Seeing You Again for the First Time

By Colleen

 

Feedback can be sent to coleen30@webtv.net

 

I have also created a group for discussions of this, past and future stories. Maybe some sneak previews as well.

Join us at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/colleens_corner

 

 

 

Chapter 13

 

Erin peaked into the stove, checking on the seafood dish she had carefully prepared. Moving across the blue and white kitchen she hadn’t seen for several months, she began cutting up the various vegetables for the salad.

They had arrived at the beach house late the night before, after leaving her parents home. They had slept in one of the guest bedrooms and in the morning, Jamie had been given an abbreviated tour of her former residence. Erin wanted to keep certain places and plans for the evening secret, wanting to surprise her lover.

As she stood there preparing dinner and watching through the window, where Jamie was sitting on a blanket near the shoreline, Erin thought back to the previous night. Her father’s actions, while surprising, led her to feel that maybe they could salvage a close relationship.

Erin laughed as Artemis came up and nudged Jamie from behind and then ran off as if playing tag. The tall woman jumped up and took off after the barking canine, kicking up sand along the way. Erin checked the entrée one more time then headed upstairs to prepare the bedroom and to change.

Jamie had been restricted to the deck and the beach for a few hours while Erin prepared her surprise. The raven-haired woman had practically begged, but the blonde would not relent and the evening’s activities were kept shrouded in secrecy. She had gone for a nice long swim, gotten some sun and of course played with Artemis.

At the appropriate time she was allowed to come in through the front door where a note directed her to the upstairs guest bedroom where she found her evening attire laid out on the bed, right down to the shoes.

After showering and changing into the clothing, Jamie eased her way back down to the first floor, where she stopped to take a strong whiff of the enticing aromas coming from the kitchen. It was still early evening, about an hour before sunset, but all the curtains had been drawn bathing the living room in a soft orange glow. Jamie sat down on the couch waiting for her cue to enter. The mystery of the evening sent little tingles down her spine as she sat there contemplating what was in store for the rest of the night.

Her mind was caught up in the fantasy when she heard the clearing of a throat. She looked up to see a summer goddess come to life. Erin stood before her, adorned in a beautiful floral print dress. Jamie decided to take a much more in depth inventory of the vision in yellow. She started at the bottom where white sandals covered the small, and she had discovered, ticklish feet. Tanned, bare legs were displayed nicely beneath the short, but still modest hemline. The smooth, baby soft skin just begged to be caressed and that’s just what she had been doing in her previous little fantasy. And it is precisely what she intended to do in reality, not too much later. She continued her perusal up over the rounded hips and slim waist to the perfect breasts, where her mouth began to water. Delicate, white straps draped over the enticing shoulders and tied around the neck that she so loved to nibble. The smile that greeted the end of the anatomical tour brightened the entire room.

Jamie slowly stood without saying a word. She quickly glanced down at her own attire. The copper, silk shirt and simple black jeans made her feel drastically plain compared to her lover. She wondered why Erin had chosen them. With a mental shrug her eyes once again joined the emerald ones beckoning her closer.

"You must not be hungry for dinner now," Erin said as Jamie took a few steps toward her.

Dark brows furrowed. "Why do you say that?"

Erin slipped her arms around Jamie’s neck. "Well, the way you just devoured me…I thought…"

Jamie smiled and bent down to capture those full, slightly pink lips. "Oh baby, trust me, I am starved for whatever you have cooking in the kitchen…and for what you have simmering right here." Her hands drifted down Erin’s back to settle just above the lovely swell of muscle. "You are beautiful, in case you didn’t read my mind."

Erin wedged her hands into the back pockets of the tight, black jeans. "So are you." She nuzzled the neck that had been lightly doused with her favorite cologne. "I love you in jeans and the tighter the better." Erin gave Jamie another quick kiss and proceeded to lead her to the dining room.

"I guess a shopping trip is in order then, so I can stock up. After all, I have made it my personal goal in life to please you." She got a nice little hug for the sentiment.

The round table was covered in a beautiful, white, lace edged cloth. Two elegant, berry colored candles, softly illuminated the single orchid centerpiece and fine china and silver place settings completed the romantic atmosphere of the small, intimate room.

Jamie leaned down to smell the aromatic flower. "This is beautiful."

