By Queenfor4




Disclaimers1: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renpic. And, this being an Uberish tale, the main characters will bear a physical resemblance to them, but that’s as far as is goes. Oh, and two supporting characters will be named after them. But it’s meant strictly as a tribute; nothing more. J

Disclaimers 2: There will be a tiny bit of violence scattered through the story, including one piece dealing with domestic battering and attempted rape. Nothing really intense though. There will also be some swearing scattered throughout the story.

Disclaimers 3: This is an adult alternative romance, which means that there will be sex between two consenting adult females later on down the line. If this bothers you, or is illegal where you live, then please read no further. You have been warned!

Copyrights: All characters mentioned in this story belong to me. Please do not use them, or any portion of this story without talking to me first. The song "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart" belongs to MCA Nashville, Garth Fandis and Trisha Yearwood.

Thanks: I would like to offer sincere and heartfelt thanks to the bestest <g> beta reader a bard could ever ask for. Thank you, Maggie Sheridan. Without your skills, patience, gentle guidance

And boundless encouragement, this story would never have seen the light of day. J


Chapter Twenty-Four

Megan navigated the busy evening streets with the ease of one long accustomed to city traffic. Her body was fully in tune with the task at hand, but her mind was in another place altogether. Her reunion with her mother was everything she hoped for and nothing like she expected. Oh, there was a rough spot or two, but the end result was…


And Cait was an added bonus.

She expected a cautious relationship at best with the sturdy, somewhat-stoic woman ... a wary, semi-tolerance between the two of them as they grudgingly shared the attention of the petite, hazel-eyed woman.

God, was I ever wrong! She's generous…and gentle…and funny. She treats me like a favorite niece. I think I would have had fun growing up with her around.

And that's another thing!

I thought I'd be uncomfortable being around them as a 'couple,' but I wasn't. They were kind to each other ... playful, affectionate. All the things I never saw between Mother and Daddy. I could feel the love between them. And what makes it even better is that it wasn't exclusive; they pulled me right in there with them.

Quite unbidden, her thoughts turned once again to a certain blue-eyed beauty. Is that what it could be like with Randi? I know Charly's right, and that Randi cares for me. But is it as a friend, or…

Megan gasped involuntarily as realization hit her right between the eyes.

Cait! The look in her eyes every time she looked at mother. That's the same look Randi would get when she looked at me! I never saw it. I was so busy being a bitch over the love I thought I lost, that I never saw the love that was right there in front of me. Megan wanted to pound her head against the steering wheel. Jesus, I'm an idiot!

Megan stole a glance at her watch as, with a push of the button on the device attached to her windshield, she activated the security gate of the underground-parking garage for her apartment complex. Ten-thirty. That shouldn't be too late to call her. Oh, God, what am I going to say? 'Hi, Randi…I'm a jerk…I think I love you. But, just to be sure, can I come back up there, and we can try that dancing and kissing thing again?' The blonde turned her car off and shook her head at the sheer silliness of that line. Oh, yeah, that'd go over well. The first thing I need to do is say I'm sorry and then see what happens from there.

Satisfied with that course of action, the blonde emerged from her car and activated the alarm, tucking her keys and cell phone in the pockets of her light winter jacket. Megan's step was light as she strolled to the elevator, her thoughts so focused on blue eyes and midnight-kissed hair that she never realized she wasn't alone.

Not until she heard him.

"Well, well, well. So you haven't dropped off the face of the earth after all."'

Megan let out an involuntary squawk as she spun around to face the speaker.

"God, Eric. You scared the shit out of me," the blonde scolded.

Eric was leaning casually against one of the massive stone columns that riddled the underground parking garage. Dressed in form-fitting black jeans, tan polo shirt and charcoal Hush Puppies, he looked every bit the all-American boy next door.

"Sorry about that," he apologized insincerely. "But it seems that the only way to talk to you is to sneak up on you."

"You had plenty of chances to talk to me while I was recovering at Randi's house."

Eric shrugged and grinned contritely. "I had some old friends come into town. I got caught up hanging with them."

