All or Nothing




Disclaimers: Please be gentle with me as this is my first posted work. All the characters belong to me and me alone. Copyright 1997, 1999. Love/Sex/Language: This is an uber alternative fiction story. It depicts a loving relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under the age of 18 or live in an ignorant state wherein this may in any manner be illegal, please move on. There is bad language that may offend some, but given what is on tv/cable these days, it's probably tame. There's also drinking of alcohol and a tad bit of angst. Feed The Bard: Please let me know if you like my work!



The next morning Alex lounged in bed, not wanting to stir from the warm safety of her surroundings and thinking of the evening before. Stacy had dropped her off at about midnight, parting with a long and sensuous kiss. She had excused herself due to an early morning meeting and asked Alex to call her when she got back from her weekend excursion with Izzy and Ginny. Alex was very impressed, and quite smitten with what she saw in Stacy, but was concerned with her feelings toward Stacy.

Yes, Stacy was gorgeous, educated, successful, and had a great sense of humor, but did she want a relationship or just a good time? Alex couldn't answer that for Stacy, yet alone for herself. Here it was, only two days after she decided to make changes, and now they were coming far too fast. She was relieved that she would be leaving later that afternoon for what she hoped was a weekend of relaxation and self reflection.

At work, Alex robotically completed her required tasks. Throughout the day Sally could sense that her boss' mood was different, but she still knew better than to try to find the cause. She knew that when Alex was ready to tell her, she would.

Alex again left the office early, went home and quickly packed a small bag for the weekend. Driving to Ginny and Izzy's house, she prepared herself for Ginny's anticipated interrogation about Stacy. It wasn't until they were halfway to the lake when Ginny, sitting in the passenger seat, suddenly turned to Alex.


" 'Well' what?" Alex innocently asked in return, looking at Ginny from the corner of her eyes.

Knowing full well what her lover was up to, Izzy cautioned her teasingly. "Ginny, please leave the poor woman alone. It's late and it can wait."

"We have another hour to go and nothing but be-bop on the radio. I am sure that Alex understands both my curiosity and my boredom," Ginny shot back.

"It's okay Izzy. I'm prepared. I'm just surprised she waited this long to say something." Alex tried to reassure Izzy looking at her in the rear view mirror.

With Alex giving her the green light, Ginny didn't need any further encouragement. "Okay then, spill it. I know Stacy was going to call you because she asked me whether she should and I told her to go for it . . . So, did she call?"

"Yes, she called me at work yesterday."

"So, what happened?"

"She asked me out," Alex knew this cat and mouse game would drive Ginny bananas.

Not having any more patience, Ginny finally gave in. "All right, all right! Cut the bull shit and tell us what happened!"

Laughing at both her friend's reaction and Izzy's applause for treating Ginny as she did, she described the events of the previous evening. "We went out for dinner and dancing. She picked me up, we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant in La Jolla, and then we dropped by Flicker's to talk and dance. She drove me home, dropped me off and went on her merry way home."

"Well, that's what you did, but what happened? I want the really juicy stuff!"

"Fine, to appease your more prurient interests, we talked about our families, coming out and a little bit about our jobs. And yes, we danced some slow dances and . . . ," she deliberately drew it out to further provoke Ginny, ". . . we kissed."

Pleased with herself for an apparently successful match, Ginny clapped her hands and raised her feet screaming "Hallelujah! I knew it! I knew you two would hit it off!"

"Slow down Andretti. Yes, I had a nice time. Yes, I may have played a little kissy face. And yes, I enjoy her company. But don't be ordering the wedding cake so soon. I just met her and I'm not ready to rush into anything."

"Not ready to rush into anything?! Jesus Alex, you've been playing celibate for over a year. All you've done is work, work, work. I'm not saying you have to marry her tomorrow, but I just want you to have what Izzy and I have. I think you two are good for each other. At the very least, you can have a new friend. Doesn't that factor into your recent decision to emerge from solitude?"

"I don't know what exactly my recent decision includes, but yes, it would conceivably include new friends. I do appreciate your concern Gin. I know I haven't been the easiest person to deal within the recent past, and I do know that I don't want to rush into anything. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I just want to take things slow and easy. Who knows, maybe I just want to play the field a bit to make up for lost time," Alex smiled wryly.

