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

Negotiating through the crowd with a drink in both hands, Gage was stopped by Mark Calico. "Gage? Over here."

"Hi, Mark. Where's Julie?"

"She's talking with Ryan, I think. Just a minute." Mark stepped around the corner and brought back with him his old college friend. "Gage, you remember Ron Griffen?"

Lifting her head slightly in acknowledgment, Gage greeted the older gentleman. "Hi. Yes, I do."

Griffen jutted out his hand. He retrieved it when he saw the blonde's hands full. "Two fisted drinker. My kind of woman."

Grinning, Gage thought. Not really. But, I know where my kind of woman is right now. She stood straight up trying to catch a glimpse of her kind of woman.

"Ron's got some….. Gage?" Mark waited as Gage returned her attention to them. "He's suggesting an all out campaign for the movie…. the whole gamut."

"Great. I'd love to see Lacy get the recognition she deserves." Gage readily agreed. "What'd we do?"

"I'll take care of everything." Ron patted his friend on the shoulder. "I know Hollywood like I know a great script….. all the ins and outs. There isn't a thing that gets past me in that town without me knowing about it."

Except the fact that your daughter's gay. "Great." Gage smiled. His bright fatherly eyes glowed as he looked over her shoulder. Great! She's behind me. I just know it. Without looking around, Gage greeted the redhead. "Hello Griff."

Griffen puffed on his smoky cigar before opening his arms wide. "Hello darling."

Hugging her father back, she said. "Daddy…. how'd you like our movie?"

"Darling, you've got the same instincts as your daddy." He turned to Mark. "She's the one who gave me the heads up about this film of yours…. that's why she wanted to work on the set." And, that's why I owe you this huge favor. Oh, well, it's gonna net a few Oscars for us…. especially with me promoting it to the academy members.

"Well, I've got to get going." Gage held up the drinks in her hands. "We'll talk later?"

"Sure, why not?" Griffen winked as he hooked his thumb in his vest. After Gage left, the older man turned to his friend, Mark. "She writes well enough… don't know what she's got that Lacy would leave David for."

"That's not the way it happened Ron…. and you know it." Mark corrected his friend and partner in distributing Lacy's movie.

"I don't know, daddy. She looks to me to have it all." Exactly what I'd like to have… all of her.

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

"Are you serious? That would be awesome." Shanti declared.

Seeing Julie Grant approach, Lacy finished her thoughts regarding the documentaries to Shanti. "Let me give it some thought. Okay?" Extending her hand to Julie, Lacy said. "Julie, you know Shanti James?"

"I do…. she was in one of my movies several years ago." The movie producer revealed.

Shanti's green eyes gleamed. "It was a bit part. I didn't think anyone noticed."

"I did and everyone will be wanting you after they see you in this film. You were great. I loved it. You too, Lacy." Julie teased her good friend.

"Thanks, Julie. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I heard you're getting married in England." Shanti said.

Before Julie answered, Gage walked up with the two drinks in hand. She handed the champagne to Shanti and a glass of water to Lacy. "Julie, you want something?"

"No, thank you." Turning back to the young actress, Julie asked. "We're having a little bachelorette party tomorrow night, why don't you join us?"

Shanti hesitated. "I… my aunt's staying with me."

With a dismissive wave, Julie welcomed another member to the party. "Bring her along."

"Okay. Thanks."

Sipping on her water, Lacy nearly choked. "Shanti, don't let her bring her own…." With a quick glance to Gage, Lacy finished. "….stripper."

Green eyes popped open and Gage squeaked. "Stripper?"

Julie started to count on her fingers. "If she does, then we'll have… what? You, me, Shanti and her aunt, a couple of my friends, some of the girls who worked on the movie and the…. stripper and…."

"Stripper?" Gage still couldn't get over this idea as Lacy assured her it was going to be a quiet affair.

"Great, Julie. Why don't you just invite everyone?" Lacy admonished her friend for what she hoped to be a small pre-wedding party that was now turning into a free for all.

"I did." Julie's guilt ridden eyes squinted. "Griff's coming, too."

Shocked blue eyes turned to Julie. "Griff?"

"Griff? Who cares about her? What about this stripper?" Gage insisted on an answer, wondering just who this stripper was.

Her question was answered when Marva wandered back to the small group with a handsome man on her arm. Twirling the well-built actor, Ben Thomason around, Marva asked. "Girls, isn't he a lovely specimen?"

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

"Does Stella have the telephone numbers where we can be reached?" Lacy clipped an earring on.

"She has our cell phone numbers." Gage mumbled as she walked around the bed and flopped down.

Dropping both arms to her side, Lacy sighed. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Gage dropped back on the bed. "Dani's still up and wants to see you before you leave. The boys are asleep already."

Lacy sat down next to her partner. "Did you give her Mark and Julie's numbers….."

"Yes! Stella's has all the numbers to reach us."

Lacy chewed a moment on her lower lip in contemplation of how to approach her frustrated lover. "Why don't you stop by later? After your party gets going."

Swinging doubtful eyes toward Lacy, Gage continued to pout.

"Sweetheart, I don't like it either…."

"I wish we'd of had the foresight to have these parties in the same hotel instead of clear across town."

Rubbing her lover's arm, Lacy laid down next to Gage. "We can stay home you know."

Gage turned toward her partner. "We can't." The blonde raised her arm and Lacy planted her head on Gage's shoulder. "I want you to have a good time but not…"

"Too good of a time. Right?" Lacy finished her partner's sentence.

Rolling her eyes, Gage smiled. "Yeah, right. Do you really think Marva will…"

"Who knows with her. Gage, sweetheart…." Lacy kissed her lover reassuring Gage of the love they had between each other. "….she could bring a million strippers…whoever and no one could divert my attention away from you."

"Really?"

"Really."

Turning on her side, Gage pulled Lacy closer. "It's not that… I mean, I'm not worried about no stripper…. Ben is kinda good looking and he's a nice guy, too. It's just that you're going to have so much more fun at your party then at the one for Mark. I'd rather be with you."

"You think I want you around all those men." Lacy's blue eyes flared carrying on a hint of jealous in them.

"It's just me and Mark, Griffen….."

"We have our own Griffen to contend with at our party." Lacy remembered that unpleasant thought.

"…. Boyd. You don't have one of those. I don't know how he garnished an invitation from Mark as it is."

"We don't want one either." Not having to work with Boyd Dietrich anymore was a blessing in disguise and both Gage and Lacy vowed never to work with him again.

"Ryan's a plus though and Michael." Gage looked at Lacy. "You think he's okay after last night?"

"I don't know. I talked with Ryan before we left the party. He's very concerned about him. He's never seen him drink that much before. Who else is supposed to be there?"

"Some people from his office… his VP and a few others like that. Oh, and Dash Grayson. Mark's brother-in-law." Gage concluded the list of invitees to Mark's bachelor party.

"That's right, his wife, Alexus is going to be at Julie's party." Lacy kissed Gage before she got up. "I'll go see Dani and you make sure Stella has everything she needs. Okay?"

"Okay." After Lacy stepped out the door, Gage reached for the telephone. "I'll just call Julie. A pregnant woman shouldn't be getting all excited with a stripper there. After all, it's not good for her health."

"For yours either." Gage jumped off the bed and dropped the phone before she looked up to see Stella standing in the doorway. "Lacy, said you wanted to see me."

Quickly hanging up the phone, Gage stilled her startled heart. "Yes…. you have the numbers to reach us and…"

Stella walked across the floor as Gage waited like a kid in trouble from a mother who was about to scold her. "She loves you, Gage. You've nothing to worry about….. not with that one."

As uncomfortable as Gage was sometimes around the children's nanny, she easily revealed her feelings. "I keep asking why."

"And?"

"And… I don't have an answer. Why she wants me? How I got so lucky with her… the kids? All the questions that plagued my life before Lacy… questions like…. would anyone want me or why am I so unlucky in….. never mind."

"You've always deserved the very best." Stella's caring green eyes looked fondly on the blonde sitting next to her.

"Yeah, well……." Feeling very reflective, Gage pried loose tightly held emotions. "Stella…. I'm sorry. You've been great with the kids and I know I've treated you sorta, well, bad at times."

"Nonsense. You wanted to make sure I was good for your children and you had every right to be wary of anyone that comes into your household." Stella tried desperately to ward off Gage's self-doubting and feelings of remorse.

"No, it wasn't right. Lacy tried to make me understand." Sucking a very deep breath, Gage traversed beyond her comfort zone with her next words. "And…. and, thank you for helping me years ago. You know, with my stuttering….. it changed my life. Without you…….."

Wrapping an arm around the blonde, Stella basked in the feeling that drove wave after wave of contentment and satisfaction throughout her body. "I should have told you I was leaving when you were being adopted. I didn't know it fell through or I would have been there for you. There's so many things I should have done differently." Unshed tears filled her eyes as she desperately clung to the blonde.

It was strange but Gage found comfort in this woman's arms.

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

"Mom? I don't suppose I could go with you?"

"Nope." Lacy tucked her twelve-year-old daughter in bed. "We won't be out late."

Dani pouted. "I'm not having any fun this trip. Christmas in England is nice, I guess, but I miss my friends at school. Too bad Jonathan couldn't come with us." Dani was referring to her cousin who was near her age.

"Denny and Crystal wanted him to spend Christmas with them. When we get back, we're going to have a Christmas at your grandparents. So, you'll have two of them. Why are you complaining anyway? Mark's grandfather can't travel for the wedding. Do you want to stay with your grandparents?"

"No." Dani shifted under the covers. "Everybody there is going to be either way older than me or lots younger."

Leaning down to kiss her daughter on the cheek, Lacy corrected her. "That's not true. Julie's daughter Jessie will be there. Mark's brother-in-law has a son. I think he's around your age. He'll be there for the wedding."

The young girl perked up. "Do you think he's cute?"

"Well, I've met his parents a couple of times and they're both very nice looking."

Dani snuggled further under the blankets as her mind drifted to thoughts of what this young boy looked like. Her thoughts only lasted a few moments on that subject as she remembered the very cute yet bothersome boy from school who always picked on her. You can't count on how cute they are. "Mom? Do you think he's nice?"

"I'm sure he is."

"I hope so." The young dark haired girl turned on her side and said out loud to herself. "He better not be obnoxious."

"Oh, get to sleep, Dani and don't worry about it. Tomorrow we'll go see all the Christmas lights in the city, okay?"

Dani nodded before falling off to sleep. Her night's dream would be filled with visions of the boy she detested.

