Author's Note: Wow, 6 months. Its been 6 months since I last updated this story. What a difference that amount of time can make. Just to let everyone know, I'm still plugging away at this thing, my mother-in-law is doing fabulously, far better than expected and I have finally rediscovered just what I enjoyed about writing so much. And I want to thank everyone who sent me emails encouraging me to continue and offering their happy thoughts and concerns for my partner's mother. And lastly, I want to thank my beautiful partner who took one look at this story and told me it was "about damn time!". Thank you sweetie!

For Disclaimers see Ch. 1

Feedback welcome at

A Chance Encounter


Bobbie Halchishak

* * *

Luce barely made it out of the elevator before Colleen shot her a rather disgruntled and haggard look. "Hey sugah, Ah've been looking all over for ya." She waved the taller woman over.

Luce smiled despite the frazzled look on the other woman's face. "Well here I am."

Colleen rolled her eyes before giving a rather droll reply. "Ah can see that." She then pointed to a stack of folders on her desk accusingly. "Honey Ah don't have the first clue what ya asked ta be faxed over, but whatever it was, it nearly set the machine on fire."

Surprised herself at the amount of pages Mac sent over, Luce could only nod in agreement. "Yeah that's a lot of paper. I didn't expect this much or I'd have warned you."

"Ah hope ya ate something substantial for lunch sugah cause its going to be awhile til you see daylight again if ya have to climb through that pile of paperwork today."

Luce gave a slight sigh. Despite having just come in from having "taken" a lunch, Luce realized that she hadn't managed to grab anything. Of course given the severity of her conversation with Kylie, she wasn't all that surprised. The hurried explanation had simply been the only thing she could think of as she hurried past Colleen in her rush to meet with Kylie before she changed her mind.

She sighed loudly. "Actually I didn't get a chance to eat at all." Point of fact, she'd been so distracted that eating had been the last thing on her mind.

Colleen laughed softly, shaking her head. "Sugah, what are we gonna do with ya?" Luce's shrug was her only reply and this time Colleen gave a heavy sigh. "Ah'll call something in for ya."

"Thanks Colleen; you're a lifesaver." She shot the older woman a smile before she gathered up the folders and headed towards the boardroom.

Colleen threw a parting shot at her as she walked away. "And you sugah are a real pain my ass!"

* * *

Luce eagerly dumped everything on the large table, throwing her briefcase into a nearby chair before snatching up the first folder on the stack. Mac had told her that the most interesting stuff would be at the top. Sure enough he'd even highlighted the top of the report to draw her attention to it. She scanned it quickly feeling a feral smile creep across her face. Finally, it seemed she was on to something.

She stood, holding onto the folder before she strode out of the room, her steps fast and aggressive. It was time she took the bull by the horns and got some answers. And she finally had a target for all of the frustration she'd been feeling since this whole mess started.

She stalked through the office, people moving out of her way quickly; one look at her face was enough to tell them she wasn't in the mood to be messed with; even if her stride wasn't quite forceful enough to march over anyone in her path. She found the door she was looking for and without even knocking, opened it and went in.

Jack, Don's first assistant looked up at her entrance but continued talking on the phone as if she weren't there. She shut the door softly behind her, the soft click of the latch easily covered by his rather loud conversation. She stepped closer to his desk and listened in. It took Luce all of three seconds to realize that the call was complete and utter nonsense and there was no need to be nice. Angered beyond words, she snagged the receiver from him. "He'll call you back later." Her words snapped into the phone seconds before she slammed it down on the cradle.

Jack looked at her, for a moment thunderstruck by her behavior. "I don't know who you think you are Donovan but I actually have to work for a living so if you don't mind, get your ass out of my office so I can actually do that." He reached for the phone again only to be stopped by her hand covering it. He looked up at her seeing the fierce look on her face and thought better of it.

She smirked at his discomfort. "Didn't your mother ever manage to teach you any manners?"

He snorted sitting back in his chair. "I might ask you the same thing."

"Oh I'm sure she'll forgive me considering I'm still a bit pissed at the FBI for being arrested last week." She leaned across the desk, letting her forceful personality free as she studied him closely. It was very evident he was not happy to see her.

This time he smirked at her. "Kind of harsh about parking tickets around here aren't they?" He looked down at his tie this time radiating an air of nonchalance. "Of course I wouldn't happen to know anything about that."

It was Luce's turn to snort. "I find that funny since you've been passing them information for some time now."

Her response seemed to catch him off guard for a split second. He stopped fiddling with his tie and gave a forced laugh. "I don't know what you think you know Donovan but its all complete and utter bullshit, fiction. You don't have a shred of evidence to back any of it up!"

She didn't say a word, just held up the folder that Mack had sent her and raised an eyebrow at him. He stared at the manilla folder unsure of just what it might contain or what it might mean for him. She opened the folder, scanning it quickly as she began reading. "Very interesting stuff in here Jack. Let's see, three separate counts of driving while intoxicated, driving while under the influence of narcotics, four counts for possession, one for resisting arrest, several for receiving stolen goods, there's even one for illegal gambling. And this one's my favorite, six counts of solicitation. That's some record Jack, how'd you ever manage to keep it quiet? Oh that's right, you had some information to sell." She closed the folder, sitting down across from him and setting it on her lap. She felt a great deal of satisfaction as she watched him squirming in his chair.

Suddenly pale and at a loss for words, he managed to choke out only two tense sentences. "Where the hell did you get that? They said they sealed my record."

Smirking at his reaction, she slapped the folder against her thigh giving him a searing look. "Sealed, not destroyed. Here's a tip for you Jack. You don't want anyone to find out what you've been up to? Don't get arrested. And if you do? Don't let them tell you they'll seal your record."

He shifted a couple of times, rubbing his forehead clearly not having expected the confrontation. Finally he found his voice again. "What do you want?"

This time she smiled. "Who says I want anything, maybe I'm just here to fire your sorry ass."

His temper snapped. "Because if you were going to fire me, you'd have come in here with security and had me locked out of the damn building by now. Since I'm not packing up my desk, I have to ask myself, what do you want?"

