The characters in the story are a product of my own imagination and hopefully have no resemblance to any living persons. But if it does it is entirely coincidental. Some of the places mentioned are either fictitious and or adapted to suit the plot of the story.
Archiving : This work is copywrited and should not be posted anywhere else without the writer's expressed permission.
Special mention to my beta, rleef.
Feedback: Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated, so feel free to drop a line or two at firstname.lastname@example.org or sent me a friend request on Facebook .
“Oh no, you don't. Do you have any idea who that is?”
“No, but she's gorgeous.”
Mila Hansen shook her head as she watched her friend study the tall blonde woman leaning against the bar. “Please don't go there. I beg you.”
“Why not? Who's she?”
“A bloody health risk, if you ask me.”
Blue eyes swung around to meet hard dark ones. “Do you mean she's …you know?”
“No, but she is definitely a ticking health bomb. That woman has slept with more than half of the women in in the city, Julian.”
Dark eyes hardened even further as Julian Grayson's eyes darkened with obvious interest. “She must be quite good in bed then.”
“For crying out loud. Didn't you hear what I just said?”
“Of course I do.”
“Then stop staring at her before she comes over here.”
“Would it really be so bad if she comes over here? She's magnificent.”
Mila signalled a waitress over. “I would rather you get drunk and end up in someone else's bed. Wade Heller is bad news. Her reputation, when it comes to women, is so bad some even call it evil.”
Julian giggled. “You can be so dramatic, you know. Why, if she's such a womanizer, is she standing alone at the bar? Shouldn't she be surrounded by women?”
“She is not very talkative either. She just locks onto her target and moves in. Many women have tried to hasten the selection process by introducing themselves to her, she ignored them completely. The great Wade Heller prefers to chase down her prey all by her mighty self.”
Mila's eyes narrowed to slits. “What does that mean?”
Julian rolled her eyes. “Just that. She sounds like an interesting woman. What does she do for a living?”
Mila sighed. This was a lost case. She knew Julian since pre-school and once her friend set her mind to something … anything, she wasn't easily distracted. It wasn't going to make a difference anyway. The more she knew about Wade, the more her interest will be piqued. The lesser she know about Wade … well it would have the same effect.
“No one really knows what Wade does. All we know is that she's quite well off.”
She watched as Julian grabbed her beer and drained the bottle. “Well, time to go introduce myself.”
Julian gave her a wide smile before making her way to the bar. Mila lifted her glass and drained the potent mixture. Wade was so out of Julian's league. Her friend had a great personality and all, but she fell way short of the type of women Wade favoured. She helplessly watched as her plump friend made her way towards the greatest heartache she would ever experience.
Julian's heart was racing as she came to stand behind the woman. Wade was incredibly tall, taller than she looked from across the room. Taking a deep breath, she raised her hand and gently tapped the Amazon on her shoulder. The blonde head turned and Julian's lips parted in a tiny gasp as she encountered dark grey eyes. Julian felt herself trip over her heart as she fell deeply into those gorgeous eyes.
“Can I help you,” came a slightly irritated voice.
Julian grinned. “Not really, but I'm here to help you.”
A deep frown pulled twin eyebrows together. Julian let her eyes wander over the beautiful face. She was a true beauty and Julian's eyes touched on the cleft chin and soft lips. She was eager to kiss those lips, but first there was something they had to get out of the way.
“I'm sorry, but if you'll excuse me, I really just came in for a drink and I was hoping to enjoy it in peace.”
Julian saw those fascinating eyes give her a quick once over before they turned away.
“Well, it's a shame.” She tapped on the shoulder again and this time Wade swung around, her eyes flashing in anger. Julian ignored the woman's anger. “Do you want to know why I feel that it's a shame?”
Wade's lips fell open and Julian marvelled at the sight of the woman's pearly whites. They must look spectacular when she smiled.
“Look, lady, I really don't want to be rude or anything, but could you please be so kind and leave me alone?” Wade's voice sounded cold now.
“I'm glad you decided not to be rude, because you would've really regretted it if you were?” Julian kept her voice light and breezy even as her heart raced.
“What the ...” Wade turned away from her and reached for a drink which she downed in one swallow. She blew out a noisy breath before she turned back to her. “Who are you anyway?”
Julian smiled brightly and she could she saw Wade blink at the brilliance of her smile. “Believe it or not, I'm your future wife and the mother of your four children.”
Wade's jaw dropped and Julian giggled at the dumbfounded look on the woman's face. She watched as Wade turned back to the bar and dropped her head on the gleaming surface. Julian giggled some more when a soft moan sounded.
“Whom did I piss off today to deserve this, “Wade mumbled, before lifting her head. “You're crazy.”
Julian shrugged. “Well, remember that you called me crazy when I put you on nappy changing duty for the first month.” She grinned when Wade's face went slack again. “I just thought I should let you know that you've met your soul mate. Just so you can stop looking. I wish you a wonderful evening and will go join my friend now.”
Julian's heart was still racing as she reached the booth where a nervous Mila waited. She'd barely taken her seat when Mila reached over and grabbed her hand.
“What were you thinking? The woman was livid. I could see that even from here.”
Julian spotted a new beer in front of her and took a long draught. “She'll be okay. You should remind me to leave my details with the bartender before we leave.”
“For when Wade tries to look me up, silly.”
Mila swallowed hard. “Did you … Oh my! Did you threaten her or something? Remember I told you we don't know what she does for a living. She could be an assassin or something.”
“No she's not.” Julian watched as Mila tried hard to keep herself from falling apart. “Wade's going to be the mother of my children.”
Julian held Mila's shocked gaze for a long time, before her friend reached out and took the beer from her hand. “I'm taking you home. I think you need to lie down for a while.”
Julian tried to protest, but Mila was stronger and taller.
Wade hissed as the tequila went down. After her interaction with that woman, she needed something stronger to ease her mind off the crazy rambling of the woman. Damn, she didn't even know her name. She quickly shook her head. Why was she even thinking about the woman? She wasn't her type at all.
