For disclaimers, see Part 1 .
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Stephens Cay, Caribbean Islands
A light breeze stirred the warm air as the sun sparkled off the blue-green waters that slapped at the sand on the west side of the six-acre private island in the Caribbean. An intimate gathering of selected guests sat in white chairs in front of a gazebo awash in tropical flowers that covered every color of the rainbow.
The breeze stirred Mac's dark bangs, but left the rest of her hair untouched. One of the local women had done a fantastic job of gathering the shoulder-length tresses up and weaving them into an intricate partially-French-braided and partially-curled do. Tiny white flowers also decorated her hair and contrasted perfectly with her dark hair.
Mac also wore a flowing cream silk sleeveless pant suit with a long sleeveless sheer silk vest that danced around her legs in the breeze. Her tan arms were bare and she wore a wide pearl bracer-like bracelet on one wrist that matched the triple strand of pearls around her neck and the tear-drop pearl earrings dangling from each ear. She was a vision to behold as she patiently stood against the backdrop of the flowered gazebo and the ocean beyond.
She had already made her entrance on the arm of her brother, who looked dashing in a white dress shirt open at the collar, a pair of khaki chinos and brown loafers. He was more than willing to wear a tuxedo to his sister's wedding, but relented when Mac and Lacey both argued that wearing a tuxedo on the beach was just too over-the-top for such an intimate affair.
A string quartet started playing the traditional wedding march and everyone turned around to look at Lacey. Meredith had her arm through Lacey's on one side and a very pregnant Lily supported her on the other, as they started down the aisle toward a beaming Mac.
Mac took a deep breath and let it out slowly in an effort to calm her nerves, as she watched the love of her life limp slightly toward her.
“Relax before you faint, li'l bit,” Ben leaned close and said.
Mac didn't respond. Her eyes were glued to the vision in off-white heading toward her. The limp was definitely less pronounced than it had been, but Mac wasn't paying attention to that. She only had eyes for Lacey.
They wore similar outfits with slight variations to each. Where Mac's was cream, Lacey's was nearly white. And where Mac wore pearls, Lacey wore green emeralds surrounded by sparkling diamonds. The emeralds brought out the color of Lacey's eyes and contrasted nicely with her pale hair that she wore pinned up on either side of her head while the rest hung down around her shoulders. Her silk pant outfit was also trimmed in delicate lace that gave her a feminine touch.
Mac was mesmerized. Actually, she was stunned.
And Lacey was more than a little stunned herself. Gorgeous was too inadequate a word to describe the woman standing before her against a backdrop that paled in comparison. Mac's tanned skin and dark hair contrasted so beautifully with her outfit that the mere sight of her took Lacey's breath away.
“You okay, sis?” Lily leaned close when Lacey's steps faltered slightly.
“I'm fine,” Lacey answered quietly.
“She sure cleans up nicely, doesn't she?” Lily chuckled and then scowl at the glare her mother gave her. “What? She does.”
“Really, Lillian,” Meredith huffed.
And then Lacey stopped at the edge of the first row of seats. “Thank you both,” she said as she kissed her mother and her sister on the cheek, in turn.
“I'll take it from here,” Mac was there instantly and offered Lacey her arm.
Lacey didn't hesitate. She took Mac's arm in hers and leaned against the woman for support. She had decided to forego using her cane for the ceremony, much to Mac's dismay. But Lacey was adamant that the “stupid thing” just didn't go with her outfit. Mac even suggested they decorate the cane in matching fabric or buy one that would fit the occasion.
Lacey wouldn't have it, though. She wanted to begin their new life together without a reminder of what the past had nearly done to them. She wanted a fresh start with a clean slate and was bound and determined to take her vows without leaning on a cane for support.
“You doing okay, hon?” Mac quietly whispered, as they approached the young woman who was patiently waiting for them beneath the blossoming archway.
“Absolutely,” Lacey smiled up at the loving blue eyes gazing back at her. “I am now. You look ravishing, by the way. I can't wait to get you back to our bungalow and do just that, incidentally.”
A dark brow rose on tanned features. “You think you're really up to ravishing me?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Lacey gave her a saucy grin.
And then a throat cleared in front of them and they looked up to find the minister watching them with a lopsided grin.
“Are you two ready to begin?” The young woman asked with a quick wink.
“Never been so ready for anything in my life,” Mac spoke up loud enough for everyone to hear. “Let's get this show on the road.”
Chuckles followed her words and Lacey ducked her chin slightly as a blush colored her cheeks.
Nonplussed, the minister lifted the small black book in her hands and started the ceremony. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”
Lacey let the words wash over her, as she gazed up the woman standing confidently next to her. Yes, Mac was beyond gorgeous. But she was also practically glowing with love. Every pore of her being seemed to radiate with love and Lacey felt her own heart swell to almost bursting within her chest. She was so very happy to be standing there on that beach next to the woman she was about to vow to spend the rest of her life with. And she wasn't scared in the least.
That was quite surprising to Lacey. She never dreamed she would fall so completely head-over-heels in love with someone that she would be willing to share her life with them. In all the years she had served her country, she hadn't given it much thought. And contemplating a life with someone who accepted her, warts and all, was never a question. She just never imagined that anyone would want her like that.
But here she was.
Mac turned towards Lacey and took her hands at the minister's direction. Lacey was entranced by the love shining in the sky-blue eyes staring back at her. God, the woman was absolutely radiating, Lacey thought.
“Do you, Mackenzie Bridget Papadopoulos, take Lacey to be your partner for life?” The minister's voice carried over the gathering. “Do you promise to love and keep her, through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, forsaking all others for as long as you both shall live?”
“I absolutely do,” Mac smiled and her white teeth gleamed in the sunlight.
“Absolutely,” Lacey answered before the minister could finish.
The guests burst out laughing at the rather abrupt interruption.
“Can I just do this?” The young woman leaned forward conspiratorially and lowered her voice for their ears alone. “It's kind of the reason I'm here.”
Lacey blushed to her roots and nodded.
“Go ahead, pastor,” Mac chuckled. “She's just a little nervous.”
“Okay,” the woman nodded with a small smile. “As I was saying,” she continued in a louder voice for those gathered. “Do you, Lacey Justine Stephens, take Mackenzie to be your partner for life? Do you promise to love and cherish her, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, forsaking all others, for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” Lacey said after a brief moment's hesitation.
“Then I pronounce you both joined as partners in love and life here in the sight of God, in the presence of these witnesses and by all the powers that be,” the minister closed her little book with finality and held it in both hands in front of her. “Rings?”
DJ and Tanner both stood up with white pillows in their hands and walked to the front in outfits that matched their father's. They stood to either side of Mac and Lacey, just like they'd practiced earlier. Mac turned around and took the ring from Tanner's pillow with a smile and a wink for her nephew.
“Thanks, Tanner,” she said to him as she held the ring in the palm of her hand.
