered in disappointment but knew sub-consciously that this was necessary. Her body shuddered as it tried to regain control. If it was possible, she wanted this woman more than air—her body ached.

Caitlin cringed on the inside. She had lost complete control. ‘But oh God it felt so good,’ she thought to herself. The older woman had to rectify the situation and regain the upper hand in the game she was so adept in playing. She kissed the young woman on the forehead with tenderness she didn’t feel and stepped back. Her body instantly screamed, missing the warm contact, and the needy look in the blue eyes was almost her undoing. Caitlin shook her head when the younger woman reached out for her.

“No, we need to stop this.”

She took the smaller hand into her own and led them back to the table with two pair of legs shaking. What seemed like hours had only transpired in minutes, and within these minutes, Caitlin discovered how to return to the status quo. She would play her trump card. Lilian sat down still visibly shaken. Her eyes raked over the blonde woman, memorizing her. She knew her eyes showed what she was feeling, but she couldn’t hide such need, especially from the one who caused it.

“I’m sorry Lilian. I didn’t mean for that to happen, but things just got a little out of hand.” Her voice was still husky from the previous activity.

“No, no don’t apologize. I liked it very much, and I want to do it again. Soon.”

Caitlin sucked in a breath on a stab of desire. What was it about this woman that made her react like this. It was driving her crazy. She had to do something about this.

Her smile was slow and sexy. “Yes, I can tell you did, but as far as doing it again, I don’t know. I met your sister today. Actually she came to see me. She blatantly told me to leave you alone and was somewhat violent about it too.” The older woman pat herself on the back for such a good acting job. ‘There is nothing left to do but sit back and watch her come to me.’

“What?! I can’t believe she did that! How did she know in the first place?” I can’t believe this. What the hell gives her the right to mess with my life?”

“Look, I’m sure she was just looking out for you. I don’t have a stellar past.”

That doesn’t matter. It happened years ago. I don’t understand why she did this to me. I’m not a damn child and am capable of making my own decisions.” Anger flushed her face, turning her pale skin pink. Lilian gripped her wine glass so tightly that it began to crack. She glanced back at Catt. “I want to see you again as soon as possible, and don’t worry about my sister. I’ll handle that. It’s obvious that Tara hasn’t been keeping her busy enough that she has to but in where she doesn’t belong.”

“If you’re sure? Don’t do this to get back at her. I mean I’m not going to be here that long anyway.” Caitlin winced hoping she wasn’t laying it on too thick.

“Oh, I want to see you because I want to. So, how about dinner tomorrow night?”

“If it’s not too much how about lunch and dinner. I want to see as much of you as possible, but if have trouble finding a sitter it’s okay.”

“No, that won’t be a problem. Listen, I need to get home and take care of this. Here is my half of the check. Are you alright with getting a cab?”

“Yes, its fine. Don’t worry about me.” Caitlin would have given anything to be a fly on the wall in Gabrielle’s house. On the inside, she clapped with glee, knowing it was going to be an interesting night in that household. The cool, confident blonde knew from the kiss and the conversation that this woman was hers for the taking. She swallowed down a twinge of unidentifiable emotion. It was a new feeling. Maybe it was guilt, who knows. “Um, you go on, and I’ll meet you here tomorrow around noon?”

“Okay, that’ll work.”

Lilian grasped her hand in an attempt to relay feelings she couldn’t display in the semi-crowded restaurant. What her hands couldn’t communicate, her eyes did. With a final squeeze, she left the older woman sitting alone, sipping wine with a small smile of triumph on her face. She whispered into the air, “Oh little Gabrielle don’t underestimate me and what I can do.”

****

Lilian drove around for over an hour before she returned to her sister’s house in an attempt to dissipate some of the anger and to think. To confront Gabrielle would be to reveal everything, but apparently, she already knew entirely too much. Damn her eyes anyway. Obviously, she had admitted and accepted it for herself in going out with Caitlin and kissing her so passionately. It would become even more real with this confrontation. Lilian strengthen her resolve to approach her sister and Tara if necessary, despite the consequences. ‘In just one day this woman has become very important to me. I have to see where it goes,’ she thought to herself. She pointed her car toward the highway leading to her sister’s home.

At home was a waiting Gabrielle wringing her hands and wondering if her tactics had backfired. Tara returned home early and noticed right away that something was wrong.

“Red, what’s wrong? Where’s Lilian?”

“I’m okay just writer’s block, and I think Lil went out shopping or something, she left a note.”

Tara accepted the explanation at face value and just like she had lied to the hotel manager, she smoothly lied to her lover for the first time. Realizing this, her insides felt as though they were sweating. Her breathing was loud and audible, and deep in her own ears. Her heart slow, throbbing and humming, and her stomach lurched. ‘It had been so easy and she did it without thought. That alone panicked her. ‘I have to make sure that monster doesn’t get to her. Lil is the important one here.’ Her thoughts reverberated through her head.

Lilian slammed through the door, startling both Tara and Gabrielle.

“Damn it Gabs. I know you’re my sister, but you have no right to snoop in my life! What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Lil, what are you talking about?”

“Oh, don’t give me that in the dark bullshit. You went to go see her to ward her off? You’re not my damn mother!” Lil’s voice was loud, strained and full of anger.

“Lil hold on! Sweetie, I did it for your own good. She would do nothing but hurt you, and you don’t need that kind of pain for your first experience.”

Lil laughed derisively. In a way I’m glad you know, but you have no right to decide who I see Gabby! I’m a grown woman, and you should have come to me first! It was wrong and you know it was!” Gabrielle dropped her head, and looked over at her lover.

‘She lied to me. She looked me in the face an lied to me. She didn’t trust me enough to help her with this so she went behind my back.’ Tara thought as her heart lurched and her stomach knotted. Never would she think Gabrielle would lie to her. With just a couple of statements from Lilian, Tara felt desolation set in as well as anger. Gabrielle looked dead into sky blue, and what she saw made her stop. There was such sadness, such anger that she knew she had miscalculated this whole thing. Caitlin still obviously went out with Lil; Lil was vehemently upset with her; and Tara looked completely betrayed.

“Tara baby?” Gabrielle reached out to touch her.

The raven-haired woman shook her head and moved away from the touch. Without saying a word, she walked away into the bedroom. Lilian looked at her sister expectantly, as if waiting for an answer.

“Lil, I’m so sorry. Obviously you feel strongly about this, about her. I was just trying to help you, to protect you. I didn’t mean—Oh God.” She covered her mouth, muffling a sob, and sat heavily on the couch. “I just didn’t want her to do to you what she did to Tara. I’m so sorry,” the strawberry blonde sobbed.

Lilian’s anger broke with her sister’s tears. “Gabby, I understand you were trying to protect me, but if this is a mistake let me make it.”

“You like her that much already?”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“Just promise me that you’ll be careful?”

“I’ll try—no I will. Promise.” The younger woman blew out a calming breath and reached for her sister, hoping to smooth this all over because based on the look on Tara’s face those two had something heavy to discuss. “Listen, we’ll be okay Gabs, but I think you got bigger fish to fry.” She nodded her head toward the bedroom. “I’m gonna go get Jamie.”

Gabrielle sat on the couch for long minutes wondering if she had greatly underestimated this woman. She knew deep down in her gut that Caitlin was up to no good. She had told Lil about their little altercation, which pretty much precipitated the whole argument. The older woman had won this time, and Gabrielle got the feeling she knew it too.

****

Tara lay in the bed trying to sort through the pain, trying to rationalize the situation. In truth, she understood why Gabrielle did what she did, but she still lied to her. A lie is a lie. Tara hurt because she was lied to and hurt because she was left out. She considered Lil to be like a sister, and her well-being was just as important to her as if she was blood like Jake. A hot knife felt as though it had been twisted in her insides. It hurt so bad.

Gabrielle entered the room, and Tara turned to look at her.

“Tara, listen. I am so sorry I lied to you—”

“Don’t Red, just don’t. It hurts too much right now. Can we just sleep on it?” Pale blue begged her to comply.

Small shoulders slumped. “Okay, if that’s what you need. Um, do you want me to sleep on the couch tonight?”

“No, the bed is big enough, besides its yours.”

Later that night, Gabrielle climbed into bed careful not to touch her lover. She could just feel Tara’s eyes boring into her back, but when she glanced over her shoulder, she had turned around. For the first time, they lay together not touching, not holding each other. Neither one could remember ever feeling so alone.

Gabrielle woke the next day in the latter part of the morning. Tara’s side of the bed was long cold. She putted around the bedroom then into the shower. Finally, coming out of her room, she saw a radiant Lil cooing over her daughter.

“Hey sis. I’m gonna go to lunch with Catt, so will you keep Jamie for me? It’s just for a couple of hours.”

“Sure okay, but I’m hoping to get Tara to come home for lunch. We have a lot to discuss, so I’ll call Mrs. Tibidault to see if she can take her until one of us is free.”

“Oh, okay. Things still rocky between you two?”

“Yeah, I lied to her, so I got a feeling there would be a lot to fix.”

Gabrielle studied her sister’s appearance. Elegant wasn’t a strong enough word to describe her. The wool slacks followed the lines of long legs, flattering them and the blue sweater brought out her eyes. “You look nice.” The older sister looked down at her wringing hands. “You really like her don’t you?”

Lil smiled and blushed. “Yeah, I do. Hey and listen I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you about what I was going through. I just needed to make sure you know. I guess I’m pretty sure now, huh? Ugh, now that you know that leaves my friends and mom and dad.”

“Yeah, you seem pretty sure, and hey tell them only when you’re ready okay, and I’ ll be behind you one hundred percent.” Gabrielle squeezed her sister’s shoulder. “You just take care okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

****

After Lil left, Gabrielle stared at the silent phone for a long while before picking it up. It rung once, twice before the woman she’d been looking for answered.

“Hi,” the younger woman whispered softly.

“Hey, how you doing?”

“Lousy. I missed touching you, holding you last night.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Um, we need to talk.”

“Yes, we do Red.”

“Can you come home for lunch—spare a couple of hours?”

“Yeah, for you, anything.”

Gabrielle closed her eyes and swallowed a sob. “Do you—do you still love me?” She said in a wee voice.

“God, Red, I don’t think I could ever stop. I’m just disappointed right now.”

“Uh, yeah I know. So, I’ll see you around 12:30?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

“Kay.”

****

When Lil sat down at the table, Catt immediately grabbed her hand, making fire shoot up the appendage. The older woman smiled fondly then her face took on a look of concern. “Are you okay? Did everything go okay last night?”

“Well yes and no. I chewed Gab out but in the end I can understand why she did it. Still, she had to start seeing me as an adult. Buut, things didn’t go so well between Gab and Tara. I think she lied to her and Tara didn’t set too well with that.”

“Mmm, probably not.” Inside Catt clapped her hands. ‘Take that little girl.’ “As long as you’re okay.”

“Yeah, I’m fine thanks for caring.”

“Welcome. I missed you last night.” Caitlin’s voice became low, sultry.

Lil sucked in a breath and felt her heart begin to thud. “Really? I-I thought about you a lot too. Um, that kiss. Couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

“Do you know how beautiful you are? How much I want you?”

Lil whimpered.

“Last night, I dreamed about how you would taste—so sweet and how your body would react when I touched and kissed you. I even got to hear you scream out my name.”

The younger woman’s chest was heaving and her upper lip started to sweat. She was so aroused that she almost smell it, and turgid nipples scraped dangerously against her sweater.

“Oh God, please don’t—”

“Come back to the hotel with me? Let me touch you. I want to so much, and I know you want it too.”

“Yess.”

****

It was the fastest thirty mile drive, where the tension increased tenfold. The slow ride up the elevator did not help either. Sexual tension radiated from their bodies, making anyone in their vicinity feel as though they were intruding. Eyes met across the elevator, where they were at opposite ends, trying to resist temptation. They were oblivious to the other passengers. The looks passed between them smoldered and were as strong and hot as a caress.

Finally reaching the older woman’s floor, Catt found her hands shaking as she pushed the key into the lock. She wanted this too much—way too much. She didn’t understand where the words said at the table came from, and she had vowed not to reveal the dream. Still, it just spilled out like the most natural of things. Just like the day before, the usually cool blonde felt control slip through her fingers. A taste –just a taste, and she would be okay.

Lilian shook with fear and anticipation. She wanted this woman so much it scared her. Never had she felt such pull, such need. Her heart was in her throat and her stomach twisted and churned with pleasurable knots and nervous butterflies. All she wanted was to feel those lips again—feel them everywhere. She shuddered in anticipation as the door swung open. Caitlin made way for the brunette to go in first.

Lil’s curious eyes scanned the room nervously. Suddenly, her knees buckled and a cry of pleasure ripped from her throat. Catt molded her body to the back of the younger woman and in practiced ease her lips descended to her soon to be lover’s neck and her hands reached around to cup full breasts. The blonde groaned harshly at the sweet-salty taste of skin and moaned again louder, longer at the feel of plump nipples searing her palms.

“Oh God, mmm!” The younger woman exclaimed as waves after wave of heat and desire swept through her body, pooling in her belly.

Lilian cupped the hands that gently squeezed her breasts urging them on harder, rougher. Removing her hand, Lil sighed in exasperation and dropped her own. Then she moaned in delight as the remaining larger hand pushed her breasts together to rub and knead them through the fabric of her sweater. With her free hand, Catt searched under the baggy clothing, eager to touch naked, hot skin. She wasn’t disappointed. Lil arched into the touch crying out at the feel of flesh on flesh. The amorous blonde licked the ridge of an ear the speared her tongue inside, loving the hard shudder of reaction.

Whispering hotly in the younger woman’s ear, “Mmm so sweet. You taste so good.”

“Unn, oh yess!”

As if by magic, both hands were suddenly searching under the heavy sweater. Finding what they were looking for, Catt pinched and tweaked the raised peaks of Lilian’s breast. If it was possible, the younger woman’s breathing became more erratic, her nipples more rigid. With each tug, there was an answering moan, and an increase in the amount of wetness that trickled from the brunette’s opening.

Caitlin was herself astonished at the level of her arousal. She could feel it coating her thighs, and her clit throbbed and hummed, waiting for stimulation. Trying to relieve some of the built up pressure and due to the luscious feel of the shapely behind cradled near her crotch, Catt began to grind slowly against it. She moaned harshly into her young lover’s ear as her clit seemed to sigh at the momentary reprieve.

Lilian’s mind reeled. The sensations were just overwhelming. One piled up on top of the other, multiplying and compounding the unbelievable pleasure. It was too much too soon. She couldn’t think; she couldn’t breath; she could only feel. Each synapses in her brain seemed to crackle and pop with each grind and with each tug on her breast. They felt as though they were going to short out. In that moment, she panicked.

“Please, stop,” she said breathlessly.”

Whether the older woman didn’t hear her or wasn’t paying attention, she only ground harder against her buttocks. Lil sobbed at a renewed gush of wetness, but said loudly, “Please stop. It-it’s too much. I can’t think.”

Caitlin whimpered as she tried to control her errant body. The younger woman had given her an out. She slowed her rampant hips and stopped her roving hands. Her body ached with unfullfillment.

“Okay, okay. Sorry,” she said huskily. She took a step back and wanted to scream as her body protested. Lilian turned around with fear and panic shining in her eyes. “No, no it’s me. You know I never well –you know. Um, can we take this a little slower. I want you, but—”

“Shhh,” the blonde woman stepped forward and placed a finger over the younger woman’s lips, reveling in the softness. “It’s okay. Really it is. I understand. You just let me know when you’re ready or when I go too far.”

Lilian nodded her head. “Um, can I still kiss you?”

Caitlin’s heart contracted. So innocent, so giving. “Anytime you want love.”

The brunette smiled. “Uh, are we still on for dinner?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

“Okay, I need to go. I have to go pick up Jamie from the sitter’s, and I got some thinking to do. I can’t go home yet anyway I think Gabs is fixing lunch for Tara, and I know I can’t stay here without—well you know.”

“Yeah, I know.” The blonde kissed the younger woman gently on the lips, when they reached the door. Closing it, Caitlin leaned heavily against it. She couldn’t lie to herself anymore. She had meant every word she said to Lilian today. This wasn’t a game anymore.

****

Tara and Gabrielle ate in silence, each wrapped in their own thoughts. ‘How can I fix this? I don’t want her not to trust me. I don’t want her to leave me. I’ll do what I have to, and that’s all there is to it. We’ll take it slow.’ The strawberry blonde’s thoughts made her look up and study her lover. ‘Yes, take it slow.”

’I know she has never lied to me. I fell it in my gut, but one lie leads to another then another. She did it so easily, and that’s what scares me. I need to know I can count on her to be the truth, to tell me the truth.’ Tara glanced up and caught the smaller woman staring. The raven-haired woman smiled wanly and got one in return.

After a few more minutes, Gabrielle motioned toward the couch, “Shall we?”

“Yeah, we got a lot to talk about.”

They got comfortable on the sofa and there was more silence.

“T, I’m—”

“Red, there’s—”

They both laughed nervously.

“Go on you first Red.”

Gabrielle nodded her head. “I’m not trying to justify what I did, but you know my reasons behind it. They are very important reasons, but I should have included you instead of omitting you. I know you care about Lil, but I wasn’t thinking. I just went into protect mode. I do love you, and I realize my mistake. I am so very, very sorry that I hurt you that was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t know what you would be more upset about, my going to see Caitlin or lying about it. I realize that a like is in fact a lie, and they can hurt more than anything.” Gabrielle blew out a breath. “Whoa, that was a mouth full, but I think I said what I wanted until I hear from you.”

Tara brushed a stray raven lock behind her ear. “Well,” she took a deep breath. “I do understand why you did it, but you have to realize that Lil has become like a sister. I wanted to help too. I mean I can even speak from experience with this woman. You not only lied to me, but you made me feel like I only have one place in your life—like I can only serve one function, your lover. That hurt Red. It hurt a lot. As far as the lying goes, you have been open and honest with me from the get go. I don’t know anything else from you. To say I was surprised would be a big understatement. I don’t wanna not trust you, but I can’t help but say it’s gonna be in the back of my mind for a good while.”

Gabrielle’s head lowered and when she looked up again, bright green eyes shown with unshed tears. “Um, so what do we do now? Where do we go from here?”

Tara reached out her hand, caressing a soft cheek. “Hey, hey don’t cry baby. We’ll work it out.”

“But how?”

“I’ve been thinking about that one. Personally, I think we need to really get to know each other inside and out. You already know me here, ” she made a sweep of her body,” but you need to know me here and here,” she pointed at her head and her heart, “like the back of your hand. This goes for me about you too. Let’s take it slow—go out more and talk more.” Tara blushed before she said, ” You know, I didn’t get the chance to romance you like I wanted to. Things just uh, happened.”

Gabrielle grinned. Her eyes now dry. “Yeah, you could say that.” Tara glanced at her, laughter shining in her eyes. “I just did, Red.” The strawberry blonde gave her lover a mock slap on the arm.

“Oww, you bruised me!”

Gabrielle laughed glad to atleast have their banter back.

“Nuh, uh not them thick arms.”

After a quite minute, “Romance huh? Um, okay. I’ll take the first step here, Kay?” The younger woman smiled, biting her lip. “Um, dinner tomorrow night. Here at home, just the two of us, and then dancing all night Friday at the club. We’re gonna have some tag alongs for that one. Lil wants to go and you know Shan and Wayne will be there. Still, when I’m around you, it always seems like we’re the only people in the world.”

“Mmm, sounds good Red. It’s a date or is it some dates?”

“Ugh, behave smartass.”

“C’mere Red.” Tara pat her lap and the younger woman gladly took a seat. She wrapped her arms around the graceful neck. “Are we gonna be okay T?”

“We’ll be okay baby.”

“I believe you, but I’m still worried about Lil.”

“Yeah, me too, but she’s a big girl. Obviously trying to ward Catt off didn’t work. We just have to be there for her if anything happens.”

Gabrielle buried her face in the fragrant neck. “Yeah, you’re right.”

****

Lil and Caitlin passed dinner in a sexual haze. They couldn’t be near each other and not touch. Kisses had become more heated as did touches. Caitlin had long since conceded that the game was no more. She wanted this woman. She was charmed by this woman. The ice was once again melting, and she was scared to death. There was no out, and she couldn’t admit to herself that she didn’t want one. Her plan of one-upmanship with Gabrielle was forgotten. The next day was spent playing phone tag because of a heavy convention schedule. Catt’s voice left Lil achy and needy with her skin feeling hot and too tight.

“God, Lil, I haven’t gotten to touch you all day.”

“I know. I miss you.”

“Ugh, maybe I’ll blow off some of these meetings so we can at least see each other for dinner.”

“Can you do that? I need to make myself scarce for a few hours tonight anyway. Tara and Gabby have some kind of romantic dinner thing planned.”

“Okay, it’s a date then. You come over here, and I’ll try my damnedest too keep my hands to myself.”

“Uh, but doesn’t that free up your lips?”

“Ahh, clever girl. Indeed it does. I’ll keep them to myself as well.”

The brunette laughed. “Yeah, right. Hey listen we are all going to R’Place tomorrow night. Do you wanna go with?”

“I don’t know. If your sister and Tara are going to be there that my make us all uncomfortable.”

“Hmm, yeah. I see your point, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sneak around anyway.”

“Ha, you are bad!”

“Am not! I just want to see you is all. Um, I know you have to leave soon,” Lil’s breath hitched, “and I want to see as much of you as possible.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling. So, sneaking around it is then. I have to go now—meetings and all. God, I’m so tired. I’ll see you tonight. I’ll call and let you know when I’m done.”

“Okay, bye.”

“Bye sweetie.”

****

Tara drove up to a dark house. When she got up to the door, she noticed the illumination caused by what looked like lit candles, smiling she let herself in. She saw the first candle sitting on the in table in the living room with a long stemmed red rose along with what looked like a hand written not beside it.

Come to the bathroom. Your bath is already drawn. Leave the clothes on. I’ll do that for you.

Tara grinned crookedly. ‘Oooo, she’s gonna give me a bath.’ She made her way down the hall, beginning to feel the effects of the pampering already. Opening the door to the bathroom inside her lover’s bedroom, she was privy to a beautiful sight. The small room was aglow with candles and in the middle of it stood Gabrielle clad in a green silk robe, holding another red rose. The young woman sniffed the rose appreciatively and then grinned. She crooked her finger, asking the taller woman to come closer. Now in front of the smaller woman, Tara waited patiently. With the fragrant rose, Gabrielle traced the shape of her lover’s lips, her cheeks then her nose, allowing her to get a whiff of its potent perfume.

She then motioned for the raven-haired woman to take the flower between her teeth. Slowly, without breaking the electric eye contact, Gabrielle began to undress Tara. Once the coveralls were fully unbuttoned, the younger woman pushed them off her lover’s shoulders, and they fell to the floor with a soft whisper, leaving the woman clad only in a t-shirt and cargo pants. Carefully, the strawberry blonde tugged the t-shirt from the pants, cautious not to touch with intent. This wasn’t about sex. It was about love. Gabrielle smirked to herself, wondering if Tara knew that sex wasn’t on the agenda for tonight.

Coming out of her reverie, the young woman gently pulled the shirt over her love’s head and tried futilely not to stare at the full- brown tipped breasts. She didn’t succeed. After several long minutes of admiration, Gabrielle heard a distinctive ‘Ahem.’ She looked back up into silver-blue eyes that were full of mischief and amusement. ‘Oh yeah, she knows.’ The little woman smiled apologetically and began unbuttoning the well-worn pants. Soon, they fell to the floor along with a pair of brief panties. Gabrielle took one last sweeping look, earning a raised eyebrow from her lover. The taller woman was able to see the banked fires of desire, with the aid of the candlelight, just smoldering under the surface and knew her eyes were a mirror of that exact same look.
She swallowed and strengthened her resolve. Gabrielle smiled knowingly and took the rose from between Tara’s teeth. Again, she beckoned with her hand for Tara to follow, the young woman turned and headed toward the bathtub. Tearing the petals from the flower, she sprinkled them in the water, and with a nod of her head, asked Tara to get in. The taller woman stuck her foot in to test the waters, then submerged the rest of her body with a sigh. Gabrielle smirked as her own robe fell almost silently to the floor. Tara scooted up making room in the back for her lover to get in. The younger woman hopped gracefully into the steaming water. Her shorter legs bent, extending past her lover’s narrow hips and her chest was almost molded to Tara’s smooth wet back.

Picking up a sponge and a bottle of liquid soap, she encouraged the older woman to move back some more. With the soaked sponge, Gabrielle started at the strong, muscular shoulders, watching the water tail down her back. Shoulders gave way to upper chest, and they both took in a shaky breath at the pleasurable contact of hand on breasts. The strawberry blonde’s hands slid over slick skin and where ever she touched, she felt tight muscles relax. The sponge trailed over flat stomach, corded back and arms as well as thick, thighs. When the soft material traveled in between parted thighs, the taller woman sighed and brought her knees up for better access. The sigh turned into a quite moan as each fold was cleaned and rinsed lovingly. In total silence, Gabrielle relieved the stress of Tara’s day, leaving the older woman feeling loved, valued, and completely relaxed. After several more minutes and the realization that the water was getting tepid, Gabrielle deposited the sponge in the niche in the bathroom wall, and slowly stood up.

Tara turned her boneless body and watched as water cascaded down her lover’s compact form. She followed fat beads of water as they traveled down ample chest, washboard stomach, into the sparse patch of curly auburn hair, and down strong thighs. She swallowed audibly and knit her brows as a wave of desire crashed through her unsuspecting body. Gabrielle looked back with a mixture of amusement and understanding. This was pleasurable torture, so why not drag it out. Not bothering to dry her own damp body, the smaller woman reached for a large fluffy towel, and with an arched eyebrow, the younger woman asked her lover to get out of the tub. Once out, Gabrielle started at her neck, dabbing and wiping to absorb excess water. The towel was soft and plush, making Tara’s skin tingle.

The younger woman dragged the towel over sensitive breasts, watching the intake of breath, down over toned abs. She bent down on her knees to dry long legs, and watch as muscles bunched and corded with her touch. To say the display was sensual would be an understatement. Gabrielle heard a tiny whimper when the towel brushed over intimate lips and nether regions and smiled to herself.

The small candles that decorated the bathroom had burned down considerably by the time the auburn-haired woman’s task was done. Grabbing the larger hand, Gabrielle led her lover back into the bedroom, where before Tara had missed her favorite ensemble lying on the bed. Lying at the foot was a half-shirt and worn jeans. Tara grinned crookedly, when the smaller woman launched a pair of silk panties in her direction. In the loving display of the past half hour, the two lover’s learned that they knew a lot about each other in that looks, touches, smiles all were different and each had their own meaning. They both stood amazed in understanding, as they got dressed. The strawberry blonde pat the edge of the bed, urging Tara to sit. Getting behind her on her knees, Gabrielle wound her fingers through the dark, inky mass of her lover’s hair, and began to braid it. Tara sighed and relaxed into the fingers in her scalp. Pampered wasn’t the word for what she was feeling. Decadent fit more. Finally, they walked hand in hand toward the dining room that was also lit with some of the same candles. Gabrielle pulled out a seat for her lover and then proceeded to uncork the wine. They sat in comfortable, companionable silence, until it was broken by Tara’s throaty purr.

“Mmm, Red, this is really nice. The whole thing has been.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“Do you need me to help with anything?”

“Nope, just keep yourself where you are. I’ll handle everything.”

The younger woman disappeared into the kitchen, returning a few minutes later carrying two plates covered with food. “Ooo, lemon chicken. I love that stuff.”

“I know.”

They ate and chatted through most of the wine and second helpings. Topics of discussion ranged from politics, where they both learned they were democrats, to religion, and came back around to children.

“Do you want kids T?”

“I don’t know. I used to. Some part of me still does, but I can’t bring myself to bring and raised a kid in today’s environment. You know what I mean? I would love to live in the country—not the yuppie type of country—but the way it used to be. Now, I would raise a child there.” The older woman looked wistful. “Teach him or her to value themselves and others; teach him to respect and be eager to understand differences; and teach him to be giving and kind. Maybe it would rub off on some of the other kids today, you know?”

“You know what T? You have the biggest most caring heart of anyone I have ever met. You’d do give anything of yourself to help people who needed it.”

Tara blushed. “You know more about me Red than I thought.”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“And you Miss firecracker,” Tara smiled at the scalding look she got, ” will do anything to protect the people in your life, despite the consequences. Sometimes I see you as so strong and so good. It keeps me going, knowing that I have somebody like that in my corner.”

“I’ll try to always be there for you when you need me, but I think you know that already.”

“Yeah, I do.”

Gabrielle held up her glass, urging a toast: “To discoveries old and new.” A blanket of peaceful companionship fell over them, draping them in the knowledge that things were going to be okay.

****

Lilian ran her fingers through the blond head laying in her lap. She smiled down at the woman starring up at her.

“What?”

“Nothing, I was just thinking that I hate it that I have to leave once this convention is over.”

“I know. I don’t want you to go either, but you don’t live here, so I’m trying to understand that.” ‘I still can’t believe we just met three days ago.’ Lil studied the face before her, noticing the lines of stress and dark smudges under her eyes. “You look so tired.”

“I am. Been on the go since 5am, and it’s so mentally exhausting listening to self-important men, who like to hear themselves speak. Makes you want to start a food fight to break the monotony. ” Lil grinned wickedly. “You? Miss Elegance? They would be appalled and probably blame it on someone more likely to do it.”

“Mmm, so you think I could get away with it then?”

“Oh, stop you!”

Catt grinned winningly up at her. “I like being with you like this,” Lil whispered. Caitlin displayed a ghost of a smile as she closed her eyes.

“What about dinner?”

“Eh, not that hungry. Right now, just let me hold you.”

The blonde tried to swallow the painful lump in her chest. ‘Careful, you could fall in love.’ She told herself, but wondered if her ‘self’ was listening. “I don’t want to fall asleep on you.”

“Don’t worry about it. If you do, I’ll take care of you.”

The older woman smiled helplessly. “Okay.” Sure enough, Lil stroked the blonde hair again, listening to the woman’s deep even breathing while she slept. She leaned down and kissed the soft forehead, noticing how young, serene, and innocent the woman looked at her most vulnerable. ‘I could fall in love with her.’ She held the blonde in her arms for what seemed like short minutes to her, but were actually hours. Carefully, removing herself, Lil retrieved a blanked and pillows to make sure the woman was comfortable. With one last gentle kiss and longing look, Lil let herself out.

Carrying a sleeping Jamie in her arms, Lilian let herself in and immediately noticed the burned down candles. She smiled to herself. ‘Well, someone had fun last night. I hope they worked things out.’ She went into her room and put the sleeping child into her pajamas. Putting on her own sleepwear, she crawled sleepily into bed, with the image of a beautiful, slumbering blonde on her mind. In the other bedroom, Tara snuggled closer against her lover’s back, holding the younger woman to her as if for the first time.

****

The next day Tara ventured home to her neglected house to see her brother that she had been playing phone tag with what seemed like weeks. Unlocking and going into her own door, she was assaulted by blaring music. Jake was leaning over the table with a towel, shaking his butt, while cleaning. Smiling sweetly to herself, she walked up slowly behind him and grabbed his ass.

“Yeoww! What the hell?!” He turned around to see his sister grinning at him. “Well, well as I live and breathe. I was beginning to think you got lost. Good thing you didn’t forget your number here.”

“Oh, ha, ha. Stick to what you know funny man. Just thought I ‘d pop by to see you in person it’s been a couple of weeks. Oh and guess what?”

“What?”

“Caitlin’s in town.”

His eyebrows rose and his mouth opened. “Nuh, uh! Are you okay?”

“Yeah, she can’t hurt me anymore, but she did try to rile me up—came by the shop the other day. She’s got her eye on Lilian, Red’s little sister now.”

“Oh, no didn’t you guys warn her?”

“Yeah, and that in its self turned into an ugly affair. Bottom line is they are seeing each other. She is a grown woman after all, and the only thing we can do is be there.”

“Uh, let’s back track for a minute shall we? You’re telling me Lilian is gay? Whoa, when did that happen?”

“Oh, I think it’s been brewing for sometime.”

“Hooo boy! What a life you lead.”

“Yeah, it’s never dull. So, anyway we’re coming to the bar tonight and bringing the newbie with us. Who’s performing, besides you of course.”

“There’s gonna be six of us tonight.” They talked for over an hour. Tara missed hanging out with her brother, but she knew these things happened when you got in a serious relationship. Still, she knew she needed to be around more often. She didn’t even know if he was seeing someone, but he seemed like his normal self.

****

The three women pulled into the parking lot, noticing quiet a few cars. “Whoa, it’s a little crowded tonight. I wonder who’s performing?” Gabrielle asked.

“Jake is, Tiara, Demonica, Terea, Henrietta, and another I forget her name.”

“Mmm, sounds interesting.” They both turned to look at Lil. “You ready?”

“Oh hell yeah.”

“Oh, and make sure you have a lot of ones, sis, to tip the queens.”

“Will do.”

Lil looked around the parking lot, trying to spot a familiar rental, hoping she showed up soon. “Okay, let’s go. Shan and Wayne probably have a table already.” Gabrielle told the other two. They made their way inside. Lil nodded her head to the music as she followed the other women upstairs. They gave Lil beer pitcher duty, while they toted the mugs. They spotted Shannon and Wayne under the technicolor lights, sitting at a large table to the side of the runway. Gabrielle walked up to them, giving them both kisses on the cheek.

“Well, hey boys. If it isn’t the Friday night regs!”

“Hey girl long time no see! We didn’t know you were coming.” Shannon looked up at the smaller woman.

“Yeah I know been busy with that one over there.” She pointed to the vicinity of Tara.

“Oh, I can understand why. If I were straight mmm, mm,” he looked Tara up and down, ” I wouldn’t come out the house either.”

Gabrielled giggled. Tara looked down at him with a smirk. “Nice to see you guys too Shannon.”

“On the other hand,” he looked over at Lil, “I still wouldn’t speak to you!”

Lil laughed, “Oh, yeah I’m hurt. Like I would want a guy that doesn’t reach my chest.”

Wayne cackled, “Oooo short jokes. Lil, so nice to see you. Always entertaining, and I see you brought beer too! Oh, my kind of girl!”

Lil filled his mug.

“So I’m assuming you’re staying with your sister? Is the noise getting to you?”

“Huh, what noise?”

Wayne’s eyes sparkled, “You know from the bed rocking all the time!”

“Wayne! Ohh my God!” Gabrielle turned red all the way to the tips of her ears.

Tara laughed and replied, “Tch Wayne, we have the floor, the shower, the couch, even the dining room table. No need for the bed to be always rocking!”

Gabrielle covered her eyes as they all laughed loudly. “Oh my God! You people are so bad! Pour me a beer dammit!”

“Yes, ma’am!” Wayne obliged her.

“We got about an hour before the show starts. What do you guys want to do?” Wayne asked.

“I say we hit the dance floor,” replied Shannon.

“Sounds like a plan to me. C’mon T. We’re supposed to be dancing! Shan and Wayne? Lil sandwich.”

The two men smiled as they pulled the young woman on the dance floor. Gabrielle could hear Lil’s squeals of laughter from behind her and then her focus changed, being wrapped in Tara’s arms did that to her. They danced slowly to the club music. Their bodies gliding and caressing each other. Green eyes held blue as they moved together. A raven head descended gently kissing her lover’s lips. Gabrielle smiled into the kiss and mouthed, ‘I love you’ as she pulled back. ‘I know,’ Tara mouthed back. They danced to the rhythm in their hearts. Extending the rhythm, Tara began to hum in her love’s ear loud enough for her to hear over the music. The humming turned to singing a soft love song—‘You give me love, love, love, crazy love..’ The younger woman shivered. The moment was perfect.

****

Soon the show began. Lilian laughed and danced with more than one of the queens, even Jake. The rest of the gang couldn’t tell if she was drunk, uninhibited or if it just ran in the family. Lil scanned the room. The crowd looked as though it hand thinned or filtered to the bar downstairs. She scanned it again and thought she saw a familiar blonde head by the stairs. Yes, it was a very familiar blonde head. She looked back at her friends to see if they were paying attention. They weren’t. Leaning over toward Gabrielle, “I’m gonna go check out the downstairs and use the bathroom.”

“Oh, okay.”

****

Lil moved toward the figure standing by the stairs. She stopped when she neared her and gave her a sexy, sultry look, beckoning her to follow with the raise of an eyebrow. Catt smiled back indulgently and followed a fair distance behind. Just watching the younger woman walk, the insistent sway of her hips, was enough to turn the blonde’s blood to fire. The older woman didn’t know if it was the prospect of sneaking around or what, but she felt considerably more uninhibited tonight.

Lil stopped at the bar to inquire about where exactly the bathroom was and proceeded toward it. She turned and looked at Caitlin motioning that she would only be a minute. Not actually having to go to the bathroom, the young woman just looked at herself in the mirror. There was something about tonight, she just felt out of control and hungry for one woman in particular. The hyper brunette turned on the tap and ran water over her wrists, trying to soothe her erratic heart beat.

Lil jumped when she heard the click of the knob. Looking back, she saw it turning. “Hey someone’s in here!” ‘Damn,’ she thought, ‘I forgot to lock it.’ The knob continued to turn and revealed a tall, blonde walking through, and with a click, she locked the door behind her. No words were said. Their eyes said enough. The look smoldered between them. They knew that right here, right now –it was time.

Caitlin walked slowly, purposely toward the woman standing in front of the sink. Lil whimpered when the older woman stepped so close their bodies touched. Wrapping her arms around the small waist, the blonde deposited Lil on top of the sink. Their eyes never left each other as Catt slowly moved the younger woman’s skirt up past her upper thighs. With this intent, breathing changed becoming deep and audible. Still not saying a word, the older woman captured the hem of panties and stockings and slowly begin tugging them down shaking legs. Lil whimpered, her cry a reverberating echo in the small bathroom.

“You want me.”

“Yes, so much.”

With that admission, lips crushed together with a mutual cry of pleasure. Mouths opened and explored each other hotly. Tongues danced; moist lips clung, sucked, drank from each other, and swallowed erotic sounds of need. Elegant, long fingered hands caressed and traced creamy thighs, causing the other woman to shudder hard and moan into the mouth of her lover. Those same thighs parted, leaving a wide birth for the tall blonde to stand. Lil was rising higher and higher, reaching the point where thinking was impossible, only feeling existed. Her skin felt hot, tight, and tingly with her blood boiling just below the surface.

Heat so intense it flowed through her body, pooling thickly between her legs, making nether lips ache and clit throb in the same rhythm of flicking tongues. Lil arched her hips upward against clothed thighs, trying to create contact. Caitlin obliged. Busy hands moved up soft thighs, over a small waist, and around, cupping naked buttocks. Where there was cold tile against the fleshy globes before, it was replaced with warm, seeking hands. Catt palmed the flesh roughly, kneading it then using it to jerk Lil’s body forward, giving her the contact she craved.

The young woman made a sound of needy contentment in the back of her throat that turned into a hearty cry, as the older woman used the pliant flesh to totally control each thrust. Unable to stand too many intense pleasures at once, Lil tore her mouth away. “Yesss, harder!” Caitlin again gave her what she wanted. Hips meet in a hard grind.

“Is this what you wanted?” The older woman said huskily.

“Unghh, need more.”

Caitlin reeled. Never had she been so aroused, so out of control. She wanted to scream her need; she wanted to cry; she wanted to feel. And she did. The younger woman felt so good against her—delectable skin and gentle curves. She wanted to feel said skin, naked against her with her just as naked. With each thrust, the material of her jeans scraped tantalizingly in all the right places over her clit. Just like Lil, she needed more. Backing away from the embrace and protesting hands, the blonde fought to undo the catch on her jeans. Small, curious hands ran over her silk covered torso, trying to keep some kind of contact. Lil pinched and squeezed, erect nipples, longing to taste them. Her head swooped down and she sucked in the silk covered flesh.

Caitlin cried out hoarsely. “Oh fuck! Yess!”

Her hands now shaking considerably as she fumbled with her zipper. The younger woman sucked harder, flicking the erect flesh with her tongue and groaned in erotic satisfaction.

Catt moaned again, louder and longer. “You’re driving me crazy. Want you so much.”

Hating to severe the moist, mind-blowing contact, Catt stepped away to hurriedly pull pants and panties down around her calves. She sobbed in triumph as Lil made a cry of protest at the lost nipple. Moving back in, she parted the smooth thighs once more. This time wider.

“Mmm, you’re so wet. I can smell you –almost taste you.”

The aroused blonde dipped a finger between the brunette’s thighs, swirling it around throbbing clit and down engorged lips. Lilian bucked and grabbed hold of her forearm, desperate to keep the charged contact. Jerking her arm away, Catt brought the finger back up and slid it into her waiting mouth. She sucked the sweet coating from her digits loudly. Lilian looked mesmerized by the sensual scene. Each suck made her hips buck against a naked thigh causing her to shudder and cry out harshly at the eroticism of the display.

“So good, so sweet. So fucking wet.”

Electric tingles shot through the younger woman’s body, and she opened her mouth on a silent cry. Even vulgarity made her body hum with excitement. Still enamoured, Lil watched on as the same fingers disappeared between them again. She waited to fell the pleasurable intrusion, but it never came. The hand moved back up and began tracing her lips. Lil licked her lips and groaned when she tasted what she assumed was Caitlin’s juices on her. She sucked the fingers in deep, cleaning them with her tongue.
Catt all but wailed. She couldn’t wait anymore. With her free hand, she rested it on the exposed sink on the side of the brunette. Leaning forward, she put the bulk of her weight on it. Then without warning, slammed her naked hips against the younger woman. The small bathroom was filled with simultaneous cries. Wet nether lips met almost perfectly, and jutting hip bones rubbed against each other, creating an intense friction; hence, an intense pleasure. Catt removed her fingers from their warm cavern and encased trembling thighs, using them to gain more leverage and maneuverability.

“Mmmm so good,” Lil rasped out.

With her smaller hands, she groped at the older woman’s naked buttocks, raking blunt fingernails across the flesh, trying to grasp and palm every inch.

“You like it hard like this don’t you?” Caitlin asked through clinched teeth.

A whimper was her only response.

Blue stared into gray, relaying enjoyment, need and continued desire. Their bodies meshed together moistly, quickly, making small, wet smacking sounds in their wake. Sensual grunts and the creaking sink only added to the erotic song. Like their bodies, their lips met and clung. The meeting of bodies was raw, honest, and lusty. There was no room for gentleness only blinding need that needed to satiated.

A fine sheen of sweat soaked through their remaining clothing, and dampened bangs. It was too intense; too erotic; too heated to last. With each thrust, the grunts became more pronounced, moans became louder, and Lil was pushed further over the cliff of oblivion. Feeling the orgasm gathering strength from far away, Lil tried to prepare herself by slowing down her body, but her partner was relentless. Like a flash of lightening, it hit her. Her features frozen in a look of pleasure/pain, while her body shuddered and shook violently.

“That’s it come for me.” The older woman whispered roughly against her lips. All that could be heard was a soft smacking, then suddenly a piercing cry. Wave after wave of orgasmic pleasure crashed through Lil’s body, collecting and multiplying until it robbed her of breath and sight, leaving only feeling that was white hot in intensity. Her body sagged, permeated by limpness and punctuated by the occasional shudder. She buried her face into Catt’s throat as soft whimpers were torn from her throat.

With one, two, three more thrusts, Caitlin groaned low and long. Fire started from between her legs and radiated outward, shooting through her fingertips. With each extra thrust, she pushed the fire higher, hotter, making her eyes disappear in the back of her head in pure unadulterated pleasure. She couldn’t stop her hips from trembling and shaking uncontrollably. With each tremble, she cried out anew, feeling as though she was being destroyed and remade again and again. On the tale end of pleasure, the tears came, fear came, but peace did not because the ice had melted.

Long minutes later, coherence was re-established. Lil kissed the salty tears falling from her lover’s eyes. Their foreheads met as breathing slowed to normal. Lil smiled shakily, and Catt grinned in return. They said a simultaneous ‘wow,’ and continued to kiss gently. Catt was trying vehemently not to think, for if she did, the fear would spread. Fingertips continued to trace lovingly over cheeks, lips, and necks. “You’re incredible,” Catt whispered, “I don’t deserve you.”

“I’m yours anyway.” Lilian replied.

A persistent knock sounded at the door, and Lilian didn’t see Caitlin beginning to shut down on the inside. They fumbled with their clothing, trying to make themselves decent. “Just a minute.”

“Okay, but would you please try to hurry,” the stranger replied.

Lil opened the door, and they both went out of it hurriedly. The young woman was very mindful of the stares and tried to hide the blush. She turned to her new lover, “Um, I need to go back upstairs. I don’t want them to worry. Will you stay?”

