All disclaimers may be found in Chapter 1


Sedona Rain

Carole Giorgio: WomynBard@aol.com

Chapter 5

Morning stars still shared the heavens with the moon and the recently awakened sun when Alex awoke. Stroking Samantha’s silky blonde hair she kissed her sweetly. "Hey Almost Birthday Girl, you want to sleep a little longer or would you like to help me start breakfast for everyone."

"Breakfast," the small woman yawned, "Is it really that time already?"

"Sure is, but I can give you a little over an hour more to sleep if you want." Combing the fine hair with her fingers she then caressed the face beneath and kissed her lover gently.

"You know, Alex," Samantha rubbed the sleep from her eyes, "I think I’ll get up with you and help this time. It’ll be fun."

"You don’t have to, my love; this is your vacation you know?"

"I know but I want to watch you and Kelley interact in the kitchen. It should be fun watching someone tell you what to do." A smile appeared on the sleepy face as she looked up into already sparkling blue eyes. "How can you look so beautiful before you even wash your face?"

"Beautiful . . . you’re crazy! And . . . what do you mean watch someone Tell Me what to do?"

"You don’t expect me to believe that Kelley would let You be in charge of the breakfast, now do you?"

"Well . . ."

"Come on Alex, we both know better. I’ll bet you still act like a child when you’re helping Kelley."

"I do not," came the indignant reply. "Perhaps it would be best if you just rolled over, grabbed a pillow and put your sarcastic little ass back to sleep." Doing her damnedest to keep a straight face she untangled herself from the smaller woman’s embrace and started to get out of bed.

"Oh no you don’t, Alexis Dorian." Samantha grabbed at the taller woman’s nightshirt, pulling her back to land squarely into waiting arms.

Turning around to face Samantha, Alex arched an eyebrow and gave a crooked smile, "Just what did you think you were going to accomplish with that little maneuver?"

"There was no ‘think’ to it . . . I got you back into bed with me." Throwing her arms around the tall woman she pulled her close and whispered into her ear. "I feel like a cat that is constantly in heat when I’m around you. All I want to do is touch and be touched."

"Just call me ‘Alley’ because I feel exactly the same way."

Warm caresses being given and received made for a fabulous greeting to the shining new day.

Alex trailed baby kisses down Samantha's neck while her hands roamed the contours of the smaller woman’s body. Nipples excited by the morning caresses stood at attention as Alex’s mouth found its destination.

"Alex, don’t . . . I won’t want you to stop if I let you start." Samantha pleaded.

"Who says I have to stop until we’re finished?"

"You know very well that you have to get into the kitchen to help Kelley. You can’t be staying in here playing around with me."

"Oh but this is not playing; I’m very serious about what I am doing here."

"Then really get serious . . . Alex we can fool around all we want after everyone has left but you promised breakfast by 9 o'clock this morning and at the rate you’re going we won’t be out of this suite until noon." She pulled away from the raven-haired beauty, doing her best to look intimidating. "Alex don’t make me be the meanie. It’s not fair."

"Oh, okay. I guess you’re right. So, you coming with?" Alex asked as she started toward the bathroom.

"Sure, why not." Samantha agreed, following closely behind.

In the shower Samantha asked more questions than a five-year-old, such as how far it was to the zoo, would it take all day, what kind of exotic animals could they expect to see, and where they were going for dinner.

"All the exciting exhibits you’re going to be exposed to today and you want to know where we’re having dinner?" Alex laughed at her soapy lover as she began to spray her off.

"It was just a conversational question, Alex. I don’t have to know but you said Marcy and Von were coming up and I was wondering if they were going to meet us at the zoo or . . ."

"Actually I think I’ll keep the dinner reservations a surprise."

"No . . . tell me . . . please," Samantha begged as she began soaping Alex up.

"Half the fun of this weekend is you Not knowing everything that’s going on until it happens. You want to ruin all my fun?" Alex pretended to pout.

Seeing through the faŃade, Samantha decided to play along anyway. "Of course I wouldn’t want to spoil your good time, poor baby." She drew the just rinsed woman into an embrace. "I’ll wait and be surprised if that’s the way you want it. Come on, we need to get dressed before Kelley has everything done."

"No way . . . she will definitely wait until I arrive. Can’t start breakfast without a gofer, and that is most decidedly me when Kelley’s cooking; just call me Ms Gofer."

Samantha giggled at the thought of Alex being bossed around by anyone and she quite assuredly wanted to see the interaction between mother and daughter.

"So what are we wearing today?" Samantha asked, finishing up blow drying her hair and turning the machine on her lover who quickly grabbed it out of her hands.

"You’re dangerous early in the morning. Do you realize that?"

"I asked what we’re wearing?"

"I don’t know about you but I’m all for cargo shorts and a tee shirt. It’s hot and sticky out there, and we have a day full of riding in open buses and walking. I, for one, intend to be comfortable."

"Comfortable it is then, shorts and a midriff – that okay with you?"

"Most definitely. I’ll get to watch all the gals and guys watching you and know that I’m the only one who gets to touch!" A smile and a wink made their way over to where the petite blonde was primping.

"All righty then, are we set to go?"

"As set as I’ll ever be." Samantha answered.

The corridor was quiet when they stepped out into it. Early morning sunlight streaked through the skylights, casting a faint pink glow onto the walls, giving an almost otherworldly effect.

Alex gave a short tap on the door of Ray and Sonny’s room as well as Danny and Sue’s when they passed by. She knew that at least one half of each of the couples was an early riser and figured she’d give them a chance, if they were already awake to know that others were up as well.

"Should I let Sally sleep until it’s closer to time?" Samantha asked as they passed the younger woman’s door.

"No harm in letting her get a little more shut eye. You two going to have a heart-to-heart today?"

"Yeah, something’s bothering her. I think she wants to tell me but is afraid. I get a knot in my stomach when I think about what it could be." Samantha looked up into concerned blue eyes as Alex drew her close with an arm around her shoulder.

"It’ll be fine; I’m sure of it, Honey. Things are bound to be a little rough with the way your father took the news. Even if he were able to deal with your sexuality . . . he hates my guts." An uncommon look of sadness fleetingly appeared in the tall woman’s eyes. "A few months ago I would have been thrilled to have caused Don Riley some honest to Goddess grief. It would have made my day. I know that’s not the kind of confession you want to hear, but your dad has been a thorn in my side for years, Samantha."

Alex could feel the sag of Samantha's shoulders when she finished the sentence.

"Damn! I hate to make you unhappy when the day started off so good. I was trying to tell you that I’m sorry now . . . where I wouldn’t have been before, but I guess I didn’t say it right."

"It’s okay, Alex. Really, I understand."

"No Honey, I don’t think you do. Your dad and I have been rivals of the worst kind. I would have done anything to make his life miserable and that’s probably exactly what’s been going through his mind these past months – that I finally got him where it really hurt – in his family. But instead of making me feel good, I feel miserable."

She stopped walking, motioned Samantha into the formal living room and motioned for her to sit on the couch.

