Unbroken Season 1 – part 2 by Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne

See Pictures of the Gordon Family Here

Ch11 Just Dessert
“…Just smile now and cover me in chocolate, sugar is my lifeline, so pure, so sweet…”
It was late on Sunday night before anyone had thought about making the trip back to the dorm. C.C. had spent most of the day catching the last few rays of the summer sun by laying on the hood of the jeep when she parked at the beginning of her sister’s long driveway and waited. Not to mention later, enjoying Brooke’s built-in pool while contemplating the near disastrous effects of her meddlesome ways. That was one of the nicest things about living in Virginia, the summers still stretched into the early days of autumn, not like the Northern states that were already dipping into the low 60 degree temperatures.

Now, as far as Brooke and Sam seeing the sun, that was another story. The pair had spent the better part of the day glued to one another in the house after making up from the fight that they’d had; or rather the misunderstanding that C.C. had caused between them. But that was long forgotten and many words had crossed that bridge, now that everything about Brooke being Loran was out in the open.

The three women sat amicably in the jeep as it traveled that night, back to the campus. Their intermittent conversations were woven together by the music that came out of the speakers, making the ride a pleasurable one indeed.

Pulling into the visitor’s slot outside of the dorm, Brooke turned the engine off, realizing that their weekend together had just come to an end. Sighing, she glanced sideways at Sam in the passenger seat.

“Hey, Sis,” C.C. leaned forward and let her hand rest on the driver’s shoulder. “Thanks for the great surprise party. It was a real blast.”

“No problem,” Brooke looked up into the rearview mirror at her sister. “I hope you enjoyed it. Maybe next time we can do it without all the drama.” She reached out and took Sam’s small hand in her own, squeezing it.

“Yeah, I did.” C.C. thought for a moment, trying to remember her party. “What little I remember of it, I enjoyed.”

Her sister chuckled and shook her head at the new twenty-one year old, “Yeah, you didn’t look like you felt much pain.”

“Oh, yeah, speaking of drama, do you two think you made up enough?” C.C. cast a knowing eye between Sam and her sister.

Brooke looked over to Sam and winked, “I dunno, did we?”

“Well,” Sam looked over at Brooke, then let the smile slowly come to her lips. “I guess we did. But you know, you never can be too sure about things like that.”

“Hmm…good point.” The driver nodded, “We might need another kiss or two to make sure.”

Sam leaned in toward Brooke but stopped, turning to C.C. in the back seat. “Ah…C.C., roomie, ol’ pal, why don’t I let you have the shower first?” The blonde motioned with her head to the building in front of the car, hoping for a little more privacy.

“Yeah, lil’ Sis, I mean…I’d hate to keep you from anything if you’ve got things to do,” Brooke gave her sister a stern look.

“What is it with you two?” C.C. folded her arms over her chest, “First you send me to the pool when I finally get you two back together and now,” she sighed, “I get sent to the shower. Just because the both of you are getting all wet, doesn’t mean that I have to be.” She pushed against the back of Sam’s seat. “Well, if you want some privacy, let me out.” C.C. put her hands up in the air and shook her head. “I know, I promised no more meddling.”

Brooke smiled at her sister’s renewed vigor not to cause any more problems. “I’m glad to see you remember that little talk we had, Chase.” The driver arched an eyebrow high on her forehead.

The young blonde complied with C.C.’s wish and waited only seconds after the brunette was standing out of the car before climbing back in, starting to close the door again.

Walking to the other side of the car, C.C. tapped on the driver’s window and motioned for it to be rolled down. Leaning into the now open window, C.C. asked, “So, I’ll see you when you get back from Jersey?”

Brooke nodded and motioned for C.C. to move back. The tall woman opened up her door and stood before her sister, holding her arms out for a hug. “Come here, you brat.”

“Thanks again, for the party.”

“I hope you had a happy birthday, Kiddo. You’re welcome.” Brooke embraced her sister and whispered in her ear, “Thanks for everything today, Chase. I mean that.”

The younger sibling nodded and slowly disengaged from the hug, moving back from the car. “Yeah, I did.” She turned around and took a step or two in the direction of the dorm, then let out a shriek as she threw a clenched hand into the air, “Yahoo! Look out world, C.C. Gordon has come of age, she’s twenty-one.”

“Oh, Lordy,” Brooke hung her head as she got back into the jeep and closed the door, watching C.C. enter the dorm. She turned to face Sam, holding her arms out as an invitation to get closer.

“Don’t even tell me that you didn’t do the exact same thing when you turned twenty-one.” Sam chided the driver.

“Actually, yes, I did.” Brooke shook her head at the remembrance, “My poor mother.”

“Hmm…I bet.” Sam smiled warily, then changed her mood to a more sober one. “So…are we alright, you and I?”

“Of course we are, Sweetheart. Come here,” the dark-haired woman motioned with her head.

Leaning in toward Brooke, Sam wet her lips and asked, “Now, where were we?”

After embracing, Brooke tilted her head and kissed the blonde, not letting her go for long, lingering moments. As the kiss faded, Brooke made her feelings very clear. “I love you,” she whispered with all the conviction that was in her heart.

Taking a breath in before speaking, Sam tried to calm her racing heart. “Earlier today, I was afraid that I was never going to hear those words again.” She looked up into loving blue eyes, “I love you too, Brooke.”

“Baby, I’ll make sure to tell you a thousand times a day. You’ll be sick of hearing it.”

“I don’t ever want to have a misunderstanding like that with you again.” Sam looked away from Brooke, staring out the windshield while she spoke. “I don’t know what I would have done if C.C. hadn’t talked some sense into me.”

“Let’s just be thankful she did. I’m glad it’s over.” Brooke gently turned Sam’s gaze back to her with a single finger placed on the blonde’s chin. “I feel much better now that you know.”

“She’s not so bad for a roomie,” Sam chuckled.

“She’s not so bad for a sister, either,” Brooke conceded.

“We can’t ever tell her that. She’ll never fit that swelled head of hers through a doorway.” Sam looked back toward the dorm with its big double doors at the entrance and smiled.

“Good point,” the driver agreed, pulling Sam back into her arms and cuddling with her.

After a while, Sam finally asked about C.C.’s question to her sister. “So, what’s this about Jersey?”

Shrugging, Brooke started, “I have to fly up there tomorrow. I was going to tell you earlier today when you woke up but…ah…that didn’t work out too well.”

“For the day?” Sam held her breath hoping it wouldn’t be any longer.

“No, Baby…” Brooke swallowed then found the words to continue, “Probably for the whole week. I got the call this morning while you were sleeping.”

“Week?” Sam looked disappointed. “I’m going to have to go a whole week without seeing you?”

Brooke nodded. “That’s why you found me in the studio. I…I was blowing off steam.” Sad, blue eyes looked to green with hope written in them, “I think it will be all week, Darlin’. You’ll still be waiting here for me, won’t you?”

“Lonely as all hell, but yeah, I’ll be here.” Sam thought for a moment, then asked, “You ah…going to take your laptop with you?

“Yeah, I am. Why?”

“Well, I thought that maybe I could expect to hear from you. An e-mail or two, perhaps?” Green eyes pleaded with Brooke. “We could keep our lines of communication open that way. Maybe I could even give you a phone call or two?”

“Of course you can. I’ll e-mail you while I’m there. I’m sure I’ll need something to make me smile, and hearing your voice would do that for sure.” Brooke found it hard not to love this woman even more.

“I think I can arrange that.” Sam leaned in and kissed the offered cheek as she watched Brooke smile. “It’s going to be a long week.”

Sam tugged on the collar of Brooke’s shirt. “So, when will I see you next?”

“It’s a new band we signed,” the woman sighed as she tried to reason out just how much work she’d have to do. “I have to go up there and put the fear of God into their producer,” Brooke smiled knowing how much she liked doing that. “James called a couple of weeks ago, asking if I’d help him and Peter out.” Brooke shrugged her shoulders, “I agreed.” She sighed. “So I told them to meet me up in Jersey this week. I’ll be able to get their stuff out of the way at the same time. That is, if they have their shit together. I should be back Saturday or Sunday morning at the latest.” Brooke looked down at Sam’s face, “Honest Baby, I’ll try to get back as soon as I can.”

“Oh,” Sam sounded disappointed. “Then I guess I should plan on doing some studying around campus.” The small woman sat back in her seat. “So, you’ll call me when you get home…” she glanced over to Brooke, “and we can do something that day or the week after then?”

Biting at her lower lip, Brooke thought for a moment, then an idea dawned on her. “Better yet,” the dark-haired woman gave Sam a rakish grin. “Why don’t you stay at the house over the weekend? That way you could be there when I get home. C.C. can drop you off and I can even have Terri bring Mario over to keep you company.”

“You’d let me stay there without you being around?”

“Of course, I will.” Brooke looked out through the windshield and then back to Sam. “I’m learning to let you into my life, Sam. I’m trying to show you that I trust you in a place that’s been my refuge from everyone…everything. I’ll leave you the codes and keys. You can take out the 300 or the jeep.” Brooke smiled, liking the idea more and more. “You’d have the whole place to yourself. Do whatever you like. Look anywhere you want. I’m not hiding anything from you, not anymore.”

“What I’d like to do or see won’t be possible until you get home, though.” Sam grinned, thinking about how she could surprise Brooke on her arrival.

“Like I said, if James and Peter have their shit together,” And I hope they do. “Maybe I can come home early.”

“James, Peter?” Sam’s eyes questioned the names. “But I thought that Anti-Zero broke up.”

“Yeah, it did. This isn’t A-Z at all,” Brooke reassured her.

“So, you’re not there as Loran?”

Blue eyes got deadly serious as Brooke made her point. “Loran was left in those pictures, shattered on the floor. No, I’m there as Brooke Gordon, the producer, just trying to help them out, nothing more.”

Sam felt better for some odd reason, just knowing that. “You’re not even a little excited about it? Being back together with your old band mates?”

“No, Loran and those days are long gone.”

“Well, whatever it takes.” Sam wrapped her arms around Brooke’s neck, then whispered in her ear, “Just get Brooke home as fast as you can.”

“I’ll try, Baby.” Brooke reciprocated the embrace, pulling Sam tight against her.

They sat there entwined in each other’s bodies and thoughts, letting the warmth of the moment surround them. Time seemed to stand still when they were together, now more than ever. The stars above gave up little twinkles of light and blessed them with their magic.

Finally, Sam was the first to speak, breaking the spell that they had been lost in. “I’m going to miss you.”

“Hmm…I’m going to miss you, too.” Brooke nuzzled Sam’s ear and purred into it, “I’m going to miss this, Darlin’.”

“Me, too.” Sam turned her head and let her lips find their way to Brooke’s. The sweet taste of the kiss lingered on as Sam hesitantly pulled back from the encounter, savoring it as long as she could. “If I don’t leave now…” Sam pushed open the jeep door and slid to the edge of the seat with her legs dangling out of it. “You’ll never get back. Bye, Brooke.” She stood up, rolled down the window in the door, then closed it and looked back inside.

“Bye, Sam…” Brooke reached out for Sam, “I love you.”

Sam leaned in the window, staring into somber, blue eyes that slowly came closer, culminating in a feather soft kiss as Brooke’s hand gently caressed her cheek. Parting from it, the blonde inhaled slowly then spoke, “I love you, too. Hurry home.”

“I will, Baby.” Brooke touched the end of Sam’s nose with a single fingertip, then slid back into the driver’s seat, starting the engine.

Sam nodded and gave a weak wave of her hand as she stepped back from the car, then Brooke looked out the passenger window one last time before pulling out.

Trying to be as quiet as she could, Sam opened the door to her darkened dorm room and entered. Closing it, the young woman turned and leaned back into it, letting a long sigh emerge from her lips, as the bag in her hand dropped to the floor. The sound of rustling covers and a squeaky bed spring failed to capture her mind, as she stood there thinking of the time she had just spent in Brooke’s embrace.

“Hey! What the…” C.C. threw back the covers and reached for the small nightstand lamp, turning it on. “Oh, it’s you.” She reached back down for her light covers, pulling them back up over her body, “Took you long enough.”

“Long enough…” Sam stood there confused, squinting in the light of the small room. “Huh?”

“Yeah, I said long enough. Hell, I came in, unpacked, took a shower and went to sleep already.” C.C. snuggled back down into the bed. “Does she kiss that good? Nope, don’t answer that.” She rolled over in her bed and looked at Sam. “I really don’t want to know.”

The blonde tucked her head down, bringing her chin to her chest as the blush of her embarrassment made its way to her cheeks.

The sleepy brunette giggled, shaking her head. “You can stop there. ‘Nuf said.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you, C.C.” Sam pushed off the door and moved toward her bed.

“Yeah, well, look at the time Sam,” C.C. pointed to her alarm clock. “You’ve been out there almost half the night.”

Sam’s dreamy expression now faded as two green eyes bugged out, “What?” She spun around and looked at C.C.’s clock. “Oh, good gods, I’ve got a class in less than four hours.”

The brunette was finding it funnier by the minute, watching Sam dart into the bathroom for a few minutes then emerging dressed, ready for bed. C.C. shook her head and laughed as she settled back into her bed while Sam climbed into her own.

After a few minutes, C.C. calmly asked, “You gonna be okay this week?”

“I’m going to have to be.” She rolled over and faced away from her roommate.

C.C. shut her eyes and got comfortable, “Well, if it means anything to you, you’ve still got me here.”

“Hey C.C., thanks for everything that you did to help me…er…us.”

“No problem, that’s what I’m here for.”

Sam’s brow furrowed with that remark. “So you admit that you meddled now?” The blonde teased as she watched C.C.’s expression turn to one of shock. Sam giggled slightly while thinking about what C.C. had told her. “Oh, I’ve got you, but you’re sure not Brooke, C.C.”

The brunette opened her eyes with that last statement and looked over at Sam. Sighing she shook her head, then whispered, “Sweet dreams, Sis.”

Tired from the lack of sleep from the night before, Brooke finally made it into her hotel room at the end of the day. It was only four in the afternoon, but she was already mad as hell. Taking it out on her luggage, she threw it down onto the floor, while the keys were tossed onto the bed. Seeing the king-size bed only made her think of Sam and the last night that they had spent, spooned up against each other. God, how I wish she was here. She looked at the nightstand with its small digital clock next to the phone, and thoughts of Sam again clouded her mind. I might as well call her. I’m not getting anything done here without talking to her.

Brooke rubbed her temples with one hand as she took in a deep, calming breath. After sitting there for a few seconds, she picked up the phone and began to punch in the familiar numbers that were now a part of her being.

“Come on, Baby…” she inhaled deeply as she listened to it ring on the other end. “Answer.”

“Hellooo…” the melodious sound came through the line.

“Hi, Baby!” came the sultry reply.

“Brooke! Hey, it’s good to hear your voice. I was just thinking about you.” Sam’s voice was excited.

“God, it’s wonderful to hear yours.” Brooke’s excitement faded and she became very serious. “I miss you so much.”

“I know what you mean. I’m missing you more than I ever thought I could.” Sam bit at her lip, trying to hold back her tears.

“I just walked in and saw this big ol’ empty bed. This week is going to drive me insane.”

“And you thought of how good it would be to have me there, right?” Sam asked knowing that it would be what she would have thought of if their places had been reversed.

“Exactly.”

Sam knew that she had to get the conversation going or they would both be in tears for want of each other, “So, how’s Jersey treating you…or shouldn’t I ask?” She waited, hearing Brooke’s groan on the other end.

“Well, you’re not here.” The C.E.O. cleared her throat. “I wanted to strangle some poor excuse for a producer.” Brooke sat down on the bed and ran her hand along the comforter.

“I don’t think that will get you home faster Brooke.” Sam giggled, then teased, “In fact, it might keep you away from me.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why I didn’t strangle him,” she sighed as she settled back onto the pillow, letting one booted foot rest on the bed.

“Good girl,” Sam beamed with pride. “I don’t think that they let girlfriends sleep over in Jersey Prisons.

“Hmm…Probably not.” Brooke arched an eyebrow at the thought. “Now, I’ve got to leave here in about 20 minutes to meet up with James and Peter at the other studio.” She grew quiet for a moment then confessed, “God, I wish you were here.”

“Well, just remember that.” Sam could feel the tears welling up in her eyes, “I’m counting on you coming home, earlier if you can.”

“I’ll try, Darlin’. I love you, Sam. I miss you so damn much.”

“You know that I love you, too,” the words were spoken like a prayer.

“I know.” Brooke could feel the melancholy gripping her soul. “So, will you call me later, when you’re ready for bed?”

“I don’t what to disturb you…or something.”

“You won’t be disturbing me at all. I’ve kind of gotten used to saying ‘goodnight’ to you after the last three in a row.” Brooke sat up letting her feet rest on the floor. “Whenever you’d like, I’ll have my cell on the whole time.”

Sam sighed, “Right now, I wish I was that cell phone.”

Amused, Brooke asked, “Yeah? Why’s that?”

The young woman could feel the heat starting up her neck and racing toward her cheeks, “Cause I’d be in your hands and feeling your breath on my…” she didn’t finish, hearing the agonized groan come across the phone line. “God this is not the time to go there, is it?”

“Not really, Baby.”

“Brooke…” she paused for a second then finished, “Hurry home.”

“I will, Baby.”

“Now go and get done. I’ll call you later.”

“I love you, Sam.” Brooke closed her eyes and pictured the blonde woman.

“I love you, Brooke…bye.” Sam held the phone tight to her ear, not wanting to miss a single word.

“Bye, Baby.” Brooke sat there listening to Sam’s shallow breaths until the call was disconnected. The sound of the dead line acted as her catalyst to get moving once again. Hanging up the receiver, she stretched to reach for her keys that she had thrown on the bed. Retrieving them, she got up and headed for the door. “Okay, Jersey, let’s see what you’ve got.”

Opening the door, she hesitated with a thought, then closed it and went to her laptop, unpacking it from the case. Making the few connections needed, she fired off an e-mail to Sam with a simple message: Missing you already and I just ended your call. Love, Brooke. Smiling at the thought, Brooke hit send, then after seeing the transmission verified, turned off the computer.

She opened the door and stepped out, turning to take one long last look at the room before leaving. You’d better not be wasting my time, James. She looked at the bed. I have better things that I could be doing.

The recording studio that Brooke had made arrangements with was modestly equipped and roomy enough not to feel like she was in some hole-in-the-wall operation. It wasn’t anything close to Brownstone’s more advanced studio but it would do. She quickly made herself familiar with the layout and the equipment before the musicians would arrive. Nothing was going to keep her from finishing up this job as soon as she could. She had someone waiting for her back home and that was really where she wanted to be right now.

Brooke shook off her thoughts of golden hair and green eyes and forced herself to concentrate on the soundboard in front of her. It was then, during this time, that she heard the door to the control room open, wondering whom it would be.

“Hey, Brooke. Just like old times, huh? You were always the first one in the studio.”

Brooke swiveled in her chair to see Peter. “Hey!” She got up and took the few steps over to greet her old band mate with a hug. “Yeah, well…this time I have to be.” She smiled, giving him a friendly slap on the shoulder as they came out of the embrace.

“You’re looking good, lady.” Peter looked her over, approvingly. “Retirement agrees with you.” He reached out and tugged at her long hair.

“Yeah well,” she waffled a smile, then motioned towards him. “You, too. It’s great to see you again, Petey. I’ve missed you. I see your hair has gotten longer, too,” she teased him pulling at his inch long hair.

“Hey, we can’t all have manes like yours.” He batted her hand away, “So, how’s life Brooke? You doing alright?” Peter looked into Brooke’s blue eyes for the truth.

A lopsided smile slowly came to the woman’s face as she thought of how her life was changing with Sam in the picture now and she drawled out, “Pretty good. How ’bout you?”

“Well…” Peter shrugged his shoulders. “I’m doing okay, considering.” The man cleared his throat then continued. “You know how James and I poured through the cash. The money left us just like the women did. Heck, you even left us.”

Brooke took in a breath, “Peter…” then she let it out. “There were reasons behind it. Some that you still don’t know about.” She looked away from the man then came back to face him saying, “Besides, we all make mistakes.”

“And some of us even learn by them.” Peter let a smile tug at the corners of his mouth, “I hope this time…it’s my chance to learn.”

“I hope so. I’ve missed you, my friend.”

“Hey, you did what you had to do, and for that I can’t fault you.” Peter gazed into her eyes, reassuringly.

Nodding, Brooke accepted his honesty. “I appreciate that Peter, I really do.”

“You’re still the best in my book, Brooke. Peter looked around the quiet studio. “So, did James get here yet?”

“No, I haven’t seen him.” Brooke shook her head, remembering James’ tardy behavior when there was work to be done. She sighed, Same old James. He hasn’t changed in all the time that I’ve known him. “Well, looks like we have you all set up. So, I guess now we wait.”

“He said that he was coming right over,” Peter offered. “I left him about an hour ago at the bar.”

The tall woman lowered her eyes as she shook her head. “Well, I haven’t seen him and I’ve been here for over half an hour.” Damn him, still into that booze.

“Figures, I left him talking to a chick.”

“Same ol’ James.”

Peter eyed Brooke suspiciously, “You really think that he’d change?”

“I guess I hoped for it,” she sniffed. “He was my best friend for twenty years.”

“And now?” Peter asked somberly.

“Part of me still hoped he would have changed.”

“Well, hope springs eternal, maybe someday he will…” Peter put his guitar case down and opened it, taking out the polished black Spector bass.

Brooke started moving about the studio, making herself busy. She turned and addressed Peter apologetically, “Hey, I’m not trying to rush you guys… But, I’d really like to try and get home early this week. As long as he’s prepared, I could care less what James does when he’s not here.”

“Ah…I see you’re still playing the tough butch, Brooke.” The gaunt looking man in the door announced his entrance, surveying the studio and its occupants. He watched the tall woman as she glared back at him but didn’t speak, continuing with her task. “Aren’t you guys ready yet? Do I have to do everything?”

Peter walked over to his usual spot when he played, reached down and plugged in his bass. “Dude, I’m already set up. Where’s Eddie?”

James rolled his head, letting his eyes point to the doorway, when he held up one finger and slowly curled it toward himself. “Eddie,” he called out, “Come on in. I’ll introduce you to the great Loran.” Then James raised both arms above his head and waved them as he bowed down in Brooke’s direction.

“Loran’s not here James…” Brooke seethed out between clenched teeth. “Just Brooke.” She stared him down, holding her gaze, never winking.

His wise-ass expression said it all, “Brooke…Loran…” he cocked his head to the other side, as he looked at her. “It’s one in the same.”

“I appreciate that James, but I go by just Brooke, now.”

James nudged the young blonde man standing next to him. “Best set of sticks in the business.” He smirked, leaning into Eddie to finish, “And not too bad in the tits either.” James held his hands up at the height of his own chest and wiggled his fingers mischievously, then winked as if he knew what he was talking about.

“James,” Peter shot a menacing glance to the man in the doorway. “Drop it, will you?”

Brooke ignored him and went about her job as producer. “James, you can set your amps up in the studio there.”

“Hey, Eddie…go ahead shake her hand.” James let a grin break over his face, then teased, “She don’t bite. You might say that she’s not a man-eater at all.”

The tall woman turned around to glare at James but stopped when she saw Peter motion with his eyes to Eddie. Instead, she turned toward Eddie and held out her hand. “Hi, Eddie. I’m Brooke Gordon. I’ll be producing this session. Nice to meet you.”

“Gordon…I thought that…” the younger man looked first to James then Peter and back again to Brooke. “Okay…” was his shaky reply, “Hi.”

She looked into his hazel colored eyes and offered, “Loran was my middle name.”

“Oh…ah…” Eddie shook his head and shrugged. “Alright.”

“Hey dude, she’s the producer now. Loran don’t cut it in those circles.” Peter smiled when he saw Brooke turn and wink at him. “Come on, Brooke. I’ll help you set up the mics.”

The woman turned to Peter with her lips curling up into a smile. “Thanks, Peter.”

The bass player nodded. “Don’t’ mention it,” whispering as he picked up the first mic out of the case.

She returned his nod, then looked over to Eddie, “I guess you can set up next to James, unless you’d like to use the studio’s set.” She motioned to the drum kit in the far corner of the room.

“God, what is this,” James stifled a burp, then continued on, “bow down to Brooke day?” He pulled a bottle out of his coat pocket and twisted the cap off, guzzling it down like there was no tomorrow. Smacking his lips after drinking it, James wiped his mouth with his hand, “Ahhhhh…now, I’m ready to play.”

“So, I was right,” Brooke snorted, “same ol’ James.” She shook her head, realizing that nothing had really changed over the years, at least where James was concerned.

Peter crossed over in front of James, and shot off a quick glance in Brooke’s direction. “Dude, cut her some slack.”

James smirked, “Come on,” he threw a thumbed fist into his own chest and proclaimed, “My time is just as valuable as hers. We’re the stars, not her this time.”

The longtime band mate stopped short and fired off, “James, we are hardly stars…” then shook his head. “Not any more. If we’re going to be stars again, she’ll do it.” Peter motioned in Brooke’s direction, “Just don’t start with her.”

Taking a swig of beer, James looked off in Brooke’s direction. “Yeah, well I know she can and she better.” His eyes narrowed and his voice took on a strange tone, “She owes me…” he turned to look at Peter. “I mean… us,” then smiled unconvincingly.

Peter wondered what was behind James’ action, but didn’t ask. “Well, you know it would make it easier if you’d actually show up sober for this.” The man reached out to take the bottle away from James.

The scrawny man pulled the bottle back out of Peter’s reach and wagged a cautioning finger to the man. “Sober? Who in the hell plays good sober except…” James glanced in Brooke’s direction again. “Nah, it ain’t worth it.”

“Look Dude, just set up and get ready to play.” Peter shook his head, making his way back to Brooke.

“Never change, will you James?” She let out a sigh.

“Sorry, Brooke.” Peter took the mic that Brooke offered him. “You know that he doesn’t really mean it.”

“Yeah well,” she resigned herself to getting the job done. “Not much I can do about it now. A deal is a deal. Besides, he means it,” She smirked.

“It’s just the liquor…”

“No offense Peter, but I don’t smell any alcohol on you.”

“I ah… I don’t do that any more. Maybe I’m growing up and not just out,” he put his hands on his slightly expanded waistline as he thought about what Brooke had said. “Deal? What deal?”

Brooke grinned and smacked him lightly on the back. “I knew you would come to your senses. Yeah, James and I made a deal. He didn’t tell you about it?” She looked at her friend with surprise.

“No. What’s the deal?” He turned a hopeful look in her direction. “You coming back?”

“No, sorry. Did he say anything to you about how much this was costing?”

The bass player grimaced at the news. “Well, it was a good wish.” He sighed and shook his head, “No, he just said that he had it covered.”

“He has it covered because he’s not paying for it, I am,” she smirked.

“You’re what?” Peter looked Brooke in the face to see if it was a joke. But she never laughed. “I’m not letting him…” the man turned toward James until he felt someone tugging him back in place. Looking down at his arm he saw Brooke’s hand wrapped around his wrist.

“The deal was, I’d do this but you guys owe me one night, one night of Anti-Zero… for a friend.”

“One night?” Peter looked over to James. “And he agreed to that? Better yet, you agreed to that?” His eyes came back to meet Brooke’s gaze.

Brooke spoke from her heart. “She loves A-Z. She never got to see us play. I want this to be her birthday present. It was my offer, my terms.”

“I hope she’s worth it.” Peter watched the expression on Brooke’s face change when she thought about her friend.

The ends of Brooke’s mouth curled up into a grin as she answered his question. “She’s worth more than that, but that one night would make her happy.”

Seeing Brooke’s reaction, Peter slowly smiled. “I think maybe our Brooke finally found a heart…huh?” He nudged her with his elbow and winked.

Brooke blushed and looked down to the ground. “Yeah, maybe. Doesn’t really matter, as soon as I found it, I lost it.” Her grin grew bigger just thinking of what Sam had done to her heart in such a short time.

“It looks good on you. I’m happy for you, count me in.” He grinned and clapped his friend on her shoulder. “When is this one night?”

“October thirtieth, ” Brooke returned his grin, knowing that he was sincere.

“Great!” Peter’s eyes grew bigger as he wiggled his eyebrows and his grin became more devilish in nature. “We’ll scare everyone, like were coming back from the dead.”

The woman laughed out loud. “Yeah, I told James, all the songs, even the ones we never released.”

“Whoa!” Peter exclaimed, “You really have lost that heart. She must be something else then.”

Blue eyes pinned him directly. “She’s everything, Pete.”

There was a moment of silence before Peter asked. “Does she know that you’re Loran? I mean just in case I run into her.”

Brooke thought about the fateful morning after C.C.’s birthday party when she and Sam almost split. “She does now. She didn’t until yesterday.” Brooke shook her head, then continued to explain. “We got into a huge fight over it. She’s had a crush on Loran since she was about 14, I guess. She accused me of imitating Loran to get to her. You can imagine how well that went over with C.C., right?”

“Big, I bet.” Peter thought for a moment, “Fourteen, that would have made us,” he tried to decipher the ages and then made a funny face at Brooke. “Hey, how old is she?”

The tall woman looked down at her feet, kicking at the floor. Then Brooke looked back up and grinned at Peter. “She’ll be twenty-one the night we play.”

Peter shook his head and let out a low whistle. “When you fall…” he smiled at her, watching the blush rise to her face again. “You fall big, don’t you?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Well, I hope for your sake that it’s real.”

“Oh, it is.” Brooke assured him. “That’s why I didn’t tell her right away. I wanted to make sure she wanted me, not Loran. I wanted to tell her but kind of didn’t want to…you know?”

“Afraid to scare her away?” Peter asked knowing full well the reputation that Loran was reported to have had.

“I almost did,” Brooke nodded. “She thought I was some raving lunatic, trying to become someone else to make her happy.”

“Brooke, who wouldn’t want you?” He held up his hand to calm her protest, “I know, you’re not that type. Ah…but you know what I mean.”

“Thanks Pete,” Brooke offered a smile. “But, I wanted her to love me, not Loran. That’s all.”

Leaning back, Peter eyed her up. “Yeah,” he tilted his head to one side then the other, “I can see the very slightest resemblance to someone I once knew.” He tapped his finger to his head trying to remember. “Brooke…ah…Brooke…” he rolled his eyes then said, “Gordon.” The man gave her a faint smile and a wink then walked away.

The hours in the studio had quickly flown by with Brooke studying the trio’s style and jotting down some of their weak points to be addressed later. The biggest one of all was Eddie. The young man was very energetic but when it came to putting it all together, the raw talent of a natural drummer just wasn’t there. It was something that Brooke was going to have to take care of, even if she’d school him herself. Now she understood why James insisted on having her do the producing. She’d have to hand it to James, though. It was a nice try to get her back into the group. But her mind was made up.

Brooke stared out the window of the pizza shop as she finished her first slice, listening to the others talk. When she was done, she wiped her mouth with the napkin and looked directly at the blonde-haired man across from her. “Yeah, so what’d you think Eddie? Not too much different with the mics, huh?”

The young man swallowed. “I’m not sure I can do that. You know, playing and singing back up,” Eddie shook his head. “I’ve got enough to concentrate on with the drums. Maybe I’m not what you guys need.”

“Sure, you can. Just do one at a time. Don’t try to sing while we’re recording the drums.” Brooke selected another piece of pizza.

“Maybe that would help?”

“Sure it will,” she winked at him. “Then we’ll come back over and record your vocals, once the drums are done.”

“Heck,” Peter piped in. “We did it all the time that way. Remember, James?” The bassist tried to pull the obviously preoccupied man into the conversation.

“Yeah,” Brooke nodded. “Once you’re secure on each one separately, you’ll have no trouble doing them together.”

James lowered the bottle from his lips, “Yeah, I remember.” Turning the bottle upside down, the man was dismayed to see that it was empty. “I need a beer.” He stood up, motioning with his flailing arms in the air to gain some attention.

Both old band mates just looked away from James as he made a spectacle of himself at the table, even causing Eddie to roll his eyes.

Brooke cleared her throat, “Anyway, Eddie…”

“I’ll try. Thanks for working with me, Brooke.”

“No problem. Just let me know if you need any help on anything. You’ll get it,” Brooke winked, then bit into her piece of pizza.

“I’m sorry I’m not a natural like you.” Eddie turned his attention back to his food.

James’ face grew tense as he tried not to lose his mouthful of beer. Swallowing it in a hurry, he let out a forced laugh, “Natural? Now that’s a laugh.”

Brooke exchanged glances with Peter who was sitting next to her, not sure if it was a compliment or if she should be offended. “Something to say, James?” She turned her eyes back to the man across from her.

“Nothing I haven’t said before,” the man smirked, then took another swig of his beer.

“James…” one dark eyebrow rose high on her forehead as blue eyes turned to steel.

“Hey, she’s all sticks and skins,” Peter tried to settle the emotions that he saw surfacing. “What’ s more natural?”

The gaunt looking man turned in his chair, placing the bottle to his lips and drank more beer.

Brooke placed her hand on Peter’s arm, “It’s alright…”

Just then James got up and announced, “I’ve got to go make room for more beer.” He finished the bottle he had and set it down looking directly at Brooke, then winked. “I’ll be back.” He turned then sauntered off toward the men’s room.

Brooke placed her head in her hands. Damn, I wish I were back in Virginia with Sam.

“Sorry, about that Brooke. You know that he doesn’t mean it,” Peter tried to reassure his old friend.

The woman raised her head, then looked down the long hallway that led to the restrooms. “No, he means it all right. That’s his natural way.”

Peter waved his hand in a good riddance manner, “Just forget about him.” Then he smiled and nudged Brooke with his shoulder. “Hey, so when do we get to meet your friend?”

“Let’s just get this out in the open now,” Brooke looked first to Peter then to the man across from him. “Eddie?” She waited until she had his full attention. “Do you have a problem with me being a lesbian? Does it make a difference to you?”

Eddie gulped, almost choking on his pizza, “Ah…lesbian? You’re gay?”

Peter laughed.

Brooke smiled, “Uh, yeah…I am.”

Eddie grew very serious then leaned in toward her, motioning her to come closer, “Does it make you play the drums better?”

The woman thought for a moment, glancing at Peter who was trying to keep a straight face, then answered, “Not that I know of.”

The young man sat back in his chair and coughed. “I just wondered. Makes me feel kind of better. I thought I might have to ah…ah…”

“Why, you thinking of becoming a lesbian?” Brooke couldn’t resist teasing the blonde. In a way, he reminded her of Sam. He made her laugh and right now, that was a very good thing. She chuckled, as Eddie’s face grew redder, then her eyes sparkled with delight as she looked him straight in the face and winked.

“NO!” His hazel eyes popped out.

“Really? You don’t want to sleep with just women?” Brooke asked as straight-faced as she could.

Peter lightly smacked the woman’s hand, “What’s the matter, you don’t want to get a toaster?”

Sensing that something wasn’t right, Eddie squeaked out, “But I sleep with women now.”

“Hey Eddie,” Brooke taunted him. “I’ll tell you a secret.” She held up her hand to block the fact that she was pointing at the man next to her, then mouthed, “Peter’s a lesbian.”

Now Peter got into the action, trying to see what she was saying. “What?”

Eddie’s face twisted as his brow creased, “HUH?” Then he looked at Peter.

Brooke directed her next question to Peter. “You don’t sleep with men, right?” She watched him shake his head. “Only women, right?” She watched him nod, then smiled and announced, “Then you must be an honorary lesbian.”

Peter’s face turned serious. “Damn. And I thought it was just a plumbing problem, not enough pipe.” The man nudged her shoulder and bust out laughing.

The woman turned back to the young man, “So, Eddie, do you care?”

First he looked at Peter, then Brooke trying to decide what to say. “Ah…No…not really…” He laughed nervously and looked directly at Peter, “She’s kidding right?”

“No, I’m not kidding. I am a lesbian.” Brooke sat back and waited to see what he’d say.

“Nope. Brooke never kids,” Peter nodded reassuringly.

“So…” Brooke locked baby blues on the man, then asked, “Does it make a difference to you one way or the other?”

“No, it doesn’t bother me.” Eddie picked up a piece of pizza and eyed it before shrugging, “I’m just glad that I didn’t waste time trying to make out with you.”

That answer started Peter howling. The thought of the young man laying claim to the woman next to him only proved how inexperienced he was.

“Smart Ass!” Brooke nudged Peter with her elbow. “I like you, kid.” Brooke winked at Eddie as he bit into his pizza.

The familiar tones of Brooke’s cell phone could be heard above the remnants of laughter as the three sat enjoying one another’s company. Brooke pulled the phone from her pocket and looked at the caller I.D. when the silly little grin came to her face.

“Ah…Must be the sweetie,” Peter chided her. “Look at that face.”

Brooke snarled at Peter, then pressed the button, speaking into the phone, “Hi Baby!”

“Hey, I’m not disturbing you, am I?”

“Not at all. We just decided to break for dinner.”

“Hmm…Dinner sounds good. What’re you having?”

Brooke smiled, as she played with her half-eaten piece of pizza, “My favorite pizza place in the country, Brooklyn’s Brick Oven Pizza on Main St. in Hackensack.”

“Oh, I guess that doesn’t come with dessert, eh?” Sam teased knowing how much Brooke loved dessert.

“Nope, no dessert.” Brooke smiled as she wiggled her eyebrows, “Unless, you plan on making a trip.”

“Hmm…Are you ordering a dessert to go?” Sam giggled at the thought.

Brooke cradled the phone closer to her face, and turned slightly, “Only if you deliver.”

Peter choked on his pizza letting go with a string of coughing and wheezes. “She delivers? Brooke, you never told me that,” he said as he reached for his drink to wash the food down.

“Hey, who’s all there with you?”

Brooke smacked Peter in the arm, “Behave,” she said as she covered the receiver of the phone. “Ah, just Peter,” Brooke looked up to see the fourth member of their party sliding his chair out and sitting down. “James and Eddie.”

“Eddie? Who’s Eddie?”

“He’s their drummer.” Brooke gave Eddie the once over. “You’d like him. In fact, he reminds me a little of you. Must be that blonde hair, green eyes thing,” she teased.

“Thinking of switching?” Sam teased Brooke.

“No.”

“That’s my girl.” Sam laughed, “Well, is he any good? You know how I am about drummers.”

Startled, Brooke teased her back, “Why, you looking to replace me so soon?”

Sam smiled, hearing the lilt to Brooke’s voice. “No way. I just want to make sure that you know it.”

Brooke smiled when she heard Sam’s comment. “Ah, he’s pretty good, actually. Then again, he has to be with one green eye.”

“Huh? He only has one green eye?”

“Yeah, the other one is kind of bluish green.” Brooke smiled and winked at Eddie.

“I just love this one drummer. You know, I room with her sister, that’s how I met her.”

“Yeah?” Brooke tilted her head and let it rest on her arm, “What’s she like?”

“You got all day for me to tell you?” Sam teased her again.

“I miss you,” Brooke sighed.

“I miss you too.”

Much to the amazement of the people around her, Brooke acted like they weren’t there at all. Without lowering her voice, the woman said what most would only whisper in public. “I love you.”

“God,” Sam sniffed again, “I wish you were here.”

“Baby, are you crying?”

“No, I…I just miss you,” Sam’s voice trailed off.

James snapped his fingers high over his head, summoning a waitress. “Hey, Red, I’m out of beer. We’ll take another round for the table.” The man glared at Brooke then settled back into his chair.

Brooke let out a disgusted breath, then brought her attention back to Sam. “I miss you too, Baby.”

“Jeez, Brooke.” Peter reached for the phone.

“Hang on a moment, Baby.” Brooke looked at Peter, “What?”

The man grabbed the phone from Brooke and held it to his ear. “Hi there. Who’s this?”

Startled by the change of voice, Sam looked at the phone. “Ah…Where’s Brooke?”

“Right next to me, reaching for her phone.” Peter moved his chair away from the table. “Calm down, Brooke. Behave,” his stern voice sliced through the air.

Upset with his tone of voice, Sam made her intentions known, “Hey, be nice to her or I’ll kick your butt.”

“Oh, Okay. I’ll be nice. Who’s this?” Peter asked. “I’m assuming Brooke’s Sweetie by the doe eyes she’s been making at the phone.”

“Doe eyes?” Sam imagined Brooke with big brown eyes, then laughed, “I’m Sam.”

Peter looked over to Brooke, “You’ve got a feisty one here, Brooke. She told me she’d kick my butt.”

“Yeah, but you’d laugh if you saw me try.” The small blonde laughed at the image.

“I dunno…” Peter looked down at his growing spare tire, “You’d probably be able to do it.”

“So how do you like playing drums, Eddie?”

Shocked, Peter looked at the phone. “I like playing the drums. I used to before switching but, I’m not Eddie.” He put his hand over the phone and giggled at Brooke. “She thinks I’m him,” he motioned to the drummer.

Brooke gave a warning glare to Peter. “You’d better behave,” she cautioned Peter.

“Oh, sorry…ah…” Sam ran the names through her head, “Okay, lets see…Peter?”

“Ah, You get a cookie.”

“How’d you know that I like dessert?”

Peter laughed, “Is that kosher? I heard Brooke mention dessert, earlier.”

“Well,” Sam chuckled, “I’m not sure kosher is the right word.”

“How did that go…” Peter paused for a moment then started into a song, “Smile now and cover me in chocolate. That better?” He looked at Brooke. “I think that was my favorite line out of everything you ever wrote.”

“Did she tell you?” Sam demanded.

“Tell me what?”

“Forget it,” Sam laughed, shaking her head.

“I heard you were quite the A-Z fan. That’s one of the lines in an old song.”

“I should have remembered it. Did she write that?”

“Yeah, she wrote it.” Peter nudged Brooke playfully while across the table James rolled his eyes and took another swig of his beer. Peter blew it off and went back to the phone, “So, you gonna come meet us here and have some pizza?”

“Pizza…I don’t think so. I’m nowhere near Jersey.”

“That’s okay, I’m sure Brooke can send a plane for you, can’t you Brooke?” He watched the woman smile and nod her head. “I think she wants you here, Sam.”

“She wouldn’t do that, I’ve got school.”

Peter’s brow furrowed at the mention of school. “Did you say, school?”

“Well, heck…college really.”

He glanced at Brooke and smiled, “Don’t you have one day where you have late classes or something?”

“Well, yeah. That would be Wednesdays.”

“So, what’s the problem with flying up after class one night? Come on! You know you wanna!”

“God, would I,” Sam said it like she meant it. “But isn’t that impractical?”

“Not at all!” Peter saw the excited look on Brooke’s face, “Okay, then we’ll see you soon.” The man saw the determination in Brooke’s body language as she reached for the phone so he gave it up easily.

“Huh? What?”

“Give it to me, Dill Weed.” Brooke grabbed the phone from Peter. “Hey, Baby, sorry about that.”

Peter sat in his chair dejected, “Hey, I was just trying to help.”

“I know, thanks Peter.” Brooke shook her head at her old band mate’s antics.

“Is he always that insistent?” Sam asked.

“Peter? Yeah.” Brooke leaned on the table with her elbow and rested her head in her hand, “So, you gonna come see me?”

James smirked, then whispered in Brooke’s direction, “Or are you just gonna cum?” Then blew her a kiss and sat back up, downing the rest of his beer.

“You’re as bad as him.” Sam paused, as she couldn’t quite make out what was said on the other end or who was saying it.

Brooke glared at James, watching him dodge the crust of pizza that Peter had wielded in his direction and laughed, “I am not. I’m better.”

“Better huh? I just might have to see about that,” Sam answered.

“Knock it off,” James raised his voice at Peter.

“Well, you know, you could come up here…I mean…if you wanted.” Brooke hoped that she would.

“Leave her alone, James. You can’t stand to see anyone happy but yourself.” Peter tried to keep his voice down but wasn’t doing a good job.

“Ah…Brooke,” Sam whined. “I don’t even know what airline would fly me to Jersey. Hey, what’s that noise? Is there an argument going on?”

“Ah, just some asshole,” Brooke glared at James, then Peter before getting up from the table and walking outside. “Okay, Baby. I’m outside now.”

“Sounds better…quieter.”

Leaning up against the side of the building, Brooke continued her conversation. “I just wanted to concentrate on you instead of those bozos. Are you sure you don’t have a late class this week?”

“Wouldn’t I just be in the way? Distracting you and all, I mean.”

“Baby, I’d think of you regardless of who was around. Besides, I like that kind of distraction.”

Sam was flattered by Brooke’s answer. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Brooke looked down to the pavement trying to hide the blush that she could feel creeping up her neck. “Hell, I’ve been thinking about you all night.”

“Well, if you really want to know…I do have a late class on Wednesday.”

“Yeah?” Brooke smiled, “How late?”

“Hmm…let me see,” Sam drew out her answer knowing all to well the effect it was having on her friend. “I believe that Marketing Class starts at eleven.”

Brooke was getting excited at the prospect of Sam coming to New Jersey. “And what time is your last class tomorrow?”

“Let me see. I think it’s a…” Sam flipped through her daily planner, “Yep, there it is.” The blonde smiled, letting a coy little laugh drift over the phone line, “Looks like I’m free after two tomorrow afternoon.”

Brooke looked to the star filled sky, offering a prayer of thanksgiving. “Wanna join me in Jersey for a night?”

“You got a bed big enough for us both?” Sam’s eyes twinkled at the thought of seeing Brooke anytime soon.

The dark-haired woman grinned from ear to ear, “Yeah, I do. Not as comfortable as mine but, what can I say?”

Sam teased, “I could think of a few things.”

“Mmm…How about I love you? And I miss you.” Brooke became very serious, speaking with the most conviction she ever could, “And I would REALLY love it if you could come up here for the night.”

The words had melted Sam’s heart, making her a little giddy at the thought. “Okay…enough…” The woman closed her eyes to picture the look on Brooke’s face. “I can’t imagine that I’d be able to get a flight on this short of a notice. Besides, Brooke, the cost would be…” Sam tried to imagine the cost in her hand but couldn’t. “Oh God, I don’t even want to think about that.”

“What’s to think about, Darlin’? I wouldn’t expect you to cover that. I’m the one who asked you to come.”

“Brooke, I don’t want you throwing your hard earned money away…”

“Whoa. Wait right there.” Brooke could see where Sam was coming from and countered. “Let me make this clear to you.”

“I’m not in this relationship for what I can get out of it…and even though I’d love to see you…be with you…”

“Sam, I’m paying for the jet and pilot whether you come up here or not. Come on, make me happy.” Brooke smirked, then whispered into the phone, “Make us both happy. What do you say?”

The young woman was finally getting a grasp on Brownstone Records corporate holdings and wondered if she’d ever get used to it. “Brooke,” Sam sighed. “You make it sound so easy.”

“It is. Let me prove it to you.”

“You don’t play fair, Brooke. You know that?” Sam heard the woman’s low chuckle over the phone. “Alright, I’ll come.”

“Really?” Brooke squealed, then fought to keep her voice in its normally deeper range, “You’ll come?”

“You twisted my arm. Besides, I don’t think you can last a week without dessert.”

“Without dessert? Yes, but without you? No. Not anymore.”

“Send me the info in an e-mail tonight. Ah…I won’t have to pack much will I?” Sam teased the now breathless woman.

“Uhm…ah…pack much?” Brooke swallowed, then tried again. “Just you and any clothes that you must have.” She coughed trying to get the image of Sam scantily clad out of her mind for the moment. “As for the airline, I’ll let you know which runway the jet will be on.”

“Huh?”

“Corporate jet, Sam. That’s what you’ll be flying on. A car will pick you up at the dorm and then at the airport when you get home. So don’t worry about getting a ride to or from the airport.”

“Brooke, I’m never going to get used to all this.”

“Then don’t,” Brooke laughed, “Just get used to me.”

“Now that, I can do.”

Brooke whispered softly into the phone, “I miss you, Baby. See you tomorrow.”

“I miss you too. Yeah,” Sam smiled, “Tomorrow. I love you, Brooke.”

“I love you, Sam. Can’t wait to see you…”

“Me either, bye.”

“Bye.”

Brooke stood there for a moment and stared at the cell phone before stepping back inside the pizzeria.

“So do we get to meet this maiden of delights?” Peter watched his ex-band mate and the silly grin that was plastered on her face once she sat down.

“Maybe…” Brooke answered.

Peter leaned back and teased her, “Hmm…Keeping her all for yourself?”

“You’re damn right. I am.” Brooke snapped, “And don’t you forget it.” The woman chuckled, too happy to contain the good mood she was in. “She’ll be here tomorrow afternoon.”

James threw his crust down and smirked, “Yeah, don’t you remember, Peter. Brooke never liked sharing…anything.”

“Nope!” Brooke looked at her now cold piece of pizza. “I’ll never share her.” Then bit into the crusty end.

James turned sideways in his chair, then took a drink of his beer. Swallowing, he mumbled under his breath, “Or yourself, Brooke.”

Brooke heard the comment and chose not to ignore it. With lightning fast reflexes, the woman stood up reaching across the table and grabbed James’ shirt, pulling him up from his chair. “You…” she paused, leaving her steely blue eyes to convey the rest of her message, then released her hold on James, letting him plop back down on the chair. Before anyone could say a word, she was gone.

The next morning, Sam was up bright and early, sorting through the clothing in her closet. She had already selected a few outfits but hadn’t really made her mind up on any one outfit in particular. The blonde couldn’t decide whether to go casual or dress up. She walked over to her bed and started to reconsider each outfit when C.C. finally came out of the bathroom.

“Hey, C.C., I’m not going to be here tonight. I didn’t want you to worry about me.” Sam’s continued packing of the small suitcase drew C.C.’s attention.

“Hey, whatcha doin?”

Sam looked up and smiled, “Packing. I’m going to be away for the night. Didn’t you hear me?”

“Sorry, guess I couldn’t hear you.” C.C. tilted her head to the side, tapping it a few times, then straightened up looking a little relieved. “Water in my ears,” she explained. “Now tell me again, where are you going?”

Sam turned from her small suitcase and smiled, “New Jersey. Brooke invited me up for the night.”

“But I thought she was…Oh, never mind,” C.C. mumbled then spoke out, “How you getting there?”

“I guess by jet. She said everything was taken care of, just meet the car when it came to pick me up.”

“WOW!” C.C. looked amazed, “So, where’s she taking you in New Jersey? When are you leaving to go? How long are you staying? What are you packing? Are you going to…”

The blonde felt like she was being interviewed for a news show and she answered the first question that her mind could remember. “After my last class today.” Turning to face her roommate, Sam put her hands on her hips, making the statement, “Boy, you’re sure full of questions.”

The brunette smiled and with a twinkle in her eye confirmed, “Of course I am. Inquiring minds want to know.”

“Yeah…” green eyes flashed as she sidled up to C.C. “Well this mind,” Sam reached out and tapped on her roommate’s head, “better remember that it’s Brooke I’m going to meet.”

C.C. pulled back and glared at Sam, “Well, I know that.” She moved away so as not to get tapped in the head again, “What’s that have to do with anything?”

“She’s’ your sister, C.C.” Sam placed both hands on her hips, “Do I have to remind you about the ‘No Meddling’ rule?”

“No.” C.C. shook her head, “not meddling at all.” The brunette moved closer to Sam, “But it’s not like I’m asking for details…Well, just that one.” She held up one lone finger and made the cutest pouting face.

“God, just like your sister,” Sam tried to hold in a laugh as she continued with her packing. “You don’t think I’m going to tell you something that you can use to tease her with, do you?

“Oh, come on, Sam.” C.C. stomped her foot and crossed the room, then with a twirl, she plopped down on her bed. “Give me a little credit.” The young woman fell back onto the bed with her arms spread out to the side and stared up at the ceiling. “Actually, I think it’s very sweet that she’s sending the jet for you so that you can go to see her.”

“It is kind of like something out of a fairy tale, huh?” Sam held the pullover sweater up to her chest and went off daydreaming.

“Well, I think it’s amazingly sweet.” C.C. sat up on her bed and gazed at Sam, “You two are really good together.”

“I hope so,” Sam whispered under her breath, then shook off the dream as she folded the sweater and placed it in the bag. “Hey, just think C.C., you’ve got the whole room to yourself tonight.” The blonde decided to give her roommate something else to think about.

“I do, don’t I?” Brown eyes flashed as she lunged for her purse on the desk, retrieving a little black book from it. “Hmm…now whom shall I invite?” She opened the address book and started paging through it.

Sam chuckled and shook her head, “I didn’t think you’d mind.”

As per her e-mail instructions, at exactly two-thirty in the afternoon, Sam was met at her dorm by a sleek, black limousine. After being greeted by the driver, she was seated in the rear of the luxury vehicle and whisked away to the local airport, stopping directly on the runway next to the corporate jet that was waiting to take off. Being ushered aboard by the small staff, Sam couldn’t believe that this was all for her. She looked around the small jet’s interior that closely resembled the living room of a house. Picking out a comfortable seat, Sam settled into it as the hostess helped her adjust the seatbelt, then gave the pilot the signal to take off.

It wasn’t a long ride before the jet was landing and the blonde woman was stepping out of the plane. Standing on the top of the small flight of stairs, Sam surveyed the terminal. “So, this is New Jersey,” she inhaled deeply then coughed. Looking down onto the tarmac, she saw the limousine that Brooke promised would be there to whisk her to the studio and smiled. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Brooke. You sure know how to impress a girl.”

Reaching the bottom of the stairway, Sam noticed the driver getting out of the limo and walking in her direction. “Talk about fairytales…” she muttered under her breath as the man drew near.

“Ms. Moleson?” The deep courteous voice inquired.

Sam walked over in his direction, “Yes that’s me.”

“Hello, my name is Charles. I’ve been sent here by Brownstone Records…a Ms. Gordon to be exact, to escort you safely to the studio.”

A smile crossed Sam’s face as she handed her small bag to the driver, “Thanks.”

“No problem, Ma’am.” Charles tipped his head to her then, with the bag in one hand, he held out the other arm in the direction of the limo, “Right this way, please.”

The blonde followed the driver and was soon sitting in the comfortable seat of the limousine. She waited for him to put the bag in the trunk, then get into the driver’s seat before asking, “Will we be there soon?”

“In about half an hour,” he told her. “It might take a bit to get there from Newark. The studio is in Clifton.” He saw the pensive look on her face, then asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Well, you know the way,” Sam thought for a moment. “Would it be possible to stop at a grocery store along the way?

The driver was used to strange requests from his clientele, especially the ones connected with the music industry. “I could readjust the route for you without getting us too off course,” he looked into the rearview mirror at the young blonde.

“Thank you, Charles. Let’s do that. There’s something I need to pick up.” Sam smiled at the man’s image in the mirror. “Please, let me know when we’re there.

“No problem, ma’am. You’re very welcome.”

The drive to the studio, even with the added stop was only ten minutes different from what Brooke had projected in her e-mail to Sam the night before. After thanking Charles for his assistance, Sam took her small bag in hand and entered the recording studio. After finding the correct recording room, Sam stood outside of it, watching through the large soundproof window. Inside, she could see Brooke concentrating her efforts on helping the young blonde drummer. It amazed Sam how easily Brooke shifted roles from producer to musician to teacher all in a matter of moments. The woman was truly talented in more ways than one.

“See…” Brooke demonstrated the drumming maneuver, “Keep your wrists loose and the sticks will do all the work for you.” The tall woman got behind the studio kit, “Try it from that bridge. I’ll play it with you,” she motioned to Eddie. “You play the fill though. Ready?” she asked then started to count down the beat.

Peter turned around from watching the action on the drums, when he noticed the young woman with long blonde hair standing outside the window. Letting go with a long, low, wolfish-styled whistle he turned back to his ex-band mate, “Hey, Brooke.” He waited until he had her attention, then announced, “I think Sam’s here. Oh man, she is a cutie.” Peter smiled and motioned toward the window.

Brooke stopped playing and looked over to the window, letting a huge grin take up residence on her face. “Take five, guys.” She got up. Throwing her sticks to the ground, she headed for Sam. Opening the door to the studio, Brooke rushed to the blonde, picking her up and twirling around the hall with Sam held tightly to her chest.

“Missed me, huh?” Sam giggled and held on tighter. “God, I can’t believe I’m here.”

Brooke hugged Sam then breathed into her ear, “God, I’ve missed you.”

Sam closed her eyes and smiled at the warmth on her ear. “I missed you, too,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around Brooke’s neck.

Slowing her revolutions down, the dark-haired woman asked, “Do you have a kiss for ‘Auntie’?” Brooke cocked her head to the side, grinning at the same time.

The blonde looked back into the window at the men still in the studio. “Is it safe for ‘Auntie’ to come out?”

“Uh-huh,” Brooke assured her with a nod of her head.

“Then of course I do,” Sam leaned in to kiss Brooke as though she’d hadn’t seen her for a month of Sundays. Nothing seemed to disturb the two in their intent to explore the other’s mouths, not even the few wolf whistles that were being sent in their direction.

Keeping her eyes closed to savor the moment, Sam whispered, “Gosh, I’m glad that I didn’t stay away longer.

“Me too.” Brooke grabbed a quick breath and kissed the blonde again. “I just can’t seem to get enough of you, right now.”

“Hey!” Sam exclaimed as she wiggled her way down to get her feet on the floor. “Don’t you,” the young woman placed a finger to the woman’s chest, “have some work to be doing?”

“Who cares,” Brooke went to kiss Sam again but was stopped by the small woman who motioned to the group in the studio.

“We can do this later,” Sam winked, “in private.” She took Brooke’s hand and led her back into the recording room.

James set his guitar down and brushed a few wrinkles from his shirt, then took a step in Sam’s direction until he was stopped by Peter’s hand on his arm.

“James,” Peter said in a low warning voice. “Give them a few, will ya?”

“A few?” James turned back to look at the bass man. “Why, so she can rub it in our faces? She’s on our time.”

“You’re twisted man. You know how much she’s been looking forward to seeing her.” Peter looked him straight in the eye, “And actually, she’s on her time. This isn’t costing us anything.”

James leveled a cool eye at Peter before he spoke, “She told you, didn’t she?”

“She didn’t offer it, I asked. You could have told me, James.” He let his grip on James slip away.

“Well, I agreed to it. I thought that maybe I’d get her back… I mean, we’d get her back.”

Peter looked disgusted for a brief moment, “Yeah, I know what you meant.” He turned and walked away from James.

Brooke pulled Sam in close to her side as they crossed the room, “Hey, you wanna meet the guys?”

“If you want me too,” Sam smiled at how good being with Brooke felt. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Come on,” Brooke returned the smile, then looked around to the men in the room. “Guys?” She waited for their attention before starting. “This is Sam. Sam, this is Eddie…” Brooke pointed to the drummer who was already getting up, extending his hand to the blonde.

“Hey, Sam.” He winked at her, waving the sticks in his free hand, “I’m the drummer.”

“Oh boy, here we go.” Brooke arched an eyebrow in the young man’s direction.

“Can’t you see she’s taken Eddie,” Peter whispered out loud as he threw his head to the side, motioning toward Brooke. “Iksnay on the akesmay,” the bass player shook his head in warning.

Brooke could see James approaching Sam from the side, deciding to get it over with, she turned the young woman toward him saying, “James, come here.” She called him over, introducing the woman to him, “Sam, this is James.”

“Well,” James took Sam’s hand in his and gave her the once over. “What have we here?” He brought the back of Sam’s hand to his mouth and kissed it. “Brooke,” he smiled, never letting his eyes leave Sam’s, “you have such good taste in women. I always did enjoy the ones that you sent my way.”

The timber of her voice conveyed what she was thinking, “J-a-m-e-s…” She drew the name out as her steely blue eyes burned piercing holes through him.

“Hey, lighten up, I’m just paying the little lady a compliment.” He looked back at Sam and winked.

The whole time James held her hand, Sam felt uneasy. The man had done nothing to her but paid her a compliment, yet there was something about him that she just didn’t like. Without being rude, she gently pulled her hand back from his grasp.

The cold gaze stayed in place for a few more seconds before she tugged Sam over to the last man in the room for her to meet. “Sam, this is Peter.” Brooke’s voice turned friendlier as she introduced the man.

