Disclaimers: Mine.

Sex: You have to ask?

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

For more of my work, check me out at: www.kimpritekel.com or find my published books at amazon.com.

Happy Halloween!


Kim Pritekel


Spencer Dolan sat in the uncomfortable wood chair with a thinly-padded leather seat, an elbow on Michelle’s desk. She let out a heavy sigh as she lifted her head from where it had rested against her palm.

“I can’t afford that, Michelle,” she said, near tears.

“Spencer, there’s absolutely nothing in your budget with three bedrooms. I’m struggling to find two, let alone that allows the cats.” She reached across the desk and placed a hand over her friend and client’s. “Hey,” she said softly. “I know you’re scared and stressed, but I am your real estate lady and I’ll find something for you and the girls.”

Spencer sniffled, accepting the tissue she was offered. “The thing that sucks is, we have a home, you know?” she said, dabbing at her eyes. It wouldn’t do to be the welcoming face at the receptionist’s desk for Re/Max with mascara trails down her face.

Michelle glanced up before leaning forward, producing a slip of paper from her desk drawer. “Okay,” she began in a near-whisper. “I’m not supposed to do this, but here’s something that’s not even listed, definitely not with us.”

Spencer glanced up at her friend, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Listen, Spencer, I may have the answer for you and the girls. There’s a man I know named Reynolds Abbot. He owns several properties around town that I’ve helped sell and rent for him. Real nice guy, though shrewd. I gave him a call last week after you told me about that rat bastard landlord of yours and what he’s doing to you. He doesn’t have anything per se, but he offered an interesting proposition.”

Spencer eyed her. “What does that mean? What exactly does that mean?”


Spencer looked out the passenger-side window of Michelle’s PT Cruiser where it was parked in the circular drive, dark auburn eyebrows lifting in surprise. “Jesus, this place is creepy,” she said, glancing over at her friend, who sat behind the wheel.

Michelle chuckled. “Well, how amazing would you look if you were one hundred and thirty-three years old, too.”

Spencer smiled. “So, it’s not the entire house, right?” she asked, somewhat exasperated at the thought, glancing over at her friend.

“No. Come on, let’s go look.”

Completely unconvinced, but knowing her choices were few, Spencer climbed out of the car. Hitching her purse strap up further on her shoulder, her high heels clicked on the flagstone pathway that led towards the massive portico that hung over the front porch and double front doors.


She glanced over her shoulder, noting Michelle was standing on a pathway that led around the massive house. “Where are you going?”

“To the servant’s entry.”

Spencer stopped mid-step, shaking her head. “Michelle, you said you’d explain the proposal once we were here. I don’t like where this is heading.”

Michelle chuckled, waving Spencer on to follow. “Come on. I’ll explain once we’re inside. It’s too cold out here to talk.”

With a heavy sigh that came out as a puff of white steam, Spencer followed. She looked up, way up, bringing her hand up to shield brown eyes from the brightness caused by the sun trying to push through the cloudy sky. The house was intimidating, to be sure. It looked as though back in its day it was something to behold, but over time, it had been neglected, the grounds somewhat overgrown.


Startled from her perusal, Spencer hurried as quickly as her high heels would allow over the uneven terrain until she reached her friend. She noted behind the house was a large detached garage, likely a carriage house originally, build out of the same res stone as the house.

“So,” Michelle said, mounting the small set of flagstone stairs to the back door. She inserted a key into the lock of the solid white door and pushed it open, stepping inside and leaving the door open for Spencer to follow. “The house was built in 1886,” she began, fully in Realtor mode. “Back in the heyday of these great old houses in Colorado.”

Spencer nodded, entering into a mud room, replete with cubbies to hang up coats, stow backpacks for the girls, she thought as she took it all in. And, with the cold and sometimes snowy Colorado winters, it would be a great place to keep their snow boots so they didn’t track muddy snow throughout the house.

“It was built by Martin and Layla Abbot,” Michelle continued, leading them down a long hallway, pointing out a small laundry room across from a powder room before they ended up in a small, but beautifully renovated kitchen with all the modern touches that were popular. “Martin had made is fortune in Denver in the mining industry and moved down to Pueblo in the 1880s to get his hands dirty in the steel industry that was beginning to boom,” she explained. “Look at the granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, all less than two years old,” she said, switching from historic tour guide to seller.

Spencer smiled at her friend’s tactics even as she trailed her fingers over the smooth surfaces, easily able to envision cooking meals with her daughters in the space.

“Anyway, so Layla, Martin’s wife was an artist. This house was built differently than the usual mansion of the time in that the servant’s quarters were built in the back of the house, where we are right now, rather than on the top floor. You see,” she said, glancing over her shoulder as she headed past the eat-in kitchen to the living room beyond. “She wanted the entire top floor for her art studio. I’ve not seen it, but supposedly there were sky lights and all sorts of things put in that weren’t exactly common in the late nineteenth century.”

Spencer nodded, only half-listening as she took in the dark wood floors, crown molding and light gray color pallet.

“Now, you won’t have access to the third or fourth floor, the third being the ballroom and the fourth the art studio. Actually,” Michelle said, hand on the banister at the bottom of the stairs, her tone conspiratorial. “Supposedly after Layla died in 1933, she asked for it to be sealed off. Now,” she continued, as though never losing her salesmanship stride. “Upstairs there are three bedrooms and one full bath. You will have to share a bathroom with the girls, but I figure you’re used to that, so no big deal.”

Spencer followed Michelle up the stairs. “No, that’s okay. Plus, if things ever got difficult, someone could run downstairs to that little half bath. Never had a second option before.” She snorted. “Well, not since we’ve been on our own.”

“The girls will each have their own room,” Michelle explained, pointing out the two identical bedrooms across the hall from each other. “They’re small, but at least it’s their own space. Here’s your bedroom,” she said, leading Spencer further down the hall and past the medium-sized full bath.

The master was decent size, certainly large enough to accommodate Spencer’s bedroom furniture, as well as the little the girls had. They’d had to share a bedroom in the apartment they were in currently, so she’d have to pick up a second bedroom set. That though frightened her, not sure where she’d find the money.

“So?” Michelle said, standing at the center of the master. “What do you think?”

“It’s a really nice place, Michelle,” Spencer said with a sigh, concerned about the next bit of their conversation. “Very nice, probably a little too nice. I can’t even imagine what they want for this place every month.”

“Well, Reynolds wants twenty-five hundred, wait, Spencer, don’t freak out,” she said, placing a hand on her friend’s shoulder.

“Don’t freak out? Michelle, that’s thirteen hundred more than I’m paying now before the increase that asshole wants to thrown on me with a new lease!” Spencer could feel the tears coming anew, frustration and anger gripping her.

“I know, I know,” Michelle said gently, taking a step closer to the upset woman. “Listen, I explained your situation and he doesn’t want this place to remain empty. The rest of the house is still for the family, but they’re not here very often. Security at night only does so much, and he really wants someone living here to keep an eye on things and so folks can see people coming and going here.”

Though still wary, Spencer tried to push her emotions down and hear Michelle out. In the three years she’d been working at Re/Max and thus had known Michelle, she knew her friend would never steer her and her girls wrong.

“He’s willing to take nine hundred a month in rent, Spence,” Michelle said softly. “Apparently Layla, his great-aunt loved kids. All she ever wanted was kids, but it never happened. He feels she’d kick his butt if he didn’t do something to help.” She gave her a rueful smirk. “Besides, it’s not like the family is seriously hurting for money.”

“Michelle, that’s three hundred dollars less than I’m paying now.”

Michelle grinned. “I know, ain’t it great? Plus, Peas and Carrots can stay, too.”

A hand rose to cover Spencer’s forehead as she felt she was going to be faint. How could this be? How could she get so lucky and fall into such a wonderful situation?


“Teagen, honey, did you grab your backpack out of the car?” Spencer asked, glancing around her side as she was on all fours putting her youngest daughter’s bed together.

“Yes!” the five year old bellowed from her seven year old sister’s bedroom across the hall.

Spencer sat back on her haunches and looked at her handiwork. She let out a heavy sigh, tired but content after two days of the nonstop activity of moving. “Okay, we got this,” she breathed, bringing up a hand to brush hair that had fallen from her ponytail out of her face.

She and the girls had been in the house for two weeks, Teagen going back and forth between sleeping with her mom and her older sister, Moira until finally Spencer was able to find her an adorable – and affordable – bedroom set. It was a princess bed replete with wispy canopy. Lucky for Spencer, Moira adored her little sister so wasn’t jealous, in fact she was super excited for Teagen to have her first “big girl” bed.

Now, she had the frame together and was confident that Teagen wasn’t going to end up on the floor in the middle of the night. Spencer was many things, but handy wasn’t one of them. Giving herself a punch in the arm with her accomplishment, she got to her feet with a grunt and stowed her screwdriver with the small set she’d picked up at Wal-Mart for this very purpose.

With a lot grunting and sweating, Spencer got the plastic off the new mattress, got it and the box spring placed then called in the girls to help her make the bed with brand new princes sheets, blankets and matching comforter.

“What do you think?” she asked, standing back with hands on hips.

In lieu of a response, Teagen tore off like a shot and did a face plant onto her new bed, wiggling around like a fish in her excitement. Charmed, Spencer laughed, and it felt good. There hadn’t been a lot to laugh about in quite awhile.

“Come on, you crazy monkeys. Let’s get some dinner.”


“Yes, Mr. Abbott … sorry, Reynolds, but the house looks great. It was locked up tight and I spoke with Sam … yes, the night security guy, and he said everything was quiet. I hope you don’t mind but I did do a little light cleaning, just some dusting. With a house being closed up like that, things will get dusty, spider webs, things like that.” Spencer smiled at the grateful praise she was receiving on the other end of the line. “No problem, mister – I mean, Reynolds. After what you’ve done for me and my girls, I can never thank you enough.” She smiled again, leaning against the kitchen counter with the basket of laundry sitting on it next to her. “Absolutely and my pleasure. Goodnight.”

Ending the call, Spencer felt fantastic as she set her phone down next to the basket and released a relieved breath. She felt good, she felt happy and she felt safe for the first time since the worst day of her life three years before, a day that luckily Teagen really didn’t remember and Moira had only a smattering of memories of that time in her young life.

Grabbing the laundry basket, she headed to the small laundry room and got the washing machine started. She loved having separate floors for the living and sleeping areas again. The girls were upstairs asleep, and rather than having to hide out in her bedroom with headphones so as not to wake them while she stayed up writing or reading or watching a movie, she could move about freely downstairs and enjoy a little Spencer time.

