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 14

 

Thud. Thud. Jamie set the two lightweight dumbbells on the floor beside the padded bench. She grabbed the white terry towel and quickly dabbed at the perspiration sliding down the side of her face. A long drink of cool water followed as she took just a tiny break in her new exercise routine. She’d only been working out for about twenty minutes and already she felt like she’d run a marathon. I wonder what kind of routine I had before, she thought absently. Probably a lot longer than thirty minutes and I could probably lift more then four-pound weights. Jamie nudged the blue, plastic coated barbell with the toe of her shoe. "Oh well," she shrugged, speaking to nothing but thin air. "I’ll never get any where just speculating. Back to work." She walked over to the corner and stepped up onto the machine. She flipped on a switch and her shoes kept pace with the moving black, rubber belt. Jamie set the treadmill at a slow pace to start with, but just three minutes later she turned it up notch to a more vigorous walk. She closed her eyes as she kept walking, going over her schedule for the day. She had a meting with two prospective clients and Dr. Benson was coming over to check out the new facilities and to give Teegan and Simeron their annual vaccinations. She figured that would take her right up to the time to get dressed and make the two-hour drive to LA for Bridgett and Brad’s anniversary party.

She was only allowed ten minutes on the treadmill and since she had gone at a little faster speed than she was told, Jamie thought she shouldn’t push it too much. Twenty easy crunches later and she guzzled down the rest of the now, warm water.

Jamie sat on the cushioned floor mat, arms resting against her bent knees, mentally reviewing the list her therapist had given her. A few slow, easy stretches and I’ll be… Her thought was abruptly halted when she felt warm lips descend upon her neck. Jamie moaned deep in her throat and tilted her head to one side, presenting her sensuous assailant with a taught expanse of tanned skin.

Erin silently kissed her way down the reddened scar and then back up, stopping to nibble on a tender earlobe.

Jamie’s breath hitched in her chest as she reveled in the sensation. But her sensible mind reached down and grabbed her by the libido. "In case you hadn’t noticed, Sweetheart," she said as teeth joined in the feeding frenzy. "I’m all sweaty."

Erin stopped just long enough to get the words out. "And your point is?"

"My point is…" Jamie thought long and hard. Oh yes, that’s it! In one quick move Jamie pivoted her long body and gently pushed her lover to the soft surface beneath them. After several long, smoldering kisses she was finally able to verbally complete her thought. Jamie pulled back to focus on those enchanting green eyes. "My point is…I love you. And if you love me enough to get this close when I smell like yesterday’s barn, then who am I to deny you."

Erin ran her fingers through the damp, dark hair. "I knew you were a smart woman. And practical too."

The question of why popped into Jamie’s head, but it was fleeting as those pink lips begged for more attention.

* * * *

Doctor Chad Benson stepped out of his shiny, black pick-up truck. He grabbed a heavy duffle bag from the back and walked up to the house. He heard the dog bark just before his beefy fist rapped on the wooden door. A muffled voice from inside the house hushed the dog as the door opened. The petite blonde stopped short of opening the screen partition until he introduced himself. "I’m Dr. Benson," he said with a small smile. "I believe Jamie Sheridan is expecting me."

She now returned the smile and invited him in. She took his offered hand. "Yes, she is. I’m Erin Casey. Jamie is in the barn. I’ll take you out."

Benson followed her to the kitchen where he finally saw the big dog sitting by the back door. "Will this be one of my patients too?" he asked, stopping a few feet away.

Erin chuckled and reached out to sooth the cautious canine. "Yes. This is Artemis. I’ll have her records for you before you leave." She held the door open and motioned Arte to go on through. "She’s my former guide dog," Erin explained, "and she’s still very protective. But Arte is very sweet and she will warm up to you once you’ve been around a few times."

His eyes landed on hers a she looked back. "I’m looking forward to that," he said.

Erin stopped at the back gate and pointed to the big barn. "Jamie is out there somewhere. Just give her a call."

He stopped by her side before passing through the gate. "It was a pleasure meeting you Erin. I hope we will have a chance to talk again."

"Yes, I’m sure we will." Erin headed back to the house without giving the tall vet a second thought. Her mind was on the rest of the day’s activities.

