By Colleen


General Disclaimer: This is an alternate uber story. The physical descriptions of the two lead characters may remind you of two others we all know and love, but all characters in the story are from my own imagination. This story is an original work and is copyrighted by the author. It cannot be sold or used for profit in any way.

Love/Sex Disclaimer: This story depicts a loving relationship between two consenting, adult women and contains scenes of intimacy, but nothing too explicit. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

Author's Note: This is the third story in the Jamie and Erin series. You might want to start at the beginning with At First Sight and Seeing You Again for the First Time to get the full impact of this story.

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Chapter 5

Erin pulled into the gravel lot and was careful not to park under any of the low hanging trees that lined the large, relatively square area. She turned down the volume on the CD player and leaned forward on the steering wheel, studying the old, single-story, dilapidated building that sat before her. "Wonder why someone hasn't torn down this old eye sore before now?" she pondered. A faded 'for sale' sign on the front door hung by one corner on a rusty nail and twisted in the breeze. Erin's eyes dropped to the watch on her left arm, noticing that she was about ten minutes early. With a shrug she stepped out of the car. "Might as well have a look around," she said. The loose gravel scraped together and turned uncomfortably under the soles of her boots. Definitely gonna have to blacktop this, she thought.

Over the summer Erin had discovered that the medical facilities of the surrounding area were sadly lacking. The one tiny clinic there was offered a staff that was morally insufficient and sadly intolerant, not to mention that it was ill equipped for emergencies. The nearest major hospital was over forty minutes away and she found that fact appalling. It didn't take much thought for the author to decide to fulfill the town's need for upgraded health care by financially supporting a brand new clinic with a well educated and caring staff. Her motives were not totally unselfish though. Erin expected to live in the area with her family for many, many years to come and if the need should ever arise, she wanted to make sure they would be well taken care of.

The sun balanced out the cool, fall breeze that fell against her face as she walked the perimeter of the gravel lot. She tried to envision how the area would look when all the construction was finished. That point was seven or eight months down the line, but Erin looked forward to it with anticipation. At least it will be done before I'm ready to have a baby. That thought brought a happy grin to her face as she headed back toward her car.

Using her shirtsleeve, Erin buffed away a few fingerprints from the maroon colored finish on her brand new Jeep Liberty. She'd picked up the car with the gray, leather interior when she and Jamie were in L.A. at the doctors and she was still in that new car haze, wanting it to remain pristine for as long as possible. After all, it was her first new car in six years and she had the right to a little pride.

Erin looked up at the sound of a honking horn and she waved at the woman behind the wheel as the car came to a stop right next to her.

An appreciative whistle left the driver's lips as she got out and surveyed Erin's new vehicle. "Nice one," said Dr. Anne Carson. The doctor was Erin's long time friend and the author had asked her to head up the new medical facility. They were both very anxious to get their new project started.

Erin nodded. "Thanks. You know, if you're going to move up here, you're going to have to get something a little more practical." She patted the hood of her friend's little, yellow sports car.

The doctor got out of her vehicle and gently closed the door. "I know, I know," she said. "But I can't get rid of my baby. She's a classic."

Erin laughed and shook her head.

Anne gave her friend a hug. "So where is that spouse of yours today?" she asked.

"She's over in Carrolton getting some equipment for the ranch. She won't be back until late tonight."

"And how's married life treating you?" Anne asked as she slipped off her sunglasses.

Erin smiled as the 'm' word brought her an inner warmth and giddiness, which lovingly rippled through her insides. "Absolutely fantastic. I highly recommend it."

Anne, not so smoothly, changed the subject as she pointed to the old structure in front of them. "What do you think?"

Erin looked around again. "The location is perfect," she said, "right off the main road. It's pretty much central to the surrounding population. I think it'll work great."

"Yeah, that's what I thought. It's just the right size and plenty of available parking spaces. There's also a little side road right over there," said Anne. "I thought we could use that as the emergency entrance for the medi-van. That would put it right next to the lab. The only thing is the added expense of having to tear down this old thing and start from scratch. I was hoping to find some place that just needed remodeling, but I guess that was a lot to ask."

