For complete disclaimers see part 1.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at:



Kim Pritekel



Part 8


"That son of a bitch," Rachel muttered, pushing through the ER doors that would eventually put her right smack in the middle of the ER waiting room. That's where she found her target.

He sat in one of the hard plastic chairs, head back against the wall, a Band-Aid covering the lone boo boo he got on his forehead. Though Rachel had to smirk knowing the headache he must have from hitting the steering wheel with his worthless noggin.

"Well, I don't really think you give a damn, but you're wife is going to live, and so is her baby. At least as of this moment."

Kevin looked up at the terse tone, seeing the redheaded nurse with hands on hips, looking to do battle.

For a moment, albeit a very short moment, Rachel almost felt bad at the utterly pitiful look on his face. Luckily it passed quickly.

"Can I see her?" he asked, getting ready to stand. He oomphed as a hand pushed him back into his chair.

"Not on your life, pal. She doesn't want to see you. Besides, she's sleeping. We had to give her a sedative because she was so worried that her baby was dead." The nurse looked at the man with hard, accusing eyes. "And just so you know, that nice officer over there would like to have a word with you."

Rachel turned and headed back into the ER. Perhaps she was getting a little too much satisfaction from this, but she couldn't help it. From what she'd gathered from her friend, they'd been fighting over Kevin's immaturity in taking responsibility for the child he helped to create. Ungrateful bastard. He had one of the finest women God had ever deemed worthy to create, and he was letting her get away. Dumbass.

She headed down the hall, hearing the chaos of a new arrival in progress. Seeing they had it under control, she headed to the cubical where Willow slept.

She felt her anger grow as she thought back to just how hysterical Willow had been, terrified that her baby hadn't made it, had been killed by the impact of the seatbelt against her mid-section.

"Bastard," she muttered, pushing the curtain aside.

Kevin watched the nurse leave, dread and fear creeping up his spine to fill him with a sense of loss. He was stunned to find out his wife didn't want to see him, and suddenly felt panicked, like a little boy who wasn't allowed to join in.

"Shit," he muttered. He'd really fucked up this time.

"Kevin Bowman?" the officer asked, pad of paper in hand.

Blue eyes turned to the tall, black cop. His sense of dread intensified.


Willow moaned slightly, head turning to the side, hand automatically resting on her stomach. Green eyes popped open.

"My baby," she whispered.

"Is fine. Honey, you and your baby are okay."

Willow turned to see Rachel sitting at her bedside, and realized the redhead held her hand. She squeezed the cool fingers around her own, then settled back onto the scratchy pillow.

"Are you sure, Rach?" she asked, voice just as scratchy.

"Yeah. We're sure, honey. How are you feeling?" Rachel brought her other hand up, checking the temp of the blonde's skin, as she was still deathly pale.

"Well, as you said, I'll live. Is he still here?"

"No. He left once the cops were through with him. Some big, burly guy came and got him."

"His brother Joe," Willow readjusted her aching body, sighing heavily. "Did he say anything?"

"Not much. He asked to see you. That was about it."

"Can I crash at your place for a little while?" Willow asked, her voice very quiet.

"Of course you can, honey. I was going to insist on it, actually." The redhead flashed a brilliant smile at her friend, who weakly returned it.

"Thanks, Rachel."

"Anytime, sweetie. I have to get back to work. You relax and allow yourself to sleep, okay? Everything will be fine, sweetie. I promise." Rachel stood, then leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on her friend's forehead.

Once left alone, Willow stared at the light above her, dimmed, making the cubical near dark. Rachel wanted her to sleep and relax. How on earth was she supposed to do that? Kevin's words echoed through her head:

"I don't want this fucking kid, I never did ...I do not want to be a father!"


The sting of fresh tears made her squeeze her eyes shut once more, tired of crying. Her eyes hurt and the skin of her face was stiff and tight, trails of salt still able to be felt.

She had some serious decisions to make.


"Is there anything else you need, sweetie?" Rachel asked, about to stand from sitting on the edge of the bed. Willow looked just like a little girl, all tucked in, covers up to her chin. Rachel thought it was adorable.

"Yeah, for you to let me give you your bed back," the blonde grumbled.

"Nonsense." The redhead stood, patting Willow's foot. "I want you to be as comfortable as possible, got me? TV's right there, remote is on the table next to you, glass of ice cold iced tea next to it. Um, I think that's it. You just rest. You need it, honey."

After awhile Willow was left alone to toss and turn, trying to sleep. It just wasn't happening. Her mind was everywhere at once, like a million voices all talking at the same time.

Finally giving up, she sat herself up, wincing at the sore muscles and bruised mid-section. Glancing at the illuminated red numbers on the alarm clock across the room, Willow saw that it was just after three in the afternoon. The blonde's OBGYN had insisted that Willow stay overnight in the hospital for observation, just to make sure nothing unexpected came up with the pregnancy. Everything okay, she was released the following morning.

She hadn't realized she'd even slept that long, as she'd finally closed her eyes around eleven. Sipping from the now cold water on the bedside table, her fingers bumped against the remote for the mounted television, so she grabbed it.

"Who cares who the father of your kid is," she muttered bitterly as she passed the Maury Povich show. "Even when you do, it doesn't matter." Having no desire to see a pride of lioness' stalk and kill an antelope, she bypassed Animal Planet.

"She was real upset. Don't know what it was all about, but she stayed for like two hours, bought everyone in the place my award winning cinnamon roles," said some guy in an apron, that when Willow squinted, kind of reminded her of that guy who was in that show her dad used to watch all the time, something night, heat, Heat of the Night, that was it.

About to move on, she stopped, an image of Christine in earlier footage greeting a crowd, then onstage.

"She was in a hospital for fatigue earlier in the year, wasn't she?" one anchor asked the other on the entertainment program.

"Maybe she's pulling a Mariah Carey." They both laughed, then the man turned back to the camera. "In Wacko Jacko news-"

"Christine," with a grunt, Willow pushed the heavy layer of covers off, a chill hitting her bare legs from the ice-age temp Rachel kept her house at the end of summer.

Finding her clothed neatly hung up in the closet, Rachel's own clothes shoved aside, she tugged on a pair of jeans, leaving the tank she slept in on, and headed out further into the house, looking for her purse and phone.

"Willow! What are you doing up? I don't recall giving you permission to only sleep for," the redhead checked the stovetop clock, "four hours." She set her cup of coffee down on the kitchen table, where she'd been working on bills.

"Yeah, and I don't recall giving you permission to freeze me out of your house."

"Eh, stop whining. A colder environment is better for you, and you get used to it." Rachel smiled, though it faltered when she heard Willow's muttered comment about polar bears. Noting that her friend was obviously on a mission, looking under couch pillows, in the pantry and even glancing out the window. "Uh, honey, what are you looking for?"

