Seeing You Again for the First Time

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 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.

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Chapter 18

Erin and Jamie quickly chose a mid October wedding date and that gave them only four and a half weeks to make all the arrangements. They had also decided to stay with their original plans of having the wedding at the ranch.

Saturday morning found the three Casey women in an intense pow wow with two phones, three tablets of paper, the L.A. yellow pages and a Rolodex between them. They had easily commandeered the dining room table and were hard at work making notes and calls. Jamie had offered her services, but quickly learned that she was sadly lacking in the knowledge of wedding etiquette. She soon left the work to the professionals and moved on to what she did do best…running her ranch.

She spent a few minutes playing with the exuberant dog, but Arte soon caught sight of a rabbit in the nearby tree line and took off at full speed for a good chase. Jamie laughed, watching until the four-footed beast disappeared into the tall timbers. Leaving the dog to her amusement, the rancher turned and headed back toward the huge barn. Halfway to her destination an intuition tickled at her brain telling her to detour to the far off field at the other side of the house. Following the confusing thought, Jamie backtracked. Along the way she snatched up a long blade of emerald grass and stripped the flora between her fingers as she absently walked the few hundred feet. Her thoughts drifted happily back to the bustle of activities inside the old farmhouse and the twinkle that was in her lover’s eyes. Erin’s infectious grin brightened any room and raised the spirits of everyone in it.

Jamie had done a lot of contemplating since her memories had returned. She balanced her lonely and hurtful past, the pain she felt and the pain she inflicted, with her present. And it was almost unthinkable, but one singe person, one beautiful Irish lass brought her immeasurable joy that far outweighed that old pain. And although there were still times, many times in fact when she felt unworthy, Jamie had come to graciously accept the wonder that had become her life. A life by the name of Erin Brienne Casey.

As if they had a mind of their own, her booted feet suddenly came to a halt in the middle of the field of knee high weeds. Jamie’s focus returned to the moment and she looked up at the expanse of land, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. A tiny door slowly opened in a corner of her mind revealing one of those few still elusive memories. A smile suddenly lit upon her face and she whispered to the wind. "Of course." The rancher turned on her heels and hurried back to her original destination.

Jamie pulled the door shut behind her and settled into the comfortable chair behind the empty desk. The new office, which was connected to the barn, had just been completed the week before and the phone lines installed just the previous day. She studied the ads in the phone book, choosing the most promising one and dialing the number.

She ended the short phone call sometime later with a confident smile having set her plans in motion for the first of the week.

* * * *

Monday morning dawned bright and even earlier than usual for the occupants of the Casey, Sheridan household. The blonde author hopped out of bed and her lover’s arms at 6 AM. Normally she loved to laze around next to the long body beside her, but they had a lifetime to do that and she only had a short time to finalize wedding plans. First on this day’s agenda was ceremonial attire.

After showering…alone, Erin skipped down the back stairs to fix a big country breakfast. As good as she felt she could not survive on enthusiasm alone. She also knew that when she and her mother and sister got together for shopping their vision and everything else tunneled to those alluring shops.

Jamie followed about fifteen minutes later and took a seat at the table just as a fluffy, overstuffed omelet was slid onto her plate. "Wow, that looks delicious," she said.

"Thanks." Erin planted a kiss atop the dark head. She retrieved her own plate and the full coffee pot and took the place across from Jamie at the small table. "Jackson called a few minutes ago," she said. " He can’t come in today because his son is sick." She looked up as Jamie stopped in mid chew. "Is something wrong? You and Dan can handle things, can’t you?"

Jamie swallowed with just a little difficulty and wiped her mouth with the white napkin. Her eyes were deep in thought.

"Jamie?" Erin considered the situation. "If you can’t, I can put off shopping until tomorrow."

"No!" The panicked blue eyes softened. "That’s sweet of you to offer Honey, but we can handle it. I do have some other plans for today, but I still think I can take care of it all."

"Well…if you’re sure."

"Absolutely. You go and have fun. After all this will be the only wedding dress you will ever have to buy."

Erin smiled, confident in that thought.

Jamie continued on with her meal, wondering where she could cut corners and save time. The thoughts tumbled around until she heard a noise coming from outside. The dark head cocked to one side as the sound grew louder. She eyed her partner warily.

Erin hurried with the last few bites of her food and chased it down with some coffee. "Sounds like Mom’s early," she said. Erin left the table and headed for the front door.

The tall woman was quick on her heels. "Your Mom?" she asked. They walked out onto the porch and the question was immediately answered. Jamie stared wide-eyed at the helicopter in her front yard. Helicopter!

The author waved at her mother who was ducking under the whirling blades. "It’s Daddy’s," Erin explained. "He said we could use it any time. It’ll save so much time getting back and forth to the city."

The rancher was still a little dumbstruck. "Yeah." She agreed sluggishly. "I guess it would."

The elder Casey woman entered the porch and greeted her daughter and soon to be daughter-in-law. "Good morning."

Erin hugged her. "Hey Mom. Traveling in style I see."

Danielle straightened her clothes, brushing off some dust from her pant legs. "Not exactly my favorite," she said. "But very convenient. Could I get a some coffee before we head out?"

"Sure." Erin held the door for her mother and followed her in until she realized someone was missing.

