Unbroken Season 1 by Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne

Unbroken
by Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne

 See Pictures of the Gordon Family Here

Ch1 When The Hammer Falls
“…`Cause when the hammer falls and it hits my balls it’s cool, cause I’m Unbroken…”

The two brunettes made their way down the crowded hall that fluxed with people ebbing in and out of rooms. With each open door they passed, the different stages of moving in could be distinguished by the sounds coming out of every occupied area. The noise from the assorted radios, CD players, or televisions could be heard blending into a cacophony of culturally tinged reverie that only the young can enjoy.

Trying to stay near her sister who was leading, the taller one took each bump or jostle that came in her direction and simply rolled her eyes behind her dark sunglasses in annoyance. Loaded down like a pack mule, she heard the smaller woman in front of her laugh although she couldn’t see her.

“What are you laughing at?” The deep, contralto voice asked, obviously irked as she wiggled her nose trying to keep the dark glasses in place.

“Come on, Brooke. Stop growling. I can hear you. This is the last of it and we’re almost there so don’t get your shorts in a wad. And don’t even think that I don’t know you’re rolling your eyes at me back there.”

The older woman did what she did best when she was annoyed, she began to roll her eyes, only to stop suddenly, sighing in disgust as she realized just how well her youngest sister knew her. “I’m surprised you can hear a damn thing with all of this racket going on out here.”

“Yeah, whatever…Come on, old lady,” the younger woman teased as she unlocked the door to her dorm room, holding it open for her sister.

Brooke walked in and placed the boxes on the floor by the bed. She stood up, placed her hands against her lower back and leaned back to pop it. “Yeah… I’ve got your ‘old lady’. Next time I’ll just make you carry your own shit.”

She removed her sunglasses and placed them on top of her head, forcing her blue eyes to squint against the bright August sun that streamed through the window. Glancing around at the room’s tight quarters, she wondered how two people were supposed to live in such a cramped space. Especially two people who hadn’t even met or knew if they would get along.

Shaking her head, Brooke turned around to address her sister. “C.C., why are you doing this? You’ve got one year left. Why don’t you just stay at Mom and Dad’s?”

“Oh really? Are you prepared to haul all of my shit back over there?”

Brooke glared at her youngest sister. “Don’t even go there. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, Brooke. I do know and that’s just it. I have one year left here. I can’t stay with Mom and Dad forever. It’s about time I move out,” C.C. answered as she began to unpack her clothes, putting them into the closet.

The older woman sat in a chair at the small desk in the room and picked at some imaginary lint on her jeans. “You could always stay at my house if you had to,” Brooke offered quietly. She looked up as C.C. rolled her eyes. The look on her face told Brooke exactly what she thought of that idea.

“Oh yeah, right. We both know how well that would work out,” C.C. answered sarcastically as she mimicked her sister with a jerk of her head. “I’d be looking over my shoulder every five minutes. God only knows when you’d sneak up from behind and grab me by my ankles. Yeah, go on, laugh Brooke. Holding me upside down to bang my head on the floor while you’re standing on the coffee table isn’t my idea of fun.” C.C. thought about Brooke’s favorite pastime when they were growing up.

“Hey, I couldn’t do that now. My coffee table is glass and it would shatter if I tried to stand on it. Besides, I stopped doing that years ago.”

“Yeah, three years ago, when I was eighteen.”

Brooke held her hands up in front of herself defensively. “Hey, it wasn’t my fault. You told me I couldn’t. I just wanted to show you that I still could.”

“Yeah, whatever, show-off. Go on. Get out of here. Go do whatever it is that you do so I can get unpacked.”

C.C. offered a hand to her older sister to help her stand. As Brooke stood up, she was embraced in a sisterly hug.

“Thanks, Brooke. I owe you one.”

“You owe me several. Call me if you need anything.”

The younger woman forcefully turned her sister to face the door and began to push her in that direction. “Okay, you big worry wart. I’ll see you at Mom’s for dinner next Sunday.”

Brooke turned around to smile at her sister. Replacing her sunglasses, she walked out the door, pulling it shut behind her.

Anxious to get through the hustle-bustle of new and returning students moving into the dorm, Brooke maneuvered quickly toward the exit doors. Her long stride navigated the obstacles in the hall until she met the petite blonde heading in the opposite direction, her arms full of luggage. The tall woman barely managed to get past her without being slammed into the wall. Brooke then made a quick detour to the right where she found herself on the landing of the stairwell. Looking down the length of the hall, she decided that it just might be more prudent to take the three flights of stairs to the ground floor than to try for the elevator.

Reaching the bottom, she forced open the steel safety door and ran to her car that was parked next to her sister’s truck. She unlocked the silver Nissan 300Z and got in. After cranking the engine, fiddling with the stereo and adjusting her seatbelt, she headed back toward her office at the beach.

The young woman looked down at the small piece of paper in her hands and then up to the number over the door. She shifted her luggage a bit and tried to knock on the door. With the combination of her short stature and the amount of bags occupying her hands, she had no such luck. Hearing someone moving around on the other side of the door, the woman tried to knock again, this time with her foot. The weight of the bags pulled at her strength as she waited patiently. Just when she thought she was going to drop them, the door began to open. The tall woman on the other side was met by tumbling pieces of luggage that had seemingly been sucked right out of the shorter woman’s grip in the vacuum created by the open door.

“Hey now. Let me give you a hand with those.” C.C. offered. She grabbed a few of the bags to give the girl the opportunity to make it into the room before losing the rest of her load.

“Thank you. I am so sorry,” she apologized immediately. “I’m Samantha. Looks like I’m your new roommate.”

“No sweat. I just got here myself. Come on in.” The brunette backed away from the door allowing the small woman to enter.

“I hope you don’t mind but I went ahead and started unpacking on this side of the room.” Pointing to the side with the windows, C.C. placed the luggage down on the bed opposite from the one she had chosen then turned around to face the shorter girl offering her hand. “Hi, I’m C.C.”

Letting the bags that were still in her arms fall next to the bed, she turned and grasped the hand offered to her. “Sam,” she said with a smile, “and this side is fine.”

“Nice to meet you, Sam.” Releasing the handshake, C.C. smiled politely. “Well, I guess I’ll let you get settled in.” She watched as the blonde nodded in agreement, then returned to her own unpacking.

Each woman worked in silence, unpacking, cleaning, and getting a grasp on her new space. Over time a casually thrown muttering by one would elicit a response from the other as each tried to get a feel for her new roommate. In a short time, the Spartan style dormitory room became more like home and the students began conversing as if they were old friends who had not seen one another for a length of time, rather than new acquaintances.

With Sam standing tiptoed on a chair trying to reach the far corners of the top shelf in her closet, they were interrupted by a knock at the door. “God, who could that be? Company already?” Sam asked as she looked over her shoulder, noticing that C.C. had a somewhat sheepish expression on her face.

“Ooh, yeah… sorry. My sister said she’d bring by a pizza for dinner. You don’t mind do you? I mean… you’re more than welcome to join us if you’d like.”

Sam’s eyes lit up at the mention of food. “Mind? Why would I mind? Isn’t pizza the universal room warming meal?” Just hearing the word pizza caused her stomach to growl and both girls’ eyes were drawn to the source of the noise. They giggled as another knock was heard at the door.

“Well, I guess your stomach answered that question. We better feed that beast.” The brunette teased her new roommate as she made her way through the mess to the door, opening it to find her sister.

“Hey C.C., how’s the new squat?” The woman dressed in hospital scrubs held a pizza box and six-pack of soda up in the air when she saw her sister. “Sister bearing gifts. Aren’t you going to ask me in?”

“Come on in.” C.C. moved out of the way so her older sister could walk in. “It’s small, but it’s ours.”

Sam came down from the chair to make an empty spot on the desk, where she placed the six-pack of soda that the older woman handed her.

“Terri, this is my new roommate, Sam. Sam, this is one of my older sisters, Terri.”

“Hi, Terri.” Sam wiped a hand on her jeans, then offered it in friendship. “Don’t mind the mess. We’re just getting settled in.”

“Hi, nice to meet you.” Terri shook the hand offered to her. “No problem with the mess. I grew up with that one,” she added, jerking her thumb in C.C.’s direction. “Hungry? Care to join us?” Terri offered as she held out the pizza box and offered it to Sam.

“Are we ever. Thanks so much.” Sam replied as she fingered the lid of the box.

“Anytime. Someone has to make sure Ms. Thing over there eats more than Cheetos and Pop-Tarts,” Terri shrugged her shoulders, “Not that pizza is much better, but it’s a start.”

“I never knew that moving in could make you so famished.” Sam opened up the lid to the pizza box, allowing the steam to escape.

Terri looked around the room, settling first on Sam, then to C.C. “Wow, this place is tiny. You mean Brooke actually fit in here while she was moving all your shit?”

“Brooke?” Sam’s eyes grew wide. “Who’s Brooke?” The blonde looked to C.C. before taking a bite of pizza.

“Yeah, Brooke’s our older sister. She helped me move my stuff in here today.”

Terri and C.C. each grabbed a slice from the box and sat in a semi-cleared spot on C.C.’s bed, while Sam occupied a pile of clothes on the floor.

“What is she… some kind of giant?” Sam asked.

“She likes to think she is.” C.C. responded without missing a beat.

Terri poked C.C. on the arm to defend their sister. “She does not. Brooke just likes to have a lot of space.” The scrub clad woman looked over at Sam. “But, she is over six feet tall.”

“Yeah, well… it all depends on her mood.” After shoving the last of her pizza slice into her mouth, C.C. wiped her hands on her jeans.

Terri rolled her eyes at the display. “God, Chase. You can be such a pig. Use a napkin for crying out loud.” She chastised her sister and handed her a napkin from the pizzeria. “Besides, she’s not that bad. So she banged you on your head a couple of times growing up. You shouldn’t have pissed her off.” Terri pointed out.

“Excuse me? A couple?” Brown eyes bugged out as C.C. voiced her doubt, positive that she had misunderstood her sister.

“Okay, a couple hundred…” Terri amended. “Point is, you still didn’t get what you deserved. There’s quite a bit of crap you pulled that we never tormented you over. You werea real brat.”

“You were the one away at school. How would you know? Besides, you’ve never seen her when she picks up those sticks,” C.C. pointed out as she grabbed another slice of pizza.

“Does she still? She had given it a rest the last time we talked about it.” Terri was curious now.

“Sticks? What are you two talking about?” Sam inquired as she helped herself to another slice of pizza.

“Well, you know C.C., it’s not like she was always around either. She was gone for a couple of years, too. Remember?” Terri reminded C.C., not hearing the quiet question from Sam.

“Wow, first you call her a giant, now you have her picking up sticks. Next you’ll be telling me she slays dragons.” Sam joked as she listened to the two sisters talk about their older sibling.

“Nah… that’s only when she gets bored.” C.C. replied with a wink at her roommate.

“What is she, Super Sister?” Sam asked, curious about the topic of their conversation.

“That would be her.” C.C. answered, then turned her gaze towards Terri. “Just don’t tell Randi I said that. She’d get jealous.” C.C. smirked.

“Hmmm… I’ll think about it,” Terri said before turning towards Sam to answer her question. “Let’s just say that she’s lived many a lifetime in her world.”

“How many sisters do you have?” It seemed that every other moment Sam was hearing about a different sister.

“Well, you could find out at dinner. Chase, why don’t you bring her by on Sunday? You don’t have any plans do you, Sam?” Terri offered as C.C. nodded her head with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

Sam was speechless at the invitation. “Well, I uh… what I mean is,” she looked from one sister to the other. “I won’t be intruding, will I?”

“No, of course not. We wouldn’t have invited you if we thought you would. It’s just the girls’ family dinner. Well, except for Dad. He’ll be there. Nothing special, we’ve done it for years. Mom picks a Sunday of every month at the beginning of each year. No significant others allowed,” Terri elaborated on one of their few family traditions.

“Yeah, Sam, maybe they’ll be nice to me with a new face to add to the conversation.” The younger sister wished it to be true but somehow knew better than to get her hopes up.

Terri’s first response was to laugh at her sister. “Yeah right. Not likely, kiddo. You should know better. Just watch out for Mom. She’s been on the warpath lately. The other day, when you went to the movies, Brooke stopped by and parked on the new grass that Mom planted a couple of weeks ago.”

The woman scrunched her nose up at hearing this. She couldn’t believe Brooke was still alive if what Terri said was true. Her mother lived for her garden, flowerbeds, and the overall appearance of her yard. “Ooh… I bet that went over real big.”

“Are you kidding? Mom had a litter of puppies over it, then started in on the whole relationship bit. Brooke’s not too happy right now.”

“Oh, no. Not again,” C.C. groaned at Brooke’s luck as of late. Then watched as Terri nodded her head to verify the truth of her statement.

“Oh, yeah. Dad just walks out of the room. He doesn’t even want to get in the middle of it.”

“Smart man. Boy, I’m really going to miss all those discussions not living at home this year.”

“Oh, yeah… like Mom would really give it a rest when you visit and not fill you in on all the dirt. You know the woman, sometimes she just has no couth.” Terri tried to reassure her sister. She knew the upcoming months would be difficult on C.C. since the girl had never lived away from home before, and she was glad that home was only a thirty-minute drive away.

“Excuse me for asking…” Sam interrupted, shyly. “But, what’s wrong with Brooke’s relationship?”

“She’s not in one.” C.C. shrugged her shoulders at her roommate. “That’s just it.”

“So, what’s wrong with that? Lots of people aren’t.” Sam couldn’t understand why not being in a relationship was such a big deal.

Terri and C.C. looked at each other as if to get their timing right before pulling off the perfect imitation of their mother, “You really should be seeing someone. You’re not getting any younger and you shouldn’t have to worry about spending the rest of your life all alone.”

The sisters shared a laugh and Sam couldn’t help but to join in as she witnessed their camaraderie. Finally Terri was able to speak. “Ah, you know Mom is just trying to look out for her, the way she does for all of us.”

“At least she hasn’t started on me, yet.” The young woman stated as she got up and made her way over to the desk to open one of the sodas Terri had brought.

“The operative word there being ‘yet’, C.C.” Terri pointed out. “Just give it time.” She didn’t want C.C. to think that she would be immune to their mother’s prodding.

With a wave of her hand, C.C. blew off the warning. “Hey, she’s too concerned with Brooke right now to worry about me. I’m safe for a few years at least.”

“What’s up with this?” C.C. turned toward her sister and held up the six-pack. “No beer?” She offered a can to Terri and then one to Sam, who thanked her.

“Nope. I’m going to work and you two are underage.” Terri answered with a shake of her head.

“Hey, I’ll be 21 in less than a month. Or have you forgotten?”

“No, I haven’t forgotten.”

“I’ll be there in October,” Sam added to the conversation.

“See? We’re not that much under.” The woman tried to reason with Terri, her light brown eyes twinkling. She knew it would do no good but she just loved to irritate her sister.

“Yeah, well… it’s still under. I am not going to get in trouble for you, not with Mom. You seem to forget I’ve got a license to keep. Who would trust a pediatrician that was convicted of corrupting the morals of a minor?”

“Wuss.” The insult was thrown at Terri, not expecting it to really accomplish anything and C.C. watched as her sister rolled her eyes in response.

“So, Sam… what’s your major?” Terri sipped at her soda, ignoring her younger sister who was making faces at her, trying to get her attention.

“Major…” Sam sighed at the question, oblivious now to the antics of her roommate. “Do I have to pick one thing?” She laughed and Terri joined in as she pushed C.C. down on the bed one handedly, without ever taking her eyes off of Sam.

“Okay, then… majors?” Terri amended her question.

“Living, mostly.” She giggled, “But my aunt says that’s not enough so I’m taking music history and public relations.”

The two sisters straightened up, looking at each other with a raised eyebrow.

Finally Terri spoke. “Music? My, my… that sounds fascinating. Anything in particular?”

Sam got up and cleared off a spot on her bed, then sat down cross-legged on it. “Well, I like the modern groups but I’m not stuck up enough to forget the older ones either. Without them, music would have never progressed.”

“Very cool.” Terri listened attentively as the young girl spoke of her passion for music.

“Just give me something with a good rhythm and I’m ready for action, moving to the beat.” The young woman demonstrated her limited moves, as she remained seated.

Turning to her sister, C.C. grinned, then smacked Terri lightly on her shoulder. “No. Now that’s cool,” and she imitated a few of Sam’s moves.

Once again, Terri rolled her eyes. “So, who’s your favorite oldie but goodie group, Sam?”

The blonde looked to the ceiling in thought before answering. “Well, my favorite all guy group is Europe, my chick group is Vixen. I just LOVE that 1980’s hair band sound.”

“Well, that wasn’t quite what I meant by ‘oldie but goodie’ but, it’ll do.”

“Oh, no. I really love some of the older ones, too. The Doors, The Runaways, Janis Joplin… I’ll listen to just about anything. But my all around favorite, male or female, old or semi-old is Anti-Zero.” Terri and C.C. looked at each other wide-eyed and mouth gaping, neither believing what they had just heard.

“No way!” C.C. exclaimed, turning to look directly at her roommate. “Really? Anti-Zero? I’ve uhm… I’ve heard of them. Haven’t you, Terri?” The woman was starting to giggle.

“Yeah, somewhere… in the distant past.” The two sisters began laughing out loud now.

Sam assumed they were laughing at her and became defensive. “Hey, why are you two laughing at me? They were an amazing musical group who didn’t get half the recognition they deserved.”

Both sisters struggled desperately to regain their composure, not wanting to upset their new friend.

“Honey, don’t worry. We’re not laughing at you. Actually our mother loved that band. Right C.C.?” Terri tried to assure Sam.

“Really?” Sam thought for a moment. Their mom must be pretty cool if she liked Anti-Zero.

“Yeah, let’s just say that they were one of Brooke’s little projects. We all knew their songs inside and out…” C.C. confirmed.

“Backwards and forwards, even…” Terri added.

“In our sleep…” They said in unison, then looked at each other and shared another laugh.

Sam couldn’t believe that they were serious. She decided to find out for herself and began singing her favorite part of the band’s theme song.

“Oh, no… not me, I’ll be a rainbow in your eyes…Oh, yeah it’s me, I’m like a strobe light, overdrive…”

The two sisters joined in singing without skipping a beat.

“I’ll be your Anti-Zero, your super hero charm… I’ll be your Anti-Zero, your true Diniro star…”

Sam was elated that her new friends knew the songs as well as she did. “Whoa, you’re right, you do know them.”

Terri stood up and stretched. “Well, ladies… thanks for the company over dinner but, I should probably be getting to work.” She stretched her long frame out, then walked the few feet to the door.

“Yeah, and I have to find this bed to sleep in tonight.” C.C. looked around her as she stood up.

“Thanks for the pizza and sodas, Terri. That was very nice of you. It was great meeting you.” Sam thanked the slightly older woman for her kindness as she held out her hand.

“You are very welcome. At least somebody appreciates it.” Terri added as she grinned.

“Hey, I appreciate you.” C.C. retorted with her hands placed firmly on her hips.

Terri laughed. “Yeah, right. Whatever, C.C.” The woman in scrubs made her way to the door. “Oh and Sam, it was nice meeting you as well. See you at dinner on Sunday?” Terri asked again, one last time before leaving.

“Yeah, sure. That sounds great. If C.C. will let me, I’ll be there.”

“Oh, girl… you are so there!” C.C. told her new roommate.

“Well, have fun girls. C.C., stay out of trouble.” Terri bid them “Goodbye” and hugged her youngest sibling before leaving for work.

The brunette shut the door after her sister’s departure, turning back around to face the mess of a room she and Sam still had to contend with.

“I like her C.C. Are they all that friendly?” Sam asked as she went back to putting her clothes away.

The woman thought about it for a moment. The answer was positive but she couldn’t resist tweaking her new roommate some. “Sometimes… at the right moments, or when they need to be.”

Clearing the last of her clothes off the mattress, C.C. began to make the bed with the clean set of sheets she had brought along with her. Now all she had to do was figure out what to do with all the boxes.

“I hope Sunday is the right time,” Sam said quietly as she thought about the upcoming dinner with her new friend’s family.

“Oh, it will be. I’m just kidding you. They’re all great.” Eyeing the pillow in her hands, C.C. tossed it across the room at the unsuspecting woman.

Stunned by the action at first, Sam returned it with a devilish grin, following it with her own pillow thrown in sequence. Before long, damn near everything was tossed back and forth that could be in a friendly fashion. By the time they were finished, the room was an even bigger mess of clothing and trinkets than before. It was then that both women realized that the getting acquainted time was over and that they were settling in to being roomies.

It had taken both women several hours to clean up their dorm room, arranging everything in an order they could both live with. What they gave up in space they gained in comfort with their own bathroom, not big mind you, but private. While Sam was in the bathroom finishing with her shower, C.C. was lying in bed reading a book. Sam came out of the steam-filled room, her hair still damp from the shower and walked over to her bed where she sat down to brush her hair.

Lowering her book, C.C. glanced over it and noticed the t-shirt Sam had chosen to sleep in. The front of it proclaimed in bold letters, “The Family Tree Stops Here”. The young woman giggled then went back to reading while she offered a comment on the shirt. “Nice shirt. I should get it for my sister.”

A look of confusion came across Sam’s face at C.C.’s statement until she glanced down and saw which shirt she was wearing. Feeling the heat rise to her face, she wondered what the girl across the room must think of her now. She had just reached into her drawer and grabbed the first one. Okay… definitely need to start paying attention to my attire. “Um… why would you get her this shirt? You do know what it means, don’t you?”

“Of course I know what it means and she’s gay so, she’d love it. Where’d you get it? I could use it for her Christmas gift or something.”

Her answer was matter of fact and left Sam wondering exactly which sister she was referring to. Sam looked down at her shirt and shook her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so… ah… so… gay. I just grabbed the first shirt I saw. I guess I should really start paying attention.”

“No sweat. Don’t worry about it. Nothing I’m not used to. Actually, you’re pretty subtle about it.” C.C. looked up momentarily to address her roommate then went back to reading her book.

“You aren’t bothered sharing a room with me then?” Sam asked in disbelief.

“No way. I shared a house with my sister for damn near twenty years.”

“Well, if you haven’t been infected by now, I guess you’re safe.” Sam tried to make light of their conversation.

“Yeah, she told me there’s no recruiting involved so why should I care?” C.C. shrugged her shoulders as if this topic was one she was very comfortable with. “She told me that the Golden Toaster Oven was nothing more than a myth.”

“Golden Toaster Oven?” Sam didn’t quite understand what C.C. was talking about.

Hearing that, the tall brunette placed her book in her lap and sat up in bed as if in shock. “Oh, come on! You’re a lesbian and you don’t know about the Golden Toaster Oven?”

Sam shook her head in denial. “Nope, not a clue.”

Thinking about it for a moment, C.C. tried to remember it exactly as she had heard the tale. “Well, according to my sister, you receive the Golden Toaster Oven after,” the woman held up both hands and made quotation marks in the air, “recruiting a select number of straight women to the joys of lesbianism.” She finished with her hands reaching up to the ceiling as if preaching to an entire congregation. “Or, something like that. Apparently, it’s even hand delivered to your home by Melissa Etheridge.” The woman giggled and then noticed her friend’s somber mood.

“Sorry, I must have been absent the day they gave out the manuals. Or maybe that was the day my mother grounded me for coming out.”

C.C. knew a nerve had been struck and placed a bookmark in her paperback before resting it on the nightstand. “Ooh, that bad?”

“Well, it wasn’t pretty.” Sam ran a hand through her damp locks. “That’s why I’ve been living with my aunt for the last year or so. I decided that it was time for me to be on my own and now, I’m here in the dorm this year.”

The brunette reached across the small space between their beds and placed a hand against her friend’s arm in sympathy. “Ouch, sorry, Sam. Well, you’ll have no such worries around the Gordon household. They’ll welcome you with open arms,” she laughed, “and ears.”

Sam looked up confused. “Ears? Why ears?”

Rolling her eyes, C.C. thought about the nosey nature of some of her family members. “Oh yeah, ears too. They’ll listen for any little tidbit to remind you about and then rag you with it at a later date. That goes for the eyes as well. We’re exactly like the people in the commercial for the Olive Garden Restaurant. When you’re there, you’re family, as soon as you walk in the door.”

The blonde smiled at C.C.’s ramblings and after a few seconds, both roomies were left feeling better.

Sam laughed. “Okay, I get the picture. Now, if I could just get the girl… any girl…”

“You, my dear, they will absolutely adore!” The roommate looked at the small woman in the next bed, her head tilting from one side to the other. “Hmm… and we’ll just have to see what we can do about getting you that girl as well.” C.C. delivered the last of her statement with a wink of an eye as she took a sip from the water glass on the nightstand next to her bed.

Sam thought about it briefly. “Well, as long as you’re filling out my request card, can you make it on the order of… oh, I don’t know…” The young woman thought for a moment. “I’ve always had a thing for drummers. How about Loran from Anti-Zero?”

Water suddenly came spewing back into the glass as C.C. choked briefly at the request. “Loran? You mean as in Brooke Loran?”

Not noticing her friend’s distress, the dreamy eyed blonde gazed thoughtfully into space as she conjured up the image of the female drummer: short dark hair, sunglasses hiding a well chiseled face, on an incredibly tall frame that oozed nothing but strength and power. “Yeah, she’s an oldie but I’d bet anything she’s a goodie.”

“Ahh, yes… that was the drummer’s name, wasn’t it?” C.C. covered her slip, thankful that her friend hadn’t noticed. Then again, by the look on her face, she probably wouldn’t notice a Mack truck if it were to hit her right now.

The small woman nodded her head in agreement as she got under the covers, thinking about the wonder that was Brooke Loran. Now that woman, by far, was the biggest crush she had ever had on anyone, not to mention the longest. With the thought of the wild drummer beating out a rhythm in her head, Sam was sure that she would have some sweet dreams tonight. “Yeah, and what a beat that girl could keep up. Why, she makes my heart race just thinking about her.”

The last thing that C.C. saw was the dreamy expression on her new friend’s face as Sam reached up and turned out her light. Smiling at her roommate’s expression, C.C. followed her lead and reached for her own small light source next to her bed.

“Good night, C.C. Sweet dreams.” Sam said as she curled up on her side and waited for Morpheus’ hold to claim her.

“Good night, Sam.” The brunette turned over and wrapped one arm around her pillow as she thought about her sister. Ooh, Brooke… we need to have a talk!

The tall, dark haired woman sat at her desk. She was facing the window, staring out at her view of the ocean. The rolling waves always acted as a source to soothe and calm her when her mind was troubled. Her thoughts drifted back to earlier in the day when an ex-band mate of hers had called, asking if she was available to produce his new project. She hadn’t spoken to James since the band broke up three years earlier, which had seriously bothered her. They had been best friends and with a few cross words one night after a show, they had lost each other.

Her mind drifted out of the distant past, letting her once again think of what James had told her earlier in that phone conversation; he wanted the best, and knew that it was her. She had ended their conversation by telling him she would think about it and give him a call in the next week or so. Her mind still mulled the conversation over even now, hours later. It was something that she was going to have to think long and hard about before getting back to him.

The insistent ringing of the telephone slowly pulled the woman from her musings. She picked up the handset, placing it next to her ear, and spoke in her most business-like voice. “Brownstone Records. Brooke Gordon speaking…”

“You know, you have got to get a secretary. I could be any whacko trying to find you.” The voice on the other end spoke with familiarity.

Brooke smiled at the teasing banter of her youngest sister. “Well, thank God the only whacko who can find me is my kid sister. What’s up, C.C.?” The executive said as she wondered what her sister needed now.

“Not much. I called your house and didn’t get an answer so I took a chance that you were at the studio. You okay? You sound kind of out of it.”

“Yeah, I’m fine, nothing major. I’ll tell you all about it later. So, is there a reasonfor you calling me or what?” Brooke could already tell by the tone of C.C.’s voice that the younger girl was up to something.

“Well, I was just wondering…”

“Yeah, wondering what?” Brooke shuffled through some papers piled on her desk, pulling out one or two and shoving the rest back.

“Well, you see I met this girl and…”

“No, C.C.” Brooke cut her off in mid sentence as she threw the papers down onto the desktop, to make her point more emphatically.

“But, Brooke, she’s really cool.” Then C.C. added in a whisper, “And I know that this one’s gay.”

Brooke rolled her eyes as she leaned forward with the start of her rebuttal. “C.C., I am not going to take out every gay woman… or girl… that you meet. You tried to set me up once and we both know what happened with that one. Just because your friend is gay, does not mean that I’d like her or get along with her.” Brooke sat back in her chair, trying to calm down, positive that she had made her point clear.

“But, Brooke… she’s really nice, a total sweetheart, and she’s a huge Anti-Zero fan. Can’t you at least meet her and see for yourself?” C.C. tried to persuade her stubborn sister.

Brooke’s sigh was audible over the phone. “C.C., I’m out of the crush stage. In fact, I never was into it to begin with. So,why don’t we just forget that we even had this little conversation?” Brooke listened for an answer, but hearing none, she prompted. “Okay?” When she heard C.C.’s sigh of defeat, she knew she could relax.

“Well, okay.” C.C.’s voice showed her rejection. “Hey look, I need to go see about registering for a couple of classes.”

“Nothing like waiting until the last minute.” Brooke replied as she beat the top of her desk with a couple of pens, tapping out the rhythm to an old song she had written several years back.

“Yeah, well… they had some last minute openings.” Then, the idea struck her; “Hey maybe we can check out a movie or something next weekend. What do ya think?”

“Yeah sure, that sounds okay,” Brooke answered absentmindedly. “I’ll let you go. I’ve got some contracts to look over. I’ll see you at Mom’s on Sunday.”

“Okay, Sis. Love you. Take care.”

“No problem and love you, too.” Brooke thought for a moment then quickly added, “And C.C., thanks for not pressuring me on that little issue. It’s just not something I’m interested in right now. Talk to you later.”

“Yeah, whatever you say, sis.” C.C. paused for a moment before uttering her last words. “Bye Brooke.”

“Bye C.C.”

After hanging up the phone, each woman was left with her own thoughts. Brooke’s about the request of her longtime friend and ex-band mate, C.C.’s on the stubbornness of her sister. Each one running in similar lines but with different agendas.

Not interested… huh? That’s what you think. We’ll just have to wait and see about that.

Ch2 Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?
“…Give me a chance to prove to you that you’re Unbroken, too…”

The pickup truck slowed down as it pulled in front of a large house with immaculately kept flowerbeds trimming the walkways and outlines of the building. The sleepy little neighborhood was kept in much the same way; each house stood out from the one next to it by the varieties of color and landscaping techniques that was utilized in their development.

“Last as usual, just like the birth order,” C.C. muttered unconsciously as she saw Randi’s Durango and Terri’s Cherokee parked next to each other in the driveway, with Brooke’s 300Z parked in the grass. The young woman smirked knowing that her older sister had to have caught some grief from their parents over her impromptu parking space. That’s when C.C. decided parking on the street would be a lot safer.

“Well, we’re here,” the driver announced as she maneuvered into the next available parking spot on the street. “I’ll warn you now that dinner in this house usually tends to get a little,” C.C. winced looking at the space as she backed into it, “Well…very…um…interesting.”

“Interesting?” Sam looked to her left and smiled. “Come on, what can be so bad?”

“One never knows until these dinners are over.” Slamming the truck’s gearshift into park, C.C. turned off the ignition and unbuckled her seatbelt. “There we go,” she turned to the blonde beside her, “time for you to meet my family. Think you’re up for it?”

Nodding her head, Sam opened the door sliding down from the seat. She then turned, shaking her long blonde hair into place, and looked back in at her roommate. “Guess it’s now or never, eh?”

“You got that right.” The driver smiled and got out. Her long legs carried her swiftly around the vehicle and soon she was side by side with the blonde. “Don’t worry, you’ll fit in. Just act like you belong.”

The blonde woman just smiled politely and followed C.C.’s lead to the front door. Sam envisioned all sorts of scenarios as to what was inside the house before settling on the one that had been bugging her for the better part of the week. What’s interesting will be trying to figure out which one of them is gay before they tell me. Okay, Sammy girl, get that gaydar working!

Approaching the front door, C.C. noticed the serious look on her new friend’s face. “Don’t worry. It’s not like we start fires or anything in the dining room.”

“No fires. Well that’s good to know.” Sam let her mind come back to the conversation with her roommate.

“Yeah, we stopped that after burning Mom’s favorite table cloth,” C.C. amended as she opened the front door and walked through it announcing her presence to everyone in the house by shouting in Ricky Ricardo style voice, “Honey…I’m hooooooooome.”

“Burned the table cloth…” Sam muttered under her breath as she poked her head, cautiously into the doorway of the house. “Why did I ever agree to this?” The next thing that the small woman felt was C.C.’s hand grabbing hold of her, pulling her further into the family’s home. It took Sam’s short legs their full length running strides to keep up with the rest of her body. The fast paced entry causing her to see nothing but blur as she passed the simple décor of the surroundings. Before she knew it, they were standing at the end of the hallway watching everyone in the kitchen helping to prepare for dinner.

“Hi guys!” C.C. greeted her family as she walked in, noticing that Brooke was sitting on the kitchen counter with her head in her hands. Considering the woman’s slumped posture, C.C. could only wonder what their mother had been giving her older sister grief about now.

A matriarchal looking woman in her late fifties turned around and swept her youngest child up into a hug, as only a mother could do. “Hello, C.C. How’s my little girl doing today?” She asked as she kissed the wincing half-girl, half-woman on the cheek.

The look on C.C.’s face was priceless as she ate up the attention. Anyone that walked in could tell that this sister was the baby of the family.

Sam looked over to the other women in the kitchen and recognized Terri as she stood near the sink cleaning vegetables, while another older version of the cookie cutter mold was slicing them up for the salad.

Looking up from their chores, they noticed that C.C. had walked in. With a disgusted look on their faces, they turned to each other and began singing out in unison, “She’s ba-aack,” their notes slightly off key.

The annoyed young woman rolled her eyes at her other two sisters and held up one choice finger in their direction. “Excuse me, talk to the finger cause the face ain’t worth the hand!” She turned her attention back to her mother and answered the question. “I’m fine, just fine, mom.” She hugged the woman in a gentle manner and once she knew that her mother couldn’t see her gesture, she made sure the finger sticking up was the middle one.

“That is so grade school, C.C.” The eldest sibling cast her eyes to the ceiling and shook her head of long brown hair, letting it dance gracefully about her shoulders. On one of her sways, the woman brought more of the room into her sight, immediately catching the young blonde woman with her eyes. “Who do we have here?” The tallest of them all asked as she turned completely around from the sink and noticed the small blonde woman standing in the doorway.

The fact that C.C. was slighter built than her sisters didn’t stop her from demanding their attention. She walked over pulling her roommate into the center of the kitchen. “Everybody,” she vied for their attention over the garbage disposal that Terri quickly shut off as fast as she did to turn it on. “This is my roommate Sam. Sam, this is my mother, Mable Gordon.”

The smaller woman with gray tinged hair was pointed out and Sam found herself smiling back at her politely. Before she knew it, she was jerked in another direction.

“You’ve already met Terri.” C.C. waved her arm as if to dismiss that sister entirely. “The nitwit standing next to her is my sister, Randi.”

Sam noticed an air of superiority rolling off this woman, as if she was in total control of everything about her. Hmmm… The blonde found her eyes lingering over the form and not paying attention to a word that C.C. was saying.

“And last but definitely not least, the lump sitting on the counter is my sister, Brooke.” With the introductions done, C.C. stood back and waited to see what would happen.

“Hello, dear.” Mable offered her hand to Sam.

“Huh, oh,” the blonde turned toward Mrs. Gordon and immediately shook her hand.

“It’s nice to meet you. We’re glad you could join us for dinner today. Please, have a seat and make yourself at home,” Mable offered, as she gestured towards the kitchen table.

“Thank you for having me.” Sam’s voice was soft and her manners polite; so different from C.C.’s.

At the first sound of Sam’s voice, Brooke lifted her head to see from whom the melodic sound had come, moving slightly to get a better view around her tall sisters obstructing her view.

“Welcome. I’m Randi.”

Sam watched as the tallest of the sisters extended her hand in greeting. The woman was easily over six feet tall with long brown hair just a shade lighter than the rest of her sisters. Her eyes were a soft brown that seemed to twinkle when she smiled.

She’s confident, that’s for sure. I wonder… Sam could tell that she had a no-nonsense way about her. The blonde eyed the woman carefully as she shook her hand in greeting. “Thank-you. It’s nice to meet you.” She’s gorgeous! Sam wondered if this could be the sister C.C. had mentioned when she told her that one of them was gay.

Randi smiled and motioned Terri over with her head. “This here is my kid sister, Terri.”

Rolling her eyes at Randi’s description, Terri snapped back a tease readily. “Yeah, bite me, old lady. We’ve already met.” She then offered a hand to Sam as well. “Hi. It’s nice to see you again. Glad you could make it.”

The blonde smiled at the thought of actually knowing someone else here besides C.C., and was glad that Terri had stopped at the dorm that first day.

Sam studied the two siblings side by side. They looked and acted no different than one another. There was nothing happening here. Great, gaydar shutdown and I still have another sister to meet. She had wondered, after Terri had left the dorm the other day, if the scrub clad sister could be the one C.C. mentioned. Why was C.C. being so secretive about it with her anyway?

“Thanks. It’s nice to see you again as well.” Sam tried to steal a peek in the last sister’s direction but couldn’t quite see her through the small crowd that was forming a human wall around her. Damn, what did C.C. say her name was? Sammy girl, you’ve got to pay more attention when meeting new women in the future.

There was a moment of uneasy silence resulting in everyone slowly turning to look in Brooke’s direction.

Finally sensing that something was wrong, the woman with long dark hair who was sitting on the counter looked up. “What?” Brooke asked, as she noticed her mother motion her off of the counter with her eyes. Brooke jumped down and walked over by the rest of her family.

Letting her eyes follow the woman until she stopped next to her sibling, Sam noticed that she was almost as tall as Randi, but not quite. There had to be an inch or so difference between them.

Standing with her arms crossed over her chest and a smirk on her face, C.C. waited for Brooke’s reaction. For a second, she wondered if her sister had actually given any thought to their conversation a couple of days earlier. Now, with C.C. standing the closest to her, the youngest sister was the only one who heard the slight gasp from Brooke as her eyes met Sam’s for the first time.

The sulking woman stood dumfounded, the only word she could form at that moment was her own name barely louder than a whisper as she extended her hand. “B…Brooke.”

“Sam,” was the quiet reply as she took the offered hand into her own. I wonder if she is the one?

She couldn’t believe how blue Brooke’s eyes were when she locked gazes with the woman. Everyone else she had met in the family had brown eyes of one tone or another. Yet, Brooke’s were so incredibly blue. She hoped she wasn’t staring but, deep down, she knew she was.

Brooke never made the motion to move away, it was as if she was transfixed in time and space.

Both Randi and Terri glanced over to each other, raising matched eyebrows at each other, while C.C. stood pleased with herself as she watched Brooke and Sam meet without saying anything more than their respective names.

“I’m starving. Is dinner ready?” The deeper voice came from the man now entering the kitchen.

Sam and Brooke let their thread of contact go as the center of attention now turned to the man standing over by Mable. Sam watched as he placed a soft kiss on his wife’s cheek and smiled.

“Just about Henry. Randi, Brooke, why don’t you two set the dining room table.” Mable was now directing everyone’s attention.

Randi and Brooke nodded their heads in agreement and went to do as they were told, proving that their mother was still able to control the family, even after they were grown women.

Sam watched Brooke go about her chore. Lost in the last few moments, she wondered just how long they would have stood that way if someone had not have walked through the kitchen door and distracted them.

Mable turned Henry around towards the young blonde at C.C.’s side. “Henry, meet C.C.’s roommate, Sam.”

The older man looked at the small girl in front of him. He smiled warmly at her as she looked up at his tall frame. “Want me to lean over a bit so we can see eye to eye without you getting whip-lash?” He teased, leaning down some. “Hello. I’m Henry. It’s nice to meet you.” He held out a hand to Sam who took it, amazed at how softly the man wrapped his large hand around hers and shook it.

“It’s nice meeting you too, sir,” Sam said politely, looking up into friendly brown eyes.

“Chase, why don’t you give your friend here a tour of the place and then we’ll all sit down to dinner,” Mable offered.

Doing as her mother directed, C.C. gave Sam a modest tour of the home. By the time they had finished, dinner was on the table.

For the amount of chattering and carrying on that was present in the kitchen earlier, dinner itself was a rather quiet affair. Sam had absolutely no idea why C.C. had felt it important to ‘warn her’, as she had put it.

With the main courses of the dining experience over, Sam waited for the right time to speak up. “Thank you very much for dinner, Mrs. Gordon. The pot roast was delicious,” Sam complimented as she placed her napkin on the table.

“You’re welcome, dear, anytime. And, thank you. I’m glad you liked it.” She turned her eyes away from Sam to look at her husband who was at the opposite end of the table. “Henry, would you clear the table for dessert?” Mable asked her husband.

“Of course, Dear,” Henry replied as he stood and began to clear away all of the dinner dishes.

“Need any help, Dad?” C.C. offered as she watched her father make his way to every woman seated at the table.

Henry rolled his eyes at his youngest daughter before replying, “You know better, Chase.”

Sam felt as if she were missing something. Although she thought it was great that Mr. Gordon was waiting on his family, hand and foot, she still found it a tad unusual.

Terri noticed the look of confusion on their guest’s face and offered to explain. “Don’t worry about Dad, Sam. We girls and Mom get together for Sunday dinner at least once a month. Dad’s only been allowed to join us for the last couple of years. He complained about having to eat TV dinners while we were having a wonderful home cooked meal, so Mom made him a deal: he could stay and join our dinners but he had to wait on us.”

I wonder what my dad would do? Sam considered her father as she went from one face to another of all the women seated at the table.

Henry did as his wife asked of him and before long, returned with a stack of plates and an apple pie. Mable addressed her daughters on the topic they had been discussing earlier in the day. Henry placed the dessert in front of his wife and then continued to serve the remaining women at the table.

“Thank you, Henry. Come on, girls, someone has to know of a nice woman for your sister. You know, one that could settle her down a bit?”

Brooke groaned as she placed her glass back on the table. Once you got their mother started on something, she never let it go. “Mom, I really don’t think that’s necessary.” Brooke really did not feel like having this discussion now.

“Nonsense. What kind of girl do you like, Brooke? What catches your eye?”

All Brooke could do was look at her mother, speechless at her choice of topic for an after-dinner conversation especially with company present.

Sam let a smile cross her face and the barest of twinkles grace her eyes. Well, I guess I know which sister bats for my team, now.

“Well, I don’t think it’s the butch kind,” Randi offered as Terri nodded her head in agreement.

They all watched as Brooke’s face turned redder by the moment. Only one question remained on their minds: was it due to embarrassment or anger?

“No, the butch type would be way too much competition for Ol’ Brooke.” C.C. sat back in her chair and offered her thoughts on the subject.

Randi looked over to the object of their conversation, giving her a once over with those soft brown eyes of hers. “Well, with a build like that, she’s no Karen Carpenter but she would give Chyna a run for her money.”

The youngest sibling placed her fork on the table and looked up, confused. “What do Chinese carpenters have to do with this?”

Terri laughed at her sister as she replied, “Before your time, C.C.”

“Actually, C.C., Karen Carpenter was a great drummer.” Sam decided to jump into the conversation and leaned into the table as she looked from her roommate to Terri and back again.

Brooke lifted her head and arched an eyebrow in the girl’s direction. “You’re familiar with drummers?” Brooke asked.

“Oh yeah. I love hearing great women pound out the beat of their hearts. I’ve listened to music all my life. The women drummers never get any fame.” She emphasized that statement with a firm shaking of her head.

“So, you like women drummers, Sam?” Terri asked nonchalantly as she took a bite of her apple pie, her brown eyes darting briefly to Brooke then back to her plate.

“Yes, I do. Very much. It’s amazing to watch how much strength they have when behind a kit…I mean a drum set, yet they can still be so graceful as they play.”

“Well, maybe some women drummers don’t get any fame because they’d rather not have to deal with the hassle that comes along with it. They’d rather just play instead,” Brooke offered.

Sam turned her gaze to Brooke. “Well, let’s just say that they never get the credit they deserve. They just seem to fade into thin air. Like ghosts in the night,” the blonde held her fist up in the air and opened it as though she was releasing something into the air. “They are there for a minute and gone the next.” The young woman let her gaze go off into the distance as if she could see them all waiting to be plucked from the heavens.

Brooke was speechless at how emotionally Sam spoke on the subject.

“My, my… I see we have a little poet in our midst,” Henry commented. “Maybe some of that will rub off on our C.C. during the next year or so.” The man winked at his daughter as he brought the coffee cup to his lips.

“But you know… I have to admit that the best drummer, male or female, in my book was…”

Sam was interrupted as Henry jumped up from the table, having spilled his coffee on his shirt. “Oh, damn, excuse me. I’ll be right back.” Henry made his way out of the dining room, leaving his coffee cup and wiping the brown spot on his shirt with his napkin.

“Honey, there are some clean shirts folded on the dryer,” Mable called after her husband then turned back to her daughters. “Now, come on, one of you has to know of a nice girl for Brooke. How about you, Sam? Are you single, available or interested?”

Sam’s face turned an impossible shade of red as she realized that her own sexual preference was now being drawn into the conversation. The girl turned looking to her roommate and then back at the matriarch. At the same time, the sudden turnabout caught Brooke in mid swallow and she choked on her iced tea.

The older woman sensed the action on the periphery of the table. “What? She’s not too young for you is she, Brooke?” Mable asked her flustered child.

“Well, ah… no, Mom, it’s not that. It’s just…”

She was cut off as Mable addressed Sam again. “Do you have any experience, dear? But then again, if you don’t you can be molded just like their father. I must admit that he has quite mastered the art of curling his tongue…”

“Mom!” All four daughters yelled in unison at their mother.

“What?” she asked them innocently then turned back to the blonde, unscathed. “So, Sam, tell me, what kind of women do you like?”

Sam was saved from answering the question as Henry reappeared back into the dining room and took his place at the head of the table, wearing a clean shirt.

“Dad, can you roll your tongue?” C.C. asked her father as her sisters glared in her direction.

“Why?” he asked, clearly confused.

“Oh, nothing. Just something Mom mentioned that I was wondering about.”

“Dad, you don’t have to answer that one.” Brooke arched her eyebrow and gave her sister a look that told her to be quiet. “C.C.,” she warned through a clenched mouth.

“What?” The youngest daughter tried to defend herself. “It’s a perfectly innocent question. I was just wondering if the tongue rolling gene is an inherited trait.”

C.C. was cut off as her mother placed a hand on her arm. Mable turned to the other side of the table where her other daughters were seated. “Don’t think that I don’t know when you girls are trying to change the subject on me. Brooke, I asked you a question.”

“Yeah, Brooke,” the pediatrician glanced from Sam to their sister, “what is your type? That way we can all keep an eye open.” Terri offered.

Brooke sighed heavily as she wondered if she’d ever make it out of the house without her mother going back to this topic. She looked over at Terri and answered, “The non-nosey kind. You know, the complete opposite of C.C.”

“Hey, I’m not nosey. I just like to be in on the news. Enquiring minds want to know,” C.C. defended herself as Sam just sat back and snickered quietly over the whole situation.

“Yeah, well inquire somewhere else, Sis. This tabloid is keeping its secrets.” Brooke shot back, her eyes glaring an undisputed warning.

“Now, girls…” Henry felt it was time he tried to calm down the situation.

Brooke and C.C. both looked at their father and apologized without hesitation. “Sorry, Dad.” The phrase sounded like one that was well rehearsed over time.

Mable looked down at her eldest daughter who was sitting on Henry’s right side. “Can’t you find someone, Randi?”

“I did. I married him and gave you three grandkids.” The confident woman answered without missing a beat. Randi really wasn’t in the mood at the moment to joke around. She’d had a rough week in court and was getting tired of the petty squabbling going on between her sisters.

“I don’t think she means for you.” Terri chastised her oldest sister.

“The lights are on but nobody’s home,” C.C. teased unmercifully to which everyone, including Brooke, laughed at the comment; the only exception being Randi.

“You know, I think we’ve heard enough from you C.C.” Randi was trying to calm her temper, which was on a rather short fuse by now. It was easy for anyone who had been around her a while to know. There was the telltale sign of uncontrollable twitching at the corner of her mouth. Unfortunately, all Randi needed to see was C.C. replying by blowing kisses at her and the sparks were flying as the charge was set off.

Randi jumped up from the table almost knocking her chair over, as she started to lunge for C.C. on the other side of the table.

Hearing the noise, Brooke sprang out of her own chair to step in front of the angered woman, stopping the ensuing massacre. Their youngest sibling could be a pain in the ass but Brooke, in all honesty, adored her.

Now, Terri got up and grabbed Randi from behind to halt her from attacking her sister. “Hey, I’m here for a family dinner, not work. Besides if anyone’s gonna pound her head in, it should be Brooke.” Terri leaned out from around Randi and winked at her blue-eyed sister. “She’s got more experience there.”

“Yeah, Mom, can I borrow the table?” Brooke asked with a twinkle in her eyes as she made a motion to step up on the seat of her chair.

Calmly wiping her mouth with a napkin, C.C. looked over at Sam, shrugging her shoulders. “Welcome to the Gordon family dinner. Complete with floor show entertainment.”

The young blonde just shook her head and giggled, not ever remembering having so much fun at a family function of any sort.

“Okay, everyone sit down now.” Mable slightly raised her voice, “I said now!” The older woman’s eyes roamed the room as she paused momentarily to gaze at each of her offending children, driving her message home on an individual basis as needed.

One by one the grown women shyly turned around to look at their mother and sulked back over to their appointed seats, without a word.

“I can’t believe all of this commotion over a simple question to which I still have not received an answer.” Mable seemed insistent.

“What was that question?” C.C. asked as Brooke threw a dinner roll at her.

Mable reached over, grabbing Brooke’s offending hand in hers and waited for her daughter to meet her gaze. “Brooke, honey, we’re all just trying to look out for your best interests.”

“Interests?” Brooke’s blue eyes became narrowed with anger. “You think that I can’t find a… a…” the pinned down woman stuttered.

“Well, there you have it. She doesn’t even know what to call it,” Terri threw in, casting her eyes to heaven above. “No wonder she can’t find one.”

“Don’t worry about it, Brooke. I think Mom’s just trying to say that you’re a little uptight and you need to get some,” C.C. stated compassionately then turned as Terri laughed and gave her a high-five across the table.

“A mate…” Brooke started as she glared at her sisters, one by one around the table, saying a different definition to each one, “A life partner… A lover.” She finished as she stuck out her tongue at C.C. in defiance.

“Well, her tongue is out but did she inherit the gene to roll it?” The baby of the family pondered as she placed her index finger against her chin and looked up at the ceiling as if in thought, unscathed by the gesture.

“I can…” a soft voice offered in the silence of the moment.

Everyone was surprised to hear the confession from Sam and focused their attention on her.

“See?” Sam rolled her tongue without thinking about it, right in Brooke’s direction. “I haven’t figured out quite what to do with it yet but, I’ve got the gene.”

Brooke merely raised her eyebrow in reply as C.C., Terri, and Randi started laughing and cheering.

“Henry, I need some more coffee. Would you mind making a fresh pot?” Mable asked of her husband as she tried to keep a straight face.

“Sure thing dear,” he smiled and got up from the table, heading toward the kitchen. “I could use a refill, myself. Would anyone else like something while I’m up?” he asked politely.

“Yeah, Dad…” the young woman said, waiting for her father’s full attention, “Look in Mom’s cupboards out there and see if you can find Brooke a honey.” C.C. requested as she grinned at her father.

“Keep it up there, Cjersti Chase, and you’ll find something,” Brooke threatened her sister.

“Ooh, elaborating on the initials are we? I’m so scared.” The girl mocked a shiver, then held her hands up in front of her face as if she were frightened.

“Girls,” Mable warned them, then paused to collect her thoughts. “Terri, do you know of anyone for Brooke?”

Terri rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Actually, Mom, my patients are all a little too young. That is, unless she’s into jail bait.”

Brooke smacked the sister sitting next to her lightly on her arm as an answer. “Thanks a lot, Ter. I don’t think so.”

“Ow, you brute.” Terri couldn’t help but tease her sister.

“Randi? How about you? Do you have anybody in mind?” Mable addressed her oldest daughter who was finally calm from the earlier excitement. She thought to herself that Randi was under too much stress at work as Henry returned with a fresh pot of coffee and began to refill the cups around the table.

“No. Actually Mom, they don’t allow conjugal visits where anyone I know would end up.” Randi rested her chin in her hand and thought for a moment. “But if she hooked up with one of Terri’s patients…” she thought for a moment then continued. “Nah, she’d have to like the name Big Bertha anyway.”

Mable looked last to her youngest daughter, to which C.C.’s face lit up with delight as she plastered the most devilish grin she could manage on her face.

Brooke began to protest. “You’re going to ask someone who I’ve bounced on their head more times than I can count to find me a partner? You have got to be kidding.”

Never giving her mother the chance to respond to Brooke, C.C. answered the unspoken question. “Well, I could look around but, do you really think that she could keep up with a 20 year old for longer than a night?”

Terri had just taken a sip of coffee. Hearing C.C.’s question, the woman could not control the liquid from coming back up and out her nose as she laughed. “A night?” She snorted then coughed. “A whole night? How about a quickie?”

Brooke, by this point, was more than a little aggravated. Terri, Randi, and C.C. laughed again at their sister and the torture she had endured since walking into the house earlier in the afternoon.

“Excuse me, I have never slept with any of you, thank God” Brooke shook her head in disgust. “And not just because that would be considered incest. I have better taste than that.” Brooke’s face was serious now, her head cocked forward slightly in challenge to what she was about to say. “Nor have you ever met someone that I have had any form of relations with, so you have no reason to doubt my capabilities.”

“Well,” the older woman fretted, “there was that one time at camp…” Mable began but was cut off by Henry.

“Mable, please. Honey, leave well enough alone.”

“Sex, Mom. She means having sex in a relationship.” Terri clarified.

“Oh well, forget camp then, unless…” Mable stopped and looked over at Brooke, a thoughtful expression on her face.

“What, Mom? Unless what exactly?”

“Well, didn’t you get to be friends with that one girl from…”

“Friends, Mom… not lovers. Could we drop the subject, please? I’m sure we’re making our guest uncomfortable.” Brooke looked over in Sam’s direction, apology written all over her face.

Sam laughed. “Hey, I’m fine. Besides it’s kind of refreshing to see such an open family.”

“You’re going to fit right in here, kid. Bring her back some time, C.C. I like her.” Terri looked across the table and grinned at their guest.

“Well, I’ll tell you what, Sam, if you ever wanted open, you came to the right house. Hell, if they were any more open, I’d have to have them all arrested for indecent exposure,” Randi elaborated as she winked.

