Here Comes My Woman - Epilogue

by G.S. Binkley


xxgsb@hotmail.com

Synopsis: HERE COMES MY WOMAN - Epilogue continues seven months after Hayley is born. The Ballant clan tries to cope with the newest member of their family as Lacy and Gage continue their lives together. Gage's mother reveals why she abandoned her daughter. This story follows THE WOMAN I LOVE then A WOMAN LIKE YOU and HERE COMES MY WOMAN.

Dedication: This story is dedicated to the readers who have followed THE WOMAN I LOVE series and especially to those readers who have taken the time to write me.

Special dedication: To my best friend, Heike. She once said something to me that was very profound and is the theme for this story. Danke!

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)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Sam, thank you so much for beta reading this story. The gift of your time, knowledge and skills has been invaluable to me. I encourage everyone to acknowledge Sam's contribution to my story and show her your appreciation for making this story flow so much better. You can contact her at scammer68@yahoo.com.

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

Chapter One

"Mom!!"

At the sound of Dani's yell, Lacy and Gage scrambled into the family room only to see Hayley standing in all her glory - naked. She wobbled unsteadily as Derek motioned for her.

"Come here, Hayley. Come to me." The six year old held out his arms to his little sister.

"Me, me, Haywee." Sammy echoed. Beckoning his sister to him, the light haired three year old stepped in front of his older brother.

A bright grin perfectly complimented the gleaming eyes of the seven month old that was basking in all the attention she was getting. The little girl clapped her hands together and squealed when she saw her mom come into the room. She clapped furiously again when Gage stepped forward.

"Hayley? What are you doing…. standing up all by yourself?" Gage kneeled down a few feet away from the little wobbling curly haired blonde.

Dani stood fast behind her, vigilantly watching over her youngest sibling. "She just crawled up the table and stood on her own." Dani leaned over her sister. "Isn't that right, Hayley?"

Bobbing her head up and down, Hayley giggled and reached out her tiny fingers toward her brothers. Lacy slipped down on her knees between her two sons. As they called for their sister, Hayley grinned and slapped her itty-bitty hands against her face, hiding her vibrant greenish blue eyes.

"Hayley?" Her proud mother called. "Look at me."

Shyly, the young toddler spread her fingers wide. She peeked through them at her mother and brothers. Suddenly, she reached out her arms, bounced twice and took three short steps. When the abrupt excitement of her actions rang out from her family, Hayley lost her balance and flopped down on her bare butt. Silence struck the room waiting for a reaction from the little girl.

Gage was the first to clap her hands together. "Look at Hayley. Wasn't that good? You can walk."

The rest of the clan followed suit, enthusiastically proclaiming the accomplishment of their little treasure. It was all Hayley needed as she gave a huge grin and slapped her hands in glee, delighted because all her family surrounded her where she was happiest.

Sammy ran up to his sister and plopped down next to Hayley. Holding his yellow duck, he searched the room to see if anyone was paying attention to him. Hayley immediately latched on to it and stuck it in her mouth. Her brother crunched his eyes as he debated rescuing his favorite toy from his sister's wet clutches.

"Dani, I thought you were going to change her?" Lacy quizzed their oldest child.

Dani cocked her hands on her hips. "I did. I took her diaper off, then Sammy took the powder…" She pointed an accusing finger at her youngest brother. "…and wouldn't give it to me. He ran off with it and Derek wasn't any help." She shot her dark haired brother an evil look when he laughed. "Then she just crawled out of her sleeper and the next thing you know…."

"Old Jed's a millionaire." Gage concluded. The blonde laughed at her own joke, which met confused looks from the kids and an exasperated stare from her partner. "Here… let me get her dressed." Walking past her lover, she winked then pointed at the naked Hayley before she said. "She gets that from you." Gage picked up her happy daughter.

"Momma." Seeing Hayley get Gage's full attention, Sammy reached up to his mother. When she picked him up, he rubbed his sleepy eyes and leaned his tired head on her shoulder. "I'm sleepy."

"Oh, great. Now we all have to go to bed." Derek pouted, scrunching his eyebrows together. "And I had my racetrack all set up before……."

"Before you say another word, young man." Lacy gently warned her oldest son then produced a warm smile. "When Gage gets finished, the two of you can play for another half hour. Tomorrow's a school day. Okay?"

Nodding enthusiastically, he accepted the allotted time. Derek jumped up and located the baby powder in order to help Gage finish dressing Hayley.

From the doorway, Stella Smith silently watched when her granddaughter had taken her first steps. It reminded her that she missed watching her own daughter take her first steps. Or hearing her first words.

Lacy noticed the sad look on Stella's face. She had an idea what the older woman was thinking. "They grow up so fast. Next time we'll have the camera ready."

Holding up the movie camera in her hand, Stella grinned. "I came prepared." With four kids in the house, there was always something going on that was worth capturing on film. When the grin turned sad, Lacy placed her hand on Stella's shoulder. The older woman covered her hand over it. "I wish… I wish that…."

"I know." Lacy consoled her. "You have her with you now and four more."

"Five." Stella corrected Lacy. "You, too. Now, I have two daughters and four grandkids. That's okay, isn't it?"

"More than okay." Lacy said to Stella before she spared her lover a glance. She watched Gage lift Hayley up and sit her on Derek's lap before turning back to Stella, then seriously said "You got us and now you have to keep us."

Over the last seven months after Stella had revealed that she was Gage's mother, the distance between them had slowly closed. It seemed that their little precious Hayley was the cementing bond that would forge a lifelong tie, never to be broken again. It warmed Stella's heart to be accepted so readily by her daughter's partner and children. A lifetime of guilt still haunted her from time to time, but even that pain seemed to ease with each passing day. "Here let me take him… put him to bed." Nodding at the threesome on the couch, Stella added. "I don't know about those three."

Handing Sammy to his grandmother, Lacy assured Stella. "I do. I'll be up in a bit to check on him." Lacy kissed the sleeping boy's cheek. "Dani? Let's check your homework while Gage gets Derek ready for bed."

As Lacy picked up Hayley, Derek whined. "You said I could play with my cars."

"Yeah!" Gage pouted right alongside her partner in play.

The dark haired mother quickly gave the squirming Hayley a kiss, who in turn leaned in and bumped her head against her mother. Lacy returned her attention to the sulking pair before her. "Half an hour and that's it. Gage!" This drew the blonde's full attention. "Then I want both of you in bed."

"Aye, aye!" Bed? That sounds like fun. Gage scrambled up off the couch. "Come on, Derek. Best two out of three." I'll let him win and he'll be happy then I get to go to bed and I'll be happy.

Seeing the huge smile on her partner's face was all Lacy needed to know that Gage would have Derek in bed in short order and that's where she would find her lover before the half hour was up.

As Dani followed her mother out of the room, she asked seriously "Mom? Can I talk to you about something?" The giggles from Gage and Derek generated a sharp glare from her. "Privately!"

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

Dani played with Hayley as her mother read her short essay. "Are you done yet?" Hayley bounced several times trying to get the paper from her mother's hands. "Hayley! Now, stop that." She offered her sister a hackie-sac to play with that ended up in the little girl's mouth.

"Almost." Lacy read the last paragraph and with her pencil offered on a small correction. "Looks good. I like the way you stated your conclusion… perfect. Here."

"Gage will be happy." Dani stated as she exchanged Hayley for her paper. "She helped me… some."

"Oh, Hayley! What do you have in your mouth? Dani, did you give this to her?" Lacy pulled the soggy hackie-sac from the protesting baby. "Now, what's up?"

Hayley reached up and grabbed the gold necklace around her mother's neck as Dani watched her intently. "It's like this, mom. I'm thirteen now and I… my friends get to go out."

Preoccupied with her youngest daughter, Lacy asked. "Out?"

"To parties…."

Lacy interrupted the impatient young girl. "What kind of parties?"

"Mom! Just parties. Where we can get together and like talk." Dani found this task of convincing her pre-occupied mother harder than she expected.

"Talk? Dani, you're on the phone all the time as it is now." Lacy adjusted the wiggling girl on her lap. "Either that or on the internet… talking with your friends on that Instant Messaging thing." A small laugh erupted when she remembered catching her daughter with one hand holding her cell phone as she talked to one friend and the other hand frantically trying to type out a message on the computer to another friend. "All you do is talk."

Gloom found a home on Dani's face.

"Well, I'm not inclined to this idea of yours. But you tell me when one of those parties comes up and then we'll see. Okay?" Lacy leaned over and kissed Dani on the cheek. Wanting in on the action, Hayley bumped her head against her sister's temple then smiled.

Feeling her mother was not receptive to the idea at all Dani's shoulders slumped. "Oh, okay." The party is this weekend.

Lacy stood up and headed toward the door. "By the way, how's Lane?"

Dani grinned as she was reminded of the most difficult boy she had ever encountered. The problem was that she liked him and suspected that he liked her just as much. Dani tapped her finger to her lips. He is stubborn though and won't admit it. Katie, her close friend, was no help and without being able to be where the action was, Dani felt she was at a disadvantage.

Seeing the distant look on her daughter's face, Lacy offered a compromise. "Dani, when's the next little get together… with your friends?"

Dani perked up. "Friday. Katie's having a few friends over after we go to a movie."

"All right. You can go. We'll talk some more about it though and I'll need to know what movie you're going to."

"Thanks mom. Night." Dani filed away her paper and hurried to change her clothes for bed.

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

Lacy handed Hayley off to Gage before she checked on her two sons. Derek and Sammy shared a room. Once Hayley was born, surprisingly Derek offered to Sammy to be his new roommate. The bright young boy knew how much Sammy clung to his mother and figured that with a new baby in the house, his little brother might feel neglected. Dani helped his reasoning along after she pointed out that he could be in charge if Sammy shared a room with him. Lacy was very much surprised that her youngest son adapted so quickly to sharing a room with his brother because Sammy showed definite signs of jealousy when Hayley arrived.

