All disclaimers may be found in Chapter 1

California Gold

Good intentions set aside, neither of the women had realized just how much the excitement of the weekend had drained them. Alex was showering when Samantha entered the bedroom; she had every intention of joining her mate but made the mistake of pulling down the covers first. The soft, warm bed was definitely enticing, and when Alex came out of the bathroom she found a very soundly sleeping Goldie Locks who was totally naked from the looks of the clothes on the floor but covered to her chin by the sheet and blanket. Curled up at the small woman's feet was a black fur ball, who was glad to have her people home.

Alex had secured the locks before leaving the kitchen area, but she rechecked to make sure Samantha hadn't left any lights on. Then, as quietly as possible, she crawled in next to the sleeper, doing her best not to awaken her.

"I had the most marvelous time this weekend, sweetheart, thank you," Samantha mumbled as she re-adjusted herself to snuggle close to Alex.

"I thought you were sleeping."

"I was, but you feel so soft and smell so sweet, how could I not notice, even through my dreams?"

Alex's arm drew Samantha even closer and she kissed her tenderly on the crown. "Back to dreamland, Sleepyhead, see you in the morning."

"Good night, Alex, sweet dreams."


Normal Mondays were chaotic enough, but those after a long weekend meant there was catch-up work to be done as well as normal routine. Alex let Samantha sleep in while she went down to the clinic area to pick up notes left by supervisors and the agency therapist. From the looks of things, it had been a fairly quiet and smooth-running weekend. There were not any emergency complications, and within the half-hour, she was ready to check her e-mail in hopes of finding a similar situation. A message from Sedona reminded her that she hadn't taken the time to answer Gary's e-mail last week. She smiled at her friend's tongue-in-cheek scolding and promptly filled him in on everything that had been happening since her last correspondence. A message from Aurora reminded her that Thanksgiving was less than a month away. She made a note to discuss with Samantha inviting Sally down for the holiday, hoping she wouldn't feel guilty leaving her mother alone with her father on the special occasion. A few more messages from clients and she was finished with the catch-up work and ready to start the morning. There was still time for a decent breakfast with Samantha if she woke her up soon, so she hit the send button on her last mail and headed up to the penthouse.

Upon exiting the elevator, she could smell that she wouldn't be fighting with Samantha this morning to get her out of bed. "Ah! Just the odors I like to come home to." Placing her arms around the smaller woman's waist she nibbled on her lover's neck. "Good morning, Princess, did you sleep well?"

"Most definitely, thank you very much and a good morning to you, too." Samantha removed the skillet from the fire and turned to receive a morning kiss. "How long have you been up?"

"Oh, just a little over an hour. I thought I'd find you still sleeping soundly, and I would have to resort to a watery awakening." Sapphire eyes glistened with joviality as the taller woman looked into her sweetheart's face.

Samantha shook her head and laughed, "Guess I foiled that bit of morning fun. Will having breakfast be a close second in the satisfaction department?"

"Most definitely," Alex replied, reaching around Samantha and grabbing a breakfast strip.

She got her fingers slapped, but not before she stuffed the entire strip into her mouth.

"Guess you get one less piece when we sit down," Samantha threatened.

"Nope," Alex countered, "that was yours."

Alex filled Samantha in on everything that had happened in their absence and reminded her to call Sally today and ask if she wanted to come visit during the Thanksgiving holiday. "If we ask her soon enough she might be able to come for a long four-day weekend. She could either fly into San Diego on Wednesday night or into John Wayne early on Wednesday and then ride down to La Jolla with us. I'm going to call Mom later tonight; she wrote me an e-mail over the weekend reminding us that the 25th is getting close."

"Listen, Alex, I know Shawn's going to call today. I've been thinking about meeting with him this morning, and if you have any problem with me going to dinner with him, I can make up some excuse and . . . "

"No!" The reply was emphatic even though there were mixed emotions in her heart. "That would be silly, Samantha. He's just an old friend, right?"


"Did you sleep with him, Samantha?"

"Of course not! I told you we only went out a few times."

"Ohhh. Yes, you did," the brunette grinned. "I forgot, you don't make love on the very first date, right?" Now she was beaming from ear-to-ear, as she watched the small blonde begin to blush.

"What happened between us was a first, and you know it Alexis Dorian."

"Uh, huh ~ bet you tell that to all the girls."

Samantha swung the dishtowel she had been carrying over her shoulder and hit Alex on the inside of the thigh.

"Ouch!" Alex grabbed her leg, feigning great pain.

"Just go sit down and stop overacting. Breakfast is ready."


Monday morning drifted into afternoon and just as quickly evening cast its shadow on the day. Alex was walking around after the cleaning crew, checking doors and windows and securing the area before calling it a day and going up to the apartment.

Samantha's voice was soft but laced with arsenic and a touch of sadness. Alex quietly closed the door so as not to disturb what sounded like a weighty conversation. The blonde acknowledged her lover's presence with a nod of her head and a quick smile that immediately disappeared back into a frown.