“You should give her credit for being bold, you know,” a voice said and Wade turned to the bartender. Her eyes narrowed dangerously as she looked at the smiling woman, but refrained from snapping at the woman. She came here often and not once had she given the bartender the idea that she was interested in talking to her or anyone else. She simply came in, got her drink, found a willing woman, and left.
“Another bourbon, please.” She watched as the bartender shrugged and left to fix her drink
Using the mirror behind the bar, she searched the bar for the offending woman, just in time to see her being escorted … no … dragged to the exit by her friend. For a millisecond she felt a spark of anger at the rough way the taller woman handled the small, curvy woman, but the feeling was gone just as quickly. Her drink was placed before her and she smirked as she reached for it. Marriage and children? What the hell was the woman thinking? She drained her glass and threw a hundred dollar bill on the bar. Without a backward glance she left.
It was nippy outside as she pulled on her jacket. She searched her pockets for her car keys and walked over to where the Jaguar was parked.
“Where're you going?”
Wade stopped and looked around. She saw two shapes a few yards away. She continued on to her car, but the next voice made her stop.
“I forgot to give my details to the bartender.”
It was the crazy woman from the bar. Wade smirked. That was her ‘future wife'. Janice will have a great laugh over this.
“Oh puhleeasse! I don't want to burst your bubble here, but Wade Heller does not go for women who look like you.”
Wade reached her car, but stopped herself from deactivating the car alarm. She was eager to hear what her ‘wife' would say to that.
“I don't care, Mila. I know I'm mousy and fat, but I'm not going to let that stand in my way of winning the heart of my dream woman.”
Wade blinked at hearing that. The woman was actually right. She was in fact average looking and a bit too curvy and she was not what she looked for in a woman. She frowned slightly. There is however something rather appealing hearing that she was someone's dream woman. Not that it would ever make her look at the woman as a potential mate. But she couldn't help feeling sorry for the woman to have to be told by her friend that she was unattractive.
“I'm sorry, Julian.” Wade could hear the sincerity in the other woman's voice. “But I would rather be straightforward with you that see you hurt. Wade Heller doesn't deserve the love of someone like you. She's a cold, heartless bitch.”
Wade growled softly. Just when she'd thought the woman had redeemed herself in her eyes with the apology, she had to say that about her.
“I know you're only looking out for me, Mils, and I appreciate it. But Wade is capable of so much love. I think I will be very happy with her. She'll make a great spouse and a wonderful mother.”
Wade felt a strange heat settle in her chest. How could someone who barely knew her say that about her? And with so much conviction? She leaned against the car. What was happening tonight? All she wanted was to get out the house for a while, have a couple of drinks, and leave? Now it feels as if she'd stepped into the twilight zone. She pushed away from the car. She needed to be in the sanctuary of her home. Before she could press the key fob, the other woman spoke.
“Okay, I'll wait out here for you. Go leave your details with the bartender. Maybe by some strange act of fate, Wade might come look for your details.”
Wade's mouth fell open in a surprised smile. The woman was really bold to expect her to come back and look for her. Maybe … no, no, no! She didn't need this. She pressed the key fob. As she steered her car out of the parking bay, she saw a short figure rushing towards the bar. She shook her head as she drove off. Crazy woman!
Mila grinned as she looked at her friend lying flat on the floor of the gym's locker room. She wished she had the same determination as Julian when she found her Miss Right one day. Six weeks have passed and still there was no word from Wade Heller.
But Julian wasn't giving up on her dream of marrying the woman and bearing her children. She was firm in her belief that Wade would be calling soon and begun making radical changes in her lifestyle. One of these changes was the reason why Julian was lying on the locker room floor.
After an hour on the treadmill Julian was a quaking mess. For as long as she knew Julian, her friend abhorred exercising. About three days after meeting Wade, the brunette decided that it was time to shed a few kilos and adjust her diet so she was healthy and looking good when Wade called. Even if Wade never calls and as much as it might hurt Julian in the end, she was happy that her friend was taking an active interest in her appearance. If Wade bloody Heller was stupid enough not to realize what a great catch Julian was, someone else will.
“How long are you going to hug the floor, shorty?”
Julia groaned. “Until my legs stop shaking.”
“Well, they will stop if you keep the muscles warm.” She leaned down. “Come on, up you go. You'll have to keep on moving or you'll get a cramp.”
Mila bit her lip to stop herself from laughing as Julian wobbly walked up and down to loosen her muscles. She studied her friend closely and nodded to herself. Julian really looked good. It was going to take a while before she reached her ideal weight, but the other changes she'd done so far was a great change. She had dyed her hair a darker brown and cut it shorter so it curled around her ears. She began wearing light make up which highlighted her soft blue eyes and accentuated her high cheekbones. Julian will never be a raving beauty, but she had a gentle, classic look which was quite alluring. She had caught some of the men in the gym throwing appreciative looks her way too. Wade Heller would really be a fool if she turned her friend down. She caught Julian looking back at her.
“You must really think I'm crazy for doing this.”
There was a hint of resignation in Julian's voice and Mila sat up straighter. Julian had been so unwavering in her belief that it was unsettling to hear the doubt in her friend's voice.
“No, I don't. On the contrary, I admire you a lot,” she said softly. She waved Julian over to her and pulled her onto her lap. “You're my idol.”
Julian rested her head on Mila's shoulder. “But she hasn't called. It's been six weeks.”
“She will.” If she knew what was good for her, Mila added silently. “We've come so far and it would be a shame to give up on her now.”
Mila smiled when Julian pulled her head back so they could make eye contact. “You don't even like her.”
“I know, but if she's going to be your wife then I will have to get along with her. She will be the mother of my godchildren after all.” Mila was rewarded with a big smile and a warm kiss on the cheek. “Don't give up now.”
Julian jumped off Mila's lap. “You're the best, Mils. Thank you. Now let's hit the showers and then I'll stick you for lunch at that new Italian place.”
Mila's eyebrows rose slightly. “Isn't that out of your prize range, shorty?”
Julian laughed. “Keep up with the short jokes and you'll have to be happy with a hotdog.”
