"What do you mean she's gone?" Gwen Lerner huffed as she paced the airport gate. Her anger buried in her words. She didn't want to confront the coaching staff in public. Her question meant to challenge them about the absence of Keegan Garry, her girlfriend and teammate. Her hands shoved deep into the pockets of her team jacket, Gwen's fingers brushed over the box. Feeling the soft velvet texture against her finger tips, the ring was secure in her possession. Silently she wished she'd done things differently last night. Something was wrong with Keegan. Gwen didn't press even though she knew her girlfriend was holding back.
Rising before the sun, she went to look for Keegan. Instead she found an empty room. Gwen panicked and began to search the property asking the staff about Keegan's whereabouts. The front desk attendant answered her question. A woman matching Keegan's description left in a cab just after five.
Standing in the middle of the airport waiting to board the flight to Greece, Gwen checked her watch. Why would Keegan leave? Why didn't she tell her last night? The feeling of abandonment overwhelmed her. She thought she had pushed her issues with her mother out of her life. Instead, she stood in disbelief that her girlfriend would leave her. Gwen turned hardened brown eyes to stare at Coach Brian Curtis. She waited for an answer or explanation.
"Keegan went to Michigan." Michigan?
Gwen's brain began to spin and her knees slightly gave way. San Jose was their home. Some one needed to tell her what was going on.
"Is she coming back?" Gwen demanded.
Coach Curtis stared at the tall blonde pacing in front of him. The team was heading to the Olympics. He didn't need his star suffering an emotional break down and he promised Keegan. No matter the outcome, he would honor that promise. Deep down, he hoped Keegan spoke to Gwen, but from the stiff posture and clamped jaw, Gwen didn't have any idea.
"I don't know and I hope so." Curtis turned away from the piercing brown eyes throwing daggers his way. He heard Gwen unclip her phone from her hip and place a call. Watching her out of the corner of his eye, he saw her close her eyes and groan as she whispered into the phone.
Gwen hung up the phone and set her hands on her hips. She stared at Curtis waiting for the head coach to give her more information. A fine gleam of sweat formed on his brow. The team avoided her as soon as they learned Keegan's absence. Since this morning, she had left over ten messages for her girlfriend.
"She wouldn't just leave Curtis." When Gwen set her mind on something, she would not give up until she had what she was after.
"Gwen?" His voice rose for a moment. She was wearing on his patience. "You need to talk to Keegan. I can't help you. Now, get some of that funky tea you drink and leave me alone."
Dismissed...Curtis dismissed her. Playing for the man for over eight years, he had never treated her this way. She needed to talk to Keegan and find out what the hell was going on. Gwen pulled out her phone scrolling through the numbers she pressed the number for Keegan's parents in Michigan. When the answering machine picked up, she lifted her brown eyes to the popcorn ceiling. "Bill, Sarah, it's Gwen. Kee's gone and I can't reach her. Please have her call me. I really need to speak with her." Gwen closed her phone and fought back the tears she could feel forming. She would not cry. Just like when her mother dumped her at her great aunt's house, she refused to let anyone see her break into tears.
The carpet between the bar and the master bedroom was beginning to show a traffic pattern. Gwen Lerner walked across the plush olive fibers. She stopped at the wall of windows overlooking the ocean. Her soft brown eyes watched as angry waves of mucky water slapped against the hard packed beach and jagged rocks on the shoreline. The view of Half Moon Bay from Bobby's home was breath taking. February turned the Pacific Ocean angry. Gone were the blue skies and soft rolling waves of summer. Winter started to rear its ugly head. Gwen leaned her forehead against the cold pane of glass, trying to ease the pounding in her head. The full glass of scotch was held in her shaking hand. She took a sip of the stiff drink in hopes of fighting off the sadness surrounding her heart. She just couldn't get warm. Since she arrived, she a chill sank deep in her bones like the fridge temperatures of the Rockies during December or the Great Lakes in March. She felt as if she was attending a funeral, yet no one had died.
Inside, she was dying. Bobby was leaving and moving cross country. He was leaving her. Closing her eyes, she wished the nightmare would just end. Rolling the small glass across her forehead, the condensation wetting her skin, she inhaled deeply and let the breath out slowly. She knew she needed to put her game face on. People were counting on her. She would make his transition as seamless as possible. Putting on the camera ready smile, she continued her way to Bobby's bedroom.
Pushing a loose strain of long blonde hair behind her ear, the sound of thrashing hangers pulled her attention to the far corner of the bedroom. Standing in the middle of the walk in closet was Bob Finch, professional hockey player for the San Jose Ice Breakers. He was packing. He had been traded to the Detroit Motors late last night. He was leaving tonight. She mentally added his name to the list of people she loved who had left her. Molly and Christopher, her great aunt and uncle and closest family she had, passed away within six months of each other. Her father, Jeff Lerner, she never met, but heard his short relationship with Connie was over within three months.
Bobby was the latest person in her life to leave her. Being traded to Detroit wasn't his idea and from the sound of banging drawers and hangers, he was upset about it. Connie, her mother, had left her a countless number of times with relatives while she chased man and money. Connie seemed to have mellowed with age. Her divorce, from husband number five, had left her in a nice financial position and after her plastic surgery she began to claim Gwen was her sister. Connie could no longer surprise or shock Gwen any more. As of late, she hadn't posed a new business venture for Gwen to invest in. Gwen constantly questioned her mother's motives. Then there was Keegan, her girlfriend who left her without a word just before the Olympics. After three years, of what Gwen thought was a perfect and loving relationship, Keegan left, cleaned her belongings out of their home and moved to Michigan. It still hurt Gwen to look at photos of her. Keegan's departure from the team created a media sensation. The press hounded the women trying to find out information about the missing player. Unconfirmed rumors claimed Keegan was in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy.
Gwen had no explanation for the sudden disappearance of her girlfriend. She was lost in a state of confusion regarding Keegan. Gwen used every means known to try reach her, even leaving the team days before the games started to find Keegan. Their meeting still caused Gwen's chest to hurt. According to the last conversation, she had with Keegan, she was not wanted. Period. After, three years, Keegan wanted nothing to do with her.
Gwen left, bitter and angry. On the night she led her team won gold, Keegan called. Gwen was out celebrating the victory and purging the pain from their breakup. She took intoxication to another level. Crawling out of a bed and from under three naked women, the next morning, she listened to the voice message from a Detroit number. The message was from Sarah, Keegan's mother, asking Gwen not to contact Keegan again. Five years since Keegan left her had passed without as much as a Christmas card. Keegan didn't just leave, she cut Gwen out of her life.
"Fuck!" A deep curse filled the air drawing her attention back to her latest relationship. Bobby would be on a plane to Detroit tonight. Alone again, at the age of thirty, Gwen thought she'd have her shit together by this point in her life. She had her life planned out. A couple years of playing soccer at the world level, another Olympic medal, then she'd settled down with Keegan, retire and make a home. Travel would be for pleasure only, actually going to Europe to sightsee, not to play soccer. Life still seemed to be throwing her curve balls when she thought she would get a fastball down the middle of the plate.
Pieces of ice clunked against the glass as she walked to the bedroom door. She leaned her long lithe figure on the doorframe. Bobby cursed, flipping through hanger after hanger of suit jackets. When he stomped in front of her towards the large bed, Gwen raised her eyes to the handsome man. For a brief moment, he stood proud, then his shoulders slumped and head lowered. His clothes were wrinkled as if he had just pulled them out of his gym bag or the hamper. Normally perfectly styled, his midnight locks were mussed and out of control. The small amount of gray that highlighted his temples doubled over the past week. Dark circles marred his green eyes. Two days worth of stubble on his jaw hide his angular face. He was tired. Late night conference calls and waiting for a decision to be made weighted heavily on him. Facing an unknown future, he was heading to Detroit.
Still holding the scotch, Gwen watched his jerky motions as he mumbled about a lost black Armani jacket. He was running through a gauntlet of emotions; denial, anger, acceptance. Gwen had witnessed many teammates dealing with the emotions of being traded or cut. He needed to reach acceptance, as did she. Their lives were about to change.
Bobby shook his head in frustration, as he walked between the closet and the open suitcase on the bed. A pile of discarded clothes on the floor grew each time he passed. The warmth of the alcohol caused the ice snap making a cracking sound. Bobby turned his attention to Gwen. She raised the glass to him. He shook his head, his drama over for the moment.
Gwen placed the tumbler on the nearest piece of furniture and waited for the next explosion. It didn't take long. Bobby slammed the closet door behind him causing the windows to rattle and Gwen to jump. "Bobby." She called to her best friend and according to the latest tabloid reports her fiancé. He threw a few more articles of clothing in to the suitcase then lifted his green eyes to her. "Everything will be okay."
According the media, Bobby Finch and Gwen Lerner represented the perfect couple. The professional athletes with movie star looks matched the story of a fairy tale romance. Gwen, an all American California girl was the girl next door, tall, blonde and beautiful, America's Sweetheart, she represented the perfect combination of athletic grace and feminine beauty, like a lioness. Bobby was a ruggedly dark and handsome lumberjack with a beautiful smile that turned heads. An occupational hazard of aggressive play on the ice had cost the hockey player a few of his teeth. He replaced the missing pearly whites with a beautiful expensive set of veneers. The extensive bridgework fooled the public and the cameras. On the ice, he would tease the crowd by showing his missing teeth.
From her career of being on multiple national and Olympic teams, Gwen was well versed in media exposure. The games in Athens focused the spotlight on the US Women's Soccer Team. When Keegan disappeared, Gwen was deemed team spokesperson. Keegan, a media and fan favorite ever since she led the "Cinderella" Weston Mustangs to the NCAA National Championship was the most popular player. Small in statured, Keegan played like a powerhouse on the field. The fiery player spoke effortlessly with the media. Her fun loving personality was contagious. Keegan's bright smile and sky blue eyes lit up a room. When she left the team, reporters swarmed the women's soccer team for the reason. The team was hounded about the disappearance of their star defensive player. For the first time in her life, Gwen felt as if the media was exposing a piece of her life. She loved Keegan. Even before she met her, Gwen was drawn to the little fiery brunette with the big smile. When Keegan left, Gwen's heart went with her.
An off the cuff interview she did with Dale McKnight, the seasoned commentator from Sports National Network, gave her the first indication of how the media could hurt. Caught off guard by the commentator as she came in from the practice field, Gwen was ambushed by Dale, who waited with camera rolling and microphones recording.
