For Disclaimers see Ch. 1
Author's Note:I'd like to blame my job for delaying this chapter. I'd love to blame lack of sleep or some other mundane thing. The truth is though that I just couldn't seem to get anywhere with it. I don't know why I had a hard time writing it, because really, its not one of the harder chapters I'm working on. But I did. I'd like to thank Mary Sherb for the lovely email she sent me which finally kicked my ass into gear to get it done. You rock!!!!
So here we are, another chapter, read, enjoy and as always please send me reviews!!!
* * *
Kylie shut the door just as the sound of a muffled explosion drifted out of the house followed closely by the sounds of her sister squawking at her offspring in an indignant and seriously pissed tone of voice. She laughed softly to herself and made a beeline for her car. There was one family rule that everyone she loved followed to the letter; better you than me. As much as she loved her cute as button nephews, there was no way she was stepping back into the line of fire when their mother sounded like that . Besides, she was the aunt; it was her prerogative to tuck tail and run.
She settled herself into her car, feeling her crowded thoughts falling away as she slowly backed down the driveway. There was something about being behind the wheel that just seemed to shove the rest of the world aside for her. It soothed her, almost centered her. On the spur of the moment, she decided to take the scenic route home; a good drive was just what she needed to set her mind right after the large amount of soul-searching she'd just been forced to experience. Besides, she wasn't really sure she could talk to Luce without turning into a babbling, love-sick idiot at the moment. Better to spare them both that embarrassment.
Kylie paused at the end of the driveway, scanning along both sides almost obsessively. Usually her sister's street was a tad busy. And she'd learned to scan a good distance down either side of it before backing out to avoid drivers that enjoyed roaring along, most seemingly in a perpetual rush, despite the children at play signs. There was only a single car at the moment, parked a bit up the road, the driver on his cell phone. Kylie gave him brownie points for not trying to drive and talk at the same time, even going so far as to give him a small nod as she passed him. The man behind the wheel returned the friendly gesture, shutting his phone as she passed him, and then he pulled out behind her.
Kylie felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up a bit at that. But she quickly brushed it off. There was really nothing suspicious about the guy pulling out behind her; she was being paranoid. Probably watching too many damn horror movies again. But there was still that prickle of awareness. And she found herself watching him closely in the rear view mirror, despite the self reprisal.
She snorted slightly at her paranoid behavior. There were times when it was a wonderful gift to have the vivid imagination of a writer. It could find a way to make even the most mundane experiences mildly entertaining. Something she'd been thankful for numerous times in the past. There were times, however, when it was more a curse than anything else. Because just as it could entertain, it could also torment. And sometimes you suddenly found yourself kidnapped from all logic and sanity seconds before falling out of bed to pee your pants on the floor while a harmless stick scratched at the window.
Just like now, when all she could think was that the guy behind her was some crazed maniac hell bent on kidnapping her and dragging her off to some dark and deserted location for some nefarious purpose. When it came to the deep seated terror in your soul, there was just no way of talking yourself down from that ledge.
Her heart pounding, she came to a careful stop at an intersection, making sure her doors were securely locked and continued to watch the car behind her carefully. Then, the light changed and she took off a bit faster than she intended, leaving the suspect car behind her for several seconds. She watched in the rear view mirror, holding her breath as the car started forward, coming into the intersection and then abruptly turning right.
The sudden relief of tension in the car was almost mind-numbing. She found herself breathing heavily, her heart still pounding. She giggled softly, the sound growing until she was laughing aloud at her own stupid imagination. She kept driving, still giggling, admonishing herself for thinking such terrible things. But then again, she was female and bad things tended to happen to women, even when they were diligent. She could be forgiven for a bit of overreacting.
She took a deep breath, a bit grateful for one thing at least; her focus on the other driver had managed to distract her from her current problem, however short lived. And just like that, the worry of her relationship pushed aside any thoughts of her supposed stalker. Just how was she going to tell Luce she loved her? The laughter died abruptly and she groaned aloud. She still had no idea.
She stopped for another light, her mind racing. Nothing about their relationship could be called typical. Not the way they met, not how they started dating, not even the first time they slept together. What did that mean for telling each other how they felt? Did she go for something simplistic and easy like an email? Or maybe a bunch of flowers with a card? She shook her head, disgusted with both options. Luce was the first person she had ever loved, she deserved to hear the words from her lips, face to face. Besides, Kylie really enjoyed the idea of looking deep into Luce's eyes when she said it. So, how to go about it?
“Well they say, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.” Kylie smiled as the expression left her lips. Luce was anything but a man. But maybe the sentiment was still sound. After all, Luce did love her cooking. And cooking for someone was something she enjoyed a great deal; it relaxed her. Not to mention that she and Mollie had used food numerous times as a comforting buffer when they had to discuss something bad. Why not use it for something nerve wracking as well?
