As Erin stepped out of the airport, it was snowing. She had hoped the weather would hold out for her cousin's wedding, but it wasn't cooperating. In fact, it was suppose to snow for the next week. Nevertheless, she knew Seamus and Natalie wouldn't let something like the weather mess up their plans. Catching a cab she headed downtown to the hotel where she and the rest of her family were staying for the next several days. Playing the part of her cousin's best man, she had been in New York just the week before to throw him a huge bachelor party, which had gone over with great success.
She had spoken to Emily briefly on the phone while she had been there and realized there had been a small change in the wedding ceremony. Apparently one of Natalie's friends, who was supposed to be in the service doing a reading, had to cancel due to an emergency in her own family. Of course Natalie had understood and encouraged her friend to do what she thought was best. Erin was surprised to learn from Emily that Natalie and Seamus had approached the attorney about filling that vacancy in the service. The blonde had said she felt honored that they had asked and of course would be pleased to do so, which Erin found interesting. Emily and Natalie had only met six months ago, but according to Seamus, the attorney was a prominent fixture in their lives since that first meeting. She and Natalie had become close, which pleased Seamus, who already adored Emily. It seemed that Emily's place as an honorary member of the Mahoney clan was securely intact, even after her three year absence from their lives.
Arriving at the hotel, she checked in and then called Seamus to see if there was anything she could do for them before the rehearsal at the church that afternoon. They were grateful for the extra set of hands and proceeded to load her up with errands. Erin was happy to do it for them and headed off to the places Natalie had specified.
That afternoon when Erin arrived at Natalie's family's church several members of her own family were already there along with Natalie's milling around. She greeted everyone happily as her eyes scanned the crowd for who she was really looking for just then. Her smiled widened when her eyes found her near the altar speaking with Natalie and what she assumed were bridesmaids. Sneaking up behind the bride, Erin slipped two arms around her from behind.
"Seamus," Natalie stated.
"Nope. It's your other lover," Erin said with a laugh.
The younger woman turned in the embrace and smiled. "So it is," she teased. "I'm so glad you're here, Erin. Let me introduce you to my friends." Erin nodded. She smiled and casually greeted Emily before getting introductions to the rest of the group. When those were finished, Natalie said, "I think you and Emily have some catching up to do."
"Do we? Or is that just a ploy to get me to leave you alone?" Erin joked.
"I think you know the answer to that. Go on now. I've bored Emily long enough," she said, nudging Erin in the arm.
The tall woman chuckled and looked at the blonde. "I think we're being dismissed."
Emily nodded in agreement. "Come on. Let her have her fun."
The two of them walked away before Erin asked, "So how are you since we last spoke?"
"Good. Everything's fine. How are you?"
"Fine. Not much going on with me." Just then the brunette was startled by something attaching to her leg. Looking down she smiled. "Well, hello there, Blaine. How's my girl?" she asked, leaning over to pick up her niece. The little girl squeezed her aunt's neck tightly before turning pretty brown eyes curiously on the blonde. "Blaine, this is my friend Emily. Emily, this is Blaine."
"Hi, Blaine. How are you?" The two-year-old said nothing but reached out her hands toward Emily. Immediately Emily took her. Blaine gave a smile and began to fiddle with Emily's long blonde hair. "You are such a cutie," she said. You look just like your aunt. Emily's heart suddenly thudded as she stood there looking at Blaine. The idea that she and Erin quite possibly could have had a child together if life had been different made her stomach quiver. Her blue eyes looked at her friend, who was just looking at them. There was a softness in Erin's gaze she had never seen before.
"I've never seen her do that," Erin mentioned. "She usually won't go to other people when I'm around other than her mother or Jared. You have the maternal touch."
"She is so pretty. A future Miss Texas perhaps?" she joked lightly.
"If my mother has a say in it, I'm sure that will come to pass. Although Jared, Margaret, and I will probably do all that we can to stop that from happening. This girl has a more important birthright than that to uphold. The future of our family's company rests on her shoulders, and she doesn't even know it. It's hers as long as she wants it. I just hope she's as smart as Margaret is," Erin teased. "That's the only way she's going to survive."
The blonde looked at the toddler in her arms again. Blaine had settled herself against Emily's shoulder and was contentedly sucking on the corner of her silk scarf. Instead of being upset about it though, Emily could only think of how adorable she was.
Their quiet moment was broken after a few moments by Jared coming up to them. "Well, a Mahoney has finally swept you off your feet, I see," he said with a grin.
"She's beautiful, Jared," Emily replied. The two hugged. "She looks just like you."
"But she has my fiancée's disposition, which is what really matters. I'd love to introduce you to her," he said, gesturing in her direction.
"I'd love to meet her." Looking at Erin she excused herself and then followed Jared to the beautiful woman talking to Liam.
Liam smiled as the blonde approached. "Now this looks like the most natural thing in the world," he said with an affectionate smile.
Emily smiled as they hugged. "Hi, Liam."
"Emily, this is my fiancée, Dr. Margaret Weiss. Margaret, this is the infamous Emily Parker."
"Infamous? That's such a scary thing to say about me, Jared," she commented, looking at the older dark-haired woman. "It's nice to meet you finally, Margaret. Erin has told me some nice things about you."
"Likewise. Erin and the rest of the clan have told me so much about you. Liam couldn't be prouder if you were his own," she said with a bright smile as they exchanged a handshake. "And I see our Blaine had made friends all ready."
"She is beautiful, Margaret. I am so happy someone finally tamed this guy. I always knew Jared was a diamond waiting to be discovered."
The dean chuckled. "Well, I would like to think under my tutelage he has turned out to be just that. Everyone said he wasn't trainable, but I found a way," she said, linking her arm through Jared's.
"And he's the luckier for it."
After a few minutes of small talk, Liam and Jared left the two women to themselves. Margaret stepped closer to the blonde and looked at her intently. "Tell me. Is what the family saying true? Were you really the only woman that came close to taming Erin?"
"Oh, I don't think so. I would say Sahar did that, not me."
"You mean her friend Sahar? I didn't know they had a relationship. From what Liam and Jared say you have always been the only one to ever touch Erin's heart. They say you were her first love. . . her only love," she quietly stated. "They thought for sure that the two of you were going to end up together."
