Chapter Six: Starting Over.


Tess walked into ‘Girls Night Out’ for the first time since that awful night with Samantha. She had put this off too long. What's the big deal? she thought, I can do this. But it was a big deal; her whole life had changed the night she met Samantha.

The club had always been a haven for her, a place she could get away from the world. She could have her pick of women, and she had. But now, things had changed. Coming back here brought it all back, how much she had hurt Samantha. It was a relief to know that this would be the last time she would ever have to come into this place again. She knew that if she ever hoped to have a relationship with Samantha, ‘Girls Night Out’, and all it entailed, would have to go. And the truth was, the thought of letting the club go didn’t really bother her that much. It had served its purpose in her life, but now it was just a painful reminder of how much she had hurt Samantha. She could never forget the look on Samantha's face when she left that night.


Angela looked up from the bar and saw the tall woman walk through the door. "Hey Boss Lady, it’s about time you got here. Been having second thoughts?"

"No, no second thoughts. I just…" She smiled at Angela and handed her the paperwork for her to sign. "Just need your signature and we’re all set."

"With pleasure," Angela said as she signed the sales contract. "Why don’t you stay for a while and help me celebrate."

"I’ll have to take a rain-check Angela. I gotta run," Tess said quickly, eager to be away from a place of such bad memories.

"Thanks again, Tess. I don’t know why you changed your mind and decided to let me have ‘Girls’, I guess all my badgering finally paid off."

"I guess it did." Tess smiled at her, "and you’re welcome." Tess walked away, leaving her worst nightmare behind her.



The next few weeks flew by as the new friends spoke often, but kept the relationship as just friends. It was a time to get to know each other and learn to be content to just be together with no other pressures.

"You want to know something funny?" Samantha asked, as she and Tess sat at lunch one day.

"Sure," her tall companion answered. "I'm always up for a good laugh.

"Not that kind of funny. I meant strange." She smiled at Tess. "You know I've been dreaming about you all my life. It's been the one constant I could always count on. We moved so often when I was little that it was hard to keep friends, but you were always there, and I was comforted by that."

"That is strange." Tess laughed.

"That's not the strange part," Samantha said. "Well, it is strange, but you already knew about that. I mean a new, strange." She laughed at the perplexed look on Tess' face. "It's about the dreams. They've stopped. I haven't had one in weeks." Her eyes took on a far away look as she contemplated this particular development in her life. Looking back at Tess, she asked, " Why do you think they stopped?"

Tess thought about it a moment and realized that her dreams had also stopped. "Hmmm, that is strange. I hadn't told you, but I haven't had any more dreams either." Her face suddenly brightened. "You know what I think? I think it's because we don't need them any more. Strange as it seems, they came to us for a purpose, and when that purpose was completed, they stopped."

"Yeah," Samantha smiled. "That makes sense."

And, in its own strange way, it did make sense. They didn't know who, or what, had conspired to get them together; whether it was an outside force, or something deep inside themselves that cried out to reunite them. Somehow, it really didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was that it had worked.



Breathing hard, Samantha trudged up the rocky path. "Tess, slow down, I can’t keep up." She said with labored breath.

Tess looked over her shoulder to see a very flushed Samantha, breathing hard and trying to catch up.

"I’m sorry. I didn’t think. We’ll take a break here, okay?"

Samantha nodded her head. Why does she want to have a picnic in a spot we have to hike up a mountain to get to, Samantha thought as she sank to the ground, thankful for the much-needed breather. Unhooking her canteen from her belt, she took a long drink, then sighed. "Are we there yet?" She said, rubbing her cramping legs.

"Almost," Tess said, kneeling beside her. "Hey, I know. How about a piggy back ride? It’s really not too much farther; I can carry you."

"God, Tess, don’t you ever get tired?"

"Sure I do. But, Samantha, we’ve only been walking for an hour."

"Up hill, Tess, an hour up hill."

Tess stood up and took off her backpack. "You’re going to have to carry this," she said, slipping it on Samantha’s back. "Okay now, up you go." She pulled the young woman to her feet and knelt down in front of her. "Climb on."

Hesitantly, Samantha climbed on Tess’ back. "You sure you can do this?"

"Oh yeah, no problem." Tess grunted as she got to her feet. Slowly she moved up the path. It didn't take long before she was breathing hard and had worked up a good sweat. Carrying an extra hundred and fifteen pounds up hill was quite a strain, but she wouldn’t admit that to Samantha. Besides, it was an excuse to touch her, and the feel of the young woman pressed against her back was sheer heaven. She only hoped that her overworked muscles held out until they reached their destination. Just a little bit farther, she thought to herself, as she fought to keep her trembling legs moving. This task she had taken on was proving to be much harder than she had anticipated.

Finally they were at the top, and looking across a lovely green valley. Just off to the left glistening in the sunlight was a small clear lake. Tess put Samantha down and watched her face light up at the sight.

"Oh, Tess, it’s gorgeous."

Tess smiled, and stretched out her aching muscles. The look on Samantha's face made the climb worthwhile. "I knew you’d love it here. Want to take a swim before we eat?" Tess did not wait for an answer. She was well and truly overheated from the last of their trek up the hill, and was ready to cool off in the inviting lake.

Samantha couldn’t believe how fast the tall woman stripped down to her bathing suit and was in the water. "Hey, you never wait for me," she said as she started to strip as well.

"Come on slow poke." Tess shouted as she climbed out of the water, and started up a tall rock overhang. The rock ledge hung about twenty feet above the lake. Striding to the edge, Tess dove gracefully into the lake. When she broke the surface, she found Samantha paddling toward her.

"Wow, how’d you learn to dive like that?"

Tess smiled smugly. "I just started diving and it was easy. I don't remember learning; I just did it. It's just one of my many skills," she said, winking at her friend.

"You really are quite full of yourself," Samantha said. Grinning, she splashed Tess, and then dove under the water kicking as hard as she could.

Tess was after her in a moment, catching her easily with her powerful strokes. Coming up under Samantha she propelled them both up and out of the water, then crashing back down with a big splash. They came back up sputtering and laughing. Exhausted after an hour of playing in the water, they climbed up on the smooth rock ledge and lay down to soak up sun, and dry out.

"You ready to eat?" Samantha asked as her stomach started rumbling. She climbed off the ledge and walked to the pack that carried their lunch.

"Mmmm, I’m starving."

Samantha tossed a blanket to Tess. "Spread this out and I’ll get the food."

Tess unfolded the blanket as requested, and sat down as the pretty blonde carried the lunch basket over. Sitting on the blanket facing each other, they ate as if it was the last meal either of them would ever have.

"I guess all this fresh air and exercise affected my appetite. I don’t remember when I’ve ever been so hungry." Samantha said as she stretched out on her back and patted her full stomach. "I’m so glad you brought me here."

"This place is special to me. I’ve never wanted to bring anyone else up here ‘til I met you." Tess smiled shyly, and dropped her gaze. Why do I feel like a tongue-tied schoolgirl with her?

"Thank you for sharing your special place with me, Tess. How did you find it?"

"When I was little, my mother used to bring me up here. Well not here exactly, we went to the other side of the lake. You can drive in that way but there are lots of people. It’s a touristy sort of place, but I like it over here. It’s harder to get to, but it’s worth it. It’s wild and free, when I’m here, I feel like there’s no one else in the world."

"You never mention your mother, are you still close?"

Tess’ face became very serious, and her eyes took on a far away look. "I lost my mother when I was ten years old." She paused a moment, then signed. " I miss her." Her expression changed, and Tess smiled at the young woman, "You would have liked her, Samantha. She was warm, funny, and a genuine good person." Her face became troubled again, and she looked down at her hands clasped in her lap. "She deserved better than Tucker. I loved her a lot. I lost that for a while, because of him."

"What happened Tess?" Samantha reached over and covered a large hand with her own. "Is that why you hate him, he tried to turn you against your mother?"

Tess closed her eyes and swallowed. She had never shared her memories and private thoughts with anyone before, but it was different with Samantha. She wanted her to know her, and maybe understand a little better. "No, he never tried to turn me against her, but he succeeded in doing just that, for a while."

"I don’t understand." Samantha could see the pain in those beautiful blue eyes, and squeezed Tess’ hand in comfort.

Tess gazed down at their clasped hands and squeezed back. "When I was growing up my mother painted a glowing picture of him. I guess she didn’t want to spoil my image of my father. She gave me a photo of him, and I thought he was the handsomest man in the world. I would ask her why he didn’t come to see me and she would tell me he was very busy. She bought birthday and Christmas gifts for me and signed them Daddy. She was trying to protect me from the reality of the situation, but all it did was make me think there must be something really bad about me because this wonderful man didn’t want to see me." Tess took a deep breath and let it out. Bringing these memories back to the surface was harder than she thought it would be. "It was one of those things, like Santa."

Samantha looked puzzled. "Like, Santa?"

Tess nodded. "You know, something you tell a kid to make them happy, that you know is not true. You figure when they're old enough to understand, you'll explain." She looked at Samantha. "She never got the chance to explain."

Samantha squeezed the tall woman's hand. "When your mother died, did you go live with your father?"

"No, when she died, my mother’s sister Stella became my guardian. I wanted to go live with my father, but Aunt Stella said Mom wouldn't have wanted that. I couldn't understand why, and we argued about it. When she left the room, I called my father. I told him my mother had died and asked if I could come live with him. It was the first time I had even heard his voice…" Tess brought her knees up to her chest, and wrapped her arms around them. She could still feel the devastation of his words, even after all these years. Taking a moment to compose herself she continued. " He told me that my mother had been a gold digger, just out to get money from him. He said that he was not my father and not to bother him again." Tess brought her gaze up to meet Samantha’s. Her mask was down and the hurt was plain to see. " What kind of man would say something like that to a child? My mother had just died for God’s sake! I couldn’t believe the father I had believed in all those years didn’t exist. Aunt Stella walked in and I broke down and told her what had happened. She was livid. I asked her why my mother had told me he was my father. She said, because he is your father. She told me how he dumped my mother when he found out she was pregnant, and when she tried to get him to help support me he lied and said he wasn't my father. The court ordered a blood test and it came back that he could be my father, so he brought in several other men with the same blood type who swore that they had all slept with my mother. They said that she was a slut and slept with anything in pants. If it had been today they would have done a DNA test and had conclusive proof, but back then they could only prove he was a possible candidate."

Samantha couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She ached for the tall woman who was obviously in so much pain. She watched as a tear made its way down Tess’ cheek and reached to wipe it away. "You said that he turned you against your mother. How did he do that?"

"I realize now that my mother was only trying to protect me, but then I hated her for lying to me about him. And I hated him even more for making me feel that way about her. I decided some day he was going to pay, and believe me, he has."

"Well, it sounds like you are your fathers daughter."

"I’M NOT LIKE HIM! I HATE HIM!" Tess stood up and walked a few paces away.

"Could you just look at yourself honestly for a minute? What has your life been up to now? Hatred? Planning revenge? Who does that really sound like, the mother who loved and protected you, or the father who abandoned you? Don’t you see? Like it or not, you have patterned yourself after him. He won."

