For Disclaimers see Ch. 1
Author's Note: I've been having a lovely, if rather busy summer. Which is kind of odd for me; my summers are usually busy, but they never seem to be as much fun as I often hope they would be. Point of fact, I'm so busy working, I had to buy my house while I was on vacation. Thankfully I'm not closing on said house until after I get laid off, but still, how many people manage that? To be honest, with as busy as I've been, I'm rather proud its only been like 4 or 5 months between updates. And the rest of it is mostly written, I just need to fill in the blanks in places, so hopefully it'll be a short time between now and the next one!
Thanks for reading this far, your wait is about to be rewarded!!!!! Enjoy and as always, please review.
* * *
Once dressed, Kylie announced that a breakfast she didn't have to cook for either of them would be icing on the cake for their day together and they headed to a nearby diner to grab a bite to eat. And despite the amount of food the smaller woman stacked on her plate, Luce knew she'd probably be more than hungry again just in time for lunch.
With their stomachs full and not in any particular hurry, they wandered through the downtown area, having decided during breakfast to go to the zoo. It was nice change of pace for them, to wander in and out of shops, holding hands, chatting with each other and sharing things that caught their eyes with the other. Luce found herself really enjoying the impromptu day. And Kylie's enthusiastic chatter and joy in sharing things with her made it even better than she had thought possible.
A few hours later, having finally made their way into the zoo and begun wandering around, Kylie's stomach began growling, almost right on cue. Laughing softly at the smaller woman, Luce simply led her into one of the small cafes that dotted the large zoo and they tucked into a large lunch.
Even after witnessing Kylie's appetite firsthand on numerous occasions, Luce still found herself dumbfounded and amazed at how much the shorter woman could eat. She watched in amusement as Kylie took a big bite of her sandwich and groaned in sheer ecstasy.
“Good?” There was a touch of laughter in her voice.
Kylie nodded. “Wanna try it?” She held her lunch out to Luce.
The taller woman simply shook her head in amusement.
Kylie tried again, waving a cheese covered fry at her table mate, trying to entice her to take it. “It's really good.”
Luce laughed and without thinking, leaned forward to snap the offering from the shorter woman's fingers. She munched on it happily, her eyes widening at the crunchy, cheesy goodness that suddenly exploded in her mouth. “You're right, that is really good.”
Kylie laughed, digging deeper into her own meal. “Told you.”
Luce reached across the table, snagging another fry. “Did you order enough to share?”
The smaller woman batted at the invader trying to snatch her food and snorted softly. “Share? You've known me how long now and you ask if I'll share my food? What makes you think I'll share my fries with you?”
Luce shrugged. “Well, we are sleeping together.”
The rakish grin on her lover's face was priceless. It made her laugh softly. “So, you're basically saying you're better in bed than these fries.”
Luce snorted loudly, snagging another fry. “I should hope so; and who the hell sleeps with their food?”
This time it was her turn to shrug as she moved her fries closer to the taller woman. “Well, some people do like to mix sex with food.”
Luce paused in thought. “True. That might be fun in the future.”
The look she gave Kylie was filled with heat and promise. It stopped her in mid bite and she found herself swallowing convulsively. “Planning our future?”
The soft question sent shivers down Luce's spine. As did the hopeful look on Kylie's elfish face. She reached out, touching that beautiful face gently. “Its been a lot brighter prospect since I met you.”
It was a moment that stretched out between them, stopped cold by her sudden inhaled breath and she felt her heart pause in her chest. It was such an amazing feeling, having someone feel so much for her, having someone not be ashamed to feel it or show it. And it was such an amazing thing to realize that for the first time, she was so very, very happy.
In that single moment, Kylie realized just how far she'd fallen so fast. For the first time in her life, she was in love. It was frightening, uplifting, soul searing and terrifying all at the same time. She wanted to scream her soul rending realization out loud, grabbing the nearest person and sharing in her joy at what she'd found.
But it wasn't the right time for that. Despite the gravity of moment, it was still far too soon to tell her lover the truth. That kind of declaration so early in their relationship was likely to send Luce running for the hills, or at the very least freak her out in a big way. So, Kylie did the only thing she could do, she let the pass her by as everything went back to normal around them.
Luce kissed her hand gently, oblivious of the life changing epiphany her table mate had just experienced. “Well, I hate to break it to you, but I am way better in bed than the taste of these fries. Even if they are covered in cheese.”
She laughed. “Don't forget the bacon and sour cream.”
Luce looked at her in surprise. “The ones I just ate didn't have any of that on them. Are you holding out on me Rogers?”
Kylie laughed. “Only because you seem to think your love making needs an ego boost.” This time it was her turn to reach across the table. “Baby, if you were any better at it, my brain would have melted the first time you touched me.”
Mischief and desire shone in Luce's blue eyes as she leaned closer and spoke softly. “Well, how about after we finish our little touring the zoo, I take you home and we put that theory to the test.”
“Now that sounds like a good way to end the day.”
Luce chuckled slightly at the longing note in the shorter woman's voice. But her joy was cut short as a shadow fell across the table. She looked up to see Agent Smith and Jenkins standing there, their stern faces set in even more solid lines than normal.
Jenkins was the first one to speak up. “Ms Donovan.”
The mood completely shattered by the appearance of the feds, Luce didn't bother to hide her annoyance. “Not you guys again. Don't you have anything better to do then to follow me on my day off and harass me?”