“Hey there, Toots.” Peter gave a little wave then held his arms out for a hug.

“Hey,” Sam’s eyes lit up, “My phone buddy, Peter.” The blonde reached her arms to encircle him as best as she could. “Reach out…Reach out and touch someone…” She sing-songed as they shared an embrace. “I’ve got your number,” the young woman chuckled as they parted.

Beaming with pride, Peter stood up straighter then his normal stance and proclaimed to all present, “Did you see? I got a hug.” He nodded, looking at Sam, “Yep, you’ve got my number, Sweetheart. Call whenever you’d like.”

The small woman tugged on his arm, motioning him to come closer. Sam waited until his ear was in her reach before cupping her hand to his ear and whispered into it so no one else would hear. “Thanks for getting me up here.” With her other hand she held him in place and gave the man a kiss on his cheek as a reward.

Turning three shades of red for being kissed in front of Brooke by her own girlfriend, Peter couldn’t help but smile nervously at the woman standing next to him. “Anytime, Sammi.”

“I’ll remember that,” Sam assured him.

“Nice to meet you, Cutie.” Peter took a step back as he watched Sam move over next to Brooke and wrap her arm around the taller woman’s waist.

“It’s nice to put faces with names.” The blonde looked at each one of them another time before looking back up to the only person she really wanted to see.

Brooke smiled down on Sam as she wrapped her arm around the woman’s shoulder and drew her closer. “Are they everything you imagined?”

“Well,” Sam looked at each one again, then commented, “A little older maybe,” she nodded, “But yeah, I guess so.”

“Hey,” Peter let out a yelp. “We can’t help it if Brooke found the fountain of youth and won’t share its secrets.”

Sam looked up to Brooke, “Well, she has held up pretty good for being Methuselah’s sister.”

Brooke made a face and then smiled hugging the woman with her other arm now.

James stood off to the side, thoroughly disgusted with how happy all the rest of them were. He turned back to his instrument and muttered under his breath, “Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, it takes all three to get to where I’m at.”

No one paid any attention to James’ comment. Instead they just let it drop like a hot potato. The rest of the group stayed silent while they looked from one to the other, trying to decide who would be the one to speak first.

After a few seconds, Peter took the lead. “Hey Brooke, tell you what. How about I work on that last section with Eddie, then we can take it from the top?”

Thankful for her ex-band mate’s action, Brooke slowly nodded, “That sounds good. Eddie, you cool with that?”

“Yeah, I’m cool with that. Just give me a minute or two to go over it with Peter.”

“Come on, Brooke.” Sam tightened her grip on the woman’s waist. “Let them get back to work.”

“Okay.”

The blonde gave a little wave and smile to each of them, “It was nice meeting you all.”

“You too, Toots.” Peter waved back, then turn to help Eddie.

Brooke released her grip on Sam, letting her arm slide from around the woman’s waist but it didn’t go far before being caught in Sam’s tiny hand. Walking hand in hand, they made their way to the outer room, as the dark-haired woman resumed her producer’s role. Pulling up a chair to the soundboard, Brooke sat down, bringing the small blonde into her lap.

A coy smile came to Sam’s face as she asked, “Hmm…Now where were we?” She slowly ran one finger down the side of Brooke’s face, stopping at her chin, then tapping lightly on the full, succulent lips. “I remember…” she whispered then brought her own lips to met Brooke’s in a kiss.

“Mmmm,” Brooke came away from the kiss as she wrapped her arms around Sam. “Yeah, right about there, I think,” as the blonde closed in for another kiss.

In the dimly lit room, they wasted no time in getting reacquainted, each woman trying to absorb as much of the other as possible. When the kiss finally ended, Sam sat there with her eyes closed as Brooke placed feather-light kisses along the blonde’s jaw, interspersed with the words, “I love you.” She moved a little farther up Sam’s jaw line, “God, how I’ve missed you.”

“You know,” Sam purred, lulled into a trance-like state with the attention being lavished on her. “That was an awfully expensive dessert you had me deliver.”

“Who cares? It’s only money.”

“Well, I care,” Sam tilted her head, allowing her neck to be more exposed to the tender kisses that were being placed on her body. “It’s only me,” she giggled when a particular kiss tickled just a bit.

“Hmm…And you’re everything.” Brooke held Sam’s earlobe between her lips and whispered softly, “And I love you.”

“Well,” Sam reached into her purse and fumbled around for only a moment before she found what she was looking for. “Me and this…” the blonde hesitated for a second before pulling out a small bottle of chocolate syrup from her purse, then held it up for Brooke to see.

Taking her attention away from Sam’s neck, Brooke cast a scrutinizing eye in the direction of the bottle. “What’s that for?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Sam admired the bottle then said offhandedly, “I thought maybe you could show me what you meant in that song.”

“You mean, ‘Smile now and cover me in chocolate’?”

Sam let a knowing grin spread across her face, then nodded at her intent.

“Ooh…” blue eyes twinkled with delight at the images that were coming to Brooke’s mind. “You are too much, Darlin’,” Brooke reached for the bottle of syrup, “Let me see that?”

“Later, dear…” the blonde moved the bottle out of Brooke’s reaches. “Work first, play later.”

Brooke whispered in Sam’s ear, “Not even a taste?” Brooke then kissed her on the same ear as before.

“You don’t want to spoil your dessert now,” Sam turned to look Brooke in the eye. “Do you?” Then winked at her, “I love you, Brooke.”

“I love you, Sam.” Brooke kissed Sam’s ear, as her hand dropped a little lower on the woman’s back.

“Ah-ah…” Sam cautioned, “I felt that.”

Surprised, Brooke asked, “What? This?” Then shifted her body and kissed Sam’s other ear, letting her hand slip around Sam’s back and onto her side, edging toward her breast.

“Oh yeah, that.” Sam felt like her body was tingling all over.

“Well, I would hope you can feel this…” Brooke made sure that no one else could see her gentle hand rub lightly over the fleshy mound causing the nipple to raise almost instantaneously.

“Now, Brooke.” Green eyes flashed with excitement as Sam fought hard to maintain her composure. “You know what happens to bad little producers, don’t you?”

“What?” Brooke said mindlessly, fearing that the electrical impulses that she had surging through her body had short-circuited her brain.

Sam smiled and innocently stated, “They get sent to bed without their supper and that means…” the blonde paused, watching a lone, dark eyebrow arch high on Brooke’s forehead. Seeing that the woman holding her still didn’t have a clue, Sam leveled her most dazzling smile, then wiggled her own eyebrows saying, “No Dessert!”

Terror filled the almost crossed-eyed woman as she let out an enormous groan, then hurriedly pushed Sam off her lap. Within seconds, Brooke slammed her finger on the intercom button as her other hand continued to move levers and hit buttons that were her responsibility. “You guys about ready in there?” She commanded their attention, “Come on Peter, grab your bass! Heeellllooo…” she sang out trying to get them to move faster. “The tapes rolling,” she informed them. “You guys are all cued up. Eddie, count it off.” The she resorted to a producer’s favorite saying, “Time is money here.” Brooke shut off the microphone into the studio, then turned to Sam, “And my dessert…” She gave a little evil grin to the blonde, “…And I need my dessert.”
Ch12 Looking Into The Eyes Of Love
“…Love’s more than a four letter word… It’s everything that they say is real…”
It had been a long and tiring week in the Garden State with Brooke’s only ray of sunshine being the overnight visit from Sam. The cheerful blonde had quickly gotten the dark-haired woman’s spirit soaring to new heights by just having her in close proximity. Somehow, those mere fifteen hours spent in Sam’s company were able to make the rest of Brooke’s workweek go a lot smoother then she had planned.

The tall woman eyed her ex-band mate, Peter, in a new light also after this week. She saw that he was changing, taking more responsibility for himself and his music. For as much trouble as working with James had been this last week, Brooke was thankful that Peter had been there, acting as a buffer between them. Whenever James would try to goad her, Peter somehow knew the right thing to say or do to take the sting out of the air. In fact, there were even a few times during the last week that Brooke even had to remind herself why she was subjecting herself to James’ harassment and it would all come back to her in a flash of golden hair and green eyes. Sam seemed to be the reason the tall woman found herself doing a lot of things lately.

Brooke found it difficult to keep her mind on what she had hoped would have been a quick day of finishing up. Now, even as she packed up her belongings, her mind drifted off to home and what would be waiting for her there.

“So, do you think we did alright, Brooke?” Peter waited for her answer noting the distant look on the woman’s face. “Hey, Brooke.”

“Uh…Oh…” Brooke tried to regroup her focus on what Peter was saying. “Sorry Peter, what did you say?”

“Daydreaming about Sam again, weren’t you?” The man teased but meant no harm by it.

“Yeah, I guess I was.” The red-tinged cheeks showed her embarrassment at being caught. “So…” she raised a lone eyebrow, “What did you say before?”

“I said…” Peter cleared his throat, “do you think we did alright? The recording I mean.”

“I think you did great.” She smiled at Peter. “James could’ve been a bit more cooperative, but I really like Eddie. He seems like a great kid.”

“You know James,” Peter shrugged, “always the difficult one.”

“Always.” Brooke closed her suitcase and placed it by the door of her hotel room.

“Yeah, Eddie wasn’t too bad for a kid. You really showed him some stuff.”

Brooke laughed at how receptive the young man had been, learning from his idol. “He’s not bad, Peter. I’m glad I could help out.”

“You’re sure I can’t entice you to be our drummer?” Peter winked at her from across the room and grinned.

“If it were just you…” Brooke looked at him for a long moment, and then smirked, “Maybe.”

The man went back to gathering up the boxes of tapes and packing the notation slips with them. “James…huh?” Peter made a face knowing that was indeed the reason.

“Trust me, Peter.” Brooke shook her head. “I really can’t get into all of that with James again. I didn’t like who I was then. I was starting to get cocky…”

“You, cocky?” By this time he had crossed the small motel room and pushed against her shoulder teasingly.

“Hey now.” Brooke went with the push. “Yeah, I watched some of those old tapes and I really didn’t like who I was becoming.”

He reached out a hand to steady her, fearing that he’d pushed too hard. “But the ones that matter knew who you really were.”

Brooke grabbed his hand and held it for a second. “There was more Loran than Brooke and I couldn’t have that.” She left his hand go. “Can you hand me that smaller bag out of the closet?”

“Ah…yeah.” Peter acknowledged what the touch had meant from his old band mate. “That Sam is something else.” He watched the woman smile at the mention of the young blonde’s name. “Where’d you meet her?”

“C.C. brought her over for dinner one night. Sam’s her roommate this year.” Images of that first meeting came to Brooke’s mind and she quickly fought to get back to the present. “I talked to her online last night before we went out.”

“And?” Peter smiled, waiting to be filled in. “She’s craving to get her hands on you again, eh?” His bushy eyebrows wiggled like caterpillars inching their way along.

“Well…” Brooke loosened her collar, feeling the heat of the blush creeping up her neck. “I don’t know about again, but…”

“If it’s anything like I see coming from you,” he pointed at the shade of redness that her skin was taking on. “She’s craving. Hey, does Sam have a sister that’s straight maybe?” The man looked hopefully to his friend.

“Yeah, but she’s a little too young, even for your tastes, Peter.” She clapped him on the shoulder then leaned in, whispering into his ear, “But I’ll have you know that Sam does have a cousin who just so happens to have a major crush on you.” Brooke winked at him when their eyes met, then she moved away.

“A…a cousin?” Peter gulped.

“Yeah, I think she’s a little older than Sam.” Brooke smiled and went back to her task of packing up to go home. “I can’t wait to see Sam and tell her about your new piercing. She’ll flip.”

“And exactly what would you tell her about my new piercing…huh?” The man started fumbling nervously over the new additions to his body.

“That you’ve got this thing in your nose and through your belly button.” She cocked her head to the side and studied his face for a few seconds, then commented. “I like the eyebrow though.”

“Stop it. I do not.” Peter’s hand reflexively went to his navel to see if she were right. “Well, at least not yet.”

“I can’t believe you did all that sober. I was with you last night Petey,” she teased him. “You didn’t drink a drop…” Brooke chuckled, “You left that up to me.”

“God I must be having flashbacks from the drugs I took in my youth.” The fretting man looked in the mirror at his reflection, studying the new piercing and wincing at the thought of the pain he had endured the night before.

Brooke laughed, “Yeah…like you’re so ancient now.”

Giving the nose ring a more intent look, Peter asked, “So, why did I do this again?”

“Because I dared you.” Brooke smiled grinning from ear to ear. “I saw you looking through the window into that piercing parlor.” She moved over toward him, wrapping her arm around his shoulder. “Come on, we got our first tattoos together.”

Knowing that one dare always begot another, Peter looked over at her. “And what did I dare you to do?”

“You dared me to get my nose pierced.”

Peter eyed her suspiciously. He held her chin in his hand, turning her face from side to side, “I don’t see any holes. What happened? I thought you were supposed to get pierced the same time I was.”

Pursing her lips first, she wet her lips and stuttered out, “I…uh…I…um… chickened out.”

The man laughed out loud. “Afraid of what Sam might say, or was that too much like Loran?”

“Well, I don’t know. Sam hasn’t seen the navel ring yet…” Brooke sighed. “Yeah, I guess it is a little too much like Loran.”

Peter’s brow furrowed as he dropped his gaze to her abdomen. “Not seen it yet?” Puzzlement was written all over his face. “What the hell are you waiting for?”

The woman was silent. Casting her eyes down to the floor, she took in a breath and released it with a shrug. “I guess, I just want it to be perfect.”

Grabbing his chest with both hands as if exaggerating a heart attack, “You mean you two haven’t…” his wide eyes pleaded with her to prove him wrong.

“No.”

“I don’t know about you, Brooke.” He shook his head. “You’re sure not the person that the studios painted Loran to be. But then again, you never were.”

“I never was, Peter. I’m still not.”

“Maybe that’s what saved you from becoming like me and James.” Peter moved away from her, ashamed of the path he had taken earlier in his life.

“What…” Brooke paused then asked, “the fact that I decided to keep my virginity?” She smirked, thinking of the many times she was seduced but never gave in. “The music was everything to me. I never cared about the sex or the drugs.”

Peter looked up at her after sitting down at the small table that was in the room. “Maybe that’s what was wrong. We only cared enough about it to get the sex.”

“What about now?” She calmly asked.

He thought for a moment, and then answered her. “I know that’s what it is for James,” Peter nodded, “even now.” The man grew quiet for a moment then closed his eyes and sighed out the word, “Me? I think I’m past that. I’d like to look back at my life, say I did that and be damn proud of it. Yeah, there’s more to life than just sex, Brooke. I see that now.”

“Good boy!” She was proud of his turn around on life and let him know it. “So…” She gauged that the seriousness of the conversation needing a little lifting, “Do you think Sam would mind if I pierced my nose?” She tried to stay as straight-faced as she could. “Small hoop, maybe?” Brooke looked at her friend eagerly awaiting his answer.

“Hmmm…” the man looked at her nose, evaluating the potential. “I don’t think she’d be real crazy about it. I can’t see her wanting to mar that pretty face of yours with any more holes.”

Brooke chuckled as she sat down and grabbed for her cell phone, “You want to say ‘Hi’ to her?” There was a twinkle in her eye as she added, “She could tell you all about her cousin.”

The man’s face lit up. “Where? When?”

Holding the phone up for him to see, Brooke hit the speed dial number for Sam and winked as she raised it to her ear, waiting to hear the young woman’s sweet voice. “It’s ringing…” she cautioned him.

Twisting in his chair, Peter turned to look at his reflection in the darkened television screen, straightening the part in his hair and slicking down errant locks with a good dose of his own spit.

“It’s a phone call you idiot.” Brooke bust out laughing at Peter’s sudden attention to how he looked. “No one can see you.” She watched as the man scowled at her and pouted.

The phone was picked up on the other end and the warmth of Sam’s being was broadcasted through the air with the sound of her “Hello.”

A smile came to Brooke’s face when she heard Sam’s voice. “Hi there, Sexy! Is C.C. taking you to the house?”

Sam giggled, then answered in a sultry tone, “Yeah. Sexy…hmm?”

“Hey, I think you are. Keep talking like that. I like it,” Brooke purred her answer right back at the woman.

“I like the way you think, Brooke.” Sam could feel herself beginning to melt with the soft sexy tones that were being generated from the other end of the conversation. Struggling to stay on track, she moved the conversation along. “Ah…C.C. said that she would, just as soon as her last class is over.

“Baby?”

Sam had let her mind wander and absentmindedly answered, “Yeah, what?”

“Do you think I should pierce something? Peter and I went out last night and he pierced his eyebrow.” There was absolute quiet on the other end of the phone, “Sam…what are you doing?”

“Hmmm…just thinking about those eyes of yours,” the blonde said dreamily.

“You want me to pierce my eyes?” Dark brows furrowed, “That might hurt, Hon.”

“No silly, that would be too distracting…” Sam imagined Brooke’s blue eyes. “At least for me,” she confided.

“So, what do you think?” Brooke asked again.

“I like your eyes and the surrounding area just like it is.”

The dark-haired woman smiled, “Well, I like you and all your surrounding areas too.” She looked over at Peter and whispered, “No eyebrow. She likes them just the way they are.”

“I bet, even the ones you haven’t seen yet,” Sam giggled, “little though that they are.” Sam thought about how much more they were finding out about one another, both mentally and in the physical sense.

“I think you’re perfect, Sam.” There was silence for a long minute as each savored the moment. Brooke let a tiny laugh escape as she went to the next subject for the conversation to move in. “So, Peter dared me last night to pierce something.”

“Dared you to pierce?” Sam’s eyes grew wide with shock. “Whoa! Did I hear you correctly? Did you just say he dared you? You didn’t, did you?”

“Yeah, he dared me,” Brooke reiterated.

“Gee Brooke, I’m not sure. I mean what if it gets infected or something?”

Brooke laughed, “Don’t worry, I didn’t do it Honey. Besides, my other piercing didn’t get infected. Oops!” She slapped her hand over her mouth, realizing that she’d just left it slip out.

Running Brooke’s image with a fine tooth comb in her mind, Sam let out a loud sigh. “What other piercing?” the shaky voice came over the phone.

The older woman smiled weakly. “Ah…My belly button. I’ve had it for years. The piercing, that is, not my belly button. Although, I’ve have had that for years too.”

“…And you’ve been hiding it from me for what reason?”

“I haven’t been hiding it. You’ve just never seen me with my shirt off, only hiked up in the back or the buttons opened at the collar.”

“Hmmm…The mental images.” Sam said a little seductively.

“Behave, Sam.” Brooke turned away from Peter’s gaze and whispered into the phone. “Soon, Baby.”

Sam sighed and muttered under her breath. “It’s getting harder by the minute.”

Brooke raised an eyebrow and grinned evilly. “Is it now? Sam, I had no idea.”

The poor blonde found her pulse beginning to race and gulped. “Well, ah…what do you think?”

“What do I think?” Brooke lowered her voice and let the words roll off her lips, “Hmmm…I think…” I think I love you. So, what am I so afraid of? Brooke’s inner voice screamed the lyrics of an old song in her head.

“Forget it, Brooke, just come home soon.” Sam could not believe the need that her body was exhibiting with every word Brooke spoke.

Sensing the torture that Sam was going through, Brooke apologized. “Sorry, Darlin’.” The woman’s eyes shifted to the man across the table from her, “Oh, hey…Petey wants to say hi.”

“Sure, put him on.” She waited to hear the phone exchange hands. ” Hey, Peter. How are you doing?”

“Hey there, Toots. I’m doing okay.” Peter smiled, warmed by her friendly greeting. “How are you?”

“I’m okay, but I’ll be much better when Brooke gets back.”

“Hey, did you hear? I pierced my eyebrow,” Peter said proudly. “And don’t worry, she’ll be home soon.”

Sam laughed, “Yeah, but with how many holes?”

“Just the normal amount and one set more.” Peter teased the young woman. “I dared Brooke to pierce her tongue or her nose.”

“And how long will it take her to get through the metal detectors at the airport?” Sam teased him right back.

“Ah, Sam…she wouldn’t do it.”

“Good woman,” Sam muttered under her breath. “I knew she had some brains.”

“Well, I think it would look good on her.” Peter winked at Brooke, watching as she just shook her head in disbelief of his merciless teasing.

“Anything, Petey, would look good on her. But is the world ready for it?”

“Hmm…Now that is a thought. I don’t know about the nose, but as far as the tongue…” Peter cleared his throat. “Well, that wouldn’t be for me to judge, but you might like it.”

“Hmmm…I’ll have to think about that one…long and hard.”

“Just like her, huh?” He flashed an evil grin at Brooke then giggled, wondering if either of the two women knew what he was referring to.

“You, Peter, are bad.”

Smiling, Peter acknowledged the statement, “That, I am.”

“And you do it so well, too.” Sam laughed, then became very somber with her next thought. “Hey Petey, make sure she gets back as soon as possible. Okay?”

Peter turned a serious eye at Brooke, smiling warmly as he agreed, “No problem.” He could feel the need in Sam’s voice and realized for the first time what a good thing Brooke had lucked into. “So, what about this cousin of yours that I’m hearing about from Brooke? Is she cute? Does she look anything like you? Anything at all?”

“Crystal? Is that who she’s told you about?” Sam shook her head. “Did she tell you about the crush Crystal had on you when we were growing up?”

“She said you had a cousin who liked me, kind of…” Peter played with the cover of the phone, acting shy.

“Well, she’s my mother’s sister’s daughter. So…” Sam drew the answer out. “Yeah, she has a little of my looks.”

“Sweet!” Peter bounced up and down in his chair like a toddler. “Anything else you can tell me about her? Is she single?”

“She’s a couple of years older than me.” Sam decided to let Peter off the hook, “Very single. In fact, she hardly ever dates anyone.” She paused for a moment, then added, “And if you’re wondering…she’s straight.”

“Hmmm…Okay, that’s good to know.” Peter wiggled his eyebrows in jest.

“I believe Crystal still thinks if she waits long enough, she’ll meet you.”

“Really, huh?” Peter’s voice crackled like a teenager’s reaching puberty. “Maybe I’ll have to see what I can do about that.”

“Maybe sometime in the not too distant future.” Sam was already plotting in her mind for the two of them to meet. “Hey, it was nice talking to you, Peter. Can you put Brooke back on?”

“Maybe…” Peter trailed off whispering as he thought. “Ah…We’ll see. Well, Cutes, here’s your girl. Talk to you soon.”

Brooke accepted the phone and held it lovingly to her ear. “Hey, Baby. See, I behaved.”

“Yeah, that’s a good girl.” Sam teased the older woman, “Behave away from home…” Sam paused, finishing the sentence in her head. And save all that badness for me. “Do you think you’ll be home for dinner or later in the evening?” The young woman asked, hoping for the earlier time.

“Tonight?”

“Of course, tonight.”

“Well, the jet is bringing me home. A commercial flight would take too long.”

“So, should I plan on dinner with you or not?” Sam sighed thinking better of it, “Or…are you tired?”

A low rumble gathered then grew in Brooke’s chest as she thought about being tired at the sight of Sam. “I’ll be wide awake when I see you, Darlin’.”

“I’m sure you will be.” The blonde responded with a coyness all her own. “Okay, then I’ll surprise you with something to nibble on.” Sam covered her mouth, wondering what Brooke thought about after hearing that statement. Even though the woman was alone, she could still feel the heat of the blush traveling up her neck.

“I’ll see you soon, Baby.” Brooke’s voice became very soft as she admitted, “I miss you.”

“Miss you, too. Bye Brooke.” Sam didn’t want the conversation to end but she knew it had to.

“I love you,” Brooke said without trying to hide it from Peter.

Sam smiled as she felt the words warm her heart and soothe her aching soul. “I was waiting to hear that. I love you too,” she whispered, knowing their time on the phone was coming to an end.

“Bye, Sam.”

“Hurry home,” the blonde implored one more time, then sighed before saying her last word. “Bye.”

Peter watched as Brooke gazed at the phone for a moment, then slowly ended the call by hitting a button. He didn’t want to disrupt her thoughts, but after a few minutes, seeing his old band mate drinking in all the love that had been sent her way by one small blonde, he just couldn’t keep from saying it. “Man, Brooke. You got it ba-a-a-ad,” he drew out the last word.

Brooke turned to look him directly in the eye. “Yes, I do.” She tried to hold back the smile that was straining to come to her face.

The man studied her for a moment, then nodded. “It looks good on you…love, I mean.”

The woman got up and moved over to the mirror above the dresser in the motel room, staring into it at her reflection. Nodding her head approvingly, Brooke turned back to Peter. “It does, doesn’t it?”

Peter flashed her a knowing smile but remained silent.

“Come on,” Brooke grabbed her jacket and went to stand by the door. “I’m starving,” she smirked, finishing the thought in her head, And not only for food. Green eyes and golden hair filled her mind. “We got a few hours to kill before I leave. Let’s go eat and see what goodie I can find to take home to my girl.” Brooke winked, knowing that the best treat would just be getting herself home and showering her girl with kisses.

Sam stepped back from the suitcase that she was packing and took a good look around the room. Nope, can’t think of another thing to take. She shook her head and then bent over to zip up the case.

The excitement of seeing Brooke again was mounting as she felt the butterflies coming to life in her stomach. They had only been physically away from each other for three days, but it seemed more like three years. Sam’s thoughts drifted and she found herself thinking about her next semester coming up. God, how will I ever make it through four months without her? I just have to get an internship closer to home. Sam’s lips curled into a smile at that thought. Home…I’m already thinking of her as home. Okay, Sam, you know what you have to do. No time to start chickening out now. Just think of how good it’s going to feel being in her arms…feeling her kisses and her loving touch.

The young woman could feel a warm sensation spreading throughout her body as she closed her eyes and imagined what it would be like to be loved body, mind, and soul. So absorbed into that dream world was Sam that she never heard C.C. enter the room.

The brunette opened her mouth to speak but stopped when she saw the serene expression on her roommate’s face. Not wanting to disturb the obviously wonderful daydream that Sam was having, C.C. quietly sat down on her bed and waited for the moment to pass. Seeing the blush creep slowly up Sam’s neck and over her cheeks, C.C. wondered just how far things had gone between her sister and the young woman before her on the single night in Jersey that they had spent together.

Slowly, the blonde came back to the reality of the world around her, as she let out a long held breath and fanned herself with her hands for a few seconds. “Oh my!” Sam hid her face in her hands and muttered, “That was a good one. God, if only…” she turned to see C.C. sitting on her bed through the cracks between her fingers that still hid her face and stopped talking to herself. “Ah…Hi, C.C.” The embarrassed woman lowered her hands and with one gave a little wave in the brunette’s direction.

C.C. smiled broadly and waved back at Sam. “You got everything packed?” The brunette motioned to the suitcase on the bed.

“Yeah,” Sam nodded, “I got everything that I’ll need in these two.” The blonde got up from the bed, taking the suitcase with her and walked toward the door, setting the bag down on the floor. She took the light jacket from the chair and draped it over her arm. “Do you think you could help me out with that other bag?” She motioned toward the suitcase that sat next to her bed.

“Okay.” C.C. got up from the bed and went over to the suitcase. “So, I shouldn’t expect you back this weekend, right?”

“Nope.” The blonde wiggled her eyebrows and smiled coyly, “Not until Monday morning at my first class.”

The brunette bent over to grasp the suitcase. “Gee, with all this luggage I’d have thought you were going to stay the week.” She went to lift the bag but was met with resistance. “Damn! What do you have in here…bricks?” C.C. flexed what little muscle she owned and pulled the bag up from the floor.

“Ah…Just a few things that I want to take with me.” Sam smiled and gave her roommate a little giggle.

Struggling with the bag to the door, C.C. thought out loud, “Well, either you’ve taken up wearing armor or…” The brunette looked up at her roommate, seeing the innocent look that was on her face. Putting one hand up, C.C. waved the comment off. “I don’t want to know, do I?”

“Its nothing bad, C.C., honest.” Sam’s green eyes opened wide. “It’s just a few props…ah…I mean…”

“T-M-I.” C.C. went out the door and down the hall to the elevator as Sam followed her out and shut the door, locking it.

“Right.” Sam paused until she was standing next to C.C. as they waited for the elevator to arrive. “Just think of it as books, C.C., nothing but books.” The blonde held a tight-lipped smile in place, not wanting to lose it in the well-traveled hallway.

The ding of the elevator bell sounded just as C.C. was opening her mouth to speak. Thinking better of what she was going to say she waited until they were alone behind the closed doors of the elevator car. “Planning on doing a little manual reading until my sister gets home?”

Sam stood staring straight ahead at the elevator doors. “Let’s just say that this is one course I intend to ace.” The blonde’s mouth curled slightly as she fought the urge not to turn around and look at C.C. Within seconds, the car stopped and the doors opened, allowing Sam an open pathway to the lobby. Nonchalantly Sam threw the words over her shoulder as she started out, “You coming C.C.?”

The flabbergasted woman picked up the heavy suitcase with both hands and followed her roommate out through the lobby and into the late afternoon sun. Crossing the small parking lot, C.C. made it without stopping until they reached her truck. Placing the suitcase on the ground, the tired woman stood up straight and stretched her back. “Hey, Sam. I just have a quick stop to make, if that’s okay with you.”

“Yeah, that’s okay.” Sam lowered the tailgate and put her bag in the bed of the truck. “Ah…where are we stopping?”

C.C. grabbed the suitcase with both hands and hoisted it up to the truck before answering. “Well,” the brunette blew her bangs out of her eyes with a mighty puff of air, “my hair’s been getting in my eyes so I wanted to have my bangs trimmed.” The brunette pushed the suitcase into the bed of the truck, then closed the tailgate. “I was thinking that it’s right on the way to Brooke’s…”

The blonde walked around to the passenger side of the vehicle and looked at her own long blonde hair in the side mirror. “Hmm…That might be a good idea C.C.” Sam tilted her head from side to side as she studied her reflection in the mirror. “Do you think that I would look older with shorter hair?”

The brunette thought about the question as she came around the vehicle and opened the driver’s door, hopping up into the seat. “Older? I don’t know. Maybe…”

Sam took one last look in the mirror. “More mature, maybe?” She opened the door and started to climb up into the cab of the truck. “You know, I am going to be twenty-one next week.”

“Hmmm…” C.C. looked over to the blonde. “Maybe.”

“Come on, let’s go.” Sam motioned toward the road as she reached for her seat-belt.

“Good God, next week, already.” C.C. teased, then winked at her passenger as she tightened the seat-belt and reached to insert the key.

“Yeah, good-bye childhood and hello to the world of being a legal adult.” Sam rolled down her window and looked over to the driver with a devilish grin on her face.

“Woohoo!” C.C. let out a yelp. “Not too much of a difference, you know. But, there is one thing that you can definitely do.” The driver stole a glance at her passenger as she turned around to back out of the parking space. “You can lose the fake I.D.’s.” C.C. pulled out of the parking lot and headed for the highway.

“Yeah…” Sam ran her hands through her long, blonde hair and smirked, “Well, I plan on losing more than that.” She shook her long mane, letting the wind whip the golden locks as she laughed with the feeling of freedom it gave her.

“Really?” C.C.’s eyes grew bigger as she grabbed tightly onto the steering wheel. “You don’t mean…”

“Yeah, I do mean.”

C.C. turned her head sharply to the right to see Sam twirling a lock of blonde hair in her fingers and wiggling her eyebrows.

“Yeah,” Sam nodded her head as though she were making her mind up. “Out with the old and in with the new.”

“OHMYGOD!” C.C. gasped almost losing control of the truck. “You’re going to seduce my sister, aren’t you?”

Sam continued, “You’re looking at a woman in love.” Sam sighed, then suddenly realized that she was missing something vital that was going on. “What?” She asked grabbing on to the handle above the passenger door and sat up straight in her seat.

Concern-filled brown eyes glanced over to Sam then back to the road ahead of the vehicle. “What do you mean, what?” C.C. paused only a few seconds before asking again. “What, what?”

Sam giggled. “I was talking about cutting my hair.” She looked over to C.C., “You know, looking a little more mature for Brooke.”

The brunette openly blushed. “Oops. Oh, ah…sorry.” C.C. tried to shake the images of seduction from her mind.

“Although…” Sam brought a finger to her mouth as she thought. “That may not be such a bad idea,” she muttered under her breath but loud enough for the driver to hear. She took a quick look at C.C. to see if she heard her, then smiled knowing that she did.

“I am so embarrassed. I’m sorry, Sam.” C.C. apologized. “I just thought…” the brunette took one hand off the steering wheel and shielded her face from Sam. “Oh my god.”

The blonde sat back with a smile on her face thinking, If she only knew how close we already came on Tuesday.

The old, rusted-out Cadillac drove along the tarmac, coming to a halt just several yards from the bottom of the portable stairway when Peter turned to his passenger. “Okay, Brooke.” He turned off the ignition and patted the steering wheel. “There you go. Me and the dream machine here wouldn’t let you down. “See,” he gazed out around the multitude of things hanging from the rear-view mirror, “looks like the jet is just waiting for you to board.” Peter smiled broadly at his old friend.

“Yeah, and to think we’re only ten minutes later than I originally planned for.” Brooke raised an eyebrow in his direction.

“Well, how was I supposed to know that they’d give me such a hard time? So, the dream machine has a few little spots of rust…” he caressed the wheel lovingly. “She’s got the best engine a man could want. Able to run long and hard into the night with nary a drop of lubricant. They don’t make them like that anymore, Brooke.”

“God, why do all you men think of cars as some kind of sex object.” As soon as it was out Brooke threw her left hand up and halted any comment coming her way. “Not now, Petey. I’ve got a plane to catch and a girl to get home to.” Brooke reached down and opened the passenger door. “Hey, thanks.” She winked at him then started to get out.

“Anything for you, Brooke.” The man laughed, “Well, really for Sam.”

“Oh, so I’m nothing, huh? What are you doing…trying to steal my girl, are you?” Brooke teased him as she reached in for her jacket.

“Who, me? Nope, but I might be interested in that cousin of hers.” Peter wiggled his eyebrows.

Brooke smiled, throwing the jacket over her shoulder, then grabbed her laptop and briefcase. “I’ll have those tapes mastered by the time you guys get there next week.”

“That will be great. Take your time. I know that you’ll be a little busy,” Peter winked at her after getting out of the driver’s side, “this weekend.”

“I hope,” she muttered under her breath. “I can’t wait until she hears that new song. You think James can pull it off?”

“If he’s in the mind to, he’ll do it.” Peter walked around to the trunk and opened it, removing the couple of suitcases that belonged to Brooke and set them down on the tarmac.

“All I can say is he better be in the mind a week from Tuesday.” Brooke turned toward the jet and motioned for them to take her luggage.

“So, that’s Sam’s birthday, right?”

“Yeah, October 30.” Brooke looked at her friend and chuckled, “I’m sure I can get her cousin there, too.” She watched his expression change to one of joy.

“Great. I like that even better.” Peter closed the trunk and walked around the car toward Brooke. “Count me in.”

Brooke handed her briefcase and laptop to the plane’s crew. “You bet.” She turned back to Peter and held out her arms.

Peter clasped his hands around her shoulders in a friendly embrace, then whispered in her ear, “Tell Sam I said hello.”

“Will do, Peter.” She hugged him just a little tighter then released her grip and backed away. “Work on that song some more. I want it to be perfect for her.” She reached out and gave him a little punch on the shoulder with her fist. “I’ll see you soon, Pete.”

“I will and don’t worry about it.” He turned and started to walk back to his car, then called back over his shoulder, “Next week, Brooke. Bye.”

“Take care of yourself, Peter.” Brooke smiled at the man as he walked over to his car, watching him turn slightly toward her and wave.

“Don’t I always?” He laughed, seeing her wave him off as she started climbing the steps to board the plane. Then he got into his car and drove off the tarmac.

Reaching the door of the jet, Brooke stepped inside and was greeted by one of the staff. “Good evening, Ms. Gordon. I’ve placed your laptop and briefcase next to your favorite chair.” The medium built redhead smiled and pointed the way. “If you need anything just let me know, I’ll be more than happy to accommodate you anyway that I can.”

Brooke nodded and smiled politely. “Yes, thank you, Christie.” The executive started to walk toward the seat when she stopped and turned abruptly, “Who’s piloting for me? Is it Johnnie and Rae?”

“Who else? We all jumped at the chance when they told us it was the boss flying.” Christie winked. “Don’t you worry, we’ll get you home safe and sound.”

“Tell the girls that I said thanks.” Brooke nodded, then sat down and snapped the seat-belt around her waist. After settling in, she retrieved her laptop from its case and logged in, pulling up the song she had written the previous weekend.

‘Every day I walk down and see you passing by…’ Within seconds of reading the first verse, Brooke could already hear the melody running through her head, while images of Sam came floating about the recesses of her mind. God, Sam…I miss you so much, Baby.

She inhaled deeply and read the next line. ‘Every hour I can’t even close my eyes without seeing you…’ Images of Sam the last time she was in Brooke’s company flooded her senses like water rushing a dam. I can’t wait to get home and hold you…kiss you…feel your breath on my neck and your long hair tickling my chin as you wrap your arms around me…running your fingertips down my spine…your hands… Brooke closed her eyes and groaned as she thought of Sam and the last night that they had spent together. God, if I hadn’t stopped us we would have made love right there in that cheap motel room.

Her eyes focused back on the computer screen and she read the line that her eyes fell upon. ‘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…’ Green eyes came to her mind, along with the look of love that she had seen there the last time they were saying goodbye. The memory of the tender touch of her young lips and the passionate embraces as they had longed for the moment not to end. Brooke could feel her heart beating faster and her breathing becoming more rapid as each remembered sensation began to drive her body into a frenzy of wanton emotions. God…I need to watch these thoughts I’m having. They’re definitely leading somewhere they shouldn’t… at least without Sam being here.

The dark-haired woman shook her head, trying to clear her mind of images and emotions that she could do nothing about here on the plane. Brooke let her gaze go to the source of light, and she stared out at the clouds. Clouds? When did we…? “Christie,” Brooke called out. Seeing the woman’s head poke around the corner of the small galley she asked, “When did we take off? I didn’t feel any…”

The crew member smiled, “A few minutes ago, Ms. Gordon. Is there something you need?”

Blue eyes darted back and forth under furrowed brows, “No, thanks. I guess I was so absorbed in what I was thinking about that I didn’t realize we were airborne already.”

Brooke reached for the phone on the wall next to her chair. Picking it up, she was soon met by a pleasant sounding voice on the other end.

“Your Pilot Johnnie at your service, Ma’am.”

“Johnnie, hello. I just called to compliment you on that almost undetectable take off, thank you. I just realized that we were in flight.”

“Thanks, Ms. Gordon. The pleasure is all mine.” There was silence for a moment then the pilot asked, “Is there anything else?”

“Ah…” Brooke hesitated then asked, “We are moving at top speed, right?”

“Yes, Ma’am, top speed coming up.” Johnnie’s hand went to the controls and Rae followed suit setting a course for Virginia, the state known for its beaches and lovers.

The crisp breeze stood as a constant reminder of her surroundings as Sam walked along the sandy beach with Mario at her heels. Nowhere on campus did she have an opportunity like this. Sam looked out at the horizon, listening to the sound of the surf and the seagulls. The occasional bark from the husky at her side sent warm thoughts of the dog’s owner directly to her brain. Sam found herself wondering how many times Brooke had done exactly this same thing that she was doing right now.

The ocean waves rolled in and then drifted back out to sea, much like her musings right now of that dark-haired woman who possessed most of her waking thoughts and definitely ruled all of her dreams. The blonde wrapped her arms around herself trying to stave off the chill, wishing that it were Brooke’s arms instead of her own.

“Come on, Mario. I think it’s time we go home and warm up a little.” She watched as the dog listened with perked-up ears when she said the word home. “You missed being home all week, didn’t you boy?” Sam bent over and petted the husky that was hell bent on lavishing her with kisses. “Enough, Mario.” Sam laughed as the dog continued his friendly assault on her face. “Okay, you’re giving them to me for your mommy, right?” Sam thought back to the night of C.C.’s birthday party and Brooke’s decree that every kiss of Mario’s was actually four of her own. A big smile came to the blonde’s face. “She loves me that much, huh Boy?” Sam got up and started walking back to the house. “Come on, Mario. It’s time for us to go get ready for your mommy. But first, I think I’ll make myself a nice mug of hot chocolate.”

Chocolate…Sam’s mind flashed back to several nights ago in New Jersey. God did I have to say chocolate? I’ll never learn. Sam took in a deep breath and could almost smell the aroma of chocolate as her thoughts gained a toehold on her senses. Sam’s feet kept walking as her mind took its own path, reliving Tuesday night and all the fun that a little bottle of chocolate had brought to two grown women. It wasn’t long before Sam could almost taste the dark, bitter confection that had been drizzled on that long pillar of a neck as she kissed her way to those scrumptious lips. Dessert…who needs dessert when I have Brooke?

The woman sighed, letting her hand start its old familiar pattern of raking through her long blonde hair as she daydreamed. Then she remembered. She’d had her haircut and the long tresses were now back on the floor at the beauty shop. The reality of the moment brought her back to the present. “Good gods, speaking of desserts, I wonder if she has a thing for shortcake.”

Sam stopped at the kitchen door before opening it and glanced at her reflection in the glass. “Well, Mario…” she turned her head from side to side, pulling at the short blonde hair wisping around her neck. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.” She opened the door, then looked back at the dog sitting there on the deck. “Come on, Mario. I’ll race you to the shower.”

The tall woman made her way in the door, juggling the two pieces of luggage and a briefcase in her hands while she brandished the laptop with its shoulder carry strap like some ammo belt slung around her chest. Mario, the official greeter of the house, sat waiting for her to get inside with his tail wagging like the strong beat of fast song. Muted whimpers tugged at Brooke’s heart the minute she heard them and within seconds after closing the door with her foot, she was kneeling down to meet her precious pup.

“Hey, Boy.” She giggled as he licked her face and hands. “Didja miss me?”

Brooke petted the animal for a minute or two before standing up and taking the laptop bag from around her chest. Grabbing the briefcase, she placed both cases on the small desk just inside the corner of the living room. Looking around, the woman could see no sign of Sam and turned back to her trusted pet. “Okay, Mario, go find Sam.” Brooke watched as the dog scampered off down the hall.

“Sam,” Brooke called out but received no answer. “Hmmm…guess I’m going to have to seek you out.”

Taking a piece of luggage in each of her hands, the woman walked briskly toward the stairway. “Sam…” she called out as she rounded the corner of the hall at the bottom of the steps. There was still no answer so she started up the stairs, being careful not to catch the luggage on the railing.

Stepping out of the shower, Sam reached for the towel on the counter and wrapped it around her head like she’d done every day of her life. The towel seemed to be too big now since she changed her hairstyle and so she swapped it for the smaller towel from the rack. A shiver ran up the blonde’s back and she grabbed the discarded towel, wrapping it around her body, patting at it to dry her clean, wet skin. Feeling warmer, she took the ends of the towel that hung around her back, looping them one over the other binding them together at her chest, then she took the few steps out into the hallway where Mario sat waiting for her. Together, they made their way into Brooke’s room.

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, Brooke ventured down the hall toward her room. She rounded the corner and walked in through the open door. “Sam?” She called out as her eyes swept the room for any signs of the blonde.

Hearing her name, Sam looked up to see the tall woman standing in the doorway. Reacting on instinct alone, the blonde took off across the room as Brooke dropped her bags. Laughing as she tried to hold the towel to her body, Sam ran into the older woman’s outstretched arms. “God, I missed you.”

Their lips met in a kiss as Sam’s arms encircled her. “Mmm…I missed you.” Brooke returned the kiss and shifted her hands finding nothing but slightly damp skin to grab onto.

“I bet you did.” Sam glanced to her shoulder and saw Brooke’s hand draped over her skin before she was distracted by another kiss.

“Sam?”

“Yeah?” Her lips were drawn into another soft kiss.

Brooke tilted her head in the other direction, changing the angle of her kiss. Leaning back, she laid feather light kisses down Sam’s jaw until she was just under the blonde’s ear. The tall woman moved in closer, then she looked down. That’s when Brooke saw the uncovered, well-rounded buttocks of the young woman directly in her view. Raising an eyebrow, she appreciated the view for a moment then softly stated, “You’re naked, Sam.”

The young woman nudged her with her head. “No I’m not. I’ve got a towel on.” Her mind obviously too distracted to listen to reason.

“Yeah…You’ve got a towel on your head…” Brooke pointed out as she slowly let her hands run down Sam’s back and pulled her tighter against her body.

Glancing quickly down her body, Sam grinned looking back up at Brooke as she zeroed in for another kiss, first on the older woman’s mouth then continuing to move down her neck with reckless abandon.

The dark-haired woman took in a breath and stated the fact, again. “Sam, you’re naked.”

“Oops! I ah…I guess I lost my grip on the towel there.” Sam giggled nervously and leaned in to kiss the tender flesh above Brooke’s collar as an attempt to hide her embarrassment.

Craning her neck for the best view possible, Brooke admired the length of Sam’s backside, causing her heart rate to almost double. “You are so naked…and so beautiful.”

Sam chuckled as she said, “And you are so fully clothed.” The blonde started to tug at the shirt that Brooke was wearing until she had the taller woman’s mouth pressed up against her own in a kiss. Small nimble fingers then worked diligently to unbutton the clothing for better access. Finally, after coming up for air, Sam huskily muttered, “So, are you going to get naked too or am I going to get dressed?”

The decision was simple. “Uh… Let me go wash New Jersey off of me, because I have so lost interest in you getting dressed.”

The young woman exaggerated a sniff at Brooke’s clothing. “That might be a good idea with all that garbage they dump up there.” Sam pushed on Brooke’s shoulders, trying to distance herself from the woman. “You’ve got ten minutes. Now, go get a shower.”

With shaky legs, Brooke backed into the hall and down the few feet to the bathroom, never taking her eyes off of Sam as the young woman followed her out. Making the turn into the bathroom, Brooke tripped through the doorway, barely catching herself on the door frame. Sticking her head out into the hall again, she flashed a toothy smile, then disappeared into the room yelling, “Be right out. It’ll only take me a minute.”

“I’ll be here when you come out,” Sam reassured her, then laughed as she shook her head. “God, that is so adorable.” Before she made it back into the bedroom, Sam could already hear the sound of the shower running.

The young woman settled herself in front of the dresser mirror as she undid the towel from her head and briskly rubbed it over her short hair. Stopping to survey her effort, Sam shook her head, letting the neatly styled cut find its natural part. “Hmmm…so this is what they mean by wash and wear hair.” The blonde smiled at her own reflection in the mirror as the soft sound of Brooke’s singing filtered through the air, causing Sam to think about the upcoming evening.

Moving gracefully around the room, Sam lit the candles that she had brought with her in that heavy suitcase, leaving the last two on the nightstand. If C.C. only knew what kind of props I was talking about. Come to think of it…I wonder what she was thinking of. She crossed to the other side of the large bed, taking the bottle of wine and pouring some into the two glasses. After setting the bottle back down, the last two peach scented candles were lit. A beseeching smile graced Sam’s lips as she blew the flame on the match out and watched the wisps of smoke travel heavenward intermingling along their paths.

“Okay, Sam,” the blonde sighed as she stretched out on the king-size bed. “You knew it was coming.” She noticed that the sound of water running in the shower had stopped, alerting her that Brooke would be coming soon. “Now just go with it.” Taking in a deep, calming breath, Sam waited for the return of her tall friend.

Brooke hurriedly dried her wet skin and out of habit more than anything, took the silk robe off the hook on the door and pulled it onto her arms and shoulders, letting it gape open in the front. Using the large bath towel to dry her hair, Brooke left the bath and started walking down the hall toward her room. Hmmm…maybe I should think about putting a shower in that master bath? Guess I’m gonna have to think about that. With only a step or two more before she stood at her bedroom door, Brooke sufficed that her hair was as dry as it would ever be and leaned back far enough to take aim. She banked the shot off the bathroom door with the balled up towel to at least get it out of the hallway.

Shaking her damp hair out to help it dry, Brooke smiled, knowing that luck had been with her to come home so early. She stepped into the doorway and was frozen by the sight of the woman on her bed, basking in the soft glow of candlelight. Blue eyes traveled the length of the compact body starting at the delicate feet, roaming over the curves of the torso and stopping at the short blonde hair on the woman’s head. She turned into the doorway with her hand holding onto the frame on one side while her shoulder braced against the other side to steady herself, allowing the front of her robe to hang open.

Seeing Brooke come into the doorway, Sam scowled, “Hey, that’s not fair. Where’s my…” the woman smiled in appreciation as Brooke’s arm rose as she grabbed the door frame and the opening of the robe revealed more and more of the well-proportioned body underneath it. “Oh, I do like that open robe look.” Sam’s eyes roved up and down the exposed curves and already she could feel her heart beating faster just seeing the dark mound of curly hair that marked the apex at the top of Brooke’s legs.

Brooke’s mouth opened to speak, but nothing came out of it. She gulped and took in a deep breath, then started again. “I…I thought you’d like the…”

Sam rolled up onto her side, shaking her short hair before letting her head come to rest on her hand that was propped on the pillow. “New look?” The blonde asked with the hint of a smile on her lips, as she tried to keep her own body under control.

The mesmerized woman could only nod as she tried unsuccessfully to form a coherent thought. The short styled, blonde hair certainly struck her as adding an air of sophistication to the already alluring woman before her. The shorter body, so well proportioned with its rolling expanses of skin, gave rise to the gentle swell of young breasts.

“I love what it does for you.” Sam’s green eyes twinkled in the flickering candlelight, amazed at the affect she was having on the older woman who could only nod her head again in affirmation.

The blonde sat up rather seductively, letting her legs dangle off the side of the bed. She faced Brooke while she leaned back on her arms for support. “So, do you like it.” She gave her head a little shake, then cocked it to one side as she drank in the view that was being presented to her. “I thought I’d surprise you.”

“Uh-huh…” Brooke gulped again, finally finding her voice. “Sam…I…you’re…”

The young woman sat up watching the stunned look on her friend’s face. “Brooke if it’s that bad…” Sam pulled at the short blonde hair self-consciously now. “I’ll let it grow in again.”

“No!” Brooke blurted out, moving over to the bed and kneeling down in front of the woman. “It’s gorgeous.” Blue eyes re-evaluated Sam’s features. The dancing eyes filled with love, the delicate nose, and the luscious, inviting lips that Brooke wanted to press her own against all came together to form something of rare beauty. “You’re just so…” she paused for a moment, then let a faint smile turn the corners of her mouth upward when the correct word finally came to her, “…gorgeous!”

The compliment was totally unexpected and caused Sam’s shyness to manifest itself. That was the one thing that no one but her father had ever said to her. Still, not sure of herself or the moment that they were in, Sam asked, “Then why are you staring?”

“I never thought that the woman who rules my every fantasy would be naked on my bed.” Brooke’s face turned red from embarrassment at her admission. “Sam…” blue eyes searched green ones, hoping to see some flicker of understanding. “I’m…I’m…simply flabbergasted…among other things.” Already Brooke could feel the needs of her body starting to cry out as she responded to everything that her senses were assimilating.

Sam struggled to accept that she would be someone’s fantasy. “You really think so? You’re not just saying that, are you?”

“No, Baby. I love it.” Brooke reached up and ran her fingers through Sam’s hair. “I love you.” Her roaming gaze focused in on Sam’s eyes.

“Really? …Honestly?” Sam searched Brooke’s face, wanting only to see the raw truth.

Almost breathlessly Brooke confirmed Sam’s wish, “Yes.”

The blonde sighed as she wrapped her arms around Brooke’s neck. Staring at one another, they could see the love being reflected back in each other’s eyes. Their lips slowly called out to one another as they closed the distance between them. The soft touch of their lips in featherweight kisses acted like a catalyst as their senses came to life with a vengeance.

The young woman could feel her body coming to life as all of her systems checked in. The overpowering urge to have this woman make love to her became evident as an unfamiliar tingling sensation coursed through her body, finally coming to rest in her core as it had just been awakened. Sam could feel her own warm wetness swelling right along with her desire.

Brooke rolled her shoulders and let the robe slowly slide down her arms until it lay on the floor around her feet. Like magnets attracted together by some unyielding force, their bodies came together for the first time. Skin touching skin, warm mounds of craving flesh were just waiting for the first tingling sensations of orgasmic delight.

Slowly guiding Sam down onto the bed as they moved together, Brooke enjoyed the grasp that the young woman had on her body. The gentle touch was filled with love and need, stirring the passion that the older woman had locked away for years. Wrapping her long arms around the smaller woman, Brooke rolled them both over until Sam was stretched out and laying on top of her larger body. Still locked in a passion-filled kiss, Brooke’s hands began to roam yet unexplored territories along Sam’s back, sending chills, as well as arousing sensations, along the blonde’s spine.

As the kiss ended, Sam looked at the woman beneath her. Whether it was the sexy look on the woman’s face or the smell of freshly washed hair, the young blonde filled her mind with the essence that was the woman before her. They had triggered feelings that she had only dreamed about before. Having her senses assaulted from just about every side, the young woman gave a coy smile as she let the words come out much like a purr from her mouth, “Hmm…Now this is a nice view.”

The dark-haired woman smiled and gave the woman in her arms a little tighter of a hug. “Well, this is a nice feeling.” Brooke marveled at the full body touch that was being etched into her mind as all firsts were bound to be. Her heart fluttered with anticipation of filling that place in her mind with many experiences that included Sam for the rest of her life.

“And don’t I know it.” Sam closed her eyes and began her own little series of explorations along Brooke’s shoulders and sides, feeling the soft, warm body as it exposed the hills and valleys of its domain. Suddenly, without warning, the young woman could feel Brooke’s breathing catch as her sides contracted. “Ticklish?” she asked, wanting to know so she could lay it out on the map she was creating of Brooke’s body in her head.

“No, that does NOT tickle.” Brooke’s words were whispered. Her senses screamed from want of more stimulation as the small hands resumed their exploration.

Wanting to know for sure, Sam tried again, only this time edging a little closer to the front of her body than before. “I bet it does.”

Brooke grinned as she caught her breath again before speaking. “Nope.”

“Hmm…Then what does it do?” Sam teased, thinking that she knew the answer already.

“It sets…” Brooke shook her head slightly, settling on a better word. “You set my entire body on fire.” Long, nimble fingers ran down Sam’s body starting at her shoulders then moving along her sides to her waistline.

Rolling her head with the rush of sensations that one act created, Sam cried out, a little overwhelmed with emotion. “Oh God. I see what you mean.”

Behind the mischievous grin and wink, Brooke answered her. “I thought you might.” She inhaled deeply, filling her head with the soft scent of peaches. Her mind reeled with this added assault on her already overloaded senses.

Knowing the warmth of the electrically charged emotions that were about to erupt before long, Sam needed some reassurance. “You’re sure we won’t go up in a wisp of smoke.”

“I can’t promise that.” Brooke inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with Sam’s scent now as she nuzzled into her neck. Then she began showering the blonde’s ear with soft kisses.

“But you won’t deny it either, will you?” Sam clutched the soft body under hers as she rode out the cresting warmth that was sweeping over her.

Like the soft sound of a wave as it rolls back to the sea, Brooke whispered in Sam’s ear, “No…will you?”

Letting her body collapse on Brooke’s, Sam sighed. “God, that feels so good.” Sam raised her head slowly and looked through hooded eyes. “Brooke right now, I think that anything could be possible.”

Taking her time, Brooke kissed her way along Sam’s jaw and up to her opposite ear where she tenderly traced it with the tip of her tongue, then whispered into it, “Anything?” She locked away the taste of Sam’s skin on her tongue, the sweetness that made her crave for more.

Sam nodded, as she pulled her head back to look into her soon-to-be lover’s eyes. “Anything.”

Before the word was out of her mouth, they fell into a passionate kiss, each one taking turns in claiming, then submitting to the other as they floundered in this new world they were creating. Fighting to overcome her hesitancy, Brooke let her hands drift down along Sam’s sides and over her well-rounded buttocks. The feel of the soft skin invoking needs in her that she never knew. It only took the older woman a few seconds before she was pulling the young, firm body against her own, not being able to get enough of it.

Sensing that they were moving toward the point of no return, Sam felt the need to speak when they parted from the kiss. “Brooke, I never wanted anybody as much as I want you now.” Green eyes sought out the familiar blue. “Not even Loran,” she felt the need to confess.

Brooke studied Sam’s face for a moment, then one dark eyebrow raised as she asked the single word question. “Never?”

“Never…ever,” the blonde head shook from side to side with each word.

“Sam?” Brooke waited until the young woman’s gaze met her own. “Who’s Loran?” She grinned, watching the answer in her young friend’s eyes as they went from puzzled to intrigue.

“Loran who?” was Sam’s softly whispered reply as she sighed deeply, never looking away from the love that was being conveyed silently in their gaze.

“I’m all yours, Baby.” Brooke kissed her on the forehead, then drew back. “Me…” she reached up and kissed Sam softly on the lips. “The one who loves you and wants you so bad.”

“I know.” The blonde could feel her own need rising as all the emphasis of her emotions struggled to find a path to satisfy the urges that were stirring deep within her soul. Finally, her mind put her body’s wishes into words. “Brooke, make love to me.”

Blue eyes sought out the green pools that she knew she could easily drown in and without any hesitation at all, Brooke answered straight from her heart, pledging her love for all of eternity. “Always, Sam…always.”

Sam leaned in to kiss Brooke and slowly rolled to her side. Brooke rolled over to face Sam, their legs tangling with one another as she kissed the woman once more. The surge of power that overtook them left little room for release as the kiss deepened, then trailed off with tenderness. When it ended, Brooke leaned back taking in the look on Sam’s face, committing it to her memory.

The young woman said nothing, just watched the expression on Brooke’s face.

“Why are you smiling, Baby?” Brooke could feel the inevitable about to happen, the two bodies crying out with needs that could no longer be denied. The older woman cleared her throat and in the tiniest of voices she confided as to what was going on behind that polished façade of hers. “Do you have any idea how nervous I am right now?”

“Yeah, I think I do.” Sam nodded, then touched her forehead to Brooke’s. “You know, you’re not the only virgin here.” Sam paused, then whispered, “I love you.”

Brooke used the back of her hand to lightly touch Sam’s cheek, then ran it straight down Sam’s chest to circle around her stomach. “I love you.”

Sam kissed her lightly, then with more feeling as Brooke’s hand headed back up Sam’s side, starting over again. Each time, the circle around the young woman’s torso became smaller and smaller until Brooke’s hand cupped a small breast, her thumb brushing across the nipple.

The kiss broke with a very audible sigh as Sam gasped for a breath. “Oh, Baby, I know you do,” she muttered in between gulps of air as she felt the kisses continue down the hollow of her neck and across her shoulder. Before she realized it, most of her breast was engulfed within Brooke’s mouth as the woman sought to explore it with her tongue, causing her already hard nipple to stand upright.

Not being one of simple tasks, Brooke let her hand trail along Sam’s side. She followed the curve of her hip as she continued moving along behind the young woman’s knee. Gently, she placed it up over her own hip, letting her fingers touch the soft sensitive skin of the small woman’s inner thigh.

Feeling the woman complying under her subtle touch, Brooke felt compelled to say what was on her mind. “I do love you Sam, and I’d do anything to make you happy.”

“Just don’t ever stop loving me Brooke. That will make me very happy.”

“Never.”

“Hmm…I like the sound of that,” Sam purred into Brooke’s ear setting off the spark of her long awaited emotions.

“Sam…I can’t wait any longer. I need you…I need to make love to you.” Brooke’s voice came out huskily as she staved off the assault on her senses that the woman in her arms was causing. The musky scent of arousal now filling the air, Brooke could no longer battle with herself to stay in control.

The blonde head nodded, knowing that the time was right for the both of them. Drawing the dark-haired woman closer, they came together in a kiss that riveted to their cores and back again, letting their thoughts turn to feelings. Their passions growing from deep within, consumed those feelings like a flame consumes air. Like two trailing wisps of smoke blending together, their souls rose to new heights as their bodies moved together as one, each bringing the other to the edge.

