It was quiet in the little house. The coffee maker softly spluttered, fusing together fresh water and ground coffee beans into a fragrant, caffeine-rich drink. A freshly steeped pot of tea was kept warm on an electrical plate. It would have been a very homey scene, if not for the curly-haired woman nervously pacing the floor.
A pair of pensive blue eyes followed every little move, unbeknownst to the dark-haired woman, who felt like her stomach was tied up in ice cold knots.
"Kyra, honey, why dont you come sit down for a moment," Emma softly asked, reaching out a hand towards her anxious lover.
A pair of dark green eyes looked up and for a moment there was defiance in the dark colored orbs, but it was merely a flash that only lasted a brief moment. With a resigned sigh, Kyra nodded and walked towards the small, but comfortable couch, letting herself fall next to her lover, who immediately wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.
"If I could take all this away from you, prevent you from having to go through it, I would. You know that, dont you?" Emma softly asked, nuzzling Kyras neck.
"I do," Kyra answered with a small smile. "And right now, I think I would let you. I dont feel as tough anymore."
"Ill be here for you, sweetheart. I always will be. If things get to be too much, just let me know and I will end it, one way or the other."
"You or your dad," Kyra chuckled, remembering the look on Dirk Altenas face when he had learned about the impending visit of Roderick Peters. "Your dad looked like he wanted a talk with Rick behind the barn. Or in a dark alley."
"Hes very protective of you," Emma smiled. "So is the rest of the family. I dont know if you noticed, but all my brothers are currently visiting my parents."
"Are they?" Kyra asked with wide eyes.
Emma nodded and pulled Kyra from the couch, walking to the window and pointing to the cars that were neatly parked in the yard, near the big barn.
"See that? Theyre all here; Bart, Robert and Willem. And I know Imke and Neville are here as well, they hitched a ride with Willem and Sharon."
Kyra swallowed hard and blinked a few times to get rid of the unexpected tears that were stinging her eyes. Of course, Jasper had been there whenever she had needed him, but the blatant affection and support from the Altenas was something completely new to her and it was almost overwhelming.
"But. . . they dont know exactly what. . . ?"
"No, they dont," Emma reassured her lover in a gentle voice. "They dont know what happened to you, only my parents do. But my brothers and sisters do know something happened and they also know Ricks visit is both difficult and painful for you. So, they want to be around, just in case you need them."
"You mean, they would be willing to pick up Rick and throw him in the ditch?"
"Yup," Emma nodded with a smile.
"Oh, God," Kyra whispered, not knowing whether she should laugh or cry. "How can I ever leave this place and go home again?"
Oh, honey, if I could stay here, I would. I really would. In a heartbeat. . .
Emma didnt answer that question. Not because she didnt want to, but more because she didnt know how. She had moved away from her family to start a new life and that move had paid off, because she had met Kyra and wherever her lover was, that was home. Of course, deep down inside, she would love to move back to Friesland again, get a teaching position and live close to her family. But she wasnt alone anymore. She had a partner and a child to take into consideration. That alone made up for being away from her family. It was more than she had ever dared to hope for.
"What time is it?"
Emma glanced at her watch and was about to answer her lover when a dark colored BMW came driving up the yard and stopped outside the barn. The barely audible whimper from her lover was indication enough as to who had just pulled up in front of the little house and Emma quickly wrapped an arm around Kyras waist, pulling her close and softly kissing her forehead.
"Want me to go outside and. . . .?"
"No, Ill go," Kyra softly interrupted, pressing her lips against Emmas in a quick kiss, but lingering a little while as if seeking some more strength and courage. "I can do this," she added in a firmer voice, cupping Emmas cheek and shooting her lover a loving glance.
Before she could change her mind, Kyra had turned around and purposefully strode towards the front door, which she opened with a gesture that revealed more self-confidence than she felt.
Her eyes settled on the sleek car and, taking in a deep breath, she waited for the doors to open. She didnt have to wait too long. The door on the drivers side was opened and a petite, blonde stepped out of the car. When her eyes fell on Kyra she hesitated for a brief moment, before walking around the car and opening the door on the passenger side.
Kyra nervously glanced at the farmhouse and she almost started giggling when she noticed Emmas brothers and Neville stand in front of the kitchen window. She knew it only would take one gesture from her to make them rush out and, even though she knew she did not have to do that, it still filled her with warmth and affection. Her eyes caught Nevilles and with a slight smile she dipped her head, letting him know she had seen them and appreciated their presence. Her reward was a blinding smile and she softly chuckled, all of a sudden feeling a lot better already.
