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 kmmoon@prodigy.net.

INTUITION

 

Written by KM

 

Part 3

Robin turned over in the quiet darkness, and even through the unconscious haziness of sleep, she could sense the empty space next to her. Instinctively, she threw her arm across to the other side of the waterbed, only confirming her suspicions. Jess wasn't there. Reluctantly, groggy green eyes opened to visually corroborate the now obvious fact, then glanced over at the digital clock on the nightstand. 2:24 am. So, where was Jess at this hour? A petite hand felt the sheets on other side of the bed, finding them cool. It seemed that her sleeping companion had been up awhile. At that moment, the air conditioning unit kicked on, its low hum breaking the peaceful silence surrounding her and prodding her thoughts just a little bit further.

So, should she get up? Robin mentally pondered the idea. Maybe Jess just couldn't sleep and was up reading or watching TV. Or maybe Jess was hungry and got up to get a little snack. Or maybe she had some work to do. Or maybe pigs could fly. Right. There was only one reason Jess was up at this time of night, and Robin knew it. James. They'd talked it out at length the previous evening, or so Robin had thought, and Jess was resolved to ignore his recent and unwelcome intrusion into their lives. The now wide awake green eyes blinked several times. It was funny how one knock at the door could change things so dramatically and had the potential to spiral those things completely out of control.

So, how did Robin feel about it, about James's sudden return? Well, she was angry for one thing. Angry that he felt he could just show himself up at their doorstep without any notice. Or warning. And maybe that was his plan all along. Catch your prey off-guard. In truth, Robin wouldn't be surprised at all if there was some other reason for his visit. His stated purpose was that he had some sort of business deal. Yeah, right. And donkeys could fly, too. His visit was purely personal, showing up in his fancy business suit and expensive watch as if he wanted to make a statement. Or an impression. Ah, but even Robin had found him rather handsome and charming during their very brief encounter, hadn't she?

So, how did she feel? Angry. She acknowledged that. Angry at how he had treated Jess all those years ago. How he had used Jess and deceived her into caring for him. How he had manipulated her into supporting him and paying for his education with promises of a future together, all the while scheming to get what he wanted and then take off without so much as an explanation. So, yes, Robin was angry, and by extension, protective. Because tigers don't change their stripes and leopards don't change their spots. That, Robin admitted, was really it. If James's character hadn't changed in all of these years, and Robin was sure it hadn't, then it stood to reason that Jess's feelings for him deep down might not have changed that much, either.

So, once again, how did Robin feel? Her jaw tightened as she lay in the dark. The truth of the matter became undeniable. As angry as Robin was at James for what he did, and as protective of Jess as she was because of all the pain and heartache he had caused, there was one other primal emotion that had now risen up to bite her, and bite her hard. The fine muscles of the petite jaw tightened even further at the mental admission. Jealousy. There was no escaping it. Robin was jealous. It had been staring her in the face ever since she'd learned that the man who appeared at the front door was James, but she only now recognized it. So, in answer to the question about how she felt.....well, of course, she was angry. And naturally, she was protective. But absolutely, positively, and without a doubt, she was jealous.

Having had enough now of her internal revelations, Robin finally decided to get up and look for her missing sleeping companion. It was the middle of the night after all, and really, Jess shouldn't be up dwelling on the events of the previous day. Robin slipped out of bed and padded over to the far side of the master bedroom, confirming along the way that the bathroom indeed was empty. She then ventured out into the long hallway leading toward the living room. Almost as an afterthought, she detoured around the next corner to check the den just in case Jess was up doing some work in there. There was no light coming from the office, and upon reaching the doorway, it was clear that no one was inside.

So, Robin continued on her search, eventually winding up at the front of the house just inside the entrance to the living room. It was dark in there, too. The television was off, and it was quiet. The vertical blinds in front of the large sliding glass doors were drawn open, and the silvery moonlight glittered off the swimming pool out on the patio. Gray-green eyes scanned the spacious room in the semi-darkness trying to ascertain whether the older woman was there. The glow of the moonlight answered Robin's question. Jess was not in the room. Where is she?

Suddenly, something occurred to Robin, and the thought scared her for a second. She turned around and hurriedly made her way through the kitchen over to the door to the garage, opening it quickly. Upon seeing that the silver Mercedes was still in its usual spot, she exhaled a sigh of relief, glad that Jess hadn't driven off to who knows where. But that still didn't answer her question about where Jess was. Robin stood on the tiled floor for another minute considering the possibilities. Finally, she wandered back into the living room and stopped in front of the sliding glass doors, peering out across the screened-in patio. The nearly full moon was bright enough to illuminate everything in sight. And there, sitting in a cushioned lounge chair at the opposite end of the pool, the younger woman finally spied the object of her search.

Quietly, Robin opened the sliding doors and stepped outside onto the patio, making her way toward the reclining figure. She felt the silver-blue eyes fix their gaze on her as she approached and sat down on the edge of the lounge chair next to the older woman's outstretched legs. "Hey."

Jess cleared her throat. "Hey. What are you doing out here?"

"I could ask you the same question. It's two thirty in the morning."

Jess sat up a bit straighter in the chair. "Is it? I guess I lost track of time." She offered a small smile. "You should go back to sleep."

"Well, I will if you'll come with me." Robin noted Jess's bare legs. "Aren't you chilly out here? It's awfully damp at night." The flannel boxers offered little warmth against the humid night air.

"Nah, I'm fine." Long fingers reached up to gently brush the blonde bangs. "Don't worry."

Right. That was easier said than done. "Come on back to bed, Jess."

"Just give me a few minutes, then I'll be in."

Robin didn't move.

"It's okay, I promise."

Robin grasped Jess's hand. "Honey, it's not okay. It's not okay for you to be out here in the middle of the night." Hearing nothing in response, the younger woman sat there quietly, still holding onto the larger hand.

