Disclaimers: It's been a long long LONG time since my last update but I promise I will not leave you waiting days, months or years between updates. As usual this story and its characters are mine all mine. Remember I don't share. © Dec 2006.

Language: Yes. Oh, sorry, yes there are a few four letter words here and there but remember love is also four letter word.

Acknowledgements: First of all to M, I'll always be your dream weaver. To my lovely partner, thank you for all the encouragement. And to my amazing betas, you are always raising the bar and pushing me to improve. Thank you so much, the story is so much better because of your direction.

Contact: Don't forget to feed the bard at kaysladyj@hotmail.com or ladyjsalsbury@aol.com

By Lady J
Chapter 10

A shocked Becca gently pushed on the glass knob that was under her hand so that the door softly shut. Without removing her gaze from Shannon, she slowly and distinctly pronounced each syllable of her next statement. "Have you COM-PETE-LY lost your grip on re-al-ity?"

Shannon simply pulled her long legs under her body and shrugged. "Not the first time I've heard THAT this morning."

Becca placed her hands on her hips and was somewhat imposing in her indignation but all her posturing was wasted on Shannon who was smug in her righteousness. "What would give you such an outlandish idea? I've never been lacking Male companionship?"

"No, you have not, but I also know that you have dipped into the estrogen pool more than once." Shannon smirked.

Becca opened her mouth as if to retort then quickly shut it. "Ok, you have me there. But just because I've occasionally 'played' doesn't mean I'm attracted to Victoria."

"True." Shannon paused, "But you yourself admitted she's hot."

"Only after you harassed me."

"Then you don't think she's hot?" Shannon sat in feigned wide eyed innocence.

"I didn't say that."

"Then you do think she's hot."

"Yes..uh …no …wait ..no.." Becca stammered, "Damn it, Shannon, you're confusing me." Unbidden flashes of Victoria playing volley ball ran through Becca's mind. For the second time that morning Becca could feel her face getting hot. She hesitated while she gathered her thoughts. She took a deep breath before continuing. "You still haven't answered my question. What would make you think that I think of Victoria other than a friend? For heaven's sake, we've been like oil and water for all the years we've known each other. We swirl around each other but we can't MIX." Becca countered trying hard to ignore Shannon's snickering.

Silently she admitted to herself that during and for awhile after the volleyball game her emotions were somewhat scrambled when it came to Victoria. For longer than she cared to admit, all Becca could think of was that beautiful expanse of flesh that was exposed while she played that silly game.

"Well let's start with…." But Shannon was cut off when the sound of Becca's name echoed through the quiet hall.

Both women's attention turned to the closed bedroom door.

With daggers in her green eyes Becca uttered hoarsely, "You do realize that this conversation is far from over." Then the curly headed woman stomped out of the room and slammed the door behind her.

"You know where to find me." Shannon called after the disappearing figure.


It was nearly eleven o'clock by the time the guests of Beautee Dangereuse had showered, dressed and appeared in the dining area.

Becca squinted her eyes as she entered the room. Bright sunlight was streaming through the windows and ruthlessly attacked her alcohol tenderized corneas. The room was bright and cheery which was in direct contrast to the formal dining room or 'dungeon room' as Dominique referred to it. The formal dining room was cold and forboding, whereas this dining area was always warm, cheerful and right now, way too bright for Becca.

Becca stood in the doorway and spent a moment to really take in all the nuances of this room. It was one of the few rooms in the mansion that was not decorated totally with antiques. The walls were coved with a very tasteful striped wall paper. The colors of the stripes that varied in widths were a very pale green, yellow and beige. Three foot up from the floor was a golden knotty pine wainscoting topped off with a scalloped chair rail. The table and chairs were all constructed from the same knotty pine and stained with the matching golden tint. Against the wall next to the door which led to the kitchen was a large side board which housed the extra table linen as well as a number of large serving platters and assorted pieces of silver. On the top of the side board were several bowls filled with fresh fruit.

