A Place to Dance

by Ali Vali


Please See Chapter 1 for disclaimers


Chapter 2

Christina put her new key into the elevator and tried to turn it while juggling the bags in her arms. She hadn't seen Jolly's Land Cruiser in the lot so she figured she'd be well into her surprise before the architect got home from work. There was soft music playing and the table was set for two when Christina stepped in and wondered how Jolly knew she was coming over.

From the kitchen, Jolly heard the elevator and waited for her usual Monday night date to come in and keep her company while she cooked dinner. "Madeline, are you going to hang out in the living room all night, or are you going to come in here and kiss me hello?"

The first thought to cross Christina's mind was to pull out the large bottle of olive oil she had bought and throw it at Jolly's head. Instead she calmly put the bags down and walked into the kitchen preparing her goodbye speech with each step. If Jolly was involved with someone, why had she led her on all weekend?

To Christina's surprise there were three pots going on the stove and Jolly was cutting vegetables on the large work area like a pro. The work clothes had been replaced by a pair of pressed chinos, a pale pink cotton shirt and brown bucks. When she looked up from her task a smile broke out on Jolly's face that reached her eyes only to die away just as quickly when she saw the pissed off stance of the woman in her kitchen.

"Sorry to ruin your surprise for Madeline, but I thought the key was for me to use any time I wanted. And gosh you never mentioned you could cook."

"Surprise, what surprise? I do this every Monday."

"You bitch, if you were seeing someone why not just say so before I made a fool of myself by coming over here?" Christina was just getting started when Jolly caught on to the reason the blonde was mad. The deep belly laugh made Christina forget what she was going to say next and drove her anger up another notch.

Jolly stopped laughing and looked at the face she had thought about all day, which now showed more hurt than anger. "You never asked if I could cook, that's a conclusion you came up with all on your own. And this isn't a surprise, I cook for Madeline every Monday night from the day we met. Only you know her as Mimi, great talented artist, not Madeline, annoying shrimpy pest. I mean, who in the hell would name their child Mimi?"

"I did it again, didn't I?" Christina buried her face in her hands and waited for Jolly to ask her to leave.

"I'd think you didn't like me anymore if you weren't calling me names. Now come over here and kiss me like you aren't my step sister." Christina let out the breath she was holding and once again thanked God that Jolly was so forgiving. When she stepped around and kissed Jolly hello the smell coming off the stove made her break it earlier than she wanted, but it was almost like a burning desire to know what was under the lids.

"I saw your icebox and none of this stuff was in there," accused Christina looking at the bubbling pot she had uncovered.

"You didn't go into my pantry where I keep all the food. I put another refrigerator in there since it was closer to the service elevator that comes up in that storage area. You just thought big and goofy couldn't translate into decent cook."

Christina couldn't help but kiss the pout that had formed above her head. "You just don't look like the type who would know her way around a kitchen. Around the bedroom definitely, but I thought you wouldn't know what a flame was much less what to do with it."

"Chris, the great father of architecture Frank Lloyd Wright once said no self respecting architect could design a kitchen if they didn't know how to cook. I figured he knew what he was talking about so I took lessons. The bedroom stuff, you're right, I'm a natural."

"A natural who is obviously tossing me out on my rear," said an over dramatic Mimi from the doorway with her hand over her brow for emphasis. "And this being the only home cooked meal I get all week. You get a girl and I'm out on my ass, is that it?"

"Mimi, behave. Christina came over to surprise us, since she missed us so much and all."

"Yeah, I can see she's been pining away for me all week." Mimi teased as she made her way across the kitchen to kiss Jolly hello then doing the same for the gallery owner. "Well you can forget it, sister, I'm not leaving. You'll just have to learn to share the wonderful person who is Jolly," she said to Christina when they broke from their hug.

"I'll go put out an extra place setting if you show me where the plates and stuff are, Jolly." Christina pulled down all the items she would need after Jolly pointed to where they could be found. She knew in her gut Jolly would tell her sister what had happened before her arrival and that would be the final straw that would drive Mimi into talking Jolly into not seeing her anymore and lead her to find someone else to sell her stuff.

"Christina." Mimi said her name stopping the gallery owner before she left the kitchen.

"Yes?"

"I heard what you said, and I don't want you to agonize over it all night. If I thought Jolly was cheating on anyone, I would've reacted pretty much the same way. But my Babe is as honest as they come. She won't hurt you if that's what you're worried about."

"Thanks." Christina felt a hundred pounds lighter leaving the kitchen.

"She called you a bitch," whispered Mimi, making air quotes toward Jolly. "You're moving up in the world, Babe. When a woman uses those kinds of words with such passion she's either an artist or she's in love."

"She's an artist," said Jolly with a sigh.

"Chris was right the first time," Mimi released a sigh of her own before snatching a carrot off the cutting board.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Big goober wasn't it? She likes you, Jolly, learn to live with it, and don't let it rattle you too much." For the first time in their talks about Christina Jolly could see Mimi's smile didn't reach her eyes and made a mental note to ask her about it later.

Jolly opened a bottle of wine after she had put all the food on the table letting the two women serve themselves while she poured. They had put all the food Christina had brought over away with the understanding the small blonde could come back and put it to use in the near future.

"Chris, you're going to love this," said Mimi spooning some of the beef stew into her plate. Jolly had also made peas with almonds, rice and an apple pie for dessert. "This is one of Jolly's specialties."

"You look good, you're a carpenter and you cook. Had I known this I would've jumped at that marriage proposal Saturday," said Christina reaching up to kiss Jolly when she leaned over to pour her a glass of wine.

"Jolly, you sly dog, you proposed the minute you saw her in the living room?" asked Mimi.

"I was making an observation about something Christina had said."

"So you didn't mean it?" Christina pouted for effect and got Jolly to come and kneel by her chair. "I'm kidding, but you can kiss me since you're here." Her carpenter delivered on her request and got a pea thrown at her from across the table.

"You have plenty of time for that when I leave, but I'm not leaving until I'm full so cut it out," ordered Mimi.

Jolly spent the rest of the meal listening to Christina and Mimi talk about new art trends and show ideas as she ate. The two women followed her back into the kitchen where they had dessert and watched Jolly load the dishwasher and pack Mimi the leftovers so she would have something to eat at least twice more during the week. Christina told the artist goodbye at the elevator and waited for Jolly to get back from walking her to her car.

"You do this every Monday?" Christina asked Jolly when she came back up.

