The Greatest Gift

Part VI

By Carrie Carr

Disclaimers: I have all rights to the characters, story lines, and warped ideas from this story. Please be nice and ask before borrowing them. Any resemblance to any real person or persons is a distinct possibility, since they all came from my little mind. So there!

My stories are about women who love each other. If, for some reason, that gets your knickers in a bunch, don't read them. If you're too young, I honestly don't think there's anything wrong with what's written, so who am I to stop you? (Any "action" is PG-13, at the most. Nothing to see here, folks - move along.)

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 is still dedicated to my AJ - Forever and always, my love.

Copyright March 2002 by Carrie Carr

Chapter 11

Christina and Joyce spent several hours at the apartment. Both women had been justifiably outraged at what Melissa and Beth had done that morning, and they needed to stay until they felt that Randi and Kay were going to be all right. It wasn't until Christina noticed the tired set of the vet's shoulders, that she made hasty excuses and dragged Joyce from the apartment.

After their guests left, Kay talked Randi into lying down and getting some rest. Now Kay was lying in the comfortable bed watching her lover sleep. Although too keyed up to nap, she didn't get up and do anything for fear of waking her. Randi stirred often, obviously reliving the day's earlier events. When that happened, Kay would reach over and stroke Randi's brow, or just put a hand on her shoulder and whisper gentle words of comfort until she would settle down once again.

Spike stood up from his position at the foot of the bed and stretched, then jumped down and trotted to the door. He looked over his shoulder at Kay and then back to the door, his intent quite obvious.

Rolling her eyes at his apparent summons, Kay carefully eased herself out of the bed. She pulled on her jeans and then "borrowed" the sweatshirt that Randi had worn earlier, then lastly slipped her bare feet into her sneakers before quietly exiting the room.

The walk was shorter than Spike wanted, but Kay didn’t want Randi to wake up and find them gone. She knew how she would feel, especially knowing that in all likelihood Beth and Melissa wouldn’t stay in police custody long. After peeking into the master bedroom and seeing that Randi was still sleeping, Kay decided to take advantage of the quiet time and catch up on her reading.

From her comfortable spot on the sofa, she was barely into the book when the phone beside her rang causing her to jump. Kay quickly grabbed it, hoping that she caught it before it woke her lover. "Hello?"


"Oh, hi, Patricia." She fell back against the sofa in relief. Kay didn’t know what to expect when the phone rang, and realized sadly that she would probably jump every time it rang for some time to come.

"Is everything all right? You sound a bit upset."

Damn. Randi’s right. She can read minds Kay thought ruefully. When Randi had told her of her mother’s perceptive skills, Kay thought she had been exaggerating, but now wasn’t quite so sure. "Um, no, I’m all right. I was just reading, and the phone startled me."

"Uh-huh." The older woman didn’t sound convinced. "Is my daughter around? I got a call from her brother and he seemed surprised that she hadn’t called before him."

"Actually, she’s resting right now. Is there anything I can do?"

"Resting?" Patricia’s voice rose in concern. "Is she ill? It’s not like her to be napping at this time of day."

Kay realized that she was going to get into trouble, one way or the other. If she told Patricia what had transpired earlier, Randi would probably get upset. But, if she didn’t, then Randi’s mother would know for certain something was wrong, and would worry unnecessarily. "Actually, she was really worn out. We had a bit of trouble this morning—"

"What kind of trouble? Are you two okay?" Patricia sounded as if she wanted to crawl through the phone to check on them personally.

"We’re fine, Patricia. Really." Kay paused, not sure how much she wanted to tell. Might as well get it over with. "Randi’s ex-girlfriend showed up, and they got into it. Thankfully the police arrived and—"

"The police? Just what was that crazy woman up to? I never did like her," Patricia mumbled. "As far as I’m concerned, she should be locked up for what she did to my daughter."

Closing her eyes and rubbing her forehead, Kay realized that the conversation wasn’t going well at all. "She had…umm, somehow hooked up with my ex, and then made her believe that Randi had beat her up." Not able to help herself, Kay chuckled. "I don’t know how she managed it, Patricia, but the woman had been knocked around a bit. I wish I could have been there to see whoever it was do it."

The older woman sighed. "That one always was devious. She caused all sorts of trouble at Christmas a few years ago – flirting with the men, especially the married ones. I think she was trying to get back at Randi for something, but I never found out what it was."


That figures. It’s not hard to believe she’d stoop to any level to get what she wanted. I just can’t figure out how she found Beth, and talked her into everything she did. Officer Delano had told them that it probably wouldn’t take long for Beth or Melissa to get out on bail, and told them to call the police if they returned. I don’t think Beth would, but Melissa’s crazy enough to do just about anything. I wish there were some way of just getting Randi away from here for a while, until things cool off. Her musings were cut short by Patricia’s question. "I’m sorry, what did you say?"

"I said, that if that woman is causing trouble, maybe it would be a good idea for you two to come for a visit. You know, get away for a little while?"

How does she do that? "That sounds really tempting, Patricia. But I doubt if Randi would even consider it, since she’s trying to start the clinic back up." Kay liked the idea of spending more time with Randi’s parents, and if it got her lover out of harm’s way, she liked it even better.

Patricia snorted in disdain. "It’s almost Christmas, anyway. I don’t see why she doesn’t wait until after the first of the year." She was silent for a moment. "How would you feel about it, Kay? We could all fly out together a few days before the holiday and still be in Woodbridge for Edna’s festivities. And you could see your family, too."

"I’d rather spend all my time with your family," Kay grumbled. "Mine aren’t worth the trouble."

"All right." Randi’s mother sounded puzzled, but refrained from commenting further. "Have my daughter give me a call when she gets up, will you? I think I have a pretty good argument for our case."