The screen door squeaked behind Jamie and she heard the footsteps on the cement. "There is a helicopter in my front yard," she said dully.

Erin grinned, took hold of her confused partner and turned her back toward the house. "Yes Dear, but the big, noisy machine won’t hurt you."

Jamie shot an arched eyebrow in the direction of her condescending lover. Erin laughed out loud.

Danielle Casey finished a cup and a half of coffee before she indicated her readiness to leave for a day of shopping. The three ladies walked out to the front of the house where Jamie gave one more look and shook her head.

Erin wrapped her hands around the back of the taller woman’s neck. "I should have warned you," she said, tipping her head to the obtrusive transportation.

Jamie returned the embrace and smirked. "I guess you are used to stuff like this huh?"

"Only because I grew up around it. It won’t become a habit I promise."

Jamie hugged her lover and whispered in her ear. "Oh Honey don’t mind me. It was certainly unexpected, but I guess I’m just suffering from those pre-wedding jitters." She pulled back and kissed Erin thoroughly. "You do whatever you feel is necessary and have a good time doing it." Jamie gave her an easy smile and a pat on the butt as she sent Erin off for the day.

The blonde stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked back. "You don’t mind if I wear a traditional, white, wedding gown do you?"

Jamie joined her and gave her another quick kiss. "Of course not. You don’t mind if I don’t do you? I’m just not the formal gown type. But you, my love, definitely are."

"Great." The golden brows suddenly furrowed. "What are you wearing though?"

Jamie flashed a dazzling smile. "You have your secrets, I have mine. I will be taking care of that detail tomorrow. You pick out whatever your heart’s desire, but I do have one request…shoulders."

Erin laughed as did her nearby mother. "Don’t worry Sweetheart, I know what you like."

Jamie waved as the machine ascended into the cloudless sky and stood there until it was out of sight. "Okay," she mumbled, looking at her watch. "I hope you are as reliable as your ad says, Darrin Brother’s Construction."

By the time Jamie finished the morning dishes, she heard the rumble of a large truck rolling up the drive. She smiled.

* * * *

Mother and daughter had met Bridgett at the pre-arranged spot in downtown L.A. and had set immediately out on their hunt. Along the way they traded stories of the events surrounding Bridgett’s wedding, including one Danielle had never heard before, involving Erin, a stuffed monkey, a pair of handcuffs and a bachelorette party.

By one o’clock they had been to four different boutiques and Erin had seen at least twenty dresses that she liked…but none of them had that special something she was hoping for. In the last shop, Danielle had found a beautiful dress in a pale shade of lavender. She had almost as much difficulty finding something appropriate as Erin did. The perfect dress couldn’t appear too matronly; after all she was still a young woman of 54. She was proud of every single year, but was in no hurry to push the aging process.

With the attendant’s attire also chosen in the same shop, Erin was beginning to get slightly discouraged. After lunch they were heading off to Beverly Hills where the most stylish of designers sold their wares. If I can’t find anything there, thought Erin as they entered a corner bistro, it doesn’t exist. The light bulb suddenly ignited and so did a smile. Maybe that’s the answer.

"So Sis, what are you getting Jamie for a wedding present?"

Bridgett’s question snapped the author from her rumination over a dress. "Oh…I’m a…I’m working on something very special." Erin’s features turned dreamy as she imagined her partner’s response to the gift.

"That sounds wonderful Dear," said Danielle. "I know she’ll love whatever you choose, because she loves you."

Bridgett grinned evilly as she stared at her sister. "Yes, but I want to know what this something very special is?"

The author tapped her nosey sister on the arm. "It’s something very personal and if it happens and Jamie decides to talk about it afterward that’s okay, but I will respect her privacy."

The red head huffed and sat back, her curiosity deflated. "Party pooper."

Erin sighed. "I will tell you one thing Bridgett, I really hope this works out because it will mean the world to Jamie."

* * * *

Erin bid her family goodbye and settled into the helicopter for the ride home. It was almost five thirty in the evening. Her feet hurt and she was hungry, but she was satisfied with a good day’s shopping. She slipped a pair of headphones over her ears and let her choice of soothing music drown out the drone of the whirling blades above her head. The motion lulled her into a dreamless sleep and she didn’t awaken until they had landed and the pilot was gently shaking her shoulder. She had totally missed the sight of the huge brown tent that had been erected in the field on the opposite side of the house.

Erin grabbed her packages, which included shoes, a new pair of emerald earrings and a blue garter that matched the shade of Jamie’s eyes. But the author could just picture those orbs getting darker as soon as Jamie spied the accessory and its location.

The blonde was met on the porch and quickly relieved of her shopping bags. Jamie brushed her lips against Erin’s. "One good thing about those," said Jamie, her voice rising above the noise of the chopper taking off, "you can’t sneak up on me."

Erin laughed and escorted her tall partner inside the house where they were met by a very enthusiastic dog. The author dropped to her knees and kissed the furry head while Jamie placed the bags near the staircase. The dark haired rancher took a quick peak inside at the packages, but everything was well hidden. She turned back to see her lover flop, bonelessly onto the tan sofa.

Jamie joined the smaller woman and patted her leg. "I’ll warm up some of Saturday’s leftovers so you won’t have to cook."

