Here Comes My Woman

by G.S. Binkley


xxgsb@hotmail.com

Synopsis: HERE COMES MY WOMAN continues on with the lives of Lacy and Gage a few years later as the writer reveals more about her dark past. The dynamic duo work together on a movie while raising their family and someone from Gage's past makes an unexpected appearance. This is the third story in the WOMAN I LOVE series. The second story is entitled A WOMAN LIKE YOU.

Sexual Content: F/F partners

Code:

L: Love between two people with kisses, embraces and tender moments.

LS: Love scenes described in more detail, involving scenes of lovemaking.

ES: Explicit love scenes.

· This story is rated: LS

· Fiction (Alternative)

Language: Caution - some language used may be offensive, however, it is only used in the context of the situation or the character's personality. Overall - minimal usage.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I salute you, Sam!! Thank you so much for beta reading this story. The gift of your time, knowledge and skills has been invaluable to me. Anyone wishing to show Sam their appreciation for making this story flow so much better can contact her at scammer68@yahoo.com.

This is copyrighted material, © 2002 Binkley…all rights reserved. It may be reproduced, duplicated or printed for personal use only. For all other uses, please contact xxgsb@hotmail.com

Chapter One

An early morning sunray touched lightly upon Lacy Levine's fair skin as the blonde next to her adoringly watched the woman she loved sleep. Gage Ballant ran her finger delicately along the dark haired woman's chin and in response Lacy snuggled closer, allowing a small smile to bloom from the gentle touch.

"Morning." Lacy yawned, stretching luxuriously against her lover. She met Gage in a soft kiss before realization dawned. "This is rare. You? Up this early."

Gage smiled.

"Must be something important. Care to share?" Lacy asked, stroking the blonde's backside, which always guaranteed a pleasurable response from her lover.

Gage moaned in contentment. "You. The most important person in my life. Waking up just to watch you sleep is more than reason enough. You're beautiful."

Pleased with her lover's compliment, Lacy ripped back the silk sheet, revealing her naked form. With an arch eyebrow, Lacy offered herself to her lover.

Gage took advantage of the welcomed invitation, straddling the younger woman. Laying down fully atop her lover and postured for a full frontal attack, Gage leaned in closer. Dazzling green eyes flared seductively meeting waiting blue ones. Then just when Gage's lips brushed ever so lightly against willing ones, a sudden loud bang interrupted her sexual assault. Gage jumped up, coming to a standing position over her lover.

Lacy ran calming and reassuring hands along her lover's legs. "Sweetheart, I'm sure it's just the boys."

Gage's shoulders slumped. "And, that's the other reason I wanted to get up early."

BOOM.

"Lacy, we have got to talk to your brother about starting later in the day." She looked down at her lover and said seriously. "Offer him more money."

Lacy laughed.

"Seriously," Gage insisted, laying back down next to Lacy. "Tell him we'll pay him more if he… say, comes an hour later."

Lacy sat up. "And, why would we want that?"

Gage negotiated herself behind her lover, pressing against Lacy's bare back. "So, we can come…. earlier." The blonde husked suggestively.

Lacy looked back over her shoulder and kissed Gage. "Then the house would never get finished and….. we wouldn't have any privacy." Lacy slipped from her lover's embrace. "I need to check on Sammy."

BANG.

Pitching a fit, Gage pouted, refusing to get up. When another loud bang erupted, a low deep guttural moan escaped the blonde. Banging her own legs up and down against the bed, Gage yelped in frustration, vowing. "I will find a way to have my woman."

"Sweetheart, you can be such a baby sometimes." Wrapping herself in a robe, Lacy smiled at her frustrated lover before she slipped out of their bedroom door.

Watching Lacy leave, Gage groaned. "Ahhgggrrrr…"

Suddenly, Lacy peaked her head around the doorframe. "Tonight." Then just as quickly disappeared.

"Yeeees!" Gage cocked her arm in victory.

************************

Fully dressed, Gage joined Lacy in the upstairs' hall bathroom. "Need any help?"

"Mmmmm." Lacy shifted her two year old son to her other hip. The dark haired woman was definitely distracted as she gathered up a few items on the counter. "Here. Can you take him?"

Gage reached for Sammy but was met with resistance. The dark haired boy stubbornly clung to his mother. Further efforts by Gage were futile.

"No." Sammy buried his head against his mother, squirming tightly.

With pursed lips, Gage tried again. "Come on, Sammy. Your momma needs to get ready." He continued to ignore the blonde. "You want to go play outside?"

Shaking his head furiously, Sammy refused to budge.

Gage cocked her hands on her hips with an exaggerated flair. "I told you. He doesn't like me. That's all there is to it."

"Gage, don't be so dramatic. He just loves his mommy." Lacy kissed her youngest son. "Don't you, sweetheart?"

"So do I." Gage smiled, attempting to get Lacy's attention.

With his mother's prompting, the young boy complied, falling reluctantly into the older woman's arms. "Oh…and fix some breakfast." Lacy asked with a questioning smile. "Please?"

Acquiescing to her lover's request as always, Gage tightened her hold on the young boy and headed dutifully to the kitchen.

************************

As Sammy patiently waited at the table, Gage opened the refrigerator. Gathering a few food items in her arms, she turned to meet the serious look on Lacy's face. "What's wrong?"

"I need another egg," Lacy stated, matter of factly.

Gage sat the milk down on the counter and retrieved an egg from the carton she was holding. Handing it to Lacy, she grinned.

"Funny. Very funny." Dejected, Lacy plopped down on the kitchen chair.

Quickly, Gage wrapped her arms around the distraught woman. "I'm sorry. I guess it didn't come up your favorite color. Huh?"

"No." Lacy watched Sammy wiggle, trying to escape his seat so he could get to her. She reached for him but Gage intercepted, gathering her young charge and placing him in Lacy's arms. Feeling comforted temporarily as she held her son, Lacy sighed. "We'll try again."

Gage swirled around. She dropped to her knees, placing herself in front of Lacy. "No!" The blonde said harsher than she intended.

Shocked, Lacy pinned her partner with glaring blue eyes. "What are you saying? You don't want this? I thought…"

Sliding her hands up Lacy's thighs, Gage proceeded cautiously. "That's not it, Lacy. It's just that…" Hesitation dwelled precariously upon speaking her next words. "…it's been so hard on you."

"No more than you."

"Lacy, I love you. And, although I want this baby as much as you do… I don't want you to have to go through this again. We've tried for nearly a year now and…"

"You don't think it's going to happen, do you?" Unshed tears filled her blue eyes.

"I see how hard it is for you every time you… we try and nothing…" Her words fell silent. Long moments passed between them in quiet understanding. For the last year, Lacy had desperately tried to get pregnant. Using Gage's egg, and with their close friend Mark Calico supplying the needed sperm to fertilize the egg, Lacy was going to give Gage the greatest gift of love she could think of. Carrying her baby.

Placing a soft touch to Gage's cheek, Lacy forged ahead with determination. "I want to do this. I need to do this… for you."

Gage started to protest.