Tess didn’t like looking at herself through Samantha’s eyes; it hurt too much. "What do you expect me to do, go to him and say I forgive you daddy? I can’t do that."

"You don’t have to like him. You don’t even need to forgive him, but you do need to put him behind you, let go of the hatred and get on with your life. Don’t give him the rest of your life, he’s taken enough of it already."

Listening to Samantha, Tess could almost believe it was possible to release the hate and change her life. The woman seemed to be a walking example of what she was preaching. After all, didn’t Samantha have every reason to hate her for the way she had treated her? "I don’t know if I can do that, Samantha. When I’m around him, or even think of him, I lose it."

"I have faith in you." Samantha said sincerely.

Tess looked into Samantha’s eyes, and believed her. "You really do, don’t you?" She shook her head incredulously. "Why?"

"I’m your friend. I care about you."

"Would it be all right if I…if I gave my friend a hug?" Tess said hesitantly, not sure how Samantha would react to such physical contact.

Now Samantha’s tears started to flow as she got up and walked to Tess. She no longer dreaded the tall woman’s touch for fear it would bring back those awful memories. "I think I need a hug about now too," she said as her arms slipped around the tall woman.

Tess gently wrapped her arms around Samantha; afraid to hold her too close or too tight for fear Samantha would misconstrue the meaning behind it. She realized her fear was unfounded when she felt Samantha’s arms squeeze tightly around her. She laid her cheek on Samantha’s head and just held on. If felt so good to just hold her and be held in return, nothing else was needed. She wished that they could just stay like this forever. The words ‘the other half of my soul’ played again in her mind and she knew without a doubt that it was true.

Chapter Seven: Daddy Dearest

Tess had decided to take Samantha’s advice and try to find some type of closure with Tucker. She was going to meet with him and talk truce, and today was the day. He had been hesitant when she called and asked to see him, but things had been fairly quiet between them lately and he decided it might be a good chance to try and figure out where the next attack would come from. He was sure Tess was planning something, and figured that the peaceful lull he had been experiencing was probably just the calm before the storm. He didn’t trust the bitch, but it wouldn’t hurt to see if he could figure out what she was up to.

Tess parked her car in the lot behind Tuckers building, and just sat there. Now that the time was here, she wasn't sure she could go through with it. What would she say to him? Could she really be in the same room with him and not let her anger take her control away? She thought of Samantha's words, "I believe in you." And they had an immediate calming effect on her. "She believes in me, I guess I can believe in me too."

Tess got out of her car and strode toward her meeting with a purpose. She would tell him the war was over, and get on with her life. It wouldn't take long and then she would never have to see him again. She felt a calm settle over her that she hadn't expected, and she smiled. She was taking her life back, and it felt damn good.


When Tess arrived in Tucker's outer office and announced herself to his secretary, she was surprised at how calm she still felt. She had been working hard these last weeks not to let herself fall back into the cycle of hate and vengeance that had been her life for so long. This was different though; she was going to see him face to face, and these encounters always tended to make her blood boil.


Tucker opened his door and ushered her into his office. "What brings you to my neck of the woods, Tess? What tricks have you got up your sleeve?"

"I just needed to get something off my chest, Tucker, and then I hope to be out of your life for good."

"Why do I have a hard time believing that, Tess?" Tucker said sarcastically. "We both know you hate my guts, and I don't mind telling you that the feeling is definitely mutual."

Tess ignored his comments. She came here for a reason, and she didn't intend to let the man get to her again. Just tell him what you came to say, and get out of here, she told herself. "I’ve spent most of my life hating you for what you did to my mother and me."

"I’m not your father," he interrupted.

"You’re damned right you’re not!" Tess shouted, feeling her face flush. "The closest thing I've ever had to a father was, Bryan Reynolds. You were a sperm donor, nothing more. I don’t really give a damn if you believe me or not." Don't let him bait you Tess, she told herself. This is not what you came here for. Taking a calming breath, Tess was able to stop the anger from taking over.

"He was your daddy all right. Your sugar daddy."

"Don’t you dare say anything about him!" Tess was so angry she was trembling. "He was a good man, and he cared about me, took me under his wing…" She let her words trail off. She owed this man no explanation of her relationship with her mentor, the man she considered her surrogate father. Reynolds had treated her with nothing but respect, taught her the business, and left her his company when he died. She had grown to love the man in her own way, and if she'd had a choice, he would have been her father.

Tess stood and gripped the back of her chair. Taking another deep breath, she mentally chastised herself for letting him momentarily get to her again. That was close, she thought to herself, and it amazed her that she had been able to quickly stop from erupting into a venomous rage. She began speaking again in a quiet controlled manner. "A friend of mine reminded me that I've already wasted too much of my life hating you. I don’t intend to do it any more. I came here today to call a truce. I want to put all the bad blood behind us so we can go on with our lives. I’m not saying that I forgive you, just saying I don’t want to hate anymore."

"I don’t know what you’re trying to pull, Tess, but it won’t work."

"Like I said Tucker, I don’t give a damn if you believe me. I just needed to close out this part of my life so that I can move on. You can sit and wallow in it if you want. It's your choice." Turning, she walked out of the office leaving a stunned Tucker watching her go.


Tess felt light-headed as she walked to her car. The confrontation with Tucker had not been as bad as she thought it might be, but it still left her legs feeling shaky. Sliding into the driver's seat, she clutched the steering wheel and just sat a moment. "It's over," she said. "It's finally over." It was not going to be easy, but just that first step had felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. "You were right, Samantha, it did make me feel better. How can one so young be so wise?" Just the thought of Samantha brought a smile to her face, and Tess could not wait to tell Samantha about the meeting. She drove the ten miles to the young woman’s apartment with a smile on her face. She had actually been able to talk to him and not slip into that vindictive hate mode; she was glad that Samantha’s faith in her had been justified. None of this would have happened if Samantha had not come into her life. The young woman made her happy. Tess realized that she had not been able to say she was truly happy in her entire adult life.

Chapter Eight: A New Beginning

Samantha stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel to wrap around her dripping body. She thought of Tess, and wondered how it had gone with Tucker. She was so proud of her friend for trying to bring closure to a very painful part of her life. They had only known each other for a few months, but now Samantha could not imagine her life without her. She rubbed the towel briskly over her body, then slipped into her robe. Picking up her hair dryer, she let the warm air caress her, as her thoughts returned once again to her tall friend.

Samantha had just finished blow-drying her hair when she looked out the window and saw Tess pull up outside. Smiling, she put the dryer down, and went to wait at the door for her. The tall woman took the stairs two at a time. "I did it," she beamed as she wrapped Samantha in her arms and spun her around. Tess lowered Samantha so her feet could touch the floor, but kept her arms around the young woman.

"I wasn’t sure I could come face to face with him and not let the hate and anger take over again, but you were right. I actually talked to him and felt nothing." Tess paused a moment, her eyes never leaving the upturned gaze of the woman in her arms. "Well, I almost lost it once," she corrected herself. "But I didn’t. I held it back."

"I knew you could do it. I had enough faith for both of us." Samantha said as she grinned from ear to ear. "And when you have faith, anything's possible."

"And I have faith in us," Tess responded, "And like you said, when you have faith, anything’s possible."

Tess was feeling bold; Samantha was in her arms and not protesting. She wanted more than anything to lean down and kiss her, and almost followed through with that thought. "Samantha, I think it’s time for us to talk about our relationship."

"Yes, I guess it is," Samantha replied.

Tess took the young woman’s hand and led her to the bed and sat her down. She then pulled the chair from the drafting table over and sat down facing her. Summoning her courage she brought one of Samantha’s hands to her lips and gently kissed it. Her heart pounded when the young woman did not pull her hand away, but instead, caressed her cheek. "Samantha, I’m not sure if you can ever feel the same way I feel about you, after what happened, but I need to tell you that the past few months with you have been the happiest of my life. I love you and want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you make me."

Samantha could not stop the tears as she flung her arms around Tess’ neck. "Oh, Tess, I do love you, I do." She clung to her as if to let go would mean her very life. Pulling away far enough so that she could look into Tess’ eyes she said. " I want to start over, but this time can we take it slow?"

"We’ll take all the time you need. I promise. I’ll never rush you, or push you into something you’re not ready for. I just want to love you, and take care of you." Tess leaned down and gently brushed Samantha’s lips with her own. "Now get dressed. I’m taking you out to celebrate," she said, rising and walking to the door. "I’ll wait outside to give you some privacy while you change."

"You mean you don’t want to be seen out with me in this?" She looked down at her well-worn robe, and smiled.

Tess flashed the most radiant smile Samantha had ever seen and her heart melted. "I will always be proud to have you on my arm, no matter how you’re dressed."

Samantha returned the smile. "It would help to know where we’re going so I’ll know how to dress."

"You tell me your favorite restaurant, and I’ll take you there." Tess flashed that beautiful smile of hers at Samantha again. "Then we’ll go dancing. Would you like that?"

"Mmmm, very much," Samantha said. "I’ve never been courted before, I think I’m gonna like this." She crossed to Tess and gave her a peck on the cheek. "I won’t be long," she said, as she turned for the closet to find something to wear. Suddenly she froze in her tracks, realizing that there probably weren’t too many places where women could go out dancing with each other. Samantha could not bear the thought of going to ‘Girls Night Out’.

Tess saw the stricken look on the young woman's face when she turned around. "Samantha, what’s wrong?"

"Where are we going dancing, Tess? I can’t go back to ‘Girls Night Out’."

Tess walked to Samantha and took both of her hands in her own. "Hon, I would never take you back there. I never want to do anything that would bring back those memories for you. I sold the place to Angela, the woman who managed the club for me. She had wanted to buy the place for a long time; she’s welcome to it. I wanted us to be able to start over, without that hanging over our heads". Cupping the young woman’s face in her hands, Tess said, "I love you, Samantha. Please believe me. When I told you I would never hurt you like that again, I meant it."

"I do believe you, I’m sorry…" A tear trickled down Samantha’s cheek.

"Hey, it’s okay, I understand." Tess leaned down and kissed her forehead, then drew Samantha to her in a gentle embrace. "Its okay, I’ve got you." She whispered into her ear.

With those familiar words spoken into her ear so lovingly, the tender emotions they had always brought her in her dreams engulfed Samantha again. "I feel so safe and protected when I'm in your arms like this," Samantha said, snuggling into the warm embrace. "I love you, Tess. I’m sorry if I hurt you when I asked where we were going. I do trust you. I really do. If I had just taken a moment to think before I spoke, I would have realized you were not thinking of taking me there."

"Do you still want to go out tonight?" Tess said, drawing back so she could look into the young woman’s eyes. "We can go another time if you prefer."

Samantha gave her a little squeeze then turned to her closet. "No way. You’re not getting out of taking me out that easy." Rummaging through her clothes she pulled out a lavender dress, nodding her approval. "I’m dressing up, and you’re taking me out.