Erin made a very happy face. "Oooo, I love you," she said. "My aching feet love you even more." Her shoes were hurriedly stripped and ten very long fingers went to work on her right foot, rubbing away the day’s tension. Erin hedonistically moaned as a strong thumb pressed deeply into her tired arch. After the fifteen-minute pleasure fest the session was topped off by a kiss to the bottom of each tired toe.

"I’m going to go get your slippers," said Jamie. "There is something I want to show you, but we have to go outside." She wondered to herself why Erin hadn’t mentioned the large tent on the far lawn; from the sky it couldn’t be missed. But she wasn’t about to argue the fact. At least now it would be a total surprise.

She returned a few minutes later with the appropriate footwear. Jamie slipped them onto the cute feet and reached out a hand. "Come on, I’ll give you a free ride."

Erin yawned and looked at her through concerned, but sleepy eyes. "Honey, your back."

"I’ll just carry you to the back door," said Jamie. She shook the offered hand. "Come on."

Erin reluctantly climbed on to Jamie’s back and wrapped her legs around the slim waist. Together they jogged through the house and onto the back porch where Jamie stopped and her passenger disembarked.

The rancher was a bit hesitant about her next request. She had spent much of her time lately reviewing her revived memories of her months spent with Erin, when the author had been blind. She remembered how in awe she was at the things Erin could accomplish despite her handicap. But she also remembered the touch of sadness she could detect from time to time. And she certainly didn’t want to hurt the woman she loved in any way. "Would you…would it bother you to close your eyes?" she finally asked. "I want this to be a surprise."

Erin gave her a small smile and lowered her lids without hesitation. Her right hand curled around the solid bicep and she followed Jamie out the door. It all came rushing back to her…the skills she had learned in order to live life as a blind person. A whisp of melancholy flittered over her, but blew away with the wind that soon brushed her cheek. Obviously, she knew when they turned the corner and headed right around the house, but her other, still sharp, senses came alive as well. She felt the warmth of the low evening sun on the left side of her face. She strongly detected the unique barn scents coming from behind them and she felt the texture of the grass change from the freshly mowed lawn to the taller, wild grasses of the far field. It was actually good to know that she hadn’t lost any of those abilities. But one thing she still couldn’t sense was the surprise. "Come on Jamie, give me a hint," she begged. "What did you get me?"

Jamie leaned down to an ear. "No chance. Besides," she said aloud, "We’re almost there." A few more steps and the couple came to a stop. Jamie stepped aside. "Okay, open your eyes."

Erin blinked twice and took in the huge, brown, canvas tent. She looked at her partner and grinned. "My own circus?"

Jamie responded to the little joke with a half smile. She took Erin’s hand and led her forward. Lifting the flap, she carefully watched the blonde’s expression as they stepped inside. The back of the tent had been left open and the daylight streamed in to illuminate the round, wooden structure. The author quietly stepped up onto the platform and ran her hands over the delicately carved spindles.

"Is it okay?" Jamie asked. "I once promised you a beautiful place to take our vows; a gazebo and a garden of flowers. I didn’t want to disappoint you."

Erin stepped up to Jamie, smiled brightly and wrapped her arms around the tall body. "It is perfect," she said. "And we are going to have a perfect ceremony."

They headed back to the house arm in arm. Jamie glowed knowing she had accomplished her goal…making Erin happy. That’s all she ever wanted to do, for the rest of her life. "So did you find a dress?" she asked.

Erin sighed wearily. "Yes. It wasn’t easy, but I got exactly what I wanted."

Jamie squeezed the trim waist and flashed a private smile. "Me too."

* * * *

The next two weeks passed by in orderly fashion. All the wedding plans had been finalized and everything had come together with out too many problems.

On Friday afternoon, two weeks before the big day, two special deliveries arrived at the ranch. Erin took the large package addressed to her and tucked it away in the back of her closet to hide it from a pair of blue eyes. The other delivery, a black garment bag with Jamie’s name clearly attached, hung in the corner of the room taunting her with its mystery. Erin went on about her household chores, but her attention kept returning to the dark bag, knowing the contents, but not knowing the specifics. And the myriad possibilities fueled her fantasies as the afternoon progressed.

The blonde author stood at the stove preparing the evening meal as one of those visions took center stage in her mind. She didn’t hear the back door open or the footsteps come up behind her.

"What’s for dinner?"

Erin jumped and the large, wooden spoon flew from her hand. "Jamie!"

The tall rancher laughed. "What did I do?" she asked as she bent to retrieve the utensil.

Erin was obviously flustered. The flush on her cheeks glared like a siren. "Well…you…I…" She put a reign on her mumbling tongue and sighed heavily. "You didn’t do anything. I’m sorry. I was…distracted."

Jamie took a large sniff of what was cooking on the stovetop. "And just what had you so distracted?" she asked.

Without a word, the author turned down the flame under the large pan and took her lover by the hand. Jamie obligingly followed her to the living room. The right side of her mouth turned up when she spotted her package hanging in the corner. "I see that my wedding clothes arrived."

Erin turned on her. "I don’t see," she said, stepping closer and wrapping her arms around Jamie’s waist. She batted flirtatious lashes and slowly moved forward. "Can I?" she asked seductively.

Jamie indulged deeply in the kiss that followed and Erin pulled away to find the tall woman lost in a lustful daze. The author took the momentary distraction and reached for the zipper of the garment bag. A large hand stopped her.

