The Second Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Nine: Picket Fences

"Come on, sleepy head," comes a booming voice with far too much energy for this time of day. "Let’s take Kam to the park."

You take Kam to the park. You don’t need me for that. Why’d you bother to buy me this big, wonderful bed if I never get to sleep late? Besides, I took him to the park last night when you were arguing with those idiot editors who lost the tape.

Harper had Kam so worked up with all her ranting and raving on the phone he was barking, growling and pacing around the house. The guard in my guard dog certainly came out in full force. I had to get him out of the apartment so they could both cool down. Kam’s trained to respond to my verbal commands to relax, Harper’s not.

Dog breath assails me as the object of my thoughts puts his snout near my face. At least, I really hope to hell that’s Kam and not Harper. Either way, someone needs a good brushing.

"Ungng," I grumble and cover my head with my pillow. Does the woman not understand the concept of the weekend? Two days. Two days out of seven are all I ask to be able to sleep late. That’s not too much, is it? I’m not being unreasonable, am I?

"Kelsey Stanton, if you don’t drag that beautiful body of yours out of that bed, I’m gonna do it for you."

I uncover my head and stick my tongue out at her.

"Oh, yeah, that was mature." Harper bends down and gives Kam a good scratch behind his ears. "Come on, get up. You need your exercise and Kam and I want to go to the park to play."

I look across the mattress at my furry companion. He’s now sitting with his front legs up on the edge of the bed, his tongue lolling out one side of his mouth looking back at me. Breathing stinky breath on me, to be more accurate. And I bought him to protect me. Traitor. "He has a fur coat. And you’re just crazy. Besides, the baby and I want to sleep." I close my eyes and snuggle back down under the blankets. Damn, I can feel them both staring at me. I peek out one eye to see if she’s gonna buy it. She’s definitely thinking about it. Oh yeah, this pregnancy thing is gonna be sweet.

Harper drops down next to the bed and tears back the blankets. She pushes up my nightshirt, places her lips to my belly, and murmurs something. She turns her head, presses her ear to my stomach, and listens. After a moment, she raises up to smile at me. "Nope, afraid not. Baby Roo wants to come to the park and play too. Get up."

I give in. Three against one isn’t fair.

Baby Roo and I will be having a chat. We need to work together for the next few months. This was not a good start.


* * *


It’s a crisp, clear morning with the smell of spring heavy in the air. It’s actually very nice out, much better than anticipated, but who the hell knew it was going to be so bright? Who knew the sun was up this early? I dig in my pocket for my sunglasses and slip them into place. I sip a very warm cup of tea, brought with me just to make my morning a little more bearable. I glance over at Harper who is sitting next to me on the bench, exchanging her sneakers for new roller blades.

"You’re gonna break your neck." God, I sound like a mother already.

"I am not," she huffs at me, slipping her blades on and snapping them closed.

"Harper, you’ve never been on roller blades in your life, and now your going to take Kam…" Ohmigod … maybe it's hormonal. I can't seem to help myself.

"Kels, chér, I know what I’m doing." She tosses her shoes in a backpack and hands it to me. "Don't you worry."

I’m supposed to worry, I’m going to be a mother. I looked it up. It’s in the contract, Tabloid. I didn’t expect it would happen so soon.

"Okay." I lie, climbing to my feet and glance down at Kamali. "You be careful with her. Don’t hurt her."

Kamali thumps his tail twice on the ground then turns big brown eyes on his playmate. I know that look. I think I give it to her a couple times a day myself.

"Oh very funny." She takes the leash from my hand, brushing her fingertips over the back of it as she does so.

This causes me to give her the same look Kamali is, but with different intent. I don't want to go running with her, that's for sure.

She smiles, knowing my thoughts exactly. "Later, I promise." She scratches behind Kam's ears. "Come on, boy, lets go!"

And they're off, racing down a park path like maniacs. The dog is very nearly at a full run with Harper keeping up with him on the roller blades. Someone's gonna lose an eye, I'm sure.

Me? I shoulder the backpack and begin a slow stroll behind them. I try to keep a pace that will allow me to keep them in sight. This isn't really necessary, though, because they keep doubling back and charging at me like two overgrown kids. Which they are.

