Janney, Kirks and Krueloe, Pioneer Union Square Plaza,
SW 6th Avenue, Portland, Oregon
“Miss Peregrym;” Kate called, almost before she pressed the button for the intercom on her desk; “What’s next?”
“You have a walk-in.” Her secretary answered. “There’s a Professor Connor her to see you.”
Kate started to ask her secretary to send the newcomer in, but then thought better of it. “Tell them I’ll meet them in the conference room.”
When Kate opened the door to the conference room, the tall golden blonde woman seated at the table leaped to her feet.
Kate stopped dead in her tracks in the doorway, her eyes going wide with recognition.
Then her eyes narrowed and she continued past the conference table to the adjoining break room.
“What do you think you’re doing here?” She asked, her face and voice strained but emotionless, wasting no time in stepping up behind the break room’s minibar and beginning the process of mixing herself a drink.
The other woman opened her mouth to reply, but before she could speak, Kate continued, her eyes cold but flashing with fire nevertheless.
“What do you want?” She demanded.
The blonde closed her mouth and sat back down. “You’re upset.”
Kate burst out with a mirthless chuckle as she stirred the ice cubes in her glass. “Oh no!” She lifted the stirring stick out of the drink. “No, no, no, no, no!” She waved the stirring stick in the air like an extension of her finger. “Upset was five years ago.” The blonde averted her eyes, not meeting her glare. “I am way past upset.”
“Might it help if I said I can explain?” The woman asked.
Kate guffawed derisively, taking a swig of her drink, sitting down at the table, putting her feet up on the tabletop and leaning back in her chair. “This should be an entertaining explanation!”
The woman again opened her mouth, but Kate was on a roll.
“Explain to me, Sam, how and why you brainwashed and manipulated me mentally manipulated me for years and never said anything about it.” She took another swig of her drink, swirling the ice around to wet her lips before continuing. “Explain why putting your thoughts in someone else’s mind is acceptable.”
The woman said nothing, allowing her to rant.
“Explain to me why sexually seducing a teenage girl into falling helplessly, hopelessly in love with you and then proceeding to manipulate her using a combination of orgasms and telepathy into becoming your own personal play toy.” Having drained the glass she slammed it down on the table hard enough that one or both might have broken. “Explain manipulating a young girl’s emotions to make her do things that haunt her nightmares for years by putting your thoughts into her head telepathically without telling her you’re doing it.” Her chest heaving, nostrils flaring, she finally fell silent, her ice-blue eyes shooting frozen icicles like icy daggers across the table at the blonde.
“I didn’t tell you what I was doing;” Sam said slowly; “Because I didn’t know I was doing it.”
Kate looked incredulous. “I found out.” She said sardonically.
“Shortly after I did.” Sam nodded. “And even when I found out what I was doing;” She clarified; “I still could not have explain to you how it was I was doing it.”
“But you can now.” Kate crossed her arms over her chest.
Sam nodded. “You already knew about the other…oddity of my unique physiology.” She began, hedging hesitantly.
Kate nodded. “You don’t age.” She summarized.
“I do.” Sam clarified, shrugging her shoulders. “Just very gradually.”
Kate nodded. “You told me it was a family trait, inherited from your mother.”
Sam nodded. “As is that same case with this, as it turns out.”
Kate’s eyes narrowed again dubiously. “So you’re telling me that Hera can…” She trailed off, gesturing with the glass in her hand against the side of her head.
Sam nodded. She could understand Kate’s skepticism.
Kate had, after all, known her own godmother since she was born.
In that time, Hera Day had never given any indication that she might be telepathic.
Kate was silent for a long minute, studying Sam scrupulously. Her eyes widened somewhat at seeing that Sam was serious about what she was saying.
But then she threw up her hands, standing up from the table.
“I can’t do this here.” She exclaimed, starting toward the door. She paused with her hand on the door handle and turned around. “What else can you do?”
Sam did not answer aloud, but Kate heard the word “This” echo as if in stereo, as Sam demonstrated by opening her hand on the tabletop and Kate jumped, her eyes going wide as they traced the path of her glass as it slid across the table and into Sam’s waiting hand.
Then she stood and stepped forward, effortlessly lifting the glass, metal and stone table out of her way with one hand.
Kate’s hand had dropped from the door handle and as Sam stepped up to stand toe-to-toe directly in front of her, she pressed her back against the glass of the door, her eyes wide as expressions of fascination and fear fought fiercely back and forth across her features. “You told me it was your suit.” Kate murmured, looking Sam up and down.
Sam nodded. “That was what I thought that it was then too.”
Kate meandered over as if in a trance to drop into her chair again, now sans table. “All right.” She said slowly. “I’m listening.” Sam smiled appreciatively. “How did you find out it wasn’t the suit?”
“I was caught one day when I wasn’t wearing it.” Sam answered vaguely. “And I was able to do some things…” She shrugged. “And then mother told me everything.”
Kate nodded understandingly, even though she was not entirely certain she did. “You never answered my question.” She said after a moment, having collected herself together. “What are you doing here?”
“After mother told me what I was… Who I am;” She amended herself; “I took a long time alone.” She walked over to look out the window at the snowcapped peak of Mount Hood to the North across the Multnomah River Valley. “With my abilities;” She looked down at her hands as though she were still getting accustomed to being in her own body; “I recognized that I could do anything I wanted, have anything I wanted, and there was no one to stand in my way.” Kate nodded to herself, having witnessed Sam’s demonstration of her superhuman power and recognizing the truth of her words. “So I took a lot of time all by myself, thinking long and hard about what it was, exactly, that I wanted the most.”
“Which brings us right back to my second question;” Kate said, prompting Sam to turn away from the window; “What do you want?”
Sam smiled as she strode toward Kate. Standing in front of her, a chair slid as though of its own volition up behind her and she sat down. “After many days all alone, I at last realized;” Reaching forward, she startled Kate by taking both of her hand in hers; “What I wanted was you.” The earnestness in Sam’s expression precluded Kate from pulling back her hands. “I want you, Kitty Kat;” Sam said earnestly, her eyes meeting hers deeply; “More than anything.”
Kate finally managed to tear her eyes away from Sam’s averting her gaze and hanging her head.
Sam squeezed her fingers, drawing Kate’s gaze back to her eyes. “I could have anything and anyone, I might possibly want;” She told her; “and what I want is you.” Sam withdrew only when she saw Kate’s eyes tear up.
“I spent so long being so mad at you.” Kate sobbed, the tremble in her voice spreading from her lips to her body. “But I never stopped loving you.” She closed her eyes tightly, squeezing out tears that ran down her quivering cheeks. “I tried so hard to hate you.” She shook her head; half lifting her hands in Sam’s to reach her head, half lowering her head to her hands. “I spent so many years convincing myself that you left me with no choice but to be your lover.” She sniffled, pressing their joined hands against her brow. “But the truth is;” She lifted her face back to Sam’s; “I really did fall in love with you.”
They stood together and as if organically all on their own, their lips came together ever so gently.
Sam felt salty tears stinging the corners of her own eyes as their lips parted. “I’m sorry.” She murmured, their foreheads still pressed together, their eyes closed. “I know I hurt you. I didn’t mean to.”
“I know.” Kate reassured her.
“I know I hurt you;” Sam repeated; “And I am so sorry.” Sam released Kate’s hands from hers in order to wrap her arms around Kate’s hips and the second time when their lips met, there was no tentativeness.
Kate, for her part, poured the entirety of her emotions, positive and negative alike, from the past five years into the kiss.
