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

After a quick debriefing from Michael about Marva, Gage mentally prepared for the inevitable encounter. She examined every situation that she might be confronted with. According to Michael, the overzealous actress may have made a play for David during the filming of Lacy's show. It wasn't that she was interested in David, it was more like Marva wanted what others had and she was jealous of Lacy. And, in an odd sense, Marva respected Lacy and wanted to be best friends so they could play together. It seemed she wanted Lacy to accompany her to parties upon parties where Marva would compete with an unsuspecting Lacy. If she could divert a male's attention away from Lacy then it meant in Marva's mind that she was the most desired. It fed her huge ego.

As Gage pondered the dilemma before her, someone tapped her on the shoulder. "Oh! It's you.

"Don't sound so dejected." Griff let spill a wicked little laugh. "You may end up being…." She paused long enough to get Gage's full attention. "…dejected if she gets her way."

"What do you mean?" Gage scrunched her eyebrows in concern.

"Marva wants…no, she demands and gets what she wants." Seeing the growing concern in the green eyes she lusted after, Griff soothed the blonde somewhat. "Oh, she's not into … women. Not like you and me. If you know what I mean….." Griff crossed her arm across her chest and rested the other arm on it as her fingers played with her pouty lips. "Course you could get into me."

Ignoring the redhead's not so subtle remark, Gage insisted. "Tell me more. About Marva."

"She likes to play so she'll want company."

"Lacy's not like that."

"Maybe." Griff ran her tongue over her teeth. "She owes Marva. Some of her first commercials for television….Marva got for her. Loyalty runs deep for Lacy." Seeing the look of dark gloom cross Gage's face, Griff grinned in triumphant. Gotcha! "Don't worry…. if things go…. astray for you. I'll be waiting with open arms."

Gage didn't miss the flashing lust-filled smile that gleamed on the redhead's face. This has got to end right here and now. "Griff….." Borrowing a line from an old lover but amending it slightly, Gage continued. "…if we were the only two people left on earth, I still wouldn't want to be with you. Okay? Got it? Lacy is the love of my life and if I should ever find myself without her…there would still be no one else for me. Ever!"

Her forceful words smacked the redhead squarely across her face. Griff never knew such rejection. It hit to her core causing a quake so fierce that Griff's steadfast confidence of her abilities to bed anyone of her choosing began to crumble.

"Gage?" Michael interrupted. "Lacy's looking for you."

Gage spared Griff one last glance before rushing past the two.

Michael knew something had transpired between the two women and he noticed Griff shaking. When she suddenly turned, Griff fell into his arms, sobbing. "Take me away from here….now!"

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

Griff was on her sixth margarita. She insisted that Michael take her to their usual haunt at Heyduke's bar.

Tony Kussler was about to leave when she walked in with Michael. Sensing something was up, he shoved his silent partner back into the booth. "Stay put. I may have something for you." For the next few hours, he silently watched Griff get drunk. The woman pawed every available person there whether it be male or female.

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

With Griff and Michael nowhere in sight, Ryan called 'action' on the party scene where Gage's newly rewritten scene had Devon - played by Hayston - make her grand entrance.

The party's guests watched as Hayston walked through the double doors with handsome twin escorts on either side of her. Hayston waltzed up to Lacy in the scene and dispersed her own trouble for Lacy's character in the story.

As Gage watched from a distance, she couldn't help but see the parallels between this scene and what had transpired earlier in the day when Marva showed up. Her attention was diverted with another unwelcome tap on her shoulder. I don't even want to know. So, she refused to turn around.

"She may be fooling the rest of them but she's straight….. and, I should know." Marva said just above a whisper.

Whirling around, Gage plastered an aggravated look on her face.

"Oh, did I say that out loud?" Marva marveled at herself.

Through gritted teeth, she asked. "Why should you know?"

The older woman opened her mouth to speak then let her mouth fall into a malicious smile. "A girls gotta have her secrets."

Relieved to hear Ryan yell 'cut', Gage sucked in a deep breath and sharply turned away from the troublemaking woman directly en route to her lover for some answers.

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

"Come on. Dance with me?" Griff begged Michael. She rubbed her svelte body against his; stirring feelings in him he had tried desperately to stifle.

Michael swallowed hard and shook his head when the bartender asked if they wanted another drink.

Griff slid her leg between his as he sat on the high stool. Running claiming fingers through his thick hair, she purred. "You know what I want…what I need." The redhead locked her lips on his earlobe and ran her tongue along its edge. Slipping a leg between his again, she purred. "I know you like it."

Like a willing prisoner being tortured, Michael knew he wouldn't last much longer. "Griff? Let me take you home."

"Now you're talking." Her tongue scraped over his skin and down his neck where she happily nuzzled, inhaling a manly scent that was driving her crazy.

Michael stood up and she lounged against him, unsteady on her feet. "Come with me." He directed.

Griff needed reassurance of her desire to be wanted and Michael would be just the one to shore up what Gage's rejecting, hurtful words had began to crumble. "We'll both come alright, baby. You and me. Michael? You love me, don't you?"

Michael knew what she was asking. It wasn't romantic love she was looking for, it was only the love a friend could offer. It was a gift he would give her gladly. "Yes, I love you."

It was going to be a long drive and a long night for the young assistant director. A night he would never forget and one that would haunt Griff for a long time.

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

In their trailer, Gage was giving Lacy the third degree. She attempted to be gentle with her questioning, however, her voice rose on occasion one too many times.

"Gage! Just what are you asking?" Lacy was near aggravation herself with her partner's insinuations.

"Marva? Who, what, where, why."

"You forgot when."

"I know when… on your TV show."

"Then you know where. She played on the show a couple of times. We did a little research for our roles. Marva makes more of it than it really was. She likes to tease and vie for men's attention. She gets a thrill out of it. Now, you know why."

"And what?"

"What?" She allowed a small breath to escape. "We went to a couple of bars dressed sorta like…."

"The redheaded prostitute character you played." Gage inserted.

"Yes…. that one. Nothing happened. It was interesting." The blonde turned her head in question. "How men react to …. what you wear or how a person acts or better yet what they think about who you are. Had I been dressed differently or anyone recognized me, they would have reacted totally differently."

"I heard she likes to play games with people."

"Yes, that's true." Lacy admitted. The younger woman snuggled closer to her lover. "Sweetheart, I like Marva. Oh, she's something else. I'll admit that." Gage rolled her eyes. "I can handle her. But, if you don't want her here then…."

"No. I hear she's good and that will be good for the movie."

"She is…. and yes, I believe that's true."

"I don't have to like her though." Gage pouted.

Lacy stood up. "Oh, Gage. Would you get over it? You have nothing to fear. At least not from her."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Griff! I'd be more worried about her…chasing after you all day long on the set. Every time I look up she's practically smothering you." Lacy's blue eyes flared with a jealous tint.

"After today, I wouldn't worry about her."

"Really? Why's that?"

Gage continued without responding to Lacy's question. "Now, David's another question. Why did he show up out of nowhere? And, tell me once again why you wanted me to re-write that scene so Hayston could be in the movie?"

Blowing out a very frustrated sigh, Lacy pursed her lips. "When you tell me why you allowed Mark to hire Griff?"

That question deflated the blonde. "I…. I…. Mark thinks that we could eventually use a favor from Ron Griffen for allowing her to work on the movie."

"And…."

"And what?"

"What kind of favor do you and Mark think you'll be needing in the future?"

"Lacy!" Frustrated, Gage slumped down on the couch. "The truth?"

"That would be nice."

She started slowly to organize her words. "Lacy, I know that being with me….. doesn't…. hasn't been good for your career." She stopped Lacy before the younger woman could protest. "It has. And, I know neither one of us would want it any other way. Mark…. and I think this movie… you, really, are going to be great. Have you seen the dailies?" The blonde didn't get much of a reprieve from her lover's frown. "He's thinking Oscar and I am, too."

"I see." Lacy scooted closer to her partner. "So having one of the most powerful men in Hollywood be on our side to promote the film…."

"And you." Gage added quickly.

"Will make it smooth sailing for an Oscar nod." Lacy concluded. "I don't know if I should be happy or insulted."

"Lacy!" Gage twisted around to face her lover. "You don't need anyone's help. You're the very best actor ever. That's the truth. I don't say it just because I love you. I do you know."

Lacy leaned her head against her lover's temple. "I know."

"Our relationship may turn people away from recognizing your talents. So, Mark and I figured we… Ron's a heavy hitter who has convinced many people to see it his way. Which is the right way… you're great in this film."

"Is he distributing the film?" Gage nodded. "Thank you…. for loving me so much." Lacy kissed her lover deeply before revealing a truth of her own. "The reason I had you change the script to have Hayston in the movie is that David and I made a deal."

Gage's eyebrows shot up.

"You remember what I gave you on our anniversary?"

This spawned a blissful smile on Gage's face. How could I forget? "The papers David signed allowing me to raise the kids if… you know."

"Yes. Hayston needed the work and her career is stalled out right now. David knows this film has potential and he wanted in on it. That's a tribute to you, sweetheart. He may not be too fond of you but he recognizes talent. Your writing."

"Your acting." Gage corrected her.

"Are we okay now?" Gage nodded. "Good. So, it's time to make up?"

A wide grin spread across the blonde's face. "Absolutely."

Chapter Fifteen

Ryan had spent most of the day trying to get this shot filmed. The island party scene was running overtime and over budget. "Michael, we're going to have to push back the balcony scene for early tomorrow morning." The director spared his temperamental actress a look as she dramatically flung her arms around attempting to win Lacy's approval.

"Right. I'm on it." Michael glanced quickly at Griff. He thought for one second that he would get her to help but quickly changed his mind. Ever since that fateful night together, Griff had acted cool toward him. Instead, he called on Shanti to help him since her part of the island party scene had been shot.

