Disclaimers: The characters in this story are mine. This is a 'uber' story, set in today's timeline, and some of the characters may bear more than a slight resemblance to certain other characters we all know, but which are not owned by me. Any similarity to real people is unintentional and purely coincidental. The location is Orlando, Florida. This story is character driven. As in my previous stories, there is not a whole lot of plot. There is no violence, nobody is trying to kill anybody else, nobody is chasing anybody else, etc., etc. There may be some minor angst here, but nothing too traumatic. The backdrop is a law firm, and from first-hand experience, law firms can be rather routine places to work. This story continues the tale of two people set in that environment whose lives are anything but routine.
Subtext Disclaimer: There is subtext, or maintext as the case may be, here. This story deals with the deep, profound love and devotion between two people who happen to be of the same gender. Although there are some scenes depicting the physical expression of that love, there are no graphic or explicit scenes here. If that is what you are looking for, you might want to go ahead and read something else.
Continuing Story Disclaimer: This is the sequel to my previous stories "Undeniable" and "Considerable Appeal" and picks up about one month later. You may want to read the previous stories prior to reading this one, otherwise the storyline will probably not make very much sense to you.
Feedback: This is my third attempt at fan fiction. Comments are always welcome and very much appreciated. Please feel free to let me know if there is something you especially liked or didn't like. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by KM
"Now that……" Robin paused to catch her breath while her heart rate slowly returned to normal. "Was definitely a twenty."
"Out of a possible ten?" Jess held the younger woman close to her.
"It seems I should be aiming for a twenty-one……" One should always aspire for better. "At least."
"Nope." Soft lips caressed Jess's neck. "Twenty's perfect."
"What happens if it's a nineteen?"
"Jess……" Robin giggled lightly. "You realize twenty's a metaphor, don't you?"
"Um……" Jess pretended to think about that. "You mean a twenty's not a twenty?"
"A twenty is a twenty." Robin smiled lazily and repeated what she'd said a moment ago. "A twenty's perfect." A petite finger traced an imaginary path from the hollow of the older woman's throat all the way down her bare body past her navel.
"Well then……" Jess's supreme logic kicked in amidst the intensifying sensations. "It seems a twenty-one would be even better."
"Silly." Robin couldn't get enough of Jess. She knew the older woman was just teasing with her, but the game they were playing was unbelievably enchanting. "Twenty is a metaphor. A twenty is perfect. It can't be better than that."
"So then……" The larger body quickly covered Robin's smaller form. "A twenty-one isn't possible?"
"No." Robin was succumbing to Jess's charms all over again.
"Well, how about a nineteen? Would a nineteen be possible, Robin?"
"Um……" A momentary distraction as tiny kisses rained across the sensitive skin of Robin's chest and abdomen, lingering in a few strategic locations for maximum effect. "There's no such thing as a nineteen."
Jess rested her chin on Robin's lower abdomen as blue eyes gazed upward. The flickering candlelight in the room highlighted the features of the petite woman's face in the loveliest way. "So let me make sure I understand. On a scale of one to ten, a twenty is perfect, and a twenty-one or a nineteen aren't possible."
"Would say, a ten, out of a possible ten be merely okay then?" Jess wanted to make sure she completely understood this system. "Because, you know, it's not humanly possible for things to be a twenty every single time." This last part was said with a little bit of uncertainty.
"Come up here." Robin waited for Jess to comply. She wanted to look directly into Jess's eyes for this. "At least for me, being with you is a twenty every time because I can't imagine anything more wonderful. If you're asking about the physiology part, then I suppose things work out a little more intense at some times than at others, but it's still a twenty to me, way off the charts, because the feeling couldn't be any more powerful."
That was the most eloquent way of putting it, Jess decided, and the sentiment wasn't a stranger. "I couldn't have said it better, sweetheart. That's exactly the way it is for me, too."
"The fact is……" Robin blushed slightly. "I get a jolt just from being pressed up against you like this."
Now that was just too irresistible to pass up. Jess nibbled on a tender earlobe while drawing tiny circles on Robin's shoulder, then let her fingers travel slowly downward. "Is that so?"
Robin sucked in a breath. "Yeah."
"You mean our bare bodies touching each other……" Jess was being deliberately seductive. "Skin to skin, feeling the heat between us?"
"You are so bad. Yes."
"Well then, I will be very happy, Robin, to provide you with as many jolts as you would like."
Oh boy. "I have a confession to make." Although it may have seemed to be a change of subject, it really wasn't one at all.
"Spill it, kiddo"
"Well, the way you were with……you know who the other day……"
Jess stopped her motions, unsure of where Robin was headed.
Petite hands gently brushed the hair from Jess's forehead. "When you totally outsmarted, out witted, and dominated him aggressively……" She felt Jess relax almost imperceptively. "If I was entirely honest, even though I had many emotions going on at the time, seeing that side of you was, well……" How could Robin express it other than the way it was? "It was exciting."
Oh. That wasn't at all what Jess had expected to hear. "It was?"
"Yeah." Robin giggled slightly. Maybe it was that raw, rugged look to Jess she had seen, but whatever it was, as she thought back on it, it evoked a definite thrill. "I guess I'm attracted to the wild side of you. Who would have figured?"