Izzy, the peacemaker, decided it was time to interject some neutrality. "Alex, we do care for you and I'd be lying if I told you that we haven't been concerned about you. I think I can speak for both of us," she said giving Ginny a look to keep her mouth shut, "that I, we, think it's wonderful that you have decided to make changes in your life. We love you and will help in any way we can. When you're ready, you're ready. We'll be there when you need us. But we will also kick your butt if it's appropriate or you get out of line."

"Thanks Izzy, I guess. Anyhow, since you're so hot on Ms. King, what else should I know about her? Is she into S.M., cross-dressing, mental cruelty? Anything I should be concerned about if I decide to pursue anything with her, platonic or otherwise?"

"Well, Stacy and I have never really been all that close. We became acquaintances at Padre and when she left we kept in touch every so often. Dinner here, a party there. What I do know is that she comes from money. Didn't you see the Porsche?" Alex nodded her head. "Well her father runs some sort of business in Chicago and it's close to being, if it isn't already, a Fortune 500 company. I heard she came into a healthy trust fund when she turned 30. The only thing she really bought was the car. It's my understanding that she tries to live within the money she makes, which is fairly decent from what I hear. She tries to downplay the rich bitch image and doesn't talk about her money at all."

Alex paused a moment digesting the information. "What about personally? Do you know anything about her history?"

"A little. I know she was in a relationship while I was at Padre. They hit the four or five year mark and it went sour. Let me see . . . that was about three years ago. I know that she has dated, but I don't know if there's been anyone special or long term. Has she said anything? I haven't heard of any police blotter or sex crimes."

Alex laughed at the last comment. "That's reassuring. I don't want to start things off with a homicidal maniac."

The next thirty miles were driven in relative silence. Alex began to think of Stacy, as she would continue to do for the entire weekend.

* * *

To describe it as a 'cabin' was an understatement. It was more like a lake front luxury condo. Three stories high, with bedrooms upstairs and downstairs, it was larger than most people's homes. Alex was given the loft upstairs while Ginny and Izzy went to another master suite downstairs. They prepared a quick dinner, retiring early.

Alex was awakened the next morning by the warbling of blue jays and the sun shining through the expansive wall of windows facing southeast. She laid in bed, staring through the windows at the blue sky tinted by the rays of the rising sun. She began her day, as she concluded the day before, thinking of what life had in store for her, including what role, if any, the five-foot eight-inch blue-eyed beauty would play in it.

'Why is this so confusing?' she thought. 'I make a simple decision and things get even more complicated.' To sort out her thoughts she dressed and left a note for Izzy and Ginny telling them she was out for a walk and would return shortly.

Thoughts about her job, life and future cluttered her mind. Despite her attempts to the contrary, each thought always seemed to turn back to Stacy. The way Stacy held her as their bodies became one on the dance floor. The softness of Stacy's lips as they brushed against her own. The warmth and comfort she felt when she thought about Stacy. She smiled as the memories of the few tender moments they shared came back to her. 'Moments. That's all they were. Insufficient fractions of time upon which to base a friendship, yet alone a relationship,' she thought suddenly, trying to push away the surprising intensity of her emotions.

As she entered the second mile of her walk, contradictory thoughts went rushing through her mind. 'I hardly know the woman. It's simply too soon to make any commitments. Take one day at a time. If we end up friends, so be it. If we end up more, time will tell.' She was perplexed by her hesitancy and inability to clear her confusion. She decided that until anything became more clear that she would live her life as she saw fit and date other people should opportunities arise. Although Stacy's face and touch seemed to be imprinted in her memory, she would not allow her lust to rule her life. Otherwise, the time by herself could be for naught. It was important to her that she not be too consumed too quickly. That would only lead to more unhappiness, she concluded. 'No, dammit,' she thought, 'I want something special and lasting, not intense and fleeting.' She walked back to the condo, wondering what Stacy was doing and how she felt. After all, wasn't all this anguish and confusion a practice in futility if Stacy didn't feel the same way?

* * *

Stacy jogged along the beach, her thoughts centered squarely on Alex. It had been a long time since someone had mesmerized her so completely. She knew she was playing with fire if she pursued Alex. After all, Alex was finally getting over a long term dysfunctional relationship and was just beginning to date. This wasn't just a fire. It was an inferno in a powder keg factory.