Mila held up her hand in surrender. “No more short jokes … for today.”
Julian grinned at her she headed for the showers.
A thick manila envelope landed on the desk, causing Wade to quickly look up from her laptop. A tall slender woman leaned with her hip against the desk.
“The edits are backs. A soft copy has been mailed also.”
Wade removed her glasses and reached for the envelope. “Have you gone through them?”
“Yes and no.” Wade frowned at the answer. “I've scanned through them.”
Wade tossed the glasses on the desk. “And?”
Janice Keppler was her best friend and agent, but the woman could be so exasperating at times.
“I've read the first four chapters and I must say that I like the changes, but would like to know what you think.”
Wade rolled her shoulders to loosen them. “I will get to it over the weekend.” She picked up her glasses and read over the last paragraph she'd been working on. She felt Janice's gaze on her and glanced up. Janice had a pensive look in her eyes. “Anything else you'd like to share?”
Janice pursed her lips. “Yes, there's something that I wanted to ask you.”
Wade sat back in her chair. “Ask away.”
“I've noticed that you've experimented with a new character this time. Even your storyline is softer than usual.”
Wade shrugged. “You've noticed.”
“Yep, I did.” Janice cocked her head to the side. “Are you all right?”
Wade chuckled. “Because I'm experimenting with a new style, there should be something wrong with me? Come on, Jan, what is it you want to really ask me?”
Janice took a deep breath. “It's probably none of my business, but you're different.” Wade opened her mouth, but Janice held up her hand. “You haven't gone out in the past few weeks, nor did you have any women over. Your writing style's different and your new main character is not as hard-assed as your others. Yes, I think something's amiss.”
The computer beeped and Wade saw the mail icon flashing. It was probably from the publishers. She pushed back from the desk and came to her feet. Janice was a little melodramatic about all this, but she was right. She doesn't know how it happened but her svelte gorgeous main character inexplicably morphed into a short plus framed brunette. As soon as she submitted the manuscript she knew that Janice would notice. She had mentioned Julian to Janice, but never really gave a description or anything.
“When you say my writing style's different, is it different bad or different good?”
Janice smiled. “It's different good. As hot and sexy as your love scenes are the scenes in this new book are gentler and I can't help but think that your characters are making love as opposed to the others having sex.”
Wade's eyes dropped. That was more than she cared to know. The story idea just popped up a few days after her visit to the bar and she allowed her muse free rein even as she gradually became aware that the story was taking a totally new direction from her usual style. What Janice said was disturbing. She had thought about Julian over the past weeks, but never in a sexual way. She admired the woman's confidence and in pursuing her like that, but she had never once felt an attraction to the woman. She refused to believe she was so shallow that a few extra pounds on a woman's body would turn her off. Yes, she liked her woman slender and beautiful, but that was simply a personal preference … she hoped. Julian was the total opposite. She was short; some would call her squat, with brown hair and blue eyes. She was really ordinary looking. She looked at Janice.
“Who is she, Wade? I can't help but feel a certain intimacy in how you write about her.” Janice's eyes were sharp. “You know, all this will be new to your fans. They might not like the character. It's hard to take criticism, but it might be even harder to process if the character is actually based on someone you know and …” Janice rolled her eyes slightly, “…love.”
“Who said anything about love, Jan? And what's with the eye roll?” Wade tried hard not to sound defensive, but still the words came out harsher that she'd intended.
“Ok, love is maybe not the right word to use, but I can tell that you like the woman. Do I know her?”
“No.” From the look on Janice's face, Wade knew that Janice realized that she wasn't going to get more out of her. The redhead nodded and shrugged.
“At least I know it's not someone you've screwed. You'd have to be pretty drunk to take someone like that to bed.”
Wade didn't know she was in motion until she came to a stop before a startled Janice. “She's a nobody, okay. Even then, I don't think you have the right to judge her.”
Janice's mouth opened then close and opened again. In the end she settled for a brisk nod. Wade moved away, her body trembling as shock set in. She had just defended a strange woman, someone she wasn't even attracted to. She took a deep breath.
“I'm sorry, Jan. I think I'll take a short break now, maybe I'll go lie down or something”
“Yes, you look a bit tense.”
Wade left the room and made for the stairs. She needed time alone to think about what just happened. She glanced down the hallway and scowled when her eyes fell on the hallway table.
Julian stared at the phone wondering whom to call. She was meeting Mila for dinner tonight so she would tell her the good news then. But that still left her with someone she needed to tell now before she burst. She picked up the receiver. Maybe her mom was home. She hasn't been in touch with her mom as often as she wanted to. It was a shame, considering they lived in the same city. It's just that work commitments have reduced their contact to a few short calls twice a week. She punched in the numbers and waited. With her heart sinking, she was just about to hang up when her mother's out of breath voice sounded on the other side of the line.
“Hi, honey. Is everything alright?”
“Everything's fine. How's work, mom.”
Beth was a nurse and worked in a private practice. She was one of the most dedicated nurses Julian knew. She had received many commendations from patients and family members alike for her devotion towards her profession.
“Busy, but fun, dear. And you?”
“I got a promotion today, mom.” Even if she tried, she couldn't keep her excitement inside any longer.
Beth Jones squealed on the other side of the line. “Oh, baby, I'm so proud of you. Tell me more.”
“I've been helping out another girl in editorial with a manuscript and the bosses seemed to like what I did. They've asked me to join the team.” Julian took a deep breath. “I said yes, so starting next week, I'm moving from Archives to Editorial.”
“I take it the author was happy too.”
“I guess, because I haven't received any negative feedback regarding the manuscript.”
“This calls for a celebration. What do you say you come over for lunch tomorrow and we talk some more. It's been almost two months since I last saw my baby.”
Julian was again overwhelmed by guilt. “That's a great idea, mom. I will be there.”
“Oh and before I forget, Lillian is coming down for the weekend, she's bringing a girlfriend with her.”
Julian blinked. Should she warn her mom or should she just stay out of it? She didn't want to tangle with Lillian. It was sometimes hard to believe that they were sisters. Lillian hated her guts and Julian has learned to steer clear of her waspy sister.