That brought a deep, throaty chuckle. "If only I had known……"
"So……" Robin gently rolled Jess over onto her back. "Now that we've established that, let me show you in a more tangible way my admiration." Feather light touches trailed up and down the length of Jess's bare chest and abdomen, finally relocating to the inside of her thigh where the delicate caresses resumed. Soft lips dipped and kissed all the right places, tantalizing and leaving no doubt as to the ultimate intent.
The older woman tensed reflexively, her hands tightly grasping the sheets of the bed as a muffled cry escaped. Her body arched sharply, flashes of light and a moment of diminished hearing sending her senses into a fusion of time and space. She let go another muffled cry, then felt the distinctive tingle of endorphins coursing through her veins. Time seemed to stand still, almost as if a supercharged eternity of sensation existed, until eventually the tremors subsided.
As Jess stilled, Robin crawled up on top of the long body, interlacing their fingers together, her green eyes focused intently on still dazed cerulean eyes now in front of her own. "Twenty?"
"Oh yeah." Jess smiled contently. "Definitely a twenty." She then whispered into a nearby ear. "And that goes for the physiology part, too."
The petite form stirred, then snuggled against the larger figure. The sun was already up strong this Sunday morning and had been for quite some time, though neither occupant had noticed. Finally, a groggy green eye opened and snuck a peek at the bedside clock, noting the lateness of the hour. Not a major concern. Their weekend in progress was delightfully relaxing and mostly to their own, save for a few hours when Jess needed to go into the office later on in the day. So why not sleep in a little?
"You awake?" A rough voice caught Robin in the midst of her musings.
"Yeah, just now." The younger woman placed a small kiss on Jess's collarbone and promptly snuggled further against her companion.
Instantly, Jess became more fully aware of an interesting sensation. She took a quick glance beneath the covers, then captured Robin's eyes with her own. "I guess we forgot about the pajamas last night." She gauged Robin's reaction, recognizing that Robin preferred to wear something to sleep in.
"Yeah, I thought about it, but I was much too comfortable at the time to put them on."
True. They had fallen asleep in each other's arms rather late into the night. "So you slept okay, then?"
"Perfect." That response was deliberately reminiscent of the previous evening.
A gentle smile. "Me too."
A moment's reflection. "You know, I kind of like waking up with you like this."
Jess couldn't help herself. She gave Robin one of her trademark comebacks. "You just like getting me in compromising positions."
A chuckle. "Absolutely." Robin flexed her arms a little and gave her muscles a stretch, then hitched herself up on one elbow. "And don't you forget it."
Sea green eyes focused on the older woman for a long moment. "Jess?"
"Do you think maybe we could go over to Tampa and see your mom and your nephews sometime soon?"
Good idea. "Sounds like a plan, Stan. I'll give my mom a call and see when might be a good time." It occurred to Jess that Robin most likely wanted or needed some relief from the recent madness. And after everything that had happened, it really wasn't all that surprising. It was obvious that it was a sense of family that Robin needed, and although Jess tried to provide as much of it as possible for her, nothing could replace the warmth of a caring parent figure and the contagious laughter of children. But the fact was, Robin seriously lacked a caring, accepting parent at the moment, so it was only natural that she would seek out Jess's mom to fill the void. Mom would certainly make a great stand in. And being around Michael and Jeremy would definitely be good for Robin. Which brought up another point……one that she and Robin really did need to discuss……and now was as good a time as ever to do just that. "You really love the boys, don't you."
"Of course! They're so sweet."
"Would you……I mean……have you thought about maybe one day having children of your own?" There, it was out, although Jess was sure she knew the answer.
Green eyes gazed into unreadable blue. "I would love children one day. What about you? Have you thought about it?"
"Not until more recently in my life, after we met. Before that, no, it never entered my mind. Now, I think having kids around might be nice."
The blonde head nodded. "I would love to have your child."
The expression on Jess's face was priceless. With a puzzled look in her eyes, she took another quick glance beneath the covers, then focused back on Robin. "Um……I may have many skills, Robin, but that would not be one of them."
"No, silly." Robin blushed just a bit. "I've been thinking about something, kind of an idea I had." She was a little unsure of just how to approach the subject. "I don't know what you might think of it."
Jess was intrigued. "You can tell me anything."
"Okay." A slight nod. "Well, first, you know we'd need a male donor."
"I'm with you so far."
"Then, well, I don't know if you'd just like one child or maybe two, but if two, then we might want to have the same donor for both. That way, they'd both be biologically related, which might be good in a way." Although the younger woman watched Jess carefully, she wasn't able to clearly read how Jess was receiving this.
It's obvious Robin's thought about this a lot. "Being biologically related might be an important consideration."
"So, what if, say one of us, whoever we decide it should be, would be the one to carry the child. Since we'd need a donor, and we'd have to undergo a procedure anyway, the other one of us, whoever is not going to carry the child, could supply the biological component." Well, perhaps Robin wasn't explaining all of this very well because Jess wasn't saying anything one way or the other. "Sort of a like surrogacy thing where one of us would be the birth mother and the other of us would be the biological mother……if it works out."
Jess remained silent.