Stacy sensed Alex's hesitation when they first met, but those hazel-blue eyes enthralled her. 'The woman is stunning,' she thought. If she saw Alex again, she knew she would have to treat her gingerly. She hesitantly came to a simple conclusion. 'I can't push. Let her make the next move. If she doesn't, then I have my answer.'

But she knew it was the answer that she feared most. For the last three years she had lived her life as a butterfly, flitting from one person to the next in attempts to satisfy her basic need of being loved. Although she was a child of privilege, she hid from it because of what it represented to her. Stagnant love. Money to buy what she wanted, but not the time or the show of the love she desperately wanted from her parents. Parents who were too busy with board meetings and Junior League. How many years of therapy and endless hours of writing in her journal had it taken to reveal the significance of her loveless childhood? She wondered.

Stacy and her siblings had come out of their childhood and adolescence physically unscathed, but emotionally scarred. She thought of her brother, a successful doctor, who had been married four times and appeared to be heading toward number five; and her sister, married to the same man for ten years, and who over compensated for the lack of attention from her parents by trying to play "Super Mom" to her own two children.

Stacy, on the other hand, was an emotional flounder. She had been involved in one long term relationship for five years which ended as a result of her lover's liaisons with other women. When Stacy finally confronted her with evidence of the indiscretions, she was told flatly it was Stacy's own fault by suffocating her. Those few words devastated Stacy even more than knowledge of the infidelities. She thought of how it made her examine her life more closely, including treatment with a therapist, although she still cringed anytime the scene replayed in her head.

She thought of how her ultimate reaction to the betrayal was to conduct her affairs, so to speak, completely different than she had done before. Not allowing herself to get too close to anyone and avoiding any type of permanent relationship. It had only been within the last seven months of her going to therapy that she began to realize that she possessed the capabilities to be in an emotionally satisfying relationship with the right person.

Again aware of the present, she noticed that her deep thoughts of the past caused her pace to quicken almost to a sprint. Slowing back to a leisurely gait, she felt her heart rate slow as well. "If this person is Alex," she thought aloud, "I will definitely see if the thousands I spent in therapy were worth it."

* * *

Upon returning to work Monday morning, Alex realized how much she had ignored her duties during the previous week. There were stacks of phone messages that she had not responded to, an urgent memo about a possible libel suit and stacks of contracts she had not yet reviewed.

Before making a dent in her workload, she felt she owed Sally an explanation of her recent unusual behavior. She called Sally into her office and quickly explained that she had met someone, went out on a date, and described her weekend in the mountains. She apologized for her rudeness and stated that it was business as usual. Sally left her office smiling, knowing that her intuition had been correct. She hoped that this mystery woman could bring her boss/friend the happiness she deserved.

For the next three days Alex returned to normal and worked fourteen hour days to both catch and keep up with her work. Finally catching a breath, she was surprised that she didn't get any messages from Stacy. Replaying the end of their date in her mind, it dawned on her that Stacy had asked that Alex call her. Given Stacy's comments about not pushing her, Alex suspected that she would not hear from Stacy unless she made the call.

Glancing at her desk clock, she was surprised that it was already 7:00 p.m.. She doubted that she would reach Stacy at work, but didn't have her home phone number with her. Picking up the receiver, she dialed Stacy's work number. She was about to hang up when she heard Stacy's voice on the other end.

"Hi, Stacy? This is Alex," Alex held her breath not really knowing what to expect.

"Alex, how are you? How was your weekend in the mountains?" Stacy responded, a wave of relief passing over her. Not hearing from Alex by Tuesday, she assumed that she wouldn't be hearing from her at all.

"Relaxing, but I've been paying for it since Monday. I'm sorry I haven't called sooner, but I've been busting my butt to pay for my goofing off last week. How have you been? I didn't expect you to still be at work, but I thought I'd give it a shot. I left your home number at home and expected to just leave a voice mail."

"I've been busy. I had a large project that needed some last minute revisions, which I just finished. You caught me as I was about to walk out."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I don't mean to keep you from any plans. I'll call you back another time." Alex felt foolish. 'What a quantum assumption I made thinking that she wouldn't be busy.'

