To Hold Forever

By Carrie Carr

Disclaimers – See Part One.

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Part 15

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Lex stomped along the sidewalk, her hands itching to throttle someone. They were shoved in the pockets of her duster and her hat was low over her eyes. The meeting with her lawyer didn't go as she had hoped, but she knew it would be in bad form to strangle the messenger of the bad news.

Melvin Taft contacted her after an unsuccessful meeting with the judge. The new magistrate was not impressed with the particulars of the case. He refused to rule on the validity of Kirk Trumbull's claim, saying the two parties would have to come to an understanding of their own. Melvin related his feelings that Judge Stewart was homophobic, and Trumbull used that to his advantage. The only way to remove the lien was for Kirk to voluntarily remove it, which wasn't going to happen, or to pay him. That option didn't set well, either. But a drawn-out court battle would have too many adverse effects on her family, and it was something she was determined to avoid.

"Damned jackass." Lex was on her way to the sleazy lawyer's office. The itemized bill Trumbull had presented Melvin with was outrageous. "Five dollars for a freakin' pen. Where the hell did he buy it? A government auction?" She was so angry over the news, she didn't see the body she slammed into until it was too late. Lex suddenly found herself sitting on the sidewalk.

"Watch it!" Hubert rubbed his shoulder. He considered kicking his sister just for the fun of it. But she got to her feet before he could move. "What the hell's your problem?"

Lex dusted off her backside and readjusted her hat. "Besides you?" She looked around and saw several people watching them. "I'm almost glad I ran into you. We need to talk."

Her words sounded foreboding, but he'd be damned if he let her know it rattled him. "Make an appointment. I don't have time to mess with you."

"You'll make the time, brother." Lex leaned closer and lowered her voice. "Because you really don't want to cross me right now."

"I'm so scared." But he backed up a step. He was bigger than she was, but the glint in her eyes made him uncomfortable. "Is that a threat?"

Lex's smile didn't reach her eyes. "Maybe. Where's your new office?" She knew as well as everyone else that his other place had been closed down shortly after he left for prison.

He gestured behind her. "About a block that way." Hubert grabbed her arm. "Come on. We might as well get this over with. I have things to do, you know."

"Keep your damned hands to yourself." Lex shook him off and walked beside her brother. His attitude only increased her ire, and she was hard-pressed to keep from slamming him into a wall and taking her frustrations out on him. When they stopped in front of a run-down storefront, she couldn't help but chuckle. "This is it?"

Hubert fussed with the lock until he was finally able to kick the door open. "Shut up. It's only temporary until my new place is ready." He had to use his shoulder to push the door open enough to step inside.

The musty air tickled Lex's nose and she fought the urge to sneeze. A lamp was on near the back of the room, its dim light casting eerie shadows in the cluttered space. Boxes, newspapers and books were strewn everywhere. She had to sidestep a broken chair in order to follow him to his desk. "Nice place."

"Fuck you." Hubert sat behind the scarred desk, almost toppling out of the rickety chair. He shoved an old pizza box off the top in a pitiful attempt to make his space appear more professional. "The maid hasn't been in, yet."

"Whatever." Lex considered cleaning off a chair, but changed her mind. She didn't plan to be here long. She decided to get straight to the point. Amanda was waiting for her at the Cauble's, where she dropped her off earlier. "You need to pay your lawyer."

He carefully leaned back in his chair. "Why? The sorry bastard didn't do his job. I don't owe him shit."

"Wrong." She put her hands on her hips so she wouldn't be tempted to strangle him. "You owe him close to fifteen thousand dollars."

"What's it to you? It's none of your damned business."

Lex kicked a pile of empty food containers out of her way and moved closer to the desk. "It is my business, when he decided to come after me for the money."

Hubert laughed. "Big fucking deal. Do you think I care?"

"You should." Lex started around the side of the desk, which caused him to slide quickly out of the way. "Because if I have to settle your debt, I plan on taking it out of your worthless hide."

He moved casually to keep the desk between them. "Like you could." He saw her tense and knew things were about to get out of hand. "Wait." Hubert gestured around the room. "As if you couldn't tell, I'm not exactly swimming in dough right now." He needed a plan, and soon. Hubert knew his sister wasn't bluffing. An idea blossomed in his head. "How about this. You pay Kirk, and I'll get a second mortgage on my house to pay you back." No need to tell her he already had a second mortgage, and was behind on his house payments.

