ACT 1

 

Olivia Spencer ran a hand through her thick, honey-blonde hair and gladly stepped out of the stuffy confines of the airplane into the warm, welcoming sunshine of San Cristobel. She paused at the top of the passenger boarding stairs, inhaling deeply, breathing in the familiar salty air of the tiny tropical nation.

Home.

 “Thank you for flying San Cristobel Airways, please watch your step as you leave the plane.” An overly perky flight attendant waved behind her. “Buh-bye!”

 Olivia was ready to smack the blonde woman, hard, after being subjected to her chipper attitude for over four hours on the flight. She felt the soothing hand of her lover run along the curve of her spine, and smiled, the simple touch calming the urge to slap the stewardess silly.

 “Oh, querida, it’s beautiful!” Natalia Rivera gasped, staring at the surrounding area. The view from the top of the boarding stairs was stunning. A cloudless, blue sky was surpassed only by the vibrant azure of the Atlantic Ocean, crashing steadily against the bright white beach. Palm trees swayed in the slight breeze and sea gulls flew overhead, as the heavy afternoon heat hit her like a wall.

 It is gorgeous, isn’t it?” Olivia grinned and pulled out her sunglasses, pushing them along the bridge of her nose into place as she lead the way down the stairs to the hot pavement below.

 “How could you possibly leave all this, to come to snowy, freezing Springfield?” Natalia extended the handle on her carry on luggage and pulled it along behind her, tiny wheels squeaking as they walked across the tarmac to the white stucco airport buildings.

 Olivia peered over the rim of her sunglasses, raking her eyes down sweet curves and tight denim jeans before heading back up the petite form again. Finally meeting her partner's dark eyes, she levelled a heated, intense stare at the younger woman, moistening her lips with the tip of her tongue, before slowly raising a single eyebrow. She smiled as Natalia swallowed hard.

 “Oh, there are some pretty hot things about Springfield too, sweetheart.” Olivia’s voice dropped to its most seductive register. She simply chucked softly as Natalia flushed ever so slightly and a naughty smirk formed on her lover's delectable lips. A shiver slid down Olivia's back in reaction to those damn dimples. Dragging her eyes away from her lover, Olivia pulled out her Blackberry and powered it on, scanning quickly for any messages from Frank or Phillip

Any emergencies?” Natalia slowed her pace towards the small building so Olivia could focus on the small device. She knew they were only going to be gone for essentially a long weekend, but still, it was a long time away from her sweet baby girl and Jellybean. Apparently for both of them, as she watched Olivia sigh with relief and smile back at her.

 “Nope. Just an e-card from Josh wishing me an early happy birthday.” Olivia's smile widened as she read his message. “He said he wishes he was here to tell me in person.”

 “Aw, he is so sweet,” Natalia said. She glanced away, staring at the other passengers walking past them as she felt a momentary pang of irrational jealousy. Of all her partner's ex-husbands, Josh was the one she worried the most about sweeping back into Olivia's life and stealing her away.

 A bright glimmer caught her eye and she glanced down at the ring on her finger, and then at the matching one on Olivia. Natalia turned into the slight breeze blowing across the airfield and let out a long breath. She couldn’t help the smile that broke out every time she thought about being engaged to Olivia. Or for that matter, the heat that flushed her body from the knowledge that Olivia Spencer was hers and that she equally belonged to her. Maybe the reason for all of Olivia’s ex-husbands was that what she had really needed all along was a wife. 

 Natalia smirked to herself and turned her attention back to her lover, as Olivia chuckled mischievously and her thumbs typed away a response to Josh's text message. God, she was like a little kid sometimes. "What are you saying to him?"

 “I just told him I’m celebrating it somewhere hot and sunny with a scantily clad Natalia. I bet he wishes he was here.” Olivia waggled her eyebrows and hit send, slowly leaning in for a quick kiss before swinging open the door to the airport building. The cold air-conditioning felt good against their skin and they made their way inside.

 They stood in a long winding line up, Natalia ready with their passports in hand, Olivia flipping through the resort brochure and package that she’d asked for from the Xiao’s people in San Cristobel. Their invitation to discuss letting go of one of their many smaller resort locations had been a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one. Franchising the Beacon was definitely still her and Natalia’s goal.

 Olivia looked closer at some of the pictures. There was a swimming pool, an executive nine-hole golf course, top of the line fitness facilities and several clay tennis courts. There was a good stretch of beachfront, a five star restaurant and an outdoor patio. It wasn't a hotel so much as a resort facility. It would be an awfully big first expansion for the Beacon. And if she was honest, she wasn’t sure it was a good fit for them right now, especially with world economics still shaky.