While Derek's side of the room was filled with lots and lots of stuffed extinct animals and racecars, the other half that belonged to Sammy housed quite a few children's videotapes and TV character toys, along with racecars like his brothers. In the middle of the room there was a small racetrack set up. As Lacy looked lovingly at her sons, she couldn't help but shake her head at the difference between both sides of the huge room. Even she was amazed that for a three-year-old boy, Sammy's side of the room was neat and relatively clean while Derek's half looked more like a tornado had stuck. Lacy tenderly placed a kiss on both her children's cheek before heading back to her room. "Goodnight and sweet dreams."

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

When Lacy walked into the room, Gage complained. "She's fussy." Gage tried to get their little girl settled for the night. Hayley refused to sleep alone. Each night she insisted on taking up residence between her two favorite people in the world. When she fell asleep, sometimes Gage was even victorious in placing her in her own baby bed next to them without Hayley waking up.

"I know she's fussy. She gets that from you." Lacy said as she slipped into bed.

"Ha!" Gage scooted as close as she could get to her partner without crowding the ever-present tiny boss between them. "What she gets from me is that I walked at seven months, too."

"Yeaaaaaa." Lacy clapped in mock praise of her own forty-seven year old baby.

Gage cocked a stern eyebrow at her partner. "You making fun of me Riz?"

Clutching her chest in jest, Lacy answered her. "Never. Well, maybe just a little bit."

The fun Gage had in mind would have to wait another day as Hayley refused to budge from her much loved spot between them. "Lacy?" Gage whispered. "How long you think this is gonna last?" The blonde nodded to the sleeping tiny tot next to her.

Lacy stretched her long leg across the bed to cover one of Gage's legs. She slid the smooth silky skin up and down several times before offering to her partner her most seductive smile. "Would you want to give up this spot?"

Gage twisted sharply in the bed and crossed her arms. Pouting, she said. "Why couldn't she at least sleep on the side so I could hold you? No, she's got to be right in the middle."

"Just like you.. she has to always have her way." Lacy stifled a laugh.

Glancing at her lover, Gage finally grinned. "If I had it my way…." When Hayley squirmed then turned and flopped her small hand on Gage's face, the blonde realized then and there. I do have it my way…. more love than I ever could deserve. With that, Gage blew her lover a kiss and then kissed the small hand planted near her mouth.

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

The next day found the threesome nearly in the same position as they had fallen asleep. Although somehow during the night Lacy was able to scoot closer as Hayley crawled up on top of Gage's chest.

They woke up to Derek helping Sammy climb up on the bed and he quickly scampered next to his mother. "Momma."

"Good morning, honey." Lacy kissed her son and spared a glance to her already dressed six year old.

"Dani said stay in bed. Okay? We have a surprise." Derek bounced out of the room before any question could be posed.

Rubbing her eyes, Gage asked. "What time is it?" Holding on to the small bundle on her chest, the blonde shot up. "What day is it? Don't the kids have school?"

Lacy's long arm gently tugged her lover back down. "Yep and we have plenty of time this morning. Stella's taking the kids to school since she has that appointment later."

A gloomy thought passed through Gage's mind. The doctor's appointment Lacy referred to was a follow up visit for her mother regarding an irregular blood test after her yearly check-up. "You…. you think…" Gage's concerned green eyes found and held her partner's blue ones. "…I… one of us should go with her. You know for support."

"Mom's going with her, remember?" Lacy ran a long finger down her lover's jaw. "Though if you did, I'm sure she'd welcome it."

Gage shrugged. Her relationship with her mother was healing and they had many miles to go before a complete cure. Gage knew it was going to take some time. Before she could respond, Dani walked into the room carrying a tray full of food. Right behind her Derek carried a small pitcher of juice. Stella oversaw the whole procession.

"Surprise!" Dani and Derek yelled. The young girl was thrilled her mother agreed to the Friday party and didn't want Lacy to change her mind.

Lacy and Gage adjusted their two young children as they sat up. Hayley was now wide awake and trying very hard to get to her brother.

"Haywee… stop that… now." Sammy frowned. He loved his sister but she could be a bit of a pest at times.

The little girl loved to grab his hair and pull it. First, she would twist it in her little fingers for a bit and then yank. When Lacy untangled her fingers from his hair, Sammy used his fingers to comb his hair in place. He was a neat little boy.

"Can you move her?" Dani asked politely. "I can't set this down with her there."

Gage pulled the little monkey-like Hayley back so Dani could place the tray on the bed. I don't think this is such a good idea but……

"Honey. This is very nice of you and Derek." Lacy gave a quick wink to Stella. "Did you do this all by yourselves?"

Derek answered for his sister. "Stella helped but it was my idea."

"Derek!" Dani glared at him.

"Well, it was. It was my idea after you told me about it." He declared with all the innocence of a very young altar boy.

When everything was set, Lacy and Gage started to feed the two youngest kids. "Have you two eaten?"

"Yep… well, enjoy!" Dani smiled sweetly.

"Come on now…it's off to school." Stella directed the pair out the door.

After Stella and the kids left, Gage asked before she stuck a piece of bacon in her mouth. "How did we rate?"

"Dani wants to go to a party Friday night." Lacy gave Sammy a drink of juice.

Gage nearly coughed it out. "Party?"

Hayley immediately grabbed for the slightly exposed piece of bacon.

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

After Stella dropped the kids off at school, she picked up Lynn Lewis and drove to her doctor's office. They were flipping through a couple of magazines as Stella nervously waited for the results of her tests.

Noticing that Stella was anxious, Lynn patted her arm. "Don't worry. Like I always say… don't waste good worry time when we don't know anything for sure."

Stella let out an edgy laugh. "Thought I'd get an early start."

Wanting to take her friend's mind off the impending test results, Lynn changed the subject. "Did Lacy tell you that the boys have started on that movie complex they are building for Gage?"

"Oh, no. I didn't even know they were back from their honeymoons." Stella allowed a brief happy memory to pass through her mind before it was replaced with a sad one. The double wedding of Hank and Jen along with Lisa and Jason was held in the Lewis' backyard garden. Realizing this was the same place where her daughter and Lacy were married caused the sad memory to surface knowing she had missed one more important day in the life of her daughter.

"Yes, they are. For a couple of weeks now." Lynn grinned. Being not only best friends as well as competitors, Hank and Jason tried to out do each other by having the best and longest honeymoon. The fierce competition would have been non-stop until Lisa and Jen stepped in, each getting the honeymoons of their choice. "They just started on the plans. Hank says it will take a couple of years to finish. But, I know my boys they'll do a good job for Gage."

Stella concurred. She liked all of Lacy's family and was welcomed eagerly. "I'm sure they will. It was a very nice wedding. Thanks for inviting me. And for coming with me today."

"Nonsense." Lynn scrunched her eyes at Stella. "You're part of the family. And those grandkids of ours love you so much."

Stella cleared her throat. "I hope.. you don't mind that… me being their grandmother, too."

Lynn waved a dismissive hand. "Please. Between you and me, I could use the help. Especially now that Hank and Lisa are married. There'll be a bunch more grandkids on the way…." Lynn gave Stella a sly wink. "..if I have my way about it."

"Thank you, Lynn. You've been so nice to me. And that Lacy of yours… she's been wonderful. You should be very proud of your daughter." Stella said.

"And, you… yours." Lynn added. Seeing a doubt cross her friend's face, Lynn continued. "Gage is truly amazing. She's been through so much in her life and…"

Stella interrupted. "Because of me."

"That's not what I meant and you know it." Lynn inserted as she twisted fully around to face her friend. "She loves so much. I know… I can see it every time she looks at Lacy or one of the kids. From the little bits and pieces I've learned about Gage's past, I know she's had a difficult time… but what's the amazing part is that she has this great capacity to love through all of it. That comes from somewhere. I see that same look in your eyes when you look at her."

Stella turned away from Lynn's piercing look.

Lynn gently guided her friend's face back around. "Stella, I don't know why you made the decisions you did but I do know this…. you did what you thought was in the best interest of your child. Since I've come to know you, that much I do know about you. Okay?"

Unshed tears welled in her green eyes threatening to spill over. "Do you think Gage and I will ever be like you and Lacy? My God, what am I saying…. who knows if she'll ever truly forgive me?"

"She will." Lynn confirmed with a staunch belief. "Trust me on this one. Lacy will never give up on that."

When the doctor opened the door to greet her patient, she saw the older woman crying. "Now, now… Mrs. Smith. I can assure you I have only good news for you today."

Helping Stella up, Lynn smiled. "See. Things are looking up already."

Chapter Two

"Hayley, come here." Gage called to her daughter. "See what I have for you."

Hayley continued to grin at her mom but refused to budge from the side of the coffee table. She alternately scrunched her eyes tightly; closing them then opened them wide to watch Gage tempt her with a toy. Hayley thought it was a game and she was going to win. As Gage held out the plastic baby keys, Hayley spread her tiny fingers toward them.

"Am I going to have to come over there and get you?" Gage pushed up on her knees before she crawled a couple of feet closer to her daughter. Seeing that Hayley would not move, Gage sighed. "Just a couple of steps for me, please. I'm right here to catch you. Here you go." Gage dangled the alluring keys once again.

Hayley was tempted. And she almost succumbed to the enticing jiggle of the keys. But before she could take one step, Sammy scrambled down from his mother's arms and ran past Hayley, nabbing the keys in Gage's grip. He jammed them in his sister's hand before returning to Gage.

"Hey." Gage said as Sammy rammed into her. "What was that all about?"

Lacy shook her head at her son's antics. "I think he's jealous." She leaned over and taking her daughter's arms helped her walk the distance to Gage. Hayley plopped down on Gage's unoccupied knee as Sammy had reserved the other side for himself.

Looking back and forth between the two, Gage's eyes finally came to rest on Lacy. "Maybe he does love me."

