A Matter of Trust: Part 7

by Radcliffe


WARNING: The stories on this page are about the love between two women and may contain explicit love scenes. If you are not 21, or are offended by this type of love - do not go any further. By continuing you are consenting that you are of legal age to read further.

COPYRIGHT INFO: All stories are original works and are copyrighted by their respected authors. Please do not copy them, link to them or redistribute them without the author's permission.

Chapter Twenty

Sloan emerged from her bedroom barefoot, her hair wet from the shower, in a clean shirt and jeans. Michael was just opening the pizza, which she had placed on the table in the seating area. She looked up with a smile.

"You're just in time."

"God, that smells great," Sloan exclaimed, flopping down gratefully on one end of a large leather sectional facing the windows. "I didn't realize before how hungry I was."

Michael handed her a plate, sat beside her, and they both attacked the food with enthusiasm. Michael had poured a glass of wine for each of them, and neither of them spoke until the box was nearly empty.

"That was terrific," Sloan said eventually as she leaned back contentedly.

"I know I promised you dinner, and I didn't have pizza in mind," Michael said with a laugh. "But I'm hardly dressed for anything elegant tonight," she finished, indicating her borrowed clothing.

"I think you look incredible," Sloan said appreciatively. Though Sarah's jeans and blouse were slightly big on Michael's taller more slender form, she nevertheless looked casually lovely. "Besides, the company more than makes up for the decor."

Michael blushed and looked away. After a moment she said softly, "Are you always this charming with every woman?"

Sloan stared at her in astonishment. "Oh, Michael! Don't you know that you are very beautiful and so incredibly sexy that it's heartstopping?"

Michael looked at her steadily, then said, "Then what is it? Is there something here I'm missing? Something I'm supposed to do or say?"

"It's not you," Sloan said vehemently.

Michael's disbelief and lingering hurt shadowed her blue eyes, but she said nothing.

"I'm sorry," Sloan said bitterly. "It's never been because of you."

She got up abruptly and went to the windows, her back to the room and Michael. Though she gazed out, she was not seeing the waterfront, or the lights flickering like stars fallen to earth; she was remembering the sounds and sights of the nation's capital. It seemed like only yesterday, the pain was still so fresh. Finally she turned, leaning against the window casement, and began to speak.

"When my tour in Thailand was over, I came back to Washington and was assigned to the Justice Department. I had a lot more experience than most of the other people working in computer crimes at that time. They moved me up fairly quickly even though I was young, and pretty soon I was heading a new unit that was similar to an Internal Affairs Division in a police department. I was testing our own internal security measures, looking for leaks. I answered directly to a member of the Justice Department - a special prosecutor assigned to deal with computer crimes. That included prosecuting members of government agencies as well. It was publicly very low profile, because obviously evidence of security leaks within the government does not produce confidence in the administration. By the same token, any government employee found to be responsible for, or even remotely connected to, breaches in security was dealt with swiftly. Since it was a fairly new area of investigation and prosecution, there tended to be a lot of overreaction when it came to dealing with individuals suspected of a crime. The prosecutors often brought charges first and got the details later."

Sloan returned to the sitting area and poured herself more wine. With effort, she controlled her agitation enough to sit down on a portion of the sectional adjoining Michael's. For a moment, she stared into the wine, aimlessly turning the glass between her long fingers. God, she hadn't thought about it, not consciously, in so long! But it was still so raw her mind reeled from the memories.

"And then I fell in love with the Special Prosecutor," she continued, her voice harsh with anger. "She was twelve years older than me, and a career government attorney. I think she had already set her sights on the Attorney General's position. She was very paranoid about anyone discovering our relationship, although I'm not convinced it would have made a difference. Nevertheless, I was young enough, and naive enough, to accept her disavowal of me whenever it suited her. I believed her when she said she loved me. "

She drained her glass, and set it carefully on the glass-topped coffee table next to the pizza box. She searched Michael's face for a reaction. What she found was the compassionate warmth that always welcomed her and reached some deep place in her that longed to be comforted.