"Gwen, can you give the fans some insight on Keegan Garry's absence? I know you're close with her." Dale's head nodded to the crew as the camera zoomed in tight on Gwen's profile. Gwen began to jog through the arena, but the reporter ran next to her. She tried to escape into the locker room, but was blocked by a large man hoisting a camera.
"Keegan's missed." She finally replied to the microphone thrust at her. "There are things we can't control. Would we like her here with us of course, but that's not going to happen. Right now, we need to stay focused and play like a team."
"Rumor is emergency appendectomy. Can you confirm?" When Gwen shot Dale a look of disgust, he changed tactics. "Do you have a personal message for Keegan as she watches the games with her family in Michigan?" McKnight asked.
"Anything I have to say to Keegan has already been said. She knows how I feel and how the team feels. Thanks." Her brown eyes turned hard as they stared at the lens. Quickly Gwen ducked through the barricade of the restricted area, leaving the media behind. The still shot SNN captured of her intense gaze was used to promote the determination of the team to win gold. Days later, Keegan's story faded as Gwen's was pushed in to the spotlight.
"America's Sweetheart Wins Gold!" The headline ran in newspapers across the country along with a picture of Gwen being mobbed by her teammates. Her last second flick of the ball into the back of the net scored the gold winning goal. From that moment on, her life was no longer her own. The public and press wanted to know everything, from her favorite food to her love life. Adding to the media sensation was the release of the poster she posed for to promote the National Women's Soccer League. The lay-out for the poster used the tag line from the Olympics, America's Sweetheart. Scantily draped in an America flag with four inch red stilettos, a soccer ball in the foreground and an apple pie in the background with the words "Come get a piece!
" printed between her wide spread legs. The flag was wrapped strategically to cover her breasts and loosely hung around her waist so the stripes tickled the tops of her thighs. Her muscle structure and a good airbrush gave her the appeal of what the league wanted, sex and soccer.
The National Women's Soccer League, NWSL housed teams in ten major cities across the US. Including, the San Jose Tide whose franchise player was hometown hero, Gwen Lerner. Her popularity continued to spread around the country as fans wanted to get to know the Olympic hero. As part of her contractual commitment to the Tide she was designated player spokesperson. Her popularity increased as the league officials asked her to step into the league player media representative. Her name recognition ratings went through the roof. The league began to compensate her for the additional appearances on talk shows to boost ticket sales.
Gwen was the player fans wanted to know everything about. Her presence on the field had the Tide as the league leader for ticket sales. Even other teams cashed in when the Tide was in town. Gwen was the David Beckman of women's soccer. Her name drew crowds around the world. The networks wanted to interview her, companies wanted her to endorse their products and the talk shows wanted her as a guest. The soccer star's light heartedness and sense of humor made her enjoyable to watch. Her career was rising, while her love life plummeted out of control. Media speculation began to swirl about her personal life. Gwen tried her best to keep her private life out of the media. She kept her dates out of the limelight by asking her Great Uncle Christopher to escort her to many events. When whispers of homosexuality began to circulate, her agent, Hannah Marshfield, started damage control before Gwen's career suffered.
magazine was first to attack her "Sweetheart" image by running a cover-spread of Gwen kissing another woman. The headline's large bold letters read "America's Sweetheart Loves Women!" The rumor mill began to run, spreading rapidly and weaving a web around Gwen and her sexual preference. Tabloid after tabloid released the stories, detailing juicy gossip about the gold medal winner. Friends, teammates, college classmates were all approached to dish some gossip. No one she knew fell for the temptation of fast cash.
Gwen knew the photos printed in Look
. She knew them well. They captured private moments between her and Keegan while they vacationed in Provincetown years earlier. The front cover was a clear photo of Gwen locked in a steamy kiss with the smaller dark haired woman. Thankfully, the photos were darkened to obscure their faces. Their arms were wrapped around each other in a loving embrace. Gwen had abided by the Garry family's request to leave Keegan alone. Even after the Look
story ran, she heard nothing from the family. Gwen assumed Keegan needed money and sold the photos. She went as far as to hire a private investigator to see who sold the pictures to the tabloid magazine.
Everyone wanted to know who the woman in the photos was. Hannah never asked because she knew about Gwen's relationship with Keegan, even how Gwen fought the attraction to her teammate. She refused to become involved with a teammate. She didn't want to create issues on the team. Finally after months of watching Keegan date loser after loser, she couldn't sit by and watch Keegan date other women. Every time the fiery player went out with someone, Gwen felt her heart breaking. She didn't want Keegan to be with anyone else. When Hannah questioned what happened to Keegan, Gwen couldn't answer her. She didn't know. Keegan Garry disappeared from her life. Her name never surfaced in the media. It was as if the player never existed. Even teammates refused to mention Keegan's name anywhere near Gwen. Her closest friend, Shannon dared to approach the subject a few times, but Gwen wanted no part of a person who shut her out.
The spread in the Look
opened the floodgates. The NWSL came under attack, receiving bad press for "harboring the deviant lifestyle of lesbianism" as the Christian Conservative Press wrote and released through the association circuit. Her sexuality became the only topic the press wanted to talk about and she chose not to discuss. Never giving an answer to reporters other than she preferred not to discuss her personal life. Hannah coached her well and brought in the solution. Enter Bobby. Robert Finch, star defensive player for the Elite Hockey League was her savior from negative press. Hannah managed the athletes and introduced the couple just after the NWSL finished its first season. Gwen knew she found a kindred spirit. Bobby was everything she was looking for. Intelligent, articulate and he understood what a professional athlete's life was like. Pairing the couple served to benefit their careers. Bobby escorting Gwen around began to boost his press exposure. Magazines wanted photos of the couple. Bobby suddenly found his popularity on the rise. A new fan base of young teenage girls became infatuated with the hunky hockey player.
The Canadian born hockey player stood a few inches taller than Gwen's five nine frame. His chiseled features, square jaw, regal nose and curly raven locks brought women to their knees. A twelve year veteran of the EHL, Bobby was a diamond in the rough. A power house of muscles and handsome looks, his deep voice carried the refinement of a politician. Bobby could have his choice of women, but the dark raven haired man hung to Gwen's arm. Burned early in his career by a former lover, he became selective in his companionship. Women flocked to him, but he was turned off by their greed or shallowness. From Ontario, Bobby studied at Northwestern University on a hockey scholarship. Graduating top of his class with a degree in finance, he wasn't just a dumb jock. Drafted by the Washington Seals in the second round, he was traded to the Ice Breakers after two seasons. His career was winding down and he could retire on the investments he established. Gwen sought his financial advice after Connie's broker began to siphon large amounts of cash out of her accounts. With Bobby's guidance, she was sitting on a nice investment portfolio. Not in a cell like her former advisor.
Hannah spun the wheel of fortune dropping gentle hints to the media that the couple would soon be exchanging nuptials. The press was on them. Everyone wanted to catch Gwen and Bob out on the town. They were seen at every event, hot restaurant and a dinner date on the show "Hell's Kitchen." They were popular with the men, women and the advertisers. Offers for endorsements flooded Hannah's office. Companies wanted them to represent their products since they appealed to most demographics.
Home was San Jose. Gwen attended every home Iceberg game she could. During the NWSL season, Bob stood on the side line or paced the stands while the Tide took the field. He traveled to Germany for the World Cup Games. The press around the couple was a promoters dream. They were photographed at every time they went out even after three years of dating. With the Ice Breakers trading Bob to the Detroit Motors, break up rumors would be the next big seller.
"Can you fucking believe it?" The muscular built man threw random pieces of clothing in the suitcase. Sharp features tensed his jaw clenched in anger. Gwen placed a gentle comforting hand on his shoulder. He stopped his frantic movements and looked at her. His eyes softened as his jaw unclenched. "What am I going to do?" His bright green eyes usually danced like the sea water under the sun when he was in a playful mood, but they weren't dancing. His mood was dark and his eyes the color of pine trees nestled deep in the forest where the sun couldn't reach. Could she reach him?
Hannah called her as soon as Bobby was told. He would just have to deal with the change. There was no alternative.
"Move to Detroit." Her matter of fact tone camouflaged her fear. Bobby was her safety net, her go to guy. What was she going to do when he moved half way across the country? "It's a playoff year for them. The Motors need veteran players." She ran her hand along the side of his head, smoothing the dark locks into some type of order. When her amber colored eyes settled on his green, they both gave a little smile.
"Veteran? That's very political. Why not old, washed up, over the hill? Hang up the skates Finch!" The professional hockey player knew he was on the downside of his career. San Jose did not want to renew his contract and Detroit needed his help to make the playoffs. "Detroit. At least I'm closer to my folks. Good or bad, whatever way you look at it."
"It's not a bad place to be traded. It could be Cleveland and no chance of playoffs. Don't you have friends on the Motors?" She stopped mid-sentence. "Denny plays the Motors, doesn't he?" Bobby's former rival was now going to be a teammate. This was the underlying issue for his discomfort. She moved back to the rocks glass on the dresser, taking a small sip of the scotch to settle her nerves.
As she handed the glass to Bobby, she could see the play of emotions on his face. He was struggling with the situation just as he had struggled when his former lover left him to marry a high school sweetheart. She searched for a way to support him. Playing along side Denny Newsome could be disastrous. The men hated each other. "I'm scheduled for a banquet in Detroit just after St. Patrick's Day. So you won't be by yourself for long." Gwen leaned her backside against the closet door.
"That will look good. You visiting me. When did Hannah set that up?" Bobby flipped a pair of pants into the suitcase.
"Last fall, I think." Gwen nodded.
"She knew this was in the works. Why didn't she at least warn me?" He talked out his frustration. "That's why you are scheduled in Detroit. She just didn't know when, but she knew." Gwen moved towards him wrapping her arms around his waist and gave him a hug. She leaned into his warmth for a moment. They were friends, best friends. With Hannah representing them, it was easy for their schedules to cross. Both professional athletes had a lot to lose if the truth came out about Gwen's sexuality.
"Fuck!" Bobby brought her back to the present as he pointed to a picture of himself on SNN. The network had switched to a split screen of Denny Newsome and himself.
"How are the former rivals, now teammates on the Motors going to get along?" The network ran footage of the Breakers versus Motors game from two seasons ago. Bobby's face bloodied and a front tooth missing the other player being led to the penalty box and screaming obscenities at Bobby. Gwen laughed at the frozen frame of Bobby holding his tooth in his hand.