Shaking her head once again, Lacy sat across from her partner on the floor. "He always loved you. It's just that you compared him to Derek. Where Derek took to you immediately, Sammy had both of us from the beginning. And since I breastfed him….." Lacy abruptly stopped when she saw that lascivious look on her partner's face.

"Well, when you explain it that way… I can see why he was always hanging around you."

"Gage Ballant, get your mind out of the gutter…" Lacy winked. "….but keep that thought…. for later."

A wide grin happily sprung up on Gage's face. "Any news from abroad…."

"You mean Griff?" Lacy smiled at the inside joke as she pretended Gage said 'a broad'. "As a matter of fact, I got an email from Shanti. All three of them are off in Venezuela somewhere filming that documentary."

Seriously, Gage said. "You know, Lacy. I'm not so sure it was a good idea to fund that little venture." Seeing a concerned eyebrow raise from her partner, Gage continued. "Those three… being representatives of the United States. Can you imagine the impression the people of Venezuela will get of Americans?"

"I'm sure Shanti has it all under control." Lacy pulled her daughter off of Gage's lap. To her surprise, Sammy remained with Gage.

"Play with me." He ordered the blonde.

"Oh, okay." Gage scooted both of them near the very small racecar track spread out across the floor. "Here you go. What color do you want?" Sammy quickly picked the yellow car. "Of course, just like your brother." She positioned it on the track and placed the remote control in his little hands. As Sammy pushed the button, Gage helped him control the speed of the car around the curves.

Excited, Sammy pulled harder on the trigger. "See." He pointed as the racecar zoomed along the straightaway heading to the ninety-degree turn. "Faster."

"Hold on there, Sammy. Wait." She tried to get him to let up on the trigger but to no avail. "No." She yelled as the little yellow car flew off the track.

Sammy mimicked his brother by jacking his arm in the air. "Yes."

"Lacy, you're closer." Gage nodded toward the wayward car.

But it was Hayley that crawled faster and retrieved the car before her mother did. She quickly stuffed it in her mouth.

Sammy jumped up from between Gage's legs and stomped to his sister. "Gimme that." He tried to get it from her but she wiggled and fled to Lacy in hopes of finding sanctuary.

"Okay. That's enough." Lacy took the car and tossed it to Gage. "You two can play together…. and I mean together … nicely with the building blocks."

Sammy pouted. "Wanna play with Gage."

Recognizing the frown on her mother's face, Hayley's jibber sounded like an 'uh oh'.

"Uh oh is right." Lacy nodded at her daughter. To make amends with her mother, Hayley leaned her forehead in and bumped it against her mother's temple.

"Hayley, give me a kiss, too." Gage called. When Lacy handed her daughter to Gage, the little girl duplicated the action. "Don't you just love it… the way she kisses?"

"Me, me." Sammy begged as his sister watched Gage closely. He ran to Gage but stumbled over part of the racetrack. Upon landing on the blonde, he hurriedly bounced forward and with a thump hit Gage's head with his own.

Rubbing her head lightly, she reached up with her other hand to the red spot on his temple and gently soothed it. "Wow. That was sure some kiss there, Sammy."

Lacy first grabbed her son and checked his forehead then sat him down near the building blocks. "Sammy, I want you to play with your sister while I talk to Gage. Okay?"

Always willing to do as his mother wanted especially when it came to playing, Sammy shook his head. Soon Lacy placed Hayley next to him and piled several colored blocks in front of her. "Now, be good."

Gage sat up against the couch before Lacy crawled between her legs. As Gage wrapped her arms around Lacy, she placed several wispy kisses along her lover's neck. "Mmmmm… I love you."

"I'm counting on it." Lacy said off-handedly.

Gage cocked her head to the side. "What do you mean by that?"

"Nothing… just that I love you… we all do." Lacy quickly averted away from the subject that was on her mind. They had been together for five years and Lacy was becoming more and more determined to break through Gage's emotional armored wall. She was counting on the love that Gage professed to be eternal. Instinctively, Lacy knew that in order to penetrate the years of emotional layers that Gage had constructed it would take all of their love and more. "What did Mark have to say on the phone?"

Gage knew Lacy was avoiding what she figured would be a very serious talk. "Julie and the kids are doing great. We decided to go ahead and combine Julie's production company with ours. The Primrose name will still be viable and Julie will put out films under her production company. And Ryan and Mark are doing the pre-production for Heart of Africa." Gage gently ran a finger up and down Lacy's arm. "Will you do that part of Marta in the movie? It's only about three minutes on film but I sorta promised them I'd snag an Oscar winner to help with the film's success."

Lacy twisted around in Gage's arm. "What do I get out of it? I don't need the money."

Gage ducked in to nuzzle her hungry lips against Lacy's neck near her left earlobe. "A night of unbridled lust-filled exquisite love-making."

"Oh, Koda's back in town?" Lacy teased.

Still nuzzled against her partner's neck, Gage growled. "He wishes. No, my dear, you get me and believe me….. you won't want anyone else after I'm through with you."

Lacy grasped her lover's face between her hands. "There could never be anyone else for me… and you know it."

Their attention was diverted momentarily when Sammy squealed. "Haywee! Quit it!" He swatted at her pesky hand. Sammy was now perfectly capable of saying his sister's name properly; however, it became a habit to continue calling her what Derek had taught him. Lacy figured he would correct it when he was ready.

Hayley had crawled up her brother and the little blonde was tugging away at Sammy's light brown hair for all she was worth. It only lasted a second longer until Lacy shot her daughter a disapproving look. "Hayley… honey. Why don't you play with your blocks?"

Hayley dropped back down next to her brother. Having been scolded by her mother, she was not a happy camper but that only lasted a second. She crawled back to Sammy and gently bumped her head to his head then grinned.

Seeing that her children made amends with each other and now were playing together happily, Lacy returned her attention to Gage. "This is the life, isn't it?"

Squeezing her lover, Gage agreed. "But what about your career? You've got scores of movie offers now."

Relaxing in her lover's arms, Lacy sighed. "I know. It seems like that doesn't matter anymore. Oh, don't get me wrong - I love to act. I really do. But this… with you…." Lacy held tight to Gage's arms that were wrapped around her and nodded toward her two youngest children. "…them and the other two at school. Well, who could ask for more?"

Gage agreed wholeheartedly. And that's why I want to make sure nothing ever happens to change all of this. "Lacy? You know, since they never did catch that guy who… ran us off the road." She expelled a heavy sigh. "I think we really need to consider getting a bodyguard."

Lacy's eyes fell shut. "I know." Even as haunting thoughts of her children being kidnapped nagged at her constantly, she didn't want their peaceful life intruded upon by a stranger who would constantly remind her of the danger to her children. "We don't know for sure if it was someone out to intentionally hurt us or… get to the kids."

Gage knew she would have to be the voice of reason. "After the accident, well, you hit your head and it took a while but even you admit that the man in the black sports car bore a strong resemblance to that Jim guy that…" The next words were devastating for Gage to say, let alone admit. "..I hired to work here."

"I don't know for sure… it's possible."

The blonde leaned in for a quick peck on Lacy's cheek. Gage knew Lacy struggled with the bombarding thoughts of her children coming into harm's way. St. Troy was not a small town but for a larger city it was rather peaceful and gave a sense of tranquility for all its residents. "Okay. We'll talk about this again."

Holding even tighter to her lover's arms, Lacy agreed. "I know." Once Lacy had remembered bits and pieces of the accident and told Gage about the resemblance of the driver to the gardener Gage hired, the blonde informed the police. The investigation revealed no one by the name of Jim Smith and Steve at the garden place offered little information to help the police. The partial license plate revealed a California tag and that was the extent of it. This mystery would dog Lacy and Gage's every thought until resolved.

In the meantime, Gage recognized that glint in her daughter's eyes as she glared at her brother's light brown locks again. "Hayley! Don't you dare!" The sound of her mom's voice stopped her in her tracks.

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

Gage had successfully expelled Hayley from their bed and placed her in her crib. Stealthy, Gage pushed the crib through the connecting door to Hayley's baby room. She then jumped on the bed. "Finally! I've got you to myself."

As her lover snuggled up against her, Lacy asked. "Can we talk?"

Popping her blonde head up and seeing the serious look on her partner's face, Gage readily agreed. "Absolutely. Whatever you want."

What I want you're not ready to give. Lacy touched on the forbidden subject she craved to discover. Through the years Gage conversationally revealed little nuggets of truth that proffered more questions than answers. She poignantly caught her lover's caring green eyes with an intense look. "One day you're going to have to face that past of yours and I want to be there with you."

Her eyelids slammed shut as Gage sucked in a deep disturbed breath. "I know. I love you for being so patient with me, Lacy. I'm glad I have you now and…"

"You're stuck with me." Lacy finished. "For eternity."

Gage placed a sweet and gentle kiss on her lover's lips. "You are too good to me."

Shaking her head, a very vivid memory lurched to the forefront of her mind. "That's not true." Lacy shushed her lover before she could disagree. "Every time I get stressed out or to the point of being on my last nerve, I always end up taking it out on you."

"Now, that's not true."

"I blew up at you on the movie set with Sammy, remember?" Lacy brushed a kiss against her lover's temple.

"Doesn't count. You were sick." Gage snuggled closer. The blonde recalled the incident when Sammy got away from her after seeing his mother during the scene they were shooting and she had to chase after him. If it weren't for Lacy, Sammy would have been knocked over by the cameraman.

Lacy ran a lazy hand up and down her partner's arm. "I'm really sorry, sweetheart. That day everything was…"

"We already sorted that out, Lacy." Gage looked up at her lover. "We always do."

Lacy cupped her partner's face with her hands. "You forgive me so easily. Why…. why does it…. with your mom?"

Taking her lover's hand in hers, Gage kissed the exposed palm. "Lacy, you're comfortable in… venting…" The blonde smiled at the use of the gentle way of explaining Lacy's rare fury. "…and you know I love you… always will. You're secure in that knowledge."

"Are you? Secure about my love for you."

