The Greatest Gift

Part II

By Carrie Carr

Disclaimers: As I’ve told you before, these characters are mine, so please leave them be. They came from my own warped little mind, so you probably wouldn’t want them, anyway <g>.

This story has the general theme of two women who love each other. Naughty words are scattered about. There are no graphic sex scenes, so if that's what you're looking for, I'm sorry - but I embarrass easily.

Many thanks go out to my wonderful editor, Day, whose touch with the grammar and punctuation magic wand makes this story look so good. Thanks also have to go to those beautiful folks at the Carrie's Crossing list ( their wonderful patience and support. I couldn't do this without them.

All comments, suggestions, or just notes to say hello can be directed to -

This story, as are all my others, dedicated to my AJ, the woman who holds my heart. Forever and always, my love.

Copyright February 2002 by Carrie Carr

Chapter 3

"Tell me again what we’re here for?" Randi asked, following a determined Kay into the electronics department of the discount store. The younger woman had been quite vague about her reason for wanting to stop, but Randi soon found out that she couldn’t say no to Kay. I am so whipped. She smiled. Yeah.

Kay either didn’t hear her or ignored the question, but either way, continued until she was in the aisle with all the telephones and accessories. She studied the merchandise on both sides carefully, and then walked over and picked up a display to get a closer look. "What do you think of this?" she asked, holding up the phone for Randi to see.

"It’s nice?" Randi queried, confused. "But why—"

"No more incidents like the one yesterday morning." Kay picked up the handset and held it to her ear. "It’s not too heavy, and it fits my hand pretty well." She handed it to Randi. "You try it."

Randi looked at the phone. "Caller ID and an answering machine? Going hi-tech, huh?"

Laughing, Kay nodded. "Yep. Welcome to the twenty-first century, my friend. I can’t believe you didn’t already have one."

"You didn’t have one," the older woman pointed out. "What makes you think that I would have?"

"Because of your line of work. What if you weren’t home and they needed to reach you?" Kay took the handset back and placed it on the shelf.

"It hasn’t really been necessary. I’m usually either at work or home, and I always carry my cell phone." Randi’s voiced quieted. "Melissa had an answering machine, but she took it with her when she left, and I just never got around to getting another one."

Kay nodded in understanding. She was happy to see that Randi could talk about her ex-girlfriend with a lot less difficulty than before. Maybe that phone call yesterday was a good thing, after all. "Well, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get this phone for the living room. That way we can see if we have messages as soon as we get in, but won’t have to answer the phone if we don’t want to."

"You don’t have to ask my permission, Kay. It’s your apartment, too." Randi grabbed a box that held the same style phone and tucked it under her arm. "Anything else you have your eye on?"

"Oh, yeah. But I think they might frown if I tossed you to the floor to have my way with you," Kay teased, enjoying the blush that her comments elicited.

Randi looked around to see if anyone had overheard Kay’s aside. Relieved to see that they were alone, she shook her head. "You’re insatiable."

"Only when it comes to you," the younger woman countered. She thought about Randi’s remark. I am, aren’t I? The emotions that their relationship evoked were like none that Kay had ever felt before. Her need to connect with Randi in every way imaginable was constant, and she didn’t know if she could go an entire workday without some sort of contact. That’s one thing in favor of working in the same office she thought to herself. But I think I’d still like to wait and meet the rest of the staff, first.

They had been on their way to the veterinary clinic when Kay had seen the discount store and asked to stop. Since they weren’t on any real schedule, Randi had agreed, and so here they were. The dark-haired woman looked around again. "Is there anything else you want to get while we’re here?" She wasn’t even about to argue over who should buy the phone. Learned my lesson on that one. If Randi tried to keep Kay from spending her money on something that Randi was fully prepared to pay for, Kay’s independent streak would come out full force.

"No, I think this will do, for now," Kay answered. She started down the aisle, but stopped and turned to look over her shoulder at Randi. "And don’t think that just because I’m letting you carry it, I’ll let you pay for it."

"Never crossed my mind," Randi retorted. She smiled widely as Kay started back to the front of the store. Definitely whipped. And loving every minute of it.


The veterinary clinic was in a small strip shopping center, only a few minutes away from the apartments where they lived. They had decided yesterday to go to the clinic and see if there was a chance Dr. Wilde would sell to Randi. If he agreed, they were going to call Anne Crawford and make an appointment to meet with her concerning the financing.

Kay peered pensively through the windshield and then looked up at her friend, who was standing beside the car holding the passenger's door open. Randi was wearing black slacks and a gray button-down dress shirt, and looked very nervous. Kay wasn’t sure if her presence would be a help, or a hindrance. "Are you sure you don’t want me to just wait in the car?" she asked. "I don’t want to be in the way, or anything."

"Actually, I'd like you to do me a favor, if you don't mind," Randi said, holding out her hand to help Kay from the vehicle. She smiled when the younger woman took her hand.

"Sure. What is it?" Kay settled the crutches underneath her arms. She would be thankful when she no longer needed the awkward wooden devices, and was glad that Randi had called her orthopedic surgeon and gotten her an appointment for later on in the week. It'll be so nice, being able to wear regular clothes again. Tired of the sweatpants, skirts, and knit pants she was forced to wear to accommodate the cast, Kay silently promised herself she'd stay away from those particular clothing items for as long as possible once her leg was healed.

Randi closed the car door and brushed the front of her slacks. "I'd kinda like to know how everyone else is doing. Do you think you could talk to them while I'm in with Dr. Asshole?"

"I'll be glad to try," Kay agreed. She paused outside the door to the clinic and looked up at her lover. "But they don't even know me. What makes you think they'll talk to me?"

