Part Three

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Lying there on top of Erin was magical. Perfectly magical. Waking up with her warm, firm body so close to mine that it would have taken the skills of a micro surgeon to insert a hair between us, was the experience I had wanted to feel for such a long time. I don't just mean the last three weeks since I had known her, no. I mean the time since I was born until now.

When I lifted my face to look at her, I expected her to be asleep, but she was looking right back at me, those blues eyes dark in the firelight. The shape of her face was classic, an almost squareness, which softened to allow the feminine beauty of her to ooze out.

'Good evening, Erin.' Nothing. She either didn't hear me, or was thinking about something else. 'Sleep well?' Doesn't hurt to try again. I felt her stiffen underneath me, and for an awful moment, I thought she was regretting letting things develop as fast as they had. Please let that not be the case.

'What time is it?' Her voice was soft, and I felt the tremors of the timbre of it race through my body. Those blue eyes were so bloody blue … so bloody blue, and all I wanted to do was to stare at her. 'Steph?' Bugger.

'Erm …' I started struggling to get my hand from its position, which was underneath her hip. Eventually, with an over dramatic pull, it was free to let me squint and focus on the tiny dial. Fires are good, but they are bastards for allowing you to actually see anything properly. Erin laughed a short laugh, and grabbed my wrist to bring my watch to her face, whereby she began to squint just as much as I had. Did she wear glasses? And where did that come from? It was okay for me to squint, but for her to, she had to wear glasses, didn't she? Sounds like my logical way of thinking. I wouldn't care if she wore deep sea diving goggles, as long as I could still see her, feel her, and be with her on this sofa for as long as I could.

'Seven-thirty! I didn't realise it was so late!' Late? Seven-thirty? 'I am supposed to be calling James … ah bugger.' Erin didn't give me the opportunity to ready myself before she began to sit up, and before I knew it I was sprawled out on the wooden floor. Reggie and Brian were up like a shot, and both of them were giving me Doggy First Aid - which, if you didn't know, was a full face wash. 'Shit! Sorry, honey.' Honey? I liked the sound of that. An endearment said with no thought attached - just popping out … mmm. Even the smell of dog's breath didn't wipe the smile off my face. 'Here. Let me help you.' A strong, firm hand was in front of me, and just as I took those capable fingers in my own, her other hand was cupping my elbow and lifting me to my feet. Jesus … she was strong. I don't think I had the opportunity to bend my knees before I was winched onto the sofa next to her.

We sat there, side by side, like a couple of bookends, actually. Was she regretting the 'honey'?

'Sorry about that.' Thought so. 'I just panicked a little.' It's no big deal, Erin. It was only one word. 'I bet that must have hurt, huh?' Huh? 'Wooden floors are not as forgiving as carpet.' I am a knob. She was talking about throwing me off her onto the floor - and I bet you already knew that, didn't you?

'I'm good. Used to falling splat on my butt when playing with the demon seed there.' As I said it, both Reggie and Brian looked my way - and it appeared to suggest that they both had the tendencies of being a demon seed when the mood took them. A soft stroking sensation fluttered along the base of my spine, and the tingling seemed to seep all over my body.

'Does it hurt?' If I said yes, would you keep on stroking me? 'Can I see?'

'Su ... re.' Yes. My voice box was in the Land of Erin, and it was having difficulty formulating the one word response that had ratta ta ta ted from my mouth. I felt a waft of cool air light upon my skin and the hairs salute the evening. Delicate touches from tantalizing fingertips danced on the base of my back, almost like a fingertip adaptation of Swan Lake. But as much as this sensation was sublime, it didn't equal the absolute ecstasy of the feeling of her lips when they brushed over the skin in a breeze of wonder.

A muffled, 'It looks a little red here,' followed by another kiss. The shock of it raced up my spine, then back down, only to be sent away again with another kiss. God. I wanted to turn around so much … so much, but part of me was scared that if I turned around there would be no going home for Erin Mason that night. Wetness began to pool between my legs, and the ache was agonisingly blissful. Her mouth was moving over my skin, collecting me like a bee collects nectar, and her fingers were tracing patterns on to my skin and leaving an ache in their wake. Slowly, as if by wishful thinking, I saw one hand sneak around the front of me, and I prayed to a higher being, that she would continue on her quest of discovery. Fingers played with the hem of my top, and a voice inside me tried to warn me … tried to tell me to stop this now before it was too late. But how could I? I had waited too long to feel this.

Inside. That's where they were now. Inside my top and slipping up my stomach … slipping higher and higher … toying with the base of my bra … toying with the last vestiges of reality. I wanted this. I wanted her so fucking much. I could feel my hips rocking, allowing my need to find some purchase on the sofa … allowing the ache to continue … to rise … to build … the climb to that place where the real world fades and the world where you have craved your whole life is waiting with open arms. Still kissing … still searching … my hand covered hers and moved it over my breast, where I pushed it down, hoping she would feel the hardness of my nipple underneath her hand. Her mouth was at my side now, sucking the skin, nipping the pliable flesh, and her ragged breath was escaping and splattering itself all over me.

Leaning back, I allowed her to move more to the front … I needed her mouth more fully on me … needed it on my breasts … suckling my nipple … taking me and feeding from me, as much as I wanted to feed from her. Twisting slightly, she was on top, my leg circling her waist, pulling her closer. I couldn't help the tempo beginning from my hips … I needed her inside … needed her above and below … needed her … ached and yearned for her … wanted nothing more than to give myself to her.

Erin's body was moving with me, her thigh between my legs and pushing into the place where I wanted her to be. Her hands were gripping and grasping, her lips devouring, and I loved it. This is it. The place where I should be. The place where nothing else mattered - only her and me … me and her. Groaning sounds spluttered from her mouth to hit my skin to burn a surge of desire so strong inside me that I thought I would break if she didn't take me there and then. My top was thrust away in a kind of desperation, not by me, but her, and I saw the gleam of longing sparkle in her eyes. Yes. Take it. It's yours. And when I felt her mouth cover my erect bud, I couldn't help the gasp that left my mouth. She was feeding from me … God … she was feeding, and I was on the verge of cumming. Bodies drummed against each other, the pace becoming uncontrolled and frantic. I was gripping her backside trying to force her into me … I needed her inside me … needed her to rip off my jeans and fuck me there and then on the sofa. Needed to feel those strong, firm fingers make me hers … delve inside me … deep … then deeper … needed to feel them thrusting … fast … then faster … needed to know she knew it was me as I came …

'Erin!' God. Please. Let her take me. Let her take me now … I need her … need her … need her.

But she didn't. She stopped. Stopped and looked into my face with a look of confusion, as if she had just re entered the real world, well, before the look of horror gripped her that is.

'Shit! Sorry Steph!' Fuck the sorry … why are you stopping? Why don't you make me yours? 'I … I …' You can't tell me she didn't want this as much as I did? No way. There was no fucking way she wasn't as into this as I was. I may be an idiot sometimes, but I can guarantee I know when someone is into it. 'I … I'm sorry.' Stop apologising and tell me. Do you want this? Do you want me? Do you want to stop before we have had a chance? As you can tell, I was feeling a little angry by this point, as I was as horny as hell and totally unreasonable. Well, until she said the next thing that is. 'I want this to be special, Steph. Not a fumbling on the sofa.' Amazing to think how anger can subside so quickly, isn't it? Maybe because by what she had said I knew she wanted more than fling. The look on her face did look apologetic too, and I felt vindicated in a way. She did want me. And God, did I want her.

'Hey, honey …' I had to get the endearment in, didn't I? 'Look … I want this as much as you do …' You bet I do, and that was not just the voice of my flower speaking. 'We can take our time, ok? I want this to work.' But even as I said it I saw something like pain flit across her face. What could have incited such a response? Did she know something I didn't? Not that it would take much …

Erin leaned over and kissed my cheek, and I felt a jolt surge again in my lower regions. At this rate I doubted I would survive another five minutes with her if my body didn't calm down.

'I'd best be going.' She delivered this statement as she was rising up from the sofa, and Brian was next to her in a flash. It was all so sudden, you know. One minute we were making out, then stopping, and then declaring that we both wanted something more … then nothing. She was leaving without even commenting on anything I had said. Talk about an anti climax … literally.

When she turned at the door, I was deep in thought, and it wasn't until I felt her hands on my face that I realised she wanted my attention. Her face was so open … so honest … and there was a purpose written there that made my blood race, yet stay cold. It was weird … one of the weirdest feelings I have ever had, if truth be known.

'Steph?' I looked up at her, only to be totally entranced by her gaze once again. 'Would you like to come to dinner tomorrow night?' Of course I did, but there was also a part of me that wondered why her expression was so distantly wracked with determination. However, I still nodded and said yes, a thing she seemed to take in deeply. 'We'll have a chance to discuss where our futures are heading.' Huh? 'And hopefully they are heading in the same direction.' Huh - again - big time. What was there to discuss … unless she did know something about my past. Fuck. She did. I could tell. There was no way she would be blowing hot and cold if she didn't, was there? Should I tell her now? Get it over with? Tell her I wasn't the same person I was back then … that I had changed … 'Hey … nothing bad. Don't look so worried.' Incredibly her expression was back to the Erin I loved, and I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.

Another lingering kiss and she was gone.

And yes. I did say loved. Do you want to know why? Easy. It was because of my reaction to her, you see. The way I wanted to be a better person because she was in my life … the way I believed what she thought of me was the most important thing in the world, rather than dwelling on events that happened four years ago.

Closing the door on her seemed like completely the wrong thing to do, but there was part of me that needed to pump my arms and exclaim a 'YES!' into the air. Reggie hadn't moved from his patch on the rug in front of the fire, and I felt a jolt of guilt, not about my past this time, but something definitely in the present. Here I was nearly skipping and hopping with joy around the house, and there was my little injured soldier doing his finest 'Shell shocked and wounded in battle' look. All thoughts of confession, worrying about what we would discuss the following night, and why Erin had made the excuse to leave early, left my head, as I made my way to the main man in my life, who by this stage was staring dramatically at the oversized bandage on his paw.

'Does baby want a cuddle?' Why do we insist on talking to our pets in that patronising way? 'Do you want mamma to give you a kiss?' And even when the previous thought had flashed through my mind, I still had to go for the sickly sweet voice you would never ever use in public. 'Come here, honey.' Even if you weren't over keen on our furry pals, you would hear the cracking sound within your breast - or the sound of tiny violins creaking out the kind of music that would make your soul weep when you clocked his little battered foot held limply up for inspection.

But before I had a chance to scoop him in my arms, he was off … racing through to the other room, and then back in a flash with a ball wedged firmly in his mouth, the look saying, 'Nah. I'd rather play, mum.' A laugh shot out of my mouth, and that made his tail wag even harder.

'So … you wanna play do you?'


And that's how we spent most of the evening. Reggie playing hard to get, and me getting knackered in the way only dogs can knacker you. In a word … heaven.


Sleep came easily, and I think it was the most wonderful night's sleep I had for such a long time. There were no dreams, or nightmares, it was as if my brain had been stored in a black room for the duration of the night. Waking up was easy, and the very first thought on my mind was Erin. Lying there under the duvet, the gentle snores of a contented dog the only other sound in the room, I allowed myself the opportunity to run through the events of the previous night. A smile slipped effortlessly across my mouth, and I released a sigh. How perfect. Her kisses, I mean. The feeling she evoked in just a kiss was blinding, therefore the next thought was 'I wonder what it would be like to do more than kiss?' Another bigger, wider smile lit my face. Would I be able to handle her? Thoughts of her here with me began to build, and so did the feeling between my legs … even my heart rate had began to liven up. More images of our time on the sofa decided to make an appearance, and I had the urge to sort out the ache before getting out of bed … just like the previous time. 'That's enough of that, Stevenson.' But it was spoken in a light hearted way. Hopefully the thoughts stirring more than my imagination would soon become a reality … thus inciting more butterflies, and definitely more of that buzzing sensation I was experiencing from my pelvic area.

It wasn't until I was brushing my teeth did I remember what else I had to do today. I know! That should have been the first thought on my mind when I woke, not the need, or feel, of her waking up next to me … or of waking up something deep inside me, for that matter. Today, or tonight even, was the time where I would tell her everything about my past - the time we would discuss our future. Bollocks. The smile that had been jumping on and off my face seemed to make an excuse and abscond to leave room for the groan of frustration to quit my mouth. Bollocks - again. Why couldn't I have just told her when I had first got to know her? Why did I have to be a twat? Only a few more hours before I could reveal to her the real me, or the 'me' I used to be, as even I had come to realise I was no longer the same person I was.

With that thought, I spat and rinsed. A metaphor? You bet.

It was less than two hours later that everything I thought I knew suddenly disappeared - or be whipped from under my feet, to use a clichι of the banal variety. Weirdly enough, it was not the way I thought it would be … far from it, in fact. Some people would call it fate; others would say I deserved it - whatever. All I knew was that I knew nothing at all until the moment Pippa walked into my office.

Pippa. Known to many as the News Room bike. Fat, forty, and forever getting on my tits. I know this sounds cruel, but believe me, if anyone deserved my wrath at any time of the day or night, it was her. Her ultimate achievement in life was to ruin life for anybody else. Most of her day was spent dodging work - well, delegating it, as she put it. Her job was to oversee the rest of us when the sub editor was busy, and when the sub was busy, Pippa became Eva Braun instead of Mae West.

I knew it was going to be a fuckster as soon as her blonde permed head wedging itself around my door, the pig like eyes sparkling with an incessant need to be a twat of the highest order.

'Hello, sweetheart.' Words that should have made me feel comfortable and happy seemed to be bitter coming from her, and I knew it would be a while before I could stop my skin crawling. 'How is my favourite reporter this morning?' I grunted a response, wanting nothing more than to tell her to shove her 'favourite reporter' slur up her big fat ar … 'So … are you busy?' Where's Eva? We want Eva. We can deal with Eva … and not some extra from the Muppet Show high on helium. Did I tell you she had a squeaky, as well as irritating, voice? Believe me - if you are of the age where they used to have black boards in classrooms, and someone would scrape their fingers down it … you got it. Can you remember the feel of the hairs all down your neck standing up in fright? I think you get the picture that my life was a damn sight better if she wasn't in it. 'Well, honey …' She came closer, and I was leaning away from her - even Reggie's growling didn't put her off, '… have I got a delicious job for you.' Licking the toilet bowl? Picking flies from dog shit? Giving her a bed bath? Please … if there is a God … let it be one of the first two.

Ok. I'm being a bitch. I am also trying to procrastinate my way into somewhere where the next bit never happened.