Brooke got up from the table and stretched her arms high over her head in frustration. “Well, now that this dinner has been all about me and my love life, maybe the next one can be about someone else… Randi?” She looked at the sisters on either side of her, “Terri?”

“Hey, what about me?”

“You don’t have a life yet C.C., and if you keep it up I might not let you,” Brooke pointed out, smiling as she did so. It was time that someone else in the family got teased.

“Yeah, Chase. And what life you do have, it’s not like you’re ever quiet long enough for anyone to wonder about it,” Terri added as she stood up and joined Brooke by stretching. They looked to their oldest sister down the row, knowing that a memorable comment would be forthcoming. Randi never was one to disappoint.

“Yeah, C.C., you’re barely out of a training bra,” Randi chimed in.

Brooke was enjoying the fact that someone else was on the receiving end of everybody’s teasing. “Yeah, I hear she stopped wetting the bed just last week. You’re in luck, Sam.”

“Well, at least my juices are flowing,” C.C. shot back.

“Can we cook with your juices? Then again, why bother? There’s apple juice, orange juice…” Brooke began ticking them off on her fingers as Randi cut her off.

“I heard it was Kool-Aid.” Randi stood up and joined her two sisters.

Brooke chuckled, and then offered, “Capri-Sun… Well… maybe not. That has a sharp, pointed end to the straw.”

Terri threw up her hands in exasperation. “Great, just what Chase needs, something to poke her and suck her dry.”

Opening her mouth to protest, the youngest brunette stopped to think about it. “Ooh…Naughty!”

“Yeah, you think so? Just don’t go running with it in your mouth.” Brooke looked over at C.C.

“Yeah? Well, at least I’d have something in my mouth,” was her quick retort.

“GIRLS, ENOUGH!” Henry was becoming quite aggravated at the behavior of all four of his daughters, especially in front of company.

Mable looked over to Sam and reached a hand out to her which Sam willingly took. “It’s not always this bad dear, really.”

“Nope, sometimes it’s worse,” Brooke admitted, then smiled and winked when Sam looked up at her to see if she was serious.

“Well, Mom, thanks. Dinner was great but I need to get back to the hospital.” Terri said as she walked over and hugged the older woman. “Sam, it was… ah… interesting to say the least. Please, come back and join us again.”

“Yeah,” Brooke seconded readily as she waited in line. “I have a session at the studio in an hour so I need to go set everything up.” The blue eyed woman hugged her mother, depositing a kiss on the older woman’s cheek as she did so. “Thanks for dinner, Mom. It was great.”

“You’re welcome,” Mable said as she stood with one arm each around Terri and Brooke, looking somewhat short compared to her daughters.

“Thanks again for dinner, Mrs. Gordon.” Sam began. “I think I’m going to enjoy having C.C. as a roommate this year.”

“You can have her!” Randi, Terri and Brooke all offered at the same time.

“Hey, at least I have someone to sleep with,” C.C. countered as she stuck out her tongue at Brooke and Terri.

“Excuse me. I’m married, thank you very much. I have someone to sleep with that I can actually have sex with,” Terri defended herself.

“Yeah, but not on duty nights at the hospital. What is that on call schedule this year, Terri… every other night?”

Terri grumbled out her answer. “It will get better. Besides, when was the last time you got some, Chase?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” C.C. placed an arm around Sam’s shoulder. “So, roomie, what’s it going to be tonight…” she paused, wiggling her eyebrows for effect, “…blondes, brunettes or redheads?”

Sam looked up to see the tilt of Brooke’s head as she studied her, waiting for her answer. “Definitely, brunettes,” Sam answered, noticing a slight wink and the subtlest of upturn to the corner of Brooke’s mouth.

“It was nice meeting you, Sam. Please don’t let her warp you too much. You seem like a nice girl just the way you are,” Brooke admitted as she walked over closer to her, the attraction being too great to stay away.

“Well, some things just can’t be helped.” Sam could feel the heat of a blush start as she tried to conceal her embarrassment.

“Oh yeah? Such as…?” Blue eyes looked at her intently.

Sam just smiled at Brooke as C.C. tugged on her arm and asked, “Ready to go?”

Sam looked at C.C. “Yeah, I’m ready.” The roommates moved toward the front door with C.C. in the lead.

It wasn’t more than a step or two before Sam decided to answer. She turned to Brooke and began to walk backwards to the door, “Maybe next time we can talk about that. Bye, Brooke.”

Brooke nodded her head and smiled. “Okay, next time.” The woman’s shoulders sank slightly as the blonde left her sight, the smile fading from her face. Brooke thought for a moment before resuming her steps to the door. Well, if there was any highlight to tonight’s dinner, I’d say that it was Sam.

Ch3 Clueless
“…Oh, no. Not me…I’ll be a rainbow in your eyes…”

After an evening of dinner and family fun at the Gordon’s, the roommates returned to their dorm. Anticipating the start of classes the next morning, they looked over their schedules and set their alarms, hoping that the start of a new school year would not be too intrusive of a beginning to their lives as seniors on campus.

With a towel wrapped around her head and her nightshirt on, Sam returned from her shower only to find C.C. sitting cross-legged on top of her comforter, looking over the campus newspaper. The tired blonde sat down on her own bed then reached over to her nightstand, pressing the play button on the cassette player.

Sam unwrapped the towel from her hair. “Do you mind?” She asked her roommate, nodding her head in the direction of the music filtering through the speakers, the familiar rhythm of the drums bringing a smile to the blonde’s face.

“Not at all. Go ahead.” The long brown hair of the girl swayed with the movement of her head as she recognized the beat. If the truth were known, C.C. rather enjoyed hearing the songs once again. They had not graced the Gordon home since Brooke all but banned them after coming home from that last tour. For a brief moment, C.C. wondered what the reason had really been.

“So…anything interesting in there?” Sam asked as she rubbed her hair with the towel.

“Not really. Just the normal early semester bullshit about returning to classes and whatnot,” C.C. answered.

Sam grabbed her own copy and began to thumb through the pages. Her eyes lit up as one announcement in particular drew the gaze of her green eyes. “Ooh. Clueless is playing this weekend. I’ve always wanted to see that movie.”

“You’ve never seen it?” C.C. asked in disbelief. Inwardly, she cringed. She had never been a huge Alicia Silverstone fan herself, but she remembered that Brooke loved that movie. The brunette let a smile creep onto her face as she began to formulate a plan. “Well, maybe we can check it out,” C.C. offered.

“Really?” Sam’s eyes grew wide in amazement. “You wouldn’t mind? I’m sure you’ve probably seen it already.”

“Once or twice, but it’s been a while,” C.C. shrugged her shoulders. “We’ll figure it out later in the week, okay?” She glanced over at her roommate, and by the look on Sam’s face, she knew her answer.

“Great.” The determined smile was almost infectious. “Thanks, C.C., I really appreciate it.”

“No problem.” She placed the paper on the shelf of her nightstand, then nodded her head in the direction of the computer the two girls shared. “I’m just going to check my mail before turning in. Do you need anything on the computer before I do?” The computer belonged to C.C. but she made sure that Sam knew she was welcome to use it whenever she needed.

“Nope. Thanks.” Sam shook her head as she watched C.C. walk over to the desk and log onto the Internet, pulling her first e-mail up to read.

The young blonde busied herself with her hair as she waited for her roommate to finish, then she said what had been on her mind for the last few minutes.

“I really want to thank you for letting me tag along with you to dinner. Your family is very nice, and they really made me feel welcome.” Sam couldn’t believe what a great time she had. She was nervous at first but the closeness of C.C.’s family soon made her feel right at home. Actually, she felt more at ease at their house than she ever did in her own home.

C.C. turned around as she waited for the next piece of e-mail to download. “Oh, you’re welcome, Sam. You’re more than welcome to go with me any time you’d like. I go home quite a bit and I’m sure everyone would love to see you again. Terri even said so, herself.”

Noticing the far away look on Sam’s face, she guessed that Terri wasn’t the sister that the blonde had on her mind. “Brooke seemed to like you,” C.C. added as an afterthought as she turned back around to face the computer screen. She pulled one leg up under her as she began to read her mail.

“Really? How do you know?” Sam asked, wondering why C.C. turned their conversation down this particular path.

The girl tossed her brown hair and merely rolled her eyes as she turned around towards Sam. “Please, you’re kidding, right? I’m closer to Brooke than the others. Not that I don’t love them, too but,” C.C. paused for a second in thought, “I don’t know, Brooke and I have always been tighter. Randi and Terri are the same way. I know her and take my word for it, she likes you.” C.C. watched for a moment as Sam mulled this information over, biting on her bottom lip as she did so.

“She was really nice…” Sam began but was cut off by C.C.

“You can say it.” The brown eyebrow rose slightly in challenge, “And nice looking. I saw the way you looked at her.” C.C. couldn’t help but tease her friend.

Sam looked up, horrified that someone else noticed. “I wasn’t…”

“It’s okay, Sam. No one else noticed, honest. They would have ragged you about it, otherwise. And Brooke was so busy dealing with Mom and all of our shit there’s not enough money in the world that could have bought her a clue. Don’t worry about it,” C.C. assured her roommate and heard the audible sigh of relief.

“I can’t believe you noticed,” Sam shook her head in disbelief as the next song began to play. “I thought I was pretty stealthy when it came down to checking out the babes,” the blonde shook her head and chuckled. “Guess I need more practice, huh?”

“Don’t worry about it,” C.C. stressed to her friend, as another idea formed in her head. “Hey, why don’t you e-mail Brooke and thank her as well?” C.C. turned, from her monitor to see the bug-eyed look of shock on Sam’s face. “Oh, come on, Sam. You’re more nervous around me right now than you were around her this afternoon.”

She got up from the chair and walked over to the closet. After fishing around for a moment or two, she pulled her wallet out of her purse. Upon retrieving a white business card from it, she walked back to Sam, and then placed it into the woman’s hand.

“Trust me, Sam. I wouldn’t tell you to do it if I didn’t think she’d enjoy it. I’m all done with the computer. You can do it right now if you’d like.”

The blonde sat on her bed and gazed into the brown eyes looking back at her. When she didn’t see the teasing gleam that seemed to permanently take up residence there, she slowly nodded in agreement to do just that.

“Okay,” Sam gave in. She got up from her bed and made her way over to the computer via the bathroom, where she placed her wet towel to dry.

Sam glanced down to the plain white card in her hands.

Brownstone Records

“In 7 days, the Earth was created. On the 8th day, it was plugged in.”

Brooke L. Gordon, C.E.O.

Trying not to interfere with her roomie’s thinking process, C.C. climbed into bed and double-checked the time she had set for her alarm to go off. Turning off her lamp, the lanky girl settled into the mattress as she waited for sleep to embrace her. The soft sound of Sam pecking away at the keyboard acted like the soothing sound of rain falling on the roof, lulling her to sleep.

“C.C.?” Sam’s voice was soft as it fell on the girl’s ear.

The sleepy-eyed woman rose up on one elbow to look at her friend across the small room. “Yeah?”

“Is your name really Chase?” Sam asked as she began to giggle. The blonde hit the key marked enter, sending her e-mail then turned around, expecting an answer. Instead, she was greeted by C.C.’s flying pillow.

The C.E.O. of Brownstone Records was always extremely punctual. This Monday morning was no exception. Brooke entered her office at exactly eight in the morning after her customary greetings to the small staff that surrounded her on the office level of the building. Most of them had been with her from the beginning of the company, becoming a second family of a sort during her working hours.

Crossing over to her desk, the tall woman put her briefcase down and moved to the comfortable chair that was only for her. When all of her necessary organizational maneuvering was finished, she sat there glancing out the window. Deep in thought ever since leaving her parent’s house the evening before, she found herself wondering about her life.

Her mother’s prodding was nothing new to her and she normally took it in stride. She had no idea why yesterday should have been any different. Then, out of nowhere, the image of one petite blonde with green eyes came floating back through her mind.

It had been so long since she thought about giving anybody a second look for any reason that it was throwing her off a bit. Why now, and why all of a sudden? What exactly am I thinking of in reference to this blonde? The usually clear-headed executive felt like her brains were all jumbled, especially when the colors of green and gold came together in the form of her youngest sister’s roommate.

Shaking off the thoughts that kept trying to invade her mind, Brooke thought it best if she’d try to get some work done. Reflexively, she booted up her computer and typed in her network password. Then, continuing as she did everyday, her next course of action was to check her e-mail to see which band wanted her to come hear them, knowing that they were the next ‘big thing’ to hit the world of music.

Her blue eyes scanned the messages that had come pouring in freely over the weekend, filling her inbox. One in particular caught her eye with a simple subject of “Hi!” She didn’t recognize the addy and curiosity got the better of her. Before she realized it, a long, sinewy finger clicked the mouse over it, causing it to open.

Subj: Hi!

Date: August 19, 9:55:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Sam Moleson

To: brookeloran

Brooke,

Just wanted to say thanks for making me feel at home in the dinner setting you and your family provided. I hope that we can spend more time together.

Hey, we all march to the beat of a different drum otherwise we’d be damn tired of hearing the same song.

Brooke thought it a bit ironic to be reading an e-mail from the young woman who had been popping in and out of her thoughts since walking out the front door of her parent’s house yesterday evening. She couldn’t explain it. She felt giddy, for lack of a better word. Normally, she wouldn’t reply to someone she didn’t really know. Actually, unless it was an immediate member of her family, she wouldn’t really give it another thought. Before she had time to consider what she was doing, she was pressing the reply button.

Subj: Re: Hi!

From: brookeloran

To: Sam Moleson

In a message dated August 19, 9:55:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Sam Moleson writes:

Hey, we all march to the beat of a different drum otherwise we’d be damn tired of hearing the same song.

Hmmm…You DO have a thing for drummers, huh? You are very welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself around my warped family. We’ll have to see what can be done about spending some time together.

Talk to you later.

Brooke

P.S. Not that I’m complaining, but how did you get my e-mail addy? Has my mother been talking to you? 😉

After double-checking for any misspelled words, she hit the ‘send’ key before having a chance to think better of it. Leaning an elbow on the desk, Brooke used the thumb and forefinger of her left hand to pinch the bridge of her nose, trying to clear her mind. Did I just offer to spend some time with her? She leaned back in her chair and gazed out the window toward the beach. I can’t believe I just did that.

Brooke dropped her head as she closed her eyes. Taking in a deep breath, she slowly parted her eyelids, the computer screen being the only thing in her sight. Glancing at the time in the lower right hand corner, a new thought came to Brooke’s mind. She probablywon’t get the message until later in the afternoon, when she’s done with her first day of classes.I’m going to have to wait…to see… Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, the executive grabbed for the first stack of papers she could reach on her desk.

“Contracts, good. That should keep my mind busy and focused,” Brooke put all thought of Sam, e-mails, and anything else that brought the young woman to her mind aside and dug in whole-heartedly to the business at hand.

Tired and a bit irritable, the C.E.O. of Brownstone Records returned from a late business lunch. Under the guise of signing a new band to the Brownstone label, she had just spent the better part of two hours hashing out details with the band’s manager. He and the band both were from New Jersey and already the accent was beginning to drive her crazy. I hope they don’t end up after the recording session sounding as bad as that state smells.I’m glad that I kept it to a two recording deal.

Walking into her office, she turned the air conditioning up and sat down to check the messages left on her voicemail during her absence. There were numerous hang-ups, a couple of recording studios confirming studio times for later in the week, and a message from C.C. asking her sister to give her a call back. A quick glance at the clock showed it to be ten minutes to five, just enough time to return a call before she ended her workday.

Brooke dialed C.C.’s cell number and waited for her to pick up. After two rings, she heard her sister’s annoying greeting. “Talk to me.”

“What’s up, brat?” Brooke asked as she sat back in her chair, propping her feet up on the desk. She was enjoying the feel of the cool air coming out of the vent just over her head.

“Hey, Sis, I was just wondering…would you want to see a movie with me later this week? I found one of your all-time favorites.”

Brooke shrugged her shoulders, momentarily forgetting that the woman on the other end could not see her.

“So what’s it going to be?”

“Sure, I guess so. When?”

“Well, how about Friday night.”

Brooke removed her feet from her desk. Flipping through the pages of her calendar, she made sure any studio time booked that night did not require her presence. “Yeah, Friday looks okay. What’s showing?” she asked as she turned her chair around to look out at the ocean. Tourist season was not over yet and she watched as the multi-layered, tan-skinned visitors walked along the boardwalk and played in the water.

“Clueless,” C.C. answered her sister. “It’s showing at the Campus Quad.”

“No way. Cool.” Brooke’s voice was tinged with excitement, then she remembered something. “But, wait a minute…you hate that movie. Why would you want to see it with me?” Brooke asked, curious to hear the answer.

“Well, I figured I’ve got to grow up sometime. I might as well try by watching that horrid movie. You know, just because I was born the baby doesn’t mean I have to stay that way.”

Brooke let out a throaty laugh as she answered, “What does growing up have to do with anything?”

“Hey, can’t I spend some time with my most favorite sister of all time without a reason?” C.C. asked.

“Favorite sister? Ooh, you must want something,” Brooke replied with an arch of her eyebrow.

“Honestly, Brooke, I don’t want anything but your happiness.”

“You are too much.” Brooke chuckled at her sister and spit out her old stand-by phrase that she used with all of her sisters. “C.C., you’re so full of shit, your eyes are brown.”

“Yeah, and your head’s so full of air, your eyes are sky blue. Come on, Brooke,” C.C. whined. “You know how much you love that movie.”

Brooke sighed and gave in without much of a fight. “Okay, what time?”

Thinking for only a moment, C.C. was quick to answer. “How about seven? That way we have time to get the munchies before the movie starts.”

Brooke looked at her computer for the time and noticed the ‘New Mail’ icon on her screen. “Alright, that sounds good. You wanna meet at the Quad?”

“The Quad? Ahh…no…” C.C. answered a little too fast. “I mean…it would probably be better to pick me up at the dorm. You know, just in case my class is running late.”

“You mean you don’t know? Why don’t you just look at your schedule?”

“Because, my schedule is in my backpack and I’m walking to the dorm, now. I don’t have my schedule memorized yet. You know, it is the first day.”

“Okay, Friday at seven then. Is there anything else?”

“Actually, there is. You are going to look presentable, aren’t you? I mean…”

“What do you mean ‘presentable’? It’s just a movie,” Brooke cut her sister off.

“Yeah, but my friends might see you with me. I don’t want them to think you’re an old fogie or something.”

Brooke guffawed at her youngest sibling’s remark. “Chase, you’re pushing it.”

“Hey, I’ve got a reputation to uphold here, Sis. Help me out, will ya?” C.C. pleaded with Brooke.

Brooke growled into the phone receiver and shook her head in disbelief. “What do you want me to do…wear a tux?”

“Hey, if that would make you feel comfortable,” C.C. teased her older sister. “Just look nice.”

“Okay, I’ll leave the ‘granny-panties’ at home. Damn, you act like we’re going out on a date or something.” Brooke placed her feet back up on her desk, then leaning back in her chair, she found herself staring at the flashing icon on her screen. In an effort to release the tension in her body and mind, she picked up the pencil from her desktop and began playing with it between her fingers, deciding whether or not to open the new piece of e-mail for viewing.

“A date? I don’t think so, darlin’. You’re my sister and although some think you are fine as all get out, I don’t.”

“Yeah, yeah. Shall I bring flowers and candy as well?” Brooke asked, it was her turn to tease now.

“Now that you mention it…”

Brooke’s no-nonsense tone ended the conversation. “Goodbye, Chase. I’ll see you on Friday at seven at your dorm.”

The woman on the other end laughed as she said, “Bye, Brooke.”

Hearing the click of C.C.’s phone as she disconnected the digital line, Brooke’s thoughts turned back to the icon for new e-mail. Okay, equal time here. I returned one phone call, now I’ll read an e-mail. She clicked on her newest piece of e-mail and was surprised to see that it was a reply from Sam.

Subj: Re: Hi!

Date: August 20, 5:08:06 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Sam Moleson

To: brookeloran

Do you really think that your mother could influence me more than you could? I think not. BTW, you should never leave your business card with C.C. if you don’t want someone to use it. 😉 She told me that you were a big supporter of Brooke Loran’s career. Not everyone would use her name as an email addy. I bet you have every album she’s on and then some. So, yeah, drummers do a thing or two to me.

Don’t worry, C.C.’s not warping me at all…at least I hope not. You may have to check on that every once in a while, just to make sure.

Talk to you soon.

Brooke couldn’t help the smile that found its way onto her face as she read the message. She shut down her computer, then made her way out of the office. The executive paused at the door only long enough to look back at the now blank computer screen. Suddenly, the day didn’t seem so bad after all.

The first week of school passed by without any major catastrophes, yet C.C. and Sam were both glad that the weekend was here. It was Friday evening already, and C.C. was sitting in her dorm room reading to kill some time while Sam occupied the bathroom. The girl glanced at the clock on the nightstand as it digitally flipped over, proclaiming the time to be 6:30.

“Shit, I’m going to be late for another class,” C.C. cursed, grabbed her bag and headed for the door of the bathroom. Sam was in the shower so C.C. yelled, “Hey, Sam?”

The blonde raised her voice over the sound of running water, “Yeah?”

“I’ve gotta run. I’m going to be late for my last class. I’ll see you later.”

“Okay.” Sam called back. “Hey, what about the movie? I thought we were going to…”

The brunette smiled as she glanced at the clock again on her way out the door, totally ignoring Sam’s question. Stopping short after she pulled the door shut, she opened it back up and this time made sure the door was unlocked. She closed it again, gently. The young woman shouldered her bag then dusted her hands off on each other, letting a happy whistle escape her lips. C.C. walked off down the hall obviously happy at the ease with which she was able to pull off her plan.

Sam walked out of the bathroom a moment or two later, dressed in her underwear with the T-shirt still in her hand. She wasn’t worried about wearing too much more since it was too warm and she was by herself now. The petite woman placed one of her favorite CD’s in the stereo and cranked up the volume. She wasn’t too concerned about disturbing anyone. After all, it was a Friday night and the majority of the dorm’s occupants were at various parties to celebrate surviving the first week of the new school year.

The provocative tempo of “All Or Nothing” by Europe started to blare from the speakers, filling the air with words and music that made it hard to keep still. Before she realized it, the beat was driving her to dance as she moved her freshly done laundry from the basket to the homes that she had declared for them in the next year. The young blonde’s mind was soon completely absorbed in the music.

Brooke stepped off the elevator onto the third floor. She was a little surprised at how quiet the dorm was. Standing there, the older woman remembered how loud the place had always been when she was in college. How can they study in all this quiet? Man, if we could hear ourselves think, the music wasn’t cranked up loud enough. I guess times have changed.

The tall woman stood perfectly still and listened for a moment, then a small smile tugged at her lips when she detected the sound of music coming from a dorm room down the hall. She could make out the muffled sound of a stereo and followed it up to her sister’s door. Yeah, that’s the way C.C.; I knew you had at least one of my genes in you, besides the looks.

Brooke found herself tapping her fingers on her pants as they hung over the pockets that her thumbs were looped in. She walked up to the door. Even though she knew it wouldn’t do any good, Brooke tried knocking on the door anyway, finding the beat of the music mimicked in her knock itself. Getting no response, she tried the doorknob. Surprised that it turned with ease, the door opened. I’ve got to read C.C. the riot act about security and keeping her door locked. She opened the door some more, then poked her head inside. What she saw brought a smile to her face as she hastily stepped inside the room and shut the door.

The blonde dancing on the opposite side of the room was oblivious to her surroundings. With exaggerated motions, she kept the rhythm of the music as she teasingly pulled the cotton shirt on over her head, seductively advancing it down over her body until it was in place.

The tall brunette leaned back against the door, crossing her arms over her chest as she admired the view. Sam was dressed in a baby doll T-shirt and underwear, dancing like there was no tomorrow. The sight of the small blonde was doing things to her being that Brooke couldn’t believe. Settling in for the show, Brooke stood with her back against the door. She bent one of her long legs and let the sole of her boot rest upon the door as she listened to the blonde sing with the recording.

“Can’t stop me now, I’ve set my sights on you. Right to the heart, my aim is true. Yeah, that’s why…All or nothing at all is how I feel about it. Won’t stand my back tothe wall. I’ll find my way around it. All or nothing at all… there’s nothing I won’t do…And the one thing I want all of is you.”

Brooke’s smile grew through the remainder of the song, fighting every urge she had to walk up behind the girl and join in on her impromptu dancing. The sight was stimulating enough that she dare not get any closer.

Once the song finished, Sam flopped down onto her bed and pressed the stop button on the remote. That’s when she noticed the tall, very relaxed woman in the doorway. “Ohmygod! Where’d you come from?” Sam clutched at her chest, wondering how long Brooke had been standing there.

“My Mom and Dad,” Brooke answered with a grin. “You didn’t mention that you were a dancer,” she added with a wink.

“Well, you never asked.” Sam stood and walked over to her dresser to grab a pair of jeans to put on.

Brooke was impressed that the girl acted like it was the most natural thing in the world to be in this state of undress around her. Out of respect for what privacy she could offer, Brooke turned her head away looking in the direction of C.C.’s bed, as Sam pulled on her pants.

Sam turned around to face Brooke and smiled when she saw the older woman looking anywhere in the room but at her. Could it be possible that Brooke is more embarrassed than I am?

She took in the sight of the older woman who was leaning casually against the door. Her eyes traveled down Brooke’s face to her shoulders, where ebony tresses cascaded over a light jacket that was slightly open, revealing a black tank top underneath its light weight. Sam’s eyes continued down the muscled abdomen to thighs encased in tight black denim and she had to remind herself to try not to stare. Sam took in a breath and moved her gaze to more tranquil scenery, the woman’s face.

When Brooke lifted her eyes back up from gazing down at the floor, they were met and held by Sam’s. Neither woman said a word for the first few moments. Their eyes seemed to be doing all of the talking for them.

It was an eerie feeling for Brooke, to be so mesmerized by anyone let alone this small imp of a woman. She waged a hard-fought battle with her numbed brain to speak, using the first thing that she could think of to break the silence. “So, you like Europe?”

“Doesn’t everyone?” Sam’s simple response was without skipping a beat.

Brooke shook her head in the negative. “Not too much anymore. Not really since ‘The Final Countdown’ was released in `86.”

The blonde began to walk over toward the tall woman, closing the distance between them. She wasn’t sure where her nerve was coming from, but she couldn’t help not being nearer to Brooke.

“Well, I guess I’m just a retrospective kind of girl,” she smiled not taking her eyes off the seas of blue that were on the horizon.

She stopped within a couple feet of the taller woman when another of her senses kicked into gear. That cologne…She was close enough to smell it and found herself inhaling deeper. It’s so subtle, but it’s definitely her. She thought about how being on Brooke’s skin, and being heated by her rising temperature, made it just that much more fragrant than last week when she met her at dinner.

“How old were you then… two?” Brooke grinned as she tried to imagine the woman in front of her as a toddler.

“I think ‘Countdown’ was their greatest,” Sam answered, ignoring the jibe at her age.

“That it was,” Brooke nodded knowingly.

“And who said that music has any kind of time limit on it? As long as you have ears, you can listen to it,” Sam began as Brooke raised an eyebrow in response. God, does she realize how sexy she is when she does that? The blonde found her gaze lingering over that eyebrow.

“Good point. I stand corrected.” The cool exterior never wavered but inside, Brooke was sure that if Sam walked any closer, she’d die on the spot.

I stand corrected. The words echoed in Sam’s head, suddenly causing her to remember her manners. “I’m sorry, why don’t you have a seat. You’ll have a long wait if you’re looking for C.C. You just missed her.”

“Really? I talked to her earlier in the week and she told me to pick her up here at seven.” There was a puzzled look on Brooke’s face as she walked over and sat on her sister’s bed. Looking at her watch, she wondered why C.C. hadn’t told her about a change in their plans.

“Pick her up? She ran out of here about half an hour ago for that class she signed up for at the last minute.”

Both of Brooke’s eyebrows found their way into her hairline. “My sister signed up for a class on a Friday night? You’re kidding?”

Sam shook her head. “Nope, I’m serious. It has something to do with the realm of stars in the night sky or something like that. She needed another elective and decided on that.”

Brooke ran her hands through her hair, then let them rest on the bed behind her as she leaned back. “I can’t believe I drove all the way out here to pick her up and she’s not here.” The older woman looked into Sam’s eyes and with a twinkle added, “Can you believe my own sister dumped me?”

Brooke watched as Sam threw her head back and laughed, the honest reaction causing the woman across from her to smile.

“I’m sorry, Brooke. She must have forgotten. What were you going to do?”

“Oh, nothing special. We were going to go see ‘Clueless’. It’s playing at the Quad tonight. It’s one of my favorites,” Brooke answered.

“Alicia Silverstone.”

“Yep. It’s a few years old but it’s a great movie.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard. I’ve never seen it,” Sam admitted.

Brooke’s eyes widened at the admission. “You’re kidding? Well, I’d hate to have wasted a trip out here. Would you like to go?” Brooke asked.

Sam’s eyes widened at the offer. “You mean…you’d take me with you?” Sam couldn’t believe her luck. She quickly ran the last few bits of conversation back over in her mind. No, she hadn’t heard wrong. But why…why would this woman want to go with me?

Brooke simply shrugged her shoulders. “Sure. Why not?” Brooke waited for an answer. She was secretly hoping that Sam would say ‘yes’.

Determined not to let this opportunity go by, the young blonde spoke up. “You’re right. Why not.”

“Alright then,” Brooke stood up, excited that she’d still get to see one of her favorite movies. Well, I hope that’s why I’m feeling excited. It didn’t matter that she had the movie at home on DVD. It just didn’t have the same affect as seeing it in a theater.

“Great! Let’s go!” Sam joined her, grabbing her keys as they made their way out the door.

Before Sam had the door closed all the way, she stopped. “Oops, almost forgot my campus I.D.,” Sam turned back into the opened doorway. “Besides, I’d better leave C.C. a note, since she won’t see your car here.”

“Okay, I’ll wait out here for you.” Brooke stood patiently in the hall, wondering how the rest of the evening would run its course, as she watched the small blonde disappear out of her sight. It sure wasn’t what she had planned for so far.

Sam scribbled out a note, leaving it on C.C.’s pillow. Passing by the small mirror on the wall, she touched up her hair and proceeded to meet Brooke out in the hallway.

“Ready?” Brooke asked at the reappearance of the blonde.

Sam nodded her head. “Yep. Let’s get this show on the road.” The blonde’s smile was inviting as she walked toward the elevator.

The two women took the short elevator ride, making their way downstairs and over to Brooke’s car. The taller woman unlocked the passenger’s door for Sam, holding it open for her.

“You know, I could have done that,” Sam pointed out. She watched as Brooke removed her jacket and placed it in the back before Sam got in.

“That’s okay. I don’t mind,” Brooke replied as Sam got in and the taller woman shut the door after her.

“Neither do I,” Sam mumbled under her breath, then reached over and unlocked the driver’s side door.

Sliding into the driver’s seat, Brooke started the engine, then pulled out of the parking space and drove the short distance to the campus theater.

“This is a nice car,” Sam commented as she looked around at the interior.

“Thanks. Out of every car I’ve ever had, this is my favorite,” Brooke spoke fondly of her 300.

“And how many is that?”

Brooke smirked at the question, sure that C.C. had warned Sam of her driving. “A few,” she shrugged her shoulders, keeping her eyes on the road ahead.

The short drive didn’t afford getting into more details of her driving history before Brooke had parked the car once again. After grabbing her jacket out of the back seat, she held the door once more for Sam and together they made their way up to the ticket window. Sam reached into her pocket but Brooke waved her off as she paid for the tickets.

“Don’t worry about it. My treat.”

“But I didn’t…” Sam sighed.

They walked away from the window as Brooke asked, “Didn’t what?”

“Didn’t mean for you to treat me. I’m not a freeloader, Brooke.” Sam said the last part a little more harshly than she had intended.

Brooke was surprised by Sam’s reaction, being so used to C.C.’s constant assumption that the older sister pays for everything. After studying the younger woman’s face for a long moment, Brooke looked down at her feet then back up into Sam’s green eyes. “I didn’t think you were. It’s just a movie. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you.”

The look on Brooke’s face bothered Sam, especially since she knew that she had caused it. Tentatively, she placed a hand against the brunette’s arm. “I’m sorry, Brooke. I just don’t want you to think that I’m another one of your little sisters. You know, someone for you to watch over?”

“I didn’t think that at all.” Brooke found it hard not to stare into those green pools of understanding. Nope, I definitely don’t want to have you as a little sister. On the other hand, someone to watch over…well, we could give that another thought.

Sam saw the truth in that statement behind Brooke’s eyes and it made her smile. “Good. Because, I don’t really want to be your sister.” Sam paused for only a moment, showing her shyness by casting her gaze to the ground then back up to Brooke. “Mind you, that’s not a bad thing. I’d rather just have you think of me as a friend.”

Sam’s suggestion brought a smile to Brooke’s face. “Well, friend, you can buy next time. How’s that?”

“Deal,” the blonde’s nose wrinkled as the smile on her face grew in size. “My treat next time.”

Brooke held a hand out in the direction of the theater door as she invited her new friend. “Let’s see a movie then, shall we?”

“Sounds good to me,” Sam replied as they walked into the theater together, each one thinking the same thing.

There’s going to be a next time.

****

The two women easily agreed on sitting in the back of the theater on the end of an aisle to accommodate Brooke’s long legs. Within a minute or two of being seated, Sam soon realized the advantage of being shorter than her friend. Brooke sat as she always did with her feet out in the aisle, crossed at the ankles, which caused her torso to lean in toward Sam’s seat. No sooner had they gotten comfortable in their seats, the movie started.

Although Brooke had seen the movie enough to know every line backwards and forwards, she found herself concentrating on Sam more than reciting her favorite lines as she usually did. Her gaze might have been on the screen in front of her but Brooke’s full attention was on the young woman at her side.

With her senses tuned like a predator on the prowl, she listened intently to the rhythm of Sam’s breathing and inhaled the scent of her shampoo as the young woman shifted positions in her seat. With each intake of breath and its gentle release as Sam sighed or giggled at certain parts in the movie, the young woman was driving the brunette crazy and was none the wiser to it.

No movie goes good without a tub of popcorn and in sharing one between them, every once in a while they happened to reach in at the same time. The casual touch of their hands at first was somewhat shy, eliciting a quickly pulled back hand and a whispered, ‘Sorry’, from both. But as the movie continued and the touches increased in number, each one resigned herself to the fact that it would happen. Little did they realize that each time it occurred, their touch lasted a little bit longer than the last time. There was something about the touching that added to the excitement of being at the theater, watching the movie on the big screen.

Halfway through the movie, Brooke turned her head and leaned as close to Sam’s ear as she could without letting her lips touch it. She whispered, “How do you like it so far?”

Brooke’s warm breaths against her ear caused Sam to close her eyes and take a deep breath as she tried to calm her racing heart. If the theater had been better illuminated, the woman next to her would have surely noticed the blush that crept up the blonde’s neck. The only response Sam could manage was to turn a pursed set of lips in her friend’s direction saying, “Shhhh…” while willing her eyes not to look into the pools of blue.

The escape of air from Sam’s mouth tingled as it touched the older woman’s face. Brooke stared at the lips so close to her own and found that she was starting to lean in without thinking, ready to taste the sweetness she knew she would find there. She stopped when Sam’s eyes turned in her direction, meeting her own. Cool blue smiled at the twinkling green reflected in Sam’s eyes. Then both women returned their attention to the movie playing out before them.

They sat there, staring at the action on the screen, while their minds considered what had almost happened, each one having it’s own perspective on the issue.

God, I almost kissed her. Blue eyes darted to the blonde seated next to her, then back to the screen.

I wonder what stopped her? Sam stole a glance at the tall woman beside her before letting the movie pull her in once more.

It wasn’t until after the movie, when the last of the credits had finally rolled by that both women got up and walked slowly back to Brooke’s car. They were the last two out of the theater, and noticed that the parking lot had emptied out quite a bit.

“That movie was great. I really enjoyed it,” Sam said as they reached the car. “Thanks for asking me to go.”

“You’re welcome,” Brooke replied as she pulled her keys from her pocket. “Anytime.”

Sam stood next to the car, studying the tall woman as she reached down to insert the key into the lock. The cascade of dark hair fell to her right shoulder as she leaned over more, drawing the younger woman’s attention to the graceful outline of Brooke’s neck, which was exposed, as the jacket gaped. The blonde found herself staring longingly at it, wondering what it would take to get closer.

Brooke opened the door and turned her eyes toward Sam. Like some slow-motion camera effect, the actions moved one into the other as Sam slipped her arm under Brooke’s jacket. Tugging lightly on the tank top underneath it to keep the taller woman from pulling away, she reached up and kissed her. It was nothing more than a brush of her lips against Brooke’s, but it had been enough to send both of their heads reeling.

The taller woman couldn’t have stopped what happened if she wanted to and really, when she came to think about it, she didn’t want to. The brief encounter vanished just as quickly as it had come. Their lips separated and their bodies drew slightly back in shock.

“Why didn’t you continue with your action in the theater?” Sam spoke quietly as they stood in a loose embrace next to the car.

“I… I don’t know,” Brooke tried to form an answer but could not get anything more than a stuttering of words to leave her lips. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I mean…I didn’t know what…I just…well I mean, I wasn’t sure if you’d uh…” She noticed Sam smiling at her flustered state. Brooke took a deep breath, trying hard to calm herself down, but it wasn’t working.

Blue eyes roamed over the young woman’s face, coming to rest on a pair of eyes so soft that it caused her heart to ache. “Oh hell…” Brooke said just before wrapping her arms around the smaller woman and covering Sam’s lips with her own. They finally did kiss and there was nothing rushed about it.

Sam’s thoughts were racing full of emotions as she tried to bring to mind what she was feeling with the kiss that was captivating her lips. The only word Sam could think of to describe it was…tender. Nothing at all like she would have expected from the raven-haired woman. She allowed herself to sink into Brooke’s embrace before both women reluctantly broke away. Keeping her eyes closed, Sam committed to memory the lingering kiss as she enjoyed the sensation of being held by this woman.

The blonde’s mind began to draw from its past experiences, those many dreams that crept up on her while she slept. If she didn’t know any better, it was as if all those times she woke up alone, never knowing who had haunted her dreams. She never forgot the feel of that warm embrace, much like the one she was in now.

Six years of dreams had led her to this night and somehow, Sam knew that she was in for more than she could ever imagine. Had her daydreams become real and the reclusive drummer that had caused her heart to beat wildly finally come to life? Or was her mind playing tricks on her like some practical joker? Only time would tell if fantasy and reality could ever become one. Then she smiled shyly as she mused. At least they share the same name… Brooke.

“Have you been trying to drive me crazy all night?” The tall woman’s question broke the quiet surrounding them as she leaned her forehead down against Sam’s.

“Me, drive you crazy? I thought it was you trying to drive me crazy,” Sam replied as she opened her eyes to look into the ocean of blue before her.

“Whatever.” Brooke said with a soft laugh, “It worked.”

Sam smiled, “I’d say that it did.” She paused, thinking of her roommate. “Brooke, what do we tell C.C. if she asks what she missed?”

Brooke pulled her head back, inhaling deeply and thought about Sam’s question for a long moment as she let her breath out. “I guess…whatever you’d like to tell her. You’re the one who has to live with her. Tell her we went to the movie together.”

“I get it…playing clueless, huh?” Sam asked with a mischievous gleam in her eyes.

The older woman laughed, “Yeah, something like that.” Brooke smiled and tilted her head back to gaze up at the stars in the sky. She thought about the topic of C.C.’s class and turned her gaze back to the woman in her arms.

Admiring the way the moonlight seemed to dance off of the green in Sam’s eyes like the glistening far off twinkle of a star, Brooke spoke what was on her mind. “Tell her…she can find her own stars. I’m happy with the ones I’ve found right here.”

Brooke closed her eyes as the distance between their lips lessened once again, losing herself in the vast display of the universe as two worlds came together out of nowhere.

Ch4 What Do You Look For In A Stalker?
“…I think you’d like my bedroom, too… walls covered in you; pictures of you…”

The raven-haired form got out of bed sometime around nine on Saturday morning. Brooke hadn’t been able to catch more than two or three hours of sleep off and on all night. After another hour or two in her studio, she had spent her time awake, laying in bed, thinking of the movie and the woman she had taken to it, Sam. When you got right down to it, the kisses shared with Sam after the movie was what Brooke pondered about more than anything else.

Not quite sure exactly what her feelings were for her sister’s roommate; Brooke tried to take a good, long look at them. She knew she was attracted to her. In fact, she was attracted to Sam to the point of distraction. She had admitted that to herself as she walked into the dorm room the night before, when she saw Sam dancing around half-naked. The woman closed her eyes and could still see Sam’s green eyes staring back at her.

Brooke had driven back to the dorm after the movie where both women confirmed what a great time they had with one another. She had declined on Sam’s offer to go upstairs when she noticed her sister’s truck parked a few rows down. Sam could not hide the disappointment in her eyes as she smiled and started to get out of the car.

Before the smaller woman had the chance to get the door open, Brooke placed her hand on the blonde’s arm. Sam turned to face Brooke as the older woman leaned forward to kiss her, softly. As they pulled away, no words were exchanged. Their eyes said it all.

After making sure that Sam got into the dorm safely, Brooke found herself driving home on autopilot. Her every thought was of jade eyes and golden hair.

She didn’t remember how she got home, but found herself in her basement studio. The array of technology before her spanned the recording industry timeline, from the latest recording equipment to some of the classics or antique junk as C.C. termed them, they all could be found in the woman’s possession.

For some unknown reason, Brooke found herself looking through her old reel to reels. Everything Anti-Zero had ever recorded was there. The next thing she realized, she was listening to their first single by the same name as the band that had recorded it. She found the track sheet inside the case, designating the track that each instrument was recorded on, as well as all of their mix-down notes.

Studying it carefully, Brooke placed the track sheet on the clipboard at the top of the soundboard and started the tape. She listened carefully as she played around with all of the settings and before long, had remixed the entire song. The overall drum volume had been brought up a notch while adding a bit of reverb to the snare. As an afterthought, she added a chorus effect to James’ lead vocal track and brought up the volume a bit on the background vocals recorded by her and Peter.

Once she was positive it was mixed to her liking, she recorded it on DAT, CD, and saved it as an MP3 file. It was this last action that found her logging onto the company server and e-mailing Sam at three in the morning.

Subj: Anti-Zero

Date: August 25, 3:07:56 AM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Brooke Loran

To: Sam Moleson

File: (901492 bytes)

DL Time (44000 bps): 6 minutes

Hi Sam, I thought you might like this. It’s a sound byte I found of the song, Anti-Zero. I guess you could say that Brooke Loran and I have known each other for a while, hence the addy. And yeah, I do have quite a bit of collectibles with her playing on them.

Brooke

Hitting the send button, she scowled, furrowing her brow, thinking about how impersonal the e-mail had sounded. She noticed the time at the bottom right of the computer screen, promising herself to remedy the situation later. Although Brooke wasn’t the least bit tired, she knew she needed to try and get some sleep.

Now, here she lay hours later and still could not get the thought of Sam out of her head. It’s no use. I might as well get up and shower. The woman climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom.

The shower had done little for her mental state as it was still occupied with the events of the previous night. She sat at her computer, idly checking her e-mail, as she tried to bring her mind to the present. That was when Brooke noticed an e-mail from the band manager earlier in the week, confirming the signing of their contract at eleven this morning.

“Shit. Forgot about that,” Brooke cursed. She had just enough time to finish checking her e-mail before she had to leave. Her heart skipped a beat as she scrolled down to Sam’s e-mail addy. Subject: Apologies. Brooke hardened her heart for the letdown she knew she would find upon clicking the ‘Open’ button.

Subj: Apologies

Date: August 25, 3:16:12 AM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Sam Moleson

To: Brooke Loran

Brooke,

I’m sorry for the mix up last night. I should have never taken the initiative. But then again, if I hadn’t I’m afraid that you may never have acted on impulse.

I’m not really that forward, but the timing just felt so right. I know you think that I’m young, maybe even too young, but this I can tell you, I’d really like to get to know you better, without the rest of your sisters around.

Hey, before I forget, thanks for that sound bite of Anti-Zero. I…ah…I was just wondering, how good are you with other bites? You know, you don’t have to answer that, really.

If you’d like, maybe we could use a chat room or something Saturday night and just talk. Plan out the next time or so. Nothing heavy, just some good old talk. If you can let me know…

Well, time for me to go dream of stars and kisses and clueless nights.

“Nothing heavy…what the hell is going on here now.” Brooke sat staring at the screen. “Don’t tell me I’m getting caught up in some collegian’s bad girl fantasy.” She leaned back in the chair and let her head rest in her folded arms on top of the chair. Staring off dreamily into the ceiling, she thought about the small blonde. “She’s cute, but do I really want to….” The dark-haired woman shook her head, trying to get the image out of her mind. “Hell, what do I want?” She slumped forward and propped her elbow on the desk, allowing her head to lean on her hand. “I could be a bad girl…I’ve got the leather, got the shades. Hell, I’ve even got Loran’s rep.” Brooke thought about all the stories that were made up by the record company’s publicists about the ever-elusive Loran that helped to sell their songs. “Why did I ever agree to let them do that? You know why…cause you wanted to keep your true identity a secret, that’s why. But…do I really want to start that again?”

Sighing deeply, the woman shut down her programs and pushed herself away from the computer. “Not right now, Sam. I’ve got to think about this for a while.” She got up and headed for the door. “And I know just what will keep me distracted. Besides, I’ll let it mull around in there for a while. I’m in no hurry to rush into anything.”

One brown eye opened slowly with the sound of “You’ve got mail” for the twentieth time. “What the hell are you doing over there, it’s only noon, for Christ’s sake.” C.C.’s right hand groped until she found want she was looking for, then flung it at the offending noise, hitting Sam in the process.

“HEY! What are you hitting me for?” Sam picked the pillow up and tossed it back at the cocooned person in the bed. “I’m just checking my e-mails.”

“It must be pretty damned important for you to be checking it every two minutes.” She rolled over and drew her long form up into a ball, settling back into the fetal position she had just left. “It’s Saturday. Don’t you ever sleep in? Jeez, you got in later than me last night.”

“Yes, and I was out at the movies.”

C.C.’s head popped up at that answer. “Oh, yeah, what’d you see?”

“Ah, Clueless, why?”

With a Cheshire cat grin, C.C. sank back into the bed. “I didn’t think that it got over that late.”

Sam rolled her eyes. “What are you, my mother?”

“That depends,” C.C.’s head craned up off the pillow, “Is your dad cute?” She wiggled her eyebrows.

“C.C. be serious.” Sam turned back to the computer and logged on again.

“Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.” She stuck her tongue out at the blonde and cringed as the e-mail greeting cheerfully announced, “You’ve got mail.” With the annoyance of a scared feline, the brunette shot straight up in the bed and screamed, “Aargh! Will you read it already? Who is that important anyway?”

She looked at Sam, watching the blush run rampant across the woman’s skin. “You went out with someone. Didn’t you, Roomie?”

“Ah, me…ah…”

“Oh yeah, you.” She leaned closer to the red-tinged woman. “Spill it.”

“It wasn’t a date. I just kind of went to the movies with someone.”

“Good looking someone?” C.C. eyes widened as she waited to hear.

“C.C., why would you care? I’m not interested in your type of date.”

“Inquiring minds want to know. Did you get any?”

“I don’t…I mean…”

“Don’t you remember?” C.C. rolled her eyes. “Was it that bad that you don’t remember, or so good that you don’t want to tell?” The brown-eyed woman leered, thinking about the possibility of some good juicy gossip.

“Well, ah…we didn’t do anything at the movies, just watched the film.”

“Who said that I was referring to just that dark movie theater? How about afterwards? That ‘someone’ did escort you home, didn’t they?”

“Well, that ‘someone’ wasn’t an immature kid. Of course they dropped me off.”

“Yeah, and that is such a long drive from the Quad.” C.C. thought for a moment, “Must have taken them a while to warm up that engine or did you just go straight to overdrive?” The brunette winked at Sam, enjoying the deeper shades of red that the girl was showing, as each layer worked its way up her face.

The blonde’s eyes grew bigger. “I’m not promiscuous with just anybody.”

“Well, I figured that ‘someone’ was a woman…” C.C. shrugged her shoulders, “automatic transmission.”

“What’s that have to do with it?”

“You told me that you don’t do stick shift.”

Sam looked at her puzzled as she reran the statement through her head, while C.C. leered, waiting for the full effect to take hold.

Hiding her face in her hands, Sam realized what C.C. was implying. “Oh my God, no.”

“So, you going to tell me who she is or do I have to guess, cause I really don’t like guessing games. Brooke,” C.C. paused to clear her throat, noticing that Sam was gulping air like there was no tomorrow, then continued, “does that to me all the time.”

Hearing the mention of Brooke’s name, Sam could feel the start of a full-blown scorcher of a blush coming on. The heat starting in her chest and rising rapidly up her neck, heading for the top of her head where she thought steam would escape out her ears.

“What’s the matter? Why is your face turning so red? Sam, are you okay? Do you need some air?” The brunette opened the only window in the room and made motions to help the air come in. Then C.C. stood up posing with her hand on her hip and tilting her head. “You are just so not the conversationalist today. Did you at least kiss her goodnight?”

Sam fanned her face with both hands, trying to decrease the heat she could feel as the questions came too close to home. She wasn’t ready to say anything, especially to C.C., about her and Brooke. But then again, was there even a ‘her and Brooke’ since she still hadn’t seen a reply? “If I tell you, will you shut up?”

“Only if it’s juicy enough.” The taller woman grinned evilly.

“I kissed her. There you have it.” Sam sat mortified by what she was saying.

“Just one? Is that it?” C.C. held up a single finger and stared at it. “I hope it was at least a good one. Could she roll her tongue?”

“Well, it was more than one,” the blonde cringed. “She did kiss me back.”

“Gee, if I would have known you were like that, I could have asked to borrow Brooke’s leather for your new dominatrix get-up. You are such the little aggressor.” C.C. walked past her and leaned in, giving a little growl as she did so. “I’m taking my shower, play on that e-mail all you want.” She strode off into the bathroom, leaving Sam to think about what she had just said.

“Brooke has leather?” The half-whispered words gave rise to new thoughts as Sam twisted her neck trying to imagine the dark-haired woman clad in leather. “Boy, it’s getting hot in here.”

The dark-haired woman pushed open the door and stumbled into her house. The meeting for the signing took a lot longer than she had anticipated. Looking at her watch, she decided that a quick call for pizza was in order since most of the local restaurants would be crowded during suppertime on a weekend evening. Grabbing her cell phone, Brooke made the call, then headed for her office on the second floor. Passing through the room, she booted up her computer before heading to her bedroom to change.

The loose-fitting clothing was helping to put her at ease as she slipped back into the office, finding her favorite companion sitting in her chair.

“Mario, you better not be surfing those puppy porn sites again.” The woman laughed as she reached out to hug her four-legged friend. “Come on, boy, get down. Maybe I’ll let you play later.”

The husky followed her command and took a seat on the floor next to her feet as they exchanged places.

Once into the company’s server, she opened her e-mail file and looked at the long list of waiting communications. Scrolling down the list she dismissed them all until one in particular caught her eye for the second time that day.

“Guess it’s time to deal with you,” Brooke sighed as she stretched her neck, lessening the mounting tension before she clicked on the e-mail from Sam and reread its contents. She took a minute to fully absorb its meaning and then slowly blew out a breath before hitting the reply button.

Subj: Re: Apologies

Date: August 25, 5:37:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Brooke Loran

To: Sam Moleson

You know, you are probably right. I would have never acted on impulse if you hadn’t kissed me first. I spent the majority of the night thinking of where we might stand now and all that I’ve decided is that I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I’ve even thought of letting anybody get close enough to touch me the way you did.

Sam, I would like to give this a try but I need time to figure out what exactly “this” is. Maybe you could help me out with that one if you think you’re up for the challenge.

About that talk you wanted to have tonight, sorry but I got tied up at work. Maybe we can plan on it for next week instead, when my schedule settles down a bit. Let me know when a good time would be for you.

Talk to you soon,

Brooke

“Okay, Mario,” she hit the send key, swiveling her chair away from the computer, “pizza should be here any minute. I’ll race you to the door.”

The bathroom door opened and the freshly showered woman emerged from the steam-filled room. “God, that felt good.” Sam sauntered over to the computer and did what she’d been doing all day, checking for her e-mail.

Sighing simultaneously as she hit the mouse to open her account, she mumbled to herself about wasting her time. “I don’t know why I’m trying this again.” The list slowly scrolled by and the returned subject line drew her eye. “Whoa, she did answer me.”

Opening the e-mail site she quickly downloaded it, holding her breath the entire time. “Okay, let’s see what she says.” The green eyes skimmed the words, and upon reaching the end, she could feel the excitement in her chest as her heart felt all fluttery. Trying to calm her emotions down, she started reading the letter over, more slowly this time.

Without thinking, Sam’s fingers began typing in response.

Subj: Re: Apologies

Date: August 25, 9:01:22 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Sam Moleson

To: Brooke Loran

Brooke,

Do I think I’m up for the challenge? It’s not a challenge but more like destiny. Things happen for a reason and that’s why I’m matched up with C.C. It’s fate, believe it or not, that I’m here to meet you. I’m not sure why or how but I do believe that there is a reason. Crazier things have happened, you know. I’m not trying to rush anything here. I’m just saying that things will happen along the way to show us.

Where do you think this is taking us? I don’t think that you can really say that you didn’t feel something. I saw the looks that you were giving me at your family’s dinner. The question remains…what did you feel?

I’m open for suggestions. How about you? Let’s talk about it next weekend…say Saturday at 8 PM, okay?

Oh, and that kiss…it may have been impulse but my heart knew it was right.

Later,

The blonde read it over once, then sent it without another thought. She paused only long enough for the message to be transmitted before shutting down the computer and climbing into bed.

“God, who would have thought waiting for an e-mail could be so tiring.”

She lay on her side facing C.C.’s empty bed and wondered what trouble the brunette was wreaking on the male population of the small college town. Then in a hushed tone, she muttered out her last words of the night.

“G’night, C.C., where ever you are.”

The blonde shut her eyes and let sleep fill her soul.

Checking her e-mail one last time before bed, Brooke saw the name that was becoming so familiar to her, Sam Moleson. Taking in a deep breath, she opened it and ran through the lines, stopping every so often as her mind tried to comprehend what really was being said.

“Destiny…fate…rushing things…open for suggestions…?” asked the stunned woman, “What’s this about? One series of kisses?” Brooke pushed her chair back from the computer as if to put some distance between her and the words on the screen. “What the hell am I getting into here?” Both hands ran through her long, dark hair as her legs pushed off to raise her body from the chair. She did what she always did when things started closing in on her. She paced.

