Disclaimer One: Yep, these gals are mine, so don’t mess with them without permission. Okay?

Disclaimer Two: There is subtext and some heavily sensual situations between women, some harsh language and my usual fanfare with humor. If none of this is your cup of tea, go elsewhere.

Dedications: To friends Sloane and Celine, thanks for everything. To God, continue to bless me and keep me in your good graces.

This 11th instalment picks up where Touch leaves off. I know its been a while so you may want to go back over that one.

(11th Installment in R’ Place Series)


Copyright © November 2000

The sun peaked through the raised blinds, casting shadows through the condensation on bedroom windows. The biggest star was high in the sky, but the occupants paid it no mind, only having eyes for each other. Still, it watched over them penetrating the brisk cold outside to shine warmth on their bodies in a blessing of sorts, but they were busy generating their own heat.

”Oh, God, T!” Gabrielle’s plea was a breathy moan as her body reared up from the mattress and arched like the tightest of bows. The lack of contact with the bed lent to her feeling of floating, flying almost, which she had been doing for some time. She had tried begging, pleading, and had even grabbed the dark head in an attempt to push it into her center deeper, where Tara’s mouth and tongue were needed. Each attempt had been futile. The brunette continued the long, languid, and slow strokes over the strawberry blonde’s entire sex with the flat of her tongue. Long fingers teased her opening, entering as far as the first knuckle and stopping to just play in liquid heat. A strong arm laid over slim hips, trapping them and keeping them from the frantic movement that the owner wanted to indulge in.

The petite woman was covered in sweat making her hair cling to her lips and face like moist drapery. Her chest heaved with each ragged breath and a sensual moan came with each breath exhaled. Gabrielle bunched wrinkled sheets in her fist and pulled them from the edges of the bed as her body arched again when Tara’s talented tongue teased over particularly sensitive spot. She cried out as electric tendrils of pleasure shot through her body like a fire tipped arrow.

This woman owned her body. This woman owned her soul, and this woman was her heart. At this moment in time she took it all, holding it in her hand and cherishing it in one of the ways she knew how by making love to her slowly and sweetly. Gabrielle gave it all freely. She didn’t have a choice.

Loving the way each pearly drop of arousal covered her face and wisps of her hair, Tara explored moist folds with her tongue, outlining each crevice, wallowing in different textures from silk to satin. Slim hips tried futilely to push her deeper, almost drowning her. She didn’t mind. She could breathe any day. Right now was what was important, loving Gabrielle, devouring and drinking her like an epicurean delight meant to be enjoyed and savored. Tara moaned as she drank from the endless tankard of the finest, sweetest wine.

She expressed with her mouth and tongue the things she had trouble saying. With a slow pass over soaked inner labia, she whispered, “I’ll give you everything, even what isn’t mine.” Gabrielle whimpered in response, taking what Tara had to offer. With a lazy flick over her lover’s sensitized clitoris, Tara murmured, “Thank you for finding me, loving me, and having me.” Once more, adding two eager fingers to tease at Gabrielle’s opening, she screamed, “Stay with me. I need you. Wanna be inside you, under your skin.”

Everything between them was give and take. With each instance of pleasure she gave Gabrielle, she took a little for herself---the sighs, the moans, the whimpers, taking her higher. Her legs were spread wide, and of their own volition her hips undulated against the bed, allowing her sopping mound to graze in the most delectable of places. Tara could feel the wetness pool between her thighs and spill onto the sheets, making the friction all the more delicious. When Gabrielle finally went over the cliff she was hanging from, Tara would be sure to fall with her and catch her at the end. She owed her so much. It was the least she could do. Tara reverently wrapped her lips around engorged flesh and speared fingers in deeper. With each gentle suck, she pulled the appendages out to the tip and plunged in again with well lubricated ease.

With eyes wide open, she memorized each fold. Glancing up at her lover’s flushed face, she drew it in her brain to save in its own special corner. It could be long while before she got to see Gabrielle this way, again, and she meant to burn the image into her psyche to keep and whip out at hard times. Decisions had been made as her lover slept last night---decisions that would probably change everything. She couldn't take the guilt anymore. It wasn't fair to Gabrielle or to herself. It was time to come clean. The way the strawberry blonde had touched her, worshipped her made her see that the other woman had the right to know who and what kind of person she was making love to. Tara had refused sleep, letting the night sounds surround her as did her thinking. Scenarios had played in her head. All of them gave her a view of Gabrielle's back as she left, but they also contained her running behind her. By the early part of the morning, Tara concluded that no matter how long or how much it took that she would lead the strawberry blonde back into that door. Her efforts continued as. . .

Her tongue circled puckered flesh that continued to throb in her mouth, and her fingers delved a little deeper, eliciting a shout of joy from Gabrielle as she clenched inner muscles to keep them there.

Everything could change, but Tara knew she would still have this one moment in time when everything was perfect. It kept the tears at bay and made her take responsibility for her actions. She moaned at the sudden flash of wetness upon her mouth and chin. “Right here, right now. We belong to each other,” she mumbled with a hard suck.

”Tara!” Gabrielle screamed out her lover’s name for the umpteenth time in as many hours. Forever it had been since she was flying, but from far away she could feel the flight ending like all great ones do. Long, elegant fingers filled her to the hilt, and for some reason, she had never felt so full. They touched her everywhere—Tara’s tongue, her mouth, her fingers--- making Gabrielle feel like nothing else existed save what she was feeling. The flicks of her lover’s tongue as well as the warm suction became harder, more compelling with each stroke.

