Heart’s Choice

Chapter 15


Lois Kay


The clock ticked away the seconds rhythmically. It was a peaceful sound that permeated the silence and lent an almost solemn kind of cheerfulness to the stillness of the room.

A single ray of light fell through the window, spreading a soft glow, touching mingled tresses of auburn and dark hair, like a the loving hand of a parent stroking a child’s head.

It had taken a long time for Kyra, to calm down enough finally for the constant stream of tears to subside. Feeling completely empty and worn, she was resting against her lover’s body, Emma’s arms securely wrapped around her body and holding her close..silently conveying her support and love for the woman who held her heart.

While Kyra had cried with an intensity, that had cut through her soul, Emma’s eyes had stared into the distance, darkened with pain and sadness. Her parents had always tried to teach their children that anger and resentment were emotions that should be dealt with swiftly, to prevent being touched by its always accompanying bitterness that could eat a person’s heart away. But nothing they had ever taught their children could have prepared her for the all consuming, fiery rage that bordered on blind hate she felt for Vivian LeJeune. Even though Emma realized she felt a deep, intense anger towards Roderick Peters, the feelings towards Kyra’s mother were almost frightening in their forcefulness.

Indigo eyes stared at a colorful picture on the wall and Emma slowly exhaled.

If she was experiencing emotions that ran so deep, how did Kyra feel then?

With deep concern, but also an infinite tenderness, Emma stared down at the face of her lover. Kyra’s head was resting against her chest. Her puffy, red eyes were closed and she was breathing deeply and regularly. The wrecking sobs had taken their toll and she looked completely worn out.

Brushing her lips against a warm forehead, Emma couldn’t help but feel content to have been able to be there for her lover when she needed her most..even though she wholeheartedly wished she could take away the pain and sadness that was visible on Kyra’s face, even in slumber.

"Emma, I want to go home," Kyra’s hoarse voice startled Emma and she let out a surprised breath.

"If you want to go home, we’ll do just that," Emma promised, understanding her lover’s request. Dealing with emotional trauma was hard enough already and she realized that Kyra would probably feel more in control when she would be in her own, familiar surroundings.

"Thank you," Kyra whispered, rubbing her cheek against Emma’s chest and snuggling a little closer. "Do you think we’ll have to let them know?"

With a small frown Emma looked down, trying to figure out what Kyra was talking about. Surely she didn’t want to notify her mother about her returning home?

"Letting who know, honey?" she carefully asked.

"Your mom," was the mumbled answer.

"I guess I’ll call her when we’re home, so she doesn’t have to worry," Emma gently answered.

Suddenly Kyra stirred and a pair of puzzled green eyes looked up at Emma with genuine confusion.

"Why? Are they going out tonight?"

Emma opened her mouth to answer, but then took a deep breath and closed it again. For a moment she worried if Kyra’s emotional turmoil would have temporarily affected her mental capacities, but she quickly discarded that thought.

"Sweetheart, I have a feeling we’ re talking about different things here," she finally responded, tucking a strand of curly hair behind Kyra’s ear. "Let me get this straight; you want to call my parents when we’re home. Right?"

For a fleeting moment there was a familiar sparkle in Kyra’s eyes and the sight made Emma’s heart skip a beat, filling her with a strong feeling of hope, reassuring her about her partner’s state of mind that mere words never could.

"I want you to call your parents, to tell them we are coming home, to them, to your home," Kyra softly explained, immediately seeing Emma’s eyes mist over. She reached out a hand and cupped the schoolteacher’s cheek. "I want to come home with you. I need you, now more than ever. I need some distance. I need to be away from my mother, from Rick, to get through this. Unless," Kyra’s voice slightly trembled. "Unless you think they won’t¼ "

"No," Emma exclaimed, a little more forceful than she intended. Immediately she softened her voice. "No. You are welcome. You’ll always be welcome. You and Simon are family now, honey, and if you want to go to Friesland then we will. My home is your home now as well, don’t ever doubt that."

Kyra’s face was only a breath away and quietly Emma took in the vision in front of her. Kyra’s eyes were darker than she had ever seen them before and red- rimmed. Her cheeks were tear-stained and her nose had a pink glow. There were dark shadows underneath her eyes, a testimony to her pain, but in the deep green orbs Emma suddenly noticed a glint of resilience. She realized Kyra’s spirit might have taken an enormous, bruising blow, but was by no means broken.

A small smile tugged on the corner of Emma’s mouth and her eyes radiated the love she felt for the woman in her arms, and those feelings were mirrored in Kyra’s, softening the lines of tension around her eyes.

"I love you," Emma softly spoke.

"I know. I love you too," Kyra quietly answered. "We’ll get through this, Emma," she added, surprising her lover.

"That’s my line," Emma gently joked, with a small smile, brushing her fingers against Kyra’s cheek. "But yes, we’ll get through this. I will be beside you, all the time, every step of the way."

"Then you are all I need," Kyra simply answered, brushing her lips against Emma’s in a fleeting kiss.

At that moment, Emma suddenly became aware of the fact that a person’s heart could literally swell with pride. A warm feeling settled around her heart, when she realized how lucky she was to have Kyra in her life. Her lover and best friend was a compassionate, intelligent, loving and incredibly courageous woman, who made Emma fall in love with her over and over again.

"Kyra¼ I¼ "

"Shh," was the whispered response. "I know."

Emma swallowed hard and blinked away the moisture in her eyes, before casting an inquisitive look at her lover.

"You do?" she answered hoarsely. "Have you any idea how much your courage is affecting me? How humbling it is to have you in my arms and look at the strength that¼ somehow¼ pours out of your whole being¼ in a situation as difficult as this?"