'I have just found out about your celebrity neighbour.' I looked at her with my 'Why don't you just fuck off' face I had perfected over the years. And by the looks of it, she either chose to ignore it, or was even more stupid than I gave her credit for. 'Ellen Michaels … real name Erin Mason.' Short, simple, to the point. And there was something deep inside me that wanted to get up, slap her, and growl into her face, 'Don't you ever soil her name with your voice again', but I didn't. For obvious reasons. But there was a part of me that wanted to know what she was going to say next - call it masochism, as after all I did bring it on myself. I didn't even question that she had said 'real name' - just took the information in.

'What about her?' I couldn't resist.

'She's your neighbour, isn't she?' Der. She had already qualified that. 'Jeff was wondering …' Why he employed you in the first place? '… if you would write a special on the Lakes' new resident.' You can gather that I didn't stop her. Well, who would? The idea of writing an article on Erin appealed to me on more than one level. Imagine the look of surprise on her face when I showed it to her … 'You know her, right?' I couldn't help smiling, then coughing sharply, and finishing with a flamboyant nod of the head. If she only knew … 'Well, you could get an interview with her, couldn't you?' I wanted to say I was seeing her tonight, but there was no way I would be wasting my time getting to know the writer - I was more interested in getting to know the … 'There is not much going on today, so you could start doing a little background research now, if you want to of course?' I pursed my lips, as it was always good to play hard to get. 'I think she would like it if you knew a little bit more about her - these arty types are like that.' Plonking her big fat arse onto the corner of my desk, which of course groaned out a 'please … no!', she leaned over to get closer to me. 'I have already started, being the professional I am.' Pro is the right word, but I'm not sure about the 'fessional' bit. 'She's come up through the ranks has this one … used to be a lowly reporter like you. Went by the name of Ellen Michaels then.' No. I can guarantee she was never as low as me. And why would she use a pseudonym? 'So … can I leave it in your capable hands, Stephanie?'

I wanted to tell her to shove the job up her big wide loading backside, not because I didn't want to do it, it was more a case of because she asked me to do it. But I didn't. Unfortunately. They always say you should never listen in on other people's conversations, as you would never hear anything good about yourself - also, you should under no circumstances try to get an eyeful of someone's life without them knowing … pretty much for the same reason, I suppose. Nevertheless, I took the job, feigning boredom of course, and not knowing that the layers I was about to peel off Erin Mason's, aka Ellen Michaels', life would be as illuminating as they were. But the past has a way of coming back to bite you, and you either have to bite back, or fall victim. I was fed up of playing the victim … therefore I was baring my teeth and ready for the attack.

However, I am jumping the gun here, aren't I? Bitchy Poo had not even slammed the door before I was spilling my worst case scenario to you. I think I should give you an insight of exactly what I did uncover.

Ok. I did what most people do when researching someone or something. I Googled her. Erin Mason, of course. Most of which I already knew from the time I had researched a little bit more about the woman who was taking up all my waking moments - even though she wasn't speaking to me at the time - but this time I didn't just look for books. Do you know there are over a million hits for Erin Mason? A million. Over. And too many of them were concentrating on either a hockey star or a man. That did make me laugh … only for a little bit though. Then I thought 'Fuck it', as you do, why was I going in the hard way when I also knew her pseudonym? So, I tried another way … cross referencing Ellen Michaels and Erin Mason … and am I boring you? I was getting bored by this stage, and just wanted to call Erin and ask her. But that's not what you do when you are writing a surprise article about someone, is it? Don't get me wrong, I wasn't just going to spring it on her - I was going to show her before I published it. Thought I would clarify that snippet of information, as I didn't want you to think I was going back to my old ways.

It wasn't so bad at first. Just a couple of things popped up. There was more information about Erin Mason than I had first thought, and when I saw her myspace page, I thought I was onto a winner. However, that didn't pan out, and neither did the other three myspaces I found, as they were all written by fans, and by the looks of it, they knew just as much as I did. But the Ellen Michaels information was right on the money. Initially I didn't worry … but as the information and articles she had written started to appear, I must admit, I felt a wave of agitation wash over me.

Then I saw it. Saw IT. Saw the search indicator that suggested I click on the link to read the whole thing. I can't tell you how long I sat there with my mouse hovering over the hyperlink, watching as it highlighted and then stopped with the movement of my cursor.

Both our names were there … both of them. But it wasn't in a 'Steph loves Erin' kind of way - it was very far removed from anything with any amount of affection attached.

Ellen Michaels dishes the dirt on Stevenson

Read archived articles here from any city in the UK. Ellen Michaels takes on top notch reporter in a bid to expose suicide was in fact murder. Email this article to a friend. - 32k

You can imagine how I was feeling, can't you? Seeing those words strapped together in a little pocket that was floating somewhere in cyberspace was enough to transport me back to a time where I had tried so valiantly to pretend I had never been. They say to let the past rest … and I understood that more than ever at this precise moment, but I had to know … I had to find out if it was actually me she was writing about. Echoes of her saying, 'I've heard that name somewhere before, but for the life of me, I can't place it,' seemed to bounce inside my head. But how could it be? Not once had she said she knew me … not once. And all the times she had mentioned my career … Was she trying to get a follow up story? Was she inching her way into my life under the pretence of actually liking me? Kissing me … promising me a future, when all she wanted was to continue something that was dead and buried? If this was true … Jesus … if this was all she wanted …

Click. And there it appeared in all its glory. A part of me wanted to throw up there and then, whereas another part of me knew this was the time I faced the truth … faced up to the person I was, or had hoped, had been up until two minutes ago.

Murder, She Wrote

How could one person continue to devastate, deceive and destroy a family after they had already been through hell? How could one person take it upon herself to bleed, then suck, the life from a woman whose whole world had already been ravaged by violence? How could this one person have the conscience to sleep at night?

Easy. Well, if your name is Stephanie Stevenson, that is. Yes. We are talking about 'the' Stephanie Stevenson, illustrious reporter for the Daily News Manchester Edition - the same Ms Stevenson who picked up last year's award for Headliner of the Year. We doubt she'll be getting any more trophies for her bulging cabinet after the latest scoop … that being the sole catalyst to the downward spiral of a woman who had been to hell and back, and then sent smartly back to the nightmarish world of rape.

Mrs Lisa Poole, mother of three, was savagely attacked in her own home, and not just by group of teenagers. After a brutal assault, that left the poor twenty-eight year old in tatters, Stevenson decided to finish the job. As if having your dignity shredded wasn't enough, the celebrated journalist knocked the last nail into the housewife's coffin with a tortuous two hour interview, firing questions at her until she crumpled.

Henry Poole, the victim's shattered husband, was, as expected, beside himself with grief yesterday, and willingly spoke out against the barbaric and callous conduct his wife underwent in the hands of the media. Or should we say Stevenson? After agreeing to the interview, Stevenson hammered home questions to the distraught couple, even when it was obvious she should stop. Mr Poole, 31, said, through floods of tears, that he couldn't save his wife from the bombardment of questions Stevenson heartlessly delivered. 'When Ms Stevenson left, Lisa went totally to pieces,' the grief stricken husband told us. 'I felt completely useless.'

With his three motherless children at the side of him, the broken man tried his hardest to explain the events leading up to his wife's suicide four days after the interview with Stevenson, until, eventually, he asked the children to leave us for a while. Obviously, his children didn't want to leave him, but he assured them he would be alright - it wasn't like the last time.

Through choking sobs the man spluttered, 'I came home and found her. In the bath. I was too late.' We asked him if he would like to continue with the interview, something Stevenson should have done, but he said he wanted to tell the truth. 'I went to see Ms Stevenson the day it happened. Tried to tell her, tried to show her how her actions had taken away from me the only woman I will ever love. But it was so hard to confront her, as she didn't seem to care what her actions had done to me, Lisa, or my children. She was laughing when I turned up.' All the time the man was trying to get his words out, it was evident that here sat a man ravaged by a pain only time will help ease.

Stephanie Stevenson, 35, has been unavailable for comment. In retrospect, we believe she will want to keep her head down for a long time to come. With good reason, too. However, Ms Celebrated Journalist, Ms Anything for a Story, we have a few questions for you to mull over. Do you have a heart? Do you have a conscience? Do you know what it is like to lose someone you love? Better still, do you know how to love?

And finally, a question from Henry Poole to the conveniently absent reporter, 'What do I tell the kids?'

Yes. What should he tell them, Stephanie? As sorry doesn't come close.

I can't tell you how long I sat there. Can't tell you the pain I was feeling … it wasn't as if I was feeling overwhelmed by it all … all the hate and anger that was directed at me, I mean. It was the deceit. The lying. The pretending she liked me … pretending we had something to reach for. It was all the above and so fucking much more. Yes. I had reported the story, and the way I had gone about it was not something I would like to announce whenever I met someone I liked, but this! This was something you would definitely tell someone, isn't it? Usually at the moment you recognised their name. Not try to woo them … make them feel you are beginning to be their everything … trick them into believing you were genuinely falling for them too.

I don't know how long I had been crying … don't know how long Reggie had been trying to get my attention. The next thing I realised, Pippa was standing next to my desk reading the article over my shoulder, a tutting noise coming from her mouth.

'Makes you wonder how a woman could do that, doesn't it?' Did she mean me or Erin? 'To write something like that and then play the perfect neighbour.' Turning her face around, I could see the traces of a smirk playing along her lips. 'When I found that this morning, I thought "That'll get Stevenson's back up. And maybe give that queer a helping hand in fucking off back to the city where she belongs."'

Words jammed in my throat. Words so painful and vitriolic struggled to free themselves … struggled to splatter themselves in kamikaze defence on her fat fucking idiot face. She knew … she knew that Erin had written the article about me and wanted me to find it. What had I ever done to her that was so bad that she would want to crush my world like that? I know I told you what I thought of her, but I had always been professional … I had never allowed my personal feelings to get in the way of my job. Even when I had been the person I had despised … the job always came first.

'And …' She stood erect now, all the vestiges of the smirk gone. 'It might make you leave too.'

So, that was it. She wanted me out. But why? Why would she stoop so low? Was it because she could never pin anything on me - never get a reaction from me over anything she tried to do? I tried to ask her, but those words were still trapped, and all I could do was flap my arm flaccidly in her general direction. Reggie was growling at her, and I knew if she took even one step toward me he would lunge at her, and there was no way I wanted her to get the satisfaction of having my dog put down. Therefore, the flaccid hand grabbed onto his collar, but that didn't stop the menacing noise emanating from deep inside his chest.

'We can do without your kind here. Fucking fags and queers don't belong living amongst decent people.' She made a move to go, but stopped, as if she had just remembered something. 'In my opinion, people like you should be drowned at birth, or at least shot when your filthy inclinations decided to crawl out.'

Snap! That's what it sounded like. A huge snapping sound like a beebee gun going off inside my head. Before I had a chance to think the next part through, I felt my hand tighten around her throat, squeezing with just enough strength to make her worry, and to have difficulty breathing. I hadn't even realised I had moved, until I felt the folds of her skin on my palm.

'You fucking homophobe! It's people like you that make me wish I had been drowned at birth. That way, I wouldn't have to look at your pig face everyday. Or listen to your whining voice … smell fish every time you walk by … pretend you have an ounce of common sense … an ounce of humanity.' By this time she was against the wall, and her eyes watering. Yeah. Where's the strong woman you thought you were now? Where are your opinions, Pippa? 'And as for being a fucking queer, as you like to put it … at least I don't fuck people to keep my job.' With a slam, her head connected with the wall, and my once full hand now hung there empty. All it would take was a little momentum, and I knew the fist would find a spot right between her eyes.

But I didn't. Pippa, and all those like her, were not worth the effort. There were too many Pippas in this world that would never accept that we are all different, that we love in our own way, and not have to follow the rules of convention anymore.

Walking over to the computer, I pressed print and began logging off. Enough work for one day … enough information for a morning, don't you think? Finding out that the woman you loved was a backstabbing cunt would have been enough, but to also to be reminded you were in fact a social outcast was definitely worth leaving early. The office could do without me for the rest of the day, as I had other things to do - the main one was to confront the lying twat who pretended to be my friend.

'I'll get you the sack for this.' Her voice was raspy, as I knew her throat would be aching.

I didn't even turn to look in her direction when I answered, 'You still here?' Leaning down I scooped the page from the print tray and folded it the best I could. My hands were shaking, but not through fear. Reggie was at my side the whole time, and I leaned down and patted his head. 'Come on, fella. Let's go home.'

'I said, I'll have your job for this, Stevenson.'

Stopping next to where she was leaning against the wall, I looked directly into her eyes. 'I think you mistake me for someone who actually gives a shit.' Then I made a move to leave, until her grubby hand grabbed my arm. Turning once again to her, I knew my look would be enough to stop any comment, so I made the most of the silence. 'And by the way … I think it will be me having your job.'

A nervous laugh snorted through her nose, but her hand slipped from my arm all the same. 'Prejudice and discrimination in the workplace is a sackable offence. Not to mention all the 'extras' I know about.'

'But you attacked me!'

'Really?' I stopped again, the coolness of my former self covering me like a blanket. 'Tell me. Where are your witnesses?'

Her eyes were frantically searching around to see if anyone else had seen what had transpired a few minutes before, but I saw the light fade from them when she noticed I had my blinds pulled down in front of the window that looked into the rest of the news room.

'Jeff won't believe you.' Her voice was low, threatening, but I didn't give a rat's ass. I didn't even answer her. I had wasted enough time on that fuckster for one day. Now it was time to see the second fuckster, and the way I was feeling, she wouldn't be as fortunate as Pippa. This time the teeth would sink in … there would be no flaccid arm … no more surprises. Clutching the piece of paper closer to my chest, as if it gave me strength, I clicked my tongue at Reggie, wanting us both to get out of there and get the next bit over and done with as soon as possible. That way I could put everything to rest … RIP … Rest In Pieces.

I could still hear her shouting things after me. Insults. Threats. Words that you would never repeat in front of your mother. But I didn't say a word … not because it would make me look bad in front of all the people who were witness to her abuse, although that did come in handy. It was because all the venomous words I had, I wanted to save up to throw at Erin Mason, aka Ellen Michaels. Now that was worth my muteness, don't you think?


In the car, all I could see were distorted images of the webpage, maybe because tears were struggling to escape again, but I don't think that was the main reason. Images of Erin and me the previous night were duelling with the article, and the more I saw them jousting for precedence, the more angry I became. I felt like a fool … a stupid fucking idiot who had believed that the past had been firmly laid to rest. Touching the piece of paper on the seat beside me reminded me that whatever I believed, there were still a lot of things that were all so raw. Everyday for four years I had lived with my guilt over the death of Lisa Poole. Every …fucking … day. But when Erin had come into my life, I thought maybe, just maybe, this could be the time when I could put those demons aside … move on … become the 'better person' I thought I could be when I was with her. And look where that got me.