"Come on, Lacy, we could have a real bitchin' time playing against each other." Marva exclaimed loudly.

Lacy turned away. "Marva. It's good the way it's written."

She flipped the younger actor around. "Honey, don't let your loyalties to the…. writer affect your good sense." Lacy slowly raised both eyebrows allowing her anger to simmer as Marva continued. "If I'm going to play the wife and you the other woman - not to mention that I'm a mother - I need more lines. There's great conflict here between our two characters…. we need to exploit it. Let it blow up and see where it lands." Marva flipped an arm upright.

The director interrupted the arguing actors. "Marva please. We need to get this scene shot. Now, if you will join us over there." He pointed to a distant spot.

She looked Lacy squarely in the eyes and stated. "This isn't over. You know I'm right about this. Jordan is having an affair with my husband and if you knew what it was like to be the hurting wife….." An accusing eye argued her point but to no avail as Marva remembered an important fact about a so long ago brief affair. "… then again, I guess you didn't know." With that she grabbed Ryan's arm and allowed him to escort her away.

Gage stepped up after Marva had left and noticed a far away look in Lacy's eyes. "Something wrong?"

Nodding, Lacy rubbed her head. "Marva is one of those friends you can't trust when your back is turned but you should be even more careful when she's facing you."

Gage rubbed the small of her lover's back. "You knew?"

The dark haired woman snapped her head toward Gage. "I suspected. Yes. And, you?"

Gage shrugged. "Michael filled me in with the rumors. How do you put up with her?"

Leaning into her lover's soothing touch, she answered. "I owe her."

"So, you want me to re-write the scene so Jordan and Edie can have it out?"

Lacy turned to her partner. Running her fingers along Gage's left side of her face, Lacy said. "No. She's had her way much too long. Don't get me wrong. I still like her in a lot of ways. It's just that… she's…. she needs to see me as an equal."

After the scene with Marva and a few other actors was over, the older actress returned to the scene of the crime where Lacy stood with Gage by her side. The cozy picture of the two didn't sit well with Marva. "My God, Lacy, the only reason I took this part was to help you."

Before Lacy could respond, Gage countered. "And, the only reason you have this part is because of Lacy." Green eyes drilled into shocked hazel ones.

Defiant, Marva's angry eyes flared. "How dare you? You're no kind of producer I've ever seen and not much of a writer for that matter…."

Lacy took a slight step forward. "One more word, Marva …. just one and you won't be in any kind of condition to dare anyone let alone do anything about it. So, cool your jets." With that, Lacy grabbed Gage's hand and left Marva standing alone stunned by Lacy's stinging words.

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

The last week of filming was smooth sailing for the happy director. Ryan finished up the last scene early Thursday and sent the cast and crew home for a long weekend. Marva DuLaine was the consummate professional after Lacy's tongue lashing. She avoided Gage like the plague and only interacted with Lacy during the filming. Griff still played the iceberg around Michael the whole week, which devastated him. So much so he talked with Ryan about it.

"It's all over now… our friendship." Michael felt tears fill his eyes. He tried to swipe them away before his friend noticed. "That's what kills me. We were such good friends before…"

Ryan pretended not to see the unshed tears in his assistant's warm brown eyes. "Son…. " The word slipped from his mouth before he could halt it. So, he coughed instead to try and cover the feeling he had toward Michael. "Hey, listen, you two have been friends for a long time. Been through a lot together. That kind of friendship always finds a way to….. work through difficult and awkward times."

Michael reminded Ryan of something that proved his sage words to be a moot point. "Like you and David?"

The older man shrugged. "Different situation."

Michael had long ago realized he had fallen in love with the flighty redhead and relinquished his desire for Griff as her interest in partners didn't include his gender. He remained her close friend and confidant through thick and thin. Michael became a safe harbor for Griff's stormy relationships. Her idea of a relationship hinged on getting her interested target to bed, then maybe allowing it to last for a brief period, but she was never in it for the long haul.

"What am I going to do, Ryan?" Michael's shoulders slumped.

Slapping the young man on his shoulder, Ryan offered another bit of sage advice. "Shanti."

"Huh?"

"I heard things have cooled between her and Ben." Ryan waggled both his eyebrows. "You need a soft place to fall and maybe….."

Michael's earlier interest in the reddish-blonde haired beauty had distracted him from his yearnings for Griff. Thinking he would never have a chance with the woman of his choice, Michael mulled over the idea. "Think she likes me?"

"I know she does." Ryan nodded. "It's up to you to see how much."

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

On Friday, Lacy and Gage started packing for their return home. Mark put together a hurried wrap party for the movie so the couple and their children would be at their home in St. Troy for Dani's birthday. It was set for Saturday night and cast and crew were ready to party.

Stella had returned with news that Grace was doing much better and asked that Gage visit her before returning home. With Lacy's urging, Gage agreed to visit her on Sunday. "Come with me, Lacy. Please." The smile on her lover's face assured Gage that Lacy would be by her side.

As Lacy and Gage readied for the party, Dani came bouncing in the bedroom. "Grandpa called." She eyed her mother's new dress. Nodding, she gave her approval.

"And?"

"Oh." Dani twisted around to scrutinize Gage's attire. Shaking her head, she continued. "That guy you hired for the yard work hasn't been around for the last couple of weeks." When the blonde's face showed concern, Dani sat on the bed and crossed her legs. "Don't worry. Grandpa's said he'd take care of it. Said you shoulda asked him in the first place."

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"

Dani offered a look that said 'as if you have to ask'. "Mom…. " The young girl slid off the bed and headed toward the door. "You take it. I'd hate to break it to her and see her pout."

With pursed lips, Gage watched Dani hurry out of the room then she turned to Lacy. "Is it that bad?"

Gracefully Lacy glided across the room. Her fingers toyed with Gage's shiny gray shirt collar. "I love you."

Frustrated, Gage asked. "What about my shirt… the whole thing?"

Lacy stepped back, eyeing her lover carefully. She let a deep sigh escape before choosing her words. "You are beautiful…. I love you in that outfit." Of course, I'd love you in anything or nothing. "Satisfied?"

Gage was draped in a dressy gray shirt with thin black vertical stripes and black pants. It was a simple outfit compared to what the rest of the people would be wearing but she was comfortable and that was all that matter. That and the fact that Lacy likes me in it. Comfort was the only word that described Gage's philosophy on style. Lacy, on the other hand, inherently fitted the very description of style. No matter what Lacy wore, she was the perfection of what 'in style' meant.

"Come on. Let's go." Gage took her partner's hand. "I want to show you off." When Lacy scooted up next to Gage, the blonde caught sight of the ample breasts of her lover bouncing happily in the low cut dress. She jerked back on her lover's hand, halting Lacy's progress. "Maybe you need a scarf." When a questioning look appeared on Lacy's face, Gage pointed to her partner's overexposed chest.

Lacy laughed. "Just for you. So, you don't get distracted this evening by anyone else."

Gage happily followed the younger woman out the door. All Gage could think about was how bountiful Lacy's breasts had become when she was pregnant with Sammy and how once more she would be able to wallow in that pleasurable, delectable sight again.

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

Marva reigned over the party as Lacy and Gage entered the room. Julie Grant greeted them as a waiter offered drinks. "Oh, no. Dennis, would you get our guests a couple of sparkling waters instead." The waiter nodded then left on his mission. "Mark's around here someplace. He wanted to talk with you Gage."

"Gotcha. That's my cue to leave you two alone." Gage winked, squeezed Lacy's hand then headed off to where she saw Ryan White.

"David's here. He showed up a little drunk already." Julie nodded her head in Lacy's ex-husband's direction. "Hayston is fuming to say the least. Something's going on between Shanti, Michael and Griff and, of course, Marva's regaling everyone with stories of you two …. way back when."

"Par for the course, I see." And what Lacy was seeing from David did not bode well for any of them. David had his arm wrapped around one of the extras on the set of the movie. She could see Hayston seething from a short distance away. "Maybe I can do something about this before it goes too far."

"I was hoping you'd say that." Julie felt immediate relief. "You want me to run interference with Hayston."

"No." Lacy puzzled over her next move a minute. "Let me handle it." She started off but suddenly stopped. "If Gage was distracted for a bit… that would be… helpful." Julie nodded then left. No use stirring up more problems. This is something she definitely would not like. With that thought still lingering on her mind, Lacy put her plan into action.

Lacy circled David and the extra like an Indian on the warpath surrounding a wagon train. Her piercing blue eyes shot arrows at the unsuspecting extra. She recognized the short brown haired woman as Susan, an actor hired during the last two weeks of shooting. Under the unbearable scrutiny of Lacy's blazing blue eyes, Susan astutely excused herself.

Hayston had watched Lacy waltz around her boyfriend and his temporary distraction all the while gripping the stem of her champagne glass like her life depended on it. Ben Thomason who had been talking with the ever-increasing angry young woman pried her fingers from the glass. Then grinned when she noticed what he had done. "Thanks."

"No problem." Ben sat the glass on the bar. "Now, I think you have some place to be."

Hayston's attention returned to David and Lacy. "Yes." Like a hawk stalking its prey, the young woman made an overt show of circling the couple. David hated when she showed her jealous streak and Hayston did her best to stifle those feelings in front of him. Having watched her drunken boyfriend openly flirt with the measly extra was bad enough but to have her ex-co-star and long time competitor openly claim David was more than she could stand.

David relished the welcomed attention of his ex and swayed up against Lacy, pulling her close. "Hmmmm… you still have it."

Lacy eased away from him and countered. "And, you still don't."

"Oh, come on, Lacy." David slurred. "For old times sake?"

"David….. look around." She nodded as Hayston continued to slowly walk around to the front of them. "For your sake…." She moved closer to whisper in his ear. "I suggest you….."