“Maybe crazier things have happened, but not to me.” She shook her head letting the long tresses cascade freely around her shoulders. “Not because of me either, not any more. I am nobody’s destiny.”

The woman looked back to the computer screen as her nerves felt the tingle of a good panic attack coming on. She knew how they felt; she’d been in that same situation before when she was forced to choose between her true self and what everyone made her out to be. Deciding to give it a rest, she did exactly that.

“Come on, Mario. It’s time for bed.”

The sound of six feet shuffled out of the room and headed toward her bed. Dropping down onto its edge, she rolled over, pulling the comforter in place as her faithful pet climbed in beside her, expecting his nightly routine of ear rubs and gentle hugs.

Feeling the dog’s cold nose on her skin, Brooke just grunted, “Not tonight, Mario, I’ve got a headache.”

The animal whimpered for a moment then laid his head down and snuggled closer to his mistress.

It was late Thursday morning by the time Sam had left for her first class at 10:30. The young girl had been moping around since she sent that e-mail off to Brooke Saturday night, waiting for a reply. She hadn’t heard anything from her since.

Finally, alone in the room for the first time all weekend, C.C. sat staring at the computer screen, feeling in total need of a break from the assignment that she was working on. Leaning back in the chair, she did a slow swivel and let her eyes take in the changing view of the small room. When the ride had come to a stop, she found her eyes gazing on the numerous posters above Sam’s bed that proclaimed Anti-Zero number one, and acted like a shrine to the band’s drummer, Brooke Loran.

“Hmm…I wonder how Brooke is doing.” She pivoted and reached for the phone. After punching in a quick succession of numbers, she leaned back again and waited for the voice of her sister.

The sleep-filled voice croaked out a monosyllable answer to the lively ring. “What?”

“Good Morning, sunshine. You have a late night?”

“Bite me, Chase,” came the automatic reply.

“Ah…must not have been a good one.”

“Huh?”

“Aren’t we coherent this morning.”

“What do you want?”

“Just checking in on my favorite sister. You know I haven’t seen you for over a week. Not to mention that someone hasn’t been to work all week or she would have returned my phone calls. Besides, I’m bored and need someone to tease.”

“Why can’t you tease your roommate?”

“Well, she’s not here and you are…well, at least I think you are.”

“You thought wrong,” Brooke sighed. “Maybe later tonight but not now.”

“Is that an invitation for dinner? It sure sounded like one to me.”

“Whatever…when and where, C.C.?”

“Pick me up at the room and we’ll go from there,” C.C. giggled. “I don’t think you’ll remember any more than that.”

“Are you happy?”

“Sure, why?”

“`Cause you’re spending my money again.”

“Awww… but I’m you’re baby sister Brooke. Don’t you love me?”

“If you say so.”

“Okay, think you can be here by six?”

“What time is it now?”

“Eleven.”

“Better make it six thirty.” She pulled in a deep breath, “It’s going to take me a while.”

“Gee, sis, I forgot how long it takes for old people to crawl out of bed. I wouldn’t want you to rush and break a hip.”

“C.C.?”

“Yeah.”

“Bite me.”

“Hopefully you’ll take me somewhere that will serve enough food and I won’t have to. Bye, Brooke.”

“Hmphf.”

C.C. listened to the sound of the phone being thrown to the floor ending the conversation. “God, I hate when they just toss you away.”

The long strides of the tall woman carried her exhausted body down the carpeted hallway of the dorm until she stopped at the designated room. Leaning up against the doorway, Brooke rapped on the door and waited. She closed her eyes and let her head lean onto the surface of the door, while she let her knuckles tap out a rhythmic sound as she tried to get the attention of the room’s inhabitants.

“Come on, C.C., you’ve got wheels. Why do I always have to come to you?” She eyed the doorknob and reached for it, starting to rotate her wrist as she gripped it. “What am I doing? Remember what you found the last time you opened that door.” She let the go of the doorknob, like it was on fire, and knocked even louder again.

“C.C. open the GODDAMN door.” She pounded the smooth surface of the door with her open palm.

There was a muffled voice from the other side of the door that got louder by the second, until the door was yanked open, almost causing Brooke to fall in the room.

“Been waiting long? I was just finishing my make-up.” Taking a good look at her sister, C.C. reached out and offered her a hand into the room. “Good God woman, you look like shit.”

“You want to explain to me why you call me to set this up and when I get here seven and a half hours later, you’re not ready?” Brooke came in and sat down on the chair at the desk. “Thanks for the compliment.”

“Well, I can see that coffee is the first order of the dinner.” She headed back over to her closet. “I just have a few things to do.” Looking over again at Brooke, she voiced her opinion. “I guess jeans are the order of the day.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

The older woman made herself comfortable in the low-backed chair, tilting it backward as she let her head hang over its edge. Her blood shot eyes roamed from the ceiling to the wall behind her. She was surprised to see her own upside-down image on the wall next to Sam’s bed. Brooke blinked, then blinked again. The image didn’t change. Sitting bolt upright, she spun the chair around and stared directly at her image gazing back at her with that sultry bad girl look.

“C.C.! What in the name of hell is this?” Her long arm stretched out and narrowed down to the single index finger that pointed at the images on the wall above Sam’s bed.

The girl turned around with a shirt in one hand and jeans in the other. “I think they call it a collage.”

“I know what it’s called, smart ass. Why is my face the center of it?”

“Hey, I didn’t put it there. Ask Sam. She’s the one who downright worships Anti-Zero.”

Brooke rolled her eyes and in that action, noticed that the bathroom door was closed. She got up from the chair and crossed the small room in two steps until she held her sister’s shoulders in her hands. Through clenched teeth she loudly whispered, “And it never crossed your mind to warn me about this?”

“About what? Why the hell are you whispering?”

Brooke stole a look at the bathroom door. “You don’t find it the least bit odd that your new roommate,” her head motioned to the collage, “has my rock star face plastered all over that side of the room?”

“Actually, I find it quite funny. I thought I wouldn’t see you as much when I moved out.”

“This isn’t funny,” Brooke whispered. “Shhh, she’ll hear us.”

“Of course it is. She’s still got a crush on Loran…deal with it. Why do you care anyway? Besides, those pictures of you were up when you came here for the movie. You mean to tell me that you didn’t see them then?” C.C. pushed away from her sister and started to change her clothing. “And Brooke, I wouldn’t worry about her hearing us. She’s not here.”

Brooke stuttered around her answer before shyly and quietly admitting, “I…I was…was…ah…preoccupied with something else.” She could feel a slight blush slowly creep up her neck, before stopping suddenly as she realized what C.C. had said. Besides, those pictures of you were up when you came here for the movie. You mean to tell me that you didn’t see them then?

“Speaking of which, Chase…why in the hell did you tell me to pick you up for a movie, if you knew you wouldn’t even be here?”

C.C. quickly tried to change the subject so her sister would not figure out her plan. “Whoa… look at the time. You know, Brooke, I’m really getting hungry.”

Brooke rolled her eyes, deciding for the moment to let it drop. “Whatever. Hurry up, let’s get going.” Brooke waited until the clothing was in place, then opened the door. “I’ll meet you in the car.”

“Hey, I gave you an extra half hour and you can’t even give me another five minutes.” C.C. shook her head. “Guess she’s at that stage of her life when she feels the clock is running out.”

The restaurant was crowded, the service was slow, but Brooke was even slower as she sat with her head in her hand, pushing her food around the plate in front of her.

“You going to eat that food or wait for it to decompose first?” C.C. watched, as her sister didn’t acknowledge her words. She tapped the handle of her knife on the table, then waved her other hand in front of the woman’s face. “Your battery dead or what?”

“Huh?” Brooke looked up and tried to fit into the conversation. “Good food, but you’re right. The service sucks.”

“Are you ignoring everybody in general, or is it just me? Who the hell threw you for a loop?”

Brooke’s eyes darted from C.C. to her plate and stayed there. “Had a lot on my mind lately,” she mumbled, “and your roommate didn’t help any.”

“What did Sam do?”

“You tell me. What kind of crush does she have on Loran?”

“Why? Your inbox low on fan mail?”

Blue eyes glared at the younger woman across the table. “I’m not ready for that stage to start up again.” She tossed her fork down onto the plate. “Damn it, C.C., you could have warned me,” she growled out.

“Hey, keep it down.” C.C. motioned with her head to the people around them. “You want everyone to know that you’re acting like a crazed lunatic?”

“I am not a crazed lunatic. I’ve…I’ve just been in a piss poor mood for thirty years,” came the instant response.

“Brooke, what’s the big deal? She’s got a crush. It’s not like she’s stalking you.”

The older woman’s eyes widened as she leaned forward, resting her arms on the table. “Maybe she is.”

C.C. let her arms go limp at her sides and rolled her eyes. “Oh, pleeease. Sam’s as harmless as Spider Woman.” The brunette thought for a moment then added teasingly, “Just stay away from her kisses.”

Brooke subconsciously brought her fingers to her lips and considered the thought. Kisses…did she say kisses? Oh, God.

The younger woman watched the contemplative look on her sister’s face. “Brooke, are you okay?”

“Ah…I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Gee, I don’t know. Just seems like you’re not that interested in dinner.” She took another sip of her drink. “You know, I remember that the venom of a spider has a tendency to make you sick to your stomach. I’ll have to remember that for Trivial Pursuit.” The young woman eyed the food still remaining on her sister’s plate. “You haven’t been bitten lately, have you?”

“C.C., you’re digging.”

“I know and dirt usually gets better the deeper you go.” The woman looked around. “Hey, look, I think that’s Mom over there.” C.C. stood up and shouted in the direction of their mother, “Hey, Mom!” Waving her hands wildly, C.C. yodeled, causing everyone within earshot to look at her as they grimaced, “Yoo-hoo…over here!”

“God, you are the baby of the family.” Brooke hung her head and covered it with her hands.

Within seconds, Mabel Gordon was seated at her daughters’ table. “Hello dears,” she looked from one child to another, “How are you today?”

C.C. piped out, “I’m doing just fine but Brooke thinks she has a stalker.”

The angered woman grabbed her napkin off of her lap and threw it at her sister; just barely missing her mother’s outstretched hand. “Say it louder, they didn’t here you back on campus.” Brooke turned her gaze toward her mother. “What are you doing here, Mom? I didn’t think you’d come this far out for dinner.”

“Oh, I was just doing some shopping with Edith, spending some of your father’s hard-earned money. She just loves the old shops near here.” Mabel then shook her head as if to clear it. “But that’s not important. Honey, what’s got you upset?”

The blue-eyed woman pointed to C.C. and spat out. “Her roommate started it.”

Mabel looked at both daughters, then centered on C.C. “What did Sam start?”

The younger woman rolled her eyes at the childish antics of her older sister. “Not a thing. The big baby over there is just being paranoid.”

“I’m not a big baby.” The woman pushed her lower lip out as she let out a deep breath.

“What’s wrong?” The soft touch of a mother’s hand rested on her trembling daughter’s arm. “Tell me, Brooke.”

Very calmly and hardly above a whisper, Brooke’s face was serious as she said. “I think she’s a stalker.”

Having raised four daughters with varying personalities, Mabel knew that all insecurities needed to be dealt with accordingly. “Has she followed you?”

“No,” Brooke answered as she cast her eyes down toward her lap.

“Does she bother you at the office?”

“No,” Brooke began to twist the corners of her shirt.

“Does she hang out around your house?”

“NO!”

“Does she call you on the phone? Or leave notes on your car?”

“No.”

“Honey, then how can she be stalking you?”

“God, Mom, she’s got my face as Loran plastered all over the wall above her bed, and C.C. told me she has a crush on me.”

“Loran, Brooke. A crush on Loran,” C.C. corrected her sister.

“Same difference.” Brooke fired back.

“I don’t really think that constitutes a stalker, Brooke.” Mabel patted her hand trying to soothe her.

Brooke tried to think of anything that she could tell her mother to prove her theory. “Well, she did send me a couple of e-mails. Does that count?”

C.C. looked interested. “Did you answer her?”

“Well, yeah. The first one was a thank you for dinner last Sunday.”

“Mom, did Sam e-mail you with a thank-you? I mean you did make the dinner and it was at your house.” C.C. looked at her mother.

Thinking for a moment before answering, “Well, she did say thank you that night before the two of you left, C.C.”

“I guess that’s because you don’t have business cards for C.C. to hand out,” Brooke glared at her sister.

“Oh, puh-leeease,” the younger woman rolled her eyes. “I was only trying to get you a little…”

“A little what?” Mabel looked stunned at first, then caught on. “Your sister can do well enough for herself. Well… most of the time.”

“Business, Mom, a little business.” C.C. shifted in her seat. “Sam’s in the Public Relations Program at school.”

“Oh?” Mabel looked surprised.

Brooke’s eyes widened, “Oh great, now you want me to have her working for me so she can stalk me easier.”

“Now take it easy, Brooke. She might be good at what she does.”

The blue-eyed woman ran a replay through her mind of the kisses from the other night, then sighed heavily.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” she muttered under her breath. “Excuse me, I’ve…ah…I’ll be right back.” Brooke got up and made her way to the restroom on the far side of the restaurant, while C.C. and her mother continued to discuss Brooke’s paranoia.

“I’m worried about her, Mom.” CC watched her sister walk away. “I think her wanting to keep Loran buried is getting the best of her.”

“I don’t know what she’s worried about. Sam’s a nice girl, not some crazy lunatic fan.” Mabel shook her head as she remembered the days of Loran and Anti-Zero. “Why…Brooke doesn’t even look anything like she did when she was in that group. The blonde streaks have all grown out and her hair isn’t short anymore.”

“I know, Mom, but try telling her that.” The younger woman dug into her food deciding that she’d need all the energy she could get in case Brooke decided she needed to run away from her imagined stalker. She’snot sticking me with this bill.

Splashing some cold water on her face, Brooke could feel her sense of equilibrium coming back to normal. Okay, go out there and finish dinner with C.C. and forget about all this talk of stalkers. She looked at her reflection in the mirror. Yeah, right. She’s a kid. Younger than C.C. even. How much harm can she be? She stared at her lips, remembering the soft hungry kisses that the blonde so eagerly placed on them. A lot… a whole lot.

She straightened up, dried her hands off on the paper towels, and walked out into the bustling restaurant. Turning the corner of the hallway into the main dining area, she stopped short when a familiar blonde head came into view. Gosh, she is following me now. The tall woman slid into the corner behind a booth and watched through the silk foliage of the planter that surrounded the top of the partition.

The hostess was leading a party of three women through the crowded tables with the ease of a skater on ice. As the party came closer, Brooke was able to get an unobstructed view of all three. The first in line was an older woman of about sixty with neatly styled, gray hair. Her short body moved briskly on the heels of the hostess. After her, was a taller, younger woman with shoulder length blonde hair. Her features were similar to the first woman and Brooke soon figured them for a mother/daughter combination. The final member of the party looked much younger with her long blonde hair and milky complexion. The small form of the woman carried her clothing well, even with the lightweight jacket that covered her upper torso.

Brooke stood mesmerized by the sight. “Sam,” she whispered only loud enough for herself to hear as she watched. The hostess was now turning in the direction of the empty booth that the tall woman was hiding behind.

“Oh, shit.” She ducked down lower into the jungle of plants around her.

The hostess showed the location to the women and they filed in around the half-circle table, taking their seats. Sam slid out after a minute and proceeded to take off her jacket, revealing a well worn T-shirt that appeared a little smaller than it should have been. The shirt featured the now defunct band, Anti-Zero.

The plants seemed to sway in the breeze as Brooke moved them to get a better view. “Oh my God!” She quickly clamped a hand over her mouth to stifle her words. Damn, could it get any tighter?

The perky blonde looked around her. “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what, dear?” the older woman asked.

“Nothing, Aunt Sandy, I guess it was my imagination.” Sam sat down and picked up the menu.

“You always had a good one of those, Sam.”

“Yeah, I guess I did when I was a kid. Hey Crystal, remember how we used to pretend that we were Anti-Zero’s biggest fans and went on tour with them? You with Peter, and me with Loran.”

“Oh, so that was only pretend…hmmm?” The older woman couldn’t help teasing her niece.

“Oh, Mom. You know what we mean.” Crystal shrugged it off and defended her cousin a bit. “We’d never be anything in their eyes.”

“Well, enough about pretending. What about that young lady that you met, Sam?”

God I can’t stay here all night listening to Sam talk about her love life. Brooke let the foliage gently fall back into place as she withdrew from the hiding spot and started to step away, pausing long enough to let a small child in a cowboy hat, waving his fluorescent water gun, step in front of her.

“Who are you talking about Aunt Sandy? Brooke?” The young blonde asked flashing a smile.

Brooke turned in mid step at the sound of her name and moved back into the greenery. With all her senses on full alert she waited patiently to see where the conversation was headed.

Her aunt smiled as she thought how ironic it was for the woman to have the same name as her niece’s teenage crush. “So… you’ve met your Loran, eh?”

“Brooke, Aunt Sandy. I met a Brooke.” Sam corrected her. “She’s nothing like Loran. Nothing at all.”

Crystal’s face lit up in hope. “What does she look like? Anything at all like your idol?”

Sam thought for a moment. Then shook her head. “No, except that she’s tall like her, but the hair is wrong and she’s way too nice to be a rock star.” The blonde put her menu down. “Brooke does work in the music industry. Though, I’m not sure doing exactly what. Besides, Loran couldn’t hold a candle to Brooke. She’s just…” she closed her eyes and dreamed for a minute, “I don’t know… real. She’s someone that I can actually touch.” Sam smiled remembering the soft kisses they shared.

It finally dawned on Brooke that she could possibly be wrong, very wrong, about her stalker scenario. She really doesn’t have a clue yet. Somewhat relieved, the woman closed her eyes and nodded approvingly to the bushes around her. That’s when the sudden shock of an icy, wet substance first made itself known between her shoulder blades.

Stone cold, blue eyes now pinned the young child as he gleefully shouted, “You’re dead, I killed you.” The boy quickly became quiet as he began backpedaling away from the glaring adult who remained hidden by the plastic shrubbery.

“Well, I think it’s nice.” Crystal slid out of the booth and stood, turning to see the full room.

“Yikes.” Brooke saw the woman looking directly at her as she had turned her attention back to the table and away from the child. Now, I’ll really be dead. She crouched down to hide behind the plants and looked for someplace to scurry off to. Without looking, she darted across the small hall and pushed open the door to the ladies room.

“This should be safe.”

That thought didn’t last very long before she heard Sam’s voice on the other side of the door.

“Shit.” Brooke moved boldly to the front of the line, “Pardon me. Excuse me, pregnant lady coming through.”

She paused only long enough to let the other woman leave the stall before stepping inside it and locking the door. That worked well. Got to remember that one for some of those concerts. She breathed a sigh of relief that was somewhat foreign to the surroundings.

“Wow, I guess there’s a little bit of a line.” Crystal turned to Sam. “You sure this was a good idea?”

“Yeah, when you gotta go, you gotta go,” she teased.

“So, Sam, what’s this mystery person like?” Crystal asked as the line moved forward.

“I told you.”

“No… I want the dirt,” Crystal laughed. “Not the PG version that you’re feeding my Mom.”

“You would. Jeez, Crystal, can’t I have any secrets?”

“Not from me,” She winked at her cousin. “So, have you gotten a taste of the lips yet?”

“Well, yeah,” she cleared her throat. “I sort of initiated that one.”

“You go, girl!”

“I don’t know. I think it may have been the wrong thing to do. I haven’t heard a thing from this person since the day after.”

“Day after?” Crystal blinked. “How’d you do that?”

“E-mails, hon. Got to love the modern technology. Anytime, anywhere, it’s in your mailbox.”

“How long has that been, the e-mail message I mean?”

Sam sighed. “Four days.” She made a pouty kind of face. “I don’t think she likes me.”

“Hey, Sam, maybe it’s just not a good time for her now. You know some people do get pretty busy with work and all,” Crystal whispered so their conversation would not be overheard by the other patrons.

“I know, I was just hoping to hear something more at least.”

“Hey, I’ll meet you back at the table if not in here,” Crystal left the front of the line and headed for the open door on the right side of Brooke.

“You got it, Crys,” Sam replied, happy to see the stall two doors left of Crystal’s was now becoming vacant. “I’m right behind you.”

Brooke stood frozen in place as she heard the two familiar voices take up residence in the stalls on either side of hers. She hung her head with guilt and banged it repetitively against the door of her stall. Why me?

Not knowing whether to bolt and run, or wait it out, Brooke was jolted to her senses by the pounding on her door.

“Hey, pregnant lady, you all right in there?” The washroom attendant sounded concerned.

“Fi…” coughing to change her voice to a higher pitch, “Just fine, thanks for asking, I’ll be out in a minute.” She turned around and flushed the commode, then opened the door stepping out into the room. The tall brunette made her way to the sinks on the wall opposite the stalls.

Brooke glanced into the mirror, looking back at the two stalls located on either side of hers. Damn, one of the doors is open. Panic set in as she considered that it might be Sam’s. Okay, hurry up and make like you’re washing your hands.

She bent over to hide her tall form from view. Reaching for the space under the faucet, she was startled to find another pair of hands already there. “Oh, sorry.” She looked to her right to see Crystal standing next to her. Oh, shit.

“That’s okay, I’m just about done. See, all yours now. Help yourself.” She grabbed a towel and called out to her cousin. “Sam, I’ll see you at the table.”

“Okay, I’ll be out in a second.”

The blue–eyed woman looked down to her soap-covered hands and quickly shoved them under the faucet, rubbing them briskly to help the stream of water wash the suds away. She pulled a towel from the dispenser and rubbed it across her palms, then stepped over to the trashcan to discard it. Just then Sam pulled open the door to her stall and stepped out.

“Hey, Brooke. Funny seeing you here.”

“Huh? Ah… yeah, isn’t it.” She stepped back into the room, trying to conceal her slightly wet hands. Not knowing what else to do with them, she shoved them into the front pockets of her jeans.

“So, I guess you’ve been busy this week?” Sam asked, nervously, as she glanced at Brooke’s reflection in the mirror.

“Yeah, I have actually. Ah, Sam?”

“Yeah, Brooke?” Sam turned from the sink and dried her hands off.

“We could still have that talk Saturday night if you’d like. I mean, if you don’t already have something planned.” Brooke shuffled her feet and then kicked at the floor, waiting to hear the young woman’s answer.

Feeling her confidence return, Sam moved over closer to Brooke and turned to make sure they were alone. Satisfied that they were, she ran her hand down the side of the taller woman’s cheek and smiled. “I’d love that.”

Brooke grinned from ear to ear. “Really?”

“Really.”

Okay, dumb ass, you got another shot, don’t blow it. The taller woman leaned into the blonde, kissing her lightly on the lips. “Saturday night then,” Brooke whispered before she turned and walked out into the restaurant.

Sam stood still for a moment, not believing what had just happened before she followed Brooke out.

The washroom attendant slowly opened the door, more than the crack that it was already. Exiting the supply closet, she shook her head not wanting to believe what she had just witnessed. “Poor pregnant woman, kissing that other girl like that. Her hormones have got to be all screwed up.” The woman shook her head. “Damn glad that all mine were girls. She’s got to be having a boy.”

Ch5 The Dangling Conversation
“…You say you’re lonely, well I’ve been lonely too…”

R-R-Ringggggg!

Blue eyes looked up from the book that she was reading and swiftly riveted to the source of the noise coming from across the room. In a split second, the tall woman found herself holding her breath. A quick glance at her watch told Brooke that it was eight on the nose when the phone rang. With that realization, she knew who was calling or at least who it should be. Sam, but I thought…

R-R-Ringggggg!

There it went again, the shrill tone piercing the air like some cry in the night beckoning you to answer it. Brooke took in a breath finally and tried to swallow, but her mouth was so dry that the only thing she could think of was that damn camel, what’s his name, from the cigarette commercials plodding along in the Sahara Desert. Good God. And I’m supposed to talk to her?

R-R-Ringggggg!

The dark-haired woman closed her eyes and tried to calm her mind. She’d need a minute to settle her racing heart and catch her breath. Gosh, I never got this way before a gig. Slowly she rose out of the chair and found herself standing next to the obnoxiously noisy device.

R-R-Ringggggg!

She couldn’t believe how nervous she felt as she reached out an unsteady hand to answer the phone. Brooke stared down at the industrial-gray looking piece of everyday necessity, loathing the way it was making her feel. Damn it anyhow. She’s just a person. She’s only C.C.’s roommie. She’s….

R-R-Ringggggg!

Half-startled, the woman jumped at the noise, muttering to herself, “Oh, this is insane.” Brooke rolled her eyes and gulped one final time before she clutched the cordless phone up into her powerful hand, raising it to her ear.

“Hel…Hello,” she croaked out nervously.

R-R-Ringggggg!

She pulled the phone away, very much annoyed and nearly deaf from the loud ringing directly in her ear. Quickly focusing her attention to the buttons on it, Brooke angrily push the one marked ‘Phone’ with her finger, then switched hands as she raised it to her good ear.

“Brooke Gordon, Brownstone Records…” she got out in her best C.E.O. voice before she realized that she wasn’t at work. “Ah… I mean, Hello, Brooke speaking, may I help you?” Shit. That sounded like you don’t even know where you are. Now, pay attention and try to not look like an idiot, she mentally chastised herself as she waited to hear the voice on the other end.

The sound of soft laughter floated on the air as a smile graced the young woman’s face. “Hello, Brooke. It’s me, Sam.”

There was silence for a moment as Brooke stood in awe, letting the lilting voice sink in. “Ah… Hi, Sam,” she finally spoke. “I thought… I thought I was going to be the one calling you.”

Sam shifted her cell phone from one hand to the other before speaking as she settled into the fluffy comforter on her bed. “Well, that would’ve been alright too, but I never gave you my number.”

“Oh,” Brooke ran her free hand through her long, dark hair and sighed. Damn it, Brooke. You’re so out of practice with this sort of thing. You forgot to get her number. “Well, I…” her mind searched for an alternative. “Well, you did say chat room. I was going to try to get you online.”

“And if that didn’t work?” The blonde teased, wondering just how far the older woman would have gone to contact her.

“I…I would have called C.C.’s cell phone number.” Brooke nodded, proud of herself as she walked over to the steps leading to the second floor. In her mind she could hear the familiar sound of ‘Good answer, good answer’ that was indelibly written there from many years of watching the TV show, ‘Hollywood Squares’ during her childhood.

“Well, that might have gotten you C.C. but it wouldn’t have gotten you me,” Sam paused for effect, hearing dead silence on the other end. “She went out earlier on a date and I know she won’t be paying any mind to that stupid melody she has set for a ringer.”

“Yeah,” Brooke sighed. “I don’t think that a rousing rendition of ‘Ode to Joy’ would have her breaking any lip locks.”

Sam smiled as she thought about her roommate’s intensity of concentration when boys were in her close proximity. “You got that one right.”

There was laughter on both ends now as Brooke began feeling more comfortable with the younger woman, letting C.C. be their common ground. “So tell me about you, Sam. Where are you from and why haven’t I met you before?” The older woman asked out of the blue, surprising even herself.

The heat of a blush rushing up Sam’s neck made her drop back down onto her pillow, her free hand covering her eyes. Gosh, where to start? The blonde quickly gathered her thoughts and answered, “I’m born and raised a Virginian.”

“Well, that’s good, I mean…you didn’t sound like you had an accent or anything,” Brooke teased her. “So where have you been hiding at all this time?”

“Growing up, mostly with my parent’s and sister. That is until the last couple of years,” Sam’s voice grew distant on the last few words.

“So what’s so different about the last few years, besides your going to school?”

“I…ah…I’ve been living with my aunt and her family,” she slowly said, then perked up with the start of her next sentence. “But this year, I’m on my own here with your sister at the dorm.”

“So, you commuted then?”

“Yeah, I’d either ride the bus or I’d be bumming a ride with my Aunt Sandy or my cousin Crystal on their way into the hospital when our schedules would work out,” Sam mused. “It made for some pretty hectic years. That’s why I decided to live on campus this last year. I didn’t want to miss out on having a life this last time around. With all the studying, I figured that the time I spent on the bus could be put to better use.”

Brooke thought back to her days in college and had to agree. “You got that right. Your life really seems to take on new meaning during that year. I know mine did.” That was the year that we pushed our group into the spotlight. Boy, did that change my life forever.

“So did you stay at a dorm or were you one of the elite with a sorority house engagement?” Sam teased, knowing all too well that Brooke just didn’t fit in that mold.

“Well, as much as I’d like the view at the sorority house, you’re right, it wasn’t me.”

“So then we’re both sisters of the dorm?” Sam sat up on her bed wondering if Brooke could have lived in her dorm and one time. Perhaps even in this very room that she shared with C.C.

“Ah…that would be correct,” Brooke snickered. “Sigma Dorma Thi.”

“Ohhh…we’ll have to compare handshakes sometime,” Sam teased. “Just to see if things have changed since you were here.”

“Well, you know it’s been a while since my bones graced that hall. I bet a lot of things have changed since then.” The older woman searched her memory for things that were relevant to her day and age. “Yeah, back then it was rad to have your own pager.”

“Rad?” the blonde asked. “What’s rad?”

“Slang…ah…radical…cool…totally in,” Brooke offered, trying to answer the younger woman’s question.

“Oh, you mean, bad.”

“Bad, rad…so they changed one letter. It still means the same.” The brunette held the cordless phone with her shoulder and head as she stepped out of her jeans and folded them over a chair. Her shirt was next as she disrobed, making herself more comfortable in the privacy of her own bedroom.

“Yeah, it does. Only, Brooke,” Sam paused for a second or two then continued. “Pagers are out and cell phones are in.”

“Yeah, well, at least you don’t have to go running to find a unused pay phone to find out what they want.” Brooke shook her head remembering those days. “I don’t know what was worse, having the quarter in my hand, coming up empty on finding a phone or having any phone I wanted but no change to make the call.”

The older woman lounged in her bed, clad in a pair of boxers and a tank top. It was too warm during these late summer evenings to be concerned with more than that in her own home. The satin top sheet lay in a heap near the foot of the king-sized bed as she sat near the headboard with a pillow behind her back.

Sam laughed at the woman on the other end of the telephone line. “Too funny!”

Brooke smiled as she listened to the soft laughter coming through the receiver. “What’s so funny?”

“You,” was Sam’s simple reply, “I can see you trying to be so cool.”

“Cool? Why, whatever would you mean?”

Brooke walked over to her bedroom light and turned it off. The tall woman opened the French doors leading out onto her balcony to allow the flow of fresh air to cycle through her bedroom, and then she sat back down on her bed in the same position as before.

“You don’t have to be up on all the latest words and ‘in’ things, Brooke.”

“Damn good thing. I don’t understand half of the shit I hear,” the woman muttered.

The small talk that all new acquaintances draw on are the experiences of their lives. Brooke and Sam were no different from any other as they swapped stories, back and forth, and in the process received a small glimpse of what the other was about.

“Just be yourself, Brooke. You know, I have a feeling that there is more to you than meets the eye.”

Brooke laughed at Sam’s remark. “Are you sure you really want to know who I am?”

“Why don’t you let me decide that for myself? I’m willing to have a look-see. Face it tall, dark and ominous… you can’t hide for long from me.”

Brooke smiled at the determination of her new friend. “Ominous? That’s a new one.” Brooke tried to encourage the teasing banter from moments before as she heard Sam sigh.

“I take one look in your eyes and see lots of things…lots of wonderful things.”

“Oh yeah?” Brooke asked in a whisper. “Like what? What do you see?” she listened to Sam’s soft breathing as she waited for an answer.

“I’m sorry, Brooke. Maybe I’m getting way too personal here…but I see someone who has a lot of potential in many areas. You like to come off as the strong, bull-headed type but I see that it doesn’t last for long.”

The woman didn’t know whether to laugh at Sam’s observations or just blow them off. She did neither as she answered, “Hey, I am bull-headed. Just ask my Mom…”

“Yeah, nice try, but I know differently,” Sam cut her off.

“Oh really?” Brooke asked with renewed interest as she slouched down in her bed and drew lazy circles across the satin sheet under her fingertips.

“Oh yeah. I think that there is a whole other Brooke that you don’t let anyone see. Not even yourself sometimes.”

Sam waited for a response, becoming a little concerned when she didn’t get one. She was concerned that she had offended the older woman and that was the very last thing she wanted right now.

“Brooke? Are you still there?”

The sound of Brooke’s breathing filled the air for a moment then was followed by a sigh before she spoke quietly, “Yeah, I’m still here, Sam. And, you’re right. I’ll give you that. It’s just…someone I don’t care to visit.”

Hearing this, the blonde’s heart went out to the other woman, “You know, I think I’m here to find that Brooke and help her to live.”

“I see.” Brooke was happy to hear Sam’s quiet laughter, wondering what the young blonde was doing as they talked.

“I told you. Things happen for a reason, Brooke. It’s destiny. ” Sam spoke just as passionately about fate as Brooke had heard her talk about music.

Brooke found her voice cracking a little as she asked the question she desperately needed to hear an answer to, “Destiny? You…think that…I’m your destiny?”

“Let’s just say that it’s a possibility. Crazier things have happened, right?” Sam waited a moment before continuing, trying to gauge a reaction from Brooke. “It’s like I said in that email, Brooke: I’m not trying to rush anything here. I’m just saying that things will happen along the way to show us.”

“Okay. I see your point,” Brooke raised an eyebrow suspiciously.

Hearing the trepidation in the woman’s voice, Sam bit down on her lip before asking what was on her mind, “So, where do you think fate is taking us?”

Brooke thought about Sam’s question and answered as honestly as she could, “I’m not sure. I was never one to really think about fate, Sam.”

“Famous last words. It’s there whether you believe in it or not. It doesn’t really care,” Sam let a soft laugh escape her throat to try and take some edge off of the seriousness of their topic of conversation.

“You know, Sam… if you had told me the other Sunday at dinner that I’d be having this conversation with you about fate, I probably would have laughed my head off.” Brooke laughed at the mental image of Sam trying to convince her of all of this while sitting at her mother’s dinner table.

After a minute or so, she noticed that Sam hadn’t responded and sat up straight in bed, afraid that she had said something to bother the young woman. “Sam?”

“Don’t…don’t even say that you didn’t feel something then. I saw the looks that you were giving me. Those thoughtful looks.”

“I never said that I didn’t feel something,” Brooke corrected herself. “And you’re right…those looks were very thoughtful.”

Both women had to laugh at the flirtatious tone in Brooke’s voice.

The older woman shook her head. That was so obvious. Man, you are way out of practice with this sort of thing. Brooke raked her long fingers through her dark hair.

“What did you feel?” Sam asked, feeling like she was close to getting Brooke to open up to her about what went on inside that raven-covered head of hers.

“I felt…” Brooke chose her words carefully, “That’s just it. I felt… something. I felt that I should be on my best behavior,” Brooke grinned into the phone as Sam’s soft laughter replaced the silence on the other end.

“You are a tough one, Brooke. I can see that I’m going to have to work on that.”

“I felt curious,” Brooke admitted.

“Curious is good. How so?”

“I don’t know. Just wondering, who you are?'”

“That’s simple, Brooke. I’m me. Really, I’m nobody special. Just another one of the family.”

“No. I mean, who are you that you had this…power over me to make me feel something? To feel anything.”

Brooke was now becoming confused over her own reactions to Sam over the last few weeks. Other than her immediate family, Brooke had felt nothing at all for anyone or anything. Well, except for music. No extreme happiness or sorrows had entered her life. Nothing had touched her since that night in Detroit three years earlier. Not since…

“I thought that you felt it. I was right.” The woman reached out, took the now warm can of soda off the nightstand, and raised it to her lips to drink.

Sam’s voice broke the spell of bad memories Brooke had been reliving. She shook her head as if to clear it. “What did you think I would feel?”

“Feel? I thought you might…” suddenly Sam stopped. “No way, Brooke Gordon. You are not trapping me like that.”

Brooke was momentarily confused until she thought about what she had asked and realized what Sam had assumed she meant. It was easier for Brooke to just play along, “Damn,” she snapped her fingers loudly, “caught me didn’t you?”

“Trying to…I mean, ah…yeah,” Sam caught herself before revealing any more. She could almost hear the smile coming onto Brooke’s face.

“Little flustered there, Sam?” Brooke asked as she got comfortable once again by lying on her bed, this time, on the opposite side since the sheets were cooler.

“Maybe. You know, I’m not usually this outgoing… to just say what I think and feel.”

Brooke was surprised at the honest admission. “So tell me…what did you feel, Sam?”

“Well, to say the least…intrigued. You know, by your ability to slay dragons,” the blonde thought of how C.C. and Terri had portrayed the woman she was talking to on her first day at the dorm.

Brooke pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it as if it had grown two heads. She placed it back against her head, thoroughly confused and replied with, “Huh?”

Sam’s only response was to laugh and mumble out, “Nothing.”

After the laughter subsided a bit, she continued. “You made my heart go out to you at dinner the other Sunday, for being so steadfast in your life and not letting your mother force the issue on you. Well…not too much,” she chided.

“If she could see me now,” Brooke whispered to herself as she got out of her bed and walked out onto her balcony. Taking a seat on the wide rail, she positioned one knee pulled up near her chest with her back against the side of the house. The tall woman wrapped her left arm around her knee and stared off into the night sky.

“You mean something’s changed?”

Brooke was shocked to hear Sam’s question. She didn’t think she had spoken those words loud enough for Sam to hear her, but she was wrong.

“Uh…no. Ah…never mind,” she brushed the question off. “So, does this mean you’re my reward for being so insistent?”

It was now Sam’s turn to be confused, “Hmmm, reward? That means…” blonde brows furrowed as Sam looked out the only window in her room, searching for an answer. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing, never mind.”

“Brooke, you do know what they say about one that protests too much…don’t you?”

“What’s that?” Brooke asked as Sam giggled.

“Never mind. I got my answer. I can actually hear you better now. Where are you?”

“Sitting on the railing of my balcony, outside my bedroom. There’s a small breeze and it’s nice outside.”

“Wow, you have a balcony?” Sam asked. She had found herself wondering a couple of times during the week what kind of house Brooke would occupy.

“Yeah, I have a couple.”

Letting her mind wander through the house that Brooke was describing, Sam closed her eyes and tried to imagine it.

Opening her eyes, the young woman wondered where the evening had vanished and the night arrived. The last remnants of the sun were gone and the dorm room was growing dark. Crossing over to the other side of the room, the young blonde gazed longingly out her window, letting her eyes fix on the slight twinkle of the night’s first star.

There she made a silent wish, praying that it would come true. Please, God. Don’t let this just be my imagination. I’d really like to get to know her better.

Realizing that she had tiptoed around her thoughts long enough, Sam needed to have some clue as to how Brooke felt, and soon.

Gulping back her fear, she decided the time was now. “So, tell me, Brooke…honestly…is this going to be a cat and mouse game or what?”

Brooke considered just letting the question slide as if she hadn’t heard it, but she was tired of pretending. Pretending she didn’t need anybody, pretending she was happy, and pretending that she didn’t care about Sam. Within the span of a few weeks’ time, the young blonde had wormed her way behind all of Brooke’s defenses.

“I don’t think I want to play cat and mouse,” Brooke admitted softly.

Her honesty surprised Sam, “Oh? So, does that mean you’re going to ask me out or not?”

“Well, unless my memory is really whacked, I thought we went out last Friday night a week ago.”

“Oh, that was a date? A real date? Three minutes notice and you call that a date?” Sam couldn’t resist teasing Brooke.

Pausing to think for a moment, the older woman had to agree. “No, actually it wasn’t. Sam, would you go out with me?”

The blonde stood up, staring at the phone, stunned. She had meant for her previous words to be a joke but Brooke had taken them to heart.

“Me?” her voice was soft and somewhat shaky sounding. “You’re asking me out?”

Brooke smiled at the shocked tone in Sam’s voice, “Unless there’s someone else talking to me on my phone named Sam.” The older woman paused adding a little drama to the situation, then added, “Yes, I would like it very much if you’d go out with me.” Brooke chuckled to herself, “You know, you had the same reaction when I asked you about the movie last Friday night.” Please say ‘yes’, Sam. Please say ‘yes’.

“Nope, just me. No matter how you spell it, Sam is my name. And yes, I’d love to go out with you. Just let me know when and where.”

Brooke was so excited that the idea of jumping up and down on her balcony in the moonlight seemed perfectly reasonable. However, priding herself on her adulthood, she refrained from doing so.

“How about next Sunday? I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve actually been on a date but we can go wherever you’d like. Whatever you’d like to do.”

If it were actually possible to hear someone smile, this would be the case. Sam could hear the happiness in Brooke’s voice, ecstatic that she was responsible for putting it there, bringing a grin to her own.

“Next Sunday sounds great,” the blonde fought to contain her own joyous emotions. “So…you haven’t been out with anyone in a while?” Sam asked, not trying to be nosey. The blonde wanted to absorb everything there was to know about the woman she had been speaking to for over the last two hours.

“No, nothing that would be considered a date.”

“Don’t feel bad. You don’t get asked on many dates where I come from. I mean…you would, I’m sure but…”

Brooke cut her off, “Sam, I find it hard to believe that you didn’t have them lining up at your door.” Her voice grew softer than normal as she admitted, “I know I’d have been the first in line had I known of you.”

“That’s very sweet of you, Brooke, and I would have liked that very much. But remember I told you that I wasn’t the most popular. And, well…it would have been kind of hard explaining this line of women outside my door when my parents didn’t know at the time that I was gay. I mean…I’m not saying that I’ve never been out,” the irony of that line at that particular time made Sam laugh. “No pun intended.”

Brooke laughed as well before growing serious again. “Can I ask you something, Sam?”

“Sure, anything,” Sam answered without missing a beat.

“Why did you find it so hard to believe that I wanted to go out with you?” Brooke listened for an answer. Even as good as her hearing was, she had to strain to hear Sam’s quiet voice.

“You just seem so…I don’t know…more adventurous than to settle for someone like me. I mean, let’s face it, Brooke, you’ve got way more experience here than I do.”

“Settle? Sam, I would never settle for you. If I want to be with you then, I’ll be with you. I don’t consider that settling at all.” The last thing Brooke wanted was for Sam to believe that they would only be spending time together until someone better came along.

Sam’s soft snort of laughter came across the line, “Funny, isn’t that the word your mother kept using…trying to settle you down? I really don’t think that you’ll ever settle down. You’re like an unbroken horse…wild and tame, all at the same time. Maybe that’s what is attracting me to you.”

Brooke remained silent, letting everything Sam had said sink in. As long as ‘something’ is attracting you to me.

“You’re awfully quiet, Brooke. I hope I haven’t offended you.”

“No, not at all. Just making me think,” Brooke said quickly.

“Think about what? Something good, I hope?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s good. I just keep thinking about how I’ve tried to blow my mother off of her one true obsession and turned around and ran right smack into you,” Brooke smiled into the phone, more than a little disappointed that Sam was not there to see it.

“Fate, huh?” Sam asked, curious as to what Brooke’s response would be.

“I guess so, Sam. I believe it might just be. So…anything in particular you’d like to do?” Brooke steered the conversation to their upcoming date. She stood up from the rail and walked back into her bedroom, closing the balcony doors after she was inside.

“How about something with music? It seems to be our common ground,” Sam suggested.

“Okay…” she thought for a moment. “Like what?”

Brooke made her way downstairs to get something to drink. She realized that all of their talking and soul bearing had made her thirsty. Grabbing a bottle of water out of the fridge, she ran back up the stairs.

“Hey, I only know stuff around the campus. I defer to you.”

Brooke thought about what they could do as she re-entered her bedroom. She sat down on the bed, taking a drink from her water bottle.

“Well, other than the studio, I really couldn’t tell you where we could go. C.C. would probably have a better idea. The only time I really go to any bars now is when I’m out of town, scouting.”

“Well, actually, bars are kind of out of the question anyway. I won’t be 21 for another month or so. But, you mentioned your studio. You have any good music to listen to?” Sam rolled her eyes at the absurdity of the question that just left her lips. Of course she’ll have good music, idiot. She smacked her palm on her forehead and sank down onto the bed.

“I’m sure I do. As a matter of fact, I have some new stuff I just mixed down last week.”

“Well, there you go. That sounds cool. Hey, what do you say to me packing us a dinner and we’ll eat in?” Sam suggested.

“We can do that,” Brooke agreed immediately. At least she doesn’t expect me to cook. There is a God. Looking up to the heavens, she mouthed the words, ‘Thank you.’

“Well, if I’m doing the dinner, let’s put you in charge of the entertainment.”

“Okay, I think I can manage that.”

“Think you can keep me amused?” Sam asked, the flirtatious tone back in her voice after its absence for the last few moments.

“I’m sure I can think of something,” Brooke replied, flirting just as much as the blonde on the opposite end of the phone line. “It’s a long drive to the house from the campus. Sure you’re up to it? What time should I pick you up?”

Sam stumbled over her words. It had never occurred to her that Brooke’s studio would be at her house. Could she handle being that attracted to Brooke…that close to Brooke’s hidden thoughts and dreams? “Oh, the studio is in your house?”

“Yeah, C.C. didn’t tell you? Is that a problem?” Brooke cleared her throat, thinking of what her invitation sounded like. “We could do something else…go somewhere else, if you’d feel more comfortable.”

“No, it’s perfectly fine, but it puts a whole new spin on dinner then. Pick me up about five in the afternoon or so,” she paused for a moment considering all that her roommate had told her about her siblings. “And no, C.C. isn’t too giving when it comes to you.”

Laughter erupted from deep in Brooke’s throat, “That’s funny. She always seems to be trying to pawn me off on somebody.”

“Oh really?” Sam asked, wondering if there would be a story to hear.

“Oh yeah. I’ll tell you about it sometime.”

“Speaking of C.C., what should I tell her if she asks where I’m going?” Sam felt lucky that she had this much time to talk to Brooke as it was.

“Like I said that night after we kissed, Darlin’…tell her whatever you’d like.”

Sam’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of the endearment that had just passed over Brooke’s lips, landing in her direction. The emotion she felt at this moment made her pause.

“Honestly, Brooke, I think it should be our secret for now. I mean, if that’s okay with you,” the blonde crossed her fingers, shutting her eyes tightly as she made the wish. Oh please, please, please.

“That’s fine. I understand.”

A sigh was heard coming from the phone, giving Brooke an idea. Thinking about it quickly, she decided to run it past Sam and see if she would agree to it. “What time is your first class on Monday, Sam?”

“Why?” Sam drew her eyebrows together at the strange question.

“Just wondering. Do you think my sister will place a curfew on you?”

Brooke took another drink of her water as she adjusted the pillows under her head, waiting for an answer. Upon hearing the dead silence on the other end, her stomach turned and her nervousness began to develop. Damn, she’s going to think I’m up to something. Just when Brooke was ready to apologize for any misconception of what she was asking, she heard Sam clear her throat, then stop before she uttered her first word. “Sam?”

“Well, I think she might miss me if I’m not here on Sunday night. Why?” the younger woman asked, not seeming ill at ease in the least.

“Understandable. I was just wondering what time I should have you back. That way I’d have an idea of what to plan. I mean, I just want to make sure that we’ll actually be able to spend some time together.”

“Plan? Sounds like you’re really putting some thought and effort into this,” Sam pointed out, innately pleased that Brooke was as anxious about their date next week as she was.

“You have no idea,” Brooke stated, wanting their next meeting to be perfect for what little bit of time they would have in each other’s company.

“You know, Brooke, I could always tell C.C. that I was headed home and won’t be coming in till my first class on Monday,” Sam tested the waters. “I mean if you’d like…”

“That would be a great idea,” came back the eager reply. “So, what should we plan on for dinner?” Brooke asked.

“That depends. I mean, will we need something to sustain us or something for a quick energy boost?”

“Mmmm…Good question,” Brooke all but purred into the phone, causing Sam’s eyes to roll at the very sound of it. “Who knows? Tell you what, I’ll pick you up at five next Sunday afternoon and we’ll stop by the store to grab a few things. We’ll see what we’re in the mood for,” the woman could feel her dark eyebrows wiggling in delight, “Or…we can always order in.”

“Oh, no. I have a feeling that I already know what I’ll be in the mood for.”

“Oh yeah? And…ah…what would that be?” Brooke was dying to know what had just popped into the blonde’s head.

“Nuh-uh…Let’s just keep that as my surprise.”

All sorts of images were running through Brooke’s mind at the moment and she once again could only come to the conclusion that Sam really did drive her to distraction.

“Well, bring an overnight bag with you. If you get tired, you can crash here. I have plenty of room. But if you think it’s a bomb and I’m the most horrible date you’ve ever had, I’ll take you home. Either way, you’ll be prepared.”

“Oh, I’ll be prepared. Don’t worry about that.”

“Who say’s I’m worried? I mean, just because I no longer have any fingernails left.”

Sam’s laughter filled the air and warmed Brooke’s heart for what seemed to be the thousandth time that night.

“You are too funny, Brooke.”

“I try,” was Brooke’s simple response but exactly what Sam needed to hear.

“That’s all I’m hoping for,” Sam whispered into the phone as the door to her room opened and C.C. walked in.

“Hey there, Sam.” C.C. crossed to the closet and hung her purse on the doorknob. “So who’s got your ear?” the willowy brunette motioned toward the phone in Sam’s hand.

Sam smiled at her roommate and waved, “Hi, C.C.,” she turned her attention back to the phone in her hand. “Yes, Aunt Sandy. That’s my roommate coming in now. Yes, Auntie, I’ll be home next Sunday for sure.”

Brooke had to hold the phone away from her mouth as she giggled at Sam’s cover up.

“Five then?” Brooke asked behind her giggles.

“Yes, I’ll be careful. About five, yeah, that sounds good.”

“I’ll pick you up out in front of the dorm then.”

“No,” Sam snapped, “that’s okay, Aunt Sandy. I’ve got the key for the back door. Is that okay?”

Brooke wondered how much she could get away with as ‘Auntie’. “That’s fine. Will you have a kiss for Auntie?” she couldn’t help but tease Sam.

“Always,” was her response and Brooke could swear that Sam’s voice dropped about an octave.

There would be no more games tonight Brooke thought as she glanced at the clock, noticing that it was after eleven. I’ll be damned. Where did that time fly to? She amazed even herself knowing that she had never talked to anyone on the phone for longer than ten minutes at a time. What’s happening here? She had no idea. Startled by her unusual behavior, she forced herself to draw the conversation to an end. “Then I can’t wait. Sweet dreams, Sam.”

“Give a big hug and kiss to that teddy bear of mine. Let it know how much I miss it so it won’t get lonely.”

C.C. giggled at her roommate, shaking her head in disbelief. “I don’t know any aunt of mine that would do that for me at eleven at night, much less be on the phone. That Auntie of yours must be some kind of night owl.” She pulled off her outer clothing and lay down on her bed, quickly drifting off to sleep.

“Next Sunday just can’t get here fast enough, Sam,” Brooke spoke softly into the phone.

“Yeah, I know.”

“I’ll meet you at the back door. I’ll be waiting for you, Darlin’.”

There it was again that endearment that Brooke used before and Sam could feel the fluttering sensation once more in her chest as it was said. She regained her composure more quickly this time and whispered, “So will I. Bye,” she hesitantly hit the end button and rested back on her pillow trying to calm her racing heart, hoping that she could sleep.

Gazing down at the phone for a long minute, Brooke hit the disconnect button and placed it on her nightstand. She turned off her lamp and stretched out on the bed, praying that sleep would come swiftly and carry her well into next weekend. It would be a while but Brooke would realize later that her friend, Sleep, would not stop in for a visit with her this night. Instead, her mind raged with thoughts of what this ‘Auntie’ would actually like to being doing.

Ch6 Surprises Are All Or Nothing
“…All I need is your pure sunshine; The finest mix, won’t you be my fix?…”

It was going to be a restless night for Brooke, just like the whole last week since she had that evening long conversation with Sam. Her mind still too excited about her upcoming date, she gave up on trying to sleep. She knew that the petite blonde would be in her thoughts all night, making sleep unthinkable. Before she knew it, she was up, pacing around the house, hoping to come up with a plan for their date.

Sometime after three in the morning, Brooke’s nervous energy got the best of her four-legged companion, Mario, who began to follow her around the house. There would be no sleep this night for either of them as the dog kept his mistress company on her journey through the house. Whether it was from the expended energy reserves wearing out or that her mind just finally overloaded itself with planning for a perfect date, sometime around six in the morning, her mind finally gave in and allowed her body to get some much needed rest.

Pulling herself from bed and the sleep that had finally claimed her, Brooke turned on her computer. She sat there staring at the monitor screen as the machine booted itself to life. Good gods, did I sleep that long? It’s nearly three in the afternoon.

“Well, Mario,” she reached to pet his head as he lay by her chair. “Let’s see if I have any mail.” Surprisingly enough, there was only one e-mail waiting to be read. Clicking on the icon, she opened it.

Subj: Waiting to see you

Date: September 16, 6:36:58 AM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Sam Moleson

To: Brooke Loran

Brooke,

I’m on pins and needles just waiting for the minutes to click by. God, who would have ever thought that 6 days, 19 hours, 38 minutes, and 17 seconds, would take so long. I know, patience. Well, patience is a virtue and I’m not so sure that it’s one of my favorites any more. All I have to say is these remaining 10 hours, 24 minutes, and 5 seconds are going to seem like days until I see your smiling face and hear that voice of yours.

Gosh, you’d think that I’m in love or something. I know, I’ll vote for the something, it’s just too early for it to be love.

Hopefully you got sleep, cause I sure didn’t with the clock staring me in the face all night, reminding me of our date.

See you soon, but not soon enough. Sam

A smile crossed Brooke’s face when she realized that Sam was just as anxious for their date to begin as she was. Quickly typing up a reply, she sent it off, feeling like a high school girl getting ready for Prom night.

Subj: Re: Waiting to see you

Date: September 16, 2:58:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Brooke Loran

To: Sam Moleson

All I have to say is these remaining 10 hours and 24 minutes and 5 seconds are going to seem like days until I see your smiling face and hear that voice of yours.

***g Well, now there’s only 2 hours, 8 minutes and 17 seconds to go before I see you walk out that door. I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck driving all the way there. I need to find some good music to play in the 300 on the way there to keep me calm. Don’t you ever let anyone know that you’ve gotten me this nervous. 😉

Who are you, Sam, to have this hold over me like you do?

Gosh, you’d think that I’m in love or something. I know, I’ll vote for the something, it’s just too early for it to be love.

***Something sounds about right. g

Hopefully you got sleep, cause I sure didn’t with the clock staring me in the face all night, reminding me of our date.

***Not a wink… How are we ever going to be able to stay awake to enjoy our evening? Any suggestions…? wink I’m still curious to know about this surprise you have in store for later… The suspense is killing me!

Well, now there’s only 2 hours, 1 minute and 43 seconds left. It’s still too long to wait.