“You're welcome, Aunt Mackenzie,” he replied with a big grin.
Mac turned back around and held her palm out to the minister, who took the small thick gold band with a 2 karat diamond and smaller diamonds surrounding it. She placed the ring in her palm and waited patiently for Lacey to do the same.
Lacey turned to DJ and took the similar gold band from his pillow with a smile and wink of her own.
DJ leaned forward and said in a loud whisper, “You look really pretty, Aunt Lacey.”
“Thanks, Deej,” she leaned forward, gave him a kiss on the cheek and watched him blush to his roots. “Save a dance for me?”
“Okay,” he gave her a lopsided grin.
Lacey turned back around and held Mac's ring out to the minister, who took the shiny gold band with inset with sparkling quarter-karat diamonds and edged with an intricate Celtic design.
“These rings are a symbol of eternity and of the love that you share for each other,” the minister continued. “They are an outward sign of an inward and spiritual bond which unites two hearts in endless love.” She then looked from Mac to Lacey and back to Mac again. “And now, as a token of your love and of your deep desire to be forever united in heart and soul, you Mackenzie, may place a ring on the finger of your bride.”
Mac took Lacey's ring and then held Lacey's hand in hers with a bright smile.
“Lacey Justine, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness, for now and forever more,” Mac said, as she slipped the ring on Lacey's finger. “My heart is yours for eternity.”
“By the same token, Lacey, you may place Mackenzie's ring on her finger,” the minister continued.
Lacey took the ring and held Mac's hand steady. She looked up at Mac with a smile and tears swimming in her eyes.
“Mackenzie Bridget, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to you, now and forever more.” She then slipped the ring onto Mac's finger. “My heart was yours from the first day we met and will be yours and only yours for all eternity.”
Mac couldn't help but grin from ear-to-ear, as she clasped both of Lacey's hands in hers and gave them a gentle squeeze.
“You may now seal your love with a kiss.”
Much to Lacey's surprise, Mac took the initiative and dipped her, then planted a searing and lingering kiss on her lips. Catcalls and whistles followed, as the guests stood up and applauded enthusiastically.
When the kiss ended and Mac righted Lacey, the shorter woman swayed slightly and stood there grinning from ear-to-ear. Mac wrapped a protective arm around Lacey's shoulders to steady her and kissed the top of her head.
“Okay, then,” the minister chuckled. “That was certainly a show in and of itself.”
The crowd laughed and applauded again.
“In the interest of getting the reception underway and letting these two fine women start their happy future together,” the minister said once the laughter died down and everyone sat back down. “It is my distinct please to introduce to you,” she paused briefly for effect, “Mackenzie and Lacey Stephens-Papadopoulos.”
The guests shot to their feet with applause and cheers again, as the newlyweds hurried back up the aisle with birdseed raining down on their ducked heads.
Once they made it past the last row of chairs and guests, Mac steered Lacey toward a solitary bungalow partially hidden from view in the lush green undergrowth and ducked inside. They silently made their way to the master bedroom and stopped inside. The ocean view that greeted them through the huge picture windows was breathtaking.
“Hello, Mrs. Stephens-Papadopoulos,” Mac took Lacey in her arms and kissed her soundly until they parted for air.
“Hello yourself, Mrs. Stephens-Papadopoulos,” Lacey placed her palms on either side of Mac's face and gazed into those distinctive sky-blue eyes shining with love. “You're gorgeous with your hair like that. The flowers are a nice touch.”
They kissed again and this time their tongues vied for dominance, as their hands explored each other. The touches and caresses continued, until they were both eager to finish what they'd started.
“You take my breath away, you're so beautiful,” Mac breathed in the scent of Lacey's subtle perfume when they parted for air. “You smell like an angel and I want you so bad I can barely breathe. Do we really have to go back out there? Can't we just stay here and make love until sunrise, instead? No one will miss us, will they?”
Lacey chuckled. “It's kinda our party, hon. I think they'll notice if we don't show up.” She linked her fingers with Mac's in order to still them and calm the ardor building between them. Mac pouted. “Besides, I have a special surprise for you.”
“Carrie's fried chicken?” Mac perked up instantly.
“Um, no,” Lacey chuckled. “I gave your—our—sister-in-law time off for good behavior, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” Mac's expression fell. “Are you sure we can't just…”
Lacey placed a finger over Mac's lips to still them. “No, so don't even go there. We have time enough later to appease that insatiable libido of yours. Right now we have to go back out there and let our friends and family know how much it means to us to have them here.”
“Spoil sport,” Mac thrust out her lower lip in a playful pout.
“You are such a goof, sometimes,” Lacey snickered. “You know that?”
Mac pulled Lacey back into her arms again and kissed her. “I'm goofy in love with the most beautiful woman in the entire world. That much I do know.”
“Charmer,” Lacey beamed.
“Always,” Mac gave Lacey a lopsided grin. “Want to change into something more comfortable before we go back out there and have to put up with all those crazy people?”
“This isn't comfortable?” Lacey glanced down at her attire in confusion. “I thought that's why we agreed to wear these outfits.”
“These heels are killing me,” Mac stepped out of hers and kicked them aside. “I'd much rather wear flip-flops.”
“You're sure a lot shorter without them,” Lacey grinned, as she got up on her tiptoes and kissed Mac's chin. “Maybe I should keep my heels on and you should wear your flip-flops. That way we'll be closer in height when we're dancing.”
“You can dance in heels?” Mac's brow shot up. “I'm impressed.”
“I have many skills,” Lacey returned with a wry grin.
“Yes, you do,” Mac lowered her lips to Lacey's again.
They parted and turned to find four pairs of eyes glaring at them.
“Save it for the honeymoon, you two,” Lily chuckled. “Everyone is out there waiting for the happy couple to make an appearance.”
“Yeah,” Carrie nodded her agreement. “The party can't start without you.”
“Apparently, it's an unspoken rule here,” Ben added with a shrug, as he put a hand on Carrie's shoulder. “Can't have a wedding reception without the guests of honor or some such nonsense.”
“Okay, fine,” Mac kept an arm around Lacey's shoulders. “We'll be there as soon as we both change into something a little more comfortable.”
“What's wrong with what you're wearing now?” Meredith piped in with a frown.
“Nothing, Mother,” Lacey replied. “I'd just like to be able to dance with my wife without turning an ankle in these heels. I'm still not really steady on my feet, you know. So, just go. We'll be there shortly.”
“Come, Lillian,” Meredith shot a glare at Lacey over her shoulder, as she ushered a very pregnant Lily back out of the room. “I know when we're not wanted.”
Lacey rolled her eyes in exasperation and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Damned woman.”
“We'll take care of your guests,” Carrie volunteered. “Take your time and don't worry about a thing. Remember that this is your day.” She then wrapped an arm around Ben's waist. “Come on, handsome. Let's go out there and show ‘em how it's done.”
“Oo,” he grinned. “Do I get to lead, this time around?”