Catt looked everywhere except for the deep blue eyes in front of her. “Uh, actually I need to go. I got an early start in the morning.”

Lil tried to hide her disappointment. “Oh.”

“But call me when you get in okay. I want to hear your voice,” the last bit was said through clenched teeth, hiding internal anger.

Lil brightened considerably. “Well okay. Whatever is good for you.”

The brunette leaned in for a kiss and a hug. Watching the blonde walk out the door, the young woman tried not to notice how cold her new lover’s lips were.

****

“Hey, I wonder where Lil is she’s been gone for almost thirty minutes?”

“Maybe she’s downstairs talking to somebody Red.”

“Maybe –oh here she comes. Hey you. We were starting to get worried.”

“Nah, no need. Just made some new friends downstairs.”

“Hope you didn’t do like these two did when Gab first came here. When I say they lit up the joint. They lit up the joint. They made everyone feel like they were intruding.” Shannon added.

“I second that,” Wayne replied.

“Well, I admit that there was almost an immediate attraction, but we were not that bad. Were we?”

Wayne and Shannon nodded their heads. Tara looked at them and nodded hers too. “Hey. You are supposed to be on my side!”

“Hey, I’m just admitting that when you’re around it’s hard for me not to be distracted. I wanted you so much then, and I still do now, even more so.”

Silver-blue met green, and the air began to crackle. Tara raised a hand to cup her lover’s cheek then busy fingertips began to trace soft, moist lips. Gabrielle captured them between her teeth, and swirled a strong tongue around them. Tara’s breath quickened, and she leaned in, capturing her lover’s lips, fingers and all. There was a tiny twin whimper then a loud chorus of ‘ahems.’

“Oh my God. Do you see what I mean. It’s like the air changes around them,” Shannon exclaimed. “Whew, damned arousing.”

Wayne and Lil heads bobbed in agreement. Green and sky blue met. They smirked at each other, and then turned to their friends.

“Okay, point taken. I guess that does happen.” Gabrielle conceded.

Lil flushed hotly, remembering what had happened in the bathroom moments before. She could relate, most definitely. She knew the blonde woman cared for her. It was hard to disguise or lie about it in her kiss, her touch. She was at least that confident in what they shared.

“Well gang. It looks like the show is ending, so this is where we part ways. I have to work in the morning,” Shannon explained.

“Okay, I think we’re gonna go too. Unless either one of you two want to hang around?”
Lil shook her head no, and Tara yawned. “Okay, I take that as a no. I guess we’ll walk you guys out.” They said their good-byes and rode in pleasant silence home.

****

“Shit, shit, shit!” Gabrielle cried from the bathroom.

“Hey, what’s wrong,” Tara asked from the bedroom.

“Ugh, I started my period!” She could hear low laughter coming from the other room. “Are you laughing at me!?”

“No baby. I’m laughing with you. Look, it’s no big deal.”

“But, but I wanted to—well you know.”

“Crackle some more?”

“Oh, yeah,” the strawberry blonde answered through the now open door.

“Baby, I thought we established that we always crackle.” She got a sour look. “What I mean is, I get pleasure just from holding you, and I’ll be willing to do so all night.”

Five feet five inches of muscled woman almost knocked the taller woman over, in an attempt to hug her. “You are so good to me.”

She kissed the smaller woman on the top of the head. “Only because I love you.”

****

Lil let the phone ring and ring, hoping desperately for her new lover to pick up. ‘Maybe she’s in the shower or sleeping. I’ll try back later.’ But, the young woman couldn’t deny the panic seeping into her heart.

Caitlin sat on the couch listening to the blaring ring of the phone. She closed her eyes and knocked back the vodka. ‘I can’t care about her. I can’t afford to. I’m too scared too. It has to stop now.’ So, she watched the ringing phone.

Lil let the phone ring six more times before hanging up. ‘It’s morning. Surely she would have called me. Something must be wrong.’ She picked up the gurgling child off the floor and headed into the living room.

“Hey Gabs? I need to run an errand can you keep an eye on Jamie for me?”

The petite woman looked up from her reading. “Sure. No prob. Uh, Lil if you’re going to see her, it’s okay to say so. I’m not going to bite your head off.”

Lil smiled genuinely at the sister and said softly, “I’m going to see Caitlin.”

Gabrielle smiled back enjoying the warm glow on her sister’s face. “Kay, see you in a couple of hours.”

****

Lil knocked on the door, almost beating it. It was snatched open, and the younger woman smiled. The smile abruptly died when she saw the usually elegant blonde’s disheveled appearance.

“Why are you here? I didn’t call you.”

Lil flinched. “Uh, are you alright. I was worried and—”

“Don’t worry about me little girl. Us grown ups do just fine.”

Possessing a boldness she didn’t feel at the moment, the younger woman pushed her way in. “Why are you acting like this. It’s not you. At least it’s not you with me.”

“You don’t know a damn thing about me. We’ve only known each other for a week,” Catt said scathingly, “and you let me fuck you.”

Lil’s breath caught. “Please don’t do this to us. Please. I know you care. Please let yourself care.”

The older woman’s resolve weakened a bit. She wanted to take this woman into her arms, and tell her it was all a lie. The fear came back, staggering her. “No, little girl. You were just a hot fuck. A very hot fuck. I never told you that I wanted a relationship—never told you this would last beyond my stay here. Poor naïve thing. You read more into this.”

Lilian sobbed. “I love you. Did you hear me?!”

Caitlin’s insides shook with the stress she was putting them through. “Go home Lilian,” she said softly, “your sister was right about me. You should have listened.” When the younger woman didn’t move, Catt launched her drinking glass across the room. It crashed mere inches from the brunette. “I said GO HOME!”

Lil started to shake and sob at the same time. Blindly, she headed for the door and ran down the corridor to the elevator. She didn’t get to see the blonde sob into the now quite room and fall on her knees to the floor.

****

Lilian drove around for what seemed like hours. Her insides felt ripped out and her heart was numb. She was so sure that she cared. Every touch seemed to scream it and every kiss magnify it. She felt so numb, but, the pain was coming. She could feel it far off moving closer with each beat of her heart like waves to the shore. Parking the car on the side of the rode, she screamed in rage, in pain, in love, and in fear. Her hands beat against the steering wheel, hoping one physical pain would erase another. She had no such luck. She screamed until her throat was raw, and pounded until her hands could barely make fists. Only then did she drive home to see her sister. To tell her she was right.

****

Gabrielle and Tara sat on the carpet playing with an excited Jamie. “Your mommy will be here in a few minutes, and she will be so happy that you were so good.”

“Goo!”

The door opened, and Gabrielle looked up smiling at her entering sister. Her smile fell as she took in Lil’s ashen features. She could tell she had been crying. The tracks were barely dry in her make up. She looked closely and noticed that the younger woman was shaking also. Gabrielle looked over at Tara, who got up to guide the obviously upset woman to the couch. Tara took her hand and immediately felt the swollen tissue. “Lil, honey? Can you tell us what’s wrong?” Lilian turned deep blue to silver-blue. Tara had never seen such a look of profound sadness. It made her want to look away. “It’s Caitlin isn’t it? She hurt you.” The brunette began to laugh. It was a pained laugh and as abruptly as it started, it stopped. Sad eyes looked over at Gabrielle, and her mouth opened as if to speak.

Softly she said, “You were right.” Again, she said it louder. “You were right!” The next time she screamed it. “YOU WERE RIGHT!”

Painful sobs wracked her body. Jamie started to scream, knowing her mother was upset. Lil cooed at her child, picked her up, and without a word left the room.

Tara looked at her lover, seeing the usually warm green glow turn icy and hard.

“I’m going over there. She has to pay for this.”

Tara grabbed her hand. “I’m going with you.” Gabrielle nodded her head in silent agreement.

****

They beat on the door for long minutes before the woman answered. She looked at them, trying to feign amusement.

“What do ya wan?” Her voice was slurred. It was obvious that she was drunk, very drunk. Gabrielle pushed her way in. “Ya not goin to throw nothin gain are ya?” The smaller woman looked to her lover for help.

Tara’s voice was low and menacing. “You hurt her, and you have no idea how much. You’ve ruined her. Why do you hate yourself so much that you’ve got to destroy others?”

“Get outta my room. You don’t know wha you talking bout!”

“Just shut up. SHUT UP!” Gabrielle shouted, shaking with controlled anger. “If you know what’s good for you. You will pack up your things and leave as soon as possible or I will make your life more of a hell than it is already. Do you hear me!”

The older woman’s eyes grew big. She wanted so much to tell them that she did care for Lil; that she wanted her; needed her; but feared her. However, she could not. Closing her eyes, she could see deep blue sparkle in passion, in laughter, in pain and in anger. With a deep shuddering breath, “Fine.” She said quietly.

Gabrielle’s steam defused somewhat with the woman’s surrender. She looked at Tara searching for understanding. The raven-haired woman looked back at her just as confused.

“Can you leave now please. I’ll be gone by tomorrow. The convention is ending.”

Not waiting for a reply, the blonde walked slowly back to her bedroom. Tara took Gabrielle’s hand and led her out the door. They looked at each other still puzzled. It wasn’t until the ride home that the pieces slipped into place. “She loves her,” Gabrielle said quietly, “but she’s scared. I could see the fear in her eyes.”

“I think you’re right. Christmas is going to be a bitch.”

****
Story #5: Fumbling Toward Ecstasy

The Midwest was cursed this time of year. The sun shone outside, but it was perpetuating a lie. The wind swirled around, and the smell of snow permeated the icy air. It was a good day to be inside, relaxing or cuddling.

“Hurry up Red. Your movie is about to come on.”

“Okay, ok, just a second.”

The strawberry blonde walked quickly into the den with a large bowl of popcorn balancing on her hip, and two bottles of Heineken clanging slightly in her hand.

“Hey! That’s not A&E. The movie comes on A&E.”

“Yeah, I know. I just wanted to see the ending of this.”

“Well okay. What are you watching—oooh that’s that Xena show.”

“Shh, don’t tell Lil. She’ll have a field day. It’s something about the leather, and that cute little friend she has definitely helps the cause.”

The smaller woman resisted the urge to giggle and decided to play instead. “Whatcha gonna give me to keep quite?”

Tara leaned over toward her lover until their faces were mere inches apart. “Mmm, how about this.”

With a slow flick of her tongue, she licked a pert nose then proceeded to kiss it, despite the fit of giggles bubbling from her lover. They jumped apart when a door clicked shut, announcing Lil’s presence. Astute violet-blue eyes could see that she walked in on the last vestiges of a moment.

“Ugh, do you guys ever stop?”

Gabrielle looked down guiltily.

“Uh, sorry. Kind of insensitive of us. You know considering.”

Lil’s blunt fingernails dug into the upholstery of the chair she was sitting in.

“Dammit! Can a day go by without you bringing that up. I don’t even know why I agreed to stay till after New Years with you guys reminding me of her and playing kissy face every damn minute of every damn day.”

Tara’s jaw worked reflexively in mounting anger.

“Now, wait a —”

“T, let it go.” Gabrielle looked up sadly and watched her sister’s retreating back. “She’s hurting, and we are the closest people to her right now, so she’s going to lash out at us.”

There was an audible sigh. “Yeah, I know, but she’s getting a whole lot nastier with it.”

“Ahh, I know, just try to understand. It’s better that she be here with us than at home alone or with our parents.”

“Yeah, she has quiet a bit to tell them. Anyways, Christmas is in a couple of days. I just hope everything goes okay, since you’re hosting this big shindig.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me of that until Christmas Eve, when I’m gonna be up all night cooking. If anything goes wrong, the good side is that we finally get to exchange gifts.”

Tara smiled mysteriously. Gabrielle reached for the remote to turn the channel and up the volume. Laying her head against the armrest, she stretched the rest of her body out on the huge couch.

“C’mere,” she said, while crooking her finger. The smaller woman wrapped her legs around the taller woman leaning against her. Small hands found a home on a flat belly and began to rub.

“Now shhh. The movie already started.”

Shaking her head, Tara mumbled to herself, ‘First flavored coffee and now Jane Austen movies.’ “Well okay I’ll watch this movie, but next week you,” she turned to see her lover’s reaction, “have to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me.”

Tara smiled toothily at raised russet eyebrows.

“What?! I just started watching it two weeks ago. Something about ass kicking women I guess.”

Gabrielle wound a strand of black silk around her finger and pulled on it affectionately.

“Mmm hmm, tell me anything. Now shhh, it’s on. Tara White meet Eliza Bennet.

*****

Lilian sat on the edge of the bed listening to her daughter’s light breathing. She rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hands, trying to banish the impending tears. She was tired of crying, and it had only been two days. She was tired of hurting but knew there was more to come. Her dreams, when she did sleep, were full of images of long blonde hair, sexy secret smiles, sounds of soft laughter, and a velvet voice. It was torture pure and simple. If this was what loving and losing cost, she would gladly return it from where it came. Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all was a moron.

Taking a deep breath, she thought to herself, ‘I’ve been less than attentive to my daughter, snapping at Gab, and I can’t even bare the site of the two of them together and happy. I’ve got to shake this, but I don’t know how. How do you just stop loving someone?’ Lil closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, the anger came swiftly, bubbling through her blood and making her head pound. Her hands balled into fists, where blunt nails made crescents at the base. There was anger at herself for being unable to control the pain; for loving; for trusting; and anger at Catt for betraying both herself as well as her by not acknowledging her feelings. She wanted to scream aloud but settled for a scream inside. Just as quickly as the anger came, it dissipated leaving desolation in its place. Thick heart wrenching but silent sobs shook her frame until all she could do was tremble.

*****

Despite the turmoil in one part of the house, there were other parts that were content. Gabrielle clicked the mute button and continued to rub Tara’s stomach.

“So what did you think?”

“I like her. She was very smart, wasn’t shy about letting her opinion known, and passionate about her family. She seemed to be completely out of place for that period of time. Oh, and she was really cute.” Tara smirked. “She reminded me of you a little.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, you’re a very strong woman if you haven’t figured it out yet. It runs in the family. I hope Lil realizes that too.”

Gabrielle snaked her hands under Tara’s t-shirt to caress hard abdominals and soft skin. The older woman purred in delight. Gabrielle smiled.

“I hope so, but we need to be here for her regardless. I can tell by looking at her that she’s having a hell of a time with this. I still can’t believe Catt did this to her. She cares I just know it.”

“Don’t know baby. I never really got close or I should say she never let me get close enough to know her, but there’s something definitely holding her back—something that happened in the past maybe.”

“Hmmm, maybe. Hey, let me up so I can clean up this mess.”

“Nooo, I like it when you rub my tummy.” Tara said in a child like voice.

“Oh, do you now? Well, I bet you’ll like this even better.”

With one hand, Gabrielle began to lightly scratch her lover’s stomach in a circular pattern. Tara let out a load groan of contentment, and Gabrielle watched fascinated when Tara’s leg went up and her body started to twitch in pleasure. Smiling, she whispered in her lover’s ear, “You’re nothing but a pleasure hound, and I’m only making the monster bigger.” Tara only purred louder in response then gave a mock yelp at the playful slap on her stomach.

“Now, come on let me clean up before it starts smelling like stale popcorn in here.”

“Aww, okay, but you’re a mean woman.”

Gabrielle stuck out her tongue then said, “I love you too tall, dark and sexy.”

Carrying the empty beer bottles, Tara followed the shorter woman into the kitchen.

“Hey, Red? There’s something that’s been bugging me.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Why didn’t you buy a tree and decorations?”

“Oh, that. In the past few years, I haven’t had the time or I was spending the holidays with Lil. With all that’s happened lately, I forgot to ask you if you wanted to decorate.”

“I do. Let’s get a tree and some other stuff tomorrow.”

Tara preceded to smile and widen her eyes like a happy child at Gabrielle’s nod of consent. The smaller woman tapped her lover’s nose.

“You are so cute sometimes.”

Tara grinned sheepishly.

“Oh, yeah before I forget. Will you run out and pick up some tampons. I’m still on unfortunately. ”

“Sure love, I needed to swing home anyway, so I’ll see you in a little bit.”

“Kay.”

With a quick kiss she was out the door.

*****

Gabrielle stood unsure outside her sister’s door then decided to knock. Hearing a faint ‘come in,’ she opened the door.

“Hey baby sis.”

Lil leaned over to click on the desk lamp to ward off the late afternoon darkness that had penetrated the room. What Gabrielle saw made her want to weep. Violet blue eyes were swollen and red-rimmed from crying, and dark, curly hair was askew signifying that an exasperated hand had been through it numerous times. She walked over and sat at the foot of the bed, not wanting to wake her sleeping niece.

“Hey yourself.” Lil’s voice was groggy and scratchy from lack of use and too many tears. “Listen Gab, I don’t mean to snap at you guys. It just seems like I’m angry all the time now, and it hurts so bad.”

“I know sweetie. I can only imagine.”

She reached over moving a curly lock from obscuring blue eyes. Lil went willingly into her sister’s arms.

“I love her Gab. I don’t know when it happened or how it happened so fast. I just I know I never felt this way. I know she feels something. I could see it and feel it when she touched me. Why couldn’t she admit it?”

Gabrielle rubbed the slim back. “I don’t know. I wish I did.”

*****

Tara ran up her driveway into her apartment. It was getting unbearably cold to the point where the air hurt her lungs with each breath. Taking her ungloved hands out of her pockets of the mid-length leather coat, she tried the door knob. Locked. Blowing on her hands, she fished in the deep coat pockets for her keys. Finally finding them, she inserted them into the door, only to have it jerked open by her smiling brother, releasing some much needed warmth outward.

“You knuckle head where is your car? I didn’t think anyone was home.” Tara walked into the welcoming warmth.

“Oh, sorry bout that. Old Bessy is in the shop, something about the carburetor.”

“Mmm okay. So, will you need me to pick you up on Saturday?”

“Yeah, probably. Hey listen, while you’re here. Can I borrow your car? I need to run to the clinic while it’s still open to get the results of my HIV test.”

Tara choked out a “What?! You okay?” She looked at her brother frantically, worriedly.

“Yeah, I believe so. It’s just a precaution. Gotta be careful. You know I get tested every six months. Now, I switched it to every three months.”

Tara continued to look at her brother, concern clearly etched in her now wrinkled brow. “Why so often? You haven’t been involved with anyone in ages.”

“How would you know? You’re never here nowadays.”

“Whoa!” Tara held up her hands.

“Damn, I’m sorry T. I don’t know where that came from. I’m a little stressed right now. A couple of my shows have been cancelled, and it’s made me strapped for cash.” His head began to hang. “Ugh, maybe I just need to go to college and find a decent job.”

“Hey, hey now. You’re damn good at what you do, and I know you love it. It could just be a slump, but if you want I would be more than happy to help pay your way through school. I’m behind you either way.”

“Thanks, I really needed someone to say that. Hey, what are you doing over here anyway?”

“Came to pick up Red’s present. I hope she likes it.”

“Trust me T. She’ll love anything you give her. You don’t have to worry, in fact, you might want to buy a box of Kleenex, crying and lots of it maybe involved.”

She stuck out her tongue at him and threw him the keys. He returned the favor and gave her raspberries as he caught the keys.

“Okay, thanks. Like I said I shouldn’t be long.”

*****

Now alone, Tara headed into the neglected bedroom. She had been spending so many nights at Gabrielle’s that everything had a fine sheen of dust over it. She headed over to her chest of drawers. Pulling out her underwear drawer, she pushed cotton and silk aside to get to two small ring boxes underneath. She picked them both up and placed them on the top of the dresser. Grabbing and opening the one marked Red, with delicate fingers, she traced the intricate carving on the band. The jeweler told her that the set was Irish. If the design was worn down, it meant your heart belonged to another and vice versa. They were hand carved with each line lovingly etched into the gold. Beautiful but simple. Tara closed her eyes hoping this wasn’t too much too soon; hoping she liked it; hoping she knew that they represented a promise of a bonded future. Walking out of the room, she searched for wrapping paper and a bag to hide the gifts from curious eyes.

*****

Gabrielle left her sister dosing as she went to her own room. “I hope I’m doing the right thing. We haven’t even broached the subject yet,” she said to herself. She made a beeline for a jewelry box sitting on the dresser. Sifting through it, she found what she was looking for. Picking it up, the key glinted in the moonlight as did the solid gold keyring comprised of the word Tara. ‘I should be nervous, but I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life. I just hope she’s as sure as I am. That’s what makes me nervous. But, I want her with me everyday, knowing that this is officially home,’ Gabrielle thought to herself. “I hope she likes the other gift too. Ahh, she loves those bikes, so she’ll love this,” the young woman smiled to herself and put the key back in its box, “and tomorrow we shop for out first Christmas tree together. God, I hope things are sedate for once. It’s been a roller coaster every since we met.” Also, since their meeting, she had gained an affinity for talking to herself.

*****

Tara looked at Jake expectantly.

“What?!”

“Well?”

“Oh, it was negative.”

“Woo, thank God.”

“Yeah, I’m saying.” Jake looked down, letting the subject drop. “Whatcha got in the bag? Oh my God is that a blush!” He cackled. “Must be something special.”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?!”

“Yeah, I would. So, lemme see!”

Tara gave her brother an impatient look.

He pursed his lips. “I know you’re in a hurry to get back to the little woman, so let me see already.”

“Okay, okay here.” She took a ring box out and shoved it in his hands, and he opened it.

“Oooh, that’s pretty. She’s gonna love this!”

Tara smirked. “You think so?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Good, well I gotta go because Red needs me to get her some uh tampons. So, I’ll pick you up Saturday at noon?”

“Ewww, see that’s why I could never be with a woman. Y’all leak every month. So, I’m strictly dickly.”

Tara laughed despite herself. “You’re a nut. You know that? But, I love you anyway.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Glad you’re okay. Be ready Saturday.”

“Yeah, yeah talk to you later.”

*****

In a hotel close to the city, sat a devastated woman working on her second bottle of vodka. She had changed hotels, taken time off from work, and stayed just the same. She expected to feel more numb after drinking for two days, but the pain was still there, radiating outward. Staring at the phone, she wanted so much to pick it up and dial those familiar numbers and listen to a equally familiar voice. Catt ran her shaking hands through oily unwashed hair. “I bet she hates me.” The blonde picked up the half empty glass and downed its contents with only a slight grimace. Even though her thoughts were somewhat muddled, there was a prevailing theme shooting across her consciousness. “Why?” Caitlin laughed bitterly. She knew why, and she knew what started it all. Whoever said parents aren’t responsible for the adults their children become, didn’t know shit. Her parents were at least partly responsible. The tall woman leaned back into the couch for the trip down memory lane, even though it felt just like yesterday.

When she was at least ten years old, people used to tell her how lucky she was to live in such affluence and be a child of such a perfect match. That is what the public saw. By day, her parents were doting towards her and loving toward each other. She remembered constant touches and long looks, but it was all faked. At night, when they thought she was asleep, the fighting would begin with the yelling, the cursing, the sounds of things breaking and being thrown. She recalled many a night when she crawled under her bed in a fetal position with her hand over small ears. She recollected all the next mornings when both her parents sported bruises their pajamas and robes couldn’t hide. They would smile and kiss each other and her with the same mouth that had yelled and cursed the night before. She didn’t know what to say; who to tell; who to turn to. So, she too helped perpetrate the façade. Caitlin closed her eyes as the memories progressed.

She remembered the night she heard voices, strange noises that consisted of moans and whimpers, coming from her parent’s bedroom. Thinking that someone was really hurt this time, she went to go investigate. As she crept down the hall, the noises got louder. When she got to her parent’s door, it was partially open just enough for her to peek through. Her eyebrows came together in utter confusion. She saw two bodies, sweating, moving frantically on top of the sheets. She stared even more confused wondering why daddy had long, dark hair. Then she saw the whole picture, as the person on top flicked her hair back. It was a woman on top of her mother! Caitlin gasped and apparently it was loud enough to be heard. The dark headed woman turned slightly and smiled what she could only assume to be lecherously. Young Caitlin’s feet were planted firmly until her mind started screaming to run back to her room. Finally getting there, she slid under the bed, made her body into a tight ball, and cried herself to a disturbed sleep.

The next day she found out that her father was gone on a business trip. When her returned, she had a difficult time looking him in the eye for fear that the truth would be seen. From then to several years later, Catt couldn’t remember looking either one of her parents in the eye, knowing the truth of their relationship. They had taught her that love was a farce. Fidelity didn’t exist and happiness was just an illusion for the outside world. She vowed never to be hurt, but to just take what she wanted, what she needed despite the consequences. However, with her innocence and genuine, giving nature, Lil had changed all that for her, and she felt her heart beat for the first time. She felt real fear for the first time—fear of losing that beat to an inevitable pain. Catt opened her eyes and wiped a hand down her jaw. She poured another drink, downed it, and began to laugh derisively. The laughter turned to hiccuping and heart racking sobs that shook her body just as the laughter did. Drawing strength from some well deep down in her psyche, she quieted the sobs and stared at the phone once more. Shakily, she reached for it and dialed an almost forgotten number.

It rung twice before an irritated voice answered.

“Hello?”

“Happy Holidays mother,” Catt said with a deliberate edge in her voice.

“Well, you don’t have to sound like that about it.”

“Mmmm.”

“What’s going on?”

“I just called to tell you that you helped to shape who I am.”

“Well, that’s all well and good. Nothing wrong with that.”

“I heard you.”

“What?!”

“I heard you and dad all those years ago. I heard every raised voice, every insult, every curse, and every time something broke. You and dad perpetuated a lie.”

“Now honey you know we had to keep up appearances with our status in the community.”

“You weren’t happy. You just hurt each other even physically. Why didn’t you just split up?”

There was a bark of laughter. “You just don’t leave money like that honey until you are sure that you get half of it. When I was sure, I left.”

“You’re a piece of work. You know that mother? I want to thank you for destroying my faith in love, happiness and fidelity.”

“What’s fidelity have to do with anything?”

“I saw you in bed with that woman.”

“My, my you’re just full of little secrets.”

” Aren’t I? I just wanted you to know that I found somebody who made me start to believe again, and because of what you and dear old dad instilled in me, I turned her away. I ran away because I was so afraid of ending up like you.”

“Found you a little woman did you?”

“Shut up mother. I’m not finished. I won’t let you ruin this. I won’t let you influence ruin her. Know what mother? I love her. I LOVE HER. Do you hear me? And I am going after her and fight to get her back no matter how long it takes. So, Merry Christmas to you mom. Your present is that I won’t allow what you did—what you and dad did—influence me anymore!”

With a triumphant slam, she hung up the phone, cutting her mother off mid-sentence. Caitlin was back, changed and better than ever. She walked into the bathroom and glanced at her reflection. Her hair lacked luster, her eyes were red rimmed with baggage to match, her cheeks looked hollow, giving her a more haunted look, and her skin was sallow from lack of sleep and too much drink. Still, she smiled to herself. “Look out Lil. I’m coming for you.” she went back into the main living area to get the bottles of vodka, only to empty them down the drain. She had to get some sleep, and get herself together. She had a surprise to deliver on Christmas.

*****

Now back at her lover’s home, both Tara and Gabrielle tiptoed and cracked open Lil’s door to make sure she was alright. A curly mane of dark hair peeked over the comforter. The larger body of Lil was curled around a smaller dark curly head. After closing the door quietly, Gabrielle whispered, “I talked to her earlier. She’s hurting so much T, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Tara kissed the auburn head as they walked toward the bedroom. “I know baby. She just needs some time. Maybe a lot of it. You don’t get over something like that in a couple of days.”

“I know, I know. It’s just so hard to see her like this. She’s just so not Lil.” Gabrielle said sitting down heavily at the foot of the bed.

“I know but we have to let her handle it.”

“Yeah, I know you’re right.”

Gabrielle tried to cover a small yawn. Tara stood in front of her, causing the shorter woman to crane her neck to see blue eyes.

“Tired?”

“A little. We should get to bed since we have to get up early for last minute food and decoration shopping.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Tara bent down to help the tired woman off with her shirt, leaving only a t-shirt in it’s wake.

“Socks,” the taller woman said, and Gabrielle obeyed by lifting blue socked feet.

She giggled when long, elegant fingers tickled her arch and sighed when the same arch was kissed.

“Pants.”

Gabrielle stood up groggily. The sound of her pants being unzipped sounded loud in the quiet room. Once they were past her calves, the she stepped out of them.

“Good girl.”

Tara got a crooked grin in return. The dark-haired woman pulled the covers back.

“Get in, Red.”

She got a mumbled ‘okay’ as a reply.

“Ugh, it’s cold. Hurry up and get in here!”

“Hold your horses. I’m coming.” Tara dispensed with her clothing leaving her in the same attire as her lover. She crawled into bed behind the smaller woman, who immediately started to use her as a pillow. The auburn head was pillowed against a wide shoulder; small arms wrapped around her torso; and a smaller leg was thrown over her thigh.

“You, um, comfy Red?”

“Oh yeah. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Tara listened as short minutes passed by and Gabrielle’s breathing became slow and deep. Not lot long after, she joined her in slumber.

Down the hall, a now awake Lil stared at the ceiling. She vowed to herself to strengthen her resolve because she wanted her sister’s Christmas and her dinner to go off without a hitch.

*****

The occupants of the house woke to a surprise in the morning. A light coating of snow was covering the ground and fat, icy flakes continued to fall and stick.

“Oh wow, would you look at that. Knew it would happen sooner or later. Just hope it doesn’t get bad,” Gabrielle said as she peered out the kitchen window, sipping Swiss mocha something.

“Well, Red the weather guy said up to ten inches, so that’s comparably light to the twenty four we had last year.”

Gabrielle snorted in response. “We need to get a move on before the roads get bad.”

She looked up as Lil walked into the room carrying a gurgling Jamie.

“Hey sis. You want to go with us? Last minute shopping?”

Lil sat Jamie in Tara’s lap and watched as they cooed at each other.

“You’ve really got her trained, Red, and it only took a few months.”

Things were silent as Tara cocked her head to the side.

“Uhm, was I just insulted?”

“No dear. I was paying my sister a compliment. I don’t care how you take it.” Lil said while she smirked.

Tara looked at Gabrielle, both silently sighing in relief, then they both looked back towards Lil and started to laugh.

“Uh, to answer your question, nah, not really. I could start cooking or peeling something if you need me to though.”

Tara and Gabrielle stared at her silently.

“What? Oh, you’re wondering why I’m so chipper this morning. I’m still hurting guys, but it’s the holidays and I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me. I can’t ask for more than that right now, and I don’t want to spoil you guys first Christmas together.”

Gabrielle hugged her sister tightly. “Yeah sweetie I know. As for what you can do, look around and find my recipe box, and put ingredients together. I know what I have here, and I know what I need to get at the store.”

“Okay sis will do.”

Tara got up, but before she deposited Jamie back in her mother’s arms, she kissed Lil on the cheek. Lil looked into light blue eyes to see them glowing with affection, and she smiled what felt like the first genuine smile in days.

After the couple left, looking like bundled up snowmen, Lil was left alone with her thoughts. They swam with images of blonde hair and gray eyes, of hot touches and gentle words. ‘God, I miss her.’ It was as though she had known her all her life. A hole was forming deep in her soul, and she knew only one person could heal it. Her heart was screaming ‘come back to me,’ while her head reminded her of the pain. It left her torn, confused, and a little misty eyed. ‘I can do this. I have to.’ Her reverie was interrupted by a tug on her shirt sleeve. She looked down at her daughter, who gurgled back at her, and kissed the forehead of one that loved her unconditionally.

*****

The first stop was Kmart. Tara and Gabrielle headed straight for the back. Finally, they got to the isle where tinsel, decorative lights, fake snow, icicles and such were stored.

“What colors do you think?”

Um, red, green, and silver, er Red.” Tara grinned goofily.

“Smartass.”

“You know it.”

Tara smacked her butt for good measure.

“Hey!”

“I know, I know. Behave.”

“Uh, huh you’d better. Listen, let me ask you. Are you the faux tree type or the smelly, shedding real tree type?”

“Guess.”

Gabrielle looked her lover up and down. “Real tree it is. Follow me.” Tara laughed and followed the smaller woman. “You’re like a kid in a candy store.”

“I can’t help it. I love this time of year, and now I get to share it with you.”

Gabrielle could not help but smile at that one. “You know. Sometimes you say the sweetest things.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. C’mere.”

Tara walked up and shyly stuffed her hands in her back pocket. “Huh?”

“Nothing just this.” Gabrielle tiptoed to place the softest of kisses on her lover’s lips. With just a caress, it was gone like the whisking wind, making her wonder if she was kissed at all. Then she felt the tingling heat where those perfect lips were placed; she saw the stock boy drop what looked like an entire gross of paper towels on his head; and she saw a mother whisking her child away. Oh yeah, it happened.

“I love you T.” Jade green eyes were luminous with emotion.

“Love you too baby.”

Gabrielle cleared her throat, “Now let’s get out back to get that tree and get to the grocery store.”

*****

Once at the local Kroger, Gabrielle split the list down the middle, giving half to Tara.

“Now here. If you have any questions for the next few minutes or so. I’ll be in fresh produce.”

“Okie dokie.”

Gabrielle pushed the cart through the stands of fresh vegetables. A few minutes later she stopped in front of the cucumbers to make sure she had everything. Mentally checking herself, she looked up only to be staring at a man smiling almost lecherously at her with what had to be capped teeth. ‘Oh boy. Betcha he’s been scoping me for a few minutes.’ Gabrielle rolled her eyes and gave him a minute smile. Apparently, that was enough for him. “Hi,” his voice boomed, and she suspected he was trying to make his voice deeper than it actually was. ‘Oh god not that cliché. Please don’t try to pick me up—not in front of the cucumbers,’ she thought to herself. Then she moaned inwardly as he picked up a rather large, long one out of the pile. “I am so bad at this. Maybe you can help me?” He went on not waiting for an answer. “How can you tell if a cucumber is ripe?”

Gabrielle couldn’t help it. She moaned out loud. “Look mister. It’s Christmas time what would you do with a cucumber anyway?” Then her mouth snapped shut, realizing she had said too much. His smile got bigger.

“Well—”

“Hey, Red, what does this say right here. Cream of what?”

Gabrielle looked at Tara and wanted to jump with glee. Tara glanced at her lover then to the slimy looking man holding the cucumber. She smiled at him. It was more of a snarl really. “Hey buddy boy if she wanted this,” she looked down at the cucumber, “or that,” she glanced down at his crotch, ” all she has to do is say so, and I’ll buy one and use it better than you can.”

Gabrielle covered her mouth to contain the giggles as she watched the man’s face turn blotchy red and his mouth hang open. Tara continued to smile at him. The man threw the cucumber back in the display as if it was on fire and sauntered away in a jerky fashion. The strawberry blonde let a slow grin form as she grabbed her lover’s list.

“It says cream of mushroom, love.”

“Oh, is that right?”

“You were watching weren’t you?”

“No! No, what ever do you mean?”

Tara laughed as they turned into the next isle. An hour later they were loading the groceries into the car and finally heading home.

*****

Lil heard the car drive up, but couldn’t help, as a very awake Jamie demanded her attention. Tara opened the door and grinned at the display of Jamie bouncing on Lil’s lap.

“Hey big blue. Did you two have fun?”

It was Gabrielle who answered as she walked in behind her lover. “Don’t you know with her it’s never a dull moment.”

Lil could hear Tara laughing from the kitchen.

“Oookay, I’m not even gonna ask.”

“That might be your best bet little sis.”

Lil watched as the couple trekked back and forth from the car, letting the cold in and littering the carpet with caked but melting snow. The last item was the Christmas tree, which they both brought in. Lil eyed them both curiously.

“Ugh, Gab you bought one of those smelly things? Let me guess.”

She raised an eyebrow at Tara, who licked her tongue out in response.

“Come on Lil. Help put the groceries away so we can all decorate the tree,” the taller woman pleaded.

She took a cooing, jumping Jamie from her mother’s lap and gave her a ride around her neck into the kitchen. Lil followed, listening and smiling at her daughter joyous squeals.

“I took the turkey out of the fridge and washed it. I didn’t know what recipe you were going to use for it so I didn’t do anything else to it.”

“That’s okay.” Gabrielle said as she reached for the box of recipes. “I found this one that calls for maple syrup baste. It sounds good.”

The three of them unpacked and put away the groceries in companionable silence as Jamie played on the floor. When the last pie crust and sweet potato was put away, they all three ended up in the dining room sitting around the table, Tara with Jamie.

“What next oh great leader?” Lil asked Tara and smiled at her sister who smirked back at her.

“We set up the tree of course.”

Tara, carrying Jamie, was the first one in the living room. She sat the little girl on the plush carpeting, then surveyed the living room.

“It will go great over there. What do you think?”

She looked questionably at Lil and Gabrielle. They looked at the area by the TV.

“Yeah, it’s large enough, and it can be seen from outside from there,” Gabrielle replied.

“Then let’s go for it,” Lil chimed in. Tara got the base and the wrapped the quilt like material for the base of the tree. With a little grunt and a lot of effort she placed the tree in the metal base.

“Hey, Red. Come hold this up.”

She then proceeded to adjust the base to the tree size.

“Okay, that should do it.”

They all stepped back to admire their handiwork.

“Ahh, smell that just like Christmas that I wish I had growing up,” Tara interjected.

Gabrielle grabbed her lover’s hand and squeezed it. “Glad I could give it to you.”

Tara smiled down at her. They both turned toward Lil.

“Well come on. Let’s get started.”

“Hold up T! We got to have music,” Lil exclaimed.

“Oh, yeah okay.”

Lil went to turn the stereo on and Nat King Cole smooth voice filled the living room.

Okay, first the lights I think. Then the, um, you know stuff that goes around the tree.”

“Huh? T, what are you talking about? You mean the garland?” Lil asked as she held up the red and green garland. “Yeah, that stuff. Then a little of the icicles and some ornaments. We got plastic because of you know who.” Tara pointed at Jamie.

“Oh, yeah good idea.”

They worked in quiet contentment that was sometimes broken with singing, storytelling, and laughter. Finally finished, Gabrielle plugged in the lights while the others stood back.

“Oh, that’s beautiful,” Lil remarked.

“Yeah, I think we out did ourselves. We should open a business.” Gabrielle laughed at her lover’s comments. “Yeah we could call it Gabrielle and Co.” Two sets of blue eyes zeroed in on her. “Uh, guys. Just kidding.” She began to back up toward the couch. “Oh come on you two can take a joke. Right?” Gabrielle fell backwards onto the couch and was then pounced on by the two brunettes, who promptly tickled her until she couldn’t breath. Jamie squealed with laughter and clapped her hands merrily.

“Arrgh, okay okay I give. I GIVE!” Gabrielle screamed as the two laughing dark haired women slowly got off her. Lil looked at her accomplice and gave her a hi-five. Gabrielle smirked as she caught her breath. Now able to breathe, the strawberry blonde glared at her attackers. “Now that you two are finished. Can we put the presents under the tree?”

“Oh, yeah forgot about that. Thanks for reminding me love.”

“Anytime.” They smiled goofily at each other, and thankfully Lil ended up smiling too.

Once all the presents were under the tree, they decided to take a break. Gabrielle fixed hot chocolate for the three of them. Lil and Gabrielle watched from the couch at Tara and Jamie’s antics. The taller woman was joyfully singing to the infant Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer along with the video tape. Jamie clapped, cooed and at some points seemed to listen quietly.

“They are quite the pair, Gab.”

“Yeah, I know. She told me that she loved kids, and would like to have her own. But, she didn’t want to raise them because the way things are these days.”

“Mmm, I don’t know. She’s getting very attached to her. She may change her mind. You never know.”

Gabrielle smiled. “Yeah, I would love to raise a child with her.”

They watched for a few more minutes as a tired Jamie began to nod off. Tara took her to bed. Looking at her lover as she came back into the room, Gabrielle winked and smiled, and she got a grin in return. The shorter woman cleared her throat. “All right ladies, time to hit the kitchen.” There were playful groans of protest, but they followed. “Okay Lil, You’re in charge of the yams and sweet potato pies. T, you chop this, this and this into fine pieces.” She sat celery, carrots and onion in front of her lover. “Then when you’re done with that love you can do the green bean casserole. I’ll do the rest you guys.”

*****

Mid afternoon turned into late evening. Delectable smells wafted from the kitchen. Lil and Tara watched from the dining room as Gabrielle basted the turkey yet again then moved around the kitchen to yet another pot. Lil looked over at Tara.

“You know if she had a pink apron. I would swear she was our mom.”

Tara laughed. “Shh, don’t let her hear you say that.”

“Yeah, I know.” Lil giggled. “Hey big blue, you hungry?”

“Yeah kinda. What did you have in mind?”

“Let’s order pizza.”

“Okay. Heavy pepperoni and cheese on one please. Hey Red?”

An auburn head peaked from the kitchen. “Yeah?”

“What do you want on your pizza?”

“Oh, heavy pepperoni and cheese please.”

Tara smirked and raised an eyebrow at Lil who smacked her playfully on the arm.

They sat around the table with soft jazz filtering in from the stereo speakers.

“Hey, what did you get Shan and Wayne?”

Tara and Gabrielle looked at each other.

“You mean real or gag?” Tara asked with a slight smile.

“Oh, my. Gag please.”

“I think you’re gonna have to wait for that one. I guarantee it’s gonna to be priceless.”

Lil looked over at her sister.

“Oh, no. My lips are sealed.”

“Well, real then?”

“We got Shan a couple of books that I know he’ll like and Wayne a new DVD movie.” Gabrielle answered.

“Oh, that sounds good. You’ll just have to wait to see what I got them.”

“Well, judging from the size of it. It’s something big, sis.”

“Mmm, hmm.”

They talked for a while after they ate until Gabrielle announced she had to continue cooking. Lil and Tara once again peered into the kitchen. Lil looked down at her watch. “Oh my God, it’s after ten. Where did the day go? No wonder I’m tired.”

“Hey, you’re not going to stay up? “It’s a Wonderful Life” is coming on at eleven.”

“Well, I guess I could. Let me go check on Jamie.”

“Okay.”

Tara walked into the kitchen. “How’s it goin Red?”

“Ahh, a little tired, but I should be finished in a couple of hours.”

“You sure you don’t need me to do anything?”

“No, it’s okay.”

“If you’re sure then, Lil and I are going are gonna watch tv for awhile. Why don’t you come join us when you get through?”

“Sure will. Now, give me a kiss and get out of my kitchen.”

Tara pretended to look shocked. “My goodness you’re a demanding wench aren’t ya?” She looked down at her lover with silver-blue eyes shining in amusement.

Standing on tiptoe, Gabrielle grabbed the back of her lover’s head. Thinking she was in for a crushing, forceful kiss, Tara tried to prepare herself. She watched the ripe, pink mouth through hooded eyes. What she got instead caused her to open her eyes and moan outloud. With the tip of her tongue, Gabrielle traced the curves of her lover’s lips. Then commenced to tease her by slowly, softly thrusting her tongue in between parted lips. In a last sensual move, the smaller woman sucked Tara’s bottom lip into the warm cavern of her mouth, causing the other woman to jump in reaction as her heart accelerated. She grazed the willing flesh with her teeth and soothed it with a hot tongue. Stepping back, Gabrielle ended the exchange, letting Tara’s lip go with a slurp. The taller woman teetered forward and Gabrielle smiled at her flushed face.

“Um, Lil is probably waiting on you.”

“Um, who?”

Her smile got bigger, loving the fact that a kiss made her lover dumb. “Lilian and movies remember?”

“Uh, oh yeah. I should get out there.” She stared at the tempting lips, blinked, but didn’t move.

Gabrielle took her gently by the arm and led her to the kitchen door.

“Through there.”

“Oh yeah, okay.”

Lil looked up at Tara as she sat down.

“Okay, what channel?”

“Huh?”

“What channel?” What’s wrong with you—” Lil studied the flushed face and swollen lips. “Oh, never mind.” She grinned wickedly. “We’ll channel surf.”

Sometime later, Gabrielle found them sleep on the couch. Tara was leaning against the arm, and Lil was leaning on Tara’s shoulder. “How cute,” she whispered. She shook her sister.

“Hey you, go get in the bed.”

“Huh, oh okay.”

She left Tara and Gabrielle alone. “T?” She whispered then said it louder, but there was no response. Trying another tactic, the smaller woman leaned over her lover and kissed her on the ear. She got a slight twitch in return. In the same ear, she moaned sensuously. A bigger twitch.

“Mmm, T. I want you, and I’m off my period,” she whispered.

Blue eyes popped open. “You are?”

Gabrielle laughed. “Yeah silly. Now, get up and come to bed.”