"It was a long time ago," Emily stated.
"There is big speculation in the family about the two of you, you know. Seems like none of the Mahoneys ever gave up hope that you and Erin might some day find your way. I saw the way you were looking at Erin while you were holding Blaine. Seems to me that you were thinking the same thing," pointedly she said.
"Wow, well, Erin definitely was right about you. You certainly are forthright."
"I meant no offense, Emily. Truly I apologize if it's perceived that way. Erin is fond of you, far more so than any other person she has ever mentioned. I was just thinking maybe it is still possible." Both women gazed to where Erin was standing around with her cousins. The tall woman's eyes were on them, intently studying their conversation. However, when they met eyes, she just gave a nod of her head and then turned away.
"Not after all that's happened," Emily said dismissively. "It's been such a long time, and we've both changed so much," the blonde mentioned. Her thoughts were broken by squirming in her arms. She smiled at Blaine who was trying to get down. The blonde released her and then started with Margaret toward the front of the church to start the rehearsal.
The rehearsal went without problems much to everyone's delight, allowing them extra time to get back to the hotel for the rehearsal dinner before the weather turned worse. In the private ballroom they had reserved, the gathering had cocktails before their meal was served. Emily got a chance to meet and visit with some of Natalie's family. The blonde had heard from her friend on several occasions that her parents were not fond of Seamus, because he was a transvestite, but it seemed they were wisely holding their opinions to themselves.
When dinner was announced, Emily made her way toward the tables to look for her assigned seat. She cracked a smile when she noticed she had been placed next to Erin. Dinner was a celebration of Seamus and Natalie as it should have been, and by the end of it, Erin had lightened up Natalie's family a bit. As the meal came to its conclusion, the people started to dissipate in anticipation of the wedding the next day. However, Erin approached Emily as she was saying her good byes to the bride and groom.
"You're not leaving now, are you?"
"Well, yes, actually, I was."
"No, you can't. You have to come upstairs. My cousins and I are going to have a little get together in Sean's room. You must come, even if only for a little while."
The blonde nodded. "All right. I'm not in a hurry to go home."
"Great. Come on," she said. "Natalie, good night. We'll see you tomorrow for the big day."
"I'll be upstairs in a bit. I just have to say good night to the other guests," Seamus said. "You two go have fun."
Moving out of the ballroom, the women headed toward the elevators. "How's work these days?" Erin asked.
"Incredibly busy. The first part of the transition is underway. The announcement has been made that I am the heir-apparent."
"Has there been any backlash from that?"
"Not too much. It's going rather smoothly so far. I hope that continues."
"I'm sure it will. You have the respect of the staff, and you know what you're doing. People should feel like they are in good hands, that you will keep the company profitable."
"I think they do, which is important to me. Just because Chuck is phasing out doesn't mean his values are. I still believe in Chuck's vision, and I hope to carry it on for a long time to come."
"That's good to know as a client," the Texan joked. "Seriously there is no better person in that company than you for this position. It's an obvious choice. Have you said anything to the clients yet?"
"Not yet. The Mahoneys are always the first to know everything. A letter is going out at the beginning of next year after the holidays. This is sort of my last little bit of time to enjoy myself. Life will be different starting next quarter."
"It'll be fine. I know you can handle it."
"How's the ranch?"
"Oh, it's good. Quiet but good. I'm spending a lot of time in Dallas. I started to go crazy being in the house alone all day, and Margaret and Jared suggested I might like to watch Blaine during the days since they are both working. It's actually worked out well for everyone. I love being with her, and not that money matters, but Jared and Margaret are saving money on a nanny. Blaine's with me, so they know she's always safe. It's been a nice change."
"Are you driving from the ranch to Dallas every day?"
"No. I bought a little house not too far from where they live, and I stay there during the week. I go down to the ranch on the weekends and do some bartending at the Texas Tornado. Being with Blaine is the highlight of my week, though. It's made me realize that if I am ever lucky enough to find the right woman and settle down with some kids I could enjoy being at home with the them while my wife worked if she wanted."
"You a stay-at-home mother? I wouldn't have believed it a few years ago," the blonde mentioned with a smile as they got on the elevator.
"I know. It sounds crazy, but having Blaine in my life has changed me. She's not even mine, and I feel like this. I can only imagine what it would be like to have children of my own."
"You deserve that, Erin."
"So do you, Emily."
"Maybe one day. We'll see."
When they reached Sean's room, the two women immediately were separated by the brunette's cousins who wanted to catch up with Emily. Erin just allowed her family to have their fun, knowing they all cared for the attorney as much as she did. Getting herself a drink, she took a seat on the couch and just soaked up the atmosphere. When Seamus came up to the room, he joined his cousin on the sofa.
"So, what's going on in that head of yours?" he questioned.
"Not much. Just relaxing. It's been a long day."
"Certainly has. I can't believe tomorrow is the big day already. I thought it would never come."
Erin smiled. "I'm really happy for you, Seamus. Natalie is a dream come true, and I know the two of you are going to be so happy together."
"Yeah. I know. I can't believe I found someone so wonderful. I wish you could find the same happiness, Erin. You deserve it."
She shrugged. "I played around far too long. I did stupid things. The best girls are gone. And the ones that are left are the ones I swore I'd never marry."
"They're not all gone. You just have to be open to it. There's one right in front of you, you know."
Erin knew her cousin meant Emily. She shook her head. "That's not meant to be, Seamus, and we both know it. Emily and I live in different worlds, always have."
"I don't think you are giving yourself enough of a chance."
"Forget it. I feel lucky that we can be friends after all that's happened. I don't want to ruin that."
Seamus sighed. "Well, I don't want to see you alone, Erin. You've been alone for far too long."
"That was my choice, and I have to live with it now. You never know. Maybe I can get in with one of Natalie's bride's maids," she joked.
Seamus laughed. Giving his cousin a one-armed squeeze, he said, "I love you. I just want you to be happy."
"I know, and I want the same for you."
A few hours later Erin was still on the couch when Emily came to her. "I have to get going. Tomorrow's going to be a big day, and I have a lot of errands."
