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.
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.”
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.
I have to get my bag packed for Daddy’s!”
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.”
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
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
really.” Natalia blushed as she looked at Olivia. “I never completely
unpacked her bag.”
gave a mock gasp. “That’s cheating!”
younger woman shrugged. “Well, we have been kind of busy since we got back.”
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.
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
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.
put a hand on her shoulder. “Sit. I’ve got it.”
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.
turned the child to set her in the crook of her arm and kissed her on the
forehead. “Is that better now?”
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.
Jane! Are you ready?”
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.”
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.”
knelt down with Emma’s light jacket to help her slip it on then gave her a big
hug. “Be good for Daddy, okay?”
Mom. Love you.” Emma picked up the bag Natalia had packed for her.
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.
sighed and rolled her eyes, jokingly. “Oh, okay!”
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.
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
shrugged and pulled Natalia a little closer. “We can always blame it on
chuckled against her partner’s strong shoulder. “Poor Iceland. Nothing good
could ever come from being named that.”
blonde pulled back, smiling, with a twinkle in her eye, and she clapped her
hands together. “Well, back to work!”
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.
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.”
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?”
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
kissed Olivia again with delicious intent before breaking away and walking up
followed her with her eyes. “Oh, yeah!”
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.
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.
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.
What are you doing?”
young man spun around at the angry voice behind him and adjusted Emma in his
stopped in her tracks, feeling rather foolish. “Jonathan? Sorry, I couldn’t
tell it was you from way over there.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
I hate to impose, but are you going to be here for a minute? I really need to
quickly nodded. “Sure.”
looked down at his daughter. “Do what she says, Sarah. Okay?”
his daughter nodded, her long dark curls bobbing with the motion, he walked
away, going around the other side of a set of buildings.
watched until he was out of eyesight and then glanced down at Emma and Sarah.
“Okay, ladies, what do we do now?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
No, I’m not into threesomes,” she grumbled to herself. Looking up, Jane
noticed that Emma and Sarah weren’t there.
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.
two better just be getting a drink of wa...”
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
man turned on Emma and pointed the gun at her.
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
was so good,” the younger woman mumbled against Olivia’s shoulder.
chuckled and looked up into the bright green eyes of her lover. “Okay, great.
Better than great. The best ever!”
smirked. “Much better. I do have a reputation after all.”
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.”
really?” Olivia lifted her eyebrow.
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.
I think I have a thing for bad girls.” Natalia whispered hotly into her
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
to her knees, she screamed one last time at Emma. “Goddamn it, Emma, run!
scream jarred Emma into action. She grabbed Sarah’s hand and pulled her away.
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
fucking bitch!” He sneered at her then shrugged. “I guess you’ll have to
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
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.
slammed his hand against the ground. “Shit!” Looking around again, he gave
one last frantic call. “Sarah!”
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.
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.
guess it’ll have to wait now.” With a sigh, he answered the call. “Yeah,
pushed back from Olivia and scrunched her dark eyebrows together. “Do you hear
shook her head. “I didn’t hear Francesca.”
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.”
what would have happened if someone had just walked in here.” They both stood
and grabbed their robes from the back of the door.
smirked at her partner. “We’d be on You Tube before the day was over?”
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.
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.
he lifted the phone. “Anna, he’s escalating. He’s killed someone.”
started to answer back but was drowned out by screams in the background.
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?”
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.
a long minute, she came back on the line. “They’re okay, Jonathan. Neither
are hurt. They were there alone?”
I mean, no.” He stumbled. “They were with Emma’s sitter, Jane, and um,
Jane was shot.”
you?” The subtle accusation laced her voice.
rubbed at his forehead. “I was nearby.”
near enough. You got damn lucky.”
I know.” He mumbled, guiltily. He could hear talking in the background before
she came back on the line.
calling out all the stops. Be ready.”
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.
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
Natalia, I’m sorry to wake you.” His voice was hesitant and a bit nervous.
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.
didn’t wake me.”
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
um, good,” He stammered.
Frankie.” Olivia came up behind her partner and ran her hands over the slender
he mumbled back.
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?”
no, actually. Thanks though. This isn’t a pleasure call.” He looked down
uncertainly and shifted on his feet.
was suddenly worried by his tone. “Why, what’s up?”
two should come down to the station.” Frank hated this part of his job.
flared in Olivia. “No, Frank, you need to tell us what’s going on. Right
gripped at Olivia’s hand to calm her, as much as to calm herself. “What
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.”
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
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.”
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…”
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.”
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.”
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.