The Greatest Gift
Chapter 7The bright sunlight streaming through the window caused the woman on the bed to groan and cover her face with her pillow. She rolled over and found the other side of the bed empty, and uncovered her face to peek around the room. "Hey. Where'd you go?"
"I'm right here," her companion called from the doorway that led to the bathroom. "I was beginning to think you were going to sleep the whole day away." She stretched her nude body, eliciting a moan of another sort from the bed. "See something you like?"
"You know I do," the woman in the bed told her. She flipped open the sheets invitingly. "You look cold, baby. Come on over here, and let me warm you up."
After one more full stretch, the redhead raced across the room and jumped onto the bed, landing on top of Beth. "I thought I'd worn you out, sugar."
Beth laughed deep in her chest, rolling over to put the other woman beneath her. "No chance of that, Red. You obviously haven't had a real woman before." Her head bent and she took a bit of flesh into her mouth, sucking hard.
"Oh, yes!" the older woman cried, raking her sharp nails down Beth's back. "Just like that, sugar."
Sometime later, both women lay panting and sweating, Beth propped up against the headboard, with the redhead nestled against her shoulder. "Damn, but you're good at that," she marveled, running her fingers through the damp auburn locks. The older woman's wild ways and enthusiasm were more than Beth had expected. She lay basking in the afterglow, then realized suddenly what was missing. "Hey, baby?"
"You're probably gonna think I'm some sort of terrible person, but I don't remember your name." A giggle was the last thing she was expecting, but she smiled anyway. "What?"
Gray eyes looked up mischievously. "You don't remember it because I didn't tell you," she purred sexily. "Didn't seem to bother you last night." She ran her hand across Beth's chest, latching onto one breast and squeezing it almost painfully. "But, I didn't expect to feel this way, either."
"Feel how?" Beth groaned, her eyes slamming shut at the erotic touch. "Damn, baby. You keep that up, and we'll never finish this conversation."
"Can't have that now, can we?" Sliding up the muscular body, the redhead ran one fingertip down Beth's cheek. "Last night and today were more than just mind-blowing sex," she murmured softly, leaning forward and kissing the other woman. Pulling back, she looked deep into Beth's eyes. "After," she sniffled, biting her lip, "after my girlfriend dumped me, I never expected to feel like this for anyone again." Her eyes filled with tears, which slowly trickled down her face. "Oh, sugar. You're so sweet and gentle, nothing like her."
Beth frowned. "Did she hurt you? Because if she did--" The threat hung in the air.
The redhead nodded. "I was too afraid of her to leave. Why, right before she threw me out of our apartment, I thought she was going to kill me." She buried her face against Beth's chest and cried.
"Sssh," Beth crooned, stroking the auburn hair. "You don't have to be afraid of her anymore, baby. I'll take care of you." Once the woman in her arms calmed down, she pulled her chin up and smiled into the watery eyes. "Do you want to tell me the name of the woman I spent the night with? I'd like to have something to call you, besides beautiful."
"Melissa," the redhead whispered. "My name's Melissa." She turned her head to lay down on Beth's stomach, an evil smile crossing her face.
The smell of something cooking caused Randi to slowly open her eyes and look around. A glance at the clock radio told her it was almost noon, and she realized fuzzily that Kay and Spike were nowhere to be seen. I hope Kay's the one cooking, she thought wryly. Randi rolled over and wrapped her arms around Kay's pillow, inhaling deeply. She could still detect a slight dampness from the night before. They had returned home from the bar and taken a long shower that only ended when the hot water began to run out. She smiled as she remembered how the younger woman had led her from the shower into the bedroom, telling her not to bother drying off. They'd spent the next several hours making love, and Randi was surprised to find that Kay was up before her. Maybe it's because she's younger. Burying her face deeper into the pillow, the sated woman drifted back off to sleep.
Randi awoke a short time later, this time at the feel of fingers running gently through her hair. She rolled over and opened her eyes. Kay sat next to her on the bed, wearing sweat pants and one of her tee shirts. "Mornin."
"Good afternoon," Kay teased, leaning down and giving Randi a kiss. "I was beginning to worry about you."
"Whys that?" Taking a moment to stretch, Randi yawned.
Kay enjoyed the view, as Randis stretch caused the covers to fall away and leave her upper body exposed. She unconsciously brushed one hand down the front of the older womans chest. Realizing that Randi had spoken again, she blushed and grinned. "Umm, Im sorry. I guess my mind was somewhere else."
"Oh, really?" Normally not that fond of the way her body looked, Randi stretched again, this time leaving her arms up over her head. She enjoyed the way that Kay looked at her, which made her feel like the most desirable woman in the world. Maybe what they say is true. Love is blind. She gasped when the blonde lowered her head and took one of her breasts into her mouth. Or maybe just extremely horny. Randi pulled Kay down on top of her and rolled, changing the subject.
Feeling insistent hands pulling at her shirt, Kay sat up long enough for her top to be removed. The look on Randis face when she realized Kay wasnt wearing a bra was priceless, and Kay resolved to repeat the practice as often as she was able.
"Oooh. Did we forget something this morning?" Randi ran her hands along Kays chest, enjoying how the blondes breath quickened at her touch.
"No," Kay allowed the older woman to pull the sweat pants down her legs and remove them altogether. She was about to complain about the cold air when she was gently covered with Randis body. "That feels nice." Her hands came up automatically to wrap around the larger womans shoulders.
"Uh-huh." Randi looked into Kays eyes and smiled. "Is this a new side to you, not wearing anything under your clothes on the weekend? Because if it is, I'm all for it." She rolled to the side, pulling the covers up around them both.
Kay kissed the chin so close to hers. "Smartass. I didnt feel like getting dressed, but Spike needed to go." Her hands trailed down Randis body, causing Randi to moan. "Tell me, why are we talking, when we could be doing more important things?"
"Talking? Whos oh, God." The hands that had been teasing her suddenly became more serious, and Randi completely lost track of the conversation.
Propped up against the headboard much later, the dark-haired woman was halfway through her breakfast, or lunch as Kay jokingly referred to it, when the phone rang. Kay stretched across Randis body to grab the annoying device. "Hello," she answered, slightly breathless.