The sounds of the mixed patterns of their gasps for breath acted like erotic lyrics in the background music to their ears. The melody floated in Sam’s soft tones while the rhythm was being established by the lower contralto sound of Brooke’s labored breathing. Their song continued until it reached a thundering crescendo where both paused, allowing their souls to be free but yet entwined together on the wings of their love. While their souls rode the crest of the flowing tide of eternity, their bodies convulsed with the ebbing tremors of delight.

And there they lay, held in each other’s arms, to rest until the next wave of love came crashing down on them. The new stirring of their emotions would linger idly for a short time until it whirled them blindly into a frenzied undercurrent that pulled them back into the sea of love. Then, once again, they would replenish their lost fluids with small sips of wine and settle back into each other’s arms, only to wait for the next wave to embark.

The softly filtered streams of dawn’s early light slowly crept into the room, replacing the failing glow of the dwindling candlelight. One sleep deprived eyelid slid open, revealing the half-full bottle of wine and the two empty glasses on the nightstand. Brooke opened the other eye, raising her head to look at Sam who was sleeping with her back spooned into the tall woman. Instinctively tightening her hold on the small woman, Brooke leaned in and kissed Sam on her temple.

“Hmm…” the soft purr came from Sam’s throat. “I like that.”

“You do, huh?” Brooke raised an eyebrow and rolled onto her back.

Sam turned in toward Brooke, snuggling into the woman’s side as she nodded her head. “Yeah, can you do that every morning? Wake me up just like that?”

“Every morning…every night…whenever you’d like…” Brooke interspersed each grouping of words with another kiss to the blonde’s short tousled hair. “I personally like the idea of every morning, though.”

The young woman flashed a smile across her face, “Now that sounds like a plan to me. I don’t think I’ve ever slept that good before, even if it was a short time.”

“Me too,” Brooke yawned and quickly covered it up with her hand. She kissed Sam’s head then nuzzled into it as she stroked her fingers on the woman’s taunt abdomen.

“Thanks for last night, Brooke. I…I never expected to be loved like that from you…at least not this soon in our relationship.”

“Why not, Honey? We’ve been together for almost two months now.” Brooke tapped lightly on Sam’s head with her chin, “I told you, when I gave my body as well as my heart, it would be forever.”

“I don’t know…I guess maybe…” Sam stopped talking, then asked, “Forever?”

Brooke grew quiet. “Yeah,” she whispered hoping that she hadn’t misread the young woman’s intentions.

“You mean…you and I?” Sam gasped as she looked up into Brooke’s face.

“I’m sorry, Sam. I just assumed…I mean…”

Sam searched those blue eyes. “You do mean it.”

“Yes, I do.” Brooke watched as Sam turned to face her completely, wrapping her arms around her in a massive hug.

“That’s what I wanted to hear.”

“Hmm…That’s what I needed to say.” Brooke returned the embrace.

“You say some of the nicest things, Brooke Gordon. Don’t ever stop.” Sam loosened the grip she had on the woman and settled back into her spot on Brooke’s shoulder.

“I love you, Sam.” She kissed the top of Sam’s head again, “I want this to be forever. I’ve waited my whole life to feel the way I feel right now.”

The young woman remained silent, turning her head slightly to kiss Brooke’s shoulder then neck, and then finally her chin before admitting, “Me, too.”

“Mmm…” the deep voice moaned. “I love that. I love it when you kiss me.”

“And what about this?” Sam kissed her lips, tenderly then slowly let the kiss deepen.

“Oooooh, even better.”

“Hmmm…I see you’re going to be a hard one to please.” Sam giggled as she tried a ticklish spot that she had found on her lover the previous evening.

“Hey!” Brooke laughed as she tried to pull away from the source.

“Hey, what?” Sam asked as innocently as she could muster.

Brooke countered with the speed of lightning to a more sensitive spot that she had found on Sam. “Paybacks can be a bitch, Baby.” She winked and wiggled her eyebrows in jest.

“I know, and oh so much fun.” Sam laughed as their bodies entwined with one another.

Settling into the full body hug that she was receiving, Brooke enjoyed the moment, then contemplated out loud, “I can’t believe we have all of today and tomorrow to spend with each other. Would you like to do anything special?”

Sam came face to face with Brooke as they stared into each other’s eyes. “Do we have to get out of bed?”

Brooke raised a lone eyebrow at Sam. “Not if you don’t want to.” Then started kissing the blonde on her neck, nipping at her collarbone.

“Keep that up and I’ll never get out of bed again.”

“Mmmm…Is that a promise?” Brooke asked without hesitating.

Sam wiggled her eyebrows. “What do you think?”

“I think I love you…” Brooke burst into the old Partridge Family song, not getting very far along before she was stopped.

“Hey, wait a minute…you only think you love me?” Sam got up on one elbow and looked down on the dark-haired woman’s face.

“Nope. I know it, without a doubt.”

“Good, ’cause I love you.” The blonde settled back down onto Brooke’s shoulder.

“That’s a very good thing, because I think I’d cry if you didn’t.” The older woman poked out her bottom lip and pouted.

“Now stop that. You know that just makes me give in all the more.”

The pouting woman poked her lip out even further still.

“Brooke,” the stern sounding voice commanded her attention. “Don’t push your luck here, Honey.”

“Well, at least it’s better than what my mom used to tell me.”

“And just what did your mom tell you?” Sam furrowed her brow in contemplation.

The older woman took a breath in and started mimicking her mother’s higher pitched voice. “If you poked your lip out any further, you could ride on it.” Brooke thought about it for a moment before she smiled, wiggling her eyebrows at Sam. “Then again…”

It took her a second or two before the mental images came rushing to her head. “Oh…” then Sam smiled. “I like the way your mother thinks.” Sam then leaned in and kissed her on that very same lip.

“Yeah? Me too!” Brooke pulled back from the kiss and thought for a moment. “I dunno… I think you’d fall off.”

“I guess that depends on how I ride it.”

The dark-haired woman put a finger against her chin and looked up toward the ceiling. “Hmm…I wonder how much it would take?”

“Maybe we should investigate this and find out,” Sam suggested.

“Maybe, but it might take a while.” Brooke leaned in for a kiss, whispering against Sam’s lips,” I love you, forever.”

“I’m beginning to love the sound of that…forever.”

Two lounging figures sat in front of the fireplace, watching the flames dance across the gas logs before them. Sam nestled in a little closer as she leaned her back up against Brooke’s chest, letting the woman’s long arms wrap around her like a cloak. It was already Sunday evening and the events of the weekend so far had only heightened their need to be together in everything that they did.

Sam ran her small hand through her short blonde hair, “Gee Brooke, I can’t believe my hair is dry already from the shower.”

“Yeah, it’ll dry pretty quick, now that it’s short,” She leaned in and placed a kiss on the blonde’s hair. “That’s one reason why I kept mine short for so long. Especially touring with the group.”

“I think I’m going to like this wash and wear style.” Sam turned to look back at Brooke. “You don’t mind do you?”

“Not at all. I think it looks gorgeous on you,” Brooke whispered into Sam’s ear, then started to nuzzle into the woman’s neck.

“Oh, that tickles,” Sam wrinkled up her nose and giggled. “I was afraid you wouldn’t like me looking older. It does make me look older, doesn’t it?”

“Mmm…” Brooke continued to place delicate kisses on Sam’s neck.

“Good then. I figured since I’m turning 21 next week that I needed to grow up in a lot of ways.” Sam stole a glance back at Brooke then looked off, into the fire. “I guess this weekend is doing that.”

“Honey, it’s not like you were childish,” Brooke protested.

“I know that. I just wanted to…ah…be closer to you.”

“Hmmm…” Brooke gave the body resting against hers a little squeeze. “You can be closer to me whenever you’d like.” The older woman leaned outward to watch Sam smile.

The blonde laughed softly then gave Brooke a quick kiss on her cheek. “I meant in looking mature.”

After sharing another kiss, they settled back into their positions and enjoyed the closeness that they had. Brooke waited for a few minutes before breaking the silence. “Speaking of closer…I think Petey wants to meet your cousin. He’ll be here next week…

“Crystal? Why would he…”

Brooke grinned as she thought about the path her own life was taking after meeting the small blonde that now rested in her arms. “Why would he want to meet her?”

Suspiciously Sam asked, “You didn’t tell him that she’s got a humongous crush on him, did you?”

“Of course I didn’t say…humongous,” Brooke teased her, getting a light slap on her arm in reply.

“You know what I mean.”

“Hey, I didn’t know that. But he knows about at least a little one.” Brooke held up her hand and measured it out with her thumb and forefinger for Sam to see.

Sam buried her face in her hands. “She’ll die. I mean, she’ll kill me.” The blonde’s head turned to look at Brooke. “When is he coming here?”

Placing a small kiss on her lips to soothe Sam, Brooke whispered in her ear, “Don’t worry about it. You can blame it on me. Ah… he’ll be here Monday.”

The young woman sat up and turned to face Brooke. “How long will he be in town? Maybe we could get him to meet Crystal.”

“A few days, Darlin’,” Brooke drawled out. “How about on Tuesday? We can use your birthday as an excuse for them to meet.” The woman wiggled her eyebrows and smiled as she reiterated, “Your twenty-first birthday, that is.” She leaned in and kissed Sam’s cheek.

“Oh! That would be great. She’d never think I had a surprise for her. Maybe we could all get together that evening.”

“Sure, I’ll plan it, okay?” The dark-haired woman paused then asked, “So, have you given any more thought to your birthday?”

“Sounds good to me, I’ll even skip class on Wednesday.” Sam pulled back to look at Brooke. “Thought…what’s to think about? I’ve got everything I could possibly want right here.” She turned back around and snuggled into her large, human teddy bear.

“Mmm…Does that mean I’ll get to keep you that night?” Brooke kissed the ear that was next to her lips. “Crystal can crash in one of the rooms upstairs if you’d like.”

Sam smiled. “I don’t know about keeping me…” the woman laughed, “but

I’d love to spend it with you.”

“I can’t keep you?” Brooke asked in all seriousness. “Then we might have a problem. I don’t want to give you back.”

The young woman turned to face Brooke. “Well, you do hold my heart. Is that good enough for now?” Green eyes looked into blue and hoped for an answer.

Brooke shifted her eyes and wet her lips then offered, “For now…”

“Come on, Brooke.” Sam lifted her chin to stare into her lover’s eyes. “I’d love to be here with you all the time, but with school…it’s much more convenient right now to stay at the dorm.” She could see the disappointment in Brooke’s eyes. “How about if I let you keep me on the weekends. How’s that?”

The woman took in a big breath, then let it out with a sigh. “Okay, I guess…” Brooke looked down at the floor for a moment, then slowly the corners of her mouth turned up with a thought. “So, how much longer is school in? And does break time count as weekends?” Two dark eyebrows wiggled mischievously.

“Oh, counting the days already…eh, Lover?” Sam gave the woman behind her a little nudge.

“Hmm?” Brooke asked, her mind already dreaming of the future. “Ah…Yes, I am. So, how many?”

“Too many,” Sam patted Brooke’s arm lovingly. “Especially if I get placed out of the area for that internship.” Sam turned to see the expression on Brooke’s face.

“W…what?” The whites around her blue eyes growing bigger. “H…How long?” She stumbled out, not really wanting to know.

“You could hold out from February until May without me, couldn’t you?”

Brooke’s mouth dropped open. “What do you mean…without you?” She blinked, then blinked again. “And just what do you mean by ‘out of the area’?” as she mimed the quotation marks in the air.

“Oh Baby, I’m sorry. I thought you knew.” Sam raised her hand to touch Brooke’s cheek. “I’ll have to go where they place me for that last term. I really don’t have too much choice in the matter. I would like to do my internship in Public Relations in the music area if at all possible.”

The older woman gulped audibly, “The whole term?”

“Yeah, three and a half months. That’s my only class that term. It almost seems ironic. I finally get to have enough time to spend with you and I may be nowhere around to do it.”

“That’s a long time, Baby.” Brooke shook her head, dreading not having Sam around. “So, who decides where you go, again?”

“Damn, I can’t remember that teacher’s name.” Sam sighed and leaned into Brooke’s chest. “Sometimes I think growing up sucks.”

They sat there in silence, watching the flames dance along the artificial logs. Like a flash of nostalgia, a name came to Brooke’s mind and she said it out loud, “Humphreys?”

“Yeah,” Sam said whimsically, “Janet Humphreys.” The blonde patted the larger hand holding her around her waist. “You’ve got a good memory for an old timer,” Sam nuzzled her head back on Brooke’s shoulder. “You can remember that name from out of the past but you can’t remember my internship. Must be that short term memory loss that they all talk about.” Sam tried to keep a straight face.

“Yeah? Keep it up, Brat.” Brooke tousled the short blonde hair of the woman in her arms, then as nonchalantly as she could Brooke changed the subject. “So, do you think Crystal would like to stay here?” She kissed the top of Sam’s head.

“Sure, why wouldn’t she?” Then after thinking for a moment, Sam asked, “You will give her a bedroom far away from us, right?” Sam turned her head to look at Brooke.

“Of course, Darlin’. Maybe Peter, too.”

“Ohmygod! Brooke Gordon, why don’t you just sell tickets and invite the whole family?” Sam swatted playfully at Brooke.

A devilish grin came to Brooke’s face, “Don’t tempt me. I might do just that,” she teased. “How do you think I made all my money.” Brooke laughed at the flustered blonde. “And no,” blue eyes looked her straight in the face, “It’s not what you’re thinking,” she smirked. “I’ll put him in a separate room, Honey. On the other end of the house even.”

“I know you would.” Sam looked over at the plate that they had brought their food on to sit by the fire and eat. “Say, you want any more of that sandwich?”

“Nope,” Brooke shook her head. “You want it?”

Sam smiled as she sat up and reached for it. “Sure do. I got to keep up my strength. I’m not leaving your arms until Monday morning.”

“Good, and you’ll be lucky if I let you go then.” Brooke hugged the woman even tighter to her body.

“Oh, you’ll have to. You have work and I have a class.” Sam took a bite of the sandwich and grinned in Brooke’s direction.

“Work, schmork.” Brooke watched as the sandwich was held up in offering to her, then she leaned forward and chomped out a bite of it.

“Yeah,” Sam nodded. “Besides, I figure we’ll need to rest up by then.” Sam tossed the food back onto the plate, then turned and winked at Brooke, letting her eyebrows continue their suggestive wiggling as she wrapped her arms around woman’s neck. “Now, where did we leave off?” She murmured as their lips met and all thoughts of the world around them faded.
Ch13 Spooky
“…The heroes, freaks and geeks and vampires all will be there to act real cool, break some rules… ”
Sam rolled over in the big, warm bed, balling the pillow up under her head. It wasn’t but a few seconds later that her body was being encircled by Brooke’s long arm and six feet of human teddy bear was being tucked up neatly against her back. One tired eyelid opened barely enough to make out the glow of the digital clock. The neon numbers didn’t register in the woman’s mind until after her eyes were tightly closed and she had already snuggled back into the warm embrace.

“Aurgh!” Sam bolted upright, throwing off the covers. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she grabbed the clock and brought it closer to her face, blinking several times to clear the sleep from her eyes. Finally, she was able to focus and the numbers were clearer. It was 8:38 in the morning.

Nudging the woman that was still in the bed, Sam put the clock back down. “Brooke, we overslept again. If we’re going to spend all weekend in bed, we’ve got to remember to set the clock on Friday night so we get up on time for Monday morning.”

“Huh? What?” Brooke raised her head off the pillow and grabbed for her watch on the nightstand. Rubbing her eye with the other hand she looked at the date. It read 10/28/01. “It’s Sunday, Sam. We’re not late for work. We’ve got another whole sixteen hours before we’re late.” Brooke wiggled her eyebrows suggestively, “Come on back to bed. I know a few things we could do to pass the time together.” The dark-haired woman winked and patted the mattress next to her.

“Is that all you think about anymore?” Sam got up and crossed the floor to where her T-shirt from the other evening had remained, once it was stripped from her body. The blonde picked up the shirt as a smile came to her face. The events following the discarded article of clothing were coming to her mind.

One dark brow raised steadily on Brooke’s forehead. “And tell me you don’t?” The woman sat up in bed, leaning back on her elbows. “Hmm…?” Brooke watched the blonde pull the shirt over her head, the smile quickly fading to a frown. “Hey, why are you getting dressed?”

“Brooke, for the last two weekends we’ve…ah…we’ve…stayed in bed.”

“Making love. So, what’s the big deal? I thought you liked…”

“I’m not saying that I don’t…It’s just…I’ve got to call Crystal and what am I going to say if she asks what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weekends?”

“Oh, I see.” Brooke turned onto her side and rested her head in the crook of her arm. Pausing for a moment or two to think, she bit slightly at her lip, then a sly smile grew across her face. “You could tell her that you’ve been sowing your wild oats while you’re still young.” Blue eyes twinkled with delight as she watched the perplexed look on her lover’s face change to one of shock.

“Brooke Gordon!” Sam crossed her arms over her chest and looked directly at the woman in bed. “And what should I tell her that you’re doing, if she asks?”

The smile broadened, revealing the older woman’s smugness. “Why…helping you, of course.”

Sam picked up the pair of boxers and T-shirt that were Brooke’s and threw them at her, catching her off guard. “Put some clothes on and I’ll call Crystal right now and set up the meeting for my birthday on Tuesday.”

“Huh?” Brooke made a face as she plucked the clothing off the bed where they landed. “I have to get dressed to talk on the phone? Since when?”

“Since now.” Sam picked up the phone and tapped in the numbers for her cousin.

“But Sam,” the older woman protested, “This isn’t television or video of any kind. It’s just a telephone conversation.” Brooke threw back the covers and started to get out.

The blonde stood there listening to the phone ring on the other end as her eyes were filled with the emerging nakedness of a tall, dark-haired woman. “Come on, Crystal.” Sam closed her eyes unable to view the tempting sight another second longer.

“Hello?” The voice sounded tired in the phone.

“Hey, Crystal.” The blonde opened her eyes to see Brooke now lounging on top of the bed, swinging her boxers on one finger. Sam quickly turned and gulped out a rather stressed, “It’s me, Sam.”

“Hey there, Sam. This is a nice surprise. What’s up?” Crystal’s voice became more excited almost immediately upon hearing her cousin’s voice.

What’s up? You had to ask, didn’t you? Sam looked down to the obviously erect nipples under her T-shirt and muttered under her breath. “You don’t really want to know.”

“Where are you calling me from? I didn’t recognize the number on my caller I.D.”

“I’m at Brooke’s. I’m a…staying here this weekend.” Sam crossed the few feet to the bed and sat down on the edge, facing away from the unclad woman. Okay, here it comes. She’s going to ask me. The blonde dropped her head forward and hid her face in her hand. I might as well get it over with. “You’d better write it down. That number seems like the best one to find me at on the weekends.” The young woman plunged right along in the one-sided conversation hoping her cousin wouldn’t remember what it was she wanted to ask, once she got a chance to speak. “I was thinking we could get together for my birthday and have dinner down here.” Sam could hear Crystal laughing on the other end as she took in a very much needed breath.

“Oh, finally you run out of air?” Crystal teased her. “Okay, dinner sounds cool. So, tell me, are you two an item now?”

Amused by what she was hearing come over the phone, Brooke sat up and leaned into Sam’s back, then whispered in her ear, “Item…huh?” She laid a flock of feather light kisses upon the blonde’s neck and listened for Sam’s answer.

“Ah…” Sam sighed trying to keep her mind from roaming with the kisses. “You could say that.”

Pleased, Brooke wiggled her eyebrows as she inched a little closer to the T-shirt clad woman, then let her dark head rest on the small shoulder.

“Sure, Brooke’s house. Got it.” Crystal copied the number down.

“Hey, speaking of got it… how about you pick me up at the dorm on Tuesday, and then we’ll meet up with Brooke at the restaurant. I want you to meet her.” Sam tilted her head until it rested on Brooke’s.

“Oh, I get to meet this honey of yours? GREAT!” Crystal cleared her throat.

“You were going to meet her sooner or later.” Sam giggled and touched Brooke’s hand with her hand, pulling the larger one around her stomach.

“Okay, I can do that. What time do you need me to be there?”

“Ah, Crystal…” Sam paused letting the brows furrow. “You might want to come prepared to stay over night. Brooke’s going to let us stay here. Okay?”

“Sure. You need to be up early for class or what?”

“No, nothing like that. I’ve got a late class on Wednesday afternoon and it will put you closer to home for the morning. So, are you working on Tuesday, Crys?”

“Only until two in the afternoon.” Crystal sighed.

“You pulled that early shift again?”

“Yeah, but that means we could have an early dinner. How about if I pick you up about fourish?”

“It will take about an hour to get to the restaurant. It’s out by Brooke’s place. I’ll be packed and ready for you.” Sam looked back at Brooke and smiled, happy that their plan was taking shape.

“Okay, sounds good. So, you’re sure Brooke has enough room for us both to stay there?” Crystal sounded skeptical.

“Ah…Crys, there’s more than enough room here and if not, we’ll just double up.”

Brooke’s jaw dropped open when she heard Crystal ask, “You and me or you and Brooke?”

Sam turned around to see her tall, naked teddy bear sitting back on her haunches with her lower lip sticking out a mile or more. The blonde couldn’t help smiling at the childlike face now filled with disappointment.

“Hmmm…what do you think, Cous?” Sam teased Brooke with her words.

“I don’t know. How serious are you and this woman, huh?

The dark-haired woman pointed to herself then got on her knees positioning her hands as if she were praying. With the cutest ever childlike face she whispered, “I love you.”

Sam turned a thoughtful glance at the woman, doing a double take, realizing just how sexy Brooke looked on her knees. “You better bring some heavy pajamas, Crystal. It can get cold down here by yourself at night.” Sam chuckled, trying hard not to act upon the thoughts that were going through her mind at that moment.

“Oh, I see. Pretty serious, are you?”

The blonde shook her head, “Like you wouldn’t believe.” She watched as Brooke gathered her in with those familiar long arms and nuzzled her neck.

“That’s great, Sam. I’m happy for you. In fact, I’m really looking forward to meeting the woman that made you forget all about Loran.

“Well, why wait?” Sam looked directly into Brooke’s eyes, wrinkling her nose and puckering up to send a kiss her way. “Here she is…” Sam’s small hand held the phone up to Brooke’s ear. “Talk Baby, talk.”

“Hi there. How are you?” Brooke smiled at Sam as she held her tightly around the waist, not letting the small woman move away.

“Sam?”

“Nope, I’m…” Brooke looked down at Sam’s T-shirt then at her own unclad body. The older woman chuckled at Sam’s horrified expression at what she was expecting might be said. “I’mmmm…taller.”

“So, you’re Brooke. Hello.”

“Yep,” Brooke started with a sexy grin. “Ow…” The tall woman looked down to the offending hand that wasn’t her own, then up to Sam’s mischievous grin. “She pinched me,” the startled voice cried out. “Crystal, right? Well, I’m Brooke.”

The voice on the other end laughed. “That’s our Sam. She’s always the little instigator,” Crystal revealed. “Well, most of the time.”

“Oh, really?” Brooke’s face turned serious with this new information.

“Yeah. So Brooke, I’ll ask you the same question that I asked Sam. How serious are you and the little troublemaker, there?

Caught off guard by the question, Brooke looked deeply into Sam’s eyes and spoke. “Very. I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life.” She watched as a smile graced the blonde’s beautiful face. Brooke leaned in and kissed her.

“You do know that she’s only been serious about one other woman in her lifetime.” Crystal felt compelled to warn her.

Coming off of the kiss, Brooke thought for a second and then muttered, “Oh yeah, Loran.” There was a hint of disgust in her tone. “Well, at least as serious as she could be without meeting her, right?”

“But we all knew that wasn’t an option. Imagine her and Loran. Now that would be funny to see.” Crystal chuckled at the concept of ever meeting someone so famous.

“Yeah,” Brooke smirked. “Loran had a pretty big bad girl image. But you can’t believe everything you read and hear. Most of the images in the music biz are just that, images made up by the publicists to sell albums.”

“You think? That chick is probably holed up somewhere with a hot little babe of her own and doing it around the clock, if you ask me.”

“I know!” the older woman stated. “I’m in the middle of it. I own my own recording company.”

Crystal let out a burst of air. “Hey, what would I know? Now ask me about hearts or recovery time…” her sentence stopped suddenly, then hesitantly she asked, “You own a company?”

“Yep, Brownstone Records,” Brooke said, proud of her accomplishment.

“Jeez…When Sam falls, she falls big.” Crystal said half out loud.

“But, I’ll agree with you on one thing.”

“What’s that?”

Brooke wrapped one arm around Sam and pulled her into her body. “I’m sure Loran does have a hot little babe by her side at this very moment.” She looked at Sam, and then winked.

“See…and you should know. I told Sam to go with the sure thing.” Crystal’s voice sounded eager as she proved her point. “The last time we got together with my Mom, that would be Sam’s Aunt Sandy,” the woman explained. “She told Sam that you would be better than any dream she could ever have about Loran.”

“Really? I’d like to meet her sometime.”

“Too bad Mom can’t make it for Tuesday’s dinner. She’s working the evening shift that day.” Crystal paused for a second, then continued. “Maybe you’ll get to meet her sometime.”

“That would be great. I’d love to. Sam speaks very highly of you, both.” Brooke squeezed the blonde. “She’s met just about everyone in my family and likes them anyway.” Dark eyebrows wiggled up and down as Brooke added, “No matter how twisted they may seem.”

“I’m sure she does. Well, I’d better get going. Tell Sam I’ll pick her up Tuesday around four. It was nice meeting you even if it was over the phone. Bye.” She paused only for a second before adding, “Brooke, could you tell Sam that I love her?”

“Okay. Bye, Crystal.” Brooke pulled the phone away from her ear, knowing the line was still activated. “Sam, I love you.” Then she pushed the button to end the call.

“So…” the blonde looked up into Brooke’s face, letting her see the slight blush that came to her face after hearing the declaration of love. “What do you think of Crystal?”

“She sounds like an interesting sort.”

Sam thought about her cousin finally getting to meet the man of her dreams and a silly smile came to the blonde’s face. “You think Peter will like her?”

“I think he will,” Brooke nodded. “Think she’ll like him?”

“Good. And about her liking Peter, that’s a no-brainer, Hon.” Sam snuggled closer to her lover. “She’ll love him. She always has.”

Brooke looked down speculatively at the pensive woman. “And what about you? Have you always loved me?”

Green eyes locked onto wandering blue. “Not as much as I do now, or will for the rest of time.” Sam leaned in to kiss Brooke, then one kiss led to another. The passionate lovers laid back down on the bed, intent on making good use of their time together.

The tall brunette fidgeted from one foot to the other as she waited for her mother to stop lecturing her on the merits of studying. Finally when an opportunity came, C.C. grabbed it. “So Mom, don’t forget to be there early. It’s a surprise. Brooke and I don’t want anyone to blow it for Sam. You do remember that Tuesday is her birthday, right?”

“Cjersti, do you think I’m stupid or something? Of course I remember it’s Sam’s birthday. She told me so herself at your party.”

“Mah-um,” C.C. whined, “do you have to say that?”

“Say what? That she told me…”

“No, the other thing…you know…”

“Oh…oh. I don’t understand you. It’s such a pretty name.”

“It’s different.” C.C. pouted.

“Honey, we’re all different.” Mable shook her head and gave up. “Now, back to the surprise. Don’t worry, I’ll let myself in.”

“Have you gone shopping yet?” C.C. thought for a moment, then added, “Hey, could you call and let Randi and Terri know? I think I hear someone coming to my door.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it all.” Mable suddenly became more alert. “Did you say she’s coming in?”

“Yeah.” The woman holding the telephone cupped her hand over the mouthpiece. “Oh, hi Sam.” C.C. gave her head a nod and held up the phone, then brought it back to her ear. “What’s that Mom? You want to talk to Sam?”

“Why, yes Dear, of course I do.”

C.C. held out the phone to the young blonde who had just turned around from closing the door. Then the brunette shrugged.

Sam hesitantly took the phone and brought it to her ear. “Hello, Mrs. Gordon. Were you looking for me?”

“Why hello, Sam.” The cheerful voice came across the phone. “How are you, Dear? I hope that daughter of mine is treating you right.”

“I’m fine and yes, she is treating me very fine indeed.”

“Well, that’s good.” Mable’s voice trailed of. “I’ve been thinking that maybe you could join us for dinner sometime soon. Are you free anytime?”

“Hmm…” Sam thought before continuing. “I’d say tomorrow but I’m already meeting my cousin and Brooke for dinner.”

“Well, sometime soon then. Is that all you have planned for your big day?”

“Big day?” Sam questioned, then remembered the date. “Oh, you mean my birthday? Well, yeah, I don’t celebrate it that much.”

“You know, you don’t turn twenty-one every year. You make sure that daughter of mine makes it extra special for you. Ask her to cook. You’ll learn soon enough Sam, that birthdays are a big thing in this family.

“Her, cook? I thought she only did that for you.” Sam remembered Brooke telling her that was what she had done in the past.

“Samantha, I think she’d be more than willing to share that gift of hers with you as well, Dear.”

Sam looked down at the floor as she mumbled, “She’s ah…sharing quite enough for right now, Mom.” Sam could feel her face warm with the rising blush.

“Oh,” Mable was sensing the young woman’s embarrassment on the other end, “really? That’s wonderful! I mean…it must be…well…” she hesitated. The matriarch ran Sam’s shy comment through her head once more. “Hey, you just called me Mom,” she declared.

“God, I’m sorry, Mom…” Sam’s eyes shot wide open when she realized that she just used the term again. “I mean…ah…Mrs. Gordon.” Sam bowed her head and covered her face with her free hand. “I’m digging a deeper hole here, aren’t I?”

“No, Sam…”Mable didn’t wish to hurt the young woman in any way. “Don’t you dare apologize. You are more than welcome to call me Mom. As a matter of fact, I really like hearing it from you.”

“If the truth is to be known,” Sam voiced her opinion in demure tones, “I really like it too.”

“Well then, you forget all about that Mrs. Gordon mumbo-jumbo. I mean…Randi’s husband calls me Mom, so does Terri’s. Why shouldn’t you?”

“But we’re not…ah…” Sam stumbled, unable to get the words out.

“You’re not what, Dear?”

“Forget it. It was nothing, Mom.” Sam tried to feel more comfortable using the new term.

“Good girl, Sam.” Mable complimented her.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Mable paused for a moment then continued. “Oh…and Sam…welcome to the family. I forgot to tell you that at C.C.’s party.”

Sam choked back a tear, knowing what Brooke’s mother was referring to. “Thanks, Mom. I think I love this family already.” Green eyes filled with moisture as she looked over to her roommate and wiped away an escaping tear as it rolled down her cheek.

“Mom,” C.C. grabbed the phone from Sam. “You’re making the poor girl cry. What’s the matter with you, she’s going to spend her last evening as a twenty year old soaked with tears.”

“Oh, I am so sorry. C.C., put her back on the phone.”

The brunette held the phone out to Sam, following the direct order of her mother. “She wants to talk to you, again.”

Puzzled, Sam hesitantly took the phone and brought it to her ear. “Yes, Mom?”

“Sam I’m sorry that I made you cry. I didn’t mean to do that.” Mable apologized.

“It’s a good cry. Don’t worry about it.” The tears rolled down Sam’s cheeks. “I’m just not used to having people be that concerned about how their words react on me.”

“Well, you better get used to it. You love my daughter, so how could I not love you?”

“Okay, now that really brought a smile to my face.” Sam looked over to C.C. as the brunette kept motioning for the phone back. “Well, C.C. wants to talk to you again. I’d better getting going anyway.”

“Okay, Dear.” Mable hesitated for a second, then added, “Happy Birthday, Sam.”

“Thanks,” Sam spoke the word softly, then handed the phone to C.C. before going toward her side of the room.

“C.C., she doesn’t suspect anything, does she?”

The brunette studied the crying woman for a minute then decidedly answered her mother. “Nope, not a thing. Okay, Mom, I’ll study harder. See I do listen to you. Bye.” C.C. hung up the phone and began to shake her head. “Okay, so let me guess.” The tall woman put her hands on her hips and struck a pose. “She’s adopted you, right?”

Sniffing back a tear as she tried to wipe the moisture from her cheeks, Sam whispered. “God, I hope so.” Then looking up at her roommate, she asked, “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course I don’t mind. We’re roomies…we’re like sisters already.” C.C. flashed a big grin then turned around to walk over to her bed. “And believe me, when everyone else finds out about you and Brooke, they’ll love you even more.”

“That’s two down, and two to go,” Sam muttered with just the hint of a laugh, then spoke up. “Ah…C.C., I’m not so sure. Randi might have some issues with my age or me. She seems a little protective of Brooke.”

“You don’t know that.” C.C. protested. “Randi will be fine. She’s…well…Randi has sort of designated herself as protector of all of us.”

“See, even I could sense that.”

C.C. mocked an angelic pose with her chin on her hands and stood there. “All Brooke has to do is bat those baby blues of hers,” she did that herself, only with brown eyes, “and Randi will be toast.”

“I still think if anyone has anything to say about our relationship it’s going to be her.” Sam moved over to her bed and sat down on it.

“Well, I guess we’ll see.” C.C. flopped down on her own bed and stretched out. “And if she does…she’ll come around. Give her some time and she’ll be fine with the whole thing.

“I hope so. I don’t want to be a source of family dispute here.”

The brunette rolled up on her side and leaned on an elbow. “Don’t worry about it, Sam. Worry about the fact that you’re going to be legal in about six hours.”

“Legal, yes…and grown up.” Sam shook her short hair and smiled as thoughts of Brooke entered her mind. Grown up, huh? The blonde remembered their shared lovemaking over the weekend and sighed as she fell back on her bed. That’s already done.

“Well, Peter, there you have it, a complete tour of the Gordon Estate.” Brooke led the way up from the studio to the main floor of the house as she joked about her home. “Now, if you really paid any attention you’ll have no problem if the lights go out tomorrow when we plug in all that sound equipment we used to use.” She turned to face him at the top of the stairs with her hand poised on the light switch. “So you ready for a test?” She threw the switch off, teasing the man.

Clutching the tapes that he had in his hand, Peter grabbed for the railing with the other one. “Now Brooke, cut it out. You know I don’t like the dark.”

“Okay, take it easy.” She flipped the switch back up and the lights came on. “I’m not stealing those tapes back, so don’t get all worried.” Brooke winked at him and moved out into the hall.

Peter looked down at the tapes in his hand, then held them up for Brooke to see. “Hey, thanks. You don’t know what this means to me.”

“No problem, Peter. You have no idea what tomorrow means to me. Everything will be all set up by the time Sam gets here tomorrow evening.”

“Oh, I bet I do,” the man taunted her. “She really has your heart all sewn up, doesn’t she?”

Brooke smiled and nodded her head. “Yes, she does. She owns every little piece of my heart.”

“James always said you were heartless. Guess this one time he’s right.”

“Well, what do you know, the bastard was right.”

Seeing the distant look in Brooke’s eye, Peter thought that a subject change was in order. “I’ll have my stuff and drop it off early tomorrow, along with James’ stuff when he gets in. You’ll see. It will be like old times.”

“No problem.” Brooke led the way into the kitchen. “So what time is his royal assness getting in?” She went to the refrigerator and grabbed a beer, offering it to Peter.

Peter shook his head and pointed to a soft drink in the door. He reached out and accepted it as Brooke handed it to him. She grinned and grabbed a bottle of beer for herself.

“Last time I talked to him, he was coming in sometime in the afternoon. I’m supposed to wait for his call.”

“Is he calling your cell phone?” Brooke twisted off the cap on the bottle and downed a swallow.

“Yeah, if he remembers it.” Peter looked at his soft drink for a few seconds, then asked, “He seems kind of…different here lately. Have you noticed it?”

“No more different than he normally was. I don’t know. You’re around him more than I am.”

“Forget that I said anything. It’s probably just me.”

Brooke shrugged. She was not really interested in talking about her former band mate. “Peter, this house is massive for one person. You could stay here. In fact, why don’t you stay here? I wouldn’t mind if you did.”

A little shocked by the offer, Peter didn’t quite know what to say.

“I wouldn’t have offered if I thought it was a bad idea.” Brooke took another long draw on her beer. “You’re not the same person you were three years ago and neither am I.”

“You…you’ve got something up your sleeve. What is it, Brooke?” Peter demanded to know.

“Nothing.” She held her hands up, feigning surprise. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I would think that you’d want to be alone with Sam. I mean…it being her birthday and all.”

“Hey, who said I was going to put you up in the next room? It’s a big house. You can stay in the guest room down here on the first floor.”

“Okay, I just don’t want to cramp your style.” Peter took a drink of his soda, then muttered just barely loud enough to be heard, “It’s taken you long enough to find someone.”

Blue eyes pinned him with a stare, then softened as she admitted, “Well, she’s well worth the wait.”

Peter watched the ends of her mouth turn up into a smile, then he winked and clinked her bottle with his. They both drank at the same time and let the silence settle around them before he nonchalantly asked, “So…is Sam’s cousin staying, too?”

“Uhm…Yeah. She is.” Brooke studied her friend for a moment. “Why…you interested?” Brooke smirked.

The man’s eyes darted around the room like a caged tiger paces his kingdom. “I’m…I’m curious.” He stuttered out. “Argh! Hell, yes I’m interested.”

Brooke smiled and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder, then clapped it several times for emphasis. “Don’t worry, Peter. You’ll meet her as soon as she gets here with Sam. She seems pretty nice. I talked to her yesterday morning.”

“I hope so. I think I’m tired of the road show.” Peter confided in the woman. “You’ve got the right idea Brooke.” He watched her standing there, smiling from ear to ear. “Never thought I’d hear those words come out of my mouth.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Maybe it’s time to think about settling down.”

“You and me both, Petey. Like I said before, neither one of us are the same person we used to be. Believe me, settling down sounds absolutely perfect.” Brooke smirked, “Never thought I’d hear those words come out of my mouth.”

“You’re right.” He clapped a hand on Brooke’s shoulder. “Neither one of us are the same as we were years ago.” He watched as Brooke arched an eyebrow in his direction. “Okay, so I’ve grown up. It’s time to put away the toys and really get down to living a full, rewarding life.”

“I agree.” Brooke nodded her head, then turned to look at Peter with furrowed brows. “Wait a minute…toys?”

“That’s what James and I used to call the girls, our toys.”

“Ahh…” It was dawning on the tall woman now, “…the groupies that you played with.”

Peter was blushing, ashamed now at how he had acted in the past. “I can’t see me waking up next to the likes of them for the rest of my life.”

“Stop blushing, Peter. It’s not like you were the only one who ever slept with a groupie.”

“You didn’t.” He looked her in the eye then let his gaze drop back to the bottle in his hand.

“No, I just waited until music wasn’t the center of my life before I let sex enter into the picture.”

“Maybe that’s where I’m at now.” His voice trailed off.

“When we played together, music was everything. I didn’t have time for anything or anybody else. Sam changed all that. And let me tell you,” Brooke grinned, thinking of how Sam had opened up a new world to her. “It’s a nice place to be.”

“Well Brooke, if it makes any difference at all, I’m liking what I see in you.

“I’m glad, ’cause I’m liking how it feels.”

Peter nudged Brooke’s shoulder with his hand and winked at her. “So, you want to show me where I can sleep or what?”

“Sure, I’ll even help you get your bags. You did bring clothes to change into, didn’t you?”

Peter looked down at his larger form, then back up at Brooke. “Please, it’s not Halloween yet. I don’t want to scare anybody to death and your stuff just ain’t gonna cover it.”

After getting Peter settled in, Brooke grabbed another beer and went to her small office on the second floor of the house. With Mario at her side, the tall woman sat down in her comfortable chair and turned on her computer, while the plans for the next day’s events ran through her mind. Once the monitor screen came to life, Brooke pulled up her list of things to do and quickly perused it, mentally checking off everything that was in place for Sam’s party.

“Well, Mario.” Brooke petted the furry head that now filled her lap. “Looks like everything is on schedule and ready for Sam’s surprise.” The dog looked up with its tongue hanging out as he leaned into her gentle touch. “You like that, don’t you? You’re gonna be spoiled tomorrow with all those people here, aren’t ya Boy?”

“Woof,” was Mario’s short reply.

Turning her attention back to the screen, Brooke finished her list and gave a sigh as she read the last line out loud. “Anti-Zero performance. Hmm…well two thirds of us are here and ready. I guess I’d better check in on that last missing piece.” She thought for a minute about James and could already feel her temper rising. Looking at the clock in the corner of the screen, she saw that it was almost midnight and an idea came into her head. Logging on to the Internet, she quickly sent off a variety of funny birthday cards to Sam, listing the senders as Mario, the 300, and the ‘Dessert of the Month’ Club.

“Those should have Sam laughing. What do you think Mario?” She looked down at the dog that was curled up at her side, his head rising with the sound of the blonde’s name. Hmmm…Brooke started thinking, her grin turning a little devilish in nature as one eyebrow rose. Birthdays are for wishes…maybe I should give her something to dream about. “Yeah…” she softly uttered, nodding subtly.

Closing out the windows on her computer, she hurriedly clicked into her E-mail account. Brooke pulled up Sam’s addy from her address book, then sat before the blank page, gathering her thoughts. A few minutes later, she took in a deep breath, then her fingers started dancing across the keys, pausing only for seconds here or there before continuing on. Before she knew it, she was done. With her hands in her lap, she read the message, making only one change.

She read it over one last time just to make sure that it said what was in her heart. Satisfied, Brooke blew a kiss at the screen and sent it off to the woman she loved. Then, the tall woman took in a breath and set about doing what she had put off a few minutes ago.

Flipping through her address book, she found the phone number she was looking for and quickly punched it into the cell phone that was almost always with her.

“Okay, Mario. Let’s rattle the cage a little bit and see if the animal will come out to play.” She leaned down to give the dog a pat on the head, then sat up taking on a more businesslike and aggressive positioning at the desk.

As each ring sounded off, her level of aggravation raised one more notch. Finally she heard the ringing stop and the muffled sound of the phone being clumsily answered.

The gruff, raspy voice of a man on the decline barked out a somewhat dazed, “Yeah.”

The raspy sounding voice in the background was a total opposite with its cooing words of “Hey, where are you going?”

Brooke smiled, knowing she had definitely disturbed the man’s plans for the night. “James? It’s Brooke.”

Rolling over in bed away from his companion, James focused his hazy attention on the voice from the phone. “Brooke,” he drooled, and then quickly turned his head to the woman behind him and directed her. “Hey Baby, go get me something to drink.” He watched as she got up and walked out of the room, and then only turned back to the phone. “So, finally feeling a need for my company or is this just to tuck me into bed with a story?”

“I just wanted to make sure you didn’t forget about tomorrow night.” Brooke shook her head at his ramblings.

“Tomorrow?”

“Yeah, remember…A-Z for one night? You’re supposed to be here in Virginia to pay off your little debt tomorrow.” Brooke was getting angry now.

There was a disgusted intake of air from James as the words jarred his memory. “Yeah, right. A-Z,” he snorted.

“James, what time is your plane due to land?” Brooke’s anger was evident in the harshness of her tone.

“Ah…I ah…”

“I’m waiting.”

“I’m not sure. I’ll have to get back to you when I find out.” He tried to evade her question.

“What do you mean, when you find out? Don’t you have the damn flight booked already?” Brooke’s nostrils flared as thoughts of his not showing up crossed her mind.

“Well, I figured that you could send the company jet…you know, sort of log it off as one of Sam’s flights.” He smirked, ” That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?”

“What?” Brooke looked into the phone she was holding as if that would clarify things. “What made you think I would do that? I forked out twenty grand to do your little project and you expect me to fly the company jet out to get you?”

“That’s my price. You know you just can’t get A-Z together for the asking. You want it. You pay for it. I’m a star in A-Z, even if it is defunct. But then again, you made it that way.”

“No,” Brooke’s voice rose with a vengeance, “My price for recording your shit was tomorrow night.” Steely blue eyes glared as she stared at nothing, but kept her full focus on the conversation and the man that irritated her to no end. “You know what? I’m not getting into this bullshit with you tonight. Have your ass ready bright and early tomorrow morning, Sunshine. Expect a car to pick you up and I’ll fly your sorry ass here.”

He laughed knowing the rage that she had worked herself into. “Face it Brooke, you’re nothing but Loran and Peter without me.”

“I’m not Loran,” she snapped. “Just be ready tomorrow morning.”

“I knew that you’d see it my way.” He laughed at her again and commented. “And remember Babe, tomorrow night you are Loran.”

“No, tomorrow night I’m Brooke Gordon…” she countered then added, “and James?”

“Yeah, Loran?”

Her anger was getting the best of her and she knew it. It was definitely time to end this conversation before she popped a vein or two. “Don’t even think about fucking me over with this. You really don’t want to piss me off.” She terminated the call, tossing the phone down onto the desk. Brooke got up from the chair with such a rush that Mario jumped to his feet and paced nervously, trying to stay out of her way.

“To think that I actually considered you a friend at one time. What was I thinking?”

Tuesday morning greeted Sam with several surprises in all of her mailboxes. First there were the funny greetings from her buddy Mario, her favorite car, then she nearly lost it with the well wishes from the Dessert of the Month Club. It was evident that Brooke was in a playful mood last night when she sent them. Sam smiled and tried to imagine the dark-haired woman. God, I would have loved seeing her face when she wrote these.

Sam pondered that thought for a moment then moved on to the rest of her E-mail. The next one was a rather plain card with only a simple line. “Happy Birthday.” She looked for a name, but there wasn’t any. Now that’s funny. Who would have? Sam thought about the people in her life and came up with a very short list that would even know her addy. I wonder… Her thoughts came to her immediate family but quickly died as she remembered her mother’s last words to her as she hurriedly left what had been her home. You’re dead to me. You died when you chose that lifestyle over a normal, healthy one. I’ll not have you infect your sister with your perverted notions. I’ve lost one daughter. I won’t lose another. The sound of that front door slamming still echoed in Sam’s head, even after four years. “Oh, Sarah…” Sam brought her hand to her mouth, stifling back the tears of a sister lost.

Sam closed out the card and looked at the sending addy for it when her mail list came back up on the screen. It was no help whatsoever. It simply read: Citizen , nothing more. Sighing, Sam pushed back the harsh memories and chose to accept that someone out there in Virginia had wished her happiness on this day.

Moving onto the next E-mail, the sender’s addy brought a smile to her face. “Brooke…” she mused out loud, then clicked on the icon to open it.

Subj: Happy Birthday

Date: October 29, 11:43:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time

From: Brooke Loran

To: Sam Moleson

Hey there, Sweetheart. Happy Birthday, Beautiful. I figured that you had already received a birthday greeting from the Z and our favorite boy, Mario, now it’s my turn.

Sam…words can’t even begin to express the love I feel when I look into your eyes. I thank everything that is holy everyday for bringing you into my life. I love you, Samantha and I always will. Have a happy birthday, love of my life, and I will see you soon, although, it won’t be soon enough. Forever could never be long enough to spend with you.

Happy Birthday, Beautiful. I Love You.

Yours Forever,

Brooke

Brooke’s thoughts and wishes for their future had definitely melted the blonde’s heart and brought her to tears of joy. God, how did I ever deserve this woman? She knows exactly what I need.

The day was an uneventful one on campus and soon Sam found herself just waiting for her cousin Crystal to pick her up at the dorm. Sam stood waiting by the window, watching for the familiar old green car to pull up, when C.C. entered the room on the run.

“Hey C.C., are you sure that you won’t come to dinner with us? You’ll miss meeting my cousin.”

“Nope,” the brunette threw her books on the bed and started looking for clothes in her drawers. The brunette reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope. “I think this is yours. I guess it got in my mailbox by mistake.” She handed it to Sam.

“I wonder who…” Sam looked at the flashy cursive script on it and knew immediately. “Aunt Sandy.” The blonde hastily opened it. A smile came to the young woman’s face as she read the sentimental card. Holding it up, she offered it to C.C. “I can’t believe she’s still sending things out by snail mail. That was so thoughtful of her.”

C.C. looked at it, nodding her approval. “I’d like to meet her and your cousin someday, but not tonight. Terri wants me to meet with her and the hubby for dinner. It’s not often that they’re both off together, you know.” C.C. looked up and grinned at the blonde, “I’m sorry, but I’m sure you’ll have a blast with Brooke, besides, you know how Brooke and I get when we have dinner together.”

Sam nodded in agreement. “Not to mention the added attraction of alcohol.” She idly looked out the window and thought out loud, “I wonder if she’ll toast me tonight like she did you?”

“Who, Brooke?” C.C. brushed past her on the way to the closet and whispered in Sam’s direction, “If she does, I’m sure it’ll be a nice and mushy one, just for you.”

“I’m hoping that she’d keep that one until we’re alone…later tonight.” Sam had a coy smile on her face.

“Definitely T-M-I.” C.C. shivered and looked through the closet for something to wear. “It’s bad enough that I know you two seduced each other.”

Laughing, Sam answered her. “C.C. you’re thinking right. I won’t be home tonight.”

“Speaking of which…” the brunette looked directly at Sam and leered. “Can she?”

Blonde brows knitted tightly as Sam thought, “Can she what?”

“Roll her tongue?” C.C. demonstrated it. “Come on, give.”

“Oh, that again.” Sam smiled. “That’s for me to know.” She looked back out the window and felt the daydream coming on.

Throwing the hanger down on the bed, C.C. pleaded. “You told me you’d tell me. That’s the only detail I care to know about.”

Sam turned back to her roommate and grinned. “Let’s just say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. There are lots of things we haven’t uhm…” Sam turned red from embarrassment. “…found out yet.”

“Uh huh…sure…Okay.” C.C. winked at Sam and went back to finding clothes to wear.

“What…what did I do?”

“I don’t know. You won’t tell me.” C.C. turned to the blonde and grinned evilly.

“God, C.C.” Sam hid her face in her hands. “Isn’t it enough that you know that we’re in love?”

“Yeah, that’s so nice but you know me.” C.C. surprised Sam as she pulled her hands away from her face. “Inquiring minds and all that jazz. We’re roommates. Hell…we’re practically in-laws. We’re supposed to discuss these things.”

“Excuse me?” Sam had a shocked look on her face.

“Why? Did you burp?” C.C. laughed and went back to her task of getting ready to meet her sister, Terri.

“Where exactly is that in the marriage vows? Love, honor, obey and discuss my sex life with my in-laws and her siblings?”

“It’s in there. It’s the small writing at the bottom that the priest whispers after the ceremony. You know, after you’ve already agreed to all the other stuff.”

“I’ve never heard it.” Sam gave a doubtful look at her roomie. “And I don’t think that you have either.”

“Sure. You’d be surprised at what I’ve heard at my sisters’ weddings.” C.C. laughed just thinking about it. “Like at Randi’s…”

“Huh?”

“She had the priest add a vow that would make her husband take out the garbage.”

“I bet that was well received. It figures that she’s a lawyer.”

“Yeah, and we all busted out laughing when he got her back. He added one that had Randi agree to watch football with him during the playoffs.” C.C. smiled as she thought of her sister Terri. “Terri’s was pretty interesting too.”

Sam shook her head wondering what else these sisters could get themselves into. “Okay, I’ll bite. So, what nonsense did Terri want…a daily massage?”

“Ah…No. Actually her and Rick got married at his parents’ house. It’s huge.” The brunette shook her head and laughed. “When the priest asked about the…” C.C. used her fingers to emphasis the quotation marks in the air as she said the words, “If anyone finds just cause why these two should not be joined, blah…blah…blah…blah…let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

“Yeah…I’m waiting to hear this one.” Sam turned away from the window, now engrossed in her roommate’s story.

C.C. held in a laugh as best she could, then blurted out, “The cat meowed loud and clear.”

“Are you telling me that Rick has a feline fetish?” Sam teased, as she couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought.

“No, but his parents do. They had four cats and they all started in with the meows.” C.C. grinned. “It was so hard not to laugh, the cats sounded like they were trying to carry on a conversation.”

“Argh!” Sam looked skeptical at C.C. “Why do I even encourage you?” She laughed, then countered, “You’re making this up, aren’t you?”

“Nope. Swear to God.” C.C. held her left hand up and looked to the heavens. “You can ask her next time you see Terri. Everyone including the priest completely lost it. The priest looked at the cat that started it and said, ‘I’ll take that into consideration.’ Honest, that’s what he said.”

Sam looked at C.C. and just shook her head as the woman walked over toward her.

“Well, look Sam,” the brunette embraced the smaller woman in a hug. “I need to get out of here before I’m late. You have a great time and Happy Birthday, Roomie.”

“Thanks, C.C., I will.” When the embrace ended, Sam turned back to the window and watched the parking lot below as she muttered to herself, “God, I wonder what you’d hear at Brooke’s.”

C.C. stopped dead at the door hearing her sister’s name spoken. She turned back toward Sam, an eager look on her face. “Brooke’s what…wedding?”

“I meant that figuratively. Don’t go getting excited.”

The brunette shrugged then casually replied, “Well, I guess if anybody’s going to know, it will be you. Bye Sam. Have fun tonight.” With that said, the woman was out the door, throwing her purse on her shoulder.

The blonde turned back to look out the window. She thought back on what C.C. had said and found herself daydreaming about what in Brooke’s wedding might lead to a story for years to come. Sam envisioned the tall, dark-haired woman standing there in front of a group, then watched Brooke turn and finding herself on the receiving end of a ring. Closing her eyes to make it seem more lifelike than a dream, Sam let herself be carried away to what might be in her future. Reflexively she found herself holding out her hand and imagined the ring being slipped on her delicate finger. In her mind she looked up to see love-filled, blue eyes twinkling with delight, moving closer until she was lost in them forever.

It wasn’t until she sighed out of wanting it to be true, that her mind slowly started to surface back to the real world of college, dorm rooms, parking lots and ringing phones. Coming out of the haze that her mind had left her in, Sam thought she heard her cell phone going off. Turning to look over at her purse, she saw the tiny blinking light as each warbling ring sounded.

“Oh, jeez.” Sam moved quickly to answer the phone. “Hello?”

In a very melodic voice, Brooke was singing out her greeting. “Happy Birthday… my baby…happy birthday to you.”

The tones brought an immediate smile to the young woman’s face. “Brooke, I should have known it would be you. In fact, I was just thinking about you.”

“Oh, yeah?” Brooke asked.

“Hmm…Nothing but nice thoughts Babe, trust me.”

“I do. Happy birthday, Gorgeous.” Brooke drawled out. “You miss me?”

“Don’t I always? Yes, I miss you.” Sam sat down on her bed, wishing that her tall lover where there to wrap her in those strong arms. She shivered just thinking about it.

“I miss you, too.” There was silence on both ends as each longed to be in the presence of the other. Then finally Brooke ended the silence. “Is Crystal picking you up soon?”

Sam looked at her watch. “Yeah, in fact, she should be here any minute now.” Sam got up from the bed and went over to the window, looking down at the parking lot.

“Good, because it’s been a long day without you, Sam.”

“A long two days,” the blonde stressed. “Or did you lose track of time?”

“No, I haven’t.” Brooke smiled thinking of the last time she had seen Sam. “But at least I got to see you yesterday morning when I drove you back to the dorm.”

“You know, that was the second nicest part of my day.”

“What…the drive back?”

“Yeah, the first was waking up in your arms.”

The words came clearly across the wireless connection, bringing a smile to Brooke’s face. “That was nice, wasn’t it? I can be so cute when I want to be.” She teased.

“You’re cute all the time, Brooke Gordon. You just don’t let other people see it.”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see if you still say that after tonight.” Brooke tried not to give away her surprise.

“Hmm…that has ominous undertones to it.” Sam laughed; delighted that Brooke would think of ways to tease her.

“You’ll just have to wait and see now, won’t you?”

Sam thought for a moment about how Brooke was acting. “I think you’ve got something up your sleeve.”

“Me?” Brooke said with surprise. “What could I possibly surprise you with?”

“Brooke, you’re not going to do anything at the restaurant to embarrass me, are you? God, I just hate when they come out of the kitchen singing those stupid birthday songs and clapping like lunatics.”

“No Honey, I swear not to embarrass you at the restaurant…” the woman paused before she added silently in her mind…Because, we’re not going to a restaurant at all. Brooke grinned knowing all too well what she had in store for later. “So, you won’t have to worry about any embarrassing kitchen staff. I promise, Darlin’.”

“And no one making a scene about my birthday, right?” Sam was making sure Brooke understood her.

“Now, who would make a scene?” Brooke tried not to chuckle but lost the battle. “Besides, you know I can’t speak for Peter.”

“Hmmph!” The blonde let the air escape her lungs in a disgusted rush. “Knowing you, Peter, and Crystal…who wouldn’t?”

Brooke’s laughter filled the air. “You’ll love it, Baby. I promise.” The woman’s voice became less playful as she ended the conversation. “I’d better go so I can get to this meeting. If I don’t, there’s no telling what time I’ll get to leave.”

“Okay,” Sam was sorry their time was over. “But just remember, you’re meeting me alone later. And I do mean much later. Love you.”

“Oh…just you and me, huh? You promise?”

“Well, that’s all I want in my bed…don’t you?

Your bed…Hmm…I like that. “Nothing sounds better. Okay, Darlin’, happy birthday and I’ll see you soon. I love you, Sam.”

That brought a huge smile to Sam’s face. “Good, now hurry up and get done. I love you. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Sam pulled the phone from her ear and stared at it. The sound of knocking broke her spell and the young woman got up and crossed to the door.

‘Hey there, Birthday Girl. Let me in.” Crystal’s voice was full of energy.

The young blonde opened the door after hearing her cousin’s voice. “Crystal?” She looked to the window in the tiny room, then back to the woman standing at the door. “How did I…I just…it was only a minute or two.” She looked at the phone still in her hand.

“What?” The woman dressed in casual clothing peeked into the room, then back at Sam.

“Crystal, how did you sneak in on me? I was watching the parking lot.”

“I parked at the wrong building and got confused so I just walked over.”

“Oh well, let me grab my coat and bag and we’re out of here.” Sam stepped back to retrieve her belongings.

“Okay, but I’m going to use your potty first. That’s a damn long drive.”

“Yeah, and another one to the restaurant. Brooke’s meeting us there.” Sam looked down at the phone still in her hand and smiled. I just got off the line with her.”

“Oh, yeah? How is she?” Crystal entered the room.

“Busy, she was just heading into a meeting when we hung up.”

Crystal pointed toward the door on her right, “Oh, so I take it this door is the bathroom? Not like I have much to choose from in this tiny room.” The eager woman looked around.

“Well, if it’s not a clothes closet then it’s a water closet.” Sam laughed at the expression on her cousin’s face. “Go on, I want to get to the restaurant first and surprise her when she comes in.”

“Okay, smarty.” Crystal looked at the doors and chose the one on the left. Pleased that she had picked the right one, the woman looked back at Sam. “Be right out.”

Within minutes, Crystal emerged from the room. “Okay, we ready to go?”

Sam gathered up her bag and purse after putting on her coat, pausing to look at the sparsely decorated wall. Brooke was obviously on her mind. “God, I love that woman,” she muttered under her breath.

“You know, Sam…I must say that I’m impressed.” Crystal pointed at the wall. “Only one picture of Loran and it’s not even that massive collage you had hanging at our house.”

“Huh…what, Crystal?” Sam came back to the present.

“Yeah, only one. Just as a reminder.” Sam felt the blush creeping up her neck. “Brooke kind of takes up the rest of my thoughts. I don’t really need any photos for that. She’s kind of ‘up close and personal,’ if you know what I mean.”

“And she doesn’t get jealous over another woman hanging on your wall?

“Why would she? Brooke knows that she’s the one that I love.”

“That is so sickeningly sweet.” Crystal grimaced like she’d just bitten into a pure sugar pie, then shook the look away as she reached into her purse and took out the car keys. “You ready?”

“Yeah.” Sam smiled. “Wait until you meet Brooke in person. She can be so sweet. You’ll die of sugar overload. Come on,” Sam moved toward the door. “Let’s get a move on. I can feel a craving coming on.”