"Oh no. I don't have any plans. I was just going to grab something to eat and go home and hit the sack. It's ok," Stacy reassured, almost pleading. She had been waiting three days for this call and was not going to let the opportunity pass.

"Are you sure? Really, I can call back some other time."

"No, listen. It's ok. My only great plan was to eat. How about you? Have you had dinner yet?"

"Not yet. To be honest, I haven't even given it a thought. Would you like to go grab something together?"

"Sure. I take it you're at your office, so how about somewhere downtown?"

"That's fine. Do you like Japanese? I know this great hole in the wall down on Broadway."

"Sushi Express?" Stacy asked surprised.

"Yeah. How did you know? I thought I was one of the ten people in San Diego who knew about that place."

Stacy laughed, "You are, but there are eight others out there. How funny, I was going to suggest it as well. We must be on the same wave length tonight."

"I guess. Do you want to meet there or would you like me to swing by and pick you up? Parking is a bitch down there at this time of night and you're on my way. Whichever you prefer is fine with me."

"You're right. If you don't mind driving, I can wait out on the curb in front."

"That's fine. How about I pick you up in about ten minutes. Look for a dark grey Honda Accord, so you don't get into any other weirdo's car."

"I'll watch carefully," Stacy laughed. "See you in a few."

* * *

"That was pretty funny the way that we both thought of this place at the same time," Stacy laughed as she picked up a piece of California roll. "Do you come here a lot?"

"A couple of times a month if I can. How about you?" Alex responded, refilling their glasses with Sapporo.

"About the same. How are Ginny and Izzy? I haven't had a chance to give her a call since you all went to the lake."

"Ornery as ever, at least Ginny is. Izzy's a doll. I haven't been able to get a free moment to give them a call. Knowing Ginny, I'll probably hear from her tomorrow. That woman has an uncanny sixth sense about things."

"Like what?"

Knowing what door she had just opened, Alex was embarrassed. "About us having dinner together again. You know dinner at their house was a set up, as if it wasn't obvious."

"I for one did not view a pleasant dinner with some old friends and an opportunity to meet someone new as a set up," Stacy said warmly as she looked into Alex's eyes. "On the contrary, it was a chance for me to become acquainted with a beautiful woman with whom I hope I can get to know better."

"Thank you . . . I . . . it just didn't come out right. Ginny was admittedly trying to fix us up. At first I was infuriated at her. After you and I spoke and then went out on Thursday night, I couldn't give her the satisfaction of thanking her for doing me a favor and introducing me to a really nice woman."

"I'm glad. I'm also glad you called tonight," Stacy said softly, taking a sip of her beer to calm her nerves. "I didn't know whether or not I'd hear from you. I was beginning to wonder if I scared you off the other night." She held her breath waiting for Alex's response.

"No, you didn't scare me off. I told you that last week. I'm a big girl and can take care of myself, at least most of the time . . . I did think of you this weekend. I did a lot of thinking about a lot of things," she added slowly as she saw Stacy's eyebrows raise involuntarily in surprise.

"I thought about you too. What did you think of, if I may ask?"

"About me, my life, what I want. I made some decisions that sort of fall in line with some others I've made recently."

Stacy began to worry that she was going to get the brush off. After all, they only had one date before tonight. Her insecurities at their worst, she thought maybe she pushed Alex too far, too fast.

Seeing Stacy's expression of concern and panic, Alex knew she should go ahead and say what she had to say. "I enjoy spending time with you Stacy. It's been a long time since I really dated anyone, and to tell you the truth, I'm scared. I know we only just met, but I want to be honest with you. I want to keep seeing you if that's what you want as well, but I want to take things slow and one day at a time. I'm not ready for a commitment." She quickly sipped some beer and glanced at Stacy for her reaction. Across the table she saw a woman trying to mask a mixture of both panic and relief.

Stacy attempted to exhale normally without drawing any more attention to herself. 'At least the lady's honest and there's still hope,' she thought to herself.

"Thank you for your honesty Alex. I respect that and I do understand where you're coming from. I'm not asking you to marry me, I don't even know if I'm ready for that. But I would like to continue seeing and getting to know you."