Humming softly to herself, she loaded laundry into the washer, dark auburn eyebrows knitting as she stopped, lifting her head to listen. She swore she’d caught the slightest hint of a voice, singing.

Finishing with the laundry, she left the laundry room, Carrots following as she headed to the living room to settle in with the TV shows she’d missed over the week and had recorded. She curled up on the couch and used the remote to get the first program set up. Peas and Carrots jumped up, Peas, the brother of the duo, curled up on the cushion next to her while his sister settled into her place on the back of the couch near Spencer’s head. Though the siblings – Peas black with white, Carrots white with black – looked more like Oreo cookies, the veggie names had been what the girls insisted on.

She reached over to the end table next to the couch and grabbed her laptop, her newest story leaving her characters in a precarious place, literally hanging off a cliff. But, before she got back to her secret passion, she decided to putz around on the internet for awhile, beginning with Facebook.

She chuckled as she read and responded to a few amusing posts and questions. She noticed she had a new friend request come in so decided to check it out. Always skeptical who she accepted on her social media accounts, she clicked on the account of the requesting party.

It was a woman named Rory and her long dark hair was pushed back from a stunningly beautiful face. The thing that truly caught Spencer’s attention, however, were her eyes. They were a deep, dark brown and were so expressive. The pose looked casual, but inside those eyes seemed to be an intelligent and deep woman. Spencer couldn’t quite explain why she thought that, but it was her first impression.

Tearing her gaze away from those eyes that seemed to haunt her, she moved her finger around on the touch pad, mouse poised above DELETE REQUEST when something stopped her. Glancing back at Rory’s picture, Spencer clicked on her name instead, deciding to check out her page.

There was little to no personal information, only that Rory had lived in various places around the world, though no current city or country. The entirety of her friends’ list was made up of artists, writers and a smattering of names Spencer had no idea who they were and little information was provided.

Continuing on to Rory’s pictures, she noted obviously the one that was used for her profile picture, there was only one other of the woman herself, and that was a close up of her eyes. The expression in them as they looked straight into the camera and seemingly straight into the soul of the beholder, Spencer was affected. In that particular picture she saw a loneliness that spoke to her, a longing that made Spencer wonder what Rory was thinking in that moment.

Deciding to move on from that picture, she found herself in a world of some of the most amazingly beautiful art she’d ever seen. It was all done on glass, whether it was the glass panes on an old, ratty door, or a window mounted in a wall or simply hanging shards painted like birds or butterflies. Spencer was mesmerized.

“Wow,” she whispered, her unfinished story forgotten as she scrolled through picture after picture.

Unable to help herself, she clicked on CONFIRM, accepting Rory’s friend request. Chewing on her bottom lip for a moment, she found herself clicking on the button to get her to a private message with Rory.

“;Hello, Rory,” she began, murmuring her message as she typed. “Nice to meet you, as it were. I just wanted to tell you how much I admire your artwork. It’s beautiful and different than anything I’ve ever seen.’” She reread what she wrote, her finger hovering over the DELETE button when instead, her fingers betrayed her and went back to the keys. “’Not many people know this, but I’m a writer, and as such, I feel such a freedom of the soul in the act of creating. Granted, what you do and what I do are two different things, but it’s still the act of creating something that wasn’t there a moment before.’” She squeezed her eyes shut and laughed at herself. “God, that’s cheesy.” But, she decided to leave it. “’Anyway, thanks for sharing your pictures with us and have a good night.’”

She quickly logged out and turned her attention to her recorded shows and story.


Spencer dropped her purse onto her desk and was beginning to shrug out of her jacket when she glanced over her shoulder, feeling eyes on her. “What?”

Michelle was grinning at her, purse still shouldered, work satchel still in hand. The slightly older woman looked around. When she saw they were alone, her focus returned to Spencer. “Did you have sex this weekend?” she whispered.

Spencer’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “What? Why?”

“I don’t know,” Michelle said with a little shrug, a charming smile on her attractive face. “You just look so … happy.”

Spencer chuckled, allowing her pea coat to slide down her arms so she could gather it in her hands. “Can’t a girl be happy without an orgasm being involved?” She raised an arched brow. “Don’t answer that.”

Michelle laughed outright. “Okay, what’s your secret?”

In truth, Spencer couldn’t keep the smile off her lips. “I don’t know,” she said, laying her jacket over the back of her chair at the receptionist’s desk. “I am happy, and so are the girls. We all love the house, and they love being able to go out and run and play, like kids are supposed to do.” She wrinkled her nose. “Kids aren’t supposed to be cooped up in an apartment.”

“You have no idea how happy that makes me to hear it, Spence. You truly deserve it, after all that bitch Katrina put you through.”

“Right?” Spencer let out a heavy sigh. “It’s been eight glorious months since she’s come around and the girls haven’t seen her since she married that doctor.”

“A guy, right? Is she even bisexual?” Michelle asked, her expression as baffled as Spencer felt about it all.

Spencer snorted. “Not that she ever told me during twelve years together. But then again you know, after I got her through law school and gave birth to the two children she said she wanted, I lost my worth.”

Michelle reached out and squeezed Spencer’s shoulder as she shook her head and turned to head to her office. “I’ll never understand the whole Borderline Personality Disorder thing.”

“That would be because it’s impossible to understand. All I can say is stay far, far away from them. Only way to stay safe and sane.”

“God bless you, Spencer.”

Left alone, the redhead chuckled and began her workday.


Spencer sat on the closed toilet lid in the downstairs bathroom, doing her best to keep her tears as silent as possible. The girls were just beyond sitting at the kitchen table coloring. She’d had to keep it in for hours, and hadn’t been able to anymore.

… I don’t care that I haven’t seen the girls in almost a year, Spencer, me and my husband are taking them for Halloween weekend, whether it’s your favorite holiday with them or not. Richard’s son loves Halloween and we want him to get to know his sisters …

… Just because you haven’t met anyone doesn’t mean I haven’t. I’m happier than I’ve ever been …

… Don’t even think about denying me time with my children, Spencer. You will lose …

… It’s time because they need a man in their life …

… Fine, have dinner with them Halloween. My husband, our son and I will be by to pick them up at five-thirty. Oh and Spencer, don’t fuck with me …

Spencer reached over and grabbed the tail end of the mounted toilet paper roll and unraveled a bit to wipe at her eyes and blow her nose. She sniffled before a new round of tears came.

“You bitch,” she whispered. “God, you bitch.”


Spencer looked through a wall of tears towards the closed bathroom door. “Yeah, honey?” she asked, doing her level best to sound normal.

“Teagen won’t give me the purple crayon,” Moira accused.

“You guys need to share, honey,” she reminded, wiping her nose again. “I’ll be right out.” Listening to her eldest’s retreating footfalls, Spencer looked up to the ceiling, silently praying for the strength to get her through the news she had to give her daughters. It had been three days since Katrina’s phone call and three days of tears, anger and feeling absolutely helpless. “I can do this,” she murmured, pushing to her feet and tossing yet another soiled wad of toilet paper into the toilet before flushing her tears down.

Later that night, Spencer lay in bed with a sleeping Moira snuggled up next to her. Her seven year old had woken from a nightmare, rushing into her mother’s bedroom in tears of her own. After getting the girl calmed down, rather than escorting back to her “big girl bed”, Spencer had let her stay, needing her daughter as much as the girl needed her.

As expected, the girls had been devastated at the news that they had to go to their other mommies house for the weekend, especially Halloween weekend. Pumpkins had already been carved and costumed decided on and made.

Spencer knew her ex was right. To fuck with Katrina Spears was to take your future into your own hands. At one time she’d thought her one-time college roommate turned girlfriend turned eventual partner’s dogged and sometimes heartless tenacity made her an excellent attorney. It was true, it did. But, mostly it made her ruthless to those she claimed to love most.

She’d only met Dr. Richard Hackford twice, and he seemed like a nice enough guy. There was definitely a part of Spencer that wanted to warn him, and certainly to warn him to keep his nine year old son, Thomas away from Katrina. As her own daughters had found out, children weren’t remotely spared from her cruelty.

As she absently ran her fingers through Moira’s long hair, her phone alerted. Glancing to her right, she reached over and grabbed her phone off the bedside table and saw it was a Facebook notification.

Spencer’s smile was instant when she saw that it was a response to her message from Rory. Slowly removing her hand from Moira’s hair so as not to wake her, she focused on her message:

Hey there, Spencer. Really sorry it’s taken me a week to respond, but I’ve been traveling. Thank you so much for your compliments on my work. To be honest, it’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. Definitely glad to shuck my former career and get down to what matters most to me.

So, you’re a writer, huh? What do you write? I’m an avid reader so if you ever feel the need for an audience of one, I’m your girl. And hey, writing is very much a form of art, just with colorful language rather than colorful brush strokes. J


Spencer read the message several times. As innocuous as it was, for some reason it made her smile. Glancing at Rory’s picture for a moment, she began to type:

Good evening, Rory. No worries on the late response. I understand all too well about being busy. I hope you had a good day. Mine was busy and now I’m lying here with one of my daughters. I’m not typically one to allow my girls to sleep with me – feel they need to have their own space and so do I – but she had a nasty nightmare. Oh, the peaceful sleep of a child.

I have to admit, it never occurred to me that anyone would want to read my work, so your offer left me with nervous butterflies in my gut. J None of my work has ever seen the light of day and honestly, doubt it ever will. I just can’t take that kind of rejection. Lol

You mentioned a former career. What was it?

Speaking of, I have work early so goodnight.


Admittedly Spencer took her time getting settled in bed next to Moira, taking her time to set her phone down, taking her time to turn off the lamp and taking the time to tuck them both in. She was hoping a message would come in from her new acquaintance, but none did before she drifted off, glad to have a distraction for the weekend coming up.


“Sweetheart, it’s going to be okay,” Spencer murmured, gently rocking Teagen, who she held in her arms as she was kneeling down in front of her. “You’re going to have lots of fun with Momma, okay?”

“No I won’t!” the five year old wailed.

Spencer glared at Katrina over her youngest’s shoulder, hating her for doing this to the girls. “It’ll be okay. Come on,” she said, gently pushing the girl away from her so she could send an encouraging smile up into her face. “Be a big girl, okay? When you get back in two nights we’ll go trick-or-treating in your lady bug costume, okay?”

Bottom lip jutting out in upset defiance, Teagen nodded. “’Kay,” she whimpered.

