Disclaimers: Mine.

Sex: Come on, guys!  This is me you're talking about here. . .

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Come visit me at: www.myspace.com/aspfilmswriter or my publisher at: www.pdpublishing.com 


Crossing Lines


Kim Pritekel


Kansas Roberts wiped her forearm across her forehead, grimacing at the wetness that gathered.  Running a hand through short, blonde hair, the 17 year old continued to push the mower through the thick, lush grass of her mother's front lawn.  The teen hated yard work.  She hated much of any kind of work, at all, to be honest.  Alas, yard work had become her lot in life since her paying job shut down a week ago.  Her mother had a focus on the whole "responsibility" thing for some reason. 

"Kansas?" called Marina Fawkes, Kansas' mother.  The blonde kept mowing, her iPod in place, blonde head bobbing to Pat Benatar.  She stepped off the front porch, canvas shoes leaving footprints in the newly mowed rows.  The petit woman dodged her daughter's waving arm as the girl got into the music. 

Kansas nearly jumped out of her skin as she was tapped on the shoulder.  She whirled, tugging one side of her earphones from her ears. "What?" the girl asked, irritated at being disturbed, as well as from the embarrassment of her surprise. 

"You have a call.  Your dad is on the phone."

"So?" Kansas shrugged, about to put her headphones back on, but was stopped by a hand on her arm.

"Honey, talk to him.  This is the fourth time he's called for you this weekend."

The blonde sighed heavily, cutting the engine of the mower.  "Fine."  She took her time getting to the house, not looking forward to the call.  Brad Roberts had divorced Marina and left his family the year before.  There had been problems in the marriage for years, but it had been kept from the Roberts' only child.  Kansas had been close to her father, but when she found out he'd been cheating on her mother, and left them for another woman, she'd wanted nothing to do with him.

The phone lay on the counter where Marina had left it.  The blonde picked it up, immediately taking on an air of boredom. "Hello?"

"Hey, kiddo.  I was beginning to wonder if you're avoiding me," Brad Roberts said, slight hurt in his voice.

"Look, I'm mowing the lawn, so can this wait?"

"Oh.  Okay."  Brad paused for a moment.  "Kansas?"

"Yeah?"  The blonde toyed with a pen next to the pad her mother always kept near the phone for messages.  Her stomach was doing flip flops, her emotions in turmoil.  She missed him desperately, but would never, could never admit it.  She felt it would be a betrayal to her mother.

"I really want to see you.  Please have dinner with me?"

"I'll think about it," Kansas said, non-committal.  "Look, I gotta go."

"Okay.  I understand.  Kansas?"


"I love you."

"Yeah."  Without another word, the teen slammed down the phone, her green eyes stinging with unshed emotion.  She shoved her headphones into her ears and cranked the volume up on her iPod.  "I'm sure you do," she muttered, bursting through the front door.  As she walked over to the mower, she saw her mother standing at the chain-link fence, talking to a man who looked to be in his 30s.  He was standing in the yard that used to belong to Paul Panzer, who had moved out last fall.  She saw her mother turn, indicating with her hand that Kansas should join them, but the teen ignored her, pretending she didn't see the motion.  After a moment, Marina turned back to the man, continuing their conversation.


Marina sat across from her daughter, watching the girl play with her dinner, mostly piling it at one end of her plate or the other.  "Don't you like chicken anymore?" she asked, amusement in her voice.  The teen shrugged. "How did it go with your dad on the phone today?  You didn't say much about it."

"Not much to tell.  He wants to do dinner or some shit like that."

"Watch your mouth."

"I told him maybe.  But," the blonde shrugged again, "I doubt I'll go."

"Why not?"

"Because he's an ass-. . . sorry.  He's a jerk."

Marina hid her smile behind her glass of iced tea.  What she was about to tell her child was difficult, as she wanted to agree with the girl, and tell her that, yes, her father is a prick of the lowest order.  Instead, she tried to do the right thing. "Kansas, he's your dad.  You shouldn't turn your back on him because of what happened between us."

Green eyes glanced up at Marina.  "You're not the only one he left."  Kansas' chair screeched across the tile floor as she shoved back from the table. "I'm done."  She scraped her leftover dinner into the trash and put her dish in the dishwasher.  Marina watched with sad eyes as her only child shoved through the front door of the small house she was able to buy after the divorce.  Her daughter's statement was profound, and Marina was disgusted with herself that she had always seen Brad's betrayal solely against her.  That couldn't have been further from the truth.  She sighed, resting her cheek against her closed fist.

Kansas took a deep breath, taking in the hot, summer night air.  The neighborhood was abuzz with kids enjoying their last month of freedom before returning to school for another year.  Kansas would be a senior this coming year, and she was glad.  She was tired of school, tired of the idiots who populated it, and tired of living at home.  She couldn't wait to start college in the fall.  Granted, she had no clue what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, though knew it would have something to do with art, but she knew she had time to figure that out.

She sat on the porch, glancing over at the Panzer place when she caught a tiny glow out of the corner of her eye.  The guy her mother had been talking to earlier sat on the porch, a cigarette dangling between his fingers.  He smiled at her, bringing up a hand in greeting.

"Hey," Kansas said. "You move in there?"

The man nodded. "Yep.  Just yesterday.  It's nice to be able to sit still for a few minutes, you know?"

"Yeah.  Moving sucks," the blonde agreed, having to do it all too often as a kid, herself.

"Your mom's a nice lady.  Good to know we've got nice neighbors."

"Yeah.  The old guy who lived there before was creepy."

The man chuckled, taking a drag from his cigarette.  "Well, we're not creepy."  He held up the smoke, apparently feeling the need to explain. "My wife won't let me smoke in the house, so. . . "

Kansas nodded. "Yeah.  The house smells kinda nasty with that stuff."  She remembered it all too well with her father.

The man nodded, smashing the cigarette on the railing of the porch, then tossing it in a coffee can sitting next to him.  He stood, wiping the back of his shorts. "See you around."

"Later."  Kansas turned back to the night, listening to a dog barking a few streets over.  She sighed, running a hand through her hair.  Life sucked. 

Kansas flicked on her bedroom light, whipping her tank top over her head as she made her way over to her TV, hitting the power button and tossing the shirt to the laundry pile.  She walked over to her window, about ready to close the blinds when she noticed a light on in the window across the way.  That room had never been used, the window literally boarded over when Panzer had lived there.  She brought a hand up, peeling her blinds down a bit to get a better look.

It looked as though the room were being set up as an office- a desk, which looked like it was set against the wall right under the window, with a computer on it, and an office chair.  Further in the room, Kansas could barely make out a bookcase, though it looked empty.  Then, suddenly, a woman appeared, plopping down in the office chair.  She had dark hair, which was pulled back into a ponytail, her tanned shoulders and arms visible from the white tank top she wore.  Kansas couldn't see her face as the woman was turned away, bent down.  It looked as though she were unloading a box, as she sat up, she sat a stack of papers and files on the desk.

Kansas was about to snap the blinds back into place and close them when the woman looked up.  The teen was momentarily stunned at what she saw- even from this distance, Kansas could see the startling blue of the woman's eyes, and the amazing structure of her features.  She was mesmerized.  The woman smiled and gave her a small wave.  Feeling stupid, and realizing she was standing there only wearing a bra and shorts, Kansas quickly closed the blinds.


Nina Bruckner only got a view of the girl across the way for about three point two seconds, but was amused by what she saw.  Her husband, Dan had told her that a teenaged girl lived next door, and that he'd spoken with her briefly while out smoking his cigarette.  The brunette was a little worried about that, and hoped it wouldn't mean parties or loud music.  She and Dan had moved into the neighborhood for a new start, hoping things would be better here.  Also, Dan wouldn't be doing long-haul trucking after the first of the year, so in six months, he'd be home more. 

In truth, Nina wasn't sure if that was good or bad.  In the five years they'd been married, she'd had to learn to only have a husband that was around 133 days a year.  The first couple years it had been really hard, as she had been on him all the time to bring his load down, knowing he couldn't.  Then, after awhile, she had gotten so used to having her own life, without him, it had almost been more difficult when he was home for long stretches.  She had to get used to having someone else in the house again.

Then there had been Kari.  She and Nina had worked together at the D.A.'s office in Cincinnati, and had become fast friends.  By that time, the brunette and Dan had grown so far apart that even when he was home, Nina wanted to spend her time with her good friend, not her husband.  Things had come close to divorce at that time, so Nina and Dan decided that maybe they needed new surroundings, a new start.  That's when they bought the house on Walnut Street.  Nina had gotten a good job with the Appellate courts with the D.A.'s office, and Dan had promised his trucking company that he'd give them the rest of the year, then he was gone.

A new start.  That's what they needed.

Nina's reminiscing was interrupted by Dan's touch on her shoulder.  She looked up at him, smiling as she noticed his cowlick acting up again.  She reached up, smoothing it back into place.  He grinned, looking every bit like the little boy he once was.

"You all packed?" she asked.  Her husband nodded.

"Sorry I can't help more with the house.  Sucks I gotta leave so soon."

"It's okay, Dan.  I understand."  Nina closed her eyes as he bent down, placing a lingering kiss on her lips.

"Let's test the new neighbors tonight," he murmured, a hand reaching down to cup one of her breasts.  She wanted to tell him she was too tired, but knew trying to work things out, meant giving in sometimes. 

Nina nodded, getting to her feet.  Dan released her and walked out of the room.  The brunette glanced out her window, seeing the closed blinds across the way before switching off the desk lamp.


Kansas was glued to the TV, watching the Tyra Banks show, and the guy on there who had once been a girl, but now looked like a remarkably cute guy named Josh, who wrote a song as a girl, recorded it, then redid the same song as a guy, putting the two tracks together.  So fascinated was she, the teen almost missed the sound of he doorbell. 

She put her bowl of Cocoa Puffs down, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and heading toward the front door.  Standing on her porch was the woman she'd seen two nights ago, but this time very much up close and personal.  She was dressed in a navy skirt suit, hair down around her shoulders, sunglasses perched atop her head. 

Yet again Kansas was struck dumb the sheer gorgeousness of the woman.  She knocked herself out of her reverie, and pushed the screen door open.  "Can I help you?"

"Yes.  I'm Nina Bruckner, I live next door.  I'd like to possibly offer you a job."  Kansas was intrigued, and confused.  The brunette must have seen it on her face, as she smiled.  "Sorry.  A bit sudden, I know.  We haven't even been properly introduced.  As I said, I'm Nina Bruckner.  And you are. . . ?"

"Oh!  Right."  Kansas grinned, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable around the older woman.  She tried to gauge her age, figuring her to be somewhere in her late 20s, maybe.  "I'm Kansas.  Roberts."

"Nice to meet you, Kansas.  Do you have a minute?"

"Uh, sure.  I guess.  What kind of job?"

"The dreaded yard work.  Dan, my husband, mentioned he saw you mowing your lawn the other day.  I don't know if you already have a summer job, or anything, but if you'd like to make a few extra bucks. . . "

"Sure.  Why not."

 "Great!"  Nina's smile was blinding, Kansas totally sucked into it.  She would have agreed to anything to see that smile again.  The taller woman hitched her thumb toward her place, raising a dark, arched brow in question.  Kansas nodded, tugging her front door behind her.  She followed Nina across their yards, trying to keep her eyes from permanently resting on the brunette's incredibly shapely behind. "Basically, what we need you to do is mow the lawn, as well as-" Nina cut herself off, turning to look at the teen.  Kansas, who was still rooted to the brunette's ass, nearly ran right into her.  Green eyes snapped up to look into bemused blue.  Kansas felt like an ass, but did her best to keep her poker face in place.  "Do you know anything about flower care?"

"Flower care?" Kansas repeated.  "If you water them, they'll grow?"

Nina chuckled. "Something like that."  She turned and continued their field trip to Nina's backyard, and the wooden shed out there.  She opened the door, the smell of gasoline and cut grass immediately greeting them.  "Well, as I was saying, we'll need the front and back mowed.  I think Dan is trying to get the sprinklers on the correct timer, so watering won't be an issue."  Nina stepped inside the shed, Kansas following, looking around the dark, hot space.  She turned to the woman, realizing just how close they were.  Feeling uncomfortable, she tucked her hands into the back pockets of her shorts and stepped politely back.

"How often do you want it mowed?"

"I was thinking once a week.  You can decide which day will work best for you."  Nina looked around, noting the gardening gloves that rested on a metal shelving unit.  "What about pulling weeds?  Would you be interested in doing that, as well?"

"Uh, sure."

"We'll pay you, of course.  What do you feel is fair?"

Kansas shrugged, having absolutely no idea how much to ask for, and not wanting to sound greedy. "Twenty a week?"

The brunette shook her head.  "No.  Not good enough.  We'll make it thirty-five for the mowing, and ten bucks a day for any additional work, whatever that may be.  How's that?"

Kansas blinked at her neighbor, then nodded at the expectant look on Nina's face. 

"Great."  Nina smiled, nearly pushing Kansas off her feet with its brilliance.  "I need to get to work, so you can decide when it works best for you.  Just help yourself to whatever tools you need in here, okay?"

"Okay."  Kansas felt like she was in the middle of a whirlwind, Nina's perfume left in the wake as the brunette hurried out of the shed.  Kansas shook herself out of her stupor, and out into the fresh air of the morning.  Once again she nearly ran into her neighbor.

"I really want to thank you for doing this for us, Kansas.  It's a big help.  Dan's gone so much, and I'm not home even when I am home, you know?  So, thank you."  That smile again.  Kansas grinned stupidly.

"No problem."

"Great.  Well, have a good day."

Kansas was left standing in the backyard of a perfect stranger, watching said perfect stranger hurry out to her driveway, and climb into her car.  "What a woman," the blonde breathed, then remembered she had a bowl of Cocoa Puffs waiting for her.


Kansas wiggled her ass and bobbed her head as she jammed to Guns 'N Roses, finishing up the trimming around the Bruckner's yard.  She'd been at it all morning and into the afternoon, just allowing herself to enjoy the day, and curious of what her new, lovely neighbor would say.  Plus, the money would be nice.  She'd even missed Dr. Phil to make the yard pretty.

The sun was high, and Kansas was due for a break.  She finished up the trimming and pulled the earphones off, slinging them around her neck.  She was ready to go in and get lunch when a big rig pulled up in front of Dan and Nina's house.  Dan hopped down, pushing a pair of sunglasses up to rest on his forehead.

"Hey.  What's up?" he asked to Kansas, who was making her way out of their backyard.

"Just finishing up.  Nina took me to the shed this morning to show me all your gardening toys.  Nice mower."

"Thanks."  Dan smiled, but he was eyeing her as though he wasn't sure he believed her.  Didn't Nina tell him?  Kansas knew she had done nothing wrong, so strolled across the yard, hopping the fence, and making her way into her house, relived to get a reprieve from the hot sun for a bit.

The day went on without incident.  Kansas felt good that she'd done a good day's work, and was happy with what she'd done for the Bruckner's.  She told her mom about it when she got home, too.  Over all, it had been a good day.  Certainly a productive one.

Around seven o'clock that night, the doorbell rang.  Marina answered it, surprised to see the statuesque beauty standing on her porch, asking to speak with her daughter.  Kansas pounded down the stairs, almost breathless when she got to the door to see who her visitor was.  Nina smiled when she saw the teen.

"Hello, Kansas.  I wanted to tell you personally what a wonderful job you did on the yard today.  It looks gorgeous."

Kansas beamed. "Thanks.  It was nothin'."

Nina chuckled. "That may be, but you did great, anyway.  Thank you."

Marina watched the interaction, a smile on her face.  It was nice to see Kansas actually taking something serious.

"I also wanted to give you this."  Nina handed the teen some folded bills.  You did a great deal of work today.  You've earned yourself a reward."

Kansas took the money, shocked to see $75.  Her eyes got huge.  "This is too much."

"I don't think so.  Work hard, earn hard."  Nina smiled at the girl, and then at Mariana, then stepped off the porch, and disappeared into the darkness of the summer night.

Marina closed the door after her, turning to her daughter.  "My god!  That woman is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen who wasn't on TV."

Kansas nodded dumbly.  "Yeah."  She turned and ran back up the stairs to her room.  Marina watched her go, chewing on her lower lip.  She had suspected about her daughter's sexual preference since Kansas had been 11, making strange comments about the women she saw on TV.  Kansas had also had a hard time making friends with girls her own age, instead always hanging out with the boys, though Marina could tell it wasn't romantic relationships she had with them.  They treated her as one of the guys- especially after Kansas beat James Maynard up for picking on one of their school mates.  Seeing her reaction to Nina, and the way the normally nonchalant, 'I don't give a crap' attitude girl reacted to the brunette, Marina knew there was a bit of a crush going on.  Though a bit disturbing, she couldn't say she entirely blamed her daughter.  Nina Bruckner was gorgeous.

Kansas dive bombed her bed, landing on her stomach and re-counting the money she'd been given.  She was shocked Nina had been so generous.  Perhaps her sunburn was worth it, after all.


Three nights later, Kansas was in her room, working on a sketch of her cat, Tuna Fish, who sat ever so patiently, cleaning herself all the while.  Kansas knew better- Tuna would stay put as long as the artist didn't move her, so the blonde was on the go, getting this angle and that angle of her Siamese.

"This one's a doozy, Tuna," she muttered around the pencil held between her teeth. "Kitty hall of fame, for sure."  She had just moved to the end of her bed, squatting on the floor, when out of the corner of her eye she noticed a light.  Glancing over toward her window, Kansas saw the office light had been turned on in her neighbor's house.  "Look, Tuna cat.  Someone's gonna do some work."

Tuna Fish's only reply was to slurp between her spread toes.

 Kansas spread a couple rows of blinds with her fingers to peer between them.  Sure enough, Nina came into view, dressed in another tank top and sports with a Nike swoosh on the hip.  As she sat down at the desk, hair tie in her mouth, the brunette gathered her hair together to form a ponytail, then tied it back.  About to tighten the tail, Nina looked up, apparently feeling that she was being watched.  She saw Kansas watching her, and gave a smile and a wave.  The teen waved back, feeling her stomach flip flop.

Now that she'd been seen, there was no way she could stay and watch, so Kansas closed her blinds and returned to her sketching.


Nina watched until the blinds were fully closed on Kansas' window.  At least this time the girl wasn't standing there in her bra.  The brunette smirked at the memory.  She'd spoken to the girl a handful of times, though mostly about the yard, Kansas ever eager to know what more she could do.

The brunette sat back in her desk chair, hands tucked behind her head.  She stared out into the night, watching a falling star sail across the night sky.  Make a wish, Nina- I wish that my life would start to make sense.  Nina blew a kiss to the night beyond her world, then turned back to her work.  She had court early the next morning.


Kansas had taken it upon herself to make sure that the Bruckner's had the most beautiful yard on the block.  Yeah, the money was nice, but more so, she wanted the reward of seeing Nina's smiles at a job well done. 

It was Saturday afternoon, and the teen had been working dutifully since that morning, carefully pruning and watering the flowerbeds Nina had planted.  The lawn was mowed to perfection, trimmed to within a hair.  The house had been quiet, and Kansas figured no one was home.  She was shocked to see the back door open and Nina step out to the back porch around noon.

"Hey," the blonde called out from where she was stowing gardening equipment in the shed.

"Hey, yourself.  You've been a busy little bee out here.  I didn't want to disturb you.  Besides," the brunette grinned, "I didn't want to interrupt your audition for Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand'."

Kansas blushed, remembering her moves across the yard as she worked.  "Oh, uh, yeah," she muttered, burying her hands in the back pockets of her shorts.  Nina laughed.

"I must say, I don't think I've ever seen someone quite so tethered to their music."  Nina tapped the small music player strapped to Kansas' arm.

"Oh, well, yeah," the blonde grinned, looking down at it.  "It's a little worse for wear, I'm afraid.  Gonna have to get a new one soon, I think.  This one keeps skipping."  She grinned up at the older woman.  "Seen lots of miles."

"No doubt," Nina agreed.  "Want to come in for a cold glass of lemonade?  No doubt you need it."  The older woman looked up into the perfect, blue sky.  "It's hot out here."