"Uh-huh. So 'caught up' that you couldn't return my calls…even to see how I was doing." It was more a statement than a question.

The sandy blonde-haired man shrugged away from the column and sauntered toward the writer, employing, once again, the boyish charm and sensual charisma that had always worked on her in the past. "What can I say, sweetheart? I'm a scoundrel." He moved in close to the young woman who maintained a stiff reserve and stroked her cheek with a crooked finger. "A scoundrel who's really missed you," he purred.

"You missed my money is more like it," she replied coolly, stepping back to put some distance between them.

Eric stiffened momentarily at the truth of her observation before plastering on a rakish smile as he closed the distance between them again. "That's not true, sweetheart. I've missed your smile, your laugh, your sweet voice." He leaned in, nuzzling her ear with his nose and taking a deep breath. "I've really missed your sweet, sexy perfume," he murmured throatily.

"Mmm," she hummed. "I don't see how. Your clothes reek of it." the blonde bit out, pushing him away. "The only problem is, I wear Opium, you shit, not Obsession! Get the hell out of here, Eric. The bank, as well as the bed-and-breakfast, is closed." With that, she turned and headed toward the elevator.

The realization that he had lost his meal ticket hit home. "You bitch," was snarled as he lunged after the retreating blonde.

Megan had no time to react before her arm was grabbed in an iron grip and she was pulled backwards. The breath exploded from her lungs as she was slammed back against a dark sedan. Before she had a chance to gather her wits, he was on her. Grabbing a fistful of her hair, he yanked her head back viciously as his other hand pulled at the buttons on her shirt. "You fucking bitch," he snarled as he gave up on the buttons and ripped open her shirt. "You think you can use me as your trophy boy and fuck buddy for months, and then just blow me off? Think again, whore!"

Megan's shock and disorientation were fading rapidly, being replaced by anger and outright fury. "Fuck buddy, my ass! You weren't even that good," she snarled as one hand came up and raked his face with sharp, short nails, while the other slammed into his chest and shoved, propelling him away from her.

As Eric stumbled backwards, clutching his face, the frantic writer made a dash for the stairwell, hoping against hope that she could outrun him long enough to get to the lobby and find help.

Her hopes were dashed as a hand grabbed the back of her jacket collar and jerked her backward forcefully, causing her to lose her footing and fall to the ground. She had no sooner hit the concrete deck than Eric was on her, straddling her thighs and pinning her down.

Pain exploded across her face as Eric's half-closed fist connected with her cheek, stunning her and rendering her helpless as he continued to pummel her viciously about the head and chest.

After a seeming eternity, the blows stopped, and Eric sat back panting heavily and staring at the battered woman beneath him. Megan's eyes were closed, but he could tell that she was still conscious, which suited him fine. He wanted her aware of what was coming next.

"I know you're awake, Meg," he stated matter-of-factly as he unfastened the belt of her pants. "And that's good. I want you awake for this." Deft fingers unsnapped the button of her pants and pulled down the zipper. "The bank might be closed, you bitch, but I intend to make one last withdrawal," he hissed as he lifted a leg so he could pull down her pants.

Megan lay dazed, her tenuous grasp on consciousness aided only by the intense, throbbing pain that radiated throughout her head and torso. Her limbs felt heavy and leaden; even the thought of moving hurt. Eric's voice echoed hollowly in her ears. She knew what he had in mind, and a small part of her wished she could finish passing out so that she wouldn't be awake for it. Maybe this is what I deserve, she thought dully as she felt her zipper being lowered.

Bullshit! This is not what you deserve! The voices of Randi, Charly, Laura and Cait ... the ones that loved her ... thundered through her head, blasting through the cobwebs. Megan's eyes popped open as she felt the body above her shift and give her just enough room for…

Eric screamed as a hard thigh slammed into his unprotected crotch and a small, powerful fist connected with his nose. He fell back, one hand clutching his freely bleeding nose, while the other one clutched his screaming groin.

Megan looked around quickly, trying to get her bearings, and almost sobbed with relief as her eyes landed on her vehicle, less than ten feet away. She knew if she could make it to her car, she could lock herself in before he could get to her ... an advantage she would not have if she tried to use the stairs or the elevator.