Crystal watched Sam walk out the door. “Hmm…This I have got to see.”

Both time and miles were passing rather quickly as the two women caught up on the happenings in their lives. Sam had almost forgotten how much fun she’d had growing up with her cousin until they slipped right back into the easy banter that they’d always had.

“Hey, Crystal.” Sam glanced down at her watch. “You don’t have to speed. We’re ahead of Brooke by at least fifteen or twenty minutes already.”

“Ah…Sorry, I guess I’m just still on an adrenaline rush from work.” The driver monitored her speed and started to slow down. “After all, we do want to get there in one piece now, don’t we?”

Sam nodded her head. “Yeah, I think a certain tall friend of mine would be…” The sound of her cell phone disturbed her train of thought as it warbled on. Taking it out of her coat pocket, Sam looked at the number that was displayed and smiled. “Yeah…” the young woman laughed. “Where are you at, Babe?”

Brooke’s voice sounded hurried as she rushed to get out the words. “I’m sorry, Darlin’. I’m just now getting to the house. How far out are you?”

The blonde looked around for a familiar landmark, and then answered. “We’re just passing the grocery store. Why?”

“Make the turn and just come to the house, Sam. I’m sorry Babe, but I still need to shower and I’d hate for you two to be sitting in a restaurant waiting on me and Peter to get there.”

“Well, I guess it is dumb to take both cars now. I mean…since we are going right past you.” Sam watched the road ahead. “Up there, Crystal. That’s where you’ll need to make a right, then follow that down for about two miles or so.” She turned her attention back to the phone. “See you in a few then.”

“Okay, I love you.”

“Love you, too. Now get dressed…er showered…whatever…” Sam laughed and shook her head. “You’ve got me all befuddled just thinking about you.” Sam glanced over to her cousin, daring her to comment.

Brooke let go with a sexy little laugh. “Wait until tonight when it’s just the two of us.”

The young woman rolled her eyes, bringing her hand to her face, trying to stave off the growing blush that was taking over her fair skin. “You are a wicked woman but I still love you.”

“You’re blushing, aren’t you?” Brooke teased. “I love you. I’ll see you soon.”

“As if you didn’t know. Love you, too. Bye Brooke.” Sam turned off the phone and smiled, too embarrassed to look over at the driver.

Crystal stole a glance at her cousin and laughed as she muttered under her breath, “Ah…to be in love.”

After hanging up with Sam, Brooke paused for a moment to savor the time that she had just shared with the woman she loved. She could feel the smile widen across her face and knew that she had made a wise choice in coming upstairs to her office to make the call. Here, she had been able to speak without anyone listening in on her conversation. Leaving her thoughts of Sam’s voice and the small office behind, she moved swiftly down to the lower floor of the house where the rest of the family and guests were waiting. Rounding the corner of the hall and turning into the living room, she made her announcement.

“Okay, they’ll be here in about ten minutes.” She looked over toward the entranceway at the man leaning against the wall. “Peter, can you answer the door when they get here?” Brooke looked to her family. “The rest of you will hide out in the dining room and kitchen, okay?”

“Cool…I can do that.” Peter nodded vigorously, trying not to show his nervousness.

“I’m supposed to be in the shower…” Brooke raised her arm and sniffed. “Whew! As a matter of fact, I’d better go take one now. I don’t want Sam to get too suspicious right away.”

“Do I get to help?” Peter wanted to know.

“What? Help me shower?” Brooke raised an eyebrow in his direction. “No way, Dude.”

“Ah…” Peter sighed. “Same ol’ Brooke. Never wants to share with a friend.” He tried keeping a poker face but it was a losing battle.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Save water and shower with a friend.” Brooke crossed the room to the door and made sure it was unlocked. Then she leaned to whisper in Peter’s ear. “Dude, you’re not that friend.” She winked at him, smiled, and then started to walk back to the stairway leading to the second floor.

“Hey, I’ll do my part for the ecology,” he yelled after her teasingly. “I’ll suffer through it, just for you, Brooke.”

Brooke rolled her eyes at Peter’s teasing and made her way past the kitchen, stopping briefly to check on things with her mother. “Mom, is dinner just about ready?” She asked from the doorway.

“Yes, Dear. You go…get ready now. I’ll handle the kitchen.”

“Okay, thanks Mom.” Brooke turned to address the rest of the people who were now milling about the hall and dining room area. “Well, everyone, make yourselves at home but only back here. We don’t want to let the surprise slip out before its time.” Brooke smiled at C.C. then winked and hurried off to get ready for Sam.

The eldest Gordon daughter stood in the hall where she was able to watch Brooke as she orchestrated the events to come. Randi’s analytical mind was having a hard time putting all this together. She moved her position to the doorway of the kitchen as Brooke ascended the spiral staircase to the second floor and she watched the thirty-year old almost run up the stairs.

Mable sensed that something was troubling her daughter and took it upon herself to find out what. “Randi, come give me a hand will you?” She beckoned the woman with a wave as she turned toward the kitchen.

“Ah, sure Mom.” Randi went to her mother’s side.

“So, what’s up?”

“What do you mean, Mom?” The woman took the spoon that was offered to her and began stirring the contents of the pot cooking on the stove.

“I’ve seen you eyeing your sister. What’s on your mind?” Mabel busied herself with putting trays of appetizers into the oven.

“It just seems a little odd. That’s all.”

“Odd? What’s odd?” Mable turned and looked at her child. “Is it odd that Brooke wants everything to go smoothly for her sister’s friend?”

“No.” Randi shook her head. “Brooke is the one going through so much trouble to do this. That’s just it Mom, Sam is C.C.’s roommate, not Brooke’s.”

“Maybe you forgot how it was to be away from family on an important birthday. Maybe Brooke remembers, huh?”

Randi stopped stirring the contents of the pot. “Mom, don’t get me wrong. I like the kid.” She bit her lip, and then stirred the pot a time or two before continuing. “I don’t know. Maybe you’re right.”

“Can’t you cut your sister a little slack here? She’s happy. What more could you want?”

“Happy?” The lawyer ran that concept through her head. “Of course I want her to be happy. But what do happy and Sam have to do with each other?”

Mable stopped abruptly, thinking about what her daughter had just said and bit at her lip.

“Mo-o-oth-er-r-r?” Randi drew the word out as a dark eyebrow rose high on her forehead.

“I was just thinking of how close Brooke and C.C. have always been.” Mable resumed her work putting more appetizers onto the pans for the oven.

“Uh-huh…Go on.”

The matriarch tried to downplay her thoughts. “Well, Sam’s just that same age. It seems to work well for your sister.”

“That,” Randi used the large spoon in her hand to make her point as she banged it against the pot, “has nothing to do with the words ‘happy’ and ‘Sam’ being placed in the same sentence, when it concerns Brooke.”

Shrugging innocently, Mable offered, “Maybe she sees something in Sam that she likes…or…” The woman trailed off.

“Or?” Randi demanded an answer.

“Randi, you know that Brooke has always been different.”

“Mom, you’re making absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

“Just watch her tonight and see if you don’t agree that she’s happy. Okay?”

The younger, frustrated woman threw her arms up in exasperation. “If you say so, Mom. I just wanted to know how it concerns Sam. That’s all.” Randi turned back to the pot of food and stirred it a little more vigorously than before. “Oh, I’ll be watching alright. I’m obviously being left out of something here.”

Mable turned and smiled at her daughter, then gave her a stern look. “You’ve got a long way to go when it comes to being a mother, Randi.”

The beat-up green jalopy pulled up the driveway, stopping in front of the huge house. The driver craned her neck to take in the entire building but was having a tough time of it through the windshield.

Sam unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the door. “Come on, Crystal. You can see it up close and personal-like if you get out of the car. If she didn’t leave the door open, I know the access code to get in.”

“You’re sure this is the right place?” Crystal climbed out of the driver’s side hesitantly as she looked all around.

“Yeah, I’m sure. I told you that I’ve been spending the weekends here.” Sam rounded the car and pulled her cousin toward the house. Looking up she saw Peter come running out of the house and heading straight for them.

“Hey, Petey. Long time no see. How are you…umph” she was picked up and swung around by the exuberant man, “…doing?”

“Happy Birthday, Toots!” He laughed as he gave her a final turn and set her down next to her cousin. “Much better now, thanks.” He pointed to his cheek. “Come on, give me a kiss right there.”

“Surely.” Sam waited for him to bend at the knees to be able to reach his check and gave him a quick kiss then stepped back, grabbing onto Crystal by her hand. “This, Petey, is my cousin, Crystal.” Sam turned slightly, continuing the introduction. “Crystal, this is Petey. Ah…you know him better as Peter.”

The man bowed his head at the introduction. “Hello, Crystal. It’s so very nice to meet you.” Peter produced two roses from out of his back pocket and offered one to each of the women.

Sam watched as Crystal became pale and started to stutter. “You…you…Sam,” she turned to her cousin. “You didn’t tell me that we’d be meeting someone.”

Peter looked on with some concern, even offering Crystal his hand. “Are you going to be okay? I won’t bite. I promise…I mean…I haven’t bitten Sam yet,” he winked at the small blonde.

Finally Crystal mumbled some words. “God, I think I’m gonna faint.” The woman grew increasingly paler and did just that. She fainted.

Brooke’s ex-band mate stepped in, catching Crystal before she could do any additional injury to her condition before hitting the ground. He held her and looked over to Sam. “What do you think, Toots? I’d say that meeting went well.”

Sam sighed. “I was afraid of that happening. I’m glad it was here and not at some restaurant.”

“Well, let’s get her inside. Brooke’s in the shower, she’ll be down any minute.” Peter scooped the woman up in his arms and carried her inside, laying her down gently on the couch. “Watch her,” he directed Sam. “I’ll be right back.”

Sam shook her head in disbelief. Sitting down on the arm of the couch, she started fanning her cousin and patting her hand. “You’re in for some real surprises tonight, Crystal,” she muttered under her breath. “Tell me you’re not going to faint for each one.”

“How is she?” Peter came back into the room carrying a glass of water and took a seat on the couch by Crystal, watching her as she slowly came to. “Crystal?”

“You’d better not let her see you right away.”

Sam watched as her cousin opened her eyes to see her idol sitting next to her and watched as Crystal’s eyes rolled back and she fainted again.

“I’m sorry, Sam.” Peter got up and walked over to the other side of the room. “I didn’t mean to.”

“I told you she would.” Sam turned her attention back to her relative.

The guilty looking man gazed down at his feet, then back up at the women on the couch. “I’ll just go check on Brooke.”

Sam got up and went over to him. “Don’t feel bad, Petey. She’s just been dreaming about meeting you for years. Just give her a minute to have it all sink in. Okay?”

Peter nodded, then walked out of the room looking a little dejected but no worse for the wear as he trudged up the stairs toward Brooke’s bedroom. Reaching the door he called out to the woman inside. “Hey, you about ready in there?”

“Yeah, just about. Come on in,” Brooke answered him.

“You sure?” Peter opened the door and poked his head in, keeping his eyes tightly closed.

“I’m dressed, you fool. Come on.” She watched as he opened the door wider and stepped inside. Seeing his somber mood, she commented on it. “Why you looking so glum, chum?”

“Why didn’t you warn me that she’s a fainter? One look at me and she passed out in the driveway.”

“I’ve never seen Sam faint. Why would I know something like that?” She turned back to the mirror and ran the comb through her hair.

“You mean to tell me that Sam didn’t faint like her cousin Crystal when you told her who you were?”

Brooke looked at Peter’s reflection in the mirror. “No, actually, she chewed me a new asshole. She thought that I was impersonating myself to get her attention.”

The man found his eyes concentrating on Brooke’s butt. “I hope that was meant only figuratively.” He chuckled.

“Smart Ass,” she snapped at him, then went back to finishing her outfit off with a leather belt.

That brought a smile back to Peter’s face as he polished his nails on his shirt and then looked at them saying, “I’ve still got it. So, when are we yelling ‘surprise’ here? You know that I’m not good at keeping secrets.”

“Pretty soon. In fact, as soon as I see Sam and take her into the back of the house.” She turned and grabbed the shirt on the bed, pulling it over one arm. “Come on, let’s go see if your girl woke up.”

“My girl? He looked confused, then said it again. “My girl…now that has a ring to it.”

Brooke walked to the door then stopped in front of Peter. “So, how do I look?”

He tilted his head from side to side as he looked her over. “Like someone I once knew.” He laughed and patted her on the shoulder.

“Well, it’s for one night and only the way that I’m dressed,” Brooke stepped out into the hall before she added, “and only for her.”

Peter laughed. “Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll enjoy it a little too. God, it will be good to play together again.”

“I’m looking forward to playing with you, Petey.” She started down the hall.

“You know it.” He clapped her on the shoulder. “Let’s go have some fun.”

Sam watched as Crystal slowly came to and started to get up into a sitting position on the couch. She could feel the presence of someone as warm breath touched her ear.

“Is it safe to come in?” Brooke whispered as she stood behind the blonde.

Sam turned around and smiled at the woman she’d longed to see all day. “Always, for you.”

Brooke stole a glance over her shoulder, then held her arms open, inviting Sam into a warm embrace. “Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.”

“Thanks, Brooke.” Sam’s voice was soft as she closed in for a kiss, hugging her like mad.

“I love you, Sam.” Brooke whispered in her ear, so no one else could hear her. After giving her a kiss, the tall woman picked her up, hugging her once more.

“Brooke.” Sam scolded her. “Crystal’s here.” She watched as Brooke playfully wiggled her eyebrows, then set her down. Sam pulled her around the side of the couch and stood in front of her cousin. “Crystal, this big Amazon here is Brooke Gordon. Brooke, this is my cousin, Crystal.” Sam made the introductions.

The tall woman extended her hand to Crystal. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry that my friend scared you earlier.”

Crystal pushed her hair back from her face. “Well, it’s not everyday that you meet someone that you’ve dreamed of.” She looked over at the timid looking man in the doorway. “Come on, I think the initial shock is over.” Crystal blushed when Peter pointed to himself. “I’m sorry.”

“Awe…don’t worry about it.” Peter shyly walked in and crouched down in front of Crystal, then hesitated before smiling into her face.

“I’m okay now, Peter…ah…Petey…I’m not sure what to call you.”

“Brooke normally calls me Shithead so, I don’t think it could get any worse.”

The confused woman looked first at Peter, then Brooke, then Sam, not sure of what to think.”

“Yeah, keep it up Shithead and it will,” Brooke cautioned him.

Peter made a face at her then turned back to Crystal, handing her the rose from earlier. “Here, I believe you dropped this outside.”

“Brooke…” Sam nudged her off to the side. “Isn’t that cute.”

“Hmmm…?” Brooke looked back at Peter, then agreed. “Yeah, I think he’s trying to be a new man. He’s finally growing up.”

Sam watched Crystal’s reaction as she took the rose from the man. “I think it’s working. Why don’t we give them some privacy?” She motioned to the front door.

The dark-haired woman nodded. “Okay, maybe we could use some too.”

“Now that, I could like.” Sam led the way out onto the front doorstep.

“What’s that?”

“Private time with you…even in those very retro clothes.” Sam commented on Brooke’s outfit.

“Hey, I found it in the closet earlier.” Brooke tugged at her outfit. “I happen to know that I was wearing this outfit in that one photograph that you still have on your wall.”

“So, that’s why it looks so familiar. And I thought it was from rooting around in your closet for something to wear.” Sam laughed.

“You don’t like leather?”

“I didn’t say that. Not at all.” She reached around and hugged the woman. “I love it, Babe.”

“Come on,” Brooke pulled back from the hug after giving Sam a brief kiss. “What do you say we go get those two and do something about dinner?”

Nodding her head, Sam agreed. “That might be a good idea. That leather is just too intriguing.” The blonde ran her hand over the leather pants and wiggled her eyebrows seductively. She looked into Brooke’s eyes, noticing a lone arched eyebrow and began to blush. “You know what I mean.”

“Uh-huh. I do.” She turned the blonde around and scooted her inside. “Hey, Petey, you ready for dinner?”

“Yeah,” he turned toward her as he stood up holding his hand out for Crystal to take. “Hey, you’re not forgetting to get the dog in, are you?”

“Oh, yeah,” Brooke feigned forgetfulness. “Sam can you let him in through the patio door? He’s in the side yard.”

“Why don’t we all just head out that way? It’s going to save us some time.” Sam pointed out.

“Okay,” Brooke looked back to Peter and motioned with her head. “Let’s go.”

Peter helped Crystal up from the couch and they followed Sam’s lead as she made her way toward the back end of the house.

“Ah…Listen. He knows I’m here.” Sam could hear the whimpers of the dog and quickened her steps to get to Mario. “Where’s my buddy?” She turned the corner and the sound of people yelling startled her.

“SURPRISE!”

The blonde stopped short and gasped for air. “What? Who? C.C., Brooke.” She called out not knowing which one to blame as the group was singing a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. Too embarrassed, Sam shook her head and hid her face in her hands, sneaking an occasional look at Brooke as she surveyed the room.

Brooke watched as Sam reacted to the surprise, pleased that she was able to pull it off.

Sam turned and whispered, “You did say ‘not at the restaurant’, didn’t you?”

The tall woman leaned into her and whispered back, “Yep…I love you.”

Sam got a very pleased look on her face as the song was coming to an end. This has to be the best birthday of all. “Crystal, did you know about this?”

“Not me.” Crystal shook her head looking innocent.

Amid the cheers and well wishes at the end of the song, C.C. walked over to Sam. “Happy Birthday there, Ms. twenty-one year old roomie.”

Sam reached out and hugged her friend. “God, C.C., I love you. You’re the best roomie a girl could want.”

C.C. whispered in her ear, “Yeah, what are in-laws for, right?” She stole a glance at Brooke, then amended her words, “Well, almost. Happy Birthday, Sam.” She moved back from the blonde but continued talking. “Come on. Mom made dinner and Dad made dessert.”

“Thanks, everyone. I never expected all of this.” Sam looked around the room with tears in her eyes, overwhelmed by the outpouring of love she was witnessing. “I really feel like I’m at home here with you guys. Thanks.”

Mable walked over to Sam and gave her a hug. “You are home, Dear. Happy Birthday.”

Sam tightened her grip on the woman, then released it saying, “Thanks, for everything.” The blonde glanced at Brooke then back to Mable. “I feel very at home here and it’s all because of you.”

“You’re welcome, Sweetheart.” She smiled and moved back toward the kitchen.

Brooke stood by the door watching her mother and Sam, smiling the whole time as she waited for Sam to make her way over to her.

“Now I know where you get that endearment from.”

“Which one…Sweetheart?”

“Yep, that’s the one.” Sam nodded her head, not seeing Mable come out of the kitchen, pausing momentarily as she walked by.

“She gets that one from me and the ‘Darlin’ from Henry.” Mable commented as she passed by.

“Well, I like them both and she uses them equally as well.” Sam called after her.

“Okay, everyone. The buffet line starts in the kitchen so don’t be shy.” After this announcement, Mable turned and took her place behind her husband in the line for food.

Brooke stayed still watching the crowd shift to the other room and grabbed Sam’s arm before she could follow them.

“Yes?” Sam gave her a puzzled look.

“Surprised?”

Sam looked around to see if anyone was looking at them, then got up on her toes and stole a kiss from the tall woman. “Very surprised.”

Brooke chuckled at her antics. “You ain’t seen anything yet.” She winked at the blonde, “Come on, let’s eat.”

Blonde brows furrowed for a second or two, and then Sam grinned boldly. “Guess I’m just going to have to wait and see what comes next, huh?”

The tall woman let her one eyebrow arch in challenge to the younger woman. “Guess so.”

With the dinner done and the dishes of leftover food just about all put away, Henry ventured over to Brooke and put a glass of beer in her hand. “You’re up, kid.” He winked and motioned in toast fashion with his own glass of suds.

Brooke started to protest as she accepted the glass.

“Let’s go, Brooke. We don’t have all night.” He teased her.

“Ah…you know how I hate to be put on the spot… but I seem to be doing these quite a lot.”

C.C. overheard Brooke’s protest and eagerly sought to help her sister out. “Hey, I’m twenty-one now. You want me to give it?” She jumped up ready to start, but was quickly pushed back down by Randi and Terri.

Brooke took a few steps to the center of the room and nodded in C.C.’s direction. “A sharp tongue this one has for someone who’s too big for her britches…But then again, so do the rest of you…uhm…ladies.”

“There you go, C.C. That will teach you,” Terri interjected.

“Teach her what, Terri?” Randi commented, “You know she’s hopeless.”

Brooke cleared her throat in an effort to regain control. “Excuse me. I’m trying to do my toast.”

Terri looked over at Randi and made a face causing the lawyer to roll her eyes as she sipped from her drink.

“God, no wonder you’re a pediatrician. You get down on their level, don’t you?” Randi threw her comment out just as Brooke was about to start again.

Mable glared at her daughters, then urged Brooke on. “Please continue.”

“The newest addition is no longer a child… But a twenty-one year old woman gone wild.” She winked at Sam and then continued. “I’m glad we could share with her this monumental day and welcome her, from our hearts, to stay. In such a short time she’s come to mean quite a bit…”

“Hey, Sam. You going somewhere that we don’t know about?” Terri asked.

“Ah…no. I don’t think so.”

“Hell we’ve got to keep her. Look at who she rooms with.” Randi yelled out as she heckled her youngest sister, pointing at her.

“Hey, I’m a good roomie. Just ask her. Right, Sam?”

The blonde shrugged her shoulders and nodded, never taking her eyes off of Brooke as she walked over to Sam and presented her with a single red rose.

“A rose by another name could never be as sweet, as her name on the wind, sure to make some lucky heart beat.”

Sam took the rose and found that at the same time, she was also holding her breath, waiting to hear the rest. A shy smile came to her face knowing that it was Brooke’s own heart that she was talking about.

Seeing the reaction on Sam’s face pleased Brooke to no end and she smiled warmly as she motioned to the rest of the family and she started back up with her toast. “Please accept this night as just a small token… Of our friendship, our love and deepest devotion.” She hesitated when she saw the tear roll down Sam’s cheek, but forced herself to continue on. “May your twenty-first birthday be more memorable than all the rest.”

Brooke reached out and wiped the tear from Sam’s cheek with her thumb and then smiled. “As I’m sure patience will be put to the test, of how much you can stand and how much you can take, of this birthday pastry C.C. attempted to bake.”

Sam giggled and glanced over to her roommate just in time to see the angered woman shoot the finger at Brooke as she muttered under her breath. “You wait, Brooke. I’ll remember this.”

Laughing it off, Brooke turned back to Sam and continued, “All kidding aside, we all mean well and hopefully after tonight you can tell…”

Sam looked around the room, then centered her full attention back on Brooke.

“How deeply you’ve affected the lives in this room. We’d steal the sunrise or lasso the moon to keep you smiling and keep you here to stay.” Brooke could see that Sam was trying to restrain herself from showing all the emotions that she was feeling. The fact that she was biting at her lip and sitting on her hands only confirmed her lover’s desire to be doing something else with them and she found herself getting a little warm at the thought. “Welcome to the family and Happy Birthday.” Whew! I made it.

Sam reluctantly tore her eyes off Brooke and took in the rest of the room. “You guys are the greatest. I…I don’t know what else to say but thank you.” She turned back to Brooke who was standing in front of her. “And especially you, for that wonderful toast.” The blonde wiped the tears away from her cheeks using both hands as she felt the warmth of a blush start up her neck.

The tall woman shook her head and waved off Sam’s words, “Ehh…It was nothing.” She held out her arms and embraced the small woman. “Happy Birthday, Kiddo.” Then she quietly whispered in her ear, “I love you, so much.”

“Hell, Brooke.” C.C. spoke up. “Aren’t you going to finish it? Jeez, if I want to drink I’d better do it myself.”

“Yeah, C.C. go ahead. You can finish it by adding your own for a change,” Terri egged her on.

C.C. stood up boldly with the glass of beer in her hand and proclaimed, “Sam Addams for life and Molson forever!”

Brooke turned from Sam to see the boisterous woman, not realizing that she still had her arm around the blonde’s shoulder. “C.C. that’s wrong. It’s Sam Addams forever but Molson for life.”

The brunette stopped in mid drink and thought for a moment. “Yeah, I knew that,” she assured her sister before letting out a loud hiccup that surprised her as well as everyone else. “I stand corrected by my older sister.” C.C. laughed and downed her beer after first lifting it in Sam’s direction.

The family all laughed and followed suit, downing the toast in their hands while Brooke whispered in Sam’s ear again, “Happy Birthday, Sam.”

The blonde took in a deep breath and closed her eyes, wanting to savor the moment. “Thanks, Brooke,” she said softly. “That was the best present yet.

“You’re welcome.” Brooke winked at her. “And just wait, there’s quite a bit more.”

“MORE?” Sam asked, astounded at what she already knew about. “What could you possibly do that would top this? Tell me.”

“You’ve only gotten the small stuff,” Brooke gave her a little squeeze, then winked at Peter and motioned with her head. “Mom, should I tell her?” Brooke let her arm slide down from around Sam’s shoulders.

“I don’t know…” Mable looked at her daughter then at the blonde. “You think she’ll like it?”

“I damn sure hope so.” Brooke had never given that a thought.

Mable shooed her daughter off, “You go do what you have to…I’ll get her there.”

“Don’t worry, Sam. Mom and Crystal will help you, right Crystal?”

“Hey, whatever I can do. Come on Sam, it’s got to be fun with these guys all around.” Crystal egged her cousin on.

Brooke reached into her half-opened shirt and produced a blindfold. Holding it up, she smiled and motioned with her finger for Sam to turn around. “Trust me, Sam. It’s only to ensure the surprise until the right moment.

“Oh…” she looked at Brooke, then her mother. “Okay, you know that I trust you.” Sam turned around and allowed the blindfold to be put in place.

“Can you see anything?” Brooke asked as she turned her around and waved her hand in front of Sam’s face. Waiting a few seconds, she leaned into the blonde and fiddled with the knot.

“Nope, nothing.” Sam advised her after twisting her head around trying to see out. Then, while Brooke was still close she whispered, “But I can still smell.” She sniffed the air and smiled, “And you smell delicious.”

“Later, Darlin’,” Brooke whispered back as she moved away. “Okay, everyone. You know where to go.”

“I know…I know.” Sam muttered under her breath as Crystal and Mabel both took her by an arm.

Brooke walked out toward the patio as she removed her outer shirt. Coming up behind the woman in a cut-off shirt missing the sleeves and half of the body, Crystal had a clear shot of Brooke’s lower back. As Brooke raised her arms to put her long hair into a ponytail, the tattoo came into view. Drums blazing with fire and the words written above it started Crystal thinking.

Grabbing the pair of drumsticks in one hand and the sunglasses in the other from the table next to the door, Brooke turned around to see the honored guest following behind. “You okay, Sam?”

Crystal watched as Sam nodded, then turned her gaze to the woman at the door. Now it came to her. “SweetMaryJesusandJoseph!” Her eyes opened wide and her mouth dropped open.

Sam sensed her cousin’s shock. “Crystal…am I going to like this?”

“Uh…um…”

Mable stepped in to ease Sam’s trepidation. “You’re going to love it, Dear.”

“Now you’re scaring me,” Sam took in a breath, not knowing what to expect as she heard the sound of a guitar. “Petey, is that you? Tell me that you’re going to sing Happy Birthday to me now.”

“Sure, I’ll sing to you, Toots. But not that song.” He looked around at his two band members, then settled on Brooke as she sat down behind the kit and got comfortable.

Sam was startled by the new set of hands on her shoulders as someone leaned in and talked to her.

“Well, they’re going to sing something, that’s for sure.” C.C. nudged her roommate. “And it’s just for you.”

“God, not one of your drinking songs, C.C. Have pity on your mother.” Sam laughed knowing how rowdy her friend could get.

“Not likely,” C.C. said and walked away.

The next thing Sam knew, she heard Brooke’s voice loudly count off the beat to four and the area was filled with the sounds of ‘Inside Your Head’. Mable pulled the blindfold off and stood back giving Sam a front row view of the group of musicians.

Squinting to adjust her eyes to the light, Sam started to recognize the song and before she knew it, the band had come into view.

“OhMyGod!” She turned and yanked on her cousin’s arm. “Crystal…do you see…see who that is?” Tears were forming in the young woman’s eyes as a smile grew in intensity across her face. She knew how much Brooke despised being Loran and now, here she was, taking on that role, just to give Sam the one thing that she’d ever dreamed of…seeing Anti-Zero live in concert. The blonde was filled with such love for the woman that she thought her small body would bust from holding it in.

“Uh…Sam?”

The blonde stood smiling, her gaze directed at only one musician, Loran. “What, Crys?”

“Loran…Your Brooke is Loran?”

“Yeah,” a huge smile came to Sam’s face. “Isn’t she great?”

“But…she…I mean…isn’t she…” Crystal stuttered, unable to put her thoughts into words.

Just then Brooke placed her sunglasses on top of her head and winked at Sam as they ended one song and moved into another.

Sam nodded along with the beat of the music. “Yeah, and don’t say it here. No one else but C.C. and her mom knows.”

“Knows what?” Crystal asked.

Leaning in to keep the secret safe, Sam whispered. “Knows that Brooke and I are…ah…”

“OH!” Crystal’s eyes grew bigger as she got the message. “Seeing one another? But I thought that Loran was…” She searched for a better way to put it but couldn’t. “…uhm…ah…slut?” Crystal looked at Brooke and then back to Sam. “She didn’t seem that way at all now when I just met her.”

“Loran, yes. Well, that’s what they wanted us to think. They did a good job with rumors and stories about her exploits.” Sam looked up to Brooke and returned a wink to the woman. “Brooke. She’s just like me.” Sam nudged Crystal as she centered her eyes on her favorite drummer and smiled.

The group was really warmed up, now that they were several songs into their gig, when Sam heard the opening strains of her favorite song, Anti-Zero. Immediately her head started bobbing with the music and soon her body was dancing shamelessly, as if no one was watching. She couldn’t help herself when that song came on and she knew not to fight it.

Sam danced her way over to Brooke’s mother. “I don’t know how she did it…but God, you’ve got to love her for it.” She turned just in time to see the drummer move her mic closer to her mouth and knew that Brooke would be singing her heart out soon.

Mable viewed the young woman with pride. “Actually, Dear, that would be your job.”

“Oh, I will Mom, don’t worry about that,” Sam assured her.

They shared a look, and then the matriarch hugged Sam. “So, are you any better with that toast of hers now, or is it still bothering you?”

“I’m still wondering if that was a fluke or did she really know of my coming. If that’s what you mean.”

“What do you mean, Sam?” Mable noticed that her dancing had slowed down some and motioned for her to move away from the others. “I think we need to talk, Sam. Do you mind?”

The blonde looked back to the dark-haired drummer and nodded. “Yeah, I’d like that.” She stopped her dancing now altogether and followed the older woman back toward the house. “Before you say anything Mom, I did the math. I was still in my mother’s womb when she was at camp that year.”

The matriarch laughed. “You know, Brooke had turned her nose up at the mere mention of alcohol until that summer. It seemed like everything changed then.”

“I’m being foolish, aren’t I?” Sam looked down to her feet. “It’s just a little spooky. Don’t you think?”

“Not at all, Dear,” Mable put her arm around Sam and pulled her into a hug. “Not really. She was so funny as a child.”

“Funny?” The blonde looked up, waiting to hear the story. “How?”

“I remember Brooke came home on Valentine’s Day from school that year…” Mable let her mind go back to that day. “She was nine then and had never really been one to make up things. That was when she invented her own little imaginary friend, or at least that’s what Henry and I thought.”

“Hmm…I think we all do at times,” Sam offered remembering her own childhood.

“Well, it didn’t last long. Valentine’s Day was the first we ever heard of her and then, poof…” Mable exaggerated the word, throwing her arm up and then continued. “She wasn’t there anymore.”

“I wonder why?” Sam turned to look back at Brooke as she played, well into her music.

Mable joined her and slowly told the rest of her story. “Don’t know. Brooke had been planning for weeks what to wear for trick or treating that year. I remember I asked her when she came home from school that Halloween afternoon if she needed a costume for her friend…” the woman paused and turned pale.

“Yeah? You can’t stop there,” Sam urged her on.

“She said that Mas wasn’t there anymore, so she didn’t need one. As sudden as her imaginary friend had shown up, she was gone.”

“That’s even more spooky, Mom. My birthday is the day before Halloween.”

Mable looked Sam in the eye and just smiled. “Maybe she knew something back then.”

“What did she call her?” The blonde’s gaze was intent.

“Mas…that was her imaginary friend’s name. Well, at least that was what Brooke called her.”

“No…” The color in Sam’s face drained, leaving her pale. “That’s not possible. Is it?”

“What, Sam?” Mable searched the young woman’s face for an answer.

“That’s Sam spelled backwards.”

Both women slowly turned to look up at Brooke. Each one trying to fathom the possibility of it all. With nothing more to say on the subject, Mable hugged Sam and kissed her on the forehead, then walked away from the young woman in search of Henry.

Sam wandered through the guests as she slowly made her way back up to where Crystal was standing. “Hey, Crystal…are you glad that you came?” The blonde tried to lose her pensive mood.

“You betcha,” She smiled at her cousin. “But you are a devil for keeping that from me.” Crystal motioned to Brooke and smiled as the music ended.

They both turned to look at the small stage as Peter started to talk.

“You know, it has to be Halloween time. I remember Brooke saying that Hell would freeze over before all of us played together again.” He grinned and looked to his two band mates.

Sam closed her eyes and knew just how much Brooke loved her to do something like this. Pulled back to reality by the sound of her name, Sam immediately looked up at Peter.

“Not only that, but we actually have a couple of new tunes for the birthday girl, penned by our illustrious drummer, Brooke…” he turned around and glanced at her, “…Gordon.”

God, she wrote songs just for me? A bigger smile crossed Sam’s face as she stood in awe of the woman. Now that’s the woman I really love.

The music started and within seconds, Sam recognized it. The song was the one that Brooke had written after their fight. As Peter sang the words, Sam found herself biting at her lip, holding back a tear for what the song was really about.

“Never again, Brooke. No more secrets between us.” Sam whispered as she became lost in the drummer. Before she realized it, the song was over and Peter was setting up the next one.

“Thank you.” He acknowledged the applause. “Now this next one is my personal favorite. Another new tune, this is Unbroken.” He turned to catch a quick glance at Brooke, then looked back out to the audience. “It’s so like Brooke to write a song about a hammer hitting her balls.”

Everyone laughed, that is, except Brooke’s father who just cringed, then shook his head.

Leaning into her microphone to be heard, Brooke voiced her reply. “Keep it up, Petey and something will hit yours.” She grinned, raising one eyebrow in challenge while twirling the drumstick in her fingers.

The man looked out into the audience. “Hopefully, it will.”

C.C. looked over to Crystal and yelled, “You go, girl!” She raised her hand in the air and made a whooping noise.

Obviously embarrassed Crystal hid her face in Sam’s shoulder. “If I’m gonna die, Lord take me now.”

Sam patted her cousin’s head and laughed. “Don’t worry, C.C.’s harmless.”

The music started once again and Sam found that even though it was a new one, it sounded so familiar to her. “The shower song.” Green eyes lit up with delight. She saw the question on Crystal’s face and elaborated for her. “That’s the song that Brooke’s been humming in the shower. I know that melody.” Sam stopped and listened to the words.

“Cause when the hammer falls and it hits my balls it’s cool…cause I’m Unbroken…”

“I can see how close that song comes to actually describing Brooke. It’s her song alright.” Sam smiled as Brooke pointed her drumstick at her just as the next phrase started.

“Give me the chance to prove to you, that you’re Unbroken, too.”

Sam nodded slightly knowing that Brooke would see it. All the time, she never noticed that James had caught it also. He’d been keeping his eye on her and not saying much of anything.

Soon the birthday girl found her name being called out once again.

“Sam…” Brooke leaned into her microphone. “Could you come up here for a moment. Please?” The drummer watched as Sam turned red from embarrassment but complied. Once she made her way there, Brooke stood up and pulled Sam in front of her.

“What are you doing?” Sam whispered.

“You’ll see.” Brooke sat as far back as she could on her stool, then pulled Sam down to sit in front of her.

“In front of everyone?” Sam’s nervousness was evident as she turned a deeper shade of red, then winked at Peter, throwing her head back into Brooke.

Brooke spoke softly. “Yep, this way I can touch you without anyone knowing.” The tall woman smiled and settled against Sam.

“Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” The blonde eagerly wrapped her arms around Brooke’s and stretched to place her feet on top of the woman’s much larger ones. “Okay, ready to go.”

Brooke gave Peter a nod and they went into the next song. The drummer kept her eyes open to watch Sam as they played out the percussion of the song. The two women were lost in a private world of their own making as they moved together to keep the beat.

Sam concentrated on the movement of the sticks as she stole glances over her shoulder at the woman behind her.

“Having fun?” Brooke whispered in her ear during a break in the song.

“You better believe it.”

When the song ended, Sam rose slowly, thanking Brooke for the experience and went back into the crowd to watch the rest of the show.

James watched closely at the look that was on Brooke’s face. He’d never seen her like that…all nice and loving. He turned back to his amp tower, took the bottle of beer in his hand and guzzled it down.

Off to the corner of the patio Randi sat taking in the cozy scene of her sister and Sam. She’d watched them throughout the night exchanging glances and winks. The protector button was pushed as the oldest sibling assumed her role. The lawyer took another drink from her glass, then muttered under her breath. “Smitten by the love bug, are you little sister? Well, I’ll just make sure that is all that bites you.” Randi’s gaze followed Sam as she left Brooke’s side and went back into the group of guests.

When it finally came time for a break, Brooke didn’t hang with her band, but instead sought out Sam. The tall woman watched her from a distance, then slowly sauntered up to where the two cousins were standing.

“Having fun, Sweetheart?” Brooke drawled out.

Sam turned to see the tall drummer standing by her. Teasing the woman, the blonde shook her head a time or two then quickly changed it to a nod. “Yes, I’m having a wonderful time. Thank you so much, Brooke.”

“You’re welcome.” Brooke reached out and gave her a hug with an arm around her shoulder. “Happy Birthday.”

“I never expected this when you asked me what I wanted for my birthday.” Sam turned her face to Brooke’s ear. “God, I love you.”

Brooke grinned, feeling the butterflies in her stomach coming to life. “I love you.” The woman looked down to the ground then back into Sam’s green eyes. “Do you have any idea at all just how bad I want to kiss you right now?”

The young woman blushed slightly as she admitted her own need. “About as bad as I do.”

With too many people around for her to take action, Brooke drew Sam’s cousin into the conversation. “How are you doing, Crystal? Are you having a good time?”

Distracted by watching Peter, Crystal hurriedly turned to Brooke. “Uhm…did you say something?”

“You having a good time?” Brooke asked again, a knowing smile showing itself on her face.

“Yeah, the best time of my life.” Crystal’s gaze didn’t leave Peter’s image for more than a few seconds before returning to it.

“Glad to hear it. Would you mind if I borrowed your cousin for a moment?”

“Ah…no, go right ahead,” she turned back to view Peter. “I’m busy here anyway. Is Peter…ah…no forget it.”

“Is Peter, what? Single? Interested?” Brooke raised an eyebrow, pausing for a moment, then continued. “Interested in you, perhaps?” The drummer winked at Sam.

Crystal dropped her head as if she had been sentenced to death. One eye raised and she slowly turned to look at Brooke. “You read all that in two words?”

“Yep! And just in case you want to know the answers they’re yes, yes and hell, yes.”

Sam poked the tall woman in the side as she talked to her cousin. “You should see what she can do with no words at all.”

Brooke wiggled her eyebrows as she took a drink of her beer.

“I think I’ll pass on that one, Sam. Her hands may be good but sometimes you just have to have a little more to play with.” Crystal turned to look for the bass player. “Now Peter on the other hand…”

Caught off guard by Crystal, a fine golden spray of beer shot out of Brooke’s mouth. The drummer swiped the back of her hand across her mouth to get the excess moisture off of her lips, as a startled look came to her face.

Surprised by Brooke’s actions, Crystal asked, “What did I say?”

“Nothing, nothing at all.” Brooke whistled loud in the air and waved her hand for the man to see. “Hey, Petey. Someone needs to talk to you.” She watched as he acknowledged her call and walked away from James, toward them.

Taking Sam’s hand in her own, Brooke winked at Crystal. “Have fun.” Then started to walk away.

Noticing that she was now standing alone, Crystal turned from watching Peter walking toward her to the two women walking away from her. “Hey… where are you two going? You’re not going to leave me here alone…with…” she turned to see Peter only a step or two away. “Oh, hi Petey.”

Moving through the guests as quickly as they could without causing a scene, Brooke pulled Sam around the side of the house and into the deep shadows of the bushes.

“Hmm…My mother always told me to watch out for drummers that pulled me into bushes.” Sam tilted her head for a better view of Brooke’s face. “Should I be worried about you?”

Brooke spun her around and backed her up against the side of the house, pinning her there with her own body. “Only if you’re worried about me kissing you.” The drummer leaned in and kissed the blonde on her neck.

“Not in the least.” Sam giggled at the featherweight touch. “Kiss away.”

They stared into each other’s eyes, speaking volumes where words could not. Slowly they came together, thoroughly kissing each other until they were almost breathless. When they couldn’t hold out on air another second, they parted, gasping for the sustenance of life.

“Promise me…” Brooke started but hesitated.

“To what…” Sam searched the blue eyes for her answer, “…to love you always?”

“Yes…and to kiss me like that for the rest of my life.”

“Hmm…maybe even better with some practice. Do you think you can pry yourself away from those drums some time?”

“For you…anytime.”

“Speaking of time…” Sam looked up at the darkening sky. “You know the longer you play, the less time we have to ourselves.”

“I know. There’s not too much more. Just a few more songs and…” Brooke leaned in to the blonde. “You…” she growled playfully, “are mine.” The drummer nipped at Sam’s ear.

Sam shivered as a chill ran down her back. “Now that really gives me something to look forward to.”

“MMMmm…” Brooke purred. “Come on, let’s get back before we’re missed.”

“And why would we be missed…Hmm…?” Sam teased. “Other than that I’m the birthday girl and you’re the drummer? Let them wait another minute.” Sam pulled the tall woman down into a kiss that told her exactly what she thought of the drummer.

“And to think that I was just going to ask you what you planned on doing with me now that you’ve got me.”

Sam laughed and slowly pushed on Brooke’s chest to move her away.

“If you’d like for me to survive the remaining time with everyone here, I’d watch those hands.” Brooke cautioned her lover.

“Gee, and I thought it would make you play faster,” Sam teased.

“Oh, it’ll make me play faster, Sam. Just not the drums.” Dark eyebrows wiggled as she laughed.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that…not right now at least.” The blonde smiled coyly. “Come on, we’d better get back.”

Brooke gave Sam a quick kiss on the cheek, and then took the blonde’s hand, leading her out of the shadows and over to the corner of the house. As they made the turn and started down the path, they could see Peter walking rather briskly toward them.

Looking up from the path, Peter saw the person he was looking for. “Ah…there you are.”

“Are we ready to go back on?” Brooke pulled Sam’s arm up into the light and looked at her watch. “I thought we were taking a twenty minute break.”

“Brooke, can I talk to you before we do?” The man seemed very intent on getting his wish.

Thinking that it might be personal, Sam took the hint when blue eyes glanced over to her. “I’ll head on back to the gang,” she spoke softly to Brooke.

As she passed the bass player, she gave him the homage that he was due. “Nice job, Petey. Thanks for the gift.”

“See you soon, Sweetheart.” Brooke watched the blonde smile and nod in her direction, then waited for her to leave before turning to Peter. “So, what’s up?”

“Ah…” Peter looked down to the ground then brought his eyes up to meet Brooke’s. “I just wanted to tell you that James might not last too much longer tonight.” The man looked away for a moment, then started to speak again. “I…I told him that I’m leaving the group…as soon as he finds someone to replace me.”

Brooke’s blue eyes narrowed as she gazed at the man. “What do you mean by you’re leaving? Peter, when did you decide on that?”

“Just now, while we played together.” He gulped, and then rubbed his hands together nervously. “I think I’m growing up, Brooke. I looked at you and Sam. I want that. I want what you two have.”

The tall woman ran a hand through her hair and let out a long breath. “I take it that he had a shit fit?”

“He’s too shit faced to do that yet. But it will sink in sooner or later.”

Brooke looked down to the group of people gathered on her patio and a smile came to her face as her eyes fell on Sam. “You know Peter, I won’t let you have her.”

“What? Who?” He turned to follow Brooke’s stare. “Oh, Sam…God no.” Peter smirked at the insinuation. “I’m kind of taken with Crystal. Well, at least I think I am.”

“So, I’ve noticed. She seems to be pretty taken with you, too.” Brooke put her arm around his shoulder. “Just take it a day at a time.”

Peter looked back to the crowd to find the woman they were talking about. When he did, a smile came to his face. “God, I hope so,” he sighed.

“Hell, Petey, you don’t even live in this state any more.”

“That can change. A lot of things can change.” He thought for a moment, then shook his head. “James…he ain’t ever going to change.”

“So, what are you going to do about him? Hell, what are you going to do about playing?”

Peter shook his head in disgust. “Do the best I can and find someone to take my place.”

“No, I mean for you, not him.”

The man shrugged. “Don’t know yet, but I’m open to suggestions, as long as they include one New Age Crystal.” Peter smiled as the blush brought color to his face. He paused for a few seconds, not being used to this new feeling. “Damn it, Brooke. If this is love…I think I’m feeling it for the first time.”

“Really? You just met her ah…six hours ago?”

Both musicians looked back to the crowd and sought out the women in their lives. Without realizing it, they both nodded their heads in unison.

“Six hours…six years…six days…I’m there…hook, line, and sinker.” Peter thought out loud.

Brooke stared at Sam, seeing the woman of her dreams, and she had to agree. “I hear ya brother, loud and clear.”

Only a few people still remained when it came time to pack up the equipment at the end of the night. C.C. and Mable were clearing glasses off the patio while Randi and Henry were seeing the last of the guests out the door. Sam chose to help the band, certain that it would keep her close to Brooke.

James straightened up after putting his guitar away in the travel case. “Well, Brooke,” he grabbed his bottle of beer and drained it. “Are you happy with your little charade into the past?”

Brooke’s head shot up from the task she was doing and turned in his direction. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Was it good enough to get you what you wanted?”

“What in the hell are you talking about, James?” Brooke put her mic and stand down.

James’ face took on a cocky disposition as he looked over at Sam and smiled lecherously. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot, play the saint, Brooke.”

The drummer walked over to him and stared down into his eyes, using her height to her advantage. “I don’t play the saint.” Her gaze was colder than an iceberg. “And just for your information, my relationship with Sam is none of your business.”

“I’m not scared of you.” He lost his balance and used a hand on his amp to steady himself. “You took away my future before and I survived.”

“I’m not trying to scare you, but I’m not intimidated by your bullshit either.”

“What’s the matter, Brooke? Wasn’t that enough…now you have to turn Peter against me?”

“I didn’t take anything away from you.” She clenched her fists and took in a deep breath, trying to calm herself. “You managed that all by your pitiful, pathetic self. You did that all on your own.”

James took another swig from his beer bottle, then wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand. “It was always about you, wasn’t it, Brooke? Never what we wanted.”

“You’re deranged, James. Why don’t you go sleep it off somewhere? Anywhere but here.” Brooke shook her head pathetically, then turned her back to him and started to walk away.

The irate man reached out and grabbed her shoulder, attempting to turn her around. “Just like that last night as Anti-Zero. You turn your back on me when I wanted more.”

“It was exactly what you wanted that made me turn my back.” Brooke let the words seethe out of her mouth with all the anger she could muster and still not go ballistic. “Now get you’re fuckin’ hands off me.”

“Sorry, I forgot. You don’t play with boys, you just want to be one.” He stood there and laughed.

Brooke’s eyes turned to a steely shade of blue. “Remove your hand or I’ll remove it for you,” she commanded.

James’ eyes quickly found Sam and he leered at her. “Don’t worry Baby, if she can’t do it for you, just let me know. I’ll take care of you.”

He puckered his lips to blow a kiss but never got that far as Brooke’s temper flared, causing her to lunge for his neck. Their loud voices had already started to draw people back to the patio.

“You sonofabitch!” Brooke growled as she moved fast in his direction, trying to wring his neck.

James stumbled backward, trying to stay clear of her fury. “Well, at least I’ll get one good tumble out of you now.”

“You stay the hell away from me and Sam. You really don’t want to piss me off anymore, James.” The enraged woman was trying not to kill the bastard.

“Brooke…” Sam came up behind the angered woman and with her small hands around the muscular arms of the drummer, tried to hold her back. “Not here. Not now. Think of your family.”

The woman’s tone was sharp and cutting. “I am, and he’s not part of it. You are.”

“I never was a part of it…of you…was I?” James looked her straight in the eye, challenging her to say differently.

“You were my best friend. You were more a part of me than anyone. Damn it, James. We grew up together. We’ve known each other since we were four years old.” She leveled a cold, clear glare at him. “You were the one that screwed that all up with that shit you pulled the night I left.” She brought her fist down with a vengeance onto the small table next to where she stood, causing it to rock from side to side. “I will never forgive you or trust you ever again after that.”

“We grew up together, but into separate worlds.” James raised his hands and feigned pushing her and the others away. “I’m out of here. You can tell Peter that he doesn’t have to pick between us. I know that he already has. You won,” he snarled. “You always win, Brooke.”

“No, he wanted out.” Brooke corrected him. “He won.” Brooke turned to walk away, muttering under her breath, “That’s because you’re such a loser.”

“Yeah,” James yelled back, trying to hurt her. “Whatever, Loran.”

Quickly turning, Brooke lunged for James again. The prudent actions of Sam only slowed her down enough to barely miss him as he started walking away.

“Hey, James,” she yelled.

“What?” James yelled back as he turned, snarling at her.

“Come anywhere near her and you’ll regret the day you ever met me.” Brooke’s angry stare was as much a part of her threat as was her words.

The man smirked and cockily replied, “We all do what we have to do. It was nice seeing you again.” He gave a little wave, then smiled sweetly at her, letting his waving hand turn into an obscene gesture.

“Fuck You!” Her voice was filled with rage.

“Oh, Happy Birthday, Sam.” James winked and blew her a kiss.

The emotions ran through Brooke like water over a dam. Between her anger, rage, and her need to protect Sam, she took off after him without any thought to her own safety.

She rounded the house, gaining on him with her long strides. Just as Brooke was ready to latch onto him, she found her body starting to slow down. The weight on her arms, like anchors to a ship. First one, then the other and with only the smallest amount of space left between them, James slipped by.

“Damn it! Let me go.” Brooke thrashed, swaying C.C. from side to side until Sam finally caught up to them, coming to her roommate’s aid. The two young women held on tight to the raging drummer, letting her pull them along until she gave up any idea of advancing further.

“Why…” C.C. tried to reason with her sister, “so you can do something that Randi will have to work on? Brooke, he isn’t worth it,” the sibling appealed to her sister.

The two roommates watched Brooke as they tried to figure out her next move. They were both a little surprised when she gave up, just hanging her head with her eyes tightly closed. The slumping of her shoulders was the clinching act of defeat.

“Hey, what’s all the commotion out here?” Peter’s voice came from the front door.

The dark-haired woman raised her head and looked to Sam, seeing the concern in her eyes. “Nothing, Petey. It’s over.” She turned to face the front door. “Go back inside.” Brooke turned back to Sam, the guilt of the ruined evening weighing heavily on her mind. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin your birthday.”

Still a little out of breath, Sam took in a few deep ones as she tried to calm the beleaguered woman down. “Let it go, Brooke. It was a great day. Let’s not let him end it on a wrong note.” The blonde placed her hand on Brooke’s back and rubbed soothing circles on it.

Randi came to the door and watched the interaction of her sister and Sam, then shook her head in a motherly kind of way. “Maybe you kids will grow up one day and not squabble. But then again, hell could freeze over, too.”

Brooke looked over at the woman in the doorway and rolled her eyes. “Randi, please give it a rest. You have no idea.”

“Sorry Brooke, but I think you said that already about this band. Now maybe you’ll see it’s true.” Randi took a deep breath in. “I really don’t care what you do. Just don’t let me see your name as a defendant…”

“Yeah, yeah…” Brooke waved her hand in the air as she looked away from her sister. “Okay.”

“I’d really hate to have to send my own sister up the river,” Randi warned.

Trying to think of something to caution her older sister with, C.C. could only think of one thing. “Yeah, and remember…no conjugal visits…”

“Bite me, Smart Ass.” Brooke snapped out under her breath, keeping it from Randi’s ears.

Sam’s eyes grew bigger as she listened to the sisters’ bantering.

“Bare it, and I will,” was C.C.’s final retort.

The low key lighting of the first floor and the absence of noise from the chattering guests of earlier were all hints that the surprise party was over. The glittering shine of the bright lights of the concert were now replaced by the soft twinkle of stars overhead as Sam stood on the deck, waiting for Mario to come in from the yard.

Brooke stood at the door, not trying at all to hide the look of love on her face for the small blonde who was lovingly greeting Mario as he made his way onto the deck. She wiped the towel through her hair once more as she watched them walk toward the door.

“Did he behave for you?” Brooke asked as she opened the door to let them in.”

Sam let her hand graze over Mario’s head. “Mario?” The dog looked up to her, then she winked, “We have an understanding, don’t we boy?”

“An agreement…really?” Brooke looked from Sam to the dog.

“Arf!” Mario barked and wagged his tail, looking up at his tall mistress who couldn’t help but smile.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, it’s kind of like we both know that we each love you, but in our own separate ways.” Sam smiled at Brooke. “He has you during the day, and I have you at night. Well…” she thought for a moment, “at least when I’m here.”

Brooke looked down at the dog with a raised eyebrow. “Well, I hope he doesn’t love me like that,” she teased Sam.

The blonde shook her head vigorously. “No, silly. Only I can do that.” Sam sidled up to the tall woman, wrapping her arm around Brooke’s waist and leaning her head on the woman’s shoulder.

“Hey, Brooke, you won’t mind if Crystal and I raid your fridge, do you?” Peter stuck his head in the doorway of the kitchen. “Oops, didn’t mean to interrupt anything there, Ladies.” He winked at Brooke.

Brooke wrapped her arms around Sam and smiled. “Raid the fridge? No, go right ahead. And Peter, you weren’t disturbing us.”

“Hehehe…” the man chuckled. “Yeah.” His eyes twinkled and he looked back out toward the hall, then back at Brooke, “I think we might be staying up and talking for a while, and you know how I get when I talk.” He shrugged, and then stepped into the room completely.

Reaching out, Brooke patted his stomach. “Yeah, you have done quite a bit of talking over the years haven’t you?” She teased him, then turned to wink at Sam.

Giving a scornful look to his ex-band mate, he addressed Sam, letting a smile tug at his lips. “Happy Birthday, Toots.” Peter leaned down and gave her a kiss on the cheek, then whispered in Sam’s ear. “Thanks for introducing us. I think she likes me.”

Playfully, Brooke leaned toward Peter. “I think she does, too.” The subtle motion of her head aimed in Sam’s direction.

Peter backed away from the women and waved as he headed back into the living room. “Don’t worry about us, okay?”

The tall woman assured him, “Don’t worry, we won’t.” Brooke gave a little wave as he turned, leaving them alone.

Brooke held out her arms and waited for Sam’s return, letting the small woman nestle in against her. They stood like that for a few moments before the blonde nuzzled into Brooke’s neck.

“Thanks for everything, Brooke.” Sam spoke softly. “You really made my twenty-first birthday special.” Sam smiled into Brooke’s chest. “You know, in a way, tonight with seeing Anti-Zero in concert…it was like putting an end to my childhood and bridging the gap into my new life as an adult.” The young woman brought her hand up to rest on Brooke’s shoulder.

The dark-haired woman was warmed by the sentiment and kissed the blonde head just under her chin.

“You wouldn’t know anyone willing to guide me on that journey, would you?” Sam closed her eyes tightly, waiting for the answer she knew would be coming.

“Hmmm…” Brooke inhaled deeply, “You know, I think I might.” She grinned when she felt Sam’s body relax against her.

“I hope it’s someone that I can get along with…someone who…” Sam looked up, seeing the well-formed lips descending to her own and got caught up in the kiss.

When it was over, Sam savored the taste of those luscious lips on hers. “Mmm…That just answered all my questions.”

“Good, now come on,” Brooke wiggled her eyebrows, “I hear that there’s a bed upstairs in a room that has a great view of the sunrise. Do you think you might be interested in sharing that with me?”

“Sounds like a perfect way to start this new year,” Sam purred, “of life…” then she trailed off, “and love.”

“Oh yeah? I can think of a better way,” Brooke’s blue eyes twinkled, knowing all too well, that they would indeed be awake to see the sun rise.
Ch14 To Be Away From You
“…It beats me up to be away from you… And it beats me up how much I love you… ”
The golden haired woman sat staring out the classroom window. Arriving early for her next class, Sam had more than enough time to daydream about the tall, dark-haired drummer that pounded out the beat of her life. The young woman soon found herself immersed into the new rhythm that her life was moving toward. God, Brooke, Sam sighed. If it weren’t for your work and my classes right now, I’d be in your embrace. The young woman’s thoughts turned to more intimate details of her lover, but they quickly went by the way with the rather loud entrance of another student.

“Oh, sorry.” The nerdish-looking young man sat down, his books sliding out of his arms and onto the floor with a thud. “Sorry,” he cringed and held a nervous finger up to his lips as he mocked a “Shhhh” from his mouth.

Sam watched as he first arranged his books underneath his seat, then turned his attention to the computer screen in front of him. Deftly his fingers flicked a button here and there and then danced over the keyboard, bringing the high tech equipment to life. “Hmm…” the blonde mused out loud. Now that gives me an idea. If I can’t be with her…who’s to stop me from communicating with her? Sam looked around at the sparsely occupied classroom. Well, at least until the Prof comes in. The woman giggled to herself and quickly brought her own computer terminal in front of her to life. Within seconds, she was in the college’s Internet site and sending out an instant message to the woman she loved.

Sam Moleson: Hey, Hon…I miss you.

She waited patiently, hoping that Brooke would be in her office and not in some meeting, away from her terminal. Okay, I’ll give her a few minutes to answer me back and then…but before she could finish her thought, Brooke’s response chimed back.

Brooke Loran: Miss you too, Darlin’

The noise startled Sam and she quickly adjusted the sound on her terminal to almost non-existent, then she read the message.

Brooke Loran: It’s a good thing that I love you. bg

Now, reading that brought a smile to Sam’s face as she thought she could almost hear the words being whispered into her ear. The woman shivered as a tingling sensation ran down her spine. She paused only long enough to regain control of her fingers, then answered.

Sam Moleson: Best thing of all. I love you too. 😉

Brooke Loran: g I love it when you say that.

Sam Moleson: I know. I figured you would. It makes me feel the same way when you say it to me.

Brooke Loran: Really?

The blonde’s eyes grew wide after reading that and she wondered how such an accomplished woman could be so unsure as to how she was affecting another person.

Sam Moleson: ? Why wouldn’t it?

Brooke Loran: Just asking…g I Love You, Sam.

Sam Moleson: Well, rest assured, I love you, Brooke. And ah…thanks, for making me feel so good, Hon.

Brooke Loran: Why wouldn’t I? You’re everything to me. You should know that by now.

Sam Moleson: Oh, I do. Believe me, I do. I just never thought that it would have happened this way or this soon…to me at least.

Brooke Loran: Happen what way, Darlin’ ?

Sam Moleson: Why, falling in love with my new roomie’s sister and having my dreams come true, silly.

Brooke Loran: Believe me, I never thought I’d ever fall in love with my sister’s roommate. C.C. tried a couple of years ago to set me up with someone. The girl was PSYCHO!

Sam Moleson: And I’m not? (Wiggling eyebrows and looking crazed.)