Chapter Twenty

Julie's pre-wedding party was quite subdued considering Ben refused to come to the party as Marva's stripper escort. Shanti was much relieved since she really liked Ben as a friend. Her thoughts would often wander to another young man she met on the set of Lacy's movie. Maybe I can talk with Lacy about it. When her eyes roamed the room for the person in question, she saw Lacy engaged in a conversation with Julie and another woman with light hair.

"Alexus, it's nice to see you again."

"Please call me Lexi."

Julie waved over another guest who had just entered. "I'll be back in a minute."

"How's Gage? And, your children?" Lexi asked.

After taking a drink of her water, Lacy stepped back toward the couch. "Let me sit down a minute. Okay?" Lexi joined her on the couch. "Gage is hosting Mark's party and she's doing great. The kids are, too. You have a son…ahh…"

"Lane."

"I think you told me he's fourteen?"

Lexi sipped on her wine. "Thirteen."

"Good. Dani will be glad. She's worried about having someone her age to talk with. She's twelve now and her younger brothers who are six and two….. well, it will be nice to have someone she can talk to." Lacy leaned back against the couch trying to get comfortable.

"You okay?" Lacy nodded. "I remember being pregnant…. the last two months were misery. I could never get comfortable no matter what I did."

Stretching her neck, Lacy rubbed it. "It's not that bad yet. Having Gage… we were together when I was pregnant with Sammy. There couldn't be another person as devoted and caring as she was then and now. As a matter of fact, I wish she was here. My neck and shoulders are killing me."

"Do you want me to…"

"No. Thank you." Lacy shifted on the couch finally settling down. "I probably won't stay long. Besides, I'm going to pick up Gage at Mark's party later."

Lexi scanned the docile room full of people. "Do you think they're having as much fun as we are?"

"Probably."

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

"Probably." Gage answered Mark's question when he asked if the group at Julie's party was having as much fun as they were at his bachelor's party.

"Then they're just as bored as we are, huh?" Mark laughed.

"You know, Mark. We should have had both parties together. I miss her." Gage sighed.

"Me, too. Julie that is." Mark suddenly remembered the extra drink in his hand. "Oh, here."

Shaking her head, Gage took the alcoholic drink but sat it on the nearby end table. "I'm abstaining."

"What about at my wedding? You're supposed to make the toast." Mark argued.

Gage rolled her eyes. "Is there a requirement that I have to have an alcohol drink along with it?"

Sipping his wine glass, Mark nodded. "Nope."

Turning serious, Gage asked. "You sure you want me to, you know, instead of your brother-in-law?"

"Dash? No, you're my best… person." Mark winked at his friend. "Works out since Lacy is standing up for Julie and Dash and Lexi are going to be up there with us, too."

"He's nice. I like him."

Mark noticed Ron Griffen across the room trying to get his attention. "Yeah, Dash had his problems though and…. I'm just glad they're settling back in St. Troy. He needs stability in his life at the moment and Lexi provides that for him."

"What about Chance?" Gage referred to Mark's long time assistant. Ever since they found out that Dash Grayson was alive instead of presumably being dead for many years, Chance had dutifully remained by his former employer's side.

"He's staying with Dash as it should be. Tonight he's home with Lane who's sick." Mark filled his friend in regarding Chance Mallicoat.

When a wobbling Boyd passed by, Gage rolled her eyes. "Why in the world did you invite him?"

"That's easy. You see who he's been talking with all evening?"

Gage shook her head knowingly and replied. "Griffen."

"Exactly. Keeps both of them out of trouble and I don't have to spend all my time catering to either of them." Spotting the entrance of another guest, Mark excused himself.

Gage looked around the room at Michael and Ryan talking quietly then shifted her eyes to another group of people that worked for Mark at his company. Placing an elbow on the arm of her chair, the blonde leaned sideways. Her head flopped to the left, spying a glimpse of a very familiar person. Several people moved in front of Gage so she twisted around and scooted over the arm of her chair trying to see Mark's new guest. Jacking a knee up under her, Gage edged out further over the arm of the chair trying to see past Boyd and Griffen as they shifted in her direct line of sight.

"Gage?"

The unexpected sound of her name made her jerk causing her to precariously dangle over the arm's edge. Frozen in time for what seemed like an eternity, she saw Mark's legs along with another set move toward her. Desperately trying to right herself, Gage sucked in a balancing breath and fell forward over the edge of the chair's arm slamming onto the floor.

"Hey! You okay?" Ryan cupped a hand under her arm. "I didn't mean to scare you."

Flustered, Gage looked up past Mark to the stranger who grinned from ear to ear at her. "Still clumsy, I see. As I recall you fell for me once before."

Gage's eyelids slammed closed praying that it was all a bad dream. God… I can't believe this is happening. Opening her eyes slowly, Gage was lifted off the floor by Ryan.

"You…. know each other?" Mark asked.

Mitchell Stone stepped forward and took Gage's hand. Cupping it with his other hand, he held it and rubbed it gently. "Hello Gage." Mitch kissed her on the cheek as the Ryan and Mark stood by stunned at the intimate display before them.

Recovering, Gage greeted her old friend. "Mitch. How are you? I didn't know you knew Mark."

"I didn't know you knew Mark either." Mitch countered.

Not waiting for Mark to introduce him, Ryan extended his hand to the tall handsome man holding onto Gage's hand. "I'm Ryan White and you are……."

Reluctantly, Mitch shook Ryan's hand. "Mitchell Stone."

"He's my VP here in New York." Mark added.

Recapturing Gage's hand, Mitch gazed into her shell shocked green eyes and said. "I'm an old and good, very good friend of Gage here."

All the blonde could do was nod since she was caught in a vortex of memories that flooded her mind as she stared into the dark blue eyes of her six-foot ex-lover.

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

"What did Shanti want?" Julie quizzed her friend.

Lacy astutely revealed only a few nuggets of the conversation she had with the young actress. "She's interested in making some documentaries and…. finding a partner in the process." Lacy's blue eyes followed Shanti across the room where the young woman met up with her rival and suitor. What a volatile trio. I wonder if Ryan knows anything about this.

Lexi brought Lacy out of her musings when she announced. "Dash is here and since our son isn't feeling well I better get going."

"Lexi, if he's feeling any better why don't you join us. Gage and I are talking the kids around the city tomorrow with all the Christmas decorations and lights… I promised them we would before we left."

Dash Grayson stepped behind his wife and wrapped an arm over her shoulder. "Thank you…." After checking with his wife, he agreed to the invitation. "If he's feeling better, we'll give you a call." The small chuckled Dash expelled demanded the three women's attention. "Oh, I'm sorry…. it's…. our son might not be the only one not feeling well tomorrow. That's all."

"Why do you say that Dash?" Julie inquired.

He stole a hurried glance toward Lacy. "Maybe I shouldn't say anything… Gage seems to be having a…. very good time at Mark's party."

A cocked eyebrow shot up. "Really?" A surge of unexpected jealousy shook the dark haired woman's body for one brief moment. Unnoticeable to the rest, Lacy took stock of her emotions then added. "That's nice. I'm glad she's having a good time."

After Lexi and Dash left, Lacy made a beeline for her coat. "Julie, we'll talk tomorrow. Oh, when are you leaving for England?"

"Tomorrow. Mark has some things to take care of." She helped Lacy on with her coat. "Lacy, I'm sure everything is fine over there."

"Oh, I know. I trust her." Lacy realized she said that pestering thought out loud.

Walking her friend to the door, Julie asked. "Do you need a ride?"

"I've got a car waiting."

When Lacy turned to leave, Julie caught her arm. Giving one last look around the room, she saw Marva DuLaine playing hostess to a very attentive crowd. "I'll go with you. No one here's going to miss me."

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

Ryan nudged his producing friend. "You ever see her like this?"

Mark released a troubled sigh. "Nope."

With Mitchell Stone encouraging her, Gage gulped down the last drop out of her wine bottle. Jutting the bottle out in the air, she yelled. "Hey, Mark, you got anymore of these things?"

"Excuse me, Ryan. Maybe I should step in before…."

Mark froze when Ryan placed a hand on his shoulder and then nodded to the front door.

Being the only woman at Mark's bachelor party, Gage had felt out of place at first but was warming up to the gaiety and raunchy jokes some of the men were telling. When Mitch told one of his off color jokes Gage laughed so hard, she dropped to the floor grasping her side. Wrapping a strong arm around her waist, he helped her up and pulled her close.

An alcoholic haze shrouded her mind from thinking clearly. The only thing Gage was aware of was the soft soothing music playing in the background coupled with the sway of the strong body next to hers. She smiled allowing her totally relaxed body to mold against her dancing partner.

Seeing Lacy enter the room, Mark tracked her keen blue eyes immediately search and landed on her partner who was presently being easily guided around the room by her six-foot dance partner.

Mark torpedoed quickly toward her and his fiancée. He arrived too late as Lacy was on a mission herself, heading straight for her lover. Both Julie and Mark watched as Lacy tapped her finger on the tall man's shoulder.

Finally getting the handsome man's attention, Lacy declared. "Excuse me. You have something that belongs to me."

Gage's blonde head flopped around Mitch's arm. She squinted in a vain attempt to bring the hazy tall sleek form into focus. Blinking her green eyes several times, Gage grinned from ear to ear when she recognized her lover. "Lacy!" She practically screamed. "Hi! Wanna dance?"

Eyeing her partner who was still clinging to the man holding her, Lacy reckoned he was not about to relinquish the blonde in his arms. Gage swirled around in his arms but he refused to completely let go of her as his arms were wrapped loosely around her. "Come on, Lacy. Dance with me?" Gage held out her arms.

Cocking a hand on her hip, Lacy spat out sarcastically. "Are you into threesomes now?"

Gage hiccupped. "Huh?" Through squinted eyes, the blonde saw Lacy look past her to her friend. "Oh?" Swinging her head slightly around to the man holding her, she said. "Mitch, this is……." Gage turned back toward the younger woman. Looking at her partner again, Gage was lost in her lover's beauty. God is she beautiful. The drunken blonde blinked her eyes wide open again a few times trying to focus on Lacy. Something's not right. She looks… looks…… uh oh, she's pissed.

"Lacy! My name is Lacy." The dark haired woman fumed.

Swaying in Mitch's arm, Gage tried to stand on her own. "I know that."

Pointing at the man still holding her woman, Lacy demanded. "Does he?"

Mitch released one of his arms around his old friend offering a hand to Lacy. "Mitch Stone." Nodding at Gage, he revealed. "We're old friends."

A very menacing grin appeared on the younger woman's face. "Old friends or close friends?"