Can’t wait to see you,

Brooke, AKA “Auntie”

Hoping that she would receive another message from Sam, Brooke left her computer on, just in case. Gathering up herself and all the tingling sensations that her body was feeling, she headed toward the shower and started getting ready for the big evening.

The few minutes in the shower were all that it took to keep her from being disappointed. When she walked into the office across from her bedroom, she smiled seeing Sam’s e-mail address on the screen. I’ll be reading you in a minute or two. She winked at the screen as she continued to towel off her hair, turning towards her bedroom.

Once dressed and happy with her appearance for the evening in a well-worn pair of faded black Levi’s and a silk shirt to match, she sat down at her computer. For the remainder of the time she had left, she exchanged e-mails with Sam.

Subj: Re: Waiting to see you

Date: September 16, 3:48:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Sam Moleson

To: Brooke Loran

In a message dated September 16, 2:58:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Brooke Loran writes:

Don’t you ever let anyone know that you’ve gotten me this nervous. 😉

Dear Auntie,

Oh, so you’re the cool, calm and collected type…eh? Are you trying to tell me that you’ve never gotten nervous before a date? Hmmm…Or maybe you haven’t had a real date before. Don’t worry, what we do is strictly our business and nobody else’s.

How are we ever going to be able to stay awake to enjoy our evening? Any suggestions…wink I’m still curious to know about this surprise you have in store as to what you want later… The suspense is killing me!

Somehow I think that we won’t have a problem staying awake and enjoying our time together. I could always give you a little slap or tickle if you start to doze off.

Surprise…did I say surprise? Curiosity killed that cat…don’t let it kill you. Let’s just say that I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I will.

Oh, Auntie, you don’t have any set bedtime…do you?

Your back door pick-up kind of girl, Sam

Brooke smiled and shook her head. “Hmm…what am I going to do with you, Sam?” She thought for a moment then quickly typed in her reply.

Subj: Re: Waiting to see you

Date: September 16, 4:01:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Brooke Loran

To: Sam Moleson

Dear Auntie,

***Cute, Darlin’… real cute…g

Oh, so you’re the cool, calm and collected type…eh? Are you trying to tell me that you’ve never gotten nervous before a date? Hmmm…Or maybe you haven’t had a real date before.

***Well, you’ve got me. You’re right. I have never been nervous before a date because none of my previous encounters could actually be placed in the date category.

Somehow I think that we won’t have a problem staying awake and enjoying our time together. I could always give you a little slap or tickle if you start to doze off.

***So help me, if you slap me or tickle me, God forbid, I will not be responsible for my actions… Or reactions.

Surprise…did I say surprise? Curiosity killed that cat…don’t let it kill you. Let’s just say that I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I will.

***Ooh, naughty!

Oh, Auntie, you don’t have any set bedtime…do you?

***Sure do… let me creep over to the counter so I can pop some Geritol. After I have my prune juice and nap, I’ll get back to you on it. BTW, my memory is slipping… what was that question, again?

Your back door pick-up kind of girl,

***One of these days I’ll pick you up the front door and sweep you off your feet.

Tata, Brooke

The dark-haired woman smiled and sent the e-mail off to its waiting recipient. It didn’t take long before another line of script came to the screen, signaling another incoming message. Again, it was Sam and Brooke couldn’t wait to see her reply.

Subj: Re: Waiting to see you

Date: September 16, 4:22:12 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Sam Moleson

To: Brooke Loran

In a message dated September 16, 4:01:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Brooke Loran writes:

One of these days I’ll pick you up the front door and sweep you off your feet.

God, Brooke! My heart just did a round of palpitatious flutters when I read that. And you’re asking me what kind of hold I have on you? I sure hope this date thing works out cause I’m looking forward to that front door and being swept up in your arms.

The one with her feet waiting to dangle in the air… Sam

Blue eyes flashed with amazement at the stirring emotions that Sam’s e-mail was invoking in her. Now, Brooke’s mind mentally played out the images of sweeping in that front door of the dorm and holding Sam’s body to her own, with the blonde’s small form high above the ground, cradled in her arms. Suddenly she found herself wanting to do exactly that. Better slow down, you don’t even know if this date tonight is going to be a bust or not. Don’t go getting ahead of yourself here. You know you’ve got Loran to worry about. She sighed and forced her thoughts off of the subject that would haunt her even in her excitement and returned Sam’s e-mail with one of her own.

Subj: Re: Waiting to see you

Date: September 16, 4:36:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Brooke Loran

To: Sam Moleson

God, Brooke! My heart just did a round of palpitatious flutters when I read that.

***Hmmm…Guess I should ask Terri about that word, huh? I’m just kidding. I know what you mean. Yes, you do have quite the hold on me. And for once in my life, I can honestly say that I don’t mind.

I sure hope this date thing works out cause I’m looking forward to that front door and being swept up in your arms.

Not as much as I’m looking forward to holding you there. Brooke

Sending it on its way, she turned to look out the window. “It’s going to be a nice day for the drive, too bad you can’t go with me, Mario.”

The dog came over to her, eager for her affection. “Sorry, boy, I can’t keep my eye on you, the road and Sam all at the same time.”

Brooke petted the dog as he nuzzled her hand. “You’re going to love her, Mario. Just you wait and see.”

She turned back to the screen and there was her reply.

Subj: Re: Waiting to see you

Date: September 16, 4:48:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Sam Moleson

To: Brooke Loran

In a message dated September 16, 4:36:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Brooke Loran writes:

Yes, you do have quite the hold on me. And for once in my life, I can honestly say that I don’t mind.

Not as much as I’m looking forward to holding you there.

Can someone die and go to heaven…and still be alive? Because I think I just did. Okay, I must still be alive cause I’m breathing and the tingles are still going through my body with just the thought of you. Brooke, I hate to say this, but I think we’re playing with some major kind of fire here. Don’t you dare think about putting it out. Well, unless we both agree on it. LOL 😉

Maybe its a good thing that the weather is cooling down, cause this warm feeling is going to make me combust. You do know how to put these kinds of fires out, don’t you? I mean…just in case we’re together when it happens.

Excuse me while I go suck on some ice chips. Sam

Brooke smiled when she read this latest e-mail. Glancing at the clock, she realized that there was just enough time to type up a short reply before leaving to pick up the vibrant blonde.

Subj: Re: Waiting to see you

Date: September 16, 4:59:48 AM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Brooke Loran

To: Sam Moleson

Can someone die and go to heaven…and still be alive? Because I think I just did. Okay, I must still be alive cause I’m breathing and the tingles are still going through my body with just the thought of you.

***Well, if it’s possible then I have several times since you kissed me. I’ll be honest with you; I can’t stop thinking about you.

Brooke, I hate to say this, but I think we’re playing with some major kind of fire here. Don’t you dare think about putting it out. Well, unless we both agree on it. LOL 😉

***I wouldn’t dream of it. Well, actually I HAVE dreamed about it. At least during what little bit of sleep I’ve been able to catch all week.

Excuse me while I go suck on some ice chips.

***Do you even WANT to know what kind of images my warped mind has conjured up at the thought of you doing just that?

Leaving to pick you up now. See you soon! Brooke

Brooke hit the ‘Send’ button and waited for the confirmation that her message had gone through. She shut down the computer, then took off, practically running down the stairs. After seeing Mario out the backdoor, she attended to some last minute preparations before her trip. Once done, she went to the kitchen door and whistled for the dog to come inside.

Giving the obedient Husky a treat and a quick pet before grabbing her keys off of the countertop, Brooke was on her way to the campus.

The 300Z pulled into a parking space a few minutes before five at the backdoor of her sister’s dorm. Her stomach still nervous about the date, she took a seat on the hood of her car and patiently waited Sam’s exit out of the back door.

At exactly five the rear security door opened, its squeaky hinge sounded a warning that caused Brooke’s hair on her arms to tingle. Lowering her head to peer over the top of her sunglasses, she saw Sam’s small blonde head peeking out from around the door. Within seconds, Sam stood directly in front of the dark haired woman who was perched on the hood of the car.

“Hey there,” Brooke said, enthusiastically.

Sam smiled warmly as she looked up into blue eyes which were revealed from behind the sunglasses that Brooke now slowly raised to the top of her head. “Hi, I see you found the back door without any problem.”

“Yes, I did,” Brooke answered as she slid off the car and took a small step closer to Sam. She tilted her head to the side and leaned in close to whisper, “Didn’t you say that you had a kiss for ‘Auntie’?”

Fighting back the temptation to do just that, Sam cautiously looked around. The appearance of a small group of people turning the corner of the building that was next to the dorm made her reconsider. “Maybe later, ‘Auntie’. Let’s get out of here.” Sam held up the bag in her hand and asked, “Where do you want me to put this?”

“Here,” Brooke unlocked the door. “You can just throw it in the back seat.” The taller woman opened the door and held it for Sam.

The small blonde tossed the bag into the back seat and stood straight up to look Brooke in the eyes. Rising onto her tiptoes, she gave Brooke a quick kiss on the cheek, then with a shrug of her shoulders she explained simply, “It’s later.” Sam laughed as she got into the passenger seat, fastening her seat belt as Brooke blushed, frozen in position holding the door.

“You going to just stand there?” Sam asked as she looked up at a dumfounded Brooke.

The woman shook her head as if to clear it. What is it with her and opening car doors? I wonder if she does that to anybody else? “Uh…yeah, right,” Brooke tried to sound in total control. Maybe she was hypnotized to…Nah, that would be crazy. She shook her head, laughing at herself, then shut the door. The tall woman then made her way to the driver’s side as her hand self-consciously touched the cheek that had been kissed. Sensing Sam watching her as she crossed the front of the car, Brooke covered her actions by lowering her sunglasses back down over her eyes. Before the numbed woman had the opportunity to embarrass herself any further, Brooke got behind the steering wheel, then with the turn of a key, they left the campus.

“So, are you going to let me in on this little secret of yours?” Brooke asked, making an attempt at small talk as they drove along.

“Maybe. That depends.”

Brooke looked over briefly at Sam and then turned her eyes back to the road. “Depends…on what?”

“On you and how this date goes.” The blonde laughed looking out the window then back over at the driver. “You know, I don’t just tell my secrets to every date.”

“Oh, I’ll keep that in mind,” Brooke responded as she winked at Sam.

“I’m sure that you will.” The younger woman smiled and turned her head to look out the side window.

They drove on in silence for a few minutes as Brooke stole glances at her passenger. When she thought that Sam wasn’t looking, the momentary glance turned longer as she watched the young woman gazing so thoughtfully out the window.

“Sam?” Brooke waited for the green eyes to look in her direction. “Can I uh…tell you something without you jumping out the car door?”

Sam looked at the driver, trying to determine just how serious Brooke’s question really was. “What…are you an axe murderer? A psycho killer?” she laughed while watching Brooke shake her head.

“No, nothing like that. I just wanted you to know that…I…um…”

“Yes, Brooke?”

The dark-haired woman looked over at her passenger and reached out to gently run the back of her fingers down Sam’s cheek. “I missed you,” she admitted softly before turning her gaze back to the road ahead of her.

Sam reached up, catching Brooke’s hand in her own and placed it against her lips. “I missed you, too.”

“Really?”

“Really. I hardly slept at all after our conversation last week. C.C. must have thought I was crazy, tossing and turning all night.”

Brooke smiled; she knew all too well just how grumpy her younger sister was known to be whenever her sleep was interrupted. “I know, me too. I kept watching the clock. Finally I just got up and paced around the house.” Brooke chuckled, “I even got to Mario and he showed his face sometime after three this morning. He must’ve thought I was nuts.”

“Mario?” Sam asked, curiously.

“Yeah. Mario…” she paused watching the question written all over Sam’s face, then added, “my dog.”

Sam shook her head back and forth as she grinned. “There’s a lot I have to learn about you, isn’t there?”

Brooke grinned at Sam like the cat that ate the canary. And when she winked, Sam was sure that her heart would melt on the spot.

“You’ll see,” Brooke answered with another wink.

“I’m betting on that one. Trust me.”

“Sam, he’s really a great dog. You’ll fall in love with him as soon as you see him.”

“As much as I am with you?” Sam mumbled to herself as she sighed and glanced out the window again.

“I’m sorry, what was that? I didn’t hear you.”

“Oh, nothing. I was…just thinking about the food I’ll need to pick up.” Sam hoped that her quick cover would work.

“Oh, okay. Well, we’ll be near the store soon.”

“Good.” Sam rolled her eyes and looked out the window, trying to hide her nearly uttered thought.

Brooke stole a glance, wondering what her younger passenger had on her mind. “Hey, why are you so quiet over there? Are you bored? There’s some CDs in the glove compartment,” Brooke offered as Sam turned around to look at her.

“Bored? No, just thinking.” She opened the glove compartment and searched through the music selection until she found a disc that caught her eye. “Do you mind?” Sam asked Brooke as she held the CD up for Brooke’s approval.

“Sure. That’s fine,” Brooke answered, turning her eyes back to the road.

As Sam put the disc into the CD player and closed her eyes to the mood of the music, Brooke stopped the 300Z at a light and looked over at Sam.

The younger woman could feel those blue eyes watching her, as the heat came to her face, her cheeks turning slightly pink by all the attention.

“So, thinking about anything in particular?” Brooke’s question came out in hushed tones.

Knowing that Brooke was watching her, she opened her eyes and looked over at the ocean of blue staring back at her. “What’s to think about when the weather is so nice, the music fills the air and I have you sitting next to me?”

Brooke couldn’t help but smile. She grabbed Sam’s hand and brought it up to her lips, kissing the smooth skin. “Almost there,” she informed the blonde at her side as the light turned green.

Sam smiled, wondering what the Fates had in store for the two of them that night. “You know, Brooke…I think we’re going to have a great time tonight.”

“Me too,” Brooke replied as she briefly glanced over the top of her sunglasses, tilting her head in Sam’s direction.

“Hey, isn’t that the store there?” Sam pointed up ahead.

“Yep.” Brooke pulled into the parking lot and selected a space to park.

Unfastening her seatbelt as soon as the car stopped, Sam turned quickly toward the driver. “I’ll run in and get the food while you stay here.” Sam saw the hurt in Brooke’s eyes and quickly added, “Ah…it’s part of that surprise. You wouldn’t want to ruin it would you?”

Brooke poked out her bottom lip in a mock pout. “So, you’re going to make me wait out here all by myself?”

“Make you wait? Ah…yeah. You could say that. But, it’s okay. You’re a big girl and I’ll be right back,” Sam said flashing a bright smile.

Brooke laughed softly, then agreed, “Okay, but hurry back.”

Sam winked as she got out of the car and shut the door. Before walking into the store, she turned back and leaned into the open window. “You don’t have any allergies, do you?” Sam inquired.

Brooke arched one eyebrow at the question; her curiosity peaked at the surprise Sam had been plotting. “Just one.”

“And that is…?” Sam asked.

“Surprises,” Brooke answered with a smile. “No, Sam…no allergies.”

Sam shook her head as she laughed at her date. “What am I going to do with you?” Before Brooke could answer, Sam added, “Don’t answer that,” she cautioned then winked and turned away from the window.

“I can think of a few things,” Brooke whispered under her breath, thinking the younger girl wouldn’t hear her but she did, and smiled to herself as she walked into the store.

Brooke turned the key in the ignition, killing the engine, then searched through the radio stations, not particularly pleased with anything she was hearing. Finally she settled on a station that was playing blocks of music from the same artists before moving on to the next. She closed her eyes, leaning her head back against the headrest as she waited for Sam to return when the DJ’s voice broke into the end of the song.

“And next we have a band that shot to the top of the charts over six years ago, only to breakup a short three years later when many believe they hadn’t even reached their prime. I’m talking about singer and guitarist, James Anderson; bass player, Peter Butler; and drummer, Brooke Loran. Otherwise known as, Anti-Zero. We hear that James and Peter are working on a new project together and we wish them luck. As for the mysterious Loran, no one knows exactly what she has been up to as of late, so the bombshell drummer remains just that, a mystery. Here’s the first song in our Anti-Zero block, Inside Your Head.”

Brooke opened her eyes at the first mention of the band, her head cocked to hear more. Full of mixed emotions, she listened to the familiar lyrics that she had written on the tour bus late one night. This song was all hers. Not like the majority of them where she had always written the lyrics while James wrote the music.

“Going crazy, caffeine hazy. Gonna watch TV all day, crash computer say: Superstar love, one I dream of. Could I be a millionaire? Would you even care?

Would you tell the truth of all the things inside your head? Would you lay it down, the secrets kept inside your head? If there’s gonna be time makes you and me never to fall down.

Am I jaded? Confiscated? Could I be a VH1 Hollywood movie son? Off the Love Line, she’s got my mind… Do I have a fighting chance? Can I really dance?

Would you tell the truth of all the things inside your head? Would you lay it down, the secrets kept inside your head? If there’s gonna be time makes you and me never to fall down.

You’ve got me all tied up. You rock me. All fired up.

Would you tell the truth of all the things inside your head? Would you lay it down, the secrets kept inside your head? Would you tell the truth of all the things inside your head? Would you lay it down, the secrets kept inside your head? If there’s gonna be time makes you and me never to fall down.”

Other than re-mixing the one song a few nights earlier, she hadn’t heard any of those songs since the last night she had played them on stage. She reached for the controls to turn off the radio all together but was distracted from her task when Sam reappeared with two grocery bags, rolled tightly shut.

“Okay. I’ve got everything we’ll need for tonight,” Sam stated as she sat down, placing the bags between her feet and clipping her seatbelt into place.

“Great.” Brooke turned the volume down on the radio when Sam stopped her.

“Hey, you don’t have to turn that down. Not that music.”

“Oh, sorry. I forgot that you liked them,” Brooke pulled her hand back from the knob and started the car instead.

Sam smiled, then closed her eyes. Her shoulders began to move as she picked up the rhythm of the song. It amazed Brooke to see the blonde getting into her music.

“That song always puts me in a good mood,” Sam stated as the song ended and the next song started. “Great. Anti-Zero, my favorite.”

“Yeah, it’s not bad,” Brooke added as she turned down a long private driveway.

Sam had begun to sing along with the radio and before long, Brooke found it contagious, joining in as well, singing the harmony she had recorded years ago.

Sam listened carefully with her eyes closed, wondering why she couldn’t distinguish Brooke’s voice from any of the others on the song. Maybe she’s just not singing loud enough, she finally resolved, opening her eyes to see the house as they slowly approached it. “Are we there already?”

“Yep. This is it,” Brooke answered as she pulled up in front of it and parked.

“Wow! No wonder C.C. never told me about it. I wouldn’t know how to describe it either.” Sam’s eyes roamed the exterior of the house.

Brooke smiled as she climbed out of the driver’s side door and walked around to open Sam’s door. “Well, let’s go.”

Sam got out of the car and turned around in a circle as she looked over the house and the land surrounding it. “Is all of this yours?”

Brooke walked up the steps to the front door to unlock it. “Yep. I made some wise investments a few years ago.”

“Obviously. But, I mean…you don’t have any roommates or anything?”

“Nope, just me and Mario. Speaking of which…” Brooke opened the door and whistled for the black and white husky.

“So, when do I get to meet this…oomph…” Sam found herself flat on her back as the large ball of fur proceeded to lick her face. “… Mario?”

Brooke laughed at the antics of her dog as she reached down to help Sam to her feet. “Sam, meet Mario. Mario, behave.”

Sam reached down to pet the dog. “You know, a simple handshake would have done just fine. You’re just a big mush ball like your Mommy, aren’t you?” the blonde gazed up at Brooke as the dog paid attention to her every word.

Brooke reached down and began to pet Mario as well. “You know, I was just thinking, that wasn’t quite what I thought you meant when you said you had a kiss for ‘Auntie’ when you came to the car. I think Mario got more than me.”

Sam blushed, slightly. “It wasn’t, huh?”

“Sam, why are you blushing?” Brooke asked as she tilted her head to the side.

“I was just thinking that I wished you had met me the way we talked about.”

Brooke smiled and walked over to Sam, sweeping her up into the tall woman’s arms. “What…this way?” Brooke asked, then kissed Sam.

Shocked, Sam pulled her head back. ” You’re reading my mind. Yeah, that way,” she answered, returning the kiss.

“Guess what?” Brooke withdrew from their kiss, placing her forehead against Sam’s. “Your feet are dangling.”

Sam looked down; it was true, her feet were dangling. You are going to be in so much trouble soon if you don’t stop. “So they are,” Sam commented before kissing Brooke one last time on the cheek, then eased out of Brooke’s arms to stand back on her own two feet.

Looking up at Brooke, she saw that bottom lip poked out in a pout once again. “There you go again with that lip.” Sam pointed out as Brooke nodded her head in agreement. “Do you always get your way?”

“Nope. Never,” Brooke answered.

“Good, ’cause you’re not going to now, either. Show me where I can put these groceries.”

Brooke smiled down at her companion and held a hand out for her to take. “Come on.”

“Okay… Ah, let me just get these bags.”

“Need any help?” Brooke offered. “I promise I won’t look.”

“I don’t know. Can I trust you?” Sam asked as Brooke knelt down until she was eye level with the shorter blonde.

“You tell me.”

Sam tilted her head in thought even though she didn’t need to. The answer to Brooke’s question was a simple and quick, “Yes.” Regardless, she couldn’t help tweaking the older woman. “Yeah. You look harmless enough.” She leaned forward and kissed Brooke on her chin.

Brooke smiled as she grabbed the bags from Sam so the younger girl could carry her overnight bag. “Come on, I’ll give you the nickel tour of the place.”

Making their way to the kitchen, Sam smiled and winked at Brooke as she turned the taller woman around, pushing her gently back out into the hall. “Just give me a minute to put everything away.”

Brooke rolled her eyes but grinned anyway. “Oh, all right. Come on, Mario. We know when we’re not wanted.”

Losing no time, she started putting away the groceries, the young woman could hear Brooke running up and down the hall with the dog like a child. God, how can I not love her? Sam stopped what she was doing, to give full attention to her thoughts. Did I just say love?

The blonde shook her head then finished, walking out the doorway to join Brooke in the hallway where she wrapped her arms around the tall woman’s waist from behind. “Okay, I’m ready.”

Brooke turned around in Sam’s arms and raised an eyebrow at her. “Are you?”

Sam blushed slightly at the teasing, “But, of course. After you.” She held her hand out for Brooke to show her around.

Grabbing the overnight bag, Brooke toured her around the first floor of the house, then proceeded to climb the spiral stairs to the second level.

Sam kept her eyes slightly to the left and upward as they made their way up the circling stairs, smiling as she watched the gentle sway of Brooke’s rear end hidden by the faded, worn jeans.

Reaching the top, Brooke showed her around each room, letting her choose which one she would occupy for the night. Of course, Sam didn’t realize until after making her choice that the next room was Brooke’s. The tall woman placed the bag next to the bed while the blonde walked over to the window to gaze out over the property.

“My God, Brooke, it’s absolutely gorgeous here.”

Brooke looked over at Sam and ignored the view outside the window. “Yes, it is.”

Sam turned around to face her date and began to blush as she realized that they were discussing two different things.

“So…do you like this room?” Brooke asked trying to take some of the pressure off her guest.

Sam looked around at the spaciousness of the room with its large four poster bed before turning her eyes back to Brooke. “Yeah, it’ll do,” Sam answered with a grin.

Brooke turned back to the blonde at her side. “Tough to please, aren’t you?”

The young blonde grinned and stepped forward, tapping her finger on the tip of Brooke’s chin, then running it straight down her torso to the open-mouthed woman’s waist. Grabbing a belt loop, she pulled the taller woman against her and kissed Brooke’s chin.

“That depends on who’s doing the pleasing.” Sam winked before turning and walked out the bedroom door, leaving Brooke speechless in the process.

“Brooke?”

“Coming.” The stunned woman shook her head and walked out the door, meeting Sam at the top of the stairs, before descending them together.

“Well, ah…that’s the nickel tour, pretty much. Well, all except for the studio downstairs. Would you like to see it?” The enthusiastic nod of Sam’s head gave Brooke her answer. “Okay then, come on.”

Brooke walked in front of Sam and led her to a door off the main hallway. She opened the door to reveal another set of stairs leading underneath the house in what should have been the basement. The dark-haired woman flipped a switch and the stairway was illuminated.

Starting down the stairs, she turned around when she didn’t hear the sound of Sam’s steps behind her. “Come on. The studio’s down here.”

“In your basement?” Sam asked as she began to follow Brooke.

“No, in the studio. The basement is off of the kitchen.”

Brooke opened another door once they were at the bottom, revealing a long hallway. She entered, then waited on Sam to clear the door.

When she did, she was in awe at the numerous framed pictures that lined the walls. There were pictures of Anti-Zero from the time the band formed up until the time they broke up several years later.

Brooke stood back and watched as Sam intently studied each photograph to the extent of bringing her hands up to several of them and tracing her fingers along the figure of the short-haired drummer.

“Wow! Where did you find all of these? I mean…these must have cost you a small fortune. Loran hardly ever let her photo be taken. I can’t believe it.”

“Yeah, well…we uhm…we’ve known each other for a long time.”

Brooke smiled at the star-struck expression on Sam’s face as she walked up beside her.

Brooke hoped her explanation would fly, while inside she was praying that Sam wouldn’t recognize that she was, indeed, the drummer the young woman idolized. Even though she was extremely flattered that Sam had such a crush on her as Brooke Loran, she wanted Sam to be with her, for who she was now, not what fame tried to make of her years before.

“Loran pretty much liked to keep to herself,” the woman stumbled a bit, finding it a bit difficult to speak about herself in third person.

“With a body like that, I can see why.” Sam traced another photograph of Brooke as the woman in question tilted her head in thought.

“What do you mean?”

“Look at the lines of her arms and shoulders. God, what some would give for a body like that? Drummers are usually in the best shape out of all the musicians.”

Brooke nodded her head in agreement. “Yeah, but she was much happier staying out of the limelight.”

“I bet, ” Sam began as she moved on to the next photograph. “Women were probably all over her.”

“They were. I mean…from what I’ve heard.”

“Is it really true that she was never into groupies?” Sam turned to look at the woman beside her. “I had heard that groupies followed all three members of the band everywhere they went, but Brooke was the only one to walk away from it.”

“Yeah it is. She never accepted an invitation from a groupie. Believe me she had plenty of opportunities to do so.”

They moved on down the hall towards the sound room, passing several smaller rooms on Brooke’s side of the hall, all of which had sound proofed glass for windows.

“I bet that must have taken some will power.” Sam rolled her eyes. “Did you know her for long? I mean…you still know her, don’t you?” Hopeful eyes stole a glance at the woman’s face.

“Yeah. I’ve…we’ve known each other for a long time. Most of my life actually. Why?”

Sam stopped and turned around to face Brooke. “What’s she really like? I mean…what turns her on?” The blonde looked away for a moment, embarrassed by what she was asking. “It’s just that she never told things like that when they interviewed her. She’s got to be one of the most mysterious people I can think of.”

Brooke thought about it and let the answer form in her mind before speaking. “Turns her on? I think her turn on was people who never cared about what everyone made her out to be. She’s quiet, actually, kind of shy to a point. She doesn’t let too many people see who she really is. Besides, she doesn’t come out too often.”

Sam thought carefully about everything Brooke was telling her, then came to her own conclusion, “She’s not into the fame thing. That seems about right for her.”

“Nope, not into fame at all. You know, that’s one reason the group is no longer together.”

“What broke them up? Do you know? The media never gave a reason,” green eyes looked eagerly for the answers.

Brooke ran her hand through her hair. “Yeah, I was there. It’s a long story.”

Sam smiled in response. “We’ve got all night. Unless you’d rather not talk about someone else.”

“Uhhh…it’s okay. Fame was one reason. The biggest reason actually. James and Peter had become obsessed with it. They no longer cared about how anything really sounded as long as the camera flashes were going off and the video cameras were rolling.”

“And she did…care about the music, I mean…?” Sam watched as Brooke walked up to a candid shot of the band playing live on stage.

The older woman studied it intently and then quietly answered, “More than anything.”

Sam walked over to Brooke and placed a hand against the tall woman’s lower back. “I always figured that music was the beat of her heart. I bet I’d never even recognize her if she were standing right in front of me today.”

Brooke laughed softly at the irony of Sam’s statement, then pushed open the glass door to the next room. “Care to see the studio now?”

“I’d love to.”

Brooke released a sigh of relief that Sam hadn’t walked an additional five feet down the hall, where the gold and platinum albums were hanging on the wall. Those would be a little harder to explain. She moved in after Sam to find the blonde looking at the sound board and then over to the drum set in the corner.

“Are they yours?” Sam asked in reference to the drums. Before Brooke could answer, the young woman had walked over running her hands up the short sleeves of Brooke’s shirt, feeling the muscles she found there. “Yeah, you play,” the smaller woman nodded her head.

“Uhhh…here, let me clear some of this stuff off of the board so you can check it out.” Brooke removed the master tapes and production notes before Sam could notice that they were Anti-Zero masters.

“Hey, I’m not a musician. That’s your department,” Sam pointed out as Brooke put everything away.

The dark-haired woman laughed as she turned back around to face the blonde who was spinning on the stool in front of her soundboard. “I guess it is. So, what would you like to hear?” Brooke asked as she pointed out a sample of her music collection. “Feel free to check out anything you want. Hell, sit behind the kit if you want to.”

Sam stood up and walked over to the cabinet where Brooke had her studio collection. Picking out an Anti-Zero song, she placed it in Brooke’s hands, then walked over to sit down behind the massive Pearl drum set.

“You wanna hear this?” Brooke asked as she watched Sam pick up a pair of sticks.

“Sure. Why not?” Sam answered as she stared at the sticks in her hands and began to twirl one between her small fingers awkwardly.

Brooke placed the disc in the player and walked over to Sam with the remote, pointing to the set of drums. “Can you play?”

Sam looked up at Brooke and laughed as if the older woman had lost her mind. “Noooo.”

Brooke smiled, “Would you like to?”

“I think it’s a little late for lessons, don’t you?”

“Not at all. I’ll show you.” Sam watched as Brooke positioned herself on the stool behind her. “Okay. Now, place your hands lightly over mine but leave your arms tucked under mine.”

Sam fidgeted nervously but did as she was told.

“Okay, now place your feet over mine.” She waited a moment until Sam was settled, then leaned in close to her ear and whispered, “It’s okay, Sam. Just relax.”

Taking a deep breath, Sam looked down at her smaller shoes on top of Brooke’s. Her legs were barely touching the tops of Brooke’s feet.

“Okay, now just close your eyes.”

Sam closed her eyes as Brooke hit the play button on the remote. Anti-Zero began to flow from the speakers around their heads. The young woman had never felt anything like what she was experiencing at that moment, and found herself in awe at how well Brooke knew the songs. There wasn’t a beat missed or a time change skipped, making Sam feel like she was in the middle of some vivid, musical dream.

Once the song ended, the blonde turned in Brooke’s arms and kissed her. Brooke swallowed the moan that was forming in her throat, as she placed her drumsticks on the snare and wrapped her arms around Sam.

“Thanks, Brooke. That was incredible.”

Brooke smiled in response and placed her forehead against Sam’s. “See? You can play. It’s as simple as that.”

“Yeah, but only with your lead,” Sam blushed as she spoke.

“I guess you’ll have to…practice, won’t you?”

“Hmmm…Do you know of anyone that would let me use their drums every now and then?” Sam pushed a stray lock of hair out of Brooke’s eyes.

“I’m sure I can think of someone. Hell, I guess I should practice too.”

“Brooke, you’re not the one who needs it.”

The woman laughed at Sam’s comment. “Hell, I haven’t played in well over two years. I can’t believe I still remember how to play those songs.” Brooke closed her eyes, taking in the soft touch of small hands as she felt Sam begin to massage her biceps once again.

“You were amazing, Brooke. Really, I can’t believe how great that sounded. You never missed a beat. You had every fill exactly as Loran played it. Hell, you even got that fancy bit at the end.”

Brooke opened her eyes and looked at Sam. “Well, I like to be thorough when I learn something.” Damn, she noticed. Why not just wave a red flag and say, “Hey, by the way…I’m the drummer you’ve been lusting over since you were in high school.”

“I can see that you’re thorough. Well, if they ever got back together and Loran didn’t want to play, you’d be a great second choice.”

Brooke grimaced then stood up and walked over to the CD player to remove the disc, returning it to its original location. “Yeah, thanks but I don’t think that’ll ever happen.”

Sam became worried at her friend’s behavior. “Brooke, did I say something wrong?”

The woman stopped and turned around to smile at Sam. “Not at all, Darlin’.”

“Good, because I didn’t mean to. Hey, why don’t I go make us that dinner I promised?”

“Sounds great. Need some help?” Brooke asked with a wink.

“Only in finding my way around the house and back into the kitchen,” Sam held her hand out to Brooke. “Feel like being a tour guide again?”

“Hmmm…It will cost you.”

“Damn, and I spent all my money at the store.”

“No you didn’t. I’m going to reimburse you for it. I did ask you out, after all.”

Sam responded by shaking her head, “Nope. You paid for the movie. And I offered to make you dinner.”

“Sam, at least let me pay for half of it.”

Once again, Sam shook her head. “No, Brooke. A deal is a deal and we agreed that the next time would be on me, so just live with it. Besides…can’t you think of a better way for me to pay my way?” Sam winked at Brooke.

Grabbing Sam’s hand, Brooke pulled the smaller body against her, wrapping her arms around the blonde’s waist. “Well…it won’t be money.”

Sam tilted her head to the side. “Ooh…so we’re bartering now, are we?”

“Maybe.”

“Okay, what’ll it cost me to have you as my very own personal tour guide?” Sam asked as she leaned into Brooke, wrapping her arms around the woman’s neck.

“A kiss.” Brooke leaned over and placed a soft kiss against Sam’s lips.

“Only one?” Sam asked as she placed another kiss to Brooke’s lips.

“Well, I didn’t want it to seem too expensive.”

“It’s a big house, deserving of more than one little kiss.”

Brooke thought for a moment about Sam’s response before seeing the logic in it. “How about a kiss for each floor?”

Sam thought for a moment then nodded her head in agreement as she reached up and kissed Brooke again.

“Mmmm…so this is the floor in the studio.” Brooke stated the obvious before picking Sam up and carrying her out into hall where she kissed the woman again. “This is the floor in the hall.”

Now, Sam caught on to what Brooke was doing and began to laugh.

“And just think, Sam, there’s technically a floor on each step of the staircase.” Brooke wiggled her eyebrows.

“Brooke,” green eyes glared then softened just as quickly, “We’ll never get to eat.”

“Well, I said a kiss for each floor, not for each level.”

Just then, Sam’s stomach began to growl and the smaller woman blushed with embarrassment. “Sorry.”

“Okay, let’s feed that monster in there and you can just pay me back later…with interest.”

Sam smiled and leaned up on her tiptoes to place one more kiss against Brooke’s lips before heading up the stairs. “Deal.”

Brooke walked Sam back to the kitchen, but never made it through the door. Sam already was chasing her out so the surprise wouldn’t be ruined. Reluctantly, the tall woman gave in and started down the hall with Mario at her heels before turning back around. “But, Sam, you don’t know where anything is.”

“Brooke, I’m a big girl. I think I can find everything.”

The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes, but smiled just the same as she went out the door into the backyard to play with the dog.

Sam watched out the kitchen window from time to time as she prepared their dinner. She smiled as she watched Mario chase Brooke around the pool, catch her, and knock the woman onto the ground, where Brooke would rolled over to pin the dog and continue playing with him. Sam noticed a tattoo on the small of Brooke’s back. There was something so familiar about it but she could not figure out why. Shrugging her shoulders, the blonde turned her thoughts back to preparing dinner, never giving the tattoo a second thought.

Sam opened the kitchen window and yelled down to the figure below. “Hey, Brooke. Dinner’s ready. You coming in?”

“Yeah. Be right there.”

Sam closed the window, not wanting to let any more of the air conditioning out than absolutely necessary. She heard the patio door open as Brooke walked inside and down the hall tothe bathroom to wash up. A few minutes later, Brooke walked into the kitchen, crossing over to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of water.

“I hope you don’t mind… I took a few liberties with your kitchen.” Sam pulled a couple of plates out of one of the cabinets and placed them on the table against the wall.

“Nope. It’s all yours. I don’t tend to use it very often, anyway. It’s kind of a waste for just me and Mario,” Brooke answered as she took the cap off of the water bottle and downed nearly half of the bottle.

“Yeah, I noticed. How many meals have been made in here? Two? Three?” Sam teased as she placed napkins and silverware on the table as well. She had considered setting everything up for dinner in the dining room, but decided that she didn’t want Brooke to get a peek at the surprise.

Brooke looked up to the ceiling in thought. “Uhmm…let’s see… I’ve been here for three years. That doesn’t count, that was microwaveable… ” Brooke continued to think and talk out loud as Sam watched on, amused. “…uhmm…Six.”

“Six? Is that all? Who did the cooking, your Mother?”

Brooke pretended to be hurt by Sam’s question. “No. Actually, I cooked for my Mom, thank you very much.” She nodded her head, proud of the fact. “I just chose not to do it too often. Besides, do you honestly believe that the woman would ever let me, or any of us for that matter, leave home if we couldn’t cook?”

Sam stood with her backside against the countertop of the island and crossed her arms over her chest, eyeing the woman in front of her critically. “You? Cook?” The blonde began to shake her head, “I don’t know about that…”

“Yes, I cook.” Brooke’s eyes glared with defiance, and then she lifted the bottle of water and finished it, placing it on the counter. “Every six months or so she makes me cook dinner for her to prove that I haven’t forgotten how.”

Sam laughed at the defensive tone in Brooke’s voice. “Let me guess, your favorite meal is…breakfast, right?”

“Yes, I do tend to like breakfast. But, I will have you know that I can cook anything you name.” Brooke puffed out her chest, proud of the truth in her previous statement.

The younger woman thought for a moment. “Hmmm…What about squid?” Not that she really wanted any, but just trying to gauge Brooke’s reaction.

“Calamari?” she questioned. “I could but would you really want me to?” Brooke asked as she turned her nose up at the thought.

“No, I was just asking.” Sam smiled as Brooke breathed a sigh of relief.

“Well, this smells great. You know you didn’t have to do all this, but I appreciate it. Thank you.”

“Come on and sit down. I made us some steak and baby potatoes.”

Brooke’s eyes grew wide. “How did you know I like steak with baby potatoes? It’s one of my favorites.”

“I didn’t know. You just look like that carnivorous kind,” Sam replied with a wink.

“You have no idea.”

Sam smugly dug into her potatoes, spearing one on her fork. Oh, I think I do.

“Would you like something to drink?” Brooke offered as she opened the refrigerator once more.

“Sure, what do you have?”

“Pretty much anything you could want,” Brooke replied as she bent over to look on the bottom shelf, giving Sam the perfect opportunity to admire her backside. “Sam?”

“Oh sorry… just thinking.” Sam was glad Brooke had her back turned and could not see the blush crawling all over her fair cheeks. “How about some caffeine-free soda? And I don’t mean the diet kind.”

Brooke smiled as she grabbed two sodas and shut the door. Turning around to face Sam, Brooke held up the cans for her approval. “How about some caffeine-free Dr. Pepper?”

“Sounds good to me. Thanks,” Sam took the offered soda and placed it on the table.

Brooke pulled out Sam’s chair and waited for her to take a seat. “Now, before you say anything, I’m just trying to be nice and show you how grateful I am for dinner.”

The blonde ran a hand down Brooke’s cheek before sitting down. “Thanks, Brooke. I mean that,” her green eyes twinkled in their sincerity.

“You’re welcome, Darlin’.”

Taking a seat next to Sam, Brooke began to eat the meal. After a few bites, Brooke slowly closed her eyes, savoring how delicious everything tasted. She’s prepared this steak, perfectly. I’m going to have to ask her later just how she knew which way I prefer it. “My God, Sam…everything tastes wonderful. This dinner is fabulous.”

“Dinner was nothing. Wait until you see the dessert,” Sam caught Brooke’s gaze as one dark eyebrow arched high on her forehead.

“Oh yeah? I get dessert, too?”

Sam placed her fork down, resting it on the plate. “Oh, come on, Brooke. Somehow, I get the impression that dessert is your main course.” She picked up her fork and continued to eat her dinner.

“Of course it is. See, everyone thinks that my arms are all muscle. Wrong, it’s dessert. Years and years of dessert.”

“I thought so. Now I’m really sure that you’re going to like my surprise.” Sam smiled as she watched Brooke’s blue eyes twinkle with delight.

After dinner, Sam disappeared from the kitchen to make sure everything for Brooke’s surprise was all set, as the older woman cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher.

“Hey Brooke, do you have a stereo or speakers for the living room?”

“Yeah. Look in the entertainment center, under the TV, the stereo’s in the bottom cabinet. There’s surround sound in there so the speakers are scattered around the room. I have them kind of camouflaged.”

Opening the entertainment center, Sam stepped back and admired the system. Ooh, surround sound. That’ll be nice. She’ll get the full effect from all sides. The blonde smiled as she moved around the room lighting candles, then she turned the lights down to a soft glow.

“What’re you doing in there, Sam?” Brooke called curiously from the kitchen where she was feeding Mario.

“Just getting the dessert ready, Hon…” She answered, only mildly surprised at how easily the term of endearment rolled off her tongue. “You almost done in the kitchen?”

“Yeah, I’m all done. Can I come in there now?” Brooke called back.

“Nope, not yet. Just give me another minute or two, okay?” Sam brought the dessert from the dining room into the living room and placed it on the glass end table next to the leather couch.

Brooke looked down at Mario, who had devoured his entire dinner by this point. “How about that, Mario? I’m being held prisoner in my own house.”

Mario lifted his head from the plate of food and looked over toward the tall woman, offering a soft “woof” at her.

“Yeah, and I don’t mind either, boy.”

Glancing around the living room, the blonde surveyed her handiwork. Then, with an approving nod of her head, Sam was satisfied that everything was in place. Reaching into her purse to retrieve a CD, she opened it gently and ran her fingers across the label on the disc’s surface. “So, you liked that dance number, eh, Brooke? Let’s see what this one will do for you.” Sam spoke quietly, reassuring herself that she had the nerve to go through with her plan. She kissed the CD for luck, placed it in the stereo and hit the button labeled ‘play’.

“Okay, Brooke. You can come in now,” she called into the kitchen.

Being cautious and not knowing quite what to expect, Brooke walked to the door of the living room, looking for the young woman.

“Is it safe?”

“Depends. Maybe…maybe not.” Sam walked over and took her by the hand, leading the curious woman to the couch.

“Oh yeah? Depends on what?”

Sam pushed Brooke down onto the couch as the song from Friday night, ‘All or Nothing’ began to play. “On you,” Sam answered softly as she began dancing.

Brooke followed the blonde’s every step and soon she could feel the perspiration beginning to form on her upper lip. Within a few provocative moves from the young dancer, the older woman was breaking out into a full-blown sweat. Despite the coolness of the room, the mesmerized woman’s entire being was now on fire as she watched the display in front of her. Rivulets rolling down from her head now accompanied the beads of sweat that had started as a sheen on her upper lip.

If that wasn’t enough, every hormone in Brooke’s body stood up and shouted to be heard as they screamed out their message loud and clear in her head. In fact it was so loud when Sam straddled her lap, Brooke thought it had to be deafening to anyone within a mile radius.

With each of her hands running down Brooke’s face then throat, Sam continued her taunting assault causing the dark-haired woman to loose all track of the world around her. Suddenly, Brooke found herself being drawn deeper into the world of feelings and passions than she had ever been led before.

“You said you wanted to see it again. Well, I made a little improvement on it,” the blonde offered.

Brooke’s eyes were as big around as saucers at Sam’s boldness. Her throat was dry as a bone as she tried to speak. “Oh yeah? How so?” she finally croaked out after clearing her throat.

Sam’s only answer was a smile and a sultry wink as she began to play with Brooke’s hair, causing the woman to close her eyes and take a deep breath as she leaned into Sam’s touch. Reaching over into a bowl on the end table, the blonde picked up a nice, juicy strawberry. After dipping it into a fondue pot filled with dark, melted chocolate, Sam brought it toward Brooke’s lips, then bent down slightly to place a soft kiss on the perfectly formed mouth.

“Open up, Brooke,” she whispered as she withdrew from the kiss, “I’ve got a surprise for you.”

Brooke opened her mouth as requested but kept her eyes closed from the kiss, as Sam placed the strawberry past her lips.

“Okay. Now, take a bite. Ah…gently please.”

Her lips first formed around the plump fruit as Brooke carefully closed her mouth, not knowing what to expect. The sweet explosion of juice that burst into her oral cavity surprised the tall woman as she slowly sank her teeth into the unknown offering. The moan that escaped Brooke’s lips could not be helped as she bit down. It was too much of an effort for her to reason out if it was the taste of the fruit or the position of Sam straddling her legs as its cause. At this point, she didn’t really care. Besides, why would she? One pleasure was just as good as another, especially now when they were just beginning to learn about each other.

“Mmmm…I thought you’d like that,” Sam replied as she ate the other half and proceeded to kiss the remnants of chocolate off of Brooke’s mouth.

“Mmmm…uh-uh…I like this better,” Brooke replied as she opened her eyes, watching Sam as she licked her lips.

“I was right about that too, I see.” Sam picked up another strawberry, dipped it in the warm chocolate and offered it to Brooke.

“Well then, you’re just batting a thousand tonight, aren’t you?”

“I always was a good hitter. I don’t let too much get by me,” was Sam’s quiet reply.

Brooke grinned at Sam as she stuck out her tongue to catch the chocolate dripping off of the strawberry before her lips. Instead of the warmth of the chocolate, she tasted a different kind of warmth as Sam captured her tongue between her lips.

With the fruit forgotten and dropped back into the bowl, their kiss deepened until both women were breathless from its intensity. After several leisurely moments of exploration, they broke away, each one gasping for a much-needed breath of air.

“I think I like you as dessert more than the strawberries,” Brooke licked her lips in demonstration.

“What strawberries?” Sam asked as Brooke grinned. “Silly, I come with strawberries.”

Both of Brooke’s eyebrows found their way into her hairline as she grinned at Sam. “Really?”

Stunned by what she was seeing, Sam reran the last few verbal exchanges in her mind and realized what she had said to justify Brooke’s reaction. She placed her hand with the chocolate tipped fingers to her face as she blushed. “Oh my God. I didn’t quite mean that the way it sounded.”

Brooke threw her head back, laughing as she hugged the embarrassed girl. “Hey, I’m just teasing you. I’m sorry, I’ll behave,” she wiggled her eyebrows, “…a little.”

Sam held up her other hand to prevent any further apologies from her friend. “Nope, that’s alright. I walked into that one myself. You don’t have to apologize.”

“Well, I love the surprise.”

Sam removed her hand from her eyes as she looked confidently at Brooke. “I figured that you would. I kind of saw that the other night.”

“Huh?” Brooke asked with confusion until realization hit her and she remembered walking in and watching Sam as she danced around the dorm room, half-naked. “Oh, when I walked in and you were…uhm…”

“Yeah, that’s it. It was just the look on your face. Besides, you didn’t know what I was doing. You were there for C.C.”

“Actually, Sam…to be honest with you, once I walked into that room, C.C. was the last thing on my mind. Other than you telling me that she had gone to class, I didn’t think about her at all that night,” Brooke admitted as she looked down. “I…just thought about you.”

“Hmmm…Is that good or bad?” Sam asked.

“That depends on if you mind or not,” Brooke replied as she looked back up into Sam’s eyes.

“Me? Mind you paying attention to me?” Sam shook her head as if the thought of her not wanting this woman’s attention was completely absurd. Which, it was. “No, I don’t mind at all.”

Brooke’s radiant smile vied for the right to illuminate the room in competition with the candles that were placed all around. “Really? Then you wouldn’t mind if…” she paused for a second, “…if I wanted to pay attention to you a little more often?”

Sam became speechless at the offer being placed at her feet. Searching for words, she finally started, “Brooke, what can I say? I’d like that…very much.”

She leaned in for a kiss when Mario halted their advances and jumped up to join them on the couch.

“I’m kissing you, Brooke. Not that dog,” Sam stated as she threw her head back in laughter.

Brooke grinned as she scratched the husky behind his ears and stared into Sam’s eyes. “Sorry, I guess he got jealous. Come on, boy. Get down.”

“Do you think it’ll be enough if we get down on his level?” Sam asked as Brooke continued to laugh softly.

“We could try, I guess.”

Sam removed herself from Brooke’s lap and sat down on the floor. “Come on, Brooke. I said ‘we’,” the blonde curled her finger inward beckoning the beauty, “that means you, too.”

Brooke slid down onto the floor next to the blonde and was soon followed by Mario who placed his head in Sam’s lap. “Yeah, but you’re younger.”

“What’s the matter? Are you too old to get back up? I’ll help you, Auntie.” Sam found it impossible not to tease the woman sitting next to her.

“You’ll help me get up? Then yes, I’m too old. Hell, I’m so old; I owe Moses a nickel. No, actually, come to think of it, that would be Randi.”

“Brooke, didn’t your mother ever teach you not to exaggerate?” Sam rolled her eyes.

“Hey, I never exaggerate,” she said with a devilish grin plastered on her face.

The woman arched her own eyebrow at Brooke’s statement. “Well, from what I’ve seen so far, I guess I can take you for your word. Would you like another berry?”

“Only if I get a kiss with it.”

Sam grabbed a strawberry and started to place it against Brooke’s mouth, then pulled it away. “Hey, what do I get in return?”

“I don’t know. What would you like in return?”

“Hmmm…I’ll think of something,” Sam answered as she gave the berry to Brooke only to have her fingers captured and cleaned of any remnants of chocolate.

“See, you kind of made a mistake the other night when you kissed me. Now, I’ll always want to kiss you.” Brooke pointed out as she released Sam’s fingers, much to the younger woman’s dismay.

“Well, that kind of mistake I can live with…for a long time.” The words were out of her mouth before Sam could stop herself.

“You sure about that?” Brooke asked, scared to hope.

“I think so…yeah,” Sam answered with a gentle nod as she smiled and leaned in to give Brooke a quick kiss. “Are there any other mistakes that I should be careful of making?”

“Don’t know yet. I guess we’ll find out along the way.”

“I guess we will.” She grabbed another strawberry and offered it to the dark-haired woman before grabbing one for herself as well. After eating it, she leaned into Brooke and kissed her, catching the other woman off-guard and causing her to topple over onto the floor.

Brooke’s only response was to laugh and pull Sam down with her.

“Is Auntie alright? Has she fallen and can’t get up?” the blonde teased.

“Yeah, laugh it up, Darlin’. I’m old remember? I might break a hip. Besides you’ll be here one of these years,” Brooke brushed a strand of blonde hair behind Sam’s ear.

“I hope so. Right here with you.”

“You’d like to be here in ten years?”

“Ten thousand years,” Sam answered as she placed her head on Brooke’s shoulder and hugged her. “But, I don’t think the strawberries will last that long,” she added with a giggle.

“Sam, there’s a lot you don’t even know about me.” Brooke heavily stressed her last words, “A lot.”

“I’m young. I’ve got time,” was the muffled response as Sam sat up and looked down into Brooke’s eyes. “Brooke, you don’t have to go into anything tonight. We can learn everything about each other, little by little,” Sam reassured the woman beneath her, scared that she had revealed too much too soon.

“Well, I really…what I mean is…I uhm…” Brooke leaned in as if to reveal some deep, dark, hidden secret and whispered, “I like peaches, too.”

Sam laughed, hysterically, happy that Brooke’s mood wasn’t as morose as it seemed a moment before. “Peaches, huh?”

“Yep. I love peaches,” Brooke added with a lick to her lips.

“I’ll have to remember that for the next dessert I bring you.”

“I will not be responsible for myself if you show up with peaches,” Brooke pointed out.

“Then we’ll just have to save them for later…”

Sam leaned over and kissed Brooke’s forehead. “You know…” she kissed Brooke’s right cheek, “like for another time that you invite me over.” She kissed Brooke’s left cheek, “Maybe after we get to know each other a little better.”

She tried to kiss the older woman’s nose but was stopped as Brooke kissed her deeply on the mouth.

“Mmmm…or next month…whichever comes first,” the words were whispered by Brooke as their kiss diminished.

Both women laughed nervously, letting it casually trail off. That’s when Brooke remembered to mention C.C.’s birthday. “Well, actually, you’re invited over on Saturday for C.C.’s birthday. But, you’re welcome here whenever you’d like.”

“I really don’t think that would be the appropriate time for peaches, Brooke…with your family around…do you?”

The older woman laughed at the way Sam refused to let the ‘peaches’ conversation drop. “Maybe not. Hell, my Mother is way too nosey for you to bring peaches over here. Speaking of birthdays, what do you plan on doing for yours?”

“My birthday?” Sam ran a hand through her hair, pushing it out of her eyes. “Nothing, like always. All the excitement is always the day after my birthday.”

Brooke placed a hand behind her head as she looked at Sam.

“Yeah? Why is that? What’s the next day?”

“Halloween. I was born on Devil’s Night.”

“Ahhh…I shouldn’t be scared, should I?” Brooke asked as she teased the woman next to her.

Sam leaned in until she was almost nose to nose with the older woman and whispered, “Watch it, I’ll cast a spell on you.”

“Yeah, what kind of spell? What are you going to do, turn me into a sex monkey?” Brooke asked as she noticed the twinkle in Sam’s eyes and the evil grin on her face.

“Not exactly.”

“Okay, so what then?”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” Sam answered as she touched her finger to the tip of Brooke’s nose.

Brooke rolled her eyes, “Okay, don’t try to change the subject on me, young lady. What would you like for your birthday? I mean, if you could have anything?”

“Hmmm…” Sam thought for a moment, then asked, “Anything?”

“Anything at all,” Brooke confirmed.

“That’s easy. I’d love to see Anti-Zero in a reunion concert. But, we all know that’s impossible. I know it’s a pretty hefty order but, what can I say? It’s always been my dream.”

“You’ve never seen them?” Brooke asked, wondering if there would be something a bit easier and less painful to pull off for her friend’s birthday.

“Only on the videos. Never in person,” Sam elaborated.

“Never saw them in concert?”

“Nope. Remember, Brooke…I’m the young one here.”

“Well, uhmm…if you want…I think I have some old concert videos around here somewhere. You can have them if you want.”

The tall woman started to get up to go check her video cabinet when Sam placed a soft hand on her arm and stopped her. “Brooke, you don’t have to find them now. Let’s enjoy the evening together. Just you and me.”

“And Mario?”

Sam laughed as she modified her previous statement and pulled Brooke down onto the floor next to her, “And Mario. Now come on, Brooke. Sit down here, put those strong arms around me and just hold me tight.”

Brooke smiled as she grabbed some pillows off the couch, scattering them around her, then wrapped her arms around Sam drawing her closer.

“I’m all yours, Darlin’.”

