Unbroken Season 1 – part 3 by Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne

See Pictures of the Gordon Family Here

Ch17 Planning For The Future
“…Still there’s hope for those who believe… Down the Road Of A Thousand Dreams… ”

 

 

Sam looked out the windshield on the almost deserted interstate and smiled. The Thanksgiving holiday spent with Brooke’s family had been a pleasant one, albeit one filled with apprehension as to how she would be accepted. She had to admit that it had gone rather smoothly. The fact that Brooke had even thought to have Sam surrounded by her own family at the same time meant all that and more to the young woman.

Letting her eyes drift from the road to the driver who was carefully driving with both hands on the wheel, Sam felt compelled to speak. “Brooke, I can’t believe how nice you are to your sister, offering to watch Julie so that Randi can do her Christmas shopping early.

After a quick glance in her passenger’s direction, Brooke’s eyes went to the road, then another glance into the rearview mirror where she could barely make out the sleeping child in the back seat carrier. “What can I say?” She shrugged as her attention went back to the road. “I love the little kid.”

The blonde leaned toward Brooke as she checked on Julie. By the soft sounds of snoring and the lopsided position of the child’s head, it was safe for Sam to assume that Julie was asleep. Feeling the warm touch on her hand as it was squeezed lovingly, green eyes shifted to gaze at Brooke.

“Whatcha thinkin’ about, Sweetheart?” Brooke glanced in her direction, then back to the road.

“Hmm…about how much I love you, you big kid.” Seeing that she had caught Brooke’s eyes, Sam winked as she returned the squeeze. “I’m thinking how special this time is going to be for me, with you and Julie. It will kind of be like we’re a family.” Sam lips hinted at a shy smile.

“I thought time with me was always special,” Brooke grinned, catching the look in Sam’s eyes. “We are a family, you and me.”

“It is, Brooke, but this will be a taste of what it would be like to have a real family with you someday,” Sam blushed, “with the pitter-patter of little feet in our lives.”

Brooke’s eyes twinkled in the glow of the dashboard lights as she looked over to Sam. “Is all the baby talk getting to you, too?”

Sam took in a deep breath and turned to look out the window for a moment before looking back toward Brooke. “I just know how I was raised and…I think we could…” she sighed. “Well, that is if we ever did have children. I think we could handle it and raise some fine, upstanding ones.”

“You know what?” Brooke grinned as she watched the road ahead so as not to miss their exit.

“What, Hon?”

“I love you and you are going to be the most wonderful mom.”

Sam smirked, then turned to look at the driver, “Well, that’s only cause I’ll have you as my back up. What do you say…Momma?”

Slightly taken aback by the name she was just called, Brooke fought to keep her concentration on the turn and slowed down for the red light, coming to a complete stop. Taking in a deep breath, Brooke’s fingers played with the steering wheel. “I’d say by my calculations that we only have about three months.”

The blonde turned and looked at Brooke as she laughed, “Three months? Ah…three months for what, Brooke?”

The driver leaned over to whisper in Sam’s ear, “Three months to figure out how you can have a baby by next Thanksgiving for Julie to play with.” Brooke lightly kissed Sam on the cheek, and then pulled back, smiling at her.

“Ah…I think that might be a little on the impossible side, don’t you think?” Sam blushed as she caught sight of Brooke’s wiggling brows and confident smile. “You know, there’s nothing that says that it has to be me,” the blonde teased her.

“Nothing’s impossible.” She leaned back in to Sam’s ear and whispered, “Practice makes perfect,” then winked as she moved back into her seat.

Sam looked warily at Brooke, then to her own stomach, and then finally back to Brooke again. “Nothing’s impossible, huh?”

The older woman arched a lone eyebrow. “Nothing’s totally impossible. Why? What are you thinking?” Brooke saw the light change to green and slowly put the vehicle in motion.

Sinking back into her seat, Sam sighed, “That’s what I was afraid of. Aurgh!”

Brooke couldn’t help but chuckle. “What’s wrong, Darlin’?”

The blonde shook her head. “I don’t know, Brooke. If I’m thinking right, there’s a distinct possibility, with you, that the saying bare foot and pregnant could be for real.”

The driver held tightly onto the steering wheel as she turned into the driveway, guffawing mercilessly. “Why…why do you say that?”

Green eyes shot over to the driver at the sound of the boisterous laughter. “Well, you figure it. Do the math, Brooke. I’m twenty-one and it takes roughly nine months for a baby.”

“Okay,” Brooke shrugged not knowing where Sam was headed with her thought.

“If we kept up that pace, we could have one hell…” Sam tried to stop the word with her hand over her mouth but it was out before she knew it. “Oops!” She glanced at Brooke then to the rear seat to see if Julie was still sleeping. “Sorry.” Sam shook her head in reply to questioning blue eyes that looked her way. “We could have one heck of a big family if I let you have your way with me,” Sam ended her part of the discussion in a hushed tone.

“Honey, we don’t have to have any more than you agree to,” Brooke winked at her passenger. “How many kids do you want Sam?

“Hmm…” Sam eyed the driver suspiciously, “Does that mean we have to give up practicing after two or three?”

“Nope, we can practice all we want after two or three,” Brooke grinned.

Sam let a coy smile come to her face, “Then you have my answer.”

Hearing that answer from Sam made the smile on Brooke’s face stretch from ear to ear as the vehicle slowly crept up the driveway to the house. “Sam, do you realize that we’re discussing having a child…heck, children together? We’re planning for our future family.” Brooke turned to look at Sam as she put the vehicle’s gear selector in park. “I think this is pretty amazing.” Blue eyes looked intently in to Sam’s face. “You’d really do it…have a baby, I mean?”

“If they’re all as sweet as that slumbering baby in the back seat…” Sam turned to cast an eye in Julie’s direction then nodded, “I’d have a million of them.”

“No, I mean…” Brooke gulped, then asked what she really wanted to know, “You’d have a baby with me?”

Sam stared into the waiting face of her lover and slowly let the smile come to surface on her face. “Yes, Brooke, I think it would be a great way to celebrate our love for one another, don’t you?”

Brooke listened as the corners of her mouth tugged upward into a radiant smile. “I love you, Sam,” she whispered, before leaning over and kissing the woman next to her.

Swaddled in her favorite blanket, Brooke gathered up Julie in her arms and brought her out of the van. Looking back into the cargo area, the musician shook her head. “God, they sure need an awful lot of things, don’t they? We could have never fit all this stuff in the 300. Now I know why they created these family vans.”

“I guess that’s something to think about for the future, huh? Do you think you could give up that sports car image of yours, Hon?”

“Hmm…I do love that 300…” Brooke looked at her niece, “but I think that love could be replaced.” Brooke smiled, “I guess that’s why Brian jumped at the chance to drive my car when we offered to take her for the night. I think she’s still asleep. We’d better get her into bed.”

Sam carefully laced an arm around the tall woman’s waist as she looked in on the cocooned child and confirmed their suspicions. “You go ahead, Brooke. I’ll get her things.”

“Okay,” Brooke spoke softly as she leaned in to plant a small kiss on the blonde’s head. “I’ll meet you upstairs.”

Sam watched as Brooke punched in the code for the security system, then entered the house. Turning back to the van, the young woman stood there, trying to figure out exactly where to start. Shaking her head from side to side, only one thing came to her mind and she mumbled it under her breath. “God, we’d better get a pack mule too, when you trade in the 300 for a van.” Sam smiled, “Well, think of it as exercise,” she chided herself as she pulled out the first of several bags and started for the door. “Lots and lots of exercise.”

After making her way up the spiral staircase in a slow and tedious manner, the young woman readjusted the assorted bags, boxes and other necessities of a child. Keeping the bright red teddy bear tightly secured on her shoulder with her chin, she made her way down the hall until her arms could hold their cargo no longer, letting them slide to the floor with a thump. Giving up, Sam released the bear and let it glide off her shoulder and into her waiting hands. “Good God, I never knew kids needed this much just to stay over one night.”

Brooke stuck her head out of the door of the small bedroom that was situated next to the master bedroom. “Amazing, isn’t it?” The dark-haired woman smiled, seeing that the blonde had tried to carry everything in one trip. “They’re small but they sure don’t know how to travel light.”

“Oh, sorry,” Sam spoke softly. “Is she still asleep?”

“Yeah,” Brooke nodded. “And you’re right on time. Could you hand me a diaper and her nightgown out of that little sleepover bag?” She pointed to the little pink case with colorful stick figures on it.

Sam picked up the case and opened it. “Yeah, here it is.” She grabbed the gown and a diaper, then headed into the room to see Julie still sound asleep as she lay on top of the comforter on the single bed. “Gosh, she looks like a little angel.”

“She is a little angel,” Brooke agreed as she reached for the diaper.

Handing the diaper to Brooke, Sam watched as the older woman deftly changed her niece within a short time and then dressed her for bed. “You look like a pro there,” Sam nodded toward the child. “Where did you learn to do that so well?”

“Believe it or not with C.C., then when Randi had the boys…” Brooke looked over to Sam and smirked.

“Why did I know you were going to say that?” Sam looked down to the floor a little embarrassed.

“Sam, what’s wrong?”

“If I had been in the same nursery at the hospital as your sister…” she paused and gulped, “You might have been changing my diapers.” The young woman thought for a moment then rolled her eyes, “God, worse yet, what if our parents had known each other.” Sam’s face turned pale. “You could have been my babysitter.”

Brooke settled her niece in the middle of the bed and placed a pillow on either side of the child, then turned around, stepping closer to the blonde as she wrapped her strong arms around the woman. “Well,” Brooke sighed as she leaned closer, kissing Sam behind her ear. “I could change them now if you wore them,” she teased. “But I wasn’t your babysitter then.”

“I know…too bad though. I could have had a crush on you even sooner.”

“Really?” The tall woman looked her in the eyes. “Why do you say that? Wouldn’t it have been a little awkward then?”

Sam’s brow knitted as she thought, “Well, age is only how you look at it. The older we get, the less it means to us…the difference I mean.” Sam cleared her throat then continued, “And you have to admit, there is a difference here.

“I guess you’re right,” Brooke tilted her head and kissed the young woman again. “But wouldn’t it be awkward to have a crush on someone who changes your diaper?”

The blonde thought for moment then let a sly smile come to her face. “Gee, I don’t know…maybe you could tell me in a year or two…Auntie.” Sam watched as Brooke rolled her eyes. “So what do you say we put this little one down and go take advantage of the time we still have in between the diaper stages before I have to run out and get my first depends?” Sam winked at Brooke as she pulled the blanket down for Julie to be tucked in. “I guess we agree on that, eh Momma?” She looked up to her lover and winked, then ventured back out into the hall, retrieving more of the child’s belongings. Sam found the box containing the baby monitors and handed it to Brooke.

Brooke quickly found the transmitter and placed it next to the bed as she leaned down, delivering a kiss to the top of the child’s head. She straightened up and gazed at Sam for a long moment before speaking. “I guess so,” she whispered, then kissed Sam sweetly on the lips.

Sam captured the older woman’s arm as she began to straighten up, keeping Brooke close to her. “Hon, promise me one thing.” Green eyes looked deeply into crystal blue.

“Anything, Sam,” the woman was deadly serious. “You know that.”

“Just never call me ‘Mommy’ when we’re in bed.”

The soft flickering candlelight set the mood, while the scent of peaches wafted in the air, tickling their noses and dulling minds to the world around them. The heightened sense of touch as one body moved against the other, sent waves of energy coursing through them as their passions aroused deep within and warm mounds of flesh came to life. The exuberant melding of two beings in the single act of passion wasted no time as softly muttered endearments and stroking touches met with the agonizing need as the more dominant partner for this night soon was established.

Held in by the covers above her, the small body of the blonde soon blanketed Brooke with every inch of skin she could afford without jeopardizing her position. While keeping the taller woman’s neck and bosom well within reach of her ever-exploring tongue, Sam used her hands to tease soft folds of flesh, as her fingers became divining rods in the search of hidden springs.

The dark-haired woman rolled her head on the pillow, allowing more of her neck to be exposed, giving her lover the definite idea that she was enjoying the sudden turn of events in their nightly outpouring of love. The fire that was growing steadily in her body caused her to moan with each loving touch that Sam lavished on her.

“Mmm…oh, Darlin’…” Brooke could feel her heart beating wildly in her chest as once more her nipple was sucked into the younger woman’s mouth and held there while it was teased beyond belief by the delicate ministrations of a well practiced tongue.

Brooke’s breath quickened, her panting became louder and more labored. She fought back the urge to speak, knowing that she needed every ounce of her strength for the tidal wave of emotions that were building deep inside of her. She could feel the wave, off in the distance, as it grew larger and stronger. With the knowledge of the impending tide headed her way, small utterances began to sing out from within her.

“Mmm…” she turned her head to the other side, “Oh…mmm hmm…” then she tried to hold it off just a little longer. “Mmm…oh…”

Sam moved with renewed vigor, tending to her lover’s every need as her ear pressed against the woman’s chest picking up the deep rumbling sound of a word about to be spoken with devout passion. She braced herself, ready for the crashing thunder of the exploding tsunami, as it would soon drench her in the tidal wave of love.

“MOMMY!”

With the utterance of that cry, all action ceased as the two ship wrecked lovers clawed through the haze of clouded minds while the moving tide of the mattress carried them just a little farther. Blonde hair shot up from atop Brooke’s chest and wide green eyes were plainly in view as the musician grasped that the voice crying out was not hers.

“Brooke…that’s not even funny, I thought I asked you not to…”

Just then the crackling sound of the infant monitor started as the sound of a child’s voice hauntingly filled the air, “M-o-o-o-m-m-y,” then was followed closely by the sound of small sniffs and intakes of air.

Brooke bit back on her lip, knowing how close she had been to release. Within seconds, the sound of the musician’s voice chuckled rather huskily. “She’s the one calling, Sam,” Brooke teased pointing to the monitor.

“Right,” Sam said sarcastically, then shifted her weight to get off the woman underneath her.

“Whoa,” Brooke tightened her hold on the blonde. “Talk about bad timing. Where are you going?”

Sam looked over at the monitor in the dim light of the candle, then back to her lover. “She obviously needs something, Brooke or she wouldn’t be crying out.”

“I know, Sam. Just give me a few seconds here,” she said with half-lidded eyes. “She’s my niece and my responsibility. I’ll get up and see to her. I know we’re in this together, but if she’s had a bad dream…”

Another softly whimpered mumble came over the monitor as Sam rolled onto her back and watched her lover get up, quickly throwing on her boxers and T-shirt before exiting the bedroom.

Sinking into the bed as she pulled the covers up around her unclad body, Sam mumbled, “Now I see why kids are spaced out so far apart.” The young woman could feel the frustration coming over her body as the fires slowly began to smolder then came bursting back to life as she heard her lover’s deep timbre come over the monitor on the nightstand in an attempt to comfort the child.

“Mommy, my mommy,” the childlike voice sounded definitely upset.

“What’s the matter, Sweetie?”

Sam could hear the rustle of the comforter as it was removed and then the soothing sound of Brooke’s voice. “Shhh…It’s okay, Julie, I’m here.” She heard the subtle squeak of the mattress on the box spring and she imagined that it was from her lover sitting down and cuddling the child in her arms. “Did you have a bad dream?”

“Me scared…” there was the sound of a muffled whimper and then the melodic sound of the musician’s voice.

“Aunt Brooke is right here, Julie. You know I wouldn’t let anything hurt my little princess, right?”

There was the sound of a faint sniff, then a very hesitant voice confided her fears. “I…I no like dis bed, Aunt Brooke. Too small and da…and da…monphers will find me.”

“Monphers?” Sam listened as the puzzled voice realized the meaning of the muffled word, “Ah…monsters.”

“Da one udder my bed.”

Sam heard the whimper but wasn’t quite sure whom it came from. After a moment of thinking about it, she giggled to herself figuring that it had to be Brooke.

“Dey reach up with dair arms and gwab me.”

“No, Baby…” Brooke sighed, “I won’t let them get you. Do you want me to stay in here with you for awhile?”

“You won’t let dem gwab me, will you?”

“No, Baby, I won’t let them grab you. Now how about if we lay down and try to go back to sleep?”

“Me no sweep here.”

The sound of rustling material interspersed with a stray squeak from the mattress told Sam that Julie was letting her aunt know, in no uncertain terms, that it wasn’t going to happen, at least not in that room on this night. Sam considered the alternatives. There was much left to consider, but her mind knew what her tall lover would say next as the blonde pondered it in her own mind. Hmm…I wonder if there’ll be time for a shower…a nice, cold shower? Then she turned her attention back to the monitor.

“Okay, Julie. You don’t have to sleep in here.” Brooke paused, then mumbled just barely loud enough for the transmitter to pick up, “Sam is gonna kill me.” She took in a very audible breath, showing her own frustration. “Okay, Munchkin, let’s grab Teddy and your blanket.”

The tiny voice crackled over the receiver, “Where…” she sniffed, “…me gonna sweep?”

“Where do you wanna sleep, Sweetheart?” There was a long pause filled only by a whimper or two, then Brooke spoke once more. “You wanna sleep with me in the big bed?”

The sound of raspy intakes of air into tiny lungs could be heard, then there was the sound of Julie’s voice, “Wif Sam.”

“With Sam,” she could hear Brooke sigh loudly, “Me, too. Okay, let’s see if we can go sleep with Sam.”

Julie’s voice took on a new enthusiasm, “Wif Sam and my baby.”

Sam tugged the covers up around her as she heard the voices coming out of the monitor fade. The sound from the hallway was becoming clearer until in the dim candlelight, she could see Brooke’s head entering the doorway as she held Julie in her arms.

“Hi, Darlin’, we’ve got company.” Brooke squinted to make sure that her lover’s tempting form was covered before entering with the child.

“Hi, Julie.” Sam spoke softly so as not to scare the child. “Couldn’t you sleep?” The small blonde sat up slightly, clutching the covers to her chest.

Trying to think of something to do with the small child until her lover could put on some bedclothes, Brooke thought of the only thing that came to her mind, a long cold shower. “Come on, Julie, let’s go get a drink of nice cold water.”

“God, Brooke, don’t give her water.” Green eyes flashed with alarm.

Catching Sam’s drift, Brooke mouthed ‘No water,’ then looked around the room for some other source of distraction.

“Before you come to bed Julie, maybe you and Aunt Brooke could go wish on a star.” Sam motioned with her head toward the French doors leading onto the small deck.

“The star…?” Brooke’s furrowed her brow. “Oh, the star…come on, Julie. Let’s see if that baby star is out tonight and make a wish on it.” The tall woman walked over to the French doors and pulled back the sheer curtains covering them. “Okay Munchkin,” she spoke to the child in her arms, “Let’s see if we can find that baby star.”

Julie looked out of the panes of glass, studying the night sky. Small brown eyes flickered from one point of light to the next until without warning, her tiny hand shot up to point out her choice. “Dat one. Dere.” She smiled, clapping joyously, “Dat’s the lil’ girl star.”

“That one over there?” Brooke found herself amused by her niece’s concentration. “So that’s the little girl star. Where’s the little boy star, Julie?” Brooke looked over her shoulder to see Sam pulling on a long night shirt from out of Brooke’s drawer and found herself smiling as she watched the material slide over the woman’s body.

“Aunt Brooke, you listening?” The small hand placed on Brooke’s face got her attention. “We don’t want to wish on dat one. Me no telling you.”

The older woman laughed, “Okay, well then, how about the surprise star?” Brooke saw the confusion in the child’s face. “You know…when you don’t want to know what your baby is and want to be surprised? When you just want to have a healthy little baby?”

“But me wants girls.” Julie was insistent, “I wanna be just wike my mommy and aunts.” The child stuck out her lip in a pouting manner. “I just got brothers.”

“Okay, then, you’re going to wish on the little girl star for when you get big?” Brooke watched as little eyes lit up. “What about Aunt Terri’s baby?

The tot’s small finger pointed up to the same sparkling star, another little girl was her silent prediction as the smile crossed her face, the little hands clapping as they did before.

Brooke glanced over in the direction of the bed to see the soft glowing figure of the blonde walking toward her, letting the expression of love come to her face. In that moment of time, Julie’s finger had again taken the same direction and pointed out the lil’ girl star.

“What? Who’s that for, Julie?” Brooke spoke softly, asking her niece.

Small hands pulled the adult’s face closer and cupped around the woman’s ear as Julie whispered her secret to her aunt. “A girl for Sam’s baby, too.” Then she leaned back to see Brooke’s face.

“Oh,” the woman let the corners of her mouth turn upward as she looked at the tot who was slowly nodding her head in confirmation. She winked at her niece then called out to Sam, “Are you going to come wish on the baby star too, Sam?”

“Sure, what can it hurt?” Sam made her way over to the door, then wrapped her arm around Brooke’s waist, while she reached out and touched Julie’s nose with her finger. “Now, show me which one I need to wish on.”

Both relatives pointed up to the same star. Brooke watched Sam’s face, then leaned over to whisper in the blonde’s ear. “You’re having a girl,” she informed her lover, then pulled back to see the smile come to Sam’s face.

“Okay…I can deal with that.” Sam raised her arm and pointed in the same direction along with them as she stole a glance at the tall woman next to her. Like a well rehearsed scene from some yet to be written story, they both moved their hands closer together and turned their faces to look at the star as each made their own silent wish.

“I love you.” The softly whispered words from Brooke brought a smile to Sam’s face as they turned to wink at one another, then leaned in, placing a kiss on Julie’s cheeks.

The events of the last few minutes had finally tired the child out and sleep was coming around to her tiny body once more as she yawned, clapping her small hands together as her head started to lean against Brooke’s shoulder.

“Come on Sweetheart, let’s get you in bed.” Brooke slowly moved toward the bed, waiting for Sam to get in first.

“Me seepy, mommy.” Julie nuzzled into Brooke’s shoulder as the tall woman leaned down to hand off the child. Julie quickly moved into Sam’s hands as they wrapped around her small body.

“Shhh…you sleep now, Julie.” Sam cuddled the child next to her in the middle of the bed, then gently kissed her forehead.

Brooke stood there for a few seconds, drinking in the scene with a warm sensation washing over her, bringing a smile to her face as she looked to Sam for guidance.

“Wherever you’re comfortable, Love.” Sam motioned with her eyes for Brooke to come into the bed. “I’ve got her.”

The tall woman took one of her pillows and laid it next to Julie. Walking to the other side of the bed, Brooke crawled in behind the blonde, wrapping a strong arm around her, as she rested her head against Sam’s stomach.

Green eyes looked down to her lover as she whispered, “You listening to see if the wish took?”

The older woman reached up and brushed some hair away from Julie’s eyes. “Something like that.” Brooke grinned, “Julie said she wanted to sleep with you and her baby…you know, the one you were going to let her play with next year.”

“Hmmm…I thought so. Don’t worry Brooke, it’s there, just waiting.” Sam winked, then touched her lover’s hand with her own.

Brooke stretched along side of Sam’s body and nestled closer to her, “Wouldn’t it be great if you and I could have a baby together?”

“That one…and a few more even. What do you say?” Sam spoke softly.

Hope-filled blue eyes grew bigger realizing that they both wanted the same thing. “I say, when do we start.”

The blonde glanced over at the sleeping three year old in her arm, then smiled coyly as she whispered, “Not tonight, Dear…” Sam smiled at her lover adding, “…maybe tomorrow.”

The advent of daylight streaming in through the French doors caused the small brown eyes to flicker open as Julie roused from sleep. The night had seemed to pass quickly and the sleep had been undisturbed in the very large bed of her aunt’s. No monster had dared to come anywhere near the child with both Sam and Brooke guarding her as they slept.

The tot knelt in the bed and watched as the two slumbering forms continued in their dream world, each one touching the other physically in some small way as their bodies rested. Julie moved closer to Sam as she tried to lift the blonde’s eyelid to see if she was there. “Are you home, Sam?” The tiny voice whispered, then waited for a reply.

“Hmm…” Sam’s soft moan elicited a grin from Julie, while Brooke’s hand shifted on the blonde’s hip, much like Sam had felt waking up with her lover before. “Not now Brooke, I’m still sleeping,” Sam muttered out.

“No Aunt Brooke…Julie,” the child replied as she tried to open Sam’s eyelid once more. “See.”

“What the…” Sam blinked at the touch of small hands trying to open her eyelid. “Oh, Julie…hi Baby.” The blonde rubbed a tired eye with her hand, “Are you up?” Sam blinked several times as she tried to focus her eyes, looking over to the sleeping form of her lover, then back to Julie’s smiling face.

“Is she in there?” Julie asked Sam as she pointed to the woman’s midsection. “You said that mommy’s carry da babies in deir tummys.”

Sam looked down to where Julie pointed on her body. “Yeah, our baby is in there.”

“I can play wif her next year when she comes out?” The eager face waited for an answer.

“Well, I’m not quite sure exactly when she’ll come out but who knows, it could be next year.” She studied the child’s puzzled face. “Sometimes we just don’t know for sure, Julie.”

“Sam?”

“Yes, Sweetie Pie?”

“Can we go wish on the next year star now? Me no wanna wait.” Brown eyes looked over to the doors, then back at the blonde.

The young woman smiled, letting a giggle or two come out before she answered, “Sorry, Honey. You’ll just have to wait until this wish is done. You can’t go wishing on every star now.”

“I look like mommy, will she look like you or Aunt Brooke?”

“Hmm…I guess we’ll have to see when she comes out.” Sam watched as the child craned her neck to see her aunt. “You love your Aunt Brooke, don’t you?”

The small head nodded, “Yes, love Aunt Brooke.”

“So do I baby, with all my heart.” Sam looked over to the sleeping woman and smiled.

“She sings me to sweep and holds me and pways wif me.”

“Well, she rocks me and in more ways than just to sleep.” Sam smiled at the child, “When you’re older Baby, you’ll understand.

“Will you still be here when I get older, Sam?” The child sat on her haunches.

“The good Lord willing, I will. I’m not planning on being anywhere else.”

“What’s her name?”

The blonde looked at Julie for a moment puzzled by the question, then smiled when she realized whom the child was referring to. “We’ll have to see when she comes out. Why, what do you think her name is?”

“I’ve got a name for her,” the husky sleep-filled voice could be heard coming from the other side of the blonde.

“Oh, and what would that be, Hon?” She watched as Brooke stretched out, still half asleep. “I asked you first…er…Julie asked you first.”

The semi-sleeping woman paused when she heard the deep sigh and undecipherable muttering of Sam’s. “I think…her name is Chastity.”

“Why Chastity? I always did like the name Loran,” Sam teased the sleeping woman.

Brooke opened one eye and looked over at Sam, then shrugged her shoulders. “Chase for short. She is kind of responsible for this, what do ya think?”

Sam clamped her hand over her mouth and got hysterical with laughter. “Is that her name?” She finally got out. “Chastity?”

“No, actually, her name is Chase, well Cjersti Chase, anyway.” Brooke corrected.

“Ah…well then, Chastity it is.” Sam turned to look at the tot. “Do you like that one, Julie?”

“Put ’em bof togeder,” the child clapped as she giggled.

“Loran Chastity…” Sam offered, “…or Chastity Loran?”

Brooke rose up on one elbow as she said the names out loud. “Chastity Loran Moleson…Loran Chastity Moleson. I don’t know, which one sounds better?”

“What’s a mowsum?” The inquisitive child asked.

“That, Julie, is Sam’s last name.” Brooke smiled as she looked over at the blonde.

“Well, I’m thinking that Chastity Loran Moleson-Gordon sounds pretty good to me.” Sam eyed her lover and smiled.

The dark-haired woman beamed with delight, then leaned in to kiss Sam. “I like it.”

“How come da baby gits to have two names?”

“Hmm…Good question. Brooke, can you help me out here?”

“Uh…uh…because…we…Sam and I aren’t married, Julie.” Brooke took in a breath, “You see, most people have the same last name after they get married.”

“Den do it. Mawy her Aunt Brooke, mawy her.” Julie grabbed each of their faces in her little hands and pushed them together in a kissing action, “Mawy her.”

The two women kissed, then chuckled at the tot’s insistence.

“We can’t get married, Julie.” Aching eyes looked over to Sam, then back to the child. “Because…we’re…”

Seeing Brooke’s remorse for their situation, Sam jumped in. “Because we’re not dressed for it, but we are dressed for some breakfast.” She turned her attention to Julie. “Why don’t you go get your little slippers from the other room?” The blonde helped the toddler down from the bed and slowly stood up, getting her own slippers on.

“Sam?”

“Yes, Brooke?” Sam glanced back to view her lover as she crawled out of the bed.

“I love you.”

Sam closed her eyes and let the warmth fill her, savoring it. “I know, Hon, I know.”

The tall woman moved closer to the blonde then knelt down before her, placing a kiss on Sam’s stomach.

“What’s that…?”

Blue eyes glanced up to Sam as she kissed the woman’s stomach once more, then spoke softly to where her lips still were. “And I love you, Chastity Loran.” Brooke stood up and gazed down into Sam’s eyes, “Wherever you are.”

“Ohs…want ohs,” the tiny voice kept saying over and over again as she jumped from one leg to the other, trying to look up to the cabinet above the counter where Sam was hurriedly attempting to get the coffee ready for her friend.

Brooke stood at the doorway to the kitchen and watched the scene unfold with a smile on her face. “Hey, Sweetie Pie, can I get the Cheerios for you?” She offered, then swiftly moved across the floor and scooped the tot up in her arms, placing her on a chair at the table. “You just sit there for a second and I’ll get the ohs,” Brooke laughed. “God, I could get used to this,” she said under her breath as she turned back toward the counter and Sam. “Thanks, Darlin’.” She kissed the blonde on the cheek, reaching for the box of cereal at the same time.

“Ohs…want my ohs,” the child demanded, not letting Brooke forget what she was doing. As the tall woman turned with the box in her hands, Julie stood up on her chair and clapped. She watched as her aunt opened another door, retrieving a bowl, then pulled open a drawer, securing a spoon, before she made her way to the table. “Me…me…me pour. Me big girl,” Julie insisted, “Mommy says so.”

Sam grabbed the carton of milk from the refrigerator, then delivered it to the table as she watched the excitement in the young child’s face over something so simple as breakfast.

After placing the box of cereal on the table, Brooke sat the bowl and spoon down in front of the tyke, then attempted to have the child seated. “Come on, Julie.”

The child sat down quickly, then moved the bowl out of her way as she reached for the box. “Ohs, ohs,” she lamented as she grasped the box with her tiny hands.

“Wow, will you look at that,” Brooke glanced over to Sam and the two woman locked eyes for only a second or two before the sound of a high pitched scream jolted their beings. Brooke’s eyes riveted back to the table to see Cheerios cascading down to the floor from the box that was laying on its side on the table. She looked at her niece and saw the wide-eyed little girl with her hands up to her mouth.

Julie reached out into the moving mob of circles and picked one up, offering it to her aunt. “Uh ohs,” the meek voice said as she batted her eyes and smiled.

The older woman just shook her head and started to smile, cursing herself for not having a camera at her disposal that very instant. She reached out and took the offered piece of cereal in her mouth, then kissed the tot on her head.

“I wuv you,” the child cooed.

“Aw…Julie, I love you, too.” Brooke said as she righted the box and scooped some of the cereal out of the overflowing mound in the small bowl. The crunching sound under her feet assured her that not all of the spilled ohs had stayed on the table.

“Me pour milk, Aunt Brooke?” The eager eyes waited for an answer.

“Ah…how about we let Sam pour the milk, okay?” Blue eyes shifted to the woman still holding onto the container of milk.

“Otay,” the child crossed her arms and stuck out her lower lip.

Seeing the trademark Gordon pout coming on, Sam decided to keep the child’s spirits up. “How about I give you a little glass of milk and you can pour that, okay Julie?”

The child thought for a moment then nodded her head, as a huge grin lit up her face. “Otay.”

Sam crossed the kitchen to the sink and took a small plastic cup from the drain board. Turning back to the table, she spotted the husky sticking his nose in through the doggie door. “Hey Mario, you want to help your mommy get the ohs off the floor?” Sam let the dog in and moved toward Brooke before she crossed back to the table. “Okay Julie, here you go.” She gave her the cup and filled it with milk. “You just needed something that you can wrap your hands around, that’s all.”

“Dank you, Sam.” The child smiled and then turned her attention back to her cereal.

Brooke stood up and kissed Sam’s cheek. “Thanks, Baby.”

“Don’t mention it.” Sam winked, looking up to the tall woman. “Even I get into trouble with my little hands.” Sam watched the mouthed words of ‘Oh yeah,’ come from her lover as the woman’s head nodded eagerly. The blonde then reached up, returning the kiss and whispered in Brooke’s ear, then moved off toward the counter.

“Really?” Brooke’s voiced cracked like that of a teenager starting puberty. She looked down to her hands, then turned and smiled naughtily.

“Doggie…Sam look at Mawio.”

There, slowly moving across the floor as he ate his way one Cheerio at a time, was the husky, lapping up the cereal and barking his ‘thank you.’

“Yes Julie, the doggie will eat your ohs that fell.” Sam turned toward the animal and praised him. “Good doggie.”

The closer the animal came to Julie, the more her giggles mounted into full out laughter.

“Julie, eat some more ohs and then you can play with the doggie,” Brooke promptly told her niece.

Sam turned to her lover with a smile of approval. “Coffee, Brooke?”

“Please, Darlin’, thank you.”

Sam turned to the counter. “Hey, Brooke, I can’t reach where you put the new can of coffee. Could you get it down for me? We’re almost out.”

Brooke stood up, walking over to the cabinet. She reached up, pulled down the new can and handed it to Sam. “Sorry, I’ll leave it on the counter next time.”

“You’d better or I won’t be able to surprise you with it in the morning.”

“Mmm…I love surprises.” Brooke grinned and wiggled her eyebrows.

“Doesn’t coffee go with dessert?” Sam teased, smiling at Brooke’s antics.

“I do believe it does.” The tall woman grinned and leaned in for a kiss. The sound of a dulled thud caught her attention. She turned to see the bowl rocking on the floor, milk and ohs spattering across the kitchen as Julie and Mario took off running through the house. The sound of a dog howling and a screeching baby chasing merrily after him resounded in her ears.

“Oh, shit…” Brooke saw the raised eyebrow that Sam was showing her and quickly changed her verbiage. “…er…shoot.” The tall woman buckled under the glaring eye of the blonde and cringed, “Sorry.”

Long legs and arms just didn’t seem to be enough to curtail the wild ramblings of the four-footed animal or the erratic maneuverings of a three year old. Even the addition of Sam’s mind and body didn’t seem to be enough until they pitted their wits together, trapping Julie and Mario in the living room. Now, all they had to do was wait for them to make a rush on one of the blocked doorways. Allowing the husky the good graces to flee the arm waving, screeching, laughter emitting child, Brooke guarded her doorway with her feet spread wide apart.

Seeing an opening for escape, Mario charged, jumping up and over the couch, and then scurrying towards the doorway. Four paws dug into the deep pile carpet as the dog pushed off quickly, running through his mistress’ legs, heading for the hallway and endless places to hide if given the chance.

Brooke watched as Julie tried to follow the dog’s path while cushions flew off the couch and throw pillows landed in places that they were never meant to be. Undaunted by the large obstacle, the child quickly spun around and jumped from the arm of the couch, hitting the carpet with feet that never stopped. Her momentum carried her in the direction of the doorway and toward her aunt before she could change her path. Within seconds, she was just in front of the tall woman, whose legs closed, gently trapping Julie in between them. Brooke then leaned over to pick up her niece.

“Gottcha.” Brooke hoisted her niece up into the air. “Where are you going?”

“Doggie…play.” Small hands were still clutching for a chance to latch onto the dog as the laughter continued.

“That’s why he’s running,” Brooke chuckled. “Julie, we can play with the doggie later.”

The child squinted and puffed up her cheeks, letting her mouth open and close like a fish.

“Oh, come on, Angel. Don’t make faces at your aunt.” Brooke watched as the tot took in a deep breath and the face seemed to grow more strained looking. “Hey Julie, how about we see what toys Mommy packed for you? How’s that?”

“No.” She shook her head and gritted her teeth as all of Julie’s muscles tightened.

“Do you want to play on the swing?” Brooke asked, wondering what the child wanted to do next as she pulled the child in against her body.

“Ah…Brooke.” Sam attempted to get the older woman’s attention. “I think that’s not the problem.” She looked at the raised eyebrow on the woman and knew that her mind was not on the obvious. “I…I think she has to go potty, Brooke.”

“Do you have to go potty, Julie?” Brooke looked down at the child in her arms.

“No…’cause I already did.” Big brown eyes looked up at Brooke. “Sorry, Aunt Brooke. I member next time.”

The tall woman sniffed once and then made a face, feeling the wetness slowly oozing down her shirt. She lowered her eyes as she pulled the baby from her body, holding her out at almost arms length. Brooke rolled her eyes when the sight of her soiled white shirt came into view.

“I wuv you.”

“I love you too, Julie.” Brooke assured the tot. “Come on, it’s okay. We’ll get you all cleaned up.” She caught the sight of Sam coming over to her as she turned around in the room with the child held out like some toxic waste contamination.

“You say it, you get it,” Sam whispered as she caught up to Brooke tugging at the soiled shirt. “Did you ever consider brown to be your color?” She moved back when the woman turned to offer the child to her. “Oh shi…ah…ah…” Sam laughed, shaking a finger at Brooke. “You thought I’d say it. Nope. No way, it’s all yours.”

The dark-haired woman shot a smile back at Sam, “Oh yeah? Well, I hope when you have a child she acts just like you.”

Sam stopped short and put her hands on her hips. “And why would you say that?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged, “aren’t parents supposed to say that kind of stuff to their kids? I was just practicing.”

“Okay…practice all you want, but I’m still not changing that diaper…” Sam looked her lover over, then commented, “…or your shirt.”

“Okay, I’ll do it.” Brooke turned and headed toward the stairs only to hear the words come tumbling out of the blonde’s mouth before she could stop them.

“Damn right.” Green eyes grew wide as she quickly realized what she’d said. Biting back on her lip, she responded with a soft sounding, “Oops.”

After a quick clean up and diaper change, Brooke cautioned her niece. “Okay, now remember to tell Aunt Brooke or Sam when you have to go potty.”

The small innocent voice answered back as Julie lay there on the carpeted floor, looking up at her aunt. “Otay.”

“You’re still my lil’ JuJubee, aren’t you?” Brooke leaned over the child and lightly tickled her stomach.

“You make me laf,” Julie giggled out as she nodded her head to her pet name.

“Make you laugh, huh?” Blue eyes glistened at the challenge and soon the child’s stomach was the site of Brooke’s next attack as she blew noisy, wet raspberries on Julie’s skin. “Thherhhht,” then did it again and again.

“You…” Julie pointed her finger to Brooke as the woman’s head rose off of Julie’s belly. “You make me laf. Me dirsty.”

“You’re thirsty, huh JuJubee?” Brooke winked, then called out over her shoulder to Sam in the kitchen. “Hey, Sam.” She plopped another raspberry down on the child’s stomach and smiled. “What do we have for a thirsty lil’ JuJubee?” Brooke waited for a reply as she turned her attentions back to Julie. “I make you laugh, don’t I?”

The tot nodded. “You tickle…” Julie screeched out another round of laughter as her Aunt Brooke blew against the little belly once more, “…You tickle my belly. You make me happy.”

Brooke nuzzled into the child’s little neck, “Well, you make me happy, little bit…” she rocked back onto her haunches, “…you and Sam.”

“And you make me happy, both of you.” Sam walked into the living room and held out the juice box, offering it to the child, “Here you go, Sweetie. Now, drink up like a big girl.”

“Dank you, Sam.” Julie sat up grabbing for the box.

“Can you watch her long enough for me to change my shirt?” Brooke held out the soiled garment from her body as she looked up into comforting green eyes.

“Sure,” Sam nodded, then held out her hand for Julie to take. “Come on, Julie, we’ll go color while your aunt gets herself cleaned up now.” The blonde watched as Brooke headed for the stairs.

“Can I color you?” Julie rose to her feet and started walking toward the dining room with her hand in Sam’s.

The blonde chuckled at the question, “I don’t color too well but the white paper will.”

Undaunted, the baby just kept talking. “I’m gonna color da baby.”

“No…no coloring the baby.” Sam unconsciously put her hand over her stomach and rubbed it soothingly, “Let’s draw your mommy instead.” Sam reached down and boosted Julie into the chair where she had already placed the crayons and paper at the table.

“Otay,” the tot looked up at her with one squinted eye and nodded.

Sam pulled out a chair and watched the young artist at work. The intense look on Julie’s face relayed the thoughtfulness of her artwork as she moved from one color of crayon to the next. Her scribbling seemed to be methodically balanced between fast round circles and slow, deliberate straight lines as she moved over the sheets of white paper. The blonde sat back in her chair, amused by the whole scene as she was occasionally enlisted to choose a color or two for the budding artist to use. There was definitely a cockeyed approach to the world as seen through a child’s eye.

“You’re very talented Julie, just like your Aunt Brooke,” she complimented the young artist.

“Wook Sam, dis picsures for you.” The child held it up proudly.

“Hmm…” Sam studied it for a few seconds, “That’s nice. Is that you, there?” The adult pointed to the small squiggle and line on the side of the much larger one.

“Yep,” the child nodded. “and dat’s Aunt Brooke…and dat’s you…and dat’s da baby.” Julie looked up to see Sam’s face as she pointed each item out. “See da star? It’s purple.”

“That is nice.” Sam smiled at the rendition of the scene from last night by the French doors. “Can I put that picture on the refrigerator? I want to look at it when you’re not here and remember how you saw us. Okay?”

“Otay,” Julie smiled. “You can have it to put on da frigigador. I can draw you a bigger one,” the child offered.

“Thank you, Julie. I’d like that.” The young woman leaned in and kissed the child on her forehead, then turned to look as Brooke entered the hall, while Julie shuffled through the blank pieces of paper looking for the next canvas to be graced with her child’s view of the world.

“Hey, Baby.” Brooke winked at her lover. “I’m all fresh and clean and ready for the next round. Speaking of which,” Brooke frowned, “I found poor Mario hiding under my bed and he won’t come out.

“It figures,” Sam got up to stand by her lover in the doorway, “…he’s not used to a three year old.”

“Hmm…I wonder how he’ll act around a baby, full time?” Brooke pondered out loud.

“I guess we’ll have to hope for the best and treat him special. You know, make a fuss over him, too.”

“I wonder how we’ll act around a baby?” Brooke let her mouth turn up into a smile and gave off a little naughty laugh.

“I think you’ll do just fine, Dear.” Sam wrapped her arms around Brooke’s waist and gave her a hug and quick kiss. “Just fine,” she reiterated.

“Mmm…I hope so.” Brooke savored the kiss.

“I know so. You do just fine for me,” Sam winked as she patted Brooke’s chest. “Ain’t I your baby now?”

“You,” Brooke kissed Sam on the lips, “…will always be my baby.” The two women stared into each other’s eyes until the small voice disturbed their moment.

“Sam? I made it bigger.” Julie tugged on the woman’s pants to get her attention.

“Bigger, Julie?” The blonde asked as she smiled at Brooke then turned to look down at Julie. The large, expanses of color behind the child caught Sam’s eye as she let her gaze drift from the child. It was a larger scaled rendition of the wishing star scene she had seen a few moments earlier. “Oh, my…” Sam slapped a hand over her mouth and turned to look at Julie’s aunt standing beside her. Sam watched as shocked blue eyes roamed the lower half of the dining room wall and the artwork that now graced it.

“You had to say bigger, didn’t you?” Brooke glanced at Sam to see the mouthed, ‘Sorry,’ and then the tall woman covered her eyes with her hands. Feeling the tug on the leg of her jeans, Brooke moved a finger or two to look down into a smiling, little face.

“I wuv you.”

The morning seemed to be moving by faster than either adult thought could be possible. The constant levels of activity not the norm for a weekend together. Sam looked over to the clock on the counter and considered that they still might be lounging in bed had it not been for the child that she could hear running toward her.

“Sam…Sam…” Julie stopped, doing a little dance as she entered the kitchen. “Need potty…need big girl potty.”

Pleased, Sam smiled at her young charge and moved over to take Julie’s hand as she headed for the stairs. “Hey Brooke,” Sam yelled as they started up the spiral staircase, “We’re going potty.”

“Oh yeah?” Brooke emerged from the living room with a big smile on her face. “Need some help?” She asked as she followed up the stairs behind them.

“Sure, we’re all women aren’t we?” Sam turned back to wink at her lover, “It’s more fun in a group,” she teased. “We’ve got to teach her right from the start that when girls go potty they take the group with them.” Sam laughed at her lover’s pet peeve as she entered the bathroom behind Julie. “Okay, Sweet Pea, let’s get your training pants out of the way.” Sam hoisted the child up onto the commode, then turned to look at Brooke who was sitting on the side of the tub.

“Uh-oh,” the tiny voice whimpered.

“What?” Sam’s eyes came back on the child. “What’s wrong, Julie?”

“I can’t go…it’s too big.” The child shifted her weight on the seat as she looked around at the porcelain pedestal that she teetered on.

Sam laughed as she held onto the child. “It will come. Let’s just sit here and give it a chance.” The blonde thought for a moment then asked, “What’s too big?”

An exasperated little face looked back at her, “The potty. The potty too big.”

The young woman remembered her own childhood experiences with things much taller than herself and lost it. The jiggling started in her midsection, then moved up her body until she couldn’t hold onto the child securely any more and turned to Brooke. “I think this needs an answer from a tall person,” she whispered, trying hard not to laugh but Brooke was already doubled over, laughing so hard that she slid off the side and into the tub. “Brooke, were we supposed to bring the potty chair, too?”

“I don’t know,” Brooke climbed out of the tub and grabbed onto her niece, “Randi and Brian didn’t have it with them.”

“Figures,” Sam muttered as she moved back to let Brooke take over the delicate balancing of the child. “Well, as I see it, we have two choices.” She looked first to Julie, then to Brooke. “One, we forget about potty training or two, you figure out how she’s going to use the tall toilet.”

“Okay,” Brooke nodded her agreement as she settled into a kneeling position in front of the commode. “Julie, what’s the problem, Angel?”

“I got da go, Aunt Bwooke.” Brown eyes drove the point home, “got da go.”

“Okay, Sweetie. Now, what do you need me to do?”

“You don’t know?” Julie put her little hands up to her face, shocked at what she was finding out. “And I dought Mommy said you knew evewything.”

Impressed that her sister Randi would say that, Brooke looked the youngster in the eye. “Well, Punkin, give me a hint.”

“Mommy sings me da song, den I go and we make happy.” Julie clapped her hands a time or two, then stopped and directed, “Now, sing.”

“Song…?” Brooke’s eyes darted back and forth as she thought, “What song?”

Sam hid a smile behind her hand, “Yeah, Brooke sing the potty song. You remember it don’t you?” She taunted her lover.

Blue eyes flashed up to Sam. “They didn’t have potty songs when C.C. was trained.” She watched as the blonde shrugged, then turned her attention back to Julie. “Can you sing the potty song for Aunt Brooke?”

The tot looked up to her aunt with the most serious of faces. “You don’t ‘member? Maybe you need to have Mommy potty drain you again.”

Brooke rolled her eyes at the very thought. “Sam, could you get my cell phone, please?”

“Sure Brooke,” Sam tried to keep from laughing but couldn’t. Within a few seconds she went to the master bedroom and back again with cell phone in hand. “Number two on the speed dial for Randi, right?” Sam asked, then seeing the nod, punched the correct number and handed the phone to Brooke. “I’ll go make some lunch while you take care of things up here.”

“Randi?” Brooke gripped the phone with one hand and the baby with the other. “What’s the potty song?” She asked not waiting for her sister to greet her.

“Hey Sis, how’s it going with the lil’ one? Sounds like you’re having some fun,” Randi chuckled.

“Could you do me a favor, Sis?”

“Sure, you need me to pick up a few Christmas presents for you?” Randi laughed.

“No,” was Brooke’s sharp reply. “I need to know the potty song. What is it?”

“Brooke,” her sister cleared her throat, “There is no potty song. I just make up words to Twinkle, Twinkle to fit the need.”

“You’re kidding, right? Da…” Brooke stopped before the word was fully out and changed it, “Dang it Randi, tell me you’re kidding.”

“Nope, she thinks it’s her song, especially for her.”

“You wouldn’t have an urge to sing it to her now, would you Sis?” Brooke asked hopefully.

“Sorry, can’t right now, it’s a mad house here at the toy store.” Randi paused as she called out, “Hey, that’s my cart.” Coming back to the phone, the lawyer hurriedly spoke, “Oh, and Brooke…you’ll need a few verses. She tends to forget what we’re there for.”

“Oh, God.” Brooke hung her head, took in a deep breath, and then let it out.

“You’re the songwriter, Brooke. It shouldn’t be that hard for you. Talk to you later, Sis. Tell Julie that Mommy loves her. Bye.”

“Yeah, will do, bye.” Brooke hit the end button and terminated the call. She thought for a moment, then slowly started to sing, “Twinkle, Twinkle little one. Now we’re going to have some fun. Up above the water so high, like a cloud up in the sky. Twinkle, Twinkle little one. Now the rain is going to come.”

Brooke held her finger up to her mouth, “Shhh…” she whispered as she stood in the hallway.

The small tyke nodded as she mimicked Brooke to her teddy then held her hand over her mouth.

The tall woman picked up her niece and slowly stole into the kitchen where Sam was at the counter preparing lunch for the small group. She waited until she was almost directly behind the blonde when her deep voice asked, “Whatcha doin, Darlin’?”

Startled by the voice, Sam jumped, then leaned against the counter and shook her head. “God, I never heard you two sneak in. Keep that up and I’ll be having a heart attack for sure.” Sam turned to see the giggling child in Brooke’s arms. “And you, little Miss Julie. I see that you’re done on the potty.”

“Yep, she went to the potty and even learned how to use the toilet paper,” Brooke boasted proudly.

Sam smiled, “That’s wonderful, but I bet you’ll still have to practice that some more, won’t you?”

Julie hid her face in Brooke’s hair, peeking out to see if Sam was still looking at her.

“What’s with her? Something go wrong?” Sam asked, wondering why Julie was shy all of a sudden.

“She…ah…she stopped up the toilet in the process.” Brooke looked down to her wet shoes.

The blonde’s eyes bugged out when she viewed Brooke’s shoes and immediately looked to Julie’s. “What? Why weren’t you watching her? What were you doing?” Sam took the baby in her arms and checked to make sure the child was completely dry. “Randi will kill us if she does that at home.”

“I was washing my hands. I showed her how to use a few squares of the paper and I didn’t think it would hurt if she amused herself. I figured that it was reinforcing what I’d just shown her. I didn’t realize she had put half the roll into the commode before she hit the handle.” Brooke stuck her bottom lip out and mumbled, “How was I supposed to know she could reach it from the floor?”

The blonde shook her head at the antics of the grown woman in front of her. “Is there anything else I need to know?” Sam eyed aunt and niece alike as both tried hard not to look at her. “Out with it. I’m going to find out sooner or later.”

“Well…” Brooke cleared her throat. “She took the rest of the roll and took off with it down the hall. There’s…there’s paper all along the hallway and the stairs.”

“You had to buy the double rolls, didn’t you?” Sam looked her directly in the eye.

“Hey, you were the one that pointed them out. You’re the shopper here. You said that it was a better buy.”

Sam quirked a little disgusted smile and sighed. “Well, remind me that cost versus bulk is not always a good thing when we have kids, okay?” Sam handed off the tot to her aunt, then turned back to the counter.

Brooke nodded in agreement, “Yeah, and no potty songs, too.”

The young woman turned around to look at her lover, questioning the reason. “And why would that be, Hon?”

“Sam, I can write songs with the best of them but after seventeen verses of pertinent lyrics to the melody of Twinkle, Twinkle there’s only so much a person can do.”

Sam wiped her mouth with the napkin, then offered Brooke a proposition, “How about if you clean up the dishes, I’ll put Julie down for her nap?”

“Okay,” Brooke grabbed at the offer before Sam could have a chance to rethink it. “Then I’ll have a little time to look some things up on the internet…” the woman cleared her throat, “…for that…ah…new project I’ll be undertaking.”

“Sounds like a deal to me.” Sam looked over at Julie.

“But I no wanta nap,” the tyke protested.

“Come on, Sweetie,” Sam got up from her chair and held her hand out to Julie. “Let’s go and just close our eyes for a few minutes.” She heard the sound of the doggie door as Mario stuck his head into the house. “Look, even Mario will join us.” Sam turned to the dog, “Come on, Boy.”

The dog looked to his mistress as Sam patted her hand against her leg, then scooted reluctantly across the room and under Sam’s chair at the table. Learning his lesson once already, the dog laid down facing the baby and waited.

Julie crawled down from her chair and held onto Sam’s hand as they made their way toward the hall. “Doggie…?”

Sam looked back at the cowering husky watching them as they walked away. “Come on, Mario. I’ll protect you, you big chicken. We’re all in this together.”

The dog hesitated for a second then slowly rose and walked slightly behind and opposite the tot on Sam’s other side, letting Sam’s pace set his own.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Sam saw the strewn toilet paper streaming down the railing and stretching down the stairs. “We’re going to have to get you to decorate for the next party, Julie. You seem to have a lot of experience with streamers.” Sam laughed as she wound around the staircase viewing the carnage of the double roll.

Halfway up to the second floor, Julie stopped and cried out, “Teddy. I need Teddy.”

Seeing that there was no way around it, Sam leaned over the railing and called out to Brooke, “Hey Hon, can you send Teddy up when you’re done with the dishes?”

“No problem, Sam. One Teddy coming right up, as soon as I wipe off the counter.”

Within minutes, Sam had Julie in bed with her shoes off. After a little urging, even Mario curled up on the bed. “Look we can lay down and all take a nap on this big bed.” Sam petted the dog, as she watched the little girl latch onto her favorite blanket and settle into the fluffy, white comforter on Brooke’s bed.

“Hey, Darlin’,” Brooke stuck her head in the doorway, “I got the bear and poured Julie’s leftover juice in this cup.” Brooke lifted the cup as if she were giving a toast. “I thought she might like to drink it when she wakes up.” Brooke entered the room and moved to Sam’s side as she admired the bodies on the huge bed.

“Thanks, Dear.” Sam took the cup and set it down on the nightstand. “I’ve got it covered. You can have a few minutes to yourself, if you’d like.”

“You sure?” Brooke asked tentatively. “I can stay here with you.” The tall woman leaned down to kiss Sam as Julie cuddled up to the blonde woman’s body.

“Nope,” Sam whispered. “It’s a piece of cake. Even the dog will sleep.”

“Okay, but call me if you need me. I love you.”

Sam smiled and returned the kiss. “I think I’ll just sit in that rocker and grab five minutes myself, once she falls asleep. Love you, too.”

After Brooke left, the blonde remained on the bed just long enough to assure that Julie was asleep, then silently she crept off and settled into the rocker in the corner of the room. The steady rocking soon had the young woman on the verge of sleep when the tiny little voice asked its question.

“Sam? Is da baby gonna nap, too?”

“Huh…Oh, the baby…” Sam pulled herself back from the threshold of sleep. “Yeah, the baby will sleep too. Now, put your head down and we’ll all sleep together.”

There was another moment or two of silence then the next question was asked. “How does da baby know when to sleep?”

Sam opened one eye and checked on the tot, then seeing her still lying on the bed, the blonde answered. “When I’m real quiet, the baby knows to sleep. So let’s be real quiet now.” Sam brought her finger to her lips and whispered, “Shhhh…” She watched as Julie mimicked her, then grabbed on to her Teddy and laid her head down on Mario. Satisfied that all would be well, Sam closed her own eyes and quickly dozed off.

Lulled into the world of dreams, Sam easily relaxed and let images of Brooke and their someday family come floating through her mind. It was funny seeing the stages of their life that was yet to come with the nameless faces and loving hearts waiting to happen. As one dream ended, another began.

“ARF!”

Mario’s surprised bark and the sound of a squeaking mattress startled Sam. Opening her eyes, the young woman saw Julie chewing on the husky’s ear while she still hung onto her teddy bear. “JULIE, no.”

Sam struggled to get out of the rocker as the slow motioned scene before her unfolded. She watched as the tot chopped down one more time on the scared dog’s ear. Springing up to get away, Mario quickly circled the baby and came up on her other side. Lunging at the animal Julie giggled wildly, spurred on by the fast moving feet and whipping tail as the dog spun around, knocking the cup off the nightstand. The splattering liquid came to rest on the comforter of the bed and on to Teddy in Julie’s hand. Julie quickly tossed Teddy aside and reached for the dog, causing the animal to change directions abruptly and scamper right through the stained area, spreading it even more across the white fabric.

Sam made it to the bed just in time to catch the tyke as she dove from the mattress after the frightened dog. Bringing the child up in her arms, Sam cuddled her to her chest as Julie let out a loud cry, her hands outstretched, reaching for the dog.

“Ah…Julie,” Sam held the child tightly and tried to comfort her. “Doggie’s ears aren’t for chewing on.”

The child turned her attention from the doorway where the dog had scooted out, to the bear in the middle of the bed. “Teddy.”

Sam took the teddy and handed it to Julie, “There you go.” She looked over at the clock on the nightstand and sighed. “Well, ten minutes was better than nothing.” Gazing down at the growing stain on the comforter, Sam mumbled under her breath, “You had to give her grape juice didn’t you, Brooke. Maybe if I throw this in right away, the stain won’t set.” She turned her face toward the tot, “Hey Munchkin, how about we go do some laundry?”

The child giggled and laughed, nodding her head as Sam stripped the soiled linen off the bed, then headed down the hall toward the stairs.

“What’s the matter, Babe?” Brooke called out from her office on the second floor as Sam tried to sneak past it.

Startled at being caught, Sam moved into the doorway so that they could be seen. “We…ah…we thought that your spread needed to be cleaned.” The blonde wrinkled her nose up and let out a nervous laugh, “You know, baby slobber and all.” Sam winked at Brooke then asked, “What are you doing…playing games on the computer?”

Brooke turned the screen a little more in her direction. “Okay, thanks, Sam. I’m…ah…I’m just playing on the Internet. You know, looking at stuff.”

“Oh, ah…if you see Mario, you might want to check out his ears for holes.”

“Holes?”

“Yeah, he…ah…well, Julie…ah…” Sam shrugged, “…yeah, holes.”

Brooke blinked as she looked first to Sam and then to her niece. “Do I even want to know?”

“No. Later Babe,” Sam waved and started back down the hallway.

“Thanks, Darlin’.” Brooke called out a little puzzled. “I’ll keep an eye out for him.”

Pushing open the door to the laundry, Sam carried her precious cargo inside the small room where she promptly reached over to the dial on the washer, setting it to the correct settings and water temperatures for the white comforter.

“Okay Sweetie,” Sam set the child down on the dryer as she waited for the washer to fill, while she selected her cleaning elements from the shelf above. “We’ve got some laundry to do. Do you help your Mommy with the washing, Julie?” Sam watched as the tot shook her head. “No. Well, I guess I get to give you your first lesson then.” Sam smiled, then touched the child on her nose with a finger. “You just watch me and you’ll know all about getting your things nice and clean.”

Big brown eyes watched Sam’s every move as she selected the liquid soap and poured some directly on the stained comforter, rubbing it into the fabric with her two hands after she put the open bottle on the dryer next to Julie.

“See how we work the soap into a lather, Julie?” Sam smiled sweetly as she maneuvered the king-sized comforter into the top loading washer. You had to give her grape juice, didn’t you Brooke? She picked up the bottle and poured on some more soap. “Hmm…I’ll have to remind Brooke that she needs more. This one only has a few more washings left.”

“Good juice, Sam.” The child nodded then giggled as she watched the woman intently. “Me like jape.”

“Wait until you’re older, I can almost assure you that after your first child rearing experience that you won’t like grape juice any more.” Sam reached for the stain spray now and went to work on the comforter once more. “Your Auntie Brooke is going to have a bird if she sees this,” Sam muttered under her breath. The blonde looked over to the youngster and smiled at the cute image Julie was presenting with her teddy clutched so tightly in her hand. “You love that teddy, don’t you?”

“Yeah…me wuv Teddy.” The tot scrunched the bear into her neck and then kissed it on the head.

“Well, just remember, juice is good for you when it goes in your stomach, not on the things you love.” Sam pushed the comforter all the way into the washer then turned to clean her hands in the laundry tub. “I’m not so sure that it’s going to be any good for that comforter, though.”

Julie pulled her teddy away from her body and looked at it. There on the legs were dark purple splatters of juice. Looking over to Sam and then to the detergent next to her, the tot imitated what she had just seen being done. Tipping over the bottle of detergent, she held her teddy over the opening of the washer and let the soap pour out onto his leg. Tiny little hands gently massaged the bear until white foam appeared and the teddy slipped out of the child’s slippery hands. Julie picked up the bottle of soap and righted it, then reached down into the opening to retrieve her beloved bear just as Sam turned around.

“Hey, we can’t play in that water, Julie.” Sam held onto the tot and closed the lid to the washer. “You might fall in and then what would we tell your mommy?” Sam wiped Julie’s suds-filled hands with the same towel she had just used. “There, all dry now.” Sam winked at the child then continued, “You were such a good girl, sitting there watching me.”

“I good girl,” the child repeated and clapped her hands.

“You deserve a treat for that. Let’s go see what we can find.” Sam hoisted the child off the top of the dryer and placed her down on the floor.

“Julie big girl. Julie did laundry.” The tot took off out the door and headed for the stairs.

Sam shook her head and laughed, “God, where do they get the energy?”

“Hey Hon,” Sam poked her head into Brooke’s office. “Julie was such a good girl with helping me do the laundry…” Sam saw the hurried movements of her lover as she quickly grabbed the mouse and minimized the site she was looking at. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“That’s okay, Baby. You’re not disturbing me.” Brooke smiled and waved to her niece who was clinging onto Sam’s leg.

“Can you watch your niece while I use the…ah…” Sam motioned to the bathroom.

Seeing Sam’s need written in her eyes, Brooke nodded, “Sure, Darlin’.”

“Thanks,” Sam opened the door a little wider as she moved into the room, bringing Julie with her. “Here’s a piece of candy for being such a big help and a big girl.” The blonde looked down at Julie and winked before leaving.

“Hey Munchkin,” Brooke reached out for the child and settled her up in her lap.

“Where’s Sam going wid the baby?”

“Uhm…Sam…” Brooke smiled, “and the baby, are going to go to the potty.”

Julie giggled and clapped her hands, first on her aunt and then turned to the computer keyboard on the desk. “Big girl potty…let’s sing Aunt Bwooke.”

“NO!” Brooke eyes widened in terror. “Sam doesn’t want us to sing because…she uhm…” the woman thought for a moment, then grasped at the first thing that came to her mind. “We might wake the baby.”

“Oh…” Julie put her finger to her lips and let out a long, “Shhhhhhhhh.”

“Shh…” Brooke now mimicked her niece.

Eyeing the piece of candy on the desk, the small tyke wanted her treat. “Good girl tweat…candy, me need candy, Aunt Brooke…candy.”

Brooke took the piece of candy from the desk and after unwrapping it, held it out to her niece. “Okay Julie, here’s your big girl treat.”

The child nodded her head and clapped wildly, turning to the screen, touching the keyboard as she took the piece of candy into her mouth. “What’s dat?” She looked back to her aunt.

Brooke leaned out to look into the hallway, seeing the bathroom door still closed. She turned back to the computer and opened the site bringing the screen to life with color. “That’s a computer, Munchkin, and this is Vermont.”

“What’s Vewmond?” Julie took the candy out of her mouth and offered it to her aunt.

“Ah…no thank you.” Brooke pulled back from the offering. “Vermont is a place up North.”

“Why?” She put the candy back into her mouth, then grabbed Brooke’s sleeve with her sticky fingers. “What’s Nowth?”

“North is…it’s a far away place.” Brooke stared at the screen.

“Oh.” Julie turned to stare at the screen imitating her aunt. “Like Grammies’ house?” She asked as she leaned into Brooke’s chest, with drool running from her mouth and over her chin, dripping on the adult’s clothing without her realizing it.

“Like your Daddy’s Mommy?” Brooke felt the head nod against her. “Yeah.”

“Why…” Julie tugged at Brooke’s long hair. “Why you looking up nord…in vewmond?” She asked spitting out the piece of candy with her words and watched it land in Brooke’s hair. She reached out to retrieve it only to have it squish out of her small hand and settled deeper into the cascading locks of her aunt.

“It’s a surprise for someone.” Brooke winked at her niece, and unthinkingly moved in to give her a touch on the nose with her own.

“Why?” Julie placed her sticky hands on Brooke’s face and held it up against her.

Feeling the degree of stickiness, Brooke pulled her face away from the child’s as Julie turned her attention back to the screen. Running her hand through her long hair, Brooke easily found the matted, sticky mess that the lost piece of candy was creating and pulled the morsel of sugar out of her hair. She sighed. After seeing strands of hair stuck to the candy, she tossed Julie’s ‘good girl’ award into the wastebasket when Julie wasn’t looking. “Hey Julie, why don’t we go take a bath…hmmm?” Brooke grabbed the mouse and exited the Internet. “We can play in the water.”

Julie put her finger on Brooke’s nose and grabbed it. “Horsey ride, horsey ride,” she nodded wildly.

“Okay, horsey ride it is.” Brooke shifted the tyke up on to her shoulders and got up from the chair. She turned to exit the office just as Sam was on her way in. “Hey, Sam.” The smile lit up Brooke’s face, “This little girl is going to take a bath.”

Sam looked up to see Julie grasping handfuls of hair in sticky little hands. “That might not be a bad idea for both of you.”

“Yeah?” Brooke asked with a slightly seductive tone.

“Oh, don’t go getting any ideas.” Sam cautioned Brooke, “I’m not the one covered in stickiness.”

The tall woman leaned in toward her lover’s ear and whispered, “You could be, given a little time and some attention.” Brooke kissed Sam’s cheek for emphasis and then ran her tongue up the outside of Sam’s ear.

Sam could feel the heat of a blush start in her chest and slowly spread toward her face. “Any more of that and I will be, Brooke Gordon.” The blonde moved back and then in a surprise attack, kissed the taller woman’s nose. “Mmm…peppermint?”

“You should know, you gave it to her.” Brooke scowled.

“Hmm…” Sam sighed as she looked up to the gleeful child riding on Brooke’s shoulders, then shook her head. “Better add candy to that growing list of what not to have around when we have kids.”

Brooke nodded her head, bringing the sticky little hands right along with her, and sighed.

The brunette stood patiently outside her sister’s house. There were signs of life in the house with a light on upstairs and the van still parked in the driveway. C.C. looked at her watch as she tried to remember her niece’s schedule. “Yeah, three-thirty, this should be nap time. I’d better not ring that doorbell.” Without any second thoughts, the young woman turned to her sister’s security panel and punched in the code. Within seconds she heard the familiar sound of locks clicking, then C.C. carefully opened the door.

Venturing inside, the willowy woman stopped as she turned to close the door. Her view of the living room was enough to peak her curiosity as she saw one of the end table lamps on the floor surrounded by pillows and cushions all over the floor.

“God, you’d think someone was trying to be killed in here.” The young woman left the door open as she investigated deeper into the room. “Well, at least it looks like they put up a good fight.” C.C. picked up a pillow or two, throwing them back onto the couch.

After taking another couple of steps to reach the next pillow, C.C. noticed the newly decorated wall in the dining room. “What the…” she moved into the room to get a better look. “Oh my God.” C.C.’s hand went to her mouth. “Brooke’s not going to like that one bit. No wonder the house is so quiet. She’s already killed her.” The brunette walked over to the wall and touched it, confirming her suspicions. “Crayon.” C.C. rolled her eyes and held her breath realizing that there had to be a massacre somewhere in the house.

Worried now, the brunette left the dining room and entered the hallway. She stood absolutely still for a moment as she tried to detect any signs of life coming from anywhere in the house. Her prayers were answered when she heard the sound of running water. She followed the noise into the kitchen.

C.C. stopped at the doorway to the kitchen and flicked on the light switch. The fluorescence that seemed to blind her for a split second now, showed the kitchen exactly as the woman had remembered it, neat and organized. There, sticking out of the garbage pail was the large, empty box of Cheerios. She started to walk into the room and she could hear the distinct sound of crunching every so often under her feet. C.C. let a smile come to her face, “Yeah, I bet Julie had a field day with that box of cereal.” She could see it in her mind’s eye, knowing how the small child had done it to C.C. on a few occasions while babysitting her niece. It was then that the warped mind of C.C.’s came up with the perfect name for this thriller she was living in. “The attack of the Oh’s…” the brunette chuckled, “starring Brooke Loran as the evil godmother.”

The sound of running water was louder as C.C. crossed the cereal dotted floor toward the laundry room. Looking over to the door, the brunette caught sight of the white mass of suds that were creeping out from under the door.

C.C.’s eyes widened and only one thought crossed her mind, “Ohmygod, they’re washing her mouth out with soap.” Rushing the door, C.C.’s mind raced with scenarios. “Brooke you can’t do that…she didn’t mean it. Hang on, Julie, I’ll…” she latched onto the doorknob and threw open the door to see massive amounts of foam pouring out of the washer.

“What the…” C.C. looked first to one side, then to the other, sure that someone was in there, “…hell is going on here?” The brunette eyed the washer suspiciously as she moved closer to turn it off. “Julie?” she mumbled, then hurriedly opened the lid, swiping out huge handfuls of glistening bubbles from inside the washer until she could see better. Reaching down into the lukewarm water, C.C. prayed for the best. “Randi’s going to kill us both. All I wanted to do was come over to mooch some dinner. Now I’m going to be blamed too.”

Fishing her hand down through the murky red water, she latched onto something that felt vaguely like an arm and held her breath as she pulled it out. “Come on, girl, pull,” she egged herself on as the heavy bulk she clung on to was not coming out easily. With her adrenaline pumping wildly, C.C. reached in with her other hand and pulled back with all her might again and again until there was a swooshing sound and the bulk in her hands came sloshing out of the cavern. The weight of the mass being much more then the woman could hold, C.C. lowered it onto the top of the dryer.

Surprised at her own strength but relieved that her struggle with the washer was over, C.C. frantically picked and poked at the pink mound dripping before her. Getting nowhere fast, the young woman did the only thing she could think of doing. She picked up the mound and flipped it to another side, placing it on the floor this time.

Wiping her hair out of her face, C.C. concentrated her gaze on the pile of material. There, plain as day, was the familiar red teddy bear lying amidst the wrapped layers of material. The brunette rolled her eyes at the sight. “Teddy,” she mumbled as she breathed a sigh of relief, then extracted the bear from the swaddle of cloth and placed him into the dryer. She reached up to the control dial and turned it on to start the machine in motion.

“Now, what the heck is that thing?” C.C. pondered the pink mass on the floor. She was about to reach down and figure it out when the sound of youthful laughter came wafting into the room and was quickly followed by the sound of fast moving feet.

Delighted to hear sounds of life now emanating from her sister’s house, C.C. stuck her head out of the laundry room door. The sight of the fast moving fur ball as Mario was rounding the kitchen doorway and slid across the now wet, slippery floor meant one thing in the young woman’s mind. “Julie’s here,” she grinned and carefully headed for the stairway, as Mario escaped through his doggie door.

Standing at the bottom of the spiral staircase, C.C. admired the decorative but rather blandly colored streamers that dangled from the railing and stairs alike. The brunette scratched her head and slowly started up the stairs, wondering what shambles she would find there. Nearing the top of the stairs, C.C. called out her sister’s and roomie’s names, “Brooke…Sam…” She stopped to peer down the hallway when her eyes had reached that level. “What the hell…? Where are you two and what did Julie do to you?” Shaking her head at the mess of toilet paper everywhere, C.C. climbed the last few steps up until she was standing in the hallway.