* * * *

It was three in the afternoon as Jamie stepped into her second shower of the day. The first one was expedited by a second pair of hands helping to scrub her from head to toe, but this time she was all on her own. The absence of the soft flesh that had temped her soapy hands earlier let her concentrate on her main goal of cleanliness. She was already running late. She had spent far more time with the new vet than she had anticipated, but their shared love of horses led them into long conversations about his lifelong experiences and her very short singular one at the rehabilitation center. Jamie was sure she had made a new friend in the tall, good-looking man.

Dried and dressed in a red silk blouse and dark slacks, Jamie walked into their bedroom to find Erin sitting at her dressing table fiddling with a chain of some sort. "Can I help with that?" she asked, leaning down, looking at her lover’s reflection in the mirror.

Erin smiled as she always did when that face came into her view. She silently handed the necklace to Jamie, who brought the golden piece up for a closer inspection. She opened the locket to find an absence of pictures then snapped it shut again. "This is nice." Jamie recognized the design as Celtic. "Did you get this in Ireland?"

The face in the mirror melted into a pronounced frown. She couldn’t meet the questioning blue eyes. "You…you gave that to me for Christmas," she explained solemnly. Erin intentionally left out the part about the third attachment being for their future child. They certainly hadn’t discussed the subject since getting back together. She wasn’t even sure how this new Jamie felt about having children. Erin’s gaze dropped to the hand carved music box that sat on the tabletop. They also hadn’t discussed getting married, thought Erin as she remembered her engagement ring encased in the red velvet bag and tucked into one corner of the small box. She suddenly felt the cool metal settle onto her upper chest and the warm hands that soothingly rubbed her shoulders. Erin got to her feet and was enveloped into a loving embrace. ‘I’m sorry’ was whispered into her ear and she looked up with a tiny smile.

Jamie kissed her softly. "Not for giving that to you," she further explained. "But for not…" She couldn’t bring herself to say the word anymore. "It’s beautiful on you. And you look absolutely gorgeous."

"Thank you. I love you."

"I love you too," said Jamie.

The morose subject was quickly changed by both of them as they put the finishing touches on their attire, secured the house and set out for LA.

* * * *

The party was in full swing by six thirty. Jamie was making her second trip through the incredible buffet, grabbing more tasty morsels for Erin as well as for herself, including two pieces of the luscious chocolate cake that Erin had spent the morning baking.

In between meetings that morning, Jamie had come back to the house to visit her partner. Their early morning interlude had plastered a smile on her face and she needed a few more kisses to get her through the rest of her workday. Those plans however, were put on hold as the sweet cocoa aromas assailed her the moment she stepped into the kitchen. "Is this baking heaven or hell?" she asked, receiving a quizzical look. "I was just wondering because those sinfully delicious smells were produced by the hands of an angel."

The sappy statement got Jamie a taste of a chocolate covered finger. Their gaze never wavered as she licked up every drop of the dark batter. "Ummm, scrumptious," she said, licking her lips. "And the finger’s not bad either." That statement got her a swat on the butt.

She finally did get those kisses before she was sent back to work. A few minutes later Jamie turned beet red when one of her employees pointed out a white powder on the back pocket of her jeans. A powder that was shaped, oddly enough, like a hand.

Thirteen stealthy guests, hiding in the huge family room of the Casey home, had totally, but happily surprised the celebrating couple. Their actual anniversary wasn’t until the next day and they thought that they were just dropping off the grandchildren so they could have the time alone. But the party soon had everyone smiling and regaling stories of the Nelson wedding ceremony. Even Timothy had appeared happy all evening. He gave a long-winded, but heartfelt toast, making a comment about each of the ten years of his daughter’s marriage.

Erin felt just a touch of envy at the happy celebration. Actually she had two points of envy. First she wondered if she would ever be married now. The thought may never even cross this Jamie’s mind to make that kind of commitment. Erin didn’t quite know why, but that was important to her, not that her current relationship with Jamie would be any better just because they could say that they were married, but it was just something she had dreamed about all her life, as most women do.

Her second feeling of envy came from thoughts of her father. She could hear the pride in his voice as he lamented over his oldest daughter’s marriage. Erin strongly doubted that he would even attend her wedding or any anniversary celebration, let alone make that kind of public acceptance.

When Tim Casey was finally through speaking, Erin lifted her glass along with everyone else in attendance.

 

Sometime later, just as the sun was finishing its descent into the western sky, Erin and Jamie had taken a little break from the rousing celebration inside the house. They had walked to the far side of the long pool, both feeling some annoyance in the fact that they had to hide in order to be close. But Erin didn’t want to give her father any excuses to ruin her sister’s celebration.

