Disclaimers: Mine.

Sex: Um, something we should talk about. This is a fun little ditty of Halloween erotica, so I HIGHLY recommend not reading it at work or in front of parental types. Definitely rated NC-17, y'all.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com.

Happy Halloween!!!!


Accidental Seduction

Kim Pritekel

Erin Lawson looked up into the early September sky and cringed. The clouds were building at an alarming rate and she just knew the rains were going to come tumbling down, just like they'd done every afternoon that week.

"Crap," she muttered.

"Dammit, Erin!" Shawn Lawson complained. "Hold your end!"

Erin shook herself out of her weather thoughts and returned her attention back to the couch she and her older brother were carrying into Shawn's best friend, Lance's new house.

"It goes against the long wall," Lance directed, squeezing out of the small house past Erin to grab another load from the U-Haul parked in the one-car garage driveway.

Erin and Shawn got the couch situated, Erin flopping down onto it, followed by her brother, older by eleven years. "Why does Lance have so much damn shit?" Erin asked.

Shawn shook his head. "Hell if I know. I've known the guy for what, fifteen years?" Shawn said, resting his tired head against the back of the couch. "He's always been a hoarder, I swear."

Erin smirked, pulling her long ponytail around front so she could study the dark strands. "I think you're right," she muttered absently, picking out a piece of lint from the hair.

"Come on, guys!" Lance complained as he made his way inside carrying another box. He carefully dodged the obstacle course of boxes and furniture as he hurried past the pair. "Alex is gonna be here soon, and I promised her that I'd have all this done before she gets here!"

Erin looked at her brother. "Pussy whipped, much?"

Shawn laughed as he pushed up from the couch. "Come on." He grabbed his sister by the hand and tugged her to her feet. "Let's finish this so we can get the hell outta here."

"Good," Erin sighed. "I've got a date tonight."

The trio worked diligently, the U-Haul emptying quickly. The two best friends were in the house putting various pieces of furniture together, leaving Erin to finish unloading the last few boxes from the box truck. Two boxes stacked in her arms, she carefully navigated the ridged ramp leading down to the sloped driveway from the back of the truck.

"Hi," a woman said, nearly startling Erin nearly to the point of dropping the boxes. "Oh jeez, I'm sorry. Let me help you."

Erin allowed the woman to take the top box before it slid to the ground. She finally got a look at the woman and nearly dropped the last remaining box she carried. The woman was a bit shorter than herself with short, sporty blonde hair and a charming smile. What caught Erin's gaze the most however, were the greenest eyes she'd ever seen. For a moment she wondered if they were contacts, as they seemed to almost glow.

"I'm Alex," the blonde introduced, not bothering to extend a hand, as Erin's hands were full of box.


"Shawn's sister, right?" Alex asked, leading the way towards the house.


As they walked to the house, Erin couldn't help but notice Alex's tight little ass, which was encased in tight little shorts. Her blue-eyed gaze slowly moved up to see the tank top Alex was wearing, her arms and shoulders tanned and strong. Again though, Erin's eyes traveled back down to that great ass.

"Baby!" Shawn exclaimed, running out of the house and grabbing the box from Alex's hands. "Hi." He grabbed her in a deep kiss, Alex's hands pushing against his shoulders.

"Lance," she muttered, embarrassed by her boyfriend's public display.

"I'm sorry. I just missed you," he cooed, one of his hands resting on the very ass that had so thoroughly caught Erin's attention. "I've got the bed put together."

Erin was stunned. In all the years she'd known Lance, and all the girlfriends he'd had in that time, she'd never seen him go quite as stir crazy as he was over Alexandra Wayland. And, stranger than that, despite the fact that Lance hung out at Erin and Shawn's place all the time - the house that was right next door to the one Lance had just bought - they'd yet to meet her: until today. Lance claimed he wanted to keep her all to himself for awhile, which Erin wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but okay.

Alex pushed away from Lance, sending an apologetic smile over her shoulder at Erin. "Let's just get things moved in, okay?" she told her boyfriend, trying to keep her irritation and embarrassment under wraps.

Within an hour, everything was carried in and the boxes were carried to their respective rooms, left for Lance and Alex to unpack later. All four stood in the center of the living room, Lance with an almost possessive arm around Alex's waist.

"Guess we finally got it done, huh?" Shawn said, clapping his hands together.

"Dude," Erin said, looking at Lance. "You have more shit than anybody I've ever known."

"Yeah, go fuck yourself, Erin," Lance growled good-naturedly. He'd always seen Shawn's little sister as his own, considering he'd known her since she was 4 years old.

"Nightly, big guy. Nightly."

The room erupted into laughter, other than Alex, who wasn't quite sure what to make of the dynamics between the three friends. She had heard often about Shawn and Erin Lawson, but had never met them and had never seen the interaction with them and Lance. It was lewd, though sometimes funny, and certainly extremely close. She couldn't help but feel a bit like a third wheel.

"So where's the pizza and beer you promised us?" Shawn asked his buddy, dark brow raised in challenge.

"Pizza and beer?" Lance asked, baffled.

"Yeah. I remember you mentioning something about that, too," Erin joined in, her and Shawn easily hiding their smiles.

Lance glanced over at his girlfriend, who simply shrugged. "Uh, okay."

"Cool. You jack asses go get the beer and Alex and I will go get the pizza," Erin announced, reaching across and grabbing Alex's hand and tugging her over to her. "See you guys back here in forty-five."

Alex was tugged out of the house behind a very determined Erin, a woman she'd met barely an hour before. Once her hand was dropped, she fell behind Erin's much longer stride. She quickly caught up, wondering why they were walking to the house next door.

"Um, Erin?"

"Yes Alex?" Erin asked, taking her keys out of the pocket of her baggy shorts.

"Where are we going?"

Erin stopped abruptly, Alex nearly running into her. "To get pizza." She clicked the alarm remote on her key chain, her Honda chirping to life.

"Oh." Alex felt like an idiot as she climbed into the front passenger seat. "I saw the other house and," she waved her own words. "I feel like a dork."

"Nah," Erin consoled, "No worries. Me and Shawn are your neighbors! Aren't you excited?" Erin inserted her key into the ignition, deafening rock music filling the car. "Shit!" She clicked the volume down to 0, giving Alex a sheepish grin.

"Like loud music, do you?" Alex drawled, tugging her seatbelt into place.

"Sometimes." Erin pulled away from the curb and got them on the road.

"And, as for the neighbor thing, I don't live with Lance."

Erin looked over at her passenger, surprised. "You're not moving in with him?"

Alex smirked and glanced out the window at the passing scenery. "No."

Erin studied her passenger for a moment before returning her attention back to the road. Moments later she pulled into the parking lot of Papa John's Pizza. She cut the engine and turned to her passenger. "Is this okay?"


The two got out of the car and walked into the store, the wonderful fragrance of pizza hitting them in the face upon entry. Erin led the way up to the ordering counter, looking up at the lit menu board above the drink station.

"What's your poison, Alex?" she asked, looking down at the blonde.

Alex chewed on her bottom lip as she studied the options. "Well, I know Lance likes mushrooms but I can't stand them."

Erin wrinkled her nose. "Fungus is gross."

Alex looked at Erin. "Thank you! I've been saying that for years, but nobody will listen to me. Why don't we just get plain old pepperoni? Everyone loves pepperoni."

Erin nodded. "Fair enough." Erin ordered the two large pizzas and herself a Coke, Alex turning down the offer. Coke in hand, she followed Alex to a table where they could sit and wait for their pizzas. Erin twisted off the cap of her drink and studied Alex.

"What?" Alex asked, feeling somewhat uncomfortable under the intense gaze of this strange woman she'd just met that day.

Erin shook her head. In truth, she was just genuinely enjoying the view. She had a current girlfriend: well, that was way too strong of a word. Mel was more of a fun buddy, perhaps. Somebody to have fun with in or out of the bedroom. But Alex, well... Alex was a work of art and Erin had no damn idea how Lance had gotten his hands on someone like her. After all, Lance, though not a bad looking guy, was annoying, stupid, had bad hygiene habits - oh wait, that was most men. Okay, still, how on earth had he gotten her?!

"Erin, you're staring at me and it's making me really uncomfortable," Alex said quietly, fighting the urge to squirm in her chair.

Erin shook herself out of it. "Sorry. So, how did you and dumbass end up together, anyway?"