Uh-oh. From the sound of that, I might as well start packing. Poor Randi doesn’t stand a chance. "I sure will, Patricia."

"Great! I’ll talk to you later, then. Bye." Patricia signed off before Kay could ask what she planned to say to Randi.

Hanging up the phone, Kay looked down at Spike, who was sitting at her feet with a curious look on his face. "Don’t ask me." She fell back against the sofa. "But if Patricia has anything to say about it, I bet we take a trip pretty soon." He seemed pleased with her answer, because he quickly jumped up into Kay’s lap and curled up to sleep.


Soft, gentle touches to her face and hair caused Randi to slowly open her eyes. She blinked several times to adjust her vision in the semi-dark room. Kay's concerned face hovered just above her, and Randi couldn't help but smile at her lover. "Mmm…what time is it?"

"Almost seven." Kay continued to stroke Randi's face. "I would have awakened you sooner, but I kind of dozed off on the sofa." Spike's insistent tongue along her face was the only reason she got up when she did, only half an hour after she fell asleep.

Randi struggled into a sitting position and scrubbed her face with her hands. "Damn. How can I be so tired with all the sleep I've had?"

"I know what you mean," Kay agreed. "I feel pretty worn out, too. And I wasn't the one trying to keep Super Bitch from scratching my eyes out." Kay traced over the three red marks on Randi's face and neck. One ran almost horizontal along her jaw line and the second, deeper scratch started just below her left ear and down her throat. The third scratch had come dangerously close to one of the brown eyes she loved so much, and she cringed inside when she thought about the damage that could have been done. "We should probably put more antibiotic cream on these, and then see about getting something for dinner."

"I suppose." Closing her eyes at the light touch, Randi felt an incredible weariness come over her. Although she had barely touched her lunch, the thought of food was very unappealing. All she wanted to do was cover up and let the day end. I wonder if I can talk Kay into joining me.

Searching for something to rouse her weary partner, Kay tried another tactic. "Your mom called while you were sleeping."

Dark eyebrows rose in question. "Is everything okay?"

"Funny, that's what she asked."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

Kay smiled to try and alleviate her partner's concern. "She said that your brother had called, and he was evidently surprised that you hadn't. So, your mom called here to see if we were okay, and was concerned when I told her that you were resting."

I bet she freaked over that. Randi's mother had often tried to get her daughter to slow down and "smell the flowers", but Randi would laugh off her concerns, often working to the point of exhaustion. Probably scared the hell out of her. "How did she react to that news?"

"About how you would expect," Kay admitted. "I think she was about to book a flight to Dallas to check on you."

"What did you tell her?" Now wide awake, Randi decided that a phone call was in order to assure her mother that she was all right.

Trying to diffuse the situation, Kay rubbed Randi's arm. "Shhh. Everything's okay, honey. I gave her the condensed version of what happened, and told her that you were tired, and I put you to bed."

Randi shook her head ruefully. "Thanks, I think." She knew that Patricia had a way of getting people to open up to her, without them really realizing it. I didn't want her to know about Melissa coming back, because she'll just worry. But, maybe it's better if it's out in the open. No sense in getting all bent out of shape about it. Randi ran one hand through her hair in an attempt to tame it a little. "You said that Augie called Mom?"

"Yep. She said something about going to your grandmother's for Christmas." Should I tell her what else Patricia said? How will Randi take it when her mother asks us to go to Santa Fe for a couple of weeks? Kay hated keeping anything from her friend, but also didn't want Randi to make up her mind before Patricia had a chance to talk to her. But isn't that what I'm doing, making her mind up for her? Kay's internal argument kept her from hearing Randi's query.

"Earth to Kay?" Randi waved her hand in front of the glazed-over look on Kay's face. "Hello, anybody home?"

"What?" Kay blinked and shook her head slightly. "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"

Relieved that everything appeared to be all right, Randi leaned back against the headboard on the bed. "I asked if Mom expected me to call her back tonight."

"Only if you were up to it," Kay assured her. What if Patricia tells her what we talked about? Will Randi get mad? Maybe I should-- Seeing Randi's hand wave in front of her face again, Kay frowned. "What?"

"You zoned out on me again. What's going on with you?" Randi was becoming increasingly concerned over Kay's actions. It wasn't like her lover to fade out like she had been doing.

"Let me ask you something."

"Ooo-kay." The abrupt change in subject surprised her, but Randi crossed her arms over her chest and waited patiently.

Kay scooted closer and reached over to take one of Randi's hands. "When was the last time you had a vacation?"

What's going on in that beautiful blonde head of hers? "Thanksgiving," Randi deadpanned.

"That wasn't a vacation - more like a holiday." Kay glared at her companion. "No, what I'm talking about is, when was the last time you took off for a couple of weeks to just relax?"

"Umm." Randi's forehead furrowed in concentration. She appeared to be deep in thought, which amused Kay to no end.

"Come on, come on. It wasn't that tough of a question," Kay teased.

Randi shrugged her shoulders. "I dunno. Probably about a year and a half ago, when Melissa dragged me skiing. Although, I don't see how much of a vacation that was, since I had the flu the entire time we were there." She grinned. "Boy, was she ever pissed over that one."

Kay was outraged at the thought. "How could she get angry with you being sick? It wasn't your fault."

"She seemed to think so. Maybe it was because I didn't want to go skiing in the first place. I have no desire to race down icy cold mountains, wearing two thin strips of wood to the bottom of my feet." Randi's smiled widened. "It probably didn't help matters when she found a beautiful woman in our room with me."