Kylie grabbed her phone, tapping out a quick text to Luce. Hey, need to run some errands while I'm out. Be back in a couple hours.
A few moments later, Luce responded. I needed to run out too; meet you back at your place for dinner.
Luce smiled at the simple text before tossing her phone onto the seat next to her. Then she switched on her blinker, and took an abrupt change in direction. She needed to get to the store; a beautiful dinner was just the thing she needed tonight. And she headed off to the store to begin a whole new series of self discussions about what to cook that night.
* * *
Somewhere along the line, she wasn't sure exactly how it happened, she made the decision to make the meal very sensual, very touch oriented; something that invited them to feed one another. It was going to be full of of tidbits of richness and decadence and even a touch of guilty pleasure. And if they made a mess, so much the better and even more fun than she had planned. To her mind, nothing said all that better than crab, fresh out of the shell, drenched in butter, followed by a lovely chocolate fondue dessert. Of course there would be sides and vegetables. But knowing herself, and Luce, as well as she did, she had a feeling that tonight there would be more of a focus on the guilty pleasure of the meal, rather than how nutritionally balanced it was.
Riding the wave of compulsory sensual need, she found herself picking up some lovely candles and delicate flowers, both without scent, to compliment the meal for the eyes, but not overwhelming their sense of smell with out of place scents. This led to a train of thought about what she'd wear, color, material, even how much she should cover. And somehow, in spite of the nervousness of it all, she let those thoughts lead her into a local lingerie store, where she was currently pondering her choices.
She'd never really dressed to seduce or entice before; the one time she'd teased Luce with the idea, things had gone in a different direction than she had intended and nothing had come of it. And now she wasn't even quite sure how exactly to go about it. Or even if what she picked out would be something Luce liked. But then again, Luce seemed to find her attractive whether she was fully clothed or completely nude so it seemed whatever she chose, her lover would enjoy it.
Browsing through her choices, she decided that maybe simplicity was the way to go. After all, dinner was all about overloading the senses. And what better to counteract that than to go for simplicity in her wardrobe. Besides, she had a feeling she wouldn't be wearing it very long and she didn't want the moment ruined simple because of a sudden lack of quick access.
She picked out a lovely matching set of push up bra and panties, in a light sea foam color that she knew from experience would really bring out the green of her eyes. A simple white dress shirt over it would provide just enough teasing factor to really amp up the seduction she had in mind.
Her selections made and her mind finally at ease with her plan, she headed back to her car, shoving everything into the trunk of her car. Slamming it shut, she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up when she caught sight of a rather familiar car coming down a nearby aisle of the parking lot. It looked almost identical to the one that was sitting outside her sister's house. And the driver was looking right at her.
She stood there for a moment or two, suddenly panicked and feeling all the world like the proverbial deer caught in the head lights. The car continued on down the aisle disappearing from view and the minute it was out of sight, the panic snapped, releasing her from its iron grip but leaving the sudden fear behind. She nearly threw herself into her car, slamming the door, trying to will the fear away.
Just because the car looked just like the one on her sister's street didn't mean anything. After all, she hadn't managed to see the license plate of either car so she really had no proof that it was the same car. And the driver had looked a little different. She had to be overreacting. So why were her guts in knots over this? She had no idea.
Unable to ignore her paranoia, Kylie pulled out of her parking space and hurriedly headed home. The entire way home, she continually scanned all around. Every car became suspect, every driver a potential stalker. She knew she was overreacting, she knew that there was likely nothing to her having seen a similar car twice in just a few hours. But she couldn't seem to shake the feeling that something weird was going on. And she found herself unable to relax until she reached the house without another siting.
She parked the car and grabbed her things before hurrying into the house. She felt the last of her tension fall away the minute the door shut behind her and she slid the deadbolt home. Maybe the deadbolt was a bit much, but it made her feel better and at the moment, that was all she really cared about. She took a deep breath before shoving the rest of the fear aside and turning her attention to the lovely romantic evening she had planned.
* * *
A few hours later, her preparations in the kitchen finished and just awaiting final touches before serving, and her new lingerie freshly laundered, she headed to the bathroom to prep herself. She stepped into the shower, determined to pamper and primp a bit before Luce came home. She shaved, soaped and slathered, even going so far as to ponder a self done mani-pedi. In the end, she settled for a simple clear coat on both toe and finger nails, making them shimmer and shine in the pale light.
She smiled at how wonderful she felt as she slathered herself with her favorite moisturizer, taking her time to really enjoy the experience. When she was done and sliding into the matching bra and panties, she felt utterly sexy and feminine. She found herself wondering just why she didn't do this more often; if for no other reason than how incredibly good it made her feel.