Sam smiled against Kate’s lips at the passion with which Kate kissed her and the next thing Kate knew, she had her suit jacket stripped off and her back pressed against the glass of the door before her mind caught up to coordinate with her hands to finally push Sam away.
When she did, however, I was lacking in conviction.
Kate was panting breathlessly, her chest heaving and her pupils dilated as in not time after faces separated she found herself lost once more in the depths of the mother-of-pearl orbs before her.
Sill in Sam’s arms, her legs wrapped around Sam’s waist, Sam turned around and then Kate was being laid on her back on the table.
Sam pounced on her, straddling Kate and pinning her hands above her head as she attacked her lips hungrily once again. She smiled, nipping Kate’s bottom lip between her kittenish even front teeth as she heard the younger redhead moan her name: “Ohhh! Sam!” Sam was kissing her again, but Kate shook her head, tearing her lips away from the onslaught.
Then, summoning every once of willpower she could muster and even still knowing not wherefrom the strength in her came to do so, Kate place her hands against Sam’s shoulder and pushed her slowly away.
“No!” Kate huffed, breathless. We shouldn’t—I can’t do this.” She corrected herself, recognizing from Sam’s flushed skin and heaving chest that there was nothing preventing the other woman from continuing. “I shouldn’t.”
Surprised at being spurned so abruptly after sensing such passion in her young former lover, Sam sat up, legs still straddling Kate’s hips.
“Not here.” Kate reached out to her side, slapping the button for the intercom with the palm of her hand. “Missy….” Her voice hissed as Sam, successfully tearing her away from Kate’s, buried her face in the neckline of Kate’s blouse where her shoulder joined the side of her neck.
“Yes, Miss Janney?” Peregrym replied after Kate fell silent for a long minute when Sam’s lips on her throat momentarily sucked the breath from her lungs.
“I’ll…be…going…to…take…my…lunch…break…early…today.” Kate panted as Sam worked her way down into the deeply plunging neckline of her blouse to her chest.
As she finished her sentence, with an audibly recalcitrant sigh of resignation, fearful of getting a hickey that it would be nearly impossible to disguise, Kate was finally forced to reach up and gently but firmly push Sam’s face away from her neck.
She sat up on the table, Sam handed the discarded jacket and she threw it on as she hopped off the tabletop and onto her feet.
Unable to tell if Sam’s lips had left a mark on the side of her neck in the poor reflection in the glass of the window, Kate took the precaution of tucking the collar of the jacket up to hide any marks from Sam’s lipstick on the side of her neck, combing her disheveled hair down straight over her shoulders with her fingers.
She seized the door handle with one hand and Sam’s hand with the other.
Opening the door and pulling her through, Kate half-dragged, half-led Sam across the law office and into the elevator before resuming where they left off almost before the doors closed behind them.
Hotel Vintage Monaco Plaza
SW Washington and SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon
The buzzing of Kate’s mobile vibrating on the bedside table prompted Kate to open her eyes and tear her mouth away from Sam’s. Disentangling her legs from Sam’s under the covers and tucking the razor-thin silk sheet loosely around her chest with one hand, she reached up blindly with the other and grappled to flick on the bedside lamp. Then, even as Sam set about tugging the sheet down out from under Kate’s hand and off of her chest, Kate grasped for the still-vibrating device. Picking it up, she fumbled to bring it close to her face.
She felt her eyelids growing heavy as Sam pressed her lips to the side of her throat, but blinked to clear the lust-clouded vision of her dilated pupils.
Reading the number and accompanying message, she cursed colorfully in a way that made Sam laugh aloud against the temple behind her ear.
Her thumb paused momentarily, hovering over the answer button as Sam kissed around her ear, nipping at her earlobe with kittenish teeth.
Then she was forced to lift her arm from her chest in order to bat Sam’s increasingly venturesome lips away as she brought the receiver to her ear. In doing so, she was forced to let go of the sheet, which promptly disappeared from view.
“What do you want?” Kate asked into the phone, a bit more forceful then she intended as her girlfriend wasted no time in burying her face in her chest.
“How was your lunch, ma’am?” Peregrym’s tone left little doubt she had at least some inkling what her supervisor had left the office early for.
“Delicioussss…” Her voice hissed with the breath from her lungs as her girlfriend worked the sheet and her kisses progressively lower. “Why do you ask?”
“Miss Pannabaker is due to arrive to see you within the hour, ma’am.” Peregrym told her.
“Did we have a meeting scheduled for this morning?” Kate wondered aloud
“No, Ma’am.” Candy answered, to the sound of shuffling pages. “Nothing on the calendar.”
“Did you ask her why she’s here?” Kate asked, trying to distract herself from Sam’s lips on the side of her neck.
“Yes, Ma’am.” Candy confirmed. “Miss Pannabaker says to tell you that they’ve decided to press additional charges.”
Kate Swore violently under her breath.
There was a long pause of dead air on the other end of the line.
“Was there something else, Candy?” Kate asked, rolling away from Sam
“It’s Miss Pannabaker, Ma’am.” Candy said hesitantly after a beat. “She brought along a… Guest with her.”
Her secretary’s difficulty in finding a word to describe the newcomer piqued both Kate and Sam’s curiosity. “Tell them I’ll be over as soon as I can.” She said, not giving her secretary a chance to reply before hanging up to prevent Peregrym from overhearing her squeal as Sam rolled her back onto her back and pounced on her, a sound silenced by her girlfriend’s lips capturing hers. “You know;” Kate looked down at the top of Sam’s head buried in her chest as Sam replaced where her lips had been minutes before under the covers with her fingers; “It occurs to me;” Her back arched involuntarily at Sam’s caresses; “That we never did actually get anything to eat.”
Sam chuckled as she worked her lips down to join her hands. “Work up an appetite, did we?”
Knowing what she did about Sam’s abilities, Kate couldn’t be certain whether the words had been heard by her ears or merely inside her mind.
She nodded. “Energy drinks;” She panted, her mind wandering as she struggled mightily to keep her ever exponentially more tenuous grip on coherent thought; “Sports drinks.” She gasped for breath as Sam’s lips closed over her throat. “My medulla oblongata is screaming!” She fell silent for a long time, her eyes drifting closed as she permitted herself to lose herself in Sam’s kisses and touch.
Then she finally rolled Sam off of her and sat up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Instinctively, nearly reflexively, she tucked the sheet tight around her chest.
“I’ve got to get back to work.” She said, intending to sound resolute, but in a tone that lacked conviction. She tilted her head to the side with a moan as Sam trailed kisses from her shoulder up the side of her neck.
“We!” Sam stated sternly, close into Kate’s ear, prompting Kate to turn in her direction. “We’re going back to the office.”
Kate’s eyes widened, one auburn eyebrow arching into her bangs.
“I lost you for five years.” Sam said, kissing her. “If you think I’m letting you out of my sight…” She trailed off as she trailed her lips back down to Kate’s clavicle.
Kate reached over to lift Sam’s face to hers, returning her kiss. “Maybe you should have thought about that;” She said; “Before you tore my blouse buttons.”
Janney, Kirks and Krueloe, Pioneer Union Square Plaza,
SW 6th Avenue, Portland, Oregon
Kate smiled as she saw the young brunette waiting outside the conference room door. “Thank you, Miss Peregrym.” She told her secretary. “We’ll take it from here.”
Candice gave Sam only a cursory glance and then only because Sam was staring at her wide-eyed.
“Candy is Candice Peregrym?” Sam murmured as they moved through the first set of doors to the conference room.
“You know her? Kate asked.
Sam had not realized that she had spoken the thought aloud and so the question caught her off guard. She paused in the doorway before shaking her head. “Not personally. Not really.”
Then they were passing through the second door into the conference room.