"My purse," the blonde murmured as she opened the slatted door once more.

"Yeah, cause I always keep mine in the pantry," Rachel chuckled as she got up and walked into the small office off the living room. Coming back, she handed the small, brown bag to her friend. "What's up? Are you okay?"

"Yeah." Willow took the bag then began to look through the leather compartments frantically. "Got it!" Raising the phone in victory, she flipped it open.

"Whoa, no. You are not calling him," Rachel was over there in a second, trying to grab the phone from the blonde, who yanked it away.

"Kevin? Are you out of your mind? No, I'm calling Christine." She turned her attention back to the phone, seeing she had a missed message.


"The one and only." Willow put the phone to her ear, listening to her message. Rachel watched in fascination as her friend's facial expression went from surprise to brow-furrowed worry, to outright collapse in upset. "Oh, Christine," she whispered, searching through the phone's address book until she came up with the singer's number, then quickly hit send.

"What's going on?" Rachel asked, all humor gone.

"I don't know. I think something's happened. I saw on TV that, hey!" she was interrupted as the call was picked up.

Realizing that their conversation was over, the redhead left Willow to it.


Eyes closed, Christine spread her hands out, the smooth, polished surface under her palms as she leaned her weight on the grand. Shoulder hunched, she hung her head.

"Fuck," she whispered. "What was I thinking. Stupid, stupid, stupid."


Christine whirled, eyes teared up, face red with a mixture of upset and rage at the invasion of her privacy.

"Not now, Bob. If you know what's good for you, you'll leave me the fuck alone," she growled, body tense, pounce-mode. The manager stopped where he stood, frozen mid-step, but it passed. He continued on, though didn't step up as close as he intended.


"I don't think it would be wise for you to threaten me right now, Christine," he said, his voice a low purr.

"What are you going to do, Bob?" she asked, taking a step toward him, satisfied as he took a step back. She needed to see that flicker of fear in his hard, cold eyes. She needed to feel there was some control for her, that she affected him in some way, other than as a living bank.

"What were you thinking, Christine?" he asked, backing up another step in their little tango of power. "It's all over the news and the papers. The public is starting to think you're losing your mind. I'm wondering if they're not right." A light smirk touched his lips when the singer faltered, but only for a step.

"What do you know, Bob? You're nothing but a heartless bastard," she hissed.

"What had you so upset?" he asked, struggling to gain the upper hand back in this conversation. "Forget to take your anti-depressants again, did you?"

"Go to hell, you son of a bitch. How about I tell you that your friend, shit you don't have any, okay, your accountant was dying of AIDS, then we'll talk." She gave him one last glare then started past him.

"That little faggot got the gay cancer, huh?"

Christine's blood froze for just one moment, then she turned to him and without another thought, her fist went flying through the air. The sickening smack that followed was punctuated with first a grunt if impact, then a yelp of pain.


Fist in mid-air again, the signer stopped, turning to see Sandra run into the room, her heels clacking noisily against the hardwood.

"No!" she put herself between Robert, who was holding his nose, blood squirting between his fingers, and one enraged ex-street fighter. "No," she repeated, putting a hand on Christine's arm. "This isn't the way to go about this. Please, stop," two sets of blue eyes met, one pleading, the other filled with a fiery hatred. "Please," Sandra whispered, praying to god she could get through to the singer. She knew Robert would ruin her in any way he could to make up for his humiliation.

Blinking several times, Christine came back into herself, shaking visibly, she hurried out of the room.

"That fucking bitch," Bob husked through his fingers. "Fucking bitch."

"You deserved it, Robert." Sandra helped him to his feet. "Jesus," she grimaced at the sight of his ruined nose, lower half of his face covered in blood. "I hope you didn't pay a lot for that nose job, or at the very least have full coverage on that thing," the designer smirked.

"Get the fuck away from me," Robert growled, pushing past the suited woman, heading toward the wet bar at the far end of the room. "Do something useful and call Dr. Rae for me. Here," he tossed her his cell phone. "He's on speed dial 1."

"Good to know where I rank in the scheme of things," Sandra muttered as she did as asked. Robert grabbed a white bar towel, running it under cold water, then put it to his nose. The coppery taste of blood in his mouth was making him nauseous, as well as the pain.

He looked up, seeing his reflection in the mirror above the small, stainless steel sink. The white Prada shirt he wore was ruined, the pressed, yet 'casually' open collar was stained pink from the diluted blood and water. A reddish brown stain was on the side of his neck, sticky, making his skin feel tight.

"Fucking cunt."

He straightened, keeping the rag to his nose as he heard the soft murmurings of Sandra on the phone with his plastic surgeon, or more accurately, with his secretary. The phone was snapped shut.

"If you can get there in fifteen minutes he can see you." Sandra walked over to him, tucking his phone into his hip pocket. "Robert, you really should go to the-"

"No! There will be no fucking photographers to see that my fucking client broke my fucking nose."

Rolling her eyes, she grabbed him by the arm, only to have him snatch it away. "Stop being such a baby." She grabbed it again, this time digging her perfectly manicured nails in for good measure, and led him out to the car.


"Hello?" Christine nearly barked into the phone once she flipped it open.

"Hey! Are you okay?"

Christine's mood immediately improved at the soft words of her friend.

"Hey," she replied, though the intensity was still there, her hand aching badly; she figured she'd probably broken it.

"What's going on? I saw this thing on TV, and then got your message," Willow took a breath. "Are you okay?" she was truly worried, hearing something in the singer's voice that was unsettling.

"Can you take some time off?" Christine asked, though she had no idea why. Spontaneity was a shortfall for her sometimes.

"Oh, uh," Willow was struck by the question, not expecting it at all, nor the very straightforward, almost hard, tone it was asked in. "Yes, I can. Well, have already, actually."

"Good. Pack for a few days, a little bit of everything, shorts, pants, but keep it casual. A car will be around to pick you up in about," Christine studied the clock in the hall, "four hours."

"Oh, um, alright. Oh, wait, I won't be at home. You'll have to come to Rachel's house."

The singer faltered for a moment, finally computing that Willow didn't sound so great. "Are you okay? I'm sorry, I'm so preoccupied right now, I should have-"

"I'm fine. I'll be okay." Willow smiled into the mouthpiece, though didn't feel a word of it. Neither did Christine.

"Well, tell me where Rachel lives."


"Have you lost your mind, Willow?" Rachel asked, following the frantic little blonde around her house. "You need to rest, not go globe trotting with this singer!" Rachel grabbed her friend's shoulder, turning her so the blonde was forced to look at her. "Honey, what are you doing?" she asked, her voice filled with quiet concern.

