Disclaimer: this is the conclusion, folks. I want to thank you all for the feedback I received during this project. Especially the consistent e-mails from some very kind readers (you know who you are!) They have been very encouraging and motivating. Thank you very, very much.
A big THANK YOU to Norma, for betareading for me. It was great to have you on board and Im grateful youll be there for the next story as well!
Sandra van Dijk stifled a yawn and cast a look at the little clock on her desktop. It was still too early to call Kyra and ask her advice. Her boss would probably still be snuggled up in bed. Hopefully not alone.
Sandy smiled and took a sip from her hot, freshly-brewed coffee. Her thoughts traveled back to Vivian LeJeunes visit the other day and her smile turned into a full-fledged grin. She knew she had angered and frustrated the older woman immensely and she had loved every second of it. She had never liked Kyras mother and had always respected her boss for the way she had put up with her dominant, arrogant, overbearing parent.
Sandy wrinkled her nose in disgust and felt a flush of warmth when she thought about her own mother. What a difference She knew she had been blessed with her parents and she made sure to remind herself, and them, of that fact regularly.
A smug smile spread across Sandys face when she remembered the way Vivian LeJeune had left the office after she had been told Kyra had taken the whole week off, even skipping an important business meeting. The woman had been furious and when she had turned around to leave, Sandy had secretly wished she would trip over the threshold and land flat on her face. Of course, that had not happened. But it had been a nice fantasy.
"Whats that look for? Did you have a canary for breakfast?" a familiar, but unexpected voice suddenly sounded.
Sandy shot upright in her chair and stared at the person who had just entered the office.
"Are you insinuating I look like a cat?" she quipped, jumping up from her chair with a huge smile on her face. "Dont get me wrong, boss, I know this is your office, but what the heck are you doing here? I thought you were high and dry in Friesland? Dont tell me the dikes broke through and you had to head for higher ground."
Kyra shrugged off her light coat and shook her head, smiling at her secretary.
"No, last time I saw them, the sea walls were still firmly standing, thank goodness. Im still on vacation, dont worry. Im here to take care of some personal business."
Sandy nodded. She understood something must have happened after Vivian LeJeune had left the office. She had seen the unveiled anger in those usually cool gray eyes and, at the time, she had been grateful there had been a fair distance between her boss and her mother.
"Do you want some coffee?" Sandy asked, already moving towards the small kitchen, knowing how much Kyra appreciated the caffeine in the morning.
"Yes, please, thanks, Sandy. You re an angel," Kyra sighed, rubbing her forehead. She could feel the beginning of a massive headache and she hoped it would not turn into a migraine. She needed a clear head. Having coffee would probably not be the best idea, but she promised herself to take some aspirin as soon as possible.
Kyra had followed her secretary into the tiny kitchen and leaned against the doorpost, while her nose sniffed the scent of freshly-brewed coffee appreciatively.
"Would you be so kind to make a fresh pot around ten this morning?" she gently asked. "And also some tea?"
"Sure, Kyra, no problem," Sandy answered, handing her boss her favorite mug with a smile. "How has your vacation been so far?"
The tired look in Kyras eyes immediately disappeared and was replaced by warmth and happiness.
"It has been fantastic," she admitted in a voice that was laced with joy.
"Good, Im glad," Sandy answered, giving her boss a friendly pat on her shoulder. "You were due for some relaxation and fun. How was the party that Friday night? Did you blow them all away with your silk green dress?"
Kyra laughed and shot her secretary an appreciative glance.
"It blew Emma away," she confessed, blushing slightly.
"Good, it should have," Sandy grinned. "It was about time."
Kyra eyes grew wide and she looked at the other woman in astonishment. She had no idea Sandy knew about her feelings for Emma. She had never talked to her secretary about Emma, had she? Not in that way, anyway.
"Dont look like you ve just been caught with your hand in the cookie jar, Kyra," Sandy laughed. "Im sure most people had no idea, but Ive known you for quite a few years now and every time you mentioned Emmas name, your face lit up like a Christmas tree."
"Oh," was all Kyra could reply and her secretary grinned. It wasnt often she had the chance to see her boss speechless.
"Dont worry about it," Sandy continued. "Im happy for you, I really am. I just hope Emma realizes what a wonderful person you are."
Kyra smiled and there was a twinkle in her eyes when she looked at the other woman.
"She does. But dont worry, I wont let her forget that," she winked.
"Thats the spirit_ " Sandy laughed. "All right, boss, coffee and tea around ten. Anything else I can do for you?"
"No, thanks, Sandy. I just...a fair warning is in place here, I guess," Kyra grimaced. "My mother will be here shortly and things could get...nasty. I hope we can keep the decibel level down, but if there will be a moment you ll feel uneasy, feel free to leave. All right?"
"Sure," Sandy answered, shooting her boss an inquisitive look. "Thanks for the warning, Kyra, but if anything like that will happen, it will be all the more reason for me to stay. Im not leaving you here all by yourself and a raging Crue...mother," she quickly corrected herself.
"Another protector," Kyra chuckled. "This morning, I had to use all my negotiating skills to convince Emma that I would be all right. My mother might be a...she might be difficult, but shes not the violent type. Ill be fine, Sandy, but thanks anyway."
"I ll stick around anyway, just to make sure," Sandy mumbled, before turning around and walking back to her desk, missing the smile on Kyras face.
Since she had to wait for her mother to show up anyway, Kyra decided she could use her time wisely by answering one of the many e-mails that had been piling up in her inbox. Soon she was completely engrossed in her work and with a startled look she glanced at the door when there was a polite knock.
"Never mind," she could hear her mothers cool voice. "Shes expecting me and besides, for heavens sake, I am her mother."
Kyra leaned back in her chair casually, twirling a pen between her fingers, while her dark-green eyes turned a shade darker when the door opened and she saw how her mother pushed aside Sandy, before stepping inside her office.
Kyra bit back an annoyed remark and shot Sandy an apologetic look.
"Was that necessary?" she asked in a deceptively calm voice.
"For crying out loud, Kyra. I am your mother."
Kyra put down the pen she had been holding and leaned forward, her arms resting on the surface of her desk, her hands clasped together. She looked every inch the sophisticated business woman she was at that moment and Vivian LeJeune unconsciously send her a look of polite approval. No matter what, at least her daughter always looked presentable. Thank heavens.
"Define that," Kyras voice broke the brief silence.
"What?" Vivian LeJeune asked, taking a seat in one of the modern-looking, comfortable chairs that were placed in front of Kyras desk.
"Define mother", Kyra calmly repeated, almost sounding a little bored.
"A mother is a parent," Vivian LeJeune answered, sounding very impatient. "Why?"
"What do you think of when you hear that word:mother? Im curious to find out what associations that brings to your mind."
"Is this some sort of psychological game? Because if it is, Kyra, I swear..."
"Please, answer me, mother," Kyra insisted, not unfriendly.
"I dont see the point. I just..."
"Answer me_ " Kyra repeated, suddenly raising her voice, something she hardly ever did.
It had the desired effect, because Vivian LeJeune, who had opened her mouth to voice her next objection, looked completely stunned and she closed her mouth with an audible click.
"Id like to know what comes to your mind when you hear the word mother," Kyra repeated again.
"Well, like I said, a mother is a parent. A care giver," Vivian LeJeune answered, wracking her brain to figure out what Kyras motivation could be to ask her a silly question like that.
"A care giver," Kyra slowly repeated, as if tasting each and every syllable on her tongue. "Interesting how you use the word care here." She paused and shot her mother a look Vivian LeJeune had never seen before and it made her slightly nervous. "Especially, since I associate the word care with warm feelings, with nurturing and protecting. I even associate it with love."
Vivian LeJeune squared her shoulders and her eyes were cool when they met Kyras.
"I take it you didnt call me with the request to meet me here, just to discuss words and their meanings?"
"Not really, no," Kyra. "I was just curious. Do you want to know why?"
Kyra knew her mother was not in the least interested and she almost chuckled when she saw the curt nod. Vivian LeJeune was not feeling in control of the situation and Kyra shamelessly enjoyed that fact.