Dinner had been wonderful, but Samantha was a little hesitant about dancing. She had never really dated, and had never learned to dance. Not wanting to look like a nerd, she was hoping that Tess would skip anything fast. Slow dancing she was sure she could do, and not make a complete fool of herself. Besides, it was an excuse to be able to hold onto Tess, to be held by Tess.

They walked into the bar, and Samantha was relieved to see that it was smaller than ‘Girls Night Out’, and much less crowded. Tess took the young woman to a table and seated her, then walked to the bar to order drinks. Even though this was not her normal haunt, Tess could see many familiar faces around the room. One in particular caught her eye. Judy was a tall slinky brunette, with beautiful soft brown doe-eyes, and sexy full lips. In the past she would have been glad to see her, but sex, just for sex, had lost its appeal. The need for constant sexual gratification, she realized, was her way of filling the void in her life. But no matter how often she sought out a partner for the night, the emptiness remained; the void never filled. Now, with Samantha in her life, she felt whole.

Judy saw Tess looking at her and smiled seductively. She always enjoyed her romps with the tall gorgeous woman, and was hoping to be her choice for a bed partner tonight. As much as she had always wanted more from her, she was willing to play along with Tess’ rule of sex with no personal involvement, and it had paid off with many a passionate night of sex until dawn. Then they would go out to breakfast and Tess would say her good-byes.

Samantha watched from across the room as the beautiful woman walked up to Tess and draped herself on the tall woman. She could not hear what was said, but it was obvious the woman was attempting to seduce her companion. She could feel the hairs raise up at the nape of her neck as her anger at the strange woman began to flare. Chill, Samantha, she told herself. You don’t own her. To her relief, she saw Tess remove the woman’s hands from her body as she spoke to her. Then Tess pointed to Samantha, and the young artist could see the woman’s gaze track to her own, a frown on her face. Tess turned back to the bar to place her drink order.

Judy stood for a moment studying the little blonde at the table. She was definitely not Tess’ usual type. She looked so young, so… innocent. As Tess joined the young woman at the table, Judy could see the look of adoration in the young blonde’s eyes as she gazed at the tall woman. That poor little thing is in for a real heartbreak, she thought.

As Tess approached the table she could hear the strains of the Melissa Etheridge song, ‘Keep it Precious’. She placed the drinks on the table and took Samantha’s hand. "May I have this dance?"

"With pleasure." Samantha grinned as she stood and allowed the woman of her dreams to lead her to the dance floor.

Tess put her arms around the young woman and pulled her close. She briefly leaned down and let her forehead rest against Samantha’s. Then she tightened her embrace, kissing the top of the young woman's head and resting her cheek against the silky hair. They closed their eyes as they swayed with the music, content to be in each other’s arms.


Well, I’ll be damned. Judy couldn’t believe her eyes; she had never seen Tess behave so tenderly. I guess a leopard can change its spots.



"Well, look what the cat dragged in," Samantha said as her friend Dusty opened her door. "I never hear from you any more."

Dusty crossed to Samantha's bed and sat down. "The phone works both ways, you know."

Samantha smiled. " Touché." She loved Dusty, but of late she had been too preoccupied with Tess to wonder what was going on with her old friend. "I'm glad you're here, I need to catch you up with what's been happening with Blue Eyes."

Dusty reached out and pulled Samantha's chair closer to the bed, grabbing her hands. "Oh, Sammy, you're not going to believe it. I found Mr. Right."

Samantha pulled her friend into her arms, hugging her tightly. "Congratulations," she said, releasing her hold, and leaning back so she could see her friend's face. Dusty was absolutely glowing, and Samantha realized that she had never seen her friend this happy. "Do I know him?" she asked.

"You might have seen him around, he works for your Dad."

Samantha shook her head. "Not likely. The only person I know who works with Dad is his partner, Doug, and he's old enough to be your father.

Dusty laughed, "No, it's not, Doug. His name is Roy, and he's a network engineer. I couldn't believe it when I found out he worked for your dad. Talk about a small world."

"It sure is," Samantha said, thinking about how she had found Tess through her friend, Dusty. "So, tell me how you met him. Don't leave anything out, I want to know everything."

"It was fate," Dusty said, her eyes sparkling as she began her story. "Just an amazing accident." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Do you believe in fate, Samantha?"

"I do," Samantha nodded, "I really do." She got to her feet, and walked toward the kitchenette. "I've got some iced tea," she said, glancing at her friend. "Would you like some?"

Dusty nodded. "Sounds great."

Samantha opened the refrigerator. "Go on, I'm listening."

"Well," Dusty began again. "I had gone to the bank, and was just backing out of my parking space. Roy was backing out of his space just across from me. We saw each other just in the knick of time, and barely touched bumpers." Dusty smiled again, and sighed. "He got out of his car to check for damage, and I got my insurance info and got out too. We looked at each other and smiled. I knew right then and there. I just knew…" Dusty laughed. "He must have known too, because he asked me out, right there on the spot. And the rest, is history."

"I gotta admit, I've never seen you this sure about a relationship," Samantha said, handing Dusty the glass of iced tea. "I'm so happy for you, my friend." She sat down next to Dusty, and took a sip of her tea.

"I've never felt like this before, Sammy. It just feels so, right."

Samantha reached over and squeezed her friend's hand.

Suddenly it dawned on Dusty what Samantha had said about Blue Eyes. Her eyes grew round. "You found her? You found Blue Eyes?

Samantha nodded. "Her name is, Tess. I went to the health club and saw her when she went in. I followed her, which she noticed," Samantha paused, wondering just how much she should share with her friend about how they met. Deciding that it was not something she felt comfortable sharing right now, she kept the story to the bare minimum. "And now we're good friends."

"Did she think you were crazy when you told her about the dreams?" Dusty asked, wondering if her friend had even told the woman about them.

"A little bit at first, but she got over it." Samantha shrugged her shoulders, and started laughing. She thought about telling Dusty that her friendship with Tess was quickly advancing beyond 'just friends'. The love that had grown between them was wonderful, but it was so new. She wanted to keep it all to herself for a little while longer, to savor the sweetness of it before she shared it with anyone.


Chapter Nine: A Big Surprise

Samantha looked at her watch again, then walked to the window. Tess was due here any time now to pick her up. Seeing the gold car pull into the parking lot, she smiled. Slipping out the door, she was on her way to the car before the tall woman had even opened her door. Samantha had never been taken to so many nice restaurants before. The funny thing was that she didn't particularly care if they drove through a fast food restaurant, as long as she was with Tess. She climbed into the car and Tess reached over and squeezed her hand.

"I missed you," the tall woman said, and lifted Samantha's hand to her lips.

A shudder went through the Samantha's body at the touch of those lips. "I missed you too,' she said, her face flushing red.

Tess started the car and pulled out onto the street. "I'm afraid were going to have to stop by my place on the way." She looked down at her pants. "Stewart knocked a cup of coffee all over me this afternoon. Lucky thing it was cold," she laughed.



Tess didn't bother to put the car in the garage when they would be staying for such a short time. "This won't take long," Tess said, pulling her mail out of the box, and reaching to unlock the front door.

"Hey, it's early, I'm in no danger of starving any time soon. Don't kill yourself rushing," Samantha said, following Tess through the door. She narrowly avoided colliding with Tess' backside, when the tall woman suddenly stopped dead in her tracks.

"What's wrong?" she asked, sidestepping around her roadblock. Seeing an exasperated Tess standing before her, she frowned. "Bad news?" Samantha asked.

"I don't believe it!" Tess stared in disbelief at the letter in her hands. "After everything that’s gone on between us, he has the nerve to ask for my help!" She wadded the letter into a ball and tossed it and the envelope into the wastebasket.

Samantha turned questioning green eyes to Tess. "Who, Tucker?"

"Yeah, Daddy Dearest himself. He’s got balls, I’ll give him that." She frowned.

"What did he want?"

"I don’t know, I didn’t read that far, and I don’t really care." She glanced through the rest of her mail with an unconcerned look on her face, pretending she had no interest at all in the contents of the wad of paper in the trash basket.

"Come on, Tess, aren’t you even a little curious? I mean what could be so important that he would come to you for help?" Samantha walked over and pulled the crumpled paper out of the basket.

The tall woman lifted an eyebrow at her blonde friend. "Who's curious?" she said with a grin.

"Okay, so I’m curious. Do you mind if I read it?"

Tess shrugged. "No, go ahead, it might be good for a laugh."

Samantha opened the wadded up paper and smoothed it out. Tess watched the expression on her friend's face change from curiosity to sadness as she read the wrinkled page.

"This isn’t from Tucker, it’s from his wife, Amanda. Did you know you have a sister?" Samantha said, as she handed the letter to the tall woman.

"No, I didn’t," Tess replied. Accepting the letter, she began to read in stunned silence.


I am writing to you because I need your help and I don’t know where else to turn. I have recently learned of your relationship to my husband, Marion Tucker. I am writing to you because I know he will not, and I would do anything to insure my little girl a chance to grow up. She has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It starts in the bone marrow where the blood forms and for some reason, the marrow stops creating healthy blood cells. The cancer lives and grows in the blood, and at this time, they have been unable to stop it. The doctors told me she would only live a few months at the best without treatment. They tried to stop it with chemotherapy, which means they inject poisons into the bloodstream to kill the cancerous cells. She has not responded though, and I have to tell you that I am scared to death for her. There is one other way to fight this enemy within and have a better chance for recovery. The doctor wants to do a bone marrow transplant, which offers the greatest hope for a permanent cure. There are no guarantees, but this is the best chance she has. The chances for finding a compatible donor that is not related to her are astronomical. All family members are a remote possibility, but the best chance is a sibling. A full sibling would be the best chance scenario, but Megan is my only child, and you, to my knowledge, are her only sibling. Every one we could possibly think of has been tested, to no avail. You are our last hope.

Tess, I know you and my husband have never had a good relationship, but I am hoping that you will not hold that against my little girl. She is such a precious gift to me, and the thought of losing her without a fight is unimaginable. I have enclosed a picture of her, and hope that this will make her seem a real person to you, and not just words on a paper. I have also enclosed the business card for her doctor in hopes that you will call and make an appointment to be tested as a possible donor. Tucker does not think asking for your help will do any good, but I would sell my soul to the devil himself, if it meant I could save my daughter.

Thank you for your time.

Amanda Tucker

Shock was evident on Tess’ face. She had no idea she had a sister. "I guess she considers me the devil," she said, as she put the letter down and reached into the wastebasket to find the envelope she had tossed in there earlier. In it she found a picture of a smiling little red head that looked to be about nine or ten years old. In her arms was a fuzzy black puppy with a bright red bow around its neck. The little girl had her cheek pressed up against the dog’s face and she was grinning from ear to ear.

It felt bizarre looking in the face of a stranger and knowing it was her sister. Turning the photo over, she saw, ‘Megan and Buster, printed neatly.

Samantha watched the play of emotions on Tess' face as she looked at the picture. "What are you gonna do?" she asked, taking the tall woman’s hand in her own and squeezing gently.

"The only thing I can do and live with myself," she said, as she pulled the card out of the envelope and walked to the phone. As she listened to the ringing phone, she glanced at the photo again, "My sister," she repeated softly as a voice came over the line.