"Yeah. That's my term of endearment for my brother and Lance, who is essentially another big brother," Erin explained, taking a swig of her Coke. She held the bottle across the table in offer. "You sure?"

"Uh, yes. I'm sure. Thank you. And, why do you call them that? How long have you known Lance?"

"Because they are dumbasses mainly. Shit, I've known Lance since I was like 4 years old. He kinda helped Shawn look out for me." She smirked. "Not so sure how good a job they did." She saw Alex open her mouth to speak and could see a million questions in her eyes, so decided to stop her before she could begin. "What do you do? How did you meet Lance?" she asked again.

"I am an X-Ray technician and I met Lance on a blind date. Some friends set us up," Alex explained, sitting back in her chair and resting her hands in her lap.

"Do those friends have another of you to set me up with?" Erin asked, brow raised.

Alex stared at Erin for a moment, stunned at Erin's boldness, which she voiced. "You certainly are bold, aren't you?"

Erin shrugged. "There are worst things to be."

Alex studied her for a moment then burst into laughter, right as their order was called out as finished and ready to be picked up. Alex pushed up from her chair, shaking her head. "You're a piece of work, Erin."

Back at the house, the guys had arrived back with beer and Jack Daniels before the women, and had already gotten started. As Erin and Alex made their way up the walkway to the front door, they could already hear the guys laughing and taunting each other. Erin tossed Alex a glance.

"Oh goody."

Alex smiled and pushed open the front door. Sure enough, Shawn and Lance were sitting on the couch and love seat respectively, Shawn with a beer bottle to his lips, Lance's bottle held on his knee.

"Hey!" Lance exclaimed, popping up from the couch and hurrying over to Alex. Beer bottle in hand, he grabbed the petit blonde and pulled her against him, taking her mouth in a demanding kiss.

Erin felt irritated for some reason, as she brushed by the couple, fighting the urge to elbow Lance in the kidney in passing. She set the pizza boxes on the kitchen counter. "Dinner!" she hollered, though it was unnecessary, as her brother was hot on her heels and Lance and Alex weren't far behind.

Erin loaded her plate with slices of fragrant pizza then grabbed two bottles of Coors from Erin's fridge. She didn't notice Alex's surprised gaze. Flopping down on the couch, Erin put her feet up on the coffee table, crossed at the ankles and began to dig in. Within a few moments, Shawn sat next to me.

"You okay, sport?" he asked, sipping from his beer, plate of pizza balanced on his thigh.

"Yup," I responded, not bothering to look at him as I twisted the cap off my first Bud and took a long swig. I could feel his eyes on me, but I ignored him, just like I ignored the love birds who camped out across from us on the loveseat.

I knew I was being somewhat of a petulant child, but dammit all, I was jealous! It was crazy, it was nuts it was insane and completely ridiculous. Throughout the years, both Lance and Shawn had had beautiful women, great cars, great weed, whatever. In all that time, I'd never been jealous of either of them nor of what they had. But, for some reason with Alex, I was gritting my teeth and would do anything to sitting next to her as Lance was, feeding her a piece of pepperoni off my pizza and in general cooing like a 4 year old. I'd never seen Lance like that with any woman, and though I'd known Alex for exactly a single afternoon, I totally got why.

As dinner progressed, so did the guys' drinking. I was on my third beer, and admittedly was beginning to feel a bit of a buzz starting. I noticed Alex was still on her first, though Lance and Shawn both gave her shit about being a "light weight".

"Beer sucks, guys," Alex defended.

"Yeah, that's because you like that girly, fru-fru shit," Lance admonished.

"What's wrong with that?" she asked, her attention caught by Shawn's laughter at Lance's words, as well as the two guys hit a high high-five.

Erin watched the interplay and rolled her eyes, finishing off her third beer and tossing the beer onto the floor with the other three empty bottles. "Who wants another one?" she asked, getting to her feet and stepping over outstretched legs and empty beer bottles and plates.

"Get me one," Shawn said.

"Yeah, get Alex one, too," Lance called out.

"I don't want another one, Lance."

"She doesn't want another one, Lance," Erin called from the kitchen as she pulled open the fridge door.

"Bring her another one anyway!" Lance called.

Alex looked over at her boyfriend, who she could tell was well on his way to serious inebriation. In the time they'd been dating, she'd never seen him so drunk, nor had she seen him get so aggressive and obnoxious.

Erin returned a few moments later with an armful of beer, save for Alex. She met Alex's gaze after not handing her a beer, with a wink. She got a smile in return.

"What about Alex?" Lance asked. "That was fucking rude, Erin."

"Lance, drop it, man," Shawn said, giving his friend a warning glance.

"No. Goddamnit, I said I wanted Erin to get another beer for my goddamn girlfriend and she fucking ignores me!" He got to his feet, nearly tripping over his own coffee table in the process.

"And your goddamn girlfriend said she didn't want another one, so knock it off," Shawn growled, prepared to push up from the couch.

"Guys, stop," Alex said. She set her unfinished beer aside and stood. "This isn't necessary."

"Where are you going?" Lance boomed.

Alex looked up at her boyfriend, the irritation clearly written all over her face. "You're drunk Lance, and I don't want to be around it." She stepped past him and headed to the door, grabbing her purse from the end table. "Thank you all for dinner, but I'm heading home."

Everyone watched her leave, a mixed bag of expressions on their faces. "Nice going, dumbass," Shawn said.

"Fuck this. I'm getting her back." Lance headed for the door but was stopped by a hand on his chest.

"Leave her alone, man," Shawn said, eyeing his friend. "She's right: you're drunk. You become a real asshole when you're drunk, so leave her alone for tonight."

While the guys talked, Erin hurried out the front door. "Hey!" she called to Alex, who was already at her car. She jogged over to the blonde. "You okay?" she asked the obviously shaken Alex.

Alex crossed her arms over her chest, glancing up at Lance's house before staring down at the street under her feet. "I'll live. He's just not usually like that."

Erin shrugged her shoulders. "He has his moments. Sounds like he's been on his best behavior with you."

Alex's head shot up. "Are you bad mouthing my boyfriend, Erin?"

"No," Erin said calmly. "I've known the guy for fifteen years, and I know he can be an ass sometimes."

Alex sighed, nodding. "Yeah."

"Look, I can see that you're still upset and I really don't want you driving home after that beer; it's obvious you are a light weight."

Alex smiled. "Yes, that I am. Not a big drinker at all."

"Well," Erin said, walking around the car to Alex's side. She grabbed Alex's hand and tugged her away from the car and towards Erin's house. Once she was sure Alex was with her, she dropped her hand, though reluctantly. "If you're gonna stay in this crowd, I'd recommend you learn how to live with it, and definitely Lance."

"Where are we going, Erin?" Alex asked, stepping up onto the front porch of a small, two-story house that had already been identified as Erin and Shawn's house.

"My place," Erin stated simply, unlocking the front door and holding it open for Alex. "Head on up the stairs."

Alex looked around the small living room, which essentially matched the size and shape of Lance's. The furniture, like the house, was old and well-worn but also well-kept, which was surprising, considering what she'd gleaned from the siblings who lived there. She saw the staircase and headed for it, just as Erin had directed.

"Last door at the end of the hall," Erin said, following behind Alex.

The door was closed, so Alex turned the knob and pushed the door open. It was the master bedroom, though it was absolutely huge! It seemed as though the wall between two rooms had been knocked down, turning the room into a combination sleeping space and living space. In the room that the door opened up to was obviously the living space, with a couch and easy chair, as well as a large, flat-screened TV and a couple bookshelves filled with what looked to be music books and vinyl records.

As Alex stepped further in, she noted a small, dorm-style fridge under the window, but what caught her eye the most were the various musical instruments - from guitars to keyboards to a violin - that were either hung on the walls or sat neatly in stands on the floor. She noted the sleeping space, which was the other bedroom, with a large, comfortable-looking bed and all the trappings of a bedroom. Like the downstairs area, the space was neat and clean.

She turned to face Erin, who was leaning against the closed door of the room, arms crossed over her chest as she watched Alex. "This is a really neat space."

"Thank you. I spend most of my time in here. The upstairs is pretty much my domain, other than the kitchen, downstairs basically belongs to Shawn." Erin pushed off the door and walked over to the small fridge. "Sit down," she offered. "Want anything to drink?"