Some of the guests were Bridgett’s co-workers, which meant that at one time they had been Jamie’s co-workers, but Danielle had explained the tall woman’s amnesia and had politely asked them not to overwhelm her at this time. They had graciously understood, but felt a strange sadness as they were introduced to Jamie and saw no recognition in her eyes.

Jamie sat her beer bottle on the small metal table and took Erin’s hand. "I think Bridgett and Brad really liked your present."

"They really liked our present," Erin corrected. She and Jamie had picked out the set of fine crystal stemware when they had been in Ireland. Jamie had even made the final choice between the two patterns Erin was considering. She had taken pity on the pleading blonde who debated over the decision for thirty long minutes. Her much appreciated help had been rewarded with a chocolate sundae topped high with whipped cream and nuts, of which Erin snatched a few bites for herself.

"This has been a nice party," said Jamie. "Oh, I promised Conner that he could come to the ranch soon to stay the weekend. Was that all right?" she asked as an afterthought.

"Of course it’s all right. Caitlin will have to come too of course. She wouldn’t dare let her brother do something that fun without her."

Jamie chuckled as she put her arm around Erin’s shoulder. They didn’t hear the double doors open and the footsteps that stomped across the tiled edge of the shimmering pool.

They were enjoying the peaceful sunset and Erin tipped her head and kissed the woman she loved. The she suddenly felt a large hand grab her around the upper arm and she was wrenched from Jamie’s embrace.

"What in God’s name do you think you are doing?!" yelled Timothy. "Out here where anyone can see you, acting like…"

Erin stood there wide-eyed, listening but not really hearing what her father was saying, because the shock had rendered her temporarily deaf. It all seemed to move in slow motion around her as Jamie grabbed his free arm.

The commotion and loud voices were just beginning to be heard back inside the house. The guests had enough tact to move away from the personal family matter. Danielle and Bridgett ran out the door to stop the hostile situation that was rapidly escalating.

"Let go of her!" screamed Jamie. But she wasn’t even able to budge the burly man.

"Timothy, what are you doing?" asked Danielle. "Let her go this instance."

His focus was solely on his youngest daughter. "Don’t you understand what could happen?! Mr. Armstrong lives just down the street and he owns a gun. What if he were to see you…"

The shock had finally turned to anger for Erin and she painfully wrenched her arm from his tight hold, backing away, bumping into the small table as she did. The bottle, that Jamie had sat there, tumbled to the cement, shattering, leaving only the long neck in tact.

"…acting like this. He could come down here and…" Timothy’s tirade abruptly ended as his hands fell limp to his sides. The blood drained from his face turning him a sickly white as the dizziness spun his head. His eyes were glued to the mound of broken glass by Erin’s feet and it was his turn to be rendered deaf to the questions that were firing all around him. "Oh my God," he muttered over and over.

In a matter of seconds he looked even worse, his breath came in heaves and he swayed in his footsteps. Even Erin grew concerned. "Daddy, what is it?"

Jamie retrieved a chair and Danielle guided him into it. He sat with a heavy thump. "Call an ambulance," his wife said.

"No. No I don’t need an ambulance."

"You are too damn stubborn," scolded his spouse. "You look like you are about to pass out. What if you are having a heart attack?"

He finally looked up into her concerned eyes. His hand patted the one on his arm. "I’m all right Dear. It isn’t any thing physical, I promise you."

Danielle let out a cautious, but relieved sigh. She smoothed down some gray hair around his ear. "Then what is it? What happened out here?"

His gaze drifted up to see Erin being soothed by her partner’s embracing arms. He also noticed that Erin was rubbing the spot where his hand had grabbed her. His jaw twitched, trying to speak. "I…I’m sorry." The word was whispered.

Erin looked down at the trembling man and noticed the unshed tears forming in his eyes. But his apology wasn’t enough. Not this time.

He got to his feet and took a few shaky steps, his head was hung low with shame. Danielle was at his side. She guided him around the side of the house so they could enter through another door and not disturb their guests any more than possible.

Erin, Jamie and Bridgett were still stunned at the turn of events. Nothing was spoken for a while as hearts calmed.

"I’ll clean this up," Bridgett finally said, pointing to the pile of glass.

Erin turned around and hugged her sister tightly. "I’m so sorry," she cried. "I ruined your party. I…"

"No. You didn’t do anything," said the red head staunchly. "Nothing. This was all his fault. I don’t quite know what happened, but he owes us all an explanation." She led them back toward the house where Brad met them.