Bridget Peters had opened the door on the passenger side and Kyra watched Ricks tall frame enfold. With a calm detachment she noticed he hadnt changed much over the years. He had filled out his tall, slender frame a little, but she decided that looked good on him. His thick hair was still cropped short, which gave him a boyish look and his face would have been handsome if it had not been for the dark circles underneath his eyes that made them look hollow and a lot older than he really was.
I wonder if Simon will look like that twenty five years from now. . . Mmm. . . I guess he could do worse. . .
A warm presence made itself known at Kyras shoulder and gratefully she leaned back, feeling Emmas hands settle on her hips, giving her an encouraging squeeze, while a pair of soft lips grazed the top of her head.
She is staking her claim! How adorable. . . Kyra thought, almost feeling giddy with the flush of happiness that invaded her senses.
Closely observing the tall man and blond woman who were slowly making their way towards them, Kyra noticed Rick Peters was incredibly nervous and even though a part of her felt slightly vindicated by that knowledge, another part couldnt help feeling sorry for him.
The couple stopped a few paces in front of them and there was a brief silence, before Kyra stepped forward, her hand extended towards Bridget Peters.
"Hi, you must be Bridget. I am Kyra and this is Emma," she introduced her silent lover, who was still standing close behind her.
A pair of pale blue eyes lost their skittish, almost haunted look and were suddenly filled with warmth, when Bridget looked at the striking couple in front of her.
"Its nice to meet you, Kyra. And you too, Emma," she said and they could hear she genuinely meant it.
Reaching past Kyra, Emma extended her hand and greeted the blonde with warmth. When her dark blue eyes traveled to Rick Peters, they visibly cooled and the tall man flinched when he saw the glance that was sent his way.
As if feeling what was happening, Kyra reached behind her and grabbed Emmas left hand, gently squeezing it before settling it back on her hip.
Take it easy, love. . .
"Hello,Rick," she greeted the man she had seen last when he had been forced to propose to her, almost six years ago.
"Hi, Kyra," Rick nervously greeted, his eyes darting from Kyra to Emma and back again.
"Come in," Kyra invited, gesturing towards the door and stepping aside, pulling Emma with her. "Take a seat. Do you want some coffee? Or maybe tea?"
Bridget Peters softly answered and Kyra turned to Emma, giving her hand another squeeze.
"Would you please help me to take care of that, honey?" she gently asked, with an amused sparkle in her eyes. "Coffee for Rick and you, tea for Bridget and me?"
Emma managed to smile and she nodded, almost grinning when she saw the tiny wink Kyra sent her. If she had been worried about her lover, she now knew it was not needed. Her lover could really look after herself and Kyra looked like the calm, business woman she usually was during office hours.
As soon as the hot beverages were distributed, Kyra leaned back into her seat and studied the tall man who was seated across from her. Rick was sitting next to his wife and Kyras keen eyes had noticed he needed her close presence, because she had never seen him as nervous and anxious before. Of course that had forced Emma and her to sit apart, something she didnt welcome, but somehow she didnt think it would be appropriate to squeeze into the same chair with her lover, snuggling up together...not yet anyway.
Involuntarily, her eyes traveled towards the woman who was currently occupying her thoughts and she was immediately swept up in the warm blue shades. Kyra couldnt help but smile when she noticed Emmas glance. Even though her lover was sitting at least three meters away, out of reach, she still managed to make Kyra feel warm and so loved. . .
After Kyra had taken a few sips of fragrant tea, her eyes slowly traveled towards Rick and she gently cleared her throat. Not known for pulling punches in business meetings, she directly addressed him.
"What happened, Rick?"
Rick Peters had known Kyra for quite a few years and even though in private meetings she had always been a little quiet, almost subdued, he knew she could also be brutally honest and direct if she needed. He knew she was referring to that party, almost six years ago and for a moment he cast down his eyes to get away from her firm stare.
Rick Peters took a deep breath and was aware of Emmas eyes that were focused on him with an intensity that almost made him squirm in his seat. He took another sip of coffee, before putting the mug on the coffee table and clasping his hands together. Slowly he lifted his head and finally met Kyras eyes. He could almost feel his wife hold her breath.
"I take it you want to hear the whole story?" he asked, surprised at how steady his voice sounded.
"Please," Kyra answered calmly, her dark green eyes never leaving his face.
"A couple of weeks before that. . . party, your mother was visiting my parents and she asked me if I had asked you to come as my date." Rick took a deep breath and swallowed hard. "I told her no. I mean, I liked you, you were always a nice girl, although. . . a little quiet maybe, but. . . um. . . well, you were real pretty and I know a lot of guys wanted to take you out," he quickly added, shooting a nervous glance at Emma, who glared back at him with a frosty look.