"Damn Samantha! This is not what I wanted." Getting down on her knees and looking up into the delicate face she adored, she slowly wiped a tear away as it dampened her lover’s face. "I keep digging the hole bigger, don’t I?"

"No Alex, it’s just . . ."

"What I’m trying to say is that even though your dad deserves every ounce of agony he receives, you and the rest of your family are innocents; innocents I didn’t even know existed until the day I met and fell in love with you. And I’m sorry the three of you are hurting over this."

Samantha batted back tears that refused not to fall and took Alex’s face between her small hands. Looking deep into her lover’s soul she spoke, using hushed tones. "My father is a bastard Alex . . . there . . . I’ve said it. It’s not like I haven’t known for years but I never had anything or anyone mean enough to me to face him down before. Truthfully, he would have reacted the exact same way no matter who you turned out to be, in actuality I think I’m even a little glad there was the double whammy, except for the fact that my mother is probably bearing the brunt of this entire situation. I deeply regret that."

The small blonde leaned over and kissed Alex softly on the lips, leaving an aftertaste of salt in her lover’s mouth.

"Hmmm," Alex commented as she rose to stand in front of Samantha. "Nice touch – salt." She continued, reaching out her arms to help Sam off the couch and into her arms for an embrace.

"Whatd’ya say we put this topic aside for a little while and get back to the problem at hand."

"Problem?"

"What exactly to make for breakfast." Alex released her hold on the smaller woman, still keeping an arm around the shapely shoulders.

"Most definitely pancakes . . . other than that . . . the decision is all yours and Kelley’s."

They almost reached the kitchen when another early riser joined them. Ray caught up with them and explained that he felt Sonny would probably sleep until awoken.

"That’s fine, we don’t need too many Indians in the kitchen anyway, it makes Kelley nervous."

Nearing the kitchen the odor of coffee far outweighed the scent of the pot of tea Alex and Samantha knew would be waiting for them when they arrived. Kelley was most assuredly up and had been for a little while.

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

By the time 8:30 rolled around the two main chefs and their many excellent assistants managed to set the table, and have most of the meal prepared. Samantha was chosen to play camp counselor and go wake all who had yet to make an appearance, which included basically the same four sleepyheads – Aurora, Suz, Sally, and Sonny. It was beginning to seem as if everyone whose first name started with an "S" found bed much more appealing than watching the sunrise. Samantha would have been among the sleepers if it hadn’t been for the adrenaline rush she was receiving from the entire weekend.

Cooperation was also a necessity after breakfast and with everyone pitching in, the dishes were in the dishwasher, and the entire group was dressed and ready to walk out the door a little before 10 o’clock.

"You know, Kelley, the zoo opened an hour ago?" Aurora off-handedly mentioned as the van was being boarded.

"I thought we would be the first people there this morning," Samantha stated, glancing up at Alex.

Alex looked up at her mother who just gave everyone too much information and glared.

"No, listen." Aurora began, giving an explanation as to why the later hour. "We figured two things were apparent with this little troupe. First, that almost six hours was more than enough time to spend walking around looking at animals after yesterday’s trek, and secondly that there was no way in hell we were going to get all of you up and out of the house by 8:30 in the morning."

"I, for one, am glad you didn’t wake me up at the crack of dawn to go look at varmints," Sonny issued forth from the back seat as he settled in.

"Ditto, here," Sally and Suz chimed in.

"I could go a lifetime without animal watching," Danny whispered to his partner under his breath.

"I heard that," Samantha smiled as she tapped her friend on the shoulder. "Guess the consensus is that you did right by letting the sleepyheads get their beauty rest, Aurora."

"Listen to you, as if you normally get up before the sun is fully set in the morning sky!" Sally looked over at her sister. "What did get you up so early?"

"I’m becoming an early bird," Samantha teased.

"Yeah, right and I’m one of the richest women in the world." Suzanne chimed in.

"Can’t have that title, it’s already taken, right Alex?" Sonny looked back at his friend smiling but received a cold stare from ice blue eyes, telling him that, once again, he opened his mouth and inserted his foot. "Just kidding – get a grip, Alex – it’s early." He turned back around and began some insignificant banter with Danny to take the attention off his faux pas.

Seeing the expression on his face but not that on Alex's, Samantha tugged on her lover’s shirt and whispered, "What was that all about? Sonny looks like he just lost his best friend."

"His sense of humor is a little off this early in the a.m. Not everyone appreciates it," Alex answered, smiling slightly to relieve the tension.

"We should be there shortly. There’s the San Diego skyline and you can see the Coronado Bridge from here if you look over there." Alex pointed out the window, quickly changing the subject. "We’ll have to go visit the Hotel del Coronado sometime."

"That sound interesting, maybe we can go next week." Samantha agreed.

"We’ll see," Alex answered as she pointed back out the window.

The 22-minute ride seemed short, due in part to Aurora’s mini-guide as they passed different sections of the ocean-side city. The huge Zoo sign dwarfed the little group as they stood in front of the larger than life illustrations of a panda, elephant, polar bear, and giraffe.

Aurora gathered the remaining members of the troupe around her. "Okay, while Kelley and Alex are getting the tickets let me tell you what we have planned for today."

"Planned activities via the Camp Counselor," Sonny kidded.

The next thing he knew, the ‘counselor’ had him by the ear, pulling him into the center of the group.

"Kidding . . . Aurora . . . I was kidding!" he cried in mock fear, smiling all the while.

"Don’t you think I know that?" she chortled back at him, having no intention of loosening her hold on the tender ear. "But I do so enjoy remembering what it was like to be a mother and to have this power." Giving one last yank at the now pink ear, she released her victim and turned her attention back to the outline of events for the day.

"Because this place is so spread out we figured the best thing to do would be take the Skyfari Aerial Tram first and let everyone get a good look at the layout. After that we’re getting tickets for the Kangaroo Bus tour where we can hop on and get off at all the different stations. Doing that we can walk around until we are finished with each area and then continue on. We are also getting tickets for a special VIP tour of behind-the-scenes, but I’m not sure what time Kelley has that scheduled. I think it’s for after lunch and will take a couple hours. Okay," she looked over and saw Kelley and Alex motioning that they were ready to go in, "any questions . . . voice them as we’re walking, looks like this show’s on the go."

The air tram ride fulfilled its purpose exactly and when they were all back down on the ground, the discussion focused on where to start and what everyone as individuals wanted to see during the day. They all agreed to bypass the polar bears after having seen a similar exhibit the day before at Sea World. First on everyone’s list was the panda habitat. The five-week old baby panda had made headlines and Hua Mei was top priority to be seen. Of course they hadn’t realized that being such a newcomer the viewing was going to be via a camcorder – nevertheless it was an exciting exhibit. At least Shi Shi was out and about in his viewing area, giving the visitors an up-close encounter with a giant panda.

There was a toss-up about whether to visit the chimps or the gorillas. Luckily the group consisted of one extra person when it came to voting, because the chimps barely won out by a vote of 5-4. It seemed most of the females, and Sonny wanted to see the playful chimps as opposed to the more somber gorillas and there wasn’t going to be enough time to visit both.