"What? You mean…"

Laughing, Randi shook her head. "No, nothing like that. Although, that's what Melissa insisted. Actually, the woman was a nurse, and she and her husband were staying across the hall from us. We met accidentally when I had come back from getting some juice and bottled water, and she found me trying to unlock my door." Her smile turned sheepish. "I was coughing so hard, I couldn't get the damned pass card to work. Helen helped me into my room and was just about to leave when Melissa showed up."

"Oooh. I bet that was fun." Having been on the receiving end of one of Melissa's tirades, Kay could just imagine how the redhead had behaved.

"Oh, yeah. It took both Helen and her husband to keep Melissa from jerking me out of bed and knocking me around." Randi paused, remembering. "As a matter of fact, they had to call security, and Melissa ended up spending the night in jail."

Kay laughed. "She hasn't changed any, has she?" She sobered at the thought of what Randi went through with her ex-girlfriend. "Was she always like that to you?"

"No, not at first. She only got really nasty the last few months we were together." Tired of the conversation, Randi pulled Kay into her arms. "Enough about her. What do you want to do for dinner?"

"Oh, I don't know," Kay demurred. She snuck one hand beneath Randi's shirt to caress the soft skin. "What are you offering?"

Randi's eyes widened as the small hand found a particularly sensitive spot. "Uh, well…we umm. I mean, it's that…mmm." Her protests were cut short by Kay's mouth, which quickly covered her own. Dinner can wait she thought, as her shirt was pulled over her head. I think we'll start with dessert. Randi allowed Kay to sit back so that she could pull the sweatshirt off. "Nice," she murmured, using her hands to caress along Kay's ribs. "Looks like you forgot something, again."

"I didn't forget," Kay muttered. She rolled off Randi and stood up, taking off her shoes and peeling the denim jeans down her legs. "I was in a hurry." She grinned and leapt onto the bed, much to Randi's surprise.

"Oof." Randi caught the smaller woman and rolled until Kay was beneath her. "You're pretty frisky."

Kay's grin turned sultry. "You have no idea," she whispered, running one hand down Randi's bare chest and stomach, until she found what she was looking for. "But I plan on showing you."

"Ahhh," Randi sighed, closing her eyes. She was barely cognizant of being rolled onto her back. "Kay…"

"Mmm…" Kay's mouth attached itself to the older woman's throat, then slowly trailed down the same path her hand had taken moments earlier. She smiled to herself when she felt her lover tremble, enjoying the heady feeling of control that Randi so gladly relinquished to her. Kay took a small bite on the skin beneath Randi's ribs and felt insistent hands tangle in her hair. "I love you," she whispered reverently, working her way down the squirming body.

Randi heard Kay's murmur and struggled to answer. "I…oh, God, Kay," she moaned, throwing her head back against the pillows. "Love you," Randi gasped, as her lover's hands and mouth sent jolts of pleasure throughout her body. No more words were spoken, and not even the far off ringing of the telephone could interrupt their lovemaking.


"But Mom," Randi sputtered as she paced across the living room, "you know that's not it at all." She glanced over at the sofa, where Kay and Spike sat watching her. Both appeared to be amused at her predicament, which only infuriated her more. She's treating me like I'm ten, for God's sake.


"Then what is it, Randi Suzanne? Are you afraid that you might actually get some rest? Maybe you're trying to run yourself into the ground before you're forty, like my sister, Eileen." Patricia's youngest sister had been a corporate lawyer determined to make partner by the time she was forty-five years old. Unfortunately, the smoking, drinking and job stresses had become too much for her, and she died of a massive heart attack only weeks away from her fortieth birthday. Randi's mother saw the same destructive behavior in her only daughter, and was intent on preventing family history from repeating itself.

Randi threw up her free hand in the air in frustration. "That's ridiculous. But I have a responsibility to the people who work with me. I can't be running off on a whim."

"A whim? How can you call taking care of yourself a whim?" The older woman's voice had risen until she was almost yelling, and she paused for a long moment to calm down. "Honey," Patricia started, much quieter, "have you thought about Kay? What if, God forbid, that crazy Melissa gets it into her head to get at you through her? Isn't she worth anything to you?"

Randi's pacing had brought her to the front window of the apartment, where she peered through the blinds into the night. "She's worth everything, Mom," she whispered, her voice heavy with emotion. Looking out into the darkened parking lot, Randi realized that her mother was right. The thought of Melissa doing anything to harm Kay made Randi physically sick to her stomach, and she decided right then and there that she would do whatever it took to keep her lover safe. "Let me talk to the ladies at the clinic, okay? If they'd all like to take a few weeks off, then I guess you'll be having company."

"Wonderful!" Patricia exclaimed happily. "Oh, by the way, we've done a bit of remodeling since you were here last, and I think you'll like the new guest room."

"Should I be worried?"

"No, of course not," her mother assured her. As an afterthought she added, "Don't forget to dress warm, dear. It's winter here in the mountains, not like those fall-like days you get in Texas."

Randi rolled her eyes. "I haven't even decided for certain that we'll be there, Mom." But Randi knew as well as Patricia that it was practically a done deal, and that they'd probably be in Santa Fe within the next few days.

"Of course you will. Now call me tomorrow - your father wants to get your airline tickets, and you know how he is."


"Goodnight, sweetie. Give Kay our love, and tell her that I'll talk to her later." Patricia hung up, not allowing her daughter a chance to argue.

Glaring at the phone in her hand, Randi turned away from the window. "Damn. She's always doing that to me," she grumbled, hanging up the handset. She looked at Kay, who had her hand over her mouth in an attempt to fight off her giggles. "What?"

"I'm sorry, Randi. It's just that you sound like a little kid when your mother talks to you," Kay voiced, unable to contain her mirth. She bit her lip as her dejected partner sat down next to her. "Are you that upset about going? We don't have to, you know."