Lacey and Mac heard Carrie chuckle as the older Papadopoulos couple left the bungalow.
“She so has his number,” Lacey chuckled.
“And he loves every minute of it,” Mac sat down next to Lacey with a heavy sigh. She then turned her head and studied the woman next to her. “I love you, Lacey Justine Stephens-Papadopoulos.”
“I really think we should reconsider that particular choice,” Lacey reached up and brushed the bangs back from Mac's forehead. “It's a real mouthful.”
“It is,” Mac agreed. “Second thoughts, already?”
“No,” Lacey answered quickly. “Maybe we should just go with Smith, though.” She chuckled.
“Oh, you…” Mac gently pushed Lacey back against the mattress and leaned over her. “Smith is so…plain. And that's definitely not us. ”
“Not plain, huh?” Lacey wrapped her arms around Mac's neck and pulled her close until their lips were a hairsbreadth apart. “I suppose you've got a point, there, Mrs. Stephens—” She didn't finish as she found her lips covered by Mac's.
Mac pressed her body against Lacey's and savored the feel of the lips against hers. She knew they eventually had to go back out there and face the guests they had invited to share in their nuptials. She didn't care. This moment was hers and she was going to enjoy every stolen moment of it, until they were forced to make their reappearance. And enjoy it she did.
The party was in full swing. Music from a calypso band created a rhythmic backdrop for the dancers who were bounding and swaying to the beat underneath a starry sky. Strands of lights had been strung overhead and added to the ambiance of the sultry night.
Lacey enjoyed just watching everything from her place next to Mackenzie. She was so incredibly happy as she leaned against her wife that she was almost full to bursting. It was an amazing feeling and one she hoped would never end.
The wedding. The reception. It was all like a fairy tale right out of a children's book. And she was a princess in a loose cotton blouse, khaki cargo shorts and a pair of Van's tennis shoes. She'd also pulled her hair back into a ponytail to get it off her neck in deference to the evening heat. The breeze had died down after sunset, adding to the heat.
“Hey, kiddo,” Dani sat down in the vacant chair next to Lacey. “Thanks for the invite.”
“You're welcome,” Lacey shifted so she was looking at the curly-haired blond who wore a white tank top, olive-green cargo shorts and a pair of hiker's sandals. A pooka-shell necklace around her tanned neck and leather armbands completed the ensemble. “Thanks for showing up,” she smiled warmly at the woman and then looked around for Brenda. “Where's your other half?”
“Dancing with your nephew,” Dani grinned. “She's pretty good at it, too. And I wouldn't have missed this shindig for the world. Are you kidding me? You flew us here in a freaking private jet, Lace. Who does that? You two really know how to put on a show. Nice duds you were wearing earlier, by the way. Everything was beautiful. And the food was amazing. I stuffed myself to the breaking point”
“Thanks,” Lacey grinned. “I just want to share my bliss with those who helped us get to this point.”
“Well, I hope you like your wedding present,” Dani added. “Didn't know what to get the couple who has everything. So, we decided on something a unique.” She handed a wrapped box to Lacey. “Here, Stretch,” she poked Mac with an identical box. “This one's yours. Brenda knows a silversmith in Jackson who does some amazing one-of-a-kind work. He did all the work himself and engraved them with to our specifications.”
Lacey and Mac opened their boxes at the same time and pulled out matching sterling silver cuff bracelets. The bracelets were two inches wide and were engraved with the same Celtic design that matched Mac's wedding ring.
“That's really sweet, Dani,” Lacey leaned over and hugged the woman. “Thank you. You didn't have to go to so much trouble.” She slipped her bracelet on her right wrist and studied the intricate design. Then she looked more closely at it. “Is that…”
“Yep,” Dani nodded with a satisfied grin. “Had them personalize them to fit your individual chosen professions. Yours has the caduceus engraved into the design.”
“And mine…” Mac studied her bracelet more closely. “What is that?”
“Black Hawk helicopter,” Dani supplied with a nod. “And there are wild horses woven into the braid on the top and bottom of both bracelets.” She shrugged. “That was Brenda's suggestion.”
“Did I hear someone say my name?” The dark-haired woman appeared and she sat down on Dani's lap. “Hey, beautiful.” She wrapped her arms around Dani's neck and kissed her. “Thought you were going to wait until we were together to give them those.”
“You looked like you were having fun dancing with that younger man,” Dani cast her a teasing scowl. “I felt a little put out by the lack of attention.”
“Oh, poor baby,” Brenda dipped her head and kissed Dani soundly again. “There. Does that help?”
“A little,” Dani rested her forehead against Brenda's.
“Get a room, you two,” Mac said with a chuckle. “This is our wedding, not yours.”
“Oh, wait,” Dani picked up a spoon and started tapping it against the glass in front of her.
It wasn't long before several others joined in and the sound of clinking could be heard throughout the reception.
Mac turned to Lacey and took her into her arms. She then dipped her head and kissed Lacey soundly in front of everyone. The kiss lingered and was met by cheers and applause. When they parted, Mac cast Dani a wicked grin.
“Take that, Ellis,” Mac chuckled at the look on the curly-haired blonde's face.
“I need some air,” Brenda bounded up from Dani's lap, jumped off the wooden deck the reception was being held on and headed towards the water.
Dani followed close behind, but not before she shot Mac a dark look that said she would eventually pay her back for that.
“You're so bad,” Lacey chuckled, as she tucked her head under Mac's chin and let her cheek rest against the exposed skin of Mac's throat. “I can't believe you did that in front of everyone.”
“They asked for it,” Mac countered. “I was just showing them how much I love my girl.” She squeezed Lacey to emphasize her point. “You're mine now. I want the world to know it. I'd shout it from the highest mountain, if I could.”
“Love you, too.” Lacey slipped from Mac's embrace and grabbed her cane. “Speaking of which, I have something I need to do before this party goes any further.”
Lacey carefully navigated from the wedding table to the riser where the band was playing. On her way, she greeted the guests who congratulated her. Then she gave her sister and mother quick hugs before she was helped up onto the makeshift stage by one of the band members.
“Good evening, everyone,” she said into the microphone that was handed to her, as the band stopped playing and all eyes turned in her direction. “Thank you all for coming all this way to share in this wonderful event. Are you all having fun?” She waited for the ensuing cheers and applause to die back down. Her eyes then found a pair of sky-blue ones staring back at her. “As many of you know, the journey Mackenzie and I have taken to get to this point has been a long and difficult one. We began that journey as servicewomen in the desert of Iraq. Mac is a pilot and I was serving as a flight surgeon at the time. Little did we know, back then, what we were getting ourselves into when we took those initial steps in our relationship.” She smiled, as she continued to hold Mac's gaze. “We certainly never dreamed that we would be getting married in a place covered in as much sand as we left in the Desert.”
Amused chuckles and laughter followed her words. Lacey just waited for the noise to subside again.