After getting them each a glass of wine, Alex put Samantha's on the table beside the phone, then went to stand in front of the windows to look out upon the moonlight drenched ocean. It was a cool evening and the breeze was blowing the whitecaps into disarray. Starlight sparkled down on the frothing liquid, and the brunette shivered at the thought of stepping into the cool water. Looking into the glass, she could see her lover's reflection, and her heart skipped a beat when she realized that Samantha was crying. She turned with a questioning look upon her face, just as Samantha replaced the phone in its cradle.

Samantha looked away to hide her tears, but Alex was in front of her on her knees. She placed one hand on either side of the pale face and caught a falling tear with her thumb as it trickled down. "What's the matter, honey?"

"Everything's falling apart at home."

"What do you mean?"

"It's a long story, Alex. I've been on the phone with Sally for over an hour. Dad's becoming impossible to live with, and Mom is beside herself. Sally says he's on the road for a week at a time and that's fine with Mom because when he gets back he's terrible. He's started drinking heavily and when he does he becomes nasty. Sally said the last time she went to visit, Mom had a bruise on her arm and it was like pulling teeth to get her to talk about how she received it."

"Did Don hit her?"

Samantha hung her head and mumbled in the affirmative, tears beginning to stream down her face.

"Honey, don't," Alex begged. "Can we do anything to help?"

"I don't know," the smaller woman sobbed, allowing Alex to draw her close and burying her head in the strong shoulder that was provided for comfort and support. "It's just that we're so far away . . ."

"Do you need to go home to see your mom?"

"No!" Panic replaced the tears as she lifted her head and stared into confused blue eyes. "I can't go home, Alex, that would only make things worse."

"I guess you're right; I wasn't thinking. Is you mother fed up enough to leave, Samantha?"

"I think she's really close to that point, but she's just as afraid to leave him as to stay with him. You don't understand, Alex; he's been her total support for almost 30 years. She hasn't worked in that amount of time and she has no workable skills."

"Come on, honey, of course she has some skills. She may have been out of the loop for a long time, but she's your mom, she can learn. Besides at your father would probably have to pay alimony simply because she hasn't worked in so long. And she will get part of the money from the house."

"Yeah, I guess my thinking's a little muddled tonight."

Alex got off her knees and sat beside Samantha on the couch. "Listen, Samantha, if your mother wants to make the break, we've already talked a little about her starting a small boutique in this area."

"I couldn't let you do that, Alex," Samantha started to object.

"And why not?" the brunette sounded hurt. "If she's important to you, she's important to me. Besides, it would be a good business venture. This area could use a good metaphysical store, one with crystals, incense, books, you know, all the stuff you're getting into. Do you think your mom would like to operate something like that?"

Green eyes twinkled as the tears that had been filling them dried, and a smile brightened not only Samantha's face but Alex's heart as well. "You truly are my champion, Alex, always there to pick me up and make everything right. Sally led me to believe that the only reason Mom was not out of the house yet was because she didn't know how to start to leave."

"That's what I have lawyers for, my Darling. Never fear; we can get on top of this, and I can promise you that your mother will come out the victor. The only problem would be if she didn't want to leave the house. I'm sure the attorneys will advise her that selling the property is the only way to achieve a quick settlement and divorce."

"For now, let's just keep this between you and me and maybe I can get both Sally and Mom to come down for Thanksgiving. We kind of got off the subject tonight, but I'll call Sally again tomorrow and pose the question."

"In the meantime, I'll talk to a few of my lawyers and get their advice. So . . . what do you say to finishing our wine and retiring? You've had quite a busy evening."

"You don't have to ask me twice," Samantha smiled as she gently clinked her glass on Alex's. "Crying always makes me so tired."

They started going through the bedtime ritual, and Samantha remembered that she had received another call earlier in the evening. "By the way, honey, Shawn called again tonight. Thank goodness he called before I talked to Sally. Anyway he'll be here next week, and I accepted his invitation for dinner on Wednesday evening. He's only going to be in town the one night so complications should be minimal. Besides, if he asks me any personal questions, he will simply have to deal with the answers."

"Only if you're comfortable giving them," Alex insisted.

"Hey, the only people I was feeling awkward about were my parents, and that's ancient history." She hopped into bed next to Alex and curled up into her usual position.

"Guess this is another evening of just going to sleep?" Alex asked as she caressed the smaller woman's upper arm.

"Alex, I feel kind of . . ."

"I know, and I understand. I'm merely beginning to feel like an old married couple."

"And is that bad?"

"Well, in some respects it could be."

"What if I promise to make it up to you."

"You, my Destiny, have yourself a deal." She kissed the flaxen crown and squeezed her lover tightly. "I love you, Samantha, sweet dreams."

"Sweet dreams, Alex, and I love you, too."