Something sounded fishy. Lex hadn't expected him to go along with her quite so easily. But it was more than she hoped for. "Give me something in writing before I leave."

"Sure, no problem." He dropped back into his chair and struggled to open a desk drawer. He took out a piece of paper, but couldn't find a pen.

Lex sighed and took a pen out of her coat pocket. "Here."

Hubert jerked it out of her hand and stared at it. The pen was hand-carved wood and had her name engraved across the barrel. "Full of yourself, aren't you?"

"It was a gift."

He grunted, but used it to scribble several lines on the paper. With a flourish, he signed the document and handed it and the pen to her. "There. Happy?"

"Not until I get the money from you, I'm not." Lex read the paper then folded it and tucked it away. "I want a bank draft by the end of next week."

"Fine. Since you're going to be such a bitch about it, you can pick it up here Wednesday." He stood. "Now get out. I've got stuff to do."

Lex smirked. "Hopefully cleaning this dump up is first on your list." She tipped her hat. "Nice doing business with you, bro."

Hubert watched as she picked her way toward the door and left. "Good riddance, bitch." He looked around the room and nodded to himself. There were several things he wanted to take care of, and staying in this office wasn't one of them.


The coffee seemed tasteless to Amanda, so she put the cup down in disgust and sighed. Not even the cheery kitchen could bring her out of her funk. "I might as well give up coffee altogether. Decaf's just nasty." She pushed away from the table and went to the refrigerator for a glass of milk, instead.

Lois stood and took both mugs to the sink and rinsed them. "I have to agree with you. I don't care what they say, I can tell the difference."

Talking about coffee somehow brought Amanda's thoughts back to the one person who was never far from her mind. "I wish Lex would get back." She edged next to Lois and glanced out the window. "I can't wait to hear what she found out at the lawyer's office."

"I'm sure she'll be here as soon as she can. Why don't we go into the den and relax?" Lois put her arm around Amanda's shoulders as they left the kitchen. She had taken it upon herself to keep her company, since Anna Leigh and Jacob had left earlier to help a friend.

Amanda wanted to scream at Lois' attempt to keep her occupied. The woman meant well, but it made her feel as if she had to have a babysitter. Next time, she decided she would bug Lex until she allowed her to go along. "I don't want to relax. I'm already bored to tears." But she lowered herself into the comfy chair nearest the fireplace. "It's bad enough that I've had to quit working."

"Are you regretting your decision to get pregnant?"

"No, not really." Amanda rubbed her stomach and smiled as the baby kicked. "This is the most amazing thing in the world. I never thought I'd have this."

Lois wasn't exactly sure what Amanda meant by that. "A baby?"

"A family. Growing up, I never really thought about the whole 'getting married, having kids', thing. I figured I'd leave that up to Jeannie. Then, I met Lex, and everything changed." Amanda stood and went to the window to look out. "From the moment I looked into her eyes, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her." She brightened as Lex's truck pulled into the driveway. "She's here." Amanda started to go to the front door to meet Lex, but quickly remembered she was supposed to be resting. She went back to her chair and tried to look innocent.

The door opened and Lex stuck her head into the living room. "There y'all are." She took off her hat, and draped her coat over an empty chair. "Hey, Lois."

"Hello, Lex. Amanda was just talking about you."

Lex sat on the edge of Amanda's chair and kissed her cheek. "Not all bad, I hope."

Amanda closed her eyes at the touch of her lover's lips. "Nope. I was telling Lois how easy it was to fall in love with you."

"Oh." Lex felt a blush heat her face. She quickly recovered, however. "Hope you told her how you practically threw yourself at me." She jumped when Amanda swatted her leg. "Ow."

"Serves you right." Amanda left her hand on Lex's thigh. "How'd it go at the lawyer?"

It was the one subject she didn't want to go into, but Lex knew Amanda wouldn't let it go until she found out. "Not too well. Melvin told me the only way to remove the lien is for Trumbull to revoke it, or for me to pay what's owed."

