All disclaimers may be found in Chapter 1

California Gold

Chapter 3

Not counting Saturday, there were only two more working days in the week. Alex was hoping she could begin formulating a plan to destroy Don Riley and have it set into motion before Monday. She never did have much patience when it came to affairs of the heart. She would call in all the business favors due her, if need be, to make sure that he felt the entire scope of her reach and her wrath. I'll show you the basis of ŽHell hath no fury like a woman scorned.' You will rue the day you butted heads with me, Don Riley, and the day you broke your daughter's heart with your prejudice and ignorance.

Samantha was still asleep and Alex decided to give her a break and let her continue doing so until she woke up on her own. There was nothing that needed doing today that couldn't wait until the blonde was fully rested from the ordeal of the evening before.

Alex still couldn't understand how a father could be so cruel to his own child. Her father had, by design, been absent most of her life, but she knew she held a special place in Al's heart and that he would never knowingly hurt her. It was his love for her mom's that had instigated his even being involved her in her conception. She realized, also, that she didn't have the problem of sexual orientation to deal with from any of the people her family. Had she grown up to be straight, she knew that all three of her parents would have loved her just as much as they did now, and all would have been happy that she found love in a world so void of it.

Her heart felt heavy when she thought about how she had let Shawn slither away with little to no punishment, but she would be damned if she would allow Don the same leniency. It was to her advantage that the bonds between Sheila, Sally, and Don were already breaking down; it would make it that much easier to accomplish her revenge. Her plan involved no physical violence, so she wasn't sure she needed to discuss it with Samantha. But after battling with her conscience, Samantha's hero decided that she would formulate everything, get it all in place, and then run it by her lover before actually instigating the retaliation.

Showering always seemed to be conducive to clear thinking, and this morning was no exception. First on her agenda was to place some phone calls to old colleagues. Alex laughed to herself and shook her head at the visions running around inside her brain while she finished brushing her teeth and combing her hair. She kept thinking that she would love to be able to astral project herself to Don's side when his world started falling apart. Her adrenaline was pumping, and she felt the old surge of competition ignite a spark within her that she thought had been extinguished.

Coming out of the bathroom, Alex smiled as she looked over at her sleeping beauty. Samantha hadn't moved from her position on the bed the entire time the brunette bathed and dressed, except to grab Alex's pillow and wrap her arms around it.

Before leaving the bedroom, Alex wrote a note and posted it to the mirrorāSee you when you get up, sweetheart. I'll more than likely be in my office. Love you, Me. She blew a kiss in the direction of the sleeper and marched into the kitchen for something to eat and drink.

The Center was still quiet when she arrived downstairs, so before heading for her sanctuary, she unlocked the doors and was greeted by the first of the employees, who were patiently waiting for one of the key-carrying supervisors to arrive.

Minutes later she was sitting behind her desk organizing her strategy. Carrying out her plan was easier to accomplish once she was in the confines of her office; all her business numbers were stored on the computer there. Her heart actually felt lighter after speaking to a couple of the executives from Have It All. More than a few of the now top execs in the company had had dealings with Riley on their way up the corporate ladder. No one liked him very much, and his arrogance was well known in the field. They both were more than willing to offer Alex all the help she needed in bringing about his demise. She asked one of the men she had personally helped to promote, Phil Counsile, to fax her a copy of all the accounts they had "allowed" ZZ Medi-aide to win, accounts they really hadn't wanted to take the time to fight for. Phil told Alex that he would go her one better. They had kept a separate file on Don Riley and the accounts they had crossed paths with the man to either get or not get. If Alex wanted just Riley's files and those of the salesmen directly under him, she would have them by the end of the afternoon. Ecstatic, Alex took her headset off and clapped her hands. She stood, turned around, stretched, and gazed through the window at the rippling waves, the tips of which were sparkling with specks of gold from the morning sunlight. Yes, this is definitely going to be a productive day!

Looking at the clock, she saw that it was almost ten and Samantha hadn't made an appearance. It was definitely time to take a break and go see if Samantha was still sleeping or if she just didn't feel like coming down to the Center this morning. It wasn't like Samantha not to at least call if she wasn't coming, so Alex assumed that her lover was still in dreamland.

When the elevator door opened on the third floor, Alex knew immediately that Samantha was awake. The aroma of breakfast strips and coffee pleasantly assaulted her nostrils.