She smiled at his discomfort. "Very good Jack I was beginning to worry that you didn't have a brain." Her face hardened as she leaned forward. "I want the man at the front of the operation; I want the guy in charge of the little fiasco that's going on around here."

He shook his head without hesitation. "No, no way in hell am I going to give you that."

His vehement response surprised her. It seemed that the little weasel had a code of ethics after all; then again he could simply be covering his own ass.

"You don't have a choice; its either this or I fire your ass and you can explain to both the feds and your mob bosses why you can't help either one of them any longer."

He shook his head firmly. "I tell you who it is, I end up dead. End of story."

She had thought of that but was hoping that maybe she could bluff him into admitting something he hadn't intended. Unfortunately that didn't look like it was going to work. She'd just find another angle to press from. Eventually she'd find out what she wanted to know, with or without his help. Hell if she played her cards right he might reveal the guy without even intending too. It was just a matter of time.

She acted as if his denial was no skin off her nose. "Fine, for now. In the meantime I want to know everything and I mean everything about how this thing works."

He shrugged finding his backbone once more and shutting her out. "Then go talk to the feds, they've got my statement."

"I already talked to them. They couldn't find their heads with both hands if it were shoved up their asses." Despite the absurd situation he was in, Jack started chuckling at the image. "So I want to hear it from you. And don't even think of holding out on me. You think the feds are bad news? They'll just arrest you; me I'll destroy your cozy little life and take your career. I'll boot your ass out so fast you'll leave skid marks on the stairs. Are we clear?" Her eyes held no doubt that she would do exactly as promised and she'd enjoy every minute of it while she did it, threats to his life and well being be damned. Given what he'd done, the only reason he still had a job was due to his connection to the syndicate and they both knew it.

Gritting his teeth at being caught in a vise he could only nod curtly. "Crystal."

She gave him a smile at his easy agreement but it was far from pleasant. "Good. Now start at the beginning. Just what the hell is going on around here?"

"Money laundering, plain and simple." He spoke curtly as if that one statement were enough of an explanation.

She resisted rolling her eyes at his highly simplified explanation. "Exactly how are they managing it?"

He shrugged. "I don't know."

For a moment she thought he might be holding out on her. "Jack I thought we agreed not to lie to each other."

This time he gave a grim laugh unconcerned by the unspoken threat. "Despite what you might think, I don't know much. I'm just another cog in a very large machine."

She still found that hard to believe. "But you know who the front guy is that's managing to cover everything up."

"Finding that out was...unintentional."


He shook his head. "Look you can threaten me with anything you want; that's not going to change what I don't know." He leaned back in his chair, putting some distance between them. "What I do know is that the guy behind this is a real thinker; which is uncommon in this kind of business. Added to that, he plans big and for the future; that's nearly unheard of."

That information did surprise her a bit. She changed tactics slightly. "Do you know who's behind it?"

He nodded. "A South American drug cartel; they call themselves Los Lobos Negro."

She gave him an unbelieving look. "The Black Wolves?"

He shrugged. "Not super original but what I can tell you. From what I can tell they seem to have their fingers in a lot of pies; gambling, union scams, sports betting, drug running, prostitution; if its illegal chances are they have their hands somewhere in it."

She made a mental note to have Mack dig up any info he could on the cartel. "So why money laundering? Why risk really drawing the attention of the feds?"

He shook his head as if he were trying to explain something to a child. "Like I said, from what I've heard, the guy at the head of this damn thing is a real thinker. He figures that while the feds are chasing their asses over the really obvious mob related stuff, he can build up the scheme here and expand." Jack paused a minute clearly thinking before he continued. "I've never met him personally but from what I've heard of him, this guy scares the shit out of me."

That caught her attention. "Why?"

Jack started rocking his chair nervously as if talking about the man might make him suddenly appear. "Like I said he plans ahead and he plans big; more than that, he plans for the unthinkable; he has a plan for nearly any contingency. And if you cross him, he doesn't just kill you, he breaks you first. He finds whatever leverage he can and he uses it to make you give up everything you've ever believed in. He twists you so tight that by the time he kills you, he's actually doing you a favor." For a moment there was a touch of awe in his voice as if he respected the man for what he'd managed to do.

She wondered how much of what he said was real and how much was the man's own legend built up to keep people from crossing him. "You've seen this firsthand?"

He shook his head. "No, but I've heard plenty of stories. The one I believe, the one that scares me completely stupid involved what he did to one of his best friends and oldest partner." Again he started rocking in his chair slightly. "According to what I heard, the guy he offed was one of the first people he recruited to be part of his operation; they were tight, almost brothers. They were so close that their children even married each other. This guy thought he was invincible. So he went above the boss, arranging a huge drug deal with several gangs inside the US. The deal went sour; someone talked and a bunch of people from both the gangs and the cartel were busted. It put a serious crimp into the boss's operation here in the states." He stopped rocking and leaned forward, his voice falling a bit as he kept talking. "They say when the boss was told, he was livid. He ordered his friend and his friend's oldest son brought to him. And in front of everyone there, he forced the guy to kill his own son by slitting his throat."

"Did he do it?"

Jack shrugged. "According to what I heard, yeah he did. And then when the guy was completely broken by what he'd done to try and save himself, the boss locked him in the room with his son's body for 3 days. When he came out of the room, he was simply handed a gun. He blew his brains out with it, right in front of the boss."

Luce looked at him closely trying to see if he was just trying to bullshit her or if he was honestly telling the truth. But despite her disbelief at the story he was telling her the truth, at least what he thought was the truth. He was honestly and truly scared of the guy, whoever he was. And someone who was truly afraid sometimes did stupid and desperate things to avoid what they feared. She was going to have to watch Jack very closely.

She gave him a wry smile. "I guess I'll have to be careful then."

Her complete lack of fear and concern was his undoing and he slammed his hand down on the desk. "Shit Donovan, it's not your ass that's on the line here is it?'

