Disclaimer: All the characters of in this story are of my own creation. Any physical resemblance the people in this story may have to real people is coincidental and no infringement on anyones rights is intended.
Subtext Disclaimer: This story contains references to physical relationships between consenting adults, who may happen to be of the same sex. If this offends you, or you are under 18 years of age, or you reside in an area where this type of material is illegal, read no more. There is plenty of general fanfic out there for you. Go find it.
Paradise Series #8.
Storyline: Hustle, bustle and headaches abound on a fictional Caribbean island as a recently, nearly completed resort is brought to life and we follow the lives of the people who are trying to make it happen. In the middle of it all is a closer look at two strangers, two women, who are thrown together by outside forces and struggle to contend with the problems they will have to share if the Paradise Beachside Resort is to open on time, and their own emotions as strange happenings make them question themselves, and each other.
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Enjoy, I hope.
WELCOME TO PARADISE
Written by FlyBigD
Sitting crossed-legged on the bed, Holly stared at the open diary lying atop a pillow on her lap. The date being the only thing staring back at her on an otherwise blank page, she chewed the end of her pen for a few minutes. Then, as her thoughts began to come together, she put pen to page and began to write.
What a day today has been. If there was ever a day that qualified as a little did I know day, this was it. I dont really know where to begin to describe it. How do you put the day you fell in love into words? Confusing? Definitely. Perfect? If you subtract Rolandos hour long speech on discretion being the better part of valor where affairs of her heart are concerned in public displays of affection, Id say it was perfect, too. That was good for a few discreet laughs, though. Teddys right. Hes such a smoothie.
Holly smiled to herself and shook her head.
Anyway, I guess the best place to start is the beginning.
Holly shook her head again. No, that would take too long.
Anyway, I guess the best place to start is the beginning. The best place to start is to say that when I woke up this morning, I wasnt in love with Teddy Cooper. I liked her as a friend, but I wasnt even close to being in love with her and before lunch time rolled around, I couldnt imagine not being in love with her. How it happened still doesnt make any sense to me, but I suppose love isnt supposed to make sense. At least thats what all the poets say. Love is supposed to be a strange entity that creeps up on you when you least expect it. Thats what happened. Love crept up from out of the blue.
Out of the blue? The end of the pen went back in her mouth as she considered what shed written. After a moment, Holly picked up where shed left off.
Or was it really so out of the blue? My first instinct is to say yes, because Id already gone through the motions of analyzing what I felt for Teddy the day we spent at the beach and I knew then that I didnt love her. Not the way she loved me. But now Im not so sure. I know there has always been something going on between us from the first day we met and now Im wondering if all those indescribable moments we shared were really the writing on the wall that I didnt see until today. Could I really have been falling in love with Teddy from the day we met and just didnt know it? Anything is possible, I guess. I want to say I doubt it, though. Id hate to think Id wasted weeks walking around with my head in the clouds, when I could have been spending them with Teddy. I dont know. Maybe its like the saying goes. You dont know when love begins, but you know when it ends. Im sure Teddy could put it better than that. Shes got such a way with words and they seem to just come out of nowhere.
I think Im jealous. I know Im jealous, but I love to hear her when she gets on a roll.
Holly chuckled aloud as the memory of being pinned in her seat with Teddy standing over her came to mind.
Its funny. I think shes even better when shes mad. Ill have to watch what I say, though. One dose of Teddy Cooper on the war path was good enough for me.
Although, she smiled and flicked her eyebrows, I did get a kiss out of it.
I take it back. If shes going to kiss me everytime she yells at me, she can yell at me anytime and as often as she wants, with a heavy emphasis on often. WOW! Let me repeat that. WOW! What a kiss and what a kisser! I dont know who taught Teddy how to kiss, but as soon as I find out, Im sending them a thank you note.
Holly laughed out loud at herself and rolled her eyes.
I guess it isnt hard to tell our first kiss made quite an impact. It didnt help that it was completely unexpected. I really thought she was going to try to choke some sense into me, she was so mad, but she didnt. She kissed me. I still cant believe how tender it was and her lips were so soft. It felt as though I was being kissed by two rose petals. I think my lips are still tingling. Ive never been kissed like that before and yet, it was so much more than a kiss. It was like I could feel her love seeping into me, into my soul. Maybe Im being over dramatic, but thats really what it felt like. Like I could feel her love spreading inside me. Inside my soul. It was so real. So pure. Thats what I remember. A pure, honest love like Id never felt before. No one has ever kissed me like that. No kiss has ever touched me like that. It was incredible an incredible feeling. It was an incredible kiss. Yes, I know Im rambling, but I dont care.
She wrote with conviction.
I felt something today Ive never felt before. When Teddy kissed me, I felt what it was like to be loved. Really loved. With a purity, an honesty and unselfishly. When Teddy kissed me, she wasnt attaching any strings to me. In her words, she was giving me something to think about and she did. She was expressing what she felt with a tenderness and passion that still takes my breath away. That is what real love is. Its tenderness and passion all rolled up into one, and it has an integrity all its own. I never understood that before. Id read about love, about how it felt to be in love, but Id never felt it. I thought I had. I thought I was in love with Trent and in a way I guess I did love him. But the love I felt for him wasnt the same as the love I feel for Teddy. She stirs something deep inside me he never did. She gets to me. She always has. He never did, not the way Teddy does. I dont know how to put it better than that. Maybe its the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone? I loved Trent, but I was never in love with him. How did Teddy put it today? I never gave him all of me until there was nothing left. I guess thats what he was looking for. He wanted all of me, for me to be in love with him and I wasnt. I only loved him so much and that wasnt enough for him.
Im sorry, Trent. It just wasnt inside me to love you the way you wanted me to. I wanted to love you that way. I tried. I just couldnt do it.
The pen came off the page with a sigh, then went back down again.
But, then again, maybe we both wanted something the other couldnt give? Now that I think back, there were times when I felt as though there was something missing between us. At the time, I thought it was there, because there was something wrong with me. I thought I wasnt trying hard enough, but that wasnt true. I did love you and I know you loved me, but I never felt like you were a part of me. I never felt like a part of you and I think thats what was missing for both of us. We loved each other, but that love didnt make us whole. We didnt make each other whole. There were still pieces missing inside. I think we both wanted our love to be enough, it just didnt turn out that way. I guess that makes us both to blame, for hanging onto something that was never going to be enough for either of us.