"Anyway, like I said, I told her I didnt ask you, because, well, I knew you werent the partying type and you werent exactly interested in me anyway. She didnt push, which afterwards must have been a clear warning. A few days later, she called me and told me I should take you to the party. I was really. . . surprised. . . I mean, what was it to her if you and I went to some silly party? I was. . . um. . . I guess I was a little annoyed. I know my mother and your mother wanted us to. . . well. . . hook up together, but I didnt see that happening." Rick cleared his throat again and sent a quick look aside, to where his wife was quietly sipping her tea. Her blue eyes looked calm, but he knew about the turmoil inside. She knew what he was going to tell, but that didnt make it easier for her to hear his pathetic story.
"Like I said, I was annoyed with your mom and I guess she picked up on that. She started making. . . threats, I guess. Um. . . " Rick raked his fingers through his short hair and looked as uncomfortable as he felt. "She. . . she knew I. . . I. . . had been doing drugs, nothing major, but I did smoke the occasional joint and. . . and. . . I did try something stronger as well. Somehow she knew that," he added somberly. "She threatened to tell my dad. But. . . that. . . my dad didnt know and I wanted to keep it that way. If hed known his only son was using drugs, it. . . it could have affected his career and. . . and. . . I just felt trapped. So, I told your mother that even if Id ask you, youd say no anyway, but then she said shed take care of it."
Ricks eyes caught Kyras and she could see the pain in its depths.
"I was a coward, Kyra. I was afraid and took the easy way out. So I said Id take you to the party, if youd come. Then she. . . she. . . she. . . told me to make sure you would relax. She would give me some. . . stuff. . . to help you relax and have a good time and she told me I was welcome to take some as well. I was curious and I did. I also put some in your drink, because it was supposed to work really well like that. You wouldnt notice and I thought. . . well. . . I didnt expect there to be any problems. But there were," he added in a soft voice, filled with shame. "You passed out. I guess I gave you too much, or maybe you just had a strong reaction to it. Its not like I remember," he said in a bitter voice, full of self reproach. "I did drink too much and I took that. . . stuff. When you passed out, you scared me and I just wanted to make sure you were comfortable, so. . . I carried you to. . . I carried you upstairs. I. . . I didnt mean to. . . I dont know what happened. . . Oh, God, Kyra, I am so, so sorry." Rick groaned, covering his face with his hands. "Later I found out that taking GHB can cause. . . uninhibited actions. Dont get me wrong, I was responsible for taking the stuff and it was me who gave it to you. It was I."
Kyra took a deep breath and tried to focus on one thought at the time, which wasnt easy, because of the turmoil inside. After her brief conversation on the phone, she had suspected that her mother had been involved in more ways than she had initially thought and Ricks story had just proven that to her. The fact that her mother had basically blackmailed Rick didnt sound alien to her at all. She knew what her mother was capable of. But instead of filling her with hurt and rage, like the previous day, it now provided her with a cold determination to make sure, once and for all, her mother would find out she had gone too far.
"So, my. . . mother basically blackmailed you. You had to do as you were told, or shed tell your dad about your drug abuse?"
Rick flinched visibly, but he nodded slowly. He felt sick, knowing his past behavior had been despicable and absolutely irresponsible.
Bridget cast a look at Kyra and was amazed at her calm demeanor. If it had been her, she knew she would have thrown a tantrum that, at least would have caused a major fall out. Her respect for Kyra just kept growing and a quick look at Emma taught her the auburn woman was in awe of the young VP as well.
There was a long silence in which Kyra slowly sipped her lukewarm tea, while her eyes held a pensive expression. They finally traveled to Emma and were caught in a warm embrace of blue. Her green eyes warmed and for a moment the rest of the world faded out. Emma knew her lover was pondering over something and she was curious about the direction Kyras thoughts had taken. Losing herself in the dark green stare, they shared a wordless conversation. With a small smile Emma nodded, indicating her lover she had full confidence in her ability to handle the situation and Kyra answered her with a loving smile, before focusing her attention back on Rick again.
"I know you are sorry, Rick," she finally broke the silence, slowly exhaling. "I can just. . . see it and hear it. I believe youre telling the truth about my mothers involvement. . . " she softly snorted. "It sounds like her all right. Its. . . hard for me to. . . accept the fact that you took advantage of me, though. I know you were under the influence of drugs, which probably explains a lot in itself, but you were the one taking the drugs. And you were the one slipping them into my drink. I believe you knew exactly what you were doing, since you used drugs before. You were aware of the dangers. You could have killed me, Rick," Kyra added in a soft voice, with just a hint of anger. "I know you didnt want your dad to know about your. . . bad habits, because it could have damaged his career, but it pains me to hear I was just a. . . means to an end. Its a lonely feeling, Rick, to hear I was worth nothing, nothing at all."