"I wasn't completely inexperienced. I'd had affairs, but nothing really serious, and I was still foolish enough to believe in the power of love. I would have done anything she wanted. She actually pretended in public to have a long-standing relationship with a male attorney and she attended official functions with him now and then. She said she never slept with him, but I guess I'll never know. At the time, I trusted her."

She smiled bitterly, casting Michael an apologetic glance. "I'm sorry. This sounds like every other relationship-gone-bad story I've ever heard. I didn't mean to subject you to this."

"No," Michael said quickly and firmly. "I want to know. Please."

Sloan nodded and steeled herself for the rest of it. "We'd been together almost two years, and for the last six months of that I had been spearheading an investigation of a division of the National Security Agency attached to the Joint Chiefs. There was a lot of highly sensitive information lying around, so to speak, as well as a 'locked room' with classified military armament codes, all stored on a number of hard drives. My people didn't actually have access to those areas, but we were trying to determine precisely who did. To make a long story short, an independent internal audit came up two hard drives short, and when the information leaked to the press, someone needed to take the fall. My lover knew that I had no direct or even indirect responsibility for that particular area, but my name was the most identifiable. She cut a deal with someone, probably a senator on one of the powerful subcommittees who promised to advance her career in exchange for avoiding public embarrassment of the NSA, and she offered them me as part of the bargain."

Sloan shrugged. "End of story. I trusted her; she wanted a career perk more."

Michael studied her thoughtfully. She could hear the pain and betrayal in Sloan's voice, and her heart ached for her. But there was something else she saw in her eyes, something that went far beyond the pain of an imperfect love. There was something bitter and hard in their depths.

"Tell me the rest," Michael said gently.

Sloan jerked in surprise, staring at her. After a moment's deliberation, she continued. "They came to my office at Justice in the middle of the day and took me away in handcuffs. News of the impending arrest had been leaked to the press. They were waiting when the police brought me out of the building. Cameras, news teams, people surrounding me, shouting at me. I had no idea what was happening." She grimaced briefly at the memory. "She let them do that to me, when an internal review board should have handled it before charges were even delineated. It was Friday afternoon, and I couldn't get an arraignment until Monday morning. I spent the weekend in a city lock up. I was the next best thing to having a cop in jail. It was a very unpleasant weekend."

Michael struggled not to let her horror show. She swallowed painfully, nearly choking on her anguish. "Did they hurt you?"

"No," Sloan said quickly. "Not that way. Oh, they pushed me around a little bit, but nothing serious. It was more the humiliation of being strip searched and treated like an animal. You lose your sense of humanity pretty quickly in there. The justice system is not kind to the accused."

"I'm so sorry," Michael whispered.

Sloan saw no reason to tell her of the deep sense of loss and self-doubt she had suffered when she realized the woman she loved, who she trusted with all her soul, had abandoned her in such a heartless way. Worse perhaps, she had lost faith in her own judgment along with her dignity during those seventy-two interminable hours. She had been partly responsible for what had happened every time she let her lover deny her in public and lie to her in private. She was ashamed, and now, she didn't even trust herself.

"By Monday morning my attorney had talked to the Justice Department, and it was clear that there was no evidence to indict me. They apologized, expunged the record, and offered me a transfer. I didn't resign until a few weeks later, just after I heard what had happened to Jason with the sexual harassment suit. We both left, and six months later we started the business here."

"And there's been no one serious since her?"

Sloan shook her head. "No." She couldn't imagine being that vulnerable to anyone again. With love came too much potential for pain, and she could not pay that price again.

Michael was silent, wondering if Sloan loved this woman still. That would explain her affairs, and her unwillingness to make a commitment. She did not ask. She was afraid of how she would feel if Sloan admitted it were true.

Sloan finally broke the silence. "Would you like me to take you back to your hotel?"

"No," Michael said very quietly. "I would like you to take me into the bedroom."

"Michael," Sloan began, "I don't thi…."