I was home in no time. Tyres screeching onto gravel alerted Bassenthwaite I was home, and I was not happy. You would have thought she would have taken heed by the ferocity of the arrival, but no. She had the balls to smile in welcome as I marched over to her where she was in the garden, clutching the now crumpled piece of paper into my fist. Brian ran toward me, but I ignored him and strode on.

My throat was tight, yet loose. My arms were aching, yet supple. My legs were taking me toward her at the pace of a race walker, and my brain was with her before my body was. She tried to welcome me … tried to shout out a term of surprise and endearment, but I got in before her.

'You fucking backstabbing cunt!' I saw her freeze and a look of panic wash over her face, but I didn't give her time to react. 'How could you? How fucking could you?'

'I … I … what …'

'Don't fucking pretend you don't know … don't you dare fucking pretend to me again, do you understand?' I was in front of her now, and although I had images of me wiping the look off her face as I was driving home, there was no way I could actually hurt her physically. Emotionally, well, that was a given. I could hear Reggie howling in the distance, as I hadn't let him out of the car … I couldn't - I was too focused on telling her exactly what I thought of her writing. Brian began to sympathise with him, but I didn't give a flying fuck. It was her and me … me and her … but not in the same way I had thought it would be last night. 'Thought you'd heard my name before, did you? Couldn't place it? Well, I think you have definitely heard the name Stephanie Stevenson …' I held out my tightened fist with the article securely inside and I saw her flinch. 'If this is any indication.' Her face became even more pale that it had, and for a moment I thought she was going to faint. As her feet staggered, I tried to stop her from falling. Images of Henry Poole doing the same to me after I had destroyed his life flashed in my mind. Instead of feeling pity, more anger raised its head. 'Read it. Although you probably know it by heart.'

One swift shove and she had it. And like Henry Poole I was there with nothing to hold onto … nothing. But instead of pleading, 'What do I tell the kids?' I went for the slasher … right for the jugular … anything to make me feel some semblance of peace once again. 'I wish to God I had never laid eyes on you, and I hope beyond hope that I never have the misfortune to see, speak, or hear your lying voice for as long as I live.'

Then I left. The same speed. The same anger. The same everything, well, except I didn't have a future now. Didn't have anything but the pain and desperation I had felt four years ago. Erin didn't try to stop me, not that I blame her. I had not given her the chance to explain … to tell me her side of the story, and as we all know, there are always three sides to every story. Mine, yours, and the truth. Nevertheless, I knew the truth. I knew that I wasn't fit enough for her to wipe her boots on me … had done from the start. I also knew that the article she had written was the truth … just from a different perspective, a perspective I hadn't wanted to acknowledge. I think that's why it hurt so much, you know. The reason why the ache in my chest was becoming unbearable. I had worked so hard trying to get my life into some kind of order, some kind of balance. When I had seen her for the first time, I had physically felt the scales tip in her favour, and that had been the vehicle by which I believed the last stage had begun in my recovery. But, as you can tell, I was only in remission, and I knew I would have to start all over again.

By the time I slammed the door and was standing in my hallway, part of the fight left me. Looking around I knew once and for all that everything was gone … spoiled … ruined. The Lakes held nothing for me now. Peace and tranquillity, the place to mourn and mend, was gone. My job would probably be advertised by now, if Pippa had anything to do with it. As for starting afresh … finding hope ... that was in ashes. I had been searching for a miracle and come up with a pocketful of sand.

Reggie was sitting on the floor in front of me, his tongue lolling out, mewling noises coming from deep within him. Dropping down onto the floor, I gathered him in my arms and pressed my face against his neck, his bandaged paw sticking upwards. Tears came easily, and Reggie tried his hardest to lick them as fast as they were flowing. At least I had one good thing from moving here … one person who loved me, understood me, never judged who I was or whom I had been.

Looking past his head, I saw the picture of my family on the stand, a picture I didn't even remember putting there. Smiling faces were looking back at me, and I knew all I wanted was to go back and get a hug from my mum. But that wasn't all …There was something I had to do … something I should have done at the time, but I was too busy licking my wounds and feeling sorry for myself. That something was to visit Henry Poole and tell him I was sorry. Such a weak word, don't you think? Sorry. Easy to spew out, as it was just letters and air. However, there was no going forward if I didn't … no reason to try again, if I ever wanted to of course, as it would always come back to this moment.

Within half an hour I was packed and loading the car. I could see Erin still standing where I had left her, the paper scrunched up in her hand. I knew she had read it - could tell by the abject distress written all over her. Funnily enough, a part of me wanted to go over and soothe her … go over and tell her everything would be all right again. But it couldn't. She had deceived me, nearly as much as I deceived myself.

Without a backwards glance, I slammed my car into gear and was on my way to face my past.


My dad was surprised when he opened the door, but not as surprised as my mum was when I grabbed hold of her and nearly squeezed the life out of her. But it wasn't until she said, 'Hey there, lady. What's brought all this on?' did I allow the sobs to break free. My dad didn't know what to do, and decided to try to give me something … a lamp … a picture … something for the house ... anything to see his daughter smile again. I tried to tell them, honestly, but the muscles in my throat were too busy pumping up the sobs to consider the art of conversation.

Eventually, I was led into the front room and gently placed onto the sofa. My mum sat next to me, whilst my dad decided if he couldn't give me a gift, the least he could do was make me a cup of tea. Once again I was amazed by the feeling of being at home. Erin Mason and her article couldn't hurt me here … I could block it all out. Everything. The tears I had been so free with suddenly decided to stop, and I acknowledged my surroundings. My mum was seated quietly; her expression was of concern, but she was in no hurry to find out why I had turned up like Cerberus was chasing me. My lip began to quiver once again, and she half-smiled and tapped her chest. 'Come here. Let mum take care of you.' Just as I began to cry and move forward, I heard my dad come back in, then opt for the safety of the kitchen again. He was good like that … knew when it was time to let women do the things that they needed to do without the embarrassment of him looking hopelessly on.

'Do you want me to call Ju?' I shook my head. Why involve Ju in all this? All I needed was a good blub, a shower, and then go and see Henry Poole. That was enough for one day, wasn't it?

Quietness pervaded the air, apart from my crying that is.

After ten minutes I knew I couldn't just sit here in the safety of my mum's arms, I had to get myself into gear and make a visit. Lifting my head, I looked up at my mum's worried face. That was the last thing I had wanted to do … Why should I come here and worry them both stupid over something that was my fault? Swallowing deeply, I moved my lips to speak … then swallowed again. 'I'm fine now mum … just had a row with a woman at work and needed to get away.' I knew she didn't believe me, but she didn't press home the point. 'Could you do me a favour?' She nodded, and I felt her breast wobble. 'Could you look after Reggie whilst I pop out somewhere … I … I …' Should I tell her? 'I have to pop into my old workplace and pick up some articles I need.' Looks like a no.

Her brown furrowed, and for a minute I thought she was going to say no. 'Sure. But …' She squeezed me tightly to her. 'Wouldn't you like it if I came along with you? For a bit of company.' A light kiss landed on my forehead before she continued. 'And then maybe you might tell me the real reason for you coming here all upset.'

'Honestly, mum. I'm ok now. It was just a woman at work.' My mother's green eyes twinkled with understanding - especially that she didn't believe a word I was saying. 'It was Pippa … you've heard me mention her before, haven't you?' She shook her head - and I'm not surprised, as Pippa was the last person I would talk about when I had the opportunity to discuss more interesting things. 'She said some nasty things about me.' I felt my mother stiffen, and a flash of guilt charged through me. 'Looks as if the Lakes are not as accepting as I thought.'

'What did she say?' Where was the comforting tone? All I could sense was an iciness I usually didn't get from my mum.

'Erm … about me being gay.' The last word came out slightly higher than the rest of the sentence, as if it was trying to formulate itself into a question but left it too late. 'She thought I should be drowned at birth, or even shot.'

'The cheeky good for nothing waste of space!' So she did know her. 'How dare she force her ignorance on you … I'll have her job for this!' Hearing my mum's raised voice alerted my dad that it was time to come back into the room.

'What's up? What's happened?' Sometimes I wish I knew when to keep my big mouth shut, because as soon as my mum told him, he grabbed the phone and was punching in the numbers to my news office in Kendal.

'Dad … no. I can handle Pippa … honestly. Stop.' Thankfully he did, and when he pulled the receiver away from his ear, I could hear the receptionist's voice asking if she could be of help. Therefore the action of him clicking the call off was done in silence, almost like a mime act. When I was sure we were alone - yes - I checked the phone - I decided to come clean with them. Well, a little more than I had.

'She wants shooting … never mind you. What have you ever done to upset her?'

'Pippa is a nobody; a nothing. I let things get to me, that's all.' I tried to make my voice soothing, and all the initial thoughts of not wanting to upset them came back. 'I have to check some articles I have written, and then visit an old … client.' Do you call someone a client even after you have torn their life apart? 'I think it was a mixture of both things … so don't worry, ok?' They weren't convinced. 'Ok?' Still stony silence. 'I promise I will tell you more when I have sorted it all out.' A flicker … then they turned and looked at each other before looking straight at me. At that moment, Reggie decided to come back in. 'And it will give you time to play with your furry grandchild.' Reggie played his part to the max, and went to sit in front of them, his expression saying 'Feed me … play with me … love me … take care of my poorly paw.'

An hour later I was leaving, and my stomach was in knots. This was the time I had avoided for over four years … the time I went to face my mistakes … the time when I faced the reason why I couldn't quite fit in. In a fucked up way, I believe part of me was looking forward to it - because it was a time when I could stop playing the wounded soldier and get on with my life.

I did have to pop into the old news room before I went to see him, and it was good to see the faces of my colleagues after such a long time. Some of them I had seen on flying visits, but not all. But it wasn't a social call … by no stretch of the imagination. I was there to get Henry Poole's address and get out as quickly as I could. Anyone would think I would have that address etched into my memory, but to tell the truth, things like that hadn't been of importance when I was working on a story before. As soon as drove away from any place, their address was filed with 'Over and done with.'

Before too long, I was sitting in my car outside a modest semi in a quiet suburb of Manchester. Nothing was moving in the house … there were no lights on in the front room, but I could see one on in the kitchen. Then a silhouette of a person moving around … then a smaller one … which was soon joined by two more. They were all there. All of them. Henry Poole and his children. Was this also the time when I found the words to answer his question? Should I tell the kids what had happened to their mother? All the while I was thinking this thought I was making a move to actually getting out of the car and knocking on their door. What if he slams it in my face? Should I knock again?

But he didn't. He just stood there with a look of uncertainty, as if he should know me but he didn't. This surprised me, and I was taken off guard for a moment. I thought he would have my face carved into his memory with a slogan saying 'Kill On Sight' written underneath.

'Can I help you?' No. It was definite now, he didn't recognise me, and that made matters even worse, if that can be possible, because now I would have to explain who I was and why I was standing on his doorstep. My mouth was opening and closing and the words wouldn't, or couldn't, free themselves and say what they had been determined to say. 'I'm sorry … I don't have the time for a survey, or need anything you are selling.'

But as he was just about to close the door, two words escaped and I saw the wooden barrier stop before it clicked shut. 'Stephanie Stevenson.' That's all it took for him to ease the door back, the look of recognition clear accompanied by a silence that was making my ears hurt. 'I need to speak with you, Mr Poole.' So few words, but so difficult to utter. The strangest thing though was that instead of seeing obvious hatred in his face, it was more like acceptance. Had he known I would one day turn up knocking at his door pleading for forgiveness?

Without a word, he opened the door more fully to allow me to enter, which I did. My stomach was deliberating an appearance all over his hallway carpet, but I had the gumption to make the few steps into the house that was becoming more and more familiar. Waiting for him to shut the door and lead the way into the living room was agony. I wanted him to yell at me … scream abuse … do something except walk ahead of me into the cosy surroundings of a family home.

'Take a seat.' He was avoiding eye-contact; well that's how it appeared. 'Would you like a coffee? Tea?' My mouth was so bloody dry, but I doubted I could keep anything down.

'Water would be lovely, thank you.' With a nod of the head, he was gone. I could hear him talking to the children in the kitchen, couldn't grasp what he was saying, and just heard the grumble of voices. I took this opportunity to look around the room. It was so homely, so warm and full of love. Pictures of the kids grinning back at me were all around - pictures of Henry Poole and his children looking happily into the camera, and that made me feel so fucking bad. However, the worst bit was when I spotted the main one over the fireplace. There she was - Lisa Poole - arms circling younger versions of her children, and before I knew it I was standing directly in front of the portrait.

'That was when she was not depressed. Such a difference, eh?' I hadn't heard him come back into the room, and I felt like someone who had been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Plonk. He placed the glass of water on the table next to where I had been sitting and then made his way over to where I was standing to lift up the picture and look at it more carefully. 'I took it. Last picture we had together before … before …' What should I say? Before I ruined your life? 'Before she went down again.' Down where? 'I think that was a couple of months before her first suicide attempt.' Her first what? Suicide attempt? God, I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but it's something you just don't ask isn't it? Although it's a pity I hadn't thought of it four years ago.

Placing the picture carefully on the mantelpiece, he turned back to me, sorrow written across his face. 'I keep it there mainly for the kids … they like to see their mum how she used to be.' For the first time he looked straight into my eyes, and it wasn't how I expected. There was no haunted look that I had come to associate with this man. All I could see were a whisper of regret, a tinge of sadness, and a hint of melancholy. 'Where are my manners? Please, Ms Stevenson, take a seat.' He had forgotten that he had already asked me to sit down, but I didn't want to reassure him about his manners, I was there to apologise for my lack of them the last time I had set foot in his house. 'So … how can I help you?'

Help? Well, yes … it was help in a way. Helping me to stop having nightmares about what I had done, helping me to acknowledge how I had been to who I was now … so …

'I … well … I …' Easily said inside the head, but coming off the tongue is a different matter. I felt my hands ball into fists and I knew I was physically pushing the words out from deep within me. I had to get them all out in one foul swoop or else they would be forever locked inside. 'I want to apologise for what I did … What I said, that is.' Was that enough? By the look on his face, no it wasn't. 'I didn't realise what I was doing - didn't realise that I had gone too far. I … should have seen it was too much for … Li…sa.' Saying her name in front of him seemed like a sin, and I believed I didn't have to right to become familiar with her now. 'All I wanted was to get the story … I had no consideration for what she had already been through and …'

'Can I just stop you there, Ms Stevenson?' Here we go. This was the time he told me exactly what he thought of me and my fumbled apology. 'Your article helped to put those three teenagers behind bars. If you hadn't got the facts out of my … wife …' he swallowed rapidly before continuing, 'they would have walked free, as she was … not … here … by the time the case came to trial. She hadn't given a full statement to the police before …' His voice cracked, and momentarily his face crumpled, before he hurriedly looked at the door to check his children were not there.