I watch them playing together, a smile playing at the edges of my mouth. It's almost hard to believe both of them are capable of really hurting someone if they feel threatened. Or, even more so, if they feel I am threatened. I can only imagine how they're going to be around the baby.

Right now Kamali is substituting as our firstborn. Harper bonded wit him instantly upon our return from Columbus. And, for the past week, they've had a mutual admiration society established. He greets her more effusively than he does me, licking her face repeatedly. That I can do without.

Harper, in turn, takes delight in teasing and roughhousing with him. The other night she used him as pillow when she stretched out on the floor to watch TV. Kamali just lay there, tail thumping on the floor, looking over at me with eyes that screamed, 'Do something about this, would you? She's your human.' He finally escaped when she attempted to plump him up like a pillow.

My cell phone rings, taking me from my thoughts of my little family, such as it is at the moment. "Stanton," I answer, hoping it's not the studio. It's the weekend, folks, can't someone get that in their head?

"Hello, sweetheart."

I nearly drop the phone when I hear his voice. "Hello, Father." I stop walking, feeling a little dizzy. Glancing around I see an empty bench and sit right away. Harper would freak out if I fainted in the middle of Central Park.

"I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch before now. I only got back into the States late last night."

"It’s okay." It's always been okay. You have your big, important career and you let me fend for myself. Doesn't matter if I am two or thirty-two. It's all the same to you, father.

"No, sweetheart, it’s not okay. I should have been…"

"I understand," I cut him off, not the least bit interested in any more of his excuses. Is a lifetime's worth enough?

"Kelsey, please give me a chance here," he replies. "I’ve been awfully worried about you, baby."

I glance up to find Harper and Kamali headed back for me. Harper clearly looks worried. "I’m fine," I manage to say in a neutral voice. "I’ve had some good fortune in my life recently."

Very good fortune. More than you will ever know. You’d have to want more than the occasional phone call or court appearance to get filled in on stuff like that.

"I know. I’d like to hear more about it. Could we meet for lunch today?"

Shit. Well, hell, Kels, that’ll teach you to think too loudly.

"Hold on. Let me check." I lower the phone as Harper skates over and takes a seat next to me.

"What’s up, sweetheart? Are you okay? Anything wrong?" she asks immediately, concern coloring her voice.

No, I'm not okay and something is wrong. But how do I say that to someone whose whole world is her family? "It’s my father." I jiggle the phone a bit. "He wants to have lunch today."

"Great!" she exclaims, then catches my expression. "Do you want to?"

"I dunno." No, not at all. Never. I'd rather stick bamboo shoots under my fingernails. But, unfortunately, he is my father. "Would you go with me?"

"You know I will."

I pick the phone back up and take a deep breath. "Lunch will be fine. I’ll be bringing someone with me, someone you should meet."

"All right, honey, whatever you want."


* * *


When we get back to the apartment, there is a message on the answering machine. I watch Kels flop down on the couch, stretch out and cover her eyes with her arm. When I take Kam’s collar off, he immediately crawls up on the couch and stretches out beside her. She rolls over and curls around him. Damn lucky dog.

The call from her dad really threw her. I don't know how to make it better and I wish I did. I hit the playback button on the machine. "Kelsey, Harper, it’s Doctor Solomon. Sorry I couldn't return your call yesterday. The lab was backed up. I’ll be in the office until about noon. Give me a call."

Kels sits up immediately, scaring Kam off the couch, and I pick up the phone so fast I nearly drop it. God, we're a pair. I put the good doctor’s number in the speed dialer earlier anticipating sudden brain death like I am currently experiencing. I initiate the call and then drop down between Kels' legs, handing her the phone as it starts ringing. I take her hand and wait. Please, God, let our baby still be with us.

"Doctor Solomon? It’s Kelsey."

I watch her face, gripping her hand as she listens to the doctor. Kelsey smiles at me and nods. Thank you, God!

"Thank you, Doctor Solomon. Yeah, she seems pretty pleased. She’s right here in front of me with a big, silly grin on her face."

I do not have big, silly grin on my face, I have a huge, silly grin on my face. Get off the phone, Kels, we got some celebrating to do. As if reading my thoughts, she hangs up the phone and tosses it to the end of the couch.

"It’s officially official, Tabloid, we’re pregnant."