“I am the luckiest woman in the world to be standing here before you today,” she continued in a voice choked with emotion. “As many of you know, the time Mackenzie and I spent in Iraq ended abruptly when our helicopter crashed in the desert. But the story had only just begun for us there. She saved my life that day. Pulled me out from under a piece of burning wreckage and stayed with me until we were rescued. She even took a bullet for me. I owe her my life. She never wavered out there, even when Iraqi insurgents were after us and the bullets were flying. Mackenzie isn't just a hero to her country. She's my personal hero. And when I was committed to a mental institution against my will, she never gave up looking for me. She and Commander Jason Willows,” she looked around and found his smiling face in the sea of faces watching her intently. “Once they knew where I was being kept, they headed to Louisiana and came to my rescue.”
Mac couldn't remain seated. She was drawn to the woman standing up there on that stage all alone and felt the need to be right there with Lacey. So, she slowly made her way toward the stage and the woman she loved.
“But the story doesn't end there, either,” Lacey continued, oblivious to the woman approaching the stage. “So much happened in the months that followed that I really don't want to get into here. Someday, maybe you'll read it in a novel or maybe someone will make it into a blockbuster movie. There were some really hairy moments, that's for sure.”
Those in the crowd who were privy to those events chuckled as Lacey waved a negligent hand and then caught sight of the woman standing just to her right. Lacey let all the love she was feeling show in the smile she gave Mac.
“I owe you my life,” Lacey said to Mac. “You didn't just save me physically. You saved me in oh so many ways, Mackenzie.” Mac merely silently nodded and mouthed the words ‘I love you' back to Lacey. “I love you, too, sweetheart. More than you will ever know.”
Lacey reached out a hand and waited for Mac to join her onstage. She then took Mac's hand in hers as she held the microphone in her other hand.
“This song is for you, love,” Lacey said quietly into the mic, as the band behind her started playing.
Lacey waited for her queue and then lifted her voice in song. She gazed into Mac's eyes and watched a smile split her features.
“When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.”
The calypso band continued playing, as tears sprang to Lacey's eyes. She didn't stop singing, however. She merely took a deep breath and got ready to belt out the next verse with all the love she was feeling in her heart and watched tears well up in Mac's eyes, as well.
“There is no life—no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.
You raise me up: To more than I can be.”
The band took up the chorus one last time and added a calypso flavor to it, as Lacey lowered the mic and stepped close to Mac.
“I love you, Mackenzie Bridget,” she said for Mac's ears only, as the song ended and the crowd applauded.
“I love you, too, Lacey Justine,” Mac wrapped her arms around Lacey and hugged her tight. “God, I love you so much. And I really love hearing you sing. You have such an amazing voice, Lace. I just can't believe you can sing like that.”
The applause died down and Lacey stepped out of Mac's embrace. She lifted the mic to her lips again and gave the crowd a shy smile.
“Well, since my wife, here, is so enamored of my voice,” Lacey said and got a few chuckled responses. “I guess I can do one more song, just for her.” She then stepped to one of the band members and whispered something to him. He nodded and she returned to the front of the stage. “Okay, good thing these guys have such a vast repertoire. They actually know this one, too, which is a little surprising.” She gave them a quick thumbs up and then nodded for them to begin.
The piano player played the opening to the song, as Lacey lifted the mic and gazed into Mac's eyes.
“In the morning when you rise
I bless the sun, I bless the skies
I bless your lips, I bless your eyes
My blessing goes with you
In the nighttime when you sleep
Oh I bless you while a watch I keep
As you lie in slumber deep
My blessing goes with you
This is my prayer for you
There for you, ever true
Each, every day for you
In everything you do
And when you come to me
And hold me close to you
I bless you
And you bless me, too.”
The world around them faded out, as they gazed into each other's eyes and Lacey sang for Mac alone. Nothing else existed. Nothing else mattered, as Mac took Lacey's hand and entwined their fingers. Neither stopped smiling.
“When your weary heart is tired
If the world would leave you uninspired
When nothing more of love's desired
My blessing goes with you.
“When the storms of life are strong
When you're wounded, when you don't belong.
When you no longer hear my song
My blessing goes with you.”
Lacey finished the verses and sang the refrain, pouring every ounce of love into each and every word. Mac just soaked it in with a beaming smile that reflected her own love for the woman in front of her.
And then the song ended and the music faded. The sound of the ocean waves slapping against the shore filled the silence that followed.
And then boisterous applause erupted. Lacey and Mac applauded the band, who applauded Lacey, in return. She took a quick bow and then grabbed her cane. Mac helped her down from the stage and the two made their way back to their table, as the band launched into a vintage Boston tune and added their own calypso flavor to it.
They didn't need the clinking of spoons on glasses to share a lingering heated kiss. But the tinkling of metal on glass mixed with the soft music of the band created a fairytale moment for the two, who were lost in the love that surrounded them.
“Ready to slip away to our little private getaway?” Mac let her forehead rest against Lacey's, as they shared the same air. “The boat is standing by.”
“Most definitely,” Lacey glanced around and saw her sister watching her with a knowing grin. “Er. I think there's one more thing we have to do before we can disappear on our guests.”
“And that is?”
“Cut the cake?”
Mac's blue eyes rolled in exasperation. “Damn.”
“Yeah,” Lacey snickered. “My sentiments exactly. But we invited ‘em. It's our job to feed ‘em cake.”
“Okay, fine,” Mac sent a silent signal to the band leader, who nodded his understanding. “Let ‘em eat the damned cake. I have my heart set on savoring something else entirely.” She gave Lacey a saucy grin and gave her a peck on the lips. “And cake has absolutely nothing to do with what I have in mind for us tonight.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the dreadlock-sporting band leader said in his heavy Jamaican accent. “I have the pleasure of introducing to you for the second time today, Mackenzie and Lacey Stephens-Papadopoulos.” He waved a hand in their direction and enthusiastic applause ensued. “Ladies, your cake awaits. Come and cut it, so these hungry people can continue partying until sunrise and you two can make your escape to that little island hideaway of yours!”
Laughter erupted and replaced the applause.
Mac blushed to her roots and Lacey just glared at the guy, who had the grace to look slightly abashed. Mac helped Lacey up and the two moved to the table next to the bandstand that held the elaborate wedding cake. A spotlight came on and shined down on the white cake radiating with silver sparkles. Two female figures in uniform stood at attention on top of it in full dress blues.
“You ready to do this, Chief?” Lacey took up the cake knife and waited for Mac to move in behind her.
“Absolutely, Doc,” Mac snickered, as she placed her hands over Lacey's on the knife.
A photographer moved in to get a few photos, as a small crowd gathered to watch them.
“I want a big piece, Auntie Mac!” DJ piped up from next to Lacey's hip, eliciting chuckles from those around them.
“You got it, Digger,” Mac smiled down at him, as he beamed up at her.