'I'm so sorry, Mr Poole … so so sorry.' I was apologising for the words he couldn't say … the words that I had helped create - the suicide of his wife. 'I wish I could turn the clock back and know then what I have learned now.' But that's all retrospective, isn't it? If onlys don't change the world, knowing what your actions can do before you do them is one way to have some semblance of control, although sometimes ignorance can be a good thing. Ask my heart.

'Please. Don't apologise anymore.' But I wanted to … needed to until my mouth bled. 'I'm not saying you were right in how you got your story, and at the time I was so angry with you ...' Anger seemed such a tame emotion for what this man had gone through. 'But you didn't kill my wife, Ms Stevenson. Whatever you might want to believe.' I couldn't answer him - just sat there trying to formulate a response. 'She suffered with depression for such a long time … and her taking her own life was something that she had tried a few times before. It was just a matter of time before she succeeded.'

'But … I …' I didn't know what else to say. I knew deep in my heart that the death of Lisa Poole was my fault. Had felt it every day for the last four years. There was no way that, after all the years of conditioning, the only thing I had been sure of was being ripped away from me. Most people would have felt some kind of elation about being let off the hook, but I didn't. I wanted to take the blame. I knew what I knew. I remembered the look … the vulnerability … the breaking …the shattering into a thousand pieces as I pushed and pushed and pushed to get my spread. The image of Henry Poole, of how incompetent he must have felt as his flaccid arms tried to give comfort to a wife who had reached the stage of total devastation and then felt as if she had been shoved over the edge. Shoved by me, actually.

'I'm surprised the other reporter didn't tell you. I asked her to.' Asked who, what? 'What was her name? Begins with an e, I think … no …' he stood up quickly. 'Just a minute, I'll just check.'

Whilst he was out of the room, I tried to process all we had said, or not said, if that makes any sense. This was not going the way I thought it would … by any stretch of the imagination. I thought by this stage I would be turfed out of his home, maybe nursing a broken nose, but this? This was nowhere near anything I could have ever dreamed up. And what other reporter? I always worked alone, actually, I still did. So what was he going on about? Had he spoken to someone at the news paper after I had left? Shaking my head, I knew that if that would have been the case, I would have found out - one way or another.

Coming back into the room, he was gripping onto a small business card. Unusual. None of us ever gave out business cards, as they always knew where to find us.

'Here it is … here you go.'

Do you know about the laws of physics? Do you understand the concept of time and how it works? I don't. But one thing I knew at that precise moment was as soon as I stretched out my hand to grasp the small card, everything seemed to slow down … everything seemed to have an omen attached. Part of me was screaming 'Don't take it! Let things lie!' whilst the other was eagerly awaiting the end of my world as I knew it.

The card felt like fire as I slipped my fingers around it, and I can still remember how I smiled at him in thank you before lowering my eyes onto the neatly presented words. It was two of the words that stood out more than the rest … two. And these two words made my blood run like ice through my veins, and a hatred I never thought I could feel sweep through me.

Ellen Michaels.

God only knows how I didn't lose it there and then. And the next thing was something I doubted I could ever repeat for as long as live. My voice was almost tender as I asked Henry Poole, 'So … you told this … erm … Ellen Michaels what exactly?'

He looked surprised that I didn't know. 'Asked her to tell you it wasn't your fault. She came here to write an article on Lisa and … erm … you, as it happens, and I told her about Lisa's depression.' A slight shrug. 'Funnily enough, I never got to see her article … thought they had scrapped it.'

I can't tell you what went through my mind, not because I believe you can't understand the loathing I allowed to curse through me at that time. No. The reason why I can't tell you is because I can't really remember it. Emotions had welled and swelled and vied for dominance to such a degree the space between my ears seemed to shut down. All I can remember doing was gripping onto that tiny piece of card as if it held all the answers to life's mysteries.

'Ms Stevenson … Are you ok?' I couldn't answer. If I opened my mouth at that precise moment I knew I would be like Edvard Munch's The Scream, and I didn't think I would stop. Henry Poole leaned over and took my hand in his, pulling the fingers away from the card in the process. 'Look. I don't know what's happened … and I don't really want to know.' Neither did I. 'But you can't let the past haunt you … or let it eat you up.' I felt a squeeze on my hand, and this was enough to enable me to tear my eyes from the card and look at him. His face was earnest, and he was waiting for me to acknowledge his presence. 'When Lisa … when … it all happened, at first I blamed you. Understandably, given the circumstances.' I stiffened, and he hurried on. 'But then it all shifted. Then I began to blame myself … believe I wasn't enough for her … hadn't given her the support she needed.' The image of him looking beaten flashed through my head, and I wanted to tell him it wasn't his fault - but once again, the 'It isn't you, it's me' seemed so lame. 'It wasn't until I spoke with the second reporter, Ellen, that I seemed to come to some kind of understanding. Do you want to know what that was, Ms Stevenson?' Slowly, I nodded, although for the life of me I didn't want anything that she had said or done to be anything that would ease this rage inside me. I wanted this to continue until I had confronted her again. 'Life throws us many curve balls, and sometimes we catch them, and other times they fall from our hands. Sometimes they injure us in a way that we think we will never recover. But what we must always remember is that we can't foresee the future. Can't stop what is meant to be. If Lisa hadn't taken her life then, she would done it later. I know that now.' He paused for a moment. 'So, you see, Ms Stevenson. It was no one's fault. Maybe we all learned a lesson from this, or maybe we didn't. But we all experienced the same tragic event. It is up to us how we interpret it, and how we allow it to affect our lives.'

What could I say? Thank you? Or start a debate? The man had opened up his soul for me to see, told me how the death of his wife made him feel a failure, and all I could do was sit.

'Do you know what I think you should do?' Once again I didn't answer, but I did move my head in some kind of affirmation. 'The first thing you should do is forgive yourself. Without that, you will never move on. And that's something you need to do … move on with your life.'

I wanted to cry. Wanted to hang my head in shame and cry. Here was a man who had gone through so much, suffered so much, telling me to forgive myself. How do you start that? Do you say, 'I forgive you, Stephanie' and then everything's good? How can you just stop four years of blaming yourself in one sweeping statement? You can't … and deep inside me I think there was an element that was wedged there and thriving on the knowledge that I had something to cling on to, even though that something would destroy me in the end.

'It won't be as easy as just telling yourself you forgive what you have done.' Can he read minds too? 'You have to show it … mean it … treat everyday as a new beginning. See the good in life … the good in others. Not always look for the black … the bad … the thing that you believe everything will come back to. Trust yourself again, Ms Stevenson. You are a good person.'

Can you imagine how I felt hearing those words from this man? Him telling me that I was a good person after all I believed I had put him through. As soon as he finished speaking, I felt something crack inside me … something break and release the tears that I had been holding back for so long. The tears for Lisa Poole and all the other victims of my pen … the tears I felt for my life, and how I had spent the most of it being indifferent to everyone and the world around me … the tears I felt for losing the only person I knew I could ever love. There was no way I could be with Erin Mason now … no way. Right from the start I knew she was different, knew she was someone I would remember for the rest of my life. But never in a million years did I think it would be because she had stabbed me in the back and then lied about it. The tears flowed easily, and sobs wracked through my body. Then I felt Henry Poole's arms come around me, hoping to offer some comfort. Unlike the scene I had witnessed four years ago, I allowed this man to take away some of the burden from me, and with this, I felt a strength begin from within and begin to ooze outwards and throughout my body. These arms were not flaccid - they were strong and sure, and they allowed me to start to pick up the pieces from my shattered life, piece by miniscule piece.

'And if it makes it easier, Stephanie, I forgive you, although there is nothing to forgive.' Gripping onto him even more tightly, I cried even harder.


Chapter Twenty- Eight

Two days later saw me heading back to the Lakes, Reggie firmly locked in his cage in the back of my car. The last forty eight hours had been difficult, but I had come through the other side. I can't say I was whole though, that would be a miracle, but at least I was trying to get my path sorted.

After I had left Henry Poole, I had gone for a drive … nowhere in particular, just driving around the city to see what I had been missing. It wasn't long before I realised that I no longer felt at home in Manchester. My family were there, that's true, but everything else seemed so big and cold, and I wanted to return to the tranquillity of my Lakeland home. I know I said that it was all lost to me, but I missed it. Things said in the heat of the moment are just that, aren't they? Heat of the moment epithets that should be taken with a pinch of salt. And I was trying valiantly to uphold the 'New Beginnings' mantra I had playing in my head.

Being with my parents, and then with the rest of my family, was hard work, as I tried my hardest to hide everything I had experienced in the last few hours. No. I wasn't shutting down, or becoming a recluse, I just needed time to work through everything before I opened my big fat mouth. There is one thing I truly believe in, and that's to work through everything before I give it a voice. Either that or you find yourself eating your words at one time or another. However, I can't always say I succeeded. Look at the way I treated Erin, for example. I didn't give her a chance to tell me her side of the story.

Whoa … hold those literary horse a wee while. Are you thinking 'What is she playing at? One minute she loves her, the next she wants to throttle the life out of her, and finally she believes the woman who hid away the truth should be given a voice?' Yes. Simply put. Because her truth is different to my truth, and by knowing both sides to the story, there may be a chance that eventually the truth will be uncovered. She acted badly, true. I acted badly, true also. She lied - true. I lied - true again. I could go on, but I believe you know more about what's going on than I do. And there were lots of 'times' within the last part, and it was 'time' I acted on them.

Therefore, back to my beginning.

I was on my way back to the Lakes. My home. The place where I would see Erin Mason again. The place where I would discuss the past in a rational manner. The place where I hoped there may actually be a future for a sinner like me. All I had to do was believe in the impossible, and then sprinkle a handful of forgiveness over the both of us. Or maybe two handfuls for good luck.


When I arrived back the last thing I felt like doing was having a discussion, but I had made a promise to myself that I would be rational and ask Erin why she had done what she had. Thoughts of the article popped into my head, and I wondered why she had been so vitriolic when Henry Poole had told her that it was no one's fault. Only she had the answer to that.

However, the discussion would have to wait, as I saw a car parked outside her house that I didn't recognise. She had visitors, and that was one thing I didn't want to happen - you know, going over there and waiting to talk. It had to be just her and me.

After unloading the car of bags and an overexcited canine, I went inside my home. And it felt just that. Home. Mail was scattered on the floor and I sorted through it to find a card which said 'Sorry - You were out when we called'. Bloody Royal Mail. Why couldn't they just shove the parcel down the side of the steps - it wasn't as if I was overlooked and it would get pinched. I doubted the nearby squirrels would be interested in anything I was having delivered, unless it was a bag of nuts. For the life of me I couldn't remember ordering anything, and promptly decided to go and collect it whilst I was waiting for Erin's visitors to bugger off so I could scuttle over and have my 'talk'. Or 'our' talk, I should say.

Just as I was leaving, I noticed the answer phone flashing. Four messages. Click.

'Hello there, Stephanie. Jeff Goodings here. Can you call me as soon as you get this message?' Bollocks. I'd forgotten about my outburst at the office. I bet Pippa had a field day without me there to defend myself.

Next message. 'Hi, Steph. Jeff here again. Can you call as soon as you can?' Buggering bollocks. What did he want? My head on a platter? Click again. 'Steph. Jeff here. I need to speak to you as soon as possible. If you get this before the office closes, can you pop in?' Aw fuck. I was hoping to just take the bollocking on the phone, but now I would have to go and face them all. Somewhere deep inside me I was hoping the fourth message would be another one telling me everything was ok and I didn't have to pop in after all.

Click. Silence. Then a clearing of a throat. 'Hi … erm … Steph.' Erin. And I knew by the timbre of her voice she had been crying. My heart started to speed up and my breathing became laboured. 'I need to explain … need to tell you why I did what I did. I am so sorry … so sorry.' Yes. I need you to explain, too, Erin. 'And that's not all of it. I need to tell you something that Henry Poole told me, but I'm not going to leave it on your answer phone.' So, she was going to tell me it wasn't just because of my actions, eh? A little late, but eight out of ten for effort. 'If you don't want to see me, I understand, but I don't want to leave without telling you why. Take care.'

Leave? Leave and go where? She lived next door.

Racing to the front door, I looked at the car again. Not a flicker of recognition. But when I saw the woman walking around the outside of the house, I knew exactly who it was. Abigail Smarts, of Smarts Estate Agents. Fuck. Fuck again. Double fuck. She was selling her house because of what I had said. Giant FUCK. I couldn't let her do that … couldn't let her think I hated her and wanted her to leave. I know I said I felt hatred before, you know, when I found out about the undelivered message, but that was a reaction. I didn't hate her. I could never hate her, and that thin line between love and hate would never be crossed if I could stop it.

I made a move toward her house, as I knew I had to do it now … tell her to reconsider selling … tell her that she shouldn't run away from her past, just like I had, that it would always come back to this moment. As my foot hit the last step of my porch, I stopped. Nope. I should stick to my guns … not race in there with them half cocked. It wasn't as if she had buyers there, it was only being valued. No. I would go to the office, speak to Jeff … sort out part of my future … nip to the post office … come back … then casually walk over and talk.

That decided, I led Reggie back into the house and told him to be a good boy. He looked totally fucked off as I closed the door, and I knew he would be sulking all the time I was out. But I needed to get things done quickly, and when Reggie was there, I spent most of the time waiting for him to stop sniffing, or peeing up trees.

Twenty minutes later I walked into the News Room. I expected to have the hanging mob waiting for me, but no. Everyone seemed happy to see me back, and unusually, everyone said hello. When I say 'unusually', I don't mean they are a bunch of miserable sods … it was a case of not having the time to socialise when the reports were still being sorted. As I approached Jeff's door, his secretary was there to greet me, and as she told me Jeff was expecting me, I felt very unnerved, even more so when I looked behind me to see everyone nodding in support. Was this something out of a David Lynch movie? And where the fuck was Pippa? I had at least expected her to be there to railroad me into the office to accuse me of attempted murder.

My knuckles had barely time to leave the door, as Jeff shouted come in. He was behind his desk, paperwork scattered all around him, a grin spreading over his face. Huh? This wasn't what I had expected. Far from it, in fact. 'Good to see you, Steph. Pull up a pew.' Tentatively, I pulled the chair over and sat on the edge of it. I had my apology all ready to go, but he stopped me in my tracks. 'Had a very interesting chat with Pippa Howard the other day. Very interesting.' Bugger. This was all show, wasn't it? The friendly faces, the greetings. It was to make it easier for me to leave when I got kicked right up the arse and sent on my merry way. 'But not as interesting as the chats I had from the rest of the workforce.' Huh? Again. Was I becoming an idiot? Or had I always been one? 'Seems as if Ms Howard has been a very naughty girl.'