Opening the door, Randi smiled. "I'll introduce you, then they'll know you." She leaned down to whisper in Kay's ear. "Besides, you're sweet and kind. They'll open up to you immediately." She kissed the ear she had spoken into and held the door fully open to allow Kay access.

"I'll get you back for that, later," Kay mumbled, hoping her face wasn't as red as it felt.

Randi winked. "I'm counting on it." She turned back to the reception room they had just entered, and was greeted by a small, gray-haired woman who quickly wrapped her arms around the stunned vet.

"Randi, it's so good to see you, dear," the older woman exclaimed, pulling Randi into a strong embrace. "We've missed you terribly, you know."

Embarrassed, Randi returned the hug and stepped back. "I've missed you, too, Christina. I'd like to introduce you to -"

"I'll just bet you're Kay, aren't you?" Christina guessed, slipping between Kay's crutches and giving her a gentle hug.

"Yes, I am." Kay looked over at Randi, who shrugged. "You wouldn't happen to have some place I can sit while Randi talks to Dr. Wilde, would you? I'd really like to get off these crutches for a few minutes."

Christina nodded. "Of course, dear. You follow me, and I'll introduce you around." She winked at Randi. "Go on, get your business done. We'll be back in the kitchen." The waiting room was empty, as it had been for the last several days. The receptionist felt no need to sit at her desk and wait for the phone to ring, since there was also an extension in the kitchen.

"Okay." Randi waited until the two women left the foyer before taking a deep breath and knocking on the closed office door. Here goes nothing.


"What is it?" Dr. Wilde shouted, his voice scarcely muffled by the door. "I'm busy."

Randi slowly opened the door and stepped inside the office, closing the door behind her. "Dr. Wilde."

The balding man looked up from his heavy leather chair behind the desk. His face was sallow, and his hand shook as it reached for a coffee cup on the corner nearest him. "Dr. Meyers," he grumbled. "Never thought I'd see you back here."

"Yeah, well, I think we have a few things to discuss." Randi moved further into the room and stood behind one of the visitor's chairs. She placed both hands on the back of the leather seat and studied the older man for a long moment. He looked as if he had aged years since the last time she had seen him, and his usual cocky demeanor was nowhere in evidence.

"Don't just stand there," he growled. "Sit down, so I don't have to keep looking up at you." The old veterinarian pulled off his glasses and rubbed at them with a facial tissue, his hands trembling so badly that he almost dropped them several times before putting the frames back on his face. "What is it that you think we have to say to each other? I thought I fired you."

She took a deep breath and sat in front of him. "You did. But I've got a proposition that would be beneficial to both of us." Randi crossed her left leg over her right one, her ankle resting comfortably on her knee in a casual manner. The last thing she wanted to do was appear nervous, when in fact she was worried about her breakfast rebelling and embarrassing her. "That is, if you've got the time to listen."

"Go on," Dr. Wilde ordered. He opened a desk drawer and pulled out a package of cigarettes, holding it halfway across the desk. "Smoke?"

God, yes! The first thing Randi wanted whenever she was nervous or upset was a cigarette. Knowing that Kay didn't smoke, she hadn't smoked since she'd gone back for the younger woman, but every nerve in her body begged her to reconsider. "No, thank you," her rebellious mouth answered, much to her dismay. She fought the urge to jiggle her foot, wishing she had thought to bring breath mints or gum. If he lights one up, I'll end up wrestling him for it.

Dr. Wilde shrugged and tossed the package back into the desk without removing a cigarette. "Suit yourself." He picked up a pen and began to tap it against the top of the desk. "Go ahead, I'm listening."

Tap. Tap. Tap. Randi watched the writing implement rap out a beat on the wooden surface, her nerves almost begging her to jump across the desk and cram it down the older man's throat. "Dr. Wilde," Tap. Tap. Tap. "it's come to my attention that you're considering closing down the clinic," she started, taking another deep breath to calm herself. Tap. Tap. Tap. "And I was wondering if you had thought about selling it, instead."

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. "Where did you hear that the clinic might be closing?" he asked. Tap. Tap. Tap.

"I have my sources," Randi told him. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

"You do, do you?" Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. "So what if I am?" Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Dammit. I'm going to kill him if he doesn't stop that infernal noise. "If you are going to close down the clinic, I'd like to make you an offer for it," Randi ground out, the noise starting to get to her.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. The pen stopped momentarily as Dr. Wilde tilted his chin down and looked at her over his glasses. "You?" He started to laugh. "Don't be ridiculous." Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. "You can't even afford a decent car, much less to buy this place from me." Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Randi jumped to her feet and reached across the desk, grabbing the pen and throwing it across the room. "For God's sake, will you stop that?" She remained standing, looking down at Dr. Wilde. "Look. You don't want this place anymore. Hell, you probably never did." She walked around the room and stopped to look at a diploma that was displayed on one wall. Turning around, Randi shoved her hands into the front pockets of her slacks. "Let me buy it from you, Dr. Wilde. At least this way, you'll get something out of it. What do you have to lose?"

Still miffed over the loss of his pen, Benjamin Wilde stood up slowly, bracing one hand on the desk for balance. "It might be worth it, just to see you fall flat on your arrogant face," he admitted gruffly. "You write up an offer, and I'll look it over." The old vet dropped back into his chair. "I might as well make some money off you."

"All right." Randi pulled her hands out of her pockets and held one across the desk. "Thank you, Dr. Wilde."

"Don't thank me, Meyers. Just leave me alone." He ignored her hand and turned the chair away from her. "I'm an old man. Don't make me wait too long."

Randi sighed. "Right." She walked over and opened the door. "I'll get back to you in a couple of days."

He waved one hand over his shoulder, still not looking at her. "Fine."

Asshole. Randi stepped through the door, fighting the urge to slam it closed. I'm going to enjoy proving you wrong. She shook off her anger and went in search of her partner.


