The Greatest Gift

Part III

By Carrie Carr

Disclaimers: These characters are original, and all came from my devious little mind. Please ask permission before borrowing them, since I get grumpy when someone doesn't play nice.

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 ( for 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, is dedicated to my AJ, the woman who holds my heart. Forever and always, my love.

Copyright March 2002 by Carrie Carr

Chapter 5

After having a good breakfast, Randi had asked Kay if she'd like to go to the clinic with her, and the younger woman quickly agreed. They took a leisurely shower together, which took a lot more time than they’d anticipated, and were just now getting dressed.

"Are you sure you're up to this?" Kay stepped out of the bathroom, brushing her hair. She watched as her partner tucked a white polo shirt into her khaki slacks. She was still concerned about Randi's knee, even though the older woman had assured her that it felt fine.

Randi sat on the edge of the bed to put on her shoes. She looked up at Kay while she tied the shoes, grinning at the sight of her lover without a shirt. "Honestly, Kay, I'm all right. It's a little stiff today, but nothing that I'm not used to." Standing up, Randi was careful to put most of her weight on her "good" leg. No sense in taking any chances. She held out her arms. "See? Good as new."

"Uh-huh." Not convinced in the least, Kay lightly backhanded Randi in the stomach as she walked by. "That was sweet of Anne to have the papers delivered here this morning, wasn't it?"

"It sure was," Randi agreed, picking up Kay's shirt from the bed and helping her into it. The contracts for the sale of the clinic and for Randi's loan had been delivered by messenger early that morning. She stepped around Kay and started buttoning the pale yellow top. "It'll be interesting to see if Dr. Wilde will accept the offer or not, though. I'm never too sure about him."

Kay grasped Randi's hands after they finished with her shirt. "It's going to work out, Randi. Just wait and see."

"I hope so." Tired of worrying about it, Randi decided a change of subject was in order. "Say, after we finish at the office, how about going to look at kitchen tables?" She was determined to furnish the apartment so that Kay would be comfortable, too.

"Are you getting tired of balancing your plate on your lap?" Kay joked, reaching up and straightening Randi’s collar. She leaned into Randi and inhaled deeply. "You smell good."

Randi bent her head and sniffed. "I used the same soap and shampoo that you do. Or maybe you’re just subtly trying to tell me I stunk, before." She jumped as Kay poked her in the ribs. "Hey."

"Teach you to pick on me."

"Right. Like you really needed a reason to attack," Randi teased. "So, what do you think? Wanna go furniture shopping?"

"That sounds great. Is there any particular style that you've been considering?" Kay accepted the topic change amicably. She linked arms with the older woman and led them from the bedroom.

Allowing herself to be escorted to the living room, Randi couldn’t help but laugh. Kay was always up to shopping, no matter what the reason. "I don’t know that much about different styles of furniture. As long as it’s sturdy and comfortable, I’m pretty agreeable."

Kay stopped before they reached the front door. "You’re gonna regret saying that, doc. I’ve got lots of ideas for the kitchen." She took Randi’s coat from the hook and held it out, smiling as the older woman slipped her arms into the fabric. Happily surprised by Randi’s unprotesting acceptance of help, no matter how small, she felt as if they were becoming true partners. The tiniest favor was normally fended off, but Randi would then later apologize for her actions. She admitted to Kay that in her past relationships nothing had come without a price, and it was hard to break the habit of declining every offer so as not to be indebted.

"Well, let’s go see about buying a clinic." Randi picked up the papers from the table and held the door open for Kay.


Benjamin Wilde sat alone in his office, his tired eyes staring remorsefully at the single picture frame adorning his desk. A lovely woman in her late fifties smiled back at him, the smile on her face one that he kept deep in his heart. The guilt he felt over her untimely passing gnawed at his soul, and, just like every day of his life, he sent her a silent plea for forgiveness.

They had scheduled their yearly vacation, a springtime trip to the mountains of Colorado, like they always did. A short flight from Dallas to Denver, then they would take a rented car and drive up to a small cabin that they time-shared with another couple. But that last year, Benjamin had wanted to stay behind one extra day to attend a veterinarian’s conference, and had sent Ada ahead without him. The pass they normally had no trouble navigating was still covered with snow, and Ada’s car skidded off the side of the mountain, killing her the instant it hit the ground. He had always felt that if he hadn’t been so caught up in his work, he would have been the one driving and either his wife would still be alive, or he’d be buried alongside her.

One shaky finger reached to the picture and gently caressed the glass. Benjamin felt his eyes fill with unwanted tears as his heart broke again at the loss. His contemplation was interrupted by a light knock on the office door. Angrily removing his glasses, the old doctor wiped the moisture from his eyes. "Come in," he snapped, upset at being disturbed.

The door opened, and his ex-associate’s face peered in through the crack. "Dr. Wilde? I’d like a word with you, if I may."

"Fine, fine. Get in here and get on with it, Meyers. I don’t have all day." He motioned to one of the chairs across from him. "Sit down."

Randi stepped the rest of the way into the room and took the offered seat. She could tell that Dr. Wilde was upset, and by the position of the photograph on his desk, she had a pretty good idea why. If she remembered correctly, his wedding anniversary would be coming up within the next week or so, and he always got more depressed around that time. "If this is a bad time, I can come back," she offered, starting to rise from her chair.

He waved an impatient hand. "No, you’ve already disturbed me – might as well tell me why."

"All right." Randi placed a stack of papers on the desk in front of the older man. "I believe you’ll find everything in order, Dr. Wilde."

"You think so?" He gathered up the papers and studied them carefully. Several minutes went by while he read each page, nodding or mumbling to himself every now and then.

Just as Randi thought he’d never finish, the papers dropped to the desk surface. He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. Unable to wait any longer, she leaned forward. "Well? What do you think? I believe it’s a fair offer."

"It is."

Not knowing whether that was a statement or a question, Randi stood up, angry. "Okay. I can see we’re not going to get anywhere today, so I’ll just leave those with you." When she reached the door, his quiet plea caused her to stop.