"Is everyone all right?" he asked, hugging his wife.

Jamie answered yes, although that wasn’t quite accurate. Timothy had inflicted yet more mental and physical wounds on his family. And this time they were probably irreversible. Not only did his words cause pain, but he also embarrassed Erin in front of a house full of naturally curious guests.

"Bridgett," said Erin as she moved off behind some bushes out of the view of the glass door. "Go on back inside, back to your party. Unless he scared everyone away." She gestured to her partner. "I think we should go."

Jamie agreed with a nod.

Danielle came back outside calling for her daughter. "Erin, I’m glad I caught you before you left." She hugged her youngest. "Are you sure you’re all right, physically I mean?"

The blonde nodded sadly. "Yeah."

"Erin, your father would like to talk to you, both of you." She looked to Jamie who was just over her daughter’s shoulder.

The green eyes flashed with anger. "I don’t think so Mom. What’s the point?" Two strong hands landed gently on her shoulders for support.

"Well as odd as it seems Dear, I think there is a point. I know it’s a lot to ask after the way he’s treated you, but there is something more going on here. I have never, in all the time I’ve known him, seem him in a state like this. He wouldn’t tell me what’s going on. He said he had to talk to you first. Sweetheart I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I didn’t think it would help. But please just give him this last chance."

Erin hesitated. Her troubled expression looked to the sky, then to the ground, where it stayed for many seconds. Her spirit was in tatters, but could she be selfish and just walk away? Didn’t she owe it to her family to try just once more? But how many once mores would there be? She knew that her mother and Bridgett would support whatever she decided, but there would always be that rift. Erin took a deep breath and made the decision. She wasn’t going to feel the blame for his misguided thinking. She couldn’t bear that burden. At least if she gave him this one last chance, she could leave with a free conscience. Her choice was bolstered by soft words spoken for her ears only.

"I’m here for you," said Jamie. "Whatever you want to do, I’m at your side. But I promise you that he will never get close enough to lay a hand on you again."

Erin closed her eyes and nuzzled the head next to hers. Whatever else, there will always be you. She pulled her last jangled nerve back into place and fastened the protective armor over her heart. "Okay."

 

 

Timothy lifted the thick square glass to his lips and downed the last of the golden liquid in a single gulp. The scotch burned as it slid down his throat…but it didn’t help. His hand still shook as he set the glass down on the small table beside the window. That hand then circled his mouth, raking over his salt and pepper beard.

In a moment’s revelation, he had been blasted with a thousand years of guilt. Or at least that’s what his soul felt like. Tim knew what he had to tell his daughter, he just wasn’t sure how he could…or if it would do any good. But the story, long dormant in his mind, would be brought to life, word-by-word and laid at his daughter’s feet. What she did with it from there, he had no control over.

"You wanted to talk to me." Erin clipped every word as she stood just inside the doorway.

Tim’s head jerked up from his musings. He stared at his little girl for a few seconds. He had never seen her so hard and unyielding. Her cold eyes pinned him with defiance and Tim was saddened tenfold, knowing that he alone was responsible for the pain that lay behind that stone faced stare.

"Erin," his voice squeaked. He swallowed and started again. "Erin I…I have a story to tell you. I know that it by no means excuses what I’ve done. There are no excuses for that. But I hope that in…some …small way that it might explain my behavior. When I’m through, if you still can’t forgive me…or even stand the sight of me I’ll accept that. And I’ll accept full responsibility for what this has done to the family." He began to pace in tiny rows. "Would you please sit down?"

With her six-foot bodyguard glued to her side, Erin made her way to the large, sectional sofa.

"When I was seventeen," he began. "I had the opportunity to come here to the states to attend a semester of school. I was thrilled at the chance and so were my parents. They were already making plans to move here, which as you know they did a few years later. I lived with a very nice family here in LA. It was just a father and his two children. There was a boy exactly my age. Kevin and I became instant friends. It was…we just…he was the best friend I’ve ever known, then or now." Tim paused to glance at his listeners. There wasn’t a flicker of change on Erin’s face. He stuffed his fidgety hand into his pockets as he continued. "Kevin had an older sister, Mary. She was twenty one." He gave just the tiniest smile beneath his whiskers as he thought of the small blonde, who had been very much like the sweet daughter across the room from him. "Kevin adored his sister. He worshipped her. I must admit I had a bit of a crush on her myself."