“Oh, that sounds good.”
Beth chuckled softly. “I know she's giving you a hard time, sweetie, and I know you'd rather be somewhere else but here with her. But I would love to see you.”
“I will be there, mom.” Nothing was going to keep her from witnessing Lillian's coming out. She remembered how confusing it was for her to have her gaydar going off around her presumably straight, cheerleading, football- captain- dating sister. When she finally came out to her mom in high school, it was Lillian who was disgusted by the idea and also the one who refused to be seen in public with a dyke. It has hurt a lot, but her mother's understanding and acceptance was all that had mattered in the end.
“Thank you, honey. I love you and see you tomorrow.”
“See you then, mom. Love you too. Bye.”
Julian shuddered as she hung up. Lillian! Yikes.
There was knock on her office door and she called for the person to enter. It was Grace, one of the Archive assistants.
“We've decided that since it's your last day here with us, we should take you out for lunch. What do you say?”
“I'm not stupid to say no to free food, Gracie dear. Where're we going?”
“You decide. We'll all meet at the elevator at twelve. Oh, so you know, we've cleared this with the bosses. They understand that we want to say goodbye to you.”
Julian punched the air. “So if means that we have the rest of the day off then?”
Grace shrugged. “I guess, but Brad and Lionel are staying behind to keep the fort. They are planning a fishing trip for the weekend after next and we agreed to cover for them when they leave.”
“Ah, I'm going to miss you guys.”
Grace scrunched up her face. “Please, none of that. We are still going to be in the same building. I can't believe that we'll have to break in another boss when you leave, but we'll talk about it over lunch.”
The door closed behind Grace and Julian leaned back in her chair, smiling. She was going to miss them. In the eight years as Head Archivist for Sage Publishers, she'd built a great rapport with her staff. They worked together like a well-oiled machine and she was going to miss that amongst many other things. Macy, the girl whom she had helped with the manuscript, told her that Editorial was a great place to work, if one ignored the office politics. She hated such undercurrents, but the offer was too great pass up. Grace was right, they were still in the same building and she could always come down to the archives to have lunch. Her phone rang and she reached for the receiver.
“Hello.” All she heard was the dial tone and with a softly uttered curse replaced the receiver and dug into her shirt pocket for her cell phone.
“Hello. Am I speaking to Julian Jones?”
Julian raked her mind as she tried to place the voice but came up with no matches.
“Yes. Who's speaking?”
There was short silence. “It's Wade Heller.”
She blinked as she pulled the cell phone from her ear to stare at it.
Wade held her breath as the silence on the other side of the line stretched. For a few moments she doubted her impulsiveness. When she'd left the study earlier after her interaction with Janice, she'd been strangely drawn to the hallway table where her car keys lay. Without a second thought she'd drove to the bar. Since it was still early the place was empty except for the bartender barking out orders to a group of handymen working behind the DJ booth. She steeled her resolve as she approached the woman, only to have the woman turn away from her. When she turned back, she had a slip of paper in her hand and an amused grin on her face.
“She said you‘d be back for this.” She held out the paper. “I didn't believe her, but here you are.”
Wade took the paper. “Thank you.” She turned to leave.
“Just so you know. We also host engagement parties, weddings, baptisms, and other stuff here.”
Wade turned to look at the woman and was met by a huge grin. She shook her head and made for the door, but not fast enough. The bartender spoke again.
“Good luck with the nappy changing duty.”
When she came home, she'd sat behind her laptop staring at the slip of paper. After two cups of coffee, she'd decided to call. With the silence still stretching, she wondered if maybe she should just hang up.
“For taking your own sweet time contacting me, I think I will punish you with another month of nappy duty.”
Wade was relieved to have the silence broken and then the words settled in. Two months of nappy duty? Yeah right. We'll see.
“I got your details from …”
“Fin at the bar. I left it there for you.”
Damn! There goes her intro. What to say next? She decided to get answers for the many questions she had.
“How did you know I would go back there to find you?”
“I don't know. I guess I just knew you would.”
Wade grinned at that. “I still don't understand.”
“Yes, me neither. This soul mate stuff is so vague at times it becomes very complicated.”
Soul mates? The woman was quite sure of herself. She ignored the remark.
“How have you been?”
A soft sigh sounded. “Nervous that you might not call.”
“But I thought you knew I would call. You were so confident.”
Julian soft laugher floated from the other side of the line. “I'm crazy about you and all, but I still can't predict your moves. I need a few days with you before I can do that.”
Wade's jaw dropped. She's crazy about me without even knowing me? She cradled the phone closer to her ear. Maybe she'd heard wrong.
“You're crazy about me? But you don't even know me.”
“I know. Weird, isn't it?”
Wade took a deep breath. “It is strange.”
There was a short silence. “I want to know exactly why you called.”
Wade rubbed her forehead as she looked around her study. “I wanted to know if you would like to go to dinner.”
“Yes, dinner,” Wade said quickly. The silence on the other side of the line was unsettling. Come on, woman, Say yes. If we are going to have children together we should start somewhere.
“I have a better idea. How about I take you to lunch tomorrow?” Julian giggled. “I can assure you it will be very entertaining.”
“Where are you taking me,” Wade asked with a scowl. It was not every day that she had to relinquish control in a relationship. Women usually jumped to attention when she glanced their way.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…No need to sound so sour, honey. You can take me to dinner later, if you like.”
Grey eyes widened as Wade stared at the receiver. What gave away her annoyance? It's not as if the woman could see her.
“I'm not sour,” she mumbled.
“Yes, you are. You love to be in control that I know for sure. But as I said, you can still take me out to dinner.” Julian cleared her throat softly. “You want to come with me?”
Wade grinned at the unexpected uncertainty in Julian's voice. The woman had been so confident all this time that Wade actually doubted if she had any doubt about them getting together. Julian was also clever to realize her need for control thus the sudden vulnerability.
“Do you want me to pick you up?”
She heard a soft exhale over the line and smiled.
“Do you have a pen nearby? I would like it if you would meet me there.”