"Good," Alex glanced around the room and realized that they were the last two customers in the restaurant. "Hey, they probably want to close, it's after 9:00. Do you want to go get a drink at 'Paradise'? It should be nice and mellow tonight."

"Sure. Should we go get my car? I don't want you to go out of your way when we're done."

"Don't worry about it. We'll take care of it later," Alex grabbed her purse and jacket from the back of the chair and headed out the door with Stacy following closely behind.

"Paradise" was almost empty when Alex and Stacy entered. The bar was much smaller than Flickers, about a quarter of the size. It consisted of a small bar area, eight small tables and a piano bar. Its size and layout gave it a warm feeling of intimacy. It was a place to go and talk and relax and not to cruise.

Seeing that all the tables were filled, they sat at the corner of the small bar area. Stacy motioned to the bartender who responded by stepping over to take their drink order.

"Do you mind?" Alex asked before lighting her cigarette.

"No, go right ahead. So, how's work, other than hectic?"

"Busy. There's a big deal in the works which is driving me crazy. Now there's word from the powers that be that they're thinking of restructuring the Legal Department. It's something they consider every now and then until they realize that they really can't save any money by outsourcing. It'll soon pass, I hope. How about you? How's your job going?"

"You know the publishing world. We've been experiencing more layoffs, including middle management. I've been immune so far, but it just means more work for me. I'm hanging in there."

"I know how that goes. So . . . not to be intrusive, but what do you with what little free time you have?"

"I love driving the coast route or up to the mountains with the top down on nice days, going to movies and plays. Quiet nights watching t.v., spending time with my friends and occasional visits to the bars. And you?"

"Pretty much the same. I love movies. Despite my employment in publishing, I love to read. My ideal Sunday is to get a good book and lie in the sun and read while drinking a couple of beers. To me, that is so relaxing." Despite the safe conversation, Alex was suddenly overwhelmed by a craving to touch the woman sitting across from her. Her body, her very essence, cried out with desire. She took a sip of her beer hoping it would distract her lascivious thoughts. Not able to resist the impulse, she reached up onto the bar and took Stacy's hand into her own. As she touched the soft skin, she felt tingles go through her body. "You have beautiful eyes. The color reminds me of this blue flower I once saw in Europe."

"Thank you. You have gorgeous eyes yourself. I can't quite tell if they're hazel or blue, or both," Stacy responded, looking back into Alex's.

"Hazel is what my driver's license says. They seem to change depending on what I wear. But the older I get, the more green they seem to get. So tell me more about your family." Alex quickly changed the subject away from herself.

Stacy was confused with Alex's actions and the sudden changes in the course of their conversation. She took a moment to gather herself from the roller coaster before answering. "Well, I think I told you my brother is a doctor in Chicago. He's been married innumerable times and the number is still growing. He can't seem to understand that he doesn't have to marry a woman he's dating unless he's certain about it and is madly in love. But he meets a woman, becomes infatuated and proposes. The alimony is going to bankrupt him . . . Do you want another beer?" Stacy asked after she drank the rest of her own.

Alex looked at her watch and saw that although it was getting late, there was time for another drink and the opportunity to spend more time with Stacy. "Sure, one more is fine. How about you order them while I find the restroom?" she suggested. Standing up, she reached into her pocket and pulled out some money placing it on the bar. "This round's on me," she stated as she walked away. Stacy ordered the drinks, paying the bartender and declining the offer to run a tab for the rest of the evening. Stacy reached over and took a cigarette out of the pack laying on the bar. As she lit it, the woman piano-player started playing "As Time Goes By". Taking a drag off the cigarette, she wondered what the hell was going on with Alex's mixed signals. 'One minute she's saying she's interested but wants to take things slowly, the next she's grabbing my hand and complimenting me, then she changes course again. I just have to roll with it,' she thought.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a woman who stood next to her where Alex had been sitting. "Excuse me," she directed to the woman, "but someone is sitting there."

"No problem." The woman moved to the other side of Stacy, waiting to order a drink. "This is my first time here. Quaint, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is." Stacy nervously looked back toward the restrooms hoping Alex would soon reappear, saving her from having to make small talk with the woman. She was uncomfortable; it was blatant that the woman was trying to hit on her.

The bartender finally took the woman's drink order. "Here with a friend?" the woman asked, waiting for her drink.