"Uh,uh,uh," scolded Jamie. "I can’t see yours, you can’t see mine." She kissed the sulking cheek. "But that only goes for our wedding attire. I would be more then happy to show you anything else."

Erin wasn’t happy at that moment, but later that night she took Jamie up on her last offer and the mysterious clothing was soon forgotten…mostly.


* * * *

The next evening, after a long days work, Jamie returned to the house with a slightly perplexed expression. She assured her partner that nothing was wrong, but she did have something to tell Erin. And she worried how her lover would react.

After dinner they moved to the swing on the back porch. The smell of rain permeated the air and dark clouds began drifting across the horizon, but the air still carried the heat of an Indian summer day. Erin slipped into the seat and kicked the swing into motion. "You want to talk about it yet?" she asked cautiously.

Jamie took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "I got a call this afternoon."

"From who?"

Jamie took a swallow of her beer to coat her suddenly dry throat. "From Leah, Leah Curry. You remember the nurse I became friends with during my recovery?"

A nodding head was Erin’s only acknowledgement.

Jamie went on to explain. "I had written her a letter when we got back from Ireland. She had asked me to keep in touch."

"What did she wa…have to say?" Erin’s tone was slightly harsh.

Jamie diverted her gaze to the horses grazing in the far pasture. "She’s moving back to the states and she wants to come and visit me…us." She rushed to add. "I told her all about you and the wedding and she’s really anxious to meet you."

Erin had hurriedly crossed the porch where she began pulling dead leaves from the plant hanging in the corner. "You invited her here without asking me first?" She asked the question with a stiff jaw.

"I…ah…didn’t think... You didn’t have a problem with it when I first told you about her."

Erin spun around. "That’s because she was a few thousand miles away and not in my house."

Jamie slammed the bear bottle down on the side table a little harder than she should have. "Well I thought this was my house too Erin. Can’t I invite a friend over without having your permission?"

Erin crossed her arms over her chest and stared defiantly at the blue eyes across form her. "She’s not just a friend Jamie, she’s your ex-lover."

"I don’t believe I’m hearing this from you," said Jamie. "You don’t understand what she meant to me."

Erin pierced her with an icy glare, her eyes made even greener with the emotion that was boiling inside of her.

The tall woman jumped to her feet and pointed a long finger. "Don’t give me that look! You know what I mean! I didn’t and I don’t love her. She just helped my time there to not be so lonely. We slept together one time out of comfort, not out of passion or even least not on my part." That last little admission didn’t really do much to help the situation.

Erin certainly didn’t want that vision in her head and she shook it away violently. "Exactly!" she shouted. "Don’t you think it’s awfully strange that she is all of a sudden moving here? She is going to live in California, isn’t she?"

Jamie sighed. "Yes." She paused. "Don’t you trust me?"

"I don’t trust her." Erin sneered.

"You don’t even know her."

"And I’m not anxious to."

"Excuse me, but didn’t we just invite your first lover to our wedding? A woman you didn’t just sleep with once, but many times over many months?"

The accusation took Erin off guard for just a moment. "That was a long time before I ever met you. And you know that Megan is married to someone else now."

Jamie threw her hands in the air. "And that makes a difference? You told me you loved her, how am I supposed to feel about that?"

"You…I…that just…" The author suddenly stuttered helplessly. "I can see this conversation isn’t getting us anywhere."

Jamie jumped from the porch and started across the patch of yard. "You’re right, it isn’t. I’ll be back later. I need to think about some things." She got about ten steps when she was hit with another memory of another time when she had run off after an argument. And she remembered the promise she had made then. Jamie slowly turned to see Erin leaning against the large, white post. The blonde’s back was to Jamie and her shoulders were visibly shaking. Jamie’s heart broke and she ran back up the two steps and pulled the smaller woman around and into her arms. "I’m sorry," she said, rubbing Erin’s back "I’m so sorry I made you…" Jamie pulled back when she heard the unmistakable sounds. "…laugh?"

The blonde head shook from side to side. "What was that all about?" she asked, still laughing. "I have no need to be jealous. I know you love me."

They both laughed, feeling the tension drain from their tired bodies. Jamie hugged her again. "Yes, I do know you love me," she said. "I think that was just a big dose of nerves; not about our marriage," she assured, "just about the wedding." She cupped her hands around the slightly pale face. "I’m not jealous of Megan…well not really. All of your friends are welcomed in our home. I’ll call Leah and explain things to her."

"No. She was your friend…and I may not understand just how important she was to you, but I really don’t want to take that away from you. I’m sorry. Besides I think I do need to meet her."

"Well, how about a compromise. I’ll ask her if she can post-pone her visit until after our honeymoon. I don’t want to put any more stress on you than necessary right now."

The author nodded. "Okay."

"You honestly have nothing to worry about Sweetheart." Jamie assured her. "She was important in that time of my life. But you are and always will be the most important person in my life for the rest of my life."

Erin smiled. "I know that. Do you?"

Jamie smiled. "Oh yeah."

* * * *

Erin jumped when she heard the front, screen door slam shut. She ran from the kitchen listening to the angered voice reverberating off the walls. "Jamie what is it, what’s wrong?"