"That's not right! You shouldn't have to pay for your stupid brother. He's not worth it." The thought of Hubert getting away without paying for his legal fees made Amanda so mad she could barely see. "Can you have him arrested for fraud, or something?"

Lex could feel Amanda shaking. "Calm down, sweetheart. It's going to be all right."

"But he—"

"Will pay, believe me." Lex couldn't keep the smirk off her face.

Amanda knew the look. Her partner definitely had something up her sleeve. "What?"

As much as she wanted to hear what Lex was going to say, Lois forced herself to leave the room. It was a private matter between the two of them, and if they wanted anyone else to know, they'd share.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lex noticed Lois' departure. She'd have to come up with a way to thank her, later. To keep Amanda from getting a crick in her neck, Lex slid off the arm of the chair. She moved to the sofa, not surprised when Amanda joined her.

"Are you going to tell me, or do I have to guess?" Amanda picked up Lex's hand and began to trace her fingers across the top. Her hands were strong and callused, and had always fascinated her.

Lex enjoyed the attention for a moment then mentally shook herself to get back to the subject. "I caught Hubert on the street, right after I had spoken to Melvin."

Amanda raised her head. "You didn't stomp him, did you? Although the jerk deserves it."

"No, I was actually fairly civil, believe it or not."

"Then you're a better woman than I am," Amanda grumbled. "I'd have kicked his ass."

Lex didn't doubt that for a moment. The thought of her wife taking Hubert down brought a smile to her face. "As much as I'd enjoy the sight, I'm afraid it wouldn't do us any good."

"I know. But I can dream, can't I?"


"Okay. I think I'm over it. What happened?" Amanda rested against Lex's side. She couldn't believe how tired she was. She fought off a yawn. "Go ahead."

Lex put her arm around Amanda's shoulders. "We went to his office. Or at least a little hole in the wall he's using. It's nasty." A poke in her ribs got her back on the subject. "We had a nice chat," another poke told her she wasn't believed, "and we came to an understanding. Since I'm stuck paying the bill, anyway, I authorized Melvin to take care of it. Hubert's getting a second mortgage on his house, and is going to pay me next week."

"How did you get him to agree to that?" A thought occurred to Amanda. "You didn't have him pinned to the wall, or something, did you?"

"No, although that would have been fun."

Amanda closed her eyes. Lex's voice had always soothed her. As tired as she was, it wouldn't take much for her to doze off. "If he's going to mortgage his house, why doesn't he pay the lien?"

It was a valid question. One Lex had already thought of. "Because I don't trust him. I don't want to lose the ranch, and it would be safer for me to pay the bill, and then try to get the money out of his worthless hide."

"Makes sense." Amanda yawned again. "Sorry."

"Don't be." Lex kissed Amanda's head. "Nap time?"

"No." She sounded like a petulant child, but Amanda didn't care. "I don't want to nap. I want to stay here with you." But her body betrayed her by relaxing against her lover.

"Uh-huh." Lex stood, bringing Amanda up with her. "How about we both go upstairs? I could use a nap, too."

Amanda allowed Lex to guide her out of the den and up the stairs. "I don't believe you, but I'm too tired to call you on it." She stumbled at the top of the stairs, thankful for her partner's firm grasp. She felt Lex's arm tighten around her shoulders. "Don't even think it."

"What?" Lex opened the door to the guest room.

"You were about to pick me up. I could tell."

"I wasn't—"

Amanda tugged on Lex's arm. "You were, too." She sat on the edge of the bed. When Lex removed her shoes, she opened her mouth to argue.

"Ssh." Lex lifted Amanda's legs and helped her get comfortable. She covered her with a quilt, before taking her own boots off and climbing beside her.

"You don't have to coddle me." But Amanda was grateful for the attention. Her eyes closed in relief when Lex tucked an arm around her.

"We can argue about it later." Lex had to smile as soft snores answered her. She kissed Amanda's cheek. "Rest well, sweetheart." Everything was finally settling down, and Lex couldn't be happier.

Chapter Thirty

Los Angeles in February was wonderful, compared to where she had been. The winter chill in Paris had seeped into her bones, and Elizabeth Cauble couldn't wait to get to her leased bungalow on the beach and soak in the sun. But she had a few things to attend to, before she enjoyed her return to the States.