"I spent the holidays in Friesland," she began, seeing the flash of anger in her mothers eyes, but Vivian LeJeune did not interrupt and Kyra continued. "Simon and I had a great time, thanks for asking," she added sarcastically. "Emma has a lot of brothers and sisters and her parents are...amazing. They love each and every child and grandchild with their whole heart, accepting them for who and what they are. Her mother is a real care giver," Kyra softly added. Her eyes were calm and didnt reveal anything about what she was feeling at that moment, but they took in every gesture Vivian LeJeune made.
"And she is a peasant," Vivian LeJeune almost spat. "A farm_ For crying out loud, Kyra, how could you subject your son to an environment like that?"
Kyra took a deep breath, fighting back the rising anger and she managed to sound calm when she finally answered.
"Have you heard any word of what I just said?" she asked with a hint of sadness in her voice.
"You took Simon to a farm for the holidays."
"Yes, I did. A farm where he met a lot of genuinely loving people. A farm where he made a lot of new friends. A farm where he had the time of his life. Did you get any of that?"
Kyra could see her mother was trying to not lose her patience and inwardly she sighed. She sincerely hoped she would be able to get her points across, without her mother completely flying off the handle. Things were hard enough as they were already.
Kyras eyes traveled to the framed picture on her desk and her eyes softened, while a feeling of profound happiness spread through her body. Emmas twinkling eyes made her heart skip a beat and Kyra smiled. Even from a picture, her lover managed to make her feel safe and loved.
Vivian LeJeunes eyes followed Kyras look and with furrowed brows she reached out a hand to unceremoniously turn around the frame, so she could look at the picture that had brought that delighted smile to her daughters face.
As soon as she saw the image of Emma, she let go of the frame as if she had burnt her fingers.
"Her," she spat venomously. "Do you really need a picture of your sons teacher on your desk? What will your business relations say about that? You know how important a first impression is, Kyra. How many times have I..."
"Shes my lover," Kyra interrupted her mothers flow of words, dropping the bomb and waiting for the fall-out. She didnt have to wait too long.
All color had left Vivian LeJeunes face and for a moment she gasped for breath.
"Yes," Kyra calmly answered, reaching out a hand and returning the framed picture to its original place. "Emma and I are lovers, in every sense of the word," she added, emphasizing every single word.
"She sucked you right in, didnt she? And you went willingly, like a lamb to the slaughter _ I have always known there was something seriously wrong with you, but in spite of all the pain, sorrow and shame you caused me, I always tried to protect you. Is this the thanks I get? Shes after your money, Kyra. Cant you see that?"
Kyra took a moment to compose herself. Even though she had expected her mother to respond this way, it still hurt to hear her say the vicious words. But she was determined to stay calm and focused. Losing her self-control would give her mother the advantage she was looking for and Kyra wanted to be the one who was in control of the situation.
"You have always known there was something seriously wrong with me," she repeated softly. Raising her eyes to meet her mothers she tilted her head, shooting the older woman a questioning glance. "What exactly was wrong with me?"
Vivian LeJeunes eyes narrowed and Kyra noticed she was clenching her hands into fists.
"You have always been just like your father."
"And that was wrong, how?" Kyra asked in a low voice, for the first time allowing her anger to show a little.
"Hes...hes...dont you see? He broke up our family_ I..."
"Dont change the subject, mother," Kyra interrupted. "Why was it wrong to be like dad?"
"Hes gay," Vivian LeJeune finally answered with evident disgust.
"And you and dad divorced when I was still very young, so, I ask you again, what was wrong with me?"
Not waiting for an answer, Kyra pushed back her chair and slammed her hand on top of her desk, making her mother jump in surprise.
"I ll tell you what was wrong with me," she continued. "Nothing, absolutely nothing. Do you want to know what I think?" She paused for a moment and let out a humorless laugh. "I guess you dont want to know, but Im going to tell you anyway. You," she pointed at her mother, who stared back at her with a look of barely concealed contempt. "You always want things to go your way. Theres only one person important to you and thats Vivian LeJeune. You are a cold-hearted, manipulative, bitter woman_ You used your divorce as an excuse to play your sick little games. You never cared about me. You have never cared about me. You dont love me, mother," Kyra almost whispered. "You never have."
After those words it took Vivian LeJeune a few precious moments to compose herself. Kyras words had been so unexpected and unsettling. Her daughter had never spoken to her like that. It really was disconcerting.
"Of course I...love you," she finally objected, her anger rising when Kyra laughed.
"Mother, dont make it any worse than it already is. Time and time again, you have blatantly shown that you dont give a damn about me, so stop pretending."
"But," Vivian LeJeune started, wondering when she had lost control of the situation.
"No, mother. Please, dont."
"But I am your mother," Vivian LeJeune cried out, feeling all control she had ever had over her daughter was rapidly slipping away.
"You might be the woman who gave birth to me, but you dont act like a mother, therefore my sad conclusion is that you are not my mother."
Angry Vivian LeJeune pushed back her chair and jumped up. Her face was red and her gray eyes were dark with fury. She was losing the battle and very aware of that.
"She has poisoned your mind," she cried out, referring to Emma.
"No, she hasnt," Kyra calmly answered. "If anything, Emma has opened my eyes. She loves me for who I am, not for what she thinks I should be."
"She loves your money."
"Until last night, she didnt even know about my money," Kyra smiled, remembering the surprised amusement in her lovers eyes when she had shyly told her about her fortune. "Emma thought I was just another hardworking, single mother."
"She will bleed you dry, until she has every single penny squeezed out of you and then she ll dump you as fast as you can say Euro," Vivian LeJeune spat.
"Like you tried to squeeze the money out of dad?" Kyra calmly asked, raising an eyebrow and shooting her mother an inquisitive look.
All color drained from Vivian LeJeunes face and she had to grasp the table to steady herself. Slowly she sank back in her chair, desperately trying to calm her racing heart.
"What do you mean?" she asked after a long silence.
"Dont play games with me, mother," Kyra replied. "You know what I mean."
"No, I dont," was the weak reply.
"In that case I ll refresh your memory," Kyra answered with infinite patience, reaching into one of her desk drawers and pulling out a dark folder. She put it on the desk and flipped it open, glancing at the neatly printed page on top of the small stack.
"Let me see...oh, here it is, Ive found it. I wont bore you with the details, unless you insist of course, but, according to this statement, over the last nine years, dad paid you a total of nine-hundred eighty thousand five hundred and ten Euros, which is a little over nine thousand Euros a month," Kyras index finger tapped the page that was in front of her and glanced up to look at her mother. "We both know you werent bleeding him dry at all," she stated with a smile that never reached her eyes. "Still, nine-thousand a month is a fair squeeze, dont you think?"
"Whatever he told you, its not true," Vivian LeJeune croaked.
"Do you want to see a copy of his bank statements? I have each and every one and Id be happy to go through them with you," Kyra suggested. "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. Um...those monthly payments will stop. You ve had your last one. And if you think dad cares if hes exposed as an openly gay man, think again. Hes been open about it from the start."
"Then what is your point?" Vivian LeJeune spat, seeing an opportunity to turn the tables. "Its not like I was holding something over his head."
"Oh, but you were," Kyra answered, flipping over the top page and glancing at the second one. "And I can tell you exactly what it was you were using against him. Let me see..." she mumbled, letting her fingers slide over the sentences. "Oh, here it is. It was...me_ " she said, looking up and shooting her mother a dark glare. "You threatened to expose me to the world as an active lesbian, when I was only seventeen...a minor. Daddy wanted to protect me and so he paid you." Kyra paused and folded her hands over the statement Norbert had delivered to her house that morning. "But, like I said, those days are over. Hes not paying you one more cent and if you want to expose us to our Middle-Eastern business relations then, please, go ahead, dont let me stop you."
"You...You are dreaming," Vivian LeJeune stammered. "I never did such a thing. I..."
"Mother, stop pretending nothing happened."
"But...I ve always had your best interest at heart, I..."
"Does that mean you accept my relationship with Emma?" Kyra asked with feigned enthusiasm.