Holly laid the pen in the diary and sat back with a sigh. Rereading what shed written, there was nothing that wasnt true. She had loved Trent, but she had never been in love with him and in some small way, Holly got a sense of satisfaction at having learned there was a difference. Chewing the inside of her bottom lip, she picked up the pen once more.
I wish it could have ended differently between us, but I dont regret having learned my lesson the hard way. Its almost fitting that it happened the way it did, because it proved that I never really knew him and he never really knew me. Thats what was missing. Trent and I were just going through the motions. We never really made the connection to each other. Im not sure that we could have if we wanted to. I suppose thats the biggest difference between Trent and Teddy. Trent and I never connected and Teddy and I connected before we knew what happened. And it just went on from there. The more time that passed, the closer we got and Im not talking about weeks or even days. Im talking about hours passing. It started the very first day and before the day was over, we were sharing things you tell your best friend, not a somebody you just met. I dont know what came over me. Yes, I do. I do. I trusted her. I dont know why. It just went hand in hand with all the other unexplainable things I felt and she trusted me, too. Teddy let me into her world, her private world, no questions asked and I had no idea what that meant. I didnt know there was such a thing as being on the inside. I knew there were a lot of things I didnt know about her private life, but it never occurred to me that I was as much a stranger to her, as she was to me. I was a stranger. That sounds so odd, now. I never felt like a stranger. She never made me feel like one, either. Teddy opened the door and it was the most natural thing in the world for me to walk right in.
God, the insanity of the faith that took. Shaking her head in disbelief.
But thats the way its always been between us. Its always felt natural to me, when Im with Teddy and Ive always wanted to be close to her. I didnt know why, but the pull was there from the beginning and Ive never felt more comfortable with anyone, than I am with her. She can be an irritating imp sometimes, but Id rather be in her arms, than any other place in the world. And that isnt a feeling that just started today. I felt that way before I knew I loved her. I felt it that day on the beach. I couldnt have been three feet away from her and that was still too far to suit me, and when I laid down beside her for the first time, I knew I was where I belonged.
They say that truth is stranger than fiction and if I werent living this story, I wouldnt believe what Ive written. This morning I was a straight white female with few prospects for finding time to fall in love in my busy work schedule and now, Im a
Im a what? Holly frowned and picked up the pen. Now, Im a gay white female? She asked herself, then shook her head. No, that doesnt sound right. Im not gay. I cant be gay. I dont like women. Well, except for Teddy. Her, I love. Tapping the diary with the pen. Okay, lets think about this. She thought aloud. I have to be something and straight is out of the question. So, whats left? Gay and bi. I dont like other women, so Im not gay . . . but dont you have to like other women to be bi? As the question was asked, her left hand rose of its own volition to scratch her head. Ive got to be something. What am I?
With no answer coming readily to mind, Holly leaned back into the pillow she had propped between her and the headboard. Ive got to be something. So, what am I? She asked again. Tapping the pen on her chin this time, she stared at nothing in particular as she ran through what she thought were the rules for designating sexual orientation and how they applied to her.
Of course, it was a foregone conclusion that the exercise was pointless on two accounts. One was because it wasnt going to change the way she felt about Teddy. She was in love with Teddy. It had been an unexpected realization, but once made, there was never any doubt that she was hopelessly and absolutely in love with Teddy. Thankfully, she hadnt had to nearly drown herself to find it out, as Teddy had done. A few metaphoric lightning strikes had done the trick in her case. Teddy was another woman. Again, that fact was not in question and Holly didnt have a problem with Teddy being another woman. That was the second reason the exercise was pointless. She didnt mind being designated gay or bi, if she qualified, which she didnt think she did, for the simple reason that, up until Teddy came along, she had never been attracted to women. The male of the species? Yes. She had always been attracted to men. Now, Holly would be the first to admit that she didnt have the best luck when it came to picking out a winner, but on the whole, she didnt usually find them repulsive until after she got to know them better. Women? No. As absolute as her love for Teddy now was, Holly had no memory of ever being attracted to a woman and she didnt think it a case of denial to follow the norm. Even as she tried to remember if she had been attracted to women in the past, she thought about the women she knew now and nary the thought of one of them stirred the slightest inkling of attraction within in her, physical or otherwise, but, though obviously pointless, the question of what she was now continued to nag at her.
After several countless minutes of unsuccessful self designation, a groan was emitted, accompanied by a roll of the eyes. Errrrrr. Holly put the pen down in the diary and laid her head back on the rim of the headboard to stare woefully at the ceiling. This is so stupid. She sighed, throwing her hands in the air. I dont care. Nobody cares and what difference does it make anyway? She tried to rationalize her way out of wanting to tie up the loose end, so she could get back to writing all the sentimental things she wanted to say about how Teddy made her feel. What I am isnt going to change anything. Im in love with Teddy. Teddy is another woman. Just go with it, Holly. Rolling her head from side to side, she closed her eyes. This is never going to work. I can feel it. Im going to sit here, like I dont have anything better to do and beat this to death, until I figure it out because Im too friggin stubborn to let it go. God, I hate it when I get like this. She growled, pounding her fists into the mattress.
Thoroughly Infuriated with herself for letting herself get worked up over nothing, Holly opened her eyes and rolled her head to the right to look at the two phones sitting beside her on the nightstand. Neither the land line nor the cell phone had made a peep since shed gotten home, but one glance at the clock behind them told her she didnt have long to wait for Teddys nightly call. This was immediately deemed as a good thing, because the thought of Teddys voice being the last thing shed hear before she went to sleep always made her feel better. Then, immediately after she started feeling better, Holly suffered a severe 20/20 hind sight duh attack that caused her to fall slowly forward over the pillow and diary in her lap with a long drawn out moan. Gee, Holly. She mumbled from her position, face down in the covers. Dont you think that little bit of information should have been a tip off that you might have been in love with her? Why, of course, it should have. For anybody that wasnt blind as a friggin bat. Lying still, she added slumped shoulders to the whole dejected persona she had going on. Great. I dont know if Im gay, but Im positive Im dumber than a fence post and, to top it all off, Im starting to talk to myself. Slumping a little further. God, I think my headache is coming back. Ow. Stupid book is killing my boobs. The first pain wasnt enough to get her to move, but the last one was, though only temporarily. Lifting up slightly, Holly reached under her, grabbed the diary by the corner and tossed it aside, followed by the pen, then she slumped comfortably back into the pillow. Thats better. Im such an idiot.