The sleek sports car cut through the freeway traffic with ease. Elizabeth considered hiring a driver, but after being chauffeured around Europe, she longed to be behind the wheel again. The rented Mercedes SL500 was perfect for her needs. She had the top down, and felt freer than she had in years. Her bright scarf held her perfectly coiffed hair in place, and her designer sunglasses kept the bright California sun out of her eyes.

She took the next exit, cutting in front of several cars as she swerved across two lanes of traffic. Elizabeth waved behind her at the indignant honking. It's what they deserved for getting in her way. Twenty minutes later, she double-parked the Mercedes in front of an upscale building. She didn't bother to lock it. After all, this was Beverly Hills.

Elizabeth glided into the store as if she were royalty and was granting favor with her subjects. The art gallery was decorated with sparsely scattered paintings, yet leant an air of elegance. When no one greeted her, she crossed her arms over her chest and cleared her throat loudly.

The room echoed, but otherwise remained silent.

"Excuse me!" Elizabeth bellowed in her most commanding voice. Her nose lifted slightly in the air as she waited impatiently.

The click-clack of high heels against the polished marble floor moved closer, until a diminutive brown-haired woman pulled up short in astonishment. "Mrs. Cauble?" Her dark brown eyes blinked nervously. "What a pleasant surprise."

"I'm sure it is." Elizabeth haughtily glared at her. She strode by the clerk on her way to the office. "Delilah, I'm going to check the books."

The clerk followed along, struggling to keep up. "Darla, ma'am."

"No, I rather like Delilah, better. Come along." Elizabeth snapped her fingers. "I want to see how you've been handling things in my absence."

"Yes, ma'am."

It took Elizabeth only an hour to see that her gallery thrived under the young woman's care. She knew it had been doing well. Along with the money she had absconded with years previously, the funds directly deposited in her overseas bank account kept her living comfortably. She closed the accounting program on the computer and spun her chair around to focus on Darla. "It appears you've been doing quite well, my dear. I don't recall my daughter handling the gallery any better."

"Thank you, ma'am." Darla felt a kernel of pride at her employer's remarks. "Oh! By the way. I hear that congratulations are in order."

"I beg your pardon?"

Darla didn't see the look of consternation that crossed Elizabeth's face. "You know. Your daughter's wedding? I wish I could be there. I suppose that's why you've returned to the United States, isn't it?"

Elizabeth couldn't believe what she was hearing. Her daughter, getting married? She knew it was only a matter of time before Amanda came to her senses and dumped that ill-mannered, uneducated, no-good Lexington Walters. IT was bad enough she had to cavort with a woman, but to be with someone so obviously beneath her station was unacceptable. "Of course. It's only proper that I attend. Amanda wouldn't want it any other way."

"Amanda?" Darla shrugged. "I guess she will be glad to see you, too. But I was talking about Jeannie. She was so excited the last time I spoke with her on the phone." Jeannie and she had known each other since college. It was Jeannie who hired her to work in the gallery, and once she had become pregnant with her first child, she turned over the managerial duties to Darla.

"Jeanne Louise? That vegetable? Who'd marry someone who can't even swallow her own drool?"

The vehemence in Elizabeth's voice unnerved Darla. "Um, Mrs. Cauble? Surely you realize Jeannie had fully recovered from her stroke. I figured you had kept in touch with her, even though you'd be in Europe all this time."

Elizabeth recovered from her surprise quickly. "No, I'm afraid not. The last time I heard anything about my daughter, she was in an assisted care facility. I've been quite busy in Paris."


"No matter." Elizabeth rose and waved her hand in the air dismissively. "When and where are the nuptials?"

Darla's face went blank. "Huh?" She wished the woman would speak English. She barely understood her half the time.

"The wedding, Delilah. What date has been set?"

"You don't know?"

Elizabeth sighed dramatically. "I believe we've all ready established that." When the young woman didn't answer, she snapped her fingers in front of Darla's face.

Darla blinked. "I'm sorry. The wedding is set for next week. You know, Valentine's Day?"

"How droll." Elizabeth tucked her purse beneath her arm and walked out of the office. "It appears I will be making another trip."

Darla scurried behind her. "Mrs. Cauble?"

"Yes?" Elizabeth stopped. She had so much to do, and chatting with this silly girl was only wasting her time. "What is it?"

