To Hold Forever
By Carrie Carr
Disclaimers – See Part One. Any and all comments can be passed along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated.
PACE. PACE. PACE. Turn. Pace. Pace. Pace. Turn. Pace. Pace.
"Ms. Walters?" A small woman stood inside the open door.
Lex spun around. "Yes?"
"They're ready for you in room two. If you'll follow me, please." The woman, dressed in brightly colored scrubs, led her down the bright and narrow hallway. She paused at a nondescript white door, and knocked. When she received a positive response, she opened the door and waved Lex inside.
Amanda, dressed in a cotton hospital gown, turned her head from where she lay on the table. "Hi, honey."
"Hey, there." Lex went to stand by Amanda's head. "How'd everything go?" She took Amanda's hand in hers and brought it up to her lips and kissed it.
Over by the sink, a short, gray-haired doctor turned to face them. After writing his notes on Amanda's chart, he looked at the couple and smiled. "Your partner is doing very well, Ms. Walters. As I told her a few moments ago, I don't think we're going to have any trouble at all. We already have your chosen donor's sperm here at our facility. Due to the timing, we should be able to inseminate any day, now."
"That soon?" Not that Lex didn't want Amanda to become pregnant, but she didn't have time to prepare herself. Their trip today was only supposed to be so that the doctor could give Amanda a thorough exam, and discuss their options. The way he was speaking, they'd have to stay in town for a few days. For a change, she was in no hurry to return to the ranch. "Is there anything special we have to do?"
"No, not really. I've suggested to Amanda that she do a LH surge test twice a day."
The term was something Lex had not heard of. "What is that? Our other doctor just had her use a thermometer, to check her basal body temperature. Does she need to come to your office for this other test?"
"Monitoring the BBT is one of the methods used, although it is more inaccurate. One of the ways I like to pinpoint the time of ovulation, is by identifying the LH surge. It's a hormone that prompts ovulation. It can be detected by testing the urine twice a day, using a home testing kit. If the level of LH is increased, ovulation should occur within thirty-six hours. All you have to do is call when you're ready." He shook Lex's free hand. "I'd recommend Amanda taking it easy for the next few days. Excessive physical activity can cause inaccurate readings in the test. But, it won't hurt to do a little sightseeing. Try to enjoy yourselves while you're here."
"We will. Thank you, Dr. Hamilton." Lex waited until he left the room before she helped Amanda sit up. "Let me grab your clothes, and we'll go have a bite to eat."
Amanda swung her legs over the side of the table. "That sounds great. Do you think we can take in the Aquarium today? It's on my list of want-to's, and it shouldn't be too stressful."
"Sure thing, sweetheart. As long as you're the navigator. I always get turned around when I'm here."
Amanda dressed hurriedly, wanting to leave the office. After speaking to the doctor, she was feeling more confident about her chance to conceive.
"I CAN'T BELIEVE all the different types of birds and reptiles they had at the aquarium." They had just finished their tour of the Dallas World Aquarium, and were now sitting in a nearby restaurant. Amanda waved her French fry in the air, to punctuate her point. "I think my favorite of all were all the different types of Toucans. Their bills were so colorful, it looked almost like someone painted them."
Lex took a bite of her steak, chewed, and swallowed. "I know what you mean. Although, did you see the size of that crocodile? He was a big as one of our horses."
"No kidding. I can't believe all the different animals they had. I could certainly have done without the snakes, though. They were creepy."
"Yeah. To me, the only good snake is a dead snake. The monkeys were cool." Lex snitched a fry from Amanda's plate. "Those with the little white mustaches were cute."
Amanda slapped at Lex's hand. "Hey, watch it." She picked up another fry and offered it to her partner. "Here, piggy."
"Thanks." Lex smirked, but accepted and chewed the offering. "What do you want to do next?"
"Why don't we head back to the hotel? We can always take in a movie, later." Amanda wanted to heed the doctor's orders. "It's afternoon, so I can do one of the tests."
Lex blinked. "Uh, sure." She could feel her stomach turn, and hoped that her lunch didn't make a return appearance. The reality of what they were trying to do finally struck her, and Lex was feeling nervous about the outcome. She wanted Amanda to be happy, but she couldn't help but think about the dangers of pregnancy.
"What's the matter? Aren't you ready for this?"
"Of course I am. I guess I'm just a little nervous, that's all." Lex placed her napkin on the table.