The three cousins were sitting in the same positions as had been their custom for years. Jean Claude dressed in a navy polo shirt with well worn pair of jeans covering his long legs. He sat at the head of the table idly stirring his coffee while he read the Wall Street Journal. Clare also dressed in polo though her's was a pale pink with matching salmon shorts. She sat on the far side of the table where she was animatedly speaking to a very sullen and harsh looking Dominique. The ever put together Dominique was enveloped in an old wrinkled tee-shirt and an even older pair of torn up jeans. Her hair was out of control and her eyes framed by dark circles. Becca prayed that she didn't look as 'hard ridden and put away wet' as Dominique did.

Damn what was I thinking drinking that way last night? I know better. Becca thought.

"Well there y'all are." Clare greeted the girls when she looked up from her conversation with Dominique. She leered openly at Victoria. "I thought I was goin' to have to send Lewis up to rouse y'all before Dr. Vance arrived."

Becca caught Claire's seductive glare that her cousin directed at the tall brunette. Inadvertently her lips curled into a sneer. You just keep your distance cousin. She shook her head slightly, WHAT THE HELL AM I THINKING?I think I'm losing it big time. Becca walked to the other side of the table and sat next to Dominique. This way she wouldn't be able to see Clare and therefore could more easily keep her facial expressions under control.

"Oh, that's right. He's bringing Jess the little kid crutches isn't he?" Shannon giggled as she pulled out a chair so that Victoria could gently deposit Jessie in the comfortable dining room chair.

"Hey, I can't help that I'm vertically challenged." Jessie teased in return. "But it does have its perks." Jessie looked Victoria in the eyes as she added the comment. Victoria smirked crookedly.

"Guess that means that Victoria's transportation services have been put out of business." Shannon caught Victoria's eye as she said this.

Victoria turned her face slightly to the side though Shannon could still see her lips twitched slightly. Victoria acknowledged, "I guess you're right."

"I'm sure you won't miss lugging me around." Jessie said somewhat softly.

"I wouldn't count on that." Shannon muttered softly. Victoria elbowed the tall blonde.


"What's wrong??" Jessie's eyes narrowed.

Both women mumbled 'nothing' as they took their seats. Jessie looked over at Becca who just shrugged.

Victoria and Shannon had been whispering, winking, and jabbing each other all morning. Becca on the other hand had been quietly introspective all morning, which was not Becca at all. Something was up with all of them, but Jessie just couldn't put her finger on what that 'something' was.

Jessie put the odd behavior of friends to the side, and finally returned Clare's bright greeting. "How's everyone doing this wonderful morning?"

Dominique growled looking much worse for wear. Undeterred by her cousin's bad humor Clare continued with a soft southern drawl, "Well I'm doin' just fine. But I'm afraid Dominique over celebrated yesterday."

"If we were all honest with ourselves," Becca began slowly as she tried to stop the echo of her own voice from ricocheting through her brain, "we would have to admit that we were all guilty of gross overindulgence." Wearily she lifted her cup so it would be easier for Genevieve to fill it with hot coffee. It had always been Becca's custom to lighten and sweeten the caffeine filled beverage, but today, black was how she needed it. She grasped the fine china cup in both hands and brought it to her lips. Becca blew across the hot black surface before she took a substantial sip. "Ahhhh." Becca growled after the steaming liquid had flowed down her throat.

Shannon chuckled. "We did party hardy that's for sure. That was one hell of a party Clare. We had a blast, thanks so much for including us."

Clare smiled engagingly at Victoria while she answered Shannon. "Now what kind of hostess would I be if I didn't? Besides y'all are family."

Jean Claude half choked on his coffee. When all eyes turned to him expectantly, he quietly apologized and lost himself back in his paper.

The women at the table chose to ignore him. Shannon cut the silence, "Anyway, you've got a lot of really fun friends."