"Damn him!" Red faced, Jamie paced across the room with her hands on her hips, steam nearly coming from her ears. "I don’t believe it! The guy is such a bastard." She finally noticed her lover patiently waiting for the tantrum to pass. The rancher took a very deep breath and released it slowly. "I’m sorry Honey," she said as Erin approached.

"How is Jackson?"

Jamie removed her dark Stetson and tossed it onto the coffee table. She dropped onto the sofa and reached for her boot. "His foot is broken," she explained. With a small huff, the footwear was pulled free and discarded.

Jackson Fields, one of the ranch hands, had jumped down from the back of a pickup truck while unloading hay bales and Jamie had taken him to the local clinic. The same place where the rancher and the author had been treated with less than kindness after their encounter with a bolt of lightning.

Jamie’s preoccupied mind continued it’s angered line of thought. "Stupid!"

"Jamie, it was an accident. You can’t blame Jackson."

The dark head looked up. "What? No, no I’m not mad at him. It’s that damn doctor over at the clinic. He was out front when I brought Jackson in and because he was with me that…so called doctor kept us waiting for over an hour. Not only that, but he took two people ahead of us including a woman who only had a cold and another man who came in after us and was only getting a few stitches removed."

Now Erin’s temper flared. "He kept a man in obvious pain waiting for that long? Something has to be done about this Jamie."

"I know." She rubbed her weary eyes. "And we will." Jamie pulled her partner in for a hug, which always soothed her soul from whatever ills it suffered. "Jackson will be off for six weeks."

"Can you hire a temporary hand?" Erin asked.

"I could, but I think Dan and I can handle it."

The blonde pulled out of Jamie’s arms and gave her a look. "Have you forgotten that you will be gone for over a week during that time?"

The rancher fell back against the cushion and a puff of air escaped her pursed lips. "Right. I’ll a…I’ll work it out. Don’t worry, nothing will interfere with our honeymoon."

Erin smiled and took her partner’s hand. "I just don’t want you to have any concerns to distract you while we’re gone."

Jamie grinned deliciously and leaned forward. "Never happen," she said with a growl. "You are always my primary focus."

The author laughed as kisses were planted behind her ear. "I wasn’t worried about me," she said. "I just want you to be able to relax and enjoy yourself."

Jamie cupped the author’s face. "In case you didn’t know it by now, you are my joy."

* * * *

Jamie tightened her grasp and snickered. "Don’t move around so much," she scolded gently, rubbing the yellow head. "I know you’ve never had anyone attending to your behind like this before, but it won’t hurt if you don’t tense up."

"How would you know? Have you ever had…?"

"Okay, okay!" Jamie interrupted quickly. "Can we just concentrate on doing this?" She grunted as the weight was pressed into her and she pushed back, nearly losing her footing.

"If this is too much for you, I could ask someone else."

"No, no," said Jamie. "I can do this. I just need to get a better grip." The tall woman adjusted her sweaty hands, planted her feet and held tight, pushing forward slightly. "Okay, I got it now." She spoke as the perspiration started to trickle down the side of her face.

A few minutes passed and the warm air in the small room was filled with more groans and snorts. Jamie’s eyes were wide and she only winced slightly as she watched the instrument moving in and out of the pink flesh in a steady rhythm.

"Almost there."

One more quick, jerky movement and it was over. It was safe to say that everyone in the room was now relieved. With a heavy sigh, Jamie stepped back and released the leather harness. She wiped the wet bangs from her eyes and smiled. "That wasn’t really as bad as you thought it would be, was it?" She asked, planting a kiss on the soft nose.

"Are you asking me or the horse?" said Dr. Chad Benton as he gathered his medical equipment and moved out from behind the big mare.

Jamie’s horse, Teegan, had gotten a large splinter of wood from one of the older fences stuck in her golden hindquarters. As soon as the rancher discovered the injury, a quick call brought the handsome vet out almost immediately. The suddenly skittish horse had required some extra soothing as sutures closed the wound and Jamie wouldn’t leave that job to anyone else.

The tall doctor removed a small vile and a syringe from his supplies. "I put in nine stitches," he said as he prepared the injection. "I’ll give her something to prevent infection. Don’t let the sight get wet and don’t ride her for a couple of days."

Jamie nodded as she watched her horse turn away after getting the shot. The big, yellow mare munched on some fresh hay as the humans walked from the warmth of the barn out into the fresh air.

"Any other problems while I’m here?" the vet asked.

"No, no problems." Jamie checked her watch as they headed back toward the house. "How about lunch?" she asked.

The big man chuckled. "Why do think I always make my visits around this time. I hate to eat alone."

Jamie chucked him in the arm with her fist. "And here I thought you were just the most dedicated vet in California."

"Oh, I am, the free meal is just an enjoyable perk."

Ten minutes later, Jamie returned to the back porch with a tray of leftover fried chicken and a bowl of coleslaw. They had decided to eat on the picnic table in the back yard because the weather was so nice. Letting her guest help himself, Jamie watched as the big man devoured his food with gusto.

He stopped long enough for a breath and a compliment. "Oh man that is so delicious."

The rancher smiled. "You have Erin to thank for that."

Chad took a long swallow of his coke and looked back toward the house expectantly. I was hoping Erin would have joined us for lunch. There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask her."

Jamie wiped her greasy fingers on the napkin as she listened very closely to the tone of his voice. "Erin is gone for the day." She told him then chuckled humorlessly. "You know Chad, if I didn’t know better I’d think you were interested in Erin." The dark head shook, dismissing the absurd idea.