"I hope you're not planning on consuming whatever it is you are cooking all by yourself," the executive announced as she entered the apartment and then the kitchen.

"Absolutely not," came the instant reply, as the blonde turned from the stove to smile at her lover. "You must have radar. I was just getting ready to call and tell you it was time for a mid-morning break. I figured there wasn't anything pressing for me to accomplish this morning or you would have had me up and showering before you left the apartment."

"You've got me all figured out," Alex responded, walking over and putting her arms around the smaller woman's waist. "This doesn't seem to be an important day for working, and you looked so peaceful sleeping with your arms wrapped around my pillow that I couldn't bring myself to wake you up." She grabbed a piece of the meat substitute and popped it into her mouth before getting her hand slapped.

"Can't you wait?"

"Nope." Alex smiled as she reached for another, knowing that she would never get away with grabbing two. She put her hands up in an I give up gesture and kissed Samantha on the cheek. "Want me to pour the tea?"

"Please. Doing something helpful will keep you out of harm's way, and I'll be able to finish cooking. I'm just about done, so you can sit down after you put the juice and silverware on the table."

"How ya doing this morning, Samantha?" Alex queried, trying to catch the first expression that crossed her partner's face.

"Okay, Alex." She looked at her lover and saw pain in the sapphire blue eyes. "Really, I'm okay," she reiterated . "I probably should have expected something like . . ."

"Don't even finish that sentence! There is no way in hell you should have expected anything of the kind. I guess what I really want to know is if you're still mad enough to want a bit of payback?"

"You're not going to have him physically hurt, are you Alex?"

The grimace on Samantha's face reinforced what the brunette already knew in her heart; there would be no dealing with Don on a physical level. She would have to get him in his pocketbook.

›"No, honey, I'm not, but you need to call your sister today and tell her what happened here last night."

Silence engulfed the room.

Alex finished placing the juice on the table and walked back into the kitchen, taking Samantha in her arms. "Talking about it can't be pleasant, Samantha, but the sooner you contact your sister . . ."

"I know, Alex. Can we eat a nice breakfast first?"

"Most definitely." She kissed Samantha on the head and squeezed her tightly. "Want me to go sit down?"

"Yeah, but you can take these with you." Samantha handed Alex both of their plates and then grabbed the one piled with pancakes.

Even though they tried to keep the conversation cheerful, hints of what had happened the night before continued to creep into the breakfast chatter. Tears occasionally mingled with syrup, but by the time the two had finished eating, Samantha could talk about the incident without crying.

Alex told her to forget work for the day. There was nothing pressing happening down in the Center and taking care of personal business was more important. On a lighter note, she mentioned that she didn't want Samantha frightening the clients away with her swollen eyes.

"Do I look that bad?" Samantha questioned.

"No! I'm only kidding with you to get you to feel better."

"Oh, then smile when you say things like that."

Alex gave the smaller woman a kiss good-bye and a thank you for a great brunch before heading back down to the office. "I'll expect a full report when I come back up." She turned and left the apartment.

Samantha gathered up the dishes and piled them on the counter, her eyes again filling with tears as she ran over in her mind what she would say to Sally about what had transpired the evening before. She decided to make the call while she felt brave and left the dishes for later. Instead of dialing Sally's work number, she inadvertently dialed her home phone.

After four rings, Samantha realized that she had dialed the wrong number and was just about to hang up when Sally answered. With resolve Samantha pushed aside her inclination to hang up anyway and call back later and instead spoke in a soft voice to her sister.

"Hi, Sally. What are you doing home on a Monday?"

"Hi, to you, too, Sammie, and what are you doing calling me at home on a Monday if you thought I wasn't going to be here?" Sally answered her sister with a question of her own and a giggle in her tone.

"Actually, I dialed the number out of habit," Samantha answered, relaxing a little at the sound of her sister's voice.

"Okay, I'll buy that. So, what's up?"

There was an awkward silence on the phone line.

Realizing that it was unlike her sister to be so quiet, Sally took the lead and started the conversation.

"Now you have me worried, Sammie. Why the silent treatment?"

"I was just trying to figure out how to start the conversation. It's not one I relish having over the phone, but I have no other choice."

"Gosh! Is something wrong with Alex? Did something happen between you two? I know, you had your first fight!"

"No, Sally, it has nothing to do with Alex. She's fine. I'm fine. We're fine. This has to do with Daddy."