“A daiquiri for me please.”
“I'll have the same,” Mila said and sat back to look at a glowing Julian. “Well, have you swallowed the sun or what?”
Julian grinned. “Do you want to hear the good news or the great news first?”
Mila's eyebrows shot up. “No bad news?”
“Okaaay…uhm…the good news then.”
“I got promoted. I'm starting in the editorial department on Monday.”
Mila leaned over the table to draw her best friend into a hug. “That's great news, shrimp. I'm proud of you. I didn't know you were not happy down in the dungeon anymore.”
“I was.” Before Julian could elaborate anymore the waiter arrived with their drinks. When he'd left she reached for her drink. “To new opportunities.”
Mila lifted her glass. “To new opportunities.”
After they'd taken a sip, Julian inhaled deeply. “I was very happy in the dungeon and to be honest I wouldn't have left if this new position hadn't come with such great perks.”
“Buckets of money and stuff?”
“Not that much,” Julian said with a laugh. “But I'll be meeting with some of the authors. Isn't that cool?”
Mila smiled. Julian's a bookworm, had been for as long as she can remember. It would definitely be a perk for her to finally meet and drool on her favourite writers. “I'm happy for you, girl. You didn't tell me how you managed to get a position on the editorial team?”
“Macy asked me to help her out with a new manuscript. She mentioned to the bosses that I helped. They were impressed and offered me a position.”
Mila beamed at Julian. “Great job, Julie. I know how difficult it is to impress that sour-faced boss of yours.” She lifted her glass in a silent salute and took a long sip. “You said you had more good news?”
“Great news,” Julian said with a wide smile.
“O…K. Well, let me hear it then.”
“Wade called me today and asked me out.”
Julian quickly put her glass down before it slipped out of her hand. She blinked at a beaming Julian. “Are you serious?”
“Yep. She called after she got my details from the Fin and she asked to take me to dinner.”
Mila shook her head as her lips pulled into a wide smile. “I can't believe this. She actually called. Wow! Are you going out with her?”
Julian rolled her eyes. “Duh! We're going for lunch at my mom's tomorrow.”
“You're a fast mover, shrimp.”
Julian's eyes were focused on the menu before her. “We're not getting any younger and I promised her four kids.”
“Are you serious about that, Julie? I mean you're not just infatuated with her and when you find out she's some rich snob you're going to lose interest?”
Julian folded the menu and put it aside. When her eyes met Mila's, they were very serious. “I want to spend the rest of my life with that woman.”
Mila had to try hard not to squirm under the intense look. “Will I be the godmother of all four?”
The blue eyes lost their intensity as amusement washed over them. “If you want. I'll talk to Wade.”
They grinned at each other. Mila took a sip of her drink and studied Julian over the rim. She looked happy, really happy for first time in a very long time. She prayed Wade didn't break Julian's heart, because nothing would keep that woman safe from her wrath.
“So, what you gonna have? I heard their salmon ceviche is absolutely divine.”
With a shaking hand, Julian reached for the doorknob. She inhaled deeply. She was twenty seven years old, had a good paying job and her own friends, but the thought of Lillian still freaked her out. What a loser she was to be scared of her own sister.
No, she corrected herself. Her demon sister.
High school was hell for her. It was probably hell for any overweight child with pimples, but for her it was worse. Lillian made sure about that.
She took a long steady breath and turned the doorknob. There was no one in the den, but she could hear voices coming from the kitchen. She dropped her car keys and her shades on the hallway table and shrugged out of her light jacket.
“Hi, honey,” her mother gave her a tight squeeze and looked down into her eyes. Marion Jones was still gorgeous and for the umpteenth time she wondered why her mother never remarried after she divorced from her father ten years ago. Whereas she was short, squat and tolerably attractive, Marion was tall and blond with twinkling blue eyes. At least she inherited the blue yes, but further on she was her father's daughter.
Dave Jones was not an attractive man and as she grew older she too wondered how her mother with her supermodel good looks could have fallen for such a nondescript man. They didn't even seem to have been in love. At the best she would say they interacted more like friends, good friends. Thus the divorce was not unexpected but still shocking. Her parents had sat them both down and told them how they had been growing apart with the kids out of the house. Their work commitments had taken more prominence aiding the estrangement. Their father requested a transfer and moved away soon after the divorce. He still came by now and then to see her, since Lillian lived in the same city as him.
“Honey, are you working out? You look great.” Marion's hands were all over her, circling her biceps and stroking over her tummy. “You really look good.”
“Thanks, mom, you look good as always.” Julian brushed a kiss over her mother's cheek. “I love the haircut.”
Her mother tossed her hair to the side. “I love how light it makes me feel … and sexy.”
Julian chuckled at the faint blush on her mother's cheek. “You are a gorgeous woman. And I think you look really hot with this new hairstyle.”
“Thank you, baby,” Marion crooned and pinched Julian's cheek just like she did when Julian was a child. “Now, I want to hear all about this promotion,”
Julian let herself be dragged to the kitchen. As soon as she entered her eyes fell on Lillian. She felt her stomach lurch at the familiar fear she felt when she had to face her sister. Lillian was older by two years and had inherited her mother's good looks. But whereas her mother's blonde good looks enhanced her fun, playful nature, they made Lillian look arrogant and cold.
“Hi, Lillian,” she muttered as she stepped deeper into the kitchen. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw how tense her mother was as she looked between the two of them.
“Julian,” Lillian acknowledged her greeting, her cold blue eyes raking over her. Julian couldn't shake the feeling of being sized up by a rattler. “Let me introduce you to my friend.” Julian's eyes fell on the brunette who sat at the island, a glass of red wine before her. “Valery this is my younger sister, Julian. Julian meet Valery. As you can see we don't even look related.”
Julian ignored the barb and blinked at the woman as she came to her feet. The woman was tall, dark, and unbelievably gorgeous. Her face split into a smile as she stuck out her hand.
“Hi, Julian, it's a pleasure to meet you,” she said warmly and engulfed Julian's hand in a firm handshake.