Tara hopped up and smiled broadly at her lover’s retreating back. She noticed the tired slump of the tense shoulders. When they got in the bedroom, Tara was the first undressed and in bed. Gabrielle headed for the shower. Remembering the slump of her lover’s shoulders, Tara went into the bathroom and waited. When her lover came out, she dried her with a big, convenient fluffy towel. The tired woman sighed in gratitude. Back in the bedroom, Tara helped her slip into an oversized t-shirt and a pair of panties and into bed. The groggy red head sunk into the covers with a moan. Tara got in behind her, spooning her body around the smaller one.

“Tara?”

“Shh, go to sleep Red. We got tomorrow night.”

“Mmm, okay. Sleepy.”

With that, she was out like a light.

Down the hall, Lil twitched in her sleep. Familiar dreams permeated her subconscious, and tears spilled out of closed eyes onto a cool pillow.

*****

Across town, Caitlin smiled in her sleep, remembering deep blue eyes, words of love, sounds of pleasure, and the taste of skin. Before she went to sleep, she had a long talk with herself about the reality of the situation. One, Lil said she loved her. Two, she hurt Lil, terribly. Three, there was a chance that the younger woman would slap her silly if she saw her. Four, she knew she didn’t care if that happened because she would do what she had to no matter how long it took. Five, it was one more day, and with that statement, her resolved was strengthened to face the next day.

*****

Gabrielle was awakened by the feel of something soft and wet on the back of her shoulder. Opening green eyes and turning slightly, she found herself staring intensely into pools of silver-blue. The softness she felt was her lover’s lips tracing from the back to the top of the delicate skin of her shoulder. The smaller woman turned some more to study the sensual lips planting gentle, wet kisses on her skin. After a few more kisses, Gabrielle watched as the tip of a pink tongue snaked out to begin tasting and licking in the same gentle fashion. Her breath caught and accelerated, as she continued to stare at the look of loving concentration on Tara’s face.

“Mmm, God T. What you do to me.”

Moist lips and tongue stopped their journey, as blue eyes located another prize just as sweet. Turning her smaller lover’s face slightly more toward her, Tara spoke with her eyes, words of love and desire. With delicate fingertips, she traced the lips red and slightly swollen from sleep. Gabrielle was frozen in place simply enthralled by the moment. Leaning in, their lips finally touched, and the room was flooded with the twin murmurs of pleasure. The kiss was a gentle exploration. Lips brushed and lifted, brushed and lifted. With a whimper of need, Gabrielle changed the kiss as a small hand encased itself deep into fragrant bed raggled black hair, and lips opened slightly in invitation. Unable to resist, Tara tentatively speared her tongue inside, and it was immediately captured in a strong suction. Tara groaned into her lover’s mouth as her breath left her. Hot, wet tongues battled for supremacy, and lips clung moistly. A larger hand cradled her lover’s jaw, slightly caressing it as the kiss went inexplicably deeper. Gabrielle’s heart slammed against her chest as arousal thick and honey sweet invaded her body. She could think of nothing for the feel of lips, tongue, and the need to have Tara naked on top of her, inside her.

Not knowing how this got out of hand and not caring now, Tara felt her hips begin to gyrate against the shapely bottom cradled against her mound. When breathing became imperative, the kiss broke, leaving ragged breaths and quiet moans, as Tara picked up the cadence of her hips to compensate. The large hand moved from cheek down to curve over a slim hip, pulling her lover’s body back into her, increasing the friction. Blue stared into green with mounting arousal and lust. Two pairs of panties had become soaked, feeling like nothing separated their skin. The wet material served as a stimulant on aroused, throbbing flesh. The hand once on hip moved with purpose toward the hem of Gabrielle’s panties. The strawberry blonde sucked in a breath and moaned harshly at the intent.

“Hey, you two getting up in there anytime soon. It’s after ten already.”

Tara jumped at the sudden knock and voice. Gabrielle groaned, then cleared her throat.

“Yeah, we’ll be out in a minute.”

Tara grinned at her lover’s exasperated look.

“You. Don’t say a word!”

Tara leaned over once more kissing the smaller woman on the nose. “Merry Christmas, baby. I love you.”

Gabrielle’s heart thudded in quick succession then stopped all together.

“God, I love you.”

“I know.”

“Tonight, promise?”

“Oh yeah, one I intend to keep.”

“Oh, and Merry Christmas to you.” Gabrielle kissed Tara softly on the lips. Tara smiled into the kiss. “Mmm, you taste good.. Damn, we have to get up. I need to start warming up the food in a few.”

“Okay, okay I’m getting up.”
Part II
I’ll give you the sun, the moon
The rain, the sky, and the mountains
I’ll give you the world
And all that you wish for
And even more…
Ready or not
I’ll give you everything
And more…

Lil sat in the living room, while Jamie squealed at the animated characters that paraded across the screen. The brunette closed her eyes. She had awakened to a wet pillow, swollen eyes, and the sound of Caitlin’s name on her lips this morning. A fire burned inside, making her ache, making her need. So much she wanted to pick up the phone and find the woman it scared her. ‘Oh God help me. I can’t do this alone. I miss her so much. Bring her back to me. Just let me see her this one last time.’ The love, the need, the desire, usurped the pain. It was then that Lil knew she would take her back at any cost. The pain for the moment was forgotten. Her reverie was interrupted when Gabrielle and Tara came into the living room.

“Morning sis.”

“Morning Lil.”

“Good morning you two.”

Tara sat on the floor near Jamie. Picking her up, she placed her in the gap between her crossed legs. “Morning lil bit.”

“Agoo ma.”

Lil head snapped around.

“What did she just say?”

“Sounded like she said ma to me,” Tara remarked.

“Aww, she said her first word,” Lil said beaming with pride. Her potentially dour mood forgotten.

“Ohh, you know what? Let’s open lil bit’s presents now.”

“Yeah, don’t want her to get lost in the rush with so many people coming over.” Gabrielle told her sister.

“Okay, let me get the camera. Don’t want to miss my baby doing this.”

The next hour was filled with squeals of laughter as Jamie chewed and hugged her elmo and ooed and awed over various stuffed and moving toys. Lil watched lovingly and Tara watched amused. Gabrielle tip toed to kiss her lover on the cheek then walked over to her sister and niece, hugging them.

“I’m glad you guys are here. I don’t think this could get any better.”

“We love you too Red.” Tara glanced at her lover affectionately.

“Um, I had better go start warming up the food. We’ve only got an hour or so before we eat.”

Alone in the living room, Tara glanced at Lil.

“How are you doing kiddo?”

Lil smiled sadly. “Okay, I guess., I miss her, T—something awful.”

“Ah, I know you do. Can I tell you something?”

Lil nodded her head.

“She really cares about you.”

“I know. I think that’s what makes me so angry that she’s too scared to admit it.”

“Give her time, Lil. I bet she has some heavy baggage she has to deal with. I don’t think someone was born the type of person she was.”

“You said was. So do you think she’s changed?”

“I don’t know only you can answer that. I tell you what though if anybody can do it, I know it’s you. You’re quiet the woman.”

Lil smiled crookedly. “Why thank you ma’am.”

“Anytime. Now, let’s clean all this paper up.”

The smaller brunette looked around at the piles of colorful paper. “Yeah, you’re right.”

Gabrielle occupied herself in the kitchen. The turkey and stuffing were put into the over to warm. The green bean casserole, broccoli and cheese, and the candied yams could be heated in the microwave right before they sat down to eat. Running back and forth between the kitchen and dining room and with a little help, the table was set.

“Hey, Red? I’m gonna go pick up Jake. We should be back by a quarter after or so,” Tara yelled from the dining room.

“Kay, see you then. Shan and Wayne should be here by then,” she called from the kitchen.

*****

Jake fidgeted and shivered despite the extra padding of the wool sweater and leather coat. ‘Oh shit, here we go,’ he said to himself. He gathered together the presents he thought were meager for Tara and Gabrielle. ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this. I don’t know these people. Damn, relax. It’s not like Red would associate with a bad element. Come on, it’ll work out. You just have butterflies is all.’ He moaned when he heard Tara blowing. Cutting off the lights, he took one last look around the apartment and at everything familiar. He opened the door and ran on the shoveled sidewalk. Tara had the door open for him.

“Hey little bro.”

“Hey yourself.”

She looked down at the bag. “Whatcha got there?”

“Just a little something for you and Gab. I-It’s not much. I couldn’t afford anything big.”

“Hey,” she put her hand on his knee as the other guided the wheel, “it really is the thought that counts no matter how cliché it sounds.”

He hung his head.

“Something else is wrong. You wanna talk about it?”

“Um, it’s nothing just some butterflies, and a little nerves. I don’t really know these people except for the club. They’re your crowd.”

“Listen, I wouldn’t associate myself with a group I thought was bad. Trust me. You’ll love them. The humor is dry, but you can tell they care about each other. They’re not snobs about new people at all. When I first met Shan and Wayne, they were talking to me like we’ve been friends forever.”

He looked over at his sister. “I hope you’re right.”

Tara smiled as she turned on the highway.

*****

Shannon closed his door and looked over at Wayne.

“What?”

“I was just thinking that maybe you’d better take it easy with Lil. You know because of what happened to her. Gab didn’t tell me everything, but it sounds bad. You know how you two are when you get together.”

“I didn’t think about that, but you’re right. Still, on the other hand, won’t she know or think we’re pitying her if we treat her different? I mean I could tone it down a little but not much. She’s not stupid,” Wayne whispered as they walked up the sidewalk.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I just don’t want us to be the cause of anything going wrong tonight. You know things are never dull with these people,” Shannon replied.

Wayne threw the bag of presents over his shoulder and rolled his eyes. “Tell me about it.”

Shannon hit the doorbell, and Lil answered it. She looked them up and down.

“Hey Gab? The magical munchkin and his bald boyfriend is here!” She smiled crookedly at them. Wayne and Shannon glanced at each other.

“Oh Lil, are you still here? Damn, I didn’t get my Christmas wish. Any pains in your arms or legs?” Wayne looked at her hopefully.

She laughed. “Get in here you two. Put your presents under the tree and hang your coats in the closet.”

Shannon whispered out the side of his mouth when Lil turned away, “Well someone is feeling better. Forget what I said earlier.”

“Already did.” Wayne hung up their coats and headed toward the tree while Shannon followed Lil.

“Hey where is the little red head, or blonde or whatever?” He asked laughing.

“Hey, I heard that, and it’s blonde with auburn highlights,” Gabrielle said coming out of the kitchen.

Oooh, touchy. Mmm, something smells good.”

“Thanks, we’ll eat soon as Tara and Jake, her brother, get here.”

“Deal,” he said as he rubbed her back.

“Where’s your other half?” She asked as they walked back into the living room. “Oh, hey Wayne.”

“Hey gorgeous. Love the tree, and the food smells good.”

“Thanks, love.” She hugged him warmly. “Let’s all have a seat in the living room. Might as well start on the wine. Hold on. I’ll be right back.” She came back with four glasses in one hand and a bottle of white wine in the other. She had a seat in the chair by the couch and set the wine and glasses on the table. They turned and watched Jamie talking and cooing at the TV.

“She is so cute Lil. Too bad she doesn’t look anything like you.” Wayne said smiling.

“Careful now I know what Gab and Tara got you for a gag gift. I must say you might be the one who needs it.”

Gabrielle covered her mouth and gave Lil a stare. The brunette’s shoulder’s shrugged. “Sorry, I got a peek. Not going to tell though.”

The strawberry blonde laughed. “I don’t know which one would use it either, and I don’t know if I want to know.”

“Hey, hey now children. Play nice.” Shannon replied with a smirk on his face. Suddenly, they all turned around to look as Tara and Jake walked in. She took her brother’s coat and scarf to hang in the closet. Walking into the living room, she guided Jake with a hand at his back.

“Hey Lil, Shan and Wayne? This is my younger brother, Jake.”

Jake smiled tremulously. Lil looked Jake over. “My God Jake! You look like Tara but with less hair. It’s different seeing you out of drag. Y’all wouldn’t have to have a sister tucked away somewhere? Please?” She asked, looking hopeful.

Jake laughed feeling some of the butterflies go.

“Nah, but when I’m in drag maybe we can talk.”

The whole group laughed. Shannon turned around slightly. “Hey, I’m Shannon. We’ve already met briefly. You’re a great performer just to let you know.”

“Yeah.” Wayne added in his two cents. “It’ll be nice to know Jake though. Have a seat Gab’s giving away free wine.”

“Sure, thanks. Jake sat down on the love seat. Tara went over to her lover and kissed her on the cheek. “Crackle, crackle.” She thought she heard Shannon whisper.

“Want to sit down?” Gabrielle asked.

“Yeah.”

The smaller woman got up, giving her lover the chair and taking her lap. She gave Tara her glass to drink from.

“Hey, Jake have you ever seen these two together? Oh my God, they make you feel all alone let me tell you. It’s down right sickening, but the voyeur in me enjoys it,” Shannon remarked.

Jake laughed for the second time that night. And raised his eyebrow at his sister. “Tsk, sis you should learn to share. The rest of us might want to talk to Gabrielle every once in a while.”

Jake’s smile got bigger as he saw the beginning of a blush on his sister’s face. Her eyes closed to slits, and she stared at him. The look was diffused when Jamie teetered over toward her.

“Boo, boo!”

“Aww, T. She’s welcoming you home,” Lil added.

Tara was fully within the throes of a blush as she tried and failed to glare at the laughing guests. She did pinch her snickering lover though for good measure. She offered a hand to the child, who immediately squeezed it and sat down near the vicinity of her feet with her new elmo.

“Guys?” Gabrielle said from her perch. “What say we open presents now?”

“Uh, that would be good since traditionally we’re supposed to do it in the morning,” Shannon slipped in.

“Ha, who said I was a traditionalist? I’m friends with you people.” Shannon gave her a mock glare, and she smirked in return.

“Okay, let’s open the gag gifts first.” Gabrielle got up to retrieve their gift and Shannon sifted through the presents to find theirs he sat back down and shoved the package in Gabrielle’s hands.

“You first,” he said. He and Wayne grinned broadly at each other.

Tara helped her lover rip the paper off the box.

“Gab and Tara. It is from the bottom of our hearts that we give you Larry.” Wayne added.

“Who the hell is Larry?” Tara asked.

Lil teetered on the edge of her seat trying to see what it was. Finally, all the wrapping was gone. Both women were quiet as they stared at the box.

“Um.” Was all that came out of the brunette’s mouth as she opened the box.

“T, meet Larry. He has three mind blowing speeds guaranteed to bring you pleasure.”

Taking the object out of the box the couple stared at the hot pink, eight inch vibrator. Lil screamed. Shannon and Wayne smiled smugly to themselves. Jake snorted. Gabrielle turned in her lover’s lap to look at her silently and with a raised eyebrow. Tara pursed then smacked her lips.

“Well, I told that guy I cold probably use it better—”

“Gabrielle screamed with laughter. Shannon and Wayne looked at them confused, then started to laugh themselves. Lil howled, and Jake was attacked with uncontrollable giggles. Little Jamie pulled herself up on Tara’s leg and reached for it. Tara snatched it away, laughing harder. After a few long minutes, the laughter died to hiccups and giggles.

“Okay, okay now you guys.” Tara said in an attempt to calm things down.

Wayne snatched the present from Gabrielle’s lap. Shannon snatched from him and tore off the wrapper. Wayne gasped, “Oh no you didn’t!”

“Uh, baby, this must be for you.” Shannon said as he threw the item into his lover’s lap.

“No, way I don’t need a penis pump!”

Gabrielle giggled at the display. “It’s guaranteed to make you at least three times larger,” she said innocently.

Tara squeezed her lover as an anchor as laughter invaded and shook her body again. Lil smiled wickedly and decided to add in her opinion. “I wonder if you can stick both of them in at the same time?”

Gabrielle almost fell off Tara’s lap. Jake was rolling on the floor. Shannon and Wayne threw the penis pump back and forth like it was a hot potato. Finally, mustering as much dignity as he could, Shannon walked over to his back pack and shoved the
apparatus in.

“Oh, come on. We don’t get a demonstration?” Tara asked.

“Yeah, guys inquiring minds want to know.” Jake added.

Wayne glared at him. “Then you use it.”

“Uh, no my good man there’s no need. I promise you.”

This only added to the laughter. When it finally died, it started again when Gabrielle, Lil, Tara, and Jake looked at Shannon and Wayne’s faces.

“You guys are nuts. This is already the best Christmas I’ve had in years,” Jake said as his laughter finally dissipated. He was happy he came. These people were indeed quiet the characters.

“Kay, now that is out of the way. Let’s open the real presents,” Gabrielle said loudly.

Gabrielle got off Tara’s lap to pass out gifts. After giving Tara her gifts, she sat on the arm of the chair.

“Okay, Shannon and Wayne, you guys go first. That one is from us.”

Shannon shook the package, smiled, and tore open the wrapping.

“Ohh, thanks.” He opened the latest book by Anne Rice. “Oh my God, you got her to sign it?” He said excitedly.

“Yeah, she was in Chicago earlier in the year when I had a meeting at my publishers.”

“Thanks, Gab.” He beamed again at the new Stephen King novel. Wayne kissed him on the cheek and started to open his own.

“Great, I love this movie. I was going to buy it for myself after the new year.” He showed Shannon his DVD of The Blair Witch Project.

“Yeah, I remember that movie. I couldn’t get him to go to bed that night.”

“After a few minutes of laughter, Wayne picked up another present.

“That’s from me to both you guys. I hope you like it.” Lil said hopefully.

Wayne ripped the paper off carefully and went silent as he stared at the charcoal sketch.

“It’s called Viola. There was an art sale at Caitlin’s hotel one time when I visited her. I thought it would be perfect for you guys.” She said in a small emotional voice.

Shannon studied the flowing lines of the sketch. They were bold and defined. The artist and his instrument were one. There was no way to tell where one stopped and the other began. “It’s beautiful Lil. Thanks, and I know the exact spot for it.”

“Yeah, you’re thinking of that spot in the den?” Wayne asked.

“Yep, exactly.”

They turned the sketch around to let the others see it.

“That’s a nice piece,” Jake exclaimed.

“Yeah, it is,” Gabrielle and Tara said almost at the same time. They turned to each other and grinned.

Wayne leaned down and picked up a small gift from the floor and gave it to Shannon. “I had to save a while for this, but I know it’s something you wanted. What you want I want too.”

Shannon smiled as he ended up unwrapping two tickets to Madrid, Spain. The shorter man caressed the ticket cover lovingly then looked up with happiness shining in his eyes. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say. I love you.” He leaned over to kiss his lover. Those viewing felt humbled at the display. Wayne cleared his throat and looked up almost bashfully at the other people in the room, who smiled back at him affectionately. Shannon gave his lover his gift.

“Um, I got this a while back. I saw them in the store window, and it just reminded me so much of us. I had to get them. It’s a matching set.”

Unwrapping it, Wayne discovered a man’s ring with the symbols of the sun and moon in one. “You always said we were as different as night and day so—”

Wayne laughed and said, “But perfect for each other.”

He slipped the ring on his finger and wiped at suddenly moist eyes. “It’s beautiful.” He squeezed his lover’s hand to try to relay what he was feeling.

As good friends would do, they let the couple bask in the moment before an impatient Jake announced that he was next. Without preamble, he tore into the nearest gift. Gabrielle looked on smiling.

“That’s from me Jake. I know we haven’t known each other long, but I consider you a part of my family now, like a brother.”

Jake grinned. His olive skin doing nothing to hide the slight blush.

“Thanks, Red that means a lot.” He looked down at the uncovered box in silence.

“Um, T told me you liked trains when you were little, but you never got a set—”

Gabrielle was silent as Jake seemed to refuse to look up. Then she noticed drops of moisture falling onto the unopened box of trains and tracks. He sucked in a shaky breath and thought to himself, ‘Well, I guess I’m one of the clique now seeing as though I’m crying in front of them and all. I can’t believe she did this.’ Growing up, he always wanted a train set, but never got anything except for some action figures from a mother that never listened and was never there. He looked up at Gabrielle. His dark, good looks punctuated by the tears. Then he glanced at his sister, who’s eyes were shining with unshed tears of remembrance. He sobbed out loud.

“Thanks, Red I—”

“Shh, it’s okay.” She got up and engulfed him an a hug, which he readily returned. “I meant what I said.” The smaller woman whispered.

After a moment, Gabrielle went back to her make shift seat, and Jake wiped at the drying tears. He looked over at Lil, Shannon, and Wayne. They smiled at him in true warmth and affection. Jake reached down to pick up a second gift.

“That’s from me little brother.”

He tore open the second gift with the same abandon. It was a huge box, and he could only guess at what it was. Finally, completely unwrapping it, he saw it was the latest laptop computer.

“Oh, wow sis. Thanks! I’ve been itching to check out the latest puters. I just haven’t had the chance.”

“Your welcome, and if you decide that you want to do something besides performing, that will give you a head start on something you already know.”

“Thanks again.” He looked up in acknowledgement then down again as he studied the computer like a small boy with a new toy.

“I guess I’m next then?” Lil spoke up. She carefully unwrapped the paper from the first gift and folded it neatly.

“That’s from us.” Shannon and Wayne announced. She removed what looked like a hand carved jewelry box. The wood was strong and supple, and the carvings of roses were deep and defined.

“Oh, this is lovely. Thanks fellas. I won’t insult you guys for at least two hours.”

Shannon rolled his eyes and everyone laughed. “Yeah, right. I’ll give you thirty minutes tops,” he said.

“Anyway.” She picked up another gift. “I’ll assume this is from you Gab?”

“And you would be right.”

“Hmm, let’s see what it is.” She went through the same unwrapping ritual to reveal the most beautiful silk blouse.

“You like it? I wanted to get it the same color as your eyes. Look deeper, there’s something else there too.”

Lil took out a link gold chain with half heart of diamonds as the pendant.

“There is another in there just like it for Jamie when she gets older. I know she’s your heart.”

Lil smiled hugely. “Yes she is. I’ll give it to her when she’s old enough to appreciate it. Thanks, Gab.”

“Mmm, that one over there you are about to take your time unwrapping is from me,” Tara said with a smirk.

“Uh, what is it that Gab calls you? Ah, smartass? Well, that fits here too.” She took extra time removing the wrapping paper much to Tara’s irritation.

It was a medium size box, but it contained only a small piece of paper. It was a gift certificate for a day at a chic spa in Indianapolis.

“You can go there and let them pamper you. Sort of a time to get away from yourself.”

“Thanks Big Blue. I probably really need this.”

After a few moments all eyes turned to Gabrielle and Tara. They happily opened the same gift certificates to the same spa from Shannon and Wayne; matching sweaters from Lil; and a crystal figurine of two lovers intertwined and beautifully carved from Jake. Finally, they got to the presents they bought for each other. Jake threw Tara a box of nearby Kleenex with a smile, and she glared at him in return. She gazed at Gabrielle not bothering to hide the love in her eyes as she handed her the small ring box. The smaller woman’s breath caught. It was obviously a ring box. She glanced at Tara her eyes huge then she looked back down at the box. Everyone else scooted to the edge of their seats to get a look. Gabrielle swallowed then opened the small box with a snap.

“Oh, my!”

“Um, its Irish. If you wear it with the symbol down it signifies that your heart belongs to me.”

The strawberry blonde vacated her perch on the arm of the chair to the lap of the person in the chair.

“You know it already does. It’s so beautiful.”

“Just like you. Look at the engraving.”

She peeked on the other side of the ring. It said Always and Forever. On an impulse, Gabrielle hugged her lover, wrapping her body almost completely around her. She sobbed into the black hair at her lover’s neck. The rest of the people were forgotten. “I love you so much. I can’t even begin to tell you,” she said through happy tears. Tara buried her face in fragrant hair and squeezed tighter.

“I can relate Red. Trust me. It’s a matching set. That way if I ever forget how much you mean to me in anger it will be there on my finger to remind me.”

Gabrielle sighed again as she moved from the safe place of skin to get lost in silver blue.

“I’m not ever letting you go,” she said as she leaned in for one, sweet, gentle, perfect kiss that only served to seal the moment.

Those in the room were caught in the wave of emotion. Shannon’s hand reached for Wayne’s; Lil couldn’t stop the tears of happiness and loss from falling; and Jake put an empathetic hand on her shoulder, rubbing it in understanding. Still forgetting the presence of others, Gabrielle handed Tara her gift.

“T, I got something for you too.”

Tara opened it quickly to reveal a single key with a keyring made of her name. She stared at it then at her lover.

“Um, are you asking what I think you’re asking?” She said her voice hitched higher with emotion.

Gabrielle smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I am. Stay with me. Be here every night, every morning, and every hour that you can.”

“Yes.”

It was a simple answer that came out quickly. No thought was needed. It just felt right. Gabrielle laughed with happiness. “That’s not all. I’m getting an addition built on to the house. A place for you to work on your bikes because I know how much they mean to you.”

Tara pulled her lover in for another hug. This time the dark head pillowed itself on the ample chest. Gabrielle sifted through midnight then kissed the top of her lover’s head. They stayed like that for several minutes. Until, as if coming slowly out of a spell, the strawberry blonde turned slightly to see the others staring. She smiled sheepishly.

“Um, excuse us.”

They all began to giggle at her red face. She righted herself in Tara’s lap. “Uh, let’s eat?”

This earned a round of laughter all the way around.

“Congrats you two.” Lil told them.

Jake looked from his sister to Gabrielle and smiled. “Something told me this was going to happen. I’m happy for you both.” He looked at his sister. “I’m gonna miss you being around though.”

She looked up at her brother. “Hey listen. I know I haven’t been very attentive lately, but I promise that it’s gonna change. You have an important place in my life, Jake. I forgot that for a while. I won’t forget again.”

Jake gave her a watery smile. “Okay.”

“Okay, you guys. Congratulations to you and let’s eat.” Shannon added.

“Okay, okay. Damn Shannon. Since you’re in such a hurry, you can help bring out the food,” Gabrielle replied.

“Gladly.”

They disappeared into the kitchen.

*****

Catching her reflection in the mirror, Caitlin examined her appearance. “Much better,” she said to herself. Some of the luster had returned to her hair and her coloring was back. Still, her hollow cheeks reflected a quick loss of weight, and her eyes gave way to her haunted soul. She walked toward the door and stood there while her mind wondered. ‘What do I say to her? Try I’m sorry for starters. Try I love you, and I was wrong not to tell you. Try I’m an idiot, and I will do whatever it takes to have you back in my life. Try you gave me back my heart. It belongs to you now. Just be honest and tell her all those things and more.’ She looked down at nervous shaking hands. She had to prepare herself for a slap, a drink in the face, or flat out rejection. She brushed blonde locks behind her ears and closed her eyes. “God help me. I love her so much. This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t meant to be. I’m ready for what she can give now. I’ve faced my demons and won,” she prayed for the first time and hoped He was listening on His day. Opening grey eyes, she pulled open the door, walked down the corridor and into the elevator to her fate.

*****

“This is the best turkey I think I have ever had Gab.”

“Thanks Shannon.”

“Yeah baby, you’ve outdone yourself. This spread is incredible.”

“I second that,” Lil said as she smiled at her sister.

“Oh, please. You two helped.”

“Still, it’s good. You all did great,” Wayne added.

“What he said,” Jake said through a mouth full of turkey.

Jamie bounced on her mother’s lap as Lil mashed some stuffing to feed her.

“Man, let me go get another bottle of wine you guys. We’re out.” Gabrielle got up to wonder into the kitchen. Tara looked over at Lil.

“Hey, I’m almost finished. Let me take her so you can eat.”

“Oh, okay.”

Tara walked around the table to gather up the happy infant then they both headed into the kitchen. Gabrielle looked up, “Oh doesn’t she look cute wearing her food all over her face!”

Tara laughed. “You Howard women would look good wearing a paper sack!”

“Flatterer.”

“You know it. Do you need any help with anything?”

“Yeah, sure. Decided to bring out two bottles the way we’re going through them. If they all get too drunk, we need to make space for them here. There is no way anyone is going to drive tipsy in this weather.”

Tara leaned down to kiss her lover on the nose. “I knew there was a reason I loved you. So thoughtful.”

Gabrielle smiled back at her as they walked back to the dining room. The smaller woman sat down, and Tara went around to her seat. Putting the bottle down, she stopped when the doorbell rang.

“I wonder who that is. I’ll get it.” Making sure she had a good hold on Jamie, Tara went to answer the door.

Caitlin stood outside fidgeting for the first time in her life. Her heart banged against her chest in fear of what was to come. She took a few deep breaths and almost ran as panic seized her. She had never apologized, loved, or really chased after anyone. Groaning out loud, she wished she had that drink before leaving. At that moment her mind was flooded with thoughts. She still had to deal with Gabrielle and Tara. ‘Oh God. This was probably a bad idea. That little red head is going to kill me and Tara is going to help. Fuck, fuck, fuck! I should leave right now! Her mind screamed. The panic meter was going up another notch as the door opened.

Tara almost dropped Jamie when she saw who it was. ‘Oh god no. Can’t anything just be simple.’ She said to herself.

“Caitlin! What the hall are you doing here?” Tara whispered, hoping no one else would hear.

“I-I need to see her Tara. Just for a minute, I have to talk to her.” Caitlin replied her voice soft and pleading.

“For what. She’s already hurt. What are you trying to do?!”

“I’m not trying to hurt her. I just need to talk to her. Is-is that Jamie?” Grey eyes studied the small girl with violet eyes looking very much like her mother. She drank the features in, so much like the woman she loved. Tara watched her former lover and noticed the hungry look in her eyes. Her voice softened.

“I don’t know if this is the right time Catt.”

Caitlin looked up surprised by the use of her nickname “Please, just—”

“Hey, who was at the door?” Gabrielle asked her lover as she walked up behind her. Tara stepped away from the door to let her see. Gabrielle’s hand went to her mouth. “Oh my God, what is she doing here?!”

Caitlin swallowed, hoping she hadn’t lost her chance. “Please I-I love her, and I need to tell her.”

Gabrielle and Tara glanced at each other startled. Being the forgiving person she is, Gabrielle dropped her reserve. “It’s about damn time, but I don’t know if this is the right time or place for this.”

Caitlin put her hands in her pockets. “Um, do you think she’ll talk to me?”

“I seriously don’t know. She’s been pretty closed lipped about the whole thing.”

“Hey, I know you two don’t have my baby out in that cold? Who are you talking too?” Lil walked up to the door and peered over her sister’s shoulder.

Her breathing stopped along with her heart. She covered her mouth to hide the sob. Deep blue eyes moved rapidly over the form she had been dreaming about and crying over for the last two days. Finding her voice, she said, “Take Jamie inside and leave us alone.” The two women did as they were told. Caitlin stared into the eyes that had branded her soul. She tried to read what was hiding behind those eyes, but she couldn’t. She studied the form of her lover, and she had never looked more beautiful. They were the same eyes, same lips, same body, but nonetheless still more beautiful. Her heart hurt to look and not touch, which was what she wanted so much to do. Lilian examined Caitlin just as thoroughly. She took not of the pronounced cheek bones, and the little spark that was missing from the usually luminous gray eyes. Her mind screamed, ‘She’s back to see you suffer. She’s back to make the pain beyond excruciating.’ With a will of its own, Lil’s hand lashed out and made contact with the soft flesh of Caitlin’s face. The older woman flinched but did not raise a hand to inspect burning skin. She’s expected this.

“I deserve that and more.”

“Why are you here?”

“To tell you—”

“To tell me what? To reiterate that you don’t want me. To tell me you’re running again.”

“I love you.”

Lil’s heart seized and fell into her stomach, and hope flared in her soul.

“Wh-what?”

“I came to tell you that I love you and I’m sorry. I was so scared Lil. I still am but being without you is worse.”

Lil’s heart whispered, “She’s telling you what you wanted to hear. Here’s you chance. Take her, love her, heal her.” However, her brain chimed in, “Remember the pain. She’ll do it again. You won’t survive it.” The pain won. Caitlin’s heart and countenance was lit with hope, but it was dashed when she saw the storm brewing in Lil’s face and in her eyes. Lil laughed harshly.

“After what you did to me, you expect me to take you back? To forget everything? I gave you everything in me, and you threw it in my fucking face! I would be a fool to go through that again! Get away from my sister’s house and get away from me!”

Caitlin’s heart shattered into powdered pieces. Her gray eyes brimmed with tears and a full bottom lip shook in despair. She closed her eyes, and one solitary tear fell down her face and splattered on her coat. She opened her eyes again. All pride was gone. She looked at Lil pleadingly. “Please hear me out. I can explain. I’m staying at the Hampton Inn. Just call me or come by anytime.”

Lil’s eyes shot fire even as her heart called out. Without a word, she slammed the door in the blonde’s face. Caitlin stared at the closed door stunned. Not knowing what else to do, she sat down on the snowy, damp step and cried. She cried until the tears threatened to freeze on her face. She knew she had done all she could for now, but it hurt nonetheless. The pain was welcomed because she knew it was only a fraction of what she had previously caused.

Lil stood behind the closed door with her back turned to it. She moved slowly to the window in order to peek out. She saw the bowed blonde head and the shaking body. Part of her wanted so much to dry those tears, and the other part wanted her to cry them for the rest of her life. Not paying attention to her surroundings, Lil didn’t hear Tara walk up behind her. The older woman peered out the open curtain.

“I’ve never seen her like that—so vulnerable. You did something to her Lil. You changed her. It took a hell of a lot for her to come here I bed, and it shows she really cares for you. Take that into account before you completely turn away. I know she hurt you, but don’t doom yourself to live with just pain for good.” Tara put her hand on a slumped shoulder as a gesture of comfort and then walked back into the dining room.

Lil closed her eyes. Her whole body shook with surprise, pain, love, and unbelievable tension. There was so much to do, so much to think about. Her mind was a jumble of voices and images. She had to sort them out. Walking slowly back into the dining room, she gazed back at the occupants staring at her silently.

“Look, I don’t want to talk about it, and I don’t want to ruin dinner. I have to deal with this my own way. So, let’s just sit down eat and drink. Okay?” Lil announced.

Shannon and Wayne smiled at her. Shannon got up to pull out her chair. Lil smiled gratefully. Gabrielle looked up at her sister with eyes filled with love and understanding. Tara nodded her head in acknowledgement. Jake poured her a drink. “Thanks Jake.” They drank and ate until late in the afternoon. Lil put a full, sleepy Jamie to bed as the food was put away then they drank some more. By nightfall, everyone was past pleasantly buzzed on toward pissy drunk Lil giggled as Jake tried to show her a dance step on wobbly legs. Shannon and Wayne were playing at a slurred philosophical discussion on the hypocrisy of religion. Tara sat and eyed Gabrielle quietly with forming lust as the little woman stumbled across the living room toward her after coming from the bathroom. The older woman was thinking about her promise, but the younger one didn’t notice the look through her alcoholic haze. She sat in the lap nonetheless.

“Hey everybody listen up! You can all sleep here, uhm, seep here tonight. The wever has gotten worse and you’re all to pissy drunk anyways.”

A round of laughter passed around the room at Gabrielle’s slurred speech.

“Well, where are we all gonna seep, sweep, ah you know what I mean.” Shannon asked.

Shan and Wayne you take the let out couch in the den. Jake you can take the couch in here.”

“Well, alwite sounds like a plan,” he slurred.

“Okay, you can all go back to what you were doing,” she announced again.

Gabrielle scooted further into the soft, firm lap. Tara growled at the feel of soft cheeks pillowed on her thighs. The smaller woman raised an eyebrow a the familiar sound.

“You okay T?”

“Never better. Do something for me though?”

“Anything.”

“Mmm, that’s what I like to hear. Turn around and straddle me.”

Gabrielle looked over at her house guests. They were oblivious. She then looked back at her lover, who stared hungrily at the pulse beating at the base of her neck.

“Kay.”

She did what was asked of her. She wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Grabbing her lover by the upper thighs, Tara pulled her roughly into her body. She whimpered quietly in reaction, totally unprepared for the onslaught. Gabrielle could feel the heat radiating in waves rolling off Tara’s skin. She wanted to bask in it.

“Wh-what are you doing?”

“Keeping a promise. I want to tell you something too.”

“What?”

Tara’s already sultry voice lowered an octave. “I want you.”

Gabrielle shivered then gulped audibly.

“Now?”

“Yesss.”

Turning slightly, Tara took the blanket off the back of the chair and covered them with it, keeping their bodies from view. Blue stared into green intensely, trying to relay the mounting arousal she was feeling. The younger woman’s breathing accelerated slightly with anticipation. She jumped a little when she felt large, elegant fingers unbutton her jeans then she almost groaned at the sound of them being unzipped. The same hand dipped into the loosened jeans at the back. Bypassing silk panties, Tara engulfed silky skin instead. Strong hands lifted her lover a little as Gabrielle’s bottom was covered by the warm flesh of Tara’s hands. Tara moaned lightly.

“Mmm, you feel so good.”

Hands flexed and kneaded the firm flesh. The smaller woman’s breath hitched as wetness began to gush with each squeeze, making the throbbing of her clit start small, nothing more than a tiny ache.

“C’mere.”

Again, aggressively, Tara pulled the smaller woman into her body, rubbing her mound against a clothed stomach. Gabrielle bit her lip to keep from crying out. The throbbing increased exponentially, and she could feel nether lips start to engorge.

“Kiss me.” Tara demanded as she pulled one hand from its warm fleshy home to wind tightly in red-gold locks.

They were as oblivious to the others in the room as the others were to them. A red blonde head leaned forward only to have her lips captured in the fierceness that was Tara’s kiss. She tasted wine, sweetness, and woman. Unable to stop herself, she groaned out loud as a rough tongue slid past her lips over her gums to rub sensually against her own tongue. Gabrielle moaned harshly as their tongues flicked across each other in sexy battle. The large hand that remained on firm flesh began to roam. It traced over the pronounced split of her lover’s cheeks, dipping into the crack with shallow sweeps. The smaller woman could feel the sweat forming on her forehead, and the wetness in her crotch now dribble down to slick her thighs. She could feel the protruding flesh of her clit rub against equally swollen lips, and longed to relieve the ache. Another synapse burned out in her brain when Tara’s mouth became a suction on her tongue. Rhythmically, Tara sucked in correspondence to the throbbing of her lover’s body.

With each suck, Tara delved deeper between her lover’s buttocks. Until finally, she began to message the puckered flesh of her anal opening. The smaller woman whimpered helplessly as her hips began to move with a life of their own. Then the finger was gone—just like that. Tara tore her mouth away, and put her finger up to her lover’s trembling lips as if to shush her. Gabrielle looked around the room wildly, hoping no one saw the exchange. She saw that Lil was gone; Jake asleep on the couch; and Shannon and Wayne on the floor dosing. She looked back at Tara with pleading eyes.

“Someone will see.”

Tara shook her head and began to trace swollen lips with her fingers. Both lips and digits tingled in reaction. Tara groaned hoarsely when her fingers were sucked into the warm cavern of her lover’s mouth. She shook her head as if to clear it, but it didn’t help. With each suck, she felt the pull between her legs. The older woman couldn’t believe they were doing this, but it was too hot too sensual to stop. What began as just play had turned into an erotic act. Silver blue orbs watched jade and studied her lover’s face, seeing the sunken flushed cheeks, moist lips and shining eyes. Her head felt as though it was full of cotton wool, leaving her body in charge. She could smell their mingled arousal, and it only served to make her wetter. She squeezed her thighs, making them tremble at the pleasure it released from her spasming clit. Having this power, feeling this desire was a heady combination that fueled her blood. No other woman could do this for her—to her.

“Shit,” she whispered harshly when even white teeth scraped over the sensitive pad of her finger.

In reflex, her hips arched upward, craving contact. In order to get it, she widened her legs, which caused the smaller woman to move lower between them. Their clothed mounds touched enticingly. Corresponding with her hip movement, Tara pumped her fingers inside Gabrielle’s mouth. Already audible, erratic breathing hitched higher when she started bobbing her head back and forth to increase the friction.. Gabrielle’s eyes narrowed and watched her lover. She took in each time she licked her lips, each whimper, and the high flush that extended to her ears. She was losing control and Gabrielle reveled in it. She slammed her hips to meet each mounting thrust with more force. The wetness between her legs made her want to moan at the feel of it. So, she did and enjoyed how the lanky frame of her lover shook at the sound. Tara closed her eyes and pushed her fingers inside the moist heaven once more, but she had to feel the real thing all tight and pulsating around her. Pulling her fingers out, she slipped same hand back down into the sagging back of the jeans.

“I wanna be inside you.”

Gabrielle whimpered at the implications and the wet caress of long fingers on and inside her parted cheeks. Tongues met moistly and flicked outside of mouths before lips met in a searing kiss. That was all the consent Tara needed. Using one wet finger, she rubbed her lover’s anal opening. Gabrielle cried out. The sound was swallowed in the kiss. With the tip of her finger, Tara entered the tight opening. They both moaned at the contact, breathing hotly into each other’s mouths, refusing to break the volcanic kiss. Tara twirled her finger and thrust deeper, making the younger woman’s hip surge forward then backward, trying to increase the penetration. She twirled and twisted her finger again, thrusting even deeper and getting almost to the second knuckle. ‘Oh God, she’s so tight, so hot.’

Clearing the second knuckle, Tara stayed still for a beat and started to pull out slowly then twisted and thrusted just as slowly . The strawberry blonde cried out abruptly as her hips continued to thrust forward of their own violation. The dark-haired woman met each thrust with her own hips and her finger, making their mounds touch and jarring pleasure from swollen flesh. With each movement, Tara drank in a whimper from her lover.

“Unghh, ohhh!” Gabrielle exclaimed, forgetting to be quiet.

With her other hand, Tara grabbed a cheek, parting it wider and used it to control undulating hips. The smaller woman’s hips jerked uncontrollably, and the whimpers became high pitched keening sounds. Gabrielle fought to move her hips faster, to make the thrusting deeper, and Tara relented, giving her what she wanted. Russet eyebrows drew together in object concentration. She felt the orgasm from far away, building, getting ready to explode. The other woman felt it in her lover’s trembling thighs, clenching muscles and high pitched moaning. She thrust harder with her own body, wanting so much to join her in bliss, but knowing her own orgasm was a ways off. She was wetter than she had ever been; hungrier than she had ever been; and more relentless than she had ever been. By proxy, she increased the intensity of the kiss, thrusting her tongue forcefully much like she did her body. The younger woman was so close it was almost painful. Her body lurched forward as the orgasm started with shaking thighs that seemed to pull the pleasure from swollen, engorged flesh. She imploded from the inside, everything shook and spasmed. The impending scream was muffled by her lover’s lips as hot pleasure poured into her blood making her dizzy and blind. Her body convulsed, milking and multiplying the enjoyment from her clit and anal opening.

She didn’t know if it was the raunchy sounds, the trembling body, or the convulsing inner muscles, but unable to take anymore, Tara got up, finding the strength in weak legs to carry her moaning lover quickly into their bedroom. Once inside, they crashed into the door as Tara demanded her mouth. Slowly, she withdrew her finger to a whimper and some searing aftershocks that shook her as much as it did her lover. Ending the kiss for the moment, she tore the clothing from the smaller, weakened body of her lover. Divulging with her own with her own clothes, Tara grabbed the slippery flesh of Gabrielle’s buttocks and lifted her, making shaky legs wind around her waist. They headed for the bed and made it with a soft bounce. Lips met again, but Tara needed more. She needed to show her what loving her had done. Wrenching her mouth away once more, she straddled a firm thigh.

Sitting back on her haunches, she whispered into the sex laden air, “See what you do to me. Watch.”

Gabrielle watched through a pleasure induced haze. Not fully coming down from before, she still moaned out loud as she studied Tara’s fingers, traveling between her own legs. Parting the slick, thick, swollen folds, Tara began to rub her exposed clit furiously.

“Oh god. See. . . what you do. . . to me,” she murmured brokenly once more.

Gabrielle whimpered and was torn between watching busy fingers play in the wetness; observe luminous eyes and face display unbelievable bliss; or study full hard tipped breast bounce freely. So, she went from one to the other. Tara was so wet that the younger woman could hear fingertips lap through the wetness even over their harsh breathing. Unable to stop herself, Gabrielle sat up. The hard, brown tips of her lover’s breast seemed to beckon her. Surging forward, she sucked the nearest nub into her eager mouth, flicking it with a quick tongue before suckling it deeper into the back of her throat. Tara threw her head back and growled at the onslaught and rubbed impossibly faster, harder. Grabbing hips with small hands, Gabrielle initiated a deeper, harder grind. Wanting to feel the hot juices flow over her hand and the velvety flesh convulse around her fingers, one hand went from hips to in between thighs, and without warning, Tara was impaled by two eager digits. Her taunt body moved naturally upward before it began a just as natural riding motion. They groaned in unison. One at the decadent feel of heated flesh, and the other at the arcing tightness and pleasure it produced low in her belly.