 Olivia also wasn’t sure this was the best idea for her personally. San Cristobel held so many hard memories, things she still needed to work through. She glanced over at Natalia who smiled sweetly and then shuffled forward again in the slowly moving line. So many things she still had to tell Natalia.

 Chewing her bottom lip, Olivia sighed softly and tried hard not to think about that. Turning back to the package, she knew the Xiaos had put forward a very sweet deal. This weekend away together to check out the resort was perfect timing and a good opportunity to see if this could work as a Beacon franchise or not. Olivia could only assume that the Xiao’s hotel chain must be hemorrhaging more money than she imagined.

 A small part of her danced with glee, thinking of Decker and the new Barbie doll he placed in her old position, suffering in the still turbulent economic climate. However the Xiaos themselves were very nice people and she didn't want to see them in dire straits. Olivia glanced up and shuffled forward as their turn with the custom officers and airport security came up.

 Finally making their way through the body scanners and answering all their questions, they quickly found the rest of their luggage and made their way through the busy terminal to find a taxi to take them to the resort. An older man was standing by the revolving door, holding a Galaxy Hotels sign with the name Spencer written on it.

 “It looks like the Galaxy San Cristobel team have thought of everything,” Olivia murmured, impressed. Their driver tipped his hat and grabbed their luggage, leading them to the waiting limo. Natalia slipped her arm through Olivia’s and smiled up at her, sliding her dark sunglasses into place as the stepped out into the tropical sunshine.

 “I’ve already got everything I need, right here.” Natalia tangled her fingers with Olivia's and smiled contentedly as the driver opened the back door and they both slid across the soft leather seat and into the air-conditioned luxury of the limo.

 ***

 

Francesca Rivera stared up into her father’s smiling face and burst into tears.

 “Hey, hey, now.” Frank Cooper bent down and scooped his baby girl from the baby carrier and into his arms. “Shhh… Daddy’s here.” He paced in his small office, rocking his daughter and cuddling her close. He glanced over at the young woman smiling encouragingly from the door. Despite his good intentions, he knew police headquarters was no place for a baby, but Frank had been delayed and Jane had said it would be no problem to swing by. Still, he felt bad bringing Francesca’s sweet innocence into his world.

 “Ms. Spencer left specific instructions about looking after Francesca, Chief Cooper.” Jane chewed at her thumbnail and quickly checked her watch. Her boyfriend would be waiting for her by now, but she knew that Ms. Spencer would kill her if she just left the baby here unattended with the Chief.

 “I know Jane, but it’s the first time I’ve really had her all to myself and I’d just like to spend a little time with her,” Frank shifted the crying child onto his shoulder and sank down into his leather chair, bouncing her a little to try to distract her. Francesca just wailed louder.

 Jane rolled her eyes and stepped over to the small carrier, pulling out Francesca’s wubby, the soft pink blanket the child seemed to be lost without. Handing it over to the clueless man, Jane sighed and nodded. There was only so much she could do where the Chief was concerned. Ms. Spencer may be paying her to look after Francesca during the day while the Chief was at work, but Natalia had pulled her aside and told her to let Frank decide how much time he wanted with the baby. The extra hundred bucks she had slipped her definitely made her point. Jane smiled softly. She did enjoy working for Ms. Rivera; she was so much less scary than Ms. Spencer.

 “Okay then, I’m just going to touch base with my boyfriend and I'll head out then when you’re ready to leave for home.”  Jane pulled her phone from her purse and wandered out of the Chief's office.

 “Finally, just you and me, little Sweet Pea.” Frank smiled as the little bundle seemed to settle down into her blanket and her crying diminished into little unhappy squeaks. Her eyes slowly blinked shut and she was asleep. Frank stared down at her and felt his heart swell with love.

 “Chief,” Anna Li stuck her head into his office and took in the adorable sight of father and child. Smiling softly, she lowered her voice so as not to disturb the baby. “You're needed down in the lab. Desilva is going off the deep end again, ranting on the other investigators.”

 Frank rolled his eyes and stood with his daughter asleep in his arms. He really needed to find a more professional supervisor for the forensic department. The man might be a good crime scene investigator but his management skills were certainly lacking. Frank looked up to find Jane standing beside Detective Li, chewing her thumbnail.

 “I'm sorry Jane. Can you wait a little longer while I put out this fire?” Frank asked quietly. Jane sighed and nodded, taking the sleeping baby from him and tucking her back down into her carrier. She watched as the Chief disappeared into the pandemonium of his squad room. She knew meeting him at the police station had been a bad idea. At this rate, she wouldn't even see her boyfriend at all tonight.

