Author's Note: I never intended to take this long between updates; I've been looking forward to writing this chapter since I started the story in the first place. However, between working 50-60 hour weeks over the summer, moving across country and my partner's mother being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, I've been a little preoccupied. I intend to finish this story; its been knocking around in my head for the past year and a half to say the least. But I can't promise it won't be a long time in between updates again. I will keep plugging away at it; I don't want to waste the fresh bite of the writing bug but I'm sure you will all understand that I unfortunately have other things on my mind at the moment. But for now, read, review and enjoy.
For Disclaimers see Ch. 1
Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
* * *
The shrill sound of Luce's phone filled the bedroom, bringing the sleeping executive awake in seconds. She scooped up the phone even as her eyes shot open. By the time she'd brought it to her ear, she was completely alert. “Luce Donovan.”
There was a chuckle from the other end. “Well Donovan I can't say it was a true challenge but it wasn't exactly a piece of cake either.”
Luce sat up. “Did you get it?”
“Hey, I said it wasn't a piece of cake, I didn't say it was impossible. Yeah I got it.” Indignation was ripe in his voice.
She chuckled. “Great, where do you want me to meet you?”
“Same place as always works for me.”
Luce chuckled. “Same price as usual?”
“Yeah, I'll be waiting.”
“I'll be there.” She shut her phone and scrambled out of bed, hurrying to the other bedroom where she'd left her clothes. She heard the shower running and stopped at the bathroom door. She knocked softly before calling out. “Hey Kylie, I've got to run. I've got a bit of an emergency on my hands that I need to take care of like now.”
There was a pause from the other side of the door before Kylie answered. “Ok, if you need to run just lock the door behind you.”
For a moment Luce hesitated outside the door; there was something strange in Kylie's tone. But then she shrugged it off as probably her overactive imagination and quickly left the house.
* * *
Luce walked into the noisy restaurant, cringing slightly. The place's warehouse like décor did nothing to dampen the dozen or so conversations that were going on through out the place and as a result, what would normally be a mild din was a near roar. She had no idea how Mack could spend hours in the place; she'd likely go deaf or insane inside a few minutes. Neither prospect seemed very pleasant.
She spied him sitting with his back to the door, slouched in his seat like he had all the time in the world. She made her way to his table and slid into the seat across from him. “You know, with your skills you could demand a much higher price than lunch at this damn place. Its not like its real expensive.”
He grinned at her as he signaled an employee to bring him his order. Anywhere else and the gesture would have been not only arrogant but also extremely rude. But being as how they all knew him well here, well it was just his style and no one seemed to really mind.
His food was set down before him and Luce paid, tipping the guy handsomely for his trouble as her contact rubbed his hands together like a kid at Christmas. “But it tastes so much better when someone else is paying.”
She smiled at that. “Granted.” She took the folder he held out and began scanning it slowly. The man was thorough and she knew it would probably take her awhile to find exactly what she was looking for.
He tucked a napkin into his collar and dug into his large platter of tacos and burritos. “So what kind of mess are you in anyway Donovan? I had to hack into three high level databases looking for what you needed.” He took a large bite, a splatter of sour cream landing on the plate and narrowly missing his shirt.
“I've got a group of Feds demanding I give them evidence of a crime syndicate while keeping their own secrets.” She leafed through the file whistling mentally at the amount of info it contained. But then again it was her own fault; she's asked him to be thorough.
His voice broke into her thought. “And your interest in these people?”
She gave him a wolfish smile, some of her annoyance at the situation showing clearly. “Purely academic. I need to talk to their informant but they're being tight lipped about their identity. And every security check I've run keeps coming up clean.”
He snorted taking another large bite. This time his shirt ran out of luck. “Sounds to me like the Feds are keeping someone's nose clean.” He dabbed at his shirt, trying to clean up the mess of guacamole and salsa.
That was what she liked about Mack; he always saw right through the bull shit and directly into the problem. She snapped the folder shut. “My thoughts exactly.”
He gave up on his shirt and continued eating. “Well good hunting. You need anymore help, you just let me know.”
“Will do; I just wish all my employees worked for burritos.” She slid out of the booth and walked away as he started laughing.
* * *
When Luce arrived home, she threw her keys on the counter before grabbing something cold to drink and setting herself down at the table to start going over the info that Mack had dug up for her. At face value it seemed pretty cut and dry; there were a few violations here and there but nothing that looked like the FBI or anyone else could use as leverage to start the damn scam in the first place.