Kansas felt a moment of hesitation in nerves, then got over it.  She nodded, happily following the brunette into the house.  She was curious to see what they had done to the place, only seeing inside once before, and that had been years ago when she was there collecting Girl Scout cookie money.  Then the house had been dark and just plain creepy.  Now, it was open and airy, decorated with taste and a bit of adventure with bright colors and contemporary style.  All in all, Kansas liked it.

"Have a seat," Nina said, leading the blonde into the kitchen, where there was a small, round chrome and glass table.  The teen did as asked, looking around the very modern kitchen- all black and chrome. 

"You guys did a great job with this place.  Did it take a lot of work?"

"Yeah, it did, actually."  Nina moved around the space, filling two glasses with ice cubes and pink lemonade.  She held up a bag of Oreos in question.  At Kansas' nod of approval, she brought the package and drinks over to the table and sat down.  "But, it's been worth it, I think.  The former owners had just really let the place go.  I mean, this neighborhood is about, what, forty or so years old?"

Kansas nodded, though she didn't have a clue.  She took an Oreo to munch on, just enjoying the sound of Nina's voice as she prattled on about the renovations she and Dan still had planned for the three bedroom house.

"So, are you on summer break from college or high school?" Nina asked at length, sipping from her lemonade.

"High school.  I'm a senior this year.  Finally."

"I remember my senior year of high school.  Couldn't wait to get out and go on to college."  Nina peeled her cookie apart, tongue lapping up the thick, white center.  Kansas watched with rapt attention.

"What do you do?" she asked, shaking herself out of her rather naughty thoughts.

"I'm an attorney.  I work for the DA's office- appellate division."

"That's appeals, right?" Kansas asked.  Nina nodded.  "Is law school hard?"  Again, Nina nodded.

"Yep.  I knew people who it took six times to pass the Bar."

"And you?"


"Is that good?" Kansas reached for another cookie, silently cursing Nina, as Oreos were her weakness in junk food.

"It's not bad.  I was just glad it was over.  The most stressful time of my adult life."

Kansas decided to go on a little fishing expedition.  "How long have you been an attorney?"

"Two years."

"Do you like it?" Kansas sipped from her lemonade, mentally doing the math.  She's 26?  Maybe 27?

"I do.  I'm not sure it's what I want to do for the rest of my life, though."  Nina wiped her mouth with a napkin from the table, balling it up and setting it aside.  "This will sound strange, and I've never admitted this aloud before, but it's not really what I thought it would be.  It's- I don't know.  Even more vicious, somehow."  She held up a hand to forestall anything Kansas might have to say. "I know, I know, it's working in law, the lawyer jokes, I know all of it.  But I think what bothers me is that I went into this profession truly to help people, and I do.  To a degree.  But I think the bullshit and politics have gotten in the way of allowing us to do our jobs.  I don't like that."

"I'm sorry.  That must be frustrating.  It's kind of like my art class last year, that I took up at the college.  I was there to work, to learn, you know?  But we had this teacher, Mr. Ripley, who felt it was his duty to form a harem."  The teen shook her head at the memory.  "It was ridiculous.  I ended up dropping the class mid-way through it."

"Was that the teacher that ended up being brought up on charges of statutory rape?"

"The very one."

"Lovely."  Nina rolled her eyes.  "So, you're interested in art?"

"Yep."  Kansas brightened immediately at the question.  "It's all I think about.  Other than, of course, how to make that patch of grass back by the shed turn green again."

Nina laughed, thinking of the patch, and of all the conversations she and Dan had had about it, and if it were worms. "Well, the yard is certainly a work of art, so you've done your job, I think."

Kansas grinned. "Thanks."

"What kind of art do you do?  Draw?  Sculpt. . . ?"

"Yes.  I do it all.  Love it.  Mostly I sketch, though.  Cheaper."

"Can I see some of your work?  I always admired those who are artistically inclined.  I, for one, am not," Nina declared, a hand to her chest.

The blonde thought for a moment, tucking her lower lip in as the wheels turned.  With a muttered, be right back, she hurried out the back door, and across the two yards to her own house. 

Nina sat at the table, surprised by the sudden bolt, munching on another cookie.  She liked the girl.  She was bright, very cute, and had the most gorgeous green eyes Nina had ever seen.  Kansas was definitely a trip.

  Within five minutes, there was a knock on the kitchen door.

"Come in," Nina called out, watching as her new friend hurried inside, a huge portfolio under her arm.

"You don't have to look through all of these, some are crap anyway, but it was the first thing I found."  Kansas laid the over-sized folder on the table, Nina scooting the Oreo package to the side.  Kansas watched with baited breath as the beautiful brunette began to look through the various drawings on various mediums.  Typically she didn't mind people looking at her work, as she knew she was good.  But for some reason, her heart was pounding as Nina looked through her stuff.  She watched Nina's face carefully, looking for any signs of annoyance at being presented with the work, or any dislike of what she was seeing.  She saw neither.  The only expressions that crossed were enjoyment or wonder, sometimes even amusement.  Such as currently.

Nina pulled out a sketch of a kid, finger halfway up his nose.  She turned the sketch around for Kansas to see, brow raised in question.  The blonde chuckled.

"I was at the park with some friends one day, and this kid was there, with his parents, or whatever.  I was watching him, and every time his mom would turn away, he'd dig for all he was worth.  It amused me, so I captured it on paper."

"As disgusting as that is, the work is exquisite."  Sapphire eyes met Kansas' gaze.  "You're very, very good at this."

"Thank you," Kansas said quietly, her heart pounding just a bit harder, pride and joy washing through her to make her feel as though her chest would explode.

Nina continued to look through the work, stopping on a few to study them more closely.  Some she'd ask about, others she'd just study then move on.  She held up another drawing.  This one made Kansas' heart flat out stop.  She hadn't realized she'd kept the drawings of her in the bunch.

"Is she a friend?  You have lots of sketches of her in here." Nina asked, the drawing of Kayla in her cheerleading outfit held aloft.

Kansas shook her head, fingers playing with a napkin, slowly mangling it.  "No.  Just someone at school."

Nina nodded, eyeing the blonde.  She was surprised by the reaction the simple, innocent question got.  "She's a pretty girl.  What's her name?"

"Kayla McPhee."

"Well, you certainly like to draw Kayla."  Nina set the latest Kayla artwork aside and kept going.  After she'd gone through the entire thing, Nina slapped the folder closed, smiling proudly at Kansas.  "You, dear Kansas, are a talented artist."

"Thank you."  The blonde took her portfolio, setting it on an unused chair to get it out of the way.  She chewed on her lip for a moment, deciding whether she wanted to share what had been on her mind the past few months.  With the tangy sweetness of the lemonade for encouragement, she spoke.  "Wanna know my dream?"

"Sure," Nina said, resting her chin on her palm, giving the blonde her full attention.

"I really would love to work in the film industry.  Like, work on movie sets, painting them, or making models."

"Like, monster/special effects models?"  the brunette asked.  At Kansas' nod, Nina smiled.  "So do it.  From what I saw here today, you have a God-given gift.  Go for it."

"Really?  I mean, it's not like Dayton, Ohio is the center of the film world, or anything," Kansas pointed out, brows drawn.

"Thank god you're not stuck in Dayton, Ohio forever and ever," Nina said with a wink.  Kansas grinned.  "So, why don't you have a job?" Nina asked conversationally, sipping from her drink, and wiping up the sweat ring from the tabletop. 

"I did.  I was doing portraits at the fairgrounds, but when they shut the fair down early, after that kid got killed on the ride, I was out of a job.  By that point, I only had two months before school, so my mom wouldn't let me get another job."  She met Nina's gaze.  "She doesn't like me working during school," she explained.

"Ah, I see.  That was pretty horrible, about that kid.  I remember that."  Nina studied Kansas for a long moment, almost making the blonde uncomfortable.  Finally she spoke.  "What do you want for yourself, Kansas?  Where do you see yourself in five years?"

The blonde blew out a breath.  "Boy, I don't know.  That's a big question.  I want to be doing art, I know that much.  But what, I don't know.  As for five years, I want to be out of here.  I want to have my own place somewhere, overlooking a lake or something.  I love nature.  I want to be able to wake up to the sounds of birds and frogs."  She looked down, suddenly feeling very stupid.  It wasn't cool for someone her age to be thinking about nature.  She'd heard that enough.  "You know," she shrugged, indifferent.  "Whatever."  Kansas was surprised when she felt a warm touch on her hand.  She looked up, meeting an amused smile.

"Kansas, honey," Nina said softly, "you don't need to posture.  I'm not a 16 year old kid who's going to make fun of you for your dreams.  Share them with me.  I think they're fascinating."

Kansas felt herself melt.  All she could do was nod, her hand burning where Nina's touch remained for a moment more, then it was gone.


Kansas was flying on a cloud that night as she sat in her room.  She's spent the entire afternoon with Nina, learning so much about the brunette: she was in fact, 26, was originally from Maryland, met Dan while in law school in Cincinnati, and they got married two years later.  Nina was one of the warmest people the teen had ever met, and she just couldn't get enough of her.  She loved to hear what Nina had to say, the way her mind worked.  She was logical and intelligent, yet had a wonderfully whimsical side to her.  Kansas figured that was probably the side that had a problem with the way the legal system worked.

She hadn't wanted to leave the Bruckner place, but knew that her welcome would only stay for so long.  Nina was probably just being nice, or maybe just wanted some company for a little while.  After all, what would a gorgeous 26 year old want to do with a 17 year old kid, who didn't have any life experience, couldn't really relate to any of Nina's worries or concerns in her profession.  In some ways Kansas felt very small, though she had to admit, Nina never made her feel that way.  In fact, quite the opposite- Nina seemed to hang on every word and insight the blonde had.

Kansas sighed in contentment as she walked over to the window to close her blinds for the night, wondering if she'd see Nina in her office or not.  And what did she do there, anyway?  Work?  Was she a writer, too?  Bills? 

The blonde stopped short when she got to the window.  Nina was in her office, alright, but so was Dan.  It looked like they were in a huge argument, Dan's face red, a vein standing out in the middle of his forehead.  Nina was gesticulating wildly, though her back was to Kansas, so she couldn't see her face.  Dan began to speak, though it looked more like he were yelling.  Finally he stormed out of the room.  A moment later, Kansas heard a door slam, then the engine of a car rev to life.  She watched Nina, who still had her back to her.  It was obvious the brunette was crying, her head handing, buried in her hands, and shoulders shaking.

Marina was watching the nightly news when her daughter zoomed down the stairs, calling out she'd be back, then she was out the door.  The older blonde didn't even get a word in edge-wise.


Nina blew her nose for the third time, the tears beginning to dry, making her face feel tight and uncomfortable.  This had been a bad one- one of the worst they'd had in awhile.  She had  no idea that when Kari called to see how she was, it would cause World War III.  Yes, she knew Dan didn't like Kari, never had.  But by god, it had been nearly a year since Nina had spoken to her! 

But then the brunette thought about her friendship with Kari.  It had been nearly obsessive on both sides.  It hadn't seemed like that at the time.  It hadn't occurred to Nina then that Kari calling her on every break at work, or them getting together every single day, was strange.  Not until it became a battle between Kari and Dan.  They would both try and be the first to call Nina, making the brunette choose.  What had been the breaker for Nina, however, was the one night when she realized she had lied to her husband, telling him her mother had called, and was on the other line, when in fact, it was Kari.  Dan had caught her in the lie when he'd gotten home the following morning from a long-haul, and Nina's mother's name didn't appear on the caller I.D.

That had been a moment of truth in their marriage, and for Nina.  She'd slowly backed off from the friendship until it dwindled to nothing.  She and Dan had moved away, and Nina hadn't allowed herself to think about her friend since then.  Until she called tonight.

The attorney plopped down on the closed toilet seat, sighing heavily.  "Shit."  She was brought out of her stupor by the sound of someone knocking.


Kansas waited impatiently for her knocks to be answered.  Finally a very puffy-eyed Nina opened the door.

"Kansas," the brunette said, surprise in her voice.

"Are you okay?" the blonde asked.  Now that she was faced with the woman, she felt unsure, like maybe she should just mind her own business.  But one look into Nina's tortured eyes, and she couldn't walk away.  "I'm sorry to barge in, but I saw it."

"Oh," Nina blew out, looking slightly flustered.  "It's nothing, really.  We just had a little argument."

Kansas studied the other woman, knowing it had been a fight, but also knowing what it felt like.  "Nina," she said, voice soft.  "I just watched my parents go through a divorce.  I know it's not easy- relationships, I mean.  If you wanna talk. . . "  To Kansas' surprise, she suddenly found herself engulfed in an embrace, a crying Nina in her arms.   "Come on," she whispered, slowly moving them into the house so the entire neighborhood didn't see how upset the brunette was.

Nina moved back into the house, allowing the blonde to close the front door, but held on.  She stroked Nina's back and hair, letting the brunette get it all out.  Finally Nina's tears slowed then faltered.  She pulled away from the embrace, embarrassed.

"I'm sorry," she sniffled.  "God, I feel like such an ass."

"Don't."  Kansas grabbed a Kleenex from a nearby end table and handed it to the brunette.  "Are you okay?  Do you want to talk about it?"

Nina said nothing, instead leading them to the couch.  They sat in silence as she got herself together, Kansas sitting expectantly beside her.  "I'm sorry, Kansas.  You shouldn't have seen that."

"But I did."

Nina nodded. "Yes, you did."  She blew out a cleansing breath, blew her nose then looked at her fingers as they held onto the soiled Kleenex.  She couldn't look at her friend.  "You know, I really thought that moving here, into this house, would make things better.  It was stupid, really.  Last ditch effort, I guess."

Kansas said nothing, just gently removed the Kleenex from Nina's fingers and handing her a clean one.  The brunette smiled in gratitude before continuing. 

"Dan works long hours, and he's gone a lot.  I work long hours, and I'm gone a lot, too.  This, young Kansas, does not a good marriage make."  She smiled weakly at the blonde.  "These things have to be nurtured.  And somewhere along the way," she paused, taking a deep breath. "I guess I just stopped.  And so did he."  Nina began to cry again.

Kansas let her instincts take over, placing an arm around the older woman's shoulders, and gently tugging until a brunette head rested against her shoulder.  "Shhh," Kansas cooed.  "I know."

After awhile Nina calmed, but remained where she was.  "I'm really sorry, Kansas.  I really shouldn't be putting this all on you.  Going through this with your parents. . .   I'm sorry."

The teen gave in to a guilty pleasure and ran her fingers through the thick, dark hair. "It's okay.  You just looked so upset.  I had to make sure you were okay."

After a moment Nina pulled away.  "You're a good person, Kansas.  Don't taint yourself on relationships before your time.  They're not all bad- not all like your mom and dad's. . . or mine."  Slapping the blonde's thigh, Nina stood.  "I need to get to bed.  Got court early in the morning."  The brunette walked Kansas to the door.  They stood at the open stoop.  "Why the name Kansas?"

The teen shrugged. "I don't know.  My mom won't tell me.  I'm thinking either she liked the group, or more gross, I was conceived there."

Nina chuckled, then drew the teen in for a quick hug.  "Thanks again.  Have a good night."


The following weekend Kansas headed into the Bruckner's backyard.  She had mowed three days before, but had to cut it short to get ready to have dinner with her dad.  She was coming back to weed and trim.  The flowers also looked like they could use a little TLC. 

As the blonde unlocked and opened the shed door, she was frightened out of her mind by a voice in her ear.

"What are you doing?"

She jumped, whirling around to see Nina standing behind her, a grin plastered to her face.  Kansas' words of admonishment died on her lips when she saw what the brunette was wearing: a red bikini top with a sari wrapped around her waist.  She took in the gorgeous woman's body, swallowing visibly. 

"I thought you already mowed the lawn?" Nina said, pulling the teen from her inspection.

"I did.  I didn't have time to finish with the watering and weeding," the blonde explained pulling her gaze from Nina's breasts with some effort.  The brunette didn't seem to notice, or let it go.

"I see.  Well, if you don't mind, I'm going to get some tanning in.  Come join if you want."

Kansas nodded dumbly, her sunglass-covered gaze falling once again to Nina's cleavage.  Her fingers literally itched to touch the creamy flesh.  She'd never touched a woman, never so much as kissed one.  Oh, but she wanted to kiss and touch Nina!

Without another word, the attorney turned and headed back to the porch, her ass Kansas' new visual target.  The teenager pulled herself out of her stupor, knowing damn well that one of these days she was going to get caught, and then feel like an ass.  She genuinely liked Nina, and didn't want the older woman to think badly of her.

The sun above was hot, but Kansas was loving the tan she was getting working in Nina's yard.  She glanced often over at her neighbor, who lay, seemingly unaware, on a lounger.  Once in a great while the blonde's gaze would be met by a smile as Nina pushed herself up to her elbows, watching the girl work, or watching the birds in the many trees sprinkled throughout the yard.  They hadn't spoken about the fight Kansas had witnessed the previous week, and in truth, Kansas hadn't seen much of Dan, either.  She wondered what came of it.

"Kansas?" Nina called.  The blonde glanced over her shoulder from where she was kneeling and pulling weeds.  "How did your dinner go?  The one with your dad," she explained, seeing the blonde's confusion. 

"Oh.  Uh, it was okay," Kansas said, turning back to her gardening.  She hated talking about her father.  Even with Nina.  She was startled by the touch to her shoulder.  Glancing to her left, she saw Nina kneeling next to and slightly behind her.

"Come sit with me for awhile," the brunette said softly.  Kansas nodded, wiping her dirty hands on her shorts, then following Nina to the back porch.  The brunette reclined again on her lounger, but Kansas simply straddled hers, looking out over the yard.  "You know, it's not fair that I had to bare my heart and pain to you, but you don't return the favor, Kansas.  I consider us to be friends."

The teen looked over at her, then nodded.  Turn about. . . .  "It was alright, I guess.  It was the first time I've seen him in about six months."  She paused, then dark blonde brows drew. "How did you know about it?"

"Your mom told me.  I went over to your place to see if you wanted to watch a movie.  She told me you were out with your father."

"She has a big mouth."

"Don't be that way, Kansas."  Nina paused, looking at the girl's profile. "He really hurt you, didn't he?"

The blonde nodded. "I don't want anything to do with him."  She picked at a loose piece of plastic tubing on the lounger, her body growing stiff with the anger his name evoked.

"Don't say that, sweetheart," Nina said softly, understanding in her voice.  She reached over and placed a warm hand on Kansas' knee. "He's the only one you've got.  This pain will pass, I assure you."

Kansas looked at her.  "How do you know?"

"Because my own folks split when I was 13.  Once I got over the anger, I realized that my dad had actually done us a favor by leaving.  My parents' relationship was so unhealthy, ultimately it would have been worse, far more damaging, had he stayed.  Does that make sense?"

"Yeah.  But, damn."  Kansas felt angry at herself as she felt the familiar sting of tears.  She swiped at them, pumping herself to feel as strong as she needed to be.  "I don't care about him anymore.  He made his bed."

"You care."

"No, I don't."

"Kansas?  Honey, if you didn't care, you wouldn't feel."  Nina moved over so she was sitting on the blonde's long chair, sitting behind her.  She gently massaged her shoulders. "It's okay to care.  He's your dad, and you love him, regardless of what happened.  He loves you, too.  You may not know or believe that, but he does."

With every word, Nina was breaking down Kansas' defenses, and the teen silently cursed her for it.  She didn't want to cry, and sure as hell didn't want to cry in front of Nina!  She shook her head, but the tears increased as she felt warm pressure against her upper back, and realized Nina had rested her head there.

"It's okay to cry, Kansas.  It wasn't your fault, honey."

Kansas lost it, rough sobs coming from her throat, chest heaving.  She was turned in the circle of Nina's arms and brought in against the brunette.  Kansas could feel the heat of her bare arms and shoulders.  Nina stroked her hair, running her fingers through the short strands.  As Kansas calmed down, Nina placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

"Everything will be okay, I promise."  She gave the teen a winning smile.  "My father and I are very close, now.  You'll get through it."

Kansas nodded in acknowledgement, sniffling.  "I'm sorry.  I feel like such a dork right now."  She wiped her face on her sleeve.  "You must think I'm such a baby right now.  Or worse- a kid."