Randi propped her feet up on the coffee table and shook her head. "No, it's not that." With her arms crossed over her chest, Randi looked more like a petulant child than a grown woman.

"Then what?" Kay placed one hand on her lover's arm in concern. "Are you upset that your mom talked to me about it first? I know I should have told you, but--"

"No, that doesn't bother me," Randi assured her. "I just feel like my entire life is out of my control, and there's nothing I can do to get it back." She sighed and dropped her head back against the top of the sofa, closing her eyes. "I hate running away," Randi murmured quietly.

Almost feeling the thought slap her in the head, Kay finally understood. "You think that going to your parent’s house for a few weeks before Christmas, is running away?"

"Isn’t it?" Randi still had her head tilted back and her eyes closed.

"I don’t think so." Realizing a different tact was needed, Kay mimicked Randi’s posture, but kept her head turned and eyes open so that she could watch her lover. "You know, I’ve never really had a family to enjoy holidays with. This last Thanksgiving was probably one of the best I’ve ever had, thanks to you and your family."

Randi took a deep breath and released it very slowly, still keeping her eyes closed. "I’m glad. I know that they all enjoyed meeting you, too." She had a pretty good idea where the conversation was going, but wanted to wait and see what Kay had to say.

"I’m really looking forward to Christmas," Kay admitted wistfully. "For the first time in years, I’ll be able to share it with people I love."

Damn. She’s right. Maybe I’ve been too selfish about all of this. Why can’t I just use this as an opportunity to give Kay something that she deserves? A holiday surrounded by a family who loves her as much as I do. Randi turned her head and opened her eyes, startled to see Kay’s blue eyes so close. "Looks like we’ll be enjoying the mountains of Santa Fe this holiday season," she murmured.


"Are you sure you want to do this?" Randi asked. They were sitting in the Corvette, in the deserted lot next to the park.

Kay looked down at the small, covered box that sat in her lap. "You said he was strong enough to go back, right?" At Randi’s nod, Kay squared her shoulders and took a deep breath to gather her thoughts together. The Internet sites that she had found all agreed on one fact: the longer that ducklings are kept in captivity, the less likely they are to survive in the wild. She was torn between wanting to protect the tiny fowl, or giving it a proper chance to go back to where it belonged. "Let’s get this show on the road," she announced bravely.

"All right." Randi climbed out of the Corvette and walked around to the other side. She opened the passenger door and accepted the box from Kay until she was out of the vehicle.

"Thanks," Kay toned quietly, accepting the box once again.

The two women walked silently to the small lake. Due to the time of day and the cool north wind they were the only two people at the park. By unspoken agreement they walked to the far side of the lake, near the place where they had come upon the duckling to begin with. Randi watched as Kay made her way to the shore and knelt a few feet from the water. Although they had only kept the small creature for a couple of days, she knew that this was hard on her partner, and vowed to herself to try and help any way she could.

As Kay removed the lid and tilted the box, the duckling waddled onto the damp grass and stopped just before he got to the water. Quacking several times, he waggled his tailfeathers and leapt into the lake. Kay stood up and immediately felt a warm arm wrap around her waist. She leaned back and accepted the comfort, never taking her eyes from the duckling, which had quickly found another group of waterfowl and joined them. "You think he’s going to be okay?"

"Sure looks like it," Randi assured her. "But, we can stop by after work and check on him, if you want."

Kay turned so that she was looking into her lover’s eyes. The simple assurance meant more to her than she could voice, so she smiled instead. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

"I think you may have mentioned it once or twice this morning," Randi teased. She encircled Kay and pulled her close. "But I never get tired of hearing it."

"I’m glad, because I don’t think I’m going to stop anytime soon." Kay’s eyes closed as she felt her partner’s mouth cover hers. Pulling back moments later, she dropped her head onto Randi’s chest and sighed happily.

For her part, Randi held on to Kay as if her life depended on it. Maybe it does. I don’t think I could survive without this…without her. The distant sound of a barking dog pulled her out of her reverie and she regretfully pulled away. "We’d better get going, before Christina sends out a posse," she joked. They had already fended off one good-intentioned phone call this morning, and assured the older woman that they were capable of coming to work.

"Don’t want to," Kay grumbled. She reached for Randi, who playfully jumped out of the way. "Hey!"

The vet turned around and took off at a jog. "Last one to the car has to buy lunch," she yelled, laughing.

"I’m going to have to hurt her," Kay growled, taking off after her friend.


Christina looked up as the door to the clinic opened and her delight at seeing the couple was evident by the smile gracing her features. "Good morning, you two." She stood up and walked around the reception desk to embrace each of them. After delivering a firm hug to Randi, she pulled back and looked up into the vet's face. "How are you doing today?" As bad as Joyce had made Randi's injuries sound when she spoke to her on the phone the evening before, Christina was relieved to see that the scratches weren't as bad as she had thought.

"Pretty good, actually," Randi admitted. "Is everyone here, yet? I'd like to have a quick meeting before we have any clients."

Christina looked at Kay, who gave her a comforting smile. "Not quite. Ramona is running late, as usual." She didn't know why Dr. Wilde had tolerated the young woman, since she had a tendency to either be late, or not show up at all. Something told Christina that neither Randi nor Kay would accept that sort of behavior. Her thoughts must have shown on her face, because Kay frowned.

"What is it? Is there some sort of problem?" She looked up at Randi, who had patted her arm and started for the kitchen area. The vet pantomimed getting a cup of coffee, and the question on her face caused Kay to nod. "Thanks." Kay turned back to Christina. "Is everything okay with Ramona?"

"As good as can be expected, I suppose." Christina lowered her voice and pulled Kay into the vacant office. After she closed the door, she leaned back against the desk and shook her head. "That girl has only been working here for a few months, but she doesn't seem to learn anything. I don't know why Dr. Wilde kept her around, to tell you the truth."