"Wait, Sloan," Michael interrupted. "I don't need you to explain or make promises or reassure me. I know what I'm saying. I've been going out of my mind today. I just need to feel you. Tonight, right now. Tomorrow is another lifetime away. Please."

As she spoke, Michael moved the few feet to stand in front of Sloan. Sloan rose, putting her hands on Michael's waist. She held Michael tenderly, aware of the fine trembling in Michael's slender body as she rested her head against Sloan's shoulder with a soft sigh. Sloan pressed her face gently to Michael's hair, breathing in that faint spring scent she remembered from the night in Michael's hotel.

"God, I want you," Sloan whispered hoarsely. "I want you."

Michael turned her cheek, pressing her lips to Sloan's neck. "Yes."



Chapter Twenty-one

Sloan took Michael's hand and led her gently into the bedroom. Moonlight streamed through the windows, illuminating them in a soft pale glow. They stood by the bed, faces highlighted in the silvery luster, the air around them as still and filled with promise as a bird about to take flight. Sloan's eyes never left Michael's as she slowly reached out, carefully working each button free on Michael's blouse. Her hands were shaking, and as she drew the material open, she heard Michael catch her breath sharply.

"Are you afraid?" Sloan whispered, knowing how new this was for Michael. For her, too, but in a different way. She dared not consider all the ways being with Michael was special.

Michael smiled. "No," she answered immediately. "Are you?"

The corner of Sloan's mouth lifted in a faint echo of her usual grin. "Terrified."

Michael pressed her palm lightly to Sloan's face, her fingers playing softly down her cheek. "Please don't stop."

Sloan could never remember wanting anyone so badly. It was a desire so intense she was nearly paralyzed, afraid to go too quickly, afraid her passion would explode, afraid of frightening Michael, afraid of losing her chance to savor each precious second. These were moments she wanted to burn indelibly into her memory, knowing they might very well be the most exquisite of her life. She contented herself with watching Michael's eyes deepen with desire as she lightly traced her fingers along the faint ridge of Michael's collarbone, dipping into the small hollow above, then running her fingertips down the soft slope of her chest. Michael's small sounds of pleasure and the fine tremor flickering through her muscles fired Sloan's blood. Sloan could hear the rasping sounds of her own ragged breathing loud in the hushed space.

"You have wonderful hands," Michael murmured, feeling as if her bones were melting with each gentle caress. She laid her hand on Sloan's waist, content to let Sloan undress her. They stood only inches apart, both of them resisting the urge to press closer. Time hung suspended - each second might have been an hour, filled to overflowing with wonder. Each sensation was miraculous, unique and singular, and yet as familiar as coming home. Michael had never been so aroused, nor so certain of anything in her life.

"You are so beautiful," Sloan responded, her voice unsteady. She was trembling with the effort to contain herself, her vision narrowed until all she knew was Michael's eyes and Michael's mouth. She was no longer conscious of anything beyond the heat in her belly and the pounding in her head and the ache in her chest. Still she moved carefully, sliding her hands under the edges of Michael's blouse, lifting the cloth as if unveiling a priceless treasure, pushing the material down Michael's arms and letting it drop to the floor. Only then did she lower her gaze.

"Oh god," Sloan groaned, the muscles in her abdomen clenching. If there had ever been anything to equal what she saw now, she could not remember. A light sheen of perspiration covered Michael's skin, accentuating its pale perfection, highlighting her full breasts and taut nipples in shimmering starlight. "Perfect," she breathed, still not touching her.

Michael reached for Sloan's hands, drawing them to her. "I'm aching for you," she responded urgently. She swayed slightly as Sloan's fingers closed around her breasts, lifting them and capturing her nipples, squeezing lightly. Michael moaned, and her eyelids fluttered closed.

"Michael," Sloan gasped, thirsting for Michael's passion, "let me see your eyes."

With effort, Michael opened her eyes, and looked into Sloan's face. Sloan wore a look of fearful intensity, as if her entire being were focused on Michael. Michael had never been the object of such desire before. "You make me weak I want you so much," Michael said brokenly, cascades of need rippling through her.