The board had over a dozen members, mostly middle age white males with the exception of one female in her mid 30's. And all of them seemed to have led rather normal boring lives.; or at least nothing that the the cartel could have used to gain access into the damn company in the first place. No one had an obvious continuing gambling problem, no one seemed too heavy into drugs; in fact only one of them seemed to have more than a passing acquaintance with anything heavier than pot. There didn't appear to be a single member delinquent on high interest loans with shady lenders or even so much as an outstanding parking ticket. There seemed to be absolutely nothing.
Luce gave a huge sigh as she closed the folder. It was no wonder why the FBI couldn't seem to find the guy fronting the cartel; the man was a ghost. She stood up, stretching the tense muscles in her neck as she went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. Frustrated she wondered what the hell she could be missing.
She went into her office, deciding to write everything down to see if maybe that would clear the bigger picture in her mind. She grabbed her large dry erase board and lugged it out into the dining room. Quickly and methodically she jotted down each of the board members names and the minor offenses in their files. Then on a whim, she jotted down the names of their assistants as well.
Looking at the list of names she found herself wondering if maybe the offender might be close to a board member but not actually that high up. She grabbed her phone and dialed Mack's number from memory.
He picked up the phone on the first ring. “What's the matter Donovan you didn't get enough of my winning personality the other day?”
She snorted. “Hardly; point of fact your ugly mug made me sick to my stomach.”
He laughed. “You always were a charmer Donovan. Two phone calls in one week, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“You feel up to more digging?”
“Anything you need, I'll find it.”
“This one might be a challenge.”
“Bout damn time.” She heard his knuckles cracking over the phone. “What ya got for me?” She rattled off the names on the board. “You want the full work up on these people?”
She nodded. “Yeah just like the last group.”
She heard scratching as he jotted down the info. “Ok, give me a few days and I'll see what I can dig up for you.” Then he hung up the phone.
* * *
Luce sat at the temporary desk she'd created in the boardroom staring off into space. Well perhaps that wasn't completely accurate. Truth be told she was trying not to look at the phone or sit there willing it to ring. She'd been doing that for the last twenty minutes and wasn't exactly sure just how successful she'd been.
Something was wrong, she knew it deep in her heart. But where exactly it'd gone wrong she couldn't say. She just knew that something had changed between her and Kylie since the night of the gala. At first, she thought that somehow she'd betrayed her budding feelings to the other woman. But when looking back over the past couple of weeks, she couldn't find a single moment or action she could point to and place blame on. Nothing she'd done or said should have given Kylie any indication of how she felt. But Kylie was still pushing her away.
Luce sighed, throwing her pencil onto the table and she opened her laptop and checked her mail for the third time that morning. Still nothing from her friend. That's how it'd been for the past several days now; her calls and emails went largely unanswered and unreturned. Those that were taken were often very short and tense, a far cry from the easy friendship they seemed to have shared from the very moment they met. It bothered Luce a great deal that something seemed to have happened between them. Especially since she had no idea of just how to go about repairing it.
Frustrated almost to the point of snapping she snatched up her coffee mug and went in search of a caffeine fix she didn't really need. She pushed the board room doors open with a savage motion and then hurried down the hall, her heels clipping crisply on the tile floor. She nodded at Colleen but didn't stop to talk; her temper was far too frayed at this point. Her progress towards the break room was rather quick; the hallway wasn't exactly empty but one look at her stony features and most everyone jumped out of her way. No one wanted to test the edge of that storm.
She sighed to herself as she stood in the break room refilling her coffee mug pushing her mind away from the mess with Kylie and towards more pressing business, mainly the information she was looking for on those closest to the board members. He had yet to deliver any of it and between being ignored by Kylie and this mess, she was slowly losing her mind.
She walked back to the board room her mind once again turning gloomy by Kylie's sudden withdrawal. It made no sense; there just didn't seem to be any reason for Kylie to suddenly stop talking to her. Unless of course somehow, someway Luce had broadcast her budding feelings towards the younger woman. That thought chilled her; it could mean the end of their friendship. And as much as she felt for the other woman, as much as her heart was pressing on her to act on what she felt, she was simply terrified at the thought of Kylie walking out of her life.
Luce growled to herself softly as she pushed that fear aside rather viciously. Whatever the reason for Kylie's sudden withdrawal, she knew it wasn't because of her own feelings. She'd been very careful to not reveal them to the other woman; she was sure about that. So there had to be another reason; but Luce was damned if she knew what it was.
Her phone rang suddenly and she found herself reaching for the office line before she realized it was her cell phone. She sighed as she set the land line down and reached for the other phone; this entire mess was really bothering her if she was doing stupid things like that.