"If I can't have you." David was aware of Hayston stalking them. He wanted to get back at his girlfriend for her flaunting displays toward Griff on the set and if getting Lacy back in the process succeeded, maybe he'd make it a threesome.

"You can't…. rest assured. You can't." She guaranteed him.

Knowing he was fighting a losing cause, David shoved Lacy back. "Stand aside, woman." He opened his unsteady arms toward Hayston. "Come mere."

When Gage saw David pushing Lacy back, she bolted across the floor. Not fifteen feet away from Lacy, Marva flung her long arm outward striking Gage in the face. "Oh, did I do that?" She said to the blonde now lying flat on the floor.

Lacy rushed to her side. "Marva!"

"What? I didn't see her…. really." The older woman vowed. The insincerity in her eyes gave her away to her very astute friend.

David smugly grinned at Hayston as he tried to put into focus the beautiful woman holding him. "Let's get outta here." Inhaling a sobering breath, he twitched his nose.

"You need some fresh air."

Rubbing up against Hayston, he flirted with her. "That's not all I need."

She guided him through the crowd that surrounded the blonde on the floor. That's not all you're going to get…. and, it won't be what you have in mind either. Hayston was fed up with David's womanizing that had only become worse as his drinking increased. Her mind was set. David would either agree or Hayston would leave him. It was a bluff she hoped would work. Hayston spared Lacy one last glance before they walked through the doors. They exchanged an unusual bonding look that would eventually help David past his addiction.

Rubbing her forehead and moaning, Gage demanded and got Lacy's full attention.

"Oh, sweetheart, are you okay?"

"Yeah. I guess." Gage shot Marva a stern look.

With a drink in one hand and a long slim cigarette in the other, Marva let out a small wicked snicker. "Couldn't hurt that hard head." Only the two very young and apparently very dense handsome men on either side of her laughed at Marva's comment.

Gage sucked in a deep breath and rose. Steadying her rising anger, Gage said quietly. "It happens…. an accident."

Marva let out a shriek. "Isn't that rich?" She cast Lacy an astonished look. "Forgiving? Is she good in bed, too? Come on, Lacy, tell me all the dirty little details."

Gage stopped Lacy from tearing into her old friend. She could see that the older woman was a bit tipsy and recognized that Marva was baiting her. In that moment, Gage did something she didn't know she had in her. Her green eyes lit up and she smiled at the ridiculousness of the situation. She smiled because she recognized the motivation behind Marva's words. Fear. Fear of getting older. Fear of being unwanted. Fear of becoming an unwilling wallflower in the face of a much more beautiful woman that Marva had always considered as her major competition. Lacy was everything Marva wanted to be and Gage realized that Marva was jealous. That was the source of aggravation for Marva. She resented the love Lacy and Gage shared.

"No, Marva. There's nothing dirty about what we have." Gage pulled Lacy closer. "To tell you the truth, I don't deserve her or her love." Lacy nudged her lover but Gage continued. "But, I'll take it and everything she's willing to give me. And, I'll treasure it and hang on to it with everything inside me. She loves me for me. She loves from her heart… her soul without reservation. That's what sets her aside from all the rest." Marva knew Gage directed this statement at her. "It's not her acting ability or her beauty…. not her body…." Gage paused long enough to take a long lingering sideways glance up and down her lover's body and smiled. "…but the depth of her love…. how deeply she can love and does. Me, her children, her friends….. even you, Marva."

Her shaking hand brought the glass to her lips in an attempt to hide her crumbling façade. Marva drank deeply from her glass, emptying it.

"She's your friend and always will be. Lacy doesn't stand in your way…. no one does." Gage leaned in closer so only Marva would hear her next words. "Only you do."

Marva swallowed. Unable to summon a respectable exit herself, Gage did it for her. The blonde looked around to the captivated audience. Suddenly, she placed a strong arm across Marva's shoulders. "I think we did it, Marva. Re-wrote that big dramatic scene just like you wanted between Jordan and Edie."

The stunned group slowly came out of their dazed state. Not quite sure if what transpired was staged or not, they eventually were sold the bad bill of goods as Marva's wide grin along with Lacy's reluctant smile joined Gage's already happy laughter. Again, Gage squeezed the older woman. "Guess we were good…. I think they bought it."

The crowd knew Marva was always up for this kind of antic but was not prepared for Gage's participation. "Hell, we were great!" Marva proclaimed and grabbed Lacy around her shoulder and pulled her in tight for a group hug.

The crowd broke out in cheers. A few suspected and a few knew the truth of what just happened but most were just happy to get the party back in full swing.

Having saved face, Marva would be forever grateful to the blonde she delighted in giving a hard time to during the filming of the movie. As Gage made her way over to Mark and Julie, Marva pulled Lacy back in order to spare her old friend a few words. "She's a keeper."

Lacy grinned and hugged her friend. "You're not telling me something I don't already know."

The rest of the evening progressed without much fan fair. Michael spent an inordinate amount of time talking and dancing with Shanti. Griff hovered about relentlessly, pouting about the new development between her friend and the young actress. Ryan found a moment to talk with the young redhead. "I know you're jealous." The director rubbed his chin. "Just can't tell about which one though."

Elbowing him, she spat. "Oh, shut up, Ryan." Then huffed off.

Chapter Sixteen

Before Gage and her family left LA for their home in St. Troy, she decided to pay a visit to her old social worker and friend, Grace Davidson. At first, Lacy offered for her and the kids to stay behind. Both Gage and Dani objected.

"But mom…." Dani whined. "Grace is like for sure to have pictures of her new grandbaby and I'm sure she'd want to see me… I mean us." She mussed Derek's hair. "Right, Derek?"

"Hey, stop that." Squinting gray eyes cast a mean look at his sister as he ducked away. His mouth formed a distinct growl toward his sister.

Beaming, Gage was quick to agreed. "Besides, Lacy, I want her to meet my family." Then Gage looked toward Stella. "You'll go with us?"

This brought an unexpected smile to Stella's face that matched the one Gage had just displayed to Lacy. "I'd love to." Stella figured that Gage's mention of family didn't really include her. But, a girl can dream, can't she?

"It's settled. We all go."

Lacy picked up Sammy when he yanked at her pant leg. "Me, me. Go with momma."

Having listened to the grown-ups discuss who was going to visit Grace, Derek hitched up his jeans and said. "Nobodies leaving me behind."

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

The eighty-two year old woman still held a vibrant look in her hazel eyes as she gazed at Gage. Holding out her arms, she beckoned. "Come here."

Gage wrapped her arms around Grace, inhaling deeply. "I've missed you."

The older woman pulled back slightly. "Then we agree…. you won't wait another twenty-five years to come and see me."

Smiling at the woman in her arms, Gage winked. "Agreed. Grace, I'd like you to meet my…." The younger woman loosened her arm from Grace and extended it outward. "… family. Lacy? Grace, this is my partner."

As Lacy reached her hand out, Grace embraced her. "I know. Stella told me."

Before Lacy let loose of Grace, she whispered. "Thank you… for being there for Gage." In response, the older woman squeezed Lacy even harder. "It's good to see you again, Grace."

Glancing quickly to Stella before she continued, Gage said. "Apparently, you've already met…."

"Hey, Grace. Remember me?" Dani didn't hesitate. She flung her arms around the older woman. "How's that new baby of yours?"

"My, my how you've grown up." Grace carefully studied the young girl. "You look more like your mother every day. Over on the desk, I have some pictures."

Dani relinquished her hold and zipped across the room to retrieve the photo album.

"Derek?" The young boy stepped up next to Gage. "You remember Grace, too, don't you?"

Like a little gentleman, he extended his hand. "Yes, ma'am."

Tiring, Grace sat down. "Not so shy anymore, hmmm?" Seeing that the young boy was not receptive to getting a hug, Grace mussed his hair.

Both Gage and Lacy froze and waited for the expected response from Derek that didn't come. "No, ma'am. And, I don't stutter no more either." Derek piped up proudly then glanced up at Gage who returned the smile.

Watching what transpired between Gage and the young boy, Grace knew there was story she would have to pry out of Gage. "Please call me Grace." He nodded then joined his sister at the desk.

Seeing Stella standing in the background, Grace called to her. "Stella, come sit next to me. Let me see who you got there. Lacy, over here." She pointed to the empty seat on her left. "I want you to tell me everything about what's been going on with Gage."

"Hey!" Gage protested.

"Hush now." The old woman winked at Gage, dismissing her. "Who is this handsome young man?"

"His name's Sammy." Stella lifted him up. "Go on to Grace."

The little tyke quickly wiggled away from his nanny to the older woman. Not even pausing, he continued his journey across Grace's lap to his mother. "Momma." Finally settled on his mother's lap, Sammy turned his blue eyes back to the old woman then buried his head against Lacy's shoulder.

"He reminds me of Derek the first time I saw him." Grace noted.

Gage pulled up a chair across from Grace. "Worse. He doesn't like me." The blonde concluded.

"Gage!" Lacy protested.

"It's true."

"I find that hard to believe. You were always so lovable." Grace countered.

Lacy's interest piqued at the welcomed opportunity to find out more about her lover. "Tell me…. everything."

"Hey!"

Lacy, Grace and Stella delighted in their conspiracy to divulge all there was to know about the increasingly frustrated blonde. Dejected, Gage turned her head toward the two oldest kids.

"You might as well come over here, Gage, and look at the pictures with us." After Gage rolled her eyes, Dani added. "Mom finally found her source." Referring to what Lacy knew would be a gold mine in finding out about the past that Gage was reluctant to share.

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

After a few hours of reacquainting themselves, Gage suggested. "It's getting late and you're tired. We should go."