Sweat poured off her body, and she wondered where it was coming from since surely all the moisture in her body was pooled between her legs. Her descention in altitude started somewhere deep in her belly and fluttered unequally to points north and south. South is where everything quivered and contracted as orgasm hot and fluid rushed up to meet her, making her body arch one last time before the tremors took control. Gabrielle sobbed and shouted her release to the ceiling imploring it to meet her if she went up again. From a distance she heard a harsh moan, but coherence was indeed a thing of the past as eddies of pleasure continued to whirl in her body.

Tara watched as ultimate pleasure culminated in her lover’s flushed face, imprinting it on her retinas. She greeted the sudden rush of sweet wetness with a wide open mouth. The pulling and contracting around her fingers shot through her groin like lightening and her lover’s scream clapped against her like thunder. It was enough. She fell, giving a triumphant shout as she went. Long minutes later, she crawled tiredly up Gabrielle’s body and pulled her into strong arms, catching her.

Laying in the wide bed facing each other, legs tangled and rubbed as green gazed into blue in wonder. Gabrielle felt all the pieces that had been out of place fall in with a pleasant thump. The connection between them had returned some time ago, but it had never been stronger as it was at this moment. The strawberry blonde realized something in the quiet moments of afterglow. Her need for Tara was elemental like that of air or water. She was sure without it she would die. She blinked and traced the chiselled face before her from eyebrow to chin. This should scare me to know I can’t function without her. Is it bad to love someone so much? Is it normal? I don’t care. It’s what I feel. Gabrielle smiled as the larger hand took hers and kissed each fingertip. Small hands found their way through thick, dark hair then traced from cheek to collar bone. “I can't stop touching you, and I don’t want to,” Gabrielle whispered.

Tara closed her eyes briefly and hummed in delight, feeling each touch like a fire brand. “ I don’t want you to stop,” she said through a small smile that she didn’t feel. So I can save it all up for later. Remember it all for when you won't want to touch me again.

Gabrielle moved forward and kissed lips softly, briefly before backing away to reconnect with the gaze. “You made me feel. . . I don’t have any words for it.”

”I feel it every time I touch you, Red.” Tara’s smile was sad even though she tried so hard to hide it.

Concern darkened jade eyes. She looks so sad. Like she’s going to lose something or already lost it. “What’s wrong?” The writer traced the lines around her lover’s mouth, seeing and feeling them tremble.

Taking her mind back to happier times, Tara was able to give a convincing smile this time. “It’s nothing just a little overwhelmed. I can’t believe I found you.” Knew I couldn’t be that lucky to keep you, and you will leave, Red, when you find out how stupid and undeserving I am, but I will fight my hardest to bring you back.

Gabrielle looked deeper, praying not to see that look again. It was gone. But it was there. Why? What’s going on in your head? And it’s been so long since you touched me like that. Her own brow scrunched. I can’t make her talk if she's not ready. Maybe Doc White can help. The writer raised up a little on her elbow then rested her chin on her hand. She could feel the cool gold against her skin and remembered snatches from yesterday. “No, I think we found each other. You are so good to me.”

Tara grinned wanly, “Only because you make it so easy, love, and there is that little thing about me loving you.” Forever, Red.

Gabrielle’s nose crinkled in response, “Oh yeah, there is that.” She twirled a dark strand of hair around her finger. Her expression was thoughtful. “Is there a word stronger than love, something that goes deeper?”

A dark brow raised. “Deeper? Don’t know a word for it, but I know what you mean.”

”You do, huh?” She affectionately tugged on the strand of hair around her finger. So you feel it too. Thought so. “I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s like what I feel could go on. . .”

”Forever?” T interrupted.

Gabrielle’s reply was soft as she gazed into gentle blue. “Yeah, like it’ll never end.” Her head canted to the side as searching fingers found full lips. “Does that scare you?”

It scares me that –that concept will be null and void. It scares me because I won’t know how to bring it back to you. The sadness the brunette was feeling was in direct contradiction with her actions. A mask of contentment was firmly in place. Maybe I’ve become very good at lying to myself. Tara pursed her lips, kissing the fingers against them and ran a large hand down the curve of a shapely hip. “No, it doesn’t scare me at all. Especially when I feel it too. It’s sort of like through all the crap, I know we belong together. I know we’ll work things out and become stronger because neither one of us has a choice.” She paused for a moment smiling crookedly. “You know, that sounds so unhealthy on the surface, but it’s factual.”

Gabrielle nodded and grinned, “I know. Was thinking the same thing earlier. I think that’s what love is forgiving and selfless. It’s like an entity by itself, and it’ll do anything to survive to make itself stronger.” Her grin widened, “They talk about it in romance novels you know.”

”Huh?” The mechanic asked, confused.

The strawberry blonde chuckled happily. “Us, true love, soulmates or whatever you want to call it. It’s all the corny stuff that makes women swoon. We have that.”

I know, Red. That’s how I know we’ll be together. That’s how I know I can win you back after this. I have to keep that hope. For that reason alone, she felt somewhat lighter. “Yea, I know. I think that’s what Shannon sees when he says we light up the room.”

Gabrielle snickered and leaned in for a quick kiss. “No, dear. I think that’s sexual tension. We have this energy between us, or so I’m told. Don’t you feel it?” She leaned forward again flicking her lover’s lips with an errant tongue.

Tara growled and enjoyed the shiver that passed through her body. “Oh yea. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.” Her voice had lowered an octave. With a surprise lead, she pounced on top of her lover, tangling their legs and stretching the petite woman’s arms above her head. “Gotcha!” Tara’s smile was lecherous.

