ACT 1

 

Stepping into the kitchen, after leaving the spare room off the living room, Olivia smiled as she watched Natalia put the finishing touches on Emma’s French toast – a light sprinkle of powdered sugar and a drizzle of syrup. A large glass of orange juice completed the meal. Emma dug into the food with gusto, kicking her feet excitedly under the table. In between bites, she rattled on endlessly about Natalia’s sister, Leyla, being so cool. Olivia walked over to her partner and giving her a tender kiss on the cheek. A shy and flirty smile flashed back at her as Natalia handed her a hot cup of coffee.

 “Leyla’s not nearly as cool as you are though.” Olivia gave the younger woman a saucy wink then turned her attention to her daughter. “Slow down, Jellybean. Jane won’t be here for a few more minutes.”

 Olivia leaned over to give Francesca a kiss on the head as the little girl worked diligently to finish off her morning bottle. Then she ran a gentle hand over Emma’s braid as she passed her and went around the table to sit next to her.

 “But I have to get my bag packed for Daddy’s!”

 Natalia turned to place a plate in front of Olivia and refresh her coffee in one smooth move, the action coming second nature after her years as a waitress. “It’s already taken care of, Emma.”

 “Really?” Olivia looked at her, incredulous. They hadn’t really had a break in the month since they had returned from Chicago, and Olivia didn’t even recall unpacking her own bag, especially with all the commotion over the vandalism at the house. All she knew was that one day she came home from work and everything was back in order.

 A momentary feeling of darkness blanketed her mind as she thought of the violation from the vandalism, and her hands itched to hold her gun. Natalia’s laughter cut through the anger taking over her mind, reminding her of what was truly important.

 “Yeah, really.” Natalia blushed as she looked at Olivia. “I never completely unpacked her bag.”

 Olivia gave a mock gasp. “That’s cheating!”

 The younger woman shrugged. “Well, we have been kind of busy since we got back.”

 Olivia nodded knowingly. They hadn’t even been back home a couple of weeks when Leyla called Natalia asking if they’d mind if she came for a visit. Natalia was surprised, but excited, to say the least. She told her little sister to get busy packing, and that it would be perfect for her to come the beginning of June after Emma was out of school. The same day that Leyla called they started clearing out the small unused office space off the living room, which had become more storage than anything.

 Little had been done around the farmhouse that didn’t revolve around that task. Boxes had been taken to the attic and some unneeded furniture was taken to Sister Anne as a donation. Natalia had cleaned out all of the knick knacks and miscellaneous items, and now it was Olivia’s turn to paint. Leyla wasn’t expected for several more days, but it was the perfect time to get Emma out of the house for a little while to finish work on the room. The little girl was beyond excited to have her “cool” aunt come stay with them. She couldn’t seem to talk about anything else.

 Olivia laughed as she watched Emma gobble down the last of her French toast and take off up the stairs to get her bag when she heard the knock at the back door off the kitchen, alerting them to Jane’s arrival. Natalia had just sat down to eat her own breakfast but started to stand back up when she heard the knock to go let Jane in.

 Olivia put a hand on her shoulder. “Sit. I’ve got it.”

 Francesca started to fuss now that she was finished with her bottle. The brunette sighed and set her fork down to get her daughter out of the high chair. They had just started using it and already Natalia could see it wouldn’t last long. They were lucky if they could get the little girl through a feeding before she fussed to get out. Sweet Pea seemed to prefer to be held by her mommies instead. Natalia settled Francesca on her shoulder, and after a couple of well-placed pats on the back, a burp came up and the little girl sighed contentedly.

 She turned the child to set her in the crook of her arm and kissed her on the forehead. “Is that better now?”

 Francesca gurgled and smiled. Picking up her fork again, Natalia took a bite of toast as her partner pressed the correct buttons on the alarm and turned the deadbolt to let Jane into the house. She heard Emma bounding down the steps before barreling into the kitchen.