Alex sat on the couch, legs together and hands I her lap, a bit nervous. She continued to look around, studying the instruments. "Do you play all of these?"

"Sure do," Erin said, grabbing a bottle of water for herself and one for Alex, even though the blonde hadn't answered her offer. "Here." She was glad Alex took the water, then sat down in the easy chair, flopping a long let over one of the arms. She studied the woman who sat across from her.

"Thank you," Alex said, twisting off the cap of the bottled water. She took a long sip, studying Erin as she did. Setting the re-capped bottle aside, Alex crossed one leg over the other. "Why did you bring me up here, Erin?"

Erin smirked. "Because I think you're fascinating, Alex."

"I hardly consider myself fascinating," Alex laughed, though a little nervously. "I'm a simple girl who works at a hospital taking X-Rays all day. Pretty simple Simon, really."

"I bet you look cute as hell in those scrubs. Do you wear the ones with little ducks and shit on them?"

"Are you hitting on me, Erin?"

"What, can't a girl tell another girl that she's hot as hell? That she's got the cutest ass ever?"

Alex burst into laughter. "Okay, I know you had quite a few beers tonight, so I'll forgive your boldness." She sipped from her water. "You know you don't stand a chance in hell with me, right?"

Erin sighed, flopping an arm lazily over the back of the chair she lounged in. "I believe in dreaming," she teased.

Alex smiled and shook her head. "Well, dream on, lady. I'm taken, and I don't play for your side, unfortunately."

Erin sighed dramatically. "You're far too sexy to be straight."

"You are too much. What, are you saying straight girls should be ugly?" Alex challenged.

"Well, anybody who settles for a big, sweaty, disgusting piece of sausage, yeah," Erin said, her voice far more serious than her actual thoughts.

"So, you're saying your brother is nothing more than a big, sweaty, disgusting piece of sausage?"

Erin drained her bottle of water and nodded. "I've told him that to his face."

"How come you hate men so much?" Alex asked, just this side of offended for men.

"I don't hate men. I just hate their big, sweaty disgusting piece of sausage," Erin said simply.

Alex pushed up from the couch. "This is ridiculous, Erin. I'm leaving." She turned to head to the door, but for some reason, she didn't want to leave. Instead, she walked over to the violin that hung on the wall in a special holder. "Tell me you don't play the violin?"

"I don't play the violin,' Erin said dryly. She smirked at the glare that earned her. "it's one of my favorite instruments." She watched as Alex walked over to it. "I thought you were leaving?"

"Don't piss me off anymore or I will," Alex chided, a brow raised in challenge and a twinkle in her eye.

Erin also stood, hands tucked into the back pockets of her shorts as she watched Alex gently and carefully touch the wooden instrument. "Man, you've got some serious fire in you, woman."

Alex chuckled. "May I?" she asked, indicating the violin. At Erin's nod, she carefully removed the instrument from its holdings and looked it over. "This has always been my favorite instrument. To me, there's nothing more beautiful than a single, solo violin." She looked up at Erin, who was walking over to her. "It's kind of like a distant train whistle at night: lonely and mysterious."

"That's a beautiful way to put it, and I couldn't agree more," Erin said. She stood a few feet away from Alex, watching as the blonde handed the violin to her. "Want me to play you something?"



Alex was surprised to see all the instruments that littered Erin's room, though once she realized she was a musician, the guitars - both acoustic and electric - didn't necessarily surprise her, given the heavy metal she had playing in her car. But, when she'd spotted the violin on the wall, something inside Alex was suddenly intrigued. Such an elegant instrument, and an instrument that had always touched Alex in the deepest parts of her soul.

Now, a she watched Erin retrieve the bow from the case against the wall, she was curious as to what she was going to hear. Would Erin be any good? Would she play some crazy, whacked out piece?

"What would you like to hear?" Erin asked, unknowingly interrupting Alex's thoughts.

Alex shrugged, stepping away from Erin to give her room to play. "Whatever. I love music, but honestly don't know it well enough to know what any pieces are called. I just know whether I do or don't like something when I hear it."

"Okay." Erin stroked the instrument lovingly as she thought about the piece she wanted to play. suddenly, she got an evil glint in her eye and brought the instrument up and into place. Her movements were quick and concise as she played the solo from Charlie Daniels' Devil Went Down to Georgia.

Alex was absolutely delighted, a grin spreading across her face as her toe began to tap along, her head bobbing to the music. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. When Erin finished with a flourish, Alex clapped, her blood pumping with excitement. "That was awesome!'

Erin grinned, taking an exaggerated bow. "Thank you," she said, somewhat out of breath. "Doubted me, didn'cha?"

Alex rolled her eyes. "What else ya got?"

Erin studied Alex for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip as she made a decision. "Alright, I'm going to play you something that I composed myself. If you laugh," she warned, pointing the bow at Alex, "I'll skin you alive."

"Fine. I won't laugh," Alex promised. She crossed her arms over her chest and waited. She could see a change come over Erin, and suddenly the goofy, fun-loving woman she'd come to know Erin as disappeared. In her place was a serious and, she wasn't sure quite how to put it: deep person, emerged. If Alex didn't know any better, she'd think that Erin had just stepped out on a concert hall stage, replete with tux and tails.

Erin closed her eyes as she began to play, the music flowing from her heart into her fingertips. The notes were clear and leapt out from the violin, reaching out in a sad and touching melody that had Erin moving with the music.

Erin's fingers played across the fingerboard, producing a sound that reached inside Alex and touched her deeply. Soon, a lone tear was running slowly down her cheek, followed by a second. Alex couldn't take her eyes off Erin and her violin, and the seeming connection the two had. She brought up a hand and wiped at her tears, only for more to follow. Somehow in that piece of music she felt everything that was inside Erin. She felt a loneliness and sadness that she, herself could relate to.

Erin forgot about the world around her, forgot where she was and even forgot the woman who stood mere feet away, listening. In her mind she was floating above it all, above her life, above those in her life and above all that was missing. Her fingers moved freely, her body swaying with the sounds she was producing.

When the piece was finished, Erin was brought swiftly back to her room when she heard a soft sob followed a released breath. She opened her eyes and found herself looking into tear-filled green eyes.

"My god, Erin," Alex whispered, feeling stupid as she wiped the tears from her face. "That was incredible."

Erin smiled, and though she wanted to tease Alex for her emotional reaction - more out of insecurity than because she truly thought it was silly - she just didn't have the heart to. "Thanks," was all she could say. She lowered the violin and bow, taking a deep breath. She'd never let anyone hear her compositions before, not even Shawn. "Glad you liked." She shrugged nonchalantly as she replaced the violin and bow. "It's just something I've been working on for awhile."

Alex took a moment, then gave Erin the sweetest of smiles. "You surprise me, Erin." She gathered up her unfinished bottle of water and purse. "Something tells me there's far more to you than meets the eye." She walked up to Erin and squeezed her arm. "I need to get home, but thank you for that and thank you for getting my mind off of Lance's bullshit. I really appreciate it."

"Sure," Erin said, wanting nothing more than to keep Alex in her room, play more music for her and learn more about her. "Are you okay to drive?"

"Yes, I'm fine." Alex walked to the door, and with one final look, was gone.

Erin sighed and sat heavily on the arm of her easy chair. "Shit."


The next morning, Erin sat at the kitchen table digging into a bowl of Fruit Loops when Shawn stumbled up from his dungeoness bedroom and living quarters. He looked like hell, with bloodshot eyes and hair all over the place. He needed a shave and a shower.

"You stink, bro," Erin muttered around a mouthful of cereal.

Shawn grunted and headed for the fridge and the ingredients to make a pot of coffee. "Where did you take off to last night?"

"Nowhere. I was here the entire time." Erin finished the last of her cereal then rinsed the bowl out in the sink, putting it and the spoon in the dishwasher.

"With Alex? Did you bring Alex here, too?" Shawn asked, filling the glass carafe, which he held up in invitation to his baby sister. At her nod, he filled it enough for the both of them.

"Yep. Fucked her brains out, too." Erin laughed at her brother's look. "Jesus, man, I'm kidding! You looked at me like you suspected that's what I'd done."

"Well, what did you do?" he growled, knowing full well his sister's penchant for beautiful woman, and the fact that she usually got her way with them.

"We talked a bit and I played her some music," Erin explained, a bit sheepish.

"Oh, Erin," Shawn groaned, burying his face in his hands.