She continues, "We should still wait awhile before we make a general announcement, but family should be okay to know now." She caresses my face. "That means Mama."

Ah shit. "Kels, she’s gonna kill me." I drop my head down in my hands. Soon it will be separated from my shoulders.

She laughs at me and scratches the back of my neck. "I promise I won’t let her hurt you. I’ll tell her I seduced you and you didn’t stand a chance."

Well, hell, that’s pretty much true. But it won’t fly down at the old homestead. "Kels, you don’t understand. You’re pregnant and I haven’t married you, preferably in the reverse order. Forget all the legal issues for a moment, Mama doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them anyway." I sigh. Can I go the rest of my life without facing my family again? No. But, damn … "And it won’t even matter to Mama that I didn’t get you pregnant." I rest my chin on Kels’ knee, hugging her lower legs to my chest.

"What do you mean you didn’t get me pregnant?" Kels echoes, combing through my hair gently. "Of course you did."

"Huh?" I tilt my head to see her face because I must be missing something here. I know I'm missing something somewhere else.

"You did the deed, darling. You pushed the plunger." She taps my forehead. "You got me pregnant." Then she kisses the tip of my nose.

Oh God. I did get her pregnant. And I knew what I was doing. And I didn’t marry her first. I’m so doomed.

Mama is gonna kill me.


* * *


I’ve decided that the shock of meeting Harper should kill my Father. I’m not going to tell him about the baby. That announcement should be made to the people who will love this child; not someone who barely knows his own. The Kingsleys should be the first to know. Mama and Papa and all Baby Roo’s aunts and uncles and cousins in New Orleans are our true family. Since Erik’s death, I have none.

I’m also not going to get dressed up for this meeting. The place we agreed on is casual so that’s how I’m going. I pull a pair of jeans out of the dresser and slip into them. Cool, they still fit. Wonder when that’s going to change?

Harper steps out of the bathroom, tucking in her denim shirt and buttoning up her jeans. She looks great, but, then again, she always does. Wonder what she’s gonna think of me in a few weeks?

"Hey, Tabloid, you still gonna love me when I get fat?" I tease a bit, pulling on my blouse.

"Sweetheart, it’s not fat, it’s pregnant," she replies, sitting on the bed and pulling on her boots.

"Good answer." I lean over and give her a kiss. "You’re very sweet."

"One of the many services I offer." She places her hands on my hips, drawing me closer so she can lift up my blouse and kiss my stomach. "Hey, Baby Roo. How’s it going in there? You all warm and comfy and growing, huh? We’re gonna go see your granddad in a little bit."

"Umm, Harper." I brush my hands through her hair. She lifts her head to look up at me. "I’m not going to tell him about the baby."


She looks hurt, like I’m ashamed of her and our life together. "No, sweetheart. Your family should be the first to know. He hasn’t earned the right to be this baby’s grandfather. He’s hardly even my father."

"Kels, honey, are you sure?"

"I’m very sure. Please? I don’t want him to know, at least not yet. I know family is extremely important to you, but, well, I’m not sure he’s going to want to be a part of my life. Or that I even want him to be."

"Why so?"

"Because he’s about to meet you, for one thing. I don’t intend to hide anything from him about us. If he can’t handle it, I don’t care to know him. It’s not like I’ll miss him or anything."

"Ah, I got you. You think he’s gonna flip?"

"My father does not flip. The absolute worst that will happen is he’ll get up very quietly and leave. He’d never make a scene in a public place."

"Well, that’s good. I’d hate to have to punch him in public."

"Ah, my hero." I kiss the top of her head. "So thank God for little miracles."

"Amen to that." She places another kiss to my stomach reminding me of the best miracle I’ve ever experienced.


* * *


Kelsey’s father isn’t exactly what I had pictured. For some reason I had in mind a Simon LaGree type: thin, willowy with a handlebar mustache for twirling. Instead, I find a tall, good-looking, broad-shouldered guy with a charming smile.

The minute Kels and I enter the restaurant he is on his feet waving us over to his table. Little Roo doesn’t even have time to say hello before he gives her a long, somewhat awkward hug. She looks uncomfortable but does her best to return the hug.

"Father, how have you been?" She backs away from him, extending her hand to me. I take it immediately. It's gonna be all right, Little Roo. I won't let him - or anyone for that matter - hurt you.