"Jesus, what am I going to do if he starts shit?" Bobby roughly sat on the bed. The large mattress bounced under his weight. "How come you are never the center of negative press?"
"Do you even remember why we met? That picture of me in the rags just after the league was formed. What was the headline?" Gwen raised her voice. She loved Bobby but sometimes his self centered focus made her question how he really felt about her.
"Oh Jesus. That was ?? What's her.." He snapped his fingers together knowing his friend never got over the woman in the photograph. Gwen still had a few pictures of her ex-girlfriend which she kept stashed in her house somewhere. If she was having a really bad day, she'd pull them out and look at them. When Christopher passed away, she stayed in bed crying. It wasn't until she collapsed from exhaustion that Bobby discovered a velvet ring box and the picture of Keegan. "Keegan? What kinda of name is that?"
"Gaelic." Gwen took a seat across from him in one of the plush chairs. Taking a long sip of the bottled water she left on the table earlier. "It means fiery little one." Her voice softened.
"Was she?" His smile was genuine as his dimples stood out prominently on his cheeks.
"Absolutely." She never admitted she loved the photo of her kissing Keegan. It was one of her favorites. She denied everything to the press, to everyone, except for herself. She knew where the photo was taken. Gwen never denied her preference for women. Yet there was a large financial impact to her if her public image was tarnished. She had the league looking at her for exposure to the masses. Fame changed who she allowed into her private life. Her life was about image and what the sponsors wanted. Just go with the plan, just like Hannah coached. Stick to Bobby like glue. Don't let the press get the upper hand. Deny everything. Who was the woman with her?
I don't know, since that isn't me. She learned to lie very well over the years, the practice of self preservation. The media didn't care about her. They just wanted to make money.
"Did she release the photos?" He asked, not remembering the specific details that propelled the blonde athlete into his life. Gwen shook her head.
"I never found out. I hired a private investigator but no answers." Regret quickly filled Gwen's heart. She never found out how Look
obtained the photos. The confrontation she had with Tara Washington, Keegan's best friend, minutes before the NWSL game between San Jose and Atlanta game still haunted her. Seething would be the term to describe her emotional state as she stepped into the center circle to confront Tara Washington, Keegan's best friend and college teammate. The outcome of the fight still had Gwen reeling to this day. Her pattern of self destruction continued on, following her in every situation, blaming her troubles on someone else. Her mother for her issues with relationships. Keegan for her issues with trust.
When brown eyes met green, Gwen sighed and nervously touched the Claddagh ring on her finger. The one reminder of the relationship with Keegan she kept in the open. The ring she bought for Keegan sat buried deep in the drawer of her dresser. When the press asked about her engagement to Bob, she thought about wearing it to add fuel to the fire. She thought about selling it, but she couldn't part with it. It reminded her of happier times.
"Gwen?" Bobby called her to when she saw him staring. "Where did you just go?"
"Traveling down the path of my mistakes." Her voice was quiet as her disheartened mood surfaced. She didn't want to lose her best friend.
"Keegan was from Michigan wasn't she?" Bobby questioned as he sat on the side of the bed surrounded by a sea of pants, shirts and jackets, his mind made up as to what he was taking with him.
"Yes, and you're cleaning up the mess you're making. I'm not your mother or your maid!" Gwen called as she walked into the bathroom. She didn't see the smile on his face as he watched her walk away. Bobby knew her well enough to know she still loved the woman who walked away from her years ago.
"Are you taking me to the airport?" He called after her.
"I thought the Motors were sending a car for you." Gwen came back into the room. His shaving kit and attaché bag in hand. "You really should shave. You're looking scruffy."
"Scruffy!" He jumped to his feet and gripped Gwen by the waist throwing her over his shoulder. Her screams and laughter could be heard outside. Bobby spun her around a few times before promptly depositing her on top of the clothing strung across the bed. He jumped on the bed next to her sprawled form. "Never call me scruffy!" He smiled and touched her face. "Sorry for being such an ass."
Gwen kissed his palm and smiled back at him. His hand warmed her cheek. "It's okay, but we are definitely not getting married this week." Teasing him was her favorite past time.
"Gwen," His voice deepened but came out softly. "I'm scared and you're not going to be there. What if I screw up? What if this is the worst move I make in my career? I've got to be smart, I don't have many options left."
"Well, I think you turning down the deal with New York the year they went on to win the championship was your biggest mistake, but I'm not perfect either."
"What mistake did you make?"
"I let Keegan get away and then I proceeded to screw up any relationship I've had."
"You've got me and Shannon." Bobby reminded her of the support she had.
"Shannon, I should call her. You know Chuck is not going to be happy with you leaving the west coast."
"No more tickets to games."
"Well Mr. Abbott can get over it. Besides, with all those girls in the house, he is better off going to the ballet."
"Did you go to the ballet?" Gwen was wondering where his thought pattern was.
"Of course. Didn't you?" He stood up and grabbed her hand. "Now get off my clothes. You're holding up my progress." The tension was eased. They would get through this. One way or another, they would survive.
"You stubborn, pig headed pain in the ass!" Ashley Whitmore's loud irritated voice echoed through her kitchen. Pacing back in forth in front of the sliding glass door, the strawberry blonde glanced out the door to check on the figures in the yard. She ran her hand through her long hair in frustration the turned to lock eyes with familiar striking ice blue ones. Eyes the same color as hers stared back, the battle of wills had begun. "Give me one good reason why you don't want to go?"
"I can give you a hundred!" Keegan Garry shot back at her sister. For the last month they had argued with each other about attending the Emerald Foundation's annual fundraising banquet. Keegan, the oldest Garry sibling sat at the kitchen table tapping her finger tips across the wooden surface. Hidden under the table, her leg bounced wildly. Why couldn't Ash just drop the subject?
Queasiness assaulted her stomach causing a roller coaster of emotions as she watched and listened to her sister rant. Silently, she prayed the dry piece of toast she ate this morning would stay down. Her movements became more frantic as Ashley's patience was coming to an end. The angry motion of her sister caused her sickness to escalate. "Sit down. You're making me ill." Ashley stopped moving and quieted her voice.
"It's the foundation."
"I understand, but I'm not going." Keegan pushed back her chair as she stood and moved to the kitchen sink. Her hands automatically went to the swell of her stomach. Twelve weeks of the pregnancy down, twenty four to go, she mentally calculated. Every morning was a new adventure as to what her rebellious body would surprise her with. Today, her feet were swollen to the point she couldn't get on her regular shoes. Instead, she wore soft brown leather moccasins. Her clothes were getting tighter and snugger. She didn't know what she was going to do by the time the ninth month came around. Dressed in her favorite pair of jeans, well worn thread bare Levis were tight, but she was able to fit into them. Soon, she would have to resort to elastic waistbands and she wasn't looking forward to them or wearing granny panties. Being pregnant and wearing a thong just didn't seem right. Her navy ribbed t-shirt was tucked into her waistband pouched a little at the waist and she wore an untucked and unbuttoned long sleeve white shirt over it. Absently, she ran her hands under the cold water as she worked on taking her rings off her swollen fingers. She removed the Claddagh ring she wore on her right ring finger and examined it before she carefully set it on the windowsill above the kitchen sink.
"You've heard my reasons. Why do you think I would want to go?" Keegan countered her sister's reasoning. Gwen Lerner was the celebrity guest at the banquet and she didn't want to go. Keegan's eyes fell on the ring Gwen had given her, a match to the one she gave Gwen. They vowed never to doubt the importance of how they felt about one another. Not any more, Keegan sighed at her thought. Wiping her eyes as the tears of pain threatened to fall. She was going to get over Gwen.
Today?tonight?.she was going on a date. A real actual date with no Tony in sight. Although she loved the big puppy dog of a man like a brother, she needed time away from him. Her date should be interesting. Regina Parker and Carrie Micah were heavily pursuing a relationship with her. Both women were colleagues with her at the hospital. Gina, a former college classmate, worked as a nurse in the Oncology unit. Carrie was a doctor, an OBGYN in the practice Keegan went to. Keegan's job as a Physical Therapist had her in a different section of the hospital so she didn't cross paths with either woman often. Yet Gina had tracked her down a few times to ask her to meet for coffee in the hospital cafeteria. The nurse finally got up the nerve to ask Keegan to dinner and a movie. Keegan thought over the offer for a week before agreeing. There must have been a full moon because as soon as she agreed, Keegan ran into Carrie in the hallway and the husky blonde doctor asked her to dinner. Feeling a little off kilter about dating an OBGYN, Keegan made the doctor wait a few days for her answer. She agreed to the dates because Ashley, Danny and Tony were on her case to get out of the house and find a social life. Neither woman set off sparks as far as Keegan was concerned, but she needed to start somewhere. If any thing, maybe the dates would lead to friendship. It wasn't as if she was looking to get involved in a committed relationship. She just needed to get out of the house.
Deep down, Keegan didn't want to go on either date. She wasn't even sure why she agreed, but she did, and Gina was scheduled to pick her up in a few hours. Tomorrow night, she was going out with Dr. Micah.
"Keegan, you have to?"
"Drop it. I'm over it. Jesus Christ, I have two dates this weekend. What else do you want me to do to prove I'm over Gwen?" Keegan rung her hands together, trying to ease the discomfort she was feeling and turned towards her sister. At five foot four she was the smallest in her family, her slightly wavy chocolate colored hair hung just past her slight shoulders. She had the build of an athlete. Although she was thinner and lankier in comparison to the days she played soccer in college or for the national team. At times, she barely recognized her reflection in the mirror. Her muscle mass decreased dramatically since she left the national team. She no longer had the shoulders of linebacker. While playing at Weston University, she had been so heavy Coach Redding actually put her on a diet and training regimen. They laughed about it now, because with the exception of the small pouch at her mid-section, she was too skinny. In an effort to stay in shape, each morning she ran or did yoga. Nothing too stressful as Jonathan Sparks, her trainer and friend, guided her back to a healthier lifestyle. She only did as much as her body would allow her to do. Lately, her body was telling her to stay in bed for the next six months.
Matching blue eyes locked again, in a soft understanding. "Go with Danny. Stay in the hotel. Make it a girls weekend and I'll take care of the little man." Keegan glanced out the window into the backyard where a small raven haired boy and a tall slender cinnamon haired woman playing in the freshly fallen snow. Rapping lightly on the glass, Keegan got the pair's attention. Quickly the woman grabbed the small boy's gloved hand and helped him wave towards the house. A bright smile appeared quickly as Keegan waved back. Danny Martin, Ashley's best friend and business partner was a beautiful woman, but she and Keegan would never be more than close friends. As hard as Ashley tried to push the two women together, there were other factors at work.