Brooke Loran: Not at all. g You know, Sam, I hate computers. bg Can’t you get out of class early? I’ll leave the office to come get you. You know it is Friday afternoon. bg

Sam Moleson: Thanks, for the vote of confidence. I guess I’ll have to work on that crazed look more often. Miss me…do you?

Brooke Loran: Like crazy! You’re Prof isn’t bitching about you being on the computer?

Sam Moleson: Nope, class didn’t start yet…and ah…Brooke. What time could you pick me up? If you were to leave now?

Brooke Loran: If I were to leave now? 45 minutes.

Sam Moleson: Hmm…Well, make it an hour and I’ll skip out of my last class. That is, if you promise me a good work out this weekend. It is my gym class, you know. LOL

Brooke Loran: Work out? (Heheheh) I think I could arrange something. bg

Sam Moleson: I thought so. See you at the dorm, you task master.

Brooke Loran: g See you in an hour. Love you!

Sam Moleson: I love you too…and Brooke…get here in one piece. I want all of you, tonight.

Brooke Loran: Just tonight?

Sam Moleson: Well that is the start of the next ten thousand years, isn’t it?

Brooke Loran: Yes, it is. See you soon, Sweetheart.

Sam Moleson: I’m counting on it.

The blonde’s mind froze with the sound of a briefcase being put down not too softly on the big metal desk in the front of the room. Green eyes glanced up from the computer screen to see the rather wrinkled face of her instructor as he ruffled through a pile of papers that he pulled out of his case. Sam knew that her respite from the everyday world was over, at least for the next hour, and quickly signed off before the lecture started.

Sam Moleson: Oops, Prof is here, I gotta go. Love you. Bye.

Brooke Loran: Love you.

The young woman disengaged her instant mailbox from the screen and waved a little mental good-bye to her lover. See you soon, Love. Sam touched the monitor lovingly, and then turned her attention to the class on ‘Computers in Everyday Business’.

Dashing out of the class as soon as the time was up, Sam made her way across campus and back to her dorm. When she was just a few short feet away from the building, her cell phone chirped out its happy beep. Immediately the blonde looked around the parking lot as she grabbed her phone, opening it quickly, and speaking into it. “Can’t even wait to get here, can you Brooke?” Sam teased as she turned and looked for the 300 and its tall, dark-haired driver.

“Sam?” The puzzled voice asked.

“Oh…ah…Auntie?” Sam’s golden brow furrowed at the voice that she knew definitely wasn’t Brooke’s.

“Yes, Sam. How are you Sweetheart?” The older woman’s voice had a lilt about it.

“Okay, why?” Sam laughed, recognizing her Aunt Sandy’s voice for sure. “You checking up on me now that I’m finally twenty-one?”

“No, Samantha, I’m not checking on you, Sweetie,” Sandy assured her niece. “I hadn’t heard from you in a few days and I just wondered how you were doing. Your cousin is absolutely useless in providing information right now.”

Sam kept a smile in check as she entered the building. “I didn’t mean it that way, Aunt Sandy. I just didn’t expect to hear from you right now. How is Crystal?”

“She’s out with that young man she met at your friend’s house.”

“Peter?” Sam asked, knowing that it was unlikely to be anybody else. “I thought that they’d like each other.”

“Yes,” Sandy was rather cheerful. “He seems like a nice, young man. He even made a special effort to make sure that I knew he was a friend of your Brooke’s.”

Her Aunt’s words caught Sam off guard. My Brooke’s. The young woman smiled as she stopped dead in her tracks and just stood there. “Ah…” she fought to contain her joy. “He is, and a very nice person, too. At least from what I’ve seen and what Brooke has told me.”

“Well, I’m glad. So, how are you and your friend doing?” Aunt Sandy acted like it was an everyday question that she was asking Sam.

“Funny you should ask. I…ah…I thought it was her on the line when you called. She’s picking me up for the weekend any minute now.” Sam felt the blush start to crawl up her neck as she talked.

“Oh, really? I was hoping that you could come and stay here tomorrow night.” Sandy sounded disappointed. “I have a surprise for you…for your birthday.”

“What kind of surprise, Aunt Sandy?” Sam’s voice sounded eager as she gripped the phone tightly to her, moving forward into the common room of the dorm. “You didn’t do something foolish for my birthday, did you? No weekend retreats to the spa or ski trips,” she teased her aunt.

“Pshaw…No,” Sandy laughed. “But it’s a wonderful surprise. Shall I tell you now?” She teased. “That way you’ll know why you’ll be missing your friend.”

“Now, what would make me miss my friend?” Sam thought for a moment, then verbalized it. “There’s only one thing that I can think of that would do that.”

“Samantha,” her aunt sing-songed out, “I talked your mother into letting your sister spend the night tomorrow, if I agree to drive her back on Sunday.”

“What?” Sam spun around and leaned against the nearest thing she could find to keep from falling. “Sarah’s going to be out of their protection?”

“Yes, Dear. She’ll be here in the morning. Crystal offered to drive out and pick you up.”

“They don’t know that I’m going to see her, do they?” Sam’s tone was somber.

“No! Sam, they don’t. They know you don’t have a car and that your dorm is two hours away.” Sandy paused for a moment, then continued. “Please don’t be upset with me, Samantha. I wanted to do something nice for you in honor of your birthday, since I missed your little party the other night.”

Sam’s heart ached for the closeness that she and her sister used to have. They had been more than just sisters. They had been best friends. The decision was hard, but she knew that the chance might never happen again, for a long time. “I was going to be at Brooke’s this weekend, Aunt Sandy. I’m sure that Brooke will understand. She’s close with her youngest sister. When will Crystal pick me up?”

“You could always bring Brooke with you. I’d love to meet her sometime.”

The urge to do just that started to take hold in Sam’s mind, then she thought about meeting her sister for the first time in four years. Fearing what Sarah’s reaction might be, Sam answered, “No, I’m not sure that would be the best time to spring Brooke on Sarah. I’d rather get a feel for what she’s thinking, first.”

Saddened by the reality of the matter, but delighted that her plan would be put into action, Sandy smiled. “Crystal said that she’d pick you up in the morning, right after her shift is done.”

The young blonde quickly reviewed her schedule for the weekend’s activities. “Oh, damn!”

“What’s wrong, Samantha?”

“I’m invited to dinner Sunday night at the Gordon’s. Can Crystal get me back for that?”

Searching her memory for a reason why not, Sandy finally answered, “I don’t think it would be a problem…”

“I’ll tell Brooke.” Sam had made her mind up. “Just have Crystal give me a call on my cell phone when she leaves work. That’ll give me enough time to get ready.”

“Okay, Dear,” Sandy smiled, “You have fun and I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye.”

“Thanks, Aunt Sandy. You’re the best.” Sam smiled as she thought of how supportive her aunt had been for her. “I love you. Bye.” Ending the call, she put the phone back into her pocket as she pushed off the piece of furniture that she had leaned against. Her aunt and cousin now seemed more like her family than her real ones were, always looking out for her in anyway that they could.

Sam made it as far as the elevator where she pushed the button and waited for the car to come for her. Now, how am I going to tell Brooke that I’m not going to be with her on Saturday and part of Sunday? I guess I’ll just have to think of something. God, I hope she understands. Sam patiently looked up at the displayed number locating the position of the car. “Well, at least I know that’s not her getting off on my floor.”

Done with her last class, C.C. had finally made it back to the dorm room, shut the door making sure to lock it, and then flopped down on her bed. “Sleep, I need just an hour of sleep,” she mumbled as she reached for the stray stuffed animal on her bed and curled up with it.

The sound of knocking came from the door, soft at first, then louder with each rapping routine. C.C. turned over to look at the time with one eyelid half-open. It wasn’t even ten minutes since she’d laid down and already she was being disturbed. “Okay…” she mumbled, thinking that it might be her roommate without her key, then the pounding got even louder. “Okay…alright.” C.C.’s voice was a little more forceful as she climbed off her bed and started toward the door. “Damn it Brooke,” the young woman unlocked the door and pulled it open. “I don’t know why we just don’t give you a k-ke…” C.C.’s eyes took in the view of her sister standing there, poised to knock again. “Ah…Hey, Randi.”

“Hey, baby Sis.” Randi studied C.C.’s face, seeing that she was shocked at her appearance. “Thought I’d finally stop in and see your new digs.” Randi craned her neck to see in the small opening of the door.

“Come on in. I hope you didn’t expect much.” The brunette pushed the door open for her sister to inspect the room. C.C. watched as her sister’s eyes started at one side of the room and then moved to the other, stopping short at the wall above Sam’s bed with the photo of Loran prominently displayed on it.

“So…” Randi slowly pulled her eyes off the almost life-size face of her sister. “Which one of these bunks is yours, C.C.?”

“Why?” The brunette looked cautiously at her sister. “You going to put itching powder in my sheets or something?” She watched Randi turn and give her the same look as her mother always did when she wanted to be taken seriously.

“And, why would I do that?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” C.C. looked innocent at first then became more serious as she looked her sister straight in the eye. “Maybe because you did it when I was younger…maybe?”

Randi cocked her head to one side as she shooed the younger woman away from the door so that she could enter the room. “You forget that I’m a mother too. I just like to watch out for people now.” The older woman walked in, turned around looking at both beds, then up to her sister. “Make sure you don’t disgrace the family by not making your bed.”

“How would that disgrace the family?” C.C.’s coy smile graced her face. “Speaking of disgrace, how is Brian anyway?”

Randi cleared her throat. “He’s good, actually. That’s part of the reason I stopped by. I’m meeting him for supper tonight and thought you might like to watch the kids for us.”

“Ah…you got a break in that case, huh?”

“Break?” Randi’s face went from deadly serious to one of elated. “Hell, I got them locked away tight.”

“Cool! That’s great, Randi.” C.C. was proud of her oldest sibling and it showed as she gave her a big hug. “Yeah, I’ll watch the kids. We’ll do videos or something. You lucked out, Sis. My Prof is out of town so I don’t have my class this evening.”

“Great, then we all come out winners. So, C.C. you never said,” Randi retracted from the hug. “Which one is your bunk?”

C.C. took the step toward her bunk, scooped up the stuffed animal that she’d been hugging and sat down on the bed. “This one. Why?”

“No reason, I just didn’t want to mess up anything of Sam’s.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. She doesn’t have much and I’m sure she won’t mind you being here.”

“God, you’re living Spartan-like in this tiny room. I bet you can almost hear each other think in your dreams.” Randi motioned for her sister to move down and she sat on the bed next to C.C.

C.C. smiled at the thought, “Pretty much.”

“Hear any good ones lately?” Randi leaned into C.C.’s shoulder and bumped it with her own.

“Good ones?” The young woman looked perplexed.

The lawyer rolled her eyes, “Forget it, C.C. It’s over your head.”

“Oh…dreams?” The light bulb finally came on for the brunette.

Randi smiled, wiggling her eyebrows. “Got any?”

“Mine…or Sam’s?” C.C. looked off to the side of her sister without turning toward her and grinned.

The older woman picked up a pillow from the bed and tossed it at her sister. “I know all about yours, you smart shit. How about Sam’s?”

“Why…” the younger woman looked strangely at her sister, “…you doing research on what young unattached women dream about these days?” She paused for a second, then C.C. looked off and started mumbling, “Well, if you must know…it was something about a kangaroo and a parrot eating tapioca pudding.”

The lawyer’s eyes roamed to the other side of the room as she tried to analyze what C.C. was saying. Her gaze stopped at the face of her sister, Brooke. “What the hell is that about?”

“What…” the brunette’s eyes followed the direction her sister was looking, “the photograph?” C.C. shrugged. “Sam’s an Anti-Zero fan, her and her cousin, Crystal, both. No biggie.”

“No,” she smacked C.C. on the leg, “the goddamn animals and the pudding?”

“Ouch!” The young woman rubbed her leg. “I don’t know. She mumbled something in her sleep about that.”

“Anti-Zero! That’s why Brooke did that for Sam’s birthday.” Randi’s eyes lit up as if she’d just found the missing piece of evidence in a complicated case.

“Yeah, no biggie.” C.C. leaned back on her bed. “She…ah…I asked her if she could have anything for her birthday, what would she want. She never got to see A-Z play so…” the woman shrugged, “Then I mentioned it to Brooke.”

Letting one eye squint shut, Randi looked at C.C. “Is she into anything else…drugs or anything?”

“Who, Sam?” C.C.’s voice cracked with surprise. “Nope, the girl won’t even take an aspirin tablet.”

Seeing the look of suspicion in her younger sibling’s eyes, Randi backed off. “Sorry, I’ve been a prosecutor too long. My mind just thinks like that all the time now.”

“Anything else you’d like to know?” C.C. teased her sister.

“Sam seeing anybody? Does she have any other friends?” Randi fired the questions like she was interrogating a witness on the stand.

“I…uh…” C.C. felt like she was just accused of murder. “I think she’s seeing someone.” The brunette sat up on the bed, more defiant then ever. “And yes, she has friends…me.”

“I just wondered. I mean…the family has kind of adopted her.” Randi looked at her sister. “Don’t give me that look.”

“What look?” C.C. rolled her eyes and stared back at her sister. “I just don’t understand what’s up with the interrogation. Sam’s a good kid.” The sound of the door flying open and quick footsteps drew the brunette’s attention as she watched Sam enter the room. Shocked, C.C. tried not to show it. “Hey, Roomie!”

Sam’s head turned to see the women on C.C.’s bed. “Oh, hi C.C., Randi. Sorry if I’m interrupting. I just need to freshen up and I’m on my way right back out again.”

“No problem, Sam. You’re not interrupting a thing,” Randi watched the woman.

“I’m leaving early tonight, C.C.” Sam grabbed a clean T-shirt and dashed into the bathroom.

“Okay, no problem.” C.C. yelled out as Sam reached for the doorknob. “My class was cancelled tonight, so I’m going over to watch Randi’s kids.”

Randi waited until the bathroom door closed then looked at C.C. “Is she always like that?”

“Like what?” C.C. looked wide-eyed and innocent.

“Ah…in and out like that.” The lawyer raised a skeptical eyebrow.

“Nah,” C.C. shook her head. “She just tells me so I won’t worry. She is my roommate, you know.”

Just then the bathroom door opened and Sam emerged from it, headed toward her bed and the overnight bag sitting next to it. “Hey, C.C. I’ll try to make it back for Sunday’s dinner. Don’t go missing me,” Sam threw a smile in the brunette’s direction. “If anything comes up, I’ve got my cell phone with me.”

“Okay, no problem.”

Sam picked up her bag and turned toward the door when the knocking started. After a quick exchange of glances between the blonde and her roommate, Sam stepped toward the door and reached out, yanking it open.

There, for all to see was the undeniable essence of yet another Gordon sibling, Brooke.

“Hey,” the dark-haired woman threw open her arms as she stepped into the doorway, only to be met by a small overnight bag being shoved into her chest. The confusion was written on Brooke’s face as she wrapped her hands around the bag and uttered a single word. “Sam?”

The small blonde shot a quick glance at Brooke then she hastily turned toward C.C. and Randi. “Isn’t it great that Brooke is giving me a ride to my Aunt’s house? I’m so glad that you mentioned that to her on the phone last night, C.C.” Sam looked directly at the oldest Gordon sibling, “Randi, sorry I can’t talk to you longer.”

“No problem,” C.C. spoke, nearly dumbfounded by the quick thinking of her roommate. “Don’t mention it, just as long as you can survive her driving.”

The blonde smiled, “It’s not that bad, is it?”

C.C. chuckled, relieved that she’d not have to keep up the charade much longer, “Oh girl, worse. Why do you think Randi here is her attorney?”

Finally realizing what was going on, Brooke took her hard as nails approach to life and glared right at her youngest sister. “Yeah, right. Bite me, C.C. This is your friend I’m driving. I could have easily told you to do it yourself.”

“Yeah, but you’d feel like shit if my truck broke down on that drive, wouldn’t you?” C.C. batted her eyes at her sister in the doorway, “Besides, the 300 gets better gas mileage.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Brooke finally looked over to her older sister. “What’s up, Randi?”

Intent on watching, Randi’s spell was now broken. “Ah…nothing. Why, do I need an engraved invitation to stop to see C.C. or is the open door policy just for you?”

Brooke looked at Randi, wandering where the animosity was coming from. “No, it’s not just for me. Can’t I be nice and greet my older sister without getting my head bitten off?”

“Sorry, I just got done with a long, hard case. I guess I’m still in that courtroom mode.”

“I’m sorry your case was a pain, but I had nothing to do with it.” Brooke took another step into the room where she was stopped by Sam’s hand on her arm.

“Brooke, we really should be leaving if you want to get me there in time for you to get to your meeting.” Green eyes shifted from Brooke to Randi then back to Brooke again.

Randi held her hands up in the air feigning innocence. “Hey, forget it, Brooke. Sorry.”

The dark-haired woman eyed her sister, “Yeah, forgotten.” She walked over and hugged C.C. “See ya later, Kiddo.” Turning her gaze to her older sister, Brooke spoke quietly, “Bye, Randi. See you on Sunday at Mom and Dad’s.”

The lawyer looked down at the floor like a pouting child hungry for a show of affection. “You wouldn’t have a hug for a grouchy older sister, would you?”

Stopping abruptly on her way back to the door, Brooke turned to face Randi. She watched as her sister stood up to the nearly six foot two height and walked over, giving Randi a hug. “Sure I do.” Brooke wrapped her arms around her sister, then whispered, “As long as the grouch realizes that the next time she bites my head off for no reason, she’ll end up on the floor.”

“Duly noted, Sis.” Randi returned the hug. “I got that loud and clear.”

“See you at Sunday dinner.” Brooke released the embrace and winked at her sister as she stepped back. Turning to address Sam after clearing her throat, she said, “You ready?”

“Ready and waiting. Come on, let’s go.” Sam headed out the door and stood waiting in the hall for Brooke to follow her.

“Hey, Brooke…” Randi called out after her sister.

“Yeah?” Brooke turned and stared back into the room from the hall.

“Remember to use my pager tonight if you need to be bailed out for speeding…or anything.” Randi let a smile cross her face. “Be careful, will you?”

Brooke nodded as she turned to watch Sam walk ahead of her down the hallway, and then turned back to face her sisters. “Mmm…I will.”

Seeing her older sister in C.C.’s room had definitely spooked Brooke. Randi never came around much, now that she had her own family to run roughshod over, unless there was something that she felt concerned her. Something that she wanted to know more about. Brooke thought about it more and more, making the ride toward her home a very silent one.

Sam watched the woman out of the corner of her eye as she maneuvered the car into the parking lot of the grocery store. “So, why are we stopping here, Brooke?”

“I…ah…I need to pick up some things.”

“Oh, I thought maybe you just remembered that you didn’t kiss me yet,” Sam teased.

Brooke blushed as she lowered her eyes. “Sorry, Darlin’.” She looked up into green eyes and leaned in, stealing a quick kiss. “Now what kind of statement is that?”

“Hmm…I don’t know.” Sam studied her friend’s face. “What’s on your mind, Hon?”

The older woman tried to hide her thoughts the best that she could. “I was just thinking about later.” Brooke let a smile break across her face. “I need to stop and buy some food,” she looked down at her feet as she turned off the ignition. “I thought I’d make you dinner.”

“You’re cooking for me? Wow, must be serious, huh?” Pleased at Brooke’s thoughtfulness, Sam put her hand on the driver’s thigh, rubbing it lightly. “Well, what do you say we do it together? You know, make a date out of it and have some fun in the process.”

Blue eyes twinkled with delight. “Okay, sounds like a plan.” Brooke held out her arms for a hug, “Oh, I’m very serious.” The woman wiggled her eyebrows and waited.

Sam leaned in until she was only a hair away from the inviting lips. “So am I,” she whispered then committed to the kiss.

“Mmm…I’ll give you all night to stop that,” Brooke grinned as she slowly parted from the sweet taste of Sam’s lips. “And the next ten thousand years to repeat it every moment.”

“Hmm…” Sam savored the flavor of her lover’s kiss, “And I’ll take it, too.” The blonde reached for her door handle and started to open the passenger door. “Come on, let’s get this date on the move.” Green eyes sparkled with mischief as she shot a glance back to the driver, then got out and headed for the store.

Stunned, Brooke quickly got out of the car and followed the blonde, grabbing a cart as she made her way into the store. Moving at a rather speedy pace, the tall woman soon caught up to Sam, sliding in next to her with a leisurely comment. “So, what do you feel like for dinner, Sweetheart?” Brooke looked down at the smaller woman beside her and winked.

The young woman couldn’t help but laugh at how cool Brooke was acting. “Right about now, I feel like chopped liver in anticipation of later.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Let’s keep it simple so we have more time together…” Brooke turned from looking at the shelves, her head snapping back to look at Sam. “What did you say? Chopped liver…why do you feel like that?

Sam looked around, knowing that the blushing was imminent, she tugged at Brooke’s sleeve, then whispered in her ear, “Honestly, I feel all kind of gooey inside thinking about what you do to me, how you make me feel when we’re together.

The woman stood up straight as she smiled, then reached across Sam to grab something off the shelf. Brooke leaned in to look at the display more closely, and watching the twinkle of delight in Sam’s eyes. “Fair is fair. You make me feel the same way. Honestly, Sam.”

A smile came to the young woman’s face. “Yes?”

Brooke waited until the lone shopper with the rickety-wheeled cart passed them by before continuing. “I hate Monday mornings. I hate being away from you for those five days.” She put the package of food that she was holding into the cart then looked back up to Sam. “If I tell you something, promise not to laugh?” She watched as the blonde nodded. “I missed you so bad yesterday that I was looking for apartments near the campus.” Not wanting to see how foolish she was thought of, Brooke let her focus sink to the grocery’s tiled floor, finding her boots very interesting as she waited to hear from Sam.

It took the blonde a moment to gather her wits about her and to let her mouth come back to its normal position after nearly hitting the floor from shock at Brooke’s statement. “You’d move out of that beautiful house to live in an apartment…but why?”

The older woman’s grip tightened on the handle of the cart. “I know, you think it’s stupid but…” Brooke lifted her gaze, letting it fall on Sam’s face, “I hate being that far away from you.”

Sam looked into Brooke’s face with nothing but love in her eyes. “It’s not going to be forever. I’m done in May.” Her small hand came to rest on top of the large hand holding onto the cart. “Brooke, I’m not sure that would be a good thing right now. I’d never be able to study anything but you.”

“I know,” Brooke sighed, letting her gaze drift back to the floor. “I’m just acting like a spoiled child.”

“No, actually…” Sam bumped into the tall woman with her shoulder, “I thought it was pretty sweet…impractical, but sweet.”

“Impractical?” Brooke looked into Sam’s eyes, then confessed, “I need you as much as I need the air I breathe and…” the woman paused seeing the stares she was getting from a few of the other shoppers. “I’d better shut up now.”

They started moving down the aisle, pushing the cart in front of them when Sam thoughtfully added, “Yeah, for you to want to give up your home for me, I promise to think about living closer to you after this term.” She wrapped her arm around Brooke’s. “Okay?”

The dark-haired woman stopped before making the turn down the next aisle. “How close?”

The blonde giggled, “How close do you want me?”

“Honestly?” Blue eyes twinkled at the thought and Brooke smiled mischievously. “Close enough so I don’t have to call you in the morning.”

“What, you want to just nudge me instead?” Sam tugged at Brooke’s hip pocket on her jeans. “Sorry, Hon. There’s just not enough room in there for my clothes.”

“Yep!” Brooke grinned from ear to ear. “That’s it.”

“You do have a one track mind, don’t you, Brooke Gordon?”

“Yeah, and you’re that track.”

Shaking her head, Sam tried to salvage the shopping trip. “Well, let’s get back on track here in the grocery store and see what happens when we get home, huh?”

The tall woman let go with a dazzling smile at her lover’s use of the word. “Home?”

“Ah…Sorry. I just think of your place as home. Guess I shouldn’t take that for granted.” Sam bit at her lower lip, nervously.

Releasing the cart, Brooke placed both her hands on Sam’s shoulders and quickly corrected her. “No, Sam, it is home when you’re there…for the both of us.” The older woman watched as the expression changed on the blonde’s face. “I love the fact that you think of it as your home.”

Sam cleared her throat, loving the look on Brooke’s face. The young woman quickly looked around. “Well, let’s get home then.” She studied the few items in the cart and then looked up to Brooke. “So, what’s on the menu for tonight, Chef Gordon?

Blue eyes grew bigger, and then a dazzling smile overtook Brooke’s face.

With the last of the dishes from dinner safely tucked away in the dishwasher, Brooke came into the living room, and dropped down onto the couch, next to Sam. “I’m stuffed,” she announced as her extremities took up as much room as they could on the furniture.

“That was a great meal, Brooke.” Sam leaned back into the corner of the couch and viewed the woman next to her. “I never had a private chef cook for me like that before.” The blonde moved closer to the outstretched arms and was soon gathered in by them.

“I’ll cook for you whenever you’d like.” Brooke smiled as she pulled Sam closer to her. “I’d bring you breakfast in bed every morning, if you want it,” the deep voice purred.

“Anytime?” Sam asked warily. “Hmm…you better be careful there. I can have some wild cravings,” the young woman patted Brooke’s chest. “Especially in the middle of the night,” Sam smiled coyly as she waited for Brooke to get her thought.

Leaning over, Brooke nuzzled Sam’s neck and whispered, “I can handle it.” The tall woman placed feather light kisses down the blonde’s shoulder then she looked up into waiting green eyes. “Wild cravings in the middle of the night? Nothing like pickles and ice cream, right?” Brooke watched with teasing delight for a moment, then went back to giving Sam’s neck all of her attention. “I didn’t think I was that talented.” She chuckled, then kissed the delicate ear that her mouth was next to.

“No,” the blonde’s eyes grew bigger with each nuzzle and kiss. “At least not yet,” she laughed.

“Yet?” Brooke’s head popped up, “You mean…I’m gonna learn how to spit?”

Sam laughed at her lover’s eagerness to please her, if that was what she wanted. “I’m sure that if you’d put your mind to it,” the blonde winked at Brooke, “You’d find a way.”

Brooke laughed softly against Sam’s neck, the warmth of her breath sending chills down the young woman’s spine. “For you, Sam, anything.”

“Mmm…” Sam closed her eyes, then turned her face away from Brooke to expose more of her neck to the woman. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“Afraid…but why?”

“We just seem too good to be true. I don’t ever want this bubble to burst, Brooke.” Sam’s small hand cradled Brooke’s cheek.

Turning first to kiss the hand that was so close to her mouth, Brooke looked at the woman beside her. “Baby, don’t think like that. I think we’ve both gone through enough to deserve to be with each other.”

“Sorry,” the blonde shrugged. “I’m just not used to being this happy.”

“So, you are happy?” Brooke nuzzled into Sam’s neck, right below her ear. “What would make you ecstatic?” She whispered.

Sam smiled as she pushed Brooke away using her head. “Hmm…ecstatic, huh?”

Nodding, Brooke reiterated, “Yep, ecstatic.” Blue eyes watched as Sam pondered the question.

“Being with my sister again,” Sam shrugged, “That is, if she hasn’t been turned against me yet.” She bit at her lip, “I guess I’ll know that answer tomorrow, when I see her.”

Surprised by the answer that Sam had given her, Brooke thought for a moment then asked softly, “Sister? You get to see her tomorrow?”

“Oh shit. I forgot to tell you.” Sam sat up, turning toward Brooke, as turbulent green eyes searched the face of her lover for forgiveness. “Crystal is going to pick me up to see Sarah at Aunt Sandy’s tomorrow.” Sam bit back on her lower lip, “I’m sorry, Brooke. I know you were counting on me being here all weekend.”

Even though the older woman was disappointed, she couldn’t let it show. “Oh, that’s okay, Sweetheart, I understand.” Brooke put a finger under Sam’s chin and raised it slightly. “I think it’s great that you’ll get to see her.”

“My aunt called me on my cell phone right before I got to the room,” Sam rambled on.

“Honey…”

Sam sighed, then took in a deep breath as she looked up to Brooke. “Yeah?”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I think it’s wonderful.” Brooke’s mouth turned into a smile as she chuckled. “I wondered where that bit came from when I got to the dorm, though.”

Brooke’s laughter was contagious, bringing a smile to Sam’s face. “Nice cover with Randi being there, huh?”

“Yeah, great cover.” Brooke thought for a moment about the feeling she had received from her older sister. “I don’t know, she still had a thorn in her ass though.”

“Only you would notice that, Miss Reach-out-and-touch-someone.” Sam bumped her with her shoulder, then reached out and gave her a one-armed hug. “You’d better be glad that I shoved that bag at you or we’d both be sitting there under cross examination by your sister the Assistant D.A.”

“Objection!” Brooke sprang forward as she raised her hand. “We’d be running.”

“Hmm…another family trait, huh?” Sam laughed at the woman’s antics then turned very serious, as she looked Brooke in the eye. “Really, Hon, I need a little more time without everyone knowing. Okay?”

“Baby, I’m sorry. I didn’t know she was there.” Brooke pleaded her case. “She was the last person I expected to see sitting there with C.C.” The older woman suddenly got very quiet. “I’m too touchy, aren’t I?”

“Hmm…” Sam made a face as she fought her inner feelings concerning Brooke. “A little…maybe, in public.” The blonde tilted her head to study the woman from a different angle. “Damn it, Brooke. But I love it though.”

“I’m sorry.” Brooke lowered her eyes to the floor.

“Hey, no need to be sorry.” Sam wiggled her eyebrows playfully, “I think it’s kind of cute. So unlike Loran that I just love it.”

“What…touchy or cute?” The dark-haired woman’s face reflected how serious she was.

The blonde burst out laughing. “Both.” She leaned over and kissed the older woman on her nose.

“I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself when I’m around you. I’ll try to be more careful from now on.”

“Well, don’t be too careful. I kind of like it when you find it hard to stay away from me.” Sam smiled at the woman, “So what’s on the agenda for the rest of tonight, as if I don’t already know?”

“Whatever you’d like. I told you…for you, anything.”

“What do you say we have a story-telling contest? You tell me yours and I’ll tell you my story.” Sam giggled, wiggling her eyebrows. “Only, Brooke…I think the best atmosphere for that is in the bedroom. You know…bedtime stories.”

Brooke started getting up from the couch, pulling Sam along with her. “Well, ah…Once upon a time, there was a record company executive, a beautiful student, and a bottle of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup…”

Green eyes twinkled with delight. “Oh, I like that one.” Sam laughed as she tugged at Brooke’s hand and followed after her. “Come on, my bard, lead me to that bed.”

The sound of the horn honking got Sam’s attention. She shook her slightly wet blonde hair into place as she came down from the second floor. Making her way down the short hallway and through the living room, she could see Brooke standing by the door, looking out one of the small side windows.

“Is she here, Brooke?” Sam asked as she finished buttoning her top.

“Yeah,” the woman by the door nodded unenthusiastically when she thought her lover wasn’t looking.

Sam came up behind the pouting woman, wrapping an arm around her waist. “Hey, look at me.” She waited until the dark head of hair revealed a somber looking face. “It’s only for a day. I’ll be back for dinner on Sunday.” Green eyes looked poignantly into Brooke’s eyes. “I promise.”

“I know.” The pouting woman was having a hard time hiding her feelings as she mustered a weak smile. “Have fun and tell Crystal I said hi.” She looked into Sam’s eyes, knowing that it was hard for both of them right now.

“I was here on Tuesday night this week,” Sam held the eye contact as her own golden brows edged higher knowing what they had shared that night. “Remember?”

Brooke smiled with that memory, “Yeah…” she drew the word out as if it would make the memory last longer.

“You know if it was for any other reason, I’d never go, don’t you?”

“I do, Baby.” Brooke took in a deep breath, then tried putting a more enthusiastic smile on her face. “Hey, have a great time with your sister. I’ll be here waiting for you.” The taller woman pulled Sam closer to her, giving her a hug. “I am happy for you, Sam.”

“Thanks,” the blonde let her fingers absent-mindedly play with Brooke’s shirt, “I’m counting on that. You know, I’m not sure how Sarah’s going to react to me having someone like you in my life, otherwise…” Sam paused for a moment, “I’d take you with me. I love you, Brooke.”

“I know. I think it’s best that you feel her out before just springing me on her.” The tall woman leaned in and nuzzled Sam’s ear. “I love you, Sam.” Brooke closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, savoring the scent of her lover when the sound of a horn honking broke the trance she was slipping into. “Now, kiss me goodbye and go see your sister.”

Sam looked up and smiled as their eyes met, speaking more than words could say. The two lovers slowly melted into a passionate kiss, only to come away breathless, but still hungry. “God, I never thought I’d love someone this much.” Sam rested her head on Brooke’s shoulder. “I’m glad that it’s you.”

“Not half as glad as I am that it’s me.” The older woman grinned proudly. “God, I love you.”

“I bet.” Sam reached up and kissed her lover once more, softer and with a more loving touch this time. “I’ll miss you.” The smaller woman started to move away, pulling herself together. “See you at dinner tomorrow, Hon. Love you.”

“Love you too, Baby. Have fun with Sarah.” Brooke kept her arm around Sam’s shoulder.

“I will.” Sam moved out from under Brooke’s arm, toward the door and opened it, then turned back to give a little wave. “Crystal’s waiting. You going to walk me out?”

White teeth flashed into a smile. “Yeah.” Brooke grabbed Sam’s bag off the floor by the door and followed the woman out and down the few steps to the car waiting in the driveway.

Approaching the car, Sam could see her cousin sitting behind the wheel, still in her uniform from work. The blonde waved as she greeted the tired looking woman, “Hi, Crys.”

“Hey, Sam.” The driver threw her hand out the open window of her car door and waved wildly. “Let’s get a move on or you’re going to have to drive. I’ve been up all night.” Crystal then acknowledged Brooke with a nod, “Hey, Brooke.”

“Hi, Crystal,” the tall woman answered. Brooke opened the passenger door, then placed Sam’s bag in the back seat, then moved away from the opening but still kept her hand on the door.

Sam sidled up next to Brooke, nudging her with her hip. “I’m not that much better, Crystal.” She turned to look at Brooke, “Thanks, Brooke.”

The tall woman leaned in to Sam’s ear and whispered, “You’re welcome.” Brooke cleared her throat, staving off the blush that she could feel rising to her cheeks. “Have fun with your sister. Call me tomorrow when you’re on your way home.”

“I will.” Sam reached up, placing a kiss on Brooke’s cheek. “Love you,” she tightened her grip on the woman’s waist, “and thanks for understanding.”

“Always. I love you.” Brooke smiled down at the woman as she felt the arm slid from around her body and Sam got into the passenger seat of the car.

Looking up as she reached for the door to pull it closed, Sam watched as Brooke stepped away from it. “I’m counting on it.” She winked as the door came closed, then turned to her cousin. “Okay Crystal, let’s get out of here.”

Brooke took several steps back, then caught on to Mario who had just come running up from the backyard. “Come here, boy.” She patted the dog then together they stood there watching with sad eyes. Brooke waved as the car started down the driveway, like some five-year-old child watching her older siblings going off to school for the first time.

When she’d finally lost sight of the car, Brooke got down on her knees and nuzzled into Mario’s thick fur. “Well, boy, what are we going to do without her around?” She whispered into the animal’s ear.

Mario instinctively turned to his mistress, licking her face, which brought a smile to the woman. “Yeah, I know…” Brooke stood up and stretched her long frame. “Grow up ya big baby…” she sighed, “…it’s only a day.”

Crystal pulled the car out of the driveway; making the few quick turns onto the highway. Even though her mind was on driving, she couldn’t help but notice that her usually bubbly cousin was quietly staring out the window. Then Sam sat there with her eyes closed. “You alright, Sam?”

“Huh?” The question startled her. “Me?” Sam paused for a moment then admitted, “Not really.” The blonde played with her fingers tentatively for a few seconds then started talking. “Crystal, I just left her not a minute or two ago and I’m missing her already. What’s wrong with me?”

“I don’t think anything is wrong. You love her. It’s as simple as that.” The driver glanced over at the blonde. “You going to be able to make it until tomorrow at dinner?”

Sam tried to reason it out in her head. What’s one day, right? I’m away from her for five days every week. It wasn’t working. “Crystal, I’ve got it bad for her.” The blonde bit back on her lip. Maybe if I try not to think about her. Sam turned to look at the driver. “So, tell me Crystal, how do you like Peter?”

Crystal’s eyes grew wide as she thought about the question. “How do I like Peter? You’re kidding, right?”

“No, you silly, I’m not kidding. I heard that you and he had a date yesterday.”

“To say that I absolutely adore him is an understatement. He’s so much more than I ever dreamed. He’s sweet. He’s called me everyday.”

Sam laughed, “I knew that years ago when you first had a crush on him. Brooke’s the same way for me.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Sam grew quiet then confided in her cousin. “I think she’s got it bad, too. Last night she told me she was considering moving into an apartment just to be closer to the campus and me.”

“What?” Crystal nearly slammed on the brakes as her head snapped toward Sam.

“That’s what she said.”

“Oh my God! That is so sweet.”

“The woman is crazy to want to leave that house and I told her that.”

“Obviously, she is crazy… about you.” Crystal peeked over to see Sam smile and decided to drop a little news of her own. “Peter is thinking about moving here to the area. He said that he’s been considering it for a while.”

“Oh, that’s great. You’ll get to see more of him then,” Sam nudged her cousin’s shoulder with her hand, “…or have you already?” The blonde waited until her cousin looked in her direction before winking.

“No, Ms. Mindinthegutter, we haven’t.” Crystal’s voice was adamant. “But you on the other hand, obviously can’t say the same thing, now can you?” Thinking of how it sounded, Crystal made sure her thought was understood. “About Brooke, that is, not Peter.”

“Ah…Sam rolled her eyes. “No, I can’t.” She smiled as she thought about last night and the lovemaking they had shared. “Ah…I was just teasing you, Crystal.” Sam looked out the side window then muttered under her breath, “Give it time. I bet it happens.”

Crystal smirked, “You always said that you were saving yourself for Loran.” She shook her head and smiled at her cousin. “She’s really not like that either, is she? I mean, they made her out to be a uhm…” she looked for a more delicate word to use. “Well, honestly…a slut.”

“Well, Loran didn’t get me, Brooke did.” Sam blushed. “She’s actually a very sweet and loving person. Not at all the womanizer that they made her out to be. Gosh, Crys…” Sam’s face took on a dreamy appearance as she thought about what she was about to say. “When I’m in her arms, lying in bed, I’m the only woman she’s been with. Can you believe that? She was a virgin just like me.”

“What?” Crystal turned a skeptical look toward her passenger. “No way!”

“I’m not fibbing here. We were both very up front and honest with each other.”

“OHMYGOD!” The driver smacked the steering wheel with her hand. “I hate to say it but are you sure that she…well, you know.”

“Trust me,” Sam reassured her. “Looking into her eyes is like looking right into her soul. I’d know if she were lying.”

“I think that’s great Sam.” Crystal hesitated then asked, “So, how long did you know they were the same person…Loran and your Brooke?”

“Not very long at all.” Sam smiled. “It was about two weeks after I found out that we really got…together,” she said trying to hide the blush creeping up her neck at the thought of their first time making love. “And no, it wasn’t because I knew who she was,” Sam quickly added.

“I wasn’t going to ask you that.” Crystal looked over at her cousin. “You know, Mom wouldn’t have cared if you brought Brooke with you today. She’s been dying to meet her anyway.”

“I know that she is. Hey, enough about Brooke, huh? I’m missing her worse now.” Sam smiled pensively then continued, “I just wasn’t sure about Sarah being there. How she would take it. What if my mom or dad would stop by and see us both there?”

“I don’t know, Sam. Your Dad’s kind of upset about the whole thing. I heard him tell mom that Aunt Maggie is overacting.” Crystal stole a look at Sam, “Which, of course, she is.”

“Throwing me out of the house is not a simple…” Sam issued the quotation marks with her two hands, “and I quote ‘I’m a little upset with you.’ Now, is it?”

“True…” the driver admitted. “But you know she won’t listen to your Dad. He calls Mom every week to make sure that you’re doing okay.”

Sam couldn’t believe what she had just heard. “You mean he actually is checking up on me?”

“Every week,” Crystal nodded in affirmation of the fact.

“Yeah, well, my Mom’s afraid that Sarah will be influenced by me. That’s why I can’t…” Sam stopped, not wanting to cry.

“Oh, please, that’s the biggest crock I’ve ever heard.” Crystal reached out and put her hand on Sam’s arm for comfort.

“Well, you know it and I know it. Tell my Mother that,” Sam sighed.

“Hey, you know that Mom and I don’t feel that way.”

Sam nodded, “Yeah, I do.” She sat there quiet for a moment as she stared out the window. “So…when’s Sarah arriving at your house?”

“She should be there by the time we make it home.”

Thinking about seeing her sister after four long years of exile, Sam’s face sparkled. “Then step on it, Girl. I want to see my lil’ sister.”

Crystal eagerly complied, letting her foot weigh a little more heavily on the gas.

Busying herself with everything she could think of, Brooke hoped that the hours without Sam would pass quickly. After taking Mario for a long walk along the sandy shoreline of her community, the woman had emptied the dishwasher, looked at yesterday evening’s paper and finally made the bed that she and Sam had shared the night before.

Looking over at the clock, Brooke almost died when she realized that only two hours had passed by. Her hand slipped down to the cell phone on her belt, but she decided against calling the sorely missed woman. Hearing her voice would only make her want to be with the blonde more. “Damn it,” Brooke cursed as she turned to leave the bedroom wanting to distance herself from the craving she was having. “Come on, Mario. Let’s find something for us to…”

The sound of the phone ringing on her hip startled her thoughts. She quickly grabbed it, then hesitantly spoke into the receiver, “Uh…Hello?”

“Hey, Sis,” C.C.’s cheerful voice came through the phone. “Sorry we couldn’t make all the arrangements yesterday when you came by the dorm. So what time do you want me to meet you at Mom’s for dinner? You know, so no one knows that Sam’s with you.”

“Oh…ah…I don’t know. Did Mom say what time?” Brooke’s mind obviously wasn’t on what she was saying.

“Hey, are you alright? You sound a little down.” The brunette was becoming concerned. “Come on, tell C.C. all about it. Did you two have another fight?”

“Ah…No. Not at all.” Brooke let out a long sigh. “I’m just um…a little down. Crystal came to pick her up about two hours ago. Sam’s staying at her aunt’s tonight. Her sister is going to be there overnight, too.”

“You mean that wasn’t just a cover story for Randi?”

“Nope. Hey, I’m excited for her, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that…” Brooke sighed, “My God, C.C., I miss her terribly. I swear it feels like my heart is ripped right out of my chest every Monday when I take her back to the dorm.”

“Jeez, Brooke. You sound like a lovesick puppy dog. I never thought that I’d say this to you, but Sis…Cupid sure did hit you dead center in the heart with that arrow.”

“Yeah, he did,” she admitted. “Hell, the last time I was over your way, I picked up apartment guides and started to look for something close to the campus.”

“So, what are you going to do about it?”

“What am I gonna do? What should I do?” Brooke shook her head, hearing Sam’s voice in her mind, imploring her to wait until she was finished with school.

“For you…or for the two of you?” C.C. asked, unable to decide whose need was greater between the two. “If you ask me, number one on that hit parade list this week would be to come out of that damn closet again and let everyone know that you love her.”

“She’s not ready for that. She said that she wants to spend more time with me, just the two of us, before everyone knows.”

“And why not? Is there something that she’s not sure of with you?”

“I mean, her cousin knows, and her aunt does, too. Obviously Peter and James know. You know,” Brooke smiled at that fact since it was C.C. that got them together. “And believe it or not, Mom guessed it, too.”

“Could Sam be…” C.C. started then stopped abruptly, “No.”

“Could she be what, C.C.?” Brooke asked, emphasizing her concern.

“Ah… not sure about the rest of our family. I mean, how they would accept her… or ah… you two as a couple?”

It was something that Brooke had never thought of. “I think…” she mumbled, “maybe she’s worried about Randi, Terri and Dad.” There was silence for a moment then Brooke’s voice boomed over the airwaves, “Hey, you never did tell me what you thought of us being together.” Even though her younger sister couldn’t see it, one eyebrow rose on her forehead.

“Me?” C.C. giggled, “Oh, I ah… think it’s kind of cute, you two lovesick kids.”

“Cute?”

“I knew it from the start. Why just the way you looked at her when I brought her home for dinner…”

“What do you mean… the way I looked at her?” Brooke took offense.

The younger sibling laughed openly, “Makes me kind of happy that I got the two of you togeth…”

“I KNEW IT!” Brooke turned around, then slammed her hand on the wall she was standing near.

“Knew what? What did I say?” C.C. asked nervously.

“When you called my office that day after you moved into the dorm. You were talking about Sam, weren’t you? She’s the one you wanted me to meet.”

“Can I help it that I’m always looking out for you? God, Brooke, just say thank you and let it drop.” C.C. smirked, proud of herself, “I was right this time. You and she are great together. I’ve never seen you happier.”

Brooke sighed and spoke in a subdued tone, “I’ve never been happier.” The woman nodded to herself as she smiled. “I guess you are right, aren’t you?”

“Well, thanks,” C.C. accepted the compliment. “Besides, if I was wrong, you could have just blamed it on all those times you banged me on my head when I was growing up.”

“Thank you,” Brooke said sincerely.

“I knew you’d come around and see it my way.” C.C. answered back cockily. “So speaking of your lady love and my Roomie… when do I meet you two for dinner tomorrow?”

“Hmm…Not sure. She told me she’d call when she was on her way.”

“Great. What am I supposed to do… hang out on the next block from Mom’s house and wait?” C.C. put her hand on her hip. “You know, I’ve got a life of my own.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone, then slowly Brooke spoke. “Well…You could come stay over here tonight and keep your big sister company?”

“You’re that lonely, huh?”

“You have no idea, C.C.” Brooke cast her eyes to the heavens. “God, when she’s not here I…” the woman sighed, then confessed, “I don’t’ want to eat. I have trouble sleeping. I can’t stand it. I just miss her,” Brooke’s voice trailed off.

“Sis?”

Brooke swallowed hard, then answered, “Yeah?”

“You’ve got it bad…real bad and I know just the thing to make it better.”

“What’s that?” Brooke asked cautiously.

“You springing for pizza and renting my favorite movies. How’s that sound?”

The older sibling laughed, shaking her head. “You’re on, C.C. Come on over as soon as you can. I’ll be ready for you.”

“Okay, Brooke. See you later this afternoon. Bye.”

“Bye,” the woman returned, then ended the call, placing her phone back on her belt. Bringing her hand around, she looked down at her watch. “Okay, that killed another ten minutes. Now what do I do until C.C. gets here?” Brooke looked down at the dog that was standing next to her, his face turned up toward her and both of them sighed.

The car came to a stop as Crystal turned off the engine. “Hey, looks like someone’s here to see you.” The driver pointed to the teen running down the sidewalk toward the car.

Sam looked up to see her sister. “God, Sarah.” The blonde threw open the door to the car and got out. “I missed you.” She greeted her sister with a warm hug as the longhaired girl embraced her.

“I missed you too,” the teen murmured, then vied for a better view of the backseat.

“Hey,” Sam held her sister out at arm’s length and looked at her. “What are you so interested in?” Following the direction of her sister’s eyes, Sam looked behind her to see her cousin get out of the car, then turned back to Sarah. “You can’t be that interested in Crystal.”

“What, you ain’t got a honey stashed back in there?” Sarah eagerly teased her.

Startled, Sam could hardly get the words out, “What…what are you looking for?”

The young girl smiled brightly. “Come on, Sam. You’re twenty-one now. You’ve got to have someone. I thought I might get a sneak peak at them,” Sarah blushed from embarrassment. “Oh, ah…Happy belated birthday, Sis.”

“Sarah, I think it’s time we had a little talk.” Sam looked around to see her Aunt Sandy coming off the porch of her house. “But I think that it can wait until…” the shorthaired blonde wrapped her arm around her sister’s shoulders and ushered her toward the advancing woman. “…later tonight when we’re getting ready to sleep. We’ll have a little talk just like we used to…like old times.”

“Great!” Sarah beamed.

“You miss those chats, don’t you? I know that I do.”

“Yeah,” the young girl bobbed her head up and down, “I do.”

Sam smiled. She felt like she’d never been away from Sarah for a single day let alone several years. “Come on, let’s see what our Aunt has lined up for us to do today. You know, you’re my birthday surprise from her and just about the best one that I’ve gotten.” The young woman’s thoughts turned to her birthday and the surprise she’d received from Brooke. That was great, too, but I know you’d understand, Brooke. You love your family just as much as I do mine.

Sarah looked up to her sister, “For real?”

“Yep,” Sam nodded. “Nothing will keep us apart. We’re sisters forever.” Sam hugged her sister again but the youngster was eager to get their time together started.

Coming off of the embrace, Sarah tugged at her sister’s arm, pulling her toward her aunt that was waiting for them at the foot of the steps. “Great. Come on, Sis, Aunt Sandy baked you a cake.”

“Hmm…How’d she know that I have a liking for dessert?” Sam mused aloud.

“Oh, please, you’ve always had quite the sweet tooth,” Sarah called back to her.

The young woman’s steps slowed as she conjured up thoughts of strawberries and chocolate and then a tall, dark-haired woman came to her mind.

Sarah looked back at her sister. “Sam, whatja thinkin’?”

“Ah…nothing,” Sam blushed, “I’ll tell you later. Let’s get some of that cake now. What do you say?” Sam winked at her sister.

Brooke watched as C.C. rolled up the last piece of the large pizza and slowly but meticulously finished it off, down to the last little bit of crust in her hand. When all of the crust was gone from sight, the brunette chewed a few seconds longer then swallowed, washing it down with the last bit of beer in her can. Coming up with a satisfied smile on her face, C.C. opened her mouth to talk but released a loud burp instead. The younger sibling looked over to her sister. “Got any more, Brooke?” C.C. held the empty can upside down and shook it over her open mouth.

Amazed at how uncouth her sister could be at times, Brooke shook her head at the sight, then answered the question. “Yeah, in the fridge downstairs.”

C.C. leaned back against the front of the sofa. “You’re gonna make me walk for it, aren’t you?”

“Oh, hell,” Brooke got up from her chair, making sure to step over the reclining form of her sister on her way through the room to the hall. “Stay put, I’ll go.”

A few minutes after Brooke disappeared into the hallway, she reappeared, carrying an entire case of beer with her. “Okay, here you go.” She tossed one of the cans to her sister from the doorway then deposited the rest in the kitchen, bringing one back for herself.

C.C. studied her sister as she crossed the room while opening the can, then drinking from it before sitting back down in her chair. The brunette took another drink from her own can before talking. “You’d walk all that way for me, but you won’t go the few feet to let Sam know what she means to you,” C.C. smirked, then shook her head.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Deep furrows creased Brooke’s forehead as she tried to figure out what exactly C.C. was talking about.

“You want her to be with you but what are you doing about it, huh?” C.C. stared at the top of her beer can for a moment, then leveled her gaze directly at her sister. “Do you love her, Brooke?” Before the last word was out, the brunette snapped a hand up into the air to halt any response from the woman, “No, don’t even answer that one. It’s a given, just by looking at your face.”

“What am I supposed to do? Tell me, Oh Greatwiseass.”

C.C. smiled first, then began to laugh. “I knew this day would come. Brooke asking me for advice.” The younger sibling taunted.

“Chase…” Brooke said in a deep even-toned voice, trying not to show her growing anger.

“Ye-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ssssss?” C.C.’s smug smile grew across her face.

Brooke sat up in her chair. “What do you think I should do? What’s your opinion?” The woman sighed.

Brown eyes dazzled at the attention her older sister was giving her. She readjusted her sitting position and calmly said, “Fight for her. Do whatever you have to, to keep her next to you.” The young woman smiled looking at the shocked face of her sister. “You know, you’re a pretty nice person when she’s around. I’d hate to lose that for months…or even longer.”

“C.C., I couldn’t argue about her going to see her sister. I think it’s great that she gets to see her.” Brooke watched the expression on her sister’s face change to one of total confusion, then it dawned on the older woman what was being referred to. “Oh, you mean the internship assignment next semester.”

“Yeah.” C.C. folded her arms across her chest and looked at Brooke. “If you’re like this for one day, what’s it going to be like when she’s gone for months at a time?”

The thought of being without Sam in her life made Brooke sick to her stomach, causing her face to pale. “Oh, God.”

“Did you ever think that that might be why she doesn’t want to let everyone know about you two? I think she’s afraid to lose you during that time away.”

The color now was drained from Brooke’s face and her hands were clenching her stomach as if she were in great pain. “Uhm…C.C., I think I’m gonna be sick.”

“Yeah, sis.” The brunette now was scraping the last of the cheese off the cardboard carton, then shoved the box towards Brooke. “Here, take this and don’t aim in my direction.”

Instead of reaching for the box, Brooke pointed toward her cell phone that she’d taken off and laid on the coffee table when they first settled into watching movies. “Can you hand me the phone? There’s a call that I need to make.”

Sam settled into the double bed that she was sharing with her sister, trying to get comfortable. First she laid one way, then after a few seconds, turned onto her back letting her mind orient itself to not having Brooke with her. She rolled over to face her sister and saw the curious eyes of a young girl watching her.

“Yeah, Sarah?” Sam poked at the pillow a few times, wishing it was Brooke that she was resting her head on instead of the unyielding mattress.

“What were you going to talk to me about earlier? You said that you’d tell me tonight and well…it is tonight.” Sarah rested her head on her arm. “So, spill it.”

The blonde cleared her throat as she leaned up on one elbow and her free hand started to draw lazy circles on the sheet. “Ah…I was going to tell you about someone I met at college this year.”

Sarah’s eyes glistened, as her interest had been peaked. “Yeah? A good looking someone?” She leaned forward, waiting for her sister to continue.

“I have this really great roommate and she kind of introduced me to her family,” Sam smiled shyly. “Well, they’re all pretty good looking if you ask me, but there’s one in particular that is…ah…kind of special to me.”

“Oh, details…I want details.”

“Sarah, do you know why Mom…” Sam decided to choose her words differently. “Ah…Do you know why I moved out of the house?”

The young girl looked away from her sister, “Because you like girls, right?”

“Well, that’s part of it,” Sam knew that her Mother had tried poisoning her sister’s mind against her. “I moved out because…” she sighed. “Well, let’s just say that Mom wanted you to be your own person.”

“Huh?” A puzzled look came to Sarah’s face.

Sam reached out and put a stray lock of hair behind the girl’s ear. “It doesn’t matter who we love or where we find love. It’s if you know when that love comes.” The blonde shook her head in disgust. “I’m not saying this right, I can tell.” Her eyes looked away from her sister. “God, maybe Mom was right.”

“What do you mean?” Sarah reached out and touched her sister’s hand. “Sam, I don’t care if you like other girls. That doesn’t make you who you are. You’re my sister.”

“You are a fount of knowledge, aren’t you?” Green eyes looked into her sister’s face and Sam couldn’t help but smile at the love she saw there. “I found someone that I love very much and yes, it just so happens to be a girl…er…woman. An intelligent, beautiful woman that’s haunted my dreams for years.”

“Great!” Sarah beamed with joy for her sister, then remembered the only crush that her sister ever had. “Whoa. You’re not gonna tell me it’s that chick from Anti-Zero, are you?”

“Would it make you uncomfortable if I told you that it was Loran?”

“Uncomfortable, no. Believable…no way,” Sarah shook her head at the thought.

“Well, it’s not actually Loran, but someone that is ten times better and her name is Brooke.” Sam bit at her lip slightly then continued, “You see, Sarah, Brooke Loran was an advertising dream. The ultimate bad girl they used to sell more records, but that wasn’t who she really was.” She looked up into questioning eyes. “Now, my…friend Brooke Gordon just so happens to be that same drummer for Anti-Zero and she’s nothing like that. Nothing at all.” Sam patted her sister’s hand. “Maybe one day, I can let you meet her.”

Sarah looked at Sam. “So, she’s like your girlfriend? I mean, do you guys like..uhm…kiss and stuff?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” Sam shrugged her shoulders and then smiled at what she was thinking about saying. “I love her Sarah. It’s plain and simple.” She watched for the girl’s reaction. “Does that upset you?”

“No, not really.” Sarah watched her sister breathe a sigh of relief, then the girl came right out with what was on her mind. “Do you sleep in the same bed, too?”

Sam stopped in mid breath and looked wide-eyed at her sister. “Ah…why do you ask?”

“Just wondered,” Sarah shrugged. “Is it the same as any other couple? I just want to understand, that’s all.” The young girl looked up at her sister. “Are you two like a married couple or something?”

“Sarah,” Sam inhaled deeply, then ventured into her explanation. “You know that being intimate with another person is reserved for someone that you really want to be with the rest of your life…for ten thousand years,” she blushed thinking about her choice of words. “Ah…you see, ‘Like’ and ‘Married’ are two different things. You know that same sex marriages aren’t legally recognized.”

“Yeah, but I think that’s stupid.”

“Well, so do I, especially if you know that you’ve found the other half of your soul. You know, marriage is more than just a piece of paper. It’s what each of the people in love have in their hearts that bind them together.”

“And that’s what you and your girlfriend have?”

“I’m pretty sure it is. I know it’s that way on my part.” Sam looked off dreamily and the words just flowed out of her mouth, “When you fall in love, the whole world pales to the color that the thought of your loved one can bring to your mind.”

“That’s cool, Sam. I’m happy for you.” Sarah reached over, giving her sister a hug. “So…” the girl moved back to her side of the double bed. “Aren’t you gonna call her and tell her goodnight?”

Sam looked hopeful, “You wouldn’t mind if I did, would you?”

“Not at all. You want me to leave the room?” Sarah offered, raising the covers, ready to climb out.

“No, Squirt,” Sam pulled her sister back into the bed. “You don’t have to leave. What I’d say to her, I’d say in front of anyone.” Sam turned to the nightstand on her side of the bed and picked up her cell phone. Opening it, she immediately hit the speed dial, summoning her lover’s phone.

“Hellllllllwo?”

The blonde stared down at her phone, checking the number on the display, making sure that it was Brooke’s cell that she called. “C.C., what are you doing with Brooke’s cell?”

“Sammi,” the sloshed sound of a drunken woman rambled on. “Oh, we’re just having a few beers, eating pizza, having a few beers, watching movies, having a few beers, talking about you, having a few beers…”

“And what are you saying about me, in between the beers?”

“Hey,” C.C. coughed trying to be more serious. “What have you done to my sister, young lady?”

“Huh?” Sam was surprised by the question.

“She actually whines now…”

“She purrs, too.” The words came out before Sam could censor them and she laughed it off.

“Oh God! T-M-I!” C.C. got really close to the phone and whispered, turning her back toward Brooke, “Can she roll her tongue?” Then just as quickly, the brunette added, “Between you and me, I think she likes you.”

“You think, huh?” Sam teased right back, knowing that C.C. wouldn’t remember a thing come morning.

“Yeppers,” she nodded. “I believe she does…” C.C.’s voice took on a startled surprise when the phone was ripped out of her hand, “Hey!”

“Give me that.” Brooke brought the phone to her ear, “Hello, Baby.”

“Hi, Hon, what are you up to?” A relaxed smile filled Sam’s face as a warmth spread over her body.

“God, I miss you. Are you having fun with your sister?”

“Miss you too. We were just talking about you when she suggested I call you to say goodnight.”

“I think I like her.”

Sam looked over to her sister. “Well, if it’s any consolation, she likes you too.” She laughed as she ruffled Sarah’s hair. “But not as much as me. I love you, Brooke.”

The dark-haired woman sighed, “I miss you so much. I love you more than anything.”

“God, that was good to hear. I can’t wait to see you at dinner, tomorrow.”

“I love you, Sam,” Brooke whispered. “But dinner is way too far away.”

“I know but just remember this…I love you and hold you deep within my heart.” Sam blushed as she watched her sister make faces at her. “Now that should help you make it through the night. Besides,” Sam winked at her sister. “Sarah and I are having a marathon girl talk session about you. I really don’t think you’d like to be here for that, would you?”

