Disclaimers: These characters are based off of my characters from the first story, Accidental Seduction.

Sex: Of course!

Author's note: I strongly recommend you read Accidental Seduction followed by Accidental Fall before reading this story, the third part in the Accidental series.

IF you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com Come find me on Facebook!


Accidental Forever

by Kim Pritekel


Erin sat in the hard plastic chair curled into herself as best she could, constant shivers making her body spasm every few seconds. She'd been left alone in the small bare white room, a table and two other chairs as company.

“Here you go, Erin ,” the same man said entering the room who had left her there minutes before. He set a white Styrofoam cup of steaming coffee in front of her and tossed a few packets of sugar and powered creamer next to it. “I know you're cold, so this should help,” he added, sitting across from her. He gave her a small smile. “Tastes like shit but it's hot.”

“Thank you,” Erin murmured, hands trembling as she reached them out and wrapped them around the steaming cup, a small sigh of relief leaving her lips.

“My partner is rounding you up a blanket, so she'll be joining us in just a minute,” the man said, his white dress shirt wrinkled but his blue and gray tie knotted perfectly as it fell down over a rounded belly. He leaned forward on the table, the course light above shining slightly on his scalp through the thinning sandy-colored hair. “While we're waiting, I'm Detective Albert Francis. Back at the fire you'd mentioned someone you thought might be responsible so we wanted to check in with you and see what you think, okay?”

Erin nodded. “Where's Chance?”

“He's with your brother. He said he was taking him home with him.”

Erin let out a relieved breath, deciding to ready her coffee. “Okay.”

The door opened once more and a beautiful brunette stepped through, a large, fleece blanket in her hands. “Sorry, I had to run out and grab this from my car,” she explained, opening it up to place around Erin 's shoulders.

“Hello Kitty?” the other detective asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Hey, it was this or one of those threadbare things from a holding cell,” the newcomer explained, moving around the table to sit next to the man Erin assumed was her partner.

“Thank you,” she said, tugging the soft, fresh-smelling blanket closer around her.

“ Erin , I'm Detective Guilia DiRisio. We're going to pick your brain a little bit, okay?” the woman said gently, her dark eyes kind.

Erin let out a shaky breath, her body slowly warming up between the sip of coffee she'd taken and the blanket. “What do you want to know?”

“Why don't you just start at the beginning,” Det. Francis suggested.


Two Months Ago:

In Erin 's big bed Chance looked so tiny. She smiled down at him, all curled up in the blankets and very much still asleep. She quietly crawled into bed, making sure there was plenty of room for Erin, who joined her within ten minutes.

“Everything okay?” Alex asked, as Erin looked like she'd seen a ghost as she crawled into bed.

“I'm not really sure,” Erin said, lying on her back, hands tucked behind her head.

Alex moved over to her, resting her head in an upturned palm so she could look down into Erin 's face. “What happened?”

Erin looked at her, studying her face for a long moment. “My mother is coming into town.”


Hands resting on the counter, Erin stared blankly at the coffeemaker as it perked to life. With both she and Alex drinking coffee, it didn't make sense to use her single cup Keurig. But, regardless of how fragrant the coffee brewing was, it was the last thing on her mind.

“I'm not real sure what to think kid, but uh, well I got an interesting Facebook message.”


Erin's eyebrows had fallen as she held her phone to her ear, her brother's troubled voice on the other end. “From who?”




“Judy who? I don't know any Judy.”


“Our mother.”


She tried to look inside to see exactly how she felt but the truth was, she didn't feel anything. Their mother had disappeared so many years ago, had missed so much, Erin wasn't entirely sure she wanted to see her. The main thing, she had to admit, was knowing that her mother chose to drown herself at the bottom of a whiskey bottle – and lord knew what else - then protect her from the man she once called daddy.

Erin started when she felt a hand on her arm. Turning, she saw a sleep-tussled Alex standing at her side. She gave her the biggest smile of welcome she could. It had been a bad time for this to happen, for Judy to come back into the picture. After their magical evening together, she and Alex should be talking about where things stood now, they should be reveling in the passion they'd found together again, they should be talking about, dare she consider, a future? Instead, Erin was feeling somber and moody.

Erin smiled at the wild mass of blonde hair on Alex's head. She reached up and smoothed a few crazy strands into some semblance of order. Her smile widened when Alex looked up with her eyes and stuck her bottom lip out as she sent a quick breath up to blow bangs out of her eyes.

“Sexy, right?” she said with a small smile of her own.

Erin nodded. “Indeed.” She turned away, unable to hold the understanding and loving green gaze that looked up at her.

“Are you okay?” Alex asked softly, the hand that had been on Erin 's arm sliding down until it caught her fingers.

Erin let out a heavy breath and nodded. She gave the soft fingers wrapped around her own a quick squeeze before releasing them as she turned her attention to the coffee pot which was sputtering to a gurgling finish.

“Want some?” she asked, reaching up to open the cabinet where the mugs were kept.


In silence, they worked together to get coffee poured and sugar and creamer pulled from the fridge and cabinet. Though Alex had only been back in Erin's life – and her home – for a very short time, they worked together in harmony as though they'd had many mornings together.

“Is Chance still sleeping?” Erin asked, taking a careful sip from her very hot coffee.

“He is,” Alex said, following Erin out to the living room where a fire had already been built. The heat was still out and the house was frigid. “So glad you have a fireplace,” she said, sitting on the couch next to Erin . “Not sure we'd survive this storm without it.”

“Isn't that the truth.” Erin glanced outside the frosty window. “It stopped snowing, but this is crazy.”

After a moment of silence, Alex's voice broke the quiet. “ Erin ?”

It took a moment, but finally Erin realized she was being addressed. She turned away from the window and faced the seated older woman. “Yeah?”

“Once the storm passes and the snow becomes manageable, you know, if you could give me and Chance a ride back to my car. I can call someone – “

Erin 's eyebrows fell and she walked over to her. “What? Why?”

Alex glanced towards the window as she somehow made her sweatpants-clad legs look elegant as one crossed one over the other. “From what you said last night, things with your family have become … complicated.” She spared a glance towards Erin . “I don't want us to be in the way,” she finished simply.

Erin set her coffee cup down on the coffee table and sat down next to Alex, who looked down into the depths of her own mug. “Alex,” she said softly. “Alex, look at me.” Once she had the other woman's attention, she gave her a reassuring smile. “I have no idea what's going to happen in all honesty. I haven't seen my mother in a lot of years and in truth, don't really care to. So, I don't want you worrying about anything. Okay?”

Alex let out a heavy sigh as she nodded. “As long as you're sure.”

“I'm positive.” She let out her own sigh as she rested her forearms along her thighs, fingers clasped as her hands dangled between her spread legs. She was feeling anxious and nervous with the unknown of Shawn's news the previous night. “I don't know what's going to happen.” She glanced to her right when she felt a hand begin to rub small circles on her back, Alex's kind and understanding gaze on her. Erin said nothing, not ready to talk about it yet, but she gave her a smile of gratitude. She reached over and gave her thigh a little squeeze. “Why don't you see if the little dude is ready to get up and I'll get breakfast started.”

Alex nodded. “Okay.”

Erin pushed to her feet, grabbing her coffee cup before she turned in the direction of the kitchen.

“ Erin ?”

Erin stopped just shy of the kitchen entrance and turned to look back at the couch where Alex had stood up from.

“Last night …..”

Erin could see the uncertainty in those beautiful green eyes so gave her a smile. “No regrets.”

After a moment Alex returned the smile and shook her head. “No regrets.”


A few nights later, the gas lines still had not been repaired so there continued to be no heat. The three were huddled once again in Erin 's bed, Alex in the middle. Erin lay on her back her eyes closed as she tried to fall asleep. Sleep, as it had been the past few nights was elusive, largely because of the woman lying next to her. She felt an intense gaze on her and she turned her head only to meet Alex's eyes.

Obviously with Chance in the bed they couldn't do much and it was freezing in the rest of the house, but she had the overwhelming need to touch Alex. As though she understood, the older woman scooted over the scant few inches and turned to her side, her body weight partially on her side and partially resting atop Erin 's body. Erin looked up into her beautiful face, mere inches above her own. She reached a hand up and tucked long strands of blonde hair behind an ear. They all needed a shower, doing the best they could with water heated by the microwave for sponge baths.

As she studied Alex's features, scanning over the delicate nose, beautiful eyes, the gentle arch of dark blonde eyebrows. She was stunning, there was no other word for it.

Erin buried her fingers in Alex's hair and gently pushed until their lips were brought together in a lingering kiss. She let out a soft sigh when Alex brought up a hand and caressed the side of her face. She felt the fullness of her lips against her own as well as one of Alex's breasts pressed against her side.

As the kiss deepened, she knew she needed to feel more of Alex, so pulled her to lie on top of her, their sweatshirt-clad breasts pressed together. She smoothed her hands down Alex's back until she reached a rounded behind covered by cotton pants. She cupped that behind and squeezed lightly, eliciting a soft sigh. It took all of her will power to not dip her hands inside the pants and Alex's panties to touch warm flesh. She knew if she did, she wouldn't be able to stop. She already questioned what they were doing with the toddler three feet away.

Erin gasped when her right breast was cupped through her shirt, the hardening nipple pinched a moment later. Sensation raced through her body headed smack between her legs. She removed one of her hands from Alex's shapely behind and covered the small hand on her breast, stopping its movements.

“Did I hurt you?” Alex whispered.

Erin smiled and shook her head. “No, but if we don't stop, Chance will call CPS on us because I won't be able to stop.”

Alex grinned and removed her hand once Erin 's let it go. She placed a final kiss on Erin's lips before she scooted down a bit so she could rest her head on Erin 's upper chest. Erin wrapped her arms around her and rested her cheek against the top of Alex's head. She enjoyed the slight weight and warmth of Alex's body.

“It's so quiet and peaceful,” Alex said softly, her fingers lightly caressing Erin 's side.

“It is. Snow seems to do that,” Erin agreed, reaching down to pull the covers up over the two of them. Her fingers found the warm skin of Alex's lower back and rested there..She felt utterly content, and though slightly hesitant and afraid to give it a second try with Alex, for the moment she was allowing herself to just enjoy the moment.


Shawn pulled his pickup with the attached plow slowly into the empty parking lot of the gas station. “Is that it over there?” he asked, pointing at the partially snow-covered black sedan.

“Yeah, that's it.”

Shawn plowed his way over to Alex's abandoned car and Erin climbed down from the large truck. She walked to the bed where his toolbox was mounted and popped open her side of the top.

“What's wrong with it?” her brother asked, booted feet crunching over the frozen snow to the car.

“Not sure,” Erin said, glancing over at him. She grabbed the basic tools of the trade and joined her big brother as he lifted the hood.

The Lawson siblings checked over the innards of the car and figured out what the problem was. As they worked on it, Erin could feel Shawn's gaze on her. Elbow deep into the guts of the car, she glanced over at him.


“Do you think this is a good idea, kid?”

“What are you talking about? We can't just leave this car here – “

“No, Alex.”

Erin turned away from him and returned her attention to what she was doing. “I know what I'm doing, Shawn.” I think.

“Do you? I mean, listen Erin, I know you've got a good head on your shoulders and everything, but she really hurt you once before, cost you your friendship with Lance and damn near cost me my friendship with him.”

“Oh, come on, Shawn,” she said, feeling slightly defensive. “You saw the way he treated her. She was leaving him anyway. What happened between Alex and I was … an accident.”

He chuckled, setting the tool he'd been using aside to grab for another. “Yeah, well that ‘accident' backfired, Erin .” He glanced at her. “I don't want to see you get hurt again. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure you bounced back fully from that situation. Ever since, all you do is just find some bitch to bang. Like, what's up with this latest bitch you've got?” He shook his head. “I seriously cannot stand her.”

“Yes, I admit Adrienne can be a handful,” she muttered, already wondering how she was going to handle the breakup with her. Yes, the incredibly high-maintenance brunette could be a bitch on wheels, but Erin 's days of cheating and womanizing were over. She needed to grow up, and after the night she had making love to Alex in front of the fire …. Adrienne had to go.

“So, what's your plan?” Shawn asked, his focus back on the task at hand. “Are you two a thing?”

Erin let out a heavy sigh as she rested her hands on the front edge of the engine compartment. “No,” she hedged. “We're just going to see what happens, I guess.”


Alex stood at the sink washing dishes in tepid water, a bit of microwave-heated water added so it wasn't quite so frigid. She glanced over towards the living room where Chance was huddled by the fire watching Disney Junior. She smiled to herself at his reaction to the kid's channel and all the shows he was able to watch.

As she continued with the dishes, she thought about their current situation, Erin still out with Shawn to see if her car could be fixed.

Erin .

Her mind went back to that first night they'd spent together four years before. It had been a night she hadn't intended and a night that had changed her forever. But, at the end of the day, she'd been a coward. She had been upset by the realization that her relationship with Lance was over and then upset by her reaction to Erin .

Once she'd skipped town and landed in a new city , she'd called Lance. She knew she owed him the break-up call, and it hadn't at all gone as she'd planned or hoped.

“What the fuck, Alex? Why would you cheat on me with that skank, Erin ?”


“Lance, I know you're upset, but please don't talk about her like that. She … it was an accident. It just happened. And,” she said, cutting him off as he began to explode, “I was leaving you. You turned into a possessive asshole, Lance. Never would I have put up with that, so stop the ‘cheating' bullshit! It was done.”


“Yeah?” e raged over the line, “It would have been nice if you'd let me know, you fucking bitch! Before you went and fucked that cunt – “


Alex cut the call, over anymore of Lance's abuse. She'd tried to do the right thing, but he obviously wasn't interested.


They hadn't spoken since, nor had she given him much thought. She did, however wonder if he still owned the house next door. She glanced in that general direction as she continued with her washing.

Once she'd reestablished her life and settled in her new city , she'd decided to forget about everything as best she could and just start over. There, she could simply be Alex the X-Ray tech, nothing less nothing more. Even so, Erin had crept into her thoughts often, to her dismay.

So, she'd decided that she didn't want to deal with her intense attraction to Erin or the feelings that she knew had begun to grow, and decided dating was off the table. She'd be fine on her own. And then the brutal night had happened that brought Chance into her life. She often pondered on the fact that the worst, most horrifying moment of her life had brought her the greatest joy of her life.

Alex's thoughts were interrupted when suddenly she felt a whoosh of warm air followed by the sound of the heat kicking on.

“Oh, thank god,” she breathed. She reached for the faucet lever, twisting it to the left which would give her hot water and nearly groaned in pleasure as, after a few seconds of air-releasing sputters, the water warmed and then grew hot.

She re-ran the dish water and glanced in the direction of the living room and her son.

“Chance,” she called. When there was no answer, she repeated his name. A moment later, little feet slapped against the wood floor just before Chance appeared in the doorway. “We need to get you a bath, buddy.”

“But, it's cold,” he whined, never a fan of bath time.

“The heat just came back on. So, I want you to clean up your toys while I finish in here then we'll head upstairs, okay?” Alex said, no room for argument in her voice or look.

“'Kay,” he muttered, turning around and heading to do his mother's bidding.

Two hours later, Alex had changed the sheets on Erin 's bed and remade the bed in the spare bedroom, bathed Chance and put him down for a nap before popping into the shower herself. She truly hoped Erin wouldn't mind.

For now, she wandered through the house, curious. Everything looked so different than it had the last time she'd been in the place. Now, it no longer looked like it belonged to a frat house, but to a mature, sophisticated woman, at only 23 years old, far beyond her years in maturity. Not that she had a choice, her nor Shawn. Essentially thrown to the wolves as children, grow up or give up.