 “Hey, Jane! Are you ready?”

 The young woman laughed at the little girl as Olivia turned with her hands on her hips. “Not so fast, young lady. We get hugs and kisses before you go, and you need a jacket.”

 “Sorry, Mom.” Emma walked the short distance to the kitchen table to give Natalia and Francesca kisses and hugs. “Love you, Ma. Love you, Sweet Pea.”

 Olivia knelt down with Emma’s light jacket to help her slip it on then gave her a big hug. “Be good for Daddy, okay?”

 “Okay, Mom. Love you.” Emma picked up the bag Natalia had packed for her.

 “And no petting strange dogs at the park,” Natalia added, standing to see Emma off. Puppies were Emma’s new obsession since she saw a very sweet Golden Retriever at the park in Chicago.

 Emma sighed and rolled her eyes, jokingly. “Oh, okay!”

 Olivia opened the door again, bracing herself for the chilly, morning wind. Ever since being in sunny San Cristobel, she’d been ready for warmer weather to reach Springfield. Emma and Jane left with a quick wave, leaving the older women in a suddenly quiet house. Olivia relocked the door as soon as it was closed and unconsciously reset the alarm.

 She turned to Natalia who was standing behind her and saw she was shivering. She ran her hands over the goose-bumped arms. The brunette relaxed into the warm caress, cradling Francesca between them. “What’s up with this chilly weather? It’s nearly June.”

 Olivia shrugged and pulled Natalia a little closer. “We can always blame it on Iceland.”

 Natalia chuckled against her partner’s strong shoulder. “Poor Iceland. Nothing good could ever come from being named that.”

 The blonde pulled back, smiling, with a twinkle in her eye, and she clapped her hands together. “Well, back to work!”

 Before Olivia could get away, she was pulled back and kissed thoroughly by Natalia, making her go weak in the knees as she whimpered into the kiss. The younger woman pulled away with a satisfied smirk.

 “Not so fast, Spencer. We have plenty of time to finish the room, and someone’s fast asleep again.” She looked down at the sleeping child in her arms. “And if we didn’t have to stay inside to hear the monitor, I would so drag you back out to that Jacuzzi Doris had installed.”

 Olivia definitely owed Doris big time for that gift! Memories of them christening the new hot tub were wonderfully fresh in her mind. She lifted a mischievous eyebrow and gestured up the stairs with a tilt of her head. “I guess I’ll just meet you in the bedroom in five minutes then?”

 Natalia’s heart raced at the thought of what was to come, literally, for the next couple of hours. She took a steadying breath to calm down. “With bells on, and nothing else.”

 She kissed Olivia again with delicious intent before breaking away and walking up the stairs.

 Olivia followed her with her eyes. “Oh, yeah!”

 ***

 

Emma flew down the slide as fast as possible, giggling as she went. She raced up the steps again and slid down again, hoping to go faster with each round.

 Jane smiled at her as she texted her boyfriend about their plans for later that evening. The young woman shivered at the chill in the air. She shook her head at being crazy enough to bring Emma out in the cold, but she was killing some time since Mr. Spaulding had a meeting this morning. No one else was at the park so they obviously had the common sense to stay home. When Olivia had mentioned needing to get Emma out from under foot so they could finish the room for Leyla, she jumped at the chance to help out. Besides, she could always use a few extra bucks and what else was she going to do since her boyfriend was putting in more hours at the Beacon to pay for his new car? She liked the car. It was perfect for making out in down by the lighthouse, so she wasn’t going to complain.

 A squeal from across the playground startled her, and she frantically searched for her young charge. Seeing the young girl wrapped up in the arms of a scruffy looking man, she took off in a run.

 “Hey! What are you doing?”

 The young man spun around at the angry voice behind him and adjusted Emma in his arms.

 Jane stopped in her tracks, feeling rather foolish. “Jonathan? Sorry, I couldn’t tell it was you from way over there.”