She slid her arms into the crisp white business shirt and checked herself out in the mirror in her room. She was astonished to see someone she didn't quite recognize staring back at her. She stepped closer, giving herself a careful once over. Her hair was freshly coiffed, her make-up simple and subtle But it was the clothes that were really telling. The shirt hid her near nakedness while still flashing hints of color from the sea foam satin gracing her skin. And the cut of it, emphasized her in all the right places. She whistled softly to herself, very pleased with how she looked. For someone who had very little experience in dressing for seduction, she had done a damn good job. Luce's eyes were likely to roll back in her head; right after her brains melted out of her ears.
She giggled to herself and headed to the kitchen to set the table. A quick text to Luce to ask where she was and she found herself dancing around the table as she set two places and began arranging flowers and setting out the candles. She lit the candles as her phone gave a soft chirp. She read the text, delighted that Luce was only a few minutes away. She headed to the large window in the living room to watch her lover arrive, being careful to stand far enough back so she wouldn't be spotted early. No need to ruin a perfectly good surprise, after all.
Motion in the window caught her eye and she smiled as she assumed it was Luce pulling up. The smile froze on her face as a dark nondescript sedan rolled by. The same car she'd seen at her sister's house. The same car she'd seen later as she exited the store. The glare on the windows prevented her from seeing the driver, but she knew without a doubt that it would be a rather nondescript man wearing sunglasses sitting behind the wheel.
She felt her legs going a bit numb as the car rolled out of sight slowly and disappeared up the street. She pushed the weakness aside and rushed to the window, pulling the blinds shut with a savage jerk. She stood there, breathing heavily, trying to calm down. She could feel her heart pounding in her ears, the taste of fear bitter and strong on her tongue. There was no easy explanation for it this time, no quick thought that she was being paranoid. This time, all she could feel was the fear.
Behind her, she heard the door being unlocked and opened, as Luce's lovely voice floated through the house. But she couldn't stop staring at the blinds on the window. She felt a hand touch her and nearly came out of her skin. She whirled around to find Luce standing behind her, a concerned look on her face.
“Hey, you OK?” Luce reached up to touch her face, concern for the shorter woman showing plainly on her own face. “I've been calling your name and you haven't been answering me.”
Something in Kylie broke and she found the fear being pushed aside by anger. “Someone's been following me.”
Luce went deathly still in front of her. “What?”
Kylie didn't notice the strange reaction. “Someone's been following me. I thought I was being paranoid, but everywhere I went today, there was a car with a slightly different driver but they all looked the same. And then, just now, it drove by the front of the house. I am really freaked out here.”
The taller woman cursed, loudly and viciously. “Stupid bastards. I told them to stay out of sight.”
Kylie gave her a sharp look. “Wait, you know about this?”
She sighed. “Yeah, I kind of do.”
Kylie pushed her hand aside, walking away, the anger surging and washing away the last of the fear. “Mother...when I think about how freaked out I've been all damn day about this. I was starting to think I was turning into a real headcase.”
“Kylie,” Luce trailed behind her irate lover.
Kylie whirled on her, that fiery temper suddenly finding a target. “If you knew, why didn't you tell me? Just what the hell is going on, Luce?”
She hesitated. “Kylie, I can't...”
Kylie shook her head. “No, not this time, you're not hiding behind that old bone again. I want the truth. I want to know why everywhere I've gone today, I've seen a car that's raised the hair on the back of my neck.”
Luce reached out, drawing the nearly spitting Kylie down onto the couch next to her. “Look Kylie there's not a lot I can tell you about what's going on; it could get us both in a lot of trouble.”
She rolled her eyes. “In this case, I think we can be sure I'm not going to go running off to the nearest tabloid.”
Luce looked at her for a long, long moment. She decided to throw caution to the wind and be honest with her. This thing she had with Kylie was too new for her to risk destroying it by hiding the truth. She sighed. “Do you remember when I was arrested by the FBI?”
Despite herself, Kylie smiled. “Vaguely.”
Luce nodded. “Turns out that the company I work for is involved in a money laundering scheme for a South American drug cartel.”
Kylie blinked, waiting for the punchline. There had to be a punchline. But then she realized there was nothing else. “Seriously?”
Luce nodded. “Yeah and I've spent the past few months trying to figure out how the hell they're doing it. I haven't had a lot of luck yet, but it seems that the people behind this aren't too happy with me digging into it. When the feds took us in, it was so they could warn me.”
“Warn you? Couldn't they have done that with a phone call?”
Luce shrugged. Taking a small breath before admitting the last part she didn't really want to talk about. “They also wanted me followed. And by association, my mother and you.”
Kylie started pacing again. “I'm assuming that if the feds brought you in to warn you and set guards on you that you're getting death threats.” Her temper snapped at the taller woman's silence. “Dammit, Luce, how could you hide this from me? I have a right to know when someone I love is in some kind of danger.”
The taller woman gave her a sharp look. “Wait, what did you say?”