"Well, hello yourself, Kay. I hope Im not disturbing anything," Patricia teased. "Its good to hear your voice."
Kay grinned. "Its nice to hear from you, too. Do you want to talk to Randi?"
"Not quite yet. Is that daughter of mine behaving herself, or do I need to fly down there and knock some sense into her head? You know how stubborn she can be."
Kay laughed and sat up into a more comfortable position next to her lover. "No, everythings great. Shes been nothing but sweet," Kay reported, almost laughing again at the look on her lovers face.
Randi finished her meal and put her plate on the nightstand next to the bed. Must be Mom. She rolled over onto her side and propped her head up on her hand, frowning at the conversation that was obviously about her. I should have known it was a mistake to introduce those two. Now Im never going to have any peace. The thought brought a happy feeling into her heart. Who knew Id ever get so lucky?
"Well, thats good. I was beginning to wonder if maybe she had been switched at birth. Because I know she didnt get that bullheadedness from either her father or me," Patricia joked. The tone of her voice changed. "Seriously, I dont mean to pry. I hadn't heard from her since last weekend, and I just wanted to see how you two were doing."
"I dont know about her, but Ive never been more happy in my entire life," Kay admitted, speaking to the woman lying beside her as much as to the woman on the phone. "And Ive certainly never been treated anything like this before. Randi makes me feel so special."
On the other end of the phone, Patricia sighed happily. "Im thrilled to hear that, honey. You both deserve to be happy." Afraid that she would start crying if they didnt change the subject soon, she decided on another tack. "Is that daughter of mine nearby? Id like to speak to her, if I may."
"Sure." Kay was about to hand Randi the phone when Patricia's entreaty stopped her.
"Kay? Before I go, I just want to thank you for making my daughter happy, and for coming into all our lives and becoming a very special part of our family."
Kay blinked back the tears that the sincere words caused to well up in her eyes. "It is most definitely my pleasure, Patricia. Thank you." She handed the phone to Randi, unable to speak.
"Mom? Is everything okay?" Randi sat up and gladly allowed Kay to snuggle up against her.
"Of course, dear. I just wanted to call and see how you were doing. You seemed a bit out of sorts the last time we talked."
Randi unconsciously wrapped her free arm around Kays body and held the younger woman close. "Yeah, I think I was. But, things are going a lot better, now."
"Thats good to hear, Randi. Christmas is coming up in a few weeks, you know. Do you two have any plans?"
Christmas? Oh, shit. I completely forgot about it. Randi looked down at the blonde head snuggled against her. Ive already gotten the best present I could ever ask for. Her mothers voice broke into her musings. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Your grandmother wants to have another get-together at her house. But your father and I were thinking about having a small gathering of just our immediate family here at the house. Do you have a preference?"
"Randi Suzanne, are you listening to me?" Patricias voice took on a scolding tone. "Dont tell me you have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than talk to your mother."
"No, of course not. I mean, well"
Patricia burst into laughter. "Youre so easy to fluster, honey. Anyway, think about what youd like to do for the holidays. Wed love to see you, either here or at your grandmothers. Talk it over with Kay, and let me know what you decide, all right?"
"Sure, Mom. Ill call you later, okay?"
"Youd better," Patricia threatened playfully. "We love you, Randi. Give Kay our love, too."
"I will, Mom. Love you, too." Randi disconnected the call and leaned over to put the handset back on the cradle. "Mom sends her love," she forwarded to Kay, resuming her previous position as body pillow.
Kay kissed the bare skin that her face was snuggled up against and looked up into her lovers eyes. "Shes sweet."
"Yeah," Randi agreed. "But, then again, she probably cant help but love you."
"You think so?" Kay blushed, but had a smile on her face.
"Uh-huh. Youre just too damned cute." Randi leaned down and covered Kays lips with her own. Breaking for air, she pulled back slightly. "She wanted to know what our plans are for Christmas."
"Mmm-hmm. She told me that Grandma wanted to have another big deal at her house, but Moms been thinking of just having the immediate family over to Santa Fe. Got any preferences?" Randi reached down and brushed Kays hair out of her eyes, thinking again how beautiful the younger woman was. If it were up to me, Id stay home and spend the entire holiday right where we are. But my mother would disown me for sure.
Kay leaned into the soft touch on her face, closing her eyes at the contact. "Ill happily go wherever you want to go," she murmured.
Smiling, Randi continued to stroke her lovers face. "What do you usually do for the holidays? Any traditions you want to keep up?"
"No." Kays open demeanor changed abruptly, and a frown covered her face, which she quickly ducked against Randis chest in an attempt to hide her emotions.
All right. Lets see what this is all about. "Sweetheart?" Randi waited until Kay looked up at her again. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not really," Kay snapped. Seeing the hurt look on Randis face, she relented. "Im sorry. You didnt deserve that."
"Its okay, you dont"
Kay covered Randis mouth with one hand. "Sshh. Its just that I havent enjoyed Christmas since my brother died. I used to try and make them special for him, but since it's been just me, I didnt see any reason to mess with it. The last five years, Id take a nice floral arrangement to the cemetery and spend a little time Christmas night talking with Jared." She tried to smile. "Of course, then there's my aunt and cousin, who would suddenly be nice to me during the month of December. I think they were trying to make sure they got gifts from me." Removing her hand, she took a deep breath and sat back against the headboard. "So, tell me about your Christmas traditions."
"Im sorry, Kay. I didnt mean to bring up bad memories." Randi held out her arm. "Can I hold you?" She didnt get an answer, but Kay gratefully accepted the offer, leaning back and closing her eyes. "So, you want to hear about the Meyers family traditions?" A silent nod beckoned her to continue. "All right. Well, we normally invaded my grandmothers house every year on Christmas Eve, and the adults would sit around playing cards or dominoes, while the kids all piled up in one of the bedrooms and had a slumber party, of sorts. We usually stayed up giggling and playing, until my grandmother would come in and threaten to send Santa a note that there was nothing but bad boys and girls, and he could skip her house."
Unable to help herself, Kay giggled. "She didn't."
"Oh, yeah. Every year, for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, wed take turns keeping watch out the window for his sleigh. Augie, since he was the oldest, would always take last watch, and fall asleep." She laughed. "So, the next morning, when Grandma would come to wake us, hed always get in trouble for being out of his sleeping bag."