"Would you mind giving Jeannie something for me?" Darla rushed back to the office and reappeared, carrying an envelope in her hand. "I have been meaning to mail this."

Elizabeth took the letter from her. "And what, pray tell, is this?"

"A gift card. For the baby."

"Baby? Oh, you mean my granddaughter?" Elizabeth tucked the envelope into her purse.

Darla shook her head. "It's for her son. She gave birth around Thanksgiving. Isn't it wonderful?"

Having a baby out of wedlock was not Elizabeth's idea of wonderful. She tried to keep an impassive look on her face. "I suppose. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be going. Since my dear Jeanne Louise has two young children, she'll need her mother." She turned and strode purposely out of the gallery. There were plans to be made, and a trip to prepare for.


No matter what the temperature was, or how nice the room was decorated, the obstetrician's exam room always felt cold and uncomfortable to Lex. And she wasn't the one who had to lie on the table with only a paper gown and a sheet for protection from the chill. She tightened her grip on Amanda's hand. Even though her partner was once again fully dressed, Lex still detected coolness in their joined hands. "Are you doing okay, sweetheart?"

"Better than you, I think." It never ceased to amuse Amanda at how nervous her usually confident wife became once they stepped through Dr. Vaughn's doors. "Relax. I'm feeling much better, I promise."

The door opened and Dr. Vaughn stepped inside, just as Amanda spoke. "You're right. The latest tests show everything is closer to normal range." She wrote something in Amanda's chart and placed it on the counter. She hoped her next news would bring her patient out of the funk she admitted to being in. "If things keep progressing this well, we may be able to reconsider the cesarean."

"Really?" As happy as Lex was to hear the news, she was terrified of anything happening to her partner. "But will it be safe?"

"As safe as any delivery can be. But," here the doctor gave Amanda a severe look, "you have to promise to keep behaving yourself. No working, lots of rest, and absolutely no stress. If your blood pressure goes up again, I'll put you on total bed rest."

Lex answered for both of them. "We promise." She flinched when Amanda squeezed her hand particularly hard. "What?"

"You're not the one who has to do nothing all the time." Amanda pulled her hand away and attempted to cross her arms over her stomach. Not being able to do so comfortably made her even more upset. "This is so unfair."

Dr. Vaughn tried to gently reassure her. "You knew you'd have to make certain concessions when you decided to become pregnant."

"I know. But I didn't think I'd be forced to give up so much. And what about next week? My sister is getting married, and she wants me to be her matron-of-honor."

"You can still participate, as long as you don't overdo it." The doctor patted her on the knee. "Don't think of this as a bad thing. You'll be begging for quiet once the baby arrives."

Amanda slipped her hand back into Lex's. "I remember what we went through with Lorrie." She rested her head against her partner's arm. "I'm very lucky to have Lex. She had more sleepless nights than I did."

"Labor of love." Lex was glad Amanda seemed more like herself. She never knew which one would make an appearance – happy, glad to be pregnant Amanda, or the woman whose glare could melt steel. Lex had been on the receiving end of that particular look more than once. She still hadn't figured out why. "So. Dr. Vaughn, is there anything special we can do to help Lorrie understand all this? She's felt the baby kick, but I think she's still confused."

Dr. Vaughn checked her watch. "I think I can help you with that. Let me find out something." She headed toward the door. "I'll be right back."

Lex exchanged confused looks with Amanda. "Was it something I said?"

The door opened and the doctor came back in with a pleased look on her face. "Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?"

"Not that I know of." Amanda verified that by watching Lex shrug her shoulders. "What's up?"

"I don't know why I didn't think of this before. We have a 'big brother, big sister' program, and the next class is tomorrow afternoon. It's a puppet show that helps explain what a new baby means to the household. Afterward, I spend about fifteen minutes with each family so the child can hear the baby's heartbeat with a stethoscope. It goes a long way in making the big brother or sister feel more a part of the experience." The blank stare she was getting from Lex surprised her. "Trust me, it's a lot of fun for the children, too."

"I'm not sure if I want her to have that much knowledge. Lorrie already outthinks me more than she should." Lex's proud look told she wasn't serious. "Are you sure she's not too young for it?"