"What? This isn't Natalie, so knock it off."

Shawn stared at her for a long time then finally nodded and turned back to the coffee maker. "You're right, it's not. Sorry."

Erin stared at her brother's back for a long time, hurt. "Shawn, that was a long time ago. Why can't you just let it go?"

"It was two years ago, and it's hard to forget that your little sister stole your girlfriend, Erin." He leaned against the counter, tattoo-covered arms crossed over his bare chest. "It just makes me nervous. With you, it's always the music. They run to you, legs spread and I don't get why."

Erin couldn't be proud of this fact, as she knew she'd hurt her brother deeply with the Natalie incident. "I'm sorry, Shawn. I love you and you know I'd never do anything to hurt you on purpose. Or Lance, for that matter." She smirked. "I actually did him a favor last night."

"How do you figure? What, did you piss off Alex so bad that she wants nothing to do with you?" Shawn asked, grabbing two mugs from the cabinet above the microwave. "Grab the creamer from the fridge. Get the French vanilla one, not that nasty chocolate crap."

Erin did as she was asked, setting the bottle down on the counter by the coffee maker. "He was acting like an ass last night; he always does when he's had too much to drink. If Alex had stayed there much longer, she probably would have ended up slapping him and breaking up with him."

Shawn sighed, pouring the two mugs of coffee. He knew damn well that his sister was probably right. "She is pretty hot though, isn't she?" he asked with the same charming smile that Erin possessed: it was a Lawson family trait.

"She's gorgeous," Erin muttered, accepting the filled mug. She added some sugar and cream then sat at the kitchen table again.

"You like her, don't you?" Shawn asked, sitting across from her, his blue eyes, also a Lawson family trait, bored into her. "Don't you?"

Erin played with her mug for a moment then finally nodded. "Yeah. Not even real sure why. She's not my type at all."

Shawn barked out laughter. "Bullshit! She's female, gorgeous and unavailable. She's exactly your type."

Erin was hurt and wanted to lash out. "You know, Shawn, if a woman is happy and satisfied in a relationship, nothing and nobody can make her look elsewhere. She can't be stolen."

Shawn slammed back from the table, nearly dumping his coffee in the process. "Fuck you, Erin."

Erin watched as her brother and only family, disappeared down into his cave. With a heavy sigh, she also stood from the table and headed upstairs to get ready for work.

Once tucked safely in her rooms, Erin headed immediately for the bathroom and a shower, stripping on the short journey from her bedroom door to the bathroom. Naked, she got the water running to her preferred temperature and then slid past the plastic curtain. As she rinsed her hair for shampooing, she thought about the argument she'd just had with her brother, who she loved above anyone in the world.

Shawn was eleven years older than she was, and at the tender age of 18, he'd been given full custody of his baby sister as their father had been put in prison for child molestation and their mother was a useless drunk, neither of which the Lawson siblings had seen in more than ten years, and neither saw it as a huge loss. Shawn had struggled to keep him and his baby sister above water, but had succeeded, and in so doing, the siblings had become far more than mere brother and sister: they had become each other's only family and best friend.

When Erin was 15, she discovered the love of her life, and that was women. From all that she and Shawn had been through in their short lives, there was no time for childish games or for being a teenager: nope, Erin had gone from child to adult pretty much overnight, and with her height and inherent beauty, she had been able to pretty much write her own ticket with whomever she pleased, and had done so.

Then there was Shawn. It was likely there was only one woman he'd ever truly loved, and that was Natalie. Natalie Brown had come into their lives four years ago, and she and Shawn had been an instant pair. Natalie was fun, warm and incredibly beautiful and unavailable: exactly Erin's type, just as Shawn had said.

Erin hadn't meant to "steal" her away, nor anything else. She and Natalie had become good friends, as Natalie was closer to Erin's age than Shawn's. They both enjoyed many of the same things, including music. Erin had written songs for Natalie, unbeknownst to Shawn at the time, and eventually, the two women had slept together. It had been an accidental seduction, and one which Erin greatly regretted. Though over time her brother had forgiven her, their relationship seemed to never be quite the same.

Then there was Lance. Boyhood friends with Shawn, he had been every bit as much of a big brother to Erin as Shawn, himself had. In fact, during the turbulent Natalie days, Erin had stayed with Lance in the piece-of-shit apartment he'd had across town, before he'd bought the house next door.

Then there was Alex. Undeniably attracted to her, Erin thought about her actions of bringing the blonde to her place the night before. Erin washed her body as she thought about her actions, and perhaps any subconscious motives behind them. Yes, she had wanted to get Alex out of the that situation, just as she'd explained to Shawn moments before. She knew how Lance could be, and knew her friend had lost more than one woman in his life due to his drinking.

"Don't lie, Erin," she whispered as she began to lather shaving gel on her armpit. "You wanted her to yourself."

Finishing up her shower, Erin dried herself off and, naked, continued getting ready. She brushed out the long strands of her hair, looking at her reflection in the mirror above the sink. Her bright blue eyes stared back at her, their depths filled with confusion and guilt. She let out a heavy sigh and got dressed; the shop needed her, as it was highly unlikely Shawn would be showing up anytime soon that day.


Six couples: Shawn and his girlfriend, Lisa, Erin and Mel and Lance and Alex, sat around the large dining room table Lance had, cards, poker chips and drinks scattered along the smooth table surface.

"Nice job, baby," Melanie purred to Erin, placing a quick kiss on her cheek, even as her hand rubbed Erin's thigh under the table.

Erin grinned like a Cheshire cat at Lance, who sat across from her. She could feel Alex's eyes on her, but she ignored her, pretty much as she'd been doing all night. "What'cha got, big guy?"

Lance looked down at the full house Erin had just tossed to the table. With an irritated sigh, he tossed his own cards to the table, revealing two pair, ten high. "Bitch."

Erin grinned and scooped up the chips in the middle of the table, carefully adding them to the stacks she already had before her. "Ante up, gang."

"I don't have anything left, you pain in the ass!" Shawn complained, reaching his arm out to rest along the back of Lisa's chair.

Lisa tossed in a few chips. "I think I've got enough to go one more round."

"Babe?" Erin said, turning to Mel, who also tossed in a couple chips. Erin looked at Lance. "You got the big ones to go one more round against me?"

Lance glared, but tossed in two of his profoundly dwindled stack of chips.

Finally, Erin turned her gaze to Alex. 'You gonna play?"

Alex didn't say a word, just tossed in her chips, her gaze locked on Erin's in silent challenge. Alex was the only player at the table whose stack of chips almost rivaled Erin's. Almost.

"Dealer, deal 'em," Erin said to Shawn, who had begun to shuffle the cards. Erin was held by Alex's gaze, unable to look away. In the green depths of Alex's eyes, Erin could see questions.

Earlier, when everyone had arrived at Lance's house with their respective girlfriends in tow, Erin had greeted everyone with a hug or teasing word, and had only given Alex an acknowledging nod. Erin looked away.

As Shawn dealt the cards, he watched the silent interaction between the two and then quickly looked at Lance, who was oblivious. Dread crept up Shawn's spine. He had noticed his sister's distanced behavior towards Alex, but he'd also noticed that Alex wasn't taking it entirely sitting down.

As the game continued, one by one people were folding or were out of the game altogether, out of chips from the two card sharks that sat diagonally from each other at the oval-shaped table.

"Fuck it," Lance growled, pushing back from the table as he played his final losing hand, this time losing the last of his chips to his own girlfriend. "Anyone else want another drink?"

"Lance, you promised," Alex said.

"I know, I know," Lance muttered, irritation marking his voice at his loss at cards. Usually he was a hell of a lot better player than this. He grabbed himself a beer and drinks for the few others that had asked, including Erin.

"Your deal, Erin," Alex said, setting the deck in front of the younger woman.

Erin took the cards, immediately dropping her gaze from Alex's, which was far too easy to get caught up in. Erin shuffled the cards quickly and thoroughly, her hand a blur as she dealt cards to her brother, Alex and herself. She set the spent deck aside and collected her own cards, Mel leaning into her to look over her shoulder at her hand.

"Good hand, baby," Mel commented.