Tearing her mouth away from it’s delectable treat, Gabrielle spoke.

“Oh baby I need—”

Her own arousal had risen to fever pitch in a matter of minutes. She could feel it oozing out onto the mattress and up the crack of her bottom. In a word, she needed release. With her now free hand, Gabrielle reached in between them to her own folds, and unceremoniously began to tease and rub her own throbbing flesh in the same swift pace. Tara felt what she was doing.

“That’s it baby. Rub it for me,” she forced out.

Gabrielle moaned loud and long as her mouth found the other breast and tried to devour it whole.

“Unggh, oh shit Red. Gonna come. . . for you.”

She increased the fierce thrust and sucking to bring the statement to light. With a few more thrusts, Tara’s body pitched forward as blinding pleasure ripped through her like fire on dry land.

“Ooooh, yesss!” She screamed loudly as a powerful orgasm beat a path from the inside out.

Amazed and highly turned on, her lover’s cry put Gabrielle over the edge, and the unbelievable haze of orgasm visited her once more. There bodies jerked and convulsed in reaction as they fell backward toward the bed. All speech, all thought, all cognition was rendered useless.

*****

In the living room, three heads popped up. “Did you hear that? What the hell was it?” Shannon, with bleary, sleepy eyes, looked at Wayne and asked.

Wayne grinned. “Uh, I think their using Larry.”

Jake raised an eyebrow and squinted at the sudden mental picture. “Eww!”

The laughter rang loudly through out the house.

*****

A now sober Lil didn’t flinch at the laughter or the moans of pleasure. She didn’t hear them. “I love you,” ran through her head like a mantra. “You changed her,” became the other one. Tears squeezed out the corner of her eyes. She wanted so much to take the chance, so much to believe, so much to love her. But, the pain, the idea of more of it of new and greater pain almost wilted her heart. She envisioned Tara and her sister’s relationship. They had hurt each other countless times, but they both took the chance of more pain to be together. What they had must be the envy of the angels in heaven. “I want that. God help me I do. Please give me a sign.” The phone on the night stand rang. Lil stared at it surprised and let it ring three times before answering.

“Uh, hello?”

There was no answer.

“Hello?”

Lil could hear hitched breathing on the other end then nothing but dial tone.

She studied the phone a minute before putting it back in it’s cradle. Having got the sign she needed, she closed her eyes to sleep.

*****

Caitlin looked at the phone. “Maybe I should have said something. Fuck, I knew this was going to happen. Please God let her come to me. I need her so much.” The blonde flicked through the channels on the TV. It was as active as her mind. She hated waiting but knew there was no choice in the matter. Saying another silent prayer, she then turned up the volume. There was to be no sleep tonight.

*****

Tara, dosing slightly, lay heavily on top of her lover. She moved and felt the fingers still deep inside. Looking up from her make shift pillow of breasts, she stared into sleepy green eyes.

“Hey.”

“Mmm, hey you. Uh, you’re still attached to me.” Tara said grinning crookedly.”

“Oh, sorry.”

Slowly, she removed her fingers from it’s warm nest. Tara relaxed.

“Mm, thank you,” she said then watched wide eyed as Gabrielle licked her fingers clean. Groaning, “You’re incredible Red.”

“You’re delectable,” she responded.

They then started to giggle, but after a while sleep came quickly.

*****

The morning at the Howard house was good but painful. There were headaches and sour mouths abound. All was made better when the two hosts appeared from their bedroom. ‘Nothing like a little teasing to make you feel better,’ Shannon thought. He smacked his lips as Wayne and Jake snickered in the background.

“Welll, Good morning you two. How was your night?”

The snickering got louder. Gabrielle had awakened with a sense of euphoria and wasn’t going to let her prankster friends touch it. Looking at Tara and smiling, she replied.

“Oh, mine was great. What about yours? Headache?”

There were two groans in the background.

“Just a little, but you seem to have the cure all.”

As if on cue, the snickering started again.

Gabrielle looked him straight in his blood shot eyes. “Yep, hot sex will do that for ya.”

The snickering stopped. He stared at his partner’s in crime.

“Um, yeah okay.” He had expected at least some discomfort on her part.

Tara smiled down at her lover. She was getting good at one upping him.

“So, anybody want coffee?” The strawberry blonde asked cheerfully.

There were three grumbles of ‘yes.’ Tara and Gabrielle made it into the kitchen, looked at each other and tried to control the giggles.

“You are soo bad Red.”

“Mmm, hmm, but you love me for it.”

“Yeah, I do, but it wasn’t nice to disrupt Shannon’s flow like that. He probably still has his mouth open.”

“But Taraaaa! I enjoyed it soo much.”

They giggled again as Gabrielle started to make the coffee. The younger woman sobered suddenly.

“Oh God, I wonder how Lil is doing?”

“Ugh, I don’t know, but I bet she wasn’t expecting that last night.”

“Yeah, she sort of closed us off. I respect that, but I know she’s hurting.”

“She has to work this all out in her head Red. I know it had to be spinning last night. She saw a side of Caitlin she never saw before. Personally, I think she’s close to making a final decision either way.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, something about the look she had on her face last night when she saw Catt on the porch, crying.”

“I hope so. I want this over for her.”

Lil sat up in bed supported by fluffy pillows. She watched the rising and falling of Jamie’s chest in slumber. She had made her decision, and it was the little bundle to the right of her that helped. Thinking about stability for her daughter, there had to be the possibility of a long, loving relationship as she grew up. She smiled a little at the sounds coming from Jamie’s mouth, while she slept. Getting up softly, she padded into the bathroom to take a hot shower, whether it was good news or bad, she had someone to go see. Coming back into the bedroom, eyes some much like hers met her over the covers.

“Hi sweetie. You ready to get up?”

“Goo, ma?”

The woman smiled with pride. “Let’s get you washed up and dressed and then go say hi to all the people in the living room. You’ll get to see boo boo.”

Jamie squealed and started clapping her hands. Lil laughed as she removed the little girl’s pajamas. With a towel wrapped around herself, she carried the naked baby back to the bathroom.

*****

Caitlin stared out the window at the wickedly deceptive sun. Her eyes felt dry and scratchy from a lack of sleep. She rubbed them with the heel of her hand, trudging toward the bathroom. Taking a quick shower, she returned to her haven to watch the mid-morning news. Her mind wondered as she listened, remembering a day not to along ago in another hotel room—the heated exchanges and the sounds of Lil’s errant breathing and whimpers. Then her mind flashed to a few not so stolen moments in the bathroom a the bar, recalling the smells, the tastes and the sight of her new lover in the throes of orgasm. Caitlin sucked in a breath as the prickly fingers of arousal traveled down her spine, making her belly clench. “God Lil, come to me I need you so much.”

*****

Lil walked into the rather loud living room. Jake sat on the floor near Shannon and Wayne’s feet as they conversed on the couch. They all laughed heartily, and it didn’t stop when Lil walked in carrying Jamie.

“Well this room is just buzzing.” Lil said with a slight smirk.

“And wouldn’t you like to know what we’re talking about?” Wayne piped in.

Tara glared at Wayne. “Hey, bring the little one over here. We were just discussing possibilities for the future use of our gag gifts.”

Lil handed a bouncing Jamie over to her. “Um ,okay. I’m surprised those two didn’t ask to borrow Larry.” Lil added with a grin toward Shan and Wayne.

“Hey!” Wayne wrapped his arm around his lover’s shoulder. “He’s all the man I need.”

Lil rolled her eyes heavenward and looked down at Jake. “Good morning.”

“Morning.” He smiled genuinely up at her. “How ya doing?”

“A lot better thanks. I see you’ve made fast friends with our dubious duo over here.”

“Yeah, they sorta grew on me overnight.”

Shannon smacked Jake on the shoulder.

“Ah, but grow what? That is the question.”

Wayne narrowed his eyes and stuck out his tongue at her.

She looked over at her sister, seeing the question and concern in her eyes. “I’m okay. Really.”

“Okay. You know what’s good for you.” Gabrielle squeezed her sister’s shoulder in a show of support.

The shorter brunette glanced over at the other brunette holding her daughter. “Thanks T, for what you said yesterday.”

“Anytime kiddo.” They smiled affectionately at each other.

“Um, listen. I need to go—well you know. Will you guys watch Jamie for me?”

“Like you have to ask? Of course.”

“Kay, thanks T.” She kissed her sister and Tara on the cheek as she headed out the door.

*****

All the way up the elevator, Lil wrung her hands nervously, wondering how this would go. Anger and pain frizzled just below the surface along with a deep vein of love. She walked down the long corridor until she got to room 347. Standing outside the door, she licked her lips. ‘Good or bad. I’ve made my decision.’ she thought to herself. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door and shivered a little as the familiar voice asked who it was. Deciding not to answer, she waited. The door swung open violently.

“I said, who the hell—”

The words died on her lips. Caitlin’s mouth moved, opening and closing but nothing came out. Lil walked in anyway and stood as close to the door as possible. “You hurt me. So bad. You have no idea. Why? Why CATT?!”

Caitlin walked up to her, decreasing the physical distance. With the last vehement question, Lil lashed out pounding her fist against the taller woman’s chest. Catt grabbed her hands pulling them away from her body.

“I hate you. I hate you so much,” the brunette said quietly.

“I hate you too, even more,” the blonde whispered back.

Caitlin leaned in with their foreheads touching. Lil sobbed as tears began to fall.

“Shhh, it’s okay. It’s okay.”

She kissed the tears away gently. “Look at me.” Lil raised her eyes. “I was stupid and scared. The only running I want to do now is to you.” Her voice hitched as her own tears threatened. “I love you. Never thought I’d say those words, but I love you.”

Lil hiccuped and started to laugh through the tears. “Love you too.”

They laughed together and stared into shining eyes for long moments. Quietly, softly lips met. Lil whimpered softly so grateful to taste her again. Reluctantly, Catt broke the kiss.

“We have a lot to talk about. I want to meet Jamie. We just have a lot to talk about.” Lil nodded as they headed for the couch.

*****

Tara and Gabrielle sat at the dining room table alone listening to the laughter coming from the living room as the boys played with the baby.

“Ugh, I should have called my parents last night. I’m surprised they didn’t call.”

“Mmm.”

“You seem distracted. T?”

“Just thinking about Lil. I wonder how it went. I wonder what she decided?”

Gabrielle sighed. “Yeah. I’m anxious to know myself, but I guess we’ll have to wait. Um, so when you moving in?”

Tara smiled. “Hmm, when do you want me?”

“Oooh, careful my dear. That is a loaded question.”
Story #6: Under Her Spell
The lone figure huddled under the thick comforter and cooling sheets, trying to gather warmth from the now half empty bed. She shot out a hand and commandeered the deserted pillow, bringing it to her face and sniffing it unconsciously. A tiny smile curled the corners of full lips as she whispered a name into the quiet solitude of the bedroom. “Tara.” Finally, sleep came again only to be interrupted by the jarring ring of the phone. The petite woman moaned and partly opened one green eye. She yanked the covers off her head and squeaked when the sunlight slapped her unforgiving in the face. Grudgingly, she opened the other eye and blew as well as pushed red-gold strands out of her face.

The ring was insistent.

“Dammit! Hold on a frippin minute!”

She reached for the phone, poising her mind and vocal cords to verbally annihilate the person on the other end, if it wasn’t Tara.

“Yeah, yeah hello?”

There was soft laughter.

“Helloooo!”

“Morning to you too Gabrielle. How’s my favorite author?”

The strawberry blonde sighed as she sat up and moved her naked form to the edge of the bed.

“Morning Jonah. You’d better have a good reason for calling at this ungodly hour.”

There was that laughter again.

“It’s 9am Gabrielle.”

“Uh huh, still ungodly. This had better be important or it comes out of your commission.” The woman said with a smirk.

“Oooo, get an agent where it hurts. I’m just calling to remind you of the book signing you have today.”

“Huh? What? That’s today? What’s the date anyway? I’ve been so busy with family and all I completely forgot. Good thing I have to the end of February to finish my latest novel.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I called you then. You do remember where it is?”

“Yeah, Borders, near the mall in Indianapolis at 1pm right? Say that book has been out almost a year, why the book signing anyway when I have another coming out soon?”

The older man twirled the pen in his fingers as he turned his chair to look out the window at downtown Indianapolis. The buildings and high rises shone in the sunlight like shiny new toys, and the streets were habitually jammed with wall to wall traffic. He ran his hand through thinning salt and pepper hair and smiled, making the lines crinkle on the side of his brown eyes.

“It’s to keep you acquainted with the fickle public. So, do I get to keep my commission?”

Gabrielle laughed. “For now you do my friend. Thanks for the reminder.”

“Anytime. I was worried about you. Haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“Um, been very busy.”

Jonah could hear the smile in her voice. “Ah, I see.”

“Remind me that we need to talk next time I see you Jonah.”

“Oh, it’s that serious, huh?”

“Oh yeah. Okay, I’m gonna get up and get myself together. I’ll call you soon and set up lunch.”

After hanging up the phone, Gabrielle sighed again and scratched the back of her neck. She scrunched up her nose and smiled hugely at the smell of sex that clung to her body. She giggled proudly remembering last night and this morning when Tara was begging for more then begging her to stop. Breaking the self-imposed reverie, Gabrielle looked over at the clock. Two and a half-hours until I need to get out of here. Might as well get up and shower.’ Heading toward the bathroom, her thoughts strayed. Things were going great with Tara. She shook her head as she stepped under the spray of warm water. With the coming of the New Year, it meant more book signings as a promotional for her new book. Things had been good all around so far. Lil was in love, and it was working out. Tara had moved in, and things were perfect there. The only bad thing was that Lil had to leave in a few days to get back to school. Gabrielle pursed her lips, wondering what her sister was going to do about her relationship and their parents. That was turning into a wait and see game. Scrunching her brows together with worry, she tried to shake off the impending sense of doom that settled over her like a warm blanket.

Things were going good, maybe too good.

Turning the shower off, she squeezed the excess water from her hair before leaving the stall. Now looking into the mirror, she hoped that feeling was just an aberration. Closing the bathroom door, and padding back into the bedroom, she headed for the closet. She smiled as her hands landed on some of Tara’s clothes before she picked out a green wool sweater and matching slacks. Thoughts of her lover now running rampant, she sat down and pick up the phone to call her.

******

Just down the hall, Lil lay in bed staring up at the popcorn ceiling. She had to leave soon. She had to tell her parents soon. She didn’t want to say good bye to Catt anytime soon. She sighed and looked over at her sleeping daughter. The brunette wondered how Jamie was going to react to Catt for the first time. Surely, her daughter would pick up on the good vibes from her mother? Lil closed her eyes briefly. Upon opening them again, she bit her lip in contemplation. The older woman’s vacation was almost up and her own time was nearing an end. They had a lot to discuss to make this relationship work, and they were avoiding, especially the leaving part. She groaned out loud in frustration. “Why do some things have to be so damned hard?”

She licked dry lips and smiled despite it all. Some things weren’t hard at all such as, loving Catt, kissing Catt, and touching Catt. She groaned again knee deep in a different type of frustration. They had mutually agreed to set aside the physical side of their relationship to deal with the emotional and mental aspect, and it was just killing her. Her body ached to re-familiarize itself with her lover’s. The hungry kisses they had allowed themselves to share left her shaking, unbelievably aroused, and needy. Lil shivered as she remembered the soft growling sounds Catt made when tongues touched and dueled much like their hands did over clothed bodies.

“Ugh,” she whispered. “I can’t take this. My fingers are going to end up doing the walking.”

She smirked to herself. ‘I wonder if she would like to listen? Bad, bad Lilian!’ The young brunette started to giggle. Then she cocked her head to the side at the sound of a closing door, knowing it was her sister. Her smile got bigger. The two of them had been great in supporting her, and when she told them that Catt and her were finally together, hell, they seemed almost happier than she was. If it was possible, the bond between the sisters had become stronger. It had solidified into an entity of its own that had to be nurtured. Lil’s friendship with Tara was one of playful regard full of respect and admiration, surrounded by genuine caring. That and the fact that the woman was damned intriguing helped also. She grinned thinking of the first time she had met Tara at her parent’s house.

The grin quivered then disappeared. Her parents. ‘God, there was so much to tell them, but I’m scared shitless. They finally came around for Gab, but the both of us being gay? It’s gonna be ugly I can feel it. I can’t tell them till I’m absolutely ready. I don’t care how long it takes,’ her inner voice commented. She pursed her lips as she heard another door close. Deciding at that moment not to get up, she threw the covers over her head and flopped over on her stomach, trying to ward off reality physically and mentally.

******

Tara yawned once more as she studied the computer monitor. ‘Damn she was getting good,’ she smiled crookedly to herself. The strawberry blonde made sure her lover’s body was throbbing and exhausted before she left for work. ‘She’s getting damned good. Well, she had a good teacher.’ The tall woman’s grin widened. Since she had moved in, they had re-christened every room of the house and then some. She bit her lip to keep from giggling as she recalled them getting caught with their pants down, literally, in the attempt to ‘take a break’ from moving her in. Shannon had steadfastly avoided looking them in the eye the remainder of the day and constantly mumbled something about “scorched eye sockets” and Jake’s constant dig was “Ew,” every time he saw one of them.

The woman picked up her coffee cup to take a healthy swig, savoring the taste of amaretto. The little woman had finally rubbed off on her with the ‘damned flavored coffees,’ but it was no matter because Tara had in return, gotten Gabrielle hooked on Xena and Buffy in a matter of a week. She just loved the way all five foot six inches of her lover would try to act out the scenes in animated fashion with wild kicks and punches into the non-resistant air. Even little Jamie jumped up and down upon hearing the Xena theme song, if the little girl was up to watch it. She sat her coffee down and keyed in a new command to look at inventory.

Her mind ventured to Lil and Catt. Who would have thought it? The ice queen cometh and was melted. ‘I still don’t know how to feel and think about that. We may have too much history between us to be friends. I know Lil is gonna want us to try.’ She sighed and scratched the bridge of her nose. “We’ll see how it goes,” she whispered aloud. Coming out of her thoughts, she logged onto the Internet to check mail. Things were really slow, so she decided a little surfing was in order too and maybe even an early day. The blaring of the phone almost served to interrupt her down time. She stared at the offensive equipment and decided to let John get it from the garage.

“Ugh,” she said as the internal buzzer went off.

“Yeah?”

“Hey boss lady, Gab on line one.”

“Okay thanks John. Hey listen, why don’t you knock off early? We’re gonna be pretty slow today.”

“Oh, great will do.”

She ended that conversation to go on to a more pleasing one. She smiled, feeling the flush of happiness warm her cheeks.

“Hey you,” she said into the receiver.

“Hey yourself sleepy head. What are you doing?”

“Actually, playing on the computer and thinking about you.”

“Oh, really? You wouldn’t happen to be thinking about this morning, last night or even yesterday afternoon by any chance?” Gabrielle couldn’t disguise the smile in her voice.

“My, my aren’t you the smug one.”

“Well, I aim to please.”

Tara laughed out right. She loved this little banter between them. It was exhilarating. “Mmm, yes you do. Hey, I was thinking about knocking off early. Maybe we could go out to lunch and then pick up where we left off?” Tara’s voice lowered an octave, becoming smoky and sensual.

Gabrielle welcomed the jolt of the shiver that invaded her body. “Oh God, you’re bad!”

“You like me that way.”

Her breathing hitched, and she swallowed audibly. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t.” She cleared her throat to alleviate the hoarseness. “Um, but, I can’t. My agent called this morning to remind me about a book signing I have at 1 o’clock in Indianapolis. I was calling you to tell you before I got, uh, sidetracked.”

“Awww, okay. I guess I could catch up on some paper work and inventory now that I’ve sent John home. How long do you think you’ll be?”

“I should be back by or before six. I’m may go do a little shopping while I’m here.”

“Okay Red. I’ll have dinner ready and waiting.”

“Kay. Hey listen, if I get back early I’ll stop by the shop on the way home okay?”

“Yeah, okay. Hurry back. I love you.”

“Love you too T. See you later.”

Tara hung up the phone and logged off the Internet. “Oh boy! Inventory!” The woman murmured with mock enthusiasm. She blew out an annoyed puff of air, disturbing her bangs. “Can you say boring day ahead?”

*****

Caitlin wrung her hands one more time as she sat down heavily on the couch in her hotel room. She looked down at the carpet and envisioned the wear she had already caused from pacing all morning. She sighed in exasperation.

“Come on girl, you have landed multi-million dollar advertising accounts and it scares you shitless to meet a one and a half year old child!” She exclaimed to the empty, quiet room. “Yeah, it does.”

Jumping up again, she began to follow her previous pacing pattern. The normally cool blonde licked the nervous sweat forming over her top lip and deposited now clammy hands into the pockets of her linen slacks. Nervous was not strong enough a word. She had never been around children before and had never had the urge to be a mother. Knowing somewhere down deep that she had too much baggage for that. However, most of that baggage had been lifted, but the question remained. Could she handle loving a woman with a child? She whimpered out loud as her heart contracted in fear. Was it too much too soon? Opening her heart to Lil was one thing, but letting an impressionable child into her life was decidedly another. They still had a lot to discuss regarding their own relationship. Catt wanted to scream in frustration. She plopped back down onto the beige sofa, closing her eyes. She smiled inwardly in remembering Jamie’s appearance. She looked incredibly like her mother with the same blue eyes, same pert nose, and same pouty lips.

Her smile turned crooked as she thought about her lover’s lips. The way they tasted, the warmth they generated, and the way they pulled on her. . . Caitlin groaned outloud as another frustration took over. Shaking her head to clear it, she knew the only thing she could do was hope for the best and that the little girl liked story time at the library. The tall blonde glanced at her watch. There was two more hours to go. She ran an elegant hand haphazardly through blonde locks and laughed derisively. “Wish I had a friend to talk to, but she’s the only one.” Her life as a bitch had cost her a lot. Getting up once more, she grabbed her keys and coat. It was time to mend fences.

******

Gabrielle knocked softly on her sister’s bedroom door then tip toed in. Lil peered at her from over the covers. She blinked a couple of times then spoke.

“Hey, what time is it?”

“It’s about 10:30. I can’t believe Jamie is still out.”

“Mmm, well she had a late night. Wouldn’t go to sleep. May have been all that noise.” Lil’s eyes flashed with mirth.”

“Ah, you heard then?” Gabrielle ducked her head to hide the blush.

“Uh huh. I always hear it. You two were just especially loud this time.” Her mouth twisted into a cocky grin.

“Uh, sorry can’t help myself. She does this thing with her tongue. . .

Lil waved her hands. “Whoa! That’s too much information.”

Gabrielle laughed at the shocked look on her sister’s face. “Okay, okay listen. I’ve got to go to Indianapolis for a book signing. I should be back late this afternoon. By the way, are you going out with Caitlin today?”

Lil raised an eyebrow and grinned sexily. “Uh huh, she’s meeting Jamie for the first time too.”

“Ah, well good luck with that.”

Lil stared down at the sheets.

“Hey what’s wrong?”

The younger woman sighed. “I’ve got to leave in two days, and she has to go back to work in three. We haven’t even talked about the distance.”

“Oh,” she walked in further, sitting on the bed. “From what you two went through to be together, this is something you really have to work out.”

“I know. I’m gonna talk her about it today.”

Gabrielle rubbed a covered foot, trying to relay support. “Good luck. You love each other, and I’m sure you’ll work this out.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right. I’ll see you later.”

Gabrielle smiled and softly padded out of the room.

******

Caitlin sat in her rental car just outside Tara’s shop. “What do I say to her? Sorry I fucked you over. Now, I need your advice? No, no how about, sorry I fucked you over, can you help me not fuck up again?” Catt smiled inwardly. ‘I’ll do anything to make this work with you Lil and that includes mend fences, humbling myself, and getting advice from someone who has known you longer than I have.’ Having recited the speech to herself, Catilin got out of the car.

Tara sat at her desk her chin supported by her hand, while the other hand tapped the page down key on the keyboard. Her lids hung heavily over her eyes as her thoughts strayed from one thing to another. “God, I’m so bored! I wonder if I should sneak away and go play with lil bit?’ Her forehead creased as she frowned. ‘She’s leaving soon. It’s gonna be strange not having her around pulling on my pant leg and calling me Boo boo. Crap, why am I kidding myself? I love that kid.’ Tara sighed. Maybe it was time she raised one herself. Just maybe. The pensive woman looked up startled out of her reverie by the chiming of the door. Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw who it was.

“Caitlin, what. . .”

“Can we talk?” The older woman nervously pushed a stray blonde lock behind her ear. She looked at Tara pleadingly.

The younger woman was completely taken aback. The woman she knew as Caitlin had visibly softened. There was no hardness around her eyes, and while the arrogance was still there in her unconscious body language, Tara could see a need for help. The younger woman stared into sparkling gray eyes that were snapping with life. She was looking at a changed woman. Where Caitlin was beautiful before, she was breathtaking now. Tara instantly held a new found respect for Lil. Quirking an eyebrow in question, the younger woman waved Caitlin back past the gate closing off the open office area. Offering the older woman her chair, she sat on the edge of her desk. Resting her hands loosely on her thighs, she waited silently. Caitlin peered into curious blue, her generous mouth curving into a smile. Finally, she spoke.

“I love her. You know I do.”

Tara nodded.

“I’m meeting Jamie for the first time today.”

The brunette smirked. “You’ll love her. She’s a good kid.”

Catt fiddled with the buttons of her coat in a nervous gesture. “Do you think she’ll like me?”

Tara saw the nervousness and heard the unsure hesitation in her former lover’s voice. Her own voice softened to compensate. “From what I’ve seen, she responds to her mother’s cues. If Lil is touchy feely toward you, I think she’ll respond well.”

“Mmm, I hope so. She looks so much like Lil that I can’t help but be enamoured. Caitlin paused for a minute, letting the warmth of her lover flood through her. She glanced back at Tara smiling slightly at the amused look on the other woman’s face. “I’m taking her to the library for story time. Do you think she’ll like it?”

“Hell yeah! If it’s anything with pictures, and the reader acts it out with puppets and sounds, she’ll love it.”

“God, I hope so. I checked. The reader does act it out with hand puppets.” Caitlin said with her confidence increasing.

“Then I think you’ll be okay,” Tara replied.

An uncomfortable silence fell between them. Tara bit her lip and waited. Knowing that because of the past, a thin sheet of ice separated them in a wary stalemate. It was obvious the woman had changed, but did she have enough room in her heart to forgive? Tara sighed inwardly not knowing the answer but willing to try to find out what it was. She cleared her throat.

“You wanna tell me what else is wrong?”

Caitlin flinched. She had hurt this woman in the past. Intentionally, terribly. Was she offering an olive branch? Her conscious whispered, ‘Do you deserve it?’ After a brief moment she answered the question. ‘You’ve changed. I think you do.’ Looking into unwavering blue eyes, Caitlin answered.

“I’m leaving in a couple of days. They need me back at the office. I want to ask her to come with me, but is that fair? She’s in school, and I know her parents live in the same city. Is it fair for me to ask her to leave all of you?” She stuttered slightly. “I-I’ve been afraid to broach the subject with her. I don’t want it to end. I don’t want to lose her.” The older woman ran an elegant hand through spun gold.

Tara cocked her head to the side, looking thoughtful. “Whew! You said a mouthful. Um,” pausing for a moment. “It’s obvious her heart belongs with you Catt. Something tells me she would follow you anywhere. Still, you gotta look at it this way. Her parent’s don’t know about you two, and Jamie does have a dad she sees on a regular basis. Not to hurt your feelings, but it is a tad selfish for you to want her to leave everything just as it would be vice versa. I’m sure you have family back east or friends. . .”

“No, not really . There is no one. My parents and I are estranged, and I can’t see that relationship reforming anytime soon.”

“Oh,” Tara replied surprised. “I didn’t know that .”

Caitlin laughed derisively. “Yeah, how could you. I never really told you anything about me, but no, there is no one except my job. I had to claw my way up in that company.”

A perfect dark brow arched. “Well, some thing has got to give. If you really want to be with her weigh your options. She has a whole life she’d be leaving. You have a high level job that you’ve probably had long enough to work anywhere. Sounds like sacrifices need to be made either way, and you two have a lot to talk about.”

Caitlin closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “You’re right.”

She opened her eyes, looking up at Tara with a profound look of sadness crossing her features. Tara’s brows drew together in confusion. Softly Catt spoke.

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. When I look back to the girl you were, and the woman you’ve become. I realize I was probably the biggest ass on earth. I really started to care for you—you know? But, I didn’t know how, so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I hurt you, and for that, I am terribly sorry.”

Tara studied gray eyes intently. She had never expected this. It was time to see if her heart was indeed big enough. She cleared her throat.

“Over the years, I’ve come to realize that people have a reason for everything they do, even hating others. I know you had yours, but it took me until someone opened my heart again to see that. I got past what happened between us, but I never understood it until now.” Tara scooted closer to the seated figure. “What I am trying to say is that I-I would like to get to know the new Caitlin.”

Tara tentatively reached out a hand and covered the other woman’s shoulder. Caitlin let out a breath she hadn’t been aware of holding. ‘She wanted to be friends. She hadn’t had any of those since grade school.’ Glancing up into forgiving eyes, Catt covered the hand over her shoulder with her own. She squeezed and smiled wanly.

“Um, you’ll have to help me with this. I haven’t had a friend in a long, long time.”

Tara smirked. “I’m about to say something really corny, but it needs to be said. That’s what friends are for.”

The older woman smiled back genuinely then laughed lightly.

“I think I’m going to enjoy getting to know you. Your Gabrielle has done a good job,” she said smirking herself.

“Well, well, well, I think Lil is really starting to rub off on you too.” Tara replied, giving the other woman a mock glare.

“I hope so.” Catt looked down at her watch. “Ugh, okay I’d better go. I’m to pick up Lil in a little bit.” Caitlin squeezed the hand on her shoulder once more and got up to leave.

“Good luck!” Tara shouted to the retreating figure.

“Okay, thanks for this!”

Then she was gone.

Tara plopped down into the warm seat. She smiled and said into the now quite office, “Well, to say that was interesting would be an understatement. Funny what slow, boring days bring.” Supporting her chin once more with her hand, she pushed various keys on the keyboard with a small smile pasted on her face. ‘Can’t wait to see what you got planned for me Red,’ she said to herself as an after thought.

******

Gabrielle gave the book store owner a genuine smile.

“Hi. I know I’m early Mr. Clayborne, but its my policy to come check things out first. That is, if you don’t mind?”

The older man smiled back charmed by the infectious glint of life in her eyes.

“No, no problem at all. I’ll show you where we have you set up.”

With a dramatic flair, he waved his hand for her to proceed him.

“It’s right through here Ms. Howard.”

Gabrielle walked through the shelves to observe her sitting area. There was a large table laden with her latest book. The table was covered by a soft green table cloth. The chair she was given appeared to be soft and comfortable. She looked behind the furniture, spying an array of flowers. That alone gave it a more approachable air. The petite writer smiled up at the older man.

“Okay it looks good. Is everything else in order?

“Yes Ms. Howard. We will have security to control the lines in order to prevent an incident. They will also be snacks and coffee for the customers.”

“Ah, sounds good. Do you mind if I look around a bit before I begin?”

“Oh, sure go ahead. Would you like coffee?”

“Ooo yes, swiss mocha if you have it.”

He nodded and left. Gabrielle smirked to herself thinking about Tara and her new found addiction to coffee. Her smirk widened. Emma was coming on cable tonight. She knew if she tried she could talk her lover into watching. After all, she suffered through Buffy and Xena, refusing to admit that she found the shows delightfully intriguing. She looked down at her watch. It was almost time to start.

******

Gabrielle smiled fondly at the two women.

“We just love your characters. They seem so real like they could just walk in off the street, and they are so smart.”

The writer let out an affectionate laugh. “Thank you ladies. I appreciate it.”

One woman turned to the other. “Look at her Lisa, she’s much more prettier than on the book jacket.” The other woman nodded.

Gabrielle blushed and smirked up at the women.

“Tch, you’re so good for my ego. Can I pack you up and carry you both home?”

They giggled like school girls. She talked to the women for a few more minutes. It had been over an hour, and she found that she was really enjoying herself. ‘This re-acquaintance ,as Jonah had called it, was fun. She smiled up at the next fan and signed his book with a flourish.

******

The man walked with an lazy glide down the busy sidewalk. He whistled a tune he couldn’t remember the words to and wiggled his cold fingers in his pockets. Bringing one of his hands out, he scratched his forehead then ran the hand through short blonde hair. The woman walking past him smiled in appreciation. He smiled back totally used to women’s reaction to his blonde good looks. Soulful brown eyes looked ahead. He tugged the coat closer to his lanky, muscular body. Pursing full lips together, he continued whistling. Having a woman in his life right now was just what he needed. The little voice in his head had told him so.

The little voice told him to find the right one, and lately that voice had become louder. He frowned inwardly, thinking about all the women he thought were the right ones that had left him. His face screwed up into a snarl. He wouldn’t let the next one leave, and he would do anything to get and keep her once the voice pointed her out to him. His eyes glazed over, making them look abnormally bright. Yes, no one would leave him ever again. The man started to whistle again then stopped, noticing the flyer posted in front of the book store a few feet in front of him. He walked closer. “Gabrielle,” he whispered, remembering red-blonde hair and beautiful green eyes. It was a sign. “YES!’ the voice screamed, making it feel like a thousand needles were penetrating his temples. Shaking his head, he smiled. He should have known she was the right one. He should have known she would find her way back to him. He pushed open the door and followed the small line of people. The stranger crossed his arms over his chest and waited patiently.

Gabrielle looked up. After three hours, the line was thinning. Sometimes she really enjoyed this, but it took a lot out of her emotionally. They all had so many questions about her writings and about her personal life. ‘Oh well, it’s over for the time being.’ A man’s hand picked up a book and put it in front of her. She glanced up with a smile already on her face. The smile froze, making her face hurt.

“Gabrielle,” the man said softly, “long time no see.”

Brown eyes raked over her countenance. She was more beautiful than he remembered. ‘She’s yours now. Can’t you see it in her eyes?’ A slow smile spread over his face.

The strawberry blonde mentally flinched and tried to mask the panic she could feel rising from showing in her eyes. Her heart slammed against her ribcage, and she could hear her breath howling in her ears. Steve. He was back. She closed her eyes and swallowed as memories flooded her in quick succession. It had been six years since she had first dated Steve Foster. They had met at a coffee shop, and he seemed nice enough. That was the operative word. Seemed. By the third date, she found out that he had been following her when he called her over a male friend’s house, where he cursed the guy for ‘fucking his woman.’ He called at her parents and even showed up, laying on the charm. He followed her every where showing up at supermarkets, lunch dates, and even at her publisher’s. He had even called her one morning and told her the gray skirt would look better than the blue one. Her apprehension had moved to terror.

She remembered her hands shaking as she slammed the window shut and let down the blinds. Finally, she could take no more, telling an old college friend with somewhat shady dealings. He discreetly found someone to ‘convince him to leave her alone.’ That was the last time she saw him. Now, he was back. She took a calming breath. ‘Calm down. It’s okay. He doesn’t know that you don’t live in Gary anymore. He doesn’t know anything about you now.’ she tried to fake a smile but failed miserably. Swallowing she pushed ahead. It was time to start with the subterfuge.

“Hi, Steve. Yes, it has been a long time.”

He continued to stare at her. ‘She’s smiling at you. I knew she would want you back.’

When she saw his eyes glaze over, Gabrielle felt a chill enter her body, making everything around her seem sluggish. ‘Oh God. Help me!’ she cried on the inside. To cover the terror she was feeling, she laughed nervously.

“Small world. What are you doing in the city?”

His smile widened. “I live here now. Do you—I mean—live here?”

“No, no moved to Ohio about four years ago,” she said quickly.

He frowned slightly as anger flooded him. ‘She ran away from you! But, you’ll get her back where she belongs.’ The anger flittered away as if on butterfly wings. His smile returned. “So, I see you still write. I bet you’re as good as ever.”

She reddened stiffly. “Thank you.”

‘Take her now! Make her stay with you!’

‘No! It’s too soon. Patience.’

“Gabrielle, why don’t you stay in the city tonight and have dinner with me. We can catch up on old times.”

‘Warning, get the fuck out now!’ Her mind screamed. “Uh, sorry Steve. I’m involved with some one. I can’t do that.” She quickly got up from her chair. “If you’ll excuse me. I have to get home.”

Moving as fast as propriety would allow, she walked toward Mr. Claiborne. Speaking shortly with him, the scared woman made a bee line for the exit. She turned slightly when she got to the door, seeing Steve still standing there.

The young man stood there, tracing the picture on the back of the book cover with gentle care. ‘She doesn’t need anybody else. She has you. There is no one else. She made it up to play hard to get. She lied to you. Women are like that.’ Needles pressed against his temples. He held his breath until the pain passed. He glanced back down at the picture. Sharp fingernails began to dig into the paper, making it curl and distorting the features.

******

Gabrielle sat in the car with the engine running and the music blaring. She turned it up louder in an effort to block her thoughts, but they persisted. A frission of fear snaked it’s way up her spine. ‘Get a hold of yourself. He can’t hurt you. He can’t follow you. How could you forget? How could you? Oh Tara baby, what do I tell you?’ She shook her head, thinking of a semi-truth to relate to her lover. ‘No reason to have her worried over nothing. I can handle this. It’s just a skeleton from my past. I need to get my mind off this.’ Putting the car in drive, she left the lot.

After driving around for a good thirty minutes, her head had finally clear, but she had to get the sight of him, the smell of him out of her consciousness as well. Smiling softly, she knew the perfect place to lose her worries. Turning on to the highway, she headed home just a little earlier than expected.

******

Caitlin rang the door bell and huddled her coat closer to her body. She waited patiently. The door opened slowly, revealing the one thing she had wanted to see all day, mother and daughter. Lil smiled at her lover as Jamie tugged on her collar.

“Hey.”

Catt swallowed hard her heart showing in her eyes. She touched a smooth, warm cheek with gloved hands. Lil leaned into the touch. Finally, the older woman replied with slight huskiness in her usual velvet tone.

“Hey you.” She turned to Jamie. “Hey you too little one.”

The child grinned toothily, making Caitlin grin back. It was a good start. She looked back at her young lover.

“Do you need help with the car seat or anything?”

“Na, I’m just carrying the one bag, and I’ll have to attach the car seat to the belt in your backseat.”

Lil smiled inwardly, deciding to escalate things a little.

“Can you hold her while I do all that though?”

Caitlin’s eyes almost doubled in size, causing Lil to smile affectionately and sympathetically.

“It’s okay she won’t bite. Honest.”

The older woman’s mouth opened, moved the snapped shut again. “Uhm, I don’t know. What if I drop her?

“You won’t baby. Just take a deep breath and go for it.”

Catt still stared at her lover with unsure eyes. Lil looked back with understanding and patience. She detached Jamie from her hip and handed her to the other woman. Jamie reached out with her arms, going to Caitlin eagerly. The child buried her face in the other woman’s neck contently and played with the collar of her coat. She looked down at Jamie, smiling shyly, then back at her lover, doing nothing to hide the happy sob that was wrenched from her throat. Lil covered her mouth with her hands and studied them both with tears in her eyes. Two of the people she loved most in the world, together. Bringing one hand up, she caressed a cool cheek. Leaning in, she warmed cool lips with her own.

“I love you so much. I knew she would too.”

Unable to form words, Caitlin only nodded.

“Okay, let me get our stuff, and we can go,” Lil said softly.

Again, the blonde nodded.

Now warmly ensconced in the car, Lil spoke again.

“Where are we going anyway. You never said.”

Caitlin smiled enigmatically. “Don’t worry. I think she’ll like it.”

Lil studied her lover for a long minute then smiled, “Well, okay. I’ll leave it up to you.”

A few minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot of the library. A light went on in Lilian’s head.

“Ah, story time. Good idea. Do you want to get her or should I. . .”

“I’ll get her just get the bag.”

Catt leaned in to unbuckle the baby seat. Jamie went willingly into her arms, gurgling happily.

“Hey! Agoo, ma!” The little girl said excitedly.

Caitlin glanced down at the child and laughed softly.

“Yeah, sweetie, I hope you have fun.” She kissed the top of the small head. This felt so right, so familiar. All nervousness and awkwardness were gone. She handled Jamie with an easy mind and heart.

With the two lovers hand in hand, they entered the library. Finding a seat on the floor and up close, they sat down. Jamie bounced on the carpet elatedly. Catt looked over at her lover.

“Were you like this when you were a child?”

Lil laughed. “God no! I was hellfire to hear Gab tell it, always into everything that wasn’t nailed down. She told me I had boundless energy. My nickname used to be Sparky.”

Catt laughed a loud. “I like it. I can picture you being that way. You still have so much energy now, and it goes along with that quick wit. The nickname should have stuck.” She paused. “Then where does she get her temperament?”

“From her father,” the brunette answered. “I’ll tell you about him, but this is not the right place.”

The other woman nodded. “No rush. I want to learn everything there is about you slowly so I can remember it here,” she pointed to her head, “and here,” she pointed at her heart.

Lil blushed and hung her head. The older woman lifted her chin and with a thumb caressed a soft cheek.

“So beautiful,” she said huskily.”

Gray eyes worked rapidly, taking in every feature. The younger woman’s breath hitched, and she bit her lip as it accelerated.

“You shouldn’t say such things to me. I can’t seem to control my reaction when you do.”

“Go with it,” Caitlin replied as her thumb moved to outline a sensual bottom lip. Their eyes locked, communicating mutual need and desire. The moment was broken by quiet murmurs and the shuffling of children. Lil took the hand from her face and squeezed it, trying to relay unspoken emotion and bring her breathing under control. Caitlin got the message. Her eyes seemed to glow from within. Jamie used the free minute to crawl into Catt’s lap. The little girl stood on shaky legs, between her new friend’s legs. She gurgled and cooed as if she was talking to the woman. With exploratory hands, Jamie pulled lightly on earlobes, played with her nose, and tried to stick her little finger in the woman’s mouth. Lil laughed. The mirth was infectious. Jamie started to giggle then Catt joined in. There was a loud ‘Shhhh!’ Lil looked around guiltily. The show was about to start.

Story time went on without a hitch. Jamie squealed and laughed at the Curious George puppets. Dispensing a lot of energy, the child fell asleep in Catt’s lap before the hour was up. The tall blonde glanced down at the sleeping child, taking in her innocence. With a now sure hand, she ran fingers through dark, curly hair. Lil looked on enjoying the interaction.

“She likes you a lot you know. She hasn’t taking a liking to anybody like that since Tara,” she whispered.

“You think so? I like her a lot too. She’s a sweet girl just like her mommy.” They grinned stupidly at each other. They were interrupted again by the woman reading the story. She announced that the hour was up. Taking Jamie carefully in her arms, Caitlin got up gracefully, leaving a cloud of Chanel in her wake. Lil took a deep whiff and continued to smile goofily as they exited the library. While buckling her daughter in, Lil glanced over at the driver’s seat.

“So, what do you wanna do now?”

Just like that, the jovial mood became heavy and somber, when Caitlin turned allowing the younger woman to see the bleak look in her eyes.

“We need to talk Sparky.”

The corners of Lil’s mouth raised in spite of herself at the use of the nickname.

“Uh, I know.” Blue eyes looked away. “We can go back to Gabs. Jamie needs to be put down, and she’s not due back till late this afternoon.”

“Your sister’s house it is then.”

The drive was filled with charged silence, knowing the decision made would effect their relationship for the good or bad.

Lilian walked quietly to the bedroom and laid the sleeping Jamie on the bed. Caitlin sat on the couch in the living room, silently wringing her hands. She stood up as her lover entered.

“Hey, um, I guess we have a lot to talk about,” the brunette remarked.

“Yeah, we do. I have to go in a few days. Three to be exact, and I want you to come with me.”

Lil hung her head. “I love you, and I hope you know how much, but how can you ask me to leave my life. I mean my family is here, and Jamie’s too young for me to yank her away from her grandparents and her father.”

Caitlin pivoted on the couch until she was completely facing her young lover.

‘Tara was right. This is selfish of me. I already feel like a heel.’ The older woman reached out, grabbing Lil’s hand.

“I can understand that, Sparky. I just want you with me.”

“I know. I want to be with you too. Why can’t you move here? I’m sure you can get a job somewhere.”

Catt sighed in exasperation, shaking her head. “It’s not that simple. I’ve invested ten years in this company, and I’m next in line for vice president. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don’t want to have to get another job and start over in a position beneath me. My life has been my career for the past few years,” she said in a pleading tone.