Dr. Vaughn adjusted the white coat she wore and placed her hands in the pockets. "Not at all. We have several different classes. She'll be with kids her own age."

Amanda slid from the table less gracefully than she wanted. She welcomed Lex's steadying arm around her shoulders. "It sounds wonderful." She pulled her top over her stomach. "Would you mind giving Lex all the details? I've really, really, got to go." She toddled out of the room as fast as her growing bulk would allow.


Lex held Lorrie's hand after they left the truck. Amanda walked quietly beside them. She had been introspective all morning, and Lex wondered what was going on with her. Once inside the doctor's office, they were directed to a conference room at the end of the hall. Excited children's voices could be heard streaming through the open door. Lex struggled to keep Lorrie from racing inside. "Hang on there, lil' bit. No running indoors." Lorrie broke free and took off, leaving her parents behind.

Amanda couldn't help but laugh at the look on her partner's face. "She listens about as well as you do." She followed their daughter at a more sedate pace until they were inside the organized chaos of the room.

Six other young children were chatting excitedly with each other, some pointing to the elaborate puppet stage set up in one corner of the room. A man and a woman, both appearing to be in their mid-twenties, stood close by. They were dressed in black, and the woman glanced up and noticed the latest arrivals. She brushed her red hair away from her face and her eyes widened when she recognized Lex and Amanda. She said something to her partner and walked across the room toward them.

"Oh, shit." Lex hoped there weren't any liquids nearby. What were the odds that Ashley Pendleton would be one of the puppeteers? She put her arm around Amanda and led her to the back wall, where the other parents sat.

One of the women held out her hand, but didn't bother standing. She was further along than Amanda, but appeared happy to see them. "Amanda? What a small world."

It took Amanda a moment to place her. "Laurie Roland?" It had been four years since they had bought a house from her, but Amanda rarely forgot a face. She shook Laurie's hand before sitting next to her. "Where's Dan?"

"He's over there, getting me some juice." She pointed to another wall, where a refreshment table had been set up.

"I think I'll go say hello. Excuse me, ladies." Lex nodded to Laurie and crossed the room. She had a feeling there was about to be a major gab session between the two pregnant women, and she'd feel more comfortable talking with Dan.

Laurie laughed when Lex made her escape. "Is she as squeamish as Dan? I swear he turns white during every one of my exams."

"Worse." Amanda watched her daughter interact with a smaller girl, whose wispy blonde hair stuck out over her head. She pointed to the two girls. "It looks like our daughter Lorrie has already made a friend."

"Are you talking about that dark-haired little girl?" At Amanda's answering nod, Laurie chuckled. "She's with my Courtney. Oh, look. Isn't that sweet?" Lorrie had taken Courtney's hand and led her close to the front of the stage. They sat next to each other and continued to chatter.

Amanda loved how open and friendly Lorrie was with other children. "Your daughter is beautiful, Laurie. How old is she?"

"Thank you. She's twenty-seven months, but hasn't seemed to have hit her terrible two's, yet. How about yours? I see that she's the spitting image of Lex." She leaned closer to Amanda and lowered her voice. "How did you manage it? Forgive me for saying so, but I can't really picture Lex pregnant."

The loud laugh that unexpectedly erupted from Amanda caused them to be the center of attention for a moment, before everyone turned back to their own conversations. "I'm sorry. But, you've got it so right. Lex would have to be sedated for nine months, if she were pregnant."

"I can just imagine. Well, no matter how she came to be, she's absolutely adorable." She noticed Amanda bristled when the female puppeteer approached Lex. "Do they know each other?"

"Not as well as that bi-, I mean, woman would like to." Even though Amanda would like nothing better than to yank the woman bald-headed, she stayed where she was to allow Lex to handle things. For now.

Lex felt a touch on her back and assumed it was Amanda. "Hey, there, beautiful." She turned and realized it was Ashley. "Forget I said anything." She took a step back to keep the woman out of her personal space. The last thing she wanted was for Amanda to see their interaction and get bent out of shape. "Hey, Ashley. I didn't know you did puppets." She inwardly cringed at how her innocent statement sounded.

"That's because you didn't take the time to find out anything about me." Ashley stepped between Lex and Dan, turning her back on him to remove him from the conversation. "I see you're still with that fat gal. Don't you know you could do so much better?"