Though her heart was broken, Spencer knew she couldn’t show it. She made the girl giggle briefly with noisy kisses rained all over her face before she got to her feet and took Teagen’s hand in one of hers, the other carrying Teagen’s backpack.

“Help your sister,” she said softly, Moira immediately helping Teagen climb into the car seat that Katrina already had in the backseat of her Lincoln Navigator. Both girls buckled in, Spencer gave them both a final hug and kiss before stepping away from the luxury vehicle, her stomach in knots and tears ready to flow. She glanced at Katrina. “Three-thirty sharp on Sunday,” she said, voice quiet yet nothing left to question.

Katrina said nothing simply climbed in behind the wheel and pulled away from the massive Abbott home.

Spencer hugged herself as she watched her babies and her reason for living drive away. A tear managing to slip out, she turned away and made her way back towards the house. Reaching up, she used the cuff of her jacket to catch it when something caught her gaze.

Coming to a stop, Spencer focused on one of the windows on the third floor of the old house, just barely catching the movement of a curtain floating back into place. Taking a couple steps closer to the big house, she continued to watch the window, looking for any movement inside. From being inside the family side of the house a handful of times, she tried to think of what room that window was in. Thinking it was the master bedroom, she was even more confused. She knew the family intended to come home for Thanksgiving, but certainly not for Halloween.

Spencer let out a heavy breath, which came out in a thick white puff of steam. Noting this, she rolled her eyes. More than once she’d been startled by her own filmy curtains dancing when the heat kicked on.

“Dumb ass,” she muttered, hurrying down the path that would lead to her door.


Breakfast was a quiet and pathetic affair. Spencer sat at the kitchen table, a mostly-untouched bowl of cereal sitting in front of her. She met the gaze of Carrots, who had jumped up on the table, her green gaze flickering between the cereal and Spencer.

Ordinarily cat butts weren’t allowed where human butts weren’t, but Spencer was so lonely without her girls, she didn’t care. Curious, she reached into her bowl and picked out one of the strawberries, letting it rest on her palm as she offered it to the cat, who sniffed it then gave Spencer a dirty look before she jumped down from the table.

“Traitor,” Spencer muttered, giving up on breakfast.

Pushing away from the table, she carried her coffee mug and cereal bowl to the sink. Leaving the unfinished coffee next to the Keurig, she cleaned up her breakfast mess then rinsed a dishrag with hot water and was on her way back to the table to wipe it down when Peas came tearing around the corner, nearly tripping her, Carrots in hot pursuit.

“Damn it, guys!”

Finishing her task as the black and white blur flew past her and towards the bathroom and laundry room, she continued with her task. She heard a loud thud, which wasn’t unusual when those two were chasing each other. She glanced towards the short hallway where the cats had disappeared as she headed back to the sink, surprised when she heard nothing further. By now, if they hadn’t come running back, there was at least protest from one of the siblings as the other got the better of them.


Rinsing the rag, she slapped it onto the edge of the sink to dry before heading towards the laundry room, wiping her damp hands on the thighs of her light blue fleece pajama pants, cartoon images of the Cookie Monster all over them.

A quick glance into the bathroom showed her it was empty and, to her confusion, so was the laundry room at first glance. She panicked as she considered that maybe the door had somehow been left open, but it too was proven to not be the case.

“What the hell?” she muttered, trying to think if possibly they’d managed to run back through the kitchen without her noticing it. Deciding that couldn’t be the case, she went back to the laundry room. “Hey guys,” she said as she entered the room, gaze scanning all the cubbies. She leaned over the washing machine and dryer, noting there was no way they could be behind or beside. She opened every cabinet, only to find everything as it should be. “What the frig?”

Hands on hips, she chewed on her bottom lip in consternation when she noticed something. The wall at the back of the small room where hooks were mounted to hang clothing to dry, she saw that the wall looked … strange.

Eyebrows drawn, she reached out and touched the wall, gasping in surprise when it gaze way slightly, almost like a flimsy piece of particle board. She pushed at it lightly, jumping back slightly when again it gaze way. Studying the wall for a moment, she placed a firm hand on it and pushed, noting blackness beyond the small gap she’d created.

“What the ….”

She pushed a bit harder, creating a gap large enough to nearly stick her head into. She could feel cool air coming in from the other side but could see nothing in the perfect darkness.

Digging through the kitchen junk drawer, Spencer found the small flashlight she’d tossed there then hurried back to the laundry room. Clicking the beam to life, she shone it into the what she thought was a room or cavity behind the wall, but to her surprise found it was a steep, narrow staircase.

“Wow,” she breathed. She smiled when she saw the small paw prints of her cats in the dust covering the wooden stairs.

Setting the flashlight aside, Spencer went about to move the wall enough to fit through without breaking anything. After a moment of struggle, she found that the wall was indeed a fake wall and was on a locking track to slide. Leaving it open, she grabbed the flashlight again and entered into the darkness.

One hand gliding along the cool wall as she ascended, Spencer’s eyes were open wide, desperately trying to see beyond the beam of her small flashlight. The stairs creaked beneath her weight, though they felt sturdy enough. Considering what her home used to be – the servant’s quarters and kitchen, she wondered if she were climbing the old servant’s stairs, which to her knowledge, other than heading around to the front of the house, would have been the only way to service the family.

As she continued, she couldn’t help but think about all the feet that had scurried up and down these stairs over the thirteen decades that this house had been standing. How many were young women with no other choice besides servitude or marriage, which up until the relatively current past, were pretty much the same thing.

After what seemed to take forever, the stairs opened up onto a small octagon-shaped landing. To her right was what had once been a wide doorway but had since been walled off, leaving the rich wood frame. Straight ahead was a small step through another doorway. That being her only option other than heading back down, Spencer continued on.

She found herself in a room that seemed to parallel the landing with its octagon shape. Sending her flashlight beam around, it landed on a light switch, old school in its push-button design. Deciding to give it a try – and secretly hoping she wouldn’t start a fire with faulty old wiring – she pushed on the button and, with a snap, the room lit up from the half-dozen sconces strategically placed around the room.

Letting out a relieved breath, Spencer clicked off her flashlight and set it down on the dusty surface of a counter that looked to be part of a butler’s pantry. Looking at the room as a whole, it seemed to be a secondary food working area. Though essentially empty now, there was a small fireplace with hearth in one of the corners, the butler’s pantry and it looked as though a sink may have been connected to the wall at one point. She also noticed a large panel in the dark, rich wood paneled walls. A metal loop dangled from it.

Walking over to it, Spencer took hold of the metal handle-type loop and tugged. With some creaking and effort, finally the panel flipped down, revealing a dumb waiter inside that could be lowered down to the kitchen below or, she noticed, sent upward to the floor above, the pull cables disappearing into the darkness of what she surmised was the fourth floor.

Gently closing the panel back into place, Spencer turned back to the room. It was beautiful and the first real historical character she’d seen in the house, considering the side she shared with her girls was completely modernized.

“So pretty,” she whispered, running her fingers down the smooth wood, tracing some of the architectural carving and engraving.

She walked over to the one window which was covered by heavy wooden shutters. She found a crank mounted to the wall that, when turned, opened or closed the louvers. She smiled as suddenly bright sunlight streamed in, the small room exploding to life. Looking around, she actually felt it would make a fantastic office for her; a place to come up and write, a nice fire going in the fireplace ….

Moving on through the room that was about the size of a small bedroom, she found herself stepping up once again, this time into a narrow hallway. Regretting leaving her flashlight in the butler’s pantry as the electric and natural light dwindled the further in she got, she decided to forge ahead.

At the end of the tight hallway was a swinging door that swung into an expansive space. Feeling around, Spencer’s fingers came across a large panel just inside the hallway with a dozen different button pushes for lights. She clicked the first one she felt and a small light popped on over her head in the hallway. Looking up at it, she looked at the panel to her right. Above each button push was a label, some unreadable, but was still very legible was the word, BALLROOM.

“Wow,” she whispered again. “A ballroom.”

She remembered Michelle mentioning a ballroom when she’d first showed her the place and also remembered that it was off limits. But, curiosity got the best of her – let alone she needed to find her cats! – so proceeded.

She pushed a few more buttons, one of them doing nothing the other two bringing wall-mounted sconces to life in the ballroom beyond the swinging door. Eventually there was enough light for her to make out what she figured would be a stunningly gorgeous room when fully lit and cleaned. It was very long and narrow with no doors or stairway to get out. It looked as though the room had been cut in half lengthwise, and Spencer wondered if that section had been saved for the family side of the house when it was remodeled and reconfigured.

The floors were marble but needed sweeping and mopping. There were two massive fireplaces, though one looked to be a false one, the space inside where the flame would be cavernous but sealed. She wondered if perhaps it was used to store wood for the other working fireplace. Both her daughters could easily stand inside and jump around.

What really caught and held Spencer’s attention though was the barrel ceiling. As it arched above, it had been lovingly and skillfully painted, a mural that made Spencer think of the Sistine Chapel, minus the religious aspect.

She could easily see her daughters running around during the upcoming winter months, riding their big wheels all over the place or spread out on their tummies on the floor coloring in their endless supply of coloring books.

Hands on hips, she turned in a slow circle, deciding in that moment that she’d spend her weekend cleaning up there and making a fun space for her daughters and a wonderful writing space for her. For the time being, she needed to find her cats.


Spencer was sprawled out on the couch, exhausted after a very full day. Peas and Carrots were in their regular places, both absolutely tuckered from running and exploring nonstop in the new territory of the third floor. She lay there with her head resting on a throw pillow surfing randomly through the channels, hoping to find something that wouldn’t make her think of her daughters who weren’t with her, who she wasn’t spending Halloween night with.


Spencer glanced over at her laptop, which sat open on the coffee table. She pushed herself up so she sat against the pillow, grabbing the computer and pulling it onto her lap. Her smile was instant.

Trick-or-treat! J Happy Halloween. Are you in costume tonight? I am. I am officially dressed up as a wolf. Well, let me explain. See, one of my nephews thought it would be hilarious if he bought me an adult onesie for Christmas last year. It’s a wolf, replete with wolf’s head hood. Lol  They’re pajamas.

Anyway, I hope you’re having a better night than I am.


Spencer read the message, grinning as she tried to imagine the this onesie thing. Seeing that Rory was online, she gave it a moment’s thought then decided to take a chance.

S: Hi, Rory. Guess we’re not playing tag this time, huh?
R: Hey! How are ya?
S: I’m okay. So, a good Halloween, then?
R: Eh. Honestly, I just spent the day inside working. Did you take your little angels out tonight? Sorry if that sounded stalkerish. Yes, I’ve looked at your page. Really beautiful little girls.