The sound of gleeful laughter once again began and soon the naked little girl came squealing down the hall from the bathroom at the other end. Within seconds, Brooke emerged from the same door, her clothing wet and clinging to her, with soap bubbles in her hair.

C.C. eyed her sister and gave a little wave, “Hey Sis, did I come at a bad time?”

“No, just help me get her.” Brooke darted off after Julie as she ran into another bedroom. “Julie come here. Look who came to say hello.”

C.C. stood there as the toddler ran out the door and across the hall into the next room. She waited only a few seconds until her sister appeared again and taunted her. “What’s the matter, can’t handle a three year old?”

Brooke stopped in the middle of the hallway and turned toward her sister. “Why you…” she went to take a step forward when, like a flash of lightning, Julie came out of the room and ran right between Brooke’s long legs, propelling herself into C.C.’s arms.

“Hi Aunt C.C.” Julie smiled up at her aunt.

“Hey Sweetums, how you doing?” The brunette laughed with her niece.

“Me good. I playing with the baby.”

“Baby?” C.C. mumbled, then looked over to her sister. “Who else are you watching?”

“No one else, just Julie,” Brooke raised a lone, dark eyebrow in her sister’s direction.

“Then, what baby is she talking about?”

As if right on cue, Sam emerged from the bathroom and stepped into the hall. “My baby, that’s who.”

C.C.’s mouth gapped open as she looked from her sister and then to Sam.

“Sam’s gonna have a baby for me to pway wif…” Julie eagerly announced, “…by next Danksgiving just like Aunt Tehwi.”

Sam moved up along side of Brooke as she tried to explain. “Ah…C.C. she thinks that…” she followed C.C.’s eyes as they moved to Brooke.

Not knowing what else to do, Brooke merely offered a weak smile and shrugged her shoulders.

“I got to help wif da name.” Julie tugged on C.C.’s shirt. “It’s a girl.”

The brunette’s eyes lit up as she slowly walked down the hall toward her sister. The woman looked into her sister’s eyes as she mumbled, letting it sink into her head, “So that’s what all those talks were about in the den yesterday.” The woman’s face turned to pure elation as she let out a yell and raised her hand into the air. “Wahoo! You stud muffin you.” C.C. slapped Brooke on the back producing a wet, sopping sound. She beamed a smile at Sam and then grabbed onto the tot and danced up and down the hallway with her singing out, “I’m in the money, I’m in the money.”

Brooke rolled her eyes at her youngest sister’s antics. “Hey Sam, remember that name we discussed?” She looked over to the blonde as she nodded. “Maybe that was a bad idea.”

“Chastity Loran?”

Brooke shook her head, “No, Darlin’, the nickname.”

“Oh, Chase,” Sam said the name loud enough for C.C. to hear and giggled at the look on the woman’s face when she turned toward them, almost dumfounded.

“Hey, what’s wrong with Chase?” Then the brunette realized what they were talking about. “You gonna name the kid after me? I’m honored, after all I did match you two up, you know.”

“Sam, look how swollen her head is now,” Brooke motioned to C.C. “How do you think she’ll be when we actually do name our daughter after her?”

The blonde studied her roomie for second before answering, ” Oh, I don’t know, it might bring her down to earth being a…godmother and all.”

“Hmm…after the day we’ve had, maybe it’s not such a good idea after all,” Brooke scratched her cheek while she watched C.C.’s reaction.

“Just think of it Brooke, she could watch lil’ Chase when we want to do some shopping.” Sam looked at her lover, “Think of all the fun she’ll have.” The teasing was done and Sam knew it. Suddenly reality struck her in the face. “I can’t believe we thought that we could handle a three year old for more than an hour.”

It had Brooke’s full attention as she thought about the idea. “I don’t know, Sam.” Brooke watched as the blonde sank to the floor with her back up against the wall.

“I’m worn out,” Sam raised her head to look up at Brooke. “…how about you?”

Brooke dropped to her knees and then sat on the floor next to Sam. “I’ll admit it, I’m wiped.” The woman shook her head. “And to think, we were actually considering having one of our own?” The tall woman’s shoulders slumped, “Maybe not, Sam.”

“I was just thinking the same thing.” Sam leaned her head into Brooke’s shoulder, “Maybe we need to really think about it some more.”

The dark-haired woman left out a long sigh. “Better yet…how about we don’t think about it?”

Sam glanced up at her lover. “You serious about that?”

“I don’t know.” Brooke made a face, “What do you think about it? I keep thinking that this was one day. We’re talking about the rest of our lives.”

The blonde took in a deep breath and gave it a thought. “I…I think you’re right.” Sam left out a long sigh. “Maybe we’re just not cut out to be parents.”

“Maybe.” Brooke offered a weak smile and sighed.

“I’m okay with it if you are.” Sam patted Brooke’s hand, then rubbed it trying to soothe any hurt the woman was feeling. “We can always be great aunts.”

“That sounds like a good enough plan.”

“Okay,” green eyes looked up into blue. “Then we agree to not think about it for a long time…right?”

“Yeah,” Brooke nodded her head.

C.C. watched the two women in her life that she wanted nothing but happiness for, sink into the valley of a depression. The brunette whispered softly into Julie’s ear, then squatted down to the floor, letting Julie easily wiggle out of her arms.

Silently, the three year old moved across the hallway and climbed into Sam’s lap. “Sam?” Big brown eyes looked up to the blonde.

“Yeah, Munchkin?”

“I sweepy,” the tiny voice said, “Can I take a nap with you and da baby?”

Sam looked over to Brooke as she bit on her lip.

“Sam, da baby can be my new Teddy,” Julie continued to explain.

“What happened to your old teddy bear?” Sam asked softly, trying to understand.

“E dook a baf.”

“A bath…” she looked puzzled at the tyke. “Where? He wasn’t in the tub with you.”

“I pud him in da big square tub downstairs.”

From across the hallway, C.C. offered her expertise. “Ah…I think I can answer that one.”

“I do good londwy.” Julie proclaimed. “Teddy dake a baf.”

Sam sat upright now, looking intently at the child in her lap, “Jeez, don’t tell me you put that bear in with Aunt Brooke’s spread.”

Julie smiled radiantly and laughed out, “I wuv you, Sam.”

Sam closed her eyes and imagined the red teddy bear in the washer with the white comforter, then sank back against the wall, feeling a little nauseous.

Brooke glanced first at Sam and her niece, then over at C.C. Seeing her sister lean forward in a manner that suggested that the woman had something she wanted to ask, Brooke simply challenged her with, “Yes?”

Trying hard not to laugh, C.C. fought the smile that was tugging at her lips. “Ah…Brooke?” The brunette watched as two blue eyes raised to her brown. “Since when do you have pink spreads on your bed?” C.C. watched as her sister just slowly bounced her own head off the wall.

Brooke came back in from the driveway, closing the door behind her.

She stood looking in at the little family grouping on the couch. Warm feelings enveloped her and she couldn’t help but smile, although deep in her heart she felt a real sadness that it might never be hers to have. Crossing the room, she agilely stepped over the sleeping dog, ran her hand through Julie’s brown hair as she sat mesmerized by the T.V., then sat down on the couch next to Sam.

“So, C.C.’s not going to stick around for the pizza?” Sam asked softly.

“No, she said that she had had enough excitement for one day. Remind me to thank her for watching Julie so that we could get out of those wet clothes and take a shower before Randi comes.”

“Hmm…” Sam looked at the tot as she still clutched onto the teddy bear that was now slightly faded but at least clean. “Julie, can I get you something to drink?”

“Hey,” Brooke grabbed the blonde’s arm. “You’re not leaving me to suffer this purple beast by myself,” referring to the popular children’s programming that was on. “I’m almost praying for the commercials to start.”

“At least she’s quiet.” Sam looked down to Julie, “although…mesmerized is more like it.

“Hmm…” Brooke eyed the T.V. suspiciously. “Do you think they’re running subliminal programming? I swear… Barney must be the spawn of Satan. It’s like a mass cult.”

“I wonder why they picked purple for him?” Sam’s face took on a devilish appearance. “I wonder if he likes Kool-Aid,” the blonde winked at Brooke.

“Well, I could handle watching the Smurfs, even though Smurfette was a hussy.”

“Hussy?” Sam looked at Brooke strangely. “She was cute… the only woman, but cute.” Sam giggled, “Guess we knew her orientation.”

Brooke chuckled, “Who else was there?”

“Shh…” Sam laughed at Brooke’s observation, noticing the gentle rocking motion of Julie in time to the irritating music on the screen. Sam looked to see the older woman cringing.

Just then, Julie turned from the T.V. and asked, “Aunt Bwooke can you sing me that song next time I go potty?” She looked up and batted her big, brown eyes.

Stifling a snarl, Brooke mustered out a very definite, “Uh…we’ll see, maybe.”

Sam laughed as she watched the tyke go from asking the question to staring back at the screen, within seconds, with a nod of her head. “Well, at least we know she’s still in there.”

“God, think about it Sam, if we were to have kids, this is what we’d have to deal with.”

The young woman laughed, “Julie do you want some more juice?” Sam watched as the tiny head bobbed up and down. “Okay, I’ll get you a nice big glass of it.”

“Sam…” Brooke looked over to her lover, “That was mean.” Brooke hid her head in her hands, “Oh God, that means she’ll have to…”

“I know,” the blonde smiled cutely, then stuck out her tongue at the older woman.

“Hey you…”

“Yes?”

The dark-haired woman pulled Sam closer to her and whispered, “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to stick out your tongue, unless you plan to use it?”

The feisty blonde wet her lips seductively and smiled, “Oh, but I do,” she winked, “…only later. I’m just getting it limbered up now.”

Brooke gazed in a trance-like state as Sam walked out of the room. Slowly, she was able to shake the images from her head and called out to the woman in the kitchen. “Don’t give her any grape. I’ve got white carpeting in this room and I want to keep it that way.”

The most dreaded time of any child’s programming was happening now, the commercials. Dreaded for the adults, that is. Turning her attention back to the small child viewing the show, Brooke either nodded unknowingly or shook her head out of sheer shock at what Julie was asking for.

“I need dat…Aunt Bwooke,” the tyke blurted out with every commercial that came on. “Me want…” she nodded her head expressing her desire with each new toy that was shown, whether she knew what it was or not.

In Brooke’s ancient mind, the child’s voice sounded almost like an antique stuck record, playing over and over again, the same piece of recorded verbiage and never moving on. I need dat…I need dat…I need dat…I need dat.

The dark-haired woman looked down at her watch. “Hmm…only five minutes and I think we’ve seen just about twenty commercials. That man who thought up these quick clips must have been a marketing genius,” she muttered under her breath as Sam walked back into the room.

The blonde took note of what was transpiring after only two or three different commercials. “Here you go Julie, a nice cup of water for you.” She looked over to Brooke and received a smile as she sat down next to the woman. “My mind would be mush by the time the kid hits three or four if I was listening to all that,” she pointed to the commercial and the behavior that it elicited. “How do parents do it?”

“I don’t know.” Brooke shook her head, “God, I have so much more respect for Mom and Dad now.”

Sam sank into the couch and leaned her head on Brooke’s shoulder. “You wonder why they need vitamins now.”

“That’s because the kids need them,” she smirked, “Then parents need them to keep up.” Brooke kissed the top of Sam’s head as she wrapped her arm around the woman’s shoulders.

“No, silly, I mean your mom and dad. What is that stuff they take?”

Sam paused as she gave Brooke’s thigh a playful slap.

“I don’t know? Why did you smack me?” Brooke poked out her lower lip.

“Sorry Hon, I guess I’m just a little overwhelmed at the prospects of parenthood.” Sam sighed, “Maybe even a little bummed at not having a family with you. It was kind of nice thinking about having kids with you.”

Brooke looked over at the woman next to her, “Sam…do you really want a baby?” She gazed lovingly into sad, green eyes and the answer was there for her to see. Each woman wanted to voice their thoughts but content to let the silent communication say what was in their hearts. The pull of their love was more than either could resist and before either knew it they were headed for a kiss.

“Aunt Bwooke…I need…” the little voice grew louder as the small hands started to pat on the older woman’s leg. “Aunt Bwooooooke…I need da go potty…NOW.”

Blue eyes shot open as she quickly dissolved the brief moment of bliss. Brooke turned to see her niece dancing and making faces as she patted at the jean covered leg.

“Me got da go.”

After a hurried look to Sam, Brooke sprang into action. “Oh God, Munchkin.” She swept the tot up into her arms and started to head to the closest bathroom. Making her way across the room she stopped at the door and looked back at Sam. As if practiced for hours in unison, they both spoke the word as they shook their heads, “NO!”

Sam chuckled as she heard her long-legged friend taking the stairs two at a time to get to her destination faster. She sighed when the hurried verses of the potty song came floating down from the second floor. “Well, I guess that says it all.” The blonde snuggled into the couch and looked down at her stomach as she gave it a gentle rub with her hand. “Maybe someday, Chastity Loran…but not just yet.”

Finishing the last bit of her pizza, Sam leaned on her arm as she rested it on the tabletop. “God, I feel like an encyclopedia, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Brooke had learned quickly to keep her answers simple. She looked down when she felt her sleeve being tugged on.

“Aunt Bwooke, why does the T.V. come on?”

“Because we hit the power button.” She smiled at her niece, then looked up to Sam, “Care for another?” She held out the last two pieces of pizza from the cardboard box.

“Why?” Julie tugged at Brooke’s sleeve again.

“To turn on the T.V.” Brooke glanced back at Sam to see her shaking her head.

“But why?”

“Because you wanted to watch it,” Brooke tried to reason with the child.

Julie listened carefully, then looked up, first at Sam, then back to Brooke, “Why?”

Taking in a deep breath, then slowly letting it out, Brooke answered her niece. “Because you wanted to watch Barney.”

“Oh,” Julie looked pensive for a moment, then reached up and tugged at the woman’s sleeve another time. “Why?”

“Because you like Barney.” Brooke rolled her eyes, “God knows why you like that purple beast, but you do.”

Sam could see the next round of the same question coming and tried to head it off, “Because we thought you wanted to, that’s why.” The blonde reached across the table and held onto her lover’s hand. “Brooke, we’re not getting anywhere with this. Can’t you see it?”

“Yes,” she sighed.

“So why are you feeding into it?” Sam saw a lone, dark eyebrow rise slowly on Brooke’s forehead. She turned to Julie and got down on to her level. “Julie, when you ask your mommy why… what does she tell you?”

The child made a face and held her hands up in the air, “I dunno…it pends”

“Depends on what, Baby?” Sam’s own frustration was beginning to show.

“I dunno…” Julie looked up with innocent, brown eyes and asked, “Why?”

The blonde sat back up in the chair and rolled her eyes as she slowly shook her head. “Definitely not going to happen Brooke, not in a million years. Tonight we take back that wish.”

“Deal,” Brooke hurriedly agreed. There was a moment of silence before blue eyes looked over to Sam. “Wait a minute…you mean you actually wished for it too?”

Sam looked wearily at Brooke, “What do you think?”

They locked gazes for a moment, then Brooke softly sighed, “Oh.”

The faint sound of the doorbell ringing brought Brooke’s mind to the present. She thought she had only dozed off for a few minutes as the three spent the last part of their day together on the couch, waiting for Julie’s parent’s to arrive. Casting a roving eye to the bodies on her left, Brooke smiled at the sight of Julie curled up sweetly with her teddy bear in one hand and Sam’s shirt in the other.

The tall woman stretched as she wiped the sleep from her eyes, “Sam…I think they’re here.” Brooke watched as Sam opened a struggling eyelid and nodded.

“DING- DING- DING!” The ringing was much more insistent this time.

Brooke sat bolt upright. “Ugh…she’ll wake up.” The tall woman moved as fast as she could to stop the bell from sounding again. Reaching the door, she quickly punched in the security code and pulled open the door. “Oh, thank God it’s you. Come on in.” She motioned for her sister to follow her.

“Hey Sis. What’s up?” Randi laughed seeing that it definitely wasn’t the same confident woman she had known all of her life. The lawyer took a wide sweep of the area with her eyes as she followed her sister into the living room. “You finally wore her out, huh?” Randi motioned to the two figures on the couch. “Did she give you any trouble?”

“Not much.” Brooke stretched her sore muscles and winced, “The munchkin just fell asleep about…” she looked down at her watch, “…half an hour ago.”

Brian entered the room right behind Randi, but kept walking through until he came to the dining room door and looked around in the dim light that filtered into the room. “Damn, Brooke, what happened to your house?”

“Your daughter, Brian.” Brooke motioned to the two chairs in the living room, “Have a seat, guys. I’ll get her bag.”

Brian smiled and chuckled. “You mean…bags, don’t you?” He watched as Brooke made a face and headed for the stairs.

“So, Sam…” Randi looked over to the woman that her daughter was enthralled with, “How’d everything go?”

“We…we had fun, Randi.” Sam politely smiled, not really wanting to go into details. Julie started to wake from her short nap. “Hey Sweetie, look who’s here.” The blonde caught the child’s attention and pointed over to her parents.

“Daddy…” the smile on her face glowed brightly as she slid down from the couch and scurried toward her father. “Hi, Daddy.”

“Hey Princess, how’s my girl?” Brian picked up his daughter and hugged her tight.

“Good, Sam’s been letting me pway wif da baby.”

“Baby?” Brian knitted his brows and looked over to Sam.

“She’s still on that baby kick..eh?” Randi asked curiously.

The blonde sighed, “Yes…just play along. She seems to think I’ll have a playmate for her for next Thanksgiving dinner.”

Brooke rounded the doorway into the living room, placing the assorted bags, boxes, and favorite blanket down by the outside door. “There you go,” she turned to see Julie wide-awake and moving toward her, out of her father’s arms. “God, she’s awake?” Brooke quickly stepped over and hid behind Sam.

“You big coward,” Sam teased the tall woman behind her, “don’t go hiding now.”

Brooke leaned in and whispered into Sam’s ear, “No babies.”

“Me wanna play wif baby.”

“Honey, the baby’s been awake for a long time now. She’s gonna have to sleep for a looooooooooooong time,” Sam drew out the word. “She may not even wake up for next thanksgiving.”

“Dat’s not what the wittle girl star said.” Julie put her hands on her hips. “She gonna come say hi soon.”

Sam cringed as she mumbled to the woman behind her, “Remind me to shoot that star.”

“I gonna wish on it ehwee night…” Julie turned to look at her parents, “Mommy and Daddy will help.”

Brooke leaned in to Sam’s ear and repeated her words, “No babies.”

The blonde turned her head and totally agreed with her lover, “Damn right,” she said under her breath, then turned to smile at Randi and Brian. “Sorry.”

“Well, come on, Princess.” Brain held his hand out to his daughter. “Let’s get home so Aunt Brooke and Sam can…uh…

“Find da baby?” The tyke asked.

Randi watched as the smile came to her husband’s face, “Don’t even go there. I’m sure that they’re not up to it, just like you never seem to be after a day with Julie.”

“Oh God,” Brooke buried her head into Sam’s shoulder at the thought.

Sam patted the woman’s head. “Remember that for future planning, Love.”

“But I wanna stay wif Sam.” Julie poked her lower lip out and started to pout. She looked up to Sam as the tears began to flow.

The blonde rolled her eyes as she knelt down to reason with the child. “What’s the matter, Sweetie?”

“I wanna stay wif you and Aunt Bwooke. I no wanna go.” She sobbed, “I pwomise no watch Barney.”

“But your Mommy and Daddy need you,” Sam looked to Randi for help.

Brooke knelt down next to her lover. “It’s okay, Julie. Sam and I will come see you soon.”

“You will…weally?” Brown eyes were filled with hope as she looked up to her aunt.

“Sure we will.” Brooke nodded.

Julie looked over to Sam, “Pwomise?”

Sam looked over to Brooke and took her hand. “Yeah, Julie, together we will. We promise.”

Randi moved closer to her daughter, “Julie, please come home with Daddy and me. You don’t want Daddy to cry now, do you?”

On cue, Brian buried his face in his hands and pretended to cry.

“But I like it here. I love Aunt Bwooke.” Julie’s attention was captured by the sound of sniffing and whimpers that came from her father. “Don’t cry Daddy, I come visit you.”

“See Julie? We don’t want Daddy to cry. I know you love your Aunt Brooke.” Randi got down on one knee next to her child. “She loves you, too.”

“And Sam and da baby.” Julie wasn’t sure where to look now as she moved her head back and forth from one adult to the other.

More determined than ever, Randi kept working on her daughter. “But Daddy wants you to come live with him and Mommy. Besides…” the lawyer waited until she had the child’s attention, “…all of your toys are there.”

“Toys…my toys?” she said rather surprised.

“Yep, all your toys.”

Sam leaned in and whispered, “Hey, how about if you go take care of your toys and next time, we’ll come visit you?” Sam didn’t budge when she heard Brooke mutter under her breath. “Please, please, say yes.” The tall woman looked to the heavens and crossed her fingers as she covered all her bases.

After giving it a moment of thought, Julie nodded her head, “Otay.” She ran over to her father and took hold of his hand, “Come on, Daddy…let’s go pway.”

Relieved by the tot’s decision, two pairs of eyes met as a silent prayer of thanksgiving was sent on its way.

Randi stood up and winked at her sister, “We’d better get going before she changes her mind.” She chuckled to herself, “I think you two have better things to be doing right now then taking care of child for the next couple of days.”

“Thanks, Randi.” Brooke nodded at the thought as she stood up. Walking her sister to the door, she held tightly onto Sam’s hand.

“Well, thanks for the day of shopping. Remind me to do the same for you when you have kids.” With the ease of a veteran, the lawyer grabbed the assortment of bags and boxes from the floor and headed out the door that her husband held open. “I’ll call you next week, Brooke, maybe we can have lunch.”

“Hey, Brian.” Brooke waited for the man to turn around. “I think you might need these.” She dropped the keys to the van into his waiting hand.

“Oh yeah,” Brian laughed, “I guess you want your keys back, too.” He reached into his pocket and pulled them out. “Thanks for letting me remember what it felt like before the kids.” He winked at his sister-n-law and tossed her set back.

Brooke stood out on the porch with Sam neatly tucked under her arm as they watched the trio head toward their van. When they were almost to the passenger door, Julie turned around and raced back toward the house. Brooke could feel both of their bodies stiffen.

“Sam…Sam…” little arms reached up for the woman to lift her up.

The blonde exchanged glances with her lover, then reached down to lift the child into her arms. “What’s up, Sweetie?”

“Bye, Sam, I wuv you.”

The young woman bit her lip as the start of a tear formed in her eye, “I love you, too Julie.

“I pwomise to leave Teddy at home next time.”

Sam smiled at the child’s sincerity, “Okay, Sweetums, next time.” Sam winked, then gave Julie a hug. After a few seconds, Sam looked into the youngster’s face, “Whatcha looking at Babe?” Sam turned to see Julie’s outstretched hand toward Brooke, “Oh, your big playmate, huh?” She stepped closer to her lover as Brooke wrapped her arms around them both.

“I wuv you Aunt Bwooke. I sorry I turn dat banket pink. It was Teddy’s fault, he needed a bath.”

“It’s okay, Angel. I love you, too.” Brooke smiled down at her niece as she felt the little arms wrap around her neck in a hug.

“Sam, can you tell da baby bye when she wakes up?” Julie looked back at the blonde.

The woman smiled as she looked up to Brooke then back to Julie and nodded, “Yes, I’ll tell the baby when she wakes up.”

“Julie…” Randi called out. “Time to go.”

“Okay, Mommy.” The tot turned back to her babysitters, “I godda go now. I wuv you.” Julie gave each woman a very wet kiss and hugged each one again before leaving.

“Love you, Pumpkin.” Sam kissed the tyke and placed her feet back on the ground. “You be careful.”

Julie nodded, then took off down the driveway, “Coming, Mommy.”

Sam watched as the child ran toward the van. Both women stood mesmerized as they watched Brian put the child into her car seat and the van slowly pulled away.

Brooke leaned her arm against the doorframe and then put her head against it. Together they each waved as the van drove off.

The young woman tightened her hold on her lover’s waist as they both sighed in unison.

“Well, it’s over.” Brooke wrapped her arm around Sam’s shoulder and leaned into her as the taillights of the van disappeared from sight.

“Yep.” Sam looked up into Brooke’s eyes.

“She’s gone.”

“Yeah, the house is quiet again.” Sam watched as Brooke moved away from her, shoving both hands into her front jeans pockets. Then she leaned back against the door.

“Yeah,” Brooke left out a disgusted sigh. “So…”

Sam studied her lover for a moment, then looked deep inside of herself, at her own feelings of loss. It seemed pretty evident as to why. The blonde walked over to Brooke and gave her a little nudge. “So…when do you want to start?”

Blue eyes lifted as Brooke looked into Sam’s face. Seeing the hopeful expression on the woman’s face was all that the musician needed to smile.
Ch18 The Look Of Love
“…You give me strength to Crush, crumble anything… Break down any steel door, see through every sting… ”
Nimble fingers moved over the keys as Brooke typed out her inquiry. When the sound of the pecking finally stopped, the dark-haired woman sat there, skimming over the content again. Allowing her mind to wander, Brooke was soon immersed in her thoughts about what the future would hold. The musician remained in that dream world for a few moments, until the pain from biting her lower lip brought her back to the screen before her. She read through it very quickly once more, then deciding that she was satisfied with what she had written. The woman nodded, confirming her commitment to her plan. With the stroke of one key, the E-mail was sent off to numerous businesses as blind copies.

Delighted with herself, Brooke pushed the keyboard back under her desk. Moving closer to the screen, she maximized her favorite window and sighed. “Yep, it may not be the whole kit and caboodle but it’s the closest that I’m gonna get. I’ll accept that if everyone else will.” She shook her head, chastising herself. Like I have the deciding vote here. Yeah, right.

The overpowering urge to lay her eyes on the one person in the whole world that could make all her dreams come true forced Brooke from her chair and across the hall to where Sam was napping. The tall woman stood in the doorway for a moment or two while her eyes adjusted to the dimly lit bedroom. The features of her lover were barely visible in the light cast by the lone candle burning on the nightstand, but it was enough for Brooke’s body to start reacting.

Whether it was just her nature to be so intense with her convictions or the pull that the small blonde had over her, it didn’t matter. What did matter was that Brooke knew how deeply she needed Sam’s love. Just thinking that there could ever be a time that they may not be together nearly brought the musician’s world crashing down around her. She could feel her chest tightening, her lungs gasping for air, and the unbearable feeling of emptiness sweeping over her just thinking about it. If at any time in her life she had considered herself as strong, independent, and not needing of anything, it wasn’t now. This long Thanksgiving weekend had proven that to her in more ways than she cared to deal with.

Her mind raced over the last few days, picking out highlights of the events that had taken place.

“I…I thought it would be nice, you know…to have my parents meet your Aunt.” Brooke held on to 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?”

“I guess I just never 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.”

The tall woman stood gazing at Sam and nodded her head as she muttered softly under her breath, “And you were worried. I knew he’d love you.” Brooke smiled as she remembered her father’s concern for her happiness and his round about way of talking to her.

“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.”

“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.”

Brooke’s thoughts fast forwarded to the Thanksgiving dinner and the impression that she believed cemented in everyone’s mind how they would view the newly proclaimed couple from that moment on.

Julie knelt in Sam’s lap and got right up into Brooke’s face, her hands resting on her hips. “Do you like 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 like 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 on to 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.”

Brooke quickly fast forwarded to her reply and came away with that same tingling, yet self-satisfying feeling that had enveloped both her body and soul that evening.

“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.”

The warmth of that moment spread through Brooke’s body again, just like she knew it would every time she bought it back to her mind. There was something special about that brief period of time. Deep in her heart, the dark-haired woman knew that their love had been declared in no uncertain terms to all whom had been present. God, Sam…what I wouldn’t give to be the ice cream in your bowl for the rest of my soul’s lifetimes.

Veiled in the shadows of the doorway, Brooke listened to the rhythm of Sam’s breathing as she slept. It was as soothing to the tall woman’s soul as was the toast that her father had made at the dinner.

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.”

Feeling the moisture gathering in her eyes, the musician wiped them before the drops could form. God, that meant so much to me. I bet they were all thinking that he was referring to Julie and Terri’s unborn child. Brooke’s mind played back the scene that happened right after everyone started to spread the toast through out the table.

After offering up the toast and listening to the youngest member of the assembled family, Henry raised the wineglass to his own lips and drank a sip before turning to look at his wife. Leaning down, he bestowed a delicate kiss on her cheek. The look of love twinkled in their eyes as they glanced first to each other, then out over the people gathered at the table. As if planned, the couple left their seats and moved around the table, smiling readily at their gathered family members and nodding to friends.

Brooke was the first to feel the touch of her father’s hand on her shoulder and turned to look at the man. He leaned in to her and whispered. “I can see that love you were talking about.” His eyes glanced lovingly toward Sam. “Thank you for sharing it with all of us.”

Before the woman could do anything more than smile subtly and nod, her father’s hand slipped from her shoulder as he continued around the table to where Terri was standing. Brooke watched her father as he duplicated the same touch with his hand on Terri’s shoulder and leaned in to whisper softly so no one else would hear. Again, he didn’t wait for a reply, but continued on back toward his seat. Terri seemed to glow when she leaned in, resting her head on Rick’s shoulder, her hand gently resting on her abdomen.

The rush of warmth that flowed through Brooke’s body was unbelievable as she felt small, delicate fingers lacing into hers. Their shared glance was enough for both as Brooke lightly squeezed Sam’s hand in hers. This Thanksgiving was truly special, and Brooke readily earmarked it for a special place in her memory.

Brooke took in a deep breath and resigned herself to working on things that were closer at hand, in this lifetime to be exact. She took a lingering look at the blonde nestled sweetly on the bed with the afghan thrown over her, then silently closed the door and moved back across the hall to her office.

Settling into her high-backed leather chair, Brooke retrieved the phone number of her long-time friend and set her call in motion. She looked down at her watch with the first sound of ringing. “Hmm…She’s young, she should still be up,” Brooke mumbled when she considered the time. The ringing continued until the phone was picked up.

“Humphreys’ here. Whatcha want?” The woman’s voice sounded distracted.

“Nice to talk to you, too.” Brooke paused for a few seconds before greeting her friend in her usual manner. “What’s up, Janet?”

“Brooke?” The woman sounded surprised, “Hey, don’t tell me that it’s time to celebrate again?” There was the sound of muffled laughter. “How old are we this year?”

“Well, we’re going to be thirty-one, but who’s counting.”

“I am for one, or did you forget that we’re the same age?” Janet paused then sounded a little puzzled. “Hey, wait a minute. We just did that a couple of months ago.” The sound of pages flipping wildly came over the phone. “Yeah, we did,” the woman chuckled, “in June.”

The dark-haired woman joined in the laughter. “And they told me you were losing it,” she teased.

“So why the call?” Janet paused before she did a little teasing of her own. “What’s the matter, no big stars to promote or did you just want to harass someone and my name was next on your list?”

“Well…” Brooke cleared her throat. “I know that we haven’t talked for a while, so I thought I’d give my longest living, best buddy a call and invite her out for lunch.” Brooke paused for a moment. “So, how about it?”

“Lunch, huh?” There was silence on the other end. “Why do I think there’s something else?”

Brooke could almost hear the wheels beginning to turn in Janet’s mind and spoke up rather hurriedly to prevent them from continuing to grind away. “You mean that you actually want a reason for me spending my time and money on you? Janet, I thought we were long past that point.”

“Oh, so you’re buying? You know us professors don’t make the money you executives do.” Janet readily chuckled, “For you Brooke, any time…as long as you’re the one paying. So when and where?”

“Well, let’s make it easy on you. I have no real set schedule. When are you free?” Brooke tried to act nonchalant about the whole idea.

“Yeah, rub it in,” Janet laughed.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s not you that has to babysit some of these groups at three in the morning when their buses break down in between gigs.” Brooke turned serious. “So, how about tomorrow? I’ll even come pick you up on the campus. What do you say…it will add some sparkle to your drab Monday routine?”

“You’ll be in town on Monday…tomorrow? What’s the occasion?”

“What do you mean? The campus is only an hour away,” Brooke rebuked.

“Come on, Brooke. I know you and that’s a big chunk out of the middle of a workday.”

“So?” Brooke paused for a moment. “What’ll it be…yes or no?”

“Hey, I’m not refusing.” Janet was quick to point out. “Yes, come get me at the campus.”

“Okay, what time?”

“Hmm…would one o’clock be too late for you? I have class until then.”

“Nope, that’ll be just fine.” Brooke smiled as she made a mental note for herself.

“Okay, I’ll see you then, Brooke.”

“Thanks, Janet. See you.” Brooke pulled the phone from her ear and then thinking of something, yelled out. “Hey, don’t hang up.”

“Yeah?”

“Where do you want me to meet you?”

Janet chuckled, “Good thinking Brooke, you still remember what happened last time, eh?”

“How could I forget sitting through a boring lecture on Quantum Physics waiting for you to show up? Nope, not doing that again. Where do you want me to meet you?”

“How about my office? It’s still in the same place since the last time you were there and my nameplate is even on the door. I’ll be the living and still breathing figure behind a desk that’s chock full of papers to correct. I’ll see you then, kid.”

“Ah…so you remember that age comes before beauty?” Brooke teased the woman for the mere fifteen minutes that they were born apart. They shared a good chuckle together before Brooke ended the conversation. “Well, I’d better let you go get that beauty sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow then. Bye.”

Putting the phone back onto her belt, Brooke sighed. “There, that’s taken care of.” She turned back to her computer and stared at the web site that filled the screen. It wasn’t long afterward that she heard her bedroom door sound with that familiar little squeak the hinge gave when it fully opened.

Seconds later, Sam was puttering down the hall and giving a polite little knock at the half-opened office door. “Hey, Brooke…” the woman brought her hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn.

“Yes, Darlin’?” Brooke minimized the web site on the screen and turned her chair to more openly face the door.

“I think I’m finally rested enough to go to bed now.” The blonde stretched her shoulder muscles. “God, who would have thought that one small child could wear you out for days? You going to come to bed any time soon?”

The dark-haired woman chuckled as she turned off the computer. “Okay, Darlin’, I get the message. I’m coming.” Brooke got out of the chair and headed out after Sam as she made her way back to the bed.

“Okay, I’ll be the lump on the right when you get here,” Sam mumbled as she entered the bedroom.

“And which right will that be…right on the bed or right looking at the bed?” By now the tall woman was only a step or so behind her lover.

“Right next to you, Love.” Sam rounded the corner of the bed, pulled down the covers, and then crawled in.

Brooke smiled as she turned into the bedroom noticing Mario still curled up on his large pillow. She shook her head at his comfortable repose and began to strip for bed. “What’s the matter, Mario…you still tired too?” The tall woman got under the covers of the bed as the dog barely moved his head to look at her, then slowly repositioned himself to the other side as his mistress did the same.

With the backside of the young woman nestled into her tall teddy bear lover, she whispered, “Night Brooke.” There were a few seconds of silence and then the name was spoken again. “Brooke?”

“Hmm…?” the older woman kissed Sam’s ear.

“Do you think that Chastity Loran will give us that much love?”

“As much as Julie did?”

“Yeah,” Sam sighed out the word.

Wrapping her arms around the woman in front of her, Brooke kissed Sam’s shoulder before answering. “No…”

“Huh?” Sam was caught off guard by the answer.

Brooke felt Sam’s muscles tighten up. “She’ll give us more,” she continued her statement.

“Oh…okay, I was hoping you meant that.” Sam relaxed again. “I think so, too.”

“Of course I mean that,” Brooke lightly kissed the blonde’s ear. “She’s gonna be crazy about you, Sam.” The tall woman closed any gaps her body may have had in touching the woman next to her and then draped her hand over the Sam’s side, letting it rest on the blonde’s stomach.

“Crazy, huh?” Sam turned her head back toward Brooke.

“Yep, crazy.” Brooke nodded for effect as she started to trace circles on Sam’s taut abs, dipping lower towards her pelvic region with each lazy circle.

“So…” the corners of Sam’s mouth turned slightly upward, “You trying to wake the baby up or what?”

The deep chuckle resonated in the darkened room. “Wish I could, but she’s not in there yet.”

“Hmm…I know, but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice the techniques that it will take to get her there,” Sam coyly offered, sounding more awake than before.

Brooke smiled, “And you know my philosophy…practice makes perfect.”

Sam turned to face the beaming woman next to her. “I was hoping you’d say that.” She locked her arms around Brooke’s neck and melded into a kiss.

The tall woman sauntered down the long corridor until she came to the door marked, Professor Janet T. Humphreys, Marketing Sciences. Brooke took her hand out of the pocket of her leather jacket and slowly ran a finger over the smooth-finished nameplate. The gentle upturn to the ends of her mouth showed the pleasure she took in her friend’s accomplishment. Casting her eye to the closed door, Brooke raised her hand and tapped out a playful rhythm on the wood, then leaned her shoulder up against the doorjamb and waited.

The rustling of papers was the background noise for the casually called out, “Come on in.”

Letting her hand drift down to the doorknob, Brooke turned it. Slowly pushing the door open as she remained leaning against the doorframe, Brooke peered into the office looking for her long-time friend. There, behind the huge metal desk with mountains of paperwork haphazardly placed atop it, stood a woman with long, brown hair. The precariously placed pair of glasses perched high on her head bobbed as she shuffled through a stack of papers rather intently.

The woman never looked up from her task. She just spoke as though it was the answer that she gave everyone. “And before you go any further, I’m not changing your grade or giving any make up exams.”

Brooke stood with her arms crossed over her chest, still leaning against the doorframe. “Well maybe I don’t want you to change my grade.” The tall woman looked around the room, then settled back on the woman at the desk. Damn, I can see that you haven’t gotten any neater with age, Janet. It’s time to have some fun. Brooke turned on her most sultry voice and started to tease her old friend. “Maybe I just wanna try to seduce you into a better grade. What do you say to that, teach?”

“Huh?” The harried woman lifted her head to see who was coming into her office. “Oh, it’s you, Brooke. I should have known.” She glanced down at her watch and nodded, “It is almost one.”

The leather-clad woman nodded her greeting, “Just checking to see if you were paying attention.” Brooke stepped inside the office and smiled.

“Well, if I was, you’d know it…” Janet paused for a moment, looking the tall woman over, letting a delicious smile come to her face, “…but then again, John wouldn’t let me celebrate with you anymore.” She gave a soft chuckle, as she winked. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to treat you like one of the students…” she started, then waved her friend in, “…it’s just an old habit. You say the same thing around here often enough and soon it just keeps repeating itself.” She shuffled another stack of papers and moved them to the only empty space that there was. “I’ll be with you in a second as soon as I find something.”

The musician scratched her cheek as she watched her friend immerse herself back into the piles of paperwork. “What are you looking for, Janet?”

“I’ve got to get out a release for companies to employ my students during their internships. I use it every year. I have contacts in some of the companies that we use every year but I’m always on the lookout for new ones.” She flipped through a stack of paperwork rather disgustedly, then moved onto the next one. “Hey!” Intense hazel eyes flashed up to stare at the woman in the doorway. “You’re a CEO now that you’ve got the record company. Why didn’t I think of you before? Would you care to take an intern on yourself?”

Brooke held her breath as she let the words invoke visions in her head. Feeling the heat of a blush starting at the base of her neck, she quickly took off her jacket and slung it over her shoulder. “Ah…” Brooke tried to give the appearance of mulling the questions over. Okay, so I don’t have to ask for an intern now, but…do I really want to look that eager? The tall woman shifted her weight, bringing a finger up to tap against her pursed lips meditatively.

“Come on, Brooke, we were all students once. You know how hard it is to find people that will really teach these kids the ropes. If I remember clearly…” Janet pulled her glasses down off her head and put them on, giving the tall woman the once over, “…you were one of them, too.”

“Okay,” Brooke nodded. “You’ve got me there. When you find those forms, I’ll fill one out.”

“You sure?” Janet watched her friend for any sign of misgivings as she motioned for Brooke to close the door.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Actually, that’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about.”

“You know, some of them can be a real challenge,” she whispered, then nodded. “I could arrange for you to…”

“Nope,” Brooke crossed her fingers as she thought about what she was about to say. God, don’t let me screw this up. “I’ll just tell you what I’m looking for and you can give me your best match up. You make the call, Janet.” Of course, I’ll stack the deck in Sam’s favor.

The professor picked up another stack of paper and sorted through it. “You know that this is for Public Relations work, right?” She cast a quick glance to Brooke, then back down to the papers. “I’m not doing a class on how to be a groupie here,” she teased.

Grasping her chest with her free hand, Brooke faked a surprised pain. “Janet,” she drawled out in a hurt tone, “…that was cruel.” Brooke straightened up and let a lone eyebrow raise high on her forehead, “I know that it would be for Public Relations work. You know, that I never did that groupie thing.”

Janet looked up and winked. “I know. I just didn’t want those rumor mills to go dry.” She looked back down at the papers in her hands, “Ah-ha, here it is.”

The woman grabbed the top sheet and took several quick steps to the copier in the corner of her office. “One benefit to letting them keep it here,” she smirked referring to the copier. “If they only knew my ulterior motive. You know that they say we have a motive for everything we do.” The woman cast a quick glance over her shoulder, then concentrated on punching a few numbers on the machine’s operation panel.

The Sahara Desert suddenly sprung out of nowhere and settled in Brooke’s mouth as she tried to nervously swallow. She knows…she knows. I know she knows what I’m really here for. The palms of her hands became cold and clammy. She closed her eyes and tried not to think of being without Sam in the months to come. Good God Sam, don’t hate me if I screw this up for us. Brooke listened to the whirring sound of the copier for a moment as she tried to compose her thoughts. When she opened them, a rather eager looking professor was standing in front of her.

“So, here you go.” Janet held out a copy of the form for her to take. “Hot off the press.” The woman winked and giggled. “You can’t say that I didn’t give you one first,” she held out the paper for Brooke to take. “You know, the sooner you fill it out and get it back to me, the better choice you get.”

Even though every fiber in Brooke’s body screamed to grab the paper and run to the desk, hurriedly fill it out and hand it back to the woman before her, she didn’t. Instead, the tall woman looked at it for what she thought was close to an eternity, before she slowly extended her hand and took it from Janet’s grip. “Ah…great,” Brooke said hesitantly as she looked the form over, then rolled it up, tapping it nervously against her leg. “So, you ready for some lunch?”

The other woman nodded. “Yeah, I scouted things out for us. Let’s head on over to the Student Union, I hear Chicken Salad is the special today.” Janet looked over and winked at her friend. “I bet you haven’t had one of those since we graduated.”

Brooke nodded and turned to walk out the door, rolling her eyes at the thought. She knows…everyone knows. “Great,” the tall woman sighed, “…just great.” She glanced at the small mirror on the wall next to the door. Well, at least it’s not tattooed on my forehead yet.

Looking up from the form in front of her, Brooke pushed it across the table, then resumed her meal that she’d only picked at until now. “Okay, here ya go, Janet. Wanna look it over?”

The brown-haired woman let her eyes focus on the neatly filled out form. “Hmm…” she barely had it in her hand when she pointed out a flaw. “I think you missed a spot. Here…” Janet tapped the paper with her fork, “…I need to know what background, not hair color. And if blonde is your answer, I think you’re in the wrong business, my friend. Since when did the music worry about hair coloring.” The woman shook her head, “No, don’t go there…I know anyone can be a blonde.” Janet’s mouth curled up into a smile as she looked over at the woman across from her. “Yes, even you Brooke, so let’s not go there.”

The tall woman blew out a breath. “Oh…uh…sorry.” Brooke could feel the blush as it came to her cheeks. “My mind was somewhere else.” She grabbed the form and amended it, then handed it back to her friend. “Here you go.”

Janet studied Brooke for a long moment, then smirked. “You got your sights on someone?” She turned and looked around to see what could possibly have Brooke so distracted.

“Well, I…uhm…I…uh…” Brooke stuttered, not knowing what to say. “I was just trying to hurry and help you out.” She took her fork and played with the salad in front of her. “You know, friends do that sometimes for no reason at all.” Brooke paused for a second, then said it again, keeping it fresh in Janet’s mind. “Help other friends out, that is.”

Seeing no one that stood out in the room, Janet looked back to the paper in her hands. After skimming over it, the professor quickly ran through her students in her mind. “Hmm…I’ve got several that could fill this request.”

A strained look at being casual brought a flash of blues eyes up to meet the intently watching hazel ones. “Oh, yeah?” Brooke saw the look on her friend’s face and let her eyes gaze back to her plate. “Well, I definitely want a senior. You know, someone who’s almost done with college.”

“You got plans for them afterward, Brooke?” Janet paused when she saw the dark-haired woman stop in mid motion as she raised the fork to her mouth. “I’ve got a wonderful computer nerd, Brandon and then there’s always Cory. He’s great with graphics and then there’s…”

“Ah…” Brooke swallowed hard knowing that these names were not the one she wanted to hear, “I was thinking it might be someone with a strong musical background.”

“Music?” Janet said, rather amused. “Oh, yeah, that is what Brownstone is all about,” she teased the executive, “…isn’t it?” The long time friend quickly let the teasing drop when she saw the familiar raised eyebrow. “Music, huh?” Janet got back to the business at hand. “Now, that could be a problem.”

“Problem?” Brooke’s voice cracked as she tried to hide her concern. “Why?”

“Have you heard what the kids listen to these days?” Janet looked to the heavens and shook her head. “It’s trash, garbage, noise…not like in our day.”

The raised eyebrow made another appearance as Brooke leveled her gaze at Janet. “Should I remind you who produces some of that music, my dear professor?” There was a long moment of silence before both women seated at the table and let out a round of laughter.

“Oops, I guess I kind of forgot,” Janet hid her face behind a napkin, then wiped her mouth with it and laughed some more.

“Seriously Janet,” Brooke leaned on the table with her elbows, looking her friend in the eye. “I don’t want someone who just listens to music. I want someone who believes in it.” The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes, “I could care less about the graphics and computer use of it all. I want someone who is going to want to do this…to live and breathe music…to make it be their life.” Brooke sat back in her chair. “If they’re not happy with it, then I won’t be happy with their work.”

Janet was impressed at the dedication Brooke demanded of herself and those who would work for her. “Wow! You were always the kind who had deep feelings for everything that you did. I remember that now.” The woman paused, then slowly started shaking her head. “And you want me to find you the same kind of student? You’ve got to be kidding. These youngsters won’t even commit to a date for next week and you…”

“I don’t want a younger version of me, just…” Brooke interrupted her friend, “…someone close…someone that…” The tall woman suddenly became distracted with the sight of a familiar blonde who walked into the room.

“Ah…so, you want someone that…” Janet noticed that Brooke’s eyes were tracking someone as they crossed the room. Turning in her chair, the professor smiled seeing one of her students headed in her direction. “Maybe you just need to interview them yourself, Brooke. In fact, why don’t we? Here’s one of my students now.” Janet turned back to the table and looked at the growing smile on Brooke’s face.

Brooke hadn’t heard a word that Janet was saying. The executive’s mind was on other, more important things at the moment once her eyes met with those familiar green orbs. God, doesn’t she just look fantastic? Man, what I wouldn’t give to be with her right now…and to think that I dropped her off just a few hours ago. Sam, you can wave all you want to me as long as it’s a hello wave and not good-bye.

Pushing her chair back, Janet stood up, waving at the blonde to get her attention. “Here, let me introduce you to one of them. Sam…” she called out and waved again, getting the girl’s attention. “Oh Sam, can you come here for a few seconds?”

The blonde pointed to her chest and watched the professor nod. She headed for the table, as she drank in the image of her tall lover who was getting up and stood at the table to greet her. Sam pulled her attention away from Brooke long enough to be polite. “Yes, Mrs. Humphreys?” Out of the corner of her eye, the young woman caught the wink that Brooke had just given her and couldn’t help but smile.

“Now this,” Janet turned back to look at Brooke, “…is one of my senior students.”

Curious, Sam mouthed out to her lover what was on her mind. “What are you doing here?”

Brooke grinned and waited for the woman to direct her attention back to Sam. She then shrugged, blowing her a discreet kiss.

“Sam…”

“Yes,” the blonde focused once again on her teacher when her name was called.

“Sam, this is Brooke Gordon. She’s one of my oldest friends,” Janet turned to look over at the tall woman and chuckled. She watched as, oddly enough, Brooke pulled out a chair and offered it to the student.

“Honestly, Janet…” Brooke smiled as Sam took the seat offered to her. “…We already know each other. She’s ah…she’s C.C.’s roommate this year.”

Sam glanced at the dark-haired woman then smiled, gazing back at her instructor. “Yeah, that’s right. I room at the dorm with C.C.”

Surprised by the revelation but not letting that show, Janet took a seat as well, “So, you know each other? Well, that might be good.” She directed her next question to Sam. “Maybe you can answer a few of Brooke’s questions then?” She turned to look at a completely at ease woman resting her chin in her hand as she gazed at the blonde.

“So…” Brooke chose her topic, then asked, and “How was class today?”

Sam smiled innocently, “Not bad, although, I can’t seem to keep my eyes open on Monday mornings.” The blonde giggled, then realized that she’d just left one of Humphreys’ courses not an hour ago. Turning quickly to the professor at the table, she amended her answer. “It’s not you or your class Mrs. Humphreys, it’s ah…I just don’t seem to get enough sleep on the weekends.” Green eyes darted to blue then settled back on her professor.

Brooke felt compelled to offer her suggestion, even if she did tease her lover. “Maybe you should start sleeping a bit more at night…or go to bed earlier.” Brooke looked to Sam, waiting for an answer.

“I’m amazed, Brooke.” Janet noticed the rapport the two had. “You sound like she’s another sister of yours or something.”

“Sorry,” the musician turned her focus to Janet. “What were you saying?”

“Ah…Professor,” Sam spoke up. “What did you want, exactly?”

“Well, I wanted your views on music.” Janet sat back and folded her hands on the table. “What do you think of it?”

Brooke caught the blonde’s eyes, then gave a little wiggle to her eyebrows in challenge.

“Hmm…” Sam looked from one woman to the other. “I know that music is a way to express one’s self. That if you let it, it can take you away to worlds that can be…uh…” the blonde shrugged, “…exciting and filled with emotion.”

Janet glanced over to Brooke, noticing the smile that graced her face, her eyes riveted on to Sam’s every word.

“It’s a kind of outpouring of the heart,” Sam continued, then looked down into her lap, where her hands were resting, in a moment of shyness, as she grew quiet. Surprised by the sensation of Brooke’s familiar touch as the tall woman gave her lover a comforting squeeze, Sam glanced up at the dark-haired woman. The blonde quickly slipped her hand away trying to keep her mind concentrated on her answer. She tapped on the table with her finger, then shrugged. “I guess that’s it.”

“Hmm…interesting.” Janet voiced her opinion. “What do you think, Brooke? You’re in that industry.”

“I…uh…I’d have to agree with her, Janet. She’s completely…” Brooke placed her hand on the table and drew forms with her finger on the tablecloth, “…completely right with her perceptions of what music is all about. For that matter, what life is all about.” The dark-haired woman glanced from Sam to Janet, then back down at the table. “Well, at least in my opinion it is.”

The professor watched as Brooke’s penless doodling brought her closer and closer to where the young blonde’s arm rested on the table. Just when Janet anticipated the interception of one hand with the other, Brooke pulled back, letting it end with a gentle pat on Sam’s hand.

Seeing the puzzled, but slightly amused face of her instructor, Sam shifted in her chair. “Ah…Professor Humphreys…” she waited for the woman’s attention, “I’ve got a class in a few minutes, is that all you needed from me?”

“Well…” Janet rubbed her chin, studying her long time friend. “I ah…I think that’s all I need.” She waved her hand at the blonde. “Thanks, Sam. You’ve told me enough. Maybe I’ll finally be able to make some sense out of my friend here.” She motioned to Brooke and nodded.

“I was glad I could…ah…help.” Sam answered cautiously, then stood up to leave. “I’ll see you later for class then, Mrs. Humphreys.” She turned toward Brooke and nodded, “Brooke.”

The tall woman reached out to stop Sam as she turned away to leave. “Ah, Sam?” Brooke watched as green eyes gazed back at her. “When you see my sister, C.C.,” she intensified her gaze, “…give her my love.”

She watched as Sam nodded with a knowing smile that the message was for her and not C.C. Suddenly Brooke realized that her face was conveying the love that was in her heart. It was right then, she knew she had screwed up. Her mind flashed with the image of the same look she had seen in her parents’ faces after that toast. She wiped the beaming smile from her face, then sank slowly back into her chair as she visually followed the blonde on her way out of the room. Seeing Sam stop short at the door and wave back at her, Brooke sighed, then closed her eyes waiting for the inquisition to begin.

Janet studied her old friend for a long moment, then asked. “So, are you going to tell me what that was all about or do I have to guess?”

“Uh…what?” The executive bit nervously at her lip. “What are you talking about?” Brooke’s eyes darted around the plates on the table, never rising to look her friend in the eye.

“You,” Janet chuckled at Brooke’s nervous stalling, “You big fraud. Remember, I’ve known you since birth.” The professor lowered her voice. “Does she know that you’re…ah…you know…a lesbian?”

Brooke swallowed hard, “Yeah, she knows.” Oh, how well she knows me, Janet? You’d be surprised.

The woman sat back in her chair. “I keep forgetting how open you and your family are. So, tell me, Brooke did it shock her?”

Suddenly Brooke wasn’t hungry and she pushed her plate away. “No.”

“Hmm…I figured as much.” Janet leaned forward, “She’s a pretty open-minded kid.” The professor smiled, “I bet C.C.’s happy to have her.”

“I…ah…yeah, I guess so. They seem to get along great.”

“Good thing, with those rooms being so small and all.” Janet shook her head. “Jeez, I don’t see how two of them could be sharing one room without being really close,” she smirked as she watched for Brooke’s reaction.

“Well…” Brooke rolled her shoulders, unconsciously. “C.C. has had no trouble with her and Sam isn’t there on the weekends.”

“I bet.” Janet watched Brooke intently. “Sam always seems so accommodating.”

“Accommodating?” The lone eyebrow raised in question.

“You mean you haven’t noticed?” Janet winked. “I see the two of them on campus a lot. Makes me think that they could be joined at the…uh…hip or something.” She watched as Brooke’s expression changed.

“No, it’s not like that with C.C., Janet.”

“Are you sure?”

“They’re just best friends…” Brooke defended them. “I’m positive.”

“Say, wasn’t it about this age that you came out of the closet?

“Well, yeah…but C.C.’s not…they’re not…”

“And just how would you know about how Sam spends her weekends? Hmm…?” Janet smiled knowingly at Brooke and waited for her suspicions to be confirmed.

“Well, I…uh…I…” the executive realized that she couldn’t hide it any longer and she let her shoulders slump forward as she uttered her last word, “Busted?”

The professor nodded, “Most definitely busted.” Janet picked up the form that was lying on the table and shoved it into her purse. “Well, that’s one less to fret over.”

“What?” Blues eyes flashed with worry.

“Why should I worry about placing her when you’ve obviously already made my mind up for me.”

Fearing that her worse nightmare was about to come true, Brooke looked down at the table and confided in her friend. “You know, I wasn’t going to ask for you to let her work for me. I…uh…was just hoping that…” Brooke swallowed hard, “…I don’t know. You’d keep her in the area at least.”

“Hmm…” Janet leaned in and stared at the woman across from her.

“I uh…I know that she could be placed anywhere.” Brooke took in a breath and let it out, then repeated the word, looking into Janet’s gaze. “Anywhere for the entire semester and…”

The professor locked gazes with her friend. “Well, Brooke, this sheds a whole new light on things. I’m going to have to really think about this before I make any kind of decision as to where I place her now.”

“Janet, you know that I’d be fair. I wouldn’t let her just ride out the term…because we are…” Brooke hesitated when she saw the stern look on the woman’s face. “Awe, fuck,” Brooke muttered under her breath as she leaned back into the chair and closed her eyes to the pain. I am so sorry, Sam. God, why does it have to hurt so bad?

“Do you still want to offer the internship, if Sam’s not the one to get it?” Janet held out the form in her hand. “Brooke, I need to know that you’ll honor your word and treat whoever I send you with the utmost dignity and respect. I’ll need to know that you’ll teach them and be a mentor without any malice because of the outcome.” The professor waited as Brooke thought for a moment, then slowly nodded her head.

“Yeah, I’ll honor the offer. I gave you my word when I signed the form.”

“You know, Brooke, I could really care less but how would it look to anyone else? I mean… I don’t really care if you hired her right out of school and spent every free moment in your office doing whatever it is that you do together. But right now…it’s still my turf. It’s my call. Think of the field day that the papers would have it they found out that, after knowing you two are involved, I placed her in your employ for her internship.”

“All that I’m asking, is for you to give Sam the best placement that she deserves. I’m not asking it for me. I’m asking that for her. She deserves to have the mentor that will teach her the most and offer her the challenges that she needs in order to grow.” Sad blue eyes looked up, locking onto Janet’s face. “I know that even if you’d take yourself out of the picture and let someone else do the placing, I’d have a snowball’s chance in hell to have her be matched up with my company. But I’m willing to take it…I’m more than willing to take that chance, Janet.” Brooke sighed, then muttered half to herself, “I have to…I love her too much to just let her walk out of my life.”

The brunette looked over to the pathetic looking woman who sat on the edge of Sam’s bed, as she slowly rocked back and forth, deep in thought. This was a pensive, almost despairing, side of Brooke that was rarely seen. C.C. knew that something had happened. The only thing that she needed to know was what, before she could try to help.

“So, you’re all bummed out about what, Sis?” C.C. continued selecting her outfit for the evening from her closet as she tried to figure out what was troubling Brooke. “You look like you just lost your best set of drums in a card game.” The brunette glanced over to Brooke, but there was no change in her demeanor. “You got some trouble at work?

The sulking woman knew that once C.C. started prying, she’d never stop. Her and that damn inquiring mind. I might as well tell her. God, how am I going to tell Sam? Brooke felt her heart quicken with the thought as the ache grew within her chest. She swallowed hard and started slowly. “I…I just had lunch with Janet.”

“Janet, eh?” C.C. noticed the ashen appearance to her normally healthy looking sister and decided to take the lighter approach. “It’s not your birthdays again, is it? Or are you two just planning something bigger than your usual night on the town this year?”

The dark-haired woman lifted her eyes to her sister’s concerned face. “Yeah, Janet…” Brooke mumbled, “…and no to the second part.”

C.C. took the sweater off its hanger and held it up to her as she made her mind up about it. “Something up with her? She’s not ill is she?”

“No…she’s ah…”

“Divorce…new baby…what?” The brunette shifted her eyes to her sister.

“She’s Sam’s Public Relations Professor.” The words tumbled dryly out of Brooke’s mouth as though it was the key to some hidden treasure.

“Humph…” C.C. smirked, “Imagine that. Small world, huh?”

Pensive blue eyes studied the brunette for a moment before revealing more of her life for the woman to see. “I signed the paperwork to accept an intern at Brownstone for the semester.”

The young woman let out a laugh. “I bet Janet had a good laugh at that one. Imagine you, Ms. I’ll-Do-It-Myself mentoring someone.” C.C. shook her head at the thought. The young woman turned in time to see her sister rolling her eyes at the perceived concept that everyone had of the musician. “So, who are you hoping for?”

Brooke took in a deep breath, then slowly let it out before she spoke. “Honestly?” She looked up to C.C.’s concerned gaze. “Sam.” Brooke bit back on her lower lip as the events of the shared meal came rushing through her head once more. When the snippet of replay froze on the entrance of blonde hair, the tall woman leaped up from the bed and started to pace using only a few long, legged steps to cover the entire length of the dorm room. “Oh God, C.C., I was talking to Janet while we were eating lunch at the Student Union and Sam showed up.”

Brown eyes followed the woman back and forth for a moment before curiosity got the better of her. Tossing the clothing in her hand to her bed, C.C. stepped closer to her sister as the woman started her turn. “And…?” C.C. looked up, seeing the terror in her sister’s eyes. “Scoop, girl, scoop. You know us inquiring minds, we’ve got to know.”

The older woman stood perfectly silent, as the continuously running scene played out in her head again.

Desperate to know, C.C.’s mind began to come up with possible scenarios of the meeting. “What the hell did you do? Kiss Sam?” Then another scenario caught her attention and the woman’s brown eyes grew bigger. The brunette took hold of her sibling’s shoulders and shook her. “Good God, Brooke…tell me you two didn’t clear the table in the middle of the Student Union and…and…”

“I might as well have,” the whispered words showed the numbness of Brooke’s soul. “I think I blew it. Janet knows about Sam now.”

Questioning eyes searched the tall woman’s face for answers. “She knows what…that Sam’s gay? Brooke, she doesn’t hide it. Everyone knows she’s gay. She told me the first night we roomed together. She’s not ashamed of it.”

Brooke closed her eyes and bit back on her lower lip.

Sensing that Sam’s sexual preference was not the issue here, C.C. sought more answers for her inquisitive mind. “Okay, so that’s not it. Come on, Brooke, I need more to go on than lip biting.” The brunette crossed her arms in front of her chest and cocked her head to the side. “Let’s start from the beginning then. How did you explain knowing Sam to Janet?”

“Well, she already knew that you two were friendly and…” Brooke cast her eyes to the floor, then nervously glanced up at C.C.’s face. “And…” she shook her head, “Oh Hell, I don’t know…” the tall woman pushed past her sister and sat back down on Sam’s bed. “I guess she could tell by the look on my face.”

“Whoa!” C.C. spun around to face her sister. “I thought you wanted to tell the world about the two of you. Is this one of those double standard things? You know, okay for the family but not anyone else. Brooke if you’re worried about what you’re friends might say…”

Blue orbs flashed faster than the glitter of a rare jewel being hit by the sun for the first time. “I do want everybody to know.” Brooke’s chest shot out and her shoulders squared for the first time since she’d arrived at the dorm. “I’m not ashamed of Sam or the fact that we’re lovers. It’s just that…” the woman paused, then vocalized what really was on her mind. “Now, I don’t know what Janet’s going to think about the whole intern thing. I wasn’t really asking for Sam. I just wanted to know how good the chances are of keeping her in the area.” Brooke looked at her sister in earnest. “You know, if there’s anything good enough for her here.”

There was a moment of silence, then Brooke confided in her sister. “C.C., I don’t think I’d survive being away from her for five months.”

The brunette studied the pathetic looking face on her sister and sat down on the bed with her. “Sis…” C.C. patted her sister’s hand. “I’m sorry to say it…but I think you just sent your girl to Siberia.”

The woman let her chin drop to her chest, uttering a single word, “Great.” There was a long drawn out moment of silence, then Brooke’s deep voice rumbled out her thoughts. “Thanks for making me feel better, Chase.” Unaware of the door opening up into the room, she shook her head, then mumbled ambiguously. “I really fucked this up.”

The small blonde dynamo bustled into the room and whirled around to see Brooke and C.C. sitting on her bed. “Hey, now what can be so bad?”

Two pairs of Gordon family eyes lifted to meet the serendipitous woman who had just entered the room, but only one chose to speak. “Hi, Sweetheart.”

The lackluster response of her lover caught Sam’s attention and she quickly remembered the words that she had heard as she came through the doorway. “Fucked what up, Hon?” Sam’s eyes were full of concern for her loved one. “Did you lose out on a new band?”

Sam sat her armful of books down on the desk, then moved over toward Brooke and placed a gentle hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Not talking, huh?” She leaned down, then looked into Brooke’s eyes and wondered what was wrong.

The blonde studied her lover’s face for a moment then glanced over to C.C., getting the impression that there was more going on than she knew about. Sam leaned in and placed a soft kiss on Brooke’s head, then moved back toward her stack of books on the desk. “So, what was that whole thing with Humphreys about…? You know, I just about died when I saw you there in the Student Union, when I was cutting through for my next class.”

“Well, I…ah…”

“Hey,” Sam turned around and took a step closer to her bed so that she could touch her hip against Brooke’s shoulder, then leaned down and whispered in her ear. “It really did make my day go faster.” Sam winked and gave her another quick kiss but this time on her cheek.

The stunned woman touched her check, feeling for the kiss, hoping that it would not be the last one she would share with Sam, once she found out her misfortune. Mustering all the courage that she could, Brooke admitted, “Sam…I think I just screwed up royally.”

“Huh?” Sam looked to her lover. “Would you care to explain that a little more in detail?”

“Janet and I met for lunch and well…” Brooke took in deep breath.

“Hey,” Sam rubbed Brooke’s hand with her own. “If you’re worried about introducing me as C.C.’s roomie, I understand.”

“You noticed, huh?” Blue eyes darted to green. “I just wanted to see how good the chances are for you to intern in the area…” Brooke paused. “You know, one that would be perfect for you and…well…” she shrugged her shoulders. “Your Professor knows about us now. I guess it was that look on my face that gave it away when I asked you to tell C.C. that I loved her.”

“Well…you know what I say.” Sam wrapped her arm around Brooke and gave her a squeeze. “I say that I don’t care who knows. I thought we were clear on this, Hon.”

“Yeah, but…I also signed the paperwork to accept an intern…” she looked over to Sam, hoping that she would understand. “Now, C.C. thinks you’re going to be sent to Siberia.”

“Ah…You’re giving someone a chance.” Sam thought for a moment, suddenly realizing her lover’s hopeful intentions. “Oh…oh, I see.” The blonde pursed her lips deep in thought then verbalized them. “C.C. doesn’t think that your friend will keep me here now…huh?” She studied her lover, then got up and walked a step or two away. “Brooke…answer me two questions, okay?”

“Well, yeah. You know I will, Sam.” Brooke’s brow furrowed as she contemplated what they might be.

“I know that Humphreys is married, but did she ever…I mean…when you were younger…have a crush on you or try to date you?”

“No,” the answer came without Brooke having to even think about it. “Why would you even think such a thing? Sam, Darlin’, you know that you’re the only one who captured my heart.”

Sam looked to C.C. seeing the mirrored denial on her face. “I know.” Sam’s softly spoken words showed her sorrow for having to ask the question. “I…I was just trying to figure out where the Professor was coming from.” She gazed into Brooke’s face, hoping to be forgiven. “Okay, now for the second question. If she’s your friend, wouldn’t Janet want to see you happy?”

“Yeah…” Brooke nodded. “I would hope so.”

“Well, why worry about it?” Sam shrugged her shoulders and let out a sigh. “She’ll make the right decision Brooke, face it.”

“But you didn’t hear the whole…” Brooke raised her hands and used her fingers to make quotation marks in the air. “How would everybody react if they found out that she knew about us and kept you here?”

“Brooke, Honey…” Sam tried to reason with her, “…it’s out of our hands, whichever way it goes.”

Sighing, Brooke finally nodded in agreement. “I know. I’m sorry, Sam.”

“Hey, I appreciate the thought.” The blonde smiled radiantly just thinking about working side by side with her lover. “If it happens that I would get assigned to your company, we’ll just be the professionals that I know we can be.” Sam cleared her throat, “And what we do in our spare time…well…” the young woman smiled lecherously at Brooke, “…that is for us to know.”

Overcome with the biggest grin that she thought her face could ever have, Brooke’s mood changed dramatically as she got up from the bed and wrapped strong, loving arms around the blonde. “I love you, Sam.” She gazed into the woman’s eyes for only a moment before she was compelled to give actions to her emotions and slowly brought their lips together in a kiss.

After the kiss ended, Brooke shyly chuckled.

“What?” Sam’s eyes searched her lover’s face.

“You know, I never did get dessert after lunch with Janet.” Dark eyebrows wiggled a time or two, and then Brooke’s smile grew bigger as her one eyebrow temptingly challenged her mate.

C.C. sat there on Sam’s bed watching the romantic little interlude play out right before her very eyes until she dreaded what might be next. “Ah…” the brunette jumped up from the bed. “Well, look at that.” She tapped her totally absorbed sister on the shoulder. “Why don’t we all go out for dinner? Then you can have dessert, while I study in the library. Hmmm…?” Brown eyes sparkled at the thought of her idea and she tried to move her sister toward the door.

“That’s just like you, Chase.” Brooke shook her head as she still maintained eye contact with Sam. “You’re always thinking with your stomach.”

“Hey, if it was my stomach that I was thinking with, Sis, I’d send out for a pizza and stay home.”

Brooke turned her head toward her sister. “Oh…excuse me. Let me rephrase that.” Blue eyes glared at the brunette. “Just like you Chase, always thinking with my wallet.” Brooke showed her sister a contemptuous grin, thinking that she’d hit the nail on the head.

Undaunted in her effort, C.C. reached for the door while still tugging on Brooke’s sleeve. “Well, that…and my roomie.” The brunette rolled her eyes and smiled. “Come on, Brooke, we all know how much better you perform on a full stomach.” C.C. winked at the blonde and then took off running through the now opened door.
Ch19 All I Need Is For You To Believe
“…Sometimes we raise our guns of pain but I’ll be your defender… So lay down your arms and Baby, let’s Surrender… ”
The bustle of the collegiate bar wasn’t distracting to the woman as she sat in her small booth focusing on the box in front of her. She’d spent many a time in this bar during her college years, sipping a cold one and just thinking of how she wanted her life to be. It stood to reason that now she was doing the same thing.

Brooke reflexively took a long draw on her bottle of beer, letting her gaze fall upon the label as she brought it back down to the table. Molson, huh? I even knew back then. A smile lit up her face as she thought of her numerous toasts throughout, the years all ending in that same rambling phrase of hers. She found it coming off of her lips once again, then smiled, “Sam Addams forever, but Molson for life.”

She snapped open the box in front of her and looked at the ring inside, letting her eyes transfix on it as her mind conjured up the image of one, smiling blonde. Hesitantly, Brooke’s fingertip touched the stone, admiring the dazzle that came from it, even in the subdued lighting of the bar. It immediately brought the stored images of Sam’s twinkling eyes to the forefront of her mind and there, she held her breath, reveling in the love that they shared. Lost in her thoughts, Brooke never saw her sister enter the bar and wave in her direction.

“Will you look at that…” C.C. shook her head as she started over in Brooke’s direction, “…she’s probably thinking about tonight.” The young woman sauntered along the length of the bar, then turned to cut through the crowd. As she quickly stepped around a table or two, she dodged an ill begotten hand reaching out for her backside. C.C. turned to glare at the owner of the wayward extremity as she grabbed it and politely laid it back down on the table.

Looking directly into the young man’s eyes, C.C. smiled. “You know, you’re cute but that claw of yours leaves a lot to be desired. I’d think twice before you use it again or I’ll have to sic big sister on you.” The young woman stepped slightly to the side and glanced over at the booth where Brooke was seated. “I’d hate to have to interrupt her from her thoughts,” C.C. turned back to the pensive young man. “She gets a little upset when someone hits on her baby sister.”

She watched as the young man looked over to the booth and then slowly nodded. She could tell that his fancies were already changing to that of a slightly older woman. “I’d reconsider that thought if I were you.” C.C. tapped him on his forehead, “She’s already spoken for and trust me, you don’t want to meet up with the other half of that love connection.”

“Bigger, huh?” He looked up into C.C.’s face and waited for an answer.

A knowing smile came to the brunette’s face as she thought about her roommate. Deciding that no words could equivocate Sam’s small stature, she simply stated, “And very possessive.” Seeing the look of dismay on his face, C.C. patted his hand in a comforting fashion, then left, moving toward her sister’s booth.

Pausing for a moment before sliding into the booth, C.C. eyed the small box but couldn’t make out what was held inside it. “Well, you didn’t have to buy me a gift for letting you have the room tonight, but thanks,” the brunette slid into the seat as she reached for the box. “You know, gift wrapping and bows say so much more but this will be…”

Blue eyes stared at C.C., and a low growl started in Brooke’s throat as she quickly snapped the box lid shut, encasing it in her hand.

“Whoa! And I just told that jerk,” the young woman pointed her thumb over to the table with the now chastised man, “that Sam was the possessive one.” C.C. sat back in her seat with her hands in her lap. “Boy, was I wrong.”