Kylie, not really realizing what she said, started paraphrasing. “I said you had no right to hide this from me.”
Luce shook her head, standing. “That's not all you said, you said I was someone you love.”
Kylie reviewed her words, realizing she had in fact said that. She swore at herself, turning her annoyance on the dark haired woman in front of her. “Don't try changing the subject!”
She wouldn't let it go that easily. “But its true, isn't it? You're in love with me.”
Kylie started to deny it, wanting to make the first time she told Luce how she felt special, but the earnest look her lover's eyes was too much to bear. So, she just nodded. “Yeah, I am.”
A brilliant smile lit up her face. “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that.”
Kylie's voice was soft and unsure. “Why?”
There was no time to think or hold back. It was all or nothing now. “Because I love you too.” The soft admission nearly undid her. She reached out, touching Kylie's face, letting the truth of how she felt bleed into her hands and eyes. She watched Kylie's eyes close at that emotional touch. She found herself leaning forward and found Kylie meeting her halfway.
Their lips met, softly, gently, the kiss full of promise and need. Someone deepened it, taking it beyond just an expression of love and promise. In a few minutes it built to something almost soul rending between them. Luce could feel herself on the verge of tears at the emotion of it all. She broke the kiss and found herself staring into Kylie's eyes; the emotions she saw there she knew were mirrored in her own.
It was everything she could have ever hoped for and nothing she'd ever expected to find. And it humbled her. To be loved by this woman and be allowed to return that love was a completely unexpected but joyous gift. She gave in to the emotional urge and let her lips meet Kylie's once more.
They parted easier this time, feelings still intense but easier to control. And for the first time since she walked in, something else intruded on her senses. Namely that Kylie was wearing very little and there was a heavenly smell coming from the table. “I assume from the meal I smell and the way you're dressed, that the feds ruined your plans for a nice romantic deceleration.”
Kylie chuckled. “Yeah, talk about bad timing.”
Luce stepped back, taking the smaller woman's hand as she walked to the table. “Well nothing about our relationship has been normal since the day we met, why should this be?” She picked up a bit of fruit and fed the sweet tidbit to the annoyed woman. “Besides, it makes this moment very, very memorable.”
Kylie chewed on the fruit, recognizing the gesture for the placating action it was and chuckled. “Honey, even if it had been perfect like I planned, I still would have remembered it for the rest of my life.”
Luce chuckled as Kylie led her to the table. They separated long enough to sit down and begin enjoying the meal Kylie had prepared for them. Feeding each other little bites here and there, just as Kylie had planned. And despite how the truth had come to light, Kylie was glad at how things had turned out overall. Maybe she should send the FBI a thankful letter for making her declaration far easier than she had imagined. Then again, they might think she was being sarcastic.
She looked up from her thoughts to see Luce staring at her heatedly, her brilliant blue eyes raking Kylie's scantily clad form in a manner that left little to the imagination. “I'm glad we're not in a public place for this.”
“Tired of being seen with me already?” She teased her dark-haired companion.
Luce chuckled. “Not even close. I just think throwing you down and spending the rest of the day making love with you might not be a good idea. Especially considering how you're dressed.”
Kylie shifted, letting the shirt part more, giving her lover a better look. “Looks like I should invest in bigger bed.”
She shrugged. “A bigger couch might be nice and some sound proofing might be a good idea too.”
The heat in the other woman's gaze had Kylie swallowing softly. “You plan on doing a lot of screaming?”
Luce's eyes burned. “One of us will be, at any rate.”
* * *
Luce's phone rang loudly in the silent bedroom, jarring her awake suddenly. She sat up, fumbling for it as she tried to wake up. “Donovan.”
Her mother's soft voice floated over the line. “It is nice to hear you have not lost the manners I spent so many years trying to teach you, my bright one.”
Luce laid back on the bed, the soft sounds of the shower running letting her know she was alone in the room. “Hello, Ina .” She glanced at the bedside clock, her eyes finally making sense of the time. “Is everything all right?”
Her mother chuckled. “I have not heard from you for several days, lighteyes. I thought perhaps I should call you and be sure you were all right.”
Luce bit back a curse. She and her mother spoke frequently, even when she was hip deep in it at work. But she had been so distracted lately, she had let things slip. She let the chagrin paint her voice. “I'm sorry, Ina. Kylie and I have been a little caught up in each other lately.”
Her mother didn't seem too upset. “I take it things are going well then?”
“Yes, Ina , very well in fact.” She smiled at the memory of last night. “I told her I loved her yesterday.”
Her mother's joy was infectious. “How wonderful, my bright one. I take it she returned the sentiment?”
“Yeah, actually she told me first.” Again Luce smiled at the sound of those words rolling off of Kylie's lips for the first time. “It seems you were right about her.”
“I am glad, lighteyes, very glad. Any more dreams then?”