Reaching into her jacket pocket, she pulled out her keys and quickly pressed the button to disable the alarm and unlock the doors, then scrambled on hands and knees to the waiting vehicle.

Upon reaching her car, Megan pulled open the door and launched herself inside, slamming the door behind her and locking it. Heaving a relieved sigh, the battered blonde slumped in the seat and let her swollen eyes slide close. Just for a moment…I just need a moment.

She never got that moment. Megan yelped in alarm as the car rocked from the force of a body slamming against it. She stared at the bloody, wild-eyed face of her former lover as he furiously pulled on the door handle with one hand and pounded on her window with the other, all the while screaming invectives at her.

The young woman could take no more; her fight-or-flight instincts were screaming at her, and the flight instinct won. Jamming her key in the ignition, she started the car, threw it into gear and pressed on the accelerator, flinching as Eric's fist impacted with the window one last time before the vehicle's momentum tore his hand from the door handle and sent him crashing to the ground.

Megan refused to look back as she sped away from the scene of the attack. Her body was still in full flight mode as she activated the gate and exited the garage. Unsure of where she was going, she only knew that she had to get away ... far away. She knew she was a mess; three quarters of her face felt puffy, swollen and throbbed with pain. She could feel the hot stickiness of blood on her face, could taste it on her lips; every breath she took sent daggers of pain shooting through her chest and back. And she idly wondered why she didn't just pull over somewhere and let herself pass out. Someone will find me eventually.

But something inside her vehemently rejected that option, as, prodded by sheer, unconscious instinct, she continued to drive, wholly unsure of where she was going, but certain that she had to get there.

Before long, she found herself on the interstate headed out of New York.

Realization finally set in.

And swollen, cracked lips etched a small, knowing smile.

Megan reached in her jacket pocket and extracted her cell phone. God, I hope it didn't get broken in the scuffle.

Flipping it open, she breathed a silent thank you when the tiny screen and keypad came to neon-green life. Punching a button from the memory, she waited while the call connected.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Charlotte Grayson looked up from the book she was reading when the phone rang. Glancing at her watch, she noted the time. Eleven-forty? Who in the hell would be calling at this time? Picking up the receiver, she answered in a cautious "Hello?"

"Hi, Charly."

Alarm bells sounded immediately. "Megan? Honey, what's wrong?"

"What makes you think anything's wrong?" In spite of the situation, Megan couldn't help but be coy with her friend.

"Honey, you never call me this late. What's going on? Did you talk to your mom? … Did she ..."

"No. I went to see her." Megan smiled at that memory, then winced as her split lip reminded her of its condition. "It was better than I could have ever hoped for, Charly."

"Then what ..."

"When I got home, Eric was waiting for me in the garage." Megan heard the gasp on the other end and quickly continued, anxious to get it all out now. "Bottom line, he wanted back in, and I told him he was out ... permanently." Megan snorted. "He didn't like that very much. He grabbed me and threw me up against a car and tried to paw me, but I scratched his face and pushed him away. I tried to get away, but he grabbed me again and flung me to the ground. He sat on me ... and hit me ... a lot." The blonde's voice was a ragged whisper at this point ... one that the anxiety-ridden publisher had to strain to hear. "When he finished hitting me, he started to undo my pants; he was, um, he was going to…" Megan trailed off, her voice cracking right along with her composure as the images she struggled to suppress of those terrifying moments surged forward.

"Oh, God, Megan, no," the publisher whispered hoarsely, her stomach twisting.

The torment in her friend's voice forced the younger woman to regroup and continue. "No, Charly. It's okay, he didn't. I, ah ... kicked him and got him off me. Then I ran to my car and locked myself in. When he came after me again, I panicked and started the car and got the hell out of there."

Good for you, baby! "Thank God," the publisher exclaimed. "Where are you now, honey? Did you call the police? Did you go to the hospital? Tell me where you are, and I'll come get you," the older woman rattled off as she went in search of her coat.