"Doctor Davies office."

"Hello, my name is Tess Richmond, and I’m calling about Megan Tucker."

"Are you the sister her mother told us about?"

"Yes. I’d like to schedule an appointment to be tested as a possible donor."

"Wonderful! If you can get here before six, it will go to the lab tonight."

"Sure, I’ll be right there."

Tess put down the phone and turned to Samantha. "I have to leave now if I’m going make it in time."

"Want some company?"

"I'd love some company," Tess answered. "Give me a minute to change these pants," Tess said, starting to jog toward the stairs. "When I'm done we can get that dinner I promised you."


Tess had been at off-site meetings all morning and was looking forward to the date for lunch she had made with Samantha. As she got into her car, her cell phone rang.

"Tess Richmond," she answered, smiling as she anticipated Samantha’s voice.

"Tess, this is Joan, from Doctor Davies office. He would really like to see you, but his schedule is a little tight today. He wanted to know if you could meet him for lunch." If you can make it, he'll be at Seafood Delight at 1PM.

"Sure," Tess answered. "Tell him I'll see him there."

Tess wondered what he wanted to talk to her about. She hoped that the meeting meant that the tests had come back to say she was a match. Dialing the phone, Tess hoped she could catch Samantha. She would hate to leave the little blonde waiting for her, and wondering what happened.


Tess smiled in relief. "Hi cutie,' she said. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to cancel our lunch date. The doctors office called, and he wants to meet me for lunch to talk."

"Did the test results come back?" Samantha said, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice. "I thought they said you wouldn't hear until tomorrow."

"I know, but I can't think of any other reason he would want to meet with me. I guess I better go see what the verdict is. I’ll call you after and let you know what happened."

"Okay, talk to you later."

Tess hung up the phone and glanced at her watch. It was 12:40PM; she should make it just about on time.



Tess spotted the distinguished looking man with gray sideburns immediately, and walked over to join him at his table. "Doctor Davies," she said, as she sat across from him.

"Tess, I’m glad you could make it." He reached over and patted her hand with a big smile. "I got your results back and it was a nearly perfect match."

Tess smiled back at the man. "That’s wonderful news."

"It really is amazing," he continued. "I never expected you to match, but we have to try for any possibility, however remote. I had explained this to Amanda, didn’t want to get her hopes up too high. I wanted to meet with you and explain the BMT procedure and answer any questions you might have."

"BMT? That's short for Bone Marrow Transplant, I assume."

Doctor Davies smiled. "You assume correctly."

Tess nodded. "When will you do the transplant?"

"Well, I've admitted Megan into the hospital to begin a 'preparative regimen' of radiation and high dose chemotherapy to destroy the remaining bone marrow and any leukemic cells that may have migrated to other organs. The BMT will take place in ten days.

"Do I need to do anything to prepare myself?"

"No, just try to stay away from anyone who has a cold or the flu, basically, just try to stay healthy."

"How long will I have to stay in the hospital?"

"Just a day, perhaps two. The procedure used to collect bone marrow from a donor is called a bone marrow harvest. The harvest will be performed under general anesthesia."

"How exactly is this harvest done?" Tess asked. She was happy she was a match, but nervous about the procedure at the same time.

Doctor Davies could see that Tess was a little worried. "Don't worry, Tess. It sounds worse than it is. We use a needle and syringe to extract the marrow from the rear hipbone. Several skin punctures and multiple bone punctures are required to collect enough marrow for the transplant. There are no surgical incisions or stitches involved. "

Tess gave a sigh of relief. She had assumed they were going to have to cut her open. "Whew," she said, wiping a hand across her forehead. "I thought there would be some cutting involved, Doc. And believe me I'd sure as hell rather be a pincushion."

The Doctor laughed. "The body is a wondrous thing. It starts working overtime to replace the lost marrow, and you'll be back with a full tank within four weeks. After the harvest, you may experience nausea from the anesthesia and pain at the harvest site. These problems can usually be controlled with medication. You can resume normal activities in three to four days and expect complete recover from the harvest within two weeks. You may have trouble sitting up for more than an hour or two at a time for the first couple of days. The amount of pain varies quite a bit from patient to patient."

"What about Megan? Do you inject the marrow into her hipbone at the same site you removed it from mine? Or does she have to have these injections all over her body?

"The marrow isn't put back into her bones at all; it is simply injected into one spot, a vein. From there it migrates through the bloodstream, automatically finding its way into the empty bone chambers. Once the injection is over, there's nothing to do but wait. And hope!



Chapter Ten: A New Sister

Tess walked to the nurses' station. She wanted to meet the little sister she never knew she had.

"Can I help you?" The nurse asked as Tess reached the counter.

"Yes, I’m looking for Megan Tucker’s room."

"Oh, Megan, she’s in 221, that’s right around the corner on the right. The nurse got up and walked to a cabinet, taking out a gown and mask and handing them to Tess. Put these on. You'll need to stop at the sink outside her room before you enter and wash your hands. Megan is very susceptible to infection."

Tess nodded her understanding, slipping into the gown, and continuing down the hallway. The tall woman understood the need for caution. Megan’s doctor explained to her that the child was undergoing a 'preparative regimen,' and that this regimen would completely destroy her immune system.

Tess was nervous. What if she doesn’t like me, she thought.



Megan lay in bed, a small frail figure with a scarf tied around her head to hide the baldness. Tears were trickling down puffy little cheeks. She always tried to be strong for her mother - she knew how it hurt her when she saw her cry - but the little girl was alone now, and she let the tears come. Her mother had just left, and she felt so alone here in this little plastic world she was forced to live in, a world full of pain and weakness. She hated being alone here, but she was glad for the relief of tears that now she did not have to fight to hold back.

A sterile environment of see-through plastic curtains surrounded her bed. The plastic drapery was unique in that it had built-in arm-length gloves that make it possible for people to touch you. Megan was not allowed to eat anything she liked for fear of bacterial contamination of the food. It would be many months before she would be allowed any type of fresh fruits or vegetables. But the truth of the matter was that she did not really feel like eating at all. The doctors gave her medication to help control the nausea and diarrhea. They only helped; they did not eliminate it. The thought of eating was not very appealing, and to insure she took in enough protein and calories they were feeding her extra nutrients intravenously. Looking up, Megan saw a tall woman standing in the doorway looking at her. The woman smiled. "Hi, I’m Tess. Is it okay if I visit with you for a while?

Megan wiped the tears from her cheek, and gave a little nod. She recognized the name. Her mom had told her that the woman they found that was a match, was named Tess. "I’m Megan." She watched the woman fasten a mask over her mouth and nose, and walk to the edge of her plastic barricade.

"I hate hospitals," Tess said. "I had to stay in the hospital once when I had my appendix removed. But at least I only had to stay a few days. It must be awful to have to stay in that tent they have you in."

"The medicine they give me kills off my immune system. That means that every little germ floating around that would not even make you sick can kill me, so I have to stay in here where they can control everything I come in contact with."

Such understanding coming from one so young surprised Tess, although she admitted to herself that she hadn’t had a lot of experience with children. But Megan seemed older than her ten years.

"I think you’re very brave. I would be scared in your place."

"I just don’t have any choice." Megan’s hazel eyes seemed to bore right through her. "I’m probably gonna die before too long," she said matter-of-factly. "I have to be brave for my mom. I don’t want her to worry about me." Another tear started down her face and she wiped it away. "I hate it that I make her so sad."

"Hey, the doctor told me he thinks you have a very good chance. You need to believe that, it’s important."

Tess pulled a chair close and sat down. She wished she could reach out and touch the child, comfort her. She wanted to say something to lighten the mood but was unsure what that might be. She found herself liking this sad little girl very much, and wishing she had been able to be a part of her life.

"What kind of things do you like to do for fun?" she asked, hoping to take the child’s mind off her problems, if only for a few minutes.

"I like to swim, and I love to read," the little girl said with a wistful look on her face.

"What kind of books do you like to read?" Tess asked, sensing a subject that just might do the trick.

"The last book I read was ‘The Secret Garden.’ I really liked that one. Mostly I read stories about kids and animals. I’ve been reading the ‘Black Stallion’ books; those are some of my favorites because I really, really love horses."

Well, Tess thought, something we have in common. "I was really into horses when I was a kid and I read all of Walter Farley’s books, they were great. Have you read his ‘Island Stallion’ series?" She noticed the hazel eyes perk up a bit.

"Not yet. I guess I need to put those on my list of books to read."

"Yeah, those are a must read for someone who loves horses as much as I do."

"Oh I do. Someday I want to have my own horse. Wouldn’t that be great?"

That’s my girl, Tess thought. Think about the future; you need more of those positive thoughts.

"I think that’s a wonderful goal. You concentrate on getting better and getting out of here so you can make it come true." She smiled at the child.

"I don’t think it will really come true; my mom’s afraid of horses."

"Hey, never say never. When I was a kid I had to walk past a stable near our house on the way to, and from, school every day. There was a really old horse there named Dandy, and no one ever paid any attention to him so I would pet him, talk to him, and bring him treats. We became friends. Because of him, I wanted to learn to ride more than anything, and I set that as my goal. Next I had to figure out how to make it happen. I knew I couldn’t afford lessons, so I just convinced the owner that I would work for free if he would let me ride. I did everything around there - mucking stalls, grooming, feeding, but I achieved my goal."

Megan gave her a big smile and she returned it. It was so wonderful to see a sparkle in her eyes and a smile on that previously somber face. I am going to make sure that dream comes true if it’s the last thing I do, Tess thought. She heard footsteps behind her and turned to see an attractive woman in her mid thirties, with short auburn hair and hazel-green eyes, walking toward them.

"Mom, this is my friend, Tess. She loves horses too."

Amanda watched the tall woman as she got to her feet and offered her hand. Tucker had told her a lot about Tess, and she was frankly surprised to see her here. He had told her not to get her hopes up because the bitch was good at giving you a false sense of security, then pulling the rug out from under you. He also told her not to feel secure until the procedure was done and they didn’t need her any more; he was sure she was just using this situation to attack him once again.

Amanda couldn’t believe anyone could use a child that way, and now, after listening to the woman talk to Megan, she was sure she was right. She was certainly going to give her the benefit of the doubt. Megan’s life was at stake. Smiling, she reached out and took the offered hand.

"It’s nice to meet you, Tess. I see you found a subject Megan never gets tired of talking about."

"It’s nice to meet you too." The beautiful woman flashed a warm smile at the little girl. " I guess I’ll have to come back again so we can talk some more...." Tess looked at Amanda. "...That is if it’s okay with your mother."

Megan beamed at Tess. "Oh yes, please come back."


Tess looked at Amanda, silently asking permission to visit again.

"You’re always welcome, Tess, as long as Megan wants to see you, and feels up to it." There was no way she was going to take the chance of alienating this woman; she needed her too desperately. Besides, Tess seemed nice, and the smile on Megan’s face was worth whatever it took to keep it there. It was the first time she had seen her child smile like that in a long time.