Luce frowned slightly, the dream a somewhat distant memory at the moment. “No I can't say as I remember.”
“Hmmmm.” The sound was noncommittal and vague. And it immediately raised alarm bells in Luce.
“What aren't you telling me, Ina ?”
Her mother chuckled. “Would I hide anything from you, my bright one?”
Luce sat up, feeling the need to be in a more alert position while having this discussion with her mother. “Hide? No, distract me from to protect me from the truth? Quite possibly.”
“You know me far too well.”
“ Ina .” Luce chided her. “You did find something in Unchi's journals.”
“No, there was nothing in her journals about the dream you had. What I told you was the truth. But your father once told me of a legend in his family, passed down from one generation to the next that spoke of a similar dream to the one you had.”
Luce waited. “And?”
“He told me that if ever you came to me and spoke of such a dream, that I was to urge you to follow your heart and hold onto the person you had dreamt about. Because if you had such a dream, it was because you had finally found the other half of your soul.”
She was dumbfounded at her mother's words. “And you believed him?”
This time it was her mother's voice that was chiding. “I am Lakota, my bright one. We are a very spiritual people. We hold such things to be of great importance and significance. Of course I believed him and I took his words to heart. I am very glad I did.”
Luce had to admit she was right. “So am I.”
“So when will I get the chance to spend more time with the light of your soul?”
Luce chuckled, recognizing both a change of subject and a merciless ploy of distraction when she saw one. “Soon. Let me talk to her first.”
* * *
Luce spoke with Kylie when she left the shower and they decided that having lunch with her that very day might be a better idea than waiting until later in the week. Neither one wanted their schedules to interfere with the get together. So, Luce called her mother back and said they would love to meet up for lunch, in an hour or so, if her mother was game. Her mother of course jumps at the chance to see them both and they quickly decide on a nearby restaurant.
Just a few minutes before the agreed upon time, Luce and Kylie walked into the thai place they'd picked out to find Grace already waiting for them at a table.
Luce approached the table. “ Ina .”
Her mother stood and gave her daughter a warm hug and, to Kylie's surprise and delight, gave her one as well.
“You're here early.” Luce accepted the menu from the hovering waiter.
Her mother shrugged. “I have been feeling a bit of cabin fever lately. I was very glad to get out of the house.”
Kylie scanned the menu, trying to narrow down her choices. “I have the cure for that; my sister has been talking about throwing another family get together before all the kids start school. You're welcome to come.”
Grace gave her a smile. “That would be wonderful. It was such a joy to see Tom and Steve again. It has been awhile.”
Kylie closed the menu. “Well I'll let Mollie know to send you the details.”
The waiter returned to take their order. And Grace watched in amusement as Luce and Kylie spent a few moments haggling over their joint order until they both were satisfied at their selections. The waiter left and there was silence at the table for a few moments.
“You have a very interesting family, Kylie.”
The soft comment from Luce's mother made Kylie laugh. “If that's a euphemism for insane and loud, I completely concur.”
Grace smiled. “Yes, they are a bit...enthusiastic. But I did rather enjoy interacting with them. It has been a long time since I attended such a large gathering of people.”
“If there's one thing we Rogers' are good for, its loud and large parties.”
Both Luce and Grace chuckled.
“Its been an adjustment to say the least.” Luce lifted her wine glass to take a quick sip.
Kylie gave the tall woman a searching look. “It hasn't been that bad has it?”
Luce shook her head. “No, but it has been enlightening. Although watching your nephews parade around in heels has made it well worth it.”
That made everyone laugh. And as the laughter died away, the waiter appeared with their food. They spent a great deal of time enjoying their meals, the table quiet as they savored their food. At first glance, Luce's mother seemed a bit surprised at the amount of food set down on the table before the two women.
She arched a brow in question at her daughter. “Lighteyes, I do not remember your appetite being quite so hearty. Of course, I am sure there is a good reason for it.”
Kylie caught the twinkle in Grace's eye and blushed, despite herself. Luce merely smirked and gave her lover a wry grin.
“This, this isn't me. I don't think I've ever been this hungry.” And she nodded her head at her still blushing table mate.
Grace looked at Kylie and the smaller woman blushed even more. “I must say I envy your metabolism.”
Before anyone could say anything to that, Luce's phone went off. She looked at the caller ID and stood. “I need to take this, I'll be right back.”
She left Kylie alone with her mother, silence suddenly hanging heavy over the table. Kylie took another decent bite of her food, chewing slowly and swallowing while her brain scrambled for something, anything to say. But Grace beat her to the punch.
“I am thrilled to see my daughter so happy. It has been a long time since her spirit seemed so free.” She gave Kylie a piercing look. “I am glad that you bring that out in her.”
“If anyone deserves to be happy, she does.” If Kylie was sure of anything in her life, it was that.
“Yes, she does. But she has searched so long for it, I feared she would never find it. I am just sorry her father never got the chance to see it.”