"It's a good compromise. I get to practice my cooking skills and Mimi gets to eat something other than cheese and crackers, which is her staple when she's working."

"No one with that many plastic containers is doing it for the practice, Jolly. Admit it, you're just sweet." Christina pulled the chef down to sit with her on one of the couches in the living room so they could admire the art painted on the wall. "You think if I cook for her, she would do this for me?"

"Mimi's a special woman, someone who's overly generous, so I'd imagine if you asked real nice she would. Just like someone who was going to come over here and cook me dinner." Jolly pulled Christina closer to her and kissed her on the temple.

"I could do it tomorrow if you like?"

"That would be great, if you're not too busy."

Christina turned and pulled Jolly closer to her so she could kiss her like she had wanted to all night. She was starting to crave this woman, but wanted this relationship to be different. There'd been too many one night stands in her life, and the thought of a chance of something more sounded good. "I'll never be too busy for you."

The gallery owner made good on her promise the next night and it turned into a nightly ritual for almost the next month. They shared the meals on Mondays with Mimi, and spent the rest of the nights getting to know each other better.

On their fifth Monday together they sat out on the deck watching the tugs float by on the river after Mimi had left for the night. Christina was sitting pressed up against Jolly running her fingers along a muscled tan arm.

"Can I take you out to dinner tomorrow night?" asked Christina.

"I would love that, but I'll have to take a rain check."

"Don't tell me you have other sisters who you take care of and cook for?" asked Christina.

"I have three sisters in the eyes of the law, but Mimi's the only one I love to take care of, so no. Actually I'm declining because I'm flying out to Atlanta tomorrow for a couple of days to give a presentation at the architectural school for inner city children. It's part of a national mentoring program Mimi got me involved in a couple of years ago."

"I won't get to see you for a couple of days?"

Jolly kissed her before answering the question hoping it would get her off the hook. "Not until next Saturday. I'm doing the workshop and then Tim and I are pitching some ideas for a project the city's proposing."

"You won't forget about me while you're gone, will you?" A slim finger ran around the rim of Jolly's ear sending a chill down the architect's body. Christina was moving closer and it was wreaking havoc with Jolly's self-control.

"Chris, I have a hard time keeping my fingers intact when I'm driving nails I think about you so much, so no, a week isn't going to erase you from my memory banks."

Christina relaxed under the hands running along her back and enjoyed the kisses being placed on her neck. "Jolly, why didn't you ever want to go to work for your father? I would think with the size of his firm you would've gotten the chance to do more projects like the one you're going to Atlanta to do."

The question surprised her, but Jolly chalked it up to getting to know someone and how they ticked. "I did work for my father when I first started out, Tim and I both did. After a few very frustrating months of him turning down all my drafts and ideas I couldn't take it anymore and I left."

"He didn't like them because you were still inexperienced?"

"No, he thought with his form of criticism he could break me into seeing the world through his eyes. He's all about control, in his work and in his family. With one it makes him very good at what he does because he's consistent, and vigilant about every detail. But it makes it hell when it comes to his family. It drove my mother away and eventually drove a wedge between my siblings and her. Anthony's golden rule always was, he who has the gold makes all the rules. My brother and sister couldn't get used to the lesser things in life, so their mother was a small price to pay to keep the cars and jobs. I guess I can be counted on the evil side of the family since I took her side and am still in contact with her."

Christina reached up and ran her hand along Jolly's cheek in comfort. "I'm sorry I asked."

"I don't tell people that because I'm trying to hide it or get sympathy when asked. I just got over it and moved on to find my own path. He's my father but he's still a liar and a bully. We wanted different things for my life and I thought I was the only one who held a vote that counted. I can look back now and see I have what I have because I worked for it, not because I owe it to him. As for family, I've made my own and they love me and make me happy."

"You're not anything like him, and I really like that about you." Christina kissed Jolly and sat with her until past midnight getting up to leave without much gusto. She knew she had to get up before they got too carried away. New clients meant she had an early day in the morning and that's not how she wanted to start on the next phase of her relationship with Jolly.

"Will you call me?"

"Count on it, Chris." Jolly walked her to her car and kissed her good night before letting Christina drive away.

During the days that followed, Tim took over as foreman at Christina's house until he was due to fly out, and Jolly enjoyed her time on the phone learning about the woman that was slowly getting her to open her heart. Between her partner and Christina, Jolly knew how the house was progressing and what was waiting for her when she got home.

************************************************************************

"It's Friday, does that mean you can stop your pining now?" asked Lisa as they were getting ready to lock the gallery for the night.

Over the four days Jolly had been gone Christina had figured phone calls weren't enough. She was planning on meeting the plane tomorrow morning and locking Jolly in her loft for the rest of the weekend. There were merits to moving slow and getting to know each other, but there was also something to be said for hot sex.

"Almost, I figure another thirty six hours then you're home free until Jolly's next business trip," said Christina with the closest thing to a smile she had displayed all day. The day had been a series of small crises at the gallery from the time they had arrived including a small electrical fire, and she was ready to go home.

The chime over the door rang out and they both groaned at the thought of having to get rid of whoever had wandered in ignoring the closed sign. It was a contest as to which of the two tired women was more surprised. At the door stood Dell and Hillary Griffin home early from their trip, and with them was Jan Shaffer.

Christina had met Jan Shaffer as a sophomore in college. The tall athletic blonde with the looks of a Greek goddess had pursued her with a relentlessness and charm that was impossible to resist. It was the first time Christina had slept with someone on their first date, but Jan had been like a drug there was no rehab for. Jan had made her feel so wanted Christina didn't feel like she could hold out.

After two months of seeing each other they moved in together, sharing a small apartment close to campus. As the weeks passed, Christina was sure she'd found the one person she could share the rest of her life with. Jan listened and encouraged her when Christina spoke of her future plans, and at night the tall blonde fueled her passions with the type of sex Christina had only read about.

They were happy until the night Christina made plans to meet her study group for a late cramming session for their upcoming midterms. A headache caused her to go home a few hours early. The sight of Jan in their bed with a beautiful freshman had made Christina physically ill. The girl was the first of many over the next two years she and Jan would stay together.

For Christina, their time together turned into a hellish cycle. Jan would cheat then go through the process of courting her again to prove the parade through her bed meant nothing. To make it harder for Christina to leave the humiliating situation Jan had completely won over her parents, convincing Dell and Hillary she was perfect daughter-in-law material.