The sarcastic chastising continued with a few moaned interruptions. Lying unmoving and dejected, Holly refused to get up until Teddy called, but she did turn her head on the occasion to give the clock a look, just to make sure she hadnt been lying there for as long as it seemed. Minutes ticked digitally by until they moved past the time when Teddy should have called her. Then Hollys resolve wavered and she sat up to stare at the phone. When fresh air reached her lungs, her mind switched paths from the woe is me because Im an idiot one to where are you when I need you? This path was based on the oxygen deprived notion she had come up with that since Teddy was gay, she should would know if she, Holly, was gay, or bi, or whatever. It didnt matter that the notion didnt make any sense because her life hadnt made sense since Teddy had entered it.
Huffing at the delay in getting her answer, Holly put the pillow aside to pace around the room in her pajamas while she waited. Her bottom lip bearing the brunt of her angst, she chewed it fretfully as she cast wary glances at the phone. Then, when she was ready to make the call herself, she remembered Teddys promise to call Serena. This memory was not helpful, because only God knew how long an eight year old girl could talk on the phone. Teddy might not call for hours. The situation growing more and more infuriatingly desperate, Holly came to the conclusion that trying to explain the question to Teddy over the phone was only going to worsen her mood, if and when Teddy called. God, I hate it when I get like this. She said as she picked her shorts up off the floor.
Under different circumstances, Teddy would have welcomed a visit from Holly, but when she heard the familiar sound of the Land Rover, her initial reaction was to curse the love of her life for being insane in trying to make the climb up the path in the dark. Her next reaction was to run to the front of the house from the back deck, where shed been happily lounging as she listened to Serena gab, to lean over the front railing and frantically search for a pair of headlights amongst the dark foliage. Listening and watching, she followed the sound of the engine whining as it moved in a slow zigzag pattern up the side of the mountain. As the sound got closer, she began to step sideways, making her way to the staircase and by the time Holly successfully rounded the last turn, Teddy had worn a worried rut in the ground at the bottom of the steps. What the hell do you think youre doing coming up here after dark? Are you crazy? You could have gotten yourself killed. Shouting as she rushed the truck, she had the door open before Holly turned off the engine.
I know. Im sorry. It couldnt wait. Was Hollys response to the barrage. Turning the key, she shut off the headlights, pulled the parking break and hopped out. When her feet hit the ground, she was grabbed by the shoulders and forced to make several circles.
Whats the matter? Is there something wrong? Are you alright? Came the next wave of questions from Teddy as she spun Holly around to do a visual check of her condition.
Im fine. Im not hurt. I just needed to talk to you. She said, politely putting up with the man-handling.
The words helped Teddys worry and when she didnt see any sign of physical injuries, she let go of Hollys shoulders with a relieved sigh. Youre okay.
When she was released, Holly didnt say a word when she brushed past Teddy, heading for the stairs. Taking the first big step easily, she plodded the rest of the way to the top without a backward glance.
Teddy stood in silent confusion watching Holly as she went, until the blonde disappeared inside the house. Closing the door, she left the truck to find out what was so important that it couldnt wait as a very bad feeling started to arise about the reason behind the impromptu visit.
Holly made a bee-line for the couch, plopped down on one end and folded her arms across her chest. Deep in throught and disconcerted by them, she stared at the empty aquarium while she waited for Teddy to come in. When she heard the front door close, she looked up at the woman she was in love with, with the question that was eating at her brain. Am I gay?
Teddy stopped mid-stride. Come again?
I said, am I gay? She repeated the question.
Are you gay? Teddy repeated for clarification and took a tentative step towards the couch.
Yes, am I gay? Holly nodded. Youre gay. You know youre gay. I want to know if Im gay, or bi, or whatever?
Okay. It certainly wasnt what she expected, but now she knew what couldnt wait till the morning, though she still didnt quite understand why she was being asked the question, so she thought about how to find out. Completing the trek to the couch, she sat down on the opposite end from Holly and came to a conclusion. The only way to find out what was really going on was to get Holly talking. Not that Im trying to avoid the question, she said as she turned to face the blonde, but may I ask what brought this on? She asked, her bad feeling gnawing at the fringe of her conscience.
Ready to snap a terse response that went hand-in-hand with her frustration, Holly got as far as inhaling a breath and then it petered out to a sigh, as the insanity of the situation over took her. I dont know. She said in the end, adding a shrug as an afterthought. Then she though again and rolled her eyes. Yes, I do . . . kind of . . . its hard to explain. Its going to sound stupid to you. Relaxing a little more, she unfolded her arms and turned in her seat so she was looking directly at Teddy.
Teddy brought her left leg up, laying it bent across the cushion to turn more in Hollys direction and to get more comfortable. Ya wanna try me? She asked quietly.
At the offer, Holly sighed again and started to explain what didnt make any sense in her own mind. After everything that happened to me today, when I got home I dug up my old diary. I dont know why, but I thought I wanted something to remember today . . . you know . . . something I could look back on?
I can understand that. Nodding her comprehension, Teddy smiled. I carved your name and the date in one of the posts out back when I got home. So what happened with the diary?
Teddys sentimental gesture made her feel better and Holly had a teeny smile on her face when she continued. I started writing about how the day went and how none of it really made sense, and a lot of other stuff, and I was fine until I got to the part where I went from being a straight white female this morning to what?
Then what happened? Teddy prompted softly.
Then I got wrapped up in wondering if I was and didnt know it and why I still didnt think I was, and what being in love with you made me. Holly held up her hands in disillusionment.
I know what it makes me. Teddy smiled. It makes me the luckiest woman in the world.