Kay leaned back against the door, unconsciously mimicking Christina's posture. "What was she hired to do, anyway?"

"She was hired on as a veterinary assistant by Dr. Wilde several months ago. But after only a few days, she told him that she couldn't handle the 'mess', and so he had me show her how to do the filing."

Tired of standing, Kay walked over to one of the visitor's chairs and sat down, motioning for Christina to join her. "How are her filing skills? I know it's not a hard job, but it can be a bit time consuming."

"Well, it would be if she were here more of the time," Christina snorted. She reached across the area between them and patted Kay's leg. "Now don't get me wrong, she's a nice enough girl, but she's late more than she's on time, and that's when she bothers to show up at all." She hated to sound so bitter, but it was a bone of contention around the office on how the young woman was treated differently from everyone else. Christina normally didn't succumb to the usual office gossip, but since Kay was the office manager she felt she had a right to know.

"And Dr. Wilde actually allowed this?" Kay asked. "Was he aware of her work habits?"

Christina nodded. "Oh, yes. He was definitely aware of them," she bit off angrily. "But for some reason, he didn't seem to mind. As a matter of fact, he'd get mad at us for pointing out her tardiness or absenteeism." She leaned closer and lowered her voice to almost a whisper. "I can't prove it, mind you, but I think she's got a little crush on Randi, too."

Kay laughed. "Well, she'll just have to get over it, won't she? I don't share," she teased. Seeing the serious look on the other woman's face, Kay tried to reassure her another way. "Don't worry, Christina. I'm sure it's just a harmless infatuation. Once she realizes that Randi is happy with our relationship, she'll be just fine."

"I hope you're right."

Unknown to them, the object of their conversation walked into the clinic and, after looking around the empty reception area, headed to the kitchen with a devious smile on her face.

Chapter 12

Joyce stepped out of the kitchen, almost running into Ramona. With her long, dark hair and dark eyes, the twenty-two year old was an attractive woman, until you noticed the spoiled pout that graced her mouth most of the time. "Oh, I'm sorry," Joyce apologized. "Have you seen Kay or Christina? Randi wants to have a quick meeting of the staff before the day gets started."

"No, I haven't," Ramona snapped, swinging her head to toss her hair over her shoulder. "I just got here and I need a cup of coffee," she growled, brushing by Joyce.

"Well excuse the heck out of me." Joyce decided to ignore the prickly young woman and check the front of the clinic.

Ramona slipped quietly into the kitchen, smiling at her luck. The only other person in the room was Dr. Meyers, sitting quietly at the table. Even though her back was to the door, she appeared to be completely engrossed in her cup of coffee, and didn't hear Ramona enter. Realizing she might not get another chance, the younger woman stood behind the silent vet and put her hands on Randi's shoulders, kneading the tightened muscles.

"Mmm…that feels good," Randi moaned, thinking that Kay was behind her. She closed her eyes and leaned back into the touch.

Smiling to herself, Ramona kept up the impromptu massage, reveling in the feel of the woman beneath her hands. She had longed to make the vet moan in other ways ever since she began working at the clinic, but didn't know if her advances would be accepted. Finding out that the object of her desire was gay made her certain that she had a chance, conveniently forgetting that Dr. Meyers was already in a relationship. She could hear voices approaching the door, so she leaned forward and rubbed her cheek against the dark head below her.

"I'm sure we'll think of something," Kay said, leading the other women into the kitchen. The four of them stopped when they saw the position of the other occupants of the room. "Are we interrupting something?" Kay asked angrily, crossing her arms over her chest, but not moving any further into the room.

Realizing with a sickening feeling that it hadn't been Kay's hands on her shoulders, Randi jumped to her feet and spun around. She glared at the young woman standing beside her, and then back to her upset partner at the door. "Kay?"

Although she wanted nothing more than to see what was going to happen next, Christina prudently backed out of the doorway, taking the other two women with her. She had a feeling things were going to get a lot worse before they got better. "Come on, you two," she whispered. "Let's go make sure everything's ready for the day."

"Just what in the hell is going on here?" Kay spat, finally taking several steps forward until she was standing directly in front of the other two women.

"I don't know," Randi admitted, trying to put some distance between herself and Ramona, who continued to edge closer to her. "I thought you had come in and--"

Ramona's eyes widened innocently. "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize that you were here," she told Kay. Turning her attention to the confused vet, she took another step closer to Randi and reached out to touch her. "Why would you lead me on like that if your girlfriend was here, Dr. Meyers?" Her hands were almost on Randi's hips when she felt a strong grip on her shoulder that spun her around.

"Back off, Ramona! Are you trying to tell me that Randi instigated this?" Kay asked, still fuming. She quickly released the hold she had on Ramona, in fear of doing something she could regret later.

"That's exactly what I'm telling you." Ramona turned back to look at Randi. "I thought you liked it."

Randi shook her head and backed away, determined to keep as much space between her and Ramona as possible. She was pretty certain that Kay's anger wasn't directed at her, but wasn't about to try and find out. "Look, Ramona, I'm very happy in my relationship with Kay. I don't know what I did to give you the impression that I was interested in you, but whatever it was, I'm sorry." She looked to her lover for acceptance. "I didn't even hear her come in, Kay. I felt someone's hands rubbing my shoulders, and just assumed it was you."

"Maybe I should leave," Ramona muttered, pushing one of the chairs out of her way. She almost ran from the kitchen, slamming the back door behind her.

"Kay, I--" Randi stepped forward slowly, holding her hands out from her sides.

Kay held up one hand and closed her eyes. "Wait." Kay rubbed at her forehead in frustration. "Christina told me that Ramona seemed to have a crush on you. I just never thought it would go this far." She exhaled heavily and sat down in the nearest chair.