She answered it with a harsh bark. “Donovan.”
There was a slight pause from the other end of the line and then Mack chuckled. “Bad day Donovan or did someone spit in your Wheaties this morning?”
She found herself laughing despite herself and leaned back in her chair. “I'd say a little bit of both at this point. Please tell me you have something for me Mack, I'm going stir crazy here.”
He chuckled again, the sound of shuffling paper coming over the phone line. “I think I have something for you; point of fact, I think I have your smoking gun here.”
Luce perked up at that. “Can you fax it over?”
“Sure thing. You owe me big time for this Donovan; it took me three days to crack into that database for this.”
She laughed knowing exactly how she planned on paying him back. “I'm arranging for you to eat free for a month, as often as you like and the tabs on me.”
He whistled. “Damn Donovan now that's what I call payment.”
“Well you deserve it because this might not be the last time I call on you for all this. I still have to find the front man behind this after all. What do you say we double it to two months just to keep you on retainer?”
He laughed outright. “I'm always up for more digging; information is power after all.”
“So you up for some time buried up to your eyeballs in databases?”
“Damn straight; all I need now is your fax number and I can send off this batch. Then I'm going to lunch on you. You need anything else, let me know.”
She chuckled, rattling the number off to him before he simply hung up. She smiled as she set down her phone. The man hadn't changed a wit since their time together in college. He was still addicted to scouring the corners of any hard drive he could get his hands on and still addicted to that damn mexican place. But he was also loyal to a fault and a certified genius; even if he was a bit twisted.
She went out to the reception area to tell Colleen she was expecting a fax any minute and to bring it in to her the moment it came through when her phone rang again. She paused a minute thinking simply ignore it when her conscience got the best of her and she snagged up her phone. One look at the caller ID and she was extremely glad she hadn't simply ignored it.
* * *
Kylie was a wreck; at least on the inside. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't shake either her feelings about the dream or even the dream itself; it haunted her. Every time she let her mind wander, even for an instant, she found it wandering back to the damn dream and waking up in Luce's arms. The raw emotion of it still lingered, shadowing her every where she went and nothing seemed to diminish it. She had no idea why it was sticking with her but one thing was for certain, time it seemed was not really going to help her deal with this problem.
Desperate to keep her mind from wandering, she threw herself into her work with a vengeance unseen since her first days in the business. Using any excuse no matter how mundane to try and distract herself from thinking about what had happened the night of the gala. As the week went by and that seemed to be failing her, she even went so far as to distance herself from Luce, ignoring phone calls and only returning emails sporadically if at all. But nothing seemed to help. If anything the separation only seemed to intensify her feelings.
Midway through the week she began to wonder if she was slowly going out of her mind. And the day she found herself sitting in her office having an imaginary conversation with herself on the subject she was almost sure of it.
It might not be as bad as you think. Her mind spoke up while she sat there going through her email.
She snorted softly. “How in the world could this not be as bad as I think?” Thankfully her door was shut and there was no one to hear her mumbling to herself and wonder if she'd finally flipped her lid.
There was a vague mental shrug. So you're feeling a bit of lust for tall, dark and brooding. So what, its not really the first time you've felt a bit of infatuation for a woman.
Despite the sheer delusional and irrational nature of the conversation, Kylie snorted again. “Having a bit of a crush on your second grade teacher doesn't really count. Besides it was just a phase; I grew out if it.”
Her dry comment drew its own mental snort. Apparently.
Somewhat annoyed, she stabbed her keyboard a bit violently as she replied to a rather annoying email. “Look this isn't funny, ok. I need to figure out what the hell is going on inside my head right now. I don't need snarky comments from you.”
A slight pause. Ok fine. You know the drill, start talking. What's really going on here?
“I dreamt about her and in my dream I was so in love with her I couldn't even think straight. I almost kissed her for crying out loud!” The inert keyboard received another series of vicious jabs. There was an alarming beep from the suddenly much abused piece of electronic equipment.
You and I both know that dreaming about someone romantically doesn't mean anything. Probably just your overactive imagination looking for an outlet. You haven't been writing lately you know. There was a vague sense of being patronized; almost like being patted on the head by a parent after swearing up and down she'd seen a ghost or monster in her room.
She quashed the annoyance at the placating tone in her mental voice. “I know that; believe me I know that. But this didn't feel like I was making it up. This felt like I was finally coming home; that her finding me was somehow the greatest gift I've ever gotten. And when I walked away I felt like my soul was screaming at me.”
Ok fine, maybe it wasn't your imagination. So what do you think it was?