Two strong arms gathered the small woman closer as they settled in for a relaxing night. All talking was ceased and the task of communication was solely left up to the music that played softly in the background and the touching of their lips. Silently, each woman offered her own prayer of thanksgiving for the perfect date.

Ch7 When I Wake Up In The Morning
“…If all I need is your crystal heart to get me right, won’t you be my fix tonight?…”

With her mind still in a daze, the woman’s body functioned automatically as she found herself sucking in a mouthful of air. The warmth that was generated from the body beneath her made the woman more reluctant to stir from her position. The small blonde raised one of her hands slowly toward her mouth then, after removing the few strands of hair that had decided to take up residence between her lips, she stifled a yawn, letting her body stay where it was. Now, through fluttering lashes she tried hard to focus one weary green eye on what was in front of her. After staring at it for what seemed like forever, Sam finally realized that she was looking directly at an unclasped button on Brooke’s open shirt. Sam turned her gaze toward Brooke’s eyes and smiled when she saw the sparkling blue.

“God, is it morning already?” Sam asked, her voice thick with sleep as she yawned again. “Oh, excuse me,” she mumbled as she tried to raise the other eyelid open.

Brooke tried stretching her long frame without disturbing the woman resting against her as she gazed out of the window. “Looks like it.”

“I guess we never made it to bed.” Sam stood up slowly as her muscles protested the movement from sitting in the same position all night. She stretched, trying unsuccessfully not to yawn.

Grabbing Sam’s small hand in hers, Brooke traced her thumb over its back “Maybe next time?” The older woman’s brow furrowed with concern.

“Next time what?” Sam turned her eyes toward the woman sprawled at her feet. She smiled coyly at first then let it explode into a smile so bright it could rival the sun that peeked into the room. The dark-haired woman basked in its glow knowing that it was meant only for her.

Placing her unoccupied hand against the couch, Brooke stood up, grunting as she did. “Maybe next time, Mario will let us make it off the floor and into bed.”

At the sound of his name, Mario lifted his head and looked back and forth between his mistress and her friend.

“Aww, Brooke…who would he sleep with?” Sam asked as she reached down to scratch the Husky behind his ears. Then noticing the dog hair all over her pants, she began to brush it away. “He seems to have been up against me all night,” Sam added with a slight giggle.

“Then I guess he’ll have to sleep with you. He seems to like you.” Brooke released Sam’s hand that she had been holding, only to place both of her own hands against the small of her back, leaning into them to stretch the kinks out from the night before. She groaned as she did so.

“You are old…aren’t you, ‘Auntie’?” Sam teased the tall woman as the creaks of old bones could be heard.

Brooke rolled her eyes at Sam’s comment, causing the younger woman to let a small laugh escape from her lips. “Yep. You know how people get when they get old, dontcha?”

“Depends.”

Confused, Brooke looked at Sam. “Depends? Depends on what?”

Sam clasped her hands behind her back and twisted her foot against the carpet, looking like an embarrassed child. She tilted her head forward; batting her eyelashes. She looked up through them at Brooke. “Do you use them? Depends, I mean…”

Eyes filled with amusement, Brooke reached out for Sam, and pulled her back onto the couch. “Alright, that does it.” She began to tickle the blonde in her arms as Sam attempted to squirm out of Brooke’s grasp.

“Hey, I just asked,” Sam’s speech was cut off by her own laughter. “You know, Methuselah, you keep telling me you’re old.”

This only caused Brooke to tickle her harder, more determined than ever to win.

“Okay…okay! So we’ve established that you can hold your water…and that I can be tic…tickled.” Sam slapped at an insistent hand as she tried with all her might but couldn’t break free. Finally in desperation she squealed, “Brooke!”

With a speed faster than Methuselah could ever move, Brooke flipped the two of them over so that Sam’s back was on the couch and the taller woman was now straddling her hips. The tickling frenzy stopped. The tall woman leaned forward to whisper into the curve of a small ear. “What?”

Green eyes flashed as Sam felt the tingling sensation that she was quickly learning could be caused by Brooke’s lips as they brushed against her sensitive ears. “Wh…what do you mean…what?”

Brooke sat back on her haunches, and then placed one hand to either side of Sam’s waist as she answered. “You,” the tall woman leaned forward now to emphasis her point. “You’re the one who called my name.”

“Hmmm…” Sam smiled as she reached up to pull Brooke down for a proper good morning kiss, letting the long, dark hair cover her in a veil of privacy.

“Mmmm…that was a very nice wake up call,” Brooke whispered into Sam’s ear as she nuzzled the skin just below it.

“Can we consider this our first fight? Because I think I like the way we make up.” The small blonde wiggled her eyebrows and smiled.

Even though it was said in a joking manner, it still left Brooke a little concerned. “I don’t know…were you angry with me?”

Green eyes sought out the blue ones above her as Sam lovingly placed both hands on either side of Brooke’s face. “Not now…not ever.” And within seconds, she was rewarded with a bright smile for her answer.

“Then, from now on,” Brooke placed a kiss on her captive’s lips and quickly pulled back. “I guess we’ll have to have lots of tickle fights so we can make up afterwards.”

“That sounds like a great plan to me,” Sam agreed as she pulled Brooke back down for another kiss to seal their pact.

“Wait a minute. Sam was that…make up or make out?” The dark-haired woman paused for a moment in thought. “Because I honestly don’t think that I can tell the difference,” she teased the younger woman. Her thought process was stopped abruptly when she felt two hands moving further down her back until they ran lightly over her buttocks.

“Hey, make out comes later,” the rakish smile looked almost out of place on the young woman’s face. “Do I have to show you the difference?” she asked as her small hands grabbed the flesh and squeezed Brooke’s behind.

“Well,” Brooke whispered. “You could explain the basics to me.” The older woman took in a deep breath as she felt the small hands running up and down the length of her spine.

“I don’t know, Brooke. That could take some time. Do we have it?”

Glancing at her watch, blue eyes bugged out as if they were animated. “Oh shit! No, we don’t,” she quickly righted herself from the couch and pulled Sam up along with her. “It’s six-thirty.”

“What?” Sam grabbed Brooke’s arm to look at the watch. “I can’t go to class showing up like this,” she picked up her shirt, indicating the chocolate fingerprint stains from the night before.

“Come on,” Brooke grabbed Sam’s hand and hurriedly ran up the stairs. “You can take a quick shower upstairs. What about your overnight bag?”

Sam ran a hand through long, blonde locks. “I thought I’d be back in time to change for class so I didn’t bother to put a good shirt in there. Damn, Brooke, let’s do this on a Saturday night next time.”

They reached the top of the stairs and Brooke made her way to the linen closet for a towel and washcloth. “Deal. You remember where the bathroom is?” The dark-haired woman watched Sam nod in reply then continued, “Good. I’ll get you a shirt to wear.”

Sam made her way into the guest bedroom where she had left her bag the night before. “Yeah, like your shirt would even fit me.” She yelled down the hall then mumbled her after-thought as she glanced at her image in the full-length mirror. “Then again, it’s got to be better than looking like the cookie monster in a chocolate chip explosion.”

Brooke couldn’t help but to laugh at the idea as she met her at the bedroom door to hand her the towel and washcloth. “Here, I think you’ll need these.”

Accepting the items, Sam placed a quick kiss on Brooke’s cheek. “Thanks, Hon.”

The endearment caught the older woman by surprise, causing her eyes to twinkle as her mouth turned upward into a smile. “My pleasure.”

Almost dumbfounded, she watched Sam walk into the bathroom and place her bag on the floor. Grasping at wit’s end for a reason to spend a few more seconds in the same room as the young woman, Brooke rushed in and grabbed her toothbrush. Giving Sam her best toothy grin, she hastily grabbed the toothpaste and spread it over the bristles on the brush then walked out the door, brushing as she went.

Soft laughter carried on the air as Sam shook her head in disbelief of Brooke’s antics. Leaving the door open, she began to strip out of her clothes before shutting it and stepping into the shower. It wasn’t until she stood under the spray of warm water that she realized her omission of shampoo in her packing. Looking swiftly at the few bottles that occupied the shelf, she could find none labeled as shampoo.

“Hey Brooke,” Sam raised her voice over the noise of the shower. “Where’s the shampoo? I don’t see any”

“Wharrpt?” came the garbled response around a mouthful of toothpaste, barely audible through the bathroom door.

“Shampoo…do you have some?”

Brooke took the toothbrush out of her mouth before talking, “Check the cabinet under the sink.”

“Damn,” Sam cursed softly as she stepped out of the shower and moved over to the sink. She looked underneath but couldn’t find the item she was searching for. “Not in here, Brooke. I’m not seeing any shampoo.”

A few seconds later there was a quick knock at the half-opened door. Brooke stuck her arm in the doorway and held out the new shampoo bottle. “Here you go.”

Reaching for the outstretched hand, Sam made sure she tugged on Brooke’s arm as she asked, “Wouldn’t it be faster if we both showered together?” First the blonde heard the gasp then felt the muscles grow tense under her fingers. Sam held back a laugh knowing all too well the effect she was having on Brooke.

“Actually, Sam…it uhm…well…I uh…” Brooke squeezed her eyes shut and grimaced at the taste of the toothpaste she had inadvertently swallowed.

“On second thought…maybe not. I don’t think you’re ready for that. Maybe next time,” she teased before kissing Brooke’s hand as she took the shampoo from it. “Thanks, Hon.”

Brooke stood on the other side of the door with her back against the wall, trying to catch her breath and calm her racing heart. As her mind ran over the events of the last few minutes, her body slowly relaxed enough to slide down the wall’s surface until she was seated on the floor of the hallway where she called out rather weakly from, “Sam?”

“Yeah,” she answered sweetly, stepping back into the shower.

“Save me some cold water…pleeeeeeease.” Trying to regroup her shattered resolve, Brooke cleared her throat before asking, “Would you like some coffee to take with you? I can go make some.”

Sam found herself laughing quietly at the pleading tone of Brooke’s voice. “Sure, if you have the time.” Sam washed the shampoo out of her hair and knitted her eyebrows in confusion when she realized that Brooke’s voice was no longer muffled through the door. “Hey, Brooke…” she called out. “What are you doing out there?”

“Just sitting here,” came the answer through the door.

“Are you done foaming at the mouth?”

Foaming at the mouth, she mouthed to herself with a perplexed look on her face. “Huh?”

Sam laughed as she lathered up her body and proceeded to rinse off the suds. “Did you forget what you were doing?”

“No. I uhm…” the tall woman made an awful face, “swallowed the toothpaste. You kind of caught me off guard when you grabbed my arm and well, I uh…I mean when you said that…I uhm…” The confusion of the moment wasn’t helping her clear her mind and Brooke quickly decided to distance herself from the situation. “I’m gonna go make that coffee now.”

Brooke got up from the floor and ran a hand down the bathroom door, picturing the woman unadorned by clothing on the other side as warm drops of water were buffeting her. She shook her head to try and clear the images from her mind’s eye as she turned to go downstairs.

“I hope you don’t do that in bed.”

Stopping dead in mid step, Brooke turned her head and looked back at the door. “Do what?” She yelled out, not realizing that the water had been turned off in the shower.

“Forget what you’re there for.”

The tall woman could only groan as she repeated her previous statement. “I’m gonna go make that coffee now.”

Sam stood in the bathroom, drying off her body as she heard Brooke run down the stairs. She was rather proud of herself at having rendered the older woman senseless. She walked up to the sink, glancing into the mirror, and wiped off the accumulated condensation for a better view. Well, you have to admit for a first date, last night was…the blonde stared at her own image, while the image of a tall, dark-haired woman came to her mind, fabulous…dreamy. She took in a breath and made a wish of her own. By the gods, let her want this as bad as I do. I could be happy as a clam waking up next to her for the rest of my life. And having sex…She shook her head when the words sank into her brain. Nope…making love, Sam nodded as the shy grin grew into a blushing smile, would be icing on top of the cake.

Standing with the towel now wrapped around her body and brushing her teeth, the blonde heard a knock at the door.

Gingerly cracking open the door just barely enough to hand Sam a cup of coffee on a small white saucer, Brooke spoke up. “Thank God for automatic timers on coffee pots. I went ahead and poured you a cup. I wasn’t sure how you like it, so I put cream and sugar in it.”

“Thank you,” Sam responded as she took the cup from Brooke’s hand, unable to resist the temptation to run her fingers along the smooth skin in the process.

Feeling the delicate fingers against her skin Brooke whined through the door. “Are you dressed yet?”

“Almost, I just need to put my clothes on.” Sam took a sip from her mug when she heard a loud thud come from the wall and jumped. Placing her mug on the back of the commode she asked, “You didn’t fall did you Brooke?”

“Uh… no, just uhm…hit something on the wall. I’m okay.” Suddenly remembering that her friend still needed something to wear, Brooke hurried into her room to grab a shirt for the younger woman.

Oh, that really sounded like her head. I’m gonna have to be careful if I frustrate her any more. “Good, I’ll be out in a minute. I just have to put my pants on.”

Once again Brooke’s arm was thrust through the door, this time holding a shirt for Sam to borrow. “Here’s that shirt.”

“Thanks, Brooke” Sam slipped it on, amused at how it seemed to swallow her body from sight. Outside she could hear the sound of footsteps on the carpeting as Brooke paced back and forth in front of the door waiting for her turn at the shower.

A moment later the door opened and Sam walked out; the large blue rayon shirt covering her body to mid thigh. Her jeans were in her left hand while the small overnight bag was in the other. “It’s all yours. I’ll put these on out here,” Sam held up the jeans in her hand, waving them for the tall woman to see.

Brooke stopped pacing at the sight of the blonde emerging from the bathroom. Suddenly it felt as if her feet had developed roots, deep roots, like the kind that hold redwood trees in place. She stood there, her mouth gaping at the sight of the young woman in front of her, so much so, that she dropped her own boots and clothes onto the floor.

“Uh…Sam?” was all that she could say.

“Uh…Brooke?” The little blonde couldn’t hide her amusement at the older woman’s reaction as she imitated her speech.

“Can I uh…” the woman stood there pointing toward the bathroom door and swallowed hard.

Sam sighed as she placed her bag on the hall floor with her jeans on top of it. Taking the few steps over to Brooke, the smaller woman placed her hands against the strong back and pushed her gently in the direction of the shower. “Shower? Of course you can. I left you plenty of cold water.” Then the sassy, little blonde leaned in and whispered softly in Brooke’s ear. “Trust me, Hon…you look like you need it.” Small hands gave way with an urging nudge and the older woman found herself walking mindlessly toward the bathroom.

Brooke didn’t argue with her guest, she did need a shower, a very cold shower indeed. With her back turned to Sam; she placed one hand on the material of her shirt between her shoulder blades and pulled it over her head in an almost trance-like state, mindless of the clothes she’d left in the hall.

Picking up Brooke’s things and placing them in the bathroom, Sam withdrew, letting her eyes roam as she retreated through the door. That was when she caught another glimpse of the tattoo on the small of Brooke’s back that consisted of a set of drums in the middle of a pool of flames with: ‘Tell Me What It Takes To Play With Fire…’ scripted above it. Smiling inwardly, Sam shook her head. She’d only seen one person with that tattoo…Brooke Loran.

Now that’s funny. Sam wondered why her Brooke would have the same tattoo? Being pressed for time, she didn’t give it much thought. She just shrugged her shoulders as she stepped into her jeans. She probably got it on a dare… the big ‘Loran’ fan that she is. I wonder…Nah, my back would be too small.

Her thoughts were cut off as she heard the muffled sound of Brooke’s shriek coming from the bathroom. “Guess I saved you the cold water that you wanted.” Sam chuckled and continued to get dressed, thinking about goose bumps on top of goose bumps. She found her head filled with images of little blue Brookes dancing in showers of ice cubes.

“Something wrong, Brooke?” Damn, I just have to do it, Sam thought as she tapped lightly on the door. “You don’t need me to wash your back, do you?”

She pressed her ear to the door to see what effect her words had on her now definitely frustrated friend. The only thing she heard in the form of a response was a groan, a long, agonizing groan. Finding it hard not to giggle, the blonde felt proud of her accomplishment as she sat in the hallway chair to finish putting on her socks and shoes.

After listening to several minutes of steadily streaming water, it abruptly stopped. A few short moments later, Brooke walked out of the bathroom giving Sam a dose of her own medicine.

The appearance of the tall, dark beauty caught Sam’s eye immediately when she noticed Brooke’s state of dress, or rather undress, to be more exact. Green pools of wonderment followed the contrast of the open black silk shirt as it moved seductively, gliding effortlessly over the golden hued expanses of flesh. The poor blonde couldn’t stop her eyes from drifting down the woman’s chest to the unbuttoned, unzipped black jeans that clung to the slightly rounded hips. The unbuckled belt dangling from the belt loops only added to her distraction as it swayed like a slow moving pendulum with each step, daring her to follow it back and forth as it moved from jean to boxers as its background.

Sensing that her efforts were not going unnoticed, Brooke rallied her troops and sent out her final assault on the small blonde’s mind as she leaned over to pull on her boots. Glancing upward, blue eyes watched the effect that all of this was having on the younger woman opposite her.

Sam’s eyes widened as the silky black material fell away from the tall woman’s body. Before she realized it, green eyes were filled with golden hued cleavage, outlined by the black bra as it held on tightly to the mounds. Thoughts ran rampant through the blonde’s mind and she found her feet mindlessly backing away from the vision. Her progress was halted only by the chair in the hall as the backs of her legs bumped into it and she sat down, her eyes still fixed on the mounds of flesh.

Looking up, Brooke noticed her friend’s odd behavior and she went over to kneel down in front of Sam. Blue eyes leveled into green and concern filled the woman’s voice as she asked. “What’s wrong?”

“I…I was uh,” Sam tried to stutter out a response but couldn’t. Then it dawned on her. “Time…” and she glanced down at her watch instead. “Shit, look at the time,” she cried.

“Don’t worry. We’ll make it on time.” Brooke calmly placed her hand over Sam’s and flashed her a sincere smile. “I promise.” She stood up to button and zip her jeans.

Sam rubbed her right eyebrow with thumb and forefinger as she searched for words. “Look…at…look…ah…we definitely can’t be doing this when I have to be in class the next day, Brooke.” There’s no way I’m going to be able to concentrate on classes today.

“Do what?” the dark-haired woman smirked as she began to button her shirt starting at the bottom.

“Get up so late,” the blonde said not wanting to say what was really on her mind. Sam stood up and brushed the larger hand away from the silk shirt. “Here…let me do that,” she finished buttoning Brooke’s shirt and straightened out the collar. I can see you like to tease too. God I’m going to have to work hard to keep my wits about me with her around.

“Well, maybe next time we’ll have to sleep next to an alarm clock,” Brooke joked as she tucked in her shirt.

“And the operative word there would be what…sleep or alarm clock?”

Brooke shrugged her shoulders and smiled. “How about both?” She grinned and leaned forward, kissing Sam lightly.

Coming out of the kiss, Sam ran her hand down the front of Brooke’s shirt to smooth out any imaginary wrinkles. “So…does this job come with any other benefits?”

Brooke closed her eyes at the feeling of the small hands. “Job? What job?”

“Your button closer,” Sam replied as she kissed Brooke again. “Cause if it does, I’m applying right now.”

The older woman seemed to consider this for a moment as she opened her eyes. “Hmmm…yeah, actually, it does. The button closer can also apply for the button opener position.”

“Hmmm…double the pay?” The blonde smiled then asked. “I mean, for doing both jobs?”

“Wanna try for triple?”

“And what would that entail?”

Brooke held up her belt buckle and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at Sam. “I need a buckle closer too.”

With a growing smile, she ran her hands down Brooke’s chest then to her waist and buckled the belt. “Why not go for quadruple pay,” then the blonde leaned in and whispered in the taller woman’s ear. “I can open it too.”

The taller woman took a breath then croaked out, “Maybe later, Darlin’.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Sam kissed Brooke on her cheek and pushed off from her. “I’ll just get my bag and we can go.”

A dark eyebrow rose as Brooke nodded her head in agreement. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Jogging down every other step until she hit the first floor, Brooke headed for the kitchen. “Let’s see. Coffee pot’s turned off.” Reaching for it, she poured the remainder of it into two travel mugs and went over to the door, checking Mario’s food and water for the day. Satisfied that everything was in order, she called Mario into the house.

The frisky pet came running in through his doggie door and up to his mistress, who got down on one knee to greet him. “You have a good day, boy.” She scratched him behind his ear. “I’ll see you tonight.” Grabbing his face, she kissed him on his nose, then stood up to leave when she heard Sam come down the stairs.

“Ready?” Brooke asked, grabbing her briefcase as she rounded the corner by the front door.

“Yep,” was the immediate response from the blonde with a nod of her head as she headed toward the door.

Brooke grabbed her keys off the table by the door then turned to face Sam as Mario came running in to say goodbye to his new friend. “Look, Sam, thanks for coming over last night. I’m glad you were here. I had a great time. Maybe…we should do it a little more often.”

The small woman smiled at the honesty she saw in the depth of the blue eyes before her. “I did too. And I agree that maybe we should.”

Not wanting to be ignored any longer, Mario licked the younger woman’s hand. Looking down at the dog, Sam scratched the top of his head and let her sentiments come to the surface. “Yes, I loved being with you too, Mario. Only next time, how about if you don’t snore.”

Mario huffed a response as Brooke laughed and the two women left to start their day.

They made great time on the way back to campus, mostly due to Brooke’s constant weaving and dodging from one lane to the other. A rash of sputtered words that usually denoted the surrounding driver’s inability to stay out of her way occasionally broke the woman’s intense driving pattern.

“You idiot.” Brooke let her eyes fix on the driver as she passed by. “Learn the rules, buddy.”

Sam watched as Brooke concentrated on not hitting the jerk in the Camaro that cut her off in the HOV lane. “I’m not going to make you late for work or anything, am I?”

The woman looked over at the blonde, her anger at the stupid driver forgotten as she grabbed the smaller hand in hers and kissed the back of it lightly. “Not at all. I’m the boss so I can show up late if I want to.”

“Mmmm…nice job. You’ll have to find me one like that.”

“Yeah? I’ll see what I can do about that,” she winked in Sam’s direction before focusing her attentions to the road in front of her once again.

“Well, don’t wait too long, I’ll be needing to do an internship next semester to fulfill my requirements for graduation. We spend the last semester in the field.” Sam looked out the window at the passing scenery, as they got closer to the campus.

“Oh really?” Brooke asked, her interests now peaked. “So…anything else? I mean…what else is required?”

“Nothing much, really. I just have to do a project for a company in promoting something. That’s what Public Relations is all about, right? We just have to be in on the ground floor, at the start. Not like we’re walking into something already happening. If the promotion works, we pass.”

Brooke took the exit for the college off the interstate. As they came to a stoplight, she looked over at Sam and grinned, “The whole second semester, huh?”

“Yeah, the whole second semester.” Sam looked away from the window and over to Brooke. “Why are you grinning? What’s up with you?”

“Seriously?”

Sam rolled her eyes and turned in her seat so her entire upper torso was facing Brooke. “No, I said that to be polite. Yes, seriously.”

“I’m going to have a job opening in January,” Brooke said matter of factly.

“What do you mean, job opening?” Sam asked as she looked towards Brooke’s shirt. “I’m being replaced already? You’re dissatisfied with my buttoning so soon.”

This time, it was Brooke’s turn to roll her baby blues. “No, silly, not that job.” The woman flashed a smile then continued, “Brownstone just took on this band from Jersey. We signed the contract on Saturday and they should be done recording in December. I’m going to need help with their promotions. Everything involving PR will be done after the recordings.” Brooke looked away from her companion, noticing the light had changed and began to move the car forward.

Pursing her lips together, Sam traced a finger along the rim of her travel mug, deep in thought. “I don’t know, Brooke. You’d have to apply to the college and accept whomever they sent you. I can see where it would be a great project, though. I guess the applicant would have to match your specifications.”

“So, I’ll just make sure that my specifications match you.” Brooke winked at the woman sitting in the passenger seat, “What do you think?”

Sam shook her head. “And just how are you going to do that, specify no blondes over 5 foot 4 inches?”

“Hmmm…” the dark-haired woman mused. “No, better yet, no blondes over 5’4″ and must have green eyes,” she smiled, proud of her ability to narrow the specifications. “Oh, and now, older then twenty-one,” Brooke added as she glanced over to her passenger to see what effect it was having on Sam. “So, who’s your PR professor that I’ll be giving my wish list to?”

The young woman smirked, then took a sip from her coffee before answering, “Humphrey.”

With surprise evident on her face, Brooke quickly turned in Sam’s direction. “Janet Humphrey?”

“Yes,” Sam answered. “Did you have her?”

Brooke’s laughter filled the car as they continued down the street. “No, I never had her, but I have known her since I was four.” A broad smile flashed across the driver’s face.

“Owww!” Brooke couldn’t help but flinch as Sam smacked her in her arm.

“I didn’t mean that way, Smartass,” Sam pointed out.

“If you’d let me explain, I was just about to tell you that we have the same birthday and practically lived in each other’s houses when we were growing up.” Brooke rubbed her right shoulder as she warned, “Hey, watch how hard you smack me. I’m getting brittle as it is.”

“Okay, Methuselah…remind me to have milk handy for you the next time we have dinner together,” Sam grinned as she teased the older woman.

“Uh-huh…Go on and yuck it up.” She leaned over and placed a light kiss against Sam’s cheek when they came to a stoplight. “But you’ll be right here with me in a few years saying the same thing. Then you’ll understand.”

Sam shook her head in the negative as she pointed to the light that was now green. “Nah…I’ll never be as old as you.”

“Sure you will,” the driver nodded her head, “just not at the same time.”

The younger woman sighed as she entwined her fingers with Brooke’s. “But, you are right about one thing. I will be right here with you.”

Brooke smiled pleasantly as she brought their joined hands up to her lips and kissed Sam’s. “We’re almost there.”

“I know,” Sam sighed. “You don’t have to remind me.”

If the truth were to be known, Brooke wasn’t happy about their time together ending either. “Do you have to go by the dorm first?”

Sam looked up to see the building for her first class come into view as Brooke parked the car down the street. “No, I’d better head right to class. I wouldn’t want your sister to think I forgot. Besides, she agreed to bring my notebook with her just in case I was running late.”

“Is this okay?” Brooke looked around at the students walking by on their way to class.

“It’s fine.”

“I’ll just drive out the back way so nobody sees me. I mean, I wouldn’t want our cover blown.”

“I’d tell you that I really enjoyed last night but it’s been more like I’ve enjoyed the last 15 hours. I’ve had a wonderful time with you, Brooke.” Sam leaned over and kissed Brooke on her cheek, then opened the door to leave when she felt a hand on her other arm stop her. The smaller woman’s heart picked up its pace as she looked in Brooke’s direction.

“Sam, can you close the door for a moment, please?”

The blonde did as she was asked, never letting her eyes leave the ocean of blue in front of her. “Yes?”

Brooke cleared her throat, finding her nerves were more like that of a teenager on her first date than they ever were. “You know,” she glanced at the various windows around the car. “The windows are tinted and I was just wondering if I could kiss you goodbye.”

Needing no further encouragement, Sam leaned in closer to Brooke and kissed her solidly, placing her hands at the nape of Brooke’s neck then tangling them in ebony tresses as the kiss deepened. Finally, when air became a necessity, both women reluctantly pulled away from each other.

Placing her forehead against Sam’s, Brooke tried to calm her racing heart. “Will you call me later?”

Sam put her hand on the door as she leaned in to kiss Brooke again. “As soon as I get a free moment later today.” Before she could stop herself, Sam spoke what was in her heart, “Bye, Brooke, I love you.” The young woman stepped out of the car then, turned around to face Brooke and wiggled her fingers in a wave as she shut the door.

Brooke was left speechless in the driver’s seat as Sam walked away, amazed at the effect that this barely legal college girl had on her. There it was, all out in the open. With those three little words, Brooke felt that what was left of her resolve had vanished.

She didn’t even stick around long enough to see my reaction so, obviously, she’s not expecting me to feel the same way. But what if I do? Oh dammit, Brooke, quit fooling yourself. You haven’t been able to stop thinking about her since the day she walked into Mom’s kitchen with C.C.

The woman in the driver seat tried to look away but couldn’t. That’s when blue eyes flashed with alarm. This is all happening so fast though. But I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to and God knows I don’t want to stop this. I can’t. She means too much to me. She means…everything. God…how does that old saying go?

Brooke thought for a moment before it came to her. “It takes a second to like, a minute to crush, an hour to care, and a day to love” Yesterday must have been my day then because I…I love her. God help me, I actually love her. Then a little voice came crying out from the deep recesses of her mind. Now, what are you going to do about it?

As the older woman sat in the car having a private conversation with herself, her eyes never left the blonde figure that moved away from her. She never took her eyes off Sam, watching as the blonde would occasionally look back, seemingly wondering what she was up to.

The dark-haired woman waited for Sam to look away from her before stepping out of the car and hurriedly grabbing the cell phone from her hip, punching in a number.

Sam was nearing the entrance to the building when her phone rang. She looked at the caller ID, not recognizing the number off the top of her head. “Sam here…what’s up?”

Brooke stood with her back leaning against the passenger side of her car as she stole glances in Sam’s direction, her eyes hidden now by the sunglasses that she had put on. It was now or never. Come on, Brooke say it. It’s just three tiny little words. All they are, are words. Three tiny little words that could change the rest of your life. You can do it. Her inner voice urged her on.

“Hello? Is anyone there?”

The sound of Sam’s voice brought Brooke out of her musings. Do it. Say you love her…say anything…say her name at least. Damn it, anyhow.

Just as the younger woman was ready to hit “End”, she heard a quiet voice say, “Sam?”

“Yes?” She stopped walking and turned around to see Brooke leaning against the 300Z with sunglasses on and a phone in her hand. “Brooke, is that you?”

“Sam…I love you, too.”

A warm smile came to Sam’s face as her heart leapt into her throat. “Oh my God…I uh…I love hearing you say that.”

“Well, I mean it, Sam. Have a good day, Darlin and I’ll talk to you later.”

Sam smiled and waved at Brooke, then blew her a kiss. “I will, now. You too, Hon, later.” The blonde lingered for a moment, savoring what she had just heard before disconnecting the call. She watched as Brooke did the same, then walked nonchalantly around to the driver’s door and climbed back into the car. Within seconds the engine roared to life and the 300Z pulled out, blending into traffic.

“How about that? She loves me.” No words could express the happiness and warmth that Sam felt at that exact moment. She had known the night she went to the movie with Brooke that she loved the older woman. The first inklings had come to her when she noticed how polite and honorable Brooke was being in the theater. Sam didn’t really mean to tell her how she felt so soon, but she realized that sometimes your heart has different ideas then your mind.

As Sam turned back towards the door to the building, she noticed C.C. standing there, blocking the entranceway. Clearing her throat, the blonde swallowed hard and tried to act indifferent to the way she was feeling. “Hey, Roomie,” Sam gave a little wave. “Great, I’m not late. Have you got my notebook and pen?”

“Well, of course I do, what are roomies for?” C.C. handed Sam her book as they walked into the building and took the stairs up to the second floor.

“Thanks, C.C. I don’t know what I’d do without you,” Sam voiced her opinion to her roommate while she rolled up the right sleeve of her shirt.

The tall brunette waved off Sam’s comment. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t know what I’d do without me either but…I probably wouldn’t be here. Hey, nice shirt.” C.C. indicated the shirt that she knew she had seen numerous times before on her sister. Something was definitely up between her older sister and her roommate. Now, she just had to find out exactly what that something was.

Sam looked down at the large shirt. “Oh this? I …uhm…just got it.”

“Interesting, Brooke has one just like it. As a matter of fact, it’s about that size.”

Sam cleared her throat and willed the blush not to take over her fair features. “Really? Well then, it just proves that she has good taste.” Then, feeling like she had to say something, Sam offered, “Actually, I like to wear big clothes on Mondays, it keeps me loose from the weekend.” Yeah, she bought that like Eskimos buy ice cubes.

They walked into the class at the end of the hall and took their seats while waiting on the professor. C.C. placed her bag on the floor next to her seat and then turned around to face Sam who was going over her notes from the previous week. Placing a hand against Sam’s arm, C.C. rubbed the material with her fingertips. “You know, it’s kind of funny actually. Brooke was uhm…working one day and her right bicep ripped out the seam in the sleeve. It took me forever to sew it for her. She’s just so butch like that.” C.C. released the shirt and laughed to herself, not noticing the ‘oh shit’ look on Sam’s face or the fact that Sam began to rub the sleeve in question.

“Well, that’s not me. No bulging biceps here,” the blonde feigned a weak smile and turned her attention back toward her notepad.

“So…where’s your bag?” C.C. asked as she opened her own book as well.

“My bag? Damn, I left it in the car. I wonder if Br…” she stopped short realizing what she was about to say. “Ah, Crystal…yeah, Crystal will find it. I guess I had other things on my mind when I got out.”

C.C. looked over to Sam and whispered when she noticed their professor walk in and call the class to attention. “Crystal? I thought your aunt’s name was Sandy.”

Sam kept her attention focused on the professor as she whispered out of the corner of her mouth, “It is. Crystal is my cousin. She ahh…was the one who dropped me off. Trust me, Auntie was a little sore and uhm…distracted this morning.” Sam still couldn’t believe how much she was able to tease and frustrate her new friend.

“Really?” C.C. shuddered. “TMI, too much info for me.” C.C. decided she really didn’t want to hear anymore.

“Yeah, well, they get that way sometimes.” Sam said with a grin, as she thought about the morning with Brooke, oblivious to the lecture going on around her.

Brooke walked into the Brownstone offices and took the stairs two at a time up to the third floor. She whistled as she walked down the hall toward her office. Opening the large glass door and stepping through, she smiled at the two women in the office.

“Good morning, Ida. I trust you had a lovely weekend.” Brooke stopped next to the two women.

“Yes, Ms. Gordon, I did. Thank you for asking. I covered the phones for you while you were out.”

“Wonderful! Thank you.” The executive turned to the other woman who was from accounting and smiled at her, “And you Melissa, how was your weekend?” Brooke asked the young accountant.

“Just fine…uh…thank you, Ma’am.” The woman looked at her boss rather oddly.

Brooke waved a hand to dismiss part of Melissa’s answer. “Please, Ma’am is my mother and I do not see her in this office, do you?”

Melissa stood still while Ida chuckled at their boss. “You’re in an awfully good mood, Ms. Gordon.”

“I am in a great mood, Ida. It’s a wonderful morning.”

The C.E.O. excused herself from the two women and continued into her office, placing her briefcase next to the desk. She then turned on her computer. “So, Ida, any calls this morning?” Brooke called out as she typed in her network password.

The woman walked up to Brooke’s office door, sticking her head into the office, “Nothing important. Someone has been calling since 8:00 this morning but he hangs up when I tell him you’re not here.”

“Thank you, Ida. I think I’ll be fine now by myself. I remember how to answer the phone.” Brooke grinned at the older woman in her doorway.

“Thank you, Ms. Gordon. Will you be needing anything else?”

“No, thank you. I’m just fine.”

Ida smiled in return and walked out. Melissa joined her as they made their way to the break room for a refill on their coffees.

“Wow, I don’t think she’s ever been late on a Monday. Then again, I don’t think she’s ever been late,” Ida pointed out as she poured the hot beverage into her mug.

“Yeah, she must have finally broke down and got some.” The two women laughed as Melissa refilled her mug as well.

“Lucky girl. I wonder who could have turned her head. Hell, who turned her on? I know a lot have tried.” Ida chuckled to herself as she added cream and sugar to her coffee. “Did she sign anybody new to the label?”

Melissa thought for a moment before answering. “Some band from New Jersey over the weekend but, I’ve already had the paperwork on each individual member. All men and knowing our boss, she’s not going there.” The accountant marveled at how open her new boss had been when hiring her. She left nothing to mystery about her sexual preference for the office rumor mill and no one seemed to have a problem with it. “Does she have any old flames? I mean, you would know, you’ve been here the longest.”

Ida thought about the question as she took a sip from her mug. “None that I can remember. But, you know, she doesn’t seem like the type anyway. She seems very private and honorable when it comes to real love.”

Melissa considered this for a moment and started to walk back to her office.

She stopped at the door and turned around to face the older woman. “Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”

Ida looked up at the young accountant with a raised eyebrow nodding in agreement. She watched as the woman walked down the hall, then raised her cup to her own lips and pondered who could have been the one to turn the business woman’s head.

Brooke was sitting in her office going over some new contracts when her phone rang. Without taking her eyes off of the documents in front of her, she picked up the receiver and placed it against her ear. “Brownstone Records, Brooke Gordon.”

“What’s up, Sis? Didn’t see or hear from you all weekend and you didn’t show up at Mom’s for dinner yesterday so… what gives?”

Brooke set down her paperwork and leaned back in her chair. She placed one booted foot against the edge of her desk and began to swivel from side to side. “Hey, C.C., nothing much is going on. I just uh…hung around the house over the weekend, pretty much.”

“Oh, just curious since we didn’t see you yesterday.” C.C. cleared her throat as she planned her attack, “So uhm…Brooke, did you happen to find a bag in your car this morning?”

Without thinking, Brooke began to answer. “Yeah, I did, Sa…” Brooke stopped short.

C.C. realized that she had her answer and mentally pumped her fist in the air. “Sorry, Brooke…what was that?”

“Uhhh…ah, nothing. Sa… Say, how about you and I go get a beer on your birthday? Sound alright?”

The younger sibling smiled at the way Brooke decided to cover her slip. “Yeah…that sounds great, and you said I wouldn’t make it to see twenty-one.”

“Well, Chase, just remember that you’re not there yet. Hey, uhm…if Sam’s not doing anything…why don’t you ah…bring her along.”

The younger sibling couldn’t believe her ears. Oh my God, this is just getting too good. “Sure, Brooke. You sure you don’t mind?”

“Positive. I think I can survive another night around her.” More like several nights.

“That sounds great, Brooke, thanks. I’ll talk to Sam about it but right now I’ve got to get to class. So, I’ll talk to you later this week?”

Removing her foot from the desk, Brook sat up straight in her chair. “Yeah that sounds good. I’ll talk to you later. Bye, C.C.”

“Later!”

Brooke hung up the phone and noticed Ida standing in her doorway. “Yes, Ida?”

“I’m sorry to disturb you, Ms. Gordon, but a young lady by the name of Sam called while you were on the other line. She said she’d try to call you later.” Ida wondered exactly whom Sam was when she noticed the instant smile that appeared across the face of her boss at the mention of the young woman’s name.

“Thank you, Ida. You know, I’ve told you several times that you can call me by my first name, Brooke. You’ve known me for years and ‘Ms. Gordon’ just seems too formal.”

Ida’s response was to smile warmly at the younger woman and answer, “Yes, Ms. Gordon.”

Brooke simply shook her head at the older woman, then picked up the papers on her desk and resumed her work.

With her coffee mug in hand, Brooke returned to her office from the break room.

“Yes, oh…she just walked in. Just a moment, please.” Ida motioned Brooke into her small office as she put the call on hold. “Ms. Gordon, the caller from earlier is on line two.”

Brooke’s heartbeat sped up. Sam. “Thank you, Ida. I’ll take it in my office.”

The executive walked into her office, shutting the door as she entered, and sat at her desk. Taking a calming breath before picking up the phone, Brooke hit the flashing button for line two before leaning back in her chair.

“Hi…I wondered when you would call,” Brooke spoke quietly into the phone.

A shocked voice answered, “Oh really? Since when did I move onto your good side?”

Brooke straightened her posture as she spoke seriously into the phone, her eyes narrowed and glared. “James?”

“Yeah. Who did you think it was? I’ve been trying to call you since eight this morning.”

“I didn’t know. I just got into the office a little over an hour ago and Ida mentioned that someone had been calling but didn’t leave a name. How was I supposed to know it was you?”

“Hmmm…must have been a good one then for you to just dump your routine. Now I know why you answered the phone like that. Obviously, it wasn’t for me.”

Brooke began to rub her temples. She could feel a headache coming on by just talking to her former band mate. “Not now, James,” she warned. “You have no idea what you’re talking about so I suggest that you just not say anything at all.”

“When then?”

With irritation evident in her voice, she snapped. “When what? To listen to your line of bullshit about my routine as you call it? Never. Now, if you’d like to tell me that you actually have a reason for calling…”

Laughter could be heard across the phone line. “Just like you, Brooke. You’re always hiding from the truth. Face it, Babe, you’re just like the rest of us.”

As hard as she tried, Brooke could not hide the anger from her voice. “I am nothing like you. I never have been. Now, either you tell me your reason for calling or I’m hanging up.”

“You forgot already, didn’t you? You were supposed to get back to me.”

“I didn’t forget anything. I told you I’d think about it.”

“Well, what’s it going to be, huh? Dammit Brooke, I can’t sit around here waiting for you to think it all through. The bottom line is I want the best and you’re it. So, what’s it gonna be?”

“James, you know, I thought I could work with you and Peter again but if you’re going to be pulling this kind of shit…” Brooke was cut off by the deep voice on the other end of the line.

“So what’s the hold up? Too scared to come out of retirement?”

“I was never scared. And I’ll do it but, it’ll cost you.” There was silence on the other end of the line as she waited for James to speak, curious as to what his answer would be.

“Yeah, what’s the price then because I’m not going to say that I’m sorry. If that’s your price, forget it.”

Brooke searched through her desk drawer for some aspirin. She found the bottle and shook it. Unhappy to discover it was empty, she made a mental note to go get some as soon as she got off the phone.

“Well, for one, if we do this, you leave the bullshit attitude at the door, you and Peter, both. Before you walk into that studio, leave the egos at the door. Do you understand that?”

“Is that all?”

“No, I want one night.” Brooke couldn’t believe she was actually going to ask for what was on her mind.

“One night for what?” James smirked as a thought entered his head. “I didn’t think you were a switch hitter but if that’s what you want, no problem.”

The angered woman swore she could actually hear James smile. “I’m not.”

“Into threesomes then? Cool. That’s fine too.”

The actual thought of what James had indicated made Brooke physically ill. “No, wrong again. I want one night of Anti-Zero, for a…a friend.”

“Anti-Zero is dead. You should know that, you killed it.”

Brooke could hear the venom dripping in his tone of voice. “You know, James, I really don’t want to get into this with you right now. We’ll just re-vive it long enough for one night.”

“Why? What’s so damn important about Anti-Zero to your friend?” As much as he didn’t want to do it, James was interested to hear exactly what Brooke had in mind.

“God knows why, but she loves the band.”

“I see. So, what’s the gig, some charity event for music? That would be your type.”

“What do you mean by ‘my type’?”

“Some freebie event for music’s sake. Who’s gonna handle the publicity?”

Her head was pounding and Brooke couldn’t stand it anymore. She knew that the voice on the other line was the cause of it. Muting the phone, she walked over to her door and opening it, she called out, “Ida.”

The older woman stuck her head out of her office. “Yes, Ma’am?”

Rubbing her forehead, Brooke asked, “We got any more aspirins around here?” She held out the bottle from her desk drawer and turned it upside down. “Could you find me some?”

Ida nodded and took off down the hall in search of over the counter painkillers for her boss.

Brooke turned back into her office as she unmuted the call. “There will be no publicity. This will be done privately. It’s for her birthday. I want this to be my present to her. It will be a private party, at my house with no one but her friends and family present. You want a great record? That’s my price.”

James sighed into the phone. “So what do you want, just a couple of songs? Is she a looker, or some over-the-hill oldster?”

“No, I want one full night of all the Anti-Zero songs. Even the ones we never released.” Brooke drew in a breath and blew it out slowly, then continued. “And you, James, will stay away from her. She’s not some groupie like you’re used to. She’s not even as old as we are.”

“What’s wrong, Brooke? Afraid that I’d persuade her to be something you don’t want her to be?”

“No, I’m not afraid of something that won’t happen. But for some reason, she fucking loves Anti-Zero. She doesn’t know how deluded you really are and I don’t want to take that away from her.”

There was a knock on Brooke’s office door and Ida poked her head in, waving a bottle of aspirin. Brooke held out her hand and mouthed “Thank you” before turning her attention back to the matter at hand.

James mumbled, “We’ll see.” He coughed and started to speak again. “Okay. You’ve got your night. But when? I’ve got things scheduled already.”

Brooke knew the answer immediately. “October 30.”

James laughed. “Devil’s night. How appropriate. You always said Hell would freeze over if we ever played together again.”

Even Brooke had to laugh at the truth in James’ statement. “Yeah, I guess so.” Brooke popped two aspirins with a big swig of her coffee. “So, will you do it?”

“I hate to say this, but you’ve got me over a barrel here. If I have to do it to get you, then I will. What time?”

Brooke breathed out a sigh of relief, not because she was looking forward to playing with James again, far from it. She was just happy that he agreed. After all, this was for Sam, not her and she would do anything to make Sam’s twenty-first birthday a memorable night for the young woman.

“We’ll talk about that the closer we get to it then. When do you wanna start recording? I can do it any time after next Sunday.”

“With you, the sooner the better…before you change you mind.”

“Look, James, you agreed to the one thing I really wanted. I won’t change my mind. You’ve got my word on that.”

“Okay, then you set up the recording time. I’ll keep my schedule open for a week after Sunday. So, what’s the cost? How much per hour?”

“Cost for the studio? Nothing.”

James couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You must want this pretty bad. Why, Brooke?”

“It’s simple. Because it would make her happy, that’s all. She wants this, James. So, I want it for her.”

“Damn, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that you finally found something other than music to invest yourself into, didn’t you?”

Brooke thought about how strange it was that the conversation with James had turned in this direction. She had no qualms about informing him just how important this was to her. “Honestly? Yes, but that’s just it. It’s like she’s a part of it. She loves music and she loves those old songs.” Brooke smiled when she remembered the enthusiasm Sam had shown the night before as she marveled at all the musical equipment. “She’s like a five year old on Christmas morning when she hears them.”

“I can’t believe it, the great Brooke Loran has finally fallen in love.”

The sound of James laughing on the other end brought Brooke back to the present. “I uhh…James, I haven’t…Aww, Hell!” Brooke couldn’t believe James had noticed. Oh my God, if James noticed, how am I going to hide this from everyone else?

“Oh my God, you did, didn’t you?”

“Are you going to rag me about it from now until we’re done recording?”

“Maybe. Just maybe.”

“Well then, I guess you’ll just have to wait for an answer.” Brooke heard James sigh on the other end of the line.

“Ahhh… it’s kind of nice knowing that it can happen to anyone. Hell… maybe you are human after all.” James laughed into the phone.

She couldn’t help but join in and laughed as well. “Asshole,” tumbled out of her mouth. It was her traditional name for him in times like these.

“Yeah, yeah, I know that answer already. I’ve heard it before.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that? That you’re an asshole?”

This time, James snorted into the phone. “Glad to see that you haven’t changed that much. Same old Brooke, only…getting older.”

“Hey, I’ve changed plenty and just what is it with everyone giving me shit about my age?”

“Yeah, well, we’ll see. I’ve got to get moving. Talk to you later, Grandma.”

“Yeah, bite me.”

James thought it ironic that even as a joke, Brooke had chosen those words to comment with. “I tried, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Brooke shook her head, “I’m trying to forget.”

He rubbed his jaw as the memory of the punch Brooke landed on him that last night three years earlier still stung him today. “So am I…” he whispered, “So am I.”

“Talk to you later, shithead.”

“Right.”

Brooke hung up her phone and laughed at the situation. She was going to play with Anti-Zero again. It would be for only one night and just for Sam. Brooke thought for a moment about the last few lines of conversations between James and herself. If just for a moment, she thought she had heard her old friend on the phone…just for a moment.

The tall brunette walked into the dorm room and was literally shocked at the sight that greeted her eyes. Sam was taking down posters and various pictures of Brooke and Anti-Zero.

“Oh my God. What’s up? You over that phase?”

Sam folded each poster carefully and placed them in a small box. “It was always just a dream. Besides, I’ve found something better, something that I love even more.”

C.C. placed her bag on the floor next to her bed and sat down, cross-legged on top of it. “Wow, something you love more than Brooke Loran?”

“Yeah, funny, huh? I thought that I’d never say that.” Sam replied as she stood on her bed to reach a picture high on the wall, near the ceiling line.

“Nah, I don’t think it’s funny, not really. So, can I ask, or do I need to? ”

Sam turned her head in the direction of her roommate. “Why do you say that?”

The woman just grinned. “You know, Sam, I’m not as dumb as everybody thinks I am.”

Sam stopped what she was doing altogether and sat down on her bed. “When did you…” she eyed her roommate suspiciously. “You do know, don’t you?”

C.C. nodded her head in the affirmative. “Your shirt, or I should say, Brooke’s shirt. She had that shirt custom made. There’s not another one like it.”

Sam’s face flushed a bright red. “It figures.”

“What? Why are you so red, Sam? Everyone deserves to fall in love sometime, even my sister.”

“I hope that you’re not mad. I mean, me dating your sister.” Sam looked up to meet the warm, brown eyes of her roommate.

“Are you kidding? I think it’s great. Why would I be mad?” C.C. immediately stood up from her bed, crossed the room and sat down on Sam’s bed, next to the blonde. “Besides, your aunt called last night, so it was more than just the shirt that clinched it for me.” The brunette winked at her roommate.

Sam’s eyes got as big around as saucers. “She did? What did she want?”

“Don’t worry. She just wanted to see how you were doing. I told her you had a study group and would call her tonight.” The woman turned a stern face to her friend. “Hey, and don’t try to change the subject on me, young lady.”

“Big secret that was,” Sam placed her head in her hands and covered her eyes.

“Hey, don’t worry about it.” C.C. pulled Sam’s hands away from her face and took one of them in her own. “Nobody else has to know. Look, Sam, I know when to keep my mouth shut and that means anything concerning Brooke.”

The blonde looked over to her roommate, “I can’t believe that you’re taking this so well. I was afraid that you’d be pissed at me for seeing her.”

C.C. rolled her eyes at how absurd Sam’s statement sounded to her ears. “Of course I’m taking it well. Besides, I saw her before she pulled off this morning.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, I’ve never seen her smile like that ever. Let me put it this way. I was close enough to read her lips.”

Sam thought about Brooke’s phone call and what was said. “C.C., I…I…”

“You know, she’s never told anybody that she loved them.”

“She hasn’t?” Sam couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Well, except for us girls, Mom and Dad, but that’s always been more of a grunt and a ‘yeah, love you too’. She’s never come right out and actually put all three words together to form the whole ‘I Love You’ bit.”

“I never thought I’d be this lucky, at least not this early in my life,” the young woman’s smile lit up the entire room.

“Sam, believe me, those are not words she takes lightly. If she said them, she really means it.”

“Oh my God, C.C., what do you think all of this means?”

“It means, you better get used to seeing me, girlfriend, because you are stuck with my sister, now.” C.C. smiled as she got up from the bed and made her way into the bathroom to prepare for bed.

“Good thing I only have to room with you for a year,” Sam called out, as she got up to take down some more pictures.

C.C. stuck her head out the bathroom door and spoke around the toothbrush in her mouth. “Yeah, but, I kind of come with the package. Believe me Sam, if she said those words to you, she means it with all her heart.”

“Package? What package?” The blonde’s brows furrowed with concern.

“I’m one of the sisters, so get used to me. You’re family now.” C.C. disappeared back into the bathroom to rinse the remaining toothpaste out of her mouth.

“I always was family, C.C.” Sam said with a laugh at her own joke as she watched the brunette walked back into the room wearing a large T-shirt that covered her to mid thigh.

“You know, Sam, I think you’d be quite surprised at what you’ll find out about my dear sister.” She pulled the covers down on her bed and got in.

“I’m beginning to think that myself, C.C.”

The brunette watched as her roommate took down all but one of the pictures of Loran and one band shot. Sam placed the rest in the box and stored it in the top of the closet. “Hey, C.C.?”

“Yeah?”

Sam turned around to face her friend. “You’re not going to say anything to the others, are you?”

“No, nobody else knows. You two can handle that when you’re ready to.”

Sam smiled in relief. “Thanks, Sis.” Sam couldn’t help but throw that last word in as she made her way to the bathroom.

“Let me put it to you this way. Right now, it would probably ruin Terri’s and Randi’s image of her.”

“Huh? What image?” Sam asked as she stood in the bathroom doorway brushing her teeth.

“The whole ‘Stud Puppet’ image they have of her. Let me put it to you this way, Sam.… Brooke has always believed that love and body go together.”

Sam shrugged her shoulders. She wasn’t sure where C.C. was taking this conversation. “So?”

“So,” the woman motioned with her hands trying to pull it all together for her friend. “She’s never given her heart to anyone so…” CC looked at Sam and smiled, wondering if the blonde had caught on to what she was trying to tell her.

“Okay…I think I’m getting the picture.”

“Yep, and I’m the only other one who knows. Its amazing what I can get her to tell me when she’s drunk, which is not that often, mind you.”

After changing into her nightshirt, Sam turned off the bathroom light. She walked over to her bed and sat down, facing C.C. “Physically, she loves a lot, but only for the feel,” Sam thought about the night before at Brooke’s house. “…She didn’t even try to push me for sex. I mean.” She shrugged her shoulders, “we just kissed and did a little petting.”

C.C. rolled her eyes in exasperation. She thought Sam had understood what she was saying. “Of course she didn’t push you for sex. Haven’t you heard me? She wouldn’t do that.”

Blonde eyebrows knitted in her confusion. “C.C., I’m not sure what you’re saying here.”

“She’s never given her heart to anyone…or her body.”

“Holy Shit! Do you mean to tell me that she’s a virgin?”

“Yeah, she is.” Somebody give the girl a cookie!

“But, she kisses so damn good. I thought she was experienced. I mean…”

“Sam, I said she was a virgin. I didn’t say she was dead. Besides, I’m sure she has a damn good idea of what goes on when things…ah…go on.” C.C. watched, amused, as Sam sat on the opposite bed with her mouth open in shock. “What, you’ve never met a thirty-year-old virgin before?”

“Well, let’s face it, C.C.,” Sam tried to sound coherent but was having a bit of trouble, as reason seemed to be a fleeting fancy. “You don’t meet many of them nowadays.”

C.C. fluffed her pillow up until she was happy with it and placed her head on it. “What can I say? Brooke is old-fashioned. Like I said, I’m the only one other than her who knows. Well, and James,” C.C. glared at the mention of his name. “And now you.”

“God, what she must have thought about that dessert.” Sam hid her face in her hands as she thought about their ‘chocolate play’ the night before.

At the same time, both women looked up at each other and spoke at the same time.

“Dessert?”

“James?”

“What dessert?”

“Who’s James?”

Both of them laughed at their timing and C.C. was the first to answer.

“He…ahh…he was her best friend. She and James grew up together. They were best friends and then a couple of years ago, they got drunk one night and he hit on her. As far as I know, they haven’t spoken since.”

Sam thought about the information she had just been given. “Hmm…I bet he was sorry.”

“Sorry? Why?”