"For me…. for us, really." Lacy relented, finally sharing her unspoken reasons for her resolute decision. "Sweetheart, I know you feel… how can I say this? Like we're a family…"

"I do." Gage inserted quickly, wondering what Lacy was getting at.

"I know." Lacy leaned in, kissing her. "We are very much a family in every way."

"But?" Gage knew there was going to be a but somewhere in there.

"But, whether you want to admit it or not… there's a part of you that still…. it's as if you don't feel….deserving of a family. There are times you hold back."

Retreating, Gage dropped back on her heels. "That's not true," she stated in a small voice. However, it was true. No matter how hard Lacy had tried ever since they had been together to pry parts of Gage's hidden past out, the blonde remained firm in keeping it buried.

Pulling Gage closer to her, Lacy continued. "Then why won't you share parts of your life with me?"

Straining against her partner's grasp, Gage turned her head away, focusing her downcast eyes on some distance spot. "It's not important…"

"It is to me." Lacy gently returned Gage to face her. "I love you, Gage. And, I want you fully, completely with me in everyway. I want to know every aspect about you… your past, everything. Our future depends on it. Our family depends on it."

"What are you saying?" Scrambling up from the floor, Gage retreated then lodged herself against the kitchen counter.

Lacy placed her son in his chair, offering him a small diagonal piece of toast Gage had meticulously cut. Sammy took the buttery slice and munched happily on it. With her son pre-occupied, Lacy wrapped her arms around her quiet partner. "Gage, sweetheart, I want this baby. Maybe it will…maybe you'll feel. What I'm trying to say is that with a baby that is a part of you…and me then just maybe you'll give yourself to me…us completely."

Even though the argument was awkward and unsteady, Gage knew exactly what Lacy meant. She did, at times, remain aloof and indifferent toward fully committing herself to her new family. Although, Gage wholeheartedly gave to Lacy and all three of the children, doting on them with unconditional love, she remained at a distance just in case her new fragile world came tumbling down. By holding back her past, Gage was able to do two things. Creating a barrier would protect her from the hurt and pain of one day losing this family - like she had experienced years ago when she was given up for adoption. It also let Gage take the easy way out, instead of facing her tormented past and dealing with it head on.

"I'll try." Gage offered with less assurance than Lacy would have wanted.

"That's all I can ask then." Capturing her partner's lips in a very sweet and reassuring kiss, Lacy willed her love, enveloping her partner. She hoped it would provide the security she felt Gage so desperately needed.

Strolling through the kitchen door, Jason McIntyre walked in on the pair in a lover's embrace. Clearing his throat, the tall man caught the couple's attention. "Sorry."

Unfettered by her ex-husband's presence, Lacy remained in Gage's embrace. "Jason, good morning." Lacy ducked in for a quick kiss from Gage. Without looking toward him, Lacy's hungry eyes remained on her lover when she asked. "Want something to eat?" The dark haired woman smiled at Gage before continuing. "Where's that brother of mine?"

Trying not to notice Lacy as she ran her hand up and down Gage's arm, snuggling even closer, Jason answered her. "No, thank you…. he's outside. Wants to talk with you about the deck." Clearing his throat again, Jason hurried his next words. "After breakfast, of course. Excuse me."

Kissing Gage deeply once again, Lacy laughed. "Do you think we scared him away?"

"No. I think he thinks you're going to have me for breakfast." Gage grinned as her hands roamed freely over her partner's body.

Lacy and Gage shared the same sensual thought but Sammy had a different idea, banging his hands against the table and getting his mother's full attention. "Momma…momma. Want you. Now."

************************

After talking with Lacy's brother, Hank Lewis, and Jason about her plans for the deck, Gage strolled around their newly built home just outside of St. Troy with Lacy by her side. Sammy remained faithfully propped on his mother's hip.

"Do you think we'll be happy here?" Gage asked off-handedly.

Tugging on her partner's hand, Lacy pulled Gage to a dead stop. "Why would you ask something like that?"

"Oh, I don't know." Gage shrugged, dropping Lacy's hand. Focusing on the lakeshore only a couple hundred feet away from the house, the blonde said softly. "You're used to so much… more." Quickly, turning to meet her partner, Gage halted the dark-haired woman's protest. "Hollywood. You know, the glamour, big homes… mansions."

"And, this place isn't big enough?" Lacy spread her arm out toward the $1.5 million dollar home they had built. "We have…. what? Twenty-five acres. A private lake cove that extends…."

"At least a mile and it's not that private." Gage moved closer to her lover. "That's not what I mean anyway. Besides, most of it was your money."

Lacy grunted a small laugh. "I wondered when that would come up."

"What do you mean?" Gage retorted in surprise.

Grabbing the blonde's reluctant hand again, Lacy led her down the path through a small rose garden. "Money. How much I have versus how much you have."

"Well, it is a bit lopsided." It was then Lacy gave her lover a lopsided grin before Gage finally relented. "Oh, I don't want to argue about money."

"If it really bothers you, Sweetheart, I'll make a deal with you."

Gage perked up at the suggestion.

"You can be my loooove…slave." Lacy's arched an eyebrow seductively. "Do what I want, when I want…. whatever way I want it." Lacy sashayed back to the house, fully aware of her lover's eyes tracking her.

Gage called after her before hurrying to her side. "And that would be different … how?"

************************

After Lacy and Gage dropped off Sammy at his grandmother's house, the couple headed to the doctor's office to confirm what Lacy had already discovered.

Gage drove the curvy narrow Benton's pass with care as she covertly watched her silent partner. "You miss them, too?"

Dropping her hand on her lover's thigh, Lacy confirmed. "More than I ever thought I could…and it's only been a few days."

Placing her hand over Lacy's, Gage reassured the younger woman. "They'll be back with us in a little over a week. I'm sure everything's fine."

"You're right. Stella's with them." Lacy nodded, reassuring herself.

Gage pursed her lips together. "Stella! Are you sure it was such a good idea hiring her. I know Julie vouched for her but…" Stella Smith came highly recommended by Julie Grant, head of Primrose Studios and Mark Calico's girlfriend. The nanny had been with them for nearly eighteen months now and Gage was still wary of her.

"The kids love her. She worked for Julie for years and never once had a problem. I trust her." Lacy was more concerned about her two oldest kids staying with her ex-husband and their father, David Levine. But, she was most concerned about her oldest son, Derek. It was a well-known fact that David was hard on their six-year-old son. "Dani won't have a problem. She loves her father."

"Yeah, she has a way of saying things and never getting in trouble. I don't know how she does it." Gage inserted.

"Derek on the other hand… I'm just glad Stella agreed to go along for his sake."

"Yep." Gage said with a disgruntled mumble. "Sammy doesn't like me and, now, I think Derek likes her better than me."

"Oh, he does not. What's wrong with you today?" Lacy searched her partner carefully, looking for any clue as to why Gage was so out of sorts that day.

"I don't know… there's something familiar about her. It's weird somehow. I can't explain it." Gage slowed, cautiously negotiating the hairpin curve due to the blind spot at Benton's Pass. "I wish they would get this fixed. People drive too fast through this area."

Lacy waited till her partner had carefully traversed the dangerous curve and resumed normal speed. "Sweetheart, what's wrong?"

"Nothin'." Gage grunted.