"Then what happened?" Kay was completely immersed in the story, forgetting what had upset her to begin with.
"Then, wed all be forced to eat breakfast before we were allowed to go into the family room, where the tree and stockings were. Youve never seen kids inhale oatmeal and toast like that, believe me. Anyway, after breakfast, the kids would race from the dining room like mad, and then it became a free-for-all when we hit the family room. All of the adults would be seated around the edges, and would laugh and watch the kids go crazy." Randis face took on a wistful look. "I havent gone back for the last couple of years, so Im not sure if thats still how it works, or not. I usually just send my grandmother a gift, and call her later on that day."
Kay turned her head to look at Randi. "Why havent you gone?" She could tell that Randi loved her family, and was curious as to why she would miss such an important holiday.
"I wasnt much in the festive mood." Randi took a deep breath and tried to change the subject. "But, Im feeling pretty damned wonderful, right now. So, what do you want to do for the holidays?"
"Spend them with you."
The look on Kays face was so serious that Randi almost felt like crying. She couldnt believe how much one person could mean to her. "I think Id like that," she rasped, struggling to keep her emotions under control. This is ridiculous. Im acting like a moonstruck teenager.
"What do you think the rest of your family is going to do? Id love to see your niece and nephews again." Kay had heard the catch in her lovers voice, and thought a slight change in subject was in order.
"Thats a good question. I could always call Augie up and see what their plans are, before we commit one way or the other." As much as she loved her parents, Randi would much rather have a long drive than a short flight. And, like Kay, she would love to see the kids again. For the last few minutes, Kays hands had been tracing patterns across her skin, making conversation difficult, at best. I think Ill wait until later to call. We have much more important matters to attend to. Randi turned so that she was able to kiss Kay, and enjoyed the feeling of the younger womans fingers in her hair. Much later.
Beth held the car door open, her head and shoulders leaning inside. "So, where do we go from here? Id really like to see you again."
"Id like that too, sugar." Melissa leaned across the seat and grabbed the other womans shirt, pulling her back into the car. Her forceful, passionate kiss left them both breathless. "Do you live around here?"
Beth hated to lie, but she didnt think that telling her new lover that she had been following her old lover around was such a good idea. "Uh, no. I just got into town, and was looking for a job. Just my luck when I ran into you at that bar last night."
Melissa leaned over again, but instead of kissing Beth, she took her lower lip between her teeth, then licked it to soften the bite. "Id say we were both pretty lucky, werent we?" After their marathon sex session, she was sore in places she didnt think existed, but it was a good kind of sore. "What kind of work do you do?"
"Im a mechanic, but I can also operate a tow truck. I figured the opportunities would be pretty good up here, unlike that pissant little town I came from." Beth had felt a surge of excitement when Melissa nipped at her lip, and was beginning to wish they hadnt left the motel room. "Maybe we should go back to your hotel room to finish this little chat. I can follow you over in my truck."
"I tell you what, hon. Ive got a few errands to take care of, but why dont you drive back over and get yourself a room? I already told them I was checking out today." Melissa gave Beth her best sad look. "I'm going to have to find someplace less expensive, since my money is running so low." Big tears fell from her eyes. "Ive already sold all my other belongings, just to be able to eat, and not end up on the streets."
Beth pulled the crying woman into her arms. "Its okay, baby. Ill get a room, and you can stay with me. Are you having a rough time finding a job?"
"Mmm-hmm," Melissa cried. "I havent worked in years. My girlfriend wouldnt let me. She wanted me to stay home and take care of the apartment. I dont have any job skills," she blubbered, burying her face in Beths shirt.
What a bitch! I cant believe anyone would treat such a sweet, beautiful woman like that. Beth waited until the older woman stopped crying, then used her hand to tilt Melissas face up to hers. "Dont you worry. Ill take care of you."
Melissa fought to keep the triumphant smile off her face. Hook, line and sinker. These big burly types are all the same. "You will?" she sniffled. "I couldnt ask that of you. Why, you hardly know me."
"I know you well enough," Beth assured her. She used her fingertips to brush the tears from Melissas face. "Now, you go take care of your errands, and Ill get a room."
"Thank you, sugar." The redhead paused, then giggled. "I don't know your last name."
"Rogers." Beth grinned. She had almost forgotten that they had never gotten around to proper introductions the evening before.
"Beth Rogers. I like that name," Melissa murmured. She gave the husky woman another deep kiss, filled with promise. "Ill be back soon."
Beth climbed out of the car. "Ill be waiting." She closed the door and watched as the red sports car raced from the parking lot. I wonder where she got that car? It looks brand new. She shrugged. "Probably borrowed it from a friend." The mechanic pulled herself into her truck and headed back for the motel, visions of more nights like the previous one running through her head. She never tumbled to all the inconsistencies in Melissa's story, but was anxious to reunite with the redhead.
Taking a look into her rear view mirror, Melissa could no longer hold back her laughter. "That stupid little hick! Shes going to be perfect for what I have in mind." Her mind whirled with the possibilities. "No one tells me no, and gets away with it. That bitch is going to get hers."
After a bit of coaxing from Spike, both women were dressed and now sat on their usual bench in the nearby park. The small dog ran the length of his lead, barking and chasing imaginary threats. Randi tilted her head back and allowed the warm sunshine to heat her face, enjoying the quiet time. They were only wearing light jackets, and she once again gave private thanks for the mild Texas winters.
Kay sat as close as she possibly could, her leg touching Randis. She enjoyed watching Spike run around and act silly, and would often chuckle out loud at his antics. "Sometimes I think hes in his own little world," she noted.
"What makes you say that?" Randi asked. She rolled her head in the direction of her lover's voice and opened one eye, too relaxed by the warm sun to expend much more energy.
"Just look at him." Kay pointed at the small dog that was now crouched down with his rear end up in the air, snarling at nothing in particular. "You cant tell me thats a sane dog."
Randi laughed. "He just has a good imagination. Besides, I think he likes showing off for you. He never acted that way just for me." She looked around at the near-deserted park. "Want to take a walk around the lake?"
"Sure." Kay stood up and offered her hand to Randi, who accepted it and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet.