"Wait." Dr. Wilde stood up and held out one hand. "Please, sit back down, Randi."

The defeated tone in the older man’s voice brought Randi back to her chair. "All right. What is it?"

"These last few years have been pretty rough, haven’t they?" he asked, sitting back down as well. "But you stuck it out."

Randi frowned. What is he up to? She nodded slowly. "I’ve had better," she admitted.

Benjamin flipped through the contract until he got to the last page, then picked up his pen and started to sign his name.

"Wait. Don’t you want a lawyer to go over that?"

The tired old eyes glinted with a long-forgotten sparkle. "Would you try to cheat me, Dr. Meyers?"

"Of course not! But—"

Ignoring Randi’s sputtering, Benjamin signed the agreement and set his pen back on the desk. "You’ve become quite a good veterinarian, Randi. I wish I could take credit for that." He stood up and held out the papers with one hand. "Good luck to you. I’ll have my things out in the next few days."

"You…but…" Randi accepted the papers and tucked them under one arm. She shook his hand and took a deep breath. "Believe it or not, Dr. Wilde, you helped make me what I am today." She released his hand and stepped back, sticking her hands in her front pockets. "There’s no rush on you leaving, doctor. Take whatever time you need." She walked to the door, then turned back, and her demeanor softened. "If you ever need anything, Benjamin, I hope you’ll call me. No matter what it might be, or when."

A smile crossed his features as he watched the younger woman leave the office. Benjamin turned back to look at his wife’s picture. "Well, Ada, looks like I’ve finally done something right." He sat down in the leather chair once again and took stock of the small office. "I should have done this years ago. I’ve just been fooling myself."


Randi walked into the kitchen and was met by several expectant faces. Still in shock herself, she couldn’t think of anything to say.

"Well?" Kay asked, standing up and walking over to her lover. "How did it go?"

Waving the stack of papers in the air, Randi grinned. "Does this answer your question?"

"He signed?" Christina asked from her place at the table. The vet’s answering nod set off a round of cheers.

Kay squealed. "Congratulations!" She wrapped her arms around Randi’s neck, kissing the older woman full on the mouth. Suddenly remembering they weren’t alone, Kay blushed and buried her face in Randi's shirt. "I can’t believe I did that," she mumbled.

"I can," Randi teased, pulling Kay close. "Thanks." The other women quickly surrounded them, everyone talking at once. "Hold on, folks. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves."

Joyce clapped her hands gleefully. "I don’t care. This is the best thing that’s happened to me since chocolate." She nudged Ramona, who was staring at Kay. "Don’t you think so, hon?"

"Yeah, right," Ramona agreed sullenly. She was aware of the relationship between Kay and Randi, but hadn’t been prepared for the cold, hard truth hitting her in the face.

Christina smiled at the vet. "So, when do you start?" She laughed at the confused look on Randi’s face. "You are planning on working here, aren’t you?" she teased.

"Of course!" Randi squawked. She looked at the circle of women, suddenly realizing that her dream had just become a reality. "How’s business been, lately?"

"What business?" Joyce griped. "You two are the only ones that have come through the door in the last week or so."

Randi looked at Kay, who nodded. "All right. Everyone be back here on Monday, and we’ll get started on bringing the clients back."

The chime on the front door made everyone pause. Christina peeked out through the kitchen door, then turned back to the other women. "Nobody’s there."

"That’s strange," Randi commented, pushing the door open and walking to the front of the clinic. She was followed by Kay and the rest of the women, and stopped when she saw a set of keys sitting on the receptionist’s desk. A short note was under the keys, and she picked it up to read, holding the keys in her other hand.

Dr. Meyers,

I won’t be needing these anymore. Yes, I know that the sale isn’t final, but I have faith that it will go through as planned. I was surprised to find that there wasn’t much to pack in my office, and took the liberty of "borrowing" an empty box to remove what few items I had. The desk and chair are yours – consider them an office-warming present.

Thank you for your loyalty and perseverance – I have no doubts that you’ll succeed.


Benjamin Wilde

"He’s gone?" Kay asked. She had been reading over Randi’s shoulder, and was somewhat disappointed that she still hadn’t met the infamous Dr. Wilde. Looks like I never will, either.

Randi nodded, looking out into the parking lot and not seeing the familiar Cadillac. "Looks like it." She felt an unreasonable pang of sadness at not having had the chance to say goodbye. Although they had fought bitterly the last few years, Randi could remember when the old vet was a kind and patient teacher. Goodbye, Benjamin. And good luck to you. "I’m going to miss him," she whispered, glad to feel Kay’s calming touch on her back as one chapter in her life ended, and another began.


"That looks like a good place to start," Kay said, pointing to a well-known furniture store a block away from where they sat at a traffic light.

Randi nodded. "Works for me. How’s your leg holding up?"

"It’s fine."

"Going to kill me for asking you the same question all the time?" Randi asked, a concerned expression on her face. "I’m sorry, I don’t mean to—"

Kay touched Randi’s arm. "It’s okay, Randi. I don’t mind at all." She shrugged her shoulders. "Kind of nice, to have someone care enough about me to ask, if you want to know the truth. So, no, I don’t think I’m going to get mad at you for caring."

"That’s a relief." As the light turned green, Randi put the car into first gear and started down the street, changing lanes so that she could pull into the parking lot of the furniture store.

Once the Corvette was parked, Randi walked behind Kay as the younger woman navigated the few steps up to the door. She enjoyed how well Kay’s jeans fit, and couldn’t seem to keep the wolfish grin from her face. Definitely nice. I think I’m going to like following her around. The object of her desire turned around and held the door open, ruining her view.

"Do I want to know what you’re thinking about?" Kay quizzed her friend.

Randi walked past her into the store, discreetly patting Kay on the bottom. "Probably not."

They hadn't made it five steps into the showroom when a young man raced forward to greet them. Not much taller than either one of the women, he wore an inexpensive gray suit on his lanky body. With the aid of hair gel, his short red hair stood up in all directions in what he probably thought was the latest style. He walked up to Randi and held out his hand. "Good afternoon, ma'am. My name is Robbie. Is there something in particular that I can help you with today?" He looked past Randi to Kay, studying her with a practiced eye.