Grace grabbed hold of the blonde's hand. "Not before we talk… alone." She looked to Lacy for her approval. Getting it, Grace tugged at Gage bringing the younger woman next to her on the sofa.

"Come on, kids."

Dani hurried up to her old friend. "Grace. My birthday is later this week. Can you come for my party?"

"I'm sorry, honey. I don't get around as much as I used to. I'll send you a gift though." Grace offered.

Now the thought of receiving a gift was always very appealing to Dani. However, Dani was extremely fond of Grace and getting to visit with the older woman again was more than enough for the young girl. "Seeing you is my gift."

Everyone was impressed with Dani's insightful and kind words. After Grace received a warm kiss on the cheek from Dani, she said. "Your mother should be very proud of you."

"Oh, she is." Dani assured her and left.

All Lacy could think to do was shrug her shoulders at her daughter's sincere audacity.

When the others had gone leaving Grace and Gage alone, the blonde suddenly felt a little awkward. "I'm sorry. I should have stayed in contact with you. You did so much for me when….." Gage let her words trail off.

"Then you won't mind doing something for me." Grace said.

A suspicious eyebrow shot up. "I know you, Grace. What's on your mind?"

"You were extremely bright then. I see that hasn't changed." The old woman ran a soft hand along Gage's cheek. Gage fell into that familiar touch she remembered from so many years ago. "Stella tells me…"

"Grace." Gage started to protest.

"Hush now. You blame her for leaving you." Gage turned her head away from the accurate statement. "I left, too, and you don't hold that against me."

"That was different. Your husband took a job in another city."

"Stella didn't want to come between you and your new family."

Gage slumped back and crossed her arms. "Some new family. Not even a month and they sent me packing."

"I didn't know about that until years later, Gage. You do believe me. If I'd had known I would have…." Gage lifted her arm and pulled the white haired woman closer before she continued. "The same for Stella. She found out only when she came to work for you and Lacy." Referring to Gage's partner, she added. "Such a nice girl she is, too."

"Yes." Gage agreed but was very reluctant to concur with her about the nanny. "Grace. When she came to the center, we did everything together. It was like…"

"Like what?"

"Nothing."

"Mmmmm Hmmm." Grace shifted so she could look directly into sad green eyes. "Give her a chance. Talk to her, Gage. For me?"

Feeling defeat upon her, Gage conceded. "If you say please, I guess there's nothing I could do to resist you."

Once again, Grace stroked the blonde's cheek. "Please."

"Okay." The blonde hugged Grace. I'll try. I really will. No one seemed to understand the way Gage felt regarding Stella's sudden disappearance from her life. Not Lacy and not Grace. Stella offered no explanation or no goodbye. One day she was there and the next day, she was gone. After being placed with her newly adopted family later that week, Gage's temporary excitement deluded the emptiness of Stella's absence. Within a month after being shipped back to the home, depression, loneliness and the feeling of worthlessness caved in on the six year old. It shadowed her life until she met Lacy.

"She wears your necklace." Grace stated flatly.

Bringing Gage from her dark musings, she confirmed with a smile. "Yes. I love her so much."

"That's evident." Grace backed off from the embrace and nodded to the door. "They're waiting. Next time you're out here… come visit me."

Gage kissed her cheek and promised. "We will."

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

Back home in St. Troy, Lacy prepared for Dani's upcoming birthday party. Several of the girls her daughter had met last year in school were coming over for a sleep over. She acquiesced to her daughter's request to erect a tent and allow them to sleep outside and tell ghost stories. However, after Gage's conversation with Lacy's father, the worried mother was on the verge of changing her mind.

"Lacy, she's going to be disappointed." Gage offered.

"It can't be helped." Lacy paced around the bedroom. "I…. we can't take the chance. Not now."

Sammy wiggled in Gage's embrace. He wanted his momma. "Would you hold still?" She offered him a cookie to occupy his attention while Gage tried to reason with her partner.

Lacy was too on edge to allow logic to enter her thinking on the subject.

"You promised her." Gage reminded the concerned mom.

Glaring at Gage, Lacy stood in front of her with hands on her hip in defiance. "You heard what dad said. And, they're down there now getting ready." Lacy spared a quick look out the window. "In another hour or so it will be dark outside."

"I know. I know." Gage patted the spot next to her on the bed. "Come here." When Lacy refused to move, the blonde repeated. "Come on." Once Lacy settled next to her, Gage let loose of the anxious young boy in her arms. Sammy plopped on his momma's lap.

Lacy gently pulled him closer finding some solace as she held her son. Having a child in her arms comforted her and Gage knew it. She watched Lacy's face etched with concern soften as Sammy snuggled up to his mother.

"I have an idea. I'll get Dani and her friends settled into their tent next to the garden. They'll be able to see the lake that way and it will give me a place to hide." Gage saw Lacy's eyebrow raise in question. "Once it gets dark, I'll go back out there and park myself at the gazebo where I can keep watch on them all night long. Okay?" Gage slipped her hand to the small of her partner's back, gently rubbing it.

Turning her head sideways, Lacy looked up. "You'd do that?"

"Of course." Seeing the smile spring on her lover's face, Gage knew she made the right decision. Just what I wanted a night out under the stars…. alone.

"Anything that Jim had access to has been checked. We changed the locks and talked with the police."

The gardener Gage hired only worked for a couple more weeks after Lacy and Gage left to resume their movie. Dan Lewis was the first to notice his disappearance and notified Gage. After a brief discussion, they decided to have the locks changed and Dan checked with Steve from the lawn place. He found that Steve didn't really know much about Jim except that his last name was Smith and only worked for him for a couple of weeks before Gage's request for a full time employee.

Dan and Hank did a thorough check of the premises, finding nothing missing or out of the ordinary. Gage and Lacy did the same upon their return from Los Angeles with the same results. It was cause enough for Lacy to worry as there had been a rash of kidnappings throughout the United States.

Gage's words reassured the concerned mother quite a bit. Lacy placed a thankful kiss on her lover's lips. The very observant young boy paid close attention to everything his mother did and realized she had relaxed somewhat. He continued to watch as his mother and Gage exchanged small reassuring kisses. Suddenly, he popped up and wiggled his way between the two adults. Even the two year old could recognize that the blonde who was always hanging around his momma was reassuring her and that pleased the young child.

Gage backed up figuring the young boy didn't like all the attention she was getting from Lacy. It took her totally by surprise when Sammy leaned over and placed a wet kiss on her lips. Shocked, Gage looked at him then to Lacy and back to Sammy who was smiling. "Thank you." She ducked down and pecked him on the cheek causing him to giggle.

"See! He does like you."

Not totally convinced, Gage conceded. "Maybe… a little bit. But, I'll take what I can get." She jumped up off the bed. "Come on. Let's get downstairs. I'm sure Stella would like a reprieve."

Lacy followed Gage to the door but stopped when the blonde came to an unexpected halt. "You know, the real problem is going to be keeping Derek inside. He's been dogging the girls every since they got here."

The younger woman placed her hand on Gage's cheek gently caressing her. "You solved my first problem. I'm sure you can come up with something for this one as well." She passed a perplexed Gage and headed downstairs.

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

"Mom, would you fix us pancakes in the morning? Chocolate chip pancakes?" Dani asked as her three friends stood close by.

"Yes, I will. Are you sure you wouldn't rather stay inside tonight? You can take over the living room. Pitch the tent in there." Lacy had to try one more time to coax her daughter and friends to camp inside away from the uncertainties of the night.

"No!" They all harmonized in sync. Flipping on their individual flashlights and placing them under their faces so the light shined upward, Dani sealed their collective decision. "We want an adventure."

Having procured a flashlight of his own, Derek mimicked the older girls and added. "Me, too. I'm going along." Squinting his eyes, he shifted them toward Dani, glaring at her.

Frustrated, Lacy let out an aggravated sigh. "You are to stay in the tent and not step one foot out of it. Do you understand?"

Taken aback slightly by her mom's harsh tone, Dani conceded. "We know, mom." Dani loved her brother and didn't mind that he tagged along all afternoon with them but hoped her mom wouldn't insist that Derek get to camp out, too. After all, we're going to talk about boys and…..

Shaking her head, Lacy realized she had overreacted. "Stella, would you put Sammy to bed and I'll be up later." The nanny agreed. "Gage?" She looked at Gage and nodded toward Derek.

The blonde took the hint. "Derek. Why don't we check the perimeter while your mom helps the girls get settled?"

"Oh, all right. Who wants to spend time with girls anyway?" He said sarcastically, not believing what he said himself. Derek enjoyed bothering them all afternoon and especially was happy when his sister pretended she was aggravated with his antics.

Both of Gage's eyebrows shot up.

"I don't think of you as a girl." Seeing Gage's expression fall as she wondered just exactly what he thought of her, Derek used his best disarming smile and revealed his trump card. "I think of you as…. as my hero."

Sweeping the boy up in her arms, the jubilant Gage promised. "For that you get ice cream and tomorrow we'll do something special. Just you and I."

"More ice cream? Yeah." Derek grabbed her hand and yanked. "Let's go."

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

Hidden by several bushes, Gage watched the tent from a short distance. Lights flashed on and off inside the tent followed by sporadic spurts of laughter and screams. Gage guessed Dani was re-telling a ghost story she had told the young girl on the plane ride home to St. Troy.

The night was clear and any boating activities in the lake cove had long since deceased for the day. The night sounds hummed steadily provided an eerie background against the young girl's voices and giggles. The sounds of crickets and other critters filled the air with only an unknown creak or small animal apparently moving in the night caused little concern for Gage.

However, after an hour or so on her post, the blonde wished she had brought a blanket to lie on and something to eat. She considered making a quick run back to the house when heavy footfalls demanded her full attention. Gage swallowed hard and sucked in a calming breath. After a quick look toward the tent, seeing no one, she buried herself deeper inside the bushes waiting for the culprit to venture closer. Her flashlight in hand, Gage wished she had brought her cell phone with her.