Lilian’s eyes flashed with hurt, and she jerked away.

“So, you’re telling me that your job is more important than us?! I mean. I’m sure you can get a job in advertising anywhere. I can’t get another family.” She jumped up and began pacing. “I can’t believe this! All that we went through to be together and now we can’t! What kind of shit is that!?”

Caitlin rubbed the bridge of her nose. She felt the beginnings of a headache. “Maybe we can compromise. I can cut back on my work load somehow and come see you every weekend. It’s not like I can’t afford it.”

Lil stopped in front of her lover and kneeled down, resting her hands on the strong, convenient thighs in front of her.

“Listen to me,” she said on a sob as tears started to fall, “I want to be with you everyday, if this is what it takes for us to be together. I’ll take it over nothing.”

Caitlin parted her legs to allow the other woman closer. She took the tear filled face in her hands and leaned down to kiss her forehead. The blonde rubbed her cheek against the downy soft dark hair.

“We’ll make it sweetie. I’ll figure something out.”

Lilian hiccuped, stood up, and sat back down in her lover’s lap. The older woman gently ran her hands through dark curls as she rocked gently back and forth, murmuring nonsense.

******

Gabrielle sat in her car outside her lover’s shop. A slow smile spread over her face, when she saw Tara’s car.

“You’re in for a very nice surprise T. I need to be with you right now.”

She got out of the car and walked with purpose toward the door.

Tara swung around in her desk chair, shooting wads of paper at the trashcan. The chime jingled, alerting her to a potential customer. She looked up and blue eyes sparkled with joy.

“Red! I thought. . .”

“Shhh.” Gabrielle put her finger to her own lips. She then turned around to lower the blinds and put the closed sign on the door.

“Red? wha. . .”

Again, all that was said was, “Shhh.”

Green and blue met from across the room. The air thickened and crackled with energy. Tara swallowed hard and planted her feet to the ground, effectively stopping one kind of spinning to partake of another. The strawberry blonde walked with feline grace toward her lover. Tara was mesmerized, watching each step, counting them. Draping her coat over the desk, finally, she arrived in front of her. Tara’s legs parted without question, allowing the younger woman to step closer. Gabrielle looked down at her lover. Russet eyebrows drew together in total concentration. She had too keep some kind of control, and the only way that could happen was if the her dark haired lover did not touch her. Her eyes burned, signifying the heat boiling inside. She had to try. It wasn’t about her pleasure. It was secondary, and only an added bonus if she came.

With expert hands, she traced the strong features of her lover’s face. Hands skittered over eyebrows, the bridge of her nose, high cheekbones, and finally over full lips. After the shorter woman leaned down, lips lingered a hairs width apart. Breaths exchanged hotly. A small pink tongue speared from the petite woman’s luscious mouth, outlining the lips below it with a quick flick. Tara whimpered raggedly. With larger, stronger hands, she reached up winding them through red-gold in an attempt to crush the teasing lips to her own.

“No,” Gabrielle said huskily, firmly. “Take your hands away or I’ll stop right now.”

Tara’s blue eyes snapped with need and disobedience.

“Trust me.”

The other woman nodded her head and removed her appendages, only to grip the sides of the chair as an anchor. The younger woman grinned saucily.

With a voice rough with need, Gabrielle asked, “You missed me?”

Tara watched as the red lips moved to form words and a pink tongue sneak out to wet soft flesh. It was so close. Her chest heaved, and her body was beginning to ache. She squeezed the woman’s legs with her own hard thighs, hoping to relay a message, but the little woman wanted to hear the words fall from a velvet tongue.

“Answer me.”

“Oh yessss!” Tara replied through ragged breaths with only a second’s hesitation.

As a reward, Gabrielle flicked the moist lips again then sucked the fleshy bottom one in the warm cavern of her mouth. She sucked rhythmically, bit into the soft flesh, and soothed it with a busy tongue. Tara moaned. Her hands moved from the side of the chair to wrap around the small form between her legs. She almost sighed, realizing that her lover was going to allow this contact. There was no way she wanted the pleasurable torture to end. No way.

Gabrielle ended the exchange with a moist plop.

“Mmm, you want me?”

In answer, Tara cupped tight buttocks in her hands squeezing the clothed flesh firmly, making the petite woman whimper. The sound shot straight through to the taller woman’s clit.

“Oh God yes! S-so much,” the older woman replied hoarsely.

With her voice just a little higher, a little unsteadier, the younger woman wrenched out, “Tell me what you want.”

The young woman so loved this game of submission. It made things hotter. It made her wetter.

“You know.” Tara looked up into darkened green her own eyes hooded and heavy with arousal.

Her lips were so close that the brunette could taste the other woman’s coffee laden breath and feel the imprint of lips on her own. Gabrielle’s active fingers moved from tracing lips, to caressing exposed skin, to wrap around her lover’s neck. The smaller woman could feel the pulse beat excitedly. The same hands shifted to tangle into midnight tresses. She yanked with authority, causing Tara’s head to snap back and a hiss to escape her lips. Blue bore into green, and lips quivered from being so close and yet neglected. Leaning in until their lip actually touched, Gabrielle spoke, making sure her lover felt every whisper as it came from her mouth.

“You want me to. . .”

The young woman forced her tongue into her lover’s waiting mouth, sweeping through the moist cavern. As quickly as it happened, it stopped. She retreated. Their lips just touching once more.

“To fuck you.”

Tara’s whole being contracted as heat flooded her body in an unforgiving wave, pooling at the center and making her clit swell and throb. She cried out sensuously.

“Please.”

With that one word, the young woman ended the torture in a searing kiss, leaving them moaning simultaneously. The red head stood to her full height, putting her whole body into the kiss. Lips moved brusingly, unevenly, and tongues fought for domination caressing and flicking moistly. Tara’s busy hands snaked under her lover’s sweater and spread wide over her naked back. Passion demanded the exchange to go on, but their bodies demanded breath. Gabrielle whimpered as she tore her mouth away, her breathing deep and audible. She stared at the swollen lips under hers hungrily. Nipping said lips with little biting kisses between breaths, she bent at the knee to allow her hands to reach her lover’s waist. Small hands grabbed at the material of Tara’s t-shirt, bunching it and then lifting it over her dark head. Unencumbered breasts swung free, and brown nipples hardened at the sudden rush of air.

Not happy to have to remove her hands from hot skin, Tara reached for her lover, but Gabrielle stepped out from between hard thighs. The tall woman lunged and whimpered in protest.

“Shhh,” was again all she heard.

The little woman turned around, now facing the desk, and swept all the contents, except the computer, off of it. She had to have her like this—at her mercy. Nothing less would do. Her heart thumped against the barrier of her chest, and shaky legs were barely enough to hold her. Her clit throbbed in erotic empathy of the arousal her partner must have been feeling. Her fingers itched to be deep inside her, and her tongue tingled just for a taste. She had to have it right here, right now.

“I want you on the desk.” With her back still turned she added, “Naked, now!”

She heard the squeaking of the chair and turned around. Tara stood on unsteady legs, facing her lover. Her skin was flushed, eyes lidded, lips moist and parted, and her breathing audible. The older woman could feel the fire raging through her body like an inferno, scorching each synapse until functioning was near impossible. Arousal, thick and sweet, accompanied the fire, making it what it was. Wetness flowed from her crotch, making panties feel soggy and jeans heavy.

Tara whispered softly, “Anything.”

Seeing and knowing the passion had weakened her lover, Gabrielle stepped forward careful not to touch supple skin. She reached out to grab hold of jeans and unbuttoned them until red panties were exposed. She slid hands around the slim waist and spread her fingers wide, advancing inside jeans and panties to hot skin. In a not so subtle move, she slithered the clothing down slowly. Her body slithered right along with it. Gabrielle kneeled down when the pants got to her lover’s ankles and untied the work boots. She jerked them off Tara’s feet quickly so that she could step out of her clothes just as fast. The shorter woman stayed in the kneeling position watching muscled legs quiver in anticipation and excitement.

She glanced upward able to see crisp, black hair shiny with moisture and licked her own lips in a stint of anticipation. She looked up further to see the hardened peaks of heaving breasts. It was a beautifully erotic sight. She continued kneeling, watching and waiting at her feet like a honored deity. Tara’s breath hitched on a whimper as the shivering increased. One ragged, needy word fell from her lips.

“G-Gabrielle!”

Inside the other woman quaked at the sound of her name. Her stomach twisted in increased arousal. Still clothed, a light sheen of sweat pelted her skin. Wanting and needing to have her mouth on the abundant amount of skin, Gabrielle slid up slowly, branding one leg with her open mouth and the other with soft fingertips. As she moved further up, hungry hands maneuvered to cup hard buttocks, squeezing and parting pliant cheeks. Tara cried out and put a hand on the desk to keep herself steady. Sweat poured off her body as a testament to the state of arousal. Finally, lips grazed over upper thighs, making their way inward. Tara parted her thighs eagerly, wanting to feel hot lips and the wickedly talented tongue of her lover. They moaned together. One because a velvet tongue flicked over sensitive inner thighs. The other at the taste of the wetness pooled there. Gabrielle devoured the juices fervently. She moved higher and higher until her nose brushed pubic hair, at last getting a strong whiff of the musky arousal. She groaned louder as the smell tied another knot in her belly.

The red head paused. This was getting out of hand, and her plans were falling by the waist side. She shook her head slightly in an attempt to clear it. Slowly, she pulled away. Tara whimpered, wound large hands in her lover’s hair, and held the smaller woman against her aroused body, as a means of protest. With surprising strength, Gabrielle was able to remove the searching hands. She kissed both palms and stood up.

“Sit on the desk for me baby. Please.”

Tara stared at her with eyes dark and wild.

“Please.”

From somewhere deep in her mind, the plea registered, and she nodded in consent. Taking baby steps on shaking legs, she balanced herself precariously on the edge of the desk. Gabrielle parted her legs, forcing her to scoot back. When she was back far enough, the little woman swung the chair around and had a seat between parted thighs. Setting a hand on both thighs, she parted them further, enabling herself to see the swollen puffy lips of her lover’s dripping sex. Groaning softly, her sense of urgency cranked up a notch. She wanted to feel skin against skin and feel the wetness against it. Stripping herself of sweater and bra, Gabrielle scooted the chair closer. She moaned louder when she felt velvet softness pillow against her breast and wetness settle against her belly. Moving in a little further and sitting more erect, she found her eyes level with delectable breasts. Small hands moved up to claim them. She lifted a full breast and trailed her tongue along the underside, tasting the saltiness of her lover’s skin. Tara gasped, arching her back and wanting more.

The talented tongue flicked rapidly back and forth, moving upward toward the neglected nipple. Suddenly, the office was pierced with a resounding cry. Tongue and nipple met. Using just the tip, she flicked back and forth, back and forth, making it diamond hard. In a change of tactics, Gabrielle sucked the nub deep into her mouth while pumping the other vigorously with fingers. She released it only to do it again and again, making sure teeth and tongue grazed it as lips receded. She moved from breast to breast, nipple to nipple. Unable to help herself, Tara buried her hands in red-gold, holding her to her body. She moaned with each tug and each suck, reveling in the electric tendrils shooting to her clit. Tara moved her hips helplessly against her lover’s stomach, rubbing swollen lips across it and smearing it like her lover wanted. Tara wanted to beg. She wanted to plead. She wanted her inside.

Gabrielle felt as if her insides were sweating. She wanted, needed, craved more. Shooting up from the chair, her lips found the pulse beating at the base of her lover’s neck. She bit into it sucking, until she could almost taste blood. The anxious mouth roamed from neck to shoulders and back again. She ached. She hungered. She whimpered at the consuming need that seemed to be growing exponentially and began grinding her hips against the moving ones around her. Wetness gushed from her crotch, leaving her panties sopping wet. The softness of her slacks rubbed sensuously over her own pulsing lips as well as her lover’s. The speed of her hips increased, causing their bodies to smack together in the seeking of an increase in friction. Lips found each other, swallowing low moans of pleasure. Tongues flicked and slid across and around each other. Nipples met and rubbed together creating their own pleasurable friction.

Not able to take it anymore, Tara whispered against her lover’s mouth, “Inside, please! So good.”

Gabrielle moaned at the request. Her hands immediately headed south; past flat abs; into crisp hair; and over sensitive lips. The older woman cried out and her hips lifted off the desk.

“Oh fuck yesss! Touch me. Touch me please,” the brunette remarked huskily.

The heat was incredible as she parted thick lips as was the wetness. Hot silk surrounded her fingers. It increased her own wetness tenfold, but this was not about her. It was about getting lost in Tara.

“Oh god. Soo wet.”

She had to taste it. She had to. Gabrielle slithered back into the chair, leaving the only contact to their bodies as fingers to soppy sex. Sitting back in the chair, she quickly scooted close once more, parting her lover’s thighs as wide as possible. Her deft fingers explored tiny inner lips, tracing the smoothness to inside and up over and around humming clit. Tara’s hips jerked again, and she laid herself back on the desk, making herself more vulnerable. Then the semi-silence was broken with a scream, as Gabrielle plunged two fingers deep inside her and submerged her tongue into her creamy cleft with the same fervor. Bright colors flashed before the older woman’s eyes as pleasure blinded her to her surroundings. She moaned harshly with each thrust, each flick.

Sitting up on her elbows she arched and pushed her body into her lover’s fingers, milking them, riding them. Her stomach clenched and the tips of her fingers tingled with delight. Electricity arced through her body, fraying every nerve to it’s limit. The desk groaned as her hips rocked faster and faster. It was so hot. It was so good, and she was so fucking wet. More than she had ever been before. She could hear her lover’s tongue flicking through the wetness and the moist slap of fingers moving deep. She could hear the most wonderful sound of all. The sound of her Gabrielle moaning at the taste of her, at the feel of her. Gabrielle savored the sweetness that flowed over her tongue and chin, drinking from it’s source then using it to make her lover’s throbbing clit bigger and wetter.

Her own wetness caused her to squirm against the chair, pressing her hips against it and tightly clinched thighs squeezed just the right amount of pleasure from her own clit. She moaned loudly as another gush of wetness landed on her tongue. Knowing the time had past for tenderness, her fingers plunged into her lover at a dictated speed, and her tongue flicked rapidly over aroused flesh. Tara’s back arched completely off the desk. She could feel it starting from deep inside, working itself out with each thrust.

“Unnngh, gonna come!”

The younger woman thrust deep and hard, feeling the muscles grab her invading fingers. Expert lips pulled her exposed clit. ‘Almost there.’ She squeezed her thighs closer and moaned, pushing herself to catch up. Tara’s body was taut like bow and waiting to snap. So close. One, two more thrust and her orgasm tore through her, producing convulsions, and waves of pleasure acute enough to be the other side of pain. Her scream echoed through the room. Sweat flew from her face and hair as her head turned wildly from side to side. The younger woman refused to stop lapping and thrusting, milking her lover dry. Each sob, each cry pushed her closer until she dropped of the edge into oblivion. Facing her own orgasm, Gabrielle wrenched her mouth free, muffling her cry against an accommodating thigh. “Fuck!” She muttered as pleasure crashed through her body, making her quiver and green eyes roll to the back of her head.

The office was quiet again except for the occasional whimper and harsh breathing. After several minutes, speech also returned. Tara tried to raise her torso, but failed miserably.

“God Red! Are you trying to kill me?” She waited for the giggle to come. It never did. Dark brows drew together in concern.

Gabrielle had heard her question. Inwardly she remarked, ‘No, trying to forget.’ Finally, she spoke, “No, just loving you.”

Able to lift her head and upper body now, Tara looked between her legs at the seated woman with worry clearly etched in her features.

******

Steve picked up the phone, dialing numbers that were hauntingly familiar. He glanced around his apartment, eyeing his possessions. ‘She would like this. You have so much. Thanks to your dead parents. Just think, aren’t you glad you didn’t have to wait until they got old and gray? Accidents can be your best friend.’ He heard soft laughter ringing through his head. Punching the numbers on the phone pad, he whistled as the phone wrung twice before it was answered.

“Hello?”

“Hi Mrs. Howard. You may not remember me, but I’m an old friend of Gabrielle’s. The name is Steve. Steve Foster.”

There was a pregnant pause.

“Ah, yes Steve, I remember you, such a nice young man. What can I do for you?”

“Well, I saw Gabrielle at one of her book signings, but before I could speak to her, she was gone. I would really like to touch base– you know catch up on old times. I was wondering if you could give me her phone number or address so I could write or something?”

“Well sure Steve, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”

He hung up the phone with an angry click. “She lied to me!” He screamed vehemently into the well decorated living room. ‘Told you women are like that. They lie. She’s just miles away from you. Find her. Make her yours.’ Blinding light accompanied the pins piercing through his head. He screamed louder and swept the furniture off the endtable. Glass shattered and the phone made a resounding ‘twack’ as it crashed against the floor. He doubled over, holding his head in his hands.

“I’m coming for you Gabrielle!”

****

Deciding to take Tara’s car, the other one was pulled into the garage. Now driving quietly on the highway, Tara discreetly glanced at her lover from the vantage point of the driver’s seat. ‘Something’s up. I just know it, and she’s not going to say anything.’ She looked again and sighed, deciding to take the initiative.

“Red? You gonna tell me what’s wrong?” She studied the auburn haired woman, splitting her attention between the road, and watched the red head hang then look up.

’I didn’t want her to worry, but after all, there is nothing really to worry about is there?’

“Uh, it’s nothing really. Just ran into a guy I used to date a few years back. He always used to give me the creeps then, and he gave me the creeps today. Made me a little uneasy is all. No biggie.”

Tara creased her brow, knowing instinctively that something was missing in the confession.

“He didn’t hurt you did he?” She asked with worry.

“No, no nothing like that. He was just strange and possessive.”

“Okay, you sure? You know you can tell me anything, and you still seem a little unsettled.”

“Na, I’m okay now. Just needed some extra curricular activity.”

Tara could see her lover’s wiggling eyebrows even in the darkness of the car.

“Yeah, there is that. Glad I could make you feel better, even though I didn’t do any work.”

“Ah, but you enjoyed every minute of it.”

“Oh, hell yeah.”

Gabrielle laughed as her good humor returned.

“Now, tell me what you really feel,” she replied.

“I think I have a little fiend on my hands,” came the darker voice mixed with mirth.

The younger woman peered through the semi-darkness.

“Hey! No you didn’t Ms. when do we get to use Larry!”

“Nuh, uh, I didn’t say that.”

“Oh, yeah, must be that other woman I sleep with.”

“You’re not one to talk. Weren’t you asking if a harness could be adjusted to fit you little Ms. Dainty?” Tara asked with a smirk.

“Uh. . . . I did say that didn’t I?”

“Unh, huh. Pervert.”

Both laughing out right, Gabrielle reached over to slap an arm in the darkness. Tara hiccuped as the last vestiges of laughter dissipated.

“So, how did the book signing go?”

“Eh, it was fun actually. I got to meet the most interesting people.”

“Baby, I think they think of you as the interesting one.”

“But, yeah it’s still a big thing to be able to touch people’s lives like that.”

“Mmm, must be great to share a talent like that with everybody.”

“Yeah, it is. Sorta makes them a part of it too. It’s some feeling.”

“Sounds like someone has just as big a heart as she does talent,” Tara smiled into the statement.

“Ah, I think you’re a little bias, ” Gabrielle said turning toward the window.

“You’re blushing right now aren’tcha?”

“Uh. . . . just a little,” they young writer replied with squeaking voice, causing Tara to laugh again.

Tara bit her lip, trying to taper off the laughter when she felt green eyes glaring.

“Uh, we’re almost home,” she said sweetly.

Turning onto their street, the brunette noticed two cars in the driveway.

“Well, well, looks like Lil has company. I’ll have to park on the street.”

Gabrielle turned to look into her own driveway. “Catt?”

“Yeah, unless your sister has decided to expand her horizons already. You Howard women do work fast.”

Tara guffawed at the mock glower and moved out of the way of the impending smack on the arm.

“Ugh,” the writer said in exasperation, “will you ever learn to behave?”

“Nuh, uh. I’d be boring,” Tara said with a toothy grin.

“Never. Let’s get out of the cold.”
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Caitlin kissed the forehead of the woman she was rocking, trying to soothe the pain that was there. The older woman heard a little whimper as Lil leaned into the kiss. The blonde’s elegant hands stroked dark curls, continuously. Lil sniffed and hiccuped as tears ebbed away. Lifting her head, she looked into gray eyes intently. Caitlin gazed back unblinkingly. Voice hoarse with tears, the brunette spoke, “Love you, so much.” Her voice revealed the ache, the need to be with this woman. With slightly shaking hands, she traced sculpted features as if memorizing them.

“So beautiful. Unbelievable.”

Traveling hands ended up around a graceful neck, caressing gently. Catt swallowed. She had never seen that look in another woman’s eyes concerning her, until now. A look of pure adoration, devotion, and need. It scared and exhilarated her at the same time. Not knowing what else to do, she tightened her embrace and hoped her eyes belayed the love she felt. Lil shuttered as she felt inexplicable need course through her body. She had to show this woman how much she was loved in one of the only ways she could understand, the physical. Soft, small hands moved from neck, over chin, to caress high cheek bones. The brunette watched red-tinted lips with hunger burning in her gaze.

Fingertips finally landed on moist lips, touching and tracing. The sensitive pads paused to learn every crease, every curve. They tingled as hot breath flowed over them from the partially opened mouth. Wanting to feel the heat inside, Lil pushed with her fingertips, hoping her lover’s mouth would open. She whimpered in frustration when it didn’t. Catt swallowed again. Her own body quivered at the little sounds coming from her lover’s throat. She felt thighs squeeze the outside of her own. Blue and gray gazed at each other with scorching intent. They needed this. Knowing that, red lips parted, permitting entry. The reaction was immediate as she tasted the sweet, salty tang of skin. Her breathing turned ragged, whooshing out over her lover’s hand.

Lil whimpered again, feeling the warm moistness enveloping her flesh and wondered if being inside this woman would feel like this. She cried out as the warm cavern began a sucking motion between catchy breaths. Catt’s hands bunched the material of her lover’s shirted back, hoping to gain some control before it was all lost. Gray eyes became heavy and hooded, and foreheads touched as breaths mingled. Lil could feel pressure building as well as arousal between her thighs and struggled to keep her hips still. She lost that battle as they undulated forward, experimentally, with a mind of their own. Catt moaned harshly at the sensual act. Control quickly became a thing of the past. Exquisite hands slid down to cup buttocks, urging her lover’s hips on.

They both moaned harshly as clothed hips meshed together, torturing but pleasing all at once. Lil’s finger came free of it’s moist prison, and she traced full lips with the wetness. She leaned in and flicked her tongue over waiting lips, loving the dark moan that resulted. Tongues met moistly outside of lips as hips sped up at the erotic act. Lips brushed and lifted once, twice before they settled into a hot kiss. Hungrily they drank from each other, knowing possibly that time was short and distance could make it shorter.

Small hands glided into blonde locks, deepening the embrace. They sipped and swallowed each moan and whimper. Larger hands dug into the clothed flesh of her lover’s behind, egging her on. The gyrations increased as kisses became uneven, and breathing became impossible. Lil moaned loud and long, causing them to miss hearing the car pull up outside. Bodies moved frantically against each other until they heard the jiggle of the door. Lil tore her mouth away and jumped from her lover’s lap like a shot, landing in the seat beside her. Caitlin blinked once then reached out for the woman. Lil slapped her hands away as the door opened. They both turned toward it with eyes wide and full of surprise as the other women strolled in.

Tara raised a dark eyebrow and suppressed a smirk. The tension in the room could be cut with a knife. That and the women’s swollen lips were big clues that they had definitely walked in on something. Her mouth quivered with the effort not to smile. Oblivious, Gabrielle walked in behind her lover.

“Hey you two. You have fun today?”

Tara covered her mouth as she choked back the laugh. Caitlin flushed, and Lil shot daggers of death toward her friend with a penetrating gaze. Unable to stop herself, she removed her hand and chuckled.

“Uh, I think they were about to before we came in.”

Blue eyes widened as they looked into a lighter set of blue. Tara ducked as a pillow flew over her head, but she didn’t miss her lover’s playful slap on the arm. Gabrielle ‘tsked’ the taller woman then went to go sit near the other couple on the couch. She touched the red faced Caitlin on the arm.

“Don’t mind her. The blood just returned to her brain.”

A fair brow shot up, and she turned to her former lover with a grin. Tara smiled back sheepishly.

“Uh, Touché?”

Two more pillows were hurled in her direction as she twisted her body to escape them.

“Damn okay, okay I give!”

She walked around the couch and sat heavily in the chair. Gabrielle smirked and winked at her sister.

“Sorry bout this. Should have called first.”

Lil grinned back, finding her lover’s hand.

“It’s okay we were talking, and things got carried away.”

Catt turned to look at the young woman indulgently. Gabrielle touched the blonde on the arm again to get her attention.

“Uh, I know we didn’t start off on the right foot, but is it okay if we give this another shot?”

The strawberry blonde smiled, and Caitlin was charmed. That damned grin was infectious, and she found herself smiling back.

“Bygones,” the tall blonde replied.

“Good. Now, back to my original question without the innuendo,” she scowled at Tara who stuck out her tongue in reply. “Behave you.”

Lil answered, “Oh yeah, we had fun. You should have seen her. She loved the puppets, and she loved Catt.”

Three sets of eyes centered on the blonde.

Tara chimed in, “Did she call you boo boo too?”

Caitlin raised an elegant brow at the woman. Lil smacked her lips.

“No dear, you’re her only boo boo. Don’t go getting jealous Big Blue.”

Tara smiled goofily, causing her lover to roll her eyes. Caitlin chuckled softly, “Buuut, I did hear about another nickname.”

Lil squeezed the hand she was holding then glared.

“Ah, you’ve discovered Sparky’s secret?” Gabrielle interjected.

“Sparky?!” Tara choked out laughing. “That’s your nickname? I’m loving this.”

Lil pursed her lips, “You’re laughing, and you’re the one named after a bodily function?”

Caitlin hid her smile but decided to add her two cents, finally feeling comfortable around the crowd.

“I, for one, think it suits you.”

Tara looked at the blonde through squinted eyes as Lil laughed beside her.

“Uh huh, I was right when I told you that this woman was rubbing off on you.”

She pointed at the other brunette. Gabrielle glanced up in confusion, “When did you two find the time to talk?”

“Oh yeah, I didn’t get a chance to tell you. She dropped by the shop earlier today.”

Lil looked over at her lover in surprise, trying to hide the stab of jealousy.

“Uh, I needed some advice about Jamie,” the blonde said in her own defense.

“Oh, okay.” The wisps of jealousy obliterated. She looked over at Tara, smiling and glad there were getting along. The tall brunette grinned back, including Caitlin in her gaze.

“Speaking of Jamie, where is that niece of mine?” Gabrielle asked.

“She conked out before we even left the library, so I put her to bed.”

“Ah, oh well. Hey anybody want something warm to drink?” Smirking, she looked over at her sister and Catt. “Uh, maybe you two need something cold?”

“Oh God, Gab, you need to behave. Come on I’ll help you,” Lil replied.

They disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Catt and Tara alone. The younger woman leaned back in her chair.

“So, how did it go?”

Caitlin sighed. “Well, we talked. You were right by the way. I felt like an ass suggesting she come with me. The closest thing we could come up with was me coming down on the weekends, for now anyway,” the older woman said sadly. “I really don’t know what to do. My job has been my life for so long. I just need some time.”

“Ah, that weekend thing is gonna be hard. It’s gonna bother you both after a while.”

“I know, probably.”

“Can I ask you a question?” Tara asked.

“Sure.”

“Is she your life now?”

“Who, Lil?”

“Uh huh.”

The blonde paused then said softly, “Yeah, she is.”

“Then think about that as your commuting back and forth. Give it some time and really think about it.”

The blonde smiled warmly. “You know, we make better friends than lovers.”

“Yeah, we do don’t we. I think it’s because we’ve both changed.”

“Yes, could be. Thanks for the advice, again.”

“No sweat.”

****

Gabrielle thumped her sister on the back lightly as they walked into the kitchen.

“I’m really sorry about earlier. I didn’t think—”

“Hey it’s okay. Ugh, just glad it didn’t go any further before you walked in.”

“Oh my eyes would burn out!”

Lil smirked at her sister.

“Smart ass.”

“Uh, huh. You two want soda or cocoa?”

“Cocoa will work, and thanks Gab.”

“For what?”

“I really appreciate you two making friends. It means a lot —you two mean a lot to me.”

Pulling her younger sibling into a quick hug, she replied, “Tch, that’s what we’re here for silly. Now let me get this boiling and find the cocoa.”

She found the container and shook it.

“Damn!”

“What is it?”

“I’m all out. Soda it is then.”

“Oh, that’s fine. Let’s get back. I know they’re in there talking about us.”

“Yeah, my ears are tingling.”

****

Steve didn’t remember going to sleep as he raised and pivoted to a sitting position on the couch. Her touched finger tips to his mildly throbbing temples and pushed himself up and smiled despite the pain. He had work to do. The blond man glanced at this watch. It was just past 8pm, and he was sure a florist was still open to start making arrangements to get Gabrielle back in his life. He fished out his credit card and picked up the silent phone off the floor, putting it back in its cradle. After a few seconds and finding the number in the phone book, he dialed. Making his voice as cheery as possible, he responded to the woman’s soft announcement of “florist.”

“Hi, I was wondering if you could help me?”

“Sure sir if I can.”

“I would like to make arrangements to deliver pink roses to my girlfriend everyday, starting in the morning.”

“Yes, we can do that right over the phone if you have a credit card and her address.”

“Yes, I do.”

He smiled to himself, hearing the clapping in his head. Hanging up the phone, he headed straight for the living room closet. Before long, a small pile formed on the floor, and he sighed in exasperation. He had to find his camera. “Ah, there it is. You’re still so beautiful Gabrielle. I just want to look at you.” He strolled into his bedroom, heading straight for the mirror. One by one he removed old pictures of some girl he just couldn’t remember. “Wait till you see how much I love you.” After cleaning off the mirror, he stretched and yawned as tiredness settled in. Setting the camera on the nightstand, he removed his shoes and pants, leaving his t-shirt and boxers as he crawled into the bed. ‘That’s right we need to get some sleep. We have a woman to go see tomorrow.’

****

Lil hugged Jamie close as sleep slowly claimed her with her body still humming from the kiss she shared with her fair-haired lover. Things hadn’t gone exactly how she planned, but she knew Jamie and Catt would get along. That was one good thing. A word reverberated through her head. Weekends. She closed her eyes and sighed. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t settle and give her an ultimatum.’ She shook her head inwardly, knowing that would send the skittish woman running the other way. Weekends. Two days out of the week that should would get the chance to hold, to touch, to see her. It wasn’t enough. Her heart contracted with a burst of pain. It wasn’t enough, but it was all they had right now. ‘Maybe she’ll see that we are what’s important now.’ She hugged her daughter again and fell asleep knowing she would have to pack tomorrow.

Tara crawled into bed behind her lover, molding the smaller form into her body.

“Mmm, you feel good.”

“So do you,” Gabrielle replied.

There was silence for a moment as they both got comfortable.

“So,” the petite woman started to say, “how do you think they’re doing?”

“Honestly? I don’t know. Caitlin told me that her job has been her life, and I imagine that’s hard to just let go and turn yourself over to someone emotionally instead.”

“Yeah, probably, but you know Lil’s not gonna go anywhere. She’s in it for the long haul.”

“Yeah, I gathered that.”

She nussled into the red blonde silk.

“How are you doing? Still spooked by your ex?”

Gabrielle shook her head and exhaled.

“Ugh, we only went out three times. That does not a boyfriend make.”

“Oh so you didn’t. . . ”

“Oh hell no, ick! Not with him. I probably would have never gotten rid of him then.”

“Okay Red, just wanna be sure. I don’t want you scared.”

“No, I’m okay really. He doesn’t know where I live or anything, so I don’t think he could pop up here.”

Tara stiffened but tried to hide it. ‘Was the guy that bad?’ She lay there listening to the deep breathing of her lover, worry etched in almost non-existent lines of her face. It would be a long time before she joined the other woman in slumber.

****

Caitlin ran her hands through her hair as she stared at the plane tickets. A couple more days, and she would be gone. She stared at the news on TV, not really seeing it. She could see Lil off, but unfortunately, the favor couldn’t be returned to her at the airport. The blonde swallowed. All she had to do was quit her job to be with the woman that had changed her life. That alone scared her. Lil made her feel so much. There was no way to control it. No way. Her job was the one thing she could control. Nothing but skill was involved. No feelings. No emotions. Was it worth it? Two days. That would be all they had together each week. Two days. Her heart, her body wanted to see the younger woman every day, but her head was trying vehemently to control the two. ‘Which one should you listen to?’ Her conscious asked, knowing either way there were emotional consequences.

****

The occupants were jerked awake by the ringing of the phone. Gabrielle peered at it, squinting in the dull sunlight. She then turned over and buried her head into warm, welcoming flesh.

“Phone,” Tara whispered sleepily.

“Uh huh, so,” her lover responded, causing a throaty chuckle.

Tara ignored the noise too, closing her eyes and hunching down into the covers.

Lil threw back the covers and glared at the still ringing phone, realizing that it hadn’t been picked up in the other room. Snatching it up, she said a crisp ‘hello.’

“Lil, is that you honey?”

The woman sat up quickly.

“Oh, hey mom. How goes it?”

Great sweetie. How’s my grandbaby?”

Lil chuckled, “Right here beside me snoring.”

The older woman laughed, “I wish I had the chance to talk to her Christmas.”

“I know Mom, and I’m sorry about that. I told you Gab had a house full, and we weren’t exactly at our best. That’s why I called you first thing the next day.”

Lil knew her mother was rolling her eyes.

Honestly, when you two of you get together, and I bet Tara doesn’t help. I bet the three of you just find trouble,” her mother said in mock sternness.

Lil chuckled again, “All I can say mom is that life is never boring around those two.” Trying to change the subject, she added. “How’s Dad?”

“He’s fine, and I realize that you’re trying to change the subject.” The smirk could be heard in her voice.

“Nuh uh, Mom, I wouldn’t dare. Do you want me to bring Jamie by when I get home?”

“What do you think? Of course I do!”

Laughing, her daughter replied, “Okay mom, will do.”

“Hey, is your sister up?”

“I don’t think so. I think she would have answered the phone otherwise.”

“Oh, okay tell her I called. I can’t wait to see you two. Missed you.”

“Missed you too, Mom. See you late tomorrow afternoon.”

Lil hung up the phone and sighed. ‘Ugh, home and parents. How long can I keep this secret with Catt coming to see me every weekend? Damn, this could get messy.’ She said to herself. Getting up, she padded to the bathroom as thoughts of a certain blonde filtered into her mind. They had one more day together, and she knew that they had to make it count.

Gabrielle groaned as the lanky form of her lover tried to untangle herself.

“Nooo,” she said whining.

Tara chuckled, “I gotta go to work Red.”

The strawberry blonde tried to hold on tightly. “Nuh uh, it gets cold when you leave.”

A dark brow raised. “Uh, are you trying to say that you’re with me because I keep you warm?”

Sleepy green eyes looked up.

“Uh huh, that and the thing you do with your tongue.”

Jade eyes opened wider as she saw the look in baby blue’s. She was in trouble.

“Uh. . . ”

“Oh, no. You’re digging yourself a hole here,” Tara said smirking.

“Uh,. . . I love you?” The smaller woman said meekly with puppy dog eyes, hoping cuteness would win out. It didn’t. Using her stronger body, Tara flipped her lover onto her back. Gabrielle looked up and swallowed. Raising both eye brows, she smiled sweetly.

“Uh, I love you a lot?”

Tara grinned wickedly, raised her hands dramatically, then dropped them, as fingers began to run over sensitive sides. The tiny woman squealed as she tried to buck the taller woman off her. She gasped and giggled uncontrollably.

“Hey. . .no. . . . fair!”

Small muscular legs kicked in the air as laughter shook her small frame. Tara laughed along, loving the sight of her lover at play.

“Oooo I give. I give!”

“Nuh uh, not till you say that I have many skills!”

The petite woman laughed at the exasperated look on her lover’s face. Tara growled and pounced again.

“Come on, not gonna stop till you say it.”

“Aargh, you have many skills!”

Tara smiled as she took her hands away. She leaned in for a quick kiss. Gabrielle continued to giggle as she caught her breath. The brunette jumped up heading toward the closet. The smaller woman sat up watching the lanky form of her lover. Her eyes glinted with mischief.

She called out, “I still think the one with your tongue is the best—oof!”

She dived to the other side of the bed as a balled up t-shirt sailed by her head. Tara called back, “Smart ass!” The still laughing woman looked up at the knock on the door.

“Hey, you two decent in there?”

Gabrielle replied to her sister, “Nope, T’s naked come see!”

Lil opened the door and looked around the room, finally seeing the t-shirted and boxer clad brunette near the closet. She wagged her finger at her sister.

“It isn’t nice to lie. I’m telling mom.”

Gabrielle shrunk back in mock horror.

“Nooo!”

Lil glanced over at Tara who shrugged.

“She’s in smart ass mode this morning.”

The woman in question answered, “Uh huh, don’t you just love it?”

Lil rolled her eyes at Tara then glanced back at her sister.

“When you come down from whatever you’ve obviously been smoking, can you keep Jamie? I’m gonna go spend the day and uh,” she coughed, ” night with Catt.”

Gabrielle beamed, “Ooooo, you want to borrow Larry? He hasn’t been used.”

The brunette’s face colored a bright red, causing her sister to cackle happily. Tara walked over sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Behave you.” She threw up her hands and smiled. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to say that to you.”

Gabrielle scowled at her lover who just grinned back.

“Anyway, I don’t have any plans. Sure, I’d be happy to. Say when is Catt leaving?”

“The day after tomorrow.”

“Ugh, sure you can’t stay just one more day? Don’t you want to see her off at the airport? When do your classes start anyway?”

“Not till next week, but I need to go to late registration.”

“Aww, come on. I know you can probably do that over the phone. Stay with us one more day. Come on.”

Lil stared at her sister then at Tara who looked at her hopefully.

“Well— I guess I could. One day wouldn’t hurt. Oh, I almost forgot. Mom called. She says hi to you both and wishes for us to stay out of trouble.”

Gabrielle moaned, “Oh how sweet. She doesn’t know T well enough. That girl is a magnet. We can’t go out without something happening.”

“Hey! You help.”

The little woman made a kissing noise at her lover.

“It’s okay baby. I still love you. Now, get up and out. You’re going to be late.”

“Okay, okay,” she headed toward the shower.

****

Steve sat patiently in the rental car with binoculars hanging around his neck. He calmly attached the zoom lens to his camera and checked the film. ‘You get to see the joy on her face when she learns how much she means to us. Trust me,’ the disembodied voice whispered. Her grinned and moved the gold locks from his boyish face. His brows drew together, seeing the two cars in his Gabrielle’s driveway. ‘Too many friends,’ he thought. ‘All she needs is me. She won’t need them anymore.’ He whistled as he reclined the seat to get more comfortable.

Looking at his watch, he sighed. ‘Not long now.’ The blonde haired man jumped up when a tall, dark woman came out the door, heading for the car parked in front. He briskly appraised her tall, lanky form and dismissed her as no one of consequence.

****

Gabrielle sipped her juice and peered at her sister over the rim.

“What?”

Sitting the cup down, she answered, “I meant to ask how are things between you and Catt?”

Lil hung her head a little but just enough for her astute sister to notice.

Let’s just say it didn’t go how I wanted. We’re gonna do the weekend thing. It will have to be enough for now.”

The older woman covered her sister’s hand.

“Hey, it’s better than nothing, and it may be all she can give right now. Hang in there. You’ll both be where you want to be given some time.”

“God, I hope you’re right. I need her so much.”

“I know. Boy, do I know.”

Lil gave her sister a small smile.

“I’m glad you talked me into staying an extra day. I would love to see her off at the airport.”

“Uh huh, I know.”

“Mmm, well Ms. Know it all. What else do you know?”

“Oh, a little of this and a little of that. You know me.”

“Yeah, I do.”

They both looked up in acknowledgement of the ringing doorbell. Gabrielle frowned slightly. “I wonder who that is this early?” She smirked. “Probably your little kitty.”

“Nuh uh, I doubt it.”

“Well, let me get the door. Be right back.”

The petite woman pulled the door open and frowned outright at the delivery boy standing on her doorstep.

“Uh, can I help you?”

“Yeah, Gabrielle Howard?”

“Yeah,” she said confused.

“These are for you.”

Gabrielle stared down at the pink roses not noticing the teenager waiting for a tip. He hummed impatiently and walked back toward his van when nothing was forthcoming. The strawberry blonde smiled slowly, knowing the roses were from Tara. She took out the card to read. The bouquet fell from her shaking fingers as she grasped the small piece of paper. Scanning it again, she looked around frantically, panic showing in her features. He knew. He had found her, and with just a sentence, he had wiggled his way back into her life.

I knew it then and I know now.
We belong together. I won’t let you go.
—-Steve

She tore the card into small pieces, letting them scatter in the cold wind and looked down at the flowers in disgust. Picking them up, she heard Lil approaching.

“Hey, who was it?”

Gabrielle cleared her throat, hoping her voice wasn’t shaking like her insides.

“Uh, delivery guy with flowers. He got the wrong address.”

Lil glanced at her sister, sensing something was wrong almost instantly by the way she was avoiding eye contact.

“Uh, okay. You sure?”

“Dammit! Isn’t that what I said?!”

’Okay something is definitely wrong, but I don’t know what. Strange.’ “Calm down. It was just a question.”

The older sister rubbed the bridge of her nose and blew an exasperated breath into the air.

“Look, sorry. Why don’t you give those to Catt? I’m sure she’ll love them. I’m going for a shower.”

Shoving the flowers in her sister’s hand, she walked away without another word. Blinking rapidly, Lil stared at her back. “Wonder what put her in such a shitty mood?” Closing the still open door, Lil headed back to her room.

****

Steve almost jumped with glee as his lens clicked, catching the beatific smile on Gabrielle’s face. ‘See told you she would like them.’ He watched on as the flowers fell to the pavement along with the torn up card. Anger quick and seething boiled through his blood. How dare she reject his gift! He continued to observe as she gave the roses to the other woman. He hit the steering wheel with a fisted hand, not feeling the pain. ‘Calm down. The floral shop made a mistake with the card. They must have. There is no way she would reject us. No way!’

The man rubbed his temples at the dull ache. He bit down on his lip drawing blood, trying to detract from the pain. ‘Yes, yes, that must be it.’ He picked up his cell phone to call the florist, promising himself that he would make sure the woman that took his information was fired for making the mistake.

****

Gabrielle stood under the shower head, steeling herself against the ice cold blast in an attempt to ease the panic and fear from her veins. It worked for the most part. Able to think again, her mind intervened. ‘It was just flowers, but he does know where I live. Still, given enough time, he’ll figure out that I’m not interested. He has to. This is my problem. My past. I can’t worry T with it. This will pass. I just have to wait it out.’ She shivered as she turned the knobs, stopping the flow of ice. Feeling that her head was clear, she exited the stall to get dressed and apologize to Lil, telling her something. Anything.

Lil opened the door to her bedroom and smiled affectionately at her daughter tangled up and playing in the covers.

“Hey you!”

The little girl squealed at the sight of her mother, making the woman laugh.

“You ready for bath time? How’d you like to take a bath with mommy?”

Jamie squealed some more as if she understood.

“Good girl, let me call your new friend first to wish her a good morning.”

Lil sat on the bed near her daughter, who immediately stared using her back as a ladder. Picking up the phone, she looked over her shoulder and grinned into the eyes so much like her own as she dialed a familiar number by heart. After three rings, the phone was answered.

“Hello?” Catt said groggily.

Lil beamed welcoming the warmth that spread through her at the sound of that voice.

“Mmm, you sound sexy in the morning.”

There was a light chuckle, “And you sound sexy all day long. Wish you stayed with me last night, seeing as though you’re leaving pretty soon.”

Lil smirked into the receiver. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m all yours, and I’m even gonna see you off at the airport.”

The blonde shot up out of her bed surprised. “Oh, really.” Her voice deepened becoming huskier. “When can you come over?”

The younger woman bit her lip at the rush of arousal that flooded her body. “Uh, as soon as I get Jamie situated. Gab is going to keep her for me.”

Feeling disappointment simmer through her, Catt replied, “Oh, she’s not coming?”

“No, did you want her to? I thought we could spend the day alone together go to lunch and dinner later, but she’ll be there to give you a kiss at the airport.”

“Oh, okay that’ll work.”

Jamie chose that moment to be heard.

“Ma brrrr!”

Lil giggled, making Catt grin.