Alex made her way to the basement, noting the bedroom Erin had mentioned. It was large and though simple, fairly decorative and inviting. If she remembered right, it was where Shawn had lived before moving out. With its attached bathroom, it was essentially a second master. The bathroom was a bit outdated, but nice, though she remembered Erin mentioning plumbing problems so it was out of order at the moment.

Leaving the bathroom, Alex headed to the studio space, which was amazing. There were two rooms, separated by glass. One was the recording booth, walls padded with soundproofing the other obviously where the engineer sat, a plethora of buttons, gauges and push wedges available on the soundboard. Her attention turned to the recording area.

Reaching out for the handle of the door, she pushed it open and entered, noting the incredible silence that filled the space, which held a family of instruments but, what she assumed was likely the jewel in Erin 's crown, a stunning baby grand.

Walking over to it, she noted the beautiful ivories, easily imagining Erin 's long, graceful fingers dancing across them. She remembered the electronic keyboard setup Erin had in her rooms four years before. This was certainly an upgrade and it was absolutely gorgeous to see and touch. She'd love to hear Erin play for her.

One last soft touch with an equally soft sigh, she headed upstairs, knowing she had some keep to do.


“Okay, back a bit more … wee bit … stop.”

Shawn stopped the truck, which had just backed Alex's towed car into Erin 's driveway. He glanced over his shoulder. “Looks good.”

“Yup. Thanks so much for your help.”

“No problem.” Shawn studied her for a long moment. “What now?” he asked, hitching a thumb back towards the black sedan still attached to his truck.

“We unchain – “

“You know what I mean.”

Erin let out a heavy sigh and looked out over the snow-white day. “I'll let you know.” She sent him a smile and climbed out of the truck to unhook Alex's car.

As she unchained the two vehicles, Erin through about what had been nagging at her.

Shawn gone, she opened up the driver's side door of Alex's car and plopped down into the driver's seat, quietly closing the door behind her. It was frigid, but it gave her some privacy as she brought up her phone and scanned through her contacts until she reached the woman she needed to talk to. Finding it, she let out a sigh of doom and pressed the ‘call' feature.

“Hey, Adrienne, it's me.”

Twenty-three long minutes later with her ex's fiery words still in her mind – Bitch whore! I knew I should have never trusted you! You're worthless and you absolutely have no heart. Fuck off, bitch! – Erin stepped up to the front door of her house.

For some reason, she felt guilty stepping over the threshold. Her mind was on Alex, and she felt deeply conflicted about that. Yes, they'd had a wonderful time making love in front of the fire a few nights ago and yes, they'd even spoken about it. Deciding to take things slow and not rush or force anything, they'd kept a distance for the most part. It was hard and it weighed heavy on Erin 's heart.

Entering her house, she instantly smelled the fresh scent of cleaner mixed with the underlying warmth of a honeysuckle candle. She looked around the living room and, the first thing she noticed was there was no fire in the fireplace and secondly, it was warm. Assuming the gas lines had been fixed and heat restored, she glanced towards the kitchen when she heard soft humming.

Heading that way, she stopped when she hit the archway into the kitchen. A soft smile curled her lips when she saw Alex at the counter cubing skinned potatoes, her shapely hips swaying slightly with the song she was humming. On the counter near her was the crock pot plugged in and heating. Further down, she saw the bag of opened carrots she'd had in the fridge but had no real idea what the plan for them was. Finishing it off was an unopened can of beef broth and various bottles and jars of spices. On the stovetop sat a frying pan with an unopened package of breakfast sausage sitting on a cutting board next to it.

“Looks like this kitchen is getting more use out of it than usual.”

Alex spun around, the hand that held the knife covering her heart. “Good god, you scared the heck out of me.”

Erin grinned and entered the room, taking a peek into the crock pot to see a chopped onion, celery and diced carrots. “Sorry. What'cha making?”

“Potato soup.” Alex turned back to her task and set the knife aside to lift the cutting board and glide her other hand across it, shoving the cubes into the crockpot.

Erin felt the need to touch the beautiful woman who began on a new batch of potatoes so moved up behind her, placing her hands lightly on her hips as her eyes fell closed. She inhaled Alex's scent, noting the smell of freshly-washed hair and skin. “You smell good,” she murmured.

“Yeah, about that.” She turned and glanced over her shoulder at Erin . “I hope you don't mind but, once the gas came back on, Chance and I took a bath. Well, he took a bath and I showered,” she finished with a sheepish grin.

“No, I don't mind at all.” She placed a quick kiss to the side of Alex's head before her hands began to wander. “What can I do to help with this potato soup you speak of?”

“You can get the sausage started, that would be very helpful,” Alex said, nodding towards the meat and pan.

“Okies.” Erin walked over to it and grabbed the kitchen scissors to cut open the plastic casing. “Patties?”

“You don't need to. Just brown about, oh, somewhere between a third and half of that like you would hamburger.”

“Will do.”

Erin couldn't help but feel a sense of calm and peace come over her as she heard Alex continuing on with her potatoes and the sizzle of the sausage she was browning. She'd never cooked with anyone before, certainly not a woman she was seeing – or considering seeing, or whatever they were doing. In all honesty, she'd never thought about it or had certainly never had anyone in her life that made her want to be … what was the word she was trying to think of? Domestic. Nobody she'd ever felt the need or want to be domestic with. It was unsettling, to be sure.

“So,” she began, wanting to distract her own train of thought. “How do you know this recipe?”

Alex shrugged, not looking at Erin . “When you've got ten bucks to feed you and your little boy for two weeks, you get creative and figure out things that'll last, that you can freeze.” She shrugged again, defeat in her body language.

“Well,” Erin said softly, “I think it's pretty damn brilliant and I can't wait to try it.”

After a moment the two shared a lingering glance then Alex gave her a small smile, seeming to accept Erin 's understanding.

“Okay, sausage finished, now what?” Erin asked, turning off the burner and removing the pan to a cool burner.

“Go ahead and dump that into the crock pot,” Alex instructed after she dumped her latest batch of cubed potatoes.. “Then, if you wouldn't mind, open up that can of broth and dump it in.”

Erin did as asked and felt Alex's gaze on her. She met it. “You okay?”

Alex nodded, turning away as she began clean up. “I changed the bedding on your bed,” she said softly. “I figured, after a few days with only sponge baths ….”

“You didn't have to do that, Alex, but thank you.”

“I was also thinking,” Alex continued with a single shoulder shrug, “Since we've decided to take things slow, you and I,” she spared a glance at Erin . “Chance and I should move back into the spare bedroom… if not our apartment. I mean, the storm seems to be clearing and everything.”

Erin studied her for a long moment. “Is that what you want?”

Alex let out a heavy sigh as she absently wiped at the counter with a wet washcloth. “Which part?”

Erin smiled and took a few steps towards Alex. “Hey, we talked about this. I'm okay with you guys moving back into the spare room now that the heat is back on. I think it's a good idea. But, I want you to stay. I honestly don't think you're safe at that place you're living at.”

The tension in Alex's body seemed to ease as she looked relieved. “Okay. Then, spare bedroom it is.”

“Okay. If it's okay, do you mind finishing up here so I can grab a shower?” Erin asked, indicating the last bit of ingredients to be added.

“No, that's fine. Almost done.”

Erin gave Alex a quick kiss to the lips then hurried up the stairs, anxious to feel and smell like a human being again. Trotting up the stairs, she made her way down the hall to her bedroom. She stopped at the spare bedroom noting a sleeping Chance curled up on the bed, a thumb in his mouth. Stopping, she braced both hands on either side of the doorframe and watched him for a moment. She couldn't help it as a small smile spread across her lips. She was charmed, but also, and to her surprise, felt a protectiveness wash across her.

“Sleep well, little buddy,” she whispered

Continuing on to her bedroom, she walked through the living space into the sleeping area. Her bed was made to perfection, hospital corners and all. She shook her head with a grin as she began to tug off her layers of clothing, leaving a trail behind her.

Erin 's groan was just this side of obscene as the hot water cascaded over her raised head and naked skin. Her nipples grew painfully hard from the sudden wash of heat. She brought her hands down and covered her breasts with water-warmed hands, wincing at the sensitivity as she tried to warm them.

Feeling a bit better, Erin continued on with her shower. It felt wonderful as she rinsed the second helping of shampoo out of her long hair and finally conditioner. Her skin nearly moaned along with her as she ran the soapy and fragrant loofah over it. The razor came out next.

Finished, she tilted her head back and allowed herself to just enjoy the comforting warmth. She gasped in surprise when the glass shower door was pulled open then closed, a naked Alex stepping into the large shower stall.

“Well, hello,” Erin said with a grin.

“Hope you don't mind if I join you.”

“Not at all. But, I can't help but notice you waited until I was degrossed.”

Alex grinned, stepping up to Erin, their breasts nearly touching. “Basically.”

“So, get all hot and sticky making potato soup?” Erin asked, her heart beginning to race and wetness instantly gathering between her legs. The sexy little grin Alex gave her certainly didn't help.

“Something like that.” She shrugged, placing slightly chilled hands on Erin 's warm, rounded hips. “Chance will be asleep for another hour, so I figured we could spend a little time together.” She looked up into Erin 's hooded gaze. “I hope you don't mind.”

“Oh yes,” Erin murmured, her own hands finding Alex's sides as she gently pulled her closer, their breasts pressing together. “A true hardship.”

Alex grinned as her arms snaked up around Erin 's neck as she brought their lips together. Erin moaned into the kiss, her hands sliding down skin that was becoming slick to cup an incredibly shapely behind, pulling Alex's hips hard against her own, making them both moan. After trying to behave over the past few days and nights, it felt amazing to touch Alex, feel her naked skin again, feel them pressed together.

As the kissing continued, Erin gently pushed Alex back towards the heated wall, tiled with subway tiles. Pressing her body further into Alex's, she reached down and grabbed one of Alex's thighs, bringing it up until her foot rested on the corner seat, which she typically used to sit down on to shave. In this instance, however, it offered more of the volcanic heat to her. Questing fingers glided down a gorgeous body until they felt that heat, Alex groaning at the contact. She broke the kiss as her eyes slid closed and she tucked her bottom lip beneath her top teeth.

Erin moved her lips to a soft neck as her fingers began to rub Alex's hardening clit in slow circles. She relished in the feel and in the wonderfully arousing sounds the woman she was pressed against was making.

With the desperate need to taste and feast on the bounty before her, Erin removed her hand as she fell to her knees. She grasped Alex's ass in a fierce grip as she buried her face between her legs. Alex cried out, her hands shooting down to bury themselves in slick, dark strands.

Erin moaned into her task, reveling in the taste on her tongue and feel of the flesh she sucked into her mouth, flicking her tongue over it as she suckled. She could feel Alex's legs beginning to buckle under her rising pleasure so grasped her hips and pressed her harder against the wall to brace her. From the nonstop whimpers and moans, Erin knew she was close, so redoubled her efforts, devouring her relentlessly.

Surprised at how quickly Alex's orgasm ripped through her, Erin stopped her movements and pressed her tongue hard against a pulsing clit to give as much pleasure as possible. Finally, Alex pushed against Erin's forehead as she panted, urging Erin 's mouth away from her. Leaving a quick kiss on slick folds, Erin got to her feet and took Alex into her arms, pressing their bodies together.

Alex's arms snaked up around her neck, one of her hands curling into a fist around Erin 's hair. Erin was surprised when she felt hot wetness against her neck as Alex's body began to tremble slightly.

“Hey,” she said softly, running her hands over Alex's back. “What's wrong, baby?”

Alex chuckled as she backed away slightly, bringing up a hand to wipe at her tear-filled eyes. “I'm sorry. I don't know, just got a little overwhelmed, I guess.”

“I didn't hurt you, did I?” Erin asked, bringing up her own hands and using her thumbs to wipe away a few more tears that began to slide down her cheeks.

Alex rolled her eyes. “Far from it,” she said with self-deprecating laughter. “No, I just … I haven't been touched in so long. Haven't wanted to be touched in so long. You know?” she added, looking into Erin 's eyes, her own looking hopeful.

Erin nodded. “Yeah. I really do.” She placed a soft kiss on even softer lips. “Thank you for trusting me to be the one to touch you again,” she whispered, taking her back into her arms.


“Oh. My. God!” Erin's eyes slid closed as she enjoyed the explosion of tastes in her mouth, her spoon falling back into her full bowl of potato soup. She opened her eyes to see an extremely pleased-looking Alex looking back at her across the table. “This is so good, Alex. Absolutely amazing.”

“Thank you. So glad you like. Four years of tweaking the recipe, I think I finally got it.”

“Baby, you could put this in a jar and make a mint.” She raised a dark eyebrow and added, “Hey, don't get any ideas, woman, I need you at the shop, remember?”

Alex grinned as she reached over to her son who was about to send a glop of soup to his bib. She wiped it with a napkin. “Mamma's messy boy,” she cooed.

Erin watched, utterly charmed. “I was thinking, now that the storm is over, should we head to your place and grab some things for you guys? Clothes, a highchair for Chance, whatever else you need.”

Alex spared a glance at her as she cleaned up her son's face. “That's a really great idea. Yeah.”

“Okay. How about tomorrow? Maybe head out and see if we can find some breakfast somewhere then go to your place?” Erin asked, loading her spoon with another scoop of the thick soup, which was more like a potato chowder than any kind of soup.

As Chance enjoyed his basket of toys and Disney Junior, Erin and Alex worked together in the kitchen to clean up dinner dishes. Erin was rinsing out the bowls before handing them over to be loaded into the dishwasher. She felt Alex's gaze on her and met it.

“I spoke to Pamela, my old boss over at the hospital,” she began. “She said a position will be opening up in the next month or so.”

Erin gave her a wide smile. “That's wonderful!”

Alex took the last bowl and loaded it. “ Erin , I don't want to screw you at the store. I mean, you were so kind to give me a job when you really didn't need to.”

“Alex,” Erin said softly, walking the couple of feet over to where she stood. She took both hands into her own. “We knew it was a temporary thing, that the goal was to get you back into the hospital. And, if you want, I'd be happy to loan you the money to get your recertification so you can get back to what you love sooner.”

Alex shook her head. “No. I can't take anything more from you. You've done so much, given me and Chance so much already – “

Alex's words were cut off by a soft kiss left on her lips. Erin felt a bit of Groundhog's day going on, Alex's constant doubts and worries beginning to make her feel insecure. She decided to push her own fears aside. “I'm doing all this because I want to, because I care.”

Alex pulled her hands out of Erin's and hugged herself, closing herself off. She took a step back until she rested against the counter behind her. Erin stayed where she was, sensing Alex needed personal space. She watched the other woman carefully, concerned that maybe she'd overstepped the line.

Alex took a few deep breaths then spared a quick glance at Erin before her gaze fell to her feet. “My whole life it's pretty much just been me,” she said softly. “I think that's why initially I was drawn to Lance. He was very protective, though I found out it was actually controlling, but it was something I'd never had before.”

Erin said nothing, simply listened.

“Then I met you,” she continued softly. A rueful smile touched her lips. “I honestly had no idea what to make of you from pretty much day one. A force of nature, you were.” The softest, most adoring smile crossed her face as she looked at Erin . “I look at you now, who you've become. Still so young but just a remarkable woman. I've never known anyone like you, so giving, so generous. To be honest, I'm just not really sure what to do about it, how to handle it.”

