Disclaimer: The characters are mine. Some of the relationships are between people of the same gender and there is talk of acts of violence, um... I think that about covers it... JAZ © Nov. 2008
Rachel Fields was sitting outside of Lowe's Café having lunch with two of her coworkers, when the sound of a large delivery truck temporarily interrupted their conversation. She glanced across the street to the public parking lot and noticed the logo of a national grocery store chain along the side of the truck pulling along the curb at the back of the lot.
After the engine was shut off and the noise died down, the short green eyed blonde and her two best friends, Erin and Stacy were able to continue with their conversation, which consisted mostly of complaining about their working conditions.
They were legal secretaries, working for the same law firm and had become fast friends after being hired just two weeks apart, three years before.
"If Mr. Rawlings, doesn't say something to his new hire soon, I'm gonna take matters into my own hands," Erin said.
The women were well aware of Erin's problem with, Donna. The new junior associate treated the secretary as if she were nothing more than a gofer, and Erin had reached her limit.
"I know my job, and it's not to bring her lunch or go on coffee runs at her every whim. I wouldn't mind so much, except when she tells me to do it... it feels so demeaning."
Rachel's green eyes softened in sympathy, not only had the three women's personalities blended from the start, they grew even closer when they discovered they shared the same life style the bond became tighter.
All three women were gay, and over the years they had shared the ups and downs that came with their efforts to try and find 'The One.'
Many nights had been spent in one or the other's apartment, drinking their sorrows away after a bad break up or lousy date.
At the moment, Stacy was the only one among them that was in a stable, monogamous relationship, and the blue eyed blonde crossed her fingers, hoping that it would last.
"I keep telling you that you should stop waiting for your boss to intervene. The only way that you are going to get that woman's respect is if you confront her yourself," Stacy said. "If Mr. Rawlings does it, she'll only resent you more."
The redhead's gray eyes closed in understanding as she exhaled a breath. "I know, it's just that there is something... treacherous about that woman."
Rachel pushed a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear as she stabbed a piece of lettuce with her fork. "Well, she is a lawyer, and if nothing else they are a treacherous breed."
They all laughed and nodded their heads in agreement. Rachel was about to say something else when she noticed a tall dark haired woman exiting the truck parked across the street.
She emitted a low whistle from between full pink lips as she watched long legs maneuver around parked cars before running across the street avoiding traffic before her progress could be stopped.
"Now that's what I call treacherous. Something that looks that good has to be bad," she said.
Her friends turned to see who Rachel was talking about and was left speechless as they watched a tall brunette woman step up on the sidewalk and look around.
Her gaze fell on Rachel, and the blonde almost choked on her soda when clear blue eyes engaged her green. The moment was broken when a voice called out to the woman. "Simon!"
The truck driver looked towards the person calling her and a wide smile came over her face as she waved and walked to greet the person she was looking for.
"Whoa," Rachel, said as she ran the cool glass of soda across her forehead. "Is it me, or did we just share a moment?"
Erin and Stacy rolled their eyes and spoke at the same time. "It was just you."
"Besides," Erin said. "Look at how she's acting with the woman that called her."
The three women turned in their seats to witness the tall raven haired beauty pull an equally tall black woman into a solid hug before she kissed her cheek.
As they walked arm in arm into the café, Rachel felt a wave of misplaced jealousy run through her body at the action.
She returned to her salad and started picking over the ingredients. "So much for that love connection," she said with a bit of annoyance in her voice.
"You can't be serious," Stacy said with wide eyes. "After, Toni, you vowed to never date again."
Rachel rested her chin on her upraised palm as a temporarily forgotten promise was remembered. "You're right."
They became quiet as scenes of a distraught and hurt Rachel, crying in their arms ran through their minds.
The small blonde had gone to Toni's apartment to surprise the police officer with a three month anniversary dinner. When she arrived she saw the D.C cop standing outside of her Logan Circle building with another woman.
They hadn't made plans to spend the evening together, but Rachel was still shocked to see her lover leaning against her car with another woman draped across her body as they shared a heated kiss.
Anger and betrayal welled up in the legal secretary before she screamed her lover's name across the deserted street.
"Toni! You bitch!"
Rachel quickly got back in her car and sped away before the cheating cop could stop her. After that night there were many apologetic messages left on her answering machine, but Rachel never picked up the phone or returned the calls.
After a few weeks the calls stopped and the secretary made a vow of celibacy. A vow that she had kept for the last six months.
They finished their meal in silence and stood to go back to the office. Rachel stopped them after making a quick decision to order a meal to go.
"Wait for me. I'm going to order some take out for later so I won't have to cook when I get home tonight."
Rachel, walked up to the counter, gave her order and stood off to the side so the other patrons could be waited on.
As her eyes roamed around the café, she couldn't help but notice the tall truck driver sitting not too far from her with her lunch date.
Her proximity to their table allowed her to hear bits and pieces of their conversation and her interest was piqued when she heard the black woman's part of the conversation.