"Then I’ll see you tomorrow," Tess said, as she winked at Megan. "Bye."

"I’ll walk out with you," Amanda said. "Be right back sweetie." She followed Tess out into the hallway just as Tucker rounded the corner. "I wanted to thank you for everything you’re doing for Megan…"

"What the fuck do you think you’re doing?" Tucker interrupted as he stormed over to the two women.

"Tucker please, calm down," Amanda pleaded, trying to placate her raging husband.

"What’s she doing here? I don’t want that bitch anywhere near my daughter." He brushed Amanda aside. "You stay away from her, you hear me?"

Tess could feel the fury building inside and she fought to push it down. She would have liked nothing more than to kick the bastard in the balls and watch him writhing on the floor in pain, but this was not the time or the place to get into a battle. "Loud and clear," she replied as she turned to walk away.

"It better be clear," he shouted as he grabbed her arm and spun her around.

She reacted so quickly that he was shoved against the wall with his arm twisted behind his back before he knew what happened. "Don’t you ever touch me again, you son of a bitch." She pushed harder on his arm, then repeated his question. "You hear me?"

Dumbfounded with surprise, and by the strength of his older daughter, he could only nod in answer.

"Good," she replied. Releasing him, she turned and walked away.

As she rounded the corner, Tess felt the hate welling up inside her again. She closed her eyes and leaned against the wall, trying to slow the pounding of her heart and calm herself down. "I’m trying, Samantha, I really am," she said out-loud to no one in particular. "At least I didn’t beat the shit out of him." And there was no doubt in her mind that if this had happened a few months ago, she would have. And it would have been so easy. The man did not keep himself in shape, Tess, did. That alone would have given her an edge over him, but she had also spent years in martial arts training. Tears welled up in her eyes. Not from sadness, but from the rage she was trying so hard to control. She felt a hand on her arm and opened her eyes to see Amanda’s tear streaked face looking up at her.

"Please don’t abandon Megan, it’s not her fault…please…" The weeping woman broke-down and buried her face in her hands.

"Shhh, it’s okay," Tess said as she wrapped her arms awkwardly around the distraught woman. "Megan is a sweet innocent child. I would never hold her father’s actions against her, any more than I would want anyone to hold them against me." She stepped back and lifted Amanda’s face, wiping the tears away with her thumbs. "Having a sister is a new experience for me. I wanted to get to know her, try to have a relationship. I guess Tucker’s not going to let that happen. But I promise I will not abandon Megan."

Amanda searched the blue eyes of her daughter’s savior, and she saw only truth and compassion in them. This woman was not the monster Tucker painted her to be. Reaching over, she took the tall woman’s hand and squeezed. "Thank you." She had seen how Megan had responded to Tess, and she knew how much the little girl was anticipating her visit tomorrow. Megan had been through so much, and the road to recovery was going to be a hard one. She was not going to take any little joy the child felt in this woman’s company away. "You come by and see her tomorrow like you planned. I’ll talk to Tucker."

Tess held the woman’s hand for another moment. "Thank you," she said, then turned and walked away.


Chapter Eleven: The Good Fight

The drive to Samantha's gave Tess a chance to calm down. She did not want let Samantha see how upset Tucker had made her, and she tried to put her father’s words out of her mind; but they hurt. She had stopped thinking of Tucker as her father a long time ago, but today, for some reason, she felt like that little ten year old girl she had been so long ago who had been so devastated by her father’s rejection. Perhaps it was the fact that he had a little girl that he did care about, that brought back those old feelings that there was something wrong with her to make him not want her. I don’t need him anymore, she thought, but Megan does. I need to try to get along with him for her sake. She parked the car and just sat there a moment taking deep calming breaths. I wonder if they'll tell her that I’m her sister? Tess thought as she got out of the car and started for Samantha's apartment. Probably not, if Tucker has anything to say about it. She walked up the stairs, deep in thought. She still couldn't get over the fact that she had a sister that Tucker hadn't even bothered to tell her about. No sound came through the open window of Samantha's apartment, which probably meant Samantha was working. She did not even like the distraction of music when she worked.


Tess Looked through the window and found that Samantha was indeed at her drawing table. "Hey," She called, and watched her soulmate turn from her work, with a welcoming grin.

"Hey," Samantha replied. She beckoned to the tall woman. "I need your opinion." She turned back to her drawing table, studying the sketches again. "Which one of these do you like better?" the artist asked as she felt Tess' long arms encircle her waist, and a warm body press against her back.

Tess rested her chin on Samantha’s shoulder as she studied the two pictures on the table. "Well, for pure aesthetic value, I like this one." She pointed to a picture of a tiny bare bottomed girl standing on tip-toes, trying to feed a handful of grass to a horse that was standing on the other side of a fence. The other picture was of the same toddler, but the little behind was no longer bare. "Of course, not having read the story, I don’t know which one fits it better, but this one is just too cute." Tess was silent for a moment then continued. "I went to the hospital today to see my sister."

"What’s she like?" Samantha said, turning in the tall woman’s arms.

"Megan’s a sad little girl, she’s been through so much." Tess leaned down and rested her forehead against Samantha’s, closing her eyes. "What if she doesn’t make it? It’s not fair, she’s only a little girl." Tess brushed at a tear as it made its way down her cheek. "I didn’t expect to care so much, but I do."

Standing, Samantha pulled the tall woman closer in a comforting embrace. "She’s gonna be alright, you have to believe that. Positive thoughts really can make a difference, and you don’t want her picking up your negative vibes."

"You’re right, I have to believe she’s going to be fine, and I have to convince her too. She as much as told me today that she thinks she’ll die." Tess took a step back so she could look into Samantha's eyes. "Will you come with me to meet her?"

"Of course I will. I’d love to meet her."

"She’s so bright, Samantha, you should have heard her today explaining to me about her illness. I couldn’t believe I was listening to a ten-year old child. She understands so much…" Tess sighed and pulled Samantha in close again. "Perhaps too much."




Amanda gazed at the sleeping face of her daughter, glad that the little girl had fallen asleep. She needed to talk to Tucker about Tess, and this was as good a time as any. No sense putting it off, she thought, as she walked to her husband who stood looking out the window at nothing. He was still angry that Tess had dared to come here without even asking permission. Of course he would have said no, but she should have asked.

"Tucker, let’s go get a cup of coffee. We need to talk about Tess."

He glanced at the sleeping child and nodded his head in agreement. Yes, they needed to talk about her all right. He intended to lay down the law, talk to the nurses and let them know that bitch was not to be permitted to see Megan. He wondered how a she-devil like that could have come from his loins. She was smart; he’d give her that. But in Tuckers eyes, she was no better than a common whore. Everyone believed that she slept her way to the top. The young woman started working for old man Reynolds right out of college as his personal assistant, and moved up in the company far too fast for there to be any other explanation. No one was surprised when the old man died and left all his business holdings to her. She’d had him wrapped around her little finger the four years she had worked there. He had no family; there was no one to contest it; she just took over. The change in power had been good for Reynolds Industries though; she was shrewd, and business skyrocketed over the next few years. That’s when she started to go after Tucker with a vengeance. The business and revenge had become her whole life. Now here she was trying to get at him through his little girl, and he was not going to allow it. He didn’t believe that bullshit she had given him about not wanting to hate anymore. It was just a trick to get him to let his guard down, but it wasn’t going to work.

Tucker knew that his wife was afraid if he stood up to Tess that she would change her mind about the transplant. If only she understood Tess the way he did. Then she would know that you just could not let that woman get the upper hand.


They walked to the coffee machine in silence, each wondering how to make the other one understand. As they sat down in the waiting room Amanda finally broke the silence.

"I told Tess that she can see Megan whenever she wants."

"You had no right to do that. You don’t know her like I do," he shouted, making no effort to keep his voice down.

"I have every right to do what I think is best for my daughter," she countered. "Megan has been to hell and back and I'd gotten used to dealing with a very pessimistic little girl, but today she brightened up when Tess visited. You should have seen them together."

"That bitch is pulling the wool over your eyes; don’t you see that?

Amanda got up and started to pace around the small room. This was not going to be easy. She walked back and sat down and covered one of his hands with her own. "What I see is that you and Tess hate each other, but that has nothing to do with Megan."

"Yes it does…" he interrupted, but his wife cut him off.

"Let me have my say, Tucker," she said firmly. "Then you can have yours." She squeezed his hand again. "Please, hear me out." She watched as her husband nodded his head and returned the squeeze. Tears started to flow as she began to speak again. "We don’t know how much longer Megan is going to be with us. God willing, the transplant will be successful and she’ll live a long and happy life." Her voice was starting to tremble and she stopped talking to take a moment to compose herself. "All we have for sure is right now, and we have to do whatever it takes to make her happy, now. I saw how she reacted to Tess today; she was happy. She wants to see her again, and I don’t care what you, or anyone else says, if she wants to see her, she will see her. I don’t care if you hate Tess, I don’t care if she’s the antichrist; she was kind and caring with Megan today, and that is all that matters. For Megan’s sake, we have to give her sister the benefit of the doubt. You could be right about her motives where Megan in concerned, but what if you’re wrong? Can’t you just stop for a moment and think of Megan instead of yourself?"

Tucker dropped his gaze to his hands. He couldn’t look his wife in the eye right now. She was right; he had to put Megan first, no matter what his feelings were for Tess. "Okay, we’ll let her see her for now, see how it goes."

"Thank you." Amanda stood still holding his hand. "Let’s go see if our daughter is awake."




Samantha could hear the sound of Tess' voice drifting melodically out of Megan’s room as she approached. She stopped in the doorway a moment and looked in. The little girl was laying on the bed, looking adoringly at Tess as she read to her. An attractive woman that Samantha did not recognize was sitting on the other side of Megan’s bed. She assumed it must be Amanda. Her eyes drifted back to the little girl. It was clear she was lost in the tale her big sister was weaving.

Tess stopped reading as the young artist walked quietly into the room. "Megan, Amanda, I want you to meet my friend, Samantha," she said, beckoning the young woman to come closer.

Amanda stood and walked around the bed, shaking the young woman’s hand.

"Hi," the little girl said, shifting her gaze from her sister to Tess' friend.

"It’s nice to meet you, Megan," Samantha responded as she sat down next to Tess.

The little girl turned anxious eyes back to the tall woman. "Please keep reading, I have to find out how he gets out of that cave."

Tess laughed. "Got you hooked huh?" She looked at Samantha, "Sorry, my public awaits."

Samantha sat and watched as her friend began to read again. Every once in a while Tess would glance up and make eye contact with the little girl, but she never stopped reading to the enchanted child. It was clear to the little blonde that there was a bond forming between the two, even if the child did not know the tall woman was her sister."



"It says here that laughter is a powerful weapon in fighting cancer," Tess said, looking up from the stack of books she had picked up to research the subject. "I think I’m going to take a VCR down there and bring lots of comedy videos to watch with her." Blue eyes found green, "it says that laughter and attitude are half the battle."

"Well if that’s all it takes, then the battle is almost won. I saw how into that story she was this afternoon. She didn’t have time to dwell on being sick. She was too interested in you and that story to even consider it." Samantha replied as she walked over and began to massage the tight muscles in her friend's shoulders.