Erin nodded. "Let me walk you out," she suggested. The two women headed out of the room to the elevator. As they were waiting for it, Erin said, "You know, Emily, I don't think I've ever thanked you for being such a good friend Seamus. On the outside he looks tough, but underneath it all, he's a sensitive guy, and he hasn't always had an easy time with people. Most don't understand and accept him, because they can't see beyond the way he dresses, but you did. You took the time to get to know him, and he really adores you. I think if you hadn't been a lesbian, he would have made a serious play for you," she joked. "Lucky for him he got your equivalent in Natalie."
The elevator doors opened, and both women stepped into it. The blonde pressed the appropriate floor before turning to her friend. "I love Seamus. He's one of the greatest men I've ever known. I love your whole family, Erin. All of them treat me as one of their own, and it's a wonderful feeling. You know, growing up it was just Dad, Bob, and me, and I didn't really have family outside of them. I missed out, but the Mahoneys make me feel like I belong to a family."
"It just proves that family doesn't have to be what you are born into. Sometimes it's something you make, and I know we're all glad to have you a part of our lives," she mentioned, reaching for the blonde's hand. She squeezed it.
And I'm glad to be apart of yours, Erin. Holding hands for the rest of the elevator ride and through the lobby, they just stood on the street while the doorman hailed a cab. When one pulled to the curb, Emily smiled up at Erin. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah. I'll be down front in the skirt," Erin teased.
"It's a kilt," Emily corrected with a smile.
"See you then, Em."
"Good night, Erin."
The following day Erin and the rest of the groom's party got ready at the hotel early in the afternoon. Erin was happy to be standing next to her cousin as her best man that day. The two of them shared a unique bond, so she was honored to be at his side for this special occasion. Standing in her cousin's room waiting on the rest of the party to arrive, she looked at herself in the mirror. The tuxedo shirt, tie, and jacket fitted her perfectly, but she still felt a little self-conscious about the kilt. She hadn't worn a dress in years, but she knew it was for Seamus and gladly swallowed her discomfort if it pleased him. She took small consolation in the knee-high socks they had to wear to cover most of her bare legs.
Once everyone was assembled, they took a limo to the church. They crowded into a small room at the back of the sanctuary until it was time to go. Finally when it was time, Erin gave her cousin one last hug and then headed out the door with the other groomsmen to start the service. Being that she was the one standing next to Seamus, Erin was paired with Natalie's maid of honor for the walk down the aisle, a striking tall brunette with a brilliant smile.
Emily was just sitting in the sanctuary with all the other guests as the service began. Since she was doing a reading, she had been placed in the second row just behind Seamus's parents along with the other Mahoneys. Sitting next to her was the newest Mahoney to capture her heart, little Blaine, with Margaret and Jared just on the other side of that. She watched the procession as it began. Everyone looked beautiful, but as soon as she saw Erin walking down the aisle with the maid of honor, her heart began to beat a little faster. Oh my God. You look so sexy, Erin. That's a perfect outfit on you. Her eyes went to the maid of honor, who was smiling brightly, obviously pleased to be on Erin's arm. What a sight you two make. A blindingly beautiful couple. Emily felt her stomach churn a little in envy. She knew what it was like to be on that arm. Women envied you on that arm. She wished for a moment she still had a place there. Too bad I screwed it up all those years ago. I asked her to be something she wasn't instead of accepting her as she was.
When all of the wedding attendants had processed, it was time for the groom. Emily watched as her friend came slowly down the aisle. She had never seen Seamus looking so happy in the years she had known him. His smile was wide as he made his way down to the front of the sanctuary in anticipation of Natalie. Finally the bride's music began and with it everyone stood. Emily smiled as she saw her friend coming down the aisle alone. It was something the three of them had discussed in detail, and the blonde was pleased Natalie had taken her advice. The two women met eyes momentarily and exchanged a smile before Natalie reached where her groom was waiting.
The service began with opening remarks from the priest before moving on Seamus and Natalie's declaration of intentions. Turning to the congregation, the priest asked for the support of the gathering in helping Seamus and Natalie achieve their goals in marriage. After which time Emily knew it was her moment to speak.
Moving to the pulpit slowly, she took a moment to look at the assembly of people before turning her eyes to the open Bible. She had been practicing, so she would sound articulate and perfect for her friends. Finally with a smile toward the couple she began from memorization. "And now a reading from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. 'Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its on way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.'" When she finished, smiled at them again in response to their glowing faces. Her eyes flitted over the Erin for a brief moment. Love never ends, she thought looking at the tall brunette before stepping down and returning to her seat. I wonder if either of us will ever find that kind of love, Erin. Sometimes I think we still could find it together even after all that has happened if we just tried.
Emily spent the rest of the service trying to focus on her friends. However, thoughts of she and Erin were never far from her mind. As she looked at Seamus and Natalie, she knew for certain she wanted the same for herself. She wanted to find that special person in life that brought out the best in her and for whom she would do the same. The attorney had always felt complete in her life the way it was until she saw her friends making their vows to each other. Those were vows she wanted to make, and the most obvious person to make them to happened to be standing next to Seamus. She wondered if she should take another chance with Erin.
Once the wedding was over, there was an intimate reception that followed back at the hotel where all the guests were staying. Emily noted with some interest that Erin had been placed next to her for dinner. She pondered if her friends were trying to push she and Erin towards each other, but she didn't have any time to inquire. The party was well underway, orchestrated by the wild Mahoneys, and she fell right into the spirit with the rest of them. She proceeded to dance with all the Mahoneys, men and women alike except for Erin, who was busy charming Natalie's family again. Finally though after dinner Erin asked her.
"Would you like to dance?" the Texan asked casually, finishing off her glass of water.
"Sure. That would be nice."
Both women rose from their chairs and headed toward the floor, but as soon as they arrived, the music began to slow. Erin smiled at her companion. "I guess this is going to be a slow one," she mentioned.
"It's all right. If I remember correctly, you are quite the dancer. I'm sure you can handle it," she teased.
Erin slid one arm around Emily's waist and brought her closer as their hands clasped. Looking into blue eyes, she said, "You look beautiful in this dress, Em. Navy is a good color on you."