Agent Smith spoke up from beside Jenkins. “We need you to come with us.” Despite the past animosity between them, he was actually almost civil. His polite demeanor immediately set her on edge.
She gave him a sharp smile, not bothering to keep her voice civil. “As much as I'd like to do that, I'm spending the day with my girlfriend and I'm not leaving her here.”
Neither agent seemed thrown by her attitude. “Then she needs to come with us as well.”
Luce surged to her feet, clearly pissed off. “Now wait just a damn minute.”
Kylie reached out and touched her arm gently, the contact stopped the taller woman in her tracks. “Luce, let's not piss off the nice federal agents; let's just go with them and see what they want. Its not like they're actually arresting us, right?” She directed that last bit to the agents directly, the snap in her tone grabbing everyone's intention. There was no mistaking the blaze in her eyes as she stared both agents down.
Agent Jenkins shook his head. “No ma'am. We just really need to talk with Ms. Donovan in private.”
The two women stood, letting the agents escort them to the nearest exit, where Luce could see a dark, unmarked sedan awaiting them just beyond the gate. It seemed that this had all been well orchestrated. As they moved toward the exit, Luce could hear a low murmur of conversation buzzing around them as they approached the exit and it filled her with a flash of anger.
True, they hadn't been arrested, or handcuffed, or even spoken to harshly, but it was still very obvious that something was going on. And Luce knew that the sudden appearance of two men in suits, and their own sudden departure was setting some tongues wagging. If there was anything that Luce hated, it was being made to look like a fool. The agents had better have a damn good reason for dragging her out of a such a public place. And if she had anything to say about it, it had better be over with, quick. Because if she had to deal with the same posturing bullshit as the last time, heads were going to roll. She had better things to do than pander to FBI tempers.
The drive to the station was quick and quiet. Luce refused to give either of the agents the satisfaction of hearing a word pass from her lips. The way she was feeling at the moment, she was surprised she wasn't snapping their heads off every time they spoke to her. But she was having none of it. They'd intruded on her private time, into her life by dragging Kylie along for the ride and she was not happy about it.
After the first few comments were pointedly ignored, they gave up. If they had any idea how truly pissed she was at the moment, they would have never bothered in the first place. She was surprised there weren't waves of red rage pouring off her for all the world to see. She was even more surprised she hadn't lost it yet. But that might be due to the presence of her lover. Sometime during the ride, Kylie had reached out and wrapped her hand around the sullen woman, squeezing it firmly, anchoring her, calming her enough that by the time they reached the station and they were separated, she no longer felt like hurting them. Well, not as much anyway.
The minute the door shut to the interrogation room, she turned her forceful personality on the two men and let them know, exactly how pissed off she really was. “You'd better have a good reason for dragging me in here like this. More importantly, you'd better have a damn good reason for dragging her in here with me.”
Agent Jenkins wasted no time telling her why she'd been dragged down to the station. “Jack's dead.”
“What?” That information took the wind out of her sails a bit. It was the last thing she'd been expecting.
“Jack, Don's first assistant? He's dead.”
She let out a huge sigh. This was bad. “What happened?”
Agent Jenkins sat down at the table across from her. “We don't know but it looks like someone tried to stage a suicide.”
This was very, very bad. “When?”
“Sometime in the last 24 hours; we're still waiting for TOD from the coroner.”
She sighed again. This partly explained the urgency behind them picking her up. But there was still a huge hole in the puzzle. Something wasn't adding up here. This was something they could have told her over the phone. So, why the need to drag her down to the station? Why the paranoia? There was only one reason that came to mind and it wasn't a good one.
But for the moment, she was planning on playing stupid. “Gentlemen, I do appreciate you warning me but I think you could have done as good a job over the phone. There was no damn need to drag my girlfriend and I in here.” She started standing up to leave the room.
Agent Jenkins did something he'd never done before, he reached out to stop her, just as his partner spoke up behind him. “Yes, there is. Word on the street is that someone's looking to put a hit out on you.”
That made her pause for a second. She gave him a wry smile. “Be careful, Smith, or I might actually think you're beginning to care about me.” Neither Agent laughed. “And you think this is where I should be worried? Do you guys have any idea how many threats I've received in the last year alone because of my job?” She settled back into the chair. This was obviously far from over.
Jenkins sighed. “We do, but we still think you should take this one seriously.”
“Because someone's trying to find the Ghost.” Agent Jenkins touched the folder next to him on the table.
She waited but nothing else was forthcoming. “And he would be?”
Behind Agent Jenkins, Smith crossed his arms and glared. “A very gifted, very ruthless killer.”
Despite the gravity of the situation, she snorted loudly.“I take it from that warning I should be shaking in my heels.”
Smith threw his arms up and started pacing. And Agent Jenkins took a deep breath, trying to get her to understand just how serious things really were. “Ms. Donovan...”
She cut him off. “Agent Jenkins, I appreciate the warning, I really do. But its nothing new in my job. When I wrap this up, the threats will end; they always do.” She was telling the truth; threats were nothing new in her line of work. Over the years she'd managed to piss off a great many people; most of whom were serving time in jail. The threats had changed but the intent had always remained the same: they were going to make her pay. And yet, as of that moment, not one of them had ever had the balls to really come after her.
Jenkins immediately brushed aside her assertions. “Maybe, maybe not. We still want to put an escort on you.”
That got her attention. But despite the concern in his face, the concern in both their faces despite Smith's efforts to hide it, she wasn't willing to allow it. “No way in hell. How do you expect me to explain a couple of fed goons trailing me to my mother or to Kylie?”