It was over an hour later that I left the office decidedly happier than I entered. The talk I had with Jeff was illuminating to say the least, and I found out things about Pippa that even I hadn't known about. Susie, the receptionist, had gone to speak to him first, and that was straight after the showdown between me and Miss Piggy. She had informed Jeff of what she had heard, Pippa shouting abuse at me as I left the office, and there had been no evidence of me retaliating at all. Also, Susie had more information to give … mainly to do with calls Pippa had been making to other news rooms in the area … some of which she had inadvertently listened to. Pippa, by all accounts was giving away some of our stories before they had hit the news, accompanied with personal information about the people who worked there. I mean, how thick can you be? To use the office phone to give information to other papers! Told you she was as bright as a ten watt bulb.

It didn't stop there, though. After Susie had been in, other people followed suit, and in all this time, Jeff kept Pippa waiting to speak to him, and by the time she got to see him, he had enough evidence to sack her. When she told him how I had tried to strangle her, he said that he wanted to tell her he wished he had thought of it first. However, he regaled all the information about her that had been passed onto him and said 'I think rather than Ms Stevenson trying to strangle you, Pippa, you have actually done enough to hang yourself.' By all accounts everyone heard her reaction, as she went ballistic and gave him a dose of what she had given me … finishing with 'you can stick your job up your arse' before storming out. That was two days previously, and no one had seen sight or sound of her since. I doubted that it would be the last we would hear from her, but at the moment, it was just good to know she wouldn't be there shit stirring for a while.

So … my job was safe. And that was one less thing to worry about. Next stop, the post office. Three quarters of an hour I waited in the queue to get my parcel, and not even an apology for the wait … and I think I am turning into one of those old people who stand at bus stops and moan about the price of everything. Anyway, to cut a long story short (I bet you wish I thought of that about an hundred pages ago, don't you?), the parcel contained the books I had ordered. Into the Light and Rainbows and Shadows were sitting on my lap, all new and unread. Turning over Into the Light, I saw a very familiar face smiling at me. Blue eyes seemed to sparkle even though they were made of paper, and I felt myself stroking my finger along the curve of her mouth. I had kissed that mouth … that mouth had kissed me back. I moved the finger to my own lips as if to join the two mouths together and then felt like a fool for doing it. Moving the book to one side, I turned over Rainbows and Shadows. Her picture was still on the back, but it was a different one. She looked changed … the sparkle had left her eyes, the smile was forced for some reason, and there was a definite sadness in everything about her. Why did she look so sad? What had happened between the first book and the second that could make that beautiful crooked smile shift to one of unhappiness?

Opening the book, I had to check something. An idea came to me so quickly that I felt my fingers slipping over the pages until I found what I was looking for. Two years ago … that's when this book was copyrighted. Three years ago … was it because of Rob and his illness? Could have been, but it seemed so much more - the change, I mean. I turned the book over and read the blurb, hoping that it would give me some kind of indication.

Love is a myriad of colour, all the shades of the rainbow, blending into one and making life beautiful. And that's how I saw her - she was my rainbow, my colour and light, my everything. Lighting up the sky for me; lighting up my world with a prism of promise and awe, as I would sit there in her shadow, becoming a shadow myself. And like all shadows, I would wonder when she would see me, when she would allow me to join her in her world of colour.

But like all rainbows, the colour fades and they disappear, however hard you try to save the image, you suddenly realise it is only ever an illusion - only ever something that is there only for a perfect moment.

Love is a rainbow. Life is the shadow. Longing for the two to meet is the impossible. And like all illusions, love is the ultimate, especially when one side of the equation wants to find the elusive pot of gold, whilst the other just wants her. Wants something that she just can't have.

Now, I'm not literary critic, but even to me that said that she had been burned by someone badly. Although the book was fiction, there was an element of truth in there. She had been in love when writing the first book, and by the second it had all gone awry. No wonder she had been bitter … If what I know about the time it takes to write a book, which isn't a lot, and getting it onto the bookshelves, she would have had to start writing this at the time she had written the article. Or before. But would it be a very good reason for her to be so acerbic in her report of me? Now, I'm no psychologist, but even I could understand her reasoning behind her attack, because that's what it was - an attack on me. At the time I had written the article I had been quite popular in the news reporting world, and by her wording of her article, she knew that. It appeared that I had everything going for me, whilst her world had come tumbling around about her ears. I know that's no excuse for doing what she did, but I could understand it better. At least I had a basis to work from, something to build on.

I know it sounds callous, but I felt better. It wasn't just a blatant assault, she had been jealous and angry and disillusioned with the world, and my circumstances came along at just the right time. Maybe she thought I would respond … like attack her back. Yeah. That sounds about right. If she attacked me, who was supposedly the SS, then obviously I would wipe the floor with her, right? Thus making her certain that she was a piece of crap, and deserved to be treated like scum. If I could get my hands on the person who made her feel like that, I would let them have a piece of my mind.

But … this is all conjecture. I might be completely wrong. The picture may have been taken on a bad day … the story might just be fiction … she might have wanted to put me in my place because I was getting too big for my boots and needed slapping down a little. I ignored the voice that said, 'Or you deserved it.' But whichever side of the argument you agree with, or was the truth, neither explained why she never told me after she found out who I was. The only way I would ever know was to ask her.

Placing the books carefully to one side, I started my engine. Now was the time to permanently put the past to rest … whether she wanted to or not. This was the time for answers, explanations and apologies. And I wasn't leaving until I had all three.


Chapter Twenty-Nine

By the time I returned, the car had gone. This was it. I was ready.

Clutching the books in my hand, I went back to my home, and I know what you are thinking. 'Why is she going home? I thought she was going over to Erin's?' I was, but I had to collect my man beforehand, as he would be a great distraction for Brian. See? Sometimes I do think ahead.

When I reached her front door, my stomach was in knots. Big, huge boating knots to be exact. And I felt the sensation people feel just before they literally shit their pants. But this wasn't the time to back down, and even if I had to wear a nappy, I was going in.

Three sharp knocks, then a glance at Reggie for luck, before another three. Waiting for her to answer the door seemed like forever, and if I hadn't heard Brian barking I would have believed she had taken him out for a walk. Then I heard the chain rattle, the knob twist, the sweep of the door … and there she stood. Jesus. She looked like crap. Her face was white, but I wasn't too sure if that was because she had suddenly faced the woman who had called her a back stabbing cunt three days ago. Her mouth was moving, but nothing was coming from it. I could see her physically begin to shake, and her hand gripped harder onto the door handle. She must have thought I had come for a showdown, which I had of course, but not in the same way as she must have been thinking. Christ … I'm waffling like a good one, aren't I?

'We need to talk.' My voice sounded so in control, and for a fleeting moment I felt proud of myself. Erin didn't answer, just nodded her head. Brian and Reggie were play fighting on the porch, Reggie's bandage making his paw look huge. I nodded my head in the direction of inside her house. 'Shall we?' Still cool and collected. 'I think its time to get some answers, and maybe a few explanations, don't you?'

'Steph, I …' But she couldn't seem to formulate the rest of the sentence, just dropped her head lower and moved aside to let me enter, the boys stopping fighting for a split second to charge ahead and through to the kitchen. 'Would you like a coffee?' I didn't really, but I knew it would give her time to collect herself after the surprise of me knocking on her door unannounced, so I said yes.

After she went into the kitchen, I made my way into her front room. Everything was exactly how I remembered it, and it wasn't long before I was standing looking at the picture of James and Brian. A laugh popped out of my mouth when I remembered how I had mistaken her publisher for her partner. Sometimes people can assume the most ludicrous things all because they just haven't the balls to ask. Next stop … the bookcase, and after a quick perusal, I lifted Rainbows and Shadows from its place. This is how she found me, holding her book in my hands. A good place to start, I think.

'She must have hurt you pretty badly, Erin.' I lifted the book so she could see it. Her face showed panic, as if I had hit a very sore spot. Raising the book higher I started to read snippets from the back, ending with 'And like all illusions, love is the ultimate, especially when one side of the equation wants to find the elusive pot of gold, whilst the other just wants her. Wants something that she just can't have.' Erin didn't answer, just plonked the coffee cups on the table and flumped down on the armchair, lifting her hands up to her face. I thought for a moment she was crying, but no sooner had she done it, she stopped and looked squarely at me.

'I'm so sorry, Steph. So sorry I took it out on you.' So I was right. She had done what she had done because she was hurting. 'Teri and I … well … we were friends more than anything, and when she said she didn't … didn't feel that way … didn't think life with me was what she wanted … well …' that must have been the illusion part 'I just wanted to prove that I was as worthless as I thought I was.' When she paused, I walked over to the sofa and sat down, and as soon as I had done this, she stood up and came to sit next to me. 'When I wrote that article, I thought you would finish me off good and proper … expected you to read it … expected you to wipe the floor with me.' Am I good or what? 'But you didn't … and truth be known, after Rob was diagnosed with cancer, I forgot all about it.'

'So why here? Why next door to me? There are many places you could have moved to.' You know, she was even more beautiful than I remembered. Her eyes were perfect, captivating, illuminating and everything I ever wanted. I could easily drown in them … be swept away by them, and never want to stop being enamoured by their intensity.

A sigh slipped effortlessly from her mouth, and for a fleeting moment, I wanted to capture it in my hands and hold it close to my chest. 'It wasn't intentional … I mean, I knew a Ms Stevenson lived next door, but I didn't know it was you.'

True. Stevenson was a common name after all. But that didn't stop her telling me everything after she had put two and two together. 'I meant to tell you. Everyday. But everyday saw a different excuse to put it off.' I can empathise with that … that was something I definitely knew about. How many days had I been promising to tell her about my sordid past? 'Then when I finally got the balls to tell you, you already knew.'

I hadn't even realised, but when she had been talking, I had taken her hand into mine. It wasn't until she looked down at our entwined fingers did I do likewise. But there was no way I was going to pull away, if she wanted to break the contact then she would have to be the one to do it.

'I … have to tell you something else.' Warily, she looked from our hands to briefly glance at my face. 'Henry Poole told me to tell you something … and … I …'

'I know.'

'I didn't tell you. What? You know?'

'Yes. But I'm still not too sure why, though.' Making sure she was looking at me, I continued. 'Why didn't you include him telling you that it wasn't my fault in your article?' Blue eyes opened wider in surprise. 'Was it because you wanted me to hunt you down and then tell me?' I held my breath waiting for her to reply. And when it came, her answer saddened me more than made me angry.

'I wanted it to take the pain away. Thought I knew what I was doing … thought you were someone who needed to feel like I felt just for one minute.' I could see the tears glistening in her eyes, and there was almost a pleading tone in her voice. 'But it wasn't long before I realised that you were just doing your job, whereas mine was just a way to take away the feeling of hopelessness.' A sniff, followed by a quick swipe at her eyes indicated that Erin had paid the price dearly, and by no fault of her own. We all do stupid things that we live to regret, and sometimes they come back to bite us, but usually that only happened to the good people - the bad ones don't usually get caught. I wanted to reassure her that I deserved every single letter she had written, but I had something more important I needed to say.

'Do you still love her? Teri, I mean.' I had to know. Erin had poured so much into her relationship with Teri, it had nearly broken her apart, and I didn't want to intrude on her memory, if you understand what I'm rattling on about. She must have loved her so much, if she would react like that to the breakdown of their relationship. And if she still loved her so much, would there ever be a chance …

Erin didn't pause. 'No. I thought I did for a long time, but then I realised that I didn't really know what love was.' Strange answer. If you love, you love, right? 'It had all the qualities I thought being in love would have, but it's nothing like … nothing …like …'

'Nothing like, what?'

I saw her swallow. Saw her swallow again. Felt her grip my hand more tightly, and pull me slightly toward her.

'Nothing like I feel for you. I love you, Stephanie.'

My mouth claimed hers as soon as the words were out. How could I resist? The softness, the wonder of her taste … the knowledge that this woman loved me as much as I loved her. And God, how I loved her. Everything that had happened between us in the past was put aside as I fell more deeply into her … my hand breaking loose to cup the back of her head and pull her even closer. Erin returned the kiss … her tongue seeking entrance to my mouth, something I wanted just as much. And the feel of that soft wet muscle entering made jolts of expectation race through me. I wanted her so much … so goddamn much … this kiss … this ecstasy … didn't quell the need building inside me. When I say I wanted her, I wanted it all. I wanted her … everything … her kisses … her body … mind … love … soul, and I knew I would want them for the rest of my life.

Breaking away from her was agony, but I had to tell her, had to explain to her how I was feeling. Her mouth was still searching, and the once closed eyes peeked open to look at me. With my left hand, I stroked the side of her face, and cupped her jaw, holding her gaze to mine.

'I love you so much, Erin. So much.' I saw tears glistening in her eyes, and a sob broke free from her mouth. 'Love is the ultimate, and you are my rainbow. You light up my world, and I want to spend the rest of my life making your life beautiful.' The tears flooded from her eyes now, and I knew somewhere along the line I had eventually said the right thing. I wasn't a touchy feeling kind of person, never wanted to spill my life onto the mat and let everyone take a peek, but Erin wasn't just anyone. She was my all.

Gently, I pulled her to me once again. Part of me wanted to hold her and comfort her with strokes and kisses and tender words. But a bigger part of me needed her … needed to feel this woman … needed to show this woman how much I longed for her … yearned for her … desired her. Teri had hurt her badly and made her feel unloved, unwanted and worthless, although not from the start. I wanted to show her that life with her would be perfection. Wanted to give my all to her in every way I possibly could. And I wanted to do it every day for the rest of my life.

Tilting her head, Erin looked up at me from the safety of my chest. Those blue eyes were full of honesty and truth, and I knew deep inside my aching breast that this woman would never hurt me …

Leaning down, I kissed her eyelids, her forehead, her wet cheeks, before landing on her mouth. Soft, warm and inviting lips opened slightly, and the kiss was long and sure. It was as if we were both promising something without words, as by this time words were surplus to requirements. When she pulled away, I didn't feel any sense of panic, or even when she stood up in front of me. I knew this was the way it had to be. Stretching out her hand in offering, I knew what she wanted. And when my fingers grasped hers, I was on my feet and in her arms in an instant. More kisses. More nestling of faces into hair and on throats. More murmured words of want and love, as we moved slowly to the doorway. Everything was so gentle, so unrushed, that I felt all the world slipping away from me. The floor was a means to be next to her … the walls were blurring, and all I knew was Erin … all I wanted to know was Erin.

Then we were at the bottom of the stairs, still kissing, still loving. Half way up … hands stroking and guiding. The landing, fingers popping buttons to blouses. Inside her bedroom, the buttons of jeans were open, and zips were slowly undone. Both of us together, no words needed, we knew exactly what we were doing and where this was leading. It seemed as if I had waited my whole life for this moment, and I can assure you, I would wait it over again just to be with her.