Sloan stepped closer, still fully clothed. With one hand she reached between them and opened Michael's jeans. She pushed them down and supported Michael with an arm around her while she stepped out of them. Pressing tightly to her, Michael's breasts swollen against her chest, Sloan stroked Michael's back and buttocks and the outsides of her thighs, all the while kissing her lips, the underside of her jaw, the base of her throat. She wanted to devour her, to satisfy her consuming hunger with the sight and sound and feel of her.

"I'm going to fall," Michael said desperately. She had both hands on Sloan's shoulders, but even with that she was shaking too much to stand. A fearful pressure was building between her legs, a pleasure so intense she doubted she could contain it for long. "I need to lie down, and I need you to touch me."

Ever so gently, Sloan nuzzled her face between Michael's breasts, closing her eyes, breathing her in. Then she turned her cheek, running her tongue over Michael's tightened nipple. Michael uttered a strangled cry and jerked in Sloan's arms. Sloan cupped Michael's hips firmly, guiding their bodies together in a slow circular dance.

"I want to go slowly," Sloan whispered. "I need to go slowly. I want this night to last a lifetime."

"I don't think I can stand it," Michael countered. Her head was spinning, and every drop of blood in her body seemed to be pulsating between her legs. She had never felt such urgency, had never sensed such longing, had never needed another's touch so badly. "I'm going to come apart if you don't do something soon."

Sloan laughed, a wild victorious laugh, and moved Michael effortlessly to the bed. She urged her down on the edge and knelt before her. She cupped Michael's breasts, raised them for her lips, and drank of her - sucking and biting, one to the other, back and forth, guided only by Michael's sharp cries of pleasure. Michael's hands were in her hair, rocking Sloan's face into the hot yielding flesh.

"Sloan, Sloan, Sloan," she intoned, her neck arched, head flung back, hips thrusting forward against Sloan's body. She tugged at Sloan's shirt, crazed for the feel of her skin. She gasped at the first unfamiliar yet oh so familiar softness of smooth skin over tight muscles, awed by the tender strength under her fingers. Dimly, she heard Sloan groan.

Sloan stood, pushed Michael back onto the bed and lay beside her, leaning on one elbow so that she could look down the length of Michael's body. She ran her hands and then her tongue over the curves and prominences and flesh and muscle and bone of her. It was a landscape as known to her as her own body, and yet a world so new she felt the wonder of first discovery all over again. She could not get enough of her, and might have been happy simply to caress her if it hadn't been for Michael's escalating whimpers accompanying each stroke of her fingers. Michael's excitement nearly drove reason from her mind. Then Michael's fingers were on Sloan's fly, pulling at the buttons, searching for her clit through the wear-softened material, and her own need twitched relentlessly closer to explosion.

"Careful," Sloan said through gritted teeth, pulling her hips back. "Not yet."

Michael grasped Sloan's hand, her pupils so large her eyes seemed to be dark lakes of molten fire. She drew Sloan's fingers down to the place she most desperately needed her, crying out at the first light contact. "yesohyes"

Sloan convulsed with a chest-grating groan, the sweet wet warmth of Michael's welcome so intense her heart nearly stopped. That simple sign of Michael's need was more precious than anything she had ever known. All Sloan felt was the desire to please her, and in an instant the flame in her stilled to pure crimson embers, all the more hot for its containment. With gentle fingers she parted swollen tissues, stroking along, beside, and under the pulsating prominence, but never quite touching the heart of the fire.

"Inside, please inside," Michael begged, her fingers boring into Sloan's shoulders as every muscle strained toward the release of the terrible sweet tension.

Sloan lowered her forehead to Michael's, her eyes closed, gasping. She drew Michael close to her chest with one arm behind her back, and eased into her. She withdrew almost completely only to return another finger and another until she filled her. Then she remained motionless, and let Michael lead them to the summit.