Smith snorted loudly, still pacing. “We don't give a shit what you say, we just want you protected.”
Pissed at the arrogance of the man, she couldn't help but take a low jab at him. “You did such a bang up job with Jack.”
“You bitch!” He was halfway across the table before he could stop himself.
Gone was the charming, mostly polite man she'd encountered in the zoo and in his place stood the surly Agent she knew so well. She was more than halfway tempted to make a smart ass remark about the honeymoon being over but she wasn't entirely sure he'd understand it.
Jenkins grabbed his arm. “Stand down, Smith.” He nearly dragged the other agent into the chair next to him before he turned his attention back to her. “He's right, we want you protected and we'll do that with or without your permission.”
Luce sat there, assessing both of them for several moments. Threats notwithstanding, something niggled at the back of her mind about this. And she was someone who had learned to always listen to her instincts; even when they were telling her something she wasn't entirely happy with. And right now, they were practically screaming in her head at her stubbornness.
Luce wasn't a fool; she took chances, pushed, prodded and bullied people during her investigations to get what she wanted but she wasn't stupid or needlessly reckless. If these men thought she should be concerned about the hit on her head, she probably should be. And yet, she couldn't just give in; her pride would have a seizure if she just rolled over and let them have their way. So what was left?
She gave a wolfish smile as she realized it was time to play hard ball. “All right, I'll give in but I want something in return.”
Her sudden surrender took both agents by surprise but Jenkins was more surprised by her statement. “You're trying to negotiate?”
He sighed. “What do you want?”
Luce pointed a single finger in his direction. “My privacy. I'm sure all of your agents have been trained to be discrete and sensitive so the possibilities of a peeping tom being assigned to guard us should be rare.”
This time Agent Smith took offense at the implication. “That's really uncalled for.”
She gave him a glacial stare. “I'm gay, Agent Smith, not stupid. I get ogled at whenever I hold hands with my girlfriend out in public. Please don't insult my intelligence by telling me that my concern isn't an issue.”
Agent Jenkins shook his head as Smith opened his mouth to speak. “I'll screen your escorts myself. You won't find your privacy invaded unless needed.”
Luce nodded, satisfied.
“Anything else?” Smith failed to hide the sneer in his voice.
She nodded again. “Your word they'll keep their distance. I have a life and I don't want it interrupted because an overzealous agent happens to be jumping at his own shadow that day.”
She barreled right over him. “Look, I'm on to something; if you want the proof in the next few days, you'll back off and let me do my damn job.”
Jenkins stilled, jumping to the wrong conclusion. “Are you threatening to withhold evidence from us?”
She sighed, shaking her head. “No, I'm just telling you that if I have to work with a hired goon breathing down my neck, its going to take longer. Not to mention that you're going to tip off not only the front man but the cartel that you're on to them.” Jenkins nodded for her to continue. “Right now they're probably panicking; they've plugged the leak but they have no idea just what Jack told you or me. Why not use this opportunity to make them think I know jack shit about their operation? If they think I haven't gotten anywhere, they're going to relax and do something stupid. Maybe even reveal just who the front guy is. In the meantime, I'll have the time and room I need to finish figuring out just how they're doing it.”
He seemed to ponder that for several moments and gave her a slight nod. “You're actually starting to make some sense. You talk like a damn psychologist.”
She smiled that sharp biting smile again. “I've been doing this kind of thing for a what seems like forever; gives you plenty of time to understand human behavior. Which is how I know you're going to give me what I ask for. Because you both know if you don't, I'm going to do anything and everything I can to lose my keepers. I don't like having a shadow; I don't give a shit what reason it's for.”
Smith snorted from his place at the table. “Donovan, if you could lose these guys than you wouldn't have to worry about the Ghost.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
Agent Jenkins sat there shaking his head at her clever maneuvering. “Well, it looks like you've got us over a barrel here.”
“Glad you finally realized that. Are we done here?” Jenkins nodded. Luce stood up, going for the door. “Fine, now if you don't mind I'd like to go collect my girlfriend and get the hell out of here before she gets really pissed off.”
He chuckled. “Yeah she's a bit feisty.”
“And you guys wonder why I'm not scared of a hit man; if you'd ever seen her lose her temper you'd understand. I do not want that firestorm aimed in my direction.”
* * *
They escorted her out towards the lobby. And as they approached, they all became aware of a rather loud argument going on at the moment. Kylie's severely annoyed voice could be heard quite well in nearly all corners of the station.
The three of them rounded a corner and saw that the short red-headed woman had one of the federal agents nearly backed against a wall as she harangued him. “Look I don't know who the hell you think you are but last time I checked this was America! You can't just drag someone in off the street without a damn good reason!”
The poor man was looking for a way out of a bad situation but he really had no where to go. “Ms. Rogers, please calm down...”
His calm voice seemed to enrage her further and she actually advanced on him. “Calm down? Like hell I will! You drag my girlfriend and myself out of a public building like a pair of convicted felons without even flashing so much as a badge or a warrant! Now you tell me you can't explain to me just why I'm being detained and you expect me to calm down? Buddy, with the way I feel at the moment, you'll be lucky if you have any balls left when I'm done with you cause I'm going to be wearing them as earrings!”
Agent Jenkins gave a soft whistle next her. “I see what you mean about the temper.”
She snorted. “And people keep thinking I'm the dangerous one. They have no idea.” She smiled, taking in the sight of her irate lover verbal lashing the Agent to within an inch of his life. Despite their surroundings, it was a damn erotic thing to watch.