For a moment Erin felt panic grip her heart. She cleared her throat and leaned against the counter as casually as she could manage. “Do you want me to back off? Have I,” she shrugged, “I don't know. Gone too far or crossed a boundary?”

Alex smiled and shook her head. “No. I think I'm just trying to figure out why you'd be so good to me and to my son. I hurt you and took off yet, for some reason you're willing to allow me back into your life, let alone the kindness you're showing.”

“Well,” Erin said, relieved as she walked over to Alex, eyeing her to make sure it was okay for her to advance. “I have a little confession to make, too.” She smirked, looking far more like the cocky teen she'd been four years before than the mature business woman she was now. “From that first time I saw you walk up Lance's walk, I was hooked. I knew I wanted you in my life and lord, did I try.”

Alex let out a bark of laughter. “You think?”

Erin 's smirk turned into a full on grin. “And, here you are.”

“Here I am,” Alex agreed, snaking her arms up around Erin 's neck and absently playing with the hair at the nape of her neck. “And, I really think you should kiss me.”


Erin started when she heard movement. Opening her eyes, she glanced over her shoulder from where she lay on her side, facing the window. She saw the shadowy form walk up to the opposite side of the bed. With one fluid movement, the robe she wore slid off her shoulders and to the floor. A moment later, Alex was crawling onto the mattress and slipping beneath the covers.

Not even given time to open her mouth in question, Alex moved on top of her and took her in a demanding kiss, one of her hands quickly slipping up Erin 's t-shirt to cover her breast. Erin's surprise and moan was swallowed by Alex's mouth, her kiss and movements demanding and passionate.

“You are entirely overdressed,” Alex growled, roughly moving off Erin and pulling her to a sitting position. She tugged her shirt over her head before pushing her back to the bed, following.

Alex's mouth was ferocious as she attacked Erin's mouth before moving to her neck as her fingers trailed their way down to Erin 's panty-clad sex. Erin felt overwhelmed as Alex was everywhere. She knew she couldn't stop the woman atop her if she wanted to, which she did not. In fact, before she knew it, her panties were being tugged off and her legs pushed apart.

Gasping at the first feel of Alex's tongue, Erin 's back arched and her hands flew down to tangle in blonde hair, her hips moving slowly with the movements of the hot mouth between her legs. It amazed her how passionate and amazing Alex was when it came to making love to a woman. Erin could almost believe Alex had been with nothing but women. Her touch was soft yet filled with fire and she seemed to know exactly where Erin needed to be touched.

Right now, as Alex's tongue focused on her clit as two of her fingers slipped inside, Erin nearly flew off the bed as her pleasure exploded from her, covering Alex's hand. Her breasts heaved with her heavy breathing, eyes closed and mouth open. She felt tremors flow through her until she literally felt darkness overcome her for a moment.

When she came to, she felt soft kisses rained down on her face as well as even softer caresses on her body. Alex lay next to her, murmuring words of comfort into her kisses. Her heart rate and pulsing body calming, Erin wrapped Alex in her arms, holding her close. Alex rested her head on Erin 's shoulder and let out a contented sigh.

“I guess I haven't lost my touch, hm?” Alex murmured.

Erin chuckled, Alex's head bouncing slightly with the movement. “Uh, no, you have not.” She left a kiss to the top of a blonde head. “Give me a second to catch my breath and – “

“No,” Alex said, lifting her head and looking down into a very content face. “No, this was for you. I didn't exactly get to reciprocate in the shower so …”

Erin reached a hand up and cupped the back of Alex's head, gently bringing her down for a lingering kiss. As her body calmed back to earth, she felt exhausted. Seeming to understand, Alex left a final kiss.

“I better go before Chance realizes I'm gone,” she whispered. “He's never been away from me at night before.”

Eyes already closed, Erin nodded with a murmured, “M'kay.”


Erin followed Alex and Chance up the incredibly squeaky staircase, once again, fear and disgust in her gut at her surrounds. There was no way in hell she was ever letting those two live in this apartment again, no matter what happened between she and Alex.

They reached the third floor and Alex pulled her keys out of her pocket, Chance hugging her leg and looking slightly anxious.

“Hey, big guy,” Erin said, reaching her hands down to him. He let go of his mamma and allowed himself to be picked up.

Alex glanced at them. “He doesn't like it here,” she said softly. “The constant sound of loud music and people fighting really gets to him.”

“Well,” Erin said, turning her attention back to the adorable boy in her arms who was chewing on his finger. “Do you like the fact that you don't have to stay here tonight?”

He gave her a huge grin, dimples winking as he nodded vigorously.

Utterly charmed, Erin left a loud kiss on his cheek and followed his mother inside.

Though her second visit to the tiny studio, the first time Erin had been nervous and just beginning to get to know Alex again. Now, things were different, very different. She looked around the place, inadvertently holding Chance a bit tighter. She knew Alex had done the best she could for her and her son, but the apartment was atrocious.

Despite the mess of what looked like a quick exit the night of the Christmas party with every intention of returning home, Erin noticed the filthy berber carpeting with rips at some of the seams, which wasn't safe for a newly-walking and still somewhat unsteady Chance. There were water stains painting the ceiling over where the bed was, which Erin feared hid mold throughout the building.

Further inspection of the “kitchen” showed her corroded pipes, a perma-stained sink, the faucet encrusted by hard water stains. The thing that got her the most, though, was when she saw the dead cockroach lying in the corner by the tiny kitchen table for two. She rubbed Chance's back as she glanced towards Alex, who had also seen the insect.

“I know,” Alex said softly. “I'm pretty embarrassed right now.”

Erin gave her a kind and understanding smile. “You don't have to be. You did what you could, Alex.” She set Chance down on his tiny feet. “Why don't you guys pack up what you want to bring back to my house so we can get back before the temps plunge and the roads get worse.”

With Chance tucked into his car seat taken from Alex's black sedan, the trio headed back to Erin 's house. As she maneuvered her 4Runner through the slick roads, she felt Alex's gaze on her. Not daring to take her own gaze off the road, she reached a hand over quickly and squeezed a thigh before returning her hand to the wheel.

“What's on your mind?”

“You must think I'm the worst mother in the world,” Alex said softly.

As Erin slowed to a careful stop at a red traffic light, she glanced over at Alex. “Why would you say that?”

Alex let out a heavy sigh, her shoulders falling slightly. “You saw that pit we're living in.” She brought up a hand to swipe at a tear that was about to fall.

“Hey,” Erin said softly, reaching over and taking that hand into her own. “Alex, you are one of the best moms I've ever seen. You and Chance were making it happen the best way you could. That is what I think.”

Alex looked away then back at her son, who had crashed in his car seat then back to Erin . Though her green eyes were still a bit too shiny, she gave Erin a smile. “Thank you.”

“Listen, Alex, I don't want to tell you what to do, but I honestly don't want you and Chance going back to that place.”

“But, I'm paid up through February,” Alex said, tugging her seatbelt a bit to adjust for a more comfortable position. “Once I got the job at your store, I used the first paycheck to get caught up on rent and paid extra just in case.”

Erin nodded, understanding. She got the SUV going again, slowly prowling through the intersection once the light turned green. “I understand and that was smart. But,” she shrugged, sparing a quick glance aver at her passenger. “If you do decide to take my offer, you won't be worrying about rent or anything. You can save money. We never did finish our conversation about the money for you to get recertified. Why not take me up on it? That way, you can get into a good career much sooner.”

“Erin, I can't afford to pay you back for the loan and pay rent and utilities to you at the same time,” Alex pointed out.

Erin 's eyebrows drew as she took a left turn very gingerly, the four-wheel drive helping on the ice. “Who said anything about rent?”

“ Erin !”


“There is no way in hell I'm staying in your house with my son, using water, electric, heat, taking up space, eating food, without paying you something. Honestly, there's two of us and only one of you.”

“Well, technically there's like one and a third of you,” Erin said with a grin to defuse Alex's rising emotion, which came through in her voice. She grinned when she felt the light playful slap to her thigh.


“Look, how about this. Why don't you take the money from me, get recertified and your old job back. Before that, don't worry about anything, or maybe just help with food. After you're back at the hospital, we can renegotiate.” She glanced over at Alex. “What do you think?”

Alex looked at her with that look of adoration she was beginning to suspect was just for her. “I think I'm in trouble,” the blonde said softly, reaching over and placing her hand on Erin 's thigh.

Erin pulled into the driveway and leaned over to pull Alex into a kiss as she waited for the electric garage door to open. When the kiss broke, they shared an intimate smile. It was then that Erin noticed through the rearview mirror that Shawn had pulled up into the driveway behind them. She raised her hand in acknowledgement and greeting before pulling the large SUV into the garage, Shawn pulling up to take the spot she'd just vacated.

“Hey,” Erin called as she climbed out of the 4Runner, meeting her brother at the entrance to the two-car garage as Alex quietly pulled a sleeping Chance out of his car seat.

“Hey, sis,” Shawn said, giving her a quick one-armed hug. “Hi Alex,” he said with a wave to the blonde who was headed to the inside garage door.

So as not to wake her son, she sent him a quick wave then let herself into the house.

“It's time for Chance to go down for his nap,” Erin explained when she saw the look of suspicious curiosity on Shawn's face. “So, what's up? You look stressed.”

“She's here,” Shawn said sagely.

Erin felt her stomach drop. “Judy?” At her brother's nod, she let out a sigh. “Come on, let's go in and talk.”

Alex was walking down the stairs as the siblings entered the house. “Sorry, Shawn,” she said, walking over to him. “I didn't want to wake him.”

“It's okay,” he said with a smile, leaning over and giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. “It's good to see you, Alex. That's one good looking little boy up there,” he said, pointing to the ceiling.

Alex's face lit up like the sun coming out from behind the clouds as it always did when her child was mentioned. “Thank you. I hear you have quite the handsome little devil of your own.”

“Yup, Elijah. I think he's a little bit younger than your boy, but a good play date would be great, let the boys just play and be kids.”

“I'd really love that, Shawn,” Alex said, beaming. She glanced over at Erin, who stood nearby, hands tucked into her back pockets. “Listen, why don't I make some coffee and you guys can chat, okay? Erin , is the 4Runner still unlocked? I need to grab the stuff from the back.”

As much as Erin liked to see the interaction between her brother and Alex, she was anxious to get this conversation over with. She gave Alex a grateful smile. “Yeah, it's unlocked. If you want, feel free to wait and I'll grab everything after Shawn takes off.”

Alex waved off her offer and left the room.

Erin turned back to her brother. “So?”

Shawn walked over to the couch and sat down, Erin following. “She's going to stay with us for a few days,” he began, eyeing his sister. “She wants to see you, sis. I mean, she really wants to see you.”

Erin sat back, the leather creaking beneath her weight shift. “How does she look?” she asked softly, unable to look at him as, with her brother always being her rock, she was afraid she'd break down to look into his compassionate eyes.

“Rough, I won't lie. I think she hasn't taken good care of herself over the past fifteen or so years. She hasn't said anything, but I wonder if she's sick.”

Erin glanced over at him. “Really?”

He nodded. “So, Lisa thought it might be a good idea to have a small dinner gathering at our place tomorrow night. You know, us, Judy, you, and hey, bring along Alex and Chance if you want to.” He gave her a one-shoulder shrug. “From what I'm seeing, I'm kinda guessing things are progressing?” he said with a little twinkle in his eyes.

Erin was saved from answering when Alex entered the room, a tray in her hands loaded with fresh coffee in a carafe, two mugs and sugar and creamer with two spoons. She set it on the coffee table.

“That was so thoughtful, Alex, thank you,” Shawn said, giving her a winning smile. Alex returned it then hurried from the room with a brief touch of comfort to Erin 's shoulder.

Erin knew Shawn was watching the interaction carefully and switched her eyes to him once Alex was gone. “What?”

Shawn shook his head. “So, anyway, I think it might be a great way to break the ice, the dinner. You can come over early if you want or just show up when it's time to eat. Just do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.”

Erin let out a heavy sigh as she prepared a cup of coffee for Shawn. After living with him for so many years, she knew exactly how he liked it. He muttered his gratitude as he took the prepared mug and she turned to make her own.

“I think I need to think about this.” She glanced over her shoulder at him. “Okay?”

“Yeah, of course, but think fast. And,” he shrugged as he sipped his coffee. “It might be fun for Chance and Elijah to have a little fun together.”

Erin nodded, sipping her own brew. “True.”

“Look, kiddo,” Shawn said, sitting forward and placing his elbow on one of his spread thighs. “I'm not going to force you into anything. I know how you feel about Judy and her husband. I feel the same way. I guess, just really give it thought.” He quickly downed his cup of coffee, cursing softly when he burnt his tongue. “Okay, I gotta go. I have to pick up Elijah from daycare.”

“Okay. Drive safe.” Erin walked him to the front door. “I'll text you later.”

Left alone, she closed and locked the front door. Not ready to talk to Alex yet, she decided to build a fire, taking her time to crush individual sheets of newspaper for kindling atop the logs she carefully placed. Clicking the long-nosed lighter often used to light grills, the fire started to life. She waited until the newspaper caught then closed the glass screen in front. She glanced over towards the kitchen and door that led to the garage, something inside knowing that Alex was taking her time getting the packed bags out of Erin 's car to give her space. She really wasn't sure how she felt.


Erin lay in bed, her hands tucked behind her head as she stared up at the ceiling. She wasn't sure how long she'd been lying there, but it had been awhile. Her attention fell to the archway into her bedroom as a figure appeared, slipping beneath the covers. A foot away, Alex whispered,

“Mind if I join you?”

“No, not at all,” Erin whispered back. She raised her arm in invitation and Alex scooted over, snuggling into her side.

“Talk to me,” Alex said simply.

Erin let out a sigh as she rested her cheek against the top of Alex's head. She knew she'd been quiet all evening. She wasn't used to having someone to talk to, someone to really trust enough to talk out her feelings. Shawn had been the only one, but since he was part of the situation, she knew she couldn't go to him. She felt she had nobody to go to. She had to smile, as, of course Alex would pick up on that and offer herself up for a confidante.

“Judy has arrived,” she said simply.

“Judy?”Alex asked, remaining in her casual position cuddled up against Erin .

“Yeah. Our mother. She's staying with Shawn and Lisa for a few days.” Lost in silence for a moment, Erin continued. “She wants to see me. Lisa is planning a dinner for tomorrow night and they want me to go.” Erin wasn't sure whether to add her brother's invitation to Alex and Chance or not.

Alex grunted slightly as she readjusted her position, lying on her side next to Erin with her head cradled in an upraised palm. “And, what do you think? What's in your head?”

“Shawn invited you and Chance to go,” she finally said, meeting Alex's gaze.

Alex gave her a soft smile, bringing her other hand up to lightly trace Erin 's jaw. “Would that make you feel better? For us to be there? Chance and your nephew could finally get to play.”

Erin met her gaze for a long moment. “Would you be willing to do that?”

“Of course, silly goose,” Alex said, tapping the tip of Erin 's nose with her finger. “Whatever you need.”


They sat in the 4Runner outside of Shawn's Craftsman style home. Erin noticed a faded yellow Volkswagen Bug parked in the rocks to the right of their driveway, which she had to assume belonged to Judy, as well as the tan Kia Sorento Lisa had inherited after her grandmother's death the previous year.

“ Erin ?”

Erin was shaken from her observation by her passenger. She turned to her.

“Are you ready?”

With a deep breath, Erin nodded. “Yeah. Let's do it.”