“Just as I'm sorry my parents missed out on meeting her.”
Grace's face went thoughtful for a moment, pondering. “Perhaps they are together, on the other side, looking down on all of this and celebrating their loved ones' happiness.”
“I hope so, I really hope so.” The moment broke between them and Kylie continued eating. “I have to thank you, though.”
The other woman looked at her in askance. “Oh?”
“For the note and the dinner you cooked for our first date. It was a lovely gesture.”
Grace chuckled softly. “It was also a preemptive strike. I was terribly afraid she might accidentally poison you.”
Kylie was still laughing when Luce came back up to the table a few moments later.
* * *
Kylie hung up her phone with a sigh, resisting the urge to scream out loud. She loved her family, she really did. But sometimes she vehemently wished she had been an only child. She looked over at Luce who was pulling a shirt over her head and giving her a quizzical look.
“Who was that?”
Kylie watched Luce's hands smooth out her shirt, wishing she could just lose herself in the sensory distraction. But the phone call she'd just gotten would do more than come back to haunt her if she did that. “It was Mollie. She says we're having a family thing today.”
Luce gave her a strange look. “You don't sound too thrilled about it.”
She nodded. “Normally, I'd be more than happy to see the rest of the clan.”
“But.” Pants were pulled over long toned legs.
Kylie set her phone down and reached for her own shirt, deciding that today was a super causal day if she ever saw one. “This time I know they're up to something.”
She started hunting for her shoes. “What makes you say that?”
Kylie shrugged. “Mollie realized I was in love with you the last time I saw her.”
Luce looked at her from what had become her side of the bed, a single lost shoe clasped in her hand. “Maybe they want to just have a get together.”
Kylie snorted. “Not bloody likely.” She pulled on the shirt and her head popped through to find Luce looking at her expectantly. “Look, there's a history here. Every time someone in the family finds their someone, the rest of the family has a....I don't know, I guess you could call it an initiation.”
The taller woman went still in front of her. “Initiation?”
“Yeah.” Noticing her lover's sudden unease, Kylie tried to downplay it all. “Look, I know its stupid, but it means a lot to them and despite the ribbing, its really innocent. Will you come?”
Sensing that the shorter woman was feeling a bit unsure of her reaction, Luce stood and hugged her close. “Kylie, they think I'm your someone. That means the world to me; of course I'll go.”
Feeling a bit silly, Kylie returned the hug. “You have no idea what that means to me.”
Luce cupped her face gently, placing a soft, meaningful kiss on her forehead. “I think I'm starting to. Come on, let's go get some coffee before we head over there. I have the feeling we're going to need the caffeine to keep ahead of your loving siblings.” She started looking for her other shoe again.
Kylie spotted the wayward footwear and handed it to the taller woman. “Oh, did I forget to mention that Uncle Tom a d Aunt Steve are going to be in on this too?”
Luce sighed loudly as she put the shoe in place. “I think I'm going to need a double shot for this.”
* * *
Almost an hour later they pulled into Mollie's driveway, which was surprisingly empty. Kylie gave the house a rueful look and turned worried eyes on the dark-haired woman next to her.
“Its not too late to back out.”
Luce took a deep slug of her latte, which did indeed contain a double shot of expresso. “Not anymore; we've been spotted.” She pointed to the window.
Kylie looked and seeing the curtains moving, gave a loud groan. “Damn, I should have changed my number after talking to her. Maybe moved to a deserted island somewhere.”
Luce reached out, touching her gently, concern on her face. “Hey you ok? We don't have to do this you know.” As much as Luce liked the family, if the whole thing really bothered Kylie, they could all take a flying leap off the nearest cliff. And she had no problem telling them just that if this was really bothering the other woman.
Kylie reached up, giving the hand on her shoulder a loving squeeze. “I'm fine, just worried they might cross a line with you.”
“Trust me, if they do, I'll tell them. I can take care of myself, honey.”
Kylie laughed. It was stupid she knew. Luce handled herself well enough in front of irritated and irrational boardmembers. Given her on the fly lessons in composure and dealing with unpleasant situations, her family should be no problem.
She gave Luce's hand a gentle kiss. “Let's do this.”
They got out of the car and made their way into the house. When Kylie opened the door to her sister's kitchen, she was greeted by the rather horrifying sight of all her female siblings, plus Aunt Steve, gathered around the table.
Mollie looked up at their entrance, a rather evil smile on her face. She stood and waved her sister in. “In the kitchen Kylie. Luce, you go keep the boys entertained in the garage. We'll call you when dinner's ready.”
Luce gave her a peck on the cheek and left her in the tender care of family, heading to the garage to find the boys. Kylie sat down in between Mollie and Lila. She sat there, tense and unsure. She loved her family but she also knew they were up to no good at this moment and they were not to be trusted. So, she put on her best poker face and tried to push down her jitters.