Jenkins touched her arm. “We'll be sending a car over later.”
“Fine. I should have something by the end of the week; I'll be in touch.” She walked towards the entrance, calling out to the other woman as she came closer. “Kylie.”
Kylie stopped in mid sentence at the sound of Luce's voice, her head whipping around to find her across the room. The agent was forgotten in heartbeat as she hurried over. “Luce, thank God, are you all right?”
She resisted the urge to sigh or reach up to rub at the headache that was building to a crescendo behind her temples. Wouldn't do to show weakness in front of the agents if she could help it. Instead she nodded at Kylie. “Just fine. Let's go home.”
* * *
Nearly an hour later, they were driving back towards Kylie's house after being dropped back off at the zoo by an unmarked police car. The traffic had been terrible and was slowly getting worse as the two woman made their way home. They had both been silent during the ride back, neither one wishing to discuss anything in front of the officer driving them. And Luce's headache had only continued to grow worse as the time passed and Luce was nearly out of her mind at the pain of it. If it hadn't been for Kylie's hand clutched firmly in her own, she wasn't sure what she might have done.
Despite the pain, she insisted on driving, having long ago learned that sometimes, it paid to be distracted from the pain until she could get somewhere to do something about it. At the moment, she was more worried about the tense and silent woman sitting next to her in the car. Kylie hadn't spoken a single word since they'd left the station, her silent form simply fuming beside her. Luce could feel waves of anger and frustration practically rolling off her lover.
Finally though, the silence was too much for her. “Are you ok?”
“Just peachy.” The response was tight lipped and short.
Luce sighed, the pounding in her head picking up in tempo for a moment. “Kylie...”
As if saying her name was some sort of signal, the flood gates opened and hurricane Kylie was suddenly barreling down on her. “What the hell was that all about, Luce?”
Luce shrugged. “Someone really needed to talk to me.”
Kylie's face was incredulous. “Talk to you? They practically arrested us just to talk to you?”
“Yeah.” Despite herself, she reached up to rub the throbbing muscles along her jaw and neck, wincing at the tension the encounter had put in them.
Without even thinking about it, Kylie reached out and began rubbing at the knots in her neck, the anger just suddenly gone in the face of her concern. “Are you in some kind of trouble?”
Luce nearly groaned in gratitude, the question nearly lost in the relief that her lover's hands were kneading into her neck and shoulders. “No. Yes. Maybe, I don't know. Its complicated.”
This time Luce snorted softly, thinking back on the agents' faces. “To say the least.”
Kylie thought for a moment, her hands never pausing in their work. “So this complicated thing, is it dangerous?”
Another shrug. “It might be; I don't know for sure yet.” Luce looked at Kylie closely. “Are you angry?”
Kylie looked at her as if she'd grown a horn in the middle of her forehead. “That you might be in danger? You're damn right I am!”
She sighed, parking the car in front of Kylie's house. “Kylie...”
Kylie held up her hand. “I know, I know. Its your job. I get the whole being responsible thing. I just don't to like it in this case.” She sat back, her posture seeming more in line with a pouting child than that of fully capable adult business woman. Luce found it very endearing.
She smiled, flashing a rakish grin at the other woman. “Can I make it up to you?”
The seductive tone in Luce's voice drew a smile from Kylie's face. She leaned across the car, giving Luce a soft and teasing kiss. “You could buy me dinner and do dirty but delightful things to my body later.”
Luce felt the touch of those lips all the way down her body and found the sensation doing wicked things to her insides. “Well since I'd planned to do that anyway, I don't see how that's making it up to you.”
She smiled. “Tell you what, throw in something chocolate and gooey and we'll call it good.”
Luce reached up and let her fingers slide through the other woman's short hair, drawing her in close to tease and torment. “How bout I just cover you in chocolate, two birds with one stone and all that.”
Kylie groaned softly, quickly losing her ability to think as Luce's hands began a wicked dance all over her body. “I like the way you think, but its gonna be murder on my sheets.”
* * *
Later, during a more lucid moment, Luce would likely blame it all on stress, maybe even the spicy sausage loaded on the pizza they'd shared early in the evening. But at the moment while she slept next to Kylie, her body and mind worn out by the rather adventurous events of the day, she had nothing to shy behind and deny the truth of what she was experiencing. And for the moment, that was really all that mattered.
To say that it was one of the strangest dreams Luce could ever remember having was an understatement of epic proportions. Not even the recurring dream she'd had for several weeks about Kylie could quite compare with this one. And at the time, that was one of the strangest dream she could ever recall having. But this, this was far and beyond even that one. Largely because there seemed to be nothing going on at the moment; nothing but stillness in the air. At least when she'd had the recurring dream there'd been a sense of movement, of action, a need for those things to be as if motion itself was something vital to balance out the emotional upheaval she'd felt from the moment it began.
This dream, however, held all the same emotional intensity she'd experienced before but none of the motion or action of the first to help dispel the intensity of it all. Instead of riding a horse hell bent for leather towards the sea, she instead found herself standing in a place of mist and stone with only herself for company. And as she stood there in that quiet stillness, she could feel a sense of urgency, of need building within her and around her. And as it built, the intensity of it set her teeth on edge. Until she was just about ready to scream in sheer frustration simply to get just a kiss of relief.