"I need to get out of here for a little while, Rachel. Honey, you have been so good to me, but I need a change of scenery." Willow sat heavily on the bed behind her. "I've been so stressed for the past few weeks since I found out I was pregnant."

"And you trust this woman?" Rachel sat next to her.

Willow sighed, looking into the pretty brown eyes of her friend, then nodded. "Yeah, I do. I can't explain why, but I trust her implicitly. And," she chuckled lightly. "It seems like she needs to get away as much as I do."

"Where are you going? How long?"

"I don't know, and a few days."

The conversation was cut off by the sound of a car outside, pulling to a stop out front. Both women stood and headed to the window to look out.

"Holy shit," Rachel whispered, her friend looking just as wide-eyed at the tiny, red convertible sports car. "Looks like a Porsche of some kind."

The driver's door opened, and a tall figure pulled herself out. Willow chuckled, wondering why on earth Christine would get such a tiny car.

"Well, I guess this is it. You all packed?" Rachel asked, turning back to her friend, who was grinning at her.

"Yes, mom. Ow," she held her arm where the redhead smacked her.

"Be nice."

Willow found herself pulled into a warm embrace, her eyes closing at the contentedness that filled her. They parted at the sound of the doorbell.

The blonde was nervous as she tugged the strap of her bag onto her shoulder, following Rachel down the stairs.

"Hi, Christine," Rachel opened the door wide, silently inviting the singer inside. Christine pulled her sunglasses off, smiling at the nurse.

"Hello. Nice to see you again." She stopped into the small foyer, hands clasped before her, looking for the world like she was there to collect her date. Rachel laughed internally at the thought. Willow stood behind her, stepping around her friend, but was caught up in a quick, tight hug first.

"You two crazy gals have fun."

"We will," Willow laughed, rolling her eyes at her friend's antics.

Once outside, Christine took the bag from Willow's shoulder. At the odd look she received, she grinned a little sheepish.

"Hey, now, can't have the mommy-to-be doing hard labor." Christine opened the itty bitty trunk, gently setting the duffel inside, then slamming it shut. Chuckling, Willow stepped into the car, sinking into the black leather, almost afraid to breathe.

"This is one heck of a car," she whispered, reverence in her voice. Christine smiled as she tucked herself behind the wheel.

"Well, I decided to pick you up in style. I mean, it's not like I could really bring mine along." She turned the ignition, the powerful engine roaring to life.

"Uh, you have one of these?" Willow quickly strapped herself in as the car sped off down the street.

"I do. This baby is a 2005 Porsche 911 Carrera S Coupe. This baby will do zero to sixty-two in five point two." She grinned with pride, glancing over at her passenger, who looked just a little frightened.

"So, did you rent this?" Willow asked, brows drawn as she looked around the inside of the tiny car, taking in all the instruments and plush settings.

"Nah. Borrowed it from a friend. It's just to get us to the airport. Do you like to fly?" Christine pulled the red blur up to a stop light, glancing over at the blonde once she was stopped.

"I do."

"Excellent. I hope you like sun, sand and surf." The Porsche was put into gear, and buzzed through the green light, turning off toward the highway where Christine would show Willow what the little car could really do.

"Where are we going? And that sounds wonderful!"

"Good!" the singer yelled above the howl of the wind. "We're going to my summer house."

"Really? Where is it?" Willow was more than thankful she had short hair as she watched Christine's long, dark hair dancing around like black flames. She could imagine the tangled mass she'd have once they were stopped.

"You'll see." Christine grinned, though a bit devilish.

"I can't believe you have a second house! Shoot, I'm just pleased as punch to have one house!"

Christine grinned, eyes planted firmly on the road. "Does it bother you?"

"What, that you've got more money than god? No. As long as it doesn't bother you that I don't." The singer pulled up to another red light, glancing over at her friend, looking at her over the tops of her Ray Bans. "What?" Willow asked at the near glare she was receiving.

"Of course it doesn't bother me." Christine got the car going again.

"So, why do you need a summer house? I mean, you live in California, right? It's not like you need to escape the snow." The blonde asked.

"No, but I do need to escape my life sometimes. Where we're going it's quiet and peaceful. Somehow I get the feeling you and I could both use a bit of peace and quiet right now." The singer's voice was quiet, almost sad. Willow had to put the scattered words together to even understand what was said, the wind stealing most of Christine's voice.

"I think you're right," she said finally. "I saw something on the news about you. I've been worried about you, Christine." She looked at her friend's profile, the sleek, classic lines and perfect features. How was it possible for someone to be so completely beautiful and amazingly talented? And Willow's inexperienced eye could tell that Christine Gray's beauty had nothing to do with makeup or money, but purely by the graceful hand of genetics.

Christine sighed, then turned to the beautiful blonde tucked into the leather seat next to her. "Willow, please don't be offended, but can we perhaps have that conversation another day? Today I just want to enjoy a bit of freedom and your company. Okay?" Their gazes met, mirrored in two sets of mirrored sunglasses. Willow nodded with a smile.

"You've got it."

Christine smiled big and bright. With that, she floored it, and the tiny car sped off like a shot, a screeching Willow white knuckled.


Willow looked around, green eyes wide as she took in everything. The long flight in a plush, private jet landed them on a tiny island that looked from the air like she could skip from one side to the other. Once the jet had touched down, they'd been swarmed by a small army of assistants and crew for the small hangar.

Now tucked into the front seat of a black Jeep Wrangler, Christine navigated them over the rough terrain and dirt paths that led deep into what could only be described as a jungle. Willow held onto the roll bar next to her head for dear life- the ultimate "oh shit" bar.

Christine glanced over at her, grinning. "You alright there?"

"Oh yeah, just fine." Willow was doing her best to not lean her head out of the open door and puke along the path. Since she'd gotten pregnant, her once iron stomach had turned to fine porcelain.

"I can tell by the fine pea-green color you're sporting." Christine laughed loudly at the glare she got in response to that fine observation. She was in a wonderful mood, which wasn't hard to obtain when she was on Quenby Island, just off the coast of Belize.

"So now can you tell me where we are?" As if reading the singer's mind, Willow began to try and figure out where their very long flight had ended up.

"We are on a private island called Quenby, or womanly, as it were. We're not far from Belize, which is in the Caribbean."

"Oh my god," Willow really began to look around now, though she couldn't see anything but trees. The sun was also setting. Christine was trying to get them to the house before that happened so the blonde could see the sun set over the water.

"Just wait until we clear all this and get to my property."

"Do you own this island?" Willow asked, holding on tighter as the Jeep plowed over a huge set of ruts in the primitive trail.

"Well, let's just say I own my own little part of paradise."