"Charly, stand still a minute," the blonde commanded, biting back a smile at the knowledge that her friend was probably just about two steps away from bolting out the door. The sudden quiet at the other end told her that Charly had done what she asked. Sighing, she continued.

"No, Charly, I didn't call the police. Not yet anyway," she added hastily before her friend went ballistic. "And, no, I'm not at the hospital, either. Hush a minute, Charly. Let me get this out. When I got out of the garage, I didn't stop. I didn't know where the hell I was going; I just wanted to get away."

"Oookay, so…where exactly are you," the older woman drawled carefully, a feeling in her gut telling her that she wasn't going to like the answer.

"Heh, believe it or not, Charly, I'm on the interstate heading out of state." Megan felt the explosion coming from the other woman and headed it off. "I'm going back, Charly. I've got to see her. I need ..." her voice broke, unable to continue ... unable to adequately describe the desperate, bone-deep need to be with the raven-haired beauty in spite, or perhaps because, of her current condition.

Charlotte Grayson was hard put to keep the top of her head from blowing off when Megan revealed her location, but the young woman's plaintive reasoning struck a chord deep within. Like it or not, she understood the instinctual need to be with a loved one when a body is scared or hurting. And I'm sure she's plenty of both right now. And that's the problem; just how badly is she hurt? Is she in danger of going into shock and passing out? Is she already in shock? Is she bleeding badly? How will I know? Shit! Pushing back her alarm, the older woman used her most soothing tones.

"It's okay, honey, I understand. But it's a long drive to Cutters Gap, and I don't know how badly hurt you are. Can't you pull in to a nearby town and let a doctor have a look at you, and then once you've been treated, you can continue on to her place?"

The young woman bit her lip. "No, Charly, I don't want to stop anywhere." If I do, I know they won't let me go. "I just want to get there. I'm not that badly hurt, honestly." The deafening silence on the other end radiated disbelief. "Okay," she sighed, "I am kinda messed up, but I can't stop, Charly. I just can't." Tears blurred the white lines of the endless highway. 'Cause I won't be able to start again.

"Megan, you need to be looked at," the older woman was nearly pleading.

"Randi will take care of me, Charly." I hope.

Hardheaded, stubborn, mule-brained. "All right, fine," the older woman finally huffed. "At least let me call her and let her know you're coming, so she can keep an eye out for you."

Megan let out a small chuckle and regretted it instantly as her bruised ribs made their presence known. "I don't think so, Charly. You'll scare the hell out of her by making her think I'm at death's door. Just let me ..." the blonde had to stop speaking and pull the phone away from her ear as a burst of pain lanced through her head and the road in front of her tilted crazily. She bit deeply into her already bleeding lip to stifle the groan that was bent on escaping. Please, God, please…not yet.

Sucking in as deep a breath as her damaged ribs would allow, the young blonde willed the dizziness into submission and brought the phone back to her ear, wincing at Charly's frantic shouting. "Sorry about that. There was an accident scene with police that I had to get around," the writer lied smoothly. "Now, as I was saying, don't worry about calling her, Charly. Just let me do this my way…please," she added when she sensed the older woman preparing to argue.

"Dammit, Meg. You're hurt," she argued desperately. "What if you get dizzy and pass out behind the wheel? I'll never forgive myself if anything happens to you and I could have prevented it," she finished, her voice breaking.

"I love you too, Charly," the blonde smiled bittersweetly. "I'll be all right. I'm only a couple of hours from Cutters Gap now. Give me three hours. If you haven't heard from either me or Randi by then, you can call anybody you want to. Okay? … Please?"

"Damn you, Megan Galagher," the publisher said hoarsely. "You'd better be okay, and you'd better call me."

"I will, Charly, I promise."


Randi sat propped up in bed, her computer in her lap, re-reading the same paragraph for the sixth time and sighing disgustedly, when, for the sixth time, her attention was diverted by one of the two animals either entering or leaving the room. "Look," she growled to the ebony canine that flopped on the floor beside the bed. "I'm trying to read here, and you guys are not helping any with your tag-team wandering."

The black hound simply looked at her with studied indifference.