"Not at all.  I think you're a beautiful young woman who is trying to be too strong for her own good."  She smiled.  "You don't need the big, tough butch act with me."  She winked at a surprised Kansas.  Shit!  Does she know? "Okay?"

Finally Kansas nodded, wiping the last of her tears dry.  It had actually felt good to cry, something she hadn't allowed herself permission to do since the day her dad left.  She studied Nina's face, really looked at her.  An idea came to mind.  "Would you let me draw you?"

Nina blinked, not expecting that request.


"Why do you want to draw me?" the brunette asked, brows falling in question.

Kansas turned shy, but knowing she had to answer honestly.  "Because you're beautiful.  You'd make a perfect sketch."

It was Nina's turn to get shy.  She looked down, trying to cover a nervous smile. "Thank you."  She lifted her head, looking into Kansas' hopeful gaze.  "Sure."

Inside Nina's house, Kansas directed them to the living room, as it had the best light.  She wasn't even sure what to have Nina do, as she'd never really had a live model like this before, that wasn't part of an art class.  Yeah, so she'd drawn Kayla, but the redheaded cheerleader hardly knew she was being watched, let alone sketched.  The brunette stood in the middle of her living room, still wearing the bikini, the sari gone.  She looked nervous and expectant.

"Where do you want me?" she asked at length, after they'd both stood there unsure for two minutes.

"Um," Kansas looked around.  Where, indeed?  She somehow thought that suggesting the bedroom wouldn't be the wisest thing to do.  Instead, she told the brunette to sit on the couch. "Let's start simple."  She perched on the coffee table in front of Nina, looking at her critically.  Finally, she reached up, cupping the brunette's chin, slightly tilting her head to the left.  She wanted the waning afternoon light to catch her eyes perfectly. "there," she said, looking at her handiwork.  "Perfect."

Nina held her position while Kansas made herself comfortable on the recliner across from her, tapping her pencil on the sketch pad a few times before wiping the page clean with her fist, and beginning her work.  She mainly concentrated on Nina's face, not bothering to position her body, as she wanted only to capture the gorgeous features.  She was awed all over again by just how beautiful Nina really was, and as her eyes scanned the brunette, she allowed her pencil tip to caress the lines of her face.  It only took her maybe fifteen minutes to get a good sketch, but she allowed herself a few moments to study Nina, really look at her, and take her in, giving her eyes a visual treat, while not getting busted for staring, cause she had permission. 

Her guilt settling in, Kansas finally smiled, turning the pad around. "All done with that one."

"Already?" Nina asked, leaning across the coffee table to get a better look at the sketch.  She took it in her hands, looking at perfect mirror image of herself in black and white.  "My god, Kansas.  This is incredible."

"Thanks," the teen grinned, proud to be sharing such a private, passionate part of herself with the attorney.

"Okay.  That wasn't too painful.  What next?"

What next, indeed.  Kansas studied her for a moment, chewing on her lower lip.  She wasn't sure if Nina would go for what she had in mind, but knew there was no other way to know.  "Do you trust me?" she asked.  The brunette eyed her, suspicious.


"Just, do you?"

After a moment, Nina nodded.  "Yes.'

Kansas jumped up, running out to the backyard, then quickly back again.  She held Nina's sari in her hand.  Sitting atop the coffee table again, she cleared her throat.  "You're sure you trust me?"

"Yes."  Nina took in the garment in the blonde's hands, her expression impossible to read.  Kansas laid the sari over her thigh, reaching behind Nina's neck to untie the laces of her top.  Nina's breath caught as the garment slipped from her body.  Kansas kept her eyes on the brunette's face, using every bit of will power she had to not look at her friend's newly-revealed breasts.  Quickly, she brought the sari up. 

"Lay back," she instructed, covering Nina's chest as the brunette did as asked.  Nina was trembling slightly.  "You can say no, Nina.  If you're not comfortable-"

"I'm not uncomfortable.  Just a little. . . this is different."

Kansas smiled, nodding in understanding.  "For me, too.  You're just lovely.  I'm really inspired right now."

"It's okay.  I'm okay."

"Okay."  Kansas took a deep breath, looking at the woman before her.  "Put your arms over your head," she said, voice soft, trying to get a picture in her head that she'd repeat on paper.  She stood back, looking at Nina, and trying to decide what she wanted to do next.  She reached out, gently moving the sari to reveal a bit more of Nina's upper chest.  When her hand retreated, she accidentally brushed one of the brunette's breasts.  "Sorry," she whispered, a rush of arousal flowing through her.  Nina gasped at the touch, but just nodded at the apology.  Kansas noticed that the older woman's nipples began to grow rigid.  She swallowed, the nervousness returning.

Nina lay motionless, watching Kansas' every move.  She was Gumby, whatever asked, she did.  After two hours of furious sketching, the blonde looked at her model, tilting her head slightly, looking for her next pose.  At the moment, Nina lay on her side, sari draped across her breasts, the barest hint of her side showing.  An arm ran along the graceful natural curve of the brunette's body, hand resting on her hip.

"Okay.  Here's what I need you to do," Kansas said softly, her heart pounding in her chest.  She had allowed herself to get so lost in her art that she'd forgotten she was looking at a half-naked, gorgeous woman.  Now, sitting back from her perch on the chair, it all came back to her.

"Yes?" Nina asked after Kansas grew silent.

"Right," Kansas shook herself from her appraisal of perfection across from her.  She set her pad down, nearly a third of it filled from her frantic drawing.  She looked up at the skylight above them, the sun quickly waning. "We're losing the light," she muttered, disappointed, as she knew that meant their time would have to end.

"Would lamps help?" Nina asked. 

Kansas took in the room, and where the light sources were, as compared to where Nina lay.  She shook her head.  "I think they're too far away for what I need."

"We can move them-"

The blonde smiled, shaking her head.  "Thanks, Nina.  I don't want you to have to re-decorate your living room just for my drawings." 

Nina smiled, sitting up, holding the sari to her chest.  "Okay.  I understand."  She stood, turning her back to Kansas as she pulled the sari around her middle, tying it off just above her left breast.  If she had glanced over her shoulder, she would've seen the blonde's mouth fall open, green eyes huge.

Kansas managed to get her lust under control.  Nina had been nothing but awesome to her that day, patient and tolerant of being ogled at while the teen sketched.  As the brunette turned to face her again, Kansas smiled, raising her pad in salute.  "Thanks for today, Nina.  It was awesome practice for me.  I really appreciate it."

"Not a problem.  See, when you become a famous artist, I can say I knew you when, and I helped you get there."  Nina's grin was contagious.  Kansas kicked lightly at the rug beneath her feet.

"I guess I better get going.  I'll do some work to these, fix 'em up, then come show you.  K?"

"Sounds wonderful."  Nina walked Kansas to the door, then stood, watching the teen jog across the lawn and hop the fence.


Kansas was surrounded by her drawings, lying on her stomach on her bed.  She looked from one to the other, comparing, contrasting, remembering.  The smile was glued with super glue.  Her eyes caressed Nina's body, her gaze reaching the brunette's face.  The expression made Kansas' body quiver, her sex clench.  She wondered if that was truly what Nina looked like when in ecstasy- her eyes closed, long column of her neck exposed, full lips parted.  Kansas ran the tips of her fingers over Nina's face, then followed her gaze to the brunette's breasts, covered by the thin material of the sari.  Her nipples were peaked.

"You are so beautiful," she whispered, feeling her breath catch as she imagined the woman naked.  Eyes never leaving the picture, Kansas blindly reached for her pencil, tapping the instrument on the page as the wheels began to turn.  She flipped the pencil around until the eraser tip was just about on the page.

Kansas nearly jumped out of her skin as a knock sounded on her bedroom door, then the door was swung inward.  She gathered all the sketches into a messy pile, hugging them to her chest, yet trying to seem as nonchalant as possible.  She glared at her mother.  "Why don't you ever knock?"

"Because this is my house," Marina countered with a raised brow.  "I'm going out for Dairy Queen.  Want to come?"

"No," Kansas barked, all teenaged attitude, and afraid of being caught with her drawings.  But then her sweet tooth took over as her mother turned to leave.  "Wait!"  Marina turned back. "Get me a chocolate shake?" she asked, hope in her voice.

"If you be nice to me, I will."

"Please, please, please?" Kansas said, giving her mother her biggest grin.  The older woman laughed, shaking her head at her daughter's antics.

"Fine.  But I want the dishes done tonight."

"Okay."  Kansas waited until she heard the slam of the front door before setting her drawings back out.  She studied them all, especially the one she had been looking at before her mother interrupted her.  Her gaze fell on Nina's breasts again.  Glancing at her closed bedroom door one more time, Kansas chewed on her bottom lip as she began to erase and replace those marks with new strokes of her pencil.  She was so into what she was doing, she almost missed the knock on her door.  Glancing up, expecting to see her mother just barging in per usual, she waited, drawings once gain gathered and hidden.  When nothing happened, she called out an invite.

The door squeaked open and Marina walked in, holding her own hot fudge sundae, and Kansas' shake. "Want to come down and watch some TV with me?"

Kansas shook her head.  "No.  Thanks for asking, though."  She grabbed the shake that was extended to her. "And thanks for this.  I've got some art I'm working on and want to finish."

Marina nodded, disappointed, but knew what her daughter was like when in "the zone". "Okay."

Alone yet again, and likely for the night, Kansas climbed off the bed, closing her bedroom door after her mother, and then flipping on the light of the drawing table she had gotten two Christmas' ago.  She placed her current drawing on the smooth top, and went back to work.


For some reason, Nina felt guilty when Dan got home from the road that night.  She had done nothing wrong, but even so, she knew that if Dan had walked in on her modeling earlier that day, he wouldn't have liked it.  This made her mind turn to Kansas.  The girl had talent, that's for sure.  She tried to clear her mind of the entire thing.  She'd done nothing wrong, and enjoyed the teenager's company.  Kansas was interesting, and her intelligence amazed Nina.  The girl would be a force to be reckoned with as she got older.  End of story.

Later, as she lay in bed, Dan asleep beside her, Nina stared up into the dark ceiling.  They'd made love earlier, Dan's presence still lingering on her skin and inside her body.  Unable to sleep, the attorney quietly got out of bed, wrapping her naked body in a long t-shirt and closing the bedroom door behind her, so as not to alert Dan that she was up.  She wanted to be alone, and didn't want to answer questions.

It was a hot night, so the breeze rising up under the thin cotton was nice on Nina's warmed skin.  She padded down the hall, ending up in her office.  She was due in court early day after next, and had a few last things to do.

She flicked on the desk lamp and her computer, starting at the cool vinyl of her desk chair on her naked ass.  Brushing dark strands of hair out of her eyes, Nina glanced up, surprised to see the light on in the window across the way.  A glance at the clock ticking softly on the desk, she saw that it was after two in the morning.  She studied the window, trying to see between the still-open blinds, to the room beyond.  What was Kansas doing in there?  What was she thinking about?

With a heavy breath, Kansas pushed herself up from her bed, her back screaming at her for lying in the same position for so long.  On her hands and knees on the mattress, she looked down at her handiwork.  A sliver of arousal mixed with guilt shimmied its way into her heart.  Nina lay back against a bed, her head partially turned away from the viewer, though enough could be seen to know it was the brunette.  One arm was raised above her head, the other hand clutching at the sheet that barely covered her body.  The majority of one breast was revealed, the sheet just barely covering the rigid nipple.  This was the only drawing that Kansas hadn't allowed her imagination to go totally nuts, and had basically used what was actually in the original drawing and pose.  She just used. . . a little license.  She'd hide them away in the morning.  No one could ever see them.  Definitely not Nina.

Kansas finally stood, stretching her arms high above her head, squeaking slightly as she pulled her body taut, getting all the kinks out.  She took one more look at her work, then walked over to her bedroom door, intent on heading out to pee.  Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a light across the way.  She walked over to the window, shocked to see Nina sitting behind her desk, and looking over at her.

The blonde waved, Nina waving in return with a huge smile.  Kansas got an idea, tapping lightly on her window and pointing down.  Confused, Nina raised a brow with a shrug. 

"Outside," the teenager said, pointing again.  Finally her neighbor nodded, getting up from her chair.  Kansas was nervous as she grabbed her shoes, hopping across her bedroom one foot at a time as she pulled them on.  Opening her door, the blonde glanced down the hall toward her mother's room.  Hearing and seeing nothing, she scurried down the hall and stairs, toward the back door off the kitchen.


Nina tugged on her shorts as she hit the back porch, quietly closing the door behind her.  The night was warm, but pleasantly so.  It was the kind of night where you could put a tent up in the backyard, and it would be wonderful to sleep in it.


Nina's attention was grabbed.  She glanced to her left, seeing Kansas standing at the chain-link fence that divided their yards. "Hey," she whispered, which sounded so loud to her on the early morning breeze.

"Hey, yourself," the blonde said.  "What are you doing up so late?"

"Couldn't sleep," Nina admitted, leaning on the fence.  "What about you?" she playfully chucked her friend in the arm. "Don't you need your sleep?  A growing girl, or something."

Kansas rolled her eyes. "Somehow I think I'm done.  My mom did the best she could with the DNA, but," she shrugged with a sigh, "think I'm done."

"She did a real nice job, Kansas," Nina said softly as she looked into the blonde's face and green eyes.  She cleared her throat, realizing what she'd just said.  "What are you doing up so late?"

"I was. . . " Kansas stopped herself, remembering just exactly what is was she had been doing. "reading."

"Gotcha."  Nina jerked her head toward her backyard, backing off from the fence.  The blonde quickly hopped the chain-link, like she'd done a million times already that summer, following her neighbor deeper into the shadows of the night.  They settled on the cool grass, the blades tickling bare legs.  Nina crossed her ankles, resting back on her hands as she looked up into the night sky.  "It's such a gorgeous night out tonight," she said absently, almost wistful.

"Yeah.  Years ago when my folks were still married, at the other house, I had a huge trampoline out in the backyard.  I used to bring out a pillow and blanket and sleep on it.  This would be the perfect night for that."  She tore her eyes from the bright star she'd settled on, finding Nina's gaze already on her.  The brunette had a soft smile curving her lips as she listened.  "I used to stare up at the sky, connecting the stars like dots, creating crazy pictures in my head."

"Sounds wonderful.  Where is the trampoline, now?"

Kansas shrugged, flopping back into the thick grass.  "I got busy once I got into high school.  Too many art clubs and friends.  That sort of thing."

"Hmm.  That's too bad."  Nina fell back, lying beside the blonde.  She closed her eyes, breathing in the summer night: smell of freshly cut grass beneath her; flowers blooming off to her left; the strawberry scent of Kansas' shampoo that drifted to her on the breeze.  "Why don't you go out with friends now?"

Kansas grew very quiet, not wanting to talk about that.  Nina was surprised when her innocent question was met with only silence.  She raised herself, turning to her side.  Looking down at the teen, she felt her heart break as a moon-silvered tear slid down Kansas' cheek.

"Kansas?" she asked softly, scooting closer to the blonde.  "Oh, sweetie," she whispered, gathering the girl in her arms. "I'm sorry," she said into thick, blonde hair.  She allowed the girl to cry against her, tears chilling the flesh above Nina's right breast as she lay back, pulling Kansas with her.  As she cuddled the teen in her comforting embrace, she thought back to her own childhood, and when her parents had split.

"I'm sorry,' Kansas said eventually, trying to pull away, but held tight.  "I'm being such a kid."

"No,  you're not," Nina soothed, kissing the top of her head.  "You're someone who's had her heart broken."

"I don't wanna cry over him, Nina," Kansas sniffled.  "He doesn't deserve that much from me.  I don't care about him."

"Yes you do."

"Why did he leave, Nina?" Kansas' voice was so soft, so small, the brunette barely heard it.

"Why, indeed?" the attorney murmured, staring up into the sky as she combed her fingers through Kansas' hair.  The girl had calmed, though still cuddled against her.  The words came to her head, and suddenly, she couldn't stop. "Sometimes a person realizes that they're not happy, that what they truly thought they wanted, and who they truly thought they wanted it with, are two different things.  We lie to ourselves, Kansas.  We lie all the time, convincing ourselves of one thing, when in fact, we took the easy road, or what looked to be the least bumpy."

Kansas raised her head, looking down at Nina, who still stared up at the stars, seemingly unaware that the blonde had moved.  She watched Nina as she spoke, gaze following the movement of lips and teeth, the way the brunette's expressions changed with every thought in her head.

"One day it hits us, right between the eyes," Nina continued, "If I stay here one minute more, I'll die inside."  Her eyes finally met Kansas'.  "Then we stay anyway."

Kansas brought her own hand up, gently pushing a tuft of grass away from Nina's ear. "You're not happy, are you?" she asked, though to the practiced ear, it was very much a statement.  Nina blinked up at her for a moment, as though trying to filter the softly-spoken words through her brain.

"I've made my bed, Kansas," she said at length.  She couldn't break the intense, green gaze of the woman leaning over her, nor could she breathe.  Her heart was pounding, blood rushing through her system at frightening speeds.

Kansas wasn't sure if she was relived at or cursing the neighbor's dog that began to bark in the yard adjacent to Nina's.  The spell was broken, the night expanding beyond just the two of them once more.

"Speaking of bed," Nina said, sitting up and brushing grass out of her hair.  She stood, holding a hand out for Kansas to take. "I should be in mine."  She helped the blonde to her feet, then pulled her into a gentle hug.  "Everything will be okay, sweetheart," she whispered into Kansas' ear.  She felt the teen nod, then moved away.  They exchanged quiet, knowing smiles, then went separate ways.

"Everything okay?" Dan mumbled as Nina climbed back into bed.

"It's fine.  Go to sleep."  It was a long time before the brunette did.


Kansas was nearly skipping as she made her way back to her house and bedroom.  As much of a high as she was on, she hit nearly equally bottom when she discovered her mother standing in the middle of her bedroom, Nina's drawings in her hands.  The blood drained out of the teen's face, making her nearly as pale as her mother. 

Marina turned to see her daughter standing in the doorway, her eyes filled with fear.  Then all hell broke loose.

"What the hell are you doing in my room!" the blonde demanded, storming over to the stunned older woman and snatching the drawings from her hands. "And what are you doing going through my stuff?!"

Marina shook herself out of her shocked stupor.  "First off, this is my house, Kansas.  Second of all," she reached for the drawings, which were moved out of her reach.  "What are you doing drawing naked women?  What is that woman," she indicated the house across the way, "letting my teenaged daughter draw her naked for!?"

"Nothing!  These are private to me.  You had no right."  Not only was Kansas afraid of what her mother would say or do, but she felt horribly violated.  "We did nothing wrong-{

"Nothing wrong?  Kansas, that is a naked woman!  And not only that, but it's a naked woman who is married, and ten years older than you!  What were you thinking?"

"I was thinking she's a beautiful woman and I'd like to draw her!"  Kansas could feel her eyes stinging, anger and embarrassment warring.  Her anger won out as tears escaped down her cheeks. "She did nothing wrong," she sniffled.  "I added the embellishments."  She turned her back on her mother, not wanting Marina to see her upset and embarrassment. 

The elder blonde stood there, stunned anew.  "Honey," she said, voice soft.  She tried to put a hand on her daughter's shoulder, but Kansas pulled away. 

"Don't touch me."

Marina took a deep breath, then tried again.  "Kansas, she is a married woman.  You're going to get yourself hurt-"

Kansas turned, green eyes vibrant from her tears.  She glared. "They're just drawings, Mother."  With those growled words, the blonde teen left the room, taking the drawings with her.


Marina sat at the table in the cafeteria, absently bringing food to her mouth.  She was lost in her own head, thoughts turned to her daughter and the erotic drawings she'd found two nights ago when she'd gotten up to go to the bathroom.  Seeing Kansas' bedroom light on at three-thirty in the morning, she had wanted to make sure her child was okay.  If she was, she was going to tell her to get to bed.  When she'd found the bedroom empty, light on and drawings sprawled across Kansas' bed, Marina had been stunned.

"Are you okay?"

Marina blinked rapidly as she looked up, noting the concerned look on her friend's face as she sat down, unzipping her cloth lunch box.  "Oh.  Yeah.  Just thinking." She smiled at her friend, but it was weak.