Finally something besides bluster coming out of him. It seemed that she could get beneath his skin given the right tools. "Then I guess that means you'd better help us bury this guy, fast; doesn't it?" She decided to push him a bit more, her curiosity piqued over how he'd gotten involved in the first place. "I'm still confused about something though. What exactly does this guy have on you anyway? How'd he get you?"

Jack sighed. "A year or so ago I started placing sporting bets."

She rolled her eyes at just how cliché that sounded; and how often it really happened. "Let me guess, you got in over your head." Her acidic tone unmistakeable

He shot her a nasty look. "That kind of goes without saying doesn't it?" He shrugged off the annoyance and went on. "Next thing I know I've got a couple of goons at my door demanding money. When I couldn't pay, the boss decided I could help him in another way. So he hired me; I do what he asks and he forgets about the money."

"What exactly are you doing for him?"

"I'm little more than a courier; I get orders through an outside courier and I pass the packets along to the right people."

She felt a surge of excitement at that. Maybe she could finally get somewhere with this whole damn thing. "What's in them?"

He shook his head. "I don't know, they come sealed and I deliver them that way."

Annoyed at his lack of knowledge and the very really sensation of hitting another wall, she snapped. "Do you have any ideas how they're doing it?"

"Nothing I can prove but if I were you I'd start taking a real solid look at our billing services."

Surprised at the tip she merely nodded. "I'll do that."

* * *

Luce made her way back to the boardroom, tapping the manilla folder against her leg in annoyance with every step she took. She was only steps away from breaking the wall of silence around what was going on around the office. She was so close that for the first time since the entire mess started, she could almost see the end of it all. She sighed loudly more than a little thrilled at the prospect. As much as she loved her job, the thrill of unraveling the secrets and dead ends put in her path in countless ways, at that moment, she really wanted it over and done with. This one seemed to be eating at her in a way none of the other cases ever had. Maybe she needed a vacation worse than she thought.

She entered the board room, throwing the folder onto the table as she threw herself into the chair. She closed her eyes for several moments, feeling the tension draining out of her as she took several deep breaths. The soft chime from her laptop indicating a new e-mail had her cracking one eye cautiously. When the computer failed to explode or beep again, she reached out with one hand and checked her mail. There was a single message waiting for her attention. It was from Kylie.

She sat up for one short moment fearful that the other woman had contacted her to cancel. She was puzzled by the strange panicked sensation the idea invoked but had no time to ponder it further as it was violently shoved aside by the bigger realization that they were meeting at her place for dinner that night. She scanned the e-mail quickly, a wave of relief coming over her as she realized it was nothing more than an inquiry about whether or not she liked nuts.

She hit reply and typed out a few short humorous sentences before sending it off. The minute the message was off, she found herself throwing things into her briefcase, including the file folder she'd gotten from Mac. The last thing she did was to lock up her computer before bolting from the board room. She had a big date later; she was expected to cook and she didn't have the first clue what to do to accomplish that. As far as she was concerned, her day was over.

She dialed her phone as she hurried towards the elevator, giving a distracted wave to Colleen as she did so. The phone barely rang before Carl picked it up. "Hey Carl, I'm done for the day. If you're not in the middle of anything feel free to take the rest of the day off and go home to that baby girl of yours. Maybe even take your wife home some flowers. We can start again on Monday."

There was a slight pause from the other end before his delighted response came over the line. "Sure thing boss; you want me to swing by the federal building and stage a coup on my way home?"

She laughed at the dry comment, waiting for the elevator doors to close. "Go home, get some rest, don't think about work and I'll fill you in on Monday. I doubt much will change over the next couple of days. And I don't know about you but I'm really tired of staring at this shit."

"You and me both. All right, I'm gone then. Boy will the missus be glad to see me."

She walked out into the parking garage, fumbling for her keys for a second. "Maybe you should take her out to dinner."

He snorted loudly. "Are you kidding? You want to find the way to a brand new mother's heart? Give her some time to take a nap and she'll worship you forever." The phone went dead as she chuckled.

* * *

A short time later Luce was in the market nearest her condo wracking her brains for an idea of what to cook for dinner that night. It looked to be a lost cause at the moment. She'd been telling the truth some time ago when she told her friend that her inability to cook was something of a family legend. She'd never found the knack for even basic cooking and more often than not subsisted on family cooked meals or take out. It was easy, convenient and much safer for the appliances in her kitchen and the general well being of her neighbors. And truth be told it never really bothered her before.

But something strange had seized a hold of her that afternoon and she'd found herself wanting to cook, to prepare a meal for Kylie. At the time she was sure there was something she could fix for their first date; something simple but tasteful that would show Kylie that she wasn't a complete bumbling idiot in the kitchen. Now, after wandering through the isles of the store for some time she was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed by her promise and wondering if maybe she might have bitten off more than she could chew.

Feeling a bit of panic seize her, she pulled out her phone and dialed rapidly. When the phone connected, she felt a wave of relief wash over her as her mother's voice came over the speaker.


"Ina, I need a favor."

"What do you need my bright one?" There was a touch of surprise in her mother's voice.

Luce leaned against the cart and swallowed her pride. This was for Kylie, this was for their first date. "I have a date tonight." She braced herself for the delighted explosion she knew was coming.

Her mother did not disappoint and her voice came through so loudly that people nearby could hear her clearly. "A date? You have a date tonight my bright one?"

Luce fumbled with the phone to turn the volume down slightly before giving her mother a dry reply. "Yes mother, I have a date. Contrary to popular belief, I do go out socially every once in a while."

Grace laughed. "Of course you do my bright one. I am not saying you do not. It is just that you have not gone out in a very long time and I have worried about that."

"I know Ina. But it looks like the drought has ended."

Her mother chuckled softly for a few seconds at her wry tone and then, she was all business."What favor do you need from me?"

Luce sighed, reaching up to pinch the bridge of her nose. "I have done something remarkably stupid."

There was a slight pause and then a bit of disbelief from the other end of the phone. "I find that hard to believe lighteyes; you are a very intelligent person."