"No," Kyra truthfully responded after a few moments that were heavy with silence. "I¼ had no idea about that. I...just¼ I’m just grateful to have you here, by my side. If I¼ display strength, it’s because of you. Because you are here with me. You center me, Emma. In the relatively short time we have known each other you have become my stronghold... the core of my existence. I need you. I don’t think I could ever live without you. Not anymore," she added in a passionate whisper, burying her face against Emma’s chest and inhaling deeply, aware of the lingering scent of Emma’s perfume. "I need you, to get through this. I need you to be there for Simon as well, for the both of us whenever it all gets too much. I’ ll have a few intense, probably ugly fights at hand, and even though I don’t want to include you in those, I do need you to be there and be my safety net, Emma. I’ m so sorry to have to¼ ask you to share this ugliness with me. I wish I could shelter you from all the hate and prejudice that will cone our way. I¼ "

"Kyra," Emma suddenly interrupted, gently yet forceful. "Don’t be sorry. Please, don’t. I’m here for you, I always will be. All I want you to do is talk to me and tell me how I can help...how I can be there for you and Simon, other than loving the two of you with all that I am. Never doubt my love or dedication towards you, or Simon."

Kyra’s bottom lip suspiciously trembled and tears pooled in her eyes when she looked at the auburn haired woman’s eyes that were passionate and honest. Even the love of her own father had never manifested itself in such a profound way, rocking her world and steadying it at the same time...like a giant hand, cradling a fragile gem, admiring it, loving it and keeping it safe at the same time.

A tear slid down her cheek, but when one of Emma’s fingers carefully brushed it away, a radiant smile had manifested itself, momentarily evaporating all the pain and insecurities, leaving only love in its way.

"One day, Emma Louise Altena," Kyra sniffed between smiles. "One day soon, when all of this has blown over, I will go down on my knees and beg you to marry me."

Time seemed to stand still when Emma’s eyes locked with her lover’s and a thrill of anticipation traveled down her spine, eliciting a pleasant shiver. The dark green eyes were holding nothing back, and if Emma thought she had been able to look into Kyra’s soul before, she now realized she had been dead wrong. The view she was granted was breathtaking and all- consuming, pulling her in like an uncontrollable fire. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time...scorching and purifying, leaving her with a sense like the past and present had melted together, creating an overwhelming sense of eternity.

It was kind of strange, really, that a moment so profound and intense only lasted a moment... a few seconds, not even specks in the eternal fabric of time. It left Emma feeling breathless, but full of hopes and promises. Every fiber of her being seemed to be alive and her heart was thumping wildly inside her chest.

She was a teacher, schooled in many different subjects and familiar with national and international literature, poetry and prose. Still, words eluded her when she stared into the eyes of the woman she loved more than anything else in her life.

"On your knees?" she finally croaked, internally wincing because of her choice of words.

But Kyra smiled, a mixture of amusement, affection and unspoken promises in her eyes. For a moment, she was able to forget her pain and sorrow, having being able to catch a glimpse of her future in Emma’s eyes.

"I could rent one of those planes that can write things in the sky," she said with an impish smile. "But I bet it would be cloudy that day. So, I think I would rather opt for the¼ old-fashioned way, involving¼ knees and roses and rings, and all that."

Realizing Kyra’s words were genuine and spoken from her heart, Emma instinctively knew that her lover needed some kind of reassurance, even though it had not been a proposal. Not yet. But she knew that was only a matter of time, and she was wholeheartedly prepared to leave the initiative to Kyra, knowing her lover would make the moment worthwhile.

"I think I could live with that," Emma smiled. "To tell you the truth, I think I’m a little old fashioned myself."

"Are you now?" Kyra playfully asked, nibbling her lower lip. "Does that mean we need a chaperone from now on? No serious kissing and¼ fondling before we take the big step?"

"I wouldn’t go that far," Emma muttered, feeling happiness flood all her senses when she heard Kyra’s soft laugh.

"I’m glad," was the breathless answer. "I need you to kiss me, Emma. Please."

Emma did not need any more encouragement. She crossed the tiny distance between them and captured Kyra’s lips in a slow and deep kiss, that soon had her lover moaning. When she parted her lips, seeking the hot intimacy of Kyra’s mouth, she felt a pair of arms slid around her neck, pulling her impossibly close. The slow dance of their lips and tongues was strong and passionate. The intensity was enormous, but still neither woman allowed herself to get completely lost in the sweet caresses. Deliberately pulling back a little, Emma lightly nibbled Kyra’s mouth, traveling to her throat and cheeks, until she felt her lover slump against her with a deep sigh. Once again burying her face against the teacher’s shoulder.

"Thank you, my love. I needed that," Kyra whispered.

"No need to thank me," Emma answered, pressing her lips against a warm temple, not entirely ready to give up the intimate contact yet. "I want you to feel loved and safe."

"I do," Kyra admitted with a sigh. "I really do."

"Good. That’s my goal."

"I’m so rich," Kyra mumbled dreamily. "I have a fantastic son and the most wonderful woman in the world for a lover and friend." Exhaling slowly, Kyra let out a rueful chuckle. "It balances the fact that my son’s father is a rapist and his grandmother is a conniving bitch."

Emma stiffened, but could not say anything to counteract her lover’s words, since Kyra was absolutely right.

"Sweetie, forgive me for asking such a...practical question, but have you thought about work? I mean, it’s not like I want or expect you to go to work tomorrow, but I thought some important meeting was the reason you would have returned this evening."

"I know, but some things are more important than our family Empire. I¼ I don’t want my dad or Jazz to know¼ not yet¼ " Kyra looked at Emma with pleading eyes. "I might seem pretty calm and composed at the moment, but all I want to do is go back home with you, have a shower and crawl in bed with your arms around me. I need a safe cocoon to¼ to¼ " Kyra swallowed. "To¼ deal with all this and come up with some sort of plan. If I’d follow my heart I’d drive home and throttle my mother, but I realize that won’t be an answer."