"Worried sick, sweetheart. Really, truly, worried sick." He gestures to the booth for us to join him. "How are you?"

Kels has me slide in first then takes a seat across from her father, never releasing my hand. "I’ve had some rough times, but I’ve come through them."

"That’s my girl. You’ve always been a fighter."

"Yeah, well…" She smiles at me then turns to her dad. "I want you to meet Harper Kingsley."

He smiles, extending his hand to me. "Nice to meet you. I believe we spoke on the phone once before."

I have to wrench my hand free of Kelsey’s to take his. Easy there, Little Roo. We’ll get through this with flying colors. Even if your dad doesn’t. "That's right, sir. While Kels was in the hospital."

"Pleasure to meet you then. I appreciated your help before."

"I was glad to help, sir." Gotta be polite to Kelsey’s dad, no matter what the circumstances.

"Oh, please, ‘sir’ is way too formal for me. I’m Matt."

I look over to Kels who is sipping her water, staring at her father in total disbelief. She places her glass on the table. "Since when?" Her tone has an icy edge.

"What?" he asks.

"Since when are you Matt?"

He looks dumbfounded by the question. He stammers about for a moment before being able to speak coherently. "Things change, Kelsey. People change."

She looks rather unconvinced. "Actually, I’ve found people to be pretty consistent."

Her father smiles sadly. "Yes, I’m afraid you have. Your mother and I have behaved very consistently with you. And, very poorly, I’m afraid."

"There’s a newsflash," Kels says bitterly. She catches herself, however, and makes her expression neutral.

He reaches across the table and wraps his large hand around her wrist. "I deserve that, you’re absolutely right. I’m glad you have fire in your belly, dear. I’m afraid I didn’t teach that to you. I rolled over and played dead with your mother for far too long. Then, when I left her, I left you as well. That’s a decision I will always regret."

"Why? You got what you wanted." She carefully disengages from his grasp.

He glances at his Rolex and diamond cufflinks as he pulls back his hand. "What I thought I wanted. I should have wanted you."

I see tears threaten to race down Kels’ cheek, but she fights them back. Her grip on my hand intensifies.

"I should never have left you with her. I was wrong. And I can’t apologize enough for it, baby."

One tear escapes and slides down her cheek.

Pressing his advantage, Matt continues, "I know I can’t change the past. But I would like to change the present. I don’t like not knowing you, not being a part of your life. I’d like to be let back in. If you’ll let me."

I gently caress Kels’ hand, trying to get her to relax and to remind her that I’m here for her. She doesn’t need this stress. It’s not good for her and it’s certainly not good for our baby.

She takes a deep breath, smoothing the tablecloth with her free hand. "Well, before you commit to anything too drastic here, let me fill you in on a couple details of my present. The first, and most important, is that Harper is my partner."

I definitely like being the most important.

I can tell by the look on his face, he doesn’t quite get it.

"My lover," Kels explains. "I’m a lesbian, father. Harper and I live together."

He narrows his eyes at me and sits back in the booth, his back straightening. This is not the look of a happy man.

Oh shit.

He looks back at Kelsey. "Are you sure about this?"

"Am I sure that Harper and I live together?" Kelsey asks, incredulous.

"Uh, no," he stammers. He glances at me, then back at his daughter. "No, I mean about being a … a lesbian. Did she …? Was she …?"

I resent the implication. I certainly didn't get a toaster for Kels.

"I’m very sure. This isn’t a phase I’m going to grow out of, father. I passed through high school crushes a long time ago. Not that you would know."

"You’re right. I wouldn’t know." He takes a deep breath, followed by a long drink of the water in front of him.

Kels is right. He won’t make a scene. He’ll just leave quietly and hurt my girl again. Bastard.

He says softly, "Apparently, there’s a lot I don’t know. So, I’m going to have to ask for your patience while I catch up."

Damn. He’s pulling through.

Kels is as shocked as I am, her jaw hanging open at his words.

"I can’t say that the idea thrills me, Kelsey." He glances at me and offers a small smile. "No offense, Harper. The world is a very cruel place to people who are different. As a father, I don’t want anyone to hurt my child. For any reason. Does that make sense?"