Unable to stop the slight blush that rose to her cheeks, Emily just tried to downplay it. "Thanks."
"I wish you could lose this jacket, though. It's a party. You shouldn't be wearing your suit jacket."
"It's too cold without it. This dress is sleeveless. You look surprisingly good today. I know I once said I didn't like you in dresses or skirts, but this kilt might just be the exception. I love the tuxedo top with it. It definitely suits you."
Erin grinned. "I feel pretty awkward actually. I haven't had my legs exposed this much since the Miss Texas pageant. I don't really like it, but it was for Seamus and Natalie, and I would do anything to make them happy."
"Me too," Emily agreed.
"You gave a perfect reading today. I liked that you took the time to memorize it, so you could look at them while you recited it. It felt so much more genuine that way."
"Well, that's what I was hoping for, so I'm glad to know that it worked."
Changing the subject a bit, Erin inquired, "How are your fathers?"
"Any big plans for the holidays this year?"
"I am spending Christmas with my dads, and I've had a few invitations for New Year's Eve, but I'm undecided on whether or not I want to go out. New York City at New Years can be a bit hectic. I might opt to just stay in and relax. We'll see. What about you?"
"Well, after the wedding, I have to stay in New York for a few days to check in on a project at Venus while Seamus is away. Margaret, Blaine, and I will be staying at Seamus and Natalie's place. Margaret wanted to drop in on some old college friends while she was up here. Then we'll all go back to Texas and have Christmas at my parents' house. It's been much more fun with Blaine around. I actually find myself excited on Christmas morning again. Just seeing her face light up at her toys is joy to me. For New Years I'm probably just going to stay in. Maybe I'll offer to watch Blaine, so Jared and Margaret can go out for once. You want to come down to the ranch and hang out with me? It'll be quiet. You're going to want to gather your strength for your new position. We could sit in front of the fireplace and watch the ball drop in Times Square. Have you ever seen it on TV?"
"Not since I was a teenager. I was too young to go out but too old to go to bed early."
"If the weather is good enough maybe we can even go horse back riding. I don't know if I told you about my horse acquisition."
"Not in any details. I've always wanted to learn to ride. It looks like so much fun."
"Then it's settled. You must come down."
Emily smiled at her dance partner. "I'll think about it. I am taking off the week between Christmas and New Years, and I want to relax as much as possible."
The couple danced for several more songs before returning to their table. Both women spent time socializing with other guests, but before long the blonde approached Erin about another dance. The Texan gladly obliged, leading the attorney back to the floor where they remained most of the rest of the evening. As the reception was winding down for the night, Erin escorted Emily outside to the curb. While the doorman hailed a cab, the two women stood closely together in the cold night air.
"Well, I guess I'll see you in the morning then for the family brunch," Erin mentioned.
Emily nodded. "I'll be here."
"Good." As a cab pulled up, they hugged for a brief moment. "Be safe getting home."
"I will. Don't let your cousins keep you up all night drinking."
"I'll try not to, but you know them. Any excuse for a party. Sleep well."
"You too, Erin."
Emily got into the cab and then glanced out the window as it began to pull away. Erin was standing there in all her Irish glory just watching. You certainly look so enticing that way. Sighing she wondered what tomorrow might hold for them. The Mahoneys were having a breakfast for all the family members, and she was invited. As much as she loved Erin's rowdy relatives, she hoped there might be time for the two of them to just be alone together. She didn't think she was ever going to get an idea of what might possibly be between them if they didn't have some time to themselves.
That night as the blonde went to bed Erin wouldn't leave her thoughts. She could envision the tall brunette standing there in the tuxedo top and kilt just smiling at her the way she had several times that night. Erin was so sexy. She still hasn't lost it after all these years. I wonder if she is the same kind of lover. Her thoughts began to drift the times they had been together. It had always been raw and wild between them. Erin was like an unruly animal. It was all you could do to hold on for the torrid ride you were sure to get. Emily had always been addicted to knowing just how long she could hold on to such a passionate creature. Not long enough, she sighed. Although something tells me you've changed as much in the bed as out of it. You're a completely different woman these days, but I can't help liking you just the same. Figuring there was really only one way to find out, Emily decided she needed a plan to get them alone.
The next day Emily arrived at the hotel just as brunch was beginning. She was surprised to find that Erin was not there yet, though. Figuring she would be down any minutes, she made herself comfortable at the table with Jared, Margaret, and Blaine. Immediately the little girl reached for her when she took a seat. Willingly the blonde accepted her with open arms.
A few minutes later the brunette wandered into the private dining room. She was tired from the partying the night before, but she knew a big day awaited her. She had errands to run after checking out of the hotel, and she didn't want to let Seamus down while they were away. Scanning the room for her favorite toddler, Erin felt her breath catch a little. Her niece was seated comfortably in Emily's lap, looking quite content as she sipped her juice. It was a perfect sight. Making her way over to the table, she slipped into Blaine's vacated seat next to Emily.
"Good morning. How is my favorite girl?" she asked, smiling at her niece. She received a smile in return, but to everyone's surprise, the little girl didn't reach for her.
"I think you've been ousted from your position," Jared joked. "Looks like Blaine has a new favorite aunt."
Erin chuckled. "Who can blame her? Blaine knows a gem when she sees one."
Blue eyes met brown for a moment. The unexpected comment made Emily's heart skip a beat. "You look tired this morning, Erin. Did you ignore my advice last night?"
"Indeed I did. Sean has a way of dragging us all into partying. I'm getting too old for it though. I don't bounce back the way I used to any more."
"Why don't I take Blaine off your hands, so the two of you can get something to eat?" Margaret suggested.
Handing over the little girl to her mother, Emily stood as did Erin. Together they went over to the buffet table where there were a variety of items laid out to eat. As they grazed through the line looking at their choices, Emily asked, "Do you have any big plans for tomorrow?"
"Not really. I have to go to Venus tomorrow afternoon, but that's it. Margaret is having lunch with some friends. Why?"
"Well, I was just wondering if you wanted to have lunch together."
"I don't want to get in the way of your busy schedule."
"You aren't. I'm free for lunch. It would be nice to sit down with you without all your family around. As much as I love them, it hasn't given us much of a chance to catch up."