Pushing back her long, curly hair, Kyra took a deep breath and leaned forward to place her empty glass on the table. She cast another glance at Emma and mustered up a small smile.
"Theres one good thing about this whole. . . sad history," Kyra continued. "To me it proves that every negative thing has a positive side as well. Your irresponsible behavior gave me Simon and he is the greatest gift Ive ever received. I was so angry with you yesterday, Rick," Kyra said with honestly, while her voice slightly quivered. "I was furious and had I talked to you on the phone yesterday. . . well, just be glad it was Emma who answered the call. But no matter how upset I was, I couldnt ignore the fact that I have Simon and, amazingly enough, the thought of my son constantly deflates my anger. I will never thank you for him, because you dont deserve that. But I am grateful hes in Emmas and my lives. Im sure you can understand that."
Rick slowly nodded his head and again he raked his fingers through his short-cropped hair. When he looked up, his face had lost its sickly paleness and even his eyes looked a little livelier. Finally getting rid of the burden that had weighed him down for such a long time had given him much needed relief.
"Im sorry, Kyra," he croaked again.
"I know," Kyra nodded. "And thats why Ill ask you to do something for me."
His hazel eyes looked up in surprise and Kyra suppressed a grin. Rick looked positively astounded.
"Youre one of those hotshot lawyers, arent you?" she asked with a small grin, seeing the hint of a smile appear in his eyes, instantly making him look younger and less troubled. He nodded.
"Good, I need some advice on how to deal with Vivian LeJeune," Kyra calmly announced. "In a business way, of course. I want to see how much I can cut her loose from Hearts Choice. Cutting her loose from my personal life is something I can handle myself. But I need some watertight legal advice. I want to hit her where it hurts most, in her bank account. And I need a written statement from you, signed and notarized about what happened at that party. Including my mothers clear role in it all. Its about time she finds out she cant keep her hands clean all the time."
Ricks eyes had widened a little, but when Kyras words sank in, his well-trained brain kicked back in gear and he slowly nodded. He understood what Kyra wanted and in his mind he already considered her request from different angles, glad he was being distracted from his pain and guilt, if only for a little while.
"Do you think you can get access to your parents divorce papers? I mean, I know your dad had a business when they divorced and Im sure he provided a nice arrangement for your mother, but when did he start his current business, Hearts Choice?"
"A few years after he and. . . after they split up," Kyra answered. "I think I was. . . twelve years old."
Rick slowly nodded and rubbed his eyes in a tired gesture.
"Your dad used to own a hotel in Amsterdam, right?"
"Yes, he inherited it from my grandparents, but he sold it when he started Hearts Choice."
A pair of dark green and hazel eyes locked and two keen business minds connected. In spite of the situation, Rick felt a laugh bubble up inside, but he didnt know whether it was just Kyras sharp intellect, or an outlet for the stress he had been under lately. He didnt dare to let it out though, but Kyra noticed the sudden twinkle in his eyes and she smiled.
"So, do you think what I think? Can it be that simple?" she asked with barely veiled excitement.
"Ill need to see the official documents, but yes, I think what you are thinking: theres a possibility your dad paid your mother a lump sum after the hotel had been sold. But even if he didnt, and even if he paid her a monthly or annual amount, I dont think your mother has any rights when it comes to Hearts Choice."
"Knowing dad, he might have just kept paying her because business was going great and he felt he owed her. Knowing my mother, she would have preyed on that, because it would have increased her bank account considerably, especially after dad could stop paying child support for Jazz and me."
"Dont you think that if. . . youd tell your dad about. . . about. . . what I did and your mother did to you, hed stop any payment that goes her way?" Rick hesitantly asked, knowing that if Kyra would go through with her plan, Vivian LeJeune would most likely be absolutely enraged. The thought alone made him shiver.
"I really dont want to involve my dad," Kyra calmly answered. "I mean, I know that eventually Ill have to tell him, but not now. First, I want to find out what the possibilities are. If our. . . hunch appears to be true, Ill ask him to stop the payments."
"Maybe she blackmailed him as well," Bridgets soft voice suddenly sounded unexpectedly.
Kyras head shot up and, with startled eyes, she watched the petite woman on the couch squirm a little under her scrutinizing glance.
"Is there a reason for you to think that, Bridget?" Emma gently asked, seeing the wheels churn almost painfully inside her lovers head.