Erin felt the hand around hers tighten softly as a reminder of her support. Under any other circumstances, Erin would have enjoyed hearing about her father’s early years, but all she could impatiently think of now was where was this tale leading and what did it have to do with his actions.

Tim finally eased himself into the chair just across from the sofa. He knew he needed to be seated to tell the rest of the story. "Mary had a best friend, I think her name was Susan. They spent a lot of time together just like Kevin and I did. One early spring afternoon the four of us drove out to the country to a lake she knew about. Kevin and I went fishing and Mary and Sue went swimming at the far end of the lake. The fish weren’t biting very well and after a while we decided to give up. We packed up and decided to do some swimming too. The end of the lake was around a bend and as we came through the trees, there was Mary and Sue sitting on the bank." He finally looked up wanting to judge Erin’s reaction to his next words. "They were kissing. And it wasn’t like a sister’s peck either. They were as flustered as we were as soon as they saw us. Mary sent Sue back to the car and she explained to Kevin and me what was happening. She said that she was gay and that meant that she loved Sue as a woman would love a man. This was 1956 and neither one of us had ever heard of such a thing. But for Kevin, his sister hung the moon and anything she did was fine with him. And if he was cool with it, so was I. Of course she asked us to keep their secret. I didn’t quite understand why…until a few days later." There, he saw it. Those emerald orbs softened just a speck. But it was still a hollow victory of minute proportions.

"The next Saturday night, the four of us went to a movie. We were having so much fun. We left the theater with our cokes in hand and stopped on the corner to talk because it was still early and none of us wanted to go home yet. We were laughing and telling stories. It was like we were the only ones around. I think that’s why… Mary must have been caught up in the moment and she leaned over and kissed Sue, not on the mouth, but very close. But we weren’t the only ones around. Suddenly, from across the street a group of punks, we’d call them a gang now days, ran over to us yelling awful words, most of them aimed at the girls. Of course Kevin and I tried to stop them, but were just a couple of scrawny teenagers, if you can ever believe I was scrawny. Two of them held us back while the other two continued to taunt them. Mary was a spitfire, I’m sure she must have a bit of Celtic in her the way she verbally laid into them." He paused as the next few minutes flashed across his memories and he tried to form the words to describe the terrifying scene. "The leader grabbed one of our bottles and broke it against the lamppost. He began waving it around…the light was glinting off of the jagged, sharp edges. Sue was having a fit by now, crying and screaming. He told her to shut up and Mary yelled back, all the while trying to protect her friend. And then it happened…I swear that everything around us stopped and what I saw happened in an instant and an eternity. Mary was shoved from behind just as he thrust the broken bottle forward." He paused again and he heard the small escape from Erin’s lips. "He pulled back…and the blood on the bottle and on her. They got scared and ran off, Sue ran off and I…I couldn’t move…I just couldn’t move. I stood there watching as Kevin pulled her into his lap and he tried to stop it…but there was just too much. Before help could arrive, Mary died in her brother’s arms."

"Oh God," Erin exclaimed quietly. "Dad, that it an awful thing to have witnessed, especially to a teenaged boy, but…"

"The story doesn’t end there I’m afraid. Kevin was never the same after that. He wouldn’t talk, he barely ate, and he certainly wouldn’t smile. I tried everything, but nothing would help. Finally one Sunday, I persuaded him to go fishing with me…at a different pond. But I went fishing; he just sat there on the edge of the dock staring at the water. After about an hour I needed to go back to the car for more bait. I had a string of fish and I laid them beside him. I got the knife from the tackle box and put it there too. I jokingly said, ‘Why don’t you make yourself useful and clean those.’ Tim’s eyes took on a glassy haze as the next words left his mouth tonelessly. "When I came back, the fish were still there, but the knife was gone."

Erin knew what was coming now. She reached up to brush away a tear as Jamie’s arm wrapped around her shoulder.

"As I got closer, I saw the knife in his right hand…and blood all over his left arm. He had slit his wrist. I pulled him back onto the dock and tried…but I couldn’t…and I knew help was too far away. He never cried or made a sound…it just happened. He died in my arms, like his sister had died in his." Now Timothy was freely crying…all the tears he couldn’t shed all those many years ago.

Erin slowly reached out and covered his clenched hands. His muscles relaxed and he took her hand in his as his eyes met her tearful ones. "Daddy I’m very sorry that happened to you."