The footfalls fell still bringing a deadly silence permeating the air as the animals themselves took quiet refuge due to the intruder's presence. I can't just sit here and….. Her thought was cut off by another step of the intruder coming closer. Gage stole a quick peek to the tent and up at the house. She clearly saw her bedroom light on and prayed Lacy had opened the window. It would provide a lifeline in case she had to yell for help.

An alarmed Gage sprung upward then quickly twisting around coming face to face with a tall dark figure. With her flashlight at chest level pointing upward, she flipped it on revealing a very scary sight. Her scream was cut off by a slap of the hand against her mouth.

"Shhhh.." After seeing that the occupants of the tent was undisturbed, the lips close to Gage's ear whispered. "You want to scare the girls."

Drawing in deep breaths, Gage stilled her racing heart. "Lacy, you scared me to death!"

"I'm sorry." Lacy pulled her partner in for a hug. "I couldn't stay inside any longer." She flipped the blanket and let it fall to the ground. Retrieving a small backpack, Lacy tossed it on the blanket. "What's been happening?"

Being pulled to the ground by her partner, Gage settled down again. "You know what I want for Christmas?"

Lacy gazed at their lover. "What?"

"Night vision glasses." Gage cocked her head toward Lacy. "Raising kids… is hard work and anything…. gadgets and such definitely would help."

The dark haired woman nudged Gage. "She hasn't even hit her teen years yet and then there's dating and….." The moonlight revealed Gage's green eyes widen in shock. "…then we'll have three more to do it all over again."

After Lacy mentioned the word 'three', Gage shifted. Pulling Lacy closer, she placed her hand on her partner's stomach. "And, how is our little one?"

Receiving a gentle loving kiss from Gage, she placed her head on the blonde's shoulder. "Wonderful. Me, too."

"Other than a few times during the movie, this time you haven't been as sick." Gage wrapped her arms around her lover, inhaling deeply. Lacy snuggled even closer. "Must be a girl, huh?"

Lacy popped her head up. "Why do you say that?"

Gage shrugged. "Just a feeling."

"Do you want to know before….."

"You?" Gage countered. When Lacy nodded, Gage revealed her own thoughts on the subject. "Me neither. Just as long as both of you are okay. That's all I'm concerned about." The older woman met her lover's lips in a gentle, soothing kiss.

Those kisses soon turned heated. Gently rolling Lacy on her back, Gage moved up placing her leg between the younger woman's legs. Gage's hand found its way up and under Lacy's shirt landing on her lover's breast.

When Lacy yanked at the bottom of Gage's shirt, pulling it upward, the blonde resisted. "Uh uhh. Not out here."

Frustrated, Lacy acquiesced. "No more camp outs for the kids."

Smiling at the lover, Gage said. "Oh, I don't know… it's kinda nice. A moonlit clear night with a beautiful woman in my arms…. I intend to take full advantage of the situation. At least until you go back inside."

Before Lacy pulled Gage closer to take possession of her lover's lips, she said. "I want you inside."

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

The early morning sunlight wasn't enough to wake the soundly sleeping couple. It was only Dani's declaration to her friends that woke the young mother. "Come on, we'll get our stuff later. Mom said she'd make pancakes this morning."

Blue eyes flew wide open. "Gage, sweetheart, get up!"

Gage jumped up with her head swinging wildly around. "What happened?"

Grabbing the backpack, she ordered Gage. "Get the blanket." Gage watched Lacy in a mad dash across the lawn ducking and weaving in an attempt to hide from Dani and her friends. Seeing that her partner would not be able to make the last twenty-five feet to the house without being discovered, Gage knew she had to do something to divert the young girl's attention.

Rolling her frustrated green eyes, she put the plan into action. In a rush, Gage stumbled out from behind the bushes and got her foot caught on the blanket.

Hearing the swishing of the bushes, Dani and her friends swung around just in time to see Gage fall to the hard ground with a thump. The young girl cocked her lips to one side and squinted her glaring eyes at an embarrassed Gage. "Were you out here all night?"

Caught with no suitable excuse, Gage shrugged.

Twirling around, Dani yelled out. "Mom?" Dani trampled in the kitchen with three angry girls behind her. "Mom? Did you know Gage was outside all night long…. watching us?" Her accusing blue eyes landed squarely on Gage as she entered the kitchen behind them.

Lacy cocked her hands on her hips. With one hand still holding the pancake flipper, Lacy glared at her partner. "Gage! I can't believe it. When did you sneak out last night?" The blonde stood stunned at her partner's words. "Dani is twelve now and perfectly capable of an overnight campout without being observed." She quickly pulled at her partner and pushed her though the kitchen door down the hallway but not before whispering. "I'll make it up to you later."

It was the quick lick of her lover's tongue on her ear and a well-placed hand on her backside that convinced the blonde that later would be more than enough to make up for Lacy placing all the blame on her. Gage heard Lacy join in with the giggling girls about the events of their night out.

Chapter Seventeen

The next day after Gage deposited Dani's friends back to their homes, they enjoyed a quiet weekend before school started on Monday. Compared to Dani's excitement about the new school year, Derek grumbled even after receiving an array of school supplies. He rolled his eyes several times when Dani told him how much he was going to love school.

"Derek, look." She produced her new notebook and then pointed to the one he was given. "There's a place for everything. Pencils, a ruler…. and right there you can put something in it. See it zips."

Derek compared both notebooks and found his to be lacking. "Mine's not as big."

"But it's yellow. You like yellow." Gage inserted though it had no affect on his mood. "And, you have colors. How many colors are in there?"

"Over a hundred! I never got more than 64 in my pack." Dani pointed out to her younger brother.

Still not impressed, Derek's pout remained in tact.

"Come here." Lacy called to her oldest son and he climbed on her lap. The mother pulled her son's head against her shoulder. As she ran long fingers through his hair, Lacy hugged him closely. "It's only for half a day, Derek. Then you get to come home and play with Gage the rest of the day."

Burying his face deeper into her shoulder, he whined. "I want to play all day."

"You will." She assured her son. "In kindergarten…."

"You get to play, too." Gage tried to help.

He gave her a sharp look. "You didn't even go to kindergarten and I don't want to either."

Dani rolled her eyes. Guess I need to get this thing settled. "Derek! You know how much you like to help Sammy." He stared at his sister, not sure what she meant. "You know, boss him around."

Lacy and Gage shared a concerned look before Dani continued. "Not like that." She assured the pair then returned her attention to her brother. "Since you already know your ABC's and numbers all the way up to one hundred. Thanks to me! All the other kids will look to you because they won't know near that kind of stuff. And, you can print your name."

Somewhere in Dani's mini dissertation, Derek perked up. "I get to be the boss."

"Derek, that's not what she meant." Lacy insisted. Yet, the young boy only saw his sister nod her head countering what her mother said. Derek had been a shy boy during his early years but since Gage came into his life and especially since he had a younger brother, he was slowly coming out of his shell. Now it was only with his father and complete strangers that he retreated to the safety of his shyness.

Gage noted Dani's nod to Derek. She remained quiet because Derek was not getting excited about school and she didn't want to douse any enthusiasm at the moment. I'll talk with Lacy later and make sure he finds other reasons to like school.

Derek's gray eyes turned intently to his mother. "Will you take me to school?"

Tapping his nose, Lacy assured him. "We both will."

"Okay." Derek jumped off her lap and headed back to the table where the school supplies sat. Now, with a wide smile on his face, he asked. "What else did you get for me?"

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

That morning as Lacy and Gage gathered the kids and headed out the front door, David showed up unexpectedly with Hayston by his side. "David! What are you doing here?"

"This is our kid's first day of school, right?" David smiled while Hayston's expression was less than jubilant.

Lacy agreed. "Yes."

"We'll I'm here to take them to school. We both will." David insisted. He found a smile on Dani's face as Derek scooted behind his mother.

"I… we…. Gage and I were just about to do that." Temporarily stymied by David's interest, Lacy offered. "You can go with us." Lacy wanted David to be in her children's life and welcomed his attention to them. However, he picked the most inopportune times to show that interest.

"All three of us?" David asked then looked questionably at Gage.

"I could… I could stay here and watch Sammy." Gage offered weakly.

David shoved Hayston up next to the blonde. "Keep Hayston company till we get back."

"Gage?" Lacy intently stared at her partner.

"It's okay." She dropped down next to Derek. "I'll pick you up at noon. Okay?"

Nodding his head, Derek clung to his mother's hand.

Frustrated, Lacy reluctantly instructed Dani to take Derek to their father's car and get in the back. Before she walked to the car, Lacy jerked David closer by his lapel. "Next time…. call."

Gage walked Lacy's to David's rented car and the younger woman turned to her partner. "We'll be back within the hour." Lacy stole a quick kiss before getting in the car. Gage shut the door and waved to them as the car spun away.

Twisting back around, she saw Hayston nervously waiting. "Want some breakfast?"

"You don't have to be so nice. I'm sure you don't like this as much as I do." Hayston swung her purse up over her shoulder.

"Maybe not…. but, I'm hungry and you look like you could use a meal or two."

The charming smile Gage offered the younger woman was disarming and Hayston conceded to the offer. "I'll take that as a compliment."

As they walked together inside the house, Gage said. "Didn't mean it any other way."

Hayston ate as if she had skipped a week's worth of meals. When Gage offered more, she slumped back against the chair, grabbing her stomach. "No! That was delicious though."

Gage shrugged. "Just pancakes." The blonde sat down next to her and asked. "Now that I have you plied with food…. why are you here?"

"David… why is David here!" Hayston understood the question. "He really does miss his kids and after we lost…." She let that thought die on her lips. "His career isn't as hot as it once was and I'm tired of it….. for now. By the way, thank you for letting me be in your film."