The tremor in Samantha's voice did not escape her sister's ear.

"Daddy? Come on, Samantha, the easiest way to breach what can only be a horrible topic is to open your mouth and spill it all out as quickly as possible. You know, like we used to do when we were kids. Don't breathe until the entire situation is expelled."

Even though Sally was trying to make it easier for her big sis, she knew that the news was not going to be something easy to swallow. Her father had been acting terrible at home over the past month, and whatever Samantha had to reveal was probably the culmination of whatever it was that was making him such a bastard.

Samantha took a deep breath and tried to focus all her energy on doing exactly what Sally had suggested. "I think I told you when I talked to you that I was going to have dinner with Shawn McDouglas when he was down here on business. Well, anyway, I did. We came back to the Center afterward, and I started to show him around downstairs. He started talking about my coming back home, and then he made a pass at me. When I refused him, he got obnoxious. He called Alex a dyke. One thing led to another, and before I knew it he had me down on the gym floor, trying to rape me." She could hear Sally gasp on the other end of the phone line, but continued quickly before she lost her nerve. "Alex came down and beat the shit out of him. In the middle of everything he blurted out that the entire setup was Daddy's idea. It was horrible, Sally. I didn't realize up until that point that Daddy hated me so much."

"Goddamn son of a bitch," Sally hissed.

Samantha breathed deeply and exhaled. "Yeah."

"Are you okay, Sammie? Physically, I mean?"

"Yeah, the hurt is definitely more emotional."

"I can imagine," her sister agreed.

Samantha continued to fill Sally in on everything that Shawn had told them, and by the end of the conversation Sally had promised to go to their parent's house as soon as she got off the phone with Samantha and tell their mother what had happened.

"I can't decide what I hate him for the most, Sam," Sally blurted out when her sister was finished with her story. "Damn him! And the nerve of him trying to cut Mom out of what she deserves for having stayed by his slimy side all these years."

"As far as the divorce goes," Samantha interjected, "when Mom decides to file, that is, Alex has offered to have her lawyers represent her."

"I think Mom will appreciate the offer, Samantha. It will take one heavy load off her shoulders. I don't know how she will ever repay Alex . . ."

"No need, Sally . . . we're all family now and Alex even said they're on retainers. They get paid whether they work or not, and she figured this would give them something to work on."

"Are they divorce lawyers, Samantha?"

"I don't know; I only know that if they're attorneys for the Dorians they have clout and they are the best that money can buy. If Alex thinks they can handle the case, I'm sure they can."

"I suppose you're right. Mom's been ready to leave him longer than either of us ever expected; it's just that she has been dependent on him for so many years, she's afraid to venture out on her own. It's funny in a way; she raised us to think for ourselves and to go after what we wanted out of life, the two things she never had instilled in her."

"It's never too late to learn, Sally, and Mom's a quick learner. Alex and I have even talked about having Mom open a New Age-type of store here in Laguna if she wants to get away from Dad. We think it would be successful here, and it would give Mom some self-confidence as well as making her a decent living without her having to rely on Dad for anything."

"We can talk about that later, Samantha; we need to take one thing at a time. For now, it's letting Mom know what happened to you last night and who instigated the sordid affair. I can almost guarantee that that, coupled with Alex's offer of legal help, will encourage Mom to get her act together and leave that son of a bitch."

"Listen, before I hang up, there's one other thing I want you and Mom to think about. You have both been invited to spend Thanksgiving with us at Alex's parent's house in La Jolla."

"Sammie . . . I don't know what to . . ."

"Just ask Mom as soon as you can and get back to me. I'd like to give them an answer before the nineteenth."

"Okay, Samantha. I'll get back to you on that. I'm hoping she'll have him move out of the house, but I'm afraid he's going to throw a fit about that after all you've told me tonight."

"Again, Sally, that's where the lawyers come in. They can advise Mom on what to do. Have her call me, or you call, whichever she feels more comfortable with, and we'll take it from there."

A few more repartees passed between the sisters before they finally said good-bye, with the promise to be back in touch with each other by the beginning of the following week.

Samantha hung up the phone and sighed. She could make it through the weekend before hearing what her Mother had decided about how and when to finally leave her father. Waiting a few more days would be an easy accomplishment after having realized that the end was positively in sight for a marriage that had long outlasted its viability.