Tuesday provided a few surprises when one of the lecturers suddenly cancelled. Samantha was racing with the clock to get a replacement speaker to discuss a similar, if not the same, topic. As dilemmas tend to do, working against time made the day speed by even quicker than usual. Before the duo realized it, another day was at an end.

The middle of the week arrived as Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny. The day started out uneventful, and the tone seemed to remain constant throughout the day. Samantha had scheduled a late dinner engagement with Shawn after his business meeting, so she wouldn't be picked up until 8:00 o'clock. Alex had decided to work through until closing. As ridiculous as it sounded, she knew going up to an empty apartment would drive her nuts. She needed to keep herself busy while Samantha was out and could think of nothing better than to bury herself in work.

Before retiring upstairs to change for the evening, Samantha had informed the receptionist that a male friend would be inquiring about her and asked if she would please call the penthouse and let her know when he arrived. Now, the receptionist was receiving conflicting instructions from Alex to contact her first when the man arrived. "I'll make sure he gets to Samantha, you just make sure he comes to me first," were her exact words. Not wanting to anger either of the bosses, she figured her best bet was to follow the latter instructions and personally escorted Shawn to Alex's office when he arrived. She knocked on the executive's door and waited for an invitation to enter.

When he walked into the room Alex got a nauseous feeling of déjà vu. This man looked like a younger version of someone whose likeness did not bring forth pleasant memories.

"Ms. Dorian," the receptionist began, "this is Mr. . . ."

"Shawn McDouglas," the young man held out his hand as he walked toward the massive desk and the tall executive rising to meet him.

Goddess, help me, Alex inaudibly murmured as she got up to meet him half way. I know his weasel of a father. She put on her best smile and shook the hand that was now in front of her. "Alexis Dorian, Mr. McDouglas, it's a pleasure to meet you."

His hand was damp and his grip was weak, not at all a healthy first impression. Alex smiled, concealing the fact that she remembered telling one of her top salespeople to drop this man's father's company like a hot potato. The senior McDouglas was an underhanded sleaze and not worth the effort of courting to get his pathetic business.

With the smile now pasted on her face, she continued, "Samantha is upstairs getting dressed. I thought perhaps you might like a drink while waiting for her to finish?"

"Sure." He swallowed hard. "That would be great. I can't wait to see Sammie again. But, you know, I wouldn't mind getting a look around this Center of yours either, Ms. Dorian; it's very impressive."

"Excellent, Shawn," Alex smiled, not bothering to tell him to call her Alex. "If you don't mind, I'll have one of my assistants show you around, while I go up and let Samantha know that you're here."


He does have an elaborate vocabulary, now doesn't he? Alex sighed to herself. And I was worried about him and Samantha? "So, what's your pleasure, Shawn?"

"Ah, whatever you're having will be fine."

"Well, I'm not going to have anything right now. I'm not totally stocked, but there's Goldschlager, Goldenbarr, Chivas Regal Century, Tanqueray Citrus, Southern Comfort, and Tuaca. Do any of those strike your fancy?"

Looking a little dazzled, he took a second or two before answering. "The Tanqueray Citrus on the rocks, please."

"Coming right up." Alex opened the cabinet sitting behind her desk and took out a tall bottle of flavored vodka. She poured and handed him the drink and then escorted him out of the office and toward the gym in search of Angel. She knew the assistant didn't have another patient for an hour and after a short introduction, asked if she would be so kind as to show Shawn around the Center. Excusing herself, she headed toward the elevator and up to the penthouse.

Cautioning herself to not sound egotistical, she opened the door and called for Samantha. "Oh, Sammie, your dinner date has arrived."

Samantha shook her head and sighed; this was going to be a big mistake. She cursed herself for not telling Shawn she couldn't see him. "Come on, Alex, give me a break. I know he's not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he's not the dullest, either. Why the flippant remark?" She rounded the corner from the bedroom to the living area and stopped her lover dead in her tracks.

"You look way too lovely to be going out with that throwback to the seventies, Samantha. Wow!"

The blonde smiled as she did a little twirl in front of her lover. "Do you really like it? It's something I pulled out of one of my boxes this afternoon."

Alex stared at the hunter green, velvet pants suit that adorned her lover's body. The bodice was V-shaped, and she had chosen to wear her Chinese good luck earrings and the matching necklace with the unicorn.

Samantha noticed Alex staring at the jewelry and commented, "I thought if I wore this, I'd be taking a little of you with me tonight, and I wouldn't feel so alone." She smiled and continued, "Besides it's suppose to ward off evil beasts or at least calm the savage ones."

Still not receiving a smile from her lover she walked closer and put her arms around Alex's waist. "You know, I can still call off the dinner. It's not that important to me."

Alex kissed her lover's head before tilting the smaller woman's face toward her own. "I love you, Samantha Riley, and I trust you implicitly. But, my Darling, you look like a temptress in that outfit. It's enough to make anyone cream their jeans."