“I’d love to be around you for anything. Even if you are talking about me.”

“Hon, that’s for us to know and you to wonder about. Besides, a girl has to share a few things about her lover…” Sam realized what she’d just said and stopped, looking over at Sarah. “Oh hell,” the blonde shrugged seeing the knowing smile on her sister’s face, then changed the subject. “I believe that Crystal is dropping me off around five at your mother’s house.”

“Great, I’ll meet you there.” Brooke lowered her voice, then cautioned the woman on the other end. “You’d better be careful tomorrow or I’ll drag you away the moment I see you and kiss you senseless.”

“You better believe it. I’ll be the blonde one looking for you and thinking that exact same thing, but I just won’t be kissing you,” Sam teased her lover.

“Darlin’, you are in so much trouble when I get you all to myself, tomorrow.”

“Good, I’m counting on it. G’Night, Brooke. I love you.” Sam blew a kiss in the direction of the receiver.

“I love you Sweetheart, forever.”

“God, I love hearing that from you more and more,” Sam sighed. “Bye.”

Brooke hesitated, then ended her side of the call, “Good night Baby, sweet dreams.”

Sarah watched as Sam laid there, holding the phone and staring off into space.

“Sam, are you alright?” Brooke asked.

The woman smiled and began blushing at being caught daydreaming about her lover. “Yeah…I just realized what sweet dreams were all about.”

“Huh?” Brooke was confused.

“Bye, Brooke. I’ll show you tomorrow night.”

“Love you,” Brooke whispered, then ended the call.

The teenager wasn’t sure of what to think, seeing the serene look on her sister’s face. Finally, unable to contain herself, she spoke up. “Well…while you’re just lying there, tell me.” Sarah sat crossed legged on the bed, leaning in to listen. “Come on Sis, I’m ready for that marathon session now.”

Sam smiled, “Sis, you wouldn’t believe that she’s Loran in a million years.”

The Gordon family dinner had already started, shy one daughter and her roommate. When they heard the front door of the house opening and the loud stomping of feet coming from the hall, Mable glanced over to see Brooke’s eyes finally lift from staring down at her plate and saw the look of anticipation written all over her face.

“Well, finally we’re all together. C.C.,” Mable called out. “We’ve already started dinner without you. What took you so long?”

Thirty seconds later, C.C. entered the dining room, taking a deep breath as she did so. “Hey, Mom.” She waved, letting her gaze move down a chair to where Brooke sat. There, her sister was trying hard to see around the entering woman. “Hey, Brooke.” C.C. subtly shook her head and watched as her sister’s shoulders slumped slightly as she let her attention go to her plate of picked-at food. Trying to cover up, C.C. immediately flashed a dazzling smile and turned to the rest of the table as she made her way to her seat. “Dad, Randi, and Terri. I hope you saved some food for me.” C.C. pulled her chair out next to Brooke’s and sat down. “Hey Mom, got any more of those rolls?” The brunette eyed the one her sister held uneaten in her hand.

Mable motioned to the basket with a few rolls left in it. “Please pass you’re sister some food, girls.” She turned to C.C. and asked, “Did you have trouble, Dear? Is that why you’re so late?”

C.C. took the passed basket of rolls from Terri. “Thanks, Ter.” She put one on her plate, then sat the basket down, accepting the next serving container from Randi. “I had some… ah… connection problems… with the car. Thanks, Randi.” She nodded in her sister’s direction who was seated next to her mother, opposite Brooke. Turning to Brooke, C.C. nudged her sulking sister in the arm. “So Brooke…you going to eat that food or donate it to a time capsule?”

Brooke wasn’t paying too much attention to the activity going on around her. After hearing her name, she simply shrugged and continued to push her food from one side of her plate to another, taking small bits from time to time.

Terri watched as Brooke just sat quietly in her own world. Offering another dish to C.C., she held onto it when the youngest sibling tried to take it, getting C.C.’s attention. Motioning with her head toward Brooke, Terri asked, “What’s up with her?”

C.C. glanced to her right, then back again to Terri, “Ah…she’s just got a lot on her mind with work. She was telling me that last night.” C.C. gently kicked at Brooke under the table.

“A lot on her mind… looks like they’ve declared music to be dead by the expression on her face.” Terry hid her concern.

“Huh?” Brooke slowly looked across the table. “Did you say something?”

“Yeah, but you don’t seem to be listening. You missing something, or what?” Terri’s critical eye of a physician started to examine her sister’s behavior.

“Yeah, her hearing aid,” C.C. blurted out. Then turned to Brooke and spoke up for her to hear. “Time to get new batteries, huh?”

Brooke turned a cold gaze at C.C., and then stuck her tongue out, pulling it back in quickly to speak. “No, I’m just uhm… tired.” She offered to the rest of the table, “I got a lot of stuff on my mind.”

“Seriously, Brooke,” Terri leveled a gaze at her sister. “If there’s something we can help you with… I mean, I’m no musician but…”

“No, that’s okay Terri, I’ll be fine. I signed a new band so there’s just a lot of bullshit stuff to take care of.”

“You sure?” Terri’s face took on a concerned look. “You look like you’re coming down with a bug or something.”

C.C. brought the napkin up to her lips and mumbled, “Love bug.”

Mable’s eyes darted to her youngest child. “C.C. I wish you’d stop that mumbling. Now would you mind repeating that so we all can hear what you’re saying.”

Coughing, C.C. cleared her throat. “Yes, Mom. I…” Brown eyes glanced over to Brooke almost apologetically, “I…just said…”

“Hey, I’m fine…really,” Brooke looked over at her sister, taking her off the hook. “Besides Terri, I don’t really feel like letting you stick a thermometer up my butt anyway.”

“Well, think of how I’d feel having to do it,” The woman laughed. “I may be behind you in age but that’s where it stops.”

“What…just because you’d have to see my butt? It’s not like you’ve never seen it before.” Brooke looked off to the corner of the room, remembering Sam’s hands on her backside and the fire that it ignited inside her.

“Yeah?” Randi asked sarcastically. “Well, I keep trying to forget that, too.” She studied her sister for a moment, then continued, “So, Brooke…we know that we’ve all seen your butt a time or two…” Randi looked devilishly evil as she counted off the five family members seated at the table. “How many more can we add to that growing list?”

Brooke looked up at Randi, “I’m sorry, what was that?”

“I’m sorry, but this talk of Brooke’s butt is not my idea of food for thought. Hey, Mom, I hope we’re not having brownies for dessert, are we?” C.C. asked.

“Dessert…” Brooke mumbled conjuring the image of her favorite blonde to mind as she picked up her glass, bringing it to her mouth to drink.

“Well,” the matriarch looked a little surprised. “Actually I made a Strawberry Pie just for Sam. She kind of hinted at having a craving for it when I told her about the dinner.”

The sound of muffled coughing could be heard and Mable looked to her right. “Brooke are you all right?”

“Ah…” Brooke wiped her mouth, “I’m fine Mom. It just went down the wrong way.”

“If you want Mom,” C.C. offered, “I could take some of that dessert back to the dorm for her.”

Blue eyes flashed in C.C.’s direction to see the young woman digging her way through her plate of food. Then Brooke looked to her mother.

“By the way, Brooke, you really outdid yourself bringing A-Z to life again.”

“Yeah, but just for that one night,” Brooke stated.

Randi brought her coffee cup to her lips, “That was…impressive, Brooke. I hope it was appreciated.” She took a sip and watched her musician sister.

“Hey, I thought it was great to hear those old songs again,” Terri spoke up. “And the new ones, too. They were really something Brooke.”

“Thanks,” Brooke addressed Terri first. “I’m glad that you liked them.” She turned to look directly at Randi. “And yes, Randi. Sam was ecstatic over it.”

C.C. could feel the tension in the air and spoke up. “Ah…yeah, really something Brooke. I’m glad that I could give you the idea. Ah…she enjoyed it so much that you wore her out. I didn’t even hear her snoring that night at the dorm.” The brunette smiled, pleased that she had come up with a story to help her favorite sister out of a jam.

“I must commend you Brooke,” Randi said slightly changing the subject. “You seem to always be ready with the most appropriate toasts lately. What inspired you for that one?”

Brooke just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. You know those twenty-first birthday toasts… I just make them up as I go along.”

“Don’t be so modest, Sis. You put a lot of thought into that one.” C.C. realized that she wasn’t thinking when she heard the words coming out and slapped a hand over her mouth to keep from saying any more. She watched, as Brooke’s eyes grew large with each second that they held her attention.

Amused and intrigued by the scene that she was witnessing, Randi started her lazy cross-examination. “So, if you’re so busy at work, how’d you find all that time to plan the party for Sam?”

Caught off guard, Brooke stuttered, “I…uhm…I didn’t. C.C. and Mom helped.” She finally regained some composure, then leaned forward, looking her older sister right in the eye. “Randi, you should know…that’s what secretaries are for.” Brooke let a leering smile grace her lips, thinking of how her sister used her staff.

“Hey, I’m the one who kept it a secret. Don’t I get some of the credit?” C.C. interjected.

“You? Keep a secret? That will be the day,” Terri laughed at C.C.

Brooke looked out of the corner of her eye at the brunette in question and they both grinned, knowing that keeping secrets were fast becoming C.C.’s forte. Nudging her baby sister with her shoulder, Brooke started off slowly, “Yeah…C.C. really deserves the credit for keeping her mouth shut.”

Terri just shook her head, “I don’t know…stranger things have happened.”

Sitting up with her arms crossed and leaning on the table, Randi challenged the young woman. “I bet you couldn’t tell me one thing that you kept a secret about that I didn’t already know.”

The young woman knew that she could win the bet easily but refused to compromise her roommate or her sister. Thinking hard, C.C. finally came up with something that couldn’t harm anyone. “I never told you that I kissed Tommy Montgomery in the fifth grade.” C.C. nodded, proud of the choice she’d made.

“No, but you told us when you did kiss him in the fourth grade.” Randi tilted her head and flicked her wrist, shooing off the concept. “Doesn’t count, C.C.”

“Yeah, doesn’t count,” Terri chimed in. “It’s got to be something new. Something for the first time.”

While all eyes looked directly at C.C., the young woman’s eyes darted to Brooke, catching the subtle look in her blue eyes as she mouthed, “Not Sam,” as discreetly as she could.

C.C. started to sweat. She knew she could easily win but wanted to be loyal to both Brooke and Sam. “Okay…I…I knew when Brooke…”

Brooke’s deep voice overrode her sister’s words. “I can tell you a secret that C.C. never told.” Brooke looked around the table, hoping that they would bite. “She knows the exact number of women that I’ve slept with.” Blue eyes glanced quickly to C.C., then back again to her other sisters.

“C.C., you impress me.” Randi sat back in her chair. “I didn’t know that you could count that high.” She leveled a glare at Brooke. “What is that now, Loran…are we into the millions or the trillions now?” Randi smirked, “We all know what that big, bad girl did on the road with the groupies.”

Brooke politely put her napkin down on the table, then slowly looked up to Randi. “No, actually, you know what the publicists say that Loran did. I never slept with any of those women.

“Well, not in detail, thank the gods.” Randi rolled her eyes.

“It was nothing more than a gimmick to sell more albums and it worked. I never slept with them or had any torrid affairs.” Brooke pushed back from the table. “I never had any type of relations with any of those groupies. In fact, you can count my sexual partners on one hand.

Mable watched her verbal daughter as she defended her sex life.

“And that would be who’s hand…” Randi looked over to Terri and the idea was born. “A circus freak?” The two siblings joined forces and put all four of their hands together as one, with the fingers splayed out and wiggling like some kind of sea creature.

Brooke leaned forward forcefully. “Just because I was hot does not mean that I got more ass than a toilet seat.”

“Now, that is an interesting concept.” Terri took her hands from the out of the air and smiled.

“So, that still means you didn’t get around, huh?” Randi wasn’t letting up one bit.

“Not at all.” Brooke stated for the record, then crossed her arms in front of her chest, “Never.”

C.C. smiled, thankful that the pressure was off of her and finished the last bit on her plate.

“So…girls?” Mable looked around the table, trying to gain some control over the dinner. “Are we done with this discussion?” The matriarch looked at each one individually, leaving Randi for last, narrowing her eyes at the eldest of the lot when she started to open her mouth. “I thought so. Henry,” she looked up to her husband. “It seems like the right time to bring out that dessert and perhaps some more coffee.”

Henry rose from his seat and as he passed his wife, leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. “It’s a shame Sam’s not here for this. I know she would’ve liked it.” He looked over to the unused place setting that was sitting there, waiting for the blonde. “I guess I’ll gather these up now.”

At the mention of Sam’s name, Brooke zoned out, letting her lower lip take on its pouting nature.

Noticing the glumness overtaking her sister, C.C. thought it best to try to bring her out of it. “So, Brooke…have you heard from that favorite client of yours?” She watched as Brooke looked over to her, questions written all over her face. “You know, the one that demands most of your free time,” she hinted at, kicking the woman’s foot under the table.

“Uhm…No, actually I haven’t. It’s kind of unusual.”

“What Dear, someone giving you concern?” Mable became interested in the topic.

“Just the client that I told you about at C.C.’s birthday party, Mom.” Blue eyes looked over into her mother’s.

“Oh…That one…Well, they did seem to be quite into your company.” Mable patted her daughter’s hand. “I’m sure things will work out and you’ll hear from them soon enough.

“Anyone that we would know?” Randi looked at her mother and Brooke.

“Come on, give us some inside scoop.” Terri demanded. “It will make me look good to the kids I treat to be in the know about a new artist.”

“I-T-K…huh?” Brooke laughed at her sister.

“Just tell me it’s not some Rapper that I’ll be asked to prosecute down the road.”

“No Randi, it’s not a Rapper. No one famous at all…”

“Not yet at least.” The lawyer sighed.

“Nope, not yet.” Brooke glanced down at the cell phone on her belt.

“Here you go, ladies.” Henry’s masculine voice beamed as he walked over to his youngest daughter. “And I do mean that…” he looked at C.C. and winked. “Now that you’re over twenty-one. Coffee, just as you like it.” He poured a round at everyone’s place and then headed back toward the kitchen returning with pie and setting it down between his wife and Brooke.

“Hmm…” Mable nodded appreciatively. “Now I wonder…” she eyed the pie as she picked up the serving utensils. “How does one dig into that kind of dessert without getting that whipped cream all over the place.”

Brooke let her attention focus on her cup of coffee as she took a mouthful of it.

Mable cut into the dessert and offered the first piece to her daughter. “How about you Brooke, care for some virgin pie?”

“Bet you’ve had that before…” Randi mumbled out without realizing it.

The musician snorted, coffee filling her mouth and nose, causing her to choke when she heard Randi’s sly comment. “I’m…cough…gonna…cough…get some water.” Brooke’s face was turning red. “Excuse me.” She got up from the table and left the room.

“Of course she has…I mean,” Terri shrugged, “when you had all those women, there ain’t much else to work with labeled virgin.”

“Come on, you two,” C.C. was defending her sister. “Cut her some slack. How would you like it if we were scrutinizing your sex life at every dinner?”

“That shouldn’t bother Terri. She works too much to get any,” Randi smirked.

“Yeah?” Terri turned toward her older sister. “Well, it’s all in the timing. Speaking of which…I heard that you and Brian…”

“GIRLS!” Henry raised his voice just as Brooke walked back into the room with a glass of water.

“Hey, I’ve provided the grandchildren for Mom and Dad. There ain’t nothing wrong with my timing,” Randi declared, resting her hands on her hips.

Mable cast a wary eye at the daughters to her right. “Yes, and for that we are very thankful.” She turned to look at Brooke on her left. “Now, come on sit down and dig into some of that dessert.” She watched her silent child nod at the offer.

“I was commenting on the time it takes for some people to have sex…not the reproductive aspect.” Randi made her mind known.

“Boy, I’m glad that I’m not married. All they worry about is kids.” Brooke motioned to her sisters across the table while looking at C.C.

“I’m on your side Brooke.” C.C. thought for a moment then added, “Well, not really but you know what I meant.”

“I do.” She nodded to C.C. “Yeah, that’s the one thing I’ll never have to worry about.”

“Never say never, Brooke.” Terri chuckled. “Lots of lesbian couples have kids.”

“That is if you can narrow it down to one partner.” Randi laughed out loud. “You know, Brooke…I never thought about this before. Since you can’t be married as a lesbian couple, you could actually keep a whole harem of women at your disposal and not be considered to be committing bigamy.”

“Now why would she want to do that when she’s found…” C.C. stopped and looked at Brooke. “Found that…ah…I forgot what I was going to say.” The brunette shrugged then went back to eating her pie.

Brooke shook her head and began to rub her temples. “Can you just cut the wise cracks, Randi? I really don’t care if you think I’ve slept with one or one thousand women. I know the truth and I would appreciate it if you would keep your little cracks to yourself. It’s just not funny anymore.”

“Hmph…” Randi studied her sister. “Okay for now…”

“No, for good. Please?” Brooke watched as Randi just smiled in her direction.

The sound of her cell phone ringing got her attention and she hastily grabbed it from her belt. Flipping it open, she brought it to her ear. “Hey.”

“Hey, Brooke. Sorry I’m not there.” Sam’s voice broke the air. “I missed dinner, huh?”

The dark-haired sister got up from the table. “Excuse me,” She offered and walked out of the room waiting until she was far enough away so as not to be heard. “Hi Baby. God, I am missing you so much. Don’t worry, Mom is sending you dessert.” Brooke turned suddenly serious. “Is everything alright? I’ve been worried about you, Sweetheart.”

Sam sighed. “I can live without dessert, but not without you. I miss you. Can you come and get me?”

“I miss you, too. Why yeah, I can. What’s wrong?”

“I got stuck at Aunt Sandy’s. Crystal got called into work and my aunt didn’t get home yet. She got held over for another part of a shift.” Sam cleared her throat. “I kept hoping that Aunt Sandy would get home sooner. I know how much those dinners mean to your family, I didn’t want to disrupt it. I knew you’d just leave to come for me.”

“I’d be more than happy to come get you.” Brooke paused, “No matter when you would have called.”

“I know, thanks.” Sam’s voice was barely more than a whisper. “Brooke would it be okay if you came into the house. I want you to meet my aunt if she’s home when you get here.”

“Of course, Darlin’. Why wouldn’t it?”

“No reason I guess. I just thought that it was time I introduced you to my family. I want them to know the person that I’ve fallen in love with.”

“I can’t wait to get there then. I love you, Sam.”

Sam giggled. “Be careful, I’ve got plans for that body of yours but only if its in one piece. See you soon. I love you.”

“Love you, too.” Brooke whispered. “Bye.”

“I know…I know, Hon. Bye.”

Renewed by hearing Sam’s voice, Brooke disconnected the call and walked back into the dining room, stopping at her mother’s chair. “Sorry, Mom.” She leaned in to kiss her cheek. “But…uh…I need to go.”

“So was that…” Mable looked into her smiling daughter’s face and knew the answer before she asked. “That client, huh?”

“Yeah.” Brooke nodded. “You know the one.” She walked down to her father’s place and offered him a quick one-armed hug and a kiss on his cheek.

“Must be some pretty important client to call you on a Sunday night,” her father teased, then returned her kiss. “You be careful driving, Brooke.”

“I will, Dad. Like my life depends on it.” Brooke winked at C.C., then tapped her on the shoulder as she passed by. “See you, Randi, Terri.” She addressed her sisters and then leaned down to kiss her mother again. “Bye, Mom and thanks for everything.”

Randi watched as Brooke left the room, then turned to look pointedly at the rest of the family. Seeing no reaction from any of them, she smirked and shook her head, muttering under her breath, “I can’t believe you all bought that story.”

The 300 raced through the Virginia countryside as it made its way to where Sam was. Brooke had to keep reminding herself to breathe as she drove, wanting nothing more than to be holding her lover in her arms. When she finally pulled into the parking space outside of Crystal’s house, she felt like her heart was in her chest and making its way up her throat, the closer she got to where Sam actually was. Opening the door and getting out, Brooke looked to the window of the house and saw the golden tousles of hair with two green eyes looking back out at her. Practically running, Brooke found herself being met at the door by the warmth of her lover. “Hi!” Brooke smiled down at the endearing woman, trying to keep from wrapping her arms around the woman and kissing her silly.

“Hey,” Sam smiled up at six feet of restraint as she held out her hand to Brooke, blushing when the woman took it into her own and kissed it gently before allowing herself to be led inside. Sam could feel the nervous trembles of her lover’s hand as she brought the woman further into the house. “It will be fine. Trust me,” Sam whispered. She looked back to see Brooke nod.

“I do,” Brooke whispered back.

They entered the living room that was off the hallway in the modest home to see a small, gray haired woman in a nurse’s uniform sitting on the couch.

“Aunt Sandy,” Sam pulled Brooke closer to her. “This is the young woman that I was telling you about.” Sam presented her friend. “This is my lover, Brooke Gordon.”

Surprised by the choice of terms, Brooke swallowed hard, then nodded toward the seated woman respectfully. “Hello, Ma’am.”

“It’s so nice to finally meet you, Brooke. I’ve heard so many nice things about you.” Sandy smiled as she looked from one young woman to the other.

“Likewise. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Why, thank you.” Sandy turned to Sam, “And so polite, too.”

Sam smiled, pleased that Brooke was making such a nice impression on her Aunt. She squeezed Brooke’s hand in her own. “She’s always polite, Aunt Sandy.”

The older woman watched as a blush made its way up Brooke’s neck. “Well, I hope you haven’t spoiled your Sunday. I’m sorry about working so late, Sam.”

“No, Ma’am,” Brooke spoke up. “As a matter of fact, this is the best part of the entire day.” She looked to Sam and winked, squeezing her hand.

“Maybe next time I can give you more notice about Sarah. I know that you love your sister. I’ll do anything to help you see her.”

“Well, let’s hope there is a next time. Thanks for everything, Aunt Sandy.” Sam let go of Brooke’s hand and went to hug her relative. “Ah…we’d better get going. It’s a long drive back home.” She kissed her aunt and then walked back toward Brooke.

“Home,” the tall woman muttered under her breath.

“Yeah, home.” Sam patted her lover’s shoulder. “Let me get my bag and I’m all set, Brooke.” The blonde headed toward the stairs.

“Okay, I’ll be right here,” Brooke spoke softly, smiling as she watched her leave the room, then turned to smile at the older woman on the couch.

“Thanks for coming for her. I just got in about ten minutes ago.”

“It’s no problem at all.” Brooke looked down sheepishly admitting, “I started to get a little worried when I hadn’t heard from her.

“She told me that you’d say that.” Sandy smiled liking the woman even more. “Sam’s a pretty perceptive girl. Being in love and all.” The older woman watched as Brooke tinged with red about her face and neck. “Sam’s done nothing but talk about you since she came in the door. Don’t worry,” Sandy winked, “that’s a good sign. You two seem to be quite smitten with each other.”

“I think about her all the time…” Brooke spoke softly as she admitted. “I uh…I love her very much.” Her hand slipped into her jacket pocket and she fingered the small rounded top box, then let her hand inconspicuously slide out again.

“I’m glad that Sam’s found someone nice, and understanding, like you. You should have seen how excited she was to see her sister. I never thought I’d

see those two whispering their secrets back and forth again…” Sandy thought for a moment. “I offered to drive her when I got home but I think she’d rather be in your company than mine.”

Brooke grinned, feeling the heat of a blush coming on. “Well, I…”

“I was once young myself. You don’t have to blush,” she cautioned Brooke.

“You’d be surprised how much your niece can make me blush,” Brooke confided.

“I’m sure she can.” Sandy leaned toward Brooke and spoke softly. “I think she gets that from my side of the family. I did that to my husband all the time. Sandy chuckled at the memory. “Even after we were done courting.” The woman watched Brooke’s eyes grow wider then remarked, “You’d be surprised at what we Moleson women can do.” She smiled coyly and winked.

“Moleson women can do what, Aunt Sandy?” Sam entered the room, with her bag in her hand looking first at the woman on the couch then at her tall lover.

Brooke tugged on her ear, then tilted her head a bit before replying, “Making me blush.” She looked at Sam and offered her hand.

Sam shrugged. “That’s easy. I just love you to death.”

Brooke took Sam’s hand and pulled her close. “Hope not. I plan on being alive for the next ten thousand years or so.”

“Gee, that’s funny…me, too. Think maybe we could hang out together?”

“Absolutely, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Oh…you two are in love. I see all the signs of a long, happy relationship here.” Sandy looked at the two standing arm in arm now. “Well, I think you two young lovebirds better be off now before it gets too late. Maybe we could get together and visit with you soon. That is if you can find some time for your dear old aunt.”

Sam looked up to Brooke. “I’m sure that could be arranged.”

“Maybe…” Brooke teased then winked. “Of course, it can.”

“Don’t you just love her, Aunt Sandy?” Sam looked from one woman in her life to the other.

Brooke pulled Sam’s hand to her lips and kissed it, looking into her eyes. “As long as you do, I’m happy.”

Aunt Sandy watched as the two young women stared into each other’s eyes. After a few minutes of being forgotten about, she coughed loudly.

“Uhmmm…Sorry, Ma’am,” Brooke apologized first.

“Sorry, Aunt Sandy,” Sam shrugged. “I just get all caught up when I look into her eyes.”

“Well, just promise me you won’t do that while you’re driving home, will you do that for your old Auntie?” She got up to walk them to the door.

Both Sam and Brooke chuckled at the old auntie mention. “Of course not. We’ll even give you a call when we get back if you’d like. I promise, Aunt Sandy.”

Sam hugged her aunt. “Thanks for the birthday gift. I loved being with Sarah.” The blonde kissed her aunt’s cheek. “You’re the best.”

Sandy looked at Brooke. “Well, I’m sure I’m not the best but I know what you mean.” She looked at the red streaking up the tall woman’s face and smiled.

“It was very nice meeting you. Thanks for the wonderful gift that you gave Sam. It means a lot to me to see her that happy.”

“Yep, definitely a Moleson trait.” Sam winked at her aunt. “Thanks again.”

“Be careful you two. It was so nice to finally meet you, Brooke. It was a real treat to put another image in context with Sam other than that Loran one.” She turned to her niece, “You’re right, Sam…this one is much better to look at.”

“Believe me, I’m the first one to crush the Loran image.” Brooke assured her.

Sam tightened the hold on her lover’s waist. “I told you so. Bye and tell Crystal thanks for her part in the weekend too.”

“I will, Sam.” Sandy ushered them to the door and stood there waving as they walked to the car, sending soft-spoken, “Good-byes,” in their direction.

After they pulled out of the parking space, Sam studied her lover as she waited until they came to a traffic light and stopped.

“You know something Brooke?”

The driver looked over at Sam and smiled, “What Baby?”

“Now, I feel like I’m home. Being with you is like me being home. Remind me to thank you for the ride when we get home.” Sam winked, then motioned to the green light. “You can go now, Brooke. The light changed.”

Brooke went through the light and pulled into an empty parking lot, where she set the gear selector in park, then turned and looked at Sam.

“Did we forget something?”

“Yeah…” Brooke grinned then leaned over and kissed Sam.

“MMMMMmmm…Now how did I forget that?” She watched as Brooke grinned and kissed her again. This time, she wrapped her arms around Brooke’s neck and pulled her in for more as the kiss deepened. Sam could feel her body responding and slowly came up from the kiss somewhat dazed.

“Now we can go.” Brooke settled back into the driver’s seat, taking the gear stick out of park. She glanced over to see Sam sinking back into her seat, with her eyes closed, a huge grin plastered on her face and a single word on her lips, “Home.” The word was said softly so as not to break the spell.
Ch15 Remnants Of A Dream
“…It comes alive and it possesses all your senses… ”
The banging in her ears reminded Sam of the late night hours she had stayed up, finishing off the papers that she would hand in today. In her dulled, sleepy state of semi-consciousness, she tried to figure out if she just needed more sleep or take some prophylactic measures to ward off the beginning of a pounding headache. Unable to decide, she rolled over to face away from the wall, hoping that it would be a way to help keep the banging noise to a minimum. It didn’t work. If it did anything, it only made the sounds coming from across the room more pronounced.

The unruly head of blonde hair emerged from under the covers as Sam leaned up on one elbow and faced the other bed in the room. With her eyes still shut tightly, the sleep-filled voice called out to her roommate, “C.C., would you stop that damn banging on that headboard. I’m trying to get a little sleep here.” Satisfied that would stop the noise, Sam pulled the covers up and brought the pillow on top of her head as she snuggled back into her cocoon.

“Rise and shine, Sweetheart.” The softly spoken words were said without malice.

From underneath the covers the muffled tones of an annoyed woman came bursting out, “C.C., I said cut the crap.” The sound of subdued laughter was not what Sam wanted to hear. Without warning of any kind, the small woman tossed back her covers with one hand as the other pushed her up into a sitting position. Once upright, she grabbed at her pillow while she tried to open her eyes to level a good throw at her sometimes-annoying roommate.

With her hand holding the pillow in the air, she slowly blinked her eyes open to focus on the cause of her sleeplessness. The hazy image of a tall, dark-haired woman fully dressed came into view. She blinked again and rubbed her one eye with her free hand then tried to focus her aim again. Removing the sleep from her eyes improved her sight. She took aim and fired the pillow at her target.

It wasn’t C.C. perched on her bed, stretched out with one long booted leg tapping against the footboard of the bed. Instead, it was a wide-awake Brooke who had picked the flung pillow from out of the air with a single hand.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” Sam looked swiftly around the room for C.C. “How’d you get in?”

Brooke sat up on the bed, tossing the pillow back to Sam’s bed as she took the two steps to transverse the small room. Only a few seconds had passed before the tall woman gently bent down and kissed Sam’s sweet lips.

Sam giggled to herself as they came away from the kiss, letting her arms now wrap tightly around her lover’s neck. “Never mind how, why weren’t you here earlier?” She stared up into the perplexed face and offered, “In my dream you were ah…” Sam sat up a little straighter, letting her eyes gaze over the room, looking for C.C.

“She’s out of the room.” Brooke winked, then kissed the blonde’s cheek. “Now what about earlier, Sweetheart?” As she asked, Brooke could feel her body being pulled tighter into the blonde’s embrace. With the scent of Sam filling her senses, Brooke felt the warmth of the woman’s breath on her ear as the dream began being told to her in hushed, sultry tones.

As the story of the dream went on, Sam paused to steal looks at the blossoming emotions on Brooke’s face. Each time after she looked, the young woman leaned in to whisper another tidbit of the dream. The last time she looked, Brooke’s eyes were so big around that Sam swore they would pop right out of the woman’s head. That was when Sam heard the long, agonized groan escape the tall woman’s trembling lips.

“Baby…” Brooke croaked out.

“Yessss,” Sam drew the word out longer than it was.

“Keep talking like that and you will be missing classes today.” The older woman panted, then asked, “Do you dream like that when you’re at my house?”

“Don’t have to there, anymore.” Sam winked seductively. “Sorry Brooke, but I’ve got two papers to turn in and a test this morning.” The blonde frowned. “But I do like that thought.” Sam eyed the brown paper bag on the desk. “So what’s this for?” She pointed to it.

“Hmmm…you know, I did have a reason for coming here.” Brooke traced the delicate outline of Sam’s ear with her tongue. “I brought you something.”

“God, that’s not fair…” Sam groaned, feeling her knees growing weak and thanked her lucky stars that she wasn’t standing. “That’s not fair Brooke. You know what that does to me.”

“Uhm…I do.” Brooke moved her attention to Sam’s neck, kissing her just below the ear.

“Brooke…” Sam’s eyes widened as a chill ran down her spine. “Besides waking me up into an erotic state…not that I’m complaining, mind you, but what are you doing here?”

“Hmm…” she kissed the blonde’s neck once more, then whispered, “I have something for you.”

Sam strained her eyes to see the clock. It was twenty after six in the morning “Your sister is going to come in any minute, she must have gone for breakfast or something.”

“Nope,” Brooke leaned back, wiggling her eyebrows.

“Why not?” Sam searched Brooke’s face. “Brooke…what did you do to her?”

“Do to her?” The dark-haired woman was surprised at the insinuation. “Nothing! I just know. Because she loves me enough to go play in the library so I could have some time with you.”

“Library? C.C. knows where the library actually is…” Sam found it hard to concentrate with the kisses that were being lavished upon her neck and shoulder. “Oh…ah…you’re distracting me.”

Brooke moved to the other side of Sam’s neck and kissed it. “Uh huh…is it working?”

The blonde smiled and closed her eyes, “Better than you could ever imagine.”

“Yeah?” Brooke pulled back and looked at Sam’s serene face. “Because I have a terrific imagination.” She grinned waiting to see the green of Sam’s eyes again.

“That is exactly what I was afraid of.” Sam giggled as she opened her eyes to see the silly grin on her lover’s face. Leaning in, she kissed Brooke.

Coming out of the kiss, Brooke took in a deep breath and then spoke softly, “I brought you breakfast in bed.” The woman got up from Sam’s bed to retrieve the brown bag from the desk.

“You didn’t.” Sam watched as Brooke laid the pillow across the blonde’s lap and began to pull everything out of the bag, setting each item down on the pillow. “You did, but why?” The younger woman looked up into loving blue eyes.

“I just…uhm…I decided to bring you breakfast in bed because I wanted to,” Brooke held up her hand when Sam attempted to speak. “And because…I thought you’d like it.”

“I see that,” Sam smiled, “and thanks very much but you didn’t have to do

this. I’d love you anyway.” The blonde patted the bed next to her. “Come here you big hunk of heaven. Have I told you lately that I love you?”

The tall woman nodded as she sat down next to Sam. “Yes, but I wouldn’t mind hearing it again.”

Sam picked up a piece of the fruit and fed it to Brooke, winking as she started to speak, “Well, I do love you whether I get breakfast or not.”

“It’s a good thing because I am hopelessly in love with you.” Brooke took the offered bite, grinning as she chewed on it.

“Brooke, I was thinking…maybe it’s time we let your family know that we’re…”

“Together?” Brooke quickly finished her sentence.

The blonde blushed as she smiled, “Together…yeah, you could say that. What do you think?”

“I think it’s a great idea. It’s driving me nuts not being able to tell everyone how much you mean to me.”

“I felt pretty good about telling Aunt Sandy…so telling your sisters and father shouldn’t be that bad.” Sam looked Brooke straight in the eye. “Do you think they’ll accept it?”

“Well, they accept me. They always have and they already love you, so I think we’ll be just fine.” Brooke nodded her head.

“I hope so. I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m…” Sam bit at her lip, hesitating. “Brooke, does our age difference ever bother you?”

“No,” she shook her head, “not at all.” Brooke paused, then continued, “Except for when I have to talk about you like you’re a kid because the others don’t know about us.”

“Good, because I don’t either. You think they’ll like me just as well as your girlfriend as they do my being C.C.’s roomie?”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine with it. I think Mom loves you more because of it.”

Sheepishly Sam picked up a forkful of French Toast covered in fruit and played with it. “Yeah, I kind of got that impression.” She looked down at her food pausing for a moment, then asked, “You know what?”

Brooke grabbed the forkful of French Toast and held it up to Sam’s lips. “What?”

“I think you are your mother’s favorite daughter.” Sam took the bite and chewed on it happily.

Crinkled brows showed Brooke’s concentration. “Why do you say that?” Brooke leaned back, eyeing the woman before her. “And believe me, Darlin’, I’m not her favorite right now.”

“Because she’s always worried and thinking about you. So tell me what did I miss at the last dinner?”

“She’s like that with all of us. Well, you’ll be happy to know that she’s not on my case about finding somebody.”

“I guess not after that talk at my birthday party,” Sam teased.

“I think she’s setting her sights,” Brooke paused, “uhm…higher at this point or bigger. That depends on how you’d look at it.”

“Cryptic language…eh?” The blonde nudged her lover, “Is that another Gordon family trait?”

Brooke looked at Sam, “You really want to know?”

“Well, I think if it concerns me I should know, don’t you?”

“It’s not you exactly,” blue eyes drove home the point. “She’s talking about

grandchildren now.” Brooke elaborated. “Randi is the only daughter to have given her grandchildren. I’m not saying that she’s on me about it… just in general.”

“I’m sure that Terri will be soon to follow.”

Brooke looked down to the floor and snickered. “If Terri can stay home long enough to have sex with Rick.”

“Are you trying to tell me you’re interested in having children?” Sam asked softly.

“Me?” Brooke looked over to her lover with terror filled eyes. “Uh…well…I never really thought about it. I figured it was a moot point where I’m concerned, you know?” The woman shrugged.

“Brooke…” Sam reached out and lovingly touched the woman’s face. “All it takes is the right partner. Lots of women raise children or adopt.”

“I can’t see myself playing drums pregnant.” A silly grin came to her face and she heard the sound of giggling coming from the woman next to her. “What?”

“Now that’s funny. We’d have to get you extra long drumsticks just to be able to hit the skins when you’re eight or nine months along.” Sam raised her hand to cover her mouth, trying to hold back the laughter. “I’m sorry. Hey, maybe adopting would be better.”

“UmmHmm… go ahead and yuk it up.” Brooke brooded for a moment then came back with her retort. “We would just have to make sure I don’t get pregnant.” She looked down at the blonde’s lap. “You’re missing something there if you’re thinking about getting me pregnant, but feel free to try all you want.”

Sam looked to where Brooke’s eyes were fixated and she could feel the heat of a flush rushing up her neck. “You are bad…incorrigible even, Brooke.” The young woman shook her head, hoping to cool her rising temperature.

“Why? You’re the one who decided to elaborate on the baby discussion.” Brooke smiled at how easily she could make her lover blush.

“You don’t know…that can be done different ways than just the natural one?”

“What?” Brooke looked seriously at Sam.

“Forget it.” Sam continued playing with the food on her lap. “We’ll discuss it when the time comes.”

“T-time…what time? C…comes, when?” Brooke tried to grasp the concept.

Patting the nervous looking woman’s hand, Sam remained calm. “Time for us to think about a family. I mean…I…” she hesitated and looked at Brooke’s face, seeing the beginnings of a smile start. “I think I’m getting ahead of myself here.” Sam let her gaze fall to the makeshift table in her lap.

There was silence in the tiny room for a moment before the sound of Brooke’s softly spoken words could be heard. “Hey, Sam…”

“Yeah,” the blonde continued to play with her food.

“What do you say that sometime in the future we try to work on this baby thing?” The dark-haired woman leaned over, placing a kiss behind Sam’s ear. Sam nuzzled into Brooke’s shoulder, “God, Brooke. You know what that does to me.”

Brooke smiled as she continued, “We haven’t been together that long, so I don’t think it should be anytime soon.” Brooke pushed back a stray strand of blonde hair and kissed her again. “But if I’m going to have a family…” the woman’s large hand slipped over Sam’s smaller one and held it, “I want it to be with you. Sam, I love you. What do you say, bright eyes?” She whispered, then kissed the blonde hair.

“That makes me want you all the more.” Sam glanced at the clock as she went to lean back from Brooke’s shoulder. “But not now.” She straightened up, “I’ve got to get a move on if I’m making that first class of mine.” The young woman took another bite of her food, then hurriedly closed the container and moved it aside. She turned to see Brooke sitting there, poking her bottom lip out and sulking. “Hey, you could help me out, you know.” Sam tugged at Brooke’s fingers as she got up off the bed, sending an invitation with her eyes. “You could always help me wash my back. Care to give me a hand?”

The pouting woman’s face turned jubilant in a split second of time. She practically jumped off the bed, sweeping Sam up in her arms and carried her toward the shower as Sam gleefully giggled.

The blonde rolled up on her side, her nose deep into a book as she tried to focus her mind on studying. The day hadn’t started off like any other and the rest of the day seemed to follow suit. Now she had to get back down to the business at hand, school work. Come on Sam, just get the studying done and you’ve got the rest of your life to fantasize about her. The young woman tried to get the images of Brooke’s naked body lying on her bed watching her as she dressed for class, out of her mind.

Sam reached over to the remote, turning on the CD player as she tried to drown the images from her mind. Satisfied that it would help, she settled into her book, letting the rhythm of the music move her body as the book moved her thoughts along to marketing. After only a few minutes of reading, Sam heard the knock and looked up at the door, half-expecting C.C. to poke her head in any minute. With the second round of knocking, Sam knew it wasn’t her roommate at all. Getting up, she danced over to the door with the book in her hand.

Opening the door, she saw the wide-eyed face of her cousin, “Hey Crystal, what’s up with you?” Sam hesitated then asked, “Something wrong?”

“No, I just thought that maybe we could go do dinner or something. You interested?” The woman pointed to her relative using the hand with a bottle of water in it.

“Interested…yeah, I’m starving. I haven’t had anything since breakfast this morning.” The woman’s mind thought back to breakfast in bed with a certain tall woman at her side.

“My God, you actually still make time for those big breakfasts of yours?”

“Ah…I had more than just breakfast, Crys.” Sam smiled, “It was breakfast in bed served by someone we both know.” The blonde smirked, “And oh, can she serve.”

Crystal rolled her eyes at the look on Sam’s face. “Well, come on Babycakes, you can tell me all about breakfast over dinner.” Crystal took a sip of water.

“Okay, just let me leave a note for C.C. or she’ll worry about me.” Sam went to the desk and shifted through the clutter for some paper and a pen.

“So… Ms. Wonderful brought you breakfast in bed? Wow! That’s quite a drive for some toast,” Crystal teased her cousin.

“Well, it was more than just toast…” Sam’s coy smile said it all. “Let’s just say that she wet my appetite.” She cleared her throat, “Ah…all of my appetites.” Sam could feel the flush start and quickly tried to head it off. “So what’s on your mind, Crystal? You don’t drive almost two hours just to share a meal with me on the spur of the moment either. Something up with you and Peter?”

Acting very dignified, Crystal stated, “Actually, I had to attend a seminar near the campus.” Then the impish grin crossed her face and she confessed, “Peter’s moving here.”

“Hmm… you must have really made an impression on him.”

“Well…I hope I did. He said he’s been thinking about a change for quite a while now.”

“He has. I see that it’s for the better with you in the picture,” Sam teased as she scribbled out her note and then straightened up.

“You think so? My God Sam, everything is happening so fast and I don’t even want to stop it.” Crystal paused for a moment then added, “I don’t think I would if I could.”

“Yeah, he’s really a sweet man. I can see that he likes you.” Sam turned to face her cousin still standing in the doorway, “Well, don’t knock it, look at Brooke and I…”

“Good because I’ve got it bad for him too. Sam, you’ve been together for at least 2 months. Peter and I have known each other for less than two weeks.” Crystal shook her head then laughed, “I absolutely love it though.”

“Oh…now that is bad,” Sam joined in the laughter. “But you know, I kissed Brooke the second time I was in her company.”

The older woman’s eyes lit up as she stepped inside the room and closed the door. “Second time, huh? Oh do tell.” She crossed to the bed and made herself comfortable, waiting to hear the story.

“Yeah, well…the first time C.C. introduced me to her family at a dinner, there was Brooke…” Sam took in a breath as though it was just happening to her now, “I remember how her family kept picking on her about settling down.”

“Really, huh?” Crystal teased her.

“Yeah…” Sam hung her head, shy with embarrassment, “And now look at us.”

“Hey…why are you hanging your head?”

“I was just thinking…bet she never took anyone else breakfast in a dorm bed.” Sam looked up with a twinkle in her eye and a coy smile on her face.

“What’s going on in that head of yours, Sam?” Crystal laughed at her cousin, then took another mouthful of water, finishing the bottle in her hand.

“Can you believe we were actually talking about giving her mom grandchildren.”

The sudden spray of water coming from Crystal’s mouth showed how surprised she was by the topic. “Wha…what?” The woman sputtered out as she tried to catch the waterfall.

“Nothing definite, mind you. The topic just came up, that’s all.”

“What do you mean, ‘came up’ exactly?”

“She said that her mother was interested in having more grandchildren, but I think she was really testing the waters, just to see if I’m receptive to it.”

“You think?” Crystal now viewed her cousin in a different light. They weren’t kids anymore at all.

Sam nodded her head, “I think. You know, Crystal…I could see it happening… Brooke and I with kids of our own.” Sam became quiet for a moment as she gathered her thoughts, then slowly started. “I see me…and Brooke, of course,” she grinned, “…with an armful of children. Each one getting as much love as they need from the both of us. You know, it’s like the more we love, the more we have to give. Stupid, huh?” Sam looked to Crystal who was shaking her head, then continued with her dream. “I see her house… our house… full of life and love with children popping up everywhere.”

“No, not stupid. I think it’s really very sweet.” Crystal smiled as she asked, “So just how many little rugrats do you plan on having with Ms. Thing? I mean, obviously Brooke would have to be ‘Daddy’, she’s so butch, you know.”

“Hmm… that she is,” Sam’s eyes twinkle with the thought. “You know with wanting a family that big, we just might have to adopt.”

“What, you don’t think Brooke would have a baby?”

“Well, heck Crystal, if I’m the only one having the kids… I’d be pregnant all the time. I’m not sure if Brooke would. I mean, it might interfere with her lifestyle too much.” Sam remembered the mental image that she’d painted earlier in the day. “Could you imagine her nine months pregnant and drumming out tunes in the studio?”

Crystal thought for a moment, “No, I can’t say that I can, she’s a little too butch to be wearing one of those pink ‘Baby Under Construction’ shirts. Hmm… I’m sure this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, right?”

“Besides, wouldn’t it help if the two of you lived together on a full time basis first?”

“Yeah. I think we’d have to be living together for that whole Planned Parenthood to become a reality. I don’t really think that will happen until I’m out of school. ”

Crystal nodded in agreement. “Say, do me a favor?”

“Sure… just name it.”

“If you happen to get pregnant…I have to be the first person you tell,” Crystal smiled at her cousin, then began laughing.

Sam laughed about the idea for a moment, then quickly answered her, “Yes Crystal, I’ll make sure that you know before Brooke even knows. But,” she added, “…only on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“You do the same for me when its’ you and Peter’s firstborn.”

“No problem but you really have to tell me first. It’s important.”

Puzzled, Sam asked, “Why?”

“Because the day that your little ‘Stud-Puppet’ learns how to spit, that’s the day I’m gonna be a rich woman, with the tabloids paying me for the story.” Crystal winked at Sam, “Come on, let’s go get some dinner. All this talk of sex and parenting has made me work up an appetite.”

Brooke found herself drawn to the dorm, like a magnet to a piece of metal. It was so crazy, this spiraling, almost out of control effect that Sam was having on her. The tall woman sighed as she stepped up to the door and knocked on it, hoping to see the smiling face again. Not waiting, Brooke tapped out the rhythmic announcement of her presence again. Hearing the patter of movement from the other side of the door, she waited patiently.

As the door opened, the image of C.C. with her hand on her hip came into view, a displeased look coming to her face as she recognized her sister, Brooke, on the other side of the door. “Is it breakfast time again, so soon?”

“What?” Blue eyes opened wide. “Hey, I’m sorry about earlier but thanks, Sis.” Brooke looked into the room, searching for Sam. After not seeing the love of her life, Brooke pushed her way past C.C., throwing off the comment, “Besides, you got fifty bucks out of it. I guess I’m going to have to make sure I’ve got smaller bills on me when I get another idea like that. I hope you had a very good breakfast on me.”

The brunette smiled sweetly, “You know, I do have to sleep sometime.” C.C. tapped her sister on the shoulder, then held out her hand. “Fifty bucks, Sis and I’ll be at the library if you need me.”

“Huh?” Brooke spun around from looking in the bathroom for Sam. “I gave you fifty this morning, Goofball. Check your left pants pocket.”

Scowling, C.C. reached into the pocket of her jeans. “Oh yeah,” the brunette smiled, “guess I forgot…it was so early and all.” She pulled the crisp bill out and held it up to the overhead light. “If you’re looking for Sam, she’s not here.” She smiled, then put the money back into her pocket as she continued to talk, “She hasn’t been for a while. Crystal stopped by and they went out together.” She picked up the scribbled note and waved it at Brooke.

Disgusted at her bad timing, Brooke let her shoulders slump. “Damn, I was hoping to surprise her.”

“Once in a day isn’t enough?”

Brooke rolled her eyes at her sister, “Nope… never.”

“Come on Brooke, you keep this schedule up and I’ll be setting my watch with your comings and goings like the trains in Grand Central station.”

Brooke glared at her sister, “Smart ass.”

“Why thank you,” C.C. smiled, throwing the note in the wastebasket.

“I just wanted to see her, that’s all.”

C.C. shook her head. “Her looks haven’t changed since this morning, Sis. What’s there to see?”

Brooke looked down at her feet as she shoved her hands into her front jeans pockets. “I know…I just…” she took in a deep breath, then mumbled, “I dunno…maybe I…missed her.”

“You are a whipped puppy, if ever I’ve seen one.” C.C. stood with her arms crossed in front of her chest, as she sighed at the mush ball her sister was turning into. Grabbing her coat and purse, she headed for the door, “Well, come on, there’s no sense in you sitting here just pining away, give me a lift over to Terri’s. I promised her I’d stop by and bring some pizza.”

Brooke looked up at her sister, “I guess it’s the least I can do, since you helped me out this morning.”

“No Sis,” C.C. grabbed onto her sister’s arm and pulled her toward the door, “The least you can do is buy the pizza, too.”

The scrub-clad woman stood at the entryway of her house to see the small doorstep taken up by two of her siblings. Quirking a silly smile, she greeted them, “Well, look who’s bearing gifts. If it isn’t my sisters, Fric and Frac.”

“Bite me, Terri,” Brooke shoved past her, juggling several pizza boxes and two six packs of beer.

“Glad to see that you could make it C.C.,” Terri motioned with her head toward Brooke, “Where’d you pick up that mad dog?”

Brooke set the impromptu dinner down on the coffee table in the living room and turned to address Terri. “I’m not allowed to stop and see my sister? It must be a bad time… is Rick around?”

“Hey, you know the policy, anytime, as long as you bring food. And I see,” Terri lifted the lid on the pizza box, “…you’ve paid the toll.” The woman dug a slice out of the box and took a seat on the couch. “Rick…are you kidding? If I’m here, he’s there at the hospital. Don’t worry, my sex life isn’t going to suffer by you stopping by.”

C.C. threw her purse on the small hallstand and followed her sisters, “You mean, you old married couples still have sex?” She flopped down in a chair and leaned forward toward the boxes of food.

“Hey, watch it.” Brooke halted her first bite of pizza, “I’m older than her C.C.”

“Yeah, but you’re not married…” C.C. paused before adding, “…yet.”

The second eldest sibling looked rather surprised at her sister, “Yet? You think this is going to change sometime soon?”

The young woman winked, letting a smile come to her face as she swallowed her food. “You know what I mean.” Her tone was almost apologetic.

“Yeah…I know,” Brooke smirked then turned to Terri. “So…just for future reference, it’s marriage first, then the kids…right?”

C.C. stuck her tongue out at Brooke in defiance, “Trust me Brooke, children are not in my game plan yet… I hope.” The brunette crossed her fingers, offering a brief prayer up to the heavens, then resumed her eating.

“Well, the little buggers are in mine. You should have seen the screaming children that I took care of today,” Terri rubbed her ear as if it hurt.

“Well, I was just asking for future reference.” Brooke cleared her throat, “I mean… I’d hate to get the two backwards.” She grinned, and then bit into her slice of pizza.

“Ah…Brooke, you’d have to get more than that backwards to have kids,” Terri wiped her mouth trying to hide the smile on her face. “You’d have to get a man.”

“Nope… not necessarily,” Brooke winked at C.C. as she received a glare in return. “Who knows, I might one day find someone to have a baby for me.”

Seeing the look on C.C.’s face, Terri offered her thoughts, “Now C.C., we can do a lot in the laboratory…” the physician smiled at the chance to tease her younger sister, “but you better invest in a large…” Terri caught Brooke’s attention, then glanced toward C.C., “very large petri dish. You know how big the Gordon babies come.”

“Oh yeah, right,” Brooke added with a subtle wink.

“Yeah, right. Some of us are even bigger than life,” C.C. looked over at Brooke.

“So, you think if I decide to have a kid one day, that I should warn my partner about what they’re getting into, or out of, first?” Brooke exchanged glances with Terri then smiled, waiting for C.C. to respond.

She waited to finish her last bit of pizza before wiping her hands on her napkin and nonchalantly asking her sister, “And you’re going to get sperm from whom for that one, Brooke? It’s not like we have any brothers.”

“Oh yeah…” the older sister nodded, “…need that stuff huh?” Brooke swallowed her food and washed it down with a mouthful of beer, “Okay, so it wouldn’t actually be a Gordon baby…”

Finally, C.C. started to catch on, “Hey, you guys are just trying to scare me… aren’t you?” She looked at both sisters and nodded, “Yeah, I thought so.”

Brooke tilted her head to the side and looked at C.C., “Is it working?”

The brunette shot a dirty look at her sisters, “It has got me thinking.”

“Oh yeah?” Brooke sat back on the couch, “About what?”

“About how we need an expert to settle this discussion once and for all.” C.C. jumped up from her chair and strode over to the telephone on the hallstand. Picking it up she punched in a number then waited as she watched the questioning looks on her sisters’ faces.

Hearing the voice on the other end, C.C. turned her attention back to the phone. “Hey, we were just having a discussion and thought you might have the answers. How about if you come over to Terri’s.” She paused for a moment, listening to the reply, then nodded, “Okay… see you in a few.” The woman hung up the phone, and then turned back to the living room, “Now we’ll get the real story.” She dusted off her hands and took her seat on the chair.

Terri and Brooke both looked at each other, then turned to watch C.C. shrug her shoulders.

“Hey, she’s the one with the kids. I called in the expert witness,” C.C. said smugly. “Yep,” she opened the box and took another slice out, “It’s a sisters dinner for sure now.”

“What did I miss?” Terri looked from C.C. to Brooke, then back again.

“Randi’s on her way,” Brooke sighed, “and all because she’s given birth.” The tall woman shook her head and muttered under her breath, “All because I wanted to make sure that it’s marriage first before kids.”

Terri rolled her eyes, “I just hope she acts like the lawyer that she is and keeps it brief. You know how she gets sometimes,” the woman frowned, “…one subject leading her into another.”

“Yeah, Randi has the tendency of thinking she’s going into trial when she talks to us.” Brooke leaned back and bit off another crust of pizza.

“God, I wish I was that committed to my profession.” Terri sighed, “Sorry, but I’m not treating you girls as patients.”

“Even me, Ter? I’m still the baby of the family,” C.C. batted her eyes and smiled, acting childlike.

“Thank God you don’t treat us like patients!” Brooke swallowed and began teasing her sister, “The last thing I need is you shoving a thermometer up my ass.”

Surprised by the statement, Terri shook her head, “Hey, what do you think nurses are for?” She smiled wiggling her eyebrows mischievously. “Besides, I’d much rather prefer to keep to the ears, nose and throats, thank you.”

“Good point,” Brooke emphasized it by pointing at her sister and smiling back.

“Ewwwee, that’s the breeding ground of all childhood infections,” C.C. made a face.

“You would know that too… always sticking your nose into everyone’s life.” Terri threw a crumbled up napkin at her younger sister.

“Oh, but it helped me to know you guys so well,” C.C. showed a coy smile.

The sound of the doorbell set Brooke in motion, getting up off the couch and strolling over to the door. She looked out the window in the door before opening it. “Hey, guess who’s here? It’s Randi.”

“Hey Sis, you’re a little out of your territory, aren’t you?” Randi tapped Brooke on the shoulder, and then walked past her.

“Nice to see you, too.” Brooke closed the door, “Actually, I had some errands to do in the area.”

Randi turned and winked, “Sure.” She entered the living room and addressed the other sisters in turn, “Doc,” she nodded, “Brat.” Walking past them, she settled into the recliner in the corner, “So, should we break right in to the questioning that is overwhelming all of your minds today?”

“Well… seems simple enough…” Brooke walked into the room and took her seat, “marriage is supposed to come before the kids, right?” She looked at her older sister with a little upturned smile to her lips.

The lawyer skirted the underlying implication, “In a perfect world… or are we talking C.C.’s?” Randi let her gaze go to the youngest sister.

“Hey, I resent that,” C.C.’s head popped up from her beer can.

Clearing her throat, Brooke drew the attention back to herself, “I just wanted to know for future reference…”

“Future reference? Brooke… you changing in mid stream?” Randi smirked as she watched her sister shake her head adamantly. “Then why would it matter to you?”

“I told you… for future reference. I won’t be single forever.”

Randi watched Brooke closely, trying to figure her sister out. “Then you are switching.”

Brooke grabbed a slice of pizza, and then took a pull from her beer. “Nope. It may not be legal, but I could get married… eventually,” she shrugged.

“What are you planning to do… have your own harem like I suggested at dinner the other night? I guess it got you thinking, huh?”

Terri and C.C. both spit out their food and drink at the thought, causing both of them to jump at the same time for napkins, smacking into each other in the process.

“I mean with one person… just like you and Terri have done. Ring any bells?” Brooke smiled innocently.

“Cute Brooke, but those bells would be wedding bells then?”

“Hey, I was just thinking about the ‘grandchild’ discussion over dinner at Mom’s.” The musician winked at C.C., “Not anytime soon.”

The youngest sibling covered her ears, while scrunching up her face at the thought of giving birth. “Long time for me, I hope.”

“Why the face C.C.?” Randi looked over at her baby sister. “At the rate you’re going through the guys… you’ll be the next one.”

“And to think, I was the one who invited you.” C.C. stuck out her tongue, causing Brooke to nearly spit out her beer as she burst into laughter.

“Hey, let’s not forget why she’s here. Go on,” the physician pointed to her sister and winked, “tell them about giving birth to a Gordon baby.”

“Come on, can either of you honestly say that you can picture Chase giving birth?” Brooke paused. “Oh yeah, that’s the other question.”

“NO!” C.C. dropped her food, holding her fingers together as a cross in front of her like she was warding off the devil himself. “I’m not ready for that.”

“Randi,” Brooke got her sisters’ attention, “Let’s say that I eventually give my heart to someone and we… uhm… commit ourselves,” she smiled and shrugged her shoulders, “for lack of a better term other than marriage. Let’s say we decide to have a family…”

“Here it comes, the immaculate conception all over again,” Randi choked out around her laughter, then waved her hands, “Go on.”

“Should I warn her about the size of Gordon babies?” Brooke was hoping for Randi to play along, teasing C.C. without mercy. She watched, as Randi thought for a moment, letting C.C. be the center of her attention. “You know, before she gets pregnant?”

“Whoa, how is she going to get pregnant? You’re not…” Randi sat forward in the recliner, “Did you not pay attention in health class during high school?”

The sly woman laughed, “I just wanted to make sure you caught on.”

“Somehow, Brooke… I’d never imagine you barefoot and pregnant.”

“I didn’t say it would be me. You never know, someone might be willing to have a baby for me.”

Both Terri and her younger sister looked over to Brooke, trying to imagine it, then shook their heads vigorously. “Well, it would definitely have to be somebody younger…” C.C. clamped both hands over her mouth.

“Actually C.C., you’re right.” Brooke winked at her sister openly.

“God, Brooke… can’t you find someone your own age? That would be like you setting up house with Sam.”

“What would be wrong with that? She’s legal,” Brooke offered defensively. She’s twenty-one.”

“Well, she may be young…” Terri rolled her eyes, “but at least she’s more mature than C.C. here.” She slapped at her sister’s knee, just missing it.

“Hey,” C.C. moved her leg just in time, “Are you saying I’m a baby?”

All the sisters looked first at each other then simultaneously directed their stares at C.C., “YES.”

The brunette smiled impishly, “Okay, just checking.”

“So, Randi,” Brooke turned to look at her sister. “What’s wrong with Sam?”

Randi shook her head and chuckled, “Brooke, are you trying to tell us that some young, overzealous Anti-Zero fan has you thinking of marriage? You don’t even know anything about her.” The lawyer folded her arms smugly over her chest, “I probably know more about her than you do.”

“What makes you say that?” Brooke challenged her sister with a cold stare.

“I had a feeling this was going to happen. You seemed just too enthralled with her. I had her investigated for your own good.”