"Well, actually. . . " Bridget took a deep breath and shot Kyra an almost apologetic look. "Ive spend quite some time with my mother-in-law and since she and Vivian are friends, Ive seen them together lots of times. They talk a lot about. . . everything that has to do with money and. . . status. It always kind of bothered me when they talked about Vivians ex-husband, because. . . ." Another hesitant glance at an intently listening Kyra. " Because they always sound so. . . condescending and. . . smug whenever they discussed Norbert Hartman and his partner. I. . . I never gave it much thought, until now, but. . . " Bridget raised her eyes and Kyra could see the compassion in her pale blue orbs. "I remember Vivian telling Margaret that she had the power to ruin her exs little family empire. Shed only have to make a few phone calls to the Middle East and South America and Hearts Choice would be in a world of trouble."
There was a brief silence and Rick wrapped his arm around his wifes shoulders and gave her a loving squeeze.
"Although a remark like that is absolutely nasty, it doesnt prove a thing, honey," he gently said.
"I know," Bridget sighed, leaning into the one armed hug. "But she also said she made sure to remind Norbert regularly of that little fact."
That made Kyra suddenly jump up and walk towards the tiny kitchen, where she rested her hands on the counter, leaning the top of her head against the door of one the cabinets, taking deep breaths to push away the anger that had just taken over. Bridgets words had caused an internal explosion of rage and Kyra desperately fought for control, not willing to give in to fury she could feel burning inside.
How dare she? How DARE she?
Kyra didnt question Bridgets words, because deep down inside she knew they were true. She had seen the cold, calculated things her mother had been capable of in the past and she didnt put threatening her father past her, either.
With a sickening clarity, a few things clicked in place and Kyra pressed her hand against her mouth when she was assaulted by a wave of nausea. A small whimper escaped her throat and Emma, who had forced herself to give her lover some space to regain her composure, suddenly stood up and with a few long strides was standing behind Kyra. She didnt care if they had an audience, Kyra needed her and she would be there for her.
Wordlessly she wrapped her arms around Kyras rigid body and pulled her backwards, against her chest. For a brief moment she could feel her lover stiffen, but then Kyra relaxed and let out a shuddering breath, while she rested the back of her head against Emmas shoulder. They stood like that for a few minutes and gradually Kyras heartbeat slowed down, while the hot tendrils of fury burnt down to glowing embers.
"Thank you," Kyra finally whispered.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for grounding me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being my rock and anchor. Thank you for being my Emma.
"Anytime," was the equally soft reply. "Is there anything else I can do right now?"
"Except for helping me to commit a murder? No, I dont think so," Kyra sighed, slowly turning around in Emmas arms, to pull strength from the love-filled eyes that held so much compassion. "Just love me," she added, barely audible.
"Always," Emma promised, reaching out a hand and brushing her fingertips over a warm, soft cheek.
"I have two best days in my life. The first one was when Simon was born, and the second one when I walked into your classroom," Kyra smiled, feeling the last remnants of anger dissipate in the loving blue that was sent her way in abundance. "Come, lets go back inside."
Hand-in-hand they walked back inside, and Kyra shot Rick and Bridget an apologetic smile when she sat back down into her chair. To her delighted surprise, Emma didnt return to her own seat, but perched on the armrest of Kyras chair, with her arm still settled around her lovers shoulder.
"Im sorry, Kyra. I didnt mean to upset you," Bridget said with a slightly troubled look.
"No need to feel sorry, Bridget. Im glad you told me, because it will make things a lot easier, wont it Rick?" Kyra directed her attention back to the lawyer.
Rick Peters nodded and hesitantly smiled, reaching out a hand and covering his wifes fidgeting fingers with his own.
"Yes, it will. It sounds to me like you should try to get your dad to write down a statement as well, Kyra," his deep voice suggested, while Kyra nodded. He knew she had already figured that out. "Between my statement and Norbert Hartmans, your mo. . . Vivian wont know what hit her."
Emma unconsciously rubbed soothing circles on Kyras back, aware of her lover leaning into the touch and putting her head against her shoulder. They formed a striking couple and Bridget and Rick exchanged a small smile. It was obvious the two women were deeply in love with each other, and a person had to be blind not to see that, and smile.
For a brief moment, Kyra closed her eyes and soaked up the love and warmth that were radiating from Emma. With a small smile she realized that, no matter how bad she felt, whenever Emma was physically close, it was like her presence filled her with an energy that seemed to chase away all negative thoughts and feelings, and leave only warmth and peace.
That must be what real love is like, this feeling of. . . belonging, of being home, no matter where we are. . . the three of us. . .
Kyra slowly blinked and cast a look at Bridget Peters, who was sipping her now lukewarm tea, and staring at the table with a pensive expression. The expression on her face was a mixture of sadness and longing, and Kyra knew for a certainty what was on the petite blondes mind.