"…and she carried me up the hill and back to my house, with me unconscious," Kay related to the spellbound room, "then stayed all night with me at the hospital, not even knowing anything about me."

A woman a couple of years younger than Kay propped her chin on her hand and sighed. "That's just so, oh, I don't know, gallant." She was sitting next to Joyce, across the table from Kay. "Like a knight in shining armor, or something."

"It was certainly heroic," Joyce agreed. "Not many people would do that for a total stranger." She looked over at another woman, who was pouring water into a coffee machine. "Hurry up, Elaine. We could die of thirst before you get that coffee made." She patted Kay on the arm. "Go on, we're listening."

Kay laughed. "There's really not that much left to tell. She stayed around for a couple of days, I think to make sure I wouldn't hurt myself again. Randi was worried that I couldn't take care of myself out where I lived, so she asked me to come back with her until she went back to her grandmother’s for Thanksgiving." Afraid she was giving the other women the wrong idea, she waved her hands in front of her. "Her apartment has a really nice guest room," she rushed out.

The entire room broke out into laughter. "Oh, honey, you're priceless," Christina chuckled. "I knew she was stuck on you the moment I called her on the phone and she told Dr. Wilde what he could do with a cat." She leaned over and whispered into Kay's ear. "To tell you the truth, she was completely miserable when you left."

"I know," Kay murmured. "So was I." She looked up as the kitchen door opened, and the topic of conversation stepped into the room. "Oh, hi."

"Why do I get the idea that you were talking about me?" Randi asked, grabbing a chair and sitting near Kay.

The blonde giggled. "Are you that full of yourself, Dr. Meyers?" She met the eyes of the other women around the table, who were all trying to keep from laughing out loud.

Randi shook her head. "Not quite. But I figured you must be gossiping about me, since you all got quiet when I walked in." She reached out and nonchalantly placed her arm around the back of Kay’s chair.

"Kay was just telling us how you two met," Joyce explained. "If I had known you were strong enough to carry a woman around, I’d have invited you over when I moved furniture."

"Please. It was more of a piggy-back ride than carrying her." Randi tried to downplay her role in Kay’s rescue. "And look at her. My niece could probably pick Kay up."

The young woman who had been quietly watching Randi since she’d come into the room sighed again. She’s just so wonderful. Why can’t I find someone like Dr. Meyers? An elbow to her ribs jerked her out of her reverie.

"Stop that, Ramona," Elaine hissed under her breath as she sat down next to the starry-eyed girl. "Why don’t you go out front and keep an eye out for clients? We’ll be done here in a few minutes, anyway."

"I might as well," Ramona grumbled, pushing her chair back and standing up. "If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some things to do," she told the room, taking one last glance at Randi before stepping through the kitchen door.

Kay watched Ramona leave. She hadn’t missed the looks the young woman had given her lover. Someone’s got a crush. I think Randi and I need to have a little talk when we get home. She probably doesn’t even realize it. The arm across the back of her chair snaked over her shoulders and squeezed. Not that I have anything to worry about. Kay turned her head slightly and looked into her lover’s eyes. "Everything all right?" she whispered.

"I think so," Randi murmured. She looked at the women around the table. "Ladies, if you’ll forgive us, we’ve got an appointment in Dallas."

"Does this mean you’re coming back to work, soon?" Joyce asked. She was worried that the lack of patients over the last few days would become the norm, and the last thing she wanted to do was go looking for another job.

Randi picked up Kay’s crutches and stood up. "I can’t really say. Not yet, anyway," she admitted, handing the crutches to her partner. "But hopefully I’ll something more concrete to tell you in a few days, all right?"

"Just don’t keep us in the dark too long," Christina warned. "I’m an old woman, and I’d like to know something before my social security kicks in." She stood up and met Randi halfway, giving the younger woman another firm hug. "I’m glad you’re so happy," she whispered in Randi’s ear. "You take good care of each other, you hear?"

"Yes, ma’am," the vet agreed just as quietly. "You can count on it." She escorted Kay to the kitchen door. "Let’s see if Anne’s going to be busy for lunch, shall we?"

Knowing what Randi meant, Kay just smiled. Things are definitely looking up.


The banker had been more than happy to meet Kay and Randi for lunch, and she suggested a small Chinese restaurant not too far from her office. When she saw the two women enter, Anne stood up at her table and waved until Kay saw her.

"Have you been waiting long?" Kay asked, allowing a silent Randi to assist her in sitting down.

Anne shook her head. "I just got here, myself. Did you have any trouble finding the place?" She looked at the sullen vet, who took a seat next to Kay without a word.

"No, not really," Kay fibbed. Her "geographically-challenged" partner had taken several wrong turns, including going the wrong direction on a one-way street. Thank God the traffic was light, and we were able to turn the car around so quickly. For someone who has lived here as long as she has, Randi sure gets lost easily. "No problem at all."

Randi cut her eyes at Kay, but remained quiet. She was still upset with herself for the one-way street debacle. Kay hadn’t said anything, but she knew that it had frightened the younger woman more than she’d let on. The incident shook Randi up as well – she felt responsible for her lover’s well-being, and the fact that she could have gotten them both injured or killed weighed heavily on her mind.

Anne looked from one woman to the other, worry clearly evident on her face. "Uh-huh. Right. Why don’t I believe you?"

"We would have been here a lot sooner if I didn’t get lost every time I leave my own driveway," Randi muttered. She picked up the glass of water that was sitting in front of her and took a long sip. "Not to mention the fact that I took a wrong turn and had us going east on a westbound street, a couple of blocks from here."