"What is it, Marina?  Problems with your ex?"  At the shake of her friend's head, Tonya tried again. "Kansas?"

"Alex is 15, right?" Marina asked, throwing her friend and co-worker of three years for a loop with the non-sequitur.

Tonya nodded. "Yeah."

Marina took a drink from her coffee as she thought about what she wanted to ask.  Her brows were drawn in deep concentration. "So, let's say Alex was an artist."

Tonya laughed at the absurdity of that statement.  Her son didn't have a creative bone in his body.  Seeing Marina's seriousness, she nodded again. "Okay. . . "

"Now let's say that you have a neighbor who lives close by.  Someone older- much older- that Alex spends some time with."

"Okay," Tonya drawled, still not putting the pieces together.

"One day you find drawings in his room," she met her friend's confused gaze, "And you found nudes of the neighbor."  She paused, watching Tonya's expression carefully before continuing.  "What would you do?"

Tonya sat back in her chair, shocked.  She could tell by the look in Marina's eyes that she was deeply bothered. "Whoa." She blew out a breath. "Has something happened, Marina?"

"I don't know."  Kansas' mother picked at her food before finally giving up and leaning back in her own chair.  "I found some drawings in her room."  She met a concerned gaze.  "Tonya, Nina is ten years older than Kansas."

"But, Marina, you know that Kansas is an artist, unlike my highly untalented son."

"I know.  And Kansas said she was the one who embellished the drawings.  Not that I really know what that means."

"Do you think that maybe it means this woman did maybe sit for her, but that Kansas kinda. . . " she thought about what was the best way to say it. "I don't know, used her imagination?"

"I don't know, Tonya.  These were incredibly detailed.  I know Kansas is an excellent artist, but still."  She sighed, glancing out the window.  "I just don't know."

"Maybe you should talk to this woman.  Let her know you know what happened.  Maybe warn her to keep away from Kansas."  Tonya took a drink from her diet Coke, eyes on Marina.

"Maybe you're right."  The blonde sighed again.  "I can't let this go on."


Kansas had kept her distance from Nina, making sure she had all the yard work done before the brunette got home.  It had been four days since her mother had confronted her with the drawings, and the teen was deeply confused.  Had she done something wrong?  Would Nina be able to read it in her eyes the first time she saw her?  Guilt and uncertainty were her constant companions.  At night she was sure to keep her blinds drawn, not daring to go near the open window.  No doubt she'd see Nina in her office, and then her resolve to stay away would crack.  She still wasn't entirely sure what her motives were for staying away.  Guilt and embarrassment, yes.  But was there something more? 

The blonde had gotten a job at the Blue Festival that brought the town together for a weekend.  She had a booth doing portraits, hired by a local glass company to run their booth for them.  The portraits part was her idea.  She figured this way it would get her away from the house, and away from Nina.  Or so she thought.

The main street of town was closed, booths lining either side, BBQ tents dotting the middle.  Crowds walked in throngs through the wares, talking and laughing.  Kansas finished her latest masterpiece, thanking the patrons for the generous tip.  Tucking the money into the pocket of her long cargo shorts, the blonde noticed a figure moving toward her.  Two figures, actually.

"Crap," Kansas muttered, looking around the small tent, trying to see if there was some way she could just disappear. 

"Hi, stranger," Nina said, entering the shade of the canvas overhang.  Dan stood next to her. 

"Hey."  Kansas smiled a greeting at Dan, who was mostly just looking around him, taking in the people and sights. 

"Must say, wasn't exactly expecting to see you here."

"Yeah, well," Kansas played nervously with some of the brochures she was to give out for Gibson Glass.  "I pop up in the strangest of places, I guess."

Nina looked at her, brows drawn behind her sunglasses.  Something was wrong.  The brunette glanced at her husband, getting his attention with a tug on his hand.  "Honey, would you get the three of us some lemonade, please?" she asked, handing him a ten dollar bill.  With a curt nod, Dan headed back into the bright, afternoon sun.  Nina turned back to the teen.  Kansas felt her stomach begin to knot as waves of nerves and nausea hit her.  "Is everything okay?" Nina asked, her voice low, yet loud enough to be heard above the country music that blasted through the speakers.

"Yeah.  Why do you ask?" Kansas tried to hide behind her smile, but it just didn't quite reach her eyes.

Nina studied her for long moments, her gaze so intense as if she were looking into the blonde's very soul.  "I got a call from your mom today, Kansas," she said, walking around the covered table Kansas sat behind, her yellow sun dress swishing around her legs.  Kansas felt like she would throw up.


"Yeah."  Nina studied the girl, her own heart pounding within her chest.  She tried to forget about the conversation she'd had with Marina, but couldn't.  She had debated on what to do, what to say- if anything.  But, seeing Kansas had brought it all back, and she felt it only right to ask Kansas, and get her side of things.  "She mentioned the drawings you did of me."

"Hey, lady?  You do pitures?"

Both turned to see a young boy, maybe 8, looking at Kansas expectantly from the other side of the table.

"Sure do!" Kansas smiled, nearly knocking her chair over in her haste to get away from Nina.  The brunette watched, troubled that she wasn't able to finish her conversation and ask the questions she was dying to.  Her new friend had been more than scarce over the past week.  Hell, she'd been a ghost- Nina would come home from work for lunch or for the day, no sign of Kansas, yet everything was done to perfection.  Just like always.  With a heavy sigh, she stood, smoothing out the seat of her dress as she did.  As she stepped out into the sun, Dan walked up to her, three plastic cups filled very sweet-looking pink lemonade in hand.  She took two with a smile, leaving one on the table next to Kansas' pencils.

Kansas watched the brunette walk away.


Kansas was livid as she stormed into her house.  She knew her mother was home, having seen her car parked at the curb.  Slamming the front door closed, she glanced to the couch in the living room- no Marina.

"Mother!" she called out, heading deeper into the house.  She heard pounding feet on the stairs, Marina hurrying down, still pulling a tank top over her head.

"What?" she asked, looking around for the fire.

"How could you?" Kansas fumed, throwing her backpack to a nearby chair.

"How could I, what?" Marina asked, calm and cool, getting ready for battle.

"Nina came to the festival today.  She told me about your little phone call to her."  She was so angry, her nostrils were flaring.  Her green gaze bore into her mother, daring her to look away.

"You are a child, Kansas, and you are still under my roof," Marina said, meeting her emotion for emotion.  "I will not have that woman come in here and mess with you!"

"She did nothing to me!" Kansas fired, throwing her hands up in exasperation. 

"It's not right, Kansas," Marina said, following her daughter into the kitchen.  "She spends far too much time with you.  She has lived so much more life than you have.  Don't you understand that?"

"Damn it, mom, what if I want to spend all that time with her?  And what if she wants to spend it with me?"


The blonde whirled on her mother, can of soda in hand, cold air from the open fridge felt good on her heated skin. "I am not  a child, and I am not stupid.  I turn 18 in two days, and know damn well what I'm doing.  We care about each other."

Marina softened, her heart reaching out to her daughter.  "Kansas, no, you don't understand.  What about Dan in all of this?  How is this fair to him?  What about the fact that she's married?"

"She doesn't want to be," Kansas said, knowing it was wrong even as she said it.  She turned away, setting the cold can on the counter as she closed the fridge.  Without another word, she headed up to her room, Marina starting as a door was slammed on the second floor.


Nina was recovering from yet another fight with Dan.  The age-old argument of why she doesn't just quit her job and go out on the road with him, had arisen again.  She had thought that one had been put to bed for good.  Stupid.  She could hear the big rig start up on the street, then pull away from the curb as her husband drove off into the unknown. 

The brunette made herself a glass of iced tea, her mind running on a hamster wheel in her head.  She had never felt so distant from Dan, and to make that worse, she hadn't seen Kansas in a week.  She hadn't realized just how much she depended on the blonde's friendship until it was unceremoniously taken from her.  She had damned herself more than once over the past week for bringing up the conversation with Marina to Kansas at the Blues Festival.  It had driven the blonde even further away.

She was startled from her thoughts by the sound of the lawnmower roaring to life in the backyard.  Nina slammed the glass down onto the counter and hurried out the back door.  Sure enough, there was Kansas, gearing up for another pass in the pristine yard she had help create.  She hurried over to the teen, wanting to catch her before she got involved in her work.

"Hey!" she yelled over the engine of the mower.  The teen looked at her, sunglasses firmly in place, hiding the green eyes Nina loved to look into.  "We need to talk!"

Kansas began to move away from her, but was stopped with a hand on her arm, and the engine being cut on the mower.

"Don't walk away from me, damn it," Nina said, anger rising.  "We need to talk, Kansas."

"About what?" the blonde said, feeling stubborn pride rising to save the day from more embarrassment.  Every time she looked at the brunette she felt stupid.

"You know damn well what."

Kansas looked up into the electric blue eyes, and sighed.  With a small nod, she followed Nina inside the house.  They were both quiet, each lost in her own head as they stood in the kitchen.  Kansas stood, feet wide, arms crossed over her chest, ready for battle.  Nina hugged herself as she leaned against the counter.  Finally the older woman spoke.

"I want to know about the drawings."

Kansas felt her stomach drop, a lump forming in her throat.  She was afraid she'd throw it up.  "What do you want to know?  You were there."

"Then apparently we saw two different things," Nina said.  It was so hard to describe what she felt inside as she looked at the accusing green eyes aimed at her.  Yes, she had been angry when she'd found out about the drawings, but at the same time. . . not so much.  It had hit her in a place she thought long locked away.  Not even Dan had been able to touch her there.  Now, as she stood across the room from Kansas, she felt a deep curiosity to know why the drawings had been altered so much.  She wanted to see them.

At the brunette's words, Kansas raised her chin a bit, defiant.  She knew it had been wrong, but at the same time, she wasn't sorry for doing it.  They were for her eyes only.  Her mother had never been meant to see them.  "Great thing about art- poetic license."

"Oh?" Nina said, a dark brow raised. "With my body?"

Kansas lost the battle of the wills.  She looked down as the toe of her tennis shoe tapped the kitchen tile.  She started when she felt soft fingers raise her chin.  Her breath caught when she looked up into Nina's eyes.  Something had changed in the older woman's demeanor, and it wasn't her sudden close proximity. 

"Why did you do it, Kansas?" she asked quietly.

The blonde swallowed, her heartbeat picking up painfully as she tried to hold Nina's gaze. "Because I knew I'd never get to see you in real life."  She tried to drop her chin again, but Nina wouldn't let her. 

"Oh, Kansas," the brunette whispered.  She moved her hand to the side of the blonde's face, feeling the soft skin beneath her fingers.  Incredibly sad green eyes looked up at her.  Nina studied the gaze, seeing the deep need mixed in there.  She realized in that moment that her own need matched it; that thought made her breath catch.  She felt herself drawn to Kansas, their breath mingling. "God," Nina breathed, a hair's width from the blonde.  "We can't do this, Kansas. . . "

The teen was struggling as every nerve ending in her body jumped to life, shouting out desperate pleas to her brain.  Her own hands raised, finding their way to the soft material of Nina's shirt and firmness of her hips.  She couldn't think, her brain frozen as her heart and need took over.  She raised her face that much more, giving Nina all the invitation she could without reaching up and pulling her dark head down to her.  She could feel Nina's body heat spreading through her own body, the fire raging within her.

Nina, for her part, was definitely losing the battle between her mind and heart.  She could feel Kansas so acutely, it was almost painful.  Her body thrummed, sex clinching with every out of control heartbeat.  Her hand slid around from the blonde's face to the back of her head. . .


Green eyes blinked open, meeting startled blue.  Neither woman sure for a moment what had interrupted.  Then they heard Marina call for her daughter again.

"Shit," the blonde murmured, hurrying toward the back door.  The last thing she needed was for her mother to go looking for her. 

Left alone, Nina fell back against the kitchen table, hand going to her chest.  "Jesus Christ," she blew out.  "What the fuck am I doing?"

Marina saw her daughter emerge from Nina's back door.  "I thought you were going to mow?" she asked from across the chain-link fence that separated the two yards.

"I am," Kansas indicated the mower, which still sat in the middle of the yard.  Her brain began to work again, trying to come up with a good cover story for why she'd abandoned it.  "Nina called me inside to pay me for the week."  She patted the empty pocket of her shorts for effect.

"Oh.  Okay."  Marina glanced once at her neighbor's house, but believed her daughter.

Kansas blew out a long, ragged breath as her mother turned and headed toward her own garden at the other end of their yard.  She was shaky, fear of almost being caught, as well as adrenaline and arousal from what had almost happened.  "Holy god," she muttered, running trembling hands through her hair. "This is nuts."


  Nina was reading her twelfth case file, her eyes beginning to burn.  For the fifth time in an hour, she glanced up, yet again disappointed to see Kansas' window still dark.  She wondered where the teen was.  After the events in the kitchen earlier that day, she hadn't seen her again, though the main reason was because she left the house.  She didn't need anymore temptation to do something stupid.

Suddenly the light flickered on.  Nina removed her reading glasses, sitting back in her chair, rocking gently as she watched.  She could barely see movement through the half-closed blinds, but then they were opened fully, pulled up to reveal Kansas standing there.  The brunette felt her heart flutter and loins clinch.  The blonde waved, Nina returning it.  Kansas tapped her window, then pointed down.  Nina nodded, immediately shutting off the desk lamp. 

Kansas felt her breath catch when the older woman agreed to meet her.  She quickly tied her shoes and hurried- silently- out of the house.  Her mother had gone to bed hours ago, claming she had a headache.  Kansas had made herself stay downstairs and finish the movie she was watching before running upstairs to her room.  It was now almost 1 a.m.  On her way up, she had checked on her mother, deciding to just tell her she wanted to make sure she was okay, were Marina to be awake.  The older blonde was sound asleep and breathing slow and even.

Kansas hopped the fence easily, Nina sitting on the back stoop of her house, one bare foot crossed over the other.  Sitting next to her was a wrapped gift.  "Hey," Kansas said, sitting next to her.

"Hi.  Here."  She handed the package to the blonde.  "You weren't talking to me during your birthday."  She gave the teen a rueful smile.  "Happy birthday."

"Thanks."  Kansas took the small package.

"I wasn't sure what to get the girl who has the world by the tail." Nina smiled at the look she received. 

"I hardly think that's true, but thanks, anyway."  Kansas quickly unwrapped the gift, thrilled to find a brand new iPod with headphones. 

"Figure you can finally let your old one retire and put some new miles on this one."

"Thank you, Nina," the blonde said, truly touched.  She ran her thumb over the smooth packaging of the music player, then looked over at the beautiful woman sitting next to her.  "You know what I would have loved to get for my eighteenth birthday?" she asked softly.

"What's that?" Nina brought her legs up, feet dangling off the stoop.  She wrapped her arms around her knees, resting her cheek on them as she looked over at her friend.

Kansas met the blue gaze, quickly getting lost in it.  "A kiss.  From you."

Nina felt her heart skip a beat, the pounding resuming with a slowly released breath.  She lifted her head, unable to break the intense gaze aimed at her.  Without a word, she reached a hand out, cupping Kansas' face and drawing it toward her.  Kansas gripped the step beneath her to balance as she leaned over.  She was shocked at how soft Nina was, how gentle.  The couple groping sessions she'd had with her one and only boyfriend hadn't prepared her for the wonders of a kiss with a woman.  A kiss with Nina.

The attorney slid her hand around to cup the back of Kansas' neck, gently pulling her in closer, tilting her head slightly as the kiss deepened.  Her heart was pounding, warning bells going off in her head as she used just the barest tip of her tongue to touch the inside of the blonde's lip.  She couldn't stop what was happening, even though somewhere inside she knew she had to. 

Kansas was filled with fire, a life-long need exploding within her.  She brought up a hand, needing to touch Nina, to feel her skin, and know she was truly there. 

Nina started, gasping as her breast was taken in a hot hand, through her t-shirt.  "Whoa," she panted, breaking the kiss and covering Kansas' hand with her own. "Wait, Kansas. . . "

"What?" the blonde asked, her body demanding more.  She was nearly out of control of it.

"I can't," Nina whispered, "We can't."  She gently removed the hand from her breast, tucking her fingers through Kansas'.  "Please understand that."  She looked into hooded green eyes, seeing her own desires reflected back at her in Kansas' flushed features.

Kansas rested her forehead against Nina's shoulder, nodding as she tried to get herself under control.  "I do."

"I'm sorry."  Nina raised the blonde's chin with two fingers, looking deeply into green eyes.  She saw the understanding there, and smiled, though it was weak.  She gathered Kansas in a tight embrace, squeezing her eyes shut as she pressed a hand to the back of a blonde head, holding Kansas close.

Marina wasn't sure what she felt as she watched from a second-story window.  She knew she had to stop things before disaster happened, and her daughter was caught in the cross-fire.  Letting the curtains flutter back into place, she padded back to her bedroom, spying the cordless phone on its cradle next to her bed.  Suddenly her migraine came back again.


Kansas was flying on air as she finished with her daily chores in the house, before she'd take off and spend the rest of the day at Nina's place.  She heard the doorbell ring, and bounced down the stairs to answer it.  She had a smile in place, ready to greet the most beautiful woman in the world.  What met her froze her smile in place.

"Hey, sweetie," Brad Roberts said.

"What are you doing here?"  Kansas was so struck, she forgot to be angry at her father for a moment.  That didn't last long.

"I want you to come and spend the rest of the summer with me.  At my place."

"What?"  She stepped back from the door, shaking her head.  Brad stepped across the threshold.

"Kansas, I am your father, and I'm telling you, I want you to spend some time with me.  This is your last year of high school.  This is your last summer vacation."  He looked at her with pleading eyes.  Even if he hadn't gotten a call from his ex-wife in the middle of the night, he had still wanted to find a way to spend as much time with Kansas, to reconnect with her, as he could before it was too late, and she moved on with her own life.  "Please, honey.  I miss you so much."  He smiled, though it was shaky.  Nothing had affected Brad as much as the thought that he may have lost his daughter and only child.  His buddy.

"She called you, didn't she?" Kansas asked quietly, her betrayal complete.  Her father didn't have to say anything- she could see it in his eyes.

"Baby, your mom and I only want what's best for you, and right now I think it's best to get a new perspective on things.  New surroundings."

Kansas felt the immediate sting of tears.  "I can't believe she did this."  She felt a hand on her shoulder, and though she tried to shake it off, her father wouldn't budge.

"Honey, don't see it that way.  Your mom is truly trying to do what's best for you.  We've lived it, Kansas.  We both know what it's like to hurt."  He gently turned her so she was facing him.  "We don't want the same for you."

"I'm not a child!" Kansas raged, stepping back further from him.  "Damn it!  When do I get to make my own decisions?  Mistakes?"  She looked into the pleading eyes of the man that she missed so badly it hurt, even though she'd only admit that in the deepest parts of her soul.

"Please come with me.  It's only for a little while.  A week.  Maybe two.  Kansas, we'll bum like we used to.  Remember?  We can hit the hoops, and you can kick my ass all over again.  Just like we used to."  Brad knew he was almost begging, but he missed his little girl as much as he missed his next breath.  He had been so grateful for Marina's call the night before.  "I need you in my life, Kansas.  Please."

Kansas looked up at her father, and tried to think of what Nina would say to her right now.  What would be the advice given if the blonde ran across their yards right now and banged on her door?  He's the only father you've got, Kansas.  Don't shut him out.  With her shoulders slumping, Kansas nodded.  She found herself engulfed in a desperate hug, and despite herself, she returned it.


Nana held her files close to her body as she walked down the halls of the courthouse, her high heels clicking on the marble floors.  She had just left court, and her mind was lost in the events that had just transpired.  She was nearly knocked to her ass when she walked right into someone who was stopped and talking in the hall.  Looking up, she saw Chris Bateman giving her a bemused smile as he reached down to help her up.

"Hey, you alright there, Nina?" he chucked, pulling the tall woman to her feet.

Nina smiled, embarrassed.  She was just grateful Chris was a friend.  "Yes.  I'm sorry.  Was still in the court room."  The fellow attorney nodding his understanding.  Nina studied him for a moment, remembering he was one of the best attorneys in the state of Ohio. "Chris," she began, before she even knew she was going to speak. "Do you still handle divorce cases?"