“What kind is it, Aunt Lacey?” Tanner asked, as he stepped up behind his brother and placed his hands on DJ's shoulders.
“You know,” Lacey hesitated a moment. “I really don't have the slightest idea.” She looked around and caught sight of Carrie standing with Ben towering behind her. “Do you know what kind of cake this is?” She asked the woman.
“Just cut it and find out, will ya?” Dani heckled from behind Brenda. “Some of us need to satisfy our sweet tooth after all that delicious jerk chicken and marinated steak we ate earlier.”
Several champagne glasses and assorted tropical alcoholic beverage glasses were raised high in the air, as Lacey glanced over her shoulder at Mac with a teasing grin.
“Are you sure this is really a good idea?” She was a little surprised when Mac leaned forward and kissed her soundly on the lips.
“Yes,” Mac replied, as cheers erupted from the family and friends surrounding them. “Now, cut the damned cake, Lace. Or we'll never get out of here.”
Lacey returned her attention to the round section of the elaborate cake that she knew was set aside for them to cut. She guided the knife to it with Mac's hand still on hers and then she made an expert cut. She then made another with Mac's help and put the knife under the large wedge that resulted. She removed the perfect wedge of cake and a plate appeared.
“The newlyweds will now share a slice of cake as a token of the sweet life they are about to share together,” the band leader said.
Lacey lifted a rather large piece with her fingers and held it at the ready, as Mac did the same. They faced each other with teasing grins.
“Show her how it's done!” Jason Willows called loudly.
“Be nice, now, you two,” Heather Morris suggested and the crowd chuckled.
“Mackenzie Bridget, behave,” Carrie's warning brought more chuckles.
“Just remember, sis,” Lily gave Lacey a knowing grin. “You have to live with each other long after this is all over.” She glanced up at Bill, who had his arms wrapped around her from behind.
“Don't worry, Lace,” Bill kept his eyes on his wife. “She'll forgive you for anything, just as long as you remember to apologize afterwards.” He then pecked Lily on the lips.
Lacey and Mac let the taunts and jeers wash over them, as they continued to gaze into each other's eyes. The cake in their hands was nearly forgotten, until…
“Get a room, you two!” Someone shouted.
More laughter erupted and brought Mac back to the task at hand. She gingerly lifted the bite of cake to Lacey's lips and waited for her to open her mouth.
Lacey hesitated only a moment, before opening her mouth to accept the bite of cake. As soon as Mac's fingers entered her mouth, she closed her lips over them and let her tongue savor the sweetness as she licked the frosting off the sweet digits.
Silence reigned, as Mac slowly pulled her fingers from Lacey's mouth with a lopsided grin.
“Mm, strawberry-mango,” Lacey licked her lips. She didn't realize that Mac had managed to smear some frosting at the corner of her mouth. “Delicious. Your turn, Chief.”
Mac waited patiently for Lacey to lift the cake to her lips. The crowd around them waited with baited breath. So far, Mac had pretty much behaved herself. What would Lacey do?
Then Mac did something completely unexpected. She knelt at Lacey's feet and held her arms out at her sides in supplication.
“Lay it on me, love,” she said as she tilted her head up slightly, closed her eyes and opened her mouth wide.
“Awwwwww…” came the crowd's response.
Lacey hesitated and simply stared in utter astonishment at the complete trust that was placed before her. Then a blue eye peeked at her and her heart melted. She slipped the bite of cake into Mac's mouth and pressed her own mouth firmly against the kneeling woman's.
Mac wrapped her arms around Lacey as they shared the bite of cake and savored the sweetness on each other's lips.
The crowd ooh'd and aww'd, then quickly dispersed, as several servers stepped forward to cut and serve.
“Need help, love?” Lacey ran her fingers through Mac's hair one last time before she moved back slightly to allow the kneeling woman room to stand back up.
“Nope,” Mac got to her feet and pulled Lacey into her embrace. “I love you.”
“Charmer,” Lacey felt Mac sway to the music and just went with it. “Cake was delicious.”
“Not as sweet and satisfying as your lips,” Mac grinned.
Lacey rested her cheek against Mac's chest and inhaled of the musky scent of the tall woman, as a grin of her own split her features. “Love you, too, wife.”
“That's my girl,” Mac continued to sway to the music.
“Aww, the happy couple is sharing their first dance of the evening,” the band's leader said.
Mac and Lacey ignored everything else around them as they enjoyed the impromptu moment. The soft strains of a familiar Foreigner tune rolled over them, as the band continued to play just for them. Mac hummed along with Waiting for a Girl Like You, as she rested her forehead against Lacey's. When the song ended, they still stood there in each other's arms.
“You two really do need to get a room, sis,” Lily came up to them and hugged her large belly with a happy grin.
“And you need to mind your own business, Lil,” Mac teased.
“I am,” Lily gave Mac a wink. “This is my little sister, after all, Stretch.”
“You sure you shouldn't be taking it easy, there, Lily?” Lacey glanced down at her sister's extended belly. “That little guy could make his appearance into the world at any moment, you know.”
“Yes, and Mother has been driving me nuts about it, too,” Lily carefully sat down in a nearby chair. “She even has Bill on her side. Go figure.”
Lacey decided to take a moment to get off her leg and sat down next to her sister.
“While you catch up with your sister, I'm gonna go say our goodbyes to everyone, hon,” Mac leaned over and gave Lacey a quick peck on the lips. “Then we can take some of that cake with us and find creative ways to put it to good use.”
“Okay,” Lacey grinned. “I am definitely looking forward to that.”
Mac walked away towards her family, leaving the two sisters alone.
“Okay, spill it, Lil,” Lacey looked sternly at the woman. “Are you in labor?”
“Huh?” Lily tried to straighten and just gave up. “How…”
“I saw you wince a few times when you thought no one was looking,” Lacey replied. “I'm a doctor, Lily. I know when a someone is trying to hide pain. How far apart are your contractions?”
She didn't have to answer. At that very moment, Lily doubled over and a gush of fluid spilled from between her legs.
“That answer your question?” Lily glanced up with a wry grin that instantly turned into a grimace of pain and a groan. “Owwwwww!”
“A little help over here!” Lacey shouted. “Woman in labor!”
They were immediately surrounded by curious onlookers. Then Brenda and Dani pushed their way through the crowd to join Lily and Lacey.
“Never a dull moment with you, eh, Stephens?” Brenda commented. “How can we help?”
“Apparently a wedding isn't all we'll be celebrating today,” Lacey shot the woman a wry grin. “We need to move her to one of the bungalows, right away. Then we need to prepare for the arrival of my nephew.”
“Let's go, people!” Dani grabbed several men from the crowd. “We got a woman in labor here! Let's move it!”
Ben, Bill and Jason Willows all proceeded to carefully lift Lily into their clasped arms and carry her toward the nearest bungalow.
“The rest of you enjoy the party!” Lacey shouted, as she followed her sister toward the bungalow. “Mackenzie?”