Finally, Jess spoke again. "You know, I've been thinking about something."

That was an obvious statement, but Robin indulged her. "Okay."

"Listen, I want you to promise me something."

"If I can." Came the cautious reply

Silver-blue eyes captured gray-green. "Here's the thing. People's feelings sometimes change, and even though they might think that they feel one way, sometimes after a period of time, their feelings change and they might feel another way."

What's she getting at? For a brief second, Robin considered that what Jess was actually saying was that her feelings for James were somehow changing. In spite of that fleeting and unsettling thought, Robin continued listening.

"So, I want you to promise me that if your feelings change sometime along the road, and you want to move on to something or someone else, you'll feel free to do that." The older woman rushed to elaborate. "I mean, we don't have a legal document between us or anything like that, so there would really be nothing to bind us if at some point you wanted to do that." She swallowed. "So, will you promise me?"

Robin didn't say anything. To say she was stunned would have been the wrong word for what she was feeling. Hadn't she and Jess been over this time and time again? Hadn't they decided that they were going to spend the rest of their lives together? So, what was this? Did Jess really think that Robin was going to change her mind one day and just up and leave her high and dry? Or was it James's reappearance that was bringing out all of these feelings all over again? The smaller woman answered Jess's question with a question of her own. "Do you think your own feelings will change?"

"Well, no, of course not."

"Then why would you think that mine would?" As the seconds passed, Robin noted Jess's extended silence at her question, which, in truth, was not really a question at all but more of a statement intended to make a point. Robin continued, her eyes expressing a warmth she hoped the older woman could see. "And besides, honey, we do have something binding us." She rubbed her thumb affectionately across the ring Jess had placed on her finger. "This. This is binding us together. I don't need a legal document to tell me that I'm bound to you. I'm committed to you in my heart."

The dark head nodded slowly. It made sense what Robin was saying. Yet, who could really know the future? "But if you ever did decide that you wanted something else, I'd want you to feel that you could pursue it."

Green eyes closed for a moment. Was the damage this man had done that extensive? What would it take to penetrate the walls she could feel Jess putting up as if bracing herself for the worst? Finally, Robin spoke the only words she thought just might make a difference. She took both of Jess's hands in her own and captured the silver-blue gaze in front of her. "I love you, Jess, very much. I want to be with you forever. I commit my mind, my heart, my body, and my soul to you, to take care of you, to cherish you, and to love you as long as we live, and beyond." Green eyes continued their hold as Robin made her final plea. "If you'll let me."

A whisper of a breath escaped and lingered in the air. Jess remembered those words well. In fact, for as long as she lived, she'd never forget them. They were burned in her memory for eternity. Her thoughts left her for a second and brought her to the place of one indescribable moment. In front of a stunning sunset on a secluded sandy beach one spring evening, as a light sea breeze caressed their souls, Robin slipped a beautiful diamond ring onto her finger and spoke those very same words. And Jess, herself, had spoken similar words, making their commitment to each other complete. She responded to Robin exactly as she had before. "Yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes." Jess reaffirmed

"Good." The younger woman now grinned. "So, considering that....." She stretched herself out on the cushioned chair alongside Jess. "What exactly was your question again?"

"Um.....I don't think I recall."

"Good answer." Robin snuggled in a bit closer. "And considering that....." She tapped her index finger playfully against the older woman's chin. "Is there any other part of forever that you don't understand?"

Jess smiled affectionately. "Wise guy." She breathed in the spring rain scent of the golden hair next to her. "I understand each and every letter, Robin."

"Another good answer." Robin placed a hand on the older woman's stomach, and they laid there quietly listening to the low chime of the summer crickets.

After several moments had passed, Jess spoke again. "I've changed my mind about something."

That came out of the blue. Robin raised up in mild alarm. "What?'

"Shhhh. It's okay. I've just changed my mind about what I'm going to do about James."

"What do you mean?" The smaller woman wasn't sure she wanted to hear this.

"Lie back down. Come on." Long arms guided Robin back into her previous position. "I've decided I'm going to let him contact me. Number one, he won't give up anyway, even if I ignore him. And number two, if I go ahead and see him, I can tell him to get lost." That particular thought held considerable appeal.

I don't like this. "Are you sure that's a good idea? I mean, I'd hate for him to think he could take advantage of you again." Robin's protective instincts surfaced, and the niggling inside her mind told her she should keep Jess as far away from James as possible. Or, if she was completely honest with herself, perhaps she was just a tiny bit afraid that Jess would be drawn to him all over again.

"I'm not the same person I was back then. Believe me, if anyone's going to be taking advantage of anyone else, he won't see it coming."

Robin still wasn't sure about it, but there was really nothing she could do. Jess was going to do whatever Jess was going to do. Robin just had to make sure that the older woman came away from the whole thing as unscathed as possible.....if that was even possible. She stifled a small yawn. "It must be nearly three o'clock by now, Jess. Let's go inside and go back to bed."

Jess nodded in agreement and stood up, taking Robin with her. "You're right, kiddo. Enough thinking for one night." They walked together toward the sliding glass doors in easy silence. Suddenly, the taller woman stopped just before they stepped inside the house. "The same goes for me, you know."

Quizzical green eyes looked up. "What goes for you?"

Jess cupped Robin's cheek, repeating the words she'd said that perfect evening on the sandy beach as the golden orange sun gently slipped below the horizon over the sea. "I love you, my sweet Robin. I want you to know that you're the best thing that's ever happened to me. You've brought so much happiness into my life." She paused slightly, then continued on. "I commit myself and my love to you forever. I commit my mind, my heart, my body, and my soul to you, to take care of you, to cherish you, and to love you as long as we live, and beyond." She smiled. "If you'll let me."