Underwear. Bras unclipped, panties slipping down thighs. Hands stroking pliant flesh and mesmerised by the movement; only to follow with tender kisses, and licks, and nips. Naked. She was a vision … toned arms, legs, stomach … breasts firm yet soft … and the taste is something I could never describe to you … not even if I had all the time in the world.

Lying her down on the bed, I stood at the base just to look at her. Erin was waiting for me, her right hand held out in invitation. I slipped my fingers into hers and allowed her to pull me onto her. The sensation of her skin on mine was so fucking intense. It seemed as if I morphed into her, and when she wrapped those long strong legs around me I felt a contentment I hadn't felt for years. This was home … being with her was home … she was my destiny, I knew that now … knew that I had been searching for this my whole life but hadn't known it until this moment.

Bodies began to move together, skin slipped along skin, as mouths searched and hands treasured. Moans lifted into the air, and gasps hit flesh as if to hurry everything along. But I didn't want to rush this. This meant too much to me … to us. My hands were sliding along her thighs and circling her knees, only to move back to the place they wanted to be. Grazing one finger along the triangle of hair, I heard one word slip from her mouth. 'Please.' So I circled it again, and joined the errant finger with my lips. Another 'Please' broke into the air. I leaned back and looked at her underneath me, her legs open, and her core glistening with want. I felt my mouth salivate just for a sample of that wetness … salivate to taste the essence of the woman I loved. But not yet. Now I had to show her how I felt … and look into her face as she came. Had to let her know it was me that was loving her … me that was showing her I would never hurt her … leave her … cast her aside.

Tenderly, I slipped my hand so it nestled her mound, and just held it there for a moment. Her eyes flickered closed before opening with such a fire of desire there it made me catch my breath. One finger broke loose from the rest and slipped along her folds, the wetness coating it. Erin shivered and then tried to push down on my hand, but I pulled away, only to put it back and repeat the process. Leaning down, I kissed her stomach, my finger still making tracks along her wetness. My tongue trailed along her skin, and I could feel goose bumps rising in anticipation. Breasts were there for the taking, and I did. Opening my mouth, I captured the erect nipple and sucked hard. A gasp left Erin that was enough to make the wetness pooling between my legs slip out and begin to trickle down my thighs. Her hands were on my head and pulling me harder into her, and as if by forces unknown to me, the finger I had been teasing her with decided to slip inside.

God. The feeling of her walls hugging that lone digit … the feeling of the wetness coating it completely as I pushed in more deeply was truly wonderful.


Yes. Yes. Yes. My heart was racing and my mouth was frantically sucking her breast, as my finger stayed static within her. I wanted her to feel its presence … know it was me inside her … relish this moment even half as much as I did. This was perfection … something I had never known existed until this delicious moment. Tearing my mouth from her breast felt like a crime, but I knew I wanted to kiss her mouth again … nuzzle her neck … watch those eyes with rapt fascination as I began to push further inside, before pulling out, only to push inside again. Over and over and over again, the lone finger danced inside and outside her body. Over and over again, her moans pumped into my mouth … into the air … onto my throat. A second finger begged entrance, and suddenly there were two inside her. Two slipping and sliding and giving her everything I wanted to give her. Her hips were rising and falling with each stroke of my fingers, and her mouth was making divine o shapes as the feelings of pleasure took hold. I needed to be closer to her, needed to feel the length of her running down my body as I was inside her, over her, taking her. Adjusting my hand, I lowered myself, and the sensation I felt is beyond compare. Sweat coated our bodies and enabled the movement between us to be bliss, if being with this woman wasn't more than that to begin with. Metronomic movements … synchronised with need … mapping our future on wet flesh and gasping want … created a feeling of contraction. Her walls were pumping my fingers … pulling them further and further inside … gripping onto them with a compulsion to keep them there forever …

'Steph … Steph … Steph …' She was on the verge of cumming … she was chanting my name … chanting my name … looking into my face and chanting my name. My arm was pumping; my fingers were rubbing on her walls as they plunged deeply inside her, a place where I longed to crawl into and stay there forever. Her lips tightened and became slack in a moment, and the growl that left her mouth nearly made me cum with her. Hands were gripping my arse and pulling me into her, nearly crushing my hand. But I didn't care … she was cumming …. cumming … cumming … for me … cumming … 'I … I … love …' you, Erin … I love you …. 'you.'

Tears rushed down my face. Don't ask me why, because I couldn't tell you. All I know is when she came and told me she loved me, and it was the most magical feeling I had ever experienced. It wasn't the 'I love yous' of sex … the ones that slip effortlessly from the mouth in the heat of the moment. It was real. I knew it. Could feel it as surely as I could feel the spasms of her walls and the trembling of her body underneath me. Gently, I slipped my fingers free, and lowered myself onto her heaving chest, her breathing was erratic, and I could feel the shuddering of breaths leaving her mouth. I was in the place I wanted to be. I was with her … she was with me … totally with me … a part of me … the part of me I wanted to cherish for the rest of my life.

Hands stroked and calmed. Kisses were soft and full. Nothing else mattered. Nothing. It was just her and me … me and her. And that suited me just fine. Slowly, the kisses became more ardent. Hands became more insistent … and still nothing mattered. Just her. And me. Then she was above, her frame towering over me, and the need in her eyes exciting and frightening. Erin kissed my throat, sucking the skin into her mouth and held it there, her hands trickling down my sides and making my flesh stand to attention. Every part of me was aflame, and I couldn't decide where I needed her the most. I wanted her everywhere … inside and out … and want filtered through every pore. Her body was moving downwards and her hands were cupping my breasts, as if the were made of glass. I wanted her to suck them into her mouth … pinch and nip them … take those buds and make them blossom just for her. And she did. One at a perfect time. I couldn't focus … the room was spinning around me, and I felt all semblance of control evaporate into her.

A hand. A firm sure hand was between my legs, and I opened them to let it in … let her in where I craved her to be. When her fingers slipped between the folds of flesh guarding my innocence, I felt the wetness slither onto her, and gather in a clinging mass of need. God. I wanted to feel those fingers take me … feel those fingers fill me … feel the sensation of her inside me and making me hers.

Wish granted. One … then two … and moving steadily. Opening my eyes, I saw her staring right at me, the top half of her body moving in rhythm to my hips, her breasts swaying slightly. The image made another jet of wetness shoot out and slink over her hand, making the contact between us even smoother. Watching her was something I will never forget as long as I live. Blue eyes were hooded, and her mouth was half open, lips moist and inviting. I wanted to kiss them so fucking much, but I didn't want her to stop.

Using her thighs, she pushed my legs open wider and then lowered herself between them, her fingers still pumping rhythmically inside me. A soft mouth covered mine, and the coupling of the movement of her hand and her lips were perfection. Skin touched skin, breasts rubbed against breasts, and I knew that she was making me hers, just as I had made her mine minutes before. The pressure of her thrusts made little pockets of contentment shoot from my mouth to be captured in hers, only to come back into mine again. Shocks of desire raced along all my nerve endings, and I could feel tremors pulsate all over. My hands were gripping onto her back, nails scraping and digging into taut skin, making her moan and press more firmly into me. It was ecstasy … pure unadulterated ecstasy being underneath her, allowing her to take me … allowing her to fill me with her.

More. I needed more. I wanted her to climb inside me and love me from the inside out. Wanted her to feed from me … wanted her to need me as much as I needed her. Lifting my hips up, I opened up even more, and I felt her curve her fingers to stroke the wall inside my core. Fuck. I was going blind. Blind. Everything was blacking out … all I could sense was her … but that meant I had everything I needed. Hips were frantic; I was thrusting and pounding into her, and she was gripping onto me more firmly. I felt safe … wanted … needed … revived … refreshed … loved.

Teetering on the brink, I craved that final push into the land where everything fades into light and colour … fades into sweet release and oblivion from life's worries and fears. Then I felt her thigh shift to go behind her hand to push her fingers in deeper. And … and … and I was over. Tumbling over the precipice into the state of awareness where I was completely lost, yet found, numb, yet could feel everything. Her name spilt from my lips and into hers, and tears once again found purchase on her skin. So this was it? This was love … making love. Not something that we believe is love but in reality is sex. And when you have experienced that feeling of being loved by someone who holds your heart, you will understand what I mean, although I hope you already know, because believe me, it is the most exquisite feeling in the world. Miraculous, even.

Erin was calming me with soft stroking movements, and I lay there with the world at my feet. I felt as if I could do anything, be anything, as long as she was with me. Call it a sense of delirium, or whatever you want; I just knew from that moment on, I had found my reason. And her name was Erin Mason.

Lying there in her arms was perfect, and the aftermath of our lovemaking was spent in the sweetness of touching and kissing for what seemed like forever. Finally, sleep took us, and we slept contentedly, with the feeling of finally coming home at last.


In reality, we only slept for an hour, but it was the best hour's sleep I'd had for far too long. Waking up to see her silhouette next to mine seemed like a dream, and I had to stroke the length of her nose with the tip of my finger to make sure it was real.

'You awake?' Her voice was husky, and I felt the surge of desire again. God. This woman made me feel things I never knew existed. Clearing my throat, I answered her, and she giggled and snuggled more tightly against me. There was no shame in our nakedness, and I bet you are wondering why I would even say that at this stage. Sometimes, even when you have been with someone, you still feel a kind of reservation about letting them see you afterwards. Maybe because at the time you were getting naked, the last thing on your mind was embarrassment. But not with her. I wanted her to see the real me, blemishes and all. 'How are you feeling?' Perfect. Elated. Fantastic. Wonderful. Blissfully happy …

'Good.' Shit. 'Better than good.' Do I get the prize for being a knob head? Turning to face her, I stroked my fingers along her chest, playing with the tops of her breasts. Erin was smiling that gorgeous crooked smile of hers, and I tried for a third attempt. 'I feel as if I could walk on air. You make me so bloody happy, Erin Mason.'

The smile turned into an all out grin, before she said, 'Good. 'Cos being with you is the only thing I'll ever want - or need.' Then she leaned down and kissed me, gently, and then more firmly, and before I knew it, she was slipping her thigh between my legs again. I was wet already, and that was just by the sound of her voice.

'Aarrruff!' Huh? Was that my animal instincts coming out to play? Or her animal magnetism? 'Arrrruffff!' Or was it my stomach? I hadn't eaten all day …

'Looks like the lads have realised we are in here.' Bugger. Reggie. And Brian. I bet they wondered where the hell we had slipped off to. 'They probably want a tink. I'll just let them out.' With a kiss, she was off the bed, and I felt her absence all too clearly. She slipped her shirt on before opening the door, and to my amazement, neither dog came bounding in. They just stood there, like partners in crime, wagging their tails. 'You wanna be good boys, eh?'

Flopping down on the bed, I allowed the events of the afternoon to flush through me. Who would have thought three days ago I would be lying here in her bed feeling totally at peace with the world and everyone in it. Even Pippa. She wasn't that bad after all. Yes. I was totally loved up and bowled over by my gorgeous woman, enough to think even the Miss Piggy wannabe was ok. And in my daydreaming, I didn't hear her shouting for me to come and check the presents our children had left us. When it finally dawned on me that in fact I wasn't dreaming it, and it was her voice shouting up the stairs, I shot out of bed and raced out of the door, turned and raced back to put something on, and then went down to inspect the present.

It was in the kitchen. The gift, I mean. And no … they hadn't left a poo parcel, or even a puddle of gratitude. They had both been in the bin and decided there was definitely something at the bottom that smelled good. Looking at Erin, then at the two grinning canines I wanted to laugh too. Rubbish was everywhere … even trailing out of the door, which I had initially missed in my hurried attempt to get to the site of the emergency. But, I didn't. I was trying to be grown up about it all, because when all is said and done, I believed the instigator of all the mess was in the form of a black and tan brown eyed ball of mischief, commonly known as Reggie. Lifting up his injured paw, he gently licked the bandage as if to say, 'But you can't tell me off. I'm sick.' Bless.

It took us nearly an hour to clean up the mess and feed them, and by the time we had finished, we both smelled of cabbage. Therefore, the only thing we could do was to shower … and honestly, I did offer to pop back home for mine, but it didn't take a lot of persuading to make me want to conserve water. Now … showering with another person is not all what it's cracked up to be. Believe me … it is so much more. The intimate 'Shall we?' whispered in the doorway to her bathroom was enough to send shivers up and down my spine. But watching her slip off the shirt she had been wearing and stand there completely naked was enough to make me sharply intake a breath. Nearly six feet of woman was on display … six foot of skin that felt like velvet, tasted like summer, moved with the fluidity of water, and the best bit was, she was all mine. All … mine. And I was going to take every inch, every centimetre, every molecule and atom that she had to offer, and then take it all again.

Warm water hit my skin and rushed down my face in an avalanche of refreshing bliss, but the ultimate was when I felt her silk like body slip in next to mine. Pushing the water backwards and off my face, I saw the water gush over her, and droplets cling to her eyelashes. Leisurely, I slipped my hand over her stomach, delighting in the sensation of the tautness of muscle there, marvelling in the bumps that appeared on her flesh wherever my hand touched. A sigh left her mouth, and I desperately wanted to lower my hand to see if she was as wet between her legs. However, she had other plans. Leaning over my shoulder, she grasped the shower gel in her hand and squirted some on her palm. Slowly, she rubbed her hands together to gather lather enough to push along the tops of my breasts. Unhurried strokes over my body created a feeling of delicious delight; deliberate swipes at gasping skin left me breathless and wanting to perform the same service to her. The feeling of the lubricant on my body was all-consuming, that and the constant motion of her hands were making my knees tremble, and for a split second I wondered if my legs could take it.

Gently, she pushed me back against the wall, her thigh parting my legs, the coolness of the tiles refreshing. Soap suds covered me by this stage, and the way she was pushing into me, it wasn't long before she was covered also. Mouths met, and tongues danced: lips captured, and teeth nipped. All mixed together with the motion of the woman who was taking me slowly with her thigh. Then I felt her hand slip down my body and rest at the apex of my groin. Her mouth moved to my neck, those lips sucking my throat, pulling me into the dream that was her. Bodies moved rhythmically, helped along by the water, the soap, and definitely the momentum of wanting this to continue for ever.