As they were getting off the bus, Alex eyed with curiosity a trio of what looked liked cowboys. Since San Diego tended to be more of a relaxed, surfer, Navy kind of town, obvious out-of-towners were easily spotted. The young men, who caught Alex's attention were definitely not from this area of the country, maybe it was the tight jeans, snakeskin boots, and cowboy hats that gave them away. The tall beauty would have thought nothing of the out-of-place travelers if it hadn’t been for the sneering looks and quick whispers she caught out of the corner of her eye as her group was disembarking from the bus.

She nudged Kelley with her elbow and nodded her head in the direction of the ‘cowboys’ who decided to exit the bus as well. "What do you think of them?" she whispered in her mother’s ear.

"Cowboys?"

"Yeah, but I think they might be trouble, keep them in plain sight," The younger woman warned.

"What are you two whispering about," Samantha wanted to know.

"We were complaining we didn’t get to go play with the gorillas," Alex quickly lied, grinning down at the small blonde.

"Don’t be a poor loser, Alex. We can always come back some other time and catch the exhibits we don’t have time for today." She placed herself between Alex and Sally, locking arms with the two women she adored, as the trio continued walking toward the chimps.

There was only so much entertainment the chimps could provide. The jungle atmosphere was beautiful which included everything from lush tropical plants to a raging waterfall. But, as cute as the chimps were, the group soon lost interest and began heading back toward the bus station.

Kelley informed everyone that there was approximately forty-five minutes for the next area, then lunch, followed by the tour. A decision needed to be made as to which animals they wanted to see. The only two who seemed to have any favorites were Sonny and Sam. Sonny wanted to travel over to the area that held the big cats . . . the leopards, jaguar, and tigers. Sam wanted to go check in on Onya-Birri ("ghost boy" in the language of the Aborigine’s), the albino koala that just celebrated his second birthday.

Because it was Samantha's weekend the decision was easy – they stayed on the bus until the Koala exhibit was announced. While they were en route to the site, Samantha read out loud from the information they received at the gate so everyone would know more about the little guy. Once they started watching the koalas’ climb and eat, it was obvious the choice had been a good one. Sam was talking to Sally about the habitat of the koalas when Alex tapped her on the shoulder.

"I’m going with Kelley over to the rest rooms. We’ll be right back." She looked around a few times then gave Samantha a squeeze on the arm. "Don’t talk to strangers."

" Okay . . . I won’t talk to anyone stranger than Sonny," Samantha joked. When she noticed that a smile did not appear on Alex's face, the blonde became a little concerned. "You serious, Alex?"

"Just a little," Alex admitted.

"What’s up?"

"Nothing really, it’s just a feeling." Placing a hand on Samantha's shoulder she leaned in and kissed her on the forehead. "It’s really nothing, I’m just over protective of my almost birthday girl."

"Okay," Samantha smiled as she watched the mother and daughter begin to walk away, "So, we won’t talk to strangers." She called after them.

Turning back to Sonny and Sally, Samantha pointed high up into the treetops. "Look at them go to town on those leaves. This paper says they get fresh branches from several different kinds of eucalyptus trees on a daily basis. It also mentions that each variety has a different taste – I wonder who did the taste testing," she laughed.

Suz and Aurora were sitting on one of the observation benches talking, and Ray and Danny veered off to the exhibit adjacent to the small marsupials. Sally, Samantha, and Sonny were left alone, to stand captivated in front of the entertaining little animals, as they continued to watch them eat and climb among the high trees.

A deep base voice interrupted the conversation of the three friends. "Y’all like watchin’ them furry little bears, Sissy Boy?"

Sonny spun around to find himself looking slightly up and into the face of a very unfriendly looking young man wearing a cowboy hat cocked back off his furrowed brow.

"Excuse me?" Sonny couldn’t believe he was being accosted in the middle of the zoo.

"Y’all heard me, Sissy Boy. And there ain’t no excuse for you and your kind."

By now there was an interloper flanking each of the three friends. Sally looked up at the figure behind her and then over toward the occupied bench situated about 20 feet away. Her eyes met Aurora’s eye and the older woman grabbed Suzanne’s hand, pulling her up from the bench as they started back toward their friends. En route, Suzanne yelled for Danny, who was by now nowhere in sight.

"Why don’t you go play somewhere else with you little friends?" Samantha asked, looking at each one of the villains individually.

"Hey, little lady, if I was you I’d mind my own business." The ruffian addressed Samantha.

"This is my business -- this is my friend. We’re not bothering you . . ."

"He is!" A strong, rough looking finger pointed in the direction of Sonny, almost touching him on the face. "Me and my buddies here were having ourselves a good time until we saw him. He makes my stomach turn."

"Well, if you were to look the other direction you wouldn’t see him, now why don’t you go away and leave us alone?" Samantha encouraged.

"What’s the problem here?" Aurora asked when she reached the scene.

"Nothing for you to be concerned with, ma’am. It’s just that we don’t think he ought to be swishing around this here public establishment like he owned the place." The spokesman for the outsiders turned back to Sonny giving him a slight push. "You know what we do with your kind where I come from, Fagot?"

"I don’t believe I’d like to find out," Sonny countered, trying to make light of the situation but trembling inside. Physical confrontation was definitely not one of his strong points.

"Well, it’s quite obvious you aren’t from around Here!" A strong contralto voice boomed as Alex stepped closer to the seat of trouble.

The agitator took his attention from Sonny long enough to spin around, his eyes meeting glacial blue ones, narrowed firmly upon his face.

"Is that look supposed to scare me?" He thundered at Alex.

"It would if you had any sense between those two large ears of yours," Sonny exclaimed, happy to be out of harm’s way.

The young man glanced over his shoulder at Sonny then back at Alex, eyeing her up and down with the glare of a predator. "You’re a big girl, now ain’t ya?"

Deliberately stepping almost close enough to kiss him, she answered very slowly. "Yes, and very capable. Trust me, you don’t want to anger me, cowboy."

"Ha! Listen girly . . ."

Two strong hands reached out and grabbed the checkered shirt of the ‘cowboy’, almost ripping it out from the tight jeans. Staying in his face, now nose to nose Alex retorted, "I’m gonna play nice and give you one chance to join up with your little friends and ‘mosey’ on down the road."

Kelley came out of the bathroom and was racing toward the explosive scene, and Aurora was beginning to get upset. Out of the corner of her eye Alex saw Ray and Danny as they intersected the stranger’s friends on their way to help their companion, and sent them running in the opposite direction.

With her guard seeming let down, the young man standing in front of her thought he would at least be able to get in a shot at Sonny before taking off running. Alex loosened her grip on his shirt and he figured if he swung around quick enough he could at least land one pop in the face of the queen standing behind him.

Ripping out of Alex's hold, he spun around and drew back his arm to let one fly in the direction of the now frightened Sonny, who instantly put his hands up to his face and screamed. But the arm never got any further than the pull back when the cowboy felt a powerful vise-like grip bearing down on his elbow and another hand grabbing him around the waist, spinning him back around to face an extremely agitated Alex.