All Robin could do was hug Jess tightly. Those words meant everything to her. "Yes." She whispered into the taller woman's shoulder. "Forever."

Forever. It wasn't exactly a new concept, but with each passing day, it seemed to take on a deeper meaning.

********************

Jess awoke the next morning to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee making its way throughout the house. She turned over, and as she surmised, found the place on the bed next to her empty. She checked the digital alarm clock on the nightstand, making note that it was nearly ten o'clock, late for her by any standards. Of course, she hadn't gotten all that much sleep last night anyway, what with her middle of the night ruminations. But, all things considered, she felt quite good today, and all of the tension from the previous night seemed to vanish, even if only for a short while. Lazily, she stretched the muscles in her arms and legs out for several seconds to get the blood pumping in her body again, then got up and headed into the bathroom. She checked her reflection in the mirror, noticing a few worry lines in her forehead, then splashed some water onto her face. Once finished with her tasks, she ambled out to the kitchen, finding Robin hard at work fixing them both breakfast. Jess stood there watching silently for a moment until the master chef finally noticed her arrival. "Morning, kiddo."

An easy grin. "Morning, sleepyhead."

"Hey, that's usually my line." Jess winked. "I see you're up before me today."

"Yep." The blonde woman decided to have a little fun. "I'm going to have to write this down. Jess sleeps later than Robin. News at eleven."

Jess put on her best bored expression. "Cute." She then focused her attention on Robin's bare feet. "I brought you your slippers." She produced the items. "I figured you forgot to put them on this morning."

Robin took two large mugs down from the cabinet. "Nope, I just decided to go barefoot." She started pouring coffee into the mugs.

"You know, there's this saying about keeping a woman in the kitchen, barefoot and....."

Robin stopped mid-pour, her mouth slightly open.

"Happy." Jess chuckled. "I was gonna say happy."

The smaller woman cleared her throat. "Actually, I think the saying says something else, but happy would work, too." She resumed pouring, then stepped over and placed one of the mugs in front of Jess. "So, you'd be okay with happy, or would you want something else?"

Oh boy. Jess fidgeted. "Um.....well, we would have to decide." It was a good non-answer.

Robin nodded and then let the subject drop. "So....." She glanced at the slippers in Jess's hand. "You can go ahead and put those back where you found them."

Jess didn't move, and in fact, had a slightly mischievous look on her face.

"I mean it, Jess." Robin warned. "When I go in there, they'd better be where right I left them." She pointed a plastic spatula at the taller woman for emphasis.

A dark eyebrow arched sharply at the apparent challenge. "Well, they'll be in the general vicinity of where you left them."

In a flash, the lethal spatula came to rest under Jess's chin. "They will be exactly where I left them. Have I made myself clear?"

An incredibly bored expression. "I don't think you're quite in a position to make demands."

The spatula held steady. "You'd better put them back."

A smirk. "It'll cost you, then." After all, Jess did hold the goods.

"What?" Robin initially balked. "Oh, so you're holding them hostage now? Is that it?" Reluctantly, she removed the spatula. "So, what's the ransom?"

"Ah, now we're getting somewhere." Jess grinned triumphantly. "A kiss." She lightly tapped herself on the cheek with one slender finger. "Right here."

"A kiss?" She is so unbelievably charming. "You want me to give you a kiss? And then you'll return my bunny slippers?"

"Yep." Azure eyes twinkled. "I'm waiting....."

Robin hid a smile. She stood on her tip-toes and gave Jess a peck on the cheek, the warmth of her green eyes penetrating the thoroughly amused sparkling blue in front of her. "Okay. Now, hand them over."

"Fine." Jess did as she was instructed, hiding a smile of her own as she watched Robin slide her feet into the fuzzy slippers. "I thought you didn't want to wear them."

"I can't trust you. You might kidnap them again."

"You're right." Jess winked. "Especially, if you keep on paying the ransom." She retrieved a spoon from the drawer and stirred some cream and sugar into her coffee, then took a leisurely sip. "So, what's for breakfast this Sunday morning?"

Robin filled two small bowls with chunks of cut up cantaloupe. "I was just about to put some bacon on, and then we can have eggs and toast or pancakes or waffles or whatever else you want." She laid a few slices of bacon into the frying pan. "So, tell me, mademoiselle, what will it be?"

"Ooooh, French." The taller woman set her coffee mug down on the counter. "I love it when you speak French."

"You do? " A golden eyebrow lifted slightly. "Well.....then, what if I said, Je t'aime?" Robin stood at the stove keeping careful watch over her gently sizzling bacon.

Jess stepped behind the petite woman. "Then....." She lifted a fork and proceeded to turn over one of the crispy pieces, whispering softly into a conveniently placed ear. "I'd say, Je t'adore."

Robin nearly melted. Whether it was from the heat of the stove or the heat emanating from behind her, she couldn't exactly say. She wondered how in the world Jess could make cooking breakfast, of all things, seductive, but the older woman had managed to do so twice that morning almost effortlessly. Robin forced herself to focus on the immediate task at hand, remembering her initial query. "So....." Green eyes looked up and locked onto those of gorgeous blue still peering over her shoulder from behind. "Eggs, then?"

A sly wink. "French toast."

Figures.

*******************

Well, having considered all of their options for the day and ruling out any prospects remotely related to work, they finally decided to take in an early Sunday afternoon matinee. Robin drove to the movie theatre, keeping up a running conversation with monkey Al dangling from the rearview mirror. Most of the commentary had to do with Jess, of course, who sat in the passenger seat mildly amused but never showing it. She did, however, take minor exception to Robin's characterization of her as a sleepyhead, since the record would clearly reflect that Robin held the world title in that department.