"Of course not," Vivian LeJeune immediately answered. "That teacher is nothing but a gold digger and..."
"But you have my best interest at heart," Kyra confronted her mother with her own words. "Surely you would want me to be happy."
"Say the word, mother," Kyra encouraged. "The word is lesbian. Im sure you can say it. Simon can and hes only five years old_ "
"Yes, shes a lesbian and you have no idea what she has done in the past. Do you know what happened at that school in Friesland? They fired her_ Do you know why?"
"Oh, yes, I do, she told me," Kyra answered, seeing the surprise in her mothers eyes. "But apparently you dont. Is that why you had her apartment broken into? What did you hope to accomplish, mother? Did you hope to find some evidence of some sort? Or maybe something...anything you could use to blackmail her? Anything to run her off and away from me."
"I never broke into anyones apartment," Vivian LeJeune gasped. "I have no idea what you are talking about_ "
"Let me see," Kyra mumbled, flipping over another page and staring at yet another signed document. "Does the name...and I do hope I pronounce it correctly...Goran Markovic ring a bell?"
Kyra sent her mother an innocent look and raised both eyebrows.
"Well, does it? Or maybe you only knew him as Goran, that friendly teenager from the gas station?"
Kyra had never seen her mother so lost for words and if she had not been so angry, she might have felt some compassion for the older woman. But her mothers denial of her actions had infuriated her and she only had to remind herself of the venom her mother had spread through the years to stay focused and determined.
"I dont know what you re talking about," Kyra finished the expected sentence. "I think you do. Goran used to be part of a gang and you once saw him being lookout while his buddies broke into a car. You used that against him and forced him to break into Emmas apartment."
Vivian LeJeune jumped up again and started to pace the floor, frantically trying to come up with something....anything, that she could use to talk herself out of the predicament she was in. But somehow her brain refused to cooperate and all she could do was listen to her daughter who, with almost clinically detachment dissected every argument she came up with.
"Hes a juvenile delinquent," she finally managed to croak. "Nobody will believe him."
"I do," Kyra immediately answered, carefully studying her mothers body language. Vivian LeJeune was standing in front of the huge window, staring into the distance. She stood ramrod straight and Kyra could almost feel the cold that was emanating from the older woman.
"Goran went to a lawyer and had a statement drawn up. His lawyer believed him as well."
"Lawyers believe anything, as long as you pay them," Vivian LeJeune snarled.
"I ll make sure and tell Rick that," Kyra dead-panned, watching her mother for a reaction. She wasnt disappointed.
If Kyras confession about her relationship with Emma had been a bomb, then her last remark practically caused a melt-down. Vivian LeJeune was still looking out the window and Kyra couldnt see her mothers face, but she did hear the audible gasp and she did see the slender, elegantly dressed body go completely still.
"Rick?" Vivian LeJeune replied in a hoarse voice.
"Yes, Rick," Kyra calmly repeated, grabbing the folder on her desk, pushing back her chair and standing up. "Im sure you ll remember Roderick Peters? Hes your friends son."
"Oh, that Roderick," Vivian LeJeune almost whispered. "What does he have to do with anything?"
Kyra stepped away from her desk and walked towards the rigid body of her mother. She stopped a few paces behind her, clasping the folder with both hands. Her dark-green eyes were almost black in her suddenly drawn face.
"Last night, Rick and I had a very...enlightening talk. He wrote a statement as well. Do you want to know whats in it?"
Kyra glanced at her mother and inwardly sighed. If only there had been more love and warmth, maybe they would have been able to settle their differences and come to an understanding. But she didnt fool herself any longer; her mother had never loved her and had only tried to manipulate her life. Kyra felt a little sad, not because she was about to lose the mother she never had, but because her son would lose his grandmother. She knew how hard Simon had tried to win her mothers affection.
"Its probably a lie," Vivian LeJeunes voice filled the silence.
"You blackmailed him into taking me to that party. You threatened to tell his father he had been doing drugs. And then, on top of that, you did provide him with gamma hydroxy butyrate, the so called rape drug , instructing him to give it to me, because I needed to loosen up a little. He gave me an overdose and I passed out. At first, Rick was shocked and worried and he even made sure to carry me to a bedroom, so I could lie down. But since you made sure to tell him to take some of the stuff as well, he was not very...inhibited. Do you want to know what happened?"
Kyra saw her mother shake her head, but, relentlessly, she continued. "I ll tell you anyway. While he was not in control of his faculties and while I was passed out, he raped me. Is that what you wanted?"
Vivian LeJeune suddenly turned around and her gray eyes were dark with anger when they focused on Kyra, who returned the furious stare calmly.
"You will never be able to prove that," she spat, not showing any trace of remorse. "How do I know those precious statements you are holding are real?"
Kyra slowly shook her head and sighed. With a sad nod she turned around and walked to the door of an adjoining office. Without uttering one word, she opened the door and stepped aside.
"Come in," she said with a tired voice.
To Vivian LeJeunes unmeasurable horror, Goran Markovic and Roderick Peters entered the room, followed by Emma Altena, who shot her lover a worried glance. But Kyra send her a tired smile and grabbed her hand to give it a loving squeeze.
"Im all right," she reassured her lover in a soft voice. "Im just tired of it all and I want to get it done and over with as soon as possible."
Emma nodded and sent Kyra an encouraging smile, which made her lover feel a lot better.
Turning back to face her mother, Kyra smiled at Goran and Rick, who both sported the same nervous, but yet determined expression.
"Daddy couldnt make it today," Kyra addressed her mother. "But he wanted me to let you know that if you have any questions, you can always give him a call."
Vivian LeJeune knew that she was defeated. No matter how hard she had tried to cover up all her tracks, her past had still caught up with her. With pursed lips she shot Emma an icy cold stare, before turning her attention to Kyra, who was leaning her hip against her desk, staring at her mother with expressionless eyes. It was her lack of emotion that worried Vivian LeJeune the most. In the past, she had always been able to count on Kyra bursting out in tears, or retreating into herself, not strong enough to put up a real fight. This time was different and she could not help wondering what had happened to change her daughter so completely.
"You have changed," she accused in a bitter voice. "I never imagined you could be so ungrateful and mean."
Kyra cocked her head and shot her mother an astonished look. It took her a few moments to register what her mother had said and when the words finally sank in she snorted softly and chuckled.
"I am mean? Im sorry, mother, but I do believe you dont have all your facts in order. And have I changed? I guess I have. Ive something worth fighting for: a family. And I dont let anyone mess with them."
Emma, who was standing a few paces behind her lover, felt her heart swell with pride and her dark-blue eyes shone with love, when they focused on Kyra, who was still facing her mother, not aware of the admiration on her lovers face. But Vivian LeJeune saw the look and immediately she was filled with an almost uncontrollable rage.
"Its all your fault," she spat, pointing at Emma, who raised an eyebrow and looked surprised. "If you wouldnt have wiggled your way into my daughters life, nothing of this would have happened. I had a perfectly good relationship with my daughter before you came along. But I can assure you that I wont rest until I have completely destroyed you . There will not be one school that will hire you when Im done with you."
Kyra half-turned and looked at Emma, who seemed not fazed at all. She just stood there, calmly staring at the raging Vivian LeJeune and when she caught Kyras glance, she sent her lover a small smile and shrugged her shoulders, indicating that she was all right, Vivian LeJeunes words did not unsettle her. She had expected them. That morning, over breakfast, Kyra and Emma had discussed the possibility of Vivian LeJeune turning on Emma and threatening her. Kyras mother had done exactly what Kyra had predicted she would do.
"Youre not exactly in a position to make threats, mother," Kyra spoke, returning her gaze back to her mother. "But Im glad you brought up the subject, because you need to know that if you ever try anything to hurt Emma, Dad, Rick and Goran, or any of their families or friends, these statements," Kyra held up the folder in her hand for emphasis, "will immediately be sent to the closest police station and to all the big newspapers in the country. Do you understand that?" Kyra paused and sent her mother a questioning look. "From now on you are on your own, mother. Since you cant seem to have any positive input in my life, or Simons, I think its better not to have any contact at all. If Simon will ever decide he wants a relationship with you, I wont stop him. But right now hes too young, so I decide for him."
