Unbroken Season 2 by Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne

Azneg

Unbroken Season 2
by Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne

 See Pictures of the Gordon Family Here

Sequel to Unbroken Season 1

Installment 2–1 Wedding Bell Blues

“…Gone away is all my innocence, my nerves have turned to mud…”

“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 people and their 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.

Brooke’s view was filled with swarming predators that were closing in, the lights from their cameras now making it harder to see. With every advancing step, the hackles on her neck rose until she felt trapped with nowhere to go. Desperately she tightened her grip on Sam.

“What is this?” Mable looked anxiously to her husband. “Henry, they’re ruining our daughter’s wedding day. Why aren’t you stopping them?”

“Now, Mable,” he took her arm and held on to it for fear his wife would step out into the path of the melee. “Brooke and Sam have to weather their own storms. We’ll be here when they need us.” He tried to reassure his wife. “That is, if they need us. We’re not going to be around forever, you know. They have to learn to rely on each other. That’s their family now.”

“But, Henry…” Mable saw the warning in his eyes. “I just can’t stand here and watch.”

“You can be proud of your daughters,” Henry motioned to Randi, Terri and C.C. who were already showing signs of concern at what was happening. Each one of their daughters had moved slowly forward, lending their support. “…And Mario.” Henry pointed to the dog that had already positioned himself between the intruders and the newlyweds. “There,” Henry motioned with his head toward their grandchildren who were all nestled around their eldest daughter’s husband. “Tend to Randi’s kids. Our daughter will be more use to her sister and Sam than we could be.”

Mable sighed, knowing that her husband was right. “Julie, come over here to Grandma.” She bent down and scooped the young girl up into her arms. “David and Kevin, come with me. I think it’s time we see if your Aunt Brooke’s ride is here.” Mable glanced over to her husband. “So help me Henry, if…”

“If they need you, Mable…” he paused staring at his wife. “I’ll keep an eye on the proceedings and know right where to find you,” Henry glanced toward his grandchildren and smiled, “And the rest of the cavalry, too.”

Husband and wife locked gazes for a moment then Mable turned, nudging her brood along. “Come on, children. Let’s go check out that ride that your Aunt ordered for her getaway later.”

“I bet Aunt Brooke got a stretch limo,” Kevin held his arms as wide as he could.

“Knowing your Aunt,” Mable tried to keep her mind occupied with her grandchildren, “I bet she ordered two.”

Henry watched her move to the side door of the room with his grandchildren in tow before turning his attention back to his musician daughter and her new wife.

Coming out from behind Brooke‘s protective stance, Sam could feel the tension in the woman’s arms that wrapped around her. “Tell me you didn’t plan this,” Sam spoke quietly into the taller woman’s ear so as to be heard above the cacophony of voices.

A pained look came to Brooke’s face as she turned to face her wife. “How could you think that I would do something like this?”

“I couldn’t.” The warm smile flashed first followed by determined green eyes. “Then let’s meet this head on and end it here…together.”

Blue eyes twinkled at the sound of the word “together”. Brooke smiled and turned to face the onslaught coming at them. Mustering up her best stage voice, she turned on them with a few questions of her own. “What in the hell is going on here? How did you get in here?” Brooke held her hand up to shield both Sam and herself from the bright flash of light that was almost in their faces. “Who the hell are you?”

“GRRRR,” the warning growl was low and expressive of the degree of protection that Mario was willing to give. The rapid succession of barks pierced the air and sent a chill up the spines of all those present.

“Mario,” Brooke called out the dog’s name, then gave a single command. “Stay.”

Now suddenly the noise stopped and for a brief second Sam took a breath.

“Is it true that you just married someone half your age, Brooke?” The booming voice of the reporter burst through the silence like an explosion.

“No!” Brooke’s grip on Sam’s shoulder tightened as she tried to hold Sam back.

“But you did just get married, right?” The question came from the other end of the group.

“I…WE,” Brooke rolled her eyes, then locked eyes with the woman standing next to her and smiled. “Yes, we just got married.” She stood tall and proud as she turned to the crowd. “And Sam here is closer to half my height than my age,” she chuckled out.

“Is it true that you’ll go back to music now that you’ve got something to sing about?”

“What?” Brooke’s head jerked to the source of the question.

“Yeah, rumor has it that’s why you left the group in the first place. That you and James….”

“I want nothing to do with that ba….” she hesitated after seeing Randi subtly shaking her head. Brooke throttled her anger back, thinking better of what she’d give the press to play with. “James Anderson. NO, never,” Brooke shook her head defiantly. She leaned into Sam’s ear. “I’m sorry, Baby.”

Sam comforted her wife the best way she could by reaching up and patting the hand on her shoulder before the next question sent a chill up her spine at the sound of her name.

“Is it true that Sam is your live-in lover?” The man cleared his throat at the chuckles that surrounded him. “I mean, was your…”

“This is my wife.” Brooke hugged Sam, drawing her even closer than before.

“How many more, Brooke?” The question floated to the top out of the melee.

“How many more what?” Brooke’s brows crinkled up in confusion.

“Wives, Brooke. You’re a Mormon, right?”

The laughter burst from Sam’s mouth at the thought. “Mormon. Where do they get their information? Talk about bad press releases…” She turned to look at Brooke. “You aren’t, are you?”

“NO!” The drummer’s attention focused solely on Sam now.

Picking up on the little scene unfolding before them the media instantly jumped on the wagon.

“Did you know that your wife is linked to the famous Loran, Sam?”

Another reporter quickly took advantage and stepped into a pause for breath. “Is that why you married her?”

“Alright,” Brooke took in a deep breath. “You people are starting to get really f…” her mouth wanted so badly to say what she was thinking but again she considered the field day the press would have. “Rude.” She could feel Sam’s grip around her waist tighten.

“Hey Brooke!” The man waited just a second until he saw her eyes searching in his direction, then snickered. “Since you’re married now, does that mean you’ll be including your wife in all those late night song writing sessions with your long time friend, James?”

At the sound of the man’s name, Mario started with a low-pitched growl and the dog’s lips curled, revealing his clenched teeth.

Angry blue eyes shot in the reporter’s direction. “That is enough!” Brooke stepped forward in challenge. “James is not my friend. I want nothing to do with that sorry piece of shit.” She felt the small hand on her back rubbing in soothing circles and her tone of voice calmed slightly. “I don’t want him within fifty miles of my wife or myself. Mario, sit. Stay,” she commanded.

“Sam, is that enough for you?” The woman’s voice split through the air like a knife, parting the reporters as they all tried to see whom it was. “Don’t you see what her life is going to be all about?”

“It’s our life now,” Brooke interjected, seeing the figure of Sam’s mother coming toward them.

The neatly dressed woman at the rear of the room stepped forward through the parting sea of reporters. “See what I mean? It’s all about her, Sam, not you.”

Sam tensed as she looked in the direction of the voice. When the last reporter stepped off to the side the mysterious figure came into full view. “Mother!”

Brooke looked first to Sam, then caught Samuel’s gaze as she turned to face the figure at the rear. Instinctively, Brooke’s hand fell from its place on the blonde’s shoulder and took her hand as they headed together toward Sam’s mother. “You? How could you do this to your own daughter?”

Leveling her eyes at Brooke, Elaine glared at the tall woman. “Me? What did I do but try to raise her properly? You’re the one that is making a mockery out of her life.” The woman crossed her arms over her chest and turned to meet Brooke head on. “You and your high and mighty ways. You better listen to me now because I’m only going to say this once. I never,” she stamped her foot hard into the plush carpeting. “taught my daughter deceitful ways, lying…”

“Mrs. Moleson,” Brooke’s temper flared. “I am not the one making a mockery out of anything here. I just married Sam. Legally too, I might add.” She took in a breath trying to keep her anger in check. “And I’m far from being evil or manipulative. I’ve never lied to her or to you. Now as far as deceitful…”

“Then how do you explain Sarah’s running off and ending up here for this…this…” Elaine closed her eyes as if in pain, “…spectacle?” A look of disgust took over her face as she opened her eyes and glared once again at Brooke. “She had to know about it from someone. You planned this all.” Elaine sniffed as she brought a tissue out of her balled up hand and dabbed at her eyes. “You’ve turned my whole family against me.”

“MOTHER,” Sam shouted in anguish. “You’re wrong. Brooke has done nothing but try to get us back together as a family. I would have never gone home this Christmas if it wasn’t for her.”

“You know she’s right, Mother…” Sarah’s voice trailed off when her mother’s intense stare shifted to her.

“Hmmph! And that poses another problem all together.” Elaine turned her head and looked directly at her husband. “Doesn’t it, Samuel.”

“That’s enough, Elaine.” Samuel moved forward to stand next to Sam.

“I can’t even trust my own husband. What else don’t I know?”

“I brought Sarah here,” the man proclaimed to his wife. “I never lied to you, Elaine. I told you I had to go to Vermont for a few days. You never cared enough to ask why.” Samuel glanced back to his youngest daughter Sarah, then turned back to face his wife. “Sarah didn’t know anything about the wedding until I told her.” He smirked, “Hell, Sam didn’t even know about it until they were here in Vermont.”

“He’s right, Mother. We only decided to do this two days ago.” Sam’s grasp tightened on Brooke’s larger hand.

“Oh, so you and Brooke plotted the whole thing out then.” Elaine’s face twisted with anger as she gazed at her husband. “How much did she pay you, Samuel. What’s the going price for your daughter?”

The words were out faster than Sam could think of what she was saying. “My love doesn’t have a price, Mother. It’s given freely and without reservation to whomever I choose to share my life with.” There was a moment of silence as mother and daughter locked gazes while the reporters stole frozen moments of emotion from both their faces.

Samuel felt compelled to break the standoff, speaking his mind. “Brooke told me on Christmas day that she wanted to make a commitment to Sam.” He planted his feet and squared off his shoulders. “I gave her my permission and offered to help her. They love each other. Can’t you see that? It is not a mockery, Elaine. This is a legal civil union.” Samuel sighed, afraid that he hadn’t been able to make her see his point. “Look, Brooke is a good woman and so is Sam. They just happen to love each other more than most supposedly married people do. Can’t you at least accept that?”

Elaine watched as the anger grew in her husband’s eyes. “That’s it…you’re one of them now,” she said, pointing a roving finger at the assembled wedding guests, “Condoning this…this…aberration.”

“Talk about being all high and mighty, Mother.” Sam closed her eyes trying to hold back the tears. “Have you ever taken a good look at yourself?”

There was a moment of silence as Elaine festered in the thought. Her gaze slowly moved to each member of the Gordon family as the line stretched toward the wedding couple, the last one standing next to her daughter. She glared at Brooke and waited.

“Yes, Mrs. Moleson?” Brooke could feel the perspiration building on her upper lip, the muscles of her arms twitching, ready to meet the next challenge.

“You don’t know what love is,” Elaine spoke to no one but Brooke, her eyes boring holes right through the tall woman. “You’re just saying whatever you have to so that you can have your perverted way with my daughter.”

Brooke felt the sudden tensing of Sam’s body. Her fingers ached from the increased strength in the young woman’s hand as she heard the gasp come from Sam’s mouth. “I know what love is.” Brooke looked over to her father, then swiftly shot a quick look at each of her sisters. “I grew up in a family of two parents and four daughters who all show unconditional love to one another. They don’t judge me by who I love.” She turned her back to Sam for a moment then directed her gaze to Elaine. “You’re the one that pushed your daughter away from her entire family over something that is beyond her control.”

“You have no idea what it’s like to watch someone you love walking into a life of sin and self-destruction.” Elaine took a step closer in challenge to the tall woman.

“Oh yes, she does,” Peter spoke the words without thinking. “I can vouch for that with my own life.” He stopped only when Crystal elbowed him in the side. He elaborated no further as a sheepish look crossed is face.

“Don’t you understand, Mrs. Moleson, that to us, being together is not a sin. Now to go against your true nature…” Brooke paused for effect, “That is the sin. For me, not being with your daughter would be going against my true nature.” Brooke shrugged, letting a shy smile come to her face. “I love her and I would do anything to make her happy. I’d give up my life in a minute if it would give her the feeling of love and protection.” She lifted Sam’s hand and kissed it before looking back at her mother-in-law. “Isn’t that all the things that a mother is supposed to provide her children with?”

“Is that it?” Elaine took in a deep breath. “That’s what this is all about…you taking my place.” She looked directly at her daughter. “Samantha, if you wanted another mother you could have at least chosen better.”

“I chose love, Mother, pure unconditional love,” Sam said sarcastically.

Brooke’s eyes roamed the room until they made contact with her father’s. She could see that his patience was waning with the situation and decided to bring it to a close. She cleared her throat before starting to speak. “If my child wanted to marry a purple orangutan, I might not agree with it but I’d be fine as long as I knew it would make them happy. I’d support them no matter what they wanted.” Brooke looked to Sam’s mother. “Actually, Mrs. Moleson, two people are supposed to provide that unconditional love and protection…your mother and your spouse. Sam is my wife now, and I am hers.”

“And I suppose you want me to welcome you with open arms?”

“I don’t expect you to welcome me,” Brooke almost snorted at the thought. “Hell, you don’t even have to like me, but you do have to live with the knowledge that you ruined your daughter’s happiness on what should be the best day of her life.”

Elaine cocked an eyebrow. “I’m not making a mockery out of this.”

“Ah, but you are the one making a mockery out of our wedding day.” Brooke looked around at the members of the media. “You’re the one that showed up with this circus of people.”

“Oh no you don’t.” Elaine was on the defensive now. “I didn’t bring them.” She crossed her arms in triumph. “They brought me here.”

Taking a step closer toward her mother-in-law, Brooke took a deep breath in and started her verbal assault. “Who cares how you got here, you went along with it.”

Letting go of Brooke’s hand, Sam stepped out in front of her wife and placed both hands on the woman’s midsection. “Brooke, ” she cautioned, “Think about what you’re doing.”

“Elaine, how could you?” Samuel moved closer, placing himself between the newlyweds and his wife. “You’ve done some things I haven’t agreed with over the last twenty-four years but this is the absolute lowest.”

The bride placed her hand on her father’s shoulder and guided his gaze to her. “Dad, I’m not a child anymore. I’m not going to let her bully me.” Sam shot a defiant glance toward her mother.

“Baby…” the tall woman leaned down to whisper in her ear. “Don’t say anything. I’m not worth you losing what’s left between the two of you.”

“Brooke, there’s some battles that you’re going to have to let me take a part in.” Sam spun around and locked gazes with her wife. “And this is one of them.”

“Don’t say something that you’ll regret.” Blue eyes pleaded with green.

There was a moment of silent communication between the two before Sam took in a breath and turned toward her mother. “I may be your child, Mother, but I’m not a little girl that you can tell what to like and what not to. I’m twenty-one, a college senior and most importantly now, I’m a wife, just like you.” Sam could see her mother’s mouth start to open in rebuttal and glared at her. “No one made me agree to this. I wanted it. It’s something that I needed to make my life whole.”

“Whole?” Elaine shook her head. “You call this whole? You know nothing of being whole. You’re not whole until you’re a mother and your child turns on you,” she snarled. “When that day comes, then you’ll be whole. Only after experiencing the joy of giving birth and the loss when they are taken away from you…” she faltered then continued in a whisper, “…like mine.”

“Oh, I’ll never do anything to alienate my children, Mother. Not like you.”

Elaine laughed out loud, “Ha! You expect to be a mother with the likes of that?” She pointed to Brooke. “You’re not a mother now, later, or ever, Samantha. It will never happen.”

Long arms wrapped around Sam’s waist and before she knew it, Brooke’s chin had taken up residence on her shoulder. “I love you,” the woman whispered, then placed a chaste kiss on her wife’s cheek.

Feeling even more confident now, Sam answered back. “Oh, it’s going to happen. Just you wait and see.”

“Samuel, are you going to stand there and let her speak in that tone to me?” Elaine looked to her husband for support.

“Well, dear, they do say that all women tend to have disagreements from time to time. You always taught her to stand up for herself and not let anyone walk over her.” Samuel looked back to his daughter and smiled. “Actually, I’m surprised she let you do it for this long.”

Elaine stood there in shock unsure of what to do next. Her eyes roamed aimlessly looking for sympathy from anyone that remotely looked like they could have been parents. Receiving none only angered her more. “I can’t believe this. You raise them and they just do what they please.” She mumbled something unintelligent, then closed her eyes in pain as she clutched at her chest. “I tried…I really tried,” her face grew more red by the minute. She turned and went running for the door. “You tell me, what’s a mother to do?” She came to the door and tried to open it. Frustrated by its impedance, she stepped back and kicked at it.

“Here, let me help you with that,” Brooke came up from behind her and with a long arm, hit the panic bar in the middle of the door, springing it open. She waited for the woman to depart and proceeded to dust off her hands as the door slowly came back to close. The right corner of her mouth twitched as she mumbled out, “Stop back anytime, Mother.”

The entire room was stunned into silence as Samuel stood there, his gaze transfixed to the door that was now closing. Emotions crossed over his face as he thought about what had just happened. He turned looking apologetically at the newlyweds, but the words wouldn’t leave his mouth. Determination now showing on his face, he turned and exited in pursuit of his wife.

“Samuel…” Sandy called out to her brother but he never turned. She stepped toward the door but her daughter’s hand on her arm stopped her.

“Mom,” Crystal cautioned her. “They need to work this out alone.”

Silence reigned in the room as the seconds turned into minutes while newlywed, guest, and reporter alike thought about the display that they had just been witnesses to.

****

Upon exiting the door, Samuel didn’t have to look far to see his wife, standing in the middle of the hotel’s lobby. Within seconds their eyes met and his anger fueled even more.

“How could you?” He continued to walk toward Elaine, pausing only when his path was crossed by some unsuspecting patron. “How could you come here and ruin this day for your own flesh and blood?”

Elaine stopped him cold. “I’ve aired enough dirty linen in public today.” She tried to smile at the passing hotel guests as she spoke. “I’m not doing this here. If you want to talk to me,” she leveled an icy glare at her husband, “Let’s go somewhere more private.”

“Fine,” he said through gritted teeth. “We can take this outside.” Samuel turned and stalked off toward the exit.

****

After seeing Samuel slowly move past her to go after Elaine, Brooke studied her own wife. For a fleeting moment, she put herself in Samuel’s place and tried to think of what she would do in his predicament. Would she be able to make a choice between Sam and any children that they may ever have? She watched silently as the mist built up in her lover’s eyes. In that instant she knew her answer. I’ll never let it get that far that I’d have to make a choice. Secured that she had just learned her first lesson of marriage, she wrapped her arms around Sam and gave her a comforting embrace.

“I love you, Sam,” she whispered in the woman’s ear, then kissed her gently on the cheek.

Thankful for the comfort shown her, Sam responded accordingly. “Love you, too.”

Brooke felt Sam’s arms as they tightened around her waist. She let the comfort take effect before depositing another kiss and then slowly moved away to face the media.

“I’m going to calmly ask all of you one time.” Brooke blinked back a tear that threatened to escape her eye. “Who started this?”

Silence remained in the room before a smart-ass reporter worked his mouth without thinking. “So Brooke,” he started off slowly then built up steam. “Do you anticipate any family vacations this year with your in-laws?”

Ice cold eyes pinned the reporter to where he stood as long legs moved her in his direction. Before anyone could grasp her seriousness, the ex-drummer reached out to grab a chair in passing and held it high over her head. “DAMN IT,” she raised her voice. “I WANT TO KNOW RIGHT NOW, WHICH ONE OF YOU IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?”

The muffled gasps and voiced concern of the Gordon family sounded simultaneously. Sam’s voice was the only one that her ear picked up. “Brooke, NO!”

“AURRRGH!” Brooke let out an anguished cry, then closed her eyes and brought the chair crashing down to the floor in front of her.

In an instant Mario was in front of Sam and barking at the noise. “GRRRRRRR, RUFF-RUFF!” With his hackles raised and his tail deadly still, the dog eyed the roomful of intruders, challenging anyone to make a move.

Brooke opened her eyes and panned the reporters. “Which one of you despicable vermin…” she stopped there noticing that one by one the reporters were moving off to the side of the room leaving the pack. When the last one had turned to leave, only a lone shapely woman in a dress stood before her.

“YOU?” Brooke studied the woman for a moment. “Damn it lady, this isn’t the Horrowitz family. What do you want?”

“You Brooke, but if that’s not available…” She stretched out her words. “Why, a good story always is, of course.”

“What?” Sam gasped.

“And for your information, I’m not available. I’m…” Brooke couldn’t get the rest of her words out before being interrupted.

“A good story.” A faint smile could be seen from under the netting on the woman’s garish hat. “How else was I going to get my story without tipping you off?” Delicate hands reached up, bringing the netting on the hat with it. Slowly, as if to tease everyone, she revealed her identity.

“For the love of money, Brooke,” C.C. stepped forward, “It’s that TV reporter. I’d know that bad make-up anywhere.”

“What?” Brooke stalked up to the woman, studying her face in the process until she overshadowed her like a large elm to a sapling. “I should have known. How did you find us?”

The woman gloated. “At MTV we may be all about the music but we do know how to root out a good story, Brooke or should I call you Loran?” She flashed a big smile. “Yes, I put the pieces together, Brooke L. Gordon, CEO of Brownstone Recordings alias Brooke Loran, drummer for Anti-Zero. You can change your hair color and cut but you can’t change the face.” Her coy smile said more to Brooke than she realized.

“You…” Brooke pointed a finger at the reporter while she pushed her mind to come up with an answer. “I know you and I’m not just talking about that two bit lip service you get paid for.”

“You should,” she turned away from the ex-drummer, then gazed back at her from over her shoulder. “I saw enough of your shows that you should remember me.” She turned to look over the other shoulder now, twirling a lock of hair between her fingers. “I often wonder if it had been Sam in my place, would you have paid me any more attention.”

“Why you…” C.C.’s face turned red with rage. “Let me scratch her eyes out.” She started to go in the woman’s direction only to be stopped by a strong hand grabbing the material on her dress.

Terri stood next to her husband shaking her head. “Weddings used to be much more fun before I became a doctor.” She leaned into her husband and whispered, “I’m going to go get our doctor’s bags, you stay here and keep them alive until I get back.”

Rick shrugged. “Once a doctor, always a doctor.” He turned toward her flashing a grin, then whispered back, “I’ll save your place.”

Terri rolled her eyes and started across to the door, brushing past Sam as she left.

“Brooke…” Sam timed her steps to allow her sister-in-law to cross in front of her before sidling up to her wife. “You know her?”

Blue eyes roamed the figure before her. “No…I don’t know her,” Brooke groaned as she wrestled with her sister, “But I do know of her.” Brooke yanked C.C. back even with herself and glared at her. “Behave,” she cautioned her sister through clenched teeth, then turned to look at Sam. “She was one of the groupies that hung around back stage when we first started out.” Out of the corner of her eye Brooke saw her mother slowly moving back into the room with her niece in tow.

“Hey, I remember her,” Peter came forward through the crowd to get a better look. “Yeah, that’s her. She’s the one I told you about Brooke. The one that hung on every lyric you ever wrote.” Peter turned toward the group and shook his head as laughter erupted from his mouth. “Can you fucking believe this?” Catching the stern look on Mrs. Gordon’s face Peter quickly apologized. “Sorry, Mrs. G.,” he grinned weakly, “It just slipped out.” He shrugged before turning to level his gaze at the reporter.

“I still want to know how she found out about this.” Brooke turned the attention back to the situation. “Nobody but my family knew about this, so how did you find out? How did you know where we were holding the wedding? Where we were staying?”

“I learned one important thing hanging around those halls waiting for you to make an appearance, Brooke. You told me everything that I needed to know.” She smirked seeing the confused look on the musician’s face. “You spent all that money on a fancy alarm system with its secret code locks and keyless entry but you never gave one thought to that little ol’ doggie door for that precious pup of yours, did you?” She smiled coyly. “You see…I remembered your stories about what you wanted when you got done touring…privacy for you but all the god damn freedom in the world for that animal.”

“You broke into my house?” Brooke challenged her to deny it with an arched eyebrow.

“I wouldn’t say broke into,” she twirled the lock of hair with her finger, acting as innocent as she could. “It was more like…I entered through an open door,” she chuckled. “Weren’t you inviting me in?” She looked over at the dog and smiled.

Brooke followed the reporter’s gaze to Mario. “The doggie door? You entered my house through that?”

“Sure, the door’s big enough to fit a small Amazon through it.” The reporter looked directly at C.C. and smiled.

“Come on, Brooke…” C.C. begged flexing her fingers like a cat playing with yarn. “Let me at her. Thirty seconds, that’s all I’ll need. I’ll show her who’s an Amazon.”

Sam reached out to grab onto her ex-room mate. “No, C.C.,” her voice was stern like that of a mother’s reprimanding a child.

“No, C.C.,” the youngest Gordon sister mocked the command under her breath as she pouted. “I never get to have any fun.”

“Oh, puhleease,” Brooke rolled her eyes. “I don’t have time for this.” She turned around to face the rest of the media, her face somber and determined. “This woman,” Brooke pointed at the singled out figure, “broke into my home and I suppose all of you agree with that.” She paused amid spontaneous coughs and grumbles that came from the group that now seemed to be collectively moving further away.

“Hey Randi,” Brooke spoke loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. “When I have this bitch arrested for trespassing on private property along with breaking and entering, can I have all of them,” she cast a roving finger in their direction, “arrested for being accessories after the fact?” Brooke gave it her best at an evil smile. “You are the assistant DA in the family…” she turned to look at her older sister. “Right, Sis?”

Randi took great pleasure in being called upon and moved forward until she stood next to her brother-in-law, Rick. “That’s a very good question, indeed.”

Sensing that the attention was now moving from her, Randi caught Rick’s eye and motioned toward the camcorder in his hand. Her eyes shifted to Brooke and the media that she was holding at bay. She glanced back to see the glowing red dot on the camera as Rick pointed it toward the cast of characters.

Sam marveled at the dramatic ability of her new wife when it came to making people’s knees shake. The blonde quickly brought her hand up to her face to hide the beaming smile that was filling her face then cleared her throat trying not to be so conspicuous.

The spiteful reporter spoke up, trying to defend her actions. “I just stopped by to see you, Brooke. It wasn’t my intent to break in. I just got concerned when no one answered the door. I mean…as a long time friend, I looked for a way in to check on you.”

“You’re a lying bitch.” The words flew out of Brooke’s mouth. “You DO NOT know me.” Blue eyes flashed with fury. “You had no business in my home, for any reason.”

“Lying? I think not,” she smiled coyly. “I was the one that told Mrs. Moleson what you all were doing here today.” She crossed her heart with her fingers. “And that’s not a lie. Bitch…Hmm…” the reporter pondered with a noticeable chuckle, “Now that’s a gray area there.”

Aunt Sandy nudged her daughter. “Crystal…did she say gay or gray? Oh, I wish they’d speak up.”

“Shhhh!” Crystal brought a quick finger to her mouth not taking her eyes off of the unfolding story in front of her. “This is the most exciting wedding I’ve been to in a long time.” The nurse raised her voice, “Drag it out of her, Brooke. You’ve got her on the run.”

“So let me get this straight.” Brooke smirked with her choice of words, “Yeah, right.” She quickly cleared that thought from her head and pressed the reporter further. “You went into my house through the dog door. So how did you find out where we were?”

The reporter laughed. “You know, computers are a wonderful thing. They’re like an electronic filing cabinet of all your thoughts. They just store things away for use in the future.”

Looking back toward her family, Brooke noticed the camcorder in Rick’s raised hand and the glowing red dot on its front. “Nice,” she mumbled under her breath seeing the smug look on Randi’s face. She turned back to direct another question at the reporter, drawing more of the truth to the light of day. “How did you get into my computer? Not even Sam knows that password.”

“You think that no one knows your password, but getting that information was easy, Brooke.”

“Humor me,” Brooke opened her arms invitational style.

“I didn’t hack into your system. It had all the answers to my questions waiting right there for me.” The reporter smiled. “Did you forget anything, Brooke?” She watched as blue eyes stared off in a distance deep in thought. “Or…did you mean to leave that copy of your wedding plan on the printer for me?”

“You know what, lady….” Brooke could feel the fine hair on her neck tingle at the thought. “Actually,” disgust shown on Brooke’s face, “you are far from being a lady so I’ll just have to call you Bitch.”

“Brooke!” Sam crossed the few feet, with Mario at her heels. She stood next to her angered spouse hoping to calm her.

“I’m having you arrested for trespassing, breaking and entering and whatever other charges they can come up with that will apply.” She eased her long arm around Sam’s shoulder and drew her closer. “You,” Brooke pointed directly at the reporter, “screwed up.”

There was a moment of silence as the occupants of the room slowly registered the events of the last few minutes. Without a doubt in any of their minds, the dark haired woman meant business. Gradually the eyes and the whispers of the media began to turn to one of their own as their interests now shifted in the developing story.

Feeling trapped by the turn of events, the accused reporter implored her colleagues to rally and stand behind her. “It’s all the truth.” She moved to another man after the first turned away from her. “Harry, you know me. I was just doing my job.” She stared in amazement as he turned his recorder off and shuffled to the rear of the pack. She spun around and randomly addressed the room. “I have rights, too Goddammit,” she cursed, then broke into a sob. “It was my job! I was just doing my job.” She turned to glare at the pack of sharks she had entered with as they all began to turn tail looking for a place to hide. “You all would have done it if you would have thought of it first. I know you would have.”

Noticing the changing demeanor of the group, Brooke slipped her arm out from around Sam and walked over to the cameraman nearest her. Slowly, she extended her hand toward him as she stared him straight in the eye. “Give me that tape, please.”

She never wavered in her stance as he instinctively cradled the piece of electronic equipment to his chest meeting her stare with one of his own. Brooke’s voice seemed somewhat more threatening in tone then before. “Don’t make me ask you twice,” her head shook slightly from side to side in a foreboding manner.

“Or the second time will be a court order,” Randi warned him, “And I’ll serve it myself.”

There was a long pause before the cameraman broke off his stare, looking around the room as he gathered his thoughts as one by one the Gordon clan took a step to stand behind the lawyer showing their support.

Terri came back into the room setting the two medical bags on the floor under her husband’s chair, then moved next to his side. “What are we doing?” She whispered.

“Shhhh!” Rick held a finger to his mouth. “You’re just in time to show your support. We’ve just volunteered for a posse,” he teased her, then motioned toward the stare-off and smiled.

“Next time, you go for the bags.” She turned her attention to Brooke and the man she was facing.

Letting go of a long sigh, he then withdrew the tape from its compartment in the camera. The cameraman’s gaze dropped to the cartridge as he began to speak. “It would have been great footage, too.” He took in a breath and handed it over to Brooke. “Now no one is going to see it.” He looked up into blue eyes.

“Thank you,” she said quietly, then turned to look to her sister, Randi. “Will you take care of this trash for me, please?” She turned her eyes back to the group of reporters. “Now about no one seeing it…” Brooke gave her fiercest face as she spit out her next word. “BULLSHIT! I’m sure someone else taped it. I just needed this one to collaborate with one of our own,” she looked over to Rick as he smiled and waved holding the camcorder up to his face now for the best imaging of the event. “That will help us when we press charges.”

“Speaking of pressing charges, Brooke.” Randi stepped up beside her sister. “I’m sure that the D.A. back in Virginia Beach might even think of a few more charges to go along with those.” She gave the reporters her best courtroom persona. “I’m sure you’d all like the idea of being a party in a conspiracy to commit a break in.” The corners of her mouth turned upward into a subtle smile at the groups’ collective uneasiness.

“Hmm…Maybe if they gave up all of the tapes…video and voice recordings…” Brooke pondered aloud.

Randi smiled obligingly as one by one the reporters held out their tapes in offering.

“C.C.,” Brooke called her youngest sister’s name. “I’ve got a job for you,” her melodic voice sing-songed out as she shared an embrace with Sam. “You wanted to get into the action didn’t you?”

“Hell, yeah.” Looking around for something to collect them in, C.C. eyed Terri’s purse. “I need that,” she took it from the chair.

“It’s full, C.C.,” Terri pleaded. “Why don’t you use your own?”

“Too small,” C.C. shot back at her as she lifted one of the two identical black bags from under the chairs.

“Hey, that’s not a toy. All my stuff is in there…”

“Not now,” C.C. smiled as she opened Terri’s doctor’s bag and proceeded to dump the contents of the purse into it. “See, now it’s all in there.” She pointed to the medical bag. “Hmm…and it all fits, too.” C.C. closed the bag and handed it to Terri, then headed off on her rounds through the ranks of the reporters.

“Thank you,” C.C. grabbed the first audiocassette and moved on down the line. “Hmm…digital,” she eyed the camcorder cassette that was handed to her next and smiled. “I can download this. That will add to the wedding memories. Glad you could come.” She worked her way through the reporters. “I got to remember to be famous when it comes time for my wedding. I’ll save a bundle on video taping the whole day.” She moved on to the next in line. “Thank you,” she took the last cartridge out of the reporter’s hand then headed for the cause of all this commotion. “You’re next, Sweetie,” C.C. grinned evilly. “Hand it all over.”

Brooke stepped forward to grab C.C.’s hand as she reached for the reporter’s purse. “Sorry Sis, but this one is mine.” The ex-rocker flashed a toothy smile at the reporter. “You always wanted to get close to me, didn’t you? Just consider it your fifteen seconds of fame.” Brooke snatched the audio recorder from the woman’s hand and popped the cassette out. “Now see…that wasn’t so bad.”

The woman stared straight into Brooke’s eyes as a combination of shock and fear crossed her face. “I…I…” she stopped abruptly at the sound of ringing that came from her purse.

Amused by the timing of the call, Brooke goaded her. “I’d answer that if I were you, it might be your lawyer.” She turned and winked at Sam, satisfied to see a smile finally coming to her new wife’s face. Looking down to her trusty four-legged companion as he stood next to Sam, Brooke winked. “Good boy, Mario.”

The reporter reached into her purse and grabbed for her cell phone. “You think you’re so sm…” she never finished her thought. Seeing the numeric display on the phone, the woman’s face showed the horror of what was going through her mind. “Oh, sssshit!”

Sam’s attention was taken by the exaggerated word of the reporter. She looked to see shock turning to anger on the reporter’s face. Acting on impulse, Sam moved swiftly across the carpeted floor and reached for the phone just missing it as it was jerked away. “Brooke, I think we may have found our press leak.”

“Press leak…” Brooke’s hesitation was only momentary as the words registered in her mind. “C.C. don’t let her leave.”

Seconds later both Gordon siblings converged on the woman with Mario at their heels. The dog’s jumping and growling as he tried to get in on the action added to the confusion of the moment. Like a well-rehearsed double team, the youngest Gordon sister covered the woman’s escape in the rear while Brooke’s long arm reached out and the phone was grabbed.

The reporter flailed wildly trying to retrieve her possession. She found out very quickly that she was no match for the duo. “That’s mine,” the reporter slapped at the tall woman’s shoulder. “Give it back to me.”

Coming to Brooke’s defense, Sam effectively threw a hip in the reporter’s direction shaking the woman’s delicate balance on the stiletto heels that she wore. “Nobody hits my wife and gets away with it.” The force of the words startled even Sam. She watched helplessly while the reporter tumbled in a slow motion fall just barely missing C.C. and her overflowing hand bag of tapes as she stepped out of the way. The last to react was Mario as he moved only enough to let the woman’s body hit the floor, snarling at her while he stood guard.

“Sorry, Brooke,” C.C. grabbed onto her sister’s arm for support. “I didn’t mean to bump into you.”

“What do you think?” Brooke steadied her sister. “Not too bad for the newest member of the family, huh?” She motioned with her head toward Sam, then winked. “That’s my wife,” Brooke flashed a big smile to her family.

“I’ll sue you and your wife for that, Brooke.” The reporter sat up and looked over toward the only man in the room with a camera in his hand. “And your own tape will prove it.”

Mario’s growl became more intense and Brooke quickly acted. “Mario, stay!”

“Damn…” Rick smiled weakly. “I just ran out of tape before that happened.”

“Yeah,” Brian moved forward slipping an unwrapped cassette out of his pocket. “Sorry, but I’m lousy when it comes to getting into packages. Ask my wife, we’ve got three kids.”

“You could’ve fooled me,” Rick muttered casting an eye in Randi’s direction.

Brian looked over to his wife and sighed before glancing to Terri with her hands coming to rest on her newly swollen belly. “Hmm…I see you have that same trouble, Rick,” he said with a wry smile.

“Bastards,” the downed reporter spit out as she turned her gaze to her fellow news journalists. “You all saw it,” she pointed an accusatory finger. “You can all be my witnesses.” She watched as they all shuffled from one foot to the other and looked everywhere in the room but directly at her. “Cowards, the whole lot of you.”

The continued ringing of the phone brought her thoughts back to the present. Brooke turned her eyes to the caller ID on the cell phone. “What the…” she muttered, flipping open the phone and bringing it up to her ear to listen.

“It’s about time you answered the goddamned phone. Was I right? Did you get there in time with my little wedding present? Oh, better yet, is that bitch happy with it? Did we surprise her?”

The ire rose in the ex-drummer’s body as she heard the all too familiar laughter over the phone. “We’ll see how surprised you are when I crush your skull in, you mother fucker.” Brooke glared at the reporter sprawled out on the floor. “I’m sorry but you’re friend won’t be able to talk to you for a while. You’re little bitch here is going to jail.”

“Broooooooke,” James drew his ex-group member’s name out till it made her cringe. “How nice of you to talk to me on such a momentous day in your life. I remember you telling me long ago that when the right one came along you wouldn’t waste any time. Such a pity it wasn’t me. I always thought that we’d share more than just conversation together on this day…maybe even bring more to life than beautiful music.” He let the hidden meaning of his words sink in. “Say, do you need any help breaking that little blonde in on the wedding night? If you do,” he snickered, “I could always help.” He howled with laughter. “You know, I’m only a few hours away by your private jet.”

“What tipped you off that it would be now?” Her tone was cold and biting in nature.

He laughed uproariously. “Brooke, Brooke…Only a lesbian in love would think to take her whole fucking family to Vermont. Besides, your girl Ida started me thinking.”

Brooke turned to look in her employee’s direction.

Sam followed her wife’s gaze, figuring that it had to be one of the two figures standing in close proximity to Peter. She watched as both Ida and Janet showed their apparent nervousness under the intense scrutiny.

“Ida, huh? How?” Brooke demanded.

“She’s the one that told me there would be no one in the office to drop money off to this weekend. That’s not like you to leave business high and dry, Brooke. Right then and there, I knew something was up and I sent Ruth word to fish it out of you under the guise of an interview, but you were already gone.” He laughed. “Nice ploy, eh?”

“You just don’t know when to quit, do you James?” Brooke shook her head. Out of her peripheral vision she could see Peter emerging through the crowd, coming toward her. Before she could wave him off, the voice coming from the phone again drew her attention.

“I wasn’t the one who quit, Brooke. If I remember it correctly, you were.”

A sly smile came to Brooke’s face. “Well, either way, thanks for the present. Now I can get you in on the conspiracy charge, too.” Feeling totally in charge, Brooke gazed over to her wife, then turned away from her. Her voice was barely a whisper but the message was conveyed clearly enough for James to understand. “You stay away from Sam or so help me God, I’ll hurt you like you’d never believe. In fact, touch any of my family and you’ll wish you were dead.” Brooke turned even further from her sister C.C. who was standing close to her. “No, make that, you will be dead.”

The anger on Brooke’s face could be plainly seen as Peter came up to her. He stood there with questioning brown eyes as she met his gaze. He never remembered seeing this side of Brooke, not in all the years they’d played together. But then again, the majority of that time he was under the influence of alcohol to one degree or another.

Brooke took in a breath and buried her anger in a mask of ambiguity. Resuming her normal tone of voice, she spoke so that every one could hear. “Be expecting the cops, Asshole. I wouldn’t go anywhere if I were you. Oh, and pretty boy, I wouldn’t run if I were you.” Her conversation ended, she disengaged the phone.

“Here Randi,” Brooke tossed the cell phone to the lawyer. “You’ll be able to use this for evidence. I want her arrested and his ass back in jail.” She motioned to the reporter kneeling on the floor, “That little bitch got her information from James.”

The two newlyweds moved toward each other. Sam reached out first, sliding her arm around Brooke’s waist. “It’s over and done with,” her hand began moving in small circles across the tense muscles in an effort to calm. “He can’t hurt us if we don’t let him.”

The murmurs of hushed conversations sounded around them as Brooke gazed down into Sam’s face. They shared a long moment of silence before it came to an end. “I’m not letting anything spoil this day for you.”

“Us.” Sam said quietly, still staring into mellowing blue eyes.

“You’re right…it is us now, isn’t it?” Their smiles grew in proportion to the others and the question was answered without a word.

Lost in their own world, the pair didn’t hear the relentless grumbling of the reporters until one strong voice got their attention. “Ladies, could we at least have some kind of photo story for our readers? Something, anything?”

Sam bit at her lip, then spoke so that only her wife could hear. “This is our day. Let’s not think of James or my mother,” she sighed, “or any of the others.” Seeing the slight nod of her partner she turned to address the media. “Please, let us have some semblance of a happy wedding day.”

“Yeah,” Brooke wrapped her arms around Sam’s waist, pulling her close. “I have a new life to start and you’re holding it up.”

“Seriously, Brooke.” The vocal reporter stepped forward. “Can’t you give us something to report? I mean, we did come all the way up here for your wedding.” He tried playing on her emotions.

She stared at them for a long moment as she thought. Finally she spoke. “Tell them that I got married and have never been happier.” Her eyes looked down to the woman cradled in her arms.

A radiant glow came to Sam as she fought the warming sensation she knew would quickly manifest into a blush. She looked up to meet Brooke’s gaze with a smile. “Here’s one picture that you can let everyone see.” The blonde turned toward her new wife and met her halfway in a kiss. Oblivious to the snaps and flashes going off around them, their kiss deepened expressing the passion that flowed from within.

Crystal led the chorus of hoots and hollers. “Wahoo!” Crystal raised her arm in the air. “Now that’s what I call a kiss.”

“Kiss? That better be a new form of mouth to mouth breathing or we’re in trouble,” Rick nudged his own wife and gave her a peck on the cheek.

“They don’t seem to be in any trouble.” Aunt Sandy wrapped a comforting arm around her young niece. “What do you think, Sarah?”

“I think it’s great.” She looked up to her Aunt. “At least it’s one way to keep Sam from screaming “Oh God” every time they’re together.” Upon seeing the scrutiny of her Aunt’s gaze, Sarah’s face took on its most innocent look.

“That’s my sister,” C.C. chimed in as she let her hand fall to her side, conveniently giving Mario a pat on his head. “She can put the fear of God into anyone. I should know, she did it to me when we were growing up.” C.C. suddenly felt the urge to rub the top of her head, remembering the upside down poundings she received as a child.

Henry stood proud, gazing at the spectacle in front of him. “Oh, Mable,” he called out seeing that the woman was standing just inside the door. “Mable, you can bring yourself and the rest of the Calvary over now. It looks like it is happily ever after time.”

“What?” Mable rushed to his side with Julie cradled in her arms. “She did it without any help from her mother?”

“No,” Henry turned to his wife. “They did it, Mable. Sam and Brooke did it together.”

“And da baby, too.” Julie added her own thoughts to the mix. She clapped her hands then repeated the words of wisdom that she remembered. “Mawwage always comes firwst.”

Suddenly those words took on new meaning to the elder Gordons as husband looked to wife and burst into laughter, their attention now centering back on the happy couple.

Coming up for air, Sam’s cheeks were a little more then tinged by her blush. “Whoa…you keep kissing me like that and we’re gonna be in trouble.”

“So,” Brooke whispered against Sam’s lips, “Do we go to the reception or go to work on that baby?”

Sam giggled nervously. “I know what I’d like to do.” She wiggled her eyebrows and smiled sexily at her partner. Her gaze shifted to the stairway on the other side of the room and the crowd blocking their way. “I think there’s just a little bit of a road block, though.”

“What’s that…the crowd?” Brooke stepped back from her then smiled raising her hand up in the air and snapping her fingers twice. “No problem.”

Puzzled by her wife’s action, Sam watched as Peter came over to Brooke and whispered in her ear. He pulled back from her and pointed to the door at the side of the room. With his other hand, he produced something from his pocket and placed it into her outstretched hand. The next thing she saw was Brooke’s subtle wink at her best man before he stepped away from her.

Sam studied her wife for a moment then asked, “Something else that you had planned?”

“Why certainly.” Brooke smiled as she grasped Sam’s hand in hers and moved toward the side door. “I always have a plan.” She turned her attention to her nephews, “Hey, munchkins, let your Aunt Brooke through, huh?”

“Sure,” David stepped out of the way. “Kevin…Kevin,” he called to his brother, “get out of the door so they can see them too.”

“See what?” Sam looked for an answer but received none. “What’s out there, Kevin?”

“SHHHH!” David cautioned his brother. “Remember what Grandma said.”

“Oh, yeah,” Kevin clapped his hands over his mouth and looked up at the two women, his eyes growing bigger each second.

“Ah…that’s my good little man,” Brooke winked at him as she grabbed onto the doorknob. Once the door was open, she positioned her foot in the opening and turned back towards Sam.

“Brooke…what are you…” Sam squealed as her feet left the floor. “Yikes!”

Brooke hoisted the small blonde up in her arms and carried her out through the door. “You like?” Blue eyes met green and guided them toward the waiting ride. “I thought we might need a quick getaway.”

“Oh, my God.” Sam sucked in air as she surveyed the waiting team of white horses hitched to an eloquently decorated carriage complete with driver and a sign on the back. “Civil Union – A contract of forever,” Sam’s smile grew bigger. “Bells, too!”

“Got to have Wedding Bells of some sort, didn’t we?” Brooke winked at her bride.

“You’re such a romantic, Brooke Gor…”

The woman leaned in kissing her to stop the progression of her name. “Remember, we’re together now so that would be Moleson-Gordon, Sam.”

“Oh, I’ll remember, Hon, now and forever.” She dropped a kiss of her own on inviting lips. “Always.”

“That’s what I was thinking too.” Brooke carried her bride to the carriage and helped her in. Climbing up, she settled herself into the seat and placed the waiting blanket over their legs, then she snuggled in and wrapped her arms around Sam.

“So what did Peter give you, before? I thought it might have been a key to a car but now…I’m not so sure.”

“You mean this?” Brooke produced the key and smiled. “Why it’s the key to the getaway suite, of course.”

“Oh, I do so like a woman with a plan.” Sam chuckled.

Brooke gave a quick nod to the driver and the carriage was in motion. “You don’t really think that I was going to have my wedding night in the same building that the rest of my family are staying at.” The dark haired woman arched a brow. “Besides, they’d get tired of listening to you praying.”

Sam gave her wife a playful slap.

“Hmm…I think I’ll take that as the first of many…” Brooke’s eyes twinkled in delight, “Many love taps in the years to come.”

****

It seemed like they’d walked for hours while in essence it had only amounted to ten minutes or so. The combination of enraged anger and boiling blood kept the brisk January temperatures of Vermont at bay. Samuel pulled his suit coat tighter as he followed the cleared path. Before he’d realized it, they had found their way across the parking lot and up the sloping grounds to a small gazebo type structure that had been weatherproofed for winter use.

Samuel held the door open as an invitation to his wife. He knew that it was now or never if they were going to come out of this in one piece or not. He started to collect his thoughts, deciding what to do.

“How could you lie to me, Samuel?” Elaine’s voice filled the air before she was completely inside. “Isn’t our marriage worth anything?” Once inside the enclosed area, she spun on her heel and faced him, not letting him get a word in before she started again. “I can’t believe that I had to find out about this…this…” she cringed, “wedding from a reporter.”

Samuel’s voice came out with the anger he had churning inside. “I never lied to you.” His words were clipped by the slamming of the door. “I told you I had business in Vermont. I never said that it was of a more personal nature.”

“Humph!” She let out a disgusted sigh. “No, you just never said anything.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “And I suppose that week with Sarah at her friend’s house was just another lie, too? What did you do…plan this all during that Christmas visit of Sam’s. Don’t think that I didn’t see you two with your heads together.” She turned her face away so as not to look at him. “I should have known nothing good would come from that.”

“Elaine,” he shoved his hands into his suit coat pocket to keep from lashing out at her. “You know, I really can’t believe that you’re the same woman I married,” Samuel sighed. “This all came about when Brooke called the house to let me know that Sarah was there. I thought she was at Jamie’s just like you did.” He sneered as he thought back on the situation. “But then again, why should I expect you to even think that your daughter would run away from home? You’re such an understanding mother,” he said sarcastically.

“What do you mean?” Defiantly she faced him and gave her rebuttal. “Imagine my shock to find out from a tabloid lowlife that my oldest daughter was involved in some perverted rock star’s life.” Elaine shook her head trying to get the images out of her mind. “I’ve tried to understand my children,” she fought back a tear. “I’ve tried to keep them on the straight and narrow.

His face grew redder as his anger came churning to a boil. He tried to figure out where to start. “Your daughter ran away from home because you pushed her to that point.” He raised is right arm and pointed back toward the hotel. “That rock star, who happens to love our daughter more than life itself, is the one who called so that we wouldn’t worry about Sarah.”

“And did you tell me where she was. NO!” Her gaze became distant and cold. “I had to look like the fool when I called Jennie’s mother asking if I could come pick her up earlier than planned.”

“Jamie’s,” Samuel’s head shook as he spoke his mind correcting her.

“Jamie,” Elaine repeated it. “See, you have me so mad that I can’t even remember people’s names.”

“I can’t believe you can hate so much. Brooke and Sam took care of Sarah until I left to get her.” He looked away. “Your straight and narrow is not always the best thing, Elaine.”

“Oh!” Elaine let out an exasperated breath, then looked directly at her husband. “Am I such a bad mother that I’ve driven all of my children away?”

Samuel mumbled an inaudible phrase under his breath.

“What?” Elaine squinted at her husband in defiance.

Samuel thought before he spoke choosing to stick to the matter at hand. “You’ve already thrown one daughter to the curb. You’ve acted like you didn’t care whether she lived or died until now.” His eyes narrowed as he continued on. “Our other daughter runs away because you don’t try to understand…” He took in a breath and mumbled out his next thought so that she didn’t hear it. “You might as well have given them all away.”

“I was only trying to do what I thought was best for them,” was her hasty reply. “I love them and you know that, Samuel. I love them all,” her words trailed off.

“You say that you love them, but all I know now is that you gave up one without my realizing it and I’m not going to let that happen again, not this time.” He turned toward the window looking out over the parking lot. “You’ve driven both your daughters away.”

He paused for a moment trying to calm himself. “Elaine, I love you but I can’t handle this anymore.” He slammed his hand onto the gazebo’s supporting frame. “I will not lose all of my children because of your closed mind.”

“I’m not closed minded…I’m…I’m…just…”

“Dammit!” He pivoted to confront her face to face. “You can either learn to accept our children for who they are or,” his voice raise to a bad-tempered growl. “I can’t accept you any longer.”

Elaine’s eyes grew wider with shock. “You’re not thinking of a divorce are you?” She looked deep into his relentless stare. “Oh God,” she brought her hand up to her face. “You…you wouldn’t leave me, would you, Sam?”

“Why not?” He sneered, “You left all of us a long time ago.”

“But you know that I love you. I loved our children. I tried to do the best that I could for them.” Her eyes darted wildly as each new thought came to her head. “You can’t tell me that I never did a single thing that wasn’t in their best interest.”

“Their best interest?” He let the air escape his lungs rather sharply. “I’m thinking that you need to reconsider what’s really important to you?” He looked her straight in the eyes. “Is it me, your children and any offspring that might come their way, or is it your warped sense of self-righteousness that damned steepled building gives you.” He saw the query as it came to her face. “I’d think long and hard if I were you, Elaine.” Samuel drew his hand up and adjusted his tie. “I’d think quickly too, since our eldest daughter has just taken a wife. She may not live our lifestyle but it was her choice.”

Dumbfounded by her husband’s aggressive attitude Elaine stood there speechless.

Seeing no act of rebuttal, Samuel started for the door, then stopped short of it. He wanted to make sure that his wife understood him perfectly. This was going to be Custard’s last stand and in looking over to his wife, he could see that the yellow hair general was dying. Finally, he’d be on the winning side. “Here it is, Elaine, me, Sarah, Sam and her family now or none of us. The choice is yours. I’ve lost too much time with my daughter as it is because I’ve let you dictate our lives. I refuse to lose another minute.” With that said, he walked out the door, allowing it to slam shut in his wake.

“But I…” She swallowed and tried again. “Why, I…” Her words were too little and too late as she watched the man she’d loved all of her adult life leave her behind.

She stood there still transfixed to his vanishing figure. Her mind awash with confusion, Elaine looked to what had gotten her into this predicament in the first place. She raised her eyes to the heavens above. “Please, I know he loves me. Tell me what to do.”

She lowered her gaze back to the man she loved and that’s when a spark of hope filled her heart. Her answer was there as it had been all her life. Now, she would just have to try to find it.

“They’re to blame for this…” she took in a breath to settle her gut. “I know what’s right.”

****

“What is that damn ringing sound?” Samuel stopped on the path when he came to the parking lot and looked first to one side, then the other. There, with bells a-ringing came the horse drawn carriage. His mood swiftly changed after seeing the familiar faces on the bundled-up passengers inside.

He smiled as he took his hand from his pocket and waved to his little girl. “I love you, Sam.”

“Love you too, Daddy.” One of the brides yelled back over the sound of the bells.

He chuckled as Sam’s voice melted his hardened heart. “And as for you, Brooke…” He said sternly, making sure that he had her attention. “You take good care of my daughter.”

“I will, Sir, very good care,” Brooke turned to look into Sam’s eyes. “For the rest of my life,” she whispered, closing the distance between their lips until she was rewarded with a kiss.

Samuel watched them as they rode off, locked in a passionate kiss. He looked back at the gazebo and saw the anguished woman standing within. “Maybe their happily ever after will last.” He sighed to himself and headed back to the hotel.
Installment 2–2 Leaving…On a Jet Plane
The rhythmic ticking of Mable’s travel alarm clock marked time for the random thoughts in her head. The day had been a hectic one, complete with trials and tribulations but in the end, it had turned out well. Brooke and Sam were together now and that alone put a smile on her matriarchal face. The daughter she had always been so worried about had set off on a path with a strong partner by her side.

The woman turned onto her back and stared into the blackness of the night. Her thoughts changed with her position and her heart felt heavy with sorrow for her daughter-in-law’s parents. Try as she might, Mable could not fathom the emotions that she saw earlier from the pair.

Her mind shifted to the somber looking Samuel after his return to the gathering. His mumbled apologies to the guests were a sight Mable never wanted to see again. She glanced over to her own husband and made a mental note to tell him how much his time spent with Samuel would mean to Sam once she found out. Whatever he had said to the grim looking man had made a world of difference in his demeanor, at least on his outside appearance.

The sound of Henry’s snore brought her out of her thoughts and into the present. She rolled over and gently patted his shoulder, “Henry, what if you didn’t have me to talk to?”

“Mmmph…” came his muffled, sleepy answer and the snoring softened but didn’t stop.

Mable pondered an idea for a moment then slipped out from under the covers. Pulling on a pair of pants and a sweater, she took her shoes and her room key in her hand and headed for the door.

Mable stopped at the desk only long enough to jot a few words down onto the hotel’s stationary. “There, just so you won’t worry, Henry.” She turned back to look at her slumbering mate. “Thanks for the idea, my Love.” She threw her husband a kiss and was out the door, closing it softly.

“Okay,” she turned with the click of the lock and in the subdued lighting of the hallway slipped into her shoes. “Now, to see what I can do for damage control.” She took in a deep breath and started down the hall.

****

Staring into the fireplace, Elaine sat motionless in the lonely hotel lobby. The only movement in the room besides the flickering of the flames for the last few hours was the almost motionless desk clerk. She paid him no mind, now with his head propped up on his hand as he casually paged through some paperwork. The quiet of the room had left her more alone with her thoughts then she cared to be. Looking up at the figure that was crossing the room, she felt her already bad mood worsening as a hesitant frown came to her face and a groan stuck in her throat. She watched as the woman went to the refreshment island and poured two cups of tea.

“Honey or sugar?”

Elaine didn’t believe her ears and she looked directly at the woman who was speaking to her. A fast turn of her head revealed no one else in the room. “Are you asking me?”

The dark haired woman looked around then smiled back with her reply, “I hate sitting up and drinking alone. I thought that maybe…” Mable shrugged. “We could drink our tea together and take some of the chill away. That is if you don’t mind my company for a while.”

“No…I was just…” Elaine looked into the flames again and cleared her throat. “Sugar, please,” she said, turning to meet the woman’s eyes for only a second. “I think…maybe…” she looked away. “I’d like some company for a while. We could both share the fire.” She motioned to a chair across from hers.

Mable crossed the room carrying the two cups and offered the one with sugar in it to her lobby mate. “I can see where Sam gets her good looks.”

Elaine’s eyes riveted to the woman as she lifted the cup to her mouth and sipped at it. “You know my Samantha?” She paused for only a second and then demanded, “How?”

“My daughter C.C. shared a room with her in the dorm this semester.”

Studying the woman closely as she sat the cup back down, she sighed silently then looked away into the flames. “You must think that I hate my daughter.” Elaine stole a glance in Mable’s direction. “I don’t. I…I just don’t think she’s very wise in this judgment of hers. Does that make me so bad?” She braced herself for a conflict.

“No, I don’t think you hate her.” Mable chose her words carefully. “I think you just don’t have all the facts.” She settled into her chair and sipped at her tea. “Believe me, I know what you’re going through.”

The brief sound of clipped laughter tumbled from Elaine’s mouth. “Like you’d have a daughter in the same position as me.” Her eyes flirted with the fire as she went for her drink again. “I doubt that. You’re too young to know this kind of torture.”

“Actually, I do.” Mable took another sip at her tea. “I was there myself about 17 years ago. I’m Brooke’s mother, too.” She glanced over to the woman to see the reaction her revelation would get. “I’m a little older than you think.”

“What? I don’t remember seeing you at the…” Shocked by the candor, Elaine felt her emotions swing into action as she thought about the events of the afternoon.

Mable slowly nodded. “I was there. I was the one shielding my grandchildren from the melee of the press.”

“And you let this happen? Don’t you care about her? See that things wouldn’t be better if she were…”

“Normal?” Mable finished her thought. “Believe me, those two are more normal than half of the straight people I know.”

The enraged woman sat forward. “You don’t know my daughter.” Elaine squinted her eyes for a few seconds and slowly sat back in her chair, her face almost emotionless now. “I don’t even know my daughter,” she mumbled in realization, then looked to the woman across from her. “And…” Elaine paused not knowing what to call the woman.

“Mable,” the woman offered her name as she brought her cup up to drink from.

“Mable, what do you term as normal…” Elaine’s eyes turned cold, “…to be an outcast of society?”

The Gordon matriarch thought for a moment then answered. “I’d have to say that my definition of normal is someone who comes from a good family upbringing, which Samantha obviously has.” She nodded toward Elaine. “Someone who takes everything God has given them and makes the best out of the situation, good or bad. It’s someone who is very giving, loyal, and gives love as freely as it is offered. Both of our daughters try, to the best of their abilities, to offer what they can to society. I love my daughter very much,” she brought the cup to her lips, “and yours too, I might add.”

“And what do you call this…” Elaine took in a deep breath. “This mockery of family life. Two women together,” she closed her eyes in disgust. “What kind of love is that?”

“That…” Mable paused for effect, “…is the love that God gave them. I truly believe that their love is just as much a gift from God as the love that you and I both share with our husbands.”

“Why…I would have been sent off and never heard from again if I’d done this to my mother.” Elaine puffed out her chest, proud of her upbringing. “Is it some bad seed or just the wheel of fate that makes them like that? Sam couldn’t have possibly wanted to be this way.”

The question was left lingering in the air for several minutes before Mable shattered the quiet once again. “You know, Mrs. Moleson, there must have been something that your mother had planned for you that you never followed through on or disagreed with…” she shifted her position in the chair to face the woman across from her. “Nobody wants to be that way,” she shrugged. “Why would they choose to be like that when they have to deal with so much ridicule and hatred from their peers and society in general? Nobody would willingly choose that. It’s not a choice for them to make.” Mable looked down into her cup of tea.

The words caught Elaine off guard. She didn’t expect to hear them from someone who accepted her daughter’s lifestyle and it made her think. She picked up her own cup of tea and stared silently into it, listening to the words of the woman as they continued to reveal Mable’s reasoning.

“It’s who they are and all we can do as parents is to love them.” Mable sipped her beverage. “We accept them as best we can to make it a little easier along their way. I do believe that it was fate that those two daughters of ours met.”

“You…you seem to have…adjusted to this way of life with your daughter.” Elaine’s gaze met Mable’s. “How?”

The smile broadened across Mable’s face as she thought back over the years. “I didn’t really have a choice,” she chuckled. “She was my second child…” Mable paused then corrected herself. “Actually, my third. I miscarried between Randi and Brooke. That made her all the more special to me. Brooke told me when she was twelve that she thought she was…different.” She looked to Elaine and confided, “I always told her she could tell her father and me anything. I love her too much to let who she loves come between us.” She watched as Mable sipped at her tea. “We talked about it. I didn’t quite understand but I let her know that I still loved her and would try to help her make the right choices. I think she did.”

“And you don’t mind this…” Elaine looked directly at Mable. “This notoriety of her sexual preference?”

“And how many mothers could say that they had a thirty year old virgin for a daughter?” Mable smirked, “She wasn’t the one who made that sexual preference public knowledge. It was the people around her.”

“But I thought that if they were gay, they were…”

“Promiscuous? Hardly.” Mable shook her head. “When Brooke was in the band, James had a problem with her because he wanted her. She didn’t want him. He tried some things and she didn’t go along with them, so he got together with the record company execs and they pretty much outted her against her wishes. They tried to trash her reputation saying she was with all of these nasty women but believe me she wasn’t. Brooke was never one to really date anyone, male or female.”

“How could she be sure she was gay if she was a virgin?” Elaine interrupted.

“The same way you and I knew.” Mable had the hint of a blush starting at her cheeks. “We were attracted to men when we were still virgins.” She looked over to Elaine. “She just knew. Like she knew that music was what she was all about.” Mable smiled as she remembered Sam’s first dinner at their home. “She opened up so much when she met Sam. I saw a side of her that I never thought I’d see.”

“Samantha did that?” Elaine repositioned herself more attentively. “I mean…how could my Sammi show you something about your own daughter.” She watched Mable intently as she waited for an answer.

“I had been concerned about my Brooke. She was thirty years old and showed no interest in anything other than music. Henry and I won’t be around forever and I despised the thought of Brooke being alone.” Mable sat back in her chair and thought about the rest of her family. “I mean, Randi is married to Brian and they have three wonderful children. Terri is married to Rick and they have one on the way. C.C.,” she sighed. “Well, I’m sure C. C. will meet someone and get married, but Brooke…” Mable smiled. “Brooke was very open and candid around us but there always seemed to be something missing about her. You could see all of that change the day she met Sam. There was actually a life in those blue eyes of hers and love for someone other than her family.” She reached over and picked up her cup of tea. “It was actually very sweet how she courted Sam.” Mable smiled as she thought about it.

“You mean that they just didn’t…ah…didn’t just…” Elaine motioned with a wiggle of her eyebrows. “You know…”

Looking confused at first, Mable realized what Elaine was thinking. “Oh, that…” her eyes grew wider. “No, they didn’t. Not for quite a while.” Mable sipped at her tea. “Did you know that they were each other’s firsts?”

Elaine’s eyes narrowed as she realized that she hadn’t known her daughter at all. “Why, I just figured that when Samantha said that she was gay, she just did it with everyone.”

“No,” Mable said, without a doubt in her mind. “I believe it was fate that they found each other and that they waited for each other.”

Staring into the fireplace, Elaine tried to wrap her mind around the image of her daughter with words that she could easily deal with. She sat there for the longest of moments before a smirk came to her face. “Well, at least my daughter was the one that was courted.”

Elaine’s sly smile brought one of the same to Mable’s face. “That’s true, but Sam courted Brooke, too. From day one everything was a mutual decision between them.”

“Well, either way, it looks like yours wears the pants in that fami…” she stopped and redirected her thought. “They do make a cute coup…I mean,” the words felt odd coming from her mouth and she had to force herself to say something. “I…I’m not at all comfortable with this yet.”

“It takes time. Give it a chance, Mrs. Moleson. Believe me, I know it’s hard but I’ll be there to help you.” Mable studied Elaine for a moment then softly added, “As well as your husband and Sam too…if you let them know that you want it.” She reached over and patted the woman’s hand as it rested on the arm of the chair. “She speaks very highly of you, you know. I know that Sam loves you very much. You know that she misses you and her father very much? I tried to make her feel as at home as possible but you can never replace your own mother.”

Elaine looked to Mable with hope-filled eyes. “She does? I would have thought,” fear now took hold of her emotions.

“I’ll tell you what, why don’t you let things settle for tonight and join all of us for breakfast with them in the morning.”

“You’d actually want me to be there?” Doubt rested on the woman’s face.

“Of course. You’re as much a part of this family now as Sam is. I’d be delighted if you would join us.” Mable leaned in and whispered, “Besides, my wealthy daughter is buying.”

“I’m not one to change my mind overnight Mrs. Gordon. I can’t promise you anything, but that I’ll show up. It’s going to take more than just having breakfast for me to be able to deal with all of this.”

“That’s fine and please call me Mable.” She stood up and walked over to Elaine, giving a reassuring touch of her hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Just give them a chance and try to have an open mind is all that I ask.

“Mable,” Elaine let their eyes meet. “Thank you for this…chat. I’m sure we’ll be doing it again.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Mable smiled as she moved from the room and hoped that Sam’s mother would accept the new couple.

****

Even though her head still felt like she was floating in the clouds, Sam could sense Brooke’s hold on her. The strong arms wrapped around her midsection, long legs intertwined with hers, and moist kisses being placed upon her shoulder all added to the pleasure that she had known for the last twelve hours or more. In fact, Sam’s mind slowly began to reason that the kisses were leading to more wetness on her body than just her shoulder.

Barely opening one eyelid, she gazed upon her lover’s attentive face. “Hmm…this is simply glorious,” she purred. “Can we get married every day?”

“We can get married every hour if you’d like,” Brooke said seductively as she peppered her wife’s neck with kisses. “Good morning, Gorgeous.” Brooke whispered in her ear out of habit. “Oh, excuse me,” she paused for effect. “I meant Mrs. Moleson-Gordon.”

Sam could feel her heart flutter at the sound of her wife’s words. “Nope,” she shook her head slightly as she traced her fingers over Brooke’s face. “Not every hour. That wouldn’t be enough time to… ” Sam smiled coyly, “…do what I like the best.”

A dark brow arched high as Brooke’s interest was piqued. “Oh yeah?” She watched as green eyes twinkled mischievously.

“Yeah,” Sam cleared her throat quietly. “You even seemed to like it quite nicely yourself, Brooke Moleson-Gordon.”

Sam turned and kissed a smiling Brooke on the lips and when they parted each resumed their previous positions with a renewed feeling of content.

The silence was broken by the sound of Brooke’s voice. “Samantha Addams Moleson-Gordon and Brooke Loran Moleson-Gordon…” she listened to Sam’s sigh. “Now that’s a real mouthful.” She grinned into her wife’s shoulder.

Sam debated with herself for a minute, and then spoke the words aloud. “Brooke…I was…”

“Hmm…?” Brooke lifted her head and searched out her favorite place to show her affection.

The kiss on her ear distracted Sam for only a second. “I was thinking. Do we have to keep that name? I mean…the one that the minister gave us?”

“What…Moleson-Gordon?” Brooke mumbled as she moved to the spot behind Sam’s ear and kissed it. “Why?”

Goosebumps erupted all over Sam’s body and she closed her eyes to savor the feelings it evoked throughout her body. “You know what that does to me, Hon…” Sam giggled when Brooke’s hand brushed over her nipple. “Ohhh…” She pushed it away. “I’m trying to be serious here.” She gave a not-so-stern look to her lover. “We never thought about that before the ceremony.”

“What…” Brooke pulled herself back to rise up on her elbow and stare at Sam’s breast. “I’ve thought about all of you…” her tongue slid across her lips wetting them, “since I set eyes on you.”

“All of me or just certain parts?” Sam asked teasingly. She watched the blush grow in her wife’s cheeks. “I thought so,” she said. “Lucky for you that we’re already married,” Sam winked. “Okay, back to the original topic. Maybe we should change that name before it sticks with us…the Moleson-Gordon.

“Why?” Brooke rested her head in her hand and concentrated on what Sam was saying. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Well…” Sam turned to face her wife, “To be honest, every time that I see a hyphenated name like that I think of kids that never had parents that had no intentions of getting married when they were born.” She slipped her left hand into Brooke’s and brought them into both of their sights. “We are married. I don’t want that stigma being laid on our children.”

“Then let’s just pick one of them.”

“Which one?”

They looked at each other for a second and stated verbally their thoughts simultaneously.

“Gordon,” Sam said with a smile.

“Moleson,” Brooke nodded.

Laughter filled the room and as their gazes locked on one another, their mood became serious once again.

“So, you think you could be that flexible to change your identity, eh?” Sam placed a stray lock of hair behind Brooke’s ear, “My wife.”

“Why not? I’m all yours anyway.”

Green eyes roamed over the body next to her, lingering occasionally. “Hmm…I’ll say that again.”

“Brooke Loran Moleson…” she said her name thoughtfully. “What’s wrong with that? I can change it. I need new business cards anyway.”

“Nothing…but I was thinking…” Sam took in a breath. “How about…Samantha Addams Gordon?” Sam watched Brooke’s face hopefully. Please Brooke, I want to be a part of a real family…a loving family. The thought raced through her mind like a prayer and she found herself gazing into the depths of blue pools for an answer.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Brooke did the only thing she could think of. She leaned in and started kissing Sam on her neck. “But Baby…your initials would be S-A-G.”

She shrugged indifferently to the letters. “Most people have a normal middle name. Brooke, I’m already saddled with two last names from birth. I don’t want a third.” Sam pointed to a missed area of her neck, eliciting another kiss. “So it will fit when I’m old, gray, and ah…” she looked down to her breasts, “…Saggy.” She looked to her wife. “Are you still going to like me when I’m that old?”

“No, I won’t like you.” Brooke shook her head watching for Sam’s reaction.

“What?” Sam’s eyes bugged, fearing the worst.

“I’ll love you even more knowing that I was able to spend the majority of my life with you.” Brooke wrapped her arms around Sam. “I could take your name. I’d love to share that with you.”

“What…you want to be a beer, too? It gets old after a while, Brooke.” Sam rolled her eyes thinking of all the whispered jokes from the groups she had been a part of. “Think of our kids, if we have any. Do you want them to hear the jokes about being a Sam Addams and a Moleson all at the same time?”

“When we have any…” Brooke corrected her.

Sam giggled, “You’re right, when we have them.” Sam touched Brooke’s chest lovingly. “Trust me on this one, Brooke. I’ve always prayed for a better name to come along someday.” She looked into her wife’s eyes and confided. “Besides, I kind of always wanted to be a part of a loving family. Brooke, letting me take your last name would make it so.”

“If that’s what you really want, baby…”

“That’s what I’d like.” Sam touched their foreheads together. “But…what I really want is…” she whispered, pulling back so that Brooke could see her wiggling eyebrows. “I want you.” She drew out the word with her lips lingering in a pucker.

“Oh yeah…” Brooke tried to calm her racing heart with a deep breath. “Whatcha gonna do with me?”

“Well…it sure isn’t eating breakfast with a lot of relatives around us.” Sam’s seductive purr nearly melted Brooke. “If you catch my drift.”

“Oh, yeah…” Brooke’s eyes darkened as the passion inside her built up and she moved closer to Sam. “But Baby, we don’t have to be there for another…” she glanced past the table they had eaten their delivered meal at, to the clock on the mantle above the fireplace. “Two hours. Hmm…” she brought her eyes to the empty bottle of champagne lying on its side next to the glasses on the nightstand and smiled remembering the card that came with it. Brooke made a mental note to thank Sam’s Aunt for the gift.

“What are you smiling at?”

“Nothing…” she turned her attention to the body beside her. Her head dipped down and she rolled her tongue around a pert nipple. “So, what can I do with you?” She proceeded to drop a line of kisses down Sam’s abdomen. Reaching Sam’s navel, Brooke looked to see the effect that she was having on her wife. “To you,” she amended her thought seeing the pleased look on Sam’s face. It wasn’t but a second longer, and Sam’s hands began urging Brooke further south.

****

The noise level in the room was no more different than the Gordon house during a family dinner. The sound of chattering filled the air highlighted by the ringing sound of child-like laughter. The gathered friends and family made good use of their time together as they awaited the arrival of the honored couple.

Given the job as lookout, C.C. had one by one greeted all of the guests with a large smile. She watched the main entrance into the dinning room and waited to get the first dig in on her newly married sister. Seeing Brooke’s head high above the line at the door, C.C. rubbed her hands together and cleared her throat. “Don’t look now, they’re here.” She stood up and pointed to them as they entered the room. Her snide comment was said loud enough so that all could hear. “Now maybe they’ll let us have some chocolate milk. Hey, Brooke,” she directed her comment to her sister. “You did leave some chocolate syrup for us to use, didn’t you? You know the kids don’t drink coffee.”

Instinctively Brooke snagged a mini muffin off the table and threw it at C.C., “Be quiet, brat.” She shot a glare at her baby sister. “There might be some left but I don’t think you’d want it.” Brooke showed the tip of her tongue to C.C.

Sam moved closer and whispered in her wife’s ear. “Brooke, you know that we didn’t…” her words stopped with the touch of Brooke’s kiss on her cheek.

“I know that…” she caught Sam’s eye and glanced over to C.C., “But she doesn’t.” Brooke winked and flashed a dazzling smile as she leaned in to whisper. “Okay, Darlin’, I’ll behave.”

“Hi, Mom,” Sam turned to her mother-in-law next to her. She placed a kiss on her cheek. “Hi, Dad.” Sam met her father-in-law halfway as they both stood and leaned in exchanging kisses on their cheeks. Sam nudged Brooke and watched expectantly.

“What, Sweetheart?” Brooke had yet to take her eyes off of Sam.

“You know, you could be sociable. There are other people here besides me.”

Dutifully Brooke nodded and replicated the actions of her wife. “Hi, Mom.” She moved toward her father. “Hi, Pop.”

“And the training begins,” Randi said with a raised eyebrow. “I’m impressed.” She raised her coffee cup and saluted Sam’s effort. “Morning you two.”

Brooke retracted the beginnings of a snarl for her sister when Samuel entered the room. “Hello, Mr. Moleson,” she extended her hand in his direction.

“Good morning, Brooke.” He grasped her hand and felt her nervousness, more now than when they had first met. Samuel looked her straight in the eye and commented. “I hope you rested comfortably…”

The woman swallowed and cleared her throat, trying not to let her nervousness manifest. “Ah…Yes, Sir.” She breathed a sigh of relief when Samuel’s eyes turned to his daughter.

“Hey, Baby Cakes…” he opened his arms to Sam. “How’s my married daughter doing?”

The newly wed started to blush as she mustered out her words, “Fine, Daddy, just fine.” She wrapped her arms around him and softly whispered into his ear. “But ‘Baby Cakes’, Daddy?” She felt his shrug and their hug grew stronger.

Not wanting to miss anyone, Brooke sauntered past Sarah’s chair and greeted her. “Hey there, kiddo.” She let her hand ruffle the top of her sister-in-law’s hair. “So what’s good here?” Brooke eyed the menu in the girl’s hand.

Without any hesitation, C.C. looked over to Sam and smiled. “Do I really have to tell you?” She leered at Brooke.

“I was speaking to Sarah, C.C.” Brooke looked at her sister in the next chair. “I haven’t gotten to you yet.” She grinned looking at her sister’s top. “Well, other than that mini muffin I landed down your shirt.”

C.C. stuck out her tongue rather childishly. “Oh, and I thought I was growing.”

“Morning Sarah,” Sam touched her sister on the shoulder and tried to move the conversation to more sociable topics.

“Hi, Sam.” The girl’s eyes glanced past her sister and settled on Brooke. “Hey, Brooke, did you do any more praying last night?” Sarah smiled sweetly.

Brooke slowly looked to Sam and the smile on her face began to grow. “Your sister did, Sarah. But…I was the one worshipping.” Blue eyes twinkled at the innuendo as her gaze lingered on, complete with a toothy smile.

The color in Sam’s cheeks turned from pale to red in less time than it took for the words to sink in. “Enough about religion,” she grabbed Brooke’s hand and pulled her along toward a group of empty chairs. “Oh look, they saved us some seats.”

With a few strides of long legs, Brooke was in position, pulling out Sam’s chair for her. “After you,” she purred. Taking Sam’s hand in hers, Brooke brought it to her lips and kissed it. She waited for her wife to settle into the seat and handed her the menu before sitting down in the next chair.

“Thanks, Hon,” she perused through the menu while letting her hand come to rest on Brooke’s leg. “I’m really hungry this morning…” Sam held in the smile that tried surfacing on her face. Without concern, she overtly disregarded the stares that came from her new family. “It must be this mountain air,” Sam could feel the muscles in Brooke’s leg tense and she looked up to her wife. Seeing that she was not the focus of Brooke’s attention. “Hey, I thought that all your attention was supposed to be on me until the honeymoon was over.” Sam carefully followed Brooke’s transfixed gaze. “What are you looking at?”

Holding on to any semblance of neutrality, Brooke answered her. “Your Mother.”

Half afraid of what she might start, Samuel turned in his chair and crossed to meet his wife. “Elaine…” his voice was civil but his eyes flashed with concern. His forced smile wasn’t very convincing. He waited until he was next to her before saying anything else and then kept it quiet so that only she could hear it. “What are you doing here? Wasn’t yesterday enough?”

“I…ah…I…” Elaine’s eyes quickly roamed the room taking in the intermingled Gordon and Moleson families. She took in a deep breath and started over. “I was wondering where you and Sarah were.” She lowered her voice so that only her husband could hear her, “I thought that we could talk, Samuel.” She looked into his eyes, hoping that she hadn’t already been written off.

There was a long moment of silence before he closed his eyes and nodded. “Not here, Elaine. I’ll not spoil another day for anyone other than ourselves.”

Sam watched the exchange of looks from one parent to the other. She could almost feel the tension in the air as everyone around the table waited to see what would happen next. Deciding to be the more gracious hostess, she put on her best smile and rose to greet the woman. “Good morning, Mother. Are you going to join us for breakfast?”

“Everyone’s more than welcome,” Brooke said as she stood up next to Sam and pointed to the empty chair between Samuel and Brooke. “Please, have a seat.”

Now the center of the spotlight, Elaine didn’t know what to do. “I…ah…” her quick glance to Samuel told her that she was on her own and she quickly sought out Mable. All it took was seeing the nod of the matriarch’s head and she felt inclined to stay. “Thank you, Brooke.” Elaine moved to the waiting chair and sat down. Sensing a nudging to her left, she looked down to see a small girl trying to push in her chair.

“I help, Aunt Bwooke,” the toddler beamed, looking up with a determined face.

“And who is this little girl?” Elaine smiled down at the child. “I don’t think we’ve been introduced.”

Taking a deep breath in and out in huff, the tyke put her hands on her hips. “I’m Juwee.” The child proceeded to introduce her family. “Dat’s my Aunt Bwooke and my new Aunt Sam.”

Elaine cleared her throat, trying not to laugh. “That’s nice but who do you belong to?”

Julie stretched out her arm and pointed toward the next table. “Dat’s my Mommy, and Daddy.” The toddler looked the woman over for a second or two then asked what she needed to know. “Are you Sam’s Mommy?”

Pleased with the traditional family, Elaine found herself breathing easier. She even smiled as she exchanged nods with the couple until Julie’s question caught her off guard. “Why…ah…” her attention was drawn to the rather loud cough coming from Mable’s side of the dining room. “Yes…” she looked to the ground rather sheepishly, then finished her statement barely louder than a whisper. “I try to be.”

“I tought so.” Julie crawled up into the woman’s lap and gave her a hug much to the astonishment of Elaine.

“She’s a…” Elaine tried to hide her shock as she searched for a word to describe the child, “…friendly, isn’t she?”

“Don’t worry, Mother. She grows on you…” Sam looked over to Brooke, “…in more ways than one.” She wiggled her eyebrows and let a small giggle escape from her mouth.

“Come on, Rugrat.” Brooke held out her arms to Julie. “I’m sure that Sam’s Mommy would like to eat breakfast.”

The youngster looked from one adult to the other, then leaned in close to Elaine’s ear and whispered. “I’ll be back.” The next second Julie was launching herself into Brooke’s arms and giggling.

“What? No hello for me?” Sam looked around Brooke’s shoulder and pouted.

“AUNT SAM,” Julie screamed in delight with her arms outstretched and her feet moving wildly as she clamored over her tall aunt to climb into Sam’s lap.

“Come here, Punkin.” Sam held the child tightly to herself and kissed her head. “So, when you going to come visit us again?”

The child’s mother sat amazed. “Wow, I never thought I’d see the day that Julie would leave her Aunt Brooke to go to anybody,” Randi teased. “You’re definitely family now, Sam.”

“Randi,” Sam laughed openly as she winked at Brooke. “I’ve always been family.”

Quick reflexes on Brooke’s part snagged the mini muffin that was headed toward Sam’s chest and she looked over to her brother-in-law.

Brian grinned devilishly. “I don’t think that’s what she meant by family, silly.”