The last statement turned the solemn moment into a jovial one. "I don't think Shawn will be creaming his jeans, Alex," Samantha giggled, "but thanks for the compliment." On tiptoe she gave Alex a peck on the cheek.

"Maybe not, but he could definitely show you that he was happy to see you." Finally, the brunette was also wearing a genuine smile. She grabbed Samantha by the arm as the blonde was walking away and spun her around to face her. "You might be going off with the beast, but not until you get a kiss of love from your Princess Charming. I want you to remember what's waiting for you at home." Gently, she bent down and placed a soft kiss on welcoming lips. Samantha's mouth opened slightly, allowing Alex's tongue to trace the perimeter before extending into the awaiting mouth. Samantha let out a purr, and Alex's heart swelled with pride.

"Tell me you're mine," the dark-haired beauty whispered into Samantha's ear.

"I'm yours, my Princess Charming, and I'll be home before this outfit turns back into rags." She gave Alex one last hug before pulling away. "I had best be going. Do you want to walk me downstairs?"

Her first reaction was to say no. Even though she knew how much Samantha loved her, she did not want to see her walking out the door with a man on her arm. Her second instinct told her that it would be best to be there by her lover's side, letting the young man know that Samantha was spoken for, or at least that she had someone waiting at home for her.

"Sure, I'll walk you down, come on."

The initial meeting was a little hard for Alex to stomach, but she had to remember that this person was an old friend of Samantha's and would naturally take the liberties that any friend would normally take. After all, she never shuddered when Sonny gave Samantha a welcoming hug and kiss. Come on, Alex, you know that's not the same type of situation. At any rate she withstood the meeting anew and wished them a good evening as she watched her heart walk off with another person at her side.

Turning back from the door, she walked into her office and tried to busy herself with paperwork, anything to keep from thinking of Samantha having a good time without her.


It was almost eleven by the time the cleaning people finished. Alex locked up everything but the front doors and took the elevator up to the third floor. Because she hadn't secured the front, she left the intercom on so she could police the area. At least that was the intellectual reasoning behind leaving the sound on­­so she could hear any noise in the Center.

A glass of wine later she heard Samantha's laughter ringing through the front hallway.

"I had a lovely dinner, Shawn, other than your trying to talk me into leaving California. It was really good seeing you again. You'll be sure to tell you parents I said hello?"

"Yeah, I will. I had a great time, too, Sammie, and I'm sorry I couldn't convince you that you belong back in Washington." He paused in the conversation to collect his thoughts, "Do you think you could show me around the Center a little?"

"I thought you already had the VIP tour this evening, while you were waiting for me to come down?"

"One of the employees started to show me around, but we didn't get very far before you made your timely entrance." He gave her his most charming smile. "The gym area looked interesting, but I didn't get to see it all. You seem to have all the most up-to-date equipment."

"Yes, Alex has a knack for setting up businesses like this. It's what she did, sometimes still does, for a living. All her experience surely came in handy when she began furnishing this place."

"Enough talk about Alex, Samantha. Do you know that half your conversation at dinner revolved around your roommate?" There was an edge of jealousy to the man's tone.

Alex beamed at the acknowledgement of that statement. Guess I'm around even when I'm not. She thought about not eavesdropping any longer, but then thought a second time and decided to continue listening in on the conversation. His asking for a second tour was not sitting right with the ebony-haired beauty, and she wanted to make sure that Samantha was able to handle the advance she was certain he was going to make.

She watched the heat sensors as the couple moved from the front of the building over toward the climbing wall. She listened as Samantha told Shawn about her first attempt at climbing, conspicuously leaving out what happened after she fell. She didn't expect Samantha to go into every detail and had to be content with the fact that she did mention getting caught instead of falling on the mat.

Shawn grunted at the end of the story and mumbled something inaudible. "Want to take a swim in the pool?" he asked.

"Do you have a suit?" Samantha questioned.

"No, but there's no one but the two of us . . . "

"I don't think that would be appropriate, Shawn. Maybe it's time for you to go; I have an early schedule tomorrow." As usual, Samantha was her gracious self, ignoring the implication that had just been thrown at her.

"How about a look at the gym before I do," Shawn insisted.

"Okay, but then I think we should call it an evening."

Again Alex watched the screen as the two walked from the east side of the building to the west. She could see that he was bridging the distance between them and watched as he tried to put an arm around her lover's shoulder. Her blood began to boil, but she stood her ground, knowing that Samantha would quickly put him in his place.

One smooth move and the blonde had thrown the offending arm off her shoulder. "If you can't behave yourself, the tour will end right here and now."

Shawn gave her a wide grin, and she returned his look with a frown. "I mean it, Shawn. I'm in no mood to fend you off. We parted friends once before, and I would like for us to do the same tonight."

"What if I want to be more than a friend, Samantha?"

"That's impossible."


"Because it is!"