"Fine mother you are," Vivian Lejeune snapped, deliberately trying to hurt Kyra. "If you would have listened to me in the past, all of this would never have happened."
"Its time to stop blaming other people for the mistakes you are responsible for, mother," Kyra answered in a tired voice.
"You just blamed me for the fact you ended up with a kid_ If youd have taken me up on my offer back then to pay for the abortion, you wouldnt have to..."
"Thats more than enough, Vivian_ " Ricks voice suddenly thundered. "I do think its time for you to leave."
"You have nothing to..."
"You need to go," Rick Peters repeated, almost trembling with anger. "And you need to leave right now."
"Wait till I tell your mother how disrespectful you are," Vivian LeJeune spoke.
"I dont think my mother wants anything to do with you anymore," Rick replied.
With an indignant expression on her face, Vivian LeJeune turned to her daughter and opened her mouth to speak, but Kyra beat her to it.
"Kyra_ You cant do this. I..."
"Goodbye, mother," Kyra repeated, turning around and walking back to her desk.
"Rick, would you please be so kind to see mother to the elevator?" she asked calmly.
Without looking up, totally disregarding her mothers presence, Kyra pressed the buzzer on her desk and immediately Sandys clear voice broke the silence.
"Sandy, could you please send us some coffee and tea? I think we all need a dose of caffeine."
"Need some whiskey with that?" Sandy joked and in spite of the situation, Kyra laughed.
"No, thank you. Just coffee and tea will do."
"Sure thing, boss," Sandy cheerfully replied and Kyra could almost see the smug smile on her secretarys face. "Coffee and tea coming up."
Kyra looked up and saw her mother slowly walking towards the door with Rick Peters right behind her. For a split-second she wondered if she had done the right thing, but when she remembered her mothers lack of remorse, all doubt vanished.
"Take a seat, Goran," she encouraged the lanky teenager, who was a bit more relaxed, now that his nemesis had left the room.
He obediently sank down in one of the overstuffed chairs and let out a sigh of contentment.
"This is a nice office, Kyra," he shyly complimented. "I like those little sculptures on the table. Are they made out of soapstone?"
"Yes, they are," Kyra responded with a smile. "They are made by an Inuit artist in Canada."
"I thought so," he nodded. "My dad used to be an artist. He used marble a lot, but also wood and soapstone." Goran paused and for a moment there was profound sadness in his eyes. "That was before the war," he explained softly.
Goran was still very young, but he understood about loss and, when his eyes caught Kyras, his gaze was full of compassion.
"Im sorry about your mother, Kyra."
"So am I, Goran," Kyra sighed, walking over to Emma and wrapping her arm around her lovers waist. She needed the closeness and sighed happily when Emmas arm slid around her shoulder, pulling her a little closer.
"Are you all right?" Emma softly asked, capturing Kyras eyes with her own.
"Im fine," Kyra nodded. "It wasnt easy, of course, but Im glad its over. Maybe we all can finally start to live our lives the way we want to. Im sure mother got the message. She might be dense, but shes not stupid. I think she..."
Kyras sentence was interrupted by a loud, crashing noise outside the office, followed by Sandys loud and angry voice. Both Kyra and Emma practically ran towards the door and just when the teacher was about to grab the handle, the door flew open, almost hitting her square in the face. She was able to jump back in time and with a stunned look she suddenly stared at a red-faced, furious Vivian LeJeune. Roderick Peters was limping towards them through the hallway, his face scrunched up in pain.
"Im sorry, Kyra," he gasped, eyeing the scene in front of him with growing anxiety.
Sandy, who had been carrying a tray with the requested hot beverages was standing amidst the shattered remains of what used to be teacups and coffee mugs. The hot coffee and tea was mingled together in a big puddle on the floor and was also dripping down the wall that once had been immaculately white.
Sandys face was as red as Vivian LeJeunes and the two women were facing each other with blazing eyes, seemingly ready to pounce on each other. Emma immediately recognized the situation as an explosive one and without second thought she grabbed Sandys arm and dragged her back into the office, escorting her to the far corner, where she pushed the secretary down in a chair with her hand resting on the trembling womans shoulder.
"Take a deep breath," she encouraged in a soft voice, while her eyes were transfixed on the figure of her lover, who was still standing in the doorway, facing her mother.
"Is it really necessary to create a scene, mother?" Kyra asked and Emma could hear the slight tremble in her voice...her lover was angry.
"I demand an explanation," Vivian LeJeune spat. "I am your mother and you treat me like....like..."
"Like you dont matter?" Kyra helpfully finished the sentence, while her voice was almost dripping with sarcasm. "Like you re not worth anything? Like dirt? Like you cant think for yourself?" she added with a steadily rising voice. "Well, I have news for you, mother. Thats exactly how you ve been treating me for years. Its a sucky feeling, isnt it?"
"I have never..."
"Yes, you have. Time and time again," Kyra interrupted. "And Im fed up with it and Im fed up with your hypocritical attitude, your bigotry and prejudices. Ive had enough of your sneaky meddling in affairs that dont concern you and Im sick of the way you try to manipulate people. And Im totally disgusted with the way youre still trying to deny any wrongdoing. It really is time for you to take responsibility for your own actions, mother." Kyra took a deep breath and even though her eyes were still glowing with anger, her voice suddenly became calm and steady. "I want you to leave this building, mother. You re no longer welcome here. You can leave now, on your own. Or I ll call security and have you removed. The choice is yours."
"You wouldnt," Vivian Lejeune gasped.
"Try me," Kyra challenged. Her eyes traveled to Roderick, who was leaning against the wall, rubbing his left knee.
"Do you want to press charges, Rick?" she asked in a tired voice "Mother evidently kicked you, didnt she?"
Rick Peters nodded and bit his lip to stifle a chuckle, when the absurdity of it all suddenly hit him.
"I wont press charges if she leaves right now," he answered in a strained voice, trying not to lose his composure.
"I...I...," Vivian LeJeune stammered, pressing her hand against her chest. "I dont feel too well. If I get a heart attack right now, it will be your fault," she snarled at Kyra who shrugged her shoulders and didnt look worried at all.
"Mother, stop the acting. We both know you recently had your annual check-up and your doctor was very pleased with your healthy heart. You re doing the martyr routine, but I really dont feel guilty, so youd better give it up. Please leave now, before things become really ugly. You should be grateful youre being given a chance and a choice about the matter and not read about the statements in the edition of tomorrows newspaper. And, please, dont forget it could still happen that way."
"Why would I believe you?" was the bitter reply and Kyra sighed. She desperately wanted things to be different, but she honestly did not think her mother would ever change. Still, it stung to realize there was absolutely nothing loving about their relationship. If only her mother could have been a little more like Anne Altena. Just a little would have made such a world of difference...
"You have my word, mother," she answered sadly.
For a brief moment, dark-green eyes met a pair of gray ones and Kyras heart skipped a beat when she noticed a flash of something that resembled sadness in her mothers eyes. She unconsciously held her breath, while her mind did a double-take, trying to figure out whether she had been imagining things. But before she could respond, the gray eyes had regained their usual cool expression and Vivian Lejeune sent her a look full of contempt.
"Have it your way. Dont come running back to me though, when your precious pet-teacher dumps you as soon as she has emptied out your bank account. Goodbye, Kyra," and with those words Vivian LeJeune turned around and headed towards the elevator and out of her daughters life, without looking back.
Kyra watched her mother walk away and didnt know whether to laugh or cry. It was such a surreal situation. She never would have thought the day would come when shed ban her mother from her life, and yet, deep down inside, there was more relief than pain and she knew shed done the right thing. Heaven knows what could have happened if she had not tried to stop her mother.
Slowly exhaling, Kyra turned to Rick and her eyes were full of concern when she saw him rubbing his knee.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes, I am. My ego got bruised a little, but I ll live. Your mother packs a mean kick."