Yeah. Don't call me ma'am, you little turd. Randi heard the unladylike snort from her companion when the salesman addressed her. "We're looking for a kitchen table and chairs," she explained, resisting the urge to slap the young man's gaze from her lover. "Think you can handle that?"

"Yes, ma'am. We've got formal, informal, glass tops, oak, maple, cherry -"

"Why don't you just show us where they are, and we'll let you know if anything catches our eye, son." Randi glared at the young man, who pointed to one corner of the store.

"Right back there, ma'am." He couldn't figure out what the problem was with the older woman, but figured that she was just having a bad day. Robbie noticed that her short dark hair was highlighted with quite a few strands of silver, and he thought she was probably a decent looking woman. In her day, anyway.

Kay grabbed Randi's arm and led her to the back of the showroom before the older woman could say anything else to the salesman. "C'mon, ma'am. I'll help you find your way," she teased.

With a heavy sigh, Randi allowed her friend to drag her through the store. I hate being called ma'am. Makes me feel old. She remembered the look the salesman had given Kay. Hell, I am old - at least to brats like that. Her mental musings were interrupted when Kay stopped in front of a dining room suite.

"Well, what do you think of something like this?" Kay asked, pulling out one of the chairs and sitting down. "Seems sturdy enough."

Randi sat down in the chair opposite Kay. "Not bad. I like the color, too." The rectangular shaped table was made of light oak, with a butcher-block top and six matching chairs. She leaned back in her chair until the front two legs were off the ground. "Yep. Good and sturdy."

Robbie's voice caused Randi to fall forward quickly, almost unseating her. "I see you've found one of our most popular sets," he gushed, sitting down at the table next to Kay. He looked at each woman, then settled on Randi's face. "Divorce, I'll bet, right?"


Robbie waved one hand in the air. "I see it a lot in my business." He tried to sound worldly, but came off more like a little boy playing a make-believe game. "You and your daughter must be having to start over in a new place, that's why you're here buying a table and chairs."

"My what?" Randi growled, jumping to her feet. "Did you just say what I thought you said?"

He nodded, oblivious to the severely shortened life span his comments had the potential to bring about. "Now, now. Don't you worry. We've got a really good lease-to-own program for first-time buyers. Starting over won't be as bad as you think."

"I hate to break this to you, Robbie," Kay said, standing up and walking over to her seething partner. She linked arms with Randi and smiled sweetly at the young sales clerk. "This wonderful lady is not my mother - she's my girlfriend."

The look on Robbie's face was priceless. "G…girlfriend? As in…?"

"Oh, yeah," Kay purred, giving the young man a very sexy smile. She looked up into Randi's face, which was now struggling to hold back a huge grin. "Why don't we go somewhere else, honey? It's obvious we're not going to be satisfied here." She began to lead a silently amused Randi away, while Robbie looked on in confusion. Loud enough so that he could hear her, she said, "Let's go home, where I know I'll be satisfied."

They were barely out the doors when Randi's laughter broke the silence. "I can't believe you said that," she chortled, following Kay to the passenger's side of the Corvette. Randi unlocked the door and waited until her lover was seated, then hurried around the car and climbed in behind the steering wheel. "I'm sure glad you're on my side."

Kay laughed, proud of herself. Her first reaction when Robbie had mistaken Randi for her mother was to get in the young man's face and yell, but after seeing how upset her partner had become, she decided to diffuse the situation with a little fun, instead. "I couldn't help myself. That little pissant annoyed me from the moment we walked into the store. He was just asking for it."

"Well, you certainly got his attention," Randi agreed. She had never had anyone stand up for her before, and the feeling, although pleasurable, was something she was going to have to get used to. Her two older brothers were rarely around when she needed them, and were often the cause of many of her problems growing up, so she never felt comfortable asking for their help. Throughout her life, she had rarely shared her disappointments or troubles with her parents, either. Although they were very supportive of her, Randi had always held her innermost feelings back from them for fear that they wouldn't understand, since she really didn't understand herself. A quiet child grew into a private adult, and Randi learned quickly that sharing with someone who only claimed to love her brought heartache and pain, especially when that person would throw her words back in her face when it suited their purpose.

The interior of the car was silent for several minutes, both women lost in their own thoughts. Randi glanced over at Kay, and realized with startling clarity that she was no longer alone, that the woman sitting across from her would never intentionally hurt her. The feeling was a heady one, and brought a lump to Randi's throat. "I can't believe how lucky I am," she murmured, surprised that the words were spoken aloud.

"I'm going to have to disagree with you on that one," Kay countered, turning in her seat so that she was facing Randi. Her hazel eyes shone with love. "I'm the lucky one."

Randi grinned. "Guess this will have to be an ongoing argument, then. Because I know for a fact that being with you is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and that definitely makes me lucky."

Speechless, Kay could only reach across the car and take Randi's hand in hers, pulling it close to her chest while she basked in the love between them.


Soft instrumental music played in the background as Kay glanced across the linen-covered table. Between the dimmed lights and the flickering of the candle between them, romance filled the air. Randi had suggested that they go out to dinner to celebrate, and had somehow finagled a reservation at an exclusive Italian restaurant. They were seated in a partially enclosed booth in one of the alcoves off the main dining room. Kay was almost afraid to ask what the reservation alone had cost her partner, but knew better than to try and find out. She took a sip of her water and smiled. "This is wonderful, Randi. It feels almost surreal, being in a place like this. Thank you for bringing me."

"You're welcome," the dark-haired woman returned. "You deserve to be treated like this all the time, Kay. You're a very special woman." Randi reached across the table and covered Kay's hand with hers, squeezing lightly. "Thank you for being here."



Wow. She knows just the right thing to say. She was so happy, Kay felt as if her heart would burst. Before she could say anything in response, their waiter stood at the table, a small smile on his face.