"Yes, they are a good group." Clare said, "They're as pretty on the inside as they are on the outside. Don't you agree?" Clare looked over at Jessie, amusement twinkling in her eyes.

"I did notice that they are a very handsome bunch." Jessie averted her eyes from Clare's knowing stare. "They were all so nice, especially…"

"Skylar?" Becca finished Jessie's thought.

Jessie blushed.

"Speaking of Skylar, when did y'all get back last night? I didn't even hear you come in," asked Dominique, but was interrupted by a very belligerent Lucy.

"Those young ladies didn't get here 'til 330 in the mownin." Lucy grumbled.

"Three thirty eight to be precise." Lewis amended.

"Thirty, thirty-eight, no matter." Lucy directed at Lewis, "The point is these girls made so much racket, I'm sure the dead resting on this property were awakened." Lucy had a steaming plate of scrambled eggs and bacon in each hand. She placed one plate in front of Jessie first, then the other in front of Shannon. Lucy was followed by Genevieve who placed small plates of lightly buttered toast in front of Victoria and Becca. The three girls had the good grace to blush before Lucy's rebuke.

"Really? I'm usually a pretty light sleeper." Dominique commented.

"You wouldn't have heard a bomb go off in the house last night." Jean Claude scowled. He folded the paper he had been reading and looked directly at Dominique "As usual you binged."

"Hadn't we been over this?" Storm Dominique was brewing. The shining morning was quickly becoming overcast. "I thought we'd already admitted that earlier. Weren't you listening?"

Jean Claude stroked his goatee, "Somewhat."

"At least some of us had a good time." Dominique growled at her pompous cousin.

"And what makes you think my crew and I didn't?" Jean Claude asked while arrogantly waving his cup at Genevieve. Genevieve smirked indulgently as she walked over to the side board to retrieve the coffee carafe. She refilled his cup. As she crossed behind him to return the carafe she made a face at him behind his back. All girls began snickering. Jean Claude snapped his head around to look at Genevieve who returned his gaze with wide eyed innocence. Brushing aside the joke which was obviously at his expense he turned his eyes back to Dominique.

Dominique composed her features before she continued their tête-à-tête., "You know something Jean Claude, you are absolutely right." She paused, "I don't know. But I'll tell you one thing."

"What's that?" Jean Claude asked while stirring his coffee with a superior attitude.

"I've seen more animated corpses at a wake, than you and that little band of brothers you hang around with."

Jean Claude snorted, "You may be correct, my dear cousin, but I would rather be spoken of in genteel circles than be talked about in hushed tones."

Hurricane Dominique had made land fall at a category 10. Dominique slowly stood with all the menacing anger of an uncoiling cobra readying itself to strike. The girls sat in slacked jawed fascination while the unfolding tableau played out before their eyes with awkward surrealism. During these highly charged moments Genevieve slipped unseen into the kitchen.

Before Dominique could utter a scathing retort, Lucy burst through the kitchen door like a stampeding bull and just as angry.

"What is all this foolishness?"

Dominique retook her chair. All three young people noticeably shrank in the presence of this elder woman of color. Lucy was no-nonsense when it came to every aspect of life and no one was safe from her pontifications when it came to propriety, manners, correct upbringing of children and family.

"Jean Claude, you are far too uppity and proud. You have no call to be so haughty. Remember 'Pride goeth before the fall'." She paused to catch her breath. "Besides, boy, what have you done on your own that Madam hasn't paved the way before you?" Jean Claude looked completely deflated as he slumped back into his chair.

Dominique didn't dare to look up feeling the older woman's eyes bore into her flesh. "As for you, Ms. Dominique, it wouldn't hurt you to act more ladylike. True gentlemen don't care for a girl that has a reputation for being too free and easy whether or not that reputation was earned. You two have been a trial to Madam for years and now here you both are acting the fool in front of guests and family." Lucy shook her finger at both of them, "You should both be ashamed."