Erin watched her lover carefully as Jamie took in the room. But nothing happened. With a small sigh, the blonde went into the kitchen to retrieve the main course.

 

All through the seafood meal they laughed and talked like nothing had ever changed, like they were never separated for six months…like Jamie hadn’t lost all her memories of their time together. That is until…

After dinner, Erin led Jamie out onto the deck and up the stairs to the second level. She slipped into her bedroom, pushed a button and returned to find Jamie staring out across the ocean at the setting sun. She stepped into the open arms and laid her head against a strong shoulder. They both gazed at the slowly changing horizon. "The sky’s the limit for us," Erin said, echoing the exact words that had been spoken to her over a year before.

The two of them began moving to the music; one body swaying against the other in the warm summer air.

Jamie listened to the words of the song being played.

And I’m meeting you again for the first time

Two hearts, but one soul

Two halves are now whole

Cause you know who I am

And you know what I need

I’m safe in your arms

And you make me believe

My dreams heard your voice

There was no other choice

The first time I saw you

It all fell into place

The first time we touched

I saw in your face

My future is yours

I share my life till it’s through

I am complete now that I have you

"That’s a nice song," said Jamie as they continued to move in lazy circles. "Is it new?"

Erin stiffened slightly as another hope was dashed. Jamie pulled away and Erin quickly covered the sorrowful frown with a twitching smile. It was their song. It played on the first night they met. It played on so many special occasions after that first night. And it sang in Erin’s heart. But obviously it no longer played in Jamie’s.

"Are you all right?" asked the tall woman.

Erin lied. "Yeah. Come on, there’s much more."

Jamie stepped into the pale green bedroom and was pleasantly greeted with the scents of coconut and vanilla. A dozen candle flames flickered around the room casting pale shadows on the white walls in the otherwise darkened room.

Soon, her bare feet sunk into the plush carpeting as she followed the smaller woman to the bed where they slowly divested each other of their clothing. Their bodies melded together as they flowed into the bed, whispering words of love and devotion as hands followed suit. They made love for what seemed like hours, only stopping when exhaustion weakened their limbs.

After a candlelit bubble bath, Jamie was sent into the bedroom to wait patiently. But patience was a hard virtue for her to follow at the moment. She stood at the sliding door staring at the bright moon and its reflection upon the dancing waters below. She was rested after the bath and thoughts of the compact, but curvaceous body that she loved soon had her heart palpitating for more. She just knew that the night was long from over.

She didn’t have to wait long.

"I’m back."

Jamie turned and her eyes popped at the sultry vision leaning against the doorframe.

Erin wore a very short, flaming red nightie. The silken garment had lacey patches placed at very appropriate places-appropriate at least for the current activities.

The sexy blonde sauntered over to the drooling, dark haired woman. She lifted the food filled fork, from the small plate in her hand, and slipped it between the obligingly open lips. She chucked a knuckle under the stunned chin to initiate chewing. Erin then took a bite of the chocolate confection for herself, her eyes never leaving the blue ones that had drifted half closed in ecstasy.

"Don’t you have anything to say?" asked Erin.

"Delicious."

Erin laughed devilishly and kissed her lover thoroughly.

Jamie licked the sweet essence off of the lips that weren’t her own. "The cake’s good too."

They shared the rest of the dessert along with a vintage bottle of champagne and many more kisses. After that Jamie was treated to one of Erin’s wondrous massages, this time aided by the raspberry scented oil Erin pulled form the drawer of the nightstand. The treatment was graciously reciprocated and when the touches turned to caresses, the two oil-covered bodies were sent, once again to the special place where only they could dwell together in love.

 

 

Something awoke Jamie from a sound sleep. She blurrily glanced at the clock. It was 3:18. Her eyes snapped shut at the thought of the late hour and she turned over to snuggle with her favorite body. But her hand fell onto the cold mattress. The dark head lifted from the pillow and she reached up to rub tired eyes. She then saw the silhouette standing by the sliding glass door. It was open just a touch and the salty, ocean air wafted in. Jamie kicked her legs over the side of the bed. "Erin," she called softly as she grabbed for her robe.

The blonde head didn’t turn at the sound of the voice. "I’m okay Jamie. Go back to sleep."

The tall woman pulled her into an embrace from behind. "If you were all right, you wouldn’t be standing here in here middle of the night."