But there was none to be found. At least not the kind of release that might have helped her find her balance. And she found herself wondering just why her own mind would find the need to put her off balance in the first place. The answers she came up with were not at all comforting.
Frustrated at her unconscious mind, she did her best to push aside the intense and turbulent emotions of the dream and looked around at the dream world she'd been dumped it. It was a place built of mists and rocky walls, a place full of shadows and light and possibilities. Something that she would have never expected to find inside herself. And yet, here it was. She had no idea just why her mind had felt compelled to construct such a place; especially since she wasn't much of a dreamer to begin with.
Luce was steeped in the truth of decisions, consequences and facts; things that were the backbone of a sometimes harsh and rather sterile reality. There was no room in her for the frivolous, the whimsical or even flights of fancy. And while that plain fact might drive her mother quietly insane, it was no less true now than it had been when she was a child. Luce did not waste time with her head in the clouds, her mind wandering over the possibilities, she simply made things happen. So for this to happen to her, to be dumped into a strange dream world of her own making where up was down and left was right, not once but twice in such a short time, was something unheard of for her rather level mind.
So with that having been said, there were really only two possibilities for this sudden shift in reality. Either she was going completely insane, something that, if it was ever going to happen, would likely have happened a long time ago. Or, something, somehow had changed in the last few months and awakened a part of her brain she never knew existed. Although at the moment, Luce wasn't ruling out the possibility of a tumor or a leaking aneurysm.
She sighed softly, deciding that she wasn't likely to get any answers unless she let the dream simply run its course. No sooner had the thought formed when the mist directly in front of her parted, revealing a rather large, rather beautiful mirror. Without thinking she stepped closer, a bit surprised when it merely showed her own reflection back at her.
Her hands on her hips, she looked around, for the first time feeling a bit frustrated at what was going on. “Well this seems to be a complete waste of decent sleep.” The words were soft, almost half whispered to herself. But, in the way of dreams they somehow carried to the very reaches of the vast room she found herself in.
There was a snort directly in front of her as her reflection took on a life of its own, the arms crossing as the blue eyes there regarded her closely. “You always were a stubborn old goat.”
The comment and the movement of her mirror self threw Luce completely for a loop and she could only gape stupidly at her reflection. “Excuse me?”
Her reflection ignored the startled question, focusing instead on the more confusing and paradoxical aspects between them. “You, well, I guess me too if you want to get technical. You could give a mule a headache!”
The snarled and clearly frustrated comment made Luce snort loudly. “Really? Well if you're part of me, I'm sure you have the same problem.”
“True but this time its not me that's holding us back. Its you.” The reflection reached out and jabbed her in the chest.
Startled by the gesture, Luce found herself resisting the urge to step back out of reach. Instead, she crossed her arms and looked at her reflection sullenly. “And how's that?”
Her reflection gave her a sharp look, almost as if it couldn't believe that she was trying to continue to lie, even to herself. “Because you keep hiding what you really feel. You keep denying that you love Kylie, especially to yourself.”
The statement took a bit wind out of her righteous sails. “I have my reasons.”
Her reflection wasn't buying it. “Bull shit! We both know what those are and they're all shit reasons.”
“No, they're not.”
“OK, fine you think they're important. Just how long do you plan on them being important?”
Realizing just how absurd this whole situation was becoming, not to mention the subject matter, Luce began pacing in frustration. “Until what I feel doesn't scare me anymore. Until I'm sure it won't scare her either.”
Her reflection snorted softly. “We might as well be waiting for hell to freeze over.”
Luce's temper boiled over and she turned on the mirror, her eyes hot and pissed. “That's not funny.”
Her reflection was not intimidated in the least. “Look, its either crack a joke or start crying. Which would you rather we did at this point?”
That seemed to cool her down a bit. “Good point.”
Her reflection threw her hands in the air in supplication. “Finally, she agrees with me on something.”
“Hey, this hasn't been easy for me you know, meeting her like this. Falling for her so damn fast it makes my head spin. Do you think I wanted things to happen like this?” Again, she paced, the relentless need to move pushing at her as she found herself facing the truth of her heart. Something she had hoped she could put off for a good long while. At least until she'd had more time to come to terms with what she was feeling.
“Since when has love ever paid attention to what we mere mortals want?” The relentless pacing never stopped so her reflection tried a different tactic. “You love her, more importantly you love her beyond anything you've ever felt before and you're going to keep that to yourself?”
This made Luce pause for a long moment. She'd been wondering that same thing in her waking moments when she'd first began feeling more and more strongly for Kylie. Did it really matter that it was such a short time since they'd begun dating? Did it really matter that she'd already gladly jumped off the cliff before she'd even really realized the edge was there at her feet? Part of her, the part of her in the mirror at the moment, didn't think so. But then, that part of her had always been a great deal more of a romantic than she knew herself to be.
She shook her head, knowing she was right in this. “Its too soon, for both of us. If I tell her, it might scare her off. I'm the first woman she's ever dated. What if she meant what she said about not wanting to make me an experiment but that's what I end up being any way?”
“Funny, I never knew you were afraid of being like Alice.” The droll sarcasm was thick in the air.
The jab slid right past her shields. “That's not funny.”
Her reflection shot her a thorny grin. “Honey, from where I'm sitting, its hysterical!”
Luce started muttering to herself as she began pacing angrily again. Words like “psychotic”, “delusional” and “severely emotionally unstable” came to her reflection, carried across on a whisper.
Her reflection rolled her eyes, clearly fed up with the entire argument. “Why are you so damn afraid of loving her?”