Brooke took in a breath and shook her head. “Nope, you were right. Sam’s possessed me for longer than I’ve even known her.” The older woman looked back at the label on her beer bottle. “C.C. do you…I mean…would you…” she bit at her lip, “…if you were Sam…I mean.” The musician’s mouth became dry and she hurriedly reached for the bottle of Molson to help her out of her bind. Setting the bottle back down after taking a drink, Brooke half choked on her last swallow as she tried to speak. The words just weren’t coming, so she did the next best thing, she opened the box and sheepishly turned it so that her sister could see what it held.

Seeing the ring and how nervous her sister was acting, C.C. made light of the situation. “Damn, Brooke, how’d you know what I wanted for Christmas?”

“Not you, stupid.” Brooke glared at C.C. “It’s for Sam.” The woman’s eyes softened with the sound of the name. “I’m…I’m going to…”

Brown eyes lit up, “Propose?” C.C. looked at her sister, and shook her head. “Damn, what’s making you move so fast now, when it took you thirty years to meet her?”

“I…I don’t want to lose her, C.C. I can’t…I’d…” Brooke took in a deep breath and then let it out.

Seeing that her sister was on the near side of panic, C.C. snatched the ring right out of the box and tried to slide it onto her finger. “Damn, I thought all rings came in my size…a perfect seven.”

“They do, but I had this one sized down to Sam’s finger already.”

“She knows and she didn’t tell me?” C.C. put the ring back into the box and watched as Brooke closed the lid. “I’m going to have to call her up on the Roommate’s Rights Act. Holding out important information on me like that just ain’t fair.”

“She doesn’t know, C.C. I haven’t even asked her yet.”

“Then how would you know what size her finger is?”

Brooke smiled. “C.C. when you get to know someone intimately, you know everything about them.” The dark-haired woman winked as she teased her sister. “You ought to try it sometime, but that takes longer than a date or two.”

C.C. stuck out her tongue, aiming it directly at Brooke just as the waitress came around.

“Can I get you another beer?” The redhead directed her question to Brooke, as she carried a tray of empties in her hand.

“No thanks, but you could bring over a Shirley Temple for my baby sister here.” Brooke nodded toward the brunette who was now trying to hide her act of childishness by wetting her lips. “C.C., would you like a cherry with that?” Brooke could see the actions in her sister’s face building up to another tongue showing episode.

“Yes, thank you.” C.C. smiled at the waitress as she kicked Brooke’s boot under the table.

“Oww…” Brooke shot a glare at her sweetly smiling sister. “I’ll…I’ll be fine with this,” Brooke picked up her bottle and raised it up to the waitress before bringing it to her mouth, taking a sip from it.

“Okay, I’ll go get your drink.” The waitress moved away, casting a look or two over her shoulder to the booth she’d just left.

“Thanks, Sis. Now I’ll get carded every time I come in here.” C.C. flicked her hair back over her shoulder. “You’re not helping my image any.”

The young woman braced for another quick comeback, but received none. Instead, Brooke toyed with the box in her hand.

There was a long pause before C.C.’s curiosity got the better of her. “So…if Sam doesn’t know yet, when are you planning on asking her?”

Brooke tapped on the box a time or two and shrugged. “Don’t know yet. But I do know that the time has to be right. I want everything about this to be perfect.”

The brunette watched her sister’s face as she concentrated on Sam. It was aglow with love for the young woman. “Well, whenever you do it…” C.C. thought of how her words sounded then corrected herself. “Whenever you propose, I mean, just do me one favor. Let me know so that I can be just as excited for you. You know, you owe me, Sis.”

Blue eyes looked up into a smiling face. “You’re right, I do.”

“Hmm…practicing already, huh?”

“What?”

“With the ‘I do’s,” C.C. smirked. “Hey, if there’s anything that I can help you with…”

“Yeah, C.C., I’ll keep that in mind.” Brooke caught the flash of blonde hair headed toward the table and quickly covered the box with her hand, sliding it into her jacket pocket. “Hey, look who’s here.”

C.C. turned her attention to the bar and saw Sam coming in their direction with her eyes locked on Brooke.

“Hey, I’m glad that we arranged to meet here over the phone.” Sam smiled lovingly at Brooke, then acknowledged her roommie, “Hi, C.C.” The blonde slid into the booth next to Brooke and giving her hand a squeeze, dropped a quick kiss on her lover’s lips. “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.”

“One Shirley Temple,” the redheaded waitress came out of nowhere, setting the drink down in front of C.C. In effort to get Brooke’s attention, she cleared her throat as she slipped the stirrer into the drink, bobbing the cherry up and down. “I made sure that was an extra sweet one myself.” She looked over to Brooke and winked. “Do you need anything else? Anything that I could do for you?”

Brooke looked to the blonde sitting next to her. “Do you want something, Darlin’?”

“Ah…no, I don’t think so.” Sam said a little distracted. “I already got what I came here for.” The young woman leaned into Brooke’s shoulder.

“That will be all.” Brooke reached into her pocket and handed several bills to the waitress. “That should cover it, thanks.”

“Anytime,” the waitress took the money and sighed as she turned to deliver her next drink, giving Sam a passing glare.

Sam blinked a time or two, then looked first at the drink in front of C.C., then to her lover sitting next to her. “Brooke, I think she was flirting with you.”

“Yeah? I didn’t notice.” Brooke played with the box in her pocket, her mind obviously elsewhere than on the waitress.

Sam studied the older woman for a second, then looked over to her roommate. “What’s up?” She motioned toward Brooke with her head.

“I think she’s got something on her mind. You know…like what to get or do for people for Christmas. She likes to leave a lasting impression on everyone, but I told her that cold, hard cash was a favorite of mine.” C.C. grinned. “So what are you two up to tonight, as if I don’t already know.”

“I was…” Sam looked over to Brooke as she placed her hand on the woman’s knee. “I was hoping to get a chance to stop by the mall before we had dinner.”

“Well, Brooke will just love doing a little shopping…” C.C. leveled her gaze toward her sister’s questioning face. “…won’t you, Sis?” The brunette kicked her sister’s boot again, startling her from her thoughts.

“Sure, anything Sam wants to do…that’s fine by me.” Brooke watched as C.C. busted out laughing. “What?” The woman’s face shot an eyebrow high on to her forehead. “I promised her…ah…I promised…” Brooke realized that she had no idea of what the topic of conversation was.

The young blonde leaned in and gave Brooke a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Promised me what, Brooke?” Sam winked at her lover, “Only to let me go to one store or partake in a certain dessert?”

“Mmm…well, they both sound pretty good to me.” Brooke’s cheeks tinged slightly with blush as her interpretation of dessert came into her mind.

“Hmm…” Sam smiled as she gave her eyebrows a little wiggle, then leaned in and kissed her lover on the lips. “Let’s make that a quick dinner, too.”

The small, secluded booth at the restaurant offered them refuge from the shoppers that were scurrying up and down the crowded walkways of the mall. The merchants’ prime season of revenue was here, with the colors of red and green boldly announcing it.

Sam tapped the box of newly purchased Christmas cards and looked across the table to Brooke. “Thanks for letting me get those cards, Hon.” The blonde picked up her knife and started to cut another piece of meat on her plate.

“You’re welcome, Darlin’,” Brooke winked. “Anywhere else you need to go?”

The blonde knew that shopping in crowds was not a favorite pastime of her lover and started to apologize. “I’m sorry that we had to stand in line so long. Who would have thought that people would be shopping for gifts this early?” Sam played with the food on her plate, then reached out to touch Brooke’s hand. “Nope, mall wise, that’s it for me today. I figure that we could do our shopping for presents closer to Christmas. You know, get into the spirit and all, the week before.”

The older woman looked up from her plate, blue eyes flashing in disbelief of what she’d thought she’d heard. “You wanna go shopping for Christmas a week before?” Brooke’s mind raced with scenarios of huge crowds, full parking lots and fistfights over the last ‘favorite’ toy of the year. Suddenly, she knew why they used green and red to announce the season. Green’s definitely for the cash flow and red…well, that’s for all the blood-letting when it comes down to the mad dashes and sale-frenzied shoppers out for that last gift.

Seeing the trepidation in her lover’s face, Sam teased her gently, “Come on, Brooke…or should I say, Scrooge?” The blonde’s eyes twinkled amidst the low lighting of the restaurant in a most mischievous way. “You don’t look like the bah-humbug type, to me. I thought that we could go together and maybe get a little Christmas tree and even bake some cookies later that day.”

Brooke smiled weakly at the woman across from her. “Yes, Darlin’, we can go that week if you’d like.” She dug into her food, then paused, looking back up to Sam. “A tree for the house?”

“Well, yeah…where else would you put one?”

The dark-haired woman grinned. “Our first Christmas together.”

The tussle of blonde hair nodded as Sam shyly grinned back. “Yeah,” she spoke softly, “it will be.”

“And just think of how great next year will be, too.” Brooke reached out to hold Sam’s hand. “Our first Christmas in our house.”

“Well, that’s if I’m here.” Sam’s voice trailed off, as she thought about the uncertainty of her upcoming internship and the job potential after it. She tried to push that thought from her mind and concentrate on the words her lover spoke, letting them reverberate through her head. Soon a warm smiled graced her face.

“Baby…” Brooke watched Sam’s facial expressions as they changed, “I thought you told me that would only be for one semester. Why wouldn’t you be here?”

Green eyes looked away, then came to rest on Brooke’s face. “Ah…do I have to remind you that we can’t even wait for the weekends now, and you’re saying it’s only one semester?” Sam tilted her head to the side and gazed wide-eyed at her lover. “Remember where you’re sleeping tonight, Brooke, in a single bed, at a college dorm.” The blonde giggled knowing that it was her choice just as much as it was Brooke’s.

The dark-haired woman cleared her throat and gave a little chuckle at the same time. “What I meant was that you said the semester is over in May. Now, why wouldn’t you be here next year at Christmas?”

“Ah…oh…next Christmas…I guess…” Sam sighed, trying to put her world back into perspective. “I guess I’m kind of living from day to day with you right now.”

“Why?”

“I haven’t really thought that far ahead.” Sam looked sheepishly at her plate.

“You haven’t?”

“It’s all that I have to just get through to the next time I see you, hear your voice, or even to be with you. It’s killing me now.” The last sentence came out in a whisper as Sam finally admitted her feelings.

Sensing the need of her lover, Brooke laid her utensils down on the table, then got up and slid into the booth next to Sam. “Baby…” Brooke’s long arm encircled the young woman’s shoulders as she watched Sam look down at her hands in her lap. “I think about everything with you in mind. I can’t imagine you not being in my life.”

The blonde’s head rose, then turned to gaze into Brooke’s eyes.

“I don’t want you to live day to day with me. I want you to live every day with me.”

“I…” Sam slowly started her thought, “I can’t imagine being without you either, Brooke, any day.”

The older woman smiled at what she knew was deep in Sam’s heart. “Look at it this way, by next Christmas we’ll be living together in our house.” Sam opened her mouth to speak but Brooke’s quick reflexes stopped her with a single finger placed delicately on the blonde’s lips. “No matter where you are, I’ll follow you. If you get sent to Alaska, I’ll be there, right beside you.” Brooke’s eyes twinkled at the thought. “Me, you and Mario.”

Amazed at the love she could see pouring out of the woman that held her, Sam let the corners of her mouth turn upward. “You really do think of it like that, our house…our lives.”

Brooke let her hand slide down from the table and come to rest on Sam’s stomach, splaying out her fingers to encompass the area. “And Chastity Loran too, if Julie has her way.” Her eye contact did not waver, as each woman drank her fill of the other’s love. “Yes,” Brooke whispered, as she nodded slightly, “I have no choice but to think of ‘us’ in that term. There is no ‘me’ without you, Sam.”

The blonde’s face lit up the moment that Brooke had laid her hand on Sam’s stomach. The young woman drew a breath in, feeling her head spin at her lover’s touch. She gazed down at it, then let her own hand wrap around Brooke’s larger one, holding it in place. “Thanks, Brooke,” she whispered. “I…I feel the same way.” Sam raised her eyes slowly to look into Brooke’s face. “I guess this is real then, huh?”

The tall woman bit on her lip thinking that there could be no better time than the present. God, I’ve got the ring, I’ve got the girl. Brooke let her eyes dart around the dimly lit booth, falling to her leather jacket on the other side of the table. The moment is perfect. Now all I’ve got to do is get the ring to… Brooke’s thoughts suddenly dissipated with the gentle nudge to her shoulder. “What, Darlin’?”

She tried not to look startled.

Sam repeated herself. “I guess this is real then, huh?”

“Real?” Brooke tried to regain what the conversation was about, but it was gone. “Oh yeah, real.”

The blonde nodded, “The love that I feel, the ‘us’…the ‘our’…the way we look at the future.”

“Yes, ‘our’ love… ‘us’… ‘our’ future…” Brooke’s eyes glanced over to her jacket, then down to her hand still held against Sam’s stomach, “…and one day… ‘our’ family.”

Closing her eyes for a second, Sam smiled, then asked, “What did I ever do to deserve you, Brooke Gordon?”

“Well…” Brooke sighed, “…if you’re stuck with me, I dunno.” She shook her head ominously, “But I’m thinking it must’ve been pretty bad.” The dark-haired woman looked at the blonde and grinned.

“Huh?” Green eyes searched Brooke’s face for an answer. “What do you mean, bad?”

Brooke shrugged her shoulders. “All I know is that I must have done something right to be with you. You’re stuck with me now, and that means you have to put up with me.” Two dark eyebrows wiggled and a devilish grin surfaced on the older woman’s face.

“Hmm…put up with you, huh? What about your putting up with me? You know that’ll mean more shopping trips to the mall, don’t you?” Sam winked and let a rakish smile of her own come to her face.

“Nope.” Brooke shook her head. “I don’t ‘put up’ with you. It’s more like, I cherish every minute that I spend with you.”

“Brooke…” Sam paused for a moment as she looked deep into her lover’s blue eyes. “Nobody…nobody’s ever said anything like that to me before. Thank you.”

“Said what, Baby?” A puzzled look settled on Brooke’s face.

“That…that you cherish your time with me. I’m nobody, Brooke. I’m nobody special.”

The tall woman grabbed Sam’s hand as she pulled it away. Bringing it up to her mouth, Brooke maintained her eye contact with her lover, as she kissed the back of the small hand. “You’re wrong, Sam. You’re everything special. You’re my everything.”

There was an eerie silence as the two women looked deep into one another’s eyes. None of the background noises of the busy little restaurant seemed to break through to their place of being. Slowly coming down from the lofty high that Brooke had just sent her on, Sam softly asked, “So…what do you do with me?”

As if mesmerized, Brooke answered with a grin. “Anything you want me to, Darlin’.”

Knowing all too well where they were headed, Sam looked around the room. “Ah…Brooke…what do you say we continue this at home?”

“Home?” Blue eyes began to sparkle.

“Well…our dorm room home.” Sam wiggled her eyebrows and smiled, “At least for tonight.”

Brooke let go of Sam’s hand and fished into her jeans’ pocket for some bills. Reviewing the denominations on the money, she threw the cash down on the table and slid out of the booth, offering her hand to Sam.

“Thanks, for dinner, Brooke.” Sam slid over to the end of the booth’s seat and got up.

“Any time,” Brooke winked. “After you, Darlin’,” Brooke motioned with her hand.

“Hmm…now that will be my pleasure.” Sam gave her lover a rakish grin, then leaned into her, whispering, “Remember, you said that.” The blonde picked up her small package and started to walk toward the door, giving just a hint of sway to her derriere.

Brooke grabbed for her jacket, then turned to find the actions of her lover to be most pleasing to her eye. The tall woman sighed, then mumbled under her breath. “After you…” she nodded as she appreciated the view, her lone eyebrow raising in regard, “…always.”

Gingerly, Sam rolled over in the small bed, snuggled even closer than she was before into the long, warm body lying next to hers. The remnants of sleep were still tugging at her tired, but satiated body. Settling against her lover, the small blonde could feel the fervor of energy with which they had made love for over half the night, coiled and waiting to spring into action again.

Brooke let her lover rest a while longer as she clutched Sam’s hand to her bosom and absent-mindedly ran her fingers up and down the petite digits. Searching out the one digit that she hoped would soon hold her dreams and desires for a future, she concentrated her efforts of stroking on that left hand ring finger almost exclusively.

The husky, sleep-laden voice moaned deliciously, then mumbled out, “You still haven’t given up from last night, huh?” Sam felt the careful ministrations continue. “Hmm…I’m not ticklish there,” she turned her head and nuzzled into Brooke’s neck, “…try again.”

Brooke raised her head barely enough to kiss Sam’s forehead, just under the tussle of blonde, unruly hair. “What are you doing awake?”

“Just dreaming of you…me…” Sam let out an almost inaudible sigh that encompassed her next word, “…us.”

The dark-haired woman quirked a little smile at the sound of the last word and repeated it. “Us?” She felt the smaller woman’s shoulders move as if to shrug.

“I was just thinking of how I’d like my father to meet you.”

“Your father, hmm…why?” Brooke gave her young lover a gentle squeeze. “You don’t think he’d have a fit?”

“Him, have a fit?” Sam shook her head. “Actually, Daddy was the cool one out of my parents.” The blonde showed a little more life as she got up on one elbow and opened her eyes to look down at her lover. “Isn’t it every girl’s dream that their father will like the person that they have fallen in love with?” Sam studied the pensive look on Brooke’s face and waited for the reply that she knew was coming.

“I thought it was every girl’s dream that their father walk her down the aisle.” A rakish grin flashed across the woman’s face.

“Oh yeah, like my Mom would let that happen, right?” Sam sank back down onto Brooke’s broad shoulder. The vague look of hopes dashed took over her face and she felt the tears begin to well.

“What?” Brooke sensed the dejection in the limp body of her lover.

Sam stayed quiet for a moment, then slowly lifted her head to study Brooke’s face.

Seeing the questioning look in the young woman’s eyes, Brooke asked, “What is it, Baby?”

Green eyes stared most seriously at the well-chiseled features before her, then gazed intently on the intriguing blue orbs. “Is that your dream?” Sam noticed the dark, furrowed brows, and then clarified her question. “To have your father walk you down an aisle some day, is that your dream?”

“Hmm…” Brooke thought for a few seconds, then continued. “No, I don’t think so. I can’t really see my father giving me away when I can do that just fine all by myself.” The dark-haired woman grinned, then pulled Sam tighter to her. “I always thought I’d be more like the groom, than the one to be escorted by my father.”

“Whew…you had me scared for a minute there, Hon.” Sam turned her head to look at the clock on the bookshelf above her bed. “Hmm…I bet your father’s glad for that. You know, the third time is a charm,” she teased.

“Sam, what did you mean when you said I had you scared?”

“I…ah…I’m not sure myself.” Sam settled back into Brooke’s shoulder. “Maybe I just thought that you wanted something…different.”

Sensing a tinge of insecurity in Sam, Brooke kissed the woman’s forehead and reassured her. “Believe me, Darlin’, if I ever wait for anyone at an altar it’ll be you. I love you, Sam.”

Sam took in a deep breath. “Keep telling me that and eventually I’ll believe it.” Sam smiled, then kissed the shoulder beneath her.

“Oh, yeah?” Brooke’s eyes glowed with devilish delight as her strong body pulled the blonde over top of her as she rolled over, ending up with Sam lying underneath her. “Now tell me…what will it take for you to believe me?” Blue eyes searched the blonde’s face as an evil grin came to her face. “Not saying, eh? I’ll just have to torture you then.” Brooke immediately nuzzled into Sam’s neck, lavishing it with kisses.

“Hmm…now this is torture,” Sam giggled and waited to see the dark head of hair pull away from her, revealing Brooke’s face, complete with wiggling eyebrows.

“Are you ready to talk now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you need to show me a little more…torture.” Sam’s eyes twinkled with mischief as the cute smile accentuated her face.

Long dark hair acted like a curtain, keeping the rest of the room at bay and Sam’s eyes focused on Brooke as an evil, little laugh erupted from her mouth. Slowly the sound diminished when the older woman began to lick her lips tentatively. “As I see it, there’s only one problem.”

Sam’s nose wrinkled as she questioned the figure towering above her. “And that is?”

Starving blue eyes looked seductively up and down the blonde’s body as Brooke let her tongue slowly wet her lips once more before speaking. “Hmm…where to start?”

Having lingered idly by while watching Sam get dressed for her first class, then dash out the door after a long, good-bye kiss, Brooke now sat on the dorm-sized bed and pulled on one of her boots. When the dark-haired woman heard the sound of the cardkey being slipped into the lock on the door, only one thing came to her mind. Okay, Sam, tell me you forgot something just so that I can kiss you once more. Hurriedly, Brooke shoved her foot down into her other boot, then took the two or three steps necessary to get behind the door, waiting to spring out in surprise.

Slowly the door opened and Brooke’s anticipation grew like a well-watered weed. With the urge to kiss her lover overpowering her senses until like some blur of action, she stepped around to the opening and grabbed the body on the other side, pulling it up into her anxiously, awaiting lips.

The kiss lasted only for a few seconds before Brooke’s sensitive tongue edged forward, trying to gain access to the familiar oral cavity. She felt it odd when access to it was denied. At the same time, two hands planted themselves on Brooke’s arms and pushed her away. Surprised by the action, Brooke’s eyes opened to see C.C.’s confused face only inches away from her own. Blue eyes bugged out as she unhanded her sister and stepped back, looking more confused then ever.

“I…I…” Brooke’s mouth was agape as she shook her head. “You…Sam…C.C.,” with each word the woman’s voice grew louder. Brooke slapped her hand over her mouth and rubbed it thoroughly, as she occasionally turned her head to the side and tried to spit the taste out. “What the hell are you doing, sneaking in on me. I thought you were Sam coming back for another kiss.” Brooke stuck out her tongue, wiping it up and down the sleeve of her shirt.

“Well Sis, you’re not my favorite taste in the morning either,” was the indignant reply. C.C. straightened up as she closed the door with her foot rather noisily, not wanting anyone to think that she was enjoying herself. “If I remember correctly, oh sister Dear…” the brunette drew out the last word. “I believe that I’m the rightful resident of this room, not you.” C.C. pushed past her sister and headed for the bathroom. “I was merely attempting to get a change of clothes for class without walking in on you two love birds making out like some rabid wildlife.”

Brooke wiped her mouth on her sleeve again as she heard the water running in the bathroom sink. “Yeah? Well for your information…”

“Oh, no you don’t. That’s T-M-I,” C.C. shouted out of the bathroom door. “That, I don’t need to know.”

Brooke stopped and thought for a moment realizing what she would have said and smirked. “Then, why didn’t you knock first like Mom and Dad taught us?” Brooke paused for a moment then added, “Oh yeah, that’s right. After you, they gave up having sex.” Brooke thought about what she’d said and gave her own little shudder at the thought of her parents actually doing it.

The brunette emerged from the bathroom, her mouth full of suds as the toothbrush vigorously created more. She tried to speak around it. “Mom and Dad don’t live here, Brooke. So…” C.C. took the brush out of her mouth and went back in. “So, don’t go trying to put the blame on me.” She rinsed her mouth out, making gargling noises, then spit before wiping her mouth and coming back into the same room with her sister. “You borrow the room, you take your chances.” Brown eyes leveled at blue and suddenly all C.C. could do was gag. “Ugh!” She stuck out her tongue and turned right back into the bathroom, brushing her teeth again.

Brooke made a face of her own and wiped her tongue on her sleeve until her sister reappeared in the room. “Hey, it’s not like I stay here every night.” Brooke’s eyes followed her sister as she crossed the room to her closet and started pulling an outfit from it. “Besides, C.C., you know that it won’t last forever…Sam sharing this room with you, I mean.”

“No, you’re right, it won’t.” The sibling turned, flashing a grin at her sister. “It’s just my only year in a dorm and it seems like all the action here is in Sam’s bed.”

The tall woman smiled, then offered. “Well, if that’s all that you’re concerned about, I’m sure we could use your bed every other night that I stay over.” Brooke ducked to her right as a tubular plastic hanger whipped past her head. “What did I say wrong?” Brooke smirked as she stood up straight with her arms open wide.

C.C. glared at her sister and took in a rather loud, deep breath. “It’s just that the only time that I can have use of my room if I’d like to…” the brunette coughed, “…entertain, is on the weekends.”

“And…three nights a week aren’t enough? Is that what you’re saying?” Brooke teased her younger sister. “Have you found someone that you’re seeing regularly without telling me, Sis?” She waited until her sister was about to answer, then hurriedly threw her hand up in a halting motion. “No, wait…T-M-I.”

“Touchy subject, Brooke.”

“Oh…I bet.” The woman couldn’t help but laugh as she reached for her leather jacket and pulled it on. “Truce?” Brooke offered with her hand on the doorknob as she turned to look at her sister.

“Hmm…I don’t know…” C.C. eyed the woman suspiciously for a moment, then winked. “Sure, why not? Truce,” she agreed as she resumed her dressing and changed the subject. “So, you’re off to a late start. What are you up to today?”

“I, ah…I have a little meeting to arrange part of Sam’s Christmas present. I thought I’d just drop by the office and take care of a few things before I have to get ready.”

C.C. looked up to see the pensive look on her sister’s face. “You’re not meeting with Janet again about that internship of Sam’s are you? Brooke, I don’t think…”

“No, I figured I botched that up enough already.” Brooke sighed. “I’m going to go talk to Sam’s parents.”

Brown eyes flashed to the bulge in Brooke’s coat pocket. “You…you’re not going there to ask for their permission, are you? Brooke, you’re crazy if you think that they’ll listen to you, once they know what you want.” C.C. turned back to her closet and pulled out a simple black dress. “I’d better drop this off at the cleaners on my way to class. Something tells me I might need it in a hurry.”

Looking into the rearview mirror, Brooke checked her appearance. God, this is worse then taking Sam home and telling Dad that we were dating one another. Blue eyes gazed over at the house, then back down to the paper with the address on it. Well, Aunt Sandy, you got me here, now let’s see if I can do the same for Sam.

Brooke checked in the mirror once more, then got out of the 300Z and made her way to the front door. Making some last minute adjustments to her clothing, the tall woman took in a deep breath and proceeded to ring the doorbell. Okay, Brooke, be diplomatic, be polite, and whatever you do…don’t come off being too butch. That’s the last thing you need right now, for them to know that you’re her lover. Do that, and you might as well have cemented this estrangement in an iceberg and set it adrift on the high seas. Brooke smirked at the thought. It won’t come home for years to…

The movement inside the house distracted the tall woman’s thoughts. She could see a man coming to the door then opening it. “Yes, can I help you?”

Brooke looked to the medium sized, short statured man in the doorway and asked, “Mr. Moleson?” Her eyes studied the man as he gave her tall figure a roving eye.

“Yes,” the man answered cautiously, his hand tightened on the doorknob, hesitant to ask the stranger in to his home.

Okay, Brooke, time to pour on that ol’ executive charm there. “Hi, Sir.” Brooke flashed a smile and nodded. “You don’t know me, but my sister is roommates with your daughter, Sam.” She gazed into his clear, green eyes and watched for a reaction. Seeing none, she continued. “I was wondering if I could speak with you briefly.”

“Is something wrong with her?” Concern crossed his face, “With Sam, I mean?”

“No Sir, she’s fine.” Brooke saw the relieved look come to the man’s face.

“Ah…okay,” he muttered. “Where are my manners? Come in, please. It’s too cold to be standing out there.” He opened the door wider, inviting the woman in.

The slightly upturned corners of Brooke’s mouth stayed in place as she accepted his offer and entered the house. “Thank you, Sir.” The tall woman nodded as she stepped inside.

“Samuel…” the feminine voice came calling out of the rear room of the house. “Who is it?”

“That’s my wife,” the man smiled politely at Brooke then turned his head, directing his voice to his wife’s location. “It’s ah…someone inquiring about our…ah…I mean…Sam.”

Remembering that she had not taken the time to introduce herself properly, Brooke offered her hand. “I’m sorry, my name is Brooke Gordon. My sister C.C. is your daughter’s roommate.” She felt his hand grasp hers and shake it a time or two.

“Samuel Moleson…” his eyes twinkled when he looked up at the woman before him. “But I guess you kind of figured that out already.”

“Samuel…”

The sound of the feminine voice was closer now and Brooke looked past the man holding her hand to see the short, spit-fire of a woman come into the opposite end of the narrow hallway next to the steps leading to the second floor.

The man followed Brooke’s gaze. Seeing his wife enter the hall, he started his introduction. “It’s a woman by the name of Brooke Gordon, Dear. She’s a family member of ah…Sam’s roommate.”

“Mrs. Moleson,” Brooke nodded, then felt the man’s hand slip out of hers. “I’m sorry to disturb you this evening. I…I hope I’m not interrupting anything?”

“No, you’re not interrupting…” Samuel started to speak, but was abruptly cut off.

“Has she done anything?” The woman’s brow wrinkled and her face took on a rather sour look. “I knew there would be trouble with her,” she mumbled under her breath.

“Sam?” Brooke questioned who was trouble. “No…no, nothing like that.”

The woman walked the length of the hall and planted herself next to her husband, with her arms folded tightly across her chest. “Then, what are you here for?”

God, I hope Sam takes after her father. Brooke calmed her pounding heart and took a deep breath before she started. “Actually, I just wanted the chance to speak with you. It’s about Christmas…”

“What about Christmas?” The woman tilted her head letting the light coming from the fixture above her, catch her reddish-blonde locks.

“Well, we were…” Brooke caught a glimpse of blonde hair in the far doorway and remembered Sam talking about her sister. A smile came to her face as she thought of the potential of seeing a younger version of her lover. “Ah…that is, my sister C.C. and I were discussing the upcoming holiday…”

“What’s the little hussy done now?” Mrs. Moleson watched Brooke’s blue eyes as they seemed to focus on something further down the hall, then turned to look in the same direction. The voice that came out of the woman was stern and unyielding. “Go to your room now, young lady.”

“Excuse me?” Brooke wasn’t sure if the question was directed to her or not and blinked several times, startled by the rough voice that had come out of the petite looking woman.

There wasn’t another word said as the adolescent crept out into the hallway, then seeing the look in her mother’s eyes, she hurried down the narrow hall toward the group.

Brooke watched curiously as the young girl made her way through the adults and headed up the stairs toward the second floor. The adolescent stopped just past the midway mark to turn slightly and look back at the tall stranger in an almost familiar way, then hurried off to her destination.

That has to be Sarah. The startled realization lingered in Brooke’s mind when the youth had turned back to look at her. She knows who I am. She knows that I’m Sam’s lover. The executive gazed over at Sam’s mother wondering if she also knew her role in her eldest daughter’s life. More determined than ever, Brooke pulled all of her calming resources to the surface and let her mind think of the upcoming conversation as a negotiation more than anything. Maybe if I can stay in that executive role she won’t see me as the lover.

The silence in the house was insurmountable until the sound of a door closing came floating down the stairs from the second floor. Only then did Mrs. Moleson turn back to the tall woman and speak her mind. “Well, obviously something is wrong if you’re here about Sam. She doesn’t live here. If you have an issue with Sam about your sister, I suggest that you talk directly to her. She’s her own person. She made that decision years ago and I’ll not have her and her lifestyle affect Sarah in any way.”

“Mrs. Moleson, Sam is fine. She hasn’t done anything except to befriend my sister and quite frankly, the rest of our family.” Brooke watched as the glare from the small woman never wavered. “I just wanted to discuss the upcoming holiday with you and your husband.”

“And I suppose Sam is the reason for that?”

“No, Ma’am. She has no idea that I’m here.”

“Now Dear,” Samuel tried to ease his wife’s harshness. “You can’t think she’s done…”

“Done what…?” The reddish blonde hair glistened under the light as she turned to face her husband. “I don’t care to know what she does with anyone and I’ve told her that myself.” Mrs. Moleson jerked her head, letting her glaring eyes try to penetrate the tall woman’s façade before her. “Get to the point.”

Keeping her voice as soft as she could, Brooke met the stare with grace and elegance in her reply. “Sam doesn’t know that I’m here. This was my choice to come.”

“And…” Samuel moved closer to his wife, letting his arm hesitantly move to her waist. “…exactly what is it that you want to speak to us about?”

“My sister C.C. and I were talking and she asked me for my help in arranging a Christmas present for Sam.” Brooke could see that her words were not affecting the woman the way she would have liked them to. “I’ll be frank with you. I know that there is some animosity between you and your daughter.”

“You’re damn right there is. Don’t even think that I’d know what she wants. I don’t know that child any more. Sometimes I think I never knew her at all.”

Brooke attempted to be diplomatic. “I don’t know the circumstances and it’s none of my business but…”

“You’re right, it’s not.” Mrs. Moleson moved away from her husband as the anger visually rose to her face.

“Ma’am…please…” worried eyes darted from one parent to the other. “Just let me explain and my visit will make much more sense.”

“Elaine,” Samuel edged closer to his wife, “Let’s hear her out. What harm could it do?” He looked at the stewing woman, then glanced over to Brooke and nodded for her to continue.

“Thank you, Sir.” Brooke kept her voice soft, hoping to get her full thought out before being interrupted. “Since the beginning of the new college year, Sam has spent a great deal of time with my family. What I do know is that it would mean the world to her if she were able to come home to her parents and sister to visit over Christmas. C.C. mentioned this to me the other day…” Brooke looked earnestly at the people before her and continued. “…And since she has classes making it impossible for her to get away, I offered to come speak to you, myself.”

“Did she actually say that?” Mr. Moleson looked eagerly to Brooke. “My daughter, I mean.”

“Yes Sir, she did.” Blue eyes gazed directly into his searching green. “I heard it myself.” Brooke watched as the man gazed over to his wife with sorrow-filled eyes. “As I said before…”

The harsh tone of the small woman’s voice cut through Brooke’s words like a knife. “If she thinks I’ll let her back in here, she’s crazy…” Elaine’s brow wrinkled up more as she tightened her arms to her own chest. “Humph…I know she’s crazy already.”

“Elaine…” Samuel cautioned his wife. “Let’s not go there.”

Brooke took a small step forward. “Look, I don’t know all the details of the rift between you and your daughter, but I know that she’s a good person who loves her family deeply.” The tall woman looked directly at the man slightly to her right, “A daughter who misses her father terribly. She’s my sister’s best friend, and above all, she’s still your own flesh and blood.”

Elaine had turned away when she saw the intentional plea to her husband. She waited for the words to stop before shaking her head and pivoting back to pin Brooke with her gaze. “And I take it you know about daughters?” She said it sarcastically.

“That depends, Ma’am,” Brooke didn’t back down. “I am one of four and being years older than C.C., I know how trying they can be.” She shifted her weight just slightly, as if taking a different approach to the subject. “Is there anything so terrible that you wouldn’t want to spend the holiday with your own daughter? After all, she loves you, Mrs. Moleson.”

The spitfire of a woman stood firm in her resolve as she questioned the woman. “And because of that I’m supposed to expose Sarah to Sam’s reasoning?”

“Sarah’s been exposed to Sam longer than just one day, Elaine. What would it hurt?” Samuel tried to reason with his wife, waiting to see if she would consider any type of communication with her daughter.

“May I ask what the problem is with Sam visiting her family?”

Pent up emotions started to bubble through to the surface as Elaine spoke her mind. “I lost control of one, I’m not about to lose it on the other one.” She turned her gaze to Brooke, asking her point blank. “Would you let your sisters around a lesbian, knowing that she’s trying to make them one too? Or didn’t she tell you that little tidbit about herself?”

Brooke never blinked. Instead she just stated the facts. “Actually, Ma’am, I am one of four sisters. One of which happens to be a lesbian.”

“Oh, so that’s why you’re here…your sister is one also.” Elaine’s face became more angered looking. “I should have guessed as much.”

“No Ma’am. I can assure you that C.C. is as straight an arrow as they come.”

Elaine laughed out loud. “Straight arrow, huh? Not when Sam’s done with her.” The woman turned on a sickeningly sweet smile. “Or is there something that your sister hasn’t told you about?”

The executive fought to hold in her emotions. “I have nieces and nephews and there is a new baby on the way. Everyone is very open around each other in my family, but sexual preference is not made into an issue.”

“Don’t tell me that the…the…one is the one pregnant?” Elaine’s eyes opened wide with aghast.

“No, Ma’am, I can assure you she’s not.” Brooke sighed, noticing that Samuel seemed to be studying her figure rather intently. “Mrs. Moleson, Sarah won’t turn into a lesbian from being around her sister. But I can tell you that she will probably grow to resent you for keeping them away from each other.”

Fire began to flash in the small woman’s eyes and before she could say anything, Brooke kept up her barrage of reasoning.

“What I’m saying is that as large as the family is, there is one lesbian and many children around with one on the way. Sexual orientation is not an issue. It has nothing to do with who you are just because of who you love.”

“May I ask you one question?” Samuel’s hand nervously played with the change in his pocket.

The soft-spoken words gathered Brooke’s attention and she turned to look directly at Sam’s father. “Yes Sir, anything?”

“Are you and all your sisters close?”

“Very, we try to spend part of every weekend together. We talk to each other almost every day. Once a month, all of us girls get together with our parents for dinner. Just like when we were growing up.” Brooke chuckled softly, “No spouses or children allowed.”

“And their sexual orientation hasn’t bothered you…or influenced you in any way?” He looked hopefully into Brooke’s face, waiting for the answer.

“No, Sir. I can tell you with all honesty that any of their preferences hasn’t influenced me one bit.”

Samuel looked over to his wife. “They’re sisters, Elaine…we can’t keep them apart forever. What’s one day going to do?” His eyebrow twitched hopefully as he made his plea.

“Please Mrs. Moleson, you said that you’ve lost one daughter, don’t push away your other one by denying her a relationship with her sister.” Brooke paused, seeing the woman look away, muttering something inaudible under her breath. “Sam’s done nothing wrong. She deserves to know her family again.” She looked to Samuel, her eyes pleading for any help in ascertaining an affirmative answer. “She wants to know her family again.”

The sound of a foot tapping on the vinyl tiled floor rose out of the electrically charged silence. Elaine’s eyes darted back and forth from one adult to the other as she weighed the outcome of the debate in her head.

Seconds stretched into minutes and, in an attempt to tip the scales in her lover’s favor, Brooke threw out her ace in the hole. “Sam’s always welcome with my family, but we can’t replace her own.”

Elaine’s cold gray eyes threw a chill out in Brooke’s direction as they darted one final time to her face, then to her husband’s, before she spoke. “Alright,” she glowered, “but it’s on my turf and my conditions.”

“Conditions?” Brooke asked slightly puzzled. Damn, what happened to the unconditional love of a parent?

“Yes, conditions. You want this,” the small woman pinned Brooke with her stare, “then you drop her off here, Christmas at noon and pick her up by eight that evening. I’m going against every grain of my fiber and eight hours is all that you’ll get.”

Brooke tried to contain her thrill at hearing the first few words. “Of course, that will be no problem. I’ll see to that myself.” Relieved, she half-smiled at her accomplishment. “Is there anything else?”

“Don’t worry, her father and I will work out the rest.” Elaine looked smugly at her husband for a split second before settling her gaze on Brooke. “One of us will be with her at all times as long as Sarah is in her presence.” Elaine smiled curtly as she saw the anger come to Brooke’s face. “Take it or leave it. It’s all that you’re going to get.”

“Mrs. Moleson,” Brooke protested. “May I ask you a question please?” The woman hurriedly continued, “Just out of curiosity.”

“Alright, I’ll grant one question…make it good.”

“Will you answer it truthfully?” Brooke watched as the curt smile reappeared on the woman’s face. “Did you ever do anything that you felt so passionately about that your parents did not approve of?” Brooke challenged her, then pushed her even harder with the next question. “How would it make you feel to think that your own mother didn’t want you?”

“What does that have to do with her being perverted? Of course, I did.” She looked defiantly at Brooke for a moment, then turned toward her husband, giving him a sly smile. Seeing the knowing look in Samuel’s eye, Elaine bit down on her lip as her eyes darted away from his sight. “She almost didn’t. That’s why I…I mar…” her voice trailed off to a whisper.

“She married me.” Samuel said, completing his wife’s thought. He moved closer to the woman and touched her lovingly on the cheek.

Seeing an opening in the underbelly of her opponent, Brooke pursued her dream with everything that she had at her disposal. “Please…” blue eyes looked from one to the other of Sam’s parents, “…your daughter loves you so much. You gave birth to her and gave her love. Don’t take that away from her now. She misses you very much and right now, Sam honestly believes that you don’t love her.”

Ensconced with self-doubt, Elaine took in a deep breath and did the only thing that she could. She waved her hand, dismissing the tall woman.

“I’m sorry to have troubled you. I thank you for your time.” Closing her eyes in defeat, Brooke slowly turned to leave. As she took her first step toward the door, the almost out of character hushed voice caught her ear.

“I loved her enough to get married. We…ah…I was…” the woman turned to her husband and buried her head into his shoulder.

“Mrs. Moleson?” Brooke watched as Samuel comforted his wife with his arms wrapped around her.

“Yes…?” She sniffed.

Brooke noticed the still-darting eyes of the woman as she thought of what the next question might be. “Thank you for answering my question and truthfully, at that. But you should realize better than most that you can’t help or choose who you fall in love with.”

Elaine lifted her head and stared at Brooke.

“I think you did a wonderful job raising a daughter who can love so effortlessly and unconditionally.” Brooke took in a breath and forged on. “In a way, I can tell that she got that trait from you. And I mean that, as the highest compliment.”

Samuel studied the tall woman as she spoke about his eldest daughter and her mother’s influence on her. The passion with which the woman spoke showed her dedication to her beliefs. He took in a breath, then spoke softly to his wife. “Sam is a lot like you Elaine, you know that.”

“I hope you’ll think about what I’ve told you.” Brooke looked at the woman still in her husband’s embrace, then glanced at Samuel and nodded. “I hope you’ll have a pleasant evening.” Having stated her case, Brooke took her leave.

Pulling the door closed after her, the tall woman stood there on the stoop, letting the crisp air of the season penetrate and cool her anger before it got the better of her. How could anyone shut out his or her own daughter? Brooke hung her head at her seemingly failed attempt to make Sam happy. God, Sam…I could never do that to our children or to you.

Brooke looked up to the first star of the evening sky and made her wish on it. “If only I could have pulled this off for you,” she muttered under her breath as she tugged at her trench coat. “Some executive negotiating you did there.” She smirked, thinking of the comment she had said a few years ago when she’d first purchased that particular article of outerwear. I guess the power comes from the person and not the clothing.

Walking to the edge of the small driveway, Brooke opened the door to the 300 and got in. With a flick of her fingers, the key turned over the powerful performance engine, but she had no desire to leave. Casting her eyes to the right, she looked back to the house that she had just left. There, walking toward her, was Sam’s father, his hand waving to catch her attention. At the door, she could see the reddish blonde hair of Mrs. Moleson as she clung to the doorframe, calling out to him.

“Ms. Gordon.” Samuel came closer to the car, and knocked on the window, motioning for it to be opened.

Hearing the muffled sound of her name, Brooke lowered the window. “Please, Mr. Moleson, call me Brooke.”

“Ms. Gordon…ah…I mean, Brooke.” He smiled, letting his green eyes twinkle much like his daughters.

“Yes, Sir?”

“You can drop Sam off around noon on Christmas. I’m sure that she’ll be spending the morning with you…er your family, won’t she?”

Brooke smiled at the thought of being with Sam on Christmas morning. “If she’s not going to be here then, I’m sure she will.”

Samuel acknowledged the confident look on the woman’s face with nary a faint smile. “Either way, I’m sure she’ll have the love that’s due her for that day.”

“Excuse me?” Brooke wondered what, if anything, he had read into her words or look. “Mr. Moleson, I’m sorry if I overstepped my bounds in there. We can’t possibly offer Sam the love she craves from her family.”

“Overstepped?” He looked at her with a shocked expression. “No, you didn’t overstep any bounds. You just showed us what love is all about. It’s caring, sharing and looking out for those that we love.”

“I…I showed you that?”

The man stood up and sneaked a peek up his walkway toward the house, then quickly ducked back down to the opened window and winked at Brooke. “Well, at least to me, you did.”

“I’m just trying to take care of a friend,” she assured Sam’s father. “Sam does miss you, Sir. She speaks very highly of you, as well as your sister, Sandy.” She watched the man’s lips turn up into a smile, then offered her hand to him. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

“And I’m glad that you know that there’s one less Christmas gift to worry about, huh?” The man winked at her.

“Yes Sir. I guess that’s true.” Brooke felt the man’s hand in her own and returned his grasp as they shook on it.

“Nice strong grip there, Brooke. You must work out a lot.”

“Actually, I used to play drums. I work out every once in a while. Why do you ask?”

“A musician, eh? Sam was always into music,” he mumbled.

“So I’ve heard.” Brooke’s eyebrow edged upward.

Feeling as though he was being challenged, Samuel quickly dismissed the thought. “Oh, nothing, I’m just rambling.” He let go of Brooke’s hand and started to step away from the car. “You drive safely.”

The executive reached into her coat pocket and procured the card that she had prepared earlier. “This is any number that you would need to get in touch with me if anything changes.” She handed it to the man. “I’ve written Sam’s numbers on the back for you. I’m sure that she’d love to hear from you sometime.”

Samuel flipped the card over and looked at it, then smiled as he backed away from the vehicle. “Thanks, Brooke.” He gave her a little wave with the hand that held onto the card like it was a winning lottery ticket. “I’m sure that nothing will change here on my end.”

“You’re welcome.” The smiled tugged at Brooke’s lips as she called out her sincerest wishes. “I hope you have a nice evening, Mr. Moleson.”

“You, too,” was his immediate response, then, as an after thought of looking at the business card once more, he called out, “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Moleson.” Brooke gave a little wave as she raised the window. Well, how about that? I survived the first meeting with my future in-laws. Happy with the out come, she put the car in gear and slowly pulled out of the parking space.

Halting only a few yards away at the stop signed intersection, Brooke looked into her rearview mirror. There, she could see Sam’s father still standing in the same spot, looking at the card. She watched as he looked up and stared in her direction. After a thoughtful moment, she could see the smile growing across his face and, if she didn’t know any better, she believed that she had seen the twinkle in his eyes as he slowly nodded his head.

Hmm…maybe I’ve taken care of two Christmas presents today. Brooke shifted her gaze to the cross street in front of her and drove off.

Taking the steps two at a time, Brooke needed to get her body moving to keep warm. The business-looking trench coat just wasn’t as warm as her leather jacket and she was regretting not having thrown it into the car before leaving earlier. Finally reaching the third floor of the dorm, Brooke moved without hesitation down the hall to where a blonde waited for her. Stopping at the door, the drummer beat out a one handed rhythm on the metal door, then stood back, and waited for it to open.

Within seconds, the door opened and the small figure of a woman took its place. Stepping out into the hall, Sam reached out, filling her hand with material as she grabbed the coat Brooke was wearing and pulled her into the room. In a rapid exchange, the door was quickly closed and Sam’s arms were filled with Brooke’s body.

“God, are you cold, Brooke. What were you doing…standing around outside?” Sam backed off slightly and rubbed her hands up and down the taller woman’s upper arms, trying to warm her.

Brooke brought her hands around from behind her back, revealing a delicate rose and held it up for Sam to take.

The young woman’s eyes sparkled and her smile grew wider. “For me?”

“Always for you.”

Sam took the flower in her hand and sniffed at its fragrant scent. The blonde glanced at her tall lover and suddenly felt very shy, giggling like a schoolgirl. “You say some of the nicest things, Brooke Gordon. Remind me to keep you around.” She smelled the rose again, then asked, “And what exactly is this for?”

It was Brooke’s turn for shyness as she shrugged her shoulders and offered her excuse. “Just because…I missed you.” The tall woman felt the warmth fill her soul when Sam’s smile beamed at her. “And I’d give anything in the world to put that smile on your face.”

“Hmm…” Sam sighed, “You keep this up, Brooke and there won’t be any roses left for any one else to give away.”

“Why is that?” Brooke wrapped her arms around her lover.

“You just seem to always be thinking about me.”

“Hey, I can’t help it if I’m actually feeling romantic this evening.” Brooke smiled, “And you’re right…I am always thinking about you.”

Green eyes stared up into blue. “Romantic…huh?”

“Yeah, I guess romantic would be a good description of how I feel right now.”

Sam chuckled, “So what got you in this mood? Not that I’m complaining.”

“I was just thinking about how much I missed you today and how much I love you every day…” Brooke sighed.

“And?” Sam watched as Brooke brought the blonde’s small hand up to her chest, pressing it against her heart. “There’s something else, isn’t there?”

The dark-haired woman smiled. “Can you feel that? Can you feel how fast my heart is beating?”

“Yes,” Sam nodded, then held her breath, waiting to see where Brooke was heading.

“That is how I feel every moment when I think about you, every moment of every day.”

“You say and do the nicest things. Where did I ever find you?” Sam asked with a coy smile on her face.

“At my Mom’s…” Brooke grinned at her rhetoric. “Unless you consider the movie, because I think I found you then.” Blue eyes gleamed with mirth.

Sam placed her finger on Brooke’s mouth as she tried to quiet her lover’s laughter. “Shhhhh! It doesn’t matter where. We’re here now and God knows that I need you for the rest of my life.”

The tall woman grew very serious as she looked into sparkling green eyes. “And you have me for that…and longer.” Brooke pulled Sam back into a hug then began to softly sing in her ear. “You’re all I need beside me, Girl. You’re all I need to turn my world.”

Sam closed her eyes and concentrated on the warming touch that both the words of the song and her lover had on her. The blonde recognized the song and waited for a pause before commenting. “I love when you do this.”

“You’re all I want inside my heart. You’re all I need when we’re apart. You’re all that I need.”

Pulling back to look up into beautiful blue eyes, Sam sighed. “I love you, Brooke.”

“I love you, Sam.” Brooke’s mouth turned up into a smile as she drew her lover closer to her, melting into a kiss.

When they finally could last not a second longer without air, they parted and looked dizzily into one another’s eyes.

“I know that look in your eye, Brooke Gordon, and I’m thinking that C.C. will not take to another night this week sleeping somewhere other than her own bed.”

“Hmm…I like that thought.” Brooke wiggled her eyebrows randily. “But nope, I was just thinking about something else.”

Feeling her own need for what she was hinting at, Sam slid out of her lover’s arms, catching her hand, then tugging her toward the door. “Well, come on. You can think about anything you want on the way home. I’ve got a weekend to spend with you.” Sam glanced back to see a smile broadly plastered on Brooke’s face as the softly sung words came filtering through the air.

“All that I need is for you to believe. All that I need is you.”
Ch20 Line Of Fire
“…Next time you’re cheating, Don’t forget to look… `Cause you’ve seen the movie but I wrote the book…”
Brooke pulled into her parking spot outside the three-story building, better known as Brownstone Records. The first thing she noticed, as she cut the ignition, was her new employee standing nervously outside the front doors.

Peter, you never know when to relax, do you? Brooke laughed to herself, shaking her head as she watched her friend pace back and forth in front of the mirrored doors. The dark-haired woman stepped out of the 300 and walked up behind him as he practiced addressing his new boss.

“Ms. Gordon…” he frowned, then tried again with a different inflection, “Ms. Gordon.” He nodded, liking the way that one sounded much better. “Yes, Ms. Gordon.” Peter turned to see his new boss heading directly for him and he smiled, still unsure of how to interact with her on company time.

“Hey there, Pete. You ready for your big day?” Brooke asked him as they made their way to the front door.

Peter held the large glass door open for her as they stepped through. “Huh…ready? Oh, yeah. As ready as I’ll ever be, Brooke…er…I mean…” he frowned, “Ms. Gordon…ah…boss.” The man let go of a long sigh, showing his frustration. “Tell me, exactly what do I call you?”

Brooke stopped walking and turned around to face her friend. “Peter, let’s get one thing straight right now. I am not Ms. Gordon to you. Call me Brooke just like you have for the last 20 years. Okay?”

Peter’s eyes opened wide as a smile graced the handsome features of his face. “Anything you say…Brooke.”

“Good, then let’s go.” The tall woman motioned toward the elevator on the other side of the lobby.

Side by side, the two friends kept a silent vigil during the short ride up to the third floor where the offices were housed. Out of the corner of her eye, Brooke noticed that the higher they rose, the more nervous Peter became. By the time the elevator came to a halt, Peter had begun to play with his tie.

“You know, Pete…” Brooke kept her eyes pointed at the slowly opening doors of the elevator, “…there’s no reason to be nervous. You’ll do just fine.” Brooke tried to reassure her friend as they stepped out of the elevator. “Come on. I’ll show you around.” The dark-haired woman motioned with her head down the hall that housed the corporate offices of Brownstone.

“I…ah, I just don’t want to disappoint you, Brooke,” Peter admitted honestly.

Brooke stopped before opening the door and looked in his direction. “You won’t. You’re not the same person anymore. Now quit being so damn serious and relax.”

Peter took a deep breath and grinned. “Okay, you got it.” He nodded, then with a flare of motion, reached out and held the door open for his new employer. “After you, Boss.”

Brooke rolled her eyes. Something tells me it’s going to be a very long day. She smiled politely when he looked in her direction, seeking her approval, then entered the office just like she did on any other day. “Good morning, Ida. Any messages for me?”

“Well, there are several from someone but he won’t leave his name. He says he knows you.” The older woman looked past her boss, curious as to whom the man following her was, then turned her attention back to Brooke. “Other than that, it’s been pretty quiet,” Ida answered as she handed Brooke the mail.

“Hmmm…” the executive fanned through the handful of mail. “Well, if it’s important enough, they’ll call back.” Brooke looked up to see the woman still trying to figure out who Peter was. “Ah…Ida, I’d like for you to meet Peter. He’s our new talent scout that I was telling you about last week. Peter, this is Ida.” The tall woman leaned toward her new employee. “Don’t be fooled, she’s not a secretary.” Brooke looked up from the stack of mail, winking at Peter. “She just gets here before anybody else and answers my calls until someone gets in.”

Peter held his hand out to the older woman. “Nice to meet you, Ida.”

“Talent scout, eh?” Ida shook the offered hand and eyed the young man, appreciatively.

Brooke pulled out an envelope and looked at it curiously, before shrugging, then shoving it back into the stack. “Ida, I’ve instructed the front desk to route all new business to Peter.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” The older woman nodded her head in understanding.

“So, what do you do here at Brownstone?” Peter asked.

“Besides getting aspirin for the boss and making her coffee?” She winked at Brooke as a laugh came to the surface. “Not much.”

Peter looked to Brooke for an explanation as he joked, “You didn’t tell me that I get the morning bagel and Danish run.”

Blue eyes shined with mischief first, then turned to genuine affection as Brooke tried to explain her assistant. “Ida… well, she does a little bit of everything. She trains new personnel and keeps all of our records straight. I guess you could say that Ida is my assistant, although we never did officially give her a title. She’s been here with me from the first day we opened our doors.”

Peter nodded his head in understanding. “I see… kind of like the producer’s producer, right?”

“Yeah, something like that.” Brooke nodded in agreement.

“You always did need a mother figure in your life.” Peter watched for a reaction, not only from Brooke, but from her assistant as well. He wasn’t disappointed when Brooke eyed him with a perfectly arched eyebrow.

“Hey, I have one, thank you. Come on, Trouble, I’ll show you to your new office. Thank you, Ida,” Brooke added as they left the waiting area of the suite.

“It was nice meeting you, Ida,” Peter smiled warmly at the older woman, then turned to catch up to his new boss, feeling much better after having broken the ice.

They stopped in front of a large oak door, as Brooke pulled a key from her pocket. She unlocked the door and held it open for Peter to see. “Here you are. It’s all yours.”

Peter craned his neck to look into the room as a low whistle escaped his lips. “Wow, Brooke, my own office? You didn’t have to go and do that.” Peter slowly entered the office and walked around. Stopping behind the large antique desk, he gave the chair a spin and watched it swivel around in circles as Brooke perched herself on the opposite corner of the desk.

“Sure I did. I’m not sharing mine. Believe me, Peter…you’re gonna be a busy man. You’ll need your own space.”

“Professionally, I think you’re right. Personally, I wouldn’t mind sharing my space with a cute little blonde by the name of Crystal.” Peter winked at Brooke, then stopped the chair from spinning and plopped into it.

“Uh-huh…too bad she’s in a different line of work, entirely.” Brooke crossed her chest with her arms and leaned back, looking over her shoulder at Peter. She waited a moment, then pushed off the desk, taking the seat on the opposite side of the desk.

“Yeah, I know,” the man scowled at the thought. “But, at least you and Sam are sort of… aren’t you?”

Brooke began to scratch the back of her neck as she answered. “Umm…yeah. Actually, she’s…uhm…” the dark-haired woman stuttered. “Well, I hope she’ll be working here after the first of the year.” Brooke swallowed hard. “But I have the feeling that I botched that whole possibility.”

Brown eyes opened wide in confusion. “What? How’re you gonna swing that one? Isn’t she still in school?”

“Yeah, she is. Janet is her PR professor.”

“Janet? Janet Humphreys…” Peter sat forward and pointed to Brooke, “…your old birthday buddy? Damn if it isn’t a small world.” The musician brought his hand down, slapping the desk, then sank into his chair. “Well, if it would work out and she does ends up working here, what will Sam be doing?”

“Well…” Brooke thought about the question carefully before answering. “In order for her to graduate, she has to do an internship promoting something from the bottom on up. If she actually ends up here, I was planning on giving her the assignment for Line Of Fire, that band we signed from Jersey. They’ll be done recording by the beginning of January.”

Peter nodded his head, and then looked up with laughing brown eyes. “New talent eh? Doesn’t that fall into my category?”

“It will be their first album, with lots of promotion opportunities there. Besides,” Brooke smirked, “this was planned before you, my friend.”

Peter laughed. “Somehow Brooke, I didn’t think you’d back off on this one.”

Brooke became a little shy all of a sudden as she began to play with the new blotter on her friend’s desk. “Yeah…anyway, Sam and I agreed that if she had an internship locally, we’d talk about moving in together. I tried to rent an apartment near the campus but she wouldn’t let me.” Brooke stopped what she was doing, and then placed her hands in her lap as she contemplated the memories.

Peter watched her closely. He could tell that this was something Brooke really wanted; in fact, it was more like something that she needed. “Is that why you have that ring ready at all times?” He asked quietly.

A smile broke out on Brooke’s face at the thought of the engagement ring in her pocket. “The ring?” She looked up to see Peter nod. “Actually, I’m waiting for the perfect moment to ask her. She deserves that. I’ll know when the time is right.”

“Oh, I see…” Peter crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair. “You know, Brooke, I was thinking…if Crystal and I ever get married, you and I would be relatives through marriage, wouldn’t we?”

The dark haired woman looked over at him, surprise evident on her face that the word marriage had even crossed his lips. “Yes, we would. Well, that is, if Sam says ‘yes’.” Brooke gazed back down to her hands as she nervously wrung them in her lap, looking for all the world like she’d just lost her best friend.

“What do you mean ‘if’? You know she’s crazy about you. Why wouldn’t she want to spend the rest of her life with you?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’m just going to be on pins and needles till I hear a ‘yes’ from her lips.”

Peter uncrossed his arms and leaned across his desk, grabbing one of Brooke’s hands in his own. He waited for her blue eyes to meet his own brown ones. “Then ask her, Brooke. Let her tell you for herself. What have you got to lose?” Peter waited for an answer as the sound of silence echoed throughout the office.

“My heart,” Brooke answered, barely loud enough for her old friend to hear.

After releasing the slightly trembling hand of his friend, Peter got up from his seat and walked around the desk. Circling an arm around Brooke’s slumped shoulders, he leaned on the arm of the chair. “Hey, I don’t see that happening at all. That girl loves you with everything she is. Believe me; I can see it when she looks at you. If there’s anything that I can do, Brooke… just ask. I want to see the two of you happy together.”

Brooke couldn’t help but smile when she saw the concern in Peter’s warm eyes. “I’m glad you’re working here, Pete. I didn’t realize until we met up again just how much I’d missed you.”

The man stood up straight, puffed up with pride and smiled. “Yeah, well, I’ve wised up a lot over the last few years. I’m just glad that we got back in touch with each other.”

“Me too.” Brooke shook her head, and then smirked. “And I guess we actually owe that one to the Master Shithead, himself.”

Brown eyes rolled at the mention of their former band mate. “Well, something good has to come out of everything. I guess we were it.”

Brooke stood up from the desk and slapped her friend on the shoulder. “I guess so. All right, I’ve got an errand to run, so I’ll let you get to work, Pete,” she finished with a grin. “I’m sure that Ida will help you with getting everything to your liking once she gets her morning cup of coffee. You might want to start with the computer.”

Peter snapped his heals together in military style and saluted her. “Yes, Ma’am. See ya later, Boss.”

Brooke laughed at his antics as she merely shook her head, and then casually offered her thoughts on his attire as she left the room. “Oh, and Peter, you might want to lose the tie. We’re pretty casual in this company. It doesn’t pay for us to look like the establishment. The artists won’t trust us.”

He looked down nervously to his tie. “Well, it won’t hurt for one day, will it? Besides, I bought this special for my first day here and I’m going to wear it.”

Brooke shrugged her shoulders, then laughed. “Later, Petey. I’ll see you later.”

Waiting until she was gone and the door was closed, Peter turned, looking at the spacious office that was now his. Like a bolt of lightning cutting through a night sky, he threw his fist up into the air after doing a happy dance and yelled, “YES!” Meekly, he looked around and began to settle into his role as Brownstone Records’ new talent scout. The ex-musician straightened his tie, then snuggled into his chair and smiled, waiting for work to come his way.

It was a little over an hour since Peter had been shown his office. Considering how nervous he was earlier, he marveled at the ease with which he was able to start on the tasks that Brooke had gone over with him the night before. He was already becoming more comfortable in his new job and sure enough, Ida had been there to answer any questions he had about company procedures.

He rolled up his sleeves and had just begun to loosen his tie when Ida’s familiar voice came over his speakerphone once again. “Line two, Mr. Butler.”

“Thanks, Ida.” Peter waited for the line to disconnect before punching in the flashing red button on his phone. He took a deep breath before answering. “Brownstone Records, Peter Butler speaking.”

“What in the hell is this shit?” An angry voice asked over the line. “Why are you answering the phones? Where the hell is Brooke?”

Peter rolled his eyes and held the phone away from his ear as he recognized the voice on the other end of the line. “James?”

“No…it’s Mary Frickin Poppins…”

“Hey, James. You called Brownstone Records and I happen to work here now. You don’t have to be so damn insulting with your answers. Brooke is tied up in a meeting right now. May I help you?”

“Yeah…all right, Peter, you fucking traitor. Where in the hell are my master tapes?”

“Traitor?” Peter began, making sure to keep his voice at an even level, trying not to give James the satisfaction of knowing that his ex-band member was pissing him off. “James…I told you I wasn’t going that route any more.”

“Bullshit! She got to you and you happily went along for the ride. Once again, you’re Loran’s little puppet. She pulls the strings and you do her happy little dance.”

Peter rubbed his temples and began to understand why Ida had mentioned getting aspirin for ‘The Boss’ earlier as one of her duties. “No, she didn’t get to me. It’s more like I finally grew up and saw the light. Now the only question is, when will you? Besides… you know, it’s better to dance sober than to be a drunken fool.”

“Yeah? Well you’re no saint either. You’ve definitely done your share. Now where are my damn recordings?”

“You mean the master tapes that Brooke made for you in payment for that little gig we did for her?” Peter asked coyly.

“What, are you senile too? Yes, those recordings.”

The new talent scout let a smile cross his face smugly as he picked up two boxes with the name James Anderson in neat print written across the top. “I uh…wouldn’t know, James. You’ll have to ask her, yourself.” After looking at each side of the boxes, Peter tossed them back down on his desk.

The angered voice boomed over the phone line once again. “Don’t dick me around here, Peter. I’m not into playing games with the likes of you and that whore anymore. I want those tapes.”

The familiar sound of a bottle being opened on the other end of the line brought the complete picture of James back into Peter’s mind. It wasn’t unheard of for James to toss back a six-pack during the course of a simple phone conversation alone. Peter had been witness to it on many occasions during their touring years together. The ex-band member suddenly became repulsed by the images that danced through his brain and lashed out at their source. “You know, James, I’d say that you were the whore out of all of us. You were always selling yourself for a chance at another shot at fame.” Peter’s eyes grew bigger as he began to realize what was going on. “And just like before, you’re trying to ride on Brooke’s coat tails to get it. But a deal’s a deal, so, I’ll look around and see if I can find them.” Yeah, Peter thought, and maybe some year, you’ll get them.

“Don’t piss me off anymore than you already have, Peter.” His words were interrupted by the sound of breaking glass. “I wouldn’t advise it. I played that gig for her little schoolgirl, now I want my fucking tapes.”

Peter stifled a yawned before deciding to end this entire conversation. “Why don’t you go sober up, James, then maybe we can have this conversation again sometime. Goodbye.” He brought the handset away from his ear, still hearing the shouted words coming through the line.

“Don’t you hang up on me…”

Click… The handset now rested in its cradle.

Peter got up from his desk and walked over to the window, hoping that the view was nearly as calming as the one he’d seen from Brooke’s office. Looking out the window, he realized that his office was on the other side of the building, his view different, but still he found it calming, none-the-less. “You’ll never change, will you, James,” he muttered under his breath. “You’re still the asshole.” He stood there, reflecting when he heard the soft tapping at his door.

“Mr. Butler?” The older woman slowly opened the door and peeked inside.

Peter turned around to see Ida standing there, her coffee mug in hand. “Please, call me Peter or Pete, Ida. Okay?”

“I’m sorry, Peter.” The woman smiled self-consciously. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m stepping out of the office for some coffee. Would you like some?”

Peter smiled at her. “Yes I would, Ida. Thank you. Strong and black please. I think I’m going to need it.” He watched as the older woman turned to leave and a thought came to his mind. “Hey, Ida?”

“Yes, Sir?”

“How do we send master tapes out of here?”

“Master tapes?” The woman quickly ran through her well-organized mind and could come up with no group under contract that was ready for master tapes. “Well…it depends on where they’re going, who they’re for, and their priority level.”

Peter nodded his head and grabbed the tapes off of his desk as he made his way over to the woman waiting patiently at the door. “Will you send these out, please?” He shrugged, then chuckled. “Use the lowest priority level possible. It won’t make a difference, the band is a loser anyway.”

Ida looked at the name on the top of the box and recognized it immediately. “Should I even bother, Sir?” She asked with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

“Yeah,” Peter nodded with his hands deep in the pockets of his black Dockers. “Brooke promised them and she’s good for her word.”

“Not a problem, I understand. Could you let Ms. Gordon know that a Sam Moleson called and said that her class was cancelled so she’d be waiting at the dorm? I left a note taped to her computer, but I know she’d like to know as soon as she gets back. It seems that neither one of us could get through to her cell phone.”

“Sam? Sure thing, Ida.” Peter smiled, happy for his friend. “I’ll let Brooke know just as soon as I see her.”

“Thank you, Sir.” The woman held up her coffee mug, “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“That’s okay, Ida, take your time.” He watched her depart, then grabbed his jacket off the back of the door and quickly rummaged through the pockets. He pulled the pack of cigarettes out of the pocket as a relieved smile came to his face. “I thought I could give you guys up.” Peter held the pack up and sighed. “Oh well, I guess it won’t be today. Time for a smoke break.”

Rolling into her office like one of the waves that quickly rise on the shore, Brooke settled comfortably in her chair and took the phone in her hand. She dialed the familiar number and waited for her lover to answer.

“Hey, what’s up lover? So you got my message, huh?”

Brooke heard Sam’s voice answer and a smile automatically came to her face.

“Hiya, Gorgeous.” She spun her chair, settling to look at the view out of her window. “Yes, I did. Are you playing hooky?”

Sam’s soft laughter filled the line. “Hooky? No, I just had a class cancelled because the professor got sick. I couldn’t think of a better way to use that time than to talk to you.”

“Oh…” Brooke turned her chair around, then sat back in it, propping her feet up on her desk. “So, uhm…what are you wearing?”

“Wearing?”

“Yeah.” Her throaty giggle filled the void in the conversation as her mood soared the more she heard Sam’s voice, Brooke couldn’t help but tease the younger woman. “Tell me what you’re wearing, Darlin’.”

“Wearing?” Sam muttered the word. “What do you mean wear…” then she paused as a thought came to her. “Oh.” Sam realized what her lover was doing and decided to nip that idea in the bud. “Brooke, we don’t need to be doing phone sex.”

“Well, damn.” Brooke sat up in her chair, letting her feet come back down to the floor. “You’re no fun today,” she chided her lover. “So, what’re you doing today, now that your class has been cancelled?”

“Well…I was going to do some laundry but I could think of a few things that I’d rather be doing than watching a tumble dry cycle.”

Two dark eyebrows found their way up into Brooke’s hairline as her heart sped up, anxious to hear her lover’s ideas. “Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well…how about you picking me up and I’ll show you personally.” The sultry voice beguiled the woman on the other end. “It’s much more fun when done in the right company. I could give you a one on one lesson in the proper care and handling of my delicate cycle.”

“Delicate cycle…” Brooke felt like a kid in a candy store at the thought of seeing her lover again so soon. “Why don’t you pack a bag? I could pick you up and take you back in the morning.”

“Hmm…” The moan was meant to stimulate and seduce. “I only have one question, Brooke. Will I get any laundry done or should I save that for another time?”

Brooke’s mind filled with flashes of the golden-haired woman doing the most delicious things to her body. Then, sensing that her body was already destined for a direct path to overload, she moved on with the conversation. “You could bring it all with you. I’ll have plenty of room now, when I pick you up ”

“Great!” Sam’s enthusiastic answer sounded more like a kid, then the sophisticated woman she was trying to project. “I mean,” she cleared her throat, adopting the sultry tone once more. “That’s what I was hoping you would say. So, shall I be expecting you around five or six then?”

“Why wait that long? I could be there in an hour.” Brooke continued the seductive game.

“Wait a minute, Brooke.” Sam’s voice resumed in her normal tone. “What do you mean by ‘plenty of room’?”

The dark-haired woman chuckled, thinking of what visions were going through her lover’s mind. “I ah…well,” her voice squeaked out. “I’ve got us a new toy,” Brooke suddenly felt bad for not discussing her purchase with Sam before hand.

“Hmmm…” Sam sounded thoughtful. “This I have got to see. Okay, tell me, what is it?”

“I thought you didn’t want to have phone sex,” Brooke took advantage to tease her young lover.

“Brooke Gordon,” Sam’s voice was filled with shock. “What did you get us?”

The woman paused effectively, letting the mystery fill the air for a few more seconds before answering softly. “A Toyota Sequoia. I was ah… out, picking it up when you called earlier.” Brooke waited to see if Sam would be upset with her.

“Brooke, that’s a… a… huge thing.” She sighed, then spoke thoughtfully, “But I guess it does have its advantages over the Z.”

“Oh, it does,” Brooke assured her. “And I needed it for work, too. It’s not like I can carry a lot in the 300. It’ll get all torn up inside, besides… I really wanted a truck.” The woman paused, then added. “But I’m still keeping the Z.”

“Well, you know you can’t drive them both at the same time.”

“I know,” Brooke began to twist the front of her shirt, feeling like a chastised child. “But that’s okay. I thought that maybe you could drive one.”

“Me? I…ah…I…”

The executive grinned as she heard Sam start to stutter on the other end of the line. With her playful mood returning, she placed one booted foot against the edge of her desk, pushed off and began to spin her chair in a circle.

“What? Uh…but, Brooke… anywhere that I go is with you.”

“I know but you could still drive one if you needed to,” Brooke answered as she continued to spin in her chair, thankful that she had a long cord on her phone.

“Why would I need to if I have you?”

“Oh, I see. You just want a chauffeur, don’t you?”

“Well, a chauffeur that has other duties, too.”

Brooke stopped spinning when she heard a low growl escape Sam’s throat.

“So when should I be ready, Jeeves?”