"Anne, don't worry about the expense. It's not a problem. I just want you to make sure you get everything that's needed to make this clinic the best it can be. What's wrong," she asked when her friend's curly head shook from side to side.

"I'm used to hearing from hospital admins," said Anne, "and that certainly isn't their attitudes. Oh they would always like to have the best, but I got so tired of hearing "not enough in the budget for that".

The two friends leaned against their respective cars and chatted for the next thirty minutes about the business venture. Anne said that she already had final blueprints and had hired a contractor. All that was left was for Erin to sign the final contracts since she was the principal financial provider. They had quickly decided to do that first thing Monday morning. Her lawyer had already singed for the purchase of the property when Erin was away on her honeymoon.

With all those immediate issues covered, the conversation turned to the future staff of the clinic, which they had decided to name Evergreen Medical Center. The name wasn't derived from any sir name, but rather the location. The building was surrounded by, elegant blue green firs that reached for the clouds and rustled melodically in the breeze, hopefully creating a peaceful atmosphere for future patients and their families.

"I've already put out feelers for a lab technician," said Anne. "I think we'll be fine with just one. I'm pretty sure one of my friends at the hospital is interested in the job. He likes the idea of getting away from the city as much as I do." Anne hesitated and cleared her throat before approaching the next subject. "Leah has mentioned that she would like to be head nurse." She watched for a reaction from the blonde author, but didn't detect anything out of the ordinary. "She's very qualified," the doctor continued. "She has experience in emergency medicine and as a surgical assistant…and of course physical therapy. I think we will work together really well."

Erin laughed softly. "Anne, you don't have to sell me. I told you that you could hire who ever you want. You know best."

"Well, it's just…she wasn't sure how comfortable you would be with her working so nearby."

Erin cringed. "Did I really appear that jealous?" The author had definitely had a knot in her stomach when she first met the thirty five year old Asian woman who had once slept with her wife. But Erin thought she had gotten passed that. "I think Leah is a nice person and I'm sure a very good nurse. If you think she deserves the job then it's fine with me. I will assure her of that next time I see her. So how are the two of you getting along?" she asked with a sneaky smile.

Anne's brown eyes dropped, but she couldn't hide the grin that slid across her lips. She and Leah had felt an instant attraction when they had first met a month before. But she had been disappointed so many times in the past and while not afraid, she was very cautious about relationships. "We have been out a few times…a week," she added timidly. "She's really incredible and I have come to care about her a lot. But we're going slowly to make sure it's right before we get into that commitment phase. We've both been down that second date, I love you, but the relationship never lasts more that six months, road before."

Erin studied her friend's body language for a silent second then hedged her assumption. "But you're thinking it's gonna be right though, aren't you?" Their gazes met and Erin saw the truth.

"Yeah," Anne said. "I really want it to be. I want to have what you have with Jamie."

Erin stepped forward and gave the doctor a comforting hug. "I have every faith that it will work out for both of you. I want you to be happy."

Anne pulled back still holding on to Erin's hand. "Thanks. You are a really good friend Erin. I love you ya know."

Before Erin could respond, their attention was drawn by a muffled crash.

Both sets of startled eyes followed the sound. "That came from inside," said Anne. "I wonder what it was?"

"Don't know. Let's check it out." Erin grabbed a big flashlight from her car and they headed toward the door.

With Anne on her heels, Erin gingerly opened the door, which creaked on its rusted out hinges. Inside, the floor was littered with debris. They sidestepped old, nail-ridden boards, stacks of rotting paper and shredded burlap bags. Muted sunlight sprinkled bands of yellow across the floor through the broken windows and other holes in the crumbling walls. The musty air assailed their sense of smell and brought with it a reminder of what the old building had been used for. A fertilizer warehouse.