They were quiet as the rough terrain made talking difficult, but finally they made it through the jungle, the big tires of the Jeep finding purchase on the flagstone drive that led up to an amazing house on the cliffs, all stone and glass.

Willow leaned forward in her seat, eyes once again popping open as she took in the sight before her.

The house was a two-story, facing out to sea. The long drive curved around to the side to a set of unusually tall French doors, painted white to match the trim. There was no planned yard to speak of, all natural and all very tropical. Palm trees and huge, colorful flowers littered everything.

"God, that's gorgeous," Willow whispered, antsy for Christine to stop the Jeep so she could explore.

"I'm glad you like."

"What's not to like?" The moment the brakes were applied, the blonde was fumbling with her seatbelt, then out running. Christine pulled the break then got out herself, leaning against the side of the Jeep, the engine ticking as it cooled. She watched the child-like antics of her friend.

Willow ran to the edge of the cliff, stopping short as she looked down at the thirty foot drop, the sea roaring against the rocks.

"Wow," she whispered, eyes scanning the horizon, seeing the sun melting into molten waves. The breeze rolling in from the ocean felt wonderful, and the blonde lifted her face to the heavens, letting it run through her hair and wash over her face.

She'd been there for exactly five minutes and felt like she could stay forever.

Finally turning away when she heard footsteps behind her, she smiled up at the singer.

"This is amazing, Christine. No wonder you like to escape here. How often do you come?"

"Not near as often as I'd like," Christine sighed, squinting into the dying sun. "A handful of times a year, I guess. Since I've had the place, anyway. Bought it four years ago." She ran a hand through her hair, which was terribly tangled. "Come on. I'll show you around inside."

Willow followed Christine up the flagstone path that reached the base of a long staircase that ended at a massive deck jutting out of the back of the house, and wrapped around to the other side.

"Does anyone else live here? On the island?" Willow asked, waiting as Christine unlocked the second set of French doors, then pushed it open, gesturing that the blonde should enter.

Again, Willow's mouth was hanging open as she saw the twenty foot ceilings, glass from floor to ceiling, white everywhere, tile, paint and marble.

"I hope you never have children in here," she grinned.

"Hey, it gets hot here. You have to do what you can. Come on."

Willow was led through the downstairs, which wasn't huge, but was beautiful. Kitchen, living room, bathroom and a game room made up the main floor. Upstairs was comprised of four bedrooms and three bathrooms.

"And, if all looks okay to you, I figure you can stay in here." Christine walked into the second largest bedroom, and the other one that had its own bathroom. The room was easily larger than Willow and Kevin's master bedroom back at the ranch.

"Yeah, I think I can hack it. I mean, it is only for a few nights," she dramatized, running a finger disapprovingly across the spotless, shiny surface of the dresser. Christine rolled her eyes.

"Oh, thank you ever so much," bowing deeply, she jumped back, laughing as she avoided a feisty little blonde attack.

"Feed me, will ya?"


"That was fantastic," Willow sat back in the metal, but surprisingly comfortable, chair that belonged with the very contemporary set on the deck. It almost matched the mammoth stainless steel grill that Christine barbequed their chicken on. Her belly was full, and she felt utterly satisfied.

"Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it." The singer sipped her iced tea, looking out over the water that sparkled in the moonlight. Like a million little stars in the waves.

Willow sighed again, utterly content and happy, and thrilled to no end she was able to keep her dinner down thus far.

"Why here?" the blonde asked, looking out into the darkness that lay over the cliff, the sound of the ocean far below. "Other than the fact that's it's so beautiful it'll make you cry, that is."

"That is true. It certainly did me the first time I saw it. But," Christine raised a single finger to show the importance of her coming point. "for me the biggest reason I bought the place is for the privacy. The airport is owned by local islanders who understand, personally, the importance of privacy for us here. They turn planes away all the time."

"So the protect you guys?"

"Yep. The owners aren't here all the time, but the crew does not want to mess with Keller Davies." Christine grinned.


"Oh, yeah. She doesn't take any shit." The singer sighed and pushed away from the table. "I'm sorry, Willow, but I'm exhausted." She began to clear away the dishes on the metal and glass table.

"Oh, of course," Willow automatically stood, taking the plates from her friend, who looked quite baffled at the gesture. "Let me do something to repay your kindness."

Christine snorted. "No need, but if you feel the overwhelming need to do dishes, don't let me stop you," she raised her hands in supplication. "I hate dishes." They laughed. "Look, the house is yours, Willow. You know the whole me casa, su casa, or whatever the hell it is. I've got tons of books in the recreation room, food galore, whatever you want."

"Thanks." Willow tucked the dishes in her arms, a gentle smile gracing her features that made Christine melt.

"If you need anything, anything at all, please don't hesitate to wake me up, okay? I mean, like, I really want you to come get me. I get the distinct feeling that you're a strong chick who can do it herself," Christine grinned at the blush that made the blonde even more adorable. "Not here. Got me?"

Willow nodded. "Got you."

"Good. Goodnight, Willow." She turned to go, then stopped, back still to the blonde. "We'll talk tomorrow." Then she was gone. Willow stood, dishes still in hand, looking around the large deck, lit with small Tiki lights that were festooned to the top of the deck's railing. They had flared to life all by themselves, so Willow assumed they must be gas lit.

Sighing with renewed contentment, she stacked everything, remembering with not much fondness, doing just that very task during her college days. She'd been a waitress at various restaurants the entire time. Stacking plates and other dishes up her arms, just as she did in the old days, she got everything inside and stacked in the dishwasher.

Inside, can and track lighting gave everything a golden hue, scattered lamps helped with brighter, or more direct lighting. She looked around, trying to decide what to do. She was tired, no doubt, but her mind was still reeling in a million different directions. She knew sleep would be a joke.

Wandering around the main level of the beautiful house, getting ideas for what she might like to do with the ranch, she trailed her fingertips over the white, leather sofa, the smooth, yet textured material making her sensitive fingertips tingle. She couldn't believe where she was, and had the instinct to call Kevin and tell him all about it.

The sting of unshed tears made her nose itch, and she quickly tried to blink them away, shaking her head free of thoughts of him. She couldn't afford to think about him right now, didn't want to think of him.

Still the tears came.

Christine had said if she needed anything ...did that mean a shoulder, too?

"I'm fine," she whispered, pressing at her moist eyes with the heels of her hands. "I'm fine."

She found her way into the recreation room, pool table's antique, carved wooden legs catching the gleam from the other room's light. Finding the wall switch, suddenly the room was bathed in soft light. The pool table with a funky pink top, which made Willow smile, stood century in the center of the large room. Around the edges of two walls were various arcade-type games, Pac Man, Frogger, a few fighting games, then Willow's personal favorite, pinball.