With the bottle of wine that Lisa had suggested in hand, Erin led the way up the path to the shoveled front door, Alex following with Chance in her arms. Erin's heart was racing and she had absolutely no idea how she was going to be able to swallow Lisa's famous baked chicken, which regardless of how delicious, her stomach was tied in knots.

As they waited for Erin 's doorbell press to be answered, she glanced back over her shoulder, needing to get one more look at the comfort that Alex provided. They shared a small smile before the door was opened, Shawn standing in the lit doorway, warmth pouring out from around him.

“Come on in,” he said, his voice friendly yet somewhat strained to the trained ear. He was dressed casually in jeans and a v-neck sweater with a t-shirt beneath it. He gave Erin a one-armed hug then leaned over to give Alex a kiss to the cheek and a grin and mussed hair for Chance.

Erin entered the house, decorated to Lisa's somewhat expensive, yet very beautiful tastes. It always amused her how feminine the house was, considering her brother would live in a perpetual bachelor pad if left to his own devices.

As she shrugged out of her jacket and handed it and the bottle of chilled White Zin to her brother, she heard voices coming from the kitchen. She recognized Lisa's voice right away, and assumed the older female voice chatting with her belonged to her mother. The butterflies that were already flapping around her ribcage upped their game, making her almost feel faint.

“It'll be okay,” Shawn whispered as he hung her jacket in the coat closet just inside the front door. “We're all here with you.”

Erin nodded and took a deep breath of the fragrant air. She waited for Alex and Chance to be taken care of before they walked together towards the kitchen. They were met halfway by Elijah, whose big brown eyes grew even wider at the sight of Chance, who Alex lowered to his feet. The two boys, six months apart, stared at each other before each looked up at his respective parent for permission.

“Go play with Chance, Elijah,” Shawn encouraged. “Show him your blocks.”

Alex squatted down next to the two boys. “Chance, this is Elijah,” she said gently, giving the dark-haired boy a welcoming smile. “Elijah, this is Chance. Can you boys say hi?”

“Hi,” Chance said around the finger he was chewing nervously on.

“'Ello,” Elijah said shyly.

“Go on, bud,” Shawn encouraged again. “Go show your new friend here all your blocks.”

Without another word, Elijah turned and ran towards what Erin knew was his playroom.

“Go ahead, honey,” Alex said with a loud kiss to Chance's cheek. “Go play.”

Erin watched until both boys disappeared down the hall then reached out to place a hand on Alex's lower back in comfort. She knew it was a rare occasion the two were separated, but thought it was a good thing. The two women shared a quick glance before Shawn led the way to the kitchen.

Unlike Erin 's more open floor plan, Lisa liked the smaller, boxier rooms that are original to their eighty-five year old home. So, as they entered the smallish kitchen, Erin instantly saw her sister-in-law standing at the stove removing the foil from a glass casserole dish of her chicken and an older woman standing on the other side of the small island mixing greens in a large wooden salad bowl.

Erin stopped in her tracks. It was Judy Lawson, her mother and a woman she hadn't seen since she was a small child. She had dark hair, much like Erin 's though it was streaked with lots of gray, grown long and tied back in a ponytail. Her face was heavily lined, far more than should be the face of a woman in her 50s. What got her the most though was how much they looked alike. Judy was essentially a much older-looking version of Erin . Their eyes were the same color of blue, even if Judy's looked tired and somewhat bloodshot.

Judy stopped talking midsentence when she turned to look at Erin and Alex. Without taking her eyes off her daughter, she reached for a dish towel and wiped her hands before tossing it back to the butcher block top and walking slowly over to Erin . Her eyes filled with tears and she brought her hands up, tentatively placing them on Erin 's shoulders.

“Can I, can I hug you?” she near-whispered.

Her mouth suddenly as dry as cotton, Erin nodded. She allowed the embrace, not entirely sure what to think or feel. Initially the hug was light, almost as though Judy was fearful, but as Erin responded to it, she tightened her embrace, pulling them together. Erin was surprised when her eyes fell shut as a remembered presence, almost like a dream she was trying to recall, surrounded her.

Erin tightened her own arms around her mother's back and, for just a moment, let herself forget the past fifteen years and absorb the feeling of her mother's embrace. But, that moment was over quickly as her guarded nature began to come back with full force and she felt suffocated.

Releasing Judy, Erin took a step back, clearing her throat to shove down the emotions that were threatening to rise. Seeming to understand, Judy also took a step back, her gaze turning to Alex with questions in her eyes.

“Hello, I'm Judy, Erin 's mom,” she said, extending a hand.

“Nice to meet you, Judy,” Alex said, taking the hand in her own. “I'm Alex.”

“Hey, girl,” Lisa said, walking over to the trio and taking Erin in a quick but tight hug before turning to Alex. “I'm so glad you came!”

Alex smiled. “Thank you for inviting me. I'm glad the boys finally got to meet and play together.”

“Right?” Lisa said with a bark of laughter. “You know, only twelve feet of snow stopped our first attempts.” She reached out and took Alex's hand in hers. “Come help me.”

Left alone with Judy and Shawn standing nearby, Erin wasn't entirely sure what to do or say. Judy filled in the space for her.

“I've heard your music. You're wonderful at what you do.”

Erin smiled, grateful for a topic that was so close to her heart and easy to talk about. “Thank you. I love it.”

“I happened to be in a music store one day, can't believe they still exist with all the computer stuff,” she laughed, placing her hand on Shawn's arm. “But, there you were. I bought everything of yours they had and,” she shook her head slowly, gaze locked on Erin . “Just amazing. So proud of you.”

“Thank you,” Erin said again, eyeing Shawn for a bit of comfort in such an uncomfortable situation.

“Dinner!” Lisa called out. “Shawn, honey, go grab the boys and we'll get the table ready.”

Sitting around Shawn and Lisa's large dining room table, Erin was seated next to Chance, who sat in a highchair with his mother on the other side of it. Across the table were Lisa and Elijah with Shawn and Judy on the ends.

Erin picked at her food as Judy regaled them with stories about her travels around the country and down into Mexico . She'd finally decided to come back to Colorado to see her children and meet her grandson.

As she listened, suddenly she was overtaken with a memory she hadn't had since the day it happened:

Erin hid behind the chair, wincing with every sound of the slaps being delivered to her 17 year old brother. She squeezed her eyes shut, so badly wishing her 6 year old self anywhere else.


“Where is it, you little bastard?” Judy Lawson slurred, her drunken question punctuated by another slap. “Where is my fucking bottle?”


“Mom, I told you, you finished it, remember?”


“You're lying!” SLAP!!


Erin whimpered when she heard Shawn stumble back into the kitchen table, the wood groaning as it was forced to skid across the stained linoleum floor. He fell to his butt and glanced over at her.


“Run!” he hissed. “Go, run!”


Erin didn't need to be told a third time. She got to her feet and scrambled down the hallway towards Shawn's bedroom, always feeling safe there. She stopped short, her heart stopping right along with her when her parents' bedroom door opened and there stood the tall figure that was her father.


“Where you think you're headed?” he asked, voice sickeningly sweet. He glanced far over her head as Shawn took another tumble. Looking back down at his only daughter, he reached out and snagged a tiny wrist in a big, strong hand. “You're comin' with me.”


“No, Daddy,” she whispered, slowly shaking her head from side to side. “Please, no.”


Ignoring her quiet pleas, he tugged so hard she nearly flew off her feet and drug her back into the bedroom, slamming the door behind them.


Erin was thrust so quickly back to the present, she nearly felt like she was about to faint as her chest heaved with her quickened breathing and heartbeats.

“Hey,” Alex whispered, reaching behind Chance's highchair to place a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”

Erin looked at her with wide, unseeing eyes for a moment before bringing up her hands and scrubbing at her face until she calmed down enough to take several deep breaths. She pushed away from the table and headed to the powder room just inside the front door of the house.

Locked inside, she rested her hands on the granite countertop and rested her weight on the vanity. Head falling forward, her eyes slid closed as she tried desperately to let that day go. She hadn't allowed herself to think about it in many, many years. In fact, she thought she'd all but put that ghost to bed.

She glanced over to the door when she heard a soft knock on the other side. “Yeah?”

“ Erin ? You okay?” Shawn's muffled voice asked.

Needing a hug from the one person in the world she knew understood how she was feeling, she unlocked and opened the door, falling into his arms. He gently rocked her as he rested his chin atop her head and rubbed a hand over her back in comforting circles, as he'd done since they were kids.

“I know,” he whispered. “I know.”

“I thought I'd put all this shit behind me,” she murmured against his chest. “I thought it was over.”

“It is over, sweetie,” he assured, leaving a kiss atop her crown. “It's beyond reasonable that seeing Judy would bring back so much. It happened to me, too.” He gave her a tight squeeze before releasing her. Looking down into her troubled face, he rubbed his hands up and down her arms. “It'll all be okay. You've got me and Lisa and Elijah and,” he shrugged, “now even Alex and Chance.” He gave her a wide smile, his charm coming through. “We'll never let you fall, kiddo.”

She smiled and gave his back a squeeze before dropping her arms. “I'm sorry I got upset during dinner. I hope Lisa isn't mad. I know she went to a lot of work today.”

Shawn shook his head and placed an arm around Erin 's shoulders as they headed back to the dining room. “It's okay. She understands.”

In the hallway just before the dining room, they met Alex who immediately made a bee-line for Erin . “Are you okay?” she asked softly, concern in the emerald depths of her eyes.

Erin nodded. “Yeah. Really sorry.”

Alex shook her head. “You have no reason to be.”

Erin stood there, unable to speak for a moment, her emotions threatening to rise again. The depth of Alex's understanding was nearly her undoing. She looked away and cleared her throat.

“Hey,” Alex whispered, stepping up to her and lightly touching the side of her face as she looked her in the eye. “It's going to be okay. All of it, it's going to be okay.”

Just before she got lost in Alex's eyes Erin noticed Shawn's quick exit, leaving the two women alone. She felt a sudden sense of ease and calm wash over her. To her surprise, she reached out and took Alex in her arms for a much-needed hug.

“Come on,” she murmured. “Let's get back to dinner.”


“Damn, it's cold out here,” Erin said, pulling her jacket a bit tighter around her body. She glanced at her brother, who had invited her out to chat with him while he had an after dinner smoke. “When did you start that crap up again?”J

He took a drag then a moment later, blew out the smoke along with the puff of air that was his breath. “About six months ago.”

“Oh, I bet Lisa was pissed.”

“You have no idea,” Shawn chuckled, taking a second drag.

“You should quit again, Shawn. You've got a young son to take care of,” Erin reminded.

“I know. But hey,” he said, glancing at her, “I'm down to only three a day, so I'm proud of myself.”

“One at breakfast lunch and dinner?” Erin chuckled.

“Pretty much,” he grinned. “So, we've decided to go ahead and flip Lisa's grandma's house. I could use your help.”

“Yeah, no problem. How's she doing with that? I know Lisa and Sharon were pretty close.”

He shrugged a shoulder as he blew out more smoke. “She still has her bad days, even though it's been almost a year and a half. But, she's ready to move on, you know? That's why we're finally dealing with the house.”

“I'll help if you'll come help fix that damn toilet downstairs,” Erin said with a grin.

“You still haven't gotten that thing fixed yet?”

“Hey, you're the one who's better with plumbing, bro.”

“True facts. But yeah, I plan to start demo within the next couple days.” He took a long drag before crushing the last third of the smoke against the brick outer wall of his house and dropping the butt into a rusted old coffee can placed there for that purpose.

“Hey Erin ?”

They glanced over to see Alex step up to them, a sleeping Chance in her arms. “I'm sorry to interrupt, but I really bed to get him to bed.”

“Of course, I'm sorry.” She looked at Shawn. “Text me the address and when you want me there.”

“Will do.” Shawn walked the short distance over to Alex and her son. “Thanks so much for coming, Alex,” he said, leaving a kiss to her cheek and a soft pat to Chance's back. “I think Elijah is going to sleep pretty hard, too.”

Alex chuckled, swaying slightly with the precious bundle she held. “We'll definitely have to get the boys together more often.”

“Absolutely. Oh! Hang on.” Shawn ran inside only to return a few moments later with a car key attached to a key fob. “Here,” he said handing it over to Erin though he directed his next words to Alex. “Until we can get your car up and running, I know you guys need a second car. Go ahead and use the Sorento. We don't use it and it'll be good for it to be regularly started.”

“Oh my god, are you sure?” Alex asked, her expression that of stunned.

“Yeah, totally. Lisa brought it up last night. It's all good.” He smiled and gave her a second kiss on the cheek before giving Erin a quick hug and heading inside.


“Okay, big guy, all settled?” Alex asked, making sure Chance was securely belted into his car seat in the backseat of the Sorento.

With a huge grin that made his mom laugh, Chance yelled, “Yup!”

“Alright goofball, we'll stop and pick up some lunch for Erin and Shawn then I'm off to see about a job,” she finished with a playful poke to his belly which made him giggle.

Closing the back passenger-side door, she walked around the small SUV and pulled open the driver's door only to stop. She glanced over at the house, noting it was buttoned up tight. Erin was long gone working with Shawn but she felt as though she were being watched. Looking around at the other houses on the block, she saw no one. Feeling a bit uneasy but shrugging it off, she climbed behind the wheel and got them going.


“Ready? One, two, three!”

With a loud grunt and crack, the entire cabinet system was pulled free from the kitchen wall, which would soon be torn down as it wasn't load-bearing.

Grinning siblings looked at each other, their high-five muffled through work gloves.

“What's next?” Erin asked, removing her gloves and slapping them on the thighs of her jeans.


Erin took a step back to be able to see the front door. “In here, Alex.” A moment later, an adorable little boy ran to her, wrapping his arms around her legs as he looked all the way up at her. “What?” she asked, hands on hips. “What do you want?”

“Up!” Chance exclaimed.

Grinning, Erin grabbed him underneath his arms and lifted him into her arms, meeting the amused expression on his mother's face. “What?” she asked, a pout in her voice.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing,” the blonde said, heading toward a counter that hadn't been demolished yet, setting down two big bags filled with fast food and a cardboard container of fountain drinks. She walked over to Erin and gave her a quick kiss. “Thank you. I'll be back as soon as I can.”

Erin grinned, ignoring the looks she knew she was getting from Shawn and the other crew. “Good luck,” she murmured.

“Damn, if I didn't know better, I'd say you was a family woman now, one of the men said as he reached up and scratched at his ragged beard.

“Shut it, Juan,” Erin growled.


Erin hurried over to the small fridge she kept in the living area of her bedroom and took out the bottle of wine she'd snuck into the house to celebrate Alex's wonderful news. Alex was putting Chance to bed and would stay with him until she was sure he was asleep then return. Two glasses of sweet red poured, she placed them on the table in front of the couch and waited for the beautiful woman to join her.

As she looked around, she saw the furnishings and pool table disappear and a small child's room come into focus. “Of course,” she murmured, nodding at her own realization.

“Sorry that took so long,” Alex said with a tired-sounding sigh. “He absolutely refused to go to sleep.” She walked over to Erin , slowing when she noticed the wine. “I had to read him three stories. What's this?”

“A celebration,” Erin said simply, taking both glasses in her hands and passing one to Alex as she got settled on the couch next to her, their thighs touching. Erin lifted her glass. “I'm very, very happy for you and proud of you.” She lightly clinked their glasses together. “To your career and to new beginnings.”

Alex smiled. “To new beginnings.”

They took a sip and after a long moment, Erin turned to Alex with her idea. “So, I was thinking,” she began, chuckling at the dubious look on Alex's face. “Nothing bad, good lord.” She chuckled and sipped from her wine, enjoying the feeling of warmth that flowed through her. “So, I know Chance is afraid to be away from you at night, but I know you've also mentioned you'd like to try and get him to be a little more independent of you. Is that still true?”