"Thank Lacy." Gage gathered the plates and sat them in the sink. "You want to see Sammy for a bit? I'm sure Stella could use a break."

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

After Lacy and David dropped their two children off at school, she turned toward him in the car. "Shall we get to it now or wait?"

"I don't know what you mean, Lacy. I'm here to spend some time with my children. Is that a bad thing?"

Not entirely believing him, Lacy shrugged. "Mmmmmm… no, it's not if that was the only reason you were here."

"Listen, honey…" He hesitated when she shot him a glaring look. "Can't you believe me?"

"This had better not be about our deal." Lacy questioned.

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

Hayston was hesitant to hold the two year old but Gage insisted that she would do fine. "He looks like David."

Nodding, Gage agreed. "Yes. He's a handsome little guy. Derek does, too."

"I'm surprised to hear you say that." Sammy sat quietly on her lap while playing with the little yellow duck.

She shrugged. "It's true. David's good looking and so are his sons. But, they both have Lacy's smile." When Hayston didn't respond, Gage ventured down a line of questioning she knew would be treacherous. "Why do you stay with him?"

Taken aback by the direct question, Hayston finally found her voice and offered a shallow response. "Like you said, he's handsome."

"That's not a reason to be with someone."

Hayston sucked in a deep breath after Sammy wiggled, dropping his toy. As Gage scrambled for it, the younger woman revealed some of her feelings. "He's … he can be very charming when he wants to be."

When Gage handed the toy back to Sammy, he held out his arms wanting her to take him. Gage gathered him in her arms and sat down on the floor where he could play.

Uncharacteristically, Hayston joined the two on the floor before she continued. "He's manly, virile and I like the way he takes charge." A forlorn look swept across her face. "Not when he's demanding like he is sometimes or when he's impatient…. rather it's his 'I can do anything attitude' even when things look bleak. With our careers in a slump right now, he refuses to accept that…. he just keeps going as if nothing can stop him."

Having learned more about him than she expected, Gage admitted. "I've seen him at work. He's a good producer and knows what works. Can't say that about the way he is in his personal life though especially with Derek."

"He's jealous of you, you know."

Surprised, Gage looked up.

"Oh, yes." Hayston admitted. "Not just about Lacy being with you. It grates against him that the kids love you so much. And, as you said especially Derek."

"He's easy to love and get along with, Hayston. Derek's a great kid. He doesn't have Dani's outgoing personality which is similar to David but…."

Stella's entrance caught their attention. "You have a call from Mark." She handed Gage the telephone and picked up Sammy. "Let me see if he needs changed."

"Thanks, Stella." Gage glanced at Hayston. "Excuse me a moment. Hello Mark. How are you?" She listened for a while, nodding a few times before she confirmed. "Absolutely, Lacy and I will be there. I'll tell her. Hey, before you go. That's around the same time as when the movie comes out, right?"

Hayston who hadn't been paying much attention to her companion's conversation was now very interested when Gage mentioned the movie. She waited patiently until Gage hung up the telephone. "The movie is coming out before the end of the year?"

"Hmmmm… yes. The premiere will be in New York City…. right before Christmas." Gage confirmed.

Hayston sighed. "There goes our Christmas plans."

Suddenly, Gage and Hayston realized they were still sitting on the kitchen floor. A small smile played on their lips as both scrambled to see who could get up first.

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

When David hinted around that maybe he and Hayston could stay at Lacy and Gage's home, Lacy quickly grabbed the telephone and made reservations for them at a nearby hotel. "I'm sure you'll be much more comfortable there."

Before he left with Hayston, David insisted that he pick the kids up each day during his week's stay. "Not today, David. I promised Derek I would pick him up and that's a promise I intend to keep." Gage vowed.

He grinned smugly. "Okay. The rest of the week I do."

Before Gage could protest, Lacy intervened. "We'll take them to school in the morning……. and Dani gets off at noon on Thursday same as Derek."

"Gotcha." David agreed.

Watching David and Hayston leave, Gage left Lacy standing at the door. Lacy recognized the tell tale signs her lover displayed after David's insistence that he pick up the kids. Mmmmmm….. looks like I need to do some reassuring here.

Lacy checked on Sammy while she gave Gage some time to consider David's unexpected visit. When she finally stuck her head through the doorway, she found Gage's fingers racing across the keyboard on her laptop. "Can I come in?"

Gage shrugged and didn't miss a letter.

Lacy walked around behind her lover and placed gentle hands on Gage's shoulders. Rubbing her neck, Lacy eased her way into the conversation she knew they would discuss. "I know you had it all planned. We'd take the kids to school in the morning then you would write till it was time to pick up Derek while I spend time with Sammy."

Gage shifted her shoulders against the soothing and welcome touch of her partner but she didn't want Lacy to think she was going to give in so easily.

"And, then the afternoon was going to be filled with fun for you and Derek."

"And Sammy…." Gage said.

"Yes, and Sammy… he loves you."

"Derek does."

"Sammy does, too."

"Now, with him here… he may not." Lacy pulled her lover back from the keyboard and sat on Gage's lap. "Hayston reminded me just how much both your sons are like …. him."

"David being here doesn't change the way we all feel about you." Lacy kissed her lover then stroked her cheek. "He doesn't want to take over…. just be in their life a little bit more."

"And you believe that?"

"Gage, sweetheart, I do. Though David's career will always come first."

"People get older, Lacy. Things change. They start to see their children as a monument to their lives and….."

"Is that the way you see them…. your sons? They belong to you, too. All of them….. just as much as this one does." Lacy patted her stomach.

Gage placed her hand over Lacy's. "That's the way I feel about them… as mine, too. Is that okay?"

Concerned green eyes searched blue ones for approval. "More than okay. You know that and we've talked about this before." Lacy dropped her head next to Gage's. "Stella said Mark called."

Squeezing her lover, Gage confirmed. "Yeah, the wedding's in December just before Christmas. And, the weekend before Mark's set for the premiere."

"Christmas in New York? Sounds good."

"No, Christmas in England. He's getting married there. His grandfather isn't well enough to travel. Do you mind?"

"Are you and the kids going to be there?" Meeting a glare from her lover, Lacy rhetorically asked. "Then where else would I be?"

"Good. Now, one more thing. As Mark's best….. person, I'm gonna have to give him a… some kind of party."

"Okay….. I'll give one for Julie the same night."

"Hey, if you do that, I can't go to both of them." Gage whined.

Lacy ducked in for a quick kiss. "Probably best if you're not there anyway." The blonde's eyebrows rose in question. "In case, we have a stripper."

"What? Lacy Francine… there is no way you will be there then….not without me."

Lacy jumped off her lap and scrambled out the door. "You trust me, don't you?"

"I trust you… it's the guy stripping that I don't trust."

As she ran down the hallway, Lacy yelled back. "Who said the stripper would be a guy?"

Green eyes nearly popped out of her head.

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

The week went by smoothly until Thursday when David picked up both Dani and Derek. As David drove back to their home, a small squirrel ran across the rode and much to his credit David tried to miss it but didn't.

Derek strained against his seatbelt trying to see what happened to the squirrel but the thump he heard confirmed his worst fear. With angry eyes, Derek glared at his father. "You killed it."

"I didn't mean to." David casually said. "It happens."

"Let me out." Derek screamed as he tugged at the seatbelt latch.

"Hey!" David reached over trying to pull his son's hand away from the latch. "Stop that."

"Derek. We can go back and check on him." Dani tried to reason with her brother.

"He killed him on purpose." Refusing to look at his father, the little boy crossed his arms. Slamming his chin against his chest, he mumbled underneath his breath. "Murderer."

David kept driving while Derek continued to ignore him. "Derek! It was just a squirrel…. like I said sometimes that happens when they cross the road. It's life."

"I hate you." Derek proclaimed.

Frustrated, Dani knew their planned stop on the way home would not happen. There goes my ice cream.

When they arrived home, Derek hurried out of the car and ran into the house. He searched and searched until he found the only person who he knew would understand. Breathing heavy, Derek spoke quickly. "He could have stopped but he didn't. He killed him."

"Whoa there. What happened?" Gage felt the little boy's chest heaving over his racing heart.

"Honey! What happened?" Lacy heard her son as he ran through the house and followed him to Gage's writing room.

Gage stood up and carried Derek to the small couch so they could all sit together. "Now, Derek. Take a big breath and calm down, okay?"

"I hate him." He chanced a look at his mother. "I do."

"Come here." Lacy helped her son to her lap. "Who do you hate and why?"

David followed Dani inside the room just in time to be targeted by Derek's accusing finger. "Him!"

Dani wanted to help so she said. "Mom, dad accidentally hit a squirrel."

"That's right. I didn't do it on purpose." David affirmed.

"He killed him." Derek searched Gage's eyes wanting her to be on his side.

"Honey, I know it's real bad when that happens but sometimes it can't be helped." Lacy tried to reason with her five-year-old son.

He frowned at Gage hoping she would speak up. "Derek? You remember earlier this summer when that turtle was on the road?" He nodded. "I could have easily hit it….."

"You didn't."

"No, we were lucky. A turtle's slower than a squirrel though and sometimes…. if it had been a squirrel that day the same thing might have happened. Not because I wanted to hurt him."

"They have rights, too. You said so." Derek echoed Gage's words about an animal's right to this land just as much as humans.

"They do…… " She agreed. "So do fish but we go fishing and catch them and… eat them."

Lacy added. "You like to fish, don't you?"

"We didn't eat the squirrel. He just left him there."

David rolled his eyes. "What was I supposed to do? Scoop it up, skin it and bring it home for supper?"

"David! Be helpful not hurtful." Lacy admonished her ex-husband.