“Sorry,” Sam offered, wrinkling up her nose. She let her attention focus on the child in her arms for a moment then commented. “You know, I do kind of feel like I’ve finally come home.” She let her gaze take in the gathering of friends and relatives. “You are my family.” Sam swallowed nervously as she noted the hurt and confused look on her mother’s face.

From sheer happiness at Sam’s sentiment, to a single face filled with confusion, Brooke took in the expressions of the people around her. Although she harbored animosity toward Sam’s mother, Brooke really wanted it all to work out for the better. She could already see that Elaine was becoming self-conscious around them and tried to ease the woman’s apprehension. With as much sincerity as she could show, Brooke locked gazes with her mother-in-law and spoke quietly. “Thanks for joining us, Mrs. Moleson.”

Elaine didn’t look away but instead studied the woman intently. “You’re…a very polite hostess.”

“And we’re not even at Aunt Brooke’s house,” Kevin nodded eagerly as he smiled, showing all of them his missing front tooth.

Muffled laughter came floating from the Gordon clan at the youngster’s comment. Elaine sat there feeling rather out of place as more eyes turned toward Brooke. She worked at a weak smile then focused her eyes to the menu lying on the table. Picking it up, she perused it haphazardly as she quietly moved her seat just the slightest bit away from Brooke. She stole a look around the table to see if anyone had noticed her distancing action. Feeling secure that no one had, she moved her chair away further still.

“Well then,” Brooke spoke loudly enough for all of her guests to hear. “Maybe we’ll have to pick a day real soon and go rent a bunch of movies, along with some popcorn and pizza and candy.” The woman’s face lit up at the thought. “What do ya’ think?” She turned in her youngest sibling’s direction and held up a cautioning finger. “And before you say anything, that includes you too, C.C.”

Sam cleared her throat, not wanting to take all the thunder from her wife’s invitation. She looked into each of the children’s face as they glowed with anticipation, and saw the same eagerness in C.C.’s too. “Brooke…” she waited for the woman to turn her attention to her, then continued. “You rent the movies. I’ll take care of the food. It’s time we got some real food into you instead of take out.”

“I remember saying those words when I was first married,” Elaine smirked glancing over at her husband.

“Really?” Brooke looked over to Samuel, catching his eye as he motioned his head toward his rather sullen daughter, Sarah.

“Yeah, I vaguely remember something like that a long time ago.” Samuel commented to his wife’s remark as he directed Brooke’s attention to his rather sullen daughter. “Sarah, would you like to spend the day with your sister when they do that?” He studied her for a moment then looked to Sam for help. “I’m sure that Brooke and Sam wouldn’t mind,” he glanced a warning toward his wife, “or your mother, either.”

“Yeah, Sarah,” Sam picked up her father’s enthusiasm. “That’s an open-ended invitation.”

“Well, I guess I could.” The girl’s face brightened as she looked to her father, then lessened as she settled her gaze on her mother. “If it won’t be a problem to anyone,” she said hesitantly waiting for the anger to surface.

Sensing the woman’s predicament, Mable quickly spoke up. “How about this, Brooke?” She paused, waiting for everyone’s attention to center on her instead of Elaine. “You and Sam can take all of the kids this Saturday for the movie feast and the Moleson’s could join us at the house for an early dinner on Sunday.”

“That’s a great idea, Mom,” Brooke beamed happily.

“We could move the dinner to our house…” Sam offered. “I mean since all the kids will be there.”

Brooke jumped on the bandwagon, “Besides, I have a bit more room for everyone.”

“A family dinner,” C.C. blurted out. “Oh how I love family dinners. They’re sooooo,” she drew out the word, “Entertaining.”

“Great.” Mable looked pleased as she gazed at the faces around the table, settling on Sam’s mother. “What do you say, Elaine? Would you and Samuel join us at the kids’ place for dinner on Sunday?” She paused for only a second seeing the apprehension in the woman’s eyes. “Please…”

The lack of noise in the bustling room was deafening as everyone’s attention turned to Elaine. She closed her eyes in a calming effort and gave the subtlest of nods. “Yes,” her voice was almost a whisper as she opened her eyes and looked at her husband. “I think that would be very…enlightening for me.”

Mable noticed the change in Samuel’s expression. His mouth now leveling out from the grimace he had a moment ago. “Wonderful!” She was relieved that her words had not fallen on deaf ears. She turned at the sound of Peter’s attention-getting cough. “And of course, Sandy…you and Crystal are invited as well.” The coughing started again and she looked directly at the man. “If you’re over with that nasty cough, Peter, you could join us as well,” she smiled playfully. “Isn’t that right, Brooke?”

“Sounds good to me,” Brooke nodded in agreement.

“Yeah,” Sam looked around the table at her extended family. “It’ll be the first official dinner at our house.” She glanced toward Brooke as the rest of the group began to break off into their own conversations.

“Baby, look…” Brooke whispered as she leaned in to see Julie now dozing on Sam’s shoulder. She wrapped her arm around Sam and let her other hand rest against Julie’s back.

“Hmm…this is nice. It’s like our own little family here,” Sam kept her voice soft. “Look where her hand is.”

Blue eyes registered the child’s hands, one on Sam’s stomach and the other balled into a fist on the woman’s breast. A coy smile came to Brooke’s face. “Ah…baby.”

“Which one?” Sam teased letting a giggle surface.

Brooke moved her eyes from Sam’s stomach to meet her wife’s gaze. “What do you think?” Sam’s coy smile lit up her face until Brooke noticed that she was looking past her and her mood was becoming more somber.

“I think…we’ll talk about this later,” Sam’s hesitancy was evident.

With her hand, Brooke gently guided Sam’s gaze back to her own. “I love you, Darlin’,” she said quietly then kissed her wife on the cheek.

“Hey, don’t you two go jumping on the bandwagon,” Terri rubbed her stomach in a soothing circle. “Enjoy the time alone for a while.” She nudged her husband, “Rick and I sure did.”

“That’s only because you and Rick hardly ever saw each other, Ter,” Brooke shot back at her sister.

“You know, pretty soon I’ll be seeing way too much of her.” He motioned with his hands out in front of his stomach and hurriedly leaned forward out of the way of Terri’s playful swing.

“Enough out of you, Daddy,” his wife said with sarcasm.

“Hey Brooke, when you invited the kids…doesn’t that mean that Terri gets to go too, now?” He shot a glance over to his wife then gave her a very brief showing of the tip of his tongue.

“Sure,” Brooke said enthusiastically. “When I invited the kids, Rick, I think that involved everyone in this room.” She looked at the people gathered around her. “Why sometimes I think that C.C. is the most mature one here.” Brooke flashed a huge grin in her baby sister’s direction.

“What?” C.C. choked out, not expecting the compliment. “Someone thinks that I’m mature?” She hastily grabbed at the passing waitress’ order pad and pen. “I got to write this one down. Look out world, I may be moving from the children’s table after all this year.” She whipped the pen around the pad with a flourish, then ripped off the page and gave it a quick kiss. “My prayers are finally gonna be answered.”

“Gee, and I would have thought that you wouldn’t want to move…” Brooke shrugged, “I mean since you’ve lived there so long.” She made a face at C.C. as she cuddled closer to Sam and Julie.

“Arrgh,” C.C. let out sigh.

“Aunt Sam,” Kevin leaned across the table. “Can I come sit by you?”

Sam smiled sweetly, “Sure.” She moved her chair just a little and motioned for him to come over. She watched as Kevin scooted from his chair and moved around the table toward Elaine where he stopped and greeted her with a little wave.

“Hi!” The youngster met the woman’s gaze and waited for a reply.

“Are all of your children this forward with strangers? Why in my day…” Elaine started but was quickly interrupted.

“Elaine,” Samuel tempered his voice with caution. “Your day is long gone.” He reached for his menu, “It’s time to eat.”

“You’re not a stranger, Mrs. Moleson.” Randi looked down the length of the table to where the woman sat. “To him, you’re Sam’s mommy so you must be really cool, like her.”

“Cool?” Elaine let go with a loud sigh as she brought the menu into her view and pretended to study it. “In my day,” she muttered under her breath, “Children were seen and not heard.”

Cool blue eyes stared over at Elaine. “Well, on this day, these children are as much a part of the family as the adults are. They have just as much of a right to voice their opinions as the rest of us do. We’re an open family, Mrs. Moleson.” Brooke stopped when she felt Sam’s hand on her thigh.

“Mother, times change and…” Sam chose her words slowly. “Maybe it might be a good time to learn and listen to even the youngest of the children in our family.” She rubbed Julie’s head with her cheek and gave it a kiss. “We all have things to offer.”

Elaine turned to Sam taking stock of what her own child had just said, then briskly looked over to Mable before she let the words form in her mouth.

“Yes, Elaine?” The matriarch of the Gordon family asked calmly.

The woman took in a slow breath, and then spoke. “Mable, maybe we could meet earlier on Sunday for a while…” Elaine smiled sweetly, first at Samuel then at the newlyweds. “We could have our own kind of girl talk before the dinner.”

Mable nodded, relieved that the woman was at least making an effort to work at things. “Fine…I think that would be lovely, Elaine. I’m always happy to share my experiences.”

Brooke noticed the exchange of glances between her mother and Sam’s. The mother-in-law from hell had definitely hid her claws this morning, but where? Brooke didn’t really care. She was just glad that the scene from yesterday was not going to be repeated. Her only lingering concern was how long before it did.

Learning very quickly not to tempt fate, she motioned for the waitress to come over and addressed her family and friends. “Well, has everyone decided what they want this morning?” Brooke held up the menu as she looked around the table, settling her gaze on Sam and Julie seated next to her. “Cause I sure know what I’m ordering.” Brooke met her wife’s gaze and their smiles grew simultaneously.

****

The events of the last twenty-four hours seemed like a blur. It had started with a knock on her door and the offer of a quick plane ride. Now Elaine found herself once again on a plane, with her face turned to the window and her mind a million miles away. The only difference this time, instead of hatred and anger, she felt lost and alone. In a quandary over her own emotions, she turned away from the window and came face-to-face with Henry Gordon.

“Still having second thoughts about coming home with us, I see.” Henry held out a cup of steaming liquid, offering it to the woman. “Mable said that you like it with just a little bit of sugar.”

“Ah…the tea…” Elaine nodded thoughtfully. “I do. You get to taste the real flavor of the bag then.”

“Really?” Henry looked at the cup of coffee in his hand. “I’m more of a coffee man myself but I do enjoy a good cup of tea from time to time.”

She sipped at it, then hesitantly looked over to him. “Ah…Mr. Gordon, I realize that I wasn’t invited on this little trip initially.” She cleared her throat. “And I do appreciate the ride home…”

“Thank you for joining us on the trip home.”

“I…” Elaine sighed and started again. “I’d like to reimburse you for my part of the cost. If you’ll just let me know how much…”

“We’re delighted to have you.” He looked over at the puzzled woman. “There is no reimbursing, this is Brooke’s jet.” Henry sat back in his seat. “She doesn’t use the service very often. It’s mostly for her company but she flies us off on vacation every year.”

“You mean she chartered it.” Elaine sat back feeling smug with her answer.

“No, it’s Brooke’s jet. She owns it or rather she owns the company that it belongs to.”

“She has a company?”

“Brownstone Records,” Henry acknowledged his daughter’s accomplishment with a smile. “That’s her involvement with the music business now.”

“Your family business is diversified then.” Elaine looked puzzled. “But she’s so young…how could she?”

Henry gave a little chuckle. “She’s not a slacker,” he looked over to his daughter and motioned for Elaine to do the same. “See what I mean?”

Sifting her eyes to take in the view, Elaine’s initial reaction was to bite at her lip to keep her thoughts from being said aloud. She drew in a long breath as she watched Brooke and Sam. The newlyweds were oblivious to her staring as they interchanged hugs with kisses that punctuated their conversation along the way. “I see that there’s a lot I don’t know about…” Elaine paused for a second then swiftly recovered, “…your daughter, sir.”

“Let me tell you a little bit about our family, Mrs. Moleson.” Henry turned back to look at the woman next to him. “I work for a design corporation in the CAD Department. My wife, Mable used to do interior decorating before the children came. Our oldest, Randi, is an Assistant District Attorney and Terri is in her last year of residency in Pediatrics. Then there’s Brooke…” he rubbed his chin. “She used to be in a band several years ago and they were pretty popular. Instead of throwing her money away when she received it, she invested it. When the band broke up she had quite a few dollars in the bank. That’s when she started Brownstone, paid Terri’s medical school tuition, bought this jet and her house.” He glanced over to Brooke.

“You make it sound like she can buy anything she wants,” Elaine’s voice was tinged with anger. “Tell me…did she buy my daughter, too?”

“No,” Henry turned his attention back to Elaine. “She started Brownstone so she wouldn’t get bored and could still work in the music industry. She bought the jet because she doesn’t like taking commercial flights and it was actually more beneficial for the company. Now as for Terri’s medical school, she paid the tuition because we didn’t have enough put away for her to go. That one kind of hit her out of the blue. Medical school is much more expensive than your standard college degree.” Henry shifted in his seat. “As for the house, she wanted something to call her own…”

“And that’s where my daughter comes in,” Elaine snapped.

“Oh, please!” Henry rolled his eyes. “Sam won’t let her buy anything.”

“So that’s what this whole Civil Union Ceremony was about,” she said in a huff. “It’s so that she can be able to call Sam hers.”

“Brooke’s never been wasteful with her money. If she needs it, she can buy it. If she wants it, she’ll consider it.”

“And what about love, Mr. Gordon…has she contemplated buying that too?” Elaine turned to look at him.

“No, the civil union was so the two of them would at least feel like they were married since this country won’t allow same sex marriages.” Henry met her stare. “Brooke loves your daughter. You would see that if you could open your mind for just five minuets and watch them. If you ask me, Sam and Brooke have been married since the day they met.”

“How would you know?” She challenged him. “Were you there?”

Henry smiled sweetly. “Yes, I was there. All of us were.” He waited for the shock to register on Elaine’s face. “I mean the girls and I,” he amended. “C.C. brought her over for dinner one Sunday after school started.”

“I suppose it was one of your family dinners?”

“But of course…” he grinned at the woman like a Cheshire cat. “The girls and their mother all have dinner once a month together at the house. That was when Brooke and Sam met. I can’t remember ever seeing Brooke get embarrassed so easily as she did that day. She was so shy around Sam.” Henry looked off into the reflection of his daughter in the window and recalled the event.

A moment or two passed while Elaine studied the man’s eyes, waiting for him to continue. Her patience was rewarded as he began to speak again.

“My daughter has always been very confident and strong…” his words trailed off to a whisper. “She could barely even look Sam in the eye that day,” he confided with a smile.

“My Samantha did that?”

“Yes, she did.” Henry came out of his thoughts and centered again on the woman next to him. “Do you know that Brooke opened herself up again to one of the most painful experiences of her life for Sam’s twenty-first birthday?”

“I don’t understand…” again Elaine became puzzled.

“Love,” his answer was plain and simple. “You see…the band that she was a part of was very popular. When they broke up, it wasn’t pretty. I don’t know all the details but apparently one of the band members tried some stuff on Brooke and she wouldn’t go for it.” Henry took in a breath and continued. “Sam wanted to see her favorite band. Brooke dropped everything and called the jerk up and managed to get the band back together for one night just so Sam could say that she saw them. All Brooke wanted was for Sam to be happy on her birthday. My daughter loves Sam so much that she didn’t care about the pain and torment it would cause to re-associate with them. She just wanted to see Sam happy.”

Elaine leaned slightly forward and stared at the newlyweds. “Then, why would she see them again if it hurt her that much?”

“Because she loves your daughter more than she loves herself.” He followed her gaze and watched the pair as they curled up together in their seats.

Caught off guard by his candor, Elaine was speechless for the longest time. “Maybe…” she was slow to verbalize her thoughts. “Maybe I was wrong.”

The words were uttered in a soft whisper but Henry heard them just the same. Sensing Elaine’s trepidation, Henry made his move to act in the newlywed’s behalf. “No one’s asking for you to change your views overnight, Elaine.” He waited until her gaze met with his before he continued. “I’m just asking that you give the girls a chance. You’ll see it for yourself in due time.”

Startled by her own thoughts, Elaine nervously stuttered, “I…I…” She swallowed hard and got up to move from her seat. “Excuse me,” she pointed toward the aisle.

Not ready to give up just yet, Henry fired his last assault in her direction. “And as for the kids being friendly to you earlier…” he hesitated for a moment until their gazes met again. “They know good people when they’re around them. What, with you being Sam’s mommy, they probably think you’re the greatest person alive for giving birth to her.”

He watched as the color drained from Elaine’s face. She turned away, then looked back at him but didn’t utter a word. That was all he needed to continue, knowing that he’d struck some kind of chord in the woman’s heart. “They said that without thinking and in front of the whole family so it must be true. I believe that children do have the inside scoop on everyone…no matter what they try to project on the outside.”

Elaine acknowledged the words with a weak smile. She’d need time to come to grips with the whole situation and she knew just the place to be alone…the restroom. Without another second of delay she promptly headed for the rear of the plane.

****

“I love you, Baby.” Brooke’s softly spoken words were punctuated by the gentle kiss she placed on Sam’s cheek.

“Tell me more…”

“Ah…” Brooke cleared her throat and leaned into the woman’s ear. “I got to go potty,” she said with a child’s innocence.

Sam sighed. “Leaving me already, eh?”

The smile on Sam’s face told Brooke that she was teasing. She reached down and petted the dog’s head on her knee. “Come on, Mario. You can have Sam all to yourself for a few minutes.” The tall woman rose from her seat and moved into the aisle as she stretched her legs. “You want something to drink, Sam?”

“Hmm…” Sam smiled as she thought, then slowly began shaking her head. “No…if I can’t have you…” she looked up into Brooke’s face, “then, I’ll take nothing.”

“That’s what you say now while I’m still fresh in your mind…” Brooke flashed a playful smile. “Keep an eye on her, Mario.” Brooke gave Sam a wink as she patted the dog on its head, and then started to walk toward the rear of the plane.

Lifting her eyes from the carpeted path, she spied Sam’s mother as the woman came out of the restroom door. Before she could look away, their eyes met and locked for only a second or two. Damn it. This is not the time, nor the place. Brooke stopped her forward motion and turned to head back to her seat.

“You surprise me, Brooke.” Elaine observed the woman.

Freezing in mid step with the sound of Elaine’s voice, Brooke slowly turned to face the woman again. “How?” Her arched eyebrow acted like a question mark.

Elaine closed the space between them to a more conversational distance. “You’re beautiful. I’m sure that you could have any man that you wanted. So tell me…” she looked Brooke straight in the eye. “Why my daughter?”

“I love her.” The words flew out of Brooke’s mouth in rapid succession. She held back for a moment seeing the rather startled look on Elaine’s face. Looking away she replied. “I can’t tell you why I love her…” Brooke shrugged and peered back into the face of her mother-in-law. “Just like I’m sure that you couldn’t pinpoint why you love Mr. Moleson.” Brooke paused for a second then expanded on her answer. “If you can actually pinpoint why you love someone in a single word or action, then it’s obviously not real.” She stared off deep in thought. “When you really love someone, there’s not enough time in the world to explain every reason.”

The woman was shocked by Brooke’s reply but after thinking about for a moment she bowed her head in agreement. “Touché.” Elaine looked directly at Brooke. “I…I love her, too. I just thought that…”

“I know, and deep down, I think that Sam knows it too.”

“She doesn’t hate me…” Elaine looked questioningly at Brooke, “…at all? Not even after all that I did?”

“She could never hate you,” Brooke defended her wife. “She’s hurt and confused…but she doesn’t hate you.” She watched the relieved expression on her mother-in-law’s face. “Sam loves you very much, Mrs. Moleson.” Brooke relaxed her stance just slightly. “And to be honest with you, I don’t hate you either. Not that it would matter to you but I think you’re the most wonderful person God ever placed on the Earth.”

Elaine backed up fearing that Brooke was insane. “Why…why would you say that?”

“You gave Sam life, that’s why.” Brooke wasn’t sure that her mother-in-law understood her, so she tried another approach. “Sam is the other half of my soul. I was nothing without her. You’ve given me all the reason in the world to be happy and loved.”

Seeing the questioning look on Brooke’s face, she offered an apology. “I’m sorry but this…this is going to take some getting used to. I’m not sure that I can…I mean…I’ve been this way a long time…”

“That’s understandable,” Brooke nodded in agreement. “But I promise you, I’m not the Anti-Christ or the devil incarnate.” She looked Elaine in the eye. “I’m just someone who, like yourself, loves your daughter.” She held her gaze for a moment then looked away. “Mrs. Moleson, if you get angry…or upset, take it out on me. Turn any hatred you have towards me. I can handle it.” Brooke looked at the woman again to drive her words home. “Just don’t do that to your daughter. I’d rather have you pissed at me than for you to take it out on her. If you’d like,” Brooke gave a hint of a smile to her lips. “I could even schedule you for a weekly appointment just so you could blame it all on me.” Brooke’s teasing nature became serious again. “If you wake up in the morning and it’s too cold outside…call me. Let me have your anger, your disappointment. Take it out on me, then call back and tell Sam that you love her. That’s all she wants, to know that you still love her.”

There was a moment of silence as the seriousness of the words registered in Elaine’s mind. “You’re quite a woman, Brooke. I don’t know of any man who would saddle the wrath of their mother-in-law toward them willingly.” She shifted her position and studied the tall woman from another angle. “Maybe, Brooke.” Elaine’s words were slow to form. “Maybe…if given enough time…you just may change my mind.”

She moved to get passed Brooke in the aisle then after a few steps turned to meet her gaze. “I just didn’t like the path that I saw she was taking. I never stopped loving her.”

Brooke nodded. “Well that’s something you and I have in common because I’ll never stop loving her either.”

“Somehow,” Elaine looked Brooke in the eye, “I don’t think you could if you tried.” The candid revelation shocked even Elaine when she heard the words echoing in her head.

The tall woman’s heart raced with excitement as she realized that Sam’s mother knew exactly what she was feeling. Compelled to answer, Brooke readily agreed. “You’re right, I couldn’t.” It was time to put an end to their private conversation as Brooke caught sight of her wife as the young woman made her way toward them. “We’re kind of related now, so even if you don’t like me…” she gave Elaine a big smile. “You might as well get used to me.”

Just then Sam passed by her mother and stood next to Brooke, wrapping her arms around the woman’s waist. “Isn’t she adorable, Mother?” Sam turned to her wife. “I decided that I did need something to drink after all, Hon.”

“Hi, Baby.” Brooke’s face lit up as she encircled Sam with her arms and kissed the top of her head. “What would you like?”

“You know what I like,” Sam purred, “but water will do nicely ‘til we get home.”

Brooke looked into the eyes of her mother-in-law and she could feel the warmth intensify in her face as it turned beet red. “Ah…Sam?”

“Hmm?” Sam raised her head only enough to see the embarrassed flush to her lover’s face. She followed Brooke’s gaze until her mother’s face was in full view. “Oh! Sorry,” she cringed.

“Your mother and I were just having a nice little chat.” Blue eyes challenged Elaine to say anything different.

“Oh yeah?” Sam pulled back and looked up into Brooke’s eyes. “That must have been a very one-sided conversation.”

“One subject maybe but not one-sided,” Brooke offered, in both her and Elaine’s defense.

“I bet.” Sam glanced over to her mother, then back to the woman in her arms. “Brooke, could you get me that drink? I’m ah…a little thirsty right about now?”

“Sure thing, Sweetheart.”

“Thanks.” Sam leaned in and planted a kiss on Brooke’s cheek, then released the woman from her grasp. She watched as her wife walked away and turned toward her mother as the woman started to walk back to her seat. “Not so fast, Mother.”

The older woman stopped in mid step and turned to face her daughter rather reluctantly. “Yes, Samantha?”

“I know that you didn’t want to be a part of this,” Sam motioned with her chin to the rest of the passengers on the plane. “These people are all part of my family now whether you like it or not. You can either be for us or against us. The choice is solely up to you.”

Elaine stood dumbfounded at her eldest daughter’s boldness. “I…uh…”

“You don’t have to answer. I already know how you feel about my lifestyle and my idea of marriage. You made that very clear to me when I came out to you.”

“Samantha!” Elaine stood silently looking at the woman who now resided in her daughter’s body. Things were changing. She could see that now and it scared her. “I…I really need some time to think about all this. I don’t know what I feel anymore.”

The surprised look on her daughter’s face embarrassed her. Elaine lowered her gaze to the floor, and closed her eyes as she admitted what was inside her heart. “I do know that I love you very much.” She paused, waiting for a rebuttal, but when none came immediately, Elaine continued, feeling a little braver. “I know that you looked absolutely lovely yesterday.” Sheepishly the woman looked up to see the startled look on her daughter’s face. “Now for the rest of it…I just need some time to think for a while.”

“Think all you want, Mother, but Brooke and I aren’t changing.” Sam looked determined. “We’ve found that other half of our souls. Everyone else is just happy that two people have found love in a world full of hate.”

“Sam, please,” Elaine pleaded with her daughter. “I’m not asking you or Brooke to change. I’m just trying to understand. Really I am.”

Still slightly skeptical of the possibility, Sam had to agree that she was making an attempt. Her mother was here on the plane with them. “I can see that you’re trying, Mother, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.” Sam motioned to the plane. “Heck, you probably wouldn’t have even said my name just now.”

“I just need some time,” Elaine hesitantly reached out to lay her hand on her daughter’s as it rested on the back of an unoccupied seat. “Please, Samantha.”

Sam felt the touch of her mother’s hand as the plea settled in her ears and the bond that they had once had many years ago tugged at her heart. “I’ve got all the time in the world as long as you treat us both with respect, if you feel that you can’t give us your love.” Sam smiled as she thought about her own ideas for the future and the big part that family ties would play in them. “I’d hate to have to tell our children that their grandmother hates them because of their parents.”

“Children…” the faint mumbling fell from Elaine’s lips like a dangling cigarette.

“Yes, Mother,” Sam saw the startled look on the woman’s face. “We’ve already talked about having children. Is that a surprise to you?”

“No…I guess…” the words trailed off as confusion settled on her face. She already had a lot to think about and this new concept sent her mind into overload.

“Well, just think about it, Mother. The Gordon’s are used to having a big family around them and any children we have will be received with open arms. I’d hate to have to leave you out of our family because of your misconstrued beliefs. I won’t have them subjected to that.”

Brooke came from behind and wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulder. “Baby, calm down. She’s trying.” Blue eyes shifted first to Elaine and then back to Sam as she offered the bottle of water to her.

Feeling both hurt and despair over things that had yet to happen, Elaine found that she could not look into either of the women’s eyes standing before her. She was trapped, soaring high in an airplane with no way out and she knew it. She closed her eyes to the pain and took in a deep breath to settle her nerves. “I…uh…” she opened her eyes and looked away. “Excuse me,” she whispered as she headed for her seat.

Sam watched as her mother turned and slowly headed back toward her seat. Only after the woman sat down did she sink back into Brooke’s arms as they wrapped around her in an embrace.

“Shhh…” Brooke tried to soothe her wife. “At least she’s listening, Baby. We actually had a nice little talk of our own before. She knows that I love you and that I’m not going anywhere.

“I only hope that she tries just as hard to accept us as she did to push me away. She’s going to have to prove a lot to me before I believe she’s changed.” Sam turned into Brooke and tightened her hold.

“Give her time, Baby. I have a feeling that she’ll come around.” Brooke put her lips on Sam’s hair, kissing it. “Sam…your mother is giving us a chance. Don’t sink to where she was and not give her one.

“I know, Brooke.” Sam buried her head into Brooke’s chest. “I guess she just hurt me more than I ever realized.”

“I know, Baby, and I’m here for you.” She rubbed Sam’s back with a circular motion. “You know, in order for this to all work out, you’ll have to be just as open minded toward her as we’re asking for her to be toward us.”

“I know.” Sam took in a breath and slipped out of Brooke’s arms. Twisting off the cap to the bottle of water, she brought it to her mouth and took a drink as she contemplated the situation. “If she can try…” Sam nodded slowly, “so can I.” She took another swallow of water from the bottle and spoke aloud what she had been thinking. “Somehow, though, I’m thinking that it’s going to be a lot easier for me than for her.”

Reaching out, Brooke linked their fingers together and leaned in until their foreheads touched. “Well, look at us, Darlin’. She might not have a choice but to accept us.”

Sam smiled as she looked into loving blue eyes. “You got that right.”

****

“Hey, you can’t go in there yet.” Brooke yelled out as she ran up the steps to her porch, stopping Sam before she could get to the door. “I’m not through with you.”

Sam turned to gaze wryly at her wife. “Oh, you’re not?” She jerked with the nudge to her knee that the dog had given her and looked down to see Mario weaving around her feet. “Look, Brooke, even the dog thinks it’s too cold to stay out here.” She pointed to the dog that was now pawing at the front door.

Brooke slid into the small space between Sam and the dog, then smiled sweetly and opened the door. “There you go, Mario.” She used her body to block the doorway as she watched the dog scamper off into the warmth of the house.

“Come on, Brooke, ” Sam gave her a little push. “What are you doing? It’s cold out here.”

An arched brow met Sam’s question, then slowly disappeared as a subtle smile came to Brooke’s face. “So let’s go inside.” In a flash, her gaze grew intense and she leaned down only long enough to sweep the young blonde up into her strong arms.

“Bro-o-o-oke, put me…” the startled cry ceased as Sam grew comfortable in secure arms. “Oh, hey…I like this,” she said as she nuzzled into Brooke’s shoulder. “So…you got any more ideas, my wife or are you just going to carry me around our house all day?”

“Several,” Brooke pushed the door open wider and carried her wife over the threshold. “And you’ll be damn lucky if I don’t decide to carry you around at work tomorrow, too.” She stepped in further and with a bump from her hip, the door slowly closed.

“You wouldn’t,” Sam shot back her answer with a playful nudge to Brooke’s shoulder. “What would they say?” She hid her head into Brooke’s neck and sighed.

“Not so fast, Darlin’, ” she held onto Sam. “There’s one more threshold that I have to carry you over.”

“What, the back door, too?”

“Nope, the bedroom door.”

Sam felt the tip of Brooke’s tongue tracing her ear and her resolve melted. “Mmm…now that’s a door I could grow to love.” She raised her head and met Brooke’s lips with her own. “Just like you,” she said with her eyes still closed.

“Then again…” Brooke waited to gaze into Sam’s eyes. “There are quite a few doors in this house. I might just have to carry you through each and every one of them.”

Green eyes began to twinkle at the thought. “And of course, we’d just have to make love inside of every room, now wouldn’t we?” Blonde eyebrows wiggled as a coy smile came to the young woman’s face.

“Hmm…now that’s exactly what I had planned for this honeymoon.” Brooke kissed her wife as she began to put her plan into motion.
Installment 2–3 Going To The Head Of The Class
Sam came out of the closet clad only in a sleep-pressed shirt of Brooke’s. In either of her hands were different modes of attire. “Hon,” she called out as she scrutinized the clothing carefully.

“Yes, Darlin’,” came Brooke’s muffled answer from the master bathroom.

“Which one do you think I should wear,” Sam held up the wooden hanger. “The business look or…” she hung the suit on the back of the closet door. Turning to the mirror on the dresser, Sam draped the T-shirt over her chest and smiled at its reflection, “The ‘I’ve been around rockers before’ look?”

“Which ever one you will be more comfortable in.”

“I don’t care about comfort, Brooke.” She sighed, pulling the image laden T-shirt from her chest and holding it in her hand. She begrudgingly looked back to the suit, “I just want to make a good impression my first day at work.”

Brooke came into the bedroom and cringed at seeing a faded looking replica of her Loran persona staring back at her from the well-worn T-shirt. She hid her feelings about the article of clothing in Sam’s hand when the young woman looked over at her. Brooke’s heart raced as flashes of her past rocker days shot through her mind. “Business casual, Sam.” Brooke regained her composure as she walked over to her wife’s closet and perused the choices. “Hmm…I’d wear the dress shirt and those new jeans, myself.” She turned to see the look of disappointment on Sam’s face. “Trust me, that will be fine. We’re in the business of promoting a lot of talent, Sam. Neutral is a good thing.” She watched as Sam’s chest fell with a sigh. “What, Baby?”

God, I used to practically live in this shirt and dream that your arms were wrapped around me. Sam gave a little shrug to her shoulders, then slowly let a smile come to her face. “I guess I don’t have to wear this to be near you anymore, do I?” She glanced to the T-shirt, then over to Brooke.

The tall woman drew Sam into her arms. “You never had to anyway, Darlin’. I was always yours.”

“Oh?” Sam leaned back and looked up into Brooke’s face. “And exactly where were you hiding when I wore it before? You know, my parents swore that it had replaced my skin, they saw it on me so often.” She looked at the tiny T-shirt. “It doesn’t look big enough for us both.”

“Well…I was…” her blue eyes twinkled mischievously. “I was either at my mom’s or behind my desk.” Her reply got her a nudge in the ribs.

“Well, do you think if I keep it here in my closet,” Sam looked up at her wife and batted her eyes seductively. “I’ll have the real you wrapped around me instead?” She watched as Brooke wiggled her eyebrows and flashed a toothy smile. “Good answer, Lover,” Sam patted her wife’s cheek. “I always knew that you were smart.” She reached up and met Brooke’s lips in a kiss as strong arms embraced her. “Okay, one very worn, but loved T-shirt retired for my private viewing only. How does that sound?”

“Uhmm…” Brooke slowly came away, dropping feather-like kisses along Sam’s neck. “I love you, Sam…Gordon.”

“And I love you, too, my wife.” The blonde’s eyes grew bigger with the placement of the last kiss. “Now let me get dressed for work and we can resume this honeymoon when we get back home, later tonight.”

Brooke grinned at the thought of their continued honeymoon. “Sounds good to me.” She punctuated her words with a kiss, then watched as her wife slipped into the bathroom. Brooke stood motionless for a few seconds before letting a sigh escape her lips. “It’s going to be such a lo-o-o-o-ong day.”

****

The ride into work seemed to be taking forever as Brooke tried to watch both the road and keep an eye on her new wife. The closer that they got to the office, the quieter Sam had become. Now, with only a few blocks to go, the only thing that could be heard coming from the young woman was the sound of rapid breathing.

Afraid that her wife would faint or God forbid do something worse, Brooke tried to intervene. “Sam?” She waited for a few seconds, then, after seeing no change in her wife’s breathing she continued in a more authoritative tone. “Take in a deep breath, Darlin’ and hold it for a second or two.” Blue eyes shifted to see if her words were being put into action. “You’re going to hyperventilate before we ever get into the parking lot.”

The words sunk in and Sam complied. After a few slow breaths, she looked down to her hands self-consciously. “I guess I’m a little nervous about starting a new class…er…job and all.” Her embarrassment was evident but she kept talking. “I’m curious as to how you’re going to introduce me. Am I going to be your new intern, your new wife, or…” Sam looked over to the driver.

“But Baby, you already know some of the people there.” Brooke returned Sam’s gaze. Seeing the look on her wife’s face, she changed her approach. “How would you like me to introduce you?”

“It’s not my company, Brooke. It’s yours.” Sam looked out the side window and took in another deep breath and held it.

“I was thinking of somewhere along the lines of introducing you as my new wife and assistant.” Brooke stole a look in her wife’s direction to see the beginnings of a sly smile tugging at the woman’s mouth.

“You…” Sam turned her gaze to Brooke, “have such a way with words.” Sam’s eyes grew more intense as she delved deeper into the subject. “And what exactly is your assistant in charge of…or don’t I get to know?”

“Sam…” the timber of Brooke’s voice was a cautioning one as blue eyes shifted to her wife and back to the road again. “This is work, Darlin’ and you’re my new PR Manger.”

“Whoa!” Green eyes grew wide in shock as she braced her hand against the dashboard. “Manager?” Sam’s gaze turned to the driver. “Maybe in the future but I’m not sure that I’m ready for that title or job right now. Heck, Brooke,” she blinked in disbelief. “I haven’t even graduated from college yet.” She stared into amused blue eyes. “I know that this is the only requirement that I need to work on this semester but Brooke, I don’t want you putting me in a position to jeopardize your company. I’m new to all this.”

“Sam…” Brooke’s concern was evident in her eyes as they met her wife’s green orbs. “Don’t worry, Baby.” She reached over and patted Sam’s denim clad leg, and then gave her a quick wink. “Besides, there’s no time to worry. We’re here.” Brooke motioned toward the parking lot for Brownstone Records as she waited for the oncoming car to pass before turning into her space.

The sound of a gasp broke the silence as Brooke parked the truck. “You really think that I can do this, don’t you?”

“I know that you can, Sam.” Brooke turned in her seat and gave her wife the most confidant of smiles.

“God, I love you.” Sam slipped out of her seatbelt and turned to face her wife, letting her lips brush gently against Brooke’s cheek.

“Hey!” Brooke pulled back, raising an arched brow high on her forehead. “You need to slide those lips about two inches to your right, Darlin’.”

Sam thought for only a second or two then a sly smile came to her mouth. “Okay…” she drew out the word as she moved even closer, sitting almost on the edge of her seat. With a quick nip first at Brooke’s neck then another leading steadily toward the woman’s full, inviting lips, she teased time and again. “I guess I’m ready to be thrown to the wolves.” Two pairs of lips met in full exchange of wanton desires as they melded into a kiss.

“Mmm…” Brooke’s mind fought through the cloud of fog as she lingered a hair’s breadth away from Sam’s lips. “I love you, Sam.” She consciously took in a breath and slowly let it out as their foreheads touched. “You ready?”

The silent beauty of the moment was shattered by the rough sounding knock that came from the window on Sam’s side. “Hey, you two going to sit there all day necking or are you coming in and getting some work done?” Peter grinned as he pressed his face up against the window adding yet another wet nose impression along side of Mario’s. He laughed whole-heartedly at the shocked look on Sam’s face as she turned to face the window then quickly hid behind a hand placed strategically over her face. “I’ll see you two lovebirds inside…when you get there.” He laughed again and waved as he headed off to the entrance of the building.

“God, busted and I haven’t even started yet.” Sam sank into the passenger’s seat, mortified.

Brooke smiled as she watched Peter enter the building and smirked as she leaned in toward Sam placing a kiss on her lips. “Please, Darlin’, Peter would probably think something was wrong if he didn’t catch us kissing.”

“Well, at least it was somebody in the company that I know already,” Sam mustered a chuckle. “It could have been worse. It could have been Ida.” She wiggled her eyebrows playfully as the color in Brooke’s face drained.

Slow to react, Brooke took in a breath, then mumbled out her off-the-cuff remark, “You mean my second mother?” She watched the blonde head nod agreeably. “I don’t know what I was thinking when I hired her.”

Sam nudged her wife, then pulled her in for another kiss. “I think you’re adorable when you’re stunned, Brooke.”

The older woman cleared her throat as she tried to shake off the effects of her wife’s kiss. “Ready?” Brooke motioned toward the building.

“Yeah,” Sam smiled and nodded. “Let’s go.” The blonde watched as Brooke exited the truck and came waltzing around to her door. With a quick jerk and the flourishing movement of Brooke’s other arm, the door opened. “Now is this a perk that all the employees of Brownstone get on their first day or is it because I’m your wife?” Sam looked up into brilliant blue eyes as she slid off the truck seat.

“Why, Darlin’…” Brooke smiled sweetly, “only you, of course.”

Sam reached out and touched the tall woman’s cheek affectionately. “Another good answer. My, you are on a roll this morning.” She leaned in and brushed their lips together in a chaste kiss. “I think marriage agrees with you, Brooke.” Their eyes met and like moths to a flame, their lips sought the sweetness of the other’s.

“Hey you two!” Ida’s voice came floating across the parking lot. “You’d better not let the boss see you doing that.”

Brooke lost her concentration first and ended the kiss abruptly. “Now I’m the busted one,” she chuckled softly into Sam’s ear before wrapping an arm around her wife and looking in Ida’s direction.

“I’m going for some coffee. What does Sam take?” Ida gave a little wave of her hand toward the coffee shop across the street.

“Me,” Brooke answered quickly with a big grin on her face. “With lots of sugar.”

The playful slap of Sam’s hand was directed to Brooke’s belly. “Black, Ida, with lots of sugar. Thanks.”

“Uh…that too.” Brooke grabbed Sam’s hand before it could recoil. “We’ll meet you upstairs, thanks.”

“Gotcha, Boss.” Ida winked and turned toward the street. “I’ll be back in a few.”

****

It was amazing how easily Brooke took on the C.E.O. persona as she sat behind her desk. Sam couldn’t believe it was the same woman that she’d just spent the last several days with and intended to be next to for the rest of her life. She watched each move of the dark-haired woman as she deftly maneuvered her chair out of the way to open a drawer in her desk. The executive produced a handful of folders, offering them to her new employee.

“I’ve got everything that you’ll…” The sound of someone opening her office door drew her attention before Brooke could finish her thought.

The trusted employee stuck her head in. “Hey, Boss, I’ve got your…” Ida’s gaze moved swiftly from Brooke and settled onto Sam, “…coffee.” The woman froze for a second then quickly offered her apologies. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Ida sighed and muttered under her breath. “Guess I’ll have to remember to knock now.”

“Thanks,” Sam crossed the room to take the offered beverages from the woman.

“Since when did you ever knock, Ida?” Brooke arched an eyebrow in the older woman’s direction.

“I just figured that since you have the wife working with us that…”

Sam chuckled. “Don’t be foolish, Ida. You just do what you normally did in the past.” Suddenly Sam realized how that must have sounded to both Brooke and Ida. Here she was a new employee, going right over the head of the company. She swallowed hard as she riveted her eyes to her wife, the C.E.O. of Brownstone Records. Damn it! I sound like I’m trying to take over here. Sam’s shoulders sank, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

Ida felt compelled to help Sam out of the sticky situation. “I just don’t want to…ah…disturb anything. You know…private meetings or ah…contract negotiations between you two. I mean…your being just married and all.”

An amused smile came to Brooke’s face. “No, Ba…” Brooke caught herself before the word slipped out. The C.E.O. smiled shyly, “No, Sam, you’re right.” She needed only a few seconds to see the relieved look on her wife’s face before she turned her attention to Ida. “We’re at the office. I think we can manage to behave for a few hours a day.”

“Only a few?” Sam looked over to Brooke and chuckled. “I thought that there were eight hours in a typical work day.”

Seeing the silent message conveyed as Brooke winked at her newest employee, Ida rolled her eyes. “Hmph…I can see that the job description is still being ironed out.” She took the lid off of her own cup of coffee and sipped at it before turning to leave. “I’ll be outside if you need anything.” Ida paused as she reached for the doorknob and addressed the blonde. “It’s nice having you onboard, Sam. Now there’ll be two of us to watch out for her.” The older woman gave Brooke a contented smile. “Later, Boss.” Ida was gone without another word.

The new employee watched the satisfied smile on her wife’s face and thought about the interaction of the two women. Sam sipped a time or two at her coffee then commented on the relationship she’d just seen displayed. “I take it that Ida’s your second mother.”

“Oh, yeah!” Brooke nodded with a smile. “She’s been for quite a while.”

“Good.” Sam took a seat opposite her wife at the desk. “I always thought that you were too much for just one.” She sipped from her cup and then sat it down near the edge of the desk as she leveled a gaze at Brooke. “Although, I’m sure that one wife will be all that you’ll ever need.”

The executive stood up from her chair and moved to the other side of the desk until she was standing next to Sam’s chair. She cupped the blonde’s chin in her hand and stared into determined green eyes. “I’m sure that you’re right, Sam. One wife is all that I’ll ever need.”

The corners of Sam’s mouth turned upward into a smile, “Me, too.”

Like magnets, their bodies gravitated toward each other until their lips locked in a kiss that sealed the negotiation. Being careful not to break the contact that they had established, Brooke lowered her body to rest on one knee as her arms encircled Sam for a long lingering kiss. As their bodies melded into one, the silence was broken by the sound of Brooke’s office door opening.

“Hey, Brooke,” Peter opened the door wide and stepped into the office. “I got that master of the new band for you to…” He stopped dead in his tracks. “Oops! Sorry,” he giggled nervously. “I didn’t know you were…ah…” He coughed and then rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand. “Man, I’ve got some bad timing today. I’ll…I’ll come back later when you’re not busy.” The man moved back toward the doorway.

“It’s okay, Peter.” Brooke took in a breath and started to get up. “Come on in.” She dusted off the knee of her jeans as she muttered under her breath, “Might as well, its like Grand Central Station here.”

“You sure?” He looked directly at Sam.

“Yeah, Petey.” Sam got up from the chair, straightening her clothing in the process. “Contrary to popular belief, I am here to work.” The blonde shot a backhand to Brooke’s unprotected abdomen together with a sidelong glare.

“So…” Brooke tried to recover from the teasing slap. “You got it, eh?” She moved toward Peter, her eyes eagerly looking for the item in his hands. “Good, Sam can take that with those files that I gave her and we can see what she comes up with for the band.”

Excited now at the prospect of actually working, Sam’s eyes gleamed. “Just point me to a place that I can give this a listen to,” she grabbed the DAT tape from out of Peter’s hand and smiled, “and I’ll get right to work. Who knows, ” she turned to look directly at Brooke. “I may even have an idea or two by the end of the day.”

“Hmm…having ideas already.” Brooke wiggled her eyebrows seductively then snatched the DAT tape and eyed it. “Okay, Darlin’, we’ll get you set up. Follow me.”

“So, we’re off to the studio, huh?” Sam’s face lit up with anticipation.

“Nope.” Brooke smiled like a Cheshire cat. “You get your own office.” She turned only long enough to see the shocked look on Sam’s face.

“Office?” Sam croaked. “But I…ah…” she watched as the long-legged woman headed down the hall.

“Yep, an office.” Peter nodded and grinned. “She gives one to all her favorite employees.” He straightened his collar and tie as he watched Sam’s short legs lurch into action, trying to catch up to Brooke. Peter shook his head and headed toward his own office at the opposite end of the hall. “I can only imagine what perks you’re going to get.” He stopped momentarily to gaze over his shoulder. “See you later, Sam,” he whispered with a devilish grin as the pair disappeared into the office down the hall.

****

Brooke stood patiently by the door and waited for the realization to set in. She crossed her arms and smiled as the blonde floated from the large desk, to the entertainment center on the one wall, to the window that silhouetted the small woman’s figure in the warming rays of the Virginia sun. Brooke had never seen Sam so silent as she was now.

“So…” Brooke drew in a breath and cocked her head to one side. “What do you think?”

Sam spun around and took the room into view another time before answering. “All this…” she stopped facing the executive, “…is for me?” She crossed her heart with her hands. “Brooke, I…I never dreamed…” She settled her gaze on her wife. “Thanks, Brooke.” The words were soft and spoken from the heart.

“You’re welcome, Sam.” The love showed in Brooke’s blue eyes as she stood suspended in time. Seconds turned into nearly a full minute before the woman remembered to breath and the hint of a warming flush came to her cheeks. “Hey, uhm…have a seat and I’ll go through all this,” she held up the tape, “with you.”

She took the tape from out of Brooke’s hand and smiled as she walked over to the desk. “I know how to listen to music, Hon.” Sam looked from one end of the desk to the other for a player of some sort.

“The DAT player is on that shelf over there.” Brooke pointed toward the particular piece of equipment.

“Oops!” Sam turned red with embarrassment. “Guess I just assumed.” She gave a weak smile and shrugged her shoulders. “See, I told you that I don’t know everything.”

“That’s okay,” Brooke reached for the tape. “Hand it here. This is where I come in as your mentor.” She took the tape from Sam and crossed over to place it into the machine. Hearing the first cueing noises coming from it, she walked over and took a seat in front of Sam’s desk. “Sam…” Brooke motioned toward the high-backed chair on the other side of the desk. “You might as well sit down. This could take a while.”

“Yeah…right.” Sam gave the chair a little spin, then nestled down into the soft leather. “Hmm…nice choice,” she winked over the desk to her wife. “Remind me to thank you properly when we get home.”

The first strains of guitar licks and the pounding beat of an insistent drummer brought Brooke back to the reason that they were really here in the room together. “Okay,” she cleared her throat and her mind both at the same time. “This band that you’re hearing is the band that I signed from Jersey.”

“Line of Fire, right?”

“Yeah,” a broad smile came to the executive’s face. “What you’re hearing is the final mix and edit of their first album. In that file,” Brooke pointed to the folder in front of Sam on the desktop. “You’ll find everything you need to acquaint yourself with them.” She leaned forward and shuffled through the folder full of loose pages, calling out the categories as she separated them out on the desk. “Their bios, a few promo shots, and a current song list for the album, complete with all the words for the songs.”

“So, what’s their range? What audience are they shooting for?”

“You tell me.” Brooke motioned to her ear with a finger and then pointed toward the new PR Manager. “That’s the biggest part of your job, Sam. Picking the right venues and audiences will either make the group or break them.”

The young woman listened more intently to the lyrics as she perused the folder, pausing with each member’s individual photo. “Well, they sure aren’t the bubble gum image that I’d expect to peddle to the teenie boppers.”

“Nope, definitely not bubble gum music with all those piercings and the majority of those lyrics.”

“Yeah, that would definitely be a hard sell to the parents.” Sam focused on the images before her.

Brooke sat back and with both elbows resting on the arms of her chair. She let the fingertips of one hand meet the other in an isometric exercise. “The original tapes have been sent for mass production and should be back in two weeks. We need to come up with a jacket design for the album by then…”

“And a campaign to get them on the radio,” Sam quickly added. “They need air time to get their sound to the people.” Green eyes sparkled at the challenge, “Got it, Boss.” She smiled over at the woman opposite her. “I’ll get right on it.”

“Now we’re getting down to business.” Brooke smiled at her new employee’s enthusiasm. “Speaking of which…” Brooke hesitated for a moment. “We might as well go over the list of things that Janet gave me as the requirements for completing your internship.”

“I think I know them already, Brooke.” Sam looked over to her wife. “I need to have an active part in the promotion of talent or a product.” The blonde held up her fingers one by one as she went down the list. “I’ve got to take an active part in dealing with the advertising portion of the campaign. I’ve got to be able to prove that the marketing campaign worked by either name recognition or gross dollar return on the items sold. I need to troubleshoot any unforeseen problems that suddenly arise.” Sam enjoyed the proud look on Brooke’s face as she readied with her next needed accomplishment. “I’ve got…”

“It all memorized, don’t you?” Brooke interrupted as she marveled at her wife’s ability.

“I guess so,” Sam shrugged shyly. Her nose wrinkled up as she looked over to Brooke. “I’ve…I’ve only wanted to do this all my life.” Sam thought back to all those albums and CDs that she’d listened to, over and over again, as she grew up. “You know, I used to fall asleep at night trying to figure out what I’d have done to make all those groups that I listened to ride the entertainment wave longer and higher then they did.” Sam wrinkled up her nose in a moment of insecurity. “I guess I’m not dreaming anymore.”

“You’ll do fine, Sam.” Brooke settled back in the chair. “I can see that you’ll keep me on my toes during the internship.” The C.E.O. cleared her throat and mind of the wayward thought that was creeping into it. “Ah…any numbers that you could possibly need for a radio station, TV show, or any of the industry’s magazine editors are all right there in your Rolodex.”

“I take it that you had Ida working on this before I got here.” Sam pointed toward the nicely arranged desk with all the tools that she might need at her fingertips.

“Yeah, Ida took care of that. I have a good feeling about Line of Fire, so they’re going to be your first assignment. Okay?”

“They sound hot, Brooke.” Sam tapped out the beat of the current song on her desk without realizing it. “Give me til the end of the day and I’ll show you what I come up with.”

Brooke nodded in agreement, then stood up from her chair. “I’ll be in my office if you need anything, Darlin’.” She watched Sam as her new assistant delved deeper into the beat of the music. “Okay, Sweetheart?”

The new PR Manager kept her eyes on the photos as she uttered out a single word, “Okay.” Sam’s head continued bobbing to the beat of the music as she raised one hand to shape the word she’d just uttered.

Pleased but yet disappointed at the intensity of Sam’s concentration, Brooke slowly turned and headed for the door.

“Oh, Brooke…”

She spun around and looked back into her wife’s eyes. “Yes, Darlin’?”

Sam took in a deep breath and smiled sincerely. “I love you.”

The words lingered in the air for several seconds and then both women went about their first day at work together, just a little happier than they thought they could ever be at a work site.

****

Sam had settled into her job with enthusiasm and by the end of the week she was even looking the part. With her sleeves rolled up and a stubby yellow pencil tucked behind her right ear, the young PR Manager breezed in through the open door of Brooke’s office. “Brooke…” she flipped a page or two over in the notebook she held in her hand. “How much did you say I have to work with for this group?”

The C.E.O. shuffled through some notes on her desk and then scribbled down a budget amount on a piece of paper, handing it to Sam. Brooke kept her eyes on the decorative but functional timepiece on her desk. “Any more questions, Sam?”

Looking down at the figure that was handed her, Sam started doing the math. “Brooke if I…” she grabbed the pencil behind her ear and jotted down some figures of her own. “No, that can’t be right.” Sam flipped the pencil over and used the eraser, then reversed the tool and started over again.

“What?” Brooke glanced up at her wife. “You’ve run into a snag?” The C.E.O. teased her newest employee. “I find that hard to believe.” Brooke smiled confidently. “Your ideas have been good so far, Sam.”

“Thanks,” Sam glanced over to her wife and smiled shyly. “I want to do my best for you and Brownstone, Brooke.”

“That you are, Darlin’,” Brooke nodded subtly. “You know, I was proud of you helping the artist with your impression of Line of Fire for the CD cover. That showed real insight into the group’s sound.”

Sam wrinkled her nose, wincing at Brooke’s words of praise. “It was their song. I just said that it made me think of coming out of a hazy fog. How was I supposed to know that would develop into a live shoot with the guys coming out of a circle of fire?”

“Not bad for your second day on the job. The proofs that came across my desk this morning looked damn good. You just keep on doing what you’re doing, Sam. I can see that you have the makings of a good PR Manager. Of course,” Brooke wet her lips as she tapped out a rhythm with her fingers on the desk, “that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn more.”

“Please, Brooke.” Sam sighed, “I’ve got enough right now just so that I can graduate. Let’s save the learning more for later.” She turned her attention back to the paper she was writing on. “Right now, I’m trying to see how many promo gigs I can fit into this budget. I figure that the radio talks won’t cost us anything…”

“Correct,” Brooke nodded in agreement glancing over to the clock on her desk.

“The mall appearances won’t be more than a few security guards on the payroll.”

“So, that’s just a few hundred or so.” Brooke looked up to see the puzzled look on Sam’s face as she went through the motions of figuring out the budget once again.

“I guess we could give some CD’s and shirts away…” Sam stopped writing and looked at the figure that was left. Her eyes grew bigger as she held the number in her view. “What am I supposed to do with the rest?”

The C.E.O. smiled knowingly. “Well…we’re going to need to pay for the photographer to get more promotion photos done, there’s always the touring allowance to work into that budget. And then there’s…”

“I know…” Sam took in a deep breath as another idea came to her. “We could get a journalist to cover the upstart of a new band. You know…maybe get them to write as a part of the touring group. What do you think?”

“I think…” Brooke’s eye shifted to the clock and her smile grew from ear to ear. “I think we’ll have to continue this later.” She rose from her seat and stretched her back. “Wahoo! It’s quitting time.”

“Quitting time?” Blonde brows furrowed deep into Sam’s forehead. “But…I just got started.”

“Baby, it’s Friday and already after five now. You can pick this up again on Monday.” Brooke reached for the phone and tapped in a few numbers. “Hey, Petey.”

“Yo, Boss lady,” the energetic voice came from the receiver loud and clear.

“You ready to call it a week?”

“Yeah, just wrapping up the desk now and putting away the tie. I’m out of here.”

“Great!” Brooke winked over at Sam who was still looking puzzled. “Hey, you and Crystal are coming to the house tomorrow night, right?”

“Where else would I be? Movies…popcorn…and a date with my boss picking up the tab.”

“You’ve got it. See you tomorrow, Petey.”

“Righto, Bossaroonie. Ciao.”

“Later, Dude.” Brooke hung up the phone and turned toward her wife. “Now…back to you.” She winked and sent a kiss into the air. “What do you need, Darlin’ that can’t wait until Monday?” She reached out and took the notepad from Sam’s hand, placing it down on her desk.

“Are you firing me?” Sam looked her wife straight in the eye.

“No way…” Brooke stopped and thought for a moment. “Well…maybe.”

“Only for the weekend, eh?” Sam took a step closer.

“Uh-huh,” reeling her wife into her lap and kissing her on her cheek.

“Ah…I get the idea.” Sam returned a kiss and smiled. “It’s time to think about us and not work, right?” Her answer was a flurry of kisses that started on Brooke’s neck and ended with her ear. “Mmm…” Sam purred. “I think I like being married to the boss.” She gave her wife a soft, lingering kiss on the lips and then drew back only to whisper into Brooke’s ear. “What do you say we take this together time home and put it to good use?”

“Oh, yeah!” Brooke gave a little growl. “I think that sounds like a marvelous idea. I’ll even make dinner. What do you say…a bottle of wine, some candles?”

“Sounds delicious.” Sam nipped at Brooke’s earlobe. “Just like you.”

“Come on then, Beautiful. Let’s go home.” Brooke rose from the chair and headed for the door.

“I’m all yours, Boss lady.” A coy smile came to Sam’s face as she wiggled her eyebrows then quickly followed her wife out the door.

****

One lazy, green eye surveyed the terrain of sheets and pillows that gave the bed a rather rumpled but well loved look. A soft purr emitted from Sam’s throat as she remembered their night of lovemaking. Feeling the need to be in her wife’s strong arms, she rolled over and sought out the long, lanky form of the woman she loved. A swift, probing hand searched through the piles of bedding to find no such form. Sam perched herself up on her elbows to look around. Not being one to lay around in bed alone, Sam rolled over to the edge of the bed and got up. Grabbing her robe as she passed by the chair, she pulled it on as she entered the hall looking for her lover.

“Hmm…” Sam gazed into the small office as she continued on down the hall. “Well, I might as well make some coffee,” she shrugged and headed toward the kitchen. With every room she walked by, Sam looked in hopes of finding the other residents of the home. “Now, that’s odd.” She listened for a moment then continued on. “Not even Mario’s around. I wonder if…”

Her thoughts were broken by the sound of the phone ringing and Sam moved down the hall at a quicker pace to answer it. “Oh, so there you are.” She saw the dog rolled up into a comfortable looking ball just inside the doorway leading down to the studio. “Hmm…guess she didn’t use all of her energy up last night. I’m going to have to work on that.” Sam grabbed the portable phone from the kitchen counter and started down the steps. “Hello, Gordon Residence.”

“Well, hello there Mrs. Gordon.” The voice was exuberant. “How are ya’, Toots?”

“Hey, Petey.” A smile came easily to her face. “I’m doing great…and you?”

“Pretty good,” he chuckled out. “Say, is that ol’ ball and chain around?”

“You mean, Brooke,” Sam thought for a second. “I’m sure that she’s around.” She walked down the hall and looked into the studio’s window letting her eyes fall on the hard pounding ex-rocker. “Yeah, she’s getting her exercise on those drums of hers right now. Do you need to talk to her?”

“Uhm…nah, that’s alright. I don’t want to disturb her. I keep telling her she doesn’t play those damn things enough any more.” Peter hesitated for a moment then spoke. “But hey, you can help me.”

“Okay,” Sam waved back to the drummer as she worked the raised stick into the routine without losing a beat. “Whatcha’ need, Petey?”

“Well…I was wondering…” he cleared his throat. “Do you think you guys would mind another guest?”

“When, Petey, for the movies or dinner on Sunday or…” Sam smiled and let the giggling sound escape her lips. “God, we don’t even have kids yet and we need a calendar of events.”

“Well, I guess I’m asking for tonight. I’m not sure when he’s leaving and I didn’t really expect to see him on my doorstep this morning…”

“Who is that?”

Peter chuckled, “Eddie.”

“Eddie?” Sam smirked. “God, I didn’t even realize that he was in town. Sure, bring him with you.”

“You guys won’t mind?”

“Nah, I think that Brooke likes the little guy. She won’t mind at all.”

“Yeah, they did seem to hit it off pretty good. Thanks, Toots. Tell the ol’ lady…”

“Ol’ lady, eh?” Sam grinned hearing his soft chuckling come through the phone and shook her head. “You’d better not let her hear you calling her that name.”

“Well, tell her I said ‘Hi!’ and I’ll see you both tonight.”

“Will do, Petey. Bye.”

“Later, kiddo.”

Sam smiled as the other end of the connection went dead. She pressed the off button and turned to see Brooke more involved in her playing than anything. Opening the door, she moved into the control room of the studio, and listened to the rhythmic beat. It only took her a few seconds to recognize the sound of “Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie. The beat was loud but entertaining as she watched the sweat rolling off of her lover, each beat becoming a little piece of the woman that she loved. Like a moth to a flame, Sam needed to be closer to her and she found herself heading further into the studio.

“I like hearing you play the drums,” Sam yelled over the thundering sound of the percussion instrument. “I agree with Peter; you should do it more often.”

Brooke looked puzzled for a moment then laid the sticks down and pulled out her earplugs. “Hi, Darlin’. Now, you are the most beautiful sight I’ve seen all morning.” She flashed a toothy smile as she wiped the sweat from her face. “Whew! I really worked up a sweat there.”

“I see that you’re getting all of that nervous energy out.”

“Nervous?” Brooke scratched her head. “Why would I be…

“You know…” Sam prodded her mentally. “The doctor’s appointment on Monday…or did you forget about it already?”

“Oh, no…I didn’t forget.” Brooke picked up the sticks and struck a few beats. “I’m not exactly thrilled about it but that’s alright, look at what we’ll get from it.”

“Hmm…are you talking about the bills out the wazoo or the diaper rash?” Sam looked skeptical.

Brooke eyed her wife contemplatively. “We’re really going to do this, right? I mean…you still want to, don’t you?”

“You know that I want children with you, Brooke. I’m just…” Sam bit at her lip, debating whether or not to put her thoughts into words.

“What, Sam?” Blue eyes searched green for an answer.

“Brooke, I…I really think that the first child should be yours.” Sam looked rather hesitant at how her idea would be accepted. “You’re older and if we take into consideration the time element…”

“Whoa!” Brooke lifted Sam’s chin with a finger and stared deep into her eyes. “What are you saying, Sam? You don’t what to have a baby with me?”

“No, I…” Sam swallowed hard.

“Then what is it?” Brooke could feel a cold shiver run down her spine. “Sam…”

“I know it’s nothing, but I…” Sam took in a deep breath and tried to calm her fear. How do I tell you that I don’t trust my mother, Brooke? I’m afraid that she’ll do something or…find a way to take the baby from us.

“Darlin’, Brooke wrapped her arms around her wife and held on tight. “Are you having second thoughts about this? Is that what this is all about?” Brooke kissed the top of Sam’s head. “Oh, Baby.” She rocked the young woman in her embrace. “Just say the word, Sam, and we’ll wait until you feel more comfortable with the idea. I wasn’t trying to rush us into anything.”

The security that Brooke’s arms provided eased her trepidation and gave the young woman the courage that she was looking for. Sam took a moment to gain her composure. “I’ve been doing some research on the Internet, Brooke. I’ve found a way that we can both be the child’s mother…legally, without one of us having to go through adoption proceedings.” She looked up into questioning blue eyes. “If we can have the baby via an in vitro method, then you’d be the biological mother, and I…I would be the surrogate mother for our child.”

“You’d be willing to carry my child to term if the doctor agrees to the…in…invee…whatever it was you said?”

“I’m game, Brooke. You know that.”

“I do. I just want to make sure you still want to do this now. I mean,” Brooke looked up to the ceiling, searching for the right words to say. “Sam, carrying a child for nine months is not something that you jump into, especially when it’s not…”

“But this way, Brooke, it would be my child too.” Sam directed her wife’s gaze to her own eyes. “I want this just as much as I want you.”

There was a long moment of silence as they gazed deep into each other’s souls.

“You’d do that for me, Sam?” Brooke knew the answer before she’d even asked the question.

“Yes, Brooke.” Sam nodded in affirmation. “I’d be honored to have your baby.”

A slow but deliberate smile grew on both of their faces. Before they knew it, their lips were touching, gently at first but as the seconds grew, so did the fervor and passion that swept over them.

Relieved that she did not have to explain her reasons any further, Sam embraced the loving mood that was sweeping over her. Milking the kiss for all that it was worth, she slowly pulled her lips away from Brooke’s and whispered into the other woman’s ear. “Say big girl…care to work off a little more of that energy with me?”

“Hmm…is that an indication that you’re going to get behind this kit with me and get all hot, sweaty, and…” Sam’s fingers silenced Brooke’s words as they gently pressed against her mouth.

Sam waited until she had her wife’s full attention, then casually looked over behind the drum kit. “Hmm…not too comfortable looking but if that’s what turns you on…”

Brooke pulled the fingers away from her mouth and gave a fast rebuttal. “You turn me on.” Her blue eyes drove the meaning of those few words home.

The intensity of the moment caught Sam by surprise. She stepped back and took in the whole picture that was Brooke. Green eyes carefully drifted down the tall woman’s frame, taking in the effect that the sleeveless shirt had as it revealed a well-muscled set of abs. The woman had the body of a god and the long legs protruding from the bottom of her shorts proved it.

“Why, what did you have in mind, my wife?” Brooke moved over to the small refrigerator in the studio, turning her back to her wife as she pulled out a bottle of water. With slow, deliberate movements, she twisted off the cap and chugged down a quick mouthful.

The sight of the Loran trademark tattoo of flaming drums on Brooke’s back was more than Sam could have ever bargained for. It still made her heart skip a beat as her thoughts grew bolder. “You, me, and some water…hmm…” Sam mused. “Care for a little shower time entertainment?”

Brooke lifted her arm and sniffed. “Whew…” she made a face. “I guess that means I stink, huh?

“Hey, you better not stink. In fact,” Sam pulled her wife around to face her. “I think that you’re quite good at what you do.” She rubbed her hands over the tattoo on Brooke’s lower back. “You…set my heart afire.”

“Well, if we’re gonna take a shower anyway…” the woman flashed a big grin as she wrapped her perspiration covered arms around the smaller woman. “We might as well get you sweaty, too.”

“Baby,” Sam looked up into her wife’s face as Brooke brought the bottle of water to her mouth for another drink. “You’ve already gotten me wet.”

Choking on the water that she was trying to swallow, Brooke coughed as she wiped her mouth. “Darlin’, keep that up and you’re going to kill me.” She thought about what she’d just said and a slow, seductive smile came to her face. “Hmm…but what a way to go.”

****

Bringing her towel down from in front of her face, Sam’s eyes fell on long, bare legs that led to a set of shapely buns. In the next second her actions were unstoppable as she quickly twirled the wet towel and took aim.

Wha-a-a-a-a-ack! The towel hit its mark and Sam stood mesmerized by the sight of rippling butt muscles that made the flames on the woman’s lower back tattoo seem to flicker around the drum kit it was emblazoned on.

“Yeow!” Brooke looked into the mirror that she was facing to see the mischievous look on her lover’s face. “Damn, Darlin’, if you want to be getting into the more physical side of lovemaking I think we can come up with some better ways than that.”

The raised eyebrow and look on Brooke’s face told Sam that she was in for a challenge. The young woman giggled nervously. “I…ah…I…” Sam’s eyes grew wider as Brooke slowly turned and smiled with an evil grin. “Oh, shit!” Sam took flight as fast as her short legs would move as she ran from the bathroom and headed for the hall.

Blue eyes sparkled with delight as Brooke silently counted to three and took off after her wife.

It was a quick chase. They never got any further than the top of the stairs before Brooke scooped Sam up into her arms and hoisted her over her shoulder as she headed back toward the master bedroom. Sam’s mocking attempts at fighting Brooke off faded to bouts of tickling. The sudden squirming on both of their parts as they returned one tickle for another were more than enough to cause laughter to come from both women. Standing before the large king-size bed, Brooke shrugged her shoulder, resulting in Sam’s tumble onto the bed. Without warning, Sam’s small body was enveloped by a mound of rippling muscle as Brooke leaped onto the mattress and hovered over her.

“Now, you’re mine.” Brooke smiled evilly, wetting her lips in anticipation of what was to come.

A second later the pair was locking lips in a passionate kiss as their bodies moved in rhythm to their mood. Neither hands nor lips were content to remain in one place for longer than a few seconds as the passion each one was feeling proved too much for them to contain. One body pressed firmly against the other igniting more passion then they knew they possessed and when the time was right, Brooke rolled them over into the middle of the bed. Her intent was evident as she snaked one agile hand down the soft mid section of her wife and headed toward her silky folds.

Gasping for breath, she whispered into her wife’s ear. “God, Sam…I want to make love to you forever.”

The words were short lived as the sound of a ringing phone split the air.

“Ignore it, Darlin’, we’ve already started something here.”

Sam nodded in agreement. After a few more rings the house phone quieted. “MMMmmmm,” she moaned. “Now, where were we?”

“I think…” Brooke took in a breath, “that we were…” she punctuated her thoughts with kisses, “…just about to…”

The ringing started again, only this time it wasn’t the house phone, but Sam’s cell phone instead. Green eyes riveted to it.

“Don’t give it a thought.” Brooke looked up and snarled at the phone. “I’m not.” She then went back to what she was doing, without missing a beat in the love song that her hands and heart were working on.

The phone rang only a time or two more then became quiet.

“See,” another kiss gently teased a pert nipple. “I knew they would…” the tip of a tongue gracefully glided up Sam’s neck and ended with a nibble at her ear lobe, “…give up if we ignored…” Brooke’s words stopped abruptly when the noise of her cell phone vibrating on the nightstand started.

Sam couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the impeccable timing of the persistent caller.

“Hey!” Brooke’s head shot up in surprise. “I’m not that bad.”

“No, Lover, you’re not.” Sam controlled her laughter after sensing the degree of hurt in her wife’s voice. “But if we don’t answer that phone, we’re never going to get the concentration that we need.”

“Humph…” Brooke sighed as she slowed her movements to a halt and reluctantly withdrew from Sam, giving her a chaste kiss before reaching for the phone. “Just remember where we were,” she winked and rolled over, reaching for her phone.

“Hello?” Brooke inhaled several times, trying to catch her breath as she waited for the person on the other end to reply. “This better be damn important to interrupt what I was engaged in.”

“Brooke, I’m so glad that I got you.”

The deep sounding voice came through the speaker and immediately struck a familiar chord in Brooke’s mind. She froze for a short time and swallowed hard before speaking. “Uh…Hi.” Brooke’s eyes grew bigger for a minute then darted between the phone in her hand and the naked blonde she was sitting next to. She reached for the covers and tugged at them without much success as the flushed look of embarrassment colored her face.

This level of self-consciousness surprised even Sam as she covered her mouth, trying hard not to let the sound of giggling escape her mouth.

The sound of her own hyperventilating didn’t help to calm her racing libido as Brooke’s eyes acknowledged the alluring pose that Sam had settled into.

“You sound a little out of breath. You didn’t just run for the phone, did you Brooke?”

“Ah…yeah…I mean no…” Brooke swatted away the playful advances of her wife and shot an arched brow in her direction. “I was…” she tried to think of a delicate way to convey what exactly she had been doing without blatantly lying to Sam’s father. “I was…ah…working out.”

Sam looked at the serious expression on Brooke’s face and mouthed the words she’d just heard, “Working out?”

“Yeah, I was working out when the phone rang.”

The laughter came easily to Sam as she began to shake her head. “We weren’t working out…we were having…” she wrote the letters in mid air with her finger, “S-E-X.”

“Hmm…working out, eh? Is that what you call it nowadays?” The man teased. “In my day we would have just been having…”

The sound of Brooke’s coughing overshadowed the rest of his statement.

“What, Brooke. You don’t think that I haven’t done a little working out myself?”

The dark-haired woman flopped back onto the bed, quickly covering her head with a pillow and groaned. “No offense, sir, but it’s not an image I want running around inside of my head.” A shiver went down the woman’s spine and she tried to shake the idea from her mind. “So, what can I help you with, Mr. Mole…son.” She drew the name out for Sam to hear.

“Daddy?” Sam said weakly and grabbed for the covers, drawing them up under her chin. She watched as Brooke came out from under the pillow. Blue eyes intensified with the nodding of the woman’s head and Sam felt the heat of her own embarrassment rising from her chest to the top of her head.

Brooke cleared her throat. “You’re still letting Sarah spend the night with us, right?”

“Yes. In fact, I was wondering if you might be able to pick Sarah up.” He let a little chuckle engulf his words. “Later, I mean, not now.”

“Uh, sure…later’s fine.” Brooke rolled her eyes. “You and Mrs. Moleson are still coming for dinner tomorrow, aren’t you?”

“Oh, yes. Elaine and I will be there. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’m seeing my daughter every chance that I get.”

“That’s great.” Brooke sat up and smiled for the first time since she answered the phone. “You have no idea what that means to her.” She glanced over to Sam. “She’s missed her family a lot.”

“So have I,” Samuel softly said. “And no problems are going to stand in my way this time around.”

“Problems?”

The sound of Samuel clearing his throat came through the receiver. “It seems that Elaine committed me to something today. It’s another one of her church functions and I…I just wanted to make sure that Sarah wouldn’t be disappointed. I know how much she’s looking forward to being with her sister again. Thanks, Brooke.”

“You’re welcome, sir.” Brooke’s strong voice turned hesitant as she formulated her next question. “Does your wife know that you’re calling to see if we can come get Sarah? I mean…she’s okay with that?”

“It doesn’t matter, Brooke. I told her there was no way Sarah was missing out on this overnight with her sister. Elaine…” he paused for a second then continued. “Elaine is learning to be okay with it.” His voice sounded more determined, “She has to.”

Brooke nodded. “I’ll give you a call when we’re on our way, sir.”

“Thanks, Brooke. I’ll make sure that she’s ready to go by four. I knew that I could count on you.” There was a pause in the conversation, then Samuel added his afterthought. “Oh, and ah…Brooke…”

“Yes, sir?”

“You can finish what you were doing…I mean…your workout routine.” Samuel chuckled. “I wouldn’t want to slight my other daughter in any way, shape or form.”

Dumbfounded by Samuel’s words, Brooke went slack jawed. She blinked once, then twice and slowly turned to stare at the phone in her hand.

“Bye, Brooke and thanks again.” The delight in his voice was evident because he had succumbed his daughter-in-law speechless. “Kiss my daughter for me, will you?”

“Uh…sure.” She struggled to gain her senses. “Bye, Mr. Moleson.”

Brooke slowly touched the button to end the phone connection then sank back into the bed, pulling the pillow over her head as she let go of a long sigh. “Well, it’s official, Baby.” Brooke moved the pillow from one eye and looked over at her wife. “We are definitely married now.”

“What?” The puzzled look on Sam’s face showed her confusion. “Why do you say that?”

“Because I swear only a father-in-law,” Brooke shook her head as she clutched the pillow to her chest. “Your wife’s father…” she stressed the point, “has that kind of timing.”

****

Several hours later and roughly seventy or so miles away from home, Brooke looked over to the passenger who sat where Sam usually did. The familiar blonde hair was there but on a slightly younger model of the Moleson mold. The siblings had more in common than just looks Brooke thought as she noticed Sarah’s attentiveness to the passing scenery around them.

Okay, you’re an adult, Brooke reasoned. You get along with C.C., she smiled, and Sam, so talking to someone a few years younger shouldn’t be a problem at all. Besides, you know it’s going to be a long hour or so if you don’t find some way to pass the time.

A twinge of loneliness for her wife surfaced as she looked into the rearview mirror. Damn, I wish I’d bought a van, that way we would have all been able to go get Sarah. After an image of Sam, Julie and the boys waving good-bye flickered through her mind, Brooke refocused her attention to the road. Well, Randi’s kids do love Sam. I just wish they hadn’t come over so early.

Glancing to her right, Sarah came into her view. Brooke thought for a moment about what they could have in common to talk about and the answer came to her in the form of her wife. Yeah, she looked over to her young passenger. Sam’s the common ground that we share. Okay, here goes.

“So, are you ready for the weekend with your sister, Sarah? I know that Sam’s been talking about it all week.”

“Yeah,” Sarah nervously admitted then quickly turned the tables teasingly on her sister-in-law. “I can’t wait to see you two old married people and watch a movie.”

“Hey!” Brooke reached over and ruffled the teen’s hair. “What do ya mean old?”

Sarah pulled away, raking her hand through her bangs but never answered the question. “I guess I’ll have to take notes to tell you two what the movie was about.” She shot a glance in Brooke’s direction and was rewarded with a tinge of red that came to the older woman’s cheeks. “Don’t get me wrong, Brooke. I’m glad that Sam found you and all, but…” she hesitated.

“But what?”

“I mean…can you…” Sarah paused again.

“Can I what?” Brooke looked over to her passenger, then quickly glanced back to the road.

Seeing that she had the older woman intrigued, Sarah enjoyed the teasing even more. “Could you not be so obviously in love with her?”

Brooke let a smile come to the surface. “I wouldn’t even know how to stop.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” The girl looked out the window as she chuckled.

“I don’t even want to close my eyes at night because I miss her when I’m sleeping,” Brooke confessed.

“You know that I’m just teasing you,” Sarah looked to Brooke. “Right?”

The driver nodded her head. “And yeah, I know.” She gave Sarah a quick wink, then concentrated on the road ahead.

Sarah stared at Brooke for the longest time before finally putting her thoughts into words. “I think…” she nodded slowly. “I think I kind of like having you as an older sister.”

Shocked by the statement, Brooke fought back with an embarrassed smile. “Oh yeah? Well, I think I kind of like having you as a younger sister.”

“Good. The feeling is mutual then.” Sarah settled into the seat, more comfortable now then when they had started the trip. “So what’s up, sis?”

Brooke exchanged glances with her passenger and felt a little more at ease. Ah, what the heck. “Speaking of all this sister stuff…” she glanced over to Sarah. “What would you think about being an aunt?”

“An aunt?” The question puzzled Sarah and she turned to look over at Brooke. “What do you mean an aunt?” The teen gasped for air as a thought came to her head. “Oh my God! My sister is pregnant, isn’t she?” She twisted in her seat and looked directly at Brooke. “Is that why you had to get…”

“Sarah…” Brooke’s fingers tightened on the steering wheel as she swerved into the passing lane. “You think I got your sister pregnant?” She accelerated around the car to her left and jerked back into the slower lane.

“But I thought…” Sarah looked off into space for a moment, then coyly stole a glance in Brooke’s direction. “I mean…Mother told me…” she watched Brooke’s face take on a stunned expression.

“Hold on. Slow down.” Brooke tried to study the girls face for a clue. “What did your mother tell you?”

“Did she get that birds and bees thing all wrong?” Sarah stared straight ahead and mumbled. “Good God, if she did…” the girl swallowed hard. “I could have been royally screwed.”

The sudden lane changing of the car ahead of her caused her to smash her hand onto the horn. “WHAT?” Brooke spoke up as she tried to keep an eye on the traffic around her.

Startled by the noise, Sarah’s eyes grew as large as saucers. “What?”

Brooke cringed at the echoing effect of her own question. “Come on, kid. What did your mother say and why are you screwed?”

Sarah looked over at Brooke. “Don’t tell me that you’re just as confused, too?” The teen sighed. “I should have listened to the talk on the streets,” she mumbled under her breath, then looked straight at Brooke. “Aren’t you the one that got Sam pregnant?” The corners of Sarah’s mouth turned upward as she tried hard to keep a straight face.

“Sarah, I can not get Sam pregnant.” White knuckles reflected the degree of tension in Brooke’s hands. “There’s no stem on my apple.”

The girl studied Brooke for a moment then cautiously asked, “So Mother was right…it is all about apples just like she said.”

“HUH?” Brooke shot a quick glance to the teen. Where in the hell is their mother coming from?

Seeing the puzzled look on the driver’s face, Sarah teased her even more. “Yep,” she nodded her head. “Mother said that if it weren’t for apples, none of us would have to worry about sin.”

Apples…sin…? What the hell is she talking about? “No,” Brooke shook her head. She then cleared her throat as she prepared her explanation. “Forget about apples and that.” Okay, regroup here and start again. “Sam and I do want to have a baby, Sarah.” She looked to see how the teen was accepting it. “But I can’t get her pregnant.”

Never taking her eyes off of Brooke, Sarah shifted in her seat. “Then what are you talking about my being an aunt? Are you two thinking about adoption?”

Brooke shook her head. “We really want to have our own baby.”

“But you just said a minute ago…” Sarah was quick with her rebuttal.

“We’d do it with an…uh…” Brooke searched for the right word. “A donation from a father.”

“Donation?” The teen put on her best act at looking puzzled. “Father?”

Hearing the trepidation in Sarah’s voice, Brooke rolled her eyes. “You’re what…sixteen?”

“Seventeen,” the girl corrected her.

“Sarah, surely you know that two woman can’t get each other pregnant.”

“Well heck, that singer Melissa and her partner had a kid or two.” Sarah shrugged as she turned to look out the side window unable to keep a straight face. “I heard that more…ah…more…” she muffled her next word, “lesbians are doing it. You know, having kids, that is. I just figured they cloned them or something I guess.”

Brooke couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh, Sarah, you are too funny. I can’t get Sam pregnant and she can’t get me pregnant. It would have to be by artificial insemination.”

“Artificial?” What’s artificial about it if you get a kid? Then who…” Blonde brows furrowed deeply. “How?”

Blue eyes shot over to view the sincerity of the girl’s answer. “We…we haven’t really decided on the who yet.” Damn, Brooke looked back to the road ahead of her. I’m not sure she knows what the hell I’m talking about. “Are you serious, Sarah? Hasn’t your mother explained any of this to you?”