It was nice thing to say, but that was not the answer Holly wanted. Losing the relaxation shed gained, she was back to where shed started, which was nowhere and the sentimental statement only seemed to fuel her rekindled frustration. Im happy for you. She snapped as she hopped off the couch. Stalking to the aquarium, she threw up her hands. Whats wrong with me?
Teddy realized her mistake the instant the words came out of her mouth, but she didnt move from where she was. Staying on the couch, she kept a close eye on Holly. Holly, there isnt anything wrong with you. A lot has happened today and if you didnt have questions, there would be something wrong with you.
Holly spun around. But why cant I get past this? Why is what I am so important?
Because everybody has a need to know who they are and what they are is a big part of that. What your are is part of a base, a ground everybody uses to stand on and youve had yours knocked out from under ya. Teddy explained carefully. Thats why this is so important.
But I know who I am, Teddy. Holly said as she walked back to the couch. Standing there, she held out her arms. I know exactly who I am. That hasnt changed.
No, it hasnt. She agreed with a nod. But you dont know if what you are has and Ill bet ya dont feel any different than ya did yesterday, do ya? You dont think youre gay, do ya?
Hollys hands slapped her sides. No. She admitted. I started trying to figure it out and didnt get very far. Turning away, she walked back to the aquarium. As far as I can tell, Im still not attracted to other women and never have been. . . well, except for you. You, I love. Turning again, she folded her arms across her chest and leaned back into the glass. So, what does that make me? Gay and in denial or bi?
Are either one of those a bad thing for you to be? Teddy asked quietly and propped her head in her hand.
No. Holly shook her head. And to be honest, I dont even know why I care. It doesnt change the way I feel about you. There is just something inside of me that needs to know. Lowering her gaze, she stared at her shoes. I hate it that I cant get past this. I feel like Im letting you down because Im trying to put a label on what I feel.
Holly, come over here and let me tell you something. Teddy waved her hand when Holly looked up. Come on. It wont kill ya to listen for a minute.
Rolling her eyes, Holly pushed off the glass and sluffed her way over to where Teddy sat. What?
Come here. Im not going to bite ya. Reaching up, Teddy pulled Holly down into the space between her legs and turned them both around so she could stretch her legs out and cuddle the woman she loved tightly from behind.
Back in the position where all the trouble started, Holly immediately melted into the comfort the embrace evoked inside her.
First off, ya arent letting me down. Teddy spoke over Hollys shoulder. You could never let me down. Ya got your world turned upside down on ya today and youre confused.
Not about you. Laying her head back, Holly turned it into Teddys neck. Im not confused about that.
Teddy cast a warning gaze sideways at Holly. Im talking here.
Sorry. Holly smirked. Go on.
Thank you. Where was I? She asked with a smile of her own.
Im confused. Coming to her aid.
Right. Nodding once, Teddy went on. Youre confused and what you see as trying to label your feelings, I see as an understandable reaction. Today, you found out it was possible for you to be in love with another woman, me and youre trying to reconcile that fact to the notion you had yesterday, that women didnt do a thing for ya, including me.
Im not so sure that you didnt do a thing for me yesterday, but go on. Holly interrupted, then waved her fingers to urge Teddy to continue.
Well, be that as it may, if ya did feel something, it wasnt slapping ya in the face to get your attention, like it did today. Summarizing the interruption. And now ya want to know if what youre feeling makes you a different person, when you dont feel any different. Yesterday ya werent gay and today ya still dont think youre gay, but ya want to know if being in love with me is automatically supposed to make you gay? And ya let yourself get all worked up about not knowing and wanting to know, until ya finally threw a fit and came here because ya thought that me being gay would make me able to tell ya if you were walking any differently . . . so to speak? Is that about it?
It wasnt her thoughts verbatim, but it was close enough and Holly pulled back to see Teddys face when she answered. Something like that. She whispered and sobered somewhat, to then ask the burning question, whose answer wouldnt change a thing. So, what do you think? Am I gay?
Honestly? Teddy asked in return.
Hollys head barely moved up and down in a nod. Always.
No, I dont think youre gay. She shook her head.
Oh. Holly replied, almost seemingly disappointed. Then Im bi.
Teddy shook her head again. No, I dont think youre bi, either.
Then that settles it. Holly sighed heavily. Im crazy.
Chuckling softly under her breath, Teddy bent her head, placing a light kiss on Hollys frowning lips. Crazy for me, maybe, but I dont think it has anything to do with what ya are.
She was confused again, or still and it showed in her expression. Teddy, how can it not? Holly asked, sliding a little further away to stare better. The only thing left is straight and I cant be that because Im in love with you.
Thats not what I meant. Shifting her position, Teddy slid around, putting Holly in the curve of one arm, against the back of the couch.
Wiggling in turn, Holly got comfortable within the new arrangement. Then what did you mean? She asked when she was settled.
I know its gonna sound funny, but I dont think what you are is what is really going on here. Teddy cocked her head to the side.
Okay. Holly shook her head. You win. You just lost me.
I dont think its about you so much as whats been going on is about us. Snuggling a bit closer, Teddy smiled. Ya, see, Ive had a lot of time to think about it ever since that day on the beach and what I keep coming back to is I dont think either one of us had a choice in falling in love with each other.
Hollys eyebrows creased together at Teddys choice of words. No choice? You think it was fate? She asked doubtfully.
Kinda. She hedged, then continued the explanation. Listen, you know Im not one of those people who cant get dressed in the morning until they read their horoscopes, but Ive seen a lot of funny things happen on the other side of the bar and Ive heard some pretty odd ball stories about how two people have met.
And you think one of those odd ball stories is ours? Leaning in closer as she asked, Holly moved her elbow to Teddys shoulder.
Yea, I do. Teddy nodded. I mean, look at what all weve been through to get us where we are right now, right here tonight. In the first place, you didnt want me to come be your bar manager and I didnt want to leave the Piper. Teddy smiled. Max had to twist my arm off to get me to pack my bags.
Go on. Holly said dryly, though she was having trouble hiding her smile.
And what happened when we met? Teddy asked with raised eyebrows.
We didnt like each other. Snickering.
No, she corrected with a tap to Hollys nose, we looked each other up and down, putting what wed heard to what we were seeing.