"And then, if we wanted a second child, maybe if things do work out, we could switch roles but still use the same donor as before." Robin looked at Jess cautiously, still unable to gauge her reaction. What is she thinking? "I know that in this State, we couldn't legally adopt each other's children, but this way, we'd both be the children's actual mothers, either biologically or by birth, and have that connection that no law, or a lack of one, could take away. The children would truly be both of ours, and could also be biologically related to each other." There. It was all out. Everything Robin had been thinking.
But Jess still didn't say anything.
Robin sighed. Well, it was just an idea. "Um……you don't like it?"
After an endless moment of processing all of the information she had just heard, Jess quickly gathered Robin up in her arms and held her tight……really tight……and then whispered in a voice hoarse with emotion. "It's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard."
A smile. "Yeah. I love the idea. It's something I never would have thought of, but it makes perfect sense. It's so……amazing to think of."
Robin visibly relaxed. "I'm glad. I've been a little nervous about talking to you about it."
"I wasn't sure what you'd think." The smaller woman became frustrated with herself. "That's so silly. Our relationship is probably the closest thing imaginable, so why would I be nervous about telling you what I've been thinking?"
Jess placed a kiss on Robin's forehead. "For the same reason I've been avoiding talking with you about the same thing."
"Yeah. I've only recently worked it out in my mind and in my heart how I feel about what it all would mean to have that responsibility, and I think maybe you sensed it."
Robin gave that some thought. "You may be right. We do seem to instinctively sense what the other is feeling, kind of like an intuition thing."
"And just so we're perfectly clear……" Long fingers brushed the blonde bangs from Robin's forehead. "I would love to have children with you someday."
Mesmerized sea green eyes held firmly onto such incredible blue. "So would I."
"Then that's settled."
"Yeah." God, I was an idiot for being nervous about talking to her.
"Do you have an idea of when you would like to start?" A peace had come over the older woman, as if there really wasn't a doubt in the world whether this was right.
"Well, not too soon." Soft lips grazed Jess's chin. "I still want a little more time to have you all to myself."
"That goes both ways, kiddo."
"So now you know what I meant when I said I'd love to have your child." A sudden chuckle. "I can just imagine a little Jess running around here. Oh my god, that would be a handful."
A totally outraged look. "And why, may I ask?"
"For one, we'd have to have an endless supply of shrimp. Second, I'd definitely have to keep my slippers under lock and key. Third……"
A large hand gently covered Robin's mouth. "Not another word, Robin."
But it didn't work. The words came out loud and clear. "Third, I'd never hear the end of zip-a-dee-do-da."
Well, fine. Jess figured two could play at that game. "On the other hand, first, a little Robin would eat us out of house and home. Second, I'd have to endure the ridiculous sight of not one, but two, pairs of floppy-eared bunny slippers day in and day out. And third, it would take us a minimum of three days to hang tinsel on our Christmas tree putting it on one enduringly slow single strand at a time."
"Very funny, Jess."
A fond smile. "A little Robin would be cute. I bet you were really cute as a kid."
"I bet you were cute, too." An impish smirk. "In your own holy terror sort of way."
Another totally outraged look. "What, pray tell, is that supposed to mean?"
"You're busted, Jess. Your mother told me all about your foot-in-paint-can episode when you were almost three."
"Ah-ha! I knew I had every right to be suspicious of you two. I can't believe she gave me up to you." A sudden thought. "So what else did she say?"
"Is there more?"
"Uh……I take the fifth."
"Fine." I'm going to have to get some more dirt on her from Elaine. "You know these things have a way of coming out."
Not if I can help it. "Mom will back me up."
An indulgent pat on the arm. "Whatever you say, Jess."
"Just as long as we're clear."
A hidden smile. "Perfectly." Robin wrapped an arm firmly around the larger woman's waist, then snuggled up close and rested her head on Jess's shoulder.
"And by the way, sweetheart, just for the record, I refuse to be in competition with Sammy the whale over there……" Jess gestured with her hand toward the other side of the room. "For our child's attention."
Robin glanced at the shelf with the plush toy whale in question. "I think……" She snuggled further into Jess's embrace. "We've already established that although that whale is certainly very cuddly, you're still the cuddler-in-chief of this house."
"Good." The scent of Robin's hair was always so appealing. Spring rain. "Because I intend to make very good use of my esteemed status."
"I'm counting on that."
"Besides……" Jess continued. "House rule number nine states that plush toys cannot receive more attention than real people living here."
"Well then we will certainly make sure to be in full compliance with all house rules, especially house rule number nine." The petite woman replied with a very serious expression. "Your esteemed status as cudder-in-chief will be well preserved, I assure you of that." Was there anything better than the complete sense of happiness Robin was feeling right at this moment? She didn't think so. Being with Jess was pure magic. Robin's cares had just floated away in the time it took have the previous conversation. "Just as long as you're up for the task."
Oh yeah. Jess smiled to herself. I'm up for that and so much more.
The typical Sunday routine was mostly in place, although Jess had gone into the office earlier in the afternoon for a few hours to wade through a pile of mail and respond to a collection of unread e-mails, leaving Robin alone for a while to tend to some badly neglected household chores. Just as she had finished making up the bed with fresh linens, the doorbell rang. Perhaps one of the neighborhood kids selling something for school? She grabbed a few bills from her purse on her way to the door and opened it.