"Good evening, ladies. My name is Adolfo," he greeted in a thick Italian accent. "Our chef is anxiously awaiting your decision, so he will know what to prepare for you."

Randi looked up at the young man and laughed. "Adolfo?" His short blond hair was slicked back, and the blue eyes that glittered from beneath the pale eyebrows belied his accent. If he's Italian, then I'm a size six.

His pale face turned a deep shade of red. "Okay, so my real name is Adam, but most people expect authentic Italian when they dine here, so I'm Adolfo," he admitted. Gathering his wits about him, Adam nodded at the women's linked hands. "Special occasion? Anniversary, perhaps?"

Caught off guard, Randi stammered, "Uh, no. I mean, yes." Touching Kay seemed like the most natural thing in the world to her, and she didn't even realize she was doing it half of the time. Although normally concerned about appearances, she wasn't very worried about the opinion of a waiter in a restaurant they would rarely patronize. Besides, she thought after studying the young man closely, he's about as straight as I am.

Adam decided to let the older woman off the hook, knowing that if he went too far it would probably affect his tip. "Would you like to see the wine list? We have some very nice vintages in our cellar."

"No, thank you," Kay answered. Although a glass of wine sounded good, she didn't want to make Randi feel uncomfortable. "I think I'd just like to have iced tea, please."

"Very good." Adam's demeanor switched back to professional, but without the fake accent. He turned to Randi. "And for you, madam?"

"Tea will be fine." Randi closed her menu and looked across the table. "Everything on the menu looks good, Adam. Is there something you would suggest?"

His eyes lit up. "Oh, definitely. You should try the Costoletta di maiale con funghi e prosciutto d'oro. It's one of the chef's specialties."

Randi's eyes widened. "You mind telling me what that is in layman's terms?"

"Grilled pork chop with pan roasted garlic, prosciutto di parma, roasted mushrooms and veal reduction," Adam recited with a flourish. "But it sounds much fancier in Italian."

Both women laughed, but Kay was the first to speak. "It sounds wonderful, Adam. I believe I'll try it." She turned her attention to her partner. "What about you?"

"Sure." Randi nodded to the waiter. "Go ahead and make that two."

"Eccellente," he quipped. "Would you care for an appetizer?"

Randi shrugged. "Surprise us."

Adam's smiled widened. "Oh, goodie. I know just the thing." He took the menus, bowed, and waved to someone on the other side of the room. "Vito will bring your drinks, and I'll have the appetizer out momentarily." Another bow, and he disappeared as quickly as he had come.

"That was certainly entertaining." Kay almost jumped when another young man silently placed two glasses of iced tea in front of them and scurried away. "Do they test them for sneakiness before they hire people around here?"

Picking up her glass and taking a sip of tea, Randi shook her head. "They're certainly efficient." She looked up when the same man returned, carrying a bottle of champagne and two glasses. "You must have the wrong table. We didn't order this."

He popped the cork on the bottle and poured them each a glass. "It was sent by a friend of yours," he answered, discreetly indicating another table.

"What friend? We really don't -" Kay asked, pausing when she saw who he pointed to. Across the room, an elegantly dressed woman wiggled her fingers in a tiny wave. "I don't believe this."

Randi frowned and also peered across the room. "Of all the nerve," she growled, scooting out of the booth and grabbing the bucket that held the champagne. "I'll be right back." The furious woman stalked across the room, leaving Kay to try and explain the situation to the waiter.

"Hello, sugar," Melissa purred as Randi none too gently placed the bucket on her table. "What a nice surprise, running into you like this."

"Cut the bullshit, Melissa. What the hell are you doing here?"

Tossing her auburn hair over one shoulder, Melissa continued to smile sweetly. "Having dinner, silly. Did you follow me here?" She reached out with one long fingernail and drew a line across Randi's hand that was still perched on the ice bucket, which caused the other woman to jump back as if she had been burned. "I've missed you."

"I can tell you've been pining away for me," Randi ground out sarcastically. "Just our rotten luck that you decided to crawl out of your hole tonight."

"Ouch, that stung." Red painted lips curled into a nasty smile as Melissa glanced across the room. "I see she still hasn't gotten the sense to dump you." She grabbed the cuff of Randi's shirtsleeve and pulled her closer. "They say those small-town types aren't too bright. It'll probably take her awhile to…hey!" Melissa grimaced as her hand was caught and squeezed in a tight grip.

Randi leaned down to keep from being overheard. "Watch your damned mouth, you obnoxious bitch. One more nasty word about Kay and I'll--"

"You'll what?" A man's voice asked from behind the angry woman. "Who the hell are you?" He pushed by Randi to sit down at the chair opposite Melissa. "Is this woman bothering you, Melly?" The well-dressed man brushed the front of his tie and studied Randi closely. He reeked of money, from his designer suit to his expensive haircut and glittering jewelry. Given the gray hair and matching mustache, Randi assumed he was at least fifteen years Melissa's senior.

Melly? Who the hell is this guy? Randi released the hold she had on the redhead's hand and stepped back.

Melissa gave her companion a fake smile. "No, sugar. We're old friends. I believe she was just leaving." She looked back at the dark-haired woman and winked. "I'm sure we'll run into each other again, won't we?"

"Not if I can help it," Randi muttered. She spun around and walked back to the booth, where Kay sat waiting impatiently. Sliding back into her seat, the older woman placed her napkin back into her lap and forced a smile onto her face. "Sorry about that."

"Are you all right?" Kay asked, leaning across the table as far as she could. "Who was that guy with her?"

Scrubbing one hand across her face, Randi shook her head. "I don't know. Probably her latest conquest. She never was particular about which gender she slept with." She noticed that the glasses of champagne were absent from their table, and was thankful for Kay's insight. Although it had been almost a year since she had last had a drink, the confrontation with Melissa weakened her resolve. Her nerves on edge, Randi picked up her glass of tea and took a deep drink.

Kay studied her lover worriedly. Randi's face was pale, and she saw how her hand shook as she picked up her glass. "Let's go."

"What?" Randi’s head jerked up and her eyes bored into Kay’s.

