Laguna Nights

by Carole Giorgio

Chapter 20

"Wake up sleepy head. You've got a full day planned for everyone, and you need to be on time." Alex gently shook the small blonde who had curled herself into a ball the minute Alex had left the bed.

Her answer was a very unusual response, "We're not very good actresses."

"Excuse me??" Alex thought perhaps Samantha was talking in her sleep.

"I said," Samantha enunciated slowly and clearly as she opened her eyes and sat up, "We Are Not Very Good Actresses."

Alex stared at the person on the bed in total confusion. "What the Hell is that supposed to mean? I don't do cryptic well first thing in the morning."

"It means we got caught yesterday." She did her best not to smile at the tall beauty standing at the end of the bed dressed only in a pair of khaki cargo shorts. What a sight to wake up to, she thought to herself, wishing they were alone in the apartment instead of having their home full of visitors -- mostly her visitors.

"Caught doing what? I didn't do anything that I would be caught at! Samantha, why don't you just tell me clearly what it is you're rambling about?"

"Alex, you went around half the day yesterday with your hands in your pockets and it seems I went around half the day smiling at you. My sister said we couldn't have been more 'obvious' if we tried."

"No! Shit! You're sister knows were gay?"

"Yeah! That's what part of the talk was about last night, or early this morning I should say." Samantha smiled at Alex.

"Well, from the look on your face, I take it that Sally is the only one who figured it out and that she really doesn't care. Right?" Alex mentally crossed her fingers but assumed she would be looking at a despondent Samantha instead of a happy one if the outcome hadn't been positive.

"Actually, she's very happy for us." Samantha beamed. "She said she knew California would be good for me."

"You know, Honey, maybe it would be better if I begged off the shopping trip this morning . . ."

"No, Alex . . ."

"Samantha -- think -- if your sister could come to that conclusion in one afternoon, perhaps your parents would be able to do the same if I tag along everywhere you go."

Samantha closed the gap between them, placing one arm around Alex's waist, putting her head down on her lover's bare chest and playfully toying with one of the breasts that were too close to her mouth to be ignored. "But I was looking forward to us all going together." She kissed the soft skin, watching as the nipple became erect, then looked up into brilliant blue eyes and innocently batted her lashes.

"No, Samantha." Alex grinned down at her lover, one eyebrow raised, "That won't work today." She placed her hands on Samantha's shoulders and held the smaller woman at arms length. "Listen to me, really listen. Remember I told you that Angel rented that studio she found in the paper yesterday. It's already empty and ready to move in. The landlord even gave her the key yesterday and the utilities are still on. If I stay back today and help her move in, then when your family leaves on Sunday we will have the entire place to ourselves."

Samantha started to object but was stopped by two long fingers gently persuading her to listen instead of talk.

"Come on, Samantha. Your parents came down to visit with you, not with a stranger. If I go with you today, all your dad will want to do is try to sell me on using ZZ Medi-aide as my supplier. You don't want to hear him talking business the entire trip, now do you?" She smiled . . . "I know I don't."

"But I don't want you spending the entire day with Angel, either," came the whimper from the small blonde.

"I'm not even going to acknowledge that. Now come on and get dressed. Are your people early risers?"

"Not as early as yours are," Samantha answered, walking into the bathroom and starting the shower. "I'd ask you to join me, but it looks like you're already halfway dressed. I do hope you intend to put a top on before we have guests?"

"Why, no," came the snide remark. "I thought I stay like this for the day, women's lib and all that! Not only do I go bra-less -- I go top-less!" She looked at her lover with an exceedingly dangerous smile, "Beside, I thought Angel would appreciate this outfit."

Samantha grabbed the nearest towel and rolled it into a weapon, slashing out at the tall figure standing not three feet from her.

"Ouch, that stung," Alex complained grabbing her leg where the towel had just slapped her.

"That was the intention," the small blonde countered. "I used to be pretty good at turning a damp dish towel into a weapon. Just ask Sally when you see her."

"You have the advantage. I didn't have anyone to torture growing up." Alex quickly dodged the onslaught of towel tips and grabbed Samantha's hand. "But . . . now that you're here . . . I can always play catch-up." She took the towel from the smaller woman's grasp and turned the tables on her.

"I'm a Very quick study," she smiled as she rolled the towel into a tight twisted length. "Plus I have all that pent up energy I didn't get to extinguish last night." She snapped the towel toward the blonde who quickly dodged it.

"I'm sorry about last night -- don't you think I wanted to end the evening on a romantic note just as much as you did?" She jumped again as Alex wielded the towel. "You are a quick study!"

Alex smiled as she purposely missed the small woman she adored. "To tell you the truth, I don't have siblings as you know, but I do have cousins and if I really wanted to go after you with this towel, you'd be welted by now." She threw the cloth in the air in a gesture of truce.

Walking over to Samantha she put her arms on her lover's shoulders, "Seriously, Honey, I know you had to stay and talk to your sister last night. I'll have you beside me for the rest of my life, I'm sure I can spare the small amount of time your family takes away from me." She leaned over and kissed Samantha, her tongue beginning to explore the soft inner reaches of her lover's mouth.

Samantha's knees grew weak as she stood in the bathroom kissing Alex, and feeling the warmth of her lover's body against her own. Her mind raced between what was happening to her body and the fact that she didn't want Alex to spend the day with Angel. Let it go she kept telling herself, You have to trust her even if you don't trust Angel, remember what you said to her about trusting you with Bryan? It was hard to concentrate on the kiss and think about the situation at hand. To Tartarus with Angel!! She put her fears on the back burner and let herself enjoy the moment.


It was almost 11:30 by the time The Riley clan was gathered in the elevator. Alex had given Samantha directions to the best restaurant for breakfast and reminded her of some of the speciality establishments in the little town. Samantha's mom was ready for a shopping tour and her dad seemed pleased that it would just be his little family going on the outing.

As the elevator door shut, the last face Alex saw was Samantha's, a look of love decorating it as the rest of her family stood behind her. Alex smiled back, pulling a mask over her emotions with a simple, "Bye, have fun."

The door closed and the smile faded from Alex's lips. She wondered to herself if she had made the right choice to stay behind and help Angel. She would have liked to have gone, but the more time spent with the Riley's en masse, the more chance of their figuring out that the young women were more than just friends. She didn't want an upset the first time she met Samantha's people. Making Samantha unhappy was the last thing she wanted and her parents finding out she was a lesbian the first time they visited her would surely turn into a fiasco.

The dark-haired beauty turned, and walked down the hall that led to "Samantha's Room." She knocked on the door. It took a few minutes for Angel to answer. Opening the door only slightly and peeking out she glimpsed Alex's face. Forgetting she was clad only in a tee-shirt and underpants, Angel flung the door fully open.

"Hi, Alex, something wrong?" Her voice faltered slightly, the sleep not out of it yet. Her heart dropped as she became almost afraid of what the answer might be. Bet Samantha has said something to her and I'm out on my butt, she thought as she smiled warmly at her boss.

"No, nothing wrong, I just sent Samantha off for an afternoon of sight-seeing and shopping with her family. I thought you might want some help getting started moving in today."

Angel looked at her boss, dumbfounded. "You want to spend your day off helping me move?" Her heart started racing at the thought of spending the entire afternoon with the beauty in front of her. The word Wow! kept repeating in her brain until she reprimanded herself -- Keep yourself in tow, girl, her brain warned, but the next thought started her heart galloping again -- An entire day without the annoying blonde hanging around.

Now it was Alex who looked perplexed. "Don't you want help?"

"Sure, but . . ." Samantha's actually gonna let you out of her sight? "I'd love to have your help, I just . . ."

"Listen, to tell you the truth, you were the lesser of two evils. I figured I could spend the day trying to avoid talking about work with Don Riley and trying to pretend that Samantha and I are just "friends" or I could help you get settled into your new place. Physical labor seemed like the easier of the choices."

The younger woman smiled, thinking that coming in second was just fine for now. "Give me 15 minutes to shower and dress and we'll make the first trip to the storage."

"Okay, just come on by my place when you're ready." Alex turned to walk back to the apartment.

"Alex," Angel called after her.

Alex turned back around, "Yes, Angel?"

"Thanks for the help."

"You're more than welcome, thanks for the diversion from the unsuspecting "in-laws". See ya in a bit."


Samantha had offered to drive, but knew before the question was even out of her mouth that her father would never allow that. Feeling like she was 12 years old again, she resigned herself to the back seat next to her sister and guided her father toward the small town of Laguna Beach. She had checked the weather on the internet before they left and was glad that the day would be warm but not excessively so. The evening was also projected to have good weather for them to attend the Pageant. She instructed him to drive down the Coast Highway toward the Pottery Shack where there was a statue of Laguna's "Greeter, Eilar Larsen."

As they passed the Shack she informed everyone in the car, "Laguna had two 'Greeters', Eilar Larsen was the second and from what I can gather the most popular. He arrived in Laguna in 1938 and began greeting people at the intersection of Coast Highway and Laguna Avenue. He really had a love of people, according to the articles I've read and he spoke at least six languages. He died in 1979. I guess the people of Laguna loved him, also, because there are two 'Greeter' statues dedicated to him, one here and one in front of the Greeters Corner Restaurant."

"Looks like something a tourist trap town might erect," Don mumbled under his breath.

Samantha ignored the unwanted comment and continued delving into some of Laguna's history. She made sure to mention for her mother that John Steinbeck had written "Tortilla Flats" while living just minutes away, and that many famous Hollywood stars had maintained homes in Laguna Beach, Judy Garland, Bette Davis and Mary Pickford being just a few of them. Because her mom was a movie buff, she promised that they would definitely drive by Bette Davis' English Tudor home that had been built in 1929 and overlooked one of Laguna's beautiful coves.

"That's why it's so expensive here, it's a magnet for Hollywood stars," her father almost spit the words, his jealousy for the rich and famous very much in his tone.

"Daddy, part of the expense comes from it being a beautiful little town nestled next to the ocean with ideal weather and a distance not too very far from two popular metropolitan cities. It's about half way between San Diego and Los Angeles." Samantha tried to get the little group back on a positive note and suddenly realized that she had been doing that almost all her life. When she lived at home her father's attitude was always taken for granted, getting away from him she had forgotten how grim and opinionated he could be.

Samantha gave a sigh of relief as the restaurant came into view. Unfortunately, it seemed as though this was going to be a long morning. She smiled as her mother commented on how quaint the building was. Sheila always seemed to find the rainbow behind each cloud and now was no exception. As usual, Alex had picked a lovely establishment with an ocean view. The food was superb and even Don could not find fault with the service. He took great pleasure in informing the waitress that they were only visitors from Washington to California and introduced each one of his "girls." The waitress smiled sweetly, took the order and went about her routine with a shake of her head, sighing to herself -- Tourists!