Holly thought back to the day they met. I remember wondering when your legs were going to stop coming out of the cockpit. Laying a hand on Teddys thigh, she gave it a shake. Big bad Teddy Cooper in the flesh. I have to admit, you lived up to your reputation. I was very impressed, but I still didnt like you.
It was Teddys turn to chuckle. Ill be insulted later . . . and what did I get? Holly Curtis, fast moving corporate suit, newby on the block, in too much of a hurry for my liking, as I recall. I thought you were going to blow a gasket before I could get to the truck.
You were late. Holly said with a studious air. I had things I needed to do.
Yea, Im sure ya did. Giving Holly a knowing stare. And then what happened? We didnt even get four miles down the road before I had to pull ya over to give ya an attitude adjustment.
Holly sighed and looked away at nothing in particular. Dont remind me. Ive still got your teeth marks on my butt. Sounding none to happy with the memory of being bluntly told she was too possessive for her own good.
And here I thought I had been so nice. Teddy smiled to herself and got the reaction from Holly she wanted, which was for her to turn her head back around. But before Holly could shoot off a snappy retort, Teddy put a finger over Hollys pursed lips. Ut ut . . . thats ancient history. She said quietly, then lifted her head to show she meant business and then brought it down slowly, letting it drop low, to look deeply into her favorite pair of emeralds. And then what happened? Asking in a voice as deep as her gaze. Didnt we do something like this?
Staring into the same look she had seen that day on the side of the road, Holly didnt need anymore of a reminder to remember the first time she saw eternity in Teddys eyes. As ever a powerful moment as it had been then, she felt her breath catch in her throat and she managed a slight nod to go with her faint whisper. I remember . . . forever.
Always. Repeating the word and the feeling of that day, Teddy glided her hand to Hollys cheek, brushing the back of her fingers against the softness of it. Id never felt anything like that before . . . Ill never forget it. It was like seeing my whole life in your eyes.
You felt it, too. Half question, half affirmation, Holly turned into the touch, though her eyes never wavered from being captured by Teddys.
Everything. Teddy turned her hand over again as it glided along the side of Hollys face, to where her fingers could get lost in loose, soft golden hair. Thats when I knew you were the biggest bunch of trouble Id ever run across. She said with her smile returning. But what did I do? Did I leave ya alone, like I shoulda done?
At the word trouble, Hollys smile broadened quickly. No.
No. Teddy agreed. I let ya talk me into driving me home, like Id lost my mind and then we did a little more fighting, a little more talking and we found out we werent so different as we thought we were, remember?
Holly nodded. We both had reputations wed never get past. The thought was rather depressing at the time. Laying her arm down across Teddys shoulders, she curled her hand back and began to run a finger over a warm ear. But then, the way you talked about fulfilling our dreams . . . it was so beautiful. What price happiness? What price dreams? It made everything alright again. She shook her head and closed her eyes, remembering the sunrise Teddy had described.
Our dreams led us here . . . to each other. Teddy said as gently as she caressed the woman she had fallen in love with that day, but didnt know it. Thats what my mind kept coming back to. Id sit outside and look up at the stars, and think about you and me, and everything it took to bring us together. We fought getting together tooth and nail in the beginning, but before that, years before, something inside us brought us both here. Holding Holly a little tighter when she opened her eyes, Teddy looked away, to glance around the room. I followed the dream Id had since I was a kid of having a house in the country that turned out to be the jungle instead of the woods and you followed yours of building a paradise in paradise to the exact same place. She nodded to herself and returned her gaze to Holly. You could call it coincidence or whatever ya want, but when Id sit out there, wondering if you were ever gonna love me back, something inside me told me just to be patient . . . that all I had to do was wait and youd come around because ya had to . . . because we were meant to be together. Ya, see. Thats why I dont think youre gay, or bi, or whatever. You and I were just biding our time til circumstances put us together, so everything that came before really doesnt count. I think we woulda ended up just like this if neither of us had been gay to begin with. It probably woulda taken longer, but I think it woulda happened no matter what.
Holly hadnt needed a lot of convincing to begin with, because the idea that she was destined to fall in love with Teddy made everything that had happened make sense. She had been an unknowing pawn in her own fate, following her dream to where she was meant to be and the oddity of how shed reached her final destination only made it feel all the more right. Wrapping both arms around Teddys neck, Holly drew in even closer, until the only thing she could see clearly was Teddys eyes. You know, if youd told me about this earlier, it could have saved us both a lot of lonely nights. She said with a smile.
Teddy returned the smile and wrinkled her nose. Naw, couldnt do that. You never woulda believed it and I promised not to put the moves on ya, remember?
Uh huh and what about now? She said in her best bedroom voice.
Now ya get two choices. Ya get to follow me back down the mountain in the dark, where youll probably end up dinging my bumper again, or ya get to sleep on a lumpy couch with a spatula for a bed fella. Teddy batted her eyes.
Neither option was what Holly had had in mind. Uh, why do I have to sleep on the couch? Tugging on Teddys neck and sounding very disgusted with the idea, which she was. Are you trying to torture me?
Its a thought, but no. Teddy chuckled, then shook her head. The reason you get the couch instead of me tonight is because weve got to go to work in the morning and you know whatll happen if we come up missing tomorrow after what happened today.
Hollys expression changed from disgusted to discontent. Rolando will hunt us down like dogs.
Or, hell have Maria hunt us down like dogs. Which was a more chilling prospect. And I can tell ya right now, miss feisty britches, there aint no way in hell Im jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn to go to work in the morning if youre in there. No, siree, bub. So, its hitting the road for you, or hitting the couch. Which is it gonna be?
I should go home, because I left the lights on and Im not going to get anywhere staying here. Holly replied with her upper lip curled into a sneer.
Ummmm, thats true. Teddy said in feigned sympathy for Hollys plight. But, I tell ya what. How about I throw my bike in the back of your truck and I drive ya home?
And what? Youll ride back up here on a bicycle? She asked in disbelief.
No, Ill ride to the bottom of the hill and then walk it back up here. Teddy explained calmly.
Holly shook her head. No, Ill let you drive me home, because the idea gives me the heebie geebies, but if you drive me home, you have to stay. You can bring a set of clothes for work tomorrow and sleep on the couch downstairs.