Mitch easily recognized the overt yet thinly veiled inquiry as to his relationship with the blonde he was holding. "Both." Pausing only a moment before he proffered his own inquiry to Lacy. "What are you to her?"

"Her? She belongs to me." There was no misunderstanding in Lacy's words as she staked her eternal claim on the inebriated blonde.

Gage smiled at Lacy then turned completely around to acknowledge the truth of lover's words to her old friend as she jerked her thumb over her shoulder at Lacy. "Yeah, I belong to her." When Gage turned back around, the person she belonged to mind, body, heart and soul was nowhere to be seen. Uh oh, I'm in trouble.

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

Dani along with Derek stood at the foot of their mother's bed. The young girl frowned at the lump still lying sound asleep in bed then turned to her mother and declared. "Then there's only one thing to do."

Derek nudged his sister and he saw her nod her head. "Yippee. Tickle fight." The six-year-old boy dove on the bed and was soon followed by his sister.

Once her two oldest kids swarmed over her partner, Lacy let Sammy down to join in the fray. Tangled up in the covers, Gage sprung awake as the three kids bombarded her. "Hey!" She yelled then suddenly grabbed her throbbing head. In a much softer voice, she whispered. "Oh, God, my head. Shhhh…."

Dani crawled over her and landed on Gage's right side as Derek took up residence directly on top of her. Both mercilessly tickled her beyond what even the most evil and vile person would call torture.

"Serves you right." Lacy climbed in bed next to her partner, pulling Sammy on her lap.

Fighting off the four tickling hands, Gage begged. "Okay, okay. Hey!" Gage gave Derek a mock glare when he pinched her. "Now, please…… pleeease stop."

"No." Relentlessly, Derek continued.

Dani cracked up at the suffering Gage was taking under their assault. "You made us miss our outing for the day. Come on, Derek more."

Balling her body up, Gage squirmed under their onslaught. "Lacy? Lacy, please have them stop. I give… anything. Please?"

"Anything?" Dani quizzed. "Hold on, Derek." Giving the blonde a short reprieve, the twelve-year-old girl found herself in a good bargaining position. "What do you have to offer us?"

"I'll buy breakfast." Postured for another attack, the two kids readied when Gage stopped them again. "Wait! What do you want?"

Leaning back, Dani mused. "Derek?" Getting her brother's undivided attention, Dani continued. "We'll need to think on this first?"

"I already know what I want." Derek declared.

Dani quickly whispered in his ear. "You can get that and…. more."

"Okay." Derek sat up on top of Gage.

Stella entered the bedroom and announced. "Room service is here." She walked over to the bed and gave Gage a disappointed look before taking Sammy from his mother's arms. "Dani, Derek, come on. I'm sure your mother wants to talk with her…. alone."

When the door to their room closed, Gage peeked up at Lacy. "Is everyone mad at me?"

"I'm not happy with you." Lacy said. "Dani and Derek think it's funny and Sammy thinks you stink."

Gage squeamishly sniffed herself. "He's right. How did I… who.."

"Ryan….. I asked him to bring you home."

Gage noticed Lacy was sitting next to her on the bed but they were not touching. Reluctantly, Gage asked. "You want to talk about it?" The blonde's memories of the events were distorted but not enough that she knew this would take some time for them to sort out.

"Not now but we will talk. What I'm going to do now is get some food."

Gage tried to sit up and not agitate her pounding head. "Guess I could eat some breakfast."

Lacy turned to her lover. "It's lunch and you need a shower more."

With those words, Lacy left Gage alone on the bed.

Chapter Twenty-One

When they arrived at Mark's grandfather's home, the whole household rushed around in orderly chaos preparing for Mark and Julie's wedding along with getting things ready for their Christmas celebration.

Samuel Calico greeted the woman he claimed as his granddaughter and her family. "Lacy, come here." He hugged the dark haired woman. "Your beauty graces my home and your presence illuminates an old man's heart."

"Why thank you, Sam. It's nice that someone cares." Lacy cast a quick glance to her partner whom she had nearly ignored the whole trip over. Lacy deliberately maintained a civil distance with her partner since unexpectedly finding out about Gage's ex-lover. She vowed to do so until they talked it out.

"And, looky here." The old man leaned forward to the child in Stella's arms. "Looks just like me." Samuel winked at Gage. Out of the corner of his dark blue eyes, the old man spied the young boy climbing on the staircase banister. "Derek!" Caught, the young boy slid off the banister slowly then heard the ninety-two year old man suggest. "If you're going play on it, go all the way to the top and slide down. It's fun."

"Samuel…don't encourage him." Gage admonished her 'adopted' grandfather.

Ignoring the blonde, the old man smiled at the woman holding his grandson. "Guess I'll have to introduce myself… my name's Samuel Calico welcome to my home and you are?"

Accepting the warm hand offered by the gentleman before her, the nanny introduced herself. "Stella Smith. I'm…."

"Family." Lacy interjected.

"You can never have enough family. Why don't we take my grandson and I'll show you around." Before Stella could answer, he took her arm and called to Derek. "Come with us son…. I've got some new ponies."

Sliding head first down the banister, Derek was caught just in time by his mother. "Thanks mom." He said before heading off with Samuel and Stella.

Lacy threw a sideways glance at Gage. "He gets that from you."

"Lacy, where's Dani?" The old man asked.

Lacy shrugged. "She saw Jessie as soon as we pulled up… who knows."

Before he disappeared with his small entourage, Samuel ordered his granddaughter. "Get the luggage and you make sure Lacy gets some rest after that long flight. I'll have some food sent up."

It seemed to Gage that everyone was against her at this point. "Yes sir." Grabbing two of the carry on bags, Gage followed Lacy up the stairs and to their room. Dropping the bags on the floor, Gage gently grasped her lover's arm and directed her to the bed. When it looked as if Lacy was going to protest, Gage said. "His orders."

Lacy watched Gage pick the bags back up and place them on the bottom of the bed. She started to unpack a few things sparing a few sad looks at Lacy. Feeling sorry for the way she was treating her partner, Lacy considered giving in. There was really only one thing that held Lacy back from fully making up with Gage over the incident at Mark's pre-wedding party. Lacy reasoned in her mind that if Gage would have revealed her past as she had encouraged the blonde to do so many times then it would not have floored Lacy upon the discovery of seeing Gage practically plastered to her tall and handsome ex-lover. Lacy was not happy with the way she handled herself. The jealousy surging through her body was nearly overwhelming and being pregnant with Gage's child only further allowed her emotions to rage out of control.

As if Gage could read her partner's mind, and with her own thoughts resonating with those of Lacy, she addressed it directly. "I'm sorry, Lacy. I know if I would have only… talked to you about my past……"

With open arms, she beckoned her lover. "Gage, come here."

Not even a nanosecond passed before Gage was in her lover's arms. "I love you."

"I know." The feeling of holding her lover soothed her soul. "Tell me about him."

Gage shifted her body up next to Lacy pulling her closer. "It was so long ago."

"Go on." Lacy was not about to let Gage off the hook.

"It was a mistake. We were more friends than…. lovers." Gage revealed as she sorted through the events of so many years ago. "It was after I looked for my mom and talked with Grace. Couple of years later. I met Mitch at a youth services facility. We worked together helping kids… boys that had gotten in trouble with the law."

Lacy stroked her lover's arm and leaned her head on Gage's shoulder. "Did you like it there?"

Gage shrugged. "Yeah…. it reminded me of things."

Raising her head, Lacy asked. "What kind of things?"

"Lacy, which story do you want the one where I was a wild teenager and got into a bit of trouble myself or the one about Mitch. I don't think I can do both." It was hard enough for the blonde to relive parts of her life and the taxing emotions welling up insider her now was nearing a frightening level.

Sensing her partner's overwhelming emotions rack her body, Lacy relented. "Tell me about Mitch and you."

"As I said, we worked together and got along great. We thought alike. Anyway, we worked on the same shift and so we started to hang out together. Going to ballgames, playing tennis… you know, that kind of thing." Gage rubbed her head and was relieved Lacy had allowed her a brief moment to compose herself. "One night we… found ourselves taking our friendship to another level. It was good….. sharing that part of yourself with someone who you knew cared about you. And, who knows how long we'd have been together until he asked me."

This was one time Lacy knew her partner needed prompting. "What did he ask you?" The younger woman kissed Gage's cheek before nuzzling up against the blonde's neck. When Gage remained silent, Lacy offered her own assumption about what he had asked her partner. "He asked you to marry him?"

"Yeah. I knew I wasn't in love with him. I loved him but… not like that."

"And, you figured you didn't deserve a family?"

Unconsciously, Gage's hand wandered to Lacy's stomach, rubbing it. "Correct. I broke up with Mitch, moved away and got another job. That's about the time I started writing."

Lacy placed her hand over Gage's as her lover continued to run her hand over her swollen belly. "The whole nine yards!"

"I had to. Mitch wanted a family and I couldn't give that to him. I knew he would pursue it and I would have eventually caved and regretted it the rest of my life." Gage brushed her lips against the dark haired woman's head. "He told me last week that he did marry but they never had any kids and blamed each other. Now, he's married… well, separated from his wife. You know the story Mark told us about with them."

Nodding, Lacy remained silent.

"That's it."

"And meeting him after all these years somehow drove you to drink?"

Covering her eyes with her hand, Gage squirmed under that direct question. "I've buried so much of my past that it…. seeing him unexpectedly. Mitch and I used to hit the bars a lot and I guess I flashed back to another time." Gage hooked a finger under her lover's chin, lifting her head. "Lacy, there's no excuse for my behavior that night. Mark had just brought me a drink I refused and put it down but then… he was there and it was handy and I…."

"Sweetheart, it's okay. I understand." Lacy grasped her lover's hand, intertwining their fingers.

"Do you? Do you really?"

"I think so." Lacy kissed her lover deeply willing all the love she had for Gage in that kiss.

Praying the conversation had ended, Gage released a heavy sigh and then it happened. Lacy asked one more question.

"Anyone else I should know about?"

Gage shivered at the question her lover asked as an uneasy rumbling stirred in her in the darkest, deepest part of her memory. A distant recollection tried to scratch its way to the surface bringing with it an overwhelming and crippling pain so great that Gage pushed the dark remembrance back. Bolting the door to the secret that was so dark and profound, it had changed her life drastically. The lock and chain she applied so many years ago to restrain this memory from every reaching her conscious state now laid dormant again as Gage tossed the key away for good and prayed it would never return. Her simple answer did not put to rest the uneasy feeling that still hung in the air between Gage and her lover. "No."