A very audible gulp came from Sarah before she slowly answered the question that was posed to her. “Well, Mother hasn’t seen the need for me to…ah…date or anything and I guess she doesn’t think I need to know.” Sarah turned her head and stared out the side window. “Maybe I should talk to my sister.”

Brooke cringed but felt the need to respond to the girl’s plight. “Can I help?”

“Huh?” Sarah shifted her gaze toward the driver. “Well, I guess you are technically my sister now.” The girl took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Sarah, I’ll understand if you’d be more comfortable talking to Sam.” Say yes. Say yes. Oh please God, let this one prayer of mine be answered.

“How about if you just kind of give me the skinny on it.” She looked at the driver until she could no longer hold the laughter inside. Nervously she let go with a giggle as she looked away. “I mean…in a nutshell.”

“Skinny…on what, exactly?” Brooke was puzzled.

“Sex, you dummy. Sex.” Sarah sank disgustedly back into her seat. “Geez, and I thought you knew.” The teen kept a close watch on Brooke, stealing glances without being caught.

“You…” Brooke held the steering wheel a little tighter and gulped. “You want me to tell you all about sex?”

“No. Like I need another lesson in how babies come from the cabbage patch.” Green eyes stared indignantly at Brooke. “Yes, sex. I’d like to know. I mean…just in case, well…you know.” She rolled her eyes. “Then maybe I wouldn’t feel so dumb when Sam and I talk about this baby thing.”

“Why do they always think I know it all?” Brooke mumbled under her breath as her foot pushed a little harder on the gas pedal.

****

Descending the spiral staircase, Sam whimsically glanced at the clock on the living room mantle. It was only four in the afternoon and already she was missing Brooke. She let a sigh escape her lips and continued on down the hall.

“Well, it’s just you, and me for the next forty-five minutes, Mario. I guess we tired the kids out with that game of doggie tag. Thank God, Julie and the boys were willing to take a nap so that they could stay up longer watching the movies.” She looked down to the dog that was sitting at her side. “I know, you miss her.” She leaned down and patted his head. “I do, too.” Sam turned to the window around the front door and casually looked out into the driveway. “I’d give anything to see her truck pulling in right about now.” She looked over to the animal and noticed a heightened level of alertness in Mario’s demeanor. “What’s up, boy?”

The animal pranced around in excited circles, whimpering as it started to swipe its paw at the front door.

“Your mommy’s not due for another…” Sam looked out the window. The empty driveway of only a minute ago was now filled with a very familiar looking truck. “Oh, she’s home.” Sam looked back at the clock in the living room. “Hmm…I wonder what made her speed so much. She shouldn’t have been back this soon.” A smile crossed Sam’s face as she felt her heart race with the first sight of the dark-haired woman emerging from the vehicle. “I’ll bet she missed me,” Sam whispered under her breath.

Eagerly Sam undid the deadbolt and opened the door just as Brooke was about to start punching in the security code for the lock. “Hey, Sarah.” She greeted the teen standing next to Brooke. “I see that she got you here in one piece. Are you ready for a night of fun with the Gordon family?”

“I’ve already started having fun,” Sarah smiled at her sister.

“Hey!” Brooke arched an eyebrow at not being the center of her wife’s attention. “Hello…” she waved, “…remember me?”

“Oh, so now you can speak?” Sarah teased the older woman. “You didn’t say a word for the last thirty minutes.”

Sam looked at her sister as the teen beamed back a toothy grin, then studied her wife. “What’s this…” she pointed a finger back and forth between the two, “…all about?”

“Oh, great! Now there are two of them asking questions.” Brooke flashed a pained grin and walked into the house. “Hey, Mario, at least you still love me.” She reached down and scratched the dog’s head. “That’s a good boy.”

“Well, are you going to ask her or better yet…” Sarah turned to address her sister. “You better explain a few things to your wife, Sam.”

“Huh?” Sam looked to Brooke for clarification. “What’s she talking about?”

“Darlin’,” Brooke leaned close to Sam’s ear and whispered. “Me thinks you need to have a talk with your sister about some…ah…um…things.” She looked into Sam’s face and saw nothing but confusion. “I think your mother has her a tad…confused about S-E-X.”

“Confused about what?” Sam looked from Brooke to her sister and then back again.

“Sex, Sam.” Brooke whispered it a little louder then the last time.

“And you couldn’t?” Sam watched as Brooke shrugged and smiled, making a silly face. “Yeah, I know, fake that silent routine with me.” She put her hands on her hips and began tapping her right foot. “Let’s see you do that at the doctor’s office on Monday.”

“Awe…Sam, did you have to remind me of that already? It’s going to make me feel like Star Trek in there.” Brooke stood at attention and held her right hand up in a Vulcan greeting. “To boldly go where no man has gone before,” she said and then cringed. “Literally.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Sarah smirked as she rolled her eyes. She came up to her sister and gave her a hug.

Sam glared at her sister then settled her gaze on her wife. “You had to say that, didn’t you?”

“Sorry,” Brooke shrugged. “I’ve been trying to explain to Sarah that I can’t impregnate you even though we are planning on having a child with the help of a quack or two.”

“Doctors? Quacks?” The teen looked to her sister. “What’s it going to be, Sam…a Gordon baby or a duck?” When no answer came immediately, Sarah sighed. “See? No one will be honest with me about sex.” She shook her head and moved into the house. “Come on, Mario. Maybe you can tell me about the birds and the bees.”

Sam stood speechless for a long moment as she watched her sister disappear into the next room. “Honest?” She finally muttered under her breath. “I was totally honest with you when we sat down and you asked me all those questions about sex.”

“You had that talk with her already?” Brooke’s eye became bigger.

“Yeah,” Sam nodded. “I did that right before I left home. I wanted to make sure that Sarah didn’t get the same ideas as my mother.”

“Then…why did…” blue eyes shot over to the direction that Sarah had gone. Brooke bit at her lip out of nervousness. “Maybe it didn’t sink in. I can go start dinner so it’s ready when the rest get here while you talk to her.”

“No,” Sam shook her head. “Come on, Brooke. Lighten up. She was yanking your chain.” She looked down the hallway after her sister, shaking her head in disbelief. “You,” she directed her attention back to her wife. “Go get ready to entertain. It’s what you do best.” Sam slipped an arm around her wife’s waist and reached up to give her a peck on the cheek.

“That’s all I get?” Brooke demanded as her lower lip poked out into a pout.

“Oh, so you know about more?” Sam teased the woman. “OUCH!” Sam’s face showed her surprise, then reflexively she grabbed Brooke’s hand that had just squeezed her butt and held onto it. Sam leveled a gaze at the tall woman and snickered. “Don’t go giving me that angelic look. You know more…lot’s more.”

****

“Okay, the Spaghetti-O dinner guests have all been bedded down for the night. I’m going to put away those kiddie movies until next time we have to unearth them…about 2009.” Brooke shook her head. “I still don’t know what Julie’s fascination is with that purple, dancing animal of extinction.” Brooke came down the last of the steps and headed toward the kitchen when the sound of the doorbell halted her. “I got it, Sam.”

She headed for the door with deliberate steps as she used all of her appendages to keep the upbeat rhythm that was dancing through her being. Reaching the door she smiled as she peaked out of the side window to see the next assembly of guests at the door. “Ah, I see that we have the ‘R’ rated movie group arriving now.” She stepped back and called over her shoulder as she disengaged the alarm. “Sam…Sarah…the adults are here now. You can stop playing dress up with those Barbie dolls,” Brooke snickered.

She turned her attention to the door and opened it. “Hey, Petey…” Brooke greeted the man in front of the door. “What’s up, Bud?”

“Eddie,” Peter beamed, “that’s what’s up.” The man turned when he was poked in the back. “Sorry, Hon, I’m just so excited that he can hang with us tonight.” The sheepish look on his face revealed the inner child that he kept hidden from all but his closest of friends.

“Well, everyone, come in. Dinner should be ready soon.” She waited until Crystal crossed into the house and wrapped her in a hug. “Hi, Crystal. I’m glad that you’re here.”

“Hey, where’s that cousin of mine?”

“Sam and Sarah are in the kitch…”

“Sam is but I’m not.” Sarah’s voice cut off Brooke’s words.

“Sarah…” Crystal smiled as she saw her younger cousin. “Whoa, you’ve grown even since the wedding.”

Brooke released the woman and turned to Eddie and teased him with a threat of a hug that at the last moment turned into a firm handshake. “What’s up there, Eddie? How have you been?”

“Pretty cool, Brooke.” Eddie let his eyes roam around the entryway of the house. “Thanks for letting me tag along tonight.” He turned his gaze toward Sarah. “It means…a lot to me.”

“No problem, Kid. Come on in and I’ll show you around.”

Eddie’s eyes never left the blonde in the hall. “Ah…where’s Sam?”

Brooke followed his line of sight and a lopsided smile came to her face. “She’s in the kitchen. Can I introduce you to her sister?”

“Sister?” The young man gulped. “Whoa, nobody told me that she had a sister.” He elbowed Peter. “Hey, pal, why didn’t you tell me there was another hottie roaming the planet?”

Brooke cleared her throat. “Watch it there, buddy. She’s under age.”

“I can wait,” his softly spoken words were heard by Crystal.

“I have two words for you—Jail Bait.” Crystal drove a finger into his chest. “Remember that.”

“I guess I’ll have to.” Eddie sighed, his eyes finding the floor very interesting. Shyly he looked over to Crystal. “I…I can at least meet her, can’t I?”

“Hmm…” Crystal folded her arms over her chest and then brought one hand to her chin as she studied the blonde man who looked more like a boy than anything. She started to tap her foot on the tile floor. “Brooke…” she never took her eyes off of Eddie. “What do you think? Do you think he can handle being in the presence of all of us Moleson women?” Crystal looked over to Brooke.

“I…ah…I…” the question took Brooke by surprise.

“Hmm…Maybe I’d better ask you how you’re holding up,” she teased. “You are holding up alright, aren’t you?”

“Never been better.” Brooke nodded her head. “I’m perfectly satisfied with my Moleson woman.” She leaned in toward Eddie and spoke candidly to the man. “And believe me, she’s plenty for me.”

“I heard that.” Crystal passed by Brooke and tapped her lovingly on the cheek. “Good answer, Brooke. You just passed Marriage 101.” She glanced back to Peter. “You taking notes?”

“Notes?” Peter stared off into space for a second then snarled at his long time friend. “Russafrussa…” he mumbled as he followed after his date. Turning toward Brooke when he passed by her, he mumbled only loud enough for her to hear. “Smart shit.”

Brooke cupped his shoulder with her hand in a comforting motion. Tentatively she leaned into his ear, “It’s okay, Petey…you’ll live.” She pulled away as he playfully shrugged her hand off of his shoulder and then turned to see Eddie still standing where he had been, just inside the door.

“And me?” Eddie stood looking shyly at Sarah as she walked away arm in arm with her cousin. “Will I live too?”

“Of course you will. Eddie. Nothing keeps us drummers from beating on.”

“Good ‘cause I almost thought I died and went to heaven,” he muttered under his breath.

Blue eyes studied the young man for a moment. His mood seemed different from the last time she’d seen him in New Jersey. She shrugged it off as just not knowing the man well enough to understand his moods. “Come on in man.” Brooke stepped toward the hallway and yelled in the direction of the kitchen. “Sam, baby, look…Eddie’s here.”

Sam entered the hallway from the opposite end. “Crystal,” She finished wiping her hands on the towel and threw it over her shoulder. “Petey, my buddy.” She wrapped her arms around the man and gave him a welcoming hug. “I’m so glad that you could make it.”

“Hi ya’, Toots.” The man’s mood lightened. “How’s my girl?”

“Very married, Petey,” Sam whispered into his ear as she looked to her wife and winked. Tapping Peter on the shoulder, she waited for his attention then pointed to her cousin. “That’s your girl.”

“Dang it anyhow, Peter.” Crystal put her hands on her hips and looked the man straight in the eye. “I’m going to get you a damn big note book so you can write this all down.” She shook her head in disbelief then turned to Sarah. “And you…” she motioned for the girl to turn slowly around. “You’re getting so big. Damn, girl, you’re even starting to blossom there.” Crystal’s eyes settled on Sarah’s chest. “Sam, what do you think?” She spun Sarah around to show her off.

Sam slipped out of Peter’s arms only to see her younger sibling blushing and very embarrassed. Wanting to help her sister out, Sam tried to sway the conversation away from the girl. “How about those ‘Niner’s?” She smiled awkwardly.

Sensing the girl’s discomfort, Eddie sidled up to Sarah and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “Don’t pay them any mind, Sarah. They tease me all the time just because I’m the youngest.” He smiled at her and extended his other hand to her in friendship. “Hi, I’m Eddie.”

“I know,” Sarah giggled like a love struck school girl. “I’m glad that you’re here.”

“Hey,” Sam came closer to her sister and gave her a little rub on her back. “Sorry, sis,” she gave a weak smile. “We all have our places in any family. The older ones comfort and take responsibility while the younger ones tease and get teased.” Sam looked over to her wife and smiled. “Isn’t that right, Brooke?” She didn’t wait for an answer, instead she reached out and touched Eddie’s arm. “I’m so glad to see you again.”

“Me, too.” Eddie’s soft reply matched his mood as the three blondes stood eyeing one another, with smiles slowly growing on all of their faces.

“I’ll be damned.” Crystal pulled her purse from her shoulder and whipped out a disposable camera from it. She quickly aimed it at the threesome and froze a moment in time. “That’s scrap book material if I ever saw it,” she declared as she took the camera away from her face.

Still standing in the hallway, Brooke didn’t want to miss a photo opportunity for Sam and her sister. “Hey, Petey…grab my digital camera off the end table there. I want my own copy of that.”

“Okay, boss. I can do that.” He picked up the high tech toy and looked at it, puzzled as to where to begin.

“Just point and click the button on the top right, Peter. I have it on automatic.” Brooke rolled her eyes. “Where’s C.C. when you need her?”

Sarah cocked her head to side. “C.C.’s not here? I thought…”

“Hot date,” Brooke held up her hand in a stopping fashion. “With any luck she’ll dump him after dinner and be here in time for the second movie.” She turned her attention back to the man with her camera. “Petey, take the picture, will you before we lose the moment.”

Obeying his boss’s command, Peter raised the camera to his eye and pushed down on the button under his right index finger. He pulled it away from his face and smiled. “Hey, that was easy,” the man declared, looking at the image displayed on the LCD. “Damn,” he mumbled, “They could almost be related.” He turned the camera to face himself and accidentally touched the button, setting of the flash. “What the….” Peter squinted, shaking his head. “I’m blind. Here,” he tossed the camera in Brooke’s general direction. “Go blind yourself. I should have known it was a joke of some kind.”

“Yeah and lightning is just another trick of God’s,” Brooke caught the camera. After taking a second to check her settings, she raised it up to her eye and aimed it at the group. “Okay, everybody say ‘We love you, Brooke’. One, two, three.”

Peter stared wide-eyed at Eddie as he tried to see through the blue dot that was obstructing his vision. “Eddie, are you sure that you’re from Jersey? I never saw a blue person from there before.”

The blonde man turned his head to Peter, sticking out his tongue just as the brilliant white light illuminated the room.

Brooke sighed, knowing what would be immortalized on the image. “Okay, one more and let’s try to act our ages,” she glared at Peter.

Sam chuckled at the good-natured teasing of her wife. “Sorry, Brooke but this is going to have to wait for later.” She sniffed at the air. “My dinner is almost done.”

“Baby…” Brooke whined.

“We can get a picture later…” she kissed Brooke as she passed by on her way to the kitchen. “…with all of us.”

“Yeah,” Sarah piped up. “When C.C. gets here. She’ll be frickin’ pissed otherwise, always being left out of photo opportunities.”

Sam stopped dead in mid step. Slowly she turned and looked to Brooke. Silent communication between the two drove them to simultaneously direct their attention to Sarah.

“What…” the girl looked rather surprised at her sister, then glanced over to Brooke. “What did I say?” She thought for a moment. “Oh…ah…sorry,” she said shyly. “You’re not going to tell Mother, are you Sam?”

The word was slow to form as Sam was beginning to realize that her sister was coming of age and testing the waters of adulthood. “No.”

“Of course not.” Brooke spoke for her wife. “She’s…I mean…we’re just a little surprised, that’s all.”

Sam nodded in agreement and began to chuckle. She turned to Crystal and let a wry smile come to her face. “You were right before, Cuz. She is blossoming, in more ways than one.” Sam sniffed at the air again. “Excuse me, but I’d better get that before it burns.” She took off for the kitchen without looking back.

Brooke rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and since C.C. isn’t here we’re going to have to blame it on someone.” She looked from one of her guests to another finally settling on Peter. “Well, Bud. I guess it’s official. You’ve got the ManBitch title tonight.”

“Huh?” Peter cocked his head to the side. “Why me?” He looked around dramatically. “What about Eddie?”

“Can’t,” Brooke crossed her arms over her chest and fixed her gaze on Peter. “Because Eddie’s our guest.”

“Why me?” Peter pointed to his chest. “Why not you?”

The tall woman smirked. “ME? I’m always the bitch. It’s your turn now, Petey.”

“Damn!” The man’s shoulders sank with resignation and he gave a little kick at the carpet. “I guess this is just another one of those things I’m supposed to remember, huh?” He looked over at Crystal and smiled.

“You’re learning, Petey.” Brooke headed toward the kitchen. “We’re all just learning.”
Installment 2–4 And Baby Makes Three
“Hey Brooke. Over here…I haven’t talked to you since the night before you got married.”

Brooke surveyed the guests that were mingling about her home as she made her way over to her brother-in-law. She waited until she got closer to the man before answering him. “That wasn’t talking, Brian. That was nothing but an excuse to get me drunk.”

“Lighten up. You still made it to the wedding on time.” Brian flashed a big smile, “So how is it? Married life, I mean.”

“It’s great,” Brooke beamed. “It’s wonderful. It’s…”

“Yeah, you don’t have to tell me. I married your sister, remember?” Brian looked over and waved to his wife. “I think that all you Gordon girls are meant for marriage.”

“Excuse me?” Brooke’s eyebrow went flying halfway up her forehead.

“No, wait…” Brian held up his hands in an attempt to stave off the imagined storm that was quickly forming in the mind of his sister-in-law. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that to be chauvinistic sounding. I just meant that you all seem very comfortable with being a couple…family…that sort of thing.”

Brooke relaxed a little now and agreed with his perspective on her family. “We do have a certain need to be involved with our loved ones if that’s what you mean.”

“Well, yeah, that too.” Brian shrugged, “You all seem to bring people together around you.”

She looked out at the people that were gathered in her home. “These are all my family and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She looked over to Peter and Eddie standing by the fireplace. “Even if you weren’t born into it, we still consider you family. Even you,” she looked at Brian. “We all belong to one another.” Brooke started to turn around to get the whole effect of what she was saying.

Brian stood there, never letting his eyes drift from the form of his wife as she headed out of the room. With nothing more to hold his attention, he turned back to Brooke. “So when are you and Sam going to start working on that family of your own?

“What did you just say?” Brooke gazed at her bother-in-law slightly shocked.

“Come on, Brooke. Every couple has a plan, even Randi and I did…”

“You did?” She looked at him skeptically.

The questioning tone of Brooke’s voice brought a tinge of color to the man’s face. “Well,” Brian paused in thought, “we sort of did.”

“Uh huh…” Brooke folded her arms over her chest. “You can stop with your explanations, Brian. I’m still thrilled to have you as a brother-in-law.”

“Hey, so maybe we just got ahead of ourselves and started a little sooner than we thought possible.”

“I said you could stop.”

“Yeah, you did, that’s what I like about you. You just keep on moving forward and living life. You don’t let anything get you down.” He studied her for a moment and added, “Well, almost anything. You bounce back with a vengeance and that’s what matters. I don’t know if I could be like that. I’m sure that I would have just about given up if that wedding fiasco of yours happened to Randi and I.” Brian’s face softened with a warm smile. “With that kind of strength, Brooke, I’m sure that you and Sam both would make a great set of parents.” He waited for a moment as he perused the room and its inhabitants. “Anyway…I’m just wondering what your plan is.” He shrugged casually, “Two…three…how many?”

“Ding Dong Ding!”

The sound of the doorbell halted Brooke’s train of thought as she stared blankly into the face of her brother-in-law. She smiled self-consciously as she excused herself. “Sorry, Brian. I just lost my train of thought.” She looked around the gathered family members and guests as she did a quick head count. “I’d better go let Mom and Dad in before they start pounding the door down. It looks like they’re the last ones to get here.”

“Oh!” Brian sounded surprised. “You’re calling your in-laws Mom and Dad already? It took me almost a year to do that. I’m proud of you, Brooke.”

“Please…” Brooke rolled her eyes. “I meant my parents.” She looked around quickly to see if Sam was nearby. “I’m not sure I’ll call Mrs. Moleson anything but Mrs. Moleson for a long time.”

Brian laughed. “Trust me, Brooke. All that Sam has to do is ask you and you’ll call them anything she wants.” He winked and raised his drink toward her in toast fashion. “Anything,” he reiterated, “to keep the wife happy. In fact, if I think back correctly, that’s the night Julie was conceived.” He nodded eagerly. “Yeah, and the words that Randi wanted to hear me use was Mummy Wummy.”

Brooke throttled back a laugh as she gave that concept some thought. “Hmm…I see your point.”

“Trust me, you’ll know what to do when the time comes.”

“Ding Dong Ding!”

The sound of the doorbell ringing again caused Brooke to turn her attention to the door. “I’ve really got to answer that, Brian.” She moved away from the man, her long legs catapulting her to the door. “I’m coming…I’m coming.” She looked out through the curtains and cringed at the sight of her mother-in-law. “Damn, wrong words to use.” Brooke muttered under her breath. “She’ll probably hold that against me too.” Brooke shook her head, sucked in a deep breath and opened the door.

“Mom, Dad…” blue eyes looked first to Mable, then Henry and over to Samuel. Brooke’s gaze settled finally on the woman next to Sam’s father and her demeanor became just a tad more formal. “I’m glad to see that you all could make it. Sam will be happy to know that you’re here.”

There was a moment of uneasiness as the two women locked gazes. It didn’t last more than a few seconds but the chill in the air was evident to Mable. “Brooke,” she let her tone of voice try to lighten the mood. “You are going to invite us in, aren’t you?”

The statement startled Brooke. “Ah…yeah…sorry,” she mumbled, stepping back from the doorway. “Come on in out of the cold.” Brooke ushered the small group into her home and quickly closed the door. “Here, let me have your coats and I’ll run them upstairs to our bedroom.” It was right at that moment that Brooke made eye contact with her mother-in-law. The coldness in Elaine’s eyes contrasted sharply with the intense heat coming to Brooke’s face in the earliest blush of embarrassment. Quickly, she closed her eyes and turned away, chastising herself for the words she’d just spoken. Great! Now Sam’s mother is going to think that’s all I do is try to get everything within my reach into our bedroom. Okay, Brooke, take a deep breath. Don’t let it get to you.

Taking her own advice, Brooke fixed a smile on her face and turned back to her new arrivals, pouring on the charm. “Here, let me help you with that.” She took their coats and threw them over her arm. “Go on,” she motioned toward the living room where the other guests were assembled. “Make yourselves right at home. I’ll be back in a…”

“Brooke…can you give me a hand in the kitchen, please.” Sam’s voice came floating down the hall seconds before she appeared in the doorway of the kitchen. “Hi, Daddy,” Sam called out with a little wave when her father leaned into the hallway.

“Hiya, Babycakes,” he winked back at her. “Your mother’s here too, you know.” He watched the expression on Sam’s face turn slightly somber.

“I’m glad that you could make it, Mother.” Sam blew a puff of air from her mouth to get the hair out of her eyes. “Brooke, I really could use your two hands in here for a few minutes. I’m being vertically challenged again.”

“All right, Darlin’, just as soon as I…” The weight of the coats draped over her arm lessened as her father shifted them to his arm. “What’s up…” Brooke turned her gaze to her father as he lightened her load, “Pop?”

“Me,” he answered. “That’s what’s up. I’ll take these upstairs and you go help that darling woman in your kitchen.” He winked at his daughter then motioned with his head in Sam’s direction.

Brooke looked quickly to her mother. Seeing the smile on her face was all that she needed to make her mind up. “Thanks, Pop.” She relinquished her hold on the winter apparel. Her gaze caught the Moleson’s as she turned to leave. “Ah…” Brooke looked nervously to her mother again. “I…ah…Mom, could you make sure that Sam’s parents get introduced to everyone for me?”

“Go on, I’ve got things covered.” Mable conveyed her certainty with the knowing look she gave her daughter.

“Brooke, I really need you in here,” Sam’s plea brought a slight blush to her wife’s face.

“I…I’d better go. I’ll catch up with you later.” Brooke nodded to the Moleson’s. “Thanks, Mom.” She reached out and touched the woman’s hand before heading toward the kitchen. “I’m coming, Darlin’.” Brooke stutter-stepped as she realized she’d said that phrase again. She gave a little shake to her head and continued on, seeing the look on Brian’s face as she passed by him.

Brian commented out of the side of his mouth, “Sweet, Brooke.” He turned his attention back toward the newcomers. “Come on, we don’t bite.” He winked at Sam’s mother then nodded toward his in-laws as he intercepted a running three-year-old headed for the group. “Hey, Princess.” He hoisted the child up into his arms. “What do you say we let Grammie get Sam’s mommy and daddy settled in before you go distracting her?” He winked at his daughter, “Besides, I heard that Aunt Terri was looking for you. Let’s go find her.” He watched as the child eagerly nodded her head.

“Thanks, Brian.” Mable waved to her granddaughter. “You come see Grammie later, okay, Julie.” She watched the child wave back then glanced over to Elaine and Samuel. “That’s Randi’s husband and their youngest child. But you already met them at the breakfast, right?”

“She’s a delightful child,” Samuel watched as the father and daughter interacted on the way to their destination. “Is she that enjoyable all the time?” He looked quickly to Mable, then back to Julie and Brian.

“All the time. Every get together we’ve had since her birth has been nothing but enjoyable.” The Gordon matriarch smiled proudly. “It’s even nicer having Brooke’s larger home to hold everyone.” She shook her head in disbelief. “You can’t imagine how crowded ours is when we all get together there.”

Elaine let her eyes roam over the people that were milling about. The majority of the other guests were definitely younger and more energetic as they played with the children while joking with each other.

“Do you all get together like this often, Mable?” She looked worried. “Wouldn’t a hall be better than someone’s house? There’s so many of you.”

“Don’t worry, Brooke has plenty of room.” Mable held out her hands as if to show off the house.

“I see that,” Elaine looked at the room that she was in, then let her eye drift out toward the next one. “It’s a…beautiful place that she has.”

“As a group, we don’t have the chance to get together too often. It seems that something is always in the works with our family being so diversified. Not everyone has a nine to five job with weekends off any more.” She shrugged good-naturedly noticing for the first time that Elaine was looking somewhere else. “We have our own little dinners at least once a month without the girls’ husbands. We use those to keep the family bond going.” Mable’s attention was focused on the woman standing two feet away from her. “That might be something you could try.”

A distracted look settled on Elaine’s face as she followed something around the room. Without any warning, she lifted her foot and grabbed for her husband’s arm as a remote controlled PT Cruiser came hurtling her way. The look of astonishment stayed on her face as she gazed at those around her. She watched silently for a moment as her husband bent down and plucked the car from the floor. “Samuel,” Elaine cleared her throat. “Maybe you and I should…”

“Elaine,” Samuel’s stern voice addressed her. “It will be fine.” He reached out and took her hand while still clutching onto the car with his other hand. “These people are close. They won’t mind a few more thrown into the mix.” His attention was distracted with a tug on his sleeve. He looked down to see Kevin staring up at him.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Moleson. I’m not very good with the cars.” The lad stole a look at Elaine and grimaced slightly. “May I have my car back, please?”

“Sure thing, son.” Samuel offered the car with an out-stretched arm. “Maybe later I can show you some tricks to get them where you want them to go.”

“Really?” The boy’s voice squeaked with delight. “I’d like that. Did you teach Sam, too?”

The man coughed as he choked back a laugh. “No,” he glanced over to his wife. “I wasn’t allowed.”

“Too bad ‘cause she’d really be awesome then.” He looked down to the ground as he admitted his next thought. “Sam would really whip my butt more than she does now, I bet. You should see her when she plays Road Race on the Game Cube.”

“You don’t say.” Samuel sighed. “Maybe you both could show me someday.” He ruffled the boy’s hair and glared at his wife for another experience that she’d taken from him.

“You bet.”

“Kevin, are we racing or what?” David stood at the doorway into the hall. “Come on, it’s the best two out of three.” He waved his arm to hurry his sibling.

“I got to go.” Kevin turned to Samuel and beamed. “My brother’s waiting for me.” With that said, the lad ran off.

Raising his eyes from the small boy, Samuel could see Elaine shifting her stance and fingering the neckline of her dress. “Relax, Elaine.” Samuel squeezed his wife’s hand and patted it. “See…” he motioned to the people around them with his eyes. “They’re used to it.”

“Yes, Elaine.” Mable hesitated for only a second before reaching out to touch the woman’s shoulder. “We’re all very happy that you could join us.”

“Well, if you say so,” Elaine said tentatively as she eyed two men standing in the doorway of the dining room. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just not used to having little boys around.” She looked up to see two young adult males standing in the doorway. “Are they related to you too?” She gave a sidelong glance over to Mable. “I thought that your youngest daughter was the only one…ah…” she cleared her throat trying to get the words out, “…not married.”

“Those two?” Elaine pointed in Peter and Eddie’s direction and returned their acknowledgement with a cute wave. “That’s Peter on the left, he’s Brooke’s best friend. I mean, besides C.C. of course.” She let go with a little chuckle and continued on. “The other one is Peter’s friend, Eddie.” She turned to look directly at Elaine. “You know that Peter is actually seeing your niece Crystal, right?”

“Crystal?” Elaine’s eyes took on an intensity all their own as she looked over to Samuel. “I guess you knew all about that, too.”

Letting go of a sigh, the man shook his head. “Well, I knew that they were dating.” Samuel glanced over to Peter then back to his wife. “I wasn’t too sure about anything serious.” He shrugged.

“Humpf,” Elaine let go with a snort. “Eddie looks a little young to be in Peter and Brooke’s circle of friends.”

“It’s not a bad thing to be friends with someone older. Look at you and I. I’d like to think that we’re friends.” Samuel winked at his wife. “Look at how nice Brooke is. For that matter, even Peter seems pretty nice, too. Why shouldn’t he be their friend?” Samuel looked to Elaine for confirmation of his statement.

“They’re all nice people once you get to know them. I believe that Eddie’s just a few years older than Sam,” Mable added.

Elaine studied the young man. “What does he do?” She turned to look at Mable. “How did he come to meet Peter and Brooke?”

Laughter erupted from Samuel’s mouth. “What are you doing, Elaine?” He looked at his wife in utter amazement. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were becoming a groupie in your old age.”

Mable watched as the woman glared at Samuel for a few seconds, then turned her attention back toward Eddie. “Is he talented…I mean…is he a musician?”

“He is…a musician,” she added to alleviate any confusion. “He plays the drums just like my Brooke.” Mable beamed with pride. “I think she’s taken him under her wing…or drumstick.” She smiled at her own joke.

“Hmm…” Elaine gave the idea some thought. “I see.”

“That’s how Brooke met him. Eddie was the drummer in Peter’s group before he took the job at Brownstone.”

“What does Brooke do, give all her friends a free ride?” Elaine turned skeptical.

“I wouldn’t call it a free ride,” Mable chuckled. “My daughter is a workaholic.” Mable reached out and touched the woman’s arm in a comforting fashion. “No, she just likes to take care of the people she loves. Brooke’s always been that way and I don’t ever see her changing.”

“I like that in a person,” Samuel commented. “It makes me happy to know our Sammi has made a wise choice.”

Feeling the muscles in Elaine’s shoulder tense with her husband’s statement, Mable withdrew her hand while at the same time extending some hospitality on her absent daughter’s behalf. “Could I get you some tea or coffee?” The matriarch studied the woman’s face for any indication of her emotional state. “Maybe a glass of wine?”

Letting go of a sigh, Elaine turned to look at Mable. “Wine, I think.” Elaine smiled politely, then looked out at the gathering of people. “It might help the evening go down a little smoother,” she mumbled.

“Then, you’re in luck. Brooke has quite a wine collection in her basement.” Mable looked to Sam’s parents. “Would you care to join me in picking out a bottle?”

Samuel thought for a moment then shook his head. “Why don’t you go on, Elaine. I’ll wait for Henry to come back.”

The woman looked around the room self-consciously. “I think I’d like that.” She fidgeted from one foot to the other waiting for Mable to take the lead, then followed her out of the room.

****

Brooke slowed her steps as she approached the kitchen. Undetected yet by Sam, she stood silently in the doorway for a long moment, drinking in the view of her wife’s blonde hair shining brightly under the fluorescent lighting.

Hmm…I could just reach out and… A sparkle came to Brooke’s eye as she stopped thinking and put her idea into action. Moving closer to Sam, Brooke waited until she was an arm’s length away before acting. Slowly her arm edged toward its goal, Sam’s buttocks.

“Hon, could you get me…” Sam started calling out.

Stunned at the idea of being caught in the act, Brooke’s fingers jumped at the task to finish their mission.

“OUCH,” Sam yelped, then turned and leveled a rather irritated pair of green eyes at the culprit. “Not now, Brooke.” Her voice was stern as she marked the end of her thought with a sound slap of the wooden spoon against the edge of the pot. “We have company or did you forget that little fact.”

The image of Sam’s mother drifted through Brooke’s head and she mentally cringed. “Sorry,” she grumbled out before kissing her wife on the cheek. “Whatcha doing, Sweetheart?” Brooke looked into the pot with interest.

“I’m trying to finish the meal.” Sam turned back to the stove. “You remember the meal…the company…your folks…my folks…our family and friends?” Sam looked back at Brooke and patted her wife’s cheek with an open hand. “Now be a good girl and hand me that serving bowl on the top shelf.” Sam eyes gazed over to the open door of the cabinet.

“Yeah, I remember.” The chastised woman poked out her bottom lip and retrieved the sought after article.

Sam watched silently as Brooke put the bowl down on the counter and moved over to work on finishing the salad. The sight of the tall woman’s pouting lower lip almost broke Sam’s heart. The blonde sighed and shook her head. Just like a big kid, Sam mused, then sidled up to Brooke. “I’ll give you all the attention you need later, Love.” Sam reached out and hugged her wife. “Okay?”

Still showing her disappointment, Brooke kept her sight on the salad bowl in front of her. “Okay,” she mumbled.

Guiding the woman’s chin with her fingers, Sam stood up on her toes to place a kiss on Brooke’s cheek. She pulled back and looked deep into crystal blue eyes. “I love you.”

The reply was instantaneous and without thinking. “I love you too, Sam.” Brooke’s smile broadened until she felt self-conscious and looked away. “I’m sorry for that pinch before, Baby.” Brooke shrugged. “You just seem to have been so preoccupied this weekend and…” she turned to look at Sam. “I guess I’m kind of nervous about tomorrow, too.”

“We both are, but we’ll get through it…” green eyes looked deadly serious, “…together. Remember, we’re both in this all the way.”

“Yeah, I know.” Brooke went back to putting the finishing touches on the salad. “I don’t like the thought of having to take anything. If I had my way, they could manufacture a bottle of aspirin and that would do me for the rest of my life. Vitamins might be okay, but I’m not real keen on the rest of those pills and hormone things.” She looked over her shoulder at Sam. “You know that.”

The blonde nodded. “I know.” She rubbed Brooke’s back with her hand. “If there is any way…” Sam started then reconsidered her thought. “Let’s just see what the doctor will have to say before we go worrying needlessly. Okay?”

Blue eyes glanced over to Sam. “Okay. I love you, Sam.”

“Mmm…” small arms wrapped around Brooke’s waist and Sam gave her wife a quick kiss. “I love you, too.” Sam teasingly closed the distance between them again. At the last possible second before their lips touched, Sam gave her wife a pat on cheek instead and looked Brooke in the eye. “Now…get back to work.” Sam turned and headed back toward the stove.

“Sam…” Brooke waited until green eyes flashed playfully in her direction before she crooked her finger in a come hither motion.

“Something that you want, my wife?” Sam watched as the dark head of hair nodded in affirmation and soulful blue eyes cast their spell over her. She could feel the tugging at her soul as if they were both formed from the opposite ends of magnets. Slowly she ambled toward her wife, her smile becoming more radiant the closer they came.

Mable turned the corner and stepped into the doorway of the kitchen. She came to an abrupt halt when she saw the unfolding scene before her. Putting her arm out to the side, she reached back to slow Elaine’s forward motion and pointed toward their daughters. She glanced out of the corner of her eye to see the stunned look on Elaine’s face. Mable cautioned the woman next to her. “Shh…” she brought a finger up to her mouth and held it there until Elaine closed her gaping mouth and watched silently.

With their attention focused on one another, they never noticed the older women standing in the doorway. Brooke was the first to speak as she whispered her thought out loud, “My beautiful wife.” She drank in the view and locked it away for future reference. “I love you,” Brooke spoke the words as reverently as a prayer.

Taking the last step toward Sam, she braced her body and picked her wife up, giving Sam a hug until they pulled back to gaze into one another’s eye. Ever so sweetly, they touched their noses together and sighed, basking in the glow of the love they held for each other. “Can I keep you?”

“I think you better or my Father might have something to say about that,” Sam teased.

Mable caught the changing hue of Elaine’s skin as she became flustered at her daughter’s statement and nearly choked. Immediately she reached for and held onto the other woman’s hand in a sign of silent support, then turned back toward the couple.

“I love you,” Sam whispered as they melded into a kiss. Slowly parting their lips, Sam opened her eyes to the blurred figures in the doorway. It took a few seconds for her to focus but soon the image of both of their mothers filled her eyes. Sam nuzzled into Brooke’s neck and whispered, “Don’t look now but we’re being watched.”

“That’s okay,” Brooke smirked as she laid another kiss on her wife’s head. “We’re married.”

Sam drew back and motioned with her eyes to the doorway leading into the hall. Slowly Brooke turned until she caught a glimpse of her mother. “Hi Mom.” Brooke started to lower Sam to the floor as she turned to get the whole view of the women in the doorway.

“I hope you’re going to keep her,” Elaine stared directly at Brooke. “You’d make me much too happy if you didn’t. Besides, how else am I going to get used to this idea?”

The sound of her mother-in-law’s voice threw Brooke’s mind into complete chaos. “Well…uhm…I…” Her face was turning redder with every stuttering attempt at speech. “Yes, Ma’am. I…I was just…ah…” She straightened up stiffly as Sam’s feet touched the floor.

Elaine turned to Mable and winked. “And I was just beginning to like your daughter. I can see why she uses the drums to do her talking.” The woman checked her growing need to smile but couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her lips. She quickly cleared her throat in an attempt to hide the frivolous sound. “Where did that come from?” She muttered under her breath, looking surprised.

Catching the muted sound of her mother’s laughter, Sam eyed her cautiously. She let the events of the last few seconds run through her mind and shook them off as a fluke. Wrapping an arm around Brooke’s waist, Sam leaned in to the taller woman’s shoulder to whisper. “Enjoy it now before she changes her tune.”

Blue eyes looked poignantly at green. “I…uh…” Brooke glanced around the kitchen for something to help get her out of the limelight. The scraping sound of nails on ceramic flooring gave her an idea. “Come on, Mario. Let’s go,” she beckoned the dog as he came eagerly toward her. She leaned down and welcomed the pet that had come to her aid. “What do you say we go for your walk a little earlier than usual tonight, okay boy?”

The energetic tail wagging and enthusiastic barks were all that Brooke needed. She leaned in to the dog’s ear and whispered, “You’re a life saver, Mario.” Getting up, she made her way toward the door. “You’ll have to excuse me.” The dog pranced in and out of her long legs, tripping her more than once. “I’ll…” Brooke smiled self-consciously, first at her wife then at the women in the doorway. “I’ll be right back.”

Sam folded one arm over her chest and tried to hide her smile behind the hand of the other. It made her laugh to see the self-confident C.E.O. turn tail and run from her mother-in-law. Then the thought struck her. Was my Mother serious? Is she really trying to get used to me…us? Sam turned toward her mother and studied her for a long moment until Elaine met her gaze.

The older woman took in a breath and smiled weakly as if to break the ice. “I’m trying Samantha. I really am trying.” She watched as green eyes blinked in recognition of what she’d said.

“Sam, honey…” Mable sensed the tenseness of the moment and tried to lessen its effect. “I was just going to take your Mother to help me pick out a nice bottle of wine for dinner. Do you have any suggestions as to what would go best with the dinner you’re preparing?”

“Well,” Sam turned to look at the stove as she thought about the meal they were soon to share. “I’ve got both fowl and red meat. I guess you could do just about anything…red or white…or any of the other wines that we have.”

“Why don’t we try something…” Elaine smiled as she drew out her sentence, “…different. We’re all into different, aren’t we?” She looked over to Mable seeking confirmation of her idea.

The tone of her mother’s voice almost startled Sam. She looked over to see if it really was her mother doing the talking or some well-made replica. “Yeah…we are…” She nodded. “You know where the wine is, Mom.” She watched as Mable touched Elaine’s shoulder and motioned for her to follow. When they were out of sight down the basement stairs, Sam shook her head and mumbled, “Well, I’ll be damned.”

****

The bottle of wine in her hand didn’t hold her attention as Elaine’s mind raced with thoughts of her own. The background noise of Mable’s voice did nothing to get her mind off of her child. She was seeing a very different side to her eldest daughter and it was playing havoc with her convictions. Finally, out of nowhere, Elaine turned to her ‘stand in’ hostess and asked what was on her mind. “Mable, tell me I’m doing the right thing here.” She stared directly into the woman’s eyes. “You’ve never had any regrets about Brooke, have you?”

There, the first chips of the rigid ice sculpture that was Elaine Moleson was falling to the floor and shattering. She was letting her mind at least think about her daughter’s situation without simply denouncing it. The Gordon matriarch silently looked to the heavens in thanksgiving. Her words were finally hitting something besides a closed mind. Mable took in a cleansing breath and replied solemnly, “Not one.”

“None at all?”

“The only regret I have is that Brooke and Sam didn’t meet sooner. You know, I was a little concerned about her traveling around and touring with the band. Life can get awfully lonely on the road with no one around to share things with. It made me wonder what would happen to her after Henry and I were no longer around.” Mable smiled as she reached out to touch Elaine’s shoulder. “I don’t have to worry now because of Sam. I can see that they’re made for each other. Brooke absolutely worships your daughter.” She chuckled thinking about how the rest of her clan viewed the newest member. “So does everyone in the Gordon Family.” Mable smiled trying to ease the other woman’s obvious inner struggle.

Looking off in the direction of the stairs leading back to the kitchen, Elaine thought for a few moments, then slowly nodded without saying a word. She turned to look into Mable’s eyes and made a promise. “Okay, then I’ll keep trying.”

Joy filled Mable’s heart and the words jumped from her mouth. “This…” she smiled at Elaine as she held up the bottle in the woman’s hand, “calls for a drink.”

****

With strains of soft laughter between them, the two women made their way back into the living room with their glasses of wine in hand. Mable continued with the story she had started to tell, “And to see Brooke’s face…you would have thought I’d asked her to be Mother Theresa, feeding the masses of India. I only wanted her to share with her sisters. It looked good enough to eat. She said that she made it for me. How was I supposed to know it was a candle?”

Elaine let out a laugh. “A candle?”

Mable nodded. “Yes, a candle.” Tears were coming to the woman’s face as she remembered the incident. “I still have it in my…” Mable lurched forward with the impact of one body meeting another. The drink she was holding accidentally spilled onto the rug. “Oops!”

“Oops!” C.C. duplicated the statement. “Sorry, Mom. I didn’t see you there, I was trying to get the kids into the shot.” She held up the camera in her hand and shrugged. Sensing that she was not the major concern, she looked to the empty glass in her mother’s hand, then down to the dark stain on the carpeting. “Yikes, was that wine?”

“Yes, it was, Cjersti.”

“I’m sorry.” She cringed hearing the tone of her mother’s voice as her given name was uttered aloud. “I’ll clean it up. Here, ” she handed her mother Brooke’s digital camera. “Hold this for me while I get some rags.” She headed for the kitchen. “Oh, Brooke is going to kill me.” She rubbed the top of her head as she disappeared into the hallway.

“That looks fancy,” Elaine motioned to the camera in Mable’s hand. “Is that a photograph there on the back of it?” The woman sipped at her wine, then lowered her glass and scrutinized the object.

Mable turned the item over several times in her hands as she pointed out the features. “This is Brooke’s camera. See, you take the picture through here and then it shows up on this little screen on the back.” She turned the camera for Elaine to get a better view.

“Hmph!” Elaine snorted. “What they won’t come up with next.” She shook her head in awe of the technology. “Hey, that’s Sarah…” she concentrated her gaze to the images displayed on the screen. “…and Sam…and that’s…” Her eyes drifted to the third image. “But who…?” She stopped abruptly as she mumbled out the rest of her thought. “They look so alike.”

Mable looked down at the images displayed and answered the question. “Why, that’s Eddie.” She squinted a little, cocking her head from one side to the other as she studied the three people in the small space who all had varying degrees of blonde hair. “Why yes, I guess they do.”

“Nah…” C.C.’s voice startled them as she looked quickly over her mother’s shoulder at the digital display. “I think it’s just Eddie’s long, blonde hair.” The young woman shrugged then gave her mother a nudge. “Excuse me but I’ve got a spot to clean.” She waited on her mother to step aside as she commented on the images they were admiring. “I snapped that one last night before we started the second movie.”

“I thought you had a date last night?” Mable looked directly at her youngest daughter.

“I did. We ate. I got bored. I came here.” C.C. smiled sweetly as she knelt down on the rug next to the stain. “Hey, at least I didn’t leave in the middle of dinner.” She looked up to her mother and then quickly started dabbing at the stain. “He was a nerd and I figured that if I was going to have any fun last night during a movie it would be here.”

“And I suppose I should be thankful for that,” Mable rolled her eyes.

“Hey, I could have stayed and who knows what kind of trouble a young girl could get into at the movies with a Massage Therapist major. Besides, that’s about the only way he’s going to be touching any naked bodies.” C.C. stopped dabbing at the stain for a second or two as she examined her work. Satisfied with her progress, she slowly moved back and surveyed it a second time. “Maybe she won’t notice,” C.C. mumbled as she gave the spot one last dab, then slowly stood up.

“Cjersti, there are some things that a mother doesn’t need to know.”

“Hey, I know that. I just didn’t want you to think that I do it with just anyone. I do have my standards.” She looked over to Sam’s mother and winked. Seeing Elaine’s self-absorption to the image displayed on the camera, C.C. commented on it. “That was a real Kodak moment if I do have to admit it myself.” She raised the camera to view it better. “Hmm, I’m betting that they could pass for a family of their very own if they wanted to.”

The tremor that started in Elaine’s hand was barely noticeable when she opted to put her wine glass down on the end table before it spilled. “I…” she let go of a breath and tugged nervously at the collar of her dress. “That is some strong wine, Mable.” She fanned herself, hoping that she’d covered her unsettled feelings. Her eyes shifted quickly as the noise level in the room suddenly rose. Soon she was watching a steady stream of blondes, bouncing and bobbing as they came toward her.

“Come on, Sam. Don’t be a brat.” Eddie swiped his hand randomly, hoping to snag a piece of the material. “Give me my hat.” He watched as Sam tossed it to Sarah, then turned to face her, tugging at his now short hair in an effort to make it longer. “Come on, I didn’t know he’d cut it this short.” The young man lunged at Sarah as she faked a pass to Sam, then twirled around and tossed it around her mother.

“Sorry, Mother.” Sarah giggled out her instructions to her sister. “Hey, Sis, don’t let him have it.”

Sam caught the hat one-handed, taking several steps to the left, then faking to the right. “Serves you right for thinking that Petey wouldn’t collect on his bet. You should have listened to me when I said that the…” She dodged the man’s quick attempt to grab at the hat. “Oh no you don’t.” She gave Eddie an evil grin and underhanded the hat back to her sister.

Sarah tucked the hat under her arm and stood there looking at the shorn man. “Did you bet him?”

“Well, yeah.” Eddie slowly sauntered toward her.

“Did you lose?” Sarah rested her unoccupied hand on her hip as she waited for his answer.

Eddie took in a deep breath and let it out disgustedly. “Well, yeah…but I never expected to lose my hair,” he came back with his comment quickly as he lunged again for the hat, watching as yet one more time the hat sailed over his head and into the hands of Sam. “Come on, this isn’t funny,” he insisted. “I need my hat.” Determined this time to get it, Eddie took off running in Sam’s direction.

“Nyah, nyah,” Sam squealed as she sprinted in front of her mother, moving across the room with Eddie and Sarah chasing after her.

“Don’t let him get it,” Sarah squeaked out, trailing along behind them. “He may be older but we’ve got him out numbered two to one.” She pushed through the small space between her mother and Mrs. Gordon. “Excuse me. Coming through.”

The sight of the three passing so quickly around her caused Elaine to step back out of the way. Without looking where she was going, the woman didn’t see the ottoman and lost her balance. Seconds later, she was plopped neatly into the recliner with her feet up and her head slowly sinking to the backrest’s lowest position.

“Elaine!” Mable rushed to assist the woman before anyone else knew what was happening. She helped to right the woman and worked to calm her nerves. “Are you alright?”

The startled woman nodded as she patted her chest. She was trying to speak but the words wouldn’t come to her as her eyes settled on the newest figure in the room.

Standing calmly in the doorway of the living room, Brooke had been watching the whole scenario as it came into being. “Sam…” she called out in a foreboding voice. “I thought we didn’t have any children in this house…” she let the corners of her mouth just barely turn upward when she met Sam’s gaze, “…yet.”

Stopping short Sam tossed the hat to Eddie and winked at her wife. “Only you, Hun.” She looked around to her sister, then back to the young man as he pulled the hat down over his lockless head. “We’re all grown up.”

“Yeah, right.” Brooke scolded them with her menacing stance and raised eyebrow. She watched as all three of the blonde hooligans turned to look at her with almost the exact same expression on their faces. The coincidence was uncanny and Brooke found herself trying to stifle a laugh. “What…” she cleared her throat then started over, only this time on a more somber note. “What do you three have to say for yourselves?”

Simultaneously three meek voices offered up the same word. “Sorry.”

Unsettled by the similarity of their actions, Elaine grabbed for her wine glass and downed the remaining liquid in a single gulp. Without any hesitation on her part, she held up the empty glass up to Mable. “I think I’m going to need another one of these, please.”

****

“Brooke…” Sam fidgeted nervously at the doorway of the kitchen as she looked at the quickly planned out seating chart in her hand. “Are you sure you want to sit across from my mother?”

“Darlin’, it’s the best way for her to get to see us together.” Brooke ambled over to her wife and leaned down to kiss Sam’s cheek. “I promise, I’ll be nice. I won’t stick my tongue out at her, start a food fight, or set the tablecloth on fire.”

“You wouldn’t?” Sam raised her gaze to stare into her lover’s eyes for a moment. “Nice try, Hon but innocent you’re not.” Sam thought for a moment. “I think that seating arrangement may look like we’re trying to rub my mother’s nose in it.”

“Hmm…then break it up.” Brooke gave her wife another peck then engulfed her in a hug as she looked at the scribbling on the paper in Sam’s hand. “You got that boy-girl thing going…well, except for us,” she grinned. “Why not use Eddie to our advantage since he’s here. Sit him between you and Sarah. My family already knows their usual seating arrangements. They’ll just fill in around yours.”

“And I can put Peter and Crystal next to you with Aunt Sandy next to Dad.” Sam reached up and kissed Brooke on the lips. “Mmm…I love you.”

“I like this…” Brooke kissed her wife again, “…tell me why I didn’t get married sooner?”

“Because…” Sam smiled coyly as she pulled her wife closer, “You hadn’t met me yet.”

“Then I’m glad that I waited.” She gave Sam a chaste kiss then leaned in to whisper in her ear, “You’ll get more later, Darlin’. Right now, I think we’ve got our first dinner to serve to our guests.”

****

Rick looked over toward Brooke and Sam as he tapped on the edge of his wineglass. “So, nothing to toast about from the newlyweds yet?” He smiled as he glanced to his wife. “Terri and I thought that maybe because you had the whole family here…”

“Hey, it was your idea, not mine.” Terri looked the other way.

Brooke looked suspiciously at her wife then feigned ignorance. “What would we have to be toasting?”

Sam shook her head in agreement. “Nope, not a thing.”

“Come on, Brooke.” C.C. sat up straight with the children around her making her look like a giant. “I’m twenty-one now and suddenly there’s no toasting going on? What’s up with that?”

Bleary-eyed, Elaine reached for her glass and drew it near to her. “Well, I’m…I’m…” she focused on the glass. “I’ll second a toast.”

Mable saw the unsteadiness of the woman’s hand as she tried to bring the glass to her mouth. The matriarch brought her hands together and rubbed them eagerly, “So, is everyone ready for dessert? I know that I am. That was a great dinner, Sam.” She looked around the table until she settled her gaze on Brooke. “Brooke, you do have some coffee,” she put emphasis on the word as she rolled her eyes across the table from her daughter toward Elaine, “to go with dessert, don’t you?”

“Ah, yeah.” Brooke wiped her mouth and started to get up. “Mrs. Moleson…” she waited but there was no recognition from her mother-in-law.

“Mother,” Sam’s voice caught the woman’s attention. “Would you like another drink?”

“Sure,” Elaine held up her wineglass toward her daughter. “Thank you.”

“Coffee, Ma’am.” Brooke stood poised next to her chair. “I was offering you some coffee. How would you like it?”

With a twinkle in her eye Elaine brought her hand to rest on her husband’s thigh. “Straight, please.” She giggled slightly around the words.

“Black,” Samuel spoke up, not wanting the situation to get out of hand. “She’ll have it black.”

Amused by her mother’s weak attempt at humor, Sam focused more on the woman seated across from her. “You seem to have enjoyed this dinner.”

“Oh, I have.” Elaine sipped the last drop from her wineglass. “I’ve found some very interesting things out about everyone here.” She gazed with unfocused eyes around the table until she looked at the man seated across from her and to her left. “Except for you…” she shook an index finger at him. “You don’t talk much about yourself.”

Eddie became very self-conscious, “Uh…ah…no ma’am, I try not to.”

“He’s shy, Mrs. Moleson.” Peter wrapped his arm around Crystal’s shoulders. “I keep telling him to talk more.”

“Is it because you have nothing to say or that you don’t want us to know anything about you?” Elaine drew the attention back to Eddie. “Surely you have a wonderful family that raised you.”

“I do…” Eddie let a hint of a smile come to his lips. “I have…er…had a wonderful family,” he looked at the questioning faces around him. “My father passed away a few years ago,” he said with a slight catch coming to his throat.

Samuel spoke up after sensing the emotion in the young man’s voice. “I’m sorry to hear that, Son.” He didn’t notice the strange look on his wife’s face as he continued talking. “I’m sure you had some great memories of him.”

“Gee, I always wanted to have a younger brother,” C.C. perked up and addressed her parents. “Mom, Dad, what do you say?”

“Quit while you’re ahead, C.C.,” Terri sighed. “He’s older than you are.”

“Rats!” C.C. snapped her fingers loudly. “I’m never going to get out of the kid’s section of the dinner table, am I?”

“You could have a few of your own, that might help?” Aunt Sandy offered thoughtfully.

“Yeah, and I’ll be the one hauling the deadbeat’s butt into court for child support,” was Randi’s wisecrack. “Don’t go giving her any ideas. I’m busy enough as it is.”

Mable put her hands together in prayer and looked to the heavens. “Please Cjersti, don’t do that to your poor mother and father.” The roomful of people quieted as they thought about the complications.

The silence was shattered by Elaine, “Your father, Eddie, what did he do for a living?”

Eddie sat stunned that the conversation would turn back to him. He sat there for a moment then slowly his memory came around, letting a smile come to his face. “My dad was older than most when I came along. He built motorcycles.” His smile beamed brightly. “He worked at the Harley Plant in Pennsylvania until I came along and then he moved us to Clifton, New Jersey.”

“Phssst!” Peter leaned on the table to get Eddie’s attention. “I knew you couldn’t have been born in Jersey. You don’t stink.” The man jerked suddenly and turned to the woman next to him, “Ouch! What was that for?”

“You know what it was for,” Crystal glared at him.

“You trying to say something there, Petey?” Brooke cleared her throat as she rounded the table with the coffee pot in her hand. “You were born in Jersey.” Brooke grinned as the people seated around Peter all started making faces and holding their noses.

Peter rested his elbow on the table and leaned his head into his hand. “Okay, okay, I get the point.”

“Ah…actually,” Eddie’s quiet voice got everyone’s attention. “I…I was born in Pennsylvania.”

“Small world, isn’t that where you went to school Mother?” Sarah nudged Eddie hard enough to make him lean in toward Sam’s chair. “Tell us some more. Let’s see if we can make this within the six degrees of separation thing.”

Brooke made her way around the table, stopping next to the young man. “So Eddie,” she held up the coffee pot in offering, “what else can you tell us about your family? You mentioned that your father was older…”

Eddie pushed his cup toward Brooke and nodded. “Yes, he was actually.”

“Was he as old as my dad?” Kevin piped up from out of nowhere.

“Kevin!” Brian turned quickly to face his son, “I’m not that old.”

David took over for his brother, “Then, was he as old as Grampa?”

“Oh David, you make me sound like I’m ancient,” Henry chuckled as he glanced over to his wife. “You must have been a child bride my love,” he said, reaching out to touch Mable’s hand and then gave her a wink.

“So how old was he…” Elaine leveled her gaze at the young man seated between her two daughters. “Your father, I mean.”

“He was in his early fifties when I was born,” he said rather shyly. “My mother was forty-nine.”

“Hmm…I bet that was a real surprise,” Henry raised an eyebrow as he gazed at his wife. Together they both turned to look down the table at their youngest daughter, C.C.

“Ye-e-e-ssss?” C.C. cocked her head to the side, looking back at her parents. “Are you saying that I wasn’t planned or that our mother was barely out of childhood?”

“Well da…” Brooke stopped in mid word and glanced down the table to the children, “dang, C.C.” Brooke moved to stand next to her wife. “She’s only fifty-two now. Mom was young when she had Randi. You do the math.” She poured Sam’s cup then her own and proceeded to sit down.

“C.C.,” Randi sat back in her chair, “None of us were ever planned. Things just happened.”

Brooke fought back the smile that wanted to take over her face. “I dunno, Randi. I think that some babies are planned.” She reached under the table and took Sam’s hand in her own, giving it a squeeze.

“Plan all you want, ladies, but some babies can catch you off guard,” Randi smirked. “That is if you get them the old fashioned way.” She shot a glance at Brain.

Sam bit at her lip, fearing that her wife would say something more. She looked over to Brooke and mentally willed her thoughts into the woman’s head. Don’t say it until we know for sure. Sam glanced over to her parents and new thoughts rushed through her head. I know Daddy would be overjoyed at the idea but my mother… Studying the woman for a second longer, she found herself shaking her head slightly. I’m still not sure she’s really all right with just us as of yet.

The subtle shake of Sam’s head was enough for Brooke to know what she was thinking. Instead of continuing on with her train of thought, she stopped her mouth from opening more and leaned in to place a gentle kiss on Sam’s cheek.

“Ours was sure a surprise,” Terri laid a gentle hand on her stomach. “We never thought it would happen, not with our hectic schedules.”

“You’ve got that right,” Rick nodded.

“Well, all of mine are going to be planned,” C.C. promptly announced. “I’m planning on not having any.”

“Yeah, right!” three voices shot back almost in unison to their youngest sister’s statement.

“What?” C.C. looked at their smug faces. “I don’t have to have kids. I have all of yours to play with.” She sat up straight and pushed the last few morsels of food around on her plate. “Besides, you only think that just because I’m the baby…” she snarled at the term, “…that I can’t be a grown-up.” She looked up to see all of their eyes directed toward her. C.C. picked up the last bit of her roll and tossed it at Brooke, “What are you looking at?”

Not surprised by C.C.’s action in the least, Randi looked over to Terri and burst into laughter. “Does anyone know if they make steel-clad,” she mouthed the next word using her hand to hide her comment from the children’s sight as well, “condoms?”

Terri shrugged, “Yeah, she can be so abrasive sometimes, I don’t think it would matter.”

“Girls!” Mable clamped the lid on the discussion, “You can be so rude sometimes. We have guests.” She turned her gaze from her daughters and let it settle on Eddie. “Please Eddie, you were telling us about your family,” Mable shot a warning look at each of her daughters. “We’d like it if you’d continue.”

Samuel cleared his throat. “Yes Eddie, I’m sure we’d all like to know more about you.”

Slipping down from her chair, Julie made her way over to stand between Eddie and Sam. Tugging at Eddie’s sleeve, the tyke made her request for all to hear, “What did your mommy do while she waited for you?”

The man was caught off guard by the question. “I…ah…I mean…” Eddie drew in a breath and softened his voice as he directed the answer to the child. “My mother was a professor at York College of Pennsylvania until I came along.”

Julie’s face took on a puzzled look. “What took you so wong to be borned?”

“Julie…” Randi’s half-embarrassed, half-cautioning voice could be heard. “I’m sorry for all her questions. You never know what will come out of a three-year-old’s mouth.” She pushed out her chair. “Come here, Julie. Sit on mommy’s lap.”

“I’d take her up on that before you’re too big to fit there,” Sam leaned down and whispered in the child’s ear. Her words were met with a twinkling set of eyes and the sound of glee as the child took off running toward her mother.

“I’m sorry,” Randi gathered the child up into her lap, kissing the top of her head. “Eddie, please go on with your story.”

The table grew quiet as they all waited to hear the young man’s story. Feeling all of their eyes on him, Eddie blushed slightly as he prepared to speak. “Mom and Dad couldn’t have any kids of their own, so they waited for the right baby to come along.” He gave a wan smile and gulped before delivering the rest of his story. “I…I was actually adopted.” He looked around the table to see how the news was being accepted. Seeing no repulsion on their faces, he moved on, “Apparently my birth parents were too young to keep me. From what my mom told me recently, I believe that my real mother was one of her freshman class students that year.”

The sound of an empty wineglass striking the padded tablecloth was followed by a quick but mildly slurred apology, “I’m slorry.” Elaine’s hazy looking eyes rose from the glass to the three blondes across from her. “I didn’t mean to do zat.” Her clumsy attempts to right the glass were stilled by her husband as he laid his larger hand over hers.

Eddie acknowledged the apology and continued on, “I’m not sorry, Ma’am. Both of my mothers only wanted the best for me. My mom knew what a struggle it would be for someone so young to raise me. That’s why she offered to help the girl out.”

Samuel turned to his wife. “I wonder if Eddie’s mother was one of your professors, Elaine. You always seemed to talk so highly about a few of them.”

“There were an awful lot of professors on campus, Samuel. I only knew a few in the short time that I was there at York.”

“So you did go to York, Mrs. Moleson?” C.C. sat up in her chair and looked interested as she looked directly at Sam’s mother. “Then maybe you knew Eddie’s mother and just didn’t realize it. You know, like through another person or something.”

Elaine became flustered, her face reddening, “I…I transferred out when I declared my major at the end of the school term.”

“Well, either way Eddie, it sounds like all the women in your life loved you,” Samuel smiled reassuringly over at Eddie as he continued the original conversation.

Eddie waited patiently to speak, “Yes Sir, they did. My mom was so grateful to actually receive custody of me that she told my birth mother she wouldn’t change my name.”

“I think Eddie is a nice name,” Sarah’s voice rose softly like the blush coming to her cheeks.

Eddie glanced over to the girl next to him, “Thanks, but actually Eddie is my middle name.”

“And your first name…” Elaine stared across the table at the man, “…that would be…”

“Well, I have two names,” his green eyes twinkled with mischief. “Do you want my birth name or my adopted name?”

“Come on,” Sam pleaded as she moved to the edge of her seat. “Don’t keep us in suspense.”

Looking from side to side, the man let the suspense build for a few seconds before verbalizing his identity, “My name is Mason Edward Hardy but my birth name was…”

“Hey Dad, isn’t Mason one of your family’s names?” Sam looked over to her father, never hearing the rest of Eddie’s revelation.

The man’s face went ghostly pale as he looked from Sam to Sarah and then slowly towards his wife. “My grandfather’s name was Mason Moleson. It was too much of a mouthful for most people. I don’t tell too many what the M stands for in M. Samuel Moleson. I chose early on to go by just Samuel.” He watched the glazed look in his wife’s eyes become even more vague, then as if to bring her back from the fog, he reached out and stroked her arm.

Randi leaned back in her chair and tapped Terri on the shoulder. “What’s up with this?” She whispered, “She’s grilling Eddie worse than I expected to hear her grill Brooke.”

A shrug of her shoulders was all that Terri did before she glanced over to her mother. In a habit much like Mable, Terri motioned with her eyes toward Elaine and then gazed back to see if there was an answer for her. A puzzled look and a half-hearted smile was all that Mable could do to respond.

“I don’t know what all of you are so…so…whatever,” C.C. held her hands out and wiggled her fingers, “about the Mason name?” She shifted in her chair, “I’d hide it too.”

“What…like you do with Cjersti?” Randi snickered.

“Or Chase…” Brooke gloated at her sister.

“Hey!” The young woman straightened up with a serious face. “I give equal time to both names, thus the initials C.C.” She turned to Eddie, “So M.E. Oh, I like that,” C.C. looked surprised by her own words.

“Out with it C.C.,” Brooke let an audible sigh cross her lips, “before we all grow old and die around this table. What does that ever inquiring mind of yours want to know now?”

“Nothing much…” the young woman planted a smile on her face. “I just didn’t hear what Eddie’s other last name was?”

“Yeah, Eddie,” Crystal chimed in. “What is it?”

Looking first to his end of the table and then to the other, he came back to a neutral position and stared straight ahead before quietly saying, “Addams…that’s my birth name.”

“Addams?” Sam whispered the name, her eyes roaming slightly before she turned to look over to the man next to her, “That’s pretty funny. That’s my middle name.”

Sarah watched as the shades of life seemed to slowly drain from her mother’s face. The woman’s eyes grew listless and distant as she brought a frail hand to her mouth. “Mother, are you okay.” She looked anxiously over to her sister, “Sam…what’s happening?”

“Mother?” Sam’s attention centered on the wavering body, watching as the woman slumped over onto her husband. “MOTHER!”

“Elaine…” Samuel caught his wife’s limp body and held it as he ran his eyes over it looking for some sign of life. “Elaine…Good God woman, don’t leave me now.” Samuel looked up and, for the briefest of moments, locked gazes with Mable. His eyes pleaded not only for himself, but for his wife and children, too.

“Terri…Rick…” Mable motioned with her head and the task was set. “Everyone stay calm. Randi,” she turned to her eldest daughter, “why don’t you take the children and find something for them to do in the living room.”

“Come my little ones,” Randi got up from the table carrying Julie in her arms. “Let’s go see what we can find to entertain you.” She herded her children round her and headed for the doorway. “Sarah, perhaps you’d like to…”

“No,” the young girl shook her head. “I’m staying.”

“Brian…” Randi looked to her husband.

“I’ll let you know,” he spoke softly and then reached out to touch his wife’s hand as she passed by. Looking back down the length of the table, Brian watched as his brother and sister-in-law attended to the unconscious woman.

“Here, let me examine her,” Rick knelt down at the woman’s side.

“She’s breathing,” Terri felt the woman’s cheek and made a face. “Her skin is cool and clammy.”

“It’s the wine,” Mable offered. “She’s just had a little too much to drink. Don’t you think?”

“Her pulse is a little weak but it’s starting to come around,” Rick looked up into his wife’s face.

“How about a cold cloth for her head,” Sandy offered. “That’s how we used to revive just about everyone.” She paused for a second and reconsidered, “We still do at work.”

“Mom,” Crystal pushed past her to see things for herself. “Maybe you do up on your geriatric floor but we don’t consider that a treatment in modern medicine.”

“Well…” Sandy looked at her daughter, “it let’s them know they’re not dead.”

“Now that’s just great, Brooke.” The sarcasm was evident as C.C. slumped back into her chair, “Nice way to end the mother-in-law problem. Didn’t you think you’d grow on her over the next century or so?” C.C. pushed her plate away from her. “You could have at least waited until I had my dessert.”

“It’s not the time to be joking around, C.C.” Brooke threw a cold gaze in her sister’s direction as she wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulder. “It’s going to be alright, isn’t it Terri? Do we need to get…” Brooke swallowed hard, “…an ambulance?”

“She’s a little bigger patient than I’m used to, but I think she’ll live,” Terri glanced over to her husband. “Wouldn’t you say so, dear?”

Rick studied Elaine’s pulse for a few more seconds then concurred. “I think she’ll live to be a hundred or so,” he looked over to Brooke and winked, “that’s my guess.”

Brooke scowled at her brother-in-law, then spoke to her wife. “She’s going to be fine, Sam. She’s just…”

“Brooke, I think maybe we should take Elaine upstairs and let her rest in your bedroom for a little while…let the wine wear itself off.” Mable looked over to her daughter, “What’s that face for? You’ve got that nice big comfortable bed up there and I won’t have to worry about her rolling out of it like that day bed in your guest room.”

“Great! Four bedrooms upstairs and she has to use mine…er…ours,” Brooke grumbled under her breath. “She’s going to freak when she wakes up in that bed. I know it.” Seeing the puzzled look on Sam’s face, Brooke shook her head and sighed. “I’ll tell you later, Sam.”

“Elaine…” Mable came around the table and stopped next to Samuel and his wife. “Dear, what is it?” She placed her hand over top of Elaine’s and patted it gently. Mable glanced up to see the concerned look on both Sarah and Sam’s faces. “She’ll feel better once she rests.”

“Where…where am I?” The questioning words came out slowly and slightly mumbled from Elaine’s mouth. “I was…was feeling…” she started to sit up and stopped, reaching for her head. “Oh my, I’m feeling lightheaded again.”

“Let’s get you upstairs.” Mable’s eyes were filled with worry. “Elaine, you look like you could use some rest.”

“I’ll help you, Mable.” Henry moved from his chair.

“Maybe…maybe I should join her, if that’s alright.” Samuel lifted his gaze to meet Mable’s.

“Yes, I think that’s a good idea,” Sandy called out. “You need to be with her.”

“Sandy,” Samuel shot a glance over his shoulder, “Take care of my kids while I tend to Elaine.” Out of the corner of his eye he caught the nod of his sister’s head as she went to stand behind her nieces.

“I’ve got them, Samuel,” She put a hand on each one’s shoulder.

Mable grasped one of Elaine’s arms and draped it over her shoulder. She waited for Henry to assist her in getting the woman to an upright position as Samuel slid his chair back, rising to stand next to his bolstered wife.

“Here, let me take her,” Samuel spoke to Henry. Together they worked to make the transition smooth. With most of his wife’s weight resting on his shoulder, he gave a little nod. “You lead the way, Mable.”

“Daddy?” Sam called out to her father as the trio took their first steps away from the table. She waited until her father looked in her direction, then softly conveyed what was in her heart, “I’m here if either of you need me.”

It wasn’t the way that Brooke would have liked to see the dinner end but she wasn’t in a position to change what had happened. Instead, she just did what she could to make the best of it. Taking her wife in her arms, she hugged her tightly and whispered words of comfort into her ear, “She’s in good hands, Darlin’. My mother hasn’t let a single one of us slip through the cracks.”

Sarah’s eyes shot wide open. “She’s not dying…is she Sam?”

“No!” Sam elbowed Brooke in the side. “She’s needs some time to recoup. That’s all.”

Sensing her fear, Eddie put an arm around Sarah and gave her a hug. “She’s just a little…under the weather right now. I’m sure that Brooke’s sister and brother-in-law would know if it was anything serious.”

“He’s right, Sarah.” Aunt Sandy patted the girl’s arm. “You’ll see.”

Brooke turned away from Sam and was met by a blinding flash. “What the Hades?” Her arms flailed to protect herself as she squinted.

“Gotcha!” C.C. jerked back the camera in her hands. “No way, Sis. I’ve got first dibs on it.” She watched semi-patiently as the digital image appeared on the screen. “Come on, come on. Yeah, that’s a winner for the old photo album. Sam and Brooke’s first dinner party,” she announced, offering the camera for others to see the image. “Hmm…maybe I should have gone into photojournalism instead.”

“Let me see,” Sam moved over to C.C.’s side. “It’s…it’s really not that bad Brooke. You should take a look.”

“Yeah, right…maybe in the next century when I can see.” Brooke rubbed at her eyes and blinked.

“So are you seeing the little blue men from Jersey?” Peter teasingly asked her.

“No,” Brooke grabbed the camera from C.C.’s hands and turned it to see the image. “Egads!” She cringed. “Sam, remind me never to let her do publicity shots for me. You can’t even see me with my arms in front of my face.” Brooke let her eyes drift from her own image to take in the others who were standing around her. “Everyone else looks good. Sam, Eddie, Sarah, even Crystal looks good.”

C.C. buffed her fingernails against her sweater. “I’m good and you know it. If a picture can be worth a thousand words, then mine are worth two…no, make that three.”

The numbers ran through Brooke’s mind like the hint to some long forgotten puzzle. She found herself concentrating more and more on the images that her sister had frozen in time. Something about them intrigued her, but what it was she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

“Sam, do you really think that Mother will be alright?” The wide-eyed innocence of the child was evident in Sarah’s expression. “Is she really…” she had a hard time getting the words out, “under the weather or is she…drunk?”

“I’ve never known mother to have more than a glass or two of wine in an entire evening.” Sam looked over to the empty wineglass laying on its side at her mother’s place setting. “I’d like to think that she wasn’t, but…” Sam looked over to Brooke and became rather somber. “Maybe this business of our whole family getting together for the first time was a little too much for her to handle.”

Hearing Sam’s words put the last piece of the puzzle together in Brooke’s head. Blue eyes stared at the digital image and a tear slowly spilled over Brooke’s long dark lashes. She closed her eyes to the feeling of pain that grasped her heart.

“Hey,” Sam came over to where Brooke was standing with the camera, “are you alright? You’re not still seeing the little blue guys, are you?”

Not wanting her wife to see the tear, Brooke rubbed at her eyes. There would be more tears to come, only she knew that they would not be hers. “I’m fine, Sam. I…” she thought about what to say to her wife. Giving it the best shot that she could, Brooke smirked out, “I guess I’m seeing little guys in a rainbow of colors.”

****

Now that the frail-looking woman’s body was occupying only a small portion of the king-sized bed, Mable looked over to Samuel. “Is there anything else that I can do? I mean…I’m really sorry now for even offering her the wine. I didn’t know it would effect her like this.”

The man shook his head, “No thank you, Mable.” He looked helplessly at his wife. “I think it’s a combination of things, really. The alcohol hasn’t helped either. I think…” he pondered his words for a moment. “I think the shock was what really did her in.”

“Shock?” The Gordon matriarch furrowed her brow, “I don’t understand. Shock from what…seeing her daughter as a part of a lesbian couple? I thought she was just starting to get used to them. She even made a teasing remark about Brooke tonight.”

Samuel slowly shook his head and got up from consoling his wife. Somberly, he reached out to draw his finger along his wife’s cheek. Closing his eyes to the pain, he made his decision. “It’s Eddie, Mable.”

“Eddie? But what would Eddie have to do with…”

“Mable,” Samuel turned to look the woman in the eye. “I believe that Eddie is our son.” He watched as the woman became slack-jawed, then turned back to his wife, stroking her hair in a loving manner. “Our son has come back to us,” he whispered.
Installment 2–5 Reaping What You Sow
The red glow of her parent’s taillight was just fading from view when Brooke finally came away from the door. After giving one final wave of her hand while she looked through the window at the side of the door, she stepped back and focused on her house.

“Clean up time,” she mumbled as she surveyed what would be needed now that the dinner was over. Hmm…nothing broken or burned. That’s not too bad for a Gordon Family dinner. The smile grew on Brooke’s face as she thought back to her siblings and their childhood. Maybe we are growing up.

Brooke’s musings stopped when she caught a glimpse of Sam passing by in the hallway. She could feel the subtle changes in her breathing and pulse as a tingle of excitement started racing through her body. Suddenly she had other things on her mind of the more mature nature. Oh yeah! Definitely growing up. Brooke felt the shiver as it started in her back and ended in her knees every time she thought of making love to Sam. She was used to it now. The subtle nod of her head and an unconscious purr that lingered in her throat signified that her libido was kicking into high gear. Not wanting to waste any of their time together, Brooke headed in her wife’s direction.

Following Sam into the living room, Brooke stopped and leaned against the doorway with her shoulder. Blue eyes watched every move the young woman made in an effort to gather up the last remaining hints of their entertaining. Cleaning up now took on a whole new meaning to Brooke as she studied Sam’s body. The gentle roundness of curves as she bent over to retrieve a stray cup on the floor was more than enough to get Brooke’s mind in gear. Slowly the corners of her mouth turned upward into a grin until green eyes staring back at her stopped the progress.

Startled, Brooke’s first thought was to avert her gaze. She glanced away then quickly came back again after deciding that she had every right to look at her spouse. “What?”

“Hmm…and exactly what are you looking at?” Sam turned around, gazing at the furniture around her. “Did I miss something?”

“No,” Brooke stood away from the wall, “but I was missing something…being near you.”

“Oh, is that all?” Sam toyed with her wife as she looked away and headed toward the next snack bowl to gather in. “By that ‘caught with your hand in the cookie jar’ look on your face, I would assume that you were thinking of something else.” Sam let go with a chuckle as she stole a glance over her shoulder at her wife. “I can’t believe that the night ended so early and that we’re alone now.”

“Well, we’re almost alone.” Brooke walked into the living room, “Eddie and Peter are still downstairs in the studio.”

“I forgot about those two. I guess Petey’s making the best of it since Crystal had to work tonight.” Sam placed the bowl in her other arm and turned back to Brooke. “Did it seem like everybody left right after dinner?”

“Well, except for our parents.”

“I hadn’t really expected that.”

“Me neither.”

A look of horror came to Sam’s face. “You don’t think that it was the dinner?”

Brooke thought for a moment. “Ah…no Darlin’, the food was fine…great in fact. If anything, I think we surprised them at being so…so…” Brooke searched for a word to use.

“Accommodating?” Sam offered.

“Yeah, I guess we could say that.” Brooke paused as she silently reviewed in her mind a small snippet of the evening causing a dark eyebrow to slowly rise on her forehead. “I think it kind of shocked your father when I picked up your mother and carried her down the stairs and to the car.”

“I’ve never seen my mother drunk, Brooke. I wonder what’s up with that. When anything upsets her she usually would just go and pray or read the bible.” Concern showed in Sam’s face. “I didn’t even think that she drank more than a sip or two for toasts at weddings when I was growing up.”

“Your mother was uhm…not feeling too good.” Brooke’s eyes took on a mischievous twinkle. “Maybe she’s trying to make up now for missing out on the toasts at our wedding?”

“NOT!” Sam glared at the brunette. “Besides, Brooke…we didn’t have any toasts at our wedding after that grandstanding interruption my mother pulled.”

“Speaking of your mother,” Brooke maneuvered the conversation back to a less hurtful time. “She even thanked me and said goodbye when I got her into the car.” She smiled weakly and rolled her eyes. “Do you know that she actually woke up and hugged me when I picked her up out of our bed?”

“I bet that was a Kodak moment, if ever there was one.”

Brooke flashed a toothy grin. “And we have C.C. to thank for it…along with that stain on the rug.” Her grin turned momentarily to a grimace as she saw the off color markings next to the recliner. “Thank God she got it up right away.” Brooke pulled the camera out of her pocket and turned it on. “You want to see?”

“Sure, it’s probably the only time my mother would let you into bed with her,” Sam quipped, “Yeah, I want to see it.”

Brooke rolled her eyes at the remark. “Smart ass.” She reached over and pinched a bit of Sam’s butt between her fingers in a playful gesture.

“Hey!” Sam batted away the hand. “With my mother, it might never happen again. We better have taken full advantage of it.” Sam moved closer to see the displayed image on the camera. “Not bad. I wonder if she would have mellowed out more if they had stayed?”

“I told your dad they were more than welcome to stay here tonight. They wouldn’t have to make such a long drive with your mother feeling…” Brooke cleared her throat, “so under the weather. He said that he promised Sarah that she could take advantage of that new license of hers.”

“Yeah, the kid is growing up.” Sam sighed as she watched Brooke cross over to the couch and stretch out on it. The slow beckoning of a finger pointed at her brought a smile to Sam’s face. She put down the party debris and moved closer to the reclining woman. “You have something in mind, my wife?”

A flash of white teeth in a smile added to the twinkle in crystal blue eyes as Brooke reached out to pull Sam down on top of her. Soft groans could now be heard as each kiss traced its way up Sam’s neck until two pairs of lips met in an ever-deepening kiss. Lost in the moment after parting, the two savored their building passions.

The open-handed slap to Brooke’s shoulder snapped her mind back from any amorous thoughts. “HUH?” She looked up into annoyed green eyes.

“And that,” Sam pointed a finger at her wife, “was not nice.”

“What wasn’t nice?” Brooke’s eyebrow arched in surprise, “You told me you liked my kisses last night.”

Sam pushed her body up from Brooke’s, “Pinching my butt before and getting me all excited with Peter and Eddie still in the house.”

“Darlin’, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve done anything with Peter in the house.” Long arms reached out to hasten Sam back into her embrace. “Come on, lay down here with me,” she said, allowing her lower lip to jut out in a subtle pout.