Ouch. That can’t be too good for a person’s ego. No wonder Kay looks so pale, and Randi just looks pissed off. Anne smiled, hoping that she could lighten things up. "Don’t feel too badly, Randi. That happens a lot more often than you might think down here. As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago, one of the city buses did that exact same thing. Only the results were not quite as lucky. I think the driver hit two cars and ended up getting fired."

"Really?" Kay asked. She turned to her partner and placed one hand on the older woman’s arm. "See, honey? I told you it was no big deal." Kay was still shaking inside from the entire episode, but she’d be damned if she’d let Randi know. "I personally don’t know how anyone actually works here. I’d be scared to death to drive in this traffic every day."

"Well, if they’re like me, they don’t have to," Anne related, waving her hand discreetly at the waitress to get the woman’s attention. "I drive to the train station that’s closest to my house, and take the train in every day. It not only saves on gasoline, but my nerves stay intact. Then I usually just walk the couple of blocks from the end station to my office. No muss, no fuss."

The server took that moment to come over and take their orders. Once everyone had chosen what they wanted for lunch, she thanked them and hurried off to get their drink orders.

Randi sighed. "I don’t know why I didn’t think of that." She looked over at Kay. "Next time, we take the train. Deal?"

"Works for me," the blonde agreed, happy to see her friend coming out of her funk. "I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to drive in this traffic."

"It’s not too bad, once you get used to it," Randi assured her. She shook her head ruefully. "Unless you’re like me, and get lost in the parking lot at the mall."

Anne choked on the water she had just taken a sip from. "You’re kidding, right?"

The vet grinned. "Nope. You can ask anyone in my family – I’m famous for my sense of direction, or lack thereof."

"Have you considered getting a car with the interactive map features?" Anne asked. "My sister has trouble finding her way around, too. But she hasn’t had any problems since she bought her last car."

"I don’t know if I could give up my Corvette," Randi admitted. "That car is as much a part of me as what I do."

Kay saw the indecision on her lover’s face. The last thing she wanted was for Randi to consider giving up something that was so obviously important to her. "Well, once this stupid cast comes off, I’ll be in the market for a car," she announced. "Maybe I’ll get one like that, and then when we have to go anywhere that we’re not used to, we can take my car."

God, I love this woman. Who else would make that kind of an offer, just because she knows how much my car means to me? Randi gave Kay an appreciative smile. Although, if the choice came down to keeping Kay safe, or keeping the car, I’d put an ad in the paper tomorrow.

"That’s a good idea." Anne was forestalled from making any other comments by the arrival of their food, which the server quickly distributed. After the woman left, Anne took a bite of her food and moaned. "I just love this place."

They ate in silence for several minutes before the banker decided to ask the question that had been on her mind since Randi had phoned earlier. "So, I take it that you’ve made a decision about the loan?"

Randi chewed several times before swallowing. "Yes. I went to the clinic this morning and talked to Dr. Wilde. He was his usual obnoxious self, but told me to write up an offer and he’d take a look at it. I think he’s about had it, to tell you the truth."

"Oh? What makes you say that?" Anne asked, setting her fork down on the edge of her plate. "Did he say something?"

"It wasn’t so much what he said, as how he appeared. I think he’s aged ten years in the past week." Although there was no love lost between the two, Randi hated to think that Wilde’s business problems could be affecting his health. "I think I’ll call his daughter in St. Louis, and see if she can come down and talk him into taking better care of himself."

Anne frowned. "That obnoxious old goat has a daughter? You mean that someone actually," she couldn’t say the word, "with him?" Her body shook in a fake shiver. "That’s a scary thought."

This time it was Kay’s turn to almost choke on her drink. She used her napkin to wipe her mouth before speaking. "Eeew. I haven’t even met the man, and it scares me. What do you think, Randi? Could it have been one of those in-vitro things?"

"No," Randi snickered. "He was married at one time." She turned serious. "His wife passed away not long after I started working for him. She was a really sweet lady, and after she was gone, he changed." Randi thought back on how things used to be at the clinic before Mrs. Wilde had died. Benjamin Wilde was a caring, almost nurturing teacher, and had invited her over several times to have dinner with him and his wife. The love between the older couple was something that Randi never thought she’d see for herself, and she was thankful for Emma Wilde’s acceptance of her in their home. The old veterinarian obviously adored his wife, and had been devastated by her death.

"That’s terrible," Kay murmured. She had always wondered why Randi would have agreed to work with someone as obnoxious as Dr. Wilde, and why she continually put up with his nasty temperament. She also knew that her partner had a very deep sense of loyalty and integrity, and now realized that’s what had kept Randi at the clinic for so many years.

"Yeah. It’s a shame, really. It was like he turned into a different person, almost overnight. The man I started working for was a far cry from the guy who fired me last week." Randi studied her plate, trying to figure out if there was something that she could have done differently to keep things from progressing as they had. With a mental shake of her head, she realized that it was up to Dr. Wilde how he acted, and nothing that she did or said would have made much of a difference. "Maybe somewhere, deep down inside, the man I used to know is trying to get out. Perhaps that’s why he so quickly agreed to sell the clinic to me." The comforting touch of Kay’s hand on her arm warmed her heart. "Or, maybe he was just tired of messing with the whole thing, and saw a way to get out from under it. I guess we’ll never really know."

"Well, whatever the reason," Anne waved her fork in the air, "let’s just be thankful that he has come to his senses." She winked. "I was hoping that you’d change your mind, and that he’d agree to sell. So, I’ve already got some people working on the paperwork."

Randi looked up. "You don’t waste any time, do you? What made you so certain that I’d say yes?"

Anne’s eyes took on a business-like glint. "Because, above all else, you want to do the right thing – both for you, and for the people you care about. I knew that after you thought about it, there’d be no doubt in your mind that owning the clinic would not only help you, but would also allow everyone else to keep their jobs." She took a sip of her drink before continuing. "I make it a point to study people, Randi. That’s why I’m so successful at what I do." Anne smiled to soften her words. "So, tell me, was I wrong?"