For the first time, I can speak to someone parent-to-parent. Well, parent-to-be technically, but I’ll count it. "Yes, sir, it does. I don’t want anyone to hurt Kelsey either, if that helps any."

He nods and waves off the waiter who is approaching for our order. "It does." He appears to concentrate hard on something. Finally, he blurts out, "Do you love my daughter?"

"Sir?" I am completely taken off guard by his question.

His expression hardens toward me once more. He leans forward, placing his elbows on the table, his upper body crossing the halfway point of the table. "It’s an easy question, Harper. Do you love my daughter? Yes or no?"

Okay, I see why the Bulgarians wanted him to fix their economy. "Yes, sir, I do. More than anything."

This appears to satisfy him. He settles back and fixes a very paternal gaze on Kelsey. "Are you happy?"

Kelsey turns and looks at me for a long moment. I am lost in her eyes. They’re the color of summer and I feel their warmth go through me to the bone. She answers her father, but never breaks eye contact with me. "I can honestly say I’ve never been happier in my life." I see a world of truth in those eyes and behind the smile she graces me with.

Wonderful, chér. I promise that the best of our past will be the worst of our future together.

We get lost in one another for a long moment, imagining our future life together, complete with a child. I hope the baby looks just like her. Then I can lose my heart to them both every day.

Finally Matthew speaks, well aware that he is interrupting us. "Well, I guess that’s all that matters then. I can't say I approve, Kelsey. But, I suppose you’re long past the stage where you need a judgmental father giving you advice."

"Long," she confirms.

"I asked to be a part of your present life. I meant it. I still do." When Kelsey does not protest, he continues. "I’ve been a terrible father, but I’d like to be your friend. If you feel you have room in your life for another one."

Matt and I wait for Kelsey’s response. I think it’ll be positive, but I’m not sure. Thirty-two years of history is a lot to ignore. Especially given the last few months in her life.

"I’d like that."

"Thank you, Kels. I promise you won’t regret it."

She better not, Matt. Or you’ll be answering to me.




"You think he’s gonna grow into these ears?" she calls to me from somewhere in the apartment as she and Kam chase each other around like little kids. Thank God the baby will be too small to join in for the first year or so.

I pour a glass of juice and replace the carafe in the fridge. "What?"

Harper and Kam join me in the kitchen, the dog pinning her up against the wall by standing on his hind legs. He's panting hard from the romp they just had around the apartment. She's waving her hand in front of her nose. "Bubba, we gotta get you some breath mints," she admonishes him. "I said, do you think he's gonna grow into these great, big, silly, goofy-looking ears." She tugs on one of the ears in question.

They are a little big, I must admit. "Why not? You grew into yours," I tease, sipping my juice. I pull out a bottle of vitamins and dump two into my hand. "Come here, stud, I need you."

"Ooo, that's what I like to hear. Kam, down."

Our dog drops back to the floor immediately. You can tell by his expression though that he's hurt at being discarded by his animated toy.

Harper crosses the kitchen and lifts me up onto the counter, standing between my legs. Her hands rub up and down my thighs. "What can I do for you? Hmm?"

That's my girl, always ready to go. But not right now. "Break these in half for me." I hand her the vitamins.

She looks at them, her brows knit together. "What the hell are these?"

"Prenatal vitamins. Aren’t they awful?"

"They’re huge," she agrees, snapping them in half and giving them back.

"Thanks." I take another drink of my juice and swallow the pills. I then wrap my legs around her waist. "While I got you here…"

"Yes." She looks inordinately happy.

I reach back and grab an empty jar off the shelf. "Give me a dollar."


I hold out my hand. "A dollar, Tabloid. Give me a dollar."

She chuckles and digs into her pocket. She retrieves the bill from her wallet but holds it slightly behind her body causing me to lean forward to get it from her. As I do so, she steals a kiss but gives up the dollar.

"Sneaky," I chide with a wink. Like I didn't see that coming. I pop the bill into the jar through a slot in its lid.

"You're charging me for kisses now? Damn, Kels, I'll be bankrupt in a week."

"It'll take you that long?" I tease. "Give me another dollar."

We repeat the process.

"Actually, sweetheart, this is a swear jar. Every time one of us swears, we have to put a buck in the jar."