Trying to disarm the volatile situation Shannon spoke, "Why don't we all just chill out and finish our breakfast?" The tension that had filled the room was oppressive to the tall blonde. She thoroughly detested any and all types of altercations. They were ugly and she had no taste for anything ugly. Having a very laid back personality she never could understand how arguments could erupt over seemingly nothing. There is more in life than just being right. She believed there was always room for compromise in every situation.

While Madame's name had been bandied about, she noticed that neither Madam, nor Marie were in attendance. "By the way, where are Madame and Marie this morning?"

"At church." Clare answered as she buttered a piece of toast. "They both attend service every Sunday."

"Together?" Becca asked.

"Yes they are both very active in the church. Marie teaches Sunday school after she attends service."

"That's great." Jessie commented.

"Dang. I would have gone with them if I'd known." Shannon was only too glad to continue to steer the conversation away from Jean Claude and Dominique.

"Personally I didn't think y'all would be up that early anyway." Dominique commented.

"Naa, I've been up for awhile." Shannon buttered her toast without looking up. "I wake up early no matter what."

"Then why didn't you come down earlier?" Clare asked.

"I just lay around and watched Victoria sleep." Shannon answered before popping a piece of bacon into her mouth.

"Damn, nice work if you can get it." Clare stated while winking at Victoria. Victoria simply sipped her coffee ignoring Clare's ravenous gaze. "Do y'all have any plans for the day?" Clare directing her question to Victoria.

Victoria shook her head to the negative. Becca noted the by play between the two women, "No plans for the day. I think we are all just going to play it by ear. Just chill out after yesterday's action packed day."

Jessie nodded, "Yeah that sounds good."

The room lapsed into an awkward quiet. The clinking of silverware against china being the only sounds that cut the uncomfortable silence. Jean Claude fussed with his paper, his napkin and then back to his paper. Shannon wondered why he didn't just leave the table after the tongue lashing he had just received from Lucy. Brunch was about over when Lewis stepped back into the room followed by a brightly smiling Skylar.

"Mademoiselle Jessie, Dr. Vance is here to see you. I've shown him to the Morning Room." He paused glowering at Skylar, "As well as Mademoiselle Blue."

Skylar patted him on the shoulder, "Come on, Lewis, how many years have I been coming to this house?"

Lewis looked at the blue eyed beauty and raised one eyebrow in answer.

Skylar chuckled. "Since when do I have to be announced?" She leaned over the back of Jessie's chair and kissed her blonde locks. "Let's go see the doc, little one." Without another word to anyone in the room the blue eyed brunette swooped in and lifted Jessie from her seat effortlessly.

The assembly couldn't help but notice how Jessie melted into Skylar's chest as she was whisked to the Morning Room where the doctor was waiting.

"How romantic." Clare and Dominique chorused. Both women sighed.

"Yeah." Becca said as she watched the now empty space that Jessie and Skylar had occupied just seconds before.

Shannon smiled in concurrence. She looked over at Victoria who was staring blankly into her coffee. Shannon placed a hand on Victoria's thigh under the table so no one else could see, but the tall brunette didn't look up. She could see her stoic friend was in a great deal of emotional pain, but was at a loss as to how to lessen the agony of the moment.

Shannon knew exactly how Victoria felt. Every woman had felt that kind of pain at one time or another. But here was poor Victoria, really letting herself fall in love, maybe for the very first time, just to have the object of her affection snatched from her side. Shannon felt even more for her friend knowing that for Victoria this was as virgin territory as was the tall woman's body. For a brief moment Shannon hated Skylar. Her protective side had jumped to the forefront.

Who was this woman anyway? Shannon thought, She could be a player for all we know. Jessie could be just another notch on Skylar'sbed post. Shannon paused in her mind, Shannon, you're being stupid. Skylar seems ok. I'm more upset for Victoria's sake than anything else. What a frigging mess this all is.

"Romantic?" Jean Claude sneered, "You must be kidding me. That was a disgusting display of their warped sexuality."