 The handsome man smiled at her, and she could have sworn she swooned a little. Having been Emma’s babysitter for so long, she had seen many pictures of Jonathan, but hadn’t met him personally.

 He offered his hand in greeting, and Jane took it, blushing the whole time. At the moment, she really hated having a boyfriend that she actually liked.

 “You must be Jane. I’ve heard a lot about you from my aunt and the pipsqueak here.” He poked at Emma’s side, making her squeal. He reached around, finding the shy little girl hiding behind him and coaxing her forward. “This is my daughter, Sarah.”

 Jane squatted down to the little girl’s eye level. “Well, you’re a beautiful little girl, Sarah. My name’s Jane.” When Jane reached out her hand, Sarah shyly took it and thanked her.

 A sudden ringing made both Jane and Jonathan look for their phones. Eventually, Jonathan realized it was his and he set Emma down on the ground. He looked up from the caller ID nervously.

 “Um, I hate to impose, but are you going to be here for a minute? I really need to take this.”

 Jane quickly nodded. “Sure.”

 He looked down at his daughter. “Do what she says, Sarah. Okay?”

 When his daughter nodded, her long dark curls bobbing with the motion, he walked away, going around the other side of a set of buildings.

 Jane watched until he was out of eyesight and then glanced down at Emma and Sarah. “Okay, ladies, what do we do now?”

 Emma smiled mischievously as she took Jane and Sarah’s hands, and the young woman was suddenly very worried about the plans Emma had for them.

 ***

 

The long drive back into town had given Frank the time he had needed to clear his head. Over the last couple of weeks, he had taken to going on these drives when he couldn’t sleep. They were becoming more and more frequent, but he somehow found himself more centered when he returned. Ever since he had gotten the text from Eleni back in November, he had grown increasingly agitated and distracted. He wanted to know what right she thought she had swinging back through town, after all that had happened, upsetting Marina and assuming she had a right to see her grandson? He had politely returned emails and texts, telling himself it was for Marina and Henry’s sake in case Marina ever got over her hurt, but the mere thought of her being anywhere nearby stirred feelings in him that he’d rather not think about.

 He turned off the radio. If he heard one more sappy love song, he was going to scream. Blake had left him a message earlier about dinner; she wanted to have a romantic night out. He scrubbed a hand roughly across his face, scratching at the stubble on his chin. In all honesty, he really just wanted to go back to his apartment and have a beer, maybe watch the Cubs game coming on this afternoon. What the hell was his problem? Blake was a nice, charming woman, and certainly someone he had found attractive enough to sleep with years ago. Actually, she was still perfectly attractive, and he wasn’t complaining about having a regular bed partner. He couldn’t fool himself though; he knew something was missing from the relationship. He’d done the denial thing far too recently and it hadn’t turned out so well; he didn’t want to go through that again.

 ***

 

Jane had eventually convinced Emma that she needed to get off the merry-go-round or else she’d puke all over the little girl. Standing by the monkey bars, she looked up from her phone and her latest text when she heard a rustle in the bushes. Shrugging it off as a squirrel, she glanced back down at the display, a deep blush spreading across her face at her boyfriend’s audacity. With her fingers flying across the pad, she hit send and then turned off her phone.

 “Asshole. No, I’m not into threesomes,” she grumbled to herself. Looking up, Jane noticed that Emma and Sarah weren’t there.

 This time she didn’t let herself panic. Instead, she felt annoyed. Emma knew better than to leave her sight, but the little girl did have a tendency to disappear right from under a person’s nose. She called their names and headed toward the closed refreshment stand.

 “You two better just be getting a drink of wa...”

 When she rounded the corner, she saw the back of a man. He seemed to sway a little and then she saw why. Struggling in his arms was Sarah, a gun at her head and a hand over her mouth.