Sucking in her bottom lip, Kyra peeked up at Emma’s face, which held a calm and understanding expression.

"I want to hit her where it really hurts," Kyra quietly answered, before wrapping her arms around the warm body she was heavily leaning against, desperately needing the closeness and warmth.

Instinctively, Emma knew Kyra did not want to say much more about it, and she decided to let it go, expecting her lover to talk about it whenever she was ready.

"Honey, when would you like to drive back up to the farm?" she quietly asked after a few minutes of silence.

Kyra let out a deep sigh and gave her lover a loving squeeze.

"If it’s all right with you, I’d like to visit dad and Albert again and drive back up. Maybe we can grab something to eat on the way. I¼ " her soft voice halted and Kyra swallowed hard. "I am so tired, Emma. I really need to sit down and think about things, but not here. As soon as Jazz and Elvira come back with Simon, I’ll ask him to cancel the meeting tomorrow. Or maybe he wants to sit in for me. I’ll leave that up to him. But I don’t really want anyone to know what happened," her voice softly pleaded. "Not yet. Jazz would just¼ explode and my dad¼ well, he’s in no condition right now to hear things like that."

"I respect that, honey," Emma answered. "I’m sure they will as well."

"They will," Kyra whispered. "I’ll explain¼ later¼ when I¼ I¼ when it stops hurting so much."

Emma bit her lip and blinked away the tears she could feel stinging her eyes. Kyra had sounded so profoundly sad, it hurt. She wanted to wipe away that pain, throw her arms around her lover and protect her against anything that could ever be a threat, but she knew she couldn’t. All she could do was being a friend... a stronghold in an ocean of insecurities and sadness. Someone to lean on. And she was determined to be just that.




For the umpteenth time Emma cast a look at the passenger seat, where Kyra, safely ensconced in the restricting seatbelt, had managed to curl up and fall asleep. Her face was pale and even in her sleep, she now and then let out a soft whimper, no doubt fighting with all the demons that had come to hunt her with such vengeance.

In his safety chair on the backseat, Simon was also asleep. His curly head was resting against the back of the chair and the expression on his face was content and peaceful. Emma wondered how much it had cost her lover to keep up a cheerful front, when her son had returned from the hospital, together with his uncle and Elvira. Of course, Jasper had immediately noticed something was terribly wrong, and, leaving Simon in the loving care of Emma and Elvira, the siblings had retreated to one of the bedrooms, where they had a long talk.

Kyra had not wanted to tell her brother about their mother’s betrayal, but after they had returned, one look at Jasper’s pale face and pain-filled eyes had taught Emma he had probably forced the truth out of his sister.

Her suspicion became stronger when Jasper had walked up to Simon and engulfed the little boy in a big hug, the tears in his eyes clearly visible. She had shot Kyra a questioning look, but her lover had wrapped her arms around her waist and buried her face against her chest.

Elvira had more or less taken charge and had disappeared into the kitchen, making soup and sandwiches, soon assisted by her fiancé.

After a quick meal, Emma, Kyra and Simon had returned to the hospital and Kyra had softly explained to her father she was going to return to Friesland. He had simply nodded, his eyes full of concern, but he had not asked any questions, knowing his daughter would tell him whenever she felt the time was right.

After a tearful goodbye they had left, promising to come by and visit again in two days time. When Emma’s eyes had locked with Norbert Hartman’s, she had read the silent question and had simply nodded. Of course, she would look after Kyra and Simon. She would always do that, no matter how trying the circumstances would be.

With a small sigh of relief, Emma turned her car into the familiar road that led to her parents’ farm. Even from the distance she could see the lights were still on, even though it was close to midnight. She had called her mother just before they had left the hospital and Ann Altena had not asked any questions. She had just promised Emma that the little guesthouse would be ready and that they would stay up until they had made it safely home.

Carefully avoiding a few familiar irregularities in the driveway, Emma steered the car all the way up the yard until she stopped in front of the little house, killing the engine and rubbing her eyes with a gesture that betrayed her fatigue.

Kyra and Simon were still asleep and, with a slightly bemused smile Emma wondered what the best way would be to get both of them inside without waking them.

As soon as she stepped out of the car, she noticed the familiar forms of her parents making their way towards them, and even before Emma could greet them, she was engulfed in her fathers’ strong arms.

"I’m glad the three of you are home safe," he softly said, slowly letting go and holding her at arms length so he could see her face. "You look so tired. Let’s get these two inside, so you can all get some sleep. All right?"

Emma could only nod, feeling the tears sting the back of her eyes. But, when she was pulled into her mother’s arms, she let out a soft sob and it took all her willpower not to give in to the desire, to relieve the tension in her chest by crying until she would have no tears left.

"We’re here if you want to talk. The same applies to Kyra," Ann Altena whispered, brushing Emma’s hair away from her forehead. "I’m glad you came home, sweetheart."

"Kyra wanted to come home," Emma sighed, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "I’m just grateful she’s already started to feel like this is her home as well."

"So am I," Ann Altena smiled. "Go on, go inside. We’ll see you tomorrow. Try and get some sleep."

"Thanks, mom," Emma whispered, kissing her mother’s cheek, before turning around and walking around the car, opening the door on the passenger side and carefully unbuckling Simon from his seat.

Gently shoving her aside, Dirk Altena squeezed his tall and burly frame inside the back of the car, picking up the little boy and cradling him in his arms. With a small smile, he strode towards the front door of the little house and disappeared inside.