“You what?” Brooke’s eyes popped open as she jumped up from her seat, trying hard not to go ballistic on her own sister. “Tell me you didn’t.”

“Oh, boy…” C.C. muttered out loud while Terri supplied the ending of the thought in her own voice, “Here it comes.”

“What the hell are you talking about? What do you mean, investigated?” Brooke started over toward Randi.

“I’m getting my doctor’s bag.” Terri said under her breath before looking at C.C., “Chase, is there something you need to tell me?” The older sister motioned toward Brooke.

“Stick around Terri, you’ll hear it all firsthand from Brooke herself,” C.C. sat back and got comfortable, thankful that she wasn’t a part of the confrontation that was about to take place.

“Investigated… you know, what I do every day when I need to find out the real story.” Randi stood up and started pacing like she was in a courtroom. “Did you know that Sam hasn’t lived with her parents in years?”

“Yeah… four, to be exact. She hasn’t lived with them since she was 17. Anything else?” Brooke squared off with her sister, the coffee table now separating them.

“Hmm…” Randi paced some more then stopped, turning to Brooke, “Well, did you know that she’s got a police record. Hmm… did you?”

“You mean for breaking curfew?” Brooke nodded. “Just how much homework did you do? Do you know how she got that record?”

Randi’s eyes narrowed onto Brooke, “Curfew… it doesn’t matter, it’s still a record. She was probably out partying and being wild like her idol Loran. I think that goodie-two-shoes act is just that… an act. She’s playing you, Brooke. She’s after Loran and you’re giving it to her.”

“No,” Brooke quickly retorted, “Her mother kicked her out of the house, all because she told her parents that she was gay. She packed a bag and left. Her mother was so pissed, she called the cops and they picked her up at the bus station while she waited for her aunt to come get her.”

“You’re really buying into that, huh? Keep it up and she’ll have everything she wants… you, Loran, and all your assets.” Randi extended her arms, leaning on the back of C.C.’s chair like she was pleading her case to some jury, “And what is her stake in this little escapade?” She let one eyebrow rise, challengingly.

“I have news for you Randi, she already has me. Sam Addams Moleson already has me… heart and soul.”

“She what?” Terri’s head turned in surprise.

Rocking back on her heels, Randi shook her head and sighed, “Brooke, everybody you’ve ever slept with had you.”

“Goddamnit, Randi. Sam is the only person I’ve ever been with…” blue eyes stared coldly at her sister. Brooke remained unyielding in her gaze.

“What…?” Terri’s lips trembled as her mind raced to make sense of what was going on in her own living room. “But the stories in the tabloids…”

“Damn the tabloids,” Brooke turned to face Terri. “I never slept with anyone else. I’ve never made love to anybody, but Sam.” The enraged woman spun around to look directly at Randi. “Get it through your head, I have never been to bed with anyone but Sam.”

“Ah… Randi… I can vouch for her,” C.C. spoke up.

Randi studied C.C.’s face, then that of Brooke’s, “Jesus, Brooke…” Randi took in a deep breath, “if that’s true, why the hell did you pick her? You could have had anyone…”

“Why her? Because she’s the only person I’ve ever been able to say, “I Love You” to. I love her more than anything on God’s green earth…”

“What would you know about love, Brooke. Your reputation has been to love `em and leave `em…” Randi shook her head, then threw her arms up in the air. “Well, at least as Loran it has.”

“I know it’s loving someone unconditionally, by caring about how they feel more than yourself, about doing anything in your power to make sure they’re happy while putting that other person’s needs before your own.” Brooke stopped for a second then looked off in disgust, “You know what? This is something you obviously need more experience in. Word of advice Randi, take lessons from Sam. She has more love in her little finger than you do in you whole body. She loves me unconditionally, as I do her. She comes first, before me, and if you can’t accept that, then I can’t accept you.” Brooke stood with her hands on her hips for a brief second then stormed out of the house.

“Hey, I’m the mother here,” Randi called out defiantly after her sibling as the door banged shut.

“No Randi,” Terri stood up and looked the woman in the eye. “You’re the sister here.” Terri turned on her heels, leaving the house in search of Brooke.

“You are such an idiot Randi.” C.C. stood up with her hands on her hips and stared at the open-mouthed woman. “Why can’t you just be happy for her? She’s waited all this time for the right person to come along, and when it does… BAM! Randi to the rescue.” The brunette started to walk away, then stopped, turning back to her oldest sister, “Remind me never to tell you about my friends. You might want to send them to the electric chair.”

Terri stood by the door for several minutes, letting her older sister have the space she needed before joining her. When she felt that the woman had settled herself down enough, she slowly opened the door, speaking softly, “Hey Brooke?”

The sibling stared straight ahead, answering quietly, “Yeah?”

“If it’s any consolation… I kind of like Sam. In fact I was hoping that the two of you would… well… that you might hit it off.” She crossed the porch to stand behind Brooke.

The sitting woman shrugged, “We did.” Brooke smirked and turned slightly to look up with very serious blue eyes at the physician, “I love her, Terri.”

“Don’t listen to Randi. You know she’s always been the mother hen where any of us were concerned.” Terri sat down on the step next to her sister.

“I know that, but she’s gone way overboard this time. She had no right to investigate Sam.” Brooke shook her head still shocked by her older sister’s actions.

“I know that she’d never stand in the way if you truly are in love.” Terri looked over to see a lone dark eyebrow raise high on Brooke’s forehead. “I’m not trying to make excuses for her, okay.” The woman assured her, nudging Brooke’s shoulder with her own. “I just think that it’s the only way she knows how to show her love. She does it like she does her job and investigation is part of it.”

“Well, it seems like she’s trying to stand in my way right now.” Brooke picked up a small stone and threw it into the bushes. “If I think about spending the rest of my life without Sam, I can’t even breathe. I get this ache, right here,” Brooke put her fist over her chest. “My throat hurts and my eyes sting. I hate being away from her for even a moment.”

“I know.” Terri tried to hide her smile; “I’ve been noticing how you act around her, trying to hide it from us. I was hoping that you weren’t hiding it from yourself, too.” The physician turned to look at her sister. “You’ve got it bad. I never thought that I’d say this, but my big sister is in love. And I think it looks great on you… love, that is.”

“I love her. I am totally, hopelessly in love with her…” Brooke’s thoughts trailed off. “It shows that much, huh?” She looked at Terri for the truth.

“I can tell, Brooke,” Terri confided, “I’m so happy for you. Everybody needs to have someone to love. I’m glad that you’ve found yours. I imagine that Sam feels the same way?” The woman watched as Brooke smiled exuberantly. Terri laughed, then looked up to the sky, “Okay, enough said.”

The chirping of Brooke’s cell phone broke the Kodak moment that the two sisters were sharing. “Hang on Ter,” Brooke’s attitude turned to one of total business as she grabbed the phone and held it to her ear, never glancing at the numeric display. “Brooke Gordon here.”

Terri watched as her sister’s whole demeanor softened and she knew immediately that Sam had to be on the other end of the phone. She sat there, looking in the other direction, trying not to listen in on the one sided conversation.

“Hey, I was just thinking about you.” Brooke grabbed Terri’s hand and her attention, showing her a beaming smile. “I love you. I’m always thinking about you.”

Brooke waited her turn, then whispered, “You,” flashing a big grin. “I don’t know, what would you guess?”

“Nope,” the musician shook her head after a moment. “No game, I love you and you’re stuck with me.”

Terri stole a look in Brooke’s direction only to see her sister blushing as she listened intently.

“Uh… not with my sister sitting next to me. You can whisper it in my ear later.” Brooke’s smile grew bigger as her face turned a deeper shade of red. “So… I was thinking.” The tapping on her shoulder momentarily distracted her and Brooke looked up to see Terri motion toward the house and give a little wave before getting up. Brooke nodded, then reached out, squeezing her sister’s hand, then letting go of it as she continued with her phone conversation. “What are we gonna try for first, boy or girl?” She paused only a few seconds before laughing, “Gotcha!”

Terri opened the door and looked back at her sister, seeing her truly happy and smiled. “Yeah, you’re in love, Sis. It’s very evident if you only look,” she muttered under her breath as she stepped back into the house.

“What’s evident?” C.C. asked, meeting Terri inside the door. The brunette watched as Terri motioned with her head to Brooke outside. Moving to the door and seeing the phone in Brooke’s hand, C.C. nodded. “Guess she’s talking to Sam, huh?”

Terri clapped her younger sibling’s shoulder and smiled. “I’d give her a minute or two before I’d interrupt her.” Terri winked, leaving C.C. standing there by the door.

Curiosity always being a huge part of C.C.’s nature, she stood silently at the door, grabbing every little tidbit of information she could, trying to imagine Sam’s side of the conversation.

“Smack me… why? I was just continuing our discussion from earlier.” Brooke paused then replied, “I’m just thinking about forever with you and all of the wonderful things that go along with forever, that’s all.”

Brooke took in a deep breath, then spoke reassuringly, “Darlin’, anything that comes along our way will be wonderful as long as we’re together.” Brooke nodded silently as she listened to Sam. “If that’s to be… then yes… even a baby… or two. I love you so much.” Brooke sighed, “I miss you too Darlin’.”

C.C. noticed the slight slump to Brooke’s broad shoulders and she listened even more intently.

“I wish it were Friday too, Sam.” Brooke nodded, “Our weekends are always special.” The woman became silent for a moment, then whispered into the receiver, “Soon, Baby, I promise.” The dark-haired woman tightened her lips together as she listened. “I love you,” she offered back in hushed tones. “Good night, Sweetheart.”

Brooke ended her phone call, then stood up, putting the phone back onto her belt. The musician stood there for a moment, then brushed off her jeans, and started to turn to look back toward the door.

“So… ah… where are you off to now, Sport?” C.C. came out onto the porch.

The tall woman shrugged, “I guess back home. I don’t think I can handle being around Randi right now.”

C.C. nodded in agreement, “Hmm… guess I couldn’t entice you to go to the dorm, could I?”

“Sure, I guess you do need a ride back.”

“Ah… not exactly.” C.C. grinned, as an idea came to her mind. She held up one finger to a very puzzled Brooke, then opened the door and leaned back inside, “Hey, Terri? Can you give me a ride to class in the morning?”

The muffled reply came floating out on the air, “Yeah, why?”

“You’ve got a guest staying with you tonight,” C.C. answered her sister, turning back to Brooke. “I don’t feel like sleeping in the dorm tonight,” she grinned, then closed the door. “I think the room is going to be a little too noisy.” C.C. pulled out her dorm pass card and offered it to Brooke, just as Terri came to the door.

“What’s up, C.C.? Did Brooke leave without…” Terri stopped short, seeing the exchange going on, staying just out of sight.

“Terri,” the brunette glanced back at the door as she called out, “I’m staying the night.” Then she turned back to Brooke, “I think you could use a night in the dorm every once in a while,” C.C. winked at her sister. “Just don’t break my bed, huh?” She cautioned in a hushed tone so only the tall woman standing next to her could hear it.

Brooke’s eyes lit up. “Really… you’d let me stay there?”

“Go on, have some fun.” She shoved the card into her sister’s hand. “Consider it my way of saying I approve of Sam… okay?”

“Well, I’d hope you approve… you set us up.” Brooke smiled, first taking the card, then her youngest sister, giving her a hug. “Thanks, C.C. I love you, Sis.”

The brunette embraced her sister with a beaming smile, “Yeah, I did set you up?” She relished their closeness for a moment, then pushed her sister away saying, “I think you would be wise to get over to that dorm before Sam thinks it’s me trying to crawl into bed with her.” C.C. shrugged, “Sorry, she’s not my type.”

“Thanks,” Brooke held up the card, pointing to C.C. then looked over to the woman who was now standing at the door, “Bye Terri, and thanks.”

“Bye, Brooke.” Terri called out to the figure running down her sidewalk.

Terri came out of the house to stand next to C.C. as they watched Brooke jump into her Jeep and peal out into traffic without ever looking.

The physician cringed as she heard the squealing tires of the Jeep in conjunction with the screeching brakes and blaring horns of the traffic that had just avoided near collisions. “Where’s she off to in such a hurry?”

“The girlfriend’s, where else?” C.C. grinned as she turned to look at Terri. “She’s about to experience a little bit of heaven in a 2×4.”

Brooke sauntered down the hall until she stood before the door to the room that her sister shared with Sam. Pulling the key card from her pocket, she quickly slid it in and out of the door, waiting for the little green light to come on. “Bingo!” She whispered, tapping the glowing green light and opened the door.

Once inside, she was met by the soft glow coming from the small candle garden that was neatly arranged on Sam’s bookcase above the head of her bed. Brooke looked around the room for the woman of her dreams, only to come up empty. The incandescent glow shining through the crack of the nearly closed bathroom door drew her attention as the only place left for the golden haired woman to be. The sound of running water and the soft, slightly off key rendition of an old Anti-Zero song brought a smile to Brooke’s face, while at the same time, reached out to her like a siren’s song.

Forgetting the layout of the small room, Brooke stepped to the right, nearly toppling over the chair at the desk. Her reflexes prevented the chair from crashing to the floor but the quickly muttered curse in doing so broke the silence of the outer room. “Damnit!” She stood frozen after righting the chair when the singing stopped.

“Hey, C.C., can you throw me a towel. I forgot one,” Sam called out from the shower, then went right back to singing.

Energized by the thought of seeing her lover naked and wet, Brooke eagerly closed the door, making sure that it was locked. There would be no interruptions once they started their delicate dance of love. Brooke willingly grabbed the towel that she found lying on Sam’s pillow and headed toward the shower with it, as an impish smile slowly came to her face.

Brooke reached inside the doorway of the bathroom, her long sinewy fingers searching desperately for the light switch. Finding it, she silently flipped the toggle to the off position, throwing the room into virtual darkness.

“Damn it! There goes that light again,” Sam cursed. “Well, at least I’m almost finished this time.”

The tall woman was finding it hard not to giggle as she completely moved into the room, stealthily removing her own clothing piece by piece. When she had nothing left but her jeans to remove, Brooke opened the shower door and held out the towel for Sam to take.

“Hey, thanks,” Sam reached for the towel. “You’re home early. I wasn’t expecting you until later. Did you have fun?”

No, but I’m about too, Brooke thought as she peeled off her jeans and boxers together.

“C.C., I’ll be out in a minute,” Sam called out over the sound of the spraying water. Then she felt the rubbing on her back, recognizing it as the soapy washcloth she had been using. “Hey! What the…”

Brooke grinned as she kept up her cleansing motion on the woman’s back. Leaning in, the already wet neck of the blonde was kissed just below Sam’s left ear, finding the sensitive spot that always made her swoon.

“Hmm…that’s nice.” Sam leaned into the kiss, sending a teasing message right back. “Well… C.C., I can see that you take after your sister.” The blonde could feel a hand running down her side and across her stomach until it finally pulled her back into a much taller body. “Am I going to have to tell your sister that you’re a switch hitter and that I need a new roommate… huh?”

Brooke moved her assault on Sam to the other ear as she let her index finger run slowly up Sam’s torso and back down to her stomach, ever-so lightly. C.C. better have no idea where your sensitive spots are, the older woman thought, not wanting to have to hurt her sister.

“What’s the matter… cat got your tongue?” Sam taunted as she felt herself being turned around.

“No, but you could, Darlin’,” Brooke drawled out her message seductively into the woman’s ear.

“I knew it was you, Brooke.” Sam completed the turn, letting their lips come together for the first time in hours. After they parted, Sam leaned back, looking up into the mischievous glint of blue eyes. “And to what do I owe this pleasant surprise?”

“Actually… C.C.” Brooke’s smile grew bigger, “She decided that I need to spend a night in the dorm with you every once in a while.” The tall woman studied the puzzled look on Sam’s face. “Terri’s going to bring her back in the morning.”

“Ah…” Sam caught on. “A girl couldn’t ask for a better roomie. She knows my every need,” green eyes twinkled in the darkened room.

“Or a better sister,” Brooke added. “Oh, by the way, Terri says ‘Hi!’.”

“What, did you all get together?”

“Yep,” she nodded, “At Terri’s house. I came back to the dorm looking for you, when C.C. told me that you were out with Crystal.”

“You should have told me you were coming. We could have all gone together.”

Brooke leaned in and kissed the blonde’s head, “I wanted to surprise you. I’m sure you needed to spend some time with Crystal.” She shrugged, “C.C. said she was going to Terri’s so, we went together.”

Sam rubbed Brooke’s arms lovingly, “Did you have fun with your sisters?”

Turned on even more by the touch of Sam’s hands on her body, Brooke leaned in and kissed the young woman. When they came away from the kiss, she whispered into Sam’s ear, “Do you really want to talk about them right now? I could think of better things to be doing.”

“Why do I get the idea that was meant to distract me?”

“Because, Darlin’, it was.” Brooke looked at Sam for a long moment, then conceded. “We had fun… at least until Randi got there,” she grimaced.

“And what did the lawyer do… cross examine you?” Sam teased.

“Pretty much.” Brooke leaned down, nuzzling Sam’s neck, buffeting it with kisses as her hands roamed freely over the blonde’s back.

Turning her head to the side as she lavished in the attention, Sam asked, “You’re not going to talk about it, are you?” The young woman could feel the smile coming to her lover’s face as the erotic assault continued. “Brooke,” she cooed, “you keep this up and I’m never going to get dry.”

The tall woman stood up staring Sam directly in the eyes. “That’s the whole idea, Darlin’.” A coy smile graced Brooke’s face as she wiggled her eyebrows, then stepped out of the shower, offering her hand to Sam. “Care to join me where we left off this morning?”

Green eyes sparkled in the ambient glow of the candles filtering into the small room. With only a few seconds hesitation to fully appreciate the back lit figure before her, Sam stepped out of the shower and launched herself at Brooke. Strong arms willingly wrapped around her, pulling her up on the tall body until Sam’s legs wrapped securely about Brooke’s waist. Before she was even settled, Sam nipped and teased the older woman with feather-light kisses on her head and neck until finally their lips met in a passion-filled expression of love.

Moving slowly with her treasure, Brooke maneuvered them closer to the bed, where they ended the kiss, still wanting more. Slowly, Brooke’s strong arms lifted Sam’s body higher until the tall woman’s head was buried in the bosom of the blonde. She playfully nuzzled into the soft mounds of flesh, first avoiding the nipples but then giving in, showering them with all the attention they craved. When she sensed that the woman in her arms could take no more, Brooke lovingly lowered Sam to the bed, where their real passions exploded well into the night.

Blue eyes watched closely as the flicker of the soft candlelight danced across the young woman’s face. Sam’s rhythmic breathing acted like a soothing balm to Brooke’s soul as she lay next to her, still basking in the afterglow of their most recent lovemaking. The gentle fluttering of blonde eyelashes and the rumbling purr of her lover as she awakened was all that the older woman’s body needed to start the warm feelings cascading through her again.

“Mmm…” Sam opened her eyes to see Brooke gazing at her, the strong woman’s arms wrapped tightly around her body, keeping them both on the single sized bed. “I’m never going to be able to sleep in this bed without remembering this night. I never thought it would be possible to have two people in this bed, let alone make love in it at the same time.”

“And to think…” Brooke leaned in to give a gentle kiss to her lover, “I thought I’d spent my last night in a dorm bed years ago.”

“Brooke,” Sam touched her nose to her lover’s, “If you had your way, you’d ask C.C. to trade places with you.”

“Why… because she’s here with you?” The raised, dark eyebrow challenged an answer, “You’re right, don’t think I haven’t considered it.”

“Wellllll…” Sam drew out the word. “I have to confess… if you haven’t, I sure have. I’d like having my big teddy bear pillow with me every night.”

“I’m telling you, all I’d have to do is get an apartment on campus with a six month lease. We could always…” she kissed Sam behind her ear, then whispered, “Stay at the house on the weekends.”

Sam’s mind raced with the thought of having Brooke next to her every night, and she could already sense her body reacting to it. “Good gods, woman,” Sam grinned, “Can’t you get enough of me?”

“Never.” Brooke flashed a huge grin, then let it fade into a smile.

“I like the sound of that, Brooke.”

Pensive blue eyes looked away, “Sam… does it bother you that I want to spend so much time with you?”

The blonde shook her head nary a second later, “Nope… not in the least. I want to do the same with you, too.”

There was a moment of silence as both women settled in to their attraction to one another. Brooke then slowly traced the outline of Sam’s ear using the tip of her tongue. “So, shall we go apartment hunting, yet?”

“Brooke… you fight dirty, has anyone ever told you that?” Sam rolled her eyes back and melted at the touch. “Now, what were we talking about?”

“Only you. I didn’t know we were fighting,” Brooke teased.

Sam turned her head to secure the inviting lips that were so close to her own, mumbling, “Neither did I.”

“Are you trying to distract me now?” Brooke asked after the kiss was through. “What was it I said earlier… I’m not going to talk about it… are you?”

“All’s fair in love and war now, isn’t it?” Sam asked with a little giggle.

“Sure it is, but I don’t want…” Brooke’s eyes became bigger when she felt the small woman catch her off guard, turning her body until she was looking up at the ceiling. “Hey!”

Sam maneuvered their bodies so that she was now straddled on top of the taller woman’s waist, looking down with a pleased smile on her face. “Hmm… and I’m just going to love this war…” she ran a finger along Brooke’s shoulder, trailing it off to an aching nipple, “…and you were saying?”

“Which conversation… the sisters or you and I moving in together?” Brooke smiled, enjoying the view as she teased the woman.

“Brooke, you know it’s a waste of money for you to rent an apartment.”

“Not where you’re concerned it’s not.” Brooke let her eyes roam Sam, “I kinda like this position.”

Sam snuggled her hips even closer to the smiling woman’s sides, “It does have its advantages.” She wiggled her eyebrows, then ran a finger down the drummer’s chest, as her green eyes twinkled with every reaction they saw. “So, do you think we’ll get any sleep tonight?”

Large hands softly caressed Sam’s thighs, moving slowly towards her sides, “Hmm…I don’t know. It’s a good thing tomorrow is your late class.”

“Oh, yeah,” Sam agreed with a sultry laugh, “I forgot about that. And to think I almost passed that class up for an earlier one.” Sam leaned down and nuzzled Brooke’s neck.

Unable to stand the torture a moment longer, Brooke rolled her eyes then quickly wrapped her arms around the blonde’s body. They were soon positioned on their sides. Blue eyes shone brightly at the success of her counter attack. “Now, you wanted to know what happened earlier.” She lightly kissed Sam’s face here and there, then moved on to nuzzling her ear. “Terri and I had been teasing C.C. and the subject of babies came up. Well, you know my sister, the inquiring mind, she has to go straight for the facts.” Brooke kissed her way down Sam’s jaw line to her lips as her right hand lightly ran up and down the blonde’s side.

The young woman sighed. “Yeah…” her voice trembled with anticipation.

“That’s when C.C. made the phone call to Randi.” The kissing began, interspersed with words, as Brooke made her way down Sam’s neck. “So Randi shows up and we start talking… and teasing C.C. about Gordon babies.”

“Somehow I think I’m involved in this,” Sam heard a little laugh from Brooke. “Oh God… I am involved…” she took in a deep breath. “What about Gordon babies?”

Brooke laid a bevy of kisses across Sam’s collarbone. “I had asked a question… hypothetically, and I wanted to make sure of the order of things.” Brooke pulled back and smiled at the woman. “I was making sure that the order was still that marriage comes before babies.”

“What kind of question is that?” The corners of Sam’s mouth turned up. “Especially for C.C., the girl can’t keep her mind on one guy for more than a week or two.”

“It wasn’t about C.C., Love… it was about me. I told you that we were teasing C.C. and I mentioned that I wouldn’t remain single forever.”

Sam stopped short of what she was doing, then looked at Brooke kind of funny-like, “You want to get married? But I thought…” Sam stared into blue eyes for a second, then let her gaze drift off. “Maybe I thought wrong.”

“What did you think, Darlin’?” The older woman grew concerned. “Sam… I meant to you. If I ever get married, it will only be to you.”

“I’m not sure what I was thinking now,” Sam mumbled, avoiding gazes with Brooke for a long moment of silence. The staring came to an end when Brooke sat up in the bed. “Hey, where are you going?”

“Nowhere… I’m just sitting up so I can see if you decided to kick me out on my ass or not.” Brooke turned to look at Sam, “I’m sorry. I thought that maybe one day… we could…”

“Brooke… I didn’t mean it like that.” Sam sat up, then laid a hand on the other woman’s arm. “I’m just shocked that you would think that after only knowing me a short time…”

“Sam… nothing between you and me shocks me anymore. I don’t think with my head when it comes to you…” Brooke placed her hand on Sam’s, then moved it to her own chest, “just my heart.”

The young woman allowed her hand to be moved easily, letting it lay softly over Brooke’s left breast. “I think I’m beginning to know what you mean, Love.” Sam paused, feeling the beat of Brooke’s heart underneath her hand. “Let’s just hold that thought until we find out where I get assigned for my internship… okay?”

“Will it matter?”

“I don’t think so, but could you honestly live with me now and not be upset if I get assigned somewhere else? Brooke, I don’t want anything to come between us.”

Brooke stared into Sam’s eyes. “Nothing will, Baby. I won’t let it.” She reached out and comforted the young woman with a gentle touch to her cheek, “No matter where you go… I’ll follow you.”

“It’s only until May, Brooke. Can’t you wait?” Sam searched her lover’s face.

“Sam, look me in the eye… your answer is there. I can’t hide it anymore.”

The blonde looked into the clear, calming orbs of blue and could see the love flowing out to her like the river runs into the sea, unable to hold anything back for a single moment. “Okay… I’ll make you a deal, Brooke. If I get placed anywhere around this part of Virginia, we’ll live together. How’s that?”

The smile grew on Brooke’s face. “I love you.”

“I know… all too well,” Sam leaned in, gently kissed her lover’s lips, then she slowly pulled the older woman back down into the bed. “Now,” Sam whispered, “where were we…” she cleared her throat softly, “in that story of yours?”

“So…” Brooke pushed her mind back to the story, “As I was saying earlier before you scared the life out of me,” she grinned, “I hypothetically asked to make sure that marriage comes before the kids.”

“Come on, my love, spit it out… marriage comes before babies… so?”

Brooke kissed the delicate features of Sam’s face as she talked, “I told Terri and C.C. I wanted to make sure for future reference that I had them in the…”

“Right order?” Sam questioned.

“I didn’t want to have them backwards; you know how times change and all.” Brooke shrugged, “Then Terri mentioned the size of Gordon babies when they’re born and the discussion kind of went off on a ‘what if’ concept.”

Sam leveled a serious look at the dark-haired woman. “Brooke, do you want a baby?”

“I ah… uhm… I think it’s just been on my mind since Mom brought it up at dinner on Sunday. I never really thought about it before.”

“And now you are?”

“I never really had a reason to. I dunno…” Brooke pursed her lips and looked away.

“Until now,” Sam added, using her finger to bring Brooke’s face back toward her own. “Is it because you love me?”

Brooke grimaced; “I never thought about settling down with anybody or having a family…” blue eyes looked into green, “until you.”

Sam smiled “Well, I can’t say that I haven’t given it some thought, too.” She bit at her lip and nodded slightly, never letting her gaze shift, “If I were to have any children it would be with you.” She could see the intensity of love rise in Brooke’s eyes, noting the huge smile on her face as her lips mouthed out a silent, ‘I love you.’ “I guess we’ll just have to figure out how to make them when the time is right.”

“Yeah,” Brooke agreed with a smile, “but trying is going to be fun.”

“And that thought alone makes me want to practice. What do you say, lover?”

“I say…” Brooke paused as her face began to glow, “we’ll talk later. Let’s practice our technique for making a baby.”

“Oh yeah.” Sam wrapped her arms around Brooke’s neck, pulling her in for a kiss and let it run its course as the two lovers melded together. Coming away somewhat breathless but satisfied, Sam whispered out her question. “I guess we’re married then, huh?”

“Not yet.” Brooke searched Sam’s face for a reaction.

“But I thought…” Sam’s forehead wrinkled up, “You said marriage first then…”

“Sam,” Brooke took in a breath, then let it out slowly. “If I asked you to… would you marry me?”

“Hmm… what do you think?” Sam eyed her lover with a mysterious twinkle in her eyes.

“I uh…” Brooke swallowed, trying to get some moisture in her suddenly dry mouth. “I think I’d like to hear it.”

“Oh, I think that answer is fairly obvious…” Sam teased, “given you have my heart and my soul.” She paused for only a second before she spoke what was in her heart. “Yes, Brooke, I’d marry you in a heartbeat. All you have to do is ask.”

“You know, Sam… When I think I know where my life is going, you have a way of changing my plans.”

The blonde laughed softly, “How’s that?”

Brooke looked down at her hands, “Well… I uhm… I had something planned to do. I had it all worked out and now, I just can’t wait that long.”

“I see.”

“Do you?” Blue eyes flashed with hope as she looked up to Sam.

The young woman smiled, “So, what are you going to do about it?”

“Well, this morning when I woke you up and we talked about… well… the whole baby thing. It just really got me thinking. So, when you went to class, I went walking around, drove around…”

“And played around with your work, huh?”

“No,” Brooke smiled shyly. “I got work done, too.” Her gaze turned intense with the thought.

“I’m teasing you, silly. Go on,” Sam encouraged her.

The older woman’s eyes began to roam about the room, not being able to focus on any one thing. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you… me… us…”she looked at Sam, “…together.”

“Kind of overpowering, isn’t it?” Sam smiled reassuringly, “I know. That’s how I feel when I think about us and the future.”

“Very,” Brooke sighed, relieved that Sam understood what she was feeling. The tall woman could feel her heart start to race as she made her mind up to go with her emotions and the moment that they were in. “Sam, close your eyes.” Brooke watched as the young woman nodded, then closed her eyes as asked.

Biting her lip, Brooke moved silently from the bed, crossing over to the bathroom door where her coat hung on the knob. Rummaging around in the pocket for a moment, the older woman retrieved what she was after and headed back to the bed. After crawling back under the covers, Brooke stretched her body out along the length of Sam’s. Taking in a deep breath, she looked at the rounded top box in her hands and opened it with a small squeak and a ‘thunk’ when the lid finally stopped. Blue eyes glistened as she looked at the item inside the velvet-lined box. Even in the dim lighting of the candles, she could see it sparkling. Willing her hands to be steady, Brooke took it, discarding the box on the nightstand, then turned toward Sam.

Brooke placed one of Sam’s hands upon the other and held on to both of them with her own left hand as she leaned in and kissed her lover ever so gently. “I love you, Sam.”

A smile graced the blonde’s lips as they parted from the kiss, “I love you too, Brooke.” Sam opened her eyes to stare into thoughtful blue orbs, sensing another kiss in the making.

After the second kiss, Brooke whispered into Sam’s ear, “You are my whole life. You mean everything to me. I’d give you the world if I could, but right now, I can give you my heart… for good…” she slid the ring on the fourth digit of Sam’s left hand, feeling the small hand tremble, “…for always. Sam, will you marry me?”

The young woman never looked down to her hand but instead, only deeper into Brooke’s eyes, almost losing herself with the offering of love. “I didn’t think you’d ask me this soon. Yes, Brooke Gordon, I’ll marry you.”

“Yes?” Brooke eyes grew bigger, “You said…’yes’?” She gulped, watching the smile radiate from Sam’s face. “I love you, Sam.” She brought Sam’s left hand to her mouth and kissed it briefly, never letting her come away from Sam’s gaze. Slowly she drew the blonde closer to her until their lips met and for a moment, time stood still. The deepness with which they kissed, rivaled the intensity of the love that they felt for each other.

Coming away from the kiss, Sam teased, “I guess you don’t want a long engagement, huh?”

“Baby,” Brooke sighed, “whenever you want, we can make it happen. If you want to wait until after graduation, we will. If you want to put clothes on and go right now…” she grinned from ear to ear, “…we will.”

Sam chuckled at her lover’s eagerness, “Well, I was thinking about a year or two…” she looked over at Brooke’s face, “maybe three. You know, just to get me settled in my profession and all.”

“You just let me know when you’re ready. Hell, if you want to wait until the kids are in college…” she moved in closer for a kiss.

“What?” The blonde slapped a halting hand on Brooke’s chest, “I thought you said marriage, then kids.”

“Hey,” a lone eyebrow raised on her forehead, “I didn’t say ‘our’ kids had to be in college. My nephew is 11 so…” Brooke grinned.

“You… Brooke Gordon, you’re adorable. Don’t ever change.”

The older woman scowled, “I don’t do ‘adorable’, Darlin’.”

“Honey, you’ll always be adorable to me,” Sam teased. “It’s one of those little perks a wife has. We get to see you how you really are.”

“Wife?” Brooke looked dazed.

“Get used to it, Brooke…” Sam smiled sweetly, “you’ve made me yours.”

“I know,” the older woman smiled, “and I love it.”

Sam chuckled, “I betcha never thought you’d propose in a dorm bed, huh?” She watched, as a huge smile came to Brooke’s face. “Now, what do you say we celebrate this happy union and then get some sleep?”

Brooke’s face glowed as she wrapped her arms around the blonde as her softly placed kisses began her intention of showing Sam just how much she was loved.

Still tired from their last lovemaking session, Brooke tried to resist the small hand that was lovingly touching her right cheek. Instead, she wrapped her arms around the woman next to her, nestling into her sleepy embrace.

“Brooke,” Sam whispered as she let the back of her fingers slip over the sleeping woman’s cheek once more. “It’s after nine, Lover.”

“Hmm…” the sleepy woman groaned, as she fought through the fog in her mind. Now, where… oh yeah, I remember, the corners of her mouth began to turn up as she sensed the small body half on top of her own. I’m with Sam after I gave her the ring. The woman smiled a little more as she raised her right hand, grasping Sam’s hand that had been on her face. With deliberate motions, Brooke held Sam’s hand in her own, letting a wandering finger feel along the base of the petite fingers for the symbol of her love. What the… Brooke giggled nervously. Boy, you are worn out. You can’t even find it. I guess it’s time to open the old eyes up and…”

“Brooke, if you wake up now, we can shower together,” Sam whispered in the stirring woman’s ear. “It’s early enough that we could even…”

The woman opened her eyes as she pulled Sam’s left hand in front of her face. “It’s not there,” she muttered seeing a bare, but beautiful, hand. You stupid, you put it on the wrong hand. She mentally cursed herself, and then quickly grabbed Sam’s other hand and held it up to her face.

“Brooke, is there something wrong?” Sam watched as the color drained from the sleepy woman’s face. “Can I get you something?”

“The ring…” she muttered, and then started looking in the bed linens as if she’d lost something precious.

“What ring?” Sam laughed. “You don’t wear rings. You said that you couldn’t twirl the drum sticks with rings on.” Furrowed brows now showed her concern as Sam watched Brooke blink several times and then grab both of Sam’s hands, looking at them with a puzzled expression on her face.

Brooke shook her head, “Nothing,” her voice now barely audible, “forget it.”

“Hon,” Sam took Brooke’s face in her hands. “I think you’re still asleep. How about if I go start the shower and you come join me after you wake up a little more.” Sam studied the woman’s face for a minute, relieved by the subtle nodding of Brooke’s head.

“Yeah, I’ll… I’ll be right behind you. I… I just need a minute or two to wake up.” Brooke offered a weak smile, then slowly rose to a sitting position on the edge of the bed.

Sam crossed to the bathroom door, “Don’t take too long, Baby, I’m missing you already.” The blonde blew her lover a kiss, then went into the shower, turned the water on full force and climbed in.

Confused in her thoughts, Brooke sat there, slowly looking about the room until her eyes fell on the bathroom doorknob with her jacket hanging from it. She got up and walked over to it. Reaching her hand into the right side pocket, she pulled the box from it. Slowly, Brooke opened it, hearing that very familiar squeak and ‘thunk’ as it snapped open. Seeing the contents of the box, she inhaled deeply, trying to shake the last remnants of the dream from her soul. “Soon, Sam…” Brooke looked in the direction of the running shower, still holding the box in her hand. “I’ll ask you soon.”
Ch16 Out Of The Mouths Of Babes
“…As the candle burns, I’ve learned one thing… to live your life and say a prayer for all that you’ve got… ”
The light was fading from the autumn sky as Brooke looked out the kitchen window. The one room that she’d spent as little time as possible in was now her third most favorite of them all, being beaten out, of course, by the bedroom and the master bath. The tall woman turned and looked over at the young blonde working diligently only a few feet from her. What a difference a few months and one woman can make. Brooke shook her head, then continued her task of slicing the vegetables before her. I can see now why Mom kept nagging me about finding someone.

“Hey, Hon,” Sam turned from the mound of fresh green beans that she was preparing, “Can you hand me that strainer?”

Brooke smiled at the endearment, then put down the knife she was using and handed the strainer to Sam. “Here you go, Darlin’.” She watched as the blonde took it from her hand, then busily set about her work.

Turning back to the sink, Brooke washed her hands off, then dried them on a towel as she walked up behind the pre-occupied blonde. She stood there undetected for a moment before putting her hands around the young woman’s waist, leaning in to kiss her neck.

“Hmm…was that for something special or did you finally read my sign?” Sam looked over her shoulder at Brooke, motioning with her eyes to the small plaque that was her addition to the décor.

“You mean I have to have a reason?” Brooke kissed Sam’s cheek then turned to read the plaque out loud, “Kiss the Cook.” The woman smiled and leaned in whispering, “Actually, I’ve read that several times. That’s what gave me the idea.” Brooke winked, then stole another kiss. “Just wait until Christmas, I’ll have mistletoe all over the place, now that I have someone to be kissing. You’ll turn your head to sneeze and have to kiss me,” blue eyes twinkled with delight at the thought.

“I bet you will,” Sam shook her head, “Brooke Gordon, you’re incorrigible but I love you just the same.” She smiled, then quickly placed a kiss on the tall woman’s cheek before resuming her chore. “So, have you given any thought about Peter?”

Sam could feel the tug at her body and easily gave in, turning around in Brooke’s arms as warm, inviting lips met her own. “Mmm…” Sam ended the kiss with a purr.

Brooke leaned her forehead against Sam’s and nodded slightly, “Yeah, we talked about him working for me,” her lips turned into an impish grin, “and a couple of other things.”

“And when is he coming to work?”

“After the first of the month.” Brooke leaned back and smirked, “You know, he got so pissed at me because of that welcome aboard bonus.”

“Brooke…” Sam pulled back from her tall lover, gazing into her beautiful blue eyes for the truth, “You didn’t promise him Crystal, did you?”

Blue eyes shot open with surprise, “NO! Why would I do that?” She paused for a moment then began to chuckle, “Never thought of that.” She scratched her temple and laughed.

Sam sent a playful slap in the direction of her lover’s shoulder. A second later the blonde’s mischievous side came out with a devilish laugh, “I was thinking about him and Crystal. Bet we could get a life with Crystal for him…” she winked at Brooke, “…if we played our cards right.”

“And what are you thinking, ’cause I don’t know the first thing about their relationship,” she looked away from Sam’s gaze. “I…ah…” Brooke cleared her throat, “I gave him enough money for the down payment on his house, actually.”

“So, he’s coming down to work in December.” Sam sighed, “You can’t find any reason to bring him down any earlier?”

“Well, Sweetheart…I think that’s what he’s shooting for.” Brooke pursed her lips together in thought. “But…I was going to invite him for Thanksgiving at Mom’s.” Blue eyes moved rapidly to pin Sam down with their stare. “You’re coming, right?” Brooke searched Sam’s face for the answer, “And you’ll bring Aunt Sandy and Crystal, too, won’t you?”

“Huh?” The questions startled the young woman. “You want my whole family there?” Sam searched Brooke’s unrevealing face. “Any special reason for that?”

Brooke nodded confidently, “Yes, Baby. I want to spend the holiday with you and I know you’ll want to spend it with your family.” She bit at her lip, “I wonder if Mom would…” she began muttering as she thought out loud.

“Would what?” Sam looked at Brooke suspiciously.

“Nothing,” Brooke shrugged as she released the blonde from her embrace and started to move away. “I…I thought it would be nice, you know…to have my parents meet your Aunt.” Brooke held onto Sam’s hand, “I figured since all my sisters know, we might as well make it a bit more official and let the families meet.” Brooke let Sam’s hand slip from her own as she hopped up onto the counter, then sat with her arms braced on the edge, looking down at her legs swinging back and forth. The tall woman grew very quiet for a moment, then let her eyes roam around the room. “You know…maybe tell Dad about us.” Blue eyes glanced briefly in Sam’s direction. “What do ya say?”

“Why Brooke,” the smile on Sam’s face started to form slowly, “You leave me speechless.”

Brooke lifted her gaze from the floor to met Sam’s. “Why?”

“I guess I just never thought…”

The tall woman slid off of the counter and walked over to Sam. “Thought what, Sam?”

“Thought that we’d be doing this. I mean…” Sam’s smile got bigger, realizing how good it felt to have someone in her life. “It feels kind of nice to be out in the open about our relationship.”

The taller woman drew Sam into an embrace and kissed the top of her blonde head. “Yes, it does.” Brooke laid her cheek against Sam’s head and they stood there for several minutes, enjoying the feeling of love that surrounded them.

“Do you think he’ll still like me…I mean…after he knows?” Sam’s shyness was evident.

“Are you kidding?” Brooke’s face broke into a beaming smile, “He’ll absolutely love you. Dad may seem sweet and quiet but…” the woman chuckled, “he can be the complete opposite when he has a mind to.” She tightened her hold on the woman in her arms, “But don’t worry, he only shows that side to his daughters.”

“And you’ve seen that side?” Green eyes looked up at her lover’s face.

“Ah…yeah…” Brooke rolled her eyes, remembering the few times she’d seen her father’s disappointment in her behavior, “a time or two.”

“And I thought you were an angel,” Sam teased. “Okay then, why not?” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed Brooke’s cheek. “It will give us one more thing to be thankful for.” Sam grinned, “And besides, we could give Peter and Crystal a little time together, too.”

The tall woman returned the kiss, showing her approval. “There’s just one more thing.”

“What’s that, Love?”

Brooke became very serious, “Sam…do you think Aunt Sandy and Crystal could meet you there? At Mom’s, I mean. I’d really love it if you went with me…” she paused, looking directly into Sam’s green eyes. “…If we went together. I refuse to hide you…or our love anymore.”

The young woman smiled brilliantly. “I’d love to walk into that house on your arm. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Sam looked up into love-filled blue eyes, then melted into the kiss that Brooke placed upon her lips. Breathlessly, they slowly parted. Each one savored the kiss as if it were their first.

“Okay,” Sam tried to regain her composure, “now back to those veggies.” She reached behind her and took the knife from the counter, holding it out to her pouting lover. “There will be no thoughts of dessert until we’ve had our dinner, and that’s final.” The blonde watched as the bottom lip slowly extended to complete her lover’s pouting face.

Sam turned around at the first sound of the kitchen door opening. There, with her shirt half out of her jeans, the right knee of the pants gaping open, and one bootlace untied, stood six feet of adolescent energy trapped in the body of an adult, known as Brooke Gordon. The blonde felt the corners of her mouth turn upward at the sight as she leaned back against the dishwasher.

“God, Brooke, I bet you were an adorable child growing up.” Sam crossed her arms over her chest as she took in the view.

The dark-haired woman looked up and grinned as she held the door open for Mario to come chasing in after her. “Yeah,” Brooke said softly, then closed the door, letting her hand pull the shirt up off her chest as she sniffed, making a terrible face. “And a smelly one, too.” She looked down to the dog prancing in circles around her, “Huh, Boy. I smell like a dog, don’t I?” Brooke reached down and patted her loyal pet on the head. “You liked that playing around. Go on, go get some water.”

Brooke raised her eyes to see Sam standing there, offering a bottle of water. “Thanks, Darlin’, I can sure use some water right about now.” She eagerly took it bringing it to her lips, and gulping down the clear, cold liquid.

“Oh, you’re right about that,” Sam shook her head at the grass stains on the woman’s clothing and the sweat rolling down her neck. “I’d say you need more water than that bottle can hold.”

Bringing the now empty bottle away from her mouth, Brooke coyly asked, “Would that be an offer to shower with a friend?” She moved forward, stretching her arms out to encircle the young woman.

“Ah…” Sam stepped back and held her arm straight out in front of Brooke, stopping any further advance. “I think this is one shower that you’re going to take by yourself, little Miss Roll-in-the-Dirt. I’m sure you still remember how to do that, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Brooke said dejectedly, “guess I do.” She stuck out her bottom lip and started to walk into the hall with her head down. Mario followed right behind her with his tail between his legs.

Sam stood there, watching as the woman and her dog stopped at the doorway, then looked forlornly back at the blonde. The expression on their faces almost ripped the blonde’s heart right out of her chest. “Okay, I’ll tell you what. If you take your shower without acting like some orphaned waif, I’ll meet you up in the bedroom when you come out.” The smile spread across Sam’s face as both dog and mistress agreed to her deal, turning gleefully as they fought one another to be the first up the stairs and into the small room at the end of the hall. Sam chuckled, then shook her head, “Kids.”

The young woman crossed over to the back door, making sure that it was shut tightly and locked, then turned back to look at the kitchen. “Well, I guess everything’s done here.” She bent down to pluck several small clumps of grass from the floor where Brooke had stood only a minute before. Walking through the kitchen, she deposited them in the wastebasket, eyeing the phone on the counter as she did so. “Hmm…I guess I could call and invite Aunt Sandy and Crystal for Thanksgiving Dinner while I wait for Brooke to get done.” Sam smiled as she picked up the cordless phone, punching in the number as she made her way up to the master bedroom.

Listening to the ringing as she stepped off the spiral staircase, Sam started down the hall. “Come on, Auntie… pick up the phone,” she muttered when the sound of someone coming on the line drew her attention.

“Hello?”

“Hey, hello Aunt Sandy. It’s me, Sam.” The blonde turned into the bedroom.

“Samantha! Hi! How are you, Dear?” Her Aunt cooed, delighted to hear her niece’s voice. “What a nice surprise. I didn’t expect to hear from you this weekend. Aren’t you with your girl?”

“I’m fine…just wonderful, really. I’m at Brooke’s, yes, and we were talking about you this evening…”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes, so I just had to talk to you.” Sam took in a breath, “Aunt Sandy, We’d like to invite you and Crystal for Thanksgiving dinner at the Gordon’s. Can you make it?” She asked hopefully.

“Well…” Sandy hesitated, “are you sure it will be alright?”

“Why…I uhm…yes, it will be fine.” Sam sat down on the large bed. “Brooke and I are…well…” Sam took in a breath and said it without any further delays. “There’s going to be an announcement concerning both of our families at the dinner and we’d like you to be there.”

“Announcement?” Sandy’s voice became apprehensive, “What kind of announcement, Dear?”

“We’ve…ah…decided to be open about our dating, Aunt Sandy. I really love Brooke and I know that she loves me. We’re tired of hiding it and thought that this would be a good way to let everyone know all at once, official like.” Sam smiled into the receiver, “Besides…Peter’s going to be there, too.”

“Oh Samantha!” Sandy’s voice was excited, “I’m so happy for you. Of course, we will be there, Dear. Please thank Brooke and her family for the invitation until I can do so myself.”

“Good,” Sam nodded and giggled, “Oh, and Aunt Sandy, don’t tell Crystal about Peter. I want to surprise her. I’ll let you know what time to arrive at the house and give you the directions.”

“I won’t say a word to her. Oh, I’m so glad that we’re both working the night shift before the holiday.” She paused for a moment, then added, “So, how is Brooke?”

“She’s fine…just fine,” Sam said dreamily. “We’ve been…” Sam could hear the sound of scurrying feet, then felt the jiggling mattress as it moved under her from the assault of a human cannonball that had catapulted onto the bed. “Ack!” Sam turned to see Brooke lounging on the bed, “Hey, stop that.” Sam playfully slapped the tall woman’s bared knee. “Do you want my aunt to have the wrong impression of you?”

Brooke leaned forward, yelling into the phone, “Hi, Aunt Sandy.” She gave Sam a quick kiss on the cheek, then continued, “Your niece loves me, she just doesn’t know it yet.” Long, sinewy fingers began touching all the right places to bring the sounds of laughter rising from the blonde’s body as she tickled her like some mischievous child.

Laughing wildly, Sam tried to wiggle out of Brooke’s teasing grasp. “Bye, Aunt Sandy, I’ve got to take care of this child.”

“I’d tell you to say hello to Brooke for me, but it sounds like you have your hands full right now.”

“It’s more like she has her hands full of me, Auntie.”

Brooke’s head popped up next to Sam’s as she continued her assault and she whispered into Sam’s ear, “Auntie?” The dark-haired woman wiggled her eyebrows then resumed her tickling assault.

Aunt Sandy couldn’t help but laugh on the other end, hearing the playfulness of her niece’s lover. “I’d be careful what you say when she’s got you in her hands. Goodbye Sam…Goodbye Brooke,” she said leaving them to their time together.

“Bye, Aunt Sandy.” Sam quickly ended the call and turned to her lover, “God, Brooke…where did that come from, that inner child act of yours? What are you doing, blowing my aunt’s impression of how mature you are?”

“What?” Brooke stopped her tickling assault and sat back on her haunches. “I’m sorry, Baby. When I started out of the bathroom I didn’t realize you were talking to her. I guess I’m still a little keyed up from playing with Mario,” Brooke said with a contrite look.

“By the way…I love you and I know it, too.” Sam sighed, then shook her head as she sat there watching Brooke stretch out on the bed. She was holding out her arms, inviting the younger woman into them. Sam went willingly into them and nestled close to Brooke. “So, when are you going to invite Peter?” Sam played with the buttons on Brooke’s nightshirt, “I’ve got Crystal coming to dinner.”

“I’ll talk to him tomorrow,” Brooke rested her head against Sam’s, kissing the blonde hair.

“Hmm…” Sam purred at the touch. “Great, then the rest of tonight is for us.” Sam turned to look at Mario who was standing with his paws up on the bed and directed her comment to him. “You’ve got five minutes fella, then I’m claiming the bed and your mommy in it.” Sam wiggled her eyebrows at Brooke as she reached out to pet the animal’s head.

The dog whimpered as he climbed up on the bed next to his mistress, laying his head on Brooke’s shoulder, and staring directly at Sam.

“Aww…look at that face, Sam. I think you bwoke his wittle heart,” Brooke mimicked the speech of a small child.

Sam got up on one elbow, first eyeing her lover, then the dog. “Come on, Sport…I’ll play catch with you tomorrow for a night of passion with your mommy. How’s that?”

Blue eyes grew bigger as she repeated Sam’s words in her head, letting the most important ones softly mutter across her lips, “…night of passion?” Brooke looked at Sam as the woman’s coy smile and beguiling eyes drove the words home.

“That’s what I said,” Sam whispered seductively.

Brooke swiftly nudged the dog’s head that was on her shoulder, commanding him as she did so. “Mario, down boy.”

Monday morning came faster than usual or at least that’s how it seemed to the bleary-eyed executive, as she sat with her head resting on one hand at her desk, reviewing her latest signed contract. Blinking her eyes, and rubbing them to keep the printed words from running together, Brooke finally put the contract down for another day, preferably a day after a full night’s sleep. The woman thought back to the weekend and Sam, letting a smile come immediately to her face as the high points of their time together floated through her mind. Peter, she remembered, I’ve got to invite Peter for Thanksgiving Dinner. She looked over to the phone and took the receiver from the cradle, letting her eyes focus on the numbers. Yeah, I can do that. Brooke hurriedly tapped out the combination of numbers, then waited for Peter to answer. It didn’t take long after the ringing stopped that the rough sounding voice of a sleepy man greeted her.

“Hey, what’s…” Peter cleared his throat, “…happening?”

“Late night up packing, Peter?” Brooke teased her ex-band mate and soon-to-be employee.

“Brooke?” Peter looked at the phone, then at the date on his watch. “I’m not starting until December, so I can’t be late. Why are you ringing my phone?”

“Just checking up on you Petey,” Brooke laughed. “I was wondering if you’d be able to come down for a couple of days this week?”

“Sure, I could do that. You wouldn’t mind if I bring a few boxes with me, would you? You know, when you live out of a furnished apartment for the last three years, there’s not much to pack,” the man chuckled at his own expense. “I should have all this packed and ready to go by Wednesday morning. What do you need me for, Brooke?”

“Well, I don’t really need you for anything, but there is something that I’d like you to be a part of.” Brooke paused for a moment then continued, “I was hoping that you’d consider coming to Mom’s for Thanksgiving Dinner.”

“Mom’s…” Peter’s voice perked up, “God, I love her cooking. You know how long it’s been since I ate her cooking?” The man laughed, then answered his own question, “Too long.”

“Well then… I guess I’ll see you there then, right? Hey, I’ll even help you unload the boxes that you bring.”

“Please, Brooke…the down payment is quite enough of a hand. I…I never expected that. Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it, Petey. I’d do that for any employee that I thought deserved it.”

There was a moment of awkward silence before Peter broke it with the only thing he could think of. “God, Brooke…Being with you guys again for dinner…well, that’ll be like coming home to family for the holiday.”

“Look at it this way…you are.” Brooke tapped out a rhythm with her fingers on her desk as she talked on the phone.

“You better believe I’ll be there.” Peter assured her. “So, what time’s dinner? Ah…don’t even bother telling me. I’ll come early like I always do.” The man paused then asked, “So, Brooke…is Sam going to be there? I mean, since its family and all.”

“Yes, she is. We’re ahh…well…let’s say that everyone will know about us Thursday. I can’t wait.” Brooke grabbed a pen and started doodling on her daily calendar. Each time she wrote Sam’s name, the smile grew bigger on her face.

“Good,” Peter sounded happy. “I like seeing the two of you together. It gives me hope. Besides,” the man smirked, “I don’t want to be the one that spills the beans.”

“Yeah? Well someone spilled the beans about you, Buddy. I hear that you spent quite a bit of time with Crystal over the last couple of weeks,” Brooke teased him.

There was the sound of coughing and the clearing of a throat before Peter’s voice came back to him, “Ah…well…I kind of like her.” His voice sounded like that of a child. “She’s different from any girl that I’ve known…special, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. So, have you kissed her yet or are you still working up the courage?” Brooke let out a little laugh.

“Do you want the truth or do you want to hear what the old Peter would tell you?”

“I thought the ‘old Peter’ was dead. Give me the truth.”

“I’m not sure who exactly kissed whom first, but we have kissed. Jeez, Brooke, what do I know, it’s all a blur to me, it happened so fast. One minute we were talking and the next, well…you get the picture.”

“You sound like a school boy with his first crush.”

There was dead silence on the other end for a minute, and then Peter’s voice finally confirmed her thoughts. “I do, don’t I?”

“Yeah, you do. This is definitely you, my friend. I’m happy for you. So, I take it that you’ve met Aunt Sandy…ah…I mean, Crystal’s mom?”

“Thanks, Brooke.” Peter chuckled, then started with his story. “I guess you could say that. I was so tongue-tied that she did all the talking. Crystal’s Mom opened the door when we were a…kissing.”

Brooke imagined how red Peter had turned, then and even now, as he related the story to her and she tried not to laugh at his embarrassment. “Really? Well, that was better than what I did last night. Talk about feeling like a complete idiot and brainless at that.”

“And what could you have been doing that would have been worse?” Peter waited for an answer as he thought. “OhmyGod, Brooke you didn’t…did you?”

The woman laughed rather naughtily, “I needed to take a shower after dinner last night and Sam told me that she’d meet me in bed.” Brooke paused just long enough for Peter to get the idea in his mind. “Well, I took my shower, dressed for bed, and then ran out of the bathroom. I jumped on the bed on top of her and started tickling her. How was I supposed to know that she was on the phone with Aunt Sandy?” Brooke smiled as she remembered the look on Sam’s startled face.

“You didn’t…I mean…ah…say anything did you?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Brooke smiled to herself realizing how much worse the embarrassment could have been for Sam. “Well, at least not until I knew who she was talking to.”

“If that were me, I’d be sooooo embarrassed. I don’t think I’d be able to look her in the eye the next time we met.”

“Actually, when Sam laughed, I spoke into the phone and said hello, then told her Aunt that Sam loved me and that she just didn’t know it yet.”

“Man, Brooke, it’s a good thing Sam doesn’t live at home. I could just see you saying that to her father with the sounds of a mattress squeaking in the background.”

The dark-haired woman become very quiet for a moment then softly muttered out her agreement, “Yeah.”

“Sorry, Brooke. I didn’t mean to bring that up. Crystal told me just how narrow-minded Sam’s parents are. Forget about them, concentrate on Sam and making her happy.”

“I am,” Brooke sighed, “Believe me.”

“I know that you two are good for each other. I can see it when you’re together.”

“Thanks, Petey.” Brooke cleared her throat and changed the subject, “So, I’ll see you at dinner Thursday, right?”

“Yeah, Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday at Mom’s, I’ll be there.”

“Great, I’ll see you then.” Brooke started to pull the phone from her ear.

“See you then, Boss.” Peter giggled, “You know what?”

“What?” She halted her motion and waited to hear what he would say.

“I like the sound of that. Bye,” he sing-songed the last word.

Brooke smiled and ended the conversation, “Bye, Peter.” She looked down at the phone for a second, happy that one of her old friends was once again a part of her life.

“Oh, shit!” Brooke’s eyes grew bigger and she reached for the phone that she’d just hung up. “I better call Mom.” Punching in the number on her autodail, Brooke listened to the ringing on the other end.

“Hello.”

“Hi, Mom. You having a good day?”

“Brooke,” Mable’s voice became friendlier, “I’m having a wonderful day, how about you?”

“Pretty good,” Brooke replied. “So, is there anything that I can bring to dinner on Thursday?”

There was laughter coming across the phone line, “Well, of course there is. You can bring Sam, that is unless she’d rather be with her family.”

“I was counting on her being with me for the holiday.” Brooke cleared her throat, “Actually, Mom…ah…how big is the turkey?”

There was a second or two of silence before Mable answered, “Well, I don’t know…the usual I guess, twenty-five or so pounds. Why, are you that hungry already, Dear?”

“I uh…kind of invited a couple of people to dinner, Mom. There’s Peter…”

“Peter, how nice. I haven’t seen him at the dinner table for a long time. That’s no problem.”

“Well…” Brooke swallowed, “Then there’s Sam’s Aunt Sandy and Crystal.”

“Is that all, Dear, just the five of you in your family grouping then?”

“Yeah, Mom, uh…five in my fam…” Brooke was shocked by the thought of her family.

“Well, that’s no bigger than Randi’s family,” Mable muttered. “Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just wondering how many we can actually have, once all you girls are settled down.”

“Ah…yeah,” Brooke smiled now at the concept.

“Something tells me that by the time you all give me grandchildren, I’d better rent a small hall for holiday dinners.”

Brooke was totally caught off guard by her mother’s statement and she choked out her reply, “You mean C.C. and Terri, right?”

“Well, I always thought…” the matriarch paused, “…the more the marrier.”

Brooke ran those last few words through her mind. Did she say ‘Marry her’? The executive started to wonder if her mother wasn’t resorting to subliminal messages. “Huh?”

“I mean…merrier.” Mable laughed at her slip. “The more the merrier,” she reiterated.

“You already have 3 grandkids from Randi, Mom. They should keep you merry enough for a while.”

“So, Brooke…is there any special reason why you have orchestrated this little family gathering? It doesn’t matter to me, in fact, I’d like to met Sam’s aunt,” Mable continued without pausing to let Brooke answer. “Care to share, or will that ruin your surprise?”

“Ah…kind of. I really want to spend the holiday with Sam but I couldn’t ask her not to be with her family. Besides…” Brooke paused, then slowly started again, “It’ll be the first time everyone will see the two of us together, as a couple. I love her, Mom. I won’t hide that anymore, from anyone.”

“But Brooke, we’ve seen you two…” Mable paused to gather the full sense of what Brooke was saying. “Oh… a couple. Brooke, I’m so happy for you. I knew she was special when Loran came back for a concert.”