"Yeah, sure do.  Why?  Your mother finally ready to leave your dad and run off with me to Spain?"

Nina laughed, waving off her old friend's good-natured crush on her mother.  "No. It's not for her."  She looked into Chris' brown eyes, seeing realizing dawning there. 

"Oh."  He stood a little taller, falling into professional mode.  "Give me a call next Tuesday between," he took out his blackberry, looking through his calendar. "around three."  He glanced up at her.  "We'll talk."

Nina nodded, feeling like she was about to lose her breakfast.  "Okay.  Thanks, Chris.  Again, sorry I nearly knocked you over."

"Don't worry about it."  He watched the young woman leave, shaking his head.  "Another one bites the dust."


Brad watched his daughter as he picked at her Chinese food.  He had taken her to The Mandarin, the place where they used to go all the time when Kansas was a kid.  She was no longer a kid, and Brad was having to learn that.  They had been at the small apartment he was renting for less than two hours.  Basically, they'd been there long enough to show her around and let her get settled. 

"Are you having a good summer?" he asked at length, trying to pinch the last few grains of rice with his chop sticks.  Without a word, Kansas reached across the table and took the chop sticks from her father, gripping his fingers with her own to properly place the sticks.  Just like old times.  He smiled at the unconscious action, then finished his dinner.

"It's okay," Kansas said, stabbing a piece of steak from her platter of pepper steak. 

"Good, good."  Brad finished his beer, then wiped his mouth and hands on a napkin. "So, what do you think of the place?" he extended his arms, indicating the apartment around them.

Kansas took in the  tiny living room with second-hand furniture, provided by her grandparents.  She noted the air mattress folded neatly on the floor that would be her bed.  And she noted the single cup and plate, washed and drying on a towel next to the sink.

"I think I'd like to know if this piece of shit apartment was worth it."

Brad sat back in his chair, not surprised at his daughter's anger.  He had witnessed it during their dinner several weeks ago, as well as Marina had told him.  "Do you want an honest answer?"

"Yes.  I do."

"Then, yes, it was."  Brad met his daughter's accusing gaze.  "Was it worth all this," Brad indicated his apartment, "for how you feel about Nina?  For how she makes you feel?"

"That's different-"

"How so?  She makes you feel happy, right?  Good?" he paused, making sure he had her attention.  "It feels right?"

"Yes, but-"

"So did my decision.  I should never have cheated on your mom, Kansas.  That was very wrong, and I see that.  But getting out of a bad situation, a situation that was not reconcilable. . . " he shook his head,  "staying would've been wrong."

"I don't understand," Kansas said, suddenly not very hungry anymore.

"I know you don't.  Someday you will.  If you don't listen to a damn thing me or your mom says, listen to this: be happy.  Do whatever you need to be happy.  You only got one shot at this life, Kansas.  And know that happiness comes from within you, not from anyone else.  Love is a bonus."  He smiled, soft and serene.  "So, you ask if this 'piece of shit apartment' is worth it?  Yeah, it is.  Because now I'm doing what makes me happy.  But," he held up a finger, the other hand reaching across the table to cover Kansas'.  "What does not make me happy is you being a shit to me, and you avoiding me."

Kansas couldn't help but smile, feeling love for her father fill her, as well as allowing herself to truly feel the full impact of how much she missed him.  Keeping his much larger hand in hers, she stood from the table, pulling him to his feet.  Brad held his little girl to him, grateful that his prayers have finally been answered. 


Kansas lie on her air mattress bed, staring up at the ceiling fan that spun lazily, just enough to move the air conditioned air around the small apartment.  She and her father had a long conversation over ice cream after finishing off their Chinese food.  She had made a promise to him that she would not contact Nina while she visited with him, thus- supposedly- giving herself a chance to forget about the older woman, and concentrate on putting her mind back into school.  She had to grit her teeth during their conversation, but she respected her father enough to give him her word.  Besides, it was only for a week.  She could handle not seeing or talking to Nina for a week.  She'd humor the old people, then do what the hell she wanted.  She usually did, anyway.


In truth, Kansas had the best week of her life with her father.  She felt that her world had righted itself, somehow.  Their relationship was back on track, and she was learning to forgive him.  They'd talked a lot about the circumstances of the divorce and affair, and the blonde was growing to understand.  She still didn't like it, but at least it was beginning to come into focus for her.

She hugged her father tightly before he climbed back into his car and drove off down the road on his way to work, a promise extracted from her that she'd come and see him, and spend weekends and breaks with him.  That was okay by her.

Kansas glanced over at Nina and Dan's place, noting it was quiet.  The yard had been mowed, but it did look dry, and the flowers hadn't been trimmed, either.  Knowing that Nina was still at work, the blonde trotted inside her own house, getting settled back into her room, separating her laundry from the week, then called her mother to let her know she was home. 

After the incident with the drawings, things had been tricky between mother and daughter- Kansas feeling betrayed and violated, while Marina made no apologies for looking out for her daughter's welfare.  Ultimately, they had decided to agree to disagree.  Kansas now understood that, yes, her parents did love her, but no, they don't always know what's best.  That was okay- she'd show them!

The day went by miserably slow, Kansas constantly checking her watch for noon-thirty, when Nina would be home for lunch.  She was meticulous with the yard, feeling bad for neglecting it in her basic abduction.  She wondered why the brunette hadn't been out watering and weeding.  Maybe Nina had a bad week at work.  Maybe, just maybe, she missed Kansas, too.

"Hey, kid."

Kansas was startled by the male voice from behind her.  She whirled around, ripping one side of the headphones from her ear.  Dan stood on the back porch, a beer in his hand.

"Hey, Dan.  How are you?"  The blonde hadn't seen the man since her shared kiss with his wife, and guilt gnawed at her gut.  She quickly swallowed it down.

"Doing okay.  Listen, you've done such a great job with the yard, I was wondering if you'd be willing to do some work for me inside?  Gonna sell the place, so there some painting, that kind of stuff, that needs done."

Kansas felt her stomach drop.  Selling the house?  Moving?  "Selling?" she muttered, not understanding.  "Is Nina around?"

Dan smirked, shaking his head.  "No.  She moved out four days ago.  I'm surprised she didn't tell you.  You gals seemed close, and all."

If you only knew, buddy. "Where did she go?"  Kansas was dumbstruck, and felt sick.  The man shook his head again with a shrug.

"Dunno, don't care."  With that, he turned and walked back into the house, slamming the back door behind him.

"Mother?!" Kansas slammed up the stairs, looking frantically for Marina in her mother's bedroom.  Nothing. "Mother!"

"What?" the older blonde asked, taking the stairs two at a time until she stood on the second floor landing.  A breathless Kansas glared at her.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she growled.

"Tell you what?" Marina was stunned by the hatred shining in those intense green eyes.

"You knew!  Did you plan it this way?  Get me out of here, out of the way, so she could leave?"  Kansas was shaking, she was so angry and hurt.

"First off, I don't know what the hell you're talking about, and secondly, don't you ever talk to me that way!"  Marina was livid.  She had dealt with her daughter's pain over the past couple weeks, had been admirably calm.  But this was too much.  She had not taught her daughter to treat her like this.

"She's gone!" Kansas yelled, pointing toward the window that looked out at the side of Nina and Dan's house.  "She's fucking gone!  Moved out four days ago.  Why didn't you tell me?"

Marina's gaze softened as understanding filled her.  She saw Kansas was about to fall apart, and was there to hold her as the teenager cried out her frustrated confusion.  Her first heartbreak – something no mother wanted their child to go through, but knew every single one would.

"I'm sorry, baby," she cooed, stroking soft, blonde hair.  "I know."

Kansas cried, clutching her mother, and finally allowing her heart to break.


8 years later:

Nina sat, watching the new students stroll in, visually figuring out who would learn from her, who would go on to make excellent attorneys, and who would fall prey to the money and politics of the American judicial system.  After four years of teaching, she'd gotten pretty good at figuring motives out.  She waited until the last student was seated before rising from her perch on the edge of her desk.

"Good afternoon, everyone.  Please get settled, as we have a lot to do today.  Let me start by introducing myself.  My name is Nina Glassman, but you can call me Dr. Glassman, or Nina.  I'm not much into formalities."  She paused, throwing a smirk out over her captive audience.  "Lord knows you'll have enough of that on your journey as young lawyers."  She got the normal few chuckles at the joke she used with every new class.  "Welcome to law school.  May you all make it in one piece, and with your sanity intact."

As Nina continued her speech, she met the eye of many of her students, seeing the typical reactions: fear, interest, lust, and intelligence.  At 34, she knew she looked good, and felt good about herself.  Dressed in a tailored pantsuit, Nina made no secret of the body she worked hard to maintain.  Her long, dark hair was down today- best to start things on a slightly more casual basis.  She loved what she did, and knew that going back to school seven years ago, had been one of the best things she'd ever done- among a couple.

Class ended, and the large room was filled with chairs scraping, bags being stuffed, and idle chatter as students gathered their belongings and left.  Dr. Nina Glassman was left alone, looking out over the sea of empty desks.  She blew out a breath, and prepared for her next class.


Yelping and happy barking met the insertion of Nina's key into the front door of the small townhouse she had bought two years ago in the gorgeous Colorado town of Boulder.  It was a small, academic town, housing one of the best universities in the country- Colorado University, or better known as CU.  With mountains on all sides- blue and glorious- Boulder had quickly become a cherished place for Nina.  It was often referred to as the Berkley of Colorado, for its open nature and artistic community.  Definitely a nice change from Ohio.

The 3 year-old Yorkies, brother and sister, Kona and Kiora, went nuts once Nina got the door open.  She bent down, letting the Ewok-like dogs climb all over her, jumping up in attempts to give her doggy kisses.

"Hello, my babies," the brunette cooed, picking them both up and covering their faces in kisses.  The dogs squirmed and whined until the professor was about to drop them.  She set them down, then headed further into the house.  She picked up the shreds from a Kleenex, picturing the two dogs, one at either end, pulling and growling, the victor shaking his or her head wildly to finish off the 'prey'.  Together, both dogs would share in the bounty of ultimate destruction, leaving their handiwork on the dining room rug.

Nina hurried to the stairs, flipping on the light that would illuminate her prized art piece on the mantel, on the way to the bathroom in her bedroom, stripping out of her clothing as she went.  She had a date.


Abby Walters was excited.  She rose to her tippie toes, trying to spot her date in the throng of Friday night adventurers.  Her smile spread across a pretty face when she saw the tall brunette make her way around a group of rowdy teenagers. 

"Hi," she said, leaning in to place a greeting kiss on Nina's cheek.  "How are you?"

"I'm good.  I hope I'm not late.  I had a faculty meeting that got me running out of the office," the brunette explained, allowing her hand to be taken in Abby's.  This was their third date, and thus far it had gone alright.  Nina wasn't positive this woman was what she wanted for her future, but for now, it was fun.

They had made plans to get dinner, than go to the opening of a new gallery in town.  Abby was a collector of art, and Nina had learned over the years how to appreciate it.  Not to mention, Abby's sister, Jamie, was the showcased artist at the opening.

Small crowds of people stood in groups in murmured conversation, many with flutes of champagne in hand.  Those gathered were dressed in any manner of dress: tux with tails, evening gown, jeans and long, flowing skirts.  Nina, dressed in a skirt suit, was somewhat resentful- after all, she had to dress up all day for work, she wanted to relax  and be comfortable during her time off.  But, Abby was excited, and so Nina could handle it.

Nina began to wander, leaving Abby to celebrate with her sister, and for the artist to introduce her to friends and fellow artists.  Arms crossed over her chest, the brunette perused the art- paintings, sculptures and a few photographs.  She was slowly making her way down a line of framed sketches, the work exquisite, faceless female forms.  Many of the forms were in shadow, or strategically covered by a sheet or a blanket wrapped around bare shoulders.  They were gorgeous.  Nina looked to see who the artist was, but there was no nameplate attached.

"Beautiful, aren't they?"

Nina turned to see a fellow event-goer admiring the sketch next to the one the brunette was admiring.  She nodded, smiling politely.

"The artist is over there somewhere, I think," the woman said, hitching a thumb back toward the large cement sculpture at the back.  Nina glanced over that way, only seeing a group of women who seemed to be enthralled by something someone was saying.  The group parted for a moment, revealing a woman with short, blonde hair.  The woman's back was to Nina, the blonde gesticulating enthusiastically, the women around her laughing.  The blonde was about to turn around when the crowd moved in again, blocking her from view all together.

"Ready to go?"

Nina turned, Abby suddenly appearing next to her.  "Yeah.  If you are."

"I am.  Come on- let's get some dinner."

Nina didn't notice as green eyes watched her leave.


Nina walked through her dark house, only flipping on the light above the mantel.  The piece of art work there came to life.  It was a bronze sculpture of two female figures, entwining in a sensual embrace.  Neither woman's face could be clearly seen, but ecstasy.  She brought a hand up, tracing a finger along the curve of one of the women, the entire sculpture no more than a foot in height. 

Three years ago, when Nina had finally decided to stop lying to herself, and had come out as a lesbian, she had made the trip to P-town, wandering the streets and watching the couples all around her.  For the first time, she felt like she was at home.  While strolling the streets, she had seen the sculpture in a window of one of the many galleries there.  To say she was shocked to see Kansas Roberts' name on the placard as the artist is an understatement.  She had snapped up the beautiful piece, which nearly drained her bank account, and had given a place of prominence ever since.

Her thoughts drifted further to the past as the brunette made her way upstairs, anxious to relax in a nice, hot bubble bath.  Her Yorkies followed unnoticed behind, tags jingling merrily on their collars. 

As Nina stripped down for her bath, she thought about the "relationships" she'd had with women since deciding to come out.  However, to do that, she'd need to go back even further.  Dan.  After leaving him, then once the divorce was final, she had left Ohio, deciding to start over.  Going back to school had been pivotal to that, as she had reached a point in her career where she no longer believed in what she was doing.  Her moral code wouldn't allow her to continue practicing law when she'd lost faith in the system. 

She'd concentrated fully on her intense program, finally receiving her PhD in record time, all the while maintaining a job with the Denver District Attorney's office.  This had conveniently not allowed her to think about her private life, instead letting her get lost in her busy daily life.  Once she'd graduated and had began teaching at CU, that had changed.  Catching the eye of a fellow professor, Nina had decided to give in, and went to dinner with her.  It had ended before it began, as she and Dana were about as different as night is to day, but it had started to make Nina think, then realize, and finally admit the truth.

Even so, after three years, she still hadn't allowed herself to experience the full tilt of her life decision.  She hadn't dated seriously, and hadn't engaged in more than a heavy make-out session with a couple of the women she'd dated.  After tonight's date with Abby, she could tell they were quickly heading to the crossroads that Nina knew too well.  Abby was making her intent crystal clear, her hand finding its way to one of the brunette's breasts as they said goodbye at the parking lot where they had both parked.

As she sank into the steamy water, Nina could still feel the pressure of Abby's hands on her.  She wasn't sure how she felt about that, how she had felt at the time.  No, she hadn't wanted to take if further at that particular moment, but how permanent was that?  Ever?  Tonight?  With Abby?  It had been many years since she'd been touched, since she'd been loved.  She had enjoyed sex with Dan, for the most part.  Though now she understood what had been missing at the time.  She wasn't sure why she hadn't gone that final distance, allowed herself that final thread of self-identity and freedom.  Maybe she didn't want to rush into anything.  Maybe she was waiting for the right situation and person.  Or maybe she was just scared.

Nina sighed, running her wet hands over her hair, pushing it back away from her face, water dripping onto her nose.  She wrinkled it, trying to get rid of the itch, but it just got worse.  Growling, she brought her hand up, rubbing at the itch.  She glanced to the side of the tub, watching Kona and Kiora as they played together, the smaller male whimpering slightly as his much larger sister stepped on him.

"Careful, Kikis," the brunette warned.  The female Ewok glanced up at her, then went right back to beating up her brother.  Nina rested her head back against the edge of the tub, closing her eyes.  She decided to stop thinking and just allow herself to enjoy the bath.


Nina found herself headed downtown two days later, back at the same gallery.  Now that the place was next to empty, she was able to really look around, hands casually clasped behind her back as she perused.  She found herself drawn back to the sketches she'd been looking at the night of the show.  The work was so exquisite, it totally captured Nina's imagination.  The artist obviously loved the female form.

"Like what you see, Counselor?"

Nina started at the voice that was suddenly in her ear.  She moved away, turning.  Mouth hanging open, she stared at the grinning blonde standing before her.  Hair still short and just as carefree, Kansas looked as adorable as ever.

"Hi," she breathed, not sure what else to say.

"Hi.  Must say, I don't recall having a reaction to my work quite like yours before."  The artist nodded at the sketches behind Nina.

"Those are yours?"



Both women turned, a redhead sauntering up to them.  She placed a hand on the blonde's back, a small smile curling her lips when Kansas leaned over to place a kiss on her cheek.  "I'm coming."  Kansas turned back to Nina, an almost cocky twinkle in her green eyes to match the smirk on her lips.  "See you around."

"Yeah.  Uh, it was nice seeing you again."  Nina muttered.

"You, too."

The brunette watched as the two walked away, unable to take her eyes off Kansas.  It had been what, seven years?  Eight?  Who was this ultra confident woman she saw?  Where was the cute, unsure teenager from so long ago?  And who the hell was the redhead?  As she watched, Kansas smacked her on the ass, making the other woman giggle and push the blonde playfully away.

Nina stepped away from the sketches, deciding that she wanted to check out what else lined the walls and space of the gallery.  She was approached by a thin man with a dark goatee.  His fashionable thick-framed glasses were perched on a perfect nose, which was placed above perfect white teeth.

"Are you seeing anything you like?" he asked, voice somewhat high-pitched and definitely feminine.

"Yes.  Everything here is so beautiful," Nina commented, looking at the painting she stood in front of.  A field of what looked to be corn, thought he stalks were purple, soil beneath white, like snow.  The sky was bright blue, though lazy pink clouds floated by.  Her gaze fell to the placard: Another Side of Kansas.  Nina nearly laughed out loud, sure this was a private joke from Kansas Roberts. 

"Yes, it is.  And a good deal of it by our very own Kansas Roberts," the man gestured toward where the blonde and redhead stood talking by the front door of the gallery, an older couple chatting with the artist.

"She's very talented.  I was just looking at her sketches on the back wall."  She glanced at the man, his button-up shirt opened enough to reveal a dusting of chest hair, though on him it didn't look quite as pimp as it would on a straight guy.  His hair was dark, longish and wavy, with long, neatly trimmed sideburns.  His darker complexion spoke of a Spanish or Italian heritage.  "Why are there no placards or prices on those?"

"They're not for sale.  Those sketches are from Kansas' private collection.  They're actually only up for a short time, to celebrate the opening of our gallery," he explained.

"Our gallery?"

"Yes," the man smiled, big and proud.  "Kansas and I own this fabulous place."  He indicated the building they stood in with a flair that made Nina smile.

"That's wonderful."  She paused, chewing on her lower lip for a moment.  "So, how did she end up here?  In Colorado."

"Well, if you like, I can introduce you to Kansas-"

"Oh, no," Nina waved him off with a nervous laugh.  "We've. . . met."

"Oh," he said knowingly, giving her a sympathetic smile as he patted her shoulder.  "You and half the state, honey."  He glanced over at his business partner, watching as she blatantly flirted with two women who had just walked in, both women nearly swooning.  "Sometimes I'm not sure who's more of a slut- me or Kansas."  The man chuckled, turning back to Nina. "I'm Michael Ross.  What is your name, beautiful lady?"

Nina smiled, despite herself.  "Nina Glassman."

"It's a pleasure, Nina.  Listen, I need to get, but you come in any time."  He gave her a brilliant smile, showing just how handsome he really was.

"Take care, Michael."

With a peck to either cheek, he was gone.  Nina turned back to the artwork with a sigh.  She made herself not look when she heard a loud bray of laughter, coming from the direction where she knew Kansas still stood, entertaining her small audience of three.