Caught flatfooted, Randi blinked. Was she? "No, you’re right. I guess I’m just a little surprised that you're able to figure me out so easily after knowing me for such a short amount of time."

"Believe me, it wasn’t that easy," Anne assured her. "But, after you risked your job to help someone that you didn’t even know, I had a pretty good idea what kind of person you are."

Kay had been watching the exchange quietly while she enjoyed her meal, her respect for the banker growing with every minute she listened. Anne seemed to have a keen insight into people and things that neither she nor Randi had, and it obviously made her successful in her career. Looking over at Randi, Kay smiled. It hadn’t taken her any time at all to realize what a true treasure the vet was. Almost at first sight, she knew that the dark-haired woman was a kind and sensitive person, and was thankful that Randi was the one that had found her in the woods that day. Kay had never found out what Randi was doing out in the middle of the trees that day, but the reason seemed unimportant now. She was there, we met, and nothing else really matters.

"Thank you, Anne. I just hope I don’t disappoint you." Not really full, but too keyed up to eat, Randi pushed her plate away, most of the food untouched. Just thinking about what she was about to embark on was enough to lose her appetite. "What do you need from me to get everything started legally?"

Anne wiped her mouth with her napkin. "Why don’t you come back to my office, and you can fill out a few forms and sign a few papers? That way we can get the ball rolling and, hopefully, have everything done in a few days. I know you’re probably itching to get back to work."

"Well, I would like to have all of this done and behind me as soon as possible. It feels weird not going in to work every day," Randi admitted. She looked at Kay and smiled. "Although, having a little time off right now is good, too."

"I'm not going to disagree with you on that one." Kay reached under the table and squeezed Randi's thigh. "But I can tell you're beginning to get a little stir crazy."

Randi thought of denying the gentle accusation, but knew that it was true. As much as she enjoyed spending so much time with Kay, a large part of her wanted to be back in the clinic, taking care of animals. It was the one constant in her life, up until she met Kay, and she felt a little incomplete when she wasn't doing it. Her mind teemed with all of the opportunities that running her own clinic would have for the staff and the clients.

Finished with her meal as well, Anne pushed back her plate and exchanged looks with Kay. They both smiled at the faraway look on the vet's face. "Well, ladies," Anne reached for the check that the server had left on the table, "let's go back to my office, and get things underway, shall we?"

"You don't have to do that," Randi argued, pointing at the bill. "We invited you."

Anne laughed. "Are you kidding? This was a business lunch. I have a generous expense account that rarely gets used. Don't worry about it." She left not only enough to cover the check, but a very large tip as well. "Ready?"

"As I'll ever be." Randi stood up and helped Kay from her chair. "Let's do this thing."

Chapter 4

Two days after the meeting with Anne Crawford, Kay watched Randi pace the expensively furnished waiting room. She traded amused looks with another woman that sat across from her and shrugged. "Randi, why don't you come over here and sit down?" Not receiving an answer, she gave the woman across from her an embarrassed grin and tried again. "Honey, please?"

"What?" The vet turned from where she had been studying a bookshelf holding medical journals. "Did you say something, Kay?"

Nodding, Kay looked back at the nosy woman, who suddenly wouldn't meet her eyes. 'Phobe. Biting off a sharp comment that would do no good, Kay patted the sofa cushion next to her. "Could you come here, please?"

"Sure." Randi crossed the room and dropped onto the indicated seat. The doctor's office was filled with comfortable sofas and overstuffed chairs, giving the room a more homey feel. Still antsy, she sat on the edge of the couch and bounced one knee. "What's up?"

"I was just going to ask you the same thing," Kay murmured, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb anyone else. "Did you have too much coffee, or something?"

The dark-haired woman shook her head. "No, just the one cup of coffee this morning. Why?" She followed Kay's eyes to her leg, which still bounced nervously. "Oh. Sorry." The bouncing stopped, but Randi appeared to be ready to jump out of her chair at the slightest provocation.

Kay glanced at the woman across from them, who was studiously ignoring their conversation. The woman's demeanor had turned icy the moment she realized Kay and Randi were a couple. To hell with her. She can just get over herself. Placing one hand on her lover's thigh, Kay whispered, "What's wrong with you? I don't think I've ever seen you quite like this before."

"Nothing," Randi started, until she saw the look on Kay's face. Damn. I can't get away with anything, can I? She sighed. "I don't like doctors’ offices."

"Not many people do, honey," Kay commiserated.

Embarrassed, Randi suddenly found a spot on the carpet at her feet fascinating. "I don't know if it's the smell, or what, but it always freaks me out." Pretty stupid, considering what I do for a living. She was spared from making any further revelations when a side door opened and an older woman wearing bright-colored scrubs called Kay's name.

"Here." Kay handed Randi her purse and stood up. "Come with me?"

"Sure." Randi followed the two women past the door and through a small maze of counters and open doorways, until they were ushered into a small room.

The nurse helped Kay sit on the padded table, then efficiently took her blood pressure and checked her pulse. Her duty complete, she scribbled a few notes on Kay's chart and patted the young woman on the leg. "Dr. Ramirez will be with you in a few minutes." With a polite nod to Randi, she left the room.

"Wow. They don't waste any time, do they?" Kay asked. The doctor that she had been seeing in Woodbridge made his patients wait at least an hour, then another fifteen or twenty minutes once they were in the examination room.

Randi shook her head. "Nope. That's one of the reasons I come here, as a matter of fact. I don't have time to get too nervous." She was about to say something else when the door opened, and a middle-aged Hispanic man stepped into the room.