"Mmmmm hmmmm. I believe that." Lacy smiled. Sarcastically, she continued. "First, Sammy doesn't like you, Derek likes her better than you and I have too much money."

A small smile rose on the blonde's face. "It's not that you have too much money…it's just that I don't. I know I'm being a baby." Gage winked at her lover. "But, I'm your baby."

Lacy's hand caressed Gage's cheek. "Yes, you are."

After a few more miles, Gage pulled their new Grand Cherokee Jeep into the doctor's parking lot. She opened Lacy's door, grabbed her hand and said. "Come on, let's go make a baby."

Even though today wouldn't be the day for that, Lacy loved her partner's enthusiasm and newfound attitude. Happily, she followed the older woman inside.

************************

As they waited in the doctor's office, Lacy noticed an article in USA Today about a kidnapping in Los Angeles. She pored over the piece, soaking in every detail. "You're right. The cove's not that private. Anybody on the lake can drive their boat right down to our house."

"What?" Gage asked before Lacy jammed the newspaper in her chest.

Remembering that they both left their cell phones at home, Lacy insisted. "As soon as we get home I'm calling David."

A nurse came to the door. "Ms. Levine, the doctor will see you now."

Lacy jerked Gage up. Completely bewildered by her partner's demeanor, Gage followed as she tried to read the article in question.

************************

When the couple arrived home, Lacy took her sleeping son to his bedroom with Gage right on her heels. "How is that you go to the doctor and I come back finding out that I'm anemic?"

"You know very well how. She took blood tests from both of us." Lacy was distracted. She wanted to call David immediately and negligently dismissed her lover's concern. "You better get that straightened out because we are going to have a baby and nothing is going to stop us."

Before Gage could reply, Lacy was out the door, heading for the nearest telephone. She punched the numbers quickly and impatiently waited for someone to answer. "Hayston? Hi. Is David there?" Lacy tapped the table. "David? How are the kids? Are they there with you? Did you see the papers?"

"Lacy! Hold on there, honey. Yeah, the kids are here. Matter of fact, they're outside in the pool. Stella's with them. What's up?" David wondered about his ex-wife's rapid-fire questions.

"Good." Lacy sighed a heavy relief. "Let me talk to them."

"In a minute. Now, what's wrong?" David asked again then noticed the light haired young woman walk up, handing him a drink. "What paper are you talking about?" When the young woman silently quizzed him regarding his question to Lacy, David shrugged his shoulders at his girlfriend, Hayston Rawlings.

"The kidnapping. It's all over the news." Lacy stressed her disbelief at David's casual attitude. "You do read, don't you?"

"Honey….." The stern look he received from Hayston caused him to amend the endearment toward his ex-wife. "Lacy, they're fine. Derek even smiled at me today."

"Ha!" Hayston countered with a wicked laugh. "That was only because you spilled wine on your expensive shirt."

"Either way, it was a smile." David shot back at his lover.

"David! Focus." Lacy fumed. "Let me speak to Dani or better yet.. Stella."

Lacy waited the few minutes it took to get Stella on the telephone. She blew a kiss to the patiently waiting blonde standing nearby. "Hi, Stella. How's the kids?"

Gage watched as the dark-haired mother quizzed the nanny. Asking every question conceivable under the sun about how her children were doing. Lacy capped her inquisitive queries before talking with each of her children with one last question to Stella. "You have Derek's Epipen, right?" Lacy's faint nod confirmed that all was well.

When Lacy finally hung up, she opened her arms wide, beckoning her lover close. In less than a heartbeat, Gage wrapped her lover in her arms. "I love you."

Allowing her lover to briefly nuzzle her neck, Lacy reluctantly pulled away, guiding the blonde to the bedroom.

When they arrived, Lacy noticed a rose lying on her pillow. "How did you? When did you?"

Gage shrugged.

After giving the blonde a thank you kiss, Lacy dropped to the bed. "I'm exhausted."

"I'm not surprised." Gage sat down next to her. "It's been an eventful day."

"You won't be mad if we don't?" Lacy's words dropped into a silent abyss.

Laying Lacy back on the bed, Gage undressed her partner with tender loving care and affection. "No." The blonde adoringly smiled at Lacy.

"I know I promised." Gage pressed a finger to the lips of the woman she loved.

"It's okay. Besides…." Gage winked at her lover. "I talked to Hank and Jason. They won't be coming till noon tomorrow." Gage waggled her eyebrows and wrapped her lover close, warding off the unease of the day and providing Lacy with a safe harbor through the night.

Chapter Two

Heavenly silence met the waking couple. Gage slid over her partner but hesitated briefly before dropping in for a sweet and gentle good morning kiss. "Should we chance it?" The blonde wiggled her eyebrows seductively.

"We should." After a restful sleep, cradled in her lover's arms, Lacy was more than ready for what Gage had in mind.

Once again, Gage brushed her lips against willing ones then repositioned herself, propping her leg between Lacy's thighs. The blonde left a trail of hot kisses down her lover's neck as her right hand found refuge on Lacy's breast.

"Mmmmmm." Lacy moaned, closing her eyes in pleasure. "Heading for your favorite spot?" She knew her lover well. Gage always spent an inordinate amount of time feasting upon her breasts. And, Lacy never complained.

"I have many." Before their young son woke and the boys arrived to work on the deck, Gage found every spot and gave it her undivided attention, much to Lacy's delight.

************************

Lacy hurried to dress upon hearing her son calling. "What are you doing today?"

Gage relaxed on the bed, watching her lover haphazardly throw on her clothes. "Write. I guess."

"That's nice." Sammy wailed loudly once again. "What about later? We need to talk about the movie." Lacy rushed to the door, paying very little attention to her lover's answer.

Gage watched Lacy run out the bedroom before she could reply. "Oh, well, I'm not going to complain." Gage plopped back on the bed and a huge grin promptly sprung upon her face. "I finally got me some."

************************

Gage wrote the rest of the morning while Lacy played with Sammy and consulted with Hank and Jason about the house. When the writer finally put away her laptop, she searched out her partner, hoping to have a late lunch together. The doorbell rang before she located her missing lover.

"Hey, Mark. Come in. Help me find Lacy." Gage headed for the kitchen with Mark following closely behind.

"Things are coming together. I like it." Mark said, looking around as he walked through the main entrance and down the long hall to the kitchen. "Lots of light in here."

"Yeah, Lacy likes the kitchen bright and cheery. She insisted on solar power, too. A real environmentalist." Bending over, Gage popped her head in the refrigerator as Mark surveyed the eloquently decorated high ceiling stuffed with numerous skylights. "How bout some lunch?"

"Nice view." Mark commented.

"You're not flirting with my woman, are you, Mark Calico?"

With her head still in the refrigerator, Gage's green eyes popped wide open and Mark stuttered in an attempt to reply. "Ahhh. No… I was…" Pointing up, Mark continued. "It's a nice view up there. Not, there." His hand dropped to point at Gage.

Lacy's blue eyes glanced at Gage's backside. "Now, you're insulting my woman's ….. assets?"

"Ahhhh…." Mark stumbled before Gage saved him.