Erin was glad that the breeze had dried the few tears she had just shed as the dark head settled next to hers.

"What’s wrong Sweetheart?"

"Nothing. I’m just…nothing. Let’s go back to sleep."

Jamie followed Erin back to the bed, but instead of climbing in, she sat on the front end of the mattress.

"What are you doing?" asked the author.

"I won’t be able to sleep until I figure out what’s bothering you."

Erin crawled across the disheveled sheets to sit next to Jamie. She looked down by her feet and saw the red silk that had been passionately cast away hours earlier. She picked it up. "You didn’t remember any of it, did you?" she asked sadly.

"Remember what?"

"Everything. This whole evening. I recreated everything that we did the first night we made love. What we wore, what we ate, the candles and the bath. You bought this for me." She nodded to the garment in her hand. "You made everything perfect for me that night."

Jamie felt a pang of guilt. She pulled the blonde head to her shoulder. "I’m sorry Sweetheart, but I don’t remember. I’m glad that you remember though. And I’m glad I made you happy that night. Just like you made me happy tonight. And nothing will ever make me forget this time." The face with the small smile looked up at her in the dark. "I love you Erin."

"Love you too."

 

 

 

Things slowly fell into a normal routine for Jamie and Erin. The ranch was becoming more prosperous everyday. Jamie hired a contractor to make some much needed renovations and expansions to the current barn. She was also having two other buildings constructed, one nearby the main stable and one farther off, behind a stand of trees. The closer one would be a birthing stable for pregnant mares and the other one would house the stallions she planned to acquire.

Erin made great progress on her next novel and finally contacted Joseph Hudson, the producer of the movie being made from her first book. She explained the situation the best she could and he was gracious in his response, wanting her back in on the project before the final edits were made.

* * * *

One Sunday afternoon they went riding and took a picnic lunch. They got into a game of tag and Jamie ran off toward a group of trees. Erin bent to catch her breath as the dark-haired woman disappeared into the foliage.

"Jamie no, don’t go back there!" she yelled, suddenly remembering where they were. She took off as fast as her legs could go. She rounded the largest tree and there stood her tall lover, staring down at the gray stone marker that bore her name. It was barely visible through the tall grasses, having been forgotten when they returned from Ireland.

"I guess this is something most people don’t get to see," Jamie said jokingly.

Erin saw no humor in the situation. "I’m sorry. I never should have let them put this here. I knew…" She let her sentence drift off as she dropped to her knees and grabbed the polished, carved slab with both hands. Her features contorted as she tugged and pulled with all her might, trying to dislodge the deceiving stone from the ground. She was quickly turning blue in the face as she held her breath; her only sounds were grunts and moans behind her strength. Her knees dug into the ground, but the rock didn’t budge.

That had all happened before Jamie had a chance to register her actions. She ran and dropped to the ground beside her. "Erin stop."

But she didn’t.

"Erin, stop it, you’re hurting yourself!" She grabbed the scraped up hands and pried them away.

"It doesn’t belong here! You’re alive, you’re alive!"

Jamie rocked the distraught woman. "Yes, I’m alive. It’s okay; we’ll get rid of this. It means nothing now." She pulled the injured palms to her lips as she stared into the misty green eyes. Erin’s breathing calmed with one final sigh. "You okay now?" asked Jamie.

The blonde head nodded.

"Come on lets go. I’ll bring back a shovel and dig it up."

"No! You don’t have to do that. Tomorrow I’ll pay one of the construction workers to come out here and dig it up…and then pulverize it with a sledgehammer."

Jamie wondered if there would ever come a time when there weren’t reminders of her accident and disappearance around every corner. But it had only been a few weeks since they returned from Ireland. She realized that she shouldn’t expect any more miracles.

Jamie still hurt for the pain that her soulmate had experienced in those six months she was gone. She never asked any more questions after hearing the horrifying tale of Erin’s slip from reality, not wanting her to have to re-live the nightmare. But after seeing Erin’s reaction with the grave marker, Jamie was beginning to get a pretty good picture. And she hated every color and stroke on that canvas. She wished that she could take those memories from Erin’s mind and toss them away forever. Maybe all she could really do was hold Erin tight when she was upset, reassure her that they had a wonderful future ahead of them and pray that time would totally heal the wounds on Erin’s heart and her soul. Or maybe there was something else. But the single most important thing Jamie could do was to love Erin, every minute of every day of every year for a lifetime.