Ashley moved to her side wrapping an arm around her sister's waist and leaning her head on Keegan's shoulder. They watched Danny lie down in the powdery fluff and make a snow angel. With a light snow falling, the sun shone down on the pair, casting a halo around them. It was the warmest day they had had in awhile and no one was complaining.
"He's spoiled rotten." Ashley commented.
"He deserves to be spoiled." Keegan said as she nodded her head, agreeing with her sister. When Ashley announced she was expecting a child, the family was very surprised. With her divorce from Jason Whitmore finally settled, Ashley decided to have Andy, a choice that Keegan was forever grateful for.
At twenty nine years of age, Keegan questioned her decisions and if she would make the same choices. She picked up her ring from the window sill and tried to put it back on her finger. Ash held her hand out for it. Hesitating for a few seconds, Keegan placed the ring in her sister's hand.
"You still wear this." It was a statement, not a question. Keegan was rarely seen without the band. "Maybe you should reach out to her. Circumstances are different. I heard she retired and got some deal with Sports National Network."
"I can't Ash. I just can't." Keegan willed away the tears began to form. An overwhelming feeling of guilt pained her whenever Gwen's name was mentioned. She always had Gwen's best interest at heart, but she continued to struggle her decision. She pushed Gwen away. There were so many things she could have done differently. If she told the truth, maybe she would still have a relationship with Gwen.
"I suppose you know she's the celebrity guest at the banquet and that is the real reason you don't want to go?" Ashley watched her sister's reaction closely. She knew her older sibling had a bond with Gwen. The connection her sister had with the now famous soccer player haunted her to this day.
"I just don't want to see her. Plus I'm fat and getting fatter by the minute. I don't want to be in front of the audience. That's why you and Danny are going besides your company won the award." Keegan knew her excuse was lame but she didn't care. There was no way she was going to the banquet. Her physical appearance had little to do with her choice. Emotionally, she wasn't certain she could even be in the same room with Gwen. Every time she saw her former lover on the television, she had a hard time watching. Keegan knew her feelings for Gwen ran deep, but she also knew the blonde had gone on without her.
"Thanks, thanks a lot. Maybe you should go and try to talk to her. At least make peace with her. Maybe this way you can move on. Seriously Kee. When is the last time you went out with someone more than once?"
"I went out with Sandy for a couple months. I've got dates lining up at the door." Keegan threw her hand towards the front door.
"With Gina?" Ashley asked as her eyebrow quirked up.
"Really?that's interesting. I thought you said there was no spark and she was stalker like material?"
"I never said that. You called her a stalker. There isn't any spark, but I couldn't think of a good reason to turn her down. Besides, you, Danny and Tony are on my case about dating. Why is there such an interest in my love life?"
"You compare everyone to her." Ashley sighed, the last thing she wanted to do was hurt her sister. "Do you remember the promise you and Meghan made Thanksgiving weekend?" Keegan smiled and nodded her head. Keegan promised not to date Danny. In turn, Meghan promised Gwen would never be on her dance card. "Gwen hit on Meg when she was visiting DC." The painful expression on Keegan face made her pause. "I never told you because I...I wasn't sure how you would take it." Ash hoped the truth would make Keegan realize she needed to get over Gwen.
"Did anything happen?" Stunned by her sister's confession, she couldn't picture Meghan with Gwen.
"She was lucky Meg didn't deck her." The sound of laughter in Ashley's voice brought a reassuring hug from her oldest sister. "She's not a fan." Ash ruffled Keegan's hair. The sisters knew their sibling had a fierce temper and tremulously large crush on Danielle Martin. They also knew Danny would never cross the line with Meghan out of fear of loosing her relationship with the Garry family. The older girls constantly teased Meg about Danny until finally Meg broke into tears. They never teased her again.
"Should we order pizza?" Keegan asked, trying to change the subject even though her stomach was still queasy. Breaking her gaze away from the backyard to her sister, she smiled at her sister, knowing she had won the argument.
"I'm sure Andy won't object. Don't ask me where he puts it at. I swear he is getting taller and skinner every day." Ashley said as she looked out in the backyard.
"When is your doctor's appointment?" Ashley grabbed the cordless phone and looked at the list of numbers posted on the refrigerator.
"Which one? I have blood tests this week. OBGYN next week and Dr. Wiley at end of the month." Keegan rattled off her appointments as if she was looking at her calendar. She knew immediately when and where she needed to be. So far she had been in remission twenty months of remission. With her check up with Dr. Wiley, she planned on increasing the number.
"Do you want me to go with you to see Dr. Micah?" Ash sat at the table. She knew her sister would never ask.
"You want to go the OBGYN with me?" A nod from Ashley produced a teasing smile. Keegan flashed her younger sister a toothy grin. "Sure, you want to try out the stirrups first?" A gentle smack on the arm and a chuckle was Keegan's answer. "I'm seeing Doctor Dev Simpson. She's in practice with Carrie. I hoping she'll send me to get a sonogram." Keegan touched her belly.
"Oh, you are going to be one of those mothers who take their kid to get pictures every month?" Ashley pointed at her belly as she remembered Andy's trips to the photographer. "Wait until mom gets on your case about new photos."
"Have you talked to mom?" Keegan moved towards the sliding glass door leading into the backyard. Their parents retired and moved to Florida just over a year ago and the couple was enjoying their retirement and sunshine. Distance was not an issue. Daily phone calls and visits kept the family close.
"This morning. She mentioned something about us going there for Mother's Day. Do you think you will be able to go?"
"I think it will depend on this one." She rubbed small circles on the roundness of her belly. "Tara and Judith have been after me to visit. I could make a trip of it. Stopping in Atlanta and driving to Panama City. I haven't done a road trip in awhile."
"The last road trip I recall is when you were sick and took off without anyone knowing." Ashley's anger got the better of her as her voice raised an octave. Keegan looked at her sister. She had tried to explain that she needed to get away from everyone she knew. She needed to get lost in order to find herself.
"Still pissed about that." Keegan walked towards her sister and kissed the top of her head.
"Not as pissed as mom or dad." Ashley reminded her of the time she took off and didn't tell anyone. Her sister showed up on Meghan's doorstep one night in Washington DC. "If I had known about what you did, I'd be just as mad."
"Yeah, well sometimes you got to do what you got to do." Her hand skimmed across Ashley's shoulders in a loving gesture.
"Well next time you do what you got to do, take someone with you!" Ashley said as she dialed the pizza parlor.
"Yes, Mom!" Keegan's immature answer was followed by sticking her tongue out.
"Prime example of how to act your age." Danny said as she opened the sliding glass door, carrying three year old Andy. "Do I even want to know what you are arguing about?" Her best friend and business partner Ashley Garry-Whitmore gave an innocent shrug.
"Yes." Ashley looked Danny. "I'm telling her no more surprise road trips by herself."
"I'm gonna have to agree with her on that Keegan." Danny said as she set Andy down in a booster seat. "The big guy here wanted something to drink."
"I'm just ordering pizza."
"Peezzza!" Andy shouted and smiled at his family.
"Exactly." Ashley said as she proceeded to order a small cheese pizza for Andy and a large veggie pizza for the adults.
"I need to get stuff done around the house." Keegan said as she stared at her sister's back yard, mentally going over the tick list of her projects. She thought about the late storm which had leaves and twigs sticking out of the snow drifts covering the flower beds.
"I thought we agreed that you would take Redding up on the offer of having the team come over and do the landscaping this year. Keegan, you can't keep over doing it." Ashley expressed her concern for her older sister's health.
Keegan turned to her and mouthed the word "MOM."
"You're lucky mom isn't here because she'd haul you on to her lap and give you a swat." Ashley waggled her finger at the dark hair woman, giving her a grin.
"Don't worry about it. I called Ted and took him up on the offer. And with your sister's help, we can probably get the softball team over to help do spring clean up." Danny placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "And you, quit being an over protective hen." Finding a common ground between the stubborn siblings was becoming a full time job. "The team will be over on Saturday morning for a breakfast meeting, we can ask them. Carla still has her landscaping company."
"Okay, it was my idea in the first place." Keegan went to the refrigerator and got the milk out for Andy. She started to slide a chair over to the cupboard to reach for a sippy cup.
"No way." Danny said as she gently pushed the chair back. With little effort, Danny's five ten frame easily grabbed a cup from the third shelf. "You should rearrange your cupboards before you get..."
"Too big and a short joke great, thanks Danny. By the way, you're going to the banquet. I'll take care of the little man." Keegan watched the redhead's reaction. When Danny glanced over at Ash, she shook her head.
"You had to go there." Danny looked at Ashley. "I'm sorry, if I'd known what she was up to, I'd never have left the kitchen. In her defense, she just wants to see you happy." Danny said as she slid out a kitchen chair to sit.
"I am happy." Keegan smiled as she lied. Her life was better but happy she wasn't quite sure.
"You're a liar." Ashley got up and went into the other room. "Don't listen to her Danny. She's full of s?h?i?t !" Keegan smiled. Since Andy's ability to learn new words was quickly becoming full of colorful adjectives, the family had started to spell words out.
"Maybe you just want to fulfill some unsatisfied fantasy!" Keegan called to Ashley who was now in the family room. The sounds of angry hurried footsteps in the hallway were followed by a frazzled strawberry blonde's head popping into the kitchen.
"Gwen Lerner has never been in a fantasy of mine!"
"Good to know Ashley." Danny nodded to the red faced woman standing in the doorway. "Quit picking on her. I'm gonna have to listen to it for days." Her remark directed at the elder sibling.
"As if you can't handle one of Ashley's rants, besides, what's she going to do? Take away the company check book?" Keegan went to the pantry to get a package of hot chocolate. She held one up as an offer to Danny. When the red head nodded, she grabbed a second one.
"So, what is this road trip talk?" Danny asked as she took the warm mug of coco from Keegan.
"We were talking about mom wanting everyone to go to Florida for Mother's Day." Keegan turned to find her sister smirking. "Did mom say anything about Meg coming down?" Keegan let her gaze wonder to the red head across the table from her. She noticed Danny's posture straighten up.