“It is,” Alex affirmed with a nod of her head. “As he gets older, he needs his own space, and to be honest, so do I.”

“Wellllll,” Erin hedged. “What if we turned this area here into a bedroom for the little guy?” She shrugged, feeling suddenly very shy at what she was offering. “Make it look like a cool little kids room.”

Alex eyed her as she sipped her wine. “So, if Chance was moved into here in his own room, where exactly am I to go?”

Erin cleared her throat. For some reason, when she'd come up with this idea, she hadn't planned to feel like such a kid asking her high school girlfriend to sneak out with her. “Welll,” she hedged again, “You can always sleep in there,” she suggested, nodding her head in the general direction of her bedroom. “With me.” She cleared her throat again, unable to meet Alex's gaze. “See, I figured if Chance knew you were just on the other side of the wall and if he needs you he can come into our room or you can come in here to be there for him,” she said, all pretty much in one long run-on word to get it out. She was made even more nervous when Alex said nothing.

After a moment, Alex set her half-emptied glass of wine down on the coffee table and took Erin 's from her hand and set it, too down. She pushed to her feet and pulled Erin to hers by the hand only to lead her in the direction of Erin 's bedroom.

“Um, guessing you like the idea, then?” Erin asked.


In the following week, Erin and Alex – with Shawn's muscle – got the room cleared. Erin and Alex had scrubbed down the walls and baseboards to paint and get it ready. The walls painted a soothing light blue, Alex was working on a feature wall, painting it to look like the bricks of a building so that Spider-Man could climb up it. The new twin-sized bed she'd ordered for Chance would be arriving the next day, so everything had to be dry..

Every since Erin had brought up the plan, she'd given it a lot of thought, how her son would react. She felt it was pretty much brilliant; she'd be just a doorway away from him should he need her, but also, it would give him that courage to be alone, knowing his mother was just in the next room.

She smiled as she continued her tedious paint work, Erin at the store and Chance with the babysitter, as it would be essentially impossible to have him in the house while she tried to finish painting.

Focusing on a little detail work of the mortar between the bricks, she paused when she thought she heard the doorbell.

“Crap,” she muttered. When it sounded again, she set her small paint brush into the paint tray and grabbed the towel she'd been using to wipe her hands and made her way downstairs.

Hurrying over to the front door, she unlocked it and pulled it open. To her surprise, Judy Lawson stood on the front stoop. She looked as worn as she had at dinner a week before, but had a pleasant smile on her face, her long graying hair down around her shoulders.

“Hello, Mrs. Lawson,” she said, feeling nervous and antsy.

“Oh! Uh, Alexandra, was it?” the older woman asked.

“Alex, yes.”

Judy glanced again at the address mounted on the outside wall of the house. “I guess I was mistaken. I was under the understanding this is Erin 's house.”

“It is,” Alex said nervously. “My son and I are uh, we're staying here for a bit.”

“Ah, I see. Is she here? I was hoping to talk to her.”

“No, she's at the store. I can give you the address but honestly, she'll be leaving in ten minutes or so. By time you got there, you'd miss her.” Alex took a step back. “Why don't you come on in and wait for her. I can make some coffee.”

“Oh, lovely. Alright.”

Alex led the way into the house towards the kitchen, Judy at her heels. “How do you like it?” she asked as she walked over to the fridge, pulling the door open. She glanced back over her shoulder to see Judy pull out a chair at the small kitchen table. “Strong? Weak?”

“Oh, just normal,” Judy said, waving off the options. “Black.”

Alex nodded. “Black it is.”

Letting the coffee get brew, Alex turned so her back was leaning against the counter and she crossed her arms over her chest. She sent a polite smile Judy's way. It amazed her just how much Judy looked like her daughter. Alex could easily see what Erin would look like in a handful of decades if she'd taken the wrong turn in her life. She also felt those tired blue eyes on her, burning into her. Though Judy's gaze was guarded, Alex could literally feel the wheels turning inside the older woman's head.

“So, how do you know my daughter?” Judy asked casually, sitting back in her chair.

To busy herself as she answered the older woman's question, Alex turned and opened the cabinet nearest her to remove two mugs. “We go way back,” she said, not a lie. She figured she had to be careful with what she said, as she had no idea what Judy knew and more importantly, what Erin wanted her to know.

“Oh? You seem older, so I'm assuming it's not from school,” Judy pried.

“No,” she hedged, retrieving a stirring spoon from the drawer. “We met through a mutual friend.” Again, not a lie.

“Do you work at the store?”

“Not as of a few days ago,” Alex said with a smile, bringing the mugs and spoon to the table. “I'm getting back into my job as an X-ray technician.”

“How wonderful. And your little boy, is his father in the picture?”

Beginning to feel really uncomfortable with all the questioning, Alex silently begged for Erin to show up. She turned to the coffee pot when it gurgled to a stop. “No,” she said, no room in her tone for further questions. “Here we are,” she said, forcing a chipper tone. She grabbed the carafe and brought it over to the table, filling first Judy's cup then her own before returning it to the hot plate. She grabbed flavored creamer for herself and sat across from the older woman. “So, what about you? I imagine it must be nice to be back in town.”

Judy blew over the dark surface of her coffee before responding after a small sip. “It's certainly different.”

Alex could tell Judy was a bit reluctant o talk about it, no doubt because she was a stranger, but she had to wonder what else was behind it. “You were saying the other night that you spent quite a few years in California . My dad was born out there.”

“There certainly are some beautiful parts, for sure.”

“Yeah, absolutely.” Erin readied her coffee and sipped as an awkward silence fell over them. To her relief, she heard the garage door open. “ Erin 's home!”

Ten minutes later, Alex found herself back in Chance's room, leaving Erin and her mother alone to chat. She chuckled as she shook her head. That had certainly been a seriously awkward fifteen minutes. Now, she focused back on her artwork, wanting everything to be perfect for Chance.

It wasn't until she heard her little boy crying that she realized the sun had gone down. Instantly, she dropped her brush into the paint pan and hurried out of the room, headed towards the sound of Chance's distress.

“It's okay, buddy,” Erin said, trying valiantly to comfort the crying toddler who sat on the living room floor, blocks in front of him and a cartoon on the TV. “Mommy's just upstairs, I promise.”

“What's wrong?” Alex gasped, out of breath from her mad mommy dash downstairs.

Instantly, Chance raised his arms towards her, his chubby little cheeks overflowing with tears.

“What's wrong, sweetheart?” she asked, squatting in front of him. His upset quieted once he was bundled up against her chest. She looked over to Erin for explanation.

“I didn't want to interrupt or bother you,” Erin said softly, reaching over and rubbing Chance's back. “You were so involved in your amazing work of art. He was doing great for awhile. I got him fed after the babysitter dropped him off. We played and watched Baby Einstein. . But, I think when you didn't show up, he thought you were gone.”

“Aww, my poor boy,” Alex murmured, gently rocking her baby boy. “I was just upstairs painting your new room, baby boy.”

He said nothing, just rested his head on his mom's shoulder as he watched the cartoon playing behind her.

“Thank you so much for taking care of him,” Alex said, moving into a more comfortable position.

“Of course. You were pretty focused. Looks amazing.”

“Yeah?” Alex asked, feeling shy. “You like it?”

Erin raised an eyebrow. “This boy is going to feel like he just landed in a comic book.”

“Well, that's the point. I know how much he loved Spider-Man.”

For just a moment the toddler raised his head at the mention of his superhero hero before dropping his head back down, eyes hooded in sleepiness.

Both women smiled before Erin spoke. “So, my mom wants to stay here for a few days.”

Alex met her gaze as she began to rock her son, who was beginning to fall asleep. “That's great.” She was confused by the look on Erin 's face. “What?”

“What do you think? Is that okay?”

Alex was utterly confused. As Chance's sleeping body fell limp, she slowly lowered him until he was lying on the floor before her, his head resting on her thigh. “ Erin , why are you asking me? This is your house.”

Erin looked away, looking shy. She gave an adorable little shrug. “I don't know,” she said, sounding more like an eight year old than a woman. “I guess because you and Chance are here now, too. And, you as a mother, I want to make sure you're comfortable with anyone staying here.”

Alex smiled, looking down at her young son as she ran her fingers through his soft hair. She spared Erin a glance. “That's really sweet.” She let out a tired breath, her shoulders and back aching from too many days of painting. “Tell you what,” she said, gathering Chance in her arms to take him and herself upstairs for bed. “If for some reason I don't feel comfortable with Judy around my son, though I doubt it, we'll just head back to the apartment.”

“Alex – “

Alex quieted her with a soft kiss. “A day at a time,” she murmured against her lips, then headed upstairs.


Alex blew out a harried breath as she combed out her hair, blown all over the place from her trek from the hospital to her car after a long day at work. She and Erin were playing catch up as Judy was due at the house at a most difficult time to make, so since she was closer, Alex came to the house and Erin went to grab Chance from the babysitter and grab carryout for dinner since there would be no time to cook

She intended to quickly brush her teeth but the chime of the doorbell put that idea on hold. She tossed her toothbrush back into the holder she and Erin shared and clicked off the bathroom light as she hurried down the stairs, nearly doing a face plant to the bottom.

“I'm coming!” she called out as the doorbell rang again. Out of breath, she pulled open the door to a startled Judy on the other side. “Hi,” she said with a smile. “Sorry, I expected to get home earlier.” She stepped back allowing the older woman to enter.

“Oh, uh,” Judy said, a duffel bag slung over her shoulder, looking around. “Is Erin here?”

“Yeah. She stopped to pick up Chance and some dinner. We both got out much later than we expected to,” she explained again. “Come on in.”

Judy took a couple steps inside, looking her over, a dark eyebrow raised. “New look for young single mothers?”

Alex took a slight step back, surprised by the disdain she felt was in the comment and the look in Erin 's mother's eyes was a bit unsettling to her. But, this was Erin's mother, this was Erin's house, and it was her job to make her feel comfortable and welcome until Erin arrived and could take over.

“Uh, I work in a hospital, so …” She gave her a sheepish grin before offering to take the duffel bag. “If you'll follow me I'll show you your room – “

“Are you living here? You and your son?” Judy asked, ignoring Alex's offer and keeping her bag close to her side.

“Well, for the time being, yes,” she stuttered, not entirely sure what to say, Yes, she and Erin had talked about it a few times, and Erin had made her thoughts and wants very clear. But now, without Erin being there to defend herself or her own decisions, again, Alex felt out of place. “Well, how about some coffee?” she asked cheerily. Finally finding a winner, she was followed into the kitchen where she began making a pot. “It must be so nice to be back, huh?” she asked, filling the carafe with water from the filtered water option built into the fridge door.

“Well,” the older woman said, placing her bag on the floor next to the chair she chose at the kitchen table. “It's been nice to see how my kids have grown up. It's good to see Shawn being such a good father to that adorable little boy. Lord knows his father was an absolute dud in that department.”

Alex nodded in understanding as she grabbed the bag of specialty coffee from the fridge to scoop into the coffeemaker basket. “I understand that one, for sure. I worry about that with my son. I'm not close to my own father and don't really have many men in my life to give him an example. Shawn, certainly, but – “

“Where's your son's father?” Judy asked, bending down and unzipping her bag. She rifled through it for a moment before she found a brush, which she used to brush out the long, salt and pepper strands of her hair.

Alex groaned inwardly. She'd asked for that, bringing up Chance and a father figure. She'd yet to come up with a really good response to such a simple question to an extremely complicated and painful situation.

“He's not in the picture at all,” she said softly. “Never has been, never will be.”

Judy smirked. “I definitely wish I could have said the same thing about the kids' father.” She set her brush down on the table, which unbeknownst to Judy, annoyed Alex as it was unsanitary. “How did we both pick such lousy men, huh?” She let out a bitter laugh. “And then procreate with them.”

Alex said nothing, simply gave her a small smile and hit the start button on the coffeemaker.

“So, what do you do at the hospital? I'd guess you make good money. How'd you end up staying here?”

“I'm an X-Ray technician,” Alex said, buying herself by gathering coffee mugs, the sugar bowl and flavored creamers they had. “And, I moved away for a few years and, well, essentially my life just kind of took a negative turn.” She smiled down at the spoon she'd pulled from the drawer. “Except for my son.” She smiled at Judy as she placed the gathered accoutrements to the table, pride in her eyes. “He kept me going.”

“And, Erin took you in, is that it?” Judy asked, reaching for the mug apparently she'd decided she wanted to use.

Alex felt a streak of anger race through her at the remark, but pushed it down. Instead, she walked over to the coffeemaker as it sputtered to a finish. “She gave me a job when I needed it most. At the store.” She shrugged, walking back to the table with the steaming hot carafe. “We rekindled our friendship and, here we are.”

“So, you and Erin were friends before, then?” Judy asked, her tone more of a fishing expedition than trying to understand the nuance of the situation.

“Yes.,” was all Alex said. Somehow it didn't seem right to add, before I left, your daughter and I fucked our brains out and I fell in love with her but was too much of a coward to handle it.

The front door opened and a little boy's voice exploded into the house. Alex's relief at no longer being alone with Judy was only overshadowed by the joy of seeing her son and Erin. She hurried out to the living room to meet them.

“Hey, baby,” Erin said, giving Alex a quick kiss and a cardboard tray filled with soft drinks from the fast food place that the bags she held bore its logo. “Sorry, we got stuck behind an accident.”

“Your mom's here,” Alex murmured, balancing the drink holder on one palm while reaching down with the other to pull her son close as he hugged her leg. “Hey, baby boy! How was your day?”

“Everything okay?” Erin asked, looking at her with concerned blue eyes.

“Yeah, of course. Just not sure what to say,” she whispered with a smile. “She's in the kitchen, now. I made some coffee.”

“Okay, thanks. I'll take over from here,” Erin chuckled.

Later that night Alex was finishing up getting Chance ready for bed. His bath had been given, playtime had been had and she was in the process of finishing their nightly cuddle time in his new bed in his new bedroom with a book.

“And,” she said softly in her “reading” voice, “where'd the bear go?”

“Into the cave!” Chance exclaimed loudly, excited to figure it out.

“Yes, the cave.” Alex turned the page when she felt a presence nearby. She glanced up and saw Erin leaning against the doorframe that joined the two rooms, a soft smile on her beautiful face. Alex returned it before returning to the story.

After the story and Chance was tucked into bed, she made her way to the bedroom she shared with Erin, rolling her head to ease the tension in her neck. What she wouldn't do to soak in a nice, hot bath with Erin . She knew that wasn't an option right now, not with Judy being just two floors down.

Flicking on Chance's nightlight, Alex stepped through the opened doorway and pulled the door closed with a soft click. Turning around, her breath caught. Standing over by the closet dressed in just a pair of jeans and a bra was Erin . Her hair was down and brushed to a whine. Her body was made for sin and, as she did the simple task of count the coins she'd taken out of the pocket of her jeans, she made Alex absolutely wet.

Turning away, she walked over to the bed and tossed the few throw pillows there was on it to the floor. Her fingers gripped the top edge of the comforter to pull it down when she gasped in surprise.

“Problems?” Erin murmured into her ear from where she was pressed up behind her.

“Oh, behave,” Alex chuckled in her best Austin Powers imitation.

Erin chuckled into the side of her neck as her hands snuck up under Alex's loose scrubs top. “You sure you want me to be?”