The bespectacled physician appeared to be an inch or two shorter than Randi, with a slightly stockier build. His short hair was completely silver, and the friendly smile he wore was infectious. Holding out his hand to Kay, he introduced himself. "Hello, there. I'm Dr. Oscar Ramirez. You must be Katherine."

"Hi, Dr. Ramirez, I've heard a lot about you. You can call me Kay," she told him, shaking his hand. Kay was relieved at the cool, dry handshake, and glad to see that the doctor looked her directly in the eyes. Points in his favor. The doctor she had been forced to see in Woodbridge not only had clammy hands, but he’d had trouble meeting her gaze.

"All good, I hope." A quick glance at the quiet woman in the corner caused his smile to grow. "Randi! It's good to see you again."

"Hi, Dr. Ramirez. I thought that since I haven't been in for a while, I'd bring you another customer."

"That's great." He looked at Kay. "I don't mean that it's great you have to be here, just that I'm glad Randi thinks enough of me to give a referral." Dr. Ramirez studied Kay's chart for a moment. When he got to the area that told how the injury had happened, he cringed. "Ouch." Setting the paperwork back on the counter, he headed for the door. "All right, Kay. Let me get someone to wheel you to x-ray, and we'll go from there." He waved at Randi and hurried from the room.

Moments later, the nurse who had taken Kay's vitals brought in a wheelchair. "Miss Newcombe, let's get some pictures of that leg, shall we?" With some help from Randi, she assisted Kay from the table to the chair. "You can just wait here, if you want," she offered to the dark-haired woman. "It shouldn't take too long."

Randi let out a heavy breath as she watched them leave. She sat back in the chair and scrubbed her face with her hands. As much as she usually disliked doctors' offices, she was glad that Dr. Ramirez was seeing Kay. He was one of the few physicians that she trusted, since he was the one responsible for making certain she was still walking after so many surgeries. Crossing her arms over her chest, she tilted her head back until it rested against the wall and closed her eyes.


"I can’t believe this! I thought I was going to be finished with these stupid things," Kay complained. She was stomping to the car as fast as the crutches would carry her, causing Randi to practically jog to keep up with her.

Randi, struggling to catch her breath, finally caught up with her upset lover at the Corvette. She unlocked the passenger door and took the crutches from Kay. "It’s only temporary." Sliding into the driver’s seat, she tried to ignore the glare that Kay aimed her way.

Dr. Ramirez had declared Kay’s injured limb healed and had removed the cast, but he admonished the young woman that it would be another day or two before she would be able to put all of her weight on her leg. Kay didn’t know what mortified her more – the thought of using the crutches longer, or seeing the condition her leg was in once the cast was cut away. She had almost cried at the sight of all the dead skin, complaining that it looked as if she had turned into an alligator. Randi hadn’t been much help, joking that she could always get a job on the television program which starred the Australian who wrestled with crocs.

Remembering that conversation, Kay glared at the woman driving. "I can’t believe you said that," she grumbled.

Not realizing what Kay had been thinking, Randi assumed she meant her last words. "Why not? It’s true."

"Argh!" Kay threw up her hands in disgust. She looked down at her right leg, which was now sporting a removable brace. "You don’t have to be so damned smug about it." She knew that she wasn't being fair to Randi, but finding out that the strength in her leg wasn't instantly recovered after so many weeks in a cast put her in a foul mood. Dr. Ramirez had assured her that she could put as much weight as she could tolerate on the limb, and the brace could be left off once she was comfortable with the way her leg felt.

Uh-oh. Randi cringed at the tone in Kay’s voice. Somebody is cranky, and it looks like I’m in the doghouse. She kept her eyes on the road, wracking her brain for something clever to say. Coming up empty, she tried another tack. "I’m sorry, for whatever I might have said that upset you, sweetheart."

Kay cut her eyes over at her lover and scowled. "A job with that crocodile guy? How could you?" She crossed her arms over her chest and stared out the passenger window.

She’s still mad about that? But I already apologized for that one. "Would ice cream help?"


Randi frowned, but didn’t look at Kay. "Ice cream served in bed, with hot fudge and whipped cream?"

Struggling to keep the smile off her face, Kay bit her lip. "With a cherry on top?"

"I’ll give you all the cherries you want," Randi agreed, stopping at the red light.

Kay turned around and cut her eyes at Randi. "You will, huh? I didn’t think you had one, anymore," she teased.

Relieved that she was no longer in trouble, the vet grinned and wriggled her eyebrows. "I might not have the cherry, but I’ve got the box it came in."

"I can’t believe you said that." Kay laughed and reached for Randi’s arm to give it a gentle squeeze. "Forgive me for being such a whiny baby?"

"You have nothing to apologize for, Kay. I can understand why you're so upset." When the light turned green, Randi put the car in gear and took off. "I should have never made that crack about the crocodile guy."

Kay shook her head, then realized that Randi couldn’t see her. "I shouldn’t have been so sensitive. You were just trying to cheer me up."

The next few minutes went by quietly, as each woman was relieved that the argument had ended so quickly. Randi hated fighting with Kay, no matter what the reason, and she felt horrible that she might have somehow hurt the younger woman’s feelings. When she noticed a supermarket up ahead, she resolved to buy a few extra things to try and make it up to Kay. Dr. Ramirez had given them instructions on how to recondition the skin that had been under the cast, and she wanted to pick up the supplies that they would need. Not to mention the ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, and cherries. I know that’ll make her feel better. She grinned. Especially if I serve it up just right.


Kay looked down at her lover, who was deeply engrossed in her task. Randi's head was bent forward in quiet concentration, and her hands moved gently and methodically. "Really, Randi. You don't have to -"

"Does it feel any better?" Without glancing up, the older woman continued to lightly work the baby oil into the skin. She was determined to do the best job possible, no matter what Kay said.