She sighed, hesitating for several moments, afraid to voice the thought out loud. But denying it hadn't helped her any; in fact ignoring it seemed to be making the problem all together worse. So there was really only one solution, she needed to be honest with herself about what she was feeling. Until she did that she had no hope of dealing with it.
Finally she took a deep breath before letting the truth come out. “I think I'm falling for her.”
Her mental voice chuckled, obviously delighted at the thought. Well you know what this means then don't you? No more stubble in the sink!
“Oh for the love of God. Is that really my biggest concern? Stubble in the sink?” Her snarl came out from between pursed lips.
Again, there was mental shrug. Hey, I'm just saying, think of all the stress and time you'll save.
“And the whole gay thing is no big deal?”
Not really no; I mean its just plumbing right? That shouldn't matter if its the person inside that counts. Isn't that what Uncle Tom always said?.
“Yeah but at the time he said it I thought I was straight.”
Would it be so bad if you were gay? I mean you could do a helleva a lot worse than Luce. The woman is gorgeous and smart and obviously neat. Not to mention the two of you get along so well. What could be wrong with that? You'd have the best of both worlds there. For the first time since she started having the conversation with herself, her inner voice started making sense.
But Kylie knew that wasn't enough. Because deep down inside she knew that the real reason she was afraid was something much more and much less than the problem of being gay. The truth of the matter was that she was afraid that Luce didn't share her feelings. “And if she doesn't feel the same way? If I drive her away because she thinks that I see her as my experiment on the gay side of life? What then? I couldn't handle that, losing her friendship over something I'm not even sure I should do anything about.”
A soft mental sigh. Well I can't help you there.
Kylie snorted. “Then what good are you?”
Her mental self smiled softly, her voice gentle but firm. Honey I'm just a figment of your imagination; in the end you're still just talking to yourself.
“Damned egotistical part of myself.” There was a soft knock on her door and she looked up to find Marie slowly opening the door and looking at her questioningly.
“Are you ok in here? I thought I heard you talking to yourself.”
Kylie sighed, waving vaguely at her computer. “Stupid vendors.”
Marie nodded. “Another shipment get stuck?”
She shrugged not even really sure herself. “Something like that.” Somewhere along the line during her mental conversation, she'd lost track of just what she'd been doing before she'd been dragged into the obviously one sided conversation.
Marie looked at her for a moment and then stepped into the office, quietly shutting the door. “Kylie are you sure you're all right.”
She looked at Marie and nodded. “I'm fine; I just haven't been sleeping very good lately. You'd think that with the store moved I'd sleep like a baby now.”
Her manager gazed her for several seconds in silence. “If you need someone to talk to, you know my door's always open.”
Kylie nodded. “I know Marie, I do and I appreciate that. I just need to get some sleep is all.”
The other woman nodded. “Ok. Oh and by the way; lunch is on Michael today. He lost a bet.”
She chuckled. “That boy will never learn will he?”
Marie snorted. “Apparently not because he made it with me this time.”
This time she laughed. “Tell him I said he's gonna get off easy and we're just going to order chinese today. But if he can't learn to keep his money away from his mouth we're gonna order from that Italian place next time.”
Maire laughed. “Nothing like having a $150 lunch bill to keep you from gambling.”
“One can only hope.” As the door shut quietly on Marie's chuckle, she turned her mind back to her business and her emails, determined that this time she wouldn't be caught listening to any voices inside her head.
* * *
Kylie walked into her house, slamming the door behind her and swearing loudly, her temper frayed and unraveling. Her day, despite her best efforts had not improved. Point of fact, it had only gone downhill faster than a sled with a jet engine on the back of it. And her distracted mental state did nothing to improve either the day or her temper.
She looked down to Loki waiting just inside the door seemingly unperturbed at her outburst of temper. He sat there, looking at her with half closed eyes as if he'd just woken from a nap and calmly began washing his paw. Kylie wasn't fooled for a minute.
“We both know you took a bath before you went to sleep mister; so don't give me the paw washing routine. With the day I've had, I'd gladly take you down to the humane society and give your ass away.” She snarled at him as she walked into the house.
He didn't appear too worried at either her threat or tone of voice and merely followed her into the house, his tail in the air. She threw her brief case onto the table, not caring that it slid along the top, nearly knocking a vase over before stopping, as she continued on into the kitchen.
She opened the fridge and snagged a beer before closing the door to see the cat patiently sitting there again, waiting; regarding her with his blue eyes as if to say what's wrong? She sighed loudly before scooping him up and throwing him onto her shoulder. Knowing the drill, he immediately began purring comfortingly in her ear.