Amanda mimicked Lex, and pushed away from the table. "I don't know what you're so nervous about. It's done every day."
"I know. I'm just worried about you." Lex placed enough cash on the table to cover their meal, and the tip. "Come on. I think I saw an ice cream place close to the hotel."
Following her lover, Amanda couldn't help but frown. This was the first time Lex had mentioned anything negative about her wanting to get pregnant, and she was concerned. The last thing she wanted to do was upset her. We're going to have a nice long talk when we get to the room, my love. I want to know what's going on inside that head of yours.
LATER THAT EVENING, Amanda was stretched out on the king size bed of their hotel room, waiting patiently for Lex to get out of the shower. She leafed through the television magazine to see what was on the pay per view channels. When the door to the bathroom opened, she placed the booklet on the bed beside her. "I found something I thought you might like."
"What?" Lex fluffed her hair dry with a towel. "Why is it that no matter what kind of place you stay at, none of them have ever heard of fabric softener?"
"I think it's so you don't get too comfortable, and want to live here." Amanda picked up the journal again. "Which would you rather see? A comedy, an action flick, or a love story?"
Lex draped the towel around her neck, which matched the one wrapped around her body. "Well." She kneeled on the edge of the bed, so that she could lean over her lover. "Since I'm already living the best love story there is, why not something light, like a comedy?"
"You say the sweetest things." Amanda wrapped her arms around Lex's neck and pulled her down for a kiss. Enjoying the contact, she lowered her hands and easily removed the towel covering Lex.
"I thought you weren't supposed to overdo it?" Lex found her resolve wavering, when Amanda's hand slid between their bodies. "Whoa." She rolled over to the side as her towel hit the floor.
Amanda immediately covered Lex's body with her own. "Don't worry," she said, before her mouth began to work its way down her lover's body, "I'll be gentle."
"Isn't that supposed to be my…oh, yeah." Lex closed her eyes.
"Yes?" Amanda grinned and went back to her pleasurable task, which was to see just how speechless she could make her partner.
"YOU CALL THAT gentle?" Lex asked, much later. "I think I pulled a muscle, or something."
Amanda rubbed her stomach. "Poor baby. You shouldn't have jumped like that."
"Your hands were cold," Lex complained. She rolled over and propped her head on her hand, so that she could look down onto Amanda's face. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Amanda traced a finger down her lover's face. "Would you like to talk about it?"
"Whatever is bothering you." Amanda watched as several emotions played across Lex's face. "Do you still want to have a baby? You seemed a little off kilter at the doctor's office."
Lex kissed the finger as it crossed her lips. "Of course I do. I guess I just can't help but worry." She sat up and ran a hand through her still damp hair. "You mean everything to me, Amanda. I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you."
Amanda scrambled into a sitting position in front of Lex. "Nothing's going to happen to me. Women get pregnant and have babies every day."
"My mother probably thought that way, too. But she died, having Louis." Lex shifted her gaze to the window, so she wouldn't have to see Amanda's face. She was afraid she'd break down, otherwise.
"Honey, please look at me." Amanda waited until she had Lex's undivided attention. "I know nothing's foolproof, but we can't go into this thinking that way. Everything's going to be fine. I have to believe that."
Lex swallowed the lump that had grown in her throat. Her rational mind knew that what Amanda said was true – childbirth was much easier now than it was during her mother's time. "Okay. But I still reserve the right to worry like crazy." She took Amanda's hands in hers. "And I plan on spoiling you rotten."
"You do, huh? I think that's something we'll have to argue about, when the time comes."
"We'll see." Lex brought Amanda into her arms. "You won't have a chance."
FOR FOUR DAYS, their schedule remained the same. Amanda would test in the mornings before Lex woke, then they'd get up and find something new to do. Since it wasn't often they had such free time together, they spent a lot of their time going to see different movies, and then have leisurely meals. They'd go back to the hotel in the afternoons, so that Amanda could test again, and usually spend the rest of the day either in their room, or prowling the hotel and surrounding area.
It was on the latest morning that Amanda stepped out of the bathroom, with her hands behind her back. She stood in front of Lex, who was on the edge of the bed, watching a baseball game. "Lex?"
"Hmm?" Lex rolled her eyes at the television, where the batter had just struck out. "What is it?"
Amanda brought out her right hand, which held her ovulation test strip. "There's two lines."
"Okay. Well, maybe you'll have better luck, tomorrow."