"Im not surprised. Did you see those pointy shoes?" Kyra replied dryly, making Rick chuckle. "What happened?"
Rick Peters raked his fingers through his short-cropped hair and sent her a bashful smile.
"She surprised me," he confessed. "I was opening the door for her, when she suddenly turned and kicked me. And here I was, thinking Vivian LeJeune was a real lady."
"Its a good thing she didnt use pepper-spray," Kyra remarked with a wry smile.
"Ouch," Rick grimaced. "Are you all right, Kyra?"
"Ill live," was the answer and they both smiled.
"You were great, Kyra, I dont think I could have handled a situation like that with the same grace and self-control," he confessed. "You were very impressive."
"Thank you," Kyra nodded. "Im just glad I managed not to lose control. If that would have happened, Id have given her the upperhand."
"Well, you did great," Rick complimented her again and he kneeled down to pick up the broken glasses and mugs, but Kyra put her hand on his shoulder and shook her head.
"Ill get somebody to clean that up, Rick. I guess the carpet needs to be shampooed as well, so dont worry about it."
"Its the least I can do," Rick mumbled, but Kyras ears had picked up the soft-spoken words and she cocked her head, shooting him a quizzical look.
"You ve helped me tremendously with your statement and Gorans," she said. "Im very grateful for that."
"I can never make up what Ive done to you, Kyra," Rick softly answered, staring at the mess that littered the floor.
"Then stop trying," Kyra answered, equally soft. "Yes, what you ve done was wrong. But I do understand the pressure you were under and I also realize people who are under the influence of drugs dont exactly use their brain like they should. But Rick, even though I...detest what happened, something beautiful came out of it as well. I have received two wonderful gifts in my life, and Simon is one of them."
"And the other one is Emma," Rick smiled, slowly straightening up, careful not to jerk his painful knee.
"Yes, she is," Kyra replied. "A soon to be very cranky Emma, if she doesnt get a cup of coffee," she added, aware of the fact her lover was able to hear her.
"Thats right," Emma nodded. "I was lured to the office with the promise of fresh coffee, but I havent seen anything yet. Unless that stain on the carpet counts. In that case, forget what I just said."
"Poor baby," Kyra smiled, casting a look at her secretary and raising one brow. "Are you all right, Sandy?"
"I am now," the other woman answered, slowly getting up from her chair. "I was ready to throttle her, when she just knocked that tray out of my hands. She did it on purpose, you know. Im sorry about the carpet and wall, Kyra, I can..."
"Dont worry about the carpet and wall," Kyra interrupted. "Ill get somebody to clean that. Im just glad that hot tea and coffee ended up the floor, instead of on you. That could have been painful."
"Very," Sandy admitted, pulling a face. "Do you want me to make some fresh coffee? I can run down to the cafeteria and see if they ll have a thermos I can use."
"No, dont worry about it," Kyra answered. "Lets all get out of here. Theres a place around the corner that has the best coffee in town. My treat."
"Does that include apple pie?" Emma asked with feigned innocence, while her blue eyes were dancing with amusement.
"Sure, honey," Kyra answered with a smile, hooking her arm through her lovers.
"With whipped cream?"
"Dont push your luck," Kyra playfully growled, grateful for the light banter, that relieved some of the stress she had been under. She could always rely on Emma for love and support and for jokes and remarks that would ease any form of tension. It was a precious gift and she treasured it.
"Thank you," she whispered, giving Emmas arm a loving squeeze, knowing her lover would know exactly what she meant by that.
"Anytime, my love," was the soft response, filling Kyra with warmth.
The car sped down the highway, overtaking other vehicles like they were standing still. Most drivers shot an annoyed look at the silver colored BMW, wondering which maniac was behind the wheel. Driving at a speed like that, in the dark, could only be described as suicide.
The driver of the luxurious car was not aware of the angry looks. Even if Vivian LeJeune would have noticed the annoyed stares, she would not have cared. Most men were just jealous of her sleek, powerful car. One time she had debated with herself whether she should hire a chauffeur or not, but driving the muscular car had always given her such a sense of strength and power, she had decided against it.
It had almost been a week since Kyra had banned her from her life and Vivian LeJeune had noticed that her friendship with Margaret Peters had taken a big blow as well. After leaving numerous messages, Margaret had finally returned her calls and flat out told her she did not want to see her anymore.
Vivian LeJeune softly snorted when she remembered the last conversation she had with her former friend. Margaret had told her she didnt posses Kyras grace and ability to forgive; she could not forgive Vivian for blackmailing her son into drugging Kyra and himself.
All their mutual friends and acquaintances had somehow picked up on the fact that Margaret had refused to be her friend any longer and, strangely enough, more and more people had given her the cold shoulder.
Vivian had decided to leave the country for a while. Surely, if shed been away for a few months, people would start acting normal again, wouldnt they? Besides, it was a good enough reason to visit with her friends in Lausanne, where she had bought a luxurious apartment a few years ago. Staying in Switzerland for a while would also give her the opportunity to discuss her investments with the bank that had been handling her affairs for years. They had done a good job with the investments and Vivian knew that, even without the monthly sum Norbert had paid her, she would be able to live a very comfortable life.
With a small smile, Vivian wondered if Kyra and Norbert had known about her steadily accumulating Swiss bank account. Probably not. It wasnt something she wanted to be known. As soon as people knew you were rich, they all wanted a part of it. She would make sure that nobody would profit from her. Ever.
Gloating in the knowledge she had been smarter than her ex-husband and daughter, Vivian LeJeune forgot her fatigue. She had been driving for hours and her eyes had felt tired and heavy. Maybe it would be a good idea to rest for a while. Maybe even find a decent hotel and have a shower, a good meal and some sleep.
Nodding to herself, Vivian LeJeune decided she would do exactly that and she squinted her eyes to try and read the traffic sign that was looming in the distance, without taking her foot off the pedal.
The road construction workers, who had been working for hours and were just enjoying a well- deserved cup of coffee, looked up when the screeching sound of brakes pierced the night. To their horror, they saw a pair of bright headlights speeding their way and, thanks to their youth and firm bodies, they managed to hurl themselves out of the way, seeing a silver flash of metal when the BMW, that was now spinning out of control, collided with the back of their truck, sending both cars careering down the side of the road, until they both were stopped in their deadly dance by a group of trees, leaving nothing behind but slowly settling dust, blinking taillights and an eerie silence.
Anne Altena smiled when she glanced outside the kitchen window. Simon was chasing the twins, Anne and Amber, with a water pistol, while the two girls screamed like banshees and Hesters son, Peter, was rolling on the grass, laughing until the tears were streaming down his face.
Simon had fit in since the first day he had met Emmas nieces and nephews and, especially Peter, Anne and Amber had been his best friends. Somehow, the aftermath of the fire in the shed had forged a bond between the four of them, which was wholeheartedly welcomed by their grandmother, who looked on with an indulgent smile, when Anne managed to grab a small bucket of water, dumping its contents on Simons head. The curly-haired boy whooped and jumped up and down in the puddle on the ground, making his friends laugh even louder. There was no question about it: Simon Hartman was a clown, who could take practical jokes as easily as dish them out.
"Whats that smile for?" a voice suddenly sounded and Anne Altena looked up into Emmas laughing eyes.
"Your son," her mother smiled, pointing at the dripping boy. "Hes really something else. He has a great talent for teasing."
"I know," Emma grinned. "He has that from his mother, believe me. Its amazing how both Kyra and Simon fit into this crazy family. Im lucky," she added with a smile.
"What time will Kyra be here?"
"Hopefully in time for dinner," Emma answered with a sigh. "Its been real busy at work lately. Im glad she managed to take three whole weeks off. This is going to be the best summer vacation ever."
Anne Altena glanced at her daughters face and smiled when she saw the dreamy expression on her face.
"You still look like a love-struck teenager," Hesters voice unexpectedly sounded from the doorway.
"And I hope I ll never lose that," Emma quipped, winking at her mother. "What brings your inspiring presence here, sis? I thought you said you wouldnt show yourself until the food was on the table."
Hester pulled a face and gave her mother a quick kiss on the cheek, before turning towards her sister and slapping her on the shoulder.