Gabrielle squealed and bucked her hips in an effort to dislodge the pleasant weight. She groaned as strong hips ground down into hers in retaliation. “No fair,” she said breathlessly. “Bigger than me!” The giggling started as a large hand snaked down to tickle the sensitive sides of her torso. Gabrielle arched her back, causing nipples to scrape and making them suddenly aware of their nudity and closeness.

Tara hissed at the contact then sobered. Sitting up, she straddled slim hips and looked down into the strawberry blonde’s flushed face. She released imprisoned wrist, leaving her hands as well as her partner’s free. Tara gently traced from eyebrows to lips and sighed when lips puckered to kiss her fingers. Smaller hands roamed from the tops of her thighs to her lover’s waist, but Tara ignored the electric contact to speak her mind. Her voice was soft but husky. “I may be bigger, Red, but you are so strong. You’re the strongest woman I’ve ever met. You’ve been through so much and came out of it still kicking. Amazing.” One more time, baby. Be strong just once more, and let’s get through this.

Green bore into blue shining with emotion. She still doesn’t know? Without her, I would be nowhere. Probably locked somewhere in a box in my mind. “You helped me so much. Without you here, I would have just been screaming in pain instead of kicking to come out of this.” She squeezed the tops of powerful thighs for emphasis.”

Tara moved forward, lowering herself to her elbows, allowing hands to play in their second favorite playground, Gabrielle’s hair. While traipsing through silk, she peered deep into green, seeing yellow flecks that made the color luminous. Her eyes held conviction, and for an instant, Tara believed. “I guess we’re saving each other,” she whispered.

A smirk turned the strawberry blonde’s nose up in all the right places. “Guess so.”

Tara leaned in to pay homage to her savior, but the shrill ring of the phone stopped her. With an irritated growl, she reached for the phone and barked, “Hello!”

”Well damn! Tell Gab to get from between your legs and talk to me.” The brunette rolled her eyes and shoved the phone in Gabrielle’s direction. “It’s Shannon. Tell him he’s just jealous ‘cause I get more sucking action than he does,” Tara added in a sing song voice.

The writer let out a burst of laughter before putting her ear to the phone, hearing her friend grumble in response. “Hey! Don’t tear into me. You started it!”

”Yea, yea, tell her I’ll have a snappy come back later in the day. It’s too hard this early in the morning, but tell her it’s gonna be a good one so be prepared!”

”Yeah, whatever, so what’s up?”

”Not much just called to see how my favorite couple was doing. I called my second favorite but Catt’s been hanging ‘round Lil too long. She insulted me before I could even say dark and curly’s name.”

Gabrielle cackled, “I knew my sis would be a good influence on her, so you’d better stay on your toes. But we’re fine. Guess we’re getting up in few. I’m getting hungry, and somebody has to cook.” The strawberry blonde mock slapped her lover’s naked belly.”

Shannon’s tone of voice changed to serious. “I’m serious, Gab. I haven’t seen you in ages, and I’m kinda worried. Wayne is too.” There was a pause then a muffled sound. “Hold on, Wayne wants to talk to ya.”

”Hey, beautiful. How are you?”

Smiling into the phone at the same time as she smiled into baby blues, Gabrielle answered, “I’m doing fine. I don’t know what I woulda done without this one here.” The dark had descended, now pillowed on the strawberry blonde’s chest. She ran her fingers through dark silk and leaned down to kiss the top of her lover’s head. “I’m sorry I haven’t allowed you guys to come over. It’s just been a while since I’ve been comfortable around people. I’m getting there though.”

”Well, I understand, Gab, but we’re your friends. It’s kinda hard for us to be left out of the loop like that.”

The writer blew out a pained breath. “I know, and I’m sorry. Maybe I should have said I wasn’t comfortable around men. Does that make better sense?”

His voice was strangled. “Yea, it does. We don’t want to cause you any discomfort.”

”Hey, perk up. You guys will be back over here making T pull her hair out in no time. Just give me a little while longer. T’s, going to my appointment today with me. The doc wants to start seeing the both of us.” Gabrielle felt the brunette stiffen on top of her. She rubbed a small hand down the length of her back in a soothing gesture then tapped her on the shoulder in order to get the dark head to rise. She had to see what she was thinking. Come on, baby. Stay with me here. It’ll be okay.

Tara took in a shaky breath before revealing her face. She knew her nervousness was showing, but she hoped that was all. Don’t look too deep, Red. You may not like what you see.

Gabrielle traced the scrunched lines of Tara’s forehead in an effort to smooth them out. “I think everything will be okay.” She said it for Wayne’s benefit as well as the mechanic’s.

”Well, tell her to keep taking good care of you. Hell, you two take good care of each other. We’re about to head out to work and just wanted to make sure things were copasetic with you guys. So, let me get off here.” There was another pause. “Shannon says bye, and I say we love you guys. Take care.”

Gabrielle smiled at the sentiment. “You too. I’ll talk to you guys soon.”

Knowing the whereabouts of the phone by heart, she reached for the cradle with no problems then turned her attention back to the brunette. “Hey, you okay?” Her gaze was thoughtful.

I hate lying to her, but it’ll all stop in a few hours. “Yea, just nervous I guess. I got a lot of revealing to do about us and about myself. Just got to get used to doing it in front of a stranger.”

Gabrielle hugged the taller woman to her. “It’ll be okay. You’ll like her because she’s very easy going, and before you know it, you’ll be spilling it like you’re talking to a bartender.”