The blonde stood upright. "Drop it, Mark. You're sinking fast." Walking over to Lacy, Gage kissed her. "Thank you for defending me."

Returning the kiss, she smiled at Mark's embarrassment. "Anytime. Someone said something about lunch?"

"Siddown. I'm fixing sandwiches." Gage glanced at the kitchen door. "What about the guys?"

"Jen and Lisa came over. They're having lunch by the lake." Lacy smiled at Gage. "Sammy's with them." Jen Farris was Hank's girlfriend of almost five years now and Lisa Lewis, Lacy's sister, had secretly set her sight on the thirty-five year old Jason McIntyre.

"Oh….." Maybe if Mark doesn't hang around too long, Lacy and I could…. Gage let her mind wonder as she quickly made the sandwiches, meticulously cutting them diagonally before serving them. "Eat up."

Lunch lasted longer than Gage had hoped. When Mark showed no sign of leaving, Gage reluctantly broached the subject of Lacy's upcoming movie, HERE COMES JORDAN. "So, Mark, have you finalized the casting yet? Got anybody to play Shelley?"

Mark nodded. "Shanti (Shaun-tee) James."

Lacy gathered a few plates from the table. "Marva's niece?"

Both producers of Lacy's new movie shrugged their shoulders.

Surprised that they didn't recognize the famous actress' name, Lacy informed them. "Marva DuLaine. She did several episodes on my show." After placing the plates in the sink, Lacy sat back down at the table, contemplating. "Most of her career was on stage." The dark haired actor allowed a few brief memories of her old friend to invade her mind. "She's a character. We had some…. crazy times together."

A concerned look briefly traversed the blonde's face then Gage cleared her throat. "What kind of crazy times?"

Placing her hand on the blonde's arm, Lacy soothed her partner. "Not that kind of crazy."

"What kind of crazy do you think I was talking about?" Gage retorted as if being insulted then pretending to pout.

The tall dark haired businessman slowly stood up. "Guess this is my cue to exit." Mark laughed at his own remark. "Show business talk… guess I've been spending too much time with Ryan." The director for their upcoming movie was Ryan White. For the last several months, Mark and Ryan had been spending hours together in pre-production. Recently, Mark had asked Ryan to join Shadow Productions. That reminds me I need to talk with Gage about that invitation.

Lacy popped up, pushing Mark back down. "Sit down. You two talk. I'm going to check on Sammy and the rest of them." Glancing quickly back at her lover, Lacy smiled then mouthed. I love you.

Gage smiled. Oh, why did she go and do that? Just when I was working up a bit of steam…. getting mad so we could… make up later. Her mind drifted to their earlier lovemaking session, stirring a physical reaction in her that still lingered hours later.

"Gage?" Mark quizzed, waving his hand in front of his long time friend and partner. "I know she's a distraction but she's been gone for the last five minutes."

Harnessing her full attention back to her friend, Gage said. "Mark, I love you really I do. Like a brother. But, we need to come up with a signal."

Being extremely intelligent and having known Gage for over four years, Mark knew exactly what his younger friend was referring to. "Stayed too long, did I? Hey, if I can't be with my girl than neither can you?"

"How are Julie and the kids?" Gage stood up. Before allowing him to answer, she continued. "Come on, let me show you my writing room. I've got those stories you wanted to take a look at."

"Did you finally finish HEART OF AFRICA?" Mark followed his friend through the kitchen door. When they reached Gage's writing room, Mark stopped short. Clearing his throat, Mark cautiously continued. "There's something I want to talk to you about…. it's Julie."

The seriousness in his tone commanded Gage to give him her full attention. "Sit down." She motioned for him then she sat in her leather chair behind a desk. "What is it?"

Long moments passed as Mark tried to get comfortable. "Several things really. First, I asked Ryan to join our company. I know I didn't talk with you about…"

Gage halted him with an upraised hand. "That's great, Mark. You know I don't have a problem with that." She leaned forward in her chair. "There's something more serious on your mind. What is it?"

Mark sucked in a deep breath. "How do you…. how did you win over Lacy's kids? I know they love you."

Nodding, Gage surmised the problem that plagued her good friend. Julie Grant had two children, Joe and Jessie. They loved their father very much and it was after he died that Mark entered Julie's life again. Mark, Julie and Joe, Sr. had been friends for years. Prior to meeting Mark again, Julie was still trying to deal with the inherent problems of running her own production company, her ex-husband's death, and how the kids reacted to it, all alone except for the help of her nanny, Stella Smith. So, when Mark re-entered her life, she found in him a safe haven.

Puzzling over his dilemma, Gage leaned back. She watched Mark intently study the hundreds of books that lined two walls of the room as if trying to avoid the very question he posed. "To tell you the truth, Mark. Although, Lacy will deny it, Sammy doesn't like me at all."

Shooting his friend a doubtful look, Mark remained silent but his concentration was now fully focused on her.

"Well, maybe he likes me a little…" Gage squeezed her finger and thumb closely together. "…bit. And, that's only when he's hungry or needs his pants changed and Lacy's not around to do it."

Stretching out her name slowly, Mark said. "Gage…."

She tossed him her latest screenplay. "You're asking the wrong person. Derek liked me just like that." Gage snapped her fingers together. "Dani…." She let a heavy sigh escape. "Dani. I bribed her with a…. your speedboat when we were at your cabin on the lake. Actually, when I think about it…." Gage continued seriously. "…. she just needed to be reassured that I wasn't there to take their mother away from them."

Mark flipped through the screenplay without really giving it much thought. "I've tried that. Julie keeps reassuring me that they'll come around." He stood up abruptly, tossing the script on the desk.

"I see you liked it." Gage said dryly.

"Damn it to hell, Gage." Mark paced around the room. "It's been close to two years and nothing has changed. I've tried everything. Here I am CEO of an international company, producer of my own production company…" Mark paused, looking at his co-producer.

"Go on." Gage encouraged her friend to vent.

"I wheel and deal every day knowing that thousands of people in my companies depend on me. I am a good employer." Mark wasn't looking for Gage to boost his ego just to confirm the truth. He desperately needed reassurance from his friend.

"You're a great employer…and person." Gage added. "I know of none better. Mark, no other company in the world offers the kind of benefits you do to your employees. Daycare for your employees. They have stock in the company. And, I know for a fact when one of your employees or partners…." Gage smiled, remembering when she backed out on helping him when he produced her first screenplay in New Orleans. "….needs time off for personal reasons… no problem. You're there for them."

The fuming man eased back down in the leather chair. "That reminds me. I can't stay long. I need to go to New York tomorrow."

************************

Lacy lingered near the pathway to the lakeshore as she watched her older brother, Hank playing with his nephew. Her attention soon turned to her sister gazing at Jason with unchecked adulation. Guess mom was right. "Room for one more?"

Sammy jerked his dark head up. "Momma!" He scrambled out of his uncle's arms, waddling toward his mother. Lacy plopped down on the blanket the foursome were picnicking on right before the two year old jumped into her arms.

After watching Sammy's reaction to his mother, Jen smiled at Hank. "I wonder what it would feel like… having your child love you that much."

The never been married thirty-five year old man swallowed hard before glancing away, intently checking out a duck on the lake.