 ***

 

The long black limo pulled up outside Spaulding Enterprises and eased into the reserved parking spot out front. Before the driver could unbuckle his seat belt to let his young charge out of the vehicle, the back door popped open and Emma Spencer leaped out of the car.

 “Thanks Jake. See ya later!” Emma waved at her daddy's driver and slammed the car door quickly shut behind her. Slipping her backpack onto her shoulders, she yanked on the thick glass door and walked inside the imposing building, stopping at main reception.

 “Hi, Virginia!” Emma smiled up at the young woman manning the desk. The receptionist turned and returned her smile warmly.

 “Hi, Emma. You’re right on time.” Virginia hit a button on her telephone switchboard, sending all calls to the automatic attendant. She had learned the hard way that you don’t ever take your eyes off of the boss’ daughter. She picked up the handset and dialled an extension she knew by heart. “Emma’s here from school sir.”  She nodded as she received her instructions, watching carefully as the girl bounced and resettled her backpack. “I’ll let her know.”

 “So is James coming down or Lizzie?” Emma asked, as she came around to peek behind the reception desk. She loved watching all the television sets mounted into the desk that Virginia sat behind. You could see so much stuff happening in her daddy's building.

 “Your brother will be down shortly. Your father also said to tell you to not wander off.” Virginia tried to keep her smile hidden as the rambunctious girl just rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically.

 “I can't do nothing. Besides, they were able to fix the photocopier no problem…” Emma grumbled, but was quickly distracted by seeing her Daddy on one of the monitors. He looked like he was arguing with two really old men who were pointing at a folder in their hands. “Hey, isn’t that my dad?”

 Virginia turned to the monitor that Emma pointed at and nodded. “He's talking with two of the senior board members.” Virginia just shook her head sadly. It didn't look like it was going well with Mr. Hamilton or old man Weckworth. Ever since Alan Spaulding had died, those two were circling like vultures and making trouble. She didn't know how Phillip Spaulding put up with them.

 “They don't look like nice men,” Emma stated, her little brow furrowing.

 Virginia nodded and didn't say much, although she agreed totally with the girl. Best not to say too much, you never knew what might get repeated. And with the office politics flying around Spaulding Enterprises these days, she wasn't about to take any chances with her job.

 “That's because they aren't nice men at all, Emma.”  They both turned as a familiar deep voice spoke up from behind them.

 “James!” Emma's face lit up at the sight of her big brother and she leaped towards him for a hug.

 “Hey, Squirt.” James grabbed Emma's backpack by one of its many handles and dangled the girl a few inches from the floor before she could reach him.

 “Lemme down!” Emma giggled as she spun a little in his strong grip, feet spinning in the air.

 “I didn’t hear the magic word…” James laughed as Emma squealed happily.

 “James!”

Say it.” James teased a little longer. Emma growled and finally gave in.

 “Okay, okay! Pleeeease, James, my smartest and bestest big brother. Now put me down!” Emma finally squeaked out and was promptly dropped back down to her feet, with James chuckling at her.

 “See, was that so hard?” James ruffled her hair and turned back to the security desk attendant.

 “Thanks Virginia, I've got her from here.” James smiled at the attractive receptionist. She just nodded at him and started answering her phone lines again, various red buttons blinking steadily from the switchboard. He led the way over to the bank of elevators and hit the up button. “Dad's meeting with the Board of Directors is running late.”

 “Why did those men look so mad at Daddy?” Emma asked as the elevator doors slid shut and James hit the button for the top floor. He looked at her and tried to figure out how much of the bullshit politics she would actually understand. Nodding slightly, he decided that she was a smart kid and should know the truth.

 “Because they don't want Dad and Lizzie to run Spaulding. They think that they could do a better job themselves.”

 “But Granddad said it was Daddy's.” Emma scratched her nose, trying to figure out why anyone wouldn't listen to what Granddad said.

 “I know. Crazy, huh?” James smirked as the elevator dinged and the doors opened to the ninth floor. “I think Auntie Alex might have said something to get the Board all upset.”

 Emma grimaced. She didn't really like Aunt Alexandra very much. She always hugged her too tight and wore too much perfume. Mommy didn't seem very happy when she was around either. And Mommy always knew when someone was trouble. Besides, Natalia always says to trust your feelings, and in this case Emma knew she felt the same way her Mommy did.