Kate recognized her client, Elisabeth Pannabaker. “My name is Katherine Janney;” She introduced herself primarily for the benefit of the teenage girl at Pannabaker side; “And this is Samantha Wells.” She gestured to Sam with a quick glance in her direction to ensure she was utilizing the correct pseudonym. “She’ll be… shall we say…auditing.”
“Doctor Janney, Miss Wells;” Pannabaker rose as did the girl beside her; “This morning I have the pleasure of introducing you to my protégé at the Alliance and its most beneficent benefactor, Miss—”
“Zoe Stark.” Sam interrupted her.
The girl studied the blonde for a long minute before a smile spread her lips: “We meet at last, Walker.”
Kate was staring at Sam. “You know her?”
Without taking her eyes from Zoe, Sam answered slowly. “I knew her father;” She smiled as she watched the girl’s eyes narrow to rock-hard slits; “Very, very, very well.”
Kate’s eyes narrowed as she searched the other woman’s face.
Then a stray memory seemed to click: A visit with Sam to her office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
“You don’t mean that this is… that she’s…” Kate swung back and forth between the two as they continued to stare hard at one another. She was cut off as Sam nodded affirmatively: “I’d like you to meet the youngest multi-billionaire in the world.” “Your father is Anthony Stark.” Kate said to Zoe, who smiled as she finally broke off her staring contest with Sam.
“The two of you have that in common, Katherine.” Sam told Kate as they all took their seats.
“What’s that?” Zoe was curious.
“Famous and powerful fathers.” Sam answered and Zoe turned to Kate.
“Doctor Janney…” She trailed off before her eyes widened. “Your father is Senator Alexander Janney?”
Zoe turned to Pannabaker beside her. “Are we sure this is the best attorney to represent us?”
“What do you mean?” Kate wondered.
“Oh, it has nothing to do with your skills as a lawyer.” Stark reassured her.
“Your record speaks for itself.” Pannabaker added. “It’s just that Senator Janney has been, at the best of times, antagonistic to say the least toward our organization, others like us and our interests.”
“We’re just concerned about the appearance of any…what do you lawyers call it? Conflict of interest, should our case ever go to court.” Zoe concluded.
Sam noticed Kate’s countenance noticeably chill as her clients spoke and when Stark had finished, she raised her hand.
“Two things.” She said, the tone of her voice making the coldness she affected even more chilling. “First and foremost, I promised Miss Pannabaker that I would represent you organizations’ case not just in front of a jury and a courtroom but in front of the nation and the world.” She looked at Liz, who nodded. “And to that I hold.” She stood from her chair, planting her hands on the table to emphasize her point. “Secondly, my father, the Senator, abandoned my mother, my sisters and I when I was eight years old in order to seek higher political office.” She looked down at Zoe. “Believe me when I say that I can assure you: There is no conflict.” She sat back down again and it was as though the dark cloud that had darkened the lights in the room for the past few minutes while she spoke had suddenly been blown away by a stiff breeze. “Now that that’s settled;” She said, her tone almost chipper by comparison to only moments earlier; “Shall we get down to business?”
All present, including and especially Sam, sat still for a long minute, stunned speechless by the transformation the woman in their midst had just affected. Then they all nodded.
“The message you left with James Prichardson stated that—”
“James Prichardson’s here too?” Stark asked, glaring at Sam, who waved her hand, indicating that this, was neither the time nor the place.
“You stated that the prosecution was adding yet another charge against your organization.” Kate continued slowly, again glancing back and forth between Sam and Zoe.
“And against myself in particular as well.” Pannabaker confirmed.
“What’s the charge?” Sam asked.
“It is something straight out of Plato’s Socrates.” Pannabaker scoffed, then after a moment: “Corruption of youth.”
Before she could even consciously think about it, Kate glanced over at Zoe and when she looked back at Pannabaker, she could see Liz nodding, confirming her unvoiced suspicion.
Kate’s eyes went wide as she recognized what, exactly, Pannabaker had meant when she had said that Zoe Stark was her “protégé”: The two women were, in fact, lovers, in much the same way that she and Sam had been when Kate was Zoe’s age. She thought of just how easily, had her and Sam’s relationship at that time ever become public knowledge, similar accusations may have been leveled against Sam for her “corruption” of Kate. “Are they charging you with…?” Kate’s voice choked on the words, her memory still swirling with all of the various activities she and Sam had engaged in during their five-year-long affair that others would have labeled, at best, “corrupted”.
“Pedophilia?” Pannabaker finished her sentence for her, snapping her fellow attorney back to the present. She shook her head. “It would be frivolous.”
“The legal documentation formalizing my inheritance of half of myth father’s monetary wealth upon my eighteenth birthday;” Zoe stark explained; “Proves that our relationship;” She glanced over at Pannabaker with an affectionate expression that was all too intimately familiar to Kate; “Began after I was legally emancipated as an adult.”
Kate, too, was looking at Pannabaker, her expression one of admiration: It was clear that her fellow lawyer across the table was indeed training her protégé very well.
“There’s no law against two consenting adults engaging in this sort of relationship either;” Sam spoke up; “So how is this new charge not equally frivolous as well?”
“It might have been.” Pannabaker replied. “Were it not for the lawyer for the prosecution who brought it.”
This piqued Kate’s interest.
“Anyone whose name I might know?” She asked.
“His name is Eli Levine.” Pannabaker told her.
Kate noted Sam sit straighter in her seat beside her and so turned to look over at her. “You’ve heard of him, I take it?” It was more a statement than a question.
Sam nodded slowly, and Kate could almost see the supercomputer that was the woman’s brain working behind her eyes. “A bit more than that, you could say.” She turned to return Kate’s expectant gaze. “Levine worked for my mother;” She turned back to glare at Stark; “Until very recently.” She added, her eyes narrowing. And what does he do now?” The question was uttered as a challenge and Stark sighed: “Eli Levine is chief counsel for Stark Industries.”
This did not seem to surprise Sam, who nodded with a knowing smile, her withering glare bearing down on Stark.
Kate, however, was surprised. “So the prosecution’s newest charge in their case against your organization;” She gestured to Pannabaker; “Was brought by a lawyer who works for your father?” The question was directed at Zoe, who nodded: “It can’t be coincidental that Tony found out about my relationship with Liz at the end of last month.” Kate noted how Zoe referred to her father by his first name: This made Kate think of the fact that her own father still had no idea his youngest daughter has ever been engaged in a relationship with another woman. “How?” She blurted before even thinking about it.
Zoe looked over at her lover with a rueful smirk. “I told him.”
“So now the case against you has Stark Industries’ legal machine behind it?” Sam whistled softly to herself as Pannabaker nodded, sharing her protégé’s rueful expression. “And what do you have on your side?” Sam asked.
“We have my half of the family fortune.” Zoe answered.
“And we have the best attorney West of Chicago.” Pannabaker added, smiling at Kate, who blushed.
“I don’t know about West of the Mississippi;” Sam spoke for her; “But the best in the Pacific Northwest? Definitely.”
Kate flushed bright red again at this praise from her own former lover. “James Prichardson is co-counsel on this case.” She muttered modestly.
“Well then!” Stark grinned. “In that case, we have the two best lawyers on the West coast working for us.”
Kate noticed Pannabaker shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “Something on your mind, Liz?”
“Janney, Kirks and Krueloe is a proud and prestigious firm;” The lawyer began, hedging; “And your track record both back in Boston and in Portland demonstrates you to be a potent and formidable attorney.”
“Get to the point, Miss Pannabaker.” Sam said.