Tara buried her face back into the strawberry’s blonde ample chest and mumbled, “I hope so.” God, I hope so.

As always, breakfast was full of fanfare and teasing. They sat across the table from each other talking about everything and nothing. Gabrielle watched as the dark-haired mechanic added what seemed like the tenth dash of salt to her eggs. She smirked and wrinkled her nose. “Hey, you want a couple more eggs with your salt? And you talk about me with the sugar, sheesh.”

Tara pointed her fork at her lover. “Uh-huh, I don’t say anything ‘bout your sugar water anymore, but you might as well eat donuts and pastries in the morning.”

The writer grinned, lighting up her eyes with affection. “Touché. Let’s just agree that we both have atrocious eating habits.” She took a sip of her coffee and mumbled under her breath, “At least, I don’t hang up my underwear and button my shirts all the way to the top on the hanger. Talk about anal.”

Tara’s eyes widened, “Hey! I heard that. You wanna whisper a little louder?” She smiled devilishly and lunged for her lover.

Gabrielle squealed and tried to scoot the chair back out of the way. It was a futile attempt. Tara’s tall form loomed over her, imprisoning her in the chair with strong arms that held on to the back. Deft hands found ticklish spots through the long t-shirt the writer was wearing. She yelped and shook her head from side to side in uproarious laughter. Small, shaky hands tried vehemently to dislodge stronger ones. It didn’t work, and Gabrielle laughed harder.

Tara looked down with a pleased expression lighting her face. Look at her, so beautiful, especially when she’s laughing. I love that sound, and I’m glad to have it back. I’m so glad to have you back, baby, and I won’t lose you because of my stupidity. We’ll get through this just like we have everything else. I hope to God we do.

The beauty sitting before the brunette called to her, and she couldn’t resist its lure. She never could. Tara’s needs to strengthen their bond and imprint the woman on her brain were paramount. The tickling stopped and became long, languid caresses up and down the strawberry’s blonde torso. She grazed erect nipples with her fingertips on her way down to the taut belly and whimpered when her lover arched and moaned.

Gabrielle’s breathing turned ragged, and she was awed at the speed in which teasing turned to torturous fire. She welcomed it. Each touch brought along with it a soothing balm and a liquid inferno that shot through her veins, thickening her blood. She cried out when talented fingers tweaked her diamond hard nipples. Their gazes caught and held, and Gabrielle couldn’t turn away from the flushed, blazing desire that mirrored her own. Her body arched and her head rose to meet slowly descending lips. It seemed like an eternity.

Tara groaned as the need to taste her lover anywhere, everywhere became overpowering. She lowered her head slowly and with veiled purpose to meet glistening lips. Just when it seemed like it was going to take forever, Tara swooped down and pillaged her lover’s mouth with a kiss meant to arouse, burn, and love madly.

It did what it was supposed to do.

Gabrielle groaned loud, long and with harsh relief. She opened her mouth wide to receive as well as give homage to sensually moving tongues and held onto broad shoulders with a vice like grip, needing something to latch onto for the fall. Then, just as quickly as the fire was given, it was taken away, making the strawberry blonde cry out in painful loss.

Tara tore her lips away and pulled the petite body up and into hers. Short strong legs wrapped around her waist, and she shuffled them toward the bedroom with haste. The table would have been a prime place as well as the couch or chair, but Tara’s brain was wrapped around the sensual spill of water. They made it to the bathroom in record time and removed clothes just as quickly. Once under the spray of hot water, Tara held the strawberry blonde up and made urgent, hungry love to her with her hands, mouth, and tongue until her cries reverberated off the shower walls and her knees gave way, leaving her body boneless and liquid.

A long time later, they got dressed. Tara watched as the strawberry blonde still shaky after their long bout of lovemaking pulled on her clothes. Green eyes turned to her still glazed, and her face held the flushed, content look of the well loved. The mechanic smiled back, albeit wanly. She should be happy that she had put that look there, but an ominous cloud had descended. Her hands shook for a different reason. Can I tell her? There’s no choice I have to, regardless of what happens. Yeah, but what do I do if she runs out on me? What do I do? A little voice from deep inside answered her, “You win her back by first winning her trust.” Tara blew out a calming breath and nodded her head almost imperceptivity. It was almost time to go.

During the drive over, Gabrielle watched her lover from the corner of her eye. She’s so quiet. Maybe she needs time to think and get prepared for this. The writer idly played with the gold necklace as if to gather some kind of insight. I wasn’t prepared for a little while ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so needy. Is there something going on that I’m not seeing? Needing reassuring contact, Gabrielle reached out a hand and squeezed her lover’s knee and gave the brunette a hopeful smile that wasn’t returned. I hope she shows me soon. Please, God. Don’t let anything be wrong.

Once at the doctor’s office, Tara stopped the car and glanced over at her lover before taking a deep breath. She had withdrawn into herself with each mile the car ate. In her mind, it had been necessary because she knew hurting Gabrielle in anyway was going to be difficult. It was as if it was going against her nature, but she did attempt a token effort toward normalcy by grabbing a small hand and bringing it to her lips. She turned the hand over in her own, gently mapping each vein, each line, and any mark she saw with fingertips. Looking up, Tara gave her lover a shaky smile only to find green eyes intense upon her own. “What is it?” I am so tired of fucking lying!

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. You tell me. Something is going on in there.” She glanced toward the top of the dark head. What are you thinking? I used to know just by looking at you. We still have far to go.