 A few feet away, Emma stood paralyzed as her cousin was lifted off the ground. She remembered what her mom had said once: if someone tries to hurt you, look at their face, stare at their face and memorize it. Then scream as loud as you can. She tried. She was panting hard and wanted to open her mouth to scream. But it was like one of those bad dreams she had once where no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t run or scream or do anything. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement and wanted to run to whoever it was, but her feet wouldn’t move. All she knew was that she was scared and wanted her Mom and Natalia.

 Jane edged closer, her heart pounding. She thought momentarily about the phone in her pocket, but she had turned it off earlier. If she turned it on now, she’d alert the man to her presence. She swallowed hard and tried to catch Emma’s eye. She could feel the panic rolling off her young charge and a brief flicker of green eyes in her direction was all Jane needed. Emma had become like the little sister she’d never had, and she’d be damned if she let anyone hurt her.

 Only a few feet away, Jane gritted her teeth and sprinted towards the back of the stranger. In panic and fear at her own possible insanity, she screamed mere seconds before hitting him in the back, knocking him to the ground.

 The shock of being suddenly hit made him let Sarah go, and the younger girl scrambled to Emma. The two girls watched in horror as the man jumped up and kicked Jane so hard in the ribs that it lifted her off the ground, and she landed with a thud on her back. Emma finally found her voice and let out a blood-curdling scream.

 Far away, Jonathan heard the scream and his blood ran cold. He raced back to the playground, berating himself when he realized how far away he was. When he had gotten the call, he had started walking down the road and hadn’t bothered to stop and turn back.

 The man turned on Emma and pointed the gun at her.

***

 

Olivia shivered at the chill that ran over her body when the warmth of an exhausted Natalia moved off of her to cuddle at her side. She sighed deeply and contentedly as she stretched muscles she didn’t realize she had anymore. Natalia curled into her, her lithe fingers caressing the soft skin on Olivia’s stomach.

 “That was so good,” the younger woman mumbled against Olivia’s shoulder.

 “Oh, just good?”

 Natalia chuckled and looked up into the bright green eyes of her lover. “Okay, great. Better than great. The best ever!”

 Olivia smirked. “Much better. I do have a reputation after all.”

 A naughty, playful rush overtook Natalia. It was like she couldn’t get enough of Olivia. “I know; that’s why I fell for you in the first place.”

 “Oh really?” Olivia lifted her eyebrow.

 Natalia began sucking softly on the other woman’s neck. A low moan and the feel of an arm tightening around her back was all the encouragement Natalia needed to continue her explorations; the ebbing embers began to flame white-hot again.

 “Really. I think I have a thing for bad girls.” Natalia whispered hotly into her lover’s ear.

 Olivia found the small inkling of control she still had and flipped Natalia over onto her back. “I guess I need to give you what you want then.”

 She kissed Natalia with fervor reminiscent of their first time. She loved kissing Natalia like this – deep, slow, and hungry – because it always got the same predictable and wonderful response. Olivia never tired of the feel of her lover’s legs wrapping around her, pulling her in close, as blunt nails slid down her back and dug in at the base of her spine.

 Olivia arched her back with a hiss, her hips grinding into Natalia. She leaned back in to kiss the younger woman again, when she was pushed back slightly.

 “What? What’s wrong?”

 ***

 

Jane struggled to her feet as blood ran down her chin. She found it hard to breathe and feared the attacker had broken some ribs, maybe even punctured a lung. With the little bit of strength she had left, she lunged again at the man to distract him, hitting him weakly. When he turned on her, she rasped out in a harsh voice, “Emma, take Sarah and run. Run as fast as you can.”

 The man backhanded Jane, sending her back to the ground in a heap. He grabbed her by her blood-stained blouse, lifted her, and slammed her back against the wall of the building behind her.

 The jarring blow stunned her but also got her adrenaline going. With one hand, she grabbed at the wrist of his gun hand, while the other went for his face, hidden under the hood of the sweatshirt. She groaned in agony as he pushed her against the wall again, his weight adding pressure on her broken ribs as blood splattered from her mouth. Over his shoulder, she could still see Emma and Sarah.