Erin tossed her a smile, but in truth, she was irritated by Mel's clinginess tonight. She just wanted to play and have a good time, and not play touchy feely all the damn time! She stopped her own thought process, surprised at it. Since when was she not in the mood for a gorgeous woman to hang all over her? She looked across the table only to meet Alex's gaze, the blonde's eyes quickly dropping to her own hand, which she was arranging. Erin noted the almost possessive arm Lance had strung across the back of her chair.

"Three," Shawn said, knocking Erin out of her reverie.

"Two," Alex said quietly.

Erin doled out the cards, giving herself two cards as well. The three players sat in silent contemplation, not even disturbed when Lance pushed away from the table again, grabbing his beer and heading into the living room, where he turned on the TV and found a game.

"What's with him?" Erin asked Shawn, who shrugged.

"He doesn't like to lose," Alex ventured.

Erin smirked. "I raise you losers by four." She plucked four chips from one of her many stacks and placed

"Aw man, Erin," Shawn whined. "That's all I got!"

Erin grinned. "In it to win it or lose it to booze it. You're choice, big bro." She met his gaze, hers filled with challenge, his filled with playful irritation.

"You're a shit," Shawn muttered, tossing in the last of his chips.

"So you've been saying for almost twenty years." Erin turned her gaze on Alex. "You in or out, Alex?"

Alex didn't say a word, simply tossed in four chips, then tossed in four more.

"Shit. I'm out." Shawn threw his cards down and pushed away from the table, Lisa following as they joined Lance in the living room.

"Come on, baby," Mel said, grabbing Erin's chin in her hand and bringing Erin's head around to face her. She delivered a deep, passionate kiss. "For luck," she murmured against Erin's surprised lips, then glanced across at Alex, challenge in her dark eyes.

Recovering from the unexpected kiss, Erin looked over at Alex. She tossed in the extra ante, then five more. She met Alex's surprised gaze, slightly cocking her head to the side, wondering what Alex would do.

Alex chewed on her bottom lip for a moment as she studied her cards, then studied Erin's face, as though trying to read through the expressionless mask the younger woman wore. "I'll meet you and raise you six."

Erin broke out into a smile. "Damn woman, you got a pair on you." She couldn't help it as her gaze fell to Alex's full breasts, which were shown off well in the cap-sleeve tee she wore.

Alex smirked at the move, but then waited patiently. When she saw that Erin wasn't going to raise the bid after she'd tossed in the extra ante, she met Erin's gaze. "Show me what you got."

"You first," Erin countered.

"Alright. I'm woman enough."

Erin burst into laughter at Alex's bravado. She watched as Alex lay her hand down on the table, one card at a time. Her own bravado fell when she saw spade after spade come into play. "Royal flush," she muttered.

"Read 'em and weep," Alex said, her voice deceptively soft.

Erin tossed her four of a kind to the table, sighing in defeat. "Good game."

"Why, thank you." Alex collected her winnings, happily stacking the chips on her already-impressive piles, now substantially larger than Erin's.

"Who won?" Shawn asked, walking up to the table.

"Her," Erin grunted as she stretched in her chair.

"Finally!" Shawn crowed. "'Bout damn time somebody beat your ass."

"Yeah, yeah," Erin muttered, pushing away from the table. She met Alex's smug gaze. "Next time, you're mine."

Alex brought up a hand, held still over the table. "Controlled fear."

Erin couldn't help herself as she chuckled. She turned to her Mel. "Come on, let's get you home. I got to open early tomorrow."

Everyone gathered in the living room to say their goodbyes. Erin made the rounds of hugs, finally getting to Alex. They stood toe to toe, Alex looking up at Erin expectantly. Feeling obligated - and in truth, she wanted to - she took Alex in a quick, but tight hug.

"Nice game," Alex said softly. "We should team up: we'd wipe the floor with the rest of them."

Erin grinned. "Isn't that the truth." She stepped away from Alex, noting Lance's eyes on them. "See you around."


Three weeks later, Erin was at the music shop/recording studio that she and Shawn had opened up two years before. It was a cold day, as mid-October swept into the area, bringing autumn along with it. Halloween was in two weeks, and that was traditionally the marker for the truly crappy weather to start, though it was crappy weather that Erin loved. She was a snow bunny from day one.

Business was slow, the beginning of the school year rush finished. From August through September they were slammed, as all the local kids were looking to buy or rent instruments for their school band. Luckily, the small recording studio they had helped to save their butt and often. Local artists, and even some from a couple states over, would come in and record demos as well as full albums. Erin had to talk Shawn into that little addition, and rubbed it in often that she was right.

At the moment, she was working on inventory while the store was empty. She made her way around the store with her clipboard, marking down quantities of on-floor stock, then she'd move to the stock room after closing time.

"So, in the middle of your fiddling, why didn't you tell me you owned a music store?"

Erin was surprised by the sudden voice in her store, and ever more surprised to see that the voice belonged to Alex. "Hey. You didn't ask."

Alex rolled her eyes. "Cute." She looked around, reaching out to run her fingers over the smooth brass of a trumpet.

"I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to touch the instruments," Erin chided. "If you do, you have to stay after closing time and polish all of your fingerprints off."

Alex glanced at Erin over her shoulder, trying to read the very serious-looking woman. It was only after a moment or two of a stare down that she saw the twinkle in Erin's blue eyes. "Are you ever serious?" she asked, turning to fully face the younger woman.

Erin shrugged, setting the clipboard on the counter by the bullpen the register was in, surrounded by glass-faced cabinets that held smaller accessories such as reeds, parts for instruments and cleaning kits.

"That depends on whether there's anything to be serious about," she replied, walking over to Alex, who hadn't moved from her place next to the trumpet display.

"How about being serious about my invite to the Halloween party that I'm inviting you to?"

Erin stammered mentally for an excuse. Truth was, she wanted nothing more than to go, but was trying her hardest to stay away from Alex and Lance. It hadn't gone unnoticed from her brother or Lance, himself. When asked about it, Erin made excuses, just as she was about to do now.

"I can't, but thank you. Melanie and I have plans."

"Oh?" Alex asked, brow raised. "You guys got back together?"

Drat! "Look Alex, I don't think it's a good idea."

"Why not?" Alex was utterly baffled. Hand on hip, she looked up at Erin in confusion. "You are the most confusing woman I've ever met. The first time we meet, you're all over me like white on rice, then you avoid me - so it seems, unless I'm giving myself far too much credit here - and then when we all get together a couple times to play cards, you're distant and aloof with me, but not with anyone else: that much I know for sure." When Erin said nothing, Alex took a slight step towards her. "Why do you dislike me so much?" she asked softly.

Now Erin felt like shit. "I don't dislike you, Alex."

"So why the lies and drama?"

Alex sighed, shifting her weight from one hip to the other before she decided to be honest. "The boys seem to have this little worry that I steal women from them."

Alex didn't mean to, but she burst into sudden laughter. "Are you serious? You can't steal anyone from anyone."

"Thank you!" Erin exclaimed, hand flopping to her side. "That's what I tried to tell them."

"Have you, though? 'Stolen' women from them?"

Erin looked away, feeling ashamed and foolish.

"I see," Alex said softly. "And, they're worried that's what you're trying to do with me?"

Erin let out a heavy sigh, feeling stupid. "It almost ruined my relationship with Shawn a couple years ago, and nobody wants that to happen again."

"Okay, sooooo, is someone afraid that's going to happen with me, or something?" Alex asked, baffled.

Erin smirked. "Shawn picked up on the fact that I wanted to take you up to my bedroom and fuck your brains out the first day I met you."

Alex was slightly taken aback by the very base and honest response. "I see. Well, you did take me up to your room, but besides a few lewd comments, you didn't touch me."

Erin leaned back against the bullpen, holding herself up on her elbows as she studied the other woman. "I've thought a lot about why Lance kept you away from me and Shawn until recently."

"And why's that?" Alex asked, genuinely interested in her response.

"Because I think he was keeping you away from me."

Alex again burst into laughter. "God, you are so full of yourself, Erin."

"I am not!" Erin defended, though she felt like an ass, as Alex was looking at her like she was an ass.

"Well," Alex said, keeping her amusement in check, as she didn't necessarily want to offend Erin. "I can assure you, Shawn and Lance that you won't be stealing me anytime soon, so you can relax and come to the party."

Erin crossed her arms over her chest, studying Alex with a slightly cocked head. "Alright. I'll go to your party, but don't expect me to dress up. The only thing I do on Halloween is play Pumpkin Pick."

Alex was taken aback. "What the hell is Pumpkin Pick?"