Tara turned away and swore silently. She took her hands away and busied them by taking the keys from the ignition and finding a suitable jean pocket to put them in. You see too much, baby. You always did.

The strawberry blonde sighed and repeated words she had heard the brunette say not too long ago. “When you’re ready to talk, I’ll be here.” Please don’t hide from me for long. Don’t be hiding anything from me.

Without another word, Gabrielle watched as Tara’s long form exited the car in graceful fashion. A few seconds later she followed suit. The brunette waited for her lover at the end of the walk way, and when she felt the petite woman’s presence, she turned to engulf her in a full body hug. This is for now because you may not let me do it later. “No, matter what, Red, remember that I love you.”

Green eyes widened in part fear and part confusion. Gabrielle swallowed and squeezed bits of the leather jacket in her hands. She buried her face in leather absorbing the familiar, comforting smell. Somehow, she heard the quick, strong beat of Tara’s heart. A second later she felt the lanky form trembling. The fear was real now, and it translated to her. Looking up with shock and worried eyes, the strawberry blonde asked in a shaky voice, “T, does this scare you that bad? Maybe you’re not ready. . .”

Tara peered downward with haunted eyes. “I’m scared of a lot of things, Red, and I’m tired of running from ‘em.” Blue eyes closed, and she could feel the tears come. They burned and dripped from closed lids in fat drops.

The writer watched on in horror. Her breath hitched then came out ragged. “Oh, baby, you’re scaring me.” She started to cry in reflex, knowing something was terribly wrong. She reached up to wipe tears away. “T, please tell me what’s wrong.”

Tara took smaller hands and ensnared them into her own. “It’ll be okay. Whatever happens, I have to believe that, and you need to too.” Red, please don’t ask anymore questions just trust me. The brunette almost laughed out loud at the statement. Trust indeed.

A sinking feeling started in the pit of Gabrielle’s stomach, and it seeped to her chest, taking her heart with it. An old fear resurfaced and latched on. Please, no. “You’re leaving me? Please don’t leave me!” Jade eyes were wild and frightened, and her voice was a sob.

I keep hurting her! This is the last time baby. I promise. Tara released her lover’s hands in favor of cupping her now wet cheeks. She shook her gently. “Baby? Red! Look at me! I would never, ever leave you and that is a promise I intend to keep no matter what.” She could feel her heart splitting in two.

Some semblance of control returned to Gabrielle at the words, but understanding did not. “Then. . . why?” She wiped at the tears, feeling the cold hit them.

Tara leaned in and their foreheads touched. “Just trust me and be patient.” After a few more minutes in the embrace, the fair head nodded, but the troubled eyes stayed along with the palpable fear.

They walked in hand in hand into an office that was pristine but not sterile. The outer office appeared to be a comfortable living room with well placed long couches and coffee tables. The huge receptionists desk didn’t look a bit out of place. In fact, the deep color of the wood went well with the brown/black patterned furniture.

Shari, the sandy haired receptionist smiled up at the couple. “You two are a little early, but that’s okay she doesn’t have anyone in right now. Have a seat.”

Tara lead Gabrielle to one of the couches to sit down. The smaller woman held a vice like grip on her hand, and Tara returned it. They both needed an anchor---Tara to keep from flying apart, and Gabrielle to hold onto something she felt she was losing.

Long minutes later, they found themselves inside the doctor’s office still holding hands but sitting beside each other in deep leather chairs. Tara searched the walls. She looked anywhere but into green. Too soon, they would see the truth that had been hiding there. Framed degrees and family photos lined the walls, as well as rows of books encased in bookshelves.

Plush carpeting covered the floor, and a large desk stood in the middle. It was covered with papers, books and little knick-knacs, making the doctor seem human, as well as the surroundings comfortable. Tara studied the doctor herself. Dr. Michele White. She was tall, and blonde with strands of grey standing out around her temples. Her eyes were a warm brown, and her features were relaxed as her eyes snapped with intelligence.

While the mechanic studied her surroundings, Gabrielle studied her lover simultaneously. All this time, she’s been hiding something from me, and I’ve been so caught up in my own problems that I didn’t see it. It’s so obvious now that it’s been eating her up inside, but from the beginning she wore a brave face, for me. Is this how she felt when I didn’t talk to her? This emptiness this helplessness? How did she do it? I’ve only felt it for a few minutes and can barely stand it. She was broken from her thoughts when Dr. White cleared her throat.

”Okay, ladies. Good to see you.” Her voice was soft but confident. “Tara, since this is your first time, I’m going to urge Gabrielle to talk to you. I think she has a lot to tell you. After that, we can discuss, you can talk, or anything you ladies want, okay?”

They both nodded.

The strawberry blonde swallowed nervously. I’m scared. I just feel that anything I say will compound her situation. I need to know what she’s feeling. Jumping, she looked down when her hand was squeezed. Silently, sky blue eyes implored her to speak. A soft smile said the rest. Gabrielle looked back down at their joined hands and closed her eyes. Maybe if I start, she’ll open up to me. Glancing back up, she returned the sentiment with a warbly grin of her own. “Um, I-I think you know that I’ve already shared a lot with you about what Steve did to me. . .what he said.” She laughed softly. “There was a time when I couldn’t even say his name, but Doc helped me see that I needed to face things before I conquered them.” She turned in the chair, needing to be closer.