Anne rubbed a finger under her nose. "I'm really glad this isn't mid-summer," she said. "I'd hate to smell that stuff baked."

Erin nodded silently as they moved slowly forward. The eerie silence beneath the occasional creek and scurry of little rat feet was becoming unnerving…for the doctor.

"Are you sure we should be doing this Erin? Wonder if someone's in here, someone who doesn't want to be found?" The beam from the flashlight landed on her face.

"Like an escaped convict?"

The doctor shrugged. "Well, yeah."

Erin snorted a small laugh and walked on. "I thought I was the one with the creative imagination," she said. At the back of the building they eased into another room that appeared to have been an office. It was in the same state of disrepair with a broken chair lying on its side in the center of the small space. A long desk covered in inches of dust and more old office equipment lined the back wall. Erin ducked under some swinging black wires to move the chair aside. They didn't seem to be live with electricity, but she wasn't taking any chances. When the noise of her actions had quieted, a faint whimper caught her ear. She turned the light to the far corner and caught two eyes shining in the beam.

"What's that?" asked the nervous doctor.

Erin knew. "Move very slowly," she instructed as she cautiously approached, keeping her light just to the side of those eyes.

Reaching the back wall they both ducked down beside an old workbench and Erin shone the light into the dark space below it.

"Oh, it's a dog," said Anne.

"Those anatomy lessons did pay off," Erin commented dryly as she cautiously reached out with one hand.

"Be careful Erin."

"I don't think she's in any condition to hurt me," the author said as the beam of light illuminated the blood soaked fur along the dog's left front leg. The animal barely lifted its head and soulful brown eyes looked backward into the dark, toward its body.

Erin caught a slight movement at her side and moved the light. Her breath caught when she saw the four tiny puppies curled around the dog's belly, looking for a meal. The author jumped into action. "Don't worry sweetie," she told the injured mama. "We're gonna take care of you and your babies." She turned up to her friend who had done a fair amount of cooing at the young ones. "We have to get them to the vet," Erin said. "There is a box in the back of my car, Anne. We'll put the puppies in that."

The doctor nodded. "I've got a blanket in the back seat. We'll need to keep them warm." Her trepidation had suddenly vanished and Anne swiftly, but carefully navigated her way back through the old warehouse. She returned within minutes. "Here we go," she said handing Erin the soft brown cover. "What are we going to do about mama?" she asked as Erin gently placed each puppy inside the box on the warm blanket.

Erin dusted off her hands on the black fabric covering her thighs, thankful she'd worn her oldest pair of jeans. "Actually," she said, "I think she's helped us out with that." She flashed the light around the edges of the big dog. "She's already lying on this piece of canvas. We'll just use it as a stretcher and carry her to the car."

"That'll work. I'll take these guys out and be right back."

Erin took the time to study the tan and black face. Her eyes misted over as she saw the fear and pain in the big dog's brown eyes. "You're gonna be just fine," she said. Erin wanted to lie on a comforting hand, but she couldn't tell for sure exactly where the animal was injured and didn't want to cause her any more pain.

This was one time that Erin didn't give a flying fig if her new car got messed up. With all the patients loaded into the SUV, Anne drove them to the vet's office while Erin rode in back. She kept one hand at the edge of the ragged, dusty tarp as close to the mama dog as possible and the other inside the box, constantly stroking a tiny puppy head or belly.

* * * *

Almost two hours later, Dr. Chad Benson walked into his office wearing rumpled and lightly bloodied, green scrubs. He ran a hand through his thick, blonde hair and sighed.

"How is everyone?"

Chad smiled to ease Erin's worried expression. "They're all going to be fine," he told her. "Mama has a broken leg. I had to do a little surgery to fully repair it. She also had a few other cuts that had to be stitched. A car probably hit her while she was out getting food. I'm surprised she was able to make it back to the puppies."

"Thank God she did," said Anne, who had patiently waited with Erin for word on the dogs.