Erin grinned, pushing away from the counter. "Guess you'll never know, huh?" She made it clear she was dismissing Alex as she grabbed her clipboard and returned to work.


Erin slammed her hand down on the steering wheel in time with the beat of Sarah Brightman's Deliver Me as she drove home from the shop. She neared the Starbucks by her house and decided to stop for a coffee, and to grab Shawn one, too. As she pulled into the parking lot, she was surprised to see Alex's blond head bent over a book as she sat at a table in front of one of the massive windows.

Erin killed the engine, never taking her eyes off the blonde, and climbed out of her Honda. She pulled open the glass and metal door and entered the coffee shop, walking immediately over to Alex's table. Sure enough, she had a book in her hands, head resting against a closed fist, and a paper cup of coffee sitting on the table next to her.

"Well, how do?" Erin asked, plopping down in the other chair of the two-person table.

Alex's head jerked up, surprised to have someone speak to her, let alone sit with her. She closed her book and set it on the table as she sat back in her chair. "Erin."

"Yes, ma'am. That would be me." Erin unwrapped her scarf from her neck, letting the two ends hang freely down the front of her heavy jacket. "What are you doing here?"

"Just killing some time," Alex said, sipping from her coffee. "I went by Lance's place but he's not home yet, so I figured I'd hang here for a bit until he got home. We're supposed to make the plan for the party next weekend."

"Ah yes, the Halloween party," Erin drawled. "Do you have your costume yet?"

Alex shrugged. "I figured I'd just go in my work scrubs and play a doctor or something."

Erin looked at her, one brow raised in disapproval. "Are you serious? A hot little body like yours, and you're going to hide it beneath baggy scrubs?"

Alex smirked, amused. "Erin, I know what I got and don't necessarily feel the need to show it off to the masses."

"No, but you could show me," Erin said with an exaggerated grin.

Alex threw her head back and laughed, seeing the mischief in Erin's eyes. "You're so bad. Alright then, what are you going as?"

"Me? Ah hell, I'm too cool to dress up for some old people party," Erin waved off.

"Old people party? How old do you think I am, Erin?" Alex asked seriously, sitting up straight and keeping her face expressionless so Erin could look her over.

Erin took her sweet time, making a show of sweeping her gaze from Alex's face to her breasts - totally unseen within Alex's heavy sweater - and back up to her face. "Eh, 30?"

"Thirty?!" Alex exclaimed, insulted. "I'm 25!" She saw Erin's wide grin and knew she'd just been played. "God!" she exclaimed, exasperated. "You are so damn infuriating sometimes, Erin. You know what I wish?"

"That you could kiss me?"

"No, that you would be serious for longer than five minutes." Alex was truly irritated, her green eyes aglow. "You may fool people that you are this confident, cocky hot chick who can get whatever and whoever she wants, but I'm going to tell you something: I see through that. What I see is a woman who certainly is beautiful - and definitely knows it - but who isn't comfortable in that beauty. You think you have to toss around jokes and innuendos constantly because you don't think people will be able to get through to the real you that way. Well, I've got news for you, woman," Alex said, waggling a finger at her. "I see you and I see the games you try and play, and honestly, I think it's bullshit."

Erin could only stare at Alex's unexpected outburst, stunned and somewhat hurt.

"I don't want this bullshit wall you put up for everyone else, including the women you fuck. Yes, I saw how you were with that Melanie girl, and unfortunately, she was eating it up." She pushed back from the table, gathering up her book and coffee and coat, which hung on the back of her chair. "I've got enough bullshit in my life, Erin, including with Lance, so I don't want it from you."

Erin watched her walk away, struck dumb and nailed to the spot. Finally, she shook herself out of it and ran after Alex. "Hey!" she called, just as Alex was unlocking her car door. "Wait up!"

Alex, already feeling bad about her outburst, unlocked her door, but didn't open it. She turned to Erin, who was walking up to her. "Wow," she said quietly. "Wow, I'm sorry."

"Where did all that come from?"

Alex turned away, reaching up to brush some bangs out of her eyes, blown into her face from the cold wind that was picking up. "I'm really sorry. Guess I've just had a really shitty week."

"Um, yeah. I'm kinda getting that."

Alex was silent for a moment then turned to Erin. "Do you want to go costume shopping with me?"

Erin was taken aback by the sudden request, but nodded. "Alright." She hitched a thumb over at her Honda. "My car or yours?"

Alex chewed on her bottom lip, looking back and forth between the two cars. "Yours has better tires, let's take yours." She locked her car back up and walked over to the Honda, sliding in the passenger seat after Erin unlocked it for her.

Sliding in behind the wheel, Erin glanced over at her passenger, who was sliding her seatbelt into place. She studied her profile, mind working as she tried to figure the woman out. People over the years had said that Erin was complex and hard to penetrate, but she'd never seen anything like Alex.

Alex felt the heavy stare upon her. She met Erin's gaze. "What?"

Erin shook her head and turned her focus to starting the engine. "I'm trying to figure you out."

Alex smiled. "There's not much to figure out, Erin. Pretty straightforward, what you see is what you get."

Erin chuckled. "Oh, not so sure about that." She placed her arm along the back of Alex's seat as she turned in her seat to see what was behind her as she backed out of the parking space.

Alex felt slightly uncomfortable with the close proximity of Erin as she backed up, but managed to not shrink away. Instead, she allowed herself to get absorbed in the music that came out of the speakers in Erin's car. Dark blonde brows drawn, she asked, "Who is this?"

"Sarah Brightman," Erin said absently, getting them merged onto the street in front of Starbucks. "Ever heard her before?" She glanced over at her companion when silence was her response. Alex had her eyes closed and was seemingly listening. Not wanting to disturb her, Erin turned back to the road. She did, however turn the volume up as He Doesn't See Me began.

Alex absorbed the music and lyrics, but what got to her was the voice. By closing her eyes, she could shut out everything around her and concentrate on it. Pictures began to form in her mind as she listened, her emotions growing heavy in her chest and throat. She was shocked to feel a tear suddenly sneak out and roll lazily down her cheek.

"You okay?" Erin asked softly, reaching out to turn down the music.

Alex nodded, laughing at herself as she wiped the tear away. "I'm sorry; her voice just really got to me." She sniffled, feeling like an idiot. "You must think I'm pretty stupid about now. An emotional wreck."

"An emotional wreck today, yes. Stupid, not hardly," Erin assured. "I first heard Sarah's voice on my 17th birthday, and never forgot it." Erin's voice was soft, almost reverent. "To this day, almost three years later, I can be in the worst mood possible, I mean really pissed off about just about anything, and I hear her voice," she snapped her fingers. "Gone. I'm fine again." She smiled over at Alex, who was listening intently. "I saw her in concert only once."

"Really?" Alex asked, eyes wide.

Erin nodded. "Best fucking concert of my life. And that's even over Alice Cooper!'

Alex chuckled. "Somehow, I don't think that would be hard." She smiled at Erin's glare. "No, but seriously, I can really see why she would make you react that way emotionally. Hell, I listened to that song for maybe a minute and a half and I was already affected." She looked long and hard at Erin. "See? This is who you really are, Erin. The side that I like; the violinist."

"Well, now," Erin said a finger waggling in the air, "I can't very well drag my violin with me everyone now, can I?"

Alex laughed. "No, but you can drag around that sensitive side."

Erin was quiet for a long moment, pulling up to a red traffic light, flicking on her turn signal. A turn to the left would put them in the mall's parking lot. "It's not that easy, Alex."

Alex nodded but said nothing.

Erin pulled into a space outside of Border's Bookstore, figuring they could walk through there to get to the main part of the mall, as the Holiday Shoppe wasn't far from the bookstore. The two walked in silence to the store, moving around a group of laughing, obnoxious teens who refused to give way to anybody.

Erin growled and Alex laughed. "Why are you growling? You're not all that far off from their age."

Erin glared at Alex as they stepped into the holiday store, all decked out for Halloween. "I am not that obnoxious."

"Hmm," Alex scoffed, making a show of walking ahead of Erin into the store.

Erin rolled her eyes but followed.

The store was a large one, leaning towards whatever holiday was around the corner, thus its title of Holiday Shoppe. The great thing about the store was, no matter how close it was to any given holiday, they never ran out of anything. For instance, Halloween was a week away, and most stores were nearly sold out of costumes, makeup and certainly fake blood. Not the Holiday Shoppe: fresh loads of everything came in round the clock until the mall closed, the day of the holiday or the day before.