 

* * * *

That evening as Jamie cleared the table of the dinner dishes, she noticed Erin rubbing her sore hands. The blonde’s frantic reaction to seeing the tombstone had really startled Jamie. Of course she had no way of knowing how Erin dealt with emotional situations in the past, but after today’s incident Jamie’s worried mind scrambled for solutions.

She looked up again to find her lover gone. Jamie quickly checked the back porch, but found nothing. She tracked from room to room, calling out. Her heart sped up just a bit with panic as there continued to be no answer. One window in their bedroom overlooked the drive and Jamie saw that the car was still there and she knew Erin wouldn’t go riding alone, after dark. But then again after today…

The tall woman had covered every square inch of the house, except… Jamie ran down the hall to the back staircase, but instead of turning left and moving down, she turned to her right an ascended to a small, unused area. The narrow, claustrophobic stairwell led to a tiny alcove at the top of the old farmhouse. It was so small that it wasn’t even used for storage. Jamie knew she had found her prey as she followed the smaller footprints stamped out on the dusty steps. She turned the corner and there was Erin, sitting on the built in bench below the big curved window. The author made no acknowledgement of Jamie’s arrival, she just continued staring out over the huge expanse of landscape behind the house. Jamie let the silence continue for just a moment longer. "Erin," she said softly. "Are you okay? Why didn’t you answer me?"

Without looking at her, Erin reached out a hand to her lover. Jamie took the offering and joined her on the padded bench. "Did you ever wonder…?"

"Wonder what?"

The blonde hesitated. "Never mind."

"Erin, look at me, please."

The alert green eyes turned in her direction and soon filled with the smile that spread across her face.

Jamie grew even more concerned. The smile was relaxed and genuine, but it certainly didn’t reflect Erin’s actions of late. "Erin, I’m worried about you."

"About me, why?"

"After what happened today and just now, I mean you hid yourself in here and wouldn’t answer me."

Erin brushed her off with a snort. "I just came up here to think. I guess I didn’t hear you, that’s all."

"Erin, how many times did you see that counselor?"

Erin was bewildered at the sudden change of topic. "Only twice, why?"

"Only twice and that helped with everything you were feeling?"

The blonde head tipped to one side. "I didn’t feel comfortable talking to him about our relationship. I know therapists are supposed to be totally objective and not let their personal feelings interfere, but I just didn’t believe he had my best interests at heart. After the second visit, I was feeling better so I just never found a substitute."

"Honey, I think maybe you should go back to seeing someone."

"Jamie, I don’t need that. I don’t need anything else but you." Erin crawled into her lap. "You are here. You’ll always be here. You’ll never leave me again. I know that now, I’m fine." She sealed her statement with a searing kiss, effectively removing the topic of conversation from Jamie’s mind.

* * * *

Jamie had spent eight hours overseeing construction on the stallion barn. Of course that also meant she couldn’t resist getting her hands dusty and helping with a hammer or a saw wherever she could. She came home tired, dirty and aching. But it was a good ache. It came from living; moving forward with a life she had quickly come to love.

She was quickly sent to the showers with a good solid swat to her rear end after being mildly scolded for working too hard when she didn’t need to. But one kiss, even from smudged lips, was all it took to sooth over her lover’s temper.

Jamie stepped out of the steam filled bathroom with a towel draped around her neck. She ran her fingers through her short hair to smooth it down as she spotted a note, written in familiar handwriting, taped to the bedroom door. She remembered the last note she found and what interesting activities it led to.

She followed the instructions and went downstairs and out the side door, which was on the far side of the house and rarely ever used. A curious smile came to her face as she was greeted by a new square structure built from solid, seven foot high, redwood panels topped by lattice work, much to high for her to peak into.

A voice suddenly drifted over the top. "To your right," it guided.

Jamie followed the stone pathway to the entrance. She walked between the bypassing panels, which totally blocked any outside view. She stopped to just stare at the decadent blonde.

"Come on in," said Erin. "The water’s great."

The spacious hot tub bubbled and tendrils of steam drifted around her partner’s angelic face. Jamie dipped a single finger into the frothy water and asked non-chalantly,

"And just when did this get here?"

"Today. It was just luck that you spent all day across the field and I got to surprise you."