Mollie set a fresh cup of tea down in front of her sister. “So our little Kylie is gay.” Her voice was all valley girl.
Despite herself, Kylie laughed. “Really Mol.”
“Well you are.” Her sister didn't look at all repentant.
“You make it sound like something rather dirty.”
Melinda snorted. “It can be; depends on how you look at it.” (Melinda)
“And speaking of looks, damn, Kylie!” Lila looked about ready to catcalling at any minute.
“At least you still managed tall, dark and sex on a stick!” Emily almost licked her lips in mock approval.
Kylie turned her ire on her sister again.“Good God why do I ever tell you anything?”
Mollie gave her a knowing smile. “Cause you love me and my opinion is important to your well being.”
Kylie snorted at that, deciding to ignore that deluded opinion for the moment. She folded her hands and gave them all a scathing look. “So what exactly do you harpies want?”
“Dirt!” This from Steve.
“Smut!” Mollie said.
“Details!” Emily sounded off.
“World peace!” Lila's calm declaration made everyone laugh.
“My family is a bunch of gossip hogs.” Kylie sipped her tea again.
Mollie snorted loudly. “Please, what we have planned for you is mild compared to what the boys have in store for Luce.”
At their laughter, Kylie couldn't help but pity her normally private lover. Maybe she was getting the better end of the deal this time.
* * *
Luce walked into the dark garage with a great deal of trepidation. She knew Kylie's family would never knowingly hurt her, but she also wouldn't put it past Peter or Connor to ambush her at the door while her eyes were adjusting. She had no desire to accidentally hurt someone if they surprised her.
Just as she crossed the threshold, the lights clicked and she blinked stupidly at the boys standing around her. Keith came up to her and gave her a smile, standing next to her as Uncle Tom stood on her other side. Her eyes clearing, she saw Peter standing next to a card table with a chair and David was sitting down with a notepad on his lap.
She had just a moment to wonder what the hell was going on when Peter began talking, loudly. “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. This court is now in session. The honorable Judge Rogers is presiding.”
Connor stepped out from behind a sheet that had been hanging up to separate the garage. Luce had to bite back peals of giggling at the sight of him in a black bathrobe and brilliant white powdered wig. Everyone else around her wasn't as dignified and there were giggles heard from the other male members in the garage.
Ignoring everyone's snickers, Connor walked over to the card table, sitting on the chair and trying to roll it under it. But the table was just too low and after bumping it a couple of times, which caused even more laughter, and nearly losing his wig in the process, he gave up. Instead, settling into the chair with it sitting just behind the table.
He straightened his robe, shoved his wig back up on his head slightly and turned serious eyes on Luce. “You may be seated.”
More snickers and Keith gave him a rather scathing look. “There are no chairs, dumbass!”
This harshly whispered comment seemed to spark a fight. “Well there would have been if someone had gone and gotten them like he promised.” Peter shot David a nasty look.
David gave Peter a surprised look. “I thought you were going to get them.”
“Me? It was your damn job!” Peter seemed rather incensed.
David huffed up with self importance. “No, I'm the note taker.”
“Stenographer.” Connor corrected.
David shot him a confused look. “Gesundheit.”
“Oh for the love of...sometimes I have remind myself of just why my sister married you!” Peter covered his face with his hand, shaking his head at the idiocy of his brother-in-law.
He seemed confused by that. “What's that supposed to mean?”
“It means you're a dumbass. So get back to playing secretary so we can get on with this!” Keith threw a pen at him to shut them both up.
The title seemed to completely offend the man. “I am not a secretary, I'm the note taker.” If he'd been a bird, he'd have puffed his chest out with self-importance.
“Stenographer.” Again Connor corrected him.
“Gesundheit.” This time when David missed it, everyone in the room groaned.
Uncle Tom took pity on all of them and put his foot down. “Dammit, Connor, knock it off or we'll be here all damn day. You can rip on him later. ”
Connor, not having a gavel, pounded a rubber headed mallet against the table. “Fine, let's get this over with. Bring the defendant forward.”
Keith and Tom both gently grabbed Luce's arm and pulled her towards the “bench”. She stood there feeling like a complete fool but somehow a great deal less so than when she first walked in. Maybe David's idiocy was good for something after all.
Connor looked at the tall woman, his face grave. “Luce Donovan, you are hereby charged with holding the affection of our sister, Kylie Rogers. How do you plead?”
That strange statement caught her attention. “I'm being what?”
Connor tried to explain. “It has come to this court's attention that our sister Kylie has recently admitted she loves you. We are here to determine whether she will be allowed to continue with that feeling.”
Luce resisted the urge to laugh out loud at him for even thinking that statement. She arched a brow eloquently. “You're going to give Kylie permission to keep loving me? Have any of you met the woman? In person?”