"So am I." His free hand cupped the side of her face that he had hit months before. "Because it led me to hurt my beautiful, precious daughter." Tim pulled away and walked over to the bar for a drink of water. "My seventeen year old mind…all I felt was anger and hatred. All I knew was that my best friend was dead because his sister was gay." He quickly turned back to the seated couple. "I know now that wasn’t the reason," he stated strongly, stalling their objections. "She died because of society’s…problems. But back then I couldn’t understand that. I had blocked it all out until…"

"The broken bottle by the pool," supplied Jamie.

"Yes. That’s when it all came flooding back." He sat back down and tried to explain his behavior of late. "When you came to me last August and told me that you are gay…all I felt was the anger and most of all the fear that surrounded that incident. I didn’t know the details…it was just the feeling. I had this flash in my mind of you lying on the ground bleeding…because someone hurt you for… being gay. And I couldn’t stand the thought…" Tim looked down at his clenching right hand. He gave a self-disgusted chuckle, remembering the impact of his hand on her face. "And what did I do? I would cut off this hand if I could go back and change all of that."

"Daddy, I can’t say that this erases all the hurt, but I do understand now. The trauma you experienced as a child fueled your actions. I…think that we can move on from here. I’ve missed my father."

"And I’ve missed my baby girl." Tim fell to his knees and hugged her hard. "I’m so sorry, so sorry."

"But before we can move on, I have to ask you one question Dad. How do you feel about us, truly? Because Jamie is going to be in my life forever. And I need to know."

"Sweetheart, I love you, everything about you. I am proud of who you are and I will tell the world." He turned to Jamie. "I only have one thing to ask of you. Will you take very good care of my daughter, because I don’t want to see her hurt?"

"Sir, I will give my life to protect her." She gave him a half smile. "After all, I nearly punched you out by the pool. And I would do it again if I had to."

"That’s good to hear young lady."

The author wrapped her arms around her taller partner. "Daddy we will take care of each other."

"I hope you are never in a situation where you have to, but I am glad that you have each other."

 

Jamie left the father and daughter, giving them the time to get re-acquainted. After the emotional confession she felt confident of her partner’s safety. Even though she had not remembered the very first confrontation with Erin’s father, when he had first learned of their relationship and of Erin’s sexual preference, she had heard the facts from Bridgett. And she was stunned that any parent could treat their child that cruelly. Even with Tim’s story, it still boggled her thoughts that the human mind could be twisted into such contortions. But at second thought she realized that her own amnesia was a prime example of the mind’s complexities.

The hour was getting late, but the anniversary party still continued although it was winding down. She avoided the few guests that still remained and strolled out to her car. She encountered a very sad little girl who came moping toward her.

"Aunt Jamie?"

The tall woman knelt down and took the child’s hand in her own. "What’s wrong Sweetheart?" She asked the question, but was quite sure of the answer.

"Why was Grandpa yelling at Aunt Erin? I don’t like it when he does that. He scares me."

Jamie stood and led the little one over to the side stoop. She sat down and placed Caitlin in her lap. She waited a few seconds, trying to find a way for a four year old to understand and wondering if she should even try. Perhaps that was her parent’s job. But Caitlin unwittingly answered that question.

"Mommy and Daddy said that Grandpa don’t feel okay."

"Well, they are right. Your grandpa was mad for just a while, but then he remembered something that made him very sad and he said he was sorry for yelling. I think he’ll be fine now."

Caitlin finally seemed satisfied with that explanation and a smile brightened the little face. "I love Grandpa. I love Aunt Erin too."

"And Aunt Erin loves you."

The seated woman and the child in her lap looked up, surprised at the voice that came around from behind a tall shrub. Erin smiled at her partner as she reached down and took her niece into her arms. "Why don’t we all go into the kitchen," she said. "I think there is one last piece of chocolate cake with our names on it."

Caitlin agreed with a hearty nod.

"I think we could all use a little comfort food."

Jamie nodded with a kiss to Erin’s cheek.

 

The trio sat in the kitchen, sharing the cake. Erin gently wiped away a milky mustache from the small mouth just before a yawn escaped from it. "I think it’s someone’s bedtime," she said.

"Aw, do I have to?" Jamie whined jokingly. "I don’t wanna," she added with an exaggerated pout.

That brought a bout of giggles from the curly headed child and her aunt.