He snuggled up to his mother and whispered. "I don't want him to pick me up anymore. Please?"

Lacy nodded. "Okay. Only Gage or I will."

Seeing her brother in such a state of despair, Dani crossed her arms and tapped her foot. "Well, dad, we could have buried him on the side of the road and given it a funeral. Instead, of just leaving it there."

Staring at his daughter, he said. "I thought you were on my side."

"That's enough." Lacy declared. "Gage will go back there and get it. Okay?"

"Come on, Derek." Dani turned to Gage. "Can we go, too?"

"Sure, why not?" Gage offered Lacy a mock smile. "Just what I always wanted to do."

After Derek jumped off his mother's lap, Gage leaned in closer and whispered to her partner. "You stay and keep the murderer company while I go and get the body. Oh, and you owe me for this one."

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

The funeral was short and sweet and no one had much of an appetite after that. David went back to the hotel frustrated that his attempt to bond with his children especially Derek was futile. Lacy tried to assure him that it would take time and patience. David's problem was that he could not put himself in others people's shoes and subsequently could not see where they were coming from. He had one point of view and expected other's to see it his way.

Dani gave him the best advice of his life before he left. "All you had to do was stop and listen to Derek. That's all. Showed him you cared about what he was feeling." David wasn't used to listening. He was much better at making decision and schedules and then implementing them. Listening took too much precious time away from the demands of a producer trying to make a movie and bringing it in on budget. With a drink in his hand, he pondered his daughter's sage words and wondered about the baby Hayston lost.

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

The following week after David left, Lacy, Gage and the kids fell into a pleasant routine. All was going well until Dani came home from school one afternoon fuming at the events of the day. "Mom, we have to talk!"

Gage shrugged when Lacy eyed her. "I didn't do anything."

"Okay, Dani." She grabbed her daughter's hand. "Let's go down by the dock."

"The boys and I will find something to do while you girls have your little session." Gage took Sammy from his mother and met relatively no resistance from the small tyke. "Come on, Derek. Let's find some trouble to get into." Not getting a rise out her partner, Gage added. "Where's Stella? I'm sure we can harass her."

"Don't pay attention to her mom. She's like a little kid sometimes always wanting your attention." Dani clearly hit the nail on the head regarding Gage's intention.

Lacy draped her arm over her daughter's shoulder. "I had her figured out years ago."

They walked quietly to the lakefront. After settling down on the edge of the dock, Lacy asked. "You going to tell me what's on in your mind?"

"I like school and all. We have lots of fun there." Dani shrugged then said. "Most of kids in my grade are nice."

"But?"

"There's this boy." When Dani saw her mom's eyebrows shoot up, the young girl cautioned her mother. "It's not like that."

"Then tell me what it's like."

"He pesters me. Always follow me and my friends around. He tries to make me mad on purpose."

"He likes you." Lacy surmised then added. "And, you like him."

Dani jumped up and cocked her hands on her hips. "I do not."

Watching her daughter carefully, Lacy smiled. "Me thinks you protest too much."

Glaring at her mother with the same blue eyes, Dani insisted. "I know what you mean by that….it's not true."

"Dani, you like boys, don't you?"

Dani relented, dropping her hand to her side. "Yes, sorta. They're not very mature though. You should see them, mom." Dani plopped back down next to her mother. "They do weird things."

"Like what?"

"Like the things they say and they go around picking at you. You know, hitting you…. not hard more like playing tag or something. Or, they pull at your hair and laugh. Things like that." Dani concluded.

"And, this boy… does it more than most?"

"Definitely. He sits behind me in class."

"I'll talk with your teacher so you can move." Lacy offered.

"No!" Dani protested then reasoned in a calm voice. "I don't want my friends to know my mom had to step in."

"Gotcha." Lacy smiled. "What are you going to do then?"

Dani leaned back. "What did you do?"

Lacy chuckled as she remembered a few incidents in school. She could still remember Jason following her and her friends around on the playground much to her older brother's protests. "That's a hard one. Are you sure you don't like him?"

"Mom." Dani whined. "My friends think he's kinda cute though. This is his first year here. He moved here from New York and thinks he's ……"

"Something else?" Lacy supplied.

"Something like that."

"Okay then I suggest you ignore him. No matter what he does. At first, it might not seem to work but after awhile he'll give up."

Pondering her mother's words, Dani wondered. "You sure he will? Not pay attention to me anymore…. or tal…. bother me."

"Yep."

Her mother's reassuring words were a bit unsettling to the young girl. I want him to stop being mean to me not leave me alone.

Lacy could see her daughter's mind spinning from her advice. She was in tune enough with her oldest child to know that Dani's feelings regarding this young boy danced precariously on a thin line.

"Come on." Dani stood up. "We gave Gage and the boys enough time to get into plenty of trouble." As Lacy walked back to the house with Dani by her side, the young girl said. "Thanks, mom."

Pulling Dani in for a warm hug, Lacy said. "I love you."

"Oh, I know." Dani agreed, hugging her mother back fiercely.

Smiling, Lacy knew her advice would assure the continued torment from Dani's attentive young man since no male whether young or old liked to be ignored.

Chapter Eighteen

Over the next two months Dani and Derek settled into a regular routine of school, adjusting easily until Derek came home with a black eye. "What happened, Derek?"

"I hit him." Derek declared. "And, he hit me back."

"Why?" The concerned mother asked.

Derek nodded at Gage. "He tried to throw my turtle out the window." It was the same turtle Gage and Derek rescued from the road on their way home last week.

Lacy glared at her partner causing Gage to shrink. "I didn't tell him to hit anyone." Then she mumbled. "Probably deserved it though."

"Gage!" The sound of her name coming off Lacy's lips was not a good sign.

"Oh, alright." The blonde got Derek's attention. "Derek, what did I say about fighting?"

"That I should use words and not fists." Derek had this talk with Gage already, as the young boy became a champion for animal rights even when it came to the small ants on the playground. When the other kids knew this upset him, they would deliberately pounce on the ants in order to bother Derek. One boy in particular found this amusing. "But, if that doesn't work, hit first and let them do their explaining later."

Lacy stared at her partner who desperately tried to get out from underneath the glaring look she was receiving. "I didn't exactly say… I said….." Gage allowed a small giggle to escape trying to ease the tension. "It was just a joke." Worked for me when I was a kid.

Lacy was still not impressed. "You're going to straighten this out, right?"

Nodding furiously, Gage agreed. "Absolutely!" She turned back to Derek. "We always use words……"'

Balling his hand in a fist, he asked. "What about this?"

"Gage!"

Feeling the accusing assault of Lacy's eyes, Gage continued to explain as she grabbed his hand. "That…. that is for the last resort. After a few karate lessons…."

"Gage!"

"Why don't we start with…… judo…." Lacy nudged her. "How bout…. gymnastics?" Feeling that answer was a safe one, Gage finished. "Then we'll see where we go after that?"

"Okay." Derek was happy.

"Now, go on and get ready for dinner." Gage prompted him. After he left, the blonde turned to her partner. "You know, Lacy. He's has to learn to defend himself."

The look Lacy gave Gage carried the distinct message that there would be no more discussion on this matter. "I know about the lessons you've already given him."

"Hey, it was only a few defensive moves to get away from the other guy…. I didn't teach him to hit anyone." Gage protested.

Lacy stepped forward, wrapping her arms around her lover. "I know." Their lips met in a passionate kiss that soothed each other's troubled mind.

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

After Mark Calico met with Ron Griffen regarding the distribution rights of Lacy's movie, the movie mogul jumpstarted a powerful wave of enthusiasm about the upcoming December release. Mark called in the favor Griffen knew he would after Mark let his daughter work on the movie in question. Griffen thought his daughter wanted to be there due to a certain young man working on the set and this met with his approval.

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

Tony Kussler was disgusted with the news he read from the entertainment newspaper. So, when Blade sat down next to him, he was already in a foul mood. "What's with the hair?"

Blade ran a hand over his buzz cut. "Like it? All the chicks do."

"You're so full of yourself. Did you get what I wanted?" Tony asked.

"First, I need a beer." Blade waved the waitress over and ordered two beers just in case Tony dismissed him quickly after he revealed his news. Finally, he returned his attention to his boss. "Yep, I surveyed the place and it's easily accessible. I can move at any time."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Tony demanded.

Blade accepted the beers with both hands. He downed one quickly before he answered. "The snatch? I'm ready when you give the word."

Tony jolted across the table knocking the second beer out of Blade's hand as he grabbed the young man's shirt. "You don't approach. I want anything newsworthy that I can use against her. I don't want to be the news. Got it?"

"Sure. Sure thing, boss." After Tony let the young man's collar loose, Blade straightened back up. "It's your money…. but, after what that chick did to you."

Seeing Koda Kannon enter the bar, Tony dismissed the young man. "When do you go back?"

"Don't."

"What?"

"You said to check the place out… been there, done that. Didn't know you wanted me to hang around." Blade realized he had made his boss mad with that statement. "Okay. I'll head back but I need more money."

"Get out. I'll call you." Tony didn't want Blade around with Koda in the bar. When Blade started to protest, he emphatically ordered him. "Out!"

Blade slipped out of the booth not happy with the way things went between them and decided to use his own instincts when it came to this job. You pissant, you don't know what you want but I do.

Blade was well out of sight when Koda dropped down in the booth next to his old friend and drinking buddy, Tony Kussler. "How's it going, Tony old boy?" This was not the first bar Koda had visited this evening.

"Great. Couldn't be better."

Shaking his head, Koda disagreed. "Not what I hear. All the buzz around town about Lacy's new movie….bound to be a hit. Griffen's putting out the word that it's got Oscar written all over it."

"His only interest is the distribution rights." Tony shrugged off the glowing comment Koda had about the movie.