“He made me feel that what we have is dirty, and I still have problems seeing what we share as natural. I love you so much that I feel you in here and here.” Gabrielle rested a palm over her heart and temple. “I always thought it was dangerous and obsessive to love like that, so completely, and he played on that. When I k-killed him, I could see you face. In a way, you’re what made me do it. He was touching something that didn’t belong to him, and it doesn’t belong to me either. My heart, my body, and soul belong to you. I couldn’t let him take that from you, from us. I had to protect us. I felt so guilty that I took a life to save us. I don’t feel that so much anymore because of you and the Doc. He was bad, evil even, and love is always good. I learned that, but it took awhile. He made me feel dirty, made us feel dirty. I didn’t want you to touch me. I didn’t want to look at you because I felt what was between us was so wrong. Um, when we made love again for the first time, I did it more out of need then anything else. It wasn’t you I was seeing. I was just purging my system, getting him out., but it didn’t work. I could hear him laughing at me. Even when mom came, I could hear him always laughing.” Her head lowered. “I’m so sorry. I feel so ashamed.”

Dr. White interjected, “That’s what we’re working on now, her shame. She needs to see it as a normal human emotion, a reaction to all that has happened not a reflection on her as a bad person. I think we both can help with that.”

Tara looked over at the doctor than down at her lover’s bowed head. Her voice was hoarse and thick, and she reached out her free hand to touch the top of the strawberry blonde’s head. “Red, I didn’t know. I had no idea you felt all that. When we first met I know things went way fast. We didn’t take the time to get to know each other like we should have. I hate that. I didn’t find out till later that you were new to this lifestyle. If I could go back, I would make sure that we take things slow so we could get to know each other. I want speaking to me to be just as easy as breathing. We don’t have that sometimes. . .well, a lot of times. If we had taken things slow I would have shown you how much of loved you and there would be no way you could be ashamed. I-I know it’s powerful, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t scare me sometimes.”

Green eyes bore into blue. “It scares me too. More than it should. I think that’s how he got to me.”

With helpless eyes, Tara turned to look at the doctor. She swallowed. “I don’t know what to do. It seems like I never do.”

Dr. White nodded, “That’s understandable but maybe you’re thinking too much. What are your instincts telling you?”

Tara shook her head. “They’re telling me to protect her, but I did a piss poor job. I wasn’t there when she needed me.”

The doctor pursed her lips. “Are you psychic?” The dark head shook negative. “You were at work right?”

”Yeah, I was, but. .”

”No, no to get through this guilt, Tara, you need to tell Gabrielle how you felt, how you still feel. Remember, face it before you conquer it.”

Jade and azure met once more. Gabrielle studied her lover’s face. Her eyes flicked back and forth over it, taking in the tension. Open up to me and tell me what’s tearing you apart like this.

Tara understood the message. She had so much to unburden, and she didn’t know where to start. The beginning. The beginning is a good place. The brunette turned completely in her chair and reached over to brush away strands of red gold. She tried to hide the shaking of her hand, but astute eyes discerned it. Small hands brought her larger one to full lips where the softest of kisses was placed. I know all about shame and helplessness, Red. I wish I didn’t. Time to start at the beginning.

“Red, I don’t think I ever felt as helpless in my life as when I came home and found you kneeling on the floor. I saw your blood, and it felt like my insides had been ripped out.” She covered her mouth with her hand to choke back tears that were just inches away from being born. “Then to see the evidence of what you had to go through, something inside me died because I wasn’t there to stop it. I know we don’t live in the Ice Age, but I know your secret, baby. You’re not as tough as you seem to be. . .”

Gabrielle shook her head with vehemence. Her voice was a croak, “But, it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know. . .”

Tara’s tone of voice was high and emotional, “Don’t you see? That doesn’t matter. I thought you blamed me! Everytime you turned away from me, wouldn’t talk to me, I thought you were blaming me for not being there, not protecting you. I couldn’t take. I felt shame too, Red. I wanted to run from you and to you at the same time to try and make it up to you. More often than not I ran and did somethings that I’m not proud of.” Tara shook her head and hung it, unable to continue for the moment.

Gabrielle touched the bent head, hesitantly, reverently. Her eyes were sad and laced with unshed tears. “Oh, baby. I didn’t know. I never meant to hurt you. I was so caught up in my own pain that I didn’t see all that you were going through.” The couple was silent, concentrating on touches to communicate old pain.

Dr. White watched them in surprise. This was just supposed to be an assessment session. “You two have made a major breakthrough already. It’s good to keep the lines of communication open, even if they just now opened. From what I see of the dynamics of your relationship so far, it isn’t uncommon for Tara to see you as fragile Gabrielle. You’ve never been romantically involved with a woman and then there was pressure from your family at first. It’s completely understandable that Tara would think the way she has. Can you understand her guilt, Gabrielle? Relate to it even?”

The strawberry blonde wiped her eyes and nodded. “Yea, I can. She was hurting for me, with me on top of her own pain. I just can’t believe that I didn’t see it.”

”Well, it’s important that you know now. Now comes dealing with this. Tara?” She waited for the brunette to look up. “It’s very important here that both of you see the necessity of opening up. When one of you is in pain and not expressing it, it will come out one way or another and more than likely aimed toward the one you love. It’s very important that we re-establish intimacy between you two. From what you said earlier, this is one of your goals to take things slow and get to know each other.

There’s nothing wrong with starting all over again. If you are both willing? You can look at is as establishing equality in your relationship. We can get started as early as the next session. It’s all up to you two. What we’re doing today is for assessment purposes. You both gave a little to see where you stand. The more sessions we have the deeper we will go.”