Her eyes widen and she shakes her head. "Ah, Kels, come on!"

"Nope, Tabloid, the baby can hear everything we say. Do you really want the first thing our baby says to your Mama to be a swear word?"

"Hell, no."

I hold my hand out for another dollar.

"Shit," she grumbles, digging for two more singles and handing them to me.

"You want to just give me a twenty and get it out of your system?" I watch as she jams the wallet back into her pocket. Oh I think I’m in trouble now.

I jump and squeal when her fingers tickle my ribs. "Oh, you think you're funny, do you?" She has an evil glint in her eye. It's my favorite look on her because I know it means quite the predicament for me later. I love the weekends when we don’t have to work. I try not to drop the jar as I squirm on the countertop. I gotta put this thing down before it gets broken.

"Stop that!" I swat at her hands. I want her touching me, but not like this. Well, that's not exactly true either, but it's more fun to resist.

She ignores my plea and continues to tickle me. "Stop what?" With her right hand she grazes a rib. "This?" And then her left mimics the movement. "Or this?"

"Dammit, both!" I growl.

She stops immediately, picking up the swear jar and waving it in front of me. "Pay up, sweetheart."

I was set up.


* * *


Brian hands me a glass of juice when I come back to my office from the studio. I've been doing publicity bits and voice-overs there most of the day. He spent most of the day with me, doing my errands and taking care of things from a small desk in the production booth. He’s a damn good assistant. I’m very lucky to have him. He smiles at me, giving me his best 'hang in there, baby, Friday's coming' look. Too bad it's only Monday.

I swear to God, if Bruce doesn't stop hitting on me I'm going to turn Kam and Harper loose on him. Not necessarily in that order. That’s unfortunate for him because I have a feeling Kam would be a lot nicer about tearing him to shreds. At least, he’d be faster about it.

I take a seat at my desk and my computer beeps at me. Ah, I know that beep. I take a sip of my juice then swivel my chair around to find the message box.

KINGSLEY: Hi ya, babe!

STANTON: Boy, you're chipper. Did you get to choke someone today? <g>

KINGSLEY: Not yet, but the day isn't over. I’m still hopeful.

I can't help but laugh. I can picture her sitting there rubbing her hands together. She’s not thrilled with her editor. He seems to be a bit more interested in leaving early rather than doing the best cut of the segment. Nothing infuriates her more than a shoddy work ethic.

STANTON: LOL. It's nice to have a goal in life, sweetheart.

KINGSLEY: So it is. How's your day going?

Even though she’s not in the room with me, I sigh as if she could hear me. Should I tell her about Bruce? Nope. Langston would be really pissed when she killed him.

STANTON: Well, it's going. Thank God, it's nearly over. I'm tired and I want a hot bath.

KINGSLEY: Hmm, yeah, that sounds nice. You need someone to wash your back?

Among other things.

STANTON: Always.

KINGSLEY: Hey, I had a great idea for a name for the baby if it's a girl.

STANTON: Yeah? Let's hear it.

KINGSLEY: Gertrude. We'll call her Trudi.

I stare at my monitor in disbelief. I really hope she’s not serious. Please, dear God, don’t let her grandmother be named Gertrude or something like that. I can’t do that to our little one.

STANTON: Harper, when we get home you can put a buck in the jar for even thinking that name, let alone having the guts to type it.

KINGSLEY: LOL. All right, sweetheart, whatever you say.

Whew. Not her grandmother. I owe you one, God. Actually, I owe you several, I just owe you big for that one.

STANTON: Besides, I thought of a better name: Afrodille.

KINGSLEY: You don’t want my response.

STANTON: It means ‘daffodil’.

KINGSLEY: I’m allergic.

STANTON: LOL. Okay, what about Eglantina?

KINGSLEY: God bless you.

STANTON: You like that?

KINGSLEY: No. I thought you sneezed. <g>

STANTON: LOL. It means ‘wild rose’.

KINGSLEY: What do you have there? The Parent’s Guide to Truly Repulsive Flower Based Names for Children?

STANTON: It’s a rare book. Out of print.

KINGSLEY: Deservedly so. Okay, how about Clarabelle?

STANTON: The cow or the clown? You should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting it. <g>

KINGSLEY: Yeah, right. I've never been ashamed of myself. Well, there was that one time in the bayou, but that's another story altogether. <GBEG> <Wiggling eyebrows>.