It was then his youngest sister, Lisa, nudged him. "You can look at the duck all day long bro but even they have families."

Much to Hank's dismay, several little ducks joined the adult male duck along with their mother. Hank shot all of them a dirty look but what really irritated him was the smirk on his friend and construction partner's face. "Lisa, did I tell you that Jason thinks you're pretty?"

It was time for Jason to swallow hard but he regrouped quickly. "As a matter of fact… yes, I do."

"You do?" Lisa thrilled at his words.

"All of the Lewis women are beautiful actually." Jason concluded.

Lisa's happy balloon deflated slightly, dropping her hazel eyes, she concurred. "Lacy is."

Quickly sensing his words hurt Lisa, Jason confirmed. "Yes, she is." Summing all the courage within his muscular six-foot three-inch frame, the dark haired man continued not caring that the others were close by. "But,…." His long finger lifted her chin. "…when I look at you there's nothing more beautiful." Emotion well up inside him as he thought I don't know where those corny words came from but with that smile on her face, you'd think I just hung the moon. Without looking away from Lisa's radiating face, Jason said. "Shut up, Hank."

************************

"Make yourself useful, Mark. Hand me that needle." Gage studied the lining in Lacy's hope chest.

He did as directed but couldn't help but tease his friend. "Little miss homemaker."

"For that you get to sleep in the shed." Gage carefully stitched the lining back into place. "Lacy got this from her grandmother. She keeps all her treasures in here. Her grandmother's broach and other trinkets she collected through the years. Take note here, Mark. You could learn something. This will score me lots of points."

"Hmmmm. I don't think Julie's kids have a hope chest." Mark sat on the edge of Gage and Lacy's bed.

"Mark…. about her kids… I was thinking. Why don't you and Julie and the kids, of course, come back here on the 4th of July. I'll put in a good word for you." Gage winked. "And, if that doesn't do it, I'll sic Dani on them. She loves you. You own the boat after all. She'll get them to change their minds."

"It's a thought." Mark shrugged, not really giving much merit to the suggestion.

"Maybe Lacy will have some ideas. You're staying the night?" Gage was carefully closing the lid of the chest when a hidden latch popped open, revealing a secret compartment. "Well, what do you know?" Ducking her head into the chest, Gage perused her newfound discovery.

"What I know is that I've got to find someway to get the kids to accept me. I can't ask her to marry me until I do."

Jerking her head up sharply, Gage hit the top of the chest. "What? When did this come about?"

Raising his arms to stop her questioning, Mark answered. "It hasn't happened yet and won't unless things change."

Gage dropped the chest lid down and then sat on it. "Mark, you can't let that stop you from getting what you want. I know Julie loves you. She told Lacy and she told….. well, you know."

"I love her, too. Very much." Dejected, Mark fell silent.

Jumping up, Gage paced the floor. "I can't believe you, Mark Calico. Where's all that self-confidence? I've seen you go into meetings and stand firm even as those corporate sharks tried to surround you. You never backed down." When Gage finished her tirade, she was standing right in front of her friend.

"I told you earlier I had to go to New York." Gage nodded. "My VP there… is having some personal problems with his marriage. Part of it is that his wife's oldest son from her first marriage… I think he's sixteen now… has gotten in with some gang, drugs and other things. Apparently, the whole gamut."

Gage backed away, reclaiming her spot on the chest. "That's tough. I worry about Lacy's… our kids getting older and being around stuff like that." That was one of the main reasons Lacy and Gage decided to make their home in St. Troy.

"Anyway, they're having disagreements about what to do about him which is causing problems in the marriage. Jett's loving every minute of it. He never did like Mitch."

Mitch? Now that name takes me back. "You think that could be you in a few years."

"Not a few years… now. He's the same age as Jessie and Joe's eighteen." Mark stood, walking to the huge bedroom window that overlooked the lakeshore. "We live in LA. That kind of stuff is all over just like in New York. Julie's already had a few problems with Joe."

Having very little experience with kids except for a few years she worked with teenagers, Gage felt helpless to offer her friend any kind of sound advice. Telling him about my teen years wouldn't be helpful… not after everything I did. It would only worry him more. So, instead of proffering some hollow counsel, Gage hugged her friend.

"Should I be jealous?" Lacy stood at the doorway to her bedroom.

Whipping around, Gage smiled. "Only if I could benefit from it somehow." The blonde walked away from Mark toward Lacy.

Yet, upon seeing the tall man covertly wipe away an errant tear, Lacy bypassed her lover heading directly to Mark. She whispered in his ear as he hugged her. "Julie loves you more than life itself. Whatever it is, the two of you will make it through….together. Trust me."

Mark wasn't surprised at Lacy's words. He knew Julie and Lacy had become fast friends in the last two years. His girlfriend was a very intelligent woman. Julie surmised Mark's fears and more than likely discussed them with Lacy. "Just like you and Gage?"

"Yes. Just like me and…." Lacy's piercing blue eyes shifted toward her lover who was vigilantly watching with a perplexed look on her face.

"Should I be jealous?" Gage mocked her partner's earlier words.

Chapter Three

Before Mark Calico headed off to New York to help his VP, he made another deposit at the doctor's office. As Lacy and Gage waited patiently in the examining room for the doctor, the blonde fidgeted while debating on whether to bring up the subject on her mind.

"Lacy, the movie starts in a couple of weeks and I was thinking……"

Lacy cut her partner off. "Me, too. Why don't we pack Sammy up and head out to LA early? I miss the kids so much. We're staying at Mark's place so that's not a problem."

Seeing the bright smile on her lover's face, Gage happily agreed. "Exactly what I was thinking." But, it wasn't exactly what Gage had swirling around in her blonde head. Her mind was focused on the medical procedure Lacy was about to undergo once again. Baby, if this doesn't work this time, I don't want to see you hurting again. It breaks my heart.

As if reading her partner's mind, Lacy reassured Gage. "Sweetheart, have faith."

Faith was something Gage desperately lacked. For years, as a child and even into her young adulthood, the blonde stayed the course in her belief that one day everything would fall into place and she would finally understand why her life went the way it did. Ultimately, that vessel of belief crashed down around her, leaving her to drift in the choppy waters of life without any real course or direction. It wasn't until Lacy Levine walked into her life years ago that she finally found reason to hope, to believe that everything that ever happened to her happened for a reason. And, it was that reason that led her to her soulmate.

The young doctor entered the room after a brief knock. "Lacy, shall we give it another go?"

The dark haired woman offered a shake of her head, indicating the doctor should proceed. Oblivious to the doctor but not to Gage was the slight hesitation in that nod. She hurried to Lacy's side and kissed her cheek, whispering. "This time, for sure, we make a baby…. together."

************************

Gage slowed the jeep, cautiously negotiating Benton's Pass on their way back home. When a black Jaguar passed her on the curve, the blonde erupted. "Damn it! Did you see that?"

Even Lacy felt grave concern as the impatient and reckless driver took the curve too fast.

"This whole thing needs to be revamped." Gage fumed.

"I don't know why this pass bothers you so much, Sweetheart. It was just one crazy driver. Most everyone else drives safely…. not as safe as you but…"

"It has a bad blind spot." The blonde countered.