"Let's get out of here. Dinner's not worth seeing you upset like this, Randi. We can pick up something on the way home." Kay grabbed her purse and was about to stand up when Randi reached over and touched her arm.

"Wait, please." Not even thinking of how it would appear to anyone else who might be watching, Randi stood up and slid into the booth next to Kay. She turned to face her lover. "If it’s all right with you, I’d like to stay." Her face hardened momentarily. "I don’t want to give that bitch the satisfaction of us leaving."

Everything faded into the background when Kay looked deeply into Randi’s eyes and brought her hand up to caress the clenched jaw. The protective streak that had just recently emerged came to the forefront in full force, and it took most of Kay’s self-control to keep from jumping up from the table and racing across the restaurant. She wanted to slap the redhead for what she put Randi through, both now and in the past. Even though staying was the last thing she wanted, she could see Randi’s point. "Are you sure? Because nothing in this entire world is as important to me as you are."

The gentle touch on her face and the loving concern coming from Kay helped Randi to relax. She leaned into the touch, turning her head to place a soft kiss on the younger woman’s palm. "I’m very sure." Randi’s face finally softened. "How’s your leg? Think you’d feel up to going dancing, after dinner?"

"My leg is fine," Kay murmured, leaning closer until their faces were almost touching. "But I think I’d rather go home and do some private dancing."

Oh, yeah. Randi felt that one quiet statement all the way down into her toes. "That sounds like a really good idea to me," she agreed, struggling to keep her voice normal. She turned and pretended to motion to the waiter. "Check, please."

Chapter 6

"Oh yeah, baby…that’s really good," the dark-haired woman crooned. "Mmm."

"You’re insatiable." The blonde put her finger up to the other woman’s lips. "Here. See if you like this," she offered. "I know you have a weakness for this flavor."

A soft, pink tongue quickly wrapped itself around the digit, pulling the finger into her mouth. "Mmm…my favorite." Laughter from across the patio caused Anne to look up and blush. "Well? Can I help it if she makes the best damned barbecue sauce I’ve ever tasted?" She patted her lover on the rear and walked back over to where their guests were seated. "Just wait until you taste it."

"I’m sure it’s great," Kay agreed from her comfortable seat next to Randi. An unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon allowed them all to relax on the back patio of Laurie and Anne’s home. Randi and Kay shared a colorfully padded outdoor love seat while they enjoyed watching Anne tease Laurie, who was handling the barbecuing duties on an expensive gas grill.

Anne winked as she sat on a nearby glider. "It’s wonderful. Laurie’s the cook around here, since I even have trouble with microwave dinners." She tucked one foot beneath her and brushed her dark hair away from her face. "I’m so glad you two could make it today. With both of our schedules, we don’t have many opportunities to socialize. Laurie has to stay pretty low-profile at her job, and we hate doing the club scene."

"Are you out at work?" Randi asked, curious. "Or do you have to watch out, too?" She knew that a lot of professional women kept their private lives private, although it hadn’t been much of a necessity for her.

"Everyone I work with knows that Laurie and I are a couple," Anne admitted. "I don’t go waving flags or spouting causes, and they pretty much accept us for who we are. She goes to all the company functions as my date, and no one has ever given us a hard time." She looked up as Laurie sat down next to her and put an arm across the back of the glider. "Isn’t that right, Laur??"

Laurie nodded. "Yep. I think a lot of my co-workers pretty much know, but it’s just not discussed. The good old, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ bullshit." Her blue eyes twinkled. "But I’m guessing that won’t be much of a problem for you, will it, Kay?" The first thing that had been discussed after their guests arrival was Randi’s ownership of the clinic, and Kay’s new job as office manager.

"I sure hope not," Kay joked. She tilted her head to look into Randi’s eyes. "Do you think my boss will have a problem with me being gay?"

The hand on Kay’s thigh squeezed the denim-clad leg. "I think that your boss would have a greater problem if you weren’t."

Kay snuggled closer so that her head was tucked against her lover’s shoulder. She wrapped an arm around Randi’s middle and sighed. "I just hope I don’t let you down."

"No chance of that. If you can keep me even partially organized, it will be a miracle." Randi knew from past experience how badly the entire office system needed to be overhauled. Christina had been after Dr. Wilde for years about hiring someone to come in and get everything more organized, but the old vet had been reluctant to part with the money. "Christina will be thrilled to have you there, believe me."

"Are you sure about that? From what you’ve told me, she’s pretty much run that office for twenty years. If I were in her position, I don’t think I’d like for some young smart aleck to just show up and take over."

Randi laughed. "Well, if you were some young smart aleck, there might be a problem. But you're anything but that, sweetheart." The look on Kay's face was so open, so honest, that she couldn't help but lean down and give her a gentle kiss.

"New love," Anne sighed quietly. She turned her head to look into her lover's eyes. "Remember when we first got together? Seems like a lifetime ago." The emotion that emanated back from Laurie's eyes brought back the memories. It helped her to realize that although they were about to celebrate their twenty-first anniversary in a couple of months, the love and commitment they shared was as strong today as when they'd first met.

"How could I forget? Your first words to me were, 'Get off me, you smelly jock,'" Laurie was on the college basketball team and had jumped into the crowd after trying to keep the ball from going out of bounds. She had ended up sprawled on top of the snooty sophomore and her date, and decided with those few words that she had fallen in love. "I thought for sure you were going to have me arrested for stalking you," Laurie chortled. The junior law major found out what the girl's name was from a mutual friend, and began sending Anne flowers, candy and letters, finally wearing her down. Once they got past the first date, they realized how much they had in common, and had been inseparable since.

"I was pretty insufferable, wasn't I?" Anne giggled. She caressed Laurie's cheek and shook her head. "How did you ever stand me?" Soft lips covering hers was the only answer she needed.

Kay looked over at their hosts, who seemed to be totally caught up in each other. The two women were almost sitting on top of each other with their foreheads touching, quietly talking between themselves. This was something else that was new to her: friends. She had socialized with people that she'd worked with, and even a couple that had gone to school with her, but there had been few women that she felt comfortable enough with to just spend quiet time together. Kay was about to say something to Randi when she felt something heavy brush up against her leg. Looking down, she stared into big brown eyes. "You must be Clarice."