Luce paused in her pacing, not looking at the mirror, suddenly terrified of what she might see reflected in her own eyes. Knowing that the truth she would find there was fueled by her own fears of inadequacy. She was far from promiscuous. But Kylie was hardly her first lover, or even the first woman Luce had ever felt love for. But this, this was so much more than she ever expected. So far beyond what she'd ever felt before. Feeling it humbled her even as it terrified her.
And it was that fear, more than anything else, that kept her from baring her heart to her lover. What if Kylie didn't feel the same way? Could she handle her feelings not being returned? What would she do if Kylie decided this wasn't for her? What if she walked out of Luce's life, what then? Would her falling so far, so fast break one of them? Both of them? Did she dare risk it?
Luce felt a wave of panic hit her as she realized that it wasn't just rejection she was afraid of. What was at stake was so much more. “If she doesn't feel the same way, she could destroy me. Completely, utterly. Because for the first time in my life, I let someone all the way in. All the way, no stop, no barriers, she can reach out and touch my soul if she wants to.” It was a hard thing to admit, even privately to herself.
Her reflection nodded, almost pleased. “And for the first time, you feel defenseless.” This time her mirror self leaned out, her face split by a wide, knowing smile. “I always knew when you finally fell, it'd be a hard landing.”
“So not helping at this point.”
her mirror self looked at her, nearly at its wits end. “What do you want me to say? Don't love her? Push her away? I'm a part of you, albeit the often more agreeable and dashingly clever part of you, but still a part of you. Which means I love her too. And right now, its all I want to do, all I want to feel. So you'll excuse me if I tell you to get over it.” There was a pause while Luce digested her words. But some part of her must not have looked completely convinced because her mirror self pushed on. “She completes us, in ways you don't even realize yet. More importantly, she loves us, I can feel it even if she hasn't said it out loud yet. So I for one plan on just running with it. I suggest you do the same.”
Her reflection shrugged. “Why is the sky blue? Look, honey, we're part of each other but don't think for a minute either of us has a choice in this. We both love her and nothing is going to change that anytime soon. So unless you want a lifetime of dreams like this with me whacking you over the head with things you don't really want to hear, you'll just stop fighting it and enjoy it. Is she really so hard to love?”
Luce found herself smiling as she thought of her lover. “No, she's not. That's what scares me.”
Her mirror self reached out, grabbing her shoulders before leaning forward and giving Luce a soft kiss on her forehead. “To be honest it scares me too. But when was fear enough for us to back away from something we really wanted? Besides, neither of us has ever met anyone like her before; she could be just what the doctor ordered. Who knows, maybe what she said about the psychic had some truth to it.”
Luce snorted. “I hardly think I'm her soulmate.”
“She could do worse. She could do a lot worse. Besides, if you are, do you really think you can stop any of this?” Her mirror self pulled back. “Tell her, Luce, tell her how you feel. How we both feel. I think you'll be surprised at how good it will finally feel.”
Luce nodded once. “No promises.”
“Stubborn jackass.” Her mirror self gave her one last wink and then, the mirror was simply a mirror once more.
Smiling, Luce reached out to touch the glass. “Nagging old goat.” The dream began falling apart as she dropped her hand. In minutes she was in a deep, deep, thankfully dreamless sleep.
* * *
Kylie pulled into Mollie's driveway and shut her car off with a savage flick of her wrist. She took a deep breath and sighed loudly, resting her head on the steering wheel. This was just getting too hard. And she could see no end in sight.
It'd been a week since that fateful day in the zoo when she found herself facing her true feelings for her tall, dark haired lover. A week since she decided to keep what she was feeling to herself, too scared to risk scaring the other woman away. And it'd been a week of sheer hell.
They'd managed to spend a great deal of time together, nearly every day and night as a matter of fact. And while it had been one of the best weeks of her life, it'd had also been one of the most frustrating. Feeling what she felt, her heart near to bursting with it, her head spinning with the newness of emotions never felt before, and yet being unable to share it was sheer torture. She found herself having to hold back a bit, to temper her heart whenever she was around Luce. And it was so difficult.
Her feelings bled into everything, every thought, every word, every touch was painted with the brush of how she felt. To deny that, to hide that was perhaps the most difficult thing she had ever been forced to endure. And her nerves were frazzled near to the breaking point over it.
There was a muffled crash from her sister's house and it pulled her from her self depreciating revere and forced her back into the present. She smiled at the house, feeling a bit of relief at the thought of a normal, mundane morning spent with her sister. Laughing over the boys antics and sharing gossip. No need to repress or hide what she was feeling or thinking. A day of just letting go and giving herself a chance to feel centered once more. That more than anything was the reason she'd nearly jumped at the idea of leaving the house when her sister called.
She'd showered and dressed at warp speed, forgoing the breakfast she'd gladly cooked for the other woman in favor of leaving as quickly as possible. And she'd pretended not to notice the twinkle of amusement in Luce's eyes as she'd run around the house like a hurricane. With a quick kiss goodbye, she'd run out the door like her pants were on fire, the soft chuckle of her understanding lover following in her wake. Not one her better moments to be sure.
She chuckled despite herself and climbed out of the car just as another crash sounded from the nearby house; this time followed by Mollie's muffled voice raised in annoyance at her wayward offspring. She let herself in through the gate in the backyard and didn't even bother knocking, swinging the doors open to the suddenly welcome chaos. And it was a ridiculously hilarious scene.