Her fingers itched to hit those paddles, and slide that ball back only to shoot it like a canon. But, alas, she walked past it, not wanting to wake her host. The final two walls were lined top to bottom with inlaid shelving filled with books.

Not a huge reader, Willow did have her favorites, and as she trailed her fingers across the spines, lined up like soldiers, she found a few of those.

"Oh," she sighed with pleasure, finding the newest novel, Carmen, by Parker Davies- Dubois. Turning the book over, she read the back of the hardback, then opened the back cover to look at the author's picture and bio, a habit she'd always had. There Parker Davies-Dubois was, her signature curly blonde hair around a very attractive face, blue eyes twinkling with the brilliance of her smile.

Green eyes trailed down to the bio, which explained that Parker and her son lived in the Boston area.

Decision made, Willow tucked the book to her chest, and turning out lights as she went, made her way up the stairs to her bedroom.


It was a brilliant day! Christine couldn't keep the grin off her face as she made her way back toward the house, her breathing coming in quick gasps now as her run came to an end.

What could be better? Paradise all around her, her body alive and ready to fly from the wonders of motion and exertion and just all that the human body could do.

Jogging in place, she looked out over the ocean, thinking of when she'd been on the beach below just moments before. Finally turning, she jogged up the two levels of stairs that took her to the deck, the sun just now starting to blaze down after it's slow rise.

Running a hand through her sticky hair, grimacing at the feel, she made her way to the kitchen and opened the fridge, moaning in pleasure as the cold air hit her overheated skin. Grabbing a bottle of grape flavored Fruit 2 O, she twisted off the cap, guzzling half the drink in one go, then headed upstairs, taking it two at a time. Shower, she needed one, and she needed one badly.

Freshly showered and dressed, long, wet hair soaking through the thin material of her tank top, she padded back to the kitchen and started on breakfast. She was glad that Donna had restocked the house with fresh fruit and groceries. She'd have to give the caretaker a raise.

Cutting up cantaloupe, kiwi, mandarin oranges and apple, she arranged it all on a platter with a cup of plain yogurt in the center. Freshly squeezed and poured orange juice in a big glass, napkin neatly folded, it was time.

Christine balanced the tray on one hand as she used the other to knock lightly on Willow's bedroom door. After a moment she heard a sound from the other side, then a soft "Come in." Turning the knob, the singer pushed the door open with her hip as she took the tray in both hands again.

"Hey, sleepyhead," she smiled, entering the room, still dark as the heavy blinds were closed.

"Morning," Willow said, her voice heavy and thick with sleep. She blinked sleepy eyes several times, unknowingly charming the hell out of her friend with her sleep-tussled hair and the t-shirt she wore twisted around her small frame.

"Come on, up, up." Christine set the tray on the side table, noting her friend's choice of reading material as she pushed the book aside to make room. Helping the blonde pile fluffy pillows behind her. "Settled?" At Willow's nod, the singer placed the tray on her lap.

"Oh, breakfast in bed!" Willow exclaimed, suddenly very awake and very hungry. "Thank you, Christine."

"My pleasure." Standing at the side of the bed, hands on hips, the singer looked around, seeing if there was anything else she could do. "Well, then you enjoy." She turned to leave, but was stopped by a warm hand on her arm.

"You're going?"

She looked down at the blonde, who's brows were drawn to almost make her look petulant. Too cute.

"Well, I was going to let you eat in peace-"

"Unh uh, no. You sit your butt down right here and join me." Willow scooted a bit, patting the bed next to her. "There's plenty here."

Happily accepting the invitation that secretly she hoped would be extended to her, Christine got herself situated against the headboard and smiled as the tray was scooted over so it rested across both their thighs.

"So I see you like Parker Davies-Dubois," the signer said, eyeing her friend as she popped a bit of kiwi into her mouth. Willow, who was chewing contentedly on a bit of cantaloupe, the tiniest bit of yogurt leaking out the corner of her mouth, nodded.

"Love her work," she finally managed.

"Hmm, I do, too." She licked some yogurt off her own lip as she thought for a moment. "How long have you read her?"

"Since her first book. Loved that one. So I don't know, five years?"

"Welllll," Christine watched as she drug an apple piece through the creamy yogurt, leaving a trail in the goo. "How about we have her over for dinner tonight?" Eyeing her friend, she saw those brows drop again.

"Come again?"

"Yeah. She's my neighbor. She stays here all summer while her son is with his dad back in Boston."

"You're kidding me, right?" Willow could feel her excitement level rising, though unsure.

"Not at all. I'm quite serious." Blue eyes met green, steady and true.

"Holy cow," Willow whispered, realizing that her leg wasn't being pulled.

"So, what, around six? Seven?" Christine was having to stop herself from out and out laughing her ass off. "Close your mouth, Willow. You're going to catch flies."

"You got anymore surprises up those sleeves of yours?" Willow asked, taking a long drawl of her juice.

"Guess you'll have to wait and see, won't you?" She nudged the blonde with her shoulder.

"So what's the special occasion?" Willow indicated the tray on her lap. "What did I do to deserve breakfast in bed."

Christine shrugged, feeling a bit sheepish. She wished Willow would have just accepted it quietly.

"Guess I just wanted to. That alright with you?"

"Very. Just wondered." She handed the brunette the last piece of fruit, which Christine took gratefully.

"Come on. Let's go outside. I want to show you the beach." Christine took the tray from Willow, making her way off the bed. Willow followed, quickly pulling up all the covers and tucking them in. Christine watched, shaking her head as she headed out to take care of their breakfast dishes.

Willow headed into the bathroom attached to the bedroom. Pushing the glass door aside, she turned on the water for the shower, the smile unshakable on her lips. She couldn't wait to explore this amazing place Christine had brought her to, as well as she was excited to spend time with the singer.

As the water turned warmer, then finally hot, she turned the knob that sent the roar of the powerful shower to fill the large bathroom. Tugging her t-shirt over her head and stepping out of her panties, kicked them aside.

"Oh, yeah," she sighed, stepping under the spray, feeling millions of little fingers massage her skin. Closing her eyes, she tilted her head back, letting the water smooth her hair back from her face, slicking it down to her scalp. Running her hands over the slick helmet of hair, they made their way down, over her neck, down over enlarged, sensitive breasts, and finally to a flat tummy.

Willow knew her baby was not even quite an inch in length yet, only eight weeks along, but she was still there. Yes, she. Willow couldn't shake the thought that she was having a daughter

The smile that spread across her face was made of utter beauty, the type that can only be created from the gentleness of maternal instincts and pride. Her baby. Her daughter.

Would Kevin ever come around? Would he ever accept that fact that he had fathered a child?

The accident.