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

For a small wedding, Samuel Calico spared no expense. At one point, Mark swore to Gage that there were more servants than there were guests. The wedding was beautiful and everything came off without a hitch. At the wedding reception, Gage made the customary toast and the newlyweds led the first dance.

Dani was sitting next to her mother at the table when she quite unexpectedly caught sight of a young boy on the dance floor. "Mom!"

"What? What is it?" Lacy asked quickly.

Pointing at the young blonde headed boy, Dani gulped. "That's him."

Blue eyes spotted a handsome young man dancing with Jessie. "Lane?"

Dani nodded. "He's the one from my school…. you know."

"Oh, he's the boy that likes you." Lacy said.

"Bothers me." Dani corrected her mother. "How did you know his name?" The young girl was careful never to mention his name as the kids at school made fun of it and she wouldn't have been able to stand it had her mom done the same. I don't know why I'd ever thought that…. she married someone named Gage.

"Honey, that's Dash and Lexi's son." Then it dawned on her. "You know, they moved to St. Troy that summer. I thought he was older than you."

"He is. He had his birthday right before school break for Christmas." Dani supplied easily.

"What color are his eyes?"

Without hesitation, Dani answered. "Green."

"Hmmm… like his mom's." An arched eyebrow to her daughter sent an unspoken knowing.

It was then Dani realized she revealed her hand. "Oh, okay. He's like kinda cute. Don't you think?"

Lacy winked and hugged her daughter. "I do. Why don't you dance with him?"

Dani nodded to the couple on the dance floor. "He likes older women." Even though Lane Grayson was three years younger than the sixteen-year-old Jessie, he was taller. "Besides, he's obnoxious."

"Why do you say that?"

Dani threw her mother a perturbed look. "He thinks I like him."

"And, you don't?" Lacy noticed Dani's eyes never left the young boy as he danced across the floor.

"I didn't say that." Dani shrugged as if she didn't care. "I just don't want him to think I do." After one song ended and another tune started, Dani noticed the couple continued to dance. Seeing her brother run across the dance floor only to drop down on his knees and slide over the hardwood floor, Dani took the opportunity that presented itself. She looked at her mother. "I guess I'll have to go and show him some social skills."

Lacy smiled as she watched Dani finally convince Derek to dance with her. She could tell he wasn't happy with the suggestion to dance but Dani must have made it worth his while as he quickly fell into step.

Still chomping on some ice, Gage sat down next to her partner and asked. "What's going on?"

"Oh, the complicated mating rituals of teenagers and the games they play."

Taking her lover's hand, Gage said. "I don't think we ever stop playing those games." Standing up, Gage tugged on her partner. "Come on, dance with me."

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

"Yellwhoa." Sammy kept saying all the while with a frown on his face. "Want yellwhoa."

"Where's your mother when I need her?" Gage asked the young boy who was not satisfied with his numerous Christmas gifts. "Look, Sammy, here see…." Gage pounded the keys on the small toy piano.

"No!" He pushed it away. "Want yellwhoa."

Gage rolled her eyes as he refused three more brand new toys.

Derek came running in the room. Panting, he shoved out the toy Sammy

greedily claimed. "Here. He wants this."

"His yellow duck. The one you gave him." Scanning an array of toys around them, Gage smiled. "Of course."

Derek shrugged before he plopped down next to Gage. "He likes it."

"What about you? You like what you got this year?"

Nodding, Derek laid down as he collected all of the cars and lined them up next to his new racetrack. "Wanna race? You can have the blue or red one. Sammy?" Derek held up a yellow racecar. "Here's yours." When Sammy grabbed at it, Derek yanked it back. "No. You have to race it."

Gage watched the young boy line up three cars on the track after she pointed to the blue car. Flipping a switch, the three cars raced down the track's slope with the purple racecar coming in first.

"That one's mine." Gage teased.

"I don't think so." Derek scooted over so he could get better access to his other toys. "Gage?"

"Mmmmm….."

"How are we going to get all of our stuff home?" Derek pursed his lips when he remembered about the toys his father got him during his visit last summer. David made Derek leave his toys so when he came back the young boy would have something to play with. That idea did not sit well with Derek and he didn't want to leave his Christmas gifts.

The blonde flipped her head from one side of the room to the other taking in the numerous toys strung across the floor. "Guess we'll have to rent a whole other plane for this load." All the new toys and stuff would join the new computer Dani had waiting at home.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Within a few weeks of returning to St. Troy, the couple and their kids settled into their daily routine life. Dani and Derek were back in school while Gage wrote in the mornings and Lacy took care of Sammy.

The writer saved the last scene she had written on the computer when the telephone rang. "Hello."

"Hi, Gage."

"Mark! You back from your honeymoon?" Gage pulled the disk from her computer and jammed it in the folder with her story notes.

Mark and his new bride honeymooned in Europe while Julie's kids stayed with Samuel Calico in England. "Yes."

Gage could hear the smile on his face as he answered. "And?"

"And…. none of your business." He laughed. "Now it's back to business and promoting Lacy's movie. Have you kept up with the numbers?"

The writer turned off her laptop and shoved it aside. "Actually… no."

"Griffen has…. and they are phenomenal especially considering the dire predictions of those so-called Hollywood experts who called for a dismal demise."

Leaning back in her leather chair, Gage stuck a foot on the desk. "You mean considering that Lacy and I are together and they thought the public would stay away in droves."

"Maybe." Mark conceded. "That's not the case. Now, we've got the big push for the Oscars."

Dropping her foot to the floor, Gage came forward in her chair. She pushed the speakerphone button then cradled the handset. "Mark, listen, I don't understand all of politics with promoting this movie but…. if we're going to spend millions of dollars than I want it for Lacy."

A silent pause met the blonde for a brief moment. "To tell you the truth, this is new for me, too. Although Julie's a big help with how things work out there and, of course, Griffen's about to wet his pants over how well our movie's doing. While we'll definitely be taking out ads for Lacy's performance, it's the whole package we want to sell."

Gage realized she wasn't the only person directing this endeavor and many others had a stake in the ultimate overall success of the movie. "I understand. She's the one that deserves it though. She's the one that brought them in the theater and then her performance kept bringing the people back."

"Gotcha." Knowing it would be fruitless to talk about his plans on promoting Gage's writing skills, Mark asked. "She around?"

Before Gage could answer, Lacy made herself known as she walked though the door. "She is." Lacy walked around Gage's desk and sat on top of it right in front of her lover. Sliding her hands along her partner's thighs, Gage scooted closer.

"Hi, Lacy. Julie says hi, too. I was just telling Gage about our plans to promote the movie."

"Yes, I know. Julie and I talked earlier today." Lacy ran her fingers through Gage's short hair. "I bet I know more about it then you've already told Gage."

"Probably." Mark admitted. "I know you didn't want to do much publicity before the movie came out but……"

Gage interrupted her friend. "Mark! She's seven and half months pregnant." The blonde leaned in and kissed her partner's stomach.

"Oh, okay. I told Griffen I'd ask." Mark said. "Anything else before I go?"

"Two things." Lacy quickly said. "How's Mitch?"

Realizing what Lacy was really asking, he stumbled. "I… he's still separated and asked for your number."

"Give it to him." Lacy brushed her lips against her partner's lips. "It won't do him any good." She concluded causing Gage to smile.

"I'm not sure that's the reason he wants it." Mark hesitated. "I think he just needs to talk."

Gage finally broke away from the kiss. "It's okay, Mark. I'll give him a call…. later."

Nodding, Mark continued. "And the other thing, Lacy?"

"How would you like to donate…. say, a few million or so to a good cause?"

The philanthropist smiled before responding. "Exactly how much are you hitting me up for?"

"I need to talk with Gage first and we're going to need a small movie theater built here."

Mark knew he would readily agree to whatever either Gage or Lacy requested of him. "Okay, how ever much you want. One favor though."

"That is?"

"Keep my name off of it." Mark stated seriously.

Gage answered for her partner while her eyes searched and found her favorite book located on the edge of her desk. "Absolutely. I understand."

"Should I just send you a blank check, Lacy?" He chuckled.

"That would be nice but I need to sort some things out first." Lacy tracked her lover's eyes to where they landed and she picked up the book.

"Goodbye then. Talk with you later."

"Bye." Simultaneously, they bid their farewell before Gage punched the phone off.

Holding the book in her hand, Lacy asked. "Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal. Is there a secret I should know about? Between you and Mark?"

Closing her fingers over Lacy's as she held the book, Gage winked. "Read it then we'll talk about it. Okay?" The partner agreed with the nod of her head so Gage asked. "What's on your mind?"

Wanting her partner's full attention, Lacy placed the book back on the desk. "You remember I told you about Shanti and her idea of bringing the world's problems to the forefront?" Gage nodded. "Since she's not familiar with the things that go on behind the camera, she needed a partner and found one… actually, two."

"Okay. And?"

"It takes money. With Mark helping and…. us….." Lacy stared intently into her lover's eyes searching for any disagreement with her plan. Finding only undying love, she continued. "Most of it will be filmed on locations but they'll need a place to edit and loop the film."

"And, the studio we talked about building here for making your movies would work just as well for them."

Leaning her head against Gage's temple, Lacy once again nodded. "Precisely."

"By the way, who are 'them'? Besides Shanti, I mean."

"Michael Jessop."

"Good choice. Who else?"

"You don't want to know."

"Yes, I do."

"Griff."

"No, I don't." Gage sighed. "That's quite a threesome."

"In more ways than you know."

Green eyes popped open. "What?"

"Not like that exactly. You see, Shanti likes Michael and Michael likes Griff…"

"Figures." Realization dawned on the blonde. "And, Griff is after Shanti."

"A vicious circle." Lacy concluded. Gage let out a small laugh prompting Lacy to ask. "What?"

"You know, Lacy, somehow, someway we'll end up right in the middle of it." Gage's astute words rang true.

"I'm used to trouble." Lacy declared. "I married you, didn't I?"

Before Gage could argue, the demanding lips of her lover trapped her mouth.

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

Gage picked up Derek at kindergarten and they stopped by the ice cream parlor before heading home. "Mom's gonna be mad because we didn't bring her anything. Sammy, too."

Glaring at the young boy, Gage off-handedly said. "We don't have to tell her everything, you know. Besides, Sammy was taking a nap when I left."

"Okay by me. Can we stop there tomorrow, too?" Derek bit into his cone.

Uh oh! "We'll see. How was school today?"

"Fine for school." Pursed his lips to answer her but when he remembered seeing his older sister on the playground, an impish smile sprang onto his face. "Dani's got a boyfriend."