How horrible it must be for Ricks wife to know she would never be able to have a child of her own, while realizing her husband had a child with another woman, but had refused to acknowledge it as his own, thus losing his parental rights. And still Bridget supported Rick for a hundred percent. The love she felt for the tall man was obvious, bur Kyra realized she had to be a very strong person, yet gentle and forgiving, to be able to stand by his side after learning what he had done in the past.
Her respect and admiration for Bridget Peters skyrocketed and she felt a stab of pain when she understood that, in a drug hazed moment, Rick Peters had given her something, he could never share with his wife, whom he obviously loved deeply...a child.
What bitter punishment.
As if she could feel the intensity of Kyras stare, Bridget suddenly looked up and her pale blue eyes met a pair of troubled green ones. For a long moment, the two women stared at each other, until Bridget Peters cast down her eyes. But Kyra had noticed the hesitancy and patiently waited for the other woman to speak.
Clearing her throat, Bridget cast another look at Kyra and then glanced aside at her husband. She took in a deep breath and turned her gaze back to Kyra, and this time there was a clear, almost shy longing in her friendly eyes.
" Kyra, I...do you think its...Rick and I would like to see a picture of Simon," she softly spoke, while her eyes never left Kyras. " I understand if you dont feel comfortable with that, I really do. Its just that...maybe one day..."
For a brief momen,t Kyra debated with herself. If she would do what her heart and compassion told her to do, would she hurt Rick and Bridget even more? Especially Bridget, would she be able to handle it? Life could be so cruel sometimes and Kyra realized that, in spite of the way things had gone in her life, she had been blessed. She had seen the barely veiled pain and disappointment on both their faces when she had mentioned Simon before, and told them she would never thank Rick for giving her a child.
Glancing up at Emma, she effortlessly caught her eyes and she smiled when her lovers finger traced the curve of her eyebrow in a playful, but loving gesture.
What would Emma advice?
Kyras smile deepened and she slowly nodded when a little voice in the back of her mind immediately answered the unspoken question. And it felt right, and just.
Follow your heart. . .
Grabbing Emmas hand and firmly entwining their fingers, Kyra leaned a little closer against her lover, before glancing at Rick and Bridget, who both seemed to be deep in thought.
" I hope it...I hope it wont add to your pain, but yes, Id like to show you a picture of Simon," Kyra answered with a warm smile.
Kyra could hear Emmas soft intake of breath and a gentle hand lovingly squeezed her shoulder.
Ricks head jerked up and his eyes flew open, while Bridget pressed her hand against her mouth, suppressing a sob.
"You dont want to add to our pain?" his voice was hoarse with emotion. "Kyra, how. . . how can you. . . treat me like this, after what Ive done to you? I. . . I dont understand. . . I dont deserve that," he added in a whisper.
Kyra noticed the tears in Bridgets eyes and her heart went out to Ricks wife. No woman should have to go through the pain that had been cast her way. Oh, the cruelty of life. And yet, Bridget seemed to bear it all with dignity and grace and, with a wistful smile, Kyra realized that one day, Bridget would make a great parent.
"Im not the vindictive type, Rick," Kyra answered. "Besides, my mo. . . Vivian LeJeune spews enough hatred and anger around, without me adding to it," she added with a hint of wry amusement in her voice.
Rick and Bridget exchanged a look, before simultaneously turning their gazes back to Kyra.
"Wed love to see a picture of Simon," Bridget smiled wistfully.
"There are some pictures in my purse, I ll get them," Kyra smiled back, reluctantly leaving the warmth of Emmas closeness and stood up to retrieve the purse, she had left in the bedroom.
As soon as she had gone, Emma practically jumped up, hastily mumbled an excuse and followed her lover into the bedroom.
Kyra didnt know Emma was right behind her. Deep in thought she had opened her purse and pulled out a leather wallet that held a few, recently taken pictures of her son. When she turned around to walk back to the living room again, she was unexpectedly scooped up into a pair of strong arms. Before she could even make one sound of surprise or protest, a pair of warm lips descended to rob her from all speech.
Kyra quickly recovered from her initial surprise. Her arms slid around Emmas neck and she enthusiastically deepened the kiss, aware of the pounding of her heart and the rush of blood through her body.
When they finally came up for air, Kyra stifled a giddy chuckle and used her thumb to trace Emmas moist lips, while she looked up at her with shining eyes.
"What was that for?" she breathlessly asked.
"Because you are the most amazing person Ive ever had the privilege of meeting. Because you must be the most compassionate, strong woman I know. And because I love you," Emma panted.