"No one has heard from her, the little brat. She's probably out with some chicky for Valentine's Day. It must be nice to have a job that requires you to be on a golf course all day." Ashley sent her sister a wink as she left the kitchen. Her best friend's discomfort was not unnoticed as they discussed Meg's personal life.
"I'm not sure Dr. Dev will let me fly. I could drive down and stay with Tara for a day or two. I haven't seen them in awhile. I'll check with Carrie when I see her tomorrow."
"You're going out with Dr. Micha?" Danny shivered visibly. "I just couldn't image my OBGYN asking me out on a date."
"No and don't say things like that. She's not my primary doctor. I felt bad, she was calling me all the time. She a nice woman but I just?.I just."
"She's not Gwen Lerner!" Ashley said as she came back into the kitchen
"Shut up!" Keegan snapped.
"The sooner you realize that the only person you want is?"
"It's not going to happen. So quit baiting me." Keegan slid out of her chair and went to Ashley's side. "I'm happy honey. I am. I'll be alright." She wrapped her arms around her sister's waist and hugged her close. "It's a choice I made and I'm not changing anything. Gwen and I are two completely different people." Keegan stepped back and looked into the pair of matching eyes. "For Christ sake, she's engaged to a hockey player?.a man. I doubt I'll fit in that picture."
"You know that has to be a cover. Gwen was always open about her preference." Ashley laughed as she took a seat. "Who are you to talk? You're carrying the rocker's baby."
"People change." Keegan stepped forward and kissed her forehead. "Gwen Lerner is no exception to that. And Tony is not a rocker, he's a teacher."
Gwen set the itinerary she was reviewing down on her desk. Tomorrow she was leaving for Detroit. Her trip had duo purpose visiting Bobby and to be the Emerald foundation fundraiser was celebrity guest. When Christopher lost his battle with prostate cancer a few years back, Gwen made fund raising a priority.
When she heard the front door bell chime, she wasn't certain she actually heard it. She wasn't expecting a visitor and the guard house hadn't called to announce a guest. For a moment, she stood at the top of the stairs until the impatient person at the door rang the bell again. Maybe it was Maria from next door. The neighbor was always asking for something. The woman didn't drive and her husband could never bother with the store. She had purchased the four bedroom house after she signed an endorsement deal with Battle Wear clothing line. Keegan lived with her in the gated community. For the first year of their relationship, the small defender lived in Michigan with her parents. Gwen almost broke down in tears asking Keegan to live with her. She couldn't go through another six months of separation. Today, she scoffed at the thought. She went through an emotional hell when Keegan left her. Bobby moved. He didn't leave. If anything, their relationship got stronger with the separation and the changes he was going through. It was as if he still lived across town.
Gwen took a quick peek out the sidelight of the door. "Shit." She hissed through her teeth. She was going to kill whoever was manning the guard post. Connie Sherman stood on the cement apron, dressed in a Donna Karan jacket and skirt outfit. Gwen was pissed because she almost bought the same outfit until her financial sense got the best of her and she left the boutique empty handed. Her mother's blonde hair was pulled back in a French twist, with a pair of Jee Vice sunglasses perched on her nose. Gwen leaned her back against the door, preparing for the onslaught she knew would happen once the door was opened. She closed her eyes for a moment and wished she had flown out a day early.
"Connie." Gwen greeted her mother as she swung open the heavy mahogany door. Connie brushed by her and into the house. "Come on in." Gwen commented as she bit the inside of her cheek.
"It's about time." Connie whipped off her sunglasses as let her eyes rake over Gwen and her outfit. The red cutoff USA t-shirt showcased her tight abdominal muscles and her flat tan stomach, the pair of navy wind pants covered her legs and finishing off with just a pair of white socks. "Dear Lord you look like a homeless person. What if I was the press?"
"The press can't get pass the guard. How did you manage that?" Gwen asked as she moved from the foyer into the kitchen. She gave Connie no other choice but to follow her. Gwen knew Connie thought it rude to entertain guests in the kitchen so she purposely led her there.
"There was this fine young man, a little on the chunky side but once I told him I was your sister."
"You're not my sister, Connie." Gwen felt her temples begin to pound. Her mother's actions no longer surprised her. Connie began pulling the sister routine while Gwen was in college. Her mother was in her late teens when she married Jeff Lerner and had Gwen seven months later. Her parents' union was dissolved within a year and a half. Like most children of divorced parents, Gwen spent most her childhood being shipped between homes. She would stay at Jeff's house once a month and for the most part, she lived with her Great Aunt Molly and Uncle Christopher. Her extended family served as parental figures for her. Molly and Christopher let her make their home her home. Besides finding her aunt and uncle's house, she found peace and solace on the soccer field. Connie hated her playing such a "boy's" sport. Yet Christopher or Poppa as she grew to call him, loved the fact he could teach her the game he loved.
"No one needs to know that. Why are we in the kitchen?" Connie placed her well manicured nails on the granite counter top.
"Because this is where the drinks are." Gwen opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of sports drink. "Would you like something?" Gwen said as she lifted the orange liquid to her mouth.
"Gwen, where are your manners?" Connie huffed as she watched her swallow.
"Don't worry mother, I learned from the best. I would never drop in unexpectedly on someone." Gwen put the plastic bottle back in the icebox. "What do I owe this pleasure to?" The sarcastic tone of Gwen's voice went unnoticed by her visitor. Gwen leaned her backside against the countertop and she shot her mother an icy glare.
"I wanted to see what is going on with Robert. I know you must be heart broken." Connie made no move to comfort her daughter. It wasn't in Connie to see to anyone else's needs but hers.
"Bobby and I are fine. I'm going to see him tomorrow." Gwen could have smacked her forehead like the V-8 commercial. Last time Connie knew she was out of town her entire Waterford crystal collection disappeared. She noticed Connie beginning to fidget under her glare. "What do you need mother?" Gwen decided to cut to the chase. Her mother rarely showed up at her doorstep without a reason.
"Well," Connie began as she walked towards the kitchen table. She let her fingers graze across the top of the table as if she was checking for dust. "I'm running a little short on funds this month." The words floated out of the elder woman's mouth. Gwen found her eyes searching for the date on the wall calendar. It was the middle of the month and her mother had run through her monthly stipend. What did the woman do with her money? Gwen wondered. Of course, the new outfit she was wearing cost close to the amount of her allowance.
"Then take back the outfit you have on!" Gwen snapped. Since making the National and Olympic teams, she made a good deal of money off endorsements. After a tour of Europe, she came home to a pile of debt Connie had compiled under her name. Gwen's accountant set up a monthly stipend to be sent to Connie's account the first of each month.
"This isn't paid for. I went to that little boutique in San Francisco last week. The one you are fond of." Gwen knew exactly how her mother purchased the outfit, her credit line. As soon as Connie was out of the house, Gwen planned on calling the store and giving the manager specific instructions regarding her credit line. "Please Gwen, it's just this one time." Gwen felt her insides turn. How many times had she heard this phrase? It was never just once. "Reginald is ready to get in on the ground floor of a new IPO."
"Do you even know what an IPO is?" Gwen cupped her hands and rubbed them over her face.
"Don't be such a bitch!" Connie turned on her. "You have no idea what you put me through."
"Four husbands and an endless number of boyfriends," Gwen shouted back. "That is what you put me through." Gwen knew her mother was trying to guilt her into giving her more money. "I'm not giving you any more money this month." Gwen folded her arms across her chest. "Connie, you need to leave." Gwen watched her mother contemplate her words. Previous warnings regarding totally severing ties with her mother seemed to resonate with the elder woman.
"If you change your mind, please let me know. I can have Reginald send the proposal to Hannah for review if you would like."
"I have enough investments right now." Gwen felt a stabbing pain of guilt for a moment. "Thank you." She whispered quietly, wishing the woman in her kitchen would act more like a parent than a petulant child.
"Gwen, can you think about it please?" Connie's voice dropped to a softer tone. Her mother looked defeated. "I know I haven't been the best mother in the world, but I'm the only one you have." Connie snapped open her Coach bag and pulled out a lacey handkerchief. She dabbed at her eyes, careful of her makeup.
"Send the information to Hannah." Gwen said as she fell into step behind her mother. She bowed her head as she watched the three inch heels click against the marble floor.
"Thank you Gwen." Connie smiled warmly at her daughter as she walked out of the door. Gwen closed the large door behind her. Getting a sense of déjà vu, she went to the second floor to the end bedroom. From the side window there was a panoramic view of the neighborhood. She saw the slick black Mercedes pull out of her driveway and round the corner and pull up behind a sand colored BMW. Once Connie parked, a tall African American exited the BMW and went to Connie's window. Gwen was unable to make out the words the man was exchanging with her mother. His movements were sharp and agitated. From the distance, Gwen knew the discussion was not friendly. Picking up the phone handset, she called to the front gate to report suspicious activity. As soon as she hung up, the Security SUV rounded the corner. She wondered what Reginald's involvement with Connie really was. Her mother's track record for attracting the wrong man appeared to be continuing. Gwen absently rested the telephone against her cheek. She needed to clear her head. She needed release. Tapping the phone against her cheek, she suddenly smiled and dialed Hannah's number.
The large sleek black limousine pulled up in front of Gwen's home. The chauffeur came around to the back passenger door to let the client out, a tall slender red head with her hair piled high on the top of her head, exposing the feminine curve of her alabaster neck.
"Miss, would you like me to wait?" The chauffer inquired as he took her slim hand in his. Six months ago, Patrick Rider took over the contract for the New Castle Agency and was still in shock with the luck of his assignment. His duty was to escort the models to their assignments and take them home. Sometimes the assignments would last an entire shift and the next shift would pick up the model. Tonight, he saw the excitement oozing off the woman when he picked her up. He knew her name was Bridgette. The emerald colored Saint Laurent Rive Gauche jacket and skirt brought out the color of her eyes, which danced over his face.
"No Patrick. I will call you when I'm finished." Bridgette Sommers scanned the front of the gorgeous white stucco bi-level home nestled in a secluded neighborhood. She knew this house. She had been here once before, surprised by the client but not disappointed. Elite cliental of the New Castle Agency paid a hefty price for their anonymity. Bridgette knew the special consideration the agency put forth for their clients needs. She would not disappoint her employer or the customer.
Gwen was waiting in the study as the soft sounds of the fire burning in the hearth lulled her. In her hand, she held tight to a glass of wine, a rich burgundy from Napa. The sound of the front door opening and closing reached her ears. The instructions never varied, enter the house and come to the study. Tonight, she wanted to forget. The episode with Connie this afternoon and the pending trip to Detroit had her wound like a top. She needed to relax. She wanted to lose herself in the soft and velvet touch of a woman. No strings attached consensual sex. She wasn't specific about the woman's looks. Just that she be beautiful and willing to abide by Gwen's wishes.