A determined face looked down at Brooke as Sam stood her ground for a few seconds. Slowly the set of Sam’s mouth wavered and the next thing Brooke saw was her wife looking up and shaking her head.

“See, you can’t be mad at me…” Brooke enfolded her arms around the small body as it melded into hers. Long, sinewy fingers rubbed over Sam’s butt where she had been pinched earlier. “There, is that better?”

Sam nodded as she nestled into Brooke’s shoulder with her head. “Much better. You trying to get on my good side, Ms. Thing?”

“Oh, you know it,” a laugh gurgled up in Brooke’s throat. “You’re going to have my baby.”

“Hmm…” Sam’s nose wrinkled in thought. “And exactly where are you hiding that sperm?” A small hand started to tug at Brooke’s jeans, “Is it in there or do you have it stored somewhere else until you need it?”

“I know, I know.” Brooke sighed, “We still have to figure out who the donor is going to be.”

“Donors, Hun. This is going to be a family that resembles both of us. I have one…” Sam tapped lightly on Brooke’s chest, “…you have one.”

“Well, the first one should be easy…” Brooke beamed. “It will be my egg so the first donor needs to resemble you.” She paused in thought for a moment then continued. “I was just thinking Darlin’, we definitely need the donor to be someone we know and trust. I’m not looking for any legal hassles down the road.”

“Yeah, we’ve got to get your eggs first. You’re not a spring chicken anymore,” Sam slid down the long body under her until her head was on Brooke’s abdomen. “Tick, tock. Oh, listen…I hear that biological clock just ticking away.” She looked up and winked at her wife. “Maybe you should have the first two or three,” Sam gave Brooke an evil smile.

“My biological clock is just fine, Mrs. Moleson-Gordon. It’s not going anywhere.” Brooke grinned as she gazed down at the blonde resting atop her. “Okay, you come up with someone who resembles me and I’ll have your baby.”

“Yeah?” Sam smirked, “I thought we were going to be the Gordon’s in this house. You can drop that hyphenated form of our name out the door for good.”

“You’re really sure about that, Sam?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Sam tightened her embrace on Brooke. “There is never going to be a question as to who is a Gordon in our house. We’ll all just be plain old Gordon.”

“Gee, if I move in can I be a Gordon too?” The smart aleck comment came from Eddie as he stood in the doorway of the living room.

“Nope! No way,” Peter pushed past the shorn blonde blocking his entrance. “I’ve been Brooke’s friend longer. I get to be a Gordon first.”

Eddie watched as Peter lifted Brooke’s feet off of the couch and slid under them taking a seat. He hurriedly surveyed the possibilities on the sofa and took a seat on the arm by the women’s heads. “Yeah?” He tried to raise the stakes in one-upmanship with his friend. “Who says that I can’t be a Gordon?” He looked down at Brooke and asked in a serious tone.

“Hey Brooke, can I have the cute room on the second floor next to yours?” Peter looked thoughtful as he waited for an answer.

“Huh? Uh, no.” Brooke started to get up. “You could have the one on the other side of the house though.” She paused allowing Sam to get off of her before sitting upright on the sofa. “Come here, Darlin’,” she winked at Sam and patted the cushion next to her.

“Spoil sport,” came Peter’s sharp reply. “I won’t hear anything over there.” He kicked at the carpeting under his feet.

“Exactly,” Brooke smiled at him. “You haven’t even slept with Crystal yet and I don’t want you getting your freak on listening to Sam and me.”

“I wouldn’t do that. Crystal would kill me,” Peter said defiantly. “Besides, I have kissed her once or twice.” He looked at his friends seeing confusion in their eyes. “Crystal that is.”

Eddie watched the exchange patiently for a moment then reached out and tapped Sam on the shoulder. “So, is someone donating blood or something? What’s all this talk about donors?” He laughed self-consciously, “Does one of you need a kidney or something?”

“We…ah…” Sam looked over to her wife. Seeing the subtle nod of the dark head, she turned back toward Eddie. “We are thinking about having kids.”

“Yeah?” Eddie looked surprised. “That’s great. I think you two would make wonderful parents.”

“Me too, once Brooke grows up,” Peter laughed as he gave Brooke’s shoulder a jab. The jolt from Brooke’s elbow caused him to wince as a pillow was stuffed into his midsection. “Hey!”

“So what’s stopping you two?” Eddie’s question took on a more serious tone.

Peter grabbed the pillow and recoiled his arm to throw it back. Seeing Sam’s challenging glare toward his antics he stopped and fluffed it before setting it down next to himself on the couch, nudging his friend with it as he did so. “Yeah, what’s stopping you, Brooke?”

An eyebrow rose on the woman’s forehead. “You mean, besides the fact that I wasn’t born with an extra appendage?” She thought for a moment then qualified her statement further, “And if I had been, I’m sure that Sam wouldn’t be attracted to me?” Brooke looked at Sam and wiggled her eyebrows, “Right, Darlin’?”

“You got that right.” Sam graced her wife’s cheek with her lips and nestled closer, wrapping her arm around Brooke’s waist. “Although…I would have been attracted to your soul,” Sam said with a coy smile.

The concept was thought provoking to Peter as he meditated on it, scratching his head. After a few seconds he smiled. “Oh, that. Well if it’s any consolation Brooke, I always thought of you as one of the guys.”

“Well, Peter, this time being like one of the guys is just not going to be enough.” Sam patted her wife’s hand, “If we want kids, we need to find a sperm donor.”

“At least we have time to look around for one,” Brooke kissed Sam’s ear. “We have to see what the doctor is going to say about timing things right at our appointment tomorrow.”

“Eww…” Peter shuddered visibly. “I hate doctors. They’re always poking and prodding you. I’m glad it’s not me going.”

“Well, I’m the first one going to get poked and prodded,” Brooke muttered with a not so happy face.

Sam quickly tried to alleviate her mate’s anxiousness. “Doctors aren’t so bad, Brooke.”

“You…” Peter looked at his long time friend, somewhat stunned. “You’re the one?” Suddenly he howled with laughter, “Sorry, Brooke. I just never thought of you as motherhood personified.”

Blue eyes glared at the man seated on the opposite end of the couch. “So now I know what you really think of me, eh buddy?” She took a playful jab at his shoulder then brought her hand back over Sam’s torso. “She’s having our baby. Aren’t you, Sam.”

“Whoa, that’s a real commitment there,” Eddie nodded his head, “on both your parts.”

“Well, I’m not looking forward to it for my part, with the doctor that is, but if Sam’s willing to have the baby, I’ll do anything in the world to make it happen.”

Eddie’s brow furrowed in thought as he looked over to Peter. “Sam’s having the baby but you’re getting poked? What am I missing here?”

“Hey, I’m a virgin in this realm, Eddie.” Peter raised his hands, feigning any idea of the concept. “Ask me about basses or groupies, I’m the expert there.”

The sound of soft laughter filled the air as Sam looked over to Peter. “Well, I’m no expert but I have been reading up on the subject.” She looked over to Brooke, “We want our children to be from the both of us.” She swallowed hard trying to calm her fears as to the reason why. Offering up a weak smile for Brooke’s behalf, she continued on, “The only way we can do that is if one of us is the biological mother and the other is…”

“The surrogate mother. Holy shit!” Peter smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. “That’s always been one hell of a court battle when they each want the kid.”

“Well, let me tell you Peter, we both want this child.” Sam glanced over to Brooke and smiled, “There will be no court battle where we’re concerned.”

“We just wanted the child to know that we both had a hand in bringing them into the world.” Brooke gently gave Sam’s shoulder a squeeze. “That’s why I have to get poked and prodded. It’s so that they can…” she winced, “you know, ‘do their thing’ where I’m concerned so that Sam can carry our child. That’s why we want to find a donor that resembles her.”

Peter sighed disgustedly and glanced over to Brooke. “So you’re not going to be the one to get as big as a whale, huh?”

“NO!” Brooke quirked a nervous grin in her friend’s direction then quickly squelched his imagination. “And don’t go getting any ideas about seeing me out to there,” she used her hands to give a fully developed maternal idea to her figure, “sitting behind my drum kit…or my desk for that matter.”

“Not this time…but who knows in the future.” Sam winked at Brooke, then grinned eagerly. She caught the disbelief on Eddie’s face as he looked at Brooke. “I’ll carry Brooke’s fertilized egg to term and deliver our baby, Eddie. We’ve got it all worked out except for that one tiny detail.”

“Da tail is what it’s all about, eh?” Peter tried his hand at an awful joke.

“Damn, Petey. It’s too bad you don’t look like Sam,” Brooke said without thinking.

“Lucky me,” Peter flashed a smile. “James would kill to be the one to impregnate your egg.” The words came out before he could stop them.

“THAT, will never happen,” Brooke’s voice came out in a low growl.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that. I’ll…I’ll shut up now,” Peter muttered, looking for a rock to hide under.

Brooke took in a breath and let it slowly out as she regained her composure. “No, it’s okay, Peter. I’d just like to forget about that whole segment of my life but it keeps popping up from time to time.” She drew comfort in the sympathetic patting of Sam’s hand on her thigh.

“But James doesn’t look anything like Sam,” Eddie let go of a giggle. “Heck, I look more like Sam.” The young man grinned as he looked over to Sam. “Besides, James is a loser. You wouldn’t want him to donate anything to a kid.”

“You can say that again. Look, Eddie’s even got the blonde hair. Well, had the blonde hair,” Peter smirked.

The words ignited a spark in Brooke’s mind. Pulling back to look at Sam, a dark eyebrow raised slowly on Brooke’s forehead. “Eddie, do me a favor.”

“Sure,” Eddie answered, adjusting the hat on his head. “What is it?”

“Stand up.” Brooke nudged her wife, “Sam, Darlin’, stand next to him for me, please.”

“What? We having some kind of contest to see who is the shortest here?” Sam asked as she got up and moved over next to Eddie. She watched as Brooke slowly stood up and walked around the pair. “Brooke, what are you…” Sam followed her wife’s eyes over to Eddie.

“Oh my God,” Brooke finally whispered. “I thought it was just a fluke of the camera angle but Sam…you two are only about an inch or two apart in height.”

“Well, that’s a real revelation,” Sam muttered under her breath. “Is there anything else that you’d like us to know?”

“Eddie, take off your hat, please.”

“Yeah, show everyone the great job I did,” Peter grinned viciously. He watched as Eddie snarled at him like a predatory dog. “So I need more practice with the shears. It will grow in.”

Brooke waited as he did so and studied him carefully. She came closer, touching Sam’s hair and smiling broadly. “You two have just about the same color of hair.” She stooped down and peered into Sam’s face and eyes then moved over to Eddie. “Your eyes are a little brighter than his but your facial features are similar…very similar. Well, except for that broken nose look that Eddie has.”

Spooked, Eddie quickly stepped away from Sam. “Hey, wait dude. I’m not being in a three way with you two.” The color drained from his face. “Hey, you’re my idol and all for a drummer Brooke, but I can barely get it on with one chick let alone two hot babes.” He smiled nervously at Sam, “Sorry.”

Blue eyes focused on Sam. “No Eddie, we’re not conceiving our child the old-fashioned way.”

“Huh?” The young man looked frantically over to Peter for help. “I’m not giving away any body parts,” Eddie grabbed his crotch and sat down on the couch.

“Hold onto that thought, Eddie.” Brooke grinned evilly at first then settled into a friendlier smile at her wife’s shocked look. “I mean…stay there for a moment, Eddie. We’ll be right back.” Brooke took Sam’s hand in hers and headed toward the hall with her wife in tow. Glancing over her shoulder at the still confused man she called back to him, “This won’t take long.”

Brooke stared into Sam’s face when they came to look at one another in the hallway. The corners of her mouth tugged upward into a subtle smile. “Sam, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Weary green eyes shifted back into the living room and settled on the fidgeting young man. “He’s…close enough.” Her smile began to broaden, “We’d see what the outcome of looks would be.” Suddenly the smile turned to a frown. “That is if he’ll donate the sperm.”

“We won’t know that until we ask.” Brooke studied her wife. “Baby, it’ll be alright. Come on.” Their eyes met and the decision was made.

“Eddie, can we have a word with you?” Brooke’s eyes twinkled as she wrapped her arm around Sam’s shoulders.

****

For the tenth time in under two minutes the sound of a creaking chair could be heard resounding through the silent waiting room. Stark faces with penetrating eyes glanced over their dog-eared magazines at the new arrival each time she tried to get comfortable.

Self-conscious to a degree, Brooke would feign an apologetic smile, then pick up a magazine, open it and try to look settled as she grumbled silently to herself. After a few seconds passed by, it started all over as the tall woman shifted her body into yet another position. First leg up, then leg down. The orchestration of body movements was more in tune with eclectic new wave then any composer of note as she showed signs of growing restlessness. Next, the sound of tapping could be heard as rhythmic fingers sent a percussion solo to the forefront of the symphony.

Lowering her magazine, Sam slowly looked over to the musician beside her. “Brooke,” she whispered, trying to draw as little attention as possible. “It’s not that bad. I know that you’ve had the yearly exams before.” She glanced at the women around her then centered her attention once more on her wife. “She’s just going to check a little more, this time.”

Gazing to her left, Brooke released a long sigh as she shifted once again and started to nervously chew on her fingernails. “Yeah,” Brooke whispered rather loudly back at her. “Well, I don’t like anybody checking that area but you now.”

Sam smiled sweetly. She glanced around the room to see if anyone heard the comment as she slowly leaned over toward Brooke. “Shhhh!” Sam brought her finger to her mouth, speaking barely above a whisper, “I thought you weren’t into publicizing everything about yourself.”

Blue eyes widened in surprise. “I can’t believe you’re that calm.” Brooke looked away as she shifted once more in the chair causing it to creak.

The subtle upturn of Sam’s mouth came only a second before she leaned closer to whisper directly into Brooke’s ear. “Well, I don’t think she’s going to take my word for your exam. There are just some things that doctors need to do and see for themselves.”

“Then maybe we could wait until you finish medical school.” Brooke shot her quick thinking reply back in a rather loud whisper. The annoyed looks she was getting from the other occupants of the small room suddenly made her even more self-conscious than before. Her shyness was revealed in the pathetic look she gave Sam.

“Brooke, there’s nothing to be nervous about. Nothing at all,” Sam thought for a moment. “Well, except that we’re about to change our whole lives.” Sam stared straight ahead as she talked of what was to come. “We’re going to bring children into the world, be parents,” Sam’s eyes widened as her color began to pale, “…love them, care for them, and be responsible for their every need until the day we die.” She swallowed hard. “Brooke?”

“Yeah…?” Brooke’s voice sounded more like a scared child than the C.E.O. that she was, her color draining to a pasty white as well.

“If it makes you feel any better…” Sam hesitated for a few seconds as she worked up the courage to admit what she was feeling, “I’m nervous now, too.” Instinctively their hands reached out to each other’s and held on tightly as each woman realized the responsibility that they were considering to undertake…for the rest of their lives.

“Gordon.”

The sound of their name being called sent a distinct chill down both of them. First one, then the other slid their gaze to their spouse before looking over to the woman dressed in white.

“Gordon,” the name was said a little louder this time and with authority as the Nurse glanced over the group and settled on the sickly looking pair by the door. “Gordon?” She asked in their direction and watched as two heads slowly nodded in unison. Not letting a smile break her rather stern face, she pointed a finger toward the blonde and beckoned her to follow. “You can come with me now.”

Sam’s small hand gripped her wife’s hand even tighter and she leaned in toward Brooke. “That’s what she thinks. I don’t come with anybody but you.”

The biggest smile ever came to Brooke’s face as she squared her shoulders and got up from the chair. “You coming…” she gave her wife’s hand a little nudge and winked down at her, “…with me, Sam?”

“Oh yeah!” Sam beamed back a smile. “With you…anywhere.”

****

Brooke sat in her chair a little more at ease now that the examination was over. It felt damn good to be back in her jeans after wearing the drafty paper gown which barely covered what it was intended to. Oh well, better get used to it. This is only the beginning. She looked over to Sam and studied the woman for a moment. Just think about having a family of your own…you, Sam, and all the little ones that come your way. It won’t be so bad if you just keep thinking about the goal. Brooke reached over and covered Sam’s hand with her own. God, she’s going to be such a wonderful mom. In a reflexive urge, she guided the smaller hand to her lips and kissed it gently.

Green eyes dazzled with the spontaneous show of affection. “I take it you’re feeling better now?”

“Yeah,” Brooke sighed softly. She looked around the small office and then back to Sam. “I’m warmer too,” she said with a chuckle.

“Come on, Brooke. It wasn’t that bad.” Sam gave her hand a shake. “I had the same exam that you did.”

“Yeah, but I bet that paper gown covered more of you than it did of me.” Blue eyes quickly surveyed Sam’s smaller stature. “Besides, I think that nurse liked you better.” A tinge of jealousy came to her voice. “I bet she made sure that the instruments were warmed before the doctor used them on you.”

“And yours were what,” Sam cocked her head to the side, “…out of the refrigerator?”

Brooke pondered that thought for a second, “Well, not exactly. But they weren’t warm, that’s for sure.” A visible shiver ran down the woman’s back. “I don’t even want to think about it.”

Sam held in a grin as she leaned in to brush her lips on Brooke’s cheek. “Maybe I’ll have to check you out for frostbite when we get home?” She whispered into her wife’s ear. “Or should I wait until I’m done with medical school?” Sam pulled away as she tweaked Brooke.

“Smart Ass,” Brooke grumbled out as she let go of Sam’s hand to the sound of her wife’s soft laughter. She shifted in her chair until the sound of the door opening into the office drew her attention.

“Everybody dressed and ready for me in here?” The sound of playfulness filled the woman’s voice. She watched as the taller woman of the two cringed. “Ah, sorry. I guess I should change that to a different opening line for the office consultation part.”

The woman in her late forties entered the room and closed the door behind her. She moved around the office with ease as she pulled the charts from the holder on the wall and carried them over to the desk. “Well, I see that you both made it through all my poking and prodding,” she looked directly at Brooke and smiled.

Sam studied the doctor now that she could see more than a glimpse or two of the bobbing head at the other end of the exam table. She admired the short but professional looking coiffure the doctor sported, noting that the tinges of gray at the temples added to her knowledgeable image. The warm, friendly brown eyes that met hers assured Sam even more as they quickly turned to look at the charts.

“I’d like to thank you for treating us, Dr. Dennison. I’m glad that I found your name on the gay-friendly medical search engine,” Sam spoke from her heart. “Not too many would have given us full consideration, being a lesbian couple.”

“My philosophy is that anyone who chooses to bring a new life into this world knowing full well what the downfalls are, is a better prepared parent than most who can just do it the old fashioned way. It’s not up to me to say yea or nay as to whether you conceive or not. I leave that ultimate decision to God…” the ends of the gynecologist’s mouth edged upward into a smile, “and She can make things happen any way She wants to.” Her smile now tempered the rest of the consultation. “Now let’s get down to the two of you.”

In a well-rehearsed move she picked up the pair of bifocals hanging around her neck on a chain and placed them on her face. As soon as she was seated both charts were opened and she began looking over her notations. In an effortless manner, the gynecologist’s hand moved toward the silvery metal paperweight on her desk and absent-mindedly fingered it drawing Sam’s attention to the reality of what it was.

Great! A speculum, I wonder if… Sam looked over to her wife. Yeah, she knows what it is, too. She watched as Brooke crossed her legs and held her knees together in an unconscious move. My poor baby, Sam cleared her throat. “So, what are our options, Doctor Dennison? Can we conceive?”

Stopping her reading, the doctor looked at the pair over the top of her half glasses. “No.” Dr. Dennison watched the shocked look come to the faces of the women before her. She waited only a second and then elaborated on the single word that she had uttered. “But one of you with the right donor could.” The doctor looked from one woman to the other seeing the relief in their faces. “Sorry,” she chuckled, “that was a little Gynie humor there.” She waited for the nervous giggle from her patients before clearing her throat. “Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the whole conception,” she smiled politely at her choice of words.

Not able to wait, Brooke blurted out what was on her mind, “Can Sam carry my child…our child?”

The outburst from the stoic woman brought a smile to the doctor’s face. “Ah, just what I like…a woman of few words,” she chuckled.

“Doctor,” Sam leaned forward in her chair, “We’d both like to be a part of this whole process. I was doing some research and we thought that…”

“I was going to go over all the different ways to bring a child into this world with you both, but I see that you have already looked into the matter. Maybe even made your minds up already, have you?” Dennison looked from one woman to the other, noting the subtle nod that each gave her.

“We have,” Sam said assuredly. “We both want to be as real a mother as we possibly can to our children.”

“Good, I like that.”

“We want you to fertilize my egg and impregnate Sam with it.” Brooke locked gazes with Sam for a moment then looked back to the woman across the desk from them. “We can do that, right? I mean…with your help.”

The doctor held back a chuckle. “Well…I can help you bring the forces to create life together.” She looked at the women and smiled. “I suppose you already have a donor in mind?” Dennison paused for only a second to take a breath, then offered, “You could use an anonymous donor, no strings attached. Of course, that would be frozen sperm,” she grimaced slightly. “Although…fresh sperm would be a better choice. It would help increase your chances of a more viable embryo to implant.”

“No,” Brooke shifted to the edge of her seat. “We want the donor to be someone we know. Someone who resembles Sam, actually.” She looked over and patted Sam’s hand. “We…ah…we already have someone in mind.”

“Hmm…you do have this all worked out I see.” Dennison turned to look directly at Sam. “So, you’ve already asked your brother?”

Sam shook her head slightly and gulped. “I don’t have any brothers, Doc.” Her shoulders slumped with the disheartened look on the gynecologist’s face.

Hearing the admission of her wife and seeing her defeated posturing, Brooke bit at her lower lip.

“We do have a friend, though. He is similar in height with blonde hair and green eyes.” Sam perked up slightly, “Brooke seems to think that at least.” She glanced over to see the contemplative look on her wife’s face. “Don’t you, Hun?”

“Huh?” Blues eyes flickered between the doctor and Sam. “Yeah, they are…” she hesitated, choosing her words carefully, “quite similar in a few ways.” Brooke shifted in her chair. “We were talking with him last night about possibly being our donor.” Brooke took Sam’s hand into hers and gave it a squeeze. “That would work, right?” She took her eyes off of Sam and looked to the doctor for reassurance. “Close enough, right?”

The pair watched as the Doctor’s face took on a more pleased appearance. “That will work. But we’ll still have to put him through the same testing as any other. He’ll have to pass a few tests before he can qualify. She looked up to see their confused faces. “STD’s, motility…his count will have to be checked.” She slowed her speech, then amended her intentions. “I meant his sperm, ladies. His sperm will have to be tested.”

“Oh…right.” Sam rolled her eyes. “I knew that,” she muttered.

Brooke breathed a sigh of relief. “So what’s the next step? Where do we go from here?”

“The next step is to get you ovulating,” Dennison looked directly at Brooke, “so we can harvest those eggs of yours.”

“Harvest?” Brooke blinked in surprise.

“That’s what I said, harvest.”

“Great,” Brooke rolled her eyes and looked away, “I really feel like a farm crop now.” She looked over to Sam and gave her a weak smile.

The doctor looked on quite amused before continuing with her explanation. “Once we have your eggs harvested, we’ll be ready for the introduction of the sperm.” She smiled coyly seeing the weary look on Brooke’s face. “That will take place in a petri dish, Brooke. There will be no more pokes or prodding for you.”

“See Brooke,” Sam tried to ease her mate’s mind. “Your part of the whole process is over then. That’s where I come in.”

“Yeah right,” Brooke muttered out of the side of her mouth, her mind obviously thinking of something else. “How do you…uhm…ah…harvest my eggs?” Blue eyes stared at the doctor’s amused expression.

“Don’t tell her, Doc. She’ll want to back out,” Sam whispered loud enough for Brooke to hear her.

“No, I won’t.” Brooke squeezed Sam’s hand that she was holding onto, giving her a glare. “I promise.” She turned back to Dr. Dennison as a worried eyebrow raised slowly on her forehead, “How?”

“You’ve heard of the lesbian’s best friend…the turkey baster.” The doctor let go of a chuckle and then smiled reassuringly at Brooke. “You let me take care of getting those eggs, alright? I promise you it will be the last time I’ll be doing any poking.” She closed the charts in front of her and sat back in her chair. “It won’t even hurt…” Dennison paused until the timing was right for the delivery of her next thought centering her gaze on Brooke, “that much.”

The very audible gulp on Brooke’s part only caused the woman to chuckle more. “Go home, Brooke, rest and relax. Don’t think about it.” She pushed her chair back from the desk. “Well, that is except for a few minutes every morning.”

“What do I do then…meditate on it…project good vibes for the egg growth?”

“No,” the doctor shook her head trying not to laugh. “You’ll need to take your temperature and to plot it out on a graph for me. We’ll need that to see when you start to ovulate.”

“I was always good with graphs, Brooke. I can do that part of this,” Sam volunteered.

“That’s not so bad,” Brooke’s mood was beginning to lighten.

“I’ll be giving you some hormones to increase your fertility. That will give us the best shot at capturing enough eggs.” She grabbed her prescription pad and scrawled out the order. “Here,” she ripped the sheet off and held it out. “That should do you for a month or so.

“Pills?”

“Hormones, Brooke.” Sam corrected her then looked over to the doctor. “Is there anything that I can do to help…besides make sure she takes them?” Green eyes glanced over to the pouting woman beside her.

“Just keep an eye on that graph. Here, I’ll give you a script for the BBT thermometer kit.” She scribbled more on another sheet from the pad. “I’m not sure which manufacturer that your pharmacy will carry so just follow the instructions that come with it. They all have a plotting chart and recommendations of their own.” Dennison ripped the sheet from the pad and handed it to Sam.

“Thanks, Doc.” Sam looked it over as she waited for more instructions.

“When her basal body temperature is indicative of her impending ovulation, then you can call the office and let us know. We’ll get you in the next day for an ultrasound. I’ll want to capture those eggs at their prime and as many as we can. It may take you a few trips until we can time it right.” She saw the contemplative look on Brooke’s face. “The hormones will really help us get a good crop,” the doctor looked over to Brooke as she feigned a smile.

“Hormones,” Brooke moaned under her breath again.

“She’ll be a little moodier than normal,” Dennison directed her comment to Sam, then turned to look at the other woman. “It will only last until we harvest, Brooke. By your next cycle afterward, you won’t even remember the raging woman that you became. Although, she might,” the doctor looked over to Sam.

“So, I’ll be a little moody,” Brooke shrugged her shoulders. “Any other side effects I should watch out for?” She watched as a knowing grin came to the doctor’s face.

“I’ll let you tell me,” the doctored grinned back at Brooke. “I’m not planting any seeds in your mind.” She looked over to Sam and winked, “That’s my contribution to your sanity.”

The expression on the doctor’s face started to worry Sam. “Is there anything that I can do to help with that?”

The contemplative look on the doctor’s face lasted only a few seconds before she cleared her throat and assumed her professional demur. Dennison stood up and moved toward the door to her office. “Be very supportive, Sam.” She held her hand out to touch the woman’s shoulder sympathetically. “Just try to be…supportive and understanding.”

“Hmmph!” Brooke stood up quickly and headed toward the door, “Thanks a lot, Doc.” Brooke’s lip curled into a snarl. She grabbed the prescription out of her hand and shoved it into her pocket. “I’m in control. No little hormone thing is going to make me a raging maniac,” she muttered under her breath as she stepped into the hallway.

“Now go and have a good time.” Dennison stood at the doorway holding the door open. “What little time you have left alone,” she muttered in a teasing manner as Sam passed by her.

“Thanks, Doc…” Sam wrinkled her nose as she looked over her shoulder at the woman, hesitating for a moment. “I think.”

“Come on Sam, all this talk of harvesting has made me hungry.” Brooke reached for Sam’s hand and gave it a tug. “Let’s go get some dinner, Darlin’.”

Focusing now on her wife, Sam nodded in agreement. “I’m right with you, Brooke.” She reached out and grabbed at the paper sticking out of Brooke’s back pocket. “Only first,” Sam tugged it out and held it in her hands, “we get this filled.” She then took the lead and pulled a rather sulky Brooke after her.

****

Walking through the doors of the restaurant Sam’s heart became discouraged. “Brooke, they’re so crowded. We’ll never get a table without waiting. Maybe we should go somewhere else.”

Brooke looked around for a moment then smiled. “No way, Darlin’,” she turned to the podium off to the side and ushered Sam toward it.

“May I help you, madam?” The hostess turned a doubtful gaze in Brooke’s direction.

“Hello, I have a reservation under the name of Gordon.” Brooke arched an eyebrow challenging the woman to defy it. “It was for three,” she held up the appropriate number of fingers, wiggling them for the hostess to see, “at five thirty.”

“Gordon,” the hostess looked to her reservation book and studied it. “Gordon, yes.” A rather fixed smile came to her face. “Your guest has already arrived and is waiting for you at the bar.”

“Who are we meeting, C.C.?” Sam’s expression showed her puzzlement.

“Nope,” Brooke glanced over only long enough to wink at her wife before turning her attention back to the hostess.

“Would you like to be seated at your table now or would you care to meet your guest for a drink at the bar?” The hostess readied herself to direct them.

A mischievous twinkle came to Brooke’s eye. “Bar?” She looked over to Sam. “We won’t be able to for a while after tonight.”

Sam smiled her approval, “You’re right on that subject.” She put her hand into Brooke’s and tugged at it. “So who are we meeting?”

“Follow me and you’ll find out.” The hostess led the way over to the bar. “I believe you might know each other,” she tapped the shoulder of the young blonde man at the bar.

“Hey!” Eddie turned slightly and slid off the stool. “Sam,” he reached out and gave her a hug. “How’d everything go?”

“Fine,” Sam answered back. “Brooke even survived,” she gazed up to see her wife’s face changing colors with a blush. “Now all we need is the donor. Well, that and a few eggs from the harvest,” she chuckled at the inside joke. Her mood turned serious as she brought her eyes to his. “Have you given it any more thought, Eddie?”

Waffling under the pressure, the young man shifted uneasily from one foot to the other, averting his gaze from hers. He turned toward the bar and nodded. “Yeah…” he drew out the word as he made eye contact with the bartender.

The two women held their breath feeling as though their world was coming to an end before it even had a chance to start. Their bodies came closer together and Brooke’s arm encircled Sam’s waist. Neither one wanting to hear the word no, they braced themselves for the worst.

“And…” Sam finally mustered out hesitantly watching as Eddie shrugged his shoulders and tapped his foot off the bar rail.

He held out making any indication of his answer until the bartender placed three glasses in front of him. With a sly smile he turned to view his friends. “I hope you don’t mind but I think this calls for a drink.” He picked up a glass and placed it into each of their hands, then took one for himself.

Brooke looked into her glass and smiled seeing the tiny bubbles effervescing along the sides of the glass. “It must have been a pretty weighty decision, Eddie. This isn’t cheap beer.”

“Champagne actually.” He nodded, satisfied with his decision. “It was and well, I have something that I’d like to say.” Eddie looked first to Sam, then Brooke. “I’d like to make a toast if that’s alright with the two of you?” He saw the spark of recognition in their eyes as they looked from one to the other.

“Okay Eddie,” Sam said cautiously, “but what are we toasting?”

“Hey, I thought toasts were my department?” Brooke quipped teasingly.

“Shhh! Let him speak, Brooke.” Sam hipped her wife mockingly.

“Please?” Eddie turned his gaze toward the taller woman. “Just this once, Brooke?” He watched as Brooke tentatively closed her eyes and bowed her head toward him. Eagerly Eddie held up his glass and motioned for them to do the same. He watched their expectant gazes as they looked to each other then two pairs of eyes settled on him.

Knowing that the time was right, Eddie took in a breath and started. “First of all, I’d like to say thank you.” He turned to gaze into each of their eyes and smiled. “I’m very flattered and honored that you would even consider asking me for something so…so special.” He looked down at his own drink in thought. “I have to say that I never expected to be a part of your families as you’ve made me feel this weekend.” He smiled sweetly and blushed. “Both of your families…” he shrugged searching for the right words. “I don’t know…they made me feel like I belonged.”

“You do Eddie,” Sam reached out to the man and touched his arm, “and we’re glad that you know it.”

“Thanks, Sam.” He met her eyes and saw her concern. “That means a lot to me.” He looked away and swallowed nervously, “Sooo…uhm…I’d like to say that I’ve given it a lot of thought and…” Eddie turned his gaze toward the couple before him, “I would be honored to help you conceive the child that the two of you want to have.”

Brooke didn’t hear another word that the man said. The shock of his consent took her completely by surprise and she stood staring at Eddie as the emotions welled up inside her. It was nearly a full minute before the gentle rolling tear from her eyelash struck her cheek and brought her out of her speechless state.

“You’ll do it?” Blue eyes blinked back another tear as she strained to hear his answer.

“Yes,” Eddie nodded, “but only if you let me be a part of the family.” He looked at the couple and smiled. “I’d like to be…” he paused for a moment then sighed, “Uncle Eddie.”

Sam released the breath that she was holding and looked up to the heavens. “Uncle Eddie…” she stole a glance at Brooke. “I think we might be able to arrange an Uncle Eddie in our family. What do you think, Brooke?”

“DEFINITELY,” Brooke beamed taking her arm from around Sam’s waist and enveloping the small blonde man in a hug. “Thank you,” she whispered into Eddie’s ear as she raised the man up on his toes in her embrace. The only acknowledgement that he had heard her was the warmth coming to his face as his color deepened with a blush.

Choked with emotions of her own, Sam waited patiently for Brooke to relinquish her hold on Eddie. Okay, at least we’ll know the donor. She thought about the adventure that they were embarking on. I’ll be having a family of my own…she let a euphoric smile come to her face. No…it will be our own. Sam felt giddy with the thought until a menacing idea grew out of the shadow of her mind. Like a giant question mark, it loomed over her. Sighing, she allowed the words to form on her lips in a soft mutter. The only question is how are you going to ruin this for us, Mother? Sam shook the thought from her head and stepped up to the place that Brooke had just vacated. “Thanks, Eddie. I’m glad that it’s you that will be helping us.” Sam reciprocated his hug and added a soft kiss to his cheek before stepping back next to Brooke’s side.

“So, what do you say?” Eddie raised his glass up in toast fashion. “Here’s hoping for a successful fertilization.”

“And harvest,” Sam added, smiling over at her wife.

Brooke rolled her eyes and moaned, “You can stop with the farm humor any time, Sam.”

Eddie looked from woman to woman. Neither gave him a clue. He then let his confused but questioning eyes settle on Sam. “I don’t get it?”

“Inside joke, Eddie.” Sam smiled and turned her attention to Brooke before sipping at the glass. “Very inside joke.” She watched as Brooke hung her head trying to hide the deepening shade of red.

****

The events of last evening still weighed heavily on Samuel’s disposition even after a long day at the office. His usual tiredness at the end of the day seemed as though it was multiplied by three as he opened the door to his home. Looking around at the familiar objects, he snorted and muttered under his breath, “Nothing is the same any more. It can’t be.”

“What’s that, Daddy?”

Samuel cleared his throat as he looked up to see a youthful face staring back at him. “Sarah,” his eyes brightened, “How was your day, princess?”

“My day was good,” she beamed. “But my weekend was even better.”

“Huh?” Samuel cocked his head to the side as Sarah wrapped her arms around his middle. “What did I do to deserve this?” He teased her.

“Thanks Daddy, for letting me go over to Sam’s this weekend.”

“You like being with your sister, don’t you?”

Sarah nodded readily, “Brooke’s family and friends aren’t bad either. Eddie was a blast to be with. He’s so…so…” she paused, looking for the right word to use.

“So friendly…so nice…” he began to tease his daughter, “so much older than you.” He leaned back and looked Sarah in the eye. “I think you’d do better to keep friends who are more your own age, princess. At least for now.”

“But Sam…”

“Your sister isn’t a teenager, Sarah. She’s an adult and living on her own.” He gave his daughter a bear hug. “You’re…you’re my little girl and I’m not going to let you grow up any faster than you have to.” The words reverberated in his ears, causing his thoughts to drift from the matter at hand. “Not like we had to,” he said under his breath.

Her father’s hug seemed to calm Sarah into an easy compliance. “Okay, Daddy.”

“That’s my girl,” he smiled and kissed her forehead. “So…why don’t we celebrate your being a driver tonight and let you go get us some take out for dinner?”

“Really?” The excitement was evident in the teen’s voice. “By myself?”

Samuel nodded with a smile. “Yes, and you can even take my car. You drove it quite nicely last night on the way home. Thanks, Sarah, for doing that.”

“I was worried about Mother.”

“So was I,” he said letting a serious expression come to his face. “Where is your Mother, by the way?” He looked into the living room and then into the hall, all of which were devoid of any signs of life.

“She’s upstairs. The best that I can figure is that she hasn’t come down all day.” Sarah looked to her father with hopeful eyes. “You don’t think she’s sick or something, do you?”

“Hmm…” Samuel cleared his throat. “I…ah…I think she just needs some time to reflect on all the things taking place around her.” He averted his eyes from Sarah’s gaze, half-afraid that she could see what his real concern might be.

“So…are you going to get dinner for us or what?” He reached into his pants pocket and then proceeded to dangle the car keys in front of her. “Last chance for takers,” he teased, laughing when she reached out and grabbed them.

“Thanks, Daddy.” Sarah flashed back a smile. “What will it be?”

The man pulled out his wallet and thought for a moment. “I think…” he looked over to his daughter as he handed her a twenty dollar bill. “I think I’m in the mood for…”

“Chinese?” Sarah beat him to the punch with her answer. She grinned when he nodded. “Wow, I’ll be driving all the way to the other side of town.”

“Be careful, princess. I don’t ever want to lose you.” Green eyes filled with love as he watched her reach for her coat and start out the door. “You’re the only one that I can honestly say I’ve known all of his or her life,” his words trailed off as he watched her get into his car and pull out of the driveway. Samuel then turned and headed for the stairs.

****

The worried furrows never left her brow as Elaine stared into the blackness of the silent room. Between the direction that her eldest daughter’s life was taking, the resurgence of things from her past, and the whopper of a headache that nagged at her all day, she didn’t know which one was causing her more pain.

“Elaine…”

She heard her husband’s voice as it filtered down the hall and through the bedroom door. Elaine pulled her body up from the reclined position and propped herself on the edge of the bed, ready for the assault that she knew was headed her way.

“Elaine…”

Samuel’s voice sounded clearer to her and she imagined him right outside of the door. The soft knock that came next told her she was right. The woman closed her eyes and readied herself for the pain.

“I’m coming in Elaine.” Samuel turned the doorknob and pushed on the door. The dim light of the hallway shown in streaks around his figure as it rushed into the blackened room. After a moment of silence he could just barely make out the soft sound of her breathing. By the rhythm of it, he knew she was not asleep. Lifting his hand to the light switch on the wall he flicked it and the room was filled with what seemed to be the light of a thousand suns. There would be no shadow after today, for either one of them.

Elaine couldn’t remember the light to ever be as bright as it was now. She turned her head and squinted to protect her eyes.

“There’s no hiding now, Elaine. I want the truth and I won’t settle for less.” Samuel’s voice had an edge to it as he tried to keep his emotions in check.

She looked up to see green eyes bearing down on her in anticipation. Her mouth was suddenly dry and she could feel her heart begin to race. She was losing her battle, not only with herself, but also with that of the world around her. With a single nod of her head, she resigned herself to the hands of fate. “Ask me anything,” she gulped out, “I’ll tell you all that I know.” She looked up, locked gazes with her husband and waited.

Samuel struggled at first over what he wanted to know and in what order he wanted it told to him. He didn’t move. He just stared at his wife until, on their own accord, the words tumbled out of his mouth. “You saw him, Elaine. You saw our son alive and you lied to me.”

“I wasn’t supposed to see the baby. My father said it would be a sin if I did. The nurse didn’t think so. She’s the one who brought him to me.” Helpless to do anything but sit there, she stared off into space.

“I suppose that she named our son also,” came back the fiery retort.

“I knew that I shouldn’t…” she lifted her eyes to the ceiling and blinked back the tears. “I just wanted…I wanted so desperately to give him something to remember us by. Something that would tie him to us, even if we could never see him again.” Lackluster eyes looked over to Samuel. “I loved you and I loved him. I loved the both of you more than anything I’d ever loved in this world. I didn’t know what to do. I just knew that we couldn’t take care of him the way he needed to be taken care of. Not at that point in our lives…” her words trailed off as her gaze went back to the floor.

Samuel felt the weight of the world resting on his shoulders as they slowly slumped. “I’m sorry, Elaine, for not being there. But you never told me. You never said a word about the pregnancy until years later. Even then you only told me that the baby was gone an hour or two afterward. What was I supposed to do then?”

“I never had the chance.” She turned to look directly at him. “I was young, unwed and a disgrace to my parents. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. I hung onto the idea that this way…our child would at least have a better life than we could give him.” The tears came readily now, rolling down her face. “I gave him the only thing that I could as a legacy. I gave him a name made out of both of ours.”

“Why didn’t you tell me after we were married?”

“I lost contact when the professor resigned her post at the college and moved away. How could I have told you then and have you feel the loss too?” Elaine turned to look at the quiet man in the doorway. “I did the next best thing for all of us, Samuel…or at least I thought I did,” she muttered under her breath. “We conceived Samantha on our honeymoon.”

The stark reality of it all was settling into his mind. “You traded one child for another, didn’t you?” He closed his eyes to the pain. “Then you sent that one away from me also.” He bit his lip trying to calm the fury in his soul. “Mark my words, woman. I’ve reclaimed one, I’ll reclaim the other.”

“You can’t.” Elaine’s words rushed out in desperation.

“I can’t?” The set of Samuel’s jaw proclaimed his certainty. “Watch me.” He turned to leave the room, then reversed his position in a defiant maneuver. “You know something Elaine…I think the best thing that ever happened to this family is Sammi being a lesbian. Without her falling in love with Brooke, I may never have found my son.” He cleared his throat and continued, “Family is what it’s all about Elaine and I intend to enjoy all of mine.” He started to leave but then stopped and looked her right in the eye. “Oh, and Elaine…was that story of Eddie’s biological mother’s concern for him really yours or was it just a fairy tale of the professor’s?”

Dazed eyes stared back at him but no words came from Elaine’s mouth as she sat helpless on the bed.

“Thanks Elaine,” Samuel felt the twitch in his cheek as he frowned. “That’s what I thought.”

“I didn’t mean for all of this to happen, Samuel.” She cast her gaze down to the rug beneath her feet.

“Well you’d better think about what you’re going to do about it now. I’m sure that after last night, someone will put it all together.” He shook his head, “You know, the Gordons aren’t the kind of people who just fell off the turnip truck. Sooner or later, one of them will figure it out, so you’d better be ready. I’d hate for your daughters to find out from someone other than you that they have a brother.”

“I should be ready? Why me? We’re both in this together.”

“We were together the night Eddie was conceived and we were together last night when I first met him. Those are the only things I know about my son.”

“What are we going to do?” Her voice sounded frail.

“You’ve always seemed to think for the both of us, Elaine. I’ll let you figure that one out all by yourself.” Samuel took in a calming breath. “As for me…I’ll be the one getting acquainted with my son even if he doesn’t know I’m his father.”

“But I…how can I…” Elaine’s mind was as jumbled as her speech.

“I don’t care, Elaine,” he said as he walked away. “But I suggest that you hurry. I think Sarah already has a crush on her brother.”

Frozen in shock, Elaine sat there breathless and vulnerable. After a long moment of contemplation, she turned her thoughts to a subject that was easier to deal with. “Hmph! Crushes are nothing. I can put a stop to that easily enough.” Elaine lay back down on the bed and pulled the covers up around her. In a moment of self-righteousness she snickered, “Well, at least I don’t have a baby issue to deal with.”

In an effort of comfort, she reached for her bible on the nightstand and held it close to her heart for a long moment. “It’s time to see what words of wisdom you can offer me,” she mumbled out as she pushed herself up on one elbow and turned on the small table lamp. Holding the book in one hand, she allowed it to open of its own accord. Her other hand quickly pinpointed the message that she was to receive.

Her eyes glanced to the heading. “Galatians 6,” she read the heading first then shifted her gaze to where her finger held its place. The words came out in a reverent whisper, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

The biblical words stopped her short. Suddenly Samuel’s declaration took on a new meaning. “Family is what it’s all about Elaine and I intend to enjoy all of mine.”

She closed the book and placed it back on the nightstand before cuddling up to Samuel’s pillow. “Maybe you’re right, Samuel. Family is what it’s all about,” Elaine whispered softly as she drifted off to sleep.
Installment 2–6 The Adventure Begins
Day 1 Tuesday
The buzzing from the alarm clock hardly started before a long arm reached out from under the covers and silenced it. The dark haired woman lay there for a moment just relishing the feel of the warm bed, and the soft, fleshy body that was snuggled into her. Soon her mind was replaying their lovemaking into the wee hours of the morning as they celebrated Eddie’s promise of a gift. Brooke could feel her heart beginning to race with excitement and anticipation of the adventure ahead of them.

It didn’t take much for Sam to stir out of her restful state. The seed had been planted last night when they had both agreed upon a 6 AM starting time for their journey. Now, filled with high hopes, Sam blinked her way awake, one eye at a time, until the sound of her lover filled her ears.

“Mmmmm…” Brooke’s deep-throated purr filled the air as Sam’s fluttering eyelashes continued on their simple assault on her nipple, causing it to rise. “Good morning, Beautiful,” the words came out in a melody all their own as she began to sing, “how was your night?” Brooke kissed the blonde head on her chest. “Mine was wonderful with you by my side.”

“Hmm…” Sam nestled into her wife’s shoulder. “It was great. Just think, pretty soon you could have two here by your side.” Sam raised her head up to see the pleased look on Brooke’s face. “Now that’s something to think about, isn’t it?” She gently rubbed her hand on Brooke’s chest teasing her as her fingers brushed over an erect nipple.

Long arms wrapped around her lover’s body as Brooke pulled Sam over on top of her. Taking full advantage of the moment, Brooke placed a delicate but slightly moist kiss on the tip of Sam’s nose.

“Hey,” Sam wiped the wet spot from her nose as she watched blue eyes twinkling in delight. “You know I hate that,” she rubbed at her nose again.

Brooke wiggled the tip of her tongue at her wife playfully and laughed. As her laughter subsided, her mood turned serious and she stared into her lover’s eyes. “When was the last time I told you ‘I love you’?”

“You tell me that all the time,” Sam pulled back, tilting her head to the side, “but do you mean it?”

“More than anything,” Brooke said in a heartfelt tone.

“So you really mean it, huh?” Sam teased with a little wiggle of her nose, “I’m just not another one of your passing fancies?”

Passing fancies? The shock registered on Brooke’s face. “Hey, what kind of question is that anyway?” She blinked and then blinked again in utter amazement. Brooke’s mood lightened seeing the impish smile displayed on Sam’s face, giving new meaning to the question. “And coming from my own wife,” she said with a tight squeeze and a playful grin of her own. “Bet you thought you had me fooled there, huh?”

“Just checking,” Sam smiled mischievously. “Let’s call it a real Brooke test,” she chuckled as she leaned down to kiss two pouting lips. “I want to be able to know when the real Brooke is here and when the ‘H’ Brooke is visiting.”

With a dark eyebrow raised in challenge Brooke queried, “What the hell is the ‘H’ Brooke?” She softened at the sight of Sam’s coy smile. “Oh, I get it,” and, with her eyebrows wiggling she continued, “…Hot and Horny Brooke.”

“Ah…nice idea but that’s two H’s and I only said one.” Sam held up a single finger. “I was thinking more along the lines of Hormonal Brooke.” Sam smiled sweetly, “You know we have to start taking those today.”

“WE?” Brooke cleared her throat. “You mean me. Okay, I’ll remember that in a few months when you’re grabbing my crotch and yelling at the top of your lungs,” she made quotation marks in the air with her fingers, “This is all YOUR fault,” she said grinning at Sam.

“Moi?” Sam tried to look as innocent as her youthful face would allow. “I wouldn’t do something like that in public, Hon.” Sam started to rub her wife’s side slowly letting her hand move lower on the woman’s torso with each passing motion. “Oh no, Brooke,” Sam shook her head as she snaked her hand down over her wife’s hip and into the curled hair marking the apex of her legs, “I’m grabbing your crotch now.” And then she did with more gusto than anyone would expect possible from the small woman.

The feel of Sam’s fingers on sensitive body parts took Brooke by surprise. The woman’s words had barely settled on her ears when the stimulation on her body sent any languid thoughts right out of the window. Her need for more now rose higher than any kite she flew as a child. Arousal shot through her body and for a few seconds she almost gave into her craving for more. Intense heat coursed through her body as she quickly staved off the sneak attack. “Whoa, Darlin’, if your hand remains there for three more seconds I refuse to be responsible for my actions,” she warned Sam with a smile.

In an effective move, Brooke embraced her wife, holding her as close as she could before rolling to the side and reversing their position. Swift strokes of her long fingers traced over and around mounds of flesh stirring Sam’s body to life as Brooke’s weight rested on her. The fire within her was taking a new course and Sam was the target.

Within seconds of butterfly kisses being traced down her neck, Sam could feel the tingles of arousal settle into her core and the shifting of hands caused her body to register its awakening feelings below her waist.

“There, see how you like it,” Brooke whispered into her wife’s ear as she shifted her legs to clear the way for some serious lovemaking.

“Whoa!” Sam’s urgent plea came at the time that Brooke’s fingers slipped through her pubic hair and slid into her folds. “I can’t give you three seconds,” Sam struggled to get up, her bladder screaming for relief.

“HUH? Why not?” Brooke shook her dark hair, letting it cascade down over Sam’s silky breasts in a teasing motion.

“Brooke…” Sam squirmed even more.

“Hmm…” Brooke purred as she leaned into Sam face and kissed her ear.

“Let me up. I’ve got to go.”

“Go where, Darlin’?”

“Brooke, I’m being serious,” Sam said through clenched teeth. “If I don’t get to the bathroom now…there will be more wetness in this bed than you’d care to have been responsible for.”

“Oh, sorry.” The apologetic woman said rolling off to the side.

“Thanks,” Sam slipped out from under the covers and sprinted for the bathroom. “Me, too.”

Letting go of a long sigh, Brooke started to stretch in anticipation of her lover’s return.

“Hey, Brooke…” Sam called out from the bathroom. “Why don’t you take your temperature while I’m in here for a few minutes and I can start that graph when I come out.” Sam paused for a moment before adding, “Then we can play.”

“Okay,” Brooke shrugged indifferently and reached for the thermometer that they’d just purchased the evening before. Hmmm…doesn’t look any different than the one I’ve got in my medicine cabinet. She took it from the box and shook it with a sharp snap of her wrist then placed it under her tongue.

“Dwarlin’?” Brooke pulled the thermometer out of her mouth, “Should I take those pills in the morning too?” She waited for a second until she heard the flush of the toilet, then slid the thermometer back under her tongue and sat there with her arms folded over her chest. She let her eyes roam lazily around the room until she caught sight of the blonde standing at the bathroom door with a glass of water in her hand.

“Gwuess wu heard me,” Brooke mumbled out around the thermometer, its end bouncing with every move of her tongue. She watched the relieved look on her wife’s face turn to one of confusion. “What? I’m twaking my tempweture.”

“I can see that,” Sam looked at her kind of funny. “Brooke, didn’t you read the instructions? I thought Dr. Dennison told us that she needed your core temperature to be plotted?”

“Huh?” A lone dark eyebrow shot up on Brooke’s forehead.

“You know…like a real body temperature…” Sam looked at Brooke’s torso, “Core…” she tried not to laugh, “I think that means the other end…you know, where the eggs are.”

It took a few seconds for the thought to register in Brooke’s mind. Blue eyes grew bigger as she grabbed the instrument of measuring from out of her mouth. “Oh no! I’m not an infant and this thing,” she shook it at Sam, “is not going up my ass,” she crossed her arms again over her chest, “…or any other orifice there.” She nodded her head once, hoping it would stop any further thoughts from entering her mind.

Sam fought to hide her amusement, “I could…call the doctor but I don’t think her office is open at this time in the morning, Hon. Remember, it was you who decided that 6 AM would be a good time every morning.”

The dark haired woman shook her head vigorously. “No way am I sticking this up my ass. Forget it.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Brooke watched as Sam slowly started walking over to the bed. The closer she got, the more thoughtful Sam looked as she started to sip at the water in the glass she was carrying. “Hey, I thought that water was for me. Dr. Dennison said that I needed to start taking those…” Brooke’s lip twitched a little but she finally got the word out, “pills today.”

“Doesn’t matter now. You won’t need them.” Sam took a bigger mouthful of water from the glass and swallowed it as she walked over to the rays of daylight coming through the balcony doors. “I mean…if you’re not going to do the temperature thing…then why bother with the pill?”

“But…” blue eyes blinked in surprise as she stared at the back of Sam’s figure while she stood looking out into the early morning sky. You wanted this chance for a family. Brooke dropped her chin to her chest in deep thought. I said anything, didn’t I? She took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. You did, Brooke and now when the time comes to doing it, you’re balking at nothing compared to what Sam’s going to have to put up with. She took a moment to compose herself, and then acquiesced glumly. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

“You know, we could always play doctor, Brooke?”

“Doctor, Sam?”

The blonde turned to face her, “I could take your temperature…several times…” Sam winked at her wife and smiled, “Care to give it a try?”

“I don’t think I’ll enjoy having my temperature taken but…” Brooke tapped her pursed lips with the thermometer as she thought. “But I do have a thing for blondes with a craving to study anatomy. Oh yeah, I could go for playing doctor,” she said seductively, offering the instrument in her hand to her wife.

“Here,” Sam held out the half full glass of water with a beaming smile on her face. “I’ll trade you.” She crossed the room until she was standing next to the bed. “You take the pill, and I’ll take your temperature.”

****

Day 9 Wednesday

The din from the alarm clock hardly started before a long arm reached out from under the covers and silenced it. The sudden movement of Brooke’s shoulder under her head awakened Sam, giving her a jumpstart into her new daily routine. Still half asleep, she threw the covers off, and muttered out a barely audible greeting to her wife. “Morn…” Sam’s word was lost into a mumble as she got out of the bed.

“What, no kiss?” Brooke got up on one arm and grumbled at the bare back of her wife.

“Huh?” Sam turned, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes with her hands. “Oh yeah, sorry,” she yawned hiding it behind a slow moving hand as she leaned back toward the bed. “Hey, where are you going?” Blonde brows furrowed as she watched Brooke throw off her covers and get out of the bed. “You’ve got to let me get your temperature before you…” Sam turned to face her wife as Brooke strode brazenly around the bed. She stood speechless as steely blue eyes glared at her and a dark eyebrow rose high on the woman’s forehead in challenge.

“I’m going to stick my thermometer up my own ass,” Brooke said in a snit as she kept moving toward the bathroom. “Can’t even get a kiss,” she mumbled loud enough for Sam to hear, “…without asking for it. No way am I asking you to take my temperature for me. I can do it myself,” she turned to face Sam and glared at her. With a brisk turn, Brooke grabbed the doorknob of the bathroom door, pulling it shut behind her.

“Jeez, I’m still trying to wake…” Sam jumped at the loud noise of the slamming door, “up, Brooke.” Sam wasn’t ready for the sound of the door slamming as it came to rest rather abruptly against its frame. She heard the sound of the lock clicking in place and cringed as she stood staring at the door in disbelief. “Now, where in the hell did that come from?” She sighed.

****

Day 11 Friday

Sam studied the artwork on her desk. Her thoughts were hard pressed to stay on the images and ideas that she was contemplating while choosing the cover for her project’s CD. The group, Line of Fire, was the last thing that she wanted to be thinking about. Her tall, dark-haired wife filled her mind, as did the rather sour mood that had taken over her disposition the last few days. It seemed like nothing and no one could please her and it was beginning to worry Sam.

It’s a good thing that she had an out-of-office meeting this morning, I don’t think I could have taken another silent drive into work. Sam thought about Brooke’s emotions the last few days. I wonder when this mood will… Sam smiled thinking of Dr. Dennison’s suggestion to be patient during this stage of the process. Patience, great…I guess I’ve had Hormonal Brooke living with me the last few days. Sam let go of a breath and smiled. Yeah, that’s it. It’s not my Brooke at all. It’s the hormones making her act that way. Relieved by that realization, Sam shrugged it off and looked back to her desktop, eager to get on with her work.

Engrossed in her work, Sam didn’t hear the knock at her door until the second time. “Come on in,” she called out without taking her eyes from the photographs in front of her, “it’s open.” After a long moment, she looked up to see Brooke standing in the doorway with a single red rose in her hand. “Hey, what’s that for?”

“Hi, Darlin’,” Brooke stretched her arm out and offered the rose to Sam. “I’ve got a peace offering for you.” She hesitantly moved inside of Sam’s office rolling the rose between her fingers. “I’m…I’m sorry that I’ve been a bitch lately,” she pushed the door toward its frame with her foot and stepped further into the room. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I wanted you to know that I still love you.” She offered the rose to her wife again. “I’m really sorry, Sam.”

“I thought we agreed upon no PDA’s at the office, Brooke?”

“PDA?” She gazed down at the rose. “This isn’t a PDA.” Brooke looked around the room. “There’s no one here for it to be a public display of my affection for you.”

“Hmm…” Sam tapped her lips with a single finger in thought, “I guess you’ve got me there…on a technicality.”

The slow swagger of her wife’s hips as she walked across the room caught Sam’s eye and soon she was noticing that Brooke was sporting her favorite pair of black jeans. Lifting her gaze to the woman’s breasts, Sam felt her heart flutter at the sight of the black silk shirt. God, how I love the predator look that outfit gives her. A smile came to Sam’s face as she got up from her chair, giving it a gentle push backward with her legs before moving in her wife’s direction.

“Thanks for the rose, Brooke.” Sam let her eyes roam lecherously over Brooke’s attire. “Nice outfit, Boss. Is that part of my perks package, too?” Sam reached for the rose but bypassed it in favor of a handful of silky material.

“Hmm…” Brooke leaned in to Sam’s touch and kissed her wife softly on the lips. “That depends…” She trailed a rose petal with a feather’s touch along the outline of Sam’s cheek.

“Depends on what?” Sam giggled as she ran her hand up, brushing over an erect nipple. Her smile turned coy as she brought her other hand to rest on Brooke’s chest, fingering the small black buttons on the shirt.

“Well,” Brooke leaned in to drop a kiss on Sam’s neck and slowly worked her way up to her favorite place behind her wife’s ear. Feeling Sam’s shiver run its course, Brooke whispered into her ear. “That depends on if you plan on opening up said package.” Drawing her head back, Brooke gave her wife a wink, accompanied by her most seductive smile.

“Oh boy, now that’s music to my ears,” Sam said with a lilt of laughter. “I hope this isn’t a perk that you give all your employees.”

“Never,” Brooke drew out the word, then snatched the stem of the rose and held it between her gleaming white teeth. She watched the mirth on Sam’s face grow, as did the woman’s soft laughter. “Why are you laughing, Sam?”

“Nothing…” Sam’s mouth turned up into a warm smile, “no reason. I just love this side of you,” she reached up and kissed Brooke’s cheek then kissed the other cheek, “and let’s not forget this side, either.”

“Oh yeah?” Brooke ran her hand down Sam’s side and slid it over her buttocks, “Which side would that be…”

“Hmm…” Sam couldn’t help but say what was on her mind, “Thanks for reminding me that you have a couple more cheeks that I could kiss.”

Blue eyes shimmered as Brooke responded with a deep throated purr as she grabbed a handful of Sam and caressed it, “Now, is it my sweet side that brings you roses…” she looked at the flower. “Okay, a rose,” Brooke’s gaze now locked onto Sam’s, “…or the insatiable side that’s ready to strip you naked and make love to you right here?”

“Oh,” Sam said around a sudden intake of air as her wife started playing with the buttons on the front of Sam’s blouse. “That…” she looked down at the hands that were toying with unbuttoning her clothing, “that would be ah…both sides.” She looked up into mesmerizing eyes. “I love all of you, Brooke.” She barely got the name out before her lips were captured in a gentle kiss.

“All of me loves you too, Sam.” Brooke took the parting of Sam’s lips as an invitation to further their nonverbal communications. She kissed her again, letting her tongue begin to explore the now familiar territory. “So what do you say, Sexy…I can’t wait to get you home for the start of our weekend together.” Brooke paused for another kiss, “Do you wanna stay in the office for lunch and ah…uhm…” she wiggled her eyebrows seductively, “eat in?”

“Mmmm….” Sam’s eyes glistened. “When you put it that way, who could refuse?”

“Oh yeah!” Brooke’s eyes twinkled with delight. “Your office or mine?”

“Well, you do have a couch in yours,” Sam smiled coyly, “and I am hungry.”

“And we both have chairs….” Brooke kissed wildly down her wife’s neck, “and a desk.” Her fingers worked briskly to open the few buttons that were left on Sam’s blouse, as she hurriedly looked around the office. “We all have walls,” white teeth flashed as an idea formulated in her mind.

Strong arms lifted Sam up in a bear hug until their lips met and the kiss began to deepen erotically. Feeling the smaller woman’s legs wrap around her middle, Brooke made her way to the nearest wall until Sam’s back was against in, each one now feeling the sexual energy and heat of the other as though it were their own.

Brooke came up for air first and muttered out her sentiments, “And way too many clothes on for my liking.”

“Oh Baby!” Sam’s words came out in pants as she labored to regain her breath, “We both do.” Her small fingers slipped over silky material as she fumbled desperately to rid Brooke of anything that could keep them from melding one skin into the other.

“Whoa!” Sam slammed on the breaks, her back arching as it drew her away from the woman before her.

“Whoa, what?” Brooke struggled to keep the blonde next to her.

“I’ve got a project that I need to get done before the end of the day,” Sam’s eyes grew bigger. “I’ve got to come up with some ideas…”

“You’re mind will be so full of ideas after we’re done, Darlin’.” Brooke winked at her never letting Sam move more than an inch or two away from her. “I guarantee it.”

“Hmm…” Sam’s body was crying out to her head to reconsider. “I guess you should know…” Sam leaned in, kissing her wife gently on the lips. “I mean…you are my mentor.”

The coy smile on Sam’s face sent Brooke’s heart racing. “That I am.” Her smile grew in intensity, “Now, let me mentor you in a few other…ways.” Brooke’s fingers began to slowly resume their task on Sam’s clothing.

“I’m ready to learn,” Sam said in a breathy sounding whisper as she leaned into silky material searching for its fasteners.

Amid nipping kisses and teasing tongues, the pair worked frantically at removing the other’s clothing until Sam reached the ultimate goal. She could feel the racing heart of her lover as her hands lavished in fleshy mounds and with each grazing touch of an erect nipple sent her own intensifying libido even higher. Soon the sound of their blood racing through their bodies with anticipation pounded in their ears and the moaning of their lover urged them on.

“I think I’m…” Sam whispered, “Oh god, I can feel that rhythm beating all the way into my mind, Brooke. Don’t stop.”

“Mmm…” was the only thing Brooke could utter as she rocked her pelvis with the beat she was hearing in her head as well.

“I can’t be…” Sam’s voice grew louder, “coming already.”

Brooke’s focus on Sam’s pleasure intensified as she honed in on Sam’s voice, never dropping the beat for a second.

Absorbed in his thoughts, Peter acted on the sound of Sam’s voice and reached for the doorknob. Pushing it open with little effort, he ventured inside. “Hey Sam, Do you think we could…”

“Peter?”

Hearing his name half mumbled out in Brooke’s husky tone caused the man to look up from the paper that he was studying. “Oops!” Peter’s eyes grew bigger as he locked onto his friends and co-workers engaged in a rather passionate endeavor and he quickly reversed his steps. “Oh Jesus… he muttered out as his hand trailed the door closed, giving them their privacy back. “Sorry,” he offered meekly as he stood in front of the door. Thrown for a loop, the man leaned up against the doorframe and tried to keep from hyperventilating.

“Peter…” Ida called out from down the hall, “Are you alright?”

“Shit,” Peter mumbled out, “girl on girl action and I can’t even enjoy it knowing who it is.” He looked down the hall to the woman headed his way. “Great…” he snarled out while trying to regain his composure as he rolled his eyes.

“Peter, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. You’re all pale and…” Ida eyed the man suspiciously as only a mother could, “Out of breath. Are you feeling poorly, Dear?” She reached out and placed her hand against his forehead. “Well, you don’t have a fever.”

“Me…ah…I’m fine…a little hot,” he sucked in a breath and looked away from Ida’s gaze as he loosened his collar. “I’m fine. Nothing to worry about at all.”

“Come on Peter, let me get you a glass of water. You’re breathing is erratic and I’m getting a little worried about you.” She took his hand, “Let’s get you a seat.” Ida guided him down the hall toward her office. “Sit, Peter,” she directed him with a stern gaze. Waiting until he complied, she then crossed the room to her credenza and poured a glass of water from the waiting bottle. She carried it back to him and placed it into his hands wrapping hers around his to make sure that it wouldn’t drop. “Take a drink and tell me what’s got you so upset.”

The shaken man did as he was told. “Thanks, Ida.” He looked to her then quickly shifted his gaze. “I just saw…” he stopped and shook the image from his head. “I saw…nothing.”

“Nothing?” Ida leaned closer to him, “What did you see, Dear?”

Slowly Peter leveled his gaze and looked her in the eye. “Ida…” his words came out cautiously, “you’re a woman, right?”

Her eyes grew big as she leaned back, allowing her matronly figure to be seen. “The last time I checked,” Ida looked down to her breasts and chuckled at his question.

“Don’t be funny,” Peter quipped back at her with a snarled lip. He waited a moment then asked what was on his mind. “Do all women get those…” he paused and redirected his question, “Do women get…” he looked in her direction and made a face, “that way,” he made the same face again, “with hormones?”

“Do you have a twitch going on, Peter?” Ida teased him mercilessly. “What the hell does that,” she mimicked his action from before, “mean? What way are you referring to?” She sighed disgustedly. “It would help if you told me just who you’re referring to, Peter. I can’t read your mind.”

“The Boss, Ida.” Peter looked at her. “Haven’t you noticed that she’s…” he hedged on what to say, “different lately?” The man paused for a few seconds, still seeing confusion written all over Ida’s face. “You know…since they’ve been trying to get…” the words sounded in his ears and he immediately slapped his hand over his mouth to stop any further airing of his thoughts.

“Get what, Peter?” Ida glared at him knowing full well that something was up by the look on his face.

“Forget it. You didn’t hear that.” Peter rose from his seat, “I never said it.” He let his eyes roam absently around the room, shifting his body with every new thought in his head. “God, this is going to drive me crazy.” He shook his head vigorously, “Her hormones and me having to keep a secret…it’s not going to work.”

“Who’s on hormones?” Ida laid out her hand flat on his chest, stopping him from leaving her area.

“Sam…no Brooke…” he sputtered out as he was pushed back down into his seat. “Damn it, I’m not sure which one now. They’re both acting like crazed rabbits if you know what I mean.”

“Alright, Peter Butler,” Ida’s stern voice now matched her face, “I want to know what you’re babbling about. Now, back up and start from the beginning.”

His eyes avoided hers like they carried the plague. “Beginning?”

“Yes, the beginning.”

“Who’s beginning…mine, theirs, or the ba…?” Brown eyes magnified as the word registered in his head. “Oh Shit!” Peter jumped up, “Nothing…nobody’s…it was just all a bad dream that I had.” He shifted his eyes nervously, “I got to keep from falling asleep at work.” His eyes met with Ida’s, “Forget I said that…” He tried to take a step around the woman. “She’ll kill me if I let it out,” he muttered weakly under his breath.

“Peter,” she caught his arm and swiveled him around to face her again, “either you tell me or I’ll go over there,” she pointed to Sam’s office up the hall from hers, “and ask them for myself.”

“Oh no you don’t,” Peter continued to shake his head, “you’re not getting it out of me. I’m not going to be the one to let it slip.

“Have it your way.” Ida turned and walked briskly into the hall, her steps beating out the rhythm as she marched her way to Sam’s door.

Scurrying out of the office, Peter stopped dead only a few feet from Sam’s door as the muffled utterances from behind the closed door caused a shiver to run down his spine. He froze as he watched Ida’s hand grip the doorknob. He wasn’t ready for another replay of what he had already witnessed or even worse. Pushing himself harder than he’d ever done before, Peter lunged out and grabbed Ida’s hand before she could release the latch. “Stop that,” he whispered hurriedly. “Do you want to get us both killed?” He locked the woman in his gaze and silently pleaded his case until he wasn’t sure which way she would go. Then, he did the only thing he could do, he folded. “Alright, I’ll tell you,” Peter looked quickly up and down the hall to assure that they we alone, “but no one else.” He studied her for a second then asked, “You can keep a secret, can’t you?”

“Care to ask the Boss? She seems to think so, otherwise I wouldn’t be the only one beside her with access to the vault, now would I?”

“Really?” Peter blinked in surprise. “I never knew…” He blew out a sigh of relief. “Okay, but you promise, right?”

The smile broadened on Ida’s face as she leaned in to hear his secret. “Promise.”

****

Day 16 Wednesday

“I don’t like it, Sam.” Brooke jerked open the passenger door of her truck and waited for her wife to climb in. “She’s always watching me. She thinks I don’t see it, but I do.”

“Who, Brooke? Who is watching you?” Sam turned to face her wife and looked her in the eyes.

“Ida, who else?” The woman’s eyes bugged out when Sam broke up in laughter. “What’s so funny? I tell you that something is going on and your reply is laughter?”

“Hun, Ida is your friend. She’s your oldest…er…longest working employee you have at Brownstone.” Sam cocked her head to a side, “Come to think of it Brooke, the woman’s almost like a second mother to you. Why wouldn’t she be watching you?” Sam smirked as she got into her seat, “Hell, I’m your wife and I love watching you.”

“Yeah, but when you’re checking me out…I like it.”

“Whoa! Are you telling me that you think Ida is checking you out?” Sam’s face tightened.

Brooke saw the concern on her wife’s face. “Well…maybe not checking me out…checking me out,” she offered. “It’s more like she’s…” Brooke shrugged, “checking me out. You know?”

Sam stared back in utter confusion. “HUH?”

Suddenly Brooke stepped forward and turned to look into the passenger door side mirror. She leaned back, then forward as she tried to focus. In a hurried movement she tossed her keys into Sam’s lap, “Turn the car on. Hurry!”

The desperation in Brooke’s eyes was enough to motivate Sam’s actions. A few seconds later the engine of the truck could be heard and Brooke was vigorously tapping her finger on the control button for the side window. Sam watched curiously as Brooke’s face came closer to the mirror.

“No dark circles,” Brooke mumbled out as she looked from one eye to the other. Her chin suddenly became her focus in the mirror as she turned her head from side to side. “That’s a relief…” she sighed, “no zits.” The tall woman stood upright again from the hunched over position, her eyes still glued to the reflective surface as her body image changed in it. “Sam…”

“What?” The sound of her name being called startled her.

“Am I putting on the pounds?” Brooke ran her hand over her lower jean covered abdomen. “Could those pills be making me retain water and get that bloated look?”

Sam dropped her gaze to the tight form-fitting jeans and checked out her wife’s concern. “No…” Sam wet her lips with her tongue, “nothing there but some fine looking…”

“That’s it,” Brooke slammed the door. “We’re stopping for yogurt and fruit on the way home.”

“Yogurt?” Sam said, puzzled at Brooke’s mood swing. She absolutely hates yogurt. Green eyes studied Brooke as she ran around the truck and settled into her driver’s seat before speaking. “Hon, I don’t think you’re fat.” Sam helplessly watched as a pair of eyes riveted in her direction.

“What…so now that I’m married to you, you want me to look f-f-f-fa….” Brooke stuttered with the word. “Frumpy?” A dark eyebrow arched high on her brow, cautioning Sam to think twice before answering.

“I didn’t say that…I said…” Sam started to laugh as her own little version of Hormonal Brooke danced across her mind.

“Oh, so it’s funny, is it?” Brooke turned her attention to the gearshift and slammed it into drive. “We’ll see how funny it is when you’re sleeping alone tonight.”

Sam closed her mouth without saying another word, mindful that trying to do anything more would only worsen the situation.

****

Later that night Brooke watched silently as Sam gathered her pillow and nightshirt up in her arm and headed out of their bedroom.

“Hey, where are you going?”

“To sleep,” Sam calmly threw the gathered items over her shoulder as she neared the door, slowing only slightly as she reached out for the doorknob.

“But I thought this was where you slept now.” Brooke patted the empty space next to her.

In a side ways glance, Sam noted the extended lower lip of her mate. Shifting hormones already, eh Lover? “You told me on our way home that I was sleeping alone tonight. I’m just carrying out your wishes. Goodnight, Brooke.”

“But…I…I thought you loved me,” Brooke muttered out in a tiny voice. “Why don’t you want to sleep with me…” she smoothed out the covers on the king-sized bed, “like we always do?”

Sam turned to see her lover’s pitiful face. Jeez, I better stop this before her mood swings in another direction altogether. “So let me get this straight…”

“Oh, no Darlin’, we can never get it straight.” Brooke’s sheepish grin nearly melted Sam’s heart.

“Okay, let me rephrase that,” She turned to face her wife, stopping short of running over and jumping into the bed with her. You knew it would work…calm down and let it play out.

“Yes?” Brooke looked on eagerly.

“You want me to sleep with you now,” Sam stated as a matter of fact. “You don’t want me sleeping alone tonight…somewhere else in the house, right?” Seeing the broad smile and nodding head of her wife, Sam moved back over toward the bed.

“Now get undressed and get into bed so I can have my way with you,” Brooke wiggled her eyebrows playfully as she watched the smile grow bigger on Sam’s face. “Why are you wasting time with the buttons Sam? Just pull the shirt over your head and get into bed with me. Can’t you see I need you now?”

“Well, this is a pleasant change,” Sam chuckled as she tossed her pillow onto the bed. Without a second thought, she did her wife’s bidding and then threw the blouse over her shoulder to fall haphazardly on the floor. “I love it when you’re so spontaneous.” Sam seductively lowered her bra straps from her shoulders and proceeded to undo the clasp behind her back. “I’m glad that you don’t think you’re fat any more.”

As her bra floated to the floor, Sam looked up into dumbfounded blue eyes. “What?” Sam jiggled her breasts as she slowly started to undo her jeans.

The words had struck her at an odd angle and suddenly any thought of lying next to Sam tonight, let alone sharing intimacies, was forgotten. “Out!” Brooke’s face turned red with anger.

“HUH?” Sam felt more confused than ever. “But I thought we were going to make love.”

“OUT!” Brooke grabbed the pillow on top of the covers and sent it flying in Sam’s direction. “You think I’m fat…well, go hug a pillow all night and see how much fun that can be.”

Sam caught the pillow as it landed against her midsection. In her mind she started reeling as thousands of images of Hormonal Brooke danced around her head.

****

Day 22 Tuesday

“Okay, Mario,” Sam called out to the dog lying by the bedroom door. “Your mommy’s not home tonight so if you won’t tell, neither will I.” She patted Brooke’s side of the bed and waited for the dog to respond. Seeing the hesitancy of the animal, Sam commiserated with the pet, “I miss her too, boy. You know that she wouldn’t leave us unless it was something that she had to do.”

The dog looked longingly at the big empty side of the bed and whimpered.

“I know…she’s been a bear at times these last few days but it’s not her, it’s the hormones she’s taking.” Seeing the curious look at the sound of the word, Sam giggled and continued on. “Honest, she’s only doing it to get us the egg we need to have it grow into a baby. Hey, that means you get a new playmate to keep you busy. Wouldn’t you want a new life form running around trying to pull your tail and chew on your ears?”

The dog’s tail suddenly stilled its casual wagging motion. Mario put his head down on the floor and pawed his ear, eventually rubbing the side of his head into the carpet.

“I guess you still remember Julie,” Sam teased. “I won’t let that happen again to you, boy.” She watched as the dog got up and trotted over to her side of the bed. Hope-filled eyes accompanied the single paw placed on the mattress next to her. “You’ll still be my number one boy around here even when the baby comes,” Sam leaned down and let the dog lick her cheek. “Yeah, well, I guess that will have to be my goodnight kiss until your mommy gets back.”

Sam patted Mario’s head and looked over to the clock on the nightstand. “Hmm…it’s ten and I thought she’d at least give me a call to say good night before this. Guess she’s just lost in her work as usual.” She grabbed her book off her lap and scooted over in bed. “Up, Mario,” Sam patted the place that she’d just vacated, then turned to her side and braced her hand under her head, the book now positioned next to her on the bed as she searched for the place where she had finished reading.

Stopping once or twice when thoughts of Brooke entered her head, Sam slowly made her way through the words on the stark white pages of her book until the sound of the phone ringing startled her. Both she and the dog shifted rather quickly as she lunged for the receiver. “Hello,” came Sam’s anxious greeting.

“Sam…” Brooke’s voice floated across the airwaves. “Tell me exactly why I came to this podunk of a town again?”

The blonde stared into the phone. You called all this way just to ask me something that I didn’t know anything about until two days ago? “Gee, Hon, I thought it was to watch the local talent in that Battle of the Bands Contest.”

“Yeah?” Sam could hear the smirk on the opposite end of the phone. “You could have fooled me. They had some of the sorriest groups tonight that I’ve ever heard.”

“That bad, eh?”

“Worse.”

“How’s that?”

“They roll up the damn sidewalks around this town at nine o’clock. The hotel I’m staying at doesn’t have room service and the only place to deliver food is a local pizza shop.”

“Ouch,” Sam’s face took on a pained expression, “that bites. That’s not a good food for you right now.”

“You aren’ t kidding. Just what I need, to be stuck in a one drugstore town and have them be out of Milk of Magnesia. I can’t even think of getting constipated here.” Sam winced at the disgusted sigh of her lover. “And that’s not the half of it.”

“Oh?”

“I found a can of Hershey’s Syrup in my suitcase and I don’t have anyone to use it on.” Brooke’s mumbling carried across the miles. “Remind me to start sending Peter out on these talent searches the next time I get the notion to go to one.”

A smile came to Sam’s face when she realized that she was being missed. “You’ll be home in a couple of days, Brooke.”

“Yeah, and it won’t be soon enough, Darlin’. I’m missing you more than I care to admit. I don’t ever want to be away from you for longer than a day for the rest of our lives.”

“Well, think about the bright spot in all of this…” Sam paused at the thought, “we’ll be together and craving the hell out of each other the minute we set our eyes on one another.” The long span of silence on the other end told her that her lover was contemplating an idea of what it would be like. The soft sounding purr that she heard didn’t help matters either as her body began to respond to it.

“Sam…” the gulp was obvious on the other end of the phone. “I love you.”

“I love you, too” Sam took in a breath and stilled her racing heart. “G’night, Love.”

“G’night, Darlin’.”

A long pause of silence was heard before Sam slowly pulled the receiver away from her ear and touched the button ending their connection. Along with the phone, she put the book to rest on the nightstand and turned out the light.

“G’night, Mario,” Sam whispered and snuggled down in the bed with the scent of her lover wafting off the pillow as the tall dark-haired woman’s image danced in her mind.

****

Day 25 Friday

“Sam…” Brooke tossed her keys on the decorative table by the door and sat the suitcase down. “Sam, Darlin’, I’m home,” she sang out as she shrugged out of her jacket and started moving through the house. “Sam?” Brooke turned the corner of the hall and peered into the empty living room. “Hmm…” she turned her attention down the length of the hall and headed toward the kitchen. “Oh Sam…” Brooke yelled out teasingly, “I’m home.” She looked into the kitchen and her eyes lit up. “Hey Baby, your lover’s home.”

“Hey, you’re early.” Sam turned to greet her wife with a pot lid in one hand and a spoon in the other. “I was hoping you’d get home before dinner. How was the trip?” Sam studied Brooke as she gave a little shrug and crossed the kitchen toward her spouse.

“All of the groups were a bust, huh?” Sam asked as she repositioned the lid on the pot and put the spoon down on the stovetop.

“Yep.” Brooke reached out, pulling Sam into her arms and kissed her. “They were terrible but…”

“Damn, I knew it,” Sam stopped her forward motion, “So, what now?”

Brooke took Sam’s hand, urging the woman to follow her as she turned and started for the hall. “So now,” she turned to face Sam, “you give your wife another kiss hello and tell her how much you missed her.”

Unable to resist her wife’s request, Sam complied as she wrapped her arms around the tall woman’s neck and melded into her body. When the kiss was over, Sam could feel herself being swept up into strong arms. Before she could say a word, she was being cradled very lovingly to the woman’s chest and carried from the room. “Hmm…I love being swept off my feet by tall, dark and gorgeous women.”

Flashing a radiant smile, Brooke headed for stairs. “You bet, Darlin’.” She continued her lip assault by covering Sam’s neck with kisses. “I have missed you so much…”

“I’m going to have to send you on business trips more often if you always come home like this,” Sam teased.

“And what way is that, Darlin’?”

“Horny as hell,” she replied shyly.

“Well, I’ve missed you…missed having you near me,” Brooke kissed her wife with each new statement and phrase. “Next to me… writhing beneath me…” dark eyebrows wiggled eliciting a giggle from the blonde.

“You know something, I think I like having you on these hormones.” Sam pulled back and looked into blue eyes. “Do you think we could keep you on them all the time?”

“Hehehe…” Brooke snickered. “So…” she looked from room to room as they made their way down the hall toward the front of the house. “Which part of the house haven’t we christened, yet?” A seductive smile came to the woman’s face. “Care for a quickie, Darlin’?”