Angel hurried her shower and dressing, anxious to get started on spending the afternoon in the presence of her new boss. She thought this would be an ideal opportunity to get to know the tall beauty better, and not in a working situation. She carefully picked out a pair of light blue running shorts and a sports bra to match that showed off her petite figure and accentuated her olive-colored skin that looked like she had a tan whether she did or not. Lately she had not gotten out in the sun much, but she planned to rectify that once she was settled in her studio so near to the beach. She looked in the mirror and when she was pleased that she looked her best, she headed toward the penthouse apartment on the other side of the building.

Alex was sitting at the dining table with the paper in one hand, a cup of tea in the other .

"Knock, knock," Angel tapped on the entrance door frame to announce her arrival. "Ready for some 'physical labor'?"

Alex looked up from the paper and put down her cup. "Come on in Angel; let me finish this article I'm reading and we can go."

Angel walked over to the table, behind Alex and leaned over to glance at the article the dark-haired woman was reading. Her breasts brushed Alex's back and she could feel her nipples responding to the touch, but Alex seemed to be unaware of the situation.

Come on, Alex, yield to temptation, you never can tell if it will be offered again. Angel coaxed mentally as she feigned curiosity in the story. "Interesting article?" was the sly query aimed at Alex.


"Very, it's just our little local paper, but the article was telling about all the sea life that's been helped in the past few years thanks to the Marine Mammal Center on Laguna Canyon Road." She finished reading the article and folded the paper. Angel moved out of the way so the taller woman could get up and take her cup into the kitchen.

Alex tried to ignore the fact that she had a strong feeling that Angel was making a pass at her. Perhaps I should pay more attention to Samantha's ramblings about Angel, Alex thought as she made her way toward the sink. On the other hand, she could just be being friendly and trying to show some interest in what I was reading. After rinsing her cup, she turned back toward Angel who was staring out the window. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" Alex asked.

"I'll say! You really have a little slice of Heaven here, Alex. How did you come to pick Laguna."

"That's a long story, I'll tell you about it on the way to the storage. We only have until about 5:30 before Samantha will be bringing the gang back and you know how time flies when you're having fun." She looked over at the younger woman and hoped that the reference to "time and fun" had been taken as a joke. Oh, I Do think that maybe I made the wrong choice, was the next thought running through her head; maybe I should have gone with Samantha and put up with good ole Don all day.


After breakfast Samantha had her dad drive to the corner of Forest and Park Avenues to begin their tour before shopping. Sally read the inscription on the gate that had been built in 1935, "This gate hangs well and hinders none, refresh and rest, then travel on."

"How sweet," Sheila interjected looking back at her daughters.

"It's just a saccharine saying to keep the tourists coming," Don retorted, putting his special damper on the day right from the start.

Samantha didn't want to argue with her father, so she ignored the comment and pointed further down the street.

She wanted to show off the beaches and marine life because she knew Sally would be interested in that aspect of life in Laguna. They drove past a few of the more popular beaches and coves, including a beach designated especially for pets. Samantha informed her little group that the entire coastline along Laguna had been declared a refuge for marine life. She told Sally that she would have to come down and spend some time when they could go exploring the tide pools, do some snorkeling, and watch the otters and seals at play. They also passed by the Friends of the Sea Lion Marine Mammal Center which she promised to take Sally to on a return trip. Every time she mentioned Sally visiting, she would get a glare from her father in the rearview mirror. She became a little concerned at his constant grimacing, but tried to keep her voice in a happy tone so as not to upset her mom. Of course the interaction never did get past the watchful eyes of her little sis.

Samantha had done her homework and tried to take them to places that each of them would enjoy. They passed by the Catholic church, St. Francis By-The-Sea which had been built in 1933 after the Long Beach earthquake, because her dad had always been interested in architecture.She also made sure they drove past the oldest house in Laguna, knowing that her dad would appreciate the unusual materials that the house had been built with. He slowed down as he came upon the home and Samantha informed him that it had been built in 1883 with wood that had floated in from shipwrecks and driftwood. It was the first time since they had started touring that Don actually acted involved and impressed in what they were viewing. Up to this point it was like he was trying to find fault with the small beach town. He seemed angry with the magic of Laguna that had lured his daughter away from home, and he was beginning to feel that now he had no control over her.

Time was beginning to run a little short so Samantha brought the touring part of the day to an end as she directed her dad to Peppertree Lane for some shopping in the unique boutiques. On the way they passed by the 40 foot mural on Forest Lane entitled, "A Window from the Mountains to the Sea." Sally and Sheila thought it was absolutely beautiful, but Don's only comment was that he couldn't see the difference between something like that painted on a wall and the graffiti "art" in the inner cities. Samantha simply shook her head and kept him traveling in the direction of the shops. She resigned herself to the fact that keeping his interest on an up-beat was simply too much to ask.

Her mother thoroughly enjoyed the shopping and picked up a few gifts for her friends back home. She was saving the majority of her pocket-money to purchase something at the Festival of Arts on Sunday. She mentioned to Samantha that she was excited about the upcoming Pageant and her daughter gave her a brief history of the event while they shopped. She explained to her mom that the first performance was given to a small audience in 1932 and that today it had grown so popular that over 200,000 were expected to attend performances this year.

On the way home she spoke of her first experience with grunions, and how Alex had explained everything to her. She had Sally in stitches laughing when she described how difficult it was to capture the tiny creatures as they squirmed back toward the ocean. Her mother said it all sounded so very romantic, the description of the moon with the small silver fish lining the shoreline and the stars shining down. Samantha quickly changed the subject as she felt she was lending too much atmosphere to her story and would be giving herself away if she kept on.

"You seem to spend a lot of time with Alex," her father remarked as they turned off the highway toward the warehouse. "Doesn't she have any other friends, or perhaps a male friend? And, by the way, don't you?"

Samantha could feel her face begin to redden. Sally placed a hand on her knee and squeezed it for moral support. Samantha took a large breath and once again found herself explaining her actions to her father. "I've only met a few people since I've been here, dad. There's Suz and her boyfriend, the lady I used to work for, and Alex. I expect I'll meet a lot more when the center opens for business. As for Alex's personal affairs, if you want to know more, why don't you ask her yourself?" She knew that was the wrong thing to say. It sounded insolent and she half expected to hear the old adage, 'don't make me stop this car and take care of you, young lady'. Secondly, she didn't really want her father asking Alex a bunch of personal questions. She knew her lover was not big on lying and she might just decide to answer him honestly.

She was fuming inside, but was going to leave her answer at that. As they pulled over in front of the building, she couldn't help adding, "Alex and I seem to have a lot in common, Dad. I enjoy being with her." There, she thought to herself, take that any way you want to you opinionated bigot! Contrary to what was running through her head, she smiled sweetly up into the eyes staring at her in the rear-view mirror.

They had almost three hours before they had to leave for the show. She knew her dad would probably want to take a nap and it wouldn't hurt her mom to join him so they would both be refreshed for the evening's entertainment. She made mention of that to them and for the first time during the fated visit got a positive reaction from each of them at the same time.

Sally said she wanted to take a short walk along the beach before getting ready.

Samantha was hoping that Alex would already be back from helping Angel. She really needed a hug, a kiss and a kind word. Reviewing the morning and afternoon in her mind, she felt that it had been fairly successful and fun with only a few low points, but she now remembered why she had left home and was glad the physical distance between her and her father was a great as it was. Her only regret was not being close enough to see her mom or sister as often as she would like.

Sheila made mention at how beautiful the stained glass doors were as they approached the building, and Samantha agreed that they were the most unusual doors she had ever seen.

Samantha used the buzzer first, expecting the soft contralto voice she loved to come swiftly to her ears, but disappointment soon set in when silence ensued.

"Looks like your friends must be having a good time moving," Sheila interjected as only she could, giving Samantha an immediate pain in her chest.

She smiled over her shoulder at her mother, "Yeah, but I imagine they'll be along any minute now. Alex has to get ready for tonight just like we do."

"Well, dear, it's still early. I'm sure she'll be here before eight," her mother smiled at her first born.

"Okay, okay, enough chatter," Don grumbled, getting tired of standing in front of a locked door. "It's obvious there's no one here to answer the door. You do have keys don't you, Samantha?"

"Yes, Daddy." Samantha turned her attention back to the doors. Opening them she let everyone into the building. Her heart ached a little as she had been ready for that beautiful smile, the one that could turn a gloomy day into a brilliant one in a second.

Samantha told her sister that she would leave the doors open and suggested that after her walk and when she was ready, that she go ahead and use the bathroom down the hall from "her" bedroom. That way they wouldn't be all vying for the shower at the same time.

As Sally headed off in the direction of the stairs that lead to the ocean Sam turned back to her parents and motioned them toward the elevator. When exiting the lift, she reiterated that curtain time was 8:30 and that they wanted to leave by 8 o'clock.

"We'll be by to get all of you sometime around 7:45. Have a good nap." She started down the hall toward the apartment but turned and walked back to where her parents were standing. "I had a wonderful time today," she said as sincerely as she could muster. Watching a smile appear on her mother's face she added, "I hope you did, too." She hugged her mother tightly and whispered in her ear, "I'm glad your plans got changed and everyone was able to come down here earlier. I've missed you, mom." She kissed her mother and noticed tears welling up in the tender green eyes that had always tried to understand her. "I love you," she murmured as she wiped away a tear from her mother's cheek.

"We love you, too, Samantha," her mother answered.

"Come on, Sheila," Don interrupted, "We'll see you in a couple hours, Sam."

Samantha watched as her parents walked toward the guest suite then turned and headed to the apartment.


It had taken about an hour to get the first load of Angel's stuff packed into the trailer and on its way to a new home. Most of the young woman's things were manageable by a single person, only a few objects took two people to lift or carry. Angel had rented one of the small local U-Haul's just for the day and it looked as though two or three trips would be all they needed. While they were packing the trailer, Alex noticed that more than once Angel's hand had brushed hers in the process of exchange. At first she thought nothing of it since there was bound to be some physical contact when they were loading and unloading things, but the younger woman's hand always seemed to take more time than necessary to go its own way after the contact was made. She also caught Angel staring at her a couple of times during the day and by the end of the afternoon, she knew without a doubt that Samantha had been right all along to not trust Angel. But Alex also knew that Samantha had been wrong in feeling that Alex might also not be trustworthy. Angel was an intelligent, attractive, goal-oriented woman, but if she was as smart as Alex believed her to be, she would stop trying to entice her new boss in an impossible direction and be happy being just friends.