It took months of therapy on Christina's part to find the strength to just walk away. Jan Shaffer had been her personal nightmare and Dr. Frankstein rolled into one handsome package. Jan had killed the part of Christina's heart that believed in commitment and love, creating another woman chaser that used sex strictly for her own gain.

Lisa knew the whole story from Christina's perspective, but the art dealer had completely taken the Griffin couple in giving them a different idea of she and Christina's relationship. Maybe it wasn't the assistant's place but Lisa wasn't going to allow Jan to play her boss again. Christian had Jolly now and the architect was slowly making the gallery owner believe in fairytales again. Therapy had helped her boss get over the hurt Jan had caused her, but hadn't found a way to make Christina forget the way Jan made her body burn.

"Mom, dad? I wasn't expecting you for another week." Christina stood frozen in place having flash backs of what she'd found so attractive about Jan. The two years since their last meeting had been good to the well-dressed fit woman who stood before her. Jan knew just what buttons to push, and the smile she was giving Christina was making the smaller woman hot. It was the same smile the tall blonde had used to explain away the multiple women she had slept with when she and Christina were together.

"That's no reason you can't come over here and tell us hello, young lady," said Dell. He picked his daughter up when she moved closer then let her go to greet her mother. The hesitation she showed in giving Jan a welcoming hug was what really confused him. To help them out he pushed Jan forward gently and nodded his head in Christina's direction. "I'm sure she missed you too."

Jan moved forward and took advantage of the situation. She pulled Christina against her and started with a soft kiss to the lips, which she deepened the second the smaller woman didn't pull away. "I missed you so much."

"Let your father and I take you two out to dinner then you can make up for lost time. Jan told us when we ran into her in New York it's been over a month since you've seen each other, you must be frantic, dear," Hillary told Christina in a teasing voice. The Griffins had always been accepting of their daughter's sexual orientation, but Hillary seldom asked questions. She was sure if there was someone special Chris would tell them and the last person she had talked about was Jan. Since Christina had moved out, they had dinner twice a week, but their daughter had always come alone. There was no way for the couple to know Jan's absence from Christina's life had been more than a month, or why she was absent at all.

"No, mother."

"Nonsense, Christina, I was young once, I understand about love and what it needs to be fulfilled. Your father and I may only see you once or twice a week for dinner but it doesn't mean that we don't want you to be happy. Maybe tonight we can prove to you that we won't embarrass you if you start bringing Jan along with you," teased Hillary.

"Chris, could I see you for a moment?" asked Lisa.

"Excuse me, we were just getting some stuff finished up."

Christina walked into her office and closed the door. She had tried her whole life not to disappoint her parents in anything including her relationships. Jan had spent holidays with them as well as vacations, so when her parents came to love her, it had been hard to tell them Jan had left never looking back. And the multitude of women who had shared her bed after Jan certainly wasn't dinner small talk material. Now her parents had been alone on a plane with the woman for over two hours listening to God knows what fantasy Jan had painted for them.

"Are you out of your mind? Get out there and tell the clueless couple that woman's a manipulative bitch. You do not need this in your life again," hissed Lisa as quietly as she could.

"Dinner, Lisa, that's all this is, so calm down ok. If she wants to make it more than that I'll set her straight don't worry."

"Chris, you spend two minutes alone with her and you'll be straight all right, or should I say horizontal. Think about the consequences this time. Jan's a player and you're not going to change that about her no matter how hard you try. She's only in it for the conquest can't you see that? If you're not careful you could lose Jolly over something that'll mean nothing to Jan."

Christina put her hand up to shut out anything else her assistant was going to say. The last thing she needed was a lecture about her will power or lack of it when it came to Jan Shaffer. Lisa was right, she had Jolly, but this was only dinner - nothing more. She was shocked to see Jan again after so much time, but she was ok now. Chris just wanted to show Jan how well her life was without her.

"All set?" Jan asked when the office door opened and the two women walked out. The tall blonde hurried to help Christina on with her suit jacket and kept her hands on her shoulders when it was on. Christina's ex didn't need anyone to tell her Lisa still didn't care too much for her. The hatred almost dripped from Lisa's pores.

"Yeah, Lisa's going to lock up for the night. How about we try Kelsey's down the street?" Christina moved forward a little to get away from Jan's hands. The warning Lisa had issued about Jolly ran through her head, but one look back to the blue eyes that still haunted her dreams erased it just as quickly.

Dell opened the door and led everyone out when they were in agreement. Lisa stood near the entrance in disbelief when Jan reached for Christina's hand and wasn't rebuffed. The phone started ringing the moment she had locked the front door and Lisa thought briefly about letting the machine pick it up.

"Griffin Gallery."

"Hey, Lisa, the boss got you working late?"

"Jolly, you just missed her," said Lisa trying to keep her voice light. Had Jolly seen the white knuckled grip on the phone she'd have known there was something wrong.

"Maybe I called to talk to you," teased Jolly.

"Well anytime you want to talk to me, I'm available. If you want to talk to Chris though, she's having dinner at Kelsey's with her parents. They got home early and surprised her."

"I was wondering why her phone was turned off. You take care, and I'll see you soon," said Jolly before hanging up. Tim shook his head standing next to her at the luggage carousel waiting for their bags to come out. "Don't make fun of me, I just missed her."

"It's actually kind of nice to see you off balance like this over a girl, workaholic. But don't worry, after all the shit you gave me after I met Pam, making fun of you will come later. That's what big cousin's are for."

Jolly saw her bag and when she went to pick it up, a solid warm weight landed on her back, and legs wrapped around her waist. "Babe, did you miss me?"

"You know, I'm going to dedicate all my free time this week thinking up an equally annoying nickname for you," said Jolly turning her face to meet Mimi eye to eye.

"I'm fond of goddess," said Mimi before kissing Jolly hello.

Jolly pulled her around to the front so she could get a hug. "I was thinking more along the lines of shrimpy." She pulled Mimi against her again and kissed the top of her head. Mimi was the only other person she had called all week aside from Christina.

"You can't profess to love me then call me shrimpy."

"Come on then, goddess, you can give me a ride home."

Mimi carried four leather tubes full of architectural drawings as Jolly hoisted her bag and briefcase for the trip to the Land Cruiser Mimi had been using while she was out of town. "Does she know you came home early because you missed her?"

"I wanted to surprise her, but she's out with her parents who beat me on the surprise factor, so I'll wait till later. Want to have dinner with me?" asked Jolly.

"Sure I'll play second fiddle if you cook."