“Sure…” Sam wiggled her eyebrows in response. “We haven’t tried out the third step on the staircase yet,” she giggled.

“Or the fourth or fifth steps either,” Brooke chuckled out as she placed her precious cargo on the step.

“Hmm…working our way up to the bedroom, are we?” Sam looked up to the top of the stairs and smiled. “I like a woman with a plan.”

“So do I,” Brooke met her wife’s lips and kissed them lightly at first then with more gusto as her hands started tugging and pulling at Sam’s clothing. Fingers in search of flesh stopped at nothing to gain access to Sam’s body, as jeans were undone and soft barriers of silk were being breached. Both of their breathing sounds becoming ragged with desire when something happened to kill the mood.

“What was that?” Brooke’s head shot up rather startled by a noise. She waited a long moment before the sound came again.

“Ding-dong.”

“What the…” blue eyes flashed with alarm.

“They’re here already,” Sam muttered. “Damn, I should have known that Daddy would make it a point to stop in.”

“What?”

“My parents said that they may be in the area today.” Sam tugged her clothing back into place as she got out from under her wife and headed for the door.

“But we…I…you and me…” Brooke stuttered out as she lay draped and disheveled on the stairs. Pleading eyes watched as Sam moved into the entranceway. The next thing she heard was Sam opening the door and greeting her parents.

“Oh look Brooke, my parents are here.”

Brooke gulped, then muttered under her breath, “And just when I was getting to dessert.” All thoughts of lovemaking now vanished from Brooke’s head and she started to repetitively bang her head on the carpeted step that it was resting on.

****

Day 28 Monday

Sam sat in the passenger seat of Brooke’s truck and surveyed the Gordon’s driveway that they had just pulled into rather abruptly before speaking. “Why are we stopping here?” She looked over to Brooke just in time to see the woman shrug her shoulders.

“I dunno.”

“Are we taking your mom to lunch with us?”

“I guess if she wants to go,” Brooke turned off the engine and reached for the door handle. “Right now I need to go so can we just stop with the game of twenty questions?”

Sam winced at the Brooke’s tone. “Sorry.”

“If you must know,” blue eyes flashed a warning, “I think I just started my fucking period, Sam.”

“Well, I guess that’s why you were so horny last night.” Sam shifted in her seat as she looked down at her hands in her lap. “I read that some women…

“Damn, so now you’re complaining that I want to be with you?” Brooke slammed her hand against the steering wheel. “Damn it, I can’t do anything right.”

They sat there for a long moment, one slowly turning to look at the other.

“Sam?” Brooke met her wife’s gaze.

“Hey, I’m not complaining, I’m just…”

“Just what?” Brooke saw the compassion in her lover’s eyes.

“Well,” Sam reached over to touch her wife’s hand, “You did right by me last night. I’d never think of complaining.” She offered Brooke a smile.

“Yeah, well that still doesn’t change anything now.” Brooke shoved open her door and took off toward the house.

Sam watched the woman storm off as she got out of the truck and made her way across the front yard. She held her breath when the door opened only seconds before Brooke reached for it.

“Yo, Sis.” C.C. saw the tension on her sister’s face and moved out of the way as six feet of driven Gordon came pushing past her. “Hey, like don’t say ‘hi’ or anything.” She took another step back with her retort, “Just run me over why don’t you.” Staring at Brooke’s back as she moved further down the hall, she glanced out the door to see Sam coming up the steps.

“What’s the matter with her?” C.C. threw a glance over her shoulder just as Brooke turned to enter the powder room. “Did she get some bad food or something?”

“We haven’t eaten yet,” Sam cleared her throat. “I’d say it’s the ‘or something’.” She stepped into the doorway and tapped her former roommate on the shoulder, “Don’t pay her no mind, C.C.”

“Mind? Why would I pay her any mind? I know better when she’s like that. Did you two have a fight or something?” C.C. leaned closer to Sam, hazarding a look over her shoulder to see Brooke bolting out of the powder room and running up the stairs to the second floor.

“Damn it,” Brooke muttered as she took the stairs two at a time. “Nothing is ever where you need it.”

C.C. waited until Brooke was out of range before asking what was on her mind. “What did you do to piss her off?” The sound of the bathroom door slamming shut prompted her to cringe. “Forget I even asked that. I’m getting out of here before she gets out of there. Mom…” C.C. yelled over her shoulder as she exited the house, “I’d hide your new coffee table if I were you.” With that said she quickened her pace as she started running down the driveway to her truck that was parked at the curb and got in it.

Sam looked out the door as the truck’s engine sprang to life. A second later, she could make out C.C. lowering her window and sticking her face halfway out of it.

“It was nice knowing you, Sam.” With that said, C.C. peeled out of the parking spot and immediately floored the gas pedal as she hurried off down the street.

“Kids…” Sam shook her head as she turned to see her mother-in-law heading toward her. “Hi, Mom,” she waved and acted as nonchalant as she could.

“Hello, Sam.” Mabel finished wiping her hand on a towel and threw it over her shoulder. “What was Cjersti shouting about?”

Biting on her lip to muffle the laugh at the sound of C.C.’s real name, Sam closed the Gordon’s front door. “Nothing really, she was just warning you about…” she paused at the shallow sound of a vanity door slamming.

“Brooke?” Mabel asked looking up the stairway.

“Yeah, that would be what it was about.”

Mabel took off up the stairs. “Brooke…are you sick? What’s wrong, sweetie?”

“GO AWAY,” came the shout from behind the closed door that stopped the matriarch in her tracks.

“Damn that daughter of mine is moody.” She turned and came back down the stairs. “Sam, what’s going on? She’s never spoken to me like that in all of her life.”

“I wouldn’t worry, Mom. It’s just the hormones raging again.”

“Hormones?” Mabel looked puzzled, “She was never that bad even when the cramps got to her and she used to get pretty bad cramps at that.” She turned to look at Sam and smiled, “You know that’s how she came to learn the drums. Our family doctor thought that the repetitive motion would help ease the pain.”

“Really?” Sam thought about it and smiled. “I would have never guessed.”

“It’s one of the tidbits that hardly anyone remembers but a mother.” Mabel looked back up the stairway, “She’s not getting those cramps again…I mean since she is not playing the drums as much, is she?”

“Well, this is a little different. Dr. Dennison said that they would affect her mood swings and…”

“And what?” Mabel’s face took on a ghastly appearance as the sound of Brooke’s retching penetrated the door. “Doctor…?” Terrified eyes pinned the blonde where she stood. “Is my baby sick? Sam, I’m her mother. I have a right to know.”

“I…we…” the sound of Brooke coughing split the air and Sam looked up to the second floor.

“Sam,” the sternness in the voice conveyed the woman’s concern as tears started to well up in Mabel’s eyes. “Tell me what is going on? Brooke is sick, isn’t she?”

Sam took her mother-in-law’s trembling hands into her own. “Mom, I’ll tell you, but only if you can keep a secret,” the corners of her mouth hinted in an upward motion. Seeing the subtle nod of the Gordon matriarch, Sam began to speak, choosing her words carefully before she started. “Nothing’s wrong with Brooke, Mom. She’s…” Sam sighed, “I’m…well, actually…I mean…” She looked over to see the anticipation on the woman’s face. “We’re trying to have a baby, that’s all.”

Startled by the revelation, Mabel couldn’t utter more than a single word. “What?” She blinked several times trying to register the words that she’d just heard. “A…A baby? But how?” She turned to look up the stairs as another round of retching started. “Are you telling me that my Brooke’s pregnant?”

“Not exactly,” Sam started, “but I can assure you that it will be a Gordon baby…I mean, if that’s alright with you?”

“Then how could it be a Gordon baby if…” Mabel’s eyes looked at Sam’s face, then slowly lowered to her torso.

Sam was amused by the astonished look that was overtaking Mabel’s face, her eyes seemed to open wider with every second that ticked by.

“OH MY GOD!” Mabel covered her mouth with her open hand, “Sam…are you?”

The smile on Sam’s face was apologetic but sincere, “Well, not yet but I’ll be the one to carry our child.” She searched the woman’s face for some sign of her understanding. “We’re going to do an IVF procedure next month.”

“I-V-F…” Mabel repeated the letters, “What in the name of Sam Hill is that?”

“In Vitro Fertilization, Mom. That’s how we intend to get pregnant.”

“And that’s different from normal…how?” The woman’s words were cautious and labored.

“It’s easy. We use Brooke’s egg, a donor sperm and after we put the two of those together in a Petri dish, I get to act as the incubator for the next nine months or so.” Sam was relieved to see the tension ease in her mother-in-law’s face. “With me acting as the surrogate mother and Brooke actually being the biological mother, we figure that we both have a substantial role in the child coming to life.”

“Okay, so if that’s the case then why is Brooke feeling the way she is right now?”

“That’s what the raging hormones are all about. The doctor has Brooke taking hormones to increase her egg production for harvesting,” Sam smiled remembering the fuss that Brooke put up in the office at the sound of being harvested.

“I never knew that could happen. I always thought that PMS was just some man’s label to explain away a woman’s edginess with her cycling.”

“Well, let me tell you Mom, those extra hormones have really been affecting her moods here lately.” Sam nodded her head, “And today…it’s a bad mood kind of day.”

“My poor baby.”

“Oh yeah,” Sam leaned over toward her in-law and whispered, “She’s on her period.”

“Oh,” Mabel whispered back as if it were some state secret. “That usually does make her a little moody.”

“A little moody?” Sam laughed, “Those extra hormones have made her every mood under the sun and then some this month. I just hope that we only have one more month of this to go.

Both women parted at the opening of the bathroom door. They watched as Brooke trudged down the stairs toward them. She never said a word as she made the corner and continued out to the kitchen, her dark hair acting as a shield to keep her face from their view. They stood there silently until the sound of the door leading out to the back yard was heard.

With a mother’s wisdom, Mabel looked over to Sam. “Why don’t you go check on her, Dear? I’m sure she’d rather see you than me.”

Sam nodded in agreement and followed in her wife’s footsteps. She stopped at the door to let her eyes roam the back yard in search of Brooke. There, leaning her body against the porch railing stood the woman with her back to the door. By the slump of Brooke’s broad shoulders, Sam knew that her wife was crying.

Preparing herself for a virtual storm of emotions, Sam closed the distance between them until she was standing directly behind the woman. “I love you,” she said calmly. She watched as Brooke allowed her chin to almost touch her chest and she tried to turn away from the voice. Sam repeated her words, “I love you. I always will, Brooke.”

“I don’t deserve your love…or your understanding,” Brooke sniffed readily with every other word as she tried staving off the tears that threatened to over run her face. “I know that I’ve been so moody lately.” She paused for a moment to wipe at her eyes then gave up folding her arms over her chest, letting the tears surface, falling where they may. “I’m so scared, Sam. This isn’t me…this isn’t who I am.”

“I know it’s not you, Brooke.” Sam reached out to her wife and gently rested her hand on the woman’s back, rubbing soothing circles as best she could. “It’s all the hormones.” She leaned in closer to the woman and directed her soft whisper into Brooke’s ear, “I love you no matter what, Hon. Just trust me. We’ll get through this. And when we do, we’ll have a baby, Brooke.” Sam kissed her wife’s ear and then rested her head on Brooke’s shoulder. “Just think of it, our own child. I think that’s pretty darn amazing, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but what if you wake up one morning tired of all my mood swings, tired of putting up with my shit,” Brooke closed her eyes in pain. “What if you realize that you could have done better than to marry me and listen to all my bitching?”

“No way, Lady.” Sam turned her wife around to gaze into her eyes. “I’m your wife…in good times and bad. There’s no way a little bitching is going to scare me away from the love of my life, not after all the shit I’ve taken from my own mother. God knows she bitches with the best of them and you’re nowhere near that.”

Brooke’s whimper turned into a wail as she spun away from Sam’s view. “See, I’m not even good at that.” She tried to catch her breath in between each word then started to cry again. “I wanted our first Valentine’s Day to be filled with love and romance. I never planned for my period to be here until after this weekend, not before it.”

“Is that what you’re worried about, Brooke, Valentine’s Day?” Sam’s face was full of concern for her wife’s well being. She could barely see the subtle nod of Brooke’s head as the woman turned around to face her. Sam watched as between sniffs, blue eyes blinked back the tears while trembling hands wiped their predecessors streaks from her cheeks.

“Yes,” the word rasped out from around a shaky breath.

“Oh Baby,” Sam’s compassion was evident in her gaze. “We’ll have all of the Valentine Days to come for the rest of our lives. So what if you have your period. I think romance is so much more than just being intimate physically, it’s the little things that make it all that more memorable.” Sam was compelled to qualm her wife’s insecurities and embraced Brooke, pulling her closer until their foreheads touched.

Suddenly there was nowhere to look but at each other. Brooke shifted her weight from foot to foot before leaning her head nearly onto her shoulder and turning into a replica of a bashful teen on their first date trying to decide to kiss the person in front of her or not. She knew in her heart what she wanted to do, but her body was not co-operating.

“Look at me, Brooke.” Sam watched as her wife buried her chin into her chest, lifting Brooke’s chin so that she could see her eyes. “I love you, all of you…every mood, every second of the day, every day for the rest of my life. I know that there will be times that we make love until the sun rises and in the same respect I know that there will be days that cuddling, and kissing each other will be the most that we can do. ” She paused for a second to see if her words were making any progress, then took in a breath and continued. “But, you know what, Brooke…either way, I figure that I’m still a winner just having you in my life…having you as my family.” Sam stared into apprehensive blue eyes, “Face it, Lover, you’re stuck with me…forever.

The words shot straight to Brooke’s heart and slowly her gaze lifted to settle on Sam’s determined face. “I’m sorry…so sorry, Darlin’.” The sight of Sam’s up turned mouth bolstered her ego. “I love you, Sam and I just want you to know that from now on…” Brooke drew her hand up and wiped her eyes, “I’ll try harder not to be so moody.” Blue eyes stared into green as she pledged with her heart, “I promise.”

Sam could feel the relief rolling over her body as a single tear streaked down her face. She reached up and placed a kiss on Brooke’s cheek. “And so will I. You know, I get a turn at this too.”
Installment 2–7 Two Cents At A Time…It All Adds Up
A lot of thought and hard work had been put into Brownstone Recordings, right down to the woman who sat as a sentry over the entire floor of offices. No one could make a move without it escaping Ida’s keen eyes. Brooke, in her infinite wisdom, had set it up that way. It was a safety device of hers and had proven itself quite useful in the earlier days of the company, when fame and rock star status still clung to the owner/C.E.O. like a wet T-shirt. Not a day went by that first year or so without Ida quietly but firmly preventing some would-be groupie from disturbing her boss at work. It had been so bad that Ida thought she was hired to do nothing but work security like the old days, instead of keeping the daily operational books and managing the office in her boss’ absence. Over the last few years, Brooke’s alter ego as Loran had fallen by the wayside and so had the number of groupies. Ida finally had settled into her real job and her extra energy now was used to act as a second mother to Brooke Gordon, her boss.

Tight-lipped to her secret, Ida sat silently by as she watched first Sam, then a moment or two later, Brooke come out of their respective offices and duck into the executive area restroom at the far end of the hall. The smile on her face grew in proportion to her thought of two adults in a room meant to accommodate only one. A knowing smile came to her face as Ida’s eyes went back to her desk and the work that it contained.

The sound of the elevator next to her office prompted Ida to raise her gaze from the page of numbers before her. She watched for a moment as a willowy, dark haired woman came into her view. Immediately no threat registered in her head as C.C.’s familiar face came poking into her open door.

“Hey, Ida.”

“Hey yourself, C.C.” Ida looked up with a friendly smile and a little wave of her pencil. “If you’re here to eat lunch with Brooke, I think she’s…” she shifted in her chair, “kind of busy right now.”

“Busy?” C.C. looked down the hall at the open door of her sister’s office, then stepped into Ida’s door and leaned against the frame, crossing her arms over her chest. “What do you mean by ‘busy’ exactly, Ida?”

The woman looked past C.C. and down the hall to the emerging forms coming from the restroom. “Ask your sister. I’ll let her be the one to tell you.”

C.C. gave Ida a moment of study before turning her attention back to the hallway. “Hiya, Sam,” her eyes settled on her sister-in-law as she moved to greet her with a hug. “What have you two been up to?”

“Hi, C.C.” Sam straightened her blouse before she exchanged the brief hug and looked at her watch. Edging her way toward her office, Sam averted her eyes from C.C.’s gaze. “I…ah…I got some phone calls to make, C.C. I’ll let your sister tell you all about it.” She looked over to her wife and smiled lovingly. “I’ll be in my office if you need me, Brooke.” Sam gave a little wave of her hand as she reached for the door to her office and mumbled, “And I’m sure that you will.”

“Hmm…” C.C. slowly looked over to her sister, “Brooke.” She embraced her sibling then stepped back. With a hand resting on her hip, C.C. looked directly at her sister and asked, “Are you going to tell me or do I get to guess?”

“How about we just let it drop,” Brooke’s eyes narrowed on her sister then shifted to Ida and back again, “and go into my office.” She turned to head in that direction.

“I guess if you were a guy you could say that,” C.C. quipped with a smile as her gaze settled on Brooke’s crotch for a brief second.

An annoyed Brooke turned and started to walk away, “I can see you need another class on anatomy, C.C. I don’t have that appendage.”

Pleased at the effect it had, C.C. followed her sister down the hallway.

“So, what are you doing here, Chase?” Brooke gazed over her shoulder, “You never just show up without a reason.”

“What am I doing…nothing much. I just wanted to see if you’d have lunch with me.” C.C. wandered around Brooke’s office picking up things that were of no interest to her. “I just know how much you love…” her face took on a puzzled look as she played with one particular object now in her hands. “Is this a…”

“No, it’s not my missing anatomy,” Brooke said dryly, not even bothering to look up to see what it was. “It’s an abstract hand making a statement.” She kept shifting the papers that covered her desk as though she was looking for something. “Spit it out, Chase, what did you have in mind…for coming here today?” Brooke quickly added to keep her sister’s mind in the right focus.

C.C. put the item back in its place and stuck her tongue out at it. With a rather graceful turn, the willowy woman flicked her hair over her shoulder and shook her head so as to settle her long brown mane. “I know how much you love pizza, Sis. I was thinking…double cheese with four blends on a cheese stuffed crust.” Brown eyes became intense as they looked at Brooke, “What do you say we split it like old times?”

The more that C.C. talked of cheese, the more Brooke’s eyes grew in size. By the time she was done, Brooke’s hand was settled over her lower abdomen and a pained expression masked the woman’s face. “Uh…C.C., stop it. You’re killing me.”

“You up for it or are you going to be a party pooper?” C.C. stared at her sister.

Brooke doubled over and sat down, willing the bloated feeling of constipation to only be a passing fancy of her mind. “I’d love to have some pizza right now but…” Brooke winced at the thought of the pain, “I’m off of dairy for a few more weeks.” She gave her abdomen a soothing rub and then looked up to her sibling. “Any other suggestions?”

“Hmm…I take it you’re going to be a pooper, eh?” C.C. scratched her head as she thought. “Well, we could always go get a salad,” she giggled, “and try to keep our girlish figures.” C.C. picked up a paper that was on Brooke’s desk and let her eyes roam over it. “Hey, maybe Sam would want to go with us. I know you like her girlish figure.” She tossed the sheet of paper back on the pile she’d gotten it from.

“Salad?” Brooke rubbed her abdomen again, “Yeah, that will work. Hang on a second first and let me check with Sam.” She reached over and buzzed her wife’s office on the speakerphone. “Sam?”

There was a long pause before Sam answered her wife’s call somewhat reluctantly. “Yes, Brooke. Tell me, where am I coming this time…the copy room?”

Sam’s words caught Brooke by surprise and a higher than normal “Darlin’,” turned into a cough as the blush of embarrassment registered on her face. She shifted her eyes at the sound of a snicker to catch the raising eyebrow on her sibling’s face as C.C. crossed her arms over her chest. “Darlin’,” Brooke tried to remain calm, “C.C. wanted to know if we’d like to join her for lunch.” She looked over to her sister and smiled nervously as she listened for Sam’s response.

“I’d love to but I really have to get on these phone calls right now. I’m swamped and I’ve only got a few days to finish this PR tour for Line of Fire. Sorry, C.C.” There was a second or two of silence before the sound of Sam clearing her throat came over the speaker. “Brooke, I’ll take care of making that phone call while I’m at it for your first appointment. You know the one I’m talking about.”

“Oh yeah,” the C.E.O. grumbled, using her open hand to wash over her face, “the quack. Okay.” She looked over to C.C. to see if the inquiring mind had heard her comments. If she had, C.C wasn’t letting it show as she busied herself looking at another sheet of paper from the desk. “Can I bring you back something for your lunch, Sam?”

“Hmm…I’m really craving cheese right now, Brooke. You’d better bring me back something with lots of cheese on it while it still won’t be effecting me.”

Resigning herself to her fate, Brooke sighed out her question. “Pizza?”

The sound of Sam’s girlish laughter came over the speaker. “You know me so well. Thanks, Hon.”

“Sure, any time,” Brooke sounded defeated. “Anything to drink with that slab of goat jam?”

“A large coffee. No, make that an espresso… a big one. Something tells me I’ll need that caffeine boost later this afternoon.”

The loud groan coming from her sister caused C.C. to look directly at her.

“Okay, Darlin’. I love you,”

“I love you, too. Be careful, Brooke.”

“Okay, Chase,” the executive laid the handset in its cradle and got up from her chair, “let’s go.”

“Alright,” C.C. rubbed her hands together as a devilish smile came to her face, “Pizza it is.”

****

“I’ve seen rabbits ingest fields of lettuce quicker than you’re eating that salad, Brooke.” C.C. picked up another slice of her four cheese pizza and shoved it into her mouth. After a couple of chomps, she swallowed it and continued on at her sister before taking another mouthful. “You going to eat it or wait until it becomes petrified?”

“I dunno…” Brooke poked at the leaves of green and played hide-n-seek with a crouton before putting her fork down on the table. “I guess I’m just not hungry.”

C.C. studied Brooke for a moment then took a drink. “Brooke,” she said putting the glass back down on the table, “that quack that you referred to back at the office…are you sick or something?”

“Sick? Ah…uhm…no.” Brooke shrugged, “She just put me on a restrictive diet for a few weeks.” She picked up her fork and took another stab at a green pepper while she tried to steer the conversation away from herself. “So, how’s your internship going?”

“It’s okay,” C.C. mumbled out around the last bit of stuffed crust she was fitting into her mouth. “Nothing to really talk about.” She chewed and started to swallow as the words of her sister finally sunk in. “Whoa!” She coughed a time or two then grabbed her beverage to help wash it down. “Wait a minute. Sam put you on a diet?” Her balled up hands rested on her hips in defiance, “I thought she liked your bod.”

“No…not Sam,” Brooke continued to poke at her food, “the quack did.”

“The quack?” C.C. asked rather loudly, causing her sister to look at her menacingly. “Would that be Donald or Daffy?” Seeing the look that she was getting, C.C. knew that something was going on. “Or is this a quack of another source altogether?”

“Doctor,” Brooke mumbled, “quack, pain in my ass.” She looked across the table and glared at her sister. “You get it now?”

C.C. started laughing. “What’s the matter, Sis…not enough energy to keep up with a twenty-one year old on a regular basis?”

“It’s not that,” Brooke took the napkin that was in her hand and slammed it down onto the table. “C.C., It’s nothing like that and you know it.”

“It’s not?”

“NO, and I’d rather not discuss it right now.” Brooke brought the glass of water to her mouth and sipped at it. “It’s nothing bad, so don’t worry.”

“Sure, wait until you’re on your death bed to tell me you got some terminal disease or something. Brooke, I thought we were close.”

“I swear C.C., I’m not sick and I’m not getting sick.” Brooke picked up her fork and started back into her salad. “I just have to be careful of what I eat and drink for a few weeks. I’m taking some medication and I have to stay away from dairy and caffeine while I’m on it, that’s all.”

“Does Mom know that you’re seeing a doctor?” C.C. paused for a moment to see blue eyes averting hers at every turn. “I bet she doesn’t,” she declared pulling out her cell phone and tapping a single button in an effort to speed dial.

Long arms reached across the table and snatched the cell phone out of C.C.’s hand. “Don’t,” she warned, poking the end button and setting it down on the table. “Jesus, C.C. if I tell you, will you keep it quiet?”

Brown eyes stared in shock at her sister. “You think I can’t keep a secret?” C.C. feigned a crushing pain to her chest. “Brooke, I know everything about you…about Loran…and I’ve never said a word to anyone.” She thought for a second, then quickly amended her words, “Well, except Sam.”

“I know,” Brooke fidgeted in her seat. “We just didn’t want anyone to know yet. It’s all kind of involved and there’s no guarantee that it will work.”

“Involved?” C.C. slid to the edge of her seat. “Who? What? How?” She looked around to see if anyone else was listening, then centered her gaze directly at her sister. “Scoop, Brooke. You’re talking to an inquiring mind now.”

“Look, I know I can trust you.” Brooke did her own quick survey of those around them and leaned in toward C.C. “I’m just a…a little on edge because of the medication.” She leaned in further and whispered, “I’m taking hormone pills and my emotions are way out of whack.”

“Hormone pills?” C.C. made a face. “You want a sex change operation?”

“NO!” Brooke’s voice boomed out loud enough to startle those at the tables near by. She smiled at them apologetically, then leveled her gaze back at C.C. “Just listen to me, will you?”

“Okay,” C.C. said with her elbow resting on the table. She propped her head on her hand, “Talk.”

“Sam and I want to have a baby.” Brooke saw the bland look on her sister’s face and knew that she wasn’t getting the picture just yet. “Sam wants to have my baby. To make a long story short, C.C. I’m on hormone pills so they can harvest the eggs from me. After they do their little lab thing with the sperm, they impregnate Sam with my baby.” Brooke got a silly grin on her face at the thought, “I mean, our baby.” She watched as the idea slowly sunk into C.C.

The sibling sat back in her chair as she looked her sister in the eye. “You’re on fertilization pills?” C.C. burst out loud with a quick guffaw, then suddenly stopped and became serious. “Damn! I’m going to be an aunt.”

“Yes, Chase, you’re going to be an aunt…eventually again.” Brooke waited to see her sister’s reaction.

C.C.’s eyes sparkled with delight as the words formed in her mouth, “Well, if I’m going to be an aunt, I guess that will make you a real mother.”

“Yeah,” Brooke sighed. “Sam too, you know. She’ll be the one to carry the child.”

“Hey, that I can see. But you…” C.C. chuckled. “Oh boy, this is going to be fun.”

Brooke dropped the fork that she was still holding in her hand. “Why not me?”

“Nothing, Brooke.” C.C. settled into her seat, fingering the last piece of her pizza. “It’s just that I never thought of Loran as the parenting type.” She flashed a smile at the woman across from her. “I guess this will prove that you’re really not that person at all.”

“You should know better than anybody that I’m not Loran. I never really was.”

“You’re right,” C.C. said, taking a small bit of her food. “I like this one much better.”

“I’m glad that you agree because if it’s a girl…” Brooke smiled wryly at her sister, letting the suspense build.

“You’re going to name it after me?”

Brooke nodded her head, “Well, sort of. The official name will be Chastity Loran…” she flashed a smile at C.C., “but we’ll call her Chase for short.”

It took a minute for the concept to register in C.C.’s mind. Her thoughtful expression went from shock to ecstatic in only a few seconds. She stuck her hand up in the air and gave a loud holler, “Wahoo! Finally a name sake and I don’t have to do any of the work.”

“But if it’s a boy,” Brooke teased her sister, “we’ll just call it Chuckie.”

Shivers immediately went down C.C.’s back. “Damn it, Brooke, you’re raining on my parade. You know that name gives me the creeps.”

The older sibling looked around rather nervously at the people seated near them. “Yeah, well, calm down C.C., it might take a while to happen.”

“I can wait.” C.C. sat up straighter in her seat as she picked up the half eaten crust of pizza in her hand and looked over to her sister. “Eat up, Momma,” she motioned to the salad in front of Brooke. “You’ve got more than just yourself to be thinking of.”

****

Sam stopped outside of Brooke’s office, knocking softly on the door. When no response came, she gingerly opened the door and looked to see if her wife was there. “Good,” she mumbled under her breath, “She’s not back yet.” She gave the door a tug and stepped back out into the hallway, bumping into Peter as she turned to leave. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“Hey there, Toots.” Peter flashed a smile at her. “Are you two,” he motioned with his head toward Brooke’s door, “doing okay?”

“Peter, I was…I was…” Sam looked at the man and sighed, letting her defenses down. “Peter, can I be frank with you?”

“No, but you can be Sam,” he chuckled. “I knew a Frank once…didn’t like him.” Getting no laughter in return from the woman, he turned serious. “Come on into my office and have a seat.” He walked several paces down the hall and held his door open waiting for his friend and co-worker to join him.

“Peter,” Sam said as she entered his office, “I need you to do me a big favor.” She paused, seeing him hold up a finger as he closed the door and crossed the room to his desk.

“Ida…” he called into the office intercom, “Could you handle all my calls for a few minutes?”

“Sure, Peter. Just let me know when you’re available again.”

“I won’t be too long. I promise.” Peter turned to move away from the microphone and then stopped abruptly. “Ida…Let me know if a call comes through from Hawk Entertainment. I need to talk to them myself.”

“No problem, Peter.” Ida’s voice came through the speaker. “Tell Sam that her lunch should be coming back with Brooke soon.”

Peter eyed the nervous reaction his friend was having at the sound of Brooke’s name. Sam twisted away from him and started running her hand through her short blonde hair. “Thanks, Ida. I’ll do that.” He ended his conversation with the co-worker and walked over to Sam, resting his hands on her shoulders, causing her to act startled. “Okay, Toots, what’s up? Why are you so jumpy?”

“Peter,” Sam sighed as she turned to look the man directly, “she’s driving me crazy. I need a break.”

“What?” His face twisted with his confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“I need you to help her get some of that energy out.” Sam watched as Peter’s face showed even more confusion. “You don’t get it, do you?” Sam hung her head and sighed, “I should have known better, you’re a man.”

“There’s no need to be insulting, you know,” a perplexed Peter shot back at her. “Slow down, Sam and maybe I’ll understand what you’re asking me to do.”

“Peter, she’s…her…” Sam threw her hands up in exasperation. “I need some time to relax,” she looked at the man, searching for some sign of his understanding. “Regroup…you know?”

“She’s working you too hard, is that it? You want me to tell her she’s giving you too much with Line of Fire’s virgin tour?” Peter looked over to see Sam vigorously shaking her head.

“NO!”

The single word seemed to reverberate in his head causing him to be more confused than ever. “Sam…What the hell’s going on then?”

Sam took in a deep breath, then blurted it, “Peter, her hormones are out of kilter.” She stared into his eyes that were still full of confusion and laid it out plain and simple. “Brooke’s turned into this sex fiend, nymphomaniac or something.”

“Nympho?” Peter’s brow wrinkled with the thought, “Brooke?” Suddenly he shook his head to clear the images he was viewing. “And…why are you complaining?”

“When was the last time you had sex seventeen times in a single day?” She leveled a glare in his direction.

“Shit Sam, I can’t remember the last time I had sex period,” his eyes got bigger as he mumbled out his state of affairs.

“That’s why I need you to help me out here. I thought that maybe you and Eddie could tire her out and give me a rest.” She watched the man’s face turn pasty white with fear. Sam put her hands on her hips and challenged him with her stance. “Not that way, Peter,” she said through clenched teeth.

”Oh,” the man quickly became tight lipped as he turned and walked over to his desk.

“I’m sorry to lay this on you Petey, but I don’t know how long I can do this that many times.” She watched as he leaned on the desk, and looked back at her in awe. “If you were me, you’d be asking the same thing that I am.” She crossed the room and stood next to him, her hand coming to rest on his arm. “Peter, as a friend, please…one evening…two hours…” Sam’s eyes grew wild with desperation, “five minutes, anything.” She pulled out her punches and started batting her eyelashes, playing on his sympathy, “For me?”

He held out all of thirty seconds before he gave in to her plea. “Okay, Sam, but you have to do something for me.”

“Anything…” she readily agreed. “What do you want?”

”I know that making love that often can be tiring you out. But Sam…” he paused to gain his courage, then continued on, “don’t let her know that it is becoming a chore for you. I’d hate for her to pick up on it, and you know that she would. Heck, some of the staff here already…” he wet his lips and swallowed hard, “may have.”

“They have? I thought…I…” Sam let go of a breath in anguish. “I guess I haven’t been thinking about anything but myself.”

“Gossip around the water cooler has it that there is trouble in paradise with the way you’ve been reacting lately. I know that you’re exhausted Sam, but it would kill Brooke to think that you two weren’t the perfect newlywed couple.”

“I know, Petey. I’d die without her in my life.” Sam mustered her strength and met his gaze. “Okay, I’ll cut you a deal. You and Eddie occupy her for the evening and I’ll be ready for her tonight,” Sam gave him a subtle wink. “What do you say?”

Peter opened his mouth to speak but the sound of someone knocking on his office door was heard instead. He looked at the door wearily and called out, “Come in.”

“Excuse me, Peter.” Brooke slowly opened the door. “Ida said that Sam was…” she spied her wife and held up the cardboard containers holding her lunch.

“Pizza and Expresso?” Peter looked at the blonde next to him. “Sam, you didn’t?”

“Hey, she asked and I was hungry,” Sam protested. “Besides, I could use the extra caffeine, you know.” She rolled her eyes in Peter’s direction. “Call it a preconception craving.” She turned her attention toward her spouse. “Back so soon, Hon? Did you have a good lunch with C.C.?”

“Yeah, it was…okay.” Brooke’s face was painted with a shy smile. She walked over to Sam and gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek. “Your lunch will be getting cold, Darlin’.” She handed the containers over to Sam as she mumbled her apologies, “I’m sorry for disturbing you.”

“You’re not…” Sam started to say but didn’t get a chance to finish before Brooke silently walked out of the room and closed the door. Shocked by her wife’s behavior she turned and looked at Peter. “What the hell is up with her now?”

“Maybe she’s…constipated.” Peter shrugged at the startled look he was getting. “Hey, I might be her ex-band mate and her friend, but she’s your wife. I don’t know all her moods.”

The sound of a soft knock came again to Peter’s door and it was met with voices joined in unison, “Come in.” They both turned their attention to the door as it opened, revealing Ida’s form.

“I’m sorry, Sam…Peter,” she looked from one to the other.

“That’s okay, Ida. I was just going to go eat my lunch.” Sam held up her meal as she started for the door.

Ida stepped into the room. “A couple of the girls in accounting were apparently gossiping in the break room. I think they were speculating about…” Ida wrung her hands as she considered how to broach the subject, “about your relationship with Brooke right now. I don’t know exactly what was said but Brooke’s entire demeanor changed after she overheard them.”

Hearing that, Sam froze in mid step. “What?” She turned to look back at Peter. “Great, just what I need, office gossip meets the raging hormones.” Sam took in a deep breath and walked into the hall.

****

Brooke turned from her voice mail at the sound of the knock on her office door to see her wife leaning reluctantly into the open doorway. Not ready to talk, she looked away, seemingly intent on hearing the captured voice.

“If you don’t want to be disturbed, I’ll…” Sam paused, seeing the subtle shake of the C.E.O.’s head, as Brooke kept jotting something down on a piece of paper. “Can I come in?” A nod confirmed her wishes and Sam did so, biding her time until the last message ended. Sam formulated her words as she watched Brooke make a few notations in her date book, then place the receiver on its cradle. “Is there anything you might want me to be doing? I mean…ah…this afternoon.” Sam ventured closer to the desk, letting her fingers walk around the edge of it until she was standing next to Brooke’s chair.

“Just keep looking through those new T-shirt designs.”

“I meant,” Sam leaned down and whispered into Brooke’s ear, “I meant that to be on a more personal level.”

The C.E.O flipped her date book closed and looked up into green eyes for a quick second before looking away. “I…I need to leave the office for a while.” She pushed her chair back and stood up. “I’ll be at the newspaper office looking over some copy and layouts that need my approval for an upcoming ad campaign.”

The abruptness of her wife startled Sam, “Well, yeah…you could do that.” Thank you, God. “Yeah, right. I’ll…just look over those T-shirts and wait for you to come back.”

“Ida can call me if anything comes up.” Brooke gathered a few papers from her desk and shoved them into her open brief case. “Tell Peter to have Hawk Entertainment call my cellphone if they call in. I’m looking at a local band to sign.”

“Local?” Sam’s interest piqued, “Is it someone that we’ve seen already?”

“No,” came Brooke’s one word answer as it was quickly replaced by the sound of her brief case snapping shut.

“Oh,” Sam became very quiet. “I’ll…I’ll be in my office if you need anything.” She watched as Brooke headed for the door without even a gesture of a kiss in her passing. “You have your cell with you, right? I know how forgetful you are sometimes.”

Brooke reached into her jacket pocket and nodded when her fingers traced over the familiar outline of the communication device. She withdrew her hand from her coat and reached for the doorknob, stopping when she heard her name.

“Brooke?”

“What?” Dark hair swirled off of her shoulder as she turned her head to reveal the annoyance that was etched into her face.

Sam stared at her for a moment, not sure of what to do or say. That gossip must have been some humdinger. You seem…God, please just let it be the hormones again. “Nothing…forget it.”

The intensity of blue eyes softened a little as her mouth started to engage again, “I’ll see you later, Sam.” She started walking through the doorway and into the hall.

“I love you.” Sam held her breath as she waited for a reply.

Brooke squared her shoulders and looked back at her wife. “Love you too, Sam.” The words were uttered in a tight-lipped fashion before she closed the door and her booted footsteps could be heard walking down the hall.

“Damn those hormones,” Sam spun around on her heel and looked out the window with its boardwalk view. “I never know what mood is going to strike her next.” She stood there for a long moment, letting her own mood settle down. She looked over at the empty chair and sighed, “Oh well, T-shirts here I come.” Determined to get some work done, she headed back to her own office.

****

Brooke came out of her meeting with the Newspaper’s Advertising Representative more concerned than when she went in. She thought about his excuse for the royal screw up and it made her wonder if he wasn’t right with his comment: that eventually the new people would know what they were doing. Is that me? Am I a new person to this whole concept of love and marriage…and…. Her thoughts raced to Sam and the baby-to-be. Goddamn it. What if that office gossip is right? She set her jaw and pushed the thoughts from her mind.

The long legs of the C.E.O. ate up the distance to her SUV in a few seconds time. With a click of the remote and a jerk of the handle she was seated behind the wheel, staring off into space.

“But what if they aren’t?” She mumbled, seeing her future turning on end. “I need help and fast.” She slipped her hand into her jacket pocket and pulled out her phone. Eager for answers, she hit the speed dial button and punched in the number from her memory. “Twenty-one…there that should do it.” She held the cellphone up to her ear and listened for the familiar greeting on the other end.

“Miranda Dedmon, Assistant D.A., how can I help you?”

“Hey Randi, didn’t anybody tell you that you don’t Miranda a dead man, Sis?” Brooke’s teasing masked her nervousness.

“Har, har, har…funny, Brooke. What’s up? Did you get nabbed for speeding again?”

“Nah,” Brooke tried to steady her voice. “I was just out running a few errands and thought I’d give you a call.”

“Yeah?” Randi’s skepticism was more then evident. “Listen Brooke, you never call me at work unless it’s for something. Now what is it?”

“Damn it,” Brooke spit the words out through clenched teeth. “Do I have to have a reason to call my older sister? Christ, if I’m that much of a nuisance, Randi, I won’t bother.” She pulled the cell phone away from her hand and poked her thumb down onto the end button in the first strike of a one-two punch, the steering wheel took the latter as her free hand slammed into it. “FUCK!” She tossed the phone onto the passenger’s seat and closed her eyes.

It wasn’t but a few seconds before the cell phone sent its reply chirping into the silence of the vehicle. The catchy beat repeated itself over and over until finally Brooke grabbed the phone and stopped it with a barked out greeting of her own. “Brooke Gordon, here.”

“Hmm…is that any way to answer a phone? Better not let Mom hear you or she’ll send you back to charm school.”

“HUH?” Brooke pulled the phone from her ear and stared into it.

“It’s me, Terri. What’s up, Sis? You can tell the doctor.”

“Nothin’, Ter.” Brooke grimaced, “I’m just having a shitty day.”

“Something wrong at your office? Did one of your bands get caught in the tabloids again?”

She took in a breath and tried to relax. “Sorry, wrong on all accounts, Sis. Besides, I don’t really want to talk about it. So what’s up with you, calling me in the middle of a busy work day for us both?”

“I’m just having such a good time today…I had to call someone. I tried Randi but her line was busy, so you were my next choice. God, I love these hormone rushes that this pregnancy’s giving me.”

Brooke caught herself starting to growl at the mention of the word ‘hormone’.

“I figured that I’d better enjoy it while I can…the good rush that is. Hey, is that a growl that I hear? Sounds like someone’s being a grumpy bear today. Did you get your period?”

“NO!” Brooke snapped at the phone.

“Come on, Brooke…I remember how much you always enjoyed that time of the month.”

“Speaking of ‘time of the month’…do you have a due date yet?” Brooke hoped Terri would take the bait and get off her case.

“Looks like it’s going to be around July for this little bundle of mine to make an appearance. You can never be too sure with the first one though. Don’t worry, Brooke, it’s not going to be anywhere around your birthday. You get that all to yourself.”

“I should hope so, the beginning of June is a whole month away from July.”

“Well, you know, that’s just a little too early for the stork to drop in for a delivery.” The sound of Terri’s laughter filled the airwaves for a short time before a very audible gasp was heard on the other end. “Damn! What time do you have, Brooke?”

Blue eyes searched the dashboard for her digital read out clock. “It’s a couple of minutes past three, Ter.”

“I think I just missed my time slot at the pediatric clinic. I’d better get going. Later, Brooke. Hope you’re feeling better the next time we talk.”

“Bye, Terri.” Brooke ended the conversation feeling even worse than before. She closed her eyes to the pain and tried to regroup her feelings.

It didn’t take but a moment longer for the cell phone to start chirping away at her again. She touched the button and said her name, “Brooke Gordon.”

“What did you do…call Mom the moment you hung up on me?”

“No, Terri called me,” Brooke sighed. “I’m…I’m sorry about earlier, Randi. I just seem to be a bother to everyone lately.”

“Brooke, you’re never a bother to me.” There was a moment of hesitation on the line before Randi’s well-toned voice came to life. “Well, maybe when you were younger, but not now. What’s up, kid?”

The struggle in Brooke’s mind was nowhere won when she made a decision to tell her sister what was going on. “Dammit, Randi.”

“Brooke, if you’re driving you’d better pull over now. Talk to me.”

“I’m not driving, Randi,” came Brooke’s chastised reply. “You and Brian have been married a long time. Did anybody ever talk shit about the two of you?”

“Shit? What do you mean by shit?”

“Just what it sounds like, shit.” Brooke’s voice was stronger than before.

“Is this shit because of you and Sam being lesbians or is this like normal shit? I thought that gay thing never bothered you.”

Brooke grumbled for a few seconds as she sorted out the particulars in her mind. “Uhm, I guess normal shit.”

“Normal shit, huh?” Randi paused to clear her throat. “You mean like when Brian and I had to move our wedding date up by six months? That kind of normal shit, Sis?”

“No,” Brooke sounded perturbed. “I mean when the bitches in your office are saying that your wife is tired of having sex with you kind of normal shit.” She listened to the slow intake of breath coming from Randi’s end.

“Hmm…office gossip,” the older sibling’s voice sounded ominous. “That explains a few things. Did you ever think that they do it just because there is nothing better to do in their lives than to talk about someone else?” There was a second or two of static coming over the phone before Randi’s voice was heard again. “Heck, if I listened to office gossip, I’d be naive enough to believe that I got my job because I gave the D.A. a blow job in his office during my interview. Brooke, you and I both know that I didn’t.”

“Yeah,” Brooke mumbled out half-heartedly. “But it doesn’t help when Sam kind of acts like she’s tired of me already or that being around me is a burden.”

“Whoa! Wait a minute. What did you say? Are we talking about the same Sam here…the girl that worshiped you as an idol? Rock idol that is,” Randi amended her words.

“Yeah,” the word came out in a whispered hush.

“Impossible…never.”

“Wrong, Sis, very possible,” Brooke snorted. “I can call her into my office and she automatically assumes that I want to have sex right then and there. She starts…sighing and asks me if I want her on the desk or what.”

“What makes you think she’s tired of having sex with you? Maybe it’s her time of the month. Did you think of that?”

“Trust me, Randi, it’s not her time of the month. I just wished she had said something to me instead of having to hear it from every other person in the damn building. I couldn’t take it anymore. I just had to get out of there.”

“Brooke, did you ever think that she’s afraid of disappointing you…and possibly losing you? You know, I’m not sure that Brain and I could work in the same office together.”

There was a moment of silence, leaving each woman to her own thoughts.

“Maybe…” Randi said hesitantly. “Maybe they just want to start some trouble for you. Maybe they’re trying to make your marriage more like their own,” Randi smirked. “Or maybe one of them wants you for herself?”

“Randi, that’s not funny.”

“I know, but it is a reason.” The sound of a sigh came from the receiver, “Brooke, marriage is a funny thing. There are no days off from it. You have to keep working at it to make it a success. By working at it I mean keeping the lines of communication open between you and Sam. Have you asked her about this or are you just going off on a tangent of your own with nothing but office gossip as your source of facts?

“NO, I haven’t asked Sam. Didn’t you hear me?” Brooke’s annoyance with the whole situation was beginning to show in her voice. “I said I had to get out of there for a while.”

“Okay, so you left and you’re thinking about it. Let the steam settle before you talk to her. Don’t go into this with your mind set on a conjecture that she’s tired of you,” Randi smirked. “Sis, marriages aren’t all hot sex and good times. Brian and I have had our little dry spells too. I’ll be the first one to tell you that if you want to stay married…you learn that compromise is one of the small things that keep it together and working.” Randi paused to let her words settle into her sister’s head before adding more. “You’re going down a path as a couple…with two minds, two bodies and two plans that are coming together slowly as one. You have to work at that becoming one spirit, more than just in the bedroom.”

“I know that, Randi.” Brooke took in a breath and let it go. “I haven’t…” she stopped and started over again. “I’ve been taking some…uh…vitamins lately and I guess I’m just edgy,” she mumbled out. “I can’t have any caffeine and my favorite fast food binds me up like…like an overflowing dam with no flood gate.” Her voice became almost a whisper, “I guess it kind of…uhm…plays with all of your hormones, too.”

“Plays with your hormones,” Randi repeated with a questioning tone. “Brooke, what are you talking about? No vitamin plays with your hormones. The only thing that does that is…”

Dead silence was all that could be heard on Brooke’s side of the receiver. “I guess it kind of…ah…makes me feel a little…uhm…horny too.”

“BROOKE, what the hell are you taking…fertility pills?”

Randi’s voice made the grown woman cringe. “Uhm…well…” she rubbed her temple and lowered her chin to her chest.

“That sounds just the way I was when we were trying to have Julie. Oh God, tell me now. Are you trying to get pregnant?”

“NO, I’m not trying to get pregnant, not really.” Brooke tried to make out the muffled reply that her sister uttered but couldn’t.

“Sorry about that, Brooke. One of my clerks interrupted me,” Randi let out a breath. “Whew! Well thank God you’re not pregnant. You hand me scared there for a minute.”

Brooke straightened up in her seat as the hackles on her neck rose. “Don’t you think I could have a kid if I wanted to?”

“I’m sure that you could. I just don’t think we could handle all of your mood swings. Have you talked to Terri lately, one minute she’s up, the next hour she’s crying her eyes out. She called me earlier today and thought that Rick was losing interest in her. She damn near balled her eyes out on the phone until I had to leave for a court date.”

“Really? She called me right after I hung up with you and said that she was having a wonderful day.”

“See what I mean? And you…Miss Intense-In-What-You’re-Doing, I could just see you being pregnant. Your swings would be second to none and ten times as bad.”

“Thanks, a lot,” Brooke retorted defensively.

“It’s the truth. I know you, Brooke. I’ve lived with you, remember?

“Yeah,” Brooke muttered under her breath.

“You’re always one hundred percent into whatever you do. I’d reconsider the source of that gossip. For what it’s worth, Brooke…knowing this…this vitamin story of yours, I’d reconsider taking any more unless you really need to.”

“I…ah…well,” Brooke fumbled for words.

“But hey,” Randi cut her off. “If you have too, enjoy the ah…” she cleared her throat, “horny times. Consider it a blessing for later on.” The sound of Randi’s laughter filtered in over the cell phone, “You know, when I got married a wise old woman told me a secret and I think she may have been right.”

“What secret?” Brooke looked at the phone warily.

“She told me that if you put a jelly bean in a pickle jar every time that you consummate your marital union during your first year, it will take you the rest of your married life to empty it in the same manner.”

“Damn, don’t tell me that.”

“Do you want to know who told me that?” Randi teased her sister.

“Who?” Brooke pulled the phone away from her ear as it started to hum.

“Our great grandmother…the one on Mom’s side.”

“No kidding. I hate to do this, Randi, but I’ve gotta go. There’s a call I’ve been waiting on and I think that’s them trying to get through now.”

“That’s okay, kid. That’s what big sisters are for. I’m just glad that I could help.”

“Randi,” Brooke sighed, “I’m sorry about earlier.”

“I know. Take care, Brooke and I’ll be here if you need me.”

“Thanks, Ran.” Brooke waited for her line to go dead before punching the talk button on her phone.

“Brooke Gordon,” her voice came out with an air of authority. Her smile broadened as she listened to the voice on the other end. “Ah…yes, I’ve been waiting for your call, Ms. Hawk.”

****

The sound of leather slapping against leather split through the air as Brooke’s jacket met her office furniture. “I’ll kill the whole damn lot of them,” Brooke cursed as she slammed her briefcase onto the wood of her desktop. She grabbed the phone on her desk from its cradle and punched in the office number that she desired.

“Peter.”

“Yeah, Boss Lady, what can I do for you this afternoon?”

“Get everyone from Accounting, Contracts, Ida, Sam and yourself into the conference room in three minutes. I’ve got a few things that we need to take care of.”

“Three minutes? You’ve got to be kidding. It will take me five minutes just to find them all.”

“Three minutes, Peter. Anyone who’s not there is suspended for a week without pay.”

“But Brooke, that’s…that’s…”

Brooke rolled her tongue around her teeth as she thought for a few seconds. “Can’t handle it? Okay, you get Contracts and Accounting, I’ll take care of the rest. That should make it easier for you to meet my time goal. Three minutes, Peter. Get cracking.”

Brooke didn’t wait for a reply. She pushed down on the speakerphone pad and punched in the next set of numbers.

“Sam.”

“You’re back.”

“Yep.” Brooke kept her tone as neutral as she could. “I need you and Ida to meet me in the conference room in three minutes.”

“Me and Ida? Something up?”

“Yes, but I’ll explain it in there.”

“Okay, I’ll stop by Ida’s office and tell her. We’ll be there in just a few seconds.”

“Thanks.” Brooke let her finger hover above the disconnect button for a few seconds before letting her gut feelings take over her being. “Sam?”

“Yeah?”

Brooke took in a breath and calmed herself. “I love you, Darlin’.” The shy giggle that she heard over the speakerphone told her that Sam was smiling.

“God,” Sam sighed, “I love you too.”

****

Every employee that filed into the conference room noticed the C.E.O. standing off to one corner. Brooke wore the stoic mask of a poker player as she kept one eye on the clock above the door and the other on the seats that were quickly filling up. It was funny how fast some people could move when their jobs were on the line. With only fifteen seconds of time left to her mandated deadline, only one chair remained empty. The din of conversation ceased as the boss’s blue eyes roamed over each face. She saved the faceless space of the unfilled chair for last before raising her gaze to the clock one last time. The final sweep of the dial had only five seconds left to mark when the voice inside of Brooke’s head started to count them down. Four, three, two, one…

“First things first,” Brooke looked at her employees. “Peter.”

“Yo, Boss,” the man came sliding in the door just as the second hand of the clock came to its mark. He smiled sheepishly and took the only seat left, across from Sam and Ida, near the head of the conference table.

Brooke cocked her head to the side as she watched the man take his seat. “I asked you last week to prepare a proposal for that local band. Did you turn it into Contracts this morning?”

“Sure did,” Peter said with a nod. “Bright and early this morning.”

“Linda,” blue eyes gazed to the young woman wearing glasses in the rear of the room, “did you receive that said proposal?”

“Yeah, we did.” She straightened her glasses on her face, “We looked it over briefly but haven’t had the time to review it formally for…”

“BULLSHIT!” The words thundered out of Brooke’s mouth. “You haven’t even looked at it to see that I reviewed it myself after Peter completed it.”

“What?” The employee fidgeted in her seat as she watched the C.E.O. turn to the dry erase board in the front of the room and write out a figure on it.

Brooke’s eyes focused on the bright red until she could see it for what it was, $400,000.00 of her company’s money. She turned to address the room full of employees. “Let me explain something to you. The music business is all about timing for both the talent and record company. They want to be stars and we want to catch them at just the right moment so that we can make a profit without investing too much capital on them.” She looked around the room to make sure everyone was following her. “I’ve been following the rise of a local, three piece, all girl band for some time now. I spoke to a representative from Hawk Entertainment about 30 minutes ago.” She saw the look of anticipation in all of their eyes. “It seems that the proposal that I personally promised she would have in her hands by noon today didn’t make its way there.” She turned and stared directly at the bespectacled woman at the far end of the conference table. “Linda, would you care to explain why to me?”

“Why?” The woman’s voices sounded strained. “I…ah…I didn’t have time to research the band’s track record or to check for any other existing contracts under any of the other labels.” She leaned forward in her chair and her voice took on a defensive tone. “It takes a little time to find out that kind of information, you know.”

“Hello…” Brooke met the woman’s gaze, “are you listening to me?” A dark eyebrow arched high on her forehead. “It was reviewed and approved by me, the C.E.O. All you had to do was get it typed up on the company letterhead and have a courier deliver it with the check that was already approved and waiting for you in Accounting.”

Brooke came to the head of the conference table and leaned on it, letting her fingers spread out on the highly polished wood. “Now, let me ask you again, why wasn’t it done?”

“I was busy.” Linda stated trying to lessen the coldness of her boss’s icy blue stare. “I had some other things that I was working on…digging for more information.”

Brooke’s mouth quirked into frown. “But there were no other existing contracts. Peter and I had already done your job for you on this one.” She saw Linda’s mouth open in challenge.

“But I…”

“Oh right,” Brooke pointed a finger at the woman. “You didn’t see that memo on the proposal.” She turned to her office manager and fired off an order. “Ida, make sure that we have all intra-departmental memos on fluorescent colored stationary from now on. I wouldn’t want another mistake like this to send us into near ruin…” Brooke’s icy cold glare settled back on Linda, “professionally or personally.”

“What?” Peter sat up in his chair.

“Huh?” Sam looked around the room full of questioning faces and then to her wife.

The rasping whispers of speculation flew around the room for a moment until Brooke turned the focus of her employees back to her. “I can see that you haven’t hit all of the others yet, Linda. I guess it takes you just as long to do your work as it does to be running your mouth off about my personal life with my wife.”

“What?” Slack-jawed, Sam turned to stare at the woman.

The anger was evident in Brooke’s demeanor as her fist struck the wood table with a loud thud. “Do you have any fucking idea how much money you just cost me because you were too busy sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong instead of doing your job?” The C.E.O.’s nostrils flared with each breath that she took as she stared the woman down.

“Sounds like four hundred thousand to me,” Peter mumbled out without realizing it.

Brooke’s gaze snapped over to the man, “Wrong. Four hundred thousand is what another recording company offered to Hawk Entertainment to sign the group with them after our offer of three hundred thousand. I had to double the offer and promise to have the contract in their hands by five today.” Brooke looked up to the clock on the wall. “It’s now four.”

“Oh shit!” Linda squeezed her eyes shut in anguish. “I’ll get right on that,” she started to get up from her chair.

“No.” Brooke snapped. “Sit down.”

The C.E.O turned her gaze to her trusted office manager. “Ida, will you please get that folder from Linda’s desk? See that the numbers are adjusted to reflect the new offer when you type it up on the company letterhead. I’ll have Accounting void that first check and cut us a new one.”

Ida pushed her chair away from the table, “’I’m on it, Boss.”

“Gerry, if you’d please,” Brooke turned to a bookish looking woman with an open denim shirt over a faded tank top.

“Gottcha, Boss.” The woman pushed off her chair and jumped into action as if her very life depended on it.

“I’ll be ready for that check in fifteen,” Ida called over her shoulder as she headed out the conference room door.

Gerry was gaining on Ida as she neared the doorway. “Ten, that’s all I need and I’ll arrange for the messenger.”

“Thank you.” The sincere smile on Brooke’s face reflected her trust in the people that she had called upon.

As Brooke turned back to the matter at hand, the stoic mask once again slipped into place. “Linda, your gossip about our sex life not only cost me a headache and a piss poor attitude, but it also cost this company five hundred thousand dollars more than what was already agreed upon. That’s half of a million dollars your mouth has cost me today. What do you possibly have to say for yourself?”

The woman sat there for a moment before dropping her chin and mumbling out, “Sorry.”

“Sorry, huh?” Brooke shook her head. “One word from you and that’s supposed to change everything?”

“Well, yeah.” Linda saw the raised eyebrow on Brooke’s forehead and felt compelled at the challenge. “It was too good to pass up. I mean…we’ve never had a reason to talk about you until Sam came along. Hey, this was concrete, not like all the speculations in the years past,” she tried to justify her actions.

“Well, I hope it was worth the extra five hundred thousand that it cost me.” Brooke leaned back onto the table and let her gaze roam around the room. “Now, listen up, everyone. I don’t like hearing anyone talk about my wife.” Her eyes narrowed, looking more like ice filled slits than anything. “I don’t like being upset about anything dealing with my personal life or our life together as a couple. I won’t tolerate it now or in the future.”

“Okay, so is this where you tell me I’m fired?” Linda crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her employer.

“Do you honestly believe I should keep you after you cost me a total of over three quarters of a million dollars?” Brooke pushed herself off of the table and looked around the room. “Would you keep someone employed if they cost you that much money?” Her gaze settled on Sam for a long moment before turning her gaze back to Linda. “I suggest that you take the next week off without pay. I’ll set up a meeting with a review board and…”

“Review board?” Linda interrupted her boss. “And who is going to be on it…all of your pets? I might as well quit now and save you the trouble,” the woman stood up and started for the door.

“What I do on my time with my company is my business. What bullshit you talk about on my time is also my business.” Brooke’s long legs crossed the distance to the door and she turned to meet Linda face to face. “Do you want to do this now? They’re all assembled. They can all have a say, your friends included,” Brooke offered.

“I guess that first amendment about free speech doesn’t apply here, huh?” Linda straightened up to her full five foot nine height.

“It has nothing to do with free speech, Linda. What you did was slander and the time you spent gossiping over that damn water cooler is what cost this company money.” Brooke rose in stature to meet the challenge. “Now, do you want to review this today or next week?”

There was a moment of charged air between them as one gaze pinned the other. “Never. I’m out of here. Go find another one of your family or friends to work for you.”

Brooke filled the doorway with her presence as Linda tried to get past her. “Oh no, you don’t get out of it that easy. Peter,” she called out, “Get my attorney on the speaker phone.”

Linda glanced over to Peter as he punched in the numbers on the phone, then to Sam and she shook her head. “This isn’t a debtor’s prison the last time I checked.” She leveled her gaze back at her boss. “You can’t keep me here.”

“Brooke,” Peter tried for his boss’s attention, “I’ve got your lawyer on the phone.” He pressed the button and placed the call on speaker, then proceeded to hang up the receiver.

The C.E.O. spoke loud enough for her voice to carry to the phone, “Hey, it’s Brooke here and I need a quick question answered.”

“Sure, Brooke. Let me hear it.”

“I have a woman who, while being employed by this company, was given a contract to get out this morning but, because of her need to gossip rather than work, she cost me a total of eight hundred thousand dollars in renegotiations by not doing her job.”

“Are you looking to recoup that, Brooke?”

The C.E.O. toyed with the idea for a moment. “Something like that.”

“Hmm…did she quit? That could give us all kinds of avenues for litigation. We could sue and try to recoup in that venue. Just give me the word and I could get my investigators on it right away, see what we can dig up on her.”

Brooke turned to Linda and asked her point blank, “Okay Linda, it’s your call. What’s it going to be?”

Linda’s heart filled with panic at the sight of blue eyes staring at her again. Out of reflex she gulped as she tried to calm her jangled nerves. Resigning herself to her fate, she nodded a time or two before letting her chin hang down to her chest in regret. “Forget the review board. Just tell me what you want, Brooke.”

“First of all…I want you to apologize to Sam for sticking your nose where it didn’t belong.” Blue eyes shifted to green with a look of sorrow. A second later Brooke was looking back at the employee in front of her. “Then,” Brooke sighed, “we’ll discuss how you’re going to help me reclaim my other five hundred thousand.”

****

Sam nestled into the pile of pillows on the king size bed and leisurely flipped through the pages of her book. It felt good to finally enjoy reading for reading sake, instead of memorizing every word for fear of failure. She closed the book and leaned over toward the nightstand, filing the novel away for another night’s reading pleasure.

Lying back on the bed, she caught Brooke coming out of the bathroom with a terrycloth robe wrapped around her. By the look of her lover’s wet hair, Sam figured the robe was being used more to dry the tall woman’s body than for modesty’s sake. Sam watched patiently for her reward and wasn’t disappointed. The terrycloth robe momentarily gaped open revealing cleavage one time, a bit of thigh the next. Each step brought her lover closer to their bed and an even better view.

Suddenly Sam knew what it felt like to have her libido thrust into gear. Whoa! What a rush. So this is what a sports car feels like going from zero to sixty in three point two seconds. The coy smile on her face slowly turned into a look of concern as Sam watched the tall woman stop at the bed, falling face down on the mattress next to her.

“Would you like a back rub, Brooke?” Sam’s hand gently ran over the cloth covered, broad shoulders. “It might help to get all that tension from today out of you,” she offered her wife.

“No Sam, but thanks for offering,” Brooke’s words were muffled by her pillow. “I’m too tired.” She shifted her weight onto one hip and turned her head to face her wife. “Besides, I’m not as tense as I was earlier today.”

“Well, that’s good to hear.”

“So was Linda’s apology,” Brooke mustered a smile. “Thanks for being such a diplomat with her.”

Sam looked up to the ceiling and sighed. “I didn’t really know what to say afterward, except to acknowledge it.”

“There wasn’t much left to say, Darlin’,” Brooke yawned. “Speaking of acknowledging things…remind me to thank Peter and Eddie. That was a lot of fun playing with them tonight, even if I did have to let Eddie play the drums for most of the jamming session.” Brooke ran her thumb over the calluses on her fingertips. “I guess I’d better bone up on my guitar playing for the next time we…” She covered her mouth to hold back another escaping yawn, “Sorry. Before we get to jamming together.”

“It was a lot of fun watching you play and sing tonight. You take on a whole different look behind that electric guitar.” Sam’s smile grew bigger as she replayed her wife’s image in her head. Good thing you played the drums as Loran. I don’t think I could have handled how sexy you look as a guitarist. Sam felt a warm rush come over her. “I think it…ah…even relaxed me.”

“Oh yeah?” Brooke looked over to her wife.

“Yeah,” Sam winked, then turned onto her side facing Brooke. “Care to help me relax even more?” She whispered, brushing her cheek against her wife’s, then kissing the soft, clean skin.

“Darlin’,” Brooke purred at Sam’s touch. “I really don’t think I can…right now. I’m just so…” she buried a yawn into her pillow, “so tired.”

“That’s okay, Hon, you just rest.” Sam put a piece of stray hair back into place behind Brooke’s ear. She admired the woman’s features as Brooke lay there with her eyes closed. “Hey, did I tell you I made that appointment with Dr. Dennison for us? We’re all set with your first ultrasound for the end of the week. She wants to start keeping an eye on that crop of yours.”

Sam waited for a response from her wife, but there wasn’t any. Instead, the soft sound of the woman’s rhythmic breathing was all that she heard. Damn, she’s asleep already. Sam reached down and pulled the comforter up over them both, tucking it around the other side of Brooke, then snuggled in as close as she could next to her wife.

“Thanks, Petey,” Sam mumbled out. “I know my secret is safe with you.” She thought about that for a moment as an image of Brooke’s mother came into her mind. Hmm…and you too, Mom, if it’s only that we’re trying to get pregnant.

The young woman strained to half-open her eyes, allowing Brooke’s likeness to fill her head before following her wife into slumber.
Installment 2–8 — The Gathering Begins
“I can’t believe it took us this long to get home from Richmond. I never thought it would take us four hours with you behind the wheel.” Sam got out of the SUV and stretched.

“Yeah,” Brooke grimaced, “I could have gotten us home a lot sooner if it hadn’t been for that state trooper.”

“Brooke, you can’t drive on the median. If he had let you, everyone in that traffic jam would have tried too.”

“Well, maybe they should have a second roadway right next to Interstate 64 for when there are over-turned trucks blocking the road,” Brooke sneered. “All I know is that it’s murder for someone with a lead foot to have to sit and wait.” Brooke got out of the vehicle and made her way around to the passenger’s side. “Two hours and twenty-seven minutes, Sam. Do you know what we could have done with that time?”

“Hmm…” Sam gave it a moment of thought. “Have dinner with a beautiful woman?” She teased her wife with a coy smile and began walking toward their front door. “Speaking of which, I think we still have some leftovers from the other night at your Mom’s.”

Blue eyes followed the blonde’s form as it climbed the steps and crossed the small porch to the door. “Yeah, lasagna,” she grumbled. “Just what I need.”

****

It was unusual for Sam to have so much room in the shower and it definitely got her mind thinking. When was the last time that I took a shower by myself? Blonde brows creased as she strained to remember. The dorm room, she smirked, the day that I moved out. That was the last time I took a shower or bath by myself. Well, at least that was the last time by myself except for when Brooke was out of town.

The sensation felt about as foreign to her now as staying at her parents’ house would be. Over the course of the last four years her life had changed. In fact, the last six months had completely turned her life upside down. From showing that she could be self-sufficient, to becoming an integral part of someone else’s life was beyond belief. Who would have ever dreamed she’d be here when the decision to live in the dorm her last year of college had crossed her mind.

Sam turned off the shower spray and reached out for her towel. After running it through her short hair a time or two, she stepped out of the shower and quickly dried her body. After a few passes of a comb through her unruly blonde locks, Sam pulled her nightshirt on and emerged from the steamed confines of the bathroom.

The change in temperature from one room to the other should have been Sam’s first indication of the ever-changing atmosphere around her. The hot and spouting woman that she’d left before her shower was now lying on their king sized bed hugging Mario and acting all sullen and pouting. “What’s up with the glum face, Hon?” Sam came over and sat down on the bed. “You’re not having second thoughts, are you?”

Brooke continued petting the Husky as she shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno…”

“I would think you’d be happy that your part will be over after tomorrow.”

“Don’t you mean you will be happy it’ll be over tomorrow?” Brook glanced over to see her wife’s reaction. “And no, I’m not having second thoughts at all.”

Sam was caught off guard by the statement. She stared into space and blinked several times as she tried to understand exactly what Brooke was saying. Okay, hormones shifting gears here, be ready for anything. Sam cleared her throat. “If that means having you back to your old self again, then yeah, that’s what I mean.”

“My old self,” Brooke mumbled under her breath as she leaned in toward Mario and whispered in his ear. “You still love me, don’t ya’, fellow?”

A nuzzling nose under her chin and a quickly swiped tongue on her neck was Mario’s answer to his owner’s question.

Okay, tread lightly here. Sam looked away to compose herself. “Brooke, if this doesn’t work for us…” she stopped quickly when blue eyes shifted to her with a penetrating stare. The look on her wife’s face was a cross between hurt and challenge. “I mean…there are other ways for us to have a baby.”

“I’m not having second thoughts about this,” Brooke snapped. “Are you?”

Sam rubbed the back of her neck and squinted as she searched for a tactful approach to the whole situation. “No, I told you that I’d carry the baby, Brooke. It’s just that…”

“That you need a break?” Brooke snarled her lip with the last word.

“What?” Sam shot back without thinking, her voice just short of a yell.

The sound startled the dog, his head turning in her direction.

Brooke wrapped her arm around the animal trying to calm him. “I heard that comment you made to Dr. Dennison when we were leaving her office. ‘I’ll be glad for the break,’ you said.”

“I did say that, didn’t I?” Sam sighed. “Sorry, Babe. I didn’t think you heard that.”

“I may have been a rock star, Sam, but there’s nothing wrong with my hearing.” The woman pouted even more, turning to exclude Sam from her view.

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy making love with you, Brooke.” Sam reached out and touched her wife’s shoulder. “It’s just that I…ah…we’ve just been doing it a lot lately…since the hormones.”

“Sam…” Brooke hesitated for a second. “Why don’t we just stop this whole conversation while we’re still able to talk to one another. Besides, I need to get some sleep.” Brooke leaned over to Mario and placed a kiss on his fur. “Okay Boy, time for bed.” She gave the dog one last pet and then nudged him from where he lay.

Sam sighed seeing the look of disappointment on Brooke’s face. “I…” she started to speak but stopped when she saw her wife slip under the covers and face away from her. “Yeah, good idea, Hon, we’ll both need our sleep for tomorrow. It’s going to be an early one, too. I wish we could have met with the members of 757-GIRL on another day.”

“Yeah, being an up and coming band means that you work a job to put food on your table and a roof over your head while all your playing money goes to equipment and transportation to get to the gigs each night. Tomorrow morning is the only time this week that the girls are all available.”

“Even after that whopping big check you handed them?”

“Hmph!” Brooke smirked. “That’s tour money if they want to make it bigger. When they’re on tour, they can’t deliver pizza or work a job like they do now.” Brooke sighed as the old days flashed vividly through her head. “There’s a lot more to becoming a rock star than just singing a few songs and signing a contract, Sam.”

“I guess I’m still learning about what makes up a rock star.” Sam stood up from the bed and gazed over admiringly at Brooke’s back. And even some ex-rock stars too. She’s nothing like the idol I had plastered all over my walls. That leather clad woman full of bravado wasn’t what turned me on, it was this…Sam sighed. Her gentleness, her caring…she smirked, Heck, I even have a soft spot in my heart for her moodiness.

Sam waited for Mario to curl up into a ball at the foot of the bed before getting under the covers and turning off the light. She laid there for a long moment just staring up into the darkened ceiling of the room. “Brooke?”

“Hmm…?”

“Could I…could you…” Sam wrestled with her thoughts. “Can we sleep like we always do?” She held her breath for a few seconds until the shifting of Brooke’s body could be felt on her side of the bed.

Lying on her back now, Brooke opened her arms and readily accepted Sam as she moved into her favorite sleeping position, using Brooke’s shoulder as her pillow. After Sam was snuggled into place, a tiny whisper came floating to Brooke’s ear to set her world right again.

“I love you, Brooke.” Sam held her breath and waited for the familiar rumble in her lover’s chest.

“I love you too, Sam.”

Relishing in the thought, Sam moved her hand down to Brooke’s belly. “G’night, little one to be,” she whispered giving the taunt abdomen under her fingers a rub.

A smile came to Brooke’s face and she kissed the top of Sam’s head. “You know, pretty soon I could be doing that to you.” She could feel the gentle smile come to her lover’s cheeks as Sam nuzzled into her shoulder again.

“Yeah, only my stomach will be getting bigger with each good night that you say.”

“You never answered me from earlier. Are you having any second thoughts about the baby…or me?”

“You? Why would I have second thoughts about you?” Sam could feel her wife’s shoulder shift under her head.

“I don’t know. I guess I just wasn’t too sure after that comment in the doctor’s office.”

“Oh…” Tell me it wasn’t that ‘break’ comment. I should have known that she wouldn’t let it go. “I’m sorry, Brooke, it’s not that making love with you every couple of hours isn’t good…it’s just that…” Sam shrugged, “It’s tiring.”

“You should have told me, Sam.” Brooke’s voice became somber sounding. “I guess that part of what Linda said was true.”

“Brooke, I really liked it…for the first hundred or so times these last two months. I don’t know how those rabbits do it. No wonder the battery company picked a bunny for its ad campaign.” Sam tried to make light of the situation but it wasn’t working. Brooke hadn’t even smiled at her feeble attempt at humor. “Sorry, it was a bad joke. I guess I didn’t say anything because I knew you needed it. I mean, the hormones kind of did that to you. We’re in this together, Brooke…you, me, the whole baby idea. Whatever it takes, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember,” the words came rather dryly out of Brooke’s mouth.

Sam raised her head up and gazed into the darkness where she thought Brooke’s face would be. “I love you. I committed myself to you…to our life together.” Sam leaned in closer until she could feel Brooke’s breath on her face. “How could I hold the influence of the hormones against you when I know why you’re doing it.” Sam closed her eyes. “Why we’re doing it,” she amended her previous statement before placing a kiss on Brooke’s lips. “Who knows, Hon, maybe you won’t find me attractive and desirable at all when I’m big and fat?”

“Never,” Brooke defended her attraction to Sam.

“Well, that’s comforting since you are one of the best lover’s I’ve ever had,” Sam said teasingly.

“One of the best?” Brooke shifted her position to be able to stare at Sam.

“Well, you are the best. I mean…seeing that you’re my one and only lover.”

“Uh-huh…suckin’ up, huh?” Brooke pulled Sam closer to her body, as a grin came to her face. She could almost feel the devilish look on Sam’s face.

“Is that my cue?” Sam said taking her hand off Brooke’s abdomen.

“You’re cue?”

“Yeah, because if it is…” Sam began to play with Brooke’s nipple. “I think I could muster up enough strength for a little…” her mouth dropped over Brooke’s nipple and tugged at it gently before continuing with her thought, “sucking up.”

“Oh no you don’t,” Brooke strained to keep the roiling emotions from her speech. “Remember, you needed a break.”

“Hmm…” Sam sighed. “You’re right, I do.” She rolled a raised nipple between her fingers. “But I never said that you needed one.” Sam tapped her finger on top of an ever-hardening nub. Under her head, she could hear a gulp starting from the base of Brooke’s throat and it made Sam giggle.

“Now that you’ve got me there, Darlin’, what are you going to do with me?”

“Decisions, decisions,” Sam purred sensing the growing anticipation in her lover’s body.

****

Sam looked over to Brooke as she stood next to the rear tailgate of their SUV. If Sam didn’t know better, she’d think that the tired, slightly haggard looking woman was on the verge of coming down with something. The bags under those blue eyes could have held all the clothes that they needed for an overnight stay, instead of the small suitcase that Sam was carrying.

The drained look on Brooke’s face was quickly replaced by a smile and twinkling blue eyes as Sam came into her view. She raised the commuter mug of decaf coffee in her hand and waited for Sam to give her the bag.

“Are you sure you’re rested enough to drive, Brooke?” Concern filled Sam’s face. “I could…thanks,” Sam handed the suitcase to her wife.

“No, Baby, I’m fine.” The smile intensified as Brooke stared into Sam’s eyes for a second or two before putting the suitcase in and closing up the tailgate. “It’s not that long of a drive to work this morning, besides, I got an hour or two of sleep after that all night love fest we had,” she grinned, “ and I’ve got my coffee.” She looked down into the cup, “You know, once you get used to it, decaf isn’t any worse than drinking colored, warm tap water.”

“Face it, Hon,” Sam laughed, “nothing is a long drive with you behind the wheel.” Sam gave Brooke the once over, “I see you have your leaded shoes on again today.”

“Har, har,” Brooke sat her coffee cup down on the rear bumper. “Come here, Smartass.” She grabbed her wife by the hand and pulled her back into her arms, lifting her feet up off the ground. A second later, they were engaged in a kiss.

“Mmm…I love you, Beautiful,” Brooke whispered as their lips parted. “I love being loved into the wee hours of the morning by you.”

“Now that compliment,” Sam closed her eyes again, “I can take every minute of the day.”

“And I could…” Brooke’s face soured with the sound of her cell phone ringing. “Damn it. Who’d be calling me this early?” She pulled it from her pocket and looked at the caller ID. When she recognized the number her lips quirked into a silly grin. “Sam, it’s your Dad.” Brooke offered her wife the phone.

A curious look of surprise came to Sam’s face as she took the phone and brought it up to her ear. “Daddy?”

“Hey, Sammi.” The man’s voice sounded surprised, “I thought I had called Brooke’s number.”

“You did. We just happen to be together a lot since we drive in to work every morning.” Sam winked at Brooke. “She saw the number and handed it to me. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind? Me?” Samuel teased his daughter. “Not at all. I’ll gladly talk to any of my daughters, even the one that calls herself your wife,” he laughed.

Sam looked over to Brooke and smiled. “I’ll make sure that I tell her that when I finish here.”

“Heck, Sammi, I’ll tell her myself. I owe that woman a lot for bringing my family together again.”

“I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear that.” Sam giggled at the curious look her mate was giving her. “Shh! We’d better stop talking about her or we’ll be responsible for her paranoia.”

“I don’t ever think anything could make her that way. Not with you around to ground her.”

“Thanks, Daddy.” A shy smile came to Sam’s face as the compliment settled in. She looked up to see a slow rising eyebrow on her wife’s forehead. “Okay, so now that we’ve officially peaked Brooke’s interest in our conversation,” Sam turned, placing her back to her wife, “why did you really call?”

There was a moment of hesitant silence before Samuel started to talk. “I know how busy the two of you are, but I…we…” he took in a deep breath, “Your mother and I would like it if both of you could come by the house for dinner sometime.”

Hearing the words, Sam turned her head and green eyes shifted slowly toward Brooke. “You’re inviting us for dinner? I…ah…”

“Sammi,” his tone was sympathetic and nurturing, “your mother does want to have you both here. Actually it was her idea for me to invite you.” Samuel paused for a beat. “She’s trying, Sammi. Don’t shut the door on her now.”

“She shut that door a long time ago, Dad. It wasn’t me.”

“I know that Princess, but sometimes…” he paused as if to pick his words. “Sometimes life just makes us do things we wouldn’t normally do.”

“Exactly,” Sam’s face tightened for a second and she closed her eyes. “As long as Mother knows there are more feelings then just mine and hers on the line here.”

“She does, Sammi. She does.” Samuel cleared his throat. “When do you think your schedules could permit dinner at the Moleson house?”

Brooke watched silently while her wife bit at her lower lip as she thought. She came up behind her and rested a comforting hand on Sam’s shoulder. When their eyes met, the pensive expression on Sam faded and the answer was evident to them both.

“As a matter of fact, Daddy, we’ll both be in the Richmond area later today. We could stop in if that’s alright with you and Mother.”

“Oh, Princess, this…this is…” a muffled sound like someone sniffing came across the connection. “I’ll tell your mother. She’ll be just as excited as I am to see you both tonight. Will you be able to have dinner with us? Say around six or so?”

Sam looked to Brooke for confirmation. “Yeah, Daddy, we could do that. Just remember that we’ll still have to drive back home here, so we won’t be able to stay all evening.”

The sound of Samuel’s laughter could be heard. “Yes, I get your drift, Sammi. I’ll tell your Mother to make it a simple meal.”

“Thanks, Daddy.”

“Just give us a call when you’re near the house. We’ll be waiting for you with open arms,” he chuckled. “All four of them. You have a good day, Princess, and tell that beautiful woman of yours hello for me.”

Sam turned a beaming smile in Brooke’s direction as she answered him back. “I sure will, Daddy. We’ll see you tonight.”

She closed the connection and wrapped her arm around Brooke’s waist as they walked around the vehicle to the passenger side. “My Dad sends his greetings and he’s right, you are a beautiful woman.”

Brooke pulled back and stared at Sam for a moment then settled back into their walk, bumping their hips together as best she could with their height difference. “Ahhh…you’re just biased cause you luuuuuuuuuuv me.” The spark of carefree bliss set the woman into a rousing imitation of Sandra Bullock’s character in Miss Congeniality. “You think I’m gorgeous. You wanna kiss me. You wanna date me. You wanna luuuuuuuuuuv me.”

“You’re right,” Sam couldn’t hold back her laughter. “You’re absofuckinglutely right.” She stepped in front of Brooke and pulled her into a kiss.

****

The early morning meeting with their newly signed recording artists, 757-GIRL, turned into more of a photo opportunity than Brooke had ever expected. The all girl band took to the cameras better than she’d hoped for. Each woman showed a different, intriguing side of herself that pulled you in and made you want to know more about them. They had salability and that was obvious.

Sam stood by the wayside and watched as upcoming celebrities met old ones. The group’s bassist was easily in awe of Peter when they were introduced and a flurry of rhythmic bass notes were exchanged in the form of “ba-bah-bams” between them.

“Brooke, what the heck are they doing?” Sam asked as the others looked on.

The C.E.O. smiled fondly, “They’re communicating.” Brooke turned to see the questioning look on her PR Manager’s face. “That’s how bassists greet one another. Ba-bah-bams,” she imitated them using no particular song rhythm.

“Oh…” Sam’s brows furrowed, “right.” There was silence for a moment as Sam contemplated her next question. “And drummers do…what?” She looked over to Brooke.

Rhythmic slaps of three sets of hands beat out the timing of a burlesque drum roll leading into a punch line and was immediately followed by the blending of just as many voices, “We keep the beat.”

The three musicians standing around Sam laughed easily at the unrehearsed act.

“Not bad, Brea…Carrie,” Brooke smiled at them. “But I thought your group didn’t have a drummer.”

“It really doesn’t, but Carrie and I have backgrounds on the skins.”