"I dont think I could live with myself if I wouldnt share my culinary talents with the rest of you," she dead-panned.
"Sounds to me you re just hungry and cant wait to taste the goodies," Emma mumbled, making her mother laugh. "I ll have to tell David to take you out more often."
"Yes, please, do," Hester grinned. "I wouldnt mind at all. And I do admit, Im curious. Its not often a famous chef stops by and makes me dinner, you know."
"Ill make sure to tell Norbert that," Emma laughed. "Who knows? Maybe he will even teach you a thing or two. Like: how much salt do potatoes really need?"
"As long as you girls dont harass the poor man," their mother suddenly spoke up, knowing her off-spring very well. "It was very sweet of him to offer to make a buffet for the whole family. I just wonder how in earth hes going to do it all. He told me I wasnt allowed to touch a single spoon, unless it was to eat."
Emma laughed and gave her mother a hug.
"Dont worry, mom, it will all work out. If not, well, we can always drive down to the nearest McDonalds." Emma grinned. "But I have faith. When Kyra called me a few hours ago, she said that her dad and Albert were driving this small catering truck over here. I bet hes got it all prepared in advance."
"You think?" Anne Altena asked, clearly doubting Emmas words.
"Im sure," Hester added. "And if those chicken wings Kyra made a few weeks ago are any indication of her dads talents, we ll be in heaven tonight," she added, licking her lips in anticipation.
"You and your stomach," Emma shook her head. "Its a miracle you can still move, you little piglet."
"Oh, ouch," Hester laughed. "It might be my stomach that...guides me a lot of times, but with you its...well, other body parts," she added in a mumble, glancing over at her mother, who had sent her a warning glance.
Emma just laughed and was just about to answer her sister, when she heard Simons happy cry.
"Mom_ Mom_ "
A smile lit up her face and she rushed outside, just in time to see Simon hurl himself into his mothers waiting arms.
"Hello, sweetie," Kyra greeted her son, lifting him up, while he wrapped his arms around her neck and his legs around her waist. She chuckled and kissed a damp cheek.
"What have you been doing, Mr. Octopus? You re all wet."
"Water fight," Simon explained. "Its really fun, mom."
"I bet," Kyra laughed, ruffling Simons wet curls. "But I suppose its a great way to cool off. Its been hot today."
"Emma will take us for a swim tomorrow," he announced. "Do you have your vacation now?"
"Yes, sir. Three whole weeks. How about that, huh?"
"Great_ " Simon exclaimed, hugging his mother tight. "We can do all sorts of fun things."
"And we will," Kyra promised, glancing over Simons curls, to see the warm blue of her lovers eyes.
"Hi," she mouthed with a smile.
Emma dipped her head, before blowing her a kiss and Kyra grinned. It had only been two days ago since Emma and Simon had headed to Friesland, but it had felt like two weeks. And now they would have three glorious weeks together, just the three of them. Life was good.
"Okay, you can say hi to Emma now," Simon said, using his mothers body as a slide to descend to the ground again.
"Why, thank you," Kyra laughed, giving him a last quick kiss. "Thats mighty kind of you."
Simon just laughed and shrugged his slender shoulders.
"Peter said his mom and dad smooch a lot as well, so we think its normal," he surprised them with his answer. "Ill go back and dump a bucket of water on Peter. Is grandad coming soon as well?"
"Um...yes, yes, he is," Kyra stammered, very aware of Emmas laughing eyes. "He ll be here soon."
"Great_ I told Peter and the girls granddad makes the best potato salad."
After those words, Simon turned around and ran back to his patiently waiting friends, who greeted him with another bucket full of water, which induced a new, enthusiastic water fight.
Kyras eyes found Emmas and she smiled when she walked towards her lover, who reached out her arms and pulled her into a firm hug.
"Im glad we re normal," she mumbled against Emmas shoulder, feeling her lover chuckle. "I suppose we just received some seal of approval, dont you think?"
"Absolutely," Emma grinned, nuzzling her lovers neck and breathing in the familiar scent she had missed so much those last two days. "Im so glad you re here. I think those two days were the longest in my life."
"I know what you mean," Kyra sighed, lifting up her head and almost drowning in her favorite pair of blue eyes. "So, how about a kiss?"
"I thought youd never ask," Emma smiled, bending her head and covering Kyras lips with her own, aware of four giggling kids, but not caring about the fact they had an audience. Until, after a few delicious moments, she gasped in surprise when a daring, little soul suddenly dumped ice-cold water on her back.
Without looking back, she raised her eyes and caught Kyras, that were filled with a mixture of compassion and amusement and who tried very hard not to laugh out loud.
"Let me guess," Emma whispered. "Simon?"
Kyra peeked over Emmas shoulder and her eyes fell on her son who was dragging an empty bucket behind him, trying to get away from Emma as fast as he could, while the rest of the kids were sitting on the ground, laughing.
"Yup," Kyra answered, biting her lip. But her eyes were dancing and she knew she couldnt keep from laughing any longer.
"Im sorry, honey," she snorted with laughter. "But youve should have seen your face."
"You re lucky I didnt bite your lip when he chucked that water on me," Emma growled, but Kyra saw the twinkle in her eyes and she lovingly patted her lover on the back.
"Pity he didnt hit the front," she purred, before giving Emma another quick kiss. "Go get him, champ. You know you want to."
Emma laughed and cupped Kyras face between both her hands, kissing her soundly, before releasing her again. Turning around, she let out a blood-curdling scream and started running towards the shed where she knew Simon was hiding.
"You outdid yourself, dad, that was simply amazing," Kyra sighed in contentment, wiping her hands on a paper napkin, before dumping it in the big trash can.
"Thank you, honey," Norbert smiled, eyeing his daughter with affection. "This family sure knows how to appreciate good food," he added with a wink, making his daughter chuckle. "And dancing," he smiled, nodding his head in the direction of his partner, who was teaching Hester, Irene and Imke some intricate dance-steps.
"They are a fun bunch," Kyra replied, feeling her lovers eyes on her and scanning the yard until she had found Emma, who was casually leaning against the wall of the shed, talking to one of her brothers, while her eyes regularly flashed into Kyras direction. When she smiled at her, Kyra could feel her heart rate pick up and she let out a deep sigh.
"So, have you asked her yet?"
"Dad_ " Kyra gently elbowed him and Norbert just laughed.
"Im an old man, honey. Id love to dance at your wedding before I cant move anymore."
Kyra glanced aside and Norbert noticed the blush that was creeping up her face. He grinned and nudged her with his shoulder.
"What are you hiding from me, daughter?"
"I was going to...I want to ask her tonight," Kyra shyly answered, suddenly feeling very self-conscious and nervous.
"Then what are you waiting for?" Norbert gently encouraged. "Unless you ordered those violinists we once talked about and they are stuck in traffic?"
"No_ " Kyra laughed. "Im...Im nervous, dad. How silly is that? I love her and I know she loves me. I dont think she ll say no, but still..."
"Then go for it," Norbert answered. "Its a beautiful summer evening. I saw the roses bloom in that gorgeous garden next to the house and I can smell the jasmine in the air. It will never be more perfect than tonight," he chuckled.
"You ve always been a sucker for romance, dad," Kyra accused, but she was smiling.
"I know," he replied, giving his daughter a quick, one-armed hug. "Do you have the ring?"
Kyra felt in her pocket, something she had been doing all evening to assure herself the ring she had bought for her lover was still securely in there.
"Yes, I do," she answered, taking a deep breath and straightening herself.
"Great," Norbert smiled. "I dont have to wish you good luck, because I know the outcome. Just dont stay away too long," he winked and he laughed when Kyra stuck out her tongue, before slowly heading towards her lover.
Emma nodded at something her brother said, but when she remained silent, he followed her gaze and softly laughed when he saw Kyra approaching.
"I guess Ive lost your attention," Frank gently teased, nudging his sister with his shoulder.
"Huh?" Emma responded, a little dazed, which made him laugh even louder.