“Well, I could be there in an hour. I just need to check in on Pete and make sure he’s got everything under control.” Brooke began to swivel her chair again in the same direction.

“That sounds great. I forgot that he was starting today. How’s he doing anyway?”

“Not bad. He must still be nervous though, he was outside smoking when I got back with the truck.”

“Just give him a few days to adjust. I’m sure it must be pretty hard working for a friend.”

“Yeah. I’m sure he’ll be fine. I have all the faith in the world in him.”

“And what about me? Do you have any faith left for me?

Brooke stopped the motion of her chair with a single foot planted against the leg of her desk. She found herself starting to get dizzy and way too tangled in her phone cord. “You, my dear, have my special faith, my trust and my love. You have my soul and my heart.” The ex-musician listened as the words made Sam gasp.

“Well, good.” The young woman slowly started. “Then come get me so I can die a happy woman.”

“You name it, it’s yours. I’ll see you soon, Darlin’. I love you”

Sam allowed a small sigh to escape as she shivered at hearing those three little words from Brooke’s lips. “I love you too, Brooke, more and more every day. See you soon, Baby.” Sam sent a kiss off into the phone.

Hearing the soft smacking noise, Brooke did the same, then ended the conversation. “Bye, Sweetheart.”

The mesmerized woman hung up her phone, not realizing she was still tangled in the cord until she tried to stand up from her seat. “What the…” she looked down at her legs and chair wrapped in the coiled black cable, then laughed. Well, I’d rather have her wrapped around me than this, she mused as she carefully untangled herself and the chair. Once free, she shut down her computer, then grabbed her jacket, making sure to place her cell phone in the pocket before she headed out to pick up Sam.

“Ida?” Brooke called as she entered the outer corridor from her office.

“Yes, Brooke?” The graying head popped up from behind her computer terminal.

“I’m going to be out of the office for the rest of the afternoon.” Brooke pulled on her jacket and straightened the collar. “If anything major comes up, you can reach me on my cell phone.” She pulled it out of her pocket and showed it to the woman when she saw the doubtful look on Ida’s face. “I have it this time.” She watched the older woman smile as Brooke started down the hall. “Otherwise, please make sure all calls get directed to Peter. I’ll inform them at the switchboard downstairs.”

“Okay, Boss…” Ida paused for a second, then casually asked as she stirred her coffee, “You picking up Sam? Did you get her message?”

Stopping in mid step, Brooke eyed her suspiciously for a moment with an arched eyebrow. Hmm… now how does she know about Sam? She wondered, then decided that it didn’t matter. “Yes,” Brooke nodded. “I received the message, thank you, Ida.” She lingered a moment, watching as a smile graced the woman’s face. “Something wrong, Ida?”

“Of course not, Ma’am. Don’t worry. No calls for you unless they are life threatening.” Ida watched as Brooke made her way reluctantly at first to Peter’s office, then whispered under her breath, “My life that is. God, I’m glad she’s finally found someone that makes her happy.”

Brooke walked up to Peter’s office and knocked on the frame of the partially opened door before stepping inside. “Hey, Buddy. I’m leaving for the rest of the day. If you have any questions, feel free to call the cell, otherwise, Ida can help you out.”

Peter looked up from his paperwork to see Brooke with her keys in hand, ready to leave. “You talked to Sam, eh?” The man asked, glancing back down to the paper in his hand.

Brooke smiled. “Why…yes, I did.” She noticed that Peter seemed a little off, kind of distracted.

“Go on. Get out of here, I’m fine. Ida will keep me in line if I need it. You go, have a good evening with your girl.”

Brooke watched him for few moments as he kept playing with a certain piece of paper. “Okay, thanks pal.” She watched as he nodded his head and turned back to his paperwork. “Peter? You okay?”

Brown eyes looked up into concerned blue. “Don’t worry about my end. You just worry about something coming up on yours,” he added this last bit with a mischievous grin.

“You sure?” Concerned for her friend, she studied him closer, seeing the hints of an internal battle that was taking place within the man.

“Sure. Nothing happening here.” Peter looked back down at the paperwork and sighed. “Actually…Brooke, there is one thing.” He looked at the woman standing in his doorway. “James called here earlier about those master tapes you did for him.”

Brooke rolled her eyes. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I went on ahead and sent them out to him. He was really being a shit head.”

“I’m not surprised. What else is new?” Brooke shrugged. “Oh well.” She gave Peter a little wave as she turned to leave. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Pal.” Brooke stopped, turning back into his office. “I’ll be leaving right after I tell Ida to reroute those tapes to Nebraska first,” she added with an evil gleam in her eyes before leaving.

Peter watched as her form disappeared from his view. He then picked up the piece of paper that had been distracting him and smiled. Looking over his copy of the packing slip for James’ master tapes, he chuckled. “Already done, Boss. Already done.”

The young blonde was busy throwing a few things together for her evening with Brooke when she heard the door open and her roommate come in.

“Hey there, Roomie.”

“Hey, C.C. Are you finally done with your classes today?”

“Yeah…finally. What are you doing back so early?” C.C. questioned, as she walked over and set her bag down next to her bed.

“I…ah…I got done early and mentioned it to Brooke. So, she’s on her way over.”

C.C. rolled her eyes in mock irritation. “Damn, again? Is this going to be an every week thing now? Because at this rate, Terri is gonna start charging me rent.” The brunette sat down on her bed. “Then again… I could just make Brooke pay for it.” C.C. grinned at her roommate to let her know she was only teasing her.

Sam folded a sweater, then reached under the bed for her overnight bag. “C.C., does that bother you? If I would have known…” Sam sighed heavily, sitting down on her own bed. “Maybe I should have let Brooke find an apartment close to the campus,” she mumbled. She looked up to see C.C. studying her intently. “It’s okay though, really. We’re not staying here tonight. She’s picking me up and we’ll be spending the night at her place.”

“Sam…I’m kidding. It doesn’t bother me at all. You do know that I’m kidding, right?” C.C. searched her friend’s face for any sign of doubt.

“Look, C.C., I know that you and Brooke are close…and that you’d do anything for her. But I don’t want to take advantage of that… not at all.”

“I don’t think you’re taking advantage of anything, Sam.” C.C. reassured her friend. “You know me and know how big my mouth can be. If it bothered me, I’d just tell you to go somewhere else. Well… I’d at least ask you anyway,” the brunette joked. “Besides… it’s been really nice hanging out with Terri. She told me it helps pass the time when Rick isn’t there. Especially now with the baby on the way. You know…raging hormones and all.”

Sam smirked. “You’re right, C.C. You do have a big mouth… and a big heart. You’d do anything for your sisters, wouldn’t you?”

C.C. didn’t have to think twice when it came to her family. “Yes, I would.” The brunette got off of her bed, crossing over to sit next to Sam. She gently placed a hand upon Sam’s shoulder. “And you… you’re my best friend, you know that.”

The blonde nodded her head and smiled. “Yes, I know. Best friend. Roommate. Hell, maybe one day even sister-in-law, if you don’t watch out.”

“Oh, yeah? You mean you’d actually, uhm… marry Brooke?”

“I’m not sure if ‘marry’ is the correct term for our kind of relationship, but ah…” Sam paused long enough to stare at the floor when she started to blush. “Yes, I’d marry your sister in a heartbeat, to use the conventional terms.”

C.C.’s eyes were ready to pop out of their sockets. “Really?”

Sam looked over at her roommate. “Does that surprise you?” She studied the woman’s face, and then decided. “Hmmph… I guess so. Well, don’t feel too bad, ’cause it sure surprised me when I thought about it the other night.”

“The other night? Why were you thinking about it the other night?” C.C. leaned forward to get the scoop that her ever-inquiring mind wanted to know.

“The last time Brooke slept here, I woke up feeling her touching my fingers. Well, ring finger to be more exact. I kind of got the impression that she was sizing me up in more ways than I could imagine.”

C.C. bit her tongue, not wanting to spoil Brooke’s surprise. “Yeah? And…?”

“And…I guess I just kind of got to thinking about it. You know, wondering myself what my answer would be.”

The brunette wrapped her arms around her roommate in a crushing hug. “Oh… that’s really cool, Sam. I’m really happy for both of you.”

Sam laughed at C.C.’s enthusiasm and pulled back from the hug. “C.C., would you think I was strange if I told you that I feel ‘married’ to her already?”

“Strange? No.” She thought for a moment, then continued. “Well… maybe, except for the fact that you two don’t live together.” C.C. watched the dreamy expression take up residence on Sam’s face. “You really are completely gaga over her, aren’t you?”

Sam blinked, looking away, then turned to focus her eyes on the brown of her roommate’s. “Gaga?” Sam smiled, leaning in towards the brunette’s ear. “I think it’s more than just gaga. It’s love, C.C. Speaking of which, it’s time I meet her at the door.” Sam wiggled her eyebrows as she got up from her bed and finished packing a few more items before zipping up her overnight bag.

C.C. held up her hands to her ears and grinned. “No details, please. Well, you know…then again…” C.C. stood up and placed one hand on her hip, tapping her chin with a finger from her other hand, “…you still haven’t told me that one little detail.”

Sam grabbed her overnight bag and started towards the door, stopping in the doorway, then turned back to wink at C.C. “You know, C.C., there are just some things a girl really shouldn’t know about her sister. See you tomorrow.” Sam laughed as she walked out into the hall, then closed the door.

“Damn.” C.C. spat out disappointed as she snapped her fingers, and then fell back into the bed.

Sam greeted Mario, then stood up and walked toward Brooke, reaching up on her toes to kiss her tall lover on the cheek. “Hey, Hon… how about I rustle us up something to eat while you go get your shower?” She took the mail out of Brooke’s hands, setting it down on the end table.

Brooke wrapped her arms around her young lover and began to kiss Sam on her cheek, whispering in her ear, “But what if I’d rather have dessert first?”

“Nope. You’ve heard that old saying ‘no supper until you wash your hands’? Well, no dessert until you’ve had your shower.”

The dark-haired woman continued to kiss her way down Sam’s jaw line until their lips were a mere breath apart. Brooke teased Sam’s lips with her own, allowing their lips to barely brush against each other. “How about a kiss? Am I at least allowed that?” Without allowing Sam the time to nod her answer, Brooke’s lips crushed against the opposite pair as the passionate kiss ensued.

The escaping moan from the back of Sam’s throat was all that Brooke needed to hear before her tongue brushed against the blonde’s lips, begging for entrance. As if in reply, two small hands tangled in ebony tresses as Sam held her lover’s head in place to erase any chance of leaving their haven. After long moments with endearing sensations, breathing finally became a necessity, and they broke apart, leaving Sam a little dazed as they came out of their kiss.

Sensing her effect on the woman, Brooke continued where she had left off, kissing Sam behind her ear. “You sure you don’t wanna come up and wash my back for me?”

The young woman tried to ground herself and regain the control she could feel slipping away from her. Inhaling deeply when she felt Brooke’s tongue begin to trace the outside of her ear, she struggled to maintain what little composure she had. “Brooke…” she felt the woman shudder at the sound of her name. “Baby, we could die of starvation if I let you have your way.” Sam pulled back and focused on her lover. “Wouldn’t we?”

“I don’t know about you, but I’d die happy.”

Green eyes grew larger as Sam gazed into Brooke’s eyes. “Happy wouldn’t come anywhere close to what I’d be.”

“Hmm…” the pleased purr started in the tall woman’s throat and continued to build.

Quickly, Sam turned Brooke around in the direction of the stairs, then she smacked Brooke on the butt. “Later, Stud Muffin. It’s shower time for you and you’d better make that a cold one. You’re way too hot already.”

Brooke sighed, having no choice but to head in the direction she was being pushed in. “Okay Darlin’, I can take a hint. I’m going.” The woman ran out of the room and up the spiral stairs, pausing to stop at the top just long enough to call down to Sam. “I love you.”

“Just like a five year old…” Sam shook her head, “…scold them and then they say something that totally melts your heart. Now I know where Julie gets it from.” Hearing the sound of water already running, she smiled, looking up to where the bathroom was on the second floor and whispered, “Love you, too!”

Sam was busy in the kitchen putting together dinner when she heard a knock at the door. Looking down at the dog that was now standing at her side, Sam grabbed a plate from the cupboard and unlocked the cabinet that held Mario’s food. “Now who could that be?” She wondered as she placed the plate on the floor, and instructed the animal. “Get your dinner, Mario.”

The Husky did as he was told while Sam wiped her hands off on the nearest hand towel. She then made her way to the front door. Pausing at the door that led into the hall, she then pulled the door closed to keep the still wet animal that had been outside in the rain confined to the kitchen.

“Sorry fella, but Brooke would kill us both if you got those wet paws all over her rug.” The blonde’s attention was once again drawn to the front door as the knocking started again. The closer she got to the door, the more she realized that the knocking had turned into banging.

“Okay, just a minute. I’m coming.” Sam looked through the peephole to see an irate James standing on the front porch, wet from the rain that had started to fall during their drive home.

Sam opened the door to a startled James. “Hi, James. Is there something you need?”

James’ entire demeanor changed as he wormed his way through the front door. “Well…hello there, Sweet thing.”

Sam could smell the alcohol on his breath and tried not to show her discomfort. “Ahh…if you’re looking for Brooke, she’ll be here in a moment or two. She’s busy with…uhm, well…that doesn’t matter what she’s busy with. Come on in and have a seat.”

Before Sam could get two feet away from the door, James had her backed against the door with an arm braced along both sides of her head. “James…?”

“No, no…I think I like it right here. So, tell me, how did you like having a taste of Loran on your birthday?” His voice seethed with maliciousness.

“Well, it wasn’t actually Loran now, was it? Brooke told me that was just a bunch of hype to sell more records.”

“Yeah,” he laughed in her face, “she would say that.”

Sam ducked out from under James’ arms and made her way into the living room. “I guess it’s just a perspective thing. You know, what you see and what they eluded to in her.” Sam kept her voice down, not wanting to seem confrontational as she made her way into the larger living area of the house.

“Where are you going, Sam? You know, I don’t bite…” James winked, “…hard.” He followed her into the living room.

“Me? Going? Ah…nowhere. I just thought that it was more ah…comfortable and airy in here.” Please, Brooke… hurry up with that shower.

“Oh.” He looked around the room for any sign of the owner. “So… did we live up to your high expectations or were we better than you could imagine?”

Sam turned around with her arms opened wide, strategically putting a chair between the two of them. “Well, the music was ah… the music was sensational. Just like the albums.”

James moved closer to her. “Yeah? You’re all about that, aren’t you?”

“About what, music? Why shouldn’t I be? Isn’t it all about music, the feel of the rhythm, the sense of the timing?”

An evil glare made itself present in James’ blurry, dark eyes. “Oh yeah, it’s all about rhythm. There’s a lot of rhythm after the music, too. And I must tell you… that I have excellent timing.”

Sam’s eyes narrowed and took on a puzzled look. “Well, your lead guitar work…”

“Sam… Sam… Sam. I think we both know what I’m talking about.” By now James had maneuvered himself around the chair, backing Sam into a corner with no chance for her to escape as he placed a hand on each wall to either side of her head.

“Uhm… I’m talking about music, James. Aren’t you?”

“You mean that bitch of a girlfriend of yours hasn’t been teaching you what rhythm is really all about?”

Sam looked James in the eye, as his point became clear. “Okay, I uh…guess we’re not talking about the same thing. I really think that I should just let Brooke talk to you. Why don’t you just have a seat and…”

“Wait? I think not. Now…” James let a laugh escape his lips as he ran a hand down Sam’s exposed arm, “…you, on the other hand…”

Sam jerked her arm away from his touch. “What are you doing, James?”

“Aww…what’s the matter, Sam? Can’t handle the real thing as opposed to the fantasy?” James turned his head from one side to the other, looking at her out of the side of his eyes.

“James… if Brooke walks in here, you’re going to be in so much trouble, fantasy or not.”

“To Hell with Brooke,” James raised his voice at the mention of her name. “That lying, scheming, sadistic, abusive whore.” He watched as Sam flinched. Spittle flew from his mouth each time he carefully enunciated a new word. “Luring Peter away from the band and me, and leaving like she did all those years ago…”

Sam could see the distant look in the man’s eye, like a dream gone up in smoke. Then her anger flared as she listened to James rip apart the woman that she loved. “Stop it, James. I wont’ let anyone talk about her that way. She’s not luring anyone.”

It was as if James had never heard her as he continued to ramble. “Fucking me out of those master tapes. All because of your little birthday.”

“What? What master tapes?” Sam began to realize that there was more to this than she knew.

“Oh, please…I played that gig so you could see the real deal. She recorded mine and Pete’s shit. You were there. Don’t play dumb, Blondie. Those tapes should be mine.”

“I think you’re missing something, James. Brooke would never go back on her word.”

James leaned in until his nose was almost touching the blonde’s. “Then why aren’t they in my hands, huh? I should probably just hold you in my hands until she gives them over to me,” and with that, he placed both hands on Sam’s upper arms.

“James, I’m sure there’s a simple reason…” She tried to make him understand until the pressure on her arms was too great. “Hey, not so hard… get off of me.” Sam twisted, trying to break his grip.

James ignored her protests and held on even tighter. “Seems only fair… I had my hands on her… now, it’s your turn.”

“You’re lying,” Sam spat out. “She’d never let you manhandle her. She’s not like that…” Sam closed her eyes and turned her head away from James, as he failed in his attempt to kiss her. She pushed against his chest. “And neither am I.”

James leaned in towards her ear and whispered, “Don’t tell me she never told you about why we broke up. I can still remember it now…how soft her skin was underneath my hands.” He watched as Sam turned to face him, opening her eyes. “How about that tiny birthmark on the small of her back, under that tattoo… or how about the other one on the inside of her right thigh. I’m sure that she’s let you see it, too. Hasn’t she?”

Green eyes narrowed, showing the rough waters of a churning sea ahead with a single gaze. “What are you getting at, James? Anyone that has seen her in a bathing suit could tell you…”

“Come on, Sam. Don’t be so fucking naïve. You can’t tell me that you honestly believed that you were Loran’s first.” He smirked, then looked away from her for a second before starting his verbal assault again. “Did she ever tell you about her pitiful suicide attempt after she left me…I mean, the group?”

The blonde looked off into the distance as one single tear slowly rolled down her cheek. Before Sam could answer, she caught the glimpse of a moving body as Brooke came running down the stairs. Faster than she could brace herself, James was roughly pulled off her and was being pushed to the floor.

“You get the hell away from her, you bastard.” Brooke turned her attention to Sam. “Are you okay, Baby? Did he hurt you?”

“Loran to the rescue as always, eh Brooke?” James stood up, making a show of brushing the imaginary dirt off of his pants.

Brooke let his remark slide by, choosing to ignore him and concentrate on Sam. She placed her hand against Sam’s cheek and wiped the tears away with her thumb. “Tell me, why are you crying?”

“You think you own that white charger you keep between your legs, don’t you?”

The dark-haired woman turned around and started toward him until she was stopped by the small hand that grabbed for her, holding on tight, not wanting to let her go. “What in the hell are you talking about, James? Get the fuck out of my house.”

“Yep… just like you to forget who put that charger there, Babe.” James winked and blew a kiss in Brooke’s direction. “I told her all about us. Everything, Brooke.”

“What us? There was never an us.” Brooke turned around to face Sam. “Baby, he’s lying. We were never together.”

“Sure, I’ll play along if that’s what you’re telling her. But do you think she’s that gullible?” James taunted with a smile.

“No, she’s not gullible. She also knows that I wouldn’t lie to her, unlike you.” Brooke’s disdain for her one-time friend was very evident. She looked away from James, only long enough to catch Sam sniffing back a tear.

“Me, lie?” James threw his arms up in disbelief. “Why, I’m the best lay you ever had and you know it.”

The ex-drummer whirled around, starting towards James until the tug of small hands brought her to her senses. “You lying bastard. I never slept with you… no matter how hard you tried.”

“Brooke, you’re so full of shit. Do I have to remind you how you were when you were drunk? You loved it. You loved me. Hell…you would have loved any one.”

Blue eyes turned to silver, glowing in their intensity with hatred for this man. “I might have been drunk, but I stopped you, you bastard. I didn’t love getting drunk that night. I sure didn’t love you dropping that shit in my drink. And I sure did not love waking up with you naked in my bunk on the bus, trying to get me out of my clothes.”

Sam’s eyes flashed from Brooke to James and back again, realizing that what they were saying could be considered the same as date rape.

“You were my best friend, you prick. I thought out of anyone, I could trust you. Boy, was I ever wrong.” Brooke turned around to look at Sam, hoping and praying that she wasn’t buying into any of James’ shit. “Sam…you know that you’re the only one I’ve ever been with. You’re the only one I’ve ever loved.”

Sam nodded, her eyes never leaving Brooke’s. “Yes, I…I know that.”

“Come off it, already, Brooke. You know I was your best lay. And you’re right about one thing. You were wrong…wrong in thinking that this little trollop could keep you satisfied.” He watched as Brooke slowly turned around to face him while he continued, “Yeah, you’re running your little brainwashing program, just like you did with Petey.”

“You listen to me, you sorry son-of-a-bitch…you say anything you want about me. But I will not have you talk about Sam like that. Peter is a grown man who can take care of himself. It was his decision to leave, not mine.” Brooke’s body began to tremble in anger and she prayed that she’d be able to curb her urge to rip his head right off, here and now.

“Whatever, Loran. You’ve got everyone wrapped around your little finger. But not me. No, Brooke, not me… I know the truth.”

“Oh yeah? And what is this so-called truth, you fucking drunk?” Brooke leveled her gaze directly at James.

“Yeah, right. And tell me, Brooke… was it your decision not to honor our agreement?”

“What are you talking about?” Brooke fumed in anger. “What agreement?”

“I’m talking about the FUCKING MASTERS,” James screamed out. “Where are they? You owe me, Brooke. You owe me big.”

“The masters were sent out this morning before nine.” Brooke shook her head. “Why am I even bothering to talk to you? Get out of my house and leave us alone, you damn drunk.”

“Drunk… you think this is drunk? This ain’t drunk, Brooke…this is shit assed angry.”

Brooke took in a deep breath and then let her voice grow in volume as she pronounced each word. “Get out of my house, NOW.”

James merely laughed at her as he began walking around the living room, picking up various items and examining them. “I aint’ no fucking employee of yours to order around. Go tell Peter to do your bidding.”

“You’re trespassing on private property. You are not welcome here.”

“That’s a shame. I remember a time when you begged me to let you play. I should have fucked you over then and got all that bullshit out of you…showed you what it was like to be a real woman. A woman who could beat out the rhythm on a set of drums and fuck all night long.”

Brooke shrugged her arm out of Sam’s grasp and walked over to James, deciding to try and beat him at his own game. “You? You’ve got to be kidding me, you needle dick, son of a bitch. I’m more man than you could ever be and more woman than you’ll ever get. Besides…” she leaned in closer to him and spoke in an almost whispered tone. “I can fuck all night long now, without your help.”

“You fucking, Dyke…”

Brooke laughed as she saw his temper flare. “And Hell…I don’t ever go limp.” The tall woman raised an eyebrow in challenge as she flexed her long, sinewy fingers in front of his face.

“I ought to…” James started, the anger now getting the best of him.

“Ought to what? Not my fault if I can fill a pair of Levi’s better than you.”

James turned, taking a step away before quickly reversing his direction, winding up to throw a punch at Brooke’s face. “Then you can take this like a man.” He let go with all his strength, throwing his weight behind the forward motion of his fist.

Brooke grabbed his fist in her hand before it ever made contact with its intended target and squeezed it with all her strength. “You first.” The coldness of the moment was reflected in her gaze as she squeezed harder, feeling slightly guilty that she was hoping to crush the bones beneath her hand.

“Brute strength, Brooke. That’s all you ever were.”

“What’s wrong? Jealous ’cause you have none?” Brooke gave the hand in hers one last crushing squeeze before flinging it away.

“Just like every drummer in the business. What I’ve got is what you’ve always wanted… and you know it.”

“Wrong… why should I waste my time on you when I’m better at it?”

“Oh, excuse me, the great Loran is never wrong. Well, except for when you decided not to fuck me.”

“James…you couldn’t handle it. Your dick would go limp before I could even blink. That is… if I could even find it.”

James grabbed his crotch, suggestively. “Care to give that a test?”

“No…it’ll never happen.”

Sam moved forward to Brooke’s side and wrapped her hands around Brooke’s upper arm. “Come on, Brooke. He’s drunk. Just let him leave.”

“Yeah, Needle dick… let go of your sock roll and get the hell out of my house.”

“Sock roll huh? Well if that cock ain’t good enough for you…then maybe this one will be.” Before Brooke could move out of the way, James sent a right upper cut in the direction of her chin. His blow landed and Brooke soon followed sharply with an elbow to his nose, merely as an impulsive instinct.

Seeing the beginnings of a fight, Sam thought it best to step in, intervening when James threw another punch in Brooke’s direction. Her actions weren’t anticipated and before she could see it coming, Sam caught the punch instead, lost her balance and hit her head against the decorative molding on the wall before she crumpled to the floor.

“Sam…” Brooke’s eyes widened in horror as she watched her lover slump to the floor in slow motion, knowing that she could not stop it. The woman spun around with such a force that one would think she was possessed by the devil. Her eyes so intense with hatred that they could have been mistaken for the fires of hell, she bared down on James.

“You FUCKING BASTARD.” Brooke let go with a yell as she grabbed his arm, wrenching it up behind his back, then rammed him across the room, slamming his face into the wall.

“What? What did I do? She stepped into it.” James tried to justify his actions.

The tall woman was having none of it. She dragged him to the entrance of the house and pushed him out, slamming the door, unintentionally catching his hand as he tried desperately to gain access to he house.

“Dammit, Brooke…that’s my fucking chord hand.” He let go with a strangled scream as she threw her weight into the door.

His plea fell on deaf ears as Brooke opened the door, then pushed him further out and into the rain. Once her mission was accomplished, she slammed the door, locked it, and then ran back over to where Sam laid sprawled out on the floor in the living room.

“Sam? Baby? Oh God…Sam?” Brooke gently pulled her up into her lap as she knelt on the floor next to her.

Dazed and confused, Sam opened her green eyes to look into concerned blue. “What…Brooke? Whoa! Who turned out the lights?”

“Oh God, Sam…I am so sorry, Baby.”

“Sorry? Why are you sorry?” Sam asked, her speech slow and wispy.

“Sam? Come on stay with me, Sweetheart.” Brooke wrapped her arms around Sam and tried to keep her conscious.

Lackluster green eyes tried to focus on Brooke and her mind was trying to make sense out of what the woman was saying to her. “Staying? Where am I staying?”

“With me, Sam…stay with me.” Fearful blue eyes flicked over her lover’s delicate features, making out the angry red mark on her face that was quickly turning a very distinctive hue of blue. Oh God, why didn’t I just throw him out on his ear to begin with. This is all my fault.

Somewhere through the brain fog, Sam tried to regain a little of her senses. “Brooke, is that you?” She asked, unsuccessful in her attempt to focus her eyes.

“Oh shit… Mario!” Brooke yelled for her faithful companion. Not a moment later, she could hear the sound of eager paws as they clawed at the kitchen door. Within moments, the dog came running into the living room as the sound of loud banging came from the front door.

“Phone, Mario. Bring me the phone.” Brooke motioned to her cell phone laying on the coffee table, then refocused her attention back on the blonde in her arms. “Sam? Come on…talk to me, Sweetheart.”

Mario was torn between doing as he was commanded by his mistress or to protect her by standing guard at the door where James continued to bang and yell obscenities. The next second decided his fate as a rock came smashing through the side panel of the entryway. Mario took off with a vengeance, growling as his upper lip rolled back, exposing menacing white teeth.

“I’m not leaving without those masters.” James stuck his hand into the open window but hurriedly pulled it back out when the sound of a savagely barking animal made him shiver with fear.

“Brooke, why am I sleeping in the living room?” Sam’s dazed eyes rolled around, taking in the room.

“Honey, you’re not. I just need you to talk to me, Baby, keep talking to me.” Brooke stretched out her long arm for the phone, understanding her dog’s refusal to leave his post at the broken window. Grabbing the phone on her second attempt, she quickly punched in the numbers 9-1-1. She turned to look in at the window, when she heard more breaking of glass, to see James starting to come through it. She waited for the operator to come on the line and quickly gave her location and name before stating the reason for her distress. “I’ve got someone breaking into my house,” her words were brief but to the point.

“You better have them, Brooke. I’m coming for them.” James called out, putting his leg through the shattered window, but it didn’t get very far before Mario bit down on his calf. “Yeow! Goddamn dyke loving dog…”

Brooke pulled the phone from her ear and yelled out her warning. “James, I’ve called the cops and they’re on their way.” She paused for a second, then issued her command, “Mario, release.”

The dog did as he was instructed this time, allowing James to pull his leg out of the window. “Ah shit!” James cried out in rage when he tried to put his weight on the leg. He left the door, cursing with each step as he limped all the way to his car. Once there, he yelled out as loud as he could before getting in. “I’ll be back, Brooke. You can count on that.”

Hearing the loud rumble of the engine as it started up, Sam tried to see what all of the commotion was about. She tried to get up but Brooke held her tightly against her body, rocking the young woman gently and whispered, “No, Sam, stay right where you are, Baby. I’m going to get someone to check you out.” Brooke reached for the phone and hit her sister’s designated number on the phone book. “Come on, Terri. I need you.”

“Man, does my head hurt.” Sam complained as she raised her hand feebly toward her head.

“Just hang tight, Baby.” Brooke stressed as she waited for her younger sister to answer her cell phone.

“Maybe, I should’ve hung tighter,” Sam joked, then winced at the throbbing in her head.

“Hey, what’s up sis? Don’t you just love caller ID?”

Hearing her sister answer the phone, Brooke sighed in relief. “Terri, are you still at Mom’s? I need you to get over here to the house like five minutes ago.”

“No, I’m not there. Why? Did Mario eat the garbage again? I’m a pediatrician, Brooke… not a vet.”

“No, it’s Sam. James was here and threw a punch at me but ended up hitting her instead.”

“WHAT?” Terri’s voice turned into a shrill screech. “No, don’t answer that. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” The pediatrician abruptly disconnected.

Casting the phone aside, Brooke pulled Sam up into her lap and held her tight. “Sam, talk to me, Baby.”

“Yeah, babe? I’m here… at least I think I am.”

Brooke looked at the woman in her arms and wanted to cry. “Terri’s on her way over. I want her to take a look at you.”

“Why… do I look different? I just feel tired. Honest, Brooke.” Sam tried to get up but thought better of it, as she was feeling dizzy.

“No. Come on, Sweetheart. Stay awake, Sam. Keep talking to me. God, Baby…I’m so sorry, but you should’ve stayed behind me, Sam. I never meant for you to get in the line of fire between James and me.” Brooke tenderly placed her lips against the top of Sam’s head and kissed her.

The young blonde disagreed, shaking her head. “I’m beside you, all the time, remember that. There are no leaders and no followers in this relationship, Brooke. We’re partners all the way, side by side.” Sam brought her hand to her head and winced at the pain her headache was giving her. “Right, hubby?”

“Hubby?” Brooke’s eyebrow arched at Sam’s statement.

“You know what I mean.” Sam sounded annoyed as she closed her eyes, trying to keep the headache at bay.

“Open your eyes, Sam. I know what you mean but I wanna hear it from you.”

“Brooke, baby… I’ll feel better when I wake up and I’ll tell you whatever you wanna know. I just wanna sleep right now.” Sam began to protest against Brooke’s attempts to keep her conscious and at least semi-coherent.

“Sam… do not go to sleep. I want to hear more about this hubby business. Come on, keep talking to me, Sam.”

A smile found its way onto Sam’s face. “Hubby… nice ring to it, huh? All the girls want one… all the girls get one. Now, I’ve got mine. I knew you were, from the first time I laid eyes on you at that dinner. You can’t deny it now, can you?”

“Oh yeah? I ‘m your hubby, huh? I don’t have the requisite equipment to fulfill that role, Sam, but…you know what?”

Sam continued to ramble before she realized that Brooke was speaking to her. “You’re my strength… you’re my… what? Someone say something?”

“Hmmm…I think we might have to discuss this hubby business in further detail when you’re fully alert.” Brooke looked at the out of sort blonde and smiled. “I love you, Sam.”

Dull, green eyes took on a slight twinkle. “Then, do I get to sleep now?”

“No…not until Terri gets here and says that it’s all right.” Brooke shook her head from side to side while she heard the sirens get louder as they approached the house.

“Terri?” Sam asked in surprise, then furrowed her brows. “Why is she coming? I thought it was going to just be me and you tonight.” Sam’s eyes shifted to see the woman in question opening the front door. “Look, she’s here.”

Brooke turned to see her sister coming through the door followed by two uniformed police. “Thank God you’re here, Terri.” Blue eyes sent a message of concern to her sister. “She’s still a little confused about what’s happening.”

Assuming her role as a professional, Terri placed a comforting hand on Brooke’s shoulder and nodded. “I’ll take over from here. Was she out for long, Sis?”

The dark-haired woman had to stop and think about that for a moment. “I…I guess maybe a minute…no…make that at least two, before I got James out of here and the door locked.”

The pediatrician knelt down beside Sam, holding a single finger up in the air for her to focus on. “Sam,” Terri smiled slightly seeing the concentrated effort of the young woman as the blonde turned her attention to the woman before her. “Hi, can you do something for me? Can you follow my finger?” Terri watched as green eyes took a moment but eventually did zero in on the finger she held in front of Sam. Carefully, Terri watched as Sam’s slightly dulled response adjusted to her moving digit. “Brooke, why don’t you go over and give the police the information that they need while I stay here with Sam?” Terri stole a glance away from her patient, directing it to her sister.

“Yeah, I guess I can do that.” Brooke kissed Sam’s forehead softly, then looked her in the eye. “I’m going to be right over there if you need me. How about if Terri stays here with you until I get back?”

Sam gave a little smile. “Love you, Brooke. Hurry back, I need my pillow.”

Brooke smiled as she kissed the knuckles on Sam’s hand, then she left her lover in the trusted care of her sister.

“Okay, Sam,” Terri smiled at the young woman, “what do you say I have a look at you and make sure you’re not hurt anywhere?”

The dazed woman started to nod, then stopped as she watched Brooke go over to the two people in uniform and began talking in hushed tones. Sam strained to hear what was being said, but she couldn’t quite grasp more than a word or two. Even then, nothing seemed to make much sense, not with the constant gibberish that seemed to be coming from the radios that the police carried with them.

Terri painstakingly covered every inch of Sam’s visible body, with her soft, sensitive hands, stopping here or there and asking if it hurt when she touched it. Even though she was examining the blonde, the physician didn’t hesitate to keep a watchful eye on her older sister. Nearing the end of her initial survey for injuries, Terri heard the excited speech of her sister Brooke, and turned to see what was happening.

“That’s him. That’s his car, Officer.” Brooke’s face turned deadly serious as her finger pointed to the radio on the officer’s hip. Suddenly, the anger came bubbling to the surface. “Don’t let him get away. God damn it, he didn’t even get more than a couple blocks from here.”

The officer picked up his lapel mic and keyed it. “Detain that driver on a reported breaking and entering.” He looked over to the blonde on the floor. “And some more possible charges to follow. I’m taking the complaint now.”

“That’s James.” Brooke leveled a stare at the cop. “I know it is. That description fits the car he was driving perfectly.” She looked back over to Sam as the officer talked on the radio with the other patrol car officers on the traffic stop and their dispatcher. When she sensed that he was done, her gaze came back to the man. “Well?”

“You can rest assured that he won’t be back tonight, ma’am.” The officer said softly as he jotted down a few more details on his report.

“I don’t want him back any night. I don’t want him anywhere near us.”

“Well, you could always file for a PFA if you’d like to. That’s protection from abuse. It’s a domestic violence protection act. That should keep your…ah…” the male officer stumbled, not wanting to use the wrong word, “him away.”

The female officer finally spoke up, offering, “You’ll need to come downtown to have one sworn out from a judge.”

A raised eyebrow and a hurried glance toward her sister and Sam caused Brooke to state her hesitancy toward leaving. “Does it have to be done tonight or can I do it in the morning?”

“The morning will be good enough. He’s not going anywhere tonight,” The man in blue stated.

“You could even have a lawyer file it for you. Do you have a lawyer, Ma’am?” His partner chimed, in trying to help.

“Why yes, I do.” Brooke thought of her older sister, Randi, immediately.

“Well then, let them do it and you can stay to take care of your friend. Now, if you could just sign right here to press charges, the court will do the rest.” He held out the form to Brooke and waited.

With a quick glance to Sam, the tall woman reached for the form and signed her name. Handing it back, she walked the two officers to the door and thanked them for their help. As soon as the door was shut, she hastened back into the living room to check on Sam.

Kneeling down on the floor by Terri, she reached out and held Sam’s hand in her own. “How is she?” she asked her sister, trying not to startle her lover.

Terri took a deep breath, then turned to look into Brooke’s worried, blue eyes. “Well…it’s hard to say without a CT san. I think that she’s probably got a concussion. Nothing seems to be broken, but she damn sure got her bell rung.”

After placing a kiss on the back of Sam’s knuckles, Brooke looked up to her sister, and asked, “Should I take her to the ER?”

“You want this all over the papers?” Terri asked, reminding Brooke that no matter how bad she wanted to be, she wasn’t the normal, everyday, girl-next-door. And the same went for the people who were associated with her.

Brooke hung her head at the predicament they found themselves in. “No, but I’d rather know that she’s safe. Terri, I don’t care what happens to me. I just want to make sure Sam’s alright.”

“Then let me do my best to keep it down to just a low roar.” Terri patted her sister’s hand. “Excuse me while I make a couple of phone calls and set up a private ER visit.”

The older woman nodded her consent, feeling the love in her sister’s gentle touch as she laid a hand on her shoulder. Pausing for a moment to regain her composure, Brooke turned her attention toward Sam. “You still with me, Baby?”

“Yeah…” Sam answered, groggily. “Tired though. What happened? Why do I feel like I have one hell of a headache?”

The questions put a smile on Brooke’s face, knowing that her lover was regaining her senses. “Probably because you do, Sweetheart. James tried to punch me and hit you instead. You lost your balance, fell and hit your head on the wall.”

“Ouch…” Sam made a face as she rubbed the bump on her head. “I guess that’ll teach me to start wearing a helmet indoors. Do you think Terri could give me some aspirin or something?”

“We can ask her,” Brooke placed a kiss on Sam’s cheek and each woman drank in the closeness of the other in silence until Terri returned.

“Okay, here’s the deal. I’ve got it all set,” she started out as she crossed the room toward them. “Sam’s going to be seen as a private patient in my hospital’s ER. I’ve already arranged for a CT scan and she wont’ be registered under her name.” Terri smiled at her achievement of keeping the news out of the magazines. “Ah… Brooke, you’re going to have to pay cash… just to keep any record free of her name.”

Brooke’s eyes never left Sam as she answered, “That’s not a problem, Ter.”

“I figured you would say that. Come on…let’s get her in the car and go for a ride.” Terri offered her sister her hand and smiled when it was accepted.

Once standing, Brooke nodded her head, then helped Sam to her feet. “Baby, we’re gonna take a little trip and get you checked out with some special pictures. Do you think you could stay awake just a little longer?”

Sam couldn’t help but sigh at the thought of having to do anything involving movement and rolled her eyes. “Okay, Hon…” she slowly got up, pausing once to rub her furrowed brow, “but I think dessert is going to be called off tonight. I’ve got one terrific headache here.”

Brooke smiled at Sam’s sense of humor. “That’s okay, Darlin…I’ll just pamper you for a change.”

Sam’s eyes grew round at her misunderstanding of the words that Brooke had spoken. “Why would you want to pamper me? Brooke, I may be small but are you really sure that they come in my size?”

“Oh boy,” Brooke rolled her eyes. “I can see now that it’s going to be a long night.”
Ch21 Christmas Presents, Pasts & Future
“… When you’re in the system, will you care that you are missing from the prophets that we are?… I know it… `Cause you were once a Gone Street Poet…”
The darkened guestroom was not very conducive to the tall woman’s body as she sat with her back against the brass headboard, her lap filled by tussled blonde hair which her long fingers fondled in a soothing way. Brooke wasn’t about to register any complaints. She was just thankful that the last twenty-four hours were over. It was a day that she definitely didn’t want to relive in her lifetime or any other, for that matter.

What had started out as an impromptu rendezvous for the two lovers had suddenly exploded into a heated argument ending with blows being exchanged. Now, in the aftermath, the tall woman had blamed herself for the violence that had ensued. Nothing she did now would change the outcome, but Brooke held herself responsible for the damage that had been inflicted on her young lover.

Mentally, Brooke chastised her lack of openness. You should have told her, or at least warned her about James. She’s a part of your life and you haven’t even told her what or whom you’ve overcome to get here. Brooke resigned to the fact that she wasn’t at her best operating speed in her sleep-deprived state. Closing her eyes, the heart-saddened woman pushed all thoughts from her head for now, hoping that after getting some rest, her mind would be able to think a little clearer.

The vibrating sensation on Brooke’s hip aroused the woman swiftly from her attempt to doze. Being careful not to jar the soundly sleeping form on her lap, she grabbed her phone, flicked the cover open, then held it up to her ear knowing that her eyes wouldn’t be able to focus on the caller ID. In a hushed tone, Brooke cleared her parched throat and whispered out a raspy, “Hello?”

“Brooke, is that you? Why are you whispering?” the concerned voice asked. “Is something wrong with Sam?”

“Hey, Terri,” Brooke’s voice became a little more lively. “Sam’s sleeping. I was up with her all night since they wanted her to wait before sleeping.” She ran her fingers through the short blonde hair and sighed. “She just went to sleep…” Brooke pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at the time displayed on the illuminated area, “…a little over an hour ago. What’s up?”

“Oh, okay. I was just calling to check on her.”

“She’s sleeping like a baby, sis. But they did tell her to enjoy it because she was going to hurt like hell when she woke up. It’s a concussion, you know.”

“Concussion… you idiot, I’m the one that got you the CT scan. Don’t you think I know what it read out as?” Terri’s voice took on that authoritarian doctor sound. “What kind of doctor do you think I am?”

“Ah…sorry, Ter, it’s been a long night. In fact, C.C. just left here a little while ago. I had her bring over some clothes for Sam to stay here the weekend. I don’t know why she just doesn’t leave some stuff here.”

“Have you asked her to? Maybe she just doesn’t want to assume anything.”

Brooke felt the body on her shift slightly, causing her to pause. When she was assured that Sam was not waking up, her attention settled back onto the conversation at hand. “I guess it would sound better if I actually asked and didn’t just assume, huh?”

“It might. Rick was the same way when we were in college. You should have seen him wandering around that small apartment in my robe.” Terri chuckled at the thought.

“Hmm…” Brooke tried to imagine her brother-in-law and his broad shoulders in her sister’s medium size clothing and it brought a tiny smile to her face. “I’m glad that I didn’t. Thanks, for that wonderful mental image, Sis, but that’s just a little too much information for me.”

Terri laughed out loud, “Me too, Sis. It tended to be a little on the embarrassing side.” The physician in her turned the conversation back to the reason she called. “So, how’s Sam feeling? She’s not cloudy or anything like that, is she?”

“Nope, she was more cranky than anything else.”

“I bet. Staying up all night can do that to you. Ask me, I know. That’s one thing they give doctors plenty of experience in,” Terri paused, then added, “especially when it’s not for a good reason.”

“She was biting my head off because I wouldn’t let her sleep. She was so pissed. When I told her that she had stayed awake as long as they wanted her to, she came into the guest bedroom to sleep.” Brooke could hear the muffled laughter on the other end of the phone, causing her to see the humor in the story.

“Well, did you do anything to make her want to stay awake?”

“I tried, but she told me I was being inconsiderate. Imagine that.” Brooke looked down at the slumbering form in her lap. “So as soon as her head hit the pillow, I came in here and I’ve been sitting next to her. She can’t be too mad at me. She staked her claim to my lap as soon as I sat down.”

“TLC, Sis and lot’s of it. That’s all she’s really gonna need.” Terri enlightened her sister. “It’s not her, it’s the concussion. Don’t let it get to you.”

“I know. I just hate to see her miserable.”

“I know you do, just don’t go getting into too many fights with her around. I think she feels a need to protect you. You know what I mean?” She paused before adding, “Maybe I’ll have to have a talk with her. Let her know that you’re a big girl and can take care of your own battles.”

“No don’t, I can do that.”

“I bet you can.” Terri let a small laugh escape her mouth. “Well, Brooke, you know my pager number if you need anything…I’m only a phone call away.”

“Yeah, I do. Thanks for calling Terri. And thanks for everything else, too. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

“You bet. Now you better go and get some sleep, yourself. She’ll need you for the next few days. Talk to you later, Sis. Bye.”

“Bye.” Brooke terminated the call with a flick of her finger, then looked down to the blonde nestled so lovingly in her lap. Sighing, the woman ran her fingers through the tussled locks of hair, then leaned her own head back against the brass headboard.

“Brooke…” Sam whispered. “If you’re going to sleep with me, come on down here and get comfortable.”

The older woman smiled at the thought of being needed. “Hey, Baby.” Brooke slid down and wrapped her arms around her lover. “And just what are you doing awake?”

“I need my pillow.” Sam cuddled into her favorite spot.

“You feeling any better?”

“Now I am. How about you?”

“I’m comfortable.” A smile tugged at Brooke’s lips.

“Good, so am I.” Sam yawned sleepily, then drifted of to sleep.

Brushing her lips against the blonde’s head, Brooke closed her eyes and thanked God for getting them through this day. “Love you, Sam,” Brooke’s words trailed off in a whisper as she too, joined her lover in sleep.

Reaching out instinctively to cuddle up with her tall teddy bear, Sam’s arm found the bed empty save for the much smaller, substitute bed pillow that now lay next to her. With her mind still a little clouded from sleep and the events of a day or so ago, the blonde started to raise her head as she opened one eye. The brief experiment in pain and how not to move lasted only seconds as the pounding headache made itself very well known.

“Good god, what a headache.” Sam winced in pain as her small fingers rubbed her forehead.

“I guess I don’t need to ask how you’re feeling.”

Brooke’s voice acted like a beacon as Sam focused on the familiar sound, turning her head in its direction and opening her eyes to see her lover holding a tray of food. “I hope there’s some Tylenol on that tray.”

“Umhmm… here Darlin’,” Brooke sat the tray down on the bed, then offered the tablets to Sam. “I figured that they’d make an excellent first course to this morning’s fare.” The tall woman watched as the blonde first made a face at the pills then took in a deep breath before tossing them into her mouth.

“Augh!” Sam grasped the glass of orange juice and chugged it, trying to wash the taste of the pills from her mouth. “I hate pills.”

“I see that, but consider the alternative.”

Sam’s eyes opened wide as she looked up to Brooke. “What alternative?”

“Well, I didn’t think you wanted to keep that headache.”

“Oh…yeah, that. I thought…” Sam paused for a moment. “Oh never mind what I thought.” The blonde slowly shook her head. “I think I’m still a little jumbled.”

“That’s okay, Darlin’,” Brooke started to gather the pillows on the bed, stacking them up for Sam to lean against. “Come on, you should eat something.”

“Yeah, I know.” Sam sat up, snuggling into the gathered pillows, perusing the tray of breakfast food as Brooke placed it over her lap. “What do you got there?”

The dark-haired woman smiled as she straightened up. “I made you some French Toast, sausage, yogurt and some fruit.”

“Wow, I didn’t think breakfast was a dessert kind of meal. Is that strawberries that I see?”

“Yep, strawberries, blueberries and some banana.”

A coy smile came to the blonde’s face. “Hmm… I’m not seeing any chocolate fondue here.” Sam looked up to Brooke and winked.

“Well, maybe I can work on that for later,” Brooke grinned and wiggled her eyebrows.

Sam winced, trying to keep the pained look from her face as she attempted a little smile. “Maybe after the headache, I’m not sure I’d be up to anything like that right now.”

“I’m sorry, Sam.” Brooke gently ran her hand through Sam’s tussled hair. “I’m sorry you got hurt because of me.”

“I know.” Sam looked up to see the sorrow written in her lover’s gaze, then looked down to her plate as she picked up the utensils. “So, tell me oh bearer of bad news, what do the doctors say that I can do today?”

“Rest, relax, stay in bed and watch cartoons, play with the dog,” Brooke looked down to the floor, then mumbled, “and watch me kick my butt for letting you get hurt.”

“Brooke, you can feel sorry all you want, but I’m not.” Sam watched as Brooke’s mood stayed somewhat down and she tried to bring her out of it. “Did they say anything about playing with you, tall, dark, and desirous?” Sam could see the corners of Brooke’s mouth turn upward at what she was suggesting, then added, “Well, that is when the medicine kicks in.”

The tall woman could feel her body begin to stir with excitement at the thought of playing with her lover and realized that a change of topic was very necessary. “Oh…ah…CC brought some clothes over for you yesterday.”

“Yesterday?” Sam looked confused. “What day is it, Brooke.”

“Saturday.”

The young woman’s gaze swept the room. “What happened to Thursday and Friday?” Sam paused, as she tried to jar her memory. Slowly she looked up to Brooke for help. “I…I don’t remember.” Her fingers rubbed at her temples as if trying to stimulate her mind. “I didn’t go to my classes, did I?”

“No, I had C.C. let your professors know about the…” Brooke stopped then chose to go a different route. “She had their lectures recorded for you. The cassettes are in the master bedroom with the clothing she brought over.”

Sam looked thoughtfully as she took in her surroundings. “Ah… what am I doing in here? We don’t usually use your guest rooms.”

“Ah…well…” Brooke hedged at answering the question.

“Brooke, what happened?” Sam felt a twinge of nausea and placed her hand on her stomach. “Oh God, Brooke. Please tell me I didn’t up chuck all over our bed.”

Brooke’s wondering eyes came to rest on the blonde’s face. Startled by the thought, she shook her head in denial. “NO.” The tall woman watched as green eyes searched for an answer. “Ah… do you remember anything from the last day or so?”

“Well yesterday… ah…” Sam bit at her lip. “Yeah, yesterday you picked me up and brought me to your house, then you went to take a shower. I… I was in the kitchen and…” the blonde racked her brain trying to remember, but the answers where sketchy at best. “I put the plate down for Mario…”

“Baby,” Brooke sat down on the bed and wrapped her arm around Sam. “I picked you up on Wednesday.”

“Wednesday…” Sam’s brows furrowed, and then she become more confident in her answer. “Yeah, it was Wednesday. I remember now… the door… there was a knock at the door and…” The blonde’s face took on a troubled look as more of the pieces were unlocked from her mind. “James… what was James doing here? I remember seeing James at the door.”

“Yes, he was here.” Brooke sighed and tightened her grip on the woman next to her. “He came to give me shit, what else?” The dark-haired woman grimaced, and then slowly told her knowledge of the events. “When I came down the stairs, he had you backed into the corner. I ran in and pulled him away from you, then started arguing with him. I tried to keep you out of the way… behind me, you know? And well, one thing led to another…” Brooke paused when she saw Sam close her eyes and start to brace herself, taking in a deep breath. “I thought that it was over when he turned to leave but I was wrong. His verbal attack was over and that’s when the physical one started. He… he threw a punch at me and I kind of countered with my elbow to his nose.”

Sam turned immediately to examine Brooke’s face. “You… you didn’t get hurt did you?”

Brooke looked straight ahead, focusing on nothing but the replayed event in her head as she related the rest of the story. “James… James threw another punch and…” she gulped as she saw it in slow motion before her, “…and you stepped in front of me trying to stop him. It caught you across the cheek; you stumbled backward before I could grab you, and then fell, hitting your head.”

The young woman’s eyes grew wider in realization and her hand subconsciously went to the bump on her head, rubbing it. “So, that’s why my head hurts like hell.” Sam looked over to her lover. “What happened to James? Brooke you didn’t…”

“I threw him out of the house, literally.” The woman eased her friend’s fear. “I didn’t hurt him.” Honest blue eyes gazed into green. “He tried getting back inside, by breaking a window and climbing in. By then, Mario had gotten out of the kitchen and took care of the matter,” Brooke smiled remembering the howl of pain that James had emitted when the dog bit into his calf. “I called the cops and he took off.”

Sam’s mouth dropped open. “God, he’s going to be so pissed at you now.”

Brooke smirked. “Not as much as he should be at himself. The cops picked him up a few blocks away. He’s being detained at the county jail. They arrested him first on a charge of Drinking and Driving on a suspended license. Then when they found out about what he did here, they added Breaking and Entering, Assault and possibly a few more charges that I’m not aware of.”

“Brooke, he must have wanted something if he came all the way here.”

“He was demanding those master tapes. I guess he thought he’d try to get something from you while he was here. You know, James always did think more with his…” Brooke stopped talking.

“This is all because of my birthday concert, isn’t it? That’s how you got the band back together, right?” She studied Brooke’s face for a moment. “I’m sorry I caused this.”

“Sam…” determined eyes gazed at her. “There is nothing for you to apologize for.”

“I just feel like I’m the one that caused this all to happen.”

“No, you’re not. It would have happened anyway. James likes to hold a grudge.”

“Isn’t there any way to keep him from doing that? To at least keep him from coming here and getting in your face?”

“The cops suggested that I get a PFA order.”

Sam looked puzzled. “PFA?”

“Protection from abuse. They said that I could get a lawyer to file for it in my behalf. I’ve been thinking about it and I’m going to give Randi a call today.”

“Do you really think that’s necessary? I mean… he was your friend.”

“Yes, I do.” Brooke’s eyes grew cold as she stared off into space.

“You’re doing it because of me, aren’t you?”

The tall woman turned to her lover. “It’s because I don’t want to risk anything happening to you for any reason. He’d be stupid enough to try something like that again.”

The blonde rested her head against Brooke’s shoulder. “I never meant to make your life so complicated, Brooke.”

“Baby, you didn’t make my life complicated. I told you, James likes to hold a grudge. He’s still pissed about the night I quit and now you’re stuck in the middle. You’re the one who doesn’t deserve this shit.” Brooke rested her check on Sam’s head.

“He was the reason you quit,” Sam whispered, knowing that she was right.

“Yes.” Brooke sighed. “Do you remember any of what he was saying?” The woman readied herself to hear his lies repeated again.

“I think I remember him saying something about that night…but…”

“He was telling you all kinds of shit. Some of it true, but a lot of it was all lies.”

“Don’t worry, Brooke, I wouldn’t believe a word he said anyway. There’s something about him that makes my skin crawl.”

Brooke gave the woman a hug. “I love you, Sam. I hope you never have reason to think otherwise.”

The sentiment of the moment brought a smile to Sam’s face and she nuzzled into her lover’s arms. “Now where did that come from? I know the real you, the real Brooke… not any made up character to create hype.”

Brooke grew very quiet. “So, Sam, if you know me so well…” she took a breath in, “…when are you going to move in with me?”

The blonde froze as her mind echoed the question again and again. Stalling for time, Sam asked, “What did you just say?”

“I uh…” Brooke eased her lover off her shoulder to look into her eyes. “Sam, I hate this. I hate being away from you and I’ve just been thinking about it for a while. You know that.”

“I still have my internship to do. What if…”

“I don’t care. I told you that I’ll go with you if I have to.”

“You’re not going to give up on this, are you?” Sam looked into determined blue eyes. “I thought so.” She took in a deep breath then let it out slowly as she considered her options. “Okay, how about if I move in with you over the winter break… and… and we’ll see what happens.”

The dark-haired woman let a smile come to her face. “Okaaaay,” she drew the word out happily. “The clothes that C.C. brought you… you could just leave them here. I mean… that way you’d feel more like this is your home too.” Brooke watched her lover, hoping that she didn’t seem too needy in her eyes. “I’m sorry. I just can’t help it. I want to be with you all the time.”

“You know, I already have everything that I need right here to feel at home. I have you.” Sam leaned in and placed a kiss on Brooke’s lips. “You know what, Hon? I think that pill is kicking in. I’m beginning to feel better already.”

“Yeah?” Brooke studied Sam’s face.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “Now what do you say we have some breakfast, just the two of us?” Sam looked at the tray of food. “Who knows, maybe I’ll even be up for some dessert when we’re done.”

“And I was just thinking how hungry I was.” Brooke’s eyes twinkled as she reached for the fork and dug into a sausage.

Brooke had toyed with the idea long enough as she cleaned up the breakfast dishes and caught up on the everyday housework that she had let go while she cared for Sam. She was sure of it now. The young blonde was definitely a treasured part of her life and she’d do anything she could to keep her safe. With that thought in mind, she reached for her cell phone and punched in the number for her sister, Randi.

Listening for the ringing to stop, she made herself comfortable in the corner of the couch, stretching out her long legs onto the coffee table. Just as she settled into a cozy position, she heard her sister’s voice come through the earpiece.

“Hello?” There was the sound of shuffling on the other end, then sound of a muffled voice raised in warning. “Julie, don’t do that, Honey.” There was a sigh on the other end, then Randi’s voice became clear once again. “Okay, I’m back. Hello?”

“Hey, Randi, what’s my lil’ niece doing now?”

“Brooke, hi.” Randi sounded more relaxed. “She’s making the flowers grow with the hose. The only problem is that she’s watering everything else at the same time. Bryan just wiped the car down and he’s going to have to dry it again.”

Suddenly Brooke had the urge to look into her dining room at the picture on the wall that Julie had left for her and Sam. A smile came to her face. “Hey, at least you know she means well.”

Randi’s voice boomed as she called out a warning, “NOT IN THE WINDOWS, JULIE!”

Brooke hurriedly pulled the phone away from her ear. “God, Randi. Warn me before you do that next time.”

“Sorry, Sis. Yeah, your niece means well, but then again, so did we when we had her.” Randi laughed, “Now, I’m not so sure. Thank God the terrible twos only last a year or so.”

The dark-haired woman filed that bit of information away for future reference as she got to the purpose of her call. “Hey, Randi. I think I kind of need your help with something. You got a minute?”

“Yeah, I always do for family. You know that. Does it have anything to do with the case that I got assigned to on Thursday morning?”

Brooke sank deeper into the couch. “No, don’t EVEN say it…”

“Why didn’t you call me when it happened?”

“Well, I was too concerned about Sam.” Brooke fought back the pang of nausea that came wafting over her at the thought of Sam being hurt and continued on. “We went to the hospital with her as soon as the cops left. Besides, I wanted to talk to her about all of it first.”

“I read over that list of charges against James. How badly did he hurt Sam?”

“She’s… she’s got a concussion and one hell of a whopping headache.”

“Concussion, huh? He hit her that hard?”

“Well, he did a roundhouse swing and clocked her a good one. She stumbled and lost her balance, then went headfirst into the wall. I think it was the wall that really did the damage though.”

“That doesn’t matter. It was a direct result of his punch that caused the injury. He’s definitely responsible for it.” Randi let go of a smug little laugh. “Well, I’m glad that I did what I did then. It’ll serve him right. I don’t care if I do get my as… ah… hang on.” The phone crackled as she jostled it from hand to hand. “Julie, why don’t you go play with your toys in the next room. Now that’s a nice girl. Mommy will come play with you in a few minutes.”

“Randi, what did you do?” Brooke’s voice was full of concern.

“My ass is going to be in a sling if they ever find this out, but I’m glad that I didn’t turn in my refusal to prosecute until right before the hearing. He had to be reassigned and held over for the next day. I… ah… I kind of lost his paper work at the office and he was held over again when it didn’t show up on the docket.”

Brooke burst out laughing. “Oh my God. You did that. Really?”

“Yep, as soon as I saw who filed the suit, I knew what I had to do. I just kind of forgot about it.” Randi laughed.

“Well, I definitely owe you one, Sis.”

“Hey, this one was on the house. You’re my sister and that’s why I stuck up for you. Well, that and stuck one to James,” Randi smirked around a laugh. “I’m just glad that I could be of service.”

“Thank you, Randi. I really mean that.” Brooke paused, her smile faded as she turned to the more serious matter at hand. “Speaking of protection… could you file a PFA for me?”

“You got it. First thing Monday morning, I’ll meet with the Judge myself. You realize that you’ve just hired me, Sis. I’m on retainer for you now.”

Brooke took her feet down from the coffee table and sat forward on the couch. “Yes, I understand that. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Good, now what about Sam?” Randi paused, waiting for her sister’s answer.

“What about her?”

“Does she need one too?”

“Yeah, I guess she will.” Images of James leaning in to Sam flashed through Brooke’s mind with the clarity that she’d seen as she rounded the doorway into the room on Wednesday evening. She quickly reigned in her thoughts when she heard the sound of Randi’s voice.

“Then, you’d better put her on the phone. I’ll need to be hired by her as well.”

“Okay, but Randi… I’ll take care of the bill for both of us, okay?”

“Bill? What bill? I’ll do it pro bono, Sis.” Randi thought for a moment, then chuckled. “But just to keep it all aboveboard, you can give me a dollar for each of you.”

“Come on, Randi, what’s a dollar going to do?” Brooke laughed around her words. “I have a feeling that it won’t be that easy of a case.”

“You’re my sister, Brooke. All I want is for you to be happy. Well,” Randi chuckled, “…that and a dollar.”

Brooke shook her head as she laughed, “Let me go get Sam for you.”

She got up from the couch and started for the staircase, taking the steps two at a time. Bounding down the hall, she slowed to a stop, then poked her head in through the open bedroom door. A smile graced her face as she watched the blonde roll over in her direction. “Sam…” she spoke softly, “Are you awake, Darlin’?”

The young woman stretched her arms out as she yawned. She quickly brought a hand down to cover her mouth, “Yeah, I… I think so. Why?”

“Honey, Randi needs to talk to you. Do you feel up to it?” Brooke started into the room, crossing toward the huge bed.

Sam looked to the empty side of the bed next to her, then the fully clothed woman coming toward her. “When did you… huh… Randi?” Her brow furrowed, “Why does she need to talk to me?”

“Remember, we talked about that restraining order?”

“Restraining order? What are you talking about?”

“Baby, we talked about it this morning. Don’t you remember?” Brooke was starting to be concerned. She stood next to the bed looking down on her lover as Sam tried to get up, the pain evident in her face.

“It’s…” Sam brought her hand to her head and rubbed it. “It’s all coming back to me now. Yeah, I’m remembering it now.” She held her head and nodded.

Brooke grabbed the bottle of Tylenol from the nightstand and poured a glass of water from the pitcher that she’d placed there earlier. “Here, Baby, take these.”

The blonde looked at the pills with disgust, then popped them into her mouth, downing them with a large mouthful of water to wash their taste away. “Augh, I’m never going to get used to these.” She looked up to the woman standing next to her. “Thanks, Brooke. It’s getting better, but it’s still not gone.”

The tall woman sat down on the edge of the bed and wrapped her arm around Sam’s shoulder. Leaning toward her, she kissed her forehead.

“Give me the phone. I’ll talk to Randi, then I just want to cuddle up next to you for the rest of the day.” She took the phone that Brooke offered her and brought it up to her ear. “Thanks.” Sam leaned into Brooke’s body as she spoke into the phone, “Randi, are you still there?”

“Sam… how are you feeling, Honey?”

“Better, I guess. I’ve still got a blasted headache, though.”

“Just give it a day or so and you’ll be good as new.”

“What do you need to talk to me about, Randi? I’ve got this doting nursemaid here…” she laughed as she shot a quick glance at the woman next to her.

“Well, Sam, to put it all in a nutshell, I need to hear you say that you’re hiring me as your lawyer so that I can ask the court to grant you a PFA against James. I’d like to do that when I plead for one in Brooke’s name as well.”

“I need to hire you?” Sam looked over to Brooke, more than a little surprised. “Randi, I don’t have that kind of money to hire a lawyer, let alone one of your caliber.”

“Yes, you do. I’ll go in front of the Judge on Monday.” Randi paused, then added. “Sam, don’t worry about the money.”

“I don’t want Brooke to be paying…”

“Pro Bono, Sam.” Randi chuckled. “It’s not going to cost you a thing.”

“Huh?” Sam was definitely confused. She looked to Brooke as her lover nodded reassuringly. “Okay,” the word was drawn out suspiciously. “But if I find out otherwise…”

“So, Sam. Are you hiring me or not?”

“Well, ah… sure. You’re hired.”

“Okay,” Randi sounded excited. “I’ll take care of everything from here on out.

“Will I need to do anything? Be anywhere when you file for that PFA thing?” Sam sighed, “You know, I’m not really up to it right at this moment.”

“No, Sam, that’s why you hired me.”

“Great! Thanks, Randi. Now I get to just cuddle up with this big ol’ teddy bear and heal my aching head.”

“No problem Kiddo. Why don’t you get some rest and put that big teddy bear back on the phone?”

“Oh… ah… yeah,” Sam looked shocked at Randi’s pickup on her reference to Brooke. She turned, handing the phone to the person next to her. “She wants to talk to you, Hon.”

The woman accepted the phone, then cleared her throat as she brought it to her ear. “So, what’s up?”

“Keep an eye on her, Sis. I think she really took a good hit there. You just worry about her, and I’ll take care of everything on my end. I’ll messenger over the PFA orders to you both as soon as I get them issued. You’d better keep them with you, just in case.”

Brooke gave Sam a little squeeze and kissed the top of her head. “I will Randi and ah… you don’t have to worry about me taking care of her. Thanks, Sis.” She started to pull the phone away from her ear when a thought struck her. “Hey, Randi,” she called out, slipping the phone back under her hair. “I need some ideas for the kids… for Christmas.”

“Christmas? Is that coming up already?”

“Yep, it’s practically right around the corner.

“Hmm… Well, you know that David is talking about a scooter all the time and Julie…she keeps talking about Sam’s baby.” Randi laughed, “I don’t know what you’re going to do on that one.”

“Uh…Umm…” Brooke gulped, then took in a deep breath, “Well…”

“Got you squirming there, eh Brooke?” Randi teased her sister. “Don’t worry, I’m sure that it won’t be too hard to please a three year old.”

Brooke rolled her eyes, “Yeah, that shouldn’t be too difficult. How about Kevin?”

“Sis, I only got one word of advice for you. Don’t go getting them what you want this year. They don’t need motorized cars or expensive mountain bikes, or even 30gig computers for their rooms. Okay?”

“Damn,” Brooke sounded disappointed. “You’re no fun.”

“Remember, you’re the big kid, Sis. They are just kids, plain and simple. Now try to put that to good use when you’re picking out their gifts this year.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.” Brooke chuckled.

“So when you going shopping?”

“Maybe tomorrow, if Sam’s feeling better.”

“Oh, so Sam’s going with you? Good, she’ll keep you in line. I knew that I liked her for some reason.” Randi laughed.

“Yeah, whatever smart ass,” Brooke shot right back. There was a moment of silence. “Hey Randi… thanks again for handling things for us.”

“No problem, Sis. I’m just glad I can do it.” There was a long pause, then Randi finally spoke, “Hey, I’ve got to go. The house is way too quiet and that’s never a good sign when you have three kids. I’ll see you, later. Bye.”

“Yeah, later Sis.” Brooke disconnected the phone, then wrapped both of her arms around the blonde next to her.

“So, what’s the plan for tonight? A little lounging and cuddling perhaps?”

“That’s the plan.”

“Hmm…it’s a good plan, but maybe we could amend it just slightly?”

Brooke nuzzled into Sam’s neck with a trail of kisses to her cheek, working her way to the young woman’s ear and whispered, “Amend it?”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to add,” Sam giggled, “lots of kisses.”

“Not a problem,” Brooke interspersed each word with a kiss.

Sam smiled as another kiss was bestowed upon her. “Yeah, I didn’t think it would be a problem.” She turned toward Brooke and was greeted with a multitude of soft kisses, the last one being placed on her lips.

CHAPTER BREAK

The reflection in the mirror didn’t look as bad as it had the day before. The area of discoloration on Sam’s cheek no longer looked as angry compared to her natural skin shade. In fact, it was beginning to fade. Grabbing for her purse, the young woman took out the small compact and the bottle of foundation that she hardly ever used anymore. She leaned in toward the mirror and set to work with the task of covering up any reminders of her unfortunate accident. She’d seen the look on Brooke’s face every time the bruise caught her attention. It was almost as if the woman was blaming herself and Sam wanted nothing to mar their first time Christmas shopping together.

Stepping back to take a look at her work, Sam smiled. The blonde turned her face from side to side, studying it in the mirror. “There we go, looking good as new.” The woman smiled as she placed a finishing touch on a stray lock of hair, then turned to walk over to the bathroom door.

“Hey, Hon… I’m going to start getting dressed for the big outing today. We are going shopping, right?”

“Yes Baby,” the garbled sound came through the door. “I’ll take you anywhere you’d like to go.”

“Hmm…” Sam’s face took on a devilish smile. “Where I’d like to go and shopping are two different things,” the young woman muttered under her breath as she walked over to the armoire and opened it. “Well, let’s see what’s going on in the world these days.” She turned on the TV and chuckled. “Oh, I must be feeling better.”

Taking the remote with her, she walked over to the bed and sat down as she flipped through the stations, finally settling on her favorite, MTV. She set about getting dressed as she sang along with a hit from the past, Anti-Zero’s signature song. When the song ended, Sam looked over to the bathroom and smiled. “Who would have thought?” Out of the corner of her eye, Sam suddenly saw the flashing changes on the television screen as images of James came on. “What the…” she grabbed the remote and raised the volume as she walked closer to the set.

And this hour on MTV news, Former Anti-Zero vocalist & guitarist, James Anderson, was arrested this week and is being held on charges of assault against former band mate Brooke Loran.

Sam’s eyes grew bigger as she watched old images of both Brooke and James flash across the screen. “Brooke, you’d better come in here…NOW,” she called out to her lover, as her gaze stayed fixed to the TV, listening for the next snippet of information.

Anderson was arrested after a heated argument where it has been reported that he struck out at Loran’s as of yet unidentified live-in girlfriend…

Shocked by the publicity that the story was generating, Sam moved back toward the bed and slowly sat down on the edge of the mattress with her mouth agape, and her eyes still fixed to the screen.

We’ll bring you more as this story unfolds. Stay tuned next hour to MTV news when we try to interview former bass player, Peter Butler. MTV News… Where you here it… first.

Still in shock, Sam mumbled the beginnings of a curse very slowly under her breath. “Son of a…”

“Those bastards!” Brooke slapped the doorframe with her open hand as she came out of the bathroom, letting the towel she was using on her hair come to rest over her shoulder.

Startled, Sam looked over to see her scantily clad lover fuming as she came into the room. “How did they…” the blonde stopped, then started again, “Why did he… Brooke, what are you going to do?”

The tall woman turned around, her eyes narrowing as they glowed with hatred at the media play that she knew would come. With each second, the anger grew until her mind set off its own little warning, release or explode. She could feel the pent up energy building as her heart rate skyrocketed and her blood surged wildly through her body. Brooke’s fingers twitched at first and then extended outward as far as they could. The drummer knew what would happen next. She turned back toward the bathroom. Years of drumming had built up the muscles in her upper extremities and she needed to let her rage out on something that could withstand her fury. She could already feel her fingers closing into a fist as her arm began to cock back to deliver the blow.

Sam closed her eyes as she saw Brooke’s arm begin in backward draw. She held her breath as she waited for the sound to fill the room. It took only a few seconds before it was there, reverberating into the walls of the house.

“THUNK!”

Dear God, don’t let her hurt herself over this. The makeshift prayer ran across Sam’s mind as she heard the impact, then she opened her eyes to see how bad the damage had been. The blonde watched as Brooke pulled her hand back from the door, stripping the towel that was hastily wrapped around it out from the hole that had been made. “Oh my God, Brooke… your hand.” Sam got up from the bed and hurried across the room.

Brooke cast the towel aside and grabbed her jeans, pulling them on, she raised her gaze to see Sam standing before her.

“Did you hurt your hand?”

“No.”

“You sure?” Sam whispered meekly as she tried to look at the hand that was being shielded by the tall woman’s body.