"I think you should leave." Lex's voice was soft, but the angry glint in her eyes spoke louder than her words.

Ashley ignored the warning and moved closer, her breasts almost brushing Lex's shirt. She had barely touched Lex, when her hand was grabbed and squeezed. "Let go. You're hurting me."

Lex leaned close so that her words wouldn't be overheard. "If you ever say anything about my wife again, you'll find out what hurt is. Get it through your thick skull, woman. I don't want anything to do with you. Back off, and go play with your puppets." She released her grip and stepped around Ashley. "Dan, why don't we go sit with our ladies and enjoy the show?"

Dan wasn't sure what had transpired, but was more than happy to follow Lex. The redhead had given him the creeps. "Sure."

Amanda waited until Lex got comfortable next to her before she took her hand and held it in her lap. Lex's heavy exhale concerned her. "Are you all right?"

"Yep. I don't think she'll bother us anymore."

"Good. I was wondering what we'd have to do to get it through her head." Amanda scooted closer, while the room quieted down and the puppets came to life.


"Can I be on teebee?" Lorrie tapped the monitor with one hand, fascinated. She pointed to a rapidly moving image on the screen. "What's dat?"

Dr. Vaughn coughed to cover her laugh. "That's the baby's heart beating. Remember? It's that fast thumping sound."

Lorrie bounced her head. "Bum, bum, bum, bum." She slid off Lex's lap and climbed into the chair next to the table. She watched the doctor move the wand across Amanda's stomach. "Dat's dumpin?"

"Well, yes. We use this to help us see the baby. It also lets us hear the thumping." Dr. Vaughn took one of Lorrie's hands and helped her grip the wand. "Here, you can do it, too." She noticed Amanda squirming. "Are you doing all right?"

"My bladder's about to burst, but otherwise I'm doing great." The wand slid all across Amanda's stomach, which bounced while she laughed at the look of concentration on Lorrie's face. "Careful, sweetie. That tickles. And I don't think me laughing too much is a good thing right now." Then she squirmed some more. By this time, Amanda would kill for a bedpan.

Lex took up position behind Lorrie, although she knew the doctor wouldn't let her fall. She was impressed by how patiently Dr. Vaughn answered all her daughter's questions. It solidified in her mind their decision to use the doctor, who was new to the area.

Lorrie swiped her free hand through the gel on Amanda's belly. "Uck!" She made a fist, which caused it to squish between her fingers. She turned and held out her hand to Lex. "Momma, help."

"Hang on, kiddo." Lex grabbed a towel and picked up Lorrie. She missed the tiny hand, which bypassed the towel and splatted against her cheek. "Ugh."

Dr. Vaughn took pity on Lex and took over the cleaning duties. Once she was finished, she helped Lorrie down to allow Lex a chance to wipe the gel off Amanda. "Come on, Lorrie. Let's go find some milk and cookies while your mommy gets dressed."

Amanda sat up after they left. She liked how down to earth Dr. Vaughn was. "We got lucky with her, didn't we?"

"Yep." Lex helped her with her blouse. "And the doctor's pretty cool, too." She waited until Amanda had pulled on her pants before she picked up her shoes. "This was cool. I think Lorrie had a good time today." She knelt by Amanda's chair and slipped the comfortable shoes on her feet without a second thought.

Amanda studied Lex's head. Something shiny caught her eye. "Ooh."

"What?" felt the top of her head, where Amanda tugged on a strand of hair. "Hey! Why are you pulling my hair?"

"I found your first gray." Amanda released the bit of silver.

"You did not!"

"Did too!" Amanda pulled on the strand again. "Right here."

Lex grabbed Amanda's hand. "Yank it out."

"No! I like it." Amanda tucked it back down. "I think you'll look good with gray hair."

"I'm too young to be getting that old." Lex scratched her head. "I don't want to be old and gray before Lorrie starts school. They'll think I'm her grandma, or something."

Amanda rolled her eyes. "One gray hair does not make you old, silly. Now help me up, so we can go relieve Dr. Vaughn of our daughter."

Lex did as she was asked. While they walked out of the office, she rubbed the top of her head again. Maybe they'd stop by the drug store on the way home and pick up some hair color.

To be continued in Part 16

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