Brooke shot a teasing glance over at Sam. “Better not let my wife hear that, she’s got a thing for drummers.”

“Only one drummer…and I married her, thank you,” Sam flashed a satisfied smile.

“Damn! Two more off the market and I didn’t even get a shot,” Carrie teased. “Now who am I going to be accused of putting the make on?” She turned her gaze loose on the room full of company employees and flashed an inviting smile.

The C.E.O. watched as 757-GIRL’s lead guitarist’s roaming gaze stopped moving and pinpointed one employee in particular. Brooke followed her gaze to see who it was. Damn, of all the employees, she had to pick that one.

“That one in the denim shirt’s not too bad,” Carrie leaned into Sam and whispered. “What do you think? Can you set me up?”

Sam looked into the group of employees and locked onto the denim shirt. She raised her gaze to the woman’s face. The audible gasp came about the same time that it registered in her brain. Linda! Green eyes averted in Brooke’s direction. “She’s…she’s…”

Turning so that her lips couldn’t be read by anyone, Brooke placed her hand on the dark headed musician’s shoulder. “She comes with a price Carrie, and that’s more than you can afford at this point in your career.” Brooke leaned into the woman and whispered, “Do yourself a favor and pass on this one.”

“Really?” Carrie looked first to Brooke and then to Linda. “Damn!”

“Well, I hate to break up this session of ‘matchmaker goes a-rocking’, but I got to get to work.” Brea looked over to Angela, “Baby, you can stop that thumping now. We’ll let you guys talk again real soon.” She turned back to Brooke. “It’s going to be nice working with you and the rest of your group here. Thanks for giving us the grand tour and welcoming us proper like.”

“It’s my pleasure, Brea.” Brooke reached out and shook the woman’s hand. “I’m looking forward to working with you and 757-GIRL for a long time.”

“Speaking of time…” Brea looked over to the watch on Sam’s wrist, “We have got to get the lead out or I’m going to be late for my air time.” She saw the puzzled look on the PR Manager’s face. “I’m a DJ on the radio. You’ve got to pay the bills somehow until you hit it big,” she smiled politely.

“Well, let’s hope that won’t be for too much longer,” Brooke interjected. “Sam…” she turned to her wife, “If you’d be kind enough to show our new clients out, I’ll take care of wrapping things up here at the office before we head out to our next meeting.”

“No problem, Brooke.” Sam winked at her wife. “I’ll stop by your office when I’m done.” She turned her attention to the women of 757-GIRL, “Ladies…if you’ll follow me.”

“She called me a lady?” Carrie giggled as she took one last look around the room, singling the denim-clad woman out and giving her a cute little wave good-bye.

Seeing the child-like antics of the guitarist, the C.E.O. shook her head. “Kids…” she muttered under her breath as she watched them leave the studio. She then turned her attention to her employees. “Okay people, you’ve all met the new talent on our label, now let’s get back to work and make them stars. Ida,” she called her office manager by name.

“Yes, Boss?” The woman stepped aside to let the others continue out of the room.

“Sam and I will be heading up to Richmond in a few minutes. We’ve got a personal matter to take care of.”

“I saw that you blocked the rest of the day off your calendar for meetings,” Ida commented.

“That’s right,” Brooke nodded. “I can always expect you to be on top of things around here. Thanks, Ida. I’m sure that I don’t say it enough.”

“Hmm…” the older woman teased her boss, “I’ll send you a few memos every so often to remind you.” Ida shared a chuckle with her boss. “Don’t worry about it,” she winked. “Anything else on your mind?” Ida glanced over to see Linda at the end of the line of employees filing out of the room. “Anything…” she made eye contact with Brooke, “that I need to take care of for you?”

Brooke took in a breath and held it, before slowly letting it out. “No…at least not now. Just cover the office while we’re gone. Thanks, Ida.”

“You got it, Brooke.” Ida turned and waited for the last few employees to file out of the room past her.

“Say, Ida?” Brooke tapped her lips with a finger as she thought. “I’m expecting a call from Eddie as soon as he gets into Richmond today. If he calls in here, tell him that we’ve already left and our appointment is at one. He can reach us by cell phone if he needs us. ” Brooke flashed her employee a lop-sided smile, “You too, if you really need me.”

Ida saluted her boss as she filed in line behind Linda, “Copy that, Boss. I’ll batten down the hatches and ride out the storm.”

“You were at Nauticus again,” Brooke rolled her eyes and sighed, “weren’t you? I swear you’re going to own that museum by the time you retire.” The executive followed the woman into the hall and closed the studio’s door. “Oh, and Ida…just in case my cell phone dies again, I left the phone number where we’ll be on your rolodex.”

“Hey Boss,” Peter came down the hallway. “I got one thing that I need you to sign off on.”

“I’m in a hurry, so make it fast. What’s the skinny?” Brooke never slowed her pace, expecting Peter to follow her.

“It’s a release date for Line of Fire’s CD. I know that Sam’s working on the PR for it and I wanted to give her enough time to feel comfortable with it.” He looked over to his friend, “I was thinking about this coming Monday but I’m…I’m not sure that’s a good time for a…” he looked up and down the hallway making sure that no one was listening, “for Sam.” Peter motioned with his head and nonchalantly patted his belly. “You know…”

“Oh, right.” Brooke made an executive decision on behalf of her employee and wife. “Better make that for next Friday. I’ll tell Sam to rent a hall if she has to for a CD release gig and party. Thanks for thinking of us, Peter. All of us,” Brooke halted her steps and made eye contact with her friend. “You’re still the best man, in my book,” she teased him.

There was a moment of silence between them as each felt secure with the others friendship.

“Well, I…I got to get going, Petey, thanks.” Brooke placed her hand on his shoulder and gave it a rub. “Rumors have it that I’m meeting an important heir this afternoon.” She gave him a quick wink and set her long legs in gear for her office.

****

Sam breezed past Ida’s open office and down the hallway, coming to an abrupt stop outside of the C.E.O.’s office. Her knuckles rapped against the door causing a soft knocking sound before Sam twisted the doorknob in her other hand and slowly opened Brooke’s door. “Are you ready to leave yet?” She took half a step inside the office. “I just have to grab my coat and I’m good to go.”

Dark hair swirled about Brooke’s shoulders as she pulled her jacket into place. “I just have to grab something from Ida and I’ll meet you at the door, Sam.”

“Great,” Sam flashed her wife a smile as she retreated back into the hallway and headed toward her office.

“Hey, Sam…” Brooke called out quickly as she sprinted to the door. “Sam?” She watched her wife turn around to look at her. “Peter gave me the release date for Line of Fire’s CD. I told him we’d plan a gig for them to celebrate it next Friday. You might want to take anything that you need to work on the event with you.”

“Thanks, Brooke. I’ll do that.”

After watching Sam disappear into her office, Brooke turned back and grabbed the rest of her things. With briefcase in hand, she headed into the hallway.

“Ida…” Brooke stuck her head into the opened doorway at the end of the hall. “Could you give me those pending contracts to look over? I may have some free time while we wait for our…I mean before our meeting in Richmond.”

“Here you go,” Ida handed over several folders to her boss. “I figured you would rather do something than just wait.” The Office Manager looked up to see an arched brow on Brooke’s forehead. “Hey, I know you lady…all too well.”

“Hmm…” Brooke’s deepening timber sounded more speculative then anything. “So you do.”

“And so do I,” Sam commented coming down the hall. “Cell phone check time, Hon.” She stopped outside the open door and waited.

Blue eyes rolled at the teasing. “I’ve got it right…” Brooke reached into her jacket pocket and pulled the phone out, brandishing it for all to see, “here.”

“Good job, Brooke. I’ll meet you in the parking lot.” Sam stuck her head into the doorway and smiled at Ida. “See you tomorrow Ida, and don’t forget it’s my turn to get the coffee.”

“Okay, Sam. I’ll remember that.”

“Me, too.” Sam glanced at the clock on Ida’s desk. “Is that the time?”

Ida reached for the clock and turned it toward her to read. “Yeah, it’s ten twenty-eight,” she said a matter of fact.

“You’d better get a move on, Brooke. We’re going to be late even with your ‘faster than the speed of light’ driving. Our appointment is at one.”

“Damn!” Brooke sat her briefcase down on the desk along with the cell phone in her other hand. She opened the clasps simultaneously on the briefcase with ease. With one hand opening the case, she used the other to reach for the offered folders in Ida’s possession. “Thanks, Ida.” She shoved them into the file section of her case, hurriedly secured them in place and closed the lid. A quick flick of the clasp resulted in the snapping sound of the lock as it secured the case shut. Brooke grabbed the handle and pulled the case from the desktop. “Later,” Brooke called out as she left the office and took off down the stairs.

The sound of booted footsteps practically running down the stairs brought a smile to Ida’s face. The woman got up from her desk and walked the short distance over to her window that faced their parking lot on the side of the building. Without fail, she could see Brooke bolting toward her SUV and Sam standing next to it. Before she knew it, the vehicle laid rubber as it pulled out into traffic and, in another few seconds, was completely out of her view.

“Just another one of the kids…I swear it.” Ida pondered as she turned to face her desk. In the sweeping of her gaze, she spotted Brooke’s cell phone and sighed. “Yeah, you remembered that phone…right up until the time you said you did,” she muttered under her breath. The woman looked over her shoulder at the fast moving traffic outside and shook her head. “What am I going to do with her?”

“Do with who, Ida?” Peter stuck his head into the office.

“Brooke, that’s who.” She pointed to the cell phone on her desk, “She told me that she’s expecting Eddie to call her. Now how’s that going to happen when she left her phone on my desk?”

Peter smirked, “He can always call Sam’s cell.” He watched as Ida shook her head. “What…Brooke’s rubbing off on her and she forgot her phone too?”

“Nope,” Ida sighed. “But if they’re going to where I think they are, it doesn’t matter. They won’t be allowed to have them turned on.”

Peter joined her in a sigh, “Damn! You’re right.”

****

Brooke looked around the pleasant but pristine waiting room, its décor and magazines now vaguely familiar after four visits in the last week. Unnerving, as it would normally be for her, it was getting to the point that she could relax and at least not disturb the others who were waiting patiently. She looked at the woman sitting next to her and smiled. Sam had been there each and every time, just like she was now, cool, collected calmer than a clam.

I’ve done this before, Brooke silently thought. Three times this week already, so it is nothing but a piece of cake. She picked up a magazine and started to flip through its pages without really looking at them. I just let Doc Dennison make me into a sundae, she passes that probe thingy over my abdomen and then she does her stuff. It’s over and I’m done. Brooke contemplated how easy it sounded. Yep, she nodded her head once. I just walk out after a nap and leave a little bit of me behind. My part will be done. Her mind focused on that little bit, and the thought started to scare her. Little bit? Hell, it’s a big bit of me…it’s my…Brooke looked over to her wife, it’s our future that I’m going to be leaving behind.

Suddenly the pleasant room seemed to close in on Brooke. She could feel her chest tightening, her anxiety over the procedure beginning to build. Her blue eyes darted around the room as Brooke tried to make sense out of her feelings. If this is how it feels to be a mother, I don’t think I want to be…

“Mrs. Gordon,” the nurse came to the doorway, looking directly at Brooke as a very loud gulp was heard. “You’re next,” she informed her and waited for any indication that she’d heard it. Seeing that there was no movement on Brooke’s part, the nurse averted her eyes to Sam.

“Brooke,” Sam patted her wife’s shoulder, “that’s us.” She waited until she saw Brooke blink, and then leaned in to whisper. “Are you ready for this?”

A nervous breath came out of her mouth the same time she tried to reply. “Yhh…Yeah,” she calmed her churning stomach with a swallow before looking over to Sam. “You coming?” Brooke extended her hand to her wife.

Green eyes sparkled as a warm smile came to Sam’s face. “We’re in this together, Babe. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” She took Brooke’s hand and together they rose from their chairs, each step carrying them closer to their goal.

****

Peter came off the elevator and into the hallway. Two steps later, he was grasping onto the doorframe of Ida’s office and lunging his upper body into her space. “Any word from Eddie yet?”

The woman looked up from her task, “No.”

“Oh well, it won’t be long then.” Peter pushed off the frame and stood there for a few seconds, deep in thought. “You want me to get you something to eat or…I could watch the phone for you,” he offered.

Begrudgingly Ida looked at the phone and sighed. “I do need to run an errand or two today.” She gazed over to Peter, sizing him up. “I guess you could relay that message just as well as I could.” Seeing the smile come to Peter’s face she made her mind up. “Okay,” she rose from her chair and walked over to where her coat hung on a pole in the corner of her office. “I’ll be back in an hour. Any information that you might need is in the rolodex on my desk,” she pointed to it. “You’ll find it under Brooke’s name with today’s date on it.” Ida turned to see the puzzled look on Peter’s face. “It’s something that she does so I can keep tabs on her when she’s out of the office. I’m used to her forgetting that damn cell phone. This way at a glance, I can always track her down. I just place a call to wherever she’s scheduled to be.”

“Ah…good idea. Maybe you’ll need to do that with me one day,” he smiled at her, puffing out his chest.

“Peter, you’ll have to own this company to be that important.” Her gaze drifted off from the man to the shadow of a person in the hall. “Yes?” Ida strained to see who it was.

“Well, I guess so…” Peter mumbled as he turned to leave. His sudden action was sent to a grinding halt as he bumped into another employee. “Whoa! Sorry, Linda.” He caught her before she could fall. “Heck, I didn’t even hear you walking up behind me. I didn’t mean to run into you like that.”

“That’s alright.” She gave him a weak smile as she brushed his hands away from her arm. “I’m fine.” Linda looked over to see Ida buttoning her coat. “I guess this is a bad time to go over those new procedures for getting contracts out.”

“Right now, yes. I’ll be back in an hour.” Ida grabbed her purse and threw the strap over her shoulder. “Leave it on my desk and I’ll look it over when I get back.”

“Okay,” Linda said, stepping out of the office manager’s way. “I’ll put it right on top of your desk blotter.” She watched as Ida hurried out the door and down the hallway. “If you have any questions,” she called out, “I’ll be downstairs in my office.”

“Gottcha,” Ida yelled back as she pushed open the fire exit door at the far end of the hallway. “I’ll let you know when I get back, Peter.” She locked Peter in a gaze for a second and gave the man a quick nod before she disappeared into the stairwell.

****

“Come on, Hon, this will be over before you know it.” Sam tugged at the shoulder of Brooke’s paper gown and smiled as she tried to keep her wife’s gaze from the covered tray of instruments next to the ultrasound machine. “See, same machine as last time. You’re an old pro at this by now.”

“Yeah,” came Brooke’s mindless reply. “Do you think…”

“That Dr. Dennison will give us a picture of the harvest for the baby’s book?” Sam eagerly completed Brooke’s thought.

“Well, that too…” Brooke fidgeted on the examination table. “I was thinking more along the lines of do you think that needle,” she shivered at the sound of the word, “is under that towel?”

Barely making out the long cylindrical shape, Sam knew what she had to do. “Hey, look at me.” She waited until blue eyes hesitantly shifted onto her. “I’m the one that’s going to go through with having the baby, not just the fun of picking it out.”

“Yeah,” Brooke mustered a forced smile. “They are gonna knock me out for this, aren’t they? I…I…” her gazed started to drift toward the draped tray, “I can’t remember what Doc Dennison said yesterday.”

Using her hand on Brooke’s cheek, Sam turned the attention away from the tray. “Well, they did say something about a sedative. I’ll ask when the…” Sam heard the sound of the door opening and looked over to see the doctor entering. “Don’t look now, Brooke but she’s here.” Sam flashed a bright smile in the doctor’s direction, “Hi, Doc Dennison.”

”Hey, how’s the mothers in tandem today?” The doctor came into the room and greeted her patients’ with a smile. “Brooke, are you up for the big day?” She turned and grabbed a bottle of gel out of the warmer, then grinned evilly as she held it up for all to see. “Feel like being made into another sundae?” The doctor squirted some out on the exposed skin of her forearm, testing its warmth. “Mmm…feels like a hot fudge one today.”

Sam giggled at the doctor’s humor, much to her wife’s chagrin.

“You’re going to knock me out, right? I don’t have to see that…that…” Brooke’s eyes darted to the covered tray of instruments.

The doctor watched her patient’s fixated gaze and a moment later it dawned on her. “Oh, the ne…” the doctor stopped short before saying the word as Sam’s face tightened and started to shake, “knock out stuff, huh? I told you that we would sedate you. A little Valium and you won’t be nervous at all. We’ll get the job done after that.” Dennison glanced over to Sam and gave her a wink. “Sam will tell you all about it afterwards.”

“Sure, Brooke.” Sam chimed in. “I’ll be right here the whole time, just like we talked about the other day.”

“Okay,” Brooke said hesitantly, trying to look more at ease. The next second her eyes got wider and she started babbling at Sam, “You’ll talk to Eddie when he calls, right? You’ll make sure that he gets here to do his part.”

“He’ll get here, don’t worry. In fact, he should be here in just a little while.” Sam patted her wife’s hand. “If I remember the plans correctly, his part doesn’t happen until a little later, so don’t worry.”

“But first,” the doctor leaned over and spoke softly, “we have to get you a little more relaxed.”

Brooke looked first to Sam and then to the doctor, “Uh…okay.” She tried to settle down onto the table. “Can we get this over with? I think the actuality of it all is making me more than just a little nervous.”

The doctor came closer to her patient and patted her hand. “That’s it, relax. We can get this all over with just as soon as I give you this.” She held up the syringe for Brooke to see.

“Sa-a-a-a-a-a-am!” Brooke’s eyes widened until white surrounded perfect blue orbs.

“I’m right here, Brooke.” Sam grasped her wife’s hand and held onto it. “Just a little prick and you’ll hardly feel a thing.”

“Great,” Brooke grumbled. “Just what I needed. Remind me of James right before I get drugs and then expect me to re…ouch!…lax.” Brooke looked down at the needle sticking out of her arm.

“See, I told you it would hardly hurt,” the doctor said as she administered the drug. “There,” she took the syringe away from Brooke’s arm, “that shouldn’t take long before you’re feeling more relaxed.”

“Relaxed?” Intense blue eyes glared at the physician. “You poke me with a harpoon and you want me to relax?”

“Brooke, it wasn’t a harpoon. I watched her myself,” Sam tried to reassure her wife.

“Don’t worry, Brooke. You just give that a minute or two and you’ll be as calm and ready to sleep as a newborn in her momma’s arms.” Dr. Dennison moved about the room getting things ready for the procedure. “You just let the drug take affect and don’t try to fight it.”

Sam held onto Brooke’s hand while she watched the tension in her wife’s face slowly ease as the drug began to work. Gradually, drooping eyelids played hide and seek with the blue of her favorite eyes.

“Sam…?”

“Yes, Hon, I’m right here,” she gave Brooke’s hand a gentle squeeze. Sam could feel the attempt to pull her closer as she watched her mate struggle to keep her eyes open. “Shh!” Sam brushed the hair off Brooke’s face, then leaned down to kiss her wife’s cheek. “Don’t fight it, Brooke. It’s just something to make you more comfortable.”

“Sa-aam,” the word was spoken in a lazy mouthed manner.

“Yes, Brooke?” Sam whispered in her wife’s ear.

“I…l-love…y-o-u,” Brooke’s words were drawn out and barely audible.

“I love you, too.” The sentiment in the woman’s words was evident as Sam gazed into Brooke’s childlike face. She waited until she saw that adorable little grin that Brooke always seemed to have when she told Sam she loved her. “Love you,” Sam whispered back then turned to face the waiting professional. “Okay, Doc, I think you’re on now.”

Dr. Dennison nodded as she pulled the ultrasound machine closer to her patient. After draping Brooke to expose her abdomen, she carefully lifted each of her patient’s feet and placed them into the stirrups. A moment later, she stood poised with the transducer in her hand. The doctor looked over to Sam and winked before leaning in to address Brooke’s abdomen. “It won’t be long now, little ones,” she said calmly, catching the pleased look on Sam’s face.

****

Peter came out of his office and headed down the hall toward the water fountain, unable to get the last song that he heard out of his mind. “Damn blue grass,” he mumbled coming up from taking a drink of the cool liquid. “Why did I even listen to that demo tape?” He quickly looked around to see if anyone could have heard his ramblings. “Good,” he sighed. “If Brooke ever heard that I was…” he paused when the sound of an office door opening caught his attention. He turned, looking in the direction that the sound had come from. “Linda…” he called to the figure in the hall. “Is Ida back already?” Peter glanced down to the watch on his left arm.

“Ah…I…ah…no, she’s not.” Linda tightened her grip on the notebook in her hand. “I just…dropped off a paper that was missing from the report that she wanted.”

“Hmm…” Peter nodded. “Okay, thanks. I know she’ll appreciate the work you’re putting into that.” He watched as the denim-clad woman forced a smile back at him, then turned to the stairwell door and proceeded through it. “Hmph!” Peter shrugged and shook his head. “What a piece of work,” he smirked. “I would have fired her ass and thrown it out into the street without even a second thought.”

Out of the blue, Peter stopped moving forward and pondered a thought. “Hmm…maybe you are growing up, Petey.” A silly, satisfied grin came to the man’s face as he straightened his pants and proceeded to his office.

****

The garbled, fuzzy words hanging in the air lazily filtered into Brooke’s head. Sounding more like a vinyl platter of years gone by set on a totally wrong speed selection. She could barely make out Sam’s soft laughter. Half words and phrases that didn’t make sense to her soon started filling her head. Slowly, they started taking on meaning.

Eddie…? Did I just hear Eddie’s name? Sam…where…Eddie? With her eyelids still set at half-mast, blue orbs fought to see the light of day. Brooke opened her mouth to speak but her tongue felt more like it had gone for a week’s long vacation in the Sahara Desert. She labored for a long minute to gather enough saliva in her mouth to wet her parched orifice. “Sam…” she croaked out with a hint of a cough, her throat dry and raspy. “Where…”

“I’m here, Brooke.” Sam touched her lips to her wife’s cheek. “How are you feeling?”

“Wha-a-at,” came Brooke’s lazy-lipped reply as one eyelid struggled hard to open.

Sam brushed her fingers lightly over Brooke’s forehead as she held the clinic’s phone and spoke into it. “How’s she doing?” Sam repeated the question posed to her as she studied Brooke’s features. “I don’t know, it’s too early to say, she’s just starting to wake up.”

“Who up…” Brooke tried to raise her head off the pillow but couldn’t. “Can’t move,” she said, a silly smile was plastered on her face.

The statement caught Sam’s attention. “Why can’t you move, Hon?”

“Don’t wanna try…so I can’t.” Brooke’s voice could be heard throughout the room as she started to giggle like a child.

A smile came to Sam’s face. “Then just lay still and wait until you want to.” She turned her attention back to the phone. “Sorry, Eddie. She’s just too cute like this. God I hope that kid has all her adorable traits. So…” Sam took in a breath, “Everything went good on your end?”

Brooke waited to hear the man’s response but his words didn’t come, instead, she only heard Sam’s pleasant laughter.

“Yeah, Eddie. I’ll let her know you did your best work for her. It’s a damn good thing you’re a drummer otherwise you couldn’t have kept up that beat.” Sam giggled out her closure, “bye.”

Through hazy eyes Brooke watched Sam replace the receiver and turn back toward her.

“Brooke…Eddie sends you his best,” Sam chuckled. “In more ways than one.”

“Eddie…here?”

“Not here, Hon,” Sam held Brooke’s hand in her own. “But he is in Richmond for a few more minutes before he heads back home. His part is done.”

“Yeah?” Brooke sounded a little more awake than before. “Everything…alright?”

“Just fine. Doc Dennison even said so. Your part was a breeze. She was in and out in a couple of tries. She said that it looked like a good crop with this harvest. We’ll just have to wait to see if they fertilize.” Sam leaned over to whisper in Brooke’s ear. “We’re on our way to being mommies now. What do you think of that?”

“I think you’re gonna make a great mommy.”

“Gee, and I was just thinking the same thing about you,” Sam smiled.

“Sam…I’m too tired to be a mommy right now.”

“Just sleep, Baby. I’ll be the mommy now while you let that sedation wear off for a couple of hours, how’s that?”

Brooke stifled a yawn, “Sounds like a plan to me. Love you.”

“Love you, too.” Sam placed a tender kiss on her lover’s mouth and proceeded to rest her head on the woman’s shoulder. “You sleep now. I’ll be right here,” she whispered.

****

Peter looked up from his desk just as a silhouetted form passed by the frosted glass of his office door. From the brisk passing and medium height, it could only be one person, Ida. He pushed his chair back and quickly rose, heading straight for his door. Pulling it open, he leaned out in time to see the office manager standing outside her office. “Ida…I’m glad that I caught you.”

“Yes?” She turned to view the ambling man coming her way. “Did that phone call come through, Peter?”

He shook his head, “No, not to my knowledge.”

“Okay,” Ida nodded, “maybe he found them without any problems.”

“Eddie’s pretty good with directions. I’ll bet he did.” Peter started to turn back toward his office, then hesitated. “Oh, by the way,” he looked back at Ida, “Linda dropped more paperwork off for you while you were gone.”

“More paperwork?” Ida cocked her head to one side. “Did she give it to you?”

“Nope…she left it on your desk. I saw your open door when I was getting a drink at the water fountain. I thought that you were back from your errands but it was her dropping something off.” Peter shrugged, “I just thought I’d tell you.”

“Thanks, Peter.” Ida watched as he moved down the hall and back into his office. “Hmm…” the woman opened her door and viewed the contents of her office with suspicion. She crossed the space to her desk and picked up the only folder on it. The same folder that she’d seen in Linda’s hands when she’d left nearly an hour ago.

Ida sat her purse down on the desk next to the rolodex file and then slowly opened the folder with one hand. Giving a reflexive swipe of her tongue to her index and middle fingers, Ida proceeded to shuffle through the papers. “Two,” she mumbled. “But I thought Peter said…”

The woman drew in a breath and let it escape as she thought. “Okay, Linda, what are you up to now? You had to be in here for another reason.” Ida’s eyes shifted around the desktop and stopped on the rolodex. “Ah, shit!”

Ida picked her purse up and slung its strap over her shoulder. “Two can play this game,” she muttered as she headed out of her office. “Mata Hari, meet Julia Child. No one knew she was a spy until now…and you won’t know what hit you until I’m ready to blow your fucking cover to hell and back. I hope it’s worth it to you Linda, whatever it is.”

****

“So…how are we doing?” Dr. Dennison stood in the doorway, her gaze focused on her patient. She watched as Brooke fumbled with the buttons on her shirt.

“Okay, I guess.” Brooke shrugged keeping her eyes fixed to the button she was working on.

“The nurse told me you were getting dressed. I presume that to mean that you want to leave.” The doctor flashed a smile at Sam, “Are we able to stay awake now?”

“Better than an hour ago.” Sam could see the growing frustration on Brooke’s face. “Here, let me do that. You just talk to the doctor now.”

Brooke sighed, “Yeah.” She looked over to the woman dressed in scrubs. “How’d it go? You get all the harvesting done that you needed, Doc?”

“That…and then some,” Dennison waited for her words to filter into Brooke’s drug hazed mind. Seeing the startled reaction on the woman’s face she openly chuckled. “God, you got to love the delayed reaction of a groggy patient.”

“Funny. Ha-ha.” Brooke mimicked her laugh. The next moment she turned to Sam. “She didn’t take out anything else, did she?”

“No,” Sam giggled, “or give you anything in return.”

“Good!” Brooke’s silly, satisfied smile showed her state of mind.

“Well, now that you’ve passed that test, I guess I can release you into your wife’s care,” Dennison winked at Sam. “She, along with your body will be the boss the rest of the day.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Brooke focused her attention on Sam, “Huh, Darlin’?”

“She’ll need to take it easy the rest of the day. Lots of rest, no driving, no lifting, no operating anything mechanical…not even a toothbrush,” Dennison leveled her gaze directly at Brooke. “You got it?”

“I get it,” Brooke snarled. “Anything else?”

Sam gave her wife a playful slap in the shoulder, “Be nice.” She shook her head, then looked over to the doctor. “Doc, maybe you’d better tell her what she’s allowed to do. I might have an easier time that way.” She waited as Dennison folded her arms over her chest and started to rub her chin in thought.

“Well, you can take some pain reliever if you need it. Tylenol, not aspirin.” She looked to Sam, “Sometimes they get a little sore after this procedure. Some patients even have some mild to moderate cramping for a day or so.” She focused back on Brooke. “If you want to, you could put some heat on it, maybe even gently massage your lower abdomen for a while. The one thing to remember here is…definitely no activity. You only do what you need to get by for the next day. You eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom.”

“How long?” Brooke’s voice cracked. “I thought you said today?”

“Twenty-four hours, that’s a day, Brooke.” Dennison met Brooke’s arching eyebrow with one of her own as she leaned forward to make her point. “I don’t want any problems. You might have some bleeding from this but if it’s more than a few spots on a pad over the next day, I want to know about it. Understand?” She held her gaze into blue eyes until they blinked. “Sam,” Dennison glanced over to the blonde, “I’m holding you responsible here.”

“I…I guess I can do that,” Brooke let her shoulders slump in defeat.

“You’ll be fine, Brooke. You just have to take it easy,” Sam said reassuringly.

“What’s next? When do we come back for Sam’s part?” Brooke tried moving the subject off herself.

“It’s a waiting game. I’ll be getting in touch with you as soon as we have a confirmed fertilization effort. That could take a few hours or as long as a day or so after we wash down your donor’s sperm and introduce it to the eggs. We’ll need you to come in for the implantation after that happens.”

“Our schedules are pretty flexible, Doc.” Sam grasped Brooke’s hand and held on to it. “We’ll be here, you just tell us when.”

“Great,” the smile on Dennison’s face lit up the room. “I love having a plan come into fruition.”

Brooke rolled her eyes as she let go with a sigh, “There she goes with that harvesting talk again.” She looked to her wife for sympathy but found very little.

“Sorry, Hon, it’s the price you have to pay if you want a good crop of kids.” Sam giggled.

Brooke eyed Sam and then shifted her gaze to Dennison. “I think you two are in cahoots with this harvesting talk.” She looked from one to the other for their reaction. “Okay, you got any more? It’s the last time you get to use them in my direction, you know.”

Feigning the most innocent of faces, Dr. Dennison thought for a moment. “Well, there is that one about a farmer’s daughter…” she chuckled seeing Brooke’s more than serious reaction as blue eyes stared at her intently. “But I think that’s enough for now,” the doctor winked at Sam. “Brooke will make a great mother, Sam. She’s already showing her overprotective nature.”

“I know,” Sam patted her wife’s shoulder. “Down girl. Save it for later. I’ll do the sensitive chats with the kids, you can be the one with the shotgun at the door when their dates show up.”

“Damn right,” Brooke nodded. “We’re laying down the law, no dating until they’re able to qualify for senior citizen discounts.”

“Nice thought, Hon, but very impractical. They may not be late bloomers like you,” Sam chided.

“They will be if they want to live,” Brooke growled.

“Save it for later. Let them get here first,” the doctor brought the conversation back to the present. “I think after that coherent discussion that I’ll let you leave. Go home,” she turned to face Brooke, pointing a finger at her, “rest, relax, and recuperate. It may be the last time you do so for a number of years to come.”

“Thanks, Doc.” Brooke looked over to Sam.

“Well, I’ve got other patients to see. I’ll get in touch with you to arrange the next step of your journey into parenthood.” With that said, Dr. Dennison turned and was out of the room a few seconds later.

“So, are you still up for dinner with my parents?” Sam observed her wife as she waited for the answer. “We could cancel it if you’re not up to it.”

Brooke took a deep breath in and pondered the idea. “I know you don’t get to see them that often.” She watched the concern building on Sam’s face. “I still feel a little loopy from that drug, but maybe it will help me handle your mom easier. Let’s do it.”

“Okay, but at the first sign that you’re getting tired or in pain, we’re out of there.” Sam leveled her gaze into soulful blue eyes. “Got that?”

“Got that,” she nodded. “You going to call your Dad and tell him we’re coming?”

Sam turned to head toward the door, “No, I’d rather surprise them. We seem to do that pretty well,” she looked back over her shoulder at Brooke, “don’t you think? Besides, why give my mother any more time to prepare. A block away should be enough to get us in the door.”

“Oh yeah!” Brooke rolled her eyes, “are you sure that’s a good idea?” Her only answer was Sam’s imitation of a Cheshire cat grinning. “Oh, this is going to be good.” Brooke started to whistle a tune as she hopped off the examination table and followed in step behind her wife.

“What’s that you’re whistling, Hon,” Sam slowed down until Brooke caught up to her. “A new tune running around your head or is that something from one of the new groups?”

Brooke shook her head and interspersed words in place of her whistling, “Nope, Mr. Roger’s theme song.” She continued to whistle until she came to the name of the song, which she sang out in melodious tones, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…”
Installment 2–9 — Get The Table
The stiffness in her neck slowly pulled Brooke out of the sleepy haze that had once again enveloped her. With her head leaning down onto her shoulder, there was little more she could do but straighten up. Each second of her torturous movement brought pain to the woman’s somber face. The next muscles to cry out for attention were that of her abdomen. The cramping twinges of pain made her more cognizant of her surroundings as heavy eyelids rose, revealing lackluster blue eyes. Her eyes focused on the dashboard and things started falling into place. She was seated on the passenger’s side. Rubbing the back of her neck with her hand, Brooke turned her head to see an empty driver’s seat.

“I guess that saying is right.” Brooke covered her yawn with her hand and started to look outside of the SUV. “You snooze, you lose.” She shook her head as if to get the sleep out of her mind. “Hmm…wonder where…” scanning the array of storefronts making up the strip mall, Brooke spied a golden head of hair emerging from one of the doors opposite her. “Hmm…now what would she be doing in a pharmacy?” She didn’t have long to wait for her answer as another cramp came through her lower abdomen. “Pills, right. I remember now.” Brooke gave her lower abdomen a soothing rub with her hand. “Dr. Dennison did say that she was giving us a prescription.”

Brooke continued rubbing her abdomen as she watched her wife cross the busy parking lot. To hide her discomfort, she stopped seconds before Sam got to the driver’s door and opened it.

“You’re awake. How are you feeling?” Sam watched the woman in the passenger seat give her a half smile. The next second, Brooke started rubbing her neck and turning her head, trying to work out the stiffness that had settled in. “You need me to give you a little neck massage?”

“Sam, you want to do that here?” Blue eyes shifted to the vehicle and pedestrian traffic around them. “You know what happens when you get your hands on me. I’m not sure they’re up to that sort of show,” Brooke motioned to a woman with two small children in tow. “It’s prime time viewing here, being right before dinner and all.” She looked to the clock on the dash. “Speaking of which, weren’t we supposed to be headed to dinner at your parents’?”

“Hmm…so you didn’t forget, huh?” Sam got into the vehicle and pulled her cell phone from her purse.

“Not something like that…I mean…I do like to see your father and your sister.” Brooke looked out the window to avoid her wife’s gaze. “Who knows, maybe in twenty or thirty years, I may even like seeing your mother on a regular basis.” Not! She completed her thought silently before turning back to see her wife punching in numbers on the cell phone.

“That’s okay Brooke,” Sam patted her wife with her free hand. “I’m twenty-one and I’m still not that excited at the prospect. I can’t expect you to be happy about it after meeting her only a few times in the last 3 months.” Suddenly Sam’s attention was tugged in a different direction and her eyes sparkled in delight. “Hi Daddy. It’s me, Sammy.”

Brooke watched as Sam’s smile emerged like the sun from behind a cloud. Her interest piqued, she listened in on the one-sided conversation.

“We’re running a little earlier than I expected.”

Early? Brooke glanced up at the name of the shopping mall and it registered in her brain just where they were. “Sam, we’re five minutes from their house,” she cautioned her wife in a whisper. She watched as Sam held up a finger and continued talking on the phone.

“Would you mind if we come over now?” Sam nodded as she listened to her father. “You’re sure that Mother knows that we are both coming, right?”

A dark eyebrow arched high on Brooke’s forehead. If she thinks I’d let Sam come anywhere near her alone…”

“Lasagna?”

Brooke’s expression soured hearing the word. At the same moment, another cramp registered its protest. We had that last night…as a left over from my mom’s. Just what I need as a reminder of those hormones…another bout of constipation. She gulped thinking about the layer upon layers of cheese before picking up on Sam’s conversation once more.

“Is somebody special stopping by for dinner too?”

“Great,” Brooke mumbled under her breath. “She’s gathering in her cronies to help her with the exorcism.” She caught the furrowed brows on her wife’s questioning face. “Exercise…” Brooke coughed up the word. “Remind me to exercise from now on.” She waited until Sam’s attention was back on the phone conversation before she breathed easier. Thank God those drugs are wearing off.

“Grammie,” Sam’s face lit up with emotion as a smile nearly split her face in two. “I haven’t seen her in almost a year.” Green eyes focused on Brooke as she continued talking to her father. “That’ll be nice. I’m sure she’d like to meet Brooke.”

Brooke found herself mouthing the word, ‘Grammie’ in her wife’s direction. “Who’s Grammie?” She whispered, “I mean…whose mother?” Oh Lordy, Brooke raised her eyes to heaven. Let it be Samuel’s, plee-ee-ase. She could feel the muscles in her neck tightening even more.

“I don’t know, Daddy. Maybe we should wait and see how the evening goes.”

How the evening goes…? Brooke’s eyes grew bigger. “What does she…I mean…who could…” she mumbled out, then looked over to her wife. “What’s going on, Sam?”

Sam looked over to see the hesitant look on Brooke’s face. “We’ll talk about this later,” she directed her comment to both her father and her lover. “Right now I’d better get driving if we’re going to even get there.” She paused for a moment then nodded. “Yes, Daddy.” The smile came back to her face, “I’ll be careful. See you soon.”

Blue eyes studied Sam’s reflective mood as she terminated the call. Brooke didn’t say anything. Instead she waited while her wife sat there staring at the phone for a moment.

As soon as Sam started to put her phone back into her purse, Brooke’s curiosity got the best of her. “So…” Brooke cleared her throat, “I take it there’s someone you want me to meet? Someone that I’m going to like, I hope.”

“Yeah,” Sam smiled pleasantly.

“Grammie, huh?” Brooke tried to satisfy her growing need to know. “Would that be Grammie Moleson?” She watched the devilish grin come to Sam’s face. “You’re not going to say, are you?” Brooke studied her wife’s face more intently. “Great, I’m in pain and you’re going to let me hang on this.”

Sam’s facial expression turned to one of concern. “Sorry Hon, I didn’t mean to…” Sam sighed. “Don’t worry about Grammie, Brooke. She’s a cool lady. In fact, one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever known.” Sam caught the trepidation in Brooke’s glance. “I like her Brooke, and I’m sure that you will too. Sometimes growing up, I think she was the only one that understood me.”

Brooke breathed a little easier as she tried to picture what Samuel’s mother would look like.

“Grammie Addams is one…”

The rest of Sam’s words were lost to Brooke as terror gripped her. Addams…great. It’s Elaine’s mother.

Sam saw her wife’s color drain. “Are you in pain?”

“Ah…pain?” Brooke shifted her eyes to her wife and then to the shopping mall. “Pain…maybe a little.”

“I’ve got your prescription filled, I could get you something to drink so you could take one,” Sam offered.

“No,” Brooke shook her head. “I’ll be alright until we get to your Dad’s. Another five minutes won’t bother me.”

Sam looked to her wife, “Okay, but only if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.” Brooke shifted in her seat as Sam started up the SUV. Open minded…that’s what you wanted her mother to be. That’s what you need to be. She stared straight ahead through the windshield. Okay Grammie, let’s see what you’ve got. I’m ready for you.

****

The wheels of the SUV slowly came to rest in the driveway when Sam’s voice shattered the silence inside the vehicle. “Don’t look now but…” she smiled weakly and sang out as though she did the original sound track from the Poltergeist movie, “We’re he-e-e-re.” She looked over to see Brooke let go of a long sigh.

“We’re here, right.” Brooke kept her voice down trying to mask the effect that the cramps were having on her. Their untimely twinges always seemed to happen when she tried to forget about them.

“Give me a minute and I’ll catch that door for you, Hon.” Sam turned off the engine and slid the keys from the ignition. Within seconds she was rounding the front of the vehicle and opening her wife’s door for her. “See, just like Dr. Dennison said…no physical activity for twenty-four hours.”

“Sam, opening the door is hardly strenuous work.” Blue eyes pinned Sam where she stood as Brooke swung her feet out of the compartment and set them down onto the cement of the driveway.

“I know but I’m not taking any chances with my favorite lady.” Blonde eyebrows wiggled and a sexy grin came to Sam’s face. “Hey, I don’t get the chance to do this often so I’m taking full advantage of it now, while I can.”

“Thank you, Darlin’,” she said as she moved away from the open door.

“Careful, Hon,” Sam uttered, offering her hand to the woman. “Remember to take it slow.” Sam waited until Brooke was clearly out of the way of the door before closing it. “Boy, is this a role reversal.”

“Ya know…” The arched brow on the woman’s forehead didn’t scare Sam at all. Brooke gathered her into long strong arms that pulled her in for a quick hug and a kiss on the top of her head. “I love you.”

“I know…” Green eyes locked onto blue, “I can tell.” Sam rubbed the back of her wife’s coat in a soothing manner. “You’re not worried that I’m taking over all of your jobs right now, are you?”

“Nope…” Brooke shook her head, “because I trust you.”

“Hmm…I like the sound of that.” Sam kept one arm wrapped around Brooke’s waist as she turned toward the door of her parents’ house. “Oh, and Hon, don’t worry, I’ll never tell Peter that I was your white knight.” Sam looked to her wife and winked.

“Oh boy,” Brooke rolled her eyes as she chuckled. “My reputation will remain intact.” She encircled Sam’s shoulder with her arm and motioned with her eyes to the front door of the house. “Okay Darlin’, ready to run the gauntlet?”

Sam took in a deep breath and slowly started to nod. “Anytime, anywhere, but only with you.”

They were only a few steps closer to the door when Samuel came jogging out of the open door and over to his daughter. “Sam!” The man’s body was planted firmly in front of Sam as he engulfed the woman in a hug. “It’s so good to see my daughters,” he looked over to Brooke and smiled, then planted a kiss on Sam’s cheek. “How’s my Princess?”

“Hi, Daddy. I’m fine.” She pulled back to look at her father. “It’s so good to see you again. Thanks for inviting us.”

“No problem,” he pulled Brooke in for a quick hug. “I’m glad that you could make it.”

“Me too, Sir.”

“Brooke, I thought we were past that formalness.” He looked her straight in the eye. “Samuel…or Pop…that’s your only choices.” A cool breeze caught the man off guard and he shivered. “Come on, it’s cold out here. Let’s get inside where the temperature is more conducive to life.” He huddled his arms around them and hurried them toward the door. “Elaine…the girls are here.”

“Warm…yeah…” Brooke muttered numbly. It’ll be just like walking into hell. Looking around the house as they passed into the entryway, she quickly scanned the area for piles of wood or low hanging, thick, black smoke. Hmm…I guess they haven’t lit the bon fires. Tsk, tsk…slacking now are we Elaine? Brooke placed a weak smile on her face the moment that Sam gazed in her direction. To further advance her case, she entwined her fingers with her lover’s and gave a little squeeze.

“Come on in and have a seat.” Sam shut the door before following them into the hallway. “Here, let me take those coats from you,” he held onto his daughter’s outer garment as Sam slid her arms out of it.

“Thanks, Daddy.” She let her father have her coat and quickly grasped onto Brooke’s, holding it as the woman withdrew her arms from the sleeves. “I got it, Brooke. Let’s go into the living room. I know just where there’s the biggest old stuffed chair that I think you’ll never want to get out of.”

The idea sounded appealing to Brooke, so she let her wife guide her into the living room. Seeing the overstuffed chair, she had to agree. Only her abdomen voiced its opinion, sending a cramp to register its delight as Brooke sank down into the chair.

The grimace on her wife’s face triggered Sam’s next statement. “You wait right here, Hon,” Sam leaned closer to Brooke. “I’ll get you a glass of water and you can take something to help with that.”

“Water? ” Samuel studied the dark haired woman for a moment as her hand clutched on to Sam’s. He touched his daughter’s shoulder lightly. “Let me get that for you. You stay here.” A second later he was heading toward the kitchen. “Elaine…did you hear me? I said the girls were here.”

“Samuel, what is it? I can’t be running off every time the door opens. I’m busy in here with dinner.”

“Didn’t you hear me?” Samuel walked up behind his wife and spoke directly to her. “I said that the girls are here.”

“Already?” Elaine spun around nearly knocking her husband over. “But I thought…I mean…dinner isn’t anywhere near being done.” She looked back at the timer on the stove. “The meal won’t be done for another fifteen minutes.”

“Calm down, Elaine.” He moved around his flustered wife to the cupboard, retrieving a glass from it. “They’re sitting in the living room amusing themselves.” He crossed the kitchen to the refrigerator and took out some ice, dropping several of the cubes into the empty glass. “I’ll see to them right after I get this glass of water for Brooke.” He went to the faucet and turned it on, filling it with water. “You know…” Samuel turned around and looked over to his wife, “Now that I think of it, Brooke’s looking a little funny…kind of under the weather tonight.”

“What do you mean…” Elaine looked at her husband with a peculiar expression, “funny? Do you think she’s on drugs or something? I’ve heard what those rock musicians do when they’re too scared to be in front of an audience.”

“Elaine…” Samuel’s voice was stern. “I said that she looked sick, didn’t I?”

Elaine thought about it for a moment. “Yeah, but is she really sick or just too scared to be in the enemy’s territory? I knew it…she’ll bring a plague down on all of us and my Samantha will be the first to be taken by it.”

Samuel rolled his eyes. “You can stop that right now. Samantha was a lesbian long before she ever met Brooke.” He turned to face his wife. “Elaine, you’re the only person who can make this ‘enemy territory’. Why, you told me yourself that you were trying to be more accepting of your children. I think it’s time you tried a little harder,” he cautioned his wife.

“I know,” Elaine wiped her hand on the towel that was nearby, “take in a breath and let it go.” She exaggerated her intake of air and slowly blew it out of her mouth. “We talked about that…see, I remember.”

That’s good Elaine. Thank you.” The smile was hard to keep on his face but she had earned it. “Now, how about going in there and saying hello.” He watched as the color drained from her face. “As a matter of fact,” he handed her the glass of water, “you can take Brooke this glass and break the ice.” His eyes twinkled with the thought of the pun he’d just made.

“ME?” Elaine’s mouth dropped open.

“Yes, you.” Samuel placed the glass into her hand and motioned for her to go.

“Alright, but remember, Sarah doesn’t have the skills to feed you more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I’m sick in bed.”

Samuel fought back the smile that wanted to overtake his face. “Oh you won’t get sick Elaine…you’ll just become a lesbian.”

She glared at him for a long moment before moving toward the living room. “Samantha, Brooke…” she called out as she rounded the hallway, plastering on a smile for them to see. “How nice to see you both again.”

“Hello Mrs. Moleson,” Brooke spoke up directing Elaine’s gaze off Sam. “How are you?” She locked onto the woman’s eyes as she took the glass of water from her hands and conveyed her silent message. The hate comes my way, mommy dearest, not at Sam.

“I’m…” Elaine was startled by the tired look in Brooke’s eye and the guarding movement of the woman’s body as she took the glass of water and lifted it toward her mouth, “fine.” She watched as Sam poured two capsules out of a medicine bottle into Brooke’s hand and Samuel’s observations from before came rushing back to her mind. “You’re…you’re not looking too good. Are you sick?”

“She’s not sick, Mother.” Sam was quick with her answer. “She’s just had an extraction done today and she’s still in a little pain from it.

“No, Ma’am.” Brooke swallowed the pills with a gulp of water. “I’m just a bit sore, that’s all. Thanks for asking.”

Elaine could see the silent plea in the crystal blue of Brooke’s eyes.

“Extraction…?” Worry was written across Elaine’s face as she brought her hand up to cover her mouth. “Are you sure you’re up to eating? If I would have known…I could have made you soup or something…”

Brooke’s gaze shifted to Sam as a questioning look came to the woman’s face. “You don’t have to make anything special for me, Ma’am. I’m sure that I’ll be just fine with whatever you’ve prepared.”

“Well, it is my special company dish,” Elaine smiled self-consciously. “But it’s soft so you won’t have to worry. You just do the best you can.”

Startled by the politeness, Brooke fought the urge to pull back her hand when she felt Elaine’s hand gently pat hers. “Yes, Ma’am, thank you.”

The few seconds of awkward silence was almost deafening. In a hurry to get past it, Brooke found herself doing what her mother had always taught them to do. “Do you need any help?” She started to rise from the chair but was quickly tugged back into her seat by Sam.

“Let me help.” Sam met her wife’s gaze. “It’s been a while Mother, but I think I still remember where you keep everything in your kitchen. So if you need some help, I’ve got some free hands just itching to get to work.”

“I could set the table or something…” Brooke felt the hand on her shoulder as she started to get up.

“I’ll get that,” Sam drove the idea home with a single, momentary glare. “You rest.”

“I’d hardly call setting a table as being strenuous work, Sam.” Brooke protested without raising her voice. “I’d like to be of some help.”

“You want to help?” Sam saw the eagerness in the nodding of Brooke’s head. “Good, then you can keep my father company.” She smiled as the man walked back into the room as if on cue. “Daddy, don’t let her out of your sight. I’m going to give Mother a hand in the kitchen.”

“Sure Princess,” Samuel kissed his daughter’s cheek in passing as Sam headed out of the room. His face lightened up afterward and he headed for the chair opposite Brooke. He watched as the tall woman sank back down into the overstuffed chair, defeated in her attempt to help with dinner.

Seeing the amused face of her father-in-law staring at her, Brooke sighed. “Let me guess,” Samuel’s raised eyebrow urged her on, “This is where I’m just supposed to shut up and take it like a man, huh?”

“You’re a fast learner, Brooke.” Samuel smiled at his daughter’s spouse. “It took me years to learn that.”

****

Coming into the kitchen for more tableware, Sam looked at her mother standing at the sink. It’s been four years since I’ve been here. Four years since I’ve set the family table and it’s still quiet. Sam sighed. Maybe it’s better that way. The last time I did this for her all hell broke loose. That was the beginning of the fight that left me without a family and looking for a place to live. Sam made a mental note to thank her Aunt Sandy for answering the door that night. I can see that nothing changes here. She opened the drawer and searched for the tableware that she needed.

“Samantha.”

“Yes, Mother?” Sam held her breath as she felt her stomach begin to churn.

“I know that she said she could eat with us, so what kind of extraction did she have…” Elaine tossed the salad greens for a time or two then continued with her thought, “I mean…if she didn’t have a tooth extracted…”

The question struck Sam as odd. “She who, Mother?”

“She…your…ah…your…” the woman’s mouth tried several times to form the beginnings of the word but was unable to get more then a breathy ‘w’ sound out at the most. Finally Elaine gave up and took a new approach. “Brooke…that’s who.”

“Oh, you mean my wife or some other Brooke?” Sam arched an eyebrow, as she stayed turned away from her mother’s view.

“You know perfectly well who I’m talking about, young lady.”

Sam could feel the glare at the back of her head even though she didn’t turn to see it. “That Brooke. No, she didn’t have any teeth extracted, Mother.”

“Then what did she have taken out?”

“It’s nothing that you need to concern yourself with…” Sam took in a breath. At least not right now.

“What do you mean…not concern myself with?” Elaine now tossed the salad with fervor. “This is exactly why we can never get along, Samantha. You always keep things from me.”

“And if I had told you of my lesbian tendencies earlier than I did, would it have really made a difference Mother?” Sam could feel her anger starting to rise and she tried to keep it in check. Maybe this was a bad idea.

“That’s water over the dam,” Elaine turned and shook a finger at her eldest daughter, “and you know it, young lady. I try to take an interest in your life and this is the thanks that I get.” She turned back to her salad bowl, picked it up and then set it back down on the counter with a slam. “Samantha, I’m trying but I can’t do it without some help from all of you. I’m not your Uncle Charlie who could turn the other cheek and go on about the business of life even with death staring him in the face.” She made the sign of the cross and looked to the ceiling. “God rest his soul.”

“Mother,” Sam’s voice lowered with the second syllable of the word. “Bringing up Uncle Charlie is not going to make me…”

“You’re just like him, you know. Secretive and all…” Elaine stared at the bowl of salad. “He never told his family until it was too late. He was well into those…those treatments before anyone found out.” She turned to face her daughter. “You want me to treat her as part of the family…the two of you as a couple…then treat me like I’m a part of your family, too.” Elaine cocked her head to the side, “I’ll bet Mabel knows.”

The words hit Sam and stunned her for a moment. She’s right, Mabel does know. Well, she at least knows that we’re trying to have a child. I was the one that let it slip out to her. She looked in the direction of the living room as she battled with herself. Brooke, I’m sorry, it was out before I could stop it. Sam felt her stomach churn and she thought about her mother. She and Daddy did ask us here for dinner. Maybe she is trying. Sam studied the woman for a second as she tried to make up her mind. But can I trust her? Maybe if I just give her a little something to make her think she’s getting the information…

“Fine. If you don’t think I’m trying, then maybe I shouldn’t,” Elaine said as she turned to leave in a huff.

“They took a few pieces from her…seeds, that’s all.” Sam hoped that would be enough to appease her.

“Seeds?” Elaine whispered under her breath. “What would they be…Oh my heavens.” She turned to look at her daughter. “You mean seeds that they implant?”

“Yeah,” Sam smirked. “It’s pretty amazing what they can do with modern medicine now a days. They go right to the source and limit all that exposure to medications and any other tomfoolery.” Sam turned to see her mother’s face as it paled. “We’re lucky to have found a pretty progressive doctor to guide us through this.” Seeing the apprehension on her mother’s face, Sam took a step in the woman’s direction. “Mother, are you alright?”

“Me? Ah…fine…I’m fine.” Elaine grabbed the bowl of salad and started for the dining room. “I’ll let the others know we’re ready to eat.”

Well, I hope that appeased Mother. Maybe we can skip the topic at the dinner table all together now. Sam breathed a little easier as she watched the woman walk out of the room.

A few seconds later, Elaine was calling out their names as she entered the living room. “Samuel, Brooke, dinner is ready.” She gazed in to see the tall woman slowly pulling herself up from the overstuffed chair, pain obviously something that she was trying to avoid. To keep from staring in disbelief, Elaine breezed back into the dining room. “She’s looking just like poor Charlie before he told us…” she mumbled to herself. “Samantha, would you bring in that bottle of wine on the counter?” Elaine took in a breath and readied herself as she turned to Brooke. “I thought it would go nicely with the lasagna.”

Well, that seemed to be enough to get her off the subject. “I’ve got it, Mother.” Sam carried the bottle into the dining room.

“That sounds nice, Mrs. Moleson.” Brooke waited until Sam came nearer to her. “I could have just a little taste, couldn’t I, Sam?” She held her fingers apart by barely an inch as her eyes pleaded her case.

“Hmm…” Sam made a face at Brooke’s increment of measure until it shrank considerably. “I don’t think a little would hurt you.” She sat the bottle down at her father’s place setting then pulled out the chair to his left, offering it to her wife.

“Darlin’, please.” Brooke’s eyes shifted from Sam to the woman’s parents. “I can get this,” she said taking the last few steps toward the offered seat. “Thank you, but I’m not completely helpless you know.”

“Brooke,” Sam smiled at her mate, “you remember what we agreed upon.” She pulled the chair out further and motioned to it. “Now sit.”

Elaine watched as the tall woman struggled with both her pride and her reluctance to do as Sam had instructed her. Finally, Brooke bowed her head in defeat as the first changing hues showing her embarrassment came to the surface.

“Yes, Darlin’.” Brooke rounded the table and stepped into her place as Sam gently pushed the chair beneath her wife. She waited until Sam was almost seated next to her before she gave her subtle comeback. “Maybe you want to eat dinner for me, too.”

Samuel fought hard to keep the smile from reaching his face as he looked to the newly married couple.

“Cute, Brooke.” Sam gave her wife a stern look. “But not necessary.” She glanced over to her mother at the opposite end of the table. “Everything smells wonderful.”

“Yes, Ma’am, it looks great.” Brooke eyed the melted cheese on the lasagna. “I hope you didn’t go through too much trouble for us.”

“Trouble?” Elaine scoffed, “Lasagna is never trouble. It’s second nature to me after all the dinners we’ve had. I could do it in my sleep as much as you could…could…” Elaine stammered for a second trying to think of what Brooke did. “Well, whatever it is that you do. I’m sure you do it just as well.”

“I can do a few things in my sleep,” Brooke’s glance drifted to Sam for a second, “but I’m sure you’re thinking of my drum playing.” She grinned at Elaine, trying to ease her tension.

“Oh, is that what you do at the record company, Brooke?” Elaine’s face was emotionless. “You play drums for everyone?”

“Mother,” Sam spoke up. “She owns the company. She doesn’t just play the drums all the time.”

“Sam, it’s all right.” Brooke’s hand covered Sam’s with a little squeeze as she tried to soothe her wife. “I do help out in some of the sessions on my label…if a drummer’s having a hard time getting something on track that we can use.” A smile came to Brooke’s face, “I…ah…I’ve even done a little bit of work for TV jingles and radio promos, as well.”

“Interesting…” Elaine nodded, then turned her attention to her daughter. “And what do you do, Samantha? I understand you work there also.”

Sam cleared her throat. “Well, right now I’m hoping that I’ll be working on a new group that Brooke just signed to the label. It’s an all girl group.”

“All girls?” Samuel showed his interest. “What are they…a duo…a trio?” He saw the amused look on his daughter’s face. “Sam…you know what I’m talking about. Are they as good as the Supremes?”

“You mean that old black record you listened to all the time, Daddy?” Sam teased him innocently of his age. She watched as her father made a face.

“That’s just a side project for the future,” Brooke interjected, trying to get her wife out of the hot seat. “Sam is actually in charge of handling all the promotional work for one of our new contracts from New Jersey.” She looked to Sam’s mother, then to the man at the opposite end of the table. “We’ve been working with them for a few months in preparation of launching their big national tour later this Spring.”

“That sounds pretty darn impressive for my little girl.” His eyes centered on his daughter, “Sam, why didn’t you tell us?”

“I…ah…” Sam shrugged, “I didn’t give it that much thought.” She stopped at the sound of the front door closing and looked over her shoulder to see who had just entered the house.

“Mom, Dad…I’m home.”

“You’re late, young lady.” Elaine sat ready with a stern gaze for her youngest daughter when she came into the room.

“Sorry, but that jerk Tommy was acting up in seventh period and they made the whole class stay for detention.” Sarah stopped short as she entered the dining room. “Sam, Brooke…I thought that truck looked familiar outside.” Her eyes widened with surprise. “What’s the occasion…it’s not your first anniversary already, is it?”

“No…it’s not.” Sam shook her head. “Wait a minute…” a puzzled look came to her face. “Isn’t Tommy the one you have a crush on?”

“ME and Tommy?” Sarah laughed as Sam got up from her seat and gathered her sister in a hug. “That’s so retro, I can’t remember it anymore. Mmm…I’m so glad to see you, Sam.” She gave her sister a squeeze and stepped over to Brooke with her arms outstretched. “Don’t think you’re not going to get a hug too.”

Elaine watched the tall woman slowly rise from her chair. The look of pain flashing across Brooke’s face for a brief second caught the woman’s eye and suddenly things started to make sense. “Sarah, we’re eating,” she snapped. “This is not proper dinner etiquette.”

“I don’t see Emily Post anywhere near our house, Elaine.” Samuel turned his gaze to Sarah. “I’ve gotten you out of the line of fire, pumpkin. You’d better take your seat and catch up to us.” Samuel motioned to the empty chair across from Sam.

Brooke ensconced the girl in a friendly embrace. “How you doing, Kiddo?”

“Good, now that I get to see my sisters again,” the girl beamed as she slipped out of Brooke’s arm and headed for her place at the table.

“Sarah,” Elaine cast a glare in her daughter’s direction, “go wash those hands before you sit at the table.”

“Yes Mother.” Sarah said as she dutifully headed for the kitchen.

“Line of fire…that’s funny, Sir.” Brooke gave a little chuckle as she eased herself down onto the chair again. “That’s the name of the group that Sam’s promoting.”

“Line of Fire,” Sarah squealed as she ran in from the next room. “Sam, you didn’t tell me that. Can you get me their autographs? Can you book them for my school’s prom? Oh, wait…” Sarah jumped up and down, wiping her wet hands on her clothing. She moved closer to her sister, giving her another hug. “I’ll take one to the prom.”

“Sarah!” Elaine gasped, “This is neither the time nor the place to badger your sister. This is a dinner table and we will have dinner, not some school girl antics. We have company tonight.”

“That’s alright, Ma’am. I’m pretty used to it,” Brooke looked over to her mother-in-law. “After you live in a house with C.C., you expect the childishness.” Brooke jerked her elbow from Sam’s playful punch and gave her wife a wink. “Hey!”

“You’re talking about my ex-roommate,” Sam chided her wife. “I’ve got to stick up for her.”

“See Mom, I told you Brooke’s family was cool.” Sarah unfurled her napkin and draped it over her lap as she turned her attention to the table full of food. “Mmm…lasagna. I just love how you make it with extra cheese.”

“Me too,” Brooke said weakly, smiling at her mother-in-law as Elaine served up a generous portion of lasagna on a plate and sent it her way.

“Brooke,” Samuel uncorked the bottle of wine and offered it to her, “care for some vino with that?” When their eyes met, he winked at her and smiled. “Things always go down a little easier with some good wine.” His eyes shifted to his wife and then back again as he offered the bottle to Brooke once more.

“Thanks, Sir.” She held out her glass while he poured. “I appreciate that.”

“Remember Daddy, just a little.” Sam smiled at her wife.

****

“Hey Dad,” Sarah whispered rather loudly as she entered the living room. “I see your newest daughter takes after you.” She smiled and motioned to the snoozing woman in the overstuffed chair. “It’s a good thing Sam and I helped Mom clear off the table.”

“I heard my name, what’s up, Sarah?” Sam came up behind her sister. As soon as Sarah stepped aside, she could see Brooke sitting there, sound asleep. “My poor baby.”

The worry lines crinkled Sam’s brow while she crossed the room and gently nudged her wife. “Brooke…are you sleeping?”

“Sleeping…huh?” Expression started to come into the lifeless face of a second ago as Brooke started to sit up a little. “Sorry Darlin’, guess I zoned out for a bit.” Brooke looked over at Mrs. Moleson as she entered the room. “That was a great dinner, Ma’am.

“Thanks, Mother, for inviting us. It was a very good dinner.” Sam studied Brooke for a second. “Maybe we should go so you can rest.”

“You’re going to drive all that way back to the beach with her being so sleepy?” Samuel looked rather concerned. “She needs to sleep in a bed, not an uncomfortable seat.”

“Actually Daddy, we thought it might be better for us to just stay here in…”

“Stay here?” Elaine’s voice cracked uncontrollably. “But we only have one room…your old room, Samantha. Where would…”

“Where would your bags be, Princess?” Samuel spoke over top of his wife’s voice. “I’ll go out and bring them in for you. “

“But Samuel…” Elaine started to protest.

“No buts, Elaine.” He glared at his wife for a long second then turned to face the couple. “They’re married. I’m sure that they share a bed at home.” Samuel winked at his daughter causing her to blush.

“Daddy…” Sam tried hard not to let her embarrassment show. “We don’t want to cause any problems,” she glanced in her mother’s direction. “Besides, my bed was only a single…”

Brooke immediately came to her wife’s aid. “I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. We can go get a room.”

“I know that Mother is trying to accept us, but this may be too soon for…” Sam’s voice trailed off at the sight of her father’s growing anger.

Samuel got up from his seat abruptly, as he started firing directives to everyone in the room. “I’ve made my mind up, you’ll stay with us.” He turned to his youngest daughter, “Sarah, you go up and get your sister and Brooke some towels while I get their bags in.” The man was pleased with his child’s quick dispatch to her task as he watched her leave the room. Turning, he looked to his eldest daughter, “This way Sam can visit with us while Brooke,” he smiled politely at the woman, “can get some rest. You know Princess, we’ve replaced that tiny bed of yours with our old one when your Mother redecorated our room last year.”

“And what am I supposed to do?” Elaine asked in a slightly defiant tone.

As Samuel leveled his gaze at his wife and opened his mouth to speak, Brooke got up from the overstuffed chair, stepping in between them. “Mr. Moleson, thank you for the offer but your wife and I…” Brooke turned her head in Elaine’s direction and forced a smile. “We’ve actually been getting along fairly well tonight. I’d rather not upset her or make her uncomfortable in any way.” She looked lovingly at Sam. “I wouldn’t want to jeopardize any ground that Sam and her mother have gained. I’m sure that she’s going to need her mother’s help over the months ahead.”

Samuel looked at the woman in front of him with a scrutinizing gaze for a long moment then let his thoughts surface. “What do you mean?” Getting no answer from Brooke, he turned to his daughter. “Sam?”

“Ah…” pinned for an answer she chose the truth. “We were at the Doctor’s today.”

“Doctor’s,” her father repeated as his skin paled. “Why all the way up here to Richmond?”

“Now, don’t go getting excited Daddy,” Sam cautioned. “We don’t know anything yet but when we do…” Sam felt Brooke’s fingers entwining her own, giving her confidence, “I’ll make sure that you’re one of the first to know.”

“I don’t understand. Samantha, how can you be so calm?” He looked to his wife who was edging toward the hall. “Elaine, where are you going? We could have a crisis here at any moment.” The man’s forehead was etched with worry lines.

“To pray.” Elaine made the sign of the cross on her body and retreated to the kitchen mumbling under her breath, “I knew it. He’s sent a cleansing plague.”

Sam went to her father, comforting him. “It’s not bad news Daddy.” She glanced over her shoulder to Brooke for a second. “Well,” she shrugged, “at least not yet. We just don’t want to say anything that could jinx it.” She looked into her father’s eyes. “Please Daddy, just give us some time.”

Brooke stood up with Sam at her request, placing an arm around her shoulder. “Please Sir.”

Their eyes held for a long moment as he studied each of the women’s faces. He opened his mouth to speak, but didn’t. Instead, he kissed Sam on the cheek, then laid a gentle hand on Brooke’s shoulder. “I don’t understand it all but I’ll abide by your wishes…for now,” he cautioned Brooke as he passed by her on his way out of the room.

****

A shaking hand held the bottle as the last drop of wine rolled down from its brim into the half-filled wineglass. Acting without thought, Elaine sat mesmerized as her hands acted out of routine. The sound of glass meeting the tile counter top startled her and she reached for the bottle with her other hand to steady it. Slowly, she pulled her hands away from the empty bottle and sat back, staring at the wine she’d just poured. The next moment she saw the unfocused image come solemnly walking into the kitchen and her eyes shifted to make sense of it. There, in the doorway, stood her husband.

“If you’re going to lecture me Samuel,” Elaine’s gaze drifted back to the glass of wine, “you can stop right there. I think I’m seeing things more clearly now.” She brought the wineglass to her mouth and sipped from it. After swallowing, she muttered deep in thought, “Much more clearly…”

“Elaine so help me if you know what’s going on with our daughter and her wife and you’re not telling me, I’ll…”

“Seeds…” the word floated on the air as if it were the answer to everything. Elaine smirked, “I should have caught it then…”

“What are you talking about?” Samuel demanded. “This is no time to be thinking of your garden. Something is going on in our Samantha’s life that made her come all the way to Richmond to see a doctor and all you can say is ‘seeds’.” He moved closer to the table until it was the only thing between him and his wife. “Damn it woman,” he kept his voice down as he looked into Elaine’s eyes. “Can’t you see the pain in Brooke’s eyes. She can barely sit or stand up without grabbing onto something. I saw it there in her face when Sarah gave her a hug. Granted that I’ve only known her a short time, but I’ve never seen pain like that in her eyes.” He let a breath escape his lips, and hung his head. “Not even when you and all those goddamn reporters tried to ruin their wedding.” Now the pain registered on his face as he remembered that day. “I tell you,” he started slowly, “there’s more to this than a toothache.”

“There is Samuel.” Elaine took in a breath to settle her. “Samantha told me that Brooke had a few seeds extracted. The only seeds that I know about that doctors put in and take out are the seeds that they use to treat some…some…” she couldn’t bring herself to say the word and bolstered her courage with another sip of wine.

“Seeds?” Samuel’s eyes darted around the room as he sorted the thoughts in his head for an answer. “You mean radiation seeds like Sandy’s husband, Charlie had for his…” he looked down to his lower abdomen and whispered, “prostate?”

“I think so,” Elaine nodded.

The pallor of Samuel’s face suddenly turned red with anger. “Stupid!” He smacked his forehead with the palm of his open hand. “Brooke was trying to tell me it on the sly. I should have picked up on it sooner than this.”

“What did she say?” Elaine’s attention riveted from the glass of wine to her husband.

“Something about Sam going to need her mother’s help in the months ahead.”

“I did notice that Samantha held the chair for Brooke. I was thinking that was rather unusual for the two of them. I mean…Brooke’s always been the ma…” she hesitated for a second, “I mean…more protective of our daughter.” Elaine got a far away look in her eyes as she stared off into space. “Now I know why she married that woman,” she whispered. A tear formed in Elaine’s eye and she wiped it away with her finger. A moment later, her eyes met Samuel’s as the stark reality of it all settled in.

“Elaine, what are we going to do?” He looked to his wife for an answer. “We can’t let them go to some hotel room. Samantha may need us now more than ever.”

“Samuel, they need to stay here with family.”

“They’re pretty set on not making anyone feel uncomfortable. They know you have a hard time with their choices.”

“Then I’ll insist that they stay.” Elaine got up from her chair and headed for the living room.

The man couldn’t believe his ears. “Elaine, are you sure?”

There was no reply, only the sound of determined footsteps that faded with each step.

****

Sarah held Brooke’s coat for her as she slid each arm into its sleeve. “I don’t know why you have to leave so soon. I mean, tomorrow isn’t a work day or anything.”

“Thanks Kiddo,” Brooke winked and pulled her jacket onto her shoulders.

“I really think it’s for the best,” Sam said as she buttoned her coat. “You know that you can always come down to the beach and visit us anytime.” She looked up to see the disappointed face of her sibling. “Sarah…” Sam sighed. “We aren’t going anywhere.”

“You’re right,” Elaine projected her voice down the hall, “you’re staying right here in your old room.” She paused when three sets of eyes focused on her, then continued speaking. “I won’t have my daughter and her w-w-wife,” she wet her lips hiding her surprise at getting the word out, “staying anywhere but here when they’re in Richmond.”

“Really Mrs. Moleson,” Brooke shook her head, “we wouldn’t want to impose.”

“You’re not, but I am.” Fire flashed in Elaine’s eyes. “What kind of mother do you think I’d be if I let my own family sleep under a stranger’s roof when there’s a perfectly good bed for them here?”

“I…I…” Brooke stuttered out finally, turning to Sam for help.

Sam viewed her mother with disbelieving eyes. “Having a change of heart, are you Mother? I remember a night four years ago that you did just that…sent a family member out into the cold.”

Sarah gasped, “Sam!”

The sharp sound of her sister’s voice captured Sam’s attention. “Sarah, I’m sorry but I don’t want any misconceptions now or ever again. I’ve laid my cards out on the table and all I’m asking is for Mother to do the same.” She then leveled her gaze at her mother, asking her directly, “Are you sure about this, Mother?” Sam watched as her mother took in a deep breath and then swallowed.

“No…” Elaine’s voice sounded shaky at first, then grew with confidence, “but we have to start somewhere. It might as well be here and now.”

There was an uncomfortable silence in the room as mother and daughter locked gazes for what seemed to be an eternity, each one trying to read deep into the other’s heart.

Feeling helpless, Brooke watched Sam’s father come into the room and stop. The look on his face was a mix of both agony and relief. “Sam…” she blew out a breath, “I’ll be right back.” Brooke looked to the three principal family members in the room and then slipped out the front door.

“Brooke…?” Sam called out to her wife but she was already gone. Sam turned her attention back to her mother. “I hope you’re serious about this. I won’t have you hurting either one of us. Brooke’s a strong woman, but right now, I’m not sure how much she can take.”

“I am serious, Samantha.” Elaine’s face showed both love and anguish at the same time. “I want to try. I am trying, if only you’d let me.”

“You better be,” Samuel spoke up from the background, “or I’ll make sure your mother knows about it when she comes through here tomorrow. I’m sorry she couldn’t be here now. Drat that foul weather up North.”

Compassion overwrought Elaine as she looked at her daughter. “I’m sure your grandmother will be thrilled to see you when she stops in the morning.”

Sam became reflective as she lowered her gaze. “I would like for her to meet Brooke.” She bit at her lower lip, then looked up to her mother. “Are you really sure about this? You’re alright with us…as a couple?”
“It’s not something that I can do overnight Samantha, but I’m really trying.”

The young woman studied her mother for a few seconds and slowly started to nod. “I can see that now. Thank you for trying.”

“Samantha…” Elaine paused, uncertain to continue or not.

“Yes, Mother?”

“I thought…” she watched as her daughter’s face became filled with concern. “I want you to know that I’m here if you need me.” Elaine looked away and mumbled to herself. “A girl always needs her mother at certain times.” She looked back to Sam. “Maybe when Brooke is resting, we can sit and talk about what’s going on in your life.”

“Mother,” Sam sighed, “Brooke and I promised each other that we wouldn’t say a word to anyone until we know what our possibilities are.”

“Then maybe you could tell me more about your Brooke.” Elaine looked directly into her daughter’s eyes. “I realized earlier that I don’t really know that much about her and I’d like to get to before it’s too late.”

Shell-shocked to hell and back, Sam stared at the figure that she thought was her mother. She didn’t hear the front door open, but the six-foot figure carrying a duffle bag caught her attention. “Hey, I would have gotten that. You know what the doctor said,” Sam took a step in her wife’s direction and reached for the bag.
“Here,” Elaine pushed past her daughter and grabbed the bag, “I’ll take that.”

“Elaine,” Samuel blurted out.

She threw up a cautionary hand in her husband’s direction. “I’ve got it, Samuel.” Her subtle smile as she turned her attention to Brooke spoke of sincerity. “Now Brooke, if you’d like, I’ll show you to Samantha’s old room.” Elaine positioned herself with her foot on the first step leading to the upstairs and waited.

Brooke looked to her wife, and shrugged before returning her gaze to her mother-in-law. “Yes Ma’am, I’m coming with you.” Brooke cringed slightly as the words echoed in her ears. Seeing no change in Elaine’s face, she took her first step, bridging the gap between them.

****

“You should be comfortable in here. The bath is at the end of the hall and I see Sarah’s already put out fresh towels on the dresser for you.” Elaine stood at the door and watched Brooke take in the atmosphere of the room. “If there’s anything that you need, just ask and if we have it, it’s yours.”

“Thanks Mrs. Moleson,” Brooke walked over to the window and looked out into the darkening sky before turning back to address Sam’s mother. “Thanks for letting us stay here tonight. It’s very kind of you.”

“You’re welcome, Brooke.” Elaine moved to the bed and placed the duffle bag on it. Nonchalantly she started to straighten the bed cover. “You know…I do love Samantha.” She paused for a second and looked over at Brooke. “I…I just wasn’t prepared for this.”

A dark eyebrow arched high on Brooke’s forehead, “For what?”

Elaine shrugged, “For her choices…and their outcome.” She fluffed a pillow with two hands and muttered, “You know, when you become a parent, they don’t give you a manual so that you know how to act for every situation. You just fly by the seat of your pants and hope you do the right thing.” Elaine stopped what she was doing and stared straight ahead. “Brooke, whatever the future holds, I want you to know we’ll be here for Samantha. Whenever she needs us. God knows I wouldn’t have wanted to go through something like this as a new bride.”

Brooke’s hackles raised at the comment. “She’s not you, Mrs. Moleson.”

Elaine let her gaze drift until it settled on Brooke. The momentary locked gazes brought an uneasy feeling over Brooke.

“Oka-a-ay,” she said cautiously, then turned to look away as she cleared her throat. “I’m sure Sam will really appreciate that. I know that you and I didn’t get off to the greatest of starts but I want you to know that I do love your daughter.” Brooke turned to face the woman. “I love Sam more than anything in this world.” She could see the woman’s roiling emotions as hints of them surfaced briefly on her face. First a frown, then the barely noticeable hint of a smile made Brooke start to think about all that Elaine had said to her as the woman started to move to the doorway.

“Mrs. Moleson?”

“Yes,” came her tentative reply as she stopped her forward motion and turned to face Brooke.

“Something like what?” Blue eyes narrowed and an eyebrow started to rise. “I don’t think I understood what you were talking about.”

Elaine hesitated with her answer, trying to find the best words to use. Not wanting to see Brooke’s face as she revealed her knowledge, she looked to the floor. “Samantha didn’t say anything to me, so don’t be mad at her.” She looked up at Brooke. “It’s cancer, isn’t it? That’s why you were at the doctor.”

“Cancer?” Brooke’s eyes bugged out. “Uh…no Ma’am. It was something entirely different. Nothing like that at all,” she shook her head with vigor.

Elaine fought back a tear as she tried to keep a wavering smile on her lips. She reached out and took Brooke’s hand in hers and patted it. “Don’t worry dear, denial is one of the first stages in the fight. I’ll leave now so you can get your rest.” She slipped her hand out from under Brooke’s, retreating to the hall and closing the door to the bedroom.

Dumbfounded, Brooke stared down to her hand. A million thoughts suddenly came soaring through Brooke’s mind until she felt like the room was starting to spin. As she took a step to the side to steady herself, an idea came slamming into the front of her mind. “No wonder she’s being so nice to me…” Brooke turned to look at her reflection in the dresser mirror, “She thinks I’m gonna die.”

Shocked and barely breathing, Brooke stumbled back a step or two until her legs came up against the bed. She sank down onto it, numb and speechless. The sound of voices filtered into her head as they rose through the house from the living room. She could make out the pleasant giggle of her wife as it wove its path in and out of the conversations. First, she could hear the heavier tones of Sam’s father, then the energetic, youthful sound of her wife’s sister. Now, a fourth voice was entering the conversation, pleasant and good-natured in manner.

“Mrs. Moleson?” Brooke’s eyebrow arched high on her forehead. “Great,” she sighed, “Sam and her mother are finally sounding like they are mending the fences and I’m going to have to be the one to tell her why.”

Brooke looked to the side of her and cleared her throat as she embarked on her rehearsal. “Darlin’, your mother is only tolerating us because she thinks I’m dying.” The woman took in a long breath and held it for a moment before letting it out. “Sam’s going to go ballistic.”
Installment 2–10 Taking Over Me

A lull in the conversation brought a smile to Samuel’s face. It had been years since he could sit in his living room and listen to the gentle but sometimes teasing conversation of his daughters. How wonderful it felt to have them home again. He held out as long as he could, reveling in the moment before pushing himself up from the couch and stretching out the kink in his back.

“I would say I’m done for the evening.” He stretched his arms high over his head then quickly stifled the yawn that followed. “Sorry,” he cleared his throat. “Well, I’m going to bed.” Samuel walked over to his oldest daughter sitting on the floor, her back against the entertainment cabinet and leaned over to kiss the top of her head. “Good night, Sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Good night, Daddy.” Sam reached up and hugged her father before giving him a kiss on his cheek.

“Come on, Sarah.” Samuel straightened up, cracking his back in the process. “You too. It’s getting late and your sister-in-law’s not feeling well.”

“But…” the girl turned to protest. Sarah stopped, seeing the stern expression on her father’s face.

“I’m sure Sam is anxious to get back upstairs, so go on and tell her, good night.” He motioned toward Sam.

The teen leaned over and settled for a hug as well. Standing up, Sarah then offered her hand to Sam. “Come on old lady, I’ll help you up.”

The angelic look on her sister’s face halted the sharp retort on the tip of Sam’s tongue but not the dirty look that was sent in Sarah’s direction. “Thanks, sis.” Sam smiled politely. “Good gods, I love being a family again.” The young woman’s attention was drawn to the older woman making her way down the stairs and into the room. “Shh!” The blonde’s finger went to her lips, green eyes directing her sibling to their approaching mother. “You better hurry before the warden calls lights out,” she whispered.

“Night.” Sarah giggled, giving her sister a childish wave of her hand, then scurried off toward the stairs. “Good night, Daddy. G’night, Mother.” She stopped only long enough to drop a passing kiss to her parents’ cheeks.

Having dismissed her youngest daughter with a quick wave of her hand, Elaine veered off to a corner of the room. Preoccupied with her thoughts, she began turning off the various lights around the room as her husband and youngest daughter made their way upstairs.

“Good night, Mother.” Sam said as she made her way across the room.

The woman hesitated for only a second before heading her daughter off. “Actually, Samantha,” Elaine’s hand came to rest on her eldest daughter’s shoulder. “I was wondering if you would care to share some hot cocoa with me.”

There was a moment of silence as Sam thought about the proposition. “The same kind you used to make me when I was up late with my school work?”

A genuine smile crossed Elaine’s face at the memory. “The very same.”

The corners of Sam’s mouth edged upward into a smile. “Yeah,” the blonde nodded. “I think maybe I will.”

One after the other, the two women walked into the kitchen. Sam staked her claim to a seat at the table. Silently Sam studied her parent as Elaine prepared the two cups of steaming liquid.

When they had been stirred to her liking, Elaine reached up into her cupboard and retrieved a bag of marshmallows. Stealing a glance at her daughter, she smiled before taking a small handful of the fluffy pillows and tossing them into each cup. After another stir or two, Elaine carried them over to where her daughter was sitting.

“Here you go, Samantha.”