She turned around, her anger still present as she tugged her jeans into place before fastening the button and sliding the zipper shut. Brooke reached out and grabbed her T-shirt, sliding it over her head and yanking it into place as her eyes came to rest on Sam. Almost immediately, the anger began to lessen. Brooke took in a deep breath, and then let it out as she opened her arms, inviting Sam into her space.

Without hesitating, Sam entered the embrace and held onto her lover desperately. “I’m sorry for all this trouble.”

“Baby, it’s not your fault.” Brooke’s jaw tensed when she felt Sam’s body as it began to shake. “I’m sorry I got so angry and I’m sorry that you’ve been pulled into all of this shit.”

“I didn’t mean to have anything…”

“Baby, this is not your fault.” Brooke leaned down to kiss the top on Sam’s head and felt the small arms tighten their grip on her body.

“So, what… what are we going to do now?”

The tall woman sighed. “Love each other more and just deal with it.” Brooke’s mouth quirked into a half grin. “Welcome to the music industry, Darlin’. I think you’re going to see firsthand some of that media hype about Loran come blasting at us from out of the past.”

“Are you going to be able to deal with that, Brooke?”

“Do I have you by my side?” Brooke leaned back to gaze down at the blonde.

“Where else would I be?” Sam giggled nervously until she saw the smile come to her lover’s face. “So, you still love me, huh?”

“Still. Always. Forever.” Brooke raised Sam’s chin with her finger and kissed her gently. “Sam?”

The young woman marveled at how sweet and soft Brooke could be only one minute after erupting like a volcano. A smile came to Sam’s face as she realized that Brooke’s anger would never be directed at her. “Yeah?”

Blue eyes gazed into green. “There’s probably going to be a lot of shit now. You know that, right?”

Sam nodded, “Yeah, I know.”

“Hopefully this will all blow over…”

“But it’s his word against ours,” Sam finished her lover’s sentence.

“I’m sorry baby. James always was the spotlight child. Everybody loved him.”

“You’re sorry… for what?” Sam pulled the woman back into her arms. “For being you? For being good when he was an asshole?”

“I’m… I’m sorry that you got hurt. I’m sorry the press is trying to pull you into it.” Brooke took in a deep breath. “Loran hasn’t been around for over three years. I just don’t know what kind of circus they’re gonna try and turn this into.”

“Well, I’m a part of your life now. I’m here and I’m not budging, no matter how bad it gets.”

“Promise?” Brooke’s voice was little more than a whisper.

“You betcha. It’s going to take a pretty big circus to scare me off. Loran or no Loran, I’ve got the Brooke that I love and I’m holding on tight.” Sam squeezed with all her might, nestling into Brooke’s body.

“I love you, Sam. I wish I knew the words to tell you just how much.”

The young woman leaned back and eyed her lover suspiciously. “Hmm… care if I help you out there, Hon?”

Brooke found herself intrigued with the playful look in Sam’s eyes. “Sure, go ahead.” She watched as the blonde saddled up to her seductively, letting her small hand slide across Brooke’s chest, sending sensations to all points of the tall woman’s body.

Seeing that Brooke’s T-shirt now boasted two very aroused nipples, Sam smiled. In her best sultry voice, the young woman instructed, “Repeat after me.” She looked up to see two very attentive eyes staring back at her. “Let’s go…” Sam waited for the words to come back to her in Brooke’s richly toned voice.

All of Brooke’s attention now riveted on Sam as she said, “Let’s go…”

“SHOPPING!” Green eyes dazzled and a huge smile came to Sam’s face as she pushed off of her lover’s body and headed for the bedroom door. “Come on, I’ll race you to the toy department.”

Brooke rolled her eyes at the playfulness of her lover and laughed as she tried calling out to her anything but fully dressed lover. “Sam… we’ll get there much faster if you finish getting dressed. I’m sure the media will have a field day if they find out I had to post bail for my as of yet unidentified live-in girlfriend on a public nudity charge.”

The blonde stopped at the doorway and turned around, revealing the most innocent of impish grins, then said meekly, “Oops, sorry. I guess that wouldn’t be helping much, would it?” Sam watched as a lone eyebrow raised loftily on the tall woman’s brow. “I think I’ll just…” she crept over to her clothing laid out on the bed, and grabbing her sweater, finished her sentence “…get dressed.”

Sam hastily breezed into the mall’s restroom, shaking her head as she muttered under her breath, “God, she’s got to have one of the biggest bladders on earth. I don’t know how she can…” Sam stopped short when a familiar face was reflected in the mirror. “C.C.?”

The brunette looked up into the mirror. “Hey, roommie. How you feeling?”

“Better, now. The headaches seems to have gone but I’m still a little tender around my face.”

C.C. reached out and took Sam’s chin in her hand, giving it an appreciative once over. “Well, it looks a lot better then the other day when I dropped off some clothing. You were pretty zonked out that day.”

The blonde pulled her chin back and looked into the mirror, making sure the camouflage of make-up was still in place. “Good foundation, C.C.” she held up the bottle as she pulled it out of her purse. “I didn’t want it to be a reminder to Brooke every time she looked at me. I could see what it was doing to her.”

“She was pretty upset about it. I think she’s doubting her ability to protect you every time she looks at it.” C.C. could see the trepidation in Sam’s face. “Hey, I don’t have to tell you that about her. You already know it. She’d protect you to the death if she thought it was necessary.”

“I don’t even want to think about that, C.C.”

“Speaking of my sister,” the brunette looked around the small restroom. “Where is she?”

Sam smiled. “She’s taking our bags to the car… er truck,” she corrected. “I’m going to meet her over at the electronics’ store. So, what are you up to at the mall, C.C.? I thought you had all your shopping already done.”

The brunette grinned. “Well, you know I’m always in the market for a good looking guy.” She turned back to the mirror, primping her hair. “I did have my eye on this Adonis of a guy until Mother Nature tapped me on the shoulder and I had to come in here.” She shrugged, “Guess I’ll just have to start looking all over again.”

“C.C., it’s a week before Christmas. Don’t you think that most of the guys shopping now already have a girlfriend to buy for?”

The young woman stopped to think for a moment then slowly nodded her head. “Yeah…” the frown came to her mouth.

“Maybe you need to look somewhere else.”

Suddenly the smile came to C.C.’s face. “I got it.”

“Got what, roommie?”

“Where to look.” C.C. hurriedly threw her comb back into her purse and started for the door.

“Hey, aren’t you going to wait for your sister to come back and say hello to her?” Sam called after the fleeing woman.

Pausing at the door for only a second or two, C.C. answered her back. “If she wants to see me, have her come looking over by the chenille robes and slippers.”

“C.C., why there?” Sam was puzzled at the location.

“Because that’s were all the single guys will be getting gifts for their mothers.” The woman winked as a broad smile crossed her face.

Sam laughed as she heard C.C. humming a reasonable facsimile but slightly off key ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ as the door to the restroom closed behind the brunette.

Seeing the tall form of her lover at the X-box display, Sam made her way down the long row of televisions that were on display. She walked down the length of the aisle until the logo of MTV caught her eye and she turned to look at the set, getting a glimpse of Peter Butler with his hand up and walking away from the camera. Sam stopped to watch as the familiar figure turned around to face viewers.

“No comment, I told you. I’m not buying into this game.” Peter turned around and entered the doors of Brownstone Records and out of the camera’s view.

“There you have it, the very unofficial words of fellow band mate, Peter Butler.”

Sam shook her head in disbelief, and then continued over the six or seven more feet to stand next to Brooke. She reached out and tugged on the woman’s arm. When she had her lover’s attention, Sam motioned over to the television set with its tiny little insert in the upper corner replaying Peter’s clip of film as the reporter jabbered on. “I wonder what they have to report on us now?”

Brooke watched as Peter proudly walked away, then turned to Sam and smiled. “You’ve gotta love that guy.”

“Yeah, you do.” Sam’s eye caught the screen filled with images of Loran as they settled in on one particular frontal view shot of the blonde streaked woman. The next thing that she saw was the side by side comparison of the drummer with the corporate image used on Brownstone’s informational material of its executive officer, Brooke L. Gordon.

“We at MTV wonder if the controversial drummer could be one and the same with the CEO of Brownstone Records. Here are photographs of both women. We’ll let you be the judge.”

“What’s the matter, Darlin’?”

Sam shot a glance at her lover then motioned back to the TV. “You know, you two don’t even look anything alike. I don’t know what I ever saw in Loran.”

“What?” Brooke turned to view the images still on the screen. “Oh shit!” She nervously looked around them to see if anyone was making the connection.

The blonde sensed Brooke’s uneasiness. “Hey, nobody’s gonna recognize you. Loran is brassy and bold, while you…” Sam smiled, wrinkling her nose at the thought of what she was about to say. “You’re just a big ol’ Teddy bear.”

“Sam…” Brooke rolled her eyes and whined.

“I know, you’d rather be a pillow for me to cuddle into, right?” Mirth filled green eyes looked up into blue.

“Right,” the tall woman nodded.

“Forget about it, Brooke. You’re two totally different people and everyone that knows you is aware of it.”

“You think so? You really believe I’m nothing like Loran?”

“Believe it. In fact, I’d stake my life on it and I think I know you better than most do.” Sam gave her lover a wink.

“I know you do…” Brooke could feel the blush starting to creep up her neck. “I just wonder sometimes though… I mean… Loran wouldn’t have been Loran without the real me.”

“No, Loran wouldn’t have been Loran without the press releases. You,” she tapped Brooke in the chest. “You are the music. Loran was just the selling vehicle.”

Brooke thought back to earlier in the day and her altercation with the bathroom door. “Well, we already know where she got her temper.”

“Everyone has a temper, even me,” Sam winked, “…and we don’t want to wake that beast unless we have to.”

The mood suddenly felt lighter as Brooke began to laugh. “Okay, Darlin, if you say so.” Brooke turned away from the TV as she slipped an X-box under her arm and pointed the way to the cashier. “So, who’s left on our list? My arms are still tired from that last load I took to the truck.”

“Hmm… did we get anything for Julie yet?”

“No,” Brooke shook her head. “I wanted to wait on you. I thought that maybe we could look for that one together.” Brooke took her place in line waiting to make her purchase. “Whatcha think?”

Sam shrugged, “Sounds good to me.” The blonde started to look around, then finally turned to her companion and asked very nonchalantly, “So, where do they keep the fresh frozen embryos here?”

“What?” A confused look was painted on Brooke’s face. “Fresh frozen embryos? Honey, have you been watching ‘Junior’ again?”

“Nothing,” Sam grabbed onto Brooke’s arm. “I’m joking… just joking, Brooke.”

The tall woman pulled back on Sam’s arm and arched an eyebrow. “Are you sure?” There was a hint of a hope in the woman’s blue eyes as she waited for her answer.

Sam took on an almost pixie like appearance as she wrinkled up her nose and smiled sweetly. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

The tall woman took on an almost childlike appearance as she sat on the living room floor with boxes and gift wrapping paper strewn all about her. Wrinkling up the last remnant of a roll of decorative paper, she threw the makeshift ball for Mario to chase.

“There you go, fella.” She watched the dog scamper after it before accepting the wrapped package from Sam.

“Brooke, are you sure the tree is going to be big enough for all these presents to fit under it?” Sam let go of the package. ” Here, you had better tag David’s present before you go to the next one.”

The woman smiled realizing that this would be her very first time at sharing her Christmas traditions with someone close and it made her feel warm, bringing a smile to her face. “I guess we’ll find out when you help me pick it.” She picked up the pen and took a tag from the pile. “Okay, Law.” She looked up from placing the tag on the gift to see the puzzled look on Sam’s face. “I never call him David.”

“Why do you call him that… Law?”

“Well, his name is David Lawrence,” she started to explain.

“So, shouldn’t it be Larry if not David?”

“Sam…” Brooke teased, “What does Randi do for a living?” Her smile broadened as she waited for Sam to get it.

Sam’s brows furrowed as she thought, trying to make the connection. “She’s an assistant D.A.” She watched Brooke’s eyes twinkle and knew that she’d gotten it right. “Oh, I get it… law. Now that’s funny.”

“Her and Brian’s whole life revolved around the law when she found out that she was pregnant with him. I used to tease her about having to make a choice, be a mommy or be a lawyer.” Brooke remembered her sister’s world at that time. “If we tag it Law, the kid will know who it’s from.”

“You sisters do have a wild sense of humor.” Sam chose another package and started wrapping it.

“Well, we know Randi does.” Brooke chuckled. “Not sure about Terri yet.”

“So, tell me, what are they going to call your kid, huh?” Sam looked over to Brooke. “Sticks? Bam-bam? No, I got it,” she paused for a dramatic moment, then announced, “Thumper.”

“My kid? Don’t you mean our kid?” Brooke teased the blonde with a little seductive wink, watching Sam start to blush.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Sam looked back to the package she was wrapping, the blush already edging up her face.

“Oh, I love it when you blush. Keep it up and Chastity will be born red from all of your blushing.”

Sam could feel the heat of the blush starting all over again. “Hey, stop it,” she chastised the woman, then grew very quiet. “Brooke, did you ever think about something and know that it was waiting to happen to you? Like there was nothing else that your life was meant for?” Brooke shrugged so Sam continued. “You know, something that could really turn your life around from the path that you were on?” Sam looked over to see blue eyes gazing at her.

“I… uh… don’t know. I never really thought about it. I guess I’ve sort of always felt kind of empty, like there was something missing.” Brooke looked down at the floor feeling shy. “That is…until now.”

“Missing?” Sam reached over and placed her hand on Brooke’s arm. “What could be missing from your life? You have a wonderful family… a nice house…”

“You.” Blue eyes stared directly at Sam.

“Oh…” the blonde became silent for a moment. “I wasn’t thinking of… well, me.”

“I do have a wonderful family, Sam, but there are some things that your blood family just can’t give you.” She leaned over and placed a kiss on Sam’s cheek. “You… you are my family, Sam.”

“What do I give you, Brooke?”

The dark-haired woman took in a deep breath, then started. “You make me feel complete. That void is gone now that you’re here. You let me love you and then bless me with your love in return. I can’t stand being away from you because when I am, that empty spot comes back every time you’re not here. The only thing that fills it up, is knowing that you’re coming back. I knew something was missing from my life but didn’t know what until I met you.”

“I’m really glad that I can do that for you. Fill up that void.”

“Before you, I never wanted to be with anybody. It didn’t matter. Now, I don’t want to be without you.”

“And you won’t be if I can help it.” Sam kissed Brooke on her forehead then went back to her wrapping. Only a few minutes had gone by before her thoughts got the better of her.

“Brooke, why was C.C. so worried about you when we had that fight? Was it because of that void?”

“What?” Brooke looked over to Sam. “What do you mean?”

“Maybe I’m just over reacting here, but C.C. really wanted to get back here to check on you. She said something about…” Sam bit at her lip, then continued. “Oh, I don’t remember exactly now, but I do know that she was very concerned about your welfare.”

“Because of the argument you and I had?” Brooke took the wrapped package from Sam’s hands and started to label it. “I don’t know, she never said anything to me.”

“Did something happen in the past to make her think you might harm yourself?” Sam watched the expression on her lover’s face become sullen.

“Oh…”

Sam stopped what she was doing and moved closer to Brooke. “Honey, are you alright?” She gently rubbed the taller woman’s back as if to ease the pain she saw written in her face. Sam barely heard the next word as it came out in a hushed whisper.

“Yes.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Uh… No, not really. I mean… I will but…” Brooke stole a glance at Sam’s face, seeing it full of concern. “I’m just not sure you want to hear it.”

“If it concerns you, I do. I want to know everything about you. Nothing that you tell me would make me feel any differently about you.” Sam paused effectively before adding, “Not now, not ever.”

“Even if I told you that C.C. did have reason to be concerned?”

The younger woman nodded as she took Brooke’s hands in her own. “I love you, Brooke, and I am concerned, too.” Sam’s eyes conveyed her love, letting the older woman feel the support that was being sent her way.

Brooke looked down to her hands, then sat back against the couch. “It was after I left the band and came home. James and Peter were my best friends. We grew up together…”

“I’m listening,” Sam settled in next to Brooke and gave the woman’s hand in her own a little squeeze.

“After what happened with James, I just couldn’t stand it anymore, especially when Peter sided with him.” Brooke raised her gaze to see the intent look on Sam’s face. “I had lost both of my best friends,” she paused, “my music…” she left out a sigh, “…my dignity.”

“Oh, Hon,” Sam gave her hand a little squeeze.

“James betrayed me. I trusted him more than anyone.” Brooke shook her head and looked away from Sam. “God, was I ever wrong.”

Sam’s voice was quiet and soothing, “We all make mistakes, Brooke. We just have to learn to live with them.”

“Well, I couldn’t live with his,” Brooke’s voice grew very quiet, “or at least didn’t think that I could.” The older woman stared off like she was in some kind of trance as the events of that time came back to her. “He drugged me, Sam. He spiked my drink.”

Green eyes narrowed, searching Brooke’s face. “What?”

“I woke up on the bus, naked,” she paused to swallow trying to keep the bile from coming into her mouth as the scene unfolded in her brain. “He was taking off his clothes when I woke up.”

“And nobody stopped him?” Sam’s voice became indignant.

“Nobody else was there but the driver and well, he was driving. James had me in the lounge in the back. Peter had some chick in his bunk. So, he never…uhm, you know was paying any attention to what was going on.” Blue eyes stole a glance in Sam’s direction then quickly came away as she continued on with her story. “We got into it, James and I. We fought, well, wrestled mostly but I did get in some blows. I punched him, kicked him… any way, we both ended up on the floor. Peter walked in after hearing all the commotion and well, you can guess how it looked to him. He sided with James.”

“HE WHAT?” Sam’s voice grew louder.

“Peter was never sober then and I guess he thought that…” Brooke shrugged. “Lets just say that James is a mastermind when it comes to brainwashing.”

The blonde jumped up and started pacing back and forth, “I can’t believe…”

“Sam?” Brooke timed Sam’s pass by her and reached out grabbing her hand and held on to it. “Baby, calm down.”

“And Peter bought his bullshit?” Sam looked at Brooke with a skeptical eye.

“Not for long.”

“Why? What happened?” Sam knelt down on the floor facing Brooke.

“He sobered up one day and realized that I wasn’t there.”

Sam sat down on the floor letting out a loud sigh. “Humph! Seems a little too late to me.”

“Baby, I told you Peter wasn’t the same as he is now. Please don’t get angry at him.” Brooke watched Sam’s face, seeing the perturbed look, she continued. “Anyway, I came home from the tour.”

“God, Brooke, just let anyone try to hurt you now. They’ll have to look out for me because I’m not going to let that happen.”

“I know baby, I know.” Brooke looked over to Sam. “There’s more Sam. C.C. did have reason to be concerned.”

Green eyes shot a glance off to the side, “And I bet I’m not going to like it, am I?”

“Uh…no.” Brooke’s face took on a very serious look as she pressed on with her story. “I came home and for a few weeks, picked up on their drinking habit. I guess I was depressed. I didn’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone.” Brooke sighed, “I just wanted to drink myself into oblivion.”

“No,” Sam bit her lip thinking of how much pain the woman had to have been going through.

“I had gone with C.C. over to see Randi. She had just had surgery on her shoulder.” Brooke’s voice became monotone as she stated the rest of the story. “I was drunk. I went to the bathroom and found her prescription.”

“Please tell me that C.C. drove,” concerned eyes searched Brooke’s face.

“Yes, she did. I might’ve wanted everything to end for me but not her. She was just a kid.”

“Why doesn’t that make me feel any better?” Sam swallowed hard. “Go on.”

“Because I had a raging headache, I took half the bottle of Randi’s prescription to get rid of it. I refilled my beer about a half an hour later, dropped the beer bottle, then went to pick up the broken pieces and overdid it a bit with the glass.”

Brooke looked over to see horror-filled eyes and got up from her seat on the floor. Running her hands through her long hair, she walked over to the fireplace and gazed into the flames, wishing that it could consume her memories, forever erasing them from her mind. Slowly she put her hand on the mantel to steady her, then closed her eyes. “I OD’d, Sam.” She paused for only a second when the words sounded in her ears. “I woke up four days later in a hospital, sober for the first time in weeks.”

“But you didn’t mean to. You just…”

Brooke turned to face the young woman. “I don’t know Sam. Right now, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I was thinking at the time.”

Sam got up, crossing the room to where Brooke stood. She looked into haunted blue eyes and studied them. She was moved by the remorse and didn’t pause in the least to wipe away the stray tear that rolled off long dark lashes, onto the taller woman’s cheek.

“Did I mean to OD? No. I had a headache and I wanted it gone. Did I cut myself with the glass on purpose? Obviously, I did when you consider the scar.” She looked down to her left wrist and grimaced as Sam took her hand and looked at the faded scar. “Do I remember it? No.”

“I never…” She saw the scar and traced it lightly with a finger. Sam looked up into Brooke’s face with such an outpouring of love that it caught the older woman off guard and she had to look away.

“It’s faded. C.C. took very good care of them afterwards.” Brooke smiled, “After she punched me in the face, that is.”

“I’m going to have to thank C.C. for that. I’m glad she knocked some sense into you.”

“Sam, I don’t remember any of it. None of it.” Brooke shook her head, letting her eyes close in pain.

Small arms wrapped around Brooke’s body as Sam pulled her closer. “Maybe it’s for the best. It was a time that you needed people and all you were met with was disappointment.”

“Maybe…” the voice trailed of thoughtfully. There was a moment of silence before Brooke could get the courage to ask the only question that kept running through her mind. “Do you still love me?”

The blonde could feel the tear as it started to roll down her cheek. “Love you…” Sam nodded as she stared into Brooke’s face, “…always.”

“Even now…after you know what happened?” Blue eyes began to search for any hint of hesitation in Sam’s loving gaze.

“I think I love you even more knowing what happened. Knowing that you trust me enough to tell me of a not so good time in your life.”

“Trust you? More than anything, with all that I am and all that I have.”

“I know, I see it in your eyes every time you look at me.”

“What else do you see?” Brooke asked a little amazed at how accepting Sam was.

The young woman smiled as she pulled back to gaze at Brooke. “I see…” Sam giggled. “I see one hell of a lover with a heart as big as the ocean. I see one lovely lady that takes my breath away with each moment that I’m in her presence. I see…” the blonde became a little shy when she thought of how she entered into the picture. “I see my world becoming complete.”

“Yeah? What would complete it?” Brooke’s gaze was filled with love as her heart melted with Sam’s words. “Tell me, what would make your life complete, Sam?”

The young woman smiled. “I’m sure you’ll figure that one out for yourself. Come on, let’s go to bed.” Sam motioned with her head toward the stairs.

“But we have more presents to wrap…”

“There’s a time and a place for everything, and right now,” Sam smiled, “…is not the time for wrapping.” The blonde winked, then turned taking Brooke’s hand in hers as she headed for the stairs, letting her fingers slide through the larger hand.

Stopping at the doorway to the hall, Sam turned around and gave the woman her must dazzling smile as her sultry voice tugged at Brooke’s ears. “Oh, Brooke, I’ve got a present for you. Do you think you can unwrap it?” Sam looked down to the front of her shirt and started to play with the buttons, letting the innocent smile tease at her lips.

Brooke could feel her heart racing as she slowly smiled, then followed the woman eagerly.

The events of the last week long forgotten from her mind, Sam sat at the small desk, waiting for her professor to come in. She played nervously with her pen as she tapped out a rhythm on her stack of books. Hearing the door creak open, Sam looked up to see Janet Humphreys come whisking into the room with a briefcase in one hand and her glasses sitting on top of her head.

“Alright guys and gals, you can come see me individually for your intern assignments for next semester. These assignments are final and can not be altered.” She looked over to one particularly inattentive student and cleared her throat. “Do you hear me, Mister Komikowski? No swapping internships and that’s final.” She watched as he raised his head and nodded. “Okay, now remember, if you get fired, you fail. Now, who wants to go first?” Janet looked around the classroom for a volunteer.

Sam looked up to the heavens as if in prayer. God let me pass and better yet, let it be local. Let it be…

“Well, since no one wants to start…” She eyed the room from corner to corner, “Ms. Moleson…”

SHIT! I’m not done praying. Sam’s eyes opened wide as she looked up to the front of the room. “Yes?”

“You can be the first. My office,” Janet held up two fingers and wiggled them. “…in two minutes.” The professor headed for the door, then stopped at the desk. “Class, the rest of you figure out the order you’d like to go in, once Ms. Moleson returns to leave, I expect the next one in my office immediately.” Janet gathered her things and headed for her office.

“Why me, Lord,” Sam muttered as she slowly got up and shuffled toward the door to Janet’s office. She knocked once then took a deep breath and opened the door.

“Come in Ms. Moleson and have a seat.” Janet pointed to the chair opposite her.

“Thank you.” Sam sat down, trying not to fidget in the long moment of silence that ensued.

“Okay,” Prof. Humphreys placed her hands clasped together on her desk and peered over at the student. “Let’s get right down to it, shall we?”

The blonde swallowed hard with a very audible “Gulp.” Something tells me I’m not going to like this.

“First off, for your PR assignment, do you have reliable transportation to travel to and from work?”

Shit, it’s out of town. I knew it. Sam felt her heart sink. “I can arrange for some if I need it.” You knew it was too good to last forever. Siberia, here I come.

“Good, because the company you will be interning for is about an hour south of here in Virginia Beach.”

The young woman was paying very little attention to what the professor was saying. Sam had only been able to pick up a word here or there. “South of here?” Sam was beginning to become more alert.

“Yes, Ms. Moleson, Virginia Beach is south… well, southeast of here, really.” She offered the packet of information to her student.

Great, that’s all I need, winter at the beach. Sam took the packet, flipped it around and automatically recognized the logo for Brownstone on the corner.

“The company you will be working for is…”

“Brownstone Records,” Sam said, a smile tugging at her lips. “I think I’ve heard of them somewhere.”

“I’m sure you have,” Janet winked at her student. “It’s owned and operated by Brooke Gordon. She wants someone that she can trust who seems to have a liking for music that matches her own.”

“Ah, Ms. Humphreys, don’t worry about transportation. I think I know someone in the area that I might be able to stay with.” Sam’s mind raced with thoughts of giving Brooke her wish of living together.

The professor looked over to Sam. “Are there any questions about your assignment?”

“The assignment? No… no Ma’am. No questions.” Green eyes widened as she shook her head in reply. “Don’t worry Professor, I won’t let you down. I think this is one assignment that I can put my whole heart into.”

“I know you will.” Janet turned over a leaf in her notebook. “Oh, and I will require a progress report from Ms. Gordon every three weeks.” The instructor took off her glasses and placed them on the desk as she thought. “Sam…”

“Yes, Professor?” The young woman sat on the edge of her seat.

“Brooke and I have been friends for a long time and I want it to be known from the start. In no way whatsoever am I showing any favoritism towards you. I ran these internship applications through a computer this year just to keep from being partial. I wanted to match up companies to the best candidate as I could.” Janet took in a deep breath, then sat back into her chair. “Just do me a favor…”

“What’s that, Ms. Humphreys?”

“Just try to keep your relationship out of the classroom and away from the other students. You won’t be interacting with them on a regular basis like you’re used to. I just don’t want it getting back to the Dean that you have a relationship with your boss.” Janet looked away, then settled back on the edge of her seat with her hands on the desk. “Now, Brooke has no idea where you have been placed and she damn sure does not know that I’m having this conversation with you. If she did, she’d probably shoot me.”

Sam nodded, “I understand. It will be all business from 9 to 5.”

“I trust Brooke and know that she won’t show any favoritism on your reports as well. As I said before, just try and keep it discreet while on campus.” Janet smirked, “As for C.C., there’s nothing discreet about her.”

“I’m sorry to disagree with you on that one, Professor. If it’s in Brooke’s best interest, C.C. can be very discreet. I’ve learned that.” Sam looked down to the envelope in her hands. “We won’t let you down.”

“I know you won’t.” Janet nodded as she smiled, “Have a wonderful holiday, Ms. Moleson.” She looked down to her book.

“I will now. Thanks, Professor.” The young woman got up and crossed the small office to the door. Reaching for the knob, Sam stopped and turned back toward the woman at the desk, as a subdued smile came to her face. “Merry Christmas to you too, Ms. Humphreys.”
Ch22 I’ll Be Home For Christmas
“… So Baby won’t you love me like you do just One Mo’ time?…”
C.C. pushed open the door to her dorm room, greeted by the stack of boxes and the small blonde that was filling up another box that would soon be added to the growing pile. The brunette stood there for a minute, watching as Sam took the last armful of clothing from her side of the closet and made her way over to the empty box that waited on her bed.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Oh, hi C.C.,” Sam motioned with her head as she lowered her load to the bed. “What’s it look like?” She put her hands on her hips as she turned to look at her roommate. “I’m packing.”

The brunette took a step or two around the boxes, noticing the neatly labeled tags on each one. “Yeah, but why are you packing everything?”

“School policy, my dear.” Sam cocked her head at C.C. “Did you forget about moving out, only to move back in three weeks later when the new semester starts?” Sam paused, then added, ” Besides, I…I got my assignment this week. It looks like I may not be your Roomie after the Holidays.” Sam stole a glance to see what effect her words would have on C.C.

“WHAT?” The young woman’s voice raised an octave in surprise. C.C. looked at the stack of boxes and sat down on her bed, pouting.

“They, ah…I got sent…ah…C.C.,” Sam turned, picking up the manila envelope from the nightstand, then looked at it before handing it to C.C. “Cheer up, will you. It’s not like we won’t see each other.”

“But you won’t be here,” the brunette sighed. “I thought roomies were supposed to stick together?”

“True, but I think you won’t mind once you see where they sent me.” Sam pushed the envelope toward C.C.’s hand, making the logo in the upper left hand corner almost impossible for her to miss.

“HOLYSHITNOWAY!” The woman jumped up off the bed and grabbed the small blonde in a bear hug as Sam nodded.

“Can you believe that?” Sam smiled like there was no tomorrow.

“TOO COOL!” C.C. spun her Roomie around once then stopped to ask. “Does she know yet?”

The blonde slowly shook her head. “I…I haven’t told her yet. I thought it would make a nice Christmas present.”

C.C. turned around and sat down on her bed, and then she fell back into it. “OHMYGOD, she is going to be ECSTATIC!”

“Well, you know that she’s tried to get me to agree to her getting an apartment close to the dorm, right?”

“Uh, yeah. I knew about that.”

“Well, this way, I’ll be moving closer to her, down toward the beach.”

“Whoa, wait a minute.” C.C. sat and looked Sam in the eye. “Closer to her?”

“Well C.C., I can’t expect her to let me live with her. I mean…I am, but… just ’til after the Holidays. I’ll look for something…”

“You know she won’t go for that, right?” C.C. followed the blonde with her eyes as Sam started back over to her bed and the boxes waiting to be packed. “Sam, she is so gaga over you, she’s going to want you to stay with her.”

“Let’s just say that I don’t want to force her into anything she’s not ready for, okay?” Sam’s brow furrowed as she bit her lip trying to figure out why the brunette was giggling. “Besides, this next couple of weeks will tell us if we could even think of living together someday in the future. Who knows, maybe I won’t like how she butters her toast or leaves dirty towels on the floor.” Sam giggled. She knew that would never be enough to not want to live with Brooke. “Hey, maybe your next roomie will have some older brothers, huh?”

“Oh, so you are dumping me then. Damn women,” C.C. grinned. “You know, Sam, you think that you’re really that fickle to leave one sister and then go shacking up with another sister?” The brunette joked, “I don’t think so.” C.C.’s eyebrows wrinkled in thought. “Oh…did you say something about older brothers?” The brunette’s eyes opened wide. “Do you know who will be my next roommate?”

“Huh?” Sam thought back to her side of the conversation. “Now that’s the C.C. I’ve come to know and love.” She giggled, “No, I don’t know who they’ll give you for a roommate, C.C. I just thought it might be a possibility.”

“I know…” C.C. sighed as her face took on an impish look. “So, what can I do to help?”

“Nothing much, except to give me a hug and tell me that you’ll miss me when I’m gone.” Sam winked and held her arms out as she watched C.C. wipe a single tear from her eye.

“I will miss you, Sam. I liked all those late nights that I spent in the library while you were here with my sister.” C.C. embraced the blonde and choked out her words, “It won’t be the same without you.” She laughed, “My grades will probably drop, too.”

“Well, you won’t miss me for long. I’m still going to see you. I mean…I’m still a part of your sister’s life, aren’t I?” Sam gave her taller roomie a tight squeeze before releasing her.

“Brooke’s and mine, Sam. You’re part of our family now.”

The blonde closed her eyes and grinned from ear to ear. “Now, that’s the best thing of all. Stop it C.C., before you make me cry. You know how I get when I talk about being a part of a family. I never thought I’d ever be a part of anyone’s family when I came here, now look at me. I’ve got sisters galore.”

“Yeah, I know,” the brunette wiggled her eyebrows, then turned to look at the unpacked boxes. “Well, let’s finish getting you packed so you’re ready when Brooke gets here.”

“Thanks, C.C.” Sam started to gather the things from her nightstand when her gaze fell on the clock. “Damn, she should be here any minute. Could you go downstairs and stall her?” Green eyes pleaded unmercifully. “I promised her I’d be ready when she got here.”

“Sure. Consider it my last official duty as your roomie.” C.C. winked then headed for the door.

The sleek, black Sequoia drove up to the main entrance of the dorm and parked. Within seconds, a very spry looking woman got out of the vehicle and came bounding toward the door. She came up to the door with her hands braced, and easily pushed it open as she started to run through the lobby.

“Hey, hold up. Don’t you even say ‘Hi!’ to your own sister?” C.C. stepped forward, attempting to delay the woman.

Long, dark hair swung with momentum, as Brooke stopped her forward motion long enough to see who was calling out to her. “Hey, C.C. What’s up?”

“Nice truck, Sis,” the brunette motioned with her thumb to the truck right outside the door, then C.C. asked innocently, “Did it come with a hitch for the U-haul?”

Brooke looked at her sister, slightly puzzled. “U-haul? What U-Haul?”

The brunette sighed as she lifted her face towards the heavens and rolled her eyes. “Why would I not think she’s slow? Twenty years and I should know by now.” C.C. turned to look at her still confused older sister. “Never mind, Brooke, you’ll get it in due time.”

The older woman eyed her sister suspiciously, then looked around the lobby for any sign of Sam. “So, where’s my girl?”

“Ah…your girl?” C.C. teased her sister before motioning with her head. “She’s upstairs, finishing her packing.” The brunette reached out to grab her sister’s hand before she could go running off. “So, she’s moving in with you for the Holidays, huh?”

“Yes, she is.” Brooke nodded, her blue eyes filled with excitement. “I’ve taken the next few weeks off so I can spend it with her.”

“Whoa, hold those horses. You took time off of work? You must be serious here.” C.C. couldn’t believe her ears. “You mean there’s more to life than work?”

“Of course, I am. You know what I’m planning.” Brooke looked very seriously into C.C.’s eyes, “Yes, there is more to life than work. Sam…well, she’s…” the dark-haired woman looked around the lobby before settling back on her sister. “She’s everything to me. Besides, who knows if she’ll ever have this much time off again? I want to spend it with her.”

C.C. couldn’t help but smile at her sister’s excitement. “Then I take it you’re going to pop the question soon?”

Blue eyes began to twinkle and a smile engulfed Brooke’s face. “Yes, before the end of the break.”

C.C. rubbed her hands eagerly together. “Oh…scoop, scoop. When’re you gonna to do it?” She looked at her sister for a brief moment before her excitement carried her away. “Christmas, right? Is that what you’re getting her? Oh, how I love secrets.”

“I’m not telling. I want it to be a big surprise. I already have a few things in mind though.” Brooke teased her sister, then just as easily confided, “You’ll just have to wait and see.” Brooke started for the stairs but after a step or two, she turned back to C.C. “And no, that’s not her present.” Brooke thought for a moment then added, “Although, if she said yes, it would be mine.” She emphasized the words with a wiggle of her eyebrows before turning back toward the stairs.

“Well, if you need any help,” C.C. rubbed her hands together, “You know, I’m always around…”

Brooke shook her head, “Yeah, I know C.C., but this is something I need to do on my own.”

“I know, Sis, but I’m still here for you, any way that I can be.” C.C. waved to her sister. “Well, I have to get going. I’ve got lots of thing to do before Christmas.”

“Okay, I’ll see you soon, C.C. Merry Christmas.” Brooke called out as she headed for the stairs.

“Merry Christmas, Brooke.”

The woman turned halfway up the stairs to wave at her sister, as she muttered under her breath, “I hope so.”

Brooke wiped the small beads of perspiration from her forehead as she climbed into the driver’s seat of the truck. She glanced into the rearview mirror, then over to the self-absorbed blonde next to her. “Damn Darlin’, are you sure you didn’t pack some of C.C.’s things back there?”

There was a pause before Sam spoke. “Hon, did you get that last little box that I had by the desk?”

The dark-haired woman nodded as she put the key into the ignition and started the engine. “Yes, Darlin’, it’s back there,” she smiled as she motioned with her head, “…somewhere.”

“I keep thinking that I forgot something,” Sam wrinkled her brow even more, “…and no, I didn’t take anything of C.C.’s”

“Baby, we brought everything that you had stacked by the door.”

“I know, I just wish I could remember what I’m forgetting though,” the blonde sighed.

“Sam, I’m sure you didn’t forget a thing.” Brooke put the truck in gear and started to pull out into traffic.

“You’re probably right,” Sam shrugged, “…but it just keeps,” the blonde paused. “Damn,” she slapped her jean-covered thigh, “I know what it was.”

“What?” The truck came to a halt as Brooke slammed on the brake, almost causing her load to shift.

Quickly bracing herself against the dashboard, Sam waited for the truck to stop rocking before wrinkling up her nose and looking over to Brooke with the most innocent of faces.

“What?” Blue eyes studied her intently, fearing that they’d left something of great importance behind.

“I remember what it was that I was forgetting.” Sam looked down to the dashboard as she readjusted her seat. “I…ah…” she looked over to Brooke and spoke in a shy voice, “Could we stop at the grocery store?”

Brooke looked into the rearview mirror. “Do we have room for whatever we need to get?” She winked at Sam teasingly.

“Hey,” Sam shifted in her seat to face her more fully. “How many people do you actually know that could pack up their whole life and belongings into one small…” she let her eyes drift over the very large interior of the truck and chuckled. “Well, not so small truck, huh?”

Brooke grinned, then began to chuckle. “Sam, you are just too cute.” The driver grabbed the blonde’s hand and kissed it. “We can stop wherever you’d like.” Brooke took her foot off the brake and eased it back onto the gas pedal. She stole glances of the woman as Sam blushed.

Sam hid her face with her hand, trying to shield the growing redness of her face from Brooke’s view. “Thanks,” she giggled, “I forgot the cookie dough.”

“Cookie dough?” Brooke took Sam’s hand in hers and raised it to kiss the small palm.

“Hey, Christmas means cookies, okay?” Sam sighed, “Besides, they’re refrigerated so if we can’t fit them in here, we could always just tie the tubes to the roof rack.” Sam cast a sideward glance to her lover.

“I guess we could. I love you.” Brooke took her eyes off the road long enough to wink at Sam.

“I love you too, Babe,” Sam smiled back at her.

“It’s gonna be really nice having these next few weeks with you. I don’t think you know what this means to me, Sam.”

“You’re not regretting it already, are you?”

The driver shook her head and smiled, “Not at all. Starting tomorrow, I can sleep in late with you every day, make you breakfast in bed…”

“Hmm…sounds like I must have been a very good girl this year, huh Santa?”

“Oh yeah.” The broad grin across Brooke’s face said it all.

“Maybe next year you’ll have been the good girl and Santa will bring you everything it is that you want.” Sam winked and smiled back.

“Yeah? Well, that’ll be easy. I only want one thing.”

“Hmm, would that be something big…or expensive?” Sam teased, ” I mean to only want one thing.”

“Nope,” Brooke tightened her lips together and shook her head. “It’s not big, and not expensive, either.” She smiled, “But it’s just right.”

“Now that sounds like the proverbial ‘Peace on Earth’, wouldn’t you say?” Sam glanced out the side window then back to Brooke. “You’d better tell me now so I can put your order in for next year,” she teased.

The driver smiled, then made her wish in a hushed whisper, “All I want is you.”

It took a moment for the words to sink in, causing the blonde to give Brooke a strange look. “But you already have me, Brooke. So, what’s to want?”

The older woman winked at her lover. “And that’s why I’m happy. All I need is you.”

“Hmm…now that, I can live with.”

Sam looked back into the truck that boasted of not a single square foot of unused space, and marveled at their ability to find enough room for the two small bags of groceries. There wasn’t a nook or cranny left to put even the tiniest of things into the vehicle when she noticed that the truck was turning from the main road.

“Brooke, what’s wrong? Why are we stopping here?” Sam looked back to the loaded cargo. ” I didn’t break your new truck, did I?” She gazed over to Brooke, then out of the side window where she saw a small shack surrounded by pine trees and illuminated with rows of strung together light bulbs.

“We need a tree, Darlin’.”

“A tree?” Sam’s eyes lit up, “You mean a real tree? I didn’t think people still did real trees.”

“Of course I mean a real tree.” Brooke unfastened her seatbelt as she watched a family passing by with a tree in tow and smiled fondly. “We are going to get a real tree and decorate it with the kids on Christmas Eve. What do you think?”

Sam looked back to the packed vehicle and grimaced. “Well, I guess a little one would be…”

The driver laughed heartily, “Oh no, it’s got to be a big one.”

“A big one?” Sam’s head shifted back and forth from the driver to the packed truck. “Brooke, how…where…” she gave up and finally said what was on her mind. “It’s never gonna fit.”

“Oh, yes it will. It can go on top.”

“So, that’s why you didn’t want the refrigerated rolls up there, huh?” Sam teased.

Damn right,” Brooke winked back at her. “There has to be enough room for you and I to fit under it.” Brooke’s eyes twinkled with delight.

“You’re not insinuating that we make…” Sam’s face took on one of shock.

Brooke grinned evilly before she amended her statement. “Well, at least you with a big red ribbon on your head,” she teased right back, looking down at her own long frame. “I’m not sure they have anything here that’s big enough for me.”

“Whew,” Sam breathed easier. “You had me worried for a minute there.”

The rakish grin stayed on Brooke’s face. “Well, now that you mention it…we do have to work on that baby thing.”

Sam poked her tall lover in the stomach. “Now, don’t go getting any ideas.” She started into a slow grin. “Well, not until after the kids go home.”

“Nope.” Brooke shook her head, remembering what had happened when they tried making love with Julie in the house. “No way, besides, we’ll have plenty of time before they even get there.”

The younger woman thought for a moment, then agreed. “We do, don’t we?” Sam smiled coyly, then wiggled her eyebrows. “So, what are we doing here? Let’s go pick out a tree.”

Brooke stood there for a moment, sizing up the situation. Here, in one hand, she balanced the tall pine that they had picked out, while she looked over to the two week old Sequoia. It would take her more time and energy than it was worth to unload all of Sam’s boxes to get to the tarp that she’d thrown in earlier. She knew there was no way she was getting sap all over the roof of the brand new vehicle. Her options were limited as she reached for her cell phone and punched in her youngest sister’s number, waiting to hear her familiar tones.

“Hello, Sis, what’s up?”

“Hey Chase, I need you to do me a favor. Can you bring me a tarp?”

C.C.’s voice came back in a teasing manner. “And what kinky kind of games are you two playing this weekend, huh?”

“Do you really wanna know or can you just bring me a tarp so I can take home this tree?”

“What the hell do you need a tree for, Brooke? You’ve got a huge bed.”

“It’s a Christmas tree, Chase,” Brooke said, a little perturbed.

“Oh, sorry. I guess I forgot about you having to get a fresh one every year.”

“Come on, I need to put it on top of my truck and I don’t want to mess up the paint job.”

“Still pampering it, huh?”

“Of course, I am.” Brooke let a long sigh escape her lips.

“Hmm…I guess that means you haven’t broken in that back seat yet,” she teased.

“Uh…” Brooke raised a lone eyebrow in response when she figured out what C.C. was getting at. “The tarp, Chase. Please don’t give me any ideas I shouldn’t be having in a public place, okay?”

“Oh,” C.C. giggled naughtily. “Then do you think I should take back your present, I mean…if you’re not going to really utilize that truck.”

“Present?” Brooke sounded intrigued.

“Yeah, the plate for the front. You know, ‘If this truck is a rockin’, don’t come a knockin’.”

The older woman shook her head and laughed, “C.C.?”

“Yeah, Sis?”

“You are a goober. So, are you gonna bring me the tarp?”

“Ah…do I get to put the plate on your truck?”

“I’ll let you ask Sam about that one.”

“Forget it, I’ll bring the tarp.” C.C. paused for a moment, then asked, “Are you at the same place as usual?”

“Yep, see you soon.” Brooke took in a deep breath as she disconnected with her sister. She looked over to the blonde who was waiting patiently and chuckled thinking about C.C.’s proposed Christmas gift.

Brooke opened up the back of the sport utility vehicle and stared at the assortment of boxes waiting to be unloaded. She couldn’t believe that all of Sam’s worldly possessions were here in her truck. The tall woman glanced back over her shoulder at the young blonde as she dusted off her hands on her way back to the vehicle.

“Any place in particular that you want these boxes, Darlin’?”

Sam looked at the packed vehicle and sighed. “Maybe we should just let them go for tomorrow.” She turned to look up at the darkening sky of the early evening.

“Are you sure?” Brooke asked tentatively.

“Yeah, I’m bushed,” the young woman smiled as she turned back to the porch where their Christmas tree was resting. “I never thought we’d be able to get the tree down from the truck roof with just the two of us.”

“I can bring them in for you if you want,” Brooke offered, referring to the blonde’s possessions.

“You’re used to that, aren’t you?” The blonde looked up into an eagerly smiling face. “Humph,” Sam snorted as she shook her head. “Why do I even ask?” She reached out and felt one of Brooke’s muscular arms, even through the leather coat that she was wearing. Green eyes looked up at Brooke and nodded. “Yeah, we might as well bring them in for the next two weeks.”

The tall woman leaned in and nuzzled her lover’s neck, right behind the ear. She purred, “It could be longer if you’d like.”

Not wanting to get into that discussion right now, Sam pushed past Brooke and grabbed a box, then turned and headed for the house.

“Baby?” Brooke didn’t quite know what she’d said wrong, but she obviously had and she watched as Sam turned back toward her.

“Hon, I really don’t want to think about that right now. I mean…there’s lots of time to do it later. Right now, I’m thinking that Christmas will be here before we know it and I don’t want to miss a single moment of it with you. What do you say we just enjoy this Christmas and see what happens?”

God, she got assigned out of state. I knew it. Why else would she be acting like this? The dark-haired woman could feel the pit of her stomach as it fell into that vast hole of uncertainty. Brooke offered up a weak smile as she grabbed two boxes and took several long strides. “I love you,” she said as she came up next to Sam.

Relieved that her tall friend had not pursued the subject any further, Sam smiled at the love that she saw in the shimmering blue eyes and replied in the only way that she could. “Love you, too.”

Sam moved easily down the spiral staircase, staying just out of reach of the taller woman who was following her. Brooke had started off the morning on a tickling frenzy that nothing Sam did could stop it from happening. Determined to find something better for those hands to be doing than tickling her, Sam came off the stairs and headed right into the living room. There, off to one corner, was the pile of boxes they had assembled in that area last evening.

The young woman turned back to her lover as she entered the room and gently grasped her wandering hands, trying to keep them under control. “I guess we can’t leave them here, can we?” Sam motioned over to the small mound of boxes.

Brooke looked in the general direction and shook her head. “Guess not. Where would you like them?”

Seeing the opportunity to tease the older woman, Sam took it. “And I thought you cleared that big space in the living room just for me.”

The tall woman stopped dead, her face taking on its most serious look. “I will clear any amount of space for you, just tell me what you need.”

Sam looked around first then turned to gaze into Brooke’s eyes. “Would it be too much to take them upstairs? I was thinking maybe in the little guest room or will you need that for one of you nephews tomorrow night?”

“No, the boys will bunk together in one room, and Julie in another. It won’t be any problem. Actually, we can put them wherever you want.” Brooke smiled innocently as she offered up another thought. “You can uh… keep a box in each room if you want.”

The blonde held onto Brooke’s hand and gave her a little shove. “Well, I figured that would be the closest without being too far from the stairs.” She watched Brooke’s eyes twinkle. “You know, for when we have to bring them down again.”

Suddenly the playful sparkle of the blue eyes faded, and Brooke could feel her hopes begin to drop once more. “Oh…” she looked down to her feet and started to pout.

Catching the changing mood, Sam looked over to the pouting woman. “Brooke, let’s not go there. Remember…” green eyes searched until she made contact with Brooke’s eyes and locked into a gaze with them. “We’re concentrating on Christmas this weekend. Let’s not ruin it, okay?”

The older woman bit back on her lip and took in a deep breath before answering. “Okay.”

Before the word or the quick dip to the dark-haired woman’s head took place, Sam let go of her lover’s hands and picked up the first box. She held it out to Brooke, then, after it was taken, pointed toward the stairs and winked. “Now, that’s the Christmas Spirit,” Sam whispered as she reached up on tiptoes and placed a gentle kiss on the woman’s cheek.

Long, sinewy fingers deftly twisted the end of the wire over on itself and made the last few turns, securing the tall pine tree to the eyebolt that was anchored in the wall. Gingerly, Brooke pulled her hand away from the upper portion of the tree and leaned back slightly on the ladder, watching for any sign of movement on the tree’s part. Seeing none, she smiled broadly as she stuffed the excess wire and assorted tools back into her jeans’ pockets.

Looking down into the blonde’s face, Brooke winked, then made her announcement. “Okay, you can let go of it now. It’s not going anywhere.” She started her descent, keeping her eyes on Sam as she released the tree.

Seeing that there was no movement of the tree, Sam looked over to her tall friend as her feet came to meet the floor. “You do this like a pro, Brooke. Would you care to let me in on your secret?” The younger woman stepped back from the tree and marveled at its straightness.

Brooke reached for the small toolbox and began to empty her pockets of tools. “Many years of helping Dad, Brian, and Rick. That’s my secret.”

Sam looked to the tree and then to her lover. “So, you think you’re ready to solo, huh?”

The tall woman surveyed the tree with a skeptical eye. “Well, it’s up, isn’t it?” She grinned as she turned to the ladder, folded it together, then laid it down on its side.

Sweat stained T-shirt and ripped jeans didn’t mar the beauty of the tall woman as Sam admired the muscles that the short-sleeved shirt revealed. Taking in a deep breath to steady her growing urges, the blonde wanted to experience all the facets of this wonderful creature before her and playfully, Sam dared her to do just that.

“Yeah, you’ve shone me your rugged side,” Sam winked. “Now, how about letting me see a little bit of that…” she cleared her throat, “…domestic goddess that you keep hidden from everyone. Help me get some cookies done for the kids tomorrow. I mean…after all…we have to give them something for decorating the tree.” Her voice had turned more seductive as her thoughts did the same.

The dark-haired woman stopped short, giving Sam the subtlest of smiles as she arched a single eyebrow at the blonde. “Okay Baby,” Brooke wiped her hands on her jeans, then rubbed them together. “Let’s go make some cookies.”

Setting the last box down next to the tree, Brooke turned to look over at Sam while she watched the lights twinkling on the tree. God, how I want every Christmas to be like this one. Everything is so much more alive this year, so real. If I would have known baking cookies was so much fun… Brooke stopped to think before she continued on. It’s not the cookies or the year…it’s Sam. That’s what is making this year so different for me. I mean, I always liked Christmas, but now…I simply love it.

Lost in her thoughts, Brooke didn’t hear the doorbell the first time that it rang. It was only after she was nudged by the young woman who was standing next to her, that she was able to hear it amidst the howls of the husky as he came barreling in from the kitchen. She kissed Sam’s cheek and whispered into her ear. “They’re here…” she sing-songed out, then headed for the door with the blonde a step behind.

Brooke pulled open the entryway door and smiled at her older sister. “Hey, hello. We’ve been waiting for you to get here.”

Rolling her eyes, Randi handed over the small child in her arms. “So, you’re really up to having all three of them for the night?” Her eyes shifted between both women standing opposite her.

“Yes, we’re up to it.” Brooke accepted her niece in her arms, and then glanced toward Sam.

“Okay then, they’re all yours for the night.” Randi watched as Sam slipped her arm around her sister’s waist and smiled up at Julie. “We’ll see you tomorrow around nine then.”

“See you then.” Brooke smiled at her two young nephews and motioned with her head, “Come on in guys, we’re all set to go.” Amazed by their antics, she watched as both boys vied to get into the house first, the smaller one of the two finally winning out as he wiggled past his brother and raced into the living room.

Before turning to leave, Brian leaned in toward his sister-in-law and spoke softly for both women to hear. “You know, once you get used to them, they’re not half bad.” He pulled back and gave a wink, then followed his wife back toward the van in the driveway.

Sam paused for a moment to let the words sink in, then she raised her arm, waving to the retreating figures. “Love you too, Brian.” She turned to look at her tall lover and when their eyes met, laughter erupted. “Come on, Julie, let’s go see if we can find you a star.” Sam’s eyes twinkled as she touched the tip of the child’s nose with her finger and winked.

Marveling at the display of artistic talent that was being captured in the boughs of the tree as Brooke orchestrated the decorating, Sam stood back after handing out the last two ornaments to the boys. Each one waited with hope-filled eyes on their aunt as she made her way around the tree. Sam watched while Brooke eyed the ornaments in each boy’s hands, then slowly nodded her head, signifying that she’d found the perfect place for at least one of them.

“Law,” she called out, then pointed to a spot on the left side of the tree. “There by the Nutcracker. Do you see it?”

The youngster nodded eagerly and moved to where his aunt had pointed. Placing the ornament on the tree, he turned and stuck out his tongue in the direction of his brother. “I’m the first one done. See, Aunt Brooke likes me best.”

Sam hid her shocked expression behind the hand that she brought to her mouth and looked over at Brooke, then slowly brought her hand down to her chest as she started to laugh.

Brooke took in a deep breath and nodded as she felt Kevin’s small hand patting her on the leg. She looked down into hope-filled eyes.

“Aunt Brooke,” he held up the shiny, glittered ball in his hand. “Where does this one go?” He watched as his aunt looked the tree over and motioned for him to come toward the front of the tree.

“Here, this is where we need to put your ball.” She knelt down, watching the small boy reach up to the branch and hang the ball right next to a grouping of lights. “There you go.” She smiled and kissed him, hugging him dearly. “Thank you, Kevin.”

The boy giggled and rubbed his cheek where he had been kissed on his shoulder then turned and faced his brother, smiling triumphantly. “She loves me too, David.”

“I love you all just the same as I love little Dumplin’ here.” Brooke picked up Julie and walked over to Sam. “Let’s see if we have something for Julie to place on the tree.” She winked at Sam, knowingly.

The blonde reached down into the box and came up with a gold star for the top of the tree.

The child’s eye grew bigger as she clapped her hands while Sam pulled the golden star from out of the box and handed it to her.

“You know where that star goes, right Julie?” Brooke asked her as she picked the child up into her arms and Sam handed the star to the toddler.

“Higher, Anti Bwooke, higher.” The child tapped the tall woman’s shoulder and pointed to the top of the tree.

“Okay, Sweetie, we’ll get you higher.” Brooke raised the youngster up above her head, holding her on either side of her body.

Fearful that the child might fall, Sam watched intently as the youngster strained to stretch her own arms as far as she could. “Brooke, be careful,” she cautioned as the tall woman moved a small step closer and Julie lowered the star onto its home at the top of the tree.

“There,” Julie breathed a sigh of relief. “Now the baby star is having Christmas with us.” She smiled as Brooke lowered her to her chest and gave her a hug.

“Baby star? No, Julie, that’s the Star of Bethlehem,” Sam corrected her.

“It’s da baby star ’til next year.”

“No…” Sam stopped to think for a moment, then smiled. “Well, yeah, maybe. It’s the star that showed the way for all those who came to pay homage to the baby that was born in the stable. It brought shepherds and kings alike from all corners of the globe so that they could welcome the new baby to their world. It’s said that the star was seen in the night sky for some time before the child’s birth.”

Sam smiled, then slowly looked over to Brooke, settling her eyes on the youngster in her lover’s arms. “So, you see, Julie, you were right. It is the baby’s star…the baby Jesus, that is.”

There was silence for a long moment while each of the adults reflected on what was just said. The soft sound of Kevin’s yawn brought them both back to reality.

“Looks like someone’s ready for bed,” Brooke teased her nephew as she took his hand in hers. “Okay, my little lady,” she hugged Julie tighter to her chest. “It’s time for bed.”

Sam looked over to the older child and noticed the drooping eyelids as well. “I think it’s time for all of you to go to bed,” the blonde reached out and laid her hand on David’s shoulder, pointing him toward the stairs as she started the line of tired bodies in a mock parade to the second floor.

“Even you and Anti Bwooke?” Julie asked amidst yawns.

“Yeah, Julie, even us,” Brooke smiled as she stooped down to pick up Kevin in her arms.

Sam turned around from her lead position and added, “Yeah, we all have to be asleep for Santa to come.”

Julie’s eyes lit up at the mention of the bearded man. “Santa?” She yawned, “Me sleepy now.” She laid her head down on Brooke’s broad shoulder, then a second later sat back up, and demanded to know, “Anti Bwooke, will you leave some milk and cookies out for Santa and his wayndeers?”

“Sure Sweetie.” Brooke’s smile stretched across her face. “Of course, we will.”

“Otay,” the child yawned as she laid her head back down on Brooke’s shoulder, “Me ready for bed, now.”

The events of the last few days, combined with a few sleepless nights and the stress from the Holidays, were enough to put the two adults fast asleep in record time. The gentle sound of Brooke’s breathing had very easily lulled Sam to sleep, much like the melody of her bedtime song had put the children to sleep for the night.

The sound of silence, as it held court over the bedroom, was enough to wake Sam out of her deep sleep. Even though they had slept together only a few nights a week, she was attuned to her lover’s presence in her bed. Raising one sleepy eye, Sam looked over to the clock on the nightstand as her arm felt the slightly chilled side of the bed that was empty. It’s only twelve thirty. I wonder where she could be?

Sam rolled over and laid on her back for a few minutes, staring up at the ceiling. Finally, her curiosity got the best of her and she threw the covers back as she sat up, letting her legs slide over the edge of the bed and into her slippers. Without a second thought, Sam crossed over to her suitcase and took a small box from it. She then walked down the hallway to the stairs and crept her way to the hall outside of the living room.

There, next to the decorated tree, was Brooke as she started to get up from deploying an armful of gifts underneath it. She pushed one small package with the tip of her foot until it was well hidden by the rest, then nodded her head as she rubbed her hands together.

“Okay, you impostor. Stop or I’ll call the Santa Police.” Sam’s voice came across with a little laugh interspersed.

Brooke turned to the figure in the doorway and smiled. “Hey, what are you doing awake? I thought that you might need some more rest after that concussion. That’s why I left you sleeping.”

“I only rest when you’re beside me. You should know that by now. Besides,” the blonde laughed softly, “I’m doing pretty much the same thing that you are.” She pulled a package out from behind her back and held it up for Brooke to see. “Honest, Brooke, if I didn’t feel good, I’d tell you.”

The dark-haired woman grinned, then motioned for Sam to come closer to the tree.

“I was trying to beat Santa out of a good spot for this one so that it doesn’t get lost.” Sam knelt down, placing the small, gift-wrapped box off to the side of the larger boxes gathered there.

“Oh yeah? What is it?”

The blonde stood back up as she studied the array of brightly wrapped boxes. “Hmm…that’s for only me and Santa to know until tomorrow.” She turned and smiled sweetly at her tall lover. “You see, Santa made me one of his elves this year.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, Baby…” Brooke cast an eye to the clock on the mantle. “It is tomorrow.”

Sam looked up to the clock and shook her head. “I see that, but that’s Eastern Standard Time and we elves go by North Pole Time.”

The tall woman sidled up to the blonde. “So,” she leaned over and whispered in her ear, “…when is that?” Brooke placed a light kiss upon her ear and stepped back to view the woman’s face.

The smile broadened on Sam’s face as she reached over and, taking Brooke’s hand in hers, slowly took a few steps away from the tree. “Well, that would be when I’m done with you.” The young woman smiled coyly and winked as she edged them closer to the stairs.

Blue eyes grew bigger as Brooke realized the possibilities that awaited her at the hands of her lover. Without a second of hesitation, Brooke lowered her voice and let go with a very sensual, “Ho-ho-ho!”

The sound of gleefully spirited children as they assembled in the hall outside the bedroom was Sam’s first inkling of the new day. Coming out of the realms of dreams, she rolled over to view her still slumbering lover. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, the blonde nudged the shoulder under her with her head.

“Hon,” she yawned. “I think I’m done with you.”

“Hmm,” came the sleepy reply, as dark hair began to move with the half-dazed motion of Brooke’s head.

The nudge this time was just a bit harder as Sam grew more awake. “Remember earlier this morning when you asked me when you could open that present?” She paused for a moment, then continued. “Well, I think I’m done with you.” Sam winked as the sounds of laughter come floating into the room. “Come on, Santa’s been here,” the blonde started to get up, “…and we best not leave those kids alone. God knows what they’ll get into.”

Blue eyes cracked opened and the husky sound of her voice croaked out words that were remnants from earlier in the night. “You mean I get to unwrap you again?” The sly smile came to the older woman’s face as she felt the slight slap of a small hand against her abs.

“Unwrap me, huh? How about later tonight?” Sam leaned in, kissing Brooke on the lips.

“Hmm…Now that’s a Merry Christmas, Darlin’.” Brooke lifted her head, straining for another kiss.

“Merry Christmas, my love.” Sam leaned back in and granted the tall woman’s wish.

The organized chaos of a Gordon Family Christmas commenced promptly at eight in the morning with the arrival of Mabel and Henry at Brooke’s much larger house. After many years of the ritual in their own home, they didn’t need any screaming children to wake them to be here on time. Within the next half an hour, Terri and Rick arrived, dressed in scrubs, for fear of missing any of the celebration. The next to grace Brooke’s home with her presence was C.C. who only feared not knowing everything that was going on.

As the family assembled in the living room, all eyes turned to the door when the bell chimed, announcing yet another arrival.

“I’ll get that,” Sam called out and went to the door to greet the last of the expected guests.

With all of their attention still on the door, the gathered family watched as Randi and Brian ambled in lazily at a quarter to nine with smiles on their faces.

“Well, it’s about time, you two.” C.C. sank back into her chair with her arms folded over her chest. “I see that Brooke got you the same present as last year.”

“Do you want that present next year, C.C.?” Brooke came up behind her sister and flicked her head with a briskly snapped finger. “Then I suggest you hurry up and have a kid so that they can stay over next year.”

The young woman jerked at the inflicted pain and turned in her chair. “Hey, I didn’t realize that you needed prerequisites for Christmas gifts.”

“Hmm…” Rick nudged his wife. “Well, Terri, I guess we know what we’re getting from her next year.”

“Yeah, no surprise there. We’d better make the most out of this year’s gift.” Terri looked over to Brooke and smiled.

Henry cleared his throat, then reached over to his wife who shared the love seat with him and took her hand. “Now, Terri, that’s where you’re wrong.”

“No, Grandchild of mine spends their first Christmas away from their parents.” Mable warned, shaking her finger. “That’s a special time and it only comes once.” The matriarch looked over to her husband and smiled lovingly.

“Yeah, once for each child,” Randi added as she wrapped an arm around her husband.

Opening his mouth to speak, Brian felt the tugging on his pant leg and looked down into the hopeful face of his daughter. “What’s up, Princess?”

“Pwesenze, Daddy, pwesenze.” Julie pointed to the mounds of gifts under the tree and then looked to her parents with pleading eyes. “Open.”

A collective “Ah…” went up from the group of adults as three sets of ears eagerly waited for the words to come.

Mable clapped her hands together for attention then started. “Let’s all see what Santa left for good little girls…”

Knowing that a ritual of twenty-some years was always hard to break, Henry cleared his throat, trying to get his wife’s attention before she could go on.

The matriarch looked over to her husband and saw his subtle head motion toward his grandsons. “…And boys,” she smiled at Henry and let go a little chuckle, “…this year.” She looked to her family and asked the collective question, “Now, who’s been good?”

Every one of her grandchildren shot a hand into the air, waving it and without hesitation declared, “Me.”

Mable got up from her seat, went to the stack of gifts closest to her, and picked up the first box. Turning to the group she looked down at the tag. With twinkling eyes, the matriarch called out the name, “Julie.”

Amidst the mounds of discarded wrapping paper and squeals of delighted children the ritual of the morning continued until Mable noticed the last two gifts under the tree. Respectively, they carried the same names on the tags only in opposite order. Remembering what she’d said earlier about how special a first Christmas was, the matriarch caught Sam’s attention and beckoned her to come closer.

Stepping over various assorted presents that were scattered on the floor, Sam made her way to where the older woman stood. “Yes, Mom? Is there something that I can help you with?”

Mable motioned to the presents that were left under the tree. “I think she’d appreciate it more getting it from you than if I gave it to her.” The older woman’s eyes gazed over to Brooke, then she looked to Sam and winked. “Remember what I said about the importance of a first Christmas?” Mable nudged the blonde, “Go on.”

“Thanks, Mom.” Green eyes twinkled as a smile came to Sam’s face. She picked up her package and walked over to Brooke.

Waiting until her lover turned from watching one of her nephews trying out a new toy, Sam spoke softly. “I…I guess you’re next to open one up, Brooke.” She held out the small box and waited patiently for it to be taken.

Rising from her seat, Brooke smiled rakishly, then leaned in and whispered in Sam’s ear. “What about the present I opened up last night? You didn’t tell my mother that I started without her, did you?”

Sam closed her eyes and willed the blush not to come to her face, before she answered. “Uh…I…” she looked up into mirth-filled eyes as her own grew wider in shocked surprise. “No.”

“Hmm…okay,” Brooke teased as she looked over to the clock on the mantel. “Actually, Darlin’, I’d love to open this but we need to go for a drive right now to get to your present.” Brooke took the gift offered to her and placed it back under the tree. “It really needs to be a prompt pickup.”

“What?” Furrowed brows added to the puzzled look on Sam’s face.

“I, uh…can’t tell you what it is. You’ll have to wait.”

After casting a concerned gaze to Brooke, Sam finally shrugged. “Okay, but do I need a coat?”

“Yeah, I got them waiting for us in the kitchen.”

“Hmm…then I guess we’ll be a while?” Sam muttered as Brooke left to get the coats. Sam looked over to C.C. for help. “Do you know anything about this?”

The roommate grinned like a Cheshire cat and declared, “I’m not saying.”

“It figures. I guess sisters always win out over best friends.” The blonde teased C.C. as she accepted her coat from Brooke and started to put it on. Then they made their way toward the door.

“Come on, Julie…wanna go?” Brooke held out her hands to the child in offering.

“Yeah, me go…me go.” The tyke turned to her brothers, “Kevin, David…me go.”

The dark-haired woman looked over to Sam. “Do you mind if they go?”

“Do I mind?” Sam pointed to her chest. “Nope, not at all.” She turned to Julie and smiled, holding out her hand. “Come on, Punkin. Let’s get you a coat.”

“God, Brooke,” Randi called over to her sister above the din of excited children. “Why didn’t you meet Sam earlier? We could have kept our sanity longer.”

“You know, Brooke, I’m beginning to like that truck of yours more and more.” Brain paused for a second as his wife nudged him. “We get more time without the kids, Honey.”

“Yeah? Well, just remember, one of these days you just might have to return the favor.” Brooke warned with an arched eyebrow.

“I hope we do, Brooke.” Brian teased his sister-in-law, “I hope we do.”

“Brooke,” the stern sounding name came rolling off Mable’s lips in between kisses that she dispensed to each child as they passed her. “You drive safely. You remember, that my grandchildren are with you.” Mable shook her finger at the woman.

“I will, Mom.” After she nodded to her caring mother, “We’ll be back.” She waved to her family, and then followed Sam and Julie out the door, making sure the boys were with her.

When they were several feet away from the vehicle, Julie pulled on Sam’s hand to get her attention.

“What’s up, Julie?”

“Sam…” the child came to a stop and leaned up against Sam, pressing her ear to the blonde’s abdomen. Listening intently for a moment, Julie turned her head and whispered loudly, “Are you awake in there yet?”

The young woman looked up to gaze over at Brooke, then back down to her stomach and the toddler who had her ear against it.

Julie cupped her small hand into the belly and spoke even louder. “It’s Julie. You coming out to pway wif me?”

Letting her fingers touch the child’s hat, Sam answered her. “I’m afraid not yet, Julie.” She looked down to see the disappointment, then amended her words. “But who knows, maybe she’ll surprise us all.”

“You ready, Sweetheart?” Brooke stepped up to Sam and wrapped an arm around her shoulder.

“Ready and waiting.” The blonde leaned into Brooke and kissed her on the cheek. “Thanks for making me feel like I have a family.”

The blonde turned in her seat to peer into the rear seat of the truck. There, three very sleepy children nodded off as the drive progressed. Even the sound of the lively Christmas carols on the sound system couldn’t override the effects of the lulling drive. Sam settled back into her seat, then stole a glance at the driver.

“Brooke, are you sure you know where you’re going? We’ve been in this truck for over an hour now.”

“I’m positive, Baby.” Brooke hummed along with the Irish sounding song that started playing on the radio as she continued down the suburban street.

Sam eyed her lover suspiciously at first, then shrugged as she turned to look out her side window. As they came to a stop, the young woman’s gaze fell on a very familiar house. “God, that looks like…” Sam sat up and took notice of where they were, letting her eyes roam about the street before casting a sideward gaze at the driver. “If I didn’t know better…” she looked out the windshield to the road in front of them. “I’d say that my parent’s house is just down the street a little bit.”

The driver tried to contain her smile by forcing her mouth to sing along with the chorus of the song. “It’s Christmas in Killarney, with all of the folks at home.” Brooke whistled with the spirited music as she pulled up in front of Sam’s parents’ house and stopped.

Looking out her window, Sam’s vision filled with the neatly styled house that she’d grown up in. “What…what are we doing here?” Her eyes quickly focused on Brooke.

“You’re going to spend the day with your family, Darlin’.” Brooke watched for Sam’s reaction.

“What?” Sam’s eyes grew bigger. “You’re joking, right?”

“No, I’m not.” Brooke smiled as she watched the man closing in on Sam’s side of the car. “Merry Christmas.”

The young woman looked into Brooke’s face and, seeing the sincerity in her eyes, Sam turned toward the sound of her name.

“Samantha…” the deeper voice called out with a hesitant smile as her father came briskly down the walk.

“How did you…” Sam looked over to the driver as she started to speak, only to be stopped by the look in Brooke’s eyes.

“Merry Christmas, Sam.” Brooke said softly, then motioned toward the approaching man.

Before Sam could utter a word, her father was upon them, opening the door and reaching in to welcome his daughter. “Merry Christmas, Baby.”

The blonde hurriedly unfastened her seatbelt and got out of the car, only to be engulfed in her father’s arms. “Merry Christmas, Daddy. God, it’s good to feel your hug.”

The man pulled back to look at his daughter. “My Goodness, look at my baby. You’re… you’re all grown up. You’re beautiful, Sweetie.” He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her cheek.

Suddenly, Sam’s body tensed up and she pulled back, wondering what great revelation had taken place. Slowly, she got the nerve to ask, “Does mom…I mean…she’s not dead…is she?”

Samuel shook his head and chuckled at his daughter’s question. “No, Darling, she’s in the house preparing dinner with Sarah.”

“And she’s letting me come here,” Sam looked at her father first, then to the house, “…into her house?”