The tall woman smiled. "Yeah, she did enjoy that, didn’t she? I want to spend at least an hour a day with her, but I want to leave a bunch of videos there so the nurses can play them when ever she wants." Tess relaxed into the young woman’s touch, "Ahhh, that feels so good." She let her head drop forward, and felt the tension drain from her body.


Chapter Twelve: Samantha to the Rescue

The procedure to harvest her bone marrow was finally over and Tess was back in her room. She really felt rotten. Her stomach felt queasy, and she was still a little groggy, but her mouth was dry and she reached for her water glass on the bedside table. She wished they would just let her go home. Her face brightened up when she saw Samantha walk through the door.

"Let me get that for ya," Samantha said, picking up the glass and holding it close so she could take a drink.

One little sip was all it took for Tess to franticly grab for the spittle dish on the table. What little water she swallowed came back up, followed by dry heaves so intense it made her chest ache. Samantha took the dish and held it for her until the heaving subsided and the tall woman was able to lie back again. The young woman took a tissue and dampened it to wipe around her mouth.

"Damn," was all Tess said. Suddenly she was exhausted and she fought to keep her eyes open.

Samantha leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Don’t fight it, love. The doctor told me you’ll feel a little better after you sleep off the effects of the anesthesia." She sat next to the bed and took a large hand in her own, kissing it gently. "I’ll be here when you wake up."

"Okay, I am kinda tired," the tall woman said, as her eyes fluttered closed, then opened again. "I’m glad you’re here."

"Me too," Samantha said, squeezing the large hand again. She watched as the blue eyes shut for the last time, and Tess finally allowed herself to sleep. The young artist sat back and just watched the sleeping woman. She hated to see her so weak and in pain, but now, in sleep, she finally looked at peace. At least this part of the ordeal was over.



Samantha stood, looking out the window. Tess had been asleep for close to eight hours, and the young woman was glad her sleep had been undisturbed. She heard the bed creaking behind her, and turned to see blue eyes flutter open.

"How ya feeling?" Samantha asked, as she crossed to the bed and leaned over to kiss her forehead.

"Mmmm, much better." Tess reached up to stroke the soft skin of the young artist’s face.

Samantha cupped the beautiful face of the woman she loved and gazed into devastatingly blue eyes. "I’m so proud of you. I know this hasn't been easy."

"Would you take me over to see Megan, they won’t let me walk."

"I would be honored to be your chauffeur." Samantha looked around and spotted the wheel chair. Pushing it over to the bed, she said, "your carriage awaits m’lady."

Tess sat up, wincing momentarily at the pain in her lower back and hip. Carefully she transferred herself from the bed to the wheel chair.




While Megan was sleeping, Amanda and Tucker walked to the vending machine for coffee and a cup of hot chocolate. Samantha and Tess could hear Tucker’s voice as they neared the couple.

"…at least now that this is over, I don’t have to be nice to that she-devil any longer."

Anger blazed through Samantha at the sound of the venomous words.

"If you call your treatment of Tess ‘nice,’ I would hate to see what your idea of bad is," Samantha said, glaring at the man.

"I let her see Megan, didn’t I?" He looked over at his older daughter sitting in the wheel chair. "I didn’t have to do that you know." He turned back to the angry woman in his face and continued. "After all of her attacks on me over the last few years, she’s damn lucky I let her see Megan at all."

"What about your attacks on her? I don’t think either of you are exactly blameless, but at least she had a reason."

Tess watched in stunned silence as her champion battled on her behalf.

Tucker bristled at the spunky woman. "She attacked me first, right out of the blue. She didn’t even say why."

The young woman was so angry now she could feel her ears burning. "Why?" Samantha looked at him dumbfounded. "You have the nerve to wonder why." Could the man really be that clueless? "Do you remember a call from a grieving ten-year old girl who had just buried her mother?"

A memory long forgotten surfaced, "I…I had forgotten about that…" he turned to his wife as if to explain. "…It was so long ago."

Samantha couldn’t believe it was such a trivial incident to the man that he had actually forgotten it.

"You forgot? It was so unimportant to you that you forgot? Your little girl called and pleaded for you to let her come live with you and you told her you didn’t want her. Told her to never bother you again." Tears started down the young blonde’s face. "You devastated her, and it was so trivial that you forgot? What do you think something like that would do to a child? You pulled her world out from under her, and you forgot? Tess was all alone, needed her father, but he didn’t want her. She must have thought she was really bad if her own father didn’t want her." Tears stung Samantha's eyes as she turned to Amanda. "He forgot."

Samantha could feel the flush of anger burning up her face, as and she tried to control her emotions. She just wanted to get Tess away from this pompous ass; he had already hurt her enough. She turned the chair around and started back to Tess' room.

Amanda looked at her husband with a new understanding of his relationship with his older daughter. Now she finally understood why Tess was motivated to strike out at her father, and she couldn’t blame her. She thought of her own ten-year old, shuddering at what an experience like that would do to her.

"I can’t believe you did that to your own child."

"You have to understand, I was young. I couldn’t even be sure she was mine. Was I supposed to just take her mother’s word that the child was mine?"

"You took my word that Megan was yours."

"That was different, you were my wife."

"Did you have any reason to believe it wasn’t your baby?"

"I wasn’t ready for the responsibility of a child. It was easier to let myself believe I wasn’t her father."

Amanda started to walk away. "I need to get away from here for a while. I’ll be back later."

Tucker watched her walk away, wondering if things would ever be the same again. He had a lot to think about too.



Tess climbed out of the chair and sat on the edge of the bed. She was used to attacks, but this was the first time anyone had ever come to her defense. She reached for Samantha and pulled her close. Tears started to flow as she buried her face in the silken tresses. "Thank you," she whispered, as she held on tightly. They stayed like that for long moments until the pain of sitting upright forced Tess to release Samantha and lie back down. Reaching for a slender hand, she pulled the young woman down to sit on the edge of the bed, then raised the hand to her lips. "I love you," she said, kissing the knuckles, then closed her eyes as the hand opened and caressed her cheek. Turning into the caress, she pressed her lips into the soft palm. "More than words can express."

Samantha wiped away the tears running down Tess' face; tears that were caused from a mix of emotions. Anger and hurt from the stinging words of her father, and joy from the love and support of her friend, her soulmate. "I love you too," she said as she leaned down for a kiss.

Samantha’s stomach picked that moment to growl loudly.

"When was the last time you ate?"

"This morning."

"You have to be starved. Why didn’t you eat?"

"I promised you I’d be here when you woke up and I was afraid if I left to get something you’d wake up and I wouldn’t be here. You were feeling so awful this morning after the harvest I didn’t want you to be alone."

"Well, I’m feeling better now, and I want you to go get something to eat, then go home and get some rest."

Samantha did not want to leave Tess right now. She knew how emotionally vulnerable the tall woman was at the moment. What if that scum-sucking father of hers decided to pay her a visit? "You don’t have to worry about me starving, and I have no intention of going home to that empty apartment before I have to. I like it better here with you."

Tess smiled. "I like it better with you here too, but I want you to go get something to eat."

Samantha started to protest, but the tall woman put her finger to her lips to silence her.

"Please, Hon, go get something. I’m fine." She smiled again, "Just don’t bring it back here to eat. My stomach can’t take the smell of food right now."

Realizing she was not going to win this battle, Samantha reluctantly agreed to go get something to eat. "Okay you win, I’ll go eat, but I’m coming back." She leaned in for another quick kiss then turned and left the room.



Tucker sat alone watching his little girl sleep. He thought about this precious child. What if it had been Amanda back then and he had shut Megan out of his life. When he looked at it like that, the full impact of what he had done to his older daughter hit home. "My God, If someone had done to Megan what I did to Tess, I’d kill ‘em." Finally…he understood.

Megan stirred and he watched as the hazel eyes fluttered, then opened. "Hi Sweetie." He reached into the plastic arm-length gloves and stroked her face. He missed being able to feel her smooth skin, but for now this was the best he could do. "There’s something I need to tell you." He paused a moment to gather his thoughts. "When I was young, I had another little girl. She grew up without a father because I was irresponsible and refused to take care of her. I'm telling you this now because you have a right to know your sister." He looked away for a moment when he felt her little hand squeeze his through the plastic glove.

"It’s Tess isn’t it?" She looked at him with questioning eyes.

Nodding he asked, "How did you know?"

"Doctor Davies told me that brothers and sisters have the best chance for a match. She matched." She studied him a moment then added, "I’m glad she’s my sister, I like her a lot."




Tess lay in bed waiting for Samantha to get back from the cafeteria. A smile crossed her face as she heard approaching footsteps, but it quickly faded as she turned to see Tucker. Turning away to study the ceiling, she did not even acknowledge his presence.

A lot had happened between the two of them over the years, and Tucker knew the wounds were deep on both sides. He knew now that Tess had been right when she came to him and said she didn’t want to waste her life with hate anymore. He just couldn’t see it at the time.

"Don’t worry, I won’t stay long. I just wanted to let you know that I told Megan that you’re her sister. I won’t stand in the way if you want to have a relationship with her."

Tess turned puzzled blue eyes toward her father as he spoke. "Why?" She asked suspiciously.

"Because for the first time today I realized just how much I hurt you. Those wounds are old and deep, and have been allowed to fester for far too long."

"What made you realize that now?"

"When your friend talked about you as a ten-year old child, Megan’s age, I realized I’d want to kill anyone who would hurt her that deeply." He walked to the foot of the bed and stood a moment, watching the floor. Then he turned to look out the window, keeping his gaze anywhere but on his eldest daughter.

"When you called me, it was just an annoyance. I didn’t know you, or care about you. You may not believe this, but it never occurred to me at that time that you would be hurt so deeply. In my eyes, I was as much a stranger to you, as you were to me." He turned back to face her, his eyes sad. "Until today, I had forgotten the incident even happened. Having Megan has made me more aware of how deeply children can be hurt. I’m sorry for the hurt I caused you, and if you’re still willing I’d like to join you in that truce."

"I’m willing," she said, and held out her hand. "I've grown to love my sister, and want very much to have a relationship with her. You’re her father and I don’t want to put her in the middle of a war between us."

Tucker reached out and grasped her hand firmly. "Agreed."


Samantha couldn’t believe her eyes when she walked through the door and saw Tucker standing by Tess’ bed. Quickly she crossed the room and positioned herself between the man and his daughter.

"It’s okay, Samantha, we’ve called a truce," Tess said, as she reached out and patted her arm. "Tucker was just leaving."

"Yes, I do need to get back to Megan." He turned and left the room.

Samantha turned a puzzled gaze to the reclining woman to make sure she was all right. "What did he want?"

"Well it seems, my love, that you got through to him. Not only did he call a truce, he told Megan that I’m her sister." She patted the bed inviting the little blonde to sit. "You know, I was thinking about us while you were gone. Things were just starting to come together for us when this situation with Megan came up." She reached out and took a small hand in her own and squeezed gently. "I know I’ve been preoccupied with her, and I want to thank you for being so patient."