Slapping his friend on the back, Koda continued much to Tony's dismay. "If it's half as good as what I hear….. damn, I wish I'd have been in it."

"Even if the movie is good, doesn't mean it's gonna draw a crowd. People don't like Lacy now that she's turned gay." He spat sarcastically.

Koda leaned in close. "Don't underestimate her. Her talent surpasses anyone one else out here…. not to mention her beauty. And, then there's the fact that….. " Tony cocked his head and glared at his friend. "…she's the sexiest woman alive….you don't just dismiss that so easily. Gay or straight."

Tony grunted. "The snake has fallen under her charms and is bewitched like all the rest….. except me."

"Ha!" Koda laughed. "You remember that scene she did with me where she was less than half naked. Those long sexy legs rubbing up against me…. and, God, her lips. I'm getting hot just thinking about it now. Don't tell me, Tony ole boy that you were unaffected. There wasn't one red blooded male…. or female for that matter that saw that scene and didn't have some kind of….. stirring rise up."

Remembering all to well the scene in question, Tony shifted his legs around and then shoved his friend away. "Oh, shut up!"

Koda let out a full belly laugh. "Ha, ha, ha…. I knew it. You did, didn't you?"

Dismissing his friend, Tony said. "You're drunk."

Koda countered. "You're horny."

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

Thanksgiving came and went bringing with it news that Jason and Lisa were to be married the next summer. The more surprising news was that Hank and Jen were back together and decided to make it a double wedding. Lacy congratulated the foursome then said. "Maybe this way, both of you can help each other remember your anniversary."

Dani was still having trouble with 'that' boy as she referred to him. Derek started gymnastics lessons in the afternoon after school let out. Sammy continued to warm up to Gage but still found his mother to be his favorite whenever she was around. And, over the thanksgiving weekend, Gage led her family in volunteering at the local Salvation Army. This was the start of a family tradition that helped teach their children the values of giving a helping hand to others.

Chapter Nineteen

A week before Christmas Lacy, Gage and their family flew to New York City for the premiere of their movie and Mark and Julie's pre-wedding parties. The kids were out of school for Christmas vacation and after the party filled weekend, they planned to fly to England where Mark and Julie would be married and they would spend Christmas.

Lacy slipped on her evening gown as she got dressed for the premiere of HERE COMES JORDAN. "Gage?" The six and a half month pregnant woman's insecurities reared its ugly head as she swirled around and asked. "Does this really look okay?"

A small smile spread across Gage's face and lovely green eyes gazed upon the most beautiful woman in the world. "It's a good thing the theater will be dark…. because no one would be watching the movie if the lights were on." Lacy's eyebrow popped up in question. "They'd all be looking at you. You're beautiful."

Lacy covered the space between them quickly and thanked her partner with a kiss. "The only pair of eyes I'm interested in are green."

"Mmmmmm…. so, you want Stella staring at you?" Gage teased.

"No…." Lacy's hand caressed her lover's cheek.

"Then it has to be….. Griff?" The reply to Gage's last question was answered with a hard frown from her partner. "Okay. Okay. Enough teasing." Gage's arms hung loose around Lacy's waist as they stood together. "You feeling okay?"

Lacy fell into the warm caress of Gage's lips on her neck and purred. "Yes."

Continuing to nuzzle her lover's neck, Gage mumbled. "I hope she looks like you."

"What makes you think it's a girl? As a matter of fact, and I hope you won't be disappointed but……" Lacy pulled back just enough to look into Gage's gleaming eyes. "I'm carrying this… our baby the same as I did with Derek and Sammy."

Gage grinned then winked. "Lacy, it's going to be a girl. I know it."

"That would be how? Did you… did the doctor tell you?"

A small laugh erupted from the writer. "No. I just feel it. And, besides when I was talking with her the other day… while you were sleeping, she told me."

"You talk with our….. daughter?"

Gage nodded. "Yep."

"And what did she have to say?"

"That her mother is the most beautiful woman in the world and…. we're going to be late if we don't hurry up." The blonde kissed Lacy passionately. Wet kisses exchanged between the two flamed a burning fire coupled with the excitement of the night's upcoming events. Breaking from the heated exchange, Gage panted. "Later."

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

Crowds of screaming people lined the long walkway as cameras flashed illuminating the night sky. Lacy and Gage briefly exchanged greeting with the other actors of the film before entering the theater.

"Gage, Lacy, over here." Mark directed them toward him. "Julie's already seated."

Lacy kissed Mark on the cheek before seeing Ryan White coming up from behind the tall businessman and producer. "Ryan? I'm glad you made it. Is everything okay?"

He hugged his star then said. "Yeah, Michael got started a little sooner than the rest of us. That's all." Ryan's brown eyes scanned the crowd of people.

"Looking for someone in particular?" Lacy quizzed.

"No.. yes." Seeing the movie mogul, Ron Griffen, the director excused himself. "I'll talk with you later."

"Lacy? You ready?" Gage asked.

Lacy watched Ryan hurry over to Ron Griffen. "Ahhh… yes." Taking Gage's hand, Lacy started to follow her partner but the hand on her shoulder stopped her. Twisting around, the sight before her shocked her.

"Hi! Surprised to see me?" The snake like charming smile spewed venom.

Gage was yanked back when Lacy stopped short. Jerking around, she hurriedly slipped back next to Lacy. "Tony. Is there something you want?"

Without looking at the blonde, he answered her. "Not from you." His next words were directed at the woman his dark eyes had never left and were burning a hole into before his demeanor suddenly switched producing a smirking grin. "Best of luck on your opening. From what I hear around town…. it's sure to nab a golden boy. At least, that would be my take on it if…… if I still had my old show." Tony Kussler crossed his arms. "That's right, you were the one who…."

"Tony, she had nothing to do with it." Gage inserted.

Still ignoring the blonde, he continued. "Oh, well, that was a long time ago."

"Tony, knock if off." Gage stated.

"It's okay, Gage." Lacy interrupted her partner then said to Tony. "Go on get it out."

"Yes, let me vent. After all, I've got a regular job now. It's a good thing inquiring minds want to know… so I get to fill that rag mag with the stories they know aren't true yet love to read. But, no hard feelings, right?"

Squeezing her partner's hand tightly, Lacy glared at him. "Tony, you're a little man." The entertainment reporter stood erect. "Oh, not your height but in your mind… in your heart. You always will be until you decide to take responsibility for your life and where you are presently." Flipping around without waiting for his reply, Lacy called. "Gage."

The taller and younger man walked up behind the stunned Tony. "You let her get away with that?"

Without even turning around, Tony spit out. "Shut up."

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

Gauging from the audience's reception, the movie was a huge success. After reading several reviews from critics, the partygoers were in full swing celebrating the triumph news about their movie.

Marva slinked over to Gage. Dragging her arm around the blonde like a fisherman's net, the over the top actress whispered. "Mmmmm… if it isn't my favorite writer."

"That's a change." Gage countered.

With a drink in one hand and the other holding a long cigarette, Marva leaned over in front of Gage to take a drag off of it. Exhaling, she said. "Change? Interesting. I've never tried that but…." She winked at the blonde before her craving hazel eyes raked over the blonde. "If you write it, I'll act it out."

Grasping the cigarette holding hand, Lacy intently removed it from around her woman. "Marva, you've got something that belongs to me."

"Damn, Lacy. We're old pals. We used to share everything." Marva exclaimed loudly.

"No, we didn't."

Marva smiled. "Maybe we should have. Coulda been fun." Swinging her arms wildly, the flamboyant actress sucked in a deep breath before giving an order to the man passing by her. "Waiter! Fill me up!"

The light haired waiter took her glass and gave her another champagne filled one. Gage slipped an arm around Lacy's waist. "Do you think she meant that literally?"

Before Lacy could answer, Shanti James arrived. "Marva! Maybe we should go?"

"Hell, Shanti… how old are you anyway? Can't keep up with your auntie?" The tipsy actress swayed slightly but found an anchor in Ben Thomason. "Come here, you man. You'll see to my needs, won't you?" She purred in his ear.

Smiling at his date for the evening, Ben calmly assured her. "It's okay. Shanti. Would you mind if I dance with your aunt?"

Marva shoved a hand up against his shoulder, knocking him back slightly. "Dance with me! You big beautiful hunk of a man." The tall woman ran a suggestive finger along his lapel. "If you dare?"

Shaking her head at her aunt's antics, Shanti shrugged to her escort. "Go ahead and dance with her at your own risk." Pausing only a moment to watch her date escort Marva to the nearby dance floor, Shanti turned to Lacy and Gage. "She's a pistol."

"And we love her in spite of it." Lacy added.

Noticing Shanti's glass was empty, Gage offered to refill it. "Be back in a bit."

Both woman watched Gage leave then the younger woman turned to Lacy. "That kind of love… the kind she has for you. One day I hope to find that, too."

"What about Ben?" Lacy asked.

Shanti glanced at him as he danced with her aunt. "Yes, he's nice and lots of fun. A really great guy." Without consciously thinking about it, her curious green eyes searched the room for someone.

Lacy took note of the redhead's diverted attention from the conversation. "Looking for anyone in particular?"

"Oh, no…. not really." Shanti summoned her full focus on Lacy. "It doesn't matter right now anyway. I'm…. can I tell you something?"

"Go on."

"I love acting really I do." Shanti admitted then revealed her secret dream. "What I love more is…. I'd love to make some documentaries. You know, about the world's problems… bringing awareness to the injustices of the world. Issues that really matter…. that kind of thing."

"What's stopping you?"

Shanti started to whip out her standard answer then hesitated. "Nothing actually. I was going to say funding… time. I'm not much good behind the camera. Though I am willing to learn."

"What would it take? The funding?" Curiosity piqued in the conscientious dark-haired woman.

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

Continued in Part 5.


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