Willow's eyes squeezed shut, her face slowly collapsing unto itself as the tears fell, a loud, painful sob pulled from her throat. Her logical side told her it had been just that, an accident. But her emotions told her differently, that he had done it on purpose, that in his mind it was the quickest, easiest way to not have to deal with a tough situation. Had he tried to kill her baby?

No. That was purely the nonsense musings of a woman who was scared and had her world shaken to the core.

Finally feeling clean and able to face the day, Willow turned the water off, automatically wiping down the inside of the spotless little cubicle.

Towel wrapped around her head, she padded naked across the bedroom, hefting her bag up to the bed, unzipping it and digging around. Figuring they'd be in California at Christine's place, she'd brought her bathing suit. She slipped the panties of the two-piece up her legs and over her hips, snapping it into place, then spread the top out on the bed.

Slipping the halter over her neck, she reached around to tie the ties at mid-back. Brows narrowed as she tugged the top into place, the ties shorter than she remembered. True, she hadn't put the top on in more than a year, but still ...

Finally getting the thing tied into place, she walked over to the mirror, making sure she wouldn't offend anyone's sensibilities with showing so much skin and possibly cellulite.

Turning this way and that, her eyes bulged at the cleavage threatening to spill out of her top. Cupping her enlarged breasts, Willow squeezed them just a bit, feeling their heft. Turning to the side, she looked at her profile, tucking a finger into her cleavage, giggling at the way it disappeared.

Feeling a bit self-conscious, she grabbed a light button-up shirt, tying it around her waist, and headed out.

Christine stood out on the deck, leaning against the railing, can of ice cold Coke dangling from her fingers. She heard the whir of the air conditioning for a brief moment as the door behind her was opened then closed.

Turning, she was so glad she had sunglasses on, and her expression could be somewhat hidden. Her eyes traveled up and down the strong, compact body of Willow. The blonde's physique well sculpted from hours of hard work on the ranch and work with those mammoth animals called horses.

"What," the blonde looked down at herself, smoothing her hand down her bare midriff, worried she looked far more horrible than she thought.

"Oh, nothing." Christine smiled, mentally slapping herself. Yes, the dark lenses may have hid her expression, but she was still caught staring. "Ready?"

"Yeah. I'm really excited!" Willow followed her friend down the stairs to where the Jeep was parked.

"Want to walk or drive?" Christine asked, placing her hand on the front left fender. Glancing toward the cliffs, hearing the sea beyond, Willow chewed her bottom lip for a moments thought, then turned to the brunette.

"Let's walk."

They walked along the flagstone path that led to a narrow, railed stairway, ten stairs to a level, three levels down with small, cement landings to separate them.

Sliding her hand along the smooth metal of the tube railing, Willow watched her step, Christine leading the way once more. As they made their way down, she watched her friend, dressed in a black tankini, her skin evenly tanned, legs long and muscled, beautiful. She watched as the pronounced muscles in Christine's back worked with each move she made, long, graceful fingers trailing along the rail with each step. Green eyes traveled down that same strong back, noting the slender hips which led into one of the most shapeliest behinds she had ever seen. Normally not one for ass-gazing, Christine certainly had one that was quite worthy of attention. The singer's calves flexed with each step, muscle standing in stark relief, never fully disappearing, even as the calve came into disuse.

Perfect body. Perfect face. Perfect talent. Made Willow feel perfectly inferior.

Flipping the two towels she carried over her shoulder, Christine downed the rest of her drink, crushing the can in her hand then tossing it into the metal trash can that sat at the base of the stairs.

The beach was of course empty, as that particular stretch was the singer's own private playground. She led her friend to the white sandy beach, away from where it became rockier, eventually dissolving into the base of the cliffs.

Willow felt the hot sand give underneath her sandaled steps, so perfectly white it was almost blinding.

"God, too amazing for words," she murmured, lifting her glasses to the top of her head to take in everything in its natural, untinted color.

"Yeah, it really is." Christine smiled, pleased to see that the view touched Willow as deeply as herself.

Finding a good place, Christine spread out their huge, over-sized towels. Meanwhile, Willow dug into the bag she'd brought down with her, pulling out a very squished hat with a big, floppy brim, followed by a tube of sun block.

Feeling eyes on her, she saw a dark brow raised in her direction.

"What?" she asked, banging the hat against her thigh so it would fall into its regular shape, then plopped it on her head. "I'm fair skinned." To emphasize her point, she grabbed the tube of lotion, popping the top. "You try being a blonde sometime."

"I have," Christine said dryly, finding a comfy spot on her towel, lying on her back, arms out at her sides. She smirked at the surprised chuckle that produced. What she wasn't telling the feisty blonde was that she'd already lathered up with SPF 40 back at the house. But she would never, ever be caught dead in such a hat.

Both settled, Christine rolled to her side, bracing her head up with her palm. Again feeling eyes on her, Willow met her gaze. Christine couldn't keep the slight smile from her lips at the ridiculous picture that bloody hat made.

"Don't even say it," Willow warned, her voice low. "I hate a burned scalp."

"Whatever you say, farmer Joe."

Willow tipped her sunglasses down, glaring over their rims. Putting glasses back in place, she turned her face back up to the sun, a fresh coat of sunscreen giving her face a slight ghostly pallor.

"So what happened? Somehow I get the feeling you weren't just at your friend's house for a how do you do."

Willow met her friend's gaze again, then sighed, also turning to her side. She looked down at some sand that had managed to make its way onto her towel. Picking at the individual granules, she shook her head.

"No. It wasn't just a visit." Flicking some sand off, she watched it land to join its fellow grains. "When you called I was being admitted into the Emergency Room of the very hospital that took care of you."

"What?! Why? What happened?" Christine jumped up, sitting now, leaning toward her friend, face a vision of panic. Willow paused for a moment, temporarily surprised by the concern she heard in the singer's voice, but deep down pleased beyond words, eating it up. Though she'd never admit that to anyone- not even herself.

"We were in a car accident, Kevin and I." Flashes of that night raced through her mind's eye, the terror and panic she'd felt then accosting her once more, making her stomach flop and a wave of nausea wash over her. Swallowing it all down, she continued. "We were fighting, about the baby, of course. And Kevin was yelling at me, and the next thing I know, we're wearing a sedan for a hood ornament." Her voice broke ever so slightly at the reveal, but she cleared her throat, trying to cover her emotional tracks. Too late, as Christine had picked up on it.

Reaching out, she took the blonde's hand in her own, stroking the soft, but calloused fingers with her thumb.

"Are you and the baby okay?" she asked, her voice quiet. She was relieved at the nod she received.

"Yeah," to her horror, a sob managed to make its way out of Willow's throat. She did her damndest to swallow it down, but it didn't work.