"That's not the point."

Brown eyes peered up. "That's exactly the point, Kay. The doctor told us that this would help, and would also alleviate the itching. I know it's about to drive you crazy." Randi continued to work the fragrant moisturizer into the skin on Kay's leg. When she had coated the limb to her satisfaction, she carefully wrapped a soft towel around the area and eased it from her lap onto the bed. "Now all we have to do is wait, then go from there."

"Thank you," Kay murmured. She was still upset over the day's events, and was secretly embarrassed that Randi not only saw the condition of her leg, but also didn't seem to have any qualms about touching it. I don't think I could put my hands on that scaly, hairy mess. I can't wait until I can shave my leg again. The doctor had warned her that the skin would be extremely sensitive for several days, and that trying to scrub or shave the leg too soon would result in a lot of unnecessary discomfort. She had to admit that Randi's touch was more gentle than her own would have been. No wonder she's such a good vet - with those hands, she could have been a surgeon.


"Are you all right? I didn't hurt you, did I?" Randi asked, a worried frown on her face.

Kay shook her head. "No, not at all. I was just thinking."


"How gentle your hands are." Kay enjoyed the blush that covered Randi's features. "Did you ever think about becoming a people doctor?"

Randi cocked her head slightly, reminiscent of Spike, and chuckled. "Uh, no. For most of my life, I haven't even liked people, much less wanted to listen to their gripes and groans about how bad they feel. Animals are much easier, and usually a lot more appreciative."

Kay looked over at Spike, who had been chased off the bed and now sat near the bedroom door, his back to the bed. Randi had forced him down after he kept trying to lick the baby oil off Kay's leg. "I don't know, hon. He doesn't look too appreciative right now."

"He doesn't, does he?" Randi patted the bed next to her. "Hey, Spike. C'mere, fella." The little dog's ears twitched, but he gave no other indication that he had heard her. Spoiled mutt. With a heavy sigh, Randi stood up and walked over to the door. "Come on, buddy. It was for your own good, you know." Stooping to pick him up, she snuggled the animal to her chest. "I swear, you're worse than a kid, sometimes," she grumbled.

"Why don't you bring him over here, and I'll try to appease him," Kay offered, holding out her hands. She looked down at the towel-wrapped limb and wriggled her toes. Relieved to not feel any pain, she slowly moved her foot from side to side. Not too bad. I guess the doctor was right when he said that my age worked in my favor. Bet I'm off the crutches by tomorrow. She looked up as Randi handed Spike to her. "You poor baby. She was mean to you, wasn't she?"

Spike stretched his neck so that he could lick Kay's chin. Randi looked at the mutual love-fest and shook her head. "You have gotten him so spoiled," she accused good-naturedly. Once again she considered herself lucky having Kay with her. A lover who liked animals and was also her best friend, the younger woman embodied just about everything Randi could want in the person to share her life.

Seeing the faraway look on Randi's face caused Kay to smile. I don't know what she's thinking, but it must be good. She watched as the older woman shook herself out of her reverie and sat on the end of the bed. "What's next on today's agenda?"

"Hmm?" Randi blinked and took a deep breath. "Sorry about that. Um, how about we see how your leg is doing, then think about lunch?"

"Sounds good to me." Kay didn't even grimace as Randi gently unwrapped her leg. "How does it look?"

Brown eyes looked up and twinkled. "Do you really want me to say? I’ve gotten into enough trouble today, don't you think?" Not waiting for an answer, she set the leg down on the open towel and stood up. "Let me go get some warm water and a washcloth."

Kay gazed after her lover as Randi left the room. "She's pretty special, don't you think?" she murmured to Spike. Not getting an answer from the little dog, Kay leaned back against the headboard of the bed and sighed in contentment.


Randi lifted the cover off the skillet and peered inside. The fragrant steam wafted up and tickled her senses, causing her mouth to almost water in anticipation.

"Smells good."

Dropping the lid, Randi whirled around in surprise. "Jeez! You scared the crap out of me," she chastised Kay, who was grinning widely. "How did you -" Stopped in the middle of her question, Randi realized how Kay was able to sneak up on her so easily. Where are her crutches?

Kay held out her arms. "Surprised, huh?" After a quick lunch, and in between times during which Randi would rub more baby oil on Kay's leg, they’d spent the rest of the day snuggling. While Randi was busy cooking dinner, Kay had taken the time to wean herself off the crutches. She started by standing with the crutches, slowly putting more and more weight on her leg. Realizing it wasn't as painful as Dr. Ramirez had warned her, she limped around the bedroom until she could walk almost normally.

"Yeah, but -"

"Don't worry. It really doesn't hurt," Kay assured her. One more step, and she wrapped her arms around her lover. "God," Kay sighed, "I've been wanting to do this for forever."

Randi felt the strong arms around her squeeze tighter as she buried her face in Kay's hair. Overtaken by emotion, she closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Knowing that the woman she loved was healthy, safe, and no longer hampered with uncomfortable crutches, Randi sent up a silent prayer of gratitude. "Me, too," she rasped, struggling with her feelings.

Pulling back slightly, Kay forced the older woman to look her in the eye. "Hey, are you all right?"

"Yeah," Randi exhaled. "Just really glad you're doing better." The clatter of the lid covering the skillet brought her mind back to the matters at hand. "Damn." She spun around and turned the heat off, sliding the pan to a cool burner. "Dinner's ready."

"So I can see," the blonde giggled. "What is it?" She tried to sneak a peek, but was gently bumped away. "I'm going to find out sooner or later, you know."

Randi shook her head. "You're almost as bad as Spike." A sharp bark at her feet told Randi that she had been heard. "Oh, so now you'll bark. Where were you when I was being sneaked up on?"