Jolly shook her head at the playful blonde as she maneuvered them out of the airport lot. "Madeline, you know you're my best girl."

The statement appeased the artist enough to reach over for Jolly's hand for the trip to the penthouse. They sat together on the balcony and ate the omelets Jolly had made and caught up on the week they had been apart. The sofa that faced the mural was their last stop as they drank coke floats side by side.

"Jolly, are you happy here?"

Jolly put her glass down and put her arm around Mimi before answering. "I guess every builder dreams of constructing a house somewhere of their own design. To look around and see your ideas in every wall and fixture, but I think a great builder knows when to admire when someone else has done that for them. I didn't build this place, but I brought it back to life and that makes me happy, so the answer is yes."

"I'm glad you are, and I'm glad you like my additions. This place is so you that I really missed you not being here when I came to stock the fridge this week."

Jolly looked down to Mimi's face seeing the expression of sadness before she buried it in Jolly's shoulder. "Are you happy, Mimi?"

The blonde head nodded against her shoulder and Mimi took a deep breath before lifting her head and looking at Jolly. "I'm just glad you're home, and that you have a girl to come home to now. And I'm sure she's dying to see you so take me home and get your ass over there."

Jolly walked Mimi to her door after driving her home, and hugged her one more time before leaving sensing there was still something wrong. "Dinner on Monday?"

"Have I ever turned you down on a Monday?" asked Mimi.

"I know, silly question. Lock up and I'll call you in the morning."

Jolly drove three blocks down from Mimi's to the small apartment complex Christina was staying in until her house was done. The little sports car was parked in the lot so Jolly got out and checked the mailboxes for the right one. She had never been but remembered Christina mentioning she and Mimi were almost neighbors.

The knock was loud enough for Christina to hear, but soft enough not to wake the neighbors. Noticing the proximity of the front doors, Jolly could see Christina had been right about how small the apartments were.

A look of shock was not what Jolly was going for but that's what was registering when Christina opened the door wearing a robe. Jolly wanted to put her hands in her pockets and turn back toward her car the silence lasted so long, but she tried a different approach. She stepped forward and kissed Christina on the lips.

The gallery owner watched Jolly move forward like it was happening in slow motion and her feet were stuck in quick sand. When Jolly's lips reached their destination Christina's blood ran cold as the kiss died as quickly as it began. What up to then had been a pleasurable experience felt like a train wreck.

"I can explain." The line sounded as lame to her as it did to Jolly. The taste Jolly had come away with was unmistakable.

"You paid your way through college as a contortionist with the circus?" Jolly's glib question was not a good sign as she scrubbed her lips with the back of her hand. "Or is it you have a naked blonde in your bed?" Christina's shocked expression got worse with the question making Jolly laugh. "No, I'm not a mind reader, she's waiting for you in the hall, and couldn't find a robe I guess."

"Jolly, please." Christina reached for Jolly's arm.

Jolly stared at her hand until it dropped back to Christina's side. "Honey, you don't owe me any explanations, and don't worry about me making a scene, that's not my style. It was a great couple of dates, and I'm building your house. And don't worry about a leaky roof or something because of this, that's not my style either."

Christina stood in the hall and watched Jolly walk away as Lisa's warning about consequences rang in her head. She had allowed Jan to play her again and in the morning she'd be gone after having her itch scratched. The only problem was that Jolly would be gone with her.

************************************************************************

"Mimi, it's Christina Griffin."

Mimi stepped back from her canvas with a paint splattered portable in her hand and looked at it as if she had heard wrong. Chris was the last person she figured she'd be hearing from that weekend. "What can I do for you?"

"Do you know how I can get in touch with Jolly?"

"Problems? I can't imagine she would fly home a day early because she wanted to pick a fight with you."

"We had a misunderstanding and I just want to talk to her about it before it gets any worse. I care about her, Mimi, you have to believe me."

Mimi looked at the phone again starting to get a bad feeling about the call. "I'm not interrogating you, Chris, calm down. Jolly can be a hothead but she's a real sweetheart once she cools down, just give her the space to do that. If she doesn't want to be found though, not even I can do it so you'll have to wait."

"If you talk to her, can you ask her to call me?"

"Sure."

Mimi changed into a clean shirt and shorts before grabbing her keys and heading out to her car. There were only four pieces of real estate Jolly owned, and Mimi was standing in one of them. If Jolly wasn't in the building the penthouse was in, or the office, it left only one place left to look. The small shotgun house wasn't too far from Mimi's place, and it had been built by Jolly's grandfather. She had bought it when her grandparents died for the workshop in the back.

The sound of a saw could be heard from the driveway when Mimi walked up. She pulled at her short blonde hair until it stuck straight up as the rapid sound of Jolly's hammer came next. Mimi hated when Jolly got upset but loved the great furniture she ended up with.

"You promised you'd call me this morning." Mimi spoke loudly enough to be heard over the hammering. Whatever had happened it wasn't good since Jolly still had on the clothes from the night before.

"I started on a new supply box for you and time got away from me," said Jolly around the nails in her mouth.

The large piece Jolly was working on could fit most of the paint at Home Depot Mimi guessed, but it was beautiful. "A little big huh, Babe?"

"This is a dresser for your bedroom, the paint supply box is over there," Jolly pointed to a smaller piece sitting on one of the worktables so the glue could dry.

"What's wrong?"

"What makes you think anything's wrong? Maybe I had a burning desire to do something nice for you," said Jolly. The tall woman stepped away from the piece she was working on to see if she had missed anything.

Mimi pulled on her hair again and thought about finding a nice piece of wood to beat Jolly with. "Babe, you're in here sweating when you should be at home sweating for a whole different slew of reasons."

"I'm not into group sex, but thanks for asking," said Jolly picking up the next piece of wood she needed.

The blonde hair got pulled tighter and Mimi let out a groan of frustration. "What are you talking about? Christina just called me and she sounded upset."

"Funny, she should have sounded relaxed after all the sex from last night."

"You slept with her then left her hanging? Jolly, that's not very nice."

"No, I went to see her and she was having sex with someone else. I didn't really stick around to catch her name and shaking hands was out of the question." Jolly didn't sound too upset and Mimi watched her go back to taking measurements.

"You sure that's what they were doing?"

"It's the only activity I could think of off the top of my head that I know people do naked, which the mystery blonde was, and Christina's kiss left no doubt."

Mimi shuddered with both disgust and anger over what Jolly had come home to find. "Gross."

"You said it, shrimpy."