Luce nodded. "Normally I'd agree with you. But this isn't just any date, this is the first date and I promised to cook." She looked around in annoyance at her surroundings glad that she'd picked an empty aisle to have her break down in. "Now I'm standing in a grocery store with no idea just what to cook. Somehow I don't think Kylie would appreciate grilled cheese and tomato soup." She looked down into her cart, chagrined and astounded to see the fixings for both already there. She had no idea when exactly she'd picked them up in her blind panic march through the store.

There was a delighted gasp from her mother. "You told her."

Luce shook her head, pushing her cart slowly through the store once more. "No actually, its more like she told me."

"Oh lighteyes, I am very happy that I was right." Luce gave a noncommittal sound at her mother's gentle assertion. Her mother pointedly ignored it. "I take it you would very much like my help with dinner?"

She sighed again. Now they'd gotten around to the point of her calling once more. "I would very much love that."

"Very well, let us get started. You pick up what I need and I will meet you at your place. We'll give her a dinner she will love." Her mother could not hide the excitement in her voice and Luce found herself very hopeful that her planting her foot firmly between her lips would not hinder her date that night.

"Thank you Ina." The words were heartfelt and spoken with true sincerity.

Her mother chuckled softly. "You are very welcome lighteyes. But if you would like to thank me, truly thank me, you will snatch this girl up quick and never look back."

Her mother's firm statement startled Luce for a moment. Her mother had never said that about anyone Luce had ever dated before. She knew Kylie was special, she could feel in the pit of her bones that this one was different. But what had her mother seen that she had not?

"Ina you haven't by chance been nosing around in Unchi's things again have you?"

Her mother snorted softly. "Not this time lighteyes. You will just have to trust me."

Luce sighed knowing that for once her mother was right. There really was no other option. So she took a deep breath and placed her trust in her mother's capable hands. "What do I need to get?"

* * *

Kylie was nervous. Ok she was more than nervous she was just the right side of terrified and sliding into hysterical. And she was beginning to wonder if maybe she'd made a mistake; not in admitting how she felt, no she would never apologize for that. But maybe she'd been wrong to put so much pressure on Luce. Or herself for that matter.

Although it was a first date and just how you could escape pressure on the first date she hadn't a clue. Maybe if she ignored that it was a first date. Most first dates were usually between people who didn't know each other real well or had never even met before; where would the awkward movement be without the blind date after all. Lord knew she'd been through plenty of those.

So maybe she was looking at this whole thing wrong. Maybe she shouldn't be treating it like a first date at all. Because she knew Luce, extremely well despite only having known her such a short time. And she was pretty sure Luce was aware of who she was; she chuckled to herself softly after that thought. She was surely going crazy if she doubted that.

So maybe what she needed to do was treat this as just another dinner over at Luce's house. With the possibility that the other woman would manage to complete the job of burning her kitchen down this time. Just another night of watching movies and sharing junk food. With a chance of more kissing, maybe even some necking on the couch. Yep, just another night out with her friend Luce who she was seriously starting to see as something delectable and yummy to have for herself.

Kylie sighed and let her head fall onto the desk, the loud thump and small pain it produced doing little to nothing to distract her from her suddenly turbulent thoughts. She looked up as her laptop gave a small beep announcing she had a new email penetrated the fog of her mind. It was from Luce.

She scanned it quickly and started laughing to herself. "Only you would have the audacity to answer my question about nuts like that. I hope she realized I meant the kind you eat or this could get strange."

"Talking to yourself again in here?" Marie inquired from the door.

Kylie looked up, shaking her head. "No not this time."

Maire smiled at her boss and stepped inside. "Good I was beginning to worry about you after the last time. So are we going to see an end to the daydreaming or will there be more of it?"

"Daydreaming?" Kylie decided to play stupid.

Marie wasn't fooled for even an instant. She just shook her head and refused to play along. "Ok fine, just make sure if its something important that you can't seem to wrap your mind around for the day, let me know and I'll take care of it if I can."

Kylie chuckled, a bit chagrined that she hadn't hid her feelings nearly as well as she'd thought. "That obvious?"

This time Marie laughed. "Honey, you're walking around here like a zombie. Only two things I know of that would cause that in you; you're fighting with someone or you've met someone. In this case I'd say you've met someone."

Kylie felt a bit miffed at the assumption. "I could be fighting with someone too you know."

She shook her head. "Yeah but you're not. If you were fighting with someone it'd most likely be one of your brothers or Keith and that wonderful group just pisses you off. So much so you walk around here muttering under your breath or swearing at your keyboard, promising dire retribution to all who cross your path." She stood up and walked to the door. "This time though, you're walking around like someone smacked you with a two by four right between the eyes."

"Fine, fine. Damn nosey employees anyway." She picked up the nearest folder and winged at her manager who deftly caught it before it hit the floor, or her.

"Have fun tonight honey; just make sure you don't overdo it." She gave Kylie a final saucy wink and then was gone. Leaving Kylie to sit and chuckle quietly at her desk.

Of course her good humor lasted as long as it took Marie to disappear from the door and then she found herself sucked right back into her earlier train of thought. She sighed loudly knowing that she was going to be hard pressed to get anything constructive done with the rest of her day if she didn't manage to shut her mind up.

"Where's my damn rubber mallet when I need it?" She muttered to herself. She was saved from answering by the phone suddenly ringing at her elbow. Thankful for the much needed distraction, she scooped it up.

* * *

Kylie hurried into her house, locking the door firmly behind her before rushing into her bedroom. She was in such a rush, she never even noticed Loki waiting faithfully at the door just as he always did when he heard her coming up the walkway. His tail swished once or twice and a strangely perturbed look overcame his feline face. Then with a great deal of annoyance he slowly followed his mistress into her room.

She was pacing back and forth between the closet and her bathroom; well not really pacing so much as storming around and shedding her clothes along the way.

She stared at the book lying on her bed as if it were a snake coiled and ready to strike. She'd picked the damn thing up on a whim; a whim! What the hell had she been thinking? She sighed giving herself a mental slap on the forehead. Oh she knew what she'd been thinking all right. She'd been thinking about Luce; her long dark hair, how soft her lips felt earlier when they shared their first kiss, wondering what it might be like to kiss other places, wondering what her skin tasted like.