"That sounds like fun, as long as you're sure."
"Of course I am. I wouldn't have asked otherwise."
"All right. I look forward to it then."
"Great. Say noon then? Come meet me at the office?"
"Noon it is."
For the rest of the brunch the two women visited with the rest of the group, not really talking directly to each other again. However, Emily was satisfied given that she was going to have Erin all to herself at lunch the next day.
That evening Erin, Margaret, and Blaine had dinner at Seamus and Natalie's apartment before the little girl went to bed. The two women just sat on the couch watching TV and talking quietly late into the night. "So, tell me. What's going on in your head when it comes to Emily?" Margaret asked.
Erin shrugged at her future sister-in-law. "I don't really know. She's such a wonderful woman. It's nice to be friends again after all our history."
The older woman nodded her head. "Do you think there could be more to your friendship?"
Erin sat in contemplative silence for a moment. "You know, Margaret, Emily Parker is one of the most attractive women I have ever known. She's so beautiful on the outside, but on the inside is where the real treasure lies. I admitted to myself a long time ago that she probably was the one, but I blew it. I wasn't enough of a woman for her. I couldn't let her in emotionally, and she left me. I had my chance. I'm not going to get a second one. I've accepted that, and I've moved on. I wish the rest of my family would, too."
"Everyone wants you to be happy is all."
"I am happy. I'm incredibly happy in my life. I don't need a woman to make me happy, Margaret."
"But you'd like to have a companion, wouldn't you?"
"Of course I would. But Emily isn't her. Emily and I are in different places in life. I'm retired essentially. I'm taking life at a much slower pace now, and I like it this way. Emily, on the other hand, has just become a partner at her firm, and she's in line to be the CEO in a few years. She's all about work now. That comes first in her life."
Margaret stared at Erin intently for a moment. "Erin, you know I love you. You've always told me the absolute truth about everything, but right now I think you're giving me the biggest bunch of lies I've ever heard. You're just scared. Admit it."
"You don't know the pain I have suffered at the hands of Emily Parker, Margaret. Nothing else in the world compares to the damage she inflicted on my heart. When she left me, I had hoped that we would one day get another chance. I kept that place in my heart just for her, but she ran off with that shrink. That bitch abused and manipulated her. Did you know that ex of hers invited me to a party they were having just so I could see her propose to Emily? I had to stand there and watch as the woman I loved promised herself to someone else. There was nothing I could do, and when I walked away that night after that had happened, I was broken. It took me a long time to get over her, Margaret. I can't fall in love with Emily again. I don't think I could bear it if something were to go wrong."
Putting an arm around Erin, Margaret brought her into a hug. "I'm sorry. I never knew any of that."
"No one does. You're the first one I've ever told. Sahar always knew, but we never discussed it. I couldn't express my feelings back then."
"I understand your reluctance now. I think I'd be scared, too, but we don't choose who we fall in love with, you know. It just happens sometimes. I've seen the way you've looked at her over the last several days. I've never seen you look at anyone else that way."
"I don't want to fall in love with her again," Erin whispered.
A consoling had ran through dark hair. Margaret leaned in and kissed her sweetly on the temple. "You already are," she said.
"Do you think she knows?"
"No. Right now she's wondering how it could possibly be that she is in love with you after so long. She hasn't noticed yet. She's still focused on herself."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Well, Seamus and Natalie said they thought she was in love with you, and now that I've seen her, I think so, too. Don't be too hard on yourself or give up so quickly. Just take it slowly with each other. There's no need to rush. Maybe it's for real this time. Maybe it isn't, but I think both of you are too scared to jump into anything just yet."
"We're having lunch together tomorrow."
"That's a good start. Nothing overly committed. It's just a safe lunch. What time?"
"I have lunch with some friends as well. Blaine and I will be out of here around 11:30."
"Are you sure you want to take Blaine with you? I can take her if you want."
"She's my daughter, and I can deal with having her at lunch, even if it isn't exactly proper for the place we're going. It'll be fine."
"No, I'm serious. I can take her with me to see Emily."
"I don't want to ruin your date."
"It's not a date, and it'll even feel like less of one if Blaine is there. Please. Let me take her. I want to take her. She'll be nice buffer between the two of us. You'll be doing me a favor, Margaret."
"Are you positive?"
"Yeah, of course."
Margaret hesitated. "Well, all right. I guess it will give me a little extra time with my friends. They wanted to do some shopping after lunch. It'll give me a chance to buy Jared some Christmas presents, but I want you to promise to call me at the first sign of trouble. I don't want your day ruined if she gets in a mood or something."
"That could never happen. Blaine is the light of my life."
The following day Erin took Blaine with her to see Emily for lunch. When they walked into the lobby of the blonde's office, they were greeted pleasantly by the receptionist. "Erin, I had no idea you had a little girl of your own. Why haven't you brought her around before?"
"Oh, this isn't my daughter. It's my niece."
"She's adorable. She looks just like you."
Erin smiled in pride at the comment. She had secretly always thought so but had never said. "Could you let Emily know we're here?" she requested.
"Certainly. Just have a seat."
Erin allowed Blaine to wander the lobby as they waited. The girl went to the large window and stared outside. Following her, Erin stood behind her just taking in the scene of the busy street below.
When Emily heard that Erin had arrived, her heart began to pound a little faster. Giving herself a quick once over in the mirror she had in her top drawer, she decided she looked suitable enough to greet her guest. Taking her heavy winter overcoat on her way out the door, she walked to the lobby. However, just as she entered it she saw the tall Texan at the window with her niece. Erin was slightly bent down to one side, so they could hold hands in silence. The biological clock Emily tried to ignore most of the time came screaming to life at the sight. She wanted a baby, and furthermore, she wanted one with the woman standing just a few feet from her. Forcing the thought from her heart for the time being, she greeted, "Hi, Erin. Hi, Blaine."
Both brunettes turned at the sound of their names. The girl scampered across the marbled lobby floor toward the blonde. Emily smiled and leaned down with open arms to capture Blaine as she reached for her. "How are you today, Em?" Erin asked, casually stepping toward her.
"I'm good. This is an unexpected treat to see Blaine."