Upon arriving home later that afternoon, Jess planted herself in the den to sort through some bills and financial records, something she'd been putting off doing, while Robin situated herself on the plush sofa in the living room to continue reading the book she'd started earlier. She didn't, however, get very far before the doorbell rang. Her immediate thought was that the previous day's unexpected visitor had returned. She and Jess had known it was a possibility that he'd surface again, considering that he wouldn't likely give up trying to contact Jess. Damn him. It would be better if he just went away. Robin hesitated, briefly entertaining the thought of not answering the door at all, but clearly, he would just keep on coming back. Finally conquering the battle within herself, she got up and went over to peer through the eyehole. And just as she had suspected, there he was, dressed as smartly as ever and looking quite confident. Robin hated the man, and that wasn't an emotion she often felt for anyone. Taking a deep breath, she kept her emotions under tight control and opened the door, intent on sending him away.

"Hello again." Jay Prescott smiled charmingly. "I was on my way out of town today, and I thought I'd try once more to catch Jessica at home. Is she here, by any chance?"

Robin greeted him coolly. "I know who you are."

He raised his eyebrows. "Yes, I left my card with you."

"Jess told me about you, James." Robin kept her voice even. "I know what happened.....what you did."

His demeanor changed, and he now appeared a bit defensive. "Um.....I seem to be at a disadvantage here. You apparently know of me, but I don't know you." Hearing nothing in response, he continued. "Listen, all I want is to speak with Jessica for just a minute."

Truth be told, Robin wanted to strangle him right then and there. She glared at him harshly. "I think you should go. You're not welcome here." At that moment, she felt a familiar presence come up behind her.

"Robin." Jess placed a hand on the younger woman's shoulder and stepped into full view. "I see we have a visitor."

"Jessica." James offered a relieved smile. "I was just telling.....um.....Robin here that I stopped by on my way out of town hoping for a moment of your time." He was nothing if not refined. "May I speak with you, please?"

Blue eyes stared at him, deceptively calm. "What do you want?"

He glanced over at Robin, then back to Jess. "Uh.....could you and I have a moment alone?"

Surprisingly, Jess was agreeable to his request. She knew what she wanted to do. "All right."

"Jess....." Robin protested. "Is this really a good idea?"

"It's okay." The older woman offered her a reassuring smile. "Go on inside, and I'll be in soon."

"But....." Green eyes pleaded. "You don't have to do this."

"Shhhh." The low alto voice soothed. "I'll only be a few minutes."

James watched this interaction, fascinated.

Reluctantly, Robin turned and went back into the house as the taller woman gently closed the door behind her. Standing now with James on the front porch, Jess set about finding out exactly what he wanted. But first, she had a few things of her own she wanted to say. "You're unbelievable, showing up like this."

He smiled. "Jessica.....Jess.....you're looking good."

"Cut the crap. What the hell are you doing here?"

James's features hinted at remorse. "Okay, look, I wanted to see you, to tell you that I'm sorry about everything that happened before, and I want to make it up to you." He lifted his stylish leather briefcase and opened it, pulling out a thin brown envelope. "I have this for you." He handed it to her.

Casually, Jess reached inside the envelope and pulled out a cashier's check made out to her. She raised an eyebrow. "What's this?"

"Everything I owe you, plus interest."

Jess looked at him as if he was insane. She abruptly shoved the check into its envelope and tossed it back at him. "Keep it."

"Wait." James took a step closer. "I really want you to have this. I want to try to make things right between us."

Unable to maintain the calm faćade any longer, Jess's blue eyes flashed with anger. "You have the audacity to think that you can throw money at me and everything that happened before will just be forgotten? You think paying me off will make up for what you did?" She fixed him now with an icy glare. "You stole from me. You let me support you and pay for your education. You led me to believe things you never intended to happen." She shook her head in disgust. "Then, you snuck off without a word to me, like the coward you are. You're lucky I didn't have you arrested."

A look of regret crossed his face. "I'm sorry, Jess. Really, I am. It was wrong what I did. I realize that now. You have every right to be angry at me. But I've changed. I'm not the same person I was back then, and I really want to make it up to you."

Like hell. "There's nothing you could possibly do." She meant every word of it.

Well, it seemed Jess was angrier than he'd thought she'd be, even after all these years had passed. Nevertheless, he kept on trying. "This check.....it's just a first start."

She shook her head again. "I don't need it. The money was a small price to pay for the lesson I learned. I have everything I need right now, so don't bother."

That was an intriguing statement, considering the interchange he had witnessed just a few moments ago. Something else was going on here. A thought occurred to him. "So tell me, who's the blonde?"

Jess's protective instincts kicked in. The last thing she wanted was for Robin to be tainted by whatever it was he was up to. "That's none of your business."

"Roommate?"

"I said it's none of your business, so leave it alone." Jess dared him to continue.

But continue he did. "If you're taking in a roommate, then surely you could use the money." His eyes caught sight of the diamond cluster ring on her finger, and he had to admit he felt a twinge of jealousy hit him at its intended significance. "Nice ring." A pause. "Boyfriend?"

Jess didn't answer.

"Not a husband?"

Jess still didn't answer.

Now, James wasn't exactly stupid, and it certainly didn't take a brick house to fall on him for him to put two and two together. Especially considering Jess's continued silence and the curious interaction he'd seen between the two women. He looked at her and cocked his head to one side, raising his eyebrows slightly. "Don't tell me you and the blonde are....." He lifted his hand a little and waggled it back and forth.

Damn it. This was getting way out of control. Jess had absolutely no intention of discussing her personal life with him. She made a quick attempt to put an end to his inquiry. "Leave Robin out of this. This is between you and me."

He was unfazed by her request, however. "You're kidding me. You and the blonde.....?" He seemed both amused and puzzled at the unacknowledged revelation. "Jess, come on, you can't possibly be happy like this. That type of lifestyle isn't for you." Maybe it was his ego, but he just couldn't seem to accept this particular turn of events. "I know you, remember?"