"Really….. who is it?" Gage had a fairly good idea after Lacy told her about Dash's son being the schoolmate Dani had problems with earlier in the fall semester.

"That kid we met over at grandpa's place."

"Lane Grayson you mean."

"Lane, Blaine…. insane!!" Derek declared.

Jacking her head over toward Derek, Gage asked. "Where'd you hear that?"

"Dani's friend Katie."

Gage remembered the little blonde headed girl that stayed overnight for Dani's birthday party. As she recalled, the young girl was quite taken with herself. "She's jealous, huh?"

He rolled his gray eyes and then said sarcastically. "I don't know what's the big deal. He can't even throw a ball straight. Throws like a girl."

This attitude was unusual for the young boy. "Derek?" Gage slowed the jeep to a full stop after she turned onto their private drive. Twisting around to get his full attention, Gage said. "That's a little bit judgmental, don't you think?"

"No." He said without giving it a second thought.

"And, why not?"

He shrugged. "Don't even know what that means."

"Okay. First of all, just because someone throws a ball a certain way that doesn't…. maybe he's not had someone to practice with him." Gage knew that Lane Grayson was raised without a father for most of his life until Dash was reunited with his family less than two years ago. "And saying he throws like a girl indicates……"

"That he's a sissy." Derek proclaimed.

"No, it does not young man." Gage was slowly losing her patience. "Where'd all this come from, Derek?"

Polishing off his cone, Derek shrugged again. "That's what dad said." Facing Gage, his face brightened in blissful delight and he declared. "I don't throw like that anymore."

Now I know where all this originates. After they returned home, Dani, Derek and Stella flew to Los Angeles for a long weekend so the kids could spend part of their Christmas holiday with their father. Once again, after Derek's return it took both Lacy and Gage a few days to sort through the young boy's unpredictable behavior. Gage first noticed the pattern because she had worked with problem kids as a youth specialist while working her way through college. "No, you're right. You throw pretty darn straight. Did your dad teach you that when he got that ball and glove for you?"

"Yes." Derek frowned. "No. Mason did. But, dad was there."

Gage had not met Mason Stiles who worked for David Levine. "Mason? What does he do for your dad?"

"Butlering for the boss. That's dad." Derek said proudly.

After Lacy's long talk with her ex-husband, David was actually trying to be more supportive of his oldest son. The verdict was still out as to whether this was a good thing or not. While Derek's relationship with his father had become somewhat closer, the boy's behavior after spending some time with his dad was on the negative side. Whoa! We have got way off track here. I need to talk with Lacy. "So, Dani's got a boyfriend?"

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

That night after supper the family was sitting in the living room watching the television. Dani finished her homework and gave it to Lacy who put down the book she was reading. Derek's eyes were glued to the animal channel's show on tigers. When Dani punched the remote, Derek yelled. "Hey. Turn that back."

"I wanna see what's on." She flipped through the channels stopping only when she spied a rerun of her mom's old TV show. "Mom? It's you."

"Now, turn it back." Derek whined.

"No, let's watch mom." When Derek grabbed for the remote, Dani rolled over and eluded his attempt.

The young boy stood up and walked over to his mother all they while glancing back at his sister. "Mom? Did you know Dani's got a boyfriend?"

Jumping up, Dani rebuked his claim. "I do not!"

"Yes, you do." Derek said then teased her in a singsong voice. "Lane's insane for Dani's panties."

"Derek! Stop that now!" The outraged young girl on the verge of being a teenager declared.

"That's what Katie said." He shrugged his shoulders dismissing his sister's outburst.

"Katie said that!" Dani fumed as Derek repeated the chant.

It irritated her to no end when Sammy's echoed his older brother while clapping. "Lane sane Dani panty."

"Stop that, Sammy." Cocking both hands on her hips, Dani blue eyes seethed in anger. "Mom!"

Laying Dani's homework aside, Lacy picked up her son and gave him one of his toys. "Here. Play with this, Sammy." It only took a few seconds for her to divert his attention from Dani's dilemma to his new toy. Lifting her son to Gage, Lacy said. "Here you go."

"Okay." Gage accepted him, settling Sammy on her lap. When Derek started up with the offending chant again, Gage shot him a hard look. "Come on, Derek. It's time for bed. Let's go find Stella. I'm tired, too."

Derek skipped out after the blonde and his brother.

Gage had informed Lacy about what Derek revealed to her so she had intended to talk with her daughter after the younger kids went to bed but now was as good a time as any. "Wanna tell me about what's been going on at school?"

Dani plopped down next to her mother and crossed her arms. "I thought she was my friend."

"Dani, maybe Derek heard it wrong. You should ask her before you come to any conclusions." Lacy brushed back her daughter's dark bangs. "Want to tell me about Lane?"

"Like what'dya want to know?"

"Like…" She emphasized the word then proceeded. "…. I know you like him. Have things changed since you two became friends over the Christmas break?"

"He's like different now… back at school. I actually was beginning to like him… as a person, I mean. Not like a boyfriend." She tried to explain the change in her classmate. When they were in England for the wedding, Lane and Dani became friends burying their playful animosity that existed in the fall semester.

"No! No, not like a boyfriend." Lacy attempted not to laugh.

"Mom!" Dani rolled her eyes. "When it was just the two of us…. over there, he was really nice. Now that we're back at school… well, it's like he's back to his old self. Making jokes, teasing me….."

"Showing off in front of his friends." Lacy concluded.

"Exactly." Dani perked up, realizing that was precisely what Lane was doing. "Katie, on the other hand, is dead."

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

"You asleep?"

Stretching, Gage yawned. "No."

"Sweetheart, are you okay? You've been so tired lately." Lacy felt her partner's forehead searching for a fever.

"Come here." Pulling Lacy up against her, Gage snuggled closer and buried her sleepy head against her lover's chest. Gage barely etched out her question. "How's Dani?"

The younger woman ran her hand down Gage's arm and kissed her lover's head. "I think she's settled down….. I wouldn't want to be Katie tomorrow." Lacy mused then said. "You know, sweetheart, this is only the beginning. I remember when I first discovered boys."

Propping her tired head up slightly, Gage grunted. "Huh? Boys."

"Yes, boys. But, that was way before I discovered how much fun girls could be." Expecting some kind of reaction from her lover, Lacy was surprised when it didn't come. Twisting her head to see Gage's face, Lacy found her fast asleep.

Chapter Twenty-Three

With all the buzz around Hollywood regarding the media blitz promoting Lacy's movie, Tony Kussler was livid. He had called a meeting with his cohort in crime and as usual Blade was late. After discussing their tentative plans on the phone, Tony wanted to finalize it in person.

Tony's career was floundering steadily. He hated trashing for the rag mag and desperately wanted something legitimate. After all, Tony was in it for the long haul not just to make a few bucks before going off to do something else with his life. This was not the way he had planned his career. By now, he should have been at the top of his game. Mulling over his dismal career, Tony gulped down his fourth beer and chased it with a shot of whiskey.

"Hey! You might want to ease up on that those." Koda slid into the booth. "How's it going?"

Through blood shot eyes, Tony spat back at his long time drinking and girl-chasing buddy. "Like hell. Everywhere you go plastered up bigger than fuckin' life is the queen of mean."

Dismissing his friend's nasty comments, Koda shrugged. "It's a good flick and you have to admit she's great in it."

The near drunken man spewed. "You queer for her, too."

Koda chuckled. "If that's what it takes." His joke brought a disgusted look from Tony. "Hey, it's not that bad. Come on, old buddy."

"Yeah, well, your career didn't take a nose dive after that… bitch sunk mine."

"Tony, I'm your friend…… but, the truth of it is that you asked for it."

The vindictive man fell back against the booth. "Well, you son-of-a bitch….. friend?

"Listen, I've got something for you, Tony. You remember, Leslie….. we dated for a while."

"You mean fucked." Tony corrected his friend.

"Whatever. We're still friendly and she told me there's an opening on that entertainment magazine she works for. I put in a good word for you and as a favor to me……. she's giving you a chance."

Flagging down a waitress, Tony ordered himself another round. "It's legit?"

"Absolutely." If nothing else, Koda was a faithful friend. He would always remember the big write up Tony gave him when his career was just starting. It was that favorable plug that vaulted him to the limelight of the world. And, with Koda's dashing good looks, the American public was immediately enthralled. "Listen, I gotta go. I have an early morning call." Handing him Leslie's card, he finished his drink and said. "I told her you'd call tomorrow."

With that, Koda left leaving Tony staring intently at the name and phone number on the business card. "Maybe this changes things."

"What'd ya say?" Blade didn't quite pick up Tony's mumbling.

Drawing his eyes up from the card, Tony tried to focus on the man before him. "You're here."

"And ready." Blade spared a quick glance around the room. "We set?"

"There's been a change in plans." Tony announced unexpectedly.

Nearly spilling the beer he was about to sip, Blade yelped. "What? Get real."

"It's off… the whole thing." Glancing at the card in his hand once again, Tony ordered. "It's over."

Blade fiercely countered the order. "Everything's already set. No backing out now…. not at this late date."

"Shut up. You'll get your money." He barked.

"You think this is only about money. It's a matter of pride." Blade was seething. "You let that bitch do what she did to you and you just roll over." The young man leaned across the table grabbing Tony by the collar. Something he would never had done if his comrade had not been drunk. "It ain't over."

Jerking Blade's hand off of him, the inebriated man steadied his resolve. "I guess you didn't hear me….I said it's off…… for now, at least." It was a stupid plan at best anyway, Tony reasoned and if hadn't felt desperate and encouraged by Blade's evil sense of justice, he would have never even considered the idea. Tony straightened his tie and suit coat, gathered his thoughts and somehow walked purposely out of the bar.

Blade deliberately glared at the back of the man who provided him the means to satiate his innate and malevolent desires. The money Tony supplied for Blade's services paid for his booze, and also kept him from having to get a real job. As the last faint shadow of Tony's form disappeared, an evil grin smirked across his face. "You're a pussy, Tony… through and through. It's good one of us has the balls to finish the job."

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

Meanwhile back in St. Troy, Lacy desperately was trying to get rid of Gage. "Sweetheart, why don't you take the boys and go out for some ice cream or something?"

Gage propped her head up under her arm at the kitchen table. "No. Sammy's dropped his last cone in my jeep."

Sliding her hands over Gage's shoulders, Lacy said. "I thought you had a way of not letting that get to you."

"Lacy, it only works the first ten times. He does it on purpose."

