ACT 1

A light layer of frost covered the window in the master bedroom of the farmhouse, a testament to the fact that old man winter was well on his way. Warm and snug inside, Olivia Spencer yawned, groaning softly as she sleepily ran a hand through her tousled hair. Shuffling into the bathroom, she stretched slowly, working the kinks out of her back. Leaning forward on the vanity, she stared at her reflection and shook her head, smiling as she recalled just how she got those achy muscles.

“God, you’re getting old, Spencer.”

“I don’t believe a word of it, querida,” Natalia Rivera said as she stepped into the spacious bathroom and wrapped her arms around her grumbling partner.

“Hmph. So says the woman who tried to kill me last night. Somehow I think you’re a little biased,” Olivia grumped but leaned into the embrace.

“Besides, don’t you know that cougars are sexy?” Natalia nuzzled along the soft hair behind her lover’s ear before finding and nipping playfully at a tempting earlobe. “I’m just sayin’.”

Olivia turned in her lover’s arms, enjoying the sweet curves pressing her back against the vanity and closed the scant distance to taste her lover’s full lips.

“We will be late if you keep this up, missy.”

Natalia sighed and nodded, nuzzling closer. Their dinner in Chicago with her parents had been arranged for weeks and a part of her was dreading it, but she knew it was the right thing to do. Her mother had sounded stunned when she had called to make the arrangements. It would almost have been funny if it hadn’t been such a sad statement about their relationship. Regardless of the less than warm reception Natalia had Christmas presents wrapped and ready from their family for both of her parents.

Natalia leaned into her lover, taking comfort from her sleepy warmth as long fingers dragged lazily through her hair. The one good thing about all the craziness around them this year with Edmund was that Natalia realized just how important all her family ties were. Leyla’s deciding to come back into her life had been an unexpected blessing, one that Natalia cherished more and more with each passing day as she got to know the young woman better.

And now, despite how she had been treated over the years, Natalia still wanted her older brother Leo and her parents involved in her life in some way too. She didn’t hold out much hope of their actually attending the wedding ceremony over New Year’s, but deep down a part of her wished her parents would surprise her and rise to the occasion. Realistically though, she knew they had a hard enough time admitting their daughter was in a committed lesbian relationship.

Olivia sensed the change in her lover’s mood and pulled the slight brunette into a tighter hug, tucking the dark head under her chin. She wouldn’t push Natalia when she went into one of these introspective funks but she could just hold her, so she knew she wasn’t alone. Sometimes actions were more important than words.

“We can head out of town once we swing by the Beacon to drop Sweet Pea off and then it’s just you and me and some serious retail therapy with the credit cards.” Olivia smirked into the soft dark hair. She still wasn’t sure what she was going to get the dark-haired beauty for Christmas -- hopefully something would come to her soon.

“And alone time with my parents.” Natalia said quietly.

“And time with your parents.” Olivia conceded with a slight grimace. Her eyes suddenly twinkled with mischief. “And I’m definitely looking forward to finding our honeymoon present.”  Olivia waggled her eyebrows and flushed with pleasure as Natalia blushed slightly, snuggling closer into the crook of her neck. Grinning unrepentantly, she pulled back to catch the dark eyes of her lover.

“You still want to, right?”

Natalia bit her bottom lip and nodded her head shyly, her gaze travelling down Olivia’s body. The desire she felt for the other woman did things to her that she never would have even considered before. And now…well, now she couldn’t wait for the next adventure with her lover.

“In fact, I don’t know if I can wait until our honeymoon to…” Natalia leaned in, trapping her lover against the vanity and whispered the naughty details into Olivia’s ear.

Olivia smiled knowingly and tugged, pulling the tails of Natalia’s white cotton shirt out of her jeans, all thoughts of a shower and getting dressed disappearing with the suggestive words falling from those delectable lips. Natalia caught her roving hands and pressed them to the countertop behind her, effectively trapping her before starting a searing trail of kisses down her body.

Olivia grinned as she felt herself guided up onto the marble vanity countertop, Natalia making quick work of removing her sleep shorts as she went.

“Well, so much for an early start…

(CLICK HERE TO READ AFTER DARK CONTENT NC-17. WILL OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW.)

***

 

It was quiet in Company, the usual Friday morning crowd having thinned as patrons dashed off to work after picking up a quick bite to go. Doris Wolfe sat at the counter watching her girlfriend chat with an older couple sitting in a booth by the window.

Olivia sauntered in and made her way towards the counter, sliding into the stool beside Doris and smiling happily at her.

“You look disgustingly chipper this morning." Doris turned slightly to greet her friend, and quickly assessed Olivia's mood. "Someone got some last night.”

Olivia raised an eyebrow and simply smirked, denying nothing. After all, what would be the point?