They stopped for lunch around 2:00 and Alex made sure that her main topic of conversation over a pizza and beer was her lover and how much Samantha meant to her. She figured if she laid all her cards on the table from the beginning, they would have no problems, no game playing, and would be able to work together and perhaps even be social friends.

Halfway through lunch Angel knew she needed to revamp her game plan if she was to get close to Alex. She figured she would bide her time and become close to both of them before setting a new strategy for getting even closer to the tall, blue-eyed beauty now sitting across from her.

Taking the time out for something to eat put them a little behind, not that Angel minded at all, and they were later than Alex had anticipated in getting the trailer back to the storage place. It was 5:45 before they pulled the Mustang back onto Alternative Paradise Road and Alex was hoping, up until she saw the rental vehicle at the curb, that Samantha had, likewise, been late returning to their home.


On and off during the day, Cassie had tuned into the on goings at the warehouse on the cliff by both listening in on the microphone and occasionally looking through her spyglass. She was curious to hear what Samantha and Alex had in store for the weekend with Samantha's folks. She had turned the microphone on early and was rewarded by hearing the family leave sans Alex on a day excursion into Laguna for some tourist-type shopping and sight seeing. By listening throughout the week she had caught them once or twice talking about going to the Pageant of the Masters and then topping the weekend off with a trip to the Art Festival on Sunday. Cassie opened another beer and smiled in the direction of Alternative Paradise, she hadn't felt this joyous in months. She was extremely happy that Samantha's family had come south for this little visit.


Trying to keep a positive outlook all afternoon while dealing with her father had mentally exhausted Samantha. After having had practically no sleep last night, walking all over Laguna while shopping had fatigued her physically. She decided that she would take her own advice and lie down for a power nap before having to shower and dress for this evening's festivities. She felt that part of her exhaustion also came from the fact that Alex was not home yet and try as she might, she was having a difficult time feeling happy about that. She trusted Alex, but Angel was a real cutie and temptation wasn't beyond anyone. On her way to the bedroom she glanced out at the ocean, stopping a minute to watch the waves ebb and flow. "I know you're a jealous lover," she directed at the sea, "I've watched as you deposit and retrieve. I guess I feel a lot like you, I don't mind letting Alex out into the world without me for small bits of time, but I want her to return when I need her."

She continued into the bedroom, carrying a bag containing two dream pillows she had purchased this afternoon, one for Alex and one for herself. Having the lavender-scented pouch over her eyes would surely induce sleep and keep the late afternoon sun from disturbing her as she napped. She stripped down to just her panties and flopped on the bed. Grabbing Alex's pillow and hugging it close to her she inhaled the fragrance that was left behind long after her lover had relinquished the sleeping cushion. Obsession -- what a perfect perfume for Alex to have chosen; it certainly was what Samantha had become, obsessed with the woman of her dreams. She placed one of the dream pillows on her eyes as she snuggled with Alex's sleeping pillow. Within a short period of time she was fast asleep.


The front door was locked and Alex decided against buzzing Samantha. She thought perhaps it might be nice to surprise her. The day proved to be more of a workout than Alex had been used to in weeks. Helping Angel move and arrange everything had given her the well-known feeling of invigoration from the exercise. During the day she had made a promise to herself to get back into some kind of exercise routine beginning on Monday. They stepped inside the building and Angel thanked Alex again for her help. She mentioned to Alex that she could sleep at the studio starting tonight if they wanted to use the guest room for Samantha's sister. Alex told her she didn't care one way or the other, after all they would only be here this one night. She was welcome to stay the rest of the weekend or she could get what little she had left upstairs and christen her new home this evening. She did mention that it would be nice to have the warehouse to themselves once Samantha's folks left on Sunday afternoon. Angel smiled and nodded, getting the hint. She changed the subject by asking if she could use the pool and received an affirmative answer.

"Have fun, Angel. I've got to get upstairs."

"You sure you don't want to take a swim first?"

"No, I know Samantha's probably getting worried as to why I wasn't here when she got home."

"Wow!" Angel's eyes widened to think this larger-than-life woman was so easily controlled. "Wish I could find someone I could wrap around my finger the way Sam has you wrapped," she smiled, rolling her eyes then looking into sky blue eyes that were beginning to ice over.

"I'm not "wrapped" around anyone's finger, I just want to go see Samantha. She's been gone all day and I missed her." The tone of her voice had also taken on a coldness and Angel, once again, mentally kicked herself for the inappropriate statement.

"I'm sorry, Alex . . . I was only kidding. I guess my sense of humor isn't the same as yours." She gave a small smile of innocence.

The ice faded from the Alex's eyes and from her voice, "I'm sorry, too, Angel, I think I'm just a little tired. I'm hoping to take a short nap before having to entertain the group tonight." She threw a small smile in the direction of the younger woman. "You going up to get your suit?"

"Yeah, don't want to tempt the painted fish with a naked beauty," she grinned up at Alex as she stepped into the elevator.

They parted company when the lift reached the top floor.

Alex found the apartment quiet and still. Rather than yell out that she was home, she figured it might be fun to surprise Samantha. Looking around she noticed that the kitchen was deserted as were the living and recreation rooms. Making her way to the bedroom door she spotted her lover curled into a tight ball on their bed, clinging to Alex's pillow. She didn't want to awaken the beauty but felt compelled to join her.

Quickly running back through the rooms to the entrance, she shut and locked the door. No need for any unnecessary surprises, she thought to herself, then ran back to the bedroom.

She desperately needed a shower, but didn't want to wait any longer before feeling the softness of her lover's skin against her own. Quickly she stripped out of clothes that had been soaked with sweat more than once during the long afternoon. She smelled her armpits and changed her mind about the shower. Had she been running a race, she most definitely would have won, as it soon became the quickest shower in her history. Just as quickly she dried off and splashed on some after bath Obsession. Carefully she climbed into the bed next to Samantha.

At first she just lay there propped on one elbow watching the rhythmic movement of the small blonde's chest as she breathed. When she could stand it no longer she gently caressed the face she loved then bent over to place a kiss on the full lips.

Without opening her eyes, Samantha responded to the affection being lavished upon her. "Um, you smell great," she whispered. "I missed you today."

"Me, too, you," came the desired counter.

Alex pulled the smaller woman closer and felt her own skin ripple as Samantha breasts responded to the tactile luxury of being next to Alex's skin.

"By the Gods, I love you Alexis Dorian," Samantha continued as she wrapped herself around the tall beauty. "I want to be lost in your embrace forever." She passionately kissed the woman she had just moments ago been dreaming of.

Suddenly, Samantha pushed away from Alex and started to get up from the bed. "The door, if my parents . . ."

"Honey, don't worry," Alex grabbed her and brought her back down to a lying position. "I locked the door before coming in here, I'm not an idiot you know?" She laughed at her lover and began showering her with small kisses all over her face and neck. "I want to devour you -- slowly." She glanced quickly at the clock on the bedside table. "I have plenty of time." She raised her left eyebrow and gave Samantha a crooked grin. "Do you want to be devoured, my Destiny?"

"There is nothing I want more in the world but to be 'devoured' by you," came the immediate answer as the smaller woman was enveloped by two strong arms.


Following making love the two women fell asleep for a short period of time, being awoken by an invisible inner time piece that allowed them less than an hour to shower and dress. But they both completed the exercise with even a little time to spare. They arrived at the guest suite precisely at 7:45 as Samantha had proclaimed they would.

Sally met them at the door with a "thank God you're here" grin. Everyone was dressed and ready to go. Sheila seemed to be the most excited about seeing the living art. Don was rambling on about all the Rockwell paintings that were going to be acted out, showing more interest than he had in anything else so far and Sally was just happy that someone other than her parents were finally in the room.

With the three girls in the back seat and Don driving the group was finally on their way to view the spectacle the Riley clan had traveled so many miles to see. Alex was sure they would not be disappointed, she had yet to see anyone come away from the Pageant unimpressed or feeling like they had not been thoroughly and pleasantly entertained.


As they approached the ticket booths, it was Samantha's turn to remind everyone to keep their stubs so they could all get into the Festival of Arts free in the morning. The crowd was large but very well-mannered and it didn't take long to find the excellent seats that Alex had purchased for viewing tonight's event.

Don was impressed with the seating arrangements and when Sheila whispered in his ear that the tickets had cost $50 a piece, he almost swallowed whole the peppermint his wife had just given him. He found himself wishing that Alex had been what her name inferred, a man. If that had been the case then he would at least be able to stop worrying about one of his girls having a successful marriage. He vowed that when he got home he would do some detective work on this Alex and find out exactly where she got all her money. Then realizing he didn't even know her last name he made that a priority. He planned on talking to her tomorrow, very casually while they were walking around, he was sure he'd be able to get her aside long enough to pump her for a few statistics. Sheila poked him in the ribs as the orchestra struck the beginning notes of the overture, bringing him quickly back to the 'here and now'.

The evening went smoothly and was an entertainment success. Each of the Riley's found something to rave about; even Don was impressed with the caliber of the performance. He, like Ray had, especially liked the "Great War" segment of the show, and all the Rockwell displays. Sheila was enthralled with most everything and refused to be pinpointed to a favorite. Samantha kept telling Sally bits and pieces of her chosen selections, the "Rock Legends" recreations during the intermission. Just like a little sis, she refused to agree with Samantha, feeling that the high point of the evening was when they showed the work in progress.

Alex felt relieved that everyone seemed to be having a good time and that Don had managed not to spend most of the night talking business. They dined at a small restaurant tucked away in the Laguna Hills with yet another breathtaking view of the ocean. Sheila asked Alex how she found all these quaint little places. Alex answered simply that most of the restaurants up and down the coast line ended up having fair-to-marvelous views of the ocean, so finding a restaurant with ambience in the area was really not that difficult. The moon and stars were cooperating with the gals in helping to produce a beautiful evening by shining ever so brightly and cascading their light down onto the water. Had it not been for her parents sitting between them, it would have been a very romantic setting.

Alex felt slightly uncomfortable knowing that Sally was aware of her relationship with Samantha but hid her emotions about it very well as she avoided eye contact with Sam's sister. Somewhere during the course of the evening Sheila asked Alex what her name was short for, and Alex quickly articulated some line of gibberish from the previous conversation, totally avoiding answering the question and did her damnedest to change the subject.

It was well after midnight when the little troupe returned to the warehouse on the cliff. Everyone had experienced a great evening and they were looking forward to the Festival of Arts in the morning. Sheila, after having more than enough wine became slightly sad, vocalizing that Sunday evening would, again, find her abandoning her oldest child in a strange state, far from home. Samantha assured her that she would be just fine in California. She promised at least a biweekly phone call and a visit whenever possible.