Gage spied a fraction of doubt momentarily claim Lacy's blue eyes. "Yes, one hundred percent." The blonde flipped on her back taking Lacy with her. As her lover melded against her, Gage attempted to explain her logic where her mother was concerned. "She… Stella….. I don't know why she did what she did." Gage found it hard to even say the word abandon. When Lacy's head sprung up off her lover's shoulder, Gage knew she was trapped. "You're going to tell me again that I should just ask her, aren't you?"

Lacy ducked in for a quick kiss. "You think you know me so well. So… are you?"

"Hmmmm…." Gage ran her fingers through Lacy's dark locks. "I've been thinking about it."

Returning her head to Gage's shoulder, Lacy smiled. "You know, sweetheart, I don't think you really believe how sorry I am about that day on the set when you suffered my wrath."

Gage voiced her concern. "Lacy, I do… really. I told you I understand why you did it."

The younger woman's hand found its way under the blonde's shirt. "I still don't like it when I take it out on you."

Inhaling a sharp intake of breath when Lacy's fingers climbed to the apex of Gage's breast, the excited blonde offered a playful resolution. "Well, you can make it up to me now."

Lacy did. Before the early morning, Gage was completely whipped, sautéed and marinated, much to her delight.

Chapter Three

After a very hectic morning getting the kids ready for school, Gage dropped them off before stopping by the store for a few last minute items Lacy needed. When she returned home, Gage found Lacy in the kitchen feeding the two youngest children. Nodding at their youngest child, Gage watched Hayley grab the spoon from her distracted mother and immediately plastered the food-filled utensil to her curly locks.

Lacy had reached over to offer Sammy another piece of toast before catching a bit of baby food splatter on to her. "Hayley, let me have that." Her daughter did as she was requested. "Did you get everything?"

"Yes, dear." Gage placidly replied. "I hope this makes Dani happy."

Lacy got up and grabbed the bag from Gage, eyeing the contents. "Perfect. Now, you know what would be even more perfect?"

Swinging her green eyes from one child to the next, Gage surmised her next assignment. "Clean the kids up?"

Lacy cupped her lover's cheek. "You are such a sweetheart…. that's why I love you so much."

Gage grunted then waggled her eyebrows. "I thought you loved me so much because of last night."

Before Lacy exited, leaving Gage to take care of the messy kids, she said. "That, too."

Slapping her hands together, Gage asked. "Which one of you wants to be first?"

Hayley stretched out her short arms while Sammy yelled. "Me, me."

When Lacy finally returned to the kitchen, she heard Stella laughing hysterically. As she stepped past the older woman, it became clear what provoked Stella's outburst. Gage was up to her elbows with their two kids bathing in the double kitchen sink. The blonde deftly averted several splashes of water by Hayley only to be doused with a cupful thrown by Sammy. Lacy cocked her hands on her hips as she moved in for a closer look.

When Gage saw the slightly perturbed look on her partner's face, she pleaded. "Be helpful not hurtful."

"Oh, I'm not gonna hurt you. At least not while you're under attack." Lacy laughed at her partner's predicament. There seemed to be more water on Gage and the floor than in the sink.

"Thank y….." Another splash of water slapped Gage in the face. Turning steely eyes on her daughter, she saw Hayley point to Sammy. Gage redirected her stare. "Oh, it was you."

"Momma…momma." Sammy reached for his would be savior. "Me, me." Upon hearing Sammy's last words, Hayley cocked her head and stared at Gage.

Wrapping a kitchen tee towel around her son, Lacy ordered her partner. "Get her…. and bring her upstairs." Shaking her head as she left the room, Lacy mumbled to anyone that would listen. "I can't leave you guys alone for one minute."

Stella shuddered under Lacy's mock glare and she definitely thought she heard her daughter-in-law blame her for Gage's actions. Guess I should get the mop.

Gage trotted off after Lacy with daughter in hand. "Lacy, you were the one that got them all messy. I was just trying to clean them up like you said and I thought why not do it .…. Anyway, the sink was right there so I stripped off their clothes and…"

After dressing her son, Lacy took Hayley from Gage. With pursed lips, she shook her head one last time.

Getting frustrated because her lover was ignoring her explanation. "…it was just a little water on the floor." Finally, Gage cocked her hands on her hips in frustration. "Besides, we had fun!"

When she finished putting fresh clothes on her daughter, Lacy sat Hayley beside her brother on their bed. Drawing her full attention to her neglected lover, Lacy slowly allowed a wide grin to adorn her face. She shook her head slightly as she approached her wet partner. "What am I going to do with you? You're all wet." Lacy leaned in brushing soft lips against Gage's cheek before her traveling lips stopped at her lover's ear. "Just the way I like you."

Pulling Lacy closer, Gage rubbed her sodden clothed body up against her lover and smiled. Oh, God, baby… this is so nice. It's going to be fun getting you just the way I like you. This lascivious thought ran rampant through the blonde's mind over and over again until it came to a screeching halt upon hearing Sammy yell.

"Haywee. Stop that."

Neither woman needed to look in order to know what their little angel was up to.

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

"Are you sure you don't want me to take her to Katie's?" Stella offered.

Lacy pushed in the last item in Dani's backpack. "No, Gage is going to do it. After she drops Dani off at Katie's, she's taking Derek to his gymnastics' lesson." Handing the bag to Stella, she asked. "Here. Can you give that to Gage? And, tell her to make sure she tells Dani to call me as soon as they get back from the movie."

Stella watched the busy mother hurriedly chase after the two youngest children. She saw Sammy steal away his yellow rubber duck from Hayley who was crawling as fast as she could after him, hot on his heels.

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

Gage picked up the kids from school and after dropping Dani off at her best friend's house, she drove Derek to his gymnastic lesson. Dressed in his gym clothes, the seven year old maneuvered the tumbles, jumps and turns with expert precision.

When Dani entered Katie's house, she expertly maneuvered through the crowd her friends had formed as the five young girls squealed in delight upon her arrival.

After the group warmed-up Derek was ready for his short routine on the mats. He ran a few feet and completed a cartwheel while his sister across town nearly did a cartwheel all her own when Lane Grayson showed up at the movie theater. The girls were to meet several boys from school so they could all go to the movie together. They would gather at Katie's house for a party after the show was over.

After his show was over, the slightly perspiring young boy shot the blonde a huge smile, happy that his routine landed him a perfect ten by Gage. He was rewarded with an ice cream cone on the way home.

Dani was going through her own routine of pretending not to care so much that Lane was actually attending the party. When he tapped her on the shoulder, Dani's face lit up. For one brief moment, she didn't mind that her best friend had asked Lane if he would be interested in going steady with her. When Dani found out that Katie asked Lane this question, she was all at once miffed and excited at the prospect of his answer. She was awarded with an affirmative response. I gotta talk to mom. But first I have to ask her a question.

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

Stella was watching a Disney movie with the kids as Lacy and Gage lounged on the couch. Gage finished her soft drink then chucked a few bits of ice in her mouth to chew on.

Patiently waiting for the telephone to ring, Lacy caught a glimpse of her watch but not the fact that Gage was munching on the ice.

Half-heartedly flipping through the movie magazine, Gage spied a glamour shot of Koda Kannon. She perused the article for a brief moment before noticing who wrote it. "Wacy.." She mumbled as she shifted the chunks of ice in her mouth with her tongue.

The sound of Gage mispronouncing her name barely got her attention. Until, she noticed the blonde chomping on the ice. "What are you doing?" Her voice cut like a hot knife with that question, effectively melting the ice in Gage's mouth.

Barely swallowing the evaporating ice, Gage spat. "What?"

"Gage Ballant, you better be taking your iron pills."

"I am. I am." Gage crossed her heart with her hand. The doctor had explained to Lacy that her partner's sudden desire to chew ice earlier during the summer was one indication of Gage being anemic.

Relieved with that bit of news, Lacy anxiously waited for the expected telephone call from Dani. Staring at the telephone, Lacy said. "If that phone doesn't…." The shrill sound of the ring made her jump. "Hello." Lacy briefly remained silent while her daughter spoke to her. "Okay, Dani, that sounds great. I'm glad you liked it." Lacy's face turned gloomy when Dani asked her a question. "Oh, Dani, I don't know. You didn't take any overnight clothes." Again, she remained quiet but the look on her face did not brighten as she listened to her daughter beg her to stay over night at her friend Katie's house.

Finally, Lacy said. "Let me talk with Ellen." While waiting for Dani to get Katie's mother, she placed a hand over the speaker. "Dani wants to stay over."

"And?"

Lacy ignored Gage's question when she heard a motherly voice on the telephone. "Hi, Ellen. Are you sure it's alright?" Lacy searched for any excuse to deny Dani her wish to stay over. With a heavy sigh, she relented. "Okay. I'll pick her up at ten in the morning." Reluctantly, Lacy hung up the telephone.

Rubbing Lacy's arm, Gage finally reached for her partner's hand, squeezed it then brought it to her lips for a reassuring kiss. "She'll be okay."

"I know." Lacy's mind reverted to the short talk she had with Dani before school that day. This was the first time Dani had ever stayed over at one of her friend's house. Dani was used to staying with family members and did reluctantly get through that short weekend at the boarding school when both her parents had a television commitment in New York. Dani had agreed that morning before school to call her mom when they came back from the movie. She wasn't prepared for the unexpected request to stay over at Katie's house.

Lacy's mind drifted back to her first sleepover. That was a lot of fun. It sure is different from a mother's perspective though. It's one of the first sign of them growing up… and leaving…and…. Lacy welcomed Dani's friends for sleepovers but it was entirely different when her daughter wanted to stay over at her friend's house.

Bringing Lacy out of her forlorn musings, Gage nudged her and nodded toward Stella and the kids. A brief smile lazily rose on her face as she watched her three children and their grandmother intently glued to the set.

"Hey, look at this." Gage shoved the magazine at Lacy in hopes of further distracting her. "Guess who wrote the article?"