“Loran didn’t, Mom. I did. I just borrowed her stuff.” Brooke grinned, realizing that her mother knew that Sam was special to her. “Actually, if you really want to know, I need to talk to her Aunt about something.”

“Something that I need to know about, Brooke?”

“Not just yet, Mom. I want to wait until I have a definite answer,” Brooke let her voice trail off. “Let’s just say that you’ll either be throwing me a party or holding me while I cry my eyes out.”

“Sounds like my baby is serious about something.”

“Well…uhmm…” Brooke took in a deep breath, “Yes I am, Mom.”

“I’ll plan for the party,” Mable let go with a chuckle, “God knows you never cry.”

“You have no idea, Mom.” Brooke thought back to the multitude of tears she shed when she thought Sam was out of her life, then quickly shook the feeling, never wanting to experience it again.

“I know Brooke, you’re the kind that cries more on the inside than for others to see.”

God, she knows me better than I know myself sometimes. Brooke changed the subject back to the reason for her call. “So, like I said, do you need me to bring anything for dinner on Thursday?”

There was a moment of silence before Mable spoke, “How about you bringing the wine. It sounds like we might be having a toast or two this year. It seems like we’ve all got a lot to be thankful for.”

Brooke smiled as she reached into her jacket pocket and toyed with the small, rounded top box. “I hope so, Mom. I surely hope so.”

Sam watched out the window of the 300 as they pulled up to the Gordon house and parked. She felt the warm touch of Brooke’s hand on hers and turned to look into comforting blue eyes.

“You ready?” Brooke asked softly.

“God, Brooke, I’m so nervous.”

“Darlin’, they already know you and they adore you.” Brooke held Sam’s hand a little tighter, “You’ve done this already.”

“Hey,” green eyes flashed at Brooke, “I was just C.C.’s roommate before.” Sam took in a deep breath, “Now I’m potential family.”

“Potential?” Brooke questioned the idea.

“Yeah…potential. I’m not official in any capacity.” Sam looked over at the looming house and bit at her lip.

Brooke leaned over the center console and placed a tender kiss on Sam’s lips as she turned back to look at Brooke. “You’re official in my capacity.” Brooke grinned at her. “You are my family.” The dark-haired woman smirked, as she secretly patted her jacket pocket, “Besides, who knows what could just fall into your lap at a holiday gathering.”

The blonde knitted her brows at the thought but let it go, writing it off to nervousness. She then smiled, breathing a sigh of relief. “God, Brooke, you always know the right words to say to calm me down.”

“That’s because I love you so damn much.” Brooke looked at her parent’s house, and then at Sam, “Ready, Darlin’?”

“Okay,” Sam took in a deep breath, then blew it out slowly. “Here goes nothing.” She reached for the door handle then quickly turned back to look into loving blue eyes. “Kiss me first.” Sam’s small hand clutched at Brooke, grabbing onto her sleeve. “You’ll love me no matter what, right?”

“Darlin’, I’ll love you forever…no matter what.” Brooke leaned over and kissed the insecure woman as deeply as she could, to erase any doubts that she could ever have. After the intensity of the kiss diminished, she placed one more gentle touch of her lips to Sam’s ear and whispered, “I love you, Sam.”

The young woman closed her eyes, savoring both the words and touch of her lover. “I was hoping you’d say that,” Sam whispered back, then opened her eyes, revealing a more confident woman. “Okay, I’m ready now.”

Brooke winked and nodded approvingly at the woman as she let her fingers glide over Sam’s cheek. “Okay Baby, just hang on a minute.” Brooke deftly opened her own door and climbed out of the driver’s seat. She grabbed the bottle of wine from behind her seat, then walked around the front of the car. Upon reaching Sam’s side, she opened the passenger door for the young woman to exit.

Smiling pleasantly, Sam took the hand that was being offered to her and climbed out of the 300. She looked up to see Brooke bringing the small hand to her mouth and kissing it while their eyes stayed locked on one another until Brooke winked at the woman, and closed the car door. Sam wrapped her arm tightly around Brooke as they made their way to the house.

The Gordon house was filling with family and friends as the time was growing nearer to the dinner hour. Being made the official greeter for the day, C.C. took her job rather seriously. She spent her time listening for the next doorbell to chime in, then took off running like a maniac to get to the door before anyone else. Her only competition came from Randi’s children. With Brooke being the only Gordon sibling left to arrive, C.C. stayed near the door, watching and waiting.

Casting a wayward look out the front window, the brunette spied Brooke’s 300 parked at the curb. Smiling, C.C. strolled over to the door and waited for the sound of the chime to announce the next guests. When the melodic sound of the Westminster chimes sounded again, C.C. pulled back the sheer curtain on the side panel of the door and looked at the two figures standing on the porch. “Hey, look who’s here,” she announced, “My sister and my roomie.” C.C. opened the door to greet them. “Glad to see you finally made it here, you two.” She then turned and yelled out, “Mom, Brooke and Sam are here.”

A lone, dark eyebrow raised on Brooke’s forehead as she wrapped her arm around Sam’s shoulder. “Of course we did. We wouldn’t miss a family holiday.”

The small crowd of children soon parted that had gathered behind C.C., leaving Mable Gordon directly in view of the door. “Ah… Sam, it’s so good to have you here.” The matriarch called out over her shoulder, “Henry, your daughter, Brooke, is here. Come and greet her.”

Brooke tightened her hold on Sam, then leaned over to whisper in her ear, “It’s ok, Baby…relax. I’ve got you.”

The young woman nodded slightly and muttered, “I’m trying.” Turning her attention to Brooke’s mother, Sam turned on her warmest smile. “Mrs. Gordon,” she saw the hurt in the woman’s eyes, then quickly corrected herself, “Mom, thank you for inviting me.”

“You are very welcome, Dear.” She wiped her hands on her apron and gave Sam a hug.

“Have my aunt and cousin arrived yet?”

“Yes, they have. As a matter of fact, we were just having a cup of tea in the kitchen. Sam, she’s just a lovely person. They both are. I’m so glad that you all could make it today.”

“Mable, what is it that you…” the man stopped short when he saw the blonde in the doorway. “Oh, Sam…your aunt and I were just talking about you.”

“Hi, Dad.”

“Hello Brooke. That was nice of you to bring Sam but I thought she was coming with C.C.”

“Hello Mister Gordon,” Sam nodded politely and smiled.

“Hey, Pop, of course I was going to bring her. I can’t stand to be without her.” Brooke turned to look at Sam, then back to her father. “Actually Dad, she’s here with me today.”

“Is that so?” There was a moment of uneasy silence as Henry looked from one woman to the other, then to his wife standing next to him. “Ah… Mable perhaps one of us should get back to the guests in the kitchen…”

“Yes… I’ll take Sam with me, I’m sure she’d like to say hello to her family. Why don’t you have that little talk with your daughter that you’ve been putting off?”

Henry took in a deep breath and let it out. “Yes, why don’t I. Brooke… care to join me in the den?” His gray eyes motioned across the hall to the room that was his bastion.

“Sure Pop, I’ll be right there.” She watched him walk away, then she gazed at the blonde, “You okay?”

Sam nodded, “I’ll be fine. How about you?”

“I’ll be alright. How about a kiss for luck?”

The young woman looked around at the bustling house, then took in a breath and kissed Brooke on the lips.

“I love you,” Brooke whispered.

“I love you, too.” Sam smiled shyly, “I guess that’s for real now… huh?”

“What’s for real?” Brooke looked deep into Sam’s eyes, “The fact that I love you? It always has been real.”

“But it’s really for real now… us, I mean.”

Brooke smiled brightly as she nodded, “Yes Sam, we are real and I love you more than ever.” She leaned in toward Sam, moving closer for a kiss when the sound of her father’s voice broke their train of thought, ending her advance.

“Brooke,” Henry called out to summon his daughter.

“Coming, Dad,” the woman quickly responded, then looked into the eyes of the woman in front of her.

Sam put her hand against her lover’s chest. “You’d better get going. I don’t want your father mad at you.”

Brooke agreed, “Okay, but I’ll be out soon to find you.” She leaned over and kissed the blonde lightly on the cheek, then watched Sam turn and walk toward the kitchen.

Brooke felt a little weird, entering her father’s den even at the age of thirty. It had been the room where many discussions of unbecoming behavior had taken place for not only Brooke but also all of her siblings. She stopped briefly at the door, seeing her father sitting behind the desk with his chair swiveled toward the window. The tall woman closed the door gently then crossed the room to take a seat on the small leather couch.

“Your mother seems to think that I need to talk to you, Brooke.” Henry swiveled his chair to face her. “So, how’s life lately?”

“Life…” Brooke smiled, “Life is wonderful.”

“And work…Is your company doing alright?” He asked studying her closely.

“Work is great. In fact, Peter starts working for me after the first of the month.” Brooke watched the expression on her father’s face as it turned more puzzled, “Dad?”

“Yes, Brooke?” He looked up from his hands that he had pressed tightly against one another.

“Just spit it out, Dad. I am an adult now.”

The one corner of Henry’s mouth turned upward at the thought. “Okay,” He

nodded. “I’ll treat you like the adult that I hope you are. You always did have a

no nonsense mind.”

“Still do,” Brooke smirked, then eased back into the couch.

“So, what’s up with you doing all this…” Henry looked for the right word to use, “…stuff,” he coughed, “for C.C.’s roommate?”

Brooke sat up, looking rather perplexed, “Stuff? What stuff? Do you mean the birthday party?”

“Yes, the party at your house, the band coming together, all the running around to take her places. Those things…and well, like today.”

“Today…” Brooke thought for a moment, “Today is not for her, Dad. Today is actually for me.”

“Where are you going here, Brooke? How is today for you?”

“Dad,” Brooke leaned forward in her seat, “I love her and she loves me.”

Henry shifted in his seat, “Brooke, you’re thirty and Sam… Sam’s younger than C.C.”

“By one month, Dad.” Brooke moved to the edge of her seat, “What difference does that make anyway? You’re ten years older then Mom. Rick is eight years older then Terri.”

The man leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on the desk and looked Brooke straight in the eye. “You didn’t knock her up…” he stopped when he saw the surprised look on his daughter’s face, then started again. “You didn’t go banging her in the…” gray eyes rolled as Henry realized what that sounded like also. “I mean… ah… you didn’t go hitting her head on the floor like you did C.C., did you?”

A smile slowly came to Brooke’s face as she leaned back, relaxing into the couch, “No, I didn’t bang her head on the floor, Dad.”

“So, you’re serious about this. Is she?” The man voice sounded relieved.

“Yes, and before you ask, it has nothing to do with Loran.” Brooke watched as her father’s face took on a rather worried look. “What’s with the face?”

Henry sank back into his chair, “Brooke, I’ll be honest with you. I never thought that I’d have to have this talk with you.” He looked up to see concerned blue eyes looking back at him. “I thought I was safe. I mean, you never brought anyone around, you never seemed that interested in… ah…” Henry gulped back the word he was about to say. “You know, when you came out to us with your sexual preference, your mother agreed to have that talk with your sisters and I had you.” Henry chuckled, “You know… father to son… er… daughter.” The man laughed openly at his error.

Brooke hid her mouth behind her hand, keeping the laughter to herself. “You want me to help?”

“Help… what do you mean?” Henry began to perspire and took his handkerchief out to wipe his brow.

“Dad, I’m thirty years old. You don’t have to explain the birds and the bees to me.” Brooke thought about what she had just said and amended it, “Well, birds and birds.”

Henry choked as he tried not to laugh at his daughter’s concept, “Not that talk.” He rolled his eyes and offered a prayer to God above for small favors, “The talk about living with someone… marriage,” his voice went silent realizing that it wasn’t the word he wanted to use. “Ah… partnering. Isn’t that what you call it now?”

“That’s what I call it. What about it?”

“Well, it’s a big step and not one to be taken lightly.” His eyes studied his daughter’s face.

“I know, Dad.”

“Then, you’ve thought about it?”

Brooke looked up into her father’s eyes, “Yes, I have… quite a bit, as a matter of fact.”

Henry looked a little surprised at Brooke’s revelation. “And it doesn’t scare the hell out of you?”

Brooke looked directly into her father’s eyes, “No Dad, not when it comes to Sam.”

“I take it this isn’t your first date then, right?”

“No, that was in August about a week after Sam came over for dinner.” Brooke smirked, “And you can blame that one on your youngest spawn.”

Henry viewed his daughter in a different light now. “August?” His eyes bugged out. “I should have known.” The man shook his head in disbelief, “Cjersti… I should have known.” Henry looked out the window for a moment before addressing Brooke. ” Well, I guess you’ve taken her out a few times then, but why wouldn’t you say something sooner?”

“Dad, I love Sam. We knew some people would have a problem with a couple of things, namely her being an Anti-Zero fan, my being ‘Loran’, and the difference in our ages.”

Henry looked over at his daughter, then said only one word, “Randi.”

“Yeah, and you know what?”

The man sat up in his chair, “What, Brooke?”

“We were together before she ever found out who I am. Actually, she got pissed.”

“Because you were Loran?”

“No, because at first she thought that I was trying to imitate her biggest crush, Brooke Loran. She told me that I was messed up because she loved me, Brooke Gordon, not who I was pretending to be.” Brooke smirked, “She actually walked out. Sam thought I was lying to her, making it all up.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, how did you correct that?”

“Oh, I didn’t. C.C. did.” Brooke smiled thinking about the lengths that her sister went to to keep them together. “She drove Sam back to the dorm and talked to her, then drove her back to the house. I still don’t know what was said, or what exactly changed Sam’s mind. I’m just glad that she did.”

“Brooke, what do you mean… drove to the dorm and then back to the house?”

“Ah…it was the day after C.C.’s party. Remember? They stayed over that night.”

Brooke giggled, “Well actually, Sam and I have spent every weekend together since the week after Labor Day.”

Henry let out a groan and visibly sank into his chair as he covered his face with his hands.

“What? What’s wrong, Dad?”

“Brooke, I truly don’t want to know, so don’t tell me.” Her father took in a deep breath, then let his hands fall down to his sides allowing him to look her straight in the eye. “I’m not prying here, but you are treating her with respect, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Brooke said, without having to think about it.

“And you love her?” Henry searched his daughter’s face, pleased with what he was seeing.

“More than anything, Dad.”

“Then, why are you hiding it from us?” Gray eyes looked into blue, “Or is there something you don’t want us to know?” Henry held his breath, hoping he was wrong.

“I’m not… not anymore. After that weekend that she went to her Aunt’s, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. That’s when we decided to let people know about us.”

“Phhhhew,” Henry let out his breath as he wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. “Good,” he chuckled aloud, “At least with your preference Brooke, I don’t have to worry that you got her pregnant.”

“Well, not yet…” Brooke added as she watched her father’s relieved face.

“I can at least be thankful for… what?” Henry’s eyes grew bigger as he stared at his daughter.

“Da-ad,” Brooke sing-songed out, “I’m joking,” she winked at him and laughed.

“I should hope so, young lady.” Henry started to relax again.

“Nope, we can’t get each other pregnant, which might be a real pain in the ass down the road, but we’ll worry about it then.”

“You expect it to go that far? Brooke, are you telling me in a roundabout way then, that Sam’s the one…” Henry swallowed hard, “the one you want to…”

“Settle down with?” She looked to her father and saw his slight nod. “Yes, but not in a roundabout way, Dad. I’ll tell it to you straight out. I love Sam and I know that she loves me. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. Heck, Dad…” Brooke let her hand go to the box in her pocket, “I’m going to marry her someday and then you can bet you’ll be a Grandpa again.”

Henry could see the determination in her eyes. “I see.” He slowly began to nod his head, believing in what he was about to say, “I believe you will, Brooke, I truly do.” The man took in a deep breath and let it out. “So, I guess I can tell your mother that I’ve done my part and not have to worry about it, right?” He eyed his daughter as he got up from his chair and walked around the desk.

“Yeah,” Brooke stood up and clapped her hand on his shoulder. “You did good, Pop.” She walked with him toward the door, “Come on, I got a bird out there waiting on me.” She winked at her father, then smiled.

Henry chuckled, “I wish they were all as easy as you, Brooke.” He reached for the door, opening it just as his youngest child passed by. “I can’t wait until your mother has to have this talk with C.C.”

Peter first spied Brooke standing out in the backyard when he rounded the corner of the Gordon house. His ex-band mate and soon-to-be boss looked rather pensive in her thoughts as she held something in her hand, staring down at it, causing Peter to stop, giving her just a little more time to herself. He waited until he saw her nod, then shove the small box into her jacket pocket before resuming his walk over to where Brooke stood.

“Hey, there you are,” Peter called out as he started around the last shrub. “So, what’s up, Brooke? Your dad told me you were out here when he met me at the door. He thought it might be best if I’d come find you before greeting the rest of the family.”

Startled at first by the voice, Brooke turned to see her friend, “Hey!” She held out her arms to embrace him in a roughhousing kind of hug at first, then latched on to the man and gave him a real one. “Not much.” They stepped back from each other and stood there gazing away from the house. “I just came out here for some air, when Randi tried to corner me.”

“Gee, if I get hugs like that, I’ll move every week,” Peter laughed.

“Nah…” Brooke waved her hand at the idea, “I’d offer them to you freely, no strings attached.” Brooke looked over to the man and smiled.

They shared a friendly smile before Peter ventured to ask, “Randi, huh? What’s she on the rampage about? Warn me now.”

Brooke smirked, “Me and Sam.”

“Huh? What do you mean… you and Sam?” Peter’s brow furrowed with puzzlement.

The tall woman shrugged, “She doesn’t approve of us being together. You know how high and mighty she can be.” Brooke turned to face Peter, “Christ, Peter…” blue eyes conveyed her feelings of hurt, “…she had Sam investigated.”

Peter’s eyes nearly popped out, “Investigate that sweet thing? You’ve got to be kidding, right?” He could tell by the serious look on Brooke’s face that she wasn’t, and looked away from his friend, saying exactly what was on his mind. “You know, sometimes I think Randi was a lawyer in a previous life,” he shook his head, “and a devious one at that.”

“Yeah…” Brooke whispered under her breath and nodded in agreement. “I’m not kidding, Peter, she tried to tell me shit she thought I didn’t know.” Brooke’s eyes narrowed as she looked off into the distance, “Little did she know that I knew more about it.”

“You were always thorough, even when you were little.” Peter studied his friend.

“Yep, I tried to be.” A smile came to her lips as she thought about the box in her pocket and touched it with her hand. “Always have the next step planned.”

Peter caught the subtle movement of her hand. “So, what’s in the box?” He reached out and patted the lump in her pocket, himself. “I saw you eyeing it up pretty good when I turned the corner of the house.”

Brooke grinned as she pulled it out and offered it to him.

“It ain’t my birthday,” Peter joked as he took the box in his hand and opened it with a ‘thunk’. “Holy shit!”

“Don’t go getting any ideas, Petey. It’s not for you,” Brooke cautioned the man.

The ex-band mate picked the delicate ring up out of the box, looked it over as he let out a long low whistle, then promptly put it back in the small slot. “I didn’t think so. My finger’s not that small,” Peter turned to look at Brooke, “and neither is yours.”

Brooke scratched the side of her face worriedly, “Do you think she’ll like it?”

The man held it up and looked at it approvingly, “Yeah, I think she will.” Peter looked over at Brooke, “Say, isn’t this one of the rings that we looked at in the jewelry shop up in New Jersey before you left?” He watched, as her smile grew bigger. “But you didn’t buy it then. I was with you.”

“Nope, I called them the following Monday and had it sent.” Brooke’s mind drifted back to her homecoming from that New Jersey trip and the blonde that had been waiting to greet her.

Her friend looked at her and wondered what was going through her mind that could bring such a serene expression to her face. He let her have her moment before gently nudging her shoulder with his and asking, “When you going to do it… tonight?” He held the box out for her to take.

The dark-haired woman let a tiny laugh slip out as she closed that chapter in her mind. “Ah…no.” She took the box and toyed with it. “Not yet, maybe Christmas,” she offered, then shoved it back into her pocket.

“Not sure yet or just waiting for the right time, Brooke?” Peter looked into her eyes, seeing that far off gaze that was so familiar to him. “You’re zoning out on me there girl. Just like the old days when the three of us would work on the music.” Peter snapped his fingers in front of Brooke’s face.

“Huh? Sorry.” Brooke sighed, “Yeah, I want everything to be perfect. I want to make sure she has absolutely no reason to say nnn…nnn…” she tried to verbalize the word, but couldn’t.

“And I’m sure you’ll make it that way, too.” Peter encouraged her, “With you asking her, there’s only one answer that I’d be expecting to hear and that’s yes.” Peter placed a hand on her shoulder and looked her in the eye. “I envy you, Brooke. You know that?”

“Why?” She searched for a reason in his face.

“You know what you want. Me, I…” he took in a breath and let it out, “I just dream. Take today for instance. I should have asked Crystal to come with me, but I was afraid that she’d say ‘No’.” Peter shrugged, then hung his head at his own misfortune. “So here I am, playing third wheel to you and Sam.”

“No,” Brooke shook her head, “You’re not a third wheel.” She grabbed his hand and started back toward the house, “I have a little surprise for you, my friend.”

“Surprise? What kind of surprise?” Peter suddenly dug his feet into the ground halting any further motion forward as he tugged back on his hand. “You’re not sitting me next to C.C. are you? Brooke, I know she’s your sister and all but I’m thinking that matching me and her up would not be a good thing.”

Brooke looked back to see terror-filled eyes and she couldn’t help but laugh. “Nope. Trust me, Petey. You’ll love it. I promise.” She beamed a brilliant smile at him and wiggled her eyes, “So, what do you say we go in and say ‘Hi’ to everyone?”

Peter gave the tall woman a long glance out of the side of his eyes, trying to decide if he believed her or not. “Okay,” he started out slowly, “but I’m trusting you, Boss. Let’s get it over with and then we can eat.”

Letting Peter follow her at his own pace, Brooke crossed the yard to the kitchen door and yelled inside, “Honey…” Brooke looked back at Peter, then into the bustling room filled with women until she made eye contact with the only blonde there. “Look who I found.” Brooke stepped aside, letting Peter enter the doorway first.

“Peter…” the smile on Sam’s face grew bigger. “How nice to see you here. Brooke never told me when you were coming.” She invited him into a hug, then kissed his cheek.

“Hi ya, Toots. How have you been? Did you miss me?”

“Always, Petey, always. The phone conversations with Brooke aren’t the same without you.” Sam smiled and stepped back from his embrace.

“I told you to call me whenever you’d like. Hell… now you’ll be seeing so much of me, you’ll be sick of me,” Peter grinned and winked at the blonde.

“So, Brooke finally talked you in to working for her, huh?” Sam grabbed Peter’s hand and pulled him out of the way of Mrs. Gordon. “Sorry, Mom. Come on, Petey, we’d better get out of the kitchen here before we delay the serving of dinner.” Sam winked at Brooke as she led her little party out into the hallway.

“Yep,” Peter eyed the food that was being prepared around him as he followed Sam’s lead. “Although, it didn’t take much convincing on her part. I was ready for a change. I have been for a long time.”

“I bet.” Sam turned to look at him once they were out of the kitchen. “Why don’t you tell me all about how she enticed you into that job?”

Brooke leaned in toward Peter and whispered a few choice words before they both turned to exchange knowing glances and smiled. The older woman motioned toward Sam, “Keep her company for me, Petey. I’ve got something to take care of.” She turned and kissed Sam lightly on the cheek. “You introduce Petey around and I’ll catch up with you in a bit.”

Sam watched as her lover strolled away. “What’s she up to, Petey, huh?” The blonde turned back to see Peter smiling at her and then looked back in the direction that Brooke had wandered off to.

“Ah, Sam…” Peter tapped her on her shoulder to get her attention. “Brooke said something about introducing me around?”

The tussle of blonde hair in front of him nodded then turned toward him. “Come on, Peter, I’ll introduce you to a few new faces at this holiday gathering.” Sam winked.

“Who?” Peter looked at her strangely. “I know all of the Gordons.”

Sam grabbed his arm and tugged him into the living room behind her as she surveyed the small crowd. “You’ve got to say ‘Hi’ to everyone.” Catching the right person’s eye, she motioned for them to come closer. “Peter…” Sam took the woman’s hand and turned back to Peter, “I think you’ve met my cousin, Crystal.” The blonde smiled politely, then turned to her cousin, “Crystal, I’ll leave you in his company while I go and help Mom out in the kitchen.” Sam winked at Crystal then turned to wave as she walked away.

Once across the room, Sam turned to look back on two very dumbfounded figures, staring into one another’s eyes. Brushing her hands off against each other, the blonde smiled as her thoughts tumbled, barely audible, out of her mouth, “Gee, C.C., now I know how you feel.”

The tall woman greeted each family member that she ran into as she mounted her search for the one person in particular that she wanted to talk to right now. Stumbling into her father, Brooke finally asked for help. “Hey, Dad.” She smiled and greeted her sisters’ husbands with a smile and a nod, “Brian, Rick,” then turned back to her father. “Dad, I’m looking for Sam’s aunt. Have you seen her?”

The man smiled warmly, believing that he knew exactly why she wanted to see the woman. “I think she’s in my study admiring the collection of books that you girls got me.” Henry winked at his daughter, “Go on, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind having some company.”

The smile broke across Brooke’s face, “Thanks, Dad. You’re the best.” Brooke reached up and placed a kiss on his cheek, then scurried off toward the den.

“What’s she so excited about, Dad?” Rick spoke up as he watched her leave.

“She looks like she’s in love,” Brian added, then both men turned to look at Henry for confirmation.

“Who knows?” Henry shrugged, not wanting to add to the pressure that Brooke was already putting herself under. He feigned any knowledge of the reason, “You know Brooke…little things tend to excite her.” Henry turned to see his daughter slip into the den, closing the door behind her, while a smile settled on his face.

Hearing the door close, the woman turned to see her niece’s friend. “Brooke,” she called out as a smile came to Sandy’s face, “Your parents have such a lovely house. I was just admiring the bookcases here in the den.”

“I’m sure that they’d be happy to hear that.” Brooke moved into the room, “Uh… Ma’am, can I talk to you for a moment?”

“Why sure, Dear.” Sandy looked over, giving Brooke her full attention, “Anything that I can help you with?”

“Actually yes, there is.” Brooke motioned to the couch, “Please, have a seat.”

“Oh my, this sounds important.” Sandy sat down, then looked up to Brooke. “Is there something on your mind?”

“Well.. It’s a couple of things actually.” Brooke bit on her lip, then nodded.

“Hmm…” Sandy watched as Brooke paced for a moment then stopped and stood before her.

“First of all…” Brooke started, “I’ve been thinking about Christmas for Sam. I was wondering if you could help me out.”

“Oh dear, I’m not sure that I know her sizes,” the woman strained to think.

“No,” Brooke chuckled. “Nothing like that. I know Sam would like to see her parents and spend the holiday with them, and Sarah.” Brooke looked into Sandy’s eyes, “I know she really misses her father.”

“Oh, Brooke, you’re so right.” Sandy nodded, “She was very close to her father at one time, but I’m afraid her mother is the one that is so dead set against her influencing Sarah.”

“Well..I’d uhm…” Brooke rubbed the back of her neck with her hand, “I’d kind of like to talk to them. That’s where I need your help.” Brooke sat down on the couch next to Sam’s aunt. “I definitely wouldn’t let them know who I am.”

“Do you think you can…” Sandy searched the determined blue eyes, “but how?”

“Can you give me their address?”

Sandy nodded her head. “I can give that to you but I’m not sure it will do any good.”

“I at least want to try… for her.” Brooke got up from the couch, crossing to the desk, then returned with pen and paper and handed them to the woman.

The older woman took the offered writing tools, “Here, let me jot it down for you.”

She scribbled out the address, and listed the phone number underneath it, then handed it back to Brooke.

“Thank you, Aunt Sandy.” The dark-haired woman stared down at it committing it to her memory, then tore the page off the pad and shoved it into her pocket. “This means a lot to me.”

“Brooke,” Sandy waited until she had the woman’s attention, “I’d be careful how you introduce yourself.”

“I will, I promise.” Blue eyes assured her sincerity in the matter.

“I know you will.” Sandy patted the empty couch next to her, “Okay, so that’s one thing, what’s the other?”

“The other?” Brooke looked puzzled for a moment, then remembered, “Oh yeah, I uhm…” the first inklings of a blush could be seen coming to the young woman’s neck as she sat down. “I wanted to do this the right way.”

“Come on, it can’t be that bad.” Sandy reached over and gave Brooke’s hand a pat, “You know, I was once young, too. Just talk to me like you would one of your friends.” The older woman leaned in to get a better view of Brooke’s face.

“Okay,” Brooke took in a deep breath trying to calm her nerves. “I love Sam very much, more than anything, actually. You’re the one person in her family that she still loves and trusts, besides Sarah and Crystal.” Brooke paused for a moment to wet her lips. “I’ve been thinking about something and when I made up my mind I decided to talk to you about it because it would be the honorable thing to do.” The young woman looked directly at the woman. “I want to ask Sam to marry me and I wanted to ask for your permission first.”

Brooke watched, as the older woman’s face remained motionless as only her eyes seemed to be able to move, running their paths deep into Brooke’s own. “I know it’s not legal but, that’s not really the point. I just…”

“Honorable thing…” Sandy was finally able to mutter out, “My word, girl…”

“Ma’am?” Brooke became concerned. “Excuse me?”

“You’re everything that she says you are. Sam said that you’d probably ask to be serious about her and she was right.”

“Sam said that?” Brooke looked surprised, “When? I haven’t said anything to her about this.”

“It was right after that movie.” Sandy pressed her memory for facts, “Now what did she call it… cluesworth?” She looked up to Brooke for help.

“Clueless?”

“Yes, that’s it…Clueless. She said you were so honorable and polite in the theater that she had to make the first move.”

“Yes, she ah… she did,” Brooke smiled at the memory.

“She said you seemed a little old fashioned.” Sandy smiled as she watched Brooke blush.

“A little?”

Sandy leaned over to Brooke and whispered, “Don’t worry… it becomes you. I like it, as I do you.”

“Really?” Brooke looked into Sandy’s face for the truth.

“Really,” the woman winked, confirming her words.

“Then do I have your blessing to propose to your niece?”

“My blessing, my wishes. If it’s what makes Sam happy, I’m all for it. The way she talks about you, it will make her very happy. Yes, Brooke, you have my blessing to continue seeing Sam. I personally can’t think of a better person for her than you.”

Brooke smiled at Sandy. “Thank you. I don’t think you’ll ever know how much this means to me.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised. I know how much you mean to my niece,” Sandy let the lilt in her voice become very audible.

Brooke smiled as she played with the box in her pocket. “Thank you, so very much.”

There was a moment of silence as the two women sat thinking about the very same small blonde before Sandy began to speak. “So, when do you think,” she stopped short and then waved her hand, “Never mind me… you go at your

own pace and love every minute of it.”

“I want to ask her now but I don’t want her to think I’m rushing things. I’ll just wait until it’s perfect and the time feels right.”

“That sounds like a good plan. I’m sure she’d much rather have it that way.” Sandy started to get up from the couch.

“Yeah…” Brooke nodded her head, “Believe me… it’ll be perfect.” Brooke looked up at the woman standing in front of her with her arms held out to her and got up, leaning into the welcoming embrace.

“I’m sure it will, Brooke.” Sandy hugged the tall woman, “I’m sure it will.”

Mable Gordon put off calling everyone to the table until she went on one of her matriarchal rounds of the house. She saw her second eldest daughter emerge from the den behind Sam’s aunt, in good spirits. Altering her route through the first floor rooms, Mable smiled politely as she passed Aunt Sandy, then reached out to her daughter to get the beaming woman’s attention. “Brooke, it’s time to get everyone to the table. How about if you…”

“I know, Mom.” Brooke squeezed her mother’s hand. “I’ll go round up all the kids for dinner.”

“Thanks, Brooke.” Mable released her grip on Brooke and turned toward the doorway to the living room where the tall figure of her first born stood watching out into the hall. “Randi,” the matriarch summoned her, “Could you please go tell your father and the others that dinner will be served in just a few minutes?”

“Sure, Mom.” Randi pushed off the wall she was leaning against, then walked toward her mother on the way to the yard. “Any idea what was going on behind the closed door with Brooke and Sam’s aunt?” The lawyer paused, waiting for an answer.

“No idea at all,” Mable wiped her hands on her apron. “Now, talk turkey to me and I could tell you a wealth of information.” The older woman winked, then motioned for Randi to move along. “You’d better get going before Brooke and all the kids are feasting on the bird and your father won’t have even given the toast yet. You know how that man gets if things are done out of order.”

“I’m going.” Randi took a step or two down the hallway then stopped, turning back toward her mother. “You know, Mom… you can only run interference for so long. There’s a secret brewing here. I can feel it.” With that said, Randi took her leave.

The matriarch watched as her eldest daughter disappeared into the doorway leading to the next room before she let out her held breath. “Brooke, I hope you know what you’re doing,” she muttered, then turned to address the small group gathered in the living room. “Sandy, Peter,” Mable smiled seeing the young woman’s head come into view from around the musician’s frame, “Crystal. You might want to make your way into the dinning room now. We’re about to get ready for the start of dinner.”

“Gosh, Mrs. G.,” Peter spoke up, “We’d be happy to.” He looked over to Crystal, offering his right arm to the young woman, then to her mother, he offered his left arm, “Ladies?” When both women were in place on either side of him, he led them into the dining room with a proud smile on his face.

Smiling at Peter’s expense, Mable turned to go back out into the hallway when the sound of running feet and yelling voices made her stop abruptly from taking another step. Within seconds, Randi’s sons, David and Kevin came flying down the hall, yelling out their greeting as they passed her.

“Hi, Grammie,” the youngest waved as he passed, followed closely by his brother.

Seeing his Grandmother standing in the doorway, the older child slowed down, for a step or two as he turned to keep her in view while he passed by. “Hey, Gram. Don’t worry, I’ll stop Kevin.”

“You know better, David. Don’t go setting a bad example for your brother,” Mable scolded the lad with a shaking finger, then chuckled to herself, remembering her own children doing the exact same thing.

“Sorry, Gram,” David muttered as he slowed down to an exaggerated crawl.

The matriarch looked down the hall before stepping out of the doorway, knowing all to well that there was still another child to come by.

Brooke rounded the bottom of the stairs and saw the trepidation in her mother’s step. “Don’t worry, Mom. It’s safe, I’ve got the little rugrat.” The musician held up the giggling child in her arms as she walked down the hall toward her mother.

“Hey, Mom,” Sam’s blonde head stuck out of the doorway and looked down the length of the hall. “Do you want the pies left in to warm or would you like me to turn off the oven?”

“Ah…no…I…” Mable thought for a moment, “I’ll take care of it, Sam. Why don’t you just go have a seat at the table with Brooke.” The matriarch winked at her daughter who was now standing next to her. “You know, we do treat you like a guest the first holiday season. After that, well…” Mable shrugged her shoulders as she stole a quick glance at Brooke, “who knows, maybe we’ll consider you family.”

Blonde brows furrowed, trying to decipher the code. “Okay, Mom… anything you say.” Sam took in a breath as the older woman moved around her, heading for the kitchen. Looking up to the small child in her lover’s arms, the young woman smiled, focusing her conversation on the child. “And what’s your name, lil’ one? I don’t think I’ve met you yet.”

“Ju-lie…” the girl answered, her dimples showing with her shy smile.

“Yeah,” Brooke leaned down to kiss the tot’s brown hair. “Julie here has been taking her nap like a good girl. She’s three.” The tall woman wrapped her arm around Sam’s shoulder and started to move them toward the dinning room.

“That’s a pretty name.” Sam turned slightly, then held out her hand to the child. “Hi, I’m Samantha, but everyone calls me Sam.” The blonde smiled as they came to the doorway of the dining room. “And I’m a lot older than you are,” Sam glanced at Brooke and chuckled.

The tot lifted her tiny hand and waved. “Hi Sam,” then pointed across the room at the table as she bounced with excitement in Brooke’s arms. “That’s my Daddy.”

Sam looked over to Brian and saw the man in his late thirties nodding to his daughter as he held the chair out for Randi to be seated. “I see that,” Sam turned back to the child. “Your mommy has you dressed really nice, Julie.”

“Tank you… Aunt Brooke bought me dis,” Julie pulled at her shirt and smiled up at her aunt.

“Do you know where your mommy is?” Brooke tried to shift the attention to someone else.

Turning in Brooke’s arms until she could see her mother, Julie reached in Randi’s direction. “Mommy’s ova dere.”

Sam saw the child’s mother sneak in a little wave to the child, then let her gaze fall to Sam as the trio came closer to where they were to be seated. The blonde returned with a nod. “She’s so cute, Randi. She’s adorable.” Sam slid into the seat that Brooke pointed to, while the tall woman moved the higher chair in closer for her niece.

“Why, thank you,” Randi accepted the compliment graciously. “And don’t think that she doesn’t know it, too.” The woman eyed her small daughter and smiled.

“I bet she really keeps you stepping though.” Sam looked back to the child, now that Brooke was finally finished adjusting her seat.

“Yes, she does. You have no idea.” Randi looked to her husband, then both of them began to laugh softly.

“Oh, I think I do,” Sam looked back over her shoulder to Brooke, then turned back to look at Mable for confirmation. “I bet Brooke was the same way when she was that age.” Sam’s attention was on the matriarch, who only smiled and nodded at the memory as she handed the gravy boat to Terri, then went back to the kitchen for more serving bowls.

Brooke took her seat, then leaned over, whispering into Sam’s ear, “So you think I can keep you stepping, huh?” The dark-haired woman brushed her lips against Sam’s cheek causing the red tinge of a blush to start up Sam’s neck, as an embarrassed smile tugged at the woman’s mouth.

“Hmm…” Randi started. “Let’s see…I was six when Brooke was three so I didn’t really have to keep up with her.”

“But I bet she tried to tagalong with you everywhere you went,” Sam nudged her lover under the table with her leg.

“Yeah,” Randi nodded in agreement. “She tried for a while…just couldn’t get rid of her no matter how hard I tried.”

Brooke turned her attention from her older sister to that of her niece, only to have Julie look up to her and grab at her nose. “Hey,” Brooke lifted the tot out of her seat, holding the surprised child up in the air before nestling her in the musician’s strong arms. “What is this, a family conspiracy?” Brooke put her face right up to Julie’s, letting her eyes shift to Randi, then back again.

“Oh, Honey, be careful…” Sam cautioned her tall lover with a hand on her arm, “don’t do that. You’ll scare her.” Sam took the offered cranberry sauce for Brooke and put some on the musician’s plate before taking care of her own.

The sound of a child’s laughter filled the air as Julie began to squeal, “Again! Again!”

Brooke pulled back from the high pitched sound, then looked directly into Sam’s eyes, “She’s okay, Sweetheart…see?” Brooke brought her face smack up against the tot’s one more time to the sound of excited laughter. “No harm’s done.” The woman grinned back at Sam.

“She’s going to have nightmares, and it will be all Auntie Brooke’s fault.”

“Nah, she’ll be fine.” Brooke smiled, turning back toward the child. “Besides if she has nightmares, Randi will just call and wake me up to talk her through them.” Brooke looked over to her sister, then winked before turning her attention to Sam. “Here, you want to hold her?” The tot was shifted toward a startled Sam.

“You sound like you’ve done that before, have you?” The blonde asked as she pushed back her chair.

“Yes, I have with the older two, right guys?” Brooke looked down the length of the table to where David and Kevin were seated.

“Yeah, and she’s the best,” Kevin smiled widely with his missing tooth for all to see.

“Brooke sure got us through some sleepless nights,” Brian chimed in.

Sam leaned in, whispering into Brooke’s ear, “Practicing for me even then, were you?” The blonde giggled softly then held her arms out, inviting Julie into them.

Brooke’s eyes grew wider as she looked over at Sam, then slowly took in a breath to calm her body’s reaction, “Oh, Darlin’. She blinked a time or two to bring her mind back to the present, then looked over to Randi, waiting to see the nod of permission before handing her niece over to Sam.

“HI!” Julie said, climbing into the blonde’s lap and making herself comfortable.

The young woman couldn’t help but smile. “Hey, Honey… you’re so pretty today. You’ve got your barrettes and everything.” Sam looked at the lopsided, half hanging out hair accessories and smiled.

Big brown eyes looked up to Sam as the girl half pouted, “Dank you, but I not like barrettes.” The child looked over to Brian. “Daddy made me wear dem.”

“I can tell. They’re halfway out.” Sam took one hand from around the small child and undid the first barrette, “Here, let me hold them for you.” She took the other one from Julie’s hair. “There, all better.”

“Dank you, Sam… dat’s bedder.”

“Anything for you, Cutie Pie,” Sam winked at the child as she handed the barrettes to Brooke.

The child’s aunt took them in her hand, examining them, before raising a lone eyebrow in her brother-in-law’s direction. “You made her wear these? Brian, that’s cruel.” She watched the man shrug as he passed the basket of rolls to the person next to him.

“So, Sam…” Randi tried to get her husband off the hook, “How’s everything going in school?”

“This last year is a little tough… what with all of the courses jammed into the fall semester, but I’m doing okay.”

“Hmm…just okay?” The lawyer’s eyes questioned Sam’s intent. “I’d think you’d want to really concentrate on your work, I mean this being the end and all. How many courses do you have next semester?”

The blonde looked up from Julie, letting her gaze first go to her Aunt Sandy, the corner of her mouth turned slightly upward. “I’m sorry, I was taught not to brag.” Sam acknowledged the proud look on her Aunt’s face then returned her attention to Randi. “Actually, only one this spring.” The blonde held her unoccupied hand up in the air, halting the comment that was being readied. “I already know what you’re thinking. It’s not a piece of cake.”

“I didn’t say a thing, Sam.” Randi rested her elbows on the table and knitted her fingers together, acting indifferent. “I was just curious.”

“Well, I’m just used to a lot of people’s remarks when they hear that schedule.”

“So, you’re almost done then?” The lawyer resumed her questioning.

“I am.” Sam nodded as she looked at Julie for a few seconds, then directed her eyes back to Randi. “I’ll just have to complete my internship.”

“And… where will that be?”

“I… I have no idea. We’ll be given our assignment destination the day before we leave school for the holidays.” Sam looked down the table at C.C. as she bit her lip. “It could be around the campus area or virtually anywhere in the world. I may not be C.C.’s roommate next term if that happens.”

“Ah… I see.” Randi picked up the bowl of sweet potatoes from the table and started to dish some out on her plate, noticing that Brooke had suddenly stopped the advancement of food down her side of the table. Randi observed the pained look in her sister’s eyes as Brooke looked over to Sam.

Disheartened with the thought of being away from the woman she loved, Sam tried to hide her fear when she looked over into Brooke’s gaze, but a weak smile was the best that she could muster. “I’m just hoping for the best.” Sam caught the silently mouthed ‘I love you’ on Brooke’s lips, then closed her eyes against the tears she was certain would come rolling out of her own eyes and nodded.

Mable could see the pain in her daughter’s blue eyes and immediately moved her focus to the other side of the table. “Well, uhm…” the matriarch looked up to her husband who was moving around the table as he filled the wine glasses and she turned her attention to the daughter he was stopped at. “So, Terri… how’s everything going at the hospital?”

“Well, pretty good.” Terri placed her hand over her empty glass, stopping her father from filling it with wine, “No, thanks Dad,” she looked up to him then back over to her mother and continued. “I haven’t gotten sick with the kiddie crud yet this fall…” the pediatrician nudged her husband who was sitting next to her with a shoulder and smiled. “And we even had two nights off together this past month, huh Rick?”

The boyish looking man in his middle thirties smiled cockily at his wife, “Yep, and they paid off too, didn’t they?” He nodded subtly, then reiterated, “A very nice two nights off.”

The unattached brunette sank back into her chair, letting the platter of turkey rest on the edge of the table that she was holding onto. “Oh boy… I see baby in the making,” C.C. rolled her eyes as she taunted her sister and brother-in-law. “So, who gets to be the godmother?” The young woman shifted the weight of the platter to one hand as she swiftly shot the other one straight up in the air and repeatedly cried out like an over enthusiastic grade school child, “Me…me…me…”

Rick leaned in toward his wife and whispered, “Do you think we should tell them?” The couple exchanged glances between themselves, then finally looked over at C.C. “Actually, we haven’t decided on the godmother, yet.”

Terri waited for the idea to slowly sink in as she looked from person to person around the table. Unable to contain herself any longer, she blurted the news out so that everyone would understand. “Okay guys, what do I have to say?” She looked over at Rick and started to glow. “I’m pregnant.”

The table conversation suddenly stopped and all eyes turned to Terri and Rick.

“Terri,” Mable’s eyes grew bigger as a smile transected her face. She sat the bowl of green beans down that she was holding, then rose from her chair and moved to her daughter’s side. “I’m so happy for you.” She wrapped her arms around the newly expectant woman and gave her a hug, then pulled Rick over and kissed his cheek. “And you, too, Rick. I’m so excited.” Mable fussed with Terri’s hair causing the woman to blush.

“Mom, I’m a grown-up now,” Terri winced with the added attention.

“Grown-up… wait until you’re about nine months along and as big as a house.” Randi teased her younger sister, “Now that’s grown-up.”

“Shush!” Mable scolded. “Don’t scare her, Randi.” The matriarch reached out and took Henry’s hand as he came to her side, then reached up to kiss his lips. “Remember how big I was during all my pregnancies?”

Henry nodded. “I often wondered how they would ever get out of there,” he winked at his wife then bent down to kiss Terri. “Don’t let them scare you, Teresa, you’ll do just fine.”

Sam felt the tug on her sleeve and gazed down to see a puzzled looked on Julie’s face. The blonde lowered her head trying to meet the child eye to eye.

“Sam… what does pregnant mean?” Wondering brown eyes looked up to the woman for the answer as the question resounded in the dead silence of the dining room.

“Ah…” caught off guard, Sam looked to Brooke for help, only to see the woman looking just as startled as she was. “Pregnant.” She said the word correctly as her mind considered how to explain it to a three year old. “It means that you’ll get a new cousin to play with next Thanksgiving.” Sam smiled slightly, thinking that she’d dodged the bullet.

“What’s a cousin?” The timid voice spoke again, directing the question to Sam.

Brooke grinned at Sam’s predicament, happy that Julie had picked someone beside herself to bombard with questions. “Looks like she takes after you, C.C. with that inquiring mind of yours.”

Sam waited for C.C.’s tongue showing escapade and the giggles it received from the other children at the table before she answered the tot’s second question. “A cousin is a little boy or girl that will call your Aunt Terri, Mommy.”

Julie absorbed the words, then let the little wrinkles come to her forehead as she pondered the point. “Why Aunt Terri?” She looked around the table then at her favorite aunt sitting next to her, drinking her glass of water. “Why not Aunt Brooke?”

Blue eyes bugged out as Brooke snorted and then began making coughing sounds as she choked on the mouthful of liquid. She could vaguely hear the sound of her older sister laughing at her daughter’s question as she felt Peter’s hand on her back.

“You okay, Brooke?” Peter asked as Crystal and her mother started to get up, thinking that a nurse or two might be needed.

Brooke looked up after finally swallowing the liquid successfully to see Terri now standing up. “I… I’m okay, Sis,” Brooke took in a deep breath, then rasped out, “It just went down the wrong… wrong way.” Brooke coughed into her napkin and waved the nurses back to their seats.

“Don’t scare me like that, Brooke.” Concerned green eyes studied Brooke’s face as Sam rested her hand on the woman’s arm.

“Scare you?” Brooke muttered as she rolled her eyes, before the voice of the small child was heard again.

“Whhhhyyyy?” The child made the word sound like it could last forever. “Why Aunt Terri?”

Sam studied the child in her lap for a moment, then answered, “Cause that’s who is going to carry the baby until it’s ready to meet everyone here.”

“Why does she have to carry it? Can’t it walk? Won’t her arms get tired?” The questions rolled out of the small mouth like cars off of an assembly line, one after the other.

The blonde remained calm and tried to think as a small child would. “Well, she’ll carry it in her belly…” green eyes tried to measure the child’s grasp of what she was saying. “That way she can still use her hands to do things with… to take care of other little boys and girls that need her.” Sam leaned toward her lover and whispered, “Brooke… you could help me out here.”

“Julie,” Brooke cleared her throat as she got the child’s attention.

“Hmm… Aunt Brooke?” The small head turned in the musician’s direction.

“Honey, Aunt Terri and Uncle Rick wanted a baby like your Daddy and Mommy wanted you. So, now Aunt Terri is going to have a baby. She’ll be a Mommy to her baby. Understand?”

Surprised eyes looked directly at Brooke. “Don’t you want a baby, too?”

“Uh… not for a long time.”

There was a pause as Julie considered Brooke’s answer. Within seconds her little face lit up and she asked, “Can I have a baby?”

Brooke remained serious as the rest of the room chuckled at the tot’s question. “Someday, maybe.”

Julie expressed her disappointment the only way she knew how. Letting out a huge sigh, the child muttered, “Grown ups have all da fun.”

“I guess so,” Brooke couldn’t keep from chuckling now at the antics of her niece as she watched the pouting face work hard to show its dismay. “Is that all, Munchkin?”

The small child sat quietly for a moment then turned to look up at Sam. “Can I play with your baby next Danksgiving?”

Brooke’s eyes grew huge for the second time in a matter of minutes as she looked at her niece and shook her head.

Sam blinked and then cleared her throat before answering, “I… I don’t think I’ll have a baby quite that soon. How about if we just wait to play with Aunt Terri’s baby, alright?”

“Why can’t you have a baby by den?” Brown eyes looked up for an answer.

“Well, ah… certain things need to happen and there’s just not enough time, okay?”

“What kind of dings?”

Sam could feel the perspiration accumulating on her brow as the questions were becoming more involved. “Ah… Randi, I think you need to have this conversation with your daughter.” Sam looked over to the lawyer and her husband.

After exchanging a look with Brian, Randi sat back in her chair and rested her arm on the table in a very relaxed manner. “Actually kid, I think you’re doing great.” The woman smiled at Sam, then glanced over to Brooke.

“Gee, thanks.” Sam took in a deep breath as she reviewed the tot’s question, “Ah… Okay.” The young woman took on a more positive approach to the situation and started to explain to the child. “First, you have to be married.”

“Marriage always comes first,” Brooke added with a quick look to C.C.

“Otay,” Julie turned to Sam. “So, get mawwied.”

Sam smiled, “And who would you have me marry, Julie?”

“I dunno…” the tot held her hands up in the air and moved her shoulders up and down several times before finally patting Sam’s chest with them. “You keep smiling at Aunt Brooke.”

The blonde wet her lips. “Well… your Aunt Brooke and I are.. .ah…” Sam looked to her lover, letting her eyes plead for her.

“Julie…” Brooke took over, “Sam and I can’t get married… yet.”

“Why?”

“Uh… because we… ah… haven’t decided to yet.”

“When den?”

“Ah… when…” Brooke stuttered, “Ah… when I ask her to, I guess.” Blue eyes glanced quickly to Sam.

Julie knelt in Sam’s lap and got right up into Brooke’s face, her hands resting on her hips. “Do you wike her?”

Brooke spoke without hesitation, “Yes, a lot.”

The tot turned her face toward Sam, and leaned in to touch their foreheads together. “Do you wike her?” Julie pointed to her Aunt Brooke.

The dark-haired woman looked down at her plate, not wanting to put Sam in an uncomfortable position when she realized that everyone else’s eyes were riveted on the blonde.

“Well, yes… but…” Sam looked away from Julie and let her gaze fall on the woman beside her. “I more than like her. I love her.”

Hearing the words, Brooke slowly raised her head and looked over to Sam with a smile on her face. “And I love Sam, Julie.”

Sam reached her hand over to Brooke’s and held onto it tightly. “There’s a big difference between liking and loving, Julie. In loving, you do it with your whole body and soul… not just words.” Sam looked at the perplexed little face on the child and tried to think what would make her understand it better. “Julie, what’s your favorite food in the whole world?”

The child thought for a moment, then smiled as she answered, “ICE CWEAM.” The glee-filled laughter spilled out of the child as she clapped her hands.

The laughter around the table was almost infectious, but Sam struggled to keep a straight face. “Okay… well, let’s say that you only have ice cream to eat from now on. Every morning for breakfast, every noon for lunch, and again for dinner every evening, that’s all you would have to eat. Ice Cream would even be your T.V. time snack for right before you go to bed every night, for the rest of your life.” Sam paused, letting the concept sink into the child, then she looked the tot in the eye and delivered her next question with as much sincerity as she could. “Do you really love ice cream that much to eat it all the time and never… ever want to eat anything else?”

“Gee, Julie,” her older brother David spoke up, “I guess that means I get all your pieces of cake and cookies.”

The child sat there, thinking, as she turned to look at all the food on the table, making a miserable face, and then looking to her Aunt Brooke for guidance.

“She’s right, Julie. It’s more than just being around someone for a short time, it’s a lifetime commitment. One that you’d willingly make and never look back on with regret.” Brooke’s gaze that had started out on her niece now ended staring into the inviting green eyes of her lover. “And I love Sam with my whole body, heart, and soul. There’s never another that I’d want, or would need to make my world complete.”

In the moment of silence that loomed over the room, Henry rose to the occasion as he cleared his throat, drawing everyone’s attention to himself. “I propose a toast.” He raised his glass, then looked to Terri and Rick. “To new life…” he turned to Brooke and Sam, holding his glass up to them, “…to new love. May our family grow bigger and thankful for the love that a child…” Henry let out a chuckle, then corrected himself, “Well, actually two children have shown us here tonight.” He touched his glass to Mable’s then raised it to his mouth to drink.

“Ganpa…Ganpa?” The excited little voice cried out, trying to get his attention.

“Yes, lil’ one,” Henry directed his attention to Julie. “What is it?”

“What about Aunt Brooke and Sam’s baby?”

The sound of laughter erupted in the room, while two young lovers looked silently into one another’s eyes.

Randi stood at the entrance to the small gameroom in her parent’s house, watching her two young sons and Brooke on the couch. Like the big kid that she was at times, Brooke was the one that they always enjoyed playing with the most. The lawyer tuned out the loud cartoonish noises that emerged from T.V. as a direct result of Playstation action, letting her eyes drift to the other side of the room. Sprawled out across Sam’s lap as she sat in the recliner, was Randi’s daughter, who looked more like a little angel then the three year old energizer bunny that she was. It was a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

The oldest Gordon sibling shook her head in amazement, “How could I have been so wrong?” Randi wondered out loud, barely above a whisper. The lawyer leaned into the room, trying to get Brooke’s attention. “Hey Sis, you got a minute for an old lady?”

Brooke looked up from what she was doing, casting her eyes on her older sibling. “I guess so,” she shrugged, but kept playing the game.

“Can we talk somewhere a little more private?” Randi motioned with her eyes to the first floor of the house. “Maybe Dad’s den?”

“Uh… sure, I guess.” Brooke looked over to Sam and watched as she nodded and waved, trying not to disturb the sleeping cherub in her lap. The tall woman turned back to her young nephews speaking softly, “Okay, guys. How about if you battle it out and when I come back down in a few minutes, I’ll play the winner?”

“All right!” Two young boys yelled out in unison then quickly grabbed for the controls.

“Shhhh, don’t yell guys. You’ll wake your sister,” Brooke cautioned them as she slipped out from the middle of the action. “Remember to play nice or I’ll have to use that direct pipeline that I have to Santa.” Brooke ran her hands through each of the ruffled heads of hair. “I’ll see if Grammy has any more pie laying around in the kitchen,” she called out over her shoulder, then left the room to catch up with her older sister.

Making her way quickly up the basement stairs two at a time, Brooke soon found herself headed for the room that seemed to be beckoning her all day. And to think we used to shake in our boots to be called into that room when we were kids. Brooke chuckled as she thought of how many talks she’d had in that den today alone. Well, the first two turned out all right. I guess we’ll just have to see if the third time is the charm.Okay, Brooke, let’s keep that attitude positive and just see what she wants. Reaching the doorway to the den, Brooke took a deep breath in before following her sister inside, closing the door.

Brooke watched as Randi paced around her father’s desk like some T.V. lawyer trying to sway the jury with his courtroom presence. Finally, she spoke out. “Randi, I’m your sister, not a client or defendant. Please, if you have something to say to me… just say it.”

The lawyer slowed her steps down to a halt, then with the desk strategically placed in between them, she turned to face Brooke. “You’re right, Brooke, and I should have afforded you that consideration before I had Sam investigated.”

“Randi…” Brooke grimaced, “I really don’t want to talk about that. You pissed me off doing that more than I could ever tell you.”

“I’m sorry Sis, I was wrong… dead wrong.”

“Yes, you were wrong.” Brooke stared directly at her sister. “What caused you to see that?”

“I realize how wrong I was after today… seeing you and Sam interact with everyone, the kids… well, Julie especially. You really have found someone that loves you as much as you love them. You know…” Randi looked away from Brooke for a moment, then admitted to her sister, “I’m not even sure of what my husband would have said if she asked him the same questions.”

“Who, Julie?” Brooke half-laughed then turned serious again.

“Yeah, my precocious little girl. You know… you two seem to have such a better handle on love than I ever did.”

“Well… We uhm…” Brooke eyed her sister suspiciously. “Is that what changed your mind… our talk with Julie?”

Randi sighed. “There’s an energy that you two give off, like you’re meant to be together as one. No matter what the question, you each marveled in the others answers, as if you knew what was going to be said.” The lawyer crossed her arms over her chest, then looked directly at her sister. “If there were ever two people meant to be together… it’s the two of you.”

Dumfounded by her sister’s words, Brooke stood dazed for a moment, then slowly uttered her own thoughts. “Randi, I… uh…” Brooke blinked a few times, then just let her shock come up in a single word, “Wow!”

“Don’t let it go to your head, Sis. I’ll still give you a hard time… but not where Sam is concerned. Mom and Dad may have given their blessing, but now, you also have mine.”

“I don’t care if you give me a hard time, Randi. But like you said, just not about Sam. She doesn’t deserve it.” Brooke held her sister in her gaze for a moment before finishing, “Thank you.”

“Well, if you ask me, she doesn’t deserve you either, but who am I to judge?” Randi winked at Brooke, “Now, what do you say we go have some fun.”

“Actually, I don’t deserve her. I truly believe that I don’t know what I ever did to be blessed with her.”

“Oh, you do, Sis, someone’s got to keep you in line and she’s the one to do it.”

“Hey, I know that wasn’t what you meant but…”Brooke started saying.

“But nothing… you both deserve each other.” Randi crossed her arms over her chest, daring to be proven wrong, “And that’s my final verdict… case closed.” The imposing woman started walking around the side of the desk.

“You know that your disapproval would not have stopped me…” Brooke smirked, “but I’m glad you’ve changed your mind.”

Randi stopped her forward motion within inches of Brooke then leaned in, wrapping an arm around Brooke’s shoulders. “I know. I just wanted to make you think…”

“Think?” Blue eyes bugged out rather unceremoniously.

“Yeah, think… that’s what being the big sister is for… making you think about your choices until you know the answer in your heart.”

“You know, Randi, the answer has been there all along. I think it has been there since that first dinner.” Brooke got a silly look on her face as she grinned, thinking about Sam. “She was just… different, you know?”

“I know,” Randi nodded her head. “…just like you.”

The musician raised a lone eyebrow high on her forehead. “I am not different.”

“Brooke, you are, and you know it. Case closed.” Randi let go of her sister, then started to walk away.

The dark-haired woman watched as her sister reached for the doorknob. “By the way Counselor, you really need to have a talk with your daughter about timing.”

“Huh?” The lawyer spun on her heels to fully understand her sister. “Timing…? Brooke, what are you talking about?”

The dark-haired woman pulled out the box from her pocket and waved it at Randi. “Julie, almost ruined something big in the making tonight.”

Brooke shoved the box back into her pocket, then strolled past her sister, leaving the woman to the thoughts that were gathering in her mind. The musician smiled broadly as she left the room, realizing that it would be some time before her oldest sister would be thinking straight again.

Continued in Chapter 17

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s