"Well, if all those things earn me kisses like this, who am I to argue with you then, huh?" Kyra smiled. "But, no matter how much Id love to continue this. . . um. . . conversation," Kyra winked, making Emma smile. "I guess wed better go back to our guests, before I give in to my, what did you call them this morning? Primal urges?"
Emma laughed and released her hold on Kyras body, not able to resist stealing another quick kiss.
"I think you have a point there, my love. One more kiss like that and I cant possibly be held responsible for my actions." Emma smiled and turned around to head back to the living room, but a hand on her arm stopped her.
"If those actions would involve me and you, naked, first in the shower and then in that comfortable bed. . . kissing, touching, making love for hours on end. . . then hold that thought, will you?" Kyras voice purred in her ear and Emma softly whimpered.
Gently patting her behind, Kyra walked past her lover and sent her another wink, before leaving the bedroom. Emma could only stare at the spot her lover had just vacated and patiently waited until a sufficient amount of blood had returned to her brain. Only then was she able to put her right foot in front of her left one and make her way back to the living room.
The apartment complex was quite small and fairly new. The four story building had only one entrance and the large, heavy door could only be opened with a special key that could not be reproduced. Only the residents were in possession of a key like that and it made most of them feel safe and secure in their home.
The building was surrounded by large tree that provided welcome shade in the summer and also formed a natural barrier between the building and the residential area it bordered. Most balconies were hidden from view, thus ensuring a welcome sense of privacy.
Even though the building was equipped with modern security, the architect had overlooked one, major detail; anyone who was determined and strong enough to climb one of the tall trees could easily jump on one of the balconies. It only took limited skill to force open one of the windows and enter the apartment unseen.
One slender figure, completely dressed in black, carefully made his way through the quiet livingroom. The carpet silenced the footsteps and without making one, single noise, the burglar quickly went through the two bedroom apartment, letting out a small breath of relief when he was sure he was alone. The lady had been right; it seemed like the resident of the place had not been home for a few days.
Dark brown eyes scanned the living room and took in the light wood furniture, the overstuffed couch that seemed well used and the massive bookcase that was almost overflowing with books.
Curiously he stepped closer and scanned the titles on the back of the books. His eyebrows rose when he noticed its owner had an interest in a lot of different subjects. With a sigh of regret. he realized how unfortunate it was he had to go through all those books in order to fulfill his obligation. What a waste. He loved reading and could identify himself with anyone who shared his passion for the written word.
" Well, best get to work," he softly told himself, making sure his gloves were properly in place.
Reaching up to the top shelf he pulled out a book, held it upside down and vigorously shook it, to see if anything would fall out. Nothing. With a mumbled apology, he dumped the book on the floor and reached for another one...
After more than two hours, the livingroom was unrecognizable; there were books strewn all over the floor, the drawers of the desk and cupboards were emptied, its contents spread out over the table, the floor and the couch. Potted plants were uprooted and carelessly thrown in the growing pile on the floor, while CDs were taken out of their covers and haphazardly thrown through the room.
With a hint of sadness, tired brown eyes looked at the willfully created mess, before its owner turned around and headed for the kitchen, to empty out all drawers and cabinets, looking for...something, anything, she had said. And he had promised to try.
It was way past midnight when he entered the only room that was still untouched. The heavy curtains were closed and because the bedroom was situated on the back side of the building, he decided to take the risk and switch on the light. It was not like anyone would see him...not with those trees just outside the balcony.
As soon as the light came on, he squinted his eyes against the sudden brightness, even though the illumination was soft and peaceful. After a moment of adjusting, his eyes traveled trough the room and came to rest on a picture on the night stand. He had seen a lot of pictures that evening, most of them had appeared to be family shots and with a faint feeling of guilt he had separated them from their frames to add them to the trail of debris he slowly, but surely left behind.
With a few strides, he walked around the bed, towards the little night stand and he reached out a hand to grab the framed photograph. He was about to turn it over to rip the back off, when his eyes fell on the picture itself. With a gasp he dropped the frame on the bed, as if he had burned his hands.
A beautiful, curly-haired woman stared at him with laughing, green eyes, but she was not the cause of his distress. The woman had her arms wrapped around a little boy, who was clearly her son, judging by the dark curls and facial features. The boys gray eyes twinkled with mischief, while he leaned back into his mothers embrace.
The door was closed with a soft click and exhaling slowly, Kyra leaned against the wall, closing her eyes for a brief moment, realizing the evening had left her emotionally drained.
Seeing Rick again, after having learned what had happened six years ago, had been easier than she had expected it to be. No doubt Emma had a lot to do with that.