“Oh, come on, C.C. She’s your sister. I can’t see Brooke just saying no. I bet she clocked him.”

C.C. thought about the day Brooke came home from the tour. It was the day after the “incident” that broke the band up. Even unto this day, C.C. was the only person other than the three band members to know a portion of what really happened that night. “Uhm…yeah, she did.”

“Serves him right,” Sam answered, angered at anyone who could hurt Brooke that bad.

“He couldn’t understand why she never saw anything in him. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he was cool with the fact that she’s gay. He just didn’t understand that she loved him like a brother and not something more. He secretly had a massive crush on her. It was a major blow to his ego.”

“Wow, this is a lot for me to take in. Any more skeletons that I need to know about?”

“None that Brooke won’t tell you about. Oh yeah, while I’m thinking about it, Brooke said that she planned on taking me out for a drink on my birthday. She wants you to come along.”

“She does, huh? But, I can’t drink. They won’t let me into a bar.”

C.C. waved off Sam’s last comment. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t think she cares. I doubt she wants you there as a drinking companion, anyway. Besides, she can get you in.”

Sam thought about it for a moment and was more than a little excited about seeing the older woman again soon. “I can’t wait. When and where?”

“Sunday, and she didn’t say where.”

“Okay, Sunday it is then.”

The young blonde reached over and turned out the lamp on the nightstand between their beds while C.C. rolled over to go to sleep. Sam laid on her back with her arms clasped behind her head, thinking about how her life had changed all in a matter of weeks since she moved in with C.C.

Finally, the silence in the room was broken when Sam spoke. “Hey, C.C.? Did you set that Friday movie date up for us to meet…kind of as a blind date?”

The brunette chuckled into her pillow. “What do you think?”

“I think it seems awfully convenient that one of her favorite movies is playing, you forget about your class and knew I wanted to see it.”

The young woman innocently looked up at the ceiling and started to whistle.

“Were you playing matchmaker? Be honest.”

C.C. rolled over to face her friend, barely able to make out her form in the darkness of the room. “Maybe. It worked didn’t it?”

“Yeah, it did.” There was a moment of silence as Sam thought about the events of that night and the kisses they had exchanged. “Ah, C.C., thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Oh, by the way, Brooke found your bag in the back seat of her car.” C.C. chuckled to herself as she remembered the way she had trapped Brooke into that one earlier in the day.

“Does she know that you…”

“Nope.” C.C. continued to laugh.

“You’re laughing at me. Why?”

“Nothing, I just think it’s kind of cute how you’re both trying to be so secretive about it. It’s so…”

Both girls spoke at the same time again.

“High school.”

“Juvenile.”

They shared a laugh at their timing again and Sam spoke. “We’re getting a bit too good at that. And hey, what do you expect from two virgins?”

C.C. propped herself up on her elbow. “Speaking of which, does she know?”

“Know what?”

“That you’re a virgin?”

Sam thought for a moment, shaking her head at her boldness where Brooke was concerned, “No, I don’t think so. Why?”

“I was just curious.”

“Does that make a difference?” Sam became a bit worried as she asked.

“Are you kidding me? Hell no, girl, you two are the perfect match. It won’t make one bit of difference to her. It’ll just mean that much more when you two,” C.C. cleared her throat, “two…ah…ah…you know.”

Even though she knew that C.C. couldn’t see her, Sam blushed. “God I can’t believe I’m having this discussion with her sister.”

C.C.’s laughter filled the small room. “Hey, what did I say at dinner a couple of weeks ago? Inquiring minds want to know. Don’t worry about it. It’s all good.”

“Yeah, say that when we try to do it while reading the manual.”

“Sam, I told you, she’s not dead. I’m sure she’ll have a damn good clue about what she’s doing. Just, please, don’t give me any details.”

This time, it was Sam’s turn to laugh. “Don’t worry,” she smirked, “I won’t.”

They lay there as the laughter drifted off. After a few moments of silence C.C. spoke, softly. “Well, except for maybe one small detail…”

The blonde groaned, afraid to ask. “And that would be?”

“Well you know, she never did answer us that day. You could let me know if she inherited that tongue rolling gene.”

Sam covered her mouth and laughed hysterically at her roommate then held up one finger, just barely visible in the darkness of the room. “Okay, C.C., but that’s the only one!”

Ch8 Toasts To The Coming Of Age
“…Would you tell the truth of all the things inside your head?…”

“So, where do you want to go tonight?” Sam asked, her head leaning against her right shoulder, holding the phone in place. The talented blonde utilized her hands to fold her laundry while talking on the phone.

“I don’t care. It’s Friday, I’ll leave it up to you,” Brooke answered as static filled the phone line.

Sam put away the last of her laundry and zipped up her overnight bag. “Where are you? ‘Cause I’m ready and I can’t wait to give you a big hug and kiss.”

The brunette halted her cleaning of the small bathroom and stuck her head out the door to listen to one side of the conversation. She didn’t miss the look of absolute bliss on her roommate’s face as she talked on the phone.

“Oh yeah? Well then, open your door, Darlin.”

Sam looked quickly between the phone and the door. “No way,” Sam said in disbelief. Dropping the phone onto the bed, she ran the few feet to the door and opened it. There standing before her was Brooke with an elbow on either side of the doorframe, her legs crossed at the ankles. In her left hand she held the cell phone that her thumb was just starting to hit the end button as her head tilted slightly forward, she gazed over the top of her sunglasses at Sam.

Hearing Sam’s exclamation of disbelief, C.C. sauntered out of the bathroom, coming to lean against the doorframe to see if her sister had indeed arrived.

“Hi, Baby,” Brooke said with a blinding smile as she gazed at the woman in front of her. “So do I get to come in or am I going to cause a scene out here in the hall? You know…” Brooke leaned back and looked around at the heavily traveled hallway then turned her view to wink at Sam, “scare the straights?”

C.C. shook her head and mumbled something incoherent about wasting time, then turned back into the bathroom before she was seen.

With one hand, the blonde grabbed Brooke by the front of her dark t-shirt and pulled her into the room, while closing the door with the other. “Please, not in the hall, Brooke.”

As soon as the door shut, Sam was picked up into Brooke’s arms and kissed soundly. Letting the sign of affection take its course, both of them came away from it a little breathless.

“Did you miss me?” Brooke gasped as she placed Sam down on her feet, enjoying the feel of Sam’s body beneath her hands. The taller woman leaned down, touching her forehead against Sam’s and let the intoxicating essence of being in Sam’s presence overwhelm her.

“Yes, I missed you,” Sam answered as she ran her hands through Brooke’s hair then removed the sunglasses. “I never would have made it until now without those couple of phone calls from you.” The blonde looked down to the floor and acted shy, “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to call you back at your office on Monday. I…I kind of had to really concentrate on my classes.”

Listening in on the not-so-quiet conversation, C.C. commented mumbling under her breath. “Classes? I had to keep pointing out what chapter they were lecturing on during the two classes that I had with you. Too bad you can’t bottle that distraction, Brooke, you could sell it.”

“That’s okay baby, I was kind of a little distracted myself.” An image of James passed quickly through her mind and she immediately grabbed it and tossed it back in the locked recesses of her memory.

Seeing the scowl that Brooke was making, Sam pulled the taller woman’s face impossibly closer. “This week has been hell,” Sam whispered before crushing her lips against Brooke’s.

Locked in the embrace, neither woman noticed C.C. walking out of the bathroom or the fact that she quickly reversed her direction again at the site of her sister kissing her roommate. “Sam, don’t you be slipping the tongue to my sister,” C.C. shouted into the room, egging the blonde on.

Of course, Sam couldn’t resist doing it all the more ardently now, just to harass her roommate. The two women continued their kiss, paying no attention at all to C.C. as she walked back out of the bathroom after what she had deemed an appropriate time.

“Jeez, get a room already, will ya?” The brunette rolled her eyes as she nudged her sister in passing on the way to her closet.

Sam pulled back from Brooke just far enough to kiss the taller woman on the tip of her nose. “You know, it’s good that C.C. knows about us.”

“I’m glad for that. I don’t know that I could be doing all this sneaking around with her as your roommate,” Brooke said softly to Sam. “Now, watch me tease her,” she whispered even softer then, winked at Sam before walking over to her youngest sibling, and tossed an arm over the younger woman’s shoulder. “Oh, come on, Sis…let me borrow yours.”

The younger sibling twisted her face in a distasteful manner, bringing both hands up to push away from Brooke. “Now that is disgusting,” She shook her head vigorously and closed her eyes tight. “Not in my bed, you’re not.”

“Oh come on, C.C…” Brooke teased as she crossed the room and sat on the blonde’s bed. “Sam has a bed, you know. It doesn’t have to be yours.” Brooke patted the surface she was sitting on as she waited for her sister’s reaction.

The brunette’s gaze turned to the bed, her brown eyes popping out as she saw Brooke turn to Sam and wink. Taking a deep breath, C.C. called her sister’s bluff with a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders, “Too small…you’d need more room, Sis.”

“And…you would know this, how?” Brooke asked as she arched an eyebrow.

“Ah…uhm…it just ah… doesn’t look big enough,” C.C. answered as she rubbed the back of her neck wondering how she got herself into this situation.

“Flustered much?” Brooke chided her sibling.

The high-pitched squeal of “No,” was C.C.’s answer before she coughed to clear her throat. “No…uhm…no, not at all. Why? I never did it in a single bed.”

Brooke closed her eyes and screwed up her face at the mental image that ran through her head of her baby sister. “Oh God…that’s definitely TMI, C.C.”

Trying to dig herself out of the hole that she was finding herself in, C.C. crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her sister. “Well, I never said I did it in any other kind either.”

Brooke opened her eyes and then rolled them for C.C.’s benefit. “Uh-huh…sure. Okay, if you say so, Chase.”

“Hey, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” C.C. stuck her tongue out at her blue-eyed sister.

The entire exchange amused Sam, who had been watching from her spot by the door. Deciding to offer her thoughts, she addressed her roommate. “Hey…can you roll that tongue?”

The now reclining woman looked in Sam’s direction and bit her lip to keep from laughing as she watched C.C. turn around and point at Sam in shock.

“You…you traitor. You fit right in with this family. I thought roomies stuck together.”

“They do,” Sam crossed her arms and smiled politely. “It just depends on whom they’re rooming with that night.”

Brooke shifted her attention from Sam to C.C. and smiled. “Heheheh…she means me, Sis.” The woman gave a little wave of her hand, then winked.

“Well, here…” C.C. rolled her tongue at her sister and taunted her. “You can take this to the bank and cash it in.”

“Nah. Why bother when I can do it better?” The dark-haired woman sat back up on the bed.

“Oh…you can? Prove it,” C.C. teased, trying to trick Brooke into revealing whether or not she could.

Brooke stood up slowly then walked over to Sam, pulling her into a hug as she answered, “Nope. You won’t be the one to see it. I mean…it wouldn’t do to make you swoon.” Brooke smiled and kissed Sam on her cheek.

Totally disgusted now that her plan to find out was once again foiled, C.C. grabbed her purse from off of her bed and shook a finger at her sister. “One of these days, Brooke. I’m going to know for sure.”

She walked over to her taller sister and pulled her body up to its full height, standing somewhat on the tips of her toes in an attempt to look Brooke in the eye. There she stayed giving her best intimidating stare.

Brooke waited a few moments before responding to C.C.’s weak attempt at an intimidating gesture. “Don’t you have something better you could be doing?” The taller woman grinned and held it there, like she was posing for the portrait of Mona Lisa.

“Yeah, and I’m doing it…right now.” C.C. smiled and walked around Sam to open the door. “Bye, Sis.” She didn’t wait for an answer as she left the room.

“Brooke, why do you tease her so much?” Sam defended her roommate as she lightly backhanded Brooke in her stomach. “She’s not that bad.”

“Hey…” the woman tightened her stomach muscles, “She gives just as good as she gets. Neither one of us takes the other seriously.”

Temporarily lost in memories of another place and time, Sam quietly replied, “Must be something about sisters. Even mine does that…I mean used to do that.” Sam looked down at the floor, hiding the hurt in her eyes.

Not one to just let it go, Brooke place a finger under Sam’s chin, tilting the blonde’s face up to look at her. “What do you mean ‘used to’, Baby?”

Sam shrugged her shoulders and looked away from Brooke. After a moment, she blew out a long breath and walked over to her bed to sit down. “Mom and Dad don’t let her see me any more. They’re afraid she might get ‘infected’ as they put it. They’re afraid that by being around me, she might be influenced. She’s at that impressionable age…16. Hell…they won’t even let her talk to me.” Sam sniffed, trying not to let her emotions unplug the dam of tears she’d held back during the last few years.

Feeling her anger soaring to new heights, Brooke wanted to shout at the ignorance of Sam’s parents. Knowing that it would do Sam no good, she decided on a different tactic. She walked over and sat next to Sam, pulling the blonde into her arms. “You and I both know that’s bullshit.” Large hands tried to soothe the body that they rubbed over, “I’m sure she misses you. Sam, look at me…” Brooke waited for Sam to look up into her eyes. “I’m here for you, Darlin’. I love you.”

Sam smiled and closed her eyes, hugging Brooke tighter. “I know…” she whispered, “I know and I love you right back for it.”

They sat there for a few minutes just letting the soothing power of love help to heal old wounds. Brooke glanced at the walls, noticing the lack of posters. She decided that it was time to change the subject. “Hey, you took some posters down.”

Sam sighed as she looked at the mostly bare wall. “Yeah, I guess I’m starting to really feel grown up. Loran doesn’t rule my life anymore.” She paused just long enough to look into Brooke’s blue orbs, “You do.” Sam saw the questioning look in Brooke’s eyes. “You’re someone that I can hold on to…” and she did so to show what she meant by it, “not a dream.”

Brooke smiled as she kissed Sam on her forehead. “Hey…you ready to get out of here?”

Sam shook her head in the negative. “No. I think I need another kiss or two for the road. It’s a long drive to your house.”

The dark-haired woman winked and leaned into Sam. “Now that…I can do.”

The two women drove to Brooke’s house, making small talk along the way. As they were approaching the exit, Sam brought up the subject of dinner. “You wanna pick up some pizza and make it an easy night for us?” She asked as she turned to face the driver.

“Yeah, that sounds fine. Should we pick it up or order in?”

“Well…if we order it now, it will meet us at the door. That way we can get home faster and not have to worry about being disturbed,” Sam finished her statement by running her hand lightly up Brooke’s tanned arm and underneath the sleeve of the T-shirt.

Slowing the 300Z as they approached a red light, Brooke looked down at the hand under her sleeve, then up into twinkling green eyes. With a grin in Sam’s direction, she said, “Great idea.” She handed the younger woman her cell phone. “If you’d like to go ahead and call, press memory, then number 5. Just mention my name and they’ll know what to send.”

Sam took the cell phone from Brooke and pressed the appropriate buttons. “You eat pizza a lot, don’t you?”

Brooke looked over briefly before driving away from the light. Sheepishly, she answered, “Yeah. I guess I do. Is there anything else you would like before we get there?”

“Nothing that I can’t get from you.” Sam laughed to herself and winked at Brooke as she began to place their order. “Yes, I’m calling for Brooke Gordon. She’d like to have her usual delivered. How long will that be?” She looked over at Brooke for her approval as she repeated, “Twenty minutes?” At Brooke’s nod, she answered, “That sounds good. She’ll be there by then. Thanks.”

Sam disconnected the call and placed the cell phone in the console between them. “So, now I get to find out what you’re made out of.”

Brooke arched an eyebrow at Sam. “Oh, you do now, do you?”

“Yep. In more ways that just one,” Sam answered readily.

“Is that a promise?”

“I don’t know…would you like it to be?” The blonde taunted her right back and watched as Brooke’s only reply was a blinding smile. Sam smiled back then turned her gaze to look out the side window. She blushed with the realization that kissing was not the only thing on her mind.

The remainder of the drive was silent, other than the low volume of the radio. Brooke was amazed that she wasn’t uncomfortable with the silence at all. In fact, she was beginning to realize that a lot of things about her growing relationship with the young student were amazing, in a very pleasant way.

Just as they pulled into the driveway and parked, the pizza was delivered. Brooke stepped out of the car and approached the driver. She paid the driver and relieved him of his cargo. Taking off up the steps, she quickly opened the door with her skilled fingers on the touch pad, entering the security code.

Pushing the unlocked door open, she whistled for her pet, Mario.

“Brace yourself…he’s coming,” she told Sam, holding the door open wide for the husky to come flying through to greet Sam.

“Well, if it isn’t my sleeping buddy,” Sam stated as she got down on her knees in the gravel to be greeted by her furry friend. Mario licked her face at the attention he was receiving and wagged his tail anxiously. “How ya doing boy? Are we gonna sleep together tonight?” She smiled as he pawed at her shirt and responded with a quiet bark. “I guess that means we are.” Sam smiled and stood up, brushing the dust from her knees. “I guess he does like me, huh?” She directed the question to the woman in the doorway.

Brooke turned around and smiled. “Yeah, he does. He’s been moping around all week without you here. Sam,” Brooke added with a wink, “What did you do to my dog?”

Sam picked up her overnight bag and walked up the steps to Brooke, Mario prancing right behind her. “I don’t know. I guess maybe he fell in love with me too, just like his owner did.”

“Well, he’ll have to get in line.” She glared at the dog, “And I think he’s got a long wait in store for him.” Brooke turned around and walked into the house, making her way to the kitchen.

“Line? What line? I’m not into multiples,” Sam called out as she shut the front door and followed Brooke.

“Good thing,” Brooke answered. “Because I don’t like to share. Come on, I’m starved!” Brooke placed the pizza box on the table.

Sam nodded her head and scratched Mario once more before washing her hands and grabbing some plates from the cupboard.

“Don’t forget to grab a third plate. Mario gets some, too.” The dark-haired woman opened the box and leaned into sniff the aroma. “Ah…just the way I like it.”

“Brooke, you do know that’s not good for dogs, right?” Sam frowned as she placed two plates on the table while Brooke got down on the floor with Mario, scratching him behind his ears.

“No, Sam…he gets his food on a plate with us, dontcha boy?” Brooke turned her attention back to her furry friend as she scratched him while he basked in all the attention his mistress bestowed on him.

“Oh…you had me scared for a minute.”

Brooke stood up and looked at Sam. “Are you kidding me? Hell, I gave him a bite of pizza once when he was a puppy and he had the shits for two days.”

“I told you it wasn’t good for him.” Sam took on a mocking glare.

The tall woman began to chuckle. “Wanna see something funny?”

Sam shrugged her shoulders, “Sure… what?”

Leaning her back against the wall, Brooke crossed her arms over her chest. “Put a plate on the floor for him,” she directed. “Then open the latch on that bottom cabinet and tell him to get his dinner.”

The blonde looked back and forth between Brooke and the dog. She reached up and grabbed a third plate, placing it on the floor near the dog. Sam looked up at Brooke who smiled and nodded her head. “Mario…” Sam smiled when the husky looked up at her, then she unlatched the bottom cabinet and stood back saying, “Get your dinner.”

Mario pushed the cabinet door open further and sniffed each of the dog food bags inside. After a few seconds, he went back to one bag in particular and grabbed it between his teeth. He pulled the bag out and dragged it to his plate, knocking some food over onto it.

“Okay, Mario, that’s enough,” Brooke said from her position against the wall as Sam’s smile turned into a laugh. Mario picked the bag back up between his teeth and put it back under the counter.

Brooke walked over as he stood waiting for the command to eat. She leaned down and scratched him behind his ears. “Good Boy, go eat.”

“Do you have all the animals trained that live with you?”

“Well, since Mario is the only one who lives with me, then…yes. I guess I do,” Brooke answered as she looked up at Sam and smiled.

“I guess you’re pretty used to each other, huh?”

“Yep. So whatcha wanna do tonight?” Brooke stood up and walked over towards Sam.

“I…I dunno…” Sam stuttered out, nervously, “I was thinking…we could…ah, maybe find something to watch on TV…or maybe…” the blonde finally just gave up. “Gee I don’t know, Brooke…what do you want to do?”

“Well,” Brooke began as she wrapped her arms around Sam and pulled the smaller woman in for a hug. “We don’t really have to decorate for the party until tomorrow, so…” the tall woman’s smile got bigger. “We have the night all to ourselves. I figured that we could use it to our advantage…maybe get a little more in touch with each other?”

The smile on Sam’s face, along with the twinkle in her eye, was all the answer that Brooke needed. Needless to say, the plans were in the making for the rest of the night.

After dinner Brooke walked Sam up the stairs to put away her bag.

“Tell you what…how about I go take a quick shower and then the rest of the night is ours?”

“That sounds great,” Sam smiled as she followed Brooke into the hallway.

“You can use any room up here that you’d like.” The tall woman motioned with her arms to any of the rooms.

“Even though I didn’t actually use a bedroom last time, I guess my bag did. Now go get your shower,” Sam smacked Brooke on her rear as the taller woman laughed and walked down the hall.

She watched Brooke disappear into the bathroom and once she heard the shower running, decided to check out each room. After looking at all the options, Sam chose the room with the large French doors leading out onto a balcony. Figuring out that the doors faced the East, the blonde contemplated the terrific view of the sunrise that she might be able to catch a glimpse of in the morning. That was, if she were to actually awaken at a reasonable hour to do so. Lost in her thoughts for a moment, Sam was pulled back to reality. Someone was talking…no rather singing, and she realized that it was Brooke singing in the shower.

Sam walked out into the hall towards the source of the melodic voice, stopping just outside the bathroom door where she placed her ear against it to listen more intently. After listening for a few moments, the blonde smiled approvingly of the catchy tune, then walked back into the bedroom.

Out of nowhere, Sam felt a yawn escape out of her mouth. “Oh, great. Tell me we’ll spend the night sleeping again just like last week.” Sam eyed the huge bed and made up her mind. Reaching down, she threw off the comforter and crawled into the bed. “Maybe if I can just catch a little nap…” she marveled at the feel of the satin sheets under her as the melody of Brooke’s voice surrounded her.

God, I know that I’ve heard that voice before, but where? Huh…maybe she does background work for her studio…I mean, she is the CEO. The small woman made herself comfortable, scrunching up the pillow to her liking. She’s got the talent…I wonder why she never pursued it? Sam allowed questions with no answers to float through her mind as she began to doze off, lulled off to sleep by the sound of Brooke’s singing.

Suddenly, there was silence and it startled Sam into opening her eyes, taking in the vision before her. Brooke was standing at the foot of the bed dressed in a pair of shorts and an old t-shirt, cut off to reveal her stomach.

“Hi, Darlin,” Brooke purred as Sam admired the view.

“So…you found me, huh?” The sleepy voice croaked out.

Brooke nodded her head. “Yep. So is this room…” the older woman looked around it, “Your choice?”

“Sure, if it’s alright with you…I mean. That window…ah…door should be great for the morning with the sunrise. Don’t you think?”

“Oh yeah. The bed’s really comfortable and the view in the morning is gorgeous.”

“You’ve slept in here on occasion then?” Sam raised up on her elbow.

“You could say that,” Brooke answered with a sly grin.

Sam nodded her head in confirmation of her choice and smiled at Brooke in return. “Then I guess I’ve made the right choice.”

“You could say that, too.” Brooke pointed to the wall opposite French doors, “And if you need it, there’s a TV in the cabinet over there.”

“Is there?” Sam asked with a yawn. “Sorry…I must be tired from the week.”

“Wanna take a nap?”

“I dunno…it might be a good idea. I guess that pizza didn’t help either,” Sam patted her belly. “Guess I got that full belly syndrome again. Hey, I’m sorry, Brooke”

“Sorry? About what?”

“About being such a bad date,” Sam answered as she cast her eyes down to her chest.

“Baby, you could never be a bad date. I want you to be comfortable when you’re here.” Brooke came around the bed to reach out and push some stray hairs behind Sam’s ear, then leaned in and kissed the blonde’s head. “Just knowing you’re here is perfect.”

The younger woman offered up a weak smile, “Well, now that you mention it…this bed is very comfortable…you were right.”

Brooke couldn’t hold back the chuckle that bubbled up in her chest. “I know. I sleep in it every night.”

“WHAT?” Sam asked as she bolted upright in the bed, eyes wide open.

“Hey…I told you, you could have your pick of any room.”

“Yeah…but I…I…”

Leaning back in, Brooke kissed Sam on the forehead. “Honey, don’t worry. It’s fine, really. I just want you to be comfortable.”

“Worry, about what?” Sam sat up, reaching for her bag, “That I threw you out of your own bed?”

“I’ll find another room,” Brooke chuckled. It’s not like this is the only bed here.” The dark-haired woman took the bag from Sam’s hand. “Honey, lay back down. Come on, it’s fine. Stay right where you’re at.”

“And where are you going to…” Sam hesitated not quite sure of how to approach the subject. “…go?”

“Right now?” Brooke questioned her but didn’t wait for an answer. “Out on the balcony. It’s nice out.”

“Hmm…” Sam stifled another yawn and lay down. “Maybe just a little nap.”

Placing a hand on the small shoulder of the blonde, Brooke leaned in and whispered, “Just rest, Baby.” She brushed back golden hair and kissed Sam’s forehead. “I love you.” Brooke watched as the blonde head slightly nodded and the woman’s lips mumbled out a return of the sentiments. Within seconds, the sound of soft snores could be heard.

Brooke stood there and watched for a few moments, then grabbed the tablet and pen on the nightstand and went out to sit on the balcony. There was much that she knew she needed to think about.

The dusk colored sky had now given way to the darkening shades of the night. Brooke had sat there on the balcony thinking about the small blonde and how fast everything was happening in her life since Sam had come into it. The stoic woman found it downright amazing that the three words, which had eluded her speech, were so easy to say now, and without even thinking about them. I love you. Never thinking that she’d ever say them, it just amazed her to no end where her life seemed headed.

Maybe it’s time that I stopped running from love…Brooke wondered, then smirked at herself. Hell, you’ve been running from any kind of relationship except the ones that conclude a business deal, with a handshake and a fake smile. “And I have you to thank for that, don’t I, Loran,” she mumbled, then let out a disgusted breath.

The sullen woman picked up the tablet that she had brought out with her and began doodling on it, drawing crude stick figures and then putting their heads in a noose and hanging them from makeshift gallows. If only I would have killed you long ago. She started to draw another figure but stopped after only a few lines were on the paper.

Brooke stood up and walked over to the railing, bracing her arms on it. Blue eyes looked up to the first glimmers of the evening stars as the woman took a good, long look at her life. “Damn it. It’s not my nature to be getting so involved with anyone this fast…” she whispered on the night wind, knowing that she was powerless to stop it. What do I tell her about Loran? She closed her eyes and thought, How do I even start to tell her? Better yet, will Sam still be there if I tell her about Loran? Brooke hung her head thinking of what Sam might construe the revelation as. She’s going to think that I lied to her the whole time by not telling her sooner. She’ll leave…I know that I would. The woman fought back the anguish that was overtaking her heart and soul, the thought of being left without Sam by her side. Damn, how did I let it get this far, this soon?

Sam stood at the French doors, watching the woman on the balcony. “Penny for your thoughts, Brooke,” the words were soft and friendly. The blonde watched the startled look on the woman’s face as she turned around in response to the question. “I…I just woke up and saw you out here,” Sam offered.

The dark-haired woman relaxed seeing Sam in the doorway and she started to smile, “Hi. Did you have a nice nap?”

“Yeah, I guess I really needed that. Thanks, by the way.” Sam stepped out onto the balcony. “Have you been out here the whole time?”

“You’re welcome,” Brooke tipped her head toward Sam. “And yeah, it’s too nice not to be. Come on, sit down here with me and you’ll see what I mean.”

The small woman took a few steps around the balcony then turned to Brooke, “Yeah, it is nice out here.” She found herself next to Brooke and leaned in, kissing the woman.

“Mmmm…I’m glad that you’re awake though.” Brooke said as she came out of the kiss.

“Me, too.” Sam noticed the tablet in Brooke’s hand. “What’s that you were doing…playing hangman with yourself?”

The tall woman shrugged, then mumbled, “Just doodling.”

“Hey, you didn’t finish that game. How about you let me try?” Sam took a seat and waited for Brooke to do the same.

Seeing the eager look on Sam’s face, Brooke couldn’t refuse her. Then an idea came to her head. “Uh…Okay.” This is how I tell her. Hastily drawing five lines on the paper with an ‘L’ on the first line, the tall woman sat down, offering the tablet to her friend.

Sam studied the five spaces intently before asking for a letter, “Got any O’s?”

Brooke gulped out a “Yep,” and made the mark above the second line.

“Hmmm…” the blonde studied the spaces once more. “T?” she asked.

The holder of the pen sighed in relief, “Nope.” The pen went to the paper, adding the stick of a body to the already drawn head of the figure.

“Ah…D?”

“Nope,” the word became stronger sounding each time it was said. Brooke now added one dangling leg to her whimsical stick man.

Sam fired back with a hurried, “K?”

“Uhm…No,” Brooke had to laugh at Sam’s determination. The one legged man now had two to stand on and so went the drawing as Brooke took her time adding each arm and the feet until only the noose was left to end the game.

The blonde sat back in her chair, really concentrating on what the word could be. “Hmm…” she turned to Brooke and asked shyly, “Could you give me a clue?”

The older woman thought for a moment, then nodded her head; “Yeah, it’s…” Brooke took in a breath and held it before continuing, “it’s my middle name.”

Green eyes looked up from the paper and studied Brooke for the longest time. A smile came to Sam’s face as she coyly asked, “Is there an R?”

“Yes, there’s an R,” Brooke held her breath for fear of being found out.

“Lover,” Sam cried out. “I knew it.” She winked and kissed the stunned woman.

“That’s…that’s right.” Brooke looked up to her lucky star and uttered a silent prayer of thanksgiving. “Lover,” she reiterated as she pulled Sam into her lap, kissing her again.

The blonde was so excited that before the second their lip-lock was finished, she started talking, “Five letters, L-O and R, what else could it be?” Sam kissed Brooke back and their lips slowly came apart.

You, chicken shit. Why didn’t you tell her? Blue eyes looked into the twinkling seas of green that stared back at her. Aw…hell, you know why. You’re afraid that she’ll leave. Brooke leaned in and captured Sam’s lips in a fervent kiss. After it was over, she whispered in her most reverent voice, “See, I told you we were going to be more in touch.”

Sam smiled, “You were right.”

The small blonde slightly opened one eye as she caught a glimpse of the light streaming in the French doors. Sam rolled her shoulders, stopping suddenly when she felt the warm body at her back. Taking stock of her position in the bed, she could feel the radiating warmth of the tall woman who was spooned against her and reveled in the comfort that it afforded.

Sam stretched her limbs cautiously, trying not to disturb the sleeping woman next to her or the large hand that was resting on her thigh. Curiosity got the best of the young woman and soon she was turning to gaze at the sleeping form that lay with her.

Settling into her new position, Sam felt Brooke’s hand slide gently up, off her thigh and come to rest on her stomach, slipping under the loose fitting shirt that she was still wearing. God, this feels so right. The small woman snuggled into the hand that was touching her as she thought about Brooke’s earlier statement. She did say that we were going to be more in touch with one another after tonight, Sam mused as she felt a featherlight kiss to her neck. The sensation of tingles ran up and down the small woman’s spine at the kiss. God, I could get used to this.

The young woman tried for the life of her to remember how they had landed up in bed together. Damn, if I can’t remember something good…her mind floated on dreams of her youth and imagining how her first time with a woman would be.

The movement of Brooke stirring next to her pulled Sam from her thoughts and the reality of it all came to light. Well, here’s where we find out. “Morning, Brooke,” Sam said quietly.

“Hmm…Morning, Gorgeous.” Brooke settled into a spot that brought her face next to Sam’s on the pillow.

“You still tired?”

“Tired?” One blue eye opened, then the other, “Uhm…No, not really.”

“Did you sleep alright?”

“Alright? Nope.” Brooke let a smile cross her face, “Actually, I slept like a baby.”

“Good, ’cause I did, too.” Sam turned over to face Brooke, “Best sleep I’ve ever had.” Green eyes roamed down the tall woman’s figure as it lay under the covers until she caught sight of the Husky lying across the foot of the bed. “I guess Mario was comfortable too.”

“He just had to sleep with you, you know.”

“And your excuse?” Sam looked Brooke straight in the eye.

“Well,” Brooke rolled over onto her back and looked up at the ceiling. “We dozed off out on the balcony. I woke up and carried you in here.” A subtle smile tugged at her lips, “When I tried to leave, you grabbed me.”

“Hmmm…I remember that dream now.”

“Dream?” Blue eyes flashed knowing it was no dream at all.

“Yeah, I told you that your place was here,” Sam patted the small piece of bed that separated them. “Don’t you remember?”

Brooke nodded slowly, “Yeah, you did say that.”

“I guess I knew what I was saying then. Your place is here.” Sam moved two fingers to her own heart and held them there.

The dark-haired woman grabbed Sam’s same hand and placed it against her own chest, centering the fingers over her heart. “And yours is here.”

Sam’s eyes widened at the touch of her hand to the soft yet supple breast.

Seeing the younger woman’s reaction, Brooke simply asked, “What?”

“I…ah…I…” Sam stuttered out, not sure of what to do or say.

“What, Baby?”

The younger woman rolled her eyes and prayed for death to take her now. “Hey, Brooke, I’m not that experienced here…and ah…well…” Sam bit her lower lip trying to keep her admission from coming out, but she couldn’t. “Okay, so I’m a virgin.”

The source of light in the room was no longer the sun creeping in through the French Doors but rather the smile on Brooke’s face. “Really?”

“You can’t tell?” Sam’s neck and face turned a bright red from the blush of her embarrassment.

Bringing Sam’s hand up to her lips, Brooke kissed it lightly, then leaned over and kissed her on the lips. “So am I,” Brooke whispered, then kissed her again.

“C.C. was right,” muttered Sam as the kiss ended.

“C.C.? About what?” Brooke looked puzzled.

“About you taking things to heart.”

“Huh?” Brooke raised a dark eyebrow, “What did she mean by that?”

“I…I think she was kind of warning me that you don’t fall in love at the drop of a hat.”

“I don’t. Hell, I don’t fall in love period.” Brooke looked at Sam seriously, “But I damn sure fell for you.”

Sam was startled by Brooke’s admission to falling in love. “I was hoping that you’d say that.”

Brooke grinned, wiggled her eyebrows and then leaned in to kiss her young friend. “Of course, I was going to say that.”

The act of leaning into the kiss found Sam’s hand in a most embarrassing place, cupping a firm breast, before she realized it. She felt awkward and tried to pull it back.

“What is it, Sam?” Blue eyes studied the blonde’s face.

“I…ah…” Sam looked down to where her hand had been, nearly wanting to die from both the embarrassment and the excitement that it had brought to her. “Like I said, I’m not that experienced, Brooke.”

“Neither am I, Sam. I mean…I think I have a pretty good idea, but that’s about it.”

“I don’t what to cross any boundaries that I’m not aware of or…”

Blue eyes locked onto green. “We don’t have to rush into this, Sweetheart.” Brooke waited a moment, then continued, “Boundaries? What do you mean boundaries?”

“You know…like what’s acceptable or unacceptable to you.”

“Darlin’, when it comes to you,” Brooke ran a comforting hand down the blonde’s cheek, “it’s all acceptable to me.”

“Jeez, Brooke. I’ve finally found someone that I love…I don’t want to ruin it with a stupid act or something.”

“There’s no rush. We’ll just figure out what we both want together.” Brooke searched the younger woman’s eyes for a sign of comprehension, “Okay?”

“You know, that’s the second time you’ve said that…”

“I know.” Brooke nodded, “I just don’t want you to think that I’m pressuring you. I’m not.”

“I know that.” Sam let a smile come to her mouth, “And I’m not feeling that way, honest. God knows that’s the last thing I would want.”

“Tell me, Sam,” Brooke took in a breath, then asked, “What do you want?”

The blonde thought for a moment as a smile tugged at her lips. “I guess I want someone who loves me as much as I love them. Someone that I feel comfortable with.”

“Okay, that’s a check mark.” Brooke grinned, knowing that she fit the bill so far.

“Someone that it just happens with.” Sam studied Brooke’s face, “Without plans or schemes. I kind of think that the first time should be magical,” she shrugged and looked away. “Childish, huh?”

“No,” Brooke smiled, “Not childish at all.”

Sam smirked, “Yeah? What’s your concept?”

Brooke thought for a moment, then cleared her throat and started, “Well, I want someone who loves me completely and unconditionally.”

“Unconditionally, huh?” Sam stared up at the ceiling.

“Yeah…someone who knows that after the first time I touch them, they’ll be the last person I touch.”

“That’s a pretty tough order there. Think you’ll find someone?” The blonde shot a glance over at Brooke.

“I dunno…” Brooke made a pouty face just for effect, then continued, “I’d like to.”

“Hmmm…I’ll have to look around for you. Maybe there’s someone right under your very nose that could fill that order.”

“That’s an interesting point you have there…” Sam snuggled into Brooke and kissed her.

“Yeah, just have to look around…”

Before Sam could finish what she was saying, the blonde found herself on her back with Brooke positioned above her.

“Well, right now, you’re under my nose…”

Sam looked up at Brooke with a coy smile, “You know, I was just thinking that same thing.”

“Really?” Brooke’s grin grew larger, “I guess great minds think alike then.”

“You could say that, yes.”

“So, are we going to stay here in bed all day or decorate this house for my trouble making sister?”

The blonde smiled and thought to herself for a moment before saying anything. “Hey, Brooke, I was thinking.”

“What’s that?” The dark-haired woman lay on her side with her head on her hand.

“Nothing,” Sam shook her head, dismissing the notion. “Let’s go decorate.”

“Hey, Sam,” Brooke reached out for the blonde, stopping her from getting up. “What are you thinking?”

“It’s silly,” Sam shook her head, again.

“That’s okay. What was it?”

The younger woman nestled back into the bed. “I was just thinking that I don’t know how people do it. I mean…plan to only make love on their wedding night. It just sounds so…prearranged.” Sam smirked, “Like some big event.” She laughed, self-consciously.

“What? You mean how they plan to wait until their wedding night?” Brooke thought for a moment, “That does seem pretty prearranged.”

“Yeah, I bet half are so tired or nervous from the rest of the goings-on that day, they never do anything that night.”

“Hmmm…” Brooke arched an eyebrow. “So I guess we shouldn’t wait that long.” The woman got up and sat on the edge of the bed, leaving Sam to ponder her statement.

“I think we’ll know when the time is right, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I think we will,” Brooke sighed, ” Now, come on, get your gorgeous backside out of that bed.”

Sam smiled at the thought of being called gorgeous, “In a minute or two. You can have the shower first, Hon,” then she rolled over to watch Brooke get up.

“Okay then, I’ll be right back.” Brooke winked and sauntered off toward the bathroom.

The small woman lay in the bed thinking about the last few minutes of their discussion. The rich tones of Brooke’s voice filled her mind as a certain phrase came back to haunt Sam.

“So I guess we shouldn’t wait that long.”

The woman shook her head, hearing it repeated over and over again. “Did she just mean what I think she meant?” Sam thought for a moment and in her heart she knew the answer. “Brooke Gordon, you sure are full of surprises.” The blonde rolled over in the bed, hearing the singing coming from the shower down the hall. “Yep, I could definitely learn to love hearing that every day of my life.”

Early that evening, the 300Z zoomed down the highway carrying three occupants toward a night of celebration. Brooke smiled looking into the rearview mirror knowing that her sister had no clue as to what was in store for her. Celebrating the twenty-first birthday was always a special occasion for the siblings of the Gordon family. It was the coming of age. The official welcoming day to the world of being an adult. It wasn’t the fact that they were legal to drink, but more that they had survived each other to get there. C.C.’s birthday marked the last in this tightly knit family’s coming of age and Brooke intended to make it a memorable one for her favorite sister.

“Well, I’m glad you could find some time to spend with me, Sis. I mean, you and the roomie there.” C.C. teased Sam, “I see you smiling.”

The blonde turned in her seat to face the driver, “Brooke, do I have a smile on my face?”

The driver glanced over quickly, then settled her eyes back on the road, “Why do you ask that?”

“No reason,” Sam waited for Brooke to glance back then winked at her.

The car slowed down, stopping at a traffic light. Making good use of her time, Brooke leaned over and gave Sam a kiss on the lips.

“Aw…Come on you two…”

As she came back behind the wheel, the driver couldn’t help but notice her backseat passenger rolling her eyes and looking up to the heavens. “What’s wrong C.C.?”

“Jeez, you two sure that you want me in the backseat here? You know, I could have driven myself and just met you there.”

The older woman looked over to Sam and winked. “Well, you could drive and let us get in the backseat…” Brooke looked in the rearview mirror for C.C.’s reaction.

One mean-looking eyeball gazed into the mirror from the rear seat as C.C. thrusted her upper body into the front seat as much as she could, still wearing her seatbelt. “Don’t go getting any ideas,” she looked from one to the other, “either one of you.”

“Why not, Sis?”

“God,” C.C. moaned and shook her head. “I’d have to cover up the rearview mirror with you two back here.” The woman laughed nervously, trying not to see the mental images in her mind. Then, as an after thought, C.C. added, “And put up a soundproof window.”

Sam reached out and touched Brooke’s arm, breaking the spell she was in with her own thoughts on the subject, “Drive Brooke, the light changed to green.”

“Okay, I’m driving…” Brooke tried to cover up her own daydreaming session. “It’s C.C.’s birthday. She’s legal now. I was just thinking of how we could celebrate.”

“Oh, and I was included in that little dream romp of yours, Sis? I think not,” she nudged the driver’s shoulder and grinned. “Speaking of celebrating, where are we going?”

“You’ll see.” The two front seat passengers exchanged glances, then Brooke continued, “I just thought we’d go out for a bit. You know, buy my baby sister her first legal drink.” The driver looked into the rearview mirror and grinned.

Ready to bust out laughing, Sam looked out the window, then reached for her purse. Rifling through it for a second or two before she spoke she came up with a frustrated look on her face. “Brooke, I need to stop at the house first. I need to change this shirt I’m wearing. It’s way too hot to wear into a crowded bar.”

Brooke nodded, checking her mirrors before making any lane changes. “Yes, Darlin’.”

“Besides, I left that fake ID of mine in my stuff at your house.” Sam closed the purse and set it back down as the car turned off the highway.

“Good thing you thought of that now, we’re right at the exit. We can go back and get it.”

“Whoa, fake ID?” C.C. asked.

The blonde turned around and answered her, “You don’t think that I’m sitting in the car to wait for you two, do you?”

“Nope, no way,” Brooke chimed in.

“I want to be able to say that I saw you take that first legal drink. God knows I’ve seen enough of the illegal ones,” Sam laughed, seeing the tongue sticking out at her from the backseat.

“Okay gang, we’re almost there.” Brooke pulled into her driveway.

“Besides,” Sam continued sheepishly, “It may be my last time to have an illegal one.”

“Hmm…” Brooke thought for a moment, “Good point.”

“I’ve been rather busy lately,” Sam chuckled, “No time to go bar hopping.”

Brooke glanced over to Sam and grinned, picking up the blonde’s small hand, she kissed it.

“Ugh…” C.C. shook her head, “T-M-I. You guys are way too mushy. I think maybe I screwed up trying to hook you two together.”

“You did what, C.C.?” Sam looked toward the backseat.

“What? Did what?” C.C. mimicked a startled duck as she quacked out the questions.

“Are you trying to take credit for us?” Sam egged the woman on.

“Ah…I’m asking if my trying to hook the two of you up was a bad idea?” C.C. crossed her arms and sat back in her seat, “Oh, yeah. Like either of you would have done it on your own.”

Sam’s head turned around to face C.C., “How did you…” then it dawned on her. “That movie. Brooke…” she reached out to touch the arm of the driver.

“Pulleezzze!” C.C. exaggerated the word, “Yeah, but I…” then thought it better to keep her mouth shut. “Well…er…uhm…never mind. I’m shutting up now.”

“You did set that up.” Sam eyed C.C., “Didn’t you?”

“Wow,” C.C. seemed distracted by something outside of the car, “Look, there’s Brooke’s house.”

The driver laughed at her sister’s antics, “You’ve done it now C.C.”

“Brooke,” Sam’s hands looked like she was directing some invisible orchestra as she tried to get the words out fast, “You aren’t going to let her change the subject like that, are you?”

“Honey,” Brooke grabbed and held Sam’s hands in her own. “I think you’re handling this just fine.” The dark-haired woman winked, “It’s her birthday. I’ll have plenty of chances to get her back…”

“Done what?” C.C.’s head popped up in between the front seats again, “Let two like bodies meet on common ground?”

Blue eyes centered on the rearview mirror. “C.C., did you set us up that night or not?”

Sam waited a moment then offered, “Well, she did point out our likes,” then laughed, remembering the good time she’d had at the movie.

“I…I was just doing what you were too bullheaded to do,” C.C. poked her sister in the shoulder.

“Bullheaded? C.C….” Brooke’s voice lowered almost an octave and C.C. knew she meant business.

“Now, before I answer that, remember Momma’s saying,” the backseat passenger grinned evilly, “No one gets killed on their birthday.” Then C.C. proceeded to stick out her tongue.

“You did set us up.” Sam unbuckled her seatbelt and turned around in her seat. “How did you know?”

“Okay, C.C.,” Brooke held her hands up in resignation. “No one gets killed on their birthday. Now, answer the lady.”

“I know that look, Brooke. I only saw it in your eyes one other time and it was there again, at the dinner when you met Sam.” C.C. nodded her head once, finally taking credit for her actions, “Yeah, I set you two up.”

“I thought so,” Sam let the words tumble out.

Brooke took in a deep breath letting it all sink in, then let the air very slowly escape her lungs. Turning, she reached out with lightning quick speed and grabbed C.C.’s face in her hands, bringing the youngest sister close enough to plant a kiss on her cheek. “Thanks, Sis.”

“Huh?” C.C. looked stunned, bringing her own hand to touch the cheek that had just been affectionately assaulted. “I guess I better live for today, ’cause tomorrow I die.”

The older sibling released the woman and smiled. “Not if you tell me when the one other time was.”

“Oh, that…that’s an easy one. It was when you played…ah…” C.C. stopped short and looked into the mirror at Brooke. “Ah…music.”

“Oh,” Brooke caught the near slip and helped in its cover up. “When I was playing the drums off and on?” She looked over to Sam, then back to her sister in the mirror. “Doesn’t even compare.”

“Good,” C.C. sat back, proud that she hadn’t let anything slip. “I’d hate to have to keep this a secret too.”

Brooke’s eyes riveted to the mirror and gave a subtle shake of her head from side to side.

“You’re going to have to, C.C.,” Sam spoke up. “At least to your family.”

“Yeah, C.C., just for now.”

The backseat brunette smirked at the two women, “What, you two aren’t sure?”

“No, we’re sure,” Brooke looked over to Sam and smiled. “I just don’t want Mom pressuring Sam too much. I don’t want this to turn into the next dinner joke.” The driver pulled the car up to the house. “Besides, we’d like to have a little more time to get to know each other.”

“You mean you don’t already…” the words were out before C.C. could stop them, clamping her hands over her mouth.

“Well, that was subtle,” her sister commented.

“Hey, I just figured that if it was right…” C.C. looked up to see Brooke’s right eyebrow arch, “Okay…” the brunette looked quickly out the window, “Hey, nice ferns in those planters…did you just get them?”

“Sam,” Brooke laughed out loud, “You aren’t going to let her change the subject, are you?”

“Change the subject? What more is there to say on it?” Sam shook her head. “Next she’ll have us running off together.” The blonde paused for moment in thought. “Not that it would be a bad thing, mind you,” she glanced over to Brooke.

“Hmmm…I don’t know…” Brooke rubbed her chin, deep in thought. “That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“God, I think I need some air.” C.C. unbuckled her seatbelt, then pushed against Sam’s seat. “We stopping here for a while?”

“We can if you’d like.” Brooke watched as Sam got out, “Come on.” The driver got out and walked around the car to stand by Sam, “Actually C.C., we’ll be right there,” then turned toward Sam and kissed her.

“Good,” C.C. looked up from the doorway of the car to see her sister and roommate locked in another embrace, “Yikes, it’s getting too hot around here for me,” she said as she climbed out of the car.

Brooke leaned in toward Sam, speaking softly in her ear, “I don’t know when I’ll get to kiss you again, tonight.” The tall woman put on her best pouty face and asked, “So may I have one before we go in.”

Disgusted at the total display her sister was making, C.C. brushed past them making her way toward the house, as she called out over her shoulder, “One? Hell, give her two for that performance.”

Sam complied with her roommate’s advice, giving Brooke two kisses before they let their embrace slacken. “Love you.”

“Love you, too.” Brooke sighed and looked up to see where C.C. was. “We’d better get going,” she motioned with her head as her sister touched numbers on the security pad, unlocking the door. “They’re going to be…”

“SURPRISE!” The sound came out of the open door to the house, as C.C. stood shocked by the joyous noise, letting a few “Happy Birthday’s” drift on the air.

“Aw…You guys remembered…” C.C. grinned, pleased at the surprise.

“Yeah, how could we forget?” Brooke mumbled as she watched Mario run up and paw at C.C. “Even the dog’s in the act.” The tall woman noticed that the dog didn’t lick her sister and Brooke thought back to how Sam was greeted by the pet the evening before.

“Well, it looks like Mario knows the difference between me and C.C.” Sam smiled as she slowly walked toward the house.

“Of course, he does. Go over and stand next to her and see what he does.”

Sam turned around, wiggling her eyebrows at Brooke, “And do I consider every lick from Mario to be a kiss from you?”

“No, consider every lick to be four kisses from me.” Brooke caught up to Sam who pulled her into the shadows of the shrubbery.

“I’ll remember that,” then she laid a kiss on the older woman’s mouth.

“Mmm…do that again and I will not be responsible for my actions, young lady.”

“Ah…but you are,” Sam teased her. “And your family is not twenty feet away.” Sam laughed softly then, without warning, placed another kiss on Brooke’s cheek. Releasing the hold she had on the mesmerized woman’s clothes, Sam headed for the door, not even turning around when she heard the groan that Brooke emitted. Looks like it’s going to be a long night for someone. Sam laughed to herself and hoped that she too would be able to wait for the night to pass.

From the time C.C. walked into the house, someone always seemed to be handing the woman a fresh mug of beer, never letting the now legal participant finish one in its entirety. Needless to say, before the food was even ready to eat, a rather inebriated twenty-one year old was making her presence known to everyone at the party.

“I’m so glad that we got to see this day, C.C.,” Terri teased her younger sister. “You know, we had our doubts about you living this long.”

C.C. looked her sister straight in the eye as she strove to maintain her steadiness and said in her most sober voice, “Are you saying that just because I’m fitshaced or do you mean that?”

Terri shook her head knowing all-too-well the hangover that her sister was heading for the next morning. “Sis, I think you better slow down or you’re not going to make it until tomorrow. Fitshaced?” The pediatrician made a face, shaking her head, “What the hell is that?”

Just then C.C. lost the precarious balance that she was trying to maintain, her hand slipping off the couch caused her to fall face first onto the overstuffed piece of furniture. The brunette lay there for a second then rolled onto her back. “Fitshaced…You’re looking at it,” she smiled the silliest of grins and tried to right herself before anyone could become alarmed. “This is the best birthday party ever I had.”

Her sister reached down and gave her a hand, “No more for you, little missy. I want to be celebrating a lot more than just twenty-one with you. Besides, Mom will kill me if she knows I didn’t slow you down at least.” Terri sat her sister down in the corner of the couch and pointed a stern finger in her direction. “Now, you sit there and don’t move for at least an hour.”

“Yeah, treat me like a kid. You all are so good at that,” C.C. chided her sister as she left to go join in another conversation. “I’ll just sit here and play with the dog,” the tipsy brunette looked around the room for the dog and found her laying at Sam’s feet as she sat on the loveseat talking to Randi.

Mable Gordon was so used to watching everything happening in a room that it was like second nature to her. She was a mother, and that’s what mothers do. Well, especially with the four children that she had brought into the world. In her travels about the room, as she mingled with her family, she noticed one thing that struck her as rather odd. Brooke’s pet, Mario, seemed to always be at Sam’s heels no matter where the young woman went or what was going on away from her. In fact, she had only remembered once that the dog had gotten up and went to her mistress, only to be petted and sent off with a few whispered words in his ear. It was funny how the dog crossed the room back to where Sam was and jumped up on the small woman, licking her face repeatedly when she bent over to pet the animal. Watching the smile on the blonde’s face and the quick glance around the room confirmed a suspicion that Mom had hidden under her knowing smile.

During the course of the evening, Brooke mingled with her parents, siblings, and their husbands, making sure to never stay too long in any vicinity close to Sam. Occasionally she would walk past the young woman and wink when no one was watching, but she dared not linger any longer.

Instead, she spent more time with her sisters. That was, until the time she looked up from a conversation to where Sam had been just a moment before and the woman was gone. Letting her eyes roam around the room, Brooke came up empty-handed and found herself ready to hit that old internal panic button that she knew all too well.

“Hey Randi, excuse me. I’ll be right back.” Brooke tried to think of some reason for her abrupt departure before her oldest sibling’s story was done. “I need to get dinner ready for Mario.” She smiled and walked away.

“Yeah, that dog has a better life than the rest of us,” Randi shook her head then continued on with her story for the benefit of her father and Terri as Brooke entered the kitchen.

Brooke stopped short when she rounded the corner leading into the kitchen, seeing Sam with her mother.

“Here, is this what you’re looking for?” Sam had opened a drawer and held up a spatula that she thought the family matriarch might be needing.

“Well, thank you Sam,” Mable raised an eyebrow as the blonde handed her the utensil. “But how did you…” her thought was cut off by the emergence of one tall child of hers.

“Hi, Mom. What’s up?” Brooke grinned. “Need any help?”

“I just figured that it would be there…” Sam shrugged, “My Aunt keeps it there in her kitchen all the time. Lucky, I guess.”

“Hey, Sam,” Brooke tried to keep her voice from becoming softer, and cleared her throat. “How are ya? Having fun?”

“Yeah, loads of fun. Thanks for inviting me.” Sam smiled as she watched Brooke blowing her kisses from high above her mother’s head when Mable’s attention was centered on Sam.

“Oh, no problem at all. Right Mom?” Brooke drew her Mother’s attention toward herself, “Can’t have a party without C.C.’s roommate now, can we?”

“No, not at all,” Mable agreed turning around, almost catching the show of tongue that Sam was displaying in Brooke’s direction.

The blonde used the action to wet her lips, acting so innocent and pure then said, “Who else would know her better?”

“Well, I guess you’ll find that out this year, won’t you.” Brooke nodded, then pointed over toward the cabinet with Mario’s food in it, “I just came in to feed Mario, excuse me.”

“Sam, I didn’t see any car out front for you or C.C. Will you need a lift back to the dorm tonight?” Mable looked over her shoulder at Brooke. “Henry and I could…”

“Ah…actually, I offered to drive them back, Mom,” Brooke turned around with the dog food bag in her hand.