"There's nobody out there; we've looked ... four times already! Now, I don't know if you guys are PMS'ing together, or if you're just spoiled from having uncle Toby visit. Either way, I don't care. But if you guys don't quit with the pacing in and out, you can spend the night in the kitchen." The brunette leaned over the bed, glaring into nonchalant blue eyes. "Ya got me?"

The opportunity was just too good for the mischievous canine; she lunged forward and dragged a wet tongue up the woman's face from under her nose to her hairline, then quickly sauntered from the room, leaving the dark-haired woman furiously scrubbing her face in the sheets and muttering curses.

Having sufficiently cleaned and dried her face, the doctor re-positioned herself on the bed and tried, once again, to involve herself with the story she was reading ... only to give up moments later when she realized that the dogs weren't the only ones distracted this evening. With a resigned sigh, she exited the disc she was reading from, removed it and shut down the laptop.

Randi lay on her back with her hands clasped behind her head, patiently waiting for Morpheus to beckon and contemplating the last several weeks. They had been busy weeks, with Toby and Kate maintaining an almost-constant presence, no longer willing to let the young doctor bear her burden alone. I guess I scared them that day Megan left. I scared me too. I couldn't take any more.

She remembered that day as if it were yesterday.

Megan's caustic, unknowing barb about Casey was the final blow to the gentle doctor's already-battered psyche. She fled from the little store with every intention of never being seen again. She had one foot already in her Jeep when she heard the big man calling to her.

When Toby approached her, he did so carefully, knowing the young woman was just this close to bolting and knowing, in the very core of his heart, that if he didn't stop her now, she would be lost to him forever. He searched his mind frantically for the right thing to say to the skittish beauty and could only think of one thing; reaching his hands out, palms upward, he searched liquid blue eyes.

"I love you, princess. Don't leave me."

It was exactly the right thing to say.

Randi stepped away from the Jeep and hurled herself into his arms.

Massive arms held firmly to the quaking body enclosed within them, keeping her back to the road so she would not see the limousine as it pulled away.

After many long moments, anguish and exhaustion took their toll on the young woman, and long legs became rubbery. Without missing a beat, the big man bent slightly and scooped the younger woman up into his arms. Being too tired and heartsick to resist, Randi closed her eyes and nestled into the comforting warmth.

Cradling the unresisting woman against his chest, he strode purposefully down the street to the small, red and white cottage that he and Kate called home.

Having seen his approach from their kitchen window, a very concerned Kate had the front door open. Seeing the pale, tearstreaked face of the doctor, Kate's concern intensified. "Toby, what ..."

"In a minute, Kate," he offered as they continued to the back of the house. "Let's get our girl into a bed first."

Toby placed his precious burden on the bed and straightened. "I'll be right back," he offered, wagging a thick finger at her. "And don't you even think about moving from there, young lady," he warned sternly.

As soon as her husband moved away from the bed, Kate made her way over and sat on the edge. Loving brown eyes studied the drawn, tearstained face worriedly.

"Hi, Aunt Kate," the brunette offered a wan smile.

"Can't leave you alone for a minute, can I," the older woman mock-scolded as she brushed gentle fingers through raven bangs. "What have you been doing to yourself, little one?"

"It's…I…it's nothing," she sputtered, her meager grip on composure being lost to the warm, caring regard and tender touch of the woman who had been her surrogate mother for more than half her life. "I'm acting like a baby," she muttered, becoming disgusted with herself on yet another level.

"I shouldn't ..."

"Hush," Kate commanded gently. "You are a baby…my baby. And I absolutely cannot stand to see my baby hurting. Now, I've been patient; I've stood back and let you try and work through this thing with that sweet child. But something tells me that you've been handed a new heartache on top of that, and I refuse to stand back and let you deal with this alone anymore." A firm, callused hand tenderly cupped a tear-tracked cheek. "Talk to me, sweetheart…tell me," the older woman entreated.

And Randi did. Minutes turned into hours as the brunette poured her heartache, her tears and herself into the loving embrace of the storekeeper's wife.

Later that evening, Randi lay curled on her side, her head resting in Kate's lap, trying desperately to stay awake, but losing to the gentle fingers that combed through her hair.