Lacy did a double take upon seeing the caption under the picture of Koda Kannon. "Tony Kussler is working for that magazine?" It was the premiere entertainment magazine in the industry.

"Yeah…. the scuttlebutt is that Koda got him the job." Gage heard the news from Mark who got the bit of information from his old college roommate. Ron Griffen had his finger on the pulse of Hollywood and he prided himself in the fact that if something happened in the showbiz town, he knew about.

Leaning against her lover, Lacy said. "I'm glad. Now maybe he'll get past his little resentment toward me."

Unwilling to accept his own responsibility in getting fired from his lucrative contract on the entertainment television show he hosted, Tony Kussler had pointed the misaimed finger of guilt at Lacy.

They spent the rest of the evening in quiet solitude and after the kids were tucked into bed, Gage crawled up next to Lacy with a heavy thought weighing on her mind. With Lacy's encouragement, Gage had determined that before the weekend was over she would talk with her mom. Settling, she hoped, once and for all the distant and disheveled relationship between them.

Chapter Four

Saturday morning Lacy was up early, dragging Gage with her. "I want to get the kids fed and ready before we pick up Dani at ten."

Gage gave one last half-hearted attempt to sneak back under the covers. She spied the digital clock on the nightstand and groaned. Her rebellion expired quickly when she heard Lacy yell out her full name. Springing out of bed, she complied dutifully. "I'm up. I'm up."

Lacy was like a whirlwind, dressing the kids, gathering various discarded clothes on the floor and corralling everyone to the kitchen where she prepared the morning meal.

Derek and Sammy were excited when their mother informed them they were going on an early morning excursion while Hayley shot Gage an evil green eye. At least it felt that way to Gage, realizing that when her young daughter woke up and found herself not sleeping next to her two moms, Hayley knew who was the culprit for the unwanted deed. I've seen that same look from Lacy when I…. Gage never finished her thought as Lacy placed a plate of food before her. Seeing several pieces of bacon, Gage waited until Lacy turned away before she used a strip of bacon to get back on her daughter's good side. I know Lacy doesn't like it but Hayley loves sucking on this stuff. Sure enough it did the trick as the tiny curly haired blonde couldn't resist.

Smiling, Gage thought she had successfully escaped the watchful mother's eye of her partner until she turned and saw Lacy staring at her. Uh oh, that's the same look Hayley just gave me.

When breakfast was over, Lacy herded the children and Gage out the door after she waved goodbye to Stella who was going shopping with her mother. Lynn and the ex-nanny had become fast friends especially after Stella revealed her relationship to Gage.

Gage pulled up in front of Katie's house precisely at ten. Lacy resisted the motherly desire to meet her daughter at Katie's front door. Instead, she waited patiently in the car. Waving back to her friend, Dani ran from the house and jumped in the backseat of Lacy's minivan. With Hayley's arrival in the family, it was decided that Gage's Jeep was not big enough. So, they bought a minivan much to the self-appointed chauffeur's chagrin. Gage loved driving her jeep and refused to refer to the minivan as theirs. Henceforth, it was Lacy's van.

"Did you have to bring everybody?" Dani's counterfeit sarcasm drew a sly look from her mother. In truth, the oldest sibling rejoiced in seeing her entire family. She was spending more and more time with her friends; however, it was her family that always came first.

Derek crawled out of his seatbelt and plopped over the middle seat's back. "Mom made us get up extra early because she was worried about you."

With that comment, he was next in line to receive the same look Lacy had given Dani just a minute before so he changed the subject. "Did you kiss any boys?"

Twisting around in her seat, Dani declared. "Derek!! You are so immature."

His response was to stick out his tongue then make kissing noises.

Turning back around, Dani complained. "Mom, would you do something about your…. child?"

Ignoring her daughter's pestering brother, Lacy asked. "Did you have a good time?"

Feeling like she was going to be bombarded with an array of question, Dani said. "Yes." Before she asked her mother. "Can we talk… privately?" She shot Gage a quick look then nodded back over her shoulder at Derek.

"Sure. Later."

Dani reached over to Hayley who was secured in her car seat. She tickled the little girl and asked. "Did you miss me?"

Hayley smiled at her and then she heard Sammy yell. "Me, me." He tried to wiggle from his own car seat to get to his oldest sister. Hayley's eyes drifted to the driver of the car.

"Sammy, hold on. When we get home, I'll get you out. Okay?" Dani gave him a quick wink when he acquiesced to her offer.

Derek spied Gage give him a look through the rearview mirror that said 'get back in your seat' before she put the car in gear and drove away. They decided to stop by the mall and do a little shopping before heading home.

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

Lacy and her daughter sat on the covered seat in front of the bay window in Dani's room. "What's on your mind?" The mother swept back an errant piece of her daughter's bangs.

Dani sighed. "Boys."

"One in particular?"

Nodding, Dani confirmed what her mother already knew. "Katie asked Lane if he'd like to go steady with me."

Giving Lacy her due, she stifled her shocked initial reaction. "She did. What do you think about that?"

Dani shrugged. "At first I was sorta mad then kinda glad when she told me what he said."

"I take it he liked the idea."

"Yes." Dani couldn't contain her jubilant smile. "He asked me."

"I see. Just what does going steady mean to you, Dani?" Lacy needed to traverse this potential minefield with the greatest of ease.

"You know, everybody knows we're like…. together."

"Together?"

"Yeah. We talk at school. Meet at the mall and hang out. Go to a movie…maybe. Things like that."

Corralling her spinning thoughts, Lacy informed her daughter. "Dani. You know, you can't date until you're sixteen."

"Not that kinda of going together." The thirteen year old pulled her legs up to her chest and leaned against the window. "It's more like talking on the phone and like I said just meeting each other at get togethers… that sort of thing."

Lacy remembered that sort of thing. She wasn't that old not to know what started out as just holding hands and innocent kisses led to… even more now in this day and age. Over the last four years from time to time, the question of dating and sex sprang out of things that happened so Lacy would talk openly with her daughter, answering all her questions. "Honey, what did you tell Lane?"

"I said I would let him know Monday. I wanted to talk with you first."

Thank you, God. Thank you. "Alright. Where do you want to start?"

"Katie said if I go steady with Lane, I can't talk with other boys."

Relieved that her daughter's first question wasn't one of a more intimate nature, Lacy laughed. "Come here." Dani scooted closer. "You can talk to whomever you want. Going steady does not isolate you from your other friends - whether they are girls or boys."

Lacy and Dani spent the next two hours touching every subject within reason that would guide Dani to a logical decision regarding going steady with Lane Grayson. As much as Dani liked the idea, she was reluctant to take that step. She expressed her concern about the pressure her friends would give her if she didn't accept his proposal. Then on the other hand if she did, Dani thought it might create a barrier between herself and some of her friends. She knew Katie liked Lane as well. It was going to be a long weekend for the young teenage girl.

When Lacy was finished talking with her daughter, she sought out her partner only to find Gage deep in thought. Lacy put the kids to bed then found her way to their bedroom.

As the day grew longer, Gage had become quieter and quieter. Time was running out. Stressing over her upcoming confrontation… I mean conversation…with her mother, Lacy pulled her partner in her arms offering Gage a peaceful, quiet port of safety before the dawn brought the impending doom.

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

Lacy informed Gage that after church she was taking the kids to her mother's for a visit, leaving the nervous blonde and Stella alone for their talk.

Wringing her hands together, Gage stood next to the minivan wishing she was going along to visit Lacy's parents. The kids had already said their goodbyes when Lacy allowed Hayley to lean over and bump heads with Gage. The blonde held her daughter for a brief moment before attempting to give Hayley back to Lacy.

Shaking her head, Lacy refused the offering. "No. You may need her."

With that Lacy dropped in the car and drove away.

Bouncing her daughter in her arms, Gage pursed her lips. Darn you, Lacy. You know I'll keep my emotions under control with Hayley there. Gage kissed her daughter before turning back to the door. "Your mother's tricky. You know that, don't you Hayley?"

The tiny blonde seemed to understand the gravity of the moment and for the first time she leaned in, giving her mom a wet kiss on the cheek.

Gage did everything she could to avoid the dreaded discussion with her mother. She changed Hayley's dry diaper and offered the tiny tot food to see if she was hungry. The blonde checked for dirty dishes…anything to further delay the talk with her mother.

Finally summoning all her courage and sucking in a deep breath, Gage casually strolled into the family room to find Stella reading the Sunday paper. She nodded at her mother.

"Gage? I thought you guys were going over to Lynn's after church?" Stella dropped the paper to her lap. She wondered why Lacy hadn't asked her to go along.

"Well, Lacy did and the kids." Nodding her head toward her daughter, she continued. "Except I got this one. Actually, I was… I stayed behind…" The blonde looked everywhere except at her mother.

Recognizing that something was wrong, Stella placed the paper on the end table and started to get up. "What's wrong?"

Shooting a halting hand up, Gage said. "Don't get up. It's nothing really. I was… Lacy thought…. and I did, too. That maybe… we should…" Gage drew in another calming breath before she sat on the couch across from Stella. "…talk."

Nodding, Stella knew the source of anxiety her daughter was definitely displaying signs of. Clasping her hands together, Stella simply said. "Okay."

Trying to get comfortable, Gage suddenly realized she didn't know where to start. "You go first." The stressed blonde exhaled a sigh of relief when Stella nodded.

"Okay. I take this is about… us." Seeing her daughter's green eyes shift nervously, Stella knew she was on the right track. Lacy had also given her a heads-up about the impending discussion. Stella could hear Lacy's voice in her mind, replaying the sage advice her daughter-in-law had given her. You'll not only have to start it but keep it going. Knowing she should ease into the conversation, Stella proffered a question she had long wanted to ask. "Do you mind if I ask you why you didn't have Mark as Hayley's godfather? He is her biological father."