"Grr." Spike crouched down with his rear end up in the air, the tiny stub of a tail wriggling furiously. He jumped sideways and took up the same stance a few steps away. "Grr."

"Good grief." Randi cut her eyes over to Kay, who covered her mouth with one hand to keep from laughing. "I can't believe he's on your side." She was secretly amused by Spike's devotion to her lover, but was certainly not about to tell either one of them what she really thought.

Kay reached up and scratched Randi underneath the chin and cooed. "Does this help, honey?"

"Do you want dinner, or not?"

"Depends," Kay demurred. "What's for dinner?"

Knowing when she had been beaten, Randi lifted the lid to the skillet. "Sloppy Joes," she announced proudly. "My own recipe."

"Mmm." Kay stepped gingerly over to the cabinet and brought down two plates, while Randi opened the package of hamburger buns. "This is so cool."

"What's that?"

Kay turned around with her hands full. "I get to help, now." She brought the plates over to Randi, not even trying to keep the silly grin off her face. "I never thought I'd want to do household chores, again. But you really do miss doing the simplest things when you can't do them anymore."

"I know what you mean," her lover agreed, heaping large mounds of the hamburger mixture on top of the buns. "I’ve always hated that helpless feeling." Randi gathered up the plates. "If you'll grab a couple of glasses of tea, I'll bring the food."

"You’ve got it," Kay agreed, happily pulling two glasses from another cabinet.

Some time later, they were sprawled on the sofa together, watching a mindless situation comedy. Kay snuggled up close to Randi and leaned back to wrap her arms around the older woman's neck. "This is nice."

"Sure is," Randi admitted. Seeing an opening, she bent forward and nibbled on Kay's throat. "Really nice."

"Oooh." Twisting slightly, Kay was able to capture Randi's lips. She tangled her fingers in the short, dark hair and pulled the older woman closer. Insistent hands lifted the hem of her tee shirt, and Kay gasped at the sensations when one of those hands stroked her stomach. Pulling away so that she could see Randi's face, she choked out, "Bedroom. Now."

A wicked grin covered the vet's face as she assisted Kay to her feet. "What's the matter? Aren't you in the mood to make out on the couch?" Her hand was yanked hard while the younger woman started for the back of the apartment.

"Not when we have a perfectly good bed a few steps away." Kay led them into the master bedroom and pushed Randi onto the mattress. She grabbed the bottom of the navy-blue polo shirt that Randi wore and quickly pulled it over the dark head, her eyes sparkling with desire. When Randi reached behind herself to unclasp her bra, Kay shook her head. "No. Let me." She quickly stripped off her own shirt and leaned forward.

Randi noticed fuzzily that Kay had forgone her bra the moment two breasts brushed up against her face, as Kay reached behind her to unhook the undergarment. Unable to control herself, Randi placed her hands on Kay's hips and took the soft flesh into her mouth, humming happily.

"Oh, God," Kay moaned, her hands finally finding purchase on Randi's bare shoulders. She tried to remember what she had been doing, but gave up and leaned into the contact instead. The sweat pants and panties that she had slipped on earlier were quickly whisked down her legs, and Kay automatically stepped out of them. She closed her eyes when two strong hands squeezed her bare bottom and pulled her closer.

A quick spin and Randi was able to lay her lover on the bed, so that she could lean over the moaning woman. She finally released the hold her mouth had on Kay's breast, deciding instead to kiss and nibble a path down her stomach. When she felt fingers tangle in her hair, Randi smiled to herself at Kay's enthusiasm. Those same hands began to rub up and down her back, stopping when they felt the waistband of Randi's jeans.

"Off," Kay ordered, fighting with the brass button that held the denim closed. "I need to feel you," she begged, wanting the touch of bare skin. Her hands shook as they struggled with the button. "Please."

Randi took pity on Kay and helped her unsnap the jeans. She felt the insistent hands pulling them down while she tried to stand up long enough to remove the pants. As her foot hit the floor, her leg twisted and caused a searing pain in her knee. "Damn!" Randi fell back to the bed, tears in her eyes as she wrapped both hands around the aching joint.

"Oh, God. Randi?" Kay sat up, alarmed. All amorous thoughts receded as she scooted around and leaned over the other woman. Randi's eyes were closed and she rocked back and forth silently. Kay touched her shoulder gently, clearly at a loss. "What can I do?"

"Just give me a minute," Randi gasped, her eyes still tightly closed.

Kay looked on helplessly while her lover continued to rock slowly. She kept one hand on Randi's shoulder, trying to will the pain away. "I'm so sorry."

At the tone of Kay's voice, Randi forced her eyes open and looked up into the concerned face. The pain was finally beginning to ease enough that she could concentrate on something else. "No, Kay. You didn't do anything. I just stepped wrong and turned it, that's all." She sat up and looked at the jeans that were still around her ankles. "Um, could you…?"

"Oh! Of course." Kay slid to the end of the bed and carefully eased the jeans from Randi's legs.

Once the pants were removed, Randi used her arms to drag herself up to the top of the bed, where she leaned back against the headboard with a pained release of breath. "Sorry for killing the mood."

"Don't you dare apologize," Kay ordered, then softened her tone. "Do I need to take you to the doctor?" She looked down at the offending knee, noting the swelling. "Or maybe get you an icepack?"

"An icepack would be nice, thanks." Randi leaned forward and tried to put a pillow beneath her leg. The pillow was quickly taken away from her and Kay solicitously lifted the limb, tucking the pillow under it.

The blonde crawled off the bed and started for the door. "I'll bring you some ice, and maybe some aspirin, too?"

Randi nodded. Although the leg still pained her considerably, she couldn't help but admire the younger woman's nude body. "Uh, sure. Aspirin's good." And lots of ice she corrected herself. It's going to be a long night.

To be continued in part 3

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