Nervously, Samuel looked into the truck to see Brooke and then noticed the children sleeping in the back seat. “Yes, Sam…she is.” He wrapped his arm around his daughter and started walking toward the house.

Curious now, Sam looked over to her father, then motioned back to the truck. “And I assume that you’ve met Brooke?” She closed her eyes and wished she hadn’t said it in quite that way. “I mean…Brooke arranged this, didn’t she?”

“Of course.” He nodded, “We both did. Your roommate must be some friend for Brooke here to pull this off.” He cast an eye back to the truck and waved as he stepped up onto the landing outside the door of the house. “That was a very nice thought.”

“C.C.,” Sam wondered what it was that she didn’t know. “Well, yeah, she is.” The blonde looked back to the truck to catch Brooke’s attempt at mouthing several words. Straining to see, Sam thought that she made out a silent, “I’ll tell you later.” Not sure of what to expect next, Sam decided to just accept what had been granted to her. She nodded, mouthing back the words, “Thank you,” then waved as Brooke flashed her a smile, and pulled away in the truck. She watched it until it was out of her view then turned to see her father waiting at the door.

“Come on in, Samantha, I think your sister has been waiting to see you.”

Sam reached out and placed a gentle hand on her father’s arm. “Can you just give me a minute, Daddy?” She looked over to him. “I just want to savor this moment.” Seeing his nod, Sam turned back to look out the door. After a few seconds, she turned and hugged the man standing next to her. “It’s going to be a Merry Christmas, Dad. I’m sure of it now.”

Sam savored the sights and sounds of what she’d remembered as Christmas growing up in the modest home for the first 17 years of her life. She wandered around the gaily-decorated living room, letting memories invade her mind like cannon fodder on a battlefield. She closed her eyes. Sensing the memories that would only cause pain, she dug deeper for the sweeter memories of an earlier childhood. There, in the adolescent years of her preteens, she struck a happy medium where both children and adults were happy in their lives.

She turned to let her eyes settle once more on her father as he put her coat on a hanger, then moved into the doorway, calling out to her younger sister.

“Sarah.”

“Yes, Dad?” The soft-spoken voice answered.

“Sarah, someone’s made a special trip to see us. Would you care to welcome them?” Samuel winked at his eldest daughter and brought a finger to his lips.

The sound of someone coming down the narrow hallway announced the girl’s arrival, as did the sound of a squealed out greeting at the sight of her older sister. “SAM!” She ran over to the smiling woman and threw her arms around her.

Stepping back as she caught onto her sister’s hurtling body, Sam absorbed the blow. “Hey Sis. Whoa, take it easy there, killer.” Sam smiled and hugged her sister tightly. “It’s so good to see you on Christmas.”

“You, too.” Sarah put her face next to Sam’s ear and whispered, “Where’s Brooke?”

“My gosh, you’ve grown.” Sam covered her surprise at her sister’s question. “Later, Sarah, we’ll talk later,” she whispered back.

“You know,” Samuel stood back and watched his daughters reunite. “She reminds me a lot of you when you were that age.” Her turned his face from side to side as he studied the pair. “Don’t you think, Sam?”

The college student felt the heat of a blush coming to Sam’s face. “What…all excited and filled with the love of the season?” Sam looked back over to her father, but the answer came from the doorway behind her.

“No.” The sharp reply came from the small woman standing in the hall. Her face turned harder looking than a moment ago as all eyes turned to stare at her. “She still believes that our way of life is the right one.” Venomous eyes came to rest upon Sam, waiting for a reply. But there was none. “Sarah,” she snapped, “go change your clothes.”

Samuel stepped forward, trying to calm his wife. “Elaine, come say hello to your daughter.”

“How can I say hello to someone I believe is dead, Samuel?” Elaine turned her gaze back to her young daughter. “Sarah, move it.”

“Elaine, please, it’s Christmas.” The man’s eyes pleaded with his wife as his youngest daughter headed up the stairs.

“Yes, it is.” She turned a doubtful eye to Sam. “So,” she smirked, “has the prodigal daughter come home vowing to change her ways, or is this just a little keepsake for the memory?”

“Elaine,” his voice became gruff. “Stop it right now. You know damn well that you agreed to Sam coming home today.”

Sam could feel her hands flexing at her sides as she looked over to her father. “I…I didn’t ask for this. It was a gift…a very thoughtful gift.” Her voice trailed off.

“It’s okay, Sweetheart.” Samuel put his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and gave her a hug as he looked over to his wife. “She’s right. She didn’t ask for this.”

“Well, let’s not go on pretending, shall we? I agreed to this, but only on my terms.” Elaine but her hand on her hip, trying to exert her authority. “Are you ready to listen to them?” She watched, as Sam looked over to her father, then nodded. “You’re only here for a short time. During that time, you’ll not be left alone with Sarah. Do you understand that?”

“Elaine, please…” Samuel protested again.

“So, if you can’t talk about something in front of me, I suggest you not talk at all. Are you willing to accept those terms?”

Sam stood there for a moment, half in shock and half ready to be rebellious. “Yeah, I guess I can accept those terms better than you could my life.”

“Well, enjoy your time,” Elaine shot cold eyes at her daughter. “I can see that it won’t be happening again during my lifetime.”

“Elaine, stop this right now. She’s our daughter, and I for one…” he looked over at his grown daughter, “I have missed her terribly. She has our blood flowing through her veins, mine and yours. Now get off of your moral high horse and leave her be. She’s not hurting anyone.”

“No, she’s not. I won’t let her.” Elaine took in a deep breath, then spat out her feelings. “She was my daughter. I’m not sure what to call her now.” She spun on her heel and headed for the kitchen as she yelled up the stairs. “Sarah, come help me in the kitchen.”

There was a moment of awkward silence as father and daughter were left standing there in the wake of the previous minute. Sam could feel all the emotions come rushing back from the last time she’d seen her mother. Nothing had changed and nothing would change. Letting go of a sigh, she dropped her gaze to the floor, as she offered up a prayer for a bond she knew would never reestablish itself.

Lost in the void that seemed to grow between his wife and his daughter, Samuel rolled his eyes to the heavens above, then prayed for Elaine’s enlightenment. When he was done, he looked over to Sam’s slumped-shouldered form, which was silhouetted by the light from the hallway. Not knowing what to say, he searched his mind for a moment, then softly cleared his throat and asked, “So, how’s school, Honey?”

Slowly the blonde took in a breath, then raised her head. “School…ah, school’s alright. I’m just about done with my program.” She looked over to her father and saw the remorse in his eyes. Sam bit at her lip as she turned to gaze toward the kitchen, trying hard not to hate the woman who put her in this situation. “I’m…I’m doing fine. I’ve made some wonderful friends and…”

“Great!” The gusto in Samuel’s voice surprised even him, causing both of them to chuckle. “So, what’s in store after that?”

“God, Dad, I wish I knew. I’m not sure. I guess it depends on where I get a job.” Sam thought of Brooke and she couldn’t help but smile.

Studying his daughter’s face, Samuel ventured forth with his next topic. “You know, Honey, I really like your roommate’s sister. She seems like a very nice lady.”

Sam looked over to her father with a puzzled look. “Which one? They all are very nice. C.C. has a great rapport with them,” she smiled thinking of the sisterhood alliances, “…some more than others.”

“Hmm…sounds like a wonderful family.” He nodded. “But I was talking about the one that I met, Brooke.”

“Oh, ah…Brooke.” Saying the name brought a twinkle to Sam’s eyes. “Yeah, she’s…special…very special indeed.” Sam could feel her heart begin to race at the thought. Needing to move, she sauntered over toward the lighted Christmas tree.

“Samantha, I know she said that she did all this for your roommate but…” he studied his daughter’s back and pushed on, “I think you must mean a great deal to her for her to make such a long trip.”

Shrugging her shoulders, Sam stuttered out, “I…I don’t know. I mean…she seems to like me.” The twinkling blue lights on the tree caught the blonde’s gaze and suddenly they were not lights but rather Brooke’s blue eyes. Sam stared into the vibrant blue and wished that the tall woman, with the loving eyes, was there to comfort her.

“Were those her children in the truck?” Samuel asked softly as he slowly moved closer to his daughter.

Sam didn’t hear his question. The only thing that her mind seemed to want to concentrate on was the love that she shared with Brooke. Gathering up her courage, she stared into the blue lights, then spoke hesitantly. “Dad…do you really hate me…I mean…for the way I feel?”

Samuel’s face filled with worry. “Baby, I could never hate you. I never have. You’re still my little girl. You always will be. Nothing will ever change that.”

Touched by her father’s love, Sam wiped the tear from her eye. “I was hoping you’d say that, Daddy.”

Parent and child moved closer until Sam felt the warmth of her father’s embrace and wrapped her own arms around his waist.

“You are what you are. God made you that way and I will always love you, Sammi,” he whispered into her ear. “Things are going to be different from now on. You’ll see. I have my baby girl back and I am not letting go this time around.”

Sam basked in the embrace, then, without moving from it, answered her father’s question from earlier. “Dad,” Sam kept her head on his shoulder, “the kids in the car, they’re Brooke’s sister’s kids. They love her.” Sam smirked, “She’s a wonderful aunt.”

“Is that the one who’s pregnant?”

“Ah…No. That one is Terri, her younger sister. The kids are Randi’s, her older sister.

“Oh…” Samuel smiled as he made the connection. “So, tell me a little more about Brooke.”

The young woman stiffened up at first, then slowly pulled back to see her father’s face, zeroing in on his warm friendly gaze. “You know, don’t you?” Sam whispered as she brought her hand up to her mouth.

“I kind of…” he took in a breath, then let it out. “Well, I figured it out,” he smiled favorably at her.

“And you’re not upset?” Startled green eyes grew wider as she thought for a moment, “God, does Mother know?” Sam’s eyes darted out toward the kitchen. “Is that why…”

“No, Baby. I’m not upset.” He followed his daughter’s gaze toward the kitchen and shook his head. “No…I don’t think she’s put it all together.”

“Good,” Sam breathed a sigh of relief. “I don’t think I could take more insults from her. Not after Brooke did all this trying to make me happy.”

Samuel smiled, seeing the concern in his daughter’s eyes. “Does she treat you well?” He cleared his throat. “I mean, is it serious between you two?”

A smile tugged at Sam’s mouth and slowly broadened. “Yeah, Dad, she’s…” Sam paused as she felt the heat of a blush start to rise on her face. “Ah…we’re very serious.” She looked around the room, then back into her father’s eyes, then whispered in disbelief, “She’d have to be to do this for me.”

Seeing the look of love on his daughter’s face, Samuel needed to be reassured that he was right. “Is it like…” he paused searching for the right words to say, “I mean, when you say serious…”

The young woman looked up into his face with a determined look and confirmed his suspicions. “Dad, I love her.”

He slowly nodded, taking great pleasure in Sam’s happiness. “And I’m sure she loves you very much.”

“Who loves who very much?” Elaine stood at the doorway to the room and demanded to know the answer to her poignant question with her arms crossed tightly in front of her chest.

Samuel could feel his daughter’s muscles tense at the sound of his wife’s voice. “We…we were just talking, Darling…about…”

“Why me, of course.” Sarah had been coming down the stairs when she’d heard her mother’s demand. Seeing the startled look on her sister’s face, she could only assume that it was really Brooke that she was telling her father about. Sarah came bounding down the stairs, two at a time now, flashing a heart-warming smile to her sister. “You love me, don’t you, Sam? Because I still love you.” The teen watched as her father’s grip tightened around her sister’s body and the man winked in her direction.

Letting all talk of the present and future go by the wayside, Sam and her father passed the hours by reestablishing the bond that they previously had. They filled their time together with memories of the past and often found themselves calling on Sarah to help them remember little known details of their exploits.

“Sarah,” her father called out. “Sarah, come help us.” Samuel looked over to his eldest daughter and smiled. “She’ll tell you.”

“Yes, Dad?” The teen stuck her head in the doorway to the living room.

“Do you remember the time that we went for that ride up to Pennsylvania?” Samuel tried not to smile.

The girl thought for a few seconds, then spoke up through a beaming smile. “Oh, the time when we stopped at Hershey? Ah man, I remember that place with the Hershey Kisses for street lights and the smell of chocolate everywhere.”

“How about the chocolate colored hedge? Do you remember that?”

Sam looked over to her father with a puzzled look on her face. “Hedges aren’t brown unless they’re dead.”

“Neither of you remember that?” He looked from one daughter to the other, then gave them more of a hint. “Come on girls, it spelled the words “Hershey’s Cocoa” out on that sloping hillside right next to the factory.” He watched their faces go blank as one looked to the other.

“I remember that tour ride through the factory and Sarah meeting the candy characters,” Sam offered. “I bet you still have that photograph of all of us with that big Reese’s Peanut Butter cup at the end of the ride.”

Samuel smiled remembering that time when his family was all together. Lost in his thoughts for only a few seconds, he turned his attention to his youngest when she began to speak.

“What I remember most when I think back on it is…” Sarah paused letting the suspense build, “…is Sam trying to sneak all those cans of chocolate syrup into Mom’s hand basket before she got to the checkout.” The teen giggled as she looked over to her sister.

Sam blushed as she thought about her last use of her favorite syrup and hid behind her hand.

“I bet you still love using that syrup on your desserts, don’t you?” Samuel watched as his daughter’s face deepened its shade of red.

“Well, I have found some other uses for it…” Sam peeked through her fingers to see her mother standing in the doorway, her face drawn tightly into a scowl.

“I should have known you were going to be trouble even back then.” Elaine’s eyes grew narrow as she pushed out a breath through pursed lips. “Sarah, get back into the kitchen.” She waited for the teen to leave before turning her ire on her husband. “If you’d leave well enough alone, Samuel, we’d already have this dinner on the table.” She gave one last glare directed at her eldest daughter. “Dinner is in ten minutes.” She then turned briskly in a huff and stormed off to the kitchen where she took her anger out on the pots and pans.

Samuel gazed at the empty doorway in shock. “I…I don’t know what to say, Sammi. I’m sure she didn’t mean it.”

“Dad, I’ve learned that people usually say what they mean,” Sam looked to her father and sighed.

Sam sat eating quietly at the table, as did everyone else. The simple act of complimenting the hostess had been nothing but a disaster. The young woman ran it over again in her mind. Where could I have gone so wrong? How did a simple…”Gee Mom, the table looks great. You didn’t have to go all out for me.”…make her any more upset with me?

Sam stole a glance in her mother’s direction as she thought about her reply after her father had tried to smooth things over with his own comment. “I do it every year, Samuel. You should know that. You live here, unlike some people.” The blonde pondered the thought before letting her mind ask its own question. Does she think that her lack of acknowledgement or stares will make me go away?

The blonde bit back on her lip before swallowing her last mouthful of food. Even though the food was good, dinner was anything but appetizing for the young woman and early on, Sam had decided that her mother’s cold stares would not affect her.

For a brief moment, Sam locked gazes with her mother, but she refused to look away until the chill from it touched her deep into the bone. Mustering up every ounce of recollection she had, Sam stayed unwavering in the warming thought of the woman who had arranged this day for her. One thought of Brooke could unfreeze a thousand chills that her mother could send her way.

Sam looked over to her father and sister and found the same warming sensations entering her being as she did with the thought of her lover. God, thank you for letting Brooke be the one to show me what real love is all about. And a smile came to her face as she thought about how good it was to be with her father and sister again.

“So, will you stay for dessert?” The question was thrown out without even the courtesy of a salutation, just the deadly cold eyes that looked to Sam’s face telling everyone just who she was talking to.

Fighting to keep the images of past desserts of a human kind from filling her mind and causing her to blush, Sam sat motionless, startled by the direct question from her mother.

“Why of course she is, Elaine.” Samuel wiped his mouth with the cloth napkin. “It’s still early…” he looked over to Sam.

“Yes, if that’s alright?” The blonde’s eyes darted from her father to her mother, then back again as Sam pushed her plate away.

“Of course it is.” The man’s voice took on an authoritative sound. “Come on, Elaine, I’ll help you with it in the kitchen.” He put his napkin back on the table and rose from his chair.

“I’ll get the dessert, Samuel.” Narrowed eyes pinned him as he stood up. “You stay here and clear off the table.” Elaine dropped the utensil in her hand, letting it fall onto her plate, then pushed off the table to get enough room to stand. She gave one last cold glare in her eldest daughter’s direction as if in warning, then left for the kitchen.

Sam closed her eyes and pulled a mental image of Brooke to the front of her mind once more. After taking in a deep breath, she opened her eyes and focused on her father. “I’m sorry, Dad.”

“That’s okay, Sweetie.” Samuel worked fast to gather the used dishes into his hands. As he reached across the table for Sam’s plate, he kept his voice to a whisper. “I trust that I can leave you two for a few minutes while I take these into the kitchen.” The man looked at both of his daughter’s, then winked, taking his leave.

After shooting a quick look to the doorway leading to the kitchen, Sam leaned over the table toward her sister. “Sarah,” she whispered, “Thanks for the save earlier. I know that Mom’s not ready to hear anything at all about my love life.”

The teen nodded her head as her eyes grew bigger. “You got that right. Don’t worry, it was no problem at all. I was in the right place at the right time.” Sarah sat back in her chair, letting her lively green eyes drink in her sister’s image. “I’m just glad that you’re here.”

“Well, we’ve got Brooke to thank for this one,” Sam smiled as she spoke her lover’s name.

“So, will I actually get to meet her this time?” Sarah leaned forward, showing her eagerness.

“Maybe…” Sam teased her sister. “We’ll have to see when she comes to pick me up.”

Perked up by the aspect of meeting her sister’s special someone, Sarah readjusted herself on the chair and said the only thing that a sixteen-year old could think of. “COOL!”

Brushing past his wife in the small kitchen, Samuel made his way toward the dishwasher with his load. “Elaine, I wish you’d give her a break.” He began loading the appliance with the dirty plates. “We haven’t seen her in four years and I’d like to enjoy this day with her.”

Elaine took the pie from its carton and put it on the table to cut into pieces. “Well, I don’t like it, Samuel. She’s not my daughter anymore. She’s…” the small woman picked up the knife in her hand and made the first cut into the pie, slicing it in half. “She’s different.”

“My God, woman!” Samuel stood up from the dishwasher and faced his wife. “She’s your flesh and blood,” he pleaded with his eyes. “She’s not different.”

“You’re right…she’s perverted. Thanks for reminding me.” Elaine brought the knife down again, slicing through the pie perpendicular to the first assault.

“DAMMIT, Elaine! She’s not a pervert.” Samuel slammed the door of the dishwasher closed, then turned and stared at her in disbelief. “The only thing that you’ll accomplish by acting the way you have is to alienate your other daughter. Is that what you want to do?”

Wide-eyed shock struck Elaine’s face. “Oh, so you’re blaming me, now.” She waved the knife that was in her hand, erratically through the air. “I’m the one who made her queer like that?” The woman’s eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared. “I think not.” She punctuated her words as she threw the knife down on the table. “Do you remember who I sleep with? Who I love…”

“Elaine, God made her that way, no one else.” Samuel reigned in his anger, letting it be absorbed in his clenched fists. “Your role as her mother is to love her unconditionally, like I do, as her father.”

“Are you telling me…you accept that? You accept it that your daughter is…is…sick in the head?”

“No, I’m not.” Samuel took in a deep breath, trying to calm his growing anger. “What I’m saying is that I accept her and the wonderful adult that she has grown to be.”

“Wonderful adult,” Elaine sighed loudly, shoving the wedged shaped spatula under the crust of the pie. “You’ve seen her for what…” she glanced up to the clock above the stove, “three…no almost four hours and you know all of this?”

Samuel crossed the tiny space and put his hand on his wife’s arm, stopping her from lifting out the piece of pie. “Elaine,” he spoke softly. “The child has put herself through college with no assistance from us. She is a wonderful, amazing young woman. You should be proud of that. You helped instill that into her.”

There was an uneasy silence for only a few seconds before the small woman erupted like some long dormant volcano. “NO! This is not going to happen.” Elaine pulled her arm away from her husband’s hand and strode across the room. “She’s not ruining my Christmas.” She turned around and leveled a cold glare at her husband. “I don’t know why I let you and that Brooke woman talk me into this.”

Samuel took several steps toward Elaine until he was only two or three feet away. “No, Elaine.” His voice was filled with resolve. “You’re not ruining my Christmas with my two daughters. It’s been too many years already and I’m not standing for it anymore. I will get to know my daughter again.” His green eyes flashed with determination.

The small woman glared up at him until he turned to walk away from her. “You were always the weak one, weren’t you?”

Stopping dead in his tracks, Samuel looked over his shoulder at his wife. “I’m not weak. I’ve just realized the true meaning of being a loving parent.” His gaze fell from Elaine and Samuel continued his course through the kitchen and out into the hall.

With nary a second of hesitation, the enraged woman took off for the dinning room, walking in on the sound of shared laughter. Her eyes darted from one daughter to another, as the anger built inside her. “Sarah, say good-bye, it’s time for her to leave.” The cold stare riveted on Sam. “I suggest that you call for your ride, now. Your visit is over.”

“Mother…I don’t understand…” Sarah pleaded with questioning eyes, first to her mother, then to Sam.

“Elaine!” Samuel stood in the doorway from the hall.

“My rules, Samuel.” Elaine pointed a finger at him to halt his further interruption, then swiftly glared over at Sarah. “To your room, young lady.”

“It’s okay, Sarah… I have to be going anyway.” Sam started to get up from the table.

“No!” Samuel walked over to Sam’s chair and prevented it from moving, then he turned to his wife. “You told me that she could stay for the day… you’re the one breaking your own rules.”

“Great, just great. Now she’s going to topple the whole house with her perverted influence. I knew that this wasn’t going to work.”

“Elaine…” Samuel became flustered as he tried to think of something to say. “Go away. Go away and leave us be.” His knuckles turned white from holding onto the chair so tightly.

“Leave you to what… encourage her… to send our other daughter down a fruitless path? I think not.”

“Oh, like you’re not sending both of our daughters down a path of hate?” His words came out sharp sounding, as he looked her straight in the eye, waiting for her to deny it.

Sam turned to her father. “Dad, I don’t hate anyone.” Her stomach was churning, as the argument grew more heated. Sam swallowed, trying to keep the food she ate from coming up. “I’m sorry for all this.” She looked from one parent to the other. “I never wanted to be the source of your troubles.”

The young woman looked over to the doorway where her younger sister stood, worry written all over her face. Sam’s mind brought back the feelings of five years earlier, when her mother had started on her ‘holier than thou’ campaign, calling her a pervert. Dear God, I wasn’t much older than Sarah when…her mind trailed off suddenly. In the blink of an eye, Sam knew what she had to do. She moved away from the table, then turned to look in the direction of both her parents. “I’d better leave. I can see that this isn’t helping any of us now.” She stole a glance out into the hallway where her younger sister stood.

Samuel took a step forward in eldest daughter’s direction. “Sam, it’s okay. It’s not your fault, Honey.”

With determined movements, Sam’s hand went down to the cell phone on her belt. “Don’t worry, I won’t let it be.” She unclipped the phone and brought it into her view, punching in Brooke’s number on the speed dial.

An uneasy silence had descended over the house during the little more than an hour that it took for Sam to receive the incoming call on her cell phone. Hearing the tiny device calling out to be answered, Samuel moved away from his daughter to give her some privacy. He stood in the hallway with his eyes closed, faintly making out the one-sided conversation.

“Hello?”

He held his breath, feeling his daughter’s hurt in that shaky sounding greeting. There was a pause, then he heard the change in Sam’s tone of voice and knew that Brooke was on the other end.

“Yeah, it’s good to hear your voice, too.”

He could hear the life being slowly absorbed back into her being as Sam let go with a little giggle, and he imagined her smiling with green eyes set aglow.

“No, don’t come in. I’ll say my good-byes now and be waiting for you outside.”

Samuel felt the pain stabbing into his heart as he heard Sam trying to protect Brooke from the pain that his daughters had endured.

“Okay, I’ll see you a few.” Sam’s voice grew quieter. “I love you, too.”

He heard the words spoken, without hesitation, and knew that it was true. Samuel stood there, deep in thought, when the sound of his daughter’s voice directly behind him, startled him.

“Dad…” Sam said from the doorway with her coat in her hand. “I’m really sorry for the way this day turned out, but I’m not sorry for seeing you and Sarah again.” She wrapped her arms around her father and gave him a hug.

“It’s okay, Sweetheart.” Samuel buried his face into her short, blonde hair and whispered, “I will see you soon. I promise.” He hugged her even more tightly. “I have missed you so much, Baby.”

“Thanks, Dad.” Sam quickly committed the hug to her memory, not quite sure when she’d ever feel it again. After a moment of silence, she opened her eyes to see a truck slowing down as it came down the street. “Oh look, I think that’s Brooke’s truck.”

Looking up to the top of the stairs, Samuel caught a glimpse of Sarah as she hid in the shadows. Turning to see the large truck as it pulled into the driveway, he motioned for Sarah to come down. “Sarah, come say good-bye to your sister.” The man pulled Sam toward him and whispered in her ear. “I’ll go tell your friend that you’re coming while you say good-bye to Sarah.” He winked, then kissed Sam on the cheek as he let her go. Grabbing his coat and pulling it on, he went out the door.

After zipping his coat, Samuel looked up to see the tall figure getting out of the truck and heading toward him. When she was close enough, he began to speak. “I’m sorry that it didn’t last as long as we’d planned.”

“What happened?” Blue eyes showed her concern. “Is Sam okay?”

Samuel stared off into the distance for a moment before he could bring himself to tell the truth. “Nothing short of a near disaster. I’m afraid that Elaine is just not very forgiving… or open-minded.”

The tall woman bowed her head as she gazed down to her feet with thoughts of Sam’s misadventures running through her head. “Oh God…” she muttered out in defeat.

“Sam…” he started, “She’s fine. In fact, Sarah and I are very thankful to you for giving us this time together with her.” Samuel studied the woman closely for a moment before continuing. “We’ve all learned a lot about each other.”

Slowly, Brooke brought her eyes up to look into Samuel’s, trying to ascertain just how much he was aware of. “You know about us, don’t you, Sir?”

The man took stock of his feelings as he turned slightly from her and looked off down the road. Samuel’s voice was soft as he gave his answer, nodding his head once or twice in the process, “Yes…I know.” He didn’t wait for an answer. He turned to look at the tall woman and demanded more. “Do you love her, Brooke? I mean, do you…really love her.”

Brooke returned his direct question the only way she knew how. Without any hesitation, she declared her love. “More than anything in this world.” The corners of her mouth tugged upward into a smile as she thought about what Sam meant to her, then she confided, “I’m lost without her. I love her with everything that I am.”

“Hmphf,” Samuel smirked as he looked away. “I’m realizing that I’m a little lost without her, myself.” He turned his attention back to Brooke. “Thank you for letting me know where my true feelings lie.”

Unsure of what he meant, Brooke looked a little puzzled. “How did I do that?”

“You let me see what a wonderful woman she’s grown up into and the love that she has…” a smile came to his face, “…that is worth more to me than anything.”

“Mr. Moleson?”

“Yes, Brooke?”

“I…uh…I want you to know that I’m not trying to cause any trouble or drive a bigger wedge between your family and Sam but I…uh…” Brooke could feel the butterflies in her stomach coming to life and she took in a deep breath to calm them. “Well, you see…I was thinking and I uh…kind of…ah…already spoke to Sam’s Aunt Sandy about this…and well…I’m not quite sure how you feel about all this and I’m sure it must be hard on you but…” Brooke shook her head as she listened to her own words. God, I sound like some punk teenager asking someone out for the first time instead of the CEO of a company.

“What is it, Brooke?” Samuel asked, studying her intently. “I’m sure that anything that my sister agreed to would be fine with me. She only has Sam’s best interest at heart.”

The dark-haired woman swallowed the rising bile back down and cleared her throat, determined to present a more commanding appearance. “I want to propose to your daughter…if she’ll have me. I guess what I’m asking is…”

Samuel’s brow furrowed in thought. He brought his hand up to his chin and rubbed it. “Propose…eh?” He raised his gaze to meet hers.

“Yes, Sir. I want to spend the rest of my life and anytime after that making her happy, making her every wish come true.” Brooke stood completely serious to her cause. “I know you don’t really know me but… you are her father and she loves you very much.”

“Well, you don’t have to ask me, Brooke.” The man smiled, thinking of his very adult daughter. “She’s a grown woman, like yourself. I think it best if you ask her.” Samuel looked back to the house and the young woman coming out the door. “But if you’re still needing my approval… I’m for whatever is going to make my daughter happy. God knows, it’s not her mother.”

“I want to be the one to make her happy, Sir. She means everything to me.”

Sam’s father looked up to see Brooke’s more then serious face. “You don’t have to go on and on,” he chuckled. “Well, at least not with me.” He winked and motioned with his head to the woman standing at the door. “My answer is…” he paused, watching the suspense build in her blue eyes, “…yes, Brooke.”

“Really?” The uncharacteristic, high-pitched voice squeaked out, causing Samuel to smile all the more.

“Really,” he assured her. “You just treat my daughter with all the love that I’ve seen you give her already… and I’ll be more than happy.”

Brooke took her hand out of her jacket pocket and offered it to Sam’s father. “Thank you, thank you so much, Sir.” She shook his hand with a firm grip as they locked gazes. “I’ll treat her with nothing less. Thank you.”

“I’m counting on that.” Samuel relinquished his hold on her hand and started to walk back toward the house. After a few steps, he halted his motion and half turned, calling out over his shoulder. “You’re welcome. Now just make the rest of her dreams come true. I’d say that you’ve already got a good start on it.”

Taking another few steps, Samuel met his eldest daughter as she came down the walk. “Did you say good-bye to Sarah?” He looked into Sam’s eyes.

“Yeah, I did.” Sam nodded as she smiled, lunging herself into his arms. “Merry Christmas, Daddy. I love you.”

“Ready, Sweetheart?” Brooke stood a few feet away from the heart-warming embrace of father and daughter and waited for the answer.

Samuel watched as the loved-filled face of his daughter pulled back from his shoulder when she turned to look in Brooke’s direction.

“Yeah, I’m ready now.” She gave her father a quick hug and kiss on the cheek before whispering in his ear. “Thank you for understanding.” Sam stepped away from the man, then turned to look back at the house. “I love you too, Sarah,” she called out and waved, then turned back to her father. “Bye, Daddy.”

“I love you, Samantha. I’ll see you soon, Sweetheart.” He smiled at her, then motioned with his head toward the waiting woman. “Go on, she’s come to take you home.”

Sam’s eyes sparkled at the acknowledgement of Brooke by her father. It brought a warm feeling to her heart. She walked over to the older woman and reached out for her hand. Together, with hands clasped, they walked over to the truck. After giving one last wave to her father and sister, Sam climbed into the passenger seat of the truck.

Brooke pulled out of the driveway before saying anything. With a stolen glance or two, she tried to survey her lover’s state of mind. “You okay, Darlin’?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.” There was silence for a moment as Sam stared out the window. “That… that was a very imaginative gift, Hon. Thank you.” Sam looked over to the driver and beamed a smile at her.

“Well, I knew how bad you wanted to see your father and Sarah. I’m just sorry that it didn’t go so great with your mother. I wanted to see you happy, Sam. I’m sorry.” Brooke reached over and laid her hand on Sam’s, squeezing it gently.

“I know that Mother will never change,” Sam’s voice was soft spoken, “but it sure felt good to be with Dad again.” She tried to keep the blossoming smile in check as she thought of her sister. “And Sarah, too,” she added. “I didn’t lose them, Brooke. It was just like it was with them before.”

Sam waited until the truck came to a halt at the stop sign before unbuckling her seatbelt and sliding over to give Brooke a hug. “Thanks so much, for giving me that gift of love.”

Brooke kissed her gently on the cheek. “You’re welcome, Darlin’.”

There was a moment of shared silence as both women became lost in the other’s eyes. Finally coming to their senses, each one started to speak at the same time.

“Now, how about we go home…”

“What do you say we go on home…”

They both laughed as Sam slid back to her seat and put her seatbelt back on.

Sam looked over to her lover. “I still have a present for you to open.”

“Hmm…” Brooke arched an eyebrow in her direction, holding it for a few seconds before giving her a wink, then saying, “And I believe that I have some presents with your name all over them, too.” Brooke tapped eight fingers on the steering wheel as she let go with a seductive purr.

Surprise filled Brooke’s face as she reached for the doorknob and it wasn’t there. The door seemed to be opening on its own, only to reveal Mable, beaming in all her glory.

“Ah…Hi, Mom.” Brooke held the door, waiting for Sam to enter before her. “Sorry it’s so late.”

“Hi, Mom.” Sam passed by the matriarch, dropping a soft kiss on her cheek and giving her a quick one-armed hug.

“Hey,” Mable cast an eye toward Brooke and offered the other cheek to her as she grabbed her sleeve. “Did the present go alright?” The woman’s brown eyes studied her daughter’s face for a sign.

“The present,” Sam interjected with a smile as she looked up to Brooke, “…was very well received.”

The tall woman shook her head slightly and gave a little frown. “Well, two-thirds of it did, Sam’s Dad and Sister were great.”

Mable held onto Brooke’s sleeve, letting Sam move further into the room. “It’s the thought that counts, Brooke. And that was a very thoughtful gift.” She watched her daughter give a little shrug to one shoulder and sigh.

Seeing that Brooke was not directly behind her, Sam took several steps back and tugged at the other sleeve of her leather jacket. “Come on, I think I see a stray box with your name on it under the tree.”

Brooke could feel the blush running up her neck and across her face as she lifted her eyes to the heavens, rolling them in embarrassment as she allowed herself to be led by Sam.

Mable took great enjoyment in seeing her often-headstrong child reduced to mush at the hands of one small blonde. “You’d better go with her, Brooke, or she might have to give it to someone else,” the matriarch teased.

“Excuse me… pardon me…” Sam made her way across the room of set up raceways and sleepy headed children in their mother’s arms, over to the small flat box on the edge of the tree skirt facing the fireplace. She stooped over and picked it up, then stood up as she turned back toward her tall lover. Puzzled by her absence from sight, Sam started to scour the pieces of furniture for the woman.

Brooke waited until she saw Sam’s brow begin to furrow before reaching out and tugging playfully on her pant leg. She held out until the green eyes looked down at her, sitting Indian style on the floor, before she smiled sweetly and gave a little wave of her hand. “Missed me, didn’t cha?”

The blonde shook her head at first then quickly changed it to a nod as she looked down at Brooke with a beaming smile. “Yes.” She held out the small, flat box, offering to her. “Here, Brooke, I…I picked this out special for you.” Sam watched as her lover took the box from her, then brought it up to her ear and gave it a shake. “It’s a two part present, so even if you guess the first part, there’s still more to come,” Sam ended her hint with a wink.

Bringing the box back to her ear, Brooke gave it another little shake, only this time she noticed that the weight of it moved with the tilting of the box. “Hmm…I…I…” she drew out her guess, “I have…no clue.” The woman smiled as she looked around to the rest of her family who gathered eagerly to see what it could be.

“Come on, Brooke.” Terri encouraged her. “We want to see while we still can without the help of bifocals.”

“Yeah,” Randi joined in the heckling. “You know they’re heading my way with all the fine print I have to deal with.”

“Just be quiet over there, Ter.” She shot a glance over to her older sister, “You, too, Randi or I’ll just wait until you have to squint.” Brooke looked over to Sam, then started slowly ripping at the decorative gift wrap on package.

“Jeez, Brooke. My three year old could have already been playing with that.” Brian teased her.

Sam took in a deep breath and watched with anticipation as Brooke started to open the box. She could feel her heart pounding harder and faster with each scrap of paper that was discarded.

With nimble fingers, Brook tore at the paper and soon all the wrappings were removed. Slowly, she took the lid from the box and peered down at the gift. Slightly puzzled, she studied it for a moment. “It’s a…a…”

The blonde spoke softly, afraid that her gift would be misconstrued. “It’s an ornament for the tree…your tree,” she corrected herself, then reached over and took it from the box, showing the front of the ornament to Brooke. “I mean…our tree.” Green eyes searched the woman’s face as blue eyes took in the words that were written across the front of the ornament. “It says, ‘Our first Christmas’,” she said aloud for everyone’s appreciation. Her voice softened as she turned back to Brooke. “I thought that you might like it.”

“Like it…I love it.” Brooke grinned from ear to ear, then asked eagerly, “Does that mean we get a new one every year? You know, our second Christmas…our third Christmas,” she gave examples, then looked up to Sam and winked, “…our fiftieth Christmas?” Brooke watched as the blonde blushed.

Randi couldn’t resist a chance to tease. “And you expect to live that long with your driving. No way Sis, remember, I’m the one who takes care of your traffic tickets,” the lawyer chuckled as she received a dirty look from Brooke, causing the whole family to add to the laughter of the moment.

“Yuk, yuk, yuk.” Brooke smiled at Sam, then stretched up to kiss her. “Thank you, Darlin’. I love it.” She took the ornament from Sam’s hand and hung it on one of the lower branches of the tree directly behind them. “There, it looks great.” A satisfied smile graced Brooke’s face.

“Now, for the other part.” Sam carefully stepped over Brooke’s legs as she made her way out of the jumble of Gordon family members who had gathered around them. Once clear, she then headed quickly for the stairs.

“Hey, where are you going?” Brooke called out after her.

“I’ve got to go get it. I’ll be right back.”

The curious woman sat there, watching as Sam disappeared into the hall. There was a moment of silence before Brooke threw out an admiring observation. “Doesn’t Sam look great in that new jacket?”

“Well, not many petite woman like her can pull off that Harley chick look. What’s next, Brooke,” Rick asked, “the halter top or the tattoos?”

The young woman in question had just bounded back down the stairs and was standing in the doorway when the comment was made. Holding the manila envelope behind her back, Sam cleared her throat, hoping to attract her lover’s attention. Not only did a pair of blue eyes rise to greet her, but a room full of brown did as well.

“A Harley chick, eh?” Sam shook her head. “Never. It won’t go with the image that I’m going to have to keep up, once I start my internship.”

Suddenly, Brooke’s heart sank into her stomach at the thought of Sam leaving. She didn’t see the young woman cross the room, offering her the envelope that she held out in her hand, until Sam’s soft voice brought her back to reality.

“I think this was meant for both of us,” Sam looked at the envelope, “but I’d like you to open it.”

Preparing herself for the worst, Brooke took the envelope as she gave a little tug at Sam’s hand, and looked to the empty space beside her. Well, maybe she didn’t get sent to Siberia after all. Maybe it’s just somewhere in the state or the southeast or the Eastern Coast. You’re making it worse than it may be…just open it, Brooke. Meet it head on. Open it. You know, I could settle this all right now and just ask her to marry me. She doesn’t need to be anybody’s intern.

Sam promptly sat down on the floor, leaning into her lover as she wrapped one small hand around Brooke’s strong arm. The young woman watched her lover’s face as Brooke turned the envelope over to see the familiar logo in the upper left hand corner as it proclaimed loudly, Brownstone Records, Inc. She waited silently until Brooke looked over to her, tears forming in those beautiful blue eyes as she opened the packet.

Pulling out the cover letter, Brooke began to read aloud. “Public Relations Course 115 Completion Assignment for Samantha A. Moleson.” Her voice trailed off as her eyes quickly scanned down the page, her mouth sounding out a phrase every now and then, highlighting keywords. “Immediate Supervisor: Brooke L. Gordon.”

“What do you think?” Sam asked as seriously as she could. “Do you think maybe they’ll keep me in the area?” She watched the disbelieving look on Brooke’s face, then made another comment on her new boss. “You know, I heard that she’s a pretty tough boss, but a fair one. I wonder if I could get on her good side,” Sam asked whimsically. “What do you think?”

The drummer’s mouth dropped open as she stared down into her lap at the letter. Slowly she raised her eyes from the page and felt the tears starting to roll down her chiseled cheeks. “So, this…” she picked up the letter and held it in her hand. “This is real? You don’t have to leave?”

“Nope,” Sam said with confidence, then hesitantly she bit at her lip. “Well, not unless you want me to. Do you?”

“Never.” Brooke’s hasty reply came without a second thought.

“Brooke, tell me that you didn’t know about this.” Sam’s small hand rubbed her lover’s far shoulder in a circular motion, as she tried to soothe her.

“I…I didn’t know you were being assigned to me.” Brooke’s eyes darted back and forth as she thought. “I knew that I was going to have an intern but I thought…I mean, after that day in the Student Union…” The dark-haired woman suddenly stopped and turned to her lover as she finally realized what it all meant. “Oh my God…you’re not leaving.”

“No,” Sam wiped the tears from Brooke’s cheeks as they rolled freely down her face. “I guess we both got some good surprises this Christmas.” The blonde leaned into Brooke and wrapped her arms around her in a loving embrace.

Pulling back from Sam, Brooke took a turn wiping her face on each sleeve, then turned back to the blonde. The gleam in Brooke’s eyes was all that Sam needed to see as she felt strong arms wrapping around her, guiding her into Brooke’s lap. Oblivious to the family around them, the two women melded in a passionate kiss.

Letting out one of the loudest, most unlady-like whistles that one could image, C.C. sat back in her chair and polished her nails on her shirt as if she was taking credit for the floorshow that everyone was watching. “Ah…isn’t love grand?

The rest of the family watched with interest, each adding a round of hand clapping or hoots, as they deemed appropriate for the action that was being displayed.

Terri leaned over the arm of the sofa to get closer to her younger sister. “C.C.?” She waited a few seconds, then whispered the name a little louder. “C.C., did you know about this?”

The brunette acted nonchalant. “Hmmm…me?” Her brown eyes grew bigger as if she were surprised by the assumption, then slowly a subtle smile came to her face. “No, not a thing.”

Watching the exchange between her sisters, Randi looked at C.C. with the best cross-examination face that a lawyer could muster. “Nothing, huh?”

C.C. didn’t answer. She just looked to both of her inquiring sisters and pointed to where their focus should be, on the love-struck pair who were still locked in a kiss.

Drawing her lips away from her lover, Brooke took in a breath, then asked, “Samantha Moleson… does this mean you’re finally going to move in with me?”

The blonde wrinkled her nose up and smiled shyly. “Why, I thought I did the other day, Brooke.” Sam paused for a moment as she peered into blue eyes. “Yes, now I’ll move in with you.”

“What?” Brooke sounded shocked. “You mean…” then suddenly it all became apparent. “That’s why you didn’t want to talk about it…because you already had.”

Seeing her chance to toy with her lover in front of Brooke’s family, Sam nodded her head. “I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.” She paused, then added thoughtfully, “Well, at least not until my internship is done.”

“Done?” Brooke’s face paled, as her eyes seemed to double in size.

“Well, yeah. Who knows where I’ll get a job.” Sam winked as she leaned in to kiss Brooke on the lips. “I guess I’ll just have to make myself…” she kissed her again, “…invaluable to my boss. Who knows, maybe she’ll keep me.”

Brooke’s eyebrow slowly arched high on her forehead. “It won’t matter. You’re stuck with me now, woman.” The drummer let a smile come to her face. “Besides, you already are invaluable to me. I love you.” She gave Sam a kiss on the lips, as her mind began to wage its own internal war.

She’s staying. Janet assigned her to you. She’s living with you. Just do it. Go on and ask her to marry you. Brooke came away from the kiss a little lightheaded. She took in a few breaths as her mind started to clear. Yeah, make her think that you’re just asking her so you didn’t have to get her something else. Remember, that’s what Janet said when her guy popped the question on Christmas day. Humph…Humphreys…it all comes back to you, doesn’t it? Maybe this isn’t the perfect time to ask such an important question. Brooke shook that last remaining doubt from her mind, then reached under the tree for the small box with Sam’s name on it.

“Okay, Baby…it’s your turn.” Brooke held the small box out to Sam.

“What?” Sam looked at the box, then up into loving, blue eyes. “Brooke, you already gave me a present.”

“I know, but this one’s important.” The corners of her mouth turned upward into a slight smile. “You might say that it’s a continuation of your gifts to me, only you get to open this one.”

Confused by that last statement, Sam looked at her lover. “Okay.” She accepted the gift into her hand and looked for a place to start unwrapping it.

“Come on, Roomie.” C.C. spoke up, “Rip that paper off.”

Sam glanced over to C.C. and shook her head. “I’m not your Roomie anymore, C.C. The blonde looked at Brooke and smiled. “I’ve got me a new Roomie, now.”

Brooke wasn’t sure whether she wanted to give out an exuberant yell or start to blush in front of her family. It was all so new to her, knowing that they were now officially living together. Finally deciding to do neither, she urged her lover on. “Go ahead, Baby, open it up.”

The young woman eagerly dug into the decorative paper and soon the box was ready to be opened. Hesitantly, she looked over to Brooke, then leaned in toward her ear and whispered, “Can I do this in front of your family?”

Choking back a laugh, Brooke nodded. “Yes, Darlin’, no one will be embarrassed.”

“Okay,” Sam took in a breath and held it as she pulled the lid from the box. Peering down she saw a shiny gold key ring that was chock full of keys. Taking it from the box, Sam looked to her lover. “What is this for?”

“Well, we’re kind of going to do the twelve days of Christmas, only a little backwards and more imaginative.” Brooke’s eyes twinkled as she reached for the first key on the ring and held it up for everyone to see. “There are twelve keys on this gold ring.”

“Hmm…” Sam pondered out loud, “And what day was that present with my family? Was it the three French hens or the four calling birds?”

“I don’t know. Are you French?” Brooke asked seductively.

“Do you want me to be?” Sam returned in a coy manner as she leaned in to whisper in Brooke’s ear. “I could be your French maid.”

The woman smiled rakishly at the thought. “Ah…I just want you to be mine.” Brooke paused, then added, “Then again…that would be very nice too.” She winked, then looked into Sam’s eyes and asked softly, “Do you want to know what each key is for?” Brooke held them up and giving them a little shake, caused them to jingle.

Sam nodded, “Of course I do. Go on.”

Brooke took in a deep breath, then started as she held each key up, announcing what it would open. “House Front door alarm, House back door alarm, my office here in the house, Brownstone Record’s main entrance, my office at Brownstone…”

“Hey, wait a minute. These are all of your keys, Brooke.”

The woman simply nodded, then continued on. “The basement studio, the master bedroom balcony doors, the 300Z, the Jeep, the truck ignition, the truck doors…”

The blonde looked to the twelfth and final key on the ring. “And…what special thing does that funny shaped looking one unlock?”

“That one, Sam. That is the most important one that I can give only to you.”

The young woman wrinkled her brow and softly asked, “The key to the executive washroom?”

“No,” Brooke chuckled, then turned very serious as she gazed deep into Sam’s green eyes. “It’s the key to my heart.”

The instant that Sam heard those words, her whole being seemed to melt and leak out from her eyes, as the tears immediately started to roll down her cheeks. It took her a moment before she could get the words to leave her mouth. “Honey, that is the best gift that I’ve ever received.”

Brooke nuzzled into Sam’s neck, then whispered softly in her ear, “You’re my best gift. I love you, Sam.”

The young woman closed her eyes tightly and wrapped both of her arms around her lover. “I love you, too, Brooke.” She spoke loud enough for all to hear. “Merry Christmas.” She caught the sitting woman off balance as she shifted more of her body into Brooke’s lap, causing them to fall backward under the tree as they continued to kiss.

“And God bless us…everyone,” C.C. quoted as the rest turned to gaze into their own partner’s eyes, remembering their first Christmas together.

Coming up for air from the kiss, both women laid on their backs and looked up at the ornament hanging above them, inscribed with the words, ‘Our first Christmas’ and smiled.

“C.C.’s right, you know?” Sam glanced over to her lover, then repeated the classic phrase. “God bless us, everyone.”

“Yep,” Brooke sighed with a very satisfied smile as she gazed at the ornament, then added, “for everyone in a long line of forever.” Her focus now turned to a pair of loving green eyes and the twinkling lights reflected therein.
Ch23 On New Year’s Eve
“… I buy you flowers, I buy you rings… Everything is all for you, you’re what I’m all about…”
The soft shadows of late afternoon were becoming more evident as Brooke pulled up in front of her family home, just before 4:00 PM on New Year’s Eve. Throwing the gear shift into park, the dark-haired woman turned off the ignition, and then looked over at Sam before leaning in and kissing the young woman softly upon her lips. There were no words to express the peace that Brooke had felt since exchanging presents on Christmas, knowing that her beloved Sam was here to stay.

“Ready, Sweetheart?” Brooke asked gently as she pulled back and looked into the warm green of Sam’s eyes.

Nodding slightly, Sam smiled and kissed Brooke once more. “I am now.”

Brooke stepped out of the SUV, grasping her jacket tighter around her as she shut her door. Making her way around the Sequoia to Sam’s door, she pulled it open, then offered a hand to the younger woman and helped her out of the truck. Together, they made their way up the driveway to the front door with Brooke’s arm wrapped around Sam’s shoulders.

Without giving them a chance to announce their presence the door opened, revealing C.C. on the other side. “Hey, Sis. What took you so long? Dinner’s just about ready.” The brunette let her taller sister and Sam enter the house, while she lingered at the doorstep and looked both ways up and down the street as if searching for something. Seeing nothing to hold her interest, C.C. shrugged her shoulders and went back inside.

“What are you looking for C.C.?” Brooke asked as she removed Sam’s coat and hung it behind the door.

“Oh I don’t know… maybe an armed guard or something,” C.C. replied as she looked intently at Sam’s hands, craning for a better view.

Puzzled by her sister’s strange behavior, Brooke questioned her. “What are you looking at her hands for?”

“I was just wondering where her gloves were.” C.C. made a childish face at her musician sister as she rolled her eyes, then smiled sweetly when she looked over at her ex-roommate. “Hi, Sam… I see you’re still in one piece after living with the wild rocker here.”

Sam smiled as she nuzzled into Brooke’s shoulder. “Hey, C.C. It’s good to see you, too.” The blonde raised her head and spoke softly into Brooke’s ear. “Wild rocker, huh? When are you going to show me that side of you?”

It was Brooke’s turn to roll her eyes at her youngest sibling before she felt Sam wrap both arms around her waist. “Where’s Mom and Dad?” Brooke looked into the living room, then down the hallway.

“In the kitchen, where else?” C.C. said with a smirk.

Brooke grinned as she removed her jacket, then proceeded to drape it over C.C.’s head. The older sibling grabbed Sam’s hand and began to pull her in the direction of the kitchen. “Shall we?”

Sam’s soft laughter could be heard as C.C. hung up the leather jacket. “You know, Baby… that wasn’t a very nice thing to do to C.C.,” Sam commented as she pulled back on Brooke’s hand. “What’s the hurry, Hon?”

“Ehh… don’t worry about it. She’s used to it.” Brooke waved her hand in her sister’s direction as she stopped short and turned toward the blonde. “And… Sam,” Brooke began to nuzzle behind the young woman’s ear before kissing Sam on her cheek. “I’m in no hurry. You wanna go upstairs and act like juvenile delinquents?” Brooke asked with a mischievous glint in her blue eyes.

“You mean, you want to go jump on the beds?” Sam eyed Brooke suspiciously before she busted out in soft laughter. “Really, Brooke… I thought you were more mature than that.”

The tall woman smiled before replying. “Who said anything about jumping on the beds?” Brooke wiggled her eyebrows. “But hey… I’ll try almost anything once.” She watched as Sam began to giggle before she kissed her, then whispered, “Think again, Darlin.”

Sam’s small hands tugged at her lover as the blonde pulled the dark-haired woman into the shadows of the hallway. There, what first began as a playful kiss, deepened until both parties involved lost all touch with the surrounding world.

“You know…” C.C. walked past them towards the living room, only pausing long enough to comment. “They do make rooms for what you guys are doing. How about going and finding one?”

The brunette watched as her sister’s hand moved slowly off of Sam’s shoulder. It reached out in her direction; only to be turned in such a way that the drummer’s middle finger flipped upward making her real thoughts on the matter known. “Yeah, right… you’ve got the idea.” C.C. laughed and continued on towards the living room where the rest of her siblings and in-laws had gathered.

Breathless, Brooke pulled out of their kiss after C.C. walked away. Looking intently into the shadowed features of her young lover, she caught her breath and whispered, “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Sam smiled coyly as she stole a glance toward the kitchen and gave her lover a tug. “Come on… I want to check out your mother’s refrigerator. Maybe she has some chocolate syrup she can lend us.” Sam looked over her shoulder to see that the tall woman had liked that idea and was following her eagerly.

“Hi, Mom,” Brooke took the lead once inside the kitchen as she walked over to her mother, snatching up a small piece of ham from the platter and popping it into her mouth. The tall woman leaned in to drop a tender kiss on her mother’s cheek.

The matriarch of the family smacked the hand of her daughter as it hovered above the platter for another offering. She then scolded the musician. “Now, Brooke, stop that. You’ll spoil your dinner.” Mable turned towards the blonde at Brooke’s side and gave her a smile. “Hello, Sam. I’m so glad you could come.” She turned to her husband, who was sitting at the small table drinking a cup of coffee as he looked over the newspaper. “Henry, look who’s here.”

The crisp sound of newspaper being shaken then folded could be heard as Henry put his paper on the table and walked over to the two younger women. “Hey, it’s my favorite daughter…” the man placed an arm around Sam’s shoulder and winked at her, then added, “…and Brooke.”

Muttering under her breath, Brooke hopped up to sit on the counter near her mother. “Favorite daughter, huh?” Brooke adjusted her hands under her legs to keep from getting in her mother’s way. “Well, she wouldn’t be your favorite daughter if I told you what she wanted to do with me right now.” Brooke teased her parents. “Mom, do you have any chocolate syrup?” The drummer looked over to see Sam’s eyes grow to the size of snare drums as Brooke wiggled her eyebrows in the blonde’s direction.

Choosing to ignore the teasing, Sam stood on her tiptoes and placed a small kiss on Henry’s cheek then came out with a cheery greeting. “Hi, Dad.”

Henry squeezed his arm around Sam’s shoulder and looked down at the young woman who had captured his daughter’s heart. “You doing okay, Sweetheart? You keeping this one in line for me?” Henry motioned with his head in Brooke’s direction.

“I don’t think I have any,” Mable put her knife down and started opening up a cupboard or two to look. “Is chocolate syrup some kind of dietary requirement that the two of you have now?”

“Yes…er, no… I mean…” Sam became flustered as she turned to Brooke’s father. “Yes, I am, Dad and no to the dietary requirement. I can always have my dessert without.” Sam winked over at Brooke in the hopes that her mother didn’t see it.

There was a fraction of a moment of silence before Brooke eagerly piped in, “Yeah, but it’s so much more interesting with it.” Seeing the quick exchange of glances on her parent’s part, Brooke waited for their knowing smile before turning her lecherous grin toward her lover.

Trying to regain her composure, Mable tried her hand at small talk. “So, Sam… your aunt and cousin won’t be joining us today?”

“No, Ma’am. They both had to work at the hospital today. I think that Peter has something planned for Crystal when she’s through with work.” Sam shrugged, “So, it’s just me and the six feet of trouble sitting on your counter.” Sam saw the raised eyebrow coming to Mable’s face as she looked over at her daughter. “Is there anything that we can do to help, Mom?”

Mable looked first at her daughter and then at her husband, a pleasant smile on her face. “No… not at the moment. Why don’t you young ones go socialize with the rest of the family in the living room?”

“That sounds good,” Brooke hopped off the counter, “to me.” She closed in fast on Sam, picking her up in a bear hug that caused the younger woman to wrap her legs around Brooke’s waist. “Trouble, huh?” The dark-haired woman nuzzled into her lover’s neck playfully. “I’ll show you trouble. Come on, Cupcake… let’s go pretend to be sociable.”

Sam began to laugh as the warm breath tickled her neck. “Brooke, I can walk. Honest, I…” The young woman’s attempt at protest was cut off when Brooke’s lips claimed hers. With her ankles now locked behind the taller woman’s waist, Sam leaned back slightly, gazing into crystal blue eyes. “Well, when you put it that way…”

Amazed at the playfulness and lighthearted antics of his second oldest daughter, Henry watched as Brooke carefully walked out of the kitchen with Sam. Letting the smile come to his face as he walked over to Mable, he wrapped his arms around her waist, and placed a kiss on her cheek. “You know… I have never seen our daughter this happy. Sam is a wonderful girl.”

Mable smiled as she leaned into his kiss then gave him one of her own. “That is your daughter, Henry. I’m laying claim to Sam. She sure has done a wonder of good for Brooke. Don’t you think?”

The man nodded his head in agreement. “Yes she has. Brooke’s been like a completely different person over the last week since Sam moved in with her.”

Mable placed the knife she had been using in the sink before turning around in her husband’s embrace. “I remember when we first moved in together after the wedding.” She smiled up at Henry and winked.

“So do I. Nine months and three days later, Randi was born.” His smile grew bigger as he looked down at his wife with pride. “It does feel good to know that Brooke has found someone… especially someone like Sam. That girl is definitely a treasure.”

“You’re right,” Mable sighed. “But, Henry…” she grabbed his arm and pointed a cautionary finger in his direction, “I wouldn’t be marking off those days on the calendar just yet. I think they’ll need a little bit more than beginner’s luck to start a family of their own.” The matriarch patted his stomach and winked.

LINE BREAK

Dinnertime found the entire Gordon family seated around the dining room table. During the course of the meal, Brooke was more than eager to lose herself in happy thoughts as she watched the love of her life become so animated in the discussion with her father. Henry seemed to take special interest in the young blonde, as he and Mother both tried to make her feel more welcomed than ever at the gathering.

By the time the dinner was drawing near an end, all eyes seemed to travel to Brooke as the woman became oblivious to the people around her. Trying to break the spell that Sam held on her sister, Randi called out her name in conversation. “Brooke, did you…” Randi watched as Brooke’s gaze never wavered from the young blonde. Leaning toward her husband, Randi whispered, and then motioned to pass it down the line and around the table, giving a quick glance and point at her mesmerized sibling. “Brian, go on,” she urged him as she tapped at his shoulder.

Brian nodded out of duty to his wife, then complied with her wishes, repeating the message as he had been told, complete with the emphatic urging at the end. One by one the family members passed the message down the table until it came to rest on C.C.’s shoulders to do the deed that was started a table length and a half ago.

Pausing for a moment, C.C. politely nodded her head, then looked over to Randi as she put down her fork and leveled a sharp, pointed elbow to Brooke’s ribs.

Annoyed by the disturbance, Brooke looked over at C.C., wondering why she had been hit. “What?”

While everyone watching giggled, C.C. pointed across the table to Randi as she explained, “She wants you, Oh, Self-Entertained One.”

“Hmm…? What’s up?” Brooke asked, looking as though she had just woken up from a most pleasant dream.

C.C. rolled her eyes, and then looked directly at Brooke. “Randi… she asked you a question, Doofus.”

“Oh… sorry,” Brooke blushed as she focused her attention on her older sister. “Yes, Randi?”

“Well… now that you’re up…” Randi began. “Whatever happened to that twelve days of Christmas theme?”

“Ooh… Ooh! I know!” C.C. chimed in and began to happily sing at the table. “The first day after Christmas, my true love and I had a fight… and so I chopped the pear tree down and burned it just for spite… And with a single cartridge, I shot that frickin’ partridge…”

Her song was stopped abruptly by a mock smack to the back of her head originating from Brooke’s powerful arm. “Not that theme, Smart-aleck…”

“Yes, Cjersti…” Mable said, calling her youngest by her given name as she started to clear the table. “Where on Earth did you ever learn that dreadful tune?”

The table grew silent as several pairs of eyes slowly shifted toward Brooke. Seeing the gathered attention coming her way, Brooke brought her hand to her mouth and coughed rather dryly as she pretended not to have heard the question. “Randi was talking about Sam’s Christmas presents… That twelve days of Christmas theme.”

“Yeah… what did you get, Sam?” Terri chimed in and asked Sam as the young blonde turned a questioning eye to her lover.

“Yeah… come on, Brooke. We’re all family. Well… almost all,” Rick corrected as he winked at Sam.

Sam smiled pleasantly as she answered, “I’ll let her tell you.”

Brooke’s eyes lit up like the previous week’s Christmas tree as she began naming Sam’s gifts. “Let’s see… she got twelve keys.” All eyes around the table were on Brooke as she continued. “Eleven long stem red roses… ten chocolate covered strawberries… nine cans of Hershey’s syrup…” Brooke looked over to see if Sam would be able to contain the blush that crossed her fair features with the mention of chocolate syrup. Pleased that the making of a slight blush was already creeping up her lover’s neck, Brooke smiled as she opened her mouth to continue.

“Only nine of those?” Rick seemed surprised. “Why, if that were Terri, it would have to have been… Ooomph!” The man’s eyes bugged out with the blow of his pregnant wife’s elbow to his midsection.

“Don’t interrupt her, Dear,” Terri smiled sweetly at her husband. “Go on, Brooke… please.”

Brooke laughed at her sister’s less than ladylike interruption, and then turned to look into Sam’s eyes as she continued. “Eight uhm…” the woman swallowed audibly as she searched for the right words, “…articles of clothing… for lack of a better term…”

“Lack of material would be more appropriate,” C.C. teased.

Brooke rolled her eyes before continuing, “Seven days of undivided attention… six scented candles…”

“FIVE GOLD RINGS!” C.C. burst into song with a slightly off-key rendition of the familiar song.

Sam shook her head and laughed, “How did I know that was coming?” She looked down to C.C. and mouthed “Thanks”, then looked to the woman beside her. “Go on, Babe, you can finish.” She pulled Brooke’s face down to hers and placed a soft kiss on the older woman’s cheek.

“Thanks, Darlin.” Brooke winked at Sam, before casting an arched eyebrow in C.C.’s direction. “Now, where was I? Oh yeah…” she turned her gaze back to Sam. “Oh, yeah… the four hours of dancing the other night… three bottles of wine… two loving family members, her father and sister, and me in a bare tree,” Brooke finished with a mischievous glint in her blue eyes.

“No star, Anti Bwooke?” a small voice was heard over the laughter around the table.

“What, Sweetpea?” Brooke asked as she picked up her niece, who had made her way out of her father’s lap and over to her favorite aunt.

“You didn’t give her a star?” Julie asked.

“Actually, I uhm… I…” there was a faint smile pulling at the corners of Brooke’s mouth when a solution came to her mind. “I gave her a chocolate star,” the woman muttered as she tugged on her ear while she answered, her gaze settling on no one in particular.

Julie made a face as she thought about the answer given to her. “Otay. Dat sounds good enuff.”

There was a soft chuckle across the table from Randi and Brian as they enjoyed the fact that even their three-year old could cause Brooke to stutter from embarrassment.

Henry and Mable gathered a handful of dishes, then scurried off to the kitchen while everyone else discussed Sam’s presents. Moments later, Henry returned with a chilled bottle of champagne. Taking his time, he began to make his way around the table, filling everyone’s glass with the exception of Terri’s.

“What’s this for, Dad?” Sam asked curiously as her glass was filled.

Henry smiled at the ease with which Sam entered into their family. “It’s New Year’s Eve, Sam. We have to have champagne on New Year’s Eve.” He continued to his wife’s glass, then filled his own, smiling at Mable when she entered the room with a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne for her grandchildren’s glasses, as well as Terri’s.

“Is someone going to be giving a toast?” Sam looked over to Brooke, giving her a wink, and elbowing her playfully.

“Actually, I thought I’d give her a break this year.” Henry sat the nearly empty bottle down on the table. “This year it’s up to…” He watched as C.C. looked up, her eyes pleading, hoping she would finally be allowed to do a toast now that she was of legal age to drink. Henry let his eyes roam over the dinner guests until he scanned his eyes right past C.C. and over to his two son-in-laws. “…Brian and Rick.”

C.C. tried not to look as disappointed as she felt when she looked down to her lap. Quietly, she spoke, “I guess you have to be twenty-one for a few years, huh Dad?”

Noticing the genuine pout on C.C.’s face, Henry added, “… And C.C.”

Brown eyes looked up into a matching pair as C.C.’s face broke out in a huge grin. “Really?” She jumped up from her chair, bumping into Kevin on her way up. “You mean I finally get to be a part of the adult activity?”

Henry smiled at his youngest daughter’s enthusiasm. “Sure, no telling what those two troublemakers would come up with on their own.” He stole a glance in his sons-in-laws’ direction, then turned to address the entire gathering. “Actually, why don’t we move this into the living room? There’s more room in there and it’s much cozier by the fireplace on this cold evening.”

Everyone agreed and started to move away from the table. Brooke stood up and held a hand out for Sam to take as the small blonde rose. “I’ve got these, Sweetheart,” Brooke motioned to the two champagne glasses in her hands.

“Thanks, Hon.” Sam reached up and kissed Brooke softly on her lips. “I really like your family’s traditions.”

Brooke smiled as she motioned for Sam to walk ahead of her. Making their way into the living room, they could see that Brooke’s father was already positioning Brian, C.C. and Rick in front of the fireplace.

Fearing that they may have to stand, Brooke handed Sam her glass while everyone got settled only to have it handed right back to her when Julie tugged on Sam. With the small child now securely held in Sam’s arms, Brooke sat both of their glasses down on the nearby end table.

Randi followed her daughter over to Sam and Brooke and stood behind her sister. She watched as David sat between his grandmother and Aunt Terri on the couch while Kevin stayed with her, hugging her leg. Leaning in toward her sister, Randi whispered rather loudly, “You know, you left out the one that C.C. screeched through. What did you give Sam for the number five? You’ve got me curious.”

“Yeah, Aunt Brooke. You left out the five,” Kevin added as he looked at his hand and held up the appropriate number of fingers.”

Brooke looked down and ruffled the boy’s dark blonde hair. “Your Aunt C.C. had it right, Kevin. Sam got five gold rings. Somebody gonna start this toast?”

“Yes, gentlemen… and lady. Who’s going to start?” Mable asked as she looked from one son-in-law to the other, eyeing her daughter as well.

“Not C.C., since you just said the word ‘lady’,” Terri added with a grin.

“Hardy-har-har,” C.C. replied as she rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue.

Brian looked around at his family. “I guess I’ll start.”

Sam furrowed her brow as she tried to recall receiving five gold rings when Brian cleared his throat.

“To a year of good health, family and love…”

“Well, that’s the three of us but what about C.C.?” Randi chuckled looking to both Brooke and Terri.

“Okay, Rick… you’re on,” Brian nodded his head towards his brother-in-law.

Rick took a deep breath and stuck out his chin. “To the memory of days past and the hope of more to come.” He put on his most debonair smile, then turned to C.C., rolling his hand to indicate her moment in the spotlight. The brunette stepped forward, rubbing her hands together nervously. She opened her mouth to speak and was startled when it wasn’t her voice that she heard.

“Wait a minute, Brooke. You haven’t given me five gold rings,” Sam pointed out as she shifted Julie from one hip to the other as the toddler looked down to Sam’s belly.

“Yes, I did.” Brooke answered, matter-of-factly.

Sam thought about it and shook her head in the negative. “No… no you haven’t. Count them down for me. The first one was the gold key ring, right?”

Brooke nodded her head as she wrapped a hand around Sam’s shoulder. “Yep. There was the gold key ring. The roses had a gold ribbon tied around them. There was a gold ring around the one Christmas can of Hershey’s syrup… on the lid…”

“You’re counting that, huh?” Sam asked as Julie began to wiggle out of her arms. Sam placed the child on the floor while Julie continued to play and talk to Sam’s stomach. “Okay, what else?” Sam asked as she absent-mindedly ran a hand through Julie’s hair.

“The gold elastic thingy around the candles.” Brooke started to look nervous as Julie began pulling on her sleeve to get her attention.

“Now, that’s really stretching it a bit, don’t you think, Brooke?” Terri chuckled.

“No, of course not. Okay, Chase… you can finish your toast now.” Brooke pleaded with her eyes as she leaned over to see what Julie wanted.

Sam watched, still slightly confused as Brooke listened to Julie’s whisper and then placed her ear against Sam’s stomach. “Brooke… that’s only four. What’s number five?”

“Ahh forget it, Sam. It’s probably stupid anyway.” C.C. interrupted Sam’s interrogation and cleared her throat. “To the hope that rings true to all that have love in their hearts. May the last year be only a promise of what’s to come. Happy New Year.” C.C. raised her glass to toast everyone as the familiar salutation was said in return.

Sam looked down to her lover and to Julie who were now whispering and giggling. “What’re you two conspiring about now?”

“Nuffin, Sam. Aunt Bwooke had ta ask da baby sumfin and she said ‘yes’.”

Sam smiled at Julie as Brooke stood back up. “Oh, yeah?” Sam looked up into Brooke’s eyes. “And what am I in this conspiracy?”

Brooke grinned. “You… are the topic of our conversation.” Brooke replied as C.C. walked over to toast her sister and former roommate.

Sam noticed C.C. and reached for her glass, sitting on the end table. “Happy New Year, C.C.”

“Happy New Year… Sis,” C.C. answered as she grinned and winked at Sam.

Sam smiled and absent-mindedly brought the glass to her lips as she started to take a drink of the bubbly liquid. Hearing a strange noise, Sam pulled the glass from her lips and stared into it. “Julie, did you drop one of your play rings down in here?” Sam looked at the sparkling piece of jewelry sinking to the bottom of her glass.

“No… Aunt Bwooke did. Da baby said it was okay.” Julie answered innocently.

Sam looked over to Brooke who seemed to be sweating by this point. “Brooke, that’s not funny. I could have swallowed that.”

Brooke’s eyes grew to twice their normal size as she grabbed her lover’s glass. “Well, I’m glad you didn’t.” Brooke reached in and grabbed the 1.32-carat diamond ring, wiping it off carefully on her shirt before holding it up for Sam to see. “It probably would have hurt if you swallowed this.”

Sam looked back and forth between the ring and Brooke. “That’s not a play ring, is it?”

Brooke closed her eyes and shook her head, slightly. “No, it’s not a play ring.” There was a moment of silence before a well-tuned snippet of a song came floating off of Brooke’s lips as she waited for some kind of reaction from Sam. “Five Gold Rings…”

“I… ah… what… ah… Brooke, I don’t understand,” Sam managed to stutter out as she searched Brooke’s face for answers.

Everyone began to gather around the two when Brooke got down on one knee in front of Sam. She reached up and nervously took Sam’s hand in hers. “Sam… I uhm…” Her heart was racing and her mouth began to go dry. Brooke closed her eyes and took in a deep breath before continuing to do what had haunted her thoughts and dreams for weeks now. “I can’t imagine being without you for even a day. The more time we spend together, the more I love you…”

Sam’s eyes began to water as Brooke started to sing softly to her.

“Will you be there beside me if the world falls apart? And will all of our moments remain in your heart? Will you be there to guide me all the way through? I wonder will you… Walk by my side and follow my dreams? And bear with my pride as strong as it seems? Will you be there tomorrow? Will you be there beside me as time goes on by and be there to hold me whenever I cry? Will you be there to guide me all the way through? I wonder will you… Walk by my side and follow my dreams? And bear with my pride as strong as it seems? Will you be there tomorrow?”

Watching the fountain of tears falling down Sam’s cheeks, Brooke began to speak to her again. “I don’t care what people think or what they say. All I know is that I need to have you in my life, like I need air to breathe. I want to do right by you and I’ve tried to in everyway I could possibly think of. So, I’ve asked Aunt Sandy and your father for permission and well… I kind of asked Chastity too…” Brooke added with a shy grin.

Sam continued to stare into Brooke’s eyes as she felt her heart beat pick up speed, barely able to choke out, “You have… what?”

“I asked Chastity if it would be alright if I asked her mom to marry me…” Brooke took a breath in and pressed on. “Sam, she said ‘yes’.”

The blonde was speechless. Sam was afraid her ears were deceiving her until Brooke spoke again.

“Sam… will you marry me?” Brooke held the ring poised, ready to slide it onto Sam’s finger, as she gazed into green eyes for an answer.