They said their good-nights as they came off the elevator, having had a nightcap at the restaurant before leaving. Most everyone was tired and each for different reasons. Don blamed his on being old and Sheila's being tired on too much fermented grape juice. Alex commented that she had done more exercise today than she had in weeks, even though she had no intentions of going to sleep as soon as her body hit the bed. Sally, on the other hand, suggested having a pajama party and staying up all morning talking. The idea was immediately squelched by her father who insisted that everyone get some shut eye so there would be no cranks in the morning.

Sheila had suggested making breakfast at home before going off to the Festival, but Alex explained that there was food available at the all-day event and that they might want to sample some of the fare there. Not wanting to offend the hostess, she agreed and Don said he didn't care one way or the other. Sally, of course, was always ready to try new things so she wanted to eat out. It was finally settled that Alex and Samantha would once again come and get the rest of the clan somewhere around 10 Sunday morning.


The sun was just beginning to rise over the hills and faint streaks of light began finding their way into the bedroom when Samantha let out a whimper that awakened Alex. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she looked down at the fair-haired woman curled up in the crook of her arm. Samantha wore a frown and there were tears streaming down her face, yet she was obviously still sound asleep.

"Samantha, honey, what's wrong?" Alex wanted to know, gently shaking her lover. "Samantha, why are you crying?"

No longer asleep, she opened her tear-filled eyes and looked up into a face filled with concern. "My dream . . ." Samantha began between sobs . . . "it was horrid. The problem is that sometimes my dreams come true." There was no trace of a smile on the usually gleeful face.

"So . . . tell me about it."

"It was horrible. My father found out about us and he hated you and he hated me, too!" Even though she knew it was only a dream, the reality of the situation was more than she could bear. "Oh, Alex," she cried. "Sometimes my dreams come true. I pray this is not one of those times." She threw her arms around Alex and buried her face in the soft, warm flesh of her lover's breasts, the remnants of the nightmare still fresh in her mind's eye.

"Honey, it was only a dream," Alex soothed as she stroked the flaxen hair. "Come on we only have to make it through today to pull off our little charade. The hard part's over. I think your parents like me well enough . . . as your 'friend' that is." She tilted up Samantha's face and smiled as the sobbing woman in her arms worked at regaining her composure. "Okay, my Destiny. No more sorrow. Today is a new day and we have a brand new slate to use. Don't you think it would be better to start off smiling? You're the one who's supposed to keep me focused on the positive," she tenderly smiled down into the moist green eyes, slowly lowering her face to meet her lover's. First she kissed away the tears that had flowed onto now moist cheeks and then softly planted a kiss on her lover's lips. The gentle gesture became passionate as Samantha returned the kiss with one of her own.

Minutes passed, tears dried and Alex broke off the embrace with the suggestion of a bubble bath to get the day rolling. It was still early and Alex pointed out that they had plenty of time before having to go get the visitors. Samantha was a more than willing participant as they headed for the bath. Warm liquid topped with soapy bubbles of every hue allowed thoughts of nightmares to become distant. Relaxation was easily achieved and the smile that lit Alex's days soon returned to her lover's lips.

As they sat in the warmth the temptation became too great to resist. At first Samantha just nestled close to Alex's back, strong arms holding her tightly, but when kisses beginning at the top of her crown began finding their way down her neck, when a familiar tongue slowly wound it's way around her ear, the position soon changed from front-to-back to front-to-front. Alex drew her up close as Samantha wrapped her legs around her lover's waist. Not even the bubbles could survive the lack of distance between their two bodies.

Alex had said they had plenty of time before needing to get dressed and they certainly intended to make good use of the hourglass that was quickly emptying. Fiery kisses continued as long fingers explored known territory. Interjacent to moans of pleasure Samantha suggested they move to a more conducive environment. Alex agreed as she began to rise from her position in the churning water, lifting Samantha along with her. Barely drying with the one towel Sam had grabbed upon passing the towel rack, they reached the bed still glistening with the rainbow bubbles that had clung to their bodies as they made their exit from the water.

The ritual of love continued, losing them in a world of their own making, oblivious to the external environment of the real world. Nightmares and problems were forgotten upon the path to ecstasy.

Alex held Samantha tighter and closer when she began to feel the involuntary pulsating and counter tightening in the inner-sanctum of her beloved. The movements continued repeating themselves and she smiled at the knowledge that she could elicit such satisfaction in the woman she loved. Samantha let go of the pillow she had been squeezing to place her arms around Alex and draw her ever closer.

"I don't want to ever move," came the soft whisper from the small blonde. "Your arms are all the world I need."

Alex kissed her on the forehead, "Samantha, as much as I hate to say this, we need to get up and get dressed." The spell had been broken and the two lover's were back into the present and the realization that guests were merely yards away. They left the comfort of each other's arms and began the ritual of dressing.

By 9:45 the gals were ready to leave when Samantha's belly began making rude grumbling sounds that indicated it was time to feed. "Alex I don't know if I can wait until we get to the Festival. I'm starving," the small blonde whined.

"You'll survive another half hour. Come on, let's go get your folks a little early."

As luck would have it everyone was ready to go and just as ready to have breakfast as Sam was. "It must be a 'Riley' thing," Alex grinned when she heard the rumblings of more than one stomach in the elevator en route to the first floor.

Once again Don was behind the wheel, after all there was just no room for five in either the VW or the Porsche. Alex made a mental note to eventually add a 'family' car or van to their collection for occasions such as these and for vacation trips when they might want to take their time and go by ground. She had always wanted one of those totally equipped vans with the TV, VCR and all the amenities but had never had a reason to purchase one before, now she did. She scooted up from between the two sisters and placed her elbows on the back of the front seat to better give directions to the Fair Grounds.


Cassie had gotten up early and turned her sound equipment on. She wanted to hear when the little family on the cliff left for their field day. Not being disappointed, sounds began clattering through the microphone close to 10 o'clock, creaks from the opening of the elevator doors were heard first, followed by the happy chatter of the unsuspecting little troupe. She had been ready to leave for over an hour now and was filled with anticipation. Eavesdropping definitely had it's advantages; Cassandra heard that they were going directly to the Festival from the warehouse. She turned off the mic and headed for her car. A family outing; how sweet, she thought to herself. She planned on playing observer today as she studied the interaction between her prey and "the little family." Getting to the fair grounds ahead of the entourage would be no problem; she lived closer.

Amongst all the patrons already parading through, an inconspicuous spot was not difficult to find. Cassie squatted behind a tree and watched the stream of patrons begin. Shuttles made continuous stops, unloading people eager to begin the Festival of Arts experience. Later on in the afternoon the shuttles would be filled with people and packages going both to and from the grounds, but at this hour everyone was just beginning to arrive. Before long her quarry came into sight.

Not coming as any surprise to Cassie, Alex stood out in the crowd, making her easy to spot. The combination of height and beauty set her apart in any gathering. People had a tendency to turn and stare at the ebony-haired siren as she walked, head above most, through the horde with her own little group close around her.

Cassandra waited until they had all entered the grounds before getting up and following, constantly keeping a pace behind the small troupe. For the first time in months she actually had a feeling of joy. The sun was shining and the air smelled sweet, after all retribution was in the wind.

She watched as they went almost directly to one of the food exhibits and sat around listening to music while they ate. She wished they would hurry as she was tired of standing in one place. It wasn't long before her wish was answered and the little caravan took off again walking from booth to booth with Samantha walking mostly with her mom as the sister seemed to gravitate toward Alex and the father was seemingly bored with most everything. When something occasionally caught his eye, he would wandered off by himself, hardly missed by the rest of the family.

Impatience began setting in again as the tribe of Riley's and Alex stopped at every booth, every artisan, and every musical group along the way. Almost two hours had passed; Cassandra was a person of action and boredom was beginning to set in. At one point, when Samantha and her mother were inquiring into taking a lesson at one of the crafting tents, Cassie decided to make her day a little more interesting and ventured close enough to listen in to the conversation being held between Alex, the father and the sister. After all, no one except Samantha had ever seen her. She strolled up beside the trio and nonchalantly eavesdropped, something she had become an expert at doing over the past month.

"I don't know about you, Alex," Sally began, "but I'm getting parched."

"I could use something to drink, and I think your mom and sister will be occupied for quite while fooling around with that clay. Why don't we go find a booth selling lemonade or ice tea?" Alex quickly answered, hoping to keep from being alone with Don for any length of time. He kept looking at her like he wanted to ask something, but every time he started one of the women would interrupt. She did not want to discuss business with the man today and avoidance seemed the best policy.

"Don, why don't you stick around here just in case the ladies get finished before we come back with the drinks." Alex suggested. "I think we passed a booth a little bit back, but the lines looked pretty long. I don't want Samantha and Sheila coming out and finding no one around."

"Sure, I've got nothing better to do. I'll look into a few of the exhibits up here and keep an eye out for them." He reached into his pocket for money.

"No. Drinks are on me," Alex quickly waved his hand back. "We'll be as fast as the line will allow."

The two women took off in the direction they had just come from. Alex knew she would probably have questions from Sally, but at least they would be ones she could answer honestly. Besides it might be nice getting to know Samantha's little sis better, she might even get to ask some questions herself, ones about Samantha and what she was like growing up.

Alex accidentally bumped into a woman when she tried to avoid a hole in the path. She smiled and excused herself, looking directly into large doe-brown eyes and a smile that would melt butter. "I'm terribly sorry, I was trying to avoid a hole and didn't see you."

"No problem, I wasn't watching where I was going either," Cassie confessed. "I was busy looking at the oil paintings."

The two women continued walking their separate ways. Alex and Sally headed in one direction, and Cassie in the other, a predatory grin upon her face. The tall blonde glanced back to make sure Alex was still heading toward a drink concession. Quite satisfied that Alex would be not around to interfere, she quickened her pace and shortened the distance between herself and her target.

She glanced into the tent where Samantha and Sheila were experimenting with pottery clay and then stepped closer to the distinguished looking man she knew to be Samantha's father. She watched him as he paced around in front of the tent. When he got totally bored he would venture off to an adjacent booth, look around and finally retreat back to where he began, making sure all was going well inside the tent. After he had done this several times, Cassie put on her friendliest facade and walked over to the solitary man.

"Hi, you must be Samantha's father." Cassie held out her hand in a gesture of goodwill. "I've been trying to catch up to all of you since that booth with the velvet paintings, but I kept getting sidetracked. I knew you were coming in this weekend for the Pageant and was hoping I might get a chance to meet you."

Taken back by the forwardness of this strange woman, Don responded to her outstretched hand with his own. "Why, yes. I'm Don Riley, Samantha's dad . . . and you are?"

"I'm sorry. I'm Cassandra, Alex's friend . . . well . . . I used to be just Alex's friend, but I guess now I'm Alex and Samantha's friend. Isn't it marvelous the two of them getting together as quickly as they did? I guess true love is timeless. It must have been 'love at first sight', as the saying goes."