"No, I don't think so." Amanda placed the strip on the nearby dresser. "We need to make an appointment with the doctor's office for tomorrow afternoon." She watched as Lex connected the dots.
"It was positive?" Lex started to smile as Amanda nodded her head. "Whoo-hoo!" She jumped to her feet and gave her partner a bear hug. "That's great!"
Amanda allowed Lex to spin her around the room. "Easy there. We still don't know if it's going to take, or not."
"It will, sweetheart. I can feel it." Lex kissed her soundly. She felt Amanda's hands run through her hair. "It's going to work out, just wait and see."
Amanda looked into her eyes, which sparkled with happiness. "I'm starting to believe it, too."
THE FOLLOWING AFTERNOON found them back at Dr. Hamilton's office. Lex stood by Amanda's head, holding her hand tightly. Although they had been through the same procedure several times, in her mind, it never got any easier. She struggled to keep her hands from shaking, but wasn't successful.
"Honey, you're going to have to ease up a little. That's the hand I write with." Amanda could feel her partner tremble. She was trying to keep relaxed, but worrying about Lex's well-being made it difficult. "Lex, look at me, not the doctor."
Her eyes met Amanda's, and Lex nervously swallowed. "I'm sorry. It's just that—"
"We're done." Dr. Hamilton stood and removed his gloves. "Are you okay, Ms. Walters? You look pale."
Lex nodded, but was unable to speak. She hated that Amanda had to go through all of this, in order to have a child of her own. The thought of what the doctor had been doing, made her close her eyes. She didn't want to faint, like she did the first time. Lex felt Amanda's lips on her hand, and she opened her eyes. "Hi."
"Hi, yourself. Are you going to make it?" Amanda noticed that the color was coming back to Lex's face. Looks like you'll pass up your tour of the floor, this time. I'm glad, because I know how much that embarrassed you.
"Yeah. It's just a little warm in here." Lex used her free hand to wipe the perspiration out of her eyes. She turned her attention to the doctor. "So, is that it?"
"It is. Amanda, just relax on the table for ten to fifteen minutes, and then you can get dressed." He washed his hands at the sink and then turned back to the anxious couple. "Good luck, ladies. Let's hope we won't be seeing each other again, at least until you're ready for baby number two." He winked at them and left the room.
"What did he mean by that?" Lex asked, her stomach doing flip-flops again. "Did the two of you talk about something I don't know about?"
Amanda squeezed Lex's hand. "No, honey. I think it's just his way of telling us he hopes we're successful."
"Thank god." Lex pulled up a chair and sat next to her lover. "So, now we wait?"
"Yes. We wait."
SHERIFF CHARLIE BRISTOL sat at his desk, thumbing through a stack of paperwork he had managed to ignore for the better part of the week. He was just about to get up for a cup of coffee, when the phone on his desk rang. "Sheriff Bristol."
His secretary, Sarah, was on the line. "Sheriff, I have a Lieutenant Eades on the line for you. He says it's urgent."
"All right, Sarah. Put him on through." Charlie leaned back in his chair. "This is Sheriff Bristol. What can I do for you, Lieutenant?"
"Sheriff, we had several inmates break out of our maximum security facility this morning. We're trying to contact all the neighboring counties to alert them."
Charlie found a notepad on his desk and slid it toward him. "Thanks for calling. How many are there? Do you have names and descriptions?"
"There were three. You should be getting the information sheet by fax, any time now." Lieutenant Eades cleared his throat before continuing. "You might also want to notify your deputies that these men are armed and dangerous. They broke into a sporting goods store on their way out of town, and have three hunting rifles, as well as two shotguns."
A knock on Charlie's office door interrupted the call. Sarah stepped in and waved a handful of papers. Charlie motioned her forward. He took the papers from her and quickly glanced at them. "I was just handed the faxed papers, Lieutenant. Do you have any idea what type of transportation they're using? There's nothing here about that."
"They were last seen in a gray van, but we found that abandoned in Parkdale. We have several officers in route to see if they can get a lead. I'm afraid they may make it into some of your southern rural areas before we pick up their trail."
"All right. I'll gather what men I can, and put them on horseback. It's the easiest way to trek through that part of the county. Thanks for calling." He placed the receiver back on its base and rubbed his eyes, before speaking to Sarah. "Tell Jeremy to fully arm and take half a dozen men out to Lex's. We're going to have to borrow some horses. I'll call ahead and let her know. Then I'll follow them out."