"Yes. She just stepped into the restroom for a sec. She'll be right back."

"I'm here with friends too. We're sitting over there," the woman pointed to a group of women in their fifties sitting at a couple of tables pulled together. They were talking animatedly and were obviously having a good time.

Stacy was relieved to see Alex approach. As Alex walked closer, the woman finally turned to return to her friends. Alex sat back down on the stool, surprised by the cigarette in Stacy's hand. "I didn't know you smoked."

Stacy laughed, "I really don't. I'm one of those social smokers who have one on occasion when they drink or have some sort of catastrophic event happen to them. I used to smoke almost two packs a day and quit about five years ago. I hope you don't mind that I took one."

"No, not at all. I've been wanting to quit. I figure I've been smoking since I was 16 so it's about time. It's just so damn hard."

"Believe me, it really isn't as difficult as some people say and it's worth it. It's amazing the difference I've experienced in the way food tastes and the way I smell things. If you want encouragement or tips, I'd be more than happy to help," Stacy offered as she put the cigarette out.

"Thanks, I'll keep it in mind. Was that a friend you were talking to?" Alex asked, acknowledging the woman she had noticed talking to Stacy as she returned to their seats.

"No, not at all. We were just making small talk as she ordered her drink."

"Ah . . . Anyway, where were we? Oh yah . . . what about the rest of your family?" Alex was curious whether Stacy would tell her the information Ginny had revealed to her.

"My sister is a sweetheart, but a basket case right now. She's married to an ok guy and has two kids, but clings to them. Her marriage is getting really rocky so she finally agreed to see a marriage counselor. I just pray that it helps. She's a good mother and person for the most part. She just has some problems to work through. Relationships seem to be hexed in my family. I think I'm the most normal of the group, and that's not saying much."

"Really?" Alex asked with raised eyebrows as she lit another cigarette.

"I came from a fairly dysfunctional family," Stacy hesitantly admitted.

"Don't we all?"

"I guess, but I think mine is a classic. I think I told you my dad is an accountant. Well, he's also the President/CEO of a Fortune 500 firm based in Chicago. While the three of us were growing up, he spent all of his time working his way up the proverbial corporate ladder. Mom was the textbook corporate wife. Dinner parties, tennis, bridge and drinking. Although they were never there, they had strict rules in place. We were never what one may call a warm and close family." Stacy played with her glass, then picked it up to take a drink.

"Do you get along with your parents now?"

"Only the obligatory birthday calls and presents. I go home for Christmas every now and then. They stop in and visit on their way to Hawaii, Japan or conventions. It's a peaceful coexistence in different cities," she explained, seemingly without emotion. But Alex saw the pain in her eyes. The pain of wishing things could be different, but knowing they never will.

"Do they know you're a lesbian?"

"Yeah, but they don't really accept it. I was in a relationship for a number of years and they wouldn't really acknowledge her. When they called, they never asked how she was or exchanged niceties if she answered the phone. They'd only ask for me. They dealt with my sexuality by ignoring it. Even though it's been over ten years since I came out to them, I think they still try to deny it because they blame themselves. You know, 'where did I go wrong', ' how did we fail'. It's actually quite sad."

"You seem to have come out of it fairly well."

"Relatively speaking. There are issues that I've worked through and am still working through."

Alex knew by the way Stacy responded not to push her further. She wondered what the "issues" were, but sensed that in time Stacy would either tell her or show her. From what she heard and understood, she and Stacy shared similar emotions and experiences as they grew up.

Before Alex could respond, the woman was again standing next to Stacy. After placing her order, she again turned to Stacy.

"Hi again. Sorry to bother you, but is your name Ann?" the woman innocently asked Stacy.

"Nope, sorry."

"You look like a woman I met in Palm Springs a few weeks ago.

"No, not me."

"You two could be kissing cousins," the woman laughed. "My name's Millie," she introduced herself to Stacy, holding out her hand.

"I'm Stacy and this is Alex," she made a point to introduce Alex as she shook the woman's hand.

Millie continued to try to engage Stacy in inane conversation, completely ignoring that Alex sat there or that she even existed. As Alex sat listening and watching Stacy cringe with embarrassment, she began to fume. Although she knew that she had no claim over Stacy, she became extremely jealous of the woman who was infringing upon her precious and pleasant time with Stacy. Stacy glanced over at her and looked at her for rescue and forgiveness. Alex finally had enough of the interloper.