"That's Clarice, all right," the vet verified. Randi reached down and scratched the big dog's neck. "How are you doing, girl?" For an answer, Clarice lay down at their feet and rolled onto her back, begging for her tummy to be scratched.

"She's a sweetie," Kay crooned. She watched as her partner knelt down beside the animal and inspected her surgical scar. This was the first time that she had witnessed Randi working, and she was enjoying the opportunity to see how the older woman related to her patients. She wasn't surprised by the gentle touch or the soft words of comfort that the vet murmured, especially after seeing the way Randi treated Spike.

Anne crossed the patio to squat down beside Randi, while Laurie checked on the grill. "Is everything okay here?"

Finishing her quick examination, Randi continued to pet the happy animal. "She's doing great, Anne. I'm sorry I haven't been around more to keep an eye on her."

"You have nothing to apologize for. Your receptionist put us in touch with another vet, who even dropped by and checked on Clarice after we brought her home." Anne looked into Randi's eyes and smiled. "Thank you." She was almost knocked on her rear when Clarice jumped up, shook herself off, and jogged over to sit next to Laurie. Laughing, Anne climbed to her feet and offered a hand to the vet, pulling Randi up beside her. "She may be my dog on paper, but Clarice is all Laurie's."

Randi dusted off the knees of her jeans. "I know what you mean. I used to have a dog, too." She pointed at Kay, who was trying to appear disinterested in the conversation. "But one look from her, and he was smitten." Not that she could blame the animal, any. The moment that Randi had seen Kay's face, she was lost. And I've never regretted a single moment.

"If you ladies can quit talking about my best girl," Laurie teased from her place at the grill, "lunch is ready."

"See what I mean?" Anne tossed her hands up in the air in mock disgust, crossing the patio and swatting her partner on the rear, eliciting a playful growl from Clarice.


Bright flashes from overhead streetlights skipped momentarily into the interior of the Corvette as it sped through the city streets, painting the occupants in muted fragments of gold and silver. Kay was stretched out in the passenger seat, a contented smile on her face as she turned her head to study the profile of her lover. The different shades of light coming from the streets gave Randi a more youthful look by hiding the tiny lines of worry that normally etched her face. "I had a really good time today, didn't you?"

"Yeah, I did." Randi turned her head long enough to flash Kay a sincere smile. "It's still pretty early. There's a live band down at this little club I know of - want to check it out after we take care of Spike?" She had considered driving directly to the nearby bar, but didn't think it would be right without asking what Kay wanted to do. Besides, Spike is probably dancing around right now. No sense in making him suffer.


"That sounds like a great idea," Kay agreed. For some reason, she didn't feel like going home just yet. Listening to a local band might be kind of fun. Still trying to learn the area, she was surprised by how close they were to the apartment. "I'm never going to figure out where everything is around here."

Randi chuckled as she wheeled into her assigned parking space. "Sure, you will. If you want, I can let you drive, and I'll just navigate. That might help you learn your way around better."

She's offering to let me drive her car? In shock, Kay almost stumbled from the Corvette. She was grateful for the steadying arm that wrapped around her waist as Randi escorted her up the walk. "Did I understand you correctly? You'd let me drive your car?"

"Sure." Barking could be heard inside as Randi struggled to unlock the door. "All right, all right. I'm hurrying." A turn of the knob, and she pushed the door open and flipped on the light. Spike ran happy circles around the couple, barking to let them know he was glad they were home. Randi grabbed his lead from the nearby table and knelt to clip it onto the excited dog's collar. "Would you please calm down?"

Kay leaned against the doorframe and enjoyed the show. She marveled once again at the type of person she had fallen in love with. Not many people would detour from a night out on the town, just to let a dog outside. The genuine affection Randi had for Spike reinforced Kay's thoughts on what kind of parent the older woman would be. She also knew that was one subject she wanted to broach sometime in the near future.

A few minutes later, the three of them returned from their quick walk around the empty field next to the apartment complex. The entire area was well lit, and it afforded Spike the room he needed to run, without being hampered by the leash. He sat sadly by the front door as Randi and Kay left, almost causing the younger woman to cancel their plans out of pity.

"He looked so upset," Kay commented, when Randi climbed into the car beside her.

"Of course he did. He's a master of manipulation." Randi started the vehicle and backed out of the parking space. "Don't worry, Kay. He'll have forgotten all about it by the time we get back." The Corvette had just turned onto the main street when Randi cursed and reached up to adjust the rearview mirror.

"What's the matter?"

Randi blinked several times to try and reduce the spots in her eyes and shook her head. "Damned asshole behind me has his bright lights on, and nearly ran up our bumper." A quick glance in the side mirror showed that the driver behind them had backed off. "Probably drunk or something," she grumbled.

Kay turned in her seat to look behind them. "No wonder he blinded you. That's a pretty big truck." She couldn’t make out the color or the model, but could tell that it dwarfed the smaller sports car.

"Yeah." Deciding that it wasn't worth getting upset over, Randi shrugged off the incident and turned to smile at her lover. "Ready to hear some good music?" She wanted to show Kay a good time at the small cabaret.

"Ready and willing," Kay assured her, reaching over and squeezing Randi's arm. "Bring it on."


"The place looks busy," Kay noted as Randi circled the parking lot, finally finding a place on the far end, away from the entrance. "Are you sure we can get in?"

Randi waited until they were out of the car before she answered. "It’s a lot bigger than it looks from the outside." Feeling a bit uneasy, she edged closer to Kay until their arms brushed against one another. "It can get a bit rowdy, though. Try to stay close to me, all right?"

"You have nothing to worry about there. I’m going to be stuck to you like glue." They had reached the front door and were about to go in, when it opened and three drunken men came stumbling out. One of them reached for Kay, but somehow "accidentally" tripped over Randi’s foot, instead.