"You know nothing about me." That statement wasn't entirely true.

James stood there silently for a few seconds, then leaned back against the stucco porch rail. Clearly, his strategy had to change, and he needed to take a different approach. He blew out a breath. "Okay, I get that you've moved on, and I really gave you no reason not to do that after I left. Here's the truth. The reason I came here is to apologize for everything I did and to try to make things up to you. That's it."

I'm not buying it. A skeptical dark eyebrow rose. "Is that all?"

He placed his hands to either side of him, spreading out his fingers and lightly grasping the top of the hard decorative railing. "Well, actually, there was one other thing. I also had a business offer for you."

"Really." A dismissive tone. "Not interested."

"Just hear me out, okay?" His pale blue eyes were soft and pleading.

He was persistent, Jess had to give him that. She placed a hand on her hip impatiently. "What?"

Relieved that she'd given him an opening, James put forth his proposal. "My company does architectural consulting, and we're expanding our business. We're opening offices in several cities, one here in Orlando. That's why I've been spending time here, getting things going." He took the opportunity now to make his pitch. "What we really need is to have someone here locally who can manage the office and protect our legal interests. I thought of you right away, and I was hoping that you might consider accepting this particular position with us."

Jess was absolutely incredulous. "What in the world makes you think I'd be interested in anything you had to offer?"

"Well, you and I were good together once, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to team up again and make it work, just like we had planned." His ego was truly astounding. "From a business perspective."

"You've got to be joking." Jess shook her head in amazement.

"Seriously, Jess. You'd be the best person for the job. I know you're good at what you do."

"Don't you get it? I want nothing from you."

"Jess....."

"Stop. I've heard enough." It was a hot day, and although the shade of the porch offered a little respite from the sun, Jess was in no mood for any more of this conversation. "Take your money and your business proposition and whatever else you have and leave before I have you arrested, this time for trespassing."

Well, being as persistent as he was, James wasn't about to give up that easily. His intent was to persuade Jess to join him no matter what it took. "Will you at least think about it?"

"No." Even as she said the words, her intuition was telling her that this was all too pat, too neatly packaged. There was something more going on here. But what? And more importantly, did she want to find out or just leave it alone? Knowing James, he would likely keep on bothering her.....bothering both Robin and herself, unless she got to the bottom of whatever it was he was after. And she wasn't about to just let him waltz back into her life after all these years and leave a lot of upheaval in his wake. Again.

"Come on, Jess." James made his final plea, speaking in an all too familiar tone of voice. He looked at her with the utmost sincerity, turning on his abundant charm and reaching gently for her hand. "I'm so, so very sorry for what I did, and I really do want to make it up to you. Look, you don't have to give me an answer now. Just think about it." He released her hand, letting his own hand drop casually to his side, very conveniently overlooking the fact that she had already turned him down. Apparently, no was not a concept he easily understood. "Okay?"

Jess sighed internally, recalling Robin's question a few moments ago. Is this really a good idea? Jess was certain it wasn't. Listening to James only made her angrier, but something compelled her nonetheless to find out just exactly what he was up to. She didn't respond to his offer, but instead stood there silently contemplating his intentions.

******************

Robin paced back and forth inside the house. This was taking far too long. Jess had been outside for more than only a few minutes. This couldn't be good. A worried green eye peered through the small eyehole in the front door to check on what was going on outside on the porch. She didn't like what she saw. James had ahold of Jess's hand. That was unacceptable. Completely and totally unacceptable. Robin grew more agitated, nearly wearing a hole in the living room carpet as she paced again. Should she go outside? Should she put a stop to whatever he was trying to do? Or should she plead with Jess to send him away and just come back inside? As Robin was considering her options, the front door opened, and the older woman stepped inside the house. "Jess." Robin ran over to her. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." She wasn't.

"You were out there for so long....." Sea green eyes searched the unsettled blue eyes in front of her, looking for hints of hidden emotion. "What happened? What did he want?"

"Here." Jess led them both over to the living room sofa. "Let's sit down." Suddenly, she felt drained, exhausted, as if she had just spent every ounce of energy she possessed confronting the demon that plagued her.

"You're shaking." Robin lightly took hold of Jess's hands. "Tell me about it."

Jess closed her eyes, struggling to maintain her composure as the emotions came rushing forward. Robin understood. Robin knew the toll this took on her, and the younger woman's sympathetic and caring nature threatened to dissolve the faćade Jess had been so carefully masquerading. She couldn't speak, so she just sat there on the sofa taking several calming breaths.

"Jess, why did you send me inside? I was so worried." There was no answer. "You didn't have to face him alone. I would've helped you." There was still no answer. She's being too quiet. "Jess?" Soft green eyes once again searched the crystal blue eyes in front of her. By now, Robin was an expert at reading them, and although she didn't see everything, she usually saw enough in them to decipher what the older woman was feeling. She gently brushed her thumbs back and forth over the hands she held. "Talk to me."

The soothing stroking was enough to relax Jess. It had always been the case that when she got too emotionally charged, she sometimes found it difficult to speak, and usually it took a few moments for the feelings to settle down into a more manageable state. Robin was a safe haven, an oasis, a place to go that gave shelter from the storm, where what was happening in the rest of the world just didn't seem to matter. "Okay."

Robin nodded, now a little more relieved. "Tell me what happened."

"Well, he came here ostensibly to apologize for what he did and claiming that he wants to make it up to me. He even offered me a check which was supposed to pay me back all the money he took from me." A look of disgust "Plus interest."

A blonde eyebrow lifted. "He thought he could just give you money and you'd forget about everything?" Pay you off.