“I don’t have a car, Mrs. Gordon,” Sam chimed in trying to take the heat off Brooke.

“Hmmm…gee, Brooke that seems a little out of your way, Dear.”

“Well, I…ah…yeah, but…” Brooke stumbled with her answer. “I picked C.C. and Sam up and you know…” the tall woman shrugged her shoulders, “Twenty-first birthday and all…”

“We figured that C.C. would be too drunk to go home…” Sam added.

“Didn’t think she should drive back so…we…uhm…” Brooke kept the story going.

Sam nodded in agreement picking up where her tall counterpart left off, “We figured that between the two of us, we could watch out for her tonight.”

“Yeah,” Blue eyes got bigger as the story went further.

“You know, if she gets sick and all,” Sam added.

“Hold her head up and all that. You understand, right Mom?” Brooke waited eagerly to see if the story was bought.

Mable studied the two schemers, first looking to one, then the other. Slowly she started to nod her head, “Well, that sounds like a good plan.”

Brooke cast her eyes to the heavens and mouthed a quick ‘Thank you’ in Sam’s direction when her Mother’s back was to her. “Yeah, we kind of thought we might all be too trashed to drive, that’s why all three of us will be staying here.”

“You know, Brooke,” Mable looked over to her daughter. “Sometimes I actually think that you love that sister of yours.” The matriarch pinched her second oldest daughter’s cheek.

“Well, of course I do, Mom.” Brooke smirked then hugged her Mother. “She may be a pain in the ass but I am kind of fond of her.”

Mable slapped her daughter’s arm, “Watch those words, young lady. You’re fond of her now, and to think you used to smack her on the head.”

“Hey, I dumped her on her head,” Brooke corrected the statement only to get a finger pointed directly at her face.

“You know what I mean.” The stern look was one that Sam had never seen on the woman. Mable looked over to Sam and handed her the utensil that she had been using, “Here, I think you can handle this one,” the matriarch took a quick glance at her daughter and then back at Sam. “Don’t you?” With that, she left the kitchen leaving two very relieved women in her wake.

The dark-haired woman let go of a huge breath as she watched her mother turn the corner into the living room. “Oh, my God. I didn’t know she was in here with you.”

Sam laughed as she held the utensil that she was presented, like some prize.

“What’s so funny?”

“I think she likes you, Brooke.”

“Who? Mom?”

“Even if she picks on you, she only has your best interest at heart.”

“I do hope so,” Brooke raised a eyebrow at that thought, “She is my Mother.”

“So, do you think she knows about us?” Sam raised her own golden eyebrow in question.

“I don’t think so,” Brooke shook her head. “She’d have said something.”

“Yeah, she is pretty outspoken. I guess not.”

“Hmmm…” Brooke thought for a moment. “You know, I need to get some more ice out of the freezer in the basement,” she motioned with her head toward the stairs and winked at Sam, “You wanna help?”

“Those ice cubes are tricky to carry,” Sam headed toward the door, “you might need some extra hands.”

Brooke smiled, “Yep, big bags.” The woman held her hands out as far as they would stretch, making the need for another person all the more evident.

“Oh, definitely a two person operation if I ever saw one.” Sam looked around to make sure the coast was clear then took Brooke’s hand in her own. “It might even take us a little time to get them all under control,” Sam giggled. “After you, please,” Sam watched as Brooke led the way down the stairs and began to wonder just how many ice cubes would be left by the time they were ready to come back up.

As was the Gordon family tradition, the end of the meal brought with it a time of family gathering and acknowledgements. C.C.’s birthday was no different. Henry waited until everyone was finished before calling the room to order, causing the scattered conversations to quickly be drawn to an end.

“Settle down,” Henry stood in the center of the room, holding his hands up as he asked for quiet. “It’s the time of the evening that we are all waiting for.”

“HIC!”

All eyes in the room turned from their father to C.C. who sat slightly tilted to one side with a surprised look on her face.

Henry looked down on his youngest child and made a very audible clearing of his throat. “Now as I was about to say…” he cast an arched eyebrow back at C.C. before looking out at the group. “Brooke,” he looked to find the woman in the gathering of people. “Will you do us the honor?”

“Uh…Yeah,” the second oldest daughter got up from her chair and came to stand next to her father. “I guess I can do that.”

Henry nodded and lifting his own glass to the room he asked, “Does everyone have a drink in their hand?” He watched as everyone reached for their beverage of choice, then turned to watch Brooke place one cold, frosty mug of beer into Sam’s hand with a wink.

“Okay,” Brooke turned to the rest of the room. She was purposefully standing so C.C. could be in view. “I guess I’ll start then.”

“Ooooh, wait for me…” Mable ran into the room from the kitchen, and grabbing her drink off the end table, she raised it to her youngest daughter. “Okay, Brooke, I’m ready,” she smiled, then motioned her child to continue on.

The rest of the group watched as Brooke walked around to the back of C.C. seated in a folding chair and eyed the coffee table in the center of the room. The tall woman took a few steps in that direction then stopped, then turned back looking at the guest of honor, smiling devilishly.

C.C. followed her sister’s path and grew paler as Brooke neared the coffee table. “No…not that…I’ll be good. Honest I will, I’m an adult now.” The brunette got up to run but Brooke’s strong steady hand held her in the chair.

“I guess you didn’t hit her hard enough back when she was a kid,” Terri spoke up. “Hey, Brooke, doesn’t she get twenty-one this time around?”

Brooke turned, smiling to the room. “Don’t worry, C.C., I only use Mom’s coffee table.” She chuckled at the relieved look on her sister’s face, as did the rest of the room.

Brooke’s constant observation of Sam continued even as she was thrust into the center of the room’s attention. The mistress of ceremonies seemed very pleased when the young blonde positioned herself across the table nestled shoulder to shoulder with Brooke’s siblings.

When the room settled down once more, Brooke shook her head in disbelief as she began to speak. “Well, I never thought this day would come when the brat here,” she turned and bowed to C.C., “would turn twenty-one.”

“Yeah, you got that right,” Randi raised her glass, voicing her own opinion.

Smiling at Randi’s words, Brooke kept right on going, “All of the trouble she caused with her blunders made us all want to put her six feet under…”

C.C. stuck her tongue out at the idea and made sure that each of her siblings saw it.

“But here she stands before us today, her head’s starting to spin, she’s starting to sway…” Brooke continued watching C.C. as she began to do the very thing that Brooke had mentioned, reaching out to steady her sister back into her chair.

“Hey, you got that one right, Sis,” C.C. laughed, then winked at her sister.

Brooke laughed with her, continuing on, “Even though she’s such a pain in the ass, I’m glad we’ve all been here to see her years pass…” Brooke looked out to her other sisters standing on either side of Sam. “A baby no more, she’s finally grown and yet there’s only one toast she should know…”

“Jeez, Brooke,” Randi called out. “I’m going to be a grandmother soon if you don’t hurry.”

One dark eyebrow arched as Brooke looked over at Randi before gathering up two beers in her hands and giving them to C.C. who smiled, eyeing the alcohol to be consumed.

“Ah, gee Sis, for me?” C.C. accepted them eagerly.

Raising her own glass, Brooke finished the toast, “Remember as you reach and soar to new heights, Sam Adams forever,” she reached out and clinked the first of the beers she had handed C.C., ” but Molson for life.” After taking the time to clink the other, Brooke downed her beer as the room mimicked her in the last part of the toast.

“Sam Adams forever, but Molson for life,” the chorus of unsynchronized voices repeated before the clinking began.

The blonde stood dumbfounded by the events of the last few minutes. Her wide-eyed stare caused Terri a little concern as she turned to clink her glass with Sam’s.

“Come on Sam, drink up. We won’t tell anyone that you’re not legal.” Terri watched as Sam slowly nodded and started to sip at her mug of beer.

Brooke made her way over to Terri, clinking their glasses together, and taking a sip, “Damn, I hate it when Dad puts me on the spot to come up with something like that.”

“Glad it wasn’t me.” Terri motioned her head toward Sam, “I don’t think Sam was ready for that long of a toast, Brooke.”

Noticing the far off look in Sam’s green eyes, Brooke tried to get her attention, “You okay?”

Vacant looking eyes turned toward Brooke, “How…How did you know…” Sam searched the older woman’s face, “That toast…”

Shrugging, Brooke laughed, “What do you mean? I made it up.”

“When?” Sam smiled slightly, wondering if Brooke even knew what she had said.

“The whole thing?” Brooke asked watching Sam nod her head. “Just now. Well, except for the part at the end.”

“The end part? Where did that come from?” The blonde was intent on finding out.

“Sam Adams forever, but Molson for life? I’ve been saying that since my twenty-first birthday.”

“Hey, Sam, don’t believe her. She’s said that all her life,” Terri smirked. “At least that’s what it seems like.”

Brooke offered in passing, “Those were my two favorite beers.”

“Ah, Sis,” Randi corrected her, “You had those two as favorites before you were legal.”

“Yeah, I know.” Brooke looked fondly at the beer in her hand, “Hmm…when did I come up with that toast?”

“Weren’t you like…fifteen? I remember hearing that when I was in grade school.” Terri tried to jog everyone’s memory.

“Oh, yeah! That’s right. I just never said it in front of Mom and Dad until I was twenty-one.” Brooke grinned thinking that she had pulled one over on her parents. Feeling a tap on her shoulder, the reminiscent woman turned around to view her Mother.

“It was when she was nine. I remember it like it was yesterday.” Mable shook her head. “When she went to camp that year, she came home with nothing but songs of beer and could recite the alphabet using the different brand names of beer for each letter.” The woman who was dwarfed standing in the mist of her own children, shook a stern finger then laughed. “Don’t think that I don’t know.”

“Oops!” Brooke hid behind Randi.

“Ah…Busted finally, Brooke.” The lawyer teased. “I’m not taking this case. You better plead the fifth.”

“Damn.” Brooke snapped her fingers in disgust, then smiled and laughed along with the rest of the family.

While the Gordon family was ribbing Brooke, Sam was doing some figuring of her own. Subtracting Brooke’s age for the year they were now in, the blonde deducted that she was born in 1971. After quickly adding nine onto that, Sam paled coming to a conclusion. “That was the year I was born,” she said not wanting to believe it was true.

“Really?” Brooke now did the math in her head, “Yeah, I guess it was.”

The stunned blonde turned to look at Brooke, “How…how did you know?”

“Know what?” Seeing Sam still a little off in space, Brooke grew concerned. “What is it, Sam? What’s wrong?”

The words came out slow and trance-like for the group to hear, “That’s my name.”

“Sam?” Brooke seemed confused. “Sam Moleson. Yeah, I knew that.”

The blonde continued, “It’s an old family tradition. I’m named after my mother’s family.” Sam turned to look directly at Brooke, “I’m Sam Adams Moleson.”

Blue eyes fixed on Sam as the color drained out of Brooke’s face, she silently thought about what the blonde had just said. Brooke swallowed, then mumbled out the last part of the toast as though she were in a trance, “Sam Adams forever, but Molson for life…”

Terri watched with a more than professional eye as her sister came to the same realization that Sam had when the toast was initially given. Leaning over to Randi, she stated, “Surprises never cease around here, do they?”

“Hmm…” Randi gave it some thought. “You think it means anything?”

“Nah,” the pediatrician shook her head. “That would be too much like fate or something.” She smirked, “And we all know that Brooke makes her own fate. Hey, Randi, did you see that show the other night on cable?” Terri motioned for her sister to follow her.

“True.” Randi moved away with Terri, not lowering her voice to hide her conversation. “So, what’s up with the look on her face? She looks like she’s seen a ghost.”

Terri shrugged, keeping an eye on Brooke as she talked with Randi. “You know the one with babies and predetermined fates?”

“No, how was it?”

“It proved that babies had certain destinies…fate.”

“How so, Sis.”

Whispering so that no one else would hear but Sam, Brooke pondered half-afraid of what it really meant, “Guess I’ve always known then, huh?”

“Maybe…” Sam looked up to Brooke, “I sure hope so.” She held her breath hoping that her wish would be true.

Brooke looked around to make sure that no one was watching her, then mouthed, ‘I love you’ to Sam. She then let herself pick back up on the conversation that was going on around her.

“…twins separated at birth.” Terri continued her story, “They both had the same profession later in life when they met.”

“Huh?” Brooke tried to understand what her sisters were talking about, “Weird, I mean.”

“And they knew that they had someone out there just like themselves. Like another part of their soul…” Terri looked over to Brooke.

“So, you’re telling me this because…?” Brooke asked wondering what the point of the whole discussion was.

“Maybe you knew C.C.’s roommate before meeting her.”

“Ah…you mean, maybe Brooke knew her in another life or something weird like that?” Randi was trying to make sense of Terri’s ramblings.

“Exactly,” Terri agreed.

Sam’s mind was reeling with the thoughts of the last several minutes and suddenly she just needed room to think, room to be…alone for a while. Without saying a word to anyone, the blonde moved away from the small band of siblings and left the room.

Two sets of eyes watched as Sam took her leave, walking out into the kitchen and then onto the deck outside. Brooke debated with herself about going after Sam but she decided that perhaps the young woman need a little space right now. She granted it to her.

The cool night breeze off the ocean could be felt even here where the young executive had carved out a home in the sandy soils of the beachfront community. Sam wandered from one corner of the deck to the other letting her thoughts and feelings come to the surface. Standing there with her hands on the railing, the young woman turned her eyes to the heavens. Then, picking one star out of the many that danced gracefully in the sky that night, she began her internal discussion as she tried to reason things out.

Could it be? Could she have really known that I was coming? Did she anticipate my chance meeting several weeks ago as early as the age of nine? Maybe even from the very day that I was born? How else would you explain it? Sam hung her head, closing her eyes and inhaled deeply, but the answers to all her questions still remained just out of her grasp. Shaking her long, blonde hair, she pulled the strands away from her neck and let them settle about her shoulders. If she did know that I was coming into her life, does that mean we are joined together somehow…like soulmates?

Sam knew that she believed in fate, but could this be really happening to her, and so soon in her life? It just seemed like too much to deal with, at least right now. Sam turned her face into the gentle breeze and prayed that the currents would enlighten her. I wonder if Brooke will believe in fate now or if its going to freak her out even more?

“Are you okay, Dear?”

The sound of another’s voice startled Sam and she turned to see Mrs. Gordon standing just outside the kitchen door. “Hi, Mrs. Gordon.” Sam tried to rustle up a weak smile for the woman, “Yeah, just a little…ah…overwhelmed by the celebration.”

“Then you did good by coming out here in the fresh air,” Mable slowly made her way towards Sam. “It always helps me to clear my head. How about you?”

Sam nodded and turned back to lean on the railing, then look up at the stars overhead.

Mable came over and copied Sam’s statue-like pose, staying silent for a few minutes before asking what had been on her mind for the majority of the evening, “You like her, don’t you?” The older woman knew she had struck a chord when she heard the sharp gasp of air that the girl had taken in.

“I’m…not sure I know how to answer that,” Sam chose her words cautiously.

“What do you mean, Dear?” Mable refrained from looking in Sam’s direction.

Sam bit her lower lip then spoke, “I…ah…I don’t want you to get the wrong idea of me.”

The matriarch smiled, then asked, “And what kind of wrong idea would I have?” She turned to look over at the blonde, “You can be honest with me, Sam. I won’t say anything to her.”

The young woman sighed but felt compelled to answer. “That maybe I’m trying to cash in here…” Her words were spoken in whispers, “Take Brooke for a ride.”

“Oh Sam,” the compassion filled Mable’s voice. “I would never think that. You’re not that type at all, Dear.”

Longing for the wisdom of a mother, Sam fought with herself for only a brief moment before confiding in the matriarch, “I think I’m in love with her,” she whispered turning toward Mable and letting her chin nearly touch her chest. Sam glanced up shyly and tried to explain, “I…I guess I kind of need a mother’s advice. I’m afraid all these feelings are kind of new to me.”

Brooke’s Mom reached out, placing her hand underneath Sam’s chin and raised it to look at the young woman’s face. “Love doesn’t think, Sam. It either is or it isn’t?” Mable could tell that her directness, coupled with the warm smile on her face, was helping Sam talk about what was on her mind.

“Then I guess I am. I’m in love with your daughter.” Sam looked into the matriarch’s soft brown eyes, trying to gauge her acceptance.

“Does she know?”

“God, I hope so. I’m pretty sure she does.”

Mable tilted her head to study the young woman harder, “And what does she think?”

Smiling shyly, Sam told her the truth. “She told me that she loved me over the cell phone last week.” She giggled, remembering how it had come about. “I’m hoping that’s a good sign.”

“Oh, Sam…” Mable grabbed onto the blonde’s arms, asking her directly, “She actually said it…said those three words?”

“Said it…wrote it…” Sam tried to hold back the broad grin that wanted to take over her face, “she even mouthed it a time or two to me tonight with everyone else around.”

Sam could swear that there were twinkles coming from Mable’s eyes right before she was pulled into the massive hug that she now found herself.

“Oh, Sam…I only have one thing to say about this.”

“You’re…not mad?”

“Of course, I’m not mad.” Mable tightened the hold she had on the small blonde, “I think it’s wonderful. Welcome to the family, Honey!” The matriarch beamed with love and acceptance of the person that her daughter had chosen to say those three little words to.

Nervous laughter came from the small blonde, giddy at the thought of being welcomed into a family. “Now, tell that to her,” Sam giggled out like a schoolgirl.

“Tell her what?” Mable released the girl and looked her straight in the eye.

“That I’m in the family…”

The older woman laughed at the pun she had made without really knowing it at the time. “Family,” she laughed, using her hand to cover her mouth, “I’m sure she knows it already.”

“Yeah, I can see that she takes after you…” Sam winked, “Well, just a little.”

Mable watched as Brooke came out onto the deck and moved toward Sam without the girl seeing her.

Once Brooke was close enough to whisper, she leaned slightly toward Sam saying, “She does.”

The blonde turned toward Brooke’s voice, “Where’d you come from?”

“Mom and Dad,” Brooke tried keeping a straight face.

“I’ve heard that answer before.”

“I know you have…” Brooke raised an eyebrow. “Guess I need some new material if I’m going to keep you around, huh?”

“Sorry, Brooke, I…I kind of let it out about us to your Mother.”

Brooke looked at her Mother, then back at Sam, “No, If anything, I’m sure she dragged it out of you. You know she used to have a job at the Spanish Inquisition,” the tall woman beamed a smile and winked at her Mother.

“Your Mom?” Sam asked, trying not to laugh.

“Right, I did,” Mable confirmed her tactics, “I brow beat it out of her tooth and nail.”

“You’re not mad about finding out this way. Are you Mom?”

The matriarch shook her head, “No, not really. But I suspected it after that little kitchen scene of yours.”

“What kitchen scene?”

“Never mind, Brooke. It was too cute, you both trying hard to cover for the other one.” Mable came over to Brooke, and reached up to pinch her cheeks, “Mad? How could I be mad when my daughter has finally found her soul?” The woman laughed as she pulled Brooke’s face down closer to her own. “I saw those winks, Brooke. You’ve got to learn to be more subtle.”

“Winks? But…uhm…ah…er…How?” Brooke stuttered out.

Mable kissed her daughter on the cheek, then let her go with a warning. “Remember, I’m a mother. I got eyes in the back of my head.” She turned her back to Brooke and grabbed her hair to part it down the back, “You want to see for yourself?” She said teasingly.

The tall woman closed her eyes and scrunched up her face. “Ugh! Mom, please don’t. You know how I hate that sci-fi stuff.” Brooke finally opened one eye and asked, “Oh, damn. Does that mean that Randi has those too?”

“Okay, okay,” Mable pushed her hair back in place, then tweaked her daughter some more. “You know that they come with the first birth. Why, of course, Randi has them.”

Brooke shivered with a chill that had just passed through her as she mumbled out, “Glad that I won’t have ’em. The mere thought is disgusting.”

Mable looked up at her daughter, “You never know, Brooke. Don’t go tempting fate. Look where it got you already.”

“Okay, Mom.” Brooke rolled her eyes, but agreed anyhow. “Ah, Mom?”

“Yes, Dear.”

Brooke looked at Sam then back to her mother. “Mom, about Sam and me…we didn’t want…”

Mable held up her hand, halting Brooke. “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. I won’t tell the rest of the family. I’ll let you have that honor when you’re both ready to.” She reached out and patted first her daughter’s cheek, then, Sam’s, “Speaking of which, I think we can officially declare this party over. It’s time for us all to go home.”

Brooke nodded as she reached out and took Sam’s hand in hers.

Mother started back into the house but stopped short and turned, “Ah, Sam…sorry, but our car is full, guess you’ll just have to spend the night here with my daughters.”

“Ah, Damn!” Brooke looked all bummed out, teasing her mother.

“We could always take Sam and leave Randi here, Brooke,” Mable teased right back.

“No, that’s okay.” Brooke rolled her eyes at living with Randi under the same roof, if only for a night.

“I figured you’d see it my way,” Mable laughed as she turned to walk away.

Brooke winked at Sam and whispered, “Nope, wrong. I see it my way.” The tall woman pointed a finger to her own chest.

The matriarch walked away, reaching up to adjust her hair in the back of her head, then turned, winking at Sam. “I saw that.”

Brooke glanced over at her retreating mother and let her mouth drop open, with Sam following suit.

“Close your mouths, girls. You’ll catch flies.” Mable turned, then thought of something. “Better yet, why don’t you two just go ahead and kiss?”

Two stunned women watched the older woman go into the house and then looked to each other. Brooke wasted no time and pulled Sam into a tight embrace, as a questioning look came to the blonde’s face.

The dark-haired woman raised an eyebrow and said, “What? You expect me not to do what my mother told me to do?” The rakish grin slid across her face as she leaned in, savoring the sweet lips that she had wanted to kiss all evening.

Ch9 The Love Of A Good Fight Part 1
“…If I was only foolin’, would you still Believe in me? If I was only dreamin’, would you still Believe in me? If I was only trippin’, would you still Believe in me? And if I said I’m slippin, would you still Believe…”

The tall brunette slowly sat herself up in the bed, stopping only momentarily to sit on the edge of the bed to get her bearings. The young woman looked around the dimly lit room with half-opened eyes when suddenly it all started coming back to her. The party last night, the drinking, the toast, and more drinking, it all seemed to be the emphasis of the occasion rather than the presents she’d received from her family and friends.

Damn, I’m at Brooke’s. One hand pushed back the cascading hair as she shook her head in disbelief. The digital readout of the clock told her that it was nearly sunrise, a time of the morning that she tried hard not to bear witness to.

C.C. started to get up from the bed that she was sitting on. Without warning, the young woman felt the room begin to sway, causing her to grab her head, trying to keep it still. Sure enough, the effects of her celebration of twenty-one years on earth were making themselves well known. Battling back the slight bit of nausea, she got to her feet and slowly made her way out into the hall. She stopped and listened for a few moments before continuing into the bathroom.

“I must be the only one here,” she mumbled closing the door to the bathroom and taking a seat on the side of the tub. Her still foggy mind slowly pieced together the events of the previous evening as she tried to decide which of her bodily functions it was that needed the most attention. The fullness of her bladder seemed to be the one screaming for aid and she quickly found herself addressing its need.

I got to remember to thank Randi for the long nightshirt. C.C.’s mind wondered how her oldest sister had come to the conclusion that a long loose fitting garment was the best for keeping warm at the alter of the porcelain goddess while providing easy access when the call of nature screamed your name. Yeah, being the youngest sure has its advantages. The sobering woman counted her blessings of being the last born as she ran each sister and her thoughtful gift through her mind.

The brunette stood now staring into the mirror, marveling that her appearance wasn’t half as bad as she anticipated it being. She shook her head and smiled, turning on the water to wash her hands as her thoughts soon drifted to another one of her sisters.

Now, Terri, I bet you had many hangovers before you came up with that preventative cure. The smile that crossed her lips grew bigger as she thought of the huge bottle of aspirin with the familiar cursive script of her sister’s on it, reading: Take two with your first drink, follow with food every hour and don’t call me in the morning. Now, that was a gift straight from Terri’s own heart. C.C. remembered vaguely her older sister’s bouts with headaches and the toll that they would take on her. Hmm…I think I should call her and wake her up… just for fun. The brown eyes twinkled at the thought, but quickly dismissed it. She’s probably up and making rounds already.

The woman turned to grab the towel on the rack to dry her hands when she caught sight of the monogram with the letters BLG on it. That was when her thoughts turned to her last, but most favored sister, Brooke. God, I’ve got a lot to learn from you, Sis. C.C. pondered the course of Brooke’s life, realizing that it had not been an easy one for the talented musician. I know that you gave me the best present of all, Brooke.

The party hosted at her sister’s house was not what the brunette had been thinking about, but rather the ability to go off drinking with no worries as to who would be there to watch over her this night. That no matter what happened, C.C. was safe and loved. There would be no surprises or life changing encounters to haunt her, just the same, everyday life that she was used to leading for the last twenty-one years.

With a smile plastered across her face, C.C. decided that Brooke indeed needed to be thanked. She opened the door, stepped into the hall and went in search of her sister. The still opened doors for the bedrooms that C.C. passed in the hall brought some concern to her as she headed for the stairs. After making the first rotation of the circular stairway, it soon became evident why none of the bedrooms were in use. There, on the couch in the living room, sat Brooke with her arm draped around the slumbering form of a small blonde.

The brunette stood silently next to the entwined figures on the couch. She nodded her approval. Damn, they make a nice pair. I wonder why they just didn’t go up to bed? Slightly proud of her own matchmaking abilities, C.C. nudged her sister and waited for some sign of life before speaking.

“Hey, you going to sleep here all night or let her go to bed proper like?” C.C. asked as she watched the blue of her sister’s eyes slowly come to life.

Brooke swallowed first, then whispered sleepily, “Hey, you ok? Didn’t get sick, did you?”

“Me?” C.C. pointed to her own chest, “Hell no, I can hold my liquor.” The young woman tried to keep her mouth closed tight, but her body betrayed her. “Hic…” the sound escaped her lips as she covered her mouth with her hand.

“You sure?”

“Excuse me.”

“Okay, C.C. if you say so.”

“Besides, I threw up before I went to bed.” C.C. shrugged her shoulders.

“Thanks for that news bulletin, Sis.” Brooke felt Sam begin to stir in her arms. She looked down at the blonde as a smile came to her face. “I tried to talk her into going upstairs earlier…she said she was too comfortable here.”

“Comfortable huh?” The brunette winked at her sister, then quickly clamped her hand over her mouth as another hiccup came to the surface.

Shaking her head slightly at the antics of her youngest sister, Brooke tried hard not to laugh. “You should drink some water. And yes, I’m very comfortable,” the older woman nestled back into the blonde head with her cheek.

“Brooke…aren’t you scared?”

“Scared?” Worried blue eyes searched C.C.’s face. “What do you mean, scared? What would I be scared of?”

“Scared of falling in love with her.” The brunette reached out to touch her sister’s shoulder in a comforting manner, “What is she going to think when she knows who you are?” C.C. paused then continued, “Or does she know already?”

Brooke took in a deep breath and then let it out slowly as she pondered the questions. “Come on, let’s talk in the kitchen.” She carefully extracted herself from around Sam, making sure not to wake her.

“Kitchen, living room, makes no difference to me,” C.C. mumbled as she headed toward the hall.

Finally out from under Sam, Brooke kissed her on the forehead, then whispered in her ear as she slowly drew away, “Love you.”

The blonde head shifted slightly and the nearly inaudible mumble of “Love you” was reflexively answered back.

Brooke remained standing there for a moment, then smiled and walked out of the room. Entering the kitchen, she dimmed the harsh lights and pulled out two chairs from under the table for both herself and her sister. “Have a seat, C.C.”

Taking a drink from the glass of water that she held in her hand, the brunette turned off the faucet and moved in the direction of the offered chair, bringing the glass with her. “Does she know?”

“About me? Who I am?”

“Yeah, that and how much you love her.” C.C.’s eyes pinned her sister’s, allowing her no room to run.

Brooke closed her eyes, shaking her head. “No, not who I am.” She bit at her lip, “I hope she knows how much I love her.” The dark-haired woman smirked, “I find myself telling her every chance I get.” The woman laughed out loud, “I e-mail her and tell her. I call her on her cell phone just to tell her.”

“You’re really in love…” C.C. looked directly at her sister, “Aren’t you, Sis?”

The older woman let her eyes drift. “I can’t imagine life without her.”

The younger brunette started to jump up from the chair but was stopped when her head started spinning. She placed a hand against her forehead and moved to grab the pad and pencil next to the phone on the kitchen wall.

“C.C. what are you doing?” Brooke watched her sister, totally amazed by her actions.

“I got to remember to write this day down on the calendar,” the young woman exaggerated her actions as she grabbed the small calendar from the wall and pretended to write on it. “Brooke Loran gives her heart away.”

“Funny, C.C.,” the older woman stuck her tongue out at her sister. “James said something similar to that last week.”

“James?” A shocked look came to C.C.’s face. “You’re talking to James after all these years?”

The dark-haired woman shrugged her shoulders, “Uh…” then looked away, “Yeah…I’m going to help him and Peter out.” She cleared her throat, “Produce their new shit.”

“Produce…is that all?” C.C. studied her sister intently.

“That’s all.” Brooke nodded, more to reassure herself than her sister. “I don’t think I can get all wrapped up in that again.”

“I thought you didn’t want to work with them again,” C.C. took a drink from her glass. “James, especially.”

“Well, it’s costing him,” Brooke grinned at her sister. “And no, I sure didn’t want to work with him.” The dark-haired woman crossed her arms in front of her chest, “Besides, Peter’s not so bad when he’s not being influenced by James.”

“So, what made the difference? Why are you doing it?” C.C. studied her sister as the older woman first looked out the kitchen window, then in the direction of the living room. “Don’t tell me that Sam has something to do with it?”

“Well…” the blush slowly crept up Brooke’s neck and the older woman squeaked out a rather weak reply, “…kind of.” There was silence for a moment until Brooke chose to speak once again. “You know that her birthday is in a couple of weeks, right?”

C.C. nodded her head. “So, what’s that have to do with it?

The older woman sighed. “I asked her if she could have anything in the world, what would she like for her birthday.”

Brown eyes stared at the older woman, stunned by the admission. “God, Brooke, you really have fallen off that deep end.”

Brooke now looked directly at her sister. “She said that she wanted to see Anti-Zero and Brooke Loran in concert.”

“Well, that’s obvious.” C.C. pushed her chair back and stood up, walking toward the sink for more water, “She’s had a crush on them for as long as she can remember.”

“Sooo…” she drew the word out before continuing. “James agreed. One night with all the songs, even the stuff we never released.”

Turning around from the sink, C.C. shook her head. “And how are you going to pull that one off?” She asked her sister, then added, “Loran hasn’t made an appearance in years.”

“I know,” Brooke ran her sinewy fingers through her long, dark locks, “Well, I’m not cutting my hair again, that’s for sure.” She thought for a moment, then added more determined than ever. “I’ll pull it off. I have to. That’s what she wants.”

The brunette walked over to her sister and put herself in the older woman’s place. “I can see it now…” she tapped Brooke on the shoulder. “Happy Birthday, Sam. Oh, did I forget to tell you? I’m Brooke Loran.” The woman imitated her sister with a cock to her head and a raised eyebrow.

There was silence for a moment as both women replayed the scenario in their heads, each one ending with a different outcome.

“I just hope that she’ll want me when it’s over.” The words were spoken slightly louder than a whisper as Brooke got up from the table and walked over to look out the kitchen window.

“Want you?” C.C. couldn’t believe her sister’s insecurity. “Hell, Brooke, she probably masturbated for the first time with Loran’s picture in full view, thinking it was the drummer touching her, driving her into a heated frenzy.”

Brooke couldn’t think of a thing to say as the blush began to creep onto her face at the mere thought of Sam doing that exact thing. Lost in a dream, she continued to stare out the window. “I love her, C.C.,” she closed her eyes and lowered her head. “And I’m scared to death that I’ll lose her.” Blue eyes now stared back out the window. “I want her to love me for me…not Loran.”

Feeling her sister’s pain, C.C. turned away, leaning on the sink with her backside. “So, how are you going to know which one she really loves?”

“I don’t know,” Brooke wiped a few stray tears from her cheeks, happy that C.C. couldn’t see them. “I don’t know what to do, Chase.”

“Well, you’d better think of something ’cause that birthday is a little over a month away.” C.C. rolled her eyes. “Talk about surprises.”

“I never thought the day would come when I’d be asking you what to do,” the older woman smirked.

“Face it, Sis,” C.C. grinned at being able to help her older sister. “You’re not too experienced here in matters of the heart.”

Brooke shook her head and sighed, “No, I’m not.” There was a long pause before she finally confided in her sister. “Hell, C.C., I love Randi and Terri but I’m closer to you than anyone. And I can tell you that every time I try to think of life without her…I…I can’t even breathe.”

With a wink and a nod, C.C. reached over and patted Brooke’s shoulder. “Just let ol’ C.C. figure something out. Hell, I got the two of you together, didn’t I?

“Yeah, but can you keep us together?” Blue eyes drove home their point. “I can’t lose her. I’m terrified that if I do, it’ll be because of me. Well…” she paused for a brief second, “because of Loran.”

“Brooke, let’s be serious here. What would it take for you to know?”

“Honestly, Chase,” she stared out the window in a daze, “I don’t know.”

“Come on, Brooke. What would it take for you to really know that she loves you? A word…a phrase…a pledge…an act…what?”

The taller woman turned around and for the first time, C.C. noticed the tear-stained cheeks of her older sister. “God, you’re not kidding here, are you?”

“No, I’m not,” Brooke hung her head. “Part of me doesn’t want to tell her at all, but I know I can’t do that. It’s like I’d be lying.”

Compelled to do something, C.C. closed the distance between them, enveloping her sister in a hug. “Hey, I’m a pest at times, but when my big sister needs me…”

“She holds you upside down and drops you on your head.” The two sisters shared a weak laugh at Brooke’s comment.

“But then I’d have to worry about if she really wanted me or was dreaming about Loran,” the older woman broke down, holding onto C.C. for all that she was worth.

After a few minutes, C.C. finally voiced an opinion. “Maybe you should have killed Loran long ago.”

“I wish I had,” Brooke sighed, then pushed herself away from her sister. “I can’t deny her that one night. It’s what she wants and I’ll do anything, even risk losing her, just to see her happy.”

“Well, Sis,” the brunette shrugged her shoulders in indifference, “give it to her and see what happens. From what I see of Sam and you together, I don’t think that it will make any difference to her. She loves you, Brooke.” C.C. turned to the sink and filled her glass with more water. “Look, I’m her roommate. I hear her mumbling your name at night,” she brought the glass to her lips and drank.

“Mine or Loran’s?” Brooke raised an eyebrow in challenge. “You can’t be sure.”

“You had to use your first name, didn’t you?” C.C. shook her head.

“Yeah, like a dumb ass,” Brooke nodded in agreement.

“Then follow your heart and hopefully she will do the same,” the brunette challenged her sister. “You’d be surprised where your hearts might lead you.”

Brooke thought for a moment, then began to speak, “You know, when she came over here last weekend, I showed her the studio…” she shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t ask me why.” The older woman smiled remembering the evening. “You should’ve seen the look on her face as she traced all the photos of Loran, mesmerized as she ran her finger over them.”

“Come on, say it…I’m a genius.” C.C. smiled as she encouraged her sister to admit that for one time, the baby of the family had a great idea in trying to get these two together. “Maybe you did knock some sense into me,” she teased her sibling. “She didn’t recognize you, did she?”

“No,” Brooke laughed. “Hell, I even got behind the kit with her…” she shook her head. “She asked me so many questions about Loran…”

“Did she stay glued to the pictures or you?”

“I’d have to say the pictures of Loran, until we went into the studio.”

“And…” C.C.’s eyes grew bigger, “the rest of the night?”

“The rest of the night after the studio, it was just us.”

“No mention of Loran?”

Brooke thought back over the evening in question, “Uhh…other than talking about her birthday, I don’t think so.”

The younger woman smiled, “So, who was she kissing then…hmmm?”

“Me,” came Brooke’s shy reply.

“And who did she say ‘I love you’ to…hmmm?”

“Me.”

C.C. crossed her arms over her chest, “Come on, Sis, admit it. She loves you. She’s not a player.” The brunette shook her head. “Loran was probably the furthest thing from her mind.”

“I know.” Brooke raised her eyes to the heavens, “God, I hope so.”

“If you’re that afraid, just tell her and be done with it. She’ll either leave or stay,” C.C. looked at her sister, then spoke from her heart. “But I’m betting on stay.”

“I don’t want to have to worry if she loves me or Loran.” Brooke stared off out the window at the changing colors in the eastern sky. “I don’t want to have to worry about if she’s making love to me or Loran.”

“You’ve…ah…” C.C. studied her sister’s face for a clue, “already…”

“No,” the dark hair cascaded around her shoulders as she shook her head. “We haven’t.”

“Then maybe you should.”

Blue eyes looked stunned, “You mean…”

“You know what they say, Sis,” the younger woman tried to act more worldly. “They always cry out the name of the one in their mind.” She turned away from looking at her sister, then chuckled at what she was thinking. “But I’d get a pet name first, if I were you.”

Brooke rolled her eyes at her sister’s wise crack, “Gee, thanks for that advice.”

The younger woman turned on her best innocent smile, “Sorry, Sis. I was just trying to help.” She nudged her sister with her elbow, “Hey, what do you expect? I’m probably still legally drunk, and you’re asking me for advice?”

The older woman didn’t hear what her sister had said, her mind was too involved, sorting things out. “So, we…we…uhm…you know… first” she winked at C.C., “or should I tell her first?”

“I think I better leave you on your own for this one, Sis.” C.C. took a step or two away from Brooke, then stopped and asked, “Does Sam even have a pet name for you?”

“No.”

“You sure,” she challenged her sister, “Auntie?”

The dark-haired woman hid her face in her hands, “Oh, God. I don’t think that counts. I just can’t imagine making love to her and hearing her screaming out ‘Auntie’.”

“Good,” C.C. held back the laughter that wanted to be let out. “Because that would be a little kinky coming out at the height of passion.”

“Yeah…really,” Brooke rolled her eyes at the thought. The two women shared a chuckle while new thoughts began to creep into the older woman’s mind. “God,” she shook her head trying to rid the image in her mind. “I got a call earlier tonight. I have to go up to Jersey the week after next.”

“Yeah? What’s in Jersey?”

“That band Brownstone just signed. They’re having trouble with their producer, so I need to go light a fire under his ass.”

“You doing it over the weekend?” C.C. smiled coyly. “Take Sam with you, maybe someone else will get a fire lit under their…”

“Nope, I’ll be there for at least a week.” Brooke sighed. “I wish I could take her with me.”

“Ask her anyway, she’s a smart kid,” the brunette wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. “Maybe smarter than you think.”

“What? About going with me?” One dark eyebrow rose in contemplation. “What about school?”

C.C. shook her head briskly, “You know, you can’t learn everything in school.” The young woman elbowed her sister in the ribs and winked.

Brooke’s eyes became as big as saucers, her voice crackled in disbelief. “You’re telling me to ask her to sleep with me?”

“Sleep?” C.C.’s brows arched as she tweaked her older sister. “I thought she was doing that already.”

Brooke rolled her eyes in disgust. “You know what I mean, C.C. I just want to make sure that I know what you mean.”

Finally giving up, the younger sister blurted out, “Hey, I’m the drunk. I don’t even know what I mean.”

Now, totally confused, Brooke raked her hands through her long dark tresses as she turned around obviously muttering to herself. Without warning, she pivoted back toward her youngest sister, bridging the gap between them in seconds as Brooke’s large hands grasped each of C.C.’s cheeks, centering the woman and staring directly into her eyes. “What are you telling me to ask her?” Blue eyes flashed with every word.

Visually shaken by the side of her sister that was seldom seen, the young woman’s mouth was left gaping as the words came filtering across the air.

“Ask me what?” The sound of a stifled yawn followed the question as Sam stood in the doorway, rubbing her eyes with the back of one hand.

Terror seized Brooke’s being, but suddenly her frenzied frustration wilted and the calm demeanor of a levelheaded C.E.O. returned. Tapping her sister’s cheeks lightly, she smiled and turned toward the figure in the doorway. “Hi, Baby. What are you doing up?”

Sniffing and clearing her throat, Sam walked over toward the two women. “Couldn’t sleep, my pillow moved,” she stifled another yawn then leaned into Brooke, “We going to bed or what?”

“Sure Baby,” one long arm encompassed the small blonde and held her tightly against the taller woman. “We can go to bed.”

The brunette watched the pair for a second before taunting her sister, “Yeah, you better go to bed, Brooke. You never know when you need that energy,” C.C. smirked, then stuck out her tongue letting the tip wiggle in the breeze.

The older woman rolled her eyes at the juvenile behavior of her now twenty-one year old sister and calmly stated, “Goodnight, C.C.”

The sibling went to the sink where she finished her glass of water then turned on the faucet and filled it up again. Turning back toward her sister, C.C. raised her glass toast style and tilted her head in Brooke’s direction, “I’ll just take this to my room. Don’t let me bother you.” The young woman began to smile broadly and walked out of the room, throwing a verbal wish out as she entered the hall, “G’night.”

The two women stood there, enjoying the warmth of the other for a moment before Brooke kissed the top of Sam’s head and asked, “Ready for bed, Sweetheart?” The slight nod of a very tired head and a gentle sigh was all that the taller woman needed. They started to walk out of the kitchen as Brooke kept her arm around Sam’s shoulders. “Come on, Darlin’, let’s get you tucked in.”

“Sounds good to me, Lover.” Sam stifled another yawn. “I hear that soft mattress calling my name already.”

“Lover…huh?” The corners of Brooke’s mouth edged upward at the meaning that the word implied as they started up the spiral staircase to the second floor.

Sam took a few more steps then turned and looked at the woman following her, “You said that’s your middle name…right?”

The tall woman looked Sam in the eye, then continued up the steps in her direction. “No, Sweetheart,” Brooke reached out and gently placed a accusatory finger on the blonde’s nose, “You said that was my middle name.”

Having reached the top of the stairs, Brooke stepped around the confused looking woman and headed for her bedroom.

Blonde brows furrowed as Sam’s tired brain tried to reason it out, but she couldn’t. Finally giving up with a show of hands raised upward in defeat, she uttered, “Okay, whatever…” then followed the dark-haired woman into the bedroom.

With the covers already thrown back, Brooke slipped out of her jeans and shirt then into the bed where she moved over, holding the covers back for Sam. Following suit, the blonde quickly shed her outer layer of clothing and snuggled in close to the warm body that would share the bed with her.

Lying there with Sam nestled close, Brooke ran over the conversation she’d just had with C.C. in her mind. Startling the older woman at the ease with which they were said, the soft-spoken words filled the room as they tumbled out of her mouth, “I love you, Sam.”

The young blonde smiled hearing the words and she blew a stray hair away from her face before responding, “Love you too, Baby.” She drifted off to sleep, unaware of the smile that it brought to the other woman’s face.

The sound of soft snores soon filled the room as Brooke tried to shutdown her over zealous mind from thinking about the situation any more. Her last thought before giving into sleep was more prayer-like than anything. “Please, Sam, don’t leave me…” Brooke sighed at the thought, then amended it, “…ever.”

Sleepy green eyes fought off the filtering rays of the mid-morning sun as it filled the room with light. Rolling to the other side of the bed for the familiar comforting touch of her friend, Sam only came up empty handed. The tall woman who had held onto her so tightly was gone and with it, all thoughts of staying in bed for the small blonde. Sensing the urge to attend to her needs, she climbed out of the king-sized bed and padded off into the master bathroom.

After emerging from the shower, refreshed and invigorated from her restful night of sleep, Sam dried off using the towel that Brooke had placed on the counter for her. Moving back into the bedroom, the small woman quickly pulled some clothing from her overnight bag and dressed, ready for whatever the new day may bring. With a smile on her face and the hope of finding Brooke, Sam took off for the kitchen and the cup of coffee that she knew would be brewing there.

“Hey there,” C.C. voice startled the blonde as she came past the door leading down to the studio.

“Hey, C.C.” Sam smiled and waved a little hello, “How are you feeling? Have you seen Brooke?”

“I’m feeling fine, thanks,” the brunette stepped out of the doorway and started walking down the hall toward the kitchen. “And… yeah, she’s in the studio,” she said as she motioned with her thumb extended in the direction of the door she had just left. “Did you sleep okay?”

Sam smiled as she got a little dreamy-eyed thinking about sleeping in Brooke’s warm embrace. “Yeah, I always sleep good when I’m here.”

“Really?” C.C. acted dumb, “Why is that?” The brunette turned to look at Sam, watching the red tinge come to the younger woman’s cheeks. “Come on, Roomie…” she wiggled her eyebrows, “You can tell me.”

“I…ah…” Sam stuttered.

“Yeeeessssss?” She drew out the word teasingly.

Swallowing hard, Sam looked to the floor trying not to show her embarrassment, “I like sleeping with your sister.” The blonde stole a look at C.C., “Alright?”

The brunette grinned broadly then, like a bolt of lightning, her right hand shot up toward the ceiling, “Woohoo!”

The blonde creased her brow at the sudden show of elation. “You act like it’s some sort of surprise.”

“Well yeah,” C.C. reached out and tweaked the smaller woman’s nose. “Damn, Sam. Three weeks ago you wanted to know what it was like to sleep with Loran,” C.C. chided her.

“Okay, so I was still a child three weeks ago.” Sam tried to hide her smile. “Maybe meeting your sister has helped me grow up,” the blush started in her cheeks. “At least in some matters.”

“Some matters?”

“It’s like…I know what I want finally,” Sam nodded, letting the smile come to her face. “And I’m happy with it.”

“Really?” C.C. pushed the issue even further. “So, what do you want?”

Sam laughed as she teased her roommate, “A million dollars.” They shared a laugh, then the blonde grew quiet before she spoke her mind. “What do you think I want? I want love, C.C. An honest to goodness love that will last my lifetime and then some.”

“Didn’t you always want that?”

“Yeah, but I thought fame was the trigger to make it work before. Now I know differently.”

“Fame? I don’t understand,” C.C. looked confused.

The blonde thought for a moment then answered, “It’s not fame, it’s what you feel inside that counts…” green eyes darted around the room trying to find better words to express herself. “What makes you want to keep living and breathing, just to see that face again…” she blushed, “…or hear those words one more time.”

C.C. looked wide-eyed and innocently at Sam, “And you’ve found that?”

“God, I’d love to think that I have…”

“So what’s stopping you?” C.C. poured a cup of coffee and offered it to Sam.

“Thanks,” the blonde took it and sipped at the black liquid, then made a face. “Too strong,” she mumbled and poured in some creamer and sugar. “Maybe I’m being childish to think that Brooke could care for me that same way.” She shrugged, then stirred the coffee with a spoon. “I’m just so much younger than her.”

The brunette almost dropped her own cup at hearing Sam’s defeatist attitude. “Oh God, Sam. My sister is so into you…”

Sam’s head lifted and she asked in wonderment, “You really think so? I mean…” She tried to qualm her excitement. “You’re just not saying that.”

“No, I know so,” C.C.’s words were out with no uncertainty.

The blonde swallowed hard and worked at forming the words, “You know so?”

Shaking her head and laughing, C.C. commented, “You two crack me up the way you dance around what you’re both feeling.” She sipped at her coffee, then continued, “Hell yes, I know so.”

“Dance around?” Sam stared into her coffee cup looking for answers, “What do you mean we dance around?”

C.C. sat down at the table and tugged at Sam’s sleeve until she did the same. “You don’t think she loves you as much as she does. She’s worried you’ll…uhm…find someone better and walk away from her.”

“Okay, so I’m a little insecure,” Sam sighed as she thought about what C.C. had just told her. Then it dawned on her, exactly what was said. “I’ll what?” she asked. “Why would I even want to find someone else? No one could be better, right?”

The brunette held up her right hand with its fingers outstretched, “One simple five letter word, girlfriend…” C.C. smirked, “Well, actually a name.”

“Huh?” Sam’s face was full of confusion at this point.

“L-O-R-A-N,” the letters were ticked off on C.C.’s fingers as she said them.

“I don’t understand,” Sam shook her head slightly. “What does Loran have to do with Brooke and I?”

“I don’t know, maybe she’s worried that you’d rather have Loran.”

“What? That some childish crush could…”

C.C. leaned in toward Sam and whispered, “You know, Brooke can be pretty insecure at times.”

“No, you’re kidding me,” Sam shook her head in disbelief.

“Kidding you? Never when it comes to her. Sam, she’d give you the world on a silver platter if it would make you happy.”

“Okay, C.C., what can I do to prove to her that I’m here to stay…that I’m not just fooling around,” the look on the blonde’s face was one of sheer determination.

“I don’t’ know…” the brunette shrugged her shoulders. “Tell her that.”

“Tell her what? That I love her and her alone.”

“Do you?” Brown eyes looked seriously into Sam’s eyes for the answer that she’d hope was there.

“Ah…C.C. is there really any question in your mind? There’s not in mine.”

“Then tell Brooke that,” she urged her roommate. “You won’t be disappointed. I promise you.”

“What, just come right out and tell her that?” Sam paused momentarily, and then continued, “I’m in love with Brooke Gordon; not Brooke Loran. Isn’t that a little obvious, C.C.?”

The brunette looked up to the ceiling trying to stifle a full-blown smile. “Something like that, yeah.” C.C. looked over to her friend. “She can be so dense sometimes. Look, Sam,” the woman held up her empty coffee cup, “I need more coffee so…she’s in the studio if you’d like to talk to her.”

“I’m going to feel like such a fool. God, she even knows Loran. She told me that herself,” Sam muttered out loud.

“Yeah? And so do I.” C.C. motioned with her head toward the studio stairway. “Go on, do it.”

Green eyes came to life as Sam came to a realization. “Oh God, she thinks I’m trying to use her, doesn’t she? I mean…to get to Loran.”

“I don’t’ think she believes that…” C.C. denied it as she got up to get more coffee. “Just don’t give her a chance to…”

“Well, we’re going to get this settled once and for all.” Sam stood up and pushed her chair back from the table. “No more beating around the bush. C.C. move aside,” Sam watched as the brunette’s eyebrow arched at her resolve. “I’m coming through,” Sam stepped around her roommate and headed for the studio and Brooke, determined to set things straight.

“God, I’m good,” C.C. gloated as she watched the blonde disappear down the stairway leading to the studio.

The tall, dark-haired woman sat at the set of drums with her back to the door of the recording studio. Sweat rolled down the muscular planes of Brooke’s body as she worked out in her own special way, dressed in a sports bra and a pair of spandex shorts to play the drums. Even the added effect of putting her long hair into a ponytail didn’t help to keep her cool. Whoever said that drummers didn’t get aerobic workouts had never met this one. Lost in her own rhythm, the woman seemed driven by her heart and soul as she beat out the cadence of the piece, while letting the melody seep into her body by way of the headphones that she wore.

Sam made her way down to the studio and stood there, watching the dark-haired woman seemingly going wild with the tempo, the sticks at times in her hands being nothing more than a blur. There was something very familiar about the drummer but the blonde just couldn’t put her finger on it. Letting her eyes slowly roam down the figure behind the kit, Sam started taking note of little things and putting them all together.

The blonde rapped against the soundproof glass that separated the two women, but Brooke never heard it. Between the music in her ears and the sound of the drum kit in the studio, the knocking was lost.

The twisting motion of the drummer caught Sam’s eye and she found herself zeroing in on the tattoo that adorned the small of Brooke’s back. Sam stood in awe of the raw fury and power that was being let go by the often times conservative C.E.O. here, where nobody else could witness it. The snapping of her head with the beat of the music made the ponytail go from being held in place to an example of how Brooke would look if she’d go with shorter hair. Why, if I didn’t know any better, Brooke almost looks like that photograph of Loran that I keep above my bed…Why I’d swear they could be…

Green eyes grew as big as saucers and Sam found herself pounding with both fists against the soundproof glass. What the hell does she thinks she’s doing, imitating Loran? “Brooke. Brooke,” she beat against the glass with both hands now, trying to get the drummer’s attention. “Damn it anyway. Aurgh!” Sam screamed at the top of her lungs as she reached for the doorknob and flung open the door into the soundproof room.

The determined blonde strode into the room and took up a position directly in front of the kit, standing with her hands on her hips, her green eyes glaring at the absorbed drummer. The seconds seemed to turn into minutes as she waited for Brooke to realize that she was no longer alone.

Brooke had just finished the long routine of fancy stick work when she opened her eyes, lessening her degree of concentration on the music. As if by some magic power, her eyes fell directly on blonde hair and intense green eyes. The tired, sweaty woman couldn’t hold her excitement in as a broad smile swept across her face when she stopped playing, pulling the earphones off her head.

“Hi Baby. How long have you been there?”

Sam inhaled loudly, then put her hand on the drumsticks to silence any further activity. “Long enough,” Sam’s eyes were filled with anger.

“What?” Brooke didn’t know what to make of this new side of Sam that she was seeing, but she knew that she wasn’t going to like it. Shit, I think she finally put two and two together, she thought before the drummer heard her name called out.

“Brooke…” Sam’s voice was direct and unwavering. “I don’t know what kind of game it is that you’re playing here, but acting like Loran isn’t what I’m looking for.”

Blue eyes flashed at the direction the conversation was going, “Whoa!” Brooke held up her hands in front of her in a halting motion, “What do you mean, acting like Loran? Elaborate, please.”

“Come on, I see what you’re doing.” Sam tapped her right foot now trying to keep her anger in check, “The pulled back hair that just happens to make it look short when you throw your head around, the fancy drum work,” she crossed her arms over her chest, “even that tattoo on your back. If you’re doing it for me, you can cut the crap out right now.”

“Damn it, Sam.” Blue eyes searched Sam’s face for the tiniest sign of love. “I’ve been playing drums longer than I’ve known you and I’ve had that tattoo since I was seventeen.” Brooke bent over and picked up the towel that was lying on the floor next to her stool, “As for the hair,” she wiped her neck, “it’s hot as hell in here after playing a set like I just did.”

The blonde rolled her eyes in disbelief. Go ahead, deny it Brooke. You’re imitating her just to get to me. “Aurgh!” Sam shook her head, “I can’t believe that you would think I’m so childish my heart would only go out to someone like that.”

“What?” Dark eyebrows furrowed with confusion. “I don’t think that. What are you talking about?” Brooke now stood up behind the drum kit.

“You know,” green eyes glared and the blonde’s jaw clenched tighter. “You are a much better person than she ever was…is…ugh, whatever.”

“Who?” Brooke wiped her arms with the towel and tossed it aside, “Whom are you talking about?”

“Loran, damn it.” Sam cocked her head to one side and continued in a pleading tone. “Aren’t you listening to me? I love you, not her.”