She walked into the living room and sat down on the couch, letting the cat settle onto her chest before she began lavishing attention on him. “You got me, I'm not really mad at you.” She scratched his chin as his eyes closed.
She sighed even as she continued to scratch around his face. “I don't know why this is bothering me so much. I mean so what if I'm attracted to her, she is attractive; I'd have to be blind not to see that.” Loki of course said nothing but continued purring as she continued to scratch his chin. “Of course this feels like so much more than just needing to get laid.”
She snorted as Loki shifted on her, pulling away from her to start washing his paw again. “Look I know how it sounds but I do care for her, a lot. She's my best friend. You're not supposed to fall for your best friend; especially if you're straight.”
The cat paused, looking at her and she lifted her hands in the air. “Well you're not.” This seemed to pacify him and he laid back down; Kylie continued petting him. “And what if I'm not straight? Ok fine, let's look at that then. Maybe I'm not a heterosexual; maybe I'm gay, I don't know I've never been attracted to women before. How the hell are you supposed to know if you're gay or not if you've never had anything to tell you one way or the other?”
The cat's eyes closed again and Kylie could almost feel him shrugging. She sighed loudly. “First its me talking to myself in my office and now I'm taking advice from the damn cat. Maybe I need to talk to a real live person for this.” She could only think of one person she could turn to at the moment. So before she chickened out, she scooped up her phone and dialed the number. “Hey Molly, I need to stop by; you going to be home for awhile?”
* * *
“So for some reason, Collin and Keith thought it'd be a good idea to glue the damn thing down to a piece of plywood in the back of the truck to give it more stability or some such nonsense. Now they're miffed cause they can't get it off the damn wood.” Molly sat down with a sigh before taking a big drink of her tea. Behind her the kids were running around screaming like loons and having a grand old time. “I swear, I'm still waiting for the day those two grow up. They seem to be stuck on boy half the time.”
Kylie gave a noncommittal sound, staring at the boys distractedly for several moments, a strange smile on her face, not even really hearing what Molly was talking about. Her troubled mind simply wouldn't let her focus anything; not even her sister's nonsensical chatter. And her nephews inane and innocent play was proving a great deal more distracting than she had expected.
Her sister noticed her lack of response and reached out to touch her arm. “Ky, you all right?”
Kylie gave a small jerk and then nodded, tearing her eyes from the boys as they started wrestling in the grass. “I'm fine really.”
Molly didn't look convinced. “Are you sure? I've been sitting here bitching about the boys for ten minutes and I don't think you've said two words in all that time. That must be a record for you.”
Kylie sighed starring at her own glass of tea. “I've just got a lot on my mind lately.”
“Want to talk about it?”
She shrugged. “I don't know; I'm just so confused. I don't know what to do and I don't know who to talk to about it.”
“Well I might not be the best person for the job but if you need an ear I'm here, you know that.”
“I know Mol.” She looked out over the yard, the sounds of laughing screaming children sounding wonderful in the silence. “God everything is such a mess right now. I just wish I could go back and redo that night.”
Molly looked at her in confusion. “Kylie, what're you talking about?” Her sister watched as Kylie sighed, tears filling her eyes, threatening to fall at any moment. “Hey, hey take it easy. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to but I can't help you if you don't start making sense.”
Kylie took a deep breath, wiping her eyes roughly as she tried to calm down a bit. She decided to start a different way. “Molly, when you met Keith, how'd you know he was the one?”
This strange new subject confused the other woman even more. “The one?”
Kylie nodded. “When you met him, how'd you know that he was the one for you?”
Her sister thought for a moment and then just shrugged. “I just knew. It's like he reached inside of me and filled a part of my heart and soul that I didn't even know was empty. But once he did, I looked at him and I knew that this was the man I wanted to be with and share my life with. This was the man who completed me.”
“Did what you felt ever scare you?”
Molly shrugged a strange smile on her face as she began getting an idea of where Kylie was going. “Sometimes but only because it was so intense; I'd never felt that with anyone before and I wasn't exactly sure what it meant.”
“Do you ever think that maybe he's your soulmate?”
Giving her a piercing look for the strange directions Kylie's mind was taking, she continued to play along. “Like mom used to tell us about?” Kylie nodded. Molly answered without even thinking. “Yeah, I do.” Kylie's eyes clouded over again and alarmed, Molly reached out to touch her arm. “Kylie, are you sure you're all right?”
She shrugged feeling the sting of tears threatening again. “I don't know, I don't think I've changed but I know something must have or else why would I feel like I do? I'm still me but I'm not me and I don't know what the hell that means anymore.”