She watched as the man's green eyes began to turn into small slits, his face reddening.

"Excuse me, are we talking about the same two people?" Don asked incredulously.

"Alexis Dorian, the owner of Alternative Paradise and Samantha Riley, right?"

"Dorian, did you say ALEXIS DORIAN?" He practically roared at the slim blonde standing in front of him visions and past situations swimming around in his mind. No wonder she never mentioned her last name. It's that dyke bitch from Have It All. No! This can't be happening to me. This woman has got to be mistaken. But he knew in his heart that she wasn't. Thoughts sped around in his brain. He had never seen the bitch who continued to take account after account away from some of his most competent salespeople. Everyone had said she was beautiful, but they all described her with long ebony hair, not a short 'dyke' cut, and the eyes . . . he mentally kicked himself for not thinking about the height, the hair, the gorgeous eyes, and the money. Of course she had money, that bitch came from money and raked in more being the cutthroat negotiator, working for Marge Silkton. And now his daughter was . . . he didn't even want to think about it.

Cassie stood there a look of surprise on her innocent face, hiding the hideous smile in her heart as she brought the world down upon the Riley clan with a few short sentences. "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I've spoken out of turn. I know how "out" Alex is and I just assumed that Samantha was, too. Oh . . . dear," She placed her hands up to her face feigning despair and hiding delight. "They'll never forgive me. Please, try to forget what I just said . . . um . . . maybe I heard wrong through the grapevine. Maybe it isn't your Samantha who is Alex's new lover . . . maybe it was another Samantha . . . I'm really sorry . . . Gotta go."

With that she took off running in the direction opposite of where Alex had just gone, leaving Don standing in the middle of the path with his Irish definitely showing. With his fists clenched, teeth grinding, face red and slits for eyes he approached the tent where Samantha and her mother were almost finished with their lesson. The roar of a wounded beast filled the canvassed area.

"Sheila Riley, out here, NOW!" He stood fuming just to the left of the entrance waiting for his wife to appear.

Sheila and Samantha both immediately ceased what they were doing and ran out of the tent toward the visibly distressed man.

"Don, what's the matter," Sheila gasped seeing the condition of her husband. Her mind quickly went to disaster. "Something terrible has happened to Sally!? Oh, Don. Did something happen to Sally?"

"Shut up and listen," was all the man uttered as he looked beyond his wife standing in front of him, nearly in tears, and glared into the eyes of his first born.

"You!" He spat vehemently at Samantha.

She cringed at the furiousness of his words and the appearance of his face. "Me?" she asked innocently, looking around to see if there could have been some mistake and her father was really addressing some stranger who had done something horrible to him.

"Tell me, Samantha, are you . . ." the word seemed to stick in his throat, ". . . Queer?" He straightened full height, scowling at her.

Samantha looked from her father to her mother, who stood to the side with her mouth agape. She swallowed hard and tried to think how to soften the blow. "Where are Alex and Sally?" were the only words that came out of her mouth.

"Don't worry about them -- answer my question!"

"Daddy, I . . ."

"Samantha, answer my question!" he roared again.

By now a crowd was beginning to slow and stare. Samantha was feeling extremely self-conscious and more than a little scared. She looked around hoping to find Alex, her hero, coming to her rescue, but all she saw was a throng of strangers staring at her family as they aired their internal affairs. Alex, she thought to herself, where are you? I need you. You promised you would go through this with me. Her throat was tightening up and her mouth was so dry her tongue was sticking to the roof of it when she opened her mouth to speak.

"Your mother and I are waiting, Samantha Reneé."

Taking a deep breath she began, "That's not exactly the word I would use, Daddy, but to answer your question . . . um . . ." staring at the ground, she inhaled deeply and slowly emptied her lungs as she almost whispered, "I'm in love with Alex."

"Do you know who that Bitch is who lured you into this life of vile abomination?" he screamed at her.

Her eyes met his and surprisingly there was not a trace of fear in the emerald orbs that glared at her father. "She's not a bitch and we are not abominations." To her own surprise she had found her voice. Something strong and protective was born within her when she heard the woman she loved being called a bitch and the sacredness of their love an abomination. "Daddy, if you would just come out of the dark ages . . ."

She was stopped suddenly by the jolt of a hand swiftly and powerfully striking her on the cheek. Reeling from the force of the slap to her face, Samantha fought to keep herself composed. Her eyes teared as she dared to look up into the face of her father who now resembled a wicked stranger more than the man who raised her and who she loved. Judging from the pain she was feeling, she imagined that she would wear the mark of his hand for quite a few days to come.

Tear-filled emerald eyes, looking into those of the same hue, could not believe the hate she saw in eyes that once had shown her only love. Her hand went to her face; the taste of blood in her mouth made her want to vomit. Never in her entire life had her father ever hit that hard. She had seen him hit her mother occasionally when she was younger and had wondered when she got older why her mom allowed him to treat her like that. But . . . until today he had never hit her in the face. His punishment for Samantha was usually making her feel guilty. But she refused to feel guilty about Alex and the way she loved her.

"From this day on I have but one daughter and if you know what's good for you, you'll leave my presence immediately."

With a saddened heart, a sore face, and a broken spirit, Samantha hastily turned to her mother for the support she knew the woman would be unable to give her. She started to speak, tears streaming down her cheeks, thought better of it, and ran off in the direction of the shuttle stop.

"Don," Sheila started as she watched her first born running away from them, perhaps never to see them again. "What happened? Where did you come up with that accusation?"

"I'll tell you later, Sheila. Right now we need to find Sally and get the hell out of this perverted state."

"But Don, are you going to just let Samantha . . ."

"Don't," he turned and glared at his wife, "Do not ever mention her name again in my presence!"

"But Don . . ."

Grabbing Sheila by the shoulders he shook her, "I said Do Not talk about her in my presence ever again! Is that clear, Sheila?"

With fear in her voice she swallowed her objections, "Yes, Don," was all she could muster.

"Good! Let's find Sally." He turned and began quickly walking in the direction the two young women had taken somewhere close to 15 minutes ago, thinking that surely they would be headed back this way by now. He shook his head, unable to believe how his family had disintegrated in the span of a few short minutes. "God Damn Fucking Dyke!" he murmured under his breath as he stomped off ahead of his wife searching for his youngest child.


Alex and Sally were wading through the thick crowd, drinks in hand when Alex spotted Don Riley coming toward them. He was sporting a scowl as he pushed his way through the crowd with a fierceness that lent Alex to believe something disastrous had just happened. She spotted Sheila close on his heels, tears streaming down her face. Try as she could, she could not spot Samantha anywhere.

Alex deposited the drinks in the nearest trash bin, as she quickened her pace and headed toward the angry man. Sally was not tall enough to see beyond in front of her and could not grasp the meaning of Alex's actions. She tried desperately to keep up with the long strides of her companion, but they continued getting longer and quicker, and the smaller woman found herself falling behind.

"Don," Alex queried as she approached the angry man, "What's the matter?"

"Don't you even talk to me you God Damn Dyke. Your kind is constantly on the prowl for new meat to bring into your vile little circle aren't you!"

Alex caught her breath as she tried to absorb the entirety of his accusations. "Can you calm down long enough to tell me where Samantha is?" She looked over at Sheila who lowered her head so as not to meet the inquisitive blue eyes.

She reached out to touch Sheila's hand, only to have Don swing at her arm, which she quickly maneuvered out of harm's way before impact. "Don't even think of going there, Don!" Alex glared at the out-of-control monster standing next to her. "You don't know who you're fooling with if you start with me!"

"Then keep your fucking hands to yourself and off my wife. If it wasn't for the fact that we have luggage at that den of inequity you call home, I wouldn't even be speaking to you."

"What happened? Illuminate me! Where the Hell is Samantha?" She screamed trying to keep control while every fiber of her being was crying out for some sense to be made out of this uncontrollable scene.

"Some queer friend of yours told me all about the two of you. I don't give a Fuck where your Bitch is -- gone to Hell for all I care. We need to get our stuff and get out of this God Damn Queer Loving State," he fumed.

At this point Sheila was almost beyond control, sobbing into her youngest daughter's shoulder as her life unraveled before her very eyes. Sally tried to console her mother and thought about attempting to calm her father down, but think about it was all she did. Twenty-four years of experience told her not to interfere just yet.

Alex tried to assimilate everything quickly so she could start to piece the entire scene into something she could deal with and recognize. Someone had "outed" them. Someone who obviously wanted to cause havoc. Her mind sped, names racing across her consciousness to all the people who knew she and Samantha were a couple. Of all the people who knew, only one would benefit from a disaster such as this, and that would only be for a twisted sort of revenge . . . Nikki -- NO! She told herself, thinking back to the night she accused her ex-lover of stalking Samantha. It has to be that stranger, that blonde who had been following Samantha. Alex convinced herself that the culprit had to be that woman, the one who was still nameless to them. It was beyond understanding why a stranger would want their lives torn into shreds and scattered for the entire city to behold, but it was a conundrum Alex did not have time to work on right now.

She composed herself as best she could and tried to take charge of the situation instead of becoming a victim. "Okay -- so you know I'm a lesbian . . ."

"You Bitch, if you had told me your last name when we first met instead of playing this insidious game of yours, I would have known immediately and would have taken my family . . ."

It was now Alex's turn to be irate. "Listen you obnoxious, arrogant Ass-hole, if you were more of a decent human being and loving father, your daughter would not have been afraid to share with you the fact that she had finally found someone to care for her for the rest of her life. Someone to love her more than anyone else in this lousy world could ever possibly do. You would have been happy for her and given her your blessing . . ."

Don started to physically come after Alex, arm back elbow high, fist clenched.

"I Said don't do that!" she yelled at him.

Ignoring the second warning the bull-of-a-man continued with a hard, fast swing.

Using his own momentum to topple him she grabbed his fist in her outstretched hand, swung a foot behind his extending leg and pitched him to the ground. She didn't want to be the aggressor but she would be damned if she was going to let him assault her. Nothing would have satisfied her more than to beat the crap out of the perpetrator now lying on his back in the dirt, but the looks on the faces of his wife and daughter and the slight chance that Samantha would hate her for harming him, stopped her cold.

A crowd of spectators had gathered around to witness the heated argument between this violent man and beautiful woman. More than one man had come forward to assist Alex when it was clear that Don was going to follow through with his threat of assault, but they quickly retreated to the sidelines when it was obvious to anyone watching that beauty was not all that the woman before them possessed.

Alex stared at the pathetic man now sitting on the ground trying to regain his composure. "Angel should be at the warehouse when you get there, if she isn't you just wait outside until I make sure Samantha is okay and I'll come let you in." She looked over at Sally, "Is your mom okay?"