Trade my lumpy couch for yours, huh? She asked suspiciously. You sure youre not gonna try to jump me while Im sleeping?
Holly openly pondered the idea for a moment, then shrugged noncommittally. I dont make any promises I cant keep. Youll just have to take your chances. She said in an I dare ya tone.
An unhappy frown crossed Teddys face. Its a deal on two conditions.
Which are? Holly flicked her eyebrows.
One, I get to make the coffee in the morning and two, you promise not to walk around naked. Teddy spouted off matter-of-factly. No flashing the goods until you can find a place in your calender to pencil me in for a whole weekend.
That was a nasty turn of events. Walking around naked had been right at the top of her list of things to do when she got Teddy behind closed doors, but it was the last part Holly had the hardest time with. What are you talking about? Pencil you in for what?
For you and me, and bed makes three. Smiling her most come hither smile.
Hollys expression went blank. You want to make an appointment for us to make love?
Yepper. I wanna put my dibs in for a whole weekend. Teddy replied. From Friday afternoon until Monday morning.
A blonde eyebrow went up as Holly sat back. Youre kidding me, right? You actually want to schedule when we make love?
Teddy rolled her eyes. Youre missing my point, here.
God, I hope so, because Im not liking what Ive heard so far. Holly glared.
Teddy closed her eyes, counted to ten, then opened them again. Alright, lemme try this again. Taking a deep breath, she released it as a short sigh. The reason I want you to clear a weekend, a whole weekend, in your schedule is because I dont plan to be in any kind of a hurry the first time I make love to you. I am not a wham-bam, thank ya, ma am kinda girl. Now, I dont know what you had in mind, she said and lowered her gaze to let it wander over the length of Hollys body, followed close behind by the tips of her fingers, but if it dont include me taking my slow sweet time to memorize the curve of your neck . . . the roundness of your shoulders . . . the taste your breasts on the tip of my tongue . . . the feel of your firm belly against my cheek . . . the feel of every inch of your legs in the palm my hands . . . and the places in between . . . by the light of a room filled with candles dancin in a gentle breeze filled to the brim with the fragrance of roses and jasmine in bloom . . . then you better tell me now?
Somewhere between her shoulders and her belly, Holly had started to have trouble breathing as her temperature began to climb and by the time the real aroma of roses and jasmine met up with the ones described, she was having trouble remembering what the question was. No, no. She coughed. That uh . . . works for me . . . and uh, now that you mention it . . . wasnt there something said today about me coming to spend this weekend with you? She asked innocently and guiltily scratched the back of her head. Didnt you say that?
Yep, I did, but it cant be this weekend. Teddy just smiled and slid her arm under Hollys thighs to lift the blonde from between her legs, so she could free her own trapped against the back of the couch. We gotta help Bruce put up the arbor on Saturday and we gotta pick up my crew on Sunday. She said as she got to her feet.
Alone on the couch, Holly didnt stay there long. Padding after Teddy in her dirty bare feet, she followed her into the bedroom. Ill pay Bruce to have his guys put up the arbor. That will give us Friday night, Saturday and part of Sunday.
Nope. Opening a dresser drawer, Teddy pulled out a wrinkled t-shirt for work tomorrow and tossed it on the bed. Friday afternoon til Monday morning.
Holly watched the shirt land and then a pair of shorts on top of it. Get Rolando to pick your crew up at the airport.
Teddy tossed a pair of underwear over her shoulder. No good. Leaving the dresser, she headed for the bathroom. He already knows youre supposed to go with me.
Ill tell him I have the flu. Holly nodded, agreeing with herself.
Leaving the dresser, Teddy chuckled her way into the bathroom. That excuse will get ya Maria on your doorstep with a pot of chicken soup and a search party on your ass when she finds out youre not home.
Some of the dirt came off when Holly stomped her foot.
And besides, Id still have to drive the other van. She said, picking up the basics off the counter. And I dont plan on getting any further from you than the kitchen so I can make ya breakfast in bed.
This bit of information only incited Holly to think harder. Well, how long can it take to pick them up, anyway? An hour?
Teddys head was shaking as she emerged. No, its gonna take the rest of Sunday afternoon for me to get them settled in and Im not wasting a minute of my time with you, hustling them around. Dropping her load of toiletries on the bed, she went back into the living room to look for her back pack.
Holly threw her hands in the air as she spun around to follow. Teddy!
You heard me, now. Holding up an end of discussion hand over her shoulder, she walked around the couch, searching for the leather satchel.
It was a good thing for Holly that the coffee table was sturdy, because she used it as a stepping stool when she launched herself onto Teddys back. Wrapping her arms around Teddys shoulder and her legs around Teddys waist, she tugged frustratedly on the former. Its not fair. I dont want to have to wait!
Teddy lurched forward, but she didnt fall when she was hit and she rolled her eyes as she stood there getting yanked forward and back. Waiting a couple of weeks is not going to kill ya.
A couple of weeks! Eyes wide, she stopped tugging to lean forward so she could see Teddys face. What are you talking about?
Letting out a sigh, Teddy began looking for her back pack again as she spoke. Holly, next weekend is the final exam you planned. Remember? Were supposed to run the Paradise all weekend, all three shifts, like we had guests. How are you gonna explain you not being there for that?
Damn. Slumping like a sack of potatoes, Hollys arms dangled limply. I forgot about that.
Shrugging, Teddy found her backpack and bent over carefully to pick it up. Thats why I said youre gonna have to check your calender. Its not my fault ya got bad timing. Carrying the pack and Holly back to the bedroom, she began rummaging through the bag, taking out items to make room for her clothes.
How was I supposed to know? She asked, giving Teddy an irritated tug. And if it werent for you bringing your crew in all at once, we could have this weekend free. So, there.
Mine wasnt bad timing. Teddy said over her shoulder. It was for public safety.
God. Holly sighed and slumped again. This really sucks. I dont know if I can wait that long without exploding.
Youll be fine. Teddy assured her as she began to stuff her things inside the pack.
Holly wasnt convinced. Hmmm.
Trust me. In went the toiletries. Ive been waiting longer than you have and ya dont see me splattered everywhere, now do ya?