“Thanks.” Sam took the cup and wrapped her hands around it. “I haven’t had hot cocoa like this for ages.” She looked down into the melting mass of white floating on brown liquid. “I’ve tried, but I can never make it taste like yours.”

Elaine nodded as she sipped from her cup. “I know what you mean. Your grandmother makes one mean omelet. I’ve watched her a thousand times whipping those eggs into a frothing frenzy, but for the life of me…” the woman’s words trailed off into thought.

Anticipating the next words, Sam looked over to her mother’s face and the contemplation in her eyes. She waited for a moment, studying her mother in great detail. It was the first time in years that she’d been this close to her without someone spouting off in anger. “Mother,” Sam hesitated for a second, “is there something wrong? You stopped so abruptly, I thought, maybe…”

“Huh?” Elaine shifted in her seat, setting her cup back on the table. “I’m…uh…”

“What were you thinking about?” Sam reached out, laying her hand on her mother’s arm. “It’s not something with Grammie, is it? She’s not sick…or something? Is that why she’s coming here for a visit?”

“She’s fine, Samantha.” Elaine cleared her throat and stared down into her steaming cup. “I was…thinking about how funny life is.”

“Funny, Mother?” Sam’s brows furrowed.

“Yeah, funny.” Elaine sighed. “When you think you know all the answers, there’s always something to make you see you’re never truly in control of what happens.” She picked up her cup and sipped from it. “If I’d only known that earlier,” she mumbled, wrapping both hands around her cup as she sat it down on the table, “life would have been so different for all of us.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You take after your father, Samantha. You roll with the punches, obviously.” Elaine gave a faint smile and sighed. “You two seem to bounce back from anything and take it all in stride…at least on the outside.” She studied the dark brown liquid in her cup. “Me,” Elaine smiled wryly, “I just let it consume me with self-doubt and fear. Maybe that’s why I’ve made such a shamble of my life.” Her gaze met with her daughter’s. “I’ve punished you when I should have been punishing myself.”

Sam watched silently, not knowing what to make of her mother’s statements. After a prolonged pause, she said the only thing that came to her mind. “Whatever it was, Mother…I’m sure you could correct it if you tried.”

Sorrowful eyes rose to meet Sam’s. The look of pain that was etched into Elaine’s face was so grief-ridden the young woman felt tears of her own threatening to roll down her lashes and onto her cheeks. Without saying a word, her mother rose from the chair and retreated hastily from the room, her fist clenched tightly over her mouth muting her sobs.

“Mother?” Sam called out but no answer came in return. “What the hell just happened here?” She whispered, glancing toward the doorway her mother had just passed through. The young woman stared at the empty chair next to her and the steam still rising from the deserted cup before taking a sip from her own cup of cocoa. “Okay that’s enough quality family time for me.” She thought better of her statement and corrected it. “Well…at least my growing up family, that is.” She sipped from her cup again and a sexy smile came to her face. “Now, for my own family…” she wiggled her eyebrows and purred, “I’ve got the rest of my life starting right now.” She took a swallow or two more from her cup then wiped her mouth with her hand. Her gaze slowly wandered over to the empty chair where her mother had been sitting and Sam sighed. “It was nice while it lasted. Lesson one in parenting, never just up and walk away from your child.” Sam took in a breath then slowly let it out. “No matter how old they are.”

Standing up, she pushed her chair under the kitchen table before taking both cups to the sink. Sam placed the second cup in the sink as the beginnings of a smile came to her face. “Okay Brooke, I’m all yours.”

****

The next morning, Brooke felt Sam begin to stretch. She curled further into her wife’s back and began to nuzzle the soft skin behind her ear.

“Morning, Baby.”

Sam reached her hand behind her and cupped the back of Brooke’s head as feather light kisses were planted all across her neck.

“Hmm…” Sam purred, basking in the sensuality of the moment. “The whole time I was growing up, I never really thought I would have my favorite drummer in my bed. Not in a million years.” She smile whimsically. “I mean, I dreamed of you being there but could never really truly imagine it.” The younger woman turned to engage her wife in a kiss of her own.

Brooke stopped Sam’s motion within an inch of her lips. “Darlin’, you might not want to do that. Thanks to that medication yesterday, I have cotton mouth and morning breath worse than a dragon’s ass.”

“I don’t care. I want my kiss,” Sam said defiantly, as she pulled Brooke closer for a proper kiss. After a few leisurely moments spent exploring the other’s mouth, each woman pulled away to gaze into the other’s eyes. Slowly the grin spread across their faces. At exactly the same moment each spoke what was on their mind.

“Why don’t I grab our toothbrushes?” Sam said.

“Why don’t you grab our toothbrushes?” Brooke suggested.

A round of laughter erupted as Sam slipped one foot out of bed and walked over to their overnight bag to grab the items in question.

“Did you sleep alright? How do you feel this morning?” Green eyes sparkled as she watched her wife ease out of the bed and make her way into the small bathroom connected to the bedroom.

“I’m a little sore but I’m okay. I couldn’t get comfortable earlier in the night but I seemed to be fine once you crawled in next to me.” Brooke went to the sink and began to splash some cold water on her face. “You wanna hear something funny?”

“What’s that?” Sam entered the doorway and reached for a towel.

Using the offered towel to dry her face, Brooke moved over to make room for Sam. “When I dozed off I must have left the bedside lamp on.”

“So what?” The words were muffled coming from around a suds-filled toothbrush. “It was off when I came to bed.” Sam shrugged, pulling the toothbrush from her mouth. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I wouldn’t, normally.” Brooke looked at her disheveled hair in the mirror and tried to tame it. “I mean, I’m not. I think I know how it got turned off. Your mother came in, tucked me in, and then turned it off.”

Sam almost choked on her toothpaste. “She what? My mother tucked you in?” The smaller woman’s eye grew larger. “Thank
God you had pajamas on,” she whispered.
Brooke could only nod as she brushed her teeth. “Either that,” she paused long enough to rinse her mouth out, then continued, “or I must have been having weird dreams but I’m pretty sure she did.”

“I guess she really is changing.” A look of disbelief came to Sam’s face. “I wonder what your parents said to her.”

Brooke finished rinsing out her mouth, then dried her face again before handing the towel to Sam. “Actually, I think I know why she’s being so nice.” She gazed over to her wife.

“Because…you’re such a wonderful person.” Sam stood on the tips of her toes to accent her reason with a kiss to the taller woman’s cheek. “Because…you’re my wife.” Another kiss was placed on the woman’s chin. “Because…”

“She thinks I’m dying, Darlin’.” The words obviously interrupted the blonde’s train of thought. Brooke watched the shock register on Sam’s face.

“Dying?” Sam pushed back to see the absolute seriousness of her wife’s face. “You’re not joking are you?”

“Nope.”

“Where in the hell did she get that idea?” A momentary flash of anger swept across the woman’s face. “You aren’t, are you?” A surprised look came to Sam’s face. “Oh My God! Did she poison the lasagna?” Sam’s face began to pale at the thought.
Brooke placed both hands on Sam’s shoulders in an attempt to calm her down. When that didn’t work she pulled Sam into a tight hug ignoring the dull ache in her lower abdomen. Her only thought was to console her wife.

“Baby, you know I’m not dying,” she reiterated, gently kissing the top of Sam’s head. “I think your mother is under the impression our reason for being at a doctor in Richmond was for cancer. When I told her it was nothing like that, she mentioned something about me being in denial.”

Sam pulled back and looked into Brooke’s eyes. “You’re sure?”

“Pretty sure.” Dark hair shook in time to the musician’s nodding head.

“Cancer, huh?” Sam sighed in relief before breaking out in laughter. “That’s pretty funny now that I think about it.” The blonde covered her mouth. “She thinks you have a growth.” Green eyes twinkled with mischief. “Just wait until she finds out that I’m the one it will be growing in.”

Brooke smiled as she thought of what they were trying to achieve. “And that you got it from me.” She leaned in and kissed her wife on the nose.

“Maybe that’s why she was acting so weird?” Sam muttered under her breath.

“When?”

“Last night. She invited me to sit and talk over some hot chocolate and then…” Sam shrugged, “she started talking about the past and then just stopped.” She held onto her wife a little tighter.

“And?” Brooke held her breath.

“I’m not sure what happened. Mother got up and like the wind, she was gone.”

“So…” the taller woman sighed, breaking the embrace and slipping out the door. “Should we both go tell her that I’m not sick or wait until she’s grown to love me?” Dark eyebrows wiggled playfully at the thought.

Sam pondered the question for only a second before replying. “Let’s wait. It will serve her right.” The blonde followed her wife into the bedroom. “Besides, maybe thinking she only has a little time to get to know you will help.” She crossed over to their suitcase and pulled out several articles of clothing, offering them to her wife.

“Darlin’, that’s almost…wicked.” Brooke said the last word with an arch to her left eyebrow and a mischievous smile.

Green eyes shot wide open. “Hey, you packed them, not me.”

“Not the clothes, Darlin’, I was referring to us allowing your mother to believe that I’m dying. Do you really think it’s wise? I mean…wouldn’t we be deceiving her?”

The blonde took in a breath and slowly let it out while she thought. “Maybe, but it might teach her a lesson.”

Brooke took the clothing and tossed it onto the bed before pinning her wife with a gaze. “And that would be…?”

Green eyes flickered around the room as Sam thought of an answer. Finally it came to her. “That you can’t choose whom it is you fall in love with. It just happens once you get to know them.” The blonde’s jaw was set with determination.

“You want your mother to fall in love with me?” Brooke cringed.

“No.” Seeing the subtle smile tugging at her wife’s lips, Sam reached out and slapped playfully at Brooke’s shoulder. “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah,” the older woman nodded, “I do.” Brooke pulled her wife back into an embrace. “Devious,” she smiled, “but I like it. The end result may justify the means.”

“Hey, I learned from the best.” Sam smiled as she snaked a finger inside the collar of Brooke’s pajama shirt and pulled the taller woman down for a kiss. “Care to dispute that?”

“Never,” Brooke whispered just before their lips touched.

No sooner had the kiss deepened when Sam’s cell phone rang. Twin groans echoed through the room as a pair of blue eyes rolled toward the sky.

“Why me?”

“Why us.” Sam took in a deep breath. “You know…if I was a betting woman, I’d say it’s probably my father with his impeccable timing.” Sam rolled her eyes in irritation as well.

The long-armed executive grabbed the phone from the dresser and studied the caller ID. “Good thing you’re not a betting woman because you’d have lost.”

“Huh?” Blonde brows furrowed.

Brooke clarified, “It’s the doctor, Baby.” With a chuckle she corrected herself and handed the phone to her wife. “I mean, it’s the baby doctor.”

The sound of a swift knock at the door gathered their attention.

“Sam! Grammie’s here.” Sarah’s voice could be heard as she opened the door to her sister’s room. “Oops, sorry, Brooke. I didn’t interrupt your…” the girl cleared her throat rather obviously, “prayers, did I?”

Brooke held a finger to her lips. “No, Sarah, you didn’t interrupt our prayers. We’ll be right down just as soon as Sam takes this call.”

Cellphone in hand, Sam took a deep breath and flipped open the phone. “Hello?”

“Okay,” Sarah shrugged. “I’ll just tell Grammie that you two are busy up here.” The teen winked and closed the door.

“Can you hold a second?” Sam hit the mute button with her finger. “Sarah, I’m trying to talk to someone here.” She turned to Brooke. “Are all little sisters that annoying?”

“Darlin’, that’s nothing compared to C.C.” Brooke chuckled. “Or me, in Randi’s case.”

Shaking her head, Sam took a deep breath and hit the mute button again. “Sorry, I was being distracted. Let’s start this over again. Hello?”

“Good morning, Sam. This is Dr. Dennison. How are the proud Mommies-to-be this morning?”

Sam released a long breath she didn’t even realized she had been holding. Nervously, she glanced over to Brooke. “We’re doing well this morning. How’s our little ones?”

“Well, everything looks good on Brooke’s end. Her eggs are resting comfortably in a Petri dish. We’ve introduced the sperm and Mr. Hardy’s swimmers are making some new friends. We’ll know soon enough. If everything goes as planned, we should be able to perform your end of the procedure on Monday.”

Sam took a deep breath and looked over at an anxious Brooke. “Wow! That soon, huh?”

“What?” Brooke mouthed the word, then continued with more silent inquiries. “When? What is she saying?” The woman’s blue eyes grew in intensity. “Sa-am,” She finally vocalized her annoyance at being kept in the dark.

“Sh!” The blonde had to restrain herself from wanting to laugh. Turning her back to her lover, she attempted to concentrate on the voice coming through the phone.

“Sam, I learned a long time ago to never look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially when it comes to procreation. If everything continues to go well, we should be ready to go by early Monday afternoon. That way we have time to get you in and get you prepped for the procedure.” The doctor paused for a moment. “And while I’m thinking on that line…how’s Brooke this morning. Any after effects of the harvesting?”

The blonde looked at her wife. “Well, she was in a little pain last night but the pills seemed to ease it. The only after effect it seems, is my mother.” Sam smiled at her joke.

“What is she saying?” Brooke whispered, her curiosity obviously peeked. “Is everything okay?” The drummer’s patience was running amuck.

“Brooke. Please.” A stern gaze met her lover, then immediately the blonde’s expression softened. Sam cupped her hand over the phone. “It’s alright. Everything’s fine.” She reached out and patted her wife’s shoulder before turning her attention back to the voice coming over the phone.

“Your mother?” Confusion was evident in the doctor’s voice.

“Long story. Sorry.” Sam apologized.

“Okay. We’ll see the two of you Monday afternoon. Have a nice weekend Sam.”

“You too, Dr. Dennison. Thanks for the update.” Sam barely had time to disconnect the call before Brooke started firing questions at her.

“What’d she say? How are our babies? The eggs…they’re babies now, aren’t they?” Brooke gulped. “I mean, Eddie’s guys did the job, right?” Her wife’s silence brought a round of nausea to her stomach. “Sam…” the older woman took in a breath and let it out. “What did she say?”

The temptation to tease the woman lingered in the blonde’s mind. One look into Brooke’s hopeful blue eyes and Sam knew that she couldn’t. It was too serious of a matter to them both. “Not much.” Sam shrugged. “It looks like your eggs are making some new friends. Conception is under way. Next step…” the petite woman paused for effect.

“YES?” Blue eyes grew larger and more intent with anticipation.

An impish smile came to Sam’s face and her eyes twinkled. “Impregnation.”

“Really?” Brooke suppressed her excitement. “When?”

“Monday afternoon.”

The dark haired woman was speechless. Slowly a huge grin split her face from ear to ear. “Yeah?” She asked in disbelief.

“Yeah.” Sam nodded.

Filled with emotion, Brooke kissed her wife as passionately as she could. Ending the intimate touch abruptly, she mustered her last breath of air to say what was foremost in her mind. “I love you, Samantha Gordon.”

“I love you too, Brooke.” There was a moment of silence as their gazes met and held. Reaching up on tiptoes, Sam placed a chaste kiss on her wife’s lips then stood flatfooted on the floor. “Now that we have that settled,” she smiled, “let’s head downstairs so I can introduce you to my Grammie.” Sam tugged at Brooke’s hand as she turned and headed for the door.

“Ah, Sam?”

“Yeah?” The petite woman reached for the doorknob.

“Wouldn’t it make for a better impression if I got dressed first?” The hint of a smile toyed with Brooke’s lips.

The blonde’s head snapped around to view her lover. “Yikes!” She let go of the doorknob and quickly headed back into the room. “Good idea. Let’s get dressed.”

****

“Now, Brooke, be nice. Remember you’re dying and there won’t be enough time for apologies.” Sam emphasized her suggestion with a poke to Brooke’s backside as she started down the stairs. “There’s something you need to know about my grandmother, Brooke.”

“What’s that?”

“Grammie’s not exactly a person that you’ll see eye to eye with.”

The taller woman stopped and turned toward her wife. Sam could only smile as Brooke arched her eyebrow.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be nice, Darlin’.” She continued down the steps. “It’s my nature.”

“Oh look, Brooke. Grammie hasn’t changed a bit since I last saw her.”

Brooke smiled at the enthusiasm in Sam’s voice. Finally reaching the bottom of the stairs, Brooke noticed Elaine and started to make her way over towards her mother-in-law.

“What do I say?” Brooke whispered out of the corner of her mouth.

“A little hello goes a long way,” Sam whispered back.

She looked down on the woman whom she assumed to be Grammie Addams. “Cute Sam, a little hello? Is that because she’s a mid…” The sharp jab into her ribs elicited a surprised response. “Oowww!”

Sam quickly nudged Brooke in the arm as she moved in front of the taller woman. “She’s vertically challenged, Brooke.” The blonde said under her breath. “She hates the word midget.”

After scratching her head, a thoughtful look came to Brooke’s face. “I wasn’t going to say midget. I was about to say…ah…mi-i-i-i-ghty small…er…middle…I mean, little.”

By the look of horror on Sam’s face, Brooke could tell that her thoughts came out a little louder than originally intended. She couldn’t hide the look of embarrassment that colored her cheeks.

“Hon, in your family, anyone under five foot nine is little and under five foot is a midget.” Sam turned to meet her relative’s gaze. “Grammie,” a smile flashed across the young woman’s face. “It’s so good to see you.” Sam leaned over to hug her Grandmother. “Don’t mind Brooke. She’s just…”

“A giant!” The elderly woman threw her hands up and started to run around in circles. “Run for your lives. She’s going to stomp on us all!”

Brooke backed away from all the commotion. Unsure of what to say or do, she looked over to Sam. “Sam, I’m sorry. I…I didn’t mean for that to… er…I mean…God, I don’t know what I mean.” It took her a moment to realize that both Sam and her beloved Grammie were both laughing at her.

“You didn’t think my hearing was that good, did ya’?” Grammie was all smiles as she looked up at Brooke’s confused face. She turned her attention towards her daughter. “Elaine…did you spring a new one out or is this some friend of Samantha’s?”

Elaine cleared her throat a couple of times, unable to answer.

“Grammie,” Sam began to explain, “Mother didn’t spring anything out.”

The extremely short woman looked up at Brooke. “Oh, no? Then what’s this standing here in front of me?” The woman moved her head to look from a different perspective. “A skyscraper?”

“No, Mother.” Elaine began to wring her hands together. “This skyscraper, as you call her, is Samantha’s….uhm…” Elaine fumbled for a moment before finally spitting out. “This is Brooke, my daughter-in-law.”

Brooke looked pleasantly surprised at the woman. Feeling a bit mischievous, she glanced over to Sam and winked before walking over to Elaine. “That’s right. Good morning.” She put an arm around Elaine’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek. “Mother Moleson.”

Turning to see her father walking into the room, Sam started coughing at the display.

Stopping next to his daughter, Samuel began to pat her gently between her shoulder blades. “Sammie? Did something go down the wrong way? Are you okay?”

A small hand came up and covered the larger one, now on her shoulder. “I’m fine, Daddy. Thank you. I’m just a little dry.” Sam looked over at Brooke who still had an arm around her mother’s shoulder.

“Thank you for tucking me in last night, Mrs. Moleson. That was very thoughtful of you.”

“My pleasure, Brooke.” Elaine actually surprised herself at the ease in which she spoke those words. “You’re like one of my children; being part of the family now and all. Please…call me mom.”

Samuel’s eyes opened wide in disbelief.

“Ahh…thank you.” Brooke blinked a few times at what she believed to be sincerity coming from Elaine. Feeling a need to get the emphasis off of her, she changed the subject. “Would it be alright if I got a cup of coffee?”

“You want coffee?” Elaine grabbed Brooke’s hand and walked her over to the couch. “You just sit right here with Mother… I mean your Grammie and I’ll bring it in for you.” She moved away, then stopped, turning back toward her daughter-in-law. “You like that black, right Dear?”

Brooke looked over at Sam and shrugged her shoulders before turning back to Elaine. “Uhm…that would be fine but I could get it. Really.”

“Now, now Brooke, I insist. You need your rest, Dear. You just sit back and have a nice visit.”

“Uhm…what can I say but thank you.”

The Molson matriarch smiled politely then turned to the others. “Samantha, Mother…can I get coffee for you as well?”

“Strong please, Mother,” Sam requested. “Thank you.”

“I’ll take the same only add a little milk to mine.” Grammie nodded her head. “How about you, Samuel?” She came around the corner of the couch and sat down.

“None for me. I’ve already had my fill.” He shooed his wife off into the kitchen.

“Good morning, Mr. Molson.”

“Samuel,” he corrected her politely.

“Samuel,” the dark haired woman smiled nervously. “Sorry about that. How are you, Sir?” Brooke offered him the seat next to her.

Samuel shook his head and smiled as he grabbed the morning paper from the coffee table and waved it. “Fine and you, Brooke? You must have gotten enough sleep last night. I can see you’re looking a bit more… refreshed this morning.”

“Yes Sir, I am. Thank you.” The taller woman shifted in her seat to make room for her wife. Once they were seated, Brooke placed Sam’s head on her shoulder and leaned over to kiss her short blonde locks.

“That’s great, Brooke. I guess I’ll just…ah…go help Elaine with that coffee. Mother Addams,” Samuel excused himself and followed the steps of his wife into the kitchen.

A throat cleared from beside them and the newlyweds turned to see the look of amusement on the older woman’s face. “So, Samantha, are you going to properly introduce me to this giant or do I just keep calling her that?”

Sam smiled at the ribbing. “Sorry, Grammie. This is my wife, Brooke Gordon.” Sam turned to Brooke and waved her hand toward the older woman on the other end of the couch. “Brooke, this is my Grammie, Lillian Addams, the hippest Grammie I ever knew of.” Sam scooted down the length of the couch and placed an arm around the older woman’s shoulder. “What do you think, Grammie??? Did I pick a good one or what?” She glanced over to see Brooke begin to blush under the close scrutiny of the shorter women.

“Well… Sammie, you picked a ripe one that’s for sure. She looks damn good in red, too.” Grammie chuckled mercilessly. “Bet she looked even better in a tux too.” The older woman grew serious. “That is what she wore at the commitment ceremony, isn’t it? Man, I would’ve liked to have seen that.” She looked over to Sam. “Too bad you didn’t wait for me to be in town before getting hitched.”

“Uh…that would be my fault.” Brooke sat up straight. “Sam didn’t know about the commitment ceremony until I popped the question in Vermont. I’m sorry.” She offered her hand to Lillian. “It’s truly a pleasure to meet you ma’am. Sam’s told me a few stories about you.”

Lillian lightly smacked her granddaughter across her stomach then in a more serious tone she added, “And she’s so polite, too.”

“Ah…Sam?” Brooke asked in bewilderment. “Am I missing something, here?”

The brunette’s question caused a whole new round of laughter before Grammie slapped her knee and wiped a tear from her eye.

“Brooke, honey, you’re not missing anything. If Grammie’s not joking with you or teasing you, then she’s mad at you. Think of her as C.C. in fifty years,” Sam tried to ease her wife’s confusion.

“Damn right. I like her, Sammie. I think I’ll be laughing a lot with her around.”

Emerald green eyes lit up as bright as any light on Broadway. “Does that mean you’ll be staying for a while?”

“Well, if thirty minutes is a while then I guess I am.” Lillian looked back and forth between the two younger women in the room, her brown eyes warm and sincere. “I’m sorry, Sammie. I’ve got a hot date with a book salesman in Nepal.” Grammie looked over at the disappointment in Sam’s face and became serious. “I’m only teasing about the date.” She winked. “Really girls, if I had known, I would have given myself more time here.”

Brooke wrapped an arm around her wife’s shoulders. “Well, when will you be back in town? We could visit with you then.”

Lillian tugged on her right ear as she thought for a moment. “I don’t rightly know. I have to be in New Mexico first thing in the morning. Too early if you ask me. I’ve got a grant to fund an artist’s colony there. So you’ve got me for the next…” she glanced briefly at the gold watch around her left wrist, “fifteen minutes so let’s chew the fat. How’s married life, Giant? You treating my granddaughter well?”

“Better than my life before I was married.” Brooke smiled.

“She treats me too well, I think.” Sam patted her wife’s hand.

“Do not!” “You do too.” The feisty blonde countered.

“Yeah, I can see it.” Lillian nodded. “Newlyweds for sure. I remember those days. Enjoy them now before the real fighting starts.” She looked at her grandchild. “You know, like what position to use tonight.” The older woman winked, chuckling uncontrollably.

“Grammie!” A tinge of red came to Sam’s cheeks.

“Sammie…Sammie.” Lillian took her grandchild’s hand in hers and patted it sympathetically. “We’re all adults here. There’s no need to be embarrassed. Sex is a necessity of life. There’s nothing that says it has to be boring.”

Seeing the blush growing deeper on her wife’s face, Brooke attempted to steer the conversation in another direction. “This is just a thought but if you’d like to stay and visit with your family…” Blue eyes flickered over to Sam. “We could always have Jonnie fly her out.”

“Jonnie?” Lillian questioned. “Who’s Jonnie?”

Sam leaned over and kissed Brooke full on the lips before turning back to her grandmother. “You’re going to love my wife. She has loads of useful people at her disposal. Jonnie, Gram, is a corporate pilot. She can get you to New Mexico in a couple of hours with no layovers.”

The older woman chewed on her bottom lip. “No layovers, huh?” Lillian pondered the thought. “Different carrier, huh?” The woman eyed her suspiciously. “Is it gonna cost me more?”

“Grammie…” green eyes implored first to her grandmother, then to her wife. “We didn’t ask for any money, did we?”

“Nope.” Brooke sat up straighter. “No money at all. Think of it as me giving you a lift in my car…well, plane really.”

“Jet, actually,” Sam corrected her wife. “Corporate jet. It’s part of her company’s perks for their clientele.”

“Our company,” Brooke patted her wife’s hand.

“You’re right, our company. I’m an intern there…” The blonde turned a hopeful look in her grandmother’s direction. “Will you let us do that for you?”

“Aw, hell Sammie, I think you’ve got a good one. I’d say she’s a keeper and not just because of the jet either. I tell you, if I was fifty years younger I’d give you a run for your money at keeping her.” Lillian looked away from her grandchild and over into shocked blue orbs. “Hey Giant, do you think you could handle two of us Addams’ women?” You don’t have anything against older women, do ya’? You know what they say,” she broke into a verse of a song. “Older women make good lovers.” Brown eyes glistened. “At least that’s what Ronnie says.”

“Ronnie?” Brooke mouthed the word again, her brow furrowing in deep thought. “Reagan?”

“No! McDowell.” Lillian’s tone was adamant. “Damn it! I thought you said she was in the music industry, Sammie.” Grammie eyed the brunette strangely. “She doesn’t look like she was born yesterday.”

Bemused, Brooke watched the two women closely, shaking her head.

“What’s the matter, Hon?” Sam asked as she placed her hand on the confused woman’s knee.

“Not a thing, Darlin’. I guess I’m just not as used to being teased by your family as you are.”

Lillian sat up straighter then leaned in towards Brooke. “So what makes you think that Sammie would be used to it? She hasn’t been married before…” the woman paused as she looked into her granddaughter’s eyes. “Have you? Tell the truth because we’ll know if you’re lying.”

Green eyes widened in shock at the question. “Of course not, Grammie.”

“Have you?” Lillian swung around without missing a beat and looked directly at Brooke.

“No ma’am. Your granddaughter is my first and only.” She cast a loving gaze in her wife’s direction. “And just so you know, Sam is quite used to my family teasing her senseless.”

“Family, huh? Big one?”

“Pretty big.” Brooke nodded. “There’s my parents, three sisters and me.” She smiled, “Not to mention my niece and two nephews.”

“Don’t forget there’s another one on the way,” Sam pointed out.

“Yeah, maybe even more.” Brooke kept a knowing smile in check.

“Hmm…and where does this giant fall in that mix? Oh, God!” A distasteful look came to Lillian’s face. “You’re not the baby are you? I can’t stand the babies of the family. They always want everything.”

Brooke couldn’t stop the laughter that burst from her lips if she tried. “No ma’am. I’m the second oldest. My older sister is an Assistant D.A.”

“Duck’s Ass?” There was a mischievous twinkle to Lillian’s eyes.

“No, Grammie. That would be District Attorney.” Sam corrected her.

“I see, one of those. Anybody in your family do any real work? You know…instead of just pushing people and papers around?” The older woman waited for an answer.

“Well, my sister, who is just a few years younger than I am, is a pediatrician.”

“Oh. A cutesie doctor. Probably has the little animals on her stethoscope too, I suppose.”

“Something like that,” Brooke chuckled. “Then there’s C.C. She’s the youngest.”

“C.C.? What in the hell kind of a name is that? What does it stand for, cute and cuddly? Oh, good gods, she’s got to be the baby.” Grammie whispered the last statement out of the corner of her mouth and into Sam’s ear.

“Cjersti Chase,” Brooke readily offered up the name. “She’s the baby alright, but she’s also my best friend. She’s a month older than Sam.”

“Like ‘em young, huh?” Lillian egged the woman on. “You’re older than they are and not just by a year or two.”

“Actually ma’am, I’ll be thirty-one in a couple of months.”

Lillian turned her attention towards Sam once again. “See Sammie, what did I tell you?” Again she broke out into song. “Older women make good lovers.” Seeing the appalled but slightly bemused look on her grandchild’s face, the woman sighed. “Aw, hell. She is keeping you happy, isn’t she Sammie?”

Startled at the question, Sam fumbled with her answer. “Y-Y-Yes. Without a doubt.” Realizing what she’d just admitted to, the blonde began to blush. “Tell me I didn’t just say that,” she murmured, covering her face with her hands.

“You did. And ah…thanks for the testimony to my ability to…(cough, cough) please you.” Brooke buffed her nails on her shirt, a look of mock boredom settling on her face as a yawn worked its way up and out of her mouth. “Oh, excuse me. I guess I’m still pretty tired from the drive up yesterday. We had quite a long day.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you did. What did you do, Giant…push the car?”

The dark haired woman looked to Sam. “Would you like to handle this one, Darlin’?” A loving smile came to Brooke’s face.

Sam stood up and checked the hall to make sure her parents were still in the kitchen. She sat back down next to Lillian and grabbed her hand.

“Oh good gods…” Lillian rolled her eyes, “secrets already.”

“We were at the doctor’s yesterday.”

“You’re not sick are you?” Brown eyes shifted back and forth from green to blue and then back again. “Either of you?”

The blonde smiled over at Brooke before turning back to her grandmother. “No. We’re in the preliminary stages of trying for a baby.”

Brooke smiled and kissed Sam on top of her head. “Our baby.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Lillian looked shocked for the first time all day. “Do your parents know about this?”

“We haven’t told them yet Grammie.” Sam shook her head. “Only that Brooke was having some testing done.”

“Good! That damn daughter of mine will have a conniption.”

“In all actuality, I believe Sam’s mother thinks I’m dying.” Brooke interjected. “I’m just afraid that when she finds out I’m not, she’s going to kill me.”

“It’ll serve her right.” Lillian looked over to Brooke. “My daughter, not you.”

“Thanks.” Brooke said, not knowing if it was appropriate.

“Woohoo!” The tiny woman let out a big yell. “Just wait until Elaine finds out. She’ll see what being a Grammie is all about. You know, when a little one comes along, it’s a bit of yourself heading off into the future.” Lillian stared off into space. “A future you may never get to see but you’re damn glad you’ll still be a part of it in some way.”

Sam reached over and hugged the older woman. “Grammie, you will always be a part of my life.” She reached out to Brooke, grasping her wife’s hand. “Of our family’s life.”

Small arms hugged her back and kissed her on her cheek. “Well, that’s a good thing, Sammie. I don’t think any of us have much of a choice when it’s our time to go.”

Brooke chose that moment to stand up. “Tell you what, Sweetheart. I’ll go call Jonnie and make arrangements for the flight tomorrow.” She looked to Lillian. “Mrs. Addams, what time would you like to leave?”

“Do not call me Mrs. Addams. I couldn’t stand that old biddy. You can call me, Grams, Grammie, Old Bitch…anything but that.” She shook her head, then looked up to eye the standing woman. “What are my choices?”

“It’s a private jet. It can leave whenever you’d like.”

“Do you think you could have that plane leave at eight in the morning?”

“I sure can. I’ll arrange for the limo to pick you up here at seven-thirty.” With the arrangements negotiated, Brooke left the room to make the phone call.

Lillian watched her leave then turned back to her granddaughter. “Is she like that with you all the time, Sammie?”

“Pretty much.” The young woman’s voice was soft, almost taking on a shy undertone.

“Good, ‘cause I like her.” The woman nodded emphatically. “Hey Sammie,” she turned her attention back to her granddaughter, “I’m not riding on no jumbo jet am I? I hate those planes. Too damn many people and not enough bathrooms.” Lillian sighed. “Speaking of input and output…what is taking that daughter of mine so long with the coffee. I could’ve jogged down to the corner store, drank an entire cup and jogged back by now.”

Brooke re-entered the room to the sound of laughter. She placed an arm over her wife’s shoulder as she sat down. “Did I miss something? What’s so funny?”

“Grammie was just talking crazy.” Sam shook her head. “And to answer your question, it’s not a jumbo jet.” She looked over to see her grandmother ready to start another round of questions. “Before you ask, it’s not a Piper Cub either.”

“Wow! Limmos. Jets. I guess you must be used to giant modes of transportation. I’m hard to impress, but you’re getting there.”

“I’m not trying to impress you.” Brooke spoke up. “I’m just trying to make sure my wife has everything her heart desires.” She turned to face Sam. “And that includes one little Chase Loran.”

Lillian moved over into the corner of the couch to get a better view of the young couple before her. She watched as they gazed lovingly into the other’s eyes. Seeing them kiss brought a smile to the older woman’s face. Grammie waited until they were done before speaking. “Chase Loran, huh? It sounds like the two of you have been planning this for a while.”

“Long enough to know that it feels right.” Brooke could have cared less at that moment who was in the room. All she could do was lean over and press her lips against Sam’s.

Lillian smacked her hand against her knee before standing up. “I would have to agree.” She began making her way into the kitchen, calling out in a rather loud voice. “Elaine, where in the hell are you with that coffee? Better get it together, girl. Momma is spending the night.”

The sound of a dish shattering in the kitchen, was barely noticed by the two lovers locked in their tender embrace.

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

“Oh no you don’t.” Sam’s stern warning stopped her wife dead in her tracks. “The driver can take Grammie’s luggage. It’s part of his job, Brooke.”

“I know, that’s why I’ve got ours.” The tall woman smiled cheekily.

“Michael,” Sam got the driver’s attention. “When you’re done with those, these will be going into our car, please.” The blonde smiled sweetly at her wife.

“Yes, Ma’am.” The driver held the door open for them as they readied to depart.

“Thank you.” She turned her attention toward her wife. “Here, you can have this one.” Sam picked up the smallest bag and handed it to Brooke.

“Thanks.” Brooke walked out the front door of the house mumbling under her breath. “It’s not like the bags were heavy. I’ve carried heavier things than that just getting Mario’s food into the house.” A quick pinch to her backside quieted her grumbling. “Hey!” She slapped at the offending hand.

“Stop your complaining, Brooke.” Sam moved around the woman and kept on walking. “And don’t even try to pretend that you’re not still sore from the other day. I know you are.”

Long legs came to a halt halfway down the walkway. “Oh yeah?” Brooke bent at her waist to place their smaller overnight bag on the walkway. After standing back up, she bent at the knees to retrieve it. “All better now. See?” She grabbed the bag and started to straighten up. “OWWW!” The pull on her tender abdominal muscles caught the woman by surprise. “Damn!”

Sam’s steps quickened as she hurried back to her wife. Resting her hand on Brooke’s shoulder, she attempted to prevent the woman from picking up the bag. Sure that her message was noted, the small hand slipped from its place.

The sore woman took her free hand and rubbed the spot on her shoulder were Sam’s hand had been. “You brute. Take it easy.” Blue eyes flashed teasingly. “I’m supposed to be dying,” she whispered, giving a nod of her head toward the house. “Remember?”

“Serves you right for doing something so stupid.” Sam patted her lover’s cheek, then placed a kiss on the woman’s nose.

“You can definitely tell who the newlyweds are.” Lillian walked by them with Michael on her heels. “You couldn’t get a piece of tissue paper between them without wrinkling it.”

“Damn right!” Brooke said without giving it a second thought as she watched the blush creep up Sam’s neck and over her checks.

Once at the car, the limo driver stood at attention as he held the rear door open. Brooke placed a hand on his shoulder and gently pulled him away from the door.

“Thank you, Michael. I have everything from here.”

The driver nodded in understanding as he walked around to the opposite side of the limo.

Sam leaned in and hugged Lillian. “It was great to see you, Grammie. I’m so glad we had this time together.”

Lillian pulled Sam’s ear closer to her mouth. “You keep that one, Samantha. Brooke’s a good girl and she loves you. Give Grammie a call and let me know how everything goes.” The woman pulled away and gave a subtle nod toward Sam’s abdomen. “All of you.”

“I will, Grammie.”

“And you, Giant.” She waved a pointed finger at the tall woman. “Don’t even think about bending over to hug me or I’ll sic Sammie here on you.”

Brooke looked between Lillian and Sam before letting a grin break out across her face.

“Hey! Wipe that smirk off your face. You’d like that wouldn’t you?” She watched as the brunette’s eyebrows wavered with impetuous delight before reaching up and grabbing the woman by her shirt. Without a second thought, she pulled Brooke down until she was able to stare directly into her eyes. “You take care of my granddaughter, Brooke. Ya’ here?”

“Yes, Ma’am. I will.” The older woman released her hold allowing her captive its freedom. “Hey! Why am I Brooke all of a sudden and not Giant? I thought you liked me.”

“I do.” Lillian turned and looked at her granddaughter. “But I can’t always be calling you Giant when the little ones start poppin’ out.” She winked at Sammie. “They might get confused as to what side of the family they really take after.”

Brooke looked away and smiled. “Yeah, I could see that might be a problem.” She turned back to Lillian and took the woman’s small hand into her much larger one. “It was a pleasure to meet you.” Brooke brought the back of the woman’s hand to her mouth and kissed it.

“Stop that, you’ll be having your wife thinking I’m on the make.” She winked bashfully at her in-law. “The pleasure is all mine. I’m the one riding in the fancy limo and the cushy jet today.” Lillian stepped into the passenger compartment of the limo. “Ha! Look at this. I don’t have to duck to get in.”

Everyone laughed as Brooke shut the door. A second later the tinted window was lowered. The older woman waved at her family before turning in the direction of the driver. “To the airport, James…er…Michael.” She shot a quick smile out the window. “I’ve always wanted to say something like that,” Lillian chuckled. “See ya’ and thanks.”

“Any time, Grammie.”

“Bye.” Brooke waved as the limo started to pull away.

Sam snaked an arm gently around the taller woman’s waist. They watched the limo until it turned off the street.

“Brooke. Samantha.” Elaine came bounding out the door with a small bag in her hand. “I’m so glad I caught you.”

“Ot oh!” Brooke gulped hard as her gaze met Sam’s. “What now?”

“I have no idea,” Sam whispered. “You could kill her with kindness.”

The taller woman turned first, flashing a radiant smile. “Mother, how nice of you to see us off.”

Hearing the smoothness of her wife’s words, Sam stifled a cough before turning.

“Nonsense. It’s the least I could do.” She held up the bag. “Brooke, I know you didn’t feel much like eating last night…what with your…well,” Elaine’s eyes glanced away then back again. “I thought you might like to take this last piece of lasagna home with you.” She offered the bag to her daughter-in-law. “You can eat it whenever you’re feeling a little more…up to it.”

Hesitantly, Brooke took the bag. “Thanks. I…ah…that was so thoughtful of you.”

“Thanks, Mother.” Blonde brows furrowed on Sam’s forehead. “I think,” she muttered.

“Next time you’re in the area, perhaps we could all…” Elaine searched for something to say, “have lunch?”

“Um…yeah…lunch.” Brooke feigned a smile. “I can’t wait.”

“Speaking of not waiting,” Sam cleared her throat, “we had better get going before the traffic gets too bad.” The sound of the screen door opening caught her attention, causing her to look just past her mother. “Daddy.”

“Ah, there’s my daughter and her wife.” Samuel came down the walk with a smile on his face. “I know we did this once already this morning but how about another hug for your old man?” He held out is arms. “You know, I don’t get these as often as I’d like any more.”

The young woman stepped up to her father. “Daddy, I had a wonderful time. Thanks.” Sam kissed his cheek and reveled in his warm embrace.

Not wanting to be left out of the affectionate display, Elaine reached out and pulled Brooke into an awkward hug. “You drive careful now, you hear? I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.”

Brooke rolled her eyes. “Right,” she said a little sarcastically under her breath. “Thanks for putting us up. I know it wasn’t easy for you.”

“It was nothing compared to what you’re going through.” Elaine sniffed, then hurried to camouflage her emotions. “You rest. Keep your strength up for as long as you can, dear.” The woman disengaged herself, holding Brooke at arm’s length. “Remember, for as long as you live, you’ll always be welcome here. We’re family.”

The dark-haired woman smiled. “You mean that?”

“Well…” Elaine’s gaze shifted from Brooke to Samuel, then back again. “Of course I do. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”

“Good!” Brooke flashed a broad smile in her wife’s direction. “I can die a happy woman.” Brooke wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulder and turned her in the direction of their SUV. “Come on Sam, it’s time for us to leave.” Brooke leaned into her wife’s ear. “Before someone changes their mind.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

“Hey,” green eyes quickly found the executive at her desk as Sam leaned into the open doorway. “Care to have some company?” The blonde waited to be invited in to the CEO’s office.

“Who’s the company?” A dark eyebrow arched high on the woman’s forehead but her eyes remained glued to the monitor in front of her.

The guarded question took Sam by surprise. “No one special, just me.”

Brooke looked up from her computer screen flashing the biggest smile she could muster. “Oh Darlin’, by all means then come on in. You’re always special to me.”

“Mmm…” Sam moved into the office, making sure to close the door. “That was absolutely the answer I was looking for.” She crossed the room to where the executive sat and kissed her cheek. “Love you.” She lingered long enough to get a kiss on the lips in return.

“Love you, too.” Brooke cupped her wife’s cheek and winked. “That’s a great mid-morning pick me up, especially on a Monday. Remind me to put that into every new employee’s contract.”

“Excuse me?” An indignant look came over the blonde’s face and small balled up fists came to rest on the woman’s hips. “I think not.”

“Me, either.” Dark eyebrows wiggled teasingly. “Somehow I can’t see me getting this excited over a kiss from the likes of Peter.” Brooke shuddered. “Have a seat.” She motioned to the leather chairs across the desk from her before turning back to gaze at the monitor on her desk. “So, how’s your morning going?”

“Not bad at all.” The blonde eased into the chair, enjoying the feel of the soft material enveloping her body. “I’ve got the party all planned out for Line of Fire’s CD release next week.”

“Good.” Brooke kept her gaze on the monitor. “What do you have going?”

“T-shirt give-a-ways, teaser CD’s of their new video coming out on the fourteenth of next month, guitar picks for the rocker wannabes, and autographs galore accompanied by food and a cash bar after the show. I’ve lined up an interview with two of the TV stations, a weekend update show, and a live feed interview at the end of the concert with a hot new radio station out of Newark. Their demographics seemed right for the crowd we’re trying to cater to.” Sam took a breath, then continued. “I’ve got promotional material going out to all the hard rock radio stations and launched a dedicated advertisement on several search engines for a one time only live feed of the party.”

The executive’s interested gaze settled on Sam. “Good thought with the cash bar. It will keep us out of the legal mix should any of those,” she cleared her throat, “devoted fans or band members make a drunken ass of themselves.”

“Thanks,” a shy but accomplished smile lit up Sam’s face. “I just figured it would help keep us within our budget for PR.”

“That, too.” A chuckle escaped Brooke’s lips before she turned serious again. “Bottom line?”

“All in all, it boils down to a three hour party in the heart of Line of Fire’s hometown with an offering of reaching a billion plus potential consumers around the world for a total cost of…fifteen thousand.” Sam held her breath, awaiting her boss’s reaction.

Brooke pondered the facts for a long moment. “Only fifteen thousand with internet advertising?”

“I negotiated a flat rate fee for the service rather than the usual click for pay.” Seeing the interest in Brooke’s face, Sam explained further. “I offered them the promise of more advertising to come if it showed a major increase in our sales stats for the first week after the CD’s release.”

“Nice move. I wished I’d thought of it.” Brooke watched as the blush of embarrassment rose over Sam’s face. “I’m impressed. You took my suggestions and really expanded on them. Remind me to give you a raise.”

“You always do,” Sam whispered, meeting her wife’s gaze.

A soft smile settled on their faces. No words were spoken, but each knew what the other’s heart held for them. Slowly, Brooke turned her attention back to the monitor.

Silence reigned supreme as Sam bided her time studying the woman before her. Much to her surprise, a soothing warmth began to fill her soul. The blonde’s right hand shifted to her belly and she thought of what the upcoming afternoon held in respect to her future. Out of nowhere her mind slammed on the brakes. No, that wasn’t quite right. Sam reconsidered and corrected her thought. It was their future together. Feeling the nervous spark of anticipation grow within her being, Sam took the pen out from behind her ear and twirled it between her fingers. She smiled thinking how much it reminded her of a certain drummer she knew and loved. Images of the previous night floated across her brain reliving moments of passion they had shared only a few hours ago. God, how I’d love to spend the rest of my life raising a family with this woman.

“…lost shipment in Albany. What do you think, Sam.” Brooke looked up when no answer came. Seeing the far away look in the woman’s eyes, her wife became concerned. “Sam?”

The sound of the familiar voice snapped the blonde back to the present. Green eyes drifted over the room until they settled on concerned blue ones staring back at her. “Huh?” Sam shifted in the chair, self-consciously. “Sorry Hon, what did you say?”

The tinge of blush coming to Sam’s cheeks was all that Brooke needed to see in order to guess what her wife had been thinking about. “Were you daydreaming or just reliving our escapades last night?” She arched a dark eyebrow in question as she watched a coy smile slowly come to the other woman’s face. The sound of Sam’s sexy purr brought a pleased smile to Brooke’s face. “I thought so.” She glanced to the monitor, then back to the woman sitting across from her. “I…I have a confession to make, Darlin’.”

“A confession?” Blonde brows furrowed.

“You weren’t the only one thinking about last night. I was, too. In fact, I was day dreaming about it right before you came into my office. I think I read the same email three times. So don’t feel bad.” She watched as a satisfied smile brightened the younger woman’s face.

“I’d say this is the perfect day for our child to be implanted. Wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah,” Brooke nodded, “I would.”

“So…” Sam tried to contain the intense emotions that threatened to overcome her. “Are you about done, Hon? We’ll need to leave soon so we don’t get stuck in traffic once we hit Williamsburg.”

“Just about.” Brooke sighed. “I’ve returned all my calls and I only have two more emails to reply to.” Blue eyes looked down to the watch on her wrist. “What in the hell is taking so long with that contract? I told Peter we were leaving early today.”

Brooke punched a button on the phone and buzzed Peter’s office. “Peter?” She paused for a moment. “Peter?” When no answer came, she pondered his whereabouts. Making a quick decision, she pushed the intercom button connecting her to Ida’s desk. “Peter?”

A few seconds passed before Peter’s tentative sounding voice filled the room. “Yeah, Boss?”

Brooke shook her head, then pressed down on the button again. “I always know where to find you if you’re not in your office. Should I just go ahead and stick the two of you in one office with matching desks and bunk beds with a couch?”

“Only if I get the bottom bunk, Brooke. But then again,” the sound of a deep chuckle came through the intercom, “we’d never get any work done.”

“Peter and Ida?” Sam whispered. Green eyes met blue and both women snickered.

“The eyes and ears of the company,” Brooke quipped.

“I should have known.”

Peter’s voice came back over the speaker. “So, what can I help you with, Boss.”

“I requested some contracts and an expense check over an hour ago. Call Linda and ask what her major malfunction is. I need to have those items downtown by one this afternoon.”

“Sure thing, Brooke.” Peter sounded eager.

“Thanks.” Brooke lifted her finger from the button, then slammed it back down. “Oh! I almost forgot, can either you or Ida please set up a courier for their delivery? Sam and I aren’t going to be here much longer.”

“Sure thing, Brooke.”

Ida’s voice added to the mix. “I got it.”

“I’ll go down and get them while you do that.” Peter could be heard offering. “Linda’s not here.”

Brooke looked from her monitor to the intercom as she sat straight up in her chair. “What do you mean she’s not here? Where is she? She cost this company a lot of money. The least she could do is her damn job.”

Sam got up and made her way around the desk and behind Brooke. Laying her hands on her wife, she began rubbing the tense shoulders. “Easy, Brooke,” she whispered.

“I don’t know where she is, Brooke. All I know is she called in to her department and said she had some personal issues to attend to.”

“Her department?” Brooke’s voice rose an octave. “I could have sworn I told her to call into this office. She was to call off only to me as part of the agreement to continue working here.” Small fingers dug into the base of Brooke’s neck as the dark head rolled from side to side. “Peter, do me a favor. From now on, keep an eye on her. Let me know if anything looks funny.”

“Looks funny?” Peter could be heard thinking aloud. “You mean ha ha funny or…”

“Not right, you ninny.” Ida’s stage whisper was easily heard over the intercom.

“I knew that.” Peter tried to recover his composure.

“Right.”

Brooke tried hard not to laugh at Ida’s sarcastic remark. “Peter…the contracts,” she drew his attention back to the original topic of their conversation.

“Sure thing, Boss. I’ll go get those contracts for you right now.”

“Thank you.” Brooke turned off the speakerphone before spinning her chair around and pulling Sam down into her lap. The executive took her time kissing the lips before her.

“What was that for?” Sam breathed gently against Brooke’s lips.

“Just because I wanted to.” White teeth peeked out through a broadening smile. “As soon as I sign those contracts we can get out of here.”

Sam got up from Brooke’s lap. “And what about your emails?” She looked over to the monitor on her wife’s desk before starting for the door.

Brooke waved it off with her hand. She stood up and reached for her jacket. “They’ve been waiting since Friday. They can wait until tomorrow.”

Her wife’s words took Sam by surprise. Not believing her ears, the blonde turned and watched as a leather jacket wrapped around broad shoulders.

“Hmm…” Sam snickered quietly as she watched the executive clearing off her desk. “I think our long weekend off together spoiled you, hon.”

“Any time off with you spoils me, Darlin’.” Brooke emphasized her southern drawl. “You know how much I’m into being with family.”

“Good!” Sam smiled. “If we leave now, we might be able to catch up with Mother for lunch.”

Brooke’s hand hovered over the button to turn off the CPU of her computer. She hesitated for a moment before reaching for the mouse. “Then again, I wouldn’t really want to keep anyone waiting for a reply.” She sank down into her chair, blue eyes fixed intently to the screen in front of her. “I don’t like to be kept waiting, you know?” She glanced over to where her wife was standing, her hand lingering on the doorknob. “Hey, I’ve got to wait for those contracts here, don’t I?”

All Sam could do was smile. “Yeah, I guess you do.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

Brooke rhythmically tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair. One by one she worked her way through bits and pieces of every song she’d ever had in her musical bag of tricks. She looked over to the woman seated next to her. Cool as a cucumber the blonde sat paging through a magazine in her hands.

Brooke leaned into her lover. “You nervous?”

“Nope.” Sam turned another page. “More like anxious.” She glanced over to her wife and smiled.

The sound of a door opening drew the attention of everyone in the waiting room. Dr. Dennison’s nurse poked into the room. “Mr. and Mrs. Sable.”

“Soon, Brooke.” Sam patted her disappointed wife’s hand. “Our turn will be soon.”

“Yeah, I know.” The woman wiggled down into her chair. Brooke hadn’t even worked her lower lip into a full pout when the door opened once more and the familiar face jutted out of the open doorway. “Hmmph! Go ahead, call someone else.” Brooke muttered. “I know you will.”

“Sh!” Sam attempted to silence the grumbling woman next to her.

“Mrs. Gordon.” The nurse called out the name.

“Come on, Baby. It’s our turn.” The blonde nudged her wife.

“What?” Brooke’s head snapped upward.

Sam stood up and held a hand out to her wife. “I’m ready and waiting. You’re coming, right?” Hopeful green eyes looked into blue.

“Hell yeah I’m coming. I think it’s only right to be present when my wife officially becomes pregnant, don’t you?” Brooke stood up and held Sam’s smaller hand in her own as they followed the nurse into the back.

A slight shade of red began to creep across Sam’s fair features. “That would be the plan, yes.”

The blonde stopped short when the nurse led them to the same room where the eggs had been harvested. “Ah…excuse me.” Green eyes flittered from the room, to her wife, then back again to the nurse. “We are getting impregnated, right? I mean, that’s what we’re here for.” Sam watched as the nurse continued about her business, placing a fresh gown on the table.

“Please, come in and have a seat.” The nurse smiled and flipped through Sam’s chart.

The two women stepped into the room, Brooke quickly taking a seat in the chair, leaving the examination table for Sam.

“That’s right. It says implantation here in your chart.” She pointed to the scrolled word in the chart. Seeing the hesitant look on the blonde’s face, the nurse placed a comforting hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. Any fool can do it.” She smirked. “Maybe that’s why they gave the sperm to men.” She walked out, quietly closing the door behind her and leaving the two women to their privacy.

The drummer clapped her hands together and began to rub them briskly. “Come on, Sweetheart. You know the drill. Time to get naked!”

Petite hands stopped the removal of her shirt as Sam arched a golden eyebrow in the brunette’s direction.

“I mean…” Brooke cleared her throat. “You can get changed into your paper gown.” The woman smiled sweetly until Sam continued to undress. Once out of her wife’s scrutiny, the tall woman rocked back and forth in her chair, drumming her fingers against the surgical stand next to her while biting the fingernails on her other hand.

Seeing her wife’s nervous habits magnified to the max, Sam interceded. “Brooke, calm down. I’m the one who’s getting ready to kiss my figure goodbye and I’m calmer than you.”

“Sorry.” Brooke got out of her chair and helped cover up her wife with the sheet at the end of the table. She tucked the edges in around Sam, then spoke quietly. “We’re almost there, Sweetheart. Do you realize that?”

“Yes. All I’ve got to do now is lay back and wait for it to happen.” She reached up and ran a hand down Brooke’s cheek. “Just like I waited for you.” Sam smiled as she felt warm lips caress her palm.

“I can’t believe you’re almost pregnant with my baby.” A lone tear fell from blue eyes before being wiped away by a petite thumb.

“Almost? I’m banking on being pregnant and soon.”

A dark head lowered until their lips met. “I love you, Sam and our little Petri dish baby.” Brooke whispered.

Sam giggled as she kissed Brooke again. “I know. I love you, too.”

Not a moment later Dr. Dennison opened the door on the tender display. “Well, good afternoon, ladies. What do you say we introduce your baby to its mommy now?

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}
Installment 2–11 – As The Candle Burns
The door to the break room at Brownstone opened and a nerdy-looking young man exited the room, but not before holding a glass up to the fluorescent light to examine it more closely. He rubbed it against his chest once making sure not to dislodge his plastic pocket protector, then lifted it up for inspection again. A few strands of wavy brown hair fell into his face and he pushed them away with his free hand.

“Now that’s what I like to see. Not a smudge on it.” He smiled contently heading over to the water cooler a few feet down the hallway and filled the glass.

“Hey.” The greeting was simple and friendly coming from a rather casually clad woman with a pencil behind one ear and a can of diet cola in the other. “How’s it going, Tom?

“Hi,” he lifted his eyes from the glass of water and looked her way before taking a sip.

“Can you believe it’s May already? I can’t.” Tom stated in an effort to start a conversation.

The woman glanced over her shoulder when she heard footsteps coming down the hall. “Hey, Pat.” She lifted her head in a greeting.

“Morning, Sylvie.” The jean-clad young woman yawned. “Sorry guys, didn’t get much sleep last night. I was babysitting a friend with a bad hangover.” She looked around the hallway. “Brooke’s not in yet, is she?”

“Don’t worry, the boss isn’t here yet.” The graphic artist shrugged her shoulders then peered into the opening of her can. “She’ll be here though.” Sylvie took a drink. “She always is unless she’s out of town.”

Tom pushed his hair out of his eyes once more and took another drink. “You’re right,” the accountant stuck to the facts. “I haven’t seen her or Sam this morning.”

“They must have had another wild weekend, too.” Pat blinked innocently when all eyes turned in her direction. “I mean…they’re gone from the office at least one weekend a month. They’ve got to be doing something with that time.” She looked away innocently.

“Like a rocker needs a reason to be wild,” Tom smirked. “So what’s your reason? Last time I checked the closest you’ve ever come to being a rocker was playing with someone’s organ.”

Pat glared at the man. “At least I get a handle on it.”

“What do you know? Spill it, Pat.” Sylvie demanded.

“I heard Sam wanted Brooke’s tattoo to be gone.” She proceeded to the cooler, taking a paper cup from the sleeve. “You know, the one of the drums on her back. That’s why they went to Richmond. I saw them there myself, about two months ago.”

“Why there?” Sylvie took a sip from her can. “What’s so special about Richmond?”

“Less publicity,” Pat looked at the paper cup in her hand. “No one cares about rockers in Richmond.”

“That’s not what I heard.” Tom leaned in to whisper. “Linda told me it was for marriage counseling.” The accountant nodded smugly. “I knew it wouldn’t last with their age difference.”

“Age difference?” Pat squawked. “What time warp are you living in? I’ve already dated someone twenty years older than me.”

“Now that’s what I call cradle robbing,” Tom sneered back. “So tell us, Pat, how wild can a weekend get with a geriatric?”

“Hey! Hey! Let’s get back to the topic at hand.” Sylvie piped up.

“The topic…it was marriage counseling,” Tom interjected, “for Brooke and Sam.”

“And you believe that?” Sylvie looked skeptical. “Like Linda is buddies with Brooke…or even Sam for that matter.” The artist shook her head and stepped forward in anticipation of the mail cart that was headed down the hall. “You should know better than to listen to anything that woman says about those two.”

The accountant looked up from his glass of water and acknowledged the figure coming toward them. “Hi, Pepper.”

“Hi ya’, Tom.” The mail clerk flashed a bright smile and slowed her cart to a halt. “Sylvie…Pat. What’s the scuttlebutt around the cooler today?”

“Long weekend and the boss isn’t in yet.” The graphic artist dangled a speculative carrot out in front of the office gossip.

“Well…” the clerk rubbed her noise. “I heard they were interviewing unwed mothers and trying to arrange an adoption.” Pepper watched as three sets of eyes lit up. “At least that’s what I thought I heard Peter saying to Ida the other day.”

Sylvie was the first to speak. “That would answer a few things.”

“Must be nice to have money to just buy things. Cars, big house, plane…” Pat ticked off the options on her fingers, “kid.”

“So guys…” Peter walked down the hall toward the cooler. “What have I missed this morning?” He smiled at each of his co-workers. “Catch me up to speed. What’s the latest on the gossip network?”

“Cars,” Pat offered.

“Big houses.” Sylvie took a swig from her can, glancing over to Tom.

“Planes.” Tom added before all eyes slowly turned to the woman holding onto the cart.

“Kids,” the mailroom clerk smiled sweetly. After a wave of her hand, Pepper tightened her grip on the cart and started on her merry way. “Later guys, I’ve got a job to do.”

Peter stared at Pepper as she retreated down the hall. When the figure was out of sight, he turned and leaned into the trio around him. “Who?” He asked, his eyes attentive to the least little nuances of his co-workers.

Sylvie swirled the liquid in her can while Pat crumpled her paper cup and tossed it into the waste can beside the water cooler. The accountant raised the glass to his mouth and drank.

“Who’s having a kid?” Peter asked again, this time more determined to find out.

“You should know.” Tom shifted his stance. “You’re always over at their house.”

“Who?” Confusion was written all over Peter’s face. “Crystal and her mother?

Sylvie took the pencil out from behind her ear and pointed the eraser at him, jabbing Peter in the arm. “Brooke and Sam you goof.”

“Oh, that house,” Peter muttered, the total idea not setting in for a few seconds. “What?” Startled eyes looked from one person to the other in disbelief. “Naw!” Peter shook his head vigorously. “That wouldn’t be a secret. Brooke would be shouting it out for the world to hear. Trust me, I know. I’m privy to all her secrets. Well, most of them anyway. Why, she could hardly wait to tell me about the surprise she had waiting for Sam on Valentine’s day.”

“That’s no secret. Sam got roses delivered here at the office,” Tom stated flatly.

“A dozen, long stem, American Beauty roses, I might add.” Sylvie jabbed him again with the eraser for each adjective.

“And don’t forget dinner after work, too.” Pat added, crossing her arms over her chest. “What’s so secret about that? They’re the classic V-day things to do.”

“Well, yeah.” Peter stood his ground. “But I know where they went.”

Pat leaned in and peered directly into Peter’s eyes until he started to squirm, then she challenged him. “Where?”

“Uh…The new restaurant overlooking the shore.” Peter’s confidence reappeared. “And afterward they had an intimate hot tub dip under the stars.” He glanced away and thought for a second. “Of course, she did need me to let the workers in to set up the hot tub at her house while they were out to dinner. Who would have thought it would take so long to fill it with Hershey’s Chocolate?”

“I rest my case.” Pat sighed. “Another classic V-day fare, a tub of chocolate.”

“I wouldn’t mind biting into one of those hand-dipped chocolates.” Sylvie wet her lips and her eyes began to twinkle.

“Once a lesbian, always a lesbian.” Tom muttered under his breath.

“I told you I was Bi,” Sylvie’s eyes pinned the man. “But then again, you never listen to me.”

“Always the trendsetter, aren’t you Sylvie?” Pat stared at the graphic artist, waiting for a reply.

“What do you care?” A balled fist came to rest on Sylvie’s hip. “At least I appeal to both sexes. By the way, which one are you? I want to keep track of my totals.”

Peter watched as the words sunk into the distribution clerk, making her stiffen. His eyes grew bigger as the hairs on Pat’s neck began to bristle. “Now Pat take it easy. I know…” he gulped, panic setting in. “What the hell am I saying?” Peter muttered, “I don’t even know what this is about.”

“And what is it exactly that you do know, Peter?” The voice came from behind him.

“Huh?” Peter turned to see Ida staring directly at him and he cringed.

“Well?” She waited for an answer but nothing came. The office manager’s gaze moved from one employee to another. “What the heck are all of you doing just standing around here when we have business to take care of? You do remember that’s what we get paid for around here…doing business.”

“Business,” Tom coughed into his hand. “Yeah, we were…uhm…ah…”

“Just discussing a piece of work, Ida.” Sylvie interrupted him.

“Anything I need to know about?” Ida shifted her stance.

“Nothing,” Pat muttered glancing over to Sylvie. “Nothing for you to worry about, Ida.”

There was a moment of silence as all parties gathered their thoughts. As if rehearsed, everyone started to make excuses and walk away.

“I’ve got some numbers to crunch,” Tom turned, heading back to his office.

“Oops! Almost forgot, I’ve got a CD jacket due today.” Sylvie tossed her can into the wastebasket and moved quickly down the hall.

“I’d love to stay and chit-chat, Ida but I’ve…” Pat threw up her hands and started to backpedal down the hall. “I’ve got a ton of product to get out.”

“I…uhm…I…” Peter stumbled verbally trying to come up with a reason to leave. “I got to go.” He reached for the crotch of his pants.

Ida reached out and grabbed the man by his shirtsleeve. “And what’s your version of this little coffee clutch minus the coffee?”

“I…ah…I,” Peter looked down at his hands and panicked. “Damn! I forgot my cup.”

“Peter,” the office manager attempted to get his attention but to no avail. His ramblings trailed off into nothing but mumbling so she tried again, only this time a little more sternly. “PETER.”

“Please,” He covered his ears and visibly cowered. “Please don’t pull my ears. Everybody always pulls on my ears.”

Ida looked up at the ceiling and counted to ten before addressing her fellow employee. “Peter,” her voice was softer this time. “What were they talking about?”

He opened one eyelid to view her suspiciously.

“Come on, you’re safe.” She sighed. “See, my hands are going into my pockets.” She did as she had said, then looked on expectantly for Peter to talk.

Slowly his hands came away from his ears and he straightened to an upright position. “Jeez Ida, I just got here right before you came around the corner. How in the heck am I supposed to find things out when you’re always breaking up my chances to get the scoop?”

“God!” She rolled her eyes in disbelief. “It’s like sending a boy to do a man’s job.” Ida hung her head and sighed. “What’s the use?” She mumbled under her breath. “Go back to work or whatever it is you do behind that closed door.”

“Thanks, Ida.” Peter took off sprinting down the hall.

The office manager stood there for a moment before coming to her own conclusion. “Next time…I’ll do it myself.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

Ida looked up from her desk to see Brooke exiting her office. The determined look in the executive’s eyes told the office manager she was a woman on a mission. “Can I get you anything, Brooke?”

“Nope.” The tall woman shook her head. “Just making sure I get out of here early tonight.”

“Going somewhere or doing something special?” Ida looked hopeful.

“Yeah,” Brooke beamed. “We lose our PR intern tonight.”

Horror filled the office manager’s eyes. “Sam’s leaving?”

Brooke stopped short, turning to make eye contact with Ida. “No,” she said rather indignantly, “she’s graduating tonight.” Blue eyes studied the office manager for a long moment. “Ida, is there another rumor floating around that I’m not aware of?”

“No,” came the quick rebuttal. “None that I’m aware of.”

“Good,” Brooke gave a quick nod. “We don’t need any more rumors here. We’re finally getting over the last round of Linda fodder.”

“You got that right, boss.” Ida agreed, tapping her pen in a nervous fashion off her desktop. “And I’m going to keep it that way,” she muttered under her breath thinking back on the havoc the woman had brought to the company.

“If you need me, Ida.” Brooke held up her cellphone and waved it.

Seeing her boss waving the phone brought Ida back to the present. “I got your number.” The office manager leaned onto her desk. “Have fun at the ceremony tonight,” she called out, making sure Brooke heard her as the executive headed off down the hall.

“Now, to make sure no rumors are out there waiting to surface.” The office manager looked around the room. A tiny smile came to her lips and she started to nod. “Yep, time to make a clean sweep around here.” She grabbed onto the arms of her chair and pushed her body up into a standing position. “If Carol Burnett only knew I was her biggest fan,” she chuckled as she went to her closet and pulled out an old dress, tattered sweater, and wig. “Who said you have to be a CIA agent to go undercover.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

A determined stride set the pace for the compact body as it crossed the room draped only in a bath towel. Sam adjusted the knot to the left of her chest and proceeded to stand in front of her closet, green eyes sweeping over her clothes. Without a moment of hesitation she made her choice, hurriedly pulling it out and stepping back all in the same instance until a painful howl halted her.

“Arraugh!”

“Mario!” Sam quickly lifted her foot.

“Here boy,” Brooke commanded from her seated position on the bed.

“Sorry, Mario.” Green eyes implored forgiveness. “Next time don’t stand so close to Mommy.”

The older woman smiled hearing the name her lover had used to reference herself. “I like that name for you. I think we’ll keep it.” Brooke winked as she bent down to pet the Husky standing at her feet. “You’ve got to give Sam more space, Mario.” The woman roughhoused with the dog for a moment before pulling him close and whispering into his ear.

Sam watched the precious scenario in the mirror and waited for blue eyes to look in her direction. “And what exactly did you just tell that dog?” A golden eyebrow arched high on the blonde’s forehead. “It had better not contain the words wide load anywhere in the context.”

Brooke quickly covered the dog’s ears. “Never, darlin’.”

“Good!” Sam whisked into the bathroom again and emerged a few seconds later sans her towel. “As you can see,” she illustrated her figure with her hands, “I’m not showing.” She gave her wife a side view of her body. “Remember Brooke, Dr. Dennison said it may take a few tries before I’m impregnated.”

“I know,” Brooke sighed. “But I’m thinking positive.” She addressed the dog, “Go ahead boy, go lay down.” She watched as the dog went out the door, then circled his favorite spot a few times before laying down at the top of the steps.

“Think positive all you want, Lover.” Sam approached her wife and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You know we still can’t tell for sure if I’m pregnant until I’ve missed my period.”

“Randi didn’t miss her period and she was pregnant.”

“A freak of nature, like all you Gordons.” Sam winked, teasing her wife.

“You’re a Gordon now.” Blue eyes stared deeply into green.

“Only by marriage,” the blonde smiled.

“Yeah, I know. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” The dark-haired woman returned her lover’s kiss. “You’d better get dressed or we’re going to be late for the ceremony.”

Sam lingered in front of the bed with a coy smile, tempting Brooke for all she was worth.

“Keep that up, Darlin’ and we’re going to be really, really late.” Brooke turned her wife around and gave her a loving tap on her buttocks. “Graduation first, then celebration.”

“Oh, all right.” Sam said teasingly as she headed back into the bathroom.

“Brooke?”

“Yeah, Darlin’.” The tall woman picked up her wallet and shoved it into the back pocket of her black jeans.

“Does the tassel go to the right or the left?”

Brooke clipped her cellphone onto her belt as she thought about the question. A moment later a wry thought crossed her mind. “Last time I checked,” she stifled her need to laugh, “neither one stayed there for very long.”

The tall woman used her hands to simulate tassels in motion swirling in tight circles at the front of her chest. “Nope, either side is about the same,” Brooke confirmed with a mischievous smile. “This could be lots of fun with gummi worms.”

“I’m being serious, hon.” A blonde head popped into the doorway, her facial expression froze in horror as she watched Brooke’s antics. “I don’t think you’d want me to wear them there.” Sam glared at her wife. “At least not in public.”

“Yeah, right. The gown would hide them anyway.” Brooke’s voice was painted with disappointment. “Don’t waste them on the graduation ceremony. We’ll use them later with that new can of Hershey’s syrup I got you for a present.” Blue eyes twinkled in delight.

Sam cleared her throat. “My present or yours?”

“Yes.” Innocent eyes and a cheeky smile did little to hide the sexual undertone of the conversation.

“Brooke, I think you’re taking this equal partners thing a little too far.” Sam disappeared back into the bathroom.

“What do you mean too far? I haven’t bought us any new play toys,” Brooke looked into the dresser mirror and watched as a grin slowly appeared on her face, “…recently.”

“And that last one was enough for a while. I can’t believe you actually thought a single trapeze would hold the both of us.”

“Well, at least I mounted it over the bed so we had a soft landing,” Brooke rebutted.

“True,” Sam countered quickly. “And I didn’t even mind when you tried to kiss it and make it all better either.”

“Yeah…” Brooke drew out the word, “Me either.”

“Brooke, I’m trying to be serious.” Sam emerged from the bathroom dressed and crossed the room to where her graduation cap lay on the dresser. “Right or left?” She stood poised and ready to follow her lover’s command.

“Left.” Brooke stepped closer to the figure as she studied the placement of the tassel in the mirror. “No, right.” She watched on as the blonde followed her direction perfectly.

Anticipatory green eyes waited for approval.

“Ah hell, Sam. I don’t know.” Brooke reached for the tassel. “How about somewhere in the middle?”

Sam batted her lover’s hand away. “How about I’ll just leave it off until we get there.”

“Does that mean…” Brooke made eye contact with her wife in the mirror, “everything?”

“Brooke.” The sternness in Sam’s voice was evident.

“Yes Darlin’?”

“Tell the truth, Brooke. Did you or did you not attend your graduation ceremony?”

The ex-musician squirmed under the intense gaze of the woman she loved. “Well…I, ah…not really. We had a show.” Brooke shrugged her shoulders. “Does a gig in Sandusky count?”

The blonde rolled her eyes and took in a deep breath. “Great. Another thing I’ll have to make sure our child never finds out.” Sam turned with her hands on hips to face her lover. “Okay, you graduate of rock and roll mania…”

“Sam.” The sternness in Brooke’s voice halted her wife’s declamation.

“What?”

“Why don’t we just check my graduation photo downstairs before we leave?” She watched as the blonde eyed her skeptically. “Okay, so Mom made all of us girls pose in our caps and gowns for the,” Brooke used her fingers to signify quotation marks in the air, “official photo. Between that picture and the sheepskin hanging on my wall, I figured it was good enough. I didn’t need to wait in line to get it.”

The blonde’s features mellowed considerably. “Now that’s the answer I was looking for.”

“Huh?” Dark brows furrowed.

“Impatient as always.” Sam reached out and pinched her wife’s cheeks. “Sometimes I’m totally surprised you waited for me.”

“Forever, Darlin’.” Brooke whispered with a gleam in her eyes. “Forever.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

After the commencement ceremonies, Brooke and Sam strolled hand in hand through the dimly lit rows of the parking lot until they came upon their SUV. Stopping on the passenger’s side, the taller of the two leaned down and placed a tender kiss on delicate lips.

“What was that for?” Blonde eyelashes batted away the haze that clouded her mind.

“Just because,” Brooke sighed.

“Just because why?” Their gazes met and held. “Because you could or because…”

“Because I never kissed a college graduate before.” Brooke chuckled, playing with the tassel on Sam’s hat.

Sam batted the hand away and took the cap from her head. “And here I was thinking it was because you loved me or that I was looking hot tonight. Little did I know it was because I had the tassel on the right side.” Sam teased before depositing a chaste kiss in return on her lover’s cheek. “What do you say we go home and I’ll let you do a few more things with this college graduate than just kiss…and play with my tassel.”

“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.” Strong hands opened the passenger door and with a flourish of arm movements, Sam was ushered in. “After you, Darlin’.”

“Who said chivalry was dead?” Sam giggled. “You’re just as bad as all those guys trying to charm C.C. onto her feet tonight.”

Brooke smirked at the reference. “Yeah, leave it to C.C. to wear stilettos to her graduation ceremony and trip going up the stairs. I still say she had it planned.”

“I don’t think so, hon. C.C. sure looked disappointed when your mother insisted they forego the celebration dinner and head to the hospital instead.”

“Well, her ankle did look pretty big with all the swelling.” Brooke thought about it and shrugged. “I’m not disappointed, though.” She leaned in flashing a sexy smile. “I get to celebrate with you all to myself.” She kissed Sam on the cheek then closed the door and headed toward the driver’s side.

Sam waited until her wife opened the door before commenting. “At least she was at her graduation ceremony.”

Blue eyes flared. “Hey, I had a job.” Brooke slid into the driver’s seat and started the engine.

“Speaking of which, I guess I’ll be pounding the pavements looking for one of those now.” Sam stared out the front window.

“What are you taking about?” Brooke put the truck in gear and pulled out into traffic.

“Well, I can’t stay an intern all my life.”

“Intern?” The driver’s startled gaze shifted to her wife and then back to the road ahead. “What are you taking about?”

“Remember your ploy to keep me with you by offering that internship.”

“Ploy? What ploy?” Brooke jerked the wheel and shifted into the faster lane. “I had a job opening and you filled it.”

“No Brooke,” Sam turned to face her wife. “You created a job and I filled it.”

“So?” The driver shrugged. “It’s not like I didn’t need you there.” She glanced over to see her wife’s stoic reaction. “Hey, I gave Peter a job too. What’s wrong with that? Can’t I have people I trust and care about work with me?”

“For you, Brooke.” Sam corrected her. “We work for you. What I’m saying is that I’m not an intern any more. I need to look for a real job.” The blonde grabbed for the handle on the door as the SUV swerved to the right and then quickly recovered.

“Asshole!” Brooke shouted at the driver in her rearview mirror, her hands tightening on the steering wheel. She tapped the gas pedal and pulled away from the pack before glancing over to her passenger. “The last time I checked, you had one.”

“One what?” Confused green eyes studied the driver. “Job or asshole?” The blonde smirked.

“Job, Sam…job.” Brooke slammed her hand down on the horn for several seconds causing the blaring sound to resonate throughout the vehicle. “Dammit! Are all the idiots out tonight?”

The passenger eyed her driver skeptically. “Brooke, we’re out.” Sam smiled at the dual meaning of her thought. So what’s she all riled up about?

Brooke glanced over to her wife. “Forget I said that.”

“Consider it forgotten.” She looked out her side window. “I’m nothing but an intern, any way.” What would I know?

“Sam,” apologetic blue eyes flicked from road to blonde and back again. “From the first moment you walked through Brownstone’s door, you were a promotions manager not an intern.”

“But I…they said…” Sam gulped. “Professor Humphreys said.”

“Janet may have called you an intern, but that was never my intention, Sam.” The driver took a calming breath. “I don’t care what any of them said. They gave you college credit for doing your work and that’s all that mattered.”

Fondly Brooke reminisced about all the time she’d wasted slaving over Sam’s intern evaluation form.

It was already midnight and the minutes seemed to be flying by. Brooke sighed and stretched her back one last time.

“Okay, it’s already the due date and here I sit staring at a blank form. What the hell am I going to say about Sam in this evaluation?” The drummer absent-mindedly tapped out a drum solo with her fingers on the desk as she thought. Abruptly she halted her rhythmic assault on the wood, grabbed for the pen and started writing.

“Samantha Moleson Gordon is a…” Brooke said softly as she pondered the possibilities, “very talented person, a wonderful lover.” Her mind wandered off on a tangent until the clock on the wall chimed one in the morning.

“Concentrate, Brooke. You can’t go there with this. Janet would kill you.” She smirked, “Besides Sam would kill you for documenting the intimate side of our relationship.” Blue eyes looked around the room as the executive tried to channel her thoughts to a more professional side. “Come on, I’m the CEO of my own company. I can do this. Think of Sam as business. Nothing but business.”

She poised the pen over the paper again, waiting for inspiration. After a few seconds, the woman sighed. “Yeah, right.” The only thought she had was of the blonde sleeping in her bed. “Dammit! This is harder than I thought,” she muttered, then pushed away from the chair. “Maybe I can’t be objective where Sam is concerned.”

Without thinking, long legs started pacing the length of the room. The seconds ticked by with each step she took. Finally Brooke stopped just short of the photographs displayed along the shelving on the wall. Keen blue eyes studied first one, then the next before moving on. No matter whether it was a family photo or one that had been taken during a company function, each picture had a certain fresh-face, irresistible blonde prominently displayed in them.

Slowly an idea came into Brooke’s mind. “That’s it.” A broad smile broke across the woman’s face. “I’ll use these to tell Janet how well Sam’s done her job.” Brooke strode over to the desk and sat in her chair. Reaching for the mouse, she clicked on her photo icon and opened the program. “A picture’s worth a thousand words,” she mumbled, “well here’s a hundred thousand or two about Sam’s internship with this company.”

The vibrations emanating from the cellphone on her hip brought the woman back to the present. Brooke turned to gaze at Sam. “Now that you’ve graduated,” she cleared her throat, “you don’t have your degree an hour and you want to quit?”

“Whoa! Wait a minute. Who said anything about quitting?” Sam turned as much as the seatbelt would allow her. “I didn’t quit. I just thought…”

“Sam, you just said you needed to look for a real job.” Annoyed at the constant interruption from the vibrations, Brooke disengaged the offending mechanism from her belt and flipped it open one-handed. “Not now!” She barked into the phone, then folded it closed, tossing it onto the dashboard.

“Brooke!” Sam grabbed for the phone as it slid her way. “What the hell are you so pissed about?”

“Sam,” Brooke glanced over to see the blonde drop the cellphone when it started to vibrate once more. “Damn interruptions!”

Blue eyes flashed hurriedly into the rearview mirror and a few seconds later muscular arms gave a tug at the steering wheel. Amidst a cacophony of blaring horns and screeching brakes, the SUV crossed over two lanes of traffic and was soon braking to a lurching stop on the side of the interstate.

“Give me that phone.” The driver snatched it from Sam’s lap and stared at the caller I.D. “Seven-two-four,” Brooke mumbled the numbers out loud as she thought. “Who do we know at that area code?”

“Isn’t that outside of Pittsburgh?” Sam saw the subtle shrug of her wife. “Brooke…”

“I know…Line of Fire is playing just outside of Pittsburgh.” The executive sighed. “I guess I better answer this.” She flipped open the phone with one finger while her other hand found the door handle and opened it. “I’ll be right back, Darlin’.”

The blonde watched as her wife paced with the cellphone held up to her ear. The somber face and intent eyes that met hers for a brief moment were all she needed to know that something was awry. Sam waited patiently for the phone call to end before she got out of the vehicle and slowly made her way to the front of the SUV and Brooke.

“Brooke?” Sam held her breath as Brooke tried to compose herself. “Brooke, what’s wrong?”

“I should’ve known better, that’s what’s wrong.” The executive tapped her finger to her lips and stared at the passing traffic. “What was I thinking?” She muttered.

“Hon…don’t be so hard on yourself.” Sam slipped an arm around her lover. “Now tell me, how can I help you?”

Blue eyes shifted to meet green. “First of all,” Brooke sighed, “you can drive.”

Ah oh…that’s not a good sign. Sam nodded her head. “Okay. Anything else I need to know before we start out for home again?”

“Yeah,” Brooke looked up to the star-studded sky. “Can we please stop by the office on the way home?”

“Sure, but what’s at the office?” A small hand attempted to comfort the taller woman by rubbing lazy circles across her lower back.

“I need to write myself an expense check for the ten grand that Line of Fire just cost me.”

“Ten grand?” Sam’s mouth dropped open. “What did they do, go on a spending spree?”

“No, more like a demolition spree.” Brooke broke away from her wife’s touch. “They completely trashed the hotel. They threw the TV out the window.”

“Why?”

“Bad reception was their excuse when the hotel manager asked them.” The woman’s facial expression grew dire. “That’s not all. They busted the door in to their room and every other room on their floor before they christened the drive-thru.”

Green eyes grew keen. “What drive-thru?”

“The one at the hotel, Sam.” A dark eyebrow arched high on Brooke’s forehead.

“Brooke,” the blonde shook her head, “the last time I checked, hotels don’t have a drive-thru.”