Spencer smiled, warmed that Rory approved of Moira and Teagen. It was silly, she knew as she didn’t even know this person and yes, it could easily be seen as creepy or strange.

S: They’re my world. We had a great day!

Her fingers stopped and she let out a heavy sigh as she read what she’d typed, the lie she’d typed. The truth was, she was ashamed that her daughter’s weren’t with her, where they should be. She felt like a horrible mother for letting them go with Katrina, even though she had no choice. She took a deep breath to hold in the emotion that wanted to rise. Letting it out slowly, she placed her fingers back on the keyboard.

S: I’m sorry, that’s not true. This is the worst Halloween I’ve had as an adult. I had no choice but to let the girls go with their other mother. Can I be honest with you?
R: Of course you can.
S: I’m utterly heartbroken.
R: I don’t have children, but I can only imagine, Spencer. I’m truly sorry. Why did she take them?

Spencer snorted derisively. “Why indeed.”

S: She said so my girls can get to know her new step-son. But, I think its simply because she can.
R: How long since you two broke up?
S: Three years divorced, twelve years together.
R: Ouch. I am so sorry. My longest relationship was six years and she cheated on me. That kind of betrayal from someone you once loved is so difficult to swallow, you know? It makes it hard to feel like you can trust again.
S: Exactly! Katrina had the audacity to throw in my face that I was still single. No doubt she was thinking it was because I couldn’t get over her. But, first of all, I’ve been busy raising my daughters and secondly, I honestly don’t know if I can give myself like that again. I think that ship may have sailed.

“Bitch,” Spencer muttered, thinking of the smug look on Katrina’s face the day before when she’d opened the back door for Moira and Teagen to climb in. Her attention returned to her conversation with Rory when she saw a new message appear.

R: Don’t sell yourself short, Spencer. You’re a beautiful woman and seem to be an amazing mother. Don’t let Katrina win.

Spencer felt like a high school girl at that, Yes, it was entirely possible that Rory was being kind calling her beautiful, but for some reason it made her blush.

S: Thank you. I’m sorry to drop all this at your feet, I know you don’t even know me.
R: Hey, I’ve found over the years that sometimes talking to a complete stranger is easier. Generally they’re not going to judge you or ask questions you may not be ready to answer, you know? When I used to have to travel so much for jobs, I was always surrounded by strangers. It came in handy.
S: What did you used to do, if you don’t mind my asking?
R: I was a model.

Spencer took another glance at Rory’s profile picture, and if that was indeed her, she could absolutely see that. The woman looking back at her could make anyone sweat, man or woman, gay or straight.

S: Makes sense. You’re picture is stunning.
R: Thank you, Spencer. I suppose I was in another life that is long gone, and I’m glad it is.

Spencer chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, questions floating around in her mind, but she had the distinct feeling by Rory’s tight response that questions weren’t entirely welcome on that subject. So, she decided to honor that and to call it a night. After a busy, physical day, she was exhausted.

S: Well, I am definitely glad I caught you on tonight and thank you so much for listening to my sob story. I truly appreciate it.
R: Absolutely! Any time. Thanks for chatting with me. I isolate myself quite a bit, so it’s really nice to have someone to ‘talk’ to, you know?
S: I do. You have a good night and Happy Halloween. J
R: Goodnight, Spencer.

“Come on, guys,” she said, groaning as she pushed up from the couch, slapping her laptop closed before making sure everything was locked and shutting off lights on her way upstairs to her bedroom.

Walking over to the bed to turn down the covers before washing her face and brushing her teeth, she set her cell phone down on the bedside table, only for it to alarm she had an incoming message.

Standing next to her bed, she reached under the shade and clicked on the lamp as she scrolled to her Facebook message. She instantly burst into laughter when she saw the short video Rory had sent her.

Sure enough, there was a woman dressed in an oversized gray and white wolf onesie, the wolf head hood pulled into place. She strutted around like a model on a runway, even turning to wiggle her behind, the wolf tail wagging amusingly. The hood was pulled into place, but her mouth and chin was visible beneath the black nose of the “animal”. She could see the gorgeous smile that she’d seen in the profile picture and the adorable dimples.

“Hot damn,” she muttered, watching the video again. “That really is you.” She smiled, watching the video for a third time, grateful for the little bit of happy her new friend had sent over the airwaves.



“Sorry,” Spencer said, almost giddy as she released Moira, who she’d been leaving noisy kisses all over her sweet face. “I could just eat you up.” She gave her one last squeeze and kiss before she rose to her feet, Teagen already getting the happy mommy treatment. She pushed to her feet, her hands protectively on the upper chests of her daughters. “Please be on time next time, Karina,” she said, trying her best to keep her voice even. “You’re more than an hour late and I was ready to call the police to make sure there wasn’t an accident.”

“The girls were having a good time, Spencer, why would I interrupt that?” Katrina said, hand on rounded hip.

“We wanted to come home, Mommy,” Moira whispered, looking up at Spencer.

Tightening her hold on her eldest, Spencer returned her focus to her ex who was speaking.

“Speaking of a time to return our girls, when would you like them to be dropped off Christmas?”

Spencer could only stare at her as the words and meaning behind them processed. “Christmas?”

“Yes,” Katrina said, flipping dark blonde hair back over her shoulder, her chin raised in subtle defiance. Spencer knew that look well. “We’re planning to take the girls and Thomas to the mountains for a beautiful white Christmas. So, when do you want them back?”

“You’re not taking them for Christmas, Katrina,” Spencer said, anger entering into her tone.

“I wanna be with Mommy for Christmas,” Teagen said, the tears following.

Spencer reached down and picked up her youngest, grunting with the strain of her weight. “Nice job, Katrina,” she said quietly, indicating the girls with the flick of her eyes. “You already had them for Halloween, you are not taking them for Christmas, too.”

“I honestly didn’t think you’d care about Halloween considering you already forced them to live in a haunted house,” Katrina said, nodding at the house looming behind Spencer.

“We have ghosts?” Moira asked, eyes wide as she looked up at her mother.

“No, baby,” Spencer said with an encouraging smile. “No ghosts.” She looked back at Katrina. “We’ll talk about this later. Right now I’d like to spend some time with my daughters.”

Without another word, she gathered up Teagen's backpack with her free hand and guided Moira around to the path to their door.

Livid, Spencer did her best to push those emotions down as she led the girls into their home. She could not believe that, first that bitch expected she’d just roll over and let her have them for Christmas. But then, she thought, why wouldn’t Katrina think that? Their entire relationship Spencer had essentially given in. When Katrina didn’t get her way, the consequences were sometimes terrifying.

“Well,” she muttered, “not anymore.” She closed and locked the door behind the girls after she’d set Teagen down on her feet. The two were off like a flash to their bedroom, Moira hollering for the cats.

Letting out a heavy sigh, Spencer made her way upstairs to help the girls separate their dirty laundry into the hamper in the hallway. Her little helpers were getting better at it, but they were still just that, little.

Teagen was talking her usual baby talk to Peas, who had jumped up on her bed, but Moira was uncharacteristically quiet. Spencer wanted to interrogate the girl, but knew that wasn’t what she needed right now.

“Hey, sweet pea,” she said, tone upbeat and friendly. “Want some help?” she asked, reaching for the emptied backpack that the seven year old was trying to lift up to one of the shelves in her closet.

“I got it,” Moira muttered.

Spencer could tell she was angry with her, and could only guess it was because they’d had to go to Katrina’s. She reacted this way when they had to go to Katrina and Richard’s wedding earlier in the year, too. Intending to wait until the following day, she decided to show them their surprise now.

“Hey,” she said, walking over to a sulking Moira and running her fingers through her hair. “Why don’t you change out of this dress into some play clothes then meet me downstairs in the kitchen, okay?”

Moira looked up at her, eyebrows drawn. “Why?”

“Because I have a surprise for you guys.” Spencer gave her a loving smile, so glad to have her babies back under her roof.

\Fifteen minutes later, Spencer stood with the two girls at the wall, which she’d slid aside. Peas and Carrots had already taken off up the stairs into the darkness.

“Mommy?” Teagen whispered, wide eyes looking upward before looking at her mother. “Is there a ghost up there?”

Yet again, Spencer wanted to kill Katrina. “No, honey. I promise, no ghost.” Grabbing the battery-powered lantern she’d bought along with the surprises upstairs, Spencer clicked it on, illuminating the dark stairwell. She smiled when she heard an audible sigh of relief from both girls. “Okay, up we go!”

Whatever Spencer may have been expecting when they reached her new office, she wasn’t disappointed.

“Wow!” Moira exclaimed, though Spencer wondered if she was simply just excited to be out of that narrow stairwell. “You have a writing room, Mommy!”

“I sure do,” Spencer said, looking around once she flicked on the light switch. She’d managed to find an inexpensive and simple desk at a thrift shop and had to literally dismantle it to carry it up into the newly-cleaned and polished room before putting it back together. The stairwell was entirely too narrow for just about anything but the width of an average person’s shoulders.

“It’s so pretty!” Teagen chimed in. “It’s a great surprise, Mommy.”

Spencer smiled, as always charmed by her children. “I’m glad you like it, and I did want you girls to see it, but it’s not your surprise.”

She led them out of the office and down the hallway that led to the ballroom. Everything had been scrubbed clean, the floor shone like new. She’d added an electric fireplace that she’d picked up from Wal-Mart into the space of the actual fireplace to keep the girls warm, as it was a bit drafty up on the third floor. She was afraid to light the real fireplace, no idea what condition that particular chimney was in.

Spencer’s smile grew when her girls let out an excited scream to see brand new hot wheels waiting for each of them, a bow in their favorite color atop the respective toy. They raced over to them only to be distracted by the large mat that was spread out over the floor that was designated as their art space, so they wouldn’t accidentally get crayon or paint on the marble floor. There was an easel with chalkboard on one side of the sandwich board and two clips to hold paper in place on the other. Little plastic cubbies were stacked filled with crayons, paints, brushes and colored chalk.

It was a creative child’s fantasyland.

“Wow!” Moira exclaimed, eyes huge, and the normally reserved child was off and running around like a little loon.

Without warning, suddenly Spencer was attacked by two very excited little girls, knocked down into a nest of colorful beanbags she had scattered around the art area. It didn’t take long before a tickle fight began.