“In response to the prosecution enlisting the considerable resources of Stark Industries at its disposal, our organization decided to enlist the services of outside counsel.”
“Who?” Kate asked, looking at her fellow lawyer.
“Her name is Charlotte Cardezza;” Pannabaker answered. “Of the California ACLU in Los Angeles.”
Kate turned to Sam, knowing she had lived in Southern California.
“Cardezza is a civil liberties and First Amendment attorney with the DA’s office. Sam explained and Kate’s ears perked up at the mention of the Lost Angeles District Attorney, wondering if her oldest sister had ever worked with Cardezza during her time with the LAPD.
“I’m sorry.” Kate said, shaking her head. “I don’t see this case as a First Amendment matter.”
Pannabaker nodded, acknowledging that Kate was coming from the background of her J.D. in Constitution Law from Harvard Law School and respecting her scholarly perspective.
“The Christian Family Values Conservative P-VAC has filed an Amicus Curiae brief stating in no uncertain terms the maintenance of the government’s legal standing against same-sex polygamy and woman-girl…lady relationships.” She smiled at Zoe, correcting herself by not calling the billionaire heiress a “girl”. “Cardezza is contending, on our behalf, therefore, that the outgoing Conservative Administration and Congressional Majority following the lead of the P-VAC on this matter constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause.” Pannabaker explained.
“So that’s what this meeting was really about.” Kate assessed tonelessly, her expression unreadable. “That is what you felt could not wait until after the holidays.”
Pannabaker nodded. “That and I wished for you to meet Zoe, since she is going to be playing such a pivotal role in your case moving forward;” Pannabaker smiled; “And I wanted her to meet you as I felt the two of you had a lot in common.”
Kate cocked her head to the side curiously. “I’m the youngest of three sisters, Zoe is an only child.” She pointed out. “Zoe’s father is a private industrialist from Malibu. Mine is a United States Senator from New Hampshire.”
“But you are both the heiresses to very wealthy and powerful families dating back generations.” Pannabaker countered.
“Technically;” Kate said; “My oldest sister Maryline would be the heiress.”
Pannabaker glanced over at Stark. “From what our sources tell us, Commander Neveu is not likely to return home to the States in the foreseeable future.”
Kate was taken aback and was just about to open her mouth to launch into demanding where Pannabaker had learned her oldest sister’s new identity, which was classified information, when Stark interrupted her mid-thought by asking: “I’ve been wondering;” She glanced at Sam, as though knowing that she was part of the answer to her question; “Where does the Janney family fortune come from?” Kate sat back hard in her chair, still glaring at Pannabaker. “The Janney’s are my mother’s side of the family.” She corrected. “The family fortune comes from my father’s side, from my paternal grandmother.”
“Where was she from?” Stark wondered. “What was her name?”
“She lives in France, near Paris.” Kate corrected, emphasizing her use of the present tense to refer to her grandmother, who was still very much alive. “Her name is Roseline;” She eyed Stark’s face for her reaction; “Roseline Saint Chlaire.”
As she had suspected might happen, she saw Stark’s eyes widen, indicating her familiarity with the name.
Janney should not have been surprised.
Only a very select few in the world knew the name “Roseline Saint Chlaire”, or even that the Saint Chlaire family even existed at all. The French family had kept their existence a tightly guarded secret since the religious imperialist wars that had wracked Western Europe in the eleventh century. Since going underground in the late eighth century, however, the Saint Chlaire family had been silently accruing wealth. Though no one quite knew how much money the family actually had, as their wealth was decentralized in Swiss Bank accounts at banks throughout European subcontinent and Western Eurasia, Roseline Saint Chlaire had been born and remained the wealthiest person on Earth.
Her name would not appear on any list of th world’s richest men and women, however, due to the closeness with which the family kept its existence a secret.
It only made sense that if one person knew the name, it would be the daughter of the man who occupied publicly the position that Roseline occupied in secret, that of wealthiest person in the world: Anthony Stark. All Kate really knew about her grandmother’s family was that her godmother, Hera Day, had worked for them for a long time.
Kate had often wondered at this as a girl as Hera herself appeared to be no older than Kate’s parents were then.
Now, having learned the secret of the tall blonde seated next to her, Kate suspected she knew the answer.
Hera, she guessed, shared the same unique biological abnormality as her daughter, which she knew in Sam’s case kept her from aging even so much as a single year in the twenty years sin the day they had first met.
The Goddesses only knew how many decades or even centuries Hera had served the Saint Chlaire family.
SE Main Street and SE 36th Avenue, Portland, Oregon
Sam accompanied Kate home that evening and as Kate set about making dinner, Sam set about making doing so exceedingly difficult by cornering Kate at every opportunity, kissing her neck from behind as she stood at the sink or stove and caressing and stroking her skin wherever she could find or uncover it in ways that seemed designed to make consistent concentration on anything else all but effectively impossible.
Finally, when she had gotten everything in the oven and baking, Kate whirled on her tormentor and with lightning reflexes seized Sam’s hand by her wrist as it ventured toward the buttons of her jacket: all that she wore over her brassiere, having discarded the ruined blouse from the morning.
“What is it you want from me?” She demanded, her words coming out in a rush and sounding harsher than she had meant.
Sam stared at her baffled.
“You want me.” Kate said. “Al right. You said that.” Here eyes flashed as she peered deep inside the blonde woman penetratingly. “What do you want to do with me, exactly?
To her surprise, Sam actually laughed.
“I want to take you with me, of course!” Her free arm snaked around Kate’s hips to pull her close and Kate could not avoid the lips that captured hers, forcing her to release Sam’s captured wrist from her grasp. “To pick up where we left off;” Sam murmured against her lips; “Before all of this…unpleasantness happened.”
Kate stared at her. “I can’t leave.” She said.
Sam was not easily dissuaded. “I can make it worth your while.” She said, wrapping her arms around Kate and kissing the side of her neck. “In more ways than one.”
Kate’s curiosity was piqued. “What do you mean by that?” She asked.
“As I understand;” Sam said, smiling at Kate as she swayed them both from side to side rhythmically as if to the beat of music only she could hear; “You need teaching experience in order to receive your Doctoral Degree.” Kate nodded slowly and Sam smiled. “As it happens, I hold a chaired tenured Professorship in the Physics Department at Occidental.” She told her. “I am certain I can persuade the Dean to grant you a classroom or two to teach in the Political Science or Sociology Departments.”
‘It was’; Kate had to admit to herself; ‘Quite a very enticing and tempting offer’; but she shook her head. “I can’t come with you to California.” She repeated. Sam stared at her expectantly, awaiting an elaboration or explanation. “I have responsibilities here.”
This apparently struck a chord with Sam and her fingertips froze on Kate’s flesh.
“You mean your job?” Sam scoffed, earning her a harsh glare. “Aren’t I offering you a better one?”
The harshness on Kate’s features faded somewhat, acknowledging to herself that Sam was right. A Professorship at a prestigious private University like Occidental was definitely more in line with her interests than continuing as a criminal prosecutor.
“It’s not just the job.” Kate hedged.
Sam looked confounded. “What other responsibilities could you possibly have here in Portland?”
Minutes later, as if in answer to her question, there was the sound of the front door opening and Kate used Sam’s distraction to disentangle herself from her girlfriend’s embrace.
Sam followed behind her as she made her way into the entrance hall and stopped dead in her steps as she saw a young girl with ebony hair drop her backpack before charging forward to fling herself into Kate’s open arms as Kate knelt to one knee.
She swept the child up into her arms as she stood, hugging the girl and kissing her cheek. “How was school, Jewels?” Kate asked and the girl groaned.