"Exactly. I didn't accept it, of course, and I made it clear to him that I wanted absolutely nothing from him, which I don't." Jess stood up and walked over to the large picture window, staring out into the front yard. "He wouldn't take no for an answer, though, and just kept saying that he was sorry and he wanted to make it up to me."

Robin had an uneasy feeling about this. She went over to where Jess stood. "Why now?"

"He supposedly claims he's changed and realizes he was wrong."

The younger woman smirked. "Right. He's seen the error of his ways." A pause. "Do you believe him?" She wasn't sure she really wanted to know the answer to that, but she asked anyway.

"No, no." Jess waved her hand lightly to dismiss the thought. "But he's arrogant enough to think that I would." She turned around and looked directly at Robin. "There's another thing."

Robin was liking this less and less. "What is it?"

"He's opening an office for his business here in town, and he wants me to manage the office and serve as his corporate counsel locally."

"What?" If the younger woman sounded both incredulous and alarmed, she was. Having James so close by and in the same city was.....was what? It was certainly unacceptable, that went without saying. But it was also dangerous, and Robin knew it. And as if that wasn't bad enough, his wanting Jess to work with him was as ludicrous as it was bold. "You can't be serious."

"That's what he offered. He offered me the position."

Robin took a second to more fully digest the news. "So, what did you say?"

Jess shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. "I told him to forget it, and that he could take his money and his business offer and get the hell out of here."

It couldn't have been that easy, and Jess's demeanor certainly indicated that it wasn't. "But.....?"

A sigh. "But I don't think he'll give up. I think he'll keep coming back."

Great. Why couldn't this guy stay gone forever? No one needed him here, and it could do nothing but bring heartache. Robin observed Jess, recognizing the familiar signs. There's more. "There's something else bugging you, isn't there?"

"Yeah." Jess had a look of intense concentration. "I think this whole scenario is just too convenient. I mean, think about it. He shows up here apologizing and offering me money after all this time, and then when I turn him down, suddenly, he has this business offer for me."

"He's trying to win you back." There, Robin said it, and it was painfully obvious that it was true.

The significance of the comment, however, didn't fully register with Jess. "He's trying to do something. I just don't know yet what it is."

Robin looked at the older woman for a long moment. "You want to find out, don't you?"

It was true. James's visit had made Jess both wary and curious. Curious, especially, as to what his game was. "I don't think I have a choice. He's here for a reason, and unless I find out what it is and put a stop to it, he won't go away."

That's what I was afraid of. A petite hand reached up and lightly stroked the taller woman's arm. "So what are you going to do?"

"Play his game. Let him think I'm considering his offer. Lead him along until I to find out what's really going on."

"Is that really a good idea?"

There was that question again, and Jess honestly didn't know the answer. She just knew that if she stood by and did nothing, whatever was really going on with James's unexpected return would end up disrupting their lives for the worse. But what if Robin's concerns were valid? "You don't think it's a good idea?"

No. "I didn't say that. I just wonder if sending him packing right from the start will put an end to whatever he thought he could accomplish here." With you.

Maybe, but probably not. Jess gave Robin a small smile. "Don't worry. I know exactly what I'm doing. The only way to stop him is to expose whatever he's up to."

An internal sigh. "You'll be okay?" Concerned green eyes conveyed the unspoken thought. He betrayed you once.

He betrayed me once. "Yes, I'll be okay." Jess nodded. And I'll be damned if I'll let it happen again.

*****************

Robin sat quietly on the comfortable sofa in the now familiar office, tapping her fingers mildly against the cushioned arm. The décor was cheery, yet at the same time calming. Light fabrics and wood-grained furnishings adorned the rather large area where the sofa, a coffee table, and several side chairs were located. Off to the opposite end of the office, a modern clear-topped desk with a computer and flat-panel monitor was positioned diagonally, offering a wide angle view across the room. The blinds in the windows were wide open but could be drawn closed if need be, depending upon the occupant's wishes or mood. Robin reached down and picked up a glass of ice water from the coffee table, taking a small sip before returning it to its previous position.

After a moment, the main door to the office opened, and a gentle looking woman dressed in casual business attire appeared carrying a folder and a small notepad. "I'm so sorry to keep you waiting, Robin." She approached one of the side chairs and took a seat. "One of my staff needed my assistance for a minute."

"That's all right, Dr. Richmond."

"So, how have you been doing this past week?" The therapist opened up the folder and glanced at her notes from their previous session.

Where to begin. "Well, to be honest, it's been a tough week so far."

"Oh? How so?"

"Well, Jess's previous boyfriend, the one I told you about, all of a sudden showed up." Robin's immediate instinct was to rush through her tale, getting it all out in the open quickly, but she managed to keep herself evenly paced. "It's been really unsettling."

The doctor raised an eyebrow. "Didn't you mention that he's been gone for quite a while."

"Over seven years. Now, he decides to show up....."

Dr. Richmond scribbled something on her notepad. "What did he want?"

Oh boy. Robin exhaled. "He claimed he wanted to apologize to Jess and repay what he stole from her, and then he offered her a position with his company which is starting up a new office in town." She shook her head uneasily. "I don't understand it."

"Okay." Dr. Richmond laid her folder and notepad on the table and settled back into her chair. "Let's put aside the fact that this man has shown up for whatever intents and purposes he may have." She gave Robin a sympathetic look. "Let's talk about you and how his arrival on the scene is affecting you."

"Well, it's affecting me because I'm worried about Jess. He hurt her once, devastated her, and I don't want that to happen again."

"And you think it might?"

Robin blew out a breath. "Yes.....no.....I don't know." This was as honest an answer as she could give.

"Is Jess committed to you and only you? Dr. Richmond prodded.

"Yes, of course."

"Then, if she's committed to you, and only you emotionally, how would his reappearance all these years later hurt her?"

"Because....." Robin fidgeted.

Dr. Richmond gave her an understanding look. "Because why?"