"Listen Dick-head, I gave you the only chance you’re going to get." She hissed.

Aurora screamed out, "Don’t hurt him Alex."

Samantha chimed in with an opposite; "You go girl."

A small crowd on the outskirts of the commotion watched in awe as the agile, raven-haired beauty picked the man up, who looked to be her equal in stature and even more so in muscle, and literally threw him into the fence separating the humans from the koalas.

"You want to act like an animal, ass hole, I can give you an up close and personal visit inside the cage." Keeping his back to the chained link and lifting him a foot off the ground, she threatened to deposit him on the other side of the fence when a strong hand gently tapped her shoulder.

"Temper, temper Alex," Kelley’s voice rang through the angry thoughts filling her daughter’s head.

"It could have been any of them he picked on, Kelley." Her tone turned almost to a plea. "What if he’d gone after Samantha – I would have had to kill him."

"But he didn’t so put him down before the zoo attendants arrive and you find yourself the one in trouble."

With a final show of strength she lifted him a little higher and let him drop to the cement, placing a foot on his back as he landed. "You are indeed one lucky cowboy. If it were up to me, you’d be finding out just how wild those little leaf eating marsupials behind that fence can be. Now get your bigoted ass out of my sight before I change my mind."

Brushing himself off he looked around for the hat he lost when he went flying toward the fence. "Yeah, well you just caught me off guard." He could barely get the words out for the tension in his neck.

Samantha picked up the oversized cowboy hat from the ground and held it out to him, green daggers flying from her eyes. As he passed by, he grabbed it out of her hand without looking her in the face.

He glanced over his shoulder at Alex. "I thought there was something weird about you. You’re a Fucking dyke," Samantha heard him mutter as he put his hat back on his head, his face beet red.

"What did you say?" The small blonde asked.

He turned and looked at her, saw that she was rapidly approaching his nemesis, and turned back around beginning to run in the direction his friends took minutes before.

"Well now that the excitement of the day is clearly over . . . " Aurora began, " . . . is anyone hungry?"

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

The remainder of the day at the zoo went smoothly. Lunch was served at the Treehouse Caf» and there was just enough time to shop at little at the Treehouse Trader before being given their behind-the-scenes tour.

The tour took almost 2á hours, but it was a sit down affair, so even in the heat of the afternoon it was most enjoyable. Starting out the guide explained the layout of the park and why each group of animals was housed where they were. Occasionally, they all filed out of the small bus to get a peek at behind the scenes where the animals were feed, sick ones cared for, and a glimpse of how the new arrivals were introduced to living at the world famous zoo.

Sonny was especially pleased that the tour included a look at the big cats that he had given up seeing to satisfy Samantha's curiosity about the koalas. Danny finally spoke up and showed an interest in some of the smaller desert animals.

They skipped the aviaries and Arctic animals. The guide was extremely informative as she told them about some of the after hours specials the Wild Animal Park ran occasionally. Sally showed a growing interest in the less civilized park where the animals were exposed to greater freedoms, and she untiringly asked questions as the tour continued. Samantha nudged Alex and whispered to her about having Sally visit more often so she could experience all the attractions in the Southern California area.

Alex, of course, agreed that it was a marvelous idea.

Not being much of an animal person, and sort of along for the ride, Suz talked to whomever did not seem totally interested in the subject the guide was covering at any particular point in time. On the whole, though, everyone enjoyed the day immensely and when the guide announced the end of the tour an audible groan was expelled from the lips of every participant.

The park was already closed to the public by the time the bus pulled back into the station from where it originated. Kelley asked the driver if it would be too much trouble for her to drop them off at the van. With the same hospitality that prevailed throughout the entire tour, the guide stated, "No problem", which was actually a very lucrative answer, as Kelley slipped her a $50 bill for taking such good care of the little group.

Mini conversations abounded on the way back to the Villa as the friends compared who liked what best, and shared the contents of their souvenir bags with each other.

It was close to 5:30 by the time the van and its occupants arrived back at the Villa. Alex spotted Marcy’s car in the drive as they were pulling up and pointed it out to Samantha.

"Mom left the place open for them; she figured they’d beat us here." Alex explained.

"That’s great. This is going to be a wonderful dinner tonight." Samantha grinned, putting her arm around Alex's waist. "So, Suz and Danny are leaving sometime tonight, right?"

"Right."

"And Marcy and Von, are they staying until tomorrow?" Samantha wanted to know.

"Probably not. I think Marcy has to work early. But they don’t live that far from here, maybe 30-45 minutes tops."

"Alex, I didn’t get to talk to Sally alone today. I need to spend a little time with her. When do you think I should do that?"

"Probably right after we get into the house, Honey. Say hello to Marcy and Von then excuse yourself and take Sally for a walk down on the beach."

"Down on the beach. How in Tartarus do we get to the beach from the house?"

"It’s easy; I’ll show you." Putting an arm around the small figure, they walked into the Villa to greet their new guests.

Draped over a chair in the family room, drink in hand, Alex spotted her old friend with Von standing next to her looking out admiring the vista. Greetings were exchanged all around and Kelley set up the bar to accommodate the rest of the small party.

"Samantha," Aurora addressed the younger woman. "Alex and I discussed going out to dinner tonight and decided it might be more intimate if we just ordered a little something in and stayed here to celebrate your birthday. Would that be okay with you?"

"That would be wonderful with me." Giving the older woman a hug she continued, "I want to thank you again for opening your house for my birthday."

"Think nothing of it, Samantha, we’re having a great time. It’s been quite a while since the place has been filled with Alex's friends and on such a special occasion. I also want to tell you that I think your sister is adorable."

"I’m kind of fond of her myself," the younger woman smiled. "But, to tell you the truth I need to get a few minutes alone with Sally before she has to leave tomorrow. You wouldn’t mind if we disappeared for a little while would you?"

"Not at all Samantha. Why don’t you take Sally down on the beach, it’s a beautiful walk and she kept telling me how much she loves the ocean."

"That’s what Alex suggested, too. I think I will. Thanks, Aurora."

"You’re more than welcome, Honey."

As she walked back toward Marcy, Von, and Alex, Samantha spoke shortly to Suz, telling her how nice it was they came down for the weekend and how Suz ought to come to some of the classes or lectures at the Center. Samantha knew she would never get the redhead to any class that involved physical activity, but she might talk her into one of the lectures, occasionally. In actuality it really didn’t matter if she ever came to the Center, there were other interests the two still had in common. Sonny walked over to them while they were talking, leaving Samantha an out to go excuse herself and greet the new arrivals.

A few minutes of chit-chat and Samantha explained that her sister was going back up to Washington tomorrow morning so Marcy suggested that the two of them go somewhere quite to talk. Sam thanked the friends for not considering her rude and received a huge belly laugh from Alex's old friend.