Maybe she should have looked through the eyehole first.
"Hello, Robin." Standing on their front porch was none other than Thomas Wilson. "Can we……talk?"
She was immediately torn between slamming the door in his face and giving him a piece of her mind. "You should have called first."
"Would you have agreed to see me?"
Good point. "No."
"Look, I know Ms. Harrison's not home. I thought this might be a good time for you and me to talk."
"How do you know she's not here? Are you spying on her?" I wouldn't put anything past him right now. Robin was getting angrier by the second. He was such a control freak.
"No, there is no spying, Robin. I saw her leave earlier. That's all. I drove by here a little while ago as I considered whether to come and talk with you, and that's when I saw her leaving. But instead, I stopped into a coffee shop first to think things over. After a while, I finally decided to come over and give it a try with you." He hesitated, the look on her face certainly not inviting. "May I come in?"
She really wanted him to go away, but she couldn't help herself. She had some things she wanted to say to him, things that he had better understand, and now she had the ideal opportunity to say them. Robin silently opened the door a bit wider and gestured for her father to enter the house.
That was easier than I thought it would be. "Look, Robin, I want to explain to you the reasons why I did what I did and……"
"Stop." Robin glared at him. "I don't want to hear anything you have to say. There is nothing you could possibly explain to me that would justify what you've done. Besides, I've heard it all before. It's a pattern with you. You won't let me live my life without interfering."
"Robin, that's not fair. I had very good reasons for doing what I did."
That set her right off. "I want you to listen to me. The only reason you are in this house right now is so that I can tell you to your face that you will never see me again. You have no daughter anymore."
"Now that's a little extreme, isn't it Robin?"
"Extreme? What's extreme is your interference and sadistic cruelty toward me and the people I care about, particularly Jess. Extreme is blackmail. Extreme is threatening Jess with bar investigations. Extreme is digging up a hurtful event from the past, bringing it back to life, and thrusting it in Jess's face all over again. All for what? To break us apart?"
"It wasn't like that."
"Wasn't it? You just don't get it. No power exists that can break us apart."
He seemed flabbergasted. "But you deserve better than this."
Robin closed her eyes for several long seconds, trying to gather the patience to tell him once and for all the way it was going to be. "I make the choices in my life. You don't get a say."
"I just want what's best for you, honey. It's all I've ever wanted."
Well, this was getting repetitive. "That's exactly what you said at lunch that day when you deliberately misled me into thinking you were trying to accept my relationship with Jess or at least not oppose it. That was all a lie."
"I was hoping you'd eventually get tired of playing house with that woman and come home to your family."
Her jaw clenched. Hard. Just the way he phrased that statement belied his professed good intentions toward her well-being. "You haven't heard a word I've been saying." She shook her head slowly in amazement at his inflexible way of thinking. I guess I'm not surprised. "But you have got to understand that Jess is my family now."
"Your mother and I have been your family since you were born. No one cares more for you than we do." Why was this so difficult for Robin to understand?
I am so over this. She crossed her arms firmly in front of her, her body language effectively shutting him out. "I told you the last time that if you continued to interfere, you would never see me again. I meant what I said. You blew it, and I don't ever want to see you again."
"No, you look. You have no idea of the hurt and pain you caused both Jess and me by bringing James back into her life like that. That man practically destroyed her all those years ago, left wounds that will probably never heal, and now you dredged him up purely for the sake of somehow proving to me that I wouldn't be able to trust her once she got the first glimpse of him again."
"She's using you, Robin, but your judgment is too far gone to see that. Someone has to protect you from people who seek to prey on you. You're still vulnerable over what happened a year ago with David's accident, too trusting of people who want to take advantage of you, and it'll only wind up getting you hurt in the long run." This was about as good as he could possibly explain it. It was as plain as day and couldn't possibly be any more clear.
Why do I bother? "I don't want to hear another word. These are my decisions to make, not yours."
"You're my daughter. How can I just watch you ruin your life like this without trying to do something about it?"
"A parent does not deliberately set out to hurt his own child and the people she cares about." Suddenly, a thought occurred to Robin. "Did Mom know about your plan? Was she involved in it, too?"
He shook his head. "No. I didn't mention it to her. It would have only upset her, and she's been upset enough ever since you left last year. She misses you terribly."
Despite his blatant attempt at provoking her guilt, Robin was relieved. At least Mom didn't go along with this. "You need to listen to me. I can tell you for certain that I will never try to control my children the way you've tried to control me. I don't ever want you around me, Jess, or any of our children."
"Your children?" And just how would that be possible under these circumstances?
"What children? Are you……?"
He was so totally unbelievable it was almost laughable. "No. But Jess and I are planning to have children someday."
"And how would you do that? Some anonymous donor you have no idea who it is or what stock that person comes from? Is that what you want for yourself? Some laboratory experiment?"
She got very, very angry, angrier than she'd been in a long time. "You……" She took a deep breath to keep herself from shaking. "Have no idea what you're talking about. What I do and how I do it is none of your business. You have no daughter anymore, no daughter to control or worry about, no daughter to scheme against and lie to, so you need to leave here now."