"Excuse me, Millie, isn't it? I don't mean to be rude here, but my date and I were involved in a conversation when you interrupted. Do you mind allowing us to return to it?" Alex interrupted, talking to the woman in a sweet tone, smiling the entire time, and emphatically emphasizing the word date as she spoke.

"Oh! I'm so sorry!" Millie was embarrassed. "Forgive me. I'll just get back to my friends. Sorry to have interrupted," she blushed, grabbing her drink off of the bar and quickly turning around and walking away.

"Was I awful?" Alex whispered to Stacy after the woman left them alone.

"No. Not at all! Thank you for saving me. I thought she'd get a clue when I wasn't answering her, but she just went on and on. God, I didn't want to be rude." Stacy giggled, embarrassed. "I'm so sorry, Alex," she apologized sincerely.

"No need to be sorry. She's the one who was impinging upon my time with you. How rude! She was pretending I wasn't sitting here and was blatantly hitting on you!"

"I'm so sorry, I really am," Stacy again apologized, softly touching Alex's arm.

"It's ok. Anyway, where were we?"

"I was telling you about my family."

"Ah yes . . . My family was also dysfunctional. My sisters think it was worse than I remember, but I remember some of the things. They didn't beat us, but it was emotional, a lot like you described. My parents worked very hard, long hours and weren't the most attentive people. Each of the five of us girls have manifested it in different, but similar ways. Other than one sister who has been married for twenty years, the rest of us seem to have problems with relationships. One has been married a few times. With two of my sisters, I think their personalities have something to do with it," she added, smiling. "With me, it's probably one of the reasons I stayed with Cindy for so long. Fear, insecurity and dependency. I don't know about you, but relationships scare the hell out of me."

Stacy stared at Alex in pleasant disbelief. She too realized that although they had very different lives, they shared many similar traits. Not able to resist her urge, Stacy leaned over to kiss Alex. Their lips brushed together softly and gently. Alex leaned forward, softly caressing Stacy's cheek.

"That was a pleasant surprise," Alex whispered with a smile, slowly leaning back. "Was it something I said?"

"I think we're two of a kind in a lot of ways. When you were talking about your family, you vocalized what I was alluding to but couldn't come out and say. Family and relationships scare the hell out of me too." Stacy leaned and kissed the tip of Alex's nose. "Alex, I heard what you said earlier about taking things slow, but do you think we could leave and maybe go somewhere a little more private?"

"Well, it's getting late. Where do you suggest? Your car is still downtown, do you want to go get it?"

"How about driving me home? It's too much of a hassle to go back to the office and get the car. I have another one that I can drive to work in." Sensing Alex's discomfort, she gently added, "I'm not expecting you to stay the night. I just thought that since it's getting late it would be easier to just drive me home. It seems as if we only spend time together in bars and restaurants, so if you would like to come in for a cup of coffee or a nightcap, you're more than welcome."

Relieved by Stacy's assurances, but a little bit apprehensive, Alex stood and took Stacy's hand to lead her to the door.

When they arrived at Stacy's house, Alex was surprised not only at its proximity to her own home, but the suburban tranquility it projected. When they entered the front door, she was impressed with the decor. Although it was decorated in Southwestern pastels, it was accented with black marble tables and a black leather couch.

"Coffee or something else? I have decaf if you'd prefer." Stacy offered, placing her purse on a desk in the entry way.

"Decaf's fine. Do you mind if I look around?"

"No, not at all. I'll be right back," she said walking off to the kitchen.

As Alex walked around the expansive living room, she was impressed with what appeared to be a collection of original art work that Stacy had accumulated. There were two Erte's hanging over the fireplace mantle, with an Erte statue to the side. Across the room she saw at least one O'Keefe.

"I thought you said nothing matched in your house? It's gorgeous!" she shouted toward the kitchen as she sat on the couch.

"I don't think so. I think it's more eclectic. It's just a bunch of things I picked up piece by piece," Stacy yelled back.

"Well, I think everything matches perfectly. I didn't know you were such an art lover. Are these originals?"