Sarah nodded. "Will do, Sheriff. Is there anything else you need?"
"No, that should be it, at least for now. Thanks." He picked the phone up again and dialed a familiar number. "Hi, Martha. Is Lex around?"
"I believe she's outside with Amanda and Lorrie. Let me run out and see." There was the sound of the phone being set down on the counter.
Charlie read the fax while he waited for Lex to come to the phone. This was one conversation he was not anxious to have.
THE MID-AFTERNOON sun warmed Amanda's back as she watched Lorrie play in the sandbox. She rolled her eyes as the toddler tossed handfuls of sand into the air, giggling as it drifted all over herself. She turned her head as Martha sat beside her on the padded glider. "Hi. You look worried. Do you have any idea why Charlie wanted to talk to Lex?"
"No, he didn't give a reason, and that's what concerns me." Martha couldn't help but chuckle at Lorrie's antics, as the child squealed for joy. She continued to throw sand into the air, while more and more of it settled into her dark hair. "It's going to take forever to get her clean. I swear, she's just like Lexie."
"You should have been out here, earlier. Lex was sitting next to her and Lorrie was trying to bury her with that little plastic shovel." Hearing the back door slam, both women looked up and watched as Lex jogged to the barn. "I wonder what that's all about?"
Martha patted her on the leg. "I'm sure we'll find out soon enough."
Lorrie saw her favorite playmate run past them without a word. "Wes pway?" she asked Amanda.
"No, baby. I'm sorry. Momma Lex has to work." Amanda went to pick up the pouting child. "Let's go take a bath. I'm sure we can talk Mada into helping." Lorrie had begun calling Martha by the name Lex had given her as a child, without any prompting from anyone. Martha was thrilled by the moniker and had gladly taken up the role as the little girl's grandmother.
"Of course I will. What better way to spend the afternoon than to watch this little sprout play in the water?" Martha followed Amanda into the house, although her heart was secretly with the woman in the barn. "I don't like the looks of that."
LEX FINISHED SADDLING up the last horse when Roy came in to help. She had called him from the house, to have him bring up several men and horses from the stables at the bunkhouse. "Is everybody ready?"
"Sure are. They're armed, too, like you asked." Roy took the reins of two of the horses and led them from the barn. "Lester packed some supplies for everyone, just in case. Any idea how long we'll be?"
"Nope. Charlie doesn't even know we're going, yet. But since we know the area better than his deputies, I figure he'll take any help we can give." Lex handed Thunder's reins to Chet, who stood nearby. "I'm going back up to the house for a minute to get a few things. Anybody need anything else?"
The four men shook their heads. They spent the time waiting, by checking the horses' gear.
Lex clomped into the house and paused at the downstairs bathroom door. "Hi." She went in and kneeled by the tub, next to a damp Amanda. "Who's supposed to be taking the bath?"
"Watch it, or you'll be next." Amanda flinched when Lorrie slapped at the water. "Lorrie, stop that."
Martha stood from where she sat on the closed toilet seat. "I'm going to go check on the laundry." She could tell there was something on Lex's mind, and decided to give the women their privacy. Neither noticed when she left the room.
Amanda saw the concerned look on Lex's face. "It's serious, isn't it?"
"Yeah. Charlie and a few of his deputies are on their way out here. Evidently there are some escaped prisoners, and they think they may be headed this way. He wants to borrow our horses to check out the southeast properties."
Feeling a trickle of fear, Amanda turned her attention back to Lorrie. She ran a washcloth across the child's shoulders. "And? What else aren't you telling me?"
Lex trailed her fingers through the warm water, afraid to look into her lover's eyes. "He doesn't know it yet, but me and a few of the guys are going with them."
"What?" Amanda turned and stared at her partner. "Are you out of your mind? What made you even consider doing something like that?"
Lex pulled her hand from the water and dried it on a nearby towel. "None of those deputies, or Charlie for that matter, know half as much about this area than we do. I can't leave them to wander around on their own." She traced her hand down Amanda's arm in a gentle caress. "Don't worry. A few of the guys are going to stay behind, and keep an eye out on the house. You should be perfectly safe, here."
"I don't give a damn about the house, Lex. What I do care about is you." Amanda pulled Lorrie from the tub and stood. She allowed Lex to wrap the baby in the towel. "Why are you going?"