The vet walked over to a corner and poured some three-hour-old coffee into a dark mug. He tipped the cup in the ladies direction in a silent offer. Both declined just as quietly. "She's also a little malnourished and dehydrated," he said, "but in time she will heal completely. The puppies are only about three weeks old so they will need to stay here with her for a little while, but they all look like fighters. I'm sure they'll be fine too."

"What will happen to them when she is better?" asked Erin.

The vet scratched the side of his stubbly chin and took another sip of coffee. "She wasn't wearing any tags, but I'll check around town to see if she has an owner. I'm kinda hoping she doesn't." Chad looked away, but smiled. "Actually, I think mama and I have bonded already. Before I put her under the anesthesia she looked up at me with such trust in her eyes and then she licked my hand."

"You are easy," said Erin. "Is that all it takes to win your heart?" The gentle teasing brought a slight flush to the tall vet's fair skin. Erin had realized some time ago that the sweet man had developed a crush on her and she wasn't above playing with him just a little bit. It wasn't a difficult thing to live with because Chad had become a very dear friend to both she and Jamie and they both loved him as such.

The tall man cleared his throat, vanquishing the embarrassment. He met Erin's eyes and with a tiny smile and a nod he continued. "I'd like to keep her," he said of the dog. "She looks like a shepherd, collie mix and she's only a couple years old herself. I think she'll be a good friend."

"And the puppies?" Anne asked as she and Chad both eyed the author.

"I'm sure I can find them good homes," he said.

Erin finally grinned under the scrutiny of her friends. "Okay, okay. You know I want one."

Anne laughed and crossed the room, heading for the door. "Well, I'm thinking I may have to move up here a little sooner than I expected so I can have one too. Those little fur balls have a way of grabbing on to your heart don't they?"

* * * *

Later that evening, Erin stepped from the bathroom rubbing her short hair with a fluffy, white towel. Walking over to the window for a quick check out over the fields behind the house, she lowered the cloth to her shoulders and ran a brush through the damp strands. The night yielded just a few stars that sparsely dotted the black and she stood there for a few seconds thinking about her life. Things were good and she was feeling very blessed. There was a calm that had settled into her spirit and joy spiraled around her days. But most of all her partner was happy and as long as Erin could keep that a constant, she was happy. Looking forward to a future full of more of the same made her smile. Her eyes slipped shut and a contended sigh left her lips. The moment of contemplation over, Erin turned to toss her towel onto the bed. She jumped just a touch at seeing her wife standing in the doorway. But she immediately grinned. "Hi honey. When did you get home?"

Jamie walked into the room with her hands behind her back. She answered after a quick kiss. "Just a little while ago. You were enjoying your bubble bath so I didn't want to disturb you."

Erin settled onto the bed and with a nod, invited her partner to join her. "That was sweet," she said. Looking down at her wrinkled fingers she confessed, "I stayed in there a little longer than I intended. I kinda fell asleep."

Jamie sat down on the edge of the bed. One hand patted Erin on the leg, but the other remained mysteriously hidden. Her face held an odd grin. "That's okay," she said. "You must have had a hard day."

The author yawned slightly. "Not hard, but long." The curiosity finally got the better of her and she craned her neck to peek around the dark haired woman's shoulder. "What do you have behind your back?" she asked.

Jamie slowly revealed the item and giggled at the bug-eyed expression it garnered. The big bowl in her hand held one huge scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with butterscotch syrup, flanked on either side by two more mounds of chocolate ice cream slathered in chocolate fudge. The whole thing was topped with fluffy, white clouds of real whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate chips. "It's a hero sundae," she explained. As Erin dug into her sweet reward, Jamie reclined next to her wife and explained further. "I took a call from Chad a while ago. He told me all about how you saved a life…five lives actually. Everyone's still doing fine," she said around the scoop of cold vanilla that was spooned between her lips.