"Well, I couldn't keep you away from your favorite Mahoney," she teased.
The attorney smiled. "Were would the two of you like to go for lunch?"
"Any place relatively close. It's snowing outside again."
"There's a place on the next block that serves American cuisine. How about that?"
"Sounds good. Lead the way." Not bothering to try to remove her niece from Emily's embrace, Erin simply hit the button for the elevator. The three women walked the one block to the restaurant of Emily's choosing. They were taken to their booth without much of a wait. Getting to their table, Erin suggested, "It's probably better if Blaine sits over here with me. I don't want her to ruin your suit when you still have half a day of work left. I'm sure it wouldn't look good to have stains all over your clothes."
"You're probably right," Emily agreed, handing over the child.
Erin placed her on the inside of the booth before sitting as well. She then asked their server for a child's seat for her niece before they were left alone. "Well, what do you recommend here?"
"Everything is good. I don't know if they have a child's menu, though."
"Don't worry about that. Blaine will eat anything," Erin answered, digging into the bag she had been carrying. She pulled out some paper and crayons for Blaine, who immediately began to draw. A few minutes later the server returned with the seat for Blaine, who seemed eager to sit in it and have a better view of the table. Once they ordered, the women were left to themselves again.
"It seems strange that Seamus and Natalie are actually married. It felt like it happened so quickly," Emily mentioned.
"It did seem fast, but at the same time not fast enough. I've never seen two people more meant for each other. I'm glad Seamus found her. It was going to take a special woman, and Natalie definitely was it. I know it was easier on him to move here, knowing you were here. He adores you."
The blonde nodded. "Well, I adore both of them. They are such lovely friends. You know my social schedule has started to diminish with this new work load, but I always did my best to find reasons to free myself up for time with them. They quickly have become my new best friends in New York, which I suppose is a good thing. My old friends for the most part are still doing the same old things, and I've moved beyond that."
"I know what you mean."
With a nod Emily said, "I know you do. You of all people have changed the most in my opinion, but it's been for the better. I'm blown away by the way you are with Blaine. You're a natural. Someday you're going to make an excellent mother."
"Well, I hope so, but I have to have that wife first. I can't exactly do it the way Jared did. He got lucky with an accident. I'm not that lucky," she joked. "Just from what I've seen between you and Blaine, I would say that you will also be quite the mother. Any child would be blessed to belong to you."
Emily felt her face flush slightly at the comment. "Thank you for saying that. It means a lot coming from you."
"Well, I mean it. You are a magnificent woman with a great many talents. Perhaps you'll get lucky and have children around the same time as Seamus and Natalie. Then they could grow up together."
"That would be nice." Taking a sip of her water, the attorney changed the subject. "Do you know when you're leaving town?"
"We'll probably leave on Thursday. I like being in New York this time of year, though. It puts me in the holiday spirit with the snow and all the decorations."
"It is a fun city this time of year. Do you have any plans to take Blaine to see some sights?"
"Not yet. I'm not sure what Margaret has on her schedule."
"I think she'd love Rockefeller Center with the big tree and ice skating. Maybe we could take her tomorrow evening."
"I'd love to, Em. You can count me in for sure, but I need to ask Margaret first if that's okay for Blaine."
"Margaret can come, too. It'll be fun."
"I'll ask her this evening and let you know. If nothing else, maybe the two of us can go. What do you say?"
The rest of lunch passed amiably with light conversation and a lot of attention being paid to Blaine. When the meal came to a close, Erin paid the bill and then bundled her niece up once again for the inclement weather. Together they walked back to Emily's building and rode the elevator to her floor. Standing in the lobby, they said their good bye.
"So, will you call me this evening and let me know if it'll be just the two of us or the four of us for tomorrow?" Emily asked.
"Sure. Now we should let you get back to work."
The attorney smiled at the girl in Erin's arms. Reaching out she hugged her. "I'll see you later, Blaine. Bye, Erin."
"Bye. See you tomorrow."
The next evening Margaret, Blaine, and Erin decided to meet Emily at Rockefeller Center for ice skating after dinner. The three of them had just gotten there and were watching the other skaters when the blonde appeared, wearing a much more casual outfit than was called for at work. Emily's long blonde hair was loose around her shoulders, and she wore a pair of jeans and a bulky jacket and scarf. Nevertheless Erin thought she looked cute as they got in line for the skate rentals. Any tension that could have possibly been present was nonexistent as the three adult women fawned over Blaine. She was an easy medium upon which to carry conversation and disperse any anxieties. However, after about two hours, Margaret announced that she had to get Blaine home and ready for bed. The blonde wasn't quite ready to call it a night yet and asked if Erin wanted to stay out later, to which Margaret answered affirmatively for her.
When they were alone, Erin smiled at the smaller woman. "I think my feet have had enough of the skating. Why don't we go get a drink somewhere to warm up?" she suggested.
"Okay. I know just the place."
Turning in their skates and putting on their shoes once again, Emily led the way to the bar she had in mind. Erin smiled when she saw where she was being led. It was the bar where they had met for their blind date that set them on the path of their tumultuous relationship.
"Are you getting sentimental on me?" the brunette questioned with a smile.
Emily shook her head. "I just know we can get drinks here without a lot of noise. That why I suggested it all those years ago."
Going inside they grabbed an empty booth. Both women discarded their heavy jackets as they sat. Erin smiled at her company. Emily had on a Texas A&M sweatshirt. "Where did you get that sweatshirt?"
"I bought it online several years ago."
"I went to Texas A & M."
"I know," Emily said.
"I didn't know you had become a fan."
"Gig 'em Aggies," Emily stated the school slogan with a smile. "Did you see the game a few weeks ago? They whooped up on the Longhorns."
Erin laughed. "I never pictured you as a football fan. Jared, Margaret, Blaine, and I went down for the game. You know there is a protocol for Aggies games if you bring a date. Every time the Aggies score a touchdown you have to kiss your date. It seemed like every time I turned around Jared and Margaret were making out. I kept teasing them that if they weren't careful they'd have number two before they went down the aisle with behavior like that."
Emily laughed. "Did you bring anyone to the game?"
"No. It was the first time in a long time we'd been down there, and the first time I ever went to a game stag. It was all right, though. Blaine kept me company while her parents played tonsil hockey."