Kylie brought that train of thought to a screeching halt as soon as she could; her stupid brain had already gotten her trouble once today, there was no need to make it worse. Of course maybe it hadn't really been her brain, maybe it'd been something else, something lower. Kylie fell back on the bed covering her face with a pillow before letting out a frustrated scream.

If she kept this up, she'd never be able to control herself tonight. And as much as she was enjoying her sudden new found lust for Luce, something that was really surprising her on a number of levels, tonight was not the night to just jump the woman the minute she opened the door. Of course it might actually prove satisfying for both of them.

She groaned again throwing the pillow across the room. None of this was doing her a damn bit of good. All it was doing was frustrating the hell out of her and further illustrating that she really had no idea of what she was doing. She sighed, sitting up and staring at the book she'd brought home for several long moments her mind whirling. She'd picked the damn thing up for a reason even if it had been on a whim. There was nothing wrong in admitting that she really didn't know what she was doing. And just because she looked through it didn't necessarily mean she had to do anything with the information in it.

She took a deep breath, reached out and picked it up before she could change her mind. Sighing she opened up her new copy of The Lesbian Kama Sutra and began scanning it. The book was very well written and she'd unknowingly carried it in the store for years; point of fact she carried a rather eclectic selection of books in the store and should not have been surprised that this had been one of several that focused on the gay lifestyle. Maybe she really shouldn't have been so surprised; she'd probably been trying to tell herself something for years.

She flipped through another section of the book studying the illustrations closely. One of them caught her eye and she studied it for several moments, confused by it. "How in the world can you do that?" She flipped the book slightly and the new perspective cleared up her confusion. "Ah. That must be really hard on the knees." She continued flipping, pausing at yet another illustration. "Not sure even I'm that flexible. You'd think you'd get dizzy or something after awhile."

She kept reading, quickly scanning her way through the book in a short amount of time. She closed it firmly her mind whirling with the new information. "Well I can sure say I got an education. I just wonder how much good its going to do me." She looked over at Loki who was laying next to her blithely unaware of his human's inner turmoil. "Somehow I don't think Luce is going to be impressed by a bit of show boating in the bedroom. Not that I've ever been one for that anyway." The cat stood up and gave a great toothy yawn before jumping off the bed and padding away. Kylie stuck her tongue out at him as he left. "Fine, abandon me. Coward!"

Annoyed and a bit wound up with nervous energy, she stood up, leaving the book lying on her bed. She decided that it might be a good idea to let what she'd read sit in her the back of her mind for a bit. Time enough later to be concerned about the physical side of her relationship with Luce. After all it wasn't like she had any plans to move things along that quickly anyway. No for the moment she was resolved that there was only one thing she needed to figure out in the very near future. Just what in the world was she going to wear? She stared at her closet for several long moments, silently willing something to just jump out at her. But nothing did. She sighed; maybe she ought to give the book another pass after all.

* * *

In the end, Kylie opted for simple and comfortable. Being it was their first date and both of them were extremely nervous for various reasons, she really didn't feel a pressing need to dress up and make a huge deal out of how she looked. There would be time enough for that at future dates. She smiled at the thought of seeing Luce dressed to the nines and wondered if the taller woman would be up for it.

She opened the door to Luce's building and waved at the security guard sitting at his desk. He gave her a smile back and went back to his monitors. Since her first visit, Luce had left explicit instructions that she was to be allowed up whenever she showed up. Kylie got the feeling that other than Luce's mother, she was the only other person given that kind of consideration. It made her feel warm and special inside.

She exited the elevator on Luce's floor and raised a hand to knock but was stopped in mid-motion by the post it someone had left on the door. Thinking it might be a note from Luce, Kylie scooped it up and scanned it quickly.

* * *

Luce was hurrying around her apartment, nervous energy pushing her to be sure everything was in perfect order. Of course the whole idea of everything needing to be perfect was ridiculous; Kylie had already been over once and seen how she lived. It hadn't sent her screaming into the hills yet so why would it now? Besides it wasn't as if she were a real slob or something.

But no amount of logic would soothe her and so she paced and straightened and re-straightened until she was sure the impulse was going to drive her mad. So when the quiet knock came at the door, she almost welcomed the distraction from her frenzied movements. Despite the small kernel of knowledge that reminded her just who exactly was most likely at the door.

She opened the door and her heart gave a strange flutter in her chest at Kylie standing on her threshold, holding a tray of brownies. "Hi." She smiled brightly, knowing full well she probably looked like an idiot but not really caring at the moment.

Kylie smiled back at her. "Hi." She stood there a moment longer waiting for Luce to move and then an eyebrow raised slightly. "Aren't you going to ask me in?"

Luce chuckled a bit feeling like a complete moron and waved her in. "Oh God please, please come in." She closed the door. "I'm sorry I feel a little off balance tonight."

Kylie set the tray of brownies down on the counter before walking up to Luce. She reached up and gave her a soft kiss on the lips, having to raise herself up on tiptoe to do it. "Me too. That's why I thought we should just treat this as any other night we've ended up at each other's house. I think it'll be easier for both of us that way."

Her lips tingling at the contact, Luce dumbly nodded. "Ok, sounds like a plan."

Kylie smiled again and went back into the kitchen. Luce followed, watching as she began pulling a few things out of a bag and setting them on the counter. "Hope you don't mind, I brought some other stuff over. I wasn't sure what we were eating so I brought beer and wine. Oh and of course, I needed some of these as soon as I laid eyes on them." She pulled out a large plastic bag, filled nearly to the brim with a colorful assortment of gummy bears.

Luce chuckled wryly as she began pulling the dinner her mother had lovingly prepared out of the oven for them. "Have a thing for gummy bears?"

Kylie sat at the counter and watched her work, nodding. "Just the red ones; mostly."

"I don't know how you can stand them myself; they taste strange." She made a face at the memory of the one time she'd tried them.

Kylie snorted. "Says the woman who eats peanut butter cups with beer."