"Jealous?" Dominique said a smirk plastered on her face.

Jean Claude snickered and shook his head as he rose from the table, "Get serious. What would I have to be jealous about?"

"Nothing except that Jessie has a beautiful woman who cares about her. Have you ever had someone to care about you, more than they did about your money or your name?"

Jean Claude replaced the coffee carafe on the sideboard with ominous slowness. He stared daggers into his cousin's infuriatingly placid eyes.

"Shit, here we go again."Shannon thought out loud.

Becca snickered. Jean Claude's head snapped around to see the Becca desperately trying to compose her features. His lips were twisted grotesquely in anger as his facial color deepened from an embarrassed pink to a deep humiliated crimson. "How dare you?" His voice was husky with anger. "Who the hell do you think you are? You are nothing but some poor relation that has come to impose on Madam's hospitality. Not only do you arrive unexpectedly on our doorstep like some vagabond with no where else to go, but bring the surfer girl and that….that…lesbian with you." Becca stared blankly at the tall thin man in shock unable to form any words. Jean Claude lifted his hand toward Victoria. "You're only saving grace is hanging around Victoria. I must say a shrewd piece of networking if I do say so myself. Very smart move on your part to gain status by association."

Becca opened and closed her mouth several times still unable to form any type of retort. With a smug countenance Jean Claude turned to Victoria, "You must agree with me, Victoria. Your parents surely don't know about Jessie's sexual preference do they?"

"Sexual orientation," Victoria said flatly.

"What?" Jean Claude asked in confusion Victoria's answer having derailed his diatribe.

"You said sexual preference. It's not a preference, it's an orientation. Preference denotes a choice," Victoria answered. "I don't believe homosexuality is a choice."

"What's the difference?" He asked in irritation.

"Jean Claude, there is a very distinctive difference. Would you choose to be, in many cases, an outcast shunned by most of society as well as family and friends? Would you choose to be discriminated against when it comes to housing, employment, marriage, and in some cases risk acts of physical violence on your person?"

"No, of course not. But I'm sure your parents would be shocked if they knew about your little friend." Jean Claude delivered his last statement as if he were wielding a sword.

Victoria, to the surprise of both Shannon and Becca, leaned back in her chair, crossed her legs and a sinister smile slowly crossed her face. "Is that a threat?"

"Jean Claude!" Clare interjected. "Are you forgetting these women are our guests? Madam would be horrified with your behavior. What has gotten into you?"

"Madam would have been more horrified if she had seen Skylar carry Jessie out of here like an Amazon with a hard on."

"My, what a colorful depiction, Jean Claude?" The slender elderly woman stood tall framed by an agitated Lucy and a tight jawed Lewis. "The Amazon of which you speak is Skylar? They passed me on my way in here. Quite a handsome couple, no?"

"No!" Jean Claude half cried, half whined. His ears began to glow red and it was obvious he was trying hard to keep his ire in check.

"You disagree?" Madam asked with smooth velvet tones.

"Vehemently." By this point Jean Claude had his back to Madam pouring himself a cup of coffee. All eyes were on Madam as she gracefully sauntered to her place at the head of the table. Lewis pulled out her chair and seated the elderly woman. He glared at Jean Claude's back before exiting the room. Lucy bustled into the kitchen and within seconds bustled out with a plate of toast in one hand and a pot of marmalade in the other. Genevieve had already brought a cup balanced in a saucer full of coffee and placed it before Madam by the time Lucy placed the toast on the table. She took a piece of toast in her hand and delicately spread marmalade on the perfectly toasted bread.

"Why do you disagree?' The elder woman could feel all eyes upon her anxiously waiting for her next words. Intentionally she allowed the pregnant pause to continue.

"Didn't you notice that they are both women?" Jean Claude growled.

Madam looked up from her marmalade spreading task. "I may be old, Jean Claude, but my eyesight is very sharp," she paused. "as is my hearing."