Jamie leaned her crossed arms on the tub’s ledged as more fingers played in the hot liquid. "Well, surprise me you did." Their eyes locked for many silent minutes; each daring the other to make the first move, but knowing that exquisite tension was building as neither said a word. Which would be the first to break? Who would win their little game?

Erin finally decided to make the sacrifice. Even if she lost, she won. "Are you just going to stand there all night or are you going to join me?" she asked. "I know your back must be…tight". She wriggled her body around in the comfortable seat, sighing all the while. "This heat will feel sooooo good."

"I don’t suppose you’re wearing anything under there?" Jamie asked the blonde head, which was the only thing visible above the waterline. The response was a set of teasing, pursed lips and a coy flicker of golden lashes.

"Uh, huh." Jamie shimmied out of her blue shorts and peeled the t-shirt over her head.

Very appreciative green eyes appraised the length of tanned landscape that climbed the three steps and came over the rim of the tub.

Jamie made several happy sounds as she sank into the warm depths next to her lover. She momentarily let her eyes drift shut as the heat enveloped her tired, stiff muscles. "I am going to have to find a way to thank you for coming up with such a brilliant idea," she said lazily.

After just a few minutes the steam caused water dots to form at her temples and the hair that had been on its way to drying was once again damp.

Erin reached up and licked away those lucky droplets. "Have I ever told you how sexy you are with wet hair?"

The blue eyes opened. "I don’t know, have you?"

Erin’s expression dropped and she looked back to the swirling water. "No," she confessed solemnly. "I guess I haven’t." She reached over to shut off the jets leaving them covered in calm water. "I’m hungry, how about you?" she asked as she started to leave the tub. A gentle hand on her arm stopped her.

"No, let me." Jamie stepped from the water and grabbed a robe from a nearby hook. She entered the house and shuffled to the kitchen where she explored the cabinets and the refrigerator. After filling a tray with a few leftovers and some fruit and cheese, she grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge. She made her way back outside, stopping momentarily to talk to the dog, who was content to stay inside chewing on her new rawhide.

Before stepping back inside the tub enclosure, Jamie peaked around the door. Erin hadn’t moved a muscle. She just sat there staring at the water with downcast eyes and a troubled expression. The dark haired woman had hoped that Erin’s moods were just a part of getting used to the changes in their lives and their relationship. She painted on a smile, knowing that she could do the same for her blonde friend. "Here come the goodies," she said setting the tray on a wide shelf connected to the tub.

"I know," said Erin, pulling out of her temporary funk. "but did you bring any food?"

Jamie giggled at Erin’s brassiness as she removed her robe and slid back into the water. There’s that smile, she thought to herself as she leaned over to kiss the button nose. "Oh yes. Food now, goodies later."

She insisted on feeding Erin pieces of the sharp cheeses and cold chicken. And since she had convniently forgotten utensils, fingers became the impromptu delivery method. Up until the last bite, which luscious lips delivered.

Once all the poultry and dairy products had been devoured, Jamie traced Erin’s cheek with a wet fingertip. "Satisfied?" she asked the relaxing blonde.

"Mmmm, that was good," Erin said lying her head back against the tub’s edge.

Jamie agreed. "Yes it was. How about some dessert?" She pulled away a white cloth that had been covering a fruit filled bowl. She lifted the glass dish between them. "Do these bring back memories?"

The water splashed into the dish and onto her partner’s face as Erin jerked upright. The flash of excitement waned immediately as she eyed the strawberries. "Oh, you mean Ireland."

Jamie used the discarded towel to wipe the fruit and her face. "Don’t sound so disappointed. I thought that was a pretty good night. Look where it brought us." She picked up a large berry and dipped it into the small dish of honey that she had brought along too. "Do you have any idea what I wanted to do that night when I was watching you eating these? Or how crazy you made me?"

"I got a pretty good idea when you kissed me."

Jamie held up the berry and let some of the golden sweetness drizzle into Erin’s mouth. Then those perfect white teeth nipped off the end of the tart fruit. Jamie slipped the rest into her own mouth. "Sweetheart, that only scratched the surface of what I wanted." She slowly descended upon Erin’s lips. "Let me show you what else I had in mind."