"I think so, but she said daddy slapped Sam," the shaken young woman confessed for her father.

"You had best not have hurt her! Do you understand me Don Riley?" Eyes of steel honed in on the face of her lover's abuser. "So help me -- I'll make you regret you ever raised a hand to her. You know from past experience through your people -- I Don't Make Idle Threats!" With that she turned and began running toward the shuttles that were now running almost continuously, with people exiting and entering the Festival grounds. She glanced back over her shoulder to spot Sally giving her father a helping hand up from the embarrassing ground. She felt sorry for the young woman who still had to put up with his ignorance and vowed to have Samantha invite her to California for an extended and perhaps life-changing visit. As for Sheila, she was angry with her for putting her girls through the life she did because she lacked ambition and a backbone to stand up to a verbally and as this situation would indicate an occasionally physically abusive husband. There were many things she was now sure she did not know about Donald Riley. There were many things she was sure she never wanted to know.


Cassandra had doubled back through the crowd, weaving around the commotion she had instigated. She watched from afar as Don Riley lost all sense of control and made an absolute ass of himself in front of total strangers.

She would have loved to stay to personally watch the play of events when Alex discovered her lover's world had just been shattered. But, she opted for the sweeter sweetness of revenge that she would receive if she were able to personally confront her victim. She wanted to hear the anguish in Samantha's voice, see the sorrow in her body language, and feed on the hopelessness of the abandoned adult child. She was hoping in her dark heart that this event would turn Samantha against Alex, after all the young woman had just recently opened her life to being a lesbian. Losing her family might easily throw her back into the straight world, crushing the all too perfect world of one Alexis (protector of mankind) Llewellyn (lion-like) Dorian. A strong name would be no protection as Alex fell from grace, and in Cassandra's opinion that would be an awesome sight.

She followed Samantha as she left the fair grounds running as fast as her legs would take to the shuttle.

Cassandra knew the grief struck woman would not turn to see if anyone was following her, so she entered after Samantha, keeping her face away from the crying woman's view. From the parking lot close to Coast Highway she continued to keep a decent pace behind the tortured soul as she continued running toward the ocean.

At one point Cassandra almost anticipated that Samantha might be heading for the ocean in an attempt to end her agony forever but she shook her head, feeling that the young woman surely had more stamina than that.

Stamina turned out to be something the smaller woman truly possessed as she ran at top speed on the packed sand at the water's edge, due north toward the cove Cassandra knew Samantha thought of as Paradise. She had been lucky enough to have overheard the lover's discussing the private beach in the elevator. Samantha was such a romantic. Cassie laughingly had renamed the small stretch of beach, "Paradise Lost."

The tall blonde watched as Samantha bent over, grabbing her side and panting. What's the matter, little one, she smiled to herself, too much exercise and rejection for you all in one day? A short distance later Samantha collapsed into a tearful heap on the sand. Even with the distance between them, Cassie could hear the sobs of anguish. Within minutes the small woman had composed herself, straightened into a standing position, and commenced running northbound on the beach. About a mile from where the warehouse stood, keeping its lone vigil over the sea, Samantha picked up an almost perfectly straight piece of driftwood to use as support as her momentum began to slow. I almost envy your show of strength, Samantha, Cassandra thought -- Almost.

Cassie hadn't realized that she would be running a marathon today, but was glad she had the good sense to wear her comfortable sandals. They were now only about a half a mile from Samantha's destination. Cassie had known all along that Samantha would run to the private cove. She could have gotten into her car and met her there, but she wanted to keep her victim in sight. Watching the hurt she had caused play out was part of her entertainment. She figured she could always go back for her vehicle.


Exiting the shuttle, Alex ran across the street and onto the sand. Turning left at the ocean she continued running, anticipating an almost three-mile stretch of beach ahead of her. She knew Samantha would head back toward their beach because she felt safe there, but she wanted to be behind her to make sure that nothing had happened to her on the way. A fleeting thought of taking a taxi to the warehouse and waiting for Samantha had crossed her mind, but she rejected the idea, considering that if Samantha didn't show up in an appropriate amount of time, she would be frantic and blame herself for not following her instinct.

She kept running northbound. Her eyes surveyed up the coast and encompassed the entirety of the beach as she swiftly raced toward home. She had used this distance many times before when training for martial arts competitions and was no stranger to terrain of the shoreline. Today she was running on adrenaline and fear. If she didn't meet up with Samantha along the way, she knew that at least she would be home in less than 25 minutes and could formulate a new plan from there.


Cassie finally spotted the tip of the warehouse as the beach crooked inward to protectively hide the cove. It was one of the most beautiful spots on the Laguna shoreline and unfortunately it belong to Alex. Maybe now it would hold memories of pain as well as those of joy. For a few minutes she just watched as Samantha stood before the waters edge looking outward.

Cassandra walked up behind the smaller woman and waited patiently for her to turn around.

Hearing, or perhaps anticipating a movement in the sand, Samantha was sure she would turn around to see Alex looking back at her. Her heart lightened with the hope that her lover had arrived to help lessen the burden she was now carrying. But the face she saw when she turned toward the cliff immediately wiped the smile that was forming from her lips.

"You!" was all that Samantha could utter at first through not yet dried tears, "What are You doing here?

"Hi, Sweetie," came the saccharine response. "Have a nice day at the Festival?"

"Excuse me," came the incredulous retort, "how did you know I was at the Festival?"

"Actually, little darling, I'm here to rub salt in the wound and make matters worse."

"Why?" Samantha could hardly believe her ears. Moist green eyes looked questioningly at the stranger standing before. A stranger who was admitting that she was enjoying seeing her in pain, even though she didn't know the origin of the hurt. A stranger who was admitting that she was enjoying Samantha's agony and was here specifically to make the situation worse.

"Who are you? What's your name? Why are you doing this to me?"

"Whoa, girl, one question at a time. I have all the time in the world to fill you in." Cassie put her hands up in front of her to stop the smaller woman from continuing to run on with questions. "Like I told you before, brat, you are just the innocent victim - as I once was - caught in the middle of a vicious little circle. Your precious Alex is at the beginning and the end of the circle. She's at the beginning because she's the one who began the circle by hurting Nikki. She's at the end because she is going to end up being hurt when I hurt you." She glared over at the disbelieving blonde.

"What does the relationship between Alex and Nikki have to do with me? What does it have to do with you?" Samantha questioned.

"So glad you asked, little one," the Cassie began her story, "I was the one who was around to help Nikki pick up the pieces when your precious Alex left her heartbroken and suicidal." She shot daggers in Samantha's direction. "It was me, Cassandra, who nursed Nikki through that entire period of desolation, and in the process, I fell in love with her. I knew I was a rebound romance but I didn't care. She became my life, my world. After a while I came to believe that she truly was getting over Alex and falling in love with me." Inching closer to the smaller woman, her eyes became slits that oozed hatred and caused Samantha to cringe in fear. "But Alex seems to have a way of lingering in people's hearts. One night in the middle of making love, instead of saying my name at the appropriate time, 'Oh, Alex' was the phrase that escaped my lover's lips. We both were more than aware at that moment that Nikki was anything but over Alex. She rejected me and told me that it would never work out between us, her wounds were still too fresh. This was two years after their breakup . . . and the wounds were still too fresh!"

"I'm sorry," Samantha whispered, "but . . ."

"Oh, stop acting Blonde!" Cassandra shrieked at Samantha "Grow up! Shut up and listen! I'm not Alex -- your sniveling doesn't do anything but add to my pleasure. You wanted answers - I'm giving them to you!" Claw-like hands grabbed Samantha's shoulders and dug deeply into her skin. "I knew I could never harm Alex directly. Nikki would never forgive me that. I would never stand a chance with her if I hurt Alex physically.

Then you came into our little circle, an irritating speck of sand in the oyster's shell -- Nikki hated you as much as I hated Alex. My vehicle of revenge became crystal clear. All I had to do was devastate your world and I would, in turn, devastate Alex's. Nikki would be thrilled to know you were suffering; I would get revenge on your lover through your sorrow. You see, Samantha, it's really rather simple. - Hurting you became my reason for living. My little discussion with your "Daddy" today was the highlight of my year." Her eyes bore a hole directly into Samantha's soul.

Normally quite pacifistic, Samantha's mind was taking an uncommon turn. Hate was lodged in her heart next to the pain of separation from her family. The driftwood she had picked up on her miserable hike up the coastline in search of her private cove became the weapon her disposition would have never before let her brandish on anyone.

"Why you no good piece of Shit. I ought to . . ." She lashed out at the despicable piece of human garbage standing in front of her thriving on her despair.

"Wrong move, Samantha," came the quick reply as well as the evasive move. "Unless you're as familiar with martial arts as your partner, you had best put your little toy aside, tuck your tail and go home."

The young author, more versed in the writing of poems than the wielding of weapons, continued her attack.

"I hate you like I've never hated anyone in my life! You've ruined everything! And for what -- Revenge? Revenge isn't sweet Cassandra," Sam spit the villainess' name through her teeth. "It's destructive. It will not only destroy me and my family but you as well." She swung out at the agile figure who was deftly avoiding all her blows.

"You may very well be right, little warrior wanna be," Cassie continued laughing at Samantha. But look at you, trying your damnedest to cause pain in return for pain being given to you. Why don't you try taking your own misguided advice?"

Catching Samantha off guard, Cassandra did a high scissor kick and knocked the driftwood staff from the clutches of her would-be assailant. Samantha was not sure what the woman intended to do with the staff, but she was sure it would not be in her best interests.

Cassie feigned hitting at Samantha to watch her jump, first to the left and then to the right. She was thoroughly enjoying taunting the smaller woman and considered giving her a quick poke in the ribs with her newly acquired weapon, just for the hell of it. She was toying with the amateur; she certainly didn't needed an instrument in her hands to overwhelm the frightened young woman in front of her.


Alex had continued at full pace the entire three miles and began worrying that perhaps she had misjudged where Samantha might go when she didn't catch up with her along the way. Her faith in herself returned when she spotted two figures ahead of her, just below the warehouse. She still was not close enough to positively recognize them, but her bet was that one of the two was her Samantha.

On closer approach her heart lifted and she definitely knew the shorter of the two women was her lover. She was holding something long and pointed in her hands when suddenly the other woman performed a martial arts move and kicked the staff out of Samantha's hands and into her own. She was teasing Samantha with it, waving it to the left and then the right and making Samantha dodge the object.

Alex had a bad feeling about the confrontation; danger emitted it's radar in her direction and she feared that soon the staff would find it's way to actually making contact with her lover's body. She started looking desperately around the beach for something to throw at the person and distract her. She watched as the taller woman poked at Samantha and Samantha jumped backward. Neither of the two were aware of anything happening outside their little realm of sand.