Mollie stood in the kitchen, visible from Kylie's perch at the doorway, holding a squealing naked toddler while another equally naked, slightly older toddler danced around the room, scattering cereal in his wake.
“Boyo, you had better stop right this minute. Because the second I get a hold of you, you're going to regret this.” Her frustrated tone seemed even more frazzled than usual to Kylie.
The younger woman took pity on her flustered sibling and stepped quietly up to her high strung nephew. She reached out, snatching him and taking the cereal away from him as she scooped him up. He wriggled, squealing at being caught. But his cries of indignation were ruined by the series of baby giggles that bubbled out of him when Kylie shifted her grip and began tickling and pinching him.
Her sister gave her a completely grateful look, holding her other offspring in a death grip as he wriggled to get down and see his Auntie Ky. “You are a lifesaver!” She left the kitchen to dress her son.
Kylie chuckled as she followed her sister from the room. “The hooligans got away from you, huh?”
There was a huge sigh from the other woman. “They've been wound up since they moment they woke up. I swear Keith's been slipping them expresso in their sleep.” She headed to the boys' room where she began wrestling with her youngest offspring to get his clothes on.
Kylie laughed, grabbing some nearby clothes and doing the same with the eldest. His babbling creating an interesting counterpoint to the adults' conversations. Between the two of them, they were able to finish the chore quickly and without a lot of fuss. Distracting the two young boys with a stack of building blocks and some rather noisy toys, they went back to the kitchen where Mollie began making a pot of tea for the two of them.
Kylie settled herself down to watch. “So how you feeling?”
Mollie groaned a bit. “Pregnant.”
She chuckled, gladly accepting a steaming mug. “Well that goes without saying, don't you think?” She started lacing it with liberal amounts of honey. “Is the morning sickness going away?”
Mollie shrugged. “A bit; its hanging on a bit longer than it did with the boys.”
She took a small sip, savoring the rich, sweet taste. “Maybe you are having a girl.”
Mollie laughed ruefully as she doctored her own cup. “Lord help us. If she's making me this sick now, what's she going to do to me when she finally gets here?”
Kylie snorted loudly. “Hey, no one ever said the women in our family weren't hard headed. Even the ones who marry in are a bit nuts.”
Her sister laughed. “They have to be, to deal with the men in this family!” She set out a plate of warmed scones to go with the tea. “So how're things going with you?”
Kylie nodded as she grabbed the treat. “Good, really, really good.”
Her sister gave her a slight smile and searching look. “You look really happy.”
The quiet words made Kylie pause for a moment. “You know for the first time in a long time, I am.”
She reached out to squeeze Kylie's hand. “I'm glad, Kylie. Really glad.”
“Have you told her you love her yet?”
Kylie inhaled forcefully, the large chunk of scone she'd been chewing nearly making her choke. She began coughing raggedly. Her sister chuckled a bit as she managed to cough up the offending baked good, tears in her eyes as she finally coughed out a strangled “What?”
Her sister gave her a rather disbelieving look. “Come on, Ky. I know what it feels like, what it looks like. I can see it all over your face.”
Kylie wiped her face quietly before answering. Maybe she hadn't been able to hide the truth as well as she thought. “Its really that obvious?”
She nodded. “Oh yeah.” This time Mollie winked at her. “If I didn't know you were pregnant, I'd say you were glowing!”
Despite herself, Kylie chuckled. Suddenly very glad she didn't have to worry about that happening any time soon. “That's not funny!”
Her sister arched a brow, her mind seeming to have traveled the same lines. “Well, that's one nice benefit of dating someone of the same sex. No unwanted pregnancies.”
Kylie smiled, nodding. “It is kind of liberating not to have to worry about birth control.” They both giggled at her enthusiastic tone. But Kylie sobered a bit when she remembered what she really wanted to talk Mollie about. “But,”
Mollie waited, knowing there was something huge behind that one word. When Kylie still hesitated, she gently prodded. “But?”
“I had my first bad reaction.”
That surprised Mollie for a moment. “Wait, to what? You and Luce?”
“Yeah.” She sighed loudly. “And its kind of my fault.”
Mollie looked skeptical. “How could this be your fault?”
“Because Jace walked in on us and it got a little ugly.”
That took the wind out of Mollie's sails. “Damn, I was so wrapped up in everything around here, I'd forgotten about him.”
She nodded. “That makes two of us.”
That explained a few things; especially how disturbed Kylie seemed to be about the whole thing. “I assume he didn't take it well.”
“Not really no. At the end, right as he was leaving, I got the feeling that if Luce hadn't been there, he'd have hit me.”
The soft admission surprised Mollie. She never would have figured Jace for something like that. “Good Lord!”
“So what did Luce do?”
She shrugged. “She just stepped between us and did this scary, stare down thing with him. It was really intense. I couldn't see her face because she was in front of me, but I could see his. And whatever he saw on hers scared him enough to make him rethink things.” She shuddered a bit at the memory and took a quick sip of her tea.
Mollie whistled softly. “Wow, I never would have thought he'd do something like that.”
She shook her head slowly, the memory still bothering her a great deal. “Me neither. But Luce thinks maybe that it might have been better if I'd left him for another man; that my leaving him for a woman threatened his masculinity or something.”
It was Mollie's turn to shrug; stranger things had happened. “Could be; some men don't take that kind of thing well. They're too wrapped up in their own egos. Especially when they're hit on by gay men.”
“Hmmmm.” She went quiet, seeming to stare off into space, lost in thought.