“Coming!” Mac quickly fell into step next to her wife. “What do you need me to do?”
“Oh, no you don't!” Brenda suddenly turned and stopped them on the path. “Go enjoy yourselves. This is your chance to make your escape. Dani and I can deliver this baby. We'll let you know how things turn out. Promise.”
Lacey opened her mouth to protest. “But…”
“She's right, Doc,” Mac wrapped her arms around Lacey from behind. “This is our chance to sneak away. Otherwise, we'll be here all night.”
“What if something goes wrong?” Lacey managed to get the question out before anyone could interrupt her.
“I've delivered enough babies in my illustrious career to know what to do, Stephens,” Brenda shot back with a wry grin. “Go on. We'll send word by bottle when the little guy makes his appearance.”
“It shouldn't be too long, now,” Lacey said. “Her water just broke and…”
“Mackenzie?” Brenda gave the taller woman a pointed look. “Would you please get your wife out of here and go enjoy your honeymoon?” She then turned and followed walked toward the bungalow where Lily had been taken without another word.
“You heard the doctor, Doc,” Mac said, as Lacey remained firmly planted in that spot. “Let's go enjoy our honeymoon. William Trent, Jr. will arrive in due course. And your sister will just fine without you.”
“Where is Lillian?” Meredith's shrill voice intruded on the relative quiet.
“In there,” Mac pointed toward the bungalow, as her new mother-in-law and brother-in-law blew past her. “And you really don't want to be in there when your sister gives birth. Not with your mother there, love.”
“Okay,” Lacey conceded. “You're probably right about that. Mother hasn't been the easiest person to deal with, lately, anyway. I wanted to strangle her yesterday when she insisted I wear something besides my bathing suit and overwrap to the rehearsal. It was on the beach, for cryin' out loud. Why wear something that would just get full of sand?”
Mac chuckled, as she remembered the rather heated argument between mother and daughter that finally ended with her wife stamping her foot in resignation. Meredith had crossed her arms over her chest, harrumphed in irritation and stomped off to lick her wounds. They saw her again at the rehearsal dinner BBQ on the beach later that evening, but Meredith wouldn't speak a word to Lacey.
“Let's go, hon,” Mac took Lacey's hand and led her toward the small marina beyond the beach where the ceremony had taken place.
She stopped to look at the white chairs in neat rows and the gazebo where they'd taken their vows.
“You okay, sweetheart?” Lacey leaned into Mac and wrapped an arm around her waist.
“I'm fine,” Mac said with a warm smile. “Just wanted take a last look at the place.”
“It was a beautiful ceremony,” Lacey squeezed her wife, as a light breeze picked up in the starry darkness. “Short and sweet. I'm glad we opted for the abridged version. I'm not a big fan of drawing those things out for hours and hours.”
“Me either,” Mac wrapped her arms around Lacey's shoulders and steered her toward the small cabin cruiser that bobbed in the water next to a narrow pier. “You sure you know how to drive that thing?”
“Positive,” Lacey said, as they stepped onto the wooden platform and walked out to their ride. “I used to go out on my friends' boats during the summers, when I was home from school. We did some water skiing and fishing—a little tubing. Everyone had to know how to drive the boats, just in case something happened.”
“Didn't know that,” Mac replied, as she helped Lacey into the small cruiser.
“Seriously considered joining the Navy before I settled on joining the Army, instead,” Lacey said, as she got behind the wheel and started the engine. “Those sea shanties sure would have come in handy on a battleship or carrier.”
Mac quickly untied the lines and threw them onto the deck, then climbed aboard.
“Most definitely,” Mac moved in behind Lacey and hugged her, as Lacey expertly maneuvered the boat away from the pier. “What's the name of the island, again?”
“ L'îlot d'amour ?” Lacey supplied with a grin. “Or the Isle of Love.”
“Oo, I like,” Mac moved Lacey's hair aside and kissed her neck just below her ear. “I certainly won't ever tire of loving you or making love to you, sweetheart.”
“Charmer,” Lacey tried to concentrate on the open water in front of them and was finding it hard to do so. “Ahem. You want to wait until after I pull this puppy into its berth? I really don't want to crash into our little honeymoon retreat and have to have a bunch of natives come to our rescue.”
Mac released her hold on Lacey and took a seat behind her. “Nice view from back here.”
“The stars are beautiful tonight,” Lacey replied, oblivious to what Mac was actually looking at. “There's so many.”
“The stars are nice, too,” Mac chuckled.
Lacey glanced over her shoulder and caught the look Mac was giving her. “Oh, you…”
“What?” Mac gave her an innocent grin. “Can't I enjoy looking at my wife's butt?”
Lacey turned back around and throttled down as the boat neared a small island. She pulled it into a hidden cove and cut the engine as they approached a torch-lit pier.
“Honey, we're home,” Lacey shot over her shoulder, as she steered the boat right up to the pier and waited for Mac to jump down and tie off the lines.
“Want to do a little skinny dipping before we retire to our chateau for the night, Mrs. Stephens-Papadopoulos?” Mac lifted Lacey down and set her on the pier.
Lacey unbuttoned her shirt and pulled it off to reveal the purple bathing suit underneath. “Do fish love water?”
“Not sure about that, but I certainly love that suit of yours,” Mac watched as Lacey quickly divested herself of the rest of her clothing, including the suit.
She dropped all her clothing to the wooden pier and dove into the water before Mac had a chance to react.
“Are you just going to stand there fully clothed, Chief?” Lacey called, as she pushed the hair from her eyes and treaded water next to the pier. “The water is really warm.”
Mac glanced down at Lacey's clothing with her mouth hanging open and then she looked at Lacey. After a moment's hesitation, she quickly removed her own clothing and dove in next to Lacey.
“I kinda figured you would take your clothes off over on the beach,” Mac came up out of the water and took Lacey into her arms.
“We don't need them,” Lacey wrapped her arms around Mac's neck and planted a searing kiss on her lips. “They're not going anywhere.”
Mac kicked her powerful legs and glided through the calm water toward shore, as she kept a firm hold on the woman in her arms. They continued their explorations as they moved closer to the sandy beach. And then Mac was lying against the sand with Lacey sprawled on top of her and the water gently lapping against their naked bodies.
“I can't do this,” Lacey suddenly lifted herself up and broke the spell.
“We have to go back,” Lacey slid off her stunned lover and landed in the shallow water and sand next to Mac.
Mac couldn't believe her ears, which were still pounding from the rush of desire that was coursing through her. Go back? Where? To what?
“I need to be there for Lily,” Lacey lay there staring up into the endless expanse of stars above. “What if…”
“She's in good hand,” Mac shifted to her side and propped her head up on her hand, so she could study her wife's features. “Brenda and Dani are there. They know what to do, Lace.”
“They…I…” Lacey blew out a frustrated breath and ran her hands through her wet hair. “I'm being an idiot again, aren't I?”