The clubs in downtown Denver were far and few between, but what there was could be fun.  Nina and Abby weaved their way through the crowds that had already begun to gather.  It was a Saturday night, and the thumpa-thumpa vibrated through Nina's bones.  She wasn't one for clubbing or drinking, but decided to go anyway.  She hadn't been out dancing in more than a year, and was actually looking forward to it. 

"Want a drink?" Abby asked over the loud music.  Nina nodded, her fingers already beginning to tap against her denim-clad leg as she found the beat of the music.  "Amaretto Sour, right?"  Again, Nina nodded.  She watched until her date disappeared into the throng, then headed out to find somewhere where they could sit and relax.  The place was dark, but no longer smoky- thanks to Colorado's no-smoking laws in restaurants and bars, a law the professor loved.

Toward the back of the dark club, the wall was lined with round tables and chairs.  Most were filled, but there were still a couple that were left empty.  Nina quickly snagged one, back to the wall so she could watch everyone around her.  She saw couples come and go, women laughing and dancing.  A male couple making out in the corner.  She watched the bodies moving, the air filled with sexual tension and heat.  The brunette couldn't help but feel it creep into her own body.

"Here you go."  Abby set a tumbler in front of Nina, the dark amber liquid mixing with the ice and thin straw.  Nina smiled her thanks, taking the drink in one hand and sipping.  It was strong, the alcohol burning in her throat. 

"Thanks."  Nina absently played with her straw in the glass, her eyes beginning to adjust to the dark room, the music pounding and multi-colored lights making patterns on the floor and walls, and over the throbbing bodies. 

"Do you want to dance?" Abby called out over the music. 


The two women linked hands as they headed toward the dance floor, weaving through their companions until they found a spot to themselves.  The song playing had a techno beat to it, the pulsing bodies around them sweating with the exertion.  Soon, Nina and Abby were right along with them. 

Nina threw her head back, eyes closed, allowing herself to get lost in the music, her body moving of its own accord.  She opened her eyes when she felt hands on her hips.  Abby had moved in, bringing their bodies close as the music thumped.  Nina looked into the woman's eyes, wondering what she'd find there.  She saw desire shining in those eyes, and it was aimed at her.  A trill of fear wandered down her spine, but the professor swallowed it down, allowing herself to wallow in it for the moment.  It felt good to be wanted and desired.

After a couple more songs, Nina headed off to the bathroom, her Amaretto Sour and following bottle of water running right through her.  The room was crowded as she pushed her way in, but it quickly cleared, so by the time she stepped out of her stall, the room was empty.  The brunette stood at the sink, looking into the spotted mirror above as she washed her hands.  The bathroom door squeaked open, two women giggling their way in.  Nina was surprised to see one of the women was Kansas.

The blonde caught a blue gaze in the mirror, a cocky grin spreading across full lips.  Kansas whispered something to the brunette she was with, the other woman scurrying into a stall, but not before glaring at Nina.  The professor followed Kansas' progress as the blonde walked over to her.

"Surprised to see you here," she said, moving up behind Nina, meeting her gaze in their reflection. 

"I can say the same about you."  Nina grabbed a couple paper towels from the dispenser, never taking her eyes off Kansas as she dried her hands.

"Are you here alone?"

"No.  Abby's waiting for me at our table."

"Ah," Kansas nodded in understanding.  "Well, I hope Abby doesn't mind if I steal you for a dance."  The sexy little grin appeared once more.  "I do want one."

Nina said nothing as she watched Kansas back away, headed toward the stall where the brunette waited for her.  "I somehow don't think your date would approve," Nina said, a slightly harsh note in her voice.

"Date?" Kansas grinned full-out.  "Hardly."  And with that, she disappeared into the stall, a soft moan following.  "I can smell you, baby," Kansas murmured.  "Smell good." 

Nina threw the crumpled paper towels into the trash, pulling the door to the bathroom open with enough force to smack it into the wall behind.

As Nina sat at her table, nursing the beer Abby had gotten her, she felt pissed off.  She couldn't exactly define why, just felt it.  She held the bottle by the neck, casually taking a swig.  She nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt a hand on her knee.  Turning, she found herself looking into the concerned gaze of her date.

"You okay?" Abby asked, leaning in close.  Close enough that Nina could feel her alcohol-scented breath on her neck.  She nodded.  She faced the redhead, managing to lose herself in the heated gaze.  Abby's lips were soft, the taste of lipstick mixing with the yeasty aftertaste of the beer.  Abby began to deepen the kiss when Nina pulled back, sensing the presence of another.  Standing next to their table was Kansas, watching intently. 

Nina wiped her mouth, guiltily looking up at the blonde.  Abby was about to get angry when the unexpected visitor grinned, charm oozing from her.  "Sorry to interrupt, ladies."  Kansas rested a hand on the table, leaning on her arm toward Abby. "Hey, do you mind if I steal your girlfriend for a minute?  See, I knew her way back in Ohio, and haven't seen her since.  I'd like to catch up during a dance, if you wouldn't mind."

Abby found herself grinning like a fool and nodding.  "Sure."  She turned to Nina. "Have fun."

As the professor was pulled from her seat by the hand, she wasn't sure whether she wanted to thank Abby, or curse her.  She followed Kansas to the dance floor, the blonde's grip steady and strong.  They found a spot and the blonde stopped tem, turning to face her companion. 

Nina was nervous, unsure what to say or think as she looked into the green eyes that belonged to who used to be the girl next door.  She now knew better, still able to smell sex on the hot little blonde.  Kansas placed her hands on Nina's hips, pulling their bodies a fairly respectable distance, her own hips beginning to move to the music.  Nina placed her own hands gingerly on strong shoulders.  She almost couldn't breathe as she looked into Kansas' fiery gaze, felt enveloped by it.

"Told you I'd get my dance," the blonde said, just loud enough to be heard over the music.

"That you did."  She tried to think of something to say, but her brain seemed to abandon her, leaving her mouth dry.  Nina gasped as strong hands tightened on her hips, pulling her in close.  The body heat coming from Kansas was immense and all-consuming.  Moving body to body, Nina tightened her own grasp, but mainly just to hold on as Kansas pressed them together, moving her hips against Nina.  If the brunette didn't know any better, she'd say they were fucking standing up.

"You're still really beautiful," Kansas said, almost wistful.  Her gaze trailed over Nina's face, gliding down to take in her opened collared shirt, which revealed just a bit of cleavage.  The blonde's gaze kept going until it reached their joined hips.  She watched their movement for a moment, then suddenly her body heat was gone, leaving Nina's head spinning as Kansas turned around.  Pressing her ass into Nina's crotch, Kansas took hold of the brunette's hands, wrapping Nina's arms around the smaller body. 

Nina could feel the softness of Kansas' ribbed top underneath her hands as they were placed on a hard, flat stomach.  She tried to pull away, though it was weak, but she was held firmly in place.  She leaned in, inhaling the scent of thick, blonde hair, the wisps tickling her nose.  Eyes closing, she allowed her body to move with the blonde, pressing into her, breasts flat against her back, sex growing wet as desire rushed through her.  Nina's eyes flew open when she felt her hands being moved- Kansas' own hands rested atop them, moving them where she wanted them.  Nina's hands were slid up the blonde's front, over firm breasts, then back down to finally rest on Kansas' hips.  Nina felt her sex clinch when she realized the blonde's nipples were hard as they had been grazed by her palms. 

The base-heavy song ended, a slower one beginning on its heals.  Nina thought her torture might be over, but Kansas had other ideas.  The blonde turned to face her again, wrapping her arms up around the brunette's neck.  Nina's hands automatically found narrow hips, her own moving in perfect motion with them.  Kansas stared up into Nina's eyes, her fingers burying themselves in dark hair.  Nina returned the gaze, looking for what, she didn't know.  It seemed questions roamed the green expanse, but Kansas said nothing.  For a moment, just a moment, the blonde seemed to be the sweet, innocent girl that Nina had once known eight years ago.  She did the math in her head, and was shocked to realize that Kansas was a 26 year old woman now.  Definitely not the kid she remembered her to be. 

As the dance continued, Nina couldn't help but think back to an earlier time with the blonde- the last time she saw her, for instance.  Sitting on the back stoop of her house.  She remembered the kiss they had shared: the soft perfection of Kansas' mouth.  The way her body had felt.  The soft, tentative feel of an unsure hand on her breast before she had stopped it.  Stopped it all.  The next day Kansas had been gone, swept away by her father.  Nina felt herself becoming lost once again, pulled toward what she knew instinctively was dangerous territory, just as dangerous as it had been eight years ago, just in a very different way, now. 

The clearing of a throat brought Nina out of her reverie.  Spell broken, she turned to see Abby standing close by, looking less-than-thrilled as she watched the pair.  Kansas dropped her hands from the brunette's body, giving them both a smile, then disappearing into the crowd, though not before giving Nina a long look over her shoulder.  Their gazes had met briefly before Kansas was gone.


Though technically she had done nothing wrong, Nina still felt guilty.  As she stood in the entryway of her townhouse, making out with Abby, she knew inside that the ardor spreading through her body like wildfire had nothing to do with the redhead whose ass she was grabbing, and whose mouth she was taking violently.  Suddenly a little blonde marched in front of her minds' eye, green eyes blazing with lecherous intent.

Nina pulled away, gasping for breath.  Her guilt was getting in the way of her desire.  Abby took the break in the kiss for the opportunity to find the brunette's neck, laving it with hot, wet kisses and nips. 

"I want you, baby," Abby murmured against the column of Nina's throat. 

Nina closed her eyes, trying to stay focused, trying to stay present with Abby, the one who had her hands up under Nina's shirt, fingers spread out over the expanse of her back.  You're still really beautiful.  The words echoed through Nina's mind.  Well, I hope Abby doesn't mind if I steal you for a dance.  I do want one.

Nina wanted to scream, a cold shower of emotions washing over her.  "Wait," she gasped, gently pushing Abby away.  "Wait, stop."

The redhead stepped back, anger burning in her eyes.  "Damn it, Nina," she fumed.  "Why do you do this every time?"

Nina looked away, infused with shame.  "I'm sorry.  I just can't."

"Is it me?  Or is it you?  Because I gotta tell you- I don't know how long I can wait."  Abby hugged herself, hurt and rejection painted all over her face and body language. 

Nina allowed her anger at herself to be lashed out on Abby.  "Well, if you're only here to fuck me, then you're here for the wrong reasons." 

Fresh hurt  seeped into Abby's eyes. "That was low."  They stood in the entryway, neither able or willing to look at the other.  Finally Abby broke the silence.  "I saw you with that blonde tonight.  Is that it?  Is there someone else?"

Nina sighed, running a hand through her hair.  She shook her head.  "No.  Kansas is just an old friend from a long time ago."

"Yeah, so she said.  A very good friend, I'd say."  Nina said nothing.  "Be careful, Nina.  Kansas Roberts is a snake, old friend or not."  With those final words of warning, Abby grabbed her keys from the small entryway table where they'd been set, then closed the front door behind her.

Nina blew out a deep breath, grateful to be alone.


The Gallery had become quite the hip little shop in downtown Boulder, which was saying a lot, as the gorgeous town was filled with 'hip little shops'.  Nina tugged her purse higher on her shoulder as she entered, eyes scouring to make sure a certain little blonde wasn't anywhere in sight. 

"Welcome back, beautiful."

Nina turned, surprised to see Michael Ross suddenly walking beside her.  He looked gorgeous as always, his designer glasses polished to a shine.  He smiled at her, teeth glaringly white.

"Hello, Michael.  How are you?"

"I'm doing wonderfully.  And yourself?"

"Very well, thank you."  As they exchanged greetings, they were heading toward the back wall of the gallery.  When they arrived, Nina was surprised and deeply disappointed to see the sketches were gone.

"Sorry, sweetie.  Kansas took those down."  Michael stood, arms crossed over his lean chest, silk t-shirt tight over his chest and flat stomach.  "I was kind of surprised, to be honest," he continued.  "She came in this morning like a bat out of hell, and without a word, took every one of them down, quickly replacing them with these."  He indicated the water color paintings that had taken their place.  "Never one for water color, personally, I don't get it."

Nina thought about her time at the bar the night before, seeing just what kind of fireball Kansas could be.  "That's a shame," she said.  She felt a dark gaze on her, and turned to see Michael studying her.  He smiled.

"Would you like a latte?"

Nina smiled, nodding.  "Sure."  She could use a friend. 

The offices of the gallery were somewhat plain compared to the spacious rooms up front, decorated with some of the finest art Nina had ever seen.  She listened as the latte machine whooshed to life, Michael expertly creating their drinks.

"Here you are, love," he said, handing the brunette a large mug.  She took it, again following the wonderful-smelling man back to the front.  "What do you do here?" he asked, gingerly blowing over the top of his drink to cool it.

"I teach law up at CU," Nina said, taking a seat in one of the deep, comfy chairs placed near the large, front window of the gallery.  Michael sat across from her, one leg crossed casually over the other.  As Nina glanced at her companion, she was struck again at just how gorgeous he really was. "How do you know Kansas?"

The dark-haired man smiled into his latte, almost knowingly.  Nina didn't understand, and didn't exactly like it, but said nothing.  "We were college roommates for one year, renting out this horrible little piece of shit apartment.  That is, until Kansas decided college wasn't for her and the little shit ran off with some hot little number she met."  Michael chuckled at the memory.  "Left me to figure out two months worth of rent.  That's okay," he gave Nina an evil grin.  "I got her back- made her give me her favorite painting to make up for it."

Nina laughed, setting her cup on the small, wooden table next to her chair.  "Why did you do that?"

"Oh, I knew I was getting the much better deal!  I knew Kansas would be something someday- her art is truly inspired and glorious.  That painting?  It's now hanging above my couch, and is worth well into the six digits."

Nina laughed again, liking this man.  She sobered quickly, wanting so badly to ask questions about the blonde, but knew better.  "I own a piece of hers, as well.  Came across it a few years back.  One of her sculptures."

"You do?" Michael leaned forward in his chair, hands resting on his knees.  "Well, sweetheart, count yourself lucky, and count yourself as one of three who do."

Nina stared at him, blinking twice.  "She only made three pieces."

"Yeppers."  Michael sat back, sipping from his latte.  "I've told her she needs to make more, but for some reason, she won't."  He shrugged.  "What do I know?  I'm only an art appraiser, after all."

Nina snickered, taking a sip from her drink as she glanced out to the street.  To her surprise, she saw Kansas across the street, seeming to be arguing with a petit brunette.  The woman with long hair was gesticulating wildly while Kansas stood back and watched, arms crossed defensively over her chest.  Her stance said it all- Kansas was irritated and Nina wasn't even sure if she were listening to what the other woman was saying. 

"Oh, lordy," Michael muttered, turning in his seat to watch the street show.  "Here we go."

"What's happening?" Nina asked, glancing at the man sitting across from her before turning her attention back to Kansas.

"She's just broke another one."  Michael sighed heavily, finishing off his latte.  "See, the problem is Kansas is just too damn nice, and too damn adorable."  He met Nina's gaze with a shrug. "She can't say no, and women can't resist her."

"How long has she been this way?" the brunette asked, unable to take her eyes off the blonde, who was now getting into the discussion, gesticulating her own points until finally she just walked away.  The brunette stood as if unsure, then with a most profound single-fingered statement, stormed down the sidewalk before disappearing into a bookstore at the end of the block.

Nina cleared her throat, straightening in her seat as Kansas crashed through the door of the gallery.

"Tough night?" Michael called out, voice sounding bored.

"Fuck off!" Kansas yelled over her shoulder as she stormed into the back room.  Nina watched, amused, as Michael ticked off five seconds on his fingers.  The door blew back open, Kansas appearing, staring at their guest. "Nina!" she said before she'd even realized she'd spoken.

"Hello, Kansas.  How are you?"

"Uh," the blonde ran a hand through her hair, making it even more wild than it was before.  She looked as though she'd just tumbled out of bed, dressed in baggy jeans and a tight tank top.

As he'd done a million times before, Michael stepped in to save his best friend from making an ass of herself.  "Gorgeous Nina stopped by for a latte and to chat, and look around at our fabulous little shop, didn't you, Nina?"

"Yeah.  Sure did." The brunette plastered a smile to her face.

"Excuse me for a moment, Nina, while I talk with my colleague for a moment." Michael pushed up from his chair and walked over to Kansas, grabbing her by the arm before forcefully shoving her toward the door to the back offices.

Nina got up from her chair, not sure what to think or feel.  She had no idea what had happened between Kansas and the brunette on the street, but she knew a hurt woman when she saw one- and the brunette had been hurt.  Who was she to judge, though?  She'd done her own fair share of hurting people.  Such as Abby the night before. 

With a heavy sigh, the brunette walked around the gallery, deciding what she'd buy.

Michael didn't let go of Kansas' arm until they were back by the espresso maker.  "Let go, asshole," she growled, yanking herself free.  The blonde didn't want to hear it, but knew she would anyway.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Kansas?" he hissed.  "Have your fucked up 'relationships' if you wish, but not in the middle of the goddamn street!"


"No, shut up and listen this time," the man said, holding up a manicured finger.  "Your friend in there and I- and half the town, might I add- saw your little show.  I don't care who you bang, and I don't care who you drop, but the don't bring it to work, or within walking distance of work.  Got it?"

Kansas hung her head, nodding like a good little girl.  She looked up at him with adoring green eyes.  "I'm sorry, Mikey."

Michael opened his mouth to continue the barrage, but lost it, the puppy dog look aimed at him making him forget what he was about to say.  "I hate it when you do that," he whined.  "I can never remember why I was pissed at you in the first place."

Kansas grinned big, giving the man a monster hug.  "Tell Nina I'm sorry for what she had to see."

Michael pulled back from the hug.  "Why don't you go tell her yourself?"

"Nah," Kansas said, waving off the idea. "I got too much to do."

"Okay.  But next time, Gadget. . . "  Michael leaned down and placed a quick peck on Kansas' lips, then turned to head back to the gallery.  Kansas watched him go, taking several deep breaths.

"I'm such an ass," she whispered, then headed toward her office.

Nina was minding her own business, perusing the artwork when Michael joined her again. "I'm really sorry," he muttered, walking along side her.  "I really wish she'd get herself straightened out.  She's so talented, and sometimes I really worry she'll just piss it all away."

"What do you think will change that?" the brunette asked, stopping in front of a gorgeous black and white of a snow landscape.  It would go perfectly in Nina's second bedroom.

"I don't know.  For her to grow up, maybe.  And what'll do that, hell if I know.  Been trying for years."  He sighed, giving his attention to the work before them.  "Oh, this one is gorgeous.  I always loved this shot."

"It's perfect for one of my bedrooms."  They both stood in silent wonder.  "How much do you want for it?"

Michael quoted Nina a price, which made her suck in a silent breath.  Mentally she calculated her bills compared to her savings, and it she should spend the money or not.  Finally she came to a decision.  "I'll take it."

"Wonderful!"  Michael clapped his hands. "And, I'll tell you what- I know the photographer personally, so leave it here with us, and I'll have him come in and sign it, then I'll deliver it personally to your front door."

Nina glanced at the good-looking guy.  "Is that going to raise the price?"

"Nah," Michael waved the question away.  "I'll do it for you."

With a smile and a handshake, the deal was made, and Nina was sent home, lighter in the checkbook, and gasping at the fact that she'd bought another expensive piece of art.  Perhaps she was becoming quite the collector. 


A week went by and Nina heard nothing from Michael about the photograph, and was beginning to get antsy.  She hadn't wanted to bug him, as maybe he hasn't been able to get hold of his friend to sign it.  It was Saturday, and she decided that if she heard nothing by that night, she'd head into the gallery the following afternoon. 

Moments after the decision was made, there was a knock on her front door.  Nina had been cleaning house, so hurried to put the vacuum away and scrub her hands on the thighs of her jeans as she pounded down the stairs of her townhouse.  Whipping the front door open, she was shocked to see Kansas standing on the doorstep.

"Hi," the blonde said with a bright smile.  She held up a large, flat square box and a cardboard tube.  "Special delivery."

Nina took a step back, inviting the artist in.  "Wonderful, thank you.  I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get my picture or not."