"Oh, I am interested in her," the vet plainly stated.

The rancher nearly choked on her food. Jamie wiped her mouth and cleared her tight throat, trying to push back the jealousy that was seeping up from her heart. "Chad, maybe you didn’t quite understand. When I said that Erin was my partner, I meant life partner. We’re gay and we’re getting married next week." The tone of her voice had gotten deeper with every emphatic word.

The man’s blue eyes widened as Jamie spoke. He saw her right hand flex, almost forming a fist and for just a second he feared being punched in the face. Suddenly he let loose with a gigantic laugh.

Jamie jumped back in surprise and stared at her friend, who was doubled over and slapping at the table with his left hand. "Mind telling me what is so funny?" she finally asked.

"Oh, Jamie if you could only see your face." He stopped laughing long enough to take a drink of his coke, which was nearly snorted back out his nose as he caught another glimpse of the seething blue eyes. He coughed a few times then was finally able to calm himself. Still smiling, he explained. "I’m interested in Erin’s writing. I’m a fan of her book. You have nothing to worry about my friend." His glance darted away quickly and he cleared his throat again. "Although…I should tell you the truth. I probably do have a little crush on her. I think she is intelligent and caring and just a wonderful human being. But I do not fantasize about her or have any notions of having a romantic relationship with her. First off, because I know she is gay, but more importantly, I know that she is completely in love with you."

Jamie was now chagrined about her assumptions. She tipped her dark head to one side. "How do you know that?" she asked quietly.

"Because I know you love her the same. I see it in your face every time her name is mentioned. You belong together like no two people I’ve ever seen."

She took the offered hand and shook it in true friendship. "In that case, we would like to invite you to our wedding on the thirteenth."

"I wouldn’t miss it."

* * * *

Jamie turned over, her body on automatic, and wrapped her arms around the body in front of her. She leaned forward and took a sniff of the sweet smelling, blonde hair. "It’s eight o’clock Rin," she mumbled. "I don’t think we can sleep any later. We’ve got a busy day ahead."

Eyes fluttered open and with a small stretch, Erin moved onto her back. She smiled and gave her lover a quick kiss. "Good morning."

"Good morning." Jamie yawned and threw her legs over the side of the bed. "I want to get all the barn work done before your friend gets here." She grabbed her robe and stepped into the other room.

Erin’s friend, Dr. Anne Carson was coming to stay the weekend. The wedding was the next Saturday and she would be returning to the ranch as a guest…at least the author hoped she would, but Erin wanted to be able to spend some quality time with her old friend before then. Erin had a full day’s worth of relaxing activities planned for the three of them. It was important to her that Jamie and Anne like each other. Jamie had been ill the first time she met Anne and the doctor had been making a professional visit. Their next encounter came when were Erin had been attacked by Ethan Tyler. And there was no time for forming friendships around all the tense and conflicting emotions. This was a day for old bonds to be renewed and new ones formed.

Erin had heard the touch of melancholy in her old friend’s voice the last time they had talked and she was concerned. The doctor was lonely, having yet to find her life mate, but the author detected more behind the normally exuberant doctor’s hushed tones. While Erin didn’t think she could do much to help as far as match making was concerned, she was anxious to help in any other way she could. And Dr. Carson might just be the solution to a problem Erin had wanted to tackle.

Jamie returned from her short trip to the bathroom and went to the oak dresser on the opposite side of the room. She stood there tapping her fingers on the hard top as her other hand rested on one the drawer’s handles.

"Don’t tell me you are trying to decide what to wear?" Erin asked jokingly.

Jamie shook her head. "No. I just…never mind." She proceeded to pull out a short sleeved, red t-shirt and slowly eased it over her head. Jamie then grabbed the old pair of work jeans from the chair where she had tossed them the night before and slipped into them. Taking her brown boots, the rancher moved back to the bed and sat down. The footwear dropped to the ground with a thud and Jamie studied the view out the second floor window. She finally pushed her foot into one of the dusty boots, but stopped before reaching for it twin.

Erin could read her lover’s moods and knew instantly that a question was scurrying around inside the dark head, just waiting to be asked. She rubbed the long back. "What’s up Sweetheart?"

Jamie glanced back over her shoulder then looked away quickly. "I know I shouldn’t be asking this…especially after the fight we had the other day…but I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it. You don’t have to answer, but I would like to know."

"I can’t answer until you ask me the question."

Jamie took a deep breath. "I know. Were you and Anne ever…did you ever…?"

Erin grinned and was glad her lover was turned away. In truth she liked knowing Jamie was just a little jealous; that was flattering. At the beginning of their relationship, she had told Jamie that she had only one other lover in her life, but Jamie obviously still didn’t remember that small fact and Erin didn’t want to remind her of those things that were still lost to her. "Jamie," she said softly. She waited until the blue eyes looked her way. Erin patted the empty place beside her and the jean clad bottom scooted back across the wrinkled sheets. "I’m going to tell you the complete truth," said the author. "Anne was a senior and I was a junior. We both had some really tough tests one Friday and when the classes were over and we were pretty confident that we passed, we decided to celebrate. She went out and got some beer and we had a little party, just the two of us."

Jamie nodded, sure of where this was leading.