Erin trailed behind Alex, hands clasped behind her back as she checked out the three full walls of makeup kits and individual containers of certain colors or techniques. An entire wall was dedicated to various types of fake blood: gel, liquid, powdered and flavored, just to mention a few. She broke away from Alex to check out that wall, awed by the array of selection.

"Are you planning on being something gruesome or dead?" Alex asked, coming up behind Erin and looking at the wall over her shoulder.

Erin grinned and glanced back over at her... "Are we friends?" she asked. When she saw Alex's baffled expression, she expounded upon the strange non-sequitur. "You know, are we friends or am I just the friend of your boyfriend?"

Alex blinked a few times then responded. "Well, I guess we're friends. Acquaintances at the very least."

 Erin turned to face her, her grin still in place. "Do you do your most hallowed Halloween costume shopping with mere acquaintances?" she asked with a raised brow. "And besides that, do you dissect acquaintance's psyches at Starbucks?"
Alex buried her face in her hands for a moment with a groan. "I said I was sorry about that."
Erin crossed her arms over her chest, a smirk on her face. "I'm just curious to see how many times I can make you apologize in one day."
Alex rolled her eyes, exasperated. "Don't you stop?"
Erin shook her head slowly from side to side. "Nope."
"Fine. If you're going to be a pain in the ass, at least be a useful one." She grabbed Erin's hand, forcing her arms to unfold and drug her to another part of the store. "Pick one."
Erin looked at the wall of packaged costumes that she'd been drug to. She scanned the wall, noting the devils, headless horseman, plethora of various nun costumes and of course, the Grim Reaper. But, what caught her eye was a cute little nurse's costume that didn't feature body-hiding scrubs, but rather a short little white dress and neckline that plunged far enough to make any patient smile. A white nurses cap was included as well as a plastic thermometer and stethoscope.
Erin grinned as she walked to the packaged outfit. "Helllooooo, nurse!"
Alex joined her. "How did I know you'd pick the sluttiest costume they had?"
"Hey, I could have picked out the French maid costume," Erin defended, handing Alex the package. "And, this way you can keep with your medical theme."
"Oh, goodie," Alex grumbled, flipping the package over to look at the individual pictures of each part of the costume, her eye ever returning to the low neckline.
"Come on, live a little. I promise I'll only oggle you fifty times during the party."
Alex threw her head back and laughed. "Fine. It's a deal." She handed the package back to Erin. "If you want to see me in it, you can pay for it." And with that, she walked away, leaving a stunned Erin behind.
Erin jogged to catch up with Alex, who was walking up to the front of the store with quick purpose. She paid for the costume and accepted the clear plastic bag then joined Alex out in the wide hallway. When she reached her, she saw that Alex was on her cell phone, so stood obediently close, but gave Alex a bit of breathing and speaking room.
"Well, I'm sorry Lance. You weren't home, so I met up with Erin and we're at the mall... Yes, your Erin. What other Erin do I know?" Alex ran a hand through her hair, her irritation clear to anyone who passed by. She walked over to the railing that would look down over the food court on the lower level. "Lance, this isn't a big deal, certainly not the big deal you're making it out to be.... We're here buying costumes for the party."
Erin, who was already leaning against the railing, glanced over to see if her friend was okay. She knew that Lance could be a real shit, and figured he was in one of his moods. Seemed he was in one of his moods a lot, lately. Alex met her gaze and rolled her eyes with an apologetic shrug.
"What time do you want me back at your place? Are you even there, yet?" Alex looked stunned. "Lance, you're not even home yet, yet you're pissed that I'm not there? What do you want me to do: sit on the front porch like a good little girl and wait for daddy to come home?"
Erin covered her mouth to hide her laughter at that. Alex grinned at her before returning her focus back to the conversation.
"I don't know. We may grab a bite to eat or something.... Look Lance, I think you're in a pissy mood tonight, and that's fine. I'm just going to head home after we're done here, okay?" Alex held the phone out from her ear, Lance's voice easily heard yelling on the other end.
Angry, Erin snatched the phone away from Alex and brought it to her own ear. "Hey asshole, this is Erin. What the fuck is the matter with you?"
"Erin? What the fuck are you doing? Put my goddamn girlfriend back on the phone!" Lance demanded.
"Dude, you're being a real douchebag right now. There is no way in hell I'm putting Alex back on this phone to take this shit from you. You need to calm down and regroup."
"Who are you to give me relationship advice, Alex?" Lance asked angrily. "When's the last time you made one last?"
"Been awhile, but I guarantee you I never treated her like you're treating Alex right now. She was sitting at the Starbucks on 5th Street waiting for your ass to show up at home. I bumped into her, so we decided to be productive and get shit for the party. Is that okay with you, He-Man?"
Lance sighed, knowing full well he was being an asshole. "Alright. Put Alex back on the phone."
"Are you going to play nice?" Erin asked, meeting Alex's questioning gaze.
"Yes, I'll play nice."
"Good boy." Erin handed the phone back to Alex. "He promises to be nice."
Alex was amused, and grateful as she took the phone back from Erin and pressed it to her ear. "Hey. Are you feeling better?"
Erin took a few steps away, watching a group of high school boys head into the Holiday Shoppe. She was glad to help out, as she knew Lance and his shit well, but at the same time, it made her heart hurt. She'd only ever had one serious girlfriend, and ironically, she'd cheated on Erin and had left her bereft and heartbroken. Now, as she listened to the quiet conversation between Alex and her boyfriend on the other end of the line, she felt wistful. A glance over her shoulder showed her Alex's back, as Alex had turned, looking out over the diners in the food court. She watched as slim fingers stroked the smooth metal surface of the railing and as one booted foot crossed first over one then the other crossed back.
With a heavy sigh, Erin looked away.
"God, he can be such an asshole sometimes," Alex sighed, walking back over to Erin, her phone tucked securely back in her pocket. She was clueless as to the chaotic thoughts and emotions that had just been surging through Erin. "Ready?"
Erin nodded, shifting the bag Alex's costume was in to her other hand. "Yeah, Lance can be difficult, I know. I love the guy, but..."
"You know, I don't expect you to play bellboy, too."
Confused, Erin followed Alex's gaze down to the bag she held. She grinned, tossing out her previous thoughts of relationships and women. It wasn't worth the brain fuel to burn. "Nah, I got it. If I'm gonna be slave to a beautiful woman, I may as well go all out." Where she had expected Alex to roll her eyes and make some sort of snide comment, instead she got a sweet smile, which she couldn't help but return.
Twenty minutes later, the two sat at a table for four in front of Burger King in the food court. Each had her own dinner, neither from Burger King. Erin was busy adding sauce to her beef 'n cheddar from Arby's while Alex added soy sauce to her beef fried rice and opened the sweet and sour sauce for her egg rolls.
"You mentioned at Starbucks that you've got a little stress going with Lance," Erin began, not sure why she was even bringing it up. "What's up?" She dipped a curly fry in the special sauce and tossed it into her mouth. "Everything okay?"
Alex shrugged a shoulder, dipping an egg roll into the little plastic container of sweet and sour. She crunched into it and chewed thoughtfully. "Yes and no." She met Erin's gaze for a long moment. "I'll trust you, Erin. I know you and Lance are good friends, but I'll trust you."
"Scouts honor, nothing leaves this table," Erin promised, holding up two fingers pressed together.
Alex sipped from her Coke to swallow down her food. "Well," she sighed, unwrapping her plastic fork from the sealed bag it was in and pushed her rice around with the soy sauce. "I don't know what's been going on with him, but he's gotten really... what's the word? Possessive, I guess. He wasn't like that." Her brows knitted together in frustration. "I don't get it."
"Well," Erin said, finishing the bite of her sandwich that was in her mouth, then drinking it down with some Dr Pepper. "The fact that he didn't even introduce you to Shawn tells me that he really, really likes you. Dare I say it? I think Lance loves you, Alex." She shook her head. "I've never seen that before. I'm not sure it's happened before."
Alex studied Erin for a long moment. "So, are you saying that he doesn't know how to behave like a human being just because he may love me?"
Erin shrugged, knowing it sounded stupid. "I think he's figuring all this out as he goes, and he's afraid he'll lose you in the process."