They walked around the small lake in silence, both content to enjoy the day. On the second circuit, Kay stopped and walked down to the waters edge. "What is it?" Randi asked, following the inquisitive blonde.
"Im not sure. I thought I saw something." Kay moved a bit of brush with her hand, finding what appeared to be a dead duckling. "Oh, no." She turned to look up at Randi. "Can you ?"
Randi knelt down beside Kay and studied the still creature carefully. Wishing she had rubber gloves, she touched it with one finger, surprised to feel warmth. "Its hard to tell, Kay. If its dead, it hasnt been dead long." Taking a deep breath, she picked the duckling up cautiously, while Kay held Spike to keep him from getting in the way. The body was still warm and pliable, and Randi thought that she could feel it breathing. "I think it may still be alive."
"What can we do?" Kay asked. "I hate to think of just leaving it here to die."
I am such a sucker. I know Im going to regret this. Randi stood up. "Lets go to the clinic, and Ill see what I can do."
"Yes!" Kay jumped to her feet and kept Spike in her arms as they walked back to their car.
Randi waited until Kay was buckled into the passengers seat, then walked around the rear of the vehicle. She unlocked the trunk with her free hand and picked up a towel that she kept for emergencies. After carefully wrapping the small bird in the towel, she closed the trunk and walked back around to Kays side of the car. "Do you think you can hold this, and keep Spike away at the same time?"
"I think so," Kay acknowledged, holding the dog in her left arm, while letting Randi situate the small bundle on her lap. "Thank you, Randi. I know this isnt how you planned on spending the rest of the day."
The vet smiled. "Dont thank me just yet, Kay. I doubt if theres much we can do. He may not even survive until we get there."
"Well, thank you anyway." Kay snuggled Spike to her chest while Randi hurried to climb in behind the wheel. The small dog sniffed at the towel, but made no effort to do anything else. "Thats right, sweetie. You understand, dont you?"
Randi shook her head as she started the car. Sometimes I worry about those two. The link between Spike and Kay was something she was grateful for, even when she complained about it. Since it had been just the two of them for over a year, she had worried that Spike would be jealous of Kay. Luckily, the miniature dobie fell in love with Kay almost at first sight. I can certainly understand how that happened. So did I. She pulled the Corvette out of the parking lot and headed for the clinic, hoping that Kay wouldnt be too distraught when she couldnt save the duckling from his fate.
After doing a thorough examination of the still bird, Randi shook her head. "I don't know, Kay. I can't seem to find anything wrong with him, except that he seems to be malnourished." She hated to be the bearer of bad news, especially seeing the complete look of trust in her friend's eyes.
"Can't you feed it? I mean, if it just needs food, can't we try to do that?" Kay couldn't understand why she was so emotionally attached to the duckling, and why she needed it to survive. She just knew that she wouldn't feel right until they had done everything they could.
Randi shrugged her shoulders. "We can try. I dont think we have any duck food here at the clinic, but there's a feed store not too far from here." Another advantage to living in the suburbs that were bordered by a mainly rural area. Ten years prior, there had been very few houses and a lot of undeveloped land, which had now almost completely disappeared. But, Randi was very happy with the laid-back atmosphere of the area, and had no desire to relocate. "We're also going to need a brooder."
"A box," Randi told her with a smile. "With a feeder and a water dispenser. It probably wouldn't hurt to use a heat lamp for the next few days, at least until the little guy starts eating well," she murmured, more to herself than to Kay.
"How do you know so much about ducks?" Kay wanted to know. "You don't see that many here, do you?"
The vet shook her head. "Nope." She reached under the table and pulled out a book, which had a pamphlet marking a page. "I cheated. When you went out back with Spike, I did a bit of quick reading. It's been a while since I've had to know anything about the care of wild ducks."
Kay shook her finger at Randi, trying to keep from smiling. "I should have known it was something like that. You were a bit too eager for us to go for a walk."
"Yeah, well, I didn't want you to think I didn't know anything," Randi admitted. "Wait here for a minute." She left the room, returning quickly with a small box. "I'm going to have to find a bigger box for him, but this should do for now." Inside the box she had placed a small, clean bit of cloth, where she gently placed the duckling. "Here," she said, handing the box to Kay, "you hold him. We'll take him back to the apartment, and see what we can do."
"Thank you." Kay looked up into Randi's eyes. "I just hate the thought of him dying all alone, without someone at least trying to help him." She struggled to keep the tears from flowing down her face, but by the look Randi was giving her, wasn't too successful.
Silently holding the door open for Kay, Randi followed her out to the waiting area, where Spike was curled up on an office chair. She picked the little dog up and held him close. "You'd better be glad Christina didn't catch you sleeping in her chair. She'd have both our hides for that," Randi told him, getting the response she wanted when she heard Kay chuckle.
An hour later and over one hundred dollars poorer, Randi and Kay were in the apartment setting up the duckling's temporary home. By mutual consent, they decided that the guest bathroom would be the safest and quietest place for the small fowl, and placed its box in the bathtub, so that Spike couldn't get near it.
The vet stood up and stretched, feeling the ache of muscles that weren't used to bending over tubs for long periods of time. She had attached a heat lamp to the towel bar in the tub, allowing it to shine into the box so that the duckling would be warm enough. "How's it going?" she asked her partner, who was sitting on the closed toilet, feeding the duckling with a syringe.
"Not too bad. He's actually taking some of this in," Kay admitted in wonder. "How much should I give him?"
Randi leaned over and looked at Kay's progress. "Not a whole lot to begin with. We need to start him out slowly." She had a feeder and a water dispenser set up in the box, along with some old tee shirts in the bottom. "We can try and feed him a little more in a couple of hours."
Nodding, Kay wiped the excess off his bill and placed the fowl into the box. "Look. He's sitting up," she whispered excitedly.
"You're right." Randi watched as the bird did sit up, but made no move to stand or open its eyes. "Just don't get your hopes up, okay? He has a long way to go."
"I know. But, at least he's not alone, anymore." She partially covered the box with a towel to keep the heat in, and stood up. "I really appreciate everything you've done, Randi. I just couldn't stand by and let it die, without at least trying."