Erin continued. "I had more beer that night then I had ever had in my life. That combined with the relief over the hard exams…well lets just say I was feeling fine. And so was Anne. We were giggling and goofing off and she tackled me to the bed and started tickling me. At one point her face was right above mine and…it just seemed like the right thing to do, so we kissed. And we kept kissing. Did I mention that we were just in our underwear?"

Jamie bit the side of her lip. "No, you seem to have forgotten that little fact."

Erin watched her lover’s jaw clench and she knew she shouldn’t be so tormenting…but it was the truth. "Anyway, you have to remember that we were both drunk. Anne was on top, but I wanted to be so I rolled us over…and right off the bed."

Jamie looked up to see the teasing smile.

"That pretty much ended it, especially since I landed on a beer bottle." Erin watched closely as her lover processed the information and how the sides of her lips twitched.

The rancher didn’t want to laugh, but the vision of some sloppy kissing, drunken groping and the tumble became hilarious. Slowly a laugh bubbled up from Jamie’s belly and burst from her mouth.

Erin loved the reaction; it was exactly what she had hoped for. "Nothing else ever happened after that," she said. "And we didn’t want it to. It would have affected our friendship. I didn’t mean to tease you Sweetheart, but you asked."

In one quick movement, Jamie stripped the blanket from her lover and covered the length of Erin’s body with her own. "That’s okay, I needed a good laugh." Jamie kissed her nose then dipped lower to taste the pink lips. Her hand drifted down until it came to rest on Erin’s solid behind. She gave it a squeeze then suddenly pulled away from the kiss. "Honey, the scar you have on your butt…did that happen then?"

"Yep. Imagine my explanation to the emergency room doctor."

Jamie winced. "That must have hurt."

"Couldn’t sit down for a few days. Even thinking about it now makes it tingle…or maybe that’s because of your hand."

Jamie gave the spot in question another gentle rub. "Tonight I’ll kiss it and make it all better. But…speaking of stitches. Chad was over here the other day stitching up Teegan and I found out something very interesting. He has a crush on you."

"Aww, that’s sweet."

Jamie hung her head in shame. "I didn’t think it was too sweet at the time. I guess I was jealous of him too. I’m sorry."

Erin considered it again and explained. "A little jealousy is okay Jamie." She lifted the drooping chin. "But neither one of us is ever going to seriously worry about it."

Jamie smiled slightly, leaving Erin to wonder.


* * * *

The air sizzled as Jamie dropped three thick steaks onto the red-hot grill. The steam quickly began to rise, carrying with it the hickory aroma of the coals and the flavorful scents of the cooking meat.

Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of Erin crossing the yard with a plate of appetizers. The blonde joined her old friend at the round picnic table and she and Anne were soon immersed once again in happy conversation. Jamie wanted to give them as much time alone as possible, but the smell of the food and her grumbling stomach soon motivated her to take a quick trip across the grass. As inconspicuously as possible, the rancher kissed the top of the golden head and reached for a large, stuffed mushroom, which she promptly bit into as she walked back to the house.

"You have got to be the luckiest woman on earth Erin," Anne said. "Jamie is an absolute doll and I can see that she treats you like a queen."

"Well, I can’t argue with any of that and she certainly is the best thing that ever happened to me, but what I like best about our relationship is the equality…in every way, shape and form. Not that any relationship can ever be perfect, but we do try our hardest to make it so."

Anne leaned forward and whispered jokingly. "She doesn’t happen to have a twin does she?"

The question took Erin a little off guard. The joke was a little cliché; that was just Anne’s particular type of dry humor. But it was also true or it had been at one time. But above all else, Erin respected her partner’s privacy and was sensitive to Jamie’s feelings about her deceased family. She responded simply. "No."

The lack of a witty comeback surprised the good doctor, but she let it pass without question.

Jamie returned ten minutes later, carrying a huge tin tub filled with ice and assorted drinks. She hefted it onto the wooden table with an audible grunt and slipped onto the bench next o her lover. "Help yourself Anne," she said. The doctor quickly chose a can of beer, causing Jamie to snicker.

Doctor Carson popped the top on the silver can and wasted no time quenching her immediate thirst. The ice-cold beverage slid down her throat with just a little tingle and settled into her belly with the warmth of familiarity. She hadn’t indulged in any alcoholic drink in over three years, since she had started work at the hospital. She just never knew when she would be called in and didn’t want to take the chance. But this weekend she had no pager clipped to her belt and only carried her personal cell. She was two hours away from the bustle of the hospital and she was determined to enjoy every peaceful moment of her very short vacation.

Just as Anne lifted the can to her mouth for a second sip, Jamie said, "Don’t worry there isn’t a beer bottle in sight."

Doctor Carson processed the comment for just a second then her brown eyes went wide. She pinned her blonde friend with a silly expression. "Erin! You were so embarrassed that night, you said you would never tell anyone that story!"

The author took her partner’s hand. "Anyone but the love of my life."

"So Anne, do you have any other embarrassing stories about my future wife?" asked Jamie.

"Wife! Are really engaged?" The author proudly held out her ring, which was thoroughly inspected. "Erin it’s beautiful." The doctor jumped up and hugged her friend. "I’m so happy for you." She then included Jamie. "I wish you all the best. But I know you are going to have a great life together. And you both deserve it. So when’s the wedding?"