"Maybe you should be on the city council. Get it changed." Lacy suggested, eyeing her partner's reaction carefully.

Offended, Gage shot back. "Maybe I will."

"Next time, I drive." Gage cast her smiling partner a wary look. "I know you love to drive. You can be the passenger just once, right?"

"Right." Gage smirked. The blonde driver was not a very good passenger. She loved to be behind the wheel. She considered it her job in the family.

************************

Lacy and Gage lazed on the deck of their new thirty foot boat, enjoying the setting sun. "Dani's gonna love this." They were anchored in Pin Oak cove not far from their home. It was on the secluded and quiet southern side of the lake. The cove extended close to a mile before it opened up to the main channel. Lacy and Gage owned the land on either side of the cove. However, the cove itself was open to the public.

The younger woman's fingers slid down Gage's arm, lingering there. "It was a good idea to leave Sammy with mom."

"I figured since we're leaving tomorrow that it would be nice for them to spend some time together."

"Mmmm Hmmm…." Her disbelief showed.

Ignoring her partner's doubt, Gage continued. "We won't be back till the fourth of July, you know. By the way, I invited Mark and Julie."

"I know." Lacy stood. Giving her partner a come hither look, she grasped Gage's arm and yanked her up. "Come with me."

A goofy look adorned the blonde's face. "Anytime."

Lacy led her willing partner to the sleeping quarters below deck. The thin blue swim skirt dropped to the floor, revealing a very shapely behind for Gage to gaze longingly at. The thong bikini her lover wore hardly covered anything except the bare essentials and Gage didn't mind one bit. However, had they been in public the jealous blonde would have had to erect a tent around her lover to ward off inquiring eyes.

The dark haired woman lounged on the bed, showcasing her sexy long legs and offering an invitation to Gage that she would never resist. Gage stripped off her top and cut off shorts in record time. Lacy welcomed her lover's undivided attention.

When the roaring sound of a speeding boat whipped past them, Lacy's mind turned elsewhere. Thinking about her kid's safety, she asked. "Did you talk with Hank?"

Desperately trying to untie the knotted string holding Lacy's top on, Gage grunted. "Hank?" Her lips dipped between Lacy's well-endowed breasts. "Yes. I talked with him about the security system and he has a friend that's going to upgrade the whole thing." Gage mumbled before capturing the newly revealed nipple.

Lacy moaned but remained coherent. "You think I'm being silly."

"No!" Gage's head shot up. "I should have thought about it way before this."

The wake of the speeding boat rocked them. Rolling in each other arms, they gazed deeply into each other's eyes until the rocking boat stilled. Then the blonde resumed her sexual onslaught. Her hand slid between them, removing Lacy's thong, letting it fly across the small cabin. "Now I have you." Gage wedged her body between Lacy's long legs.

"Yes, you do."

Gage kissed her lover deeply.

A simple request. "Love me."

"Always." A promise for eternity.

************************

Darkness fell on the quiet cove as Lacy and Gage lay in each other's arms. "It's been nice… just the two of us this evening."

"Mmmmm…." The blonde cuddled closer. "I could never get enough of you."

Running her hand through her lover's short blonde hair, Lacy shared her thoughts. "Does having the kids make…."

Shaking her head against her lover's chest, Gage assured Lacy. "No. They don't take away from us. As a matter of fact, having them makes things…. I don't know…even better." Gage lifted her eyes to meet blue ones. "I love each and every one of them. And, watching you with them, taking care of them, loving them….you're a very sexy mother."

"Ha!" Lacy laughed.

"I mean it."

"You think I'm sexy, huh?" Lacy's dark eyebrows shot up. "When I had baby spit all over me?"

"Yes." Gage swept in for a tender kiss.

"Chasing the kids around in the morning even before I've combed my hair? With no make-up!"

"Beautiful."

"How bout when both Dani and Derek had the flu… sniffling with kleenexes everywhere. Sammy was crying because he was cutting his first tooth and there I was sitting with all of them… a total mess and then you walked in. Yes, it was such a pretty picture." Lacy spat sarcastically.

Remembering that very night, Gage said seriously. "Lovely. That's what I thought, it was a lovely picture."

Lacy scoured her memory for a long moment. "What about the time I was cooking dinner… Derek zoomed by and the spaghetti ended up all over me and the kitchen floor."

"Now, that was disgusting." She held the serious look for as long as she could before she burst out laughing. "Lacy, there hasn't been a single moment since I've known you that I haven't thought of you as the most beautiful, alluring….. intelligent." She quickly inserted. "And, the sexiest woman ever."

Lacy rewarded her lover with a kiss. "I think the same about you."

"Damn straight." The older woman laughed then thought about it for a moment. "Well, with a slight curve."

"I love your curves." Lacy admitted and decided then and there to intimately examine every curve her shapely lover had.

Chapter Four

Gage and Lacy, carrying Sammy, followed the servant though the mansion and out onto the patio deck that overlooked the swimming pool. After arriving in LA, they headed straight to David Levine's home. Lacy wanted to surprise her two older children by their early appearance.

Dani was the first to notice the newly arrived couple. "Mom!" The waving eleven year old yelled. "Watch." The dark haired girl executed a perfect dive off the board.

Scrambling from the edge of the pool, Derek raced to his mother and Gage. Hugging his mother like a drowning man upon finding a life preserver, the five year old smiled brightly then turned to his favorite person. "Hi, Gage." Jumping into her waiting arms, he gave the blonde a hug and a quick kiss. Then leaned over to do the same to his mother. "I'm glad you came to get us."

David took serious note that his son's ever-present gloomy face brightened upon seeing his guests. Walking up to the couple, he addressed Lacy and deliberately ignored Gage who had his son wrapped around her. "Hello, Lacy." The thirty-seven year old producer leaned in, giving his ex-wife a peck on the cheek. "Here. Let me have him. Come here, Sam."

The two year old finally succumbed to his father's bequest. Juggling his wiggling youngest son in his arms, David relented and put his drink down on a nearby table. The dark haired woman noted the time of day and the apparent contents of his drink.

When Lacy's arms were free, Derek hopped from Gage to his mother. Derek leaned in and whispered. "Can we go home?"

Kissing her son, Lacy's reply met wild enthusiasm from Derek. "Right now?" She nodded then he slipped from her arms, waiting patiently between his mother and Gage.

Suddenly appearing on the deck was the beautiful fair skinned actress, Hayston Rawlings. "Darling! It's Ron Griffen on the phone." She sidled up to her lover, draping her arm over his shoulder. When David started to hand Sammy to her, she pursed her lips and withdrew ever so slightly.

Noting this, Gage stepped up, taking the young child from his departing father. "I'll get him." To her surprise and relief, he didn't resist. Maybe he does like me.

The twenty-five year old actress debated following David. Hesitatingly, Hayston nodded to her ex-co-star of the television show, CRACKDOWN.

"Hayston, how are you? I hope the kids didn't give you a hard time." Lacy conversationally quizzed.