"I swear, Kay, I didn't know anything about it." Randi hated hearing the quivering tone in her voice. She stepped closer to where Kay was sitting, until she was able to kneel at her lover's feet. "Please, believe me."

Kay opened her eyes and looked into Randi's face. She studied her lover's eyes closely, only seeing upset and worry. Although she had never even considered Randi guilty of any wrongdoing, she realized that her silence must have made it seem as if she did. Upset with herself at the anguish on Randi's face, she cradled her lover's head with her hands. "I believe you."

Closing her eyes at the quiet words, Randi swallowed hard to try and keep her composure. When she felt the feather light kisses on her forehead, her eyes opened again. "We're okay?"

"We're better than okay," Kay assured her. A timid knock on the kitchen door caused them both to turn that direction.

Joyce poked her head around the door. "Just wanted to see if everything was okay in here. We didn't hear any screaming or chair-throwing, so I thought I'd better check."

Kay laughed as she helped her partner up from the floor. "Everything's fine, Joyce. But we may need to start looking for another file clerk."

"Really?" Joyce walked further into the room, Christina and Elaine close behind her. "Where did you hide the body?"

Dusting the knee of her slacks off, the relieved vet couldn’t help but smile. "If we told you that, we'd have to kill you," she deadpanned.

"We wouldn’t want that now, would we?" Christina took several mugs from the cabinet and brought them over to the table, along with the pot of coffee. "I went ahead and locked the front door while we were out there, since you had mentioned something about having a meeting this morning."

"Thanks. Randi waited until Kay sat back down, then took the chair nearest her. "There’s a few things that have come up that we’d like to discuss with everyone." She looked at Kay for help.

Understanding her partner’s reticence, Kay took Randi’s hand in hers. She looked at the expectant faces around the table and smiled to try and alleviate any worry. "What kind of plans does everyone have for Christmas?"

"Christmas?" Three voices asked all at once, then fell silent. Joyce saw that no one else was going to say anything, so she decided to forge ahead and be the first. "Well, Roland and I had discussed going to Lake Tahoe. His brother lives there and has invited us out to go skiing." She shrugged. "But, that was before you took over the clinic. I wasn’t sure what the holiday schedule would be."

Christina nodded. "I know what you mean. My sister has been trying to get me to come visit her for months, now." She looked to the vet, who was still silent. "Are we going to be open on Christmas Eve, like last year?" She had no intention of trying to fly out the night before Christmas, if that was the case.

"Well, that’s sort of what we wanted to talk to everyone about," Randi tried to explain. "I was thinking that you might want a few more days off than that."

"How many more?" Elaine asked. She looked at Kay. "Are we talking a long weekend?"

Kay took a sip of her coffee before answering. "What would you say to a couple of weeks? Maybe close down tomorrow, and not come back until after the beginning of the year. We’re all going to have a lot to do to get this place into good shape. Dr. Wilde let a lot of things go, business-wise, and I’m going to need everyone’s help in getting everything organized. We thought," here she smiled at Randi, "that maybe it would be a good idea to take the next few weeks off to recharge, so to speak."

"What about our salaries? Would this be with, or without pay?" Elaine asked.

"I know that Dr. Wilde had cut everyone’s vacation time down to two weeks, with no sick pay." Randi and Kay had talked about this very subject last night after they had gone to bed. Although it would make money tight for the first part of the year, they both agreed that the women that worked in the clinic deserved more than they had been given the past few years. "This would be treated as a paid vacation, with everything starting over January first. That includes accrued sick days at the rate of one per month."

Joyce waved her hand in the air. "Let me get this straight. You’re trying to tell us that not only are we all getting a long, paid vacation, but we’ll be getting sick days out of the deal, too?" She looked at Elaine and Christina, who both wore similar shocked looks on their faces. "Can you afford to do this, Randi?"

"We can, as long as the clinic brings in the kind of business that it was before Randi…left," Kay explained. "I figure that it’ll take about two months to get everything entered into the new computer database, which will save us time and money in the long run. We just have to make sure that we work together to make it happen."

"Well, give me a paid vacation for Christmas, and I’ll do whatever you want," Joyce joked.

Randi laughed. "I’m glad to hear that. Because I’m going to need all your expertise in helping with our clients, until we can afford to bring in another vet."

Making a show of rolling up imaginary sleeves, Joyce stood up. "Well? What are we waiting for? Let’s get this place ready to lock down. I’ve got a ski trip to plan."


Kay smiled fondly at the peaceful expression on her lover's face. The previous two days were filled with frenzied packing and phone calls back and forth between Randi and her parents. Kay was pleasantly surprised at Samuel's generosity - the retired executive not only sent two plane tickets by messenger, but was able to secure them places in first class. It was hard to believe that they were able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time. Now here they were in the air and on the way to Santa Fe.

The plane barely cleared the tarmac when Randi yawned and leaned against her window and dozed off. The vet had warned Kay before they boarded that she wouldn't be very good company on the flight, admitting sheepishly that she couldn't stay awake once they were airborne.

She wasn't kidding. Shifting her legs to get more comfortable, Kay was careful to not kick the small carrier beneath her seat that Spike traveled in. Evidently used to the mode of travel, the small dog offered only a token whine before settling down and falling asleep, much like his human. Kay spared another glance at her sleeping partner. The ugly scratches that marred Randi's skin were slowly fading, yet every time Kay saw them, her anger at the woman responsible for the injuries surged again. It's a good thing that Melissa has kept a low profile since she was released from jail. If I ever see her again, she'll wish she were still behind bars. Although not normally a violent person, there wasn't any doubt in Kay's mind that she would do serious damage to Randi's ex-girlfriend.