Molly was back to being confused. “Kylie what are you talking about?”
“I think I'm falling for someone.” The soft admission seemed to shake her and she found herself needing to take a deep breath after admitting it.
Her sister paused a moment needing only a moment to start piecing together what might be going on. “Why do I get the feeling that this might be a bad thing?”
Kylie groaned, dropping her head onto the table. “Because none of it makes any sense; not how it happened, not why it happened none of it.”
Her clearly annoyed tone made Molly chuckle. “Sometimes it doesn't make sense, that's the point.”
Kylie smiled but kept going. “Sometimes lately I feel like I've been asleep since mom and dad died, like I've been walking around in a dream nearly all of my life. Only now I'm awake and its scaring the shit out of me.”
“Ok so you're awake and somehow this person is responsible; so what's the problem? Do they not want to be with you? Are they in a relationship? Married? Psycho?” Kylie shook her head at each question and Molly threw her hands up in annoyance. “Then what's the problem?”
Kylie gave a soft sob, no longer able to control the stormy emotions as she began crying softly. “I'm falling for Luce.”
Molly blinked, the words taking a minute to penetrate. The moment they did her eyes widened and she sat back heavily. “Oh boy. Hold that thought. Let me get the kids out of here and we'll sit down and have a nice cup of tea and you can tell me everything.”
It took twenty minutes and a couple of threats to her husband and their younger brother but soon enough the kids were out the door, the men were occupied and Molly was sliding a hot cup of tea in front of a very shaken Kylie.
She sat down with her own cup and gave Kylie a stern look. “All right, start at the beginning.”
Kylie swirled the cup around with her hands, still unsure of what to say or do. “I didn't go looking for this it just kind of happened.”
Molly laughed loudly at that. “Honey, no one really goes looking for love, it just kind of knocks you upside the head like a baseball bat.”
Kylie laughed for a second realizing how true that really was. Then the moment was gone and her problem pressed on her once again. “I don't have a lot of friends; or at least not a lot of friends that I feel real close to. And you know me, I don't just go out and meet new people. Most of the relationships I have with people are at ten years old, if not older.”
Molly shrugged. “You don't do casual relationships.” It seemed common knowledge in the family.
Kylie shook her head. “No, I don't. So, meeting Luce like I did, finding a real true friend in such strange circumstances, it was like fate or something.” She paused, taking a sip of her tea. “I can't explain it but when we started talking, it was like we'd known each other forever. It was like we'd met before and were just picking up where we left off. You know?” Molly nodded. “We just seemed to get each other and we were really comfortable with each other right from the get go. I've never had a friend before who just seemed to understand me without really knowing me.
Molly interrupted her. “What about her being gay, did that bother you?”
Kylie shook her head. “As strange as it sounds, its like part of me knew so when she told me I wasn't really that surprised. In fact it was like a running joke between us. We were each other's dates when we went out.” They both chuckled at that.
Molly grabbed her sister's hand, forcing her to look up and meet her eyes. “Kylie, do you think you might be gay?”
She shrugged. “I don't know.”
“Why do you think you're falling for her then?”
“Something happened.” Kylie spoke quietly, fearful and shy.
Molly pushed on. “What?”
“She spent the night at my place a couple of nights ago cause we'd both been drinking and she was too drunk to drive. I had one of my nightmares, the one about mom and dad and she woke me up. I don't know what came over me but when she went to go back to the guest room, I asked her to stay with me. So, she did. I woke up before she did and I was wrapped around her like white on rice.”
Kylie's story didn't seem to convince Molly. “So what? You always were a little grabby in your sleep. Besides after that nightmare, you probably just needed some human contact. Happens to all of us.”
“I know that.”
“Then what bothers you about it?”
Kylie snapped. “I didn't want to let go! I just wanted to roll right back into her arms and fall back to sleep. It felt so damned good to lie there, so damned right. It took everything I had to leave that bed and when I did, it felt like my heart was breaking. I haven't been able to shake that feeling since.”
“Kylie, are you attracted to her?” Again her hand was there, a firm anchor on her sister, offering love, affection and most importantly, support.
Kylie thought a moment, picturing Luce with her dark, dark hair and penetrating blue eyes; the lean body that rippled and shifted with a healthy layer of muscle and surprising strength; the beautiful face that seemed to soften whenever Luce looked her way, a soft smile tugging at the corners of her full lips.
She smiled slightly letting the image stay with her as she spoke from the heart. “Yes.”
Molly took both her hands and squeezed them, forcing Kylie to look at her sister's earnest face. “Are you ashamed of that?”