"Can I refill your glass?" The voice was a like Legato, smooth and flowing music to Gwen's ears. She studied the woman entering the room and was not disappointed. Tall and slender with a curvaceous figure, the redhead sent a dazzling smile her way. This woman could easily be a model, maybe a little too heavy for the current trend of runway models, but perfect for Gwen. She felt a tightening in her stomach and a twitch in her groin. This was exactly what the doctor ordered, or at least Hannah arranged for her.
"That isn't necessary. If you would like something to drink, please help yourself." Gwen gave an absent wave to the red head, directing her to the bar. She seemed vaguely familiar. She didn't want attachment. She wanted to feel nothing but release. She felt her center ache at the profile of the escort pouring a small amount of wine into her glass. She will do, do very nicely. Gwen stood up her taupe colored Gianfranco Ferré pants suit hanging against her body. She crossed the room to the bar. She placed her hand on the escort's wrist. "What do you like to be called?"
"Bridgette." The woman said touching her red colored lips to her glass as she took a sip of the wine. Gwen carefully studied Bridgette for a moment. "The wine is very good." She said as she set the glass back on the glossy black tiled built in bar. "But you take my breath away." The woman whispered as she lowered her lips to Gwen's. The tanginess of the wine mixed with the sweetness of her lips. Her scent was a blend of wild flowers and citrus like a tropical paradise, reminding Gwen of the trip to Hawaii she and Keegan had taken. Gwen placed her hands on Bridgette's waist and pulled her closer.
"Thank you." Gwen murmured against her lips. Bridgette traced her fingers down Gwen's neck to her shoulder. Loosening the top couple of buttons, Bridgette placed small kisses on Gwen's skin, along her neck and down to her clavicle. She could definitely lose herself in this woman. A few hours of a lovely woman's company was just what she needed. "Come with me." Gwen said as she moved the woman towards the guest room at the end of the hallway. She never took a guest to the master suite. Her bedroom was their bedroom and she didn't want to share the space with just anyone. Maybe if she found someone to fall in love with, they could free her from Keegan's memory, from Keegan's love. Gwen unbuttoned Bridgette's jacket and slipped the garment from her shoulders. Her lacy black bra was in sharp contrast to her pale skin. Gwen ran the tips of her fingers over the material covering her breasts. She saw the reaction her touch caused. Bridgette's nipples jumped to attention and Gwen lowered her fingers to touch them through the sheer material. Grasping the front clasp, she opened her bra, freeing the escort's breasts from the confines of the material. Gwen lowered her mouth and tasted the pebbled skin. She felt Bridgette shiver as her lips touched the sensitive skin. Her hands roamed the expanse of the woman's back, running along her waist to the zipper at the back of her skirt. Slowly lowering the zipper, Gwen let all the material covering her pool at Bridgette's feet. She let her lips travel across Bridgette's breasts, down her stomach and towards the apex of her thighs. Her hands explored the flesh of her ass, across her hips and down her thighs. Exploring the contours of Bridgette's body, she let her warm soft hands smooth the landscape. It had been a long time since she indulged in the comfort of a woman. Nuzzling the coarse amber hairs between the woman's thighs, Gwen breathed in the scent of arousal. She pushed her thighs wider and gazed upon the pulsing flesh before her. She swiped her tongue against Bridgette's center, hearing the red head whimper as her tongue touched the quivering flesh. A hand gripping her hair returned her to a position against Bridgette's center. "Like that?" Gwen question came out a slight chuckle.
"I don't know if I can stand." The model's voice quivered as she spoke.
"Then don't." Gwen said as she backed the woman to the edge of the bed and gently pushed her onto the mattress. "Tell me to stop if you're uncomfortable."
"That won't happen." Bridgette confessed as Gwen continued to kiss her skin.
When she returned to her position between the woman's thighs, Gwen smiled as she heard. "Not a chance in hell."
The morning after was always the worst. Huddled in the corner of the shower, Gwen leaned against the cool tiles, her arms wrapped around her knees as she sat crying. The hot water ran out over ten minutes ago, but she sat hating where she was in her life. She took comfort in the arms of a woman who meant nothing to her. She should have never slept with the women in Greece after the games. If she hadn't, maybe she and Keegan would still be together. The guilty feeling always followed the next day. It wasn't as if she was cheating on Keegan. She had never technically cheated on Keegan. They were broken up. She didn't cheat on her last night either, yet every time Gwen slept with someone she felt as if she had.
"You've got to get over this." Gwen chastised herself as she scrambled to her feet. The cold water numbed her from head to toe. Slowly, she stretched her muscles trying to get some feeling into her limbs. With shaky hands she turned off the water and grabbed a bath sheet. Her teeth chattered slightly as she rubbed the soft towel over her skin. Why was Keegan popping into her thoughts lately? She went months without a thought of her former girlfriend but lately, the small fiery player was haunting her. Maybe Bobby's move to Detroit sparked her subconscious. After the games in Greece, she avoided Michigan at all costs. A few months ago when Hannah approached her about the Emerald event, she agreed without asking where it was. When she learned the event would be in Detroit, she gave Hannah a look but didn't argue with her manager. The function and purpose paled in comparison to the geographical location. This morning she would travel to Detroit and tomorrow, she would be the guest of honor at the Emerald fundraiser held at Weston University, Keegan's alma mater.
Gwen shivered and pulled her robe off the door and put it on. She grabbed a towel, wrapped her hair in it, then flipped it over her head out of the way. She looked into the steamed mirror, tired brown eyes reflected back at her. She assumed her late night activities with the escort had something to do with the dark circles under her eyes. Gwen examined her body as she ran her fingers along skin to a spot just above her breast. A light bruise was visible against her tan skin. Here was the proof of her guilt laughing at her. She shouldn't be guilty. She was a grown woman with needs. She answered to no one. She wasn't committed to anyone. Her thoughts got the best of her. At one time, she and Keegan did commit to each other. Was she the one to break that commitment? Gwen didn't know the answer to that question. Maybe Shannon did. Shannon Abbott, the capital of the Olympic team had a front row seat during Gwen and Keegan's break up. She'd called Shannon to get her opinion. Gwen ran her fingers through her wet hair, trying to loosen the tangles. She shut Shannon out when the mother of three asked her to talk about Keegan and about what happened between the women. Looking back on the situation, she should have done a million things differently. Her stubborn personality always got in her way. Afraid Keegan would blame her for the break up, Gwen made certain anyone important in her life knew Keegan left her. By the time the team left Greece, they knew not to mention Keegan Garry in front of Gwen. Gwen should have taken the high road and listened to her friends and teammates when they wanted to talk about Keegan. She fell in love with the feisty player who led a small Midwestern university to the Division II championship. Keegan was put in the spot light after winning the NCAA women's soccer championship. The goal she hit from forty yards out still ran on highlight reels year after year. Weston University won the championship against Adams College, a real David versus Goliath match up. Not many experts gave Weston a chance against the Colorado school. By the end of the match, every soccer fan in the United States knew of Weston University and their sparkplug player, Keegan Garry. Gwen was at the match and sat in awe as the small dark haired fiery player took control of the game. No matter how many defenders Adams put on her, Keegan pulled out of the pack and streaked towards the goal. Gwen had never seen anything like it in her career. She wished she had a game as fantastic as Keegan did. By the end of the ninety minutes, Keegan scored twice and had three assists. The final forty five seconds were still engraved in Gwen's memory. The score tied, the teams battled back and forth. Uncertain at the amount of stoppage time on the referee's watch, the Weston Mustangs trudged down the field. The forwards played the ball into a defensive trap. The Adams defender cleared the ball out but it landed in front of Keegan Garry. The five foot four senior sent the ball sailing towards the goal. The goalie leaped to knock the spinning ball out of the way. Instead, the ball grazed the tips of the goalie's fingers and went into the back of the net. The entire stadium erupted as Keegan's strike scored. Gwen remembered getting to her feet and grasping Shannon's forearm as they watched the underdog Mustangs win the national championship. The Cinderella team pulled off the win of the century. She remembered the tears of joy she cried as the team celebrated. These women deserved the win and the respect they received after winning. Gwen felt a little misty eyed as she remembered. She had yet to meet Keegan, but Gwen felt drawn to her. Three months later, the recent college graduate was trying out for the National team and Gwen met Keegan face to face. She wasn't a person to fall in love at first sight, but the intensity of instant attraction to the dark haired woman scared her. Gwen recalled the electric feeling sparking between them. Like the energy in the air when a lighting storm was happening. Keegan appeared cool and collective. Later, she confessed she was nervous and ready to puke the second Gwen extended hand in meeting. Feeling the sting of tears in the corner of her eyes, Gwen sat down on her bed, their bed. She played the game of denying her feeling towards Keegan for a year. She had a self imposed rule never to have a girlfriend on the team. She didn't want to have a relationship that straddled her personal and professional life. Keegan drove her insane by being her friend and continually dating loser after loser. Finally, one day after working out and running from the practice complex to Gwen's apartment Keegan apologized saying she had to go and get ready for a date. Gwen felt her heart breaking every time Keegan went out on a date. She couldn't let it go on.
"Don't go." Gwen looked into Keegan's sparking blue eyes. "Please don't go." Gwen continued. She lifted her fingers to tilt Keegan's chin towards her lips. "I can't handle it any more." Gwen confessed as she lowered her lips to Keegan's for the first time. Gwen's mouth covered Keegan's without hesitation. The energy that Gwen felt through her body was overwhelming. She had never felt such elation. Sweetness exploded as Keegan's tongue touched hers. Gwen pulled her closer as her hands investigated Keegan's body, caressing the smooth slopes and curves of Keegan's back. Her fingers skimmed and fondled lightly as she slowly explored Keegan's backside. Downwards, her hands glided across the small of her back and backside to the smooth slanting slope of her hips. "Thank God!" Keegan moaned as she leaned into Gwen's body.
"Why?" Gwen curdled into a ball on her bed. "Why did you leave me?" She questioned the ending of their relationship.