"She failed to mention that during her call to tell me how much she cared about you. Why aren't you mad?" Mimi asked picking up the small hammer Jolly had been using and played with it to give herself something to do with her hands. She had been begging for a dresser to match the bed Jolly had made when she had moved out on her own, but was sad that this is what it took to get it done.

"I didn't have a hold on her, and she didn't make any promises." Jolly shrugged her shoulders and went back to hammering.

"But she kinda did, make promises I mean. You wouldn't have given her a key to the elevator so quick if you didn't feel anything."

"I'm trying to forget that part, Mimi. Just because I have bouts of idiocy doesn't mean I like to be reminded of them." Jolly looked up and snapped her fingers. "Want to change a lock with me?"

"Do I get a key?" asked Mimi.

"Now who's asking silly questions?" Jolly opened her arms and held Mimi tight. The disheveled look of the small blonde made the irritation she was feeling melt away.

They spent the morning piecing together the oak wood Jolly had cut until the main part of the dresser was finished. If she wasn't too tired, Jolly planned to start on the drawers later that afternoon. She was too fatigued to start on the tongue and groove method that would hold the drawers together right then. It was an old technique her grandfather had taught her that was hard to do, but the finished product lasted longer under wear.

A stop at the hardware store got them a new locking mechanism for the elevator, and a stop at the deli scored them sandwiches so Jolly wouldn't have to cook. Mimi tore pieces of Jolly's sandwich off and fed her as they rode the elevator so Jolly could switch out the locks. Whenever anyone got on with them, Jolly let Mimi do all the talking, laughing at how easy she got them to open up and how much information you could get out of someone in less than two minutes.

"Jolly," said Mimi softly as they reached the first floor again. Christina was standing in the lobby staring at them waiting for Jolly to notice her.

Jolly put the last screw into the plate that held the lock in place and put the screwdriver back in her tool belt. "What?" Mimi pointed to the lobby and Jolly just stared at the upset looking blonde standing there.

"Can I talk to you, Jolly?" Christina took a step forward and stopped. A part of her wanted to be angry with Mimi for lying to her that morning, but kept quiet knowing she didn't have a right to feel anger toward anyone.

Jolly grabbed Mimi by the arm before the hothead could beat Christina for what she had done. "Down, girl," Jolly told Mimi. "What can I do for you, Christina?" Jolly didn't step out of the elevator and had pressed Mimi up against her front to keep a hold of her.

"I just want to talk to you."

"And I'm listening. I told you last night, I don't make scenes over women," said Jolly.

"Can I explain?" Christina saw Jolly tightened her hold on Mimi over her question.

"Mimi, darlin', you're gonna have to calm down for me, ok?" It was killing Christina inside to listen to the warmth in Jolly's voice when she talked to Mimi. Only a day had passed since she had been on the receiving end of the same affection. "You can explain, but you don't have to."

"I want you to understand," Christina tried again.

"What, that you have the ability to bed women?" Jolly let loose some of her temper and it was Mimi who pressed her feet into the elevator floor to keep Jolly back when another couple walked in and didn't know how to react to the tension.

"Come on, Jolly, I think we should walk Ms. Griffin to her car," suggested Mimi.

"Please, Jolly, she didn't meanů," started Christina.

"Don't!" Jolly pointed a finger in her direction. "Don't insult me by finishing that sad excuse. You want to fuck someone else, that's your prerogative, but don't do it and expect me to believe it doesn't matter. Be a big girl and own up to it. I don't own you and you sure as hell don't own me." Mimi decided she'd best hang on to the back of Jolly's pants since she had never seen her this mad.

Christina ignored her and put her hands out palms up in a plea of mercy. "It didn't matter. She was someone I used to live with and she ran into my parents on their flight. I didn't mean for it to happen. Jan's my past, but I want a future with you." Christina stood in front of Jolly not caring that Mimi hadn't left the architect's side. If there was a chance Jolly would give her another chance, Christina didn't mind the size of the audience present to hear her begging. Mimi just snorted and walked back to the door not willing to listen to anymore of the explanations Christina had. If Jolly wanted to pulverize her it would be something Mimi was willing to live with.

"That's one big joke; a future with you? I don't think so. As your architect let me explain to you what a bad idea building on a faulty foundation can be. I think that holds true for most things in life."

"It's one mistake, Jolly, one." Christina put her index finger up to make her point, only making Jolly madder.

"Me finding you with your face buried between some woman's legs is not a mistake. That would fall under the category of cluster fuck. If you can't grasp that concept, it tells me you're more sorry you got caught than that you were a willing participant."

"I'll give you some time to get over your anger, then I'll call you," said Christina before turning and getting into her car.

Jolly stood on the sidewalk and shook her head. "Yeah, you do that."

"You ok, big guy?" Mimi asked as they rode back up to Jolly's place. The new elevator key was already resting on Mimi's key ring in her pocket, and Mimi was resting against Jolly's chest.

"Just irritated I guess. She acted like some kinda delicate flower for over a month, then some woman from her past comes along and she's doing the nasty two minutes later," said Jolly as she put her arms around Mimi and looked at the roof of the elevator.

Jolly's looking up was the reason she missed the big smile that broke across Mimi's face momentarily. "You didn't sleep with her, and that's why you're upset?" Yeah, they never slept together.

"Please. I'm not wired that way, Mimi, so no that's not why I'm upset. When you meet someone, let's say at a bar, they come across with certain intentions." Jolly kept her arms around Mimi but moved her head to look into the green eyes.

"With you so far."

"You buy some drinks and maybe breakfast, depends on the girl. But when someone works you up to a point and keeps backing off, well that can only mean two things."

Mimi pulled Jolly out of the elevator by her belt and pushed her to sit on the nearest sofa. "Go on, it's fascinating to hear how your mind works."

"If she does that it either means she's not really interested, or she wants it to mean something when it finally happens."

"And she made you think it would mean something, didn't she?" asked Mimi.

Jolly laughed and lowered her head. "Big dummy, huh?"

"Oh, Babe, no. It just makes you human. If you changed that about yourself, you wouldn't be my favorite person anymore. You want to come home with me and watch me paint? It's better than watching the grass grow." She pulled on the belt again trying to get Jolly to smile, smiling herself when it worked.

"Sure, shrimpy, sounds good." Mimi hitched a ride down to the car on Jolly's back teasing her all the way down. It would take her some time, but Mimi was convinced she could get Jolly on the right track.