"Come here," pulling the smaller woman to her, she cradled her, resting her chin atop the ridiculous hat, which was nearly cutting off her breathing, but she said nothing.

"He doesn't want his own child, Christine," Willow cried, the tears falling now in a way that she hadn't allowed them to that point. "How could you not want your own blood!"

"I don't know, sweetie," Christine whispered, understanding that sentiment all too well. "I just don't know." She rocked the blonde until the smaller woman got herself under control a bit, moving so her body was curled up sideways between Christine's long legs, finally tugging the hat off and tossing it to her own towel. Grateful, the singer began to gently run her fingers through the soft, golden locks.

Willow got herself calmed and decided to just enjoy the safety of Christine's caring, and let herself talk.

"You know," she began, her voice soft but thick from the tears, "I used to fantasize about what it would be like to have a child, you know?"

"Mm hmm," Christine looked out over the ocean as she listened.

"When I was a little girl it was hard. My mom was so wrapped in herself, my dad or whichever boyfriend she found after they divorced. Even besides that, she had it rough as a kid, and I don't think she fully knew how to love, you know?" Willow sniffled once, then continued. "I think she did the best she could, but just wasn't emotionally available."

"Right. I know what you mean."

"Yeah. I think you do. So I decided young that if I ever had kids, I'd give them everything I didn't have. All the love inside me. And then with Kevin," here her voice gave out just a bit, spearing through Christine's heart. "I thought, damn, Willow, you got lucky. He's so great, so sensitive and kind, man what a great father,"

Christine felt her jaw tighten as anger bubbled inside her. What an absolute fool he was. The singer held on tighter as Willow began to shed new tears, her voice giving way to her grief and profound disappointment.

"He ...he doesn't want ...his own baby," Willow cried, clutching almost painfully to Christine's arm that was so protectively wrapped around her.

"I'm so sorry, honey. So sorry." All her anger slowly drained away, replaced by a protective compassion she'd only ever experienced with Adam. This wasn't about Kevin- fuck him. This was about a wonderful, precious woman that was currently nestled in the singer's arms.

Again, Willow began to calm, Christine's heartbeat against her ear pure magic. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to absorb that magic, adjusting her body so she was even closer, the entire length of her side cuddled up against her friend's front.

"What are you going to do?" was whispered into her hair. Willow sighed, smiling faintly at the tender pressure atop her head that she recognized as a kiss.

"Have my baby. Raise he or she, though I think it'll be a she, to the best of my ability."

"You're going to make a wonderful mother, Willow. This child is a very lucky one."

"Thank you."

Together they watched the tide rolling in then swiftly out, painting the white sand dark as it was swept away once more in the magical forces that were nature.

"What happened, Christine? Why were you so sad?" Willow finally asked, running her thumb along the smooth, warm skin of the arm she found.

Christine sighed, rubbing her cheek against the soft hair for a moment before she spoke. Pulling away just a bit, she looked into the questioning eyes, those beautiful green eyes, that every so often would sparkle with a bluish gray tint, such as right now- grabbing the color from the sea.

Willow felt a bit of nerves creep up on her at the intense scrutiny. Finally, it seemed as if Christine had made a decision of some sort, and pulled the blonde back into her.

Knowing that she could trust the nurse completely, Christine began her tale.

"I told you about my parents when I was nine," she felt a nod. "Well, though I was able to stay with Adam and his mother from time to time, I still needed money, and being the stupid young thing I was, I decided why not add a bit of adventure into my money making." She smirked at the ridiculousness of the idea.

"Come on, Adam. It'll be fun!" I begged, tugging on his arm. He looked skeptical at best, chewing on his lip, looking at me over the tops of his taped glasses. "Think about it- lots of money, free sex."


"I don't know, Chris. Sounds kind of dangerous," he hedges.


"Oh come on, Adam. Be a man! I live for danger."


Shaking herself from the past, Christine continued. "At first we started selling anything we could get our hands on, little things we'd steal around the neighborhood, you know? Clothes off clotheslines, fruit, whatever. We almost got caught, so I decided on another angle of attack."

Willow squeezed her eyes shut, her gut instinctively roiling against whatever she might hear next. Her heart broke for the young, lost girl Christine Gray must have been.

"We had one thing left to sell, and that was ourselves." She sighed, resting her chin on Willow's head. "I talked Adam into joining me on the streets, Willow. We sold ourselves to the highest bidder at first. Then when we realized we had way too much competition to be picky, we just plain out went with whoever had the cash."

"Oh, Christine," Willow hugged her friend, wrapping her arms around her waist and burying her face in her neck.

"See, there's a certain group of men out there who love the company of a young boy," she whispered, feeling a shiver wash through her friend. "Adam is a handsome man, and made a very handsome boy. He was quite popular," her voice cracked. "And now, because of me, he's paying with his life for that popularity."

Willow was blown away by Christine's quiet words and their implications. She gently pulled away, looking up into the tortured face of the beautiful woman sitting behind her. There was an almost audible crack as things began to really sink in, and Willow's heart split in two.

"He's sick?" she asked, though it was more a statement than a question. She winced at the nod she received.

"Full blown AIDS. He was diagnosed with HIV eight years ago. He just didn't bother telling me." Her head fell, hair falling forward to create a protective curtain. Willow scrambled out from between the singer's legs, pushing herself up to her own knees and taking the silently crying woman into her arms.

"I'm so sorry, honey," she whispered, gently rocking her and stroking her hair. Suddenly, and slightly startling the blonde, long, strong arms encircled her waist, and Willow was nearly crushed by the intensity of Christine's hug. They clung to each other, Willow's own tears now joining those of her friend, feeling her pain as well as her own.

The sun continued to shine, the waves to pound the surf. The world lives on, and so does the heart.


Willow was extremely surprised at Christine's extensive cooking talents. Together they prepared a wonderful meal for their dinner guest, due to arrive in just under two hours.

The day had been perfect, a dream and welcome addition to an already amazing place. She felt a connection and bond with the beautiful singer that she had never known before, and it was wonderful, and sorely needed right now, for them both, she suspected.

"Stop," Christine slapped Willow's hands away. "The table looks perfect already. Leave it be." Willow blew raspberries at her, but dropped the napkin she was refolding. "Scoot. Go get ready."

"Alright, alright. Jeesh." Rolling her eyes playfully, Willow scurried upstairs. She was nervous with a capital N. Parker Davies-Dubois, tonight, sitting at dinner with her.

"Oh my gosh," she muttered, hurrying into the bedroom she was using, digging through her clothing. She had nothing even remotely nice, even though Christine tried to tell her again and again that it was just a casual dinner between friends.