Kyra smiled and opened her eyes to see the object of her thoughts standing only a few meters away. With her hands stuffed in her pockets, Emma was leaning her shoulder against the wall, while her blue eyes were looking at Kyra with a mixture of worry and pride.
"Are you all right?" she asked softly.
"Yes, I am," Kyra smiled, taking the few steps needed to wrap her arms around her lovers waist and bury her face against her shoulder.
Immediately, Emmas hands left the pockets of her jeans and a pair of strong arms pulled Kyra closer. Letting out a small sigh of contentment, Emma nuzzled Kyras neck and closed her eyes. Holding Kyra was something she would never get tired of, she knew that for certain. Her warmth, her scent, the way her body seemed to melt into her own...it was something that filled Emma with a sense of belonging that was so strong, it almost took her breath away. Whenever she was holding her lover, all was right with the world.
" Mmm...this is so nice," Kyra almost purred. " I could stay like this forever."
" I know what you mean," Emma sighed. " But eventually we d fall over from exhaustion, or hunger, or thirst, or..."
" Yeah, yeah, point taken," Kyra interrupted with a chuckle. "We cant stay like this forever. Pity."
Emma smiled and turned her head sideways, so she could kiss a conveniently close cheek.
" I love you. And Im so proud of you, Kyra. You are an amazing woman and Im so grateful to have you in my life. The way you handled this whole...situation is just...incredible."
"Thank you," Kyra whispered, sounding a little bashful under all the praise. " I just...well, I just did what I thought was right." She lifted her head from its warm, comfortable spot and looked up into Emmas eyes. " Dont get me wrong though, theres a part of me that really wants to lash out at my...my...mother, but that would make me as bad as she is and I dont want that. Lowering my standards to her level is not something Id want to do. And I do have to admit; I love to see her face when she ll be confronted with those statements."
" Ricks statement and your dads?"
"Yes. I dont think shes expecting anything like it. She probably thinks I ll back down again, like I always used to do. Not this time though and that will surprise...and annoy, the heck out of her."
"She deserved it," Emma answered with determination.
"Oh, yes, she does. She sure does."
There was a brief silence and Kyra snuggled back into Emmas arms again, feeling warm and protected.
" I dont think I ll ever forget the expression on Ricks face, when he looked at Simons picture," Emma mused softly. " He looked so...vulnerable, but humble and happy as well. You did good, honey, by granting Bridgets request. It was a great gift to them."
" It felt like the right thing to do," Kyra replied, her face still pressed against Emmas chest. " I cant believe my...mother never shower them any pictures. Especially, since it was her plan to get Rick involved in Simons life. Youd think she would have showed them at least a picture."
"That is a little odd, yes," Emma agreed.
"A little?" Kyra snorted. " Framed pictures are a nuisance to her. Her house and interior are as cold as she is, so theres no room for indulgences like photographs of grandchildren, I guess."
"Pity," Emma sighed. " Im glad my mom isnt like that. In fact, there are so many pictures on the wall in my parents livingroom, you cant even see what wallpaper is behind them."
"Thats not true," Kyra chuckled, playfully swatting Emmas behind. " I love that Family Wall of Fame... its so cute."
"That reminds me. Mom asked me for a picture of you and Simon. I guess to add the two of you to the always growing rows of portraits."
" Thats sweet of her," Kyra smiled.
"She tried to con me out of my personal pictures of the two of you, but I was able to make a deal with her. She ll get them, when I go back. Not a day sooner."
"But honey, we re both here," Kyra teased with an impish smile. "Why settle for surrogate when you can have the real deal?"
" Because..." Emma answered with a small pout. "I...I just like looking at them, thats all."
"Oh, youre such a mush ball," Kyra laughed, reaching out a hand and cupping her lovers cheek. " But I love that about you. Come here."
She pulled Emmas face down for a warm, slow kiss. For a few long minutes they kissed, enjoying the feel and taste of each others lips. After a while, Kyra reluctantly pulled away.
"Keep that thought, will you?" she whispered, raking her fingers through Emmas auburn tresses.
"I will," Emma answered with a small smile.
"We can continue this... conversation later, after Simon is asleep, but right now wed better go and pick up our son."
Emmas eyes widened and her heart skipped a beat, after hearing her lover referring to Simon as their son. It was an acknowledgment of the way she felt deep down inside and Kyras words filled her with a profound happiness.
Kyra had watched the display of emotions on Emmas face and her green eyes shone with love, when she saw the radiant smile that was sent her way. She slowly untangled herself from Emmas arms and grabbed her lovers hand.
"Come on, Miss Emma," she winked.
Emma silently followed her lover out of the house, carefully closing the door behind her...the smile still firmly plastered on her face.
To be continued in chapter 18
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