"That's no explanation, and you know it. Give me a real reason why I shouldn't pursue this area of our relationship?"

"For one, we don't have a relationship, Shawn. We never have, and we never will. And more importantly, I'm already seriously involved with someone else, as if it's any of your business."

"What, with that dyke upstairs? Samantha why don't you just cooperate and admit that she's just an experiment, something to irritate your father and get his attention? It's time to stop making everyone's life miserable."

Alex could hear Samantha's intake of breath and could almost envision the look on her lover's face. Every nerve in her body told her to start for the ground floor, but she remained plastered to the area in front of the security panel.

By this time they were standing over by the gym mats. "Shawn, you don't have any idea what you're talking about and . . . how did you know about Alex and me?"

She was staring at the friend who was quickly becoming a threat, trying to conjure what she was going to say next to make him leave without starting a fight, yet wanting to know what had been said about her and Alex to him.

"I have my sources. Come on, Samantha, you're more of a woman than that," he snarled. "You can't possibly be satisfied sexually with another woman. I know it must have been a great turn-on to have someone as beautiful as Alex interested in you. I get turned on trying to imagine the two of you in bed together, but you've got to miss having something warm and throbbing inside you." He grabbed her hand and spun her around, catching her off balance.

"Something like this," he placed her hand on his swollen member. "We never did get to consummate our relationship, Samantha. But there's no time like the present. You've got me so hot just thinking about it that I can almost feel myself inside you." He pushed himself into her hand with a gyrating motion. "Come on, baby, give us a chance."

"Damn it, Shawn, leave me alone!" Unbidden tears stung her eyes as she tried to pull her hand away, but he twisted her wrist and brought her down to her knees. All her practice at martial arts was turning out to be no help at all with this surprise attack. She was wishing for all she was worth that Alex had gone to dinner with them. This would never be happening if she had.

"That's a good position for you, Sammie," Shawn growled with a hint of bitterness in his voice. He hadn't expected his overtures to be so vehemently refused. "How about a little taste of something better than pussy? I can't imagine you not liking it more. "

By this time Alex was in the elevator. It had been stationed on the third floor, so no time was wasted awaiting its arrival. She punched the ground floor button and cursed the decision she had made to refuse to go to dinner with Samantha and the asshole who was trying to defile her.

Shawn pushed Samantha onto the mat and straddled her. Placing one hand on each of her arms, he slowly slid his body down hers until they were face to face. He tried kissing her and his breath reeked of the alcohol he had consumed during dinner. Flailing her head from side to side she started to scream, but he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and placed it in her mouth, laughing at her attempts to push him off of her.

"Why are you fighting me, Samantha? I'm better for you than a stinking dyke. You don't realize what you're missing; you just haven't had the right man, yet."

With his full weight inhibiting her every move, he started to unzip his pants, all the while telling her how much he would enjoy putting his dick into her mouth. "But, I can't take that chance now can I, Sammie," he whispered into her ear. "And, of course, I wouldn't want to have to hurt you. I'll just have to settle for fucking you. But I promise to make you come better than any goddamn lesbian ever could."

Samantha's attempts to wiggle out from under the obnoxious man were futile.

Seeming to like the sound of his own voice, Shawn continued taunting her. "Admit you're hot for me, too, Sammie. Tell me you miss having a cock between your legs." Twisting slightly. he slid a hand under Samantha's pants and panties, his fingers lingering in the curly golden locks of her mound.

 Before he could go any further, he felt a strong grasp on the mid section of his back and on his collar and found himself being pulled off Samantha and tossed almost effortlessly into the air. He landed on his back, totally winded.

"You okay, Samantha?" Alex asked, pulling the smaller woman off the mat, yanking the cloth from her lover's mouth, and holding her close.

"I am now," Samantha answered, relieved.

"Good." Alex gave her a quick kiss on the head before leaving her side to finish what she had just begun with the offender.

Before Samantha had a chance to react, the brunette was standing in front of a stunned Shawn. She felt more like a vigilante than a hero, but this asshole needed to be taught a lesson.

"I don't know who the hell you think you are or what you thought you were doing, but this is my home, and that's my spouse you were messing with."

He was now sitting on the ground with his head between his legs. Alex pulled him by the hair into a standing position and at the same time brought a knee up to meet with his quickly deflating erection.

"Damn," he screamed, trying unsuccessfully to grab his crotch and protect his face at the same time. His knees buckled and tears streamed down his face, then Alex's fist made contact with his nose.

Blood spurted from the obviously broken appendage, and the man dropped to the floor in utter agony.

"Not much of a fighter now are you, lover?" Alex growled through clenched teeth. "How's it feel getting beaten up by a ‘stinking dyke,' Shawn?"

"Stop it, Alex!" Samantha screamed above the outcry of the injured man. "You're going to kill him." She wedged herself between Shawn and Alex. Placing her hands on the taller woman's shoulders as she tried to reason with her. "He's not worth getting yourself in trouble, Alex. Please, stop."