Michael sought Sloan's mouth, alternately kissing and sucking at her lower lip. Her hips rocked in time to the surge of her blood and the hum in her nerves and the coiling ache in her belly, and she rode Sloan's fingers in a steadily faster rhythm. Sloan's arm ached with the effort of holding back her own overpowering urge to thrust into her, but she ignored the pain of her rigid muscles and clenched her jaws against the thundering pressure deep in her belly. This was for Michael, and she would follow her wherever she needed to go.

"almostalmost," Michael whimpered frantically, her movements erratic, shorter and harder, her hips thrusting wildly. "Need --yourfingers -- on me."

"Soonsoonlove," Sloan murmured, sensing Michael's muscles tightening for the last final surge, and as she waited for the peak, she circled the flat of her hand over Michael's clit. When she felt Michael's breath stop and her body poise on that timeless edge of abandon, she stroked the shaft once, twice and drove her over.

Michael cried out and gripped Sloan so hard that there would be bruises in the morning. The force of the contractions drew her body bowstring tight and she arched in Sloan's arms, shuddering.

"Ohgod, Michael," Sloan moaned, completely lost. Too beautiful, you are too exquisitely beautiful to bear.

Michael was beyond words, floating somewhere, deaf and blind, reduced to only quivering flesh and spasming muscle. How long she hung suspended on that crest of sensation escaped her, but eventually she was aware of her body again. She could feel the air moving in her lungs and her heart pounding in her chest and her blood coursing in her skin. She felt more alive than she had ever been, and more supremely content than she ever thought possible. She released her hold on Sloan's shoulders and collapsed back against the pillows. With effort she opened her eyes, and found Sloan's face. Sloan's look was one of tenderness, wonder, and something else. Something feral seethed in her hazy eyes and flickered just beneath the surface of her fierce expression.

"You are exquisite," Sloan declared, her voice hoarse and choked.

Michael heard the hunger in her voice and felt Sloan shudder violently against her. She sensed Sloan's need, and suddenly Michael wanted her more than she had wanted anything in her life.

"Take off your clothes! Quickly," Michael gasped, frantically tugging at the buttons on Sloan's jeans.

Michael's unexpected and undeniable lust drove Sloan to abandon her formidable control. She was suddenly burning and tore off her shirt, raising her hips as Michael pulled at her constraining jeans.

"Tell me what to do," Michael cried urgently. "Tell me what you need!" Her hands were running over Sloan's back, her chest, her abdomen, trying to feel all of her at once.

"Just touch me," Sloan groaned. "I'll come. God, I'm close!"

Michael's fingers found her clit, sliding under and over and back again and Sloan was gone, beyond reason or control. "So-so closesoclosesolongso - oh jesusgodMichaelMichael --"

Michael struggled to hold Sloan as she bucked and gasped, helpless, and so beautiful. Michael thought she had known power in the competitive world of business, but that had been nothing to compare to this. This, this was power so sweet her throat closed around tears of gratitude and wonder. "Sloan," she whispered, almost a prayer. "Oh, Sloan."

Sloan sighed as the first spasms quieted, resting her head on Michael's shoulder. "God," she mumbled, "that was so good."

"Uh huh," Michael laughed softly, stroking Sloan's sweat soaked hair off her face. "You okay?"

"Mmm," Sloan responded, trying valiantly to rouse herself. It wouldn't do to fall asleep on her. Very déclassé. She pushed up on an elbow and smiled a bit dazedly at Michael. "Beyond, okay. Excellent. You?"

Michael's smile sparkled all the way to her eyes. "I have never been better in my life."

"I'm glad," Sloan whispered, kissing her lightly. "Are you tired?"

"I could sleep," Michael admitted, suddenly aware that it was late. She did not know what the morning would bring. All she knew was that she did not want the night to end. "But I don't want to."

Sloan grinned, slow, easy and just a bit dangerously, and kissed her again. "Good."



Chapter Twenty-two

At 10:45 AM the next morning, Michael turned from her drawing board as a soft knock at the door interrupted her. "Come in," she called.

The door swung open and Sarah peeked around the corner. "Hey," she called, a wide smile on her face. "Are you holding up okay?"