“I suppose that’s her now vying for attention?”

“Oh yeah, she’s crawling all over me!”

“Brrrrrr!” The little girl said in response to being talked about.”

“You want to talk to her? I bet she’ll recognize your voice.”

“Uh, sure put her on.”

Lil picked up her squiggly child, placing her on her lap. She put the phone to the small ear and rolled her eyes when the toddler tried to lick the phone. Caitlin waited until she heard someone breathing to speak.

“Hey J. How are you sweetie?”

The girl turned her head to look at the phone as if wondering where the voice was coming from. Catt repeated herself. The child’s eyes widened, recognizing the voice.

“Agoo!”

The blonde laughed. She could get hooked on this kid. She really could. Lil took the now wet phone back, laughing herself.

“See, told you. She’s mommy’s smart girl.”

“Aww, you two make quiet a pair.”

Lil bit her lip again and smiled.

“No, it’s the three of us now.”

There was a brief silence.

“Yes, it is,” the blonde executive replied with a voice full of emotion.

“Hey one more thing before I go give the little terror a bath.”

“Sure, what’s up?” She said after clearing her throat.

“I love you.”

The lump returned, taking the older woman’s breath away.

“God,” she whispered softly, away from the phone. Bringing it back to her ear, she said louder, “Love you too. I’ll see you later.”

“Okay, bye.”

Lil stared at the flat toned phone goofily. She loved throwing this woman off guard, knowing she was the only one who could. With a quirky smile on her lips, Caitlin shook her head as she hung up the phone. ‘She does that on purpose.’

****

Tara moved her lover’s car from the garage to the street in front of her shop just in case she actually got some work today. She sighed as she walked back into the quiet garage, heading to the office. She had a feeling that it was going to be another slow day, having already called her employees to tell them not to bother coming in. Just then and there, she decided to do a little cleaning up and knock off early to go be with two of her favorite women, Red and Jamie.

The tall woman smiled to herself. She loved watching the two of them together, knowing that her lover would make an excellent mother. She shook raven locks, accepting that this was something that had been shooting across her mind for awhile. Nothing would be more perfect than for them to complete their family with a child. Hands filtered through hair to get the back of her neck, scratching. She blew out a puff of air.

It was scary, as hell, and represented a lot of responsibility. Would she be able to maintain the shop everyday and raise a baby? There was no way she was going to put the bulk of responsibility on her lover, just because she was home a lot. She had a dream, a career, she loved also. The thing was to decide which was more important to them both, and if they had room in their lives right now. Her thoughts strayed to Jamie, knowing that she was the reason for this reverie. ‘Look at Lil virtually doing it all by herself, and she’s raising a great kid.’ Tara leaned back in her chair and propped her feet up as she watched people walk by. It was all too much to think about without some advice from someone unbiased. Leaning forward, she picked up the phone and dialed her brother’s number. After a couple of rings, he answered.

“Hellooo?”

“Hey Jakie, what’s happening?”

“Oh, nothing sis, just laying around the house relaxing before the show tonight. What’s up with you?”

“Bored as hell. It’s been slow for the past few days, and it’s giving me a lot of time to think let me tell you.”

One of her brother’s dark brows raised. ‘Uh oh, something is up.’

“Hey, you okay? You and Red aren’t fighting are you? You two seemed fine when we moved you in.”

“Whoa, no, no, everything’s fine there. It’s just that Lil is leaving in a couple of days and—”

“Ah, and so is Jamie?”

“Uh, damn you’re quick. How did you know?”

“I’ve seen you around her. I can see you love that kid.”

Tara smiled into the phone and her voice softened, “Yeah, I do. I haven’t been around children in a long time. I miss it.”

Jake’s other eyebrow shot up.

“T? What’s going on here?” He said worriedly.

There was a few seconds of silence.

“Uh, well, I’ve been thinking maybe somewhere down the line of having children of my own. I mean I’m not getting any younger, and Red has been hinting at it,” she said nervously with a slightly shaking voice. “I think she is the one I want to start a family with,” Tara said quickly.

She swallowed and waited. Where he had been standing before, Jake plopped down on the couch.

“Whoa, me an Uncle Jake? I wonder. Have you really talked to Red about this?”

“Well, not really anything concrete, but the issue has come up. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean right away. We just discovered each other, so I’m talking possibly a year down the road.”

“Hmm, you know what sis? I say think about it some more and talk it over with Red. Then go for it. I’m behind you.”

“You think? The only thing is that I wanna be there for my child everyday. I won’t do her like mom did us. She comes first not after my job not anything.”

“Yeah, it’s a good thing I had you growing up. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise. You really have been thinking about this.”

“Oh yeah, I don’t want my kid to grow up like we did you know? I was worried before with everything going on in the world. Why bring a kid in it, but after watching Lil with Jamie, I’m convinced with the right home and love it could turn out alright.”

“Mmm, you know what I say to that sis? Go talk to that woman of yours.”

Tara smirked, “Yeah, I was thinking about closing up early anyway. Thanks Jake.”

“No problem sis. You listen to my problems and support me on whatever. It’s the least I can do.”

Tara grinned into the receiver. “Yeah, speaking of which, how are things going?”

“Oh, what can I say? I’m hot again. With the new year comes a whole bunch of curious people, so I’m booked up. So far so good.”

“Uh, huh, should have known you would start packing them in again sooner or later. You know if you still want to go back to school—”

“I know that you’ll help me out. It’s still heavy on my mind. I haven’t forgotten about it.”

“Good for you.”

“Yep, thanks for supporting me. Oh yeah, and thanks for introducing me into your little clique. Shannon and Wayne are something else. We’ve been hanging out a lot, and they come to most of my shows.”

Tara laughed, “I knew those nuts would like you. I’m glad you guys are becoming friends.”

“It’s nice to have the right friends for once, not backstabbing gossips.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

Tara looked up at the jingle of the doors as a potential customer walked through.

“Hey Jakie, I’m gonna have to let you go. Looks like I may have a customer.”

“Okay, T listen, call me and let me know what happens.”

“Okay I will.”

Hanging up the phone, she gave the man a small smile.

“Can I help you sir?”

The sandy haired man turned to the woman.

“Na, just looking. Always wanted to see a Harley up close and personal. You got some I can look at?”

Tara rolled her eyes heavenward. ‘Great a non-potential customer.’ “Sure.”

After a long boring hour, the man finally left. The brunette sighed in relief. She drove her lover’s car back in the garage, locked up, and put the closed sign on the door. Home is where she needed to be.

****

Gabrielle took a deep breath to steady herself then walked out of the bedroom, heading for the living room. She could hear the sounds of play between the little girl and her mother. The older woman had already though of an excuse for her behavior that even sounded lame to her ears. It was simple. She was upset that the flowers weren’t from Tara. Yep, lame it was. Gabrielle made it into the living room and smiled down at her animated niece, who was clapping along with the song on TV.

“Hey punkin. You ready to spend the day with Auntie Gabby?”

“Agoo?”

“Uh huh we’re going to have some fun together. ” Lil looked on at the exchange, smiling. Gabrielle glanced up at her sister with what she hoped was a sheepish expression.

“Listen Lil, I didn’t mean to take my mood out on you earlier. It’s just that I was a little disappointed that the flowers weren’t from T.”

Lil’s eyes raked over her sister’s expression. It was a likely story that didn’t really make sense, but it was obvious that she wasn’t going to tell what was going on. Biting her lip, Lil nodded and smiled tremulously.

“Okay Gab, if you say so.”

“Thanks, I appreciate this.”

Trying desperately to change the subject, the older woman examined her sister’s appearance. She took in the black slacks, beige sweater, and her countenance that seemed to glow. The look was understated and casual, and it fit her perfectly.

“Oooo, you look nice. All made up. Love the new lipstick. It looks good on you.”

“You think so? I thought I would do some experimenting with the color.” ‘Nice move Gab, changing the subject.’

“Well, trust me you look good. So, what do you guys have planned?”

“Oh, I ‘m gonna go pick her up, and we’re gonna have lunch at the same restaurant as our first date.”

“Oh, fancy. How romantic.”

“Mmm hmm, then we’re gonna go to a matinee. Anna and the King is still playing, and I’ve been dying to see it. Then back to her hotel for some chit chat and dinner later. After that, who knows.” Lil wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.

“Ah, sounds like a full day. Lucky you, and I bet it’s going to be a full night.” She raised a russet eyebrow and smirked. “Sure you don’t want Larry?”

Lil smiled wickedly, “I’ll call and let you know if I need to come pick him up.”

Her older sister’s mouth snapped shut as she glared. “God, I just some weird pics in my head.” She shook her head. “Eww, I don’t want pics of you like that rattling around in my brain.” She shook it harder.

The brunette lightly slapped her sister on the shoulder as the both laughed. Jamie looked up at the two women and began giggling too, making them laugh harder. After a minute or so, Lil’s mirth tapered. “Okay sis, I’m gonna get out of here.” She wrote down a number on a nearby piece of paper. “Here is the number to the hotel just in case something happens.”

“Okay, okay get out of here will you. We’ll be fine. See you tomorrow.”

The brunette bent to kiss her daughter and wave bye. In return, Jamie raised a chubby hand and wave it into the air, slowly, trying to mimic her mother. Lil grinned, “That’s my smart girl.” Slinging a small bag over her shoulder, she blew a kiss and was out the door. The flowers were forgotten.

****

Steve sighed and watched as another woman left the house. ‘I wonder if she’s alone now or if she’ll come outside soon?’ He studied the other brunette with the same dismissive eyes. His jaw worked with mounting impatience as he scanned the outside of the house for further activity. The blond man’s heart fluttered when he saw a curtain move to the side. He snapped up the binoculars quickly hoping to get a peek. He wasn’t disappointed. His breathing hitched as his heart thudded pleasurably against his ribcage. Red gold hair gleamed in the mid-afternoon sun, taking his breath away. He saw painted lips form into a smile and felt lightheaded, knowing she was smiling at him. Only for him. Just as suddenly as she appeared, she retreated. ‘So beautiful. All for us.’

Steve made a contented murmur in agreement with the voice. ‘We have to see more. Go to her.’ “Yes, yes,” he said aloud. Grabbing his camera, he got out of the car and ran across the quiet street. The man scanned the perimeter for nosey neighbors. Then, ducking low, he ran briskly to the side of the house and breathed a sigh of relief to see the curtains pulled back, giving him a clear look inside.

****

Gabrielle returned to the living room after disposing of the roses in a garbage bag. Sitting on the couch, she giggled and clapped along with the little girl bouncing in her lap. She loved spending time alone with Jamie, especially now that they were leaving soon. Calling before breakfast, their mother had a fit when Lil told her that they were staying an extra day. She hadn’t let her oldest daughter get a word in inch wise when she told her that she convinced her younger sister to stay. She shook off those thoughts. Looking at the child did remind her of Lil, but the dark hair and blue eyes made her think of another brunette also. ‘This is what her child would look like if she decides to have children,’ she said to herself. ‘She would make a great mother. We would make even greater parents. God, we need to talk about this T.’

Thinking of her lover brought up feelings of guilt. She had promised not to lie again, but this wasn’t a lie really. ‘It was just a way of protecting her from one particularly nasty chapter in my life. She knows about it, but there is no reason for her to get involved in something that’s not even relevant.’ The strawberry blonde refused to admit to herself that simply having someone to talk to about this would go a long way in alleviating her growing fear.

She leaned her head against the back of the couch and scrunched her brow. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled, causing chills to curl down her spine. It was like someone was watching. She glanced up toward the uncovered window as a precaution. Seeing nothing, her wariness persisted. Keeping her eye on the window, she turned the TV down and tried to quiet Jamie, in hopes she could hear if someone was out there.

****

Steve tried to control his breathing as it came deep and heavy. He didn’t want her to see so soon. He looked down at his camera and checked the film again. She was so beautiful. Her had to get a few more shots. She seemed so natural with that baby, who he could only assume belonged to one of the dark haired women. ‘That could be our baby. Our family.’ He closed his eyes envisioning a pregnant Gabrielle, round, soft, and vulnerable. Another picture came. It was one of Gabrielle holding a tiny blonde capped head to her breasts in an attempt to nurse his son. Her cut off a whimper as arousal shot through his blood, making him hard and thick.

Opening his eyes, he tried to shake off the mental picture and regain control. The man scooched over to get a better positioning, wincing a little at the pain of his arousal. Raising himself to his knees, he peered just over the window sill. Positioning his camera, he snapped freely, shuddering constantly as his engorged penis refused to deflate. ‘She will be ours soon, and she’ll welcome us in every way.’ His mouth opened in a silent moan as he continued to snap picture after picture.

****

Gabrielle cocked her head to the side, thinking she heard a tiny click. She waited for the noise again, but it didn’t come. Scolding herself mentally, the writer tried to rid herself of the paranoia. ‘He’s not here. He’s not here,’ she told herself over and over again. Looking down at the playful toddler, she tried to shake off the eerie feeling by rejoining the play. After a few minutes, her even temper returned, but no enough for her not to jump at the sound of a car outside. Getting up and placing Jamie on her hip, she went to look out the front window. A slow smile spread its way across her face upon seeing the form of her lover unfold herself from the driver’s seat of her car.

“Look Jamie, boo boo’s coming.”

The little girl squealed and smiled, showing pink gums and two small teeth. Opening the door, Gabrielle grinned at the dark woman.

“What are you doing home?”

Tara bent to give a quick kiss to her lover before responding. “Oh, I don’t know. I got bored so I decided to come home and play?” She smiled toothily as she ruffled Jamie’s hair

“Why by all means, come in and play!”

“Why yes ma’am!”

“Boo boo!” Jamie almost screamed in delight.

Tara took the little girl from her lover’s arms and swung her around as she entered further into the house. The two of them ended up in front of the TV, their favorite place together. Gabrielle sat on the couch behind them watching, loving, smiling as Tara clapped and sung along with the Sesame Street theme.

****

Heat and pain shot through Steve’s head and the anger sifted through his veins. His erection was forgotten. She had kissed her. The voice screamed in his head, feeling the betrayal. His hands sunk and dug through the soft, cold earth. Was it their baby? He had seen it on TV. The perversion of it. Sick and unnatural. Leaving him had confused her. she seduced her at her weakest moment. Bile rose from his belly to his throat, filling his mouth with sour acid. Where he was smiling before, he could feel the hard set of his chin as his teeth ground against each other. The grinding added to the throbbing pain in his head, making dull spots appear before his eyes. He growled inwardly.

The sound slowly forced its way outward turning into a viscous animal snarl of pain, of betrayal. Hands dug and dug into the soft earth, overturning worms and weeds. The sound in his head was deep, throaty, and evil. ‘Take her. Make her ours in every way. We must do what we need to do. She belongs to us. We must think.’ A quiet calm settled over him. He knew what he had to do now. Extracting his hands from the soil, he gathered his belongings. Crawling to the edge of the house past the window, he straightened and walked slowly to his car.

****

Caitlin opened the door to the restaurant, letting Lil pass first. The cool blonde was as chivalrous and courteous as the next person, but as she stood back and watched the woman proceed her, she admitted to herself a selfish reason for doing it all. She simply liked watching the young woman glide across the room. It was everything. It was the soft foot falls that belayed an economy of motion as well as infinite patience. It was the gentle sway of curvy hips that arced through the air from one side to the other, creating a seductive dance. It was the swing of round, muscular yet delicate shoulders that signified confidence and presence of mind. It was the bounce of chestnut curls that released a rich, sweet scent she had yet to identify at each step and turn. It was all this individually, in combination, and more that made Caitlin crave this woman, need this woman, give into this woman.

The blonde licked ruby lips, hoping to retrieve the taste of the brunette still on them. She closed her eyes, remembering kisses of welcome that had turned to fire as their lips met, having already been hungry in self-imposed absence. She still tasted the whimper as tongues danced and lips devoured. As well as, feel smaller hands than her own tracing over her sensitive scalp. Abruptly, she was yanked from her reverie. Gray eyes looked around for the disruption then smiled when she saw it.

“You coming or are you gonna stare all day?” Lil asked with dark brows raised over violet eyes.

Stormy orbs gleamed wickedly as a slow smile formed. “I can do both,” she replied as they walked further into the restaurant, removing their coats.

Strings had been pulled, so the couple received their usual table. After being seated, Lil busied herself, trying to ignore the intensity in the gray gaze. The depth in them made her feel naked, exposed, and wanting. Finally, she looked up into the storm, swirling with emotion. Catt gave her lover a small smile at her acknowledgement of her and began to speak.

“I’m feeling. . . . rather intense today. I don’t mean to rattle you.”

Blue met gray as Lil took the larger hand in her own.

“It’s not that completely. What I mean is that I didn’t want to get lost in them. Do you understand?”

Catt shook her head.

The younger woman sighed, “Uh, when you look at me like that. I can’t control the way I act. I cant control anything not even my body. It throws me off when we’re in public. I’m not sure I want people to see what you do to me.”

The older woman was silent for a moment. Eyes looked downward onto the table. Looking up again, she spied the waiter coming towards them. As he reached the table, she replied to her lover’s comment.

“Let them see. Let them be jealous. I won’t hide you, and I feel too much for you to keep it inside. . .”

The waiter tried to turn a deaf ear the conversation but failed. Her looked from one woman to the other, feeling like an intruder. He turned to leave but heard a velvet voice command him.

“No, stay. Give us just a moment.”

He glanced at the women confused. Neither one had looked his way, so he was unsure of where the command came. Staying in his spot, he continued to observe. The blonde’s other hand covered their already entwined ones, and their gaze never broke. Her could feel the electricity surrounding the women. It teased him; caressed him; and almost aroused him. He could see it now, the blonde was about to speak, and he listened to see if the voice was familiar.

Caitlin traced her lover’s wrist with the pad of her thumb, cherishing the pedal soft skin. If it was possible, Lil watched gray eyes become more luminous. They beckoned her. Biting her lip, she waited for the sentence started so long ago to be finished. Finally, it was.

“I love you, and you know what that means coming from me.”

“Unable to speak, deep blue flashed in acknowledgement. It was enough for her. Caitlin turned toward the waiter, who looked remarkably flustered. He peered down at her.

“Uh, w-would you like to know the s-specials ma’am?”

Catt glanced quickly at Lil, noticing the woman’s attempt to hide a smile. She followed suite, thinking the young man would bust a gasket if she did smile.

With the arch of an eyebrow, the older woman asked, “May I?”

“Sure.”

“I think we’ll be ordering light. How about grill chicken Caesar salad with the dressing on the side, lightly toasted Tucson bread, Cobb salad with dressing on it, and a bottle of white zin.”

“I-Is that all ma’am?”

The blonde smiled at her lover. “Was that correct?”

Lil grinned back, “To the T.”

“Then yes, that will be all.”

The waiter nodded. “Thank you ma’am,” and walked away.

“You really shouldn’t unnerve the help Caitlin.” Lil said, amusement shining in her eyes.

“Just trying to make a point. I think he’ll be alright with an extra tip.” The older woman paused to spread the napkin over her lap. “Well, here we are where we started.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Do you want to know something?”

“Everything.”

Catt smiled sexily. “I knew then, the first time here that you were going to cause a change in me.”

Lil ducked her head, unsuccessfully hiding the blush. She cleared her throat and replied, “Tara and Gab told me so many things about you, but I just couldn’t believe it. I felt so much then that I could only see and hear you.”

“I know the feeling, believe me. I had never had anyone react that way to me before. So honest. You didn’t even try to hide it. It took my breath away. It still does.”

Lil studied the other woman in silence, watching as she brought the water glass to her lips.

“Catt? Can I ask you something?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“When did you know. . . I mean uh how you felt about me?”

Gray eyes flashed back at her over the water glass. She sat the glass down with a muffled thud.

“That day in my hotel room when we almost made love I suspected, but it was when you held me while I slept that I knew. I think it’s why I couldn’t keep my hands off you at the club.”

Lil blushed again, reliving the sights, sounds, and smells of the only time they made love. “God, it was so intense. I felt like I was being torn apart and re-made.”

Caitlin nodded with eyes that darkened with lusty memory.

“I don’t think you’re far from the truth. We we’re both re-made that day. Re-made to fit and belong to each other.”

Lil squeezed the hand under hers in agreement and understanding then removed it as the waiter returned with their meals.

He wanted to blow out the breath he had been holding when he noticed they weren’t talking, but sweat broke out on his upper lip regardless as the energy around them seemed to double. Positioning their plates and pouring the wine, he left the table with a new understanding. The intensity of love between women was an entity by itself.

The lunch was full of secret smiles, touches under the table and laughter as Lil related some of the antics of her daughter to her lover. They talked about themselves and argued differing views in art, music, and literature. Hour after hour had passed before Lil excused herself and headed for the bathroom. Caitlin waited a few short moments and followed. Lil washed her hands and stared into the mirror, making sure her lipstick was still decent. Deciding it wasn’t, she pulled out the tube and applied some more. Her mind wondered to Jamie, causing a smile to form, and she wondered if she should call to check up on her. Caught in her own reverie, she barely heard the door swing open. Looking up surprised, her face glowed with a smile, realizing who it was.

“Do you want me to wait for you or…?”

Caitlin shook her head no and moved slowly forward. Still not catching on, Lil continued to apply her lipstick until the form of the tall blonde stopped behind her. The brunette glanced in the mirror to get a look at the other woman’s face. Her hand immediately stopped it’s task when she realized gray was focused totally on her lips. She pressed her lips together and reached for some paper with a suddenly shaky hand to dabble. The eyes never left her. Her insides began to sweat with the effort to stay aloof. Although, she didn’t know why she was putting forth the effort in the first place. Perhaps, she just enjoyed the game of cat and mouse.

Her heart slammed against her chest, making her breathing slightly jittery. Her own eyes went to the red lips of the other woman in reaction, and she almost moaned out loud seeing them wet and slightly parted. The syrupy tendrils of arousal moved slowly up her spine, giving her gooseflesh. She licked her lips self-consciously and watched the gray track the movement of her tongue. The woman was so close she could feel the increasing body heat and the imprint of breasts on her back. It was slowly but surely becoming overwhelming. Trying to break the spell, she spoke.

“Um, okay I’m done. We can—-”

She initiated the motion to walk away. Long arms wrapped around her waist from behind, imprisoning her against the woman’s body. Lil whimpered as the damn of arousal broke and flowed through her body like warm slush. Caitlin cherished the whimper and smiled in triumph. She DID so love this game of cat and mouse. Watching her fight it tokenly and then give in whole-heartedly. It was intoxicating as well as arousing. She could feel her blood heating to a slow boil, moving from the simmer it had been in all day. She had watched her, wanting to touch her; wanting to hold her; and wanting to hear her. She knew this wasn’t the most appropriate place but to hell with it. To hell with it all. She had to taste. She had to touch.

The air in the bathroom became heavy and dark with sexual tension, and the start of uneven breathing. Molding her body perfectly to the one in front of her, Catt leaned in and purred throatily like a jungle cat in the obliging ear. She felt the shiver and heard the breathing catch and increase in the chest of her lover. The blonde woman went on, licking the ridges of said ear and breathing hotly to cool the moist trail. She kissed it and then whispered huskily, “Do you have any idea what you do to me? Watching you makes me ache.”

Each syllable and the meaning behind each word, shot to Lil’s groin, making it swell and moisten. A little sound of need exited her throat, and hands that were positioned on the counter top before, now moved to cover the larger hands around her waist. Her breathing became slow and ragged. She licked her lips and tried to speak. “We can’t do this here. Someone will see.”

A sexy growl was the only reply.

Lil whimpered at the sound then cried out at another flick of the tongue. “Oh God, please.”

“Please what? This?”

One elegant hand disengaged itself from around the brunette’s waist only to cup her hidden mound in the palm of it.

“God!” Lil cried out in earnest, trying to control hips that immediately began to grind against the stimulation with a mind of their own.

Caitlin welcomed the rush of arousal that pooled thick between her legs, leaving her swollen, throbbing, and making her own breathing hitch and accelerate.

“Tell me you don’t want this. Tell me you don’t need this,” she said breathlessly.

One strangled word was her answer. “Please!” It was enough to take as an admission. With one hand firmly in place in her crotch but using the other, Catt turned the younger woman around to face her. Smaller hands grabbed hold on shoulders to steady herself, while the free larger hand roved up and down her back. Both heavy lidded and glassy with need, blue stared into gray. With only a microsecond of hesitation, lips crushed against each other, releasing twin moans of gratification. Tongues plundered and fought then moved in synchronicity. The buried hand flexed and caressed causing the younger woman’s hips to jerk and renew their wild movement. Lil groaned raggedly and gave up trying to steady her shaky legs.

So caught up in each other, they didn’t hear the loud laughter as two women entered the bathroom. There was a loud gasp and an ‘oh my God.’ Not deterred, Catt slowly ended the kiss and flexed her hand once more for propriety’s sake. Lil shivered and whimpered hotly into her lover’s neck. She was beyond embarrassment only knee deep in want, in need. Looking up into gray again, she traced a cheek to swollen lips that smiled back at her.

“Let’s go,” the brunette whispered.

Caitlin nodded. With their arms wrapped around each other for support, they made their way out the bathroom door. Lil grinned wickedly at the gaped mouth women. “Excuse us,” she said, making their mouths hang open even more. Kissing an ear, Caitlin remarked, “You my dear are the naughty one.” Her voice lowered acknowledging the arousal she knew still flowed between them. “Come with me to my room. We need to finish this.”

Lil smiled slowly, sexily. “Yes. Now.”

Throwing some bills on the table and grabbing their coats, they were out the door, thanking the Gods that Caitlin had moved to a nearby hotel in town.

****

Tara closed the door quietly and made her way back to the living room.

“She’s down for the count.”

“Well, I think the both of us pretty much wore her out,” Gabrielle replied.

Tara sat her lanky form on the floor and eased her back to the couch. Looking over her shoulder, she gestured with her head. “C’mere Red.” Spreading her legs, she made room for the petite woman. Gabrielle scooted and shifted to make herself comfortable. After she stopped moving, she felt long arms envelope her. She sighed contentedly and leaned back into the offered shoulder.

“I wish we could do this more often. I love it when you come home early, and I enjoy spending the day with you just as much as the night.”

Tara settled her chin on top of the red-gold head and squeezed the woman in her arms slightly. “I wish I could too, Red. Who knows, with it being slow like this, I may be coming home early a lot.”

The strawberry blonde frowned in concern. “Is it that bad? Aren’t you going to start hurting financially after a while?”

“Maybe, but we go through this lull every year. It picks up eventually though. So, I’m not too worried. It’s winter right now, but at the start of Spring things will pick up.”

“Jesus, T. That’s months away.”

“I know baby, but I actually meant during February.”

“Oh, okay, but I still can’t help but worry about you.”

“I know baby.”

There was a few minutes of semi-silence filled only with quiet murmurs and sighs. Tara pursed her lips. ‘I should bring up the subject now. It’s the perfect time. No distractions.’

“Hey Red? Can I ask you something?”

“You know you can ask me anything.”

“I’ve had time to do a lot of thinking lately. With Jamie here, I’ve been wondering. How do you feel about having kids? I mean really having them?”

Gabrielle’s heart leapt then thudded quickly. She turned around and tried to look into sky blue. Unsuccessful, she changed her position, and ended up straddling the other woman. Now facing her lover, blue eyes looked down nervously.

“T, look at me.” She tilted her head upward with a finger under the chin, and blue eyes stared back warily. “Are you trying to tell me that you’re ready?”

The dark head nodded silently with eyes full of hope. Gabrielle laughed softly.

“You know this is kinda funny because I’ve been thinking about that too.” Soft moss green eyes stared back at her.

“Oh my God, you’re kidding?”

“Nuh uh. I guess with Jamie here for such a long time. It stirred up some feelings.” She blew out a breath, disturbing her bangs. “What I’m trying to say is. . . that I would love to have a baby with you.”

Tara wanted to dance a jig, but she settled for a cheek splitting toothy smile instead. Gabrielle traced the beautiful features with small, gentle hands.

“I would love to have a child if she’s as beautiful as you inside and out.”

Hands followed the path of the impending blush. The brunette shook her head.

“No, you are the beautiful one. So beautiful. Here,” she touched her heart, “you helped to make me into the person I am now, and I love you so much for it.”

Gabrielle bit her lip against the grin she could feel forming. “I only did what you let me. You let me into your heart, and you’ve shown me so much. I had no idea my life was so empty.”

Gazes held and lips descended, whispering across each other as if revealing and telling secrets. Foreheads touched as the kisses ended.

“Mmm, we have so much to talk about Red.”

“Yes, we do.”

****

Steve stared at himself in the mirror. He studied his naked form, overlooking the glassy, maniacal eyes. “I can give her what she needs. Only me,” he said aloud. He picked up the now dry, newly developed pictures and one by one placed them in front of the mirror. Pictures of Gabrielle smiling, clapping, dancing, and laughing with the baby. He studied each one. His confidence growing with each glance. Remembering his vision, his penis began to grow also. He moaned as he let the vision over take him. She would love only him. She would come to only him at night so that they could make child after child. He was young, strong, and knew he could give her what she needed.

His erection elongated as he envisioned a naked Gabrielle under him, calling out his name, taking in his seed.

Idle hands became active as they stroked erect flesh. He groaned louder. His hips jerking as they gained momentum. Short minutes later his body tensed, and he screamed as the pleasure in his loins mingled with the sudden throbbing in his head. His seed spewed over the pictures, leaving them soggy, sticky. Hands moved from his groin to grab his head. Pain shot through it, making him feel faint.

Louder and stronger than ever, the voice shouted, ‘We will wait. We will watch. We will take or we will kill!’ The man fell to the floor. A high pitched whine escaped his lips that quickly turned into peels of laughter. Finally, falling over the edge into dark oblivion.

****

Tara carried the sleeping Jamie into their bedroom, depositing her snuggled behind her drowsy Aunt. They had talked until the wee hours of the morning, agreeing on the time table of at least a year and a half. This would give Tara time to train a part time manager for her shop, to save money, do some research into how, and decide which of them would carry the child. Smiling to herself, she got into bed behind her two favorite females, including them both in her embrace. Gabrielle murmured and covered the hand with her own.

“Mmm, you think she’ll be okay sandwiched between us like this?” She asked groggily.

“Oh yeah, she should be fine. Neither one of us are big movers.”

“Okay, if you says so. Love you. . . Mom.”

Tara could hear the smile in her lover’s voice and chuckled. “Love you too.” She reached over to set the alarm to ring in a few hours then found her spot wrapped around them both. Somewhere in between dusk and dawn, they both fell asleep.

****

Lil opened one eye to look around the unfamiliar room. Momentarily, she forgot where she was until she tried to stretch that is. She felt a long, lanky body molded to her from behind. She grinned and opened the other eye, squinting in the dull sunlight, coming from the curtains. The grin widened, feeling the warm even breath of her lover caress her ears and throat. She wiggled her body experimentally. It ached pleasurably and hummed at being filled and touched so thoroughly. Her stomach clenched in delight as the woman behind her whimpered and held her tighter. Still, slowly, she was able to turn, facing her. With her heart in her eyes, Lil studied the relaxed features of her lover.

She took in the moistly parted lips and the sleep flushed skin. Never had she seen her looked more vulnerable. With just one night, she had gotten used to being held and waking up next to the woman she loved.

She closed her eyes, hoping she could bare their weekend agreement. Opening them, she raised gentle hands and began to lightly touch the skin that lay in front of her. Catt moaned lightly as her eyes fluttered open. Gray met blue, sinking into each other. Caitlin ran her hands through dark curls and kissed the shiny forehead. ‘She is so beautiful, and all mine. Thank you for giving her to me. I will never let her go,’ Catt prayed in thanks to whatever deity was listening.

“Morning, Sparky. Been up long?” She asked in a sleep roughened voice.

Lil smiled, “No, just watching you sleep. This is our first time you know.”

“I know. It’s the first time for me period. I’ve never slept with a woman in my arms before. You made it feel right.”

Lil’s smile trembled sadly, “As long as I’m the only woman from now on. I know you’ve been with a lot of them, but—”

Long, tapered fingers covered her mouth.

“You are the only one that counted. The only one that will ever be. I know because I feel it right here,” she covered her heart.

Two heads leaned in for a kiss. Lips brushed softly and clung. Naked skin touched and slid.

“Mmm, so sweet. You say the sweetest things.”

Drawing back, Catt smirked, “What can I say? You bring it out in me.”

“Love you.”

“Love y—”

The phone rung piercing their moment and the surrounding quiet.

“Ohhh, don’t answer that, please.” Lil asked pleadingly.

“I have to sweetie. What if it’s about Jamie? It’s awfully early to be a normal call.”

“Oh God, you’re right. Hurry.”

Caitlin reached over to pick the phone up from it’s cradle. Lil waited and listened. She leaned in a little to see if she recognized the voice. When she didn’t, she moved back not wanting to intrude. It wasn’t about Jamie. Some guy named John was on the line. She heard things like ‘we need you’ and ‘next flight out.’ She watched as Catt diverted the interest from her asking them if someone named ‘Jill’ could handle things and that she was just going to be here one more day. She swallowed as she thought she heard the inevitable ‘orders from the big boss,’ and by the look of Catt’s face, Lil knew she had lost the battle. The brunette swallowed down the sudden sense of loss.

Caitlin set the phone in the cradle softly.

“FUCK!”

The younger woman flinched.

“You have to go back today don’t you?” She asked trying to stop the impending sob.

“Sparky, I—”

“No! It’s not enough time! Can’t you call them back?” Tears ran freely out the corners of deep blue.

The older woman’s heart stopped. She had never seen a look of such anguish on the other woman’s face, except when she told her to get out. Her heart started again triple time. ‘I’m hurting her, and I just realized how much.’ The emotions ran rampant inside her, making her feel uncontrolled like she was flying apart at the seams. She had to get away from this. This feeling. Closing her eyes, she steeled herself against the look in blue eyes, and whispered, “I’ll be back this weekend. I promise.”

She saw the younger woman visibly flinch the second time. Lil tried to swallow the lump in her throat. ‘I have to be strong. We can make this work.’ She blinked, and when lashes raised again, Lil was completely taken back by the dullness in them. She chose to ignore it.

“Okay, it’s better than nothing. When do you have to leave?” The brunette asked steadily.

“In about four hours. John said he checked and the next flight is at noon. That means I actually have two hours to pack and get to the airport. Dammit, I still have to return the rental.”

Galvanized into action, Lil answered, “Leave it. I’ll take care of that.”

She displayed a smile that was shaky at best before leaning over to cover soft lips with her own. A harsh whimper was torn from the younger woman’s throat that ate away at Caitlin’s soul. Lips clung for a moment before the kiss ended. With the same dull eyes, Lil looked into gray. “Listen, you start packing. I’ll go home and get Jamie, so that we can take you to the airport.”

“Sweetie, you don’t have to—”

“No, but I want to. Give me this.”

The blonde nodded her ascent, and the brunette got up to pad naked into the bathroom. The air was heavy with words that hadn’t been said and feelings that weren’t revealed.
~*~*~

Lil drove back to her sister’s with a quiet mind and a raging heart. It hurt so bad, but if this is what she had to do to make this work. She would gladly do anything. Anything. The good thing was that they would see each other this weekend in her own apartment in her own bed. No more hotels, and maybe she could spend some quality time getting to know Jamie. Yes, that was a good thing.

Caitlin threw the clothes angrily around the room. ‘You’re a self-centered bitch Caitlin. Just like your mother. You don’t deserve her. You just keep hurting her.’ She shook her head. ‘No, I love her, and I will find some way to prove it. I will fix this.’ Hefting the large suitcase on the bed, she filled it with the balled up items of clothing. She had to get ready to go.

****

Steve was an early riser, especially this morning. He had plans to carry out. He watched the familiar house in silence with his binoculars, camera, and a new addition. He had the last item hidden carefully in his jacket. Lights were on, so he assumed the dark haired pervert would be leaving soon. He giggled gleefully, knowing he would be waiting to take what he wanted, what he needed. Steve frowned as another car drove up near the house. The other brunette got out. He had forgotten about her. His breathing deepened in panic. He had to do this today. They told him so. What was he going to do. ‘We must calm down and watch. You will see.’ “Yes, you are right.” He waited patiently for the flower delivery boy. He was going to do the delivering himself today.

Lil rushed in, scaring the other brunette sitting at the table sipping coffee.

“Gees, Lil scare a couple years off me why don’t you!”

Tara looked down, making sure there were no coffee stains on her t-shirt.

“Oh, hey I’m sorry. I gotta get Jamie. Catt has to leave in a few hours, and we are taking her to the airport.”

“Huh, I thought you two were leaving on the same day?”

“Yeah, someone from her company called. Apparently, she’s needed right away.”

Sky blue met violet. Tara saw it. The wild, hurt look swimming in her eyes. This was tearing the younger woman apart.

“Hey,” she said softly, “it’s gonna be okay. Just be patient.”

Tara reached out grabbing a shaking hand. Lil sobbed and nodded.

“I know, but it’s so hard.”

She wiped the dripping tears with the back of her other hand.

“Just hang in there.”

She gave the other woman a watery smile.

“I am. I really have no choice in the matter.” She squeezed the hand holding hers. “I’d better get ready. Thanks.”

“Anytime, you know that. Oh, she’s in our bedroom, just go on in. Red, is dead to the world.”

Lil laughed lightly. “Okay, see you later tonight Big Blue.”

Lil walked into the bedroom to find an irate blonde with a very active child, crawling all over her. The younger woman laughed. “Well, I see she got to you early.”

Gabrielle glared back. “Unh huh.” She grabbed for Jamie who giggled and squirmed in her hold. “What are you doing here so early?”

“Um, Catt has to leave today. Somebody high up in her office called.” Her head hung.

“Hey, you okay?”

“I will be. It’s just gonna take some time. I came to get Jamie, and we’re going to take her to the airport in Indianapolis. I was thinking maybe we’d stay, and do some looking around. I need to get my mind off things.”

“Okay, no problem. So, you’re still not leaving until tomorrow then?”

“Yeah, I guess a make a go of it mid-morning or so.”

“Okay.” Gabrielle moved the giggling toddler toward her mother. “Here, take your bundle of joy.”

“Agoo, ma!” She said happily, causing her mother to smile and her aunt to laugh.

“Yes, Auntie loves you too. She would love you even more if you would go to your mother so that I could get some sleep.”

“Ga!” She said to her mother, who scooped her up in waiting arms. Lil kissed her on the side of the head. “Hey there honey. Did you have fun last night?”

“Goo?”

The brunette laughed as she headed toward the door, leaving Gabrielle shaking her head and burrowing into the covers.

Minutes later, Tara walked into the bedroom and pulled the covers back.

“Ugh!”

The other woman laughed softly.

“Come on, Red. I don’t get a good bye kiss?”

Green eyes looked up.

“Are your lips warm?”

“Uh huh, just had some of your coffee, so they taste good too.”

“Oh? Mmm. C’mere.”

Tara leaned in and was greeted with a little growl as the smaller woman sucked in her bottom lip. Her eyes crossed, and she could feel her body start to melt. She jumped when a busy little tongue began to trace it. Gabrielle pulled back with a plop and smacked her lips.

“Mmm, I think I need another taste.”

Giving the other woman just enough time for a breath, the younger woman licked and lightly kissed waiting lips. Tara let a breath out in a whimper, making the strawberry blonde smile into the kiss. Finally, pulling back slightly, she chuckled at the sight. The older woman’s eyes were closed and breath came quickly from her open mouth. Gabrielle leaned in again, kissing her on the cheek.

“You were right. Mmm, amaretto.”

Blue eyes opened slowly. “You like doing this to me don’t you?” She asked huskily.

She was rewarded with a dazzling smile for an answer.

Tara smiled slowly, saucily. “Remember paybacks my dear. I might be home early, and I’ll drive your car back just in case you need it.”

With that, she left the room and was out the door, leaving a grinning strawberry blonde behind.

****

Steve watched with barely concealed excitement as the tall, dark haired woman exited the house and folded herself into one of the cars. “Perverted bitch,” he whispered under his breath. “It’s okay I’ll make her right again.” One down, and one more to go.

****

Lil grabbed the baby bag, hoisting it over one shoulder and had Jamie safely wrapped in the other arm. She moved silently through the house, not wanting to disturb her sleeping sister. As she neared the living room, she heard a familiar voice. “See you later Lil!”

“Okay, ” she called back with a smile and made her way out the door.

****

Steve laughed throatily as the other woman left with the baby in tow. “It’s just you and me now Gabrielle. Not long now.” ‘Yes, she will be ours soon. One way or the other.’ He joined in with the laughter in his head, welcoming the mind numbing pain. They were in charge now. He reached deep into his inside pocket, pulling out the gleaming instrument, tracing it idly with a finger. ‘Her heart will be ours.’

****

The car was somewhat silent with only the gurgling of the toddler and the slight hum of the music. Finally, Lil could take it no more.

“Do you know what they’re calling you back for?”

Caitlin glanced at her lover surprised that she asked. “Yes, we are in danger of losing a multi-million dollar account that I procured for the firm a few years ago. They think I’m the only one who can fix it.”

“Mmm, I can understand that. I’m sure you’ll convince them. Something tells me you’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Catt laughed. “Maybe so. We will see.”

“There’s a McDonald’s up ahead. Do you want to stop for some coffee or something? Luckily, I had time to feed Jamie before we left, but I’m kinda hungry.”

“Okay, sure I could use some coffee and a little food. Had a late night, you know.”

Lil bit her lip and grinned. Once to the window, she ordered a couple of hash browns, two sausage biscuits, coffees, and a small orange juice. On the highway again, Lil turned slightly to Catt, “Can you give her this juice? You’ll have to watch her though to make sure she doesn’t choke on the straw.”

Caitlin put down the coffee she was sipping, having already eaten. “Sure.”

Turning around to the toddler, she was rewarded with a toothy grin that she couldn’t help to return. “Here you go J. You want some juice?”

The little girl reached for the cup.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

She leaned forward some more to get closer, and watched carefully as the little girl sucked the juice through the small straw. Lil observed in the mirror.

“She really likes you, you know. I hope you two get the chance to really know each other. I think we’d both like that.”

“I’d like that. Maybe we could go out . . . I mean the three of us one weekend.”

“I don’t know. It would be hard. Her dad gets her two weekends a month usually. We just worked something out over Christmas, since he was out of town anyway.”

“Oh.”

There was an awkward silence again.

“Lil, I know this isn’t the best situation, but it’s all I can give right now.” ‘All you’re willing to give,’ her inner voice whispered. She mentally shook her head. “Listen, please try to understand. It won’t be like this forever. I promise.” ‘Yeah, just until you push her completely away.’

“I am. I’m trying, but you have to realize how hard this is for me too. It took so much out of me to come back to you, and now it feels like I’m losing you again. It just hurts. Give me some time okay?”

She looked into the blue eyes of the toddler, so much like her mother’s.

“Okay.” ‘Idiot.’

Lil turned to look at her lover as they pulled into the airport parking lot.

“Why don’t you get your bags and go on in? I’ll get Jamie and be there in just a few minutes.”

“Okay.”

Caitlin got out and hefted one bag over her shoulder then went around to the trunk to get the two suitcases. A man on the curb was nice enough to rent her a cart to attach the luggage and push easily. With a look back, making sure her lover was indeed making progress, she entered the busy airport.

Lil kissed her daughter’s head before unbuckling the car seat. “Come on sweetheart, we have to go say bye to Catt.” She bit her lip, trying to hold in the sob. Balancing the little girl on her hip, she walked through the doors. She saw the beautiful blonde waiting near a nearby ticket booth.

“Hey , you long time no see,” the blonde said smiling.

Lil didn’t try to hide her own grin. “Mmm, so whatcha doing up here?”

“Oh, I have to exchange the ticket for an earlier flight. They’re getting ready to board in fifteen minutes.”

“Oh, so soon?” Lil asked disappointment coloring her voice.

“Yes, sorry. I thought we’d have more time.”

The conversation was interrupted by the clerk saying Caitlin’s name. She gave her the ticket and told her to hurry. The blonde grabbed her carry on luggage in one hand, wrapped the two females in the other and ushered them toward the gate. Finally, getting there in the back of a somewhat long line, they stopped. Caitlin turned to the younger woman. “I guess we’d better say our byes here.”

Gray gazed into the sad blue. The little girl seemed to have taken on her mother’s somber mood. She was quiet.

“Okay,” Lil answered.

Caitlin engulfed them both in a hug. Pulling back slightly, she looked down at her lover and glanced around at the crowd. Not caring, she leaned in for a soft kiss. Her heart contracted at the whimper she swallowed. She deepened the contact, refusing to end it. Lips clung. Lil was the one that finally stepped back, wiping at the tears forming in her eyes. “You need to hurry. Their waiting.”