Emma softly closed the door and turned her attention to Kyra, who was still deeply asleep, oblivious to anything that was going on around her. Nibbling her lower lip, Emma wondered if it would be a good idea to let her father carry Kyra inside. Probably not. What if her lover woke up in the process? After all the traumatic events of the past day, she could easily panic and Emma didn’t want her lover, or father, to go through a possible scenario like that.

"Guess hauling around sacks of potatoes and bales of hays for years had to pay off one day, huh?" she smiled at her mother, crouching next to Kyra’s seat and unbuckling the seatbelt. Her lover didn’t even stir and Emma knew she must have been exhausted. Slipping one arm around her shoulders and one underneath her knees, Emma pulled Kyra’s body close and lifted her in her arms. With a small grunt she straightened, feeling her tired muscles protest.

With a small smile towards her mother, she moved towards the front door and quickly made her way towards the bedroom, making a mental note to thank her father for switching on a few lights. Entering the bedroom, she noticed the little lamp on the night stand was spreading a soft light.

Carefully, she lowered her precious burden on the bed hearing Kyra softly whimper. Brushing away a stray curl, she softly kissed Kyra’s forehead. Even in her sleep, that gesture had a calming effect on her lover, and letting out a small sigh, Kyra snuggled closer in the pillows without waking up.


Emma turned around to see her father’s face poking in through the door. She soundlessly walked towards him and gave him a quick kiss.

"Thanks, dad," she whispered, careful not to disturb Kyra’s sleep.

"Simon is still asleep," he whispered back. "I put him in some of Peter’s pajama’s Hester had dropped off. Your mother has left some clean towels in the bathroom as well. Go to bed, honey, and get some sleep. We’ll see you tomorrow."

"Thanks, dad," Emma repeated, feeling the familiar warmth of love settle around her heart as a healing blanket.

Dirk Altena left the little house and carefully closed the door behind him. Emma could hear his footsteps disappear in the darkness and she slowly turned around, making her way back to the bedroom. Kyra’s and Simon’s overnight bags were still in the car and she decided to just help Kyra out of her clothes and tuck her in. She knew her lover wouldn’t object to sleeping in her underwear. But when Emma sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing her forehead where she could feel the building of a massive headache, her eyes fell on the chair and she noticed two pairs of old t-shirts she used as sleep wear.

"Oh, Mom, you’re the best," she softly whispered, realizing her mother had brought down some of her clothes and probably neatly stacked them in one of the closets.

Deciding to ignore her headache for the next few minutes, Emma took a deep breath and got back to her feet. She picked up a shirt and went back to the bed. She carefully relieved Kyra from her shoes and socks and unbuttoned the jeans, inching them down her lover’s body, trying not to wake her. It worked, and, releasing a breath, she didn’t know she had been holding, Emma folded up the jeans and tossed them on the chair. Eying her lover, she wondered if she should help Kyra into another shirt. That would probably wake her up, so Emma decided that removing her bra would be enough.

Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, she carefully rolled Kyra on her side, lifting her shirt and sliding her hands underneath, blindly reaching for the clasp. With nimble fingers, she unfastened it and she was just about to slide a strap down a slender shoulder, when Kyra stirred.

"Taking advantage of a sleeping woman?" her sleepy voice mumbled.

Startled Emma let out a nervous chuckle and she gently rolled Kyra onto her back.

"Sorry, sweetie, I didn’t mean to wake you up. If you just let me take off your bra, you can go back to sleep."

A pair of drowsy green eyes blinked against the soft light and with a small frown Kyra took in her surroundings. When her eyes caught Emma’s she smiled and reached out a hand to touch her lover’s arm.

"We’re home," she sighed with relief. "I’m sorry I fell asleep on you, Emmie."

"You were exhausted," Emma smiled at the way her lover used her family’s pet name for her. She cradled Kyra’s hand between her own and brought it to her lips.

"Has Simon been asleep all the time as well?"

"Yes, he must have been tired as well. My dad carried him in and put him to bed."

"That was sweet of him," Kyra yawned, before her eyes shot wide open and she cast an insecure look at her lover. "Did he¼ ?"

"No, I did," Emma answered, not able to hide the little smirk on her face.

"Oh, you did? And I slept right through it," Kyra sighed with a sleepy smile. "I might ask you to do that again, one day. I bet I’ll like that."

"If you promise to give me a massage in return," Emma quipped, flexing the tired muscles in her back.

"Deal," Kyra groaned, pushing herself upright and swinging her legs over the edge of the bed.

"Where are you going?" Emma frowned.

"No matter how much I love you undressing me, you look absolutely beat, so I just wanted to change into that nice green shirt over there, and then make us a cup of tea, because I’m very thirsty. Then I want to brush my teeth, check up on Simon, get back into bed and snuggle up with you." Kyra leaned in to give Emma a quick kiss, all traces of sleep vanished, although the little lines around her eyes showed Emma how tired she still was. Patting her lover’s denim clad thigh, she pushed herself up with a groan, aware of the aching muscles in her lower back that were a result of her awkward sleeping position in the car.

Picking up a dark-colored shirt she handed it to Emma with a tired smile.

"I like you in black," she confessed, unsuccessfully suppressing another yawn. "It looks so darn sexy on you."

In spite of her headache and weariness, Emma grinned and gracefully dipped her head in acknowledgment of the unexpected compliment. It was nice that Kyra seemed to be more relaxed. True, she still looked drained, and the usual sparkle was still missing from her eyes, but her body seemed less rigid and tense.

As if Kyra could read her mind, she turned to Emma and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.

"It’s amazing how much better I feel just by being back here," she said wistfully. "Thank you, love. Do you want some chamomile tea?"