Keegan walked along the heavily polished hospital corridor. The high sheen tile reflected the over head florescent lights as her boot cover feet squeaked. After a tough day at work, she just wanted to go home and elevate her feet. Today her patience was exhausted. Most of the time, she worked with patients who followed her instructions or at least attempted to. For the last two hours, she battled with a high school basketball player who just didn't understand why he couldn't move like he used to. Her extremities hurt and especially her lower back hurt. As small as the baby was, it still caused aches and pains to surface quickly. Hiding her swelling middle with a white cardigan sweater, she took to wearing the garment over her standard work scrubs. Dressing and eating was becoming a daily adventure as her body rebelled. Everything she'd put on was tight and binding. Anything she ate would come back up with the exception of a peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Turning towards the voice, she hoped she did not visibly cringe at the sight of Carrie Micah walking towards her. Keegan waved at the small round woman with the blonde pageboy hair style. Their dinner date a few weeks ago was, in a word, disastrous. At the end of the date, as Carrie walked her to the door and tried to kiss her, Keegan had immediately put the kibosh on any romantic plans the doctor was having, telling the blonde she wanted to be friends. Carrie continued to shamelessly flirt with Keegan while at work and during her visits to the practice. The sexual overtures bothered Keegan so much she changed her appointments to days where Carrie was off. She thought of changing practices but she wanted to stay with Dr. Simpson, the high risk and insemination specialist. She found Carrie's behavior a bit unnerving.
"Keegan, I have two tickets to the Motors game next weekend. Bob Finch is playing his first game against his old team. Come with me." Carrie voice held a convincing tone.
Just hearing the name Finch and any news about the newest Motors player made Keegan's mind swirl. Gwen was now associated with the organization putting a damper on her enjoyment of the hockey season. A fact she hated. Offering Carrie a small smile, she tried not to sound rude. The doctor was a charismatic woman, but she wasn't Keegan's type and the line of professionalism was close to being crossed. The OBGYN was not taking no for an answer.
"Carrie, thank you but I really don't feel like going to a game. There's the crowd and the drinking. Besides, I'm not a big hockey fan." Keegan bit the inside of her cheek knowing she was a huge Motors fan. She smiled politely at Carrie and continued towards the elevator. Carrie fell into step beside her.
"Are you off work?"
"My shift just ended." Keegan pressed her hands against her back trying to ease the stiffness. "God, my back hurts." She wanted to go home take a long hot bubble bath and fall asleep in her bed.
"Are you up for dinner?" Carrie lightly touched the sleeve of her sweater. "Keegan?I know." Carrie looked at the surrounding staff members and patients and gestured for Keegan to follow her in the staff lounge. Keegan nodded, knowing the doctor wanted privacy. Carrie walked into the break room which was empty. The only noise came from the television propped on wall. A local news station was interviewing Gwen Lerner at DET. I can't win.
Keegan cringed as she watched the screen flip to a shot of Bob and Gwen at the Good Will Games in Washington, DC a few years ago. Maybe it was at that time when Gwen hit on Meghan. Maybe Ashley was right about the relationship between Gwen and the hockey player.
"Look at that. Funny." Carrie said as she glanced at the screen. A bright toothy smile covered her face. "You used to play with her on the National team didn't you?"
"Ironic, isn't it." Keegan said as she sat in one of the hard plastic chair. "Carrie," Keegan started. She could feel her pulse in her ankles throbbing. "I'm really tired."
"I know. I just want to spend some time with you. I think you are a great person. Funny, intelligent, sexy." The doctor was grasping at straws.
"Pregnant doesn't have anything to do with sexy." Keegan argued. Carrie laughed, her eyes wrinkled at the corners.
"Just think about it. What harm can a dinner do? You are eating?" The care taker in her came out.
"Does peanut butter and banana sandwiches count?" Keegan tried to keep the conversation light. "Carrie," Keegan huffed her voice sounded harsher than she intended. Taking a calming breath, she spoke. "I'm going through a major life change here and I don't see any relationship in my future." She watched the doctor's face fall in disappointment. "If you want to go out as friends, I can do that. If you are looking for a romance, I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong tree." Keegan got to her feet. She smiled at Carrie. "Thank you for asking though." Her eyes went to the television set. They jumped back to the live shot from the airport. "Have a good night."
Taking the elevator to the parking garage, Keegan shivered as she walked into the covered area. Grateful for the fact the "Mother to be" parking was close to the elevators. The garage protected her car from being covered in a pile of snow. Sliding behind the steering wheel of her black Jeep Liberty, she took a deep breath and released a sigh. Why couldn't she just get over the woman on the television?
There were plenty of women who found her attractive and asked her out. She just didn't see the point in pursuing a relationship with someone she wasn't interested in. Her date with Gina revealed the nurse was potential stalker material as Ashley predicted. Her sister was right about Gina from the start. Ashley didn't trust the fine featured porcelain skinned nurse as far as she could throw her. Not athletic by nature, Ashley couldn't throw that far.
Flipping on the radio, she listened to the news reports on the weather as the winter storm rolled across the Detroit metro area. Sitting at the wheel she contemplated going back into the safety of the hospital. Go back and say yes to a date with the OBGYN. "Ha!" Keegan laughed at the thought. What type of relationship starts off in stirrups and latex gloves? Not the kind she was looking for. Pulling out of the staff garage, she braced for the long slow ride home. To keep her mind occupied, she thought about the long hot bath she would take once she got home. She'd round out the evening with reading a good book. She just needed to make it home in one piece.
The news reporter shoved a large microphone in Gwen's face. She smiled politely but continued to walk through the airport.
"Are you moving to the Detroit area?" The reporter continued to follow her. "When's the wedding?" His lanky figure was blocking her escape route when an airline employee noticed her dilemma. She stepped forward and took Gwen's arm.
Wrapping her jacket tighter, Gwen nodded and slipped into the airline's private cubby just off the main terminal. The elderly gray haired woman loosened her grip on Gwen's elbow.
"Are you okay Ms. Lerner?" The woman asked as she stepped away and walked to a white courtesy telephone.
"Yes, thank you."
"Don't worry. I'll get that idiot out of your way. It must be a slow news day if he is camping out at the airport." She picked up the handset and was connected to the terminal operator. "Hi Carol. It's Alexis from Select Air."
She stopped to listen and smiled sweetly at Gwen, who was quietly wondering if she had practiced the smile or if it came natural. Like the "good-byes" the attendants announced as passengers departed the aircraft.
"It seems a news crew has breached the terminal security. Can you send Tim or one of the guards this way?" A few moments of silence and she continued. "Yes, thanks Carol. Of course, I'll stop by later this week." Replacing the handset in the cradle she turned her attention to Gwen. "If you give them a few minutes, security will clear the terminal. It's a slow snow day so they will be eager to ruin someone's day." Gwen saw the twinkle of amusement in her eyes.
"You've been very kind and after the day I've had, I'm thankful." Her flight was awful. Her plane was delayed getting into Chicago and the layover lasted an additional three hours because of snow. She was four hours late and the storm which held her up in Chicago was now pounding the Detroit metropolitan area. Bobby had a game at home tonight which she was supposed to go to, but with the delay she would miss majority of it. There was supposed to be a car to pick her up but, she wasn't sure if that was still going to happen. It was looking like she was going to have to find a ride. Maybe the news crew would give her a lift, what a joke that would be. Maybe renting a car was an option but she wasn't an expert driving in the snow. On prior visits to Detroit during the winter months Keegan had driven, since she had grown up in the snow and could drive through the wet sloppy mess. Gwen, to this day, was amazed at the nonchalant way her former girlfriend got behind the wheel during a winter storm. "Snow's nothing, it's the ice that will get ya." She repeated the words Keegan had told her during a visit.
"I think my luggage is sitting in the O'Hara terminal. They just barely got me on the connection. I'm grateful I've got my carryon." Gwen's brown eyes studied the small woman in front of her. After years of receiving this certain look, she knew. She knew she had met this woman before, but had no idea where. Her career took her across the globe. Meeting thousands and thousands of people as the years went by. Winning the gold medal just fueled the public to just get a little closer. Sometimes too close. The woman in front of her didn't appear to be an avid groupie, but who could tell?
"You probably don't remember me, but I met you years ago." Alexis started as she smoothed down her uniform. "My son Ted coaches the women's soccer team at Weston University. You came over during a holiday with one of the players." Gwen nodded. She knew Ted Redding, Keegan's college coach. They stopped in to his house for a few minutes during the holiday open house.
"I've met your son a few times. I was in town with Keegan Garry for the holidays."
"Yes. Oh Keegan, such a bad run of luck. Oh, when was it?" The older woman tapped her black pump against the low loop carpet with the Select Airline logo printed on it. As she sought through her memory bank for the information she was about to convey.
"Alexis, there is an emergency at Gate 18." A tall clean shaven bald man ran past them on his way towards the gates. Catching the worried look in her co-worker's eyes, Alexis turned to follow him.
"This door will lead you to the employee lounge, if you make a right, you will be back in the main terminal. Welcome to Detroit, Ms. Lerner." With haste the woman disappeared through a door.
Gwen stood looking out the window at the snow pounding towards the earth's surface. The fluffy white crystals fell in waves on to the tarmac. A yellow bubble light on top of the enclosed tractor was flashing as the operator made pass after pass across the roadway trying to clear the way for airport traffic. The environment was such a contrast to the soft beaches and rolling waves of San Jose. Hannah hinted at the issue of relocating to Detroit to be closer to Bobby. Her career would benefit from being on the east coast. SNN, the Atlanta based network was probing the former pro athlete to sign a contract for commentator. With more college programs developing on the eastern seaboard, a centralized location would be a great career move. Bobby sold his home in San Jose and vowed never to live in a town where he was traded from. There wasn't anyone left in the city she was close with. Shannon lived in San Diego, but being a mother to three children and a wife didn't leave the former professional soccer player with much time on her hands. Gwen opened her cell phone and saw the eight missed calls, one from Shannon and Hannah and the rest from Bobby. Thumbing through the menu on her cell phone, Gwen read the digital read out for Shannon.
"Helloww." A small voice answered after the second ring.
"Hi! Is your Mom there?"
"This is Missy." A childlike sing song voice came through the receiver. Gwen smiled as she thought about the curly-brown haired child with two missing teeth.
"Missy, hi sweetie. Is your mommy or daddy around?" Like most adults talking to a child, Gwen's voice mimicked the singing tone of the child on the other end.
"No." And the line went dead. Gwen stared at the receiver for a moment. You've got to be kidding me. No wonder Shannon never returns calls.