"That was the first time and it was under duress." Luce felt herself relaxing under the gentle banter and began taking dishes to the table; she waved Kylie back down when she stood to help.

"My sister I used to eat them all the time when we were kids. Molly and I would go to the movies with a big bag of them and fight over our favorite ones; except the green ones." Kylie ignored her and grabbed a couple of dishes and followed her.

Luce chuckled. "Didn't like them?"

She snorted. "Not just that; sometimes we'd get bored in the theater because the movie we'd picked was a dud so we'd sit there arranging the green ones into obscene positions."

They walked back into the kitchen and Luce gave her a strangely dubious look. "You can't arrange them in obscene positions." Smirking, Kylie reached out and with a few quick gestures, she demonstrated. Luce stared at the two green bears that had been suddenly placed in a very vulgar position. "I stand corrected."

Kylie laughed, even while eyeing the food that Luce set out critically. "Well that looks good. We bought ready to eat?"

"Yeah, just about." Without thinking, she leaned in and gave Kylie a gentle, simple kiss. She was surprised when Kylie leaned in and deepened the contact. After a few seconds they pulled apart and she was pleasantly surprised to find her lips tingling. "Nice to know that's still the same since this afternoon."

Kylie gave her a soft smile. "Yeah."

She couldn't help returning it. "Maybe we should sit down."

"Good idea."

They made themselves comfortable, Luce watching on in amusement as Kylie liberally helped herself

to a little bit of everything. Despite her initial objections, she was glad that her mother had made a great deal of food. There was a comfortable silence between for several moments as they ate and Luce found herself enjoying the night a great deal more than she had originally anticipated.

"Do you worry?" Kylie's quiet question broke the spell.

"All the time." Despite the seriousness of her tone, Luce tried to keep the mood light.

Kylie smiled at her attempt at levity but pressed on. "No I mean about this, about us?"

Her brow furrowed. "What exactly?"

"That it might get weird?"

She thought about that for a moment before answering. "A bit but then I worry more when I think what it might be like if we didn't try at all." She looked down at her plate as she threw out another truth. "To be honest I was afraid tonight would be...difficult."

"How so?" Kylie asked softly, not pushing but still curious.

"I was afraid admitting how we felt would change us; would change how we interact. I'm really glad we didn't lose that." She looked up, afraid that Kylie might simply laugh or even brush off what she said.

Relief flashed across Kylie's face as she reached over and took Luce's hand. "I am too. Especially since your culinary skills haven't improved."

"I managed without burning the place down." She tried to sound indignant but couldn't quite pull it off.

Kylie laughed. "Sure you did or should I call your mother and thank her for the meal?"

This time she was taken by surprise. "How the hell..." she trailed off eyeing Kylie closely. "What gave it away?"

Kylie laughed again. "She left a nice note for me on the door."

Luce's hand hit the table as she imagined all sorts of ways to get back at the woman who bore her. "That fink!" Then she sobered. She gave Kylie a searching look. "You're not upset are you?"

Kylie snorted. "About what exactly? That your mom did something so touching as to come over and cook a wonderful meal for our first date or that you promised me a meal you'd cooked yourself and called her instead?"

She shrugged. "Take your pick."

Kylie squeezed her hand firmly. "Honey, we both know you can't cook; you've admitted as much yourself on more than one occasion and I'd think the grease fire was a clue." Luce chuckled at that reminder as Kylie continued. "I love that you thought enough of our first date to admit you were in over your head and call her in the first place. Besides her note was very sweet and made me feel a great deal better about how hard this is hitting both of us."

Thinking back to what her mother had said earlier that day, she gave Kylie a wary look. "What'd she say exactly?"

"That I need to go slow and be sure of what I feel. That you wear your heart on your sleeve for some people and if I were to become one of those lucky few, I could hurt you very easily without meaning to."

She was very touched by the gesture. "I'm surprised she told you that."

Kylie shook her head. "I'm not; she's your mother, she loves you. Its her job to ensure that you don't get hurt. I'd be a fool to expect any less. What do you think my family's going to say to you when they find out we're seeing each other?"

A flash of panic shot through her. "Wait, what? Your family? We have to tell your family?"

Kylie gave her an evil look. "Not so nice coming from the other side is it?"

"Wait, maybe we can talk about this. Do we have to do it in person? Can't we just send them a telegram, do it all over a conference call or something?"

Kylie snorted. "Like any of them would ever let you get away with that." "No, I'd imagine since I've already had a talk with Mol about how I feel about you that she's gonna throw another lavish family party here in the next couple of weeks and share the news. And chicken likely won't be the only thing grilled that day."

She shook her head slowly. "Oh man I'm in trouble here." She dragged her hands through her hair.

Kylie laughed. "Don't worry, I'll protect you from the worst of it."

"That's not why I'm in trouble." She looked up at Kylie, not a trace of fear in her eyes. "I'm in trouble because I'm really looking forward to that."

The look touched Kylie and she found herself returning it with a smile. "Yeah, I guess we're both in trouble then because I can't wait to tell them myself." They both turned back to their food and there was another bit of gentle silence between thm.

Again it was Kylie who broke it. "Is it too much?"

Luce shook her head. "I thought it might be but now, I think its perfect."

"Me too."

Luce chuckled. "I guess that means you want to do it again?"

"How bout my place next weekend?" The eagerness in her voice was evident; she sounded like a little kid at Christmas.

Luce gave her another warm smile feeling like a kid at Christmas herself at the moment. "I'll bring the gummy bears."

They finished dinner relatively quickly and they spent several minutes talking and joking back and forth as they cleaned up the dishes. Once those were done, Luce looked askance at Kylie. "So what do you want to do now?"

"How bout a movie? I'm sure you've got something we haven't seen yet." She wandered over to the entertainment center.

Luce laughed as she joined Kylie and they began perusing her rather large DVD library. "As a matter of fact I do. How bout something sappy and romantic?"

"Sounds good to me. Besides if the movie sucks, we could always just pretend to watch it and make out." She'd managed to behave herself rather well she thought given her earlier impulse to just leap on Luce the moment she answered the door. But now it seemed her control over her own hormones was rapidly waning.