"Simon, don't you want more in your life than the anonymous dalliances you indulge in at the clubs?"
"Don't start with the lectures, Diane. My life is fine. I have no complaints."
Simon's, companion reached across the table and held the other woman's large hands in her own. "I worry about you. Calvin and I wonder if you will ever settle down and live a happy life."
Simon pulled her hands away from her friends and leaned back in her chair. "I'm doing just fine. You don't need to worry. I have everything that I need. I have a good job, a nice place to live and all the women that I could ever hope for."
Rachel started pulling napkins from a dispenser, trying to look like she wasn't listening to the conversation going on at the table.
"We both know that those nights you spend with the women you bring home are unfulfilling when the sun comes up," Diane said.
She didn't want to admit to her friend that an emptiness started to fill her as soon as the act was over, her revulsion of what she had just done causing her to hustle the women out soon afterwards.
"Look, everyone isn't as lucky as you were to find the love of their life on the first try," she countered.
"I know that, but everyone doesn't do the complete opposite either, and bed everyone that comes into their sight."
The blue eyed woman scrubbed her face with her hands and let a deep sigh pass through her lips. "I am comfortable with my life, Diane."
"I'm not judging you, buddy. I'm just worried about you. You're twenty-nine years old and it's time to settle down a little."
Simon exhaled and gave in to the warmth she could hear in her childhood friend's voice. "I know. Would it make you feel better if I told you I haven't been with anyone for the last eight months?"
Brown eyes opened in shock. "What? You're kidding, right?"
Rachel was also surprised by the confession. From the women's conversation she realized that the tall woman was a player, but her admission made the blonde think that maybe the truck driver was ready for a change.
"No, I'm not kidding. The last woman I was with wasn't like the others. After... you know... she insisted on staying the night and after I gave in, the next morning she was up preparing breakfast like it was the most natural thing in the world to do.
I reminded her that I only brought her home because we had agreed this was going to be a one time connection. She acted like she didn't recall that conversation and went a little crazy on me, so I had to throw her out and tell her to forget my address."
The sorrowful look that filled her friend's eyes made Simon's chest hurt and she felt the need to explain the differences in their lives.
"Diane, you were always the perfect little straight girl that joined the cheerleading squad and married her high school sweetheart. You bought a house with a white picked fence and produced two point five children. Now you are an acceptable member of society. That's not my path."
Diane gave her friend an understanding smile. "It could be if you would let it."
Before, Rachel could hear anymore of the conversation her order was ready and she no longer had a reason to stay.
As she left the café a decision had been made. She was going to find out who the intriguing truck driver was and get to know her... if it was the last thing that she did.
It was happening again. She was being pulled down into the darkness, the water that surrounded her was slowly becoming a welcomed part of her.
She began to relax in its hold as an accepting smile covered her face. And she waited patiently for the fulfillment of peace that the warm water promised.
Just as she was about to float away a hand came out of nowhere and reached down, pulling her head above water, forcing her to take in a few oxygen filled breaths.
Simon awakened with a start and sat up, turning on the bedside lamp. She was trembling and her body was covered with sweat. This had to stop. She had been suffering with the recurring dream for the last year and each time she experienced it she woke with her heart beating double time and a sense of loss.
She hadn't told anyone about the dreams because she was afraid that her subconscious was trying to tell her that she wanted to die, and she knew that none of her loved ones would want to hear that... well maybe there was one, but she wasn't a loved one. She would tell the truck driver that it was her guilt speaking truths to her.
It had been a month since the last one and she had hoped that it meant they had stopped for good, but with the remnants of this latest nightmare still coursing through her body she wonder why they were starting again.
She left her bed and went to the bathroom where she relieved herself and washed her face and hands afterwards before returning to her room.
She switched off the light and laid back on her bed as her mind tried to seek out an answer. 'Maybe it was the talk I had with Diane last week at the café that triggered it,' she thought.
Whatever the reason, she knew from the time that showed on her alarm clock that if she could make herself go back to sleep she would be able to get in a few more hours of rest before it was time to start her work day. Leaving the unanswered questions for another time she rolled to her side and closed her eyes until she drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
Rachel had spent the last week trying to think of a way to find the mysterious, Simon. To no avail. Everyday at lunch her eyes would occasionally travel to the parking lot across from the café, hoping to see the large delivery truck pull in, but it never did.
Her friends noticed her distraction and pressed her for information, but the small woman just waved them off saying it was nothing.
She wasn't ready to hear their cautionary advice where the truck driver was concerned, so she chose to keep her thoughts to herself until she had satisfied her curiosity.
Two weeks after she first saw the dark woman, and one week after making her decision Rachel woke up early and got dressed. She would go to the main distribution plant of the grocery chain and ask someone in human resources if they knew of a female employee named, Simon.
She figured there couldn't be a great number of women that went by that name and felt like her chances were good to find the woman.
When she entered the office and made her inquiries the clerk told her that there was no woman by that name working for the company.