 She cried in frustration, frantically reaching for any bare skin she could find. She knew the situation was bad. All she could hope for was to distract him long enough for the girls to get away. She found purchase on his neck and dug in. He howled in pain and stumbled backwards.

 Falling to her knees, she screamed one last time at Emma. “Goddamn it, Emma, run! RUNNNN!”

 The scream jarred Emma into action. She grabbed Sarah’s hand and pulled her away.

 Jane shakily got to her feet and looked at the man with a bloody smile. “I know you, and I won’t let you get ‘em.” She swayed on her feet and glared at him.

 “You fucking bitch!” He sneered at her then shrugged. “I guess you’ll have to do then.”

 ***

 

When Jonathan was less than a hundred feet from where he’d last seen Sarah and Emma, a gunshot rang out. With tears running down his face, he raced the remaining distance, his lungs burning with the effort. A second shot sounded close. As he came around the refreshment stand, a figure disappeared into the bushes. Twenty feet away, he watched as a bloodied and beaten Jane crumpled to the ground.

 “Oh my God!” He looked around desperately but didn’t see Sarah or Emma anywhere. He called out to them, but heard nothing. Running up to Jane, he fell beside her on his knees. All he needed was a few seconds, just a little time to find out where his little girl was and who had done this. When he rolled her over though, her eyes were open…vacant. Even though he knew what it meant, he checked for a pulse anyway. Nothing.

 He slammed his hand against the ground. “Shit!” Looking around again, he gave one last frantic call. “Sarah!”

 ***

 

Frank slowed down as he passed the church where he and Natalia had almost married last year. A sad sigh escaped his lips as he thought back on that time. He’d been hurt at first, and then he was just simply angry. He’d taken every opportunity to blame the situation on Olivia because she was an easy target, one that had been in his sights for years. The businesswoman had certainly earned the ire of most people in town, so his anger at her was understandable to most. Deep inside though, he’d known. He hadn’t let himself see what was right in front of him, which was that Natalia didn’t light up when he was near. Hell, he hadn’t either in her presence. He’d just tried to make love happen when it wasn’t there. It had been nice to have someone there – a nice, pretty woman to say was his own. He had been lonely for companionship and sad over Coop. It had been a poor reason to cling to Natalia.

 A sick feeling hit him in the pit of his stomach as he realized, sadly, that what he had been doing the last few months with Blake wasn’t so different from what had happened between him and Natalia. Blake had been his consolation prize when Natalia hadn’t worked out, much like he had been for his ex-fiancé when Olivia hadn’t worked out for her. He could pretend to have deeper feelings than he did, just like he’d asked of Natalia, but that wouldn’t be fair to anyone. Blake deserved better and so did he. Just as he summoned the courage to pull up Blake’s number on his cell to tell her they needed to talk, it rang.

 “I guess it’ll have to wait now.” With a sigh, he answered the call. “Yeah, what’s up?”

 ***

 

Natalia pushed back from Olivia and scrunched her dark eyebrows together. “Do you hear that?”

Olivia shook her head. “I didn’t hear Francesca.”

Then they both heard it loud and clear - a hard, steady banging at the front door. Olivia sighed and pushed off of Natalia. “You know, I’m really glad we got into the habit of locking doors, but this is kind of annoying.”

 “Imagine what would have happened if someone had just walked in here.” They both stood and grabbed their robes from the back of the door.

 Olivia smirked at her partner. “We’d be on You Tube before the day was over?”

 Natalia gave Olivia a light smack on the arm, but laughed, nonetheless, at the naughty woman. She led the way out of the bedroom as Olivia made a short detour to check on the baby. Natalia tightened her black silk robe as she got to the bottom of the staircase. She peeked through the curtain before disarming the alarm and opening the door with concern.

 “Frank?”

 ***

 

 For a few seconds, Jonathan was completely still as he listened for any sound that may have been his daughter, but silence greeted him instead. Then he heard a muffled sound and realized he still had his phone in his hand.