S: Am I a horrible mother because I essentially bribed my children to love me more?
R: Would you have done whatever you did for them regardless of your ex?
S: Yes.
R: Then it’s hardly bribing, is it? J
S: Huh. Good point.


“Hey, Mrs. Colbertson, Josh will be with you in just a minute,” Spencer said with a smile. “I know it’s cold as all get out, so feel free to help yourself to a cup of coffee before you guys head out into the snow to look at those properties.”


“Come on, girls!” Spencer exclaimed, still wrapping the scarf around her neck as she ran out into the snow-covered yard, her girls following hot at her heels, the three of them mummies in snow clothes.

“Snow angels!” Moira bellowed.


R: Good morning beautiful lady.  Wow. Just … wow! Thanks for letting me read this story. It was fantastic and yeah, you definitely should write that novel you were talking about the other night. With your style and talent, go for it!
S: Okay, woman, what do you want? Why are you being so sweet?
R: You got me: it’s my secret weapon.
S: So I see…


S: Okay (she says taking a deep breath). Chapter one …..
R: Get ‘em, tiger!

Spencer’s smile was wide at the encouragement from the woman out there in the ether who had become such a close friend over the weeks. Rory was proving to be an amazing listener, incredibly supportive and funny. She had to admit, she was enjoying the attention from the gorgeous woman.

Her girls were sound asleep downstairs in their bedrooms, so in the quiet of a snowy night, she turned her focus to her computer. Though she’d been a writer her entire life, Spencer had never considered anything serious, simply short stories for her own enjoyment. Now, as she broke ground on her first novel of real intent, she was nervous. She fully admitted it was because of Rory’s encouragement and glowing reviews of what she’d read.

Sharon den Adel’s angelic vocals filled the space of Spencer’s small home office as a Within Temptation album played on Spencer’s computer. She  was fully in the zone as her fingers flew across the keyboard, desperately trying to keep up with the images she was seeing in her mind.

As she wrote, she heard the ding of an incoming message. Moving from her opened Word doc to the window where messenger was opened, she read:

R: I hope you don’t mind or find this offensive, but I haven’t been able to get your description of the stained glass window that plays so prominently in your novel, so I decided to try and create it. What do you think?

Curious, and with her heart pounding in her chest, Spencer scrolled down until she came with to the picture Rory had attached to her message.

Letting out a loud gasp, Spencer looked on in wonder at what looked to be an actual window that was still mounted into a wall. It was shaped much like that of a church window, with the pointed dome at the top. Though it was painted on, it looked incredibly realistic as stained glass, including the lead separation between the colorful scenes. She saw the castle, so close to what she imagined in her mind’s eyes. She saw the young princess with long, dark hair that was at the center of the story’s mystery. Most importantly, she saw the three rings that drove her characters on their journey around the world.

“Wow,” she murmured, scanning the window to find hidden details with every glance.

R: Your silence is making me super nervous. Did I cross a personal boundary?

Shaking herself out of her near-daze, Spencer shook her head, even as she began to type.

S: Lord, no! It’s just so exquisite. I was taking it all in. My god, how did you do this??
R: Whew. I was worried that I’d made you mad. I know writing is very personal to you, so worried I’d overstep that private border.
S: No, not at all. It’s wonderful, Rory. I wish I could see it in person. Just … wow!
R: J Well, perhaps you will someday. Okay, beautiful, I’m beat. Happy writing and I’ll talk to you in the morning. Sweet dreams when you get there.

Spencer smiled. “I’ll see you there,” she murmured, fingers flowing across the keys.

S: Goodnight, Rory. I’m touched and honored. Talk to you in the morning.  

Spencer closed the messenger window but not before saving the picture she’d been sent. Rory’s talent was extraordinary, that she already knew. But, for her to create something so personal to Spencer, the fact that she’d listened so closely to what Spencer had told her, her excitement for the book idea she had … it meant everything to her.

Reaching for her coffee cup, Spencer was about to take a sip when she stopped, glancing towards the hallway that led to the ballroom. Listening, she heard it again: footsteps.

Pushing up from her chair, she walked to the doorway that led from the octagon-shaped room to the hallway. There were no lights on in the ballroom beyond so everything was dark.

“Hello?” she called out. Hearing nothing, she took the step into the hallway, ears peeled. She froze, hearing more footsteps.

Ever since Katrina had put the idea of a haunted house into the girls’ head, Spencer had done her best to allay their fears and they’d created their own character named Casper. To help, she’d cuddled with them on the couch and they’d watched the Christina Ricci film of the same name. That helped defuse their fears and see any sort of ghost as the sweet boy they saw in the movie.

Even so, Spencer had to admit she’d been hearing things since she’d opened up the third floor that she wasn’t entirely sure what to make of. Reaching up a hand, she flicked on some of the ballroom lights and, to her surprise, there was nobody there.

Heart racing, she took a few deep breaths and decided to not think about it and continue writing in bed.


“I’m so glad you’re happy, Spence,” Michelle said, dabbing at her mouth with a napkin after finishing her salad, a bit of Ranch dressing dribbling to her chin. “And, definitely glad you’ve made a new friend. Is she a,” she wiggled her eyebrows. “’friend’?”

Spencer rolled her eyes, sipping from her Coke. “She’s just a friend, Michelle, nothing more. Besides, she travels all over the place. I’m not about to get involved with someone that doesn’t even live in the same state for crying out loud.”

“Hey, my sister met her husband that way.”

“Well,” Spencer said, eyeing her friend. “Good for your sister.” She pushed her plate away. “What are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?”

“I am very happy to say we are staying home,” Michelle said, reaching for her iced tea. “Finally. After far too many damn years stuck with the in-laws, I’m thrilled. What about you? You guys are welcome to join us.”

“I appreciate that, but we’re staying home. Well,” Spencer amended with a sigh. “We’re staying home until Katrina picks the girls up at four.”

“Oh jeez. The bitch is back, huh? What do you think of her sudden interest?”

“In a word, it sucks. But, the funny thing is this,” Spencer said, her eyes dancing. “She put her husband on the job. He’s a really nice guy.”

“Why do you think she did that?” Michelle asked, her expression confusion.

“I really think she anticipated he’d be an asshole with me, she’d get her way and would come out smelling like a rose. ‘It wasn’t me,’” she said, imitating her ex. “’Richard set it all up.’” She grinned, shaking her head. “He was nice and considerate. I almost wanted to warn him what he was dealing with. But, I get them for dinner at home then they’ll pick them up and the girls will spend the night and go Christmas shopping for Black Friday with Katrina on Friday. Works for me.”


“Here, let me help you,” Richard said softly, taking Teagen and Moira’s backpacks out of Spencer’s hands to load them into the back of the SUV.

“Thanks,” she said, relinquishing them. She gaze Moira a brave smile from where her eldest was strapped into the backseat, wiggling her fingers at her through the tinted window.

“Listen,” Richard said, finishing his task and walking back to the opened driver’s side door. “I promise we’ll have them back by four tomorrow evening,” he assured, Spencer remembering all too well how late they were returning last time.

“Thanks, Richard. I appreciate that,” she said forcing a smile. Though she found Katrina’s husband to be a nice and genuine guy, he was still party to taking her girls away.

He extended his hand, Spencer gripping it. “Happy Thanksgiving, Spencer.”

“You, too.”

For the second time in thirty days, Spencer stood on the circular drive watching her daughters being taken away from her, and for the second time in thirty days, she wanted to cry.


Yelping in startled surprise, she turned with hand on heart to see Reynolds standing next to her. He smiled.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.” He glanced past her to the black SUV driving further away from the house. “How are you doing?” he asked gently.

She shrugged, hugging herself, following his gaze before sparing him a glance. “It is what it is, I suppose. Legally I can’t do anything, and it would be morally wrong to keep them from their other family, too.”

He nodded. “Listen, I know you had dinner with your girls earlier, but why don’t you join us for dessert?” he offered, nodding towards the house. He eyed her as she was about to decline. Apparently he could tell. “Come on, Spencer. Good food, even better wine …”

She laughed with a nod, appreciating his kindness. “Okay.”

The family side of the house was festive, decorated both for the fall but also a few Christmas decorations were scattered about. Spencer was introduced to Reynolds wife and young children, as well as a few friends and cousins. To everyone’s credit, Spencer was immediately accepted with gracious pronouncements of Happy Holidays and Happy Thanksgiving! Though she wanted to go home and message with Rory, she was glad to be in such good company.

“What do you think about living in my family’s home?”

Spencer glanced at the man she was seated next to. From introductions she thought his name was Edward and was a cousin. He was young, late twenties, maybe thirty. He seemed to carry on the Abbott good looks. “Uh,” she said, setting down her wine glass after taking a sip. “It’s nice. A really beautiful place.”

“I have to admit,” he said, voice full of conspiracy. “It’s so strange seeing this place revamped and renovated. I used to bring my girlfriends here when I was still at St. Albans,” he added, giving her a charming smile. “Then, when I was off to Harvard, this house definitely got me whatever I wanted.”

She gave him a polite smile even as she felt slightly revolted. She turned back to her pumpkin pie, which was gourmet for sure and the best she’d ever had.

“You see,” Edward continued. “This place used to be loaded with fine art, sculptures and incredible woodwork.”

Curious, Spencer glanced over at him. “What happened to it?”

Edward shrugged. “Last I saw it was when we lost Reynolds sisters.”


He sighed as he grabbed his wine. “Horrible car accident about,” he sipped as he seemed to be recalling information. “Six year ago now I guess?” He sighed again. “Nothing’s been the same since.”

“Wow. So sorry.”


Full from her dinner with the girls and then dessert next door, Spencer was glad to be home. She was craving a nice hot bubble bath before talking to Rory. She stepped into her home, glad to close the snowy wind out behind her. Making her way through the dark into the kitchen, she unzipped her jacket and reached out to flick on the light when she heard a knock at the door.

Jacket still in hand, she walked over to the door, reaching for the knob and pulling it open. Edward was standing on the other side.

“Hey,” he said, raising both hands, a foil-covered pie in one and a bottle of wine in the other. “Reynolds asked me to swing this by for you and your kids. Well, the pie that is,” he finished with a boyish grin.

“Oh, that was thoughtful. Thank you.” She reached out and took the pie and wine and was about to push the door closed with her foot when he stopped it with a hand. She met his gaze.

“Would you mind if I check out what they did on this side? I mean,” he said with a light shrug,” us kids used to play in the servants section all the time, so …”

“Oh uh, well, I guess.”

Feeling completely obligated considering technically Edward Abbott had a lot more right to be in the house than she did, she moved back to the kitchen and set the pie and bottle of wine on the counter before switching on the light. Edward followed, looking around.