Snapping her rubber gloves off, Randi leaned over and scrubbed her hands in the sink, moving over so that Kay could join her. After they were both sufficiently clean, they left the bathroom and closed the door. Randi was halfway down the hall before she realized that she was walking alone. Turning around, she saw Kay standing at the end of the hallway, staring at the closed door. "Kay?"
"What's going on?" Randi hurried down the hall and put her hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Are you all right?"
Kay wiped at her eyes and shook her head. "I'm sorry. It must be close to that time of the month for me."
"Hey, don't worry about it." Randi used the fingers on one hand to brush away Kay's tears. "Why all the concern over a little duck? I don't want it to die, either, but sometimes that's just how it goes."
"No one should die alone!" Kay snapped, pushing by Randi and running into the master bedroom. She slammed the door behind her, leaving a befuddled Randi in the hall.
"Well, that was enlightening," the dark-haired woman grumbled, as she walked to stand in front of the closed door. She was about to knock when she heard crying on the other side. Damn. Now what do I do? The sound of whining caused Randi to look down.
Spike sat near her feet, a confused look on his features.
He cocked his head to one side and whined again.
"Yeah, I'm worried too." Turning her attention back to the door, Randi knocked lightly. "Kay? Can I come in?" She could still hear the sound of Kay's crying, which made her mind up for her. Slowly turning the knob, Randi pushed the door open slightly and stuck her head into the room. "Sweetheart? Are you okay?" Of course she's not okay, you blockhead. She's crying! Randi berated herself.
The younger woman was lying face down on the bed, her face buried in a pillow. Kay's deep sobs could still be heard, but she made no move to acknowledge Randi, or even turn over.
Much to Spike's dismay, Randi stepped fully into the room and closed the door behind her. She could hear his whine outside the door, but ignored it to focus on her lover. Unsure of what had caused Kay's emotional outburst, she cautiously sat near the prone woman on the bed and placed one hand lightly on Kay's shoulder. "Kay? I'm sorry if I said something that upset you. Is there anything I can do for you?" Randi sat quietly for several minutes, afraid that she wasn't going to get an answer.
Finally, Kay rolled over and stared up at the older woman, her hazel eyes red from crying. "You didn't do anything," she rasped, her voice hoarse. She gratefully accepted the box of tissue from Randi and blew her nose. "I guess you could say I have some issues that I need to deal with."
"Okay. Umm, is there anything I can do to help?" Feeling completely out of her league, Randi offered her hand, grateful when it was taken and held. "If you want to talk about it, I can listen. Or, if you just need some space to deal with it alone, I can give you that, too," she babbled, unsure of what to do.
Charmed, Kay couldn't help but smile. She brought their joined hands up to her face and rubbed her cheek with the back of Randi's hand. "You'll probably think I'm crazy."
"I bet I won't," Randi assured her.
Kay took a deep breath and sat up, pulling Randi with her until they were both leaning against the headboard. She held the older woman's hand like a lifeline and closed her eyes. "You remember I told you about Jared? How he died, I mean?"
"Yes." Fearing where the conversation was going, Randi willed her heart to stop beating so quickly. "You told me he was killed by a drunk driver, but didn't go into any details."
"He was riding his bicycle to school one morning, and took a short cut that he didn't usually take. According to the police reports, the driver swerved and went up on the sidewalk, hitting Jared and throwing him and his bike into some thick bushes." Kay's voice broke and she stopped.
Randi pulled her into her arms and held her close. "You don't have to-"
"No, please, let me finish." Kay leaned back into the strong embrace and took a steadying breath. "They finally pulled the driver over a few miles away, and that's when they noticed the blood on his car. He didn't even remember hitting Jared," she cried, turning her head and burying her face in Randi's shirt. "It took them hours before they finally found him. He was dead when they got there."
Damn. Randi's heart broke at the anguish in her lover's voice.
"He bled to death, Randi. Cold, all alone, and hidden from the street. My little brother died without anyone being there with him." Kay finally broke down and cried in earnest. She wept for the loss of her brother, and for what would never be. She'd never see him graduate from high school, meet his first date, or attend his wedding. She cried for the pain and fear he must have felt before he died, and for the senselessness of his death.
Holding the sobbing woman, Randi realized that Kay had never allowed herself to grieve for her brother. She knew there was nothing else she could do but hold the woman she loved and offer her emotional support, no matter how painful it was to herself. Randi anguished at the heartache Kay had endured in her short lifetime, and made a silent promise that she would do everything in her power to protect Kay from any more pain. Don't worry, love. You're not alone anymore and you never will be, again.
There were more than enough parking places by the small building, so Melissa was able to chose one partially hidden by the neatly manicured shrubbery. She checked her face in the rearview mirror and carefully applied her favorite bright red lipstick. Blowing her reflection a kiss, she pushed her purse under the seat and stepped out of the sports car. After all the trouble Ive gone to, that asshole had better be here.
She had stopped by the apartment once already, and then remembered that her quarry normally did laundry on Sunday. At least, he used to. Thats when wed get together and enjoy the spin cycle. With a furtive glance around to assure herself that she hadnt been noticed, Melissa opened the door to the laundry cabana. Her painted lips turned up into a wicked grin when she spotted Ricky alone, folding clothes on a wide table. The skin-tight white tee shirt stretched across his muscular back, and the faded denim jeans hugged his small rear and thick legs invitingly. His dark hair was cut close to his head, military style, and the thirty-four year old could easily have been mistaken for someone much younger. She had forgotten what a wonderful body the gym instructor had, and almost felt bad for what she was about to do. Almost. His back was to the door and he was so engrossed in what he was doing, that he didnt hear her heels click softly on the yellowed linoleum floor.
"Well, well. Lookie who we have here," Melissa drawled, coming up beside the startled man and leaning up against the table. "Still havent found a woman that would wash your underwear?"
Ricky tossed the tee shirt he was folding back into the pile and turned to face the redhead. "Thats all you have to say to me? Where the hell have you been?" His dark eyes flashed dangerously. "You didnt even have the decency to tell me goodbye! I had to find out from your obnoxious roommate."