"Samantha, we don’t stand on ceremony here. We’ll still be here when the two of you get through, the night is young." She lifted her glass and toasted to the room. "May the Villa survive the evening."

"You know damn right well the Villa will survive the evening," Alex chimed in, laughing. "It survived us going through high school." Patting her friend on the shoulder she excused herself and Samantha.

As they looked around the room the two lovers beamed. They’d only been together a short time and here they were celebrating Samantha's birthday with good friends, people who started out being acquainted with one or the other of the partners, but now considered themselves friend or family to both.

Samantha spotted Sally standing over by the pool table, talking to Danny. She went to retrieve her sister while Alex started toward the pool area. The small blonde walked over and politely interrupted her sister’s conversation. "Excuse me Danny, but would you mind if I borrowed Sally for a while?"

"No problem." He lifted his glass slightly; "I need to go see Kelley about a refill anyway. Talk to you later Sally."

"Sure thing, Danny," the young woman answered.

"So Sis," Samantha began, "can I talk you into taking a walk along the beach with me?"

"Can you? I’ve wanted to go walking in the sand since I arrived. But . . . I was looking out from the patio the other night . . . it’s an awfully long way down."

"I thought the same thing when Alex suggested the walk. I think she has a secret way of getting down that she’s willing to impart to us." Samantha smiled at her sister. "Wanna see if Kelley has any ‘to go’ containers?"

"Great idea, Sam!"

Minutes later, each of them equipped with a sports bottle full of frozen Kahlua Colada, the sisters started toward the pool area.

Alex was waiting over in the far northern corner of the patio, next to what Samantha originally thought to be a second cabana, a duplicate of the one on the southern end of the same area.

"So, you two all set for a quiet walk on the beach?" Sapphire eyes sparkled in the glow of the rapidly approaching sunset. "Looks like you picked Samantha's favorite time of the day." She drew her lover close and kissed her tenderly on the top of the head. While Sally was standing at the railing looking out over the ocean, and watching the sun begin to sizzle into the water, Alex slipped a small box into Samantha's hand. "It’s the necklace you bought for Sally in San Francisco; I think now might be an excellent time to give it to her."

"What a wonderful idea; you’re so sweet, Alex." She slipped the box into her short’s pocket and stretched up to give her lover a kiss. "I love you so much," she whispered.

"I love you, too Samantha." The raven-haired beauty confessed.

"You two ready for a little ride?"

"Ride?" Samantha questioned.

"Did you think you were going to fly down to the beach, Samantha?" Alex teased.

"No. But . . ."

Alex took out a set of keys and unlocked the door to the small stucco building. Only after they stepped inside could they see that the entire west wall was glass. Simultaneously the sisters gasped as they entered the room that was filled with a glowing pink light.

"By the Gods," Samantha stopped in mid-step. "I wasn’t prepared for this view. It reminds me of home."

The innocent exclamation from her lover’s lips set Alex's heart to fluttering. She knew Samantha had told her time and time again that she thought of Alternative Paradise as ‘home’, but the immediate ushering forth of the five-word sentence from her lover’s lips caused any doubt that still floated around in the dark beauty’s heart to dissipate.

While the vista from the porch was beautiful, it still admitted signs of civilization, such as the cliff side houses, the lights of La Jolla, and some of the lights from neighboring cities. This room, jutting out from the cliff top, high above the sandy beach, allowed the spectator to experience nothing but nature herself. There was not an electrical line, a telephone pole, a house or a car in sight, only the soft pinks, lavenders, and blues of a California sunset as the colors softly rained down upon the ocean and the shore.

"It’s breathtaking," Sally whispered, almost to herself.

"That it is," Alex agreed. "Now let me explain the little toys you see here." She walked to a large trap door on one side of the room. "This, when opened is a slide." The expressions on the faces of the two sisters made her laugh. "Yes . . . it is a Very Long way down but the ride is absolutely thrilling."

"What happens when you get to the bottom? Seems like you would hit the sand at such a speed . . ."

"Yeah, the speed is another thrill, but it’s quite safe. The sides are too high to fall out, and at the bottom of the ride there was one of those huge inflatable mats they use at the bottom of tall buildings, you know, the ones people jump onto when there’s a fire."

"You’re kidding!" Sally exclaimed.

"Girl Scouts honor," Alex swore, holding three fingers up in the Girl’s Scout sign. "And I’ve been a Girl Scout for a very long time." She smiled over at Samantha. "But you can’t go down that way tonight because the mat is not there. Instead . . ." she pointed to what Samantha always envisioned the elevator to look like in the children’s story, Charlie and the Glass Elevator. " . . . You get to ride down in this. It’s marvelous watching the ocean and beach from this level and then see it come into eye level as you slowly descend the cliff. "Nannie loved walking on the beach and thought it ridiculous to have to get into a car to drive down so . . ."

"Your family is ingenious, Alex." Samantha commented with awe.

With a proud look and nod of affirmation, the tall woman graciously agreed.

"Here’s the key that operates the lift and here’s the key that opens and locks this room. The door to the room automatically locks when shut to prevent people who shouldn’t from having access."

Samantha took both keys from her lover’s hand and gave her a parting kiss. "Thanks Alex," she whispered.

"For what Samantha."

"For loving me."

"Oh, that . . ." she merely smiled and gave Samantha a return kiss. " . . . My pleasure."

Alex opened the elevator door and shut it tightly after the sisters entered. "It’s about 6:50 now; try not to be gone more than an hour, okay? I don’t want to have to send the beach patrol out after the two of you."

"No problem, Honey. See you in a little while." Samantha blew her a kiss as she started the elevator descending slowly down to the beach.

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

Alex watched as the elevator left the tiny building toward its sandy destination then rubbed her hands together in a sign of ‘now I’ve got work to do’. She knew that Aurora had instructed Esmerelda, the housekeeper, to decorate the courtyard while they were all at the zoo and set up the tables and chairs, and she was anxious to see how the project was progressing. The caterers were scheduled to arrive about 7:45 so if Samantha and Sally took the entire hour the timing would be perfect.

Alex couldn’t remember when she’d been more excited about a simple birthday party. Years ago she forced her parents to stop throwing the huge shindigs for her own celebrations, especially when her personal life gave her no cause for jubilation. Her own 31st was coming up in five months, and now she was finally beginning to actually look forward to the event. Thirty had been a sort of coming of age but 31 . . . well that was going to be a special occasion to be sure . . . especially now that she had someone to share her life with.

Realizing her mind was wandering from Samantha to herself, she shook the thoughts out of her head and focused on the situation at hand as she made her way back to the family area to grab a couple helpers.

"Okay everyone," Alex entered the room talking. "Samantha and Sally are out of commission for about an hour; they’re down on the beach doing a sister chat. Who wants to come help set up?"

Knowing there would be no lack of volunteers she laughed as every hand in the room, except her parents’, went up.

"Come on then, everyone get a refill and let’s get started."

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

The ride to the beach was slow and steady and the sisters watched as the sun bid its final farewell of the evening to the heavens then dipped tenderly into the sea.