Sticking out of the sand, about six feet away, Alex spotted a pink frisbee. She changed her course to pick it up. She had been pretty good at throwing the smooth round objects in college when they used to have competitions in the park on the weekends. She was sure it was like riding a bicycle; you never really forgot how. Her only problem was that she had but one chance to make her mark. She needed to knock the stick out of the stranger's hand and keep Samantha from harm.

She waited until the tall blonde made her move to strike again. When she did, Alex threw the frisbee, hitting the large stick and knocking it out of the surprised woman's hands. Alex was now within a few yards of the two women. Samantha turned around, spotted Alex and started to run toward her. Alex sprinted the last couple yards to reach her lover.

Approaching the scene she asked no questions but immediately accosted the stranger whose physical demeanor was almost identical to Nikki's. No wonder there was such a misunderstanding when Samantha first described her.

Alex came toward the two women, side-stepping Samantha, hands and feet flying. No questions asked, she was acting on pure instinct. There was an immediate and unanticipated foot-to-jowl exchange -- the stranger was taken back but not incapacitated by the blow.

"You want a piece of me, Bitch?" The tall lanky blonde began graceful movements from side-to-side. "You started something now, Alex. I wasn't going to get physical with you, but . . ." Cassie put a hand up to her bruised jaw line. "This changes everything!"

"I want a piece of somebody today so it might as well be you," Alex countered. "Especially since I'm positive you're the one who purposely "outed" us today to Samantha's father!"

"How clever of you to figure that out all by yourself. My, my Alexis -- Nikki didn't give you enough credit for brains; seems she was stuck on the fact that you were extremely adept in the bedroom." She shot a contemptuous look in Samantha's direction to see if she had been affected by the statement; she smiled knowing the small blonde had. Mark another point up for me, Cassie thought as she marked an invisible "one" into the air.

An arm swung in her direction and she blocked it with her own, followed by another arm and then a leg. The two were definitely an even match for each other.

"This one's for the Open House visit," Alex yelled as she jumped and landed a swift kick in the other woman's chest area, throwing her back onto the sand.

Cassandra jumped to her feet and raced toward the broadly grinning Alex.

"Are we having fun yet tall, blonde and stupid?" Alex taunted.

It was Cassie's turn, "This one's for Nikki." She spun around, her side facing Alex as she kicked straight up with a side kick and caught Alex in the ribs.

Samantha gasped and began to run toward her lover. Alex waved her back and turned to face her adversary again.

They seemed to take turns getting in a kick here, a punch there and quite a few arm/arm, leg/leg, stand-offs. It was clear the two were both expert martial artists. At one point Cassie tried to enhance her position by kicking up sand into Alex's face. Alex pretended to be totally incapacitated by the move and covered her eyes. When Cassie came "in for the kill" she got quite a surprise, as Alex caught her leg and toppled her onto the ground. Alex jumped down, straddling her now recumbent rival.

Cassie tried to move and Alex hit her, "How did you know where we were going?" Alex yelled.

"Wouldn't you like to know!" came the sarcastic response.

Alex hit her again, "I'm gonna ask you nicely, one more time and then it is going to start getting ugly. How did you know where we were going and when?"

When Cassie declined to answer Alex drew back to level another shot at her opponent's face. "Wait!" Cassandra cried out, "The elevator . . . I placed a mic in the fucking elevator." Alex leaned back and stared into the face of her defeated foe. "You sneaky Bitch!" She pulled back to give her another fist in the face just "because" when a smaller hand grabbed her own.

"Don't Alex," sad green eyes met her steel blues, "Please, honey, enough for today. I can't take anymore," Samantha pleaded.

Alex pulled her fist from her lover's grasp and glared down at her opponent, "You don't know how lucky you are; I'd just as soon finish with you right here and now." She pushed herself back and stood, still straddling the humbled enemy. Giving Cassie a slight kick in the waist as she stepped over her, she grabbed Samantha's hand and pulled her close. "You're my salvation, you know? You'll keep me on the right path; I'm sure of it." She bent to kiss the tear-streaked face. "We'll talk in a minute, sweetheart," Alex promised as she turned again to face Cassandra.

The rumpled, frustrated blonde stood up and brushed the sand from her clothes. She was bruised and beaten, but hatred still flashed from her eyes and bitterness erupted in her voice, "You think you've won, Alex? You have another think coming. You only won the battle, not the fucking war." She continued to examine her wounds and rubbed her jaw as she started to slowly back away from the duo, "We're not through yet, you and I. Not by a long shot." She turned and ran back down the beach toward the town.

Finally alone on the deserted stretch of sand the lover's held each other tightly.

"I knew you'd come in time," Samantha whispered. "You are and always will be my hero." She looked up into eyes that only now were showing the impact of the challenge that had just taken place.

"You're my world Samantha. Nobody . . ." she repeated herself, "nobody, fucks with my world without consequences!"

"Oh, Alex . . . what she did to my family . . ."

"I know, Samantha. I'm sorry she was able to do that to you. I can't rectify that hurt; I can only help you with the healing process." Alex rubbed her lover's back, holding her close and wishing she could take on the pain Samantha was feeling.

"He said he never wants to see me again, that I am dead to him." Samantha sobbed, burying her face in Alex's chest.

Alex could feel her clothing dampen as tears began to flow from the smaller woman's eyes. She felt helpless, standing in the sand holding Samantha and being unable to bring the sunshine back from behind the clouds.

"Listen, honey," Alex tilted her lover's face up, "I'm going up to the house to see what's happening. You stay here. I'll be back as soon as I can. I promise." Looking into Samantha's face she spotted the raised purple mark that looked to be the impression of a hand. In the heat of her defending Samantha against Cassandra, Alex had forgotten what Sally had told her about Don hitting Sam. Anger seized her once again. "Did your father do that to you?" she bellowed.

"It's okay, Alex. It really doesn't hurt." Samantha lied.

"Okay, my ass! Didn't I just tell you that Nobody fucks with my world? That includes your father, that son-of-a-bitch." I should have beat the crap out of him when I had the chance. She thought to herself while gently caressing the dark area on her lover's face. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there Samantha." Tears welled up in her eyes as she bent to kiss the abused area. "He'll pay for this," she whispered as she looked back into her lover's eyes.

"Alex, no," was all Samantha could say as she squeezed her close.

"But Samantha . . ."

"No, please. Violence only breeds more violence. This will heal, I'll heal."

Caught between wanting revenge and desiring to do what Samantha wished, Alex found her throat tightening as well as her stomach knotting. She vowed to get even with the bastard. She might not touch him physically, but he would rue the day he fucked with Alexis Dorian. She would make certain of that.

"Come on, baby. I've got to go, but you're safe now. Nothing is going to harm you. I'll be right back."

Samantha continued to cling.

"Please, Samantha," Alex pleaded, untangling herself from a reluctant release.

"I'll be right back," she repeated as she backed away from her lover, her heart breaking at the sight of Samantha looking so small and abused. "I promise, I'll be right back. Let me just go make sure everyone is either gone or well on their way to being so."

"But what if they're up there? Shouldn't I come . . ."

"NO!" came the adamant response. "Samantha you stay right where you are. I will be back down as soon as possible. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Alex," Samantha conceded, too tired to argue.

Alex raced to the stairs and took them three at a time. Upon reaching the top she had a double reaction. The only vehicle on the block was Angel's red Mustang. She at once was happy that the rental car was gone and upset that she would not be able to confront Don personally. Thinking it over as she jogged to the front door, she decided it was probably best he was not still around. She would not have been able to control her temper. She knew herself too well to think she would have been able to have faced him again today and not beaten him unrecognizable. That would have gone over really big with Samantha, you big idiot. It was to everyone's advantage that the Riley's had already left Laguna Beach.

She was about to try the door when she noticed a huge crack down the middle of the right side. "That no good poor excuse for a man!" she mumbled. "How in the name of all that's decent did Samantha ever turn out like she did?" She slid her fingers along the entire length of the violation. "Just like a coward," she whispered to the wind.

The sound of the elevator in use broke the silence of the building as she walked in. Angel stepped out pulling a suitcase behind her. "Good! I'm glad I get to talk with you in person," the younger woman smiled up at Alex. "It's been one helluva day in Paradise, hasn't it?"

"That's an understatement!" Alex commented. "You all finished moving?"

"Yeah, this is the last of it," she nodded behind her at the luggage. "First off I want to thank you for the use of your home, your help moving into my new place and the job I'll be starting in the morning."

"You welcome for all."

"Secondly, there's a note from me -- which you can discard -- and a note from Samantha's sister on the door to the apartment."

Alex could not help asking, "Did Mr. Riley do any damage inside the building?" She pointed to the vandalized stained glass door.

"Oh, Shit! What a bastard!" Angel shook her head. "No. Actually, Sally told me that he told his wife the he didn't want to set foot in Satan's den ever again and made them come in and do all the packing. He's a real piece of work isn't he?"

"That is your second understatement of the day!" Alex smiled slightly, "If the door was the only damage he did, I guess I got off easy. I've been on his shit list for years now. This act of childishness is just like him." She turned and put a hand on the smaller woman's shoulder. "Thanks for letting them in; I'm glad I didn't have to come home to them sitting on the curb waiting for me."

"Sure, happy to oblige! How's Samantha . . . ah . . . where's Samantha?"

"Samantha is as good as she can be right now. She's down on the beach waiting for me to come back down. I think I'll go on up and get Sally's note; I'm sure it will help the healing process to begin. Maybe I'll pick up a little liquid fortification while I'm at it."

"All right then, I guess I'll be on my way. Thanks again, Alex. Tell Sam I'm sorry the weekend didn't finish off the way you two had anticipated."

"It will all work out, I'm sure of it. It will be tough on her for a while, but hopefully he'll have a change of heart somewhere down the road." She stepped inside the elevator and put her arms up on either side of the door, slightly leaning out, "I only wish that for Samantha's sake. I could care less if I ever come face-to-face with the bastard again."

"Yeah, well, I hope so, too, for Samantha's sake. By the way here are your keys. I figured I'd bring them to you in the morning, but . . ."

Alex reached out and took the set of keys from Angel. "Okay, see you around 10 tomorrow."

Angel turned and walked down the hall, "Okay, bye Alex."

When the doors opened on the third floor, Alex ran from the elevator to the apartment door, stuffed the envelopes in her pocket and raced through the living area to the bathroom. At least relieved of that situation, she hurried back into the kitchen where she grabbed the wineskin she had hanging in the pantry and filled it with Merlot; a little nectar of the Gods would help to ease the pain. There was still a hunk of sharp cheddar in the refrigerator and a couple bagels still in a bag. She draped the wineskin over her shoulder, put the cheese and bagels into one bag, left the apartment and headed back to the beach.