“No.” She seemed as flabbergasted and offended by that question as Molly had been confused a moment ago.
“Do you think that we might hate you for it?”
“Good God no!” Again her voice was clearly offended at the mere thought.
“Then what's the problem?'
Kylie threw her hands in the air. “Dammit Molly, this scares me. She's my best friend, the closest friend I've ever had. What if she doesn't feel the same way I do? I don't want to lose her friendship. I don't know why, but the thought of her walking away from me, out of my life scares me more than anything else. I'd rather spend my life hiding what I feel than risk that.”
Molly seemed to understand that. “Have you talked to her about it?”
Kylie shook her head. “No, I'm afraid to.”
“I think you need to talk to her. I think she needs to know how you feel. If only so there are no misunderstandings between you.” Molly drank the last of the tea and stood up to grab another cup.
Kylie sighed. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”
Molly came back with her tea and sat down, patting Kylie on the shoulder. “For what its worth, I really like her and you could do a hell of a lot worse.”
Kylie found herself laughing as she pulled out her phone. “Thanks, I think.” Then she paused as her phone finished dialing and it began ringing on the other end. When Luce picked up, she cleared her throat quietly. “Hi, I think we need to talk.”
* * *
Kylie sat at the small table at the back end of the patio, nervously playing with her napkin and fiddling with her water glass as she waited. She wondered when Luce would show up; of course she was so nervous she was starting to wonder if Luce would show up. It had seemed like a good idea when she'd suggested a semi public meeting to talk with the other woman. Now, as she sat at the small cafe, she began seriously rethinking the wisdom of that idea.
Something prickled her senses and she looked up to see Luce standing there, watching her. Kylie shifted slightly in her chair as Luce made her way to the table.
“Hey.” Her voice was quiet, unsure and tense.
Luce smiled slightly. “Hey yourself.” She sat down across from Kylie, going through the motions of glancing at the menu without really reading what was there. “I was kind of surprised to hear from you.”
She sighed. “Yeah, I guess I would be too.”
Luce set her menu down, waving away the waiter who was approaching their table. “I wasn't going to come. I figured me not showing up would make things easier.”
She looked at her in confusion. “Make what easier?”
Luce gave her a strange look. “Come on Kylie, I think its rather obvious.”
Luce looked down at the table a moment, before meeting Kylie's gaze. “You're my friend but I'm gay and I'm feeling a lot more than friendly towards you lately.”
“Really?” Surprised at the other woman's admission, Kylie could only sit there and gap at her.
“Yeah and I know you don't swing that way, so I just came to say good-bye.”
The finality in her words scared Kylie and she sat up a bit straighter. “Good-bye? You can't be serious.”
Not noticing either her friend's surprise or fear, Luce merely nodded. “Being attracted to your best friend kind of tends to ruin the relationship.” She stood up from the table but Kylie's voice stopped her from taking that first step.
“So that's it, you're going to just walk away?”
Luce nodded, her jaw clenching. “It's for the best Kylie.”
“For who, me or you?” Her words were soft but there was a bite in her eyes that belied the flippant question.
Luce nodded. “I can't ignore what I feel and I can't expect you to deal with it either. It's not fair to ask you to be my friend when all I can think about is what you look like naked.” This time she did turn to walk away. She even managed to take a few steps before Kylie's voice stopped her again.
“If you really think that you walking away from me is the best thing for me, you really don't know me nearly as well as I thought you did. Maybe you can live without me in your life, but I sure as hell can't live without you in mine. And don't you dare walk away from me until I've had my say.”
Surprised at the steel in the smaller woman's voice, Luce turned around. “All right, I'm listening.” She sat back down, waiting for Kylie to keep talking.
“Luce, you're my friend. The closest one I have. And I don't make friends easily. I can't stand the thought of you giving up our friendship just because of your feelings.”
Kylie held up her hand. “Let me finish. Do you remember that night you spent at my place?”
“The night we got drunk?”
Luce nodded. “Yeah I remember.”
“Something happened that night that made me realize things were changing between us.”
Now Luce began to understand. “You're not talking about you using me as a body pillow are you?”
This surprised her. “You knew about that?”
Luce shrugged. “I'm kind of a light sleeper. Is that what this about? You getting grabby in your sleep?”
“It isn't that. I could live with that, as embarrassing as that is.”
“Then you're going to have to explain cause I'm a little lost here.”
Kylie sighed. “When I woke up that morning and realized where I was and what I was doing, I freaked out a little bit. Not because I got grabby, but because it felt so good and I liked it.”
“You liked being held and that bothers you?”