This had gone from bad to worse. He really had only wanted to talk some sense into Robin and try to put what happened in the past. He had been convinced, perhaps unrealistically in hindsight, that she'd eventually see his side of it. He sighed internally. But it appeared from what he'd heard that things had gotten too far out of hand for that. All because of that woman. Her influence and seduction had confused Robin, just when she was in her most vulnerable state, and had brainwashed her into thinking that this living arrangement and so-called romance was some kind of acceptable life. "Robin, listen to me, it's still not too late. Come home with me and let your family look after you and help you get back to your old self."
He was absolutely infuriating. And above all, the irony of his argument was that she didn't want to be her old self. Her new self, the person she was with Jess, was the only life she wanted. "As I said, Jess is my family now. You need to leave both of us alone from now on. I really mean this. Don't interfere again."
He certainly wouldn't describe his concern for her as interference. "I just want what's best for you." He said the words one last time.
"Jess is what's best for me. I've told you all of this before, but you won't listen." It was time to make things abundantly clear to him, if nothing else, and to give him fair warning. "All through your interference, Jess has taken the abuse from you, everything you dished out. Even after you blackmailed her, threatened to sabotage her career, and even now brought a lot of pain back from her past, she always looked the other way and didn't fight back against you out of respect for me and who you are to me." She looked at him pointedly. "That will change from now on. If you think what she dealt James was bad, you don't know anything. If you interfere in our lives again, I won't be able to stop her, nor would I even try. So you need to leave us alone."
Threats never sat well with him, and coming from his daughter, it was even more difficult to swallow. Robin was so completely under that woman's spell that he really feared his daughter was gone for good. There has to be a way to stop this. But he'd have to leave it for now. There would be no getting through to his daughter about this today.
Returning a bit earlier than expected, Jess pulled the silver Mercedes into the driveway of the Ranch, a little annoyed as she did so that an unfamiliar car was blocking her entry into the garage. She pulled up alongside the mystery vehicle and got out. Who's visiting? She side-stepped the rear bumper and made her way up the sidewalk to the front door, opening it and entering the house through the foyer. As soon as she was inside, she heard voices coming from the adjacent living room and immediately decided to investigate.
Startled in the midst of her conversation when she heard the front door to the house close, Robin saw the junior partner appear from around the corner. "Jess."
Jess silently took in the scene in the living room, and without question didn't like what she saw. In fact, that was a significant understatement. Blue eyes first became hardened, then icy, and fixed themselves directly on the form of Thomas Wilson standing near Robin. Simultaneously, contrasting the icy glare her eyes gave off, a red hot rage boiled up inside of her, not unlike the rage she had felt toward James only a very short time ago.
I know that look. It was the same look of revenge Robin recognized from the turmoil of events of the last several days.
A stark silence came over the room as Jess and Thomas Wilson engaged in a confrontational stare-down, until she finally spoke. "Get out." She gave him the terse command, her voice even, hiding even the barest of emotion. "You're not welcome here."
The younger woman rushed over to Jess, placing a reassuring hand on her arm. "He was just leaving." Robin then looked directly at her father. "Isn't that right?"
He nodded, resignation set on his face, and made his way toward the door.
But Jess wasn't entirely through. "Don't come back, or I'll have you arrested for trespassing……among other things."
I will not be threatened. That woman's pure manipulation of his daughter was disgraceful. However, although Thomas was not easily dissuaded, he had learned over the years to pick his battles, and now was not the time to fight this particular one. Besides, there was always the possibility that Robin would eventually come to see through that woman once and for all. Well, at least one could hope so. He exited the front door without another word, saving another battle for another day, and leaving Robin and Jess alone in the living room.
The taller woman, blue eyes guarded and intense, watched him like a hawk as he left. Once satisfied that the imminent threat was gone, she turned back toward Robin. Those blue eyes now softened noticeably, filled at once with worry and concern. "Sweetheart……" She studied Robin's face, running her hands up and down the full length of the blonde woman's arms, searching for any signs of distress. "Are you all right?"
"What was he doing here?"
Robin let go a sigh. "He stopped by unannounced."
"And you let him in?"
"I……" What explanation could there possibly be? "I thought I could get him to leave us alone." It had been a futile attempt, one that was evident now. A helpless look emerged. "I had to try."
"I know." Jess embraced the petite woman. "As long as you're okay."
A long moment passed before Robin spoke again. "I got angry with him."
Damn it! What did he say to her? "Tell me why, sweetheart."
Robin looked at her apologetically. "I told him we planned to have children someday and that I'd never let him see them."
"What?" They had only made this decision earlier that morning.
Noting the stricken look on Jess's face, Robin rushed to clarify. "I didn't give him any of the details. I just mentioned it in general."
God, he'd better not interfere with this. As if that man hadn't done enough damage already……much more than either of them should have had to endure. "And what did he say to that?"
"He labeled it a laboratory experiment. So I got angry."
At hearing that, Jess nearly lost it, herself. Could that man be any more hurtful? And this was coming from Robin's own father. "You had every right to be angry." She gently lifted Robin's chin so that their eyes met. "Your idea is such a beautiful one. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You and I will do what is right for us, and whatever we do is none of his business."
"That's what I told him. But he just wouldn't listen. No matter what I said, he wouldn't listen."