"You know that puts me to sleep," she mock complained.

"Mm-hmm," the older woman rumbled softly. "And sleep is exactly what you need right now. Along with a few good meals and some major TLC ... which is just what you're going to get for at least a couple of days."

"I can't. The dogs ..." she argued half-heartedly.

"Will be just fine. Toby will see that they're looked after."

The tall woman searched her mind for reasons why she could not stay ... and found none.

And so she surrendered gratefully to the gentle ministrations, her blue eyes fluttering closed, her restive psyche reluctantly giving itself over to calm.

But for one small, sad question that begged an answer.

"Why do people leave me, Aunt Kate?"

"Oh, honey, some people don't have a choice. You know that better than most. And others…well, I think it has more to do with personal demons than anything you've done."

"I miss her, Aunt Kate."

"I know you do, sweetheart."

"I love her."

"I know that too, baby." Kate continued to stroke the ebony hair. "You'll see her again. I truly believe that, one way or another, you'll see her again."

"I hope so," the tall beauty mumbled drowsily as sleep claimed her.

Randi's smile was bittersweet as she recalled that conversation. I'm still waiting, Aunt Kate. Bless your heart. You and Uncle Toby have been great these last few weeks, talking to me about Casey and trying to make me see that it wasn't my fault. You even tried to get me to talk to Amy. But I still can't face her…not yet. Still, I appreciate everything you've been trying to do. The tall woman snorted a laugh. Even all those silly 'chores' you and Toby would think up, just to keep me busy so I wouldn't be lonely or brood too much. I love you guys.

Randi was feeling the first fuzzy edges of sleep surround her when the doorbell rang. What the hell?

Eschewing her robe and slippers, and clad only in her boxers and an old T-shirt that had been cut off at mid-torso, she padded down the hall to the front door and turned on the porch light as she opened the door.

A startled gasp burst from her lips as she beheld the slim, compact figure that had haunted her dreams for months. Megan stood at the rail surrounding the porch, curiously facing the darkened woods instead of the front door where Randi stood.

"Megan?" The tall woman moved to approach her visitor.

"Randi, don't," the strawberry blonde called out, sensing the movement. "Please, just stay right there."

Stung and confused, Randi complied anyway, and backed up into her doorway. "Megan, what ..."

"Please, Randi. There's something I need to say, and I need you to just stand there for a moment and just listen."

"But ..."

"Please, Randi," the young woman's tone was husky and urgent.

"Okay," the brunette reluctantly agreed. "I'll stay right here."

"Thank you," the blonde whispered, taking a deep breath to gather courage, then gritting her teeth against the sharp, sudden pain as her bruised ribs announced their displeasure.

"The first thing I need to do is say I'm sorry. I acted like a total shitheel before I left, and there was absolutely no reason for it."

"I…disappointed you," the tall woman mumbled, still feeling the sting of that evening.

"You protected me," the blonde retorted hotly, hating herself for the anguish and undeserved self-abasement that radiated from the woman behind her. "You prevented me from making a mistake that, as you predicted, I would have regretted in the morning. My behavior that night, and the following day, were inexcusable. Even so, I'm asking your forgiveness. If you don't…if you can't give it, I'll understand. I'll walk away and never bother you again." The writer bowed her head and fought the sobs that struggled to escape. Her post-fight adrenaline rush was fading, and the pain of her injuries was becoming unbearable. She needed to finish this and finish it quickly, while she still had the strength to walk away if Randi rejected her.

Randi was plainly…stunned. The hot tears that gathered in her eyes as the writer spoke now trailed lazily down her cheeks as one of two very large stones was lifted from her heart. "There's nothing to forgive, Megan. Even if there were, I forgave you a long time ago."

Megan felt a sweet pain invade her heart. Of course you would. That's the beauty of you, Randi Oakes. "Thank you," she whispered hoarsely as black spots danced before her eyes. She turned slowly, her tongue felt thick and a subtle roaring filled her ears. "That's good to hear…'cause I think I'm gonna need your hel ..." The word went unfinished as she tumbled headlong into oblivion.

Part 11

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