The blonde turned around to see that the line had thinned considerably. Kissing her again quickly, she whispered, “I love you,” trying to ignore the spasm of her heart at the tears falling unchecked. Bending down, she ruffled the small curly, dark head and kissed Jamie on the cheek. “Love you both.”

With one last smile, she turned and disappeared out into the airfield.

“Love you too,” she said as she licked the tears from the sides of her mouth.

****

Gabrielle stretched and headed for the kitchen. She definitely needed a caffeine fix, especially since she needed to get some work done today. She groaned groggily and headed for the ringing doorbell instead. Not bothering to look into the peephole, she jerked the door open. Her heart stopped and into her stomach. Steve grinned back at her holding the pink roses. Frozen to the spot, her eyes raked over him, noting the glazed look in his eyes. Blood thundered in her ears, and she didn’t even try to hide the panic she was sure was showing on her face. His smile got bigger, and he started to giggle like a school boy. Handing her the flowers, he spoke.

“You know you belong to me not her. She can’t give you what you need.”

Her brain jump started. He had been here all along, watching. The realization galvanized her into action. She tried to push the door closed and screamed when a strong hand reached out beating her to it, swinging the it open instead. Turning quickly, she headed toward the phone by the couch. Her feet moved as if they were in water, slow and clumsy. Sheer terror fueled her heart, beating out of her chest. The breath burned in her lungs. She seemed like she had been running forever, never getting any closer. Like the dream where the devil chases you, she could hear his breathing in her ear as well as his steps closing in. Diving for the small in table, she hit the floor face down instead. Pain made her cry out, and she felt the wet, stickiness of blood come from her nose. A vice like grip held her ankle. She kicked out, trying to release it.

His grip got tighter, and she felt the delicate bones of her ankle grind and throb. She kicked on, finally connecting with soft flesh. He growled in pain. Suddenly, she felt whip like burns on the backs of her legs and heard the whooshing of something moving through the air with force. He reared his arm back and continued to whip her with the roses. He licked his bloodied lips with joy upon seeing the bloody welts starting to form on the soft flesh. Gabrielle jerked her legs upward, trying to escape the pain. She whimpered as it continued and increased in intensity. She felt the lanky, muscular body moving upward, covering her. He had gotten the leeway he needed. Straddling her hips, he threw the roses to the side and wrapped both hands in red-gold hair. She struggled, bucking her hips like a wild horse and screaming all the while. The screaming was too much he couldn’t concentrate. Pulling her head back, he slammed it once, twice, three times to the floor until she was quite.

‘She’s ours now.’

Gabrielle could feel the radiating pain burst throughout her head as well as the rough carpet under her. Her head felt heavy. She moaned and made a move to touch it, coming away with a hand sprinkled with blood. She whimpered as she opened her eyes to look around. ‘This had to be a dream. A really bad dream.’ It wasn’t she saw him sitting on the couch as she laid against the wall. ‘How could have I had been so wrong? I saw it in his eyes at the bookstore, the lack of connection to reality. Now, no one knows. God, please don’t let Tara come home early. Take me if you have to, but please leave her be. It’s my fault. My fault!’ She told herself. She moved cautiously, trying not to draw attention. She could see him sitting there, mumbling to himself.

‘We should take her now. Not wait for the dark haired one. But, we must possess her and get the stench of that woman off her. Fill her with our seed, our baby.’ Steve rocked back and forth, letting the pain take over. With the pain came the voices with instructions and knowledge. They always knew what to do. ‘If she resists, use the weapon. Use it to give her what she needs to get what we want. Her heart.’ He laughed. “Yes, yes.” Turning his head, he looked over the still form, but saw the green eyes flash.

“I know you’re awake. Don’t try to trick me.”

Gabrielle swallowed. The man was insane that much was sure. She was probably going to die today that was a possibility, but she didn’t want to revel in his madness. Therefore, she remained quiet.

“Why did you leave me? She seduced you didn’t she? She knew you were vulnerable without me, and she seduced you. Didn’t she!?” He screamed.

Getting up, he walked toward he menacingly, stopping just in front. She whimpered as she tried to move. Her head was so heavy.

“Answer me!”

She watched in horror as his leg moved back. Then she knew nothing but blackness.

****

Lil felt as though she had been driving around for hours, going into store after store in an attempt to ease her mind. In actuality, only an hour or so had passed. She turned up the radio as another love song filtered through the airways and peered through the mirror at Jamie who was steadily nodding off. She scowled as the song was interrupted by a news report.

We are interrupting this broadcast for a breaking news report. Flight 281 Delta Airlines has crashed near the Akron area in Ohio. I repeat. Flight 281, Delta Airlines, heading for Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and New York has crashed. No one appears to have survived, although rescue crews are still working. We will be updating the public when further information is available. We now return to the Jake and Jimmy Show.

Lil felt ice enter her veins, numbing her to the outside world. ‘It had to be a mistake. It had to be. Wasn’t that her flight? I can’t lose her this way.’ “Oh, God no, ” she cried as the pain flashed through like wildfire, taking her senses. The road was a blur. She pulled over, sucking in lung fulls of air as her body was racked with wrenching sobs.

“Ohgodohgodohgod,” it was too much. Her hands shook over the steering wheel. She leaned her head against it and tried to think. Gabrielle would know what to do. I have to get back there. Sniffing for a few minutes, she steeled herself against the pain and drove on with a sleeping Jamie oblivious to the turmoil of her mother.

****

Tara winced as she picked up a particularly heavy tool. She couldn’t complain too much. She finally had work today, and it was bound to keep her busy for the bulk of the day. ‘Well, so much for going home early and exacting some payback,’ she murmured to herself, ‘but there’s always the night.’ She smiled toothily and began to whistle as she thought about last night.

They were going to be a family. She couldn’t believe it. She had to call and tell Jake soon. With her thoughts about babies, her mind turned to Lil , Jamie, and Catt. ‘God, I hope it works out for them. They’ve been through too much for it to fall apart now.’ She sighed. ‘I’m sure gonna miss little bit. We’ll have to go pay them a visit every once in a while.’

Caitlin blew out a breath, disturbing the immaculate bangs. She hated bus stations, but she needed to get back quickly, not wanting to go here and there for the next plane. With one bold move, things had changed. She smiled remembering the strangled sound of Perry’s voice when she asked if their were executive positions open in Chicago. ‘Yes, and why,’ he had asked. She answered that she wanted to be transferred effective immediately. She could hear him choking as he started to beg. “It’s finale Perry. Do this as a favor. I need this,” she had said softly.

The older man heard something in her voice he hadn’t before a pleading note, letting him know she was human after all. He knew it was either this or lose one of his best. “Alright, Jill will have to handle the Dorfmans. I’ll set up a meeting with Tim in a couple of days. I’m sure he’ll be glad to have you, but you know you may not get that position you wanted for a while.”

“I don’t care. Something more important came up.”

With that, she had hung up the phone and changed her life. She would give up her condo and change her life just for her, just to be with her. It was the dull look in the blue eyes that did it. She couldn’t hurt her anymore. She had to learn to accept that this woman was her weakness and her strength. Hearing the announcement over the loud speaker, she grabbed her things and headed for the proper gate. “Three more hours baby. Boy, are you going to be surprised.”

****

Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes. The pain was intense. She wanted to cry. She slowly moved her aching head and fought against the darkness. She saw him standing there not far away, waiting. He walked over to her.

“I’ve been waiting for you. I mean to make you mine. One way or the other.”

He reached down and pulled her up. She cried out in pain and swallowed down the nausea. Pinning her against the wall, he removed the robe, leaving her clad in a t-shirt. She winced on the inside, and her psyche screamed at the invasion sure to come. ‘Don’t let him touch what doesn’t belong to him. Don’t let him make something beautiful you learned to share with Tara into a nightmare!’ Her conscious screamed. Her body listened. With adrenaline induced strength, she kicked her legs and swung her hands outward, hoping to connect with flesh and hoping to get away.

He growled as some of the punches connected. She was fighting. ‘Show her. Take her!’ Banging her against the wall with one hand, he pulled out the large, sharp blade, showing it to her. Arousal pooled in his blood. Gabrielle whimpered and felt the fight slowly leave her. He laughed and spit in her face. “You’re mine!”

Stepping back, he spun her around to face the wall, holding the knife to her throat. Assuming that she was scared stiff, he unbuttoned his pants with one hand then twist and tore her panties with the same one. His erection thickened at the urging of the voices. ‘We have her now.’ Gabrielle swallowed as the blade sliced lightly into her skin. Panic flared through her at the feel of her underwear being removed. Her hands trembled against the wall. Fear made tears fall, stinging the cuts on her face with the saltiness, and bile rose in her throat at the feel of his engorged penis in the small of her back. She cried out in pain, in fear, not wanting to give in. Pictures flashed through her mind, pictures of Tara, Lil, and Jamie. They would find her like this. Violated, lifeless, bloody.

She was sure he meant to kill her now. There would be no children. She wouldn’t feel the strong arms around her anymore. She wouldn’t feel her anymore. She cried out again. This time in anger. He was taking her away from everything she loved, everything she cherished. The anger boiled through her blood, replacing the fear and the pain. She couldn’t let this happen. She just couldn’t. Reaching down deep in the well of reserves, in her soul, she raised her hand and wrapped it around the blade at her throat. Grasping it, she felt it cut through layers of skin.

She didn’t notice the burn or the drip of blood. She heard a gasp and felt his grip loosen, and with her other arm, she elbowed him deep into the stomach. Hearing a dramatic oof, she got a better grip on the knife and yanked it away. He stumbled back, giving her the room to turn around. Anger grew, seething through her body and making her shake.

She studied him for a second. Still seeing the glazed look in his eyes, she saw something else. Fear. He stumbled back. Gabrielle followed. The knife loomed above her head menacingly. He would take nothing from her today, and he wouldn’t ever again. Blood roared in her ears and her mind continued to flash pictures of the ones she loved. In slow motion as if time was teetering to a stop, the knife plunged suddenly, ending up in the middle of his chest. She felt the blade pass through bone and mash into organs. The strawberry blonde did not hear the scream reverberating against the walls. All she saw was him falling onto the floor, grasping at his chest.

She watched on detached as the life drained from his body. His last broken murmur was, “We… mine.” Time righted itself as the lifeless eyes stared toward the ceiling. Gabrielle could feel the tears coming again. Backing up, her back stopped against the wall, and she slid to the floor. Her body throbbed with one pain after another, but a calm settled over her. She had won. She had protected what was hers. The tears still came, and she was so tired. She pillowed her head into her arms crossed over legs and allowed the sobs to rack her battered body.

****

The back of Tara’s neck tingled, and a chill settled over her spine, taking her breath away. She shook her head in an effort to clear it, but the feeling wouldn’t go away. Something was wrong. She felt it. She grabbed the phone on the garage wall and dialed her home number. It rang and rang until the voice mail picked up. Wiping her hands, she grabbed her keys from the peg and locked the door. The sense of foreboding increased. Jumping into her car, she sped off in the direction of home.

****

Lil turned onto her sister’s street. The numbness went all the way to her fingertips. She had heard the announcement again. It was true. She was gone. Just like that. She had to pull over twice to throw up after the second announcement. Now, pulling into her sister’s driveway, she felt nothing except numb. She detached her still sleeping daughter from the car seat and headed into the house. Opening the door, the sharp smell of copper hit her nose. She scrunched it up and looked down. Blood. Lots of it littered the carpet. Scanning the room, she spotted the bloody face of a woman looking up at her. ‘No, it can’t be. It couldn’t be Gabrielle.’ Softly the woman said her name. Thrust into action, she ran over to the woman, kneeling down, touching her.

“Oh, God Gabs, what happened here.” A bloody hand pointed toward the dead man on the floor. Lil covered her mouth and stared at the knife sticking out of his chest. She turned back to her sister, seeing the so much blood. “Are you alright, Gab? Gab? Talk to me!”

Green eyes looked up at her and a smile formed despite it all. “No, I’m bleeding all over the place. Can you call the police and an ambulance please. My hands. . .” she said softly.

Lil nodded and hugged her now awake and whimpering daughter to her. Her hands shook as fresh tears fell from her eyes. This was too much. Catt’s gone and Gabrielle is hurt. Her mind threatened to shut down completely, but the woman on the floor needed her. The girl clinging to her needed her. She swallowed and dialed 911.

Tara pulled up to ambulance and police cars surrounding their house. Panic flared through her body making her jittery. She jumped out of the car and ran for the door. A burly cop stopped her. “Let me the fuck go! I live here! Gabrielle! Where are you baby!?”

The small woman peered around the EMT trying to stop the blood flow from her hands.

“In here,” she called out as loud as she could.

It was loud enough. Tara broke away from the man and ran in. She scanned the room and saw Lil first, rocking Jamie, trying to quiet her. Blue connected with blue, and Tara noted the completely desolate look in eyes darker than her own. ‘Oh, God, what has happened?’ She said to herself. She heard a familiar voice again, small and weak, and saw a battered face peek from around a man’s legs. “Over here, T.”

Long legs followed the voice, then stopped short when she saw the battered face. Anger thick and sour bleed through her. She swallowed it down for the moment, kneeling in front of her lover. She touched her face with gentle hands. “Baby, are you okay? Who did this to you?”

“Calm down, T. I’m fine. It’s over.” She pointed with a shaky finger. “He did this.”

Tara turned her head and couldn’t control the gasp that came for her mouth. Police surrounded the body, taking notes.

“It’s that guy. The one that gave me the creeps.”

“Oh god baby, why?”

Tears fell from the green eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I thought I could handle it. He seemed so harmless.”

Tara leaned in and kissed an unbruised spot on her lover’s forehead.

“Shh, it’s okay now. Everything will be okay.” Bile rose in her throat as guilt took over the anger. She wasn’t here to protect her. She wasn’t here. Tara vaguely heard the front door open again, but she did hear Lil’s scream. She turned and found her in Catt’s embrace. She looked back at Gabrielle for understanding. The other woman looked just as confused.

Lil sucked in a breath and hiccuped. “They said. . . you. . . the plane crashed.”

“Shhh, I know I just heard. I got here as soon as I could. Took the bus. I’m so sorry, and you know if I’d known I would have called.”

“What. . .what are you doing here?”

Catt smiled. “I now work in Chicago.”

Lil screamed again as the tears flowed freely. Caitlin held them both close, soothing the simpering child. She looked around the room. “What the hell happened here?”

Hours later, the four women remained at the hospital. Three in the waiting room and one in a bed, staying overnight. By that time, they had all exchanged stories. It was a day that could have turned into great tragedy, but ended with four women closer together than ever. Lil sighed and took her hand from her lover’s. She placed a hand on Tara’s shoulder. “I’m gonna go call mom and tell her what happened before she hears it on the news. I need to call Mrs. Tibidault too. I need to know how Jamie is doing.”

Tara nodded and Catt watched her walk away. They looked at each other. “God, what a day,” the blonde whispered.

Tara shook her head. “Tell me about it.”
Story #7: Full of Grace
Tara jerked awake, knowing immediately that something was amiss. She sucked in a breath to calm her racing heart, and azure eyes scanned the darkness for the noise that woke her. Nothing. A finely boned hand reached out to the other side of the bed. There was nothing there either. She calmed her breathing in order to listen for aberrant noises and was rewarded with the sound of running water. Sighing, she closed her eyes and prayed to any god that would listen. Another sleepless night was ahead, she could feel it. After all they had confessed and been through, they had barely grazed the surface of this. Tara shook her head, not even knowing what to call it.

The incident.

There had been barely any touching, any discussion, but there had been nightmares, tears, and strained silences. Tonight was to be no exception. The raven-haired woman choked back the strong remnants of guilt that had plagued her for the past month. ‘I wasn’t there then, but at least I can be there for her now. If only she would let me.’ Tara shivered, remembering the closed look in her lover’s eyes every time the subject was broached and how she turned away, distancing herself physically. She wanted so much to have been the one wielding the knife, watching Steve bleed. ‘I should have been here.’ Another familiar emotion, anger, rose to her throat with bile. Closing her hands into fist, she squeezed almost feeling nails puncturing the skin. ‘Please God, help me. I have to do something or we won’t survive this.’ With the silent entreaty, she climbed out of the king-sized bed, stepping onto the cold floor to make her way into the bathroom to at least try.

Gabrielle huddled her half-dressed body on the floor between the sink and the toilet. The hot water gushed from the sink spigot, surrounding the room in warm mist, but despite that, her teeth chattered and her body shook. But, she wasn’t cold on the outside. Inside, something had been torn, broken and it had died. She was soulless, feeling nothing now but pain and fear. Everything felt dulled, even her love for Tara. Pulling her knees up to her chest, she murmured to herself, “He’s gone, and I killed him.” She had taken a life. Another human being had died in front of her because of her and her need to sustain her own existence. Somewhere inside, she knew that was enough justification, but that knowledge was buried deep.

The days were somewhat normal, but it was at night that the dreams came, reminding her of a day she wished to forget. They were no longer of how it all happened; somehow they had become more twisted, heart-wrenching and deadly. She closed her eyes and willed her teeth to stop chattering and was assaulted with broken images that sent her running not an hour ago.

****

The large, sharp knife pinched her neck, making her flinch in pain. “You’re mine now. Mine.” With a rough hand, he shoved her face into the wall, bringing the knife come dangerously close to it’s target. She heard the sound of him unzipping his pants. “All mine.” Then he was inside, pumping, grunting, growling. “She won’t want you anymore. No one will.” He slammed her head into the wall over and over again. Until through her ringing ears, she heard his final grunt of pleasure. That’s when the laughter began. Just as suddenly as it begun, it would stop only to turn into a soft sob. “How could you kill me? All I wanted to do was love you, be with you, and you killed me. You bitch!”

With one final hard knock into the wall, he spun her around. Gabrielle stared into blue eyes filled with madness. His lips were pulled back from his teeth in a horrible snarl as spittle flew from his mouth. He giggled gleefully as he watched the dim light glint off the blade. “Now, all I want to do is to kill you!” In agonizing slowness, she watched the oversized blade descend toward her chest, feeling it as it pierced skin, passed muscled, crunched into bone, and found it’s mark. As if she was on the outside looking in, the woman even heard the gurgle of blood as it traveled up her throat out of her mouth.

****

“No, no nooo!” She screamed, trying to shake the images away. Small hands went toward frightened green eyes, covering them as tears wet the dry tracks of those that had come before.

Tara was galvanized into action by the sound. “Gabrielle!” She burst through the bathroom door to find the huddled form.

“Red! Baby?”

The younger woman sobbed, “T?”

The tall lanky form of her lover kneeled to the floor, moving slowly and cautiously toward the sobbing form. Reaching out a hand, Tara touched a raised knee and flinched herself when the other woman jumped.

“Shhh, baby. It’s just me.”

The deep throaty voice was a balm to the strawberry blonde’s wounded soul. It pulled her from the trance like state. Lunging her whole body toward the figure in front of her, Gabrielle found herself engulfed in strong arms and surrounded by a warm but quivering body.

“Oh, God T. He won’t get out of my head.”

“Shhh, it’s okay. I got you.”

With the bathroom continuing to fill with steam, two figures sat curled up on the floor, gently rocking. Tara sucked in a relieved breath. ‘She’s gonna let me help. She’s opening to me.’ She breathed in the fragrance of the strawberry tresses and kissed them, trying to comfort them both. After a few more minutes, the dark-haired woman felt the body in her arms stiffen. ‘I have to be strong, so I can handle this. She doesn’t need to carry my baggage.’ Gabrielle almost shook her head in agreement with the silent thoughts.

“Uh, T it’s okay. Just a bad dream, and I can handle it.”

The smaller woman pulled away from the tight embrace, hearing the taller woman sigh in exasperation. ‘I know I’m hurting her, but she wouldn’t understand. She wasn’t there to see.’ Gabrielle wiped the remaining tears away along with sweat. Getting up, she turned off the water and looked up at the woman that towered over her. “I’m okay really.” She tried to curl the corners of her mouth into a small smile. It was a pitiful effort at best, and it didn’t get past Tara. ‘Why does she keep shutting me out like this. I know she blames me. Jesus Christ! She barely let’s me touch her.’ Tara wanted to scream in frustration.

“Red, you had another one didn’t you?”

“Another what?”

“You know what I’m talking about, another nightmare about Steve.”

Holding her hands up in a placating motion, she answered, “Listen, I told you it wasn’t bad.”

“You’re lying! You get up out of bed, you scream in your sleep when you are there, and now you’re screaming when you’re awake. Can’t you see that you need to talk about this! Why are you shutting me out?!”

“Don’t you fucking listen?! I said I could handle it! It’s none of your damn business anyway!”

Tara threw her hands in the air. “Wha-what do you mean none of my business? I sleep with you. I live with you in case you haven’t noticed, and dammit I love you! Why won’t you talk to me!?”

Gabrielle let out an aggravated growl that sounding dangerously close to a small scream. Jade green clashed with angry, hurt baby blue. So immersed in their own feelings, neither could see inside the other. Green radiated with fear and pain, while blue was full of guilt and loneliness. Gabrielle shook her head and shrugged small shoulders in annoyance. Turning on her heels, she walked brusquely out of the bathroom. Tara stared wide eyed. ‘She’s not gonna tell me.’ Her heart plunged into her stomach as if fear yanked it from it’s usual spot. Bile thick and sour rose in her throat, almost causing her to gag. They weren’t going to make it. She could feel it as the cold crept over her, into her. Not without help. Silently, she walked toward the bedroom.

Blue eyes glanced down at the bed only to see a blanket and pillows missing. She swallowed and fought the urge to cry. It would be the first night they hadn’t slept together in a long, long time. A wildly beating heart pushed and prodded her to follow the woman into the living room, guest room or wherever she went., but her head whispered that it was to no avail. She couldn’t break through the walls of steel that had been erected around her lover’s body, heart, and obviously her soul.

Gabrielle punched the pillows with a fist, in an effort to make them more comfortable. ‘I could have gone to the spare bedroom,’ she mused, ‘but I don’t want to be anywhere near her right now.’ Sighing, she laid back, staring up at the ceiling. Sleep wasn’t going to come, and she knew it. Resigned to her thoughts, their relationship was foremost in her mind. ‘There was no way she could understand. I killed a man to be with her, to stay with her, to be happy with her. Maybe it was my time to go and leave this place, and I just cheated death. Maybe that’s why he exacts his revenge in my dreams. ‘She won’t want you.’ His words reverberated through her head. She closed her eyes, telling herself he could be right. ‘Even though, she held me and has been trying to talk to me. It’s all out of pity. Why would she want me? I’m a murderer.’

Forgetting the peace she felt moments ago in her lover’s arms, she assured herself it was pity and wallowed in her own. Moving her head to the side, red-gold strands caught in the moisture spilling from her eyes. Hoping the tears had dried up during the past weeks, her hopes were dashed as old ones already shed only made room for more.

Tara stared at similar pieces of ceiling, letting wave after wave of guilt assault her. ‘She turns away from me. She won’t let me touch her, make love to her, and she won’t talk to me. She blames me, and I can feel it that’s the only explanation. I should have been there the moment I felt it something was wrong, but it was too late. He could have ra—raped her or even killed her. It hurt’s just to think about it.’

****

Coffee had become a large part of her breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It kept her from the zombie like state, allowing her at least the appearance of getting some work done. She had to swallow her pride already and ask for another extension due to the circumstances of the past few weeks. Now, she sat in front of the computer, looking at a half empty page. The words that were on it were sketchy, broken, and choppy. Flipping the computer off in disgust, she moved sweat pants covered legs under her and reached for more coffee. Nothing was working, including her brain and her relationship. ‘Punishment. That’s what it was,’ a dark part of her subconscious whispered. She kicked away from the desk, swinging her chair around to face the windows. The writer knew she was out there, hearing the muffled noise of the TV. They lived in the same house, meaning they had to see each other sometime during the day. ‘Why not get it out of the way now?’ She asked herself. Swinging the chair around again, she took a moment to gather herself before heading into the unknown.

Tara sat on the couch, alone, with the TV blaring gibberish. She nibbled absently on a peanut butter sandwich to fill a stomach that had stopped protesting long ago. Wiping at her eyes with a free hand, the woman could almost feel the droopy bags that had taken up permanent residence under them. Still, she knew that she looked minutely better than Gabrielle who had become gaunt and slim over the past month. Usually, somewhat chubby cheeks had become hollow, and the deep green of her eyes didn’t sparkle with impending mischief.

She had tried and failed to get the strawberry blonde to eat a proper meal, but it seemed that she didn’t want to listen just as much as she didn’t want to talk. Last night had brought things to a head. She didn’t know what to say or even know how to say it if she did. Sighing she switched the station to mindless videos. Looking up slightly, she spied the object of her thoughts heading for the couch. Trying her best to be obscure, Tara pretended not to notice. The slight form sat beside her with a flop, and she continued to nibble the sandwich. The dark-haired woman gazed out the corner of her eye toward the form next to her, waiting, watching, apprehending.

Gabrielle perched herself on the edge of the fluffy cushion, hoping at least to re-establish some form of cordiality after last night. Her mouth hardened when she realized that Tara was bent on ignoring her. Lacking the energy to sustain the anger, Gabrielle decided to go with her former plan, despite the tension surrounding them.

“Hey.”

‘Oh yeah, Red that was good. Show how much you’re really care.’

Tara gobbled the last bit of the sandwich into her mouth and swallowed. “Hey,” she muffled.

‘Okay, we got that out of the way. Should we tear into each other now?’

Listening the inner voice, Tara turned slightly, expecting to see the walls around her lover physically erect themselves.

Feeling slightly bolder, Gabrielle pressed on. “Not going to work today?”

Tara did nothing to hide the tight, fake smile. “No, I took time off to be with you remember?” Muttering under her breath, she said, “Lot of good it’s done since you won’t let me.”

Gabrielle was assaulted with a stab of anger and pain. Not knowing what else to do, she lashed out, almost sneering. “You know what? Why don’t we just stop talking altogether, huh?” ‘God, can I get a little understanding from her?’

Tara felt herself close up like a slamming door. “Fine by me. You haven’t said anything worth listening to in a while anyway.”

The writer bit into her cheek as the pain quotient increased, spilling into her chest. ‘I don’t understand why we’re hurting each other. She won’t freakin’ listen to me, when I tell her I can handle things, and she’s smothering me. I can’t feel myself anymore. When I look into her eyes now, all I see is anger and. . . and something else, but I don’t know what the hell it is. All I know is that it’s turning her into someone I don’t even know.’ Small hands fisted in her lap as she shook strawberry blonde tresses from her eyes with a shake of her head. Glancing once more at her lover, she was met with the strong line of a chiseled jaw that worked back and forth in anger. At a total loss as to what to say or do, Gabrielle quietly got up to re-enter her new sanctuary, her office.

Tara closed her eyes. That was the drawback to knowing someone so well. You know what hurts, and as sure as she was sitting here, she saw the pain flash in emerald eyes when she answered the undoubtedly rhetorical question. Her head fell into her hands, and raven hair pooled around her face. Everything. Everything hurt like hell lately. They couldn’t have a conversation, look at each other, or even barely touch. One was enough, but these things in combination were slowly becoming her undoing. Only because she could remember a time when talking, touches, glances were easy, almost second nature. Guilt reared its reoccurring head. ‘All of this could’ve been prevented if I had just been there. She won’t talk to me, open to me, or touch me because she knows I let her down.’ Familiar anger burned her throat. ‘I fucked up again, but I don’t know how not to be mad. She’s pushing me away, and I don’t know what else to do.’ She heaved a long exasperated sigh. ‘Maybe I just need to get out of her way.’ Raising her long frame, Tara headed to the bedroom to get dressed. She had to get out of the house for both their sakes.

****

Days passed, feeling like weeks. The silence between them reached and surpassed deafening. The couch had become Gabrielle’s make shift bedroom at night, where she screamed out again and again, feeling the knife plunge into her womb. Knowing she would never become desensitized to the sound of her lover’s pain, Tara sat up in a half empty bed listening, crying, and wanting to go comfort, but she knew a rebuff would be the only reaction. In the day, the strawberry blonde barricaded herself in the small office, drinking cup after cup of coffee, pretending to write. While during that time, Tara found a second home in her old apartment with Jake, where she cried and raged on his shoulder.

Gabrielle stared out the window, noticing the condensation there from the heat inside the house. Cocking her head to the side, she wondered if it was as cold as it looked. Her breathing stilled when she realized that she wouldn’t know now just like she didn’t know for the past month. She hadn’t stepped a foot outside since giving her statement to the police. Using one of her favorite defense mechanisms these days, she rationalized, “It’s safer in here.” Despite what had transpired in the living room a few weeks before, she felt safest in her own home. Stepping outside was when the fear began. If she had never gone out that day, she would have never seen him. He would have never found her, and she would have never killed him.

She jumped, knocked from her reverie by the slamming of the door. Tara had left like she did most mornings now, and she knew that she wouldn’t return until late evening. A familiar statement spilled into her thoughts, ‘Why doesn’t she understand?’ She wanted so much to tell her what happened; how she felt; and how she didn’t feel. Waves of unworthiness pushed against her. ‘ There is no way she could love me or want me. I’m a murderer, and I became one for her.’ Gabrielle jumped again when the phone rang. Looking at the clock, she scrunched her brows together in an effort to figure out who would call so early. One name popped into her head. Lil. She cleared her throat and hoped she would sound cherry enough. She picked up on the third ring.

“Hello?”

“Morning, sister sunshine!”

“Lil, get the stars out your eyes. It’s dreary as hell here. It always is.”

The younger woman chuckled. “You forgot to say it stinks too. You know that old corn smell?”

Gabrielle smiled despite herself. “Please, they refuse to admit that it exists. Personally, I think that people have just gotten used to it. Either that or they are the one’s causing it.”

The other woman laughed lightly. Then replied, “Mmm, now that we’ve finished with the small talk, how are you? I mean really?”

Gabrielle readied her pat answer, “I’m fine. Um, how are things going your way?”

The younger woman couldn’t keep herself from smiling. “We’re doing great. We had some issues to deal with and some talking to do, but I feel closer to her than I ever did.”

Closer. They were closer, and they were further apart and falling into a deep, dark pit. Closing her eyes, the petite woman tried to fight down the emotion building within. It stuck like a golf ball sized lump in her throat. She swallowed trying to move it down but to no avail. Her breathing hitched.

“Gab?” Lil was only awarded with silence.

Then it quickened as pain, unhappiness, guilt and fear made it’s way back up. Her spine tingled, and she felt the flush start at her neck, moving it’s way up. Hot, unshed tears prickled in green eyes.

“Gab, you okay?” Still, there was nothing.

One by one, the tears spilled, made lines down her face, and dotted her shirt. She sniffed, trying to keep her nose from running.

It was then that Lil realized. “Oh God, Gab? Sweetie? Talk to me. Has it gotten that bad?”

She hiccuped and tried to stop the impending sobs, but like a damn breaking, they came. The silence was pierced by a loud sob, then another one and another, until the wailing began. She couldn’t control it anymore. “God, Lil. It hurts so much, and I’m so scared.” She paused trying to catch her breath. “I thought I could handle it on my own. Deal with what I did and what I’ve become. I-I pushed her away. Cuz-cuz I know she didn’t really want to be here. How could she want to be with me? I ne-need her so much Lil, and now, I think she hates me!”

A few hundred miles away, the brunette plopped onto the couch, suddenly glad she was alone. It had gotten bad, and she had no idea how Gab was feeling. The jumbled speech made her more confused than ever. “Gab, shhhh. She couldn’t hate you. Shhh, I want you to calm down. You’re gonna make yourself sick.” She heard the muffled sound of moving around. “You know you can’t go on like this don’t you?

“I-I know, but I don’t know what to do.” She wiped at her eyes with a Kleenex.

“Maybe you need to go talk to someone. . .”

“No! That’s not an option Lil. I can’t. I can’t talk to T, so what makes you think I could talk to a stranger? I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“It was just an idea. Maybe mom will be able to help. You know offer a fresh perspective for you both, and she’ll be there in a couple of days.”

She blew her nose before she answered. “Maybe. It couldn’t make things worse. I don’t think.”

They talked for a few more minutes. Gabrielle hung up feeling emotionally drained and raw.

****

Tara lay on her brother’s couch, staring at her own little piece of ceiling and counted 1,201 holes so far. Jake rolled his eyes and sighed. She was trying to hide it, but he hadn’t seen her this distraught in. . .well a long, long time. He could see behind the dry humor and quick wit like no one else could, except maybe Gabrielle.

“You know Jakie, if you didn’t look so good as a woman you might find a good gay man.” She paused. “Next on Jerry Springer.” Then she laughed at her own joke.

Jake decided to push through the subterfuge today. ‘She’s been coming over for the past few days and hasn’t really said a thing.’

“T?” Blue eyes like his looked up in acknowledgement. “Shut the hell up,” he deadpanned. “You’ve been coming over here for days now with that sick look in your eyes. You’ve talked, talked, and talked and managed not to say a damn thing. So, do you want to tell me what’s going on?”

She lowered her head until her chin rested against her chest and mumbled, “Nothin’.”

Jake got up from the chair. Pushing her legs off the couch, he sat next to her. Unceremoniously, she deposited her feet in his lap.

“Bullshit. Who do you think you’re talking to? You’ve been spending most of your days with me, and I know I ain’t that interesting. And you sure as hell don’t miss me that much.”

She scowled at her brother. Then said again, “It’s nothin’. Just need to get away is all.”

“Unh-huh, what did you do?”

She jumped up outraged at his implications. “Wha-What did I do? She’s the one that won’t talk to me!”

Crystal blue eyes shined back at him in triumph and mirth.

“Asshole.”

“Yup, but I’m a smart one. Now spill it.”

Releasing a breath, she disturbed dark bangs. “I don’t even know where to start.”

“Try—”

“Yeah, yeah I know at the beginning.” She sighed. “Well, after what happened with this Steve guy, I just expected. . .I don’t know to feel relieved that she was okay. I thought we would talk about, and I would help her get through whatever she was feeling. It didn’t turn out that way. She won’t even talk to me Jakie, and it’s just turned into a big ass mess. All this shit would have never happened if I’d stayed with her that day. I should have been there!” Large hands ran irritably through the black mane. “I could have stopped this, but I had to take my ass to the shop out of some sense of duty, even when I knew things were slow as fuck. I just should have stayed home,” she finished disgustedly.

Jake pursed his lips, listening intently. “Okayy, first of all. She killed a man T. Stabbed him dead, so she’s dealing with her own shit, you know? We don’t know what he said or what all he did to her. You, sis, will just have to be patient and more than a little understanding.

He paused and looked into the eyes the same color blue to make sure she was listening. He was met with an eager glance.

“As for you, T, you are only human, and it’s kinda normal to feel guilty after something like this. Look at it this way. If you had been there, who’s to say he wouldn’t have killed you both? Who’s to say he wouldn’t have waited until you went to the store, over here, or anywhere? Who’s to say?”

She rolled her eyes and sighed in irritation. “I understand all of that, but I also need to think about the what ifs. Either way none of it is helping. She won’t talk to me, and for all I know, she blames me for not being there, when I said I always would.”

He nodded his head in understanding. “Listen, all I got to say is listen to her. Don’t talk over her. Just listen and talk to her.”

“I’ve been trying!”

“Try harder,” he simply said.

They talked, and she cried on his shoulder as he wiped the tears away. Finally, she left late in the afternoon.

****

Coming in from the semi-darkness outside, Tara opened the door to a dimly lit living room. Azure eyes spied a figure huddled up in blankets on the couch in front of a silent, flashing television. She sat down beside the small form of her lover. The strawberry blonde didn’t even turn her way, but she had to expect that after the argument between them several days ago.

“Um, Jake sends his love.”

Gabrielle turned slightly toward the other woman.

“How’s he doing?”

“The same smart ass as ever,” Tara replied hoping to at least get a slip of a smile.

Nothing.

They slipped into the customary silence. The dark-haired woman lowered her head. ‘I just don’t know what to say, and I’m tired of fighting with her.’

Gabrielle rubbed her hand against her clothed leg. ‘I don’t have the energy to do this. I wish she could just understand.’

The younger woman turned to look at her lover and found troubled blue eyes staring back at her. She missed those eyes. It seemed so long since she had seen happiness in them, since she had seen herself. How had they come so far from the loving path that they were following? There was no laughter, playing or togetherness anymore. There was only a somber blanket of wariness. Gabrielle pulled her eyes away to again stare sightlessly at the TV. Tara bit the inside of her cheek. There was nothing left to do save for trying.

“Red, we need to talk,”

Emerald green slowly turned back toward her. “Yeah, we do.”

Not knowing what else to do, Tara went in head first. “You’re shutting me out.”

The strawberry blonde shook her head sadly. “All I want is for you to understand and give me some time to deal with all of this myself.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to go it alone because that’s what I’m hear for.” She didn’t try to hide the thickness in her voice.

“Do you know me at all? If you did, you would know that I have to come to terms with what’s inside me before I let it out. Why can’t you understand that? All you seem to care about is what you want and what you want me to do,” the younger woman said with rising anger. She tried to swallow it down, the anger, but it reared its head anyway, coursing through her veins.

Tara closed her eyes and saw red. She gritted her teeth and slowly counted to ten. It didn’t work, so she seethed. “Look Red, I don’t wanna fight with you. I don’t have the fucking energy!”

“Then walk away like you’ve been doing!”

Guilt struck hard, ringing in her ears. She had to get away from it, if only for a little while. Letting out a growl, she propelled herself from the couch. Midnight tresses swung around with the rest of her body. “Fine! Don’t expect me to come back tonight and put up with this!”

She turned again and headed for the door.

“Where are you going!?” The other woman screamed desperately. Fear permeated her heart along with the anger.

“Out!”

She left with a slam of the door.

Gabrielle was left alone with her thoughts, with her battle just like she wanted. Small hands went to her flushed face, and she wondered if Tara coming back at all. ‘She does hate me.’

****

For hours, Tara drove aimlessly through the darkened streets. Her thoughts were a jumble mass of Jake’s advice and her lover’s screaming words. She cranked up the music to drown it all out. She turned onto the highway and decided that she needed something else to drown it all out. The bar at R’Place sounded really good right now.

The pulsing beat of the music and raised voices were a welcome sound. Brushing off her jeans and adjusting her sweater, she sauntered over to the bar, weaving through the dancing couples. The leather coat found a home on the back of a bar stool. With a nod of her head, she beckoned the bartender over, oblivious to the stares of the female patrons.

“Hey beautiful. What can I get you?

Tara gave him her best effort at a smile. “You’re new,” she exclaimed over the music. “Where’s—-”

“He’s on vacation, so you’re stuck with me, handsome. My name’s Chris. What’ll it be?”

“A pitcher of whatever you have on tap along with a mug and keep them coming.”

“Whatever you say. Be right back.”

Tara guzzled beer after beer until her brain felt decidedly fuzzy. There were no thoughts of Gabrielle, no feelings of guilt, just a faux sense of bliss. Beer sloshed over the side of the mug as she chatted with the bartender.

“Women!”

The bartender looked at her inquisitively. “What about them?”

“Jus-women!” She slurred. With her elbows on the bar, she wiggled her hips to the beat of the music.

A table of women close to the gyrating woman watched appreciatively, daring each other to make an approach. A petite blonde took the dare. Licking her lips, she studied the raven-haired woman’s tall, lanky form before approaching her. Then she made herself comfortable in a stool beside Tara.

“Hey Chris! The next round for the lady here is on me.”

He looked from one woman to the other with a hint of a grin and nodded his head.

Tara could feel eyes boring into her. Turning to the left and looking down, she stumbled across moss green eyes with a predatory gleam shining in them. They were so much. . .no she refused to think about her. With hooded eyes, she gave the woman the once over. Opening baby blues fully, she smirked at the other woman’s gasp. The smirk turned into a smile as she watched the woman’s throat bob up and down in a swallowing motion.

“I’m Cleo, and you are?”

Tara’s smile turned into a sexy, toothy grin “Whoever you need me to be.”

Deep inside she balked at the words that spilled from her lips. A muffled voice screamed that this was wrong, but it had been dulled by alcohol and pain. She longed for contact, just a touch, to make her feel alive again. The eyes. They reminded her so much of the woman that she wanted to do the touching, so her hazy mind settled.

The blonde interrupted her reverie when she quipped, “I need you to be mine tonight.”

The inaudible voice continued to ring throughout her head, and she continued to ignore it’s plea. After all, it was just a dance. With a jerk of her chin, they moved to the make shift dancefloor. Grabbing the blonde’s hips from behind, Tara pulled the woman into her body. She bent at the knee, pulling the her into a deep grind. Small hands caressed her arms then moved up to wrap around her neck and run through inky tresses. Large hands traced the span of the blonde’s hips then raked over her flat stomach. Their bodies remained sensuously entwined throughout the song and a few more, stopping when their bodies were covered with a light sheen of sweat. The two women returned to sit at the bar. Their legs touched, and the blonde increased the connection by stroking Tara’s thigh.

“I still didn’t catch your name.”

“That’s because I’m not gonna throw it.”

Instead of the aloof, cool attitude spurning the woman, she became more intrigued than ever. She decided to push the envelope. “I don’t live far from here. You want to come over for a. . . drink?”

Tara took a healthy swig out of the mug. She had sobered up some, and the voice was louder. ‘What the hell am I doing? I practically fucked this woman on the dance floor because she looked like Red. But, God, it felt so good to touch and be touched like that. It’s been so long. I’m gonna explode if things stay like this. I need something. I need somebody.’

“Yeah, let’s go.”

Ten minutes later, Tara stood in a semi-lighted apartment.

“Have a seat right in there.” The blonde pointed.

“No, if it’s okay I’ll follow you,” Tara replied.

They walked quietly into the kitchen, and the taller woman watched as the blonde extracted two beers from the fridge. Leaning back against the counter, Tara sipped her beer. She looked down curiously as the other woman walked over and began playing with a belt loop on her jeans.

“You know my friends dared me to come talk to you. I would say things turned out rather well.”

Cleo took the beer from the dark-haired woman’s grasp and sat it on the nearby counter. She pushed up against the tall frame and wrapped her arms around a graceful neck. Tara swallowed. ‘Can I do this? I love her. God knows I do, but I need this. She doesn’t have to know.’ Small, strong hands pulled the dark head down until their lips touched. Tara growled in satisfaction. Pushing the woman back into the sink on the opposite side, she deepened the kiss. The smaller woman hopped up and wrapped strong legs around the taller woman’s waist. Dark eyebrows scrunched. Something wasn’t right, and she knew that she couldn’t do it. The lips and taste were different. The body in front of her didn’t fit into her like it should, and the legs around her waist were lacking. It wasn’t Red, and it was all wrong. Tara wrenched her lips away as shame flooded her face.

She moved away until her lower back bumped into the counter. With her chest heaving, wide blue eyes skittered about, looking everywhere but the other woman’s face.

“L-Look, I can’t do this. I’m sorry, but I can’t,” Tara pleaded as anger colored the other woman’s features. Before the other woman could speak, Tara ran for the door.

Gabrielle looked up at the wall clock. It was almost 6am, and Tara hadn’t called or shown up. Fear and anger nagged at her gut. Despite the fighting, they were still a couple, and they still lived together, which entailed certain responsibilities. For tonight, she had obviously shirked them. ‘Maybe, I’ve pushed her to far, or maybe, I’ve really neglected to see her side of things. I’ve really haven’t been giving her what she needs. No, no, that doesn’t give her an excuse to do this to me, staying out all night. She could be lying somewhere dead, so she should have called.’ Gabrielle sighed. Her heart and head felt so heavy like the weight of the universe was upon them. Raising up her knees, she pulled the night shirt down her legs, wrapping her arms around them. Anger nested and seemed to make a permanent home in her belly. There was nothing left to do but to wait and wish that she had someone to talk to. At this moment, Gabrielle hoped the days were quick to her mother’s arrival.

Tara pulled over into an empty parking lot. She wiped away tears that had been steadily falling since she left the blonde’s house. Letting out a frustrated growl, her fisted hands met the steering wheel with a continuous thump. She took a few deep breaths to try and calm herself. It worked a little. She turned on the interior light and pulled a mirror toward her. Shame and guilt fought for supremacy as she took in lip stick smeared, swollen lips and red eyes. Tears fell anew. ‘I’m such an idiot! How could I do this to her?! Oh, God please forgive me. I just needed. . . I need her.’

Her face fell hidden by black hair. ‘I love her. She’s my life, and I almost threw my life away. Why? Why couldn’t I see?’ Things that were once cloudy now seemed crystal clear. With this hit and miss situation, Tara learned that she was only human, making her prone to selfishness. ‘All of this was about my guilt and making me feel better. Browbeating Gabrielle and kissing that woman was all about me and assuaging my guilt at not being there.’ She stared out the windshield in wonder. The question was now could their relationship be salvaged? Tara swiped angrily at the lipstick on her lips and answered her own question. “I’ve gotta try.” She started the car and drove off toward home.