"When are they getting married?"
"Fall of next year."
"Are you in the wedding?"
Erin nodded. "Jared has asked me to be his best man, so of course I accepted. At least he's not going to put me in a kilt. I get to wear a suit like everyone else."
"I think it's sweet that everyone wants you to be in their weddings. It just shows how strong a bond you have with your family."
"We go out of our way for each other. Family is important, and we want to accept everyone in our family. No Mahoney is an outsider. We will feel strongly about that. If I'm lucky enough to find the right woman, she would have to understand that."
"I think it's wonderful. I feel special every time I'm around all of you."
"That's because you're one of us already the same way Margaret is."
"Yes but Margaret is actually marrying in. I just hang around."
Shaking her head, Erin said, "Family is what you make it, Emily. Nothing can change that."
"It means a great deal to me." Moving on to a new topic, she asked, "Are you still leaving on Thursday?"
"Yeah. Thursday morning."
"Do you have any plans for tomorrow?"
"Not really. I'm babysitting Blaine tomorrow night, so Margaret can have dinner with a friend. Do you have plans?"
"No. Just work."
"Well, would you like to come over to Seamus and Natalie's and baby sit Blaine with me? I know it's not glamorous, but it's fun."
"I'd like that."
"Great. I know she'll be thrilled to hear it." After about an hour had passed, the two decided to call it a night since Emily had an early meeting. Walking out to the street, Erin hailed a cab for the blonde. She opened the door when it pulled to the curb. "I guess you'll just come by after work when you're ready?" she asked.
Emily nodded. "I look forward to it." Trying to get a little closer, she leaned in to hug the brunette and raised up to kiss her on the cheek. "Thanks for the fun evening."
Erin nodded as her arms held Emily closely. "I had fun, too. I'll see you tomorrow."
Upon her arrival back to Seamus and Natalie's, Erin saw that Margaret was still awake. "So, how did things go after we left?"
"Fine. She's coming over tomorrow after work to help me watch Blaine."
"That will be fun. You two will get to spend some time together alone after she goes to bed. Should I plan to stay out late to give you time to make a move?" she teased.
Erin shook her head. "I won't be making any moves, but you can come home whenever you feel like it. I'll be here all night."
Margaret nodded. "You know, I think you should just be open to the possibilities. You never know what might happen given a little time alone. Things seem to be going well. Just promise me that you'll remain open."
"I'll remain open," Erin acquiesced. "But nothing is going to happen."
Margaret smiled at her future sister-in-law. "If you say so. Well, I'm going to bed. I'll see you in the morning."
"Good night. Sleep well."
The next day Erin, Margaret, and Blaine spent most of the day together shopping. Erin wasn't a big shopper by nature, but she did enjoy spending time with her brother's fiancée and her niece, so she tagged along for some family bonding time. However, that night when Margaret left for her dinner, the brunette was left alone with her Blaine.
Emily was scheduled to come over after work but called and said she would be late. Knowing that was part of the blonde's busy life, Erin just went about her business, playing with Blaine and then giving her a bath. The two had just settled down the sofa with one of Blaine's favorite movies to lull her to sleep when there was a knock on the door. Leaving the girl on the couch, Erin went to answer it.
The blonde was standing there still dressed in her business clothes and looking somewhat agitated. "Sorry I'm late. This day just didn't go like it was supposed to."
"It's all right. Come on in. I was just settling Blaine a little before bed. We're watching a movie." The two women went back to the living room where the little girl was sitting there, eyes glued to the TV. Both of them took a seat on either side of her. The attorney greeted the little girl, who smiled at her, but then Blaine proceeded to cuddle against her aunt. No one spoke as they watched the children's film.
Emily watched the two Mahoneys out of the corner of her eye. They are so cute together. Blaine could belong to her. Seeing them like this just makes me want children all the more. About half an hour later, she noticed that their charge was asleep. She motioned that fact to Erin, who checked. With a nod of her head, she gently picked up her niece and took her back to one of the guest bedrooms.
Returning a few moments later, she said, "We don't have to keep watching this. There are better choices. Seamus and Natalie have quite a good movie collection. Why don't you choose something?"
"All right," Emily answered, going over to the bookshelf where they were kept.
"Do you want something from the kitchen? Have you eaten dinner?"
"I'm not really hungry."
"What about a drink? Margaret and I opened a bottle of white wine the other night, and it's going to go bad if we don't drink it. Would you like some?"
"Sure. That sounds good."
Erin went to the kitchen while Emily picked out a movie for them. Both of them returned to the small sofa a few minutes later. Erin turned off the light beside her, so they were sitting only in the illumination of the TV as the movie began. Neither said anything to each other at first. Both women just relaxed, propping their feet up on the coffee table, and making themselves comfortable. Being that the couch was so small, though, every once in awhile their bodies would brush as they shifted to reposition themselves.
Emily contemplated how to get even closer to Erin. She didn't really know how to court this new Erin, because she wasn't getting any indication that interest was there. The old Erin was much easier to read, but she knew she had to go for it, so when she felt the older woman slip her arm up onto the back of the sofa, she decided to take a chance. She leaned into the taller woman's frame, placing her head against her shoulder and waited for any sort of reaction. An arm curved around her shoulder was the only response, but it made her feel like she should continue onward. Gently placing her left hand on Erin's left thigh, she paused. There was no reaction at first, so she slightly began to caress the toned thigh through the denim fabric. Still Erin said nothing, but Emily felt the muscle under her hand tighten in response. The cadence of Erin's breathing started to increase as the fondling continued at a slow pace. Finally after several minutes the blonde raised her head.
Dark eyes stared intently into blue ones. Feeling herself being drawn in by her emotions, Emily leaned toward the brunette slowly waiting for any adverse reaction. None came. Encouraged by that she lightly pressed her lips to Erin's. Immediately the tall woman responded, pressing back with equal intensity, allowing the gentleness to dominate the exchange. Breaking for air, Emily went back a second time, this time pressing slightly harder. A moan ensued, but she wasn't sure if it came from her or Erin. Feeling arms wrap themselves around her back, she embraced the Texan closely and continued the tender oral assault. It wasn't long until Emily found herself sitting in Erin's lap as they kissed deeply. I was so right. This is completely different, and yet it's so much better than I remember, Emily thought to herself as she felt a large hand gently caressing her cheek. However, she felt Erin back away slowly and opened her eyes.