************************************************************************

For the next month Christina made arrangements with Tim when it came to making decisions about the house. The time away from Jolly was killing her, but she wanted enough time to pass to help Jolly forget. The architect never saw Christina watching her work from the levee on the afternoons she could get away from the gallery.

Lisa had been right in that Jan had taken off before the sheets got cold, and hadn't called since. Christina was convinced she'd never have found out her ex was in the city if Jan hadn't run into her parents on that plane. No amount of time ever taught her the final lesson on Jan. The woman was only interested in the hunt, and she had proven herself easy prey too many times. The gallery owner had tried to drown in a sea of women when Jan had finally walked out, but Jolly was going to be the one to put a stop to that. So what if I slept with Jan, Jolly should understand if she cared about me, thought Christina as she watched the tall woman talking to Mimi.

Christina was starting to get an uneasy feeling about the number of times she saw Mimi at the construction site. The bubbly blonde was the only one out there who constantly got into Jolly's personal space and was never rebuffed. Whenever Mimi sat in the shade with her sketch pad Jolly had a hard time keeping the smile off her face and her eyes off the beautiful young woman.

The days that passed made the form of the house that much more recognizable, and it gave Christina hope since Jolly was still so involved with the project. Lisa didn't make any comment the day Christina showed up in jeans and a light sweater. It was not her boss's usual business attire but she figured there was a reason behind it and Christina would eventually tell her. When an hour of silence passed she broke down and asked.

"Taking the day off?"

"Just going out to the house to review some flooring choices. Tim said they're starting to brick today so the guys are concentrating on the interior," answered Christina not looking up from the document in her hand.

"Jolly going to be there?"

"I don't know, Lisa, would you like me to pass along a note for you if she's there?" The good relationship the women had shared suffered after what had happened with Jan. When Lisa sided with Jolly's decision not to see Christina anymore, the gallery owner had found it easier to blame her assistant than herself.

"Chris, I'm not your enemy here. You asked me and I told you the truth, don't hate me for it now." Lisa left the office before Christina could respond, and Christina didn't try to call her back.

************************************************************************

"Just take the doors off the hinges and the forklift will be able to get through," yelled Jolly over the engine of the delivery truck. The electricians and plumbers had finished their job, so they could start putting up drywall. Piles of the white boards were stacked on the truck she was standing next to, ready to be unloaded.

"Heard you were looking for a few good men," said the deep voice behind her. Jolly turned around in disbelief having not seen the guy in months.

Jolly crossed her arms and stretched out to her full height, so she could take advantage of her inch advantage, and looked him over. The blonde hair tied back in a ponytail now reached the middle of his back, and the beard had a little more white mixed in but the green eyes never changed. "Not a sorry looking son of a bitch like you."

"Bite me, bitch."

"You'd better not let your daughter hear you say that. She'd kick your butt. Hell she might anyway considering it's been, what, five months since she's heard from you?"

"Cut me some slack, Jolly. You're my secret weapon, man, when it comes to keeping me on Mimi's good side."

Jolly laughed and opened her arms to give him a hug. Ricky Mulle was a man who traveled the country on a Harley looking for construction jobs only to fill his stomach and his tank. It was the reason his ex-wife had taken their three children and married Anthony Holland.

"How's it going, Rick?" Jolly asked keeping her arm around his shoulder.

"Working up in Phoenix for awhile, but I missed my kid. Called Tim and he told me where I could find a job before I had to go over to Mimi's and crash empty handed." Ricky looked at Jolly and wondered if she had found what was staring her in the face for six years.

"She doesn't care about that, Rick, you know she just wants you where she can find you. You missed her show a couple of months back. Sold every piece before the night was over." Jolly picked up his tool bag and threw it into the back of her truck. She wanted to go home and give Mimi her surprise.

"Thought you had dry wall to put up?" Ricky pointed to the forklift passing by into the house.

"I've got a whole damn house worth, but that'll keep. We have a lady to see about some paint," said Jolly. They were two blocks passed the driveway when Christina's car pulled into the construction site.

When they reached the house, Ricky got out of the truck and leaned against the front looking at the new set of porch rockers Mimi had out front. He figured Jolly had been a busy girl since his last visit. The unlocked front door made him shake his head when Jolly opened it and walked right in, Mimi would never change.

"Jolly!" Mimi cried running over to hug her when she heard Jolly step into the studio. "You aren't sick are you?" She asked feeling Jolly's forehead.

"I'm fine, I just wanted to come home early and bring you something."

Home? The word was put away in Mimi's heart like a gold coin in a treasure chest. "A table to go with my new rockers?"

"Better, come on." Jolly took her hand and led Mimi to the front door. The shriek the blonde let out when she saw her father left Jolly a little light headed.

"Daddy, it's really you. Jolly get his stuff and put it in his room. You're staying right? Jolly's got stuff for you to do, and I want you to stay." She turned and looked at Jolly, "You have stuff for him to do, right?"

Ricky hugged Mimi close to his chest and laughed at the rambling. From her first word, he remembered Mimi had had only one speed for talking. Rapid fire, so you were agreeing to stuff you had no intention to, and by the time you figured it out she was off to the next subject.

"Slow down, baby girl, I'm staying and I got a job set up starting tomorrow. The boss was nice enough to give me the afternoon off with pay." Ricky smiled at the arched brow shot his way from Jolly.

"You're working for Jolly, right?"

"He's working for Jolly," answered Jolly getting her another hug when Mimi latched on to her. "Now bring my vacationing worker in for his grilling and I'll leave you alone to get it done." Mimi pouted at the fact Jolly was leaving and tried her best sad puppy dog eyes to get her to change her mind. "The sooner I get done, the sooner I can come back and take you two out to dinner."

"Promise you won't be late?" asked Mimi looking up at Jolly through blonde lashes.

"I promise, shrimpy, go have fun with your dad."

"Thanks for bringing him over and not making him work the rest of the day."

Jolly handed Ricky his tools before heading back to the site. She planned to lock up his bike for the night so he could have an uninterrupted night with Mimi. The two blondes watched the old Ford pickup turn the corner driving out of sight before heading into the house.

"You haven't told her, have you?" Ricky asked his daughter as they stepped into the house. Jolly's hand was everywhere he looked and it made him feel good. He had never been able to temper his wanderlust, so having someone like Jolly take care of Mimi made him feel less guilty.

"This isn't open to discussion with her, daddy. Besides, she's getting over a broken heart." Mimi reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a beer. Except for the hair and gender thing, Jolly and her dad were a lot a like. "Want to see the new dresser I got out of the deal?"