"Can't do that right now, Samantha, sorry. This fucker's going to think twice before trying anything like that ever again," Alex vowed as she picked Samantha up and moved her out of the way. "I'll handle this my way, Samantha." Eyes, as cold as ice, looked from her lover back to the man sitting on the floor, holding his face and bleeding all over his hands.

"Let me call 911," Samantha pleaded. "They'll take care of him."

"No!" Shawn screamed between gasps of anguish.

"You," Alex yelled, glaring at Shawn, "give me one fucking reason why I shouldn't continue to be the shit out of you, and then turn you over to the police!"

"Because . . ." he answered, not knowing which part of his injured body to try to protect from the infuriated brunette towering over him.

"I'm listening." Alex accentuated her sentence with a kick in his ribs.

A guttural exhalation was the only sound that escaped from the wounded man's lips. With as deep a breath as he could take without instigating more pain, he tried desperately to blurt out an explanation, before Alex decided to strike him again. "This . . . wasn't . . . my idea," he gulped. "I . . . I was hired."

Alex turned to Samantha, who was standing with her mouth agape; then she turned back to Shawn. "Okay, so who paid you, as if I don't already know, and what exactly were you paid to do?"

"Don Riley. He called me." Shawn's sentences were curt and choppy. Taking a large breath, he attempted to clarify his actions in one fast sentence. "He gave me $1,000 before I left Washington and told me if I succeeded in getting Samantha away from you, he would give me $2,000 more when I returned and help set me up in a business."

"Oh, and you thought that your debonair approach would win her heart, and she would follow you back to daddy?"

"I didn't mean for it to end like this," he was almost crying. "I hadn't intended to . . . I don't know what happened. I don't know what got into me."

"I do." Blue blades focused on his deflated manhood. Alex continued to scowl at the subjugated person sitting on the floor in front of her. "How's that throbbing between your legs?" she snarled. "You know, I ought to beat you senseless, just because I can."

Looking up into Alex's angered face, he begged, "Oh, God, please . . . don't hit me again! I'm sorry, Ms. Dorian, truly I am." He placed his arms in front of him to fend off imaginary strikes. "I was just trying to . . ."

"I know what you were trying to do." Alex grabbed him by the shirt. His hands inadequately attempted to slap her away from him. As a strong right arm swung back to deliver another blow to the already bloodied face, a small hand covered her fist. 

"Please, Alex, enough. This is no solution. Look at him. He's pitiful!"

Still furious, Alex jerked her arm away from Samantha's touch determined to continue her attack.

"Alex, p-l-e-a-s-e," Samantha pleaded one more time.

The tone in Samantha's voice finally penetrated Alex's wrath, and she stopped focusing on Shawn long enough to notice the expression on her soulmate's face. Shaking her head, she released her hold on the frightened man and pushed him roughly down onto the floor. "You certainly owe Samantha a thank you, mister," she hissed.

Sad green eyes looked from the broken man to the woman she loved. "We're all pawns in this charade, Alex. My father's the real villain, and he's not here to take responsibility." Tears trickled down Samantha's face, melting her lover's rage.

Instinctively, Alex reached out to wipe away the dampness. "Don't cry, honey . . ."

Sobbing, Samantha continued, "I know what Shawn did was wrong, and by the gods, Alex, I'm glad you came in when you did, but I don't want you to hurt him any more, and I don't want to continue this discussion any longer." She turned to walk away.

"No!" Alex responded, stopping Samantha in her footsteps. "No. This needs to be discussed."

A puzzled look crossed Samantha's face as she turned and shrugged her shoulders. "The damage has already been done."

 "Maybe so, but I want to know exactly what that asshole you're related to thought he would accomplish with this tactic." She turned to address the man who was riveted to the gym floor and afraid to move without being told to. "Get up, dip-shit, and fix you clothes. I won't hit you again, unless you do something else stupid to warrant it. By the way, you're lucky I didn't stuff this down your throat." She threw his handkerchief in his face and motioned for him to walk in the direction of the men's locker room. "Go on. It's time to get you cleaned up."

Giving him a push in the right direction, she motioned for Samantha to follow. When they got there she opened the door and nodded for Shawn to enter. "Make yourself presentable; we still have an explanation due us."

Alex placed an arm around Samantha's shoulders, and the two women stood watching as Shawn washed the blood off his hands and his bruised and swollen face.

While he was still cleaning up, Samantha went and got some ice from the juice bar and brought it back wrapped in a paper towel. When she handed it to him he mumbled a thank you without looking her in the face. The three of them then walked in silence toward Alex's office.

Once inside, Alex opened the liquor cabinet and poured each of them a drink.

"Sit," the executive ordered the pitiful excuse for a man, as he stood in the middle of the room holding the makeshift ice pack on his broken nose.