The older woman gazed at her in silence for a moment. Finally she whispered, "This is a bit of a surprise."
Oh no. This doesn't sound good. "Why would you be surprised?" Emily quietly questioned, not sure how to read Erin just then.
"You're a beautiful woman, Emily, and I feel special that you find me attractive enough to kiss me, but I didn't invite you over for this."
"Do you not want to do this?" she asked as evenly as possible. Oh God. I don't think I could handle rejection from her.
"Don't get me wrong. This is nice. I haven't really been this close to a woman in quite some time, and you are one of the most attractive I've ever known. I just don't do the casual thing any more."
"I know. Neither do I. I kissed you because I have feelings for you, Erin." I love you, Erin, always have. "I just want to be closer to you."
The brunette nodded. "I'm flattered by that. Truly I am but I'm not sure that's a good idea."
"Why not?" She's turning me down. I can't believe after all this she's turning me down.
"We're in two different places in life. We live in two different cities more than half way across the country from each other. You are just starting to reach the pinnacle of a brilliant career, and I'm retired. My life has slowed down considerably, and you're just moving at a fast pace all the time. This wouldn't work."
Emily was quiet for a moment as she broke their gaze. Her heart felt like it was breaking as tears began to collect in her eyes. Something's not right about this. You're not getting the whole story. You might as well ask her for the truth, so you truly know why you can't be together. Trying to act braver than she really felt, she forced herself to meet dark eyes once again. "Erin, if you don't want to do this, then that's fine, but at least give me the truth. I know distance and careers aren't the real issues. They never have been. What is it about me that you find so unappealing?"
Erin sighed as her hand went to Emily's face and wiped at the tears. "Please don't cry. I didn't mean to make you cry, Em."
"Then tell me the truth."
There was silence for several moments Finally Erin nodded. "Fine. You want the truth? I'll tell you." She took a deep breath and held it for a moment. "I'm scared of you," she whispered.
"Scared of me?" Emily inquired in such complete shock that her own pain was temporarily abated. "Why?"
"Because you hurt me so badly the first time. You broke my heart, Emily."
"What?" Emily found herself dumbfounded at the confession.
"You broke my heart," Erin repeated, meeting blue eyes.
Emily just sat there for a moment trying to absorb the information. "I'm sorry. I'm just having a hard time with this news. I never would have intentionally done that, Erin. I loved you. You're the one who broke my heart when you ran off with Sahar. When did I break yours?"
"When you accepted Gillian's proposal. You seemed so happy that I didn't feel like I could say anything to stop you. It hurt me so much. It took a long time to get over it. It took me a long time to get over you."
The blonde was quiet for another moment just taking it all in. Touching Erin sweetly on the face, she said, "Well, that was then. We've both made mistakes. Can't we move on from that? We both want the same things, Erin. We want the marriage and the family. We have the same real ideals and goals. We're not really in different places in life. Why can't we try again?"
"Because I don't want to fall in love with you again and end up hurt. This isn't a game to me anymore. It's for keeps this time, Emily."
"I know," Emily replied, looking deeply into brown eyes. "I wouldn't have it any other way, Erin. This isn't a game to me either, not this time. Why don't we just take it slowly? Let's not rush into anything. Let's just spend time together and see what happens?" she suggested.
Erin looked at the blonde in silent contemplation a moment. Her head and her heart were debating the right course of action. In the end she compromised. "Okay. Let's spend time together as friends. We've never really been friends. Let's try that and see how it goes?"
"Friends?" Emily questioned. It was not quite what she had in mind. However, she realized if she and Erin were going to have a chance, she would have to agree. "All right. We'll be friends for now." She started to move away to a more respectable position when arms tightened around her.
"You don't have to go. We can still cuddle if you want," Erin softly said. "I like holding you," she admitted.
Emily smiled. "And I like being held," she replied, snuggling in closely once again. With that they turned their attentions back to the movie. When all was quiet again, Emily just thought about their situation. Well, I suppose this is better than nothing. We at least get to be close. Problem now is that I'm not sure where the line of friendship really is. That evening Emily stayed until Margaret returned to the apartment. The dean smiled at them cuddled together on the sofa as she passed through the living room but merely said good night instead of staying to talk. Checking her watch, the blonde realized it was late. "You have to fly early tomorrow, and I have a morning meeting. I should get going."
Erin nodded in agreement. "I'll walk you out." Together the went to the front door and donned their coats. Heading down the corridor to the elevator, the tall woman reached for the attorney's hand. Emily was more than pleased to take Erin's. Neither said anything as they rode to the ground floor and made their way out into the cold night. Hugging on to each other, Erin hailed a cab for her friend. When it pulled to the curb, she opened the back door. Smiling down at the shorter woman, she said, "It's been good to see you. I hope we can see each other again soon."
"Is the invitation to come down for New Year's still open?"
"Of course. I'd like to have you stay at the ranch for awhile. It'll be fun."
"Then I'll see if I can make it. It will be good to get away."
Erin nodded. Leaning down, she gave Emily a kiss on the cheek. "Merry Christmas, Em. I hope to see you in a few weeks."
Hugging Erin once again, she whispered, "Merry Christmas, Erin." Climbing into the cab, she waved at Erin through the window as the car began to pull away. Her mind was already turning with ideas for her trip to get even closer to her favorite woman. Maybe this will be a Happy New Year after all.
"Don't" By Jewel
Don't walk too close,
Don't breathe so soft,
Don't talk so sweet,
And don't sing.
Don't lay, oh, so near.
Please, don't let me fall in love with you again.
Please let me forget all those sweet smiles,
All of the passion, all of the heat,
The peace, the pain,
All those blue skies, where your words were my freedom.
Please, don't let me fall in love with you again.
Too many times I've cared too much.
I stood on the edge.
And saw that you held my hand,
And knowing too well
I couldn't hide from those eyes.
Please, don't let me fall, please
Don't let me fall in love with you again.