She leaned down and kissed her partner's blonde head. "It's not like he can get the ice cream all by himself. You could fix them some here instead."

Turning her head around, Gage countered. "But, they have the best ice cream in the city and I love the rocky road they have."

"Just what I thought."

"What?"

"You're using our sons as an excuse just so you can have your ice cream."

Pouting, Gage flipped back around and returned her fist under her chin.

When her lover refused to budge, she tried another tactic. "Would you go and get some for me?"

"Are you trying to get rid of me?"

"Who me? No. What makes you say that?"

Gage shoved the chair back and stood. "Let's see, taking the boys and get ice cream was only one of the requests you made of me this morning and all of them would have gotten me out of the house." Mumbling, Gage continued. "The one request I wished you'd make is… well, it's a moot point at this stage."

Swinging around, Lacy faced her lover. "So, what stopped you from suggesting it yourself?" Lacy followed Gage's eyes to her swollen stomach. "Oh! That request."

"It's my birthday. You'd think I'd get my way one day out of the year." The blonde said more to herself as she sat down again. "Mark can't be here and…"

"He couldn't help it. He had to fly to England to see to his sick grandfather."

"Which I'm sure Samuel is just faking. He'd do anything to have Mark around."

Lightly smacking her partner upside the head, Lacy admonished Gage. "Stop it. You know that's not true. You're just feeling sorry for yourself since you can't have a birthday party." If I could get you out of the house for awhile though……

"I don't want one."

Sure you don't.

Stella rushed into the kitchen and didn't see Gage sitting at the table. "Lacy, I've got everything….. oh, hello, Gage. I thought…"

"Well, you thought wrong. I'm still here and I'm too tired to go anywhere that is until I take Lacy to her doctor's appointment." Gage concluded.

Lacy's plan for Gage's surprise birthday party was falling apart. She had some last minute details to go over with Stella and wanted Gage out of the house. Her plan also included that while she was with Gage at her afternoon doctor's appointment, Lacy's family would arrive for the party. Now, Gage was being the stubborn mule that single-handedly halted her plans.

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

"What's the verdict?" Lacy asked.

Dr. Kinney took off her glasses and announced. "She's still anemic."

Blue eyes turned to her partner. "That's why you've been so tired. You haven't been taking your iron pills or vitamins, have you?"

Ignoring Lacy, the blonde frowned at the doctor. "This isn't about me. How's Lacy… and the baby?"

Turning her partner back toward her, Lacy claimed responsibility of Gage's conditions. "I'm sorry. I should have made sure……"

"Lacy, its no big deal. I promise from now on I won't miss a single one of those big awful pills." Her face contorted at that idea. Gage hated taking pills and did everything she could to avoid them.

"Lacy's fine and so is the baby." The doctor declared. It was late afternoon and this was her last appointment for the day. "Just one more month to go. I'll see you next week?" After Lacy nodded, the doctor left them alone for a few moments.

"From now on, I'm making it my number one priority to make sure you take your pills."

Gage's shoulders dropped in frustration. "Lacy! I'm not a baby."

A disbelieving arched eyebrow met the blonde's proclamation. "Gimme."

"What?"

"The keys. I'm driving home." Lacy ordered. "Gage…. sweetheart, I just want us to get home in one piece without hearing you whine about Benton's Pass one more time."

Relinquishing the keys to Lacy, Gage followed her out of the office. "I may have complained a bit…"

"Bitched." Lacy corrected her.

"Anyway, but I'm a very careful driver."

As Gage opened the car door for her, Lacy offered her last comment on the subject. "Yes, you are. That's why we had six cars behind us because you were going so slow and when that guy passed us…. he nearly hit the oncoming vehicle."

"Hey, he didn't have to be in such a rush and that other guy in the black car was going way too fast."

"Gage! Get in."

The placated blonde did as she was instructed then with crossed arms proceeded to pout.

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

The first few miles of their journey were spent in silence. Lacy tossed a few side-glances at her partner to ascertain if she was really upset. Gage did not make a good passenger. Wait till we get home and find everyone waiting for her birthday. That will knock that frown off her face.

Gage found everything around her more interesting to look at while deliberately ignoring the dark haired woman driving her car. She noted the evergreens against numerous bare trees along the countryside as she drove by. The weather for February was considerably mild. After Lacy passed a side road along their path, Gage glanced in her passenger's side view mirror seeing a dark car pull out behind them. The only reason it caught her attention was that it looked similar to the sports car that nearly collided with the vehicle on their way to the doctor's office.

As Lacy approached the sharp curve at Benton's Pass, she slowed the jeep to a reasonable safe speed. Sparing one brief moment to gaze at her partner, Lacy didn't notice the car eating up the highway behind her. Feeling familiar eyes staring at her, Gage turned her head to meet Lacy's smiling eyes causing a reluctant smile to find its way on the blonde's face.

Suddenly the jeep bolted forward after being nudged by the black car behind them. "Hey!" Turning around sharply in her seat, Gage yelled. Again, the car bumped into their jeep. "Lacy, pull over!"

"I can't."

Turning back around, Gage knew why Lacy couldn't do as she requested as the curve offered no leeway to do so. Twisting back, Gage saw the car approaching for another jolt. "Hold on. That son-of-a-bitch."

The black car hit hard making the jeep skips sideways. Lacy jammed the gas pedal to the floor in an attempt to away from the attacking car. Her steady driving negotiated the curve. Fortunately, there was no on-coming traffic. However, the black menace was not to be denied. Desperately, Lacy searched for a place to take refuge from the maniac driver behind them.

Speeding up alongside the jeep, the driver of the black sports car rammed the jeep one last time propelling it off the side of the road. Steeling herself as the jeep flew over the curb of the road, they hit the bottom of ditch with a crashing thud.

As her head slammed to the side and hit the glass of the door, the straining against her stomach from the seat belt stopped her forward progress. Blood spilled from her forehead. Upon impact both Lacy and Gage's air bags deployed but the sudden stop jousted them around mercilessly.

The driver of the sports car never looked back intent only on getting as far away as possible.

Gage was the first to come around having only lost consciousness for a few seconds. Her ribs where the seat belt rode ached. She could only muster a few shallow breaths as all of her attention zeroed in on her lover. "Lacy? Lacy!" Lighting shaking the unconscious woman's shoulder, fear overcame the blonde. "God!" Gage dug deep in her pocket cutting away the seatbelt. She was able to undo Lacy's belt from the buckle but Lacy would still not wake up. Grabbing her cell phone, Gage punched in a few numbers.

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

From the driver's side of the car, Gage soaked up the blood spilling from Lacy's forehead all the while trying to bring the pregnant woman around. Thankfully she heard a siren in the distant. "Lacy, come on. God, Lacy…. please." The cry in her voice echoed her desperation.

Flickering her eyelids a few times, Lacy focused her eyes on Gage. "Sweetheart….."

"Oh, God, baby…. thank God" The blonde cupped her partner's face and kissed Lacy. "Thank God, you're awake. Hold on, Lacy. The ambulance should be here any minute."

"Gage?" Came the weak response from Lacy. "It hurts… so bad."

Carefully wrapping her lover in her arms as she nestled Lacy's head against her, Gage whispered in her partner's ear. "I know, baby… I know. It'll be okay. Everything will be okay. Promise me, Lacy." Gage felt a very slight nod of her lover's head against her.

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

Scrambling to get the bleeding pregnant woman to the emergency room, the attendants acquiesced that Gage would not leave Lacy's side. The blonde did take a few moments to call home and advised Stella about the accident and that they were en route to the emergency room. As most of Lacy's family had arrived for the party, they quickly made their own rushed journey to the hospital.

While one ER doctor assessed Lacy's head laceration, Dr. Norton propped the pregnant woman's legs up for a quick 'look see'. Lacy screamed and clutched her stomach. He spotted the fetal heart monitor that a nurse had just attached. The alarm sounded loudly as everyone watched the baby's heart rate quickly accelerate.

The Dr. Norton glanced toward Gage. "The baby's in distress." Directing the rest of his staff, he ordered. "Set her up. We're going to have to take the baby." The well-oiled emergency team sprang into action. Dr. Norton's eyes never left the heart monitor as the baby's heartbeat started to slow. "Stat!"

In shock, Gage shouted. "What? What's going on?"

A nearby nurse escorted her partially out of the emergency room as she explained what was happening to Lacy. "They're going to do a C-section. The baby's not in the right position for a vaginal delivery."

Gage jumped when she heard Lacy scream. Jerking away from the nurse, the blonde rushed back to her lover. "Why is she in so much pain?"

Nurse Sheila yanked the panicked blonde back around. "The placenta is separating from the uterine wall… hopefully, it's just a partial abruptio placenta."

Stunned, Gage stared off into space and barely heard Stella and Lacy's mom approach. Gage started to fidget again as her eyes returned in the direction to where her partner had been rolled out and into the nearby elevator.

"We need to take care of your injuries." The nurse insisted.

Gage shoved back the nurse's arm. "She needs me."

It took the nurse, Stella and Lynn to hold Gage back. It was only when Dr. Kinney arrived that Gage was able to temporarily come out of the shock haze she was under.

"Gage?" Dr. Kinney requested the blonde's full attention. "Wait here. I'll see what's going on and I promise, I'll be right back.

"Doctor…. she needs help herself." The nurse inserted regarding her own patient.

Gage shot the older woman a death look that didn't even faze the seasoned nurse.

"Stay here." Dr. Kinney ordered.

The time the doctor was gone seemed like an eternity had passed to the very anxious blonde. Only with the help of Lynn and Stella was Nurse Sheila able to somehow dressed the various cuts Gage sustained in the accident. One particular bad cut behind her right ear needed several stitches.

When Dr. Kinney finally did come back, Gage detected the gloom just behind the small counterfeit smile the doctor tired to offer. "How is she?"

The small doctor sucked in a short calming breath before explaining the procedures both mother and child were undergoing. "They delivered the baby…. and they are both alive. The placenta tore from the uterine wall and both mother and child have lost a lot of blood." Casting her eyes quickly around the group, the doctor continued. "They've started giving Lacy a transfusion as we speak but the baby……." The next words came painfully slow. "You're baby girl needs a whole blood transfusion."

"Do it!" Jumping up off the table, Gage ordered without hesitation.

The doctored stared straight into the frightened green eyes before her. "It should be from a relative."

"Me!" Gage bolted passed them as she rolled up her sleeve.

Once again the strong nurse snapped the nearly running blonde back around. "You're losing blood yourself." She said, pointing to the scraps on Gage's face and neck.