Alex's eyes fell closed as those hands traveled up over her stomach to cup her bra-clad breasts. “We have to be,” she murmured. “You know that.”

“Why?” Erin asked, exaggerated question in her tone that made Alex smile only to gasp a second time when Erin pinched her nipples through her bra. “Hmm?”

“Well,” she whimpered, another gasp as her bra was pushed up over her breasts so warm, seeking hands could cup even warmer flesh. “Chance … “

“… who is fast asleep … “

“… and, your mother … “

“… is two floors down … “

Alex smiled, turning in Erin's arms, her own snaking up around her neck, fingers of one hand buying themselves in Erin 's hair as she brought their mouths together. The kiss was instantly deep and passionate, two powder kegs of need coming together in an explosive moment.

Erin turned them and Alex found herself pushed up against a wall, Erin 's body pressed against her. At the force of the slam, a lamp toppled over on the bedside table, threatening to fall to the floor.

“Shit!” Erin hissed, lunging to try and stabilize it, but she wasn't quite fast enough.

Alex cringed at the loud crash, as the cord of the lamp wiped out a small glass of water. When it all was settled and done, she wasn't sure whether to be horrified or laugh hysterically. Her decision was made for her when Chance began to call for her.


Erin was downstairs in her pajama pants and oversized t-shirt making breakfast when she heard someone enter the kitchen. Turning, she wasn't surprised to see her mother, considering she knew Alex had just stepped into the shower when she'd trotted down the stairs.

“Good morning. Lisa said you like breakfast burritos. I hope a sausage one is okay. Well,” she added with a smirk, “with other stuff, of course.”

“Absolutely,” Judy said with a wide, beaming smile as walked over to her daughter in heavy sweats. She gave her a tentative hug before leaving a kiss to her cheek. “It smells wonderful. How can I help?”

“Uh, how about you get coffee started?” Erin offered, not entirely sure what to tell her. Truth was, she wasn't entirely sure what to say. She gave her a polite smile before returning her focus to the stove and skillet of potatoes she was working on. “Coffee is in the fridge, choose whatever flavor you like. Alex and I obviously like them both. Or, there's a can of plain ol' dark roast if that's more to your liking.”

“Coffee drinkers in this house, huh?” Judy asked, making her way over to the fridge. “It's not very common for a woman your age to drink it, is it? Isn't that typically what us old ladies get ourselves hooked on?” she added with a teasing smile.

“Yes, well juggling high school and two jobs to help Shawn with expenses, had to do something to keep me upright,” Erin said, not considering what she was saying as she saw her mother's face fall. Clearing her throat, she decided to move. She wasn't going to apologize for her and her brother having to do what they had to do to survive as essentially orphans, yet she hadn't said it to be cruel. “Do you like spicy at all or should I make yours more like I make food for Chance?”

“Oh, spicy is fine,” Judy said, sparing her a glance from the fridge where she began to fill the carafe. “This is okay, right?” she asked, indicating what she was about to do. “This was how your friend filled the carafe yesterday.”

Erin glanced over at her and nodded. “Yeah, that works.”

“When we lived in Mexico , oh my god!” Judy gushed, waiting as the carafe filled. “It was a competition to see who could take it hotter.”

“How long did you live there?” Erin asked, reaching over the burners to turn the temperature down, wincing when she was popped by some oil that her cubed potatoes were cooking in.

“Just a couple years.” Finished with the water, Judy continued her task with the coffeemaker. “How long has your friend and her son been here?”

Erin glanced at her again, surprised by the second usage of, “friend”. “Not long,” she said, removing the potato pan from the heat.

“Well, I think it's nice of you to help her out for a while. We all need a hand now and then.”

Erin was about to say something but was interrupted by a very rambunctious and very naked little 3 year old. He ran into the kitchen, his mother hot on his heels. It was utterly comical how Chance came to such a quick stop at the unexpected sight of Judy that Alex nearly did a header right over him.

The memory of a boy just barely out of toddlerhood is short and, as he stepped back to hide behind his mother's leg, he stuck his finger in his mouth.

“Uh oh!” Judy said with a small laugh. “Looks like a monkey escaped from the zoo.”

“Sorry, ladies,” Alex exclaimed, out of breath as she gathered her son up into her arms. “Yes, he did escape because this little monkey doesn't want to get dressed.”

Erin walked over to him and tweaked his nose. “Monkey.”

“I'm not a monkey!” he exclaimed, shyness of a moment ago forgotten. “I'm a Chance!”

Erin grinned, charmed not for the first time that morning by the little guy. She leaned over and gave him a loud smooch to the cheek before doing the same to his mother's lips. She could see the surprise in Alex's eyes, but she wanted to make it clear to her mother what Alex was and meant to her, and that she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.


“Hand me one of those alcohol scrubs, will ya?” Alex asked her coworker and friend, Abby. The tall, slender blonde woman handed her the box of individually-packaged scrubs. “Thanks.”

“So, how's it going with the mom?” Abby asked, bending down to bring out extra supplies in the small area where the controls were for the operations of the X-Ray equipment.

Alex considered her response before answering. “It's good, I think. She's been there for a few days already, and Erin seems to be warming up to the idea of having her mother back in her life. Or,” she added with a small smile, “maybe for the first time.”

Abby came out with a heavy box of film to restock. “But?”

Alex glanced over at her as she wiped down the table where the patient would lay down beneath the huge X/Ray machine. “What?”

“There's a ‘but' in there,” Abby explained. “Erin seems to be settling in well, but what?”

Alex shrugged, turning her focus back to her task. “Honestly, I don't think Judy likes me there. I don't think she likes Chance there, either.”

Abby stopped what she was doing, light blonde eyebrows raising. “Does Erin know this? Or, does she feel that, too?”


“I don't think so, and honestly, it's not that big of a deal. I mean, Abby, Judy has a hell of a lot more right to be there than I do.”

“What? How on earth can you say that?”

“That's her mother, Abby!”

“So? Big deal. Of anyone, with the way things turned out with your parents, you know as well as anyone that blood doesn't mean shit. Alex, I knew you before you left, when you were first getting involved with Erin .” She stopped what she was doing and sent a stern, light blue gaze Alex's way. “You care about that woman.”

Alex smiled, nodding. “Yeah, well,” she said, shaking it off. “We'll just have to see how this all turns out.”

“What are you going to do with your half day today?” Abby asked, apparently understanding Alex's tone, that it was time to change the subject. “Did you tell Erin ?

“Yeah, just in case there was something she needed me to do while Chance is at daycare. Judy is out with Lisa and Shawn today. I'll do a few things around the house, but intend to relax and read.” She gave her friend a big smile as she finished up her cleaning, getting everything ready for Abby to take over for the last half of the day.

Finishing for the early day and saying her goodbyes to her coworkers, Alex headed through the maze of hallways until she was able to leave the building, instantly shivering at the cold day she walked out into. She unlocked the vehicle she still borrowed from Lisa and Shawn and hurriedly climbed in, slamming the door behind her.

“Jesus, it's cold out there,” she muttered, starting the engine to get the heater going. She barely heard her text message alert over the roaring of the heat and radio. Grabbing her purse from where she'd tossed it onto the passenger seat, she dug her phone out and looked at the screen. A soft smile touched her lips when she saw it was from Erin . That smile quickly slid off in shock when she read the message and looked at the attached picture.

Erin lay on their bed on her side, naked. Her beautiful breasts were bare, nipples hard. The look on her face would stop anyone's heart, female, male, gay or straight. The orange plastic pumpkin that had been the beginning of everything for them sat in front of her, covering her crotch, a small, unfolded piece of paper lying on the bed next to it.

Alex's breath caught and she was instantly wet. She read the accompanying message:

Erin : I've made my pick. Your turn.

Alex ran a hand through her hair, letting out a nervous, shaky breath. This certainly wasn't how she was expecting to spend the three hours she had before she had to pick up Chance from daycare, but she'd certainly take it.

She looked back to the screen, savoring the picture before she replied:

Alex: I'm on my way …..


She waited a couple seconds, chewing on her bottom lip before, looking around to make sure nobody was around, she pushed open her jacket and tugged down her scrubs top to reveal her cleavage. She snapped off a quick picture then sent it and the text before squealing out of the parking lot.


Alex had to laugh at herself as she pulled into the driveway. She felt like a virgin on prom night as she cut the engine and gathered her things before climbing out of the car. She hurried up the path, the harsh wind clawing its way through her heavy coat and tossing her hair around her face as she unlocked the front door and hurried in, closing and locking it behind her.

Letting out a heavy breath, glad to be out of the cold, she remembered that she'd just stepped into the heat. She glanced towards the staircase, not entirely sure why. As she pushed away from the door, she smiled as she had the image of a naked Erin standing at the top, hands on hips and super hero cape blowing dramatically behind her.

Climbing the stairs, she listened for noises around the house, but heard nothing. Even so, she swore she could feel Erin 's presence, knew she was there, somewhere. Hand running along the railing as she made her way up to the second floor, Alex used her other hand to unzip her jacket, shrugging out of it as she reached the landing and headed to the bedroom she shared with Erin, using the door that led to their side of the double room.

She noted the plastic Jack-o-lantern pumpkin was still on the bed with the small unfolded paper, but Erin was nowhere to be seen. She tossed her purse and jacket across the chair in the corner before walking over to the bed, reaching for the piece of paper when she felt a presence behind her. Abandoning the paper, her eyes slid closed when she felt warm hands rest on her hips and lips close to her ear.

“Welcome home,” was murmured against them. “I hope you don't mind my encroaching on your early day.”

Alex smiled, covering the hands with her own as she shook her head. “Nope.”

“So,” Erin continued, flicking her tongue against Alex's earlobe as her hands slowly made their way underneath the hem of the light blue scrub top, a near perfect imitation of a few nights before. Though this time, she brought the material up with her hands until the top passed over Alex's head and arms. She didn't stop there, her fingers moving to the strap of Alex's bra. “I told you I had made my pick,” she continued, the cream-colored bra straps sliding easily down Alex's arms before it, too was tossed to the side.

“Yes,” Alex breathed, her head falling back as nimble fingers pinched and lightly tugged on her nipples. “Yes, you did.”

“So,” Erin murmured, one of her hands leaving the nipple it had been toying with a

nod reached down to cover one of Alex's hands, bringing it back to her own body, wrapping Alex's fingers around the cock that jetted out from the harness attached to her hips.

Alex gasped, feeling the soft warmth of the cyberskin dildo, allowing her fingers to explore its length of breadth. She smiled in satisfaction at Erin 's low growl.

“You're okay with this?” Erin asked softly, lightly thrusting her hips forward, the cock sliding slowly through Alex's grip.

“Yes,” Alex said with a sigh as she felt Erin brush hard nipples against her naked back.

“Good,” Erin said, lightly removing Alex's hand from the appendage. “Pick one but don't read it,” she instructed, reaching around Alex to grab the plastic pumpkin, holding it for her ease.

Alex reached in and rifled her fingers around until she randomly picked one of the many pieces of folded paper. She handed it to Erin who moved away, clearing the bed of the Pumpkin Pick game debris.

“Get undressed,” Erin whispered, lightly dragging her fingernails down Alex's back, making her shiver.

Alex turned around to face Erin, her gaze never leaving the piercing blue eyes that pinned her to the spot. She took her time and, with slow, sensual movements, removed the rest of her clothing, which amounted to her pants, panties, shoes and socks. Standing there naked, she felt sexy, Out of the handful of people she'd had consensual sex with, only Erin made her feel like Venus, the sexiest woman on the planet, just as she made her feel in that moment by the way she was looking at her. It was that mixture of unadulterated lust and adoration that had won Alex's heart and body to begin with.

Looking at Erin standing there, the deep purple cock waiting for action, she felt drawn to her. “I have no idea if this is what the paper called for,” she said softly, voice dripping with sex. “But …”

Alex stood directly in front of Erin, looking up into her beautiful face. Without losing her gaze, she reached down and once again wrapped her fingers around the dong. She stroked it with slow, long strokes. She was pleased when she heard Erin 's breathing hitch a bit, especially when she gracefully fell to her knees in front of her.

Now eye to eye with it, Alex studied it and couldn't help but imagine it was truly an extension of Erin . She'd either refused or hated every second of doing his for the men she'd been with who expected it. But now, cock in hand, she wanted nothing more than to take it in.

Erin let out a shaky breath as Alex ran her tongue along the entire length before moving back down towards the tip again. She opened her mouth wide enough to accommodate. She released it with her hand and let her mouth do the work as she reached around to cup the backs of Erin 's muscular thighs.

“Fuck,” Erin murmured.

Alex looked up as her head bobbed on the cock, watching as Erin's head fell back, her hand reaching down to bury her fingers in long, blonde hair. When Erin's head fell forward again, her hair falling like a brown curtain, the absolute look of pleasure on her face was almost Alex's undoing.

To her surprise, suddenly Erin 's eyes opened and her hand moved to lightly push against Alex's forehead. “Stop,” she said breathlessly with a chuckle. “Gonna cum, and this isn't how I want that to happen.” She smiled down at her, reaching down to caress her face before gently urging her to stand with a couple fingers under her chin.

Alex grinned, grabbing Erin by the hips, bringing their bodies together. The cock was pinned between them. “I'm glad you enjoyed that.”

Erin growled again, reaching around Alex and cupping her ass in both hands. “More than you know,” she whispered against soft lips.

As she initiated a soft, slow kiss, her tongue lightly caressing Alex's, her hands slid from a firm behind to smooth up Alex's back, up over her shoulders and her neck until she was cupping her face, her touch gentle like she was holding the most fragile crystal.

“Turn around, baby,” Erin murmured, leaving a final kiss to the tip of her nose.

Realizing just what Erin had in mind, Alex felt her pussy clench in anticipation. Again, not normally something she was in favor of, with Erin , she'd do anything and give her anything she asked for.

Bracing her hands on the bed to steady herself, she offered herself to Erin , glancing at her over her shoulder, letting her know that she was willing and very ready. She watched as Erin stepped behind her. She tilted her head to the side as Erin trailed a line of hot, wet kisses up the side of her neck as she brought the cock between Alex's spread legs, rubbing the tip back and forth over a very slick, very engorged clit.

Alex sighed, her hips moving slowly with the steady movements back and forth as the cock began to run its entire length against it. Her eyes fell closed and a moan escaped her lips as Erin reached down between them and guided the head of the cock into her pussy, smoothly pushing with her hips until she was fully inside.

“You okay?” Erin whispered, hands running up from Alex's hips up her sides and around to cup her breasts.

Alex nodded, tucking her bottom lip beneath her upper teeth as she absorbed what Erin was doing to her. She sighed as she felt more soft kisses to her neck as Erin slowly and gently pulled her hips back, the cock sliding out of her before easing back in, Erin 's hips pressed against Alex's behind.

“You are so beautiful,” Erin murmured, one hand remaining on a breast while the other drifted down Alex's belly between her legs, two fingers finding her clit.

Alex gasped, her own hand reaching up and back to entangle in Erin's hair, her hips moving to meet Erin 's slow, deep thrusts. She let out a loud groan as Erin pressed on her clit and began to rub it with two fingertips. Her head fell forward and all thought and presence of mind was gone, only the pleasure.

As Erin's thrusts got a bit faster, Alex's hand shot down between her legs, gripping the hand there, pulling it away from her engorged clit.

“Did I hurt you?” Erin asked, concern in her voice as she stopped all movement.

“No,” Alex panted with a laugh. “It was just about to be all over if you didn't stop.”