“Man am I glad to be…home” She trailed off as Kate twirled her around in a circle and she spotted the blonde woman standing in the doorway to the kitchen. “Who is she?”
“She;” Kate answered; “Is Samantha Wells.”
The child looked at her expectantly. “Why is she here?”
Kate smiled at the unknowing coincidence of having asked the same only minutes earlier. “Samantha is an old… Friend of mine;” She grinned at the girl in her arms; “From when I was your age.” The girl looked at her in surprise with wide eyes. Kate sensed more than saw Sam raise her hand, opening her mouth to speak, but beat her to the punch. “Samantha;” She said, turning to her; “I’d like you to meet Julia.” She waited until Sam had finished her study of the and turned her attention back to her. She looked at Sam carefully, gauging her reaction; “My daughter.” She saw Sam’s eyes go wide with shock and her bottom jaw go slack and saw Sam immediately turn back to reassess the girl before her and she put back down onto her feet, the girl running over to the door to grab her backpack.
“Can I watch TV in m room, mom?” She asked.
Kate shrugged. “go ahead.”
Julia disappeared up the stairs almost before she finished her sentence and Kate turned back to Sam.
Sam was staring at Kate in disbelief as if seeing her for the first time all over again.
All throughout their five-year relationship and even on the day Kate broke up with her and left for Massachusetts, Kate’s personality had been characterized by her impulsive pleasure-seeking hedonism. Out of all of the many things that Sam had thought that the teenage girl who fell in love with her could ever become, a parent had never occurred to her.
Sam knew that, after she broke up with Sam, Kate had not always been a lesbian and that she had as a matter of actual fact had a several-year romantic relationship with a man: a classmate at Harvard Law in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her eyes turned white and wide as saucer plates as the horrifying possibilities occurred to her. “Is that yours…?” She trailed off, her voice choking on fiercely conflicting hostile emotions as she pointed up the steps to the second floor. “Is that Will’s…?”
To her relief, Kate grinned as she shook her head.
“She’s is my flesh and blood.” Kate clarified; “But Julia’s not actually really my daughter.” She confessed.
Sam cocked her head to the side and arched an eyebrow, the bafflement and confusion in her eyes only deepening. “She’s not?”
Kate shook her head. “She’s my niece.”
Sam nodded, remembering that Kate had two older sisters. “Where on Earth is your sister?” Sam’s confusion was tinged with deep offense.
“I don’t know.” Kate answered truthfully.
“The sister that was…drafted with the EUIB?” Sam asked, having long been intimately aware of the European Union Intelligence Bureau.
Kate nodded, not even bothering to wonder how she might know that classified information. “And they don’t permit dependents.”
“So her last name isn’t Janney, then.” Sam surmised, knowing Kate’s older sister had kept her married name even after the death of her first husband in the line of duty in the Los Angeles Police Department.
Kate nodded. “Her name is Julia Danielle Gates-Allen.”
“Gates?” Sam wondered and Kate nodded: “Maryline remarried.”
“So she’s ten?” Sam guessed, indicating the girl upstairs.
“Eight.” Kate corrected.
“Is she smart?” Sam asked.
Kate was taken aback by the unexpected question, but she recovered effortlessly and huffed. “She brilliant.”
“Then I’m sure she’ll understand.” Sam stated confidently. “She’ll get used to it.”
“Probably.” Kate acknowledge, nodding. She surprised Sam again by pulling her head away and turning to stare at her former lover. “But that’s just it.” She turned away. “I don’t want her to have to.” She paused and her jaw set firmly. “She’s had to get used to enough things recently.” Kate turned her face away. “That’s what I’ve been trying to explain to you.” Kate reached out a hand on her arm. “Julie’s already had two mother.” She said. “I’m not sure how well she’d do with two at once. While the memory of her own mother leaving her is still so…fresh;” She wrapped her arms around her dejected friend; “Me having a relationship with another woman…” She laid her head on Sam’s shoulder. “It would be…Complicated.”
Sam’s reaction surprised Kate. “So what?” She said, reaching up to play with the shoulder strap on Kate’s brassiere.
“So;” Kate replied, turning her head to stare into the face of the blonde beside her; “Jewels and I…” She trailed off, her focus drawn momentarily to fighting the impulse to kiss the mouth inches away from her own. “Our relationship will never be the normal mother and daughter.” She saw Sam’s lips curve into a grin, remembering how maternally their own relationship had first begun, but she nodded. “But Jules may be with me for a while…” She didn’t like admitting to herself that her older sister might never return home. “So until Maryline comes back…”
“If she comes back;” Sam’s voiced-aloud thought earned her a glare.
“Until she comes back;” Kate repeated insistently; “Julia’s mine. And I’ve made the decision;” She reached up to pull the elastic strap against her skin back onto her shoulder; “To try and give Jewels the most ordinary experience growing up as I can.”
Sam nodded, understanding what Kate had meant by having responsibilities. She found herself in an awkward quandary. She had come to Portland, for all practical intents and purposes, to pick Kate up. She had fully anticipated that the most difficult part of their meeting would be reconciling after so many years Kate’s feelings. ‘After that;’ Sam realized; ‘She hadn’t anticipated having to persuade Kate to come away with her, due in no small part to the fact that the Katherine Janney she knew even five years ago: the impulsive hedonistic girl; would not require very much convincing to renew their romantic relationship. Judging by that afternoon at the Hotel downtown, she felt confident the former goal had definitely been achieved. As such, Sam’s current quagmire had to do with unanticipated…complications in accomplishing the latter goal.’
Kate smiled sympathetically, sensing Sam’s disappointment, sashaying over to her and wrapping her arms around her waist. “Please;” She begged; “You have to believe me that I am telling you the honest truth when I tell you that I would love nothing more at this moment.” She leaned forward to kiss Sam on the lips. She smiled against Sam’s lips as she sensed Sam’s desperate hopefulness when the other woman seized Kate’s face in her hand and deepened the kiss passionately, but she withdrew.
“You’ve had a hard time;” Sam murmured against her lips; “Since we last saw one another. Kate gasped, jerking away from the kiss as she tossed her head back at Sam’s expertly knowing touch, indicating to Sam that where the most sensitive spots on Kate’s skin were had not changed all that much since she was a girl. “Don’t you think you deserve some fun?”
“I’d love to.” Kate amended. “Believe me when I say that there is nothing I would enjoy more than to run away with you and elope.”
She seemed to be catching her breath, but that was all undone when Sam reaching up to trace her jawline with her fingers stole it from her again: “I do believe you.” She darted her head forward to plant a not-quite-chaste peck on Kate’s lips.
“But I made a promise;” Kate murmured, her eyes still closed, leaning her forehead against Sam’s, their noses mere millimeters from touching; “To my sister. I gave her my word.” She opened her eyes, glistening with tears, but met her girlfriend’s own deeply. “Maryline helped out mother raise me;” Kate smiled at the memory; “Just as you did;” Sam returned her grin thinly through quivering lips; “And she entrusted me with the one thing she loved most in this world.” Kate searched Sam’s expression for understanding; “Her only child.” Kate hoped that, as the only child of her own mother herself, Sam would understand how much a mother could love her only daughter and how gut-wrenching it must be for such a mother to be forced by circumstances not of her own doing to give her only child up.
Sure enough she saw Sam’s eyes alight with a familiar fire.
Sam knew well how fiercely, ferociously overprotective her mother Hera had always been of her and in that moment, she saw the same fire glowing in Kate’s eyes. She knew then and there that there could be nothing and no one on this world who could ever possibly persuade the woman before her to abandon Julia in the same way that the girl’s mother had to.