“Wow,” he said, eyeing the open-concept kitchen and living room. “They really cut the size down.”

“What do you mean?” Spencer asked, shrugging out of her jacket and laying it across the small island, intending to hang it up once Edward left.

“All this,” he said, indicating the area with a sweep of his hand. “It all used to be the kitchen. I mean, you figure, they were feeding a lot of people out of this place. And here,” he said, walking over to where Spencer’s TV was now. “There used to be a huge, gorgeous fireplace here, but it was like, a lot further that way. Obviously they put a wall in here between that area to cordon off your living space.”

Spencer nodded. Though she was interested, she wasn’t necessarily interested in hearing all this that moment, and certainly not from Edward. Something about him made her uneasy.

“This place is great,” he said, running his fingers along the wainscoting that ran along the family room wall. He looked at her with a smile. “So, Reynolds said you’re a single mom.”

Swallowing, Spencer smiled, trying not to look as nervous as she felt. “Yup. Just me and my girls. Just the way I like it.” Her expression turned cold and uninterested, as did her smile.

“Are your daughters as beautiful as you?” he asked, leaning a shoulder casually against the wall closest to the stairs leading up to the second floor.

“Listen, Edward, I truly appreciate the history you’ve shared with me about the house, but I’m tired and it’s time to say goodnight.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

Edward’s smile made her skin crawl. “Edward, I’d really like you to leave now. Thank you for the pie and wine, but it’s time for you to go.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, taking a step towards her. “I mean, I know Reynolds is being super nice to you and your kids, but this is the family house and all.”

“Edward, listen,” Spencer said, her voice a bit more breathless than she wanted as she really began to sweat. Fear was trickling its way up her spine. “I need you to leave, okay? It was great talking to you, but – “ She gasped as suddenly she found herself pushed against the wall, Edward in her personal space, his hands pressed against the wall as well on either side of her shoulders, effectively caging her in. “Edward, stop. Please. I’m telling you no, and I want you to leave.”

“I told you,” he said, his face and voice changing to something Spencer didn’t recognize. “In this house, I get my way.”

Spencer screamed when she saw movement seem to fly into the room seconds before the lights were flicked off.

“What the...?” Edward said, no more than a silhouette in front of Spencer.

Screaming again in shock as Edward cried out when he was literally yanked off his feet. He grunted after the sound of flesh pounding on flesh. Finally after a loud painful-sound thud that left Edward on the floor groaning, the young man slowly managed to get to his feet and hobbled out of the house.

Hand covering her racing heart, Spencer’s eyes were huge as her gaze tried to cut through the dimness in the room. She knew she was alone, but was terrified and utterly confused. What the hell had she seen? What the hell had beat the shit out of Edward?!

Taking several deep breaths, she pushed away from the wall and, feeling her way to the light switch, she flicked it on, halfway expecting Edward to be staring back at her. Looking from left to right, nothing.

Feeling the cold night coming in, she made her way to the door, which Edward hadn’t even closed in his haste to get away. She peeked outside, seeing nothing but the falling snow beyond.

Not entirely sure what to feel first – confusion at what had happened to Edward and what she’d seen, fear over what Edward was trying to do, confusion over what to do next = as she closed and locked the door, making sure the deadbolt was engaged, too.

Leaning her forehead against the solid wood, she let out a heavy breath. “Jesus.”

Spencer pushed away from the door, intending to head upstairs to her bedroom when she stopped, glancing in the direction of the short hall with the bathroom and laundry room. She turned her focus back to her plan of hitting the stairs when she looked towards the laundry again. She wasn’t sure if she heard something or if she was simply sensing something.

Turning in that direction, she slowly made her way there, turning on lights with every switch she came to. There was nobody there. She entered the laundry room, her hands resting on the doorframe on either side of her as she scrutinized the room, which was where she felt compelled to go. It was then that she noticed the slight gap in the fake wall, and it hadn’t been that way when she’d left to meet Richard and Katrina outside with the girls.

Walking over to the wall, she slid it open the rest of the way and grabbed the lantern she now kept in the laundry room for just this purpose as she slowly began to ascend the stairs. She stopped, not sure if she’d heard the creaking of the old staircase structure or something or someone on the landing.

“Hello?” She rose a few more steps before stopping again. “Hello? Anyone there? Casper?” She smirked at her own effort to add a tinge of humor into a situation that had her feeling as though her heart would thud right out of her chest.

Hearing nothing, Spencer continued onward. Reaching the landing, she stopped and glanced down into the darkness behind her before turning to step up into her office. Grateful for the light she clicked on, she kept the lantern handy as she passed through the room and down into the hallway that led to the ballroom.

Flicking on the entire bank of lights in the huge room, Spencer slowly stepped in, setting the lantern down on the floor. She looked around, studying every corner of the play space seeing nothing remotely out of the ordinary, out of place nor another presence. That is, until her gaze landed on the faux fireplace.

“What the hell?” she whispered, walking over to it.

Like a game of Clue, the entire fireplace, mantel and all, had been turned, a secret door. She looked into the maw behind it and saw another steep, narrow staircase. Hurrying back to grab her lantern, she switched it on, the battery-powered glow casting a sickly hue on her features.

Making her way up, she glanced down behind her often, afraid someone was going to close the trap door behind her. Her heart was pounding and she could hardly breathe. Moments later she reached a landing much like at the top of the stairs leading from her laundry room, though this area was far more dramatic with beautiful woodwork. She almost felt as though she’d stepped back in time, the elegant sconces on the wall, the tile beneath her feet lovingly taken care of. In fact, she realized that about her surroundings on the landing. No dust, no cobwebs, nothing like it had been in the ballroom. Someone used this landing.

The difference from her landing, however was this one had two sets of double frosted glass doors to choose from. She saw that the doors ahead and just to the left were slightly ajar so went to those.

Slowly pushing open one side, Spencer looked at everything to try and get her bearings as she climbed the four stairs only to find herself in a beautiful artist’s wonderland. The walls were naked brick and huge windows lined two of the four walls as well as massive skylights overhead.

With only he stylish modern light to shine down on everything in the dark of night, but Spencer could imagine how magical it must look with the sun shining down. She wandered around, noting a nook in the back of the room with a small kitchenette including a dorm-style fridge, microwave and sink with a bit of storage overhead. In that nook was also a red velvet piano back settee that was elegant without being gaudy. It looked like a comfortable place to sit and have a snack or take a break from working.

Walking in further, she saw scattered easels, most with their canvases covered by a cloth. But, what she noticed with a gasp were the various shapes and sizes of glass, painted glass.

“What the hell?” she murmured, turning in a small circle looking up to take it all in.

What caught her attention as a loud gasp escaped her lips was the window at the far end of the room. It was cathedral style and was painted as the perfect stained glass window from her imagination for her novel. She’d seen this before.

Barely able to breathe with her fear and confusion, she turned and ran out of the room, nearly falling down the stairs. She braced herself on the landing before making the longer, steeper trek down the staircase that took her back to the ballroom. She cried out in surprised when she saw someone sitting there in a chair about twenty feet from the secret fireplace door.

For a split second she was terrified that it was Edward, tricking her into a trap. But, as she took several deep breaths, she saw it was a woman. Her dark brown hair was short, falling into her face. She wore dark clothing, but it looked to be comfy around-the-house clothing, with baggy cotton pants and a lightweight hoodie with a white shirt of some sort beneath it. She wore tennis shoes, her feet spread and forearms running along her thighs.

Spencer’s gaze focused on the woman’s face, just barely able to see one of her eyes through the long bangs. She was shocked when realization came full circle.

“Rory?” she said, confusion and accusation in her voice.

In lieu of a response to the question, the woman pushed to her feet but stayed where she was. “Are you okay?”

Taken off guard by the non sequitur, she shook her head. “What?” Then, for some reason it hit her. She gasped, bringing up a hand to cover her mouth. “It was you, wasn’t it?”

The woman lightly toed the wheel of Teagen’s big wheel with the toe of her shoe. “Edward won’t be coming back. He’s too much of a coward.”

“How do you know him?” Spencer whispered, trying to wrap her mind around everything. “Who are you?”

“I am Rory,” the woman said, hooking her thumbs into the shallow pockets of her hoodie. “You were right. And, Edward is m cousin. I’m Reynolds’ sister.”

“Wait,” Spencer shook her head again. “Edward said Reynolds’ sisters were lost. Are you another one? And, how are you here? Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you lie?”

“It’s a long story regarding my brother and sister, and I’d be happy to tell you if you wish. Spencer, I never lied to you. I’m sorry I wasn’t fully open, but I never figured we’d become friends, let alone …” Rory looked down at her feet.

Though Spencer felt something developing between them, too, she ignored the last statement. She felt overwhelmed and betrayed. “Were you sent here to spy on me and my children?”

Rory’s head jerked up, eyes wide as she shook her head. “No.”

Not wanting to hear anymore, Spencer hurried past Rory, feeling near tears. “I can’t do this right now,” she muttered, almost running down the hallway that led to her office and her home beyond.


After a long, hot bath, Spencer lay in bed, sleep far from coming. She’d checked her messenger no more than a half dozen times, so missing her friend to talk to, to ask what she should do. So many times she’d hoped that she’d open up the app and find a message from Rory: Hey, beautiful. How did dinner go with the girls? How are you doing tonight? Wanna talk? 

It wasn’t lost on her that, supposedly the very woman she wanted to talk to most was apparently just on the other side of the wall. How was it possible, she asked herself. How did she feel about it? She hadn’t allowed the woman who called herself Rory to explain herself, as she just wasn’t in the mental or emotional place to listen and fully absorb. Hell, at that point she was ready to pack up her stuff and that of her girls and go get a hotel until she could figure out where they were going to go.

Allowing herself to calm down and try and think rationally, she pushed away that thought. Her girls were happy there, and to be honest, so was she. Yes, what had happened with Edward had been terrifying and she was grateful Rory had interceded. She would simply get the facts in the morning.


Spencer let out a loud yawn as she turned from her side to her back, Carrots glaring at her as she slid down to the comforter from Spencer’s hip.

“Sorry, chickie,” Spencer said through a second yawn. On automatic pilot, she reached to the bedside table for her phone. Activating the screen, she went to messenger, expecting to find her morning message. When there was none, she was momentarily worried until the night before came back to her. “Shit,” she muttered.

Sitting up, she smoothed long auburn strands out of her face as she stared down at her phone, trying to decide what to do. Finally, she let out a heavy sigh.