Samantha looked around at the empty beach. She felt smaller than she had in long, long time. Her entire world had come crashing down around her in the span of a few short hours. She found a small sand dune surrounded by pathetic little bushes and sat down in the middle of it, her elbows on her bent knees, hands on her chin. She was an orphan of sorts. She had lost her father, her mother and her sister and had been confronted by an enemy not of her own making. Her only consolation was her hero, her Alex, her bigger-than-life white knight who was both willing and able to sweep her off her feet and carry her to the castle on the top of the cliff. It never entered her mind that all of today's dilemmas were directly related to her association with Alex and had it occurred to her the thought would have been immediately dismissed. Alex had become her protector, her lover, her world. She wouldn't go back to her existence B.A. (before Alex), even if she could have vanquished all the other hurts. They would make it through this together. She knew in her heart that her mother still loved her and was merely too weak to go up against her father. She knew that her sister still loved her and would find a way to keep in touch. As for her dad, she would learn to live with his hate, as much as she hurt now, she would heal in spite of him.

A soft sound invaded her thoughts and she cocked her head to listen. Other than the rhythmic crashing of the waves against the shoreline, silence again greeted her ears. She became self-absorbed again, wishing for Alex to hurry and join her, when there was a rustle in the bushes next to her. Samantha jumped, still on edge from all the negative interactions of the day. The sound repeated and she smiled. She sat very still and waited to hear it again.

"Mew, mew."

Samantha made a soft hissing-like sound she had always used to call her favorite cat when she was a child. Seconds later her call was answered.

"Mew, mew," and again the rustling in the bush.

"Come here, sweet thing," Samantha coaxed.

The soft sound seemed to be closer, then turned frantic as a "M-e-o-w, m-e-o-w," reached Samantha's ears. The blonde stood and slowly inched toward the bush, not wanting to frighten what sounded like a very small cat. The screech returned and Samantha parted the bush to find a small black kitten tangled in the vines at the bottom of the bush, unable to free herself.

"Oh, you poor baby," Samantha crooned, forgetting all her own troubles. She reached down and gently tore away the offending vines as she picked the kitten up. Two sky blue eyes looked up into the face of her own "hero", as the little creature began licking Samantha's hand. "Why you can't be more than a couple weeks old. Where's you mommy, little one?" she questioned.

She sat back down on the dune and stroked the soft ebony hair that reminded her so much of Alex's. The fur was so black that when the sunlight sparkled on it from just the right angle, Samantha swore she could see a reflecting rainbow.

"I'm going to call you Rainbow because you appeared after a horrible storm to brighten my day."

She was sitting there petting her new found friend when Alex walked up behind her. "There you are," she said as she crouched down in front of her lover, displaying gifts. "I brought food and wine," she smiled, then wrinkled her brow. "What do you have there?"

"A little black Rainbow," came the cryptic answer.

"Okay, I'll bite . . ."

Samantha held out the small kitten. "She was caught in the underbrush and when I stroked her fur in the sunlight, I saw a beautiful rainbow."

"Samantha, she's black."

"Haven't you ever seen a rainbow in an oil slick on blacktop? I have." She looked down at the small bundle on her lap. "I don't care, I saw a rainbow and rainbows always come after the storm to clear the air and make everything that was ugly, beautiful. Can we keep her Alex, please?" she beseeched.

"Sure, why not. Cats are always a plus in a beach town, but do I have to call her Rainbow?"


"But, Samantha, I'll feel like an idiot, she's b . . ."

"Rainbow is her name," the smaller woman smiled up and grabbed her lover's hand. "Oh, Alex, I think things will work out. It'll take time, I won't kid myself, and you'll need to be patient with me," tears began forming again in Samantha's eyes.

Alex sat down next to her lover, put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. She decided to give her Sally's note a little later; it seemed as though Sam was starting to deal with the situation at hand and she wanted this time alone with her. Samantha could read the letter on her own later and share if she so desired or not, but now was a time for just the two of them.

The entire time she was running along the shoreline looking for Samantha, Alex had been formulating a little speech that she hoped would explain to Sam how much she cared and how they would get through this catastrophe if they just stuck it out together. She was sure Samantha had no intention of leaving her but she wanted to solidify her place in her lover's heart. Now seemed as good a time as any to express her feelings.

"Samantha," Alex began, "families are eccentric entities. Just because we are born into one doesn't guarantee that those people will love us our entire lives. Or even if they do, that they will be our friends. On the other hand, we go through life accumulating people who eventually become a family outside our relatives, and sometimes these other people become even more important to us. It's always nice to be able to integrate the two, but not everyone has that luxury. At this point in your life, it looks like you're going to have to rely on your second family, the one I belong to," she looked down at the small being in her lover's hand, "and . . . Rainbow . . . and hope that your first family will someday accept you for who you really are."

Samantha smiled up at Alex with tears in her eyes. She stretched her neck to kiss the supple lips she loved. "I love you, Alex."

Alex, dug into her pocket, "If I were superstitious -- which I'm not -- I would consider that kitten in your lap an extremely positive prophetic sign, one of only good things to look forward to." Again she smiled and kissed Samantha on the cheek. "I picked this up for you on the way to get the drinks we never got to enjoy today. I love you, Samantha." She handed Samantha a glittering rainbow sticker to be placed on the back window of the Volkswagen. The sticker was in the shape of a cat.


It wasn't going to be easy piecing together all that had tumbled down upon their heads. Their lives had changed drastically in the span of a few short hours.

Samantha explained to Alex the situation between Cassandra and Nikki and why the tall blonde considered Alex her enemy and was so set on ruining her and all that she cared for. The fair-haired romantic was even able to tell the story in such a way as to not make Cassie out to be a total villainess. Alex, on the other hand, had a difficult time agreeing with her lover and still felt that she should have beat her senseless before setting her loose. She argued that at least she should have given her up to the police, reminding Samantha of all the mental and physical damage she caused, as well as the vandalism the woman had been guilty of. Alex vowed that the elevator would be stripped first thing in the morning of the invasive piece of equipment that had been haunting them unknowingly since the open house.

From her fiery exit they knew they had not seen the last of the angry woman. Alex told Samantha that she intended to have a long discussion with Nikki about the entire situation. Sam started to object but thought better of it and merely shook her head. She figured Alex was probably right and at least they might get a better idea of what to expect next from the blonde psychotic by questioning Nikki.

More than once through the conversations Sam's green eyes swelled with tears that could not help but overflow; her consolation was that "her hero" was there this time to wipe the tears away and comfort her.

To bring a spark of sunshine back into the conversation Alex told Samantha that Sally had left her a note and the small blonde decided that she wanted to share the letter with Alex right from the beginning, so Alex fished it out of her pocket and hoped that her heart was right in thinking that the letter would be a positive one. Samantha slowly read the note out loud:

Dear Sammie:

I only have a few minutes to write because mom is almost done packing and daddy would explode if he knew I was writing this. I just want you to know that I think Alex is perfect for you. She will be your protector as well as the love of your life, and with her to help you through this mess that tore our family apart today, I just know everything will at least be happy in Laguna.

I'm sorry daddy had to find out the way he did, but you know as well as I do that no matter how or when he found out, the reaction would have been the same. To think it would have ended any differently, we would have only been fooling ourselves. Finding out that it was Alexis Dorian who stole your heart made it even more difficult for him to accept.

I can guarantee that mom does not hold daddy's views, but you know as well as I do that she is too weak to go against him. We will keep in touch, mom and I -- I promise, Sammie. I'll give you a call from work sometime next week and we can talk.

Things will eventually work out -- they have to. I love you, Sally.

The smile on Samantha's lips at the end of the letter made Alex glad she had told her about the message. Sally was a pretty special young woman and Alex was glad she would continue to be a part of Samantha's life.

About halfway through the bread, cheese, and wine the discussion led to Don Riley. Samantha's hand went up to her cheek which still bore the mark of her last encounter with her father. The movement was not lost on the watchful eyes of her lover and Alex gently removed the small hand from the offending bruise and pulled Samantha closer.

"I'm so sorry I wasn't there to stop him from doing that, Samantha," she confessed, her own eyes tearing up at the thought of the pain he had inflicted.

"It happened so quickly, there would have been nothing you could have done anyway, Alex," Samantha assured her.

"But he would have been sorry for doing it," came the rebuttal.

"No, Alex -- that would have just made things worse. I would not have been able to stand by and watch you destroy him in front of all those people." She looked up into Alex's face and they shared the wiping away of tears. "I love you, Alex, and I know you love me. This family situation will clear itself up eventually one way or the other and I will learn to live with it. At least we have your parents, and like you mentioned earlier, even though I might have lost part of one family, I still have another to support and love me."

Alex was sure the small blonde was putting up a front, not wanting to let on just how much she hurt inside. The dark-haired protector felt a shiver go through the body she was holding so closely it seemed like an extension of her own. She kissed the top of her lover's head and whispered comforting words in her ear. Samantha let out a long sigh and looked out toward the ocean, her head leaning back on Alex's chest. They remained silent for a while, taking in the beauty of the landscape before them, each lost in her own thoughts.

By the time they finished off the food, the day had turned to dusk, and by the time the wineskin was fully drained, the sun was well on its way to being extinguished from the summer sky. The two lover's found themselves observing what had come to be a tradition for them a Laguna sunset.

Alex sat with her back against the dune, Samantha cuddled up close, snuggled in between long, strong legs, her head against Alex's chest. Rainbow was curled up in a ball in Samantha's lap and had been sleeping through most of the afternoon.

"As beautiful as the day started out and as horrible as it was in the middle. Sitting here with you and this little bundle, with the gorgeous hues of orange, pink, purple, and blue in the sky and the soft roar of the ocean, I just know someone or something is watching out for us and that everything will fall into place the way it is meant to be." Samantha put the kitten down on the sand and turned to face her lover, kneeling on the dune, her arms around Alex's neck; she kissed her passionately. "You really are all I need to be happy," she whispered, putting her lips close to the perfectly formed ear she loved to nibble on.

"I love you, too, Samantha," Alex began, but it's getting cool out here and we had better be heading inside. She returned Samantha's kiss then stood, pulling her lover up with her. "Come on, get the little fur-child and let's go home."

They turned away from the ocean after viewing the last glimpse of the sun as it touched the horizon, but not before they both caught sight of the first star of the evening. Each of the lover's made a silent wish, and unbeknownst to them, the wishes were identical. If they were, indeed, being protected and watched over by an omnipresent entity then their wishes would surely be granted, and they would spend the rest of their lives loving each other and sharing Laguna Nights.


The End (of Laguna Nights)

Read the exciting sequel: Sedona Rain

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