"You’re so lucky, Sammie, for being able to look out your window every night and watch this miracle happen." Sally pointed out toward the expanse of ocean and sand before them.

"Yeah, it’s a beautiful sight. But the lake at twilight is also beautiful, just in a different way. Even though the differences are great, the feelings that each area evokes can be very much alike. You might lose the roar of the ocean but you in turn receive the mystical silence of the lake. I can remember listening to the frogs croaking, the crickets chirping, and the owls screeching, or watching the fireflies dancing between the trees and bushes in the spring and fall."

"How about the squirrels and raccoons that would come to visit unannounced and totally uninvited as far as Mom and Dad were concerned?" Sally laughed.

"Oh, yeah, that was always a fun time! "But even Mom and Dad like to watch the does bring their babies to the water’s edge. Remember?"

"Yeah. It’s nice to remember the good times Sammie."

Samantha looked at her sister with misty eyes. "As beautiful as it is here, when I stop to think about it, I do miss scenes like that."

Not wanting to talk about home too much, Sally changed the subject back to the differences between the two lays of the land by reminding her sister of the difference in the animals present in the ocean here in California.

"That’s true, we have the whales and the dolphins as they migrate south for the winter months, but we don’t have the animal sounds at night like on the lake. Of course, the ocean’s roar is hauntingly mesmerizing."

"Have you listened to yourself talk lately, Sam?" her sister asked.

"What do you mean; has my accent changed or something?"

"No there is a new word in your vocabulary that you use whenever you’re talking about what’s happening in your life."

A confused expression crossed her sister’s face. "Okay, I’ll bite?"

"We has become a part of almost everything you say." She smiled over at Samantha and put an arm around her waist. "And ya know what?"

"No, what?"

"It sounds so natural."

"It feels natural, Sally. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I love where I’m living, I love my job and most of all . . . I love Alex."

There was a slight lull in the conversation and the two stopped walking to face the ocean and watch the waves gently rolling toward the shore. The soft swishing of the whitecaps as they broke and trickled toward the sand was, in deed, hypnotizing.

Still looking out to sea, Samantha finally accumulated enough nerve to ask her sister the question that had been churning around in her mind for the past couple days. Not wanting to ruin the mood, but also not wanting Sally to leave without the discussion she cleared her throat and turned to her sibling.

"Sally, I know something’s bothering you . . ."

"No Sammie, what would make you . . . "

"Stop – this is probably the only chance we’ll have to be alone together before you leave tomorrow. I have to spend time with the other people who all put their lives on hold to come this weekend or this evening, but this time is for us and I know something is making you unhappy. Is it Dad?"

Samantha put her hands on Sally’s shoulders and turned her sister so they were standing nose-to-nose; it was almost like looking into the mirror a few years back. She watched, as her sister’s soft green eyes began to glisten, tears involuntarily trickling down the sweet face.

"Come here, you." Samantha gathered the younger woman close, stroking her hair with motherly caresses, her own emerald eyes beginning to tear. "I’m so sorry, Sally. This is all my fault."

Sally’s body became rigid as she pulled away from her sister’s loving touch.

"Now I’m telling you to stop, Samantha. Stop blaming yourself for being happy, for finding what every person in the entire world searches for and many never find. Don’t you Ever be sorry for being in love and being loved in return. Dad’s an ass-hole; we’ve both known that for years. The only difference is that now Mom is not totally agreeing with him so he’s getting out of control."

"What do you mean ‘not totally agreeing with him’ and how is he getting out of control? Has he hurt her? Has he hurt You?"

"Sammie sometimes I think you live in a fantasy world. You have this unrealistic concept that people are good and have a difficult time seeing them for what they really are. You were always Dad’s favorite, probably because he made you believe that everything he ever did for us was out of love and kindness. But that wasn’t the truth."

"Sally . . ."

"Sam you wanted to know – let me finish."

"Okay, I’m sorry."

"See how easily those two words flow from your lips Samantha? That was why Dad always got his way with you . . . you were always trying to please . . . always ‘sorry’. When you didn’t do exactly what he wanted, all he ever needed to do was tell you how disappointed he was and you would bow under. Consequently, he felt that at least he could dance you around like a puppet. The situation in Laguna ripped the rug out from under him. He never thought you would ever do anything to go against him, no less with his greatest competitor. So you see, Sammie, his anger is All about Him, just as all our lives have been all about Him. We were always, His Family, His Wife, His Girls – we were merely playthings he arranged to his advantage in the world he created."

"Sally if you’ve felt this way all along . . . "

"Ever since you left home, Samantha, he’s gotten worse with Mom. We never told you because both of us agreed you were better off away from him and we certainly didn’t want to bring you back into the middle of the hell he was creating for us to live in. I moved out but not far; I didn’t want to leave Mom totally alone."

Anger replaced the sympathy that had been playing across Samantha's face. "So you neglected to tell me what was happening because it might disturb my Happiness?"

"Something like that but . . ."

"Sally, she’s my Mom, too."

"Yes, but that’s the way she wanted it. She’s so proud of you Samantha. It breaks her heart not to be able to call and tell you so . . ."

"Before this visit is over we will have a plan about calling, you can count on it! I’ll give you the money to purchase some phone cards. That way she can call and he’ll never know. Here I was thinking she didn’t want to talk to me any more than Dad did."

"No Sammie . . . that is so wrong."

"Okay, let’s go back a bit – I asked if he’s been physical with either of you?"

"Remember how he used to push Mom around a little when he was inebriated?"

"Yeah."

"Well, he’s pushed her a couple times and once he . . . well . . . he . . ."

"Damn it Sally, he what?!"

"Mom started to talk about you and Alex and he slapped her across the face and told her "never mention that bitch’s name in my house."

"Why doesn’t she leave him, Sally?"

"And go where? Do what? That’s not an option right now. You know Mom, she just acts like everything is as it always has been."

"But it isn’t . . . and this isn’t right. It can’t continue like this Sally, you . . . I . . . we have to talk some sense into her. The two of you can relocate here . . . to Laguna. Let me talk it over with Alex. I’m sure the two of you could stay in the suite until you find a place of your own. We might even find something that Mom could do at the Center."

Samantha’s heart lightened a little as she thought of all the ways she could help now where she never could have before. She was sure Alex would be accommodating; after all, they already talked about having Sally come down more often.

"Sammie, I . . . Mom and I couldn’t ask you to do that."

"It’s not a question of asking me, Sally, I’m offering. Is Mom ready to leave him?"

"I don’t know we haven’t really talked about that. But if you’re positive that Alex wouldn’t mind . . ."

"I’ll talk to her about it tonight."

"NO!" The younger woman was emphatic.

"What?"

"You let Alex make your birthday the wonderful affair she wants it to be. I see the expression on her face when you smile. She’s gone through a lot of trouble, not to mention an exorbitant amount of money."

"More than she should, if you ask me." Samantha mumbled.