He slowly lowered himself into a chair and gratefully took the drink offered him.

Samantha was the first to begin the discussion she had formerly announced she didn't want to have. "What did my father think he was going to accomplish by sending you down here to Laguna?"

"I guess he thought you'd come home, with the right encouragement." He shrugged and took another sip of his drink, avoiding eye contact with the women. "I ran into him about a week ago, and he said that ever since he found out that you had become a lesbian, his life has been going down the tubes. He blames all his misfortunes on you and Ms. Dorian . . . "

"Okay, I'm tired of the Ms. Dorian stuff, you might as well call me Alex," the brunette responded in a gruff tone.

He nodded his head and continued. "Don really hates you . . . Alex. He condemns you for not only taking Samantha away but for all sorts of business failures. He said all he wants to do with his life is to make yours as miserable as you've made his."

The sorrowful expression on Samantha's face as she spoke made Alex want to weep. "I'm sorry, Alex, that doesn't even sound like the man who raised me. I don't know when he became so bitter, but after what happened here tonight, I don't trust him not to hurt Mom, or even Sally. If he would pay someone to molest me and drag me back to Washington, there's nothing I would put past him."

"I agree with you, Samantha, but I don't think we should be deliberating about family situations with Shawn here; after all he was the one who tried to rape you."

"For all it's worth," Shawn interjected, "Don doesn't have much affection for any of the women in his family." He winced at the pain caused simply by talking, but he went on. "He was trying to figure out a way to divorce his wife without giving her half of everything he owned. He said she didn't deserve anything, that she was nothing but a lazy sow, and since the children were grown there was nothing of any importance for her to live for, especially since all she delivered were girl children. I'm sorry I went along with him, it was really stupid of me. I honestly didn't start out to hurt Samantha; things just got out of hand. Not that it's any excuse, but I think I had too much to drink at dinner . . . of course I'm more than sober now."

Alex stood looking out at the ocean, trying to fix the situation firmly in her mind and come up with a solution. Finally, not turning from the window, she spoke. "Shawn, if you want to rectify yourself in Samantha's eyes and keep me from haunting you for the rest of your life," steel blue eyes turned in his direction, "and believe me, I could very well do that, I suggest that you go back to that poor excuse for a human being and tell him you tried your utmost, but that Samantha is very happy where she is. Don't make a big deal of anything, and don't discuss with him the fiasco that occurred here this evening. You got that?"

She looked at Samantha and received a nod of approval.

"Now, I suggest you say goodbye to Samantha. Be happy that I didn't beat you to a pulp when I had the chance and that we didn't have you arrested. I can't say it was a pleasure to meet you, Shawn, but it's good to know just how vindictive Don has become." Again, she turned toward the ocean, dismissing the younger man with an aristocratic air.

Almost afraid to say anything, he looked at Samantha and mouthed the words I'm sorry. She shrugged her shoulders and told him that she was sorry, too; sorry that the evening had gotten so ugly and sorry she had trusted him.

"I'll show myself out, Sammie." Brown puppy dog eyes, surrounded by purple bruising and accented with a swollen nose, looked into the eyes of an old friend and saw nothing but disgust. "Again, I'm sorry I was such a fool," he muttered as he walked toward the door.

Almost as an afterthought, he turned back around, gathered all the courage he could muster, and addressed the two women in the room. "I hope some day you can both find it in your hearts to forgive me." Receiving no answer, he turned and walked out the door.

The room was still and the sound of the ocean crashing on the shore far below could be heard through the vented window slots.

"I should have gone with you," Alex mumbled. "None of this would have happened if I hadn't been . . ."

"That's not true, Alex." Samantha walked to the window and stood beside her lover, putting an arm around the taller woman's waist and resting her head on Alex's chest. "Remember you once told me that everything happens for a reason? I had thought the exact same thing some time earlier during this disastrous evening, but you know what?"


"If tonight hadn't happened like it did, I would never have believed in my heart that my father had turned into such an evil person. What scares me even more is the reaction you had tonight. You could have killed him, Alex, especially with all your martial arts training."

"At one point I wanted to kill him, Samantha. What he did was despicable! He deserved more of a beating than he received at my hands."

"But, Alex, you scared me. You were out of control."

"I'm sorry, Samantha, but if I had been truly out of control, Shawn would not have walked out of this building on his own two feet. I told you no one messes with my world and gets away with it. I'm afraid that's a part of me that's too ingrained to change in the short amount of time we've known each other. And to tell you the truth, I'm not sure I would like to totally change it; it's my defense against your being hurt."

Samantha gently traced the outline of her lover's cheek with her fingers, running them slowly over a frown that changed upon her touch into a small smile. "I love you, Alex. I wouldn't have wanted to see you being the one hauled off to jail for killing him; he's not worth it. And now, I have more problems to worry about. I need to get my mother and sister away from my dad as quickly as possible. I no longer care what happens to him, and if you can ruin him financially, all the better."