Lifting my right leg, I wrapped it around her waist, and prayed to God that I didn't slip … not that I would have cared, as long as she fell on top of me. But I didn't, and the next stage is where things become a little unfocused. Her fingers slipped further between my legs, and I felt them toying with my entrance. God. I didn't want to wait … I needed those fingers to be inside me … needed those fingers to show me what they wanted … show them what I wanted. A slight push and the tip of one slipped in, only to be pulled out again. I pushed again … inside … and then out. Gripping her shoulders I pushed her downwards, and down she went, her hand leaving the nest between my thighs. She was on her knees in front of me, almost as if she were praying. Blue eyes looked upwards, and the water was cascading from her hair and face. Rivulets of water danced on my skin and slipped effortlessly down my abdomen, and as I watched I noticed her attention turn to it. Then her lips parted to expose her tongue, a tongue that gently licked a line of water up my stomach … a tongue that sent shivers of desire up and down my body. Licks turned to kisses and licks, then kisses, licks and nipping of skin that was ready to explode if she didn't take me. Her hands had cupped my ass by this stage, and I felt a pressure to open my legs further apart. Granted. Erin dipped her head and swiped her tongue just at the top of where I needed her, and a groan left my mouth. I felt her mouth widen into a smile and knew that she was going to tease me.

Slipping my hands over her wet hair, I gently guided her to the place where want was becoming unbearable. Instead of torturing me, she pushed her tongue firmly along my folds.

'Jesus!' A flick at my entrance and then back to the top. My fingers gripped into her hair, and inadvertently I pushed her face into me, hoping that she would continue doing exactly what she had done. And she did. God … she did. Each stroke from her tongue made me crave more, and my hips were pushing into her face as my hands gripped her hair, whilst water splashed all over my face and body. Sensations were in overdrive, as every part of me was over stimulated and ready to burst open and splatter all over the tiles. I could feel the tentacles of an orgasm waiting there ready to detonate and make the world slip away into the dreamlike world of perfection. Being with her was perfect … absolutely, positively perfect. Letting her take me with her mouth was blindingly wonderful, and all I wanted was her to slide that tongue of hers inside me … inside and then out of me … inside and stay there. I could feel a circling motion around my core, and it was becoming an agony waiting for her to fill me.

But she didn't. She stopped … pulled away, and I still tried to push myself into her. Focusing wasn't easy, as the longing I had for her to continue was working with the water in trying to blind me. Why had she stopped? What had made her take that exquisite tongue away? Looking down, I saw her grinning widely. 'I think that's enough for now.' What? But! 'We can continue this after we get ourselves showered.' I couldn't answer, and that was because all the moisture from my throat and mouth was somewhere decidedly lower.

Standing up, she brushed her mouth over mine, but I was still too much in a daze to respond. 'Come on, slow coach … Or don't you want to get back into bed?'

Talk about motivation. I grabbed the shower gel she had picked up out of her hand and squirted a huge blob onto my palm. Rubbing frantically, it wasn't long before I was covered in bubbles. Erin just grinned even wider and said, 'Nice to see such eagerness,' before reaching for the shampoo. Turning, I lowered my hand between my legs and decided to give my lady garden a thorough cleaning. Just as my hand slipped between my thighs, I heard a huge farting noise. Fuck. Fuck. And fuck again. My flower had farted because she was so wet. The shame! Shooting my head round, I looked to see if Erin had noticed, and if she hadn't, check if she was deaf. She was still holding the shampoo bottle, but by this time it was upside down, because she had squeezed a generous sized blob onto her hand.

'What?' Water was hitting the side of her now, as she had side stepped out of the jet to lather up her hands. Maybe she hadn't heard it. 'It wasn't me.' Shit. How embarrassing. 'It was the bottle. See?' Picking up the bottle, she gave it another squeeze, and the noise was the same.

'Thank God for that. I thought it was me.' And I admitted it! Can you believe it? I could have just said, 'Oh … I knew that.' But no. I had to indicate that I thought I had done a fanny fart, and then promptly go red. The laugh Erin delivered was one of those that make the initial redness deepen and become an almost purple hue. 'What I meant was …' I couldn't even begin to think of another ending for that sentence, as there was no way she would believe otherwise - the twinkling in her eyes told me that much.

'Riiiiight.' And the one word answer she gave me nailed it home. Therefore, there was only one thing to do … continue showering, and then get her back once we were in the bedroom. An evil grin spread across my face when I thought of all the things I could do to her. 'What's that look for?' I shrugged, paused, and then smiled at her, and I could tell she was feeling nervous. Slowly, I stretched out my hand, and I knew she thought I was going to do something bad ... but I wasn't … just taking the shampoo bottle. A girl's gotta wash her hair, right? Erin gave me one more suspicious look, and then turned to grab the washing scrunchy from the side, dropping it in the process. As she bent over to reclaim it, I couldn't resist. Bottle right next to her ass and … squeeze …. The loudest farting noise you have ever heard came out of that small container; followed by the quickest standing up I have ever seen anyone do. Ever.

Erin's face was scarlet, and I couldn't resist the laugh that came out.

'You … you … git!' More laughter … initially by me, and then she joined in, just before she pinned me to the wall. 'I am going to get you back for that, gitster.' Her breath was on my face, and I felt the laughter halt in my throat. Blue eyes were so close, and I could feel the warmth radiating from her body. Nothing else mattered … nothing at all. Leaning over to cover the last couple of centimetres, I brushed my lips over her mouth … then brushed them over again before she tried to catch my lips with her own. So, I did it again, letting it linger, before I pushed my body right up close to hers and moved it slowly over the wetness. Releasing her mouth seemed like an agony, and all I wanted to do was to continue this. But I had other plans for this gorgeous woman who was pressed up against me in a shower cubicle on a Wednesday evening. Much more.

A sigh slipped from her lips, a sigh so soft it tickled my skin and taunted my longing. Eyelashes fluttered open, and I saw darker blue eyes. I knew that if I kissed her again at this precise moment, there would be no jumping back into bed for a while.

'I think that's enough for now.' I meant it to come out jokingly, but it came out showing her just how bloody much I wanted her. Maybe the bed could wait for a little while longer …

Pulling herself back, I felt the rush of cold air between us. Her hands were either side of my head and her face was still close. A voice thick with need spoke straight to every part of my body, 'Well, come on. Or I won't be able to control myself.'

Neither will I, Erin. Neither will I.


Back in the bedroom, we didn't bother dressing. What was the point? Towels did their job, and it was wonderful to take the huge mass of cloth and rub it over her back as she sat on the bed in front of me. Hair was towelled dry, and it seemed as if we were grooming each other. Without warning, Erin grabbed the dark blue material out of my hand and tossed it on the floor, her eyes glinting with wickedness. Electricity sparked in the air, and I knew for a fact that this time the lovemaking we had shared before would not be a gentle coupling. No. This was going to be anything but. And I felt the shivers of expectation shoot through me.

Pushing me backwards, I allowed her to climb over me, her hands gripping my hips. Her fingers dug into the flesh, and she lifted my pelvis upwards. Cool air whipped between my legs, and the flurry of want was back with vengeance. Lips pressed hard against mine, and shocks sparked between us. All the longing I had when showering returned, and it felt as if it had never left.

Erin's mouth was on my neck and she nipped the skin more demandingly than she had the first time we had made love. Words pattered onto my skin, soft sounds, but beautifully harsh in the effect they had over me. Moisture was slipping from inside me, slipping down the crack of my backside and onto the sheet. All I wanted was for her to gather it in her hand … her mouth … her tongue … anything, but for her to touch me just there. Just where I needed to be touched. Her pelvic bone thrust into me just as she suckled the part of my neck where it meets the shoulder, and a gasp left my mouth. Then again … another thrust, but this time my hips rose up to meet it. Fuck. Sensations ripped through me, and for a moment, I felt numb … until she did it again … and again … her back rising up to allow her to push back into me … and into me …

My hands were gripping her arse and trying to pull her more in, but she kept on pulling away just as I began to rotate my core on her bone. Wetness gathered and clung onto her, and I'm definite it was mixing with her own. And that made me even wetter. A roaming mouth captured my erect nipple, the hardness sharp and so fucking satisfying … until she let it go, the coolness of the air teasing it. I could feel her breasts on my stomach, breasts rubbing and swirling on my skin, and in turn, her own buds were flowering and scraping along my eager body. Fingers danced over her back, and it felt as if her skin was stroking me in return, enhancing the jittering fluttering expectation and allowing it to race rampantly within me.

Lips pressed to my ear and I felt the gasping breath before the words tumbled over me. 'I'm … going to … fuck you now.' A shot of more wetness left me in anticipation of what was to follow. Fingers. Toying … delightful fingers, pressing themselves along the source of my need. Digits. Blissful … erotic digits, circling the core of my want for this woman. And God, did I want her … need her … love her. Blue eyes lifted up and caught my hooded gaze, before she pushed her fingers inside. No teasing, no taunting … just in. Full and firm and whole. Two - in deep. Two long, agile fingers deep and pulling outwards, only to thrust back in … and out. Then to push and push until I thought I was suspended onto her hand, then out. I needed them to be in … but I craved the feeling of them dragging themselves to freedom, only to want them back in the prison of my walls.

'Harder.' The word was coarsely spoken, as I could barely think, never mind speak. And she did. The thrust pushed me up the bed and into a sweeter place. 'Harder.' Again, harder still, but I needed more … I would always need more from this woman. 'Fas … ter … please … harder and … fas … ter.' The effort that took still surprises me to this day, and I was so glad I didn't have to repeat it. Erin's arm was crooked to enable her to push and pull and thrust and drag everything into and out of me. She was fucking me … she was fucking me just like she said she would. Hard and fast … fast and hard … And my hips were bucking underneath that crooked arm, and trying to get her to fuck me even harder than she was already. Why didn't anything feel enough? Why did I feel I needed her to plunge deeper inside … increase the speed in which she was taking me?

Sweat covered me, coated her … kisses became unrestrained and clutching onto swelling lips … fingers tore away at the welling of insanity as I rose and fell at her command … rose and fell at her touch. It was building. It was coming … I was tightrope walking over the precipice of oblivion and I wanted to throw myself off … throw myself over into the blackness of fulfilment, knowing I had her to save me. Walls were beginning to contract … to spasm uncontrollably … and I felt my body lift as if I were jumping …

… and over I fell. Over I tipped into a blazing mass of lights, my body contorting and twisting with the impact of this cumming … my cumming … my all consuming completion. One word slipped through my clenching mouth … One word followed by a nest of words … All telling her how much I loved her. All telling her I much I wanted her to be with me … and all of these words being the truest words I believe I have ever spoken.

Gentle strokes calmed me … whispered words softened the sparks racing throughout my shivering body. I had never had an orgasm like that before … never felt anything like that … never loved anyone like I love her …

Opening my eyes in the dullness of the room, I felt as if I could see for the first time in my life. Erin was above me still, her hands stroking my body in leisurely strokes, blue eyes hooded and full of need too. Lifting my hand, I cupped her face, and she turned to embrace it, tender kisses hitting the palm.

'I love you so much, Steph.' Could this get any better? Could my life suddenly go from nothing to this in the matter of hours? 'I have done since the very first time I saw you.' Yes. It could. And the best thing was, I loved her just as much, and now was the time to tell her.

Sitting up sharply, I felt her tilt back with the force, so I gripped her wrist and pulled her to me.

'Erin.' I had to make sure she was looking at me. 'Erin. I …' Blueness engulfed me. 'Love you … love you … and love you.' The look on her face showed me I had hit the spot with my fumbling around to get the right words, words that struggled to pass all the emotion that was ravaging my body. A slight quiver of the lip, followed by rapid blinking of the eyes showed me that if I continued to say exactly how I felt about this woman she would start to cry. Therefore, I had no option. I had to show her.

Pulling her into me, I kissed that beautiful mouth with as much love as I could muster. Then kissed her again. Slowly, through kisses, I pulled her downwards, and turned her body so she was underneath me. Skin of velvet lay before me, and I could have happily just spent the rest of my life stroking it. But, I could see that would not be enough for her …

Moving to the bottom of the bed, I heard a quiet, 'Steph?', but I didn't answer. Taking her feet into my hands, I began to massage, before I suckled each toe in turn. Gorgeous little groans came from the top of the bed, and I knew I had chosen the right way to show her exactly how I was feeling. Then the suckling went to licking and kissing her shins … calves … kneecaps, all the while my hands were stroking the rest of her legs, hovering over the now trembling limbs. Then thighs … kisses … nibbles … sucks … A tongue flicked over the place where I knew she wanted me to be, but I didn't want that just yet … I needed her to want me just as much as I wanted her. Slithering along her body, I pressed my skin against hers … my breasts against her thighs … before slipping one breast between her legs. An erect nipple grazed her clit, and her hands shot out and grabbed my back, trying to push it in more deeply. Separating her legs even wider was easy, as she was as eager as I was to alleviate this growing hunger building up in both her and me. The muscles on her stomach were tense, and I could see droplets of sweat gathering there. Swipe. I captured some on my tongue and relished the salty sweetness that was her. Another swipe, this time further up her torso … then a gentle flick underneath the curve of her breast … then the other one … before I opened my mouth and captured an errant nipple inside, glorifying in the hardness. Slowly, I sucked hard, and then brushed my tongue rapidly over the bud. Another moan came from above my head, so I did it again, only to be treated to the same magnificent noise. A swift movement and I was on the other breast, exacting out the same promises … the same suckling and teasing. My hands were gripping her hip now, trying to hold her in place, as she had started to buck underneath me.

Leaving her breasts was tortuous, but I had other places to discover … other spots of infinite beauty to explore. Her collarbone … the dip in her throat … the nape of her neck … her ears … jaw … her arms … fingers … fingers that tasted of me … tasted of the desire I had for this woman.

Grabbing my head, Erin kissed me hard, her tongue thrusting into my mouth and claiming me for her own … although I was already hers - and it seemed I always had been. I felt myself falling into her … falling even more under the spell of this woman whom I thought I could take … thought I could control. But I knew for sure that this woman would always hold the cards … always be able to turn the tables on me, and for once in my life, I didn't care that someone else was in charge.

'Please, Steph … Please … take me … take me …' How can a woman refuse a plea like that? Whoever she is, she is stronger than me. Erin's wish was my command …

Pushing her legs open with my thighs, I was in the place I knew I wanted to be. Still kissing her, I moved my hand along the curve of her side until I reached the place where I would cross the silken territory of her abdomen, before dipping into the paradise between her legs. God. She was so wet, so bloody wet … and I knew it was because of me. With this knowledge, I believe I became even more aroused than I had been, if that is ever possible. Erin was beginning to push upwards, hoping that her movements would illicit some kind on penetration … and momentarily … I made her wait.

But not for long. It wasn't her, it was me, and for once in my life the expression didn't sound lame. It sounded perfect.

Inside. I was inside her … three fingers deeply inside and living in the wonder of the gasp she emitted as I thrust them there. And then thrust them again …and again …and again. To take this woman - to show this woman - to be with this woman - too much … too much … as my fingers ploughed and planted themselves fully inside her, I knew for a fact I had never in my life ever felt this before this moment. This feeling of total connection … this feeling of satisfaction and completeness I felt by taking her … the feeling that I believed in all truthfulness that just by entering her … delving into her … I could cum without her touching me, something I believed could never occur.