Samantha returned the squeeze. "Hey, I signed up for the duration. I love you, and I understand your sister needs you."

"Just the same, thank you." She smiled at the young woman. "Know what I want?"


"You, me, a cabin in the mountains. I want to spend an entire weekend alone with you. What do you say?" Tess wiggled her eyebrows.

"Oh, Tess, I would love to get away, just the two of us."

Tess pulled her closer for a kiss. She ran her tongue over soft lips, then nibbled her way along the young woman’s jaw.

Samantha reluctantly pulled away. "Ah, Ah, Ah, now be good." She slapped Tess’ hand away playfully.

Tess turned over to grab the little blonde again and was reminded by shooting pain just where she was. "Okay, I’ll be good, for now. But I really did mean it when I said I want to take you away for a weekend. Give me a couple of weeks and were going to take that trip to the mountains, that’s a promise." She winked at Samantha.

"That’s a promise I intend to collect."

"I’m counting on that," the tall woman said, as a yawn overtook her.

"You’re exhausted, Tess. You get some sleep and I’ll be back first thing in the morning." She leaned over for one last kiss.

Chapter Thirteen: It's Hard to be Good

Tess pushed the hospital tray away and sighed. She had been able to eat a little Jello, and the water went down with no problem. Thank goodness that awful nausea seemed to be gone. She got out of bed and grabbed the rolling rack that held her IV fluids and padded to the bathroom. The pain was not too bad she decided, and she thought about skipping the next pain medication to see what would happen.

Nurse Sinclair, a friendly round faced woman, greeted her as she exited the bathroom. "How would you like me to get rid of this for you?" she said, tapping the IV bag hanging on the rack.

"That would be great. I hate having to drag it with me everywhere." The tall woman padded back to the bed and held out her arm obligingly.


Samantha arrived to find Tess getting dressed. The IV hookup had been removed, and the tall woman was moving around unencumbered. "How are you feeling this morning?" she asked as the beautiful woman turned and flashed a radiant smile.

"A little sore, but otherwise, pretty darn good," the smile broadened. "I been sprung!" Tess wrapped her arms around Samantha. "I missed you," she said, dipping her head for a welcoming kiss. "Thank goodness I'm getting out of here."

Tess had spent her adult life alone, and it had never bothered her before, but now the nights seemed endless. When the time was right, she planned to ask this precious woman to move in with her. She draped her arm across Samantha’s shoulders. "Shall we?" she said, indicating the door with her other hand.

"Where do you think you’re going?" the round faced nurse said, as she pushed a wheel chair into the room.

Tess looked at the chair. "I can walk out under my own steam."

"Hospital policy states that we have to take you out in a chair," the nurse said, with her hands on her hips. "Now get in."

"You’re a regular Nurse Ratchet," Tess grumbled, but she sat in the chair.

"Good girl. I didn’t want to have to rough you up," Nurse Sinclair said smiling broadly. She started pushing the chair while Samantha followed them out the door.

"Could we make a slight detour?" Tess asked as they approached Megan’s room. "I’d like to check on my sister before I go."

Nurse Sinclair smiled. "I figured you might. You stay as long as you want, just buzz me when you’re ready."

"I think I’ll go get a cup of coffee and let you visit with Megan for a little while," Samantha said. "She just found out she has a sister. You two need some time alone."




Megan smiled as she saw her sister being pushed into her room. This woman had become so special to her over the last couple of weeks. She truly seemed to care about her and never missed a day to visit. Your parents are different - they have to come - but Tess didn’t, and she came anyway. She had made the little girl feel special, and it was wonderful to have someone to talk to that loved horses as much as she did. It had been a shock to find out Tess was her sister, but it was a very welcome surprise.

"Hi big sister," Megan said as Nurse Sinclair parked the chair next to the bed and left them alone.

"Hi little sister," Tess replied. "Kind of a shock, huh?"

"Why didn’t you tell me you were my sister?" the little girl asked looking up into clear blue eyes.

"Your father didn’t want you to know."

"Our father"

"No, it takes more than fathering a child to be a father. He’s not my father, but he is yours and you love him, I respect that." The tall woman smiled. "You, on the other hand, can’t get out of it. You’re my sister, and you’re stuck with me." Tess reached into the plastic glove and took the child’s hand. "I know we haven’t known each other very long, but I’ve grown to care very much about you, and I wanted to tell you I’m really happy you’re my sister."

"Me too," the little girl blinked teary eyes and smiled. "I love you, Tess."

"I love you too little Sis," Tess said, as she squeezed a small hand.




The next morning found Tess feeling a lot better. The major pain was gone, leaving just a dull ache unless she tried to sit for too long. Walking did not seem to bother her at all, but she did seem to get tired a bit easier. Pretty good for only two days, she thought. "I think I’m going to go to work today," she said to the little blonde sitting across the breakfast table." Samantha had insisted on staying with her to take care of her, but she had stayed in the guestroom. Tess was not sure if she was just not quite ready for the next step in their intimacy, or if she was just worried about hurting her. To tell the truth, she was afraid to find out just yet.

"Can’t you take it easy just one more day?" Samantha replied. "Doctor Davies said to wait three to four days."

"But I feel pretty good, and I get stir crazy just laying around all day."

"What if I lay around with you?" Samantha asked.

"Oh, I like the sound of that." Tess wiggled her eyebrows. "Come to think of it, I have been sitting up too long. Perhaps we should go lie down and you can…distract me." Tess held out her hand to the little blonde.

"That's not what I meant by laying around, Tess, now you be good."

Tess smiled. "I'm trying to be good." She sighed. Perhaps Samantha was not ready. She had promised not to push her, and she wouldn't, but she didn't see any harm in a little flirting. When the young woman was ready for the next step in their relationship, Tess was sure she would let her know.

Samantha blushed. She really did think she was ready to take their relationship to a more intimate level, but she wanted their first real time together to be right. She didn't want to have to worry about hurting Tess. She leaned over and kissed the tall woman. "You be good just a little bit longer love. I promise it will be worth the wait. Now let's go find a movie to watch, and do the type of laying around that I'm sure won't hurt you."

"Yes ma'am," Tess said, following along like a little puppy dog.


Chapter Fourteen: A Night to Remember




Samantha sat at her drafting table letting the last few weeks replay in her mind. Tess had been so attentive and sweet. And romantic, she reminded herself. When Tess just spoke her name she would tremble, and at night when Tess would go home the emptiness engulfed her. Nothing had happened beyond cuddling and kissing and Samantha had gotten comfortable with the physical closeness again. She wanted to be with this woman always and not just a few evenings a week. Tess had respected her wishes to take it slow, but now the young woman was ready to take the next step. Picking up the phone, she dialed the familiar number.

"Tess Richmond speaking."

The rich resonate tones were music to her ear and Samantha could feel her heart rate speeding up. "Hi, how’s your day going?" She said, trying to pull her thoughts together.

"Much better now," Tess said, a smile coming to her face at the sound of her beloved’s voice. "It always brightens up my day to hear your voice."

"These last few weeks you’ve been taking me out and wining and dining me. It's been great, but I want to cook you a nice romantic dinner tonight." Samantha paused, "just the two of us. My cramped little apartment doesn’t really lend itself to a romantic evening, so how about I do it at your place? I promised that if you were good, I would make it worth the wait. Well, you've been good…" Samantha paused. "I want tonight to be special." Samantha was blushing, and she was glad Tess could not see her.

There was a long pause on the line as Tess tried to fathom the implications of Samantha’s words and tone of voice. "That sounds wonderful Hon," Tess purred. "I can’t wait."

"Can I drop by and pick up your key so I can get in early and have everything done by the time you get home?"

"Sure, I’ll run down the street and have an extra key made for you. Perhaps if you have your own key, you’ll feel more at home there." Perhaps you’ll even consider moving in, she thought, relishing the idea of the beautiful woman sleeping in her arms every night.

"Okay, I guess I’d better finish up here so I can get my shopping done and get over to pick up the key. I love you."

"I love you too. I just wish I had the words to tell you how much."

"I know how much, I can feel it when you look at me. I can’t explain how, but I do. See you in a little while."

"Until then…"

Samantha hung up the phone. Just the thought of tonight made her tingle all over with anticipation. It felt good to feel this way again.


Tess spent the afternoon pacing around her office. She couldn’t keep her mind on business, no matter how much she tried. All she could think about was tonight, and Samantha. It was pure torture to have to wait. Patience had never been one of her strong suits, and this waiting was driving her crazy. She paced to the window again, sighing as she gazed out at nothing. A small voice behind her brought her out of her thoughts, and she turned to find Samantha standing in her doorway.

"Your secretary said you wanted me to come right in." Samantha said, closing the door behind her.

"We're still on for tonight?"

"Of course, silly, I've got my car packed with groceries. All I need is my key." My key, I like the sound of that.

Smiling, Tess reached into her pocket and retrieved the key. "Is this what you need, hmmmm?" She took Samantha’s hand and placed the key in her palm closing her fingers around it. "My place, is your place, and I hope that soon we can make it a permanent arrangement." Lifting the clasped hand to her lips she brushed them across the young woman’s knuckles. "I love you, Samantha." She leaned her forehead against the young woman’s. "Forever and ever."

"Forever and ever," Samantha repeated as she circled her arms around the tall woman with a sigh.


Samantha didn’t have a lot of experience in cooking. She hadn’t lived on her own that long, and at home she never had to cook. She did enjoy cooking though, it was just not much fun only cooking for one. There was a recipe for a chicken and rice dish that she liked very much. She had only fixed it once before and found it was quick and easy to prepare, which was a big plus. Some steamed broccoli and a green salad and she would have a nice, well-balanced meal. She had discovered that Tess seemed to be happy to try new things, so she had no fear that she would not enjoy whatever was served. After all, it wasn’t what she served, but how it was presented that was important. Samantha had bought a lovely lace tablecloth with a delicate pale mauve pattern. To go with it were two soft gray candles, and a beautiful flower arrangement. The table was perfect, the lights were dimmed, dinner was ready, all that was lacking was Tess. Samantha had timed the trip from Tess’ office to her house. It had taken her fifteen minutes, but that had not been driven in the evening rush. She allowed extra time for that and thought it should take about twenty-five minutes, give or take a minute or two. She glanced at her watch again, and found that it had been thirty minutes since Tess called to say she was on her way home. Not anxious at all are you Samantha, she thought to herself.



Tess hung up the phone and smiled. She liked the idea of going home to Samantha. It just felt… right.

A quick stop to pick up a dozen long stemmed red roses, then home, to Samantha. The florist shop was right on the way home, so the stop would not cause much of a delay. She walked in the shop and saw a huge container filled with roses. She caught the eye of the woman behind the counter and pointed to the red ones.

"Beautiful choice." The sales woman said. "How many did you need?"

Tess started to answer, when a small crystal bud vase caught her eye. In it was a single lavender rose. In her mind she saw the vision of Samantha in that beautiful lavender dress she wore that first time she took her out dancing; it was perfect. "I’ve changed my mind, I want the lavender rose in the crystal vase.