“Someone around here should, don’t you think?” Olivia couldn’t help the teasing jab, grinning wider as Doris’ eyes narrowed at her over the rim of her cooling coffee mug.

“Olivia, are you picking on Doris again?” Blake efficiently filled two take out cups of coffee, popped the lids on, and quickly made change for the ten dollar bill Olivia slid across the counter.

“Heavens no!” Olivia grinned, dropping some change in the tip jar and pocketing the rest. “Would I do that?”

Blake paused and stared a moment in obvious disbelief before shaking her head and making her way back into the kitchen. Olivia and Doris quietly watched her leave and then turned to face each other again before giggling like two school girls.

"So?" Olivia prompted, taking a quick sip of her coffee cup.

"Blake still has no clue." Doris grinned happily. "It took some digging to find decent tickets, but that's why you pay your amazing assistant Keira so well." She had been planning the theatre trip to Chicago for a while now, wanting to surprise Blake as an early Christmas present. Enrolling Keira’s help had been Olivia’s suggestion, having great faith in her assistant’s abilities to live up to her Beacon staff nickname, the Miracle Worker. "We have tickets for tonight."

"Tonight!" Olivia blinked. "That's fast."

"I know, but it was the best we could do on such short notice." Doris glanced back at the kitchen to see where Blake was. The coast was still clear so she turned back to Olivia. "I booked dinner reservations before the show and then we'll slowly make our way home after the show." Doris smiled softly, suddenly far away in her thoughts. "I can't wait to see her face."

Olivia reached out to squeeze Doris' arm. For all her teasing, she was genuinely glad to see her friend so happy. Looking over the mayor's shoulder she saw Blake dash out of the kitchen with a breakfast order and head straight for one of the busy tables.

“As much as I’d love to stay and chat I have to get going.” Olivia grabbed both of her takeout cups from the countertop and stood to leave.

“Good luck with Natalia’s family tonight.” Doris said, waving her off, not wanting to be in either of her friend’s shoes tonight for anything. Shaking her head, she took another sip of her coffee as the door closed behind Olivia. “You’re going to need it, my friend.”

***

 

"Hey there," Leyla looked up from her desk as her sister Natalia wandered into the daycare center of the Beacon, the electric door chime giving her fair warning of someone opening the door. "You look fantastic today. Did you do something different to your hair?"

"Um, no." Natalia flushed slightly and bit her bottom lip, flashing instantly to Olivia passionately washing her hair in the shower earlier that morning. "I-I was in a bit of a rush to get out of the house and just sort of let it do what it wanted, I guess."

“Well, whatever you’re doing, keep it up.” Leyla flashed another bright smile at her sister, who seemed to blush harder at her comment, before coming around her desk to take her squirming niece from Natalia's arms.

"How's my little Sweet Pea this morning? Are you gonna stay with me for awhile until your Papi comes?" Leyla tickled Francesca's wee belly, both women smiling at the girl's happy giggles.

"Are you sure you'll be okay at the farmhouse with the kids until Frank and Phillip show up Saturday morning?" Natalia asked pulling one of the baby’s socks up higher.

"Please, it’s an armed fortress. We will be fine." Leyla turned to her baby niece and dropped a soft kiss to the closest chubby cheek. "Won’t we, m’ija?” Leyla smiled as the small girl reached out and tugged on her hair. She glanced back at her older sister, growing concerned by the small frown she found there.

“What about you? How are you doing?” Leyla asked, watching Natalia continue to fidget with Francesca’s clothes. “You’re worried about Mama and Papa, aren’t you?”

Natalia shrugged and looked down before sighing, nodding her head. For all the independence and security she felt with Olivia and the family that they had built together, Carmen and Hector Rivera were still her parents. For all their past drama, their intimidating hurtful ways, they were still very important to her. She couldn’t help feeling deep down that they had the potential to love and accept her for who she truly was.

Leyla looked down and thought about how much she should say. They hadn’t really discussed their parents much since she’d come to live in Springfield and with good reason. She cleared her throat and glanced back up at her older sister.

“Listen, we both know what Papa is like. His whole rampage forbidding me to see you, telling me that you and Olivia would corrupt me with your evil sinful ways…” Leyla rolled her eyes and sighed. “Well, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I was out of there as soon as I could call you to see if your offer was still open. And the whole time Mama never said anything, y’know?”

Natalia sighed, knowing her mother’s silences sometimes said more than someone yelling at the top of their lungs. Leyla reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind her sister’s ear and smiled gently.

“My point is Mama didn’t disagree with him, but she also didn’t say anything bad about you either. She just looked out the window or started baking cookies whenever the topic came up.” Leyla’s lip twitched, knowing that the baking thing seemed to be genetic if Natalia’s own habits were any indication.