The most emotionally wrenching thing about it was that Sam found that she could not bring herself to blame Kate for her decision and that she could understand perfectly and even empathize.
“I can’t leave her.” Kate repeated through her tears.
Sam turned to look over at her, her eyes threatening tears. “All those times you told me you were in love with me…”
Kate turned her head to the side on Sam’s shoulder, pressing her lips to hers and lifting her hand to cup the other side of Sam’s neck. “I still am.” Kate reassured her as their lips parted. Sam’s eyes probed deeply into hers, searchingly.
“I never stopped loving you.” Kate whispered to her, resting her forehead against Sam’s and closing her eyes as she rubbed her cheeks against the blonde hair that fell about their faces; “And I will love you for the rest of my life.” She said and Sam could tell from her voice that she was making an effort to retain her composure.
“Look at me.” Sam said, sounding unconvinced. “Look me in the eye.”
Kate opened her eyes as their noses touched. “I’ve never felt so certain about anything before.” Kate’s hand that had been massaging the back of Sam’s neck with her fingers moved to cup the side of Sam’s face, her other hand rising to cup the other, holding the blonde’s head level with her face. Her hand dropped from Sam’s face, waving in the air in front of Kate as she searched for the words. “It’s just a physical law of the universe now.” She looked back at Sam through lowered eyelashes. “You own me.” Kate could see Sam’s eyes grow moist, but the beaming smile that lit up her face indicated that the emotion behind her tears had changed. “But you have to remember;” Kate said, backing her head way with chaste pecks on first one cheek and then the other; “I am one of the few who knows your secret.”
Sam reached up to take Kate’s hand in hers, tilting her head to one side.
“You won’t grow old.” Kate said with a smile and Sam nodded, remembering that Kate had uncovered her lack of aging shortly before their relationship had ended. Kate’s voice grew unsteady, indicating that she was struggling mightily against something within herself, and her smile grew noticeably forced as she spoke. “I know that I could spend the rest of my life with you;” Sam smiled hopefully, but the light in her eyes dimmed as Kate shook her head slowly; “ But I also know that, no matter what we feel, you will never be able to spend the rest of your life with me.”
As she felt Kate’s face soaking her just-drying blouse, Sam reflected on yet another of the universe’s unexpected coincidences: She herself had said nearly those exact same words to a man whom she had felt herself falling in love with, and who had long since fallen head over heels in love with her, only a little more than half a year earlier.
She had seen no lie in Kate’s eyes at the office that afternoon when Kate had reassured her that she had never stopped loving her.
But what she saw in those same eyes now was that, as heartbreaking as it may have been for Sam to admit, Kate had a new love in her life, one that Sam could not possibly have any hope of competing with.
Sam nodded, hanging her head and started toward the door.
“So where are you staying while you’re in town?” Kate was drawing a blank on other ways she might change the subject, as she headed to the door. Kate’s voice halted her halfway across the hallway
“Well…” Sam clasped her hands behind her back, hanging her head as she sashayed step by sauntering step toward Kate. “I was sort of rather hoping that I might…” She lifted her face just enough to peer up at Kate through her dangling bangs and lowered eyelashes. “Stay here with you.”
When she lifted her eyes back up to meet Kate’s the expression in them was still pleading, but moderated with humility.
Kate tilted her head to the side sympathetically at seeing the reminiscent pleading expression in Sam’s eyes. She recognized that her former lover had not anticipated being spurned in her desire to renew their romantic relationship when she had arrived that afternoon, and so had probably been looking forward to spending a passionate and romantic night with her in this very room. “Of course.” Kate said, feeling her throat closing up as she was again tempted to give in to the very passion Sam had been counting on winning the day.
Confirming her conclusion, she noticed the dim lights in Sam’s eyes flash brightly, the hopefulness in the smile that spread her lips unmistakable.
“I’ll help you fold out the sofa.”
Sam did an impressive job at trying to hide her disappointment, but the eyes that hovered centimeters away from her own could not miss the falling of her face.
Kate walked up behind her as Sam turned around and took her girlfriend’s hands in her. “At least stay for dinner.”
Kristin Ludlowe arrived as Kate was setting the dishes out on the dining room table and, in order not to confuse her daughter, Kate introduced Sam to her college roommate by the same name as she had to the girl, this time being careful not to refer to the woman as “Sam”.
Kate knew that, while they were living together at Lewis and Clark University, Kris had been able to successfully deduce from her roommate that whomever it was that Katherine would spend her weekends and vacations with was named Sam. Kate also guessed that her best friend had been under the assumption that this “Sam” had been a man.
This came into play during the meal when Julia, ever the curious student, turned to her mother and asked: “So how do you know Samantha?”
Kate saw Sam staring at her expectantly and shot a pointed glance at Kris, knowing that if she mentioned the fact that the two had known one another in Oregon Kris might become suspicious, the college roommate believing that she had known all of Kate’s local friends. “Doctor Wells;” Kate corrected her daughter gently and Julia nodded; “Is the daughter of my godmother.”
“You’re Hera’s daughter? “ She sounded surprised, and Kate could understand why: The blonde woman seated across from her appeared no older than thirty and could easily pass for someone in their early twenties.
Kate had forgotten that, as the daughter of her older sister Maryline, Julia would have been well acquainted with the godmother that the Janney sisters shared in common between them.
Knowing that Hera had been a close friend of Katherine’s paternal grandmother Roseline, it would of course be natural to assume that Hera’s daughter would be significantly older than the blonde woman at the table appeared.
“What are you a doctor of, Samantha?” Julia asked, jerking her mother out of her thoughts.
Sam shot a glance at Kate, who nodded, knowing that the young girl had a knowledge far beyond her age and would understand. “I have a Ph.D. in Theoretical Astrophysics from Trinity College at Oxford University.” Sam answered.
“In England?” Julia asked, apparently confused that Sam did not share her mother’s British accent.
Sam smiled. “Yes.” She looked at Kate, knowing she was the only one present who would understand the full truth of her words. “I lived there for many years when I was younger.”
“How long ago was that?” Julia asked, her emerald jade eyes narrowing suspiciously as she attempted to run the math in her head.
Sam did not answer, but Kate saw her eyes ignite with the same enigmatic fire she remembered from her childhood as she returned to her meal.
After dinner, Sam took Julia into the living room to tune into one of the entertainment streams, and Becka helped Kate clean up after the meal.
“So you told Jules that this “Sam” is Hera’s daughter;” Kate nodded; “But the moment I first saw the two of you together, I knew there had to be something more to your relationship.”
Kate nodded slowly, unsure how Becka would react to what she was about to say. “Sam was our babysitter after mom moved us out here.”
Becka stood still, looking at her, but said nothing.
Kate guessed even the Navy Captain was struggling with the same dilemma that had confounded her daughter over dinner: That the woman Kate had identified, as her babysitter appeared younger than she was.
“Wow!” Was all Becka said; “Like mother, like daughter, huh?”
Before waiting from a response from Kate, she walked back into the dining room without another word.
Kate was more than happy to finish the cleaning in solitude and silence.
All this discussion of her godmother, and again having to keep the depths of her feelings for the first love of her life a secret from the people she loved most, had reminded her of the fact that even to this day neither Sam’s mother nor her own knew of their five-year-long romantic relationship; one of the longest and by far the most passionate of Kate’s life so far.
‘The distance that had separated them had not made it any easier;’ She realized; ‘To resist the urges that she had felt so frequently during their affair: To broadcast her love for Sam to the whole world by proclaiming it as loud as she could at the top of her lungs from every rooftop.’
Having Sam reappear so abruptly and unexpectedly back into her life also made it very nearly impossible not to draw the unavoidable side-by-side comparisons between her first romantic relationship and her last.