"Aunt Jamie," said Caitlin. "You a grownup. Nobody can tell you when to go to bed."

The dark headed woman had a sharp retort on the tip of her tongue, but it definitely wasn’t for younger ears to hear. Erin mentally filled in the blank and winked at the woman she loved.

Bridgett and Brad chose that moment to come in and say goodnight to their daughter, who was spending the night along with Conner. A not so quick round of hugs followed along with more apologies between the sisters. The Nelson’s had been filled in on what had transpired in Tim’s life so long ago and now they all felt confident that the family could put all the anger and misunderstandings behind them, heal the wounds and move forward.

Fifteen minutes later, her grandmother carried Caitlin up to bed. Danielle returned shortly to find Erin and Jamie waiting by the front door, obviously preparing to leave.

"I’m glad you didn’t leave yet," she told the couple. "I know you were planning on staying at a hotel tonight because of the long drive home, but I was hoping…well with everything that happened here today… Would you girls consider spending the night here? We could all have breakfast together. I really think it would do us all a world of good to spend more time together."

Erin would never make a decision without consulting her partner.

Jamie answered the questioning look. "It’s fine with me. As long as you’re comfortable with it."

With everyone in agreement, Jamie retrieved their bag from the car and Danielle led them up the stairs and down two turns of the long hall.

Jamie looked around the inside of the large room, decorated in colors of green and burgundy. She had never been given a formal tour of the house, but realized it was just an oversight on the part of Erin’s mother. Especially with the tension that always followed their visits.

"Goodnight Erin, Jamie," the older woman said as she hugged them both. "Sleep well. I’ve been told that this bed is very comfortable."

Erin stopped her mother before she walked out the door. "Why did you put us in this room, Mom?" Danielle’s confusion was evident. "Did Dad ask you to put us here, in the room farthest away from your bedroom?"

"Of course not. It was your father’s idea that you stay here tonight, but he was a little embarrassed to ask you himself…not because of your relationship, but because of the way he acted. It’s going to take him a wile to get over that. I put you here because of the large, private bath. I do the same for your sister when they stay here. Caitlin is in your old room."

Erin sighed. "I’m sorry Mom. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions."

"It’s all right Dear. I should have explained my reasons earlier." She gave Erin one final hug. "We’re going to be all right. It’ll just take time."

"Goodnight Mom."

"Goodnight Danielle."

"Goodnight girls. Sweet dreams."

Erin felt the long arms encircle her just as the door closed.

"What a day huh?"

The small blonde just leaned into the embrace and hummed her agreement. Erin was very glad that the situation with her father seemed to have come to a happy end and that they could begin a new and maybe even better relationship. But as with any relationship it would take work. But at the moment she wanted to put all that aside and just get lost in the one thing that made her life complete. Jamie.

With a renewed burst of energy, Erin turned to face her lover. She attacked those lips with abandoned, asking no questions and taking only one prisoner of love.

Jamie finally had to physically separate them in order to breathe. "Where did that come form?" she panted, looking into the slightly predatory gaze.

"I want you," Erin replied simply.

Nervous blue eyes snapped to the closed door. "Ah…Sweetheart, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the thought of making love…" The first two buttons of her shirt were unfastened. "…here…" Two more buttons were opened. "…in your parent’s house."

"Maybe you’re right," Erin agreed as her lips found purchase on a collarbone and her hands pulled Jamie’s shirt from its confinement.

Jamie’s hesitation was waning quickly as busy hands planted themselves on her behind. "Well…maybe we…could…take a quick…shower."

Erin giggled. "Your third shower of the day. Remember the first one this morning."

Jamie did, bringing a giddy smile to her face. "That was a first for me. Just how many times have we made love in the shower?"

"Only one or two."

Jamie snorted. "Yeah right."

"…times a week," Erin confessed with a sultry smile.

"We were insatiable huh?" Jamie asked as her own hands found some interesting areas.

"Were? You have no idea. And some of the places…" Both of the wheat colored eyebrows reached for her hairline as she made some quick searches through her memories.

"Why don’t you tell me," said Jamie as she proceeded to undress her smaller partner.

"Well there was the beach at midnight in that deserted old boat and the attic at the beach house which involved a feather duster, but…. Oh and the limo."

"The limo I was driving!?"

"Well you weren’t driving at the time," she exclaimed. "Just before Christmas I hired a limo and a driver. After our wonderful date we…" She leaned up to whisper in the tall woman’s ear.