And therein was the problem in a nutshell. Although they may have dealt effectively with James, and that was a significant accomplishment under the circumstances, Robin's father was another story altogether, one that would not go so quietly into the night……
And remained another battle yet to fight.
The front door to the Tampa townhouse opened wide, and Elaine Harrison excitedly greeted her two favorite girls who had just arrived all the way from Orlando. And it was a hot one that Saturday, too. The temperature must have been at least ninety-five degrees in the shade, with the late summer's sultry humidity making spending more than ten seconds outside absolutely miserable.
"Hi Mom." Jess gave her mother a hug.
Elaine reached for Robin and gave her newest daughter a hug, as well. "Quick, come on into the house, you two. It's much too hot to be standing outside on the porch."
The townhouse was always as Jess remembered it, and that was remarkably comforting all on its own. It was a sort of refuge from the hectic rest of the world, a place that had a familiar warmth that only her mother could provide. No wonder Robin wanted to come back here. "How are you, Mom?"
"I can't complain." Elaine placed a few coasters on the living room coffee table. "Sit. Let me get you girls some iced tea. I just made it fresh with a little bit of mint." The mint was a special ingredient she'd used for as long as she could remember. She stepped into the kitchen, and within a few moments returned with their iced teas. "So tell me, how are things with you girls?" She joined her daughter and Robin on the sofa.
Where to begin? Jess had refrained up to that point from telling her mother about the gory details of the events of the past several weeks. It was a difficult subject to get into without stirring up still raw emotions. "We've had a bit of a situation with James again."
"Oh dear." Elaine scowled. "Not that scoundrel again." It was true. That man had caused her daughter much more than her share of heartache in the past, and Jess hadn't been the same since then. "What's he done now?"
"Well.….." Jess glanced at Robin. "To make a long story short, Robin's father hired him to come back to town and cause trouble for Robin and me for the purpose of breaking us up."
"What on earth……?" Elaine studied the girls for a minute. They seemed to have weathered this storm, but they both looked very weary for it. "I'm sure I'm not going to like this story."
"I made some bad decisions during all of this, I'll admit that, trying to keep him from infecting our lives." Jess reflected. "And when we found out that Robin's father was behind everything, well, it was a pretty big shock."
"Tell me what happened, Jessie."
Jessie. Jess felt a calm come over her at hearing her mother call her by her childhood name. Robin was right. This is the place we need to be. "James came back and invited me to manage and to serve as local counsel for his firm's new office in town. That was a ruse. His objective was to get close to me and therefore cause friction between Robin and me."
"Um……" Jess was a little embarrassed.
Robin spoke for the first time since the conversation had started. "He set out to make me jealous and cause me to distrust Jess." Robin was entirely comfortable grasping Jess's hand in her own as she recounted the sorted events. "It was all a game to him to see if he could pull it off."
"That sounds terrible." Elaine shook her head. "And he did this to try to break you up?"
Robin sipped her iced tea, a diversion for the sole purpose of hiding the hurt that welled up inside of her at just thinking about the elaborate scheme he and her father had cooked up. "Yes, at my father's instigation. To be fair, it wasn't James' idea. It was all my father's doing from the start. James was just his errand boy."
She seems so sad. "That's such a shame." Jess's mother empathized. "Although your father may not like the choices you've made in life, he really should accept your happiness at what you're doing."
"I wish it was like that, but he just won't listen to me and keeps interfering." Would it always be like that? Would her father always get in the way? She had to admit it was a bit overwhelming to think about any further repercussions that may result from his continued interference down the road.
"But things are resolved now, aren't they?" Elaine asked.
"James has definitely gotten the point." Jess left the statement deliberately cryptic. "We caught on to him and gave him an ultimatum to leave town, which he's thankfully done."
That scoundrel really was a self-serving good-for-nothing to Elaine's way of thinking. He had done nothing but wreak havoc right from the beginning. And now to have Robin's father intent on finding ways to cause trouble……well, there was only so much a person could take. And it was apparent even to Elaine that Robin needed some extra special care at the moment. "Is there anything I can do for you girls?"
"Thanks for asking, Mom, but all Robin and I really need to do is get away right now, which is one of the reasons we came over today. The other reason is that we've booked a week-long cruise leaving from the Port of Tampa tomorrow." Jess smiled playfully at Robin. "I hear we have a hot date with a Caribbean island."
Now that did indeed sound terrific. Robin sighed with anticipation. Nothing but the sea and those tropical drinks with the little umbrellas aboard deck as they watched the islands leisurely drift by……heavenly was the only way Robin could describe it. "Yeah, and I've already told Jess that there's at least one island with our names plastered on it."
"That sounds lovely. I'm sure you'll both have a well-deserved break and a wonderful time." Elaine was happy that the girls had a distraction planned. "You'll be staying here tonight, then, of course."
"Of course." Jess responded.
"Good." Her mother got up from the sofa. "Peter and the boys should be here any minute, and then we'll all have a nice visit before dinner. Sound good?"
Sounds great. Both Robin and Jess had the same thought and couldn't keep the grins from their faces. In only a short while, Elaine had eased the burden they had been carrying, and the warmth of home brought both of them the contentment they had so long been seeking.
Just what the doctor ordered.