"And more than you deserve is what I’m sure you’re thinking." Sally said ruefully. You see . . . that’s Dad talking . . . he always made us feel undeserving . . . think about it." She pleaded with her sister. "Now . . . please say you won’t spoil Alex's plans for your vacation Sammie, please . . . promise me. Promise like we used to when we were kids . . . Promise Samantha."

"Sally . . ." Samantha countered.

"You can be so damn thick headed at times Samantha Rene» Riley! Did you ever think that maybe Alex doesn’t want money to be a wedge between the two of you? It should be obvious she has more than enough of it to lavish you with whatever you could possibly wish for." Sally looked hard into her sister’s face.

"You love her and she definitely loves you. Giving to you makes her happy, so why can’t you learn to receive gracefully? You know, learning to say ‘Thank You’ is as necessary as learning to say ‘You’re Welcome.’ Samantha you’ve found Princess Charming -- live happily ever after! That said, I reiterate . . . Promise me Samantha! Promise you won’t ask Alex until after your vacation, or I Promise you I won’t even tell Mom we had this conversation."

"Okay, okay . . . I’ll try."

"That’s not good enough!"

"You’re a brat do you realize that, Little Sis?"

"Yeah, now say the rhyme." The younger woman watched as her sister mentally squirmed and then began reciting the saying they used to sing as children: "Okay, here goes,

By Irish Leprechaun’s delight

By all the stars that shine each night

I’ll never find the ‘pot of gold’

If I break this Promise once it is told.

Are you satisfied now?"

"And the promise?"

"I promise I won’t say anything to Alex during our vacation about you and Mom coming to Laguna to live and work."

"Not good enough – you won’t say anything about those two things until you talk to me after you’re back in Laguna."

"Okay."

"Okay what."

"Okay what you said Sally."

"No Samantha you need to say it, I know you, you’ll weasel out by the dropping of a word here and there . . . go ahead . . . say it."

With a huge sigh she started all over again. "I promise I won’t say anything to Alex about you and Mom coming to Laguna to live and work until after we get home and I’ve talked to you. There, now that’s all I’m going to do – you’ll have to take me at my word."

"Spit in your hand and we’ll shake."

"Come on Sally that’s childish."

"Do it or you’ll be cursed forever and the Leprechauns will no longer smile upon you. You don’t want that to happen now do you. They might just take Alex away." For the first time in many minutes there was a smile on the young woman’s face as she teased her big sister.

"Damn you’re persistent -- wherever did you get that trait?" Samantha was also feeling a little better realizing that she at least there was a plan to offer her Mom and sister. She spit in her right hand, while Sally did the same into her own, then the sisters shook hands, sharing spit.

"Okay, that’s settled, can we go back to your party now? My cup’s about empty and I’m getting hungry."

Samantha reached into her short’s pocket and brought out the small box Alex had handed her earlier. She put it into her sister’s hand.

"What’s this Sammie?"

"Open the box, Silly, you can’t tell from the outside."

Inside the small gray box was the Buddha necklace Samantha purchased when they were down in Chinatown, during the San Francisco trip.

"Sammie it’s beautiful," Sally exclaimed. "You shouldn’t have."

"Remember ‘thank you’ is as good as ‘you welcome’." She grinned throwing the words back at her sister. "We picked it up for you when we were in San Francisco. The last time we visited turned out to be not a good time for the exchanging of gifts. Do you really like it, Sally."

"I really do sis. Thank you."

"You’re Welcome." Samantha smiled.

Sally gave Samantha a bear hug and a kiss then insisted they start back up to the house.

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

"Wow! Alex this looks awesome," Sonny exclaimed walking through the archway leading into the courtyard. "Samantha is going to adore this theme."

Since she was unable to take Samantha to Greece this year with the cruise ship like she wanted to do, Alex decided to bring the splendor of Ancient Greece to the Spanish-style Villa in Southern California, complete with Gods and Goddesses.

"I was going to try and make it costume, but I’m afraid it would have been a little too difficult to pull off on such short notice. I can envision you, Sonny, wrapped in a toga."

"I am so glad you didn’t go that route," Danny mentioned as he walked further into the room. "I’m afraid I would have had to pass."

Suzanne was looking around with her mouth hanging open. "This must have taken hours."

"Yes, they started right after we left this morning. But they did one helluva job!" Alex commented. Esmerelda got the entire staff to help.

The entire courtyard had been turned into what one might think the main hall of Olympus would have looked like. There were gold-trimmed columns covered with vines, a small self-contained fountain in the middle and statues of a few hand picked Goddesses lined the walls, Artemis, Aphrodite, Athena, Clotho, and the Muse Calliope. At the far end of the court sat two thrones, draped in royal purple for the guest of honor and her consort.

"Well, that’s one way to make her ‘queen for a day’." Sonny chuckled, as he looked the room over.

"Where did you find these statues?" Suzanne asked walking over and reading the small plaque on one of them.

"Actually, Mom did the research." Alex confessed. "There’s a little theatre group here in La Jolla that specializes in Greek plays. They have all the Muses and most of the major Gods and Goddesses. She called and since they are in between plays they were more than happy to rent out some of the statues and props."

"Samantha is going to be so surprised – you really outdid yourself Alex." Ray interjected.

"Yes, it is rather impressive, isn’t it?" She beamed in the direction of her old friend.

Looking around at the empty tables Sonny put the question to words that was on everyone’s mind "So, when does the food arrive? I know Sammie’s going to be starving, we haven’t eaten since lunch."

"Timely question," Aurora announced walking in with an entourage following her. Even though Alex decided against a costumed affair, the catering staff had been instructed to dress as Greek servants to enhance the illusion. They swarmed in carrying boxes of food that need to be unpacked and arranged on the banquet table set up on one of the walls. Aurora was in her glory as she began playing hostess.

"Samantha and Sally should be coming back any minute now." Alex commented, then got all of her friends’ attention and pointed to a table near the thrones. "This table’s for the gifts. If you all want to go freshen up a little and get your presents, we should all meet back here as soon as possible. I won’t bring them in until everyone’s back but it may be difficult acting natural with the entire court yard void of guests – so hurry."

With that the little group scattered, each off to their own room. Marcy and Von stood by Alex watching for a minute or two while the caterers went about setting everything up. It looked just the way she pictured in her mind. As she mentioned earlier the only thing that would have made it better was if she had gotten everyone into costumes.

Marcy put their gift on the assigned table and turned to Alex. "We could come out to the pool with you and keep Samantha occupied until you were sure everyone was here."

"That’s a great idea, Marcy. There hasn’t been much of a chance for her to visit with the two of you and that would seem logical. In fact, why don’t you two go ahead? I need to talk to Mom for a minute and then I’ll be right out."

"Okay, see ya there."

Aurora had always been a shining light in Alex’s life, supporting her daughter through many tough decisions and being a constant in her life when the consequences were grave. It was only right that her Mom be here now during the happiest of times.

She approached her mother with such warmth in her heart it almost made her cry. "Mom."

The older woman turned from the chore of instructing and looked at her daughter. "What is it Alex?"