 Shakily, he lifted the phone. “Anna, he’s escalating. He’s killed someone.”

 Anna started to answer back but was drowned out by screams in the background.

 Tears fell from his eyes as he recognized the sound. “Is that…please tell me that’s Sarah…that she made it to the police station?”

 “It is…and Emma.”

Jonathan could hear Anna on the other end of the line issuing orders to Remy. Then he heard Anna talking to them softly, getting them to calm down.

After a long minute, she came back on the line. “They’re okay, Jonathan. Neither are hurt. They were there alone?”

 “Yeah. I mean, no.” He stumbled. “They were with Emma’s sitter, Jane, and um, Jane was shot.”

 “And you?” The subtle accusation laced her voice.

 He rubbed at his forehead. “I was nearby.”

 “Not near enough. You got damn lucky.”

 “Yeah, I know.” He mumbled, guiltily. He could hear talking in the background before she came back on the line.

 “Frank’s calling out all the stops. Be ready.”

 Jonathan sighed and flipped his phone closed, hearing the sirens in the distance grow closer. He looked down at Jane, wanting to close the lids of her eyes, but knowing he’d be stupid to touch her any more than he already had. All he could do was look at her sadly and pray for this nightmare to end soon, before anything worse happened.

 ***

 

When the door swung open, Frank was surprised to see Natalia still in her robe. He glanced at the clock on the wall knowing she’d normally be up well before then.

 “Hey, Natalia, I’m sorry to wake you.” His voice was hesitant and a bit nervous.

 A blush flared across her face when she heard the door to Francesca’s room close and the familiar tread of Olivia’s feet as she descended the steps. She saw Frank glance over her shoulder, toward the staircase.

 “You didn’t wake me.”

 Frank cleared his throat, watching Olivia descend the steps in a red silk robe and bare feet. He fought to push the mental image of what he had interrupted out of his mind.

 “Oh, um, good,” He stammered.

 “Mornin’, Frankie.” Olivia came up behind her partner and ran her hands over the slender shoulders.

 “Morning,” he mumbled back.

 Natalia suddenly remembered that she had forgotten her manners. She still hadn’t quite made the mental adjustment to having doors bolted and alarms set, so she wasn’t used to actually having to invite anyone in. “I’m sorry, Frank. Do you want to come in, have some coffee?”

 “Um, no, actually. Thanks though. This isn’t a pleasure call.” He looked down uncertainly and shifted on his feet.

 Olivia was suddenly worried by his tone. “Why, what’s up?”

 “You two should come down to the station.” Frank hated this part of his job.

 Anger flared in Olivia. “No, Frank, you need to tell us what’s going on. Right now!”

 Natalia gripped at Olivia’s hand to calm her, as much as to calm herself. “What happened?”

 He swallowed. “It’s Jane. She’s been shot.” When the two women stared at him in stunned silence, he answered the obvious question. “She’s dead.”

 Natalia grabbed at the chair next to her to hold herself up as Olivia pulled her close. Terrified brown eyes turned to Olivia, then to Frank. “Emma. What about Emma?”

 He reached for both of them reassuringly, squeezing their shoulders reassuringly, all of their past issues floating away in their moment of shared worry. “She’s fine. She’s not hurt. Scared, but not hurt.”

 Olivia let out the breath she didn’t know she had been holding. She grasped at Natalia’s hand for support and looked at Frank, “Jesus, Frank! You scare us like that ever again, and I swear…”

 Natalia pulled back from Olivia’s embrace and wiped at the tears on her face, she looked at Frank with new determination. “We need to see her.”

 Not understanding what she really meant, Frank nodded. “Of course. She’s safe at the station. Anna and Remy are at the scene, but we have an officer with her.”

 “I’m not talking about Emma.” Natalia looked at him hard. “I need to see Jane. I need to see her body.”

 Olivia and Frank exchanged concerned looks as the younger woman headed up the stairs to change.

***