"Can I help with anything, Elaine?" Robin stood at the counter in the kitchen as Elaine began dinner preparations. Peter and Jess were busy catching up in the living room, while the kids, Michael and Jeremy, played outside in the backyard.
"That's all right, dear. Everything's under control." Elaine noticed a lightness to Robin's eyes that wasn't present earlier. Perhaps it was the thought of Caribbean islands that put that there. Or actually, what Elaine didn't know was that perhaps it may have been just the time spent around Jess's family that was brightening things up for Robin. It was such a shame that Robin's own family wasn't supportive and was instead causing her so much unhappiness. She and Jess deserved much better than that. "I want you to know that you always have a place here with us." She gave Robin a gentle hug. "I've always wanted a second daughter."
What a kind thing for Elaine to say. Robin gave her a genuine smile. "Thank you for saying that. I really feel at home every time Jess and I come to visit. And it's nice to stop thinking about all the stuff that's been going on."
"I bet it is, dear." Elaine pulled the shrimp cocktail from the refrigerator.
Ah, her mother plays the shrimp game, as well. "I see you're well prepared for Jess's visit." Robin nodded toward the shrimp and chuckled. "She'd probably be in shrimp withdrawal today otherwise."
"Let me tell you a little secret." Elaine whispered conspiratorially. "Jessie probably wouldn't even notice if it was missing."
"Don't let on, but she only makes a fuss about shrimp to garner some attention." Elaine raised an eyebrow, not uncharacteristically unlike her daughter's.
Robin smiled. "I actually had that figured out."
"Jessie thinks we don't know what she's up to." Elaine continued. "So we play along and humor her."
"Yeah, I've tried that."
"Now, you watch, she'll make a big fuss about the shrimp, but in reality, she'd never miss it." Elaine glanced over to make sure no one was approaching, then lowered her voice. "I've considered omitting the shrimp during one of her visits just as a little test. What do you think?"
"I think you should do it. You'd catch her at her own game." They both had a good laugh, then Robin had another thought. "I've been meaning to ask you if you have any more scoop you could give me on Jess when she was a kid. I'm sure there's more, because when I let on that I knew about her foot-in-the-paint-can episode, she was absolutely mortified that maybe I knew about something else. Any idea what that could be?"
"Well, let's see." Elaine thought back. "Aside from the paint can incident, there was the lawn mower escapade."
"Oh, I've got to hear this."
Elaine recounted the tale as she went about arranging the cooked shrimp on a platter. "It was when Jessie was about fourteen. When Peter went off to college, she decided to take over the lawn cutting jobs he'd done for the neighbors and make a little extra money for herself. Back then, we lived on a canal, and many of our neighbors did, too. One day, she came home from cutting a neighbor's lawn, but without the lawn mower. I asked her where the lawn mower was, and after trying to evade the question every single way that she could, do you know what she finally told me?"
"I can't wait to hear." Robin giggled, eager for the rest of the story.
"She said it was in the water."
"Oh no!" Robin giggled harder. "How did it get in water?"
"That's just what I asked her. Her answer was that it somehow 'got away' from her and went over the seawall." Elaine raised a skeptical eyebrow.
Robin was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.
"And I'm sure you know that once something is submerged in salt water, it's pretty much out of commission. So there she was, all these lawn cutting jobs to do, and no working lawn mower. She had to spend all the money she'd made cutting lawns up to that point just to buy a brand new lawn mower."
"That's so priceless." The wheels were spinning furiously. "Thanks, Elaine. I'm sure this story will come in very useful, someday." Very useful.
Both Elaine and Robin were so busy laughing amongst themselves about Jess's childhood antics that they barely noticed Jess suddenly come up and stand poised in the kitchen doorway, taking in the scene in front of her with interest. Something's going on. And as a matter of fact, from the sound of it, Jess didn't like it one bit. Just what I thought. It's a conspiracy against me. "I see you're having fun in here. So, what are you two talking about?"
Her mother and Robin abruptly became silent, and Elaine nonchalantly went back to assembling the shrimp platter. "Nothing, dear. Just getting some appetizers together."
Suspicious blue eyes glared at them. I bet.
"Um……" Robin muffled a giggle. "I'll go and keep Peter company."
Ever suspicious blue eyes watched as the younger woman left the kitchen. "Okay, Mom, what were you two talking about?"
"Like I said, dear, nothing." Elaine repressed a smile. "Hand me that bottle of cocktail sauce from the fridge, will you?"
Traitor. "You know I'm gonna find out."
"Whatever you say, Jessie. Now, see here, I have some shrimp for you." Elaine remarked with all due seriousness. "I wouldn't want you to miss having it."
"Thanks." Jess replied absently, the shrimp in reality the furthest thing from her mind. Just then, she caught a glimpse through the kitchen window of Robin and Peter outside with Michael and Jeremy kicking the soccer ball around. Robin seemed really happy, laughing and playing. "So, where's Peg today?" It was best to know if there would be any land mines to negotiate later on.
"I'm afraid her mother's taken ill, and she had to travel to New York to help take care of her for a little while. She's left Peter to tend to the boys for a week or so."
Jess nodded, silently distracted by the scene in the backyard. Finally, she blurted out the question, unaware until it happened that she had done so. "What do you think of having more grandchildren?"