"If anger is one of the deadly sins, Samantha, vengeance is even worse, and it doesn't sound good coming from you. On the other hand, I totally agree with getting Sally and your mom away from him as quickly as we can manage it. Finish your drink, and let's go upstairs."

Minutes later they were in the apartment. Alex finished locking up and securing the Center below them.

"Want to join me in a warm bath, Alex? I feel dirty."

"You have no cause to feel that way, honey, you did nothing wrong. But to answer your question, yes, I'd love to join you."

Warm water, soft bubbles, and sweet smelling candles helped to cleanse away the physical and emotional bruises that had been received during the ordeal. Samantha sat with her back to Alex, her partner's strong arms were wrapped around her, holding her close. There would be no making love tonight; the gravity of the situation they had just been through made sure of that. But it didn't stop the lovers from sharing this quiet time of reflection.

All Samantha wanted to do was to be held safe in Alex's grasp.

All Alex wanted to do was shelter and insulate the woman she loved more than life itself and keep her safe from further atrocities. She didn't know why they were being put through such trials, but she knew that protecting Samantha was her responsibility.

When Alex started complaining about "pruning," they drained the water and extinguished the candles. The softness and warmth of the bed was a comfort to the lovers as they crawled in next to each other. Words were unnecessary, and silence acted as a buffer between what had happened earlier and the serenity of being together.

Alex realized that Samantha needed to be comforted by the security of knowing she was safe.

Samantha wanted nothing more than to crawl inside Alex's skin and escape forever from the hurt of the world around her. She thought she had been making great strides in self-preservation, but tonight's dramatic episode proved that she still had a long way to go.

While in the tub, she had questioned Alex as to how she knew there was trouble on the first floor. Her hero's answer, as usual, made perfect sense, even though Samantha felt there had been a dual reason for the security registers being on. In essence, it really didn't matter; the only important fact was that her champion had arrived in time, and for that she would always be grateful.

Now the difficult task of dealing with her father lay ahead of them. Alex had taken all of Samantha's problems on as her own and in return had given her hope for a positive future for her mother and sister. Samantha didn't know what she had done to deserve such a caring soulmate but was certain that she would spend the rest of her life making sure Alex knew how much she was loved.

"You're awfully quiet, my Destiny, whatcha thinking?"

"Oh, I'm just thankful to be here in your arms. I never feel safer than when you're wrapped around me. And, I guess I was thinking about how lucky I am to have you in my life, to help me with all these problems."

"I'm all for praise, Samantha, but I think you're forgetting that you didn't have all these problems until I came into your life."

"Actually, Alex, I really didn't have much of a life at all until you became a part of it. The problems would have surfaced somewhere along the line, perhaps from a different cause, but they would have reared their ugly heads just the same; I'm sure of it. Having you in my life makes them less distasteful and easier to work with."

"As much as we hate these trials we're put through, we've got to admit that it makes us stronger. Hate's tough on the soul, Samantha, but the more outside forces try to tear us apart, the closer we become. I know he's your father, and I know what I told you about retaliation, but I swear by the Goddess­he will pay for his indiscretion this time."

"By the way, Alex, I've made one decision that I promise to stick with­I am definitely going to stay away from the gym at night unless you're by my side."

Blue eyes glistened as starlight shimmered into the bedroom, creating an almost mystical appearance to the room. A smile lit up Alex's beautiful face. "I think that's a very wise decision, Samantha; now get some sleep."

"Hey," Samantha looked up into Alex's face. "Did I hear you call me your spouse?"

"Yes. What did you want me to call you, my girlfriend?"

"No, it's just the first time I've ever heard you use that term."

The only answer she received was a hug and a kiss on the top of her head.

"Alex, tell me again how you felt when you first saw me on the beach, clamming with Suz."

"Don't you ever get tired of hearing that, Samantha?"

"No," came the whispered response.

Alex could hear the smile in her lover's voice.

"It always makes me feel warm inside when you tell me, and I need to feel that right now."

"Okay," Alex conceded. "I can remember thinking that you were like a breath of fresh air that swept over the coastline bringing with you splashes of sunshine. Your laughter danced on the wind and caught in my heart, making me wish I could be your friend so that I would know that same happiness."

"That's beautiful," the exhausted blonde mumbled as she surrendered to sleep.

Yes, Samantha, you are beautiful. Glancing toward the heavens the brunette said a short prayer. Thank you, Goddess, for allowing me to intervene before too much damage had been done. Please, always make sure that I'm by her side whenever she's in danger. I'll be eternally grateful.

She kissed her lover softly on the head before closing her own eyes. The expenditure of adrenaline, the wine and warm bath, and now laying here with Samantha in her arms was comforting enough to send her quickly to the land of dreams. She would tackle their obstacles in the morning; tonight she just wanted to sleep and dream of an idyllic life with Samantha.

The End of Chapter 2

Chapter 3

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