 

* * * *

The next Jamie drove out to the nearest veterinarian, which was nearly thirty minutes away. She wanted to enlist his services and put him on retainer for the ranch. Work on the new barns was moving ahead at a good pace and she was formulating her plans to start a breeding program.

She pulled up to the renovated home, turned office. The last open parking space in the small lot was next to an old red pick-up. The gravel crunched under her brown boots as she made her way up to the covered porch.

An older man was standing precariously on a chair hanging a new sign. He was obviously so engrossed in what he was doing that he hadn’t heard her pull in or walk up.

Jamie didn’t want to startle him and make him fall so she softly cleared her throat as she got closer.

He finally turned at the sound. "Oh! Hello there. Can I help you?" he asked, carefully stepping down from the chair.

"I’m looking for Dr. Cooper."

The white haired man dusted off his hand on his slightly less dirty overalls. "That’d be me," he said shaking her hand. "But call me Coop. Everybody around here does."

"I’m Jamie Sheridan." It still sounded a little strange to hear her own voice say that even after four weeks. She smiled at him. "Call me Jamie."

"Nice to meet you Jamie. Come on in and we’ll get acquainted." She had come to learn that nobody in the town was a business associate; everybody you met was your friend…or your enemy. Luckily everyone she had met so far fell into the former category.

Coop led her through the comfortable, cool waiting room. There she nodded at the three waiting patients-or more precisely to their owners. One was a little brown haired boy who held a white rabbit tight to his chest. He gave her a shy smile when she passed by. The phone rang and Dr. Cooper stopped to pick it up. Jamie took the opportunity to meet some more of the townspeople. She knelt down in front of the youngster who looked to be about eight. "Hi, I’m Jamie. What’s your name?"

"Billie," he answered timidly.

Jamie scratched one finger down the bunny’s furry back. "And who’s this?"

"Tinker. She isn’t feeling too good lately," he explained in a very worried tone. "But Dr. Coop will fix her up." Tiny wrinkles came to his forehead as his feature’s darkened. "Won’t he?"

Jamie took a quick glance down and noticed the pudgy white tummy. "Billie, do you have any other rabbits?"

"Yeah, why?"

From the corner of her eye, Jamie saw the woman setting two chairs down, smile knowingly. "I’m sure Tinker will be just fine."

The young boy obviously believed her because a smile came to his face and he rubbed noses with his pet, telling her that she was going to be okay.

Jamie rose to her feet as the other woman said in reference to the impeding bunny births, "And Dr. Coop will a few new patients."

Jamie smiled and agreed with a nod.

"I’m sorry Jamie," said Coop. "Come on back." He led her down a long hall and into a nice sized office.

She took a seat in the soft green chair and looked around. One wall was filled with photographs of what she assumed were his patients over the years. Another wall held his diplomas and citations. She wondered why he was taking so much time with her when he obviously had patients to see. She gave a mental shrug and continued her perusal. On his desk were several pictures of an attractive older woman with two young men and a young girl in a wheelchair.

"My family," he said smiling, when he noticed her admiring the picture.

"Very attractive group."

"That they are. What about you Jamie, any family? I don’t believe I’ve seen you around the town before."

"Well, I just moved here a while ago. I own the Sheridan stables up near Willow Lake."

"Oh yes. I saw your add in the local paper." He got up and poured himself a cup of coffee. "Would you like some?"

"No thanks." Jamie squirmed in her seat. Well here goes. I need to know how he feels about us. I won’t work with anybody who can’t accept our being gay. "Yes, my partner, Erin Casey and I bought the Phillips place. And we intend to make a life here together and raise a family, as well as build a business."

He sat back down and took a long sip of his coffee. "Sounds like a fine endeavor. I’m sure you and Miss Casey will enjoy the family atmosphere here in Atkin’s Ridge." He smiled to put her at ease.

"I’m sure we will," she said breathing a sigh of relief. "We would like to enlist your services for our animals. I’ll put you on retainer to make regular visits as well as any emergencies that might…arise." She hesitated, not liking the way he dropped his gaze from hers.

"Well Jamie, there is a problem with your request. I recently decided to take a partial retirement. And at this time I really don’t want to take on such responsibilities."

She nodded in disappointment. "I understand."

"But I do have a solution. Just two weeks ago, I hired a partner. Dr. Chad Benson was the first in his class at one of the most prestigious veterinary schools in the country. Now we don’t have all the modern technology here in this little place, but he has connections to all of that. Saw him bringing in that computer and about three dozen of those little things that hold all that information."