Relieved by hearing a question she could answer, the dooming weight on her shoulders lightened a bit. "Lacy and I talked about it with Mark. He was our first choice, but Mark figured it should be someone younger. And, I really like Nate." Referring to Lacy's youngest brother, Gage continued. "At first Mark was reluctant to be a major part in Hayley's life because he didn't want that to take away from Hayley being our child… Lacy and mine. Lacy and I both had to do some real convincing that we would never feel that way. We want Mark to be very much a part of Hayley's life. When the time's right we plan on telling Hayley the circumstances of her…. creation."

Upon hearing her name several times, Hayley gurgled several unrecognizable words. But Gage could tell she was happy to be the center of the conversation.

"If anything should happen to… us…. Lacy and me, Mark will get custody." Gage stated simply then noticed a very sad look cross her mother's face. "Of course, there's you, too. And Lacy's parents. We want you in her life no matter what. You…you are her grandmother."

Feeling the relief of being assured by her daughter, Stella smiled. "I want that, too."

Even Hayley offered a look of approval to them.

"Of course, I don't know how long this old body's going to hold out."

Feeling a little bit guilty because she had never asked how her mom's visit to the doctor went - as she passed that chore to Lacy - the blonde asked. "Are you feeling okay? Lacy said the doctor gave you a clean bill of health."

Waving off her daughter's concern, Stella confirmed. "She did. Although, I've got two horse pills I have to take for ten days."

Mother and daughter shared a laugh that truly felt good. Since Hayley was starting to wiggle in her mother's arms as she was becoming bored with all the talk, Stella retrieved her favorite toy and gave them to her granddaughter. Hayley greedily took possession of the plastic keys and promptly stuck them in her mouth.

A deafening silence fell between them. As Lacy had predicted, it was up to Stella to re-start their conversation. She dove into the cold dangerous waters head first. "I'm sorry, Gage. I didn't do right by you. I know that." She stubbornly continued even as the blonde tried to shuck it off. "I know you can never fully forgive me…."

That's not true. Gage was surprised by this thought that jumped to the forefront of her mind.

"….I don't expect it. I just want to be part of your life now… in any way I can…. with you and your family."

"They're your family now, too." The blonde found herself saying things she never thought she ever would - at least not to the mother that had abandoned her and set in motion the rocky journey Gage had to traverse. Twin feelings inside her raised their head, alternating between anger and relief.

"Thank you….. for that."

"Don't thank me. Lacy would kill me if…." Realizing her words caused a hurt look to suddenly appear on Stella's face, Gage wished back the ill-fated words and hoped the next ones would truly convey her feelings. "Stella, I…. I don't know how we're going to get through this but…" The writer struggled to formulate the words that would accurately reflect the vortex of feelings she had regarding her mother. She temporarily elected to take the easiest route. "…somewhere in all of this… I want you to know that Lacy and I will be there for you no matter what. If anything… you know with your health….."

"Yes, my health." Somehow her daughter's consoling words did not comfort her.

"That's not what I mean exactly… although we will be there….. should anything… well, you know." God, this is so hard. The only thing that pushed her forward with the conversation and made her stay glued to her seat was the fact that Lacy wanted her to do this.

"Maybe if I…. would you like to know what led me to my decision?" Stella correctly took Gage's no response as an affirmative. "I was fifteen when I became pregnant with you. The boy… your father… I was very much in love.... though I came to find out he wasn't. I'm sorry to tell you this, but I think you deserve and want the truth."

Gage nodded even as she felt the anger building inside her. One quick look at Hayley tempered the heated rise from igniting.

"I found out later it was just a bet. You were conceived because of bunch of his friends made this deal between them on who would be the first to… have a virgin." The memories that flooded her mind of that revelation devastated the innocent fifteen-year-old girl. Unshed tears filled her eyes. "I didn't know what to do. Back then…. he offered to help me get an abortion. I just couldn't do that."

As much as this stubborn little part of Gage never wanted to fully forgive her mother, upon seeing Stella falter even Gage couldn't resist reaching out and offering her mother a touch of consolation.

It warmed Stella's heart to feel her daughter's touch. A trembling wave of emotions shuddered through her body. That touch gave her the strength to go on. "My father had died the year before and mom was working two jobs to support us. I had two younger brothers."

This bit of news brought a questioning look to Gage's eyes.

"They were both killed later in the Vietnam war." Stella informed her daughter. "Anyway, I happened to run into this social worker at the doctor's office."

"Grace." Gage supplied the social worker's name.

Nodding, Stella continued. "She was a savior to me. Grace helped me get through the most agonizing decision I was faced with up until then. I couldn't burden my mom with my responsibility and I was working part time to help her with the bills and going to school." Stella patted her daughter's hand. "That's not important though."

I think it is. Gage thought. I should really tell her this but….. No matter how hard the blonde tried, she just couldn't muster the words she knew her mother would be comforted by. Gage was fighting the angry feelings inside her, pushing them down as best she could. Hayley sitting n her lap offered the strength to remain on an even keel and not lose control of her emotions.

"Grace gave me options and personally promised to look after you if I decided to give you up for adoption. It was my decision alone." Stella relieved a heavy sigh. "It was the best this pregnant fifteen year old could come up with."

"I can see that…." The blonde reluctantly asked a question that had been looming in her mind ever since Stella confirmed that she was the one to help Gage get over her stuttering. "Why did you come back into my life….and then leave again?"

"A few years after… that, I graduated and got a job. Then I fell in love with a very nice man, Gordon Smith."

"So, Smith is your married name?"

"Mmmm hmmmm." Stella continued. "We found out that we couldn't… I couldn't have any more children. Your birth wasn't the easiest. There were complications. Gage, I never…. every day I thought of you. You were always on my mind. By chance I ran into Grace one day and found out that the people that adopted you shortly after your birth died in a car accident when you were almost two."

Gage tried to retrieve any memories of this couple her mother referred to but couldn't. "I don't…I don't remember." Learning this news about her adopted parents started another round of angry feelings inside her. It's like I was destined to never have a family of my own.

"Couples at that time were more interested in a newborn. It was harder to place you as you got older. Grace did her best. I think maybe you would have been adopted before I saw you again but Grace was very particular about any couple that was going to get you. I know it's a something she feels bad about."

Gage interrupted her mother. "It's not her fault. She's my first real memory. I love her. She only wanted what was best for me." I guess you did, too.

"When she told me that you had not been adopted, I begged her to let me work at the center and I was intent on talking with Gordon about adopting you but I had to explain a few things to him first. I never told him about you." Stella explained. "It seems everything I did was wrong. I should have told him."

"Guess he didn't like it much, huh?"

"It was more of a shock to him. He wasn't really opposed to me trying to get you back…. he was just trying to deal with all of it. And, then there was the fact that I couldn't have anymore children." Stella let that thought die on her lips. "I was content to be with you at the center and I knew Gordon would come around. You were the cutest thing…and smart, too. Very curious and always had question after question."

"I remember. You always had an answer for me." The angry feelings inside eased a bit.

"I have to admit something…." Stella leaned in closer and Hayley thought she wanted a kiss so the little girl crawled onto her grandmother's lap and bumped heads. Gage and Stella shared a laugh before she continued. "Some of the answers I made up…. you were smarter than me even when you were five."

"Somehow I can't believe that. If I remember right, I was pretty stubborn." Gage recalled how she would repeat the question she had on her mind until she got the answer she thought was logical.

"That, too." Stella offered a genuine smile. "One day a couple came in when Grace wasn't there. They had talked with another social worker and when they saw you…. well, you were exactly what they wanted."

"That I do remember. I was sad to leave you and Grace but I liked Nikki immediately." Gage recalled the couple's little girl and her parents wanted their daughter to have a sister, as they were unable to get pregnant again. "The day they took me home I was the happiest little girl. I had a family to call my own."

"Yes, you went back and forth being happy then sad over the whole thing. But, when you saw Nikki…. well, having a sister was one thing I wouldn't be able to give you." Now for the hard part. "I knew I had to walk away from you a second time so you could truly bond with your new family. I think if you could have had Grace, Nikki and me as your family….."

A smile came easily to Gage's face. "That was my dream family." Surprised she had said it out loud, Gage added. "Eventually though I did really get my dream family." Gage reached over and tickled her daughter's belly.

"I left knowing I would never see you again but thinking you would be happy and well cared for." Stella concluded her story surrounding Gage's birth and adoptions.

The few times Gage's feelings started to ignite and skyrocket upon hearing her mother's story because painful memories flooded her mind was tempered by the sight of her daughter. Lacy you are the wisest person in the world. "I think I understand…. as much as I can right now."

"I'm not asking for your forgiveness, Gage. Just to have you….all of you in my life somehow."

Gage squeezed her mother's arm before she relieved Stella of Hayley. "That I can promise you. I want Hayley to know all of her family."

The open wound in their relationship would take time to heal. It was Lacy's accurate prescription to heal Gage's relationship with her mother that would lead to the cure.

There was a question that had pounded away at Gage for years. She had spent many hours mulling over this particular elusive mystery. "By the way, I have one more question."

Expecting the query she most dreaded, Stella braced herself. When it finally registered what Gage had asked, she was surprised but greatly relieved that her daughter didn't ask about her father.

"What does my middle initial 'S' stand for?"

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

When Lacy crawled in bed with Gage, she scooted as close as she could considering the ever present child between them. Eyeing their little bundle of joy, Lacy placed Hayley on her left so Gage could hold her. Feeling her partner expel a very satisfied sigh, Lacy said. "I know you had a rough day."

"Mmmmm.." Gage hugged her lover.

"First you talk with Stella, then Mitch calls." Lacy let her statement hang in the air hoping Gage would catch it. When the sleepy blonde didn't, Lacy turned to lie on her back. She wanted to see her lover's face when she asked the next question. "Are you too tired to tell me what he wanted?"

Shortly before bedtime, Mitchell Stone telephoned his ex-lover. Gage took the call that lasted thirty minutes. Lacy busied herself getting the kids ready for bed. She wanted to preoccupy her mind, so as not to worry regarding the motivation behind his unexpected call.