 James pushed open the big oak door to their father's office as Emma followed him in. His cell phone chimed and he pulled it from his pants pocket to see who had texted him.

 “Say hi to Daisy for me,” Emma chirped as she dropped her backpack and hopped into the leather chair behind the desk. James just shook his head, his thumbs already flying across the keypad.

 “Did you get her that necklace for Valentine’s Day that we looked at?” Emma spun the chair a little and looked up at her brother, who simply glanced over at her and smiled softly. "See, I told you she’d love it.”

 “Yeah, yeah, thanks, Squirt.” James hit the send button and slipped his phone back into his pocket.

 “Is James behaving, Emma?” Lizzie popped her blonde head into the room and grinned at her little sister. “You know what he’s like. You can’t leave him alone for a minute without him wandering off and getting himself into some sort of trouble.” Lizzie came into the office and stood beside her brother, elbowing him lightly in the stomach. He snorted and chuckled along with the girls.

 "What’s all this giggling in my office?” Phillip grumped from the door of his office, but he couldn’t keep the frown in place, breaking into a huge grin, as his children all laughed a little harder at him. It warmed his heart to see them all together in his father’s old office, now his office. Alan had been right about one thing, family was everything. It occurred to him that the future of Spaulding Enterprises looked pretty damn comfortable sitting in her rightful throne. Someday, it would be the three of them against the world. And he couldn’t wait to be there to see it. 

 “Emma’s plotting a hostile take-over and James and I are doing rock, paper, scissors for who gets to run the overseas operation for her,” Lizzie teased and ran a hand over her softly swelling belly.

 “But I want to be a marine biologist and swim with the dolphins…” Emma said, a little worried all of a sudden. She didn't want to have to sit inside all day with grumpy old men yelling at her. 

 “You can be anything you want to be, pumpkin.” Phillip dropped a kiss to Emma’s soft hair and scooted her out of his chair. Slipping on his reading glasses, he settled back at his desk and brought up his email. “Swimming with dolphins would be a fantastic job.”

 “So, does that mean I can drop out of school and race cars?” James teased, yanking his father’s chain a little. Didn’t want the old man to get too comfortable after all. Phillip just looked up at him over the rim of his glasses and shook his head.

 “Nice try,” Lizzie murmured and elbowed her brother again. She handed a file over to their father. “Did you tell Weckworth and Hamilton where to stick it?”

 Phillip grimaced and pulled Emma onto his lap, very aware of tiny ears listening to their conversation. He ran a hand through his short hair and sighed.

 “They’re going to continue to be trouble, unless you can neutralize Alexandra,” Lizzie warned, sitting on the edge of her father's desk. The man always wanted to believe in the good of everyone. Alexandra, however, needed to be watched very carefully. She was old school Spaulding, and that was nothing to take lightly.

 “I know.” Phillip hugged Emma closer as she started doodling a dolphin on some of his papers. There were days that he wished he were nine again. “But it’s Friday night and I’m not going to worry about it right now, besides I’ve got a date with my littlest girl.”  Emma smiled up at him and nodded.

 “Bill’s picking me up in half an hour. Ever since he jumped in to help out with Josh gone, he’s been working such late hours.” Lizzie sighed and absently rubbed at her growing belly.

 “I’m sure he just wants to get everything settled at Lewis so he can concentrate on you and the baby when the time comes.” Phillip pushed his reading glasses further up along the bridge of his nose and quickly glanced through the file Lizzie had handed him.

 “I’m meeting some guys from school. I’ll see you at home later, Dad.” James headed towards the door, it was starting to get late and he still needed to change.

 “Not too late tonight, okay, James? We need to go look at tuxedos tomorrow, remember.” Phillip glanced towards the door as James nodded, waving at Emma before disappearing into the hallway.

 “Bye, James!” Emma waved back and turned to look up at her Dad. "Are you really going to dress up like monkeys, Daddy?" She watched as Lizzie and Phillip exchanged a confused look and turned back to stare at her. She blinked back in all innocence.

 "’Cuz James said he hated wearing monkey suits..."

 ***

 

Natalia swiped the card key through the lock and opened the door to the Xiao’s private penthouse suite. Pushing it open, she took in her elegant surroundings. The suite was meant for royalty and special guests, or for the Xiaos whenever they were visiting the resort. And the Galaxy San Cristobel had obviously spared no expense.

 “Oh, my heavens,” Natalia whispered as she stepped deeper into the suite, her feet sinking into the thick plush of the carpet. There seemed to be picture windows everywhere, with amazing views from all angles, a huge sunken living room with a small kitchen attached, and a balcony overlooking the sea.