Gabrielle stared at her doctor with a small but crooked smile. They had a place to start, a jumping point, and the strawberry blonde was willing to see where it led them. “I’m game,” she whispered. With a sudden frown, she looked at their joined hands and felt Tara’s grip go lax. She glanced upward to see the dark head still bowed, but shaking. “T, what is it? Talk to me.”

The brunette’s head continued to shake along with the rest of her body. Both Gabrielle’s and the doctor’s words reverberated in her head like a bad echo. “Pain.” “Communication.” “Opening up.” “Guilt.” They were all reasonably small words that had a tsunami like impact. She was guilty of causing pain. She was guilty of not communicating and opening up, but most of all she was guilty of almost perpetrating a betrayal. She was just plain guilty, and right now, at this moment in time, it weighted on her shoulders like the Rock of Gibraltar.

It drowned out the other emotions and sang through her blood like it had found a permanent home. I can’t do this anymore! I can’t! We have to get this out in the open so we can fix this. Tara looked up with pleading eyes and yanked her hand from her lover’s grip. Her voice was pained, ragged, “You know I love you, Red, but I can’t do this anymore. I can’t lie. I’ve never been a liar, and it feels like every time I asked you to trust me it’s been a lousy stinkin’ lie! I’m the guilty one here! Not you! I ran away when you needed me!” Her body stiffened and began to rock.

She crossed her arms across her chest and held on to keep from flying apart. While she didn’t reach out with her hands, she did so with her eyes. The silver-blue begged for forgiveness and understanding. “I ran right to her! I don’t even remember her name. All I know is she looked like you, and I wanted what I couldn’t have. I didn’t take it, but I came so close, Red. So close. I touched her, kissed her like I kiss you. Then, I ran like hell!”

Gabrielle shook her head from side to side and silently mouthed the words, ‘no’ over and over again. She jumped up from her seat and moved as far away from the brunette as possible. Pain lanced her, more pain than she had even known. She wanted to cry out to relieve the pressure, but the words wouldn’t come.

Tara stood up abruptly and reached out her hands to the woman across the room. Dark eyes implored, beckoned, but she know the strawberry blonde wasn’t going to listen. Her hands dropped to her side, and her body sagged as her voice lost its passion. “You say you’re ashamed. I know about shame too, Red. I came home from almost being with her and made love to you. I know all about it.” Large, elegant hands moved through sable tresses. Then, they came back to cover her face and muffle her sobs. She didn’t want to see the pain or the rejection—none of it.

The words finally came out with a vehemence she wasn’t sure existed inside. “Nooo! Don’t call me that! Don’t you dare call me that! The Tara I know would never do this! You don’t deserve to use that name!” Her hands whipped the air with angry expression. “How dare you come home with another woman’s stink all over you and touch me! I’m not your whore!” With tears now falling like a steady rain on her flushed face, she sobbed, and a high keening sound came from somewhere deep inside. “The first time things get really bad, you run! Oh, God! How can I ever trust. . .” Her hands balled into fists, and she pummelled the air. Her voice was choked, “How can I trust you? Look at me!” Gabrielle screamed. “Tell me how?!!”

Tara’s head jerked up on command, and there it was all laid bare in her lover’s face, all the pain and betrayal a person would never want. The brunette’s heart shivered then split in two. She peered back at the doctor for help, but her face was somber. Tara remembered about following her instincts, and they led her directly toward her lover. “Baby, I’m so sorry, and I wanted to tell you.” Her voice was thick from crying. “It was eating me up inside, and I didn’t want to add to your pain.”

Gabrielle’s voice was pleading, “No, please just don’t. . .don’t touch me.” She hugged herself then looked around the office with dripping eyes. “I’m sorry. I can’t stay here. I have to. . .” She covered her mouth with her hand and ran for the door.

Frozen in place, Tara yelled, “Gabrielle!” But, all she heard was the slamming of the door. Wild blue eyes scanned the office, as if it had all been a dream. “She left me. Oh, God. She left me.” Her knees gave way and she sat down heavily on the arm of the chair. A huge hole opened in her chest, and she felt as though she was bleeding on the floor. Only one person could fix her. “I have to get her back. Make her trust me again.”

For the first time in a while, Dr. White spoke, “No, Tara. I know this is going to be hard, but you need to give her time. Then, try to talk to her. You can’t make her trust you again. She has to want to.”

”You don’t understand! I need her! She’s the strong one. I love her so much.”

Michelle came from around the desk and leaned over the distraught brunette. “Listen, remember what you said earlier about starting over and taking it slow?” Tara nodded then sobbed. “That’s what you have to do now. You have to re-learn each other. It won’t be easy, and it may take a while. Take some time to think about this then follow your heart.

Tara hiccupped, hoping beyond hope that Dr. White was right. “Do you think she’ll come back to me?” She wiped the tears with the backs of her hand.

”I can’t give you the answer to that, but if you want to salvage this relationship you have to try.”

A little ray of hope pierced through the veil of pain. “Yeah, I gotta try.”

Gabrielle hopped the first city bus going anywhere. She ignored the curious onlookers and stared out of the window at nothingness that’s what she saw nothing. The pain blinded her to things around. She remembered the time they had made love after Tara came home. It had been raw, needy. Was it all a lie? Did she give me some leftovers from another woman? I just don’t understand. How could she? What we have is supposed to be stronger than that. I gave her all of me, and it wasn’t enough. Blunt nails bit into her fisted palms, but it was just a different kind of pain. She ignored the little whispers at the back of her mind that asked, “Did you give her all? What about her pain? Isn’t she human?”