The pilot's voice over the speaker jarred Kay from her thoughts. Announcing that they were on final approach to Albuquerque International, he notified the passengers that it was partly cloudy and thirty-three degrees, and added with a laugh to not forget to button their coats. Since the Santa Fe airport only handled commuter airlines and private aircraft, they would make the rest of their journey by car.

Kay shook her head and chuckled along with most of the other people on the plane. Hearing their pilot sound like a mildly scolding father was refreshing, and she shared a smile with the woman sitting across the aisle from her. Kay turned her attention back to her sleeping friend. The announcement hadn’t disturbed Randi at all, and she looked so peaceful that Kay was loath to waken her. Feeling the plane dip slightly, Kay realized that it wouldn’t be much longer before they were on the ground. She reached over and without thinking, gently caressed Randi’s cheek. "Randi? Honey, it’s time to wake up."

"Mmm," Randi grumbled, trying to snuggle deeper under her black leather coat, which she was using as a blanket.

Smiling at the action, Kay spared a glance back across the aisle. The woman she had shared a look with earlier quickly turned away, embarrassed. Oops. Guess I forgot where we were. Kay ignored the woman’s brush off and twisted around to face her partner. Leaning in to keep from being overheard, she whispered, "Wake up, honey. We’re about to land." The hand that once again caressed her lover’s face was captured by Randi’s, which had snaked out from beneath the heavy coat.

Brown eyes slowly opened and blinked several times. The vet looked around for a moment to ascertain her surroundings, then a sleepy smile worked its way onto her face when she looked into Kay’s eyes. "Hey."

"Good morning, sleepyhead. I thought you might want to get your wits about you before we land."

Randi rubbed her free hand over her face and yawned. "We're here? Feels like we just took off," she grumbled, sitting up more in her seat. The plane dipped lower and she peered out through her window to see the ground getting closer. "Damn." Randi turned her attention back to her lover. "I'm sorry, Kay. I was hoping to stay awake this time."

Patting Randi on the shoulder, Kay couldn't help but smile at the remorseful look on her friend's face. She picked up the book that lay in her lap. "You have nothing to apologize for, Randi. I actually got a bit of reading done." The sudden lurch as the plane touched down caused Kay's eyes to widen. "Whoa."

"You okay?"

"Yeah," Kay admitted, somewhat embarrassed by her reaction. "My stomach always does a little flip-flop when we land. I guess it's the sudden change that does it." The small whine from beneath her seat caused them both to smile. "Sounds like I'm not the only one." Kay leaned over and put her hand in front of the carrier, receiving a tiny lick from Spike in gratitude. The plane finally came to a stop in front of the terminal, and people were already standing in the aisles waiting for the doors to open. "Shall we?"

"Sure." Randi stood up and slipped on her coat. She accepted Spike's carrier from Kay, turning the small crate around and looking inside. "Bet you're ready to get out of there, aren't you, fella?" Spike's answer was another quiet whine and an attempt to lick her face through the square bars. She looked back over at Kay. The woman standing behind her lover was caught staring, and quickly looked away. "What's her problem?"

Kay looked behind her to see who Randi was talking about. The other woman pushed by several people to get away from them, which caused Kay to shake her head. "I'll tell you about it later," she promised.

"All right." Randi followed Kay into the aisle, smiling her thanks at the gentleman who allowed them to step in front of him. "Let's go see if Mom has driven Dad crazy yet."


Randi hefted her carry-on more securely over one shoulder and took a firmer grasp on her wheeled suitcase. She looked over at Kay and bit back her offer to help the smaller woman with her oversized bag. Randi had made that mistake at their departure airport and didn't want to have another discussion with Kay over her capability. They were heading towards the outside doors when they heard a woman's voice call out to them over the din.

"Randi! Kay! Over here!" Patricia Meyers stood just inside the next doorway. Randi's mom waved her hands over her head in an attempt to be seen, almost knocking the gray cowboy hat from her husband's head.

Samuel grabbed his hat and shook his head. "They see you, Pat. If you keep flapping your arms like that, you're going to end up flying out of here."

Before she could offer a retort, Patricia watched as her daughter broke through the crowd. Meeting Randi halfway, Patricia wrapped her arms around her and hugged her for a long moment. "I'm so glad that you're here." She pulled back and looked at Randi's face. "What happened to you?"

"Uh, well--" Randi looked behind her at Kay for help.

Kay stepped up beside her lover and smiled widely. "Patricia, Samuel. Thank you so much for inviting us here on such short notice." She dropped the bags she carried and hugged the older couple one at a time.

"We're just thrilled you're here." Samuel reached down and grabbed Kay's bags. "How about you let me get these for you? We're parked pretty close by."

Randi started to warn her father about Kay's stubborn refusal of help when she was shocked into speechlessness by her lover's words.

"That's so sweet, Samuel. Thank you." Kay kept her arm around Patricia and looked at Randi. "Are you okay?"



Why does she let him, and argue with me? This relationship thing is going to be harder than I thought. Randi realized that everyone was staring at her. "What?"

Samuel winked at his daughter, having a pretty good idea what was going through her mind. It's nice to know that not even women understand women. Makes me feel much better. "Come on, kids. Your mom has a roast cooking, so we'd better make tracks."


The trip from Albuquerque north to Santa Fe passed quickly as Randi and Kay brought the Meyers' up to speed on the recent events. Patricia was outraged and threatened to fly back to Texas and turn a certain redhead over her knee, much to everyone else's amusement. The miles seemed shortened by the comfortable trip in Samuel's black Ford Explorer 4x4, and it wasn't long before they were driving through the streets of the oldest state capital in the United States.