"That, Erin, he is doing a pretty damn good job of. I'm telling you," she said, pointing her fork at Erin for emphasis, "if he doesn't get hold of this ridiculous possessive jealousy of anything and everything, I'm gonna blow, and it won't be pretty when it happens."
"Do you want me to talk to him?" Erin asked. "Kick him around a bit, maybe?"
Alex smiled down at her food and shook her head. "No. This isn't your dragon to slay." She sat back in her chair with a heavy sigh. "I'll have to find a way to deal with it, but I'll tell you this: I refuse to move in with him until we get all this figured out."
"Have you ever lived with anyone before?" Erin asked, for some reason wanting to get off the subject of Alex and Lance.
"Once, briefly," Alex said around a spoonful of beef fried rice. "We were in college, and it lasted all of about three months." She grinned, swallowing her food down. "I wasn't very nice back then."
"What do you mean?" Erin asked, just before taking a huge bite of her sandwich and chewing ruthlessly.
Alex shrugged. sipping from her Coke. "He came home one day and found all my stuff gone. I skipped classes that day to move out."
"Why? Was he a dick?"
"No, not really. I just wasn't happy and had made a huge mistake by moving in."
"Did you ever talk to him about it?"
Alex shook her head. "Nope. Thus the 'not a very nice person' part. I was a complete coward; never saw him again." She dipped her egg roll into Erin's little container of Arby's special sauce, grinning at Erin's swatting hand. "What about you?"
Erin shook her head. "Nope. I've never even gotten to that point where I'd want to live with someone. It's bad enough living with Shawn."
Alex studied her for a long moment, her head cocked slightly and green eyes focused on Erin's. "I think you'd be fun to live with."
Erin just looked at her dumbly, mouth even hanging open.
Alex laughed, reaching across the table and using two fingers to push up on Erin's chin. "You're a fun person, I think it would be a hoot."
"What, do you think I'm a party girl every night in my bedrooms? I hold slumber parties and juggle and entertain, telling dirty jokes and hold burping contests?" Erin asked, amused.
"Sure, why not."
Erin chuckled, popping the last of her sandwich into her mouth. "You'd be truly surprised at just how boring I am at home. I walk around either naked or in a ratty old pair of running shorts and tank top most the time, and I either sit and contemplate life, read books or compose music."
"I still think you'd be fun," Alex pursued, finishing up her own meal.
"What about you? What are you like at home? Do you dress from chin to toe, covering any and every part of you, just in case the neighbors might be watching?" Erin asked, chin raised in challenge.
Alex laughed out loud at the image that brought. "No, I do not, thank you very much. God, I'm not a friggin' nun, Erin!"
Erin grinned, her gaze falling to Alex's full breasts, hidden behind the sweater she wore. "No you're not, thank you Jesus."
Erin sat at her keyboard dressed in ratty old running shorts and a sweatshirt, the house too cold for a tank top tonight. She jotted a few notes down on the pages tilted up on her music stand, then returned her attention back to the keys, pencil cradled between her teeth. She was interrupted by a light tapping on her closed bedroom door.
"Come in," she shouted around the pencil.
The door opened and Shawn stepped inside, two mugs of coffee in his hands. "It's colder than a witch's tit out there, so figured you'd want this."
Erin removed the pencil from between her teeth and moaned in grateful pleasure as she accepted the mug. "Thank you."
Shawn plopped down in the easy chair. "I even put a shot of Bailey's in there."
"Yummmm," Erin purred, first blowing on then sipping her coffee. "Damn, this really hits the spot, thanks Shawn."
"Not a problem." He picked at the arm of the chair, not looking at her. "I have to admit, I do have a slightly ulterior motive for plying you with spiked coffee."
Erin chuckled, turning on the bench to face her brother's profile. "What do you want? Tell me you're not wanting me to work a double again tomorrow so you can go off prancing with Lisa?"
Shawn grinned, still not looking at his sister. "No." He met her gaze. "I want info." He paused, chewing on his lower lip and stroking the goatee he'd begun to let grow. "Alex."
Erin rolled her eyes and slammed her fist on the bench she sat on. "Damn it, Shawn! I've been good! I've behaved-"
"Alex and Lance, dumbass. Not Alex and you."
Erin gave him a sheepish look then looked away, sipping her coffee. "Sorry."
"Have you noticed anything between the two of them? Like, not good stuff between them."
"Why?" she asked, wanting to hear Shawn's side before she filled him in on what happened at the mall three days before.
"I was over there the other day, and so was Alex, and man, Lance was in the pissiest mood I think I've ever seen him in-"
"Do you think he loves her?" Erin interrupted.
"Yeah, I do. I think he's struggling with it. I think he's doing something stupid, like treating her like shit to test to see if she'll run away, just like his mom did from his dad."
"I've seen it, too. She talked to me a bit about it," Erin confided, pushing up from the bench of her keyboard and flopping down on the couch across from Shawn.
"She did?"
"Yep. We went costume shopping at the mall the other day, and he called mad as hell. He was yelling at her through the phone, so I took the phone away from her and tore him a new asshole."
Shawn sighed heavily, his heavy brows drawn into a troubled expression. "I just know he's gonna blow this, Erin."
Erin hurried across the joined, snow-covered lawns and trotted up to the front door of Lance's new house. She banged on the heavy wood of the door with a gloved hand, hoping Lance would open up soon. She knew that he was home from his truck parked in the driveway, and it was cold as hell as a winter storm blew in.
"Hey," he said, pulling open the door. "Come on in before your tits freeze off."
Erin hurried inside, groaning as the heat in the house hit her full force. Unlike most men, Lance loved to keep his place hot. She followed Lance into the kitchen where he was heating himself up a TV dinner in the microwave.
"Hungry?" he asked.
"No, thanks. Look Lance, I need to talk to you about something."
"Shoot," he said, opening the door to the small, beeping appliance. He cursed when the hot steam swirled out from under the flimsy cardboard cover over the tray of his dinner and burned his fingers. "Fuckers hot."
"That's usually why the instruction suggest leaving the tray to stand for a couple minutes," Erin offered dryly.
Lance grinned. "Yeah, well I'm hungry after a long day at work. Sit down kid, take a load off." He grabbed himself a bottle of beer and one for Erin out of the fridge, setting chilled brown glass before her.
Erin popped the cap off the beer, but didn't bother drinking, instead playing with the cold bottle in even colder fingers. "I want to know something," she began.
Lance carried his tray of food to the table, dropping it onto the wood surface with another curse. He sat and carefully pulled back the cardboard cover, using a fork to mix the lump of mashed potatoes with the gravy, then cut into the Salisbury steak. "'K," he said stabbing a piece of meat and shoving it into his mouth.
Taking a sip of the cold beer for courage, I looked him dead in the eye. "Why are you fucking up the best thing that's ever happened to you?"
Lance stopped chewing for a minute, stunned brown eyes meeting my own. "What?" He quickly swallowed down his food with a swig of beer. "What?"
"Alex. Shawn and I have both noticed it. You're pushing her away, Lance."
Lance sat back in his chair, wanting to be angry with Erin, but knowing he had no right. He sighed, returning his attention back to his dinner, mixing the corn with the mashed potatoes and gravy. "I feel like she's slipping away from me, Erin," he muttered, shoveling a large forkful into his mouth and chewing thoughtfully.
Erin waited, wanting to hear his side of it.
"I feel like, like," he let out a loud breath and sipped his beer. "I feel like she could leave at any moment, like what we have is tenuous, you know?" He stabbed another piece of meat angrily. "I feel like she's not really mine, like we're balancing on the edge of something, and at any second one of us will fall over, and it won't be together."
Erin was stunned to hear the quiet words come out of Lance's mouth. "So, you're trying to hold onto her."
Lance didn't respond for a long moment and then finally he nodded. "I don't wanna lose her."
"Have you talked to her about any of this?"
Lance shook his head. "Nah. She'd probably think I was some queer Dr. Phil-lovin' guy or something."
Erin rolled her eyes. "God men are so stupid and insecure," she muttered, then returned her gaze to him. "If you don't talk to her, you're going to lose her: plain and simple." Erin took a long swallow of the beer, her gaze never leaving Lance.
"Ah hell," he growled, slamming a fist into the table. "I hate this touchy feely shit!"
Erin grinned. "Welcome to the wide world of women, Lance. It's a bitch."

 Part 2

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