"Not only that, Gage. You're anemic." She let out a heavy sigh before she continued. "Now you said Mark's out of the country, right?"

The gravity of the situation came barreling down on the blonde. Everything was happening so fast and yet at the same time it seemed the world crept along at a snail's pace. Gage's whole world was spiraling out of control.

Dr. Kinney continued. "I'm afraid we need someone that is biologically related."

Doom filled the room permeating every corner over the fate of the newborn baby. Stella closed her eyes then expelled a long held breath and took two determined steps toward the doctor. "That would be me."

Spinning her blonde head around, Gage's shocked look pierced Stella.

Without sparing Gage a glance, Stella proclaimed to the doctor. "I'm the baby's grandmother."

"Excuse me, Mrs. ……." The doctor started.

"Stella." She said then capped her announcement by revealing a lifelong secret. "I'm Gage's biological mother. And, that baby in there needs my blood." Stella marched pass the stunned doctor who hurriedly caught up with the older woman.

Upon hearing the unexpected and shocking news, Gage dropped down onto a nearby chair. The stunning revelation of Stella's bombshell and the shock she was quickly succumbing to due to her own injuries was more than enough to overload the blonde's system. Staring off into space, the blonde physically, mentally and emotionally started to shut down.

Nurse Sheila took this opportunity to further attend to her patient.

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

For what seemed like more than an eternity, the family waited for news about the baby and Lacy's condition. When Dr. Kinney finally showed back up and with a smile on her face, she announced. "Everything went well…. both Lacy and the baby are doing fine at this point."

Jumping up, Gage said. "I want to see her."

Placing a calming hand on the blonde's arm, Dr. Kinney said. "Not right now. Give her some time when she comes around. Okay?"

Green eyes flared upon the Doctor's statement.

"Okay. Follow me." Dr. Kinney led Gage down the long hallway.

Welcoming any opportunity to leave the waiting room, Gage hurried after the doctor. When Stella returned after giving her blood, Gage deliberately ignored the older woman. Lynn Lewis sat down next to Stella and spoke in quiet whispered tones.

As Gage walked down the long corridor, her mind was cemented on her partner's condition. Wave after wave of guilt rode over her for not taking her iron pills. She wanted to give the life saving blood to her daughter. That, too, caused more guilt before Gage realized what difference did it make as long as their little girl was okay. Though it still shamefully gnawed at her.

When the police had stopped by while Lacy was in surgery, Gage related all she knew about the events leading to the accident. She was only able to give them a partial license plate number and stabbed herself with another spear of guilt.

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

Gage stood looking down at her partner. She brushed back Lacy's wet bangs before running her hand through the sleeping woman's long dark hair. For a very long time, Gage remained by Lacy's side whispering words of love as she held her partner's hand. Tears spilled forth every now and then as slivers of guilt continued to run rampant in the blonde's mind. "I'm sorry, Lacy." Gage kissed her partner's temple.

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

As much as Gage wanted to see their newborn, she wanted to experience that first meeting with the baby with Lacy by her side. When a nurse came to the room to take Lacy's vitals, Gage took the opportunity to step outside and get some fresh air.

Gage rambled the corridor not wanting to return to the waiting room where Stella was. She ended up outside the emergency room and decided to call Mark. "They're both going to be okay." She explained to her friend the horrifying events and shocking revelation of the day. Gage listened as Mark offered to return to the United States. "No, you don't have to….. by the way, how's Samuel?

"He's okay… it was an irregular heartbeat. He needs a pacemaker… other than that I think he'll still be kicking long after I'm gone. His words." Mark smiled.

"Mark?" Gage's tone turned serious. "When I told you about…. Stella, you didn't seem surprised exactly." Gage's observation met a long silence from her friend.

"Gage….." The blonde heard reluctance in his voice. "I… suspected it."

"And you let her become a part of my life….not telling me nothing?" For a brief moment, the very exhausted Gage considered going off on her friend. But, she realized a tirade would not be productive to anyone. "We…. one day we'll have sort this one out. Okay?"

"Deal." Mark assured her.

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

When Lacy came around, Gage was right next to her side. "Hi." Gage smile at her partner as she tenderly stroked her cheek.

A sleepy smile rose woke on Lacy's tired face. "Hi." It took a moment for Lacy's vision to focus then she asked. "How is…." It was then Lacy realized she didn't know whether she had a boy or a girl.

"She's perfect." Gage winked.

"What's she look like?"

Gage shrugged.

"I want to see her now." The mother demanded.

"Me, too. I'll be right back."

Lacy spent the few minutes it took for Gage to get their baby sorting out the events of the day. Every place on her body ached. Most of it was from being jousted around in the car accident. A small kernel of guilt floated through her mind regarding the accident. She could only mull over what she should have done differently for only a second or two since Gage re-entered the room leading the nurse who was carrying a bundle in her arms.

Propping herself on the side of Lacy's bed, Gage watched as the nurse handed the baby to her mother. "She looks just like you."

Gazing at their baby, Lacy disagreed. "Uh Uh… with that curly blonde hair. Nope." The baby yawned and dragged her sleepy eyes open revealing the color. "Look…. green."

"Lacy! They're blue just like yours. I like that." Gage reached down and played with her itty bitty hand. In reality, the baby's eyes were a very dark shade of blue.

"She's so tiny." Lacy marveled at their daughter as she stretched when Gage rubbed the baby's belly.

"She gets that from you." Gage kissed her partner's temple. "I love you. Thank you…. for having our baby."

"We never did come up with a name…. do you have one in mind?"

"Levine."

Surprised, Lacy looked up. "I meant her first name. I never really considered what her last name would be but….." Lacy's blue eyes turned serious. "It's going to be Ballant."

"Lacy…."

"No… it's Ballant. Besides, I've decided to add Ballant to my name and…." A small smile breached her lips hoping Gage would agree. "… I'm going to ask the kids if they want to add your name to theirs."

Gage chuckled at that statement. "Like David's going to go for that."

"Let me handle David. It'll be their decision. Okay?"

"Lacy…." Gage attempted to apply some logic to this decision. "Dani's old enough to know what she wants regarding this but not Derek or Sammy."

"Please… do you think Derek would ever object? As far as Sammy, if he wants to drop it later then…. so be it." It was the added 'please' that sealed their decision. "Now, that we settled that…. what do you want to call her?"

"Why me? We both decide."

"It's your turn. I picked her last name….. and mine." Lacy reached up, kissing her lover.

Breaking from the kiss when the baby gurgled, Gage finally offered her suggestion. "Well, I'd like to have her middle name Grace after Grace." Lacy nodded. "And, Mark…. being the 'go to guy' for us…. I'd like to name her after his mother."

"Okay." Lacy agreed without knowing Mark's mother's name.

"Her first name was Doris….but her middle name's Hayley…." Gage ran a finger along the baby's cheek. "So, is Hayley okay with you?"

"Hayley it is then."

Grinning, Gage started to say. "Do you know I…."

"Yes, and I love you, too." Returning her eyes to their baby, she concluded. "And, this little precious one."

As Lacy nursed the baby, Gage tentatively revealed to Lacy about their baby's condition after she was born. She guiltily explained why she couldn't be the one to give their daughter her blood.

"Other than you and myself Mark would have been the only one…" Seeing the pre-mature but healthy baby in her arms, Lacy was very curious what miracle took place to save their baby.

Trepidation fell over the blonde as she finally relented and disclosed Stella's involvement.

"Our nanny is your….. mother?" The news shocked and comforted Lacy in the same moment.

A deep grimace plastered itself on the blonde's face. "Apparently." Gage couldn't deny that it was Stella's blood that saved their daughter's life even if she wanted to.

"Sweetheart, what are you going to do now?" When Lacy asked that question, Gage turned away not wanting to let her partner see an unshed tear forming in her eye.

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

Stella offered to resign, however, Lacy adamantly refused to let Gage's mother abandon her daughter again. "Absolutely not. Stella, it would kill her."

"She won't talk to me. Talk to me? She won't even look at me." The older woman nervously rubbed her hands together.

"It's only been a couple of weeks and this is all too knew for her. Give her some time to get adjusted." Lacy begged Stella. "You have a granddaughter now, Stella. Don't you want to be around for her?"

"Yes." Stella said meekly. "I don't deserve it though."

"Ha!" Lacy rolled her unbelieving blue eyes. "Just like Gage. Now, I know where she gets it from." The younger woman grabbed Stella's arm preventing her from leaving. "Let me handle her…. besides, I need help with your granddaughter. You're not going to let her down, are you?"

Stella relented. "I'll stay…. for a while."

Chapter Twenty-Four

Another four weeks went by with Gage doting on her partner and their baby. She constructively avoided Stella at all costs only helping her with the children. She let Lacy take care of dealing with the nanny directly.

Mark returned from England with Julie. After a short visit with Lacy and Gage, he returned to Los Angeles. He informed them that his grandfather's health was excellent considering his age. Mark also shared news regarding Lacy's Oscar bid. During Lacy's hospital stay after giving birth to Hayley, it was announced that not only was Lacy nominated in the Best Actress category, Gage was nominated as well for her screenplay. And, to top things off, the movie itself was up for Best Picture. He passed on the information Ron Griffen supplied him from all his contacts. It seemed that after Hollywood found out about Lacy's accident and subsequent birth of her baby, the old staunch Hollywood set extended their good wishes to Lacy by giving her a few favorable nods regarding Lacy's performance in Here Comes Jordan.

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

As Lacy and Gage readied for the big Oscar event, the dark haired woman turned to her lover. "Gage, sweetheart…." Lacy's velvet voice softened in hopes of doing the same with her partner's disposition. "Somewhere along the line you have to take responsibility for your life and how things turned out and stop blaming…. others."

Sharply twisting around, Gage frowned. "By others you mean… Stella."

"Come here." Lacy beckoned her lover. When Gage refused to budge, Lacy grabbed her hand and led her to the bed in Mark's home in Los Angeles. "I know you're having a hard time accepting…"

"Not accepting… I know she is."

"Okay…..a hard time not blaming her for leaving you." Lacy amended her original statement. "You know, Dani and Derek could blame me just as easily for things that I didn't do..."

Gage placed her two hands on Lacy's shoulders as she stood in front of her. "What in the world for?"

"When Dani was growing up, I was on the set of my show five, six days a week…. very long days."

"Ha… she loved it."

Lacy couldn't argue that. "Where Derek is concerned, he could…. well, he

could blame me for not protecting him against his father's insinuation and nasty comments."

Gage sat down next to Lacy on the bed. "He loves you. And before you say another thing, you never left them without a word then she even came back in my life for a brief period like… she did. Then left again. It's way different Lacy and you know it."