"Yes, they are." Stacy walked out of the kitchen carrying a tray holding a coffee carafe, china cups and saucers, a creamer and a sugar dish. Based on what Ginny told her, Alex had imagined that Stacy lived frugally. Although the house was somewhat simple on the exterior, the furnishings, art and even the tableware were "yuppie", bordering on upper crust. It seemed as if editors got paid more than she'd thought.

Stacy watched as Alex's eyes dashed around the room taking everything in. Although she tried not to use her trust monies, she dipped into the fund on rare occasions to make investments. A few had paid off, enabling her to repay the trust account and purchase a few nice things for herself along the way.

"Okay, so I have a few small weaknesses," she smiled, "I've been lucky to have made some good investments which happened to pay off. So I indulged." She placed the tray on the glass-topped coffee table, sat next to Alex and poured them each a cup of coffee.

"Well, everything is beautiful." Alex picked up her cup and took a sip of the coffee. "Mmm, this is good, but unusual. What is it?"

"Mocha decaf. I've been going down to the coffee houses in Hillcrest and experimenting with the different blends. I've gotten some interesting ones, but this is, I think, one of the best."

"I'm a Folger's person myself, but I like to experiment with other types as well."

"That sounds interesting." Stacy leaned over and gently kissed Alex's neck. She slowly pulled away, taking Alex's cup and saucer and placing them on the coffee table. Leaning back to face Alex, she slowly lowered her lips to Alex's. Alex put her arms around Stacy's neck, pulling her even closer. Their mouths merged; their tongues tenderly exploring each other's mouth.

While Alex moved her hands up and down Stacy's back, Stacy's hand began exploring Alex's body, gently touching the bare skin of her arm, then slowly moving lightly over Alex's breasts, causing Alex to moan softly. Hearing her companion's pleasure, she laid Alex down on the couch without their lips parting. Laying on top of her, Stacy moved her thigh in between Alex's legs, causing both their excitement levels to increase.

Alex's body was reacting in a manner she forgot existed. With Stacy's weight on top of her and a thigh between her legs, she thought she would soon explode. Stacy lifted herself up with her arms outstretched lowering her mouth to trace the outline of Alex's breast through her shirt. As soon as her lips touched Alex's body, Alex cried out with pleasure and pressed her hips up to meet Stacy.

"Jesus, Stacy, you feel so good," she whispered hoarsely.

Stacy returned her lips to Alex's, to explore more of her warmth. They lay on the couch kissing and holding each other, while engaging in minor explorations of each other's bodies for what seemed like minutes, but what was actually over an hour. Their desire for one another increased as the minutes passed, but each was afraid to take it any further.

"You are a wonderful kisser," Alex finally stated sitting up and grabbing the cup of cold coffee to take a sip.

"So are you. Your skin is so soft."

"Oh my God, it's almost 1:00 a.m.," Alex said glancing at the wall clock and sitting up suddenly, readjusting her clothing. "I've got to get going or I'll have hell to pay tomorrow."

"You can stay over if you want, so you don't have to drive home so late. I have a guest room, or . . . you can sleep in my bed. I'll behave myself and just sleep."

Alex leaned over and gently kissed her. "Thanks, but I better mosey along home. You didn't tell me you lived so close. Awfully convenient, I might add," she smiled grabbing Stacy's hand to pull her up off the couch. "C'mon. Walk me to the door and then you go get some sleep too." Walking to the door arm in arm, they paused to face and put their arms around each other.

"Do you like baseball?" Stacy asked, nibbling on Alex's earlobe.

"I absolutely love baseball. I only have enough time in the morning to read the sports page to see how the Padres fared the night before."

"Would you like to go on Friday? I've got field seats that a friend at work gave me."

"I'd love to. Isn't that today?"

"Yep. Actually this worked out well. Since my office is on the way to the stadium, why don't you pick me up in the morning, take me to work and then pick me up to go to the game? We can both bring a change of clothes. Maybe we can catch batting practice and eat lots of junk food. How does that sound?"

"Great. What time in the morning? 7:30 ok?"

"That's fine."

"Wonderful, I can't wait," she said, pressing her lips against Alex's.

"I'd better get going so I can get some sleep and somehow function at work. I'll see you in a few hours," Alex stated gently as she slipped out the door.

Continued in Chapter 4

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