"Sure," Emma smiled, a little absentmindedly. If Kyra would have suggested having a cup of hot water, she would probably have agreed as well. Her lover was showing an impressive amount of strength, and Emma’s respect and love for Kyra grew with leaps and bounds.

Pondering over the events of the day, Emma realized that Kyra had not once showed reluctance to show her pain and vulnerability completely. She had opened up without hesitancy, granting her lover the possibility to be there for her really. It was such a tremendous change from the woman Kyra had been when they had first met. She had been cautious, unwilling to let her guard down completely, afraid of being hurt.

If you ever needed more proof of her love for you¼ or trust¼

Emma smiled and donned the black shirt Kyra had pressed in her hands before leaving the bedroom. She knew there were tough times ahead, for all three of them, but Emma was absolutely sure they would be able to overcome anything Vivian LeJeune would throw in their paths.




The soft light that was filtered by the early morning fog made its way through the small window, illuminating a pair of sleepy, but pensive eyes that stared at the opposite wall, not seeing the antique dresser and mirror, nor the small painting of a peacefully grazing herd of cows.

The turmoil inside was clearly visible in the dark green orbs. The happy twinkle, that had only been there twenty four hours before, had been clouded over by sorrow and pain. But every now and then, a sharp look of contemplation chased away the dullness, and anybody who had ever seen Kyra Hartman conducting an intricate business meeting, knew that gaze. It meant she was working on solving a delicate or complicated problem. However, the accompanying bright flashes of anger and occasional narrowing of the eyes promised trouble. It rarely happened for a person was to be on the receiving end of Kyra’s fury, but when it did, it wasn’t pretty. Her staff had only experienced that once or twice, although each and every one of them immediately would admit their boss had been absolutely right in her actions. Kyra Hartman was very tolerant and it was hard to get on her bad side.

With a soft sigh Kyra closed her eyes, and tried to force her brain to focus on other things than what her mother had done to her, and what would be the best course of action to deal with her.

"Hitting her where it really hurts," Kyra had told Emma. But exactly what would that mean?

I don’t want to think about that now. I need to relax and heal, before lashing out and doing something I might regret later. But that’s so incredibly hard. I so wish to¼ to¼ I want to hurt her as much as she has hurt me, Kyra admitted to herself, immediately feeling a shiver run down her spine. Can I be like her? Am I like her? I don’t want to hurt people, I don’t believe in that. But how can I ever deal with this in a normal, rational way? That’s impossible.

Emma’s body, that was spooned against her back in the most delicious way, pressed even closer, and a warm hand that, during the night had strayed underneath her shirt, started rubbing her stomach in slow, soothing circles.

Another hand came up and brushed Kyra’s unruly curls away from her face, making way for Emma’s lips, that softly kissed the side of Kyra’s neck.

"You are so tense," Emma’s voice gently sounded. "I don’t have to ask what you were thinking about. Have you been awake long, honey?"

"I don’t know," Kyra truthfully answered, covering Emma’s hand with her own. "I don’t think I’ve been awake all that long though." She turned without breaking contact and looked up into a pair of loving blue eyes. Reaching out her other hand she drew Emma’s face closer and captured her lips in a soft kiss.

"Morning," she mumbled against a soft mouth, feeling the muscles underneath her lips twitch, knowing Emma’s was smiling.

"Morning," was the almost inaudible reply, since Emma was trying very hard to not lose herself in the loving contact. It was obvious Kyra had been pondering over the situation she was in, and she wanted to give her the space she needed to work things out.

Kyra didn’t make matters easier, when she pulled herself up and practically pinned Emma down to the bed with her warm, yielding body, while her lips never left Emma’s and a smooth thigh slid between her legs. A small whimper escaped from Emma’s throat and Kyra slowly lifted her head, her dark green eyes seeking a pair of indigo ones.

"Am I hurting you?" she whispered with a worried frown.

"Only in the most delicious way," Emma croaked, wondering if Kyra would be able to actually hear her heartbeat.

Realization dawned and Kyra’s face flushed, but she didn’t move. She just brought her face closer and gently nipped Emma’s nose, letting her lips slide to a soft cheek, before placing small kisses on Emma’s chin, finally reaching the soft lips again and thoroughly exploring them.

Emma’s hands started a deliberate descent down Kyra’s back, slipping underneath her shirt and caressing the soft skin of her back, making her lover unconsciously press closer into the body underneath her, encouraged by the increasing pressure of Emma’s hands.

Their bodies began a slow dance that made their skin flush and increased their breathing, although neither woman was willing to break the loving caresses of their lips and tongues. Determined to kiss and breathe at the same time, their mouths occasionally lessened the pressure, allowing them to take in some much needed air without having to break the contact.

When the tantalizing movement of Kyra’s hips pushed Emma into a blissful moment of complete and utter pleasure, she softly cried out against Kyra’s lips. It didn’t take long for the body in her arms to stiffen as well, before slumping back down on top of her..temporarily, completely spent.

Emma’s arms tightened around Kyra’s body, while her lover nuzzled her neck with a contented sigh.

"I love you, Emma, especially since it was your idea to sleep in a t-shirt only. That leaves some real interesting possibilities."

"So I noticed," Emma smiled, kissing the side of Kyra’s head. "That was an unexpected, but absolutely wonderful way to start the day. Thank you, Kyra."

Kyra softly snorted and playfully nipped Emma’s earlobe, making her lover chuckle, before pressing her face against the teacher’s neck, exhaling slowly.

"I think I¼ needed that," she softly admitted and let out small chuckle. "It’s a great way to clear your head."

"Mm, you’re right," Emma smiled, patting her lover’s bare hip. "So it¼ cleared your head? Or did you already work through a whole list of things lying here awake in the dark?"