"The point of the matter is that they could perceive things that happened to them…. for how their lives turn out as my fault. It doesn't necessarily make any sense." Lacy sighed before wrapping her arm over her partner's shoulder. "It's about taking responsibility for your own life. And, about forgiving."

"Forgive her? She deserves that?"

"You do." Lacy stated clearly. "Forgiving her isn't for her sake, it's for you. So, you can move on. We have four children, Gage. They need you… a whole you." When Gage glared at Lacy for that last comment, Lacy offered in the way of clarification. "Kids pick up on everything. They know something's going on between the two of you."

"More so than usual."

"Now that you mentioned that…" Lacy spent the better part of the next hour giving Gage every logical and a few illogical reasons to resolve her relationship with her mother. She was determined to make Gage understand the importance of this even if it meant missing the Oscar ceremony. Some things are just more important.

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

On the red carpet, Gage stood next to Mark as Lacy was briefly called away for a few photo opportunities. Ron Griffen was making it well known that Lacy was concretely back into the circle of Hollywood elite and his favored starlet.

When Lacy finally slipped away from the exuberant producer, she strolled deliberately down the red carpet. From a distance, Gage spotted her lover and nudged Mark. "Here comes my woman."

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

Lacy's movie picked up a few minor awards and Gage shrugged then smiled and kissed Lacy even after it was announced that another writer was selected for the Oscar. The blonde's prayers focused on Lacy winning her category. Nothing else regarding the film mattered to her.

When Lacy's category was announced, she squeezed Gage's hand. Gage leaned over and whispered. "You're a shoe in….. if they've got any sense at all."

Apparently and much to Gage's delight, they Academy did recognize talent as they proclaimed the best actress. "Lacy Levine."

After a long kiss to her partner and a few brief hugs and handshakes, Lacy gracefully walked up the stairs to the stage. Thanking the Academy along with Mark, Ryan, her cast and crew along with Ron, her children and her family, Lacy lovingly looked at Gage before she did quite the unexpected even for her. Lacy softly sang several lines from the song 'Wing Beneath my Wings' to her lover thanking Gage from the bottom of her heart.

Then Gage did the expected. She mouthed to her lover 'I love you' and then she cried.

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

At the post Oscar party, Boyd Dietrich waited for the opportune time to congratulate the Oscar winner. "Congratulations, Lacy." He took Lacy's hand while pulling her in for a hug. "There she is… the very best. And you deserve the very best." Boyd let loose of her yet still held her hand. He used his middle finger and rubbed it against the inside of Lacy's hand.

Knowing full well the meaning of this gesture, to Gage's surprise Lacy hugged Boyd. "I have the very best and she's standing right beside me. I'm completely and totally satisfied so, I'm afraid, I'll have to decline your… invitation." Lacy dropped his hand like a lead ball.

Shocked, Boyd grunted before sharply turning on his elevated heel. "Your loss."

Gage was amused at his reaction while Lacy stood there delighted with herself in the way she dismissed the smug little man. "They never learn, do they, Lacy?"

Several others approached Lacy congratulating her on getting the coveted award. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, Gage tried to slip away and let Lacy soak in all the attention. But, her lover would have none of it as she steadfastly held on to Gage's hand. Leaning over to her partner, Lacy whispered. "You're not going anywhere."

"Lacy! This is your moment… besides, I don't want to be embarrassed like I was earlier. Crying in front of millions is not my idea of fun." Gage's mock declaration fell limp against the smile on her lover's face.

Lacy kissed her partner full on the lips. Only after the long passionate exchange did Lacy admonish her lover. "Oh, you loved it."

Gage did revel in Lacy's proclamation to the world as she stood before millions of viewers decreeing her feelings of devotion and undying love for her.

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

Two months after Hayley was born, the family headed for the church to baptize the latest member of the Ballant clan. Sammy loved his little sister thinking she was a new toy for him to play with.

Lacy initiated the legal proceeding to add 'Ballant' to all of their names. Even she was surprised when David didn't have a cow about it. She was highly suspicious of his accepting attitude and realized that one day David would want something in return. However for now, everything was running smoothly in the family except for the continued strained relationship between Gage and Stella.

The Lewis family along with Mark and Julie joined Lacy and Gage's clan for the ceremony. They selected Nate as the godfather while Hank's fiancée, Jen served as godmother. Lacy's brother's engagement to Jen Farris came on the heels of Jason asking Lisa to marry him. Having moped around for months after Jen and Hank broke up, Lacy's brother reconciled his feelings to the fact that he didn't want to live without the love of his life. A double wedding was planned for the summer. Once again, Dan Lewis' rose garden would serve as the wedding site.

When an assistant informed them that the priest would be late, Lacy handed the two-month-old Hayley to Gage. Lacy nodded toward Stella then pushed Gage. "You're going to get this thing settled…. at least make a good start for our daughter." The night before Lacy and Gage hammered out a lively debate on what Gage was going to do regarding her mother. It was when Lacy asked Gage whether she wanted Hayley to know her grandmother or not that convinced the very reluctant blonde to concede.

Summoning all the courage she had, Gage walked across the room. She was not going to be the one Hayley would blame for not knowing her grandmother. "Stella."

"Gage." Her finger pulled back the blanket. "She's beautiful. Like you were."

Harsh words almost escaped Gage's lips. Damn that Lacy. She knew if I had Hayley in my arms I wouldn't…. okay, I can do this. "Yes, she is. Like her mother though."

Stella realized Gage meant Lacy. "You're a lucky one… when you found her."

Gage took a moment to search out and find her partner. "The luckiest."

"Gage?" She asked tentatively. "I told Lacy I'd stay for awhile longer… but it's really up to you. I'll leave if you want."

Staring into her mother's green eyes for a long moment, Gage felt tamed emotions start to stampede inside her again. What she wanted all her life was standing before her and it was time to make a decision that would alter the course of her life and that of her daughter. Handing Hayley to her grandmother, Gage said. "She wants you to stay… as does Lacy and the kids." Sucking a deep and accepting breath, Gage said the words she never thought she would ever get the chance to say. "I do, too…. mom."

Both sets of green eyes filled with happy tears. It would be a long road ahead of them to repair an absent and damaged relationship but they were willing to traverse that road together.

The ceremony concluded with Sammy grabbing the priest's garb and yanking on it. "Me, me. Vash my hair now." The nearly three year old was enthralled when he watched the priest pour holy water over Hayley's head and wanted in on the action. Wiggling until Hank let him down, Sammy determinedly made his wishes known.

Derek rolled his gray eyes at his brother's antics. "Sammy, he didn't wash her hair." He directed his little brother away from the robed priest.

It was Dani's time to roll her eyes. "Derek? You know who he reminds me of?" An innocent Derek shook his head. "You! When you were that age."

When Dani let loose a loud laugh, Derek glared at her. He leaned down and whispered something in Sammy's ear. Pointing at Dani, he commanded. "Go."

With an impish gleam in his blue eyes that matched his mother's eyes, Sammy bounded after his older sister.

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

After the long day came to a close and the kids were put to bed, Lacy and Gage found quiet refuge in their bed. As usual, Gage arranged the covers and pillows just the way she liked them and opened her arms for Lacy.

"Are you happy?"

"Mmmmm… more than you could ever know." Gage kissed Lacy's head. "You?"

"Blissfully so." Lacy draped her long leg over Gage. "What's next? For us?"

"You mean after the school year is over? Or after we take the kids on vacation or after your brother and sister's weddings or after…."

Lacy kissed Gage soundly. "After I get finished with you."

Waggling her eyebrows, Gage smirked. "Does this mean I finally get some?"

"You're going to get something alright and when I'm through with you…"

Gage interrupted her lover. "I won't be able to walk? Please, tell me I won't be able to walk…. for at least a week."

"Gage Ballant…. you are incorrigible."

"Lacy Levine Ballant… you are right." Gage pulled her lover on top of her.

As Lacy settled between her lover's legs, she thrust her hips forward a couple of times.

"Don't tease me."

"It's not teasing. It's….. " Lacy thrust her hips forward again and kissed Gage deeply. "Foreplay."

"For you, I'd play anytime, anywhere, anyway." The blonde ran her hands over Lacy's backside pulling her closer. "Lacy?"

"Mmmmm….." Lacy nuzzled her lover's neck, spreading small kisses freely.

"Thank you."

"For what?" Lacy's lips refused to relinquish the supple skin of her partner as she continued to leave a trail of wet tiny kisses over her lover's collarbone and down to the waiting breasts.

"Loving me…." Gage sucked in a breath when Lacy latched on to one of her nipples. "Having our baby…. all of our children…..and, for what you did for Stella… my mom and me… you know." The blonde's breath became ragged under the pleasurable assault of her lover. She barely got out the next words. "Basically for giving me a reason to live."

Feasting on her lover's breasts, Lacy smiled. "My pleasure."

"Mmmmmmmmm….." Loving every minute of what Lacy was doing to her, Gage agreed. "Mine, too."

As Lacy and Gage fell happily into the night of lust-filled pleasure and loving, the blonde was glad she had arranged for Stella and Lynn Lewis to take care of the kids the next morning so the couple could have a late lazy loving morning all to themselves. Having a live-in grandmother had its advantages.

The fire Lacy was building in the blonde was sizzling beyond control. "God, baby, you keep that up and I won't last much longer."

"That's the plan."

On the verge of toppling over at the insistent tongue and persistent hands of her lover, Gage turned the table on her lover as she forged a sexual attack of her own. A busy tongue and hands from Gage roamed freely over her lover's body, stirring the burning embers inside Lacy into a raging passionate volcano ready to explode.

"Gage, sweetheart…. " Lacy husked. "I'm so… so….God, I'm…..."

Breaking briefly from the kiss, Gage confirmed. "That's the plan."

"…there!" Lacy screamed as she fell over the precipice into a satiated state of bliss bringing her lover along for the ride.

The End

Thank you for taking the time to read this story. Feedback is greatly appreciated at xxgsb@hotmail.com

The next story entitled A WOMAN IN LOVE continues on with the lives of Lacy and Gage a few years later as the writer finally confronts all of her past. A previous relationship is revealed that threatens Lacy and Gage's relationship and one of their children experiences nearly out of control behavior problems.

The WOMAN I LOVE Series is expected to have six installments where Lacy and Gage's lives span over ten years. I hope you come along for the ride. Thanks again, GSB

If you are interested, a synopsis of my screenplay HERE COMES JORDAN can be viewed at www.HereComesJordan.sydra-techniques.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


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