No one paid an attention to that remark, and Tom spoke up next. “Now that the accused has been made aware of the charges, can we get started?”
“Yeah, the girls said dinner should be ready any minute. I'm starving.” Peter's stomach rumbled loudly.
Connor sighed. “Fine, someone start talking.”
There was silence for a moment as everyone looked around at each other, unsure. Finally Uncle Tom spoke up. “I think Keith is supposed to start.”
“Did any one take notes the other night when we watched that trial show on TV?” David sounded unsure.
“I did but I don't remember who goes first.” Peter shrugged.
Connor lost his temper. “Oh for the love of...someone just go.”
“Fine, I'll go.” Uncle Tom stepped forward.
Luce seemed a bit surprised at how lost they all seemed to be. “Haven't you guys done this before? Kylie told me this was a bit of a tradition in the family.”
Keith chuckled next to her. “It is, but we were told to tone down the testosterone this time. Especially since David nearly cut a finger off the last time.”
“Cut his finger off? What the hell did you make him do?” She had one horrifying mental image involving a saw and something stupid and dangerous.
Peter, sort of guessing what she was imagining put her fears to rest when he snorted. “We trusted him with sharp objects.”
This time Uncle Tom snorted as he turned on his nephew. “I'd be quiet if I were you, Pete. After we finish with Kylie and Luce, you're next in line.”
That made the young man go pale. “Oh God! I think Emily and I are going to elope.”
“Not if you want the whole family following you to Vegas you won't” Connor was forced to push his wig back on his head.
Peter gave Luce desperate eyes. Begging her to distract them. “Help me.”
“You owe me, big time.” She stage whispered to him fiercely. Then she turned and spoke to the rest of the group loudly. “I thought we were talking about Kylie and I. If I'd known you boys were so easily distracted, I'd have thrown something shiny on the floor and walked out ten minutes ago!” That made everyone start giggling.
Connor sat up in the chair. “Since she's so eager to jump in front of the firing squad, let's get on with it.”
Uncle Tom stepped forward. “Your honor, I call Luce to the stand.” There was an awkward moment when they all realized they'd forgotten to make a witness stand. Peter solved the problem by kicking David out of his chair and giving it to Luce.
Tom approached her, speaking firmly. “Luce Donovan, our little Kylie fancies herself madly in love with you, would you agree with that?”
She smiled at the madly part. “I would.”
The older man started pacing, but given how small the garage was, he only managed to go a few steps in any direction. “And would you also agree that, as her partner, you have an obligation to provide for her?”
“I would, but I'd like to point out she's done just fine on her own. Considering she owns her own thriving business.”
Step, step, step, turn. “Granted, but if that were not the case, are you able to care for her in the manner we think she be accustomed to?”
“If its about money, I make a six figure income. And I work my ass off for it. If it's about a home, I've always felt that home is wherever you make it. And as long as she's with me, that'll be home enough for me.” The boys all whistled at that statement.
“And what if she wants children? You are a bit ill equipped .” He gave her a pointed look.
Luce, a bit annoyed at the direction this supposedly innocent fun had taken, gave him a pointed look. “I promised Kylie I'd play along, as long as everyone was civil.” She gave each of them a pointed look. “As long as that happens, I won't mention anything to Kylie about the whole “being allowed to love me” thing. If that changes, well we'll just see where the shrapnel flies, won't we?”
There was a tense silence in the room, broken by Peter leaning over to Connor and doing a horrible job of whispering. “I say if she can deal with the hellion's temper, she should win just on principle.”
The tension broke and everyone laughed. Luce turned her attention back to the older man. “But back to your question about kids, we haven't discussed it. If however, she decides it's something she wants, I'll do anything and everything to see it happen.”
“And marriage, what do you think about marrying her?” Tom was like a dog with a bone at the moment.
Luce shrugged. She'd never seen herself as an activist or someone who wanted to pick up picket signs to make a point. So she'd never really addressed the whole question of marriage. “Since we live in a state where it isn't allowed, I think that's not really an issue.”
He wouldn't be deterred. “Would you commit to her if she asked? Stand up in front of her family and make the same promises all of her siblings have?”
Annoyed, she gave him an exasperated look. “I'm here willingly letting you grill me, what do you think?”
“I think, my niece is very lucky to have you.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek before stepping back. “The prosecution rests.”
“Does the defense have anything to add?” Connor spoke up.
“Yes.” Keith stepped forward. “Luce we just have two questions for you. Did Kylie tell you she loves you?”
Luce smiled. “Yes, she did. Second question?”
“Do you love our sister?” This time he smiled when he asked the question.
“With all my heart.”
“Then I rest my case.” He turned to Connor. “Your honor?”
“Well then, Luce, there's just one thing left to say. Welcome to the family.” And Connor once again pounded the card table with the rubber mallet.
To be continued...
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