Erin chuckled low in her throat, a sexy sound as she gently tipped Alex's chin back as she leaned down, giving her a breath-stealing kiss before she stood erect, hands on Alex's hips as she thrust her hips faster, the cock stroking deep and fast

As Erin 's hips slapped against her behind, Alex felt her orgasm avalanching down over her, her fingers gathering the comforter into grounding fists as she cried out, pleasure exploding through her like a wave.

Erin was breathing heavily as she rested her forehead against Alex's upper back for a moment before easing out of her. She gripped Alex's waist, bracing her as she stood from leaning over the bed and turned around. The two held each other tightly as their chests heaved from the exertion and experience they'd shared.

Alex reveled in the warmth of Erin 's embrace and body pressed against her. She left a kiss on her neck before leaving a lingering one on soft lips. “Come on,” she murmured, leaving Erin's arms and turning back to the bed, pulling down the covers and climbing under, reaching for Erin who followed.

“Nice surprise?” Erin asked, Alex snuggling up next to her, her head resting on Erin 's shoulder.

“Mmm hmm,” Alex murmured, bringing up a thigh to rest across one of Erin 's. “I've missed you.”

“Me, too. Who knew having a 3 year old and a 55 year old in the house was so time consuming?”

Alex chuckled, fingers lightly tracing random patterns on Erin 's stomach. “Well, I certainly could have told you about the 3 year old. The 55 year old, you're on your own, 'yo.”

Erin chuckled, bringing a hand up to feign throwing a gang sign. “Word.”

“So, where exactly have you been hiding this little gem?” she asked, a little spice in her tone as her fingers trailed down to playfully tug on the harness Erin still wore.

“Oh, she's been waiting, you know, for the right time and right playmate to show her head,” Erin said lightly.

Alex smirked at her choice of words. “Hmm,” she said, fingertips finding the very head mentioned and flicking it with her finger. She was surprised to feel a little ember beginning to catch fire again in her lower belly. Her hand smoothed back up over a flat tummy to find one of Erin 's beautiful breasts. “I'm glad she did,” she purred, lips finding the soft, warm skin of Erin 's neck.

“Oh yeah?” Erin murmured, her fingernails trailing over Alex's shoulder, a touch quickly becoming a caress.

“Oh, yeah.” Alex brushed the covers down to reveal those gorgeous breasts, her head moving down so she could take a hardening nipple into her mouth.

She heard the soft moans and whimpers as she suckled, knowing how sensitive Erin could be when really aroused. The thigh that rested over Erin's moved a bit as her hips rocked slightly against Erin 's firm flesh, her growing wetness painting the skin there.

Erin reached down and brought Alex's face up, their mouths coming together. The kiss was deep and passionate, but not out of control. She fell to her back as she was urged by Erin 's body, the kiss continuing. Her legs spread as Erin moved on top of her, hips settling between them, cock pinned against Alex's pussy.

Alex's hands roamed down to Erin's behind, squeezing to encourage her. She wanted her inside of her again, and she wanted her now! Seeming to understand, Erin lifted her hips as she sucked Alex's tongue into her mouth. She braced herself on a forearm while the hand of the other reached down between them and guided the cock inside Alex, easily pushing in as Alex was drenched and swollen.

Alex groaned deep in her throat as she was filled again, loving the weight of Erin on top of her, their breasts pressed together. She whimpered into Erin's mouth as Erin began to move inside her, her thrusts short and slow. The cock inside her was teasing and rubbing all the right places. Erin hugged Alex to her, her hips doing all the work as they continued to kiss. Alex knew she was truly being made love to in that moment, so much of what Erin felt for her in the beautiful experience.

Spreading her legs wider and bringing her knees up further, Alex moved with her, both beginning to breathe too hard to continue kissing, but they remained close, Alex looking deeply into Erin's eyes as they sped like a runaway train towards release.

Finally, Erin raised herself on her hands to sue the power of her body to quicken her thrusts, the bed beneath them creaking continuously with the powerful movements. They were both moaning loudly as, with a handful of hard slams into Alex, they both orgasmed, Erin's accompanied by a guttural growl of release.

Eyes still closed and chest heaving, Alex reached up and pulled Erin back down into her arms, wrapping her legs around slender hips to hold them tightly together.

Erin buried her face in Alex's neck as Alex's hand cupped the back of her head. “I love you,” she murmured. “I really do.”

Alex smiled, pulling her closer. “I love you, so, so much.”

Erin gently pulled out of Alex, moving away from her in order to remove the harness. Alex took that moment to grab her phone, setting an alarm for them to catch a quick nap before they had to get up and pick up Chance.

The two settled back down under the covers, an aura of satisfaction and absolute contentment between them. Her head back on Erin 's shoulder, Alex let out a soft sigh, a smile on her lips.

“Thank you for today,” Erin whispered, her fingers running absently through Alex's hair. “You know,” she said after a moment mutual silence. “I don't know what it is with you, Alex. Really, what it's always been. Sure, I'm attracted to you like crazy, have been since the first moment I saw you that day outside of Lance's house. But, I don't know …”

“It's more than that,” Alex offered, readjusting her head to a more comfortable position.

“Yes,” Erin said. “Far more. I feel so connected to you, on an emotional level. If you think about it, it may have been four or five years since all this began, but we really haven't spent that much time together in the grand scheme of things. Yet,” she added with a small chuckle “It's like I've known you my entire life.'

Alex raised her head and smiled down at her, bringing up a hand to caress her cheek. “I feel it, too,” she whispered, leaning down to place a lingering kiss on her lips. “Let's get a little sleep before Hurricane Chance is home.”

Erin smiled and nodded. “Good idea.”

Awhile later something woke Alex. It took a moment for reality to paint her world. She lay on her side with Erin pressed up against her back, softly snoring into her hair. She smiled when she felt the protective – almost possessive – arm draped over her side, but she realized they weren't alone.

Lifting her head and looking over her shoulder towards the opened bedroom doorway, she saw Judy standing there, a hand resting on the doorframe. The older woman's face was expressionless but her eyes were hard. Without a word, she turned and walked away.


Judy hummed softly to herself as she finished up cleaning the kitchen. She'd made a huge breakfast for everyone, offering to clean up so they could leave early considering the snowfall overnight.

Using a paper towel and spray bottle of cleaning agent, she wiped down the counters and small kitchen appliances, including the toaster she'd used for toast that morning. She wiped down the fridge then the kitchen table. She couldn't help but smile as she thought of the look of happy surprise on Erin 's face when she'd come down to make coffee earlier.

She'd done the same in Shawn's house, showed him how useful she was. Luckily for his wife, Lisa liked the extra help, especially for a mother running after a toddler. Now it was time to show her daughter that she needed her, too. She'd been overjoyed when Erin had asked if she'd like to stay a bit longer.

Hands on hips, she looked around the spotless room, making sure she hadn't missed anything. Satisfied, she nodded and walked back over to the cabinet under the sink where she found the cleaning supplies – doors fitted with child-proof locks – and put the spray bottle away before tossing the used paper towel into the trash.

Walking to the coat closet near the front door, she opened it and visually rifled through all the winter jackets hanging there, most belonging to Erin, and chose the one she wanted to wear for the few moments it would take to take the trash to the container at the curb, awaiting trash pickup later in the day.

Snug and warm in Erin 's coat, she tied up the full kitchen trash and tugged the heavy bag out of the stainless steel can tucked into the corner by the back door. Making her way out into the cold morning, she easy-stepped her way down the path, watching for ice. She heard the sound of shoveling and, once she reached the trashcans and dumped the bag inside, she glanced to her right.

A handsome man with a knit cap and heavy jacket was shoveling the pathway on the house next door. He glanced over at her.


She smiled at him. “Hi. Cold one.” When he stopped his shoveling and turned towards her, she walked over to him extending her hand. “Judy Lawson.”

He removed one of his gloves and extended the bared hand. “Hi. Lance. You've got to be related to Shawn and Erin,” he said with a charming grin.

She returned it. “Guilty. You know my kids?”

“I do,” he said, replacing his glove and resting his hands on the top of the snow shove handle. “And, I see Erin moved Alex in here, too.” He nodded towards the house behind Judy.

“Ah, so you know her as well, huh?”

She smirked. “I should hope so. We were supposed to get married.”

Eyebrows rose in surprise. “Excuse me? I thought she was into women? I mean, the other day I got home from spending some time with Shawn and Alex and Erin were in bed together.” She was a little taken aback by the flash of anger that hardened his features as he looked away. After a moment he seemed to get his emotions back under control and met her gaze again.

“Well, there's a story there. You got a sec?”

“Absolutely. Coffee?”


“So, I'm looking at this guy,” Lisa explained. “He's standing there with his two year old in his arms, holding it out like it was an alien baby or something,” she laughed, holding her arms straight out in front of her, demonstrating. “I mean, this poor kid barbeque sauce from head to toe. It looked like the kid had been basted in the stuff.”

“Mmm mmm, baby back ribs!” Shawn crowed, receiving a playful smack from his wife and chuckles from those gathered at the table.

“So, ultimately I let him use our employee bathroom,” she laughed, finishing her story.

“I met someone interesting yesterday,” Judy said, looking around Erin 's dinner table to meet everyone's curious gaze. “That nice man next door, Lance.”

Erin 's head popped up from where she'd been helping Chance – who was seated in his highchair – between she and Alex. She looked past the baby to meet guarded green eyes. She noticed Shawn was also looking their way.

Seeming not to notice, their mother plowed on. “He told me that he's been building cars and a motorcycle, now. Very exciting. He even showed me pictures.”

“That's great, Mom,” Shawn said, giving her a small smile while reaching for his coffee. “I haven't spoken to Lance in awhile, so it's nice to know he's doing well.”

“He mentioned you two used to be closer,” Judy hedged, sending a glance towards Erin and Alex. “I told him good friends are hard to find. Everyone should try and make amends and move on.”


Later that night, Erin changed into the flannel pants and tank top she slept in. She glanced over at Alex who was also getting ready for bed. She'd been extremely quiet on the way home after the dinner at Shawn's house. She'd simply gathered a sleeping Chance from his car seat, wiped out from playtime with Elijah, and had slipped inside the house.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked softly, turning to the bed to start removing throw pillows and turn down the comforter.

Alex let out a heavy sigh as she tugged the t-shirt she slept in down over her breasts. “Lance,” she said simply, sparing a glance at Erin . “He scares me. It got so violent at the end and he just wasn't willing to let it go. And,” she added with hands raised in supplication, “Maybe there's nothing to worry about. It's not like your mother knew who he was or the history.”

“That's what I'm thinking, too,” Erin said softly, though in truth, it had bothered her greatly that her mother had been talking to him. Shawn had asked her if she thought Judy had brought it up on purpose at dinner. Did Lance tell her the story and she brought it up to gauge reactions. Erin couldn't allow herself to think so. After all, she just extended the invite for her mother to stay a bit longer. She couldn't have been wrong. She walked over to Alex and took her into a warm hug, which was returned. “Everything will be okay,” she murmured against a blonde crown. “I promise.”


“Chance, don't sit so close to the TV, sweetie,” Alex said from where she was curled up in the chair reading, her son getting his thirty minutes of Disney Junior. She glanced up when Judy entered the living room with a mug of coffee, handing Alex one. “Oh, thank you.”

“ Erin 's still not back from working with Shawn yet, huh?” Judy asked, taking a seat on the couch, glancing at the TV.

“No. She texted me a bit ago. I guess the guys wanted to grab dinner.”

“Oh, good,” Judy said with a heavy sigh as she got settled, kicking off her slippers off before curling her feet underneath her. “She's young, should be out with people her own age.” She sipped her coffee, Alex staring at her. “She told me about a party or get-together she was invited to on Saturday. She declined, of course,” she added, waving off the idea.

“A party?” Alex asked, confused. “She didn't mention a party to me.”

“Oh,” Judy said, eyebrows drawing. “The way she went on about it, I'm surprised.” She smiled wistfully at Alex. “I remember being her age. So young, so excited about the world. It was so hard being tied down, two little ones, so needy. I love my kids, don't get me wrong. But, if I'd known then what I knew later ….”

Alex looked away from her, down into the creamy depths of the mug of coffee her hands were wrapped around, thinking about the conversation they'd had in bed the night before regarding Saturday. She glanced over to her son who was riveted by the puppet on TV who was talking to him about his colors.

“Mamma!” he exclaimed, turning to look at her as he pointed back at the screen. “It's blue!”

She smiled at him, her heart swelling with love even as she wanted to cry. “Yes, sweetheart,” she agreed. “It's blue. Good job.”


Erin sat next to Shawn in his truck as he drove back to the house they were renovating. She'd caught a ride with him to the restaurant where she'd had a burger with him and his friends, who was also helping on the house.

“Can I tell you something?” he asked, pulling up behind Erin 's 4Runner, parked at the curb in front of the house.

“Yeah, of course,” she said, meeting his gaze in the dimness of the cab.

“It bothered me what Judy said, at dinner.” He dropped his hands from the steering wheel with a sigh. “The whole thing about Lance. Makes me uncomfortable.”

Erin swallowed, concerned to hear her brother say that. Between the two, she was far more the emotional one, he the logical. When he reacted emotionally to something it affected her like when your pet dog jumps up barking in the middle of the night when you hear nothing.

She unbuckled her seatbelt as she considered his words. “I didn't like it, either.”

“You don't think she sought him out, do you?” he asked, heavy brows drawn. “Would she be that treacherous?”

“Well, I mean, I don't know her as well as you do, Shawn,” she murmured. “Would she?” She asked, tapping her fingers on denim-clad thighs. “Would she have done that when we were kids?”

Shawn let out a smirk. “In a heartbeat. But,” he qualified, “back then it likely would have to do with getting what she wanted, booze or drugs or whatever. She said she doesn't do that stuff anymore and I do believe her.” He studied her for a long moment before turning away. “I don't know. I'm sure I'm being overly cautious with her.”

“How the hell else are we supposed to be?” Erin asked. “I mean, she just suddenly reappears after the hard part is over.” She shook her head. “I don't know. I have a feeling she makes Alex nervous, too.”

“You don't think Lance would do or say anything, do you? To you or to Alex?”

“All I can say is he better fucking not,” Erin growled. “If he hurts her again, Shawn, I'll fucking kill him.”

“Down, killer,' Shawn chuckled as Erin opened the passenger-side door. The sudden spotlight from the dome light making him squint for a moment. “Don't worry, though. I've got your back no matter what and we both have got Alex's back, though I suspect you've got a lot more than that.”

Erin climbed out of the truck and turned standing in the open doorway, grinning. “Mmmm mmmm, good.”

Shawn laughed before sobering. “Oh, yeah. Hogan said you're not going to the party at his place Saturday. Why not? Figured you'd drop Chance off with Elijah and go have some fun.”

“You kidding?” Erin said, hand on hip and incredulity in her voice. “I got a date with Chuck E. Cheese and introductions to make with a ball pit and a 3 year old!”

Again, Shawn laughed. “Get outta here.”

Still chuckling, Erin hopped into her SUV and got it started, excited to head home and spend the rest of the evening with Alex and Chance. A glance at the clock on the dashboard told her the little guy still had a half hour before bedtime.

The drive home was quick, Erin 's mind all over the map, from her talk with Shawn to dinner with the guys to the woman she was going home to. She pulled into the driveway, noting their bedroom light was on as well as that in the living room.

Parking and entering the house, she saw Judy curled up on the couch watching a crime drama. “Hey.”

“Hello, honey,,” Judy said with a welcoming smile. “My show just started. Want to join me?”