"Oh, no." The light haired woman answered with a fake smile. Thank God the nanny was here. Hayston Rawlings grew up the only child of loving but poor parents. She wasn't used to sharing the limelight. Having two of David's children visit for the last week threw a wrench in her plans to spend that time alone with him.

The jubilation Gage felt when Sammy easily came to her only lasted a few seconds until Stella Smith reached out to the young boy.

"Hello there, Sammy." The sixty-year-old woman stroked his soft cheek, causing him to giggle. It didn't take long for him to reach for his nanny. Taking her young charge, Stella greeted the couple. "Hi, Lacy." She turned to the blonde. "Gage."

Gage frowned. "Stella."

"Dani!" The mother yelled. "Get over her and give your mother a hug."

Hurrying across the pool area, Dani wrapped her wet arms around her mother, then laughed. "Wanna go swimming with me, Mom?" The young girl stepped back, looking her mother up and down and said. "You might as well you're already wet."

"Mmmmm." Lacy's mock frown turned into a loving smile, hugging her daughter tightly again.

"Hi! Gage." The soaking wet girl opened her arms wide and with an impish glint in her blue eyes asked. "How bout you?" Not waiting for Gage to reply, Dani stalked her prey.

Gage dashed off with Dani hot on her heels. It didn't take long for Derek to take off after them. "Wait for me. Hey!"

Lacy, Stella and Hayston stood silently watching the mayhem before them when David arrived, breaking the ice. "Honey, could you hand me that drink?" David winked at his live in lover when she complied with his request. "Ron's pushed back that movie till the fall." Taking a long sip, he continued. "Summer's shot unless….." Turning to Lacy, he speculated. "…there's a part for Hayston in your movie. What'd you say, Lacy? Anything interesting?"

"David!" Hayston admonished him with a forged smile. She circled her arm around his, pulling him closer. "Why don't we just take the summer off? We haven't had any time alone lately."

The cold glare he shot his lover froze her in place. "We'll talk about it." Patting her hand, David turned his attention to his two older children's antics. Nodding at Gage as she frolicked with the kids, he remarked sarcastically to Lacy. "You always wanted a houseful of kids."

Ignoring her ex-husband's caustic remark, Lacy said. "We should go."

Even from forty feet away, Derek's keen ears heard his mother's welcomed words. "Gage, Dani, come on. We're leaving." He grabbed Gage's hand and fully expected his older sister to dutifully follow.

It took a little time to pack their bags before they departed David's Beverly Hills mansion. After hugging his daughter and bidding goodbye to his youngest son, David hesitated before approaching Derek. "Goodbye, son." He reluctantly stepped toward his oldest son but the dark haired boy had already turned and headed toward the waiting car.

"Bye." Derek's answered over his shoulder, firmly holding Gage's hand.

Lacy astutely noticed the distance between father and son. After packing the kids in the vehicle, she stepped in. As Gage pulled away from the curve, Lacy ventured a distressing thought. If something should ever happen to me, I wonder….. Turning to her partner, Lacy softly stroked Gage's forearm and smiled. I need to find a way…...

Perplexed by Lacy's quiet yet serious expression, Gage returned the younger woman's forced smile. Something's on her mind.

************************

Over the next couple days, Lacy and Gage along with their three children settled into Mark's home in LA. Since he was presently in New York City and a few months ago had moved into his girlfriend's home, they had the place to themselves.

Dani commandeered the cottage they had once used when staying at Mark's house as her personal clubhouse. She reasoned with her mother that a young girl on the verge of being a teenager needed to have her own space even though Mark's mansion housed seven huge bedrooms. "But, mom." Dani whined. "The boys get on my nerves sometimes."

Lacy cast her daughter a doubtful look. "Like I believe that. Besides, you're not even twelve yet. You complained just this morning about how much you missed Sammy when you were with your dad."

Dani plopped down on the small couch in the cottage next to her mother. Thinking quickly, she changed her tactics. "What I was really hoping was that you and I could… this could be our place. Like a girl's club…for when we want to talk about….. serious things."

"Just you and me? Not the boys and… not Gage." Lacy inquired.

"Right." Dani confirmed, feeling a victory at hand.

Over the last two years, Lacy had started setting aside special time with each child. It was something her mother had done with Lacy and her four siblings. She believed that was one of the reasons all of the kids had remained so close to her parents. Lacy kicked her legs upon the small table in front of her and agreed. "Okay. You get the place but during the day only. You sleep in the main house." Mark's security equipped home was fortified with a ten-foot stonewall surrounding the estate giving Lacy a feeling of relative security for her children.

Dani's bright blue eyes widened. "That's a given."

"Now, what's on your mind?"

Mother and daughter talked for hours about nothing in particular and then about everything important. When they concluded their girl talk, Dani suggested they go find the others. As much as the maturing young girl was reluctant to say it, what she enjoyed most was spending time with her family.

************************

Stella cut the sandwich diagonally before placing it in front of Derek. "You eat this first then you can go out and play." The five year old frowned and she smiled. Mussing his hair, Stella gathered the rest of the plates from the table and began placing them in the sink.

Before she could draw the dishwater, Lacy entered with Dani. "Stella, I'll do that. You'll have to leave in a little bit, don't you?" Lacy moved the older woman away from the sink. "Do you need a ride?" She was very curious about Stella's mystery meeting.

Removing her apron, Stella agreed. "I do and no. If you don't mind, I'll take the family car. Gage said it would be alright."

Flipping around, Lacy insisted. "Of course. Stella we're going to be here for the summer. Gage and I will be working during the week and you'll need it. Not just for…. we got it so you'd have something to drive. Use it whenever you want."

"Thank you. You've both been so kind." Stella quietly said. "I won't be long."

Lacy's curiosity piqued even higher causing her to offer again. "But, we'd be glad to drive you to this… mystery appointment of yours."

Stella removed Derek's plate, which Lacy took. "No mystery about it." The nanny shrugged. "I'm going to visit Julie and her children."

Really? Julie never mentioned anything about that. "Why don't I invite them over here and we can all enjoy the afternoon together?"

Surprised by Lacy's suggestion, Stella wavered a moment. "That's very kind of you but we've had this planned for a while now."

"Planned what?" Gage walked in, taking her place next to Lacy.

The older woman checked her watch. "I need to get going now. Goodbye." And with that, she was out the door.

"That's strange. She didn't know we were coming out here a week early." Lacy mumbled. Turning back to the dishes in the sink, she pondered further. "Why would she have planned it when she knew we wouldn't be here?"

The blonde was trying hard to decipher Lacy's words but opted to temporarily ignore them. "Come on, why don't we go for a swim?"

Having no interest in doing the dishes at the present time, Lacy agreed. Then she noticed her crying son waddle in the kitchen. Her shoulder's slumped. "He needs changing."

Derek walked up behind his younger brother. Twisting him around to head back out the door, Derek admonished the young boy. "Sammy, you need to learn to go to the bathroom on your own."

Gage stopped Lacy. "I'll get it." She intercepted the boys, relieving Derek of his self-appointed duty. "Derek, as I remember it took a long time to potty train you."

A dark cloud framed the young boy's face. "No, it didn't!" Derek yelled before he stormed out of the room.