Feeling the love in the words as they reverberated in her ears, Sam couldn’t help but close her eyes to savor the most precious moment of her life. She opened her eyes and looked down at the gold band as Brooke hesitantly waited to slide it onto her finger. Slowly, the lump in her throat eased, although she was still tongue-tied for words. Sam didn’t trust herself to speak, so she nodded at Brooke as the tears continued to roll down her flushed cheeks. Lifting her eyes to Brooke’s, she found her voice. “You bet your twelve days of Christmas, I will.”

Without looking down, Sam could feel the ring slip into place on her finger as dazzling blue eyes stared lovingly at her. Sam reached out and wrapped her arms around Brooke, pulling the crying woman in close to her heart. “Yes, Brooke… yes,” Sam whispered as she leaned over far enough to kiss Brooke on top of her dark head.

Brooke stood up and applause erupted throughout the room when she melted into a kiss with the blonde. “I love you, Sam.” Brooke whispered, breaking their kiss just long enough to whisper those words.

“I love you, Brooke. Thank you. It’s the best present ever.”

Brooke pulled away far enough to wipe the tears from Sam’s tear-stained cheeks. “No, Darlin… you are.”

Sam looked down to the ring on her finger, seeing the round diamond sticking out in the center surrounded by two smaller diamonds on each of its two sides. Filled with love, Sam looked back up into Brooke’s eyes. “We both are.”

Sam continued looking at the ring for the majority of the drive home. When she wasn’t in awe of the gem on her finger, she was in awe of the woman beside her.

Watching Sam closely as they came to a stop at a traffic light, Brooke reached over for her hand. Before Brooke could even register what she was doing, she had brought Sam’s hand up to her lips and kissed the back of it tenderly.

“I guess I’ll have to be more careful with who I let kiss my hand now,” Sam commented as she winked at Brooke. “I still can’t believe you did that.”

Brooke let her eyes gaze over to Sam. “Why?”

“Why? I could name a dozen reasons why, Brooke. You haven’t even known me that long…”

Brooke cut her off before she could finish. “Sam, you wouldn’t even believe me if I told you when I bought it.” The light turned green and Brooke put the Sequoia in motion once again towards home.

“You’re not going to tell me it was after that first movie, are you?” Sam teased her lover and smiled when she noticed that Brooke made no attempt to release her hand.

“I bought it the last night Peter and I were in New Jersey… the night before I came home.”

Sam was quiet for a moment as she considered the time that Brooke spoke of. “But… I… we… we hadn’t even made love yet.”

“Sam, I didn’t need to make love with you to know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Loving you is the most wonderful feeling… everything else is just icing on the cake, so to speak.”

“Or the chocolate syrup on the dessert,” Sam added her own analogy as she shot a rakish grin in Brooke’s direction.

“Yeah, Baby. Something like that.” Brooke winked over at Sam as she turned off the main road and started down the long stretch to their home.

“Well… that does take a load off my mind,” Sam commented.

Brooke furrowed her brow in confusion. “Load off? Why?”

“Well, it means that sex isn’t what this whole relationship is about, that’s all.” Sam glanced at her lover, hoping that she was enjoying the tease.

“Of course it’s not, Sam. I wasn’t always the sex-crazed monster you share a bed with now.” Brooke couldn’t help but tease the younger woman. “That was your doing, Darlin.” Brooke slowed down enough to be able to reach over and plant a kiss on Sam’s cheek. She felt her hand squeezed in response by the blonde.

“You know what? I’ve been thinking…” Brooke broke the comfortable silence that had settled between them. “You still have another week before you start at Brownstone. Why don’t we go somewhere for a few days?” Brooke glanced over at Sam to gauge her reaction to the suggestion.

Interested green eyes looked over at the driver. “What… just run off and not tell anyone?” Sam smiled as she whispered softly, “So… where were you thinking of taking me?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Let’s go up to New England or something. We could hide out in a room with it all cold and snowy outside, lay in front of a fireplace at a bed and breakfast somewhere. What do you say?”

“Hmmm… sounds very romantic to me. Do you think we could start that tonight… at least in our minds? I happen to know of a very special container of Hershey’s syrup with your name written all over it. Well… at least I bet I could write your name with it.” Sam slid closer to Brooke as they neared the house.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Sam.”

“Well then, I say ‘yes’. What other answer could I give you tonight but ‘yes’?” Sam practically lost her train of thought as they parked the truck in front of the house and leaned into a kiss that became very passionate to both women. After a long enticing moment, Sam pulled away for air when she noticed the shadow of someone standing on the porch. “Brooke, someone’s on the porch. Are you expecting anyone?”

Brooke furrowed her brows as she shut off the ignition. “No, I’m not. Stay here in the truck and lock the doors.”

Sam could tell by the look of determination on Brooke’s face that there would be no argument. “Okay. But if it’s James, you get right back in here.”

Brooke nodded her head in agreement as she stepped out of the truck and made her way, cautiously, towards the porch. Even with the porch light on, she couldn’t tell who the person was standing in the shadows cast by the columns on the porch. “Can I help you?”

“Brooke? Is my sister with you?” a small voice asked, shaking slightly from the cold.

“Sarah?” Brooke asked in disbelief.

“Yeah… it’s me. I need my sister.”

“Sam,” Brooke called out over her shoulder. “You’d better get out of the truck and come here.” Kicking the duffel bag at Sarah’s feet as she tried to get closer, Brooke took off her jacket and wrapped it around the teen’s shoulders.

Sam got out and walked slowly up to the porch, her eyes growing in surprise upon seeing her sister. The blonde threw open her arms and took the smaller body into them in a hug, then quickly pulled back. “Sarah? What the…”

Sarah simply shrugged her shoulders. “I… uh… need a place to crash for a while. You see, I kind of ran away from home.”

Brooke and Sam looked back and forth to each other and then to Sarah. The young girl broke the deafening silence with three small words. “Happy New Year?” she said with a tentative smile as she held up the business card that Brooke had given her father.
Ch24 I Knew I Loved You Part I
“… Love’s more than a four-letter word… it’s everything that they say is real…”
Letting her feet steal silently down the hall to the bedroom that she now shared with her lover, Sam thought about the conversation that she’d just had with her sister Sarah. The small exchange that was spoken now weighed heavily on her mind. God, what if Sarah’s right?

The conversation quickly passed through Sam’s mind as she tried to analyze it for all that it was worth.

“You know Mom’s gonna have a bird when she finds out you’re getting married,” Sarah said confidently. “She’ll have a whole flock if you get pregnant.”

Sam remembered the weird face that Sarah made when she saw Sam’s own shocked face, and then asked in her child’s voice. “Mom couldn’t do anything… could she?”

“Could she?” Sam muttered, wondering the same as her sister, only this time, under her breath as she turned into the doorway of the master bedroom.

The blonde paused there for a moment and gazed at the dozing form on the bed with a recent issue of Modern Drummer draped across her chest. A smile spread from one side of her face to the other as Sam remembered how Brooke had tried to make Sarah feel at home when they had found her on their porch. “God, I knew I loved you… even before I met you,” Sam whispered as she remembered hearing part of their conversation.

“So are you mad at me… for crashing in on your New Years?” Sarah’s voice was monotone, almost as if she were waiting for a scolding.

“No, why would you think that?” Brooke’s concern showed through. “Worried, yes. Angry, no.” The tone of her voice was encouraging to say the least.

“I don’t know. I thought that maybe you and Sam…” Sarah paused, taking in a breath. “Well… maybe you wouldn’t want anyone around.”

The deep timber of Brooke’s voice brought a smile to Sam’s face as she remembered it. “Uh… it’s okay, Sarah. We need to worry about you now. What were you doing on the porch? How did you get here?”

“I… I ran away.” Sarah started hesitantly. “I hitched a ride after I told my parents that I was staying with a friend.”

“Ran away?” Brooke paused for only a second before dropping the question altogether. “Well, you’re here and safe. Right now, I’d say that’s all that matters. How about I get the fireplace going and we start getting you warmed up on the outside while Sam’s making you that cup of tea?”

“Yeah,” Sarah responded, sounding amazed. “You know something, Brooke? I wish I had you for a parent.”

“I’ll remember to tell Chastity you said that,” Brooke smirked.

“Chastity?” Sarah paused for a moment and looked around the room. “I don’t see any kid’s stuff.”

The look on her sister’s face was a mixture of both joy and shock all at the same time as Sam remembered entering the living room with the cup of hot tea.

“Sam… are you…”

Frozen in time, Sam’s mind brought back Sarah’s words from moments earlier. “You know, Mom’s gonna have a bird when she finds out you’re getting married. She’ll have a whole flock if you get pregnant.” The words spun round and round in her head like some cheap sound byte in a horror movie.

Sam acted on her sudden need to be close to the woman that she loved as she crossed the room. Crawling into the bed with the woman seemed like a good idea. As she tried to get the thoughts out of her head, Sam laid there, staring up at the ceiling.

“Brooke…” the soft voice called out. Sam turned her head to see the dark-haired woman next to her still asleep. The blonde bit her lip tentatively. Finally, deciding that her need for comfort was legitimate, Sam gave her slumbering lover a gentle nudge and called her name again. “Brooke.”

“Hmm…” the sleepy murmuring slowly started as Brooke began to stir. “Hey, Baby…” the half-asleep woman uttered as she tossed the magazine to the floor and then curled herself around Sam’s body.

“Hey… are you sure you want to have a family?” Sam stared up at the ceiling as she waited for the answer.

“Hmm…What?” Brooke settled in wrapping a strong arm around Sam’s waist.

“Family…” the blonde looked over at her lover. “You really want one, don’t you?”

“I already have you…” she tightened her hold on Sam, “…and Mario.” Brooke chuckled as she felt the dog jump up on the foot of the bed and curl up around their feet.

“Yeah, I know, but I was talking more like the pitter-patter of little feet and I don’t mean of the four-legged kind.” Sam gave a weak smile as she looked down to the ball of fur on the bed. “Good dog, Mario.”

“I would love for you and I to have our own family… I mean if that’s what we both want. Why do you ask?”

There was nothing but silence as Sam held back her thoughts.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” Brooke said, still half asleep. “Have you been thinking more about it?”

“I don’t know… I just have this God awful feeling that she’ll try to do something to get to any child that I have.”

“Who?”

“My mother, who else?” Sam smirked.

“Sam…” Brooke sat up in bed and pulled her lover into her arms. “You know that I would never let her harm you or our child, don’t you?”

The young woman swallowed hard. “I know that. I’m just being foolish, I guess.”

“Never, Darlin’.” Brooke kissed blonde hair as she nuzzled into Sam’s head. “Besides, you can have my baby,” Brooke smirked. “That way she really would have no say in it at all.”

“Your baby?” Sam looked up into Brooke’s face. “Now that would really put her in a tizzy for sure,” the young woman chuckled.

“Yep, you can have my baby, then Randi and Terri wouldn’t think you were being left out of having a…” Brooke used her fingers to make quotation marks in the air, “…Gordon baby.”

“Well, you’re a little lacking in that specialty equipment but if you say so…” Sam trailed off in a chuckle, then reached up to give Brooke a quick kiss. “Let’s sleep on that thought, okay?”

“What thought?” Brooke grinned. “You having my baby? You know, she’d really be a part of both of us then.”

“Sure, what else would I be dreaming of?”

Brooke let her gaze drift around the room. “Oh, I dunno… a wedding maybe?” Brooke leaned in and kissed Sam behind her ear, then whispered, “I can’t believe you’re going to marry me.”

The young woman looked down at the ring on her finger and smiled. “Yeah, and without a second thought too. I’d marry you right now if you wanted me to, Hon.”

“You know what?” Brooke cleared her throat as she drew lazy circles on Sam’s leg. “I was thinking… I kind of have a surprise for you.” The dark-haired woman wiggled her eyebrows playfully.

“Brooke!” Sam reached over and gave her lover’s wandering hand a little tap. “Sarah is right down the hall.”

Pulling her hand back, Brooke continued. “I made us reservations for that ski trip we were talking about.”

Green eyes sparkled with excitement. “Yeah, and…?” Sam giggled as she felt the warm kisses being placed on her throat.

“I made us reservations for Wednesday through Sunday. I thought it would be nice with just you to keep me warm in that snowy winter weather.”

“Hmm…that’s five days… are we going to ski the whole time?”

“Well, not the whole time…” Brooke pulled back, giving Sam a devilish look. “I have a few surprises in store for you.”

“Hmm… I like surprises.” Sam’s train of thought stopped as Sarah entered her mind. “Brooke, you remember, we still have Sarah…”

“Not to worry, Darlin’,” Brooke kissed her temple. “Your Dad said that he’d even come stay here at the house with Sarah for a few days. It will give them a chance to work out some of the problems.”

“Well, thank you again for being the one to make that call to my parents tonight. I’m not so sure that Mother wouldn’t have just slammed the phone down when she heard my voice on the other end.”

“You’re welcome, Darlin’. You know that I’d do anything for you. Besides, they’d better get used to me, ’cause I intend on sticking around in their daughter’s life for a long time.” Brooke gave a little wink to the blonde. “You know, your dad is really looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday when he comes.”

“And how’s he going to pull that one off with my mother?”

“He said something about an out of town trip. I really don’t know.” Brooke feigned any knowledge of Samuel’s plans.

The young woman turned her head to gaze into Brooke’s face. “Hmm… and just what do you have planned, Brooke… that you’re involving my father in?” Sam saw the woman’s eyes widen at the same time that she heard the exaggerated intake of breath. “Wait. Hold it right there. I don’t want to know.” The blonde chuckled, “If you can get my mother to agree to let me come home for a few hours on Christmas, I can hardly imagine what you’re up to now. I saw how chummy you two were when you picked me up.”

“Hey, he asked if Sarah being here would spoil any plans we had for tonight and I told him no.” Brooke stated boldly, and then as she continued on, her voice started rambling just like her thoughts. “Then we got to talking about some other things and I told him about the ski trip. I mean… the weather’s supposed to be nasty here this weekend. I figured that way, instead of being cooped up with cabin fever here, we could actually make a vacation out of it, sort of.”

Green eyes stared at Brooke as Sam slowly shook her head. “Hmm… why do I think that there’s more to this?”

“Because you know me. You know I care about the people that I love. See, I even convinced you that you love me and want to marry me.” The dark-haired woman winked at her lover. “I’m a miracle worker,” she beamed proudly.

“That you are Honey.” Sam leaned in to snatch a kiss. “Now, let’s give that miracle of yours a rest. What do you say we get some sleep?”

“Sleep?” Brooke glanced over at the alarm clock on the nightstand. “Sam, Darlin’…” her head turned quickly back to the blonde. “It’s almost Midnight on New Year’s and you wanna sleep? You mean there’s no way I can convince you to stay awake for a bit?

“Well, since you put it that way…” Sam let the words come out slowly as if she had given it much thought, “…and we do have to start the year out right.” The thoughtful expression on the young woman’s face turned into one of sheer love as she closed the gap between them, melting into another kiss.

“Mmm…” Brooke sneaked a peek at the time on the clock. “Happy New Year, Sam,” she whispered, then resumed their kiss letting it move on to the more passionate side.

As the kiss ended Sam felt dazed, yet invigorated all at the same time. She came off the kiss and let her forehead rest against Brooke’s. “Happy New Year, Hon. That was a nice way to start this year together.”

“I agree.” Brooke took in a deep breath. “Anything else I can do for you, my love?” The older woman smirked, “You know, that doesn’t involve any chocolate syrup at the moment?” Brooke let the smile flash across her face. “Like you said, Sarah is just down the hall.”

Sam pulled her head back from her lover’s brow and wiggled her eyebrows as she gave the most rakish grin she could muster. “Need you ask?”

The risqué laugh started deep within Brooke’s chest, then rumbled out into the air. “Care to keep up our techniques on making a baby?”

“Well, you know what they say, Brooke… whatever you do during the first hour of the New Year, you’ll do the whole year through.”

“Oh, yeah?” Brooke sounded surprised, then smiled with delight. “Well, then, it sounds like one Gordon baby on the way to me.”

The sound of bacon sizzling in the pan was the background music for the couple engaged in a kiss as the toaster punctuated the melody with a timely sound, popping the golden brown slices out of its inferno. Sam took in a breath as she looked over to the food, trying hard to keep a watchful eye on it as Brooke teased her with soft kisses and whispers meant for only her ears.

“Brooke,” Sam giggled as her ear was being nibbled on, “Stop it. I’m not having my sister think that I can’t cook. We are not burning breakfast again this morning.” The young woman turned her head from the distraction when she caught sight of her sister standing in the doorway. “Hey, Sarah. Did you get enough sleep last night?

Brooke turned to greet her future sister-in-law. “Hey, kiddo. How’d you sleep after that big day of shopping with your sister?” The dark-haired woman let a lazy smile come to her face, then slipped into a kiss to Sam as she waited for a reply.

Sarah tried to focus while she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Oh, hi,” she groaned, “‘morning.” She stifled a yawn. “You know, you guys have some god awful noises in this house. They nearly kept me up all night.” The girl quickly brought her hand to her mouth as she yawned again.

The dark-haired woman coughed nervously after thinking about the previous night. “Noises…you say?”

“Yeah, that’s the second night in a row now.” Sarah watched as her sister shot a quick glance to Brooke. The teen hastily quelled the satisfied smile that came to her face.

“Ah… it must have been that wind last night. You know, with the snow… I guess you’re just not used to that kind of howling with the houses so far apart out here.” Sam tried to busy herself with the food on the stove, so that the blush that she felt coming was hidden from her sister’s view.

“Uh-huh… Okay, Sis. I mean, you should know.” Sarah shuffled over to the table and sat down as Brooke moved away from Sam, pouring herself a cup of coffee. Nonchalantly, the young girl fingered the glass of juice at her place setting, then picked it up, taking a sip. “By the way, Sam…” Sarah sipped at the juice again. “When did you become so religious?”

“Religious?” Sam turned to look at her sister, then stole a glance at Brooke. The furrows in her brow grew deeper as she racked her brain trying to think of what her sister was referring to. Suddenly a thought came to her, causing her face to lose its color. Stunned by her sister’s inferred reason for her sleepless night, Sam could do nothing but mouth out the very words that the girl was referring to. “Oh God.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought I heard you calling out. ‘Oh God,’ exactly.”

Sarah enjoyed the fast rise of red that traveled up her sister’s neck and overtook Sam’s face in seconds. “I figured that you must have found some kind of religious inspiration… or something.”

“I… I… It’s a new…” Sam’s eyes darted from her sister to her lover. “Brooke what is that called that you were teaching…” she glanced over to see that the words caught Brooke by surprise in mid-swallow, causing her to spew coffee all over the floor. “Damn you,” Sam muttered under her breath, then trailed off. “You would hear everything.”

The tall woman wiped at her mouth with one hand as she set the cup down on the counter. “Sorry, I… I… I’ll go get a towel and clean that up.” Brooke shot a glance at her lover. “And no, it wasn’t ‘damn you’ that you were saying last night,” Brooke smirked as she passed the blonde, making a quick exit from the room.

Startled, Sam tried to regroup as she faced her sister alone. “Chant…” the blonde’s eyes grew bigger with an idea, and she quickly jumped into it, thinking as she went. “That’s what it was, Sarah. It was a chant to ah… ah… get me to… relax and… and ah…”

“To Brooke?” Sarah cast a doubtful look at her sister. “The way you were calling out her name?” The young girl shook her head. “I don’t know, Sis. You would have thought she was the patron saint of orgasms the way you were carrying on last night.”

Sam felt her legs growing weaker and braced herself with a stiff arm, leaning onto the counter. “Oh God,” the blonde hid her face in her hands, mortified by her own sister’s perspective on the situation.

The young girl let go with a toothy grin as she relished in her sister’s embarrassment. “Sam… I’m seventeen now. I may not be a legal adult but I’m not stupid either. I know that you and Brooke are getting closer… more intimate, now that you’re engaged.”

The only thing that Sam could do was shake her head in disbelief. Slowly, she was able to bring a hand down from her face and cast as innocent a look as she could muster. Sam gave a faint smile as she tried to move the conversation to a less embarrassing topic. “Speaking of you being seventeen now, you know I sent you a card for your birthday in November. I guess Mom didn’t let you have it.”

Shrugging her shoulders, Sarah took another drink of her juice. “Yeah, I figured that you did. She was kind of bent out of shape after the mail came that day.” The young girl’s eyes followed Brooke as she came back into the room and went to work to clean up her mess.

“So, are you done humiliating your big sister?” Sam asked Sarah as she kept her attention on Brooke.

Brooke stood up with the coffee stained towel in her hand. As she turned to put it on the counter, her gaze caught Sam’s and she began to turn red. The tall woman picked up her cup again and walked over to the table where Sarah was sitting, making sure to keep her eyes darting anywhere but at the young girl. “Ah… sorry. I don’t know what came over me there.” Brooke raised the cup to her lips.

“That depends, Sis.” Sarah teased her future sister-in-law, reacting like the statement was directed to her.

Sam’s gaze moved to Sarah. “Depends on what?” She watched as the young girl smiled coyly at the dark-haired woman drinking coffee across the table from her.

“Is she really that good?” Sarah glanced over to Sam, seeing the shocked look on her face. Both sisters locked gazes for only a second or two before their attention was drawn to the sounds coming from the woman in question as she choked on her coffee, once again.

Sam saw the wide-eyed stunned look on Brooke’s face. As she moved closer to her, Brooke’s color was coming back to her skin and starting to turn rapidly into a blush. “Hmm…” Sam stood next to her lover, giving her a little pat on the back. “Yeah, she’s that good.” Sam heard the dark-haired woman’s gasp for breath, then she leaned in toward her and teased, “Your turn to blush now,” the blonde smiled as she used Brooke’s favorite term of endearment, “Darlin’.”

Half covering her mouth as she made a little coughing noise, Brooke looked over to her half full cup of coffee and grabbed it as she got up from the chair. Shooting a dirty look at her lover, she went to the sink and poured the coffee down the drain. “You’re evil,” she teased Sam with a smirk.

“Oh… and I thought I was a temptress.” Sam quickly came back as she gave her most sultry smile when she caught Brooke’s eye.

“And you, Brooke, are obviously God.” Sarah smiled mischievously at the tall woman whose gaze slowly turned to her.

“Sarah!” Sam said in shock.

“You,” Brooke pointed a finger at the young girl, then fought to keep the smile from her face. “You are definitely related to your sister.”

“Why, thank you.” Sarah rose from her chair and bowed, flashing a huge smile in her sister’s direction. “Come on, Mario.” She looked to the dog as he got up from under the table. “Let’s go watch for my dad to come.”

Brooke stood there dumbfounded at Sarah’s ability to fit right into the household after being there little more than a day.

Sam held in the laughter that wanted to come out and sauntered slowly over to her tall lover. “Guess I might be pretty good at it…” the blonde played with the buttons on Brooke’s shirt, “…when I get around to it, too.”

Almost in unison, the dark eyebrow arched on the woman’s forehead as she focused her attention on the sassy young blonde in front of her. “Temptress?”

The look was returned as Sam cocked her head to a side, looking up at the taller woman. “Sound proof walls, huh? My ass.” Sam held the look as long as she could before losing it to laughter as Brooke stuttered out her words.

“I… I told you… that… that… the studio was sound… sound proof.”

“Well, it’s a good thing that we’re leaving today or we’d be sleeping for sure in the recording studio with my Dad staying here tonight.” Sam threw a cautionary gaze to her lover. “Maybe we should think about getting that master bedroom soundproofed if we intend on raising a family in this house.” Sam reached up and kissed Brooke on the lips then batted her eyelashes seductively as she started to back away from the woman.

“I’ll show you a temptress.” Brooke reached out and caught Sam’s arm, tugging her back toward her. “Come here, little girl,” Brooke teased with a throaty growl as she drew her tongue across her lips.

The blonde’s green eyes grew bigger, seeing the seductively playful side of her lover starting to surface. “Oh God, no.” Sam found herself being pulled in to Brooke’s body while long arms began to wrap around her torso. “Not with Daddy coming.” Before she knew it, the drummer’s large hands were caressing her buttocks and Sam could feel herself being lifted off the floor and into the waiting lips that were poised and ready for a kiss.

The dark-haired woman ended the kiss after a few seconds, feeling the tension in Sam’s body. Letting the young woman speak, Brooke slowly and deliberately nipped at her lover’s lips, planting kisses on her cheeks and throat in between Sam’s words.

“Brooke,” Sam felt the tug at her lips. “What are…” the soft, butterfly kisses that were being lavished on her cheek started to distract her, “…are you doing?” Feeling the resolve in her body start to fade, Sam called out for help. “Sarah…” her body began to melt under the barrage of tender ministrations that Brooke was so involved in. “Where are…” Sam’s body relaxed as she turned from recipient of kisses to willing participant, giving a few of her own, “…you?”

Sam could feel the corners of Brooke’s mouth turn up into a smile as she laid a kiss directly on the tall woman’s lips. “Hmm… now I could get into this.”

“Could you now?” Brooke’s husky throated reply came amid a slathering of soft kisses.

Gasping for air the blonde nodded her head. “Yeah, just as soon as Daddy gets here and we’re gone.” Sam could feel the rush from her surging emotions as Brooke carried her to the counter and sat her on it. Pulling back from the latest bevy of stimulating kisses, Sam leveled a heavy lidded gaze at her love. “How long is that flight to New England?”

The tall woman cocked her head to the side and nuzzled into Sam’s neck, kissing it softly on her most sensitive spot. “Don’t know. Don’t care.” Brooke kissed Sam again as her hands began to roam across the young woman’s body. “Besides, your Dad won’t mind. He said that I could give you all the extra special attention that I thought was necessary.”

“Oh… ah…” Sam rolled her eyes at the sensations her body was having. “How…” she paused to enjoy a particularly intense stimulation as Brooke’s thumbs grazed over her nipples. “Oh God…” Sam whispered in a breathy voice. “Don’t even bother telling me.”

“Sam?”

“Yeah…”

“Shut up and kiss me.” Brooke groaned as their two sets of lips converged, leading the way to a most delicate dance of dueling tongues.

Mario was the first to announce the presence of a visitor when he went running off to the door and stood up on his hind legs, looking out the window. He turned his head to show bright blue eyes as he let out a loud bark, “Arf!”

Seeing the car pulling up the driveway, the husky pawed at the window, giving another little bark as he pushed off and landed on the floor. Prancing with anticipation at the door for a second or two, the dog took off into the living room and over to where Sarah sat listening to music with her headphones on her ears.

The young girl never budged. She was unaware of the animal’s barking. After several sharp barks, Mario resorted to jumping up and landing with his front paws directly into Sarah’s lap.

Startled by the husky with its tongue hanging out, staring her in the face, and punctuating the air with sharp sounding barks, Sarah pulled the headphones off and moved her portable CD player from the couch onto the end table.

“What’s up, fella?” Sarah watched as the dog gave up a muffled “Woof” then got down on the floor with all four paws and took off toward the front door. “I guess that means you want me to follow you,” the girl smiled as she got up from the couch and followed the animal.

Mimicking the actions of the household pet, Sarah looked out the side window when she got to the door. Her excitement grew seeing the familiar car in the driveway and her father heading for the porch. “Daddy,” she muttered under her breath.

She reached for the doorknob and yelled over her shoulder. “Sam, Daddy’s here.” Before the man was on the porch, Sarah had opened the door and bounded out into his arms.

“Hey, Munchkin.” Samuel wrapped his daughter in a big hug. “I was worried about you.” He smiled, feeling his youngest daughter’s kiss on his cheek.

“I’m sorry, Dad. I just really missed Sam.” Sarah sighed as she let her arms drop to her sides. “I’m sorry that I lied to you and Mom about being at Jamie’s. I… I just wanted to see Sam and… well…” She looked up into her father’s eyes. “I really wanted to meet Brooke. Dad, she’s so cool. She didn’t even yell at me for showing up on New Year’s Eve.”

Samuel stepped back and appraised his daughter. “Hmm… you look like the same girl I knew last year…” he rubbed his chin and thought for a moment. “So when did a few days make you so much older?”

“Maybe because Brooke doesn’t treat me like a kid.” Sarah shrugged, then grabbed her father’s hand and pulled him into the house. “Come on in, Dad. Brooke said that you were going to stay with me.”

“Hey, maybe while we’re here we can think of something that would prove to Mom how cool she really is.” Samuel smiled as he entered the doorway.

Sarah turned to face her father as she continued walking backwards. “Come on, Dad.” She noticed his gaze roaming from her and spoke a little louder to get his attention. “Dad… Move Mario.” She looked down at the dog as it waltzed around, sniffing the air and hesitantly edging closer to the newcomer. “He’s not going to hurt us, Mario. Sarah turned her attention from the dog to her father for only a brief second before she let out with a yell. “SAM… BROOKE… My dad’s here.”

Flashing her father a wide grin as she closed the door, Sarah motioned for him to come along with her as she headed toward the kitchen. “I’m sure that they haven’t… ah… finished the dishes yet.”

The young girl tugged at her father’s hand as she led him through the house and into the hallway right outside the door to the kitchen.

The sound of a familiar bark quickened Brooke’s heart as she came away from the last kiss with a ragged breath. “Time…” she sucked in a mouthful of air, “…time to behave?” Blue eyes looked deeply into Sam’s eyes, hoping that she was wrong.

Regrouping her thoughts, Sam nodded her head. “Time to behave.” She took in a deep breath and let it out as she brought her hand to her mouth and kissed a single finger, then placed it across her lover’s lips. “Later Hon,” she winked. “I’ll give you all that you need later.” Sam turned away from the tall woman as she straightened her clothing.

“Sam…” Brooke parted her lips and let her tongue glide along them, making a pained looking face when she came to one particular area.

“Yeah?” Sam looked over her shoulder to see Brooke wiping her mouth on her hand.

“Did you have to bite my lip so hard?” Brooke drew her hand away from her face and looked at it. “It’s bleeding, Baby.” The dark-haired woman stuck out her lower lip in a pout, showing off the trickle of blood that was escaping her lower lip.

“Oh… Hon, sorry.” Sam heard Mario’s barks and the sound of the front door closing, then rolled her eyes. “I can see it now, between C.C. and my sister Sarah, I’m gonna die of embarrassment.”

“Hey, what does that have to do with you biting my lip?”

“I guess I got a little carried away.” Sam stepped closer to her lover. “Come here, let me kiss it and make it better.”

Brooke’s whole demeanor changed from pouting to one of excited anticipation as she welcomed her girl back into her arms. “Okay,” she smiled, and then captured Sam’s lips with her own.

With one foot off the ground, Sam felt the rush of blood going to her head once again as her strong lover’s arms held her tightly. It wasn’t long before the throbbing descended from her head to her lower regions, that she heard the sound of someone clearing their throat behind her.

Sam twisted in Brooke’s arms until she was able to get a view of the door with one eye. The sight of her father and sister standing in the doorway brought all of her muscles to attention as she immediately started to tense up. Ending the kiss rather abruptly, Sam raised one hand from Brooke’s shoulder and gave a little wave to their audience. “Oh… uhm…” She felt the heat of a blush searing toward her head as the level degree of redness in her face intensified. “Hi, Daddy.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” the sound came from the man shaking his head in the doorway. Samuel watched as his daughter turned and slid down the length of Brooke’s tall form until both of her feet were on the ground. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that old expression?”

Half-scared to answer, Sam elbowed her lover and leaned back to whisper to the woman who was still plying her neck with kisses. “Honey, my Dad’s here.”

Samuel placed his hand over his youngest daughter’s ears and whispered out rather hoarsely, “I believe it’s, ‘get a room’.”

Sam ran her hand nervously through her short blonde hair. “Well, no one has said anything like that today. That seems to be C.C.’s job when she’s around.” The young woman looked up to her father’s face and saw the grin that was waiting for her. Relieved, she took in a deep breath.

“See, Sam, I told you that your dad wouldn’t mind.” Brooke felt the bony end of an elbow come sharply against her midsection. “Ow! What was that for?”

The blonde smiled sweetly at her father, then leaned back into Brooke. Speaking out of the side of her mouth, Sam gave her the reason. “For all the embarrassment that I’m going to die from.”

Sensing his daughter’s embarrassment, Samuel strode over to her and engulfed her in a loving embrace. “You’re not gonna die, Sweetie.”

“How can you be so sure?” Sam pouted, keeping her body stiff.

“Come on, Sam…” he pulled back and looked her in the eye. “It’s not like you never saw your mother and I kiss at home.” He saw her body ease and pulled her in tightly to kiss the top of her head. “And from the look on your face, I’m sure that Brooke has to be better at it than we are.” He stuck his head out to the side and winked at Brooke, watching as the shades of red came quickly, passing from one hued tone to the next in the tall woman’s face.

Leaning back on the counter with her elbow, Brooke turned to hide her face in her hand. “Oh God,” she groaned.

Sarah stood at the doorway, taking in the whole scene, until Brooke’s exasperated comment invoked her to speak. “Oh, no. Not you, too!”

Brooke sank back into her seat as she watched her lover unbuckle the seat belt. Riding in the jet was old hat to the CEO but she was enjoying it this time even more with the blonde by her side. The smugness of a smile graced her face as she thought about what the rest of their lives were going to be like. Together… from here on in, that’s what it is going to be for us. Reaching out, she wrapped her fingers around Sam’s hand and relished in the warmth that filled her with dreams of years to come.

Stirring from the make believe world she’d conjured up in her head, Brooke tuned back to reality with the sound of Sam’s voice. “Hmm…” Brooke opened her eyes and turned to her lover.

“I said,” Sam started again. “That was so nice of you to let Daddy and Sarah have the house for a few days while we’re gone.”

“Yeah,” Brooke nodded, “it’ll give them some time together away from your mother. It will be good for them.” She looked over to Sam to see the gentle nod of affirmation as the blonde gazed out the window of the plane.

The silence lasted for a short time before Sam turned back to the woman next to her. “So, how long is it going to take us to get to this winter hideaway that you know about?”

Looking out the window to see nothing but clouds passing her by, Brooke’s face took on a very thoughtful expression. “Well, I’d say by looks of the clouds…” Brooke hesitated for a moment, and then winked at her astute companion. “Not much longer. Johnnie’s a damn good pilot. She’ll have us there in the next couple of hours, if even that long.”

Sam let a teasing little laugh come out around her smile. “Great, so what do you want to do until then?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Do you have any ideas?”

“Hmm… let me see. We could… wax your skis, check your binding. Ah… maybe work on that lip balm?”

“Lip balm?” Brooke arched an eyebrow as Sam reached into her pocket and pulled out a stick of Chap Stick, causing a smile to come to the woman’s face. “Yeah, that’s it.”

“Care to share?” Sam offered the stick to her.

“Sure, after you.” Brooke watched diligently as Sam applied the moisturizer to her lips, letting a lazy smile come to her face.

When Sam was done, she closed the tube and held it out for Brooke, only to pull it back when she reached for it. “Ah, Ah, Ah… there’s a better way to do that.”

Brooke’s smile grew bigger as she leaned into her lover and kissed the freshly moisturized lips with her own. “You mean like that?”

“Exactly,” Sam murmured, then changed the angle of her head to make sure Brooke’s lips were fully covered.

Rubbing her lips together as she came off the kiss, Brooke sat back in her chair. “You know what I was thinking?” She saw the subtle shake of her lover’s head. “Why don’t we do some shopping when we get there?”

“Shopping?” Sam blinked in utter amazement. “You want to shop?”

“Yep,” Brooke nodded. “And I know what I’m shopping for.”

“Okay, I’m game, but what are we shopping for?”

Blue eyes dazzled with excitement as she waited for the suspense to build. “Wedding rings, what do you think?”

Green eyes gazed into blue for what seemed an eternity.

“What?” Brooke finally asked.

“Brooke, we just got engaged on Monday evening.”

“Yeah… and?” The dark-haired woman rested her elbow on the arm of the chair, and then let her chin lay on her hand as she leaned in to play with Sam’s cheek.

“Oh God, I think that I’m in love with one totally crazy woman.” Sam rolled her eyes. “We can’t get married, per se, Brooke.”

“Why not?” Brooke pulled back and stared unwaveringly. “I happen to know of a state or two where it’s legal for same sex marriages to be preformed.”

“Legal…” Sam’s voice trailed off. “Brooke Gordon, is that what this trip is all about?” The blonde’s eyes grew bigger. “We’re eloping, aren’t we?” Green eyes looked aimlessly at the tall woman when she thought about the heartbreak it would cause to her lover’s family. “Brooke… your mother’s not going to be happy about that.”

“Uh… not really.” Brooke tried to hold back the grin.

“Are you sure?” Sam eyed her lover suspiciously.

Running through the definition of the word elope in her head first, Brooke confidently nodded her head. “Yes, we’re definitely not eloping.” The tall woman waited for a moment then cleared her throat. “Just so you know Sam, same sex marriages are legal in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts and you don’t have to be a resident of the state.”

“So we are…” Sam sat back in her seat with a huge smile on her face as she glanced over to her lover, “…aren’t we?”

“Sam, we’re not eloping.”

“Okay, then what are we doing?” Sam sat up in her seat and turned to look at Brooke.

“We’re taking a vacation in a state that just so happens to perform legal same sex marriages.” Brooke sat forward and kissed Sam on the lips briefly. “I just mentioned it to keep our options open, that’s all.”

“Open, huh?” Sam looked out the window as she settled back into her seat. “Why do I think this is an open and shut case?”

“Sam… I just want us to have a nice trip. We don’t…” Brooke gulped rather audibly as she pushed herself back into her chair, “…have to talk about the wedding anymore if you don’t want.” Brooke looked down at her lap.

“Hey, who said that I didn’t want one?” Sam seemed to be on the offensive.

“Well… I don’t know… I guess I just realized that you never really told me what you want exactly.”

The blonde looked over to her dark-haired lover and took her hand. “I want you, Brooke, for the rest of my life and I’ll take that any way that I can.”

Hearing Sam’s words brought a huge grin to Brooke’s face. “I love you, Sam.”

“I love you, Brooke.” The young woman leaned into place a kiss on her lover’s cheek, then sat back, looking out the window of the plane. After a few moments, and acting as nonchalantly as possible, Sam turned to the woman next to her. “So, is Saturday good for you?”

“Saturday? Good for what?”

Sam tried to hold back the smile that wanted to overtake her face. “Well, for our wedding, of course.” Having said it she turned to face Brooke, showing her a twinkling set of green eyes. “You don’t think that after going all this way, I’m coming back without one, do you?”

“Sam… I… how did you…” Brooke couldn’t decide what she needed to know first. “I…” leaning in, Brooke gave up and smiled, then kissed Sam delicately, “Saturday will be perfect, Darlin’.”

Brooke listened at the door for the sound of water running before taking the cell phone from the nightstand where she’d laid it when they arrived Wednesday afternoon. Okay Brooke, you know that she’ll be in there for at least ten minutes, let’s make this a quick one. Punching in the direct dial to her office, she waited for Peter to pick up the phone. She looked at her watch to confirm that he would be in the office.

“Brownstone Records, Peter Butler here. How may I help you?”

God, he’s only on the job a month and he sounds like a pro. She quickly cleared her mind and hurried on to her agenda, keeping her voice as soft as she could. “So, Petey, you all ready for the big trip?”

“Hey, Brooke.” The man’s voice sounded surprised. “What’s up? I thought you were on vacation.” He paused for a second. “Trip? She agreed to it, eh?”

“Yeah, she did.” Brooke’s voice beamed with pride. “So remember, you’ll have to pick up Crystal and Aunt Sandy before you head out to the plane. Mom, Dad and the rest of the family are picking up Sam’s father, sister and Mario at the house at noon and then they’ll meet you at the plane. Is… uh… is Ida coming? I invited her yesterday.”

“Could I stop her?” Peter proclaimed. “She’s happier than a lark knowing that you’re tying the knot.”

“Cool.” Brooke thought about her motherly employee only for a moment knowing that she had to press on. “So you’ll pick up Aunt Sandy and Crystal?”

“Brooke, I’ll have the plane ready and waiting for everyone. Yes, I’ll get Crystal and her Mom.” Peter paused for a moment, and then asked, “It’s only Sam’s father and sister, right?”

“Yeah, they’ll meet you at the airfield at 12:30 for take off by 1 p.m.”

“Whewie! Now that’s a relief. I’m not sure that Sam’s mother would be such a good thing at the wedding. I mean, she’s not exactly a fan of either of your teams in this sport, Brooke.”

“Tell me about it.” Brooke rolled her eyes as she heard the water stop running in the shower. “Hey, Petey, I’d better go. Sam’s getting out of the shower. Thanks for taking care of all the loose ends for me. I’ll see you around three this afternoon.”

“Good luck, Brooke. I won’t let you down.”

“Great… now if I could just get these damn butterflies out of my stomach, I’d be fine.” Brooke gave a little chuckle. “Hey, you remember Johnnie, the pilot, right?” Brooke asked nervously.

“You with butterflies? Yeah, right.” Peter coughed, “Remember Johnnie? Oh yeah, I remember her. Who could forget that hot pilot?”

“Hey, you’d better watch it there, Pal, you’re practically spoken for, yourself,” Brooke teased her long time friend. “I’ll see you around three then. Have a good flight.”

“Right, see ya later, Boss.”

The tall woman terminated the call, then quickly set the phone down on the nightstand again as she heard the bathroom door open.

Seeing the phone still within Brooke’s fingers, Sam finished drying her hair with the towel. “So, who was that, Hon?”

Brooke glanced down at the phone. “Oh, that… I was ah… just checking in with Peter.” She moved away from the bed and stood behind the small blonde, appreciating her reflection in the mirror. “You ready for this?”

“Ready for what?”

The tall woman wrapped her arms around Sam and pulled her back toward the bed. Turning around as they fell backward onto the mattress, Brooke tossed the wet towel aside. “Your last day as a single woman.” Brooke winked, then kissed her on the neck.

“Hmm… if I remember correctly,” Sam chuckled at the tickling sensation that Brooke’s touch invoked, “…it’s your last day too.” She reached up to rub her furrowed brow. “So what do you want to do, go dig up some snow bunnies?”

“Hmm… I dunno. We could…” the older woman paused, “…then again,” she paused a second time before continuing on. “If you go put on your ski clothes, I’ll already have the hottest snow bunny around.”

As if on cue, Sam jumped off the bed and dashed for the closet. “Look out snow. You’re gonna melt when you see this one.” Sam pulled her suit from the closet and held it up to her body. “Now, is that really fair to all these ski lodges around?”

Brooke smiled at the young woman’s enthusiasm. “Who cares? I refuse to share you, so who cares about fair?” The dark-haired woman reached over to the nightstand and pulled out the box they had purchased just the day before.

“You can’t stop looking at them, can you?” Sam asked, already knowing the answer.

“No, I can’t.” Brooke looked up at Sam like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

“Good, cause neither can I.” Sam quickly hung up the ski clothes and dove onto the bed. “Let me see,” the blonde wiggled closer for a better view.

The dazzle of gold caught Brooke’s eye as she tilted the box for her lover to see. “I just can’t wait to see them side by side once they’re on our fingers.” Both women stared down at the gold bands as Brooke laced her fingers with Sam’s.

“I know,” Sam said barely above a whisper. “Me, either.” She turned her head and kissed the taller woman’s cheek. “Well, come on my hot, not so little, snow bunny. There’s still time for a few runs down that slope.”

Brooke took one last look at the rings before closing the box. “Your wish, is my command.”

Dusting the snow off her clothing, Sam rounded the hallway to their room. “I can’t believe that you didn’t fall.” She looked back to her tall companion who had all the equipment in her hands. “Not even once?” Sam pleaded as she searched her pocket for the room key.

“Well,” Brooke took several long strides to get ahead of the blonde, then leaned against the doorway to their room. “I did fall for you, Darlin’.” She pushed off the wall and leaned in to kiss the young woman before Sam could get the door open.

Lasting only a few seconds, the kiss ended in a flurry of soft nips as Sam tried to concentrate on what she was doing, only to be distracted time and again by her playful lover.

“Brooke, keep this up and you’ll be begging me to get this door open.” Sam giggled as she felt the wetness between her legs beginning to grow a little more with each kiss that was placed on her neck. “God, Brooke.” Sam rolled her eyes as she fought to concentrate on opening the door. “You keep doing that and this snow bunny is going to melt into a puddle right here in the hall.”

“So…” Brooke gave her another kiss then whispered into Sam’s ear. “You’re up for the challenge, then?”

Sam waited until the guests getting off the elevator passed them. “Yes,” she shook her head. “I mean, no, not in the hallway here.” The blonde looked around as she placed a hand on her lover’s chest, keeping her from coming close again. “Brooke, it’s almost three-thirty. Do we really have time for this right now? I’ve got to get a shower and get changed before dinner at five. Remember, you made those plans for us.”

Brooke leaned back against the wall. “Yeah, I remember those plans, and then some.” The dark-haired woman winked at her lover as a rakish smile settled on her face.

Green eyes watched in utter amazement as she felt her body scream to be held in her lover’s arms. The promise of passion that Brooke could give with one of those smiles was enough to make her heart beat faster than Sam ever thought was possible. “Oh God, I want you so bad.” Sam moaned as she took in a breath, then wrapped her fingers around the taller woman’s ski jacket, pulling Brooke toward her as she pushed open the door.

Locked in a kiss, Sam dropped her hand from the doorknob as she felt the waves of sensations from the kiss running through her body. Out of nowhere, she felt something new. “What the…” she looked down to her hand. “Mario! What are you doing here?”

Brooke watched the prancing animal as his excitement grew with Sam’s attention. His soft whimpers stopped only when the blonde reached down to pet him as she dropped to one knee and let the husky greet her as he wanted to, landing a few kisses of his own.

“Surprised?” Brooke smiled as Sam turned to look at her with questions in her eyes. “I figured that we might need a ring bearer for tomorrow.”

“But how… no, who?” Sam looked up at Brooke. “He didn’t fly by himself, Brooke, did he?”

“Nope,” Brooke entered their room and put the equipment down. “I told you I had a few surprises for you.” The tall woman stripped off her jacket and gloves. “Come on, give me your coat. I’ve got another surprise for you.” She held out her hand and accepted the outer clothing that Sam handed her. Tossing them on the bed, Brooke headed out the door and pulled it shut. “Come on, follow me.”

Sam grabbed onto Brooke’s hand as she passed her. “Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” Brooke smiled broadly as she glanced back to her lover.

“You just love planning surprises, don’t you?” Sam took a couple of fast steps to keep up with her long-legged friend.

“No, I just love watching your face when you get them.” Brooke stopped at the entranceway to the common room on their floor and gave her lover a wink, then motioned to the door with her head.

“You wait, Brooke. One of these days, I’ll be watching your face when you get a surprise that you were never expecting.” Sam braced herself with a deep breath, then opened the door.

“Surprise!” The collective gathering yelled their greeting as the blonde entered the room. The young woman’s mouth was agape as she surveyed the people in the room.

“Surprised, Darlin’?” Brooke leaned her head down onto Sam’s shoulder and gave her pale cheek a gentle kiss.

“Brooke, how did they… when did they…” Sam turned to look her lover in the eye. “You had this planned all along, didn’t you?”

“Well…” Brooke’s voice squeaked out like a teenager’s during puberty as she stepped back, looking down to her boot as she played with the carpeting. “I thought you’d like to have everyone here, so I had the jet bring them up. I figured that we’d need a few witnesses.”

“MOM? C.C.?” Sam looked over to them suspiciously. “Were you the ones coordinating all this?”

There was a murmur of chuckles as Peter pushed to the front of the group. “Ah… Sam… I’d be the one taking that blame.” He held a finger up in the air. “Well, me and Ida, here.”

“Ida?” Sam looked at Brooke puzzled. “Who’s Ida?”

“Ah, sorry. I forgot she answers the phones with her last name. Sam, this is my most valuable employee at Brownstone… well,” she winked at Ida, “that is until you start on Monday.”

Sam looked over to the woman who was giving her a little wave. “Hello.”

“Hi, Sam. I bet you recognize my voice, now that you hear it.”

“Yeah…” Sam’s eyes lit up. “You’re the one I always get when she leaves her cell phone behind.”

“Yep, that would be me.” Ida smiled back.

“Yeah,” Brian agreed. “I hear that will be your job now, Sam.” He wrapped his arm around Randi and gave her a squeeze as C.C. stepped around the gathered family in front of them.

“Girl,” C.C. clapped Sam on the shoulder, “I cannot believe that you’re actually marrying my sister.” The brunette gave her ex-roommate a hug, then looked over to Brooke as she pulled back. “I guess I can’t say that the ‘L’ in your name stands for Long-standing-lonely-one anymore, huh?”

“Guess not, C.C.”

“We could always make that ‘L’ into Lovey-dovey.” Rick chimed in, joking, as all eyes turned to him. The room grew silent. “What… you don’t think it fits…” his eyes went around the room, and then settled on his wife. “Terri, come on. Don’t you think it fits with that 12 days of Christmas theme and all?”

Terri thought for a moment. “Sure…” she nodded her head until Rick looked away, then shook it vigorously. “No, I’m not giving her that name; I know what she’s capable of.” Terri looked over to her sister Brooke. “She can be just good old ‘Loran’ to me.” Terri winked and joined in with the group’s laughter.

“Well, we named her and Loran was what we picked.” Mable spoke up as she nudged her husband.

“Yes, that you did, Mable. If I remember correctly I was leaning toward Henrietta myself.”

“Shoosh!” The matriarch tried to act serious, even though everyone around her was rolling with laughter. “You just wanted a boy to name after you.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with Henrietta? That’s my Mom’s middle name.” Crystal spoke up, drawing the attention to her mother. “Tell them.”

“Well…” Sandy looked around at the waiting faces. “It’s on my driver’s license. If you want, I’ll show it to you.” She fumbled with her purse as Henry walked up to her.

“I knew I liked you the first time I met you.” Henry reached out and gave the older woman a hug. “Shhhh! Don’t tell my wife.” He winked at the woman, and then looked over at Mable.

“Anyone know a good lawyer,” Mable called out through her laughter.

Randi stepped forward, wrapping her arm around her mother’s shoulders. “Now, would that be for a crime of passion or divorce?” She chuckled, knowing that it was all in jest.

Amid the sound of laughter, Brooke glanced over to her young lover. The sad look that she saw there almost broke her heart. Bringing her arm up to wrap around Sam’s shoulders, Brooke called her name out softly. “Sam?” She waited a moment than asked her question. “What’s wrong, Darlin’?”

“Your family is so… so different than mine.” Sam gave her shoulders a shrug. “I… ah… I thought that maybe…” her words became inaudible as the beginnings of self-pity slowly entered her mind.

“Baby, what would make tomorrow perfect for you?” Blue eyes watched her intently as Brooke pulled her hand away and started to rub Sam’s back. With the blonde’s eyes cast to the floor, Brooke gave a little glance to the doorway as she stepped in front of her lover. “Tell me, Sam and I’ll try to get it for you.”

Catching a tear as it came to her cheek, Sam sniffed, trying to hold the rest at bay. “I guess I always dreamed that maybe my dad would give me away or at least that Sarah would…” Sam stopped short when she felt strong hands resting on her shoulders.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Princess.” Samuel leaned in and gave his daughter a kiss on the cheek.

Green eyes stared into Brooke’s eyes. “Daddy,” the word escaped her mouth in a breathy whisper. Sam watched as Brooke motioned for her to turn around. “DADDY!” She shrieked as she spun around, tears rolling freely down her cheeks. “I can’t believe this…” She turned in her father’s arms to look back at Brooke. “God I love her,” she muttered under her breath as she watched her lover fade into the crowd of people who were appreciating the joyful reunion.

“Oh, I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.” Samuel kissed his eldest daughter on the cheek again. “And I definitely wouldn’t let you get married without giving you away.” He drew their faces together and rested one forehead against the other.

Mable looked down to her watch. “Well, say your good-bye’s ladies.” The matriarch stepped out of the crowd, making sure that both Brooke and Sam heard her. “Brooke,” she pointed a finger in her daughter’s direction. “You’re going with your father and Samuel’s group.” The feisty woman turned now to Sam. “And you, Sam, are coming with us.” Mable motioned to the group of women separating away from the men.

“But MOM…” Brooke straightened up to protest as both of her father’s hands wrapped around her upper arm.

“Hush, I’ll have none of that whining, Brooke.” She smiled back at the women around her. “Randi and Terry will tell you that it’s bad luck on the night before your wedding to see each other.” Mable raised an eyebrow in challenge to her much taller daughter. “Besides, we’ve got some fun planned for Sam.” She hid the smile on her face, hearing the chuckles coming from the women behind her.

“Brooke,” Sam glanced over to her lover, “Did you plan this?”

The dark-haired woman shook her head, “No… definitely no.” Brooke looked at the men converging on her.

“Come on, Brooke.” Henry winked at his daughter. “We’ve got a special time planned just as well for you.” He looked around to all the testosterone filled bodies and smiled. “Don’t we boys?”

“Mom… you just said night… by my watch it’s still early.” Brooke held her arm up and tapped on the crystal of the timepiece. “It’s not even dinner time yet.” Brooke looked at her mother’s stern face. “Okay, but I’m not going anywhere without having at least five minutes alone with my girl.” The drummer crossed the room and stood next to Sam, with her arms crossed over her chest and determination set in her blue eyes.

Mable stood transfixed for a standoff with piercing eyes. Mother and daughter alike stood motionless for what seemed to be several long moments until the entrance of a small blonde caught the matriarch’s eye. “Five minutes, Brooke. I’m counting.”

“Oh, no…” the young girl moaned, “I don’t think that we can handle sitting through a five minute revival.”

“Sarah,” Sam recognized the voice behind her immediately, surprised by the appearance of her sister. She turned to see Sarah making her way through the group.

“Hey, Sam, are you afraid you won’t be able to say your prayers without her tonight, or what?” Sarah asked with a giggle.

C.C.’s eyes opened wider as she nudged the sisters around her. “Oh, I like that kid. She has potential.”

“Come on… Mom said to give them five minutes.” Randi looked C.C. in the eye. “It’s only fair. C.C., remember, you’ll be getting the same treatment one day.”

That was the only distraction that Brooke needed. With all eyes on her siblings, she grabbed Sam’s hand and hurried her out into the hall and down to their room. Shooing her young lover into the room, Brooke quickly closed the door and locked it, before turning and leaning into it.

“Brooke, I think they’re serious out there.” The sound of many feet scurrying down the hall could be heard as Sam stood amused at her lover’s antics. She watched as the dark-haired woman dashed across the room and looked out the window. “What are you doing?”

“What do you say we escape out the window?” She looked down to the ground below and changed her mind. “I guess not, since we’re on the upper floor.” She sighed, then looked over at the small bathroom. “We could always lock ourselves in there,” Brooke motioned with her head as she pulled Sam up against her body and kissed her on the lips.

The blonde returned the kiss willingly as they listened to the sound of knocking and voices coming from outside their door. “I’d say that all of our relatives and friends outside will lynch us if we do.” Sam giggled, seeing the look of dismay on Brooke’s face. “Come on, its only one night, Brooke. Look at it this way; we’ve got the whole rest of our lives together after this.”

“Well… we’ve got less than five minutes, Darlin’.” Brooke sighed as her eyes searched Sam’s face. “Were you surprised?”

“Very… very surprised,” Sam laughed. “And I see that you were surprised also by this little fiasco for the night, huh?” She watched as Brooke turned a little shy that her own plans were outsmarted. “Thanks, Hon,” Sam reached up and planted a kiss on her lover’s lips.

“You’re welcome, Baby. I just wanted it to be extra special for you.” Brooke looked down to Sam’s hand in her own and smiled, as her gaze leveled off into seas of green. “I don’t want you to ever forget tomorrow, or the fact that I love you.”

“Well, it is special to me, too.” Sam smiled shyly, “Thanks, Brooke. And you can believe me that I won’t ever forget it. I know that I won’t.”

Outside, the door-muffled voices clambered together until one strong one rung out loud and clear. “Peter Butler give me that key you used to let the dog in with.”

The two lovers clung desperately together, hoping for more time. “I guess our time is just about up for tonight, Darlin’.” Brooke tightened her hold on Sam and nuzzled into her neck.

“I guess you didn’t plan on this backfiring on you with that key, huh?” The blonde watched as the woman wrapped around her shook her head.

“Kiss me, Brooke, before you have to go.” Sam’s voice was barely a whisper.

“Always, Sam.” Brooke answered her back without hesitation, and then kissed the young woman again. “Always.”
Ch25 I Knew I Loved You Part II
“…I’ll never find love again like the kind you give, like the kind that you send, `Cause you’re one in a million… one in a million to me…”

I Knew I Loved You – Part II

Sam felt the surge of hands and feet behind her as the wave of womanhood swept her down the hall. “I don’t understand this archaic ritual,” the young woman protested as she was moved along the passageway. “Brooke and I are living together. It’s not like we’re virgins or something.”

C.C. brought up the rear as she quickly crossed the hall and held her hands up over Sarah’s ears. “Sam, can you keep it down? I mean, we’ve got your sister back here with us.”

“Yeah, and where were you the other night,” Sarah pulled away from the willowy woman’s grip. “I could have really used you then,” the young girl teased her sister as the group continued on.

Mable threw a glance back to her youngest daughter and smirked, “Maybe you should have taken some lessons from your older sister, Cjersti.” The matriarch heard the muffled laughter coming from the two daughters on either side of Sam. “I wasn’t talking about either one of you two, Randi…” Mable turned her head to look at her other daughter as she addressed her by name, “Terri.”

“Yes, Mom,” came the sound of dual voices, slightly out of sync and subdued.

Keeping her stride in an ever-forward motion, Mable cleared her throat before continuing with her explanation of traditions. “Now, Sam…You’re getting married tomorrow and whether it’s a conventional service or a civil union, some traditions still apply, Dear.”

“Oh, trust us, Sam. It’s all for the better.” Randi moved in closer to Sam’s ear. “It’ll get her wanting you all the more for tomorrow night.” The lawyer shot a glance to her sister. “Right, Terri?”

“Yeah, definitely.” Terri nodded as she looked down to Sam’s wondering eyes and thoughtful expression. “Besides, it gives her a chance to blow off a little steam. You know, sow those wild oats before she really settles down.”

Sam felt a hand slap on the back and turned a little nervously to see her ex-roommate smiling confidently at her.

“Yeah, like Brooke is gonna have any wild oats to sow.” She poked her head further forward to talk directly to Terri. “Sam’s marrying Brooke, not Loran. Remember?”

“I know,” Terri shot her youngest sister a wink. “I’ll bet Brooke won’t even do half the things that they got lined up for her to do.”

Seeing the trepidation in her cousin’s footsteps as the group turned into the waiting room for their party, Crystal jumped into the conversation. “So, Ladies…what are we gonna do?” She pranced to the front of the pack and gave a little happy dance, leading the way into the room.

With the pack following her lead, they waited until everyone was in the room and the door closed. Like a group of well-rehearsed choir members, they each looked to their leader and screamed their answer in unison. “GOSSIP!”

“Thank God they have a babysitting service here,” Randi laughed, “I haven’t had a chance to catch up on anything with the kids around.”

“Cool, I have some really good gossip about the blushing bride, there.” Sarah pointed to her sister.

“Sarah!” Sam’s eyes grew bigger knowing exactly what she was going to say. She took a seat and hid her face in her hands as the others filed in past her. Looking up, Sam saw Terri holding a decoratively wrapped box.

“I got Sam a little gift here.” The physician handed the box to the blonde.

“Come on,” C.C. yelled out. “Let’s get this party rolling.”

The blonde let her head fall back into her hands. “Oh God, why do I feel the blush coming on even now?” Sam took in a deep breath and reached for the box. Bringing it into her lap, the young woman glanced over to her Aunt and future Mother-in-law who were sitting together on the couch.

“Go ahead, Sam. We’ve got a perfect view from here. Right, Mable?” Sandy leaned into her soon-to-be distant relative through marriage.

The matriarch of the Gordon household put down her iced tea glass and laughed. “You’re right, Sandy.” The woman directed her attention to her pediatrician daughter. “Terri, I’m so glad that you had the hotel staff supply us with something that we all could drink. I’d hate making you feel left out if we had alcohol here tonight.”

Terri smiled pleasantly at her mother. “Yeah, having a healthy baby is what I’m all about right now.” She patted her stomach and reached for her own glass of the non-alcoholic refreshment. She waited until her mother had looked away before looking over and catching her oldest sister’s eye. With a quick nod of her head, Terri motioned to Randi, and then sat back in her chair, ready for the show.

“Sam,” Randi motioned for the blonde. “Could you give me a hand for a minute before you open that first package?” Her brown eyes looked warm and friendly.

“Sure,” the guest of honor shrugged her shoulders, and then got up from her chair. “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

Sam followed the lawyer down the small hallway. “What’s up, Randi?” The blonde watched as the tallest Gordon walked into the bathroom and held the door open for her. “Ah…Randi, wouldn’t you really want one of your sisters to help you?” Sam looked back toward the room she’d just left.

“No, I uh…I need to talk to you.” Randi watched as the puzzled blonde entered the tiny room. After taking a quick peek back into the hallway, the lawyer closed the door, and then turned to address her soon-to-be sister-in-law. “Here…” Randi chuckled nervously as she held out a flask for Sam to take.

Green eyes looked at the flask suspiciously. “What’s that?”

Randi giggled, and then brought one finger up to her mouth. “Shhhh…”

“But I thought…”

“Trust me,” Randi gave her most convincing smile. “You’re going to need it.”

“Okay,” Sam took the flask. “You’re the one with the most experience here, besides your mother and my aunt, of course.” The blonde raised the flask to her nose and made a face, then slowly took a drink from it. “WHOA! That’s strong.”

“Good, isn’t it?” Randi took the flask from her and took a nip herself.

Sam tried to answer her but the effects of the liquor were still creating havoc with her system as it hit her stomach and began to burn. Trying to hide her inexperience with hard liquor, the blonde started coughing as she turned and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Shocked by her bug-eyed and flushed appearance, the young woman coughed again. “Yeah…good,” she croaked out in a raspy voice.

“I thought it would relax you some.” Randi nodded then gave her a little wink. “I’m sure you must be at least a little nervous about tomorrow. Hell, you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t.”

“Yeah,” Sam coughed a few more times as she tried to get her voice back to its normal tone. “Human…” she muttered and coughed some more as Randi clapped her hand on the young girl’s back.

“So,” Randi offered the flask to Sam for a second mouthful, “You ready to go back out there?”

Sam held up her hand, declining the offer. “Sorry, I’m really a beer drinker,” she apologized as she reached for the doorknob instead, still feeling the heat from the first drink.

The lawyer just smiled as she tucked the flask back under her sweater. “Sure, no problem.”

The room looked empty with more than half of the people gone. Come to think of it, it was pretty quiet with the only woman being Brooke in a small handful of men. The males of the species just didn’t have that lust for speaking that the women found so appealing and essential to every moment of their lives. To them, it was more of a ‘speak only if necessary’ existence.

Brooke found herself amused by the observation and, for the first time in her life, was really glad for the difference. Pulling herself together, she looked over the group of men that were to be her confidants and cohorts in her last hours of being a single unattached person and smiled. “Okay,” she slapped her leg as she got up from the chair. “Where in the hell are we going anyway?” Brooke let her eyes roam the roomful of amused faces. “You know… this whole thing of separating me and Sam is crazy.” The grown woman stuck out her lower lip and pouted.

“Now Brooke, you’ll get to see her tomorrow. I promise that your mother and sisters will take good care of her for you.” Henry walked over to his daughter and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“But Dad…” Brooke’s blue eyes looked first to her father then searched the room for some form of understanding.

“I don’t know, Brooke.” Samuel stepped forward, rubbing his chin. “I’d have to agree with Henry on this one. Besides, my little girl doesn’t need any bad luck, now does she?”

“Yeah, Brooke.” Peter spoke up. “Why don’t you just let me do my job? I’m the master of ceremonies for the night.” The young rocker looked around the room to the others and made his excuses, “I mean, since I’m your oldest and longest buddy.” Peter smiled at Brian and Rick. “I got a great night planned for all of us.”

“You’re the master of ceremonies, Peter?” Brooke made a face as she sank back down into the chair. “Oh God,” the dark-haired woman groaned, and then grinned at her friend. Taking in a deep breath, Brooke resigned herself to her fate. “Okay, so where are we going?” She looked over to Peter with a disgusted look on her face. “Which strip bar or titty club did you reserve for us?” She waited as her longtime friend crossed the room and leaned into her ear to speak.

“Well, it would have been really great if they would have let me get you that lap dancer.” Peter shot a glance over at the collective group of men and chuckled nervously.

“A lap dancer?” Blue eyes got bigger as she looked at her ex-band mate. “I don’t think so.” Brooke crossed her arms in front of her chest and sat back in the chair.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t think you would either…” Peter mumbled out half heartbroken when he noticed the little upturned corners of Brooke’s mouth. Looking at her, he encouraged her to speak. “Come on, what are you thinking, buddy?”

A lazy smile stretched across Brooke’s face as she remembered Sam’s little dance from their first date. “Not unless that dancer is Sam.”

The woman stared straight ahead as the blonde’s image danced through her mind. It lasted for only a few seconds before a man’s head popped into her line of vision. She brought the hazy face into focus and was startled to see Samuel looking directly at her. Brooke quickly reigned in her thoughts and stood up. “So, ye ol’ master of ceremonies, where are we going and what are we doing?”

“You’re not seeing Sam until it’s time for the ceremony so forget it, Brooke.” Henry teased her. “It’s your last chance to get all those…” her father coughed, sharing a glance to the other married men in the room, “wild oats out.”

“Dad,” Brooke smiled sweetly. “I don’t have any wild oats to sow, remember?”

Henry turned from his daughter’s view and chuckled. “Trust me, you’ll wish you had.” He winked at Sam’s father and both of them began to laugh.

“Okay Pop, whatever you say,” Brooke shrugged, “but you’re not going to scare me.”

“That’s what you say now,” Brian warned. “Just wait.”

Peter held his hands up. “Okay, keep it down. We got more then enough time to get rowdy later.” He flashed his devilish grin. “I thought we’d keep the night to ourselves. You know, learn from the masters here.” He pointed to the four married men in the group. “I thought that they could teach us…uh…I mean you, a lot.” He put his hand on Brooke shoulder and winked, then turned to the masters of marriage. “What do you say guys, got any advice for ol’ Brooke here on the night before her wedding?”

Brooke rolled her eyes and sighed. “Oh, this I have got to hear.”

“Yeah,” Brian shouted out. “Don’t do it.”

“Hey, speak for yourself, Brian. I kind of like being married to Terri,” Rick said with a satisfied smile.

“Yeah right, Brian. I’ve never wanted to do anything more in my entire life.” Brooke’s blue eyes flashed with expectation.

“Well, just wait until the kids come. Then we’ll see what you say,” Brian replied teasingly.

“You know, you are kind of responsible for that, Brian.” Brooke mock glared at her brother-in-law. “I don’t have to worry about any kids just popping in.”

“Okay, simmer down guys,” Peter got in between Brian and Brooke. “Simmer down.” He looked from one to the other until their stoic faces showed signs of delayed grins. “Alright, that’s better.” Peter’s face took on a relieved smile. “Now come on. I’ve got some little games for us to play.”

“Games, Peter?” Rick seemed confused. “Isn’t that what they do at women’s parties?”

Brooke hung her head. “Oh no… I remember how your games go.” She looked up into her longtime friend’s eyes. “Buddy, I’m in trouble, aren’t I?”

The grin on Peter’s face rivaled the one on the Cheshire cat. “Yeah, games. I figured that since Brooke really is a…a…” the man winced as if in severe pain, “…a girl,” he shook off the thought. “We should give her a little taste of that side too.” Peter revived his devilish grin as he wiggled his dark eyebrows. “But with a manly approach to it.” He puffed out his chest and held it there for a few seconds, then looked around the room for approval. “How’s that, guys?”

The woman watched as all eyes slowly turned to her. “Uh-oh…” Brooke said as she slowly sank back down into the chair.

“Here you go, Sam.” Terri handed her the same decoratively wrapped package, again. “I’ll let you start off with mine, now that you’re done showing old Randi there the bathroom.”

“Thank you, but you didn’t have to,” Sam offered as she took the package, seeing the rest of the gifts now spread out on the table in the room. “You all didn’t have to.”

“What, and not welcome you into the sisterhood of married women?” Randi balked, “No way.” The lawyer smiled as she watched Sam start to open the present.

Waiting until Sam’s attention, along with everyone else’s, was fully consumed in the gift, Randi passed the flask of liquor to the woman seated next to her. The silent exchange ended with a nod of Crystal’s head as she tucked the flask into the back of her jeans.

Handing the discarded paper to her sister, Sam took the lid off the box. The shock of what she saw was soon written on her face, as her green eyes grew as big as saucers.

“What’s in it?” C.C. started to get up to see better. “Come on, hold it up, Sam.”

The blonde cleared her throat, as she reached in and delicately held up the very sheer, see-thru nightie. Holding the skimpy looking top up in the air, the tiny thong that it was paired with remained in the box. Sam could already feel the heat of her blush crawling up her neck as the rest of the women voiced their sentiments on the gift.

“Wow! What’s the point of that?” Sarah gawked at the barely there nightwear. “Heck, the way that Brooke is, I bet she rips it right off of you the minute after you put it on.”

“Now, that would be such a waste of a lovely outfit,” Sandy looked over to her young niece with a glare. “I’m sure that Brooke would never do such a thing. She’s a well-mannered girl.” Sandy smiled as she met Mable’s gaze.

“Well, I thought it would add to the…ah…the…” Terri tried to get the heat off of Sarah. “Hey, I saw it and I liked it. Hell,” the pediatrician looked down to her slightly bulging stomach. “I can’t wear it for a while, so I got it for you.”

“Gee, thanks Terri.” Sam snatched the thong from Sarah’s hand and put it back in the box, along with the top. “I’m sure that…that…” she could feel her blush deepening and quickly closed the box, placing it down on the floor next to her chair, “…Brooke…I mean, that we’ll…I’ll enjoy it.”

As the room erupted with cackles of laughter at her slip of the tongue, the young woman brought her hands up to cover her face. The only thought running through Sam’s mind was that she’d die from embarrassment before the night was over.

Peter held up the index card that was in his hand. “Okay, Brooke, first question.” He leaned in toward his friend and whispered, “Now, try to get the right answer, okay?” He watched Brooke take in a deep breath and nod. “Alright, you’re out late…ah…” he looks to the men around him, “working, yeah…and you come home with lipstick on your collar. What do you tell Sam when she sees it?” Peter leaned in closer and cocked his head to hear her answer.

The woman mulled the question over in her mind for only a moment. “I’d tell her one of two things.” Brooke grinned as she started her explanation. “It’s mine…”

The master of ceremonies turned to his married brethren. Seeing no real decision on any of their faces, he turned back to Brooke. “Or?”

“Or…” Brooke smirked with a tiny little giggle. “I’d say, ‘What are you bitching about, Baby? That’s your shade.’ And she’d know it was the truth.” She sat up in the chair, proud of her smart aleck answer. “Sorry, guys, but the only way that any lipstick would end up on my collar would be if it were mine or hers.”

“As if you ever wore lipstick,” Brian quipped, and then looked to his fellow males.

“You’re exactly right, Brian. I don’t.” Her blue eyes shone brightly.

“URP!” Henry let out the loud sounding noise startling his daughter as a pointed a finger came in her direction. “Wrong answer!”

“What…what do you mean, wrong answer?” Brooke blinked, shocked by the judgment that was levied at her. She watched as a shot glass filled with liquor was handed up the ranks from one man to another until her father finally pressed it into her hand. “Oh God…”

“Drink up,” Henry said with a smile on his face.

“Yeah, Brooke,” Samuel stepped forward and slapped her on the back. “Take it like a man.” He winked, and then mimed the action of throwing a drink back.

Letting her eyes roam over the group, Brooke finally focused on the drink in her hand. With a quick, well-practiced motion, she downed the shot and swallowed, feeling the burning sensation go down her throat and into her belly. “Ahh… chilled Southern Comfort, my favorite.” She licked her lips and set the glass on the table off to her side.