Jamie’s eyes continued to widen as the incident was described in very vivid detail. "We did that…in public?" she finally asked.

Erin traced a single finger down her lover’s jaw line. "No, in the limo." She nibbled the next words onto willing lips. "Just wait until you remember."

 

* * * *

Jamie followed Erin down the stairs the next morning, enjoying the aroma of coffee awaiting them. She was pleased, but surprised that her lover woke up in a good mood because the night had not been totally peaceful. They had shared a brief and quiet intimate interlude in the bathroom, never quite making it to the shower. Then they quickly jumped into bed had fallen asleep immediately, but unfortunately had not remained that way.

"No! No! I don’t want this!"

Jamie rose from her deep sleep hearing the muttered words. The words became more desperate and a flailing arm struck her.

"Save me!" screamed Erin. "I don’t want to die! Save me!"

Jamie flipped over and held onto the dangerous limbs as she called to Erin. "Wake up! Wake up Honey. It’s okay. Erin! Erin!"

The terrified green eyes snapped open. "What? Jamie?"

The taller woman pulled away just enough to let Erin sit up and she reached to flip on the lamp on the bedside table. "You’re okay now Sweetheart. It was just a dream." Jamie smoothed down the sweat soaked hair. "It was just a dream."

Erin was breathing heavily. Her chest burned just as it had then. She buried her face in her hands and felt the bed shift as Jamie scooted in close to her. "God, Jamie I was back there…in that water. It was so dark and so heavy and I couldn’t move, but I had to. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t…"

Jamie soothed her with soft kisses to her temple and murmured I love yous. "I know, I know. You only had the dream because of the story your dad told. I know you didn’t want to die, Sweetheart. It was just the pain."

The blonde head agreed with rapid nodding. "I’m fine now." She clutched onto Jamie’s shirt. "I’m fine now."

They eventually drifted back to sleep in each other’s arms and not a word was mentioned when they did awaken.

 

As they neared the dining room, Erin wondered just would happen. How would they be greeted? What would be said? She knew what she wanted to happen, but after everything that had transpired between her and her father she was still slightly unsure. Erin did believe the words her father said the evening before, but that could have just been because of the emotions of the flashback he had had. The final proof would be his actions now. Only then would she trust that the situation had really changed.

She turned the corner, feeling the tall woman right behind her. There was her father at his place at the head of the table. His nose was buried in the morning newspaper, a habit he had always had.

Danielle was the first to notice the couple’s arrival. "Good morning Dear," she said cheerfully as she got up to greet them. "How did the two of you sleep last night?" The question was spoken right out loud; no attempt was made to hide it.

Erin’s eyes turned to her father. He had quickly discarded his paper and was approaching them. His neutral expression turned to a pleasant one as he hugged his little girl. "Good morning Sweetheart. I didn’t mean to interrupt, please tell us, how did you sleep?"

Erin relaxed a little as the four of them took seats at the formally set table. "Well, I don’t want to speak for Jamie, but I slept wonderfully." She glanced at her partner.

Jamie held her questioning expression in check. "Oh, yes. Very nice, very comfortable," she answered, thinking that Erin just didn’t want her parents to know about her nightmare.

With the first few awkward moments out of the way, the meal continued on with many more questions for Erin. Afterward they carried their full coffee cups out onto the patio to enjoy the new August morning. Off in the side yard, a few dozen sparrows and songbirds were setting upon the full birdfeeder. The clouds in the sky did nothing to dampen the spirits of the two couples. They had laughed and told stories until the food had long gotten cold.

Caitlin and Conner had joined them half way through the meal, but quickly downed their cold cereal and dashed off to watch cartoons in the game room.

Timothy returned from retrieving his third cup of coffee and took his seat between his wife and daughter. He leaned forward addressing the dark haired woman, who was on the other side of Erin. "Jamie, Erin tells me you will be going to Houston the third week of November."

"Yes. There is a big auction there every year. I’m hoping to get a couple of new stallions for the breeding program."

"Well, I just happen to have a meeting in Texas that same week. Instead of going commercial, perhaps you would like to join me on my private plane."

"I…ah," she nervously looked to Erin for an answer, which was given in the form of a smile and a slight nod. "That would be fine, Sir. Thank you."

"Jamie, I know that things are still a little unsettled between the three of us. And I know that I have to re-gain your trust, through my actions. I know that will take time. But family members call me Tim."

"All right Tim."

 

More to come soon.


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