Mollie studied her sister for a moment, concerned at how quiet she'd become. It wasn't like her to just stay quiet about something that bothered her; usually something like this would have made her spitting mad and had her raving like a maniac. But then again, nothing about this whole situation was at all typical. She reached out to touch Kylie's hand. “You ok now?”
Kylie looked up, her eyes still looking off into the distance. “It shook me up pretty good. To think that I let someone like that into my house, my life, hell my bed! I never thought I was a bad judge of character, but he really fooled me.”
She squeezed her hand. “Some people are really good at hiding who they are; probably because there's something inside themselves they really don't like.”
Kylie shrugged. “Could be.” Her voice sounded anything but convinced by her sister's logic. “But that's not what hurt the worst.”
Kylie thought for a moment, her eyes still distant and unfocused as she clutched her sister's hand. “I looked at him and realized, I really hurt him. And what's worse, I almost didn't care. Oh I cared that I basically ended it with him in my own head but not beyond that. And I cared that I was so wrapped up in my own life that I forgot him as easily as I forget about a piece of gum tossed in the trash. But, only because it made me seem like a bad person, not because his pain really bothered me. I was so relieved when he walked out the door to go to South America that last time, I thought I was going to faint.”
Mollie was floored; of all the things she'd been expecting her sister to say, that hadn't been even close. “Why didn't you ever tell me about this?”
Her eyes focused again, the distant look replaced by anger and annoyance, both at herself and the entire situation. “I don't know, because I'm an idiot. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought there had to be a reason I couldn't seem to find someone to settle down with. I thought it was my fault that I couldn't feel comfortable enough with anyone to give them more than my superficial attention.”
Her sister nodded. “And now we know what that was.”
“Do you really think that?”
The look in her eyes was pleading and it nearly broke Mollie's heart. She found herself wishing Luce had knocked him down a peg or two for putting that look there. But now wasn't the time to handle Kylie with kid gloves. If the last 15 years had taught her anything, it was that sometimes, the best way to get through to her stubborn sibling was to beat her over the head with the truth. And she proceeded to do just that.
“Come on Kylie, tell me you don't think that yourself? Look at what your life's been like for the past few months? You're going along, minding your own business and everything's going great. Suddenly, one night, you have a freak accident that brings a complete and utter stranger to your rescue. Now this woman not only stops to make sure you're ok, but she drives you to the hospital and stays with you until I get there.”
Kylie shrugged. “She had to do that, I practically begged her to.”
Mollie kept talking right over her. “Then if that's not weird enough, you leave your iPod in her car, something you never lose track of, giving her an excuse to hunt you down at your store.”
She still was convinced. “She was just returning my property; plus I'd told her to stop by some time and I'd buy her lunch.”
Again Mollie ignored her and kept on going. “Things take off from there and you guys find yourselves hanging out, an unexpected but not completely unwelcome friendship. The next thing you know, you guys are like bffs in Highschool, practically giggling on the phone!”
Kylie was indignant but still smiling. “We were not.”
Mollie tried a different tactic, recalling the conversation they'd had when her sister admitted she found the taller woman extremely attractive. “Come on, Kylie, you told me yourself, you don't make friends easily but when the two of you met, it was like you'd known her all your life.”
This time, she slowly nodded. “Yeah that's true.”
“So maybe that psychic was right.”
She scoffed loudly. “I knew you were gonna bring that up again.”
Mollie threw out her last dart. “She was right about Keith.”
This time Kylie laughed out loud. “She probably knew your track record with guys to that point. She was bound to get lucky.”
Her sister brushed off the disbelief. “Fine, be a skeptic. I, for one, think she was right.”
The look in her sister's eyes scared her for a moment; it was far too conniving to be mere joy at Kylie's happiness. And given her sister's long history of match making, both within the family and without, Kylie wouldn't have put anything past her darling sibling. Not even planning a walk down the aisle for her in the starring role of a quaint lesbian themed wedding. No matter how much she might protest. The woman was sick and devious. She really needed some help.
She shook her finger in her sister's direction. “Don't go planning my wedding without me, darling sister.”
Mollie stood, gathering their dirty mugs to take to the sink. “Hey, if this last one turns out to be a boy, you're my last chance to plan a dream wedding. Don't mock my pain!”
Kylie snorted loudly. She knew there was an ulterior motive there. Her sister and her bizarre obsession with weddings was the stuff of urban legends. If it hadn't been for the large family they came from, and the fact that she'd become the “go to” person for all things bridal, Kylie wasn't sure just how sane Mollie might have ended up. But sadly, the well seemed to be quickly drying up for her. She hadn't been called upon for a wedding emergency in nearly six months.
“What is with you and lace? You having withdrawals? Need a fix? Why don't you sit down with a box of chocolate covered raisins, some tissues and go watch Say Yes to the Dress or something. I think that's the closest you're ever gonna get!” She paused a moment in thought, the image of her nephew in a dress and heels coming to mind. “ Unless of course one of the boys turns gay, then you can encourage him to be a wedding planner. Imagine the possibilities! You'd be set for life. Maybe you should hope for that too.”
Mollie ignored her tirade, pushing her towards the door. “Go on, you have some thinking to do.”
“Yeah, just how do you plan on telling Luce you love her anyway?”
Kylie felt herself go white as a sheet and Mollie just gave her one her maternal smiles, something that scared Kylie right down to marrow of her bones. She gulped softly. “Oh God, I hadn't gotten that far.”
To be continued...
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