Michael leaned back from the table and sighed. "Seem to be. I have a million things to do before tomorrow's meeting, but everything is working at the moment." She watched as Sarah crossed the room and sat down on one of the sofas.

"Thank god," Sarah said. "I just talked to Jason, and he said it's looking good. Sometimes these things can take forever to get straightened out. This time you were lucky."

"I know," Michael agreed, moving over to join Sarah. "And I know how much I owe Jason and Sloan. They've been incredible."

"No, they're just doing the job they love to do. You shouldn't feel like you put them out, because you merely provided them with an interesting game to play. I'm amazed that either of them stopped long enough to sleep last night." She didn't add that she had noticed both Michael and Sloan were absent at the same time, nor did she volunteer that Jason had spent a good part of the evening with her.

"Have you seen Sloan this morning?" Michael asked, trying to sound nonchalant. Unfortunately her heart was pounding just from saying her name. They had parted only a short time before, but it seemed to Michael it had been days.

"She's in the communications center with Jason, supervising the final system checks and satisfying herself that everything is running okay. Did you need her?" Sarah asked innocently.

Michael almost laughed out loud at the question, thinking, Need her? Oh yes, that seems to be the word for it all right!

She couldn't stop herself from thinking that only a few hours before she had awakened from a light doze, startled in the first moments of awareness to feel Sloan beside her. Then in the next instant she knew where she was and remembered every second of the incredible night in Technicolor detail. An avalanche of desire coursed through her on the coattails of memory, and she was immediately completely aroused. It was such a foreign sensation, she didn't know what to do. When she opened her eyes she found Sloan lying quietly beside her, gazing at her with a look that melted Michael's heart. She could recall every word they had said and every emotion she had experienced as if it had been etched on her skin and burned into her soul.

"I'm sorry, I fell asleep," she whispered.

Sloan smiled, a tender gentle smile. "I think that's supposed to happen when you've been awake all night, especially when you've been awake all night making love."

Michael blushed, partly because it was all so new to her, and partly because she wanted to do it all again - immediately. She asked quietly, "Did you sleep?"

Sloan shook her head. "No, I didn't want to miss a moment with you."

"I can't decide if your words or your touch are more beautiful," Michael whispered, leaning close to find Sloan's lips with her own. Her physical arousal had seemed so powerful just a moment ago, but the feelings Sloan's tenderness evoked were even more compelling. Michael's kiss was part wonder, part gratitude, and part simple appreciation for the affectionate attention and careful way Sloan had loved her over the past hours. She couldn't imagine a more sensitive lover, or a more thoughtful one.

"Thank you so much for last night," Michael murmured, unconsciously pressing closer until her breasts nestled against Sloan's, and her thigh rested on Sloan's leg.

Sloan stopped kissing her long enough to respond, "Michael, please don't thank me. This night has been special to me, and you have been wonderful."

Michael thought only to continue kissing her, but as the kiss deepened and they sought each other with their lips and their tongues and their hands, Sloan rolled on top of her, straddling Michael's hips, rising up on her elbows to look into Michael's face. Sloan's voice was raspy with urgency as she said, "Michael, I want you again, so much. I can't seem to get enough."

Michael knew only that she wanted her close, and guided by instinct, she reached for Sloan's hips, pulling her down hard onto her own tensed thigh, watching in wonder as Sloan arched her back and groaned. Michael pressed upward, thrilling to the sensation of Sloan thrusting back, and the rhythm began as naturally as breathing. Michael kept one hand on Sloan's hips as she explored Sloan's breasts with the other, cupping each one, losing herself in the soft flesh and firm muscles, glorying in the heat of her.

Sloan's movements became erratic, harder, just a bit frantic, and she braced herself on her arms to look into Michael's eyes. Her voice was tight as if she were straining to form each word. It was an image of such intensity, and such intimacy, that Michael ached.

"Michael," Sloan managed, her face intent, her eyes cloudy with urgency, "I'm going to come."

Michael's heart surged with something as close to ecstasy as she had ever known. She gripped Sloan's hips tighter, and she pushed into Sloan's hard hot wetness. She shouted, triumphant. "Yes! Yesyesyes!"