Erin scratched the side of her jaw. "Ah…next Saturday. I know it’s short notice, but I wanted to invite you in person. Can you make it?"

"Nothing will keep me away."

* * * *

After totally indulging themselves in decedent ice cream sundaes, a little exercise was called for. Jamie readied three horses and they set out to show Anne around the huge ranch. The doctor knew how to ride, but hadn’t been in many years so it took her a while to get comfortable in the saddle.

The early fall day was slightly overcast, but not a drop of rain was in sight. The tips of the tall tress swayed slightly in the gentle breeze, their leaves, just showing a hint of the vibrant color to follow, rustled a poetic melody of peace.

Jamie quietly tugged on the reigns and guided them left into a grove of small trees. The horse beneath her had trod over this path on many occasions and snorted in anticipation of getting a drink of the cool, fresh water just ahead.

Anne sighed heavily, breaking the silence. "My God, this is the most beautiful place I have ever seen," she said bringing her stead to a halt at the water’s edge. She followed her companion’s lead and dismounted. Picking up a small stone by her foot, the doctor tossed it into the shallow brook. She relished the soft earth beneath her feet and the fresh pine scent softly invading her lungs. The hard, solid floor she was used to standing on ten to twelve hours a day and the pungent aroma of antiseptic and the haunting smell of blood were not at all missed. Nor was the hectic pace. "You guys are so lucky," said Anne. "I wish I could find a peaceful place like this to escape to. Sometimes, especially lately I…the stress at the hospital is really getting to me. There is not a moment’s quiet time during the whole day. Even now I can’t stop thinking about the dozen or more things I’ll have to do on Monday."

Erin stood by listening to her old friend’s ramblings and feeling the woman’s frustration.

Anne took a deep and absently rubbed the muscles in her neck. "I’m thinking about leaving the hospital for a private practice."

"That’s what you always talked about back in college," said Erin. "I always wondered why you changed your mind."

Anne’s brown, curly hair swished as her head fell to her chest. "I let myself be talked into it by one of my professors. He said that’s where all the important work was done. Don’t get me wrong, I love helping the people, but they just pass through and I never know what happens to most of them. And I’m always too busy to do follow ups. I would just like to be able to sit down and have a conversation with a patient once in a while." She looked up and saw the compassion on her friend’s faces. "I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be laying all this on you. I wanted to come out here and have fun."

Erin hugged the sad woman. "Anne, I want you to be able to talk to me about anything. Friends are for more than just fun."

"I know that…and I love you for it. But right now that’s enough of my problems."

The author took some cubes of sugar from her pocket and treated the horses before they all started back to the house. "You know Anne, I certainly don’t want to add to your frustrations, but I could use some of your professional advice."

"That’s all right. What’s up?"

Erin took her partner’s hand as the three of them walked back down the path through the forest. "Jamie and I have discovered that the emergency systems up here are..."

"Scary," offered the dark haired rancher.

"Yeah." Erin continued. "There is only one nearby clinic and it’s relatively small and I seriously doubt that it could handle much more than a simple broken bone."

"Not to mention that it is run by one very homophobic doctor," said Jamie. "I also discovered that the nearest, major emergency facility if almost forty minutes away."

Anne’s brown eyes went wide. "That’s ludicrous!"

"Exactly," Erin said. "That’s why I have been seriously considering funding a new, larger clinic. One with a well equipped lab, is amply staffed and that would be prepared for emergency surgeries."

Anne nodded seriously. "Sounds like exactly what you need. There is something else you might want to consider since the area up here is so spread out. There is a new emergency vehicle that is a step up from just an ambulance. It allows for emergency surgical procedures in the field."

Erin and Jamie’s eyes met and each smiled, knowing that their thoughts were running along the same track. "Then I have just made up my mind to do that," said the blonde author. "I’ll get started on it when we get back from our honeymoon."

"I have some business contacts at the hospital that I can put you in touch with. You’ll also need to do some serious research to find the right person to put in charge. Although I wouldn’t expect you to do anything less, I’ve just heard about too many private clinics going under simply because of poor management."

Erin glanced over to the serious doctor and grinned knowingly. "Actually, I already know someone who is highly qualified for the job. Someone who loves the people more than the salary. So how about it?"

"How about what?"

Erin stopped along the path and turned to look her friend straight in the eye. "I would like to hire you to run this new clinic. I trust you to make this project work more than anyone else I know."

Anne sucked in a surprised breath. "Wow! I…I don’t know what to say."

"This could be the private practice you said you wanted, plus you get the peace and beauty of the country. I promise you that your skills would be very appreciated."

The doctor’s unbelieving expression relaxed into a soft grin. "I’ll give it some very serious consideration, Erin. Thank you."

Jamie mounted her golden horse and waited for her companions to do the same. "I believe there is a Scrabble board waiting for us back at the house. Anyone up for a little friendly competition?"

"That reminds me," said Anne, "Erin ever tell you that she invented strip Scrabble?"

The blonde groaned and scrubbed her reddening face. A quick click of her heels sent her white stead off in a gallop, leaving her grinning friends behind in a cloud of dust.

Jamie turned to the doctor. "Strip Scrabble huh?


"Interesting. I’ll have to remember that."

Anne chuckled. "I’m sure you will."


To be concluded in part 19, coming soon.


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