Kate could not help but smile at thinking how Will paled in comparison as a lover to the woman in the next room. She had always counted it up to Will having been her first-ever relationship with a man, but she recognized now that the passion that she had felt between them during her relationship with Sam genuinely dwarfed anything she had ever experienced with Will. She remembered that in the heights of passion with Sam she had questioned why she had ever felt anything toward men and now, standing in the kitchen of the house that she shared with her young daughter, Kate experienced a similar moment of doubt: Questioning, against every rational instinct in her mind, whether or not she should indeed rekindle her relationship with Sam after all.
‘As much as she had gone out of her way to ignore it during her relationship with Will, the reality that she was still to this day very much in love with the gorgeous blonde woman had never;’ She thought; “Been more indisputable than it was at this moment.’
She knew then and there that to whomever her future passions might lead her, whether they happened to be a man or a woman, she would carry the love she felt for Sam for the rest of her life. She was not conscious of her movements until she stood in the doorway to the living room.
To her surprise she saw Sam reclined on the floor against the couch in front of the television screen with Julia sitting between her knees, the girl’s head resting back on the still-wet silk of the as-yet-unbuttoned blouse covering the blonde woman’s chest.
Kate closed her eyes as she experienced an unbidden flashback of herself resting on top of Sam, her own head pillowed into the older woman’s breasts. “Sam;” She croaked, the lump in her throat prompted by the sensual memory causing her Adam’s apple to bob; “Can I see you privately in the other room, please?”
Sam’s head turned to her.
“I have to speak to you alone.” Kate’s gaze shifted to Julia, followed by Sam’s own eyes.
The blonde nodded, reaching up to gently lift the head of the girl, who appeared to drifting off to sleep, away from her chest, and carefully climbing to her feet. She followed Kate through the halls of the house, pleasantly surprised to figure out where it was that they were headed.
‘She just stood there in the dining hall, staring down at the phone receiver in her hand, as if riveted to the floor, her mind racing. She could feel her body going numb, the numbness spreading from her heart and with some difficulty she finally succeeded in replacing the telephone receiver back on its cradle.
Even with the phone hung up, she could still hear the ringing in her ears, loudening as though growing nearer into a buzzing hum that drowned out even the sounds of the street outside.
She felt herself falling as her knees went weak and she was surprised when she felt the chair stop her from sinking right through the floor as she felt the irrepressible desire to do.
Still staring unblinkingly straight ahead, she shrunk back in the chair, as the wall in front of her appeared to draw nearer.
She doubled over, curling herself as small as she felt, retreating from the world as the last thing she felt before burying her face in her hands was the walls of the whole house closing in on her from every direction as her world shrank. Her chest heaved as the dams crumbled behind her eyes.
Then as the lights of the hall shrank away and the darkening house close in all about her and with her world, her life, collapsing, coming crashing down in shattered tatters around her, she began to sob uncontrollably, the tears streaming down her face as she sat at the dining room table, cradling her face in her arms as the lightning crashed and the thunder rumbled outside.’
Katherine Janney awoke sobbing, tears soaking the pillow under her head. She shuddered to catch her breath as she felt familiar arms enveloping comfortingly around her. She could feel the arms tighten around her, pressing a pair of soft breasts like cushions gently against her shoulder blades.
As she felt warm breaths on the side of her neck, Kate twisted around slowly within the arms’ embrace, turning her head around to look up at the graceful, feminine features of the face and deep mother-of-pearl eyes that gazed with concern back at hers.
“I’ve heard of people crying after sex;” Sam grinned; “But it’s never actually happened with me.
Kate’s expression must have indicated she was not in the mood of mind for such quips, because Sam’s smile faded, to be replaced with worry, the motherly affection in her eyes belied by her unabashed toplessness: “You all right, Kitten?” She loosened one arm from around Kate in order to reach up and gently brush at the unruly stray hair that had fallen into the side of Kate’s face. Her fingertips brushed Kate’s lips before she caressed her cheek lightly with the back of her fingers and Kate nodded slowly, swallowing the lump in her throat and forcing a smile through the tears still squeezing from her eyes.
She was about to lift her hand to rub her eyes, but Sam beat her to it.
Cradling Kate’s chin in her four fingers, she reached up with her thumb to wipe the tear tracks from Kate’s cheeks on at a time.
Kate let her eyes fall closed as her lover caressed her face, her chest heaving as she inhaled a shuddering breath, which she let out with a long sigh.
“Bad dream?” Sam asked, in a tone that made it clear she knew the answer.
Kate nodded, her voice hoarse. “I was dreaming…”
“You were dreaming about him;” Sam finished for her, staring penetratingly into Kate’s eyes; “Weren’t you?” After a pause, blinking away the tears that clouded her vision, Kate nodded again. “You never did talk to me about it.” Sam said, propping the side of her head up on her elbow atop the pillow. “What happened?”
Kate sighed, turning her back to Sam as if unwilling or unable to face her girlfriend, but taking Sam’s arms and readjusting them around herself in a way that made it clear, she hoped, that she did not want her lover to leave her. “He had been having an affair with a woman in Manhattan;” Kate’s tone of voice was as cold and hard as crystal, but when she turned her head back to face Sam again, tears again threatened to squeeze from her eyes; “For two years.”
The combination of strength and vulnerability that showed on Kate’s face in that moment was something that Sam had always found irresistible about the young woman and she could not help but dart her head forward, closing the inches between their faces and closing her mouth over Kate’s lips in a long, lingering, loving kiss that neither seemed to wish would ever end.
Kate’s eyes reopened as Sam tugged gently at her bottom lip with her kittenish front teeth as they parted and Sam grinned at seeing the glaze that clouded their customary glow, her breathing ragged with the flush of desire her lover’s kiss elicited in her core.
“I figured that much;” Sam stroked Kate’s hair as the other’s breathing returned to its regular rhythm; “That it was something like that.” She search Kate’s face. “But how did you find out?”
This time it was Kate’s turn to smile, her crooked half-grin rueful.
“He told me.” She said as though she couldn’t quite believe it either.
Kate turned back around in Sam’s arms, tucking them around her sides and interlacing Sam’s fingers with hers to hold her lover’s hand gently but firmly against her chest, but even though she could not longer see her face, Sam could hear in Kate’s tone as her smile faded from her face. “On my birthday.” She said.
Sam’s eyes widened, her eyebrows rising as the cold hatred she had sensed emanating from Kate like an aura toward her ex-boyfriend of six years was abruptly cast into crystal-clear relief. She understood now wherefrom the coldness she sensed in Kate, which had not been present when they separated six years earlier, had come. Her question answered and thinking of nothing she desired less than to further upset the young lover in her arms, Sam wisely fell silent.
After her silence stretched uncomfortably, it was Sam’s turn to roll over on top of Kate.
“Please say something.” Sam murmured.
“Every time we would…” Kate blinked and looked down at Sam; “Make love;” Sam grinned at her uncommon use of the euphemism; “You always did seem to know somehow exactly what I wanted.”
“Was that good for you?” Sam asked nervously and Kate’s chest bounced underneath as she laughed: “Was it!” It was her turn to reach down and stroke at Sam’s hair. “You were the most incredible lover anyone’s ever had!” Sam blushed at the compliment, but then her eyes narrowed. “Yet you are thinking about someone else.” This, again, was a statement of fact.
Kate smiled. “Guilty as charged. I was thinking about him.” She need not have elaborated to her girlfriend whom she was referring to. “What about him?” Kate reached down to draw Sam up and kissed her lovingly before explaining. “When I met him, you were the only lover I had ever had in my life;” Sam smiled, averting her eyes as her face flushed all the way down to her chest; “So I didn’t know what I was supposed to expect in a relationship with a man.”