“This one does…” the record executive’s gaze grew intense, “now.”

“Where was the manager when all this was happening?”

“That…” Brooke’s voice sounded cold, “is exactly what I’d like to know. It seems there was no adult supervision around when all the mischief was being done.”

“But the tour manager…”

Brooke held up her hand to halt the thought. “Missing in action after room service delivered two bottles of champagne. Now the hotel manager has alerted his chain to Brownstone’s liability for the damages…all ten thousand dollars worth. And that’s just for initial damages. They’ll need to get construction estimates for the actual hotel repairs. Unless some real adult supervision arrives before their next check-in, the chain will not honor any of the contracts we’ve entered into.”

“But who?” Sam reached out to touch her wife’s arm. “Who can you send?” She watched helplessly as Brooke ran her hand through long dark tresses.

“No one, Darlin’. I’m going to have to go out on tour and keep the little bastards in line myself until we can find them a new road manager.” Blue eyes met with green. “I’m sorry, Sam. I’ll have to leave in the morning.”

“Oh boy.” The blonde blew out an unexpected breath. “Sorry, I just didn’t see that one coming.”

“I know.” Now it was Brooke’s turn to gather her wife into her arms and try to comfort her. “If I could send anyone else Sam, I would.” She kissed her wife on the forehead. “But I can’t. If I don’t stop them now, they’ll take Brownstone and everything I’ve worked for right down the drain in a hurry.”

Sam looked up into apologetic blue eyes. “I know, love. I know.” She reached up and placed a chaste kiss on her lover’s lips. “Come on,” she tugged on Brooke’s shirt. “Let’s head into the office and get you what you need.”

“What I need…” Brooke lifted Sam’s chin with her finger until both were looking eye to eye, “is for you and Peter to run the office for the next couple of weeks.”

“Couple of weeks?” Sam pulled back from her wife’s embrace. “Don’t you mean days?”

“No. If I’m lucky it will be weeks instead of months.” The taller woman shook her head and saw the disappointment register in the other woman’s eyes. “I’ll need you to make some inquiries about tour managers, hire one, and try to get them out to me as quickly as possible.” She put her arm around the blonde and started walking her over toward the driver’s door. “You can talk to Peter about it in the morning. Ask him about the tight ass we had for our first tour. That guy should be able to straighten them out, otherwise…” Brooke took in a breath and slowly let it out. “I’ll have to stay with them through the end of the tour.”

“But if you’re not in the office, who’s going to do all the promoting and scheduling?”

“The same person who’s been doing it for the last several months.”

“Ida,” Sam offered.

“No.” Brooke stopped and pulled open the driver’s door.

“Peter?” Sam’s voice squeaked, hoping she was wrong.

“No!” The executive’s voice was sharp with her retort. “Peter just surfs the internet then plays with himself.”

“Really?”

“No,” Brooke countered. “He does work but…” she looked away and sighed. “Look, the man’s good at what he does. He knows how to associate with the talent. He’s able to relate with them. They feel like someone’s on their side from the corporate level. Sam, Peter’s not skilled with budgets, keeping production moving to meet deadlines, or multitasking at a moment’s notice. He’d never be able to keep the company up and running on his own.”

The blonde climbed up to get into the driver’s seat. “Then…who?”

“You, Sam.” Brooke watched her wife teeter on the rocker panel of the SUV, then plop onto the seat.

“Me?” The woman’s eyes grew in her disbelief.

“Yeah, you.” Brooke couldn’t help but chuckle at the younger woman’s comical face. “Sam, you’ve handled all the promotions since you’ve been there!”

Stunned, the blonde remained speechless despite several attempts to agree with the point.

“Honey, you’ve never been an intern at Brownstone. Do you have any idea how much easier my job is with you there?” Brooke coaxed a smile to Sam’s face with a gentle touch of her hand on the younger woman’s cheek. “You know me and you know how I like to run things. I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving without knowing that you’ll be there to run it the same way.” A wan smile crossed her lips. “Not that I’m comfortable leaving. Don’t you see, Sam, I couldn’t do this without you?”

“You didn’t make that job up, did you?”

“Nope.”

Sam took in a breath and slowly let it out as she mulled over the events of the last few minutes. Cautiously she turned to her wife, a sultry smile creeping across the young woman’s face. “So you’re leaving the office to your better half, eh?” Sam teased her wife.

Caught off guard by the comment, Brooke faltered for only a few seconds before voicing her thoughts. “Yes,” she nodded slightly. “Yes, I am.”

“Okay,” Sam nodded once. “But I’m telling you now, I want a raise when you get home.”

“Darlin’,” Brooke winked, “you know your benefits are always open for negotiation with me.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

Small fingers ripped the sheet of paper from the front of the calendar to reveal the date. It was May thirty-first. Green eyes closed to the sense of longing that seemed more constant than ever since her wife left on tour nearly three weeks earlier. Taking in a deep breath, Sam released it slowly as her hands wrapped around her lower abdomen and stayed there, searching for any sign of life. After a long minute, little evidence came her way.

“Two more weeks, Dr. Dennison said. Maybe then we’ll know.” Sam turned her gaze to the piles of ongoing projects that were lined up across her desk. “Well, at least I’ve got these to keep my mind off it.” She reached for the first pile off to her right and pulled it closer. “Okay…I’ll start with this one.” Sam read the name on the folder. It was Line of Fire.

“Dammit!” Immediately her thoughts roared forward to the reason her wife wasn’t there, close at hand. “Okay…plan B.” Sam picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number. She waited with each ring and prayed the woman would answer.

“Hey! You’re spending my dime so tell me I’m oh so fine.” The sharp greeting met the woman’s usually sassy style.

“C.C., it’s Sam. I’m so glad I caught you.” The blonde spun around in her chair and looked out the window. “Any luck with the job interviews?”

“Nothing that suits me.”

“Hang in there. Something will come along.” Sam cleared her throat. “C.C., what exactly are you looking for…job wise, that is?”

“Oh, the job doesn’t really matter, it’s the benefits that I’m holding out for. Did you know these places want me to show up at eight in the morning and work all day long? I mean come on. I never even had a class before ten in the morning in my whole four years of college. Heck, by eight I haven’t even rolled over.”

Sam shook her head in disbelief. “C.C., this isn’t college any more.” She tried to keep from laughing. “I’m curious…what did you do during your internship with Randi?”

“File, type, you know…get her coffee.” There was a few seconds of silence before an excited sounding voice came over the phone. “Oh! I played video games on the net.”

“At work?”

“Sure. What else was I going to do while Randi was in court?”

“I meant about getting up early.” Sam chuckled.

“Who had to get up early? Randi was on night court duty the whole time.”

“It figures.” The blonde closed her eyes and savored the luck of her sister-in-law.

“Hey! Somebody had to do it. Besides, you don’t think I was going to be seen out and about with all those criminals in the building.”

“That’s the nature of Randi’s business, C.C. If it wasn’t for the criminals she would be out of a job and you an internship.”

“You know, I never thought of it that way.” The young woman’s voice turned serious. “Which is a really good thing because that’s a very sick and twisted reality check.”

“Speaking of reality…” Sam bit her lower lip before venturing further. “Have you tried any of those home EPT’s?”

“EPT?”

“You know…early pregnancy tests.”

“Why would I have to try one of those? I’m sweet and innocent…”

“C.C.,” Sam interrupted the woman. “Your ear does not count.”

“How do you know what I’ve done with my ears, Sam? Were you just faking being asleep when Jimmy and I were fooling around in the dorm room?”

“Oh please,” Sam groaned, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. “Let’s not even go there.”

“Alright. So, you wanna tell me why you’re asking me about EPT’s when you’re married to my sister? I mean… Brooke is my sister, isn’t she?

“She’s your sister all right. Trust me, I’ve seen the proof.” Sam smiled coyly, reminiscent of the thought.

“Quit your stalling?”

“Me?” A high-pitched squeal came out of Sam’s mouth.

“Don’t change the subject on me.”

Laughter filled the office. “C.C., are you sure you don’t have A-D-D?”

“A-D-D, E-P-T.” There was a pause. “What the hell are we talking about a spelling bee or Wheel Of Fortune?”

Sam couldn’t believe the quick decline in the level of intelligent conversation she was now engaged in. She looked toward the ceiling and rolled her eyes.

“I’d like to buy an ‘O’ please, Pat.” C.C. demanded.

“I’m in hell with fluorescent lighting,” Sam muttered under her breath.

“I’d like to solve the puzzle but you’re not turning any more letters for me, Vanna.”

“C.C.,” Sam tightened her grip on the receiver. “What in the hell are you talking about?”

“A clue,” the voice screamed. “Give me a clue.”

The blonde covered the receiver with her hand and let go of a strangulated scream. “God! She could drive a sane person crazy.” Sam fought to control her anger as she brought the phone back to her ear. “C.C., I love you. You’re my best friend and sister-in-law, but all the money in the world could not buy you a clue.”

“Okay, then spell it out for me.” There was a moment of stark silence. “Why the interest in pregnancy tests?”

“Well…” Sam’s voice rose nearly an octave from beginning to end of the word.

“Yes?”

The sound of C.C.’s deep timber brought Brooke to Sam’s mind. “I…ah…um…”

“Let me guess.” The youngest Gordon’s voice oozed with confidence. “The fertilization process worked, you were implanted with my sister’s egg, and now you think you’re pregnant. Am I close?”

“W-w-what?” The woman’s accuracy made Sam stutter. “B-but how did you…”

“He-ello-o!”

Sam winced at the sound of C.C.’s drawn out and off-key melodic response. The insisted tapping of what she could only imagine to be the other woman’s fingernail tapping on the microphone finally caused Sam to pull the receiver away from her ear.

“I’m an inquiring mind therefore, I inquire with my sister…a lot.” The sound of C.C.’s laughter filtered through the phone. “I forced it out of her a couple of months ago when she was taking those hormones that turned her into a raving lunatic.”

Sam looked at the phone cross-eyed. “Then why did you make me sit here and go through all the torment of trying to explain this to you?”

“Honestly?”

“Of course.”

“Because it was fun.”

The executive’s head fell forward, striking against the folder on her desk with a loud thud. She lifted her head and repeated the action several times.

“Ooh! Knock-knocks. I like them.”

Sam could hear clapping in the background.

“Who’s there?”

“C.C., this is not a joke.”

“Well then tell me what it is because I really don’t understand. I mean, you did all of this through a fertility clinic so why are you asking me about EPT’s?”

The blonde winced in her seat. “I guess I’m a little nervous. They said we could check to see if…” Sam paused before the words came out and took a different approach. “With Brooke gone, I’m a little afraid of the results. I mean, if it’s ‘yes’, do I tell her over the phone or wait for her to come home?”

“Brooke’s not home watching her bun in the oven? I thought you found a tour manager for those little bastards.”

“Peter and I did but he won’t be able to meet up with them until he’s off of his current tour.” Sam took in a deep breath. “I just don’t know what to do, C.C. I’d really like to know but…”

“Ah…a fact-finding mission. Why didn’t you say so? Do you have the kit? Have you peed on it yet? Did you pee on your hand in the process because that really sucks and it’s disgusting too. Did you wash your hands? What color was it?”

“Huh?” Blonde brows furrowed in her confusion.

“The stick, not your pee. Oh…Oh…or is it one of those plus or minus things. Maybe it’s a combination of both.”

“C.C., save the questions for later. I’m heading home now. Why don’t you meet me there in say…an hour?”

“You got it, Sam. I’m coming.”

The sound of static-filled air signified the end of the conversation. Sam replaced the receiver on the phone and contemplated her upcoming actions. She looked over to the photograph of her lover. “Sorry, Brooke. I just have to know.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

The sound of locked brakes screeching to a stop could be heard coming from the driveway. The sound of the engine died and a few seconds later a car door slammed shut as Mario jumped up from his pillow.

“Arrruugh,” the dog’s howling started on a menacing note before turning friendly, his tail wagging furiously. “Arf! Arf!” The husky took off for the stairs as the sound of hastened footsteps were heard outside the door. He stopped short in the hall when the door flew open.

“Sam?” C.C. reached down and patted the excited dog on his head. “Good boy.”

“I’m up here, C.C.”

“Okay, go lay down.” She directed the dog. “I’m on a mission here. I’ll play with you later.” C.C. stepped around the dog and headed for the stairway. “Sam, did you pee on it yet?” The tall woman took the steps two at a time as she made her way toward the master bedroom.

“Yeah,” Sam nodded as though she were in a trance.

“How long ago?” C.C. slowed her steps as she came through the master bedroom door.

“A few minutes. I set the timer.” The blonde pointed. “When it dings…”

C.C. clapped her hands together, her eyes sparkling. “We got our answer. You nervous?”

“No. Yes,” Sam snapped back the answers to her sister-in-law’s question. “Maybe.”

“Don’t worry,” C.C. flicked her hand to dismiss the thought. “I was too the first time.”

“First time?”

The dark haired woman smiled sweetly. “Hey, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing if I really needed to use it.”

“Oh.”

Ding! The egg timer went off. Mario howled causing both women to jump.

“Damn! Don’t scare us like that, Mario.” The blonde greeted the dog as he ran into the room. “Calm down, boy. I know it’s scary.” She turned to stare at the timer.

“You ready?” C.C. looked expectantly to Sam.

Sam took a deep breath in and slowly let it out. “About as ready as I’m ever going to be.”

“That’s what I always say,” C.C. added under her breath.

The first strains of digital music filter through the air, causing the dog’s ears to perk up.

“Wow! That’s some egg timer you got. I never knew they came with tunes.”

“It doesn’t, you goof.” Sam gave her sister-in-law a nudge. “It’s a cellphone.”

“Ah…multi-functional.” The woman nodded approvingly. “I bet it cost a lot.”

“C.C.,” Sam stared disbelieving what she’d just heard.

“Oh, right. Cellphone,” C.C. sighed. “Yours or mine?”

The two paused, listening as the tune played on.

Sam gulped, hearing the familiar tone. “It’s mine.” The blonde grabbed the phone from her pocket and stared at it while C.C. strained to see the number.

“Yep, that’s Brooke. I love the little heart you have by her name.” She peered into the bathroom, then back to Sam. “Oh boy,” C.C. rolled her eyes, “or girl,” she quickly added.

“C.C.,” green eyes pinned the ever inquiring woman where she stood. “Did you look?”

“No!” The wiry woman crossed her arms over her chest. “Not yet at least,” she grumbled. “What’re you going to tell Brooke?”

“Don’t know.” Sam shrugged then slowly smiled. “Yet.”

Brown eyes brightened as she caught on. “Damn girl, you’re good. I knew you wouldn’t be able to keep a secret from her.

“You got that right.” Sam winked and slowly turned her attention back to the phone. “Hi, honey. When are you coming home?”

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Installment 2–12 – Family Values
The sound of brakes screeching to a stop caused the dark-haired woman’s head to snap upright and her pulse to quicken. Through a barely opened, raw, reddened eyeball she surveyed the area outside the bus. The dim light of early morning did little for the few buildings scattered along the street. Older and on the verge of dilapidation, it could have been any one of a number of mid western towns they had already passed through. Sighing, she looked over her shoulder to see the only illuminated area. It was a small sign proclaiming a vacancy outside the single story motel.

“We’re here,” the bus driver proclaimed, opening the door of the vehicle.

Brooke scrubbed her face with a hand, trying to wipe away the remaining haze of sleep that threatened to haunt her the rest of her life. Wearily she cast her other half-opened eye out the window looking for some sort of recognizable landmark. Seeing none, she turned her attention back to the front of the bus. “And that would be?”

“Calvin’s Creek or at least what I think is Calvin’s Creek,” he rubbed his forehead. “Hey, I followed the directions you gave me lady. This is your show.”

“My show?” Brooke grimaced. “Don’t remind me.” She straightened up, trying to get the kink out of her back, then exited the bus, heading toward the motel’s office door. A few moments later Brooke returned. The only sound emanating louder than the bus’ engine was that of staggered snoring resounding off the walls surrounding her.

Raising her hand over her head, she slammed it repeatedly into the sheet metal of the bus causing a loud ruckus. “Alright you hoodlums, time to get up. We’re at the next stop on your tour.”

One bleary-eyed musician struggled to come to his senses. “Already?” His whining voice sounded more like a woman than a bad ass rocker. “Man, we just got to sleep.”

“Yeah, already.” Brooke smirked, realizing just how tired the members of Line of Fire were. She’d come down hard on the band when she’d taken over their tour and now she had proof that her plan was working. The hint of a smile came to her face. She remembered the shock they all had exhibited when she’d informed the band their road crew had been cut from the budget.

“Do we have to unload the equipment now? I just got to fucking sleep,” another delirious musician voiced his opinion without opening his eyes.

“Yeah, me too!” A voice croaked from the rear of the tour bus. “I’m going to look like a freakin’ trog on stage tonight without my beauty sleep.”

Brooke hesitated, working the muscles in her neck as she rolled her head from side to side. “Well, at least this way I know you’re too damn tired to be destructive.”

“Come on, you’ve been a slave driver since you joined us on tour, Brooke. The least you can do is let us have a little time off for good behavior…for sleep,” the man pleaded from underneath his blanket.

“Right. How can you expect us to perform if we don’t get our rest?” The rocker gathered his favorite pillow under his arm and stood up. “Think of our fans. What will they say when we fall asleep in the middle of our first set?”

“In this town…” the driver surveyed the predawn view of the sleepy little mid-western town, “I don’t think they’d even notice.”

A dark eyebrow arched high on Brooke’s forehead as she mulled over the comment. “True,” she agreed before turning her attention inward. “Speaking of sleep, I could use some myself.” Brooke sighed. “Alright, enough about me, everybody out of the bus. We’ve got rooms number four through seven.” She turned to face the bus driver. “Joe, you’ve got four.” She tossed the man his room key. “I’ll take seven.” Brooke pocketed her own key, then turned to face the musicians. “The rest of you can pair up how ever you choose and take rooms five and six.” She moved into the seat and reached for her bag. “And remember, we’re here to spread the sound of your music, not the sound of you causing havoc and destruction.”

“We got the message, loud and clear.” The first rocker moved passed her, accepting the key handed to him, then headed toward the door.

“Man, don’t cause any more trouble.” The musician following nudged his band mate.

“I’m going, Andy. You don’t have to shove.”

“Sorry,” Andy mumbled. “I just want to go back to sleep.”

“Me too,” piped up a voice from the rear. “Come on, Jess, I’ll bunk in with you.” He called ahead to the third man in line.

“Fine with me, Frederico. I’m too tired to care whom I’m sleeping with.” He held out his hand toward Brooke, an invitation obviously twinkling in his eyes.

“Not a chance, buddy,” Brooke sneered, bypassing him and handing the room key to the last band member walking down the aisle. “You’re not even close to my type.”

“I could change,” Jess offered, lingering at the door of the bus.

“I doubt it.” Frederico gave his band mate a push out the door. “You never change.”

“Yes I do. My underwear,” Jess threw back over his shoulder and laughed, “weekly.”

Once the bus was emptied, Brooke dropped to her seat. She followed the band members with her gaze until the last one had vanished through their respective room doors. Only then did she close her eyes and take in a deep breath.

“God, you know you’re getting old when the latest rockers on the scene act like thirteen year olds.” Brooke shuddered at the thought before glancing down at her watch.

“Four in the morning,” she mused, calculating the time difference between where she was now and her home in Virginia. “Just about time,” the smile on her face grew bigger. “Now for the highlight of my day.” She pulled the cellphone from the waistband of her jeans, punched in her favorite number, then held her breath in anticipation of the voice she longed to hear.

“H-hello?”

The dark haired woman sucked in a breath. Hearing the sleepy voice of her lover a smile finally came to her face. “Morning Darlin’.”

“Morning already?”

“Yeah. Time to rise and shine.”

“But I was dreaming about you, Brooke.”

“You were?”

“Of course, I was. Who else would I dream of?”

The sound of Sam’s gentle chuckle warmed Brooke’s heart.

“How you feeling, baby?”

After a pause Sam replied softly, “Lonely. I miss you.”

“I miss you too, Darlin’.” Brooke stopped short before her voice gave her away. “Soon, Sam. I’ll be home soon.”

“God, I hope so.” The sound of Sam sucking in a breath, then letting it go came floating over the phone. “I’ve got a phone meeting with your replacement today.” Sam’s voice faltered for a moment. “Well, I hope he’s your replacement.”

“I have faith in you, Sam. You’ll close the deal.”

“I’m going to try.” The voice on the other end paused. “Well, I better get my day started. Thanks for waking me up, Brooke. I love hearing your voice first thing every morning even if you can’t be right here next to me.”

“Me too, Darlin’. Me too.”

“I love you.”

“And you know I love you.” The words rolled off Brooke’s lips as the ache in her being intensified. All she wanted to do was reach out and hold the woman she loved in her arms, close to her, never letting her go. A lump caught in the woman’s throat. “I ah…I better let you go or you’re going to be late for work.”

“What are you up to now?”

“Sleep, Darlin’. Nothing but sleep.”

“What time are you due into the venue?”

“Too soon for my liking. We have to set up the sound system and get all the equipment unloaded by five.” Brooke glanced down to her watch. “If I get to sleep in the next few minutes, I just might get eight hours.”

“Then you get to sleep and I’ll talk to you later, Hon. ‘Night.”

“Goodnight Sam.” Brooke slowly pulled the phone away from her ear, savoring her lover’s voice as it ran through her head.

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

The sound of the elevator doors opening drew the office manager’s attention away from the stack of papers clutched tightly in her hands. Her eyes met with the only passenger, a determined looking blonde.

“Morning, Sam.”

“Morning, Ida.” Sam never broke her stride as she headed toward her office door. “Hold all my calls this morning. I’ll be working out some delicate negotiations and I don’t want to be disturbed. Give me five minutes, then get me the tour manager Peter contacted the other day on the phone.”

“Sure thing, Sam but… ” Ida hesitated biting her lip.

Sam paused at her office door, turning to look back at the office manager. “But what, Ida?”

“He’s on the West Coast.”

“And your point is?” A blonde eyebrow rose in question.

“It’s a three hour time difference, Sam.” She glanced down at the clock on her desk. “It’s barely five in the morning for him out there.”

“Good,” Sam smirked. “The negotiations will be in our favor then.” She turned to enter her office. “West Coast, huh?” The executive glanced over her shoulder to see Ida mutely nod. “Great, that will make him all the more closer to releasing my girl,” Sam muttered under her breath as she disappeared behind the closed door.

Ida stood there stunned for a moment. Slowly a gloating smile surfaced on the woman’s face. “Now I see why Brooke was attracted to you. You’re a matched set.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

Sam spun around in her chair and tossed the cordless phone onto her desk. “I can’t believe he can function on that level after being roused out of a dead sleep. No wonder Brooke suggested him. The man’s worse than my mother when I was growing up,” she muttered, running her hand through short golden locks, then sighed as she reached for her calendar. Taking out a red marker from her desk drawer, Sam quickly found the agreed upon date and circled it. The anger buried deep in her stomach made her more determined than ever to never revisit the losing side of a negotiation again. Her heart wouldn’t be able to take it, not when losing time with Brooke was a major part of it. The young woman sat there transfixed to the date until the knocking on her door drew her attention.

“Yes?” Sam’s gaze rose from the calendar and settled on the door as it slowly opened.

“I was going for some coffee. Would you like me to get you… ” Ida stopped short, trying to decipher the strained look on the woman’s face. “Is something wrong, Sam? Did I miss something?” She glanced into the hallway, then back again.

Sam was pensive for a moment, deliberating her own shortcomings. She took in a breath and let it out. “You didn’t miss anything, Ida. I’m just a little miffed at my own negotiating skills.”

Ida scooted inside the office and quickly closed the door. “He’s not taking the offer?”

She got up from the chair and stood in front of the window, letting the ocean fill her view. “Oh he’s taking the offer alright,” Sam said in a mindless trance. “He’s just not rushing to it.” She turned and cast her gaze to the floor. “I… ” Sam bit her lip. “I couldn’t get him to break his contract. He said it would be…”

“In his best interest to complete the tour.” Ida finished the sentence for her.

Disbelieving eyes rose to meet the spoken words. “Yes.”

“That’s why he’s so good, Sam. He takes his job seriously.” Ida crossed her arms over her chest and began to tap her foot as she thought. “So how long until his contract is up?”

“A week, ten days,” Sam mumbled under her breath. “Something like that.”

“Well, that’s not too bad.”

“For you maybe.” Sam sniffed, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall. “I was counting on getting Brooke home sooner.” Her shoulders shrugged slightly. “I guess I’ll just have to wait,” she whispered.

Ida looked around the room trying to come up with any kind of encouragement she could. “Things happen, Sam. This business is crazy like that. Don’t let it get you down. You gave it your best shot. That’s all that matters.”

“You sound like Brooke.”

“Yeah,” Ida smirked. “Don’t I now. She rubs off on you the more you’re around her.” Ida tried as best she could but the eyebrow wouldn’t budge. “Well, some parts of her do.” The woman’s grimace gave way seeing the slow smile changing Sam’s scowl.

“Thanks, Ida. I needed that.”

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The pungent smell of stale cigarettes lingered in the air, irritating Brooke’s nose worse than the rough cotton sheets that made her every move under the covers a constant reminder that she was not at home. Another night, or day rather, she had not experienced a restful sleep and it was beginning to show. Quick tempered to put an end to the torture, Brooke grasped the covers in her hand and threw them off her. She sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the god-awful wallpaper and threadbare drapes that did little to keep the light out of the room.

“God! It’s as bright in here as it is in the middle of the day.” Brooke glanced over to the tiny alarm clock on the battered nightstand. “It is the middle of the day,” she mumbled, raking her hands through her long, dark hair. “I can’t believe this is what we dreamed success was all about. God, I was so immature then.” She shook her head, coughing as she tried to clear her lungs of the repugnant air. Brooke took the material of her tank top and wiped her mouth. She sniffed and immediately her face twisted into a very unpleasant look. “Damn! I’m never going to get rid of this smell.” With that said, she pushed herself up off the bed and headed for the shower, depositing her boxers and top along the way.

The lyrical sound of her cellphone going off made her stop short. “Sam,” she muttered, a smile coming to her face as she swiftly turned around and dove for the phone in the middle of the bed. Cool and collected, Brooke flipped the phone open and with her sexiest voice greeted her caller. “Now that’s what I call perfect timing, Darlin’. I’m naked and ready. How about you?”

“I…well…sure.” The voice on the other end stammered. “It is kind of hot out but don’t you think having lunch in our birthday suits will be a little too…revealing? I mean, hell Brooke, I think it would be a dead giveaway for the restaurant staff that we were celebrating our birthday, don’t you?”

The question hung in the air like a load of bricks. Brooke pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at the number displayed. “Shit! I’ve got to remember to change your ring.” She closed her eyes and repeated the explicit word several more times under her breath before bringing the cellphone back to her ear. “Ah…sorry about that, Janet. I thought you were…”

“Oh, so that’s how you talk to my best student,” Janet ribbed her life long friend.

“My wife,” Brooke stated. “Remember, I married her.” A satisfied smile settled on her face. “Besides if I wanted to meet you for lunch in my birthday suit, Sam would trust me.”

“Sure she would,” Janet’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “It’s just the rest of the population minus your family that would have to worry about a certain blonde’s wrath.”

Brooke thought about it, then nodded. “You’ve got a point there.”

“I know I do,” Janet said smugly. “So is that your excuse for standing me up? You’re not dressed for the occasion.”

“Standing you up?” A look of confusion crossed Brooke’s face. “Janet, what are you talking about?”

“Our birthday ritual, Brooke.” Janet paused. “Tell me you don’t remember we have a standing date every June third at the Ice Cream Emporium?”

“June third? It’s not June third.” Brooke’s eyes shifted around the room as she searched for her watch. “It’s June… ” Finding it, she drew the watch into her eyesight and stared amazingly at the date. “Third?”

“That’s what I said. Happy Birthday, Brooke.” Her words were met with dead silence. “You know, the polite thing would be to say ‘Thank you’ and return the greeting.”

“Damn! I’m sorry. Forgive me, Janet. I didn’t mean to be rude. I’ve…I’ve just lost all track of time being out on the road.”

“Well, thanks for letting me know. I mean, if I hadn’t called, you never would have come.” Janet’s voice turned teasing in nature. “You do that, don’t you? Come.”

“Oh, I come, Janet. I come.” Brooke sighed. “Just not lately,” she muttered under her breath.

“Thank the gods. At least you haven’t forgotten that.” The hint of laughter came through in Janet’s voice. “I was afraid the Alzheimer’s was setting in already.”

“Janet?”

“Yes?”

“Remind me again why you’re my friend.”

Brooke’s droll tone was countered with nothing but laughter for several seconds.

“Why, Brooke! I’m your best friend. I always have been since we were little.”

“And younger,” Brooke countered.

“That too,” Janet sighed.

“If I remember correctly, I turned your Midge doll into a G. I. Jane.”

“I still don’t forgive you for it. Although, Midge and Barbie did make a cute couple after that.”

“Yeah, that they did.” Brooke chuckled. “That’s why I kept you for a friend.”

“And if it wasn’t for my teaching prowess, you would have never met your soul mate.”

Brooke considered the statement carefully. “I see…payback.”

“You could call it that.”

“Sure it was,” Brooke smirked. “Oh, and Janet?”

“Yes.”

“You’re right,” Brooke smirked. “You are my best friend. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Brooke, but it’s still not going to get you off the hook for standing me up on our birthday.”

“Guess not. I’m sorry, Janet. I’ll make it up to you as soon as I get home.” Brooke cleared her throat having a second thought. “Well, maybe not as soon as I get home,” she teased, “But I will make it up to you. How about my treat for lunch any day you pick, birthday suits notwithstanding?”

“Sounds good to me. Happy birthday, Brooke.”

“Happy birthday, Janet.”

As she terminated the call a melancholy mood came over her. “Yeah, right! Happy birthday to me,” Brooke muttered as she gazed around the pitiful excuse for a motel room. “This was supposed to be the year you celebrated with your wife.”

She rubbed her forehead with her fingers trying to massage the headache away that was starting behind her eyes. “Ideas, Loran. You need to be using your time to think of ideas, not feeling sorry for yourself.” Hell bent on making things happen, she flipped open her phone.

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

Dragging his feet, Peter lingered in the hall gathering as much information as he dared before pushing open Sam’s door and poking his head inside her office. “Hey boss lady, got a few minutes for me?”

Green eyes rose to meet the hesitant man at her door. “Sure, why not. My day’s ruined already.” She tossed the papers in her hand down onto the desk. “Come on in.” She watched as Peter paused for a moment, then glanced back over his shoulder before stepping into her office. “Something on your mind, Peter?”

The man scratched his chin in an effort of serious thought. “Is Ida dating anyone?”

Taken aback by the question, Sam fumbled with an answer. “I…well…I’m not sure, why? Isn’t she a little old for you?”

“ME?” His eyes grew rounder at the implication. “Yes!”

“Then why did you ask?”

“Something I overheard her saying.” Peter shrugged, “It just got me to thinking. It sounded like she was setting up a little rendezvous over the phone just now. You know…like a secret trip or something like that.”

“Ida?” Sam queried.

Peter nodded. “Yeah, she was hushed and secretive-like on the phone when I came down the hall.”

“Well, whatever it was about, I’m sure she has everything well in hand,” Sam sighed. “Unlike some of us.” She stared blankly at the papers scattered across her desk.

“Yeah,” Peter studied the young woman for a long moment before venturing his next question. “So, how’s it going, Sam. Is there any news as to when our fearless leader will return?”

“It’s going, Peter. Unfortunately I can’t say when Brooke’s coming back. Seems there was a little hold up with our new tour manager getting to Line of Fire’s next gig.”

“Geez!” Peter smacked himself in the forehead and stumbled farther into the room. “That sucks.” Peter collected his composure and stood next to Sam. “So,” he peered out of the window with her. “What are you going to do for her birthday?”

“I…I don’t know.”

Peter nodded, unsure of what to say. Finally Peter broke the long silence. “You could have something delivered.”

“Hmm…that’s a good idea.” Sam turned back to her desk and shuffled through some papers before coming up with the tour schedule. “Let’s see…” she drew her finger down the list of cities and dates that Line of Fire would be playing. “So what do you think my chances are in Calvin’s Creek, Wyoming?”

Peter turned to see her questioning face and met it with one of his own. “How should I know?”

“You toured didn’t you?” Green eyes become intense.

“Well, yeah but Sam… we never made it to,” he grabbed the list from her hand and looked for the date. “Calvin’s Creek.” He handed it back to her and scratched his head. “Who the hell is Calvin anyway?”

Sam rolled her eyes. “Peter, you’re not helping me.”

“What can I say Sam?” The man put on his most apologetic face. “Sorry.”

Sam opened her mouth to speak but was stopped short by an urgent knock at the door.

Without waiting for permission to enter, the door opened and Ida stuck her head into the office. “Sam, you better pick up line two.”

“Great! Now what? Is something wrong?”

“Don’t know,” Ida shrugged. “Depends on how you look at it.” She pointed to the flashing phone on the desk. “Well, I’m off on my vacation. See you in a week or so.”

“Whoa!” Sam swiftly turned her attention from the phone back to Ida. “You have a vacation? Who approved that?”

Ida smiled. “Why Brooke, of course.”

“W-w-when?” Sam’s voice faltered.

“A while ago.” Ida stated matter-of-factly. “I’ve got all the paper work on file. You want to see it?”

“No. I believe you.” Sam sighed, looking over to Peter.

“Hey, have a good one.” Peter quirked a grin. “Take lots of pictures wherever it is you’re going.”

“Thanks, I will.” Ida pointed back to the phone and waved. “Don’t worry, Sam. You’ll do just fine without me. I’m sure of it.” A second later she was gone, leaving them staring at the flashing phone line.

Slowly, both individuals’ gaze rose to the other and held. Caving in first in the stare down, Peter tossed up his hands. “Hey, it’s your phone. I’m not going to answer it,” Peter gave the desk a wide berth as he walked around it.

“Chicken shit!” Sam sneered at the man, then pressed the speakerphone button. “Brownstone Records, Samantha Gordon speaking. How may I help you?”

“Hello, Beautiful. What are you doing?” Brooke’s vibrant tones filled the office and brought a smile to Sam’s face.

“Talking about you.” Sam’s smile threatened to overtake her face. “Say, what’s there to do in…” she took the paper off her desk and quickly perused it. “Calvin’s Creek on a Thursday night?”

Peter nodded eagerly. “Good idea, Sam,” he whispered. “Ask her where they’re eating tonight. Maybe you can send her a bottle of wine or something.”

“Not much of anything to do here, other than wait that is. Hold on, Honey, there’s a plane flying over head.”

“What plane?” Sam’s brow furrowed. “Is there even an airport in Dawson’s Creek?”

“Calvin’s Creek, Sam.” Peter stage whispered.

“I knew that.” Sam hushed her co-worker with a swipe of her hands. She cleared her throat. “I mean Calvin’s Creek.”

“Well…I wouldn’t exactly call it an airport.” Brooke paused. “It’s more like a landing strip. A grassy landing strip for that matter.”

“Jesus Christ, Brooke.” Sam’s eyes grew more intense. “Tell me Line of Fire isn’t flying in drugs now, are they?”

“No Baby.” Brooke chuckled. “I’m waiting on Jonnie. She’s supposed to be here in about ten minutes.”

“Does that mean you’re pulling the plug on the tour?”

“No, I’m out of here.” Brooke cleared her throat. “I’m coming home, Darlin’.”

“You’re coming home?” Sam gulped. “Tonight? But I thought you had to keep a close eye on…”

Brooke interrupted her wife. “Yeah, yeah. I know.” she sighed. “I’ve got that all covered. They’ll have eyes watching them like a hawk.”

“But I…” confused, Sam looked to Peter. “Never mind. You’re the boss.”

“You’re right, Sam, I’m one of them.” Brooke chuckled. “Anyway, I should be home in a little over four hours.”

“Four hours?” Sam gasped. “So soon?”

“Don’t sound so excited, Sam. I’ve only been gone three weeks, four days, seventeen hours and,” there was a small pause, “twenty-seven minutes.”

“Thirty-two seconds,” Sam added looking down at her watch.

“What?”

“I said thirty-two. No, make that forty-three seconds now. That’s how long it’s been since you’ve stepped foot on that plane.”

“Aw, Darlin’, I take it you missed me?”

“Like a chocoholic on her period with no candy bars in sight,” Sam confided. “Yes, I missed you.”

“Was that a good miss,” Brooke teased, “Or a bad miss?”

“Missing you is never good,” Sam sighed. “Hurry home, baby. I’ve got a present waiting for you.”

“Present, huh? What kind of present?”

A coy smirk settled on Sam’s face. “The kind that will put a smile on your face.

“Darlin’ everything you do puts a smile on my face. Care to give me a hint?

“Well,” Sam turned away from Peter’s gaze. “It’s the kind that starts out small and just keeps growing.”

“Hmm…” Brooke purred sexily. “I like that kind.”

“I knew you would.” Sam paused to savor the moment.

“Hey, Sam?”

“Yeah?”

“I can’t talk much longer, it looks like Jonnie’s making an approach on the runway.” The sound of a jet engine grew louder with each second until it almost drowned out the voice on the other end. “I’ll see you soon. Love ya, Darlin’.”

“Love ya! Be careful.” Sam rushed to add her sentiments before the room went quiet. Hesitantly she terminated the sound of dead air with the touch of a button.

“So, what’s up with the present?” Peter asked.

“Don’t worry about the present. We’re on condition red.”

“Condition red?” The man was more confused than ever. “What’s condition red?”

“Move your ass and start calling everybody you can think of. We’ve got a party to plan.” Sam started rummaging through desk drawers.

“In Calvin’s Creek?” Peter’s voice cracked.

“No.” Sam slammed a drawer shut and reached for another one. “Here. Didn’t you hear her? Brooke’s coming home.” Sam’s smile beamed brighter than a billion-watt bulb. “We’ve got four hours to pull this soiree together.”

“Soiree?” The man scratched his head. “What the hell’s a soiree?”

“Party, Peter. Party.” Sam’s exasperated state was evident. “We’re throwing Brooke a surprise party tonight.”

“Oh.” He looked relieved. “Why didn’t you say so?”

“I just did.” Sam’s expression changed as she found what she was looking for. “Ah, there you are.” She tossed a passing glance in Peter’s direction as she settled down into her chair. “So, why are you still standing here? You’re in charge of inviting everyone. Go invite. You better hurry. You’ve only got three hours and fifty-seven minutes before she walks in the door.”

“You’re serious?”

“As ever,” Sam said, making her determination more than evident. She looked up from her list she was making to see Peter scurrying towards the door. “Hey, where are you going?”

“To call people,” Peter looked over his shoulder without breaking his stride. “Isn’t that what you just asked me to do?”

“Yes! Just remember to pack the house.” Sam tapped her pen nervously on her desk. “My house. I mean,” she cleared her throat, “Our house. Brooke will never expect that.”

“Gottcha!” He turned on his heels and saluted, then quickly exited the office.

“Well, that will keep him busy the rest of the afternoon,” Sam muttered as she got back to her list. “Okay, now where was I? Cake, beverages, snacks, decorations…”

No sooner had the door closed Sam’s cellphone began to ring. “Now who?” She sighed and reached for the phone. “Hello.”

“Hey sweetheart, it’s Daddy. Mother and I are just in the area and we were wondering if we could take you out to dinner?”

“Any other night and I’d love it, Dad. Unfortunately Brooke’s birthday is today.”

“Say no more. We understand.”

“No, you don’t. I’m throwing a kind of impromptu surprise party for her. Why don’t you and mother stop by around seven tonight? Sarah too, if she’s able to come.”

“I thought you told us that Brooke was out of town?”

“She is, but in three hours and fifty-four minutes she won’t be.” Again a smile lit up the young woman’s face. “I just found out she’s coming home a few minutes ago.”

“Wow! That’s impromptu.”

Sam could barely make out a muffled exchange of words before her father’s voice sounded loud and clear again. “Do you need any help getting ready?”

“I’ve got guests to invite, food to supply, and gifts to buy, not to mention trying to find a cake big enough for everyone to enjoy.”

“Okay. So, what can your mother and I do?”

“Daddy, you’re a lifesaver.” Sam was quick to make her decision. “You could decorate for me. There’s a store close to the house that has everything you’d need. Call me after you leave the store and I’ll give you the code to the front door. I’ve got a little shopping to do myself for Brooke’s gift.”

“Shouldn’t we get her something, too?”

“Leave the gift to me, Daddy. I’ve already got it covered,” a coy smile graced Sam’s face.

“Sammie, are you sure this is going to be alright? I mean with us being in your house while neither one of you are home?” Her father paused. “What about Mario?”

“He knows you Dad. Don’t worry. Just talk to him, he’s just a big baby.” Sam tried to calm his fears. “Besides, Mario just loved Sarah when she stayed with us at the house.”

“Well, if you say so.”

“I do. See you soon, Daddy. Mother, too. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Sam turned her attention once more to her list and promptly drew a line through decorations. “Okay, one down many more to go. She’ll come through for me,” Sam muttered as she punched in a number on her speed dial then waited.

“Sam, you know I use this line for job interviews. Make it short or hire me.”

“Sorry C.C. but this is an emergency.” Sam apologized half-heartedly.

“What kind of emergency?”

“A good kind. Brooke’s coming home. She’ll be here in three hours and we’re throwing her a surprise party for her birthday.”

“O-o-o-o-o-h! I like parties.” C.C. squealed. “Dancing and food.”

“Speaking of food C.C., I’ve got a little job for you.” Sam took in a breath and slowly let it out. “I need a cake. A big cake.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

“Do you think Aunt Brooke will be expecting a surprise?” David tugged at his mother’s arm.

“Not sure, honey.” Randi turned to the woman standing next to her. “What do you think Janet? Are we going to surprise her?”

“I think so. She didn’t even remember what day it was until I called her this afternoon.” Janet looked over at Sam who was nervously peaking out the window. “I think Brooke thought it was Sam calling her. I got the most intimate of greetings when she answered the phone.”

A dark eyebrow rose in question on Terri’s forehead. “Oh really?” She leaned in toward Janet. “I’ll pay you fifty bucks to repeat it to me.”

“David, why don’t you go find Julie for mommy?” Randi gave her son a warm smile and a push. “Go ahead. I’ll be right here getting the scoop on Aunt Brooke.” She turned her gaze to Janet.

“What? And have Brooke chase me down to my dying day? You’ve got to be kidding me. I know what you and your sisters would do with that information.”

“Who?” Randi said as innocently as a first time offender.

“Us?” Terri clutched her hand to her chest and feigned a shocked look. “Never.”

“Yeah, you two. It would be the opening fodder for the next round of Gordon family table etiquette.” Janet cleared her throat. “I’ve been to a few of those dinners.”

“You always were her friend,” Randi shot back disgustedly.

“And a good one at that.” The smugness of Janet’s smile was evident as she winked at Randi.

“Speaking of birthday girls,” Terri’s gaze turned toward Sam a few feet away from their group, “shouldn’t Brooke be arriving soon?”

Randi glanced down at her watch. “The nerve of her being late for her own party.”

“Don’t look now but I think she’s coming.” Janet giggled seeing Sam’s frenzied peeks through the curtains so as not to be seen.

“Oh boy!” Sam drew back from the curtain. “I think she’s here. Everybody hide.”

Immediately the room fell silent as people froze where they stood. The only noise came from the sound of footsteps pounding up to the porch. A second later, the door flew open and C.C. rushed inside.

“Hurry,” the out of breath woman gasped, her brown eyes looking desperately about the room as she pushed the door closed with her foot. “She’s coming up the driveway. I cut her off at the light and hauled ass to get here.”

“Cjersti, give me the cake before you drop it.” Mable stood up from her chair.

“No time, Mom.” C.C. took off for the kitchen. “Out of my way. Coming through. Excuse me.” She shifted from side to side with every stride trying not to lose hold of the huge cake box in her hands. “I hope you all appreciate what I’m going through.” She rounded a group of guests and let out a startled scream. “AWK! Hey! No free feels.”

Sam glanced over to see Eddie and Sarah both whistling nonchalantly and staring up at the ceiling. “Enough you two.”

“Sarah!” Elaine chastised her youngest daughter.

“Elaine, it’s all in fun,” Samuel scuffed at his wife.

“C.C.’s a big girl,” Henry spoke up in Sarah’s defense. “She can take a little ribbing.”

“I don’t think a little ribbing was what C.C. got,” Crystal commented.

“Oh my!” Aunt Sandy blushed.

“I swear they’re all children,” Sam muttered, rolling her eyes before turning to address the roomful of guests. “We can talk about this later. Right now it’s show time.” Without a second’s hesitation she flipped the light switch, sending the living room into total darkness. “Now find a place and hide.”

The sound of scurrying feet soon gave way to muted laughter and soft giggles as everyone attempted to find a place to hide.

“Hey, I was here first.” A male voice whispered out from behind the sofa.

“Sorry,” Peter apologized and turned, falling over an arm of a chair.

“Oh no you don’t.” Terri pushed him away. “This chair’s already taken, by two of us.” She wrapped one arm around her abdomen and used the other to guide Peter along.

“Damn!” Peter grunted as the noise of movement around him began to settle down. “All the good spots are gone.”

“Phsssst! Peter,” Eddie whispered loudly trying to get his attention. “Over here.”

“Huh?” Disoriented by the darkness, Peter turned from one corner of the room to another in search of the voice. “Where?”

“Here.” Eddie answered.

Peter moved toward one corner.

“The other here, Peter.”

“Oh yeah.” He turned to the opposite corner, hastening his steps. “That here.”

“Hurry, Peter. She’s almost at the door.” Sam whispered sharply. “Ready with the camera, Rick?”

“Yep. I’m ready.”

“I’m ready too, Sam. She’ll never know it’s me,” Peter giggled, placing a lampshade on his head.

“Yeah, right!” Kevin blurted out from behind a full-length curtain.

“Kevin!” Randi and Brian simultaneously corrected their son from opposite sides of the room.

“Sorry,” the scolded child offered to no one in particular.

Sam sucked in a breath and let go with her final warning. “Sh! I can hear her coming up the steps.” Miraculously, all noise ceased and a satisfied smile came to Sam’s face. It’s amazing what fifty people can do when they put their minds to it. She slid back into the shadows and waited.

It seemed like an eternity until the door finally opened and a tall form filled the doorway. Dropping her suitcase into the corner of the foyer, Brooke walked over to the hall table and deposited her briefcase. “Honey, I’m home.” She turned toward the living room where a blinding light startled her.

“SURPRISE!” A chorus of unrehearsed voices set Mario howling.

“AUGH!” Brooke’s arms flew up into the air. “Who? What?” Huge blue eyes bugged out like sunny side-up egg yolks and she grabbed her chest as she sank down to the floor.

“Good God! We killed her,” Mable gasped.

Brooke let a smile grow broadly across her face as she pointed at her mother and yelled. “Gotcha!”

“Oh you!” Mable chastised her daughter.

“Sorry,” Brooke winked as she got up off the floor. “Nice party hat, Peter.” She joined in the group”s laughter “Hi, everyone. Mom, Dad,” Brooke greeted them with a nod of her head and smiled. “You didn’t have to do this for me.”

“We didn’t,” Henry chuckled. “Sam did. Happy birthday, Brooke.”

“Happy birthday, baby.” Mable gave her daughter a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Your father’s right. Sam’s to blame for all of this.”

Brooke gazed around the room for the mastermind of the surprise. Having made eye contact with her wife, a sly smile slowly lit up Brooke’s face. “Darlin’, all this and you taught the dog how to say surprise, too. How sweet!”

“Actually, he did that himself.” Sam walked over and wrapped her arms around Brooke’s neck. “Happy Birthday, Honey. Welcome home.”

Their gazes held and the distance between them shortened until they were wrapped up in the other’s arms. Lips pressed tenderly together in a welcoming kiss, each one letting the other know exactly how much they were missed. The insistent sound of catcalls and whistles kept Brooke from letting the kiss go beyond the point of no return. Slowly the two pairs of lips parted.

“Thank you,” Brooke whispered. “I’ve missed you, Sam.” She tightened her embrace for a moment, then held her wife out at arm’s length. “So, how’s my girl?”

“We’re doing fine,” Sam tried not to blush, “Considering.”

“Oh yeah?” Blue eyes twinkled in delight. “What are we considering?”

“Well…” Sam smiled coyly. She opened her mouth to speak but was beat to the punch.

“Is it safe to come out now?” Peter asked with the lampshade still on his head.

Brooke restrained her laughter. “It’s been safe around me for a long time, Peter. Is there something you’re trying to tell us?”

The man took the lampshade off his head. “You mean other than happy birthday?” Peter giggled. “Dream on.”

“Good answer, Peter.” Brooke winked at her friend. “I’m not sure Crystal would have liked that surprise.”

“Damn right! I wouldn’t have.” Over the course of several seconds, Crystal’s glare at Peter softened before she turned her attention back to her cousin. “Speaking of surprises,” Crystal motioned to Brooke. “What did you get her, Sam?”

“Yeah, Darlin’,” Brooke nuzzled her wife’s ear as she wrapped her arms around Sam’s waist. “What did you get me?” Blue eyes teasingly glanced around the room.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it right here with me.” Sam smiled and laid her hands over Brooke’s arms. “I’ll give you a few hints.”

“Hints?” Brooke’s face lit up. “What kind of hints?”

“Well…” Sam paused as she thought. “Hints like,” Sam looked around the room at the gathered crowd. “What do three of the Gordon sisters have in common?”

Randi flashed a smile. “That’s easy. Good looks.”

“Good jobs,” Terri spoke up.

“They’re all incredibly sexy.” Peter spoke without thinking. The silly grin on his face was soon dismissed by the slap to the back of his head. “OW!”

“We’ll talk about it later, Peter.” Crystal cleared her throat. “Sorry for the interruption, Sam.” She smiled sweetly. “Continue on.”

“Well, three of us are married,” Brooke glanced from Randi to Terri and smiled.

“That’s part of it,” Sam hedged, biting her lip.

“What’s part of it?” C.C. rounded the corner of the kitchen, blowing a lock of stray hair off her face. “Did I miss something?”

“Only the boat,” Randi mumbled.

“Sh!” Mabel shushed her eldest daughter. “Is that nice?”

“Only if you’re not C.C.,” Brian whispered.

“Yeah, and that’s why only three of them are married,” Rick leaned in toward Terri and kissed her check.

“HEY!” C.C. crossed her arms over her chest in a defiant manner. “I’m not married because Mr. Right hasn’t swept me off my feet yet.”

Eddie leaned toward Peter. “No, but I’ve heard that Mr. Wrong, Mr. Broke, Mr. Slimeball, and Mr. Jobless have.” The two men failed to stifle their laughter.

C.C. swung around to face them. “But it’s only keeping me in practice.”

“Practice,” Eddie smirked. “So that’s what you call it.”

“I’d call it a load of sh…” Peter’s word was stopped short.

“Please!” Sam was quick to intervene. “Watch your language. We have young, impressionable ears present.”

“Darlin’, since when does it bother you what people say in our house?” Brooke queried her wife.

“It’s not just in this house but everywhere.” Sam looked up, locking her wife’s gaze with her own. “Trust me, Brooke, I’m finding that there are impressionable ears everywhere I go.”

“What are you talking about?” Brooke’s stare grew more intense.

“Yes, Sam,” Samuel looked at his daughter. “By all means, what are you talking about?” Silence swept over the room. One by one he looked around to his fellow guests until his eyes met Elaine’s. “Does anyone have a clue?”

C.C.’s hand shot up into the air. “Pick me. Pick me,” she waved her hand excitedly back and forth. “Oh, please pick me.”

Green eyes glared a warning. “C.C., shouldn’t you be getting the cake ready right about now?”

“Damn!” C.C. sounded dejected. “You’d think I’m still a kid getting sent out of the room when the good stuff is about to happen.”

“No you’re not,” Brooke teased her youngest sister. “If you were still a kid, I’d have no coffee table.”

The sound of sisterly laughter lit up the room.

“Girls!” Mable warned.

“Yes, Mother.” A unified chorus of Gordon sisters answered without skipping a beat.

C.C. pouted, looking around the room. “Well that’ll explain a lot of things. Excuse me while I go set the cake ablaze.” She turned to gloat at Brooke. “You know, some of us aren’t getting any younger.” The insolent woman stuck out her tongue, then hastened her departure with long determined strides.

Brooke worked hard to subdue a grin. “So, Sam.” She turned her attention back to her wife. “Where’s my present?” She leaned closer to Sam and whispered in her ear. “You can show it to me here, can’t you?”

Their eyes met and Sam was further enticed by a pair of wiggling eyebrows. Slowly she looked around the room, then back to Brooke. “You really want to see it right now?”

“Sure, I do.” Brooke nodded.

Sam sighed, then looked down to see her fingers toying with the hem of her camp shirt. Seconds seemed like minutes before the woman worked up the courage to continue. Slowly she took hold of the material of her shirt and looked up into Brooke’s eyes. “Happy…”

C.C. took the cue and ran with it as she carried the flaming cake into the living room. “Happy birthday to you,” Hearing no one joining in, C.C. started again. “Happy birthday to you. Come on, sing,” she directed weaving her way through the crowd.

“Happy Birthday to you,” the guests added their voices to the song. All eyes turned to the cake as C.C. placed it on the table behind the couch. “Happy Birthday dear, Mavis.”

“Mavis?” Peter shouted out stopping the reverie. “Who in the hell is Mavis? I thought it was Brooke’s birthday.”

All eyes slowly turned to C.C.

“What do you expect?” C.C.’s voice took on a defensive tone. “It wasn’t like I had time to order it or anything like that. All the bakeries were closing and it was the only one left.” C.C. looked over to her mother. “Can’t you just rearrange the writing with a toothpick or something?”

“Cjersti Chase, what am I going to do with you?” Mable shook her head.

Sam closed her eyes and sighed. “God,” she whispered under her breath. “I’d like to rearrange your as…” Realizing what she was about to say, Sam didn’t finish her thought. “Oh, whatever,” she mumbled in disgust.

“Auntie Sam?” Julie tugged on Sam’s leg.

“Yes, Julie?” Sam looked down at the child.

“Aunt Bwooke get pwesents?”

Eyes filled with hope led Sam back to her goal. “She sure will if I ever get a chance.”

Renewed with determination, Sam pulled all her courage together for one last attempt. “Okay, everyone, freeze,” Sam raised her voice to be heard. “Not another word.” She looked directly at C.C., then to Peter, and lastly the two remaining Gordon sisters. “Not another question from any of you until I give Brooke her gift.”

“Baby?”

The tone of Brooke’s voice sent a chill through Sam’s soul. Dumbfounded, Sam looked over to C.C. in an accusing manner.

“Hey!” C.C. held up her hands feigning any wrong doings. “I didn’t say a word.”

Confused by her wife’s actions, Brooke sought out the cause. “Well somebody better say one.” She turned to Sam and grasped her shoulders. “Sam?” Leaning down, she stared her wife in the eyes. “Are you alright, Darlin’?”

“I’m…peighanit.” Sam mumbled quietly.

“What?” A dark brow quirked high on Brooke’s forehead. “What did you say?”

Blonde brows furrowed, and Sam let out a breath. “We’re pregnant, Brooke.”

“YES!” Eddie made a fist and pumped his hand down to his side. “Alright!” A triumphant smile beamed from his face.

Blue eyes glazed over as tears of joy threatened to roll down Brooke’s face. “We…w-we did it?” She asked, glancing down to Sam’s abdomen.

“We did it,” Sam confirmed with an all out smile.

Taken by surprise by the intimate moment, shock filled the room.

“Oh Lord!” Elaine gasped as her world went spinning wildly in front of her.

“Elaine!” Samuel reached for his wife. Before he could lay a hand on the woman, her knees gave way and she sank to the ground with a dull thump.

“Lordy! There she goes again,” Crystal sighed. “Is it just me or are these family gatherings getting to be more like work than party?”

“You got that right, Crystal.” Rick said, coming up behind her. “You stay sitting, Terri. We got this one.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

Installment 2–13 – “I’m Not As Think As You Confused I Am”

“I knew you could do it.” Brian raised the glass in his hand. “Here’s a toast to all parents to be. May you enjoy life now, before the pitter-patter of little feet disrupts your life.” He winked at Brooke and chuckled. “I’m sure you know what life I’m referring to.”

“Enough of that,” Mable quickly put an end to the chuckles. “I’m so happy for you. I’m sure you’ll make excellent parents.”

“Oh, I just love the feel of new life.” Randi closed in on Sam’s stomach. “Congratulations, Sam.”

“Hey!” Brooke slapped her older sister’s hand away. “That’s OUR new life,” she wrapped her arms around Sam in an effort to shield her. “Go find your husband and make one of your own.”

“Been there, done that. It ain’t going to happen again.” Randi smiled over at Brian and made her fingers imitate a pair of scissors in motion. “We took care of that right after Julie.”

Instinctively Peter crossed his legs. “Yikes! Maybe I should think twice about marriage.” He looked over to Crystal and sighed. “Or not.”

Hearing Peter’s reaction Sam turned to address him. “Are you getting a little serious about my cousin, Peter?”

“I…I…” Peter gulped looking for something to take the attention off of him. Seeing Elaine slumping to the floor, he lowered his head. “Geez! There she goes again and we haven’t even gotten the first toast out.”

“Oh, Mother!” Sarah’s eyes were fixed on the figure slumped on the floor as she inched her way through the crowd. “Let me through. I’ve got to help her.”

Peter stepped aside feeling the tap on his shoulder. “Ho! Wait up.” He put his arm around Sarah’s shoulders and reeled her in. “Let the medical people do their thing.”

“Comin’ through,” Crystal announced. “Give her some air. Rick, looks like we got another condition C at a family gathering.”

“I forget, is that the same as a code blue?” Sandy queried nervously.

“Code blue, Dr. Death, Condition C,” Terri muttered under her breath, “It’s all the same.”

“This is getting to be more like work than a family gathering,” Rick muttered. “You stay sitting there, Terri. I’ll take care of it this time.”

“Don’t worry. I couldn’t get down on the floor anyway.”

Rick looked over to his wife and smiled. “You could, dear, but you’d never get up again,” he said in a playful manner.

“I think you’re right.” Terry winced, giving her tummy a little rub then resettling herself into the overstuffed chair. “Damn this used to be so comfortable.”

“What’s wrong? Did she fall?” Sam’s attention turned to her mother.

“Oh God, tell me she didn’t break her hip.” Brooke held onto her wife a little tighter. “She’s alright, isn’t she?” Brooke asked her brother-in-law. Not getting any answer in return, she yelled a little louder to be heard above the rest of the group. “Mother Moleson, tell me you’re okay.”

“She fainted, Brooke. She’s not deaf.” Terri joked before turning her attention back to the efforts of her husband and Crystal. “Don’t look now, Brooke, but I think your mother-in-law is waking up.”

“Mother…” Brooke’s blue eyes glazed over as the word brought back to mind the present her wife had given her. “Sam, we’re going…we’re mothers.” Brooke wiped a tear from her eye and reached out for her wife. “This is the best birthday present I’ve ever had.”

“I’ve heard that before,” stated Henry with a sarcastic grin on his face. “I remember hearing you say that after a certain set of drums were unwrapped on your seventh birthday.”

“Drums are no comparison to this,” Brooke sounded indignant. “Besides, I couldn’t share those with anyone. But this,” Brooke look euphoric. “A baby I can share with the whole family.”

“Oh my! Family,” Elaine muttered. “Samantha,” she looked to Brooke then back to her daughter. “How?”

“It’s okay mother,” Sam tried to lessen the woman’s fears. “It’s not like we did it alone. Eddie helped us.”

“Eddie?” Elaine’s terrified voice screeched out before she wavered and clutched at her husband’s arm. “Oh my! This can’t be,” she muttered, then locked gazes with her Samuel. “I never dreamed this would happen.”

“Don’t worry Mrs. Moleson, it’s not like we did a three way or anything like that,” Eddie blushed.

“Yeah, in your dreams.” Brooke tightened her hold on Sam.

“Whoa!” Peter’s eyes grew as big as saucers. “That would have been even too much for me and I’ve had some wild dreams.

Crystal rested a hand on her hip and gazed over to her date. “Oh really?”

“Hey dude, you might have had the dreams, but reality came and asked me,” Eddie gloated.

Elaine scrambled up onto wobbly legs and forged through the crowd. “Samantha, I demand to know what is going on here. You say you love Brooke and now you’re telling me Eddie is the father of your unborn child. Please,” Elaine pleaded with her eyes, “tell me it isn’t so.”

“Which one mother?”

“What?”

“Which one do you want me to deny? My love for Brooke or that Eddie is the father of our unborn child?” Sam rested her hand over her lower abdomen.

“This has nothing to do with you loving Brooke,” Elaine sounded indignant.

“Excuse me!” C.C. bullied her way into the conversation. “You know how I hate to be the one to intrude.” C.C. smiled contritely. “But lady you don’t have the vaguest idea what you’re talking about.”

“Cjersti Chase Gordon!” Mable said in aghast.

Brown eyes leveled a determined gaze at her mother. “Trust me here mom, just this once.” C.C. turned her attention back to Elaine. “What you don’t seem to understand is that ALL of this has to do with your daughter loving my sister. It doesn’t have anything to do with what you want or what anybody else wants. It’s about Sam and Brooke. Now instead of screaming and going all crazy, what exactly is it that you have a problem with? Is it the fact that Sam is a lesbian and married to my sister? Is it the fact that they’ve decided to start a family?” C.C. said as she balled up her fists and placed them on her hips. “Or, is it the fact that you and your warped perverted sense of self has absolutely no say in what she does anymore?”

All eyes grew larger as the room fell silent.

“I…I was only…” Elaine searched for the right words.

“Really Mrs. Moleson, what is it that you have a problem with? This is my sister’s birthday, and finding out that her wife is pregnant should make it one of the happiest days of her life. Why are you trying to ruin this? Is it because you don’t agree with their choice of sperm? ‘Cause if that’s it, I can think of a whole lot worse than Eddie to be the biological father of my newest relative.”

“Phew!” Randi blew out a long held breath. “Never thought Chase would be the one to save the day, but at least that’s cleared up now.”

“What do you mean cleared up, Randi? The only reason to clear anything up would be if you actually thought that Sam chea…” C.C. looked around at all the faces staring at her. “Fine! If everyone wants to act like they’re in grade school, let’s do it. By a show of hands, how many people in this room are under the impression that Sam cheated on Brooke with Eddie?”

Silence reigned supreme. The only movement in the room was the subtle shifting of eyes, waiting to see who would be the first to raise a hand.

Shocked by the solidarity of the room, Elaine voiced the tally of the vote. “Sam didn’t.”

“Damn right I didn’t,” Sam put her stamp of approval on the subject. “I don’t know about the rest of you but I take my marriage vows quite seriously. Brooke and I made the decision to use Eddie as our donor and now we’re pregnant. I can’t see why that’s such a bad thing.” She looked around the room on many a thoughtful face. “Let’s face it. There are no male siblings in either family for us to have asked. What’s the big deal? This way we at least knew…er…I mean know whom the father is.”

“Uncle,” Eddie hastily interjected. “I’m kind of scared of all this family stuff now. I just want to be Uncle Eddie.”

“And that’s exactly how it’s going to be.” Brooke raised an eyebrow in Elaine’s direction. “You got a problem with that?”

Elaine’s mouth dropped open, but nothing came out.

“I think it’s time we leave, Elaine. We’ve got some things to discuss at home.” Samuel turned his attention to Sam. “I’m sorry, princess.”

“But I wasn’t trying to…” Elaine attempted to explain. “I was just….

“Elaine! I think you’ve said enough.” Samuel’s gaze pinned his wife for a long moment. “Sarah, we’re leaving now.” He turned to address their reason for being there. “I’m sorry for the trouble we’ve caused. I sincerely wish you a happy birthday, Brooke.”

“What do you mean we’re leaving?” Sarah questioned. “The party hasn’t even started yet.”

“You can’t go. Brooke hasn’t even blown out the candles yet,” Sandy stated.

“Yeah!” Peter shouted out in an effort to rouse the crowd. “We came to par-tay!”

“Calm it down, big boy.” Crystal slapped him in the gut with a good backhand. “This is not that kind of party even if Sam, Brooke, and Eddie are all here together.”

“It’s a family party,” another voice added into the melee of reasons being thrown out before everyone converged into the conversation all at the same time.

“QUIET! EVERYONE QUIET!” One voice struggled at full strength to be heard. “I don’t want to hear another word from anybody about this subject. Everybody just needs to calm down.” Mable turned her attention toward the woman who had started the ruckus. “Elaine, give me a call tomorrow and we’ll sort this whole thing out. Due to miscommunication on several levels, I think there is a massive misunderstanding making us all jump to conclusions. Give it a night. Give it a rest and I’m sure things will look differently in the morning.”

“That sounds like a good idea. What do you say Elaine?” Sandy turned to her sister-in-law. “Maybe a little sleep would help us all think a little clearer. A nice glass of hot milk and you’ll feel much better in the morning. You’ll see.”

Elaine looked at every face in the room before casting her eyes down toward the floor. “Perhaps you’re right.” She took in a deep breath before sheepishly gazing into the eyes of the crowd. “Good night everyone. I truly am sorry for ruining your party. Happy Birthday Brooke, I’m glad you made it back home safely.”

“Thank you. Mr. Moleson, Sarah,” Brooke gave a nod at each one, “thanks for coming.” Feeling the stiffening in Sam’s back, Brooke’s grip tightened on Sam’s shoulder. “Have a safe trip home.”

Sam held her tongue until her family was out the door. “Oh! I can’t believe her. She’ll never change.”

“Now Darlin’, don’t get all upset.” Brooke rubbed her wife’s shoulder in an attempt to calm her down. “Let it go for tonight.” She swung the woman around to face her. “Hey, I just got home and I don’t want the mood to be all poopy.”

“Yeah!” C.C. struck a triumphant pose. “Now that the party poopers are all gone I say we Par-Tay!”

“Well, party or not, I have an early court date.” Randi turned to her husband. “Brian, I think it’s time we should go.”

“What’s the matter, Sis, can’t hang with the spring chickens no more or have you joined the dead poopers society?” C.C. taunted her oldest sibling.

“No, I just take my job seriously, like everyone should. Terri, don’t you agree?”

The sound of panting interspersed Terri’s words. “Yeah, whatever you say, Randi.” She took time to pant a little more. “Brooke, I really hope you weren’t too fond of this chair cause I either pissed myself or my water just broke.”

Brooke made a face. “Either way, Terri, I see a new chair in our future.”

“I know you’re not in labor.” Rick shook his head. “You can’t be or you would have said something sooner.”

Terri mocked her husband. “You can’t be?” She doubled over and started to pant again. “Then I guess this is just a twisted fart giving me all this pain.”

“My poor baby.” Mable sympathized with her daughter. “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

“And miss all of this action?” Terri panted a little more. “Are you kidding me, Mom? I’m in labor. I’m not stupid. Where else was I going to see live action theater in the making?”

Rick looked up to the ceiling and muttered. “It’s got to be a Gordon gene.”

“It looks like the ball is in your hands now, Rick.” Brian chided, “Are you going to run with it or are you gonna punt?”

“My wife’s in labor.” A fretful expression contorted Rick’s face. “Why in the hell are you talking about balls? You should be calling a cab or an ambulance or something.”

Immediately a roomful of people all whipped out their cell phones and started dialing while Rick tried to comfort his wife.

Henry leaned in to Brooke and gave her a nudge. “Listen up, Brooke. I’d pay close attention so you know what to do when your turn rolls around here soon.”

“Trust me,” Brooke met her father’s gaze head on. “I already know what to do.”

“You do?” Surprise painted Henry’s expression. “What’s that?”

“I’ll just shut up and take it like a man.” Brooke flashed a toothy grin.

“By the gods, she was paying attention,” Henry muttered in utter astonishment.

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

“Good night, Sarah.”

“Night, Daddy.” The teen returned and slipped into her room.

Samuel stood vigilant in the hall until his daughter’s light was turned off. Sighing heavily, he turned and faced his own closed bedroom door. “Might as well get this over with,” he muttered.

After opening the door, he stood watching the nervous fidgeting actions of his wife as she readied herself for bed. When their eyes met, neither spoke until the door was pulled shut behind him.

“Elaine.”

The high strung woman looked up from what she was doing. “Go ahead, tell me how disappointed you are in me for disrupting the party.”

“Disrupting the party isn’t all you’ve done, Elaine. You’ve completely destroyed our oldest daughter’s one moment of happiness. Couldn’t you see how excited she was to be able to tell her wife they were pregnant?”

“Yes, I could tell. Why do you think I had to say something.” Elaine plopped down onto the bed. “Samuel, they need to know about Eddie now, while it’s still early enough to take care of the entire situation.”

“And I agree.”

“You do?”

“Yes, but you’ve jumped to conclusions. It almost sounded like you believed Sam slept with him.”

“Slept with him or used him as a donor, does it really matter?”

“I’m sure in Brooke’s mind it would. Why are you so hell bent on ruining something so precious?”

“Damn it, Samuel!” The woman’s ire raised ten degrees. “They’re brother and sister or at least they could be.”

“And that’s the question here. I guess we’ll just have to find out for sure, won’t we?” He advanced on her, stopping inches away. “I suggest you do exactly that before even daring to bring up the subject to me, Sam, or anyone else. I won’t have my little girl’s heart broken over something we think may be.”

“Fine!” Elaine held her head up indignantly. “I’ll make the arrangements first thing in the morning. You’ll see, I’ll get to the bottom of this.”

“Elaine?”

“Yes, Samuel.”

“You are the bottom of this mess.”

“We both are. We conceived him together or did you forget that little fact?”

“As a struggling college student with a girl just out of high school, I remember it quite well. We were so stupid then.” Samuel cast his gaze to the floor. “I was so stupid then. If I’d only used some protection then I could have prevented all this agony now.”

“We’re not any better now than we were then, are we?” Elaine glanced over to see a questioning gaze from her husband. “We’re still struggling or at least I still am.” She looked away, reflecting on her private torment.

“If it wasn’t for you and your father, I’d have my son.” Samuel turned and walked over to his side of the bed. “I’m surprised your mother let it happen. But then again, the man’s word was the rule back then.”

“She had her two cents of input.”

Samuel slid in under the covers. “What?”

“She’s the reason why our son wasn’t aborted. My father wanted to do nothing more than sweep the whole situation away. She’s the one who got me out of town and gave our son a chance at life. Perhaps,” Elaine bit her lip and took in a deep breath. “Perhaps I should start my quest for the hard cold facts with my mother?”

“Believe me, Elaine, if it is true and Eddie is our son I’ll do everything in my power to be the father to him I never was.”

“And if he is, I guess you expect me to be the one to tell Samantha her baby is a product of an incestuous relationship.”

“No, Elaine.” Samuel laid his hand over his wife’s. “We’ll do it together.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

“Hello, Gordon Residence.”

The male voice coming through the telephone line startled Elaine. “Henry, it’s Elaine Moleson. I was wondering if Mable was available. I…uhm…what I mean is…Mable did say for me to call her today.”

“Yes, I do remember hearing that. Let me go get her. You’ll have to excuse me if I’m moving a little slow, we didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“No hurry on my part, Henry.” Mable thanked God for the few minutes reprieve until the voice on the other end broke her concentration.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Mable. It’s Elaine.”

“I’ve been expecting your call. Are you feeling any better today?”

“I feel numb and at the same time have a thousand things running through my mind. I don’t even really know where to begin.”

“Well you could say congratulations.”

“Okay.” Elaine’s reply was tentative. “Congratulations. Now tell me, why am I congratulating you?”

“Well, for one, I’m a new grandmother, again.” Mable giggled like a schoolgirl.

“And that’s exactly the source of my concern. I really don’t know how you do it. I mean you have one daughter pregnant and a daughter-in-law who’s now expecting.”

“No dear, I don’t think you understand,” Mable explained, “Terri had her baby last night. Now, I’ve only got a daughter-in-law who’s expecting. Or should I say that we both do.”

“Terri had her baby? That is wonderful news.”

“Yes, it is. I’ve got a new little granddaughter to dote over. She’s a preemie albeit, but she’s here.”

“How sweet. You must be so happy. What did they name her?”

“Michelle Rae. It’s Terri and Rick’s middle names combined.”

“They named their daughter Ray? You mean like that blind singer, Ray Charles?”

“R-A-E,” Mable enounced each letter clearly. “They took creative liberties with the spelling. She’s absolutely beautiful. I had a moment of déjà vu when I first saw her. She looked a lot like Brooke did as an infant with those blue eyes like her father’s.”

Elaine hesitated. “Speaking of Brooke and babies.”

“Yes?”

“Mable, I have to admit I’m concerned about Samantha’s part in all of this.”

“You mean her pregnancy? Sam’s young and healthy. I suspect she won’t have a problem with the pregnancy.”

“I’ve found myself in a bind here, Mable. I’m not quite sure how to get myself out of it.” Elaine fretted. “This may come as a shock but I’m just going to come out and say it. No use in putting it off. I mean, I might actually figure a few things out while talking to you and…”

“Elaine,” Mable interrupted her.

“Yes?”

“What’s the problem? We’re friends, aren’t we? We’re family, Elaine. Just say it already.”

There was a moment of silence as Elaine steeled herself for what she was about to say. “Okay here goes. I believe,” she took in a breath. “That is… Samuel and I believe… Eddie is our son.” She paused, waiting for a reaction, but none came. “You must think we’re horrible. It’s actually kind of a long story,” she said rather nervously.

“Well, why don’t you just start from the beginning.”

Elaine thanked God for the non-judgmental tone in Mable’s voice. “Okay. Samuel and I were high school sweethearts. We were so in love. We couldn’t keep our hands off of each other.” Elaine felt the heat of a blush creeping up her cheeks. “I knew when I was sixteen, we’d eventually marry.”

“That sounds a lot like Henry and me. We got married the week after I graduated from high school. I was eighteen by the mere grace of two days,” Mable said with a chuckle. “Before the minister could say, “You may kiss the bride,” I was pregnant with Randi. The next morning, Henry was shipping out for a tour of Vietnam.”

“You poor girl.”

“I’m a tough one, Elaine. There was no need to worry. I had plenty of family behind me. Besides, it made that newlywed year last forever.”

Elaine chuckled. “I can see why. It was a little different for Samuel and I. We attended my senior prom together. He was two years ahead of me in school and already attending college when I found out I was pregnant the summer before I started college. Samuel had such a promising career lined up ahead of him. I couldn’t bear the idea of taking it away from him.”

“That was very unselfish of you, Elaine.”

“I didn’t have a choice. I still lived at home with my parents. They weren’t too thrilled with the thought of their unwed daughter raising a bastard child.”

“I’m so sorry, Elaine.”

Hearing the empathy in the other woman’s voice, Elaine continued on. “My father wanted me to get an abortion but my mother was dead set against it. Eventually, they compromised if I’d agree to attend college out of state until after the baby was born. I guess I should say, my mother agreed. I pretty much kept to myself while I was away. I concentrated on my classes and making it through the pregnancy.”

“That must have been tough.”

“Things were awkward to say the least. For the first time in over two years I was away from my beloved Samuel.”

“You were gone and Samuel had no idea why?”

“He didn’t know I was pregnant. I told him that I was going to take care of some pre-requisite courses. I never declared my major until the end of the year. I thought I was doing what was best for Samuel and for our child. Professor Hardy was kind of my surrogate mother while I was there. To this day, I still have no idea why she took me under her wing in the first place. She didn’t even know I was pregnant until I was about six months along and showing so much that I couldn’t hide it any longer.”

“Maybe she saw a young, lost, and frightened girl who had nobody.”

“Such an amazing woman. Do you know that Professor Hardy made sure I ate right and got plenty of rest?”

“Really?”

“Yes, she took me to pre-natal appointments and even attended Lamaze classes with me. She asked me what I intended to do after the baby was born. That’s when I discussed it with my mother and we had agreed that I would give the baby up for adoption. Professor Hardy offered to take the baby and raise it as her own, so I contacted my parents and my mother came for a visit. My mother and professor Hardy worked out all the details of the adoption.”

“Then why were you so surprised with Eddie at the dinner when his history came up?” Mable asked with an undertone of hesitance.

“I never told Samuel about the pregnancy until years later after we were married and Samantha was born. I was still so frightened of how he would react to me giving up the baby. I told him the baby was gone a couple hours after he was born. I never said the baby had died, I said he was gone. I wasn’t even supposed to see him but the nurse thought it might help give me closure if I could at least see him one time to make sure that I knew he was healthy and whole. Once I told him about the pregnancy, Samuel was under the impression that the child had died. I did nothing to dissuade that impression. Needless to say, Samuel was both hurt and quite angry, as one would expect. He was also grieving the loss of a son he never knew. I had lied to him for so many years I began to believe it myself. All of a sudden, here’s our son, alive and all grown up into a man.” Elaine took in a breath and blew it out.

“So your problem isn’t with Sam and Brooke wanting to have a child together, is it?”

Elaine didn’t quite know how to answer. “No, but you can see why I’m concerned with who’s about to become the father of his sister’s child, can’t you?”

“I see.”

“Mable, how do I tell Samantha not only does she have a brother, but this incestuous child can not be born? I will admit that I am relieved in knowing they didn’t sleep together. I do apologize for leading everyone to believe that was the case. As much as I’ve tried not to, I’m finding myself growing quite fond of your daughter. Believe me, I mean Brooke no ill will.” Elaine started to pace. “I know the months ahead are going to be hard enough as it is but we all have to think of what the years down the road would be like with a child whose birth parents were brother and sister?”

“The first thing I think you need to do, is find out as much about Eddie as you can. You’re a very lucky woman, Elaine. Not everyone gets the opportunity to know the child they gave up twenty-four years ago.”

“I know, I should be thankful for that alone.”

“As for the baby issue, no matter how the child came out, Brooke would love it. Trust me Elaine, things have a way of working out. We just have to have a little faith. The only ones who know every detail of this pregnancy are Brooke and Sam. Besides, if there had been a problem, I’m sure the doctors would have caught it.”

“I can only hope and pray. I’m sorry, Mable. I’ve taken up so much of your time already. I should let you go. Thank you for listening and congratulations on your new granddaughter.”

“It’s not a problem, Elaine. Thanks.”

“Same here, Mable.” Elaine pulled the receiver away from her ear. “Okay, now it’s time to call my mother.” She poked at the numbers and waited. When no one answered the phone, Elaine hung up disgusted.

“My mother’s hip on everything else, why can’t she be up to date with modern day technology? You’d think that a woman who gallivants all over the world would have a cell phone on her hip.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

Mable sat down at her kitchen table and ran a hand through her hair as she thought about the conversation she’d just had. “Okay, let me see if I’ve got this straight. Elaine thinks the fetus is a result of Eddie’s sperm and Sam’s egg. I can’t tell her that it’s actually Eddie’s and Brooke’s if I’m not supposed to know, now can I? Sam’s upset because she thinks her mother is being unreasonable about the entire pregnancy and I can’t tell her and Brooke that it’s because Eddie is really Sam’s brother.” Mable stared without focusing on anything in particular as she rethought out what she’d just said. Suddenly the Gordon matriarch came to the only conclusion she could.

“This family has more twists and turns than a soap opera,” Mable muttered. “Lord, I need a drink.”

{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}

TBC…

K Darblyne has let me know that this work is still in progress, and as soon as real life gives them a chance, she and her writing partner Carrie Ryan will post new installments to Unbroken Season 2.

~Lori~
November, 2013

2 thoughts on “Unbroken Season 2 by Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne

  1. Hey. I have been looking updates to this story for a while now. Do you know if there has been anything after these chapters? I would love to read!

  2. I guess “The Family Tree Stops Here” shirt got donated 🙂
    what used to be sad is happy. everything good, everything fine that’s what you are. live action theater right in you very own fav entertainment screen. contagious!
    If there are any true life events behind the story it would only add more brilliance to the preexisting glory like the inspirational “On Raven’s Wings”.

    since perhaps life got in the way and didn’t allow you to post the story on fanfic net, I not only have to thank you but also good old “futuristic filing cabinets of thoughts” for still keeping your treasure available and may I add pampered and adored no doubt into eternity.
    also thank you dear heart for the itch to unearth season 2 aprox about 1 or 2 chapters into the Unbroken story. hopefully you are hoarding new Installments.

    “…Yeah, how I love you when you’re naked and…Yeah,
    how I hate you when you call me names…
    Yeah, how I love you something sacred,
    even though you piss me off, I’ll take you anyway…”
    pretty much how I feel after installment 13 of Season 2 – “I’m Not As Think As You Confused I Am”

    I learn so much by reading, than from any steepled building
    I’ve had the optional privilege of not stepping a foot into.

    please don’t be abandoned!
    please don’t be abandoned!
    please don’t be abandoned!

    break some rules? don’t be too long. see you soon. don’t close the door on us, sure enough there’s much more to tell. you can’t stop the feeling’s too strong. no wind, no rain or winters cold should stop you from the goal of continuing this soulful piece.
    “Take some time to speak your mind but say it’s not over.”
    To the memory of stories past and the hope of more to come.
    “I absofuckinglutely luuuuuuuuuuv you.”

    I’ll be reading the Exposure Episodes! thanks

    Brooke and Sam can afford a three year vacation?… I’m jealous and you are missed girls… but no time for tears, since Jake and Mandy are coming back to us thanks to Carrie Ryan.

    a romance vinyl of years gone by. put that needle in motion again.
    Listening to “I Can Wait Forever” by Air Supply
    Listening to “My Blue Heaven” by Gene Austin
    “Just Sam and me, and baby makes three, we’re happy in my blue Heaven” – Brooke

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