Kylie vehemently shook her head. “No, you don't understand. I liked being held by you . And when I pulled myself away from you and left that bed, it took everything I had not to just fall back into your arms. I've never felt like that before. I can still feel it whenever I close my eyes.” She felt her chin quiver slightly as the emotions of the dream surged over her once more and her eyes filled with tears.
Luce looked on in shock and even a touch of fear. “Hey, oh God don't do that. I can't stand making a woman cry.”
Luce's panicked voice broke through her tears and Kylie started laughing softly. “I'm okay, I'm just…” her voice drifted off once more as she struggled to say what was on her mind.
Luce reached out to take the other woman's hand. “Kylie, what are trying to tell me?”
“I've spent the last fifteen years feeling like I was just watching my life pass me by, waiting for something. And then I met you. And for the first time that I can ever remember, I don't feel that way anymore.” She reached up to brush the tears from her face with her free hand. “I used to think there was something wrong with me because I didn't feel what everyone told me I should be feeling. I thought I was the reason I didn't feel anything when the men I dated touched me or kissed me. That maybe I was frigid or uptight or something. But then you come along and you make me feel more with a single touch of your hand than they ever managed with their entire bodies.” She lifted their joined hands to emphasize her words.
This seemed to stump Luce completely “You're attracted to me.”
“Yes. So it doesn't bother me that you have feelings for me or that you've been picturing me naked because I've been doing the same damn thing. I just had no clue why, until that night.”
Suddenly Kylie's behavior in the past week began making a great deal of sense. But something still troubled her. “Are you ashamed of how you feel?”
“What an idiotic question Luce. The uncle who raised me is married to the biggest queen I've ever met.” For a moment her absurd words made them both laugh.
“Then why were you crying?”
Luce's question sobered them both and Kylie found herself shrugging. “Because I've been so scared that you didn't feel the same way. But then you admitted it and I was scared that you were going to try and be noble and walk away from this, from us. I don't want to lose your friendship; it means the world to me.”
Luce reached out, bringing Kylie's hand to her chest as she leaned closer. “Sweetheart, I promise you, that whatever is between us, no matter what it might or might not bring, I will always be your friend.”
The tension seemed to just drain out of her at those words. “You don't know how much I was hoping you'd say that.”
“There is one thing I would like to know though.”
“What would that be?”
“If my dreams about this were even close to the real thing.” She leaned in her eyes drifting closed as Kylie found herself leaning to meet her without even thinking about it.
It seemed the most natural thing in the world their first kiss. Kylie's own eyes drifted shut, her breath hitching in her chest as her lips met Luce's for the first time. Then she exhaled loudly as she fell into the kiss and leaned closer. She was dimly aware of a loud pounding in her ears and it took her a moment to realize it was her own heartbeat, her blood roaring through her veins in response to such a simple touch.
She felt Luce pull away and shaken she could only ask a rather pointless question. “Does that answer your question?”
Luce seemed just as shaken, taking a deep breath. “And then some.” She reached up to brush some hair from Kylie's face. “So where do we go from here?”
Suddenly aware of where they were, Kylie shrugged. “Let's take it slow, see where it takes us.”
She nodded. “I'd like that.” A faint beep from her phone brought reality crashing down as she cursed softly. “I hate to cut this short, but I have to get back to the office. I sort of ditched out of there to come meet you.”
Kylie laughed. “I understand, I need to get back too. Can I call you?”
“I'll do you one better than that. How bout you come over to my place and I cook us dinner.”
“Can you cook?”
Luce seemed offended. “Can I cook? What kind of question is that?”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “A valid one considering you nearly burnt your own kitchen down trying to make us popcorn that one night.”
Luce sighed, talking to herself loud enough for Kylie to hear. “You have one drunken grease fire and they never let you live it down.”
“I can cook a couple of things.” Luce grudgingly admitted.
Kylie didn't seem convinced. “Hmmm. What should I bring?”
Kylie came up with another idea. “How bout dessert?”
Despite her desire to take things slow, Luce couldn't help flirting slightly giving Kylie a rather piercing look. “I thought that's what you were.”
Kylie could feel her face flush slightly at the look. “Ohh. Well, I was thinking more along the lines of something chocolate that'll make us feel guilty in the morning.” She was surprised at how natural Luce's words made her feel and filed that away for later thought.
Luce's eyes lit up like a little kid's at Christmas. “Brownies?”
She chuckled. “I'll see what I can do. How does six o'clock sound?”
Luce nodded. “That sounds good.” She leaned forward and kissed Kylie on the cheek lightly. “I'll see you tonight.”
To be continued...
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