"Its funny. As soon as Kyra hits your line of sight, the rest of us mortals cease to exist, but thats all right," he quickly added, seeing the guilt in Emmas face. "We have all been young and in love, besides," he bent his head closer and whispered:"Whats not to love, sis? Shes not only beautiful, but also brainy."
"Shes wonderful," Emma sighed, not aware of the soft expression in her brothers eyes.
"Like my Karen," Frank admitted, his eyes twinkling.
"Yes, like your Karen," Emma replied with a sunny smile, knowing her brother practically worshiped his wife.
"Im happy for you, Emmie. For the both of you."
"Thank you, big brother," Emma smiled, giving the tall man a quick hug. "Ill go and see if maybe my honey wants to dance with me."
Turning around, she effortlessly caught Kyras gaze and with a warm smile she watched her lover approach. When she was close enough, Kyra reached out a hand in silent invitation which was immediately grabbed by Emma.
"Follow me," Kyra encouraged in a low voice, turning around and pulling Emma with her.
Thinking Kyra would lead her to the improvised dance floor where Albert was practicing steps with a laughing Hester, Emmas brows rose when she noticed she was being lead away from the crowd, to the small, beautiful flower garden at the side of the house...her mothers sanctuary.
With a huge smile she obediently followed her lover until they were both standing in the middle of the small, but beautiful garden, surrounded by rosebushes and other flowers.
Emma breathed in deeply and was instantly reminded of all the hours she had spent weeding and planting flowers, helping her mother as often as she could. It was in that same garden she had first told her mother she was a lesbian.
Emma smiled at the memory. Her mother had just wrapped her in a big hug and thanked her for the display of trust by confiding in her. Her sexual orientation had never been an issue for her parents or her siblings. It was easily accepted by everybody.
"Want to sit down for a little while?" Kyras voice broke her musings and she nodded, sitting down on the little bench her father had installed for her mother, so she could sit down and enjoy her private, peaceful oasis.
"I love this place. Your mom has created her own little paradise. Its beautiful," Kyra sighed, putting her head on Emmas shoulder and immediately feeling her lovers arm slip around her waist.
"It took her years to get it like this," Emma low voice answered. "But yes, its gorgeous."
"Its so peaceful, I could easily fall asleep here," Kyra confessed, suppressing a yawn.
"This bench is a little hard, though," Emma chuckled. "Maybe the grass would be better. But you might wake up wet and covered in cobwebs."
"Mmm, I dont think Id like that," Kyra replied, wrinkling her nose. "I guess Ill just be conventional and sleep in bed then."
"Thank you," Emma grinned. "I missed you last night. I thought I would never go to sleep."
"Even after my goodnight call?" Kyra gently teased, knowing exactly what Emma meant. She too had experienced trouble sleeping. Numerous times, she had sleepily reached out for her lover, only to find cold sheets.
"Especially after your goodnight call," Emma smiled, pressing her cheek against Kyras. "It made me miss you even more. Hearing your voice and not being able to touch you was torture."
"I know what you mean," Kyra sighed. "Thank goodness Im here now. And we ll have three weeks together, just you, Simon and me. I need that time. Work has been so busy lately."
"So Gorans dads work is selling?"
"It sells like crazy," Kyra smiled. "I talked to him on the phone this afternoon and he was just flabbergasted by all the attention hes been receiving lately. The Breda Museum wants him to do an exhibition this Fall and hes been asked by the city council to do a sculpture for the new city hall."
"Thats great," Emma laughed. "I guess Ill hang on to that little horse sculpture he gave me. Sounds like its a good investment."
"Most likely," Kyra replied, half-turning so she could wrap her arms around Emmas neck and pull her in for a kiss that lasted deliciously long. When they finally broke apart, Kyra moistened her lips and looked up at Emma with a small smile.
"Youre the worlds best kisser," she sighed, making her lover chuckle.
"I bet you say that to all the girls," Emma gently joked, tucking a curly strand of hair behind Kyras ear.
"No, just to you. Only you," Kyra answered seriously. "You re all I need and all I want. Just you."
Before Emma knew what was happening, Kyra had slid out of her embrace and off the bench and was kneeling in front of her, grasping one of her hands and kissing the knuckles. Emmas breath hitched when she saw Kyra slip a beautiful ring on her finger. It was a perfect fit and with a smile Kyra bent over Emmas hand and pressed her lips against the gold band that was adorned with three sparkling diamonds.
The words of something Kyra had once told her echoed in Emmas ears and she swallowed hard, blinking against the tears that suddenly filled her eyes.
One day, Emma Louise Altena . One day soon, when all of this has blown over, I will go down on my knees and beg you to marry me.
"I cant imagine my life without you anymore, Emma. You re the only one who touches the very essence of me; my soul." Kyras voice was hoarse with emotion. "Youre not just my lover, but youre my partner in every sense of the word. You have my heart and I know you ll always keep it safe." Kyra paused and took a deep breath. "Simon loves you. I love you, with all I am and all I can ever hope to be." Kyra smiled and there were lights dancing in her eyes. " We are surrounded by roses. I am down on my knees and I have the ring...Emma Louise Altena, will you marry me?"
Emma wiped away a tear that was rolling down her cheek and she didnt know whether to laugh or to cry. Looking down from their joined hands to Kyras face, she noticed a mixture of love, amusement and anxiety in her lovers eyes and she smiled.
"Yes, Ill marry you," she answered, her voice thick with emotion. "Id be honored."
Kyra let out a shuddering breath and suddenly she became aware of her wildly beating heart. With a soft chuckle she pressed a hand against her chest and shook her head in disbelief.
"Were you afraid Id say no?" Emma asked, grabbing both Kyras hands and pulling her up.
"Not really," Kyra replied, wrapping her arms around Emmas neck and straddling her lovers lap. "But I was a little nervous. Its not like I do this kind of thing every day, you know," she added with a chuckle.
"I hope not," Emma smiled. "But if you would, just make sure its me you re asking over and over again."
"Youd get sick and tired of me after a while," Kyra replied, bringing her face close to Emmas and looking into her lovers smiling eyes.
"I doubt it," Emma whispered. "No matter how many times youd ask me; I would always say yes," she added, before their lips met and they lost themselves in a long, deep kiss, that robbed them both of their breath.
When, after a very long time, they finally came up for air they were both breathing hard and Kyra softly moaned, burying her face in Emmas neck.
"You set me on fire," she whispered hoarsely.
"I think we do that to each other," Emma croaked, fighting the urge to throw Kyra over her shoulder and disappear into the rapidly darkening night. "I love you, Kyra."
"I love you too," Kyra answered and Emma could hear the smile in her voice.
Emma pulled Kyra closer and laughed softly when Kyra shifted, so she was able to wrap her legs around Emmas waist as well. It reminded her of the hug she had witnessed Simon give his mother that afternoon.
"Like mother, like son," she softly teased, closing her eyes and absorbing the wonderful feeling of having Kyra in her arms. "The two of you have a talent for giving the best hugs."
"Thank you," Kyra mumbled, wondering if it was possible to fall asleep like that, draped all over Emma, who was sitting on a wooden bench. It was probably not really comfortable for her lover.
"Are you going to fall asleep on me, honey?" Emma asked, kissing Kyras cheek.
"No," Kyra sighed. "Although Id like to. But if we stay away too long, Im sure somebody will come up with the idea to come looking for us."
"I guess you re right," Emma chuckled. "Although they would run the risk of finding us in a very compromising situation."
Kyra lifted up her head and shot her lover an impish smile.
"Is that a proposition?"
"No," Emma laughed. "No matter how much I love you and no matter how much I want to make love to you right now, right here. Id never take the risk of being stumbled on by one of my dear family members. We d never live it down_ " She gave Kyra a quick kiss on the bridge of her nose. "Besides, there are a lot of impressionable kids walking around here, I dont think..."
"I get it, I get it," Kyra chuckled. "And youre absolutely right, my love. Just hold those thoughts for later, all right?"
"Absolutely," Emma grinned.
"Good," Kyra nodded, untangling herself from Emmas body and slowly getting to her feet. She reached out and grabbed Emmas hand, pulling her lover to her feet as well. "Lets go back and find Simon. Maybe hes willing to take the heat and do the announcement."