Samuel studied the woman before him as he rubbed his chin. “Don’t go getting too comfortable, there’s more to come.” He looked over to Henry and chuckled, then patted her on the shoulder gently.

The dark-haired woman turned toward her father. “So, Dad, if that was the wrong answer, what’s the right one?”

Henry reached for the shot glass, handing it back to Brian for a refill. “Plead insanity. It’s your best shot.”

“Here you go, Sammi. Open mine next.” Crystal pushed a brown paper package across the table towards her cousin.

Sam eyed the paper and laughed. “Thanks, Crystal, or should I wait to see how badly you embarrass me with this?”

“Hey, I am sorry I didn’t have time to wrap it. Heck I just got it in the mail right before Peter picked me up.” The feisty blonde raised her hand to her mouth to hold in a laugh as she watched her cousin examine the very plain brown wrapper, and then cautiously open it.

Seeing the book inside, Sam turned redder than a beet. “Crystal!” Green eyes glared at the woman sitting innocently on the couch. “I can’t believe you did this to me.”

“What is it,” Ida spoke up. “I can’t see.”

Sam reluctantly held the book up with one hand as she covered her face with the other.

“Damn, I left my bifocals at home.” Ida elbowed C.C., “What’s the title?”

The room grew silent as all the women looked to Sam.

“I think that’s your job, Sam. Isn’t that right, Randi?” C.C. pointed out.

“Yeah, she’s right, kiddo.” Randi held in the laughter that wanted to explode from her mouth. “The bride has to answer any questions about the gift.”

Sam brought the book into her view and read the title aloud. “The Kama Sutra of Lesbian Sex.” She hung her head and sighed. “There, are you happy now, Crystal?”

“Hey, how in the hell am I supposed to know what to get the two of you?”

“Oh God, I didn’t even know that they made such a book.” Sam’s blush was getting a deeper shade of red by the minute.

“Neither did I, Sam.” Crystal rose from her seat and took the book from her cousin’s hand, flipping through the pages. “Hmm…maybe we should pass this around.” She handed the book to Randi and moved away from her seat. “Say, Cuz, could you show me where the little girl’s room is?”

“Sure, anything to get out of here while that goes around the room. “Come on, follow me.” Sam rose from her chair and headed down the short hallway.

Before Sam knew what was happening, her cousin pulled her into the bathroom and the door was hastily closed. After producing the flask from the back of her jeans, Crystal opened it and downed a swig.

“Oh, that’s good.” The nurse let out with a little yelp, then offered it to Sam. “Here ya go, Cuz.”

The blonde eyed the familiar looking flask, and then slowly accepted it. Hoisting it to her mouth, Sam took a drink with a very audible gulp. “YUK!” The blonde handed it back to Crystal amid a bevy of gasps and coughs. “Let me guess, Randi let you borrow it?”

“Yeah,” Crystal nodded.

“Just trying to put me at ease, huh?” Sam shook her head and tried to focus on her cousin.

“Huh? No. I just didn’t want to drink alone.” Crystal smiled and took another little nip before sealing it.

“Well, thanks for inviting me, Cuz.” Sam pointed to the flask, losing her balance as she leaned a little too far for her footing.

Preventing the young woman from falling, Crystal steadied her, then opened the door. “Come on, Sam. Let’s go see what the rest of the perverts got you with all those dirty little minds.”

Sam nodded in agreement. “Yeah, let’s go see.”

The tall woman threw her head back as another round of liquor emptied from the shot glass. Smacking her lips, Brooke set the glass down and slid it across the table to the official keeper of the bottle, Rick.

“Okay, that wasn’t so bad. When do the tougher questions start?” Brooke looked to men around her.

“Okay,” Peter shrugged. “Here comes one now.” He shuffled through the cards in his hand, then stopped and began to read what was on it. “You want to go to the big game for the weekend and she doesn’t…do you go, or stay home, doing useless chores that she deems are necessary?”

Blue eyes narrowed as Brooke tapped out a rhythm on the table with her fingertips. “Football, basketball or hockey, which sport?”

Surprised by the question, Peter drew back and looked to the men on either side of him. “Does it matter?”

“Yeah, it does.” Brooke stopped the drumming and looked from one married man to another.

Rick cracked under the pressure as intense blue eyes settled on him. “Come on, Brooke,” he laughed nervously. “It’s a shot of independence. Who cares what the sport is.”

“Hmm…” Brooke sat back in her chair and looked up to the ceiling in deep thought. “A shot of independence or sleeping with my wife that night…” she contemplated her answer while she tapped a finger on her chin. After a long pause, she began to speak. “I guess…” she watched as all of the men leaned forward, their attention hanging on her next phrase. “I guess I’d stay home. Seems to me… that would be the most fun sport of all.” Brooke grinned as she drew in a deep breath, feeling very proud of her answer.

Torn between his wish to have his daughter be happy and his thoughts on the subject as a man, Samuel was the first to offer his judgment. His pleasant smile and nodding of his head came off a little deceiving as he finally verbalized his thought. “My God, she’s got you trained already.”

“Yes, she does,” Brooke confirmed her father-in-law-to-be’s suspicion.

“It’s a hopeless cause, gentlemen.” Samuel shook his head. “She’s already beyond our help.”

“So, wait a minute…” Brooke raised an eyebrow in challenge. “If I answer right, does that mean I get to make all of you drink?”

“URP! Wrong answer.” Her father held out another filled shot glass for her to consume.

“Wait, what do you mean wrong answer?” Brooke looked to her father as she took the glass and then threw it back, along with her head.

“URP!” Brian mimicked Henry, “Wrong answer.” He smiled broadly as he brought a filled shot glass out from behind his back and presented it to his sister-in-law.

Stunned by the double team action, Brooke opened her mouth to speak but was stopped before she could utter a single word.

“Brooke,” Rick spoke up. “I’d be careful what you say,” he cautioned her holding a third shot glass for her to consume.

“Well, let me put it this way…” Brooke took Brian’s glass and downed it, then returned it to the table upside down. “Given a choice between watching grown men smack each other on the ass and scratch themselves or stay at home with Sam so she can smack my ass or scratch me…” she took Rick’s glass and consumed it, also turning it upside down on the table before continuing. “Which one do you think I’m gonna choose?” Brooke gave a little snicker as she wiggled her eyebrows.

Each of the four married men glanced from one to another then, as if timed perfectly with years of practice, they let out their battle cry for the night. “URP! WRONG ANSWER,” was shouted as each one righted their shot glass on the table. Taking the bottle from Rick, Peter hastily filled them up.

Brooke blinked at the sight before her. All of her esteemed party throwers stood there before her, gloating. “What’s the name of this game, anyway? Is someone going to tell me the right answers?”

They all glanced around to one another and smiled.

“Why, the name of the game, Brooke, is…” Henry silently counted off the cue on his fingers until at the thrust of the third finger, all yelled in unison. “TAKE IT LIKE A MAN.”

Brooke watched as they all started laughing. Singling out her soon to be father-in-law, Brooke directed her question to him. “What do you think, Mr. Moleson?” She waited until the man looked in her direction. “She’s your daughter, what do you think?”

Caught off guard, Samuel cleared his throat as he looked over to Henry. “Hmm…” Sam’s father crossed his arms over his chest and sized the woman up. “Right now, Brooke,” he nodded his head, “I’m kind of glad that you’re not a man. I think you’re going to make my daughter one happy wife.” Samuel let a subtle smile come to his face as Brooke got up from her chair.

Her long strides made the space between them disappear in no time as she threw her arm around him and gave Samuel a vigorous one-armed hug. “Take that one, guys.” She looked to the other men in the room, and then gave a laugh, squeezing the man’s shoulders even tighter than before. “Thanks, sir.”

“Okay,” Sam called out. “Bring on that next mystery box.” She looked around the group of women. “Whosez next?”

Hearing her future daughter-in-law’s slurred speech, Mable acted on her motherly instincts. “Sam, are you alright, Dear?”

Sam looked a little confused by the question. “I…well…yeah I’m…”

“Nervous, Mom.” Randi interjected before the blonde could finish. “It’s her nerves; remember how you were the night before your wedding?”

“Oh yes,” the matriarch giggled. “I was more nervous at the reception for the actual wedding night to come. Now that was a story in its own right. Why I remember being so nervous that…”

Sensing that all eyes were on Mable as she became caught up in one of her stories, Crystal took the flask from behind her and slipped it into her mother’s hand. She leaned over to Sandy and whispered in her ear, “Your turn now,” then stood back up. Keeping her eye on Mable, Crystal moved around the room, taking the first seat she found, and plopped into it as the story was drawing to a close.

Mable rocked back and forth in laughter as she ended her story. “Oh, God, I don’t know how any of you were conceived, especially you, Randi. I still can’t believe that you were conceived on that night.” The woman wiped a tear from her eye.

“Yeah, but Mom,” C.C. pointed out, “They’ve already gone through that rehearsal.” The brunette smiled impishly, letting her gaze drift over to Sam.

“Oh yeah? What would that be called then, the undress rehearsal?” Terri’s eyes sparkled in delight that she’d finally been able to tease the bride-to-be.

“Oh, enough. She’s going to be a part of the family.” Mable warned. “Randi, why don’t you go next?”

“Oh, excuse me,” Sandy tapped Randi on the shoulder. “May I?” The older woman motioned in the direction of the bathroom.

“Sure,” the lawyer got up, letting Sandy pass.

Seeing the direction that her aunt was heading for, Sam got up and started to walk with her. “I guess you’ll need me to show you the way, too?”

“No, Dear.” Sandy looked a little annoyed. “I know where it is. You…you just stay and open your gifts.”

“Oh…” the blonde’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Okay.” She stopped her forward motion and returned to her seat. “I guess you’re up, Randi.” Sam held out her hand for the box.

The lawyer reached out and handed her box across the table to Sam. “Here ya go, Sis.” Randi winked at the blonde and smiled as she sat back down.

Sam was struck by the term of acceptance from the woman. “Thanks, sis,” she said with a little lilt to it. It took the blonde several tries to open it, but the task was soon done. Sam peered into the box while she attempted to bring the words that were written on the lid into focus. “What is it, Randi? I can’t quit make it out.” Sam opened the lid and held up several of the irregularly shaped pieces in the air.

Peering over her sister’s shoulder, Sarah looked just as confused. “What is it, Sam?”

“Damned if I know.” Sam shrugged, and then looked over to Randy.

“It’s a puzzle, Sam.” Randi reached over and held up two more pieces, showing how they fit together. “Every time that you have sex you get to put a piece in place.” The eldest sibling looked around the room. “Hey, I got one and well, Brian and I kind of liked it.”

“Ah…” Sarah nodded. “So this puzzle will be completed by the time they leave Vermont, right?” The teen flashed her sister a toothy smile.

“Oh Lordy,” Mable shook her head as she fanned her face. “Do we even want to know what that picture will look like?”

Randi leaned forward, reaching out to get the blushing woman’s attention. “Psst! Don’t worry, Sam. I got the Lesbian sensitive one.” The lawyer smiled as her comment brought the roomful of women howling with laughter.

Terri leaned forward and peeked down the hall to the bathroom door, then called over, getting the blonde’s attention. “Hey, Sam…your aunt’s been gone for a bit. Why don’t you go check on her?”

“Suuurrrrreee,” Sam drew the word out as she handed the box away from her sister. “I’ll be right…right back, everyone.”

The blonde got up and gingerly walked back to the bathroom door. Standing before it, she steadied herself before giving it a little knock. “Aunt Sandy, are you okay in there?”

“I’m fine, Sammi. Come on in.” The sweet voice floated through the door. “Whew, that’s some good stuff there.”

Sam laughed as she opened the door to find the flask being shoved back into her hands.

“Drink up, my dear,” the older woman raised one finger up in the air and did a little dance in the confined space that the bathroom allowed. “I’m getting jiggy with it already.”

Giving a little giggle at the humorous display of dance, Sam put the flask to her mouth and tipped her head back, taking a drink. Bringing the container away from her mouth, she swallowed. “Hey,” she smiled, “that wasn’t so bad that time.” Immediately the blonde took another little drink just to prove that she was right. “Come on, Aunt Sandy, I want to get to Sarah’s gift.”

“That a girl.” Sandy took the flask back and capped it. “Let’s go.”

The sound of the infomercial that was coming on to the late night TV filled the room as Peter sorted through the cards one last time. “There goes the game,” he said tossing them one by one into the wastebasket.

Peter looked over to Brooke who was still seated at the table and shook his head. “Enough of the fun stuff, let’s just drink.” He walked over to the bottle and poured everyone in the room another round.

Collectively, they each grabbed a drink and, in a domino effect, threw them back, one after the other, until all six were done.

“Well, that was fun,” Brian said sarcastically as he scratched his neck, and then went back to watching the TV.

“Well, don’t have any fun without me,” Henry set his glass down on the table. “I’ll be back as soon as I drop my booster tank.” He walked past his daughter, giving a pat to her shoulder and a nod, and then ambled into the bathroom.

“Well,” Peter settled into a chair across the table from Brooke. “I guess that you showed them, eh Brooke?” He looked over to her with a satisfied smile on his face.

“Yeah, I guess that I did.” Brooke played with the shot glass in her hand as she thought about the past few hours. “Hey, I gots one for you guiz,” she smirked.

“Sure,” Brian turned from the TV and looked over to the table, “Hit us with it.”

Brooke looked to the other three for their approval. Hearing no protests, the woman sat back in her chair and slowly stated her question. “Sey that yoo’re having sets wif yoor wife…”

“Sets?” Brian asked, completely puzzled. “Is that some…ah…lesbian term for…ah…you know…” He looked to the rest of the guys present and thrust his hand in a pumping motion.

Four sets of eyes slowly turned to look to Brooke for the answer.

“Bite me,” she glared at them all.

“No thanks, but Sam might.” Rick let go with a chuckle.

Straightening up, Brooke carefully restated her question. “You’re having sex with your wife and you’ve almost got her to the edge, but not quite. What do you do?” She eyed the men carefully.

“Who’s having sex?” Brian looked around to the other men with children. “It must be you Rick, ’cause it sure isn’t any of us.”

Henry came walking back over to the table. “What did I miss?”

“Nothing, Pop. Sit down and take a load off.” Brooke turned her attention back to her brother-in-law. “It’s hypothetical, Brian.” She picked up the bottle on the table and poured herself a drink, then downed it. “You have to answer it. What do you do?”

“Well,” Brain rubbed his neck nervously. “Randi would kill me if this ever got out but…” he looked around the group. “She really gets off when I talk dirty to her.” Brian started to turn red as soon as he looked over to Henry, then quickly let his gaze go to the floor as he mumbled, “It’s got to be something about the street language that does it with lawyers.”

Brooke smiled like Satan himself. “URP! Wrong answer.” She poured him a drink, then handed him the shot glass. “Drink up, my man.” She watched as he took the offered glass and chugged it, then turned her attention to the next victim in her game. “Rick?”

“Me, ah…ah…” he wiggled nervously in his seat. “A…a little Viagra never hurts.” Rick looked to the men on either side of him. “You know, just to go a little stronger and longer.” He finished, looking a little sheepishly at Brooke.

The woman arched an eyebrow at his answer. “URP! Wrong answer,” Brooke was quick to say. She poured a shot glass for Rick and then one for herself. Handing Rick his, she held hers up and saluted him. Together, they downed their drinks.

Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, Brooke looked over in her ex-band mate’s direction. “Petey?”

“Hey, I’m out of it.” Peter pushed his chair back from the table, as if to distance himself from the challenge. “You said if you were having sex with your wife.” He held up his left hand and pointed to his ring finger, smiling from ear to ear. “I’m not married.”

“Osay…a minor tecknicalidy.” Brooke stopped and rethought what she had just said, then shrugged it off, not seeing anything wrong with it. “Girl friend than…then.”

Peter mumbled inaudibly as he adjusted his position in the chair.

“Juss answer, Petey,” Brooke urged.

The audible grumbling started while the pressured man snarled at the woman across from him. “Anyone in particular that you’re thinking about?”

Beleaguered by the alcohol, Brooke sat forward and smacked the table with her open hand. “URP! Wrong answer.” She slid the shot glass and bottle toward Peter. “Drink up, my man,” the dark-haired woman winked at her friend, and then chuckled as she sank back into her chair, looking around for her next contestant.

“Dad?” Brooke looked to her father, and then shook her head when he looked in her direction. “Nope, never mind. You’re not allowed to answer.”

Henry looked at his daughter in a somewhat puzzled manner, and then slowly settled into a subtle smile as she moved over to Sam’s father and tapped him on the shoulder. “Looks like you’re up, Samuel.” He pointed over to Brooke.

“Hmm…then again, Mr. Moleson, I don’t think you’re allowed to answer either.”

Startled by her statement, Samuel came forward. “What, are you saying that I’m not getting any?” He let on like he was angry.

“No, it’s not that. It just makes you think, you know?” Brooke offered in her defense.

Samuel leaned over to Brooke’s father. “Is this where I tell her that Moleson women don’t have sex after the wedding night, except on their birthdays?” Both men then let out with a hardy laugh.

“Yeah…right,” Brooke muttered under her breath as she rolled her eyes. I just meant that once you realize that your parents or your wife’s parents do have sex, you want to think of the moment you were conceived as being romantic with candles and music and roses.” She looked to both men. “When in all actuality, both of you were probably wearing leather while you were saying, ‘Bark, Bitch, Bark!’ You know what I mean?” Brooke watched as her father repositioned himself in his chair and cleared his throat.

“Hardly, Brooke. It’s not Elaine’s style.” Samuel laughed.

“Well, see, that’s why I don’t think I wanna know what either of you two would do.” She looked at them with a coy smile. “But feel free to answer if you like.” She took the empty glasses in front of her and started filling them with liquor.

Henry looked out of the side of his eye to Sam’s father. “I kind of liked what she said about the mood being right, don’t you?”

The man nodded as he replied. “Yeah, that’s my answer. The mood will do it every time.” Samuel let his mouth curl up into a smile.

The dark-haired woman savored the answer for a moment, and then her blue eyes shone brightly as they came to life. From out of nowhere came her boisterous reply, “URP! WRONG ANSWER!”

She laughed at their startled faces and handed each of them a glass of liquor. She sat back, pulling a glass up to her lips and chuckled. “All of you got it wrong.” She winked at the group gathered before her and tipped the glass, spilling the liquid into her mouth.

“So, Oh-great-wise-one,” Brian smirked as he reached for a shot of his own. “What is the right answer?”

“Hmm…” Brooke licked her lips to get the last of the sweet tasting liquid that clung to them and smiled. “I don’t even know if I should share it with you.” She sat back and watched their changing expressions.

“Come on, Brooke, you’re among friends,” Peter coaxed her.

“Family even,” Rick chimed in, eager for the answer.

Brooke stood up and walked around the table, positioning herself with her back to Samuel. “What do you do to put her over the edge?” She grinned. “This…” The woman thrust her tongue out as far as she could and proceeded to put it through its various exercises. When she was finished, she winked and reached for another glass of liquor.

There was a stunned silence as the men sat there replaying the memory clip in their heads. Finally, one by one, each tried to recreate what they had seen. Brooke casually walked back to her chair and sat down; putting one booted foot on the edge of the bed and watched their amateur attempts.

“Hey, Brooke, how’s this?” Rick called out, and then set about displaying a less than stellar performance, his tongue barely moving at all.

“URP! Wrong answer, Rick.” Brooke laughed. “You can’t do it.” She reached up and poured him a glass. “Take it like a man,” she pointed to the drink, and then moved on down the line.

“Okay, I think I can do at least some of that.” Brian’s deeply concentrated attempt looked more like a stingray swimming in the ocean than anything did. His tongue mobility was there but the gene for rolling it was long removed from his family. Finishing, he closed his mouth and swallowed. “The question I have is, what do you do with it?”

Laughing even harder now, she handed her brother-in-law a glass and filled it. “URP! That’s definitely the wrong answer, Brian. If you have to ask what you do with it, I’m surprised that Randi’s still with you.”

Turning in her seat she looked over at Peter. “Care to give it a shot or do you want another replay, Petey?” Brooke held up her hand to conceal her oral activity from Samuel’s view, and then proceeded to demonstrate her exceptional ability once more.

“What is it…” Samuel leaned in his seat to see. “What is she doing?”

“Ah, Mr. Moleson,” Peter saw the man starting to get up in his peripheral vision. “I…I don’t think you want to know. Just keep it in your mind that your daughter is in very good…ah…ah…hands…” his eyes blinked at a particularly difficult example that Brooke was demonstrating at the moment, “…yeah…hands.” Peter got up and moved closer to Brooke. His eyes were riveted on her tongue. “Is that even possible?” He glanced over to the other men behind him, then back at Brooke. “Are you double…double…” his eyes got bigger and he flopped back into a chair. “Hell, they never told us about that in health class.”

“You know, Brooke,” Henry smiled at his daughter’s talents. “Your mother was right.”

She finally reeled in her tongue and closed her mouth. “About whaz, Pop?”

“You are my daughter.” Henry stuck out his tongue and demonstrated his own ability with a brief episode of dexterity.

“And I thought it was just fancy whistling that you were teaching me.” Brooke winked and mimicked her father’s actions with her own.

Taking several small steps, Samuel finally got the dual tongue display in his view. Stopping dead in his tracks at the sight, he covered his eyes with his hands. “Oh God!”

Brooke’s heart started racing with the sound of the familiar phrase and she quickly looked over to her future father-in-law and grinned. “Yep, and the apple didn’t fall far from that tree either.” She swept the room with her gaze, a broad smile spreading across her face. “I’m telling you, it works every time.”

The bride-to-be came walking back into the room with Ida following close behind, the two still carrying on in mid conversation. “Yeah, well thanks for that,” Sam put her hand out to steady herself against the wall as she rounded the corner from the hallway into the party room. “Oh, lost my balance a little there. You’d think I’d know this path by now, I’ve taken it so many times.”

“Are you okay?” Ida grabbed at Sam’s arm and guided her slightly.

The blonde giggled then went back to her previous train of thought. “Thanks for that refreshment…no, refreshing conversa…talk. Let’s do it again, sometime.” Sam furrowed her brow as though she were deep in thought. “Do we get refreshment…no…coffee…” she stopped in mid sentence, then started over again. “Do we get breaks like this at work?”

“Hardly,” Ida nudged Sam in the direction of her seat. “Your boss is a real slave driver.” The older woman watched out for her Boss’s love interest as Sam plopped down into her chair, then moved around the group to take her own seat.

Fanning herself with both hands, Sam turned toward her sister, who was sitting next to her. “Whew! It’s getting warm in here. Don’t you think?”

Amid the concealed chuckles and giggles of the bathroom travelers, Sarah answered her. “It must be that ski clothing that you’re still wearing, Sis.”

Hearing the reasoning of the teen, Randi and Crystal looked at each other and grinned, knowing full well what was making Sam so warm.

“I don’t know what you all are getting so giddy about.” Mable looked around the room at the women on either side of her. “The poor girl’s dressed for the ski slopes and here we are inside and enough bodies around her to make anybody warm.” The matriarch looked over to Sam, “Sweetheart, do you need another drink?”

As if on cue, the bride-to-be started to get up from her seat, ready for another bathroom trip.

Mable listened to the sound of cackling voices all around her as she showed her concern for Sam. “What’s so funny?”

Sarah studied her rather flushed looking sister for a moment, then tugged her back down into her seat and handed her a present. “Open mine next, Sam.” She looked to her sister with hope in her green eyes. “Please?”

“Sure, Sarah.” Sam took the box. “Let’s see what you got me.” The bride-to–be smiled at her sister, then quickly pulled off the decorative wrapping and opened the box. “Oh my!” Sam paused from saying anything more as she tried to focus on the articles in the box. Gingerly, she reached in and took the first piece out, holding the delicate looking sheer material in her hands for all to see.

“Whoa! That’s some nice looking top there. That sure ain’t no winter nightie.” Crystal voiced her opinion as she half stood up trying to peek into the box. “Let’s see the rest.”

“Sure it will keep her warm. That warming will happen about ten seconds after Brooke sees it and then everything will heat up.” C.C. shot a glance to her ex-roomie and teased. “Won’t it, Sam?”

The blonde smiled, her face a continual shade of red now from the alcohol. “Whatever you say, C.C.” Sam giggled. She laid the top down and picked up the remaining piece in the box. Holding it up, she tried to decipher where it was to be worn. The two spaghetti-looking straps confused her and she looked at the size of the article again.

“Sarah, I may have to return this. It doesn’t seem to be the right size.” Sam held it up by the waistband, stretching it open to look through it, seeing Mable’s face outlined by the two thin straps. “I’ll never be able to fit my head in between those straps.”

The giggles started all over again as they realized that it wasn’t Sam’s head that needed to be there.

“Sam…” C.C. called to her friend as she watched her try to make sense of the piece from every conceivable angle. “Sam…” she said a little louder.

“What, C.C.?”

“Sam, they’re crotch-less panties with a matching top.” C.C. giggled. “That piece is not the top.”

The blonde’s eyes got bigger as she slowly turned the article of clothing to its correct position. “Well, I hope you didn’t pay full price for these, they seem to be missing some material.” The blonde looked up at the sound of laughter erupting around her. She looked to her sister. “Sarah, why would you get me these?”

“Well,” the teen shrugged her shoulders. “I figured that Brooke wouldn’t mind you finding religion in bed as long as you wore something ah…” Sarah smiled devilishly, “…inspirational.”

“Oh God.”

“C.C. took me to get them,” Sarah started to point the blame. “She said that Victoria’s Secrets was the only place that you shopped besides Frederick’s and there wasn’t any of those around.”

“Oh God.” The bride-to-be brought her hand to her face and hid in the material she was holding.

“Yeah, well you picked them out, Sarah,” C.C. tried to shift the blame away from herself.

“OH GOD!” Sam shook her head in disbelief as she pulled back to see that she’d been holding the crotchless panties to her face. “Well, I know one person that won’t mind having her face here.”

The pediatrician studied the look on Sam’s face, deciding that it was one of wonton desire as she hesitantly placed the clothing back into its box.

“Me thinks someone is missing, Brooke.” Terri motioned with her head to her sisters at the silent guest of honor. “She’s thinking about that wedding night already. Look how red she’s getting.”

Sam handed the box to Sarah, and then started to fan herself again. “God, isn’t anybody else hot in here?” She looked around the room until she heard C.C.’s voice.

“I am,” the brunette got up from her seat. “How about we go get some air?” C.C. made the offer to her friend as she started walking out of the room.

“Whew! Sounds good to me.” Sam rose from her chair. “Let’s go.”

Rounding the door into the bathroom, Sam closed it and looked up expectantly to C.C. “Well, where’s that flask?”

“What flask?” C.C. lifted the back lid off the commode and stuck her hand down in the water. Within seconds she emerged with her prize and turned holding a bottle of liquor in her hand. “Who needs a flask when I got the whole bottle?” The brunette grinned from ear to ear.

“Now that’s what I like,” Sam smiled as she watched C.C. unscrew the top off. “One well-prepared roomie.”

“That’s ex-roomie, Sam,” the brunette corrected her. “It’s your party. I’ll let you go first.” C.C. offered the opened bottle.

“Don’t mind if I do.” Sam took the bottle and raised it to her lips. After taking a long pull from it, she handed it back to C.C. “Your turn, ex-roomie,” Sam made sure to exaggerate the word.

The two young women exchanged the bottle amidst small talk and laughter, soon losing track of how long they were there, when the sound of a soft knock came to the door.

Annoyed by the interruption, C.C. pushed open the door. “What? Can’t you see we’re busy.” Her eyes fell on her sister Randi. “Oh, come on in and bring your friends with you.” She motioned with the bottle in her hand to Crystal and her mother. “Come on in, there’s plenty of room.” C.C. moved over to stand on the other side of the commode. “Sam, move on down there. Let’s give the late arrivals some room.”

“God, what is this, a party?” Sam laughed hysterically as she reached again for the bottle.

Randi moved closer to her sister and smacked her in the head with an open hand, then grabbed the bottle from her.

“Ow!” C.C. rubbed her head as she ducked away from another attempt. “What was that for?”

“So, you’re the one who took off with the whole bottle.” Randi looked at the liquor bottle to see that it was two drops fuller than empty, then turned to the others. “Who’s got that flask?”

The sound of a loud burp came from the far corner of the tiny room, drawing everyone’s attention to it. There stood Sandy with the opened flask still in her hand. “That’s some good stuff,” the woman said as she held the container up to see if there was any more left to drink. Seeing none, she turned it upside down. “Oops, all gone,” she said with a silly smile on her face.

Sam watched as the door opened and one by one the women filed out. “Hey, where’s everybody going?” She edged up behind C.C. as she moved closer to the door. “I thought we had a party going on.”

Feeling slightly dizzy, Sam braced her arms against the door frame. Within seconds she felt the nausea strike her as if someone had just jumped on her stomach. The blonde looked up to see two figures before her, her eyes crossing and unable to focus, she didn’t know who they were.

Terri studied Sam for only a moment. “You okay, kid? You don’t look so hot.”

Sam lowered one hand to her abdomen as another wave of nausea came over her. “Oh God…” she moaned, turning paler by the minute.

Sarah shook her head and sighed. “There she goes, praying again and Brooke’s not even here.” She placed one hand on her hip. “And all I wanted to do was to use the facilities.”

The physician looked at the assortment of women draped over anything that would hold their weight in sound sleep and smiled. “God, I feel just like I’m at work, even on my days off,” Terri muttered under her breath, then moved through the suite to the bedroom.

Opening the door, she looked in to see Sam finally asleep with one arm wrapped around C.C., while her other hand held on tightly to the empty ice bucket. Pleased that Sam had finally gotten a few hours of sleep, Terri turned to leave when she felt the touch of a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Looking back, she saw the top of her mother’s hair. “Hi, Mom.”

“Morning, Terri,” Mable greeted her daughter. “How’s your patient doing? Will she live to get married?”

“Take a look for yourself,” Terri moved away from the door. “She stopped throwing up around three in the morning. I figured I’d let her sleep as much as she can before her big day starts.”

“You know that wasn’t nice what all you girls did to Sam.” Mable gave Terri a stern look. “If I would have known sooner, I would have put a stop to it.”

“Mom, we’ve all been there on our last night of freedom. It’s just that you were never invited.” Terri tried to hide her need to grin. “Come on, I’m sure that even you did something a little over indulgent before you got married.” The physician tried to turn the tables on her mother.

“Well…” Mable’s eyes darted around the room for a moment, then settled back onto her daughter. “Now, Terri… she raised her finger to scold, then stopped abruptly. “Yeah, you’re right. Jenny Thompson and I stayed up all night and…” Mable turned her head, putting her hand up to halt the conversation. “This isn’t about me, young lady. Today is about Sam and your sister, Brooke.”

Terri smiled, pleased at having the heat suddenly evaporate from the smoldering fire of her mother’s anger. “You’re right, Mom. Today is about someone other than us. Here,” Terri motioned for her to come past her. “See for yourself. Sam is resting just fine.”

The matriarch pushed past her daughter, then craned her neck around the half-opened door to get a better look at the sleeping women. Smiling as she backed away, Mable turned to her physician-daughter. “Well, I guess if you can’t have the sister you love lying next to you, her closest sibling would be the best choice.”

Terri nodded. “Speaking of which, I’d better give Rick a call and see how our other bachelorette of the night is doing.”

“Yes, and while you’re at it, see how the rest of our brave warriors are doing, would you? I’m going to look in on the rest of this motley, drunken crew on the way out. Thanks for staying with them, Terri. I know that they’re in good hands,” Mable patted her daughter’s arm. “Just like Randi knows that her kids are with me.” Mable thought for a moment. “Hmph…that’s why you didn’t let me in on the…” the matriarch’s eyes got bigger. “Oh, you girls had this all figured out, didn’t you?”

“Uhh-huh…” Terri smiled. “Thanks Mom,” she winked, then rubbed one hand on her stomach. “I’ll remember that for future reference.”

“Anytime, Terri. I’m always happy to watch my grandchildren.”

Hearing a loud buzzing sound interspersed with gasps and snores that were coming from the area, she thought better of using the phone in the living room. “I think I’ll make that call to Rick from the bedroom. See ya later, Mom.” Terri saw the subtle nod of her mother’s head, then entered the bedroom where the sound of only two snoring people was more conducive to a phone conversation.

Picking up the telephone in the bedroom, Terri quickly placed her call to her husband. “Hey, Honey, how’s my sister doing?”

“Hi there, Beautiful,” he chuckled. “She’s doing fine. She’s nervous as all hell, but she’s okay otherwise. I can’t believe that she hasn’t thrown up yet.”

“She was like that even as a kid,” Terri informed her husband. “She’ll hold it in until she makes herself sicker.” Terri shifted the phone from one hand to another. “I hope that you’re letting her get some sleep. I figured that the buzz they both got should give them at least one good night of sleep,” Terri chuckled.

“Gee, thanks for the warning. So, how’s Sam doing?” Rick asked, using every means to spend some time with his wife.

“She’s good, now.” Terri turned to look at her patient. “Resting comfortably in C.C.’s bed. I’m glad that we made her get this suite now. I’ve got four more patients than I was planning on having, thanks to their wonton alcohol consumption out in the living room.”

“How was her party? Did she like that nightie you bought her?”

Terri thought for a moment, choosing her words carefully. “It was ah…” the Pediatrician giggled, “embarrassing for her, to say the least. I don’t think Sam’s going to remember much of it, though.” Terri looked over to the slumbering blonde. “I’m sure that Brooke will be the one to really appreciate my good taste in clothing.”

“Oh, sounds like she’s going to be a bit dehydrated when she gets up. Don’t let her be hungover, Babe.”

“I know, I know,” Terri rolled her eyes at her husband’s reminder. “Two liters of intravenous fluids and plenty of coffee and toast. Don’t worry, she’ll be fine by the time she has to walk down the aisle.”

“Right,” Rick agreed. “How’s everybody else, doing?”

Terri thought about her Mother’s term for the women sleeping off the effects of the liquor in the next room. “Well, I think we better have room service send us some Tylenol to each of the rooms. I’m sure that if my motley, drunken crew here is anything close to yours, there’s going to be plenty of headaches going around this morning.”

“GAWD,” the word was shouted, then followed by an immediate yelp of pained agony. “I’m in hell!”

Terri pulled the receiver away from her ear, then carefully listened until Brooke’s yelling stopped on the other end of the connection. “Rick, what are you guys doing to my sister? It sounds like you’re torturing her.”

“Oops, that’s my cue, Babe. I’ve gotta go, and no, we haven’t done anything to her.” He smirked, “She’s just got up with what I’d call a major headache.”

“Oh God, Brooke. That’s disgusting,” Brian called out loud enough for Terri to hear.

“What’s happening, Rick?”

“Brooke just barfed all over Brian’s shoes,” Rick groaned. “I hope he brought more than one pair with him ’cause those are wastebasket food now.”

Terri couldn’t help but laugh, having lost a few pairs of her own shoes in just the same manner. “Well, you’d better get going. Speaking of which, I’d better look back in on my women’s ward over here.”

“RICK!” Brian’s shrill cry broke the air. “Carry your sorry ass in here and fix this shit. You’re the doctor here.”

“Yeah,” Terri smirked, “I can hear that you guys showed her a really good time. Later, Rick.”

“Bye, Babe.”

Terri hung up the phone and looked over to the quietly sleeping blonde. “Boy, am I thankful that you did that last night and not this morning. I’m not too sure that I wouldn’t be joining you myself, now.” Terri reached into her pocket and pulled out her package of saltine crackers as she moved toward the door. She opened the plastic bag and promptly popped one of the morsels into her mouth. “Well, that’ll help my nausea.” She looked back to Sam one last time before exiting the room. “And as soon as you wake up, I’ll see what I can do to help yours.”

“Come on, Brooke, you’re fine. It’s just nerves.” Brian stood outside the bathroom door in his stocking feet. “We all do before we get married. Why in the hell do you think the custom of getting drunk the night before got started? It’s so everybody thinks that’s why you’re puking your guts out.”

“Go away, Brian.” Brooke’s lackluster voice came through the door.

“Brooke, I’m not going to be the one to tell you what to do, but if you don’t come out soon, you’re going to be late for your own wedding.” Brian began to pace, knowing that he too, still had to get dressed.

“Go away, I said.”

Hearing that, Brian threw his arms up in the air and started muttering under his breath. “Yeah, get me in trouble with your mother and my wife. Mable and Randi will have my head if they find out. It’s not bad enough you trashed my favorite pair of shoes.” He turned abruptly in midstep and looked up to see C.C. poking her head into the half-opened door to the room.

“Hey, Brian.” C.C. did a quick scan of the room with her eyes. “What’s the hold up? I thought that Brooke was supposed to meet with the minister at two?”

“C.C., thank God!” The exasperated man jumped for joy at the sight of seeing Brooke’s favorite sibling. “Hold up? Oh, nothing except she’s been throwing up for the last 2 hours. Maybe you can get her to come out.”

The brunette walked over to the bathroom door and gently tapped it. “Hey, Brooke.”

“No, not again.” Brooke moaned.

C.C. could hear the sound of dry heaves as she put her hand on the doorknob and started to turn it slowly. “You done doing that disgusting stuff? …’Cause if you’re not, I’m just gonna go tell Sam that you want to call it all off.”

“NO!” Brooke replied, without a second of hesitation.

The young woman at the door looked back into the room as Peter entered. She smiled at her sister’s reply. “So,” C.C. glanced over to Peter. “You coming out or what?”

“I don’t get it.” Peter spoke quietly, “Rick gave her that surefire remedy.” He looked over to Brian.

“Go on in, C.C.,” Brian encouraged her. “Maybe she won’t hit you.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” C.C. muttered, then turned back to the door, opening it slowly and peeking in. “You okay, Sis?”

Brian and Peter stood behind C.C., trying their best to see how Brooke was doing. Their eyes fell on a dark-haired woman sitting curled up in a ball, her face a ghostly pale shade of her real color.

“No.” Brooke raised her eyes to C.C. as she wrapped her arms around her legs, holding her knees close to her chest. “God, Chase…make it go away…puhleease.” The drummer closed her eyes and let her forehead come to rest on her knees.

“Good gods,” Brian gasped. “You look like Randi when she gets that first bout of morning sickness the minute that she’s pregnant.” The man quipped and gave a little laugh. Seeing Brooke’s pained look as she slowly turned her head in his direction and the fire in her steely blue eyes, he immediately stopped.

Before he could say another word, Brooke’s arm moved with a fluid motion, sending the shampoo bottle hurtling toward the door. Brian’s quick reflexes enabled him to grab the doorknob and yank it shut as C.C. just barely ducked out of the way. With a thud, the bottle hit and shattered, letting the gooey liquid to slowly ooze down the door.

“Jeez, Brooke,” C.C. straightened back up. “You could have ruined my outfit. You know, I didn’t get to bring my whole closet to pick and choose from.” She looked back down to her sister and a thought came to her mind. “Brooke,” She knelt down beside her and spoke softly. “You didn’t do anything…ah…stupid last night, did you?”

“Stupid? Like what?” She muttered, as she became tucked back into a ball again. “You mean other than being stupid enough to let every male in this family get me shit-faced?” Brooke lifted her head and shot a mean-eyed glance at C.C. “No.”

C.C. let out a sigh, “Whew…that’s a relief.”

“What did you think I did?” The arched eyebrow made its appearance making her face even harsher looking than before.

“Never mind, let’s just get you up and presentable.” C.C. tried to move on to another subject.

Brooke saw the lip biting of her sister and threatened her. “Tell me C.C., or so help me God, I’ll throw up on you right now.”

The brunette took in a breath. “Well, you know how guys are. I thought maybe that they got you one of those cake things…ah…with a sleepover or something. Or that maybe you…ah…sorta tried something that you knew you wouldn’t get, after today.” C.C. cringed as the flames of hell seemed to take up residence in Brooke’s gaze. “Not that you would have. I know better, but with the booze and all…”

“NO! NEVER!” Brooke started to rise to one knee, “How could you even think…” her speech was interrupted by the need of her body to expel both the contents of her stomach and the thought from her mind. She turned to the toilet and clung onto the ceramic bowl as she sang her praises to the porcelain god.

“Open mouth, insert foot,” C.C. muttered to herself as she helped her sister by holding back her long hair. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up and presentable.

The woman moved away from the bowl, taking the tissue that was handed to her and wiped her mouth. “Ugh.” She looked at it, then threw it into the mess as she reached for the handle to flush it away. Slipping back down and laying on the floor, Brooke wrapped her arms around her stomach. “Why do I have to feel like shit on my wedding day?”

“Seriously Sis,” the brunette sat down on the edge of the tub. “I think you would have been sick, no matter what day this was, after the party you had last night. I saw all those empty liquor bottles outside of the room when I came in.”

“C.C.?”

“Yeah?”

“What if she gets tired of me?” Brooke furrowed her brow even more. “What is she decides that she doesn’t love me anymore? Then what do I do?”

The brunette could not help but laugh. “Tired of you? Is that what all this is about?” C.C. slapped her own leg as she shook her head. “Never, Sis. It’s never going to happen. She loves you more than life itself.”

Brooke closed her eyes in prayer that her youngest sister was correct. Wanting the support and the closeness that she needed from C.C., Brooke slowly raised her upper torso off the floor and crawled over to her sister.

“What if I screw up, C.C.?” Brooke cast her eyes to the floor. “I don’t know how to be married.”

“I know that it’s scary, Brooke.” The brunette gently guided her sister’s head down onto her lap and stroked the long dark hair. “Trust me, I know that she loves you.” C.C. smiled then gave a little chuckle. “You know that Sam couldn’t stop talking about you all night?” She felt Brooke’s head turn to look up at her as she continued. “Even when she was blitzed, you were all that she talked about.”

“Really?” Brooke gulped, looking up for reassurance.

“Really.” C.C. nodded and smiled as she met her sister’s gaze. “Brooke, if you ask me, you’ve been married to her ever since you started dating her.”

There was a moment of silence while C.C.’s words sank in, then the subtle upturn came to Brooke’s lips when she had to agree that her sister was right.

Seeing the hint of color coming back into Brooke’s cheeks, C.C. gave her a comforting rub to her back. “Now what do you say we pull you together and get you to your own wedding.” C.C. bent over enough to make eye contact with Brooke. “Hmm…?”

“Maybe…” Brooke looked down at herself. “Maybe I should take another shower,” she stated. “and my teeth…God knows, I have to brush my teeth.”

The brunette raised her nose to sniff the air, then made a terrible looking face. “Yeah, that might not be such a bad idea if you plan on getting next to someone for the rest of your life.”

The young woman leaned into the mirror. She was amazed at the lack of any ill effects from the party the night before. Even her eyes showed no dark circles from the evening of drinking. In fact, if the truth was to be known, Sam felt pretty well rested at that. No one would have believed that she’d been throwing up until the wee hours of the morning.

Sam smiled when she heard the door open and Randi stuck her head in. Catching the lawyer’s eye, she motioned for her to come in.

“Thanks,” Randi gave her a little wave, then slipped into the room. “So, Sam, you ready for the ceremony?”

“Yeah,” she nodded. “Nervous but ready. Hey, Randi…” Sam watched as the tall woman’s eyes came to gaze in her direction. “Tell whomever it was, “thanks” from me, for getting me something other than that ski outfit to wear.”

“Sure,” the lawyer stood behind Sam and smiled. “So, Sam, do you have everything that you need for today…I mean…do you have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue?

The blonde stared at the reflection of her outfit in the mirror. “God, I’m not sure. Do blue jeans count for both the old and blue?”

Randi laughed. “Don’t worry about it, kiddo. I…uh…I kind of took care of the new for you.”

“Huh?” Sam spun around and looked at the tall woman rather confused.

“Well…I don’t know,” the lawyer tugged at her earlobe. “I just thought that maybe…you know, later on down the road when your kids are looking at your wedding photos that you would want to… ”

“Randi,” Sam smiled. “Kids, huh? I see that Julie’s been working on you about this, too.” She laughed at the lawyer’s slight tinge of blush that was growing up her face.

“I dunno…We thought that maybe you might like to have a dress instead of jeans. So, Thursday night before we went home after work, Brian and I met up and bought you this.” Randi went over to the closet in the room and retrieved the article of clothing. Turning, she presented it to Sam. “It’s not much, really, but we talked about it and just wanted to do something to let you know that…”

Sam watched as the older woman brought the dress closer to her. “Oh my God, it’s gorgeous.” The blonde reached out and felt the delicate material of one of the sheer sleeves. “Randi, you and Brian shouldn’t have…”

The smile stretched across Randi’s face, once she saw Sam’s reaction. “Well, I guess I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I was such a bitch with Brooke about you in the beginning. You’re the best thing that could’ve ever come her way. I can see that now.” The lawyer shrugged, “And well…it’s our way of saying, ‘Welcome to the family’ kiddo.”

Sam reached up and gave the tall woman a hug, kissing her softly on the cheek. “No apology necessary, Randi. I know that you were only protecting Brooke like you’d do for any of your sisters.”

“Yeah,” Randi handed her the dress. “Well, now I have you to think about, too.” She winked, then chuckled as she continued, “So if you ever need anything…”

“Thank you.” Sam took the dress in one hand as she gave the lawyer a hug with the other. Holding the dress up for both of them to admire, the blonde looked down to her own body. “Now, what can we do to replace these sneakers?” Sam laughed as she saw another woman’s reflection in the mirror.

“I’ve got that covered, Sis.” Sarah held up a pair of matching shoes as she ducked her head into the open door. “Here you go. Your ex-roomie said that you might want to be a little comfortable today. You know, like having a pair that are already broken in.” The teen came closer to the mirror. “She had me grab them out of your closet before we took off.” The teen looked over to Randi and smiled. “I think that she put the bug in C.C.’s ear.”

“Thanks, both of you.” Sam looked at Randi first, and then reached out to embrace Sarah. “God, I love having such thoughtful sisters.” The blonde straightened up, taking the shoes from Sarah and placed them on the floor. “Well, I guess that’s something old and something new,” she giggled.

“No,” Terri stood at the door of the room smirking. “You’ll get the old once you marry my sister.” The pediatrician laughed as she tossed her hands up in the air. “Hey, C.C.’s not here and I finally got a chance to get one in. That’s kid’s too quick for me anymore.”

Sam heard the knock on the door and hastily handed Randi the dress before heading out of the bedroom. “Well, at least she’s not the something borrowed.” Sam smiled devilishly, as she walked past Terri and entered the other room of the suite. “‘Cause I’m not giving her back.”

“I wonder who that could be?” Randi said after hearing the persistent knocking at the door. Within seconds, her brain engaged in thought with panic settling in her being. The lawyer’s eyes grew big as she pointed toward the door. “Stop her, Terri. God, that could be Brooke.”

The pediatrician turned to the door, but it was too late. Sam had too big of a lead on her to even attempt to stop her.

Hearing Brooke’s name being mentioned was all that it took to speed Sam to the door. With her heart beating anxiously in her chest, she grabbed onto the doorknob and flung open the door. “Brooke…” Sam looked up to see a familiar looking face on the other side of the doorway.

“Oh, sorry. I was…I was expecting someone else, Mrs. Humphreys.”

“Well, my, my, my, Ms. Moleson…” Janet cocked her head to one side, “…or should I say Mrs. Gordon?”

“I…I…I’m not sure,” Sam was surprised by the question. “Ah…Come in.” Sam stepped back to allow her to enter.

“Thank you.” Janet entered, watching as the blonde stuck her head out into the hallway, looking first to the left then to the right. “Ah…Sam?”

“Yes Mrs. Humphreys?” the young woman reluctantly entered the room again, closing the door.

“When we’re not in class, you can call me Janet. That just seems too weird having your oldest friend’s spouse call you by such a formal title.”

Green eyes sparkled with the giddiness of a schoolgirl. “Yeah, I guess so.” The shy smile couldn’t stop the hint of a blush that came to her face.

“So, are you gonna try that dress on or do we all have to use our imaginations?” The professor pointed to the dress still in Randi’s hand.

“You know, Sam, it’s getting close to the time we have to leave.” Terri looked to her watch.

“Just give me a minute or two to change,” Sam moved toward the bedroom when she heard a snapping sound come from behind her. Turning, she impulsively put her hand in front of her face and caught the blue blur that was coming at her.

“Don’t forget that. You’ll be needing it.” Janet called out with a smile.

“Hey, what is it.” Sam held it up to look at the article. “A garter…well, that’s something blue.” The blonde beamed back a gracious smile. “Thanks, Janet,” she made it a point to use the woman’s first name this time, then took the dress from Randi’s hand and pulled Sarah into the bedroom to help her. “Come on, Sarah, give me a hand. I’ll be out in a minute,” she promised the rest of the women, then closed the door.

The professor looked over to Randi and shook her head. “And to think that we were just like that on our wedding days.” ‘Both of them shared a laugh as Janet walked over to stand by the lawyer. “Thanks for calling me last night, Randi. I would’ve hated to miss this. I’m sorry I missed out on the double bachelorette party.”

“Well, from what I heard from Brian when he was getting dressed, I’m not sure you would have been too comfortable at Brooke’s.” Randi giggled, “It seems she was beating them at their own games.”

“You know your sister,” Janet chuckled. “She’s always got to show the guys up.”

“Yeah, I know. You’d think that the whole lot of them would learn by now.” Randi turned at the sound of knocking and looked to the door. “Okay, now who?”

Terri crossed the room and opened the door. “Mom, come on in.” She stepped back and held the door while Mable and her group came marching in.

“Where’s Sam?” Mable stepped in, scouring the room for her new daughter-in-law to be.

“Oh…I hope we’re not too late,” Sandy said with a worried tone of voice.

“Now, Mom, you know that cousin of mine ain’t going nowhere without her posse of girls around her. There’s no way that we’re letting Brooke see her now.” Crystal winked to Randi and patted Terri on the shoulder. “Is she getting dressed?”

“Where’s Ida?” Randi looked for the woman as they entered the room.

“She’s downstairs making sure everything is set up the way it should be.” Mable looked around, then whispered, “If you ask me, you’d think she was the nervous mother of the bride.”

“Mom, I just think she wants everything to be right for Brooke. God knows, your daughter probably gave Ida a list of things to do before Brooke even came up here with Sam.”

The matriarch nodded. “You’re probably right, too.” She turned to talk to Sandy when, out of the corner of her eye, she caught the bedroom door opening. “Sh…I think the bride’s ready to meet her audience.” Mable smiled as she gestured the women over with her hands.

The bedroom door opened and Sarah came out in advance of her sister. Walking several steps into the room, she turned and motioned to the doorway with her arm. “Presenting to you, on this her Wedding Day, the…”

“Knock it off, Sarah,” the blush was already crawling up Sam’s face. “We don’t have all day.” The bride-to-be came into the room and smiled at the assembled women, turning slowly around as she moved forward into the center of the room. “So, what do you think?” Sam looked eagerly into their eyes. “Will I knock her dead or what?”

“WOOHOO!” Crystal let out with a yell.

“Sam, you’re…you’re beautiful.” Sandy brought her hand up to her mouth.

“You are, Sam. Just simply…beautiful,” Mable concurred as her eyes grew bigger and a pleased smile settled on her face.

“Brooke will pass out on the spot when she catches her first sight of you,” Terri offered her opinion.

Randi raised an eyebrow to her sister. “Well, that’s the benefit of having a doctor or two in the family, Terri. We won’t have to delay the wedding waiting for someone to come and revive her.” Turning toward Sam, she smiled, then added her own thoughts. “That dress does you justice, Sam.”

“Damn right, on both accounts. You’re going to stop her heart for sure,” Terri agreed as they all shared in the laughter.

Mable walked over to Sam and looked at her more closely for a moment before turning to Sam’s aunt and calling her over. “I don’t know, Sandy.” Mable’s face grew pensive. “There’s still something missing.”

Letting her eyes inspect her niece, Sandy agreed. “You’re right, Mable. Something is missing. It’s just too empty looking there with that scoop neckline.” The older woman looked to the Gordon matriarch for confirmation of her observation.

“Hmm…” Mable cocked her head to one side, then to the other. “I don’t know.” She circled Sam once more, then nodded. “I’m thinking that her neck is too bare.”

“That could be it,” Sandy nodded to her desperately waiting niece.

“Well, what the hell is it that we need. I’ll run and get it,” Crystal stepped forward, offering her assistance.

Seeing the worried look on Sam’s face, Mable took the blonde’s hand and patted it. “Actually Sam, your aunt and I decided to go in together on the something old.” Mable looked over to Sandy.

“Yeah,” Sam’s aunt smiled. “Now turn around and let us put it on you.” Sandy pulled out a small jewelry box and opened it up for Mable.

Sam waited patiently as she felt the piece of jewelry being placed around her neck. “What is it?” The blonde’s fingers ran over it as Mable secured the clasp behind Sam’s neck.

“We combined our two wedding days to help you get through yours.” Mable spoke softly, “I wore the cameo the day that I married Henry and your Aunt wore the chain the day that she married your Uncle.”

“Johnny would have been so pleased to see you wearing this today, Sam.” Sandy smiled sweetly at the thought of her departed husband with the mist of a tear accumulating in her eye.

“Oh my God. Aunt Sandy,” Sam turned to see Mable, “Mom, you didn’t have to do this.”

“But we wanted to, Sam. We both love you.”

Sam moved to see her reflection in the mirror on the wall. “I…I don’t know what to say.” She turned to look at the room full of women who were making such a positive impression on her life. “Thank you…thank you all for everything.”

“You’re welcome.” The same phrase could be heard repeating itself as each woman replied in turn.

After letting Sam’s sentiments sink in, Janet spoke up. “Hello, people. We’re still not done, here.” She clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “We’ve got the new dress, the old jewelry, and the blue garter, but Sam’s still missing something from the borrowed category.” She looked over to the door to see the youngest Gordon sibling walking in. “Do we have any suggestions?” The professor looked directly at C.C.

“Hey, I could let you borrow my little black book.” C.C. started fishing for it in her purse.

“I don’t think she’ll be needing that, Brat,” Randi piped in. “Remember, she’s getting married today. And besides, what would she want with all those guys in your book. Huh?”

“She’s right, C.C.” Sam wrinkled her nose and giggled. “I don’t think that Brooke would think it too amusing.”

“Okay, so…ah…how about…” the brunette looked around the room as she thought, then slowly put her hand into her purse. “How about I let you use this music that I burned for your wedding?” C.C. pulled a shiny looking CD out of her purse and held it up for all to see.

“Hmm…” Sam smiled. “Does it have my favorite artist on it?”

“Well, duh.” C.C. looked shocked. “I only lived with you. You don’t think that I’d forget, do you? I mean you are marrying her today and she is my sister.”

Sam chuckled, “I guess not. Thanks, C.C.”

“So, C.C.,” Janet called out, then laughed. “How’s the ‘Groom’ doing?”

“Well,” the brunette let her face take on a tentative look. “She’s getting there, slow but sure.” C.C. chuckled, thinking of Brooke’s nerves about the big day finally coming to the surface.

“Oh, yeah?” Janet pushed for more information. “Is it her nerves or is she just being picky as usual?”

C.C. thought for a moment, noticing the intent stare that she was getting from Sam. Slowly the brunette nodded and began to speak. “You could say that.” C.C. gazed over to Sam and smiled. “That and a little Southern Comfort for good measure.” She gave her ex-roomie a wink as the rest of the room started to chuckle.

Sam watched her fidgeting father as he straightened his tie again in the short span of time that it took her to walk down the hallway. Coming to a stop next to her father, Sam turned to him and asked, “Are you okay with this, Daddy? You seem a little nervous.”

His chest puffed out with pride as he complimented his oldest daughter. “Sweetheart, I don’t think I’ve ever been any better. You’re absolutely beautiful, Samantha.”

“Thanks, I just hope that Brooke thinks so, too.” Sam’s upturned lips edged into a full smile.

“Oh, I’m sure she will. You know, she couldn’t stop talking about you last night. We had to actually physically restrain her at one point because she wanted so much to get back to you.” Samuel took his daughter’s hands and held on to them as he gave her a kiss on her cheek.

“You didn’t hurt her, did you?” Sam’s face took on a concerned look.

“No, of course not.” Samuel shook his head as his hands waved the idea off. “She fell asleep right afterward, whispering your name the entire time.” The man took in a deep breath and smiled. “You did good, Baby. Brooke’s a wonderful person and so very lucky to have you in her life.”

Sam smiled as she started to feel the heat of a blush as it climbed up her neck. “Thank you for looking at the person, Daddy, and not just the gender.”

“Yeah, well…” Samuel sighed. “I just wish that some things could have been…well…different.”

“I know.” Sam looked down to the ground. “Maybe once Mother really gets to know Brooke…” the blonde paused for a moment and gulped, “…and me, for that matter, I hope she’ll change.”

There was a quiet moment between father and daughter as Samuel took the bride in his arms and hugged her. He kissed her on the forehead, then whispered into her ear. “We all can change, Samantha, it just takes some longer than others. Don’t give up on her, yet.” He pulled himself back from his daughter and looked into her eyes from arm’s length. “Okay?”

Sam looked into her father’s green eyes and hoped that he was right. “Okay,” she gave a slight nod to her head, then turned, listening to the music that was beginning to play. “Daddy, I think it’s time.” Half torn between being her father’s little girl and the grown-up woman role that she’d assume at the end of her arm-in-arm walk with her father, Sam felt a single tear work its way to the surface as it spilled over and ran down her cheek.

Seeing the tear, Samuel caught it with his finger, then gave her cheek a tender kiss. “You’ll always be my little girl.” Clearing his throat, he held out a bent arm to his daughter.

“Thanks, Daddy.”

“Come on. I believe that a beautiful creature is waiting to spend the rest of her life with you.”

Sam took in a deep breath and wrapped her hands around his arm, then nodded her consent to begin the walk that would deliver her into the arms of everlasting love. “God, I hope so. I know I’m ready to spend it with her.”

Brooke stood in the front of the room as the last of her family was seated. After wiping her face with her hand, she reached out and touched the podium that she was standing next to. Tapping on it a time or two, her gaze fell upon her mother and she jerked her hand back, stuffing it into her suit coat pocket.

Oh God, stomach, not now. Brooke reflexively brought her other hand up to lay on her abdomen as she tried to settle the rumbling monster of her inner depths. Give me a break here, will ya? She felt another queasy feeling coming over her and looked to her side for some comfort from the man next to her.

Peter stood there, thankful that he was only standing up for and not in place of his longtime friend. He caught the tapping of Brooke’s foot, figuring that she was keeping time with the music that was now filtering through the room. In an effort to calm his own nerves, he started to keep the beat with the music, only to realize that his famed friend and drummer was tapping nowhere near the beat of the song. If he were playing to her rhythmic ministrations, it would be to the tune of a minute waltz in half the time. That was his first indication as to just how nervous his friend was.

“Hey, would you stop that,” Peter leaned into Brooke and whispered. “You’re making me nervous.” The man motioned to her tapping toe.

“Huh? Oh…yeah.” Brooke turned to look at her friend. “You’re positive I gave you her ring, right?” The woman was searching her own pocket now for something to keep her mind occupied with.

He reached out and placed his hand on top of hers, stopping her frantic search. “Brooke, I got it right here.” Peter patted his own suit coat pocket. “Chill out, my friend. Do what I do before a big gig. When I’m standing there waiting for the curtain to go up, I just grab the first song that comes to my head and go with it. Let it take over your mind.” He brought his hand to her shoulder and gave it a good squeeze. “When the song’s over, you’ll know what to do.” Peter winked, “Trust me.”

Worried blue eyes locked onto Peter’s face. “I just want this to be over with. I need to know that she hasn’t changed her mind.”

“Well, I’d volunteer to go upstairs and ask her but…” Peter motioned with his head to the back of the room, “I don’t think that is what’s on her mind right now.” He nudged Brooke. “Here she comes now. Go on, look back there.” Peter let his eyes drift to the woman coming down the stairs.

Excited, yet startled at the thought, Brooke turned to look at the back of the room, her long dark hair sweeping across her shoulders as she did so. The sight of Sam dressed in white and on her father’s arm, took Brooke’s breath away.

“Oh God! She’s beautiful,” Brooke murmured. “But where did that dress come from? I completely forgot to pack a dress.”

Unsure of whether it was the iridescent shimmer of the material that Sam’s dress was giving off or the glow coming from her lover’s face, Brooke stood there mesmerized. The rapid beat of her heart and the warmth that she felt growing inside her soon affected her sight, causing the world to fade away, leaving only the woman that held her soul in her hands, Sam. Each second that she watched as the small blonde came closer to being by her side, now seemed twice as long as the last hours that she spent without Sam the night before. She could feel her nerves standing on end as she waited to be joined to her forever.

Brooke started to do what Peter had suggested only minutes earlier. She took the first song that came into her head and went with it, letting her mind concentrate on Sam and the music that it was providing.

Hold it right there, don’t say a word…

I hear a voice, I’ve never heard

Calling my name, saying this is the one,

Oh, my goodness, what have you done?

I could turn around and walk away saying this is too good to be real,

But oh no…I don’t think I will…

She watched as the vision in white slowly turned to look at the man next to her then smiled, and together they started down the aisle.

Because I absolutely, positively, know without a doubt…

You’re becoming someone I just could not live without

I was so afraid I’d spend my whole life not knowing how this feels…

But, oh no…I don’t think I will…

Blonde hair shimmered as the light reflected off of it. The glow was rivaling the radiance of her smile as she greeted each of their close friends or family. With every step, she made her way closer to the heart that was aching to embrace her.

I could just do what I did before…

Blame it all on the moon, say it’s nothing more

than the pull of the tide and it’s gonna pass…

But something’s telling me, this time it’s gonna last

I should close my eyes and just pretend; I don’t feel the way I feel?

But oh no… I don’t think I will…

Brooke’s mind zeroed in on Sam as she paused at Mable’s side. The allure of the woman was far greater than she’d ever realized. Here, in one instant of time, were the two women that she held most dear to her heart. As if some mantel of honor was being handed over, Brooke watched as her mother reached out to Sam, then, with a glance in her direction, she sent the young woman over to her.

Because I absolutely, positively, know without a doubt…

You’re becoming someone I just could not live without

I was so afraid I’d spend my whole life, not knowing how this feels…

Looking into the green eyes that now gazed upon her, Brooke waited for Sam to come the last few steps toward her and their life together as one. The longing of their souls for one another was now evident to all who saw them.

But Oh no… I don’t think I…

Oh yes… I don’t think I…

Oh no,…I don’t think I will

Lost in her emotions, Brooke couldn’t help but stare into the welcoming seas of love that she found in Sam’s eyes, as the woman came to stand beside her. It was then that the music inside her head came to an end and the sound of the minister’s voice brought her to the present.

“Who gives this woman away?” The man’s voice rose above the sound of people shifting in their seats.

“I do,” Samuel answered him, then looked over to his daughter and smiled as he patted her hand, then kissed her cheek. Slowly he pulled his arm from hers and moved back to sit next to Sarah and his sister, Sandy.

With their long separation now ended, Brooke could not contain her natural need to touch the woman she loved. Taking her hand, Brooke let her finger glide over Sam’s cheek as she mouthed what her heart was screaming, “I love you.” The musician stood there, watching as green eyes sent out their message in return and Sam’s lips silently conveyed what she too had needed to say.

The soft sound of the minister clearing his throat soon got their attention. “Well, now that we’re all here…” he smiled at the couple before him, turning a deaf ear to the giggling that his statement brought on. “Let’s get on with the ceremony. As you all know, God works in very mysterious ways. None of which he cares to enlighten us on, but ones that he deems as right for each one of us. Today, we see one of those ways come into being.” He looked to the couple, then down into the book in his hand. “Today, we see the love that Samantha and Brooke share as it takes on a new dimension, a new beginning if you will.”

Taking off his glasses, the minister looked out to the group gathered around. “As part of his mission for all of us, God has brought this group of family and friends together to bear witness and rejoice in the union of two souls.” He cleared he throat, then set the glasses back onto his nose. “Does anyone here know of any reason why these two children of God should not be joined in this civil union?” His eyes roamed the room as he uttered his words of caution. “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Lost in their love for one another, neither Brooke nor Sam saw the concerned look on the official’s face when the door in the rear of the room flew open. Even the hushed whispers from their families didn’t disturb the couple as the group’s anxious speculations began to grow louder.

The minister’s cold stare now concentrated on the shapely-silhouetted figure in the doorway. “Yes?” he asked, his voice wavering slightly. All eyes turned to the rear of the room as the figure took a step forward.

With a nudge from Peter, Brooke’s gaze was directed to the back of the room. Blue eyes wandered over the woman’s figure, while the silence of the moment pounded loudly in Brooke’s ears. She held onto Sam’s hand, fearing the worst. Standing motionless, holding her breath, Brooke was half-afraid that the life would be sucked right out of her. Then, in the blink of an eye, all her fears came cascading down on her as she imagined her life without Sam by her side. It was more than she ever cared to bear. Half crushed by the feelings that she was sorting out, she never saw the woman look around the room.

“Sorry, wrong room.” The woman’s high-pitched voice squeaked out her apology. “I was looking for the Horowitz reception.” She shrugged then backed out of the room, letting the door close softly after her.

Peter breathed a sigh of relief along with just about everyone else as the group began to relax. Turning to his ex-band mate, he noticed that she was still staring at the door, her body not even moving with the need to breathe.

Nudging her in the back, Peter got Brooke’s attention. “Breathe, Brooke. Breathe or there won’t be a ceremony,” he whispered in her ear, then stood back, ready to catch her if she fell.

The woman took in a long, deep breath, and then looked over to Sam, realizing that her dream had not been shattered. The small blonde stood solidly by her side, holding her hand. Their eyes met as they turned back to the minister, and Brooke knew in her heart that nothing could ever come between them.

Dabbing his brow with a handkerchief, the minister loosened his collar. “Okay, shall we continue on then?” He looked to the two women before him. “Brooke, would you like to start?”

The dark-haired woman swallowed quickly and took in a deep breath. God, don’t let me flub this one up. Brooke turned to Sam and looked directly into her green eyes. “Today I will marry my friend, the one I will live with, dream with, and love.” She paused long enough to smile, and then let her heart speak what it was holding inside for all to hear. “I, Brooke, take you, Sam, to be my wife. From this day forward I will cherish you, I will look with joy down the path of our tomorrows, knowing that we will walk it together, side by side, hand in hand, and heart to heart.”

Brooke could feel her own heart begin to race as she neared the end of her declaration of love. “You are the love of my life, my reason for living, the inspiration that I have always sought and, as such, I pledge my undying love to you for the rest of my life.”

“That’s beautiful, Brooke.” Sam’s whispered words caught her by surprise.

“So are you, my love.”

“Sam,” the minister cleared his throat again. “Sam, do you have something to say in response to Brooke?”

“Yes,” Sam nodded as she reached out to hold both of Brooke’s hands in her own. “I love you, Brooke, with all my heart and soul, as you are everything that I could ever hope to find in a woman. You are loving, thoughtful, caring, smart, and beautiful in my eyes.” Sam smiled as she stared more intently into tranquil pools of blue. “Your love always makes me fell like the happiest and luckiest woman alive. I’m proud to have you as my life’s partner, my wife, and I promise you that I will be at your side, through good and bad, giving you everything that is in my power, to assure your health and happiness for as long as I live.” Sam noticed the misty look in Brooke’s eyes as her emotions were starting to come to the surface. “From this day forward, our lives will be intertwined forever, blessed in faith, filled with compassion, understanding, and love.”

Sam raised one hand to Brooke’s cheek and caught the single tear that escaped her lover’s eye. “I love you,” Sam smiled.

“I love you too, Sam.”

Sensing the rising emotions in the room, the minister smiled at the couple in front of him, then turned his attention to the group of well-wishers seated around them. “There, you’ve heard their declarations of love for one another in their own words. From now on, let the union of these two souls, united in love, be symbolized for all to see in the form of the rings that they will now exchange between them.” The minister’s eyes now came to rest on Brooke.

Startled by the nudge at her elbow, Brooke took the ring offered to her from Peter’s outstretched palm, glancing into her friend’s eyes with a look of thanks. Turning toward Sam, Brooke took the woman’s left hand and slowly slid the ring into place, then brought it up to her lips, laying a gentle kiss upon it. “Forever, my love,” Brooke whispered loud enough for only Sam to hear.

The blonde held her breath as she pulled her hand away, savoring the sensations of love and belonging that Brooke’s kiss had given her. Hesitantly, she turned to look over at her cousin, Crystal. Sam waited patiently as the woman rose from her seat and stood next to her, holding out her hand.

“Here ya go, Sam,” Crystal smiled, first at her cousin, then over to Peter on the other side of Brooke. “Sorry I missed my cue,” she whispered as Sam’s chilled fingertips touched her hand.

Turning from Crystal, Sam brought Brooke’s left hand into her own and slid the ring into place on the tall woman’s finger. Holding Brooke’s left hand with her own, Sam held them close to her heart, then looked down on the two rings as they came together, side by side. “Forever, side by side,” Sam whispered, offering it up in a prayer.

Placing a finger under Sam’s chin, Brooke tilted the woman’s face upward to gaze deeply into her eyes.

Touched by the reverence of the love he had just witnessed, the minister sniffed back a tear. “Well, now that we have all that taken care of…” he looked from one woman to the other, realizing that neither was paying him any attention. He continued on anyway.

“May I present to you, joined this day in marriage in the state of Vermont…” he paused, realizing that they had never told him their wishes as to how they wanted to be addressed. Seeing that they were more concerned with one another than his plight, he made his own mind up, coming to a decision in the matter. Looking out to the assembled group, he declared their union together, “…The Moleson-Gordon’s.” He looked to the couple before him and gave his blessing to what they were already engaged in. “You may kiss your bride.” He closed the book in his hands as the smile grew on his face.

All eyes in the room were riveted on the happy couple embraced in a passionate kiss. The occasional flash kept going off as each family member decided the best way to remember the day. Brian, of course, stepped out of his seat as he walked around the couple, practicing with his new digital video cam to record the event for future reference.

Impulses were going off left and right, as Brooke’s body eased into the kiss and let it deepen. Her mind was a racing carousel of images recalled from the time that she had first met the small blonde. The last image of which stayed to the forefront of her mind. It was the look of pure love in Sam’s face as she had leaned in to kiss her in their first official act as a joined couple, which she knew that she would remember forever.

With her senses keenly attuned to her lover’s body, Brooke felt a sense of alarm at the sudden stiffening that her body was being met with. Turning her senses back to the world around her, Brooke’s eyes opened to see two angry green eyes staring at her from the back of the room, causing her to straighten up, pushing Sam behind her.

“SAM!”

The loud screech of her lover’s name settled into her gut like a bomb waiting to explode. The next thing that Brooke knew, there was a bevy of lights flashing in their direction as a steady stream of people came rushing into the room. Each one was yelling out questions and demanding answers. As they moved forward, they shoved their outstretched hands with microphones in them toward the front of the room, circling in on the couple like sharks in the sea. The only difference between these predators and sharks seemed to be the use of cameras and recording devices as they came rushing in for the kill.

“Huh?” Blue eyes looked to the mangle of inquiring voices as if she were a deer caught in someone’s headlights. Brooke felt Sam’s arms wrap tightly around her waist and the tall woman clenched her fists, preparing for the battle of her life.

 

 

The End
Continued in Wedding Bell Blues

Song lyric is “One In A Million” written by Steve Brown. The song “playing” in Brooke’s head is “I Don’t

Think I Will” as sung by James Bonamy.

Well. THAT’S it… Unbroken is COMPLETE! Thanks for an amazing first season… I guess we forgot to mention that when we originally wrote this over a decade ago, that we posted a new chapter at the same time on the same day every week as if it were a television series (inspired by a weekly Uber called “Exposure” which was co-authored by XWPFanatic, Tonya Muir (R.I.P, Tonya!) and TNovan.)

Thanks for reading!

-Carrie & KD

Copyright ©2008-2011

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