With a deep sigh, Kyra released her grip on Emma and slowly rolled off the warm body she had been resting on, immediately feeling the loss of her lover’s closeness. Propping up on her elbow, she studied Emma’s face, noticing the patient interest in the soft blue eyes that were locked with her inquisitive green ones.

"You know, I’m really happy to be back here," Kyra started with a gentle smile, using her free hand to rub Emma’s stomach lovingly . "Yesterday I told you I needed some distance between myself and¼ my¼ mother," she added with a wrinkled nose. "Yesterday I would have really¼ lashed out and probably made things worse. I can think¼ more clearly today. When I think about Rick’s confession to you, it still angers me, but I don’t think I’m as deeply hurt or infuriated as I was yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not something I’ll be able to put behind me in less than a day, but when I woke up a few hours ago, I started thinking about a lot of things and I came to an interesting conclusion."

Kyra paused and sent Emma a wry smile, before scooting closer and resting her head on a conveniently close shoulder. Emma silently wrapped her arm around Kyra and rested her cheek on the unruly curls, patiently waiting until her lover would continue.

"For years, I have been fooling myself," Kyra finally continued with a soft, but calm voice, testimony to the fact she had been doing a lot of thinking indeed. "I wanted Simon to have a grandmother, at least, that’s what I convinced myself of. Of course that was true, to a certain extent anyway. What I did though, on a subconscious level, was constantly seek my mother’s approval, while I knew it would be in vain, because she would only accept me on her terms, not mine. I guess that all those years of participating in maintaining an unhealthy relationship show I didn’t really like myself." Kyra softly snorted and wrapped an arm around Emma’s chest, snuggling closer. "I think I figured out why I let that happen. Yesterday’s newsflash brought that home pretty clearly. I never regretted having Simon, not one nanosecond. From the first moment I found out I was pregnant, I wanted that baby. Terminating the pregnancy never even occurred to me. Of course, I was a little shocked at first," she softly chuckled. "But when the dust settled, I knew I was in love with this little human who was growing inside of me. However, a little part of me realized my actions had been pretty irresponsible and my mother kept feeding those feelings, sometimes very blatantly, but mostly with her patented, snide remarks. After having been¼ emotionally ignored for years, I guess I wanted to prove to her I would be a good mother. So, that’s basically why I put up with all the crap she threw in my path. And maybe I was even hoping against hope that one day things would change. That was pretty ignorant on my part, because I behaved exactly like she wanted me to. I let her have all the power, foregoing my own feelings."

Kyra moistened her dry lips and swallowed, realizing she was a little thirsty. Peering up she noticed the deep blue of Emma’s eyes enveloping her in a warm haze. It felt like a tender caress and she smiled.

"That was pretty¼ profound," Emma finally responded after a long silence. "But your analysis sounds very solid and¼ true. I think you just hit the nail on its head, sweetie," she gently complimented her lover.

Kyra pulled a face and stole a quick kiss, before resuming her position with her head pillowed on Emma’s shoulder.

"It was time for a little self dissecting, don’t you think?" she chuckled softly. "I can’t believe it took me so long to finally see that though."

"I think I can answer that question," Emma calmly stated. "It’s the kind of person you are, Kyra. You are a very compassionate, gentle woman and you’d forget about your own wants and needs in a heartbeat, in order to help somebody else. Your mother knows that and has been taking advantage of it for years. She’s probably so lost in her own little, perfect world that manipulating others is her only way to maintain that¼ self-created image. She has to hold on to it, because if she loses it, there will be nothing left for her. Your mother is the director of her own play. She needs to be in control, in order to hold on to the only safety she knows. Pretty pathetic if you ask me. And incredibly sad."

"Wow, you just pictured my mother like she really is," Kyra replied in awe. "Are you sure you’re a schoolteacher and not a psychologist?"

"What’s the difference?" Emma joked, making Kyra laugh, before she leaned in, kissing the corner of Emma’s mouth.

"You know, Emma, that first kiss we shared, last Friday, sure rocked my world. Do you realize that ever since that night our lives have been in turmoil? First we had the fire, then my dad and Albert ended up in the hospital, and then came the phone call from Rick¼ "

Emma turned her head and shot her lover a lazy smile, while her eyes took in the familiar twinkle in Kyra’s eyes. She was relieved and happy to notice its return.

"So, do you think there’s something wrong with our kissing technique then?" Emma asked. "I mean, I like rocking your world," she chuckled, wiggling her eyebrows. "But not like this, though."

"Maybe we just need some more practice," Kyra suggested with a sly grin.

Emma pretended to consider that remark seriously and she frowned, sucking in her bottom lip like she was deep in thought.

"Or maybe we shouldn’t kiss anymore," she finally dead-panned.

Kyra’s eyes only widened for a split second, but then she mimicked Emma’s serious expression and she slowly nodded.

"Maybe we shouldn’t," she answered in a serious voice. "I guess we could stop kissing for¼ well, I’d suggest at least a week, to see if there are any positive changes in our lives, instead of disasters." She brought her face closer to Emma’s and their lips were almost touching. "Of course, if we want to approach this research in a scientific way, we might need more time and variables. So maybe we should quit¼ touching as well. What do you think?"

Emma’s face had not lost its serious expression, but Kyra could see a twinkle of amusement in her deep blue eyes, and inwardly she smiled. She was getting better at teasing and she thoroughly enjoyed the playful banter between them.