No, but that doesnt mean I have to like it. She pouted and laid her head on Teddys shoulder. Are you sure we have to pick up the crew on Sunday?
Teddy chuckled softly. Yea, fraid so, baby doll. Glancing over her shoulder, she smiled at Hollys pitiful expression. Now, you gonna come down from back there, so I can finish getting my stuff together? Or you just gonna sleep right there?
In response, Holly closed her eyes with a contented smile.
Looking from the smile to the bed in front of her, Teddy shook her head because she couldnt believe she was going to say what she was going to say. What in the world am I gonna do with you? She sighed. Okay, I tell ya what. If you swear on a stack of bibles, you can keep your hands to yourself? You can sleep with me tonight, but you gotta promise not to try and sneak your pajamas off in the middle of the night. This is a clothes on deal only.
Holly opened her eyes. What about taking me home? My lights are on.
Teddy looked at Holly sideways. Your neighbors will think youre staying up, working all night, which probably aint anything new. Now, we gotta deal, or what?
Do I have to stay on my side of the bed, or do I get to snuggle? She asked with a twinkle in her eye.
Turning to face the twinkle, Teddy arched an eyebrow. As long as your snuggling dont get too friendly, I wont kick ya outta bed and make ya walk your happy ass home.
Holly lifted her right hand. Deal.
Ignoring the offered hand, Teddy sealed the deal with a kiss. Deal.
It took the unsurpassed allure of a warm night filled with the scent of jasmine in bloom and a clear sky full of stars to tempt Holly off Teddys back and while the woman she loved was star gazing, Teddy put her things away as she finished the conversation shed been having with Serena before Hollys untimely arrival. Then she endured the unique combination of congratulations and butt chewing from Maria, and doing some fancy footwork in the process and was eventually released to make her final call for the evening to Rolando, who was dutifully training his personnel in the fine art of check-in procedures at the Paradise.
In a replay of the first day theyd met, when she watched Holly relaxing so peacefully through the window, Teddy stood by the bar, staring out at Holly as she listened to Rolando go over his normal cloak and dagger routine.
You must be very careful, Theodora. It was only by good fortune that I was the only one to see you this morning. Rolando told her, from the safety of an empty employee lounge.
I know, Rolando. Teddy smiled. Keep my hands to myself. No more touchy feely in public.
And you be very careful around Miss Montgomery. He added. She is very perceptive.
Shes very nosy. She corrected with a chuckle. But I get your point. Ill watch my step around Jenn.
It is crucial that you do, Theodora. Rolando said with all seriousness. It is crucial that Holly does, also. I believe she understands the danger Jennifer poses, but I am not so sure she will be able to maintain the necessary charade when you two are together.
Shes done fine, so far. Teddy came to Hollys defense.
Yes, that is true. He agreed. However, she was not in love with you then. I know she will make the effort to . . . how do you say?
Keep a straight face. Helping him along.
Precisely. He nodded to himself. Holly must try to keep a straight face for the sake of appearance when you two are in public and you, Theodora, must not let your whims get the better of you. No secret smiles that could misdirect Hollys concentration. I have seen you do that.
Teddy rolled her eyes. Alright. No funny business in public, either. Now, can I hang up, so I can pass all this pertinent information on to Holly? Or, you gonna go through the whole James Bond secret spy handbook over the phone?
That is all for now. Rolando replied curtly. Sleep well and be sure to pass my affections on to Holly.
Ill do that and maybe some of mine, too. Teddy laughed. Night, Rolando. Dont let them sprouts work ya too hard.
Bah. I believe it is the sprouts, as you call them, that need your well wishes, but thank you, anyway. He nodded, though she couldnt see him. Good night, Theodora.
Bye. Still smiling to herself, Teddy pushed the off button and laid the cell phone on the bar. Yea, Im not worried about you, Rolando. Youll have those junior James Bond wanna bes ship shape in no time. She chuckled as she strolled toward the back door whistling the theme to Goldfinger. At the door, Teddy opened it quietly, so as not to disturb her guest. Then, slipping outside, she closed the door behind her and carefully crept over to where Holly was sitting. Almost instantly, a chill prickled her arms, defying the warm scented breeze. In total awe of how peaceful a sight could inspire such a depth of emotion within herself, Teddy let Rolandos warnings fade into memory as she stood there looking down on the same essence of tranquility shed seen on Hollys face the night shed sat on the deck in the rain. She hadnt recognized it then, but the look was one of someone completely at home with their surroundings. No fret. No discontentment. Just a look of ease, as if Holly belonged there and Teddy liked that look on her, but not enough to leave to the mosquitoes.
Squatting down beside the chair, she rubbed a finger across the top of Hollys hand.
Holly smiled at the touch. Hi. She said without the benefit of opening her eyes.
Hey. Teddy smiled. Sliding her hand under Hollys, she laced their fingers together. You ready to come in?
Hm um. Holly rolled her head from side to side. Its too perfect out here.
Teddy tightened her hold on Hollys hand as a low chuckle rumbled up from her chest. Cant be. Neither one of us is soaked.
Matching the chuckle, Holly shook the hand that held hers. I probably looked like a drowned rat by the time you came out to get me.
No, ya didnt. She said softly. You were the most beautiful thing Id ever seen.
Holly smiled and finally opened her eyes to let her gaze fall on Teddy. You mean the biggest bunch of trouble youd ever seen.
Yea, that, too. Teddy nodded with a secretive smile. I knew I was courting trouble when ya looked over at me with those big green eyes all dreamy like . . . like they are right now and smiled, like youre smiling right now. It was all I could do not to kiss ya right there and then, rain and all.
Right there and then, rain and all, Holly murmured as she sat up to face Teddy, I think thats what I wanted you to do.
Teddy laughed quietly to herself, but not for the wanting look she saw in Hollys eyes. Feeling the first drops of rain starting to fall, she only had to wait a few moments before the warning sprinkle turned into a downpour. Im sorry. What were you saying?
Holly couldnt fight the urge to laugh either. Getting drenched by the second, she could only shake her head as Mother Nature added the final touch to make the moment a perfect recreation. I was saying, no one would ever believe this.
Teddy didnt pass up the second chance she was given. Let em get their own story. She said and with a look of subtle intensity on her face, she leaned in and did what she should have done the first time.