Feeling myself rubbing all over her, as my hand pushed into her faster and faster, was something I know I would never tire of. It was as if we had clicked together … joined together in one fluid movement, that nothing could slip between us. Nothing could come between this … between us … ever …

Pushing and thrusting … thrusting and pushing … inside and out … God … in …side and out … her body pulsating and slamming back into mine … her lips like fire, her body like liquid gold running preciously underneath me. I could hear the sound of her breathing becoming more laboured, more needy, the staccato whispering of words losing momentum as they left her mouth only to be captured inside mine and given life. But this wasn't enough … I needed to give her more … give her everything.

Lifting up from her frame, my fingers still fucking her, I saw the desperation on her face. She thought I was going to stop, but there was no way I would ever do that … I couldn't … I knew it would kill me to stop now. 'It's ok. Trust me.' Her face changed to one of total faith, and I knew that she had given control over to me. Dipping down along her body, I kissed a path along her skin, my fingers still thrusting deeply into her. Then I met my goal … my Eden. Wetness glistened along my fingers, and for a moment I was mesmerised by the movement. Stroke after stroke after stroke … deeper and deeper and deeper … the bundle of nerves at the top were quivering with the movement, and I couldn't resist.

Opening up my mouth, I captured the bud inside and sucked hard at exactly the same time I thrust hard into her.

'Sweet Jeeeeesssssus!' The moan came out semi short semi long, both accompanied by a buck of her hips enabling me to plunge my fingers in and hold them in place, whilst I continued to roll and suckle her clit inside my dedicated mouth. Gripping my free hand onto her hip, I held onto her as she thrashed out her cumming on my face and hand. Thrashed out her desire for me onto my ready and waiting skin. It was at that moment that I knew for sure. I was found. And I was where I knew I should be. With her. With my one. With my miracle.


Chapter Thirty

Six months later. No. That isn't a misprint, and no again … we didn't stay cooped up in her bedroom for all that time. But many things did happen in the interim - that I can guarantee.

Today witnessed my new neighbours moving in. Lorries and packing boxes have been up and down the lane for the best part of three hours, and I am almost tempted to go over and offer a helping hand. Even take the new occupiers a corkscrew.

I bet you are wondering about Erin, aren't you? Isn't she the person who should be living next door to me? Well, she used to. She moved out of the property about a month ago, give or take a few days.

But let's not race ahead too much, shall we? I don't want you to think you have been cheated after sticking with me for all this time. Where should I start? Let me think … should I begin right after the lovemaking? Nah … I think you've had enough of me getting my kit off to last you a lifetime, because that's what we did on and off all night long. And however much I tasted her, loved her, took her, it felt like I could do it all over again. So we did. Those poor little boys were so patient, waiting for us to give them a pat … let them out for a tiddle … and feed them, obviously. At least they had each other for company, although the amount of mess they left would make a two year old blush.

Ok. So … you don't really want to hear about that. Sorted. So what's next? Pippa? Go on then. Pippa didn't return back to the news room, as she thought she had been badly treated. Cheeky fucker. However, last I heard she was working at the Free Ads paper, bossing the people around with as much fervour as she ever did. I thought she might go back to the stage, as it was rumoured that the Muppets were set for a comeback. Maybe in time for Panto … Christmas is always buzzing for Miss Piggy lookalikes.

What else? Let me think … Henry Poole … that should be of interest to you. He is getting remarried in the early part of next year. Wonderful news, don't you think? He actually called me to tell me himself, as he had gone to my old workplace to ask for my number … and they gave it to him! Can you believe it? Usually they can't find their arse with both hands. By all accounts he had met his youngest daughter's teacher at parents evening, and bingo. The rest is history, as they say. Good to know that he had a second crack at life … a little like me, in a way.

I know this is the bit you've been waiting for, so I won't delay you anymore. Ok. Here goes.

After that night, it just got better, even though I couldn't believe it could - shows how much I know doesn't it? Each day we would see each other, and not just a 'Hello, neighbour' kind of way. I'm not saying it was a bed of roses … far from it. Years of being on my own, and Erin too, had made us a little set in our ways; therefore we would have tiffs about the smallest of things. But that's expected, isn't it? I mean, you can't just stroll into someone's life and expect it all to be perfect, can you? I had gone through a kind of metamorphosis when Erin had come into my life, and when we finally got together we were both still adjusting. It's a tad much to expect things to be just swept under the carpet and forgotten. We still had quite a bit of catching up to do. On life, I mean.

But, that makes out that we didn't make it doesn't it? You couldn't be further from the truth if you climbed on a rocket and read this from Mars, through a telescope of course. Each day brought new struggles, yet each day brought us closer together. Simple. If you want it bad enough, that is. I think the problem was that I wanted her with me all of the time … and to continue this train of thought … I didn't know how she felt about it. Call me a chicken … spineless … call me anything you want, but it didn't change the fact that I was in all honesty a wuss and I couldn't just ask her outright. I know we had told each other we loved the other so bloody much, but that isn't the same as spending your life with another person, is it?

Everything was perfect - when we were together I mean. The tranquillity I thought I loved seemed to echo in my ears, and I began to want to answer to someone other than just myself. As for walking around the house naked … well, that wouldn't be a problem. Shite movies were a must, and when they were sad ones, we would take turns in crying. It was bliss.

Then I started to wonder where it was going, where we were leading, but, again, I didn't have the balls to just ask. A huge part of me wanted to sit Erin down and just ask her if she wanted to move in with me, whilst the cowardly part would sit shivering in the inner recess of my brain warning me to take things more slowly. All through the summer season in the Lakes, I wanted to ask her … and sometimes I would find it difficult to speak in fear of blurting it all out. I didn't want to scare her away, I mean. It wasn't as if I was actually worried of taking that final step … just petrified that she would say no.

Days out were wonderful, and the Lake District blossomed into the green and life filled England once again. Every time we went to Derwentwater, I would stand and stare at the family of swans now swimming about, the two cygnets following closely behind the proud mother and father. I wanted that … I wanted that stability … that loyalty … that commitment … the rebirth that comes along when you give yourself a chance. Sly looks at Erin, and then back at the swans … I wanted that forever love … that partnership for life. I wanted that idyllic life … that certainty and knowledge that the other would be there through thick and thin. Spending everyday with the person you loved most in the world … what more could a woman ask for? All in all, I wanted her to be my swan, and I wanted to be hers. So why on earth was I not doing something about it? Why wasn't I actively seeking out this perfection?

Because I'm a twat.

Four months after we had finally shown and told each other how we felt, it was all taken out of my hands. The reason I say that is because Erin took it upon herself to put me out of my misery once and for all. I knew there was something on her mind for a while, but I was too scared to ask in case it turned out that she didn't want to be with me anymore. And when she hardly spoke after we had been out for the day at Ennerdale, I thought my ticket was up. I did question asking her to move in before she dumped me, as where was the harm if she was going to give me the push anyway? I say that quite candidly, but in reality I was sick to the stomach. I didn't want her to say 'It isn't you …' I didn't want to be let down gently. I wanted her. Full stop.

So when we pulled up outside my cottage and she told me she wanted to talk, I thought, 'Here we go, Stevenson. Time to grin and tell her you understand.' She was shaking as we led the boys into my house, shaking as she slipped off her jacket, shaking more as she bent down in front of me. Her fingers were cold and clammy as she took mine into her own, and I wanted to help her out - tell her that I didn't think we were working out, just to save her the pain of having to go through it. Good job my voice box decided to freeze at that precise moment, because what she wanted to say was completely different to what I had been thinking.

'Steph … I …' her eyes were fluttering like crazy, and the lump in her throat was doing an excellent impression of an out of control elevator. 'Steph … I …' This is where I nearly stepped in … nearly made a tit out of myself. Squeezing her hand, I tried to give her the strength to continue, tried to make everything all right for her, but in reality, I think I nearly broke her fingers off. 'I … I … have something I want to ask you.' Why I was born? Why I'm still here? 'Do you … erm … would you consider …' she stopped. I couldn't believe it either. Her blue eyes were open wide and pleading with me in a way, but for the life of me I didn't know what she was trying to ask, so I shrugged the shrug of the socially inept and continued to stare at her. Open mouthed, I might add. After clearing her throat, she repositioned herself on the floor, her knee becoming more fixed, her grasp firmer. The look on her face changed from fear to determination, and I could feel the atoms in the air shift about me. 'Stephanie. Would you consider moving in with me?' My mouth dropped even further open, before doing a fantastic impression of a fish out of water. Move in? With her?

'Move in? With you?' I didn't mean it to come out as high pitched as it did - high enough to alert both Reggie and Brian, who had been snoozing by the fireplace. But not now. Now they wanted to know why I was shouting them, and both scurried over to pounce onto the sofa, knocking Erin off her bended knee in the process … and because she was holding my hand, taking me down with her.

Landing with a thud on top of her, I cringed at the sound her head made on the floor. A hollow banging noise that must have stung like a fucker, and as she lifted her head up sharply, she head butted me in the nose.

'Fucking hell fire, Steph! Fucking hell fire!' The crack of my nose moving to the wrong side of my face accompanied the spurting of red stuff over my hands that had shot up to protect it. A little late, I might add. My eyes were watering like crazy, and I was swallowing rapidly to alleviate some of the pain. But I didn't care about noses … and head butts … and blood. Erin Mason had asked me to move in with her … asked ME … to move IN … with HER. Get it? She asked me. And all I wanted to do was to throw my arms around her and scream yes, but I couldn't … couldn't let go of the pumping throbbing siphon that used to be called my nose. The room was quiet … eerily quiet. Both Reggie and Brian had followed in Erin's footsteps and stopped breathing. Everyone was waiting for me to show I was ok … even me.

It seemed like hours before I could move my hands from my pulsating face, and I only did so because I felt Erin move away from me and leave the room. Did she think I didn't want to move in with her? That I had instigated the bleeding nose to flamboyantly say no? Just as the thought entered my head, she reappeared, a bag of frozen carrots in her hand.

'Here. Put this on it. Couldn't find the ice.' Tentatively, I placed the bag over my face, sighing in the relief it gave me. Trust me to fuck things up when everything had come around to exactly the way I wanted. With this thought, I looked over the pack of carrots and at Erin. She sat there, concern written all over her face and body. Or was she waiting? Fuck.

'Yes.' The answer was muffled, and she leaned closer to me and asked me to repeat myself. Moving the ice pack, I titled my head and smiled the smile of the deformed. 'I said yes. I would love us to live together.'

Instantly the smile was there, and she attempted to throw her arms around me, then stopped, then said, 'Aw fuck it. Come here.' And at that perfect moment I knew once and for all, being in her arms was the place where I would be for as long as she would let me. And with a kiss, my fate was sealed. Thankfully.

Oh … and I also knew my nose was broken. You win some, you lose some, but on the grand scale of things, who wants a straight nose anyway?


You may be wondering something right about now. You are probably thinking 'I thought she was moving in with Erin? So why is there a removal van outside?' I know. Thought I would lure you away from the facts for a minute, although I think you are far too intelligent to fall for that old red herring. After discussing it, we both thought it would be better if Erin moved in with me … maybe because she still hadn't unpacked all those boxes in the spare rooms. So, Abigail Smarts got her sale in the end, and Erin loaded up her boxes and moved both her and Brian over to live with me and my boy just over a month ago. The very first thing she gave me on the day of the move was a packet of batteries for my doorbell. See? What a woman.

I love watching people move house, although I hate doing it myself. It gives you an insight to who they are and what they like. Now … the people who are moving in next door are a very nice couple with two children. I know this for a fact, as I have met them on more than one occasion. It would have been better if I could get off my lazy arse and help them unload, but I think for a little while longer they can live without my efforts - even to stop Reggie and Brian dancing about their feet and trying to knock them over at any given opportunity. I'm too comfortable talking to you, and also getting an eyeful of the woman lifting a sofa from the back of a van. Strong capable arms, a firm backside, long legs, and a smile to die for. Very tasty. And very mine. If you hadn't guessed already, Sue and Rob were going to be our new neighbours, as they had fallen in love with the Lakes. After everything Rob had gone through, both of them decided life was for living, and they wanted to do their living in a place where the biggest scandal was scribbling on toilet doors. I just hope Daisy's drawing around picture frames phase sorts itself out before she starts at the new school after half term break. At least she would have me on her side, and I would write a very positive article about her artistic talents.

No. You didn't think I was eyeing up Sue, did you? Come on! As if! Don't you know me by now? My woman is Erin Mason - the very same Erin Mason who was by now helping Rob with a side board- why would I ever look at anybody else? This was my life, she was my life, and my life was more than I ever thought it could ever be.

So. Why Miracle? Why did I call my tale such a weird title? Many reasons, actually … some of them obvious, some of them not quite so … erm … obvious. We use the term miracle for many of the things we don't quite understand, but are overjoyed they have happened. It could be classed as a marvellous creation, a gift from God, or even an event that is astounding, amazing and extraordinary. But there are other definitions for the word that don't appear in dictionary underneath the term 'miracle' that are classified as a noun, an adjective or a verb. Words like hope, trust, compassion, forgiveness and giving, life and living, and the big one, love. All these typify the act of the miraculous, and in some way or another, my life was touched by them all ever since Erin Mason walked into it. She is in fact a living breathing miracle. She is a marvellous creation … a gift from God … she is in herself an astounding, amazing and extraordinary woman. And when all is said and done, this is as much her story as it is mine. Without her there would be no words … no pages or sentences … no paragraphs that link to each other, all chapters would be blank, and punctuation would be out of a job. It would be empty. Just like me.

Therefore, one final thing before I leave you to live your own miracles. Don't give up on life. Don't give up on hope and compassion. Take each day as it comes and always consider your actions to others. Give. Smile. Laugh and sing. Forgive others … forgive yourself. Enjoy every single minute … tell the one you love how much they mean to you. Show them. Hold them and cherish this person who is in your life. Treat every breath like a miracle in itself. Because every breath you take, is one that you take in this wonderful thing we call life. Love it, and it will love you in return.

Right. I think you've had about enough of what I have to say. You can go and turn your water into wine, part the Red Sea … even vote for Labour again. Your call. Me, on the other hand, am being beckoned by my woman. She wants me outside, to stop being a lazy work dodging git, and help her and Rob carry out the pinball machine. Pinball machine? Is that hers? Aw fuck.

What are you waiting for? Go. Grab your miracle.

The End

There you have it … and I hope you enjoyed reading. If you did, let me know … if you didn't, erm, well … erm … sorry? I owe you one? Two, even? Or maybe I should just throw in the towel.


However, if you are at a loss for what to do now, you could check out my printed work. Hearts and Flowers Border is available, and so is Beginnings. I'll even save you the trouble …

PD Publishing - LT Smith

Be good.

PS Did you try to click on the link in the third part of this story? If yes … gotcha … grin.

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