S: Hi.
R: Hey. I wasn’t sure if you would be okay with a morning message from me.

Spencer smiled.

S: Can we talk?
R: Sure. Why don’t you come over, I’ll make breakfast.

Spencer read the offer three times. The funny thing was, this time the morning before she would have been overjoyed if that had been an option. Now that it was, she wasn’t sure what to think. Finally, she responded.

S: Okay. Give me an hour?
R: See you then.

Spencer showered, took care of the cats and chatted briefly with her daughters before they went on their epic shopping trip. She missed them terribly, but was glad they hadn’t been there the night before. Granted, Edward may never have attacked her the way he did had they been there, but it was still something she’d never want to chance.

Dressed simply and comfortable in flannel pants and a fleece top, Spencer glanced once more in the mirror. She wore no makeup and her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She studied her eyes for a long moment, doing her best to figure out how to keep them guarded and expressionless. It was not an easy thing for her, as she always wore her heart on her sleeve.

“Here we go.”

Hoping she’d be able to figure out how to open the fireplace door, Spencer made her way upstairs and into the ballroom. She hadn’t needed to worry, as the door was open, waiting for her.

She didn’t need the lantern she’d brought with her as there was light shining at the top of the stairs. She saw the light shining through the frosted glass doors from the art studio and was tempted to peek inside, but instead turned to the other set, which were open. Welcoming light and the smell of eggs and sausage beckoning her.

More stairs, she descended the ten or so staircase, this one more what would be expected in a home, before she ended up in a modest kitchen. Though there were certainly modern conveniences, the kitchen spoke to another time. The stove was big and beautiful, and looked to be a well-loved antique from the nineteenth century.

She spotted Rory over by the coffee maker, placing two mugs on the butcher block countertop along with a pitcher of milk and bowl of sugar. She was dressed much as she had been the night before, just different colors. Her dark hair was slicked back from a stunning face, as though she, too had a recent shower.

“Good morning,” Rory said with a winning smile. “I’m making breakfast burritos.”

“My favorite,” Spencer said, stepping further into the room.

“I know.” She poured coffee into one of the mugs and handed it to Spencer. “I couldn’t remember how you said you like your coffee so,” she indicated the cream and sugar.

“Everything smells amazing,” Spencer said, accepting the mug of black coffee and moving over to add what she wanted.

She glanced over at Rory, standing closer to her than she ever had. She could see an angry-looking scar that ran from her left eyebrow up into her hairline. Looking into her eyes so up close, she saw a deep and profound sadness in their brown depths. It touched her deeply.

Looking away, she stirred her coffee with the spoon that had been set out for her. “How can I help?” she asked, forcing her tone to be chipper as she shook off the loneliness she felt coming off Rory in waves.

“How about you set the table?” Rory suggested, indicating the plates and silverware she had ready at the end of the counter.

Spencer smiled at her as she set her coffee cup down. “Done.”

There was a small eating nook with a built-in bench and two chairs on the oppose side of the rectangular table. She placed their settings across from each other, taking the pitcher of orange juice Rory handed her and filling the two juice glasses. She was surprised at the ease at which they interacted with each other. Neither said much as together they prepared the table and burritos.

Finally seated, Spencer glanced across the table at Rory, not sure what her pre-eating routine was in her own home.

“Dig in,” Rory said with a smile, cutting her stuffed breakfast burrito in half.

“So?” Spencer said, looking at Rory with the, I’m waiting…

“Okay, so the story behind all this,” Rory said, getting the idea. She sipped from her juice before beginning her story. “I guess I have to go back to Annie’s death to really help you understand everything.”

“Okay. Who is Annie?” Spencer asked, spooning some salsa to her burrito.

“She was our younger sister. Six years ago I was working on a long-term modeling campaign in Greece. She had just graduated from college and was trying to figure out where she wanted to begin her life, you know? So, I invited her to come stay with me. So, she was there for just under a month when we decided to head out for a concert one night.”

Spencer watched Rory’s expression and could hear the change in the tone of her voice. Without thought, she reached across the table and lightly squeezed her hand before letting it go.

Rory gave her a very brief smile before continuing. “We headed out in the car I’d rented for her stay and … Next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital in New York. It had been three weeks and Annie was dead.”

“Oh no ….” Spencer breathed, breakfast forgotten. “I’m so sorry. Was there another sister?”

Rory shook her head. “No, why?”

“Edward said two of Reynolds’ sisters were lost.”

Rory nodded. “That’s about accurate.” She shrugged. “I already didn’t fit in with what my mother saw as the daughter of the Abbott family. I hated all the pageantry, wasn’t into the frills and teas and all that. To be honest, that’s why I became a model. As much as I hated it, it got me away from here, out in the world on my own. I may have had to deal with the makeup and all that, but at least I was paid for it.” She gave Spencer a small smile.  “Anyway, so after that, I walked away from my life. Walked away from modeling, walked away from my family. Wandered and did my art.”

Spencer brought her hand up to catch a tear on her finger. She was moved by Rory’s story and now, the look in Rory’s eyes – both in her profile picture and the woman sitting across from her – made so much more sense.

“So, I began coming back here more and more a few years ago. That’s around when Reynolds and I started talking about renovating this place. I was fine with splitting the servant’s quarters in half, leaving him two-thirds of the house to do with as he pleased, as long as he left me this,” she explained, indicating the space around them. “I thought the rental until was a good idea, income to help pay the massive upkeep in this place as well as for someone to keep an eye on things.”

“Okay, all that makes sense. So, how did you end up reaching out to me?” Spencer asked, returning to her food.

“Well, when Reynolds told me about your situation, he asked what I thought. I was all in to help a single mom, for sure. I tried to check out your Facebook page, you know,” she said with a shrug, “to make sure there was no drama, crime, that kind of thing. Yours is set to private, so I friended you. Honesty, I intended to check out your page then leave. But, after you sent that first message, I found you really interesting.” She looked down at her plate where she picked at her burrito with her fork. “I’m really sorry.”

“What for?” Spencer asked softly, curious of Rory’s intentions beyond her initial plan, which again, made sense.

Rory let out a heavy sigh before meeting Spencer’s gaze. “I’m sorry for not coming clean, simply telling you what I just did.” She gave her a sheepish grin, dimples winking at Spencer. “Would have made things easier, I suppose.”

“Have you been in my house at all? Since I’ve lived there…”

Rory shook her head. “No, never. I showed up last night because, for one, I knew Edward was coming to the dinner. For two, I saw Reynolds invite you in after your girls left. Thirdly, and most unsettling, I heard it.”

“Heard it?”

“Follow me,” Rory said, pushing her chair back from the table.

Spencer slid out of the bank seat  and followed Rory through the kitchen and down another short flight of stairs. “Good lord. This house is like the Dr. Seuss of houses!”

Rory chuckled. “Yeah, I know. I think our great-aunt thought she was building the Winchester Mansion in Colorado.”

Spencer smiled and followed her into a large space with a double purpose. Part of the room was obviously the bedroom with a gorgeous sleigh bed and antique furnishings abounding. The other part of the room, separated by elegant dressing screens and where she was being led, was a comfortable-looking living room. Overstuffed chairs and sofas with a bit more of a modern touch in design. A massive fireplace was the centerpiece with a large flat screen TV mounted over it.

“This wall,” Rory explained, walking over to where her couch was set against the wall perpendicular to the fireplace. She rapped it a few times with her knuckles. “It butts up to your family room.”

Spencer nodded, understanding. “So, you’re Casper then, huh? Footsteps and music we’ve been hearing?”

Rory grinned, Spencer melting at how adorable she looked with that disarming smile. “Yeah. Not my intention, but these walls are apparently thin.”

“You know,” Spencer said, hands on hips. “You could have told me what those noises were when I told you about our Casper issue.” She sent an accusing glare Rory’s way.

Again, Rory’s grin had that same disarming affect with a touch of sexiness to it. “I couldn’t exactly say anything without giving myself away, now could I?”

Spencer returned the grin, appreciating the ease that Rory brought to the room. The smile fell, however at her next quiet statement. “I am truly grateful at what you did last night, Rory. I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared in my entire life.” She looked away as she felt the rising fear and emotion from the night before prick the backs of her eyes.

Without a word, Rory walked over to her and took her in her arms. She held her, a gentle hand on the back of Spencer’s head where it rested against her shoulder. “He’ll never do that to you again,” she murmured. “That I can promise you.”

Somehow Spencer managed to keep her emotion in, though did allow herself to absorb Rory’s warmth. She could sell the freshness of the smell of her laundry detergent, the musky scent of her shampoo and the essence of Rory. Her hands slid from around

Backing away just enough to look up into the taller woman’s face, she brought a hand up, pushing Rory’s bangs out of her face. “When did you cut your hair?”

“About four years ago,” Rory responded, shaking her head slightly to get a few drying stands out of her eyes. “It just got too much to deal with.”

“So, the picture you used for your profile picture was an old one?” Spencer asked, noting again the scar above Rory’s eye.

“Yup. I didn’t want to chance you seeing me coming or going and recognizing me. So,” she said, shrugging a shoulder as her hands rested casually on Spencer’s waist. “I went incognito as me.”

Spencer smiled. “Was this from your accident?” she asked softly, her fingers breezing over the red scar. At the nod she received, she studied it for a moment, able to feel that sadness again in Rory. Smiling slightly when she had to get on her tiptoes to compensate for Rory’s height, she placed a soft kiss on that scar, hoping it could bring at least a little comfort.

“Why did you do that?” Rory whispered, meeting Spencer’s gaze after the kiss.

“Because I don’t want you to hurt anymore,” Spencer said honestly.

Rory smiled. “The hurt has gotten so much less since I met you. That’s why I didn’t want to give it up.” She looked away. “Didn’t want to give you up.” She gave her a sheepish smirk. “Sorry, I know that sounds super creepy stalker. We hardly know each other.”

Spencer chuckled. “No, I get it.”

As she looked into Rory’s eyes, she felt that pull to her that she had from the moment she’d looked at her picture. Now, the real live woman standing before her was a powerful presence, one she couldn’t deny or turn away from.

Spencer wasn’t entirely sure how it happened or who had initiated it, but the first feel of Rory’s lips. The kiss was so soft, so tender yet sensuous. Her fingers slid around the back of her neck until she felt the soft, damp strands of her hair. Sighing as the kiss deepened, Spencer shut her mind off and went with it. She felt the gentle touch of Rory’s hand cup the side of her face and the velvety softness of her tongue brush against her own.