Robin didn't want to admit it out loud. She fidgeted some more as the doctor patiently waited for her answer. "I don't know."

"I think you do know, Robin."

Green eyes looked down, focusing on the droplets of condensation clinging to the outside of the water glass resting on the coffee table. Her voice became barely audible. "Because maybe she might fall for him again." And that was it. The crux of the whole thing.

"You're feeling a little threatened." The therapist leaned forward and rested her forearms across her knees. "It's a natural reaction, Robin."

Robin glanced up. "It is?"

"Of course it is. Someone who used to be important to the person you love suddenly resurfaces after a long period of time.....you wouldn't be human if you didn't feel uneasy about it."

Visibly relieved, Robin reached again for the glass of ice water on the table and took a long drink, suddenly very thirsty. "I just don't know how to help Jess.....how to be there without becoming too possessive."

"Do you believe that she can take care of herself?"

"When it comes to James, I don't really know. I know that she's determined, and when she sets her mind to something, she usually gets it. This time, she's resolved to find out what he wants and why he came back. She thinks he has an ulterior motive for being here."

"What do you think?"

Robin considered the question. "I think he either wants her back, or he has something else he's after and wants to use Jess once again to get it."

"That's very perceptive. And you could be right about that."

"I feel helpless, though."

"I know, and that's natural, too. But I'm guessing that you'll instinctively know how to be supportive as the situations present themselves. So, for the moment, let's just see how things go from here on that front, and we can discuss it more in the coming weeks." The doctor reached once again for her notepad. "Now, let's talk about a few other things." At Robin's nod, she continued. "How are things going with your parents? Have you spoken with your mother?"

Robin's face went blank. "No."

"You still have that anger. Am I right?"

"I won't let them destroy what I love." It seemed that everything was conspiring to destroy her relationship with Jess.

"We've talked before about keeping anger inside, Robin, and the effects it can have." Dr. Richmond's voice was non-threatening. "Sometimes, people find that when they release the anger they've been carrying, they feel as if a weight has been lifted."

"I'm not ready to speak with them." Robin wouldn't budge on the issue.

A sigh. "I know you're hurt by what your parents have done, but I want you to think about letting some of that anger go. I'm not saying that you have to speak with them. Perhaps just taking a deep breath, clearing your mind when an angry thought reaches you, would help."

"Okay." At the moment, there was nothing more Robin wanted to say on the subject.

Dr. Richmond made another notation, then reviewed her notes further. "I will say that I've seen your progress on how you've been handling what happened with David. I can tell since your first visit here that you seem to have made some real peace with it."

"Yes." Robin acknowledged quietly. "I wish it hadn't happened, but I'm also grateful that I met Jess. I used to feel guilty that I loved Jess so much even though he died. Now, I really believe that loving Jess saved me from my sadness. I wasn't responsible for what happened to David." My father interfered. "And I met someone truly wonderful, which I will never be sorry for."

The doctor made a notation. "I'm very pleased with your progress, Robin, and I know you can continue to make progress on the other issues you're dealing with." She smiled compassionately. "You've had a rough time of it, more than your share of heartache and sorrow, but also you've had some good things happen to you, and you realize that, which is a very positive thing. You're a strong individual, and you can overcome these other difficult issues, as well."

"Actually, I do feel better about a lot of things now."

"Good." Dr. Richmond was silent for a moment, then leaned forward again. "Now, there's one other thing I want you to do."

Robin answered cautiously. "Okay."

"In the next week, I want you to pick a church, any church, Catholic, Protestant, non-denominational, any church you want, and I'd like you to try to go inside for five minutes."

No way. "I don't think I....."

"Robin, just see if you can go inside. Sit down in the back if you want, stay there for five minutes, and leave. That's it."

An inaudible sigh. "What's my doing that supposed to accomplish?"

"Just tell me what happens when we have our next session, and then we can talk about it."

Robin shook her head slowly in thought, not particularly thrilled with the idea. Finally, she relented. "All right." She didn't like it, but she'd do it.

"Good." Dr. Richmond stood up and led Robin toward the door. "Then I'll see you next week."

*****************

The week that followed had mostly been uneventful. No James, work had been calm, no crises to deal with. And the mood at the moment really couldn't have been better. The evening was early and dinner was finished as Jess casually sat on the living room sofa reading a legal brief that was due in a couple of days, while Robin studied the music collection searching for a suitable CD to put in the player. Once finding what she was looking for, she popped open the case and deposited the disc into the changer, waiting for the tune to start playing before adjusting the volume a bit. Slow jazz. Always soothing, and nicely romantic, too. Truth be told, Robin was feeling just a little amorous tonight.

"Nice music." Jess remained fixated on her brief.

The blonde woman went over to the sofa, positioning herself next to Jess. "You like it?"

A casual nod.

"It's got a nice beat, doesn't it?

Another casual nod.

"Kinda romantic, huh?"

Yet another casual nod.

Hmmmm. Robin didn't move for a long moment, gazing at Jess apparently unnoticed. Finally, she got up from the sofa and retrieved a matchstick from its box above the fireplace, then silently lit a vanilla scented candle sitting on a nearby end table. She watched the flame burn for several seconds before promptly switching off the lamp under which Jess was steadfastly reading.

"What.....?" The older woman looked up, confused.

Petite fingers liberated the brief from Jess's hands. "Want to dance?"

"Uh....." Jess was at a temporary loss for words. "Dance?"

"Yes, dance. Want to?" The tune was familiar, Gershwin, the piano and saxophone harmonizing the sultry notes of "Someone to Watch Over Me."

"Okay." The dark-haired woman allowed herself to be pulled to her feet and led into the middle of the room. She glanced down at Robin amidst the faint glow of the single lit candle, swaying gently to the rhythm of the song. Before long, the music started to do things to her and scattered the legalese she'd been reading just moments before out of her mind completely.