“Nice to meet you too, Valery.”
They shared a smiled before Valery returned to her seat. Julian turned to her mother. “Do you need help with anything, mom?”
“Could you take the rolls out of the oven for me, please?” Marion said as she turned back to stirring the sauce. “After that I would like it if you could come and taste the sauce. I think something's missing.”
As she turned away from the oven, it struck her that she hasn't told her mother about Wade coming by. Before she could say something, Valery spoke.
“Your mother told me earlier that you are quite the cook, Julian. I wished I could do more than make Ramen noodles. ”
Julian grinned and opened her mouth to speak when Lillian snorted.
“Julian loves food in general and her body shape attests to that fact.”
The kitchen fell quiet. Marion was glaring at Lillian while Valery just looked down into her glass, obviously uncomfortable. Julian shrugged as she placed the rolls in the breadbasket.
“Lillian is right,” she said looking up from her task. Lillian's eyes narrowed slightly, a sign that she was surprised. She swung her eyes to Valery. “I love food in general, but I find the preparation very therapeutic too. I guess I just like the way how everything starts off raw and bland and ends up in a perfect masterpiece.”
Valery's dark eyes twinkled. “I can't even talk food the way you do. It just shows you how hopeless I am.”
She could feel Lillian's eyes boring into hers as she set the breadbasket aside and went to join her mother at the stove. “I don't think you are completely hopeless, Valery. The trick is just to cook whatever you are good at cooking, with as much heart as possible.” Marion held the wooden spoon out to her and Julian took a quick taste. “Wow, this is delicious, mom.”
Marion smiled obviously thrilled at the compliment. “I still think something's missing though. Try some Valery and tell me.”
Valery leaned came over to the stove and took a taste. “You're right, Julian. This is really, really good, Marion.” Valery smacked her lips together. “Sadly, I have no idea what's missing. All I know is that I can't wait for lunch.”
Marion grinned at Valery and Julian could see that her mother truly liked the younger woman. Valery was very likable and Julian couldn't help but wonder what a warm, loving woman like her was doing with someone like Lillian. She lifted her gaze to Lillian and hid a shudder when she encountered her sister's frosty gaze. Holding her gaze, Lillian lifted her glass to her lips. Marion and Valery were still chatting and missed the look the sisters shared. Lillian was being stupid. Lillian hated her passionately, seemingly just because Julian breathed the same air as she did. But now Lillian was jealous of the attention she was giving Valery. It was time to put space between her and the beautiful brunette before Lillian turned her into an ice statue with her wintry glares.
She left the kitchen, thinking that since lunch was almost ready, she could set the table. Oh man, Wade! She turned back to enter the kitchen so she could tell her mother, when she walked into Lillian. The blonde look down at her from her considerable height, pure disdain in her eyes.
“What do you think you're doing?”
Julian shook her head. “I don't know what you mean.”
Lillian leaned closer, so close that Julian could smell the wine on her breath. “Are you actually flirting with Valery? Because if you are, I have to warn you that you're not her type at all. You are way out of your league here, troll princess.”
Julian felt her anger stir at hearing that hated nickname that Lillian tortured her with as a child. “I'm not flirting with her. What's wrong with you anyway?”
“You're what's wrong with me,” Lillian sneered. “I just wish you would just drop that miss goody two shoes act you've been trying to pull since we were children.”
She blinked in shock at the unexpected revelation. So that was why Lillian hated her. Finally. Maybe they could try and salvage something or whatever is left of their relationship if they could come to the bottom of this.
“What do you mean by that, Lillian,” Julian kept her voice deliberately even. Lillian was a psychologist and would pounce on anything she could use to her advantage to drive Julian into a corner. As a child Lillian was good at doing that. As a fully trained psychologist, she was deadly. Julian still had mental scars from the last time Lillian had lashed out at her. That was the main reason why they try to keep their meetings as few and far apart as possible.
“As if you don't know,” Lillian snapped, her eyes darkening, causing Julian to take a small step backwards. Lillian was very unpredictable. She had never lifted her hand to her, but Julian wasn't going to take the chance. “But let me make it clear to you that you're going to stay away from Valery. If I catch you even looking her way inappropriately I will—"
“What are you going to do, Lillian?”
Both Julian and Lillian swung around to find Valery standing there. The brunette was angry, her cheeks slightly flushed and her eyes fixed on Lillian. Julian looked at Lillian and found her sister looking back at Valery with a look akin to horror.
“Uh… Val … It's not what you think,” Lillian began, but Valery held up her hand.
“I'm not a fool, Lillian.”
Lillian did a great imitation of a fish out of water as she searched for words. Julian swallowed and turned back to Valery just as their mother came up behind the brunette.
“What's going on here,” she asked as looked from Julian to Lillian. “Are you two fighting again?”
“I'm sorry, mom,” Julian said softly, pained by the disappointment she saw in her mother's eyes.
“That's what I'm talking about,” Lillian sneered. “You always try to find ways of putting me in a bad light.”
Julian rolled her eyes. “What now?”
“You are such a pretender. Why don't you tell mom how you've been drooling over Valery since the moment you laid eyes on her? You pervert.”
Suddenly Julian just deflated. She looked up into Lillian's cold eyes. “Why don't you just come out and tell her?”
“Tell who,” Marion and Valery said at the same time.
Julian saw a warning look come into Lillian's eyes. “I don't know what you're talking about.”
“Yes, you do, Lillian. Come clean for once, maybe then you and I will be able to save our relationship.”
“You are delusional.”
“If you don't tell her I will, because I'm tired of you picking on me because you can't come to terms with who you really are.” Julian stiffened when Lillian's hands curled into fists. Did she go too far this time? The doorbell rang, but the tension in the dining room was so thick, no one dared move. “Are you going to tell Mom?”
“Don't push me on this,” Lillian said in an eerily quiet voice causing Julian to swallow hard. She had come too far to turn around now. She cleared her throat, her eyes holding Lillian's.