The man bellowed and his buddies helped him to his feet. "Wash yerself," he slurred to the dark-haired woman. Before he could say anything else, a huge man in a tight-fitting black tee shirt opened the door.

"There’s your cab, fellas," the bouncer told them, pushing the trio none-too-gently out into the parking lot. He assisted them into the yellow van and gave the driver directions before going back to the bar door. "I’m sorry about that, ladies. Just trying to keep the place—" A large smile broke out on his face when he recognized Randi. "Dr. Meyers! It’s been a while since we’ve seen you in here." He held the door open with a flourish.

"That it has, Eric," Randi agreed. "How’s Chester?"

The heavily muscled bouncer’s smiled widened. "Friskier than ever, thanks to you. As a matter of fact, I was going to bring him in next week for his yearly shots." Eric was the proud owner of a cantankerous Persian cat that he had found near death the previous year. He had brought the animal into the clinic, and Randi had helped nurse the poor animal back to health. When he saw Randi reach into her pocket for her wallet to pay the cover charge, he waved her off. "No charge for you, doc. Sharon would have my hide, and you know it."

Randi blushed, but put her wallet away. "Thanks, Eric." She put her arm around Kay and pulled her closer to them. "This is my partner, Kay Newcombe. She’s going to be running the clinic from now on. I just bought it from Dr. Wilde, so we’ll be changing the name soon."

"Congratulations, doc." Eric winked, letting Randi know that he wasn’t just talking about the ownership of the clinic. "There’s probably an open table near the back, if you hurry," he told the women, stepping in behind them as they passed through the door.

Kay blinked her eyes to try and see in the hazy room. Cigarette smoke hung heavily in the air, and the largest part of the crowd seemed to be gathered around the circular bar that stood in the center of the room. Off to the right was the stage area, where musicians were already setting up microphones and drums. She felt strong fingers wrap around one of her arms as Randi led her around the bar to the far corner of the room, where several tables were set up, a few of them empty. The majority of the people had already moved up to the front of the room to be closer to the band, leaving the back relatively quiet.

"How’s this?" Randi asked, motioning to a clear table with her free hand. "Unless you have this burning desire to have your eardrums blown out, this is better than sitting in the front." She held a chair out for Kay, who blushed but took off her coat and sat down.

"This is just perfect, thank you." Kay waited until Randi sat down next to her, then reached under the table to take the older woman’s hand. "Is it always this crowded?"

Randi shook her head. "Only on Friday and Saturday nights. During the week it’s pretty tame."

"What can I get you two ladies this evening?" A waitress in jeans and a black tee shirt appeared out of nowhere. Her dark blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she looked to be older than Randi. "Dr. Meyers? Long time no see," she chirped, dropping one hand to Randi’s shoulder and squeezing lightly. When she noticed the look the other woman at the table was giving her, she quickly removed her hand. "Oh, sorry. What can I get both of you tonight?"

"I’ll have a club soda with lime," Randi ordered, then looked over at Kay with a questioning glance. Surprise at seeing what appeared to be jealousy on the younger woman’s face caused her to swallow heavily. Looks like I’m going to have to smooth some ruffled feathers. "Sweetheart? What would you like to drink?"

Angry with herself for her attitude, Kay tried to smile at the waitress. "I’ll just have a Coke, please." She wasn’t too sure where the jealous streak came from, but was determined to make amends. Kay held out one hand to the waitress. "Hi, my name’s Kay. I’m sorry about earlier."

The waitress took Kay’s hand and smiled, showing a mouthful of metal braces. "Don’t worry about it, hon. We haven’t seen Dr. Meyers in here in pretty close to a year, so I got a little excited." She winked at Randi. "I’ll be back with your drinks in a flash."

Kay watched her leave, then looked over at Randi apologetically. "I’m sorry."

"What for?"

"It seems that when it comes to you, I have a rather large jealous streak," Kay admitted quietly, looking down at the table.

Charmed, Randi leaned forward until Kay looked up into her eyes. "So?" Seeing the other woman’s confusion, she continued. "To tell you the truth, knowing that you care enough to be jealous makes me feel really good."


"Uh-huh." Randi saw a tall woman push herself through the crowd and head for their table. "Uh-oh."

Kay saw the woman heading their way and frowned. "What—"

"Randi! Where the hell have you been?" the woman yelled, reaching the table and pulling the vet to her feet. She wrapped both arms around the startled woman and squeezed hard. "Damn, I’ve missed you."

Looking over the woman’s shoulder, Randi noticed the dark look on her lover’s face. I think I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.


The late model Ford truck parked two rows away from the yellow Corvette. The driver watched as the two women walked up to the door, and cursed as they stood outside for a few moments and talked to the bouncer. Once they had gone inside, the watching woman stepped out of the vehicle and slammed the door.

She checked her watch, then tilted the can of beer and finished it off, tossing the empty container on the ground without a second thought. "Lucky for me they came to a bar, since I’m out of beer," she grumbled, stumbling once before cramming her hands in her jacket pockets and hurrying to the door. Before she could go inside, the bouncer held the door.

"We have a five dollar cover charge tonight," he announced, holding out his hand. "Mainly to pay for the band."

Grumbling, the woman fished in the front pockets of her jeans until she pulled out a crumpled five-dollar bill. She tossed it in the bouncer’s face and hurried through the door. "Asshole," the woman growled, shoving her way through the crowd of people to get to the bar.

"What can I get you?" the bartender yelled, to be heard over the din of voices.

The woman looked around, as if searching for someone. "Beer," she responded. "Whatever you have on tap." After a moment's hesitation, she ordered, "Better make that two."

With a shrug, the bartender filled two glasses and set them down. "That’ll be eight dollars."

"You’ve got to fucking be kidding me," the newcomer yelled. "Four bucks a beer? I can buy a goddamned six pack for that." When the bartender reached for the beers, she fished in her pocket and pulled out a bundle of wadded ones. Counting them out carefully, she tossed them on the bar and grabbed her drinks. "Thanks for nothing."

"You’re so welcome," the bartender returned sarcastically. She was glad to see the woman take her beers to a table and sit down.