Natalia blinked, thinking about Leyla’s words and suddenly feeling a little better. Maybe there was a glimmer of hope after all.

“Ma-mi! Ma-mi!” Francesca squeaked, bouncing and reaching out for her mother from Leyla’s arms. Natalia’s heart clenched, her baby’s simple words choking her up. It still thrilled her to hear her baby girl call her that. It made her think of Rafe at that age, with the same dark hair and big eyes. And her heart clenched again as she thought of her baby boy so far away at this time of year. She pulled her daughter back into her arms for another hug before she’d have to leave.

The door chime sounded again and both women turned to see Jonathan enter with little Sarah not far behind him.

“Hey there.” Leyla couldn’t seem to stop the smile that spread across her face, Natalia noted.

“Hey.” Jonathan waved as Sarah suddenly raced over to the two women and tugged shyly at Leyla’s pant leg.

“Yes, Sarah?” Leyla glanced down at the small girl grinning widely at her.

“Hi,” Sarah said.

Leyla and Natalia laughed

“Hi, Sarah. Are you ready to spend some time with me today?” Leyla asked, pleased when the girl nodded excitedly and glanced over at the center’s stuffed toy box.

“What am I? Chopped liver?” Jonathan asked, mock hurt as he put his hand to his chest as if wounded and pouted.

“I think your daddy needs a goodbye kiss before he heads off to work.” Leyla smiled at the man’s antics. Sarah looked over at her father, a little torn between going to play with the toys or going to see him but finally running over to him.

Jonathan lifted her tiny form up into his arms and gave her a squeaky kiss on her cheek.

“Goodbye, my little princess twinkle bottom,” Jonathan murmured into her dark hair, smiling as she squeezed him harder.

“Bye, Daddy,” Sarah said. “Have good day.”

Jonathan chuckled and nodded his head, his baby sounding so grown up all of a sudden.

“You too, baby girl.”

Natalia’s heart warmed at the sight of Olivia’s nephew so in love with his daughter. Jonathan was a good man and a good father. She glanced over at Leyla who was watching them with a huge smile on her face. Natalia’s eyes narrowed, realizing that her sister was quite taken with the man as well.

“I’ve got to go,” Jonathan said, slipping Sarah back to the ground and gently swatting her bottom as she made a beeline to the toy box. “Thanks, ladies. I’ll see you later, Leyla.”

They both waved as Jonathan left, the door barely clicking shut before Natalia turned to her sister.

“Well?”

Leyla rolled her eyes at Natalia, before pulling Francesca to her.

“Say goodbye to your nosey mami, Sweet Pea.” Leyla shook her head. She had been enduring teasing on all fronts as she and Jonathan had been trying for weeks to set up a date, both their schedules and a bout of stomach flu making it harder than it should have been. Natalia just grinned at her and leaned closer to her wiggling daughter.

“Love you.” Natalia ran her fingers through Francesca’s dark hair and kissed a pudgy cheek in goodbye and then turned to drop another quick kiss to her sister’s cheek too.

“Love you too. And if you play your cards right with that one, maybe I won’t be the only one getting lucky this weekend.” Natalia couldn’t resist before turning to go.

Leyla’s mouth opened and closed, a little shocked at her sister’s words. Olivia was definitely rubbing off on her big sister.

“Natalia!”

Natalia’s laughter followed her out of the daycare center.

***

 

Doris crushed out her cigarette, dropping it into the tin in her purse and popping a mint into her mouth before knocking on the door to Blake’s home. Her excitement grew as she stood outside in the late afternoon air, waiting for the door to open.

“Hi there!” Blake smiled as opened the door and leaned against it, just staring at Doris looking all nervous and adorable. “Come on in before you freeze to death.”

“Thanks” Doris grinned and stepped into the warmth of the home. Pulling her leather gloves off and tucking them into her long dark coat, she noticed the quiet in the normally bustling household these days. “Where are the kids?”

“Clarissa is at a sleepover at Emma’s and my mother is taking the boys out for burgers and a movie. She wanted to spend some quality time with them before she flies out on Tuesday to meet up with Ed in California,” Blake said happily. “So I’m all yours.”

“Perfect.” Doris smiled knowingly, having already recruited Holly Reade’s help before starting this venture. Blake’s mother was actually quite refreshing to deal with, seemingly cut from the same cloth as Olivia and herself. She wasn’t exactly sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but Doris did know that she’d have to remember to keep an eye on the woman. For now though they were definitely starting out on the right foot together. Grinning like the cat that ate the canary, Doris bounced slightly on her toes, anxious to reveal her plans. “Actually, I have a surprise for you. An early Christmas present.”

“Really? For me?” Blake’s eyes widened, her smile warming Doris’ heart, and a few other body parts.