“I will never find peace from you unless I do this. Mom, Lillian's gay.” There she'd said it. Now to see what … Pain exploded in her head as she crumbled to the floor. Her mouth filled with blood where she must've bit her tongue. With a hand cradling her throbbing cheek, she looked up at a stunned Lillian.
Both Marion and Valery rushed to her side. A dark blur rushed by her and Julian watched through tearing eyes as Lillian's arm was pulled back and curled upwards behind her back. She watched the interaction between Lillian and whoever had her screaming out in pain with emotional detachment. It was only when the larger woman spoke, that she was shocked out of her daze.
“Who the hell are you to hit her?” Wade growled. “I feel like snapping your bloody arm for—"
“Wade,” she called out and the woman pushed Lillian away from her and came to kneel before her.
“Oh, baby, I'm sorry I came late. I'm so sorry I wasn't here to stop her,” Wade murmured softly as she cradled Julian's face in her hands. “You are bleeding. Looks like you've bit your tongue. Let me take you to the bathroom.”
Marion came to her feet and took her hand, pulling Julian to her. “Come, honey, let's go see what we can do about that.” Marion led her to the door.
Julian turned back to look at Wade. “I'm okay, Wade. Just don't hurt her. She's my sister.”
Wade was shaking with anger as she turned to face the blonde, who sat that table cradling her injured hand. The woman avoided her eyes.
“You should thank your lucky stars you're her sister because I would've broken both your arms without feeling the tiniest bit of remorse.”
She turned to the familiar voice and frowned. “Val? What are you doing here?”
Valery came over and gave her a hug. “I am … no …” Valery threw a poisonous look at the blonde woman. “I was going to be the Jones' guest for the weekend.”
The blonde looked up at hearing that. “Valery … please.”
“No, Lillian, I can't excuse your boorish behaviour today. You tried to belittle your sister every chance you got and without any provocation.”
“But she had no right telling my mother. I guess I just snapped and …”
Wade's gaze moved between the two women.
“I knew you were gay, Lillian.” Wade saw the blonde's eyes widened in shock. “I knew and I sought you out because I wanted to get to know you better. I was warned that you were a little cold, but what I saw today …” Valery's voice trailed off.
The blonde came to her feet. She gave Wade a wary look. “Can't we talk about this? I really don't want to lose you.” Lillian's voice was pleading. “Please give me another chance to prove myself.”
Wade averted her eyes. Lillian looked like a proud woman and for her to be begging like this was something Wade wouldn't have wanted to see. She never really had to do that before, but she wasn't stupid to think she might not in future have to plead her way out of a tight situation.
“I will think about it,” Valery said finally. “But I would rather not spend the weekend here. I want you take this time to think about how you treat your family and to make peace with the fact that you're gay. I'm not going back into the closet for anyone, Lillian.” She turned to Wade and writer smiled.
“You can stay at my place.”
“Thank you. You're a lifesaver. Let me go get us something to drink.”
Valery left the dining room and Wade looked at the blonde, who kept throwing wary looks at her. It felt strangely sad to see her so defeated. Then it struck her. Lillian reminded her of herself. The misplaced pride and the aloofness was nothing new to her. She applied them indiscriminately. Julian managed to make her want to change. In the past six weeks since she'd last seen Julian, she had done a lot of soul searching. What she found out about herself was disturbing and what she found she wanted to achieve in life, was surprising. Julian set it off and she prayed Julian will be there to help her through all these changes she's considering. But one thing had to be made clear. Her eyes hardened.
“That was last time you lift your hand to Julian. I promise you'll rue the day you were born if you try it again.”
The blonde sighed. “I didn't mean to hurt her. It … it just happened and …” Lillian's voice broke. “I'm so sorry.”
“You're telling it to wrong person.” She wasn't going to make it easy for Lillian. She still saw the way Julian had been flung to the floor, her eyes wild and fearful as she looked at Lillian. If she'd been just one minute earlier, she could've prevented it. On her way here, she was held up by a fender bender and then she'd rung the doorbell and no one answered.
Valery entered the dining room with three glasses and a bottle of wine. She poured them each a glass and distributed it and waved Wade to a chair. Wade noticed that Valery took the chair closest to the blonde. Maybe there was some hope for the blonde after all.
“So, the hotshot, bestselling writer finally met her match, hey?” Valery teased. “I never thought you would actually date again, you know. Julian must be an extraordinary woman. From what I've seen of her I can't wait to learn more about her.”
Wade bit her lower lip, before a silly grin spread over her face. “Me too. She's really brave and funny and warm. She's simply … unbelievable.” Wade took a sip from her wine to hide the blush that resulted from her somewhat juvenile ranting over a girl.
Valery's face held a feint trace of surprise. “It sounds serious.”
“It is.” She looked at the blonde. “She'll be the mother of my children one day.” She hoped the woman caught the last and final warning. Julian was important to her and she wasn't kidding when it comes to her. The blonde was clearly amazed at the revelation. Wade saw her drain her glass before she stood and walked out of the room.
She looked at Valery. “Do you think this is a good idea, Val? She seems to have a lot of baggage.”
Valery smiled. “I would not want her to know just yet, but I'm already in love with her and I think she could make me happy.”
“I hope it works out for you.”
“I hope so too.”
Julian heard footsteps coming towards the bathroom and after a few moments Lillian's reflection appeared in the mirror. Julian stiffened immediately and lowered her eyes as she waited for her mother to dab away the blood from her mouth. Marion stopped her task.
“Not now, Lillian,” she said in a warning tone. Lillian held up her hand.
“I wanted to apologise for my behaviour, mom. I acted like a …” Julian looked up and saw Lillian's eyes shoot full of tears. “I didn't mean to do it and I'm so sorry for the pain and the embarrassment I caused you through my actions.”
Teary blue eyes turned to catch her own and Julian nervously wretched her hands.
“No words will ever be enough to tell you how sorry I am for having struck you. You didn't deserve that.” Lillian stopped and lowered her eyes. “The truth is that I've always envied you. I have always been the cute kid, but you were the nice kid. All I had to offer was my looks, but you had the personality. You drew people to you in droves.”