She picked up the shirt and wrinkled her nose. "Puhleez. I didnt owe you anything. All you were to me was a good fuck. Not a great one, but better than some." Her countenance turned hateful as her eyesight raked down his body. "Its true what they say. The bigger the muscles, the smaller the equipment." She tossed the shirt back onto the table. Melissa knew the burly mans Achilles heel, and wasnt above exploiting it to get what she wanted. "Besides, I figured once I was gone, youd finally wake up and find yourself some cute little guy to make you happy."
"What?" The weightlifters face turned a dark shade of red, his hands balled into fists so tightly that his knuckles turned white from the strain.
"Oh, sugar, dont play coy with me. I remember all those magazines at your place that had half-naked hunks on them. You cant tell me that you didnt close your eyes and think of them when we were doing it."
Out of nowhere, his hand slapped her hard across the face, splitting her lip. "Shut up, you slut! Those are weightlifting and health magazines. Im no more queer than you are," Ricky yelled, his hands clenched back at his sides to keep from strangling her.
Melissa laughed, even though it hurt and caused her lip to bleed more. "You stupid little prick! That wasnt my roommate," she stressed the final word, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. "She was my lover, asshole! And she was a hell of a lot better at it than you were!"
One strong hand tangled itself into her blouse, while he backhanded her with the other. The next slap was harder, and caused Melissas vision to blur. Oops. I may have gone a little too far, she giggled to herself. Shoving him away from her, Melissa held one hand to the aching side of her face as she glared at Ricky. "Youre such a big man, hitting a woman. Do you feel better, now?"
"Maybe," he ground out. "What the hell is your major malfunction, anyway? You goaded me into it, you crazy bitch." Now that he had time to think, he began to get worried. Ricky backed up, waving his hands in front of his body. "I dont know what youre up to, but stay the hell away from me."
"Dont you worry, Ricky. Ive gotten what I needed." Melissa started to walk towards the muscular man, but gave up when he continued to back away. She shrugged her shoulders. "Goodbye, sugar. Thanks for nothing." With a wriggle of her fingers, the redhead vacated the laundry cabana, leaving a very confused Ricky standing alone in the middle of the room.
Kay woke up and looked around. She was lying in Randis arms, and the older woman was still leaning up against the headboard, quietly watching her. She looked up into the kind eyes above her and grinned sheepishly. "I dont even remember falling asleep. How long have I ?"
"A couple of hours," was Randis answer. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired, but better." Kay kissed the arm that was holding her securely. "What about you? Have you just been sitting here all this time, watching me sleep?"
It was Randis turn to look sheepish. "Uh, yeah. Pretty much." She was relieved to see the sparkle return to her lovers eyes, and impulsively leaned down to kiss Kays forehead. Her lips stayed there for several seconds, before she finally relented and pulled back. "I love you so much," she whispered.
"I love you, too." Kay closed her eyes and was dozing off, when she heard Randi's stomach grumble. Not certain of what she'd heard, Kay had decided to ignore the sound when another louder, grumble went off under her ear. She opened her eyes and looked up, enjoying the embarrassed look on her partner's face. "Sounds like I need to feed you."
"Nah, it's not that bad," Randi assured her, right before her stomach complained again. Jeez. This is ridiculous. She gave a half-hearted shrug. "Guess maybe we'd better get something to munch on, before my body rebels completely."
Kay waited until Randi released her hold, then sat up and stretched. "Were you serious about me driving your car?"
"I was just thinking that maybe I could run out and grab something and bring it back, while you check on our new little friend." Kay was almost afraid to check on the duckling herself, for fear of what she might find.
Randi stood up and twisted her head, grimacing at the loud pop. "Ugh." She put her hands on her hips and leaned back, causing her spine to crack as well. "Much better." Taking in the amused look from Kay, she raised one eyebrow. "Find something funny?"
"No, of course not. I'm sure everyone creaks when they get up," Kay teased.
"Uh-huh." Randi looked Kay over and was relieved to see no ill effects from her earlier crying jag. "Are you sure you want to go out? There's probably something in the freezer that I can thaw for dinner."
"I'm sure. Besides, I kind of need to get out for a few minutes, if you know what I mean." She leaned over and kissed Randi lightly on the lips. "I'm just going to run through a drive-thru and grab a couple of burgers, or something. It shouldn't take me too long."
Realizing that she couldn't smother Kay, and that the younger woman needed a little space sometimes, Randi forced what she hoped was a sincere smile onto her face. "All right. You know where the keys are." She called out as Kay was almost to the bedroom door,"No onions!"
Kay giggled as she hurriedly slipped on her coat. Better get out of here before she changes her mind. She grabbed her purse and the car keys from the table by the front door. The thought of getting out of the apartment and exploring the area for a little while gave her a thrill. She hadn't been behind the wheel of a car in some time, and the idea of being able to drive the Corvette excited her. Randi may not get her car back. She closed the door behind her and jogged to the waiting sports car.
It only took Randi a few minutes to check on the duckling, and she was relieved to see that it had obviously started eating on its own. The tiny fowl was snuggled up in one corner of the box fast asleep, so she covered the box back up and left the bathroom.
Spike stood guard outside the door, and he looked up when she stepped into the hallway. Randi had only taken a few steps, to where she was standing outside the guest room. Boxes still filled the room, making it impossible to even get to the computer desk. "Well, buddy, how about we do a little rearranging? I bet Kay would like to be able to go online whenever she wanted. Maybe that would give her a little bit of breathing room around here." She grabbed several of the boxes and moved them into the hall, so that she'd have more space to maneuver in the small room.
"Maybe if I move the bed, we can take the dresser out of the closet and store a lot of the boxes in there," Randi muttered, sliding the twin bed several feet.
Tired of almost being stepped on, Spike jumped up onto the bed and stretched out in the middle.
"Gee, thanks for the help," Randi grumbled. After several minutes of pushing and pulling, she finally had the bed where she wanted it. Going over to the closet, she struggled to get a grip on the back of the dresser. Not able to get a firm purchase, she moved her hands to the sides and pulled. The dresser was almost too wide to fit through the doorway, and Randi's left hand became pinched between the furniture and the doorframe when the heavy furniture slipped. "Shit!" She pulled her hand to her chest, trying to keep from crying.