Kay peered out her window in awe. "I just love the architecture around here." She turned to see Randi looking at her with an indulgent smile on her face. "Well? Don't you?"

"Sure. But I'm having more fun watching you enjoy it."

Blushing, Kay ducked her head. She was saved by Samuel's excited voice.

"We're coming up to the house, Kay. Look out your window at the view."

Built outside the city, the Meyers' home was nestled in forty acres at the foot of the mountains, and the winding drive off the main road offered a view of the natural vegetation and scrub brush that covered the area. After five minutes of driving, the road opened up and the house came into view.

The two-story dwelling was made of adobe, with the round arches and windows reminiscent of the pueblos that dotted the landscape centuries before. Samuel pressed a button on the headliner of the truck, and a large garage door opened to allow them entry. He glanced in the rearview mirror at Kay's expression, smiling at her unblinking awe. "That's the same way I felt the first time I saw it."

"Wow. It's incredible." Kay turned to look at Randi, who was opening her door to get out of the vehicle. "And you were hesitant to come here? Are you out of your mind?"

"No, she's not out of her mind, Kay. Just stubborn as a mule." Patricia grinned at her daughter's discomfort as the four of them gathered up the bags then stepped out of the garage into the house.

The door from the garage opened up into the spacious kitchen, causing Kay's eyes to widen once again. "This place is beautiful." She felt that she would run out of adjectives before the tour of the house ended, but decided it was a chance she wouldn't mind taking.

After a thorough tour of the home, the three women were all seated comfortably in the living room, while Samuel gladly showed Spike around the outside of the house. Randi took a place next to Kay on the leather loveseat and stretched out her legs. "You know, it's not that long of a flight, but it sure wears a person out."

"I don't see how you can be that tired." Kay leaned back and smiled as Randi's arm automatically went around her shoulders. "Especially since you slept the entire flight."

Patricia laughed. "You still do that, Randi? I thought you would have outgrown that by now."

Kay looked at Randi, then at her mother. "What do you mean?"


"As a child, she would always fall asleep on family trips, no matter how long, or what mode of transportation. Why, one time we accidentally locked her in the car at a rest stop, because she was asleep in the floorboards. Scared us half to death, when we couldn't find her anywhere."

Randi rolled her eyes and sighed. "Mom, please. I was six years old." She turned to see her lover's delighted smile. "What?"

"I bet you were a cute kid." Kay stared into Randi's eyes for a long moment before turning her attention back to Patricia. "Was she?"

"Oh, yes. She was a doll." Patricia grinned and stood up. "As a matter of fact, I have several picture albums around here somewhere that I think you'd be very interested in seeing."

"Mother!" Randi's eyes went wide in panic. "Not the photo albums."

Kay leaned over and kissed Randi's cheek, quite comfortable in Patricia's accepting presence. "That's okay, honey. I'll ask to see them later, when you're not around."

Great. If these two ever get together and exchange notes, I'm dead meat. Mother will tell Kay every embarrassing story in my life. Randi threw up her hands in resignation. "I guess I can't stop you, can I?"


Randi stood up and dusted imaginary specks from her jeans. "I think I'll see if Dad needs any help with Spike." She bent down and bussed Kay quickly on the lips before hurrying from the room.

Patricia watched her daughter interact with Kay, feeling a great weight lift from her heart. In all the years that Randi had lived with Melissa, not once did she ever show any hint of familiarity in front of anyone else. But within five minutes of sitting down, she had shown a completely different side of herself. I think that my girl is finally happy. Looks like we'll be seeing the two of them together for a long time to come.


After being chased out of the kitchen by her mother, Randi decided to take Kay for a short walk around the property. The first time she had visited her parents at their new home, she had found a perfect place to get away from the noise and pressure of the family gathering. About two hundred yards up a small trail from the house was a small hill, which Randi had discovered was perfect for watching the sun disappear over the Rocky Mountains. She and Kay stood on the hill for several minutes, neither one breaking the silence.

Kay leaned back into the arms that held her as she watched the sky turn into glorious bursts of gold and orange. They were both sporting heavy coats because of the cool evening, but Randi's was open and Kay could feel the warmth from her lover's body. She had never felt more at peace, and decided now was as good a time as any to bring up a subject that had been on her mind for weeks. "Randi?"

"Hmm?" Randi stood just above and behind Kay, and her chin rested on her lover's shoulder.

"I know we haven't been together very long, and you may think I'm crazy for even thinking like this, but--"

Randi turned her head slightly so that she could kiss Kay on the cheek. "What are you thinking?"

Kay turned around and wrapped her arms around Randi's waist. "I'd like to have a commitment ceremony, with your parents as witnesses."

Did she just…? "Are you asking me to--"

"Marry me?" Kay looked up into her lover's eyes, which had grown wide. "Yes, I am. What do you think?"

Randi blinked several times and tried to speak. When nothing came out, she cleared her throat and tried again. "I think you're a hell of a lot braver than I am, that's for sure."

"Well, I wouldn't say that, exactly. It's just that--" Kay looked down at the ground, embarrassed.


"What?" Her head snapped up and Kay was greeted with the largest smile she had ever witnessed.

"Yes." Randi leaned down closer until they were almost sharing the same air. "That was a yes or no question, wasn't it?"

"Uh, y…yeah. Yeah, it was."

"Good." Bending forward another inch, Randi's lips covered Kay's. Finally pulling back enough to get air into her lungs, Randi noticed the sun beginning to drop behind the mountains. She turned Kay around and pulled her into her body until there wasn't any space between them. "I love you," she whispered into the ear next to her mouth.

Kay held Randi's arms tightly, feeling an overwhelming burst of emotion. "I love you, too." As the golds and oranges in the sky faded into dark blues and deep purples, Kay decided it was the perfect beginning to their new life.

The End

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