Sam nodded understandingly. “And?” She prompted, prodding with both her voice and her fingers on Kate’s chest. “And I thought that there must have been something wrong with me.” Sam pulled back in surprise, rolling off of Kate and propping her head on her hand. “What do you mean?” She asked, a hint of concern creeping into her voice. “Why in the wide world would you ever think such a thing?”
“When Will and I would…sleep together;” Sam’s eyebrow quirked at Kate’s deliberate reluctance to repeat her earlier euphemism of “making love”; “I never experienced…” She trailed off and Sam’s eyes widened: “You mean all these years, you’ve never… came… since you left me?”
Kate giggled, shaking her head. “Are you kidding?” She looked over at Sam. “Six years? That would be hell!” Sam joined in her laughter. “Of course I did!” She said after their giggling died. “It’s just…” She leaned in to kiss Sam again; “It wasn’t the same as it was when I was with you.” She smiled against Sam’s lips as their eyes met.
Kate was quiet for a long time and Sam felt sure and more than a bit relieved, that her lover had fallen back asleep.
What seemed to both like hours later and very well may have been, Sam was just beginning to drift off into a slumber herself when she reopened her eyes at the sound of Kate’s voice.
“I can’t stop thinking;” Without Sam even noticing Kate had repositioned them both so that Sam now lay on her back, Kate lying half atop her with her head pillowed on Sam’s chest and now she lifted it to look up at Sam; “About Liz and Zoe.”
Sam’s eyebrow quirked and she cocked her head to one side quizzically. “What about them?”
Kate lifted her hand to interlace her fingers atop Sam’s chest and rest her chin atop them as she gazed up at her. “I saw your face when Liz mentioned the charge Zoe’s father was bringing against her.” She said, her eyes narrowing as she studied Sam penetratingly. “I could tell you were thinking the same thing I was.”
Sam had lifted her head to look down at Kate, but now she laid her head back down on the pillow with a sigh. “You were thinking that the “corruption of youth” could have applied just as accurately to me with you at Zoe’s same age.” It was a statement, not a question and Sam felt Kate nod against her chest.
“So?” She prompted as Sam fell silent again. “What do you think?”
Sam tilted her head to the side on the pillow to glance down her side at Kate, reaching down to stroke her hair. “Do you feel corrupted?”
Kate looked at her dubiously and darted forward to press a peck of a kiss to Sam’s lips. “Don’t make fun.” She chastened, reciprocating Sam’s nipping of her bottom lip as she pulled back.
Sam sighed again, displacing Kate as she scooted back to sit up against the headboard of the bed. Sam’s finger paused over Kate’s navel and she looked up at her. “You mean did I brainwash you into becoming my lover?”
Kate flushed at her bluntness, but nodded.
Sam shrugged. “Not intentionally.” Kate looked dubious, but Sam met her gaze unflinchingly: “That’s the best I can promise you.” She went back to caressing Kate’s belly with her fingers. “I, for one, would like to believe you would’ve loved me with or without my…power.” Kate smiled as Sam closed in for a passionate kiss. “I’d like to think our relationship was a success in seduction, not mind control, on my part.”
Kate nodded and kissed her back. “I agree.” She murmured softly, kissing her way down to side of Sam’s neck. “Let’s just say you seduced me;” She pulled Sam over on top of her as she pressed a kiss to her temple; “And leave it at that.”
Sam smiled down at her. “Agreed.”
Kate looked down at her as Sam kissed her way down Kate’s throat to her chest. “So, lover;” Her voice was a breathless murmur as Sam’s kisses reached her breasts; “Can you hear what I’m thinking now?”
Sam nodded, before her head ducked out of sight behind Kate’s breasts and Kate giggled as her kisses reached her navel. “Oh;” Kat heard Sam’s voice in her head reply as she pulled the covers over her lover’s head as Sam reached her destination; “I have a pretty good idea.”
Kate had not realized how many hours had actually passed since dinner until they stepped from the brightly lit bedroom into the otherwise dark, silent and empty house.
A creaking on the stair landing prompted them both to look up. They saw Becka descending the stairs and both noted that she had shed her medallion-adorned suit jacket, wearing only the shimmery silk wraparound shirt that she apparently wore underneath.
“Where’s Jewels?” Kate was not certain why she was whispering in a hushed tone, other than it somehow felt right to do so in the silence of the dark room, but was immediately glad that she had after hearing Becka’s answer: “I just got her down.”
Sam smiled, remembering reporting the same to Katherine’s own mother at the end of each day for so many years. She cast a glance over at the girl’s mother, who had already begun subtly moving toward the stairs to her daughter’s bedroom, and smiled.
As Sam gathered the pillows and quilts from the closets to make the living room couch as bedlike as possible, Kate crept stealthily down the hallway from the top of the stairs to Julia’s bedroom door. Not lifting her feet as she crossed the threshold, she slipped off her shoes and shuffled in her stocking feet across the deep carpet to the bed where the girl slept.
She sat down slowly on the edge of the bed, trying to make as little indentation in the mattress as possible, and reached out to lightly sweep Julia’s ebony hair away from her face with her long fingertips, turning her wrist to softly caress her daughter’s cheek with the back of her fingers. She froze as Julia groaned in her sleep and Kate felt her nuzzle her face deeper into the pillow at the touch of Kate’s hand on her face, but relaxed again with a loving smile as she at the same time felt Julia press her cheek into her mother’s hand. She slipped off of the bed and knelt beside it on the carpet, folding her arms atop the mattress and laying her chin on her clasped hands as she watched her daughter sleep.
One thought kept reoccurring in her mind as she swept her eyes over Julia serene expression: ‘This was what she had just given up the love of her life for.’
She did not feel about this fact the way that her tears earlier might have indicated that she would.
Watching the muscles in the girl’s face and the fingers curled around the edge of her pillow twitch unconsciously as she dreamed, Kate declared solemnly to herself that for as long as she lived she would never for one moment hesitate in nor regret giving up anything she ever had for the sake of maximizing her daughter’s happiness. Not for the first time nor, she guessed, the last since Julia had first come to live with her; Kate marveled to herself that the young girl was by far and away the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life; now with the added tinge, bringing a reflective smile to her lips, of the memory of having heard Sam describe her the very same exact way all those years ago.
‘It must run in the family.’ Kate thought, not having been born yet when her oldest sister Maryline was a young child but imagining that the mother that had given birth to the beauty before her eyes must have been positively breathtaking at Julia’s age.
Feeling herself begin to nod off to sleep herself, she stretched catlike as she slowly stood, leaning forward to give her daughter a good night kiss.
She had intended to lay a peck to her daughter’s forehead, but with her mind still preoccupied with the blonde woman downstairs it took her until she was stepping out of the girl’s bedroom, closing the door behind her, for her to recognize that she had instead subconsciously pressed a kiss to Julia’s lips.
Sam saw Kate’s hand lifted to her mouth as she descended the stairs and guessed what had transpired, with an unexpected pang of pride that she had been able to so thoroughly distract the young mother with her romantic proposition. “What are you thinking?” She asked, secretly hoping to catch Kate out while thinking about her.
Kate’s answer surprised her. “That I have no regrets.” Kate said with a smile.
“Meaning…?” Sam was curious at Kate’s cryptic answer.
“That I was right.” Kate looked back up the stairs. “she really is the most important thing in my life.”
Sam watched Kate walk back into the living room, marveling at how the shy and inexperienced little girl she had babysat for all those years had grown up into the consummate mother.