"Disks," she supplied helpfully.

"Yeah, that and an arm full of books. With his know how, he could have gotten a job anywhere in the big city, but when he wanted to work here, I knew he wasn’t in it to get rich; he loves the critters. And that’s what’s most important. I believe in him. If you’ll give him a chance I’m sure he’ll keep your animals in the best of health."

"Okay. When can I meet him?"

She hung around the office until Dr. Benson was free to talk to her. The twenty seven year old was tall and muscular. She knew he would certainly have the strength to contend with an ornery stallion or an agitated mare in labor. His blonde haired, green-eyed good looks would have certainly stirred some attraction if her lifestyle had been different; she did seem to have a thing for that particular combo. He spoke eloquently and intelligently. Not to mention displaying a genuine concern for the animals.

Jamie drove away, content in the knowledge that she had made the best possible choice in veterinary services.

Erin’s birthday is less than two months away. I’ve got to think of something special to do for her. I wonder what I did last year? I certainly can’t ask her. She gets moody every time I mention not remembering. That is still the one odd thing between us. I wish… Jamie’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted when she came around a curve in the road and saw a woman wildly waving her down.

 

* * * *

 

Erin lifted the wooden spoon to her mouth and tasted the red sauce. "Hmmm, not too bad," she said. But no one besides Artemis was in the room to hear. She picked up two spice jars and added just a pinch of the garlic and two dashes of an Italian blend. She stirred and took another taste. This time she merely nodded an affirmative opinion. After adjusting the fire under the huge cooking pot, Erin returned to her seat at the small round table and went back to clicking the keys on her laptop. She had spent the last hour going back and forth between cooking and writing. She even managed to do a load of laundry along the way. Multi-tasking had become a welcomed skill since she now had more than just herself to care for and one that she was becoming proficient at.

She heard the clicking of nails against the polished wooden floor and looked down when a furry chin planted itself on her thigh. Erin glanced up at the clock on the wall. "How do you do that?" she asked the canine. The answer was a subtle shifting of skin over the big brown eyes. "Uh huh. I think your other mommy has been teaching you a few things behind my back." She walked into the pantry, grabbed a big scoop from a hook on the wall and reached down into the large bag. Erin dumped one scoop full of dry nuggets into the dog dish. Artemis looked down at it and whimpered. "I know, I know," she said reaching for the can opener. "I’m not done yet." Once Erin had added the eight-ounce can of tender meat bits and tasty gravy, she stirred them together and the dog wolfed it down in a matter of minutes.

"That reminds me," she muttered. The author sat back down at the table and switched from her word program to a daily calendar on her laptop. The next week Erin was going to New York to see an unfinished version of the movie that was made from her novel, The Noah Factor. She had finally regained some interest in the project now that her life was happy again. The big premiere was in November and she planned to be there, proudly walking down the carpet with Jamie by her side.

She clicked in a couple of meal menus for the two days she would be gone. She intended to prepare them ahead of time for Jamie so her tall lover wouldn’t stuff her face with junk food. Jamie wouldn’t be able to go with her because she had a meeting scheduled. They were both a little antsy about the trip because it would be the first time they would be separated since they found one another again. Jamie had offered to cancel her plans and although Erin’s first impulse had been to scream yes, she knew it wasn’t fair. Jamie had business to attend to, just as she did.

A few minutes later the phone rang. "Hello." There seemed to be on one on the other end, but she tried again. "Hello."

"Oh, I’m sorry Dear, your father called me from the other room."

"Hi Mom. How have you been?"

"Oh, busy, Sweetheart, busy. Which is why I called. I’m giving your sister a surprise anniversary party on Saturday. I’m sure you and Jamie will want to come."

Shoot. I forgot.

"Are you still there Erin?"

"Yeah Mom, I’m here. I was just kicking myself for forgetting it was their anniversary."

"It is understandable Erin, you have had some other things on your mind lately."

"Yeah, but… What can I bring?"

"Well, I was hoping you would make a couple of those wonderful chocolate cakes with the white chocolate filling. You know how much your sister loves it."

"I can do that Mom. Anything else?"

"I don’t think so Dear, but I’ll give you a call if I think of anything."