After a long moment, the kiss came to a natural end and Spencer grinned at Rory. “What about breakfast?”

Rory returned the grin. “I’ve got more eggs.”

Spencer chuckled, those words sending a thrill of sensation down her spine and to parts that had lain dormant for three years. The kiss was still gentle and exploratory, but it was as though a mutual understanding had passed between them as their bodies acted of their own accord, stepping closer together, pressing against each other.

Again Spencer pulled away, though the intent was quite clear in her eyes. She reached up and took the zipper pull of Rory’s hoodie in her fingers, only for her hand to be covered by a slightly larger one. She met Rory’s tortured gaze.

“I have scars, Spencer,” she near-whispered.

Spencer smiled and brought up her other hand to cup Rory’s cheek. “We all do, Rory.”

When Rory’s hand fell back to her side, Spencer gave the zipper a little tug, guiding it down until the material of the lightweight hoodie parted. Rory wore a white, v-neck tee underneath, and as Spencer pushed the hoodie off her shoulders, she saw what was making Rory so nervous.

Rory’s entire left forearm was mottled with a roadmap of scars, the overly-smooth skin shinier than the rest of her flesh. She looked up into a guarded gaze. “Were you burned?”

Rory nodded. “The car exploded.” She gave her a rueful smile. “That’s what they told me, anyway.”

“Does it hurt anymore?” Spencer asked, handling the arm like she was handling the finest of china.

Rory shrugged a shoulder. “It’s a little more tender than my other arm but nothing too bad.”  

“Is it just your arm?” Spencer asked, touching the skin with a feather-light touch.

“My leg, too. Took awhile before I could walk.”

Spencer wanted to cry for the seemingly broken woman standing before her, but knew that wasn’t what Rory wanted nor what she deserved. She was strong, coming through so much before and after the accident. Looking up into her eyes again, she knew nothing else mattered.

Taking Rory by the hand, Spencer led her over to the large sleigh bed, shocked at her own assertiveness. That was one thing Katrina had complained about during their relationship: she said Spencer was like a wet rag in bed, never taking charge. Those words had hurt Spencer deeply. She’d given her all to that relationship, in bed and out. It had taken her a couple years to truly understand that, with someone like Katrina, who was sick in the head, not much was about Spencer and the girls, but all about Katrina.

Now, focusing her attention on the beautiful woman looking back at her, she knew that she could give her all again, and this time, it would be returned in the way she’d always dreamed.

Forcing herself to keep eye contact with Rory, she grabbed the hem of her long-sleeved fleece top and with a deep breath for courage, whipped it up and over her head, tossing it to the floor. She watched as Rory’s gaze fell from her own to study her breasts, cupped in cream-colored satin. She could sense Rory’s hesitation, almost as though she wasn’t sure whether she had permission to touch Spencer or not.

With infinite understanding, Spencer reached out and took Rory’s hands in her own, bringing them up to place on her breasts, lightly squeezing to let her know it was okay. She accepted a kiss from Rory that quickly became passionate as Rory’s touch became more sensual. She ran her fingernails over the satin of Spencer’s bra cup, arousing Spencer’s nipples into rigid peaks that pushed against the material.

Spencer sighed into the kiss as sensation raced from her breasts straight between her legs. She was slowly becoming engulfed in a fire she’d never known. Katrina or any other woman she’d been with had never been able to bring out the kind of passion that Rory was with a few kisses and a single touch.

Continuing the kiss, Spencer reached down and grabbed the hem of Rory’s t-shirt, tugging the soft material up. The kiss broke just long enough for the shirt to pass over a dark head and fall to the floor atop Spencer’s own top. In that moment, Rory seemed to get more of her courage and self-confidence as her passion level ratcheted up, taking Spencer’s breath away.

The comforter was soft beneath Spencer’s mostly-naked back as she was pressed down into it, Rory on top of her. Their kisses had become wet and sloppy as their desire reached a fever pitch.

“Wait,” Spencer pleaded, hands on Rory’s shoulders. She released a breathy laugh at her own behavior, that of a fifteen year old school girl. She left a soft, promising kiss on Rory’s lips when she saw her concerned expression.

She gently pushed Rory to her back, following as she moved on top of her, straddling her hips. Looking down at the beautiful woman beneath her, Spencer allowed her hands the glory of traversing the soft, beautiful skin of Roy’s upper chest and shoulders, hands gliding down her arms and squeezing the hands that rested on Spencer’s upper thighs.

Reaching behind her own back, Spencer unclasped her bra, shivering slightly as the satiny straps loosened and slid down over her shoulders and ultimately her arms. She tossed the garment aside to the growing pile of clothing and leaned down to deliver a devastating kiss, which Rory responded to with vigor.

Spencer felt herself being pushed back to a sitting position, Rory following suit until they were both sitting. Spencer’s head fell back, a fiery wave of hair falling down her back as Rory explored her neck, upper chest and finally her breasts.

She let out a loud groan as a hard nipple was tongued, Rory’s hands wrapped up and behind her shoulders to support Spencer as she leaned back to give her more access. She buried her fingers in Rory’s hair, holding her mouth to her. She couldn’t believe how wet she was, her hips unable to remain still as her arousal grew by the second, by the touch and flick of Rory’s tongue.

Grabbing a fistful of Rory’s hair, Spencer pulled her head away from her breast in order to take her mouth in a bruising kiss, meanwhile reaching around her to fumble with the clasp of her bra. Finally she was victorious and the bra fell away, exposing Rory’s gorgeous breasts to her hungry gaze.

Spencer gasped in surprise as, yet again she found herself on her back. Rory looked down at her with a playful yet predatory grin. She stole a kiss before she began to explore Spencer’s neck with lips and tongue, nipping lightly at the soft warmth of her throat. She worshipped Spencer’s breasts as though she knelt before an altar.

Spencer couldn’t keep her body still, her panties saturated with her need. She groaned long and deep in her throat when Rory reached a hand down between her own stomach and Spencer’s spread legs as she tongued a nipple, pressing two fingers hard against inferno that was between Spencer’s legs.

Rory left a kiss on Spencer’s stomach before pushing herself up to her knees. She looked down at Spencer, her eyes filled with the passion Spencer felt.. She reached up and grabbed the waistline of the flannel pants Spencer wore, giving her one last look, as if for permission, before tugging. Spencer didn’t say a word as she lifted her hips, allowing the thick material and that of her panties to be slid down over her behind and then pulled down her legs.

The discarded clothing pile growing, Spencer’s socks and slippers followed. They shared a smile at the silly slippers. But, Spencer’s smile faded the instant Rory’s tongue made a slow trail through her saturated folds.

“Jesus,” she gasped, her hard clit sucked into the volcanic depths of Rory’s mouth. Her back arched and her hands reached down to tangle in dark hair, eyes falling closed as her hips began to match the rhythm between her legs.

Though Rory’s actions were slow and sensual, her mouth and fingers seeming to find every single pleasure spot she had, she felt like she absolutely being devoured. To her embarrassment, it didn’t take long for her to come and come hard. Her cries echoed throughout the large room, her body exploding against Rory’s demanding tongue, which pressed hard against her clit, milking every drop of climax out of Spencer.

As she desperately tried to catch her breath, Rory moved up until she was lying on her side next to Spencer whose legs fell limply open on the bed. Rory chuckled, resting her hand on Spencer’s side as she placed gentle kisses on her lips and cheek.

Spencer reached a hand up and cupped the back of Rory’s head, bringing her in for a long, exploratory kiss. Though she was utterly sated and felt tired, she badly wanted to make the woman next to her feel good.

Pushing Rory to her back, she rolled on top of her, both letting out a long sigh at the feel of their breasts pressed together. She ran her fingernails down Rory’s side, smiling into their kiss as the other woman shivered slightly at the move. She hummed into her task as she moved away from Rory’s gorgeous lips and returned the favor of exploring Rory’s gorgeous body. She loved her breasts, full and soft, the nipples so responsive.

As she nuzzled Rory’s left breast, her hand reached down and began to push down the black cotton pants she wore. When her hand was covered and squeezed to stop the motion, she released the nipple with a loud pop before lifting her head to meet a guarded gaze.

“Did I hurt you?” she asked softly.

Rory shook her head and swallowed reflexively. “I … “ She swallowed again.

“Do you want me to keep these on?” Spencer asked, gently tugging at the soft cotton. At Rory’s relieved nod, Spencer smiled. “Okay,” she murmured against full lips. “Can I do this?” she asked, slowly sliding her hand beneath the waistband and into cotton panties where her fingertips were met with a sea of fire.

Rory’s eyes slid closed and she let out a long groan as she nodded.

“Okay,” Spencer said, kissing a trail down Rory’s neck as she moved slightly to the side so she could hold herself up on a forearm as her other hand pushed deeper between strong thighs.

She returned to Rory’s breasts with her mouth as her fingers worked, but she kept her attention on Rory’s face, too. She didn’t want her to be uncomfortable or in any kind of pain. That certainly didn’t seem to be the case as Rory’s hips began to rock with her touch, Rory’s clit slick against Spencer’s fingertips and rock hard.

Spencer’s face was nudged away from the breast she was suckling and brought up to Rory’s, Rory looking deep into her eyes as she neared her climax. Spencer stayed put, focusing her fingers on the spot and rhythm that Rory seemed to need.

Suddenly, a keening noise erupted from Rory’s lips, her eyes squeezed shut as her fingers took a vice-like grip on Spencer’s arm. She gasped and her back arched as Spencer’s fingers were covered by a wave of warm wetness.

Spencer’s own heart was racing in her chest as Rory’s body convulsed, her climax taking her hard and fast. Hand trapped between her legs, she used her other arm to cradle Rory’s head, murmuring words of comfort as she left small, loving kisses on her forehead.

After long moments, Rory let out a nervous chuckle, legs opening to release Spencer’s hand, which she gently removed from the confines of her panties and pants. “Sorry,” she breathed, letting out a long, contented sigh. “That kind of took me by surprise.”

Spencer smiled, leaving a final kiss on soft lips. “So I gathered.” She leaned down and initiated a slow, loving kiss, meant to seal their bond, not enflame sated passions. “Thank you,” she whispered against Rory’s lips.

“Thank you,” Rory retorted, meeting Spencer’s gaze, the lost, lonely woman Spencer had come to know gone. “I have to tell you something.”

“What?” Spencer asked, nervous.

“I’m really hungry.”

Spencer burst into laughter, hugging Rory in a tight squeeze before rolling off the bed to tug on her clothing.

The End