Madam placed a piece of toast in her mouth and chewed slowly. After what seemed an eternity Madam finished chewing and dabbed each side of her mouth with her napkin. Jean Claude had turned around and was now leaning his back against the sideboard looking into his coffee cup. Madam placed her napkin back into her lap, "They are quite attractive women are they not?"

Jean Claude grimaced in disgust.

Madam, seeing his face continued, "Jean Claude, love is a very rare and beautiful thing. Who someone loves can not be dictated by anything other than the heart. Because of these things this is truly is none of our affair."

"They make it our affair when they make the display of their sexuality so blatantly." He snarled. "How can you condone such behavior under this roof?"

Everyone was so appalled by Jean Claude's attitudes all they could do was sit dumbfounded. Lucy, who had been standing quietly behind Madame, was about to charge Jean Claude when Madam held up a thin well manicured hand. Lucy quietly returned to her place.

Madam finished her toast and once again daintily dabbed the edges of her mouth with her napkin. She sipped her coffee. "Jean Claude, tell me, am I not still Grande Dame of Beautee Dangereuse?"

"Of course you are." Jean Claude answered the volume of his words noticeably decreased.

"Ah, this is good. And as Grande Dame is it not within my purview to say who is welcome in this home?" Grey eyes bored humorlessly into pale brown.

"Yes Madam."

"Then is it not also my right to say when a welcome has expired?"

"Yes Madam." Jean Claude answered flatly.

Madam continued to pin Jean Claude with her steely gaze. "Then all is as it should be again. Beautee Dangereuse has been and shall continue to be known as a model of southern graciousness and hospitality to ALL who cross its threshold. Is this clearly understood?"

"Yes." The three cousins answered.

"Good." Madam sipped her coffee. "Jean Claude, I must say that I never realized that you were so puritanical about sexual matters. My how…uh…" Everyone watched her choose just the right words to relay her thoughts. "How very Republican of you."

Everyone at the table began to snicker. Jean Claude was poised to storm out when he noticed that Victoria was not laughing. "Victoria, no matter what you said earlier, you can not possibly agree with them. Be honest, didn't you find that display revolting? I'm sure your parents wouldn't have such a casual attitude if they really knew who your friends were."

Madame's eyes narrowed not mistaking what Jean Claude's intentions. Victoria chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before answering, "You don't know my father. His opinion of me may actually go up a step or two." She paused as she watched his jaw drop. "As for what you keep referring to as a 'display', the last emotion it would evoke in me would be disgust." Victoria rose to her full height and sighed audibly. "Madam, if you will excuse me."

Madame nodded her mouth set in a grim position.

Without another word Victoria exited the room and headed for the veranda in the rear of the house.

Shannon hastily wiped her mouth, "Excuse me." The tall blonde followed Victoria out of the room without waiting for Madam's acknowledgement.

Genevieve came in from the kitchen and placed a small stack of neatly folded newspapers to Madame's right side. Madame picked up the top paper which happened to be the New York Times and with a wave of her hand dismissed the remaining occupants of the room. Clare and Dominique rose from their chairs signaling to a confused Becca to do the same. Jean Claude placed his coffee cup on its saucer and prepared to leave with the others when Madam softly commanded, "Jean Claude could you please stay for a moment."

Becca turned in order to say something to Madam when Clare took her hand and pulled her out of the door. "Trust me you don't want to stay. This is going to get ugly."

Victoria stood at the railing of the veranda looking over the professionally trimmed lawn and carefully crafted topiaries to the quiet pool area beyond.

That's where it all started. She thought to herself. That's where Skylar came in and took Jessie away from me. She picked up her fist and let it drop with a thud onto the white painted surface of the railing. Did she really steal her away from me? No. At least be honest with yourself Victoria. If it hadn't been for Skylar I would've never had the guts to admit anything to Jessie much less to myself. Let's face it, after Jean Claude's little speech I'll just push all those thoughts out of my head permanently. She punched the rail again with her fist.