Taking a deep breath she redialed the number. After the third ring, Shannon picked up. "No don't. I've got the phone honey?Hello."
"Hey there mom?want to trade one away?" Gwen smiled as she heard the squeal in the background as a child ran away.
"Would I be considered a horrible mother if I said yes? Missy's got this new thing of answering the phone. It wouldn't be bad if she didn't hang up on everyone. Solicitors are fine but Chuck's boss is another thing. Hey you, I thought you were traveling?"
"Oh I am?.in the middle of a Midwestern snow storm but at least I got to Detroit. From here I'm not sure what to do."
"Detroit?" Half way across the country Shannon Abbot held the cordless phone tighter. She moved from the kitchen out the sliding glass door to the backyard seeking privacy. "Gwen, why are you in Detroit?" Shannon's heart pounded against her chest. This was one of those moments in life she hoped she would never have to face. If Gwen knew what the whole story, she wasn't sure if her friend would forgive her.
"Hannah scheduled some banquet dinner for Emerald Foundation. Plus Bobby is here now. Well, not here with me, but playing for the Motors."
Shannon felt the wave of relief wash through her. "Oh, that's right Chuck told me a couple of weeks ago. He said it was a good move for the Motors. Not sure how Bobby views it."
"You know Bobby. He'll put on a smile and wave. Than he'll take out his teeth and smash someone against a board." They laughed at the visual Gwen created. "You know what's weird, I keep thinking about Keegan. I'm not sure if it's because I'm here."
"Gwen." The motherly tone carried through the line to the small handheld device. "You never wanted to talk about her. Shoot, the team couldn't even bring up her name with out you freaking out and putting a stop to the conversation. What was it you'd say? If you're talking about that b..i..t..c..h, you better do it somewhere else." Gwen chuckled at the spelling of the curse word. As Shannon kids grew, she began to spell out more words.
"I didn't." Gwen denied what she knew was true. She was livid that Keegan had completely closed her out of her life. Any time Keegan's name was brought up in conversation she would turn in to a royal bitch. If the person didn't stop the conversation, she would walk out of the room.
"You're a liar. Jesus, Gwen, you jumped on my case that day I wanted to talk about her, about you and her."
"It seems like so long ago. How after three years together do you suddenly decide that you want to end a relationship? If we were having major problems I could understand. We weren't."
"Gwen, do you really want to revisit your relationship? Even if you didn't break up, your career took off and the public image you have would have hurt the relationship." Shannon knew Gwen had changed since the break up and winning the gold medal. Always a very private individual she was now on every talk show, in the spot light for commercials, always on the cover of the latest sports or fitness magazine. That stupid America's Sweetheart poster threw her into the national spotlight.
Gwen Lerner was America's Sweetheart and the public loved her. Her shining personality came through the camera and in her photos. There were a few moments of bad press when the tabloids began to run articles surrounding her sexual preference. To Gwen's credit, she came through the media frenzy on the arm of Bobby Finch. Even Shannon was jealous. Bobby was a rugged handsome man. They made a stunning couple selling, lots of papers and magazines. "Keegan didn't strike me as the type of person to hide who she is."
"I don't." Gwen stopped her denial. "You're right. I've got to find a ride or rent a car out of this mess. I'll call you after the banquet. I have an appearance in San Diego a couple of weeks away."
"You know you're welcome to stay with us." Shannon smiled at the memory of Gwen's running shoes floating in the large seventy five gallon fish tank in Chuck's office. "They've learned their lesson."
"I'll let you know. Bye."
Gwen flipped her phone shut and headed back into the main terminal. There were not many people milling about. The snow storm must have closed the airport since it appeared that no more flights were arriving. Making her way to the baggage claim she wondered if by some minor miracle, her bags arrived. "Shit!" The expletive spilled out, causing a few angry parents to shoot unappreciative looks her way as she realized, her outfit for the banquet was still in Chicago. If her bags didn't make it, she needed to go shopping. First she needed to figure out where she was staying and how she was getting there.
Taking the blackberry from its holster on her hip, she accessed her planner. Not being very computer or technology savvy, Bobby programmed her blackberry and she was able to sync up with Hannah's schedule events. With a few key strokes, she found she was staying at the Weston Inn, the same place where the banquet was being held. Things were looking better when she found a contact number and instructions to call when she landed so a car could be sent to pick her up. Dialing Bobby's number her call went into voicemail. She knew the Motors game was on tonight. With the delay in her arrival, there was no way to catch up with him until late tonight. When she flipped the slim phone shut, the melody informing her of a voice mail chimed.
"Hey sweetie, it's me. I see your plane is stuck at O'Hare. I really hope you make it. I've sent a car for you so you can at least get to the hotel. I had Hannah program the reservation in your blackberry. You probably can't get it." His rich laugh filled the rest of the message. He teased her nonstop about her challenges with technology. She went to the baggage area. By some small miracle, her bag appeared on the luggage carousal and she was on her way towards the valet on the main course. May be this trip would be worth all the hassles so far.
Standing against the pillar in the main concourse of the airport was a tall slender woman with black hair pulled loosely under a chocolate brown floppy hat. In her hands was a sign with the name, "Rita Miller." Gwen began to laugh. She immediately knew Bobby had sent the woman with the sign, using her alias from the movie Ghost. "I believe you're waiting for me." Gwen flashed a smile at the attractive woman with the sign.
"It's my lucky night." The seductive smile and movement of her hips was not missed by the retired soccer player. Silently she questioned Bobby. Maybe this was exactly what she needed after her experience in Chicago and the memories of Keegan floating freely in her brain. "Welcome to Detroit. The game is still going on. We could get there for the third period but with the weather, who knows?" The woman said as she reached out for Gwen's carry on bag. "Let's get you out of here before the media spots you." The dark haired woman led her through the concourse away from the main gates and populated areas. "First time here?"
"No, I've been here many times. It's just been some time."
"Don't fret Ms. Lerner. Sonja will take care of you." The raven haired woman referred to herself in the third person as her tongue snaked out to wet her lower lip. "So what do you want?" The greeter asked her as they traveled towards the valet service. Gwen nearly tripped as her imagination ran with wild with the woman's question.
"Excuse me?" She creaked out as she caught her balance.
"Hockey game or somewhere to freshen up?" Gwen caught her cryptic message. The hockey game would be safe and public. Maybe too public with the night she was having. She'd probably rip someone's head off and a camera would capture the moment.
"The hotel is fine." Bad?bad?you're an idiot. Just as bad as a man. You are twenty minutes on the ground and already thinking about getting this woman into bed. What was her name..Sonja?
Why did he have to send a brunette? She was taller than Keegan, but most people were. She could close her eyes and image it was her former lover, just as she had done so many times before. "So Sonja, do you work for the Motors often?" They exited the warm terminal to be encased in the negative temperatures of the great lakes. Grabbing Gwen by the hand, Sonja hurried her to the waiting limousine. The driver opened the door as they escaped into the warmth of the back seat. The privacy glass was up so when the driver got into the car, they were protected from the elements. Sonja slid a hand over Gwen's thigh as she leaned her body completely over the blonde and reached for the telephone.
"George, Weston Inn, by the University. Yes." Sonja cradled the phone and slowly slid her body over Gwen. Making sure every pressure point was felt. When the woman returned to her seated position she smiled sweetly at Gwen. "I work for the organization in a liaison role. Would you like a drink?"
Gwen shook her head and felt her body grow warm with every word and movement Sonja said or did. Closing her eyes she thought back to the last time she was with Keegan in Miami. Keegan always turned her on. Her brown eyes popped open when she felt a warm finger lift her chin.
"Yes." Gwen responded sharply. She didn't know exactly what type of liaison Sonja was but she had an idea. She slid across the back seat to the opposite side of the limo. Sonja noticed the distance and nodded as she poured an ample amount of the amber liquid into a rocks glass. With a quick flick of her wrist, Sonja emptied the glass and returned it to rest on her knee. Gwen did not like the flash of hunger in the woman's eyes. "How long until we get to the hotel?"
"It's close to a half hour, but in this weather, it could take an hour." Sonja slid across the distance Gwen created and placed her hand on Gwen's arm. "You're a very beautiful woman. Bob is a lucky man."
"Sonja, I appreciate the compliment but." Gwen rejection was cut off as Sonja leaned closer and touched her lips softly to Gwen's earlobe.
She whispered "They said you'd take my breath away." Her tongue traced lightly over her skin. Gwen released an audible sigh. Her body was singing and this woman was her conductor. "You're beautiful, sexy." Sonja traced her fingers down Gwen's neck to the nape of her shoulder. Loosening the opening of her overcoat and the blouse she wore Sonja kissed the bare skin at her collar bone. "I want to fuck you."
"Enough." Gwen pushed her away. She didn't want this woman anywhere near her. "Either you stay on that side of the car or I'm going to get out of this car now." Gwen warned the liaison.
"I'm very disappointed. I heard..." Sonja began to explain as she slunk over to the opposite side of the car.
"You heard wrong." Gwen's commanding tone let the woman know the conversation was over. Wrapping her coat tighter around her waist, it was the longest twenty minutes of her life. The assumptions people made about her may be true but she wasn't going to add fuel to the fire by sleeping with every woman who hit on her. Sonja was doing her job, but Gwen wanted no part.
Fleeing from the limo as soon as it pulled into the Weston Inn, Gwen was greeted by the manager and shown her room in record time. She didn't even look back to the car that dropped her off. She was to take a long hot bath and fall into a deep sleep for the night.
Ring? Ring? Ring?Ring?a hand reached from beneath the covers to the phone closest to the bed.
"Good morning. Did you get in okay?"
"Yes, but your team's liaison is a little much." Gwen's sleep filled voice replied. A deep laughter filled voice reached her ear. She woke with a terrible headache and her temples pounded. She slid the clock radio closer to read the numbers. She didn't want to play with Bobby this early and in this time zone. "Oh, I bet she was disappointed. You should have seen her face when she picked me up."
"Jesus, what is it with this team? Is she on the payroll?" Gwen groaned as her body rebelled against her. Her thighs were tight and her muscles sensitive to her movement.
"I think its part of the team's recruiting program." Bobby hummed in her ear.
"Sending hookers?" Gwen closed her eyes and thought about the roller coaster she was on. Yesterday she talked to Ted Redding's mother and Shannon about Keegan. Twenty minutes later she was fighting off the advances of a woman the Motors arranged for her. "That's not my type of program." She hung up the phone and buried her face in the pillow wishing the headache to disappear.