There was such a hopeful note in the other woman's voice that Luce glanced at her sharply. "You know for someone who only just realized they were attracted to woman, you're taking this remarkably well." She pulled out the movie she wanted and eyed Kylie as the other woman sat down on the sofa.

"What can I say, maybe I'm making up for lost time. Or maybe its just the woman I'm attracted to. I think you really do a number on my senses Luce." She eyed Luce appreciatively for a moment or two as she put the movie in the player. "Besides I thought we'd already figured out that I find you attractive; if you're still not sure, I'd be more than happy to show you again." She tensed to stand up.

Luce held her hands up in a warding off gesture. "As much as I'd love that, and believe me I would, I'm not sure I could rein in my libido again. It was hard enough the first time."

Her heartfelt admission was music to Kylie's ears; at least she wasn't the only one. Despite Luce's hands, she couldn't resist pushing things a little and stood up, approaching her slowly. "Are you saying you don't want to kiss me again?" She stopped just short of pressing herself against the taller woman.

Luce laughed as Kylie stood there in front of her, just inches away. "Honey, I could never tell that kind of lie with a straight face."

Kylie gave a grateful sigh. "Good, you had me scared there for a second."

She chuckled. "Having said that though, I was hoping we could take the physical side of things a bit slow."

Touched at the concern she was showing her, Kylie reached out and embraced her. "You're pretty amazing you know that?"

Luce returned the embrace enthusiastically, willingly wrapping her arms around Kylie even as she downplayed her words.. "Not really no."

She was going to be denied however. "How many people would be willing to wait Luce? For that matter how many people would offer to wait?"

Luce shrugged. "Not many that I know of."


"Kylie, you mean a lot to me as both a friend and this. This is the first relationship you've ever had with a woman; if you needed six months to get used to the physical side of things, I'd gladly give it to you." She sighed loudly at the thought, more than willing to do it but still resigning herself to the idea. "There'd be a lot of cold showers in my future and I might know myself a great deal more than I ever wanted to but I'd gladly give you that time."

She chuckled even as she settled against Luce's shoulder and for the first time in her life simply let herself go. "Like I said, amazing."

Touched by the words and the gesture, Luce chuckled warmly. "I think you're pretty terrific yourself."

They settled down to watch the movie, both fully intending to honor the need to wait to go any further in their physical relationship. And for most of the movie they managed rather well. But at one point, Kylie found herself wondering just why she was waiting in the first place. It wasn't like anyone would judge her or even care if she slept with Luce on the first date. It wasn't as if they were complete strangers after all. Kylie felt she'd known her for a very long time and that reaching this point was something they'd been working towards since the moment they met. Even if she was only just now recognizing it for what it was.

She was comfortable with Luce; far more comfortable than she could ever remember being with anyone before. They were sitting in a private place, watching a wonderfully romantic movie and there was just something about the moment that spoke to her and encouraged her in a way she couldn't ever remember feeling before. And so, despite how good the movie was, Kylie found herself reaching out for Luce as the movie progressed.

It started simple with them merely holding hands. Then it progressed to Luce putting her arm around her and the next thing she knew, she was practically lying in her arms, staring into her eyes, feeling an urge to go further. There was a pleasant hum in her blood, something calling to her to just let go. So she stopped fighting and simply gave in to the urge she'd been feeling since the first time Luce had kissed her that day.The minute her lips touched Luce's she knew she was lost and despite their desire to go slow, there would be no stopping them tonight. And by Luce's reaction, it seemed the feeling was mutual.

The kiss was sweet, deep and so very intoxicating. Kylie found herself drowning in the sensation of it as Luce's lips played over her own. She heard a soft growl and realized it was coming from her own throat. Without thinking, her arms came up and wound their way around Luce's neck as she deepened the kiss. She felt Luce's arms come up around her, the feeling of them enclosing her body sending a new jolting sensation rushing through her.

Reluctantly and out of breathe, she pulled back slightly. She met Luce's puzzled and drugged eyes with her own as she sucked in a huge breath. "Wow."

Luce laughed as she rested her head against Kylie's. "Yeah, wow. You ok?"

Kylie smiled feeling a bit of shyness come over her as she looked at the other woman. "Yeah, I just don't know...I mean I want to make it good for you and I'm not sure..." she trailed off as Luce placed a finger against her lips gently.

"Why don't I show you?" There was a devilish grin on her face that was strangely arousing. And that was only heightened by the fire in Luce's bright blue eyes, which in her passion had darkened to almost midnight. She ran her hand up Kylie's side, lightly brushing against her, dragging the thin t-shirt with it. With nothing in her way, her next touch was against bare skin.

Kylie shivered at her touch, her eyes closing as she simply forgot how to breath. If this was how it was with her touching something simple as her side, what would it be like when she reached something really important. In a moment she had an answer as Luce's fingers gently brushed her breast. Even through the bra the contact was electric and it sent Kylie writhing in sheer ecstasy.

Then, in a whisper, her shirt was just suddenly gone. Pulled off and over her head before she even registered it let alone reacted to it. Kylie felt some of her earlier shyness return as Luce began placing gentle kisses and nips every where she could reach. But it evaporated when she looked up and their eyes met. The hunger in them was unmistakeable. It jolted Kylie, touching her in places she had never even been aware of before. Then the moment was gone and Luce resumed her gentle explorations.

Kylie arched her back when Luce moved up to begin kissing and sucking along the line of her throat. She felt Luce's hands at her back, then her bra separated and was gently brushed aside as Luce's fingers made contact with her breasts. Kylie cried out at the sensation, not even noticing as Luce removed the garment and simply flung it out into the room. She was far too wrapped up in the sensation of Luce's hands cupping her, stroking her, the contact making her nipples hard enough to cut glass.

Luce leaned against her, letting the cotton of her own t-shirt tease and excite Kylie even further. Kylie moaned again suddenly desperate to be naked and let Luce touch her everywhere, let her do anything. Just so long as the ache between her legs, which had gone from ignorable to practically explosive in only seconds, was soothed.