"Jolly loves you, Mimi, she just needs a little push to figure it out."

"She's my sister, daddy. Even the great state of Louisiana frowns on such unions," teased Mimi. They had had this conversation every time they were together from the first time Ricky had seen the two of them together.

"Honey, Jolly's not related to you. Your mother was her father's secretary and they ended up with the same last name through marriage. If you're fond of the name Andolini then marry her. Trust me, it's the one way I'll be happy for you to get it tacked on after Mulle, and I'd love to see the look on big Tony's face the day that happens. You have to love a plan that makes everyone happy."

"Promise me you won't say anything. Jolly's my best friend and if that's the only way I can get her, then I'll be happy." Mimi looked up at him and looked into his eyes. Ricky might have never been around as much as she had wanted him to, but like Jolly, he wasn't a liar.

"I promised you when you were sixteen, Mimi, and I promise you now, I won't say anything. The other thing I promise is, the day she finally wakes up and finds you standing there, I'm going to whack her one upside the head. She's brilliant at so many things except for the one that's the most important. Tell me about your show?" Ricky put his feet up on the kitchen chair across from him and put his chin in his palm to listen to his daughter talk. He missed this most of all when he got the urge to hit the road. Mimi always made everything sound like an adventure you were sorry you missed sharing while it was happening.

The tour of the house came next and Ricky spent a half an hour looking at the dresser Mimi had bragged about. The detail of the piece and the hours he knew Jolly had put into it, made it easy to decide how he would spend the next few months. No one put that kind of work into something for someone they weren't in love with. Ricky wanted to give his daughter the one gift that would make up for all the disappointments she had experienced because of him.

"You two ready?" Jolly called on her way home wanting to know what they were in the mood for. Ricky was a man of simple taste so there would be no gourmet meal in her future tonight.

"You promised you wouldn't be late."

"Honey, it's four thirty in the afternoon. I usually don't get home until six. I'm not late. Tell me where you want to go so I can dress accordingly."

The blonde was currently standing in front of her closet in her underwear wondering the same thing. "You aren't coming here first?"

"At the moment I'm covered in white dust. I think you'll want me to take a shower first. How about twenty minutes, a fresh pair of jeans and I come pick you up?"

"You think he'll want to be a little more adventurous than Mexican tonight?" Mimi asked as she tapped the nail of her index finger against her front teeth as she visually looked through all the stuff hanging in front of her.

"This is Ricky Mulle we're talking about, right? Take one of those l's out of the last name and you'll have your answer."

"Jolly, be nice, he's my father," laughed Mimi.

"I know, now put something on and I'll be there in a few minutes." Mimi looked at the phone and wondered how Jolly knew she wasn't dressed. When she couldn't, she just stuck her tongue out at the receiver before putting it back in its cradle.

Ricky let Jolly in when she knocked thirty minutes later, both of them surprised Mimi wasn't ready to go. He handed her a beer and they stepped out to the backyard to discuss an addition Jolly was considering for the house. The home Mimi had moved into three years before had been a dilapidated mess when Jolly had purchased it for pennies on the dollar almost right out of school. It had been her idea to fix it up a little and put it back on the market, but Mimi had fallen in love with its location.

The modest house sat on a large expanse of land a couple of blocks off St. Charles Avenue. It was the size of the lot that had made Jolly think it was a good investment since the house could be added to extensively still leaving a good sized yard. The best thing about the place was it backed up to Audubon Park.

In the middle of one of New Orleans's oldest neighborhoods, Audubon Park was a huge haven of massive oaks and colorful flowers. The city planners had set aside enough land to eventually include a public golf course, playgrounds, picnic areas and a two-mile track that circled the whole thing. To the front was the famous St. Charles avenue and Tulane University, and to the back was the revamped Audubon Zoo. The fact Mimi could have all that by just walking out the back door was what had grabbed her from the moment she stepped into the house. Like in most things, Jolly had given in and aside from repairs to make it livable, the only addition she had made was the large studio at the back.

Stucco dividers held up the large panes of glass that mostly made up the walls letting in light no matter what time of day it was. On the floors Jolly had put thin strips of long leaf pine that had been varnished to a high shine, not for looks but for easy cleaning. The paint that dripped off Mimi's brush was buffed up once a week by the crew Jolly hired to clean the house. When Mimi had protested, Jolly told her beautiful women shouldn't waste time doing housework.

"I'm thinking you should consider a nice gazebo out here under the oaks," said Ricky. He took a swig out of his beer and pointed to the spot in the yard he was talking about. Jolly nodded her head and tried to picture how that would look.

Behind them Mimi stepped out to the patio and cleared her throat to pull their attention away from the talk of wood. Jolly turned around to say hello when the beer she had been drinking slipped without notice from her fingers. The splatter reached even Ricky's jeans when the bottle shattered after hitting the floor.

The wet spots on her pants snapped Jolly out of the trance she was in and she looked down as if not sure where the bottle had come from, much less how it broke. Mimi was standing there in a pair of black leather pants with matching vest with nothing on underneath. The curve hugging material did everything but have arrows saying 'look here' to accentuate Mimi's figure, and Jolly was having a hard time breathing all of sudden.

"You ok there, Jolly?" asked Ricky slapping her on the back. Mimi shot her father a warning glare before his questions got any further out of hand.

"I'm sorry, it just slipped out of my hand. Let me get a broom and clean this up before we go." Jolly walked into the kitchen and got the broom and dustpan out of the closet, cursing herself mentally with every step.

The hose washed away the beer after Jolly had gotten all the glass into the garbage. She had made Mimi and Ricky go inside to wait on her so they wouldn't get wet. The double paned doors she had installed out to the patio kept Jolly from hearing Ricky's roar of laughter.

"Damn, girl, I think Jolly just got a clue you aren't sixteen anymore. Nice choice of outfit, Mimi."

Mimi's blush ruined her plan to deny the allegation so she just said, "Thanks. I just get curious every so often to see if she's paying attention."

"You struck her dumb, sweetheart, I'm thinking that counts as paying attention. Jolly, all finished?" Ricky's voice rose to let Mimi know their friend was finished and standing at the door.

"Yeah, I smell like a brewery, but if you two can live with it, I'm ready. How about Tacqueria Corona on Magazine street?" Jolly picked up the last piece of leather apparel to Mimi's outfit and held it up for her. The black jacket matched a larger version of one Jolly owned but it was a rarity for them to have to pull them out so soon into the fall season.