"I think that’s a great idea, Kyra. It will be very interesting to see what the outcome of temporary celibacy will be. I mean, just imagine the positive effects of not giving into primal urges. It will be a great way to do some serious character building. Feeling the warmth radiating off your body, being aware of the softness of your skin and how you taste and not touching¼ well, that will help me overcome my basic needs." Emma calmly stated, suppressing the urge to laugh when she saw the darkening of Kyra’s eyes. "Of course I have my memories to help me through. I know how your lips feel on mine and I’ll never forget the sweetness of your mouth, especially when your tongue starts that sensual dance with mine. And I haven’t even¼ mph¼ " Emma was interrupted by a pair of lips that captured hers in a determined and passionate kiss and she would have laughed, if she would have had the air to do so, but Kyra was ravishing her lips and very quickly all coherent thought disappeared, until only the feel of her lover’s lips remained.

Their kiss lasted long moments and when they finally had to come up for air, their faces were flushed, their pupils dilated and they were both breathing hard.

"You were saying?" Kyra asked with a faint chuckle, still trying to catch her breath.

"Nothing. Nothing at all," Emma breathed.

"Good," Kyra smiled. "Because I didn’t really like your suggestion."

"Neither did I," Emma grinned. "I love your kisses. They positively render me speechless."

"That’s the intention," Kyra smiled, gently pressing her lips against the band-aid that was covering the sutures in Emma’s eyebrow. "I’m so looking forward to the rest of our lives." A mixture of anger and hurt suddenly crossed her face and with a deep sigh she rested her forehead against Emma’s. "First, I need to deal with my¼ mother. And Rick, of course."

"Yes, you do," Emma gently agreed, giving her lover a quick kiss. "But not on an empty stomach. What about breakfast?"

"It didn’t take you long to figure me out, did it?" Kyra smiled. "I have to admit I am hungry."

"You didn’t eat much yesterday," Emma replied, her eyes soft and warm. "So, why don’t you have a nice shower, while I make us some coffee? After we’re all dressed, we can either have breakfast here, or at the house. Your choice."

Kyra looked at her lover and with a smile she raked her fingers through the soft, auburn hair.

"I was thinking that Simon might want to play with your nephews today. If he does, I’d like to take a long walk and talk things through. If that’s all right with you," Kyra shyly suggested. "It’s not that I want to get rid of Simon, but I want him to have fun and I don’t want to subject him to¼ everything that is going on."

"I think that’s a great idea," Emma smiled. "I know Hester and Irene were thinking about taking the kids to the ‘Dolfinarium’, to see the new dolphin show. I know they wouldn’t mind Simon’s company."

"Simon would love that," Kyra smiled. "Dolphins are his favorite animals. And goldfish, of course," she added with a chuckle, thinking about her son’s pet fish, Fred.

Emma cast a look at the alarm clock at the night stand and suppressed a yawn.

"Well, it’s almost seven, so I’d better give my dear sister a call. I know they wanted to leave early."

"Use my cell phone," Kyra mumbled, rubbing her cheek against Emma’s shoulder, totally relaxed in her sprawled position on top of her lover. She could feel Emma chuckle and lifted her head to cast the teacher a quizzical look.

"If I want to use your phone, you’ll have to move, sweetie. I’m practically a captive here."

"Mmm, you have a point," Kyra answered, slowly rolling off Emma’s body. "But I want it to be noted that I don’t like it."

"So noted," Emma grinned, swinging her legs out of the bed and getting to her feet. She lazily stretched, not aware of the appreciative glance in a pair of green eyes, that twinkled with delight when her t-shirt rode up, giving Kyra an unhindered view of the back of her thighs and part of her bare bottom.

With a soft groan, Kyra pressed her face against her pillow, aware of her acute physical response to her lover’s half-clad body. She had to restrain herself from grabbing the back of Emma’s shirt, pulling her back in bed and ripping away the black fabric that was in between her hands and Emma’s skin.

Talking about primal urges, Kyra, a little voice in the back of her mind scolded. But Kyra couldn’t get rid of the delightful images that flooded her mind, and even though she was aware of Emma’s soft voice in the background, she didn’t hear a single word of her lover’s conversation with her sister. Only when a strong hand playfully tickled the back of her knee, she lifted her head and turned around.

"Hester will pick up Simon around eight o’clock," Emma said. She cast her lover a puzzled look and a slow smile spread across her face when she noticed the dazed, unfocused expression in Kyra’s eyes.

"Oh, my, somebody is definitely aroused," she gently teased, laughing when Kyra hid her face behind a pillow and let out a frustrated grunt. Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, Emma reached out a hand and lovingly patted Kyra’s leg. "I am truly flattered," she said with genuine honesty. "And I do wish we had the time, but¼ I’m sorry, sweetie."

Kyra pushed away the pillow and blew a curly strand of hair out of her eyes. With a rueful smile, she grabbed Emma’s hand and brought it to her lips, gently kissing the knuckles.

"Maybe later," she sighed, squeezing the hand before letting it go and pushing herself upright. "We’ll stick to the plan. You’ll make coffee and I’ll have a shower." She graciously rolled out of bed and shot her lover a sheepish smile. "A cold shower," she added. "A very cold shower."



Thanks to Kyra’s and Emma’s organizational talents, an hour later Simon was dressed, fed and on his way to the Marine Animal Park with Hester, Irene and their children. The little boy had been chattering non-stop, and Kyra had to remind him sternly to actually eat his food and not play with it, before he quickly wolfed it down, too enthusiastic to chew properly. After he had finished, Kyra had to drag him to the bathroom, so he could brush his teeth and when he had finally left with Hester and her children, Kyra had let out a deep breath, closing her eyes and slowly shaking her head.

"Tornado Hartman," she mumbled, sipping her coffee, making Emma laugh. She shot her lover a wry smile. "How do you do it, Emma?" she asked, seeing the twinkling blue eyes.

"How do I do what?"

"Be a schoolteacher? Having twenty plus tornadoes in your classroom?"