Lillian lifted her head and Julian watched has two tears ran down her cheek. “I found out very early that I liked women, but being who I was back then and the position I held as the cheerleading captain. I couldn't do anything about it …I was too scared of being ostracized.” She reached up and wiped the tears away, but two new ones took their place. “But you …you became even more popular when you came out. I grew bitter watching you live your life as an out lesbian while I stood on the side lines yearning to be in your shoes for just one day.”
Julian pulled away from her mother and came to stand in front of Lillian. She wished she could give Lillian a hug, but they haven't touched each other in almost twenty years and she was scared she might make Lillian uncomfortable.
“I didn't know, Lil,” Julian said. “I never even considered that. I thought you were ashamed of me because I was gay. When I finally realized that you were gay too, I thought you hated me even more because you couldn't accept that you had become the one thing you hated the most about me”.
Lillian's hand lifted and Julian flinched. The blue eyes became sad. “I will never hurt you like this ever again.” She gave a weak smile. “That line backer girlfriend of yours promised to break every bone in my body if I ever lift my hand for you again. And I believe that wasn't an idle threat.”
Julian chuckled. “I think so too. I have no idea what she does for a living. Some people actually speculate that she might be a contract killer. She's apparently stinking rich.”
“She's a writer.”
Julian's mouth fell open. “Are you serious? How do you know that?”
“She and Valery know each other.”
Julian jumped when a hand fell on her shoulder from behind. Marion's face was wet with tears as she looked at her two daughters. “Do you have any idea how happy I am right now?” She pulled them each into a hug, “Now let's go eat before the food gets spoilt.”
They filed out of the bathroom and to the dining room. The moment Wade's eyes fell on her the woman sprung to her feet. Standing before each other for the first time in six weeks again, they were both suddenly shy. It was Wade who broke the silence.
“Are you okay? Is there something I can do?”
Julian reached out to the handsome face and stroked Wade's cheek. “You are off nappy duty until further notice. Thank you for being here with me today.”
Wade turned her head and Julian took a shaky breath when soft lips caressed her palm. “I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
Julian's hand curled behind the dark head and she pulled Wade down for a kiss. The moment their lips met, they both sighed softly. Wade pulled away and Julian searched her eyes.
“I think I got used to thinking of myself as being the official nappy changer.”
“That just won you another kiss.”
This time the kiss was deeper and longer and left them both breathless afterwards.
“So I hear you're a writer. I expect to hear the whole story later. “
Four years later….
The doorbell sounded and Julian looked up from where she was busy breastfeeding her four month old son. Wade was in her study and would get the door. When the bell sounded again, she frowned and looked at the baby. He was very close to dozing off.
Where was Wade? She didn't mention that she was going to go out. The staff has been given the weekend off too.
She lay the dozing baby down on her lap and buttoned herself up. With him cradled in her arms she took the stairs down to the front door. Just as she reached the door, the doorbell sounded again. She threw a worried look at the baby to see if the ringing had disturbed his sleep. Nope. He was definitely Wade's son. The boy, just like his other mother, could sleep through a rock concert.
She pulled the door open and blinked when she saw nobody there. She felt a tug on her pants and stifled a scream as she jumped back. Looking down, she gaped at the sight of her thirty month old son. His face was lit up by a huge smile. Julian lifted her head and scanned the area. Where was Wade? She should be close by. There was no way that Danté could have reached the doorbell.
She scanned the area one last time. “What are you doing out here, honey?” She took his hand and pulled him into the house.
What was Wade up to? She had found out quite early in their relationship that the writer was very playful and loved playing pranks on her. But leaving their son on the doorstep was a bit too much. She closed the door behind her and looked down at her beaming son.
“What are you and your crazy mother up to, son?” she asked as she ruffled his dark hair. At least he looked as if he was okay. “Come on; let's go put Byron to bed. Who knows maybe you would also like to take a power nap too.”
Danté grabbed his mother's hand and all but drag her up the stairs. They were not allowed up the stairs unless under supervision. She quickly put the baby down to sleep and turned to Danté.
“Would you like to take a short nap too, honey?”
The boy didn't look up from the fire engine he was playing with. “Grammy.”
Marion? What did her mother have to do with his decision on whether he should take a nap or not.
“What about Grammy?”
He didn't answer.
“OK. Maybe I should just take you to your bed and see what happens.” She carried him to his bed. “Would you like to hear a story?”
She ruffled his hair again and reached for the book on his nightstand. Barely twenty minutes later, his eyelids begun to droop. She closed the book and gently caressed his cheek. She gave him a kiss when she was sure he was fast asleep and went to see if the baby monitor was turned on. At the door she turned to look back at her boys. She noticed a small square peeking out of back pocket of Dante's jeans. She went to investigate and frowned as she looked at the small envelope.
She suddenly gasped. Today was Valentine's Day. Wade ! She quickly opened the envelope and read the note.
She made a quick dash for the door only to run into wife. She immediately pulled Wade into her arms.
“Oh baby, I only saw the note now.”
“I suspected as much when you didn't pitch. I take it Danté forgot all about the note with the directions.” Julian nodded and Wade leaned down and gave her a warm kiss. “We'll get it right next year, you'll see.”
Julian smiled up into her wife's face. She was happy, really happy for the first time in her life. After a year of working as an editor she was eager to give motherhood a try. The company was sad to see her go, but made her promise to come back when she felt she was ready again.
As her family expanded and became even closer, Julian had pushed a career to the back of her mind. Wade did a lot of traveling, but was a great help with the kids when she was home.
She rubbed the palms of her hands over Wade's powerful shoulders. “I'm sorry if I spoiled your plans.”
Wade ran a finger down her cheek. “Not at all, darling.”
They kissed again before they stood arm in arm, watching their sons sleep. Wade gave Julian a little squeeze.
“Two down and two to go,” she whispered.
Julian inhaled Wade's scent as she pressed herself against the tall blonde. “We'll start work on number three next year, but it doesn't mean we can't practice to stay in form.”
“Talking about that, I actually did have plans. Marion is here to look after them for the day.”
“Then lead the way, baby.”
Return to the Academy