"You dance very well." Robin whispered.

Jess smiled. "You think so?" One petite hand rested loosely on her hip, while the other curled gently around the base of her neck. Jess closed her eyes as featherlight fingertips brushed back and forth across the sensitive skin behind her earlobe, tingling her senses and causing her breathing to become just a little more pronounced. "I'm crazy."

"Crazy?" A slightly quizzical look. "I thought you were hopeless."

Intense blue eyes caught and held sea green. "I'm crazy and hopeless....." The words were barely a whisper. "When it comes to you."

The moment was almost timeless, neither body moving yet continuing the dance to the echoes of the song's sweet refrain. Both women stood transfixed, unspoken communication passing between them. Very slowly, their lips met in an emotionally tender kiss as they savored the closeness, the connection, that only they shared.

The sensations came in a rush now. "If you're crazy and hopeless....." Robin finally breathed. "Then so am I." She delicately kissed the pulse point of the older woman's neck, then continued downward, placing a trail of lingering kisses along Jess's collarbone.

Jess could feel the soft lips on her flesh, the unmistakable moisture of the tip of Robin's tongue doing things to her body that she absolutely couldn't control. With lidded eyes, she watched as petite fingers gently caressed the hollow of her throat, then slowly descended and set free the first button of her shirt. A small groan escaped her as she felt those same fingers graze her skin, causing her to become weak and almost unable to stand. She took a few steps backward and braced herself up against the nearest wall, waiting for Robin's fingers to continue on with their mission.

"Nothing else matters at this moment, Jess." The words were a whisper. "Just you and me." Soft lips kissed the exposed area behind the first button as the second button was subsequently released.

Jess could only watch and feel as the buttons were meticulously undone. She gasped as Robin's fingertips traveled over her satin bra while the smaller woman's lips charted a path for her cleavage. In an instant, her shirt fell to the floor, and the petite fingers were nimbly unclasping her bra, dropping it to the floor, as well.

Robin ran her hands lightly over every inch of the newly exposed flesh, then slowly knelt, kissing a path down Jess's stomach and around her navel, her soft lips leaving goosebumps in their wake. The younger woman was almost lost in the energy between them as she felt the larger hands come to rest on her head, gently guiding her kisses. She released the fastener on Jess's shorts, slowly and deliberately lowering the zipper as far as it would go. Without hesitation, she slipped the garment past the older woman's hips and down to the floor as Jess stepped free. Strong arms then drew her upright to meet the waiting lips eager to capture her own.

The older woman had nearly fainted from the exquisite sensations. She kissed Robin delicately at first, then more insistently, before breaking away, dizzy from the contact. "You....." Jess took a steadying breath. "Appear to be overdressed."

Robin grinned impishly, then whispered. "Do you think you could help me out with that?"

"Well, I may be able to accommodate your request." Jess spun Robin around and up against the very same wall, exchanging their positions. She then nipped at the petite chin in front of her, trailing her fingers down to Robin's waist and underneath the hem of her top. "First, we'll take care of this." With a swift but gentle motion, the larger hands lifted the shirt up and over the blonde head, tossing it haphazardly onto the floor beside them. "Then....." Jess reached around and unfastened Robin's lace bra. "We'll get rid of this." The article joined the discarded clothing on the carpet.

Sea green eyes shut tight as the rush of cool air hit her skin and Jess's fingernails grazed the underside of her breasts, driving her absolutely crazy. I'm crazy. We're both crazy. The easy strains of "Someone to Watch Over Me" continued, the saxophone solo now carrying the magnetic melody. "So....." The green eyes slowly opened. "What's next?"

Jess lightly traced a finger downward to edge of Robin's cotton shorts, eventually coming to rest on the uppermost button fastening them. "Next....." Her thumb and index finger deftly released the metal button. "These must go."

Robin's breath caught. She felt the buttons one by one being freed and the soft incidental touch of the older woman's hand. The shorts slid quickly to the floor as petite arms immediately wrapped around Jess, pressing their bodies tightly together. The skin to skin contact was incredible, warm and soft and electrifying, as they ran their hands over each other's flesh.

Jess's knees were about to give out on her. "Bedroom?" She whispered.

"Sofa." Robin indicated, then held onto to the taller woman as they covered the short distance to their destination. Soon, they were lying lengthwise on the sofa, their remaining clothing now removed. They teased and touched and caressed each other, lost in the wonderful sensations. Before she knew it, Robin felt Jess's fingers stroking the inside of her thigh, sending her spiraling out of control. The touches became more and more intimate as they moved together in this new dance. Unfocused green eyes fixed intensely on smoky blue. "Do you feel it?"

The electricity. The connection. Whatever it was, it was there. "I feel it"

Both women were consumed in the moment. The piano and saxophone now merged into another tune, the beat of the deep bass keeping rhythm with their movements. The pressure, unrelenting, built higher and higher, until finally their release came in an explosion of lights, as time stood still and their hearts pounded wildly.

They laid together in the dim light of the lone flickering candle catching their breath, while their heartbeats quieted to a more even pace. Jess grasped the woven afghan blanket from along the top of the sofa, covering them both with it. Contentedly, she rested her head on the throw pillow next to the smaller woman, enjoying the ever-increasing closeness they shared. She drew her hand up and reached for Robin's, interlacing their fingers together. "I'm crazy, you know."

Robin looked at her fondly. "Me too. We're both crazy....." A smile. "For each other."

Jess brought their intertwined hands to her lips and kissed the diamond solitaire ring on Robin's finger. "We're bound together." Crystal blue eyes twinkled lightly. "Like crazy glue."

A small giggle as serene green eyes twinkled back. "Like crazy glue."

 

To Be Continued.....

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© Copyright 01/19/04