"I stuff my ears with cotton wool whenever we have a school outing," Emma grinned, with a wink in the direction of her mother, who was sitting across from them on the table. "It’s either that or drug the kids and I don’t think their parents would appreciate that."

Kyra almost snorted out her coffee and coughed when a few drops took a wrong turn in her windpipe. Emma helpfully patted her back and looked at her with concerned eyes.

"That was your fault," Kyra wheezed when she finally could talk again, wiping away the tears that had been rolling down her cheeks.

"I’m sorry, honey," Emma responded, quickly kissing Kyra’s cheek.

"Don’t be," Kyra answered, taking a deep breath. "I love the way you make me laugh. It’s good for me," she added with self-knowledge.

"All right, I appreciate that," Emma smiled. "But next time, I’ll first make sure if you are sipping or chewing something, before I crack a joke."

"That would be very considerate of you. Thank you," Kyra smiled, taking another sip of coffee. Looking out the window she noticed that the fog had lifted and the sun was tentatively trying to peek through the remaining clouds.

"Is there a place around here where we could take a nice, long walk?" she asked, turning her head to look at Emma, who was sitting in the chair next to her.

"Are you kidding? This is Friesland," Emma grinned. "You could walk your little heart out if you wanted."

"I wouldn’t go that far," Kyra mumbled, hearing Ann Altena chuckle.

"Do you like the sea, Kyra?" Emma’s mother asked.

"Oh, I love the sea," Kyra responded with a sigh. "Can we go there, Emma?"

"Sure, honey, if that’s what you want," Emma smiled. "I know a few quiet areas where we could walk for hours on end. It will take us about thirty to forty minutes to get there by car. If we leave within the next hour, we can have a nice stroll along the beach, and afterwards I’ll buy you lunch. How does that sound?"

"Absolutely divine," Kyra smiled, reaching out a hand and grabbing Emma’s.

"Sounds just like something the doctor ordered." She cast a look at her watch and exhaled. "First I need to call Sandy, though, to let her know I won’t be in this week."

Kyra gave Emma a quick kiss and pulled her cell phone from her pocket. She speed dialed a number and leaned back in her chair, sipping her coffee.

"Hey, Sandy, it’s me, Kyra."

"Hey, I was wondering where you were. You’re never late," her secretary’s voice greeted her. "You’re not sick, are you?"

"Well, to be honest, I just wanted to let you know I’m taking the rest of the week off. But no, I’m not sick."

There was a brief silence, and Kyra could almost picture the frown on Sandy’s face. Her secretary knew Kyra would never skip an important meeting without having a real good reason to do so.

Kyra heard the clicking of Sandy’s heels on the tile floor and the telltale sound of a door being opened and closed again. With a small frown she wondered why her secretary was walking around.

"All right, Kyra. Do you want me to cancel the meeting? If I start making phone calls now, I can probably stop a lot of people driving over here. And maybe¼ "

"Don’t worry, Sandy," Kyra interrupted. "Jazz is filling in for me."

Another tense silence and Kyra heard the shuffling of paper.

"What are¼ ? She started, but this time it was Sandy’s turn to interrupt.

"Listen, Kyra. I know that you’ll have a good reason to take the rest of the week off, and even though I’m dying of curiosity here, I won’t ask," she chuckled. "But I think you should know you had an unexpected visitor this morning."

"That early?" Kyra dryly replied.

"Yes, she was already waiting here when I walked in. And she didn’t look happy."

"Let me guess," Kyra groaned, pushing her hair back from her forehead. "My mother."

"Good guess, boss. That’s why I escaped into your office, so I can talk in privacy. I don’t think she knows I’m talking to you right now, although her eyes are shooting daggers at me."

"I’m sorry, Sandy," Kyra replied, genuinely feeling sorry for her secretary. She knew how her mother treated her staff. It had always been a constant source of friction between them.

"Don’t worry, boss," Sandy cheerfully objected. "I’d love giving her the bad news about you not coming back this week."

In spite of everything, Kyra chuckled and she could almost picture the smug look on her secretary’s face when she would tell her mother she had stopped by the office for nothing.

"All right, Sandy, I’ll leave that in your capable hands," she smiled. "Don’t let her boss you around. You can reach me on my cell phone. I want all important things to be directed to Jazz, but if you think there’s something only I can handle you can give me a call and we can talk about it. Other than that, I am not available."

"Sure thing, boss," Sandy answered and Kyra could hear the smile in her voice. "Make sure you’ll get some rest, okay? Give Simon a hug from me and tell Emma I said ‘hi’."

"I will, Sandy, thanks."

"No worries, Kyra. And don’t worry about your mother. I can handle her."

"See you next week then, Sandy."

"Have a good week, Kyra."

Sandy broke the connection and took a deep breath. Rummaging through the files on Kyra’s desk, she wanted to give the impression of looking for something, while she organized her thoughts.

She had witnessed the way Kyra had rapidly changed over the last few months, and even though she had never asked her about it, she knew her boss had fallen in love. And she knew exactly who the object of her affection was.

Involuntarily, Sandy’s eyes traveled to a framed picture on Kyra’s desk. It was a printout of the screen saver on her computer. Sandy smiled and hoped that Kyra and Emma had finally acted on the feelings they had for each other. She knew Vivian LeJeune would do everything she could to stop her daughter. Her early visit was testimony to that. But Sandy would do anything in her power to shield Kyra from the wrath of her mother.

Taking a deep breath, Sandy squared her shoulders and slowly walked back to her own little office, where Kyra’s mother was sitting on one of the chairs...immaculately dressed and looking as cold as ever.

"All right, let’s face Cruella," Sandy softly muttered.

To be continued in chapter 16

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