As a matter of fact, Jess was caught off guard by her own question asked back at her. "What I mean is, if Robin and I were to decide to have children one day, what would you think of that?" She wasn't exactly sure of the answer she would receive, so she held her breath.
"Oh, Jessie, that would be a lovely thing. Does Robin want to have children?"
"Yeah." Jess smiled as she watched Robin playing with the boys outside. "She really does."
"And what about you?" Elaine continued with her dinner preparations.
"I think it would really be nice. We've talked about it, and we've agreed that someday we'd like to have some kids and be a family together. Maybe not right away, but someday."
"Well, then that's a very good thing. I think the both of you would make wonderful parents."
Jess smiled. She didn't go into Robin's ideas of how exactly that was going to happen. Instead, Jess figured she'd just wait until the time came, and if she and Robin still felt the same way and everything worked out as planned, they'd tell the people whom they chose to know the details. "Robin would be a great mom. See how good she is with the boys out there?" Jess was infatuated with the scene unfolding outside.
Her mother looked up, the expression on Jess's face not escaping her in the least, and the sight of Robin playing with Michael and Jeremy outside warming her heart. "Any children of yours and Robin's will be very lucky to have you as parents."
That was good to hear. Her mother was definitely one in a million. And it was certainly a contrast to what Robin had relayed about Thomas Wilson's reaction to the news. To hear of their children being referred to as laboratory experiments was more than Jess could tolerate. But she knew he'd just said what he'd said to get Robin's attention. It would definitely be a good thing that he never have contact with any of them. I wonder what Robin's mother thinks of the news. Thank God Jess's mother was so warm and encouraging, enough for both Robin and Jess to appreciate. "Thanks, Mom." And she really meant it.
"Okay, now you go on outside with the others while I finish up in here."
"Are you sure you don't need some help?"
"Absolutely not." Elaine gently scoffed. "Go on, now."
Jess gave her mother a big hug. "Yes, ma'am."
Yes, ma'am, indeed.
The sparkling turquoise water glistened in the mid-day sunlight as the long palm branches swayed and rustled with the gentle sea breeze. Several tall coconut palms created a breathtaking backdrop for the brilliant white sandy beach dotted with straw huts, colorful beach chairs, striped beach umbrellas, and of course, the oh-so-necessary drink bar. Small sailboats and wave runners criss-crossed the horizon, while several of the more adventurous among the occupants of the island parasailed from high above.
This was the cruise line's private island out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, not too far from the U.S. Virgin Islands and a mere day's sail from Jamaica. The cruise passengers had just finished a lunch of barbecued chicken and ribs, and every other imaginable picnic fare, and had set out for an afternoon on the beach. For those who preferred less sun but still wished to experience the tropical feel of the island, several hammocks were strategically placed in shaded areas and beneath a number of native palm trees, ideal for leisurely watching the beach and water happenings or just dozing off with an afternoon nap.
"Your pina colada."
Robin glanced up from her beach chair as Jess handed her the aforementioned drink. "Thanks." She took a long sip of the frozen cocktail. God, that's good. She twirled the little umbrella that came with it between her fingers. They had even put it in a souvenir cup.
Jess sat in her beach chair beside Robin's. Rum punch. Not bad for a tropical drink. And there was the rest of the day for them to enjoy the sun and the beach or even snag a couple of hammocks later on. She cast a glance at Robin through her mirrored sunglasses. Now, this was the life. She lifted her cup toward Robin's and lightly tapped the two of them together. "To our future, kiddo."
That produced a grin. "To our future, Jess." And it was a good one, at that. "Want to try some parasailing?"
"Aren't you the adventurous one." The older woman relaxed back in her beach chair.
"Hey, it looks like fun. What do you think?"
Why not? "All right, kiddo, you're on."
"Great." Robin sipped her pina colada, a small grin easing its way across her face. "And then tonight you can explain to me all about ……" A deliberate pause for effect. "The lawn mower escapade."
Long fingers slowly lifted the mirrored sunglasses above entirely unamused blue eyes. I knew there was something going on. "Not another word, Robin."
"Because it seems to me that lawn mowers don't just happen by themselves into water."
"Robin……" Jess warned.
"Especially over seawalls."
"I would definitely stop now……" Jess warned one more time.
"When they somehow suddenly 'get away' from you."
That's it! "You had better watch out, Robin."
"You can tell me what really happened later on. I promise I won't laugh."
Bright azure eyes reflecting the color of the water narrowed considerably. "I think it's a little too late for that." Jess picked up her drink and took a long sip, contemplating her response. "I'd say that as of this minute, those slippers of yours are in serious jeopardy."
"Threats, Jess." Robin drained the rest of her drink, smiling to herself. "When are they not?" She loved this side of Jess. Totally endearing. "So, you ready to hit the parasail?"
A raised eyebrow. A challenge. How could she refuse? "Yep. And let's just see who can make the softer landing."
Exactly. From that point forward, they both hoped that their future held plenty of tropical breezes, high rides, and very soft landings.
Whatever lay ahead.
© Copyright 12/01/06
Author's Acknowledgment: I would like to give a very special thank you to my beta reader, Jude, who gave me tremendous help and encouragement during the writing of this story. The story is much better because of it.
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