I shake my head. Some days she's hopeless. Mental note to self: ask about the bayou story later when you have her in a compromising position. She’s always more willing to negotiate then.

STANTON: You're such a brat.

KINGSLEY: And you love it. Hey, sweetheart, have you by any chance made the call?

I take a deep breath and dig a card out of my day planner. It’s worn from many other days of being pulled out and stared at and then shoved back into my pocket.

STANTON: Umm, not yet.<g>

KINGSLEY: You're going to, right? I'm not pushing, I'm just reminding. <g>

Let’s call a spade a spade, Harper. You’re pushing. But you’re right to and I love you for it.

STANTON: Yeah, yeah, I'll do it now.

KINGSLEY: Okay, babe, I'll let you go. I love you.

That’s the only reason I’m calling at all. Well, that and our baby. I want him or her to have a mother who’s not on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

STANTON: Love you too. See you soon.

I turn the card over in my hand a few times before I pick up the phone and dial the number.

"Doctor Sherwin's office," a pleasant voice answers the phone.

"Hello. I need to make an appointment with the doctor. I need," this is hard for me to admit, "I need someone to talk to about a trauma I recently went through." I say it at all in a rush, knowing if I don't get it out now, I never will.

The voice at the other end of the line is compassionate. "Dr. Sherwin will be glad to see you, miss. May I have your name?"

"Kelsey Stanton."


* * *


I rap on the doorframe and wait until he looks up. He takes his sweet ass time about it. He’s a Very Important Person, after all. Everyone else can wait. I force myself to be patient when all I want to do is go flick him on the head.

Finally, Bruce graces me with his attention. He hesitates for a moment, then gives me his head shot smile. "Harper, to what do I owe this pleasure?"

We’re gonna talk about your pleasure all right, buddy. "Mind if I sit?" I don’t wait for his answer, I plop myself down in a chair opposite his desk. I also don’t bother asking if I can put my feet up on his desk. But I do.

He stares at my boots, shocked. I ignore it. "What can I do for you?"

"How long have you been on Exposure, Bruce?" I ask casually. I know the answer, but that’s beside the point.

"Four seasons now. I joined in our second season."

Yup, he replaced the other young stud on the series. "You’ve enjoyed being the big man on the block, eh?"


"You know what I mean, Bruce. You’re young, good looking, reasonably charming, rich …" We both share a knowing smile. He knows what I mean. It’s easy to get laid with those demographics. "And you’ve been ruling the roost here for four years."

He smiles and spreads his hands on his desk. "Well, Larry really isn’t any competition. He’s too old, getting a little paunchy from going to too many network dinners."

I smile in return. I don’t consider Larry competition either. "You know, I look at you, Bruce, and I see myself."

"Really?" His tone is highly skeptical.

"Well, myself seven months ago." I shrug. "I was a dog too."

"Excuse me?"

I pick at my jeans. "I was a dog, just like you’re a dog. I’d go out sniffing around every single day to see what I could find. Didn’t matter whose yard I was in, either. If you get my drift."

He folds his arms across his chest. "Uh huh."

"I’m warning you to get out of my yard."

"You’ve lost me." He leans back in his leather chair. He’s trying to play it cool. But I know better.

"I don’t think so. If I hear you’ve been sniffing around Kelsey again, I’ll neuter you myself. Snip, snip," I provide the vocals for my scissors movements.

Bruce sneers. It is an unattractive look. "Are you threatening me, Ms. Kingsley?"

"No, Mr. Bartlett, I’m making you a promise. So, in the future, picture Kelsey surrounded by a little white picket fence. Then we won’t have to have any more sensitive chats."


* * *


I stop by Kels’ office on the way back to mine. Quietly, so that she doesn’t know I’m out here, I stop at Brian’s desk. I pull a hundred dollar bill out of my wallet. "Take your boyfriend out to dinner."

"Ooo … green has always been my best color," he sighs, slipping it into his pocket.

I chuckle and continue walking down the hallway.

"I don’t have a boyfriend right now, stud," he calls out after me. "But you’ll do in a pinch."

I need to have a talk with Brian, tell him to picture a white picket fence around me.



<fade out>


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