"Yeah, sorry 'bout that.  Mikey had trouble getting George to come out of hermit mode to sign it for you."  Kansas stepped inside, looking around. "So?  Where do you want it?"  Seeing Nina's confusion, the blonde explained. "I'm going to use my professional skills to hang it for you, too.  I even have a special tool-"  Kansas reaches inside her heavy jacket and brought out a standard hammer.  Nina chuckled, leading the blonde up the stairs. 

"I was thinking here, above the bed."  Nina stood at the foot, looking at the empty wall space.  She felt Kansas step up beside her.

"You know, I think it would be off balance there with the light sconce close to the corner.  Personally," the blonde turned to take in the room, examining all the wall space carefully.  "I'd put it between those two windows."

Nina studied the area critically, cocking her head to the side.  "You know, I thought about that, but I don't know, I worried that since the one window is a bit smaller than the other, it might seem off somehow."

"Nah.  This picture is a perfect size for that space."  Kansas quickly set about laying the boxed picture on the bed, removing it from is packaging and holding it up for inspection.  Nina walked over to her, looking the frame over, as well as seeing the signature now in the bottom left-hand corner, under the glass. 

"It's so beautiful," she breathed, loving the picture even more in her house than she had in the gallery. 

"You should feel proud that you have a signed copy, Nina," Kansas said, brow quirked. "George doesn't do that for anyone."

"Well, then tell Michael I'm very touched."

The brunette stood back, watching as Kansas went to work to get the picture hung just perfectly.  The blonde worked quickly, yet very carefully.  Blue eyes couldn't help but roam over Kansas' strong back, wrapped in a tight cap-sleeved t-shirt, as well as the way her ass was hugged by snug jeans.  Her gaze rose back up, though now she realized she was taking in firm breasts rather than a strong back. 

Kansas' smirk was amused as Nina quickly looked away, angry at herself for being busted looking.  She cleared her throat, deciding to move on and say something she'd been meaning to say since she had first found out Kansas was sculpting.  "I'm really proud of you, Kansas," she said, stuffing her hands in her back pockets to keep them from fidgeting.  She couldn't believe how nervous the blonde made her.  Definitely a new development. "You really followed your heart in your passion to create."  She chewed on her lower lip for a moment, then indicated Kansas should follow with the tip of her head. 

"Thanks, Nina," Kansas said, following the brunette down the stairs.  She couldn't help but take in the tight ass in blue jeans before her.  "So, do you work for the DA's office here, or. . . ?"

"No."  Nina smiled over her shoulder at the younger woman.  "I'm doctor Glassman now.  Went back to school, now I teach law up at CU."

"No shit?"  They arrived in front of the fireplace.  "Guess you followed your passions, too."  The blonde's grin fell off her face when she spotted what Nina had wanted to show her.  Looking up at her sculpture, she was stunned into silence. 

"I saw it a few years ago, and fell in love with it before I even know it was yours.  When I found out it was, I had to have it."  She smiled shyly, but couldn't help her gushing over the stunning piece of art.

Kansas felt an aw garsh moment coming on.  She actually scuffed her toe against the stone of the fireplace!  "I'm glad you have it."  She glanced shyly up at the brunette before quickly looking away.  For just a moment, the awkward 17 year-old was back.  Then, just as quickly, the cocky, confident 26 year-old was back.  "So tell me, Nina, you finally figure out the benefits of being with a woman?"

Nina blinked once, twice, then took a slight step back.  "I don't think that's any of your business, Kansas."

The blonde took a step toward the woman who had made her truly understand her sexuality. "Come on, Nina," she said, standing dangerously close, her eyes never leaving the brunette's.  "Let's continue where we left off on your back porch."  Kansas reached her hands out, lying them gently on the brunette's hips.  Standing no more than a couple inches away, she leaned in, inhaling Nina's scent.  "God, you smell so good," she whispered.  "I always remembered that about you."

Nina's eyes slipped closed, her body pulsing.  Then Kansas' words struck a chord: "I can smell you, baby. . . Smell good."  Kansas' whispered words from the bathroom stall a week before.  Nina grabbed the blonde's biceps in a firm grip, pushing her away.  Kansas looked at her, stunned.  Nina shook her head. "No.  I refuse to be just another one of your girls.  I won't be a notch for you, Kansas. I really want you to leave."

Kansas stood there, mouth falling open before snapping shut.  She tried to hide her hurt but wasn't sure how successful she was.  Running  a hand through her hair, she kept it cool, backing away toward the front door.  "Well, I hope you enjoy your purchase."  With a small salute, Kansas was gone.

Nina stood in front of the fireplace long after the slam of the front door had cracked.  Raising her gaze to the statue on her mantel, she sighed.  "Shit."  She headed upstairs to clean up the mess in the spare bedroom.  As she gathered the cardboard that had kept the picture safe, Nina noticed the cardboard tube that had been set on the bed next to it.  Curious, she sat on the edge, popping of the plastic end.  Slipping her fingers inside, she felt the smooth face of thick paper.  Slowly, carefully, she finagled the mystery sheet out, unrolling it.  "Oh, Kansas," she whispered, seeing her favorite of the family of sketches from the back wall of the gallery.  She checked the tube, hoping for a note.  Nothing.  With a heavy sigh, she glanced over at the photograph Kansas had just hung for her.


Nina headed into the gallery with purpose, eyes scanning the area.  A few murmuring customers stopped their chatter to see what the rush was, but returned back to their conversations when she passed.  She spotted Michael speaking with someone about one of Kansas' paintings, so walked over, but not too close.  She paced impatiently. 

"Sweetheart, what's the matter?  You look like you're about to walk a hole in the floor," the man said, walking over to the brunette.

"Where's Kansas, Michael?" she asked.

"She hasn't come in, yet.  I think she was finishing up a piece first.  Why?  Is everything okay?" Michael looked at her with concerned eyes.

"Yeah.  I just need to talk to her.  Listen, I'm going to head over to that bookstore across the street, get some coffee in the café.  If she comes in within the next hour or so, please send her over."

Michael nodded. "Okay."  He watched as the beautiful brunette headed out of the gallery, shaking his head.  "Oh boy."


The bookstore was small, a locally owned shop with a surprisingly large selection of books and newspapers.  Nina had made herself comfortable in an armchair with the latest Newsweek lying out on her lap.  She sipped a mocha breve as she read. 

Three scattered magazine later, and a very cold last few sips of mocha breve, someone sat down in the chair next to Nina's.  She glanced up, blinking in surprise as she'd gotten so lost in her reading.  Kansas grinned at her.

"You rang?"

"Hi.  Uh, yeah."  Nina slapped her magazine closed and tossed it to the small pile, scattering them to the floor.  She chuckled shyly as she gathered them back together on the small table. "How are you?"

"I'm alright.  And yourself?"  Kansas reclined in the chair, crossing an ankle over her knee, booted foot tapping an unknown beat.

"I'm, well," Nina looked down at her hands, then up into the expectant green eyes of her companion. "I won't apologize, as I don't feel I did anything wrong, but I do want to thank you.  The sketch was a wonderful surprise."

Kansas studied her for a long moment, then nodded.  "You're welcome.  If you're not going to apologize, then I guess I will."  Kansas paused, running a hand through already messy hair.  "I was an asshole.  You don't deserve that."  She grinned, crooked and rueful. "Guess maybe there's some latent anger in there somewhere."

"So then talk to me about it.  Get it out."  Nina indicated herself. "I'm here.  Here's your chance."

Kansas stared at her for a moment like she'd lost her mind, but then seemed to warm to the idea.  "Okay.  I was pissed as hell at you for a long time.  You were my first heartbreak.  How's that?  Let it out enough for ya?"

Nina sat there stunned, now wishing she'd never asked for it.  She could see by the look in Kansas' eyes that she was speaking from the heart.  "I guess I do need to apologize today," she said softly.  "I hope now, living a little bit of life and understanding the way things work, you can understand why I did what I did."

"My head does.  But my heart. . . "

"Doesn't have a clue," Nina finished.

"Pretty much."  Kansas waived the coffee shop girl over, giving her a charming smile as she ordered a bottle of water.  The girl quickly headed off to do her bidding.  She turned her gaze back to Nina, waiting.

"I was trying to do you a favor by leaving the way I did, Kansas.  It was wrong for me to feel the way about you that I did, and I knew that emotionally I was not in the right place to be feeling anything, or to trust any of those feelings.  I left to give us both a chance to start over, fresh, and honest."  She pleaded with her eyes for the blonde to understand.  "You needed time and room to grow up and I needed time and room to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with my life, since I'd just walked away from my old one.  Does that make sense?"

Kansas was quiet for a long moment, pulling out a couple bills to pay for her water as the girl returned with it.  Twisting off the top, she stared off into space, thinking.  Finally, after a long swallow of the cold drink, she nodded.  "Yes.  I can appreciate that.  It doesn't mean I have to like it," she said with a raised finger, "but I can understand."

"Quite honestly, I figured you'd go on to college, meet some cute girl your own age, and forget all about me."

Kansas studied her for a moment, blonde head cocked slightly to the side.  "Is that what you wanted me to do?  Forget about you?"

"Well," Nina hedged, a small smile on her lips. "Maybe not completely, but I did want you to find happiness, yes."

"Did you?  Find happiness."

"We're not talking about me," Nina said, trying her best to divert the attention back to Kansas.

"Oh, bullshit!" The blonde reached over and slapped her leg.  "You're so full of crap your eyes should've been brown instead of gorgeous baby blue.  Come on, Professor, teach me something."

"Cute," Nina drawled.  "Yes.  For the most part, I did find happiness.  I leaned to be true to myself, and I got myself out of every situation that was bringing me down in life, or that was less than what I would accept- my marriage, my career, the lies I told myself, and had been since I was 22 years old."

"What about love?" Kansas asked, her voice heartbreakingly soft.

Nina met the frank gaze with one of her own.  "No.  I don't know that I'm looking for it, either."

"I see.  Well then, guess we've got something in common, don't we?"

"I guess so."  Nina raised her long-cold coffee cup to clink with Kansas' raised water bottle.  "Here's to no love, and okay with it."

The blonde grinned, taking a swig from her drink.  "So, anti-love, care to have dinner with me tonight?"

Nina eyed her younger friend, chewing on her bottom lip before agreeing with a nod. "Alright."


Nina stormed into her townhouse, startled Yorkies getting well out of the way.  Lights flared to life in the brunette's rampage path.  She pushed through her bedroom door, stripping out of her jacket and throwing her purse to the bed.  She grabbed the hem of her shirt, about to whip it over her head when she heard the sound of pounding on the door downstairs.  Wanting to ignore it, she knew she couldn't. 

Nina stomped down to the main floor, shoving the curtains aside on the window next to the door.  Just as she figured, a very pissed off Kansas stood on the stoop.

"Yes?" she sad, pulling the door open.  The blonde was startled silent for a moment before regaining her bearing.

"What the hell, Nina?  Why did you leave the fucking restaurant?"

"Gee, I didn't know.  Shall I say for starters because my dinner companion was about to fuck some chick in the bathroom?" Nina fumed, hand on her hip.  Kansas pushed past her, entering the house.

"Your neighbors don't need to hear this."

"Don't need to hear what?  That you're an asshole of the highest degree?  Is that what you don't want them to hear?"  Nina marched into the kitchen, leaving Kansas still standing just inside the door.  She slammed it shut then followed, only narrowly missing getting hit by a flying dog toy that squeaked as it bounced off the wall behind Kansas.  "How the hell could you do that?  I cannot believe I agreed to go to dinner with you.  Mistake number one."  Kansas opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted as Nina continued. "Mistake number two was staying when I saw you eye that woman as she entered the damn restaurant.  My third and final mistake was believing that we could rekindle our friendship after all this time, and after all the shit I've heard about you and now seen with my own eyes."  She turned her back to the blonde, resting her weight on the counter by the sink.

"What you think happened didn't happen, Nina," Kansas said, her own anger bubbling just under the surface.

"You two were making out, Kansas!" Nina fumed, whirling on the smaller woman.

"She kissed me!"

Nina stared at her, incredulous.  "Kansas, you get up from the table, you're gone for fifteen minutes.  Do you have any idea how goddamn rude that is?  So, I get up to make sure you haven't had a fucking heart attack in the bathroom, and end up finding you and that woman making out."  She paused, shaking her head, her hurt showing in her eyes.  "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Wait," Kansas held up her hands in supplication.  "I know it looked bad.  Please, let me explain."

Nina stood back, arms crossed over her chest as she waited to hear what would come out of Kansas' mouth.  "Please.  Enthrall me."

"I saw that woman and I looked at her, yes.  She used to be an artist I worked with years ago, and who is going to be working with us on a show coming this winter.  Okay, yes, I looked at her, so strike me dead!  Next, I had to pee.  I'm sorry I didn't invite you to join me, but I truly had to piss!  While in the bathroom, Michael called me.  He had a slight emergency with one of our artists, mainly that one of his paintings was missing.  I made some calls, and we finally figured out that it had been sent out by Michael's assistant to be cleaned, but she forgot to let anyone know.  Sandra, said artist working with us this winter, came in to the bathroom as I was finishing up my calls, and we began to talk."

"So why was her tongue in your mouth?" Nina asked, shocked by just how jealous she felt- she was nearly vibrating with it.

"I was shocked by that, too," Kansas said, her voice tired as she ran a hand through her hair. "Sandra has made it clear since the day we met that she'd like to be more than colleagues, but I've never been interested.  I was about to shove her away when you came in.  I swear."

Nina kept her gaze, and saw that it was steady and true.  Kansas was telling the truth.  Blowing out a breath, she turned her back to the blonde again, feeling ashamed and stupid.   "I'm sorry I got so upset.  It was wrong."  A small smile touched her lips. "It was still rude, though."

Kansas breathed a sigh of relief as she walked up behind the brunette, studying the way her shirt hugged her body, the way dark tendrils of hair gleamed under the harsh kitchen light.  "I'm sorry I didn't say anything about the call, let you know.  I just got caught up in trying to fix my business."  She could feel the heat pouring off Nina's body in waves, drawing her in closer to be warmed.  Nina said nothing.  Kansas closed her eyes, allowing all that was Nina to seep into her skin, all five senses alive and aware.  "I'm sorry," she whispered, moving in closer until she could feel Nina's back press into her front, her arms reaching around to hug the taller woman.

Nina's eyes fell closed, her body falling back into the solidness that Kansas.  She turned her head to the side, feeling hot breath against her neck.  Her body began to send out a pulsing beat, demanding attention, craving Kansas' touch.  How is this possible?  It's been so long. 

"I'm sorry," Kansas whispered again, this time into Nina's ear, making the brunette shiver.  She tipped her head a bit more when she felt a soft kiss placed just behind her ear. 

"Nothing to forgive," Nina breathed, beginning to lose control. 

"I think there is," the blonde whispered, flicking Nina's lobe with her tongue.  She smiled at the small whimper from the older woman.  "I shouldn't be such an asshole.  Seems you bring it out in me."  She smiled at the chuckle she heard deep in Nina's throat.  She groaned when two hands reached around to her hips, squeezing. "Does your girlfriend make you feel like this?" Kansas asked, thinking of the redhead she'd seen Nina with at the club and at the gallery's opening.

"I don't have a girlfriend," Nina whispered, gasping softly as the hands on her stomach began to move, barely brushing just up under her breasts.

"Oh, I think you do.  She also didn't look happy seeing you dance with me."  Kansas leaned in close to the brunette's ear.  "I think she was jealous."

"We broke up.  Oh," Nina moaned as her breasts were covered by soft, gentle hands.  Her mind was frozen, no thought entering or leaving, except that what Kansas was doing felt amazing.

"Oh yeah?  Why, baby?"  Kansas felt herself growing more wet with each bold move.  She wanted Nina so bad it hurt.  Guess some things don't change. 

"I wouldn't. . . " Nina began, but trailed off as her breasts were massaged through her bra.

"Wouldn't what?"

"Wouldn't sleep with her," Nina finally gasped.

Kansas needed to see her, wanted so badly to kiss her.  She grabbed Nina by the hips and turned her around, pulling their bodies together.  "Stupid girl to walk away from you," Kansas murmured, bringing her hand up to curl around the back of Nina's neck.  "She should've stuck around."

Nina couldn't believe how soft Kansas' lips were, their kiss from eight years ago still fresh in her mind.  She felt the blonde deepen the kiss, her lips and tongue working magic in the brunette's mouth, the kiss, that from someone who was well versed in the art.  She felt her body giving in, the desires long-buried clawing to see the light of day.  She sighed into the kiss, burying her fingers in thick, blonde hair.

Something inside Kansas made her stop, a feeling of something being wrong, off, somehow.  She pulled back, both women gasping for air.  She took several deep breaths before looking up into confused, hooded blue eyes.  "I'm sorry," she said, running trembling hands through her hair.  "I have to know something."

"What?" Nina asked, body buzzing and alive. 


The brunette was utterly confused, and getting frustrated as her body was making demands that only Kansas could keep.  "Why what?"

"Why wouldn't you sleep with your girlfriend?"

Taken aback, Nina stared at the blonde.  "What?  Why?"

"I need to know.  Why?"  She couldn't explain it to herself, let alone the bemused woman standing in front of her.  She had a tickle in the back of her brain that told her she needed to know the answer to this question.

Nina moved slightly away, suddenly feeling very embarrassed by the answer she'd have to give Kansas.  Here she was 34, and a virgin with women.  "I didn't want to just give that to her," she said softly, her back to the blonde.

"What do you mean?" Kansas walked around the kitchen island until she was standing face to face with Nina. 

"I've never been with a woman, Kansas."  She smiled ruefully at the look of shock she received.  "I know.  Been out for three years and still haven't gone all the way.  Crazy, right?"

Kansas shook her head.  "No.  I don't get it, but no.  Not crazy.  But why?"

"Why do you sleep around so much?"

Kansas was taken aback by the non-sequitur.  "Uh, I guess I just haven't found the right one."  As she spoke, the light of understanding flared to life.  She nodded.  "I see."  Wow, did she ever feel like a shit.  Hands stuffed into the back pockets of her jeans, she took a step back.  "I should probably go, Nina."

The brunette nodded.  She'd had enough humiliation for one night.  "Yeah.  Probably so."

"Listen, why don't you come to my place Friday night.  I'll make you dinner."  Kansas continued at Nina's confused expression.  "We need to talk, I think."

Nina nodded in agreement.  "Okay.  Give me the details and I'll be there."


The work week was good, but long, as usual.  Nina sat on a stone bench on campus and watched the students and faculty around her.  Her eye caught two girls walking together.  Nina was pleased to see that they were holding hands.  She watched the couple, noting how comfortable they were with each other.  She missed that, having someone in her life who knew her better than anyone.  Someone she could cuddle with and tell her dreams to.  She had to laugh at herself with that last one- she'd never had that.  Certainly not with Dan, and since him, she'd not really let anyone get close enough.

With a heavy sigh, Nina pushed up from the bench, tucking the tests she'd been grading under her arm, and heading off toward her office.  She could feel autumn in the air, and it was brisk.


Kansas honestly couldn't say why she was nervous for Nina to see her place, but she was.  She had spent the day cleaning an already spotless house, and making sure dinner was perfect.  She truly had no conscious thoughts of what she expected or wanted to come of this, but she was determined to get it going on the right foot.

Glancing at the clock over the stove once more, Kansas saw that Nina was due in five minutes.  Take a deep breath, she walked into the dining room where she'd placed two table settings, candles at the ready.  She nearly jumped out of her skin when the doorbell sounded.  Blowing out a steadying breath, Kansas padded over to the front door and pulled it open.

Nina smiled a greeting, taking in the blonde's comfy jeans, light-weight sweater and bare feet.  She was glad she, too had chosen to keep it simple in jeans and a long-sleeve tee.  "Hi," she said.

"Hi.  Welcome and come in."  Kansas stepped aside, waiting for her guest to enter.  She hadn't seen her all week, and after seeing her several times in as many days, she had really missed the brunette. 

Nina entered the modest ranch-style house.  Though it was dark out, Nina hadn't noticed too many houses nearby. "This is really beautiful, Kansas," she said, taking in the gorgeous wood accents and pine furniture.  She hadn't expected something so rugged from an artist, instead thinking it would be all metal and glass contemporary, like the gallery.