“No,” Mac couldn't help but grin at the self-recriminating look on Lacey's face. “You wouldn't be you if that medical mind of yours didn't kick at a time like this.” She sat up and the torchlight reflected off the water cascading down her body. Lacey definitely noticed. “And I wouldn't love you as much as I do if you weren't you, Lace.”
Lacey sat up, too. She placed her hands on the exquisite body of the woman she loved and stared in awe.
“What were we talking about just now?” Lacey managed to pull her gaze away from Mac's body long enough to meet the bemused gaze staring back at her.
“Wanna make love on a tropical beach in the middle of the Caribbean with torchlight flickering around us and the stars gazing down on us from above?” Mac brushed her fingers against Lacey damp cheek. “Or would you rather deliver a baby with a crowd of our closest friends and family gawking at us?”
Lacey welcomed the lips that brushed against her own. She flicked her tongue out and tasted the salty flavor of the sea on Mac's skin. And then their tongues met and she was lost to a sea of sensations that pulled her into a maelstrom from which there was no return.
She was lowered to the sand again and this time Mac's body covered her. The sultry night air and the warm water all contributed to the sensations that ignited her passion and sent a bolt of desire to her very center. Her hands explored the damp skin of her lover's body, as Mac's lips blazed a trail from her earlobe down her neck and across her collarbone.
“God, you're so beautiful, Lacey Justine,” Mac lifted her head enough to utter the words.
“Show me the universe, Mackenzie.”
The stars above bore witness to a sensual exploration of two perfect souls as the heavens shared in the glory of a love freely given on a torch lit beach on a balmy November night. The crystal clear waters lapped at writhing bodies, as a light breeze carried their cries of pleasure away in the moonless night and on into the morning. And two lovers buried their tumultuous past as they forged head with a bright future together.
She sat in a lounge chair on the snow-covered deck, with her new laptop in her lap. The laptop was forgotten as she stared at the scene spread out before her. The view was breathtaking. The Grand Teton Mountains cast a picturesque backdrop to the snow-covered hills and valleys beyond, while majestic pines in the fore drooped under the weight of their frozen burden. It was peaceful. It was quiet. It was heaven. And Lacey was enjoying every blustery moment of it.
“Here. I brought you some coffee,” a steaming mug appeared next to her and she took it in fingers almost numb from the cold. “Made it extra strong, just how you like it. You're sure going to keep the Colombians in business if you keep drinking this stuff like it's going out of style.”
“I like a good cuppa cuppa,” Lacey grinned.
She took a sip and sighed contentedly, as Mac brushed off some snow from the lounge chair next to her and sat down. They both wore long heavy robes over their flannel pajamas and Ug boots to keep their feet warm. Lacey had a wool Pendleton blanket draped over her lap and her computer was open but forgotten on top of it.
“You weren't kidding about the peace and quiet out here during the winter,” Lacey said, as she let the warmth of the mug thaw her frozen fingers. “There aren't even any birds singing. And incredible doesn't seem adequate enough to describe the view. The sun and clouds against those snow-capped peaks just take my breath away.”
“It pales in comparison to the real deal,” Mac brushed a stray snowflake off Lacey's nose and smiled as she held Lacey's gaze. “The view from here is absolutely breathtaking, too.”
“Better than the view from our balcony on that little private honeymoon island of ours?” Lacey shot Mac a teasing grin. “I can't believe we came back from there to this. We could have stayed another month and I would have been perfectly content to lounge on that nice, warm beach with you in my arms.”
“You're the one who wanted to come home,” Mac moved to the arm of Lacey's chair and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Making love to you on the beach was sublime.”
“Bliss,” Lacey added with a contented smile. “We might just have to look into purchasing a place down there, so we can get away when the weather turns.”
“I'm all for it,” Mac sipped her coffee. “Beats the cold, any day.”
“So, how do you think our little niece is doing?” Lacey took a sip of her coffee.
“Better than her parents, I'm sure,” Mac chuckled. “Didn't Lily tell you they're not getting much sleep these days? Little Briana Justine is keeping them up at all hours.”
“Yeah,” Lacey chuckled. “Who knew?”
“Carrie said she managed to get her boys on a strict schedule as soon as possible,” Mac continued. “I guess baby girls don't do schedules.”
“Neither do their aunts,” Lacey added with a wry grin. “I'm not going into the clinic until later this afternoon. Ben and Jerry are putting the finishing touches on the cabinets and I don't want to get in the way.”
“Place really does look great,” Mac finished her coffee and set her cup aside. “I'm really pleased with it.”
“Me, too,” Lacey said. “Especially that new x-ray machine. I can't believe I can see the x-rays on the computer. That is totally cool beans.”
“It is,” Mac smiled. “Nothing's too good for my girl.”
Lacey reached up and took Mac's hand in hers. She then looked up into the eyes of love and felt a smile split her features—her nearly-frozen features.
“I love you,” she said, then brushed her lips against Mac's knuckles. “I love you more and more, each and every day. You know that?”
“I still love hearing you say it, beautiful lady,” Mac gently pushed the hair back behind Lacey's ear. “It's been a long and difficult road, but I'm really glad we're traveling it together, Lacey Justine.”
“And the future is looking brighter every day,” Lacey agreed, as she let her thumb absently stroke the gold Celtic ring on Mac's finger. “For both of us.”
Mac turned Lacey's hand over in hers and placed a kiss on the ring Lacey wore. She then returned her gaze to the sea-green eyes staring back at her.
“I am the luckiest woman in the world,” Mac said, a she placed her other hand over the one in hers.
“Me, too,” Lacey replied.
“So,” Mac said as she looked at the chair Lacey occupied. “You wanna scoot forward some and let me climb in behind you? I think we can both benefit from the extra body heat. It's not exactly a sauna out here, Mrs. Stephens-Papadopoulos. And this definitely ain't the steamy tropics. But I can probably find a few ways to heat us up a bit.”
Lacey obliged and let Mac settle in behind her. As those familiar arms wrapped around her middle and held her close, she reveled in the added warmth that seemed to instantly chase away the cold. She stared out at the picturesque view and basked in the glow of love that wrapped itself around her and warmed her to her very soul.
“Whatchya workin' on?” Mac glanced at the computer resting on Lacey's legs. “Anything interesting?”
“Started my blog yesterday with Tanner's help,” Lacey pulled the laptop closer so Mac could see the screen over her shoulder. “He came by the clinic and gave me a few pointers. I have to say I'm impressed by how much he knows about computers.” She shared a chuckle with Mac. “This is nothing spectacular. I've just been jotting down a few thoughts and memories from the last year. Didn't realize how much time we've spent together until I started writing. And some of it was really hard to type, much less remember. I'm still really fuzzy on what happened in that mental institution place James had me sent to. And I'm really glad creepy blond chick and her cohorts will be serving time for the crap they pulled. What a bunch of jackasses.”