As tired as Gage was, she knew this conversation would be broached before the night was through and that it was very important to Lacy. "I'm never too tired for you." Gage placed a loving kiss on her partner's lips. "You know, you set me up leaving Hayley with me while I talked with Stella."

Lacy knew Gage wasn't trying to avoid the subject at hand. "Did the trick, did it?"

"It was like she was a whole fire department all by herself waiting to douse even the smallest spark that might have struck. With those innocent eyes of hers… just like yours." The tip of Gage's fingers drew an imaginary line along Lacy's jaw line while staring into her lover's eyes.

"Like yours. A beautiful green." Lacy countered.

Shaking her head, Gage disagreed. "The blue in her eyes is coming out more and more every day. I like it."

One of the same eyes they were talking about popped open for a brief moment as Hayley surveyed their assigned places. Knowing she wasn't exactly where she wanted to be the astute toddler somehow knew that her mothers needed to be together this night. With that thought, she let her sleepy eyelid fall shut.

"He just wanted to talk. He's still having problems." Mitch and his wife had reconciled during the summer. Gage didn't really want to get into another subject from her past. However, to provide Lacy with what she wanted to know about the call and Mitch, Gage would have to reveal a few things about her along with it. "He called me instead of getting drunk."

An arched eyebrow sprang up.

"They had a fight and he needed to get away for awhile." Gage sucked in a deep breath and her partner was very much aware that the blonde was about to take a giant step forward. "Mitch and I used to…. Lacy, you know I've never really drank much."

"I know."

"There was a time though. Mitch and I would close down the bar nearly every night. We worked together at a treatment facility for teenagers, and when we got off work, we'd hit the bar." After the bar was closed a very drunk twosome would somehow find their way home, fall into bed and drag themselves out of it just in time to go to work the next afternoon - which would start the cycle all over again. "We didn't intend to get drunk. Because of our unusual work shift, we didn't really have time for our normal shift-working friends. Not much to do when we got off at ten… except hit the bars."

Lacy didn't want to interrupt the flow of her partner's welcomed revelation but she also knew Gage might need a moment to re-group. "I can understand that. An actor's life has weird work schedules, too."

"Yeah, I found out." Glad for the short reprieve, Gage pressed forward. "It became habit. Same routine day after day and even on our days off we'd end up at the bar. When life's pressure would hit us, I guess we started to use drinking as our way of escaping. We were used to it. Mitch knew I'd understand and so he called."

"Smart man."

"Why do you say that?"

"It worked, didn't it? Instead of getting drunk, I'm betting he went home."

"Correct on the first try." Gage was proud of the fact that Mitch elected to call her for help and felt good about herself for guiding her old friend in the right direction. "When you're lucky enough to have a family of your own… people who love you, nothing and I mean nothing comes before that."

Lacy kissed her lover as a reward for the good deed done.

"Guess you know now?"

The dark haired woman was puzzled. "Know what?"

"That I really wasn't making much of a sacrifice giving up liquor when you were pregnant."

"Sweetheart, you'll never know how much you did for me and I don't just mean when I was pregnant. You've changed your whole life for me."

"And the kids." Gage smiled.

"We all love you." Once again, Lacy kissed her lover passionately.

Gage shifted uncomfortably. "I'm sorry about that night at Mark's bachelor's party."

"No." It was Lacy's turn to run a long finger along Gage's face. "I'm the one that should be sorry. You've always taken the brunt of when I've been stressed out. This is no excuse but it's because I know you love me so much and you always will. There's a very comforting feeling knowing that I can strike out during those times…. at you…" Lacy ducked in to offer her lover an apologetic kiss. Tears filled her eyes. "…and…" Lacy couldn't go on.

"I'll always love you no matter what… same as you, Lacy. My heart fills with utter joy to know that I will always have your love." Gage understood perfectly why Lacy seemed to vent her anger at her. For Gage there was never anything for Lacy to ever be sorry about regarding these times because she took great pleasure in knowing that Lacy felt the depth of her love. "Come here."

Lacy passionately returned her lover's kiss. "You're everything to me."

"Yeah. Me and four…." Gage considered for one brief moment to use a funny description of their children like 'rug rats' or 'curtain climbers' but rejected that thought immediately. Name calling when she was just a kid had a devastating affect on her. "…. beautiful and loving children."

"That I do." Lacy pulled her lover's head to rest on her shoulder. I'm the luckiest person in the world.

Chapter Five

A little over two months later the Ballant clan was gathered around the beautifully decorated eight-foot evergreen tree celebrating Christmas Eve. They were spending this evening together before celebrating Christmas Day at Lacy's parents home.

With wrapping paper, ribbons and toys haphazardly spread across the family room's floor, Lacy and Gage settled on the couch watching their children play. They had offered to build Stella a small house next to their home thinking she would want a place of her own and some privacy. Stella refused stating she was happy with her large room. She didn't tell them the real reason she wanted to stay in the house. After years of not having her daughter in her life, Stella needed to stay as close as she could with her family.

Derek was happily playing with his new racetrack after insisting that Gage put it together. So for nearly an hour, they both worked diligently connecting the intricate pieces with some help from Sammy and Hayley, which ended up being more of a detriment to getting the track in working order. As a final touch, Derek placed his huge stuffed panda bear in the center of the track.

Shaking her head, Gage knew she would have to take the large track apart and reconstruct it within the next few days in her son's room. "Lacy, we're going to have to knock out the wall between Derek's room and that spare room if we keep getting him bigger and bigger racetracks each year."

Lacy lightly slapped her lover's arm. "Oh, he'll grow out of it and next year they'll be something else that will get his attention."

"Ha!" Gage grunted. "That's what you have been saying for the last three years and each time it has to be bigger and bigger and now… Sammy's into them, too."

Lacy nudged her partner, distracting the blonde from her mock ranting and raving. "Look." Lacy pointed to Dani.

"Mom! Where's the batteries?" Dani yelled, holding up her new portable CD player which the young girl in her mind had already selected the perfect place for it in her room.

Stella jumped up. "Here you go Dani. How many do you need?"

They fiddled with the CD player, inserting the batteries so Dani could carry it around the room. "Thanks grandma."

Every time Stella heard that word, it warmed her heart. Dani was the first to use it. It didn't take long for Derek and Sammy to follow suit as their oldest and wisest sibling explained to them. "If she's our grandma, we get better presents."

"Stop it Hayley!" Derek whined. "Now give it back."

The energetic tiny blonde grabbed the yellow racecar after she derailed it from the track near the hairpin curve.

He chased after his little sister but she wobbled safely between her grandmother's legs, burying her blonde head against Stella. "No." This was first intelligible word from Hayley's mouth and she used it often.

"Mooom…" Derek twisted around to find Lacy and gave her a stern look, demanding. "Make her give it back."

"Derek, you must have what…. a zillion of those cars?"

Narrowing his grey eyes at his sister, he complained. "That's my favorite." He then quickly returned to look at his mother. "Besides, she's your daughter!"

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Lacy decided to give her young son a lesson in sharing. "Derek, just a few minutes ago Hayley let you play with her new play piano. She didn't whine and complain about it. Now did she?"

He looked back at his sister and sighed. "Oh, okay." Leaning down, he turned his sister around facing him. "Hayley." Her bright eyes crowned her smile. "You can play with it for ten more minutes, okay? Then you have to give it back to me."

Sticking it in her mouth, she nodded.

"Oh, great… now I'm gonna have to let it dry for an hour." Derek fussed with her long curly locks before returning to his racetrack. By this time, Sammy had moved in and was taking it over. "Sammy, you can play with me, okay?" Not even getting his brother's attention, he plopped back down near the track and grabbed one of the controls.

With a clear path to her mothers, Hayley made a beeline to them. The piles of discarded wrapping paper and toys didn't deter her from her mission. Gage lifted her up on her lap.

"Here. Let me have her. I have one more gift for you." Lacy exchanged her daughter for the gift in her hand.

"More for me!" Gage waggled her eyes, happy to get another present. She tore it open, revealing a bottle of cocoa butter formula.

Lacy noticed her partner's lackadaisical reaction. "Don't worry, sweetheart. There's a whole case of it already in the bathroom."

This brought a huge smile to Gage's face. Every since the blonde had used cocoa butter on Lacy's expanding pregnant stomach and realized how well it worked to ward off any stretch marks, Gage started using it liberally on her whole body. "Hey, it's for you more than me." Gage leaned in to whisper in her lover's ear. "So you can have nice soft, silky skin to play with." The blonde left a trail of soft kisses down her partner's neck.

"Always thinking of me."

Gage nodded before setting the bottle aside. When she did that, Hayley bounced over onto her lap. Hayley climbed up her blonde headed mother and kissed her.

From across the room, Sammy eyed his sister's move with keen concern. He dropped the remote control on the floor then made his way across the room, crawling up onto Gage's empty knee. "Me…me." Suddenly, he kissed Gage on the cheek as Hayley stared at her.

Reaching up her tiny hand, Hayley patted Gage's cheek where Sammy kissed her and echoed her brother's words. "Me, me."

"Why thank you, Sammy." She smiled and brushed her lips along his temple then kissed her daughter's hand. "You, too. Thank you."

With a light shove, Sammy pushed at his sister to move over to Lacy's lap. Hayley resisted. Not because she didn't want to but because she wanted to give her brother a kiss, too, which she did.

"Come over here, Hayley." The little girl complied.

"Hayley… look. Another present for you." Dani handed the neatly wrapped gift to her sister. Seeing the jealous look on her brother's face, Dani quickly retrieved the gift she had got for him. "Here's yours from me, Sammy." Happily, he took it and carefully and painstakingly opened it. He was such a precise little boy.

Dani watched both her siblings unwrap their presents as she fingered the new charm on her bracelet. It was from Lane. He had given her a small silver unicorn. Back in September, the young girl decided not to go steady with Lane. At first she fretted about it until Lane confessed he felt pressured by his friends to ask her. With that admission, they seemed to grow closer and the bond between them would continue to grow through the years.