“For you, really.” Doris pulled a simple white envelope out and handed it over to the surprised woman. With a little shocked laugh Blake opened it, pulling out two theatre tickets.

“Oh, my God. Tickets to see Wicked at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago! It’s been sold out for weeks.” Blake gasped. “I wanted to see it when the musical was first here, but my life was crazy at the time and I could never make it. And I just loved the book.”

Blake looked closer at the tickets; clearly they were two of the best seats in the house. A lot of thought and effort had gone into getting these and it touched her that her girlfriend had gone to such trouble. The most Frank had ever done when they were together was get two-for-one coupons for the Applebee’s in the next town over. And she had treated that time, if she recalled it correctly.

“I know.” Doris said softly, grinning. “I remember your mentioning it was one of your favorites.”

Blake looked up at that, pleased that Doris remembered. The woman was constantly surprising her now that she had finally decided to give their relationship a chance to grow. Stepping closer, she leaned forward and gently kissed Doris’ lips. Pulling slowly away, she let her fingers linger on the mayor’s flushed cheek and let her feelings seep into her eyes as they continued to stare at each other, the moment stretching out pleasurably.

“Thank you,” Blake said quietly, still lost in Doris’ eyes.

“You’re more than welcome,” Doris said just as softly. “Now we also have dinner reservations in Chicago, so if you’re ready…” She offered a lopsided grin as Blake blinked at her before dashing to grab her winter coat and gloves from the closet. They headed out into the cold, both women ready for a night on the town.

***

 

The Fellowes Inn was a small, privately owned hotel that Olivia had booked them into for their little weekend getaway. She had told Natalia that it was a good opportunity to check out what similar types of hotels to the Beacon were like. Which was true, but in reality it was also one of the most romantic places she had stumbled across when looking for accommodations. Olivia wanted a haven for them this weekend before the hustle and bustle of Christmas and their wedding overtook all their time. Swiping the key card through the reader, Olivia pushed the heavy oak door open and entered the elegantly decorated suite.

“Wow, this is nice!” Natalia said from the doorway behind her. A small fireplace was along one wall and there was a large picture window to the right, overlooking the cityscape which was just starting to twinkle with lights. Both could be easily viewed from the large king sized bed that dominated one side of the room. A comfortable couch was nestled in front of the fireplace and a small dining area sat back to one side.

Their bags were already in the room, neatly placed near the chest of drawers. They had been brought up earlier when they had registered and dropped them off in the lobby before heading out to hit some of the shops that afternoon. Olivia dropped several shopping bags filled to the brim onto the plush-looking bed and sank down, enjoying the soft comfort it offered.

“My feet are killing me,” She grumbled, kicking off her stylish winter boots with a thump as they landed on the carpeted floor.

“At least we were able to get a good start on our Christmas shopping,” Natalia said sitting down beside her lover and lying back to join her on the mattress. “Oh, this is really nice.”

Both women sighed happily.

“I don’t want to move from this spot.” Natalia sighed.

“Me neither,” Olivia murmured before turning her head to take in the contours of the dark beauty’s face. Rolling to her side she propped herself up on one elbow and glanced down at her lover. “Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

“Hmm…” Natalia tapped her lip and frowned, making a show of thinking hard. “I vaguely recall something this morning, but I had some water in my ears so I can’t be sure…” She grinned up at Olivia, who was rolling her eyes.

“Why do I put up with this abuse?” Olivia murmured softly as she leaned over, dropping her lips ever closer to her intended target. She stared down at her lover’s mouth, watching fascinated as Natalia moistened them with a slow lick of her lips.

“Poor Ms. Spencer, so hard done by.” Natalia teased, running her right hand up and into thick honey-blonde hair. “Let me see if I can make it up to you.” She gently tugged her partner closer into a slow tender kiss.

Pulling apart, they smiled at each other a moment before a small beep from Natalia’s cell phone caught their attention, followed closely by a discreet chime from Olivia’s BlackBerry.

“Where are your pills?” Natalia nuzzled along Olivia’s ear, dropping a series of butterfly kisses there.

“In my makeup bag.” Olivia kissed the tip of Natalia’s nose gently, before lifting herself off of her lover and shifting away. Standing, she looked down at her fiancée wanting nothing more than to pounce on her seductive curves and never come out from under the covers. She sighed and checked her watch. It was getting late. “We should get dressed anyway. Don’t want to keep your parents waiting.”

Reluctantly, Olivia headed for their luggage as Natalia sat back up. Finding her pills, she grabbed them and made her way to the washroom. Watching the door close behind her, Natalia sighed.

“No, we don’t want to keep them waiting,” Natalia murmured, biting her lip, trying hard not to worry about what would happen tonight. Standing, she made her way over to the large window and stared out at the glittering lights of Chicago.

“Please, God. Give me strength…”

 ***