Hearing the words, Brooke shook her head, finally realizing what Sam was talking about. “Oh God, Sam.” She took in a breath and let it out slowly before asking, “Baby, what brought this on?”

“C.C.?” Brooke’s eyes roamed aimlessly for an answer.

“Yeah,” Sam nodded, “She said that you doubted my love and I… I just couldn’t let you think…”

Brooke closed her eyes against the pain and mumbled what her mind was thinking, “Fucking big mouth.”

“Is something wrong, Brooke?” Sam asked, still unsure of her feelings at the moment. “Did I misunderstand her somehow?”

“Baby, I never doubted that you loved me. I…” Brooke took out the fastener holding her ponytail in place, then ran her hand through her hair. “Damn it, I didn’t want to do it like this.”

Sam stepped back just slightly, “You’re scaring me, Brooke…”

“Baby, I know you love me,” blue eyes searched Sam’s face as she presented her case, “And I love you more than anything on God’s green earth…”

“But what…” Sam held her breath, “I know there’s always a but in there.”

The tall woman nodded, “But I wanted you to love me because you love me and not who I was…am…” Brooke’s voice trailed off to a whisper, then she shrugged, “whatever.”

“Brooke, I love you for who you are…now,” Sam took a step in the woman’s direction, her hand reaching out to comfort her.

“Even if I tell you?”

“Tell me what, Brooke Gordon?” Sam whispered.

Blowing out a long breath, the dark-haired woman mustered the courage to see her task through. “You might want to add my middle name to that Sam.”

“So… what is it? Tell me.”

Brooke locked onto Sam’s eyes, hoping for the best. “Loran,” she said slightly louder than a whisper. “Brooke Loran Gordon. I’m not acting like Loran, Sam. I am Brooke Loran.” The tall woman closed her eyes and waited.

Dazed, Sam absent-mindedly began to repeat the woman’s name, “Brooke Loran Gor…” the realization finally was setting in, “NO!”

The sound of the agonized denial caused the once confident woman to hang her head, letting her shoulders slump in defeat. Her past was haunting her again, worse than ever before. She moved over to the window in the studio and looked at the pictures of her past life on the walls in the hallway.

Sam watched, as the agony was evident in Brooke’s posture. “How could you be…” the young woman looked over at the photographs of Loran then back at the woman in front of her. “That’s not you.”

“Yes, Sam,” the tall woman nodded. “Those pictures are of me. That’s who I was… the mysterious Brooke Loran; drummer for Anti-Zero.” Brooke turned toward Sam and took an abbreviated bow. “Hell, you can check my driver’s license if you don’t believe me. It’s in my wallet on the soundboard,” she pointed to the console in the control room.

Torn by mixed emotions, Sam proceeded toward the console then reached for the wallet. As her fingers touched the worn leather, she stopped and looked over at its owner. Deciding not to look, Sam confronted the woman. “Why, Brooke? Why didn’t you trust me enough to tell me?”

Brooke’s shoulders slumped further as she hung her head, unable to look Sam in the eye. God, I’ve lost her for sure.

“Why, Brooke?”

“Because, I wanted to make sure that you wanted me…” Brooke swallowed hard as she shut her eyes in pain, “…not her.”

The blonde was too wrapped up in her own thoughts to hear what Brooke was saying. “Or did you…” she gasped, then finished her mutterings, “and I just wasn’t listening?”

“Baby, I tried. I almost told you…several times,” the older woman offered. “I think I tried everything but actually coming out and telling you.”

“I remember now.” Sam looked over at Brooke, “That game of hangman…it wasn’t Lover; it was Loran.” Green eyes glowed in realization. “I can’t believe I didn’t get that…”

Brooke’s head hung so low now that she thought she’d need to move her chest to speak, “Singing in the car; the studio,” the drummer sighed. “Hell, my e-mail addy; the tattoo…I was fighting with myself that night over telling you.” She smirked, “I was playing hangman with myself over ‘Loran.’ I didn’t want to lose you if you knew and I didn’t want to lose you if you didn’t know.”

“Maybe I was blinded by you… and I just didn’t want to hear it.” Sam looked up at Brooke, “Maybe it’s good that I didn’t know because, personally, I would have voted not to let Loran into my life, after having met you.”

The sulking woman quickly looked up at Sam, “What?”

“It was just a childish idea anyway, thinking that I could have someone like that…”

“Like what?” Brooke needed to know.

“Don’t patronize me,” Sam leveled a stare at Brooke. “I’m not in the mood. First you imitate her, and then you tell me you are her. What’s next?” The small woman threw up her hands to stop any idea of Brooke touching her. “NO, don’t even try,” then she bolted for the door.

“Damn it, Sam. I’m not imitating anybody. I am Loran… ask anybody who knows me…anybody that really knows me.” She watched as the young woman ran up the stairs and possibly out of her life, feeling compelled to chase her, “SAM!”

Reaching the top of the stairs and heading down the hallway, Sam called out to her roommate, “C.C.,” she turned the corner of the hall and looked into the kitchen. “C.C., I need you to take me home. I’m not going to let her continue with this charade.”

The brunette looked up from her coffee cup and asked, “What? What are you talking about? What charade?”

“SAM!” Brooke’s voice carried into the kitchen, causing her sister to become concerned.

“Home, C.C., dorm room…that’s where I want to be.” The blonde was in her face now. “So are you going to get me there or do I start walking?”

The startled woman tried to understand what was going on but didn’t have a clue. Before she could utter a single word, Brooke came bursting into the room at a full run, then stopped short seeing that Sam was still there.

“Wait, don’t go, Sam. Please?” she pleaded as she entered the room.

Sam pivoted her position and now glared at the tall woman, “Or what, Brooke…you’ll turn into James or Peter too?”

“Damn it, Sam, that’s not fair,” Brooke’s voice showed her anger.

“Oh, and look who’s crying not fair.” Sam turned back to her roommate demanding an answer, “C.C.?”

Brooke stood watching. “I told you there were things you needed to know about me…” her words trailed off to a whisper.

C.C. got up and walked over to her sister, “Look, let me borrow your car and find out what’s up.” The woman kept her voice down as she stole a glance back at Sam. “I’ll see where she’s coming from…”

“Need to know?” Sam’s anger now exploded. “Like what… that you’re some lunatic?”

“And you’re a saint?” Brooke clenched her fists and then released them. “I guess you lied to me then, when you told me that nothing I could ever tell you would make you feel any differently toward me.”

The blonde crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot as she glared first at C.C., then back to Brooke. “Oh, you mean that you monitor all your personalities? Great! Then tell them all good-bye from me.”

The older woman stood shell-shocked for a moment as her eyes started to tear up. “Well, if that’s what you really want…” Brooke moved over toward the counter, grabbing the keys from it. With a sigh of defeat, she turned toward her sister and threw the keys in her direction, then left the room, heading back toward the studio.

Seeing that Brooke had given up, Sam called out after her, and then moved toward the kitchen door. “No, it’s not what I wanted, but it’s what I’m doing.”

Not sure of whom to follow, C.C. watched as both women walked out different doors. “God, I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s obviously fucked up,” she mumbled. Then, grabbing a tighter hold on the keys in her hand, she followed Sam out the kitchen door.

Ch10 The Love Of A Good Fight Part 2
“…When we cry I know where to place the blame and reasons why are given but that’s only part of the
game. And all is forgiven…”

It was a different atmosphere in the 300Z now than the last time she rode in the car. Sam sat quietly staring out the window as her mind tried to reason out the events of the last forty minutes or so. God, what happened there? One minute I’m in love and the next minute I feel… The blonde mused over what it was that she was feeling at this time. She still didn’t know for sure. Is it betrayal that I’m feeling or is it just disappointment in a relationship gone sour? Sam closed her eyes and thought of crying to relieve the pain. She bit back on her lip and sniffed, trying to hold the tears at bay.

Noticing the near breakdown of her roommate, C.C. broke the ice and started to speak. “Okay, will you please tell me what in the hell is going on here?” The brunette pulled up to the stop sign and looked over to her friend, “What happened?”

“What happened?” Sam mimicked C.C., “You wanna’ know what happened?” The blonde turned and looked at C.C., “I want to know about what kind of game she’s playing, telling me she’s Loran.” Green eyes pleaded, “Why didn’t you tell me she’s psychotic…or delusional?”

“You’re wrong Sam, she is Loran,” C.C. said with the straightest face she possessed.

“Yeah, and I’m Sam Adams, but that doesn’t make me a beer now, does it?” The blonde looked away before her question was answered.

“Sam, my sister, Brooke…” C.C. acknowledged the horn tooting at her from behind and shot the driver an obscene hand gesture before she pulled out from the stop sign as she continued her explanation. “She is Brooke Loran from Anti-Zero. Why don’t you believe her?”

“Okay, I can see that this is some sort of family game. So, who are you then…Christina Aguilera?” Sam crossed her arms over her chest and turned her head to stare out the side window, “And no, I don’t believe her.”

“We…” C.C. started then changed her mind, “I hate to break it to you then, because it’s your loss. She’s not lying to you and neither am I.”

“Okay, so you’re Pink then,” Sam looked at the woman long enough to smile insincerely, then turned back toward the blurred countryside.

“You know,” the driver tried to control her anger. “An hour ago you were so in love with my sister,” C.C. bit her lower lip to refrain from what she was going to say. “I’ve never seen her any happier than she’s been in the last few weeks with you. We’ve been trying to get her to come out of that shell of hers and finally fucking live for over three years now. That band was her life and when it died, part of her died along with it.”

“Well, apparently she brought some friends with her,” Sam snapped.

“What in the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“C.C.,” Sam paused for only a second, her green eyes flashing with fury before saying, “Just drive, I don’t want to think any more.”

The brunette took in a deep breath before she spoke, “You know Sam, I love you like I love my real sisters.” She stole a glance at her passenger, “I really do.”

“But?” came Sam’s off-the-cuff reply.

“But, so help me God, if anything happens to Brooke because you’re too fucking stubborn to listen to her…” C.C. drew in a breath as she came to a stop in the line of traffic. “You’ll regret the day you met me.”

“I’m beginning to regret that now.” Sam muttered under her breath, “you and your set ups. Yeah… sure, why not threaten me, too?”

Brown eyes leveled a cold stare at the blonde. “Yeah? Well, you were more than willing to go along with it, weren’t you?” C.C. turned her eyes back to the traffic, “She finally started to enjoy living again because of you and if you’ve taken that away from her…”

“Me, take that away? What did you expect me to do?” Sam turned on a sweeter sounding voice filled with false empathy, “Sure, Honey, it’s okay if you want to be Loran tonight. Go right ahead.”

“Damn it, Sam!” C.C. hit the steering wheel with her open hand, and then followed the line of cars down the street. “What in the name of hell will it take for you to believe her?”

Sam sat quietly, still shocked by her roommate’s display of frustration.

“Do you think someone forged those gold and platinum albums in that hallway downstairs? You think she made them up just to impress you?”

“What albums?” Sam’s mind reran her stored images of the hallway and kept coming up empty at the mention of gold and platinum albums.

The car reacted violently to the jerk of the wheel as C.C. pulled the 300Z off onto the side of the highway, then turned to look the stunned woman in the face. “Damn it, Sam. Right past the studio doors are two gold and three platinum albums. AND two Grammys. Hell, there’s even MTV Video Music Awards with pictures of her and all of us girls with Mom and Dad at each of the ceremonies.” C.C. watched helplessly as vacant-looking green eyes stared back at her.

“I never saw any…” Sam brought her hand up to her face as she began to think back on that first day at Brooke’s house and the guided tour. She didn’t let me get down that far. She got me into that studio without ever letting me finish looking at those pieces of memorabilia. The blonde sat silent as she realized why Brooke had taken that detour into the studio at the first opportunity.

C.C. sat back in her seat and let her thoughts come to her lips, “How in the hell do you think a thirty year old can afford that house? What about the land? This car? And buy her own business?” The brunette shrugged as she corrected herself, “Well, start her own business.”

“She told me that she invested wisely…” Sam whispered.

“Yeah, with the royalty checks she received from the record company.” C.C. smirked at the difference there was between her sister and the other members of the group. “James and Peter just pissed theirs away on all of their little flavors of the week and what do they have now? Nothing. Not a God-damned thing.” C.C. slapped the visor down in emphasis to what she was saying.

The quick, aggressive motion accentuated by the loud thump drew Sam’s attention, immediately causing her to catch a glimpse of something falling from where the visor had been in place. Sam shook her head in disbelief. “Well, I guess I know where she keeps her real identification at. You know, she tried telling me to look in her wallet. What was that going to prove? Hell, I even carry a fake I.D. in my wallet. Every college student carries a fake I.D. around…”

“Sam,” C.C. turned to address her roommate, “she isn’t a college student. Brooke is 30 years old.” The brunette reached down to pick up the fallen articles. “What the…” she muttered as a smile started to come to her face. “Okay, you said that you knew where she keeps her real identity now, right?” C.C. stared at the items in her hand.

“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Sam mocked her with the rise of a single eyebrow, and then crossed her arms over her chest.

With trembling fingers C.C. peeled back the open envelope flap, revealing exactly what she had thought she’d find. “Here, Sam.” The woman shuffled through the couple of photographs that she took out of the envelope. “Here’s your proof.” C.C. held them out for the younger woman to see. “Brooke has a thing for her vehicles. She keeps a picture of her first one with her present mode of transportation just to remember how it used to be.”

The blonde was dubious as to how this was going to prove Brooke’s true identity as she glanced down at the photographs. “So she had a van, C.C. what does that…”

“A van, but not just any van, Sam. Look at the license plate on it, the writing on the side panel,” C.C. beamed a winning smile, “and that’s Mom and me sending her off on her first road trip up to Georgetown University where Anti-Zero was playing that weekend.”

The words caught Sam by surprise. Georgetown was their first stop on that limited tour. She probably just gave them a ride. The young woman held her hand out to C.C., “Let me see.”

“Sam, I’m telling you, Brooke is Loran and these will prove it.”

Small hands brought the photographs closer for a more thorough examination of their images. Green eyes took in the old beat-up Chevy van with the crisp white and red Anti-Zero logo painted on the side, the plate in the front reading ‘A-Z’, and several people. Now, Sam was intrigued and she studied each of the faces in the photograph. Of the three visible, the driver was the tallest as she stood half in and half out of the door, her short, streaked blonde hair blowing in the breeze around the sunglasses that were on top of her head, letting more of her face show. A lone, raised eyebrow could be seen, cast in the direction of the much younger looking pre-teen with braces.

Letting her eyes drift to the third and final person in the photograph, Sam knew without a doubt that it was a younger version of Mrs. Gordon. The hairstyle was exactly the same, only with much less gray in it. Just like Aunt Sandy, same hairstyle, no matter what decade. Then it dawned on her. “Oh my God.” Sam’s eyes riveted back to the taller image and she scrutinized the face once more, only this time imaging it with long, dark hair.

C.C. could tell that the pieces were starting to add up for Sam and she found herself gloating. “Yeah, I remember that day like it was yesterday. Mom was seeing another one of the girls off and Brooke was warning me that she’d hold me upside down and smack my head on the floor if I gave Mom any trouble.” The brunette smiled fondly, as she subconsciously rubbed the top of her head with her one hand. “You know, Brooke’s the only one that could ever do that. She’s got that same look on her face that she always has when she threatens me.”

“That’s you?” Sam looked back to the glittering metal braces on the young girl in the photo. Sure enough, it was. She could see the resemblance now to the woman sitting next to her.

“Well, it’s not exactly my most flattering pose…” C.C. was certain that she’d made her point. It was time for her to think about getting back to check on her sister and she started watching for a break in the highway traffic.

Sam studied C.C.’s face, then glanced away and looked back again as the woman pulled the car out onto the off ramp leading to the campus. “You are telling me the truth, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” C.C. turned the corner and headed for the only parking spot in sight. “Now, if you want to go inside, go ahead. I have to make sure that my sister is alright.” She backed the car into the tight space, going back and forth so as not to hit either car around her. “Unlike some people, I love her and care about what happens to her.” She finally cut the wheel hard enough to make it to the curb as she mumbled under her breath, “No telling what she might do.”

Hearing the soft-spoken words, Sam closed her eyes and considered what C.C. may have meant by it. Not wanting to consider any negative thoughts, Sam took a deep breath, willing them to go away.

“We’re here, get out. I have things I need to do,” C.C. sat staring straight ahead. Her sister was now the only thing on her mind.

The blonde didn’t budge, except to shake her head. “Take me back, C.C. I think I’ve made a very big mistake.”

“What?” C.C.’s head turned faster than her brain could keep up as she sat there staring at Sam for a moment. “You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re damn right you made a mistake. Give me one good reason why I should take you back instead of tossing you out of this car right now.”

“I’m not kidding, C.C.” Sam looked down at her hands, “If she really is Loran,” she lifted her head to view C.C., “I…I need…”

“No, Sam. She’s Brooke. Loran is gone. She’s just plain and simple Brooke.”

Sam nodded at C.C.’s correction. “I need to tell Brooke that I’m sorry,” the words were spoken with remorse.

The brunette looked at Sam, then out the windshield as she tried to get her breathing under control. She was pissed as all hell and the tapping of her fingers on the steering wheel was only the beginning of what she wanted to be doing when she thought of someone hurting her sister.

“C.C., look, I was a fool,” Sam said disgusted at herself. “A stupid, childish fool.”

“Yeah?” C.C. turned to look at the blonde, “Well, she needed you to listen to her.” The woman bit her lip, “Hell, she just needed you.”

“I can’t let it end like this…not this way,”

C.C.’s eyes shot over to Sam briefly. “She didn’t end it. You did.”

Sam shook her head. “I know… Please, at least let me tell her that I’m sorry for not believing her,” Sam reached out and touched her roommate’s arm. “Besides, I’d like to know why she felt she couldn’t trust me. You can’t build a relationship without trust C.C.”

The angry brunette woman looked down at the small sign of comfort and drew in a defeated breath before uttering a single word, “Fine.” With that, C.C. slammed the car into first and worked her way out of the parking space. Once free of its confinement, she pushed her right foot down on the gas pedal and hauled ass to get back to her sister’s house.

Knowing that it would take some time to get back to Brooke, Sam dug her cell phone out of her pocket and proceeded to dial Brooke’s number.

“Look at this traffic,” C.C. gritted her teeth. “I can’t believe this shit.”

Sam held the phone to her ear listening for the familiar voice, but it never came. Pulling it away from her ear and hitting the button marked ‘end’ Sam pondered aloud, “Why wouldn’t she answer her phone?” With a startled realization she turned to C.C., “You don’t think that…”

Both women held their breaths for a second as a cold chill ran down their bodies. C.C. turned toward Sam and glared, then quickly cast her attention back to the road with a renewed fervor to get to Brooke.

“Can’t you go any faster?” Sam asked, her eyes remained glued to the road.

The 300 pulled crisply into the driveway and stopped just short of the house as Sam looked out the window, feeling the first of many tears start to spill over her lashes.

Throwing the gearshift into park, C.C. looked over at her passenger. “Why are you crying now?”

“C.C., why didn’t I believe her? God, if something happens to her on my account…” Sam sniffed back a tear, “I’ll…just…” The blonde’s attention was caught by the sound of a dog barking, “Mario?”

Without waiting another second, C.C.’s door was open and the tall brunette was heading toward the porch as she called for her sister’s pet, “Mario.” She looked around for the dog then called again, “Mario, come here boy.” Seeing the dog round the side of the house, C.C. bent over to intercept the animal that was on a definite course to Sam, “Where’s your mommy. Boy?”

The animal strained at the collar that C.C. held onto, making whimpering sounds and small sharp barks directed at Sam. C.C. looked around for any sign of her sister but the older woman was nowhere to be seen. The woman studied the dog for a moment then got up and went to the key pad on the porch and punched in the numbers to unlock the door. The red light stayed on, never changing to green. C.C. tried it again but the outcome was no different, “Shit, she’s changed the damn code.”

Sam’s eyes grew wide with alarm as she took off around the building for the back door. She was followed closely by the long strides of C.C. as Mario chased after them, dodging in and out of their legs, almost tripping the tall brunette several times.

The need to find the missing woman was evident in Sam’s voice as she called out the name, while she climbed the stairs to the back deck, “Brooke… Brooke…” Sam slid into the door when it wouldn’t budge. “Damn it, Brooke where are you? Brooke, open the door,” she sank to her knees, still jingling the doorknob, “Open the goddamn door!”

C.C. could see the desperation in Sam’s face as her tears flowed freely. “Oh, hell… hang on,” the brunette came up behind Sam and bent down, lifting up the flap on the doggie door. After a moment or two of maneuvering and a few grumbled phrases, C.C.’s tall, thin body was on the other side of the door and unlocking it for Sam.

As soon as the door was open, both Mario and Sam came bursting into the room, looking wildly for the woman in question.

“Brooke,” C.C. called out hoping her sister would answer.

Sam leaned down and petted the dog, “Mario, where’s your mommy? Go find her, Boy.”

The dog looked at Sam, sniffed, and then ran over to the door leading to the studio downstairs. His gruff barks and high-pitched whining startled them both as he started pawing at the door.

“Oh, God, C.C. you don’t think that…” Sam’s hand rose to her mouth.

Pushing past Sam, C.C. threw open the door and went running down the stairs, screaming out her sister’s name, “Brooke! Brooke…” the name trailed off as the brunette saw the shambles that was once the well decorated hallway when she hit the bottom of the stairs.

The floor was littered with broken glass and bent picture frames, along with numerous photos of Anti-Zero. C.C. just stood and stared for a moment, knowing just how badly her sister must have hurt to trash the last reminders of that time in her life.

Seeing C.C. stop so abruptly at the bottom of the stairs, Sam hesitated, praying that Brooke was all right. Green eyes looked cautiously around the debris that covered the floor. The familiar photos that she had admired for the first time a week ago were strewn about like some worthless garbage.

Intrigued by the hint of gold, Sam descended the remaining few steps and retrieved what had caught her eye. The now-broken statue was secured to a base that had the insignia of the record industry on it, The Grammy for best new group, Anti-Zero. Sam reached down and picked up the photo that was next to the other half of the statue. All the people looked younger but Sam could tell who it was. Mable Gordon and her husband were standing behind their beaming daughters. They all pretty much looked alike, well, except for the one with short, blonde streaked hair. “No, Brooke,” Sam shook her head, “No.”

Gingerly, C.C. walked around the mementos on the floor, making her way to the studio where she looked for Brooke and upon finding her, let out a sigh of relief.

“C.C. is she in there?” Sam held her breath waiting for the news.

“Yes, she’s in there.” The youngest sibling raised her eyes to the ceiling and mumbled out a prayer of thanksgiving, “Thank you, God. She’s playing…Oh my God, she’s playing her guitar.” C.C.’s voice sounded shaky and she reached for the button on the console allowing Brooke’s voice to be carried across the speakers for them both to hear.

The strains of guitar music and a softly sung melody came across the sound system. Sam listened to it for a moment before letting the words come from her mouth. “She plays guitar, too. What else don’t I know about her?”

The brunette leaned up against the door frame as she watched Brooke play and jot down the song that she was working on. “You know, when I was little, I’d have nightmares. I never ran to Mom and Dad or Randi or Terri…” C.C. thought back to those days. “I used to run into Brooke’s room.” The woman smiled at the memory. “Hell, I used to tell her I had a bad dream just so she’d sing to me.” C.C. turned around and looked whimsically at Sam. “You can’t imitate that, Sam.” The brunette moved her head to the beat of the music. “That’s a God-given talent.”

Sam closed her eyes and listened to the words for a moment.

Every day I walk down and see you passing by. Every hour I can’t even close my eyes without seeing you and wishing you would care. You look over and smile and all I do is stare…

What if I came crawling to you on my hands and knees? What if I could find the words to say? Would you give me a second glance if I were at your feet? Would you even look my way?

I’ve spent so long on the outside looking in, just to see your smile shining through the dim; Breaking through these walls around this crying heart. One look from you and it all falls apart…

What if I came crawling to you on my hands and knees? What if I could find the words to say? Would you give me a second glance if I were at your feet? Would you even look my, even look my, even look my way?

When Sam opened her eyes again, C.C. had pushed off the door frame and began walking back toward the stairs. The shorter woman hung her head; unable to forgive herself that she hadn’t believed Brooke earlier. “I’m a fool,” she muttered, then opened the door, only to have the acoustic instrument go sailing by, striking the wall off to her right and shattering with a horrendous noise as the wood crumbled and the strings snapped.

The sulking woman just sat there with her head in her hands and her elbows on her knees.

“Brooke?” Sam ventured a step or two into the room. “I’m sorry that I didn’t believe you.” The blonde took another step closer, and then added, “I just thought that you were trying to be something that you weren’t to get closer to me.”

The dark-haired woman remained sitting, without saying a word, just staring off into space.

“I guess I screwed things up, didn’t I?” Sam’s voice was hardly more than a whisper now as she edged her way closer to the human form.

The older woman sighed, and then slowly shook her head. “I never lied to you. I might not have told you everything… but I never lied to you.” Brooke paused for a moment before beginning to speak again, “I also never asked to be Brooke Loran. I never wanted to be…”

“I can see that now,” Sam stopped within an arm’s length of the woman. She reached out to comfort her, but hesitated, drawing her arm back and thrusting her hand into her jeans back pocket.

“I told you I don’t come out too often.” She mumbled under her breath, “I never really let anybody see…”

“I’m sorry; I don’t know what else to say, Brooke.” The blonde bit at her lip, then began to speak. “You’re not some animal that needs to be locked away in some cage…”

That caused Brooke to smirk, “You’ve never seen me pissed off.”

Sam looked around at the shambles of the hallway, then back to Brooke, “I think we can safely say that I’ve seen the aftermath…”

“No, Sam. Hurt and anger are two entirely different things.”

“I’m sorry… I… I didn’t mean…” Sam’s voice became non-existent then. After a pause, the young woman whispered, “But you hurt me too, Brooke. I thought we trusted one another.”

“I love you, Sam and at the same time, I’m scared to death to love you…”

“Scared? Scared of what?” Sam waited anxiously as she tried to figure out how she was affecting the older woman.

“Take today for instance. I try to think of being without you and I… I can’t even breathe.”

“It just happened, Brooke. It wasn’t your fault.” Sam looked away from the musician as she confessed, “I guess you could say that I provoked it.”

“But why?” Brooke turned to face Sam, “What did I do?”

“I… I…” Sam stuttered, groping for words. “I shouldn’t have come busting in here accusing you of something that you weren’t doing. I jumped to a conclusion and I was wrong.”

The sullen woman hung her head and studied her knees intently before speaking, “It’s my fault. I should have told you sooner.”

“Sooner? You mean you actually thought of telling me at all?” Sam looked at Brooke with unbelieving eyes. “Didn’t you trust me Brooke?”

“Damn it, Sam.” Brooke clenched her jaw as her eyes shown fire. “I’ve been fighting with myself over telling you since that night at the movies.”

“Well, now you’re fighting with me,” green eyes challenged with a fire all their own. “It must run in your life… huh?”

“Baby, I’m not trying to fight with you,” Brooke slowly closed her eyes and inhaled. “I trusted you but look at it from my end…”

“No, you’re just telling me that you didn’t trust me with something that important about you… something that…”

Brooke hastily replied, “Put yourself in my shoes for a moment,” one dark eyebrow raised high on the woman’s brow. “What would you have done?”

“I would have been honest and up front with it. I hope you had a good laugh at my expense.” The blonde stared intently at Brooke, before looking away.

“No! Look in my eyes, Sam.” Brooke requested. “Does it look like I’ve been laughing?” Puffy, red rimmed, blue eyes looking up, staying glued to Sam’s head waiting for her to turn around.

There was a moment of pain as Sam gazed upon those once lovely blue eyes that she had so often dreamed about over the course of the last few weeks. She felt compelled to answer as she tried to stay mad, “Yeah, well, I’m not laughing now either, am I?” Green eyes grew restless as they strove to make their point.

“Actually Sam,” Brooke started then looked away. “I did trust you,” then she became very pensive and whispered, “I believed you when you said nothing would ever make you feel different about me. But the very first thing you did was run out once you knew who I was.

“Damn it anyhow, Brooke.” Sam’s voice was raised in anger. “I didn’t know. I thought you were imitating her to get in better with me.”

Brooke couldn’t believe what she had just heard. The taller woman’s mouth opened in shock and she slowly mustered the ability to make her thoughts audible. “Sam, you know more about me than anyone. I thought you knew me better than to think that I would try to imitate her… or anyone else to get to you.”

Hurt was written across Sam’s face as she realized for the first time what Brooke might be thinking of her. “You know, I had every intention of apologizing when I came back here.” Sam paused, slumped her shoulders forward, then in tones barely loud enough to be heard, she said, “Now, I’m not so sure I’d know how or that I’d want to.”

“Sam, please…” Brooke pleaded. “I’m sorry I hurt you but, I didn’t come out of this unscathed either.”

The blonde looked around at the shambles of the hallway. “Yeah, you’re right. But a little tape and glue will patch those up.” Sam pointed to the jumble of photographs, frames, and glass on the floor. “I’m not sure what it would take to mend us,” her voice trailed off, “or if it’s even possible.”

“Don’t you understand?” Brooke stood up. “I could care less about that shit out there,” Brooke motioned to the hallway and the smashed guitar by the entranceway of the room. “I care about you. I want you. I love you.” Blue eyes riveted to Sam, imploring her to give them a second chance.

“You say you love me, but do you?” Sam stared right at Brooke. “Do you really?” Before Brooke could answer, the younger woman added, “Maybe you should give yourself some time to think about that.”

They stood there for only a moment before Brooke tried to reassure Sam. “I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. And yes,” Brooke studied the blonde’s face for any change of heart. “I love you.”

Confused by all the emotions that she was feeling, Sam started to turn away from Brooke when her arm was caught and held. Casting her eyes down to the large hand on her elbow, Sam pinned a gaze back at Brooke, then down to her point of captivity again and sighed, closing her eyes.

“I would rather have you smack me across the face than for you to turn away from me again.” Brooke released her grip on Sam’s arm and waited to see what would happen.

Green eyes churned at the challenge. Without warning, Sam turned abruptly and, with an open right hand, slapped Brooke across her cheek, causing the dark-haired woman’s head to turn. With the sound of the slap reverberating in her head, Brooke held her ground, not saying a word, her blue eyes slowly coming back to look at Sam.

“There,” she said, shocked at her own actions. Sam stood like a doe struck by headlights, watching as Brooke raised her own right hand to touch the hand-imprinted cheek. “That’s for…” her eyes began to tear up and she could feel her lower lip start to tremble. “That’s for…” Sam started to say again but couldn’t finish. Instead, she turned and ran from the room sobbing, leaving Brooke with her own thoughts.

Turning from the sink with a tall glass of water in her hand, C.C. started for the kitchen table when Sam came running through the room, almost colliding with her.

“Hey,” C.C. reached out to slow the woman down. “You alright?”

Sam slowed down, and then looked at C.C., wiping her tear-stained cheeks as she said, “Alright? I’ll never be alright.”

“Whoa. What happened?” The brunette put her glass down on the table and grabbed onto Sam’s shoulders and searched her face for some clue. “I thought you were going to apologize.”

The blonde’s brow furrowed with pain and Sam closed her eyes. “She… We…” Small fists tightened in frustration then she voiced it in an anguished outcry, “Aauuuurgh!” Then, her simple reply was, “Ask her.”

“Hey, I’m asking you.” C.C. shook the blonde till she opened her eyes, and then locked on to them with her own.

Determined not to let it get to her any worse, Sam said what was on her mind. “C.C., I know you thought that this idea of Brooke and me was a good one, but I’m not so sure anymore.”

“Why?” C.C. paused, then loaded her double barreled mouth and let go with both sides. “You mean it was safer for you to lust after a photograph than to love someone who can love you back? Life isn’t easy, Sam. But you want to run off at the first sign of a little misunderstanding…”

“I need to know I can trust the people I love. I don’t want to have to wonder what I’ll find out next about them.”

C.C.’s usually soft brown eyes turned hard and cold as she countered, “That’s pretty, fuckin’ pathetic, Sam.” The brunette held on tighter as Sam tried to shake her off. “Did she or did she not tell you that there were things you didn’t know, that she would tell you?” Sam nodded her head. “And didn’t she say that before the two of you were an item?

“Well…” Sam thought, letting her eyes dart around the room as she went from scenario to scenario in her head. “I guess she did.” The blonde looked a little unfocused as she mumbled, “We all don’t know each other immediately on the first date.”

“Do you have any idea, of the numerous people that tried to seduce her so they could get to James or Peter?” C.C. put both hands on her hips as the defense mode for her older sister kicked into gear.

“But why would they…” Sam brought her focus back to her roommate.

“You want to know why Loran had such a bad rep?” C.C. watched as Sam nodded, then continued, “Every woman that ended up in the media had tried to fuck her to get to one of those two assholes. When she figured it out and wouldn’t continue with the relationship, that’s what happened.” Brown eyes leveled in on Sam, “And every time, they told her they cared about her… that they loved her.”

Sam ran over what C.C. had just said in her head. Then, out of the blue, something caught her attention. The numerous people that tried to seduce her…had tried to fuck her…A bitter taste came to the blonde’s mouth as the inkling of doubt entered in. “But you said that she was a virgin. She even told me…” Sam’s eyes grew bigger remembering the events of Saturday morning. Unsure of what to believe, the young woman cast a cautious glare in the brunette’s direction. “Or is that a lie too?

“Damn it, Sam. Nobody has fucking lied to you! You might not have been told everything, but you were never lied to. She is still a virgin,” C.C. pleaded in her sister’s behalf. “She never slept with any of them. But it doesn’t mean they didn’t try. Every time, they ran off to the media talking about what a dog she was. That’s when the record company decided to go ahead and elaborate on the whole situation, give it some twists and turns.”

“So that’s when the bad girl rep came in for Loran…” Sam mumbled under her breath. “I didn’t realize… I just…” A mixture of fire and hurt came to Sam’s eyes. “So am I supposed to feel sorry for her?” Sam sighed, shaking her head from side to side. “C.C., she didn’t even value me enough to say who she was… who she used to be.”

“Why should she have to?” C.C. stepped closer to Sam, getting up in her face with each new sentence. “Why does it make a difference? Who would you rather have say that they love you; Brooke or Loran? And you told her that you loved her… no matter what.”

“Who do I love? Why Brooke, of course,” green eyes pinned C.C. and held there for a moment. “But I…”

“No one has ever wanted to be with Brooke for Brooke. They always wanted Loran. Now tell me…”C.C. paused for effect. “Would you have told someone who you really were with that kind of record? Especially someone you knew for a fact was the largest fan of your own alternate identity?” C.C. leaned in and whispered, “I don’t think so.” The brunette straightened up, folding her arms over her chest. “I know damn well that I wouldn’t.”

It certainly gave Sam something to think about. The young woman’s mind had just been made privy to so many aspects of the phenomenon known as Loran that she didn’t know what to think. “C.C., I think I have to sort this out in my head. I… I have to reconsider this whole deal…”

“Sure. Whatever… what do I know, right? I’m just the ditzy ass younger sister who loves her more than anyone.” The woman glared at Sam, almost challenging her to say something different. Seeing that her roommate was at a loss for words, C.C. turned and walked out of the kitchen, leaving Sam standing by herself.

Numbed by the encounter, Sam could feel her shoulders slumping and let her head hang down as she closed her eyes, “So much to think about.” Mrs. Gordon, I sure hope you were right about the fresh air helping to clear heads, because I sure need it now. Gathering all her strength, Sam pushed off the counter she found herself leaning against and headed for the deck.

It wasn’t long before C.C. found her sister sitting in the moody lighting of the desolate studio. The war-torn shambles of the hallway now ventured inside the soundproof area with the bits and pieces of wood and steel that had earlier today been a guitar. C.C. looked at the rubble and knew the pain that Brooke was feeling. With every step she took, she felt the musician’s heart shatter like the glass she was walking on.

Coming to a stop outside of the doorway to the room, the brunette stood there, watching the back of her sister as she’d throw her head back and drained the last out of a bottle of beer that she held to her mouth. C.C.’s eyes followed the imaginary course of the beer as it entered Brooke’s system, her eyes slowly settling on the floor around her sister with its scattered bottles and smashed glass.

Feeling the need to watch over her sister, C.C. made her presence known. “Hey, Sis. Mind if I join you?” The younger woman rolled off the doorway and entered the room.

“I don’t care,” the monotone voice answered her. “There’s beer in the fridge,” Brooke motioned with her head, never turning around to face her sister.

“Yeah, I know.” C.C. went to the small appliance in the corner of the room and took one out. Turning back, she watched her sister finish her beer and without a second thought, throw the bottle against the wall past C.C., smashing it into little pieces. Damn, it’s worse than I thought. C.C.’s gaze went back to her sister who sat there reaching for another bottle from the line up that was on the table next to her and opened it.

The young woman walked over and took a seat on the stool next to her sister. “So… you want some help cleaning up… ah… from the party?” C.C. didn’t really want to drink the bottle of beer and therefore chose to just hold on to it.

“No, I can do it,” came the reply as Brooke brought the bottle to her lips.

C.C. surveyed the area from this angle, “I see you can do a lot of…” the brunette raised an eyebrow, “things.”

Brooke let out a half laugh then became very quite. “You could do me a favor though.”

“Yeah? What’s that?” She rolled the bottle between her hands, nervously anticipating what it could be.

“Get the keys to the jeep and take Mario over to Terri’s.” She took a deep breath in and shook her head, “He doesn’t need to be here with me in a shitty mood.” Brooke reached out, gathering up the pile of darts that lay on the table next to the line of beer bottles.

“But, you know Terri’s working and so is Rick.” C.C. tried to reason with her sister. “Wouldn’t it be better to have Mario here? I mean… to help you get out of that shitty mood?”

“No.” Brooke took a long draw from the bottle in her hand, and then set it down.

“Brooke?” C.C. waited until she knew she had her sister’s attention. “Why are you doing this? Why are you throwing those walls up again?”

“Because I was safer with them there. It didn’t hurt then,” her voice was cold and hard.

“Sis, that hurt is called love.” C.C. softened her voice and hoped she wouldn’t be thrown out for what she was going to ask. “Be honest with me. You love Sam, don’t you?”

“It doesn’t matter. Obviously, I’m destined to be alone or else that fucking bitch wouldn’t continue to come back and bite me in the ass.” Brooke sat up, and wielded a dart at the last hanging picture of Loran, hitting it in the heart.

“Bitch? What bitch?” C.C. mumbled then looked at Brooke’s head seeing it turned slightly toward her revealing one raised eyebrow. “Oh, you mean…love.”

“No, Loran. Every time I let those walls down, I get burned. Sometimes I just wish she were never born… that I was never born.”

“You can’t mean that, Brooke.” C.C. laughed, trying to lighten the mood, “Who would have knocked all that sense into me?”

Brooke turned to her right, showing three-quarters of her face, and stared out of the corner of her eyes at C.C. She didn’t say anything. It was the kind of stare that could bring a roomful of people to silence.

“And you still do.” The young woman gulped feeling the fear that was being instilled by her menacing looking sister. “Just not in the same way.”

Turning her head away from C.C., Brooke’s gaze fell back on the bottle next to her. Without warning, she picked it up and launched it across the room, hitting it off the wall, shattering into a million pieces on the floor.

“Maybe you should be mad at me, instead of yourself. I mean… if I didn’t move out this year, you would have never met…”

Just then Brooke turned around toward C.C. and reached for another bottle. The dim lighting cast shadows across her features until she was directly under the small ceiling spotlight.

Seeing the faint imprint of a small hand on Brooke’s cheek, C.C. gasped, “God, Brooke…is that…I…ah…knew Sam was upset but…”

Brooke turned away from C.C., “Go away. Please.”

The younger woman’s temper now sprang into view. “And do what? Watch the two of you wallow in self pity?” C.C. got up from the stool and took the step or two toward her sister, placing a tentative hand on her shoulder.

“Please, C.C. Take Sam with you. She doesn’t want to be here. Don’t forget to take Mario for the ride, he’ll love it.”

“You know Sis, you once told me to fight for what I believe in.”

“I don’t believe in anything anymore,” Brooke whispered as she shook her head.

C.C. poked her sister, “Why are you giving up, running and hiding again?”

“Because I can,” Brooke lashed out. “Because I can’t make her stay and I can’t make her love me. I can’t make her forgive me,” the woman’s voice faltered.

“I think it’s because you’re afraid.” C.C. challenged her sister, “Yeah, you heard me. You’re afraid of letting someone love you. You taste it and run for fear that you’ll really see what it’s all about.”

“I’m not running. I’m still here,” the angry voice grew louder, then just as quickly softened, confiding, “It’s Sam, she doesn’t want to be here.”

C.C. couldn’t believe all the misunderstanding that was going on. “I think you both need to forgive yourselves first, then maybe you can think about forgiving the other.” The young woman started for the door, disgusted in her own sister’s bullheadedness.

“Chase, the keys are by the front door.”

The brunette turned around disgustedly, “If you two could only see what a great couple you make. Damn, I wish I could find someone that I could build a life around. Sure it’s not easy. Hell, you’ve never been easy. But that’s you Brooke… and for some god awful reason Sam loves you.”

“Not anymore she doesn’t.” Brooke let out a breath, allowing her shoulders to slump forward even more.

“You want to bet?” C.C. crossed the room until she was face to face with Brooke. “She’s crying her eyes out right now out on the deck. You don’t cry because you think you lost something that you hated. No, you do it because you love it so much that it hurts.”

“She already told me she didn’t know if it was possible to fix us,” Brooke protested.

“You know, people say and do a lot of funny things when they’re hurt. That just might have been one of them. Like you… with the beer and the destruction.” C.C. watched Brooke’s expression change at the mention of her own self-indulgence. “What’s the matter Brooke, am I hitting too close to home?”

Blue eyes showed the torment that Brooke was in. “Chase, I love her. I love Sam. You know, she didn’t believe me when I told her?”

“So what are you going to do about it? Let her walk off the face of the earth, or try to start again? Only this time for real, not hiding anything or letting the other one have any misunderstanding.”

There was dead silence in the room as Brooke mulled over what C.C. had said. For once, maybe she’s got a good point there. Brooke closed her eyes and tried to calm her nerves. “Take the dog for a ride, C.C.” Brooke opened her eyes, looking into her sister’s and confided, “I wanna talk to Sam and I want you to take Mario for a drive. That way I’ll… we’ll have no interruptions.”

“You care more about that dog than you do yourself, you know that? Maybe you should put a little more time and thought on you and what makes you happy.”

Brooke put the bottle in her hand down. “Yeah, yeah…come on.” The musician headed for the door and stumbled down the shambles of a hallway heading for the stairs.

C.C. watched her sister climb the stairs, hanging on to the railing. “Okay, but I’m not staying out all God damn day,” she yelled at her sister.

Sam stood out on the deck, soaking in the quiet of the world around her. The wind blowing through the trees and shrubbery felt like it might be able to take her away from the troubles that surrounded her and she prayed that it would. I never wanted to feel like this. She raised her eyes to the heavens and prayed that her life would settle back down to how it was before… to how she and Brooke… her thoughts were disturbed by the sound of someone stumbling down below her in the driveway.

“What the…” Sam watched as Brooke made a rather not so straight line for the Jeep, with Mario following right behind her.

“Come on boy, get in.” Brooke held the door open for the animal, then closed it and started for the driver’s side, letting her hand rest on the vehicle from time to time as she made her way around it. She stopped at the driver’s door and opened it.

Pangs of terror went surging through Sam’s body. She drew her hand up to her mouth and called out trying to stop the woman, “Brooke!”

Brooke tossed the keys up in the air and caught them, then leaned into the seat of the Jeep for her cell phone. “Here,” she tossed the keys again but this time to C.C. who had emerged from the shadows behind her. “Take my cell with you.” The older woman looked around trying to see who was calling her name, “What?”

“I… ah… I was hoping that you weren’t going to drive… ah… I mean… go somewhere,” Sam didn’t try to hide her concern as she called down from the deck.

“No,” Brooke shielded her eyes as she looked up into the sun, facing the deck. “I’m not going to risk killing my dog just because I’m an idiot.”

“I didn’t say you were an idiot.”

“Bullshit!” Brooke strode back toward the house, stopping at the door, then turned and glared at C.C. “You going or are you staying for the show?”

C.C. climbed into the jeep and settled herself in the seat, reaching over to pet the dog. “Come on, Mario.” Cranking the ignition, she slipped it into reverse and slowly backed out, then took off down the driveway.

Sam watched the jeep as it maneuvered off down the driveway, then finally lost it behind the shrubbery. The blonde’s attention was now focused on Brooke as she disappeared into the house. The young woman’s brow furrowed for a moment or two as she considered what Brooke could be doing. She finally gave up guessing. Sam turned to the door, surprised to see Brooke standing there watching her.

“What?” Blue eyes pierced the sunlight making Sam look away.

“I didn’t think… I mean…”

“I may be a lot of things, Sam, but a drunk driver is not one of them,” Brooke opened the door and walked on to the deck.

The blonde took a defensive stance, placing her hands on her hips. “Let’s cut the crap, Brooke. I’m not playing anymore games.”

“Me, neither. I’m too old for that shit. Sam…” Brooke took a few steps closer and looked the woman right in the eye, “I love you. I want to be with you, and if that’s too much, I’m sorry. I don’t know what else I can say or do to change what you’re thinking or feeling and it’s not my place to do that. You’re free to make up your own mind. I just wanted you to know what was in my heart before you decide what you have to do.” The dark-haired woman took in a breath then let it out saying with all sincerity, “I love you.”

“Too much?” Sam felt guilty now, “How could that be too much?”

“I dunno…” Brooke watched as Sam gave a weak smile. “You seemed like your mind was pretty well made up in the studio earlier.”

Sam looked down to the ground. “My mind was pretty well made up at that movie. I was clueless before I met you.” The blonde squinted, looking up to the taller woman as she walked closer. “Now… I can see that there’s meaning to life,” she smiled. “A… meaning to love.”

There was a moment of quiet that neither woman knew how to fill. Each one waiting for the other to start as both of them felt for the pain of the other.

Brooke shook her head to try and clear the alcohol induced fog. “Maybe it’s the beer but you have me so confused right now. I know what I want but maybe I’m too drunk to figure out what you want.”

Finally, Sam found her voice and started. “I’m not going to say that you didn’t hurt me.” Sam looked at the faint line of her own hand on Brooke’s cheek, “I can see that I hurt you and I’m sorry for that.” Sam wanted to reach out and take the pain away but thought better of touching Brooke right now. Instead, she laid her cards on the table. “But God, Brooke, can’t you see that we’re in need of each other? That we love each other, otherwise, it wouldn’t have hurt so much.”

Painful blue eyes searched Sam’s face. “I do love you.” There was the start of a slow nod to Brooke’s head as she added, “And I need you more than anything in my life.”

“Could you open up your heart to someone that didn’t even recognize their own idol?” Sam’s brow furrowed, ashamed the she hadn’t known the drummer. “Someone who sees the woman and not the celebrity?”

Brooke smiled, realizing that it was what she wanted the whole time. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

“I felt the love Brooke, and only wanted more.”

“More?” Brooke questioned with an arched eyebrow.

Sam smiled wrinkling her nose and squinting up at the taller woman. “Yeah, more. I want to spend time with you, Brooke. I want to memorize you in your everyday life, not the videos on MTV or VH1’s Where Are They Now.”

Brooke moved closer to Sam and wrapped her arms around the smaller woman’s waist. “What do you mean by everyday?”

“Don’t you see,” Sam allowed herself to lean into Brooke. “Loran will always be a part of my life.” She leaned back and looked at Brooke, then reiterated, “My past life. But you, Ms. Gordon…” the blonde smiled coyly, “I could take you everyday being in my life, for the rest of it.”

The taller woman smiled. “You can have Loran. I don’t want her.” She squeezed the woman in her arms. “All I want is you.”

Sam looked up directly into Brooke’s eyes and grinned. “Loran? Loran who?”

The distance closed between the pair and they kissed, first softly then more arduous until they were locked into a lover’s embrace. The renewed feelings were proof enough that they were where they should be, together. When their need for a breath was more overpowering than their emotions, they finally let their lips part from one another.

“I love you, Sam,” Brooke spoke out as they separated.

Chills ran up Sam’s spine as she heard the words and wrapped her arms around Brooke, squeezing her tightly. “God, I love you.” She buried her head in Brooke’s shoulder, “Let’s never do this again…” Sam saw the leery look in Brooke’s eye and the beginning of a raised eyebrow. “Fight, I mean.”

“Yeah,” Brooke agreed, pulling her in, then kissed the top of the blonde’s head.

“Hey, I liked that song you were singing earlier. Is that something that I should recognize?”

“No, I wrote it for you after you left.”

Sam leaned back and looked up at the taller woman, then nestled back into her place on Brooke’s shoulder. “I know now, that you are Brooke Loran without any doubt in my mind.”

“Why now?”

“Brooke,” green eyes pleaded her case. “There’s no denying that voice, not when you sing.” Sam tried to hold back a smile. “Besides, your sister is quite the Brooke Loran Gordon protector.”

“Huh?” A single dark eyebrow raised high on her forehead.

“C.C. read me the riot act.” The small woman stole a glance in Brooke’s direction. “She really got me thinking on that drive back to the campus.”

The older woman smiled, knowing her sister like a book. “Well, if there’s one thing that she’s good at, it’s talking.”

“You know, I think she cares more about you than anyone else in the world.” Sam sighed, “If you could only see yourself through her eyes.”

“God only knows why. I used to torment the hell out of her.” Brooke smiled shyly from ear to ear. “I still torment the hell out of her.” The woman looked around the deck and wondered how it was that she deserved such a devoted sister.

“You know that old saying, don’t you?” Sam waited for a moment then continued, “You only hurt the one that you love…” the blonde stopped short, realizing that was exactly what she had done. “Gosh, Brooke, I’m sorry that I hurt you.”

The older woman tossed her head to one side and smirked, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before now.” Brooke shrugged her shoulders and resigned herself to the truth of the matter. “I was just too scared to lose you.”

Sam closed her eyes, hearing the revealed truth, and decided to let all the truths come to the light of day. “I… I don’t know if this is the right time or not, but I’m going to say it any way.” The woman swallowed and took in a deep breath before looking up at the musician. “I love you.”

Brooke answered her back speaking nothing but the truth that dwelled deep within her heart, “I love you, too, Sam.”

A hint of a smile broke across Sam’s lips as she struggled to keep from crying. Her quick hand motions wiped away the tears that rolled down her cheeks uncontrollably. “I was hoping that you still could find it in your heart.”

“What’s that?” Blue eyes watched the young woman fight to regain her composure.

“I guess I’m asking if we can start over again.” Sam loosened her grip on Brooke and backed away, “only right this time.”

“Right?” Brooke questioned.

“Yeah, right.” Sam straightened herself up and extended her hand in friendship. “Hi, I’m Sam Adams Moleson and I’d like to get to know you.”

Brooke slowly stretched her body to its full height and stood looking at the blonde’s face. She let her eyes drift to the hand offered to her. The large hand of Brooke’s reached out and pushed Sam’s hand away. The look on the younger woman’s face was one of puzzlement at the action. Before she knew it, Brooke took a step closer to the woman, letting her hands come to rest on the small waist. “Hi, Sam. I’m Brooke Loran Gordon. I used to be the drummer for this band called Anti-Zero.” Blue eyes looked directly into green as the words came tripping out of her mouth. “I love you and want to spend the next ten thousand years with you.” The dark-haired woman fought back a smile, “Or the rest of my life, whichever comes first.”

The blonde shook her head then giggled, her reaction pleasing the other woman. “Let’s hope that it’s neither. I’d rather have you around for the rest of my life.” Sam stood up on her tiptoes and kissed Brooke’s lips ever so gently.

Picking up Sam so that they were the same height, Brooke locked gazes with the blonde as they drew closer in an embrace. Minutes seemed like seconds when they had finally released the hold that neither one of them wanted to let go of. The taller woman set Sam down, then asked in a meek voice, “So, I guess we’re actually a couple now, huh?”

“Hmm…” the blonde tilted her head as if she was considering the question. “A couple of what… star-crossed lovers who just had their first fight?”

“Well,” Brooke cleared her throat, “You know what they say…” She paused for a moment, and then continued, “You’re not really a couple until you’ve had your first fight.”

Sam pondered the thought, then asked, “So, is this where we get to do the making up part or what?” A smile tugged at her lips.

“I’m all about making up. I love you, Sam,” Brooke said as their lips found one another.

Two entwined humans lounged gracefully on the couch, basking in the rightness of the world as it spun now in their lives. The growing shadows announced the setting of the day’s sun when the scurry of a four-legged friend was heard scampering through the house in search of its mistress. The pawing and cold nose of Mario put a hasty end to the lip-lock that Sam and Brooke were in.

“Hey, Mario…where’d you come from?” Brooke reached out and petted the dog, “Down, Boy.”

Sam smiled and shook her head, not believing the perfect set-up that Brooke had just opened herself up to. Fighting back the laughter that was about to erupt, Sam got out, “From his mom and dad.”

“Ah…” Brooke smiled, happy to hear laughter coming from the woman in her arms. “I deserved that, didn’t I?”

“Uh-huh…” Sam nodded, knowing that it meant that C.C. was back. “Brooke, honey…” the blonde doodled with her finger on Brooke’s shirt. “You aren’t going to be too mad at your sister are you? I mean she did have our best interest at heart when she did her meddling.”

Sighing, Brooke had to agree, nodding her head. “That she did. I can’t be mad at her for that.” The older woman kissed the top of Sam’s head. “But I think you’ll agree with me when I say that she has to learn…”

“Not to meddle in our relationship?” Sam finished her sentence. “Hmm…That just might be a bit hard for her where you’re concerned.”

“Yeah, she needs to not meddle where you’re concerned.”

“Brooke, just don’t be too hard on her. Okay?” Sam looked up into blue eyes, “She did help us make it right.”

Brooke got her hardest, most menacing face on, then just as quickly let it soften to a smile. “Okay, I won’t.” Then she kissed Sam’s sweet lips lightly, “But I’m gonna make her sweat.”

Just then, the front door opened and C.C. entered the foyer, catching a view of the two lovebirds on the couch. “Hey.” She closed the door and turned back to the living room. “Ah… I take it everything is back to normal now?”

Sam could hear the rumblings of the words as they were formed deep in Brooke’s chest and closed her eyes waiting for the vocal storm to fill the room.

“Ms. Cjersti Chase Gordon,” the contralto voice came out loud and clear, pronouncing the name just like her mother had done on numerous occasions.

Suddenly C.C.’s brown eyes opened wider. She knew what that particular calling of her name meant. She was in big trouble. The brunette pinched herself, hoping it had all been just a dream induced by her hangover. The sharp pain that the pinch created told her that it wasn’t a dream. “OH SHIT!”

Continued in Chapter 11

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