The restaurant was crowded enough so they would have to wait thirty minutes at the bar if they wanted to stay. Jolly and Ricky gave Mimi the only barstool left as they stood next to her and talked about the dove tailed drawers Jolly had made for Mimi's bedroom dresser.

"Guys, could we talk about something other than woodworking techniques? It makes me feel useless if all I can contribute to the conversation is, my underwear looks really nice in there."

"What would you like to talk about?" asked Jolly accepting a nacho chip covered in salsa from Mimi.

"The gazebo you're putting in the backyard would be a good start," said Mimi backhanding Jolly in the stomach. She kept the smile on her face as her eyes looked toward the door of the restaurant.

Christina was talking with the host as the older couple with her stood back a few feet. She turned to them and said something that got them to nod their heads and close the door. Mimi dunked another chip into the salsa and held it up for Jolly. With any luck Christina and her guests would head to the other side of the bar and Jolly wouldn't notice them.

Mimi wasn't the only one who noticed the joy that broke across Christina's face when she saw Jolly standing at the bar. Ricky took a second to size up who he now considered the competition. The casual outfit made the blonde look impossibly more beautiful to Mimi, who cursed her rotten luck.

"Hello, Jolly, how've you been?"

Almost for the second time in one night Jolly came close to losing another beer bottle. It was weird, Christina had hurt her by her actions, but that part of her brain that liked really pretty girls didn't care when she looked at the gallery owner.

"Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend, Jolly?" asked Ricky getting Jolly to look at him.

"This is Christina Griffin, she's the owner of the sheet rock we'll be hanging tomorrow. Christina, this is Ricky Mulle."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Mulle." Christina shook his hand then held it up to Mimi. "You been busy?"

"I'm working on some new stuff, thank you for asking." The answer was curt and Mimi hoped Christina would take the hint and be on her way. If not she couldn't make any promises as to not adding the entire contents of the salsa container to the nice sweater the gallery owner was wearing.

Having gotten the niceties out of the way, Christina was free to turn her attention back to Jolly. "I want you to meet my parents, Dell and Hillary. I've bragged so much about you, I'm sure they thought you weren't real."

Jolly smiled and shook hands with the couple before introducing Mimi and Ricky. Dell was about to offer to buy them another round when the host called out Jolly's name signaling that their table was ready. She held up a hand to help Mimi off the barstool and didn't let go when she was on her feet.

"Are you in the mood for a burger?" Jolly asked holding Mimi's coat up again.

"I could use a little protein in my diet tonight. How about you, daddy?"

"A burger sounds good, baby. Why don't you give these nice folks our table," Ricky told the host. The young Spanish guy nodded and used the menus in his hand to point Christina and her parents to the waiting table.

Jolly paid their bar tab and shook hands with Dell and Hillary again before they stepped away. "Nice seeing you again, Christina. I hope Tim's keeping you informed of all the stuff we're doing. Now that the outside is done on our end, the interior will start to take shape. With any luck you can be celebrating Christmas in front of the fireplace in the den."

"We'd have left if you feel uncomfortable, Jolly."

"I'm not uncomfortable, it's Ricky's first night in town and I wanted Mimi to enjoy dinner," Jolly looked over Christina's head and smiled at Mimi while she waited for her change.

"Can we have a drink or something soon? I can't stand that you hate me because of what happened."

"I don't hate you. Like I said before, you're a big girl, free to see or sleep with whomever you please. You don't have to answer to me for any action you take."

"No forgiveness in here for me, Jolly?" Christina reached out and tapped Jolly's chest over her heart.

"What's to forgive? You want to have a drink with me, call me."

"Really? It's that simple?"

"Really, it's that simple. Have a nice night." The bartender handed over Jolly's seventy dollars getting a ten back as a tip. She patted Christina's shoulder before walking to Mimi and her father.

The rest of the night went as Jolly had planned, with Mimi loving having her dad home. Ricky was so different from her own clean-cut father that Jolly wondered how Kelly, Mimi's mother, really felt about Anthony. How Anthony felt about Ricky was crystal, the words 'long haired hippy freak' coming to mind.

"Night, kids," said Ricky as Mimi closed the front door. "You coming to get me in the morning?"

"I'll be here at seven. Don't worry, I won't forget you, you know how much I love hanging drywall," answered Jolly. Ricky nodded his head and laughed before kissing Mimi good night. No one in their right mind liked hanging sheet rock.

"You want some coffee?" Mimi asked Jolly as she shed her coat and dropped it on a chair.

Jolly took off her own jacket and nodded her head. It was still early and her place seemed so empty lately.

"Light a fire and I'll be right back," ordered Mimi. When she came back Jolly had a small fire going and was staring into it as if the flames were mesmerizing. Jolly noticed the leather outfit had been replaced by flannel pajamas when Mimi handed her a mug.

"You have fun tonight?"

"Yeah, I love having daddy around. When he disappears on me, I worry about him." Mimi smiled when Jolly moved over and let her sit on the spot she had just warmed up on the leather sofa.

"If he wants, I can keep him busy for months. I like your dad, he's the most genuine person I know aside from you."

"He loves you too, Jolly. You're the only person in your family he can say that about," Mimi kidded. "You doing ok?"

"I was thinking about what I'm going to do when you fall in love and hook up with someone. My Mondays will be all shot to hell."

Mimi put her head down on Jolly's shoulder and got more comfortable. "I'm not going to fall in love with just anyone, so our Monday night dates are safe. How about you, Jolly?"

"How about me what?"

Jolly watched the small hand running up and down the top of her leg. She was sure Mimi didn't even realize she was doing it they were so comfortable with each other. "Do you think about falling in love?"

"After seeing what my parents went through and how my father is, I don't know if I'd be the best partner for anyone."

The coffee cup spilled over a little when Mimi put it down in a hurry and swung around to face Jolly. "You'd be great, Jolly, don't say that about yourself. Think about how happy a pack of little kids would be to have you as a parent, not to mention the lucky woman who'll have them for you."

"Wow, how do you figure?"

"Are you kidding? Having the best carpenter and architect for a parent can only mean the best tree houses in the city."

Jolly laughed at Mimi's always optimistic look of the world. "I'll tell you what, when you have that gaggle of kids, I'll be here to build a tree house."

From your lips to God's ear, thought Mimi as she leaned against Jolly again. For the moment it didn't matter that Jolly had skillfully side stepped her question. There was always time later to think about Christina and ways to keep her away from Jolly.

Continued in Chapter 3.

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