And Mother Nature looked on as two souls touched by fate rose to their feet as one, coupled in the kiss of destiny that could not be denied twice.
If Holly had gotten her way with the sleeping arrangements, it would have been a perfect ending to a perfect day. Laying on her right side with Teddys long form snuggled in closely behind her, she would have prefered to be the snuggler instead of the snugglee, but when her hand kept landing in too friendly of places for Teddys continued state of good mental health, Holly had gladly relinquished the role, rather than be exiled to the couch for breaking the deal. As it were, with the feel of Teddy breathing against her back and the slow rhythm of it mingling with the muted drumbeat of rain hitting the roof above, the compromise was deemed an imperfection she was looking forward to getting used to.
Are ya ready to go screaming off into the night, yet? Teddy asked quietly.
Broken out of a mild revalry, Holly glanced over her shoulder in confusion. What?
I was just wondering if maybe youd changed your mind. She shrugged to hide her concern. I mean, its gotta feel funny with me having lumps in all the wrong places and all.
Holly rolled her eyes, then smiled. I thought you would have figured out by now that I like your lumps in the wrong places and all.
Umm, yea. Teddy smiled. I did kinda get that impression. As a matter of fact, I think I still got your finger prints on my left boob.
It was an accident. She sighed her protest.
Uh huh. Sounding as unconvinced as she actually was, Teddy picked up the hand that had done the damage. I think I need to check with the FBI to see if these things are registered as lethal weapons.
Another sigh and Holly snatched her hand out of Teddys grasp. You got what you wanted. Using a disappointed tone. Theyre where you can see them.
I changed my mind. Teddy replied and wrapped her hand around Hollys hand again. I think mabye Id better keep a hold of this one. I think it wanders more than the other one does.
Watching Teddy lace their hands together, Holly knew a ruse when she heard one, but she didnt make it known. Instead, she pulled their hands to her, tucking the combination under her chin for safe keeping. Hows that? She asked with the appropriate amount of haughtiness and in return, she felt Teddy snuggle a little closer.
Thatll do. She chuckled, knowing shed been caught in her fib.
It better. Holly smiled to herself. Tucking her head down over their hands, her eyes fell on the aquarium. The worlds largest night light that she knew of, the dim glow from inside filled bedroom and most of the house, but she didnt mind the light. It was a warm blue that helped give the whole house a homey feeling when the lights were out, in the same way a fire in a fireplace would. What she didnt like, though, was how empty it now looked without the paper cut-out fish hanging inside. It had been an odd thing to see the first time, but after awhile, theyd grown on her. Shed even tapped on the glass and talked to them a few time, when Teddy wasnt looking. Weve got to do something about that. She thought aloud.
About what? Teddy yawned the question, then smacked her lips.
The aquarium. Untucking their hands, she didnt let go of Teddys as she pointed to the huge glass tank. It looks so . . . empty.
Teddy forewent the obvious remark that it looked empty because it was empty and lifted her head to give it a look. Yea, its been looking kinda bleak since I took the paper fish out. She admitted. Lowering her head back to the pillow, she nuzzled it into Hollys neck. Looks like we got our work cut out for us this weekend, then, huh?
The mention of the word weekend immediately sent Hollys mind to all sorts of seductively sensual places until she remembered that the only access to the tank was through the attic. The fry your brain, steaming hot attic that was sure to reduce every lustful thought she had down to a simmering puddle of sweat on the floor. Is there room up there for a ceiling fan? She asked casually.
The casual worked as well on Teddy as her own hand fib had worked on Holly. Chuckling as soon as the question was asked, she shook her head. Give it up, Holly. A fan aint gonna do ya no good. Youre gonna be so tired from hauling the bags of rock up there, youll be lucky if youll be able to grab your own ass, let alone mine.
Holly cringed at the thought. Rats. Foiled again.
Then Teddy had a thought. Though, ya know. If you put that engineering architectual brain of yours to work before hand? She smiled. Maybe ya could come up with some kinda pully system, so neither one of us has to break our backs getting em up there.
Green eyes rolled toward the ceiling as the wheels began to turn. How much do they weigh?
Seventy-five pounds. Teddy smiled, then hid when the information earned her a glare. I went with big bags because I hate making a lot of trips. She explained into Hollys shoulder.
Im almost afraid to ask this. Holly closed her eyes. But where are they now?
Teddy buried her head further. In the garage, but I was planning on having em all on the front deck before ya got here. I swear. Ive got a winch for out there.
That was a relief. Getting seventy-five pound bags of rocks up the Mt. Everest Teddy called a front staircase would had garnered her Hollys resignation from the project, but with that battle already won, it sent Holly back to the problem of getting the bags into the attic. Ill take a look up there in the morning and let you know what I come up with.
Checking to see if the coast was clear, Teddy lifted her head to peek over Hollys shoulder. Can I come out now?
That depends. Holly informed her and took possession of Teddys hand to authoritatively tuck it back under her chin. What about the ceiling fan I asked for?
Teddy hated to say it, but she had to. Cant. Itd chop our heads off and blow around all the dust up there, but I think I might be able to squeeze a small oscillating fan in there.
It wasnt what she wanted, but like the sleeping arrangements, it was better than nothing. Make it a couple of them and you can come out.
Free to snuggle once more, Teddy did just that. Wiggling to get comfortable again, she put her chin on Hollys shoulder and closed her eyes with a relaxed sigh. You comfy enough?
Deep into her comfort zone and well on her way to being lulled to sleep by the sound of the rain, Holly managed a slight nod. Um hm.
Teddy smiled and dipped her head to kiss Hollys shoulder. Night.
From within the shadow created by the light from the aquarium, a smile appeared on Hollys lips. I love you.
You couldnt have knocked the smile off Teddys face with a nuclear explosion when she heard those three little words. I love you, too.
Its a day later and Ive got the answer. Two days ago, I was a straight white female with few prospects for finding time to fall in love in my busy work schedule and now I know that Im not gay, or bi, or whatever. Im just a woman who followed her dream to the place I was meant to be . . . with Teddy.
This ends Book One of Welcome to Paradise.
Chapter Nine will begin Book Two.
Thanks for reading.