****

The sky was rich in oranges and reds despite the impending coldness of the winter’s day. Tara looked up at the sky as she let herself in quietly to keep from waking her lover. Nonetheless, she was surprised to see the petite woman sitting on the couch looking straight at her. Tara’s hands shook as she deposited the keys in her pockets and threw her jacket in a nearby chair. She discreetly wiped her mouth and sniffed to see if all the vestiges of Cleo were gone. ‘Please don’t let anything go wrong.’ She felt jade green eyes scorching her as they watched her progress to the couch.

Gabrielle felt anger explode behind her eyes. The other woman looked rumpled and smelled of alcohol. ‘She went out and got drag out drunk.’ The writer gritted her teeth to keep from snarling, but it came out sounding harsh anyway. “Where the hell were you?”

Tara turned to answer. She saw the anger mirrored in the beautiful face. Over the past few weeks that look had incited her own anger, now, there was only a sense of calm and nervousness.

“I-I went to the bar.”

“So to hell with me right? You couldn’t call because all you wanted to do was get pissy drunk?”

“It wasn’t like that Red. I just needed to get away for a little while.”

“You stayed out all night!”

Tara hung her head, making Gabrielle take a closer look. She seemed. . . .the strawberry blonde couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She sighed in frustration. It hurt so much. It all just hurt too much. Who knew it hurt like this to love? The smaller woman massaged the bridge of her nose then got up. She pulled her night shirt down a little and added, “Look, I’ll be in my office trying to get some work done.” She turned and headed for her office.

’It’s now or never T.’ In three big steps, the older woman stopped close behind her lover, gently grabbing her arm. She said a prayer of thanks when Gabrielle didn’t pull away.

“Red?”

“What?” She replied irritably then spun around to face her.

Blue latched onto green. Tara tried to relate all the guilt and all the love in one look.

“I love you.”

Pale brows shot up in confusion. “Wha-?”

“I love you Gabrielle,” she whispered softly.

A sob fell from the petite woman’s lips, and she pressed the back of the free hand against her mouth. However, her eyes said it all. In a little over a month in the aftermath of all that had happened, they had neglected to really say those three words to each other. They were a balm to her heavy soul, making it feel just a little lighter. Tara pulled the sobbing woman into her arms. If felt so good to have her there again. She tightened her hold. “I’ve missed this. I’ve missed you.”

“Oh, God,” was the younger woman’s reply. “Missed you so much.”

Gabrielle buried her face in her lover’s neck. She kissed the skin lightly and took in the spicy scent that she had missed. Tara cradled the red-gold topped head and kissed the fragrant hair. The younger woman raised her head, peering into clear blue. She didn’t bother to wipe her tears away as she whispered, “I love you too.” The dark head bent, seeing quivering, full lips that she had to taste. She put a long finger to pouty lips to calm them then her head descended to offer even more comfort. Lips brushed and lifted like a soft, wispy cloud. It felt great to be home again. She covered her lover’s lips once more, feeling out of practice. Tara reveled in the fact that she was finally allowed to touch and love. If only for a little while, she felt full again.

The strawberry blonde’s insides quaked in awe. ‘This is what I’ve been missing out on, her strength and love, and maybe, it’s what I needed all along.’ Where her mind had denied her, her body sought after contact now, burrowing into the lanky form in front of her. Small hands grasped broad shoulders and held on for dear life. Never had she thought that one little kiss could be so sweet and so full of love. Lips brushed and lifted again and again, making her whimper with each caress. She could taste her own salty tears as the drops made their way passed their sealed mouths. It only served to make it feel more new. Gabrielle murmured in contentment and in acknowledgment of the magic of the moment.

The two lips under hers felt like the finest of silk. Tara couldn’t help wanting more. It had been so long since they had touched like this, kissed like this. Some voice deep inside told her they should talk and take one step at a time, but the need out weighed reason. She knew this would fix nothing, but it might be enough to reconnect them and bring them closer. Lifting her head from the kiss, Tara found her hands caressing the face so close to her own. Both pairs of eyes reflected wonderment. The taller woman’s sensitive fingertips ran along the length of her lover’s jaw until they found the warm moistness of lips again. She ran sensitized pads over the bottom lip, feeling it part from its twin, and dipped in just a little, caressing the satiny inside. A tingle of awareness started from deep inside and worked its way from fingers to toes. She continued to peer into green as she repeated the caress. Her eyes held a tentative question that only the woman before her could answer. ‘May I have more?’

Where her insides had quaked before, now they turned to mush. With one touch, it brought with it a flash of arousal. It was something she hadn’t felt or couldn’t feel in over a month. Perhaps, she needed to be touched, revered, and loved. Maybe, both of them did, just to reconnect with the closeness that had been lacking. Gabrielle saw the question gleaming in the eyes before her and decided to give an answer. She took the larger palm into her two smaller ones and pushed the invading finger further into her mouth. A hot, silky tongue branded it with swirls around the tip and a gentle suck. Green eyes sparkled as the answer was registered. Tara shivered as pleasure wound its way up her spine in sneaky tendrils, and then let out an involuntary whimper at the feel of wet heat surrounding her appendage. Arousal thick like honey and just as sweet flooded her being, collecting between her legs.

Urgency came along with it, but she stilled herself against it in an effort to take things slow. That idea was blown all to hell when the petite woman wrapped a hand around her neck and pulled her head down. Gabrielle made sure lips engulfed the finger then allowed it to slide out sensuously. With the tip of her tongue, she licked Tara’s bottom lip in a request to open. She obliged her and lips opened moistly over each other. Gabrielle’s moan was muffled as breathing hitched and accelerated. The tips of tongues played teasingly before battling in a war for control. Lips crushed together urgently, unevenly, and they drank from each other ravenously. A growl was torn from Tara’s throat. The sound shot directly to the other woman’s groin, signaling the beginning of its pulsation. Wrapping her hands around the small, muscular back, Tara moved them backward until the far wall stopped them. She then steadied herself with arm against it.

Gabrielle groaned at the feel of the other woman so close. She’d missed this too, the passionate intensity. Her body hummed and felt taught like an electric wire. She arched her back, jutting out hard-tipped breast, and they rubbed against the corresponding pair, making her knees all the weaker. She refused to release her hold on the lips, but the need for breathing demanded it. Wrenching her mouth away, she sucked in much needed breath, even though they were ragged. Eyes met and smoldered just like their need. Gabrielle’s hands found a home in dark tresses. All she could think about was more to make her feel, to make her fly, and eventually bring her to ground.

Between harsh breaths, she whispered huskily, “Touch me.”

Foreheads met and breaths mingled. Tara bent at the knee in a quiet request for firm thighs to wrap around her, and the request was honored. Her large hands caressed creamy thighs to the apex. She could feel the tremble of muscle in the wake of her touch and groaned in understanding. Her hands found purchase in the back, under her lover’s nightshirt. Tara whimpered, realizing that she had just met naked skin. She palmed the twin globes of flesh and squeezed harshly, separating them for a second to let cool air blow over her heated center.

“Oh God, yess!” Gabrielle cried.

Tara’s head swam as wetness teased the tips of her fingers. Her eyes spied the delectable flesh where neck met shoulder. She bit into it, and then licked away the traces of pain. The resulting moan from the woman that she was holding made her all the wetter, especially when she felt the beginnings of a grind from the other woman’s hips. She groaned in frustration because it wasn’t enough. She wanted her naked, writhing, and moaning. Leaning her against the wall for support, Tara removed the woman’s nightshirt to reveal erect pink nipples and sweaty, soft skin. Feeling like it was the first time that she saw such a sight, she stared in wonder. The swells lifted and flushed before her eyes, and Tara licked her lips in anticipation. She frowned when she felt a small flutter. Looking down, blue eyes spotted small hands busy at her fly, and green eyes twinkled sheepishly back at her. Gabrielle slid down her lover’s body until her feet touched the floor once more. Then after more fumbling, her fly was unbuttoned and jeans slid down impossibly long legs. She stepped out of them and immediately felt those same hands tugging up her sweater.

“Wanna see you,” the petite woman said as she lifted the sweater up and over her lover’s head.

Not saying a word, Tara gave her free reign. Quick hands made their way to her naked torso. Ducking her head, Gabrielle was eye level with hard brown tipped breast. Her mouth watered with the need to reacquaint herself with the taste. Without another thought, her lips engulfed the nipple, twisting it in her lips as she twisted the other with fingertips. Her body shuddered at the feel of rigid flesh. She sucked the nipple in slowly but firmly, and she shivered again as the woman towering over her cried out. Wet heat in abundance spilled from her loins onto her thighs. Her center radiated with life as nether lips thickened along with the swelling clit. Blood roared through her ears in combination with the hard thump of her heart. It had been too long. Way too long.

Tara slumped her body into her lover, giving her better access, and one arm against the wall kept her from sliding to the floor. A long fingered hand urged the woman on as she pressed the back of the strawberry blonde head into her breasts. She groaned at the loud, wet sucking sounds and wished she could see the look on her lover’s face that went along with the little whimpers of enjoyment. Her hips surged forward with each suck that seemed to devour more and more of her breast. Her nose flared at the smell of sex and arousal thick in the air. She could almost taste it and wanted to wallow in it. Deciding to settle, she leaned her lover against the wall once more, and used the free hand to lift a creamy thigh over and around her own, leaving the other to graze her own mound. Arching her own leg upward, she met intense heat and dripping moisture. It made her breath catch on an impending moan.

“Mmmm, so wet.”

Nether lips hidden behind curly auburn hair felt swollen, engorged against her skin. She moved her leg in a circular motion and was rewarded with a sharp whimper and an increase in suction. Gabrielle moaned long and harsh as liquid fire rolled through her blood in the form of pleasure. She pressed down and rode the obliging thigh shamelessly, proudly. The urgency returned. She squeezed the nipple in her hand, pulling the tip, and correspondingly her hot, pink tongue traced the other globe of erect flesh as she suckled it deeper. Gabrielle could feel the flesh throb and swell in her mouth, which served to make her hotter, wetter, and ride harder. Wet lips slid along the strong thigh, generating an incredibly erotic friction. Their sweaty bodies thrust into each other wildly. The strawberry blonde’s free hand scorched a trail of fire down her lover’s back with short fingernails. One larger hand found a home upon a firm, round buttock, kneading the flesh as she urged the gyrations on. The air was filled with the sounds of grunts and whimpers.

The thigh in between Tara’s legs only served to tease the aching flesh there only grazing it lightly, but the constant moist pull at her breasts and the sounds of her lover’s enjoyment pushed her higher, making the backs of her legs tingle.

“Oh yeah baby, c’mon,” she exclaimed hoarsely.

Gabrielle’s mind reeled, and the voice of her lover pushed her to new heights. Her skin felt tight, hot and slick with sweat, and pleasure burst from between her legs, radiating outward. Her sex felt as if it was on fire with the delightful rubbing of swollen flesh on smooth skin. She could feel oblivion reaching out for her, wanting to comfort her in warm arms. She opened herself to it by gyrating wildly, pummeling her center with electrical charges that shot throughout her body. It started as a sunburst behind her eyes. The warmth she saw enveloped her body, flooding it with heat. With a few more jerks, the convulsions started as indescribable pleasure mingled with the heat already pumping through her blood. She bit into the nipple in her mouth and screamed into the convenient globe as she shuddered. She had gotten her wish. She was flying.

Tara moaned gutturally as the juices spilled over her thigh. It triggered the oozing of her own. The sound of her lover’s pleasure; the vehement suckling of her breast; and the teasing thigh were enough, just enough to send her over. Fingernails dug into a plump cheek as she held on for dear life. A rumble started in her chest and worked its way out into a loud yelp as orgasm slammed through, devastating her in the most erotic of ways.

Her slack body leaned forward covering the one in front of her. She felt the slight weight of the smaller woman against her, as well as soft kisses punctuated by whimpers against her throat. Usually sturdy legs shook as she tried to remain standing, but she was helpless, not able to do anything but follow the slowly descending body before her. The strawberry blonde had gotten another wish fulfilled. She was grounded, at least for the time being.

Making it to the bedroom sometime later, the morning and most of the afternoon was filled with the re-discovery of sounds, smells, touches, and the use of tongues, mouths, and fingers. The room was filled with everything from quite murmurs of love to yelps of satisfaction. After all was said and done, Tara found herself holding her petite lover as they drifted off into much needed sleep.

****

His eyes bored into hers as the knife descended into her stomach. . . “Noo!” Gabrielle jerked awake holding her belly. She wiped at the sweat and tears that stained her face, and green eyes looked around the dark room frantically just to make sure the dreamscape was no more. She pushed her hands through her hair in an effort to clear her head. It always seems so real.

Tara jerked awake at onset of the scream. She sat up quickly in the bed and saw her distraught lover heaving breathlessly while frantic eyes scanned the room. The dark-haired woman scooched up a little to get closer the shaking form. She reached out a hand and felt reluctance flood her. Deciding another approach, she softly whispered the other woman’s name, “Red?” Not getting an answer, she touched her anyway. Reaching out a hand again, she covered a rounded shoulder. She felt wiry muscle tense under her touch, but Gabrielle didn’t pull away. That was at least something. The smaller woman turned around to face her lover. Tara saw the pain in the red eyes that were still tearing. Going on pure instinct, she pulled the woman into her arms.

For just a moment, Gabrielle felt safe, but as the seconds ticked away, she questioned the right to be that way in someone’s arms. Unable to help herself, she wiggled away from the embrace. She looked into sky blue eyes and saw the hurt there.

“I’m sorry. I just—”

“I know, but I’m gonna be honest with you and tell you that it still hurts.”

Jade eyes widened. ‘Does she understand now?’ “Do you know. . .I mean understand?”

“I’m tryin’ to Red, and I’m gonna try to be more patient too. You just have to bare with me is all.”

“What happen to make you like this?”

“Let’s just say that I found clarification at the bottom of a beer mug.”

Gabrielle attempted a watery smile.

“Hey Red, you alright?”

“Yeah, I’ll live.” Small hands wiped again at old tears.

“You hungry?”

“Uhm,” She patted her stomach then looked up sheepishly. “I could eat.”

Tara snorted and gave her lover a small smile.

“That’s my Red.”

They sat on the couch legs folded underneath, devouring omelets and having the first real conversation in a long while.

“I talked to Lil.”

“Oh, really how is her new little family fairing?”

“From what I got, things were rocky at first, but they worked it out.

“That’s good. Where was—”

“She was still at the sitter’s.”

“Ah, you know me so well.”

Somber green glanced into blue. “Yeah, sometimes I do.”

Tara looked at her inquisitively and was about to speak. The wave of a small hand stopped her. She needed to change the subject away from the lately volatile personality of her lover, not wanting to argue. “You miss her don’t you?”

“Who?” Tara asked, a little thrown by the abrupt change of subject.

“Jamie.”

Tara couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, I miss her something awful.”

The red gold head hung. “Um, this thing that happened postpones a lot of things now.”

“You mean the baby? Oh, Red I wouldn’t think of bringing a baby into our world right now with the way we’ve been acting.’

With unshed tears making her eyes glisten, Gabrielle stared at her lover. “I’m sorry.”

Tara reached over and wrapped a red-gold lock around her finger. “Hey, it’s okay. We’ll have plenty of time for that. I’m not going anywhere.”

The strawberry blonde shifted a little closer. “Thank you for trying to understand and for today too. We needed that closeness and intensity back. I felt it go a while ago.”

“Yeah, I know.” Tara tried to hide the flash of guilt as she thought about the closeness that she was about to share with Cleo. ‘I don’t think that I could have gone through with it anyway. I would have never been able to look her in the eye again.’ Clearing her throat, she added, “I don’t think either one of us could have kept going the way we were. It was like adding pain on top of pain.”

They talked about everything, almost everything, and nothing while watching late night cartoons, cherishing the banter that had returned however awkward it was. Once again, the bed was occupied by them both.

****

Jean Howard argued with her husband most of the night, but she knew that she had to get to Terre Haute as soon as possible, despite how much he wanted her to wait. He had said she was an adult and needed time to herself, but a mother knows when her child is hurting or in need. They got that power when the kids grew into their terrible twos. Once she helped to get Gabrielle get the aid that she needed, she had to find out what was going on with Lil. The child had been acting positively strange lately. Graying hair moved slightly as she shook her head in concern.

She looked into the deceptive sun as it continued to rise in the early morning sky. It reflected off the waxed surface of the Lincoln and bounced off the windshield as she turned onto the highway.

Swallowing, she felt a nervous flutter in her stomach, instantly knowing the cause. She was going to see Tara again. There was no avoiding it because her daughter ate with her, slept with her, and lived with her. The tall young woman seemed to be intelligent, and despite her best efforts it still disturbed her that she was a woman. A woman in love with her daughter, who swore that she was happy. Happy. Jean remembered the way Gabrielle glowed around the other woman. It was damned hard to miss. She was hear to help her daughter get help and come to terms with traumatic events, but it looked as though that she also came here to help herself accept her child’s lover.

****

With the sun just waking and shining brightly, Jean Howard pulled up to her daughter’s house. She stretched within the confines of the car, feeling the tiredness due to the early morning hour. It looked quiet from the outside, but looks can be deceiving. The woman had learned that the hard way over the past few months. She took a deep breath, preparing herself for the unexpected and switched off the car with a flip of her wrist.

With a blanket wrapped around her small frame, Gabrielle sat on the couch, mesmerized by the glare of the TV but not really seeing it. They were both early to rise, tired but snatched from the arms of further sleep by the familiar nightmare. She burrowed her nude form deeper into the blanket and yawned as her sleepy mind went over the events of the day before. The tiny voice inside, telling her that she wasn’t worthy of happiness, was silenced by Tara’s touch, at least for a little while. Still, the nightmare remained. It had to be a sign, letting her know that she couldn’t run or hide behind love that she didn’t deserve any longer.

‘She told me that she understands now, but I haven’t earned anything that she’s given me. I treated her like shit and pushed her away. In return, she held me; loved me; touched me; and God, took me to heaven and back. If revenge is what he wants from me, then he’s sure as hell getting it.’ Emerald orbs closed as waves of tiredness and pain lapped against her body. Balling her hands into fists, she tried to beat down the rush of tears that she could feel coming. They stung her nose and eyes as they came anyway, making her feel lost and alone. The petite woman longed to shout the injustice of it all up into the sky, but she settled for a discreet whimper. These feelings felt as though they were never going away.

Hot water beat down upon supple skin, and Tara scrubbed vigorously at her flesh as if trying to make it new. However, the water didn’t penetrate it and neither did the soap. Guilt made her feel sticky and unclean. She hadn’t traded one guilt for the other. They had been combined, making her feel all the dirtier. So, she scrubbed on. Fat droplets of water fell in her face from her dripping hair and pulsating shower head as she bent to rub clean new flesh.

Like an eerie echo, a disembodied voice whispered in her ear. ‘Cheater. Traitor. You’ve never been there for her. Never!

“No!” She whispered huskily.

The weight on her shoulders became overbearing, pushing her to a kneeling position in the shower stall. The stinging hot water pummeled her back like little punishing fist, and soaked wet blackness covered her face as tears mingled with the droplets already falling. She was tired of crying; tired of hurting; and tired of hurting others. Sobs racked her frame. In between the tears she whispered into the water.

“So selfish. . .got to make it up to her.”

She covered her knees with her arms and tried to stave off the shivering that shook her frame, despite the heat. Finally, reaching out, she grabbed the bar embedded into the wall and pulled herself up. On wobbly legs, Tara blinked the water from her eyes and hiccuped as the tears and sobs dried up. Switching the knobs off, she continued to stand in the damp stall.

“Just wanna hold her. Gonna make it all up to her,” she said, barely convincing herself.

Tara stood there gathering courage as water dripped from her hair and body.

Angrily, Gabrielle wiped away the tears. Her philosophy had always been that ‘things happen for a reason.’ She almost snorted. ‘If that’s true, then someone should tell me what and why the hell this is going on, and I don’t want to hear that bullshit about making us stronger.’ She wanted to laugh at the irony of it all. After all they had been through, the fears and her parents, this could bring them down. A man bringing down a lesbian relationship, and it had to be a man she hardly knew. Her strawberry blonde head shook in disbelief.

Jean stood outside the door, rubbing her hands together for warmth. After squelching a yawn, she took a couple of deep breaths and decided to just dive in. Knocking softly on the door, she took a step back and waited.

Russet colored eyebrows scrunched at the ringing of the door bell. She didn’t try to rack her brain to figure out who it could be. Wrapping the blanket around her naked form, she got up to answer it. Her eyes widened in surprise.

“Mom?”

Jean smiled at her oldest daughter. “Hi, honey. I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to come early.”

Pulling the older woman into a fierce hug, she answered in a thick voice, “No, it doesn’t hurt at all.” Stepping back, she grabbed the bag at her mother’s side. “C’mon in.” Something akin to relief flooded her body. Maybe this is what they needed, a mediator of sorts.

They sat on the couch. Jean looked over her daughter. She saw the sunken cheeks and droopy eyes with hidden pain. Her heart cringed in empathy. Never did she want to see Gabrielle hurt for any reason. Turning to face her daughter, Jean reached out a hand to caress a soft cheek. Her chest contracted when the younger woman leaned into her touch. “It’s bad isn’t it sweetie?”

Closing green eyes, Gabrielle nodded. “I love her mom, but it hurts so much. What I did. . . Can you help?”

She continued to caress her daughter’s skin. “I’ll try sweetie.” Jean reverberated with understanding. ‘Whatever had happened has torn them apart. She doesn’t even look whole anymore. They need to be together. They belong together.’

Gabrielle covered her mother’s hand with her own. “Thanks mom.” She gave the other woman a slow, small smile. “Um, let’s get you settled in the guest room, and let me get dressed.” She stood up and readjusted the blanket once more.

“Okay, but where’s Tara?”

“I think that she’s getting dressed.”

Gabrielle grabbed the bag again, indicating silently for her mother to follow. They got to the front of the hall way before one of the bedroom doors opened.

With a squish under her wet feet, Tara walked out into the hallway intending to head toward the living room. Not bothering to look up, she closed the door quietly. Hearing a gasp, her eyes spotted two pairs of feet. With her gaze slowly moving up, she finally saw two women standing a few feet in front of her with flaming red faces.

Two of the Howard women had seen her naked. One was by proxy. Now, all of them had been initiated into the naked world of Tara. With her somber mood forgotten in the mean time, she sighed and decided to play it by ear. It was a good thing that she didn’t embarrass easily. After all, this could be quiet the ice breaker.

Not daring to look at her lover, she looked at her lover’s mother instead. Jean Howard’s eyes looked everywhere but directly into baby blue. Finally, it seemed as if she decided on bare feet. Tara swallowed and decided to not even bother covering herself. “Uhm, Hi?” She said her voice a little higher than usual.

Jean took in a deep breath. ‘Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! She’s—-‘ The older woman couldn’t even say the word in her head. It wasn’t like she hadn’t seen naked women before. There were movies, and she was after all. . .a woman. But, this wasn’t a naked woman before her. It was her daughter’s naked lover, who she had se— ‘Ohgodohgodohgod!’ She glanced over at her daughter, noticing for the first time the blanket wrapped around her form. ‘She’s nak—- too!’

Her eyes rolled in her head as she looked from one to the other. ‘Okay, Jean get a hold of yourself. C’mon, yes they have sex. See, I knew you could say it.’ She shook her head and realized the silence that had surrounded them. ‘Did somebody say something?’ Running back in her memory, she distinctively remembered a hi.

“H-hi?” Deciding to try to relieve some of the awkwardness, Jean tried to change the subject. “My goodness it’s cold.”

Tara raised an eyebrow. Then peered down her body and followed droplets of water down the slope of her breasts to her nipples that stood out to pert points. “Uh, yeah,” she remarked before looking up again. The raven-haired woman cut her eyes toward the form of her lover, watching her do a guppy impression. She tried to get her brain to send signals to her body to move, but it was rooted to the spot.

Gabrielle shook her head in disbelief as her mouth snapped shut. ‘Well, this day is starting off weird. I went from crying to, to—this. My MOTHER is standing here looking at the woman I sleep with, who just happens to be naked. I could go to a psychologist for this alone!’ An ungraceful snort exited her lips, causing two sets of eyes to glance her way. She covered her mouth to keep another one from coming out and glared at the tall form of her girlfriend. With a nod of her head toward the direction of the bedroom, she silently told her to move, but she didn’t budge. It was clear other tactics needed to be used.

“Um, T? The bedroom is that way.” Gabrielle pointed to the closed door and almost smirked when blue eyes narrowed in her direction.

The familiar voice galvanized the taller woman into action. ‘Is she making fun of me?’ Her head turned looking at the closed door, and she decided to play along.

“Oooh, you mean that door, but I was coming out. . .” She looked from one Howard to the other, and they didn’t seem to be laughing. “Yeah, uhm, that room.” Turning and giving the other women a prime view of tight buttocks, she walked quickly into the bedroom.

Gabrielle turned to her mother. “Ah, Mom? You know where you’re sleeping. I’m gonna go put some clothes on.” Just as quickly as Tara left, the younger woman followed, behind the bedroom door.

Jean stared at the door then glanced down the hall. Walking slowly toward her destination, she murmured to herself, “Well, I’m certainly up now.”

Gabrielle looked around the room for Tara and finally spotted her against the far wall with a chagrined look on her face. Dropping the blanket, she walked up to her lover, trying to keep the look on her face even. Inquisitive blue eyes looked down at her.

“Uhm, I was coming to talk to you. I didn’t know. . .”

She was silenced by a shake of the strawberry blonde head. The petite woman leaned into her lover, burying her face into the fragrant neck. Her body shook. Tara’s eyes widened in surprise, and she rubbed her lover’s naked back in an attempt to comfort. That’s when she heard it, the snort. Pulling away from her body, blue eyes peered into a face streaked with tears and a mouth slightly open with laughter. Green eyes opened and looked into the taller woman’s face. It only made her laugh harder.

Tara gathered her lover in her arms again and chuckled despite herself. After a few moments, the laughter died to a giggle.

“Oooh boy, so what did you want to see me about?” The strawberry blonde asked with a voice still filled with mirth.

Tightening her arms around her prize, Tara answered, “I just wanted to do this.” She squeezed her lover fiercely but gently.

Her breath hitched with emotion. “You say and do the sweetest things. I don’t know if I deserve you.” Gabrielle wrapped her hands around broad shoulders, returning the hug before familiar feelings pushed her away.

Tara swallowed as guilt tried its best to choke her. “No baby, I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you.”

Feeling the stiffness in the younger woman’s body, Tara let go albeit reluctantly. “Um, we’d better get dressed before your mom comes looking for us.”

Gabrielle stood her ground, staring into azure eyes. She touched a sculpted cheek with a finger before saying, “Yeah, we’d better.”

****

Jean got comfortable on the couch. Hearing a door close, she looked up to see two forms heading for her. They sat on opposite sides of the older woman. She looked over at Tara and couldn’t resist the urge to smirk and meddle.

“Now, that’s the Tara I know.” An impish part of her enjoyed the way the young woman’s eyes widened. She heard her daughter give an exasperated sigh before the obligatory, ‘Mom!’, came out of her mouth. “Oh, shush Gabby. I was only teasing the girl.” She was relieved to see a smile light the darker woman’s face. “Well, now that we’ve got the morning started, how about breakfast? Banana pancakes?” Not waiting for an answer, she got up and made her way into the kitchen.

The two woman blinked, turned toward each other, then blinked again. “Banana pancakes it is,” Gabrielle quipped.

Tara pursed her lips before asking, “Should we go help her?” She got a green glare in return. “I’ll take that as a no.”

After a brief moment, silence lapsed between them. Neither one had moved. Before this all had happened, they gravitated toward each other. Now, the empty cushion lay between them. Tara reached for the remote in hopes of filling the quite gap. They had nothing to talk about because all things seemed to lead back to the subject her lover didn’t want to discuss.

She had told her that she now understood. Part of her did, but it still hurt, seeing the walls go up. ‘It doesn’t matter how I feel because she’s the one in trouble, in pain. I can’t continue being so selfish. Look at what I almost did.’ She wanted to get the better of the voice that mocked her earlier. ‘I will be here if she needs me, and even if she doesn’t, I’ll still be here.’ With all this in mind, she still didn’t move to touch or hold her, knowing eventually that the other woman would stiffen and pull away.

Gabrielle scanned her tall lover’s profile from the corner of her eye. The camaraderie that they used to share was there if only for a moment. She couldn’t remember feeling so light in a long, long time, but it wasn’t right. Grief weighed down her blighted soul, and she tore her eyes away. None of this felt quiet right anymore.

Jean stood in the doorway unobserved by the other two women. It left her free to watch them. They didn’t touch like she had seen them do at her house a while back, and they barely glanced at each other when before the taller woman’s eyes seldom left her daughter. Something was terribly wrong between them. It was as if the real Tara and Gabrielle were hiding somewhere behind emotion that she had yet to put her finger on.

Announcing that breakfast was ready, the older woman continued to study as the other women ate silently. There were forced smiles and obligatory comments but nothing of substance showed itself.

The silence was broken when Gabrielle announced, “We’ll take care of the dishes mom.” Jean watched on, as one behind the other, they entered the kitchen, carrying the dirty dishes. A few minutes later under the pretense of taking more dishes in, the older woman entered the kitchen quietly. What she saw broke her heart.

A large hand found purchase at her daughter’s back, and she could only guess that it was a gesture of comfort and needed contact. She continued to observe as the muscles in her daughter’s back stiffened, and the hand fell away. She thought that she saw the raven head hang in defeat as a sigh traveled through the air. Deep down, she knew now that her daughter had to be in intense pain to spurn the touch of the woman she loved.

Gabrielle had always been the strong one, looking out for her sister and even her mother when she thought it was needed. Still, at this moment, Jean realized that her eldest needed someone to be strong for her, listen to her, and see her pain for what it was. The only question was would she open up to her where she obviously wouldn’t to Tara?

The day was filled with gaping silence and mock conversation with comments from the weather, the drive from Gary, to the state of the world. The two women played at conversation, despite the closeness that had been shared the day before. That was until Jean had enough of the superficial banter.

“I talked to Lil, Gab.”

A pair of green eyes shot to hers as a pair of blue ones shined with questions.

Never being one to beat around the bushes a lot, Jean pushed the door opened wide. “She said that you almost fell apart over the phone. Something about Tara hating you and not being able to take the pain.”

Tara sucked in an audible breath and looked at the shocked face of her lover.

Jean waited, knowing the pain she was about to cause but also knowing it all had to get out in the open.

Gabrielle’s breath rattled in her ears along with the quick pace of her heart. She tried to retreat into herself, but she couldn’t break away from her mother’s penetrating stare. Sweat trickled down her back, and small hands felt clammy against each other. She rubbed them against her pant leg. Licking her upper lip, she answered. “Uh, mom, I really don’t want to talk about this. Please?” She added with it sounding like a heartfelt sob.

“Gabrielle, honey. You must see that you can’t handle this all by yourself. It’s okay to lean on someone. It’s okay not to be the strong one for once.”

“No! You don’t know—-”

“Then why don’t you tell me?”

“Please no, I can’t,” she sobbed through quivering lips.

Tara watched on, feeling helpless. She went by instinct and reached out to grasp a small hand in her larger one. Gabrielle smacked the hand away, refusing to acknowledge the comfort. Crystal blue eyes turned to her lover’s mother. ‘Help me. Help us, please,’ they said. Jean nodded her head in answer.

“Gabrielle, please?”

The strawberry blonde covered her ears with her hands. “No, don’t touch me. Just-just leave me alone!” Getting up clumsily, she ran for the bedroom.

Tara looked from Jean to the retreating form with her heart in her eyes. Blue eyes were lost as they looked around for some sort of inspiration, and then she felt a hand on her knee.

“Give it some time. I know she needs you.”

“Oh, God.” She whispered as new tears started to fall. Lunging forward, Tara took the older woman in her arms and cried on her shoulder. The older woman’s eyes rounded like saucers. Never did she think that the woman she saw so determined and strong willed some months ago would fall apart in her arms, shaking in her vulnerability. Curling her hand in the raven head, she shushed the crying woman.

“Shhh, it’s okay. It’s too much for her to deal with Tara. It’s going to spill out because she doesn’t have a choice. We need to work together and get her some help.”

“I’ve been so stupid. Should of been there for her. So, stupid,” she cried.

Jean closed her eyes and wondered what type of pain this woman was dealing with. She could only imagine. “You can talk to me. I’m here, and it may make it easier to talk to her. I-I know we’ve had our ups and downs, but I know that she loves you and that you make her happy. I would do nothing to ruin that. I am here for you too, Tara.”

With the new tears, some fissures had formed; within Jean’s arms, larger cracks opened; and within minutes, the dam of emotion broke, and she spilled all. Jean listened with an unbiased ear as the woman told her about the tingling feeling that she got when her Red was in trouble, the fights, and her step away from infidelity. She listened to it all. They talked through most of the night, while a lone figure huddled in the bed, a prisoner to her own thoughts.

Gabrielle re-wrapped the covers around her clothed form. Her body rocked back and forth, and her teeth chattered from the cold coming from the inside out. ‘I thought she of all people would understand, but none of them do. I murdered him dammit! To be with her! How do I know it was the right thing to do? How do I know? I wish they could just understand.’ A little voice way back in her head whispered, ‘How would they know if you don’t tell them. How?’

“Ohgod, ohgod!” She breathed hotly into the empty room.

Sometime during the night, Tara joined the still form in the bed. Words reverberated in her head, ‘You’re only human. Hold her, no matter how hard she fights. She wants you too. You love her what did you expect to feel? Don’t tell her about the bar right now, just wait until she sees past this.’ With these thoughts in head and many more, she feel into a restless sleep.

In the early morning hours, Tara was awakened by a scream in combination with knocking at the bedroom door. She yelled, “Come in!”, and reached for the thrashing, screaming form beside her.

Gabrielle fought her invisible attacker then grabbed her abdomen as she screamed one last time. Then blissfully, she felt strong familiar arms wrap around her. She sighed and sagged her body into the one holding her. Her breathing refused to quiet as she sucked in breath after breath, and on one breath, she breathed in a familiar spicy scent. Knowing instantly who the arms belonged to, she fought the embrace. “No! Let me go!”

Tara looked at Jean from the vantage point of the bed. It stung to feel the woman she loved fight her, but she saw the older woman nod her head. Remembering the words, she held on. Jean watched on, wanting so much to go comfort her daughter, but she relented for the sake of Tara.

Tara held on for dear life, whispering in her lover’s ear and rocking the fighting body back and forth. Gabrielle hiccuped as her breathing returned to normal. She was so tired of fighting, of holding it all in, of everything. Her body caved in, going limp in Tara’s arms, and her mind released the self-imposed trap that it had around confessions about one dark day if only just a little. She whispered huskily, “I killed him. Don’t deserve you. I don’t.”

Tara glanced toward Jean with surprise, relief, and confusion shining in her eyes. She gave the dark-haired woman a small smile, spurring her on. Tara continued to rock her lover as well as whisper, “I love you, and I’m here for you. Talk to me.” Still, the strawberry blonde whispered the same litany of words over and over again. It was a small one, but it was a breakthrough nonetheless.

Quietly, Jean went back to her own room, wiping away her own tears and murmuring, “It was something, if only a little.”

For the second time in as many days, Tara felt small arms wrap around her as the slight form in her embrace fell back to sleep. She whispered a thank you to any god who was listening and sent up a prayer for the woman in the room down the hall.

****

Each passing day in the coming weeks were filled with equal parts awkwardness and revelation. Gabrielle revealed a bit more of her tortured soul, but Tara held silent only wanting to be there for her lover. They became closer as touches became more commonplace as did smiles and long looks. Jean got a front seat view of the link between them, and she reprimanded herself for initially denying her daughter such happiness. Tara was obviously good for her. They obviously belonged together no matter what the Church said.

Jean knew from the get go that she needed to get to know her daughter’s lover. However, a lot more than that had happened. She learned to respect, endear, and care for the other woman in their combined effort to help Gabrielle.

She broke herself from the reverie and glanced toward the cuddled couple on the couch as they giggled at some antics on the TV. She smiled inwardly. For an old woman, she had come here and learned a lot from these two. Love and strength came in different forms, and she believed she had just about witnessed them all here in this house alone. Hating to interrupt the closeness between the couple, she did anyway by saying Tara’s name.

Two sets of eyes glanced toward her. “Tara can I talk to you in the kitchen?” She looked down at her lover and kissed her on the forehead before turning to nod her head in acquiescence. Getting up, she waited for the other woman to follow.

The entered the kitchen. Tara hopped up on the counter and waited for the other woman to speak.

Jean rubbed her hands together. It looked as though she had a little confession of her own. “I hated to tear you away from her, but this needs to be said. I didn’t come here to but in. I came here to help my daughter, and I ended up doing so much more. Again, I need to apologize because I was so wrong about you, but my eyes are open now.”

Tara hung her head, trying to hide the rising blush. “I-it’s okay Mrs. H. It was normal to act the way you did, but I’m glad you came around for Red’s sake. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have had your help here, and I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.”

“Well, I can see that you love her and want to take care of her. What mother wouldn’t want to help that along?” She chuckled lightly.

Tara offered her a smile. “Still, thank you.”

“Can I ask you something else?”

“Yeah, anything.”

“Have you told her how you’re feeling about this whole mess?”

Tara rubbed her hands against her legs before looking up. “Uhm, I can’t worry about me. She’s the one in so much pain. This all happened to her not me.”

Jean sighed. “Tara, don’t you know by now that what you two do effects each other? I bet she hasn’t even scratched the surface of what happened that day, so don’t think it’s all over. I still hear her crying in the early mornings. She needs to get help. You both do, so tell her how you feel. It could go a long way in helping her see that this can’t be fixed with a snap of a finger.”

She put busy hands in her pockets and chewed her lower lip. “Mrs. H, I want to, but I just don’t know where to start. I figured by helping her the guilt would go away a little, but deep down I know it really hasn’t. I just don’t know.”

“Would you be willing to go with her and see somebody about this?”

Panic rose, making her flush again. “You mean a doctor? I don’t think I can. I’ve never—”

“Listen, do you see how you two are now?” She saw Tara nod her head. “But, I saw how you were a few months back remember? It’s nowhere near that. Don’t you want to get it back maybe even make it better?”

“Oh God, yeah I do. It just scares me a little y’know?”

“I know it does, but you’ve got to be strong. You’ve shown me how strong you can be, and all it would take is a little more. Just think about it.”

“Kay, I can do that and maybe more”

Assuming that they were finished, Tara jumped down from the counter, but she had to do something before the went back to the living room. Grasping the retreating woman by the shoulder, Tara pulled her into a strong hug. “Thank you so much. She means so much to me.”

Jean pat her on the back. “I know sweetie. I know.”

Getting back to the living room, Jean kissed her daughter goodnight and made her way to the spare bedroom. Before sitting, Tara reached down to pick up the remote. She switched the TV off then turned on a nearby lamp. Smiling down at green eyes looking up at her questioningly, she finally sat in her abandoned spot.

Gabrielle scooted over a little to peer into her lover’s eyes. She scanned them, looking deeply for unmentioned information and found apprehension. Taking a hand that she had slapped away so many times, she asked, “What’s wrong? Did I do something? I’m trying and at least it’s something that we can touch now. I mean isn’t it?”

Tara swallowed before answering. “Yeah, we have come a little ways, but we need to talk Red, and I mean really talk.”

The soft, small hand slipped from her grip. “Kay, I’ll try.”

Tara hung her head, trying to gather courage from deep within. She took several breaths in preparation then looked up into green and almost lost her nerve. That was until she got a nervous smile from her lover’s lips. “Um, you know I’ve been trying to be patient with you, and I understand that you need some time. B-but in a way, I’ve been hiding from you.” She moved her cupped hands between her legs in a nervous gesture. “I hurt too, and I’ve been giving to you thinking it will make my pain go away. But, it hasn’t.” A hand met her cheek, and she leaned into it.

“I-I should have been here. I felt it when it happened I think, and I knew something was wrong. If I had stayed home, I could have protected you from him. I could have been the one to stop him, not you. You seem so strong sometimes, but I know you Red. You wanna let go sometimes.” She sniffed as tears began a slow trickle, making her voice thick, husky. “I should’ve been here to keep you from going through all this.” The same hand traveled upward and wiped at the spilling tears.

Gabrielle listened on, silently as tears of her own threatened to come. ‘How could I not see it?’ She was brought back by her lover’s continuing words. “I was such an asshole. I argued with you and tried to drag information from you to make myself feel better. I was so stupid. You don’t know how stupid I was.” She sniffed again. “I needed to tell you all of this because we need help baby.” Gabrielle opened her mouth, about to speak. “No, no let me finish okay?” She got a nod in return.

“I’m sure you’ve told me a lot about what happened, and I know you think you murdered him. I know you think that you don’t really deserve to be happy now. I know this, but I also know that there is so much more that you haven’t or can’t tell me. I can’t help you with all of that Red. The only thing I can tell you is that I love you and that you killed him in self-defense. You hear it, but you don’t hear it here or here.” She reached over tapping her chest and head. “We need to go talk to somebody about this. The both of us.” Tara took the hand from her face and brought it to her lips, kissing it lightly.

Gabrielle hiccuped, loving the sweet gesture. Eyes met and held, refusing to lose the connection that had been so recently rediscovered. Letting the silence stretch between them, she finally spoke. “You know I love you, so much, and I thank you for sticking around when I was making it so hard. Because if you had left, I would have fallen completely apart.” Her small, wiry arm snaked around her lover’s neck to tangle in dark tresses. She pulled Tara’s head closer to hers with their lips barely touching. Tears that she had held at bay started to fall. Whispering, “I’m so sorry that I didn’t see. So sorry. I’ll do whatever needs to be done. I just want you back. I want us back.”

Tara laughed happily as she pulled the smaller woman into her arms. She crushed their torsos together, trying to absorb her in one swoop. “I love you. You’ll see. We’ll get the help that we need. W-will you call tomorrow?” Gabrielle said a muffled ‘yes’ into her lover’s neck.

They talked into the night even managing to laugh a little bit about old times, but finally, sleepiness got the better of them. Not wanting to break the contact, Tara let her sleeping lover use her as a pillow until her body started to protest. It was then that she scooped the still thin woman up and carried her to bed.

Later the next morning, Tara was awakened with the help of a muffled scream. She sat up quickly and wrapped the shaking form in her arms. Gabrielle clung to her, sobbing into her neck. She pulled away slightly and looked up into baby blues. “C-can you get me a phone book?”

“Um, you sure?” The auburn head bobbed a yes. Getting up out of the bed, Tara opened the bedroom door to find Jean waiting outside the other one. She gave the older woman a soft smile. “Uh, phone book.” Jean smiled back and re-entered her room as the younger woman made her way down the hall. She smiled to herself. It was almost time for her to head back home, but there was one more thing she had to see through.

A few days later, Tara drove Gabrielle to her first therapist appointment and held her while she cried outside in the parking lot. She wanted to go in herself, but the doctor had insisted on seeing Gabrielle first. So, Tara drove home and waited for the phone to ring.

It finally did a little over an hour later. Not wanting to make her lover wait outside in the cold, she went into building to get her. Swallowing, Tara steeled her nose against the overly clean smell and the butterflies in her stomach. ‘I’m gonna have to come soon and tell all. Might as well get used to it.’ She spotted her strawberry blonde talking to the receptionist. A wave was enough to catch her eye. Gabrielle walked slowly toward her then sped up into a light jog. Tara could see the ashen face as she got closer. Reaching out her hands, she met her halfway. Concern colored her features.

“Hey Red, you alright?”

Before answering, Gabrielle leaned forward, planting a small kiss on her lover’s lips. Pulling back, she nibbled on her own bottom lip. “Uh, I’ll be okay.” Seeing the doubt nest in the crystal gaze, she gave the other woman a smile. “No, I mean it this time. I will.” Hand in hand they left the office. “Oh, she wants to start seeing both of us in about 2-3 weeks.”

Blue stared down into green. “Okay,” Tara said quietly.

Jean waited and watched out the living room window. Seeing the car drive up, she leaned back a little, not wanting to be seen. Still, she saw enough as the couple got out of the car and immediately linked hands. From her perch in front of the window, she could see the beginning of happiness in faces that held pain not too long ago. Turning, she headed out of the living room to the hall way. ‘I need to get packed and find out what’s going on with my youngest.’

Continued in Story #8: The Fear Inside

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