Luce must have sensed her discomfort or simply decided she no longer had any patience for the seduction. Because her hands abandoned Kylie's breasts and went to the snap of her jeans. Feeling them open and the zipper slide down, Kylie grabbed Luce, hauling her close before sealing her lips in a searing kiss.

Luce's hand settled on her stomach, a molten brand on her tender skin, the heat of it trailing after her as she let it drift even lower. Kylie's sudden groan was swallowed by Luce's ravenous mouth and just like her shirt, her pants disappeared in a whisper of movement and thought. The cool air brushed across her bare legs and between and Kylie shuddered realizing that her panties were the last barrier between them. Then in the next moment all thought was driven from her mind as Luce's hand drifted lower and brushed between her legs.

Both women groaned loudly at the contact and suddenly Kylie needed Luce naked, their skin touching and moving against each other. She pulled up Luce's cotton shirt roughly, her need outpacing her desire to seduce. There was a moment of fumbling when her passion fogged mind refused to release Luce's lips but Luce simply pulled away, chuckling softly before tossing away the offending garment. She returned quickly, taking Kylie's lips savagely as she slipped out of the rest of her clothes.

When she pressed herself against Kylie once more, she was completely nude and the feel of her naked flesh against Kylie's own was beyond description. Her hands took on a life of their own and without thought, they began roving over the feast before them with a vengeance even as Luce's hand returned to the place between her thighs.

Kylie moaned at the sure feel of Luce's hand, arching beneath her even as she clutched at the other woman. Then, her underwear was gone and Luce's hand was touching her aching naked flesh. At her first firm touch, Kylie tore her mouth free and gave a sharp cry even as Luce groaned at the feel of her wet flesh. Kylie's next cry was swallowed by Luce's lips as she again kissed her even as her hand began moving in a slow sure rhythm between her legs.

Kylie moved against her lover in match to her motions, shuddering at the sensations her strong sure hands evoked. It was so powerful, so much, almost too much. She could feel it building inside her, surging and powerful as the wave grew and grew. And suddenly she needed to touch Luce as she was being touched, to build the fire in her as it was now being built in her.

Her hand slid down and found its way between Luce's legs and she sighed loudly as her hand found its way between the wet folds of Luce's desire. The taller woman jerked and groaned loudly at the first touch. She pulled back to look deeply into Kylie's eyes, her breath a sudden rushing torrent at the smaller woman's intimate touch. Her hand picked up speed and Kylie felt the wave building up even faster within her. It grew almost painful, building so high and powerful she was almost frightened of the fall down.

She could see the fear and passion reflected in Luce's eye as well as a strange sense of wonder and the gift of what they were sharing astounded her. But her hand never faltered on Luce and it broke over both of them at the same time. They plummeted over the crest each of them crying out loud as they fell and shuddered, the feel of their slick naked skin moving against each other only heightening the pleasure. Then they both collapsed against each other drawing in huge lungfuls of air in great heaving breaths as they attempted to calm their racing hearts.

For several moments neither of them was able to move, or even talk. But finally Kylie found the strength to mutter a single expletive sentence. "Fuck that was amazing!"

Luce gave a wry chuckle as she attempted to lift herself off the smaller woman. "Amazing doesn't even begin to cover it."

Kylie laughed. "Obviously you didn't hear the f-bomb at the beginning of that statement."

"I think you broke something." She sounded a bit confused and resigned at her inability to move.

Kylie found this extremely funny and began giggling uncontrollably; a second or two later Luce joined her. The hysteria was over quickly though and Kylie found herself staring intently into her lover's beautiful blue eyes. She reached up and touched Luce's face gently, an overwhelming wave of emotion sweeping over her. She felt tears prickling her eyes as Luce reached up and took her hand.

"You ok?"

Kylie nodded. "Yeah; this was just so intense. I've never felt anything like it before."

She nodded. "Neither have I." They sat there for several moments, not saying anything just simply enjoying the after glow and reveling in the lingering sensations of their love making. Then Kylie gave a great heaving yawn making Luce chuckle. "Tired?"

The smaller woman nodded. "Yeah someone really wore me out."

Luce chuckled and pulled herself off the smaller woman. She reached down to help her up, noting that both of them seemed rather shaky. But she locked her knees and refused to let herself fall. "Will you stay? I'd really like to wake up with you in my arms again without you rushing off before I've had a chance to enjoy it."

Kylie had no words and just simply nodded, letting Luce lead her off to bed. In moments they'd tumbled into the soft bed, their limbs pleasantly tangled together as they fell asleep mere moments later.

Kylie felt the dream take hold of her once more the moment she drifted off. But this time it was very different. It began quickly and without preamble and the moment where she turned to face the figure swiftly approaching her on horse back. She watched in sheer joy as Luce thundered up on a pale horse, her leather armor creaking, weapons clinking gently as she deftly pulled the horse to a halt and dismounted.

In moments, Luce had reached her and embraced her close, the smell of leather and sun warm bronze overlying the more subtle scent of her lover's sun warmed skin wrapping around her like a second skin. She smiled as she buried her face in Luce's armored chest and simply enjoyed the feel of her lover in her arms once more. It had been so very long.

She felt Luce's hand reach out and gently lift her face, unaware that tears had begun to silently fall down her cheeks. Luce reached up and wiped them away, a soft indulgent look in her bright blue eyes. There was peace in her those eyes as well and a desire to simply stand there holding her for as long as the smaller woman needed.

Kylie reached up to touch Luce's face gently, part of her still unbelieving that she was there. "You found me." Her simple statement made the other woman smile indulgently.

She reached up to touch Kylie's face and nodded. "Yeah, I did."

This time when she leaned down to kiss her, Kylie surrendered to it gladly, her heart singing at the gentle contact between them. And again she could only think that it had been far, far too long.

The dream let her go gently and she found herself drifting down into a deep slumber, no longer burdened with sorrow or grief at the loss of the dream. And in her sleep, Kylie smiled gently and snuggled closer to her newfound lover.

To be continued in Chapter 9

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