Finding a table to the left of the large bar, the woman sat down and began searching the room with her eyes. I can’t believe they were gone for so long today. Where the hell did they go? She had been disgruntled when she saw the parking space empty, and had spent the entire day parked and waiting.

Already through one glass and halfway through the second, she was glad when a waitress stopped by and asked if she needed anything. "Yeah, bring me a couple more draft beers." After the waitress left, she continued to look around. I know they’re here. Where the fuck can they be? A loud riff from a guitar almost caused her to spill her drink. "What the hell?"

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming tonight – we’ll try to make it worth your while, won’t we fellas?" The young longhaired man at the microphone turned back to the band and signaled, and suddenly the room was flooded with loud rock music.

"Fuck. Just what I needed. Why couldn’t this have been a country bar?" the woman muttered, finishing off her glass. She looked for the waitress, and was surprised to see a woman at the bar staring back at her. Well, now. This night’s looking up.




Randi struggled out of the larger woman’s arms and stepped back, clearly embarrassed. "Um, it’s nice to see you again, too, Sharon." She gestured to Kay, who stood up as well. "This is my partner, Kay Newcombe. Kay, this is Sharon Williams, the owner of this fine establishment."

"Nice to meet you, Sharon." Kay held out her hand, and was surprised to find herself engulfed in a bear hug.

"We don’t stand much on ceremony around here," Sharon told Kay, putting her back on the ground. The bar owner was over six feet tall, and her short curly hair was almost completely gray. The woman was easily three hundred pounds, but wore it very well. She looked Kay over critically then slapped Randi hard on the back. "She’s a bit young for you, isn’t she?"

Tired of hearing the same old refrain, Kay moved to stand next to Randi. "I’m more than old enough," she ground out, her hazel eyes shooting daggers at the larger woman.

Sharon burst out laughing. She wrapped a companionable arm around Randi and leaned in close. "She’s a spitfire, that’s for sure. Can you handle her?"

"I refuse to answer that, on the grounds that it may incriminate me," Randi deadpanned. Standing between the two women like she was, she knew better than to say anything to upset either one of them.

"Not to mention making the nights a hell of a lot colder, eh?" Sharon guffawed. She slapped the vet hard on the back, again. Before she could say anything else, the lead singer for the band started talking to the patrons, and then the entire bar was filled with a loud rock beat. "I’d better get back to the bar," she yelled to the two women. "Y’all enjoy the show." Another hard pat on Randi’s back, and she disappeared into the crowd.

Kay watched the boisterous woman leave, a confused look on her face. I didn’t think Randi would be the type to be friends with someone so…loud. She sat back down and pulled Randi down with her. The music was so loud that Kay could feel the beat in her bones, and although the band was good, she didn’t know if she could handle too much of the raucous music. The noise was made more bearable by the feel of Randi’s arm across the back of her chair, so she leaned back into the warmth and closed her eyes.


Still sitting alone at her table, the woman finished off the next two beers, and was looking around for the waitress when a glass of the amber liquid was placed in front of her. She glanced up at the person who had brought the drink over, and grinned. The woman standing before her looked stunning in a black halter mini-dress that barely covered her thighs. "Well, hello there."

"Hello yourself," the newcomer drawled. "I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before." She ran one bright red nail across an empty chair. "Is this seat taken?"

Beth kicked the chair out with one foot. "It is now, sweet thing." She waited until the woman sat down, then leaned forward so that she could be heard. "You’re too pretty to be in a dump like this, baby. Do you come here often?"

The woman brushed her auburn hair back away from her face and gave a sultry smile. "I used to come here with my girlfriend," she formed her shiny red lips into a pout, "until she dumped me."

"That’s too bad," Beth commiserated, patting the bare knee inches from her own. But good for me. Her thoughts were interrupted by the woman’s fingertip running along her jaw. "I’m sorry, what did you say?"

"I said," the redhead purred, "that you look so strong. I bet you’re good in bed."

"Oh yeah, baby, I’m real good in bed," Beth bragged. "You got someplace close by so that I can show you?" She could feel the excitement pooling in her belly, and forgot the reason she was in the bar to begin with.

The older woman winked. "Oh, sugar. I’ve got lots of uses for you, but the bedroom’s a great place to start." She ran a nail down the front of the drunken woman’s shirt. "Come on. Let’s go back to my hotel room, and you can show me what you’ve got." The redhead stood up and left the table, a drunk Beth hot on her heels.


Randi had heard about all the music she could stand, and had spent the last ten minutes of the band’s set looking around the crowded bar. She saw a woman across the room who looked familiar, but had a hard time distinguishing her from a distance, and through the shifting crowd. The woman disappeared before she could point her out to Kay, so she decided it was just her imagination. After the final chord echoed away, Randi could still feel her ears ringing. She leaned down so that her mouth was close to Kay’s ear. "You asleep?"

"With that noise? Are you kidding?" Kay asked, her eyes popping open. She yawned and stretched. "They were pretty good."

"Yeah, good and loud," Randi quipped. "Do you want to stay for the second set?"

Kay shook her head. "No, I don’t think so. I’m having a hard enough time hearing right now. One more set and I could be deaf." She watched as the people that had crowded the stage now focused on the circular bar, which left most of the rest of the room clear. "This might be the best time to make a break for it," she joked, pointing at the front of the room.

"Good idea," Randi agreed, standing up and helping Kay with her coat. "Even though it was loud, did you have a good time?"

"I had a great time, Randi." Kay linked arms with the older woman and started for the front door. "We’ll have to do this again, sometime."

Randi nodded to Eric, who was guzzling down a large glass of water near the bar. She waved to Sharon, who was helping the bartender, and was thankful that they were able to leave without another friendly "chat" with the bar owner. My back’s probably gonna have a bruise, she moaned inwardly. Looking down at Kay’s happy face, Randi decided that it was worth anything to see her lover happy. "We’ll come back when there’s a quieter band," she promised, which elicited a smile from the younger woman. "Come on. Let’s go home."

Continued in Part 4

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