The kitchen was once again clean, and the blonde had been sitting at the table drinking a cup of tea, watching the ocean as it ebbed and flowed in a hypnotizing cadence. She shook herself out of her reverie and called Alex to fill her in on how most of the conversation with Sally had gone, including the discussion about the lawyers. Alex announced that she would call the attorneys immediately and ready them for an assignment she was sure would turn nasty. The executive then promised to be finished with work by six, adding that the other therapist and Angel could have the responsibility of closing up the Center.

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

The aroma of an Italian deli drifted through the air, as Alex exited the elevator on the third floor.›

"I didn't know you had Italian in your bloodline," Alex commented after passing through the already open apartment door.

"I'm sure somewhere down the line I had Roman blood in one of my incarnations," Samantha replied smiling. "Or perhaps I was a Greek poet and got to venture to the land of pasta and vino occasionally to trade with famous chefs, bartering recipes for odes."

Laughing at Samantha's quick wit, Alex entered the kitchen and took the wooden spoon out of the smaller woman's hand. She spun her around and kissed her passionately.

"I've been waiting all afternoon to come home and do that."

"Hmmm," was the only response she received from her lover, other than a huge grin and slight tilt of her head.

While Alex continued to hold Samantha close, she looked eagerly over the smaller woman's shoulder at the pot on the stove.

"I love pasta, and this smells fantastic!"

"It's one of my specialties. If you're wondering why you don't see the spaghetti, it's because I made lasagna." She pulled away from her lover's arms to open the oven and pull out a pan of food fit for the gods.

"And we eat when?" Alex asked.

"As soon as you start the music and pour the wine," Samantha answered, pointing toward the dining area.

The brunette looked in the direction Samantha indicated to behold a fully dressed table.

"You can light the candles, also, if you want to," Samantha added. "I need to go powder my nose, then we can sit down and eat."

Dinner was elegant, and conversation for the most part was pleasant. Samantha wanted to put the memory of her telephone discussion with her sister out of her mind, if only for the rest of the evening. Tonight she just wanted to be with Alex and to forget that the rest of the world existedāespecially Don Riley. In the light of day she would deal with whatever she needed to, but tonight she wanted to make believe that her hero had swept her away to a castle in the clouds where she would be protected from the evil villains of the world. Tonight she would drown herself in sapphire eyes kissed by starlight and lips that were as sweet as nectar.

Dinner had turned out to be everything Samantha had planned. The contented look on Alex's face as she savored the home-cooked meal and delivered constant compliments through nonverbal as well as verbal exclamations made all the time she'd spent in the kitchen more than worthwhile.

Samantha got lost in her daydreams as she tried to imagine a more idyllic life than living on this cliff estate, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Try as she would, she couldn't. Here was where she wanted to remain forever, listening to soft music, drinking mellow wine, and dining on excellent food, with the added privilege of sharing the rest of her life with the gorgeous woman who sat across the table from her.›

Alex spoke and her daydream ended.

Cleanup, they decided, would wait until morning. The table was abandoned, left cluttered with scraped clean but unwashed dishes. Samantha insisted on putting the perishables away while Alex readied the living room. The dark-haired beauty scattered pillows on the floor close to the floor-to-ceiling windows and then poured the remainder of the wine into their goblets.

The view from the penthouse beckoned the lovers. The movement of the waves caught the shimmering beams from the moon as they danced upon the water far below. To enhance the effects, the wind played a symphony that the lovers imagined as being composed for their ears only.

The day had been emotionally long and tiring for the small blonde, yet despite that, she had big plans in mind for the rest of the evening when she leaned back into Alex's chest. Her lover held her tightly as they continued to listen to the mesmerizing music of the waves, crashing on the shore far below. The last glass of wine she had consumed turned out to be less of an aphrodisiac and more of a sedative, and she soon fell sound asleep snuggled comfortably in the arms of love.

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

The sun was beginning to streak through the bedroom windows when Samantha awoke with a start. She quickly sat up in bed and listened to the sound of the shower coming from the other room.

Gods be damned, Alex, you let me fall asleep! she cursed under her breath. I had plans for last night. "I had plans for last night," she repeated, screaming the words into the air.

"Did you say something?" Alex yelled from the bathroom as she turned off the running water.

"Nothing of any importance," Samantha mumbled. She let out her frustrations by hitting on the pillows before resigning herself to having missed the opportunity she had spent all of yesterday afternoon preparing for.

The End of Chapter 3

Chapter 4

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