"While we make a quick exit?" Emma laughed. "Now, theres a thought."
"Somehow I think wed miss a great party if we did that," Kyra contemplated.
"You know my family," Emma smiled. "Every excuse to party is embraced with enthusiasm."
Emma was right. After they had joined the rest of the family, they had taken Simon aside to tell him the news and the boy had immediately jumped up and down with joy, shouting: "Mom and Emma are getting married. Mom and Emma are getting married_ "
Before Emma and Kyra could even utter another word to each other, they were surrounded by family members and ten minutes later the expected party was in full swing.
"Remember our first kiss?" Kyra dreamily asked, securely wrapped in Emmas arms, dancing to a slow song.
"How could I ever forget?" Emmas voice sounded next to her ear. "It was...amazing. Very...public, but amazing," she laughed softly.
"It was like magic," Kyra continued, after playfully swatting her lover on the behind. "I love dancing with you, especially if I can combine it with kissing."
"Hedonist," Emma whispered, nibbling Kyras ear, before kissing her cheeks, her chin and finally her lovers lips.
Of course their kiss did not go unnoticed, but they studiously ignored the teasing remarks, only having eyes for each other. To everybodys amusement, they didnt even notice the end of the song, but steadily swayed to the music, that still echoed in their ears.
Neville, who had been assigned as the impromptu diskjockey, took pity on the couple and quickly started another CD, which earned him a wink from Norbert Hartman. Kyras fathers had fallen in love with the Altena family the very first time they had been invited for a visit. It had been a week after his release from the hospital and both he , Albert , Jazz and Elvira had been impressed with the warmth and hospitality they had received. He had immediately understood why Kyra and Simon felt so at home at the Friesian farm.
While looking at the dancing couple, his thoughts traveled back to that visit and the phone call he had received from his ex-wifes Swiss lawyer. Although he had only feelings of anger left for Vivian LeJeune, he had been shocked to find out she had been in a car accident. According to the police her sturdy car had saved her life, but she had broken both her legs and rehabilitation would be long and tough.
Through her lawyer, Vivian LeJeune had made it clear she didnt want any form of contact, not even with Jasper. In no uncertain terms, she had told her lawyer that as long as her son planned on maintaining a relationship with Elvira, he was not welcome. To Jasper, it had been an easy choice; he loved Elvira deeply and if that meant being disowned by his mother; so be it. Counting his blessings, he knew he had the best girlfriend he could have ever asked for, he had two loving fathers, a sister who had become his hero, a nephew he was crazy about and a sister-in-law he had taken an instant liking to . He was very fortunate.
Norbert let out a sigh and turned his head when he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder. Looking into the dark eyes of his partner, he smiled and covered Alberts hand with his own, giving it a loving squeeze.
"Our little girl has found her destiny," Albert said in a husky voice. Seeing Kyra and Simon so happy filled him with gratitude and great joy.
"Yes, she has," Norbert answered. "And I do believe those two girls are a perfect match."
"I do believe you are right," Albert smiled. "Their wedding will be spectacular_ Two gorgeous women like that will make absolutely amazing brides. I know Ill be crying my eyes out all day long."
Norbert just laughed and watched how Kyra and Emma both lifted up a giggling Simon and continued to dance with the boys arms firmly wrapped around their shoulders.
"Do you think we ll have more grandchildren?" Albert asked with a mischievous smile.
"Oh, yes, Im absolutely sure we will," Norbert grinned. "Kyra always wanted a lot of kids and Im sure Emma wants that as well."
Alberts dark-brown eyes followed his daughter and grandson and for a brief moment he felt sad.
"I hope they ll come and visit us at least once a year. Ill miss them." His eyes traveled across the dance floor, taking in all the happy, laughing faces. "Ill miss all of them. I feel like Im part of this family."
"I know what you mean," Norbert sighed. "We ll just have to come and visit more often, but, I do have a plan of my own," he added with a smug smile.
The ocean was a perfect blue, stretched out to the horizon, where a few white, fluffy clouds seemed to hover over the shiny surface, like a creative hand had playfully painted them on the light-blue sky.
The white powder sand of the beach was soft and warm to the touch and was bordered by a line of sturdy looking palm trees, providing some much needed shade.
It was quiet, only the rustling of the big palm leaves and the melodious rolling sound of the waves could be heard. It was a perfect picture of serenity and Emma let out a deep sigh of contentment, when her eyes took in all the beauty that surrounded her. They finally came to rest on Kyra, who was dozing in the beach chair next to her, apparently totally relaxed.
Emmas eyes softened and she smiled when her eyes fell on the golden wedding ring on Kyras right hand.
"This place is...so beautiful. Are you sure that school we saw yesterday doesnt need any teachers?" she asked with a sigh, but her dark-blue eyes were twinkling.
Kyra opened one dark-green eye and shot her partner an indulgent look.
"We can ask," she answered lazily.
"I was kidding," Emma grinned. "I love Aruba, I really do. This island is amazing, but Id miss my family too much."
"We can ship them all over," Kyra suggested with a chuckle.
"And over-populate the island? I dont think so," Emma replied with a laugh. "Besides, I suppose living here would cause some of the magic to disappear. I wouldnt want that to happen."
"Any place Id live would be magical, as long as youre there," Kyra responded.
"Oh, you sweet talker, you," Emma smiled, reaching out a hand and running it down Kyras bare stomach. "I love you, you know."
Kyra smiled and opened both her eyes, eying her blue bikini-clad partner with evident admiration.
"I love you too, Emmie. This is the best honeymoon Ive ever had," she added with a wink, making Emma laugh.
"And the only one, I hope," Emma replied, tickling Kyras ribs, making her squirm in her chair. "Unless, of course, we ll decide to have a second honeymoon and a third one..."
"Sounds good to me," Kyra chuckled, unexpectedly grabbing Emmas hand and pulling her out of her chair, straight into her arms.
"You were way too far away," she complained, reveling in the feel of Emmas bare skin against her own.
"Arent you afraid to cause a bit of a spectacle?" Emma asked with feigned worry, but Kyra shook her head and kissed her soundly on the lips.
"This is a private beach, my love," she said after a while, grinning at the dazed look in Emmas eyes. "Leave it up to dad to pick out the perfect location."
"I nearly fainted when he gave us that envelope with the photo of the beach house," Emma confessed. "At first I didnt know what to think of it. I thought it was an odd wedding gift."
Kyra laughed and let her hands slide down Emmas back, making the other woman moan softly.
"Until I found out he was giving us a beach house in Aruba," Emma continued, very aware of the hands that were rubbing circles in the small of her back, which was very distracting. "Then I was just speechless."
"It was very sweet of him, not to mention generous," Kyra softly admitted. "And its big enough for a whole family."
"Do you think he was hinting at something?" Emma chuckled, nibbling Kyras collarbone, enjoying the slightly salty taste.
"Im sure he was," Kyra gasped when she felt an insistent hand slide down the strap of her bikini top. "He wants a lot of grandchildren."
"Good, so do we," Emma whispered. "Talking about grandchildren, what time will our son be back?"
"Dad and Albert... took him to visit ...Alberts cousins on the other side... of the island. He wont... be back before... dark," Kyra stammered, feeling Emmas lips slide down the curve of a breast.
"Perfect," Emma whispered. "That will give me hours and hours to show my wife how very much I love and adore her."
"By all means," Kyra sighed, burying her fingers in Emmas thick hair in an effort to steady herself against the assault of emotions that invaded her body, making her world spin out of control.
A smile spread across her face, when she realized that even though her mind had not understood it at the time, her heart had already made its choice after that first evening she and Emma had spent together.
As their bodies met, a ray of sun was caught in the gold on Kyras finger, reflecting the light and painting highlights in Emmas auburn hair. Throwing back her head, Kyra closed her eyes and gave herself up to the tender, loving touches that made her heart beat wildly and her blood race through her veins, knowing that, no matter how high Emma would take her, shed always be safe in the arms that held her so close.
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