"Okay. Bye Mom."

 

The front door opened and Jamie called out for her partner.

"I’m in the kitchen, Babe," answered Erin. "Now I’m in the hallway." She turned the corner. "Now I’m in…" Green eyes went wide when she saw the blood soaked shirt and pants. "Oh my God!" She ran toward the woman still standing by the door. "Jamie, what happened? Where are you…."

"It’s not mine," said Jamie adamantly. "I’m okay Sweetheart. None of it’s mine, I promise."

Erin panted, calming her racing heart. She couldn’t say a word; she just threw herself into the arms of her lover, regardless of the state of Jamie’s clothing. They held on tight.

"I’m okay," Jamie assured once again. She went on to explain that she stopped to help a neighbor who had been badly injured in an accident.

Erin escorted her up the stairs and proceeded to strip her lover of the gory garments. All the while, Jamie was thinking about the part she didn’t necessarily want to tell Erin.

She had run up to the man lying on the ground, moaning in agony. Her insides had clinched several times and a wave of dizziness swarmed her as she saw the blood pooling on the ground and the shards of white bone that had pierced his skin below the knee. His arm was bent at an odd angle and blood was spread across his forehead and down the side of his face. It wasn’t so much the sight of his injuries that had disturbed her, but the memories it had invoked about her own severe traumas and subsequent recuperation.

Jamie did go on to explain that the only emergency transportation in the area had already been on a call twenty miles away at the sight of a car accident. She also found out that the nearest clinic was not equipped to handle emergencies requiring major surgery. Jamie and the nearly hysterical wife had managed to strap him to a board and load him into her SUV. She knew that moving him was a very bad thing to do, but letting him lie there bleeding to death was not an alternative. She drove them forty-five miles to the nearest hospital, which was still small, but the staff seemed more than competent. She stayed around until she found out that he would indeed survive.

* * * *

Erin was concerned that Jamie had been unusually withdrawn during dinner, but given the day’s experiences she understood. The tall woman declined the idea of watching a movie. Instead she grabbed a beer and headed for the back porch.

By the time the fireflies had appeared across the darkening field, Erin thought it was time to intervene. The screen door squeaked as she exited the kitchen. "Mind if I join you?" she asked.

Jamie looked up and smiled. "Sure." She nodded her head indicating the empty seat next to her.

Erin slipped under the outstretched arm and settled onto the red striped cushion. Jamie used her longer legs and pushed against the cement, setting the swing in motion. Back and forth they went, silently watching as the night draped its cloak of black over the green pasture.

The blonde turned to her side as the fingertips kept caressing her shoulder. She placed her hand over the flat stomach and rubbed gently. "Are you okay?"

The dark head turned with a surprised expression. "Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?"

"Well you hardly said two words during dinner."

Jamie reached over and kissed her forehead. "I’m sorry Honey. It was delicious."

Erin softly chuckled. "I wasn’t fishing for a compliment. What happened today really bothered you, didn’t it?" she asked after a short pause.

"Well, I hate to see anyone injured." The dark head shook. "No, it didn’t bother me, it just…reminded me. Spooked me a little at first. It also brought to my attention the only bad part about living here, so far away from the city. Medical care is so inadequate. If something were to happen…"

"I know. I’ll check in with the local officials and see what can be done about improving emergency personnel and equipment."

The wooden swing creaked a little as it swayed keeping up with the chorus of insect calls coming from the surrounding grasses and trees. The hazy half moon was rising in the early evening sky.

Jamie silently offered Erin the last few sips of her beer.

The blonde swallowed the golden liquid and rotated the empty bottle between her fingertips. "Jamie. We’re doing okay, aren’t we?" she asked timidly.

"Sure we are." Was the simple reply.

"Because you would tell me if something else was wrong…wouldn’t you?"

"I would. I found us a new vet today," she said with a quick change of subject.

Erin scooted back into the warm body beside her. "Doctor Cooper?"

"No, his new partner, Chad Benson. His credentials really impressed me. He’s a couple years younger than us and he graduated top of his class."

The night continued on in conversation until the late hour drew them back inside and into their comfortable bed, where disjointed dreams visited the sleepers. The seemingly senseless visions brought one smiles and joy and the other a peak into a wounded psyche where darkness dwells and fear reigns with a cruel fist.

More to come soon.

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