He was right, my parents would have a problem with Jessie being gay. At least I know my mother would, Dad can be a wild card at times but I'm pretty sure he would not approve.
The tall woman smirked. "The whispers at the country club would kill my Mom." She snorted by way of a chuckle, "Actually that would be a perk. I could arrive at a cotillion on a motorcycle wearing nothing but leather with Jessie at my side. Mother would have a coronary on the spot. But all fantasies aside you know you don't have the backbone to stand up to your parents about anything much less telling them you think you could be gay. FUCK. She could feel tears begin to well up and hastily brushed them away before they had a chance to stream down her cheek.

She felt a hand rest upon her shoulder. She looked over at the hand before speaking. "Where do I go from here Sha?"

"Forward." Shannon answered.

Victoria turned to face her friend. "Forward? What's that supposed to mean?"

Shannon took Victoria by the hand and led her over to a bench. They settled into the back of the seat before Shannon answered Victoria's question. "Yes, forward my friend. You are beginning to come to terms with who you are. Don't let that bullshit Jean Claude was spouting scare you. It's the beginning of a new and better part of your life. Besides lesbians are the hottest things since Avian and I Pods."

Victoria gave her friend a crooked smile. "You make it sound so easy."

"Oh, I don't think it will be easy." Shannon paused in thought for a few moments. "Do you know why some of these career criminals spend most of their lives in prison?"

"They're not very smart?" Victoria answered her brows knitted together.

Shannon laughed outright, "No. They spend their lives in prison because it's all they know. It's comfortable. They know exactly what do expect behind bars, it's real life that scares the shit out of them."

"Your point being?"

"My point is this. After twenty odd years, you are finally getting out on parole. Don't let reality scare you so much that never leave the prison grounds. Vic, I know you are scared and I also know that seeing Skylar with Jessie is tearing your heart out of your chest, but I promise everything will get better. Please don't trade your freedom for another prison cell of your parents making. It's going to be tough but we are all here to support you including our new found friends here in Louisiana."

"You think?"

"I know." Shannon said confidently. "I believe we are not just visitors here, I believe we have been invited into the family. I think that's what's stuck in Jean Claude's craw. He doesn't strike me as the kind of man who works and plays well with others. Now Claire Dom and Madame are as real as they come. I feel that they are all people you can count on to be there for you."

"For all this wealth they do seem like warm genuine people." Victoria added.

"None warmer for your form than our Claire." Shannon wiggled her eyebrows up and down. "I'm sure she would be more than happy to steer you through these ravenous dyke filled waters right to the safety of her bed." Shannon chuckled as Victoria bumped shoulders with her friend.

Victoria smiled, though weakly, "Yeah, she is kinda obvious isn't she? She scares me."

"But I'm sure she'd be an able and willing teacher." Shannon laughed

Victoria bumped her again. "Shannon you are incorrigible."

"Yeah, but that's why you love me." Shannon grinned brightly.

"Guess so."

The tall women hugged warmly. Shannon whispered in Victoria's ear "Vic, it's all going to be ok."

"You promise?" Victoria asked into Shannon's golden locks.

"I haven't let you down yet." Shannon could feel Victoria's head shake no. Shannon squeezed Victoria tighter. Tears were stinging Shannon's eyes. Victoria was so fragile so child like right now that there was nothing she wouldn't do for her. "I promise I'll never let you fall. OK?" Victoria nodded.

Shannon pulled back to look into Victoria's dark eyes. She wiped the tears from her eyes before wiping the tears from Victoria's cheeks. "Enough of this mushy crap. Let's go back in and make out in front of Jean Claude."

Victoria's lilting laughter filled the veranda. "Only if Claire is in the general vicinity."

Both women rose from the bench. Shannon threw her arm over Victoria's shoulder as they headed to the back door to re-enter the mansion. "I'm sure that can be arranged."

To be Continued in Part 11.

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