Sloan's lids fluttered closed and she groaned, her arms stiff and her legs tight around Michael's thigh. She held herself upright through sheer strength as her body rippled with tension and then convulsed, wrenching one sharp cry from her.

Michael forgot to breathe for long minutes as she gazed in absolute wonder at Sloan's face. She was dimly aware of her own passion surging through her belly and her legs, but nothing she was feeling could equal what she saw.

At last, Sloan dropped her head, her arms finally relaxing, and she lowered herself to lie on Michael's body, trembling, heartbreakingly helpless. Michael held her, stroked her damp hair and her neck and her back, suddenly experiencing a fierce protectiveness she had never before imagined. She understood in that moment what it meant to want someone more than life. She understood in that moment what it meant to need someone in the deepest reaches of her being.

Need her? The words echoed in her mind. Oh yes, I need her.


Michael jumped, and suddenly was aware of her surroundings again. Sarah was looking at her with an expression of perplexity and mild concern.

"Are you okay?" Sarah asked gently.

Michael laughed shakily, running a hand through her hair. "God, I have no idea. I have only the faintest idea of who I am or what I'm doing these days."

Sarah studied her, thinking that she looked tired but somehow she didn't think Michael's distraction and disorientation were due to fatigue. This was something else, something powerfully emotional. And then she remembered the question she had asked just before Michael drifted away. Sloan.

"It's Sloan, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's Sloan, and me. It's me, too."

"What's happened now?" Sarah asked, immediately protective, thinking that if Sloan had done something to hurt Michael's feelings, she would have to kill her. Michael was too kind and too innocent for Sloan to treat her in the casual way she did most women. Not that she believed for a minute that Sloan was cold-hearted or indifferent about her romantic partners, but she knew that Sloan studiously avoided any real emotional attachments, and Michael deserved much more than that.

"She hasn't done anything," Michael said quickly, recognizing the edge of concern in Sarah's voice. "It's just that so many things have changed so quickly lately."

"You slept with her, didn't you?" Sarah said, suddenly realizing that Michael was manifesting all the signs of a woman totally lost in love.

Michael colored, but nodded affirmatively.

Sarah groaned faintly "Oh god, I guess I don't have to ask you how it was."

Michael laughed and blushed even deeper. "No, there wouldn't be any point to it. I don't even have the words to describe it."

Great," Sarah said with resignation. "Things are even worse than I thought."

"Sarah," Michaels said, suddenly serious. "Sloan was not responsible. In fact, I think if I hadn't literally chased her down, she would have done anything to avoid sleeping with me. I just wanted her so much."

Sarah didn't think Michael understood how significant her words were. If Sloan had been avoiding a sexual relationship with Michael, it could only be because Sloan had real feelings for her. Sarah had no idea how Sloan was going to react to a woman who she cared about, but she had a feeling that it wasn't going to be simple.

"Are you okay with that?" Sarah asked. "Sleeping with her, I mean?"

"Am I okay with that?" Michaels said, her voice pensive. "I'm as okay as I can be I guess. I had an incredible experience with her. I've felt things I've never felt in my life. I can’t stop thinking about her, I can't stop wanting to be with her again. I have no idea what this means for me or what it means to her."

"I'm certainly the last one to give advice," Sarah said quietly, thinking that she had been the one surprised when Jason had whispered not yet last night when she had reached for him. "I know in her heart Sloan is a good and honorable person. I love her, and I would trust her with my life. Be patient with her, Michael. This might be hard for her, too."

Michael remembered the look on Sloan's face when they had parted that morning, standing once again in Michael's office. For a moment, she thought Sloan had been about to say something, and the look on her face had been one of longing and desire. Instead, Sloan had reached out and stroked Michael's cheek, leaning finally to kiss her lips in a soft caress. Only then did she whisper, "No matter what happens, last night will always be precious to me."

Michael had merely nodded, afraid that what Sloan had really meant was good-bye.


 Part 8

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