A stunned Gage looked to an equally bewildered Lacy. "What'd I say?"

"I'll go." Lacy quickly left in an attempt to track her son down and find out what was bothering him.

Gage was left to change the two-year-old who had stopped crying when he heard his older brother's outburst. "Come on, little guy."

************************

After several minutes of failing to find Derek, the concerned mother ran into her daughter. "Have you seen Derek?"

She jerked her thumb over her shoulder, pointing to the back of the house. "Outside to the pool, I guess." Without another word, Lacy flew by as fast as her brother had. Realizing something was wrong, Dani said to an empty room. "Guess I'll go too… just in case." Shaking her head, Dani suspected why Derek was upset lately. An older sister's job is never done. She trotted off after her mother, expecting to run interference if necessary.

Derek ran past the swimming pool and the play area then through the iron gate that lead to the beach. The few people that walked by didn't pay attention to the young child.

When the now frantic mother arrived on the beach, she immediately spotted her young son furiously throwing small rocks into the ocean. Calming her beating heart, Lacy slowed her approach. Dani remained at a distance when she realized all was well for the moment.

"Derek?" Lacy tentatively called his name.

The sound of his name produced an even harder frown and with great effort, he pitched the small stone in his hand out to the sea.

"Honey, what's wrong?" For the last two days, she noticed her son was somewhat aloof but his behavior never reached the pinnacle it had a short while ago. Lacy placed her hand on his shoulder.

The sullen boy remained still. With pursed lips, he offered a laconic answer. "Nuthin'."

Lacy knelt down next to him. "Here give me one of those." She received a small stone from him. Tossing it out the short distance to the shoreline, Lacy continued. "I used to do this all the time when I was little. Though the waves makes it hard for the rock to skip."

"Wasn't trying to make it skip." He continued to pout.

Shifting her blue eyes toward her son, she agreed. "I know." Retrieving a small flat rock from the sandy beach, she handed it to him. "Try this one."

With a mighty swing, he tossed the rock further then the rest of them, which produced a genuine smile. "Did you see that?" Derek's projectile caught the edge of an incoming wave, flipping it up and over. "It skipped."

Smiling, she happily agreed. "Yes, it did."

Figuring that her mother had everything under control, Dani headed back to the house to let Gage know where her mother and Derek were.

************************

Holding the squirming boy, Gage waited patiently. Over and over in her mind, she replayed the situation. Realizing that what she said could be rather embarrassing to a growing young boy, the blonde's shoulders slumped in frustration. I was only teasing. Usually that's okay between us.

When Dani arrived, Sammy hurried from Gage's arms. He ran up to his sister and ordered. "Hold me." Dani swung her young brother up on her hip then related what was presently transpiring between mother and son on the beach.

"Why don't you go change? Sammy, too. I'll watch you swim." Gage resigned herself to being alone for the present moment. I guess I'm good enough to do that.

************************

Gage didn't have to wait long. As Dani arrived back outside with Sammy, Lacy and Derek showed up. Timidly, the blonde waited, wondering whether she should approach him. Gage relaxed a bit when Lacy gave her a reassuring smile then took Derek inside to change as well.

The family enjoyed the afternoon in the sun. And the distance between Gage and Derek narrowed slowly but surely. Gage felt most hopeful that things were back to normal when Derek decided to douse his hero with his massive water gun.

"I gotcha now." Derek shouted.

Pulling herself out of the water, Gage chased the boy until Lacy cleared her throat causing both of them to slow to a fast walk. Finally, Gage cornered the five year old near the diving board. "I got you now." Trapping him in her arms, he proceeded to climb on her back. Both smiling, Gage stepped out on the diving board and jumped. A splash of water greeted Derek's nearby sister in the face.

"Oh, you're not getting away with that." She retrieved her own water gun, waiting patiently for her two attackers to surface.

Sammy clapped his hands and giggled at the antics. He slipped from his mother's lap and headed toward the edge of the pool. "Oh, no, you don't. Dani? Stop your brother."

Torn between getting back at the pair of water assailants and stopping Sammy from jumping in the water, Dani relented and halted the smiling boy. "I said it once and I'll say it again. An older sister's job is never done." She redirected him back to his mother then dipped a pail of water for Sammy to play with. In the meantime, Gage and Derek were safely on the concrete shore.

Dani watched Gage take up residence next to her mother. Guess that target's out of the question. Turning her hunting eyes toward her other brother Dani threatened him. "Derek, prepare to get wet."

"No running!" Lacy yelled, then glanced at Gage. "They get that from you."

Who me? Gage mouthed. Her attention soon turned to Sammy who delighted in dipping his hand in the pail of water and sprinkling her with it. Over and over again and much to Gage's dismay, he was encouraged by his laughing mother to continue playing this game.

"Stop laughing. Maybe he'll stop then." Gage implored her partner. Only to be met with more laughter by Lacy.

************************

Stella called and said she'd be late. So, Lacy, Gage and the kids decided to go ahead and have dinner, with Gage fixing the meal. To her surprise, Derek insisted on setting the table with plates and utensils. Although, Gage suspected Lacy put him up to it. She watched the small boy set two forks at his plate setting while he gave his sister two spoons. Gage surmised he found that funny as the whole time he had a devious smile on his face.

They enjoyed a relatively quiet dinner. Sammy demanded and got Lacy's full attention for most of the meal. If his mother was within eyesight or he heard her voice, Sammy inevitably gravitated to her. When the meal was finished, Sammy made another demand. Opening his arms wide, he eagerly called. "Momma! Get me."

She lifted him from his seat and said. "Honey, I need to do the dishes why don't you go to….." Lacy looked around the room. "Gage."

Sammy shook his head vigorously.

"Dani?"

Again, he shook his head and pouted. Not that he didn't love his older sister but he loved his mother much more. "Want you." When she lifted him from his chair, he laid a sleepy head on her shoulder.

Reluctantly, she gave in. "Guess I'll do the dishes later."

"We'll do them." Gage offered.

Dani's eyes popped wide open. What are you talking about? I got things to do. I got two new CDs dad got me…… Her thought trailed off when she heard her mother's welcomed words.

"No. You fixed dinner. And, besides, some of the dishes are still from lunch."

"Lacy!"

"Gage…" She said sharper than she intended then her tone mellowed. "Sweetheart, you were going to do some writing and I promised Dani…. well, she's got things to do." Lacy offered her daughter a knowing look.

Hmmmm…. Dani smirked. That's right. I said I'd talk with Derek and let her know.

Gage reluctantly agreed and headed off to her writing room. But, she knew her heart wouldn't be in it.

Dani grabbed her brother's hand and jerked him up.

"Hey!" Derek protested.

"That's what you get for giving me two spoons." Seeing a growl form on his face, she offered. "I'll let you listen to my new CD." She whipped around and left, knowing full well that her brother would be right behind. To Dani, it seemed as if she was the piped piper. Derek was always willing to follow her around endlessly, especially while they were at their father's house.

Left standing in the kitchen with a nearly sleeping child, Lacy soon headed up to her son's room. She was tired and relished the idea of rocking her son to sleep. Lacy realized she would probably succumb to the rocking motion herself.

************************

Continued in Part 2.


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