The pain subsiding to a dull throb, Randi examined her hand. From her knuckles to the middle of her fingers there was a wide scrape, and the skin underneath was already beginning to sport a bruise. "Wonderful." She slowly worked her hand into a fist and grimaced. Doesn't feel broken, anyway. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Randi glared at the offending piece of furniture. "How the hell did I get that damned thing in there, anyway?" The answer suddenly dawned on her, and the aggravated woman stood up.
Randi removed the empty drawers and placed them in the hallway, not wanting to trip over them and break them. Knowing my luck, that's exactly what I'd do. It took longer than shed anticipated because of the ache in her injured hand, but she was determined to have the room finished before Kay returned. After the drawers were removed, it was easy to turn the dresser up on its side and slide it out of the closet.
She had just finished stacking the last box in the closet when the phone rang. Looking at the dog still perched on the bed, she shook her head. "I don't suppose you want to get that, do you?" Randi hurried down the hall and into the living room, leaning over to check the Caller ID box. Recognizing the number, she picked up the phone. "Hello, Augie."
"We just got back from the beach, and I heard your message. What's wrong?"
"Well, hello, brother. It's nice to hear from you, too," Randi muttered sarcastically. "Why does anything have to be wrong for me to call you?"
There was silence on the other end of the phone for several seconds, then Augustus cleared his throat. "All right. I guess I deserved that. But you can't blame me. I haven't talked to you since Thanksgiving, and then all of a sudden there's a message on our machine asking me to call you back as soon as I can. What was I supposed to think?" Five years her senior, Augustus took his responsibility as eldest sibling very seriously. Although they had never really been close, he would do whatever was needed when called upon; he felt that was his duty.
Randi rolled her eyes and dropped gracelessly onto the sofa, stretching out and propping her feet up on the aged coffee table. "I got a phone call from Mom earlier today. Has she talked to you about Christmas?"
"I think she may have mentioned it, why?"
Asshole. Always acting so superior. "I was wondering what you and Lauren had planned. I know Mom said something about having everyone up to Santa Fe, but I'm not sure if I can afford airfare right now."
"Are you asking for money? Because if you are, I've already gotten -"
"No," Randi snapped. "I would never ask you to part with one penny of your precious money, brother dear. It's just that if everyone is meeting at Mom and Dad's, I'll probably just stay home."
He contemplated that for a moment. "Oh. I see. Well, Lauren and I haven't actually discussed it, but I figure that we'll be going back to Woodbridge. Her father isn't doing that well, and we don't know just how many more holidays he has." His wife had been his high school sweetheart, and had left her family behind when Augustus' work relocated him to Florida.
"Does Mom know that? Because I think she'd be really upset if she missed out on a chance to see the kids." Randi often wondered if her oldest brother thought of anyone but himself, seeing as how he rarely consulted his wife, or his family, on any big decisions. He had recently sold his shares in the company he had helped build, and was now using that capital to start another business, much to his wife Lauren's dismay. She had confided in Randi and Patricia that she had hoped that Augustus would invest the money, and spend more time with his family.
"No, she doesn't. But I'm sure you'll tell her, like you always do," he taunted.
Randi closed her eyes and silently counted to ten. "Well, someone has to, since you're always too damned busy," she barked. Softening her tone, she added, "Listen. I'll be glad to let you tell Mom, if you want. But I was going to call her back anyway. Do you want me to tell her for you?"
Accepting the peace offering, Augustus sighed. "Sure, why not? It'll save me from hearing all about their latest trip. So, is there anything else?"
"No, I suppose not. Goodb--" The click on the other end of the line angered Randi, and she was about to throw the handset across the room when the front door opened. Placing the phone back on the base, Randi stood up to help Kay with her coat. "Have a nice time?"
Kay's eyes shone with happiness as she set her purse and the keys on the little table and held up the bag of food. "I sure did. No wonder you love that car. It's incredible."
"I'm glad you had fun." Randi hung up the jacket and turned around. "Do you want to go get washed up while I grab a couple of plates?"
"Sounds great," Kay agreed. She gave Randi a quick kiss and started down the hallway, stopping when she got to the open guest room door. Wow someones been busy. Kay hurried on to the bathroom, making a mental note to thank Randi, not only for her hard work, but for understanding Kays need to get away for a little while.
Not wanting to draw any undue attention to herself, Melissa bypassed the front desk of the motel and drove around the parking lot, searching for Beths truck. Luckily, very few people were checked in, and she found the vehicle parked alone on the far side of the building. The old motel was single story, and it wasnt hard for her to figure out which room the mechanic had been given. She parked the sports car next to the large truck and checked her reflection one last time in the rearview mirror. The backhanded blow from Ricky had not only given her a dark, mottled bruise over half of her face, but also caused her eye to swell almost completely shut. The split on her lower lip had closed, but with a quick gnash of her teeth, it opened back up and began to bleed sluggishly. "Perfect."
Beth stepped out of the bathroom, rubbing her hair briskly with the rough towel furnished by the motel. She already had her jeans and bra on and was reaching for a clean tee shirt, when she heard a knock at the door. She allowed the towel to drape across her shoulders while she reached for the doorknob. Swinging the door open, she exclaimed, "Perfect timing! I thought Id take you out to" She stopped in mid-sentence when she saw the condition Melissa was in. "Jesus Christ! What the hell happened to you?"
"Oh, sugar! It was terrible," Melissa cried, practically falling into Beths arms.
Concerned and confused, Beth slammed the door and helped the sobbing woman to the bed. "Who did this to you? Where are they?" She pulled the towel from her neck and used it to gently wipe the blood from Melissas chin. "Shhh, baby, its gonna be all right; Ill take care of you, I promise."
"She I was just trying to and then she " Melissa hiccuped between sobs, coming dangerously close to hyperventilating. "I just wanted to pick up the rest of my things," she finally gasped. "But then, she got mad, and"
"Who the fuck did this to you, baby?" Beths hands were shaking from trying to control her anger. "It aint right to hit a lady. Tell me who it is, and Ill go kick her ass!"
Melissa buried her face in the younger womans chest to keep her smile from showing. Thats it, sugar. Get good and mad. Her voice took on a frightened tone. "Oh, no," she cried, wrapping her arms around Beth. "I dont want you to get hurt. Shes dangerous."
"Dont you worry about me, I can take care of myself. Just tell me where I can find this bitch." Beth stroked the auburn hair gently, wanting to do serious damage to whoever had hurt the sweet woman in her arms.