"Thanks," Kansas tossed over her shoulder, leading Nina toward the dining room.  I hope you're hungry.  I made a ton.  Hope baked chicken is okay."

"Yeah.  Sounds terrific." 

"Great!"  Once they'd arrived in the formal room, Kansas got her guest settled, then looked around.  It was so damn. . . formal.  "You know what, I'm sorry, Nina.  This just isn't me.  Grab your plate."  She nodded toward the kitchen, where she headed, plate in hand.  Confused, Nina did the same.  In the kitchen, Kansas began to dish food that smelled heavenly.  "I'm sorry," she said with a sheepish grin.  "I hate that room.  I don't know why I set up in there.  Do you mind?" she asked, a hopeful brow raised.  Nina chuckled, amused.

"No.  I don't mind.  Where to?"

Plates loaded, Kansas led them down a narrow hall, which led to a glassed in back patio.  The blonde flicked on a light- beyond was a garden filled with just about every type of flower and plant that would grow in Colorado.  Much of it was starting to die for the coming cold, but it was still beautiful.

Nina gasped in surprise.  "God, this is so gorgeous, Kansas."  Setting her plate down, she walked over to one of the huge windows that overlooked the garden.  "Bet all the women you bring home love this, huh?" she asked, teasing in her voice.  Kansas stepped up beside her, a small quirk of her lip.

"Wouldn't know.  I've never brought a woman here before."

"Why not?"

"Because this is my sanctuary.  Where I go to be me."  She glanced briefly at Nina before returning her gaze back to her pride and joy- next to her art studio. 

Nina had a question on her tongue, but decided to stow it.  "Then I'm honored."  She smiled at the sheepish blonde.  "Come on," she said. "Let's eat."

As they settled in comfortable loungers, the women were silent, contemplating the night beyond and the food on their plates.  After awhile, Nina glanced at her dinner hostess.

"Michael told me you left college."  Once she saw she had Kansas' attention, she continued.  "Why?"

Kansas shrugged as she chewed the bit of chicken in her mouth.  She downed some of her beer with it.  "I guess I just felt college wasn't really helping me.  I honestly believe that if you have a natural talent- painting, playing the guitar, writing- college can actually be a hindrance.  I was tired of waiting, you know?"

Nina nodded, wiping her mouth with a napkin.  "I can see that.  Unfortunately, what I'm good at required extensive education."

"And, what was that?"

"Arguing," Nina grinned.

"I'll drink to that!" Kansas clinked her glass bottle against the brunette's glass of water.  They sat on in companionable silence for awhile before Kansas broke the still.  "So, when did you come out?  How did it happen?"  She eyed her friend over her beer as she drank.

"Hmm, how did it happen," Nina murmured with a sigh as she set her plate aside.  "Well, after I left Dan and Ohio, I dated a couple guys off and on, but more off than on." She wrinkled her nose at the memory. "One day I realized that I was lying to myself, always had been, so headed out to a local gay club.  Ended up dancing with a few different women and had the time of my life."

"But you never dated anyone seriously since then?"

Nina shook her head.  "No."

"Damn," Kansas sat back in her chair, shoving her plate to the side table.  "How hasn't someone snapped you up?"

"Guess I'm just lucky."  Nina grinned.  She pushed up from the lounger. "Give me a tour of this place.  It looks beautiful."

"It is.  I love it here."  Kansas stacked their plates, and with the help of Nina, brought everything inside.  Within moments they had the kitchen cleaned up, and the tour began.  Kansas took Nina out back, through the gardens, explaining what everything was.  As they walked through the gorgeous plants and flowers, Nina couldn't help but glance up at the blonde from time to time.  She glanced up again, but this time her gaze was caught by Kansas.  The blonde met and held her gaze for a long moment, neither able or willing to look away.  Finally the blonde broke the contact, leading them further into her sanctuary.

"I would come out here all summer, spend hours and hours out here."  She grinned over at Nina.  "Guess all that yard work I did for you paid off, huh?"

"Definitely.  I would have loved to see this in all its glory, before the cold began to set in."  The brunette looked around, imagining in her mind's eye what it must have smelled like, being surrounded by so many different types and flowers.

"Guess you'll just have to see it next summer." 

"Guess so."

The house was beautiful, various pieces of art- those made by Kansas and by other artists- were scattered throughout.  Nina was led through a home office, a master bedroom, which she only peeked into, and finally an art studio that was the entire basement.  Naked canvases were leaned against walls, old coffee cans were set out on a table, filled with various types of brushes, all well-used and cared for.

Standing off to one side, next to a large light and a fan, stood an easel, its canvas covered by a white sheet.

"Is this your newest work?" Nina asked, indicating the canvas.  Kansas nodded, hands tucked into the back pockets of her jeans, rocking on the balls of her feet.  "May I, master artist?"

Kansas chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, indecisive, but then nodded, taking a deep breath. "Go ahead."

Nina flipped the sheet up and over the large canvas, her breath catching at what she revealed.  Her image from eight years ago, reclining on the couch.  The sari she had worn, barely covering her breasts, and her head turned away.  The sensual lines of the work, the amazing definition and detail.  It took her a moment to catch her breath.  When she turned to Kansas, she saw the shy smile on the blonde's face.

"I've been working on that one for about five years," Kansas said softly.  Little bits here and there.  Seeing you again, well, it kind of rekindled the fire for that piece of work, I guess."

"That's exactly how you drew me," Nina said, her voice soft.  "Where's the version you did for yourself?  The one your mom told me about."

Kansas grinned, looking down at her bare feet.  "I threw those out a long time ago."


The blonde took a moment to answer, but when she did, she met Nina's gaze.  "Because I knew they couldn't compare to the real thing."

Nina's breath caught, her heart pounding.  "You always made me feel so good about myself," she whispered.  "So beautiful, smart.  I honestly don't think anyone has ever made me feel like a woman.  At least, not the woman that you see."

Kansas smiled, looking down, bangs falling into her eyes.  "I have a small confession to make," she said, her voice barely audible.  "I haven't been in a relationship, at least nothing solid, all these years because you've been my standard since I was 17."  She looked up, looking deeply into Nina's eyes.  "No one compared to you.  Ever."

Nina was deeply touched by the honesty and sincerity she saw in Kansas' eyes.  She meant it.  She made a decision, and didn't plan to go back from it.  Walking over to Kansas, who still stood rooted, she reached a hand out, resting it on the blonde's arm.  She looked down, seeing where her long fingers met the blue of the sweater fabric.  She ran her hand up a thick bicep to a strong shoulder.

"Since when did you get all this muscle?"

"Since I quit smoking six years ago."  Kansas grinned at the disapproving look on the brunette's face.  "Hey, at least I quit.  I had to have something to focus my energy on."

The hand made its way up over the blonde's jaw until finally gentle fingers brushed hair out of green eyes.  Kansas' eyes closed briefly at the touch, but quickly opened again to find themselves pinned with intense blue.  Nina could feel her heart pounding as she looked deep into all that Kansas was, written there in her eyes.  The younger woman always had such expressive eyes.  Locked inside that gaze she saw desire, deep caring and. . . fear.

Brining her other hand up, Nina cupped Kansas' face.  "Why are you so afraid?" she whispered, feeling the body heat pour off the younger woman.

"You scare me," Kansas said, trying to swallow her fears.

"Why?  What could I possibly do to you?"

"Hurt me."  Kansas lowered her head. "You're the only one who has."  She was brought back up by two fingers under chin.

"I'm so sorry, Kansas.  I truly am," she murmured as she pressed soft lips to the blonde's forehead.  She felt tentative fingers rest on her hips, which made her move her body a bit closer.  "I hope you know I never meant to hurt you like that," she said, placing anther soft kiss to one closed eyelid.  "I was trying to do what I thought was best at the time."  A kiss to the other eyelid. 

"I-" Kansas stopped herself, taking a deep breath.

"You, what?" Nina pulled back just enough to look into the blonde's slowly opening eyes.  She thought Kansas had the cutest dreamy expression on her face.

"I want to kiss you," the blonde whispered.  Nina felt the words all the way down to the core of who she was.  Looking down into her face, Nina realized that nothing had ever felt so right as the thought of being kissed by Kansas in that moment.

Kansas looked into Nina's eyes, trying to read the hidden message she knew she saw in them.  Taking a chance, she tightened her grip on the brunette's hip with one hand, bringing the other up to cup the strong jaw, only to ease it around to the back of Nina's neck.  Slowly bringing the darker head down to meet hers, Kansas closed her eyes, anticipating the softness of the full lips that had haunted her throughout her 20s.  When Nina didn't move away, she relaxed into the kiss, moving slightly closer to deepen the contact.

Nina felt everything click into place- her desires, her wants and her needs, all wrapped up in one very talented little blonde- in that kiss.  She buried her fingers in soft, blonde hair as she tilted her head slightly, deepening the kiss even more.  She smiled inside when she heard Kansas' sigh of enjoyment.

Kansas wrapped her arms around Nina, pulling their bodies flush.  The body heat between them was immense, both nearly burned by it.  Nina gave out a little whimper/gasp at the first touch of Kansas' tongue against her own.  She responded immediately, leaning into the firm softness that was Kansas.

After long moments, the kiss broke, both needing to breathe.  Nina rested her forehead against Kansas', trying to get herself under control.  It wasn't working.  Her sex pulsed with want, skin almost painfully sensitive to the touch.  All he could do was flex her fingers in blonde hair rhythmically, unsure how to voice her desires.  Finally Kansas did it for her.

Without a word, the blonde took Nina's hand in hers, leading them through the basement studio, shutting off lights as she went.  When they reached the main level of the house, she headed toward the hallway that would lead to the bedrooms, pausing to glance over her shoulder at Nina to get a feel for what she was thinking or feeling.  Did she realize where she was taking her?  Nina urged her on with a quick squeeze of her fingers. 

Nina's heart was racing almost frighteningly fast, though she was surprised that it wasn't fear that pulsed through her veins- she felt no fear at all as she followed Kansas down the long, dim hallway, ending in the large master bedroom, where she'd peeked her head in only a short while before.  Standing just inside Kansas' bedroom, she broke the silence.

"Will your dogs be okay if you stay here tonight?"

Nina was touched by the question and concern.  She smiled, nodding.  "I left down plenty of food and piddle pads."  They both chuckled to break a bit of the tension in the air, but soon, need ran supreme once more.  Kansas, still holding Nina's hand, brought her over to the king-sized bed, gently pushing the brunette to lie back on it.

"How many women have been here before me?" she asked, somewhat leery as her inexperience came back to the forefront of her thoughts.

Kansas smiled, slowly crawling up to position herself on top of the brunette.  She placed a soft kiss on swollen lips. "None.  I told you- this is my sanctuary."  She lay fully atop Nina, both sighing into a new kiss at the contact.  Kansas reached down, cupping the underside of one of Nina's thighs, bringing the leg up, her hand massaging the flesh encased in denim.  This maneuver opened the brunette up so Kansas could fit one leg between Nina's.  She eased her hips down, pressing in the place she was needed most.

Nina broke the kiss, eyes closed and neck arched at the subtle pressure to her sex.  She began to move her hips, her long-neglected libido flaring to life in glorious colors behind her closed lids.  A moan escaped as a hot tongue began to blaze a trail down over her throat.

"I'm glad this is happening now," Kansas whispered against the column of Nina's throat. "I never would've been able to make love to you the right way at 18."

Nina couldn't answer, instead her hand finding its way into Kansas' hair, urging her on.  After a moment she found her voice.  "I just hope I can live up to what you've always had in your mind."

Kansas lifted her head, looking into heavily lidded eyes.  "You already do, baby," she murmured, then leaned down for a searing kiss.  One of her hands slipped up under Nina's shirt, feeling the heated skin against her palm.  She broke away again, looking into a very flushed face.  Blue eyes blinked open in question.  "I have to know," Kansas said, "Are you sure you want this?" 

Nina basked in the wonderful warmth she felt from Kansas, and saw in her eyes.  She smiled, reaching up to cup her face.  There was no thought required.  She nodded.  That was all Kansas needed.  She kissed the brunette with the passion she'd felt for so long, taking Nina's breath away in the process.  Leaving the full lips, she moved her mouth back to Nina's throat, murmuring words of passion against the skin.

Nina was lost in sensation as her hands roamed down Kansas' back, finding the end of her sweater, and sliding her hands up underneath, feeling the expanse of a strong back.  Suddenly she desperately wanted to see what lie beneath.  She yanked up on the back of the garment, giving Kansas no guess work.

Kansas got to her knees, pulling her sweater up over her head and tossing it to the floor.  She looked down at Nina, curious of her reaction.  The brunette sat up, eyes locked on firm breasts held by a satin and lace bra.  She ached to touch it, so she brought tentative hands up.  Her wrists were caught in gentle hands, her palms placed flat on the blonde's breasts.

"Touch me, Nina," Kansas whispered.  "It's okay."  Her eyes fell closed as she was squeezed, a thumb running over a hard nipple.

Nina was mesmerized, wanting to see more.  She climbed to her own knees, looking Kansas in the eye as she reached around her and unhooked the garment.  The straps slid down strong shoulders and arms, and finally was tossed to join the blue sweater.  Nina took in Kansas' incredible body, wanting to touch every curve, every satin-covered muscle.  "You are so unbelievably beautiful, Kansas," she whispered, meeting adoring eyes.

As Kansas leaned in for a kiss, she worked on Nina's own shirt, bringing it over the older woman's head, Nina shaking her head to clear her hair from it.  The kiss continued immediately, Kansas' passion growing every more scorching between her thighs.  She reached around Nina, and with an expert touch, released the catches in her bra.  Nina moaned into her mouth as the blonde brought their naked breasts together for the first time.

Nina was pushed back onto the bed, Kansas leaning over her, taking in all that had been bared. "Jesus," the blonde whispered, bringing a hand up to cup a large breast.  "How the hell did I ever think I could capture you on paper?  You're perfection."

Nina was left speechless by the blonde's declaration.  In lieu of words, she grabbed Kansas by the back of the neck and brought her down for a hard kiss.  Her hands were everywhere, finally making their way down to a hard ass, taking in a hard grip, making Kansas moan into her mouth, narrow hips jerking. 

"I want you so bad," Kansas whimpered, pushing up to her knees again and making short work of the buttons on Nina's jeans.  She yanked hard, bringing them down until they were gathered around the hiking boots the brunette wore.  She quickly removed the shoes and socks, then pulled the jeans all the way off.  Looking back up the long, firm body, she could see Nina's chest heaving with every flushed breath she took.  She ran the flat of her hand all the way up one leg, over a slightly pronounced hip bone, and up and over a flat tummy to a firm breast and rigid nipple. 

Kansas lowered her lips to begin a trail starting with one of Nina's feet, licking the arch and making the brunette squirm.  She slowly, thoroughly, made her way up the long leg, getting as far as the knee before moving to the other leg.  Nina watched as long as she could before the pleasure and sensation caused her eyes to close, her fingers gripping the bedding beneath her.  Her sex was pulsing in rapid time with her heartbeat, clit jumping with every hot swipe of Kansas' tongue.  When the artist made it to Nina's other knee, she rose to her own knees once more, and with a quick kiss to the brunette's lips, she hooked her fingers into the bikini briefs Nina wore, and slid them down long legs.

Fully nude, Nina felt extremely vulnerable, even with the hungry look in Kansas' eyes.  "I want to see you," she said, her voice quiet.  She was relieved when she saw Kansas stand from the bed, quickly unbuttoning and stepping out of her jeans, kicking them aside.  She wore no underwear beneath them, which made Nina's breath catch.  She began to sit up, but was pushed back as Kansas climbed on top of her, their bodies melding as the blonde settled herself between Nina's legs.

"This feels so amazing," Nina moaned, hands running down Kansas' back and resting on her ass, pulling her further into her.  Kansas kissed a trail down along Nina's jaw, slowly making her way to her breasts.

"Gonna feel a whole lot more amazing when I get through with you," she grinned, just before taking in as much of Nina's breast as she could.  Nina cried out, her back arching as she buried her fingers in thick hair.

"God, yes," she hissed, spreading her legs wider, desperate for pressure to her center.  Never in her life had she been so wet and ready.  "Please, Kansas.  Oh, baby, please. . . "

"What do you want?" Kansas murmured against the side of Nina's other breast. 

"Oh, god," Nina whimpered.  "I need you," was all she could say.

"You've got me, baby," Kansas said, understanding what Nina wasn't able to verbalize.  She gave the nipple in her mouth one last flick of her tongue, then kissed her way further down, taking her time until she adjusted her shoulders underneath Nina's knees.  She inhaled the wet hot smell of Nina's arousal, and it made her mouth water.  She loved going down on a woman, tasting her, giving her the ultimate intimate kiss, but she had never wanted to make love to a woman with her mouth like she wanted to to Nina in that moment. 

Nina's head arched back, deep breath sucked in as a hot tongue swiped through her drenched folds, the very tip fluttering against her clit.  She reached down, holding Kansas' head still, wanting to keep her where she was, the pleasure rushing through her with blinding speed.  A groan sounded in her throat when she was entered by two fingers.  Her hips moved in rhythm with Kansas, her mind exploding in a wave of pleasure.

Kansas paid careful attention to Nina's body, and what it was telling her.  She could tell the brunette was getting close so focused her attention on Nina's swollen clit, sucking it between her lips and flicked her tongue continuously over the bundle of nerves, her fingers setting an unrelenting pace.

Nina's head swam back and forth, constant moans coming from her throat until the pleasure took her over, eyes squeezing shut as she cried out, hands pressing hard into Kansas' head, holding her still as she rode the blonde's face, body convulsing as she came again and again.  Finally she begged Kansas to stop, pulling her up along her body until she could kiss her, tasting herself on full lips.

Kansas caressed the side of Nina's face with the backs of her fingers as they kissed, soft and gentle, her body still burning, needing release.  She moaned in surprise as suddenly Nina wiggled a hand between their bodies, fingers finding the copious wetness between her thighs.

"Oh, Nina," the blonde moaned, breaking the kiss to rest her forehead on the pillow, her breathing coming in quick pants with each stroke, her hips moving in tandem.  She adjusted her body until she was straddling Nina's body, the brunette's fingers finding their way inside.  Kansas rested her hands on Nina's shoulders to help balance herself as she moved her hips, riding the long fingers.  She cried out as one of her breasts were cupped, a soft palm rolling over her nipple.  "Oh, fuck," she gasped, her hips moving faster.

Nina couldn't get enough, looking up at the writhing body of Kansas, her gorgeous breasts heaving with every breath she took.  Nina wanted to taste the flesh, so she nudged Kansas down, continuing the movement of her hand.  Getting the idea, Kansas leaned over, her breasts hovering over Nina's face.  She groaned long and languid as a hot mouth encompassed one of her hard nipples.

"Oh, god, don't stop. . . "  Kansas' hips began to move faster, her body demanding more as she came close to climax.

Nina released Kansas' breast so she could fully concentrate one making the blonde come, wanting so badly to see the younger woman's pleasure.  She placed her free hand on the blonde's hip, urging her to ride her.

Kansas' body convulsed around Nina's fingers, eyes squeezed shut as a soundless scream contorted her face.  She let out a huge gasp as her fingers let go of their claw-like grip on Nina's shoulders.  As she came back to herself, she was pulled down into a soothing embrace, back and hair caressed and soothing words murmured into her ear.  She sighed in absolute contentment as she cuddled closer, resting her full upper body weight atop Nina. 

Worried she was hurting the older woman, she started to push herself up, but was held tighter. "Stay," Nina whispered, placing a soft kiss to the blonde's temple.

After a moment, Kansas spoke, nuzzling further into Nina's neck.  "We still need to talk."

Nina grinned. "Yeah, we do."

Kansas raised her head, looking at Nina with pleading eyes. "Please don't run away this time.  I really think we've got something between us."

Nina smiled, shaking her head.  "No running this time.  We do have a lot to talk about, but not tonight."  She cupped the back of Kansas' neck, bringing her down, their lips a breath apart.  "I've got other plans for you."

Kansas grinned, nodding.  "Oh, yeah."

The End


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