"I just want to thank you again for helping to pull this entire weekend off. It’s been marvelous! I don’t think I could have done it without you and Kelley." She approached her mother and gave her a hug and kiss. "I love you Mom."

"I love you, too, Alex. This has been a lot of fun. I haven’t planned a birthday party in years." She gave her daughter an almost sorrowful look. "You and Kelley are party poopers! This just got me worked up, again. You do realize that I will Not be Stopped from having a blow-out of a party on your 31st?"

"I know, Mom. And, you know what?"

"No, what?"

"Now that I have Samantha and so much to look forward to, I’m ready for another birthday party."

Aurora saw the look in her daughter’s eyes and smiled back at sapphire orbs that so resembled the ones she looked into every evening in the mirror. Her heart filled with the love she felt for her daughter and the happiness she saw on her face.

"She’s special Alex, we love her, too."

"That means the world to me Mom."

Aurora wiped at the tear that trickled down her daughter’s face and Alex quickly shook her head, regaining her composure.

"Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this weekend. I’d better go catch up with Marcy. Kelley’s putting my present on the table, right?"

"Right, Honey, go get the birthday girl." She smiled as she watched Alex leave the room then turned back to supervising the caterers.

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

Moonlight now highlighted the silhouettes of the two small figures as they slowly made their way back to the elevator. Sally felt better that she had confided in her sister about the difficulties they were experiencing at home and Samantha felt that a weight had been lifted knowing she now possessed a plan to help her sister and mother, if her mom was ready to make a life change.

When they reached the lift Samantha turned to Sally and gave her a hug, the pressure and length of which imparted all the love she felt for her sibling.

"Things will turn out for the best, Honey; I know they will," Samantha assured the younger woman. "We’ll get you and Mom both out of harm’s way. I know Mom will fight giving up the house. It holds so many happy memories for her, but a clean break and fresh start may be just what she needs to start feeling good about herself."

"She may not have to give up the house Samantha, just divorcing him might be enough. But the offer to come to California is a selfless one and I’m sure she’ll appreciate it."

"Whatever – I guess we can’t go speculating until after everyone involved has a chance to give their input, including Dad."

"Yeah. But, I think now is the time for us to put this conversation to rest and proceed with the situation at hand."

"Huh?"

"Party time, Big Sis . . . Party Time!!"

"I don’t know about a Party -- but I’m sure it’s about time for Dinner!"

Samantha unlocked the door and they stepped into the elevator. Putting another of the keys into the operations box and twisting, the lift slowly began its ascent back up the cliff to the Villa.

They exited the elevator and Samantha locked up like Alex showed her before stepping out of the small building onto the patio.

Sally was taken back by the presence of Marcy and Von as they stood looking out at the ocean. "Hey, what are you two doing here? I thought everyone would be inside gossiping."

"We came out for a little fresh air and when we looked down toward the beach we saw you two approaching the elevator. We thought we’d wait for you to get back up." Marcy admitted.

"I’m glad you did. We’ve hardly gotten a chance to talk and I know you have to go home sometime tonight." Samantha stated, walking over to her friends.

"Yeah, but the night’s still young," Von chimed in. "And, I don’t have to work in the morning so I can drive home."

"Did Alex give you any idea when dinner would arrive?" Samantha asked. "My stomach thinks I went on a diet."

"Your stomach knows better than to think that," her sister giggled, receiving a loving push on the shoulder from Samantha.

"Well, we told Alex to come out and get us when it arrived. So we can wait here for her or go on . . ."

"We can wait here and talk. If you asked her to come get you, I’m sure she will." Samantha no sooner had the words out than Alex came waltzing through the door.

"Looks like everybody who isn’t already in the dining area is here. Anyone ready to eat?"

"Silly question," was the simultaneous answer received from four hungry guests.

Alex put her arm around Samantha as they began walking back into the house. She bent down and whispered, "I missed you while you were gone, did you accomplish what you set out to?" She then looked up at the rest of the small group. "We’ve set up in the courtyard – Kelley has the bar open, follow me."

Latching onto Alex's waist Samantha looked up, and sporting a smile she shook her head affirmatively. "Tell you about it later."

"You got a deal." Alex mouthed back at her, then turned to get Marcy’s attention. "Hey you’re almost as familiar with this place as I am – take the lead Marcy, I want to talk to Samantha a second.

"Sure thing Alex but don’t take too long . . . I’m really hungry and I wouldn’t want all the food to be gone before Sammie got a chance to eat."

"If you know what’s good for you," Samantha chortled, "you just go get something to drink. We won’t be far behind, you can bet on it."

"Gotcha!" Marcy laughed and gave the small blonde a wink before placing an arm around the waist of the two women she was escorting.

"Sorry Samantha, can’t wait until later to hear what you two talked about," Alex confessed when the other three were out of hearing range. "But you do look a little relieved, am I reading you right?"

"Yeah, I am somewhat relieved because I know what’s going on, but it is as bad as I anticipated. Mom really needs to get rid of him this time."

Frowning down at Samantha, Alex shook her head, "That bad, huh?"

"’Fraid so. It’s just a question of talking her into doing what’s best for her."

"Samantha don’t you think she knows what’s best for herself?"

"I honestly don’t think so, Alex. He’s been controlling her for so long, I think she’s forgotten how to think without him putting the thoughts into her head and when she does remember and strikes out on her own, he knocks her down."

"Physically?" Now Alex was really getting concerned.

"Most of the time just mentally, Alex, but you know what a control freak he is . . . you’ve dealt with him."

"I know, Honey." She didn’t want to put a damper on the party that was about to take place, but she also didn’t want to put a pressing family crisis on the back burner. "Do you think we should try to intervene Samantha? You know your mom and sister are always welcome to come stay with us?"

With her heart overflowing from the impact of her lover’s proposition she stopped walking and gave Alex a hug of appreciation. I didn’t even have to break my promise to get the relief my mind needed about having them come to California. Thank you Alex.

"What was that for?" Alex queried, not letting the small blonde retrieve her arms.

"For being you, for being so understanding, for caring so much. When we talked Sally and I decided that she would go ahead and talk to Mom when she went home. We don’t have to make any decisions until after we get back from vacation. I love you Alex, please . . . don’t ever change." Standing on her toes her face inclined toward the one that made her days shine, she posed for a kiss.

Alex leaned down for their lips to tenderly meet. "I won’t, if you won’t, my Destiny." Came the solemn response before the fiery kiss. Again Samantha's heart skipped a beat. "Come on, my Sweet, let’s go eat."

"You don’t need to repeat that one." Samantha let loose her hold of Alex's waist but grabbed her hand.

Before they even got to the archway the tantalizing odors wafted through the halls, deliciously assaulting their nostrils.

"By the Gods that smells marvelous, Alex. What did your Mom order?"

They were now standing directly in front of the courtyard. "‘By the Gods’ exactly Samantha. Welcome to Olympus!"

For the second time in three days the unsuspecting blonde heard a singular word joyously escaping the lips of her little group of friends ... SURPRISE!


End of Chapter 5


Chapter 6

 

Back to Main Page