“Prison is too good for them, if you ask me,” Mac rested her chin on Lacey's shoulder and read what she could see on the screen. “Looks interesting, so far. Are you planning on publishing any of it?”
“I don't know,” Lacey lay back against Mac and relaxed against her chest. “It's really personal. Not sure I'm ready to let the world in on every minute detail of our life together, Chief.”
“But it's really good,” Mac's eyes were glued to the screen as she reach over and hit the built-in mouse pad to scroll down the page. “You write from the heart, Lace. And you have talent. I didn't realize you could put such depth into only a few short paragraphs. You should really write a novel—put your experiences into print for others to read and enjoy. I like it so far. And I really don't read much.”
Lacey glanced up with a skeptical half-grin. “You really think so?”
“Most definitely,” Mac pointed to the screen and read what was there: “ The desert is cold and cruel, despite the sweltering heat. Blood permeates everything and there is no rest for the weary…” Mac glanced down at Lacey and smiled. “You have a way with words, Doc. I'm impressed.”
“Doesn't sound,” she shrugged, “I don't know, trite?”
“Not at all,” Mac replied. “I would buy a copy and read it. No lie.”
“You know the author,” Lacey tipped her head and gave Mac's neck a quick kiss. “Oo, cold. Brrr.”
“You warm enough?” Mac asked, as a small shiver of another kind escaped her as her breath floated on the still air. “Want me to go back inside and get another blanket? Or would you rather continue this in front of the roaring fire? It's toasty warm in there.” She glanced back at the French doors and saw Mindy sitting there expectantly. “Besides, I think a certain young canine misses her moms.”
Lacey sat up enough to look over Mac's shoulder and saw Mindy lift a paw to tap on the glass. “Awww, she's so cute.”
“She chased another white rabbit again this morning,” Mac waited for Lacey to climb off her lap. “You'd think she would get tired of them outrunning her, but nooooooo. Damned dog tried to herd the rabbit into the barn and missed. Rabbit took off into the trees and it was all I could do to get Mindy to stop the chase.”
“She is a shep- herd for a reason, hon,” Lacey chuckled. “It's in her blood. She can't help it.”
“How's the knee today?” Mac got up and put an arm around Lacey's shoulders, leading her back inside the welcome warmth of their home.
“Not too bad,” Lacey lifted her leg and flexed the joint. “I'm not even wearing my brace at the moment.”
“Awesome,” Mac shut the doors and rubbed her hands together as she walked over to the fireplace. “Damn it's cold out there.”
“It's December, sweetheart,” Lacey shrugged out of her heavy robe and donned her favorite green flannel shirt, much to Mac's dismay.
“What is up with you and that dorky shirt, anyway?” Mac was shaking her head, as she stepped into the kitchen and popped two muffins into the microwave. “You ready for breakfast? Carrie sent cran-nut over this morning. Thought we could use a little break from blueberry and raspberry.”
“I like cranberries and nuts, so the two might actually go well in muffin-land,” Lacey said, as she sat down in an overstuffed recliner next to the fireplace and started typing.
The recliner and a Bose stereo system were another splurge, like the laptop. Lacey hadn't intended on buying them when she'd walked into the huge department store in Salt Lake, during one of their weekend trips in Mac's 206. But she couldn't help herself when she saw the chair. It just fit with their rustic little cabin decor. She almost bought the stuffed black bear and the lacquered tree root free-standing lamp, too. But she managed to stifle those particular urges.
And Mac expressed her undying gratitude.
“Want to know something?” Lacey was the first to break the comfortable silence that stretched between them.
“Hm?” Mac uttered absently, as she pulled the muffins from the microwave, added a generous dollop of butter to each and headed back into the living room. She sat down on the arm of Lacey chair and handed over one of the muffins. “What something do I want to know?” Mac popped a bite of muffin into her mouth and chewed.
“When I was serving in the 22 nd CSH Mosul unit, I never dreamed my life would take such a positive turn,” Lacey said, as she slowly savored her own muffin. “All I could see was the blood and death. It was all so pointless. I was a meatball surgeon who patched up the patients who could be saved and sent them on to someone else. And when that Iraqi woman came to me with her injured son and I couldn't treat him—” She finished with a shrug. “I thought it was the end of my career as a surgeon. But something just kept pushing me back into it, no matter how hard I tried to just walk away. I couldn't.”
Lacey shifted enough that she could look up into Mac's features. A pair of sky-blue eyes looked intently back at her with patience and understanding.
“I had no idea my decision to leave field surgery would eventually lead me to you,” Lacey continued with a small smile. “That little boy's death was the end for me—at least that's what I thought. But, in reality, it was just the beginning. And now here we are.”
“Here we are,” Mac repeated with a warm smile. “Freezing our butts off one second and warm and toasty the next. Fresh muffins. A beautiful wife. What more could a woman want?”
“Most women want a good man who isn't a dipshit,” Lacey chuckled. “But, hey, who needs that when I have you? And you are everything I need, Mrs. Stephens-Papadopoulos. Just sayin'.”
Mac leaned down and placed a muffin-crumb kiss on Lacey's lips. She flicked out her tongue and managed to catch a few of the crumbs from her wife's lips.
“Mm, tasty,” Mac grinned widely. “Maybe cran-nut Lacey is more to my liking than the actual muffin.”
“You don't like your muffin?” A blond hiked up on Lacey's brow. “I am so telling Carrie on you.”
Mac silenced Lacey with a smoldering kiss that had her sliding into the woman's lap. Muffins and computers were forgotten as they made out in the chair and sent unseen sparks of passion flying all around them.
“I don't think we need it any hotter in here, Doc,” Mac realized where she was and quickly jumped out of Lacey's lap. She then gently lifted Lacey into her arms. “Shall we retire to our room and enjoy this lovely morning in our own way?”
“I suppose,” Lacey shrugged with a shy grin. “Are you glad we're home?”
“Most definitely,” Mac carried Lacey to their bed and lowered her to the rumpled sheets. “Now, strip outta those clothes, woman. I intend to ravish you in ways that will leave you screaming like a wild banshee.”
“Heh heh,” Lacey quickly kicked off her Ug boots and removed her clothing. “Who was screaming like a wild banshee last night, Ace?”
Yes, they were finally home. And neither one knew what the future might bring. But it was time to leave the past behind them and bask in the glow of the mountain memories they were creating together.
Mindy climbed into her dog bed with an exasperated snort and curled up to wait for her two mothers to finish their rather boisterous antics. It was a dog's life and Mindy was content to live it. She glanced out the French doors to the view beyond and sighed again, as her eyes drifted closed with the sounds of human lovemaking coming from the room next to her. A small doggie smile played at her lips as she drifted off to sleep.
The End (for now)
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Celtic Woman for the three songs that Lacey sang. Songs include You Raise Me Up , The Blessing and May It Be . No copyright infringement intended. Just love their music and Lisa Kelly is an AWESOME vocalist. Kinda reminds me of someone. Hm.
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