 “Hello? Some help for the heart patient please…” Olivia grumbled from the doorway, struggling with their bags. Behind her was a bellhop with the rest of their luggage.

 “Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry!” Natalia went over and grabbed the door, holding it open for both of them. “Let me get the door.”

 Olivia sighed and shook her head, dropping their bags to the right of the door.

 “Come on, kid, you can bring those in the main bedroom, over here.” Olivia found her way to the master suite. Glancing around she could see why Natalia had been so impressed. The entire suite was tastefully designed and elegant, yet homey. She picked up a framed picture of the Xiaos from the bookshelf.

 “From our family to yours, welcome to the Galaxy San Cristobel Hotel. Your home away from home,” Olivia read, nodding her head. “Nice."

 "Hey, that was your idea, wasn't it?" Natalia peered over her shoulder. It was a cute photo, with Mr. and Mrs. Xiao, along with their three older children in a lush backyard garden setting.

 “Yeah, apparently Decker and my replacement continued with some of my suggestions.” Olivia set the photo down, a part of her imagining what it would be like with her family’s photo in the frame. She snorted at the thought. Not exactly the same “family values” that Galaxy was promoting. A light tap on the door caught her attention.

 “Ms. Spencer, welcome to Galaxy San Cristobel.” A balding, dapper man in his mid-fifties stood at the door, a genuinely friendly smile gracing his face.

 “Mr. Riker, so nice to finally meet you in person. And it’s Olivia.” Olivia grinned back, turning on her considerable charm. The hotel general manager had an excellent reputation in the industry and she had enjoyed the few initial conversations they’d had while planning their stay. She ushered the man in and shut the door behind them.

In that case, call me Doug,” He turned and smiled at Natalia. “And this must be Ms. Rivera. It’s so nice to finally meet you.”

 “Natalia, please. I can’t wait to see the facilities.” Natalia smiled, pleased with his strong handshake. “The package you sent us was wonderful.”

 “I have your itinerary all planned, as we talked about last week.” Doug smiled warmly, confident in his hotel staff to stand up well under their scrutiny.

 “Good. I can’t wait to tour the kitchen. I wonder if your executive chef will remember me.” Olivia leaned back against the sofa. It had been a long time since her days working in the kitchen at the royal palace. She had started there the summer before—

 Olivia shifted suddenly and turned her thoughts abruptly back to the here and now. She glanced up to find the dark eyes of her lover and was more than happy to lose herself there for a moment or two as Doug chuckled softly and continued.

 “Ah yes. He definitely remembers you Olivia.” Doug smiled mischievously. He would never reveal the stories his executive chef had regaled him with about their potential new employer.

 “Oh, no. Do I need to worry?” Olivia glanced at Natalia and then back to the older man as he just shook his head. She liked him already, and if she read her lover’s body language right, she did too.

 Massimo is quite the character, and very temperamental,” Doug tried to explain, “but he makes the best—“

 “You name it, he makes the best version of it found on the island. So you just put up with all his quirks. I know.” Olivia chuckled, turning to Natalia. “Massimo never was very shy about how fantastic his cooking is, and with good reason. You’re going to love it.”

 “So if you will excuse me, I’ll let you get settled in. We’ve made reservations for you tonight at 7pm at the Chef’s Table, with samples of all our signature dishes.” Doug opened the door and stepped into the hallway, Olivia moving to follow him to the door.

 “Tell the big guy I can’t wait.” Olivia waved him off and shut the door quietly behind him. Turning she leaned against the door and sighed, happy to just finally stop.

 “He seems nice.” Natalia grabbed her largest bag and headed towards the bedroom to start unpacking. She needed to get out of her jeans and into something a little cooler.

Doug? Yeah, he does, and he’s done a good job of running this location.” The older woman paused and watched her lover head into the bedroom. “I’m just worried it might be more than we can chew, y’know?” Olivia grabbed another piece of luggage and followed behind.

 “Well, let’s give it a chance, okay? Having a sunny Beacon destination isn’t such a bad thing either.” Natalia dropped her luggage and popped the small black bag open, hunting for her shorts. Pulling them out, she started to unzip her jeans when she felt strong hands slide along her arms, leaving a trail of goose bumps behind. Warm hands started to help peel her jeans off, thumbs hooking into the elastic waistband of her panties underneath, slowly easing them down over her hips as a cold nose nuzzled along her neck.

 “H-how long do we have until dinner?” Natalia gasped, shivering as Olivia sucked and nipped at a tender earlobe.

 “Long enough…”