Erin gave her a regretful smile. “If you don't mind, I'm exhausted. Gonna shower and hit the hay.” She leaned down and placed a kiss on her mother's cheek. “Goodnight. Oh, did you still need to go to the mall tomorrow, though?”

“Yeah, if you don't mind,” Judy said, giving her a hopeful look.

“I don't mind at all. Goodnight,” she said again and headed for the stairs.

She heard Chances sweet voice in their bedroom, whatever he'd said responded to by his mother. She stopped when she found the bedroom door closed, not sure if she should just barge in.

Standing in the hallway, she raised her fist to knock but decided against it. The two seemed to be in quite the discussion about something. She smiled and headed for the bathroom. She'd return after a long, hot shower to give mom and son some time alone. As she undressed and stepped under the hot spray, she wondered why Chance wasn't watching his favorite show during his TV time, as he still had ten minutes left.

Eyes sliding shut and a quiet groan escaping her lips, she raised her head, letting the soothing water to fall over her, smoothing her hair back as it went. She'd worked hard that day and her body was tired and sore. The hot water was like a soothing balm as it caressed her skin.

As much as she wanted to stand there forever, she was tired, so quickly did what she needed to do and turned off the water, sliding the clear glass door open as she dried herself off. She was about to wrap the towel around her hair when she heard the tiniest little knock on the bathroom door.

Quickly shrugging into her robe, which hung next to Alex's, and opened the door to see a little 3 year old looking up at her. He looked sleepy and grumpy.

“Mammas sleeping,” he muttered, that little bottom lip sticking out, letting Erin know he could start tired tears at any minute.

“She is?” Erin said, reaching down and picking him up. She flicked the bathroom light off, not bother to hand her wet towel that she'd used to dry her body as she knew tuck-in duty was definitely the priority. “You ready for bed, little man?” she asked, softly, glancing into her bedroom as she passed the door that was barely open from the toddler's passage. Sure enough, Alex was fast asleep. Chance said nothing, just nodded as he rested his head on her shoulder, two fingers he always sucked tucked into his mouth.

Smiling, she left a kiss on his head as she carried him to his bedroom and to his bed. She could tell he wasn't going to make it through one of the books they usually read to him, so she simply tucked him in ass he sang a silly little song to him, her voice soft and mesmerizing. She could see his eyelids falling further and further until finally he was out, his little chest rising and falling with slow, even breaths.

She leaned down and placed a kiss on the side of his head. “Love you, little man,” she whispered. “Sweet dreams.”

Turning his nightlight and softly closing his door, she headed back to the bathroom to clean up her mess and gather her discarded clothing. Grabbing her brush, she turned off the light and headed to the bedroom where Alex was just beginning to come around.

“Hey,” she murmured, turning from her side to her back and stretching.

“Hey, baby,” Erin said softly, tugging the towel free of her hair before she began the tedious – and sometimes painful – task of brushing out the long brunette locks. “How are you?”

“Good,” Alex said with a jaw-popping yawn. “Where's Chance?” she asked, pushing herself up to lean back on her elbows.

“He's in bed.” Erin chuckled before wincing as a particularly stubborn tangle caught. “He knocked on the bathroom door and told me you'd crashed. I think he wasn't sure how to go to bed since you were asleep.”

Alex smiled. “Sorry.”

“Don't be. It was nice to have a little time with him.” She sat on the edge of the bed, her back hurting from her very physical day. “I'm excited to see his reactions to Chuck – “

“I think you should go to your party Saturday,” Alex blurted, not meeting Erin 's gaze.

The hand holding the brush rested in Erin 's lap as she stared at the blonde woman not four feet away from her. “Wait, what? What party?”

“That guy from the store. I hear it will be fun,” Alex aid softly, picking at the blanket that had buddle at her waist as she'd sat totally upright.

“Wait, Alex, wait. I feel like we're having two different conversations here. Why would I go to Hogan's party? We already have plans with Chance.”

Alex spared her a quick glance before looking away again. “I just don't want you to give up having fun, Erin ,” she said softly.

“Alex?” Erin set her brush down and reached for Alex's hand, which lay limply in her lap. “Alex, look at me.” Once she had her attention, she said gently, “What's going on? Has something happened?” A horrifying thought occurred to her and her hand moved away from Alex's. “You haven't changed your mind about us … have you?”

Alex looked at her for a long moment before slowly shaking her head, her gaze never wavering. “No.”


Erin fingered a pair of jeans, thinking Alex would look amazing in them. Judy was scanning through a rack of blouses, picking out this one and that before placing it back where she'd gotten it. Erin watched her, trying to decide when the right time was to speak her mind She decided, after three hours following her around from store to store, the time was now.

“You don't care for Alex, do you?”

Holding a deep red sweater, Judy looked at Erin . “Excuse me/”

“Is it Alex?” Erin pushed, knowing full well Judy had heard her question. “Is it Chance? What is it?”

“ Erin , I don't care for what you're insinuating. I have nothing against your friend or her adorable son.”

“She's more than just my friend, and you know it.” She crossed her arms over her chest as she leaned a shoulder against the wall next to the dressing rooms. “I've made that point very clear to you.”

Judy turned back to the rack she was standing at, slowly returning the sweater to where it hung. “I know,” she said softly.

“Do you have a problem with the fact that I'm a lesbian?” Erin asked, not entirely able to put understanding in her tone, but it wasn't as harsh as she felt. “Because if you do, we've got a real problem – “

“Seventeen years,” Judy whispered, interrupting her daughter.

“What?” Erin asked, irritation in her voice.

Judy met her gaze. “Martha and I shared seventeen wonderful years together.” A soft smile lit her eyes. “She got me clean, she gave me hope and,” she shrugged, “She loved me.”

Erin could only stare at her. “What happened to her?”

“She died of breast cancer last year. We were living in Arizona .” Judy let out a heavy sigh. “The last thing she said to me was, she wanted me to find you kids and make it right.”

“How did she know about us?” Erin asked softly.

“She knew you and Shawn,” Judy said with a widening smile “She knew your dad. She used to hold Shawn on her lap when she drove. Of course, laws were different then.”

“So, seventeen years,” Erin said, doing the math in her head, “You and Martha were involved before you left?”

Judy looked away as she nodded. “Yes. I'll never regret the years I spent with her, Erin ,” she said softly, turning back to her daughter. “Never. But, like most things in those days, I regret how it all happened. I mostly regret what I did to you kids, and how it's affected you.”

“And Alex?” she demanded, bringing the conversation back full circle. “What does this all have to do with her and Chance?”

Judy opened her mouth a few times to speak but closed it, instead remaining silent and looking down at the floor.

“Have you said something to her?” Erin asked, taking a step closer to her mother, her ire rising. “You did, didn't you?”

“Well,” Judy hedged, reaching out to mess with the sleeve or a nearby shirt. “Erin, you see, I – “

“What did you say?” Erin demanded, really angry now. “What did you do?”

“I didn't, I …” She sighed, looking as though she were about to cry. “I just want you to make sure, Erin,” she finally managed.

“You want me to make sure,” Erin repeated, her tone low and flat. “I've never been more sure of anything in all my life. If you had the slightest idea of what Alex has been through, of what that piece of shit, Lance put her through – “ She cut herself off at the wide-eyed, frightened look in Judy's eyes. “What?”

“I thought he had a right to see his son,” Judy said, her words barely audible.

“What?” Erin growled, taking another menacing step towards the older version of herself.

“He told me the boy was, Erin , I swear!” Judy exclaimed, her words coming like a round of bullets, fast and hard. “I told him I'd see what I could do, get Alex to let him – “

Erin took off at a run, nearly knocking another shopper down as she bolted from the store and to the main hall of the mall. She dug her phone out of her pocket and managed to get her brother on the line. She barked into the phone to head to her house ASAP as the house he was working on was much closer than the mall.

Erin 's tires squealed to a halt in front of her house. She didn't even bother closing her door as her mother – who had barely caught up to her to get a ride home – climbed out. She noticed instantly that Alex's car wasn't in the driveway but also noticed that Shawn had already entered, the front door standing open.

“Shawn?” Erin called out, stepping into the entryway before she stopped cold. The armchair in the living room was turned over on its side. The small stack of coloring books that they'd began leaving on the coffee table for Chance were strewn all over the floor, one ripped in two with a large boot print at the center.

“Alex!” Erin called out, hurrying to the stairs where she saw one of the wooden spindles knocked out on one end, some blood smeared on a step six or so inches away. “Alex!”

“They're not up here,” Shawn said, heading quickly down the stairs, concern on his face. “It looks like their stuff is gone, too.”

Panicked, Erin tried to think. She turned from the stairs to see a terrified Judy standing by the opened front door, tears in her eyes and her hand clutched around a gold cross she always wore. Erin turned to face her. “You better pray he hasn't hurt her,” she growled.

“I'm sorry,” Judy whispered, the tears falling freely. “I just wanted Chance to meet his father – “

“Lance is not his father! She was raped!” Erin roared.

“Whoa,” Shawn exclaimed, hurrying between the two, as he knew how his sister worked and knew Judy was about to become a casualty of her fear. “Everyone cool down.” He turned to Judy. “What exactly did you do?”

Judy took several calming breaths, even as the tears continued to flow. “Lance asked when he could talk to Alex about her son. He knew he couldn't go to you,” she said, looking at Erin . “So, he asked me. I told him today would be good. I knew we were going to the mall and Alex was off today and would have Chance – “

“So you invited that son-of-a-bitch into my house?” Erin exploded. “With her alone?!”

“I didn't know!”

Erin pushed past the two and slammed out of the house, Shawn calling after her as she sprinted across her front yard to Lance's and flying up the few stairs to his front door. Using her fist, she pounded on the front door.

“ Erin ! Damn it!”

She didn't even turn around to see her brother run up to join her on the porch. “Don't get in my way, Shawn.”

“Don't get us arrested, Erin .”

“Lance! Open the fucking door!” Erin yelled, banging again. Her blood was boiling and she was ready to rip the door off its hinges. Thank god that wasn't necessary as the door was opened and a meek-looking Lance stood on the other side. His mouth was bloody and he held an ice pack to his jaw. “What did you do, you bastard!” She reached up and grabbed him by the throat, pushing him back inside up against the coat closet, her grip like iron. His ice pack hit the floor. “Where the fuck are they!”

“I, I don't know!” he gasped. “I swear, I don't' know. After she fell, I realized what was happening and I Left.”

“After she fell?” Shawn growled, taking a step toward the duo. “Fell?” he raged. “That place looks like a fucking tornado hit it! What did you do?” He slammed a fist against the wall next to Lance's head, making the wide-eyed man flinch.

“She didn't want to let me in so I pushed my way in. It was stupid, I know!” Lance yelled as loud as he could, considering his throat was being constricted. “She tried to run upstairs so I grabbed her. She kicked me!” he exclaimed, indicating his bloody mouth. “Jesus. She didn't have to do that!”

With a roar, Erin pulled Lance away from the wall only to slam him back again. “Do you want my sympathy now or later, you piece of shit?”

“Damn it, Erin ! It was all accidental, okay?”

Her gaze bored into his. “I'm beginning to think nothing is accidental,” she said, her voice low and dangerous. “You stay away from Alex, you stay away from my house and you stay away from that little boy. He's not yours, and neither is Alex.” With a knee to the groin, she shoved him away from her and left the house.


“Damn it,” Alex hissed, pressing the paper towel to the cut again as it hadn't stopped bleeding, yet.

She glanced over to Chance, who sat on the floor in the middle of the tiny apartment. He looked scared and upset, basically how his mother felt.

“Baby boy, decide if you want anything,” she said, indicating their old apartment around them. Once they left to head to a hotel, she had no intention of ever returning. It broke her heart when all that happened was her baffled little boy looked up at her, tear streaks beginning down his cheeks.

“Sweetheart,” she whispered, walking the few feet over to him before she squatted down and pulled him into her arms. She did her best to keep her own tears at bay, knowing they'd do nothing to help the situation or her broken heart. She knew Erin had absolutely nothing to do with Lance showing up, but had the feeling that Judy had everything to do with it. Blood is thicker than water, and there was no way Erin would or could ever choose her and Chance over her own mother.

Alex no longer felt safe against Judy and she certainly didn't feel safe with Lance living next door. There was only one thing to do, and that was for her and her son to move on… again.

She left a kiss to the top of his head when there was a knock at the door. She let out a heavy sigh and stood. She'd been expecting this, and knew she had to face Erin and let her go. She walked over to it and, shaking out her hands to help shake out her nerves, she let out a heavy breath and pulled the door open.

“Judy!” She was so stunned, all she could do was stand there and stare.

“May I come in, Alex?” the older woman asked softly.

Getting a bit of her emotions back under control, Alex nodded, stepping away from the door. She knew killing the woman wasn't an option, so walked over to the bed and took a seat on the sagging mattress, pulling Chance up with her.

Judy said nothing as she crossed the threshold and closed the door behind her. “Mind if a sit?” she asked, indicating the chair at the tiny table.

“Do what you want, Judy,” Alex said with a tired sigh. “You've got about two minutes then my son and I are leaving for good.”

“Please don't leave, Alex,” Judy pleaded softly. “It would destroy Erin . Don't make her pay for my foolish selfishness. Honey,” she murmured so much sorrow in her blue eyes. “I walked away from my kids a long time ago, as you know. That was the biggest mistake of my life, and listening to Lance was my second.” She let out a heavy sigh as her shoulders slumped. “I think I allowed my fear of losing Erin a second time cloud my judgment.”

Alex looked down at the boy cuddled into her lap, her mind somersaulting over what she'd just heard, over what had happened that afternoon, and what had been happening over the many days that Judy had been in their lives. “What am I supposed to do?” she asked softly.

“Come home,” Judy said softly.

She smirked. “Come home? Come home to what, Judy?” she demanded. “You've been against my son and I being there since the beginning. Lance lives next door and has proven he's still violent towards me. I'm not safe with him and frankly,” she added, swallowing her emotion of hurt and anger down, “I'm not safe with you.”

Judy looked away, her eyes blinking away her tears. “I deserve that,” she admitted with a nod. “I absolutely do.” She pushed up from the chair and moved over to the bed, sitting next to Alex, who moved slightly away from her. “Listen, Erin nearly killed Lance and honestly, I think it was only Shawn who kept her from killing him and me. From what I understand, Lance was shaken by what happened at the house and agreed to leave you alone. He, and I, know he had nothing to do with Chance.” She smiled at the little boy who peeked at her from where he was cuddled against his mother. “And, I give you my word, never will I interfere in any way. Truth is, you deserve to be there more than I do.” She gave her a sad smile. “I think that was part of my fear.”

Alex felt the sting of reticent relief prick the backs of her eyes. She looked towards the door when she heard a soft knocking. She hadn't even heard it open, but there she was, Erin standing in the open doorway.

Her heart swelling, she placed a kiss on the top of Chance's head before gently setting him aside on the bed before jumping up and hurrying the few feet to be caught in Erin 's arms. Their bodies pressed together almost painfully tight.

Erin buried her face in Alex's neck, breathing her in even as she held her tighter. “I love you,” she whispered.

Alex smiled her tears falling freely. “I love you, too.”

Erin pulled back just enough to cup Alex's face. She left a soft, lingering kiss on Alex's lips before resting their foreheads together. “Come home, Alex,” she whispered. “You and Chance, come home, okay?”

She nodded, her hand coming up to caress the side of Erin 's beautiful face. “Yeah.”

“Forever, this time?” Erin asked with a small, hopeful smile.

Alex laughed, relief, joy and love rushing through her. “Yes, forever.”


The End

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