”No!” She cried out. There were whispers and more stares. Gabrielle continued to ignore them.

The scenery whipped by her until a house stood out screaming to be recognize. The strawberry blonde pulled the cord and walked briskly toward the exit. She sauntered up the walkway with a purpose. After ringing the bell several times, the door opened, and the likeness in the eyes, chiselled features and hair stole her breath and brought a new wave of agony. He looks so much like her, but he isn’t her just like the woman back at the Doc’s office wasn’t the Tara I know.

Jake smiled then sobered when he looked into stormy green and noticed dried tracks of tears on her cheeks. “Gab? What’s wrong? Something happen to T?!”

The tears started fresh at the sound of her name. “Oh, God. I don’t know her anymore!” Gabrielle threw herself into his arms, and he shuffled them both back inside the house. Jake sat her down in a nearby chair then looked down at her in surprise. “What’s going on here? Did something happen between you two?”

Suddenly warm, Gabrielle tore the coat from her body. Her voice was almost lifeless, “No, something happened between her and another woman.”

Two dark eyebrows raised in disbelief. “No way. There is no way Tara would have cheated on you. She loves you too much to make that mistake.”

The writer cringed. “That’s what I thought, but she’s shown me a different side to her. One I don’t know.”

He lifted a hand to stop her. “Hold up. She’s not a box, and she doesn’t have sides. What you see is what you get with T. There are certain nuances to her personality, but they make her who she is. I know for a fact she would never sleep with another woman. It’s been done to her too many times.”

Gabrielle’s head hung, and she mumbled, “Well, they didn’t have sex, but she touched her, kissed her then came home and fucked my brains out!”

Jake threw his hands up in the air. “Ah, hell, Red. That just means you’re the one she wanted—the one she wanted to connect with!” He paused and walked over to where she was sitting. Taking a seat, Jake asked softly, “Do you still love her?”

She snorted in indignation. “Well, that’s a stupid question! I’m not going to stop loving her within a few minutes!”

He reared back. “Okay, okay let me rephrase that. Do you want to stop loving her?”

It took a long time for her to answer. Memories swam before her eyes. She could see them dancing, laughing, playing, and she could almost here Tara whispering in her ear, singing in her ear. “No, I don’t think I can,” she said hoarsely. “But, how can I trust her after this? How do I know she won’t go running to another woman when things get tough between us?”

Jake shook his head. “I think this was a special case, but still, you just believe. That’s what trust is.”

”Yeah, but how do I get it back?” She leaned into him.

”Don’t know. Start back over I guess. Speaking of which you should let her know that you’re okay.” He put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “I will, but can I stay here.”

Jake nodded. “Yeah, as long as you need to. Now, let’s go make that phone call.”

Tara stared at the phone then paced around it. She wanted to give her lover the space she needed, but Tara wanted to make sure she was somewhere safe. “She can’t be over Shannon’s. They’re at work. She couldn’t have gone home. She didn’t have her purse. Where are you, baby?” She whispered to herself then gazed back at the phone. “Please call me and let me know you’re okay.” The brunette sat down on the couch with a muted thump. Start over. Where do I start? How do I get her to even talk to me? I saw the hurt in her eyes. I have to think. I fucked up. We know that already. I admit that. Now, I have to show her who the real Tara is—the one that adores her and would do anything for her. First, I think I should show her how sorry I am. . . Her thoughts were interrupted by a shrill sound. She looked down at the phone and raised a sable brow in surprise. Hesitantly, she picked it up. “H-Hello?”

”Hey, T.”

She couldn’t’ hide the disappointment in her voice. “Oh, hey Jakie.”

”Don’t sound so disappointed even though you have a reason to be. I heard about what happened.”

”Huh? Oh, how---“

”Let’s just say a little bird told me.”

Suddenly anxious, Tara cleared her throat and added, “Um, okay.”

”What would you like to say to little bird right now?”

Tara’s heart hammered against her chest. Okay, it begins. “Um, I would say that there is no excuse for what I did. I’m an ass, and I know that. Still, I’m an ass who loves the little bird and wants to work it out so that little bird can fly again. I want to take it slow, and show her that I can be the woman that she needs. I would tell her that I love her so much that I’m willing to take forever to build us back up again.” Her voice trailed off. “Um, that’s what I would tell her.”

Jake hit the button to turn off the speaker part of the phone and picked up the receiver. He looked into green eyes that were lit with tears, confusion, and love. “You just did, T. Here, I think the little bird wants to speak.”

Tara swallowed. “Gabrielle?”

The writer almost started to cry again. It had only been a few hours, and she missed that voice terribly. “Please, say it.”

Tara closed her eyes, as the ray of hope got a little bigger. “You okay, Red? I mean are you safe?” She said, thickly.

The writer sobbed. She couldn’t help it. “Um, yeah. Jake’s taking good care of me. I think I’m gonna stay here for a while.”

I miss her already. “If that’s what you need.”

”It is.” Is she going to be okay? I hope she takes care of herself while I’m gone.

”Um, okay.” I won’t sleep till she’s back.

”Uh, T?”

”Yeah, Red?”

”The little bird still loves you very much.”

Tara wanted to shout up at the ceiling. It was a beginning. “Where do we go from here?”

”Don’t know, but slow. Has to be slow. Kay?” Her voice was small.

Tara had the resist the urge to rush over and protect her even from the hurt she caused. “Okay.”

Well, I hope you enjoyed this instalment. It was a long time coming. I know it was a little emotional, but she had to find out sooner or sooner. Let me know at Minerva

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