Samantha heard the hum of the garage door opening. Tess was home. She dimmed the lights in the dining room and lit the candles, then went to the door in the kitchen that led into the garage. When Tess opened the door she saw Samantha’s beautiful face beaming at her. She returned the smile and brought a rose from behind her back. "For you."

"Oh it’s beautiful," Samantha said as she pressed her nose to the petals taking in the delicate fragrance. "Thank you." She raised up on her tiptoes and kissed Tess on the cheek. Turning she took Tess’ hand, pulling her toward the dining room. "Come on, I want you to eat while it’s still hot."

"Something sure smells good," Tess said, following Samantha into the dining room. Soft music played in the background setting a sweet romantic mood. "My table has never looked this good, it needed your touch." Tess drew the young woman into her arms. "Almost as much as I do." She leaned down for a quick kiss, but couldn’t bring herself to let it end.

"I’m glad you like it," Samantha said coming up for air.

"Very much." Tess reluctantly escorted Samantha to the table and seated her, then took a seat herself. For the first time her house really felt like a home. She scooped up some of the chicken and rice and passed the dish to Samantha. "This looks wonderful."

"I hope you like it," Samantha replied, passing the steamed broccoli.

Taking a bite Tess nodded her head. "Just as wonderful as it looks."

"I think you’re a little biased, but thank you." Samantha said tasting a bite herself.

"Oh I’m definitely more than a little biased, I admit it." Tess flashed a radiant smile at her lovely dinner companion. "But it really is good." She took another bite, and chewed thoughtfully. "Remember that weekend in the mountains I promised you?"

"Mmmm," Samantha answered, around a mouthful of food.

"How about this weekend," she said, watching Samantha's eyes sparkle with excitement.

"That would be perfect," Samantha said, "I'd love it.




Swallowing her last bite, Tess leaned her elbows on the table and placed her chin on her hands. She watched Samantha as she finished her meal, and wiped her face with her napkin. Such an ordinary thing, yet she was mesmerized.

"What are you staring at?" Samantha said as she licked her fingers.

"You. I love to watch you."

"I’m sure it must be a beautiful sight, watching me wipe my face, and lick my fingers." Samantha rolled her eyes and laughed at the thought. "I’m sure you’ve entertained women here that were a lot more beautiful to look at than I am."

The tall woman’s face became very serious for a moment. She knew what the young woman meant by ‘entertained.’ "I have never brought a woman here for sex. That’s what you’re talking about aren’t you?" She watched as the little blonde silently nodded her head. "You know that I’ve had sex with a lot of women, that’s no secret, but I never loved any of them, never wanted to bring any of them to my home. "I love you, Samantha, everything about you, everything."

The young woman smiled from ear to ear. "I’m glad you let me into your heart and home.

"I really loved coming home tonight, knowing you’d be here waiting for me." Tess said as she reached out to cover her companion’s hand. "It was the perfect way to end the day, coming home to you." She lifted the small hand to her lips, kissing the tip of each finger.

"You cooked, so I’ll clean up," Tess said as she stood with her empty plate, and reached for Samantha’s. She smiled over her shoulder as she carried the dirty dishes to the kitchen.

Samantha followed the tall woman into the kitchen, and found her rinsing the dishes to put into the dishwasher. She walked up behind Tess, wrapping her arms around her and nuzzling into her back. "Can’t these wait ‘til later?" The young woman said, squeezing tightly.

"Yes," the tall woman said as she turned in the young artist’s embrace. Taking the beloved face into her hands, Tess softly said, "How did I get so lucky?" She leaned down to nibble on Samantha’s ear and brought a hand down to caress a soft round breast. "I love you."

When Samantha gently pushed her away, the tall woman froze. Had she misinterpreted the young woman’s intentions for this evening? Fear gripped her heart; she would rather be flogged then push her young love into something she was not ready for.

"Samantha, I’m sorr…"

Small fingers touched her lips, silencing her. " Shhh, I want you Tess, but I’m in charge this time." Reaching down she laced their fingers together, bringing the long slim fingers to her mouth and kissing them gently. With their hands still clasped, she turned and led her tall lover out of the kitchen and toward the stairs.

Tess followed along like a lovesick puppy, happily relinquishing her normal role as the aggressor. She realized this was not a sexual conquest - it was making love - a totally new experience for her.

Samantha stopped in front of the bed, and turned to face her lover. Reaching up she cupped Tess’ cheek, and felt an involuntary tremor run through the tall woman’s body. Her heart started racing as her lover closed her eyes and pressed her lips into the young woman’s palm. She wound her fingers in the short black tresses, pulling Tess down and capturing her lips. She felt strong arms encircle her body, then slip down to her rounded behind, pulling her tight against the tall woman’s body and squeezing gently. Now it was her turn to shiver. Untangling her trembling fingers from her lover’s hair, Samantha began to unbutton Tess’ blouse, kissing the exposed skin as it appeared.

Tess had never experienced anything close to the excitement building in her body. When she felt the exquisite lips press against the exposed skin of her breasts she heard a moan, and realized it was her own voice.

Samantha pushed the offending cloth off the beautiful broad shoulders of the woman she loved, and reached around behind her to unhook the last obstacle to her lovers breasts. As the bra fell to the floor, she gasped at the sight of the wonderful full breasts that in their aroused state seemed to be reaching out to her. She looked up into incredibly blue eyes, clouded with passion. "You’re so beautiful."

Strong hands gripped Samantha's head and guided her to a breast, aching with need. "Yesss, Samantha, yes," Tess said, as she felt the warm, wet mouth close over an erect nipple. Her knees began to give way. "I can’t stand up any longer," she said clutching the young woman’s shoulders for support.

Samantha reluctantly released the breast she was making love to, and knelt before the aroused woman. She began to remove the rest of the concealing garments that were keeping her away from her lover’s need. Once the task was complete, she stood up and stepped a few paces away to take in the breathtaking sight of Tess in all her glory. Smiling seductively, she began to remove her own garments, enjoying the smoldering look of desire in her lover’s eyes.

Tess watched Samantha disrobe with barely controlled passion. It was all she could do to keep from tossing her on the bed and ravishing her. She had never wanted anyone in her life as much as she wanted this woman. When the young beauty held out her hand, Tess nearly flew into her arms, drawing the delicious nude body to her and nuzzling into the sweetly scented blonde hair. There were no words that could express the depth of love she felt for this precious woman, yet she felt the need to try to tell her. "I love you, I love you…" she whispered over and over, as her hands roamed down the lovely bare back, settling on Samantha’s firm round behind. "Mmmm, you have a great butt, you know that? So soft and squeezable." She accentuated the last word with a gentle squeeze.

"You could turn a girl’s head with that kind of flattery," Samantha said as she pushed the tall woman onto the bed, landing on top of her.

The feel of the beautiful nude body on top of her was sheer heaven. Wrapping her arms around Samantha, Tess flipped them over, so that she was on top. With a hand on each side of the lovely face beneath her, she leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, then her nose, and finally her lips. "I said before that coming home to you was the perfect way to end the day, but I was wrong. Nothing could be more perfect then making love with the other half of my soul. I love you, Samantha, I hope I never disappoint you."

Samantha saw the tremble of her lover’s chin as she spoke those final words, and she tightened her embrace around the tall woman. "Just never stop loving me, Tess…"

"Never." The tall woman dipped her head to nibble and suck on an inviting neck. She could feel the rapid heart beat as her lips brushed the pulse point, feel the erratic breathing. Tess had to will herself to slow down, to be gentle and tender. Her only goal, to please the only person in her life she had ever loved. She slid off the little blonde to lay on her side. Propping herself up on an elbow, she drank in the beauty before her. "You’re so perfect," she said, running her hand lightly over the flat belly, then up to cup an inviting breast. "I’ve never wanted anything in my life more then to make love with you, to pleasure you." She bent down and kissed the breast she was holding then gazed into the intense green eyes watching her. "I love you. No matter how many times I say it, it’s not enough."

Samantha rolled over to face her lover, and leaned in to capture those enticing lips. She pushed Tess onto her back again, reclaiming her position on top, as their tongues danced together. She slid down the writhing body, slowly making her way to her lover’s breasts. "So beautiful," she whispered, as she lowered her mouth, licking and nipping around the edge of the aching nipple, before sucking it into her mouth with a moan.

Tess arched her back, pushing her breast harder into her lover’s mouth, as her fingers entwined in the long golden hair. The soft moans coming from Samantha as she made love to her breasts were intoxicating, and Tess lost herself in them. She shut her eyes tightly and let the sounds and sensations engulf her, carrying her with them, soaring to heights she had never dreamed possible.

Samantha moved until she had better access to her lovers beautiful body, without releasing the breast she was caressing. She ran her fingers through dark curls, and long legs parted in invitation. She brushed a finger along the wet folds, and was rewarded with a gasp, as Tess clutched her firmly to her breasts in a death grip. Over and over she let her fingers brush against her lovers most private place, and felt strong hips thrust up to meet them. Then she pushed inside the slick, inviting warmth of Tess’ inner depths, her fingers matching the rhythm of her lover, thrust for thrust.

"Oh God, Samantha, yesss." Tess gasped, as she tossed her head back and forth frantically. "Mmmmm," she groaned softly through gritted teeth as she felt the orgasm pulse to life, her inner muscles gripping and releasing her lover’s fingers. Her body stiffened, and she felt wave after wave wash over her. When it ended, she collapsed back down on the bed. Pulling Samantha in for a fierce hug, she was overcome with emotion, and found herself sobbing into the younger woman’s neck, "I love you, forever and ever."

Raising up on her elbows, Samantha kissed the tears from Tess’ cheek. "Forever and ever," she echoed with a sigh. She laid her head down on her lover’s chest, trying to calm the rush of emotions that flooded her as she had watched her lover surrender to her touch. God how I love this woman, she thought, closing her eyes, and breathing in the heady sent of her beautiful lover.

For the first time in her life, Tess felt truly whole, and complete. "You’re amazing," she said as she ran her fingers through golden tresses.

Samantha pushed herself up to where she was straddling the tall woman. "You’re pretty amazing yourself." She said, as her hands began a slow survey of her lover’s breasts.

"Oh no, any more and I will melt into a puddle." Tess said as she stilled the small hands. Gripping Samantha by the waist, she lifted the small woman, tossing her to the side, then rolling over to capture a soft pink nipple in her mouth. The smell of her lover’s arousal was intoxicating, and she nibbled her way down the beautiful body seeking to savor the taste as well.

Samantha realized she could not hold back her release as soon as she felt her lovers tongue enter her. She tried to slow down the building orgasm to no avail. Gripping Tess’ shoulders, she just let go and lost herself to her lover’s touch.

Climbing back up next to the beautiful blonde, Tess pulled her into her arms and held her. Samantha snuggled closer and Tess could feel her breathing slow to the quiet rhythm of sleep. She knew she wanted to end each day for the rest of her life with this precious woman in her arms. "Forever and ever." She whispered, and kissed the golden head as she closed her eyes, and let sleep claim her as well.




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