"Thank you," Erin said as she licked a dab of chocolate sauce from the corner of her mouth. "But I didn't do anything special. I'm just glad Anne and I decided to meet there today." Soft green eyes looked Jamie's way and a rarely seen dimple that only appeared with certain expressions graced Erin's cheek. "You should have seen those puppies," she cooed. "Honey, they're so small and they were so hungry. They were sucking on my fingers all the way to Chad's office, trying to get something to eat. As soon as he checked them out he let us feed them with these tiny little bottles." Her voice climbed an octave or two and she almost squealed. "They're just so cute."

Jamie accepted another spoonful as she watched her wife's delighted expressions. She tried hard to hold the smile threatening her neutral façade. "Chad also wanted to remind you that it would be three or four weeks before you can bring one home, but you can come and visit them anytime you want."

Erin swallowed and her eyes met the twinkling blue ones gazing up at her.

The atmosphere was heavy with the pause that followed.

Erin cocked her blonde head. "Busted?"

A wide grin finally split Jamie's features. She quickly brought her lips into contact with the sweet, cool ones belonging to her partner. "I guess we're going to get the first new member of our family."

* * * *

The moment was so quiet that it buzzed in her ear like an annoying insect. Then there was a rustling of paper and a shifting of muscles…her own. A slight flinch of her jaw at the subtle intrusion and her breath evened out in just a few heartbeats. The gold around her neck was worried between two fingers as its owner counted tiles in the ceiling. The action, not from nerves, but anticipation kept Erin centered and her heartbeat calm.

Wheels rolled across the beige tiled floor and the voice rose again. "Time to put you to work Jamie," said Dr. Hammond

The tall rancher stepped up, took the implement from the older man's hand and delicately cradled it in one palm as her thumb rested on the handle.

Erin's gaze quickly shifted to where her spouse stood at the other end of the table she was lying on. A smile spread across her face as she caught the blue-eyed wink.

Jamie slowly depressed the plunger, sending the donated baby makers on their important journey. Her eyes never left Erin's as she handed the syringe back to the doctor and moved to sit at her wife's side. Another crinkling of paper sounded as Erin shifted into a slightly more comfortable position.

The doctor gave them some brief instructions before leaving. "Erin, I'd like you to stay right here for the next thirty minutes then go home and take it easy for the rest of the day. And I'll see you in a few weeks. Good luck."

"Thank you Doctor."

"Yes, thank you," Jamie echoed after she forced her attention away from her partner's happy face.

They joined hands across Erin's belly and continued to watch each other silently. The blonde lifted her golden locket to her mouth and kissed it for luck. Jamie did the same and then continued the kiss upon soft lips.

"I guess we'll be adding that third picture this time next year," the tall woman said.

Erin took a shuddery breath. "I hope so."

Nothing else was said as Jamie's thumb rubbed gentle, little circles over the skin just below Erin's navel.

* * * *

The mid November days were still pretty mild, but the nights were definitely getting chilly. Jamie threw her damp towel into the hamper and padded naked into the bedroom, shivering as goosebumps drew up across her bare flesh. She rooted around in her dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of long, light flannel pants. The soft material slid easily over her clean, shaven legs covering her in their warmth. The comfort felt nice, she realized, as she pulled the drawstring tight over her stomach. Anxiety caused that organ to twitch just a little. After donning the matching shirt, Jamie walked over and got into bed beside her wife.

Erin had her eyes closed, but she wasn't really sleeping. Just as soon as the long body settled in next to her, she turned and snuggled in. All of her nice curves and niches melted into their proper places, sheltering them both with love. Funny, they hadn't really spoken much since they returned from the doctor's office that afternoon. There had been plenty of love exchanged through affectionate touches and kisses, but no real conversation about the event. They didn't want to jinx their chances at success.

"How are you feeling sweetheart?" Jamie asked, as she kissed the blonde head.

Erin's eyes remained shut as her head rested against Jamie's shoulder. "Fine," she said. "I was just saying a little prayer."

"Mmm, I will too."

Comfortable silence allowed them their respective verses, but they held tight to one another all the while. The green eyes finally opened and peered up at Jamie.

They both smiled.

More to come soon.

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