"Because I know every inch of this ranch, and more about the neighboring ones than any of them." Lex tickled Lorrie under the chin, causing her to giggle. "Maybe you and Martha should take Lorrie to see your grandparents, at least until these guys are caught."
Amanda ruffled Lorrie's hair with the soft cloth. "Is Charlie that worried?"
"No, but I am." Lex took the toddler from Amanda, so she could drain the tub. "From what little he said, these guys are bad news. I'd feel a lot better if all of you were someplace safer." She followed Amanda from the room and up the staircase. No words were spoken between the two for several minutes. They trekked to Lorrie's room, where Lex dressed her. "Are you going to say anything?"
"What else is there to say? You've obviously made up your mind, without my input." Amanda took the damp towel to the bathroom, where she hung it over a rod to dry. As she came out, she could hear the sound of several cars driving around to the back of the house. "It sounds like they're here." She blinked the tears from her eyes, determined not to cry.
Lex stood in the middle of the room, holding Lorrie close. She kissed her on the head before handing her back to Amanda. "Will you please promise me to go into town?"
Amanda leaned into her lover as Lex pulled them to her. "I promise." She lifted her head. "But only if you promise to take your phone, and call me when you can."
"Of course I will, sweetheart." Lex kissed Amanda on the lips. "Walk me down? I need to go into the office for something."
"Sure." Amanda took Lorrie, who reached back for Lex. "I don't think she wants you to go."
"Wes, me!" Lorrie struggled against Amanda's hold. When Lex brought her close, she snuggled into her shirt and held on.
Lex led them from the room. Once they were in the office, she handed the baby back to Amanda. "Here, Lorrie. Go back to Mommy Amanda." They had added the more familiar names when they returned from Dallas, in order to ease Lorrie into using them. Once Lorrie was safely ensconced in Amanda's arms, she took a key that hung next to a locked door. Opening the gun closet, Lex took a revolver, checked to see if it were loaded, and clipped it to her belt. She then grabbed a hunting rifle and two boxes of shells.
"I don't like this." Amanda watched Lex close and lock the door, replacing the key back on the high nail.
"Neither do I." Lex pulled back the bolt on the rifle. Satisfied that the magazine was full, she pointed it to the ground away from Amanda and Lorrie. "But I'm not taking any chances." She grabbed her satellite phone from its charger on the desk and placed it in its holder on her other hip.
Amanda followed her to the back door and watched Lex place her hat on her head, and drape her duster over one shoulder. "Be careful."
"Always." Lex kissed her lover, then kissed Lorrie. "Don't stop for anyone on the way into town, no matter what."
"I love you." Lex bit her lip to keep it from trembling. As much as she wanted to help Charlie, a large part of her wanted to stay behind with her family. "We'll stick around until you ladies take off."
"Thanks." Amanda pulled Lex back to her and kissed her again. "I love you. Please hurry back."
Lex nodded, not trusting her voice anymore. She left the house before she could change her mind.
CHARLIE ARRIVED JUST as Martha and Amanda pulled away. He waved at the retreating car, then turned his attention to the group near the horses. "Lex, what's the meaning of this?"
"We're going with you, Charlie." Lex climbed into the saddle, while her men did the same.
"Oh, no, you don't. We can manage just fine by ourselves." He took the reins of a bay gelding from Jeremy. "Why didn't you stop her?"
Jeremy shrugged his shoulders before hoisting himself into the saddle. "She had a valid point, Sheriff. I thought I'd leave it up to you."
"And what point was that?" Charlie asked Lex.
Lex brought her horse up next to him. "You're going to need guides. We can help you cover more ground, and show you some of the places those guys might hide."
Damn. I hate to admit that she's right. "Fine." He studied the gathered group. "It looks like you're all equipped. I assume everyone here knows how to handle their firearms?"
"Don't worry, Charlie. We're all more than capable." Lex pulled her hat down to shade her eyes. "Anything else?"
"Yeah." Charlie led his horse over to his car, where he took something out of a briefcase. He handed each civilian a badge. "Consider yourselves duly deputized." Once everyone pinned the items to their clothing, he shook his head and said under his breath, "I hope I don't regret this."
Lex, who had heard him, leaned over her horse's neck. "You won't. We're not about to take any unnecessary chances, I promise."
Charlie quickly mounted. "I'll hold you to that." He waved to her. "All right. Lead away. I want everyone in pairs, and each of your men with a deputy." He pursed his lips when Lex tipped her hat and spun her horse around. "Smartass kid."
To be continued in part 3
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