"Please, just hold me?" Melissa sniffled. "I dont want to be alone right now," she said in a small voice. She gasped when she felt herself being lifted.
Beth stood up, taking the older woman with her. She gently placed Melissa back on the bed, then turned to remove her shoes. "Lets just get you more comfortable, okay? Well talk more about this, later."
"Youre too good to me, Beth. Not many people would be so kind to someone they had just met." Melissa mentally patted herself on the back for reading the husky woman so well last night at the bar. She had been scoping out the bar patrons for the better part of the afternoon, trying to find someone that would fit into her plans. I cant believe I got this lucky. This woman is an idiot! She considered it doubly lucky that she got an evening of great sex out of the deal as well.
They were over halfway through their meal when Kay noticed that Randi was holding her hamburger with just her right hand, keeping her left one on her lap. "Randi?"
"What's wrong with your hand?" Kay set the remainder of her burger down and reached over.
Randi casually moved the hand, forcing herself to pick up a french fry and pop it into her mouth. "Nothing." The look she received from Kay told her that she hadn't been believed. "Well, not much, anyway," she tried to demur, slowing wiggling the fingers. "See?"
Hazel eyes narrowed, as Kay saw through the defensive tactic. "Uh-huh." She reached beside the sofa and flicked on the free-standing lamp, lighting up the room. "Let's see," she asked, holding out her hand.
Damn. She's worse than my mother. I'm thirty-six years old, for God's sake. I shouldn't have to answer for each little bump or scrape. But Randi quietly obeyed the command, placing her hand gingerly into the smaller one.
"Ouch," Kay sympathized, examining the injury. "How did you do this?"
"Smashed it when I was moving the dresser out of the closet." Randi peered down at the hand, which still ached. "It's not that big of a deal, though."
Kay looked up and shook her head in exasperation. "Did you put anything on it?"
"No, but -" Randi's protest was interrupted when Kay moved both of their plates to the coffee table and stood up.
"Come on." Kay's tone brooked no argument. She escorted Randi down the hallway and into the master bedroom. "Sit down on the bed, and I'll bring the supplies in here." She disappeared into the bathroom before Randi could say a word.
Concerned, Spike had followed the two women down the hall, and now sat at Randi's feet, cocking his head to one side. When Randi looked down at him, his stubby tail waggled furiously. "What?" she asked, almost laughing at the look on his features. "Well, what are you waiting for? Come on." Randi patted the bed with her right hand, which was all the invitation Spike needed. He jumped up beside her and stood up on his hind legs with his front feet perched on her upper arm.
"Randi, did you -" Kay stopped when she took in the scene before her. "Well, you two look cozy." She walked over to Randi and took the older woman's hand, looking at it closely. "It doesn't look that bad in here."
"That's what I was trying to tell you. It's a little sore, but nothing too bad." Randi slowly formed her hand into a fist, opening and closing it several times. "See?"
Mollified, Kay released the hand and unscrewed the cap from the tube of antibacterial she had brought out. "Maybe. But I'd feel better if we at least make a token effort to take care of it."
Randi sighed, but held up her hand so that Kay could place a small amount of ointment onto the deepest scrape. Once the emollient had been rubbed in, Kay kissed the area just above the injury.
"You're welcome." Kay kissed the top of Randi's head as well. "Thanks for humoring me."
Watching the blonde walk back into the bathroom, Randi couldn't help but grin. She was almost certain Kay had no idea of the small swagger in her walk, but was thankful for the view. "Nice, huh?" she asked Spike, who just sat beside her happily.
The hour was late, and with the outside lights shining through the curtains in the hotel room, Beth could still see the damage that had been inflicted on Melissa's face. The older woman was sound asleep, but Beth couldn't bring herself to join her just yet. She wanted to wake Melissa up and find out who was responsible for hurting her, but knew that the injured woman needed her rest. Her hands itched with a hunger for vengeance, and she longed to feel Melissa's assailant's blood on them. She looked at her watch, surprised to see that she had been staring at the other woman for over two hours. Removing her clothes, Beth climbed into the bed beside Melissa and lay down facing her.
The movement of the bed woke the older woman and caused her eyes to open, although the injured one was only a slit. "Hey, sugar."
"Did I wake you? I'm sorry," Beth whispered, reaching over and brushing the hair away from Melissa's face. "How are you feeling?"
"I've been better," Melissa admitted. "What time is it?"
"A little after three." Beth started to sit up. "Is there something I can get for you?"
Melissa grabbed one of the mechanic's arms and pulled her back down. "I'm fine, Beth. What have you been doing, before you came to bed?"
I bet that was painful Melissa's mind teased. She almost giggled at the thought. "What have you been thinking, sugar?"
Beth propped her head up on one hand and looked down into the older woman's face. Seeing the bruising and swelling caused her temper to flare again, and she had a hard time controlling it. "I've been thinking of different ways to make whoever did that to you, pay. I can't just sit around, baby. I need to do something, anything, to make this right." She bit her lip in concentration. "What about the cops?"
"What about them?"
"Did you call the cops on your ex?"
Think, dammit. "Umm, no. I didn't." Melissa rolled over onto her back and began to cry. "I couldn't."
Sitting up, Beth leaned over the other woman. "Why? Is she a cop, or something?"
"No, she's not. But, I couldn't. She'd she said she would " Melissa stammered, unable to continue.
Beth stroked the uninjured side of Melissa's face. "Shhh. It's okay, baby. You're scared of her, aren't you?"
Nodding, Melissa continued to cry. "She told me a long time ago, that if I ever called the police, or told anyone else, she'd kill me." She sat up and wrapped her arms around Beth, burying her face in the younger woman's shoulder. "I'm so afraid of her, Bethie. I don't want her to hurt you and I'm afraid of what she might do if she ever finds out I told you about her."
"Shhh it'll be all right," Beth crooned, rocking back and forth slowly. "In the morning, you're going to tell me who it is, and where I can find her. She's never going to hurt you again, baby. I can promise you that."
Melissa muttered incoherently, never releasing her hold. Her mind whirled with the satisfaction that by tomorrow, the woman who had scorned her would pay. Dearly.
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