Finally settling on a pair of fitted khaki shorts and light green cap-sleeve shirt, she jumped into the shower, taking her time, washing and shaving. She felt like a fool trying to impress some woman who probably didn't give a damn anyway. Laughing at herself and her own childish giddiness, she finished dressing and looked herself over in the mirror. She was pleased with the sun she got, turning her skin a nice, golden brown.

Taking a deep breath, she was surprised to find that Parker would be there in twenty minutes.

"I wondered if you'd fallen in or something," Christine joked, bringing out the last finishing touches of dinner. She looked comfortable in a pair of cut-offs and a white tank top.

"Hey now, be nice. I'm nervous."

"Willow, just relax. Parker is a very sweet woman, very down to earth, and trust me, fanfare makes her uncomfortable." She set down a basket of fresh baked rolls. "Just be you."

"Okay," she blew out. "I can do that." Even still, when the door chime sounded, the blonde jumped and felt her palms grow sweaty. Wiping them on the thighs of her shorts, she took several deep breaths.

Christine answered the door, a wave of salt-scented air rushing inside with their guest.

"Hey, girl! It's been so long," the last muffled into Christine's shoulder as the two women hugged.

"Man, you look great," the singer said, looking the tall woman over. "I tell you, hotter and hotter,"

"Oh, stop," Parker laughed, playfully smacking the singer on the arm.

"Come in, I'd like you to meet a very good friend of mine." Christine and Parker Davies-Dubois entered the dining area, where Willow waited with bated breath. "Parker, this is Willow Bowman. Willow, Parker Davies-Dubois."

The author was presented to the blonde, hand held out.

"Hi, Willow. What a beautiful name." Parker smiled, her big, blue eyes twinkling with unending merriment. She had her long, blonde curls bound in a thick ponytail.

"Oh, uh, thank you," Willow smiled shyly, taking the proffered hand, finding hers engulfed in a gentle, but firm handshake.

"Okay, let's get it out in the open," Christine interjected, standing between the two woman. "Parker, Willow is a huge fan of yours and is nervous as hell to meet you." She turned to the blushing blonde, who was looking at the singer with murder in her green eyes. "Willow," Christine continued, ignoring the look of profound embarrassment, "Parker is a woman like you or I, and is a hoot to hang out with. She just happens to have a successful hobby."

"Oh, god," Willow squeaked, burying her face in her hands. The author laughed heartily.

"Don't you just love the gall of this woman?" she said, grabbing Willow's hand and taking it away from her face. Once garnering her attention, "I thank you, Willow, and I'm pleased that you enjoy my work. Please don't be nervous." Her smile was utterly disarming. "Tonight I just want to have a good time and get to know the new friend that I've heard so much about." She snagged Willow's hand, tugging her toward the table behind her. "I want you to tell me all about you, where you come from, what you do, don't leave anything out."

Once the nurse looked into that innocent, most genuine face, she felt her nerves begin to leak out her ears, and a slow smile began to form.



Willow wiped her eyes once more, recovering from the last little ditty that the author had told them. Who knew she'd be so funny?

"Oh, stop," she begged, using her napkin to dab at her eyes, making the other two laugh even harder.

"Oh, ladies, it's been a wonderful evening, and Christine, as usual, I'm stuffed to the gills. I'll have to bring Keller and Garrison by next time. Keller will definitely appreciate your choice in wine." She grinned, then tossed her napkin to the table.

"You're coming to the Montreal concert still, right?" Christine asked, downing the last of her water. She had declined the wine, not wanting to tempt herself.

"Shit yeah!" Parker looked at her as though she'd lost her mind, then pushed back from the table. Christine did the same, and they met for a deep hug. "Don't stay away so long next time," she said quietly into the singer's ear.

"Okay. I promise."

"Good. And you," Parker turned to Willow who looked on with wide eyes. "Up, up," Willow stood, then yelped slightly as she was pulled into an equally tight hug. "It was delightful to meet you," Parker said, smiling from ear to ear.

"You, too." Willow grinned like a fool.

"You're a cool chick," the author poked her playfully in the chest, then let her go and turned to leave.

"Come on. Let's go out," Christine said, a playful gleam in her eye. Willow quickly drained the rest of her wine, then joined the singer at the door.

"What about the dishes?"

"Eh," they were waved off. "I'll get it in the morning."

The night was gorgeous, the moon a sliver. Carefully making their way down the long staircase, Christine and Willow walked in step along the beach, the sea beyond turned a glowing blue by the reflective light.

"Amazing," Willow whispered, looking up to see a billion stars. "I can't even see this many stars from the ranch."

"Definitely can't from my place in L.A." They stopped walking, both looking up, pointing at a falling star. "Make a wish," Christine whispered. Willow closed her eyes, wishing with all her might that everything would be okay and that her heart would find peace. "May your wish come true,"

Opening her eyes, she saw her friend smiling down at her, an she returned it fully. "Yours, too."

Christine looked down at the beautiful woman, eyes turned a dark gray in the near moonless night, the barest beginnings of tiny lines at their corners. The softest smile curved full lips. Blue eyes studied those lips, the soft lines of chin and jaw, leading down to a smooth neck, snow white in this light.

Her eyes flickered back up to Willow's, then back to those lips. As if in a dream, the distanced closed, though she has no idea how, but suddenly she felt those lips against hers, as soft as they looked, unyielding.

The dream continued as Christine brought a hand up, brushing the backs of her fingers against the cool cheek, smooth and tender.

The mouth under hers moved with her, the lips brushing her own. Just as suddenly they were gone.

Coming to her senses, hand left to caress the cool night air, Christine's eyes popped open. Willow was backing away from her, fingers on her own lips, eyes first confused, then angry.

"What are you doing?" she finally asked, getting her bearings. Her lips still tingled from the kiss, and it frightened her. "What do you think? Do you think I came here for that!" The fear turned into anger, which meant she was going to lash out.

"God, I'm sorry, Willow, I didn't mean-"

"Damn it, Christine! Don't I have enough shit to worry about? I don't need this, too!" With that, she turned and almost blindly made her way back to the stairs, her quiet sobs floating over the breeze to Christine's ears.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" the singer beat herself in the thigh with her fist. "What have I done," sinking to the sand, she hung her head, the tears making twin dark spots that she didn't see.


"Are you sure, Chris? This may be a huge mistake, hon-"

"No, I already made my mistake." Christine ran a hand through her hair, then across her nose and eyes, gathering moisture as they went. "God, I fucked up," she whispered, then sniffled noisily, getting her upset under control. For now.

"What happened?" Parker asked, concern written all over her face, hand resting on her friend's leg.

"I don't want to talk about it. Just please, do this for me?" Pleading blue eyes met Parker's own. Searching that gaze, the author finally agreed.


"Thank you." Gathering the author in a painful hug, she hurriedly left the bungalow.


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