She thanked them for their help and left the building feeling a little defeated. "I'm missing something," she said out loud.
"I know I heard her friend call her, Simon, and I know she drives for this company."
As she approached her car she saw a small, older model Chevy S-10 truck park a few spaces down from her car. The bed of the red truck was littered with empty cardboard boxes and pieces of discarded copper pipes.
When she saw a dark head rise from the driver's seat, followed by a long body that was definitely female, her heart jumped in triumph. 'It's her!' her mind screamed as she forced herself remain still and not run towards the woman.
Simon grabbed her lunchbox and was headed to the warehouse, where she would receive her assignment sheet for the day before taking possession of her truck that had been loaded by the workers. She was going over her possible route in her head when someone called out her name.
The tall woman stopped and turned around, surprised to be greeted with the vision of a short blonde woman in a gray skirt suit, moving quickly in her direction. Well as quickly as the skirt would allow.
When Rachel reached her Simon recognized her immediately. This was the green eyed beauty that she had seen two weeks ago at Lowe's café.
The woman had made an impression on her, and if she hadn't been pressed for time to meet Diane for lunch she might have broken her eight month long vacation from 'dating' and asked the woman out.
Then her survival senses kicked in and she went on the defense. How did this woman not only know her name, but where she worked?
'Trouble,' was the first thought that came to her mind. Maybe she was friends with one of the women she had brushed off and now she was going to deliver some act of revenge on her scorned friend's behalf.
Looking at the small woman Simon decided that she didn't have to fear a physical altercation, but it wouldn't be the first time that she was verbally accosted in public.
Steeling herself for the possible on slot, Simon waited for the beautiful blonde to let loose on her. She mentally checked the time and knew that she could spare ten minutes for the confrontation.
Trying to catch her breath after reaching the woman, Rachel pressed her hand to her chest in an effort to stall for time. Now that they were face to face she wasn't sure what to do next.
"Let me start by introducing myself," she said. "My name is, Rachel Fields."
Simon just nodded her head.
"You're gonna think I'm nuts..."
Again, Simon nodded her head. This made Rachel smile and she relaxed a little. She noticed that there was no malice or rejection in the woman's dark features, but she did seem to be patiently waiting for something to happen.
"I saw you a couple of weeks ago at Lowe's Café and I heard your friend call out your name."
The Tall body started to relax even more, it was slowly coming together now. She wasn't a stalker, she was... interested?
"I put the name together with the logo on the side of your truck and... I don't know how to put this except to just say it. I wanted to get to know you."
Simon couldn't believe what she was hearing. It had to have been shear luck that the small woman was able to found her with so little information.
Human resources had her listed by her legal name, so there was no way that they could have told Rachel that she worked for the company.
The only time that she had ever been in their office was when she was hired seven years before and filled out her paperwork.
Since then her only interactions on the job had been with her fellow truck drivers, the warehouse workers and the stockers at the grocery stores that she delivered to.
Her eyes softened and a sexy smirk twitched at the corner of her mouth. "There is no way that they could have told you that I work here they don't know me by, Simon."
Rachel felt the heat rise in her cheeks from the look she was getting. "You're right. When I asked about you they told me that you didn't work here."
She stood to her full height and looked deep into the blue eyes that were above her. "Imagine my surprise when I saw you getting out of your truck as I left the office." Her voice became almost inaudible. "I guess I was supposed to find you."
There was something about this woman that called to Simon, it had from the very start and she found herself wanting to know more about her.
Rachel continued with her pitch. "I hope you don't think that I'm crazy, but I was wondering if I could talk you into having coffee with me?"
Simon couldn't answer right a way. Her history insisted that she evaluate every negative scenario that could come about if she accepted the woman's invitation.
She had been around enough to know that a woman like Rachel Fields didn't go for one night stands. If she went out with you it was because she was looking for something more.
Simon didn't know if she could offer that something more. Her eight months of celibacy had been like fasting, maybe even a sabbatical. Without the constant flow of women in and out of her bed she had started to become more introspective.
She understood how superficial her life was and she was more thoughtful of her actions. Now temptation was staring her in the face. Could she have coffee with this woman just for the pleasure of getting to know her and not seek out her body?
She shook the thoughts from her head and made a decision. She would try to do it the right way this time. There was something about this woman that spoke to a part of her being that had been waiting to be acknowledged and for the first time she would give in to it.
"I can do that. Tell me the time and place."
Thrown off balance for just a moment by Simon's acceptance, Rachel quickly regained her equilibrium and answered.
"My lunch break is from twelve to one. When is yours?"
"Normally I could do that," Simon said, "but it's going to be a problem today. If I have the route that I think I do my down time will be from eleven to twelve."
Not wanting to miss out on this opportunity Rachel came up with an alternate plan. "I can take my lunch an hour early if that would help."
"Yeah, that would be great," Simon said with relief. "Where do you want to meet?"
"There is a coffee shop located between the beltway and the Virginia line in the Presidential Mall. Is that