Her mother helped Hayley unwrap the present to reveal a new outfit. "Dani. Would you help her put it on?" Lacy asked.

"Oh, mom. I was just going to play my new CD." Seeing that answer did not meet her mother's approval, Dani changed her mind. "Okay….c'mere you little squirt."

Sammy remained on Gage's lap much to her astonishment, holding on to his new Disney movie. I guess Lacy was really right..

He pushed the videotape in his hand at Gage. "Play for me?"

Surprised, Gage was about to agree but Lacy answered first. "Not tonight, honey." The frown on his face prompted her to offer. "Tomorrow morning before we go to your other grandmother's house we'll watch it…. in bed. Okay?"

Happy to comply with his mother's wishes, he nodded. "Okay." But refused to let go of his prized present or his place on Gage's lap.

"What do you mean 'in bed'?" Gage glared at her partner. One of Lacy's presents to her was one of those new thin-screened televisions that the younger woman said would fit perfectly in their bedroom. "Not in our bedroom." The blonde declared.

"I got it for the bedroom. Why don't you want one in there?"

"You know what they say." Gage cocked her head as if Lacy should have known. But she didn't so Gage explained, whispering into her partner's ear. "Once the TV comes through the door, sex goes out the window."

Lacy erupted in laugher, swatting her lover's arm. "Like that would ever happen."

"Hayley!" Still on her knees, Dani yelled. "Come back here." After Dani took off Hayley's clothes so she could put on her new outfit, the tiny escape artist wiggled free from her sister's grasp.

"No." Hayley shot back with a smile.

Exasperated, Dani sat back on her legs, spying a big red bow.

Like a magnet drawn to the North Pole everyone's eyes and full attention needled to Hayley as she stood there with a huge happy smile on her face.

Snatching up the red bow, Dani planted it on her sister's curly locks. Dani then pushed the play button on her CD player. When the song erupted, filling the room, Hayley shook her little bare butt to the beat as she clapped her hands.

"Ooooh…my….gosh…" Gage let out.

"What?" Eyes still glued to her daughter, Lacy asked.

Motioning her head at their naked daughter, she resolved herself to the truth dancing before her. "Our little bohemian!"

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

"Stella!"

"What about her?" Lacy asked.

The frustrated blonde finally decided to let Lacy in on her secret. She turned to Lacy aiming serious green eyes at her lover. Gage noticed her partner become concerned. "Stella. That's my name. My middle name. Instead of Saint like I… would have preferred, it's Stella." The blonde let out with an exasperated sigh. "And Gage is my mother's maiden name."

"Oh, sweetheart." Lacy cupped her lover's cheek. "I think it's beautiful."

"Well, anyway, that's your last Christmas present." For tonight that is. "I knew you'd like it."

Anytime Gage revealed even the smallest nugget about herself, Lacy accepted it as a very special treasured gift. "No more gifts tonight?" Lacy snuggled closer, sliding a very silky and sexy leg along Gage's leg then parked itself over the blonde's hips.

Gage spared a defeated green eye at their bedmate, happily sleeping on her right side. "We promised her."

The smart little 9-month-old toddler finally found a way to ensure that she remained in her mothers bed all night long. She gave up sleeping between them in a compromise to stay the whole night. Lacy was the one to figure it out first. Once in bed, Hayley would kiss both her mothers then either crawl in the middle or to the side of one of her mothers. Every time she woke the next morning after having crawled to the side of one of her mothers and Hayley found herself in her baby bed in the morning, the tiny blonde - in a rare show of emotion - was miffed and cranky. Lacy noticed that when their little girl chose to fall asleep between them, she would be her usual happy self even though she woke up in her own bed the next morning. Once Lacy figured it out, all of them were very happy.

"Mmmmm…. okay then Gage Stella Ballant." Lacy smiled. "The very first night our little angel falls asleep where we can put in her in her own bed… then you're mine."

Gage kissed her lover. "Promise."

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

Bright and early the next morning, Sammy gathered his brother and sister then headed to his parent's room, carrying his video. He stopped to yell for his grandmother but she refused to budge from her bed. Stella was up past midnight collecting all the left over wrapping paper and discarded boxes even after Lacy protested when she told them her plans.

A sleepy Gage agonizingly dragged her eyes open to find all of their children in bed. The brand new television and DVD player was placed across the room ready for use. With Stella on her secret mission to clean up the family room, Lacy had a mission of her own since she promised Sammy they could watch his video in their room. Actually, it didn't take much prompting for Lacy to convince Gage to haul the television and the accompanying DVD player up to their bedroom and hook them up. She only had to explain to Gage how wonderful her partner was around the house and she would be lost without her. When Lacy ducked her head slightly, offering a small pout, Gage caved.

With Derek on the right side of Gage and Sammy on her lap, she scooted closer to Lacy who was holding Hayley. Dani took up residence on her mother's left side as she patiently waited for the movie to start.

"Okay." Gage grabbed the remote. "Who wants to start the movie?"

"Me…me!" Sammy captured it from Gage's hand and pressed 'play'.

"Me, me?" Hayley echoed in the form of a question as she looked at Gage.

Lacy couldn't quite be sure but she what thought her daughter said referred to Gage. Mimi? Now that's interesting.

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

Christmas Day had come and gone and when they retired for the night, Hayley took up residence between her mothers. As Lacy and Gage watched her get settled, they shared a very sensual thought.

As they waited for Hayley to fall asleep, Lacy recounted the day at her parent's house. Stella joined them and spent a lot of time talking with Lynn while Dan helped the kids unwrap another round of presents. They found out that the mild winter allowed her brother Hank and Jason full speed ahead on the movie studio project. Neither Jen nor Lisa was ever caught too far away from their husbands. Nate's new girlfriend, Veronica… he called her 'Roni' joined the family festivities. Denny, his wife Crystal and their son Jonathan showed up just before dinner was served.

David and Hayston stopped by after the turkey dinner. Astutely, Lacy noticed a strain between the couple. Definitely…. strained. When a still excited newlywed Lisa asked David about his future wedding plans, David paled. Lacy reasoned her ex-husband was dancing around the subject causing his girlfriend's face to contort in frustration. All in all, it was a good day and David planned on staying a few days to spend some time with his children. It would be the first time Hayley would be left behind as her siblings went with their father. Though Mark and his wife, Julie, planned on spending the next few days through the New Year with Lacy and Gage. It would give Hayley more time to get to know her biological father. When she's ready, we'll tell her.

Within a half an hour, Gage placed Hayley in her baby bed in the connecting room. The blonde kept the door cracked open slightly. Climbing up her tall horizontal statuesque lover, Gage molded her body next to Lacy. "I think I made you a promise." The blonde didn't waste time, latching her lips onto one of Lacy's sensitive places.

Throwing her head back to expose more of her neck to her lover's sexual assault, Lacy agreed. "That you did."

The blonde's lips drifted lower as her hands moved in rapid fire all over her lover's body, leaving no place untouched. When Gage shifted on top of her partner, Lacy knew she had to act fast or it would be morning before she could talk with Gage.

"Gage." Lacy cooled her lover's jets for a brief moment. "I want you to know I loved the painting set you gave me."

After seeing a perplexed look fleet across Lacy's face when she opened her gift on Christmas Day, Gage wasn't so sure it was a good idea. "You're not just saying that."

"No, I do…. really. It took me back to my high school days for a moment when Hank and Jason played a trick on me that ended up with me covered in a rainbow of paint." A dawning smile crept up on her face. That should have given me a clue. "How'd you know I enjoyed painting?"

"That was easy. I asked your mom." Lacy smiled as Gage rearranged a piece of hair back from her lover's face. "I learn new things about you all the time."

Wish there was a few more things I could learn about you. "Sweetheart… " Lacy pulled her lover close. "Maybe one day…."

The younger woman didn't need to say another word because she knew what Lacy was going to ask her. She wants to know about my past. One day, Lacy. I promise. "I love you."

Reconciling the fact that tonight would not be the night Gage would open up, Lacy changed the subject. "Yes, me, too. Anyway, I've always thought about getting back into painting, but with my career… then the kids and …. you. Didn't have the time."

"Now you do. Since you're taking a break from acting… sorta. How do you take a break with four kids to take care of?" Gage pondered.

"With help from your mom and mine… and you." Lacy stroked her lover's backside.

"Ohhh…. I like that." Gage kissed the dark haired woman below her. "I'm glad you're going to paint again. I won't feel so guilty leaving you with the kids while I write and, Lacy?" Getting her lover's attention. "When Mark publishes my stories, will you design the covers?"

Lacy answered her lover with her body and there wasn't one 'no' in it. Wrapping her long legs around the blonde, Lacy thrust her hips forward. The rocking motion from both women fell into an easy sensual rhythm. Both set of hands stroked each other. Gage latched on to her lover's hard nipple and sucked for all she was worth. A satisfying stab of pleasure rang through Lacy's body and she countered when she grabbed her lover's backside and squeezed.

With heated passionate arousal brimming, they gently inserted loving, insistent fingers into each other, which began the climb to the apex of their lovemaking, allowing the fire within to climb higher and higher until their mutual climax shot through them and exploded like fireworks.

Before the early dawn, they would relish the orgasmic peaks and valleys in their lovemaking. As they slowed their breaths in tandem, clinging to each others sweat soaked bodies, Lacy and Gage fell heavenly to earth from their shared pinnacle of love.

Holding her lover, Gage lightly brushed her fingers up and down Lacy's arm. "Baby, sometimes I think it's all a dream having you and the kids."

Taking her lover's hand to her mouth, Lacy placed a soft and reassuring kiss on Gage's palm. "Whether you like it or not, you got us and now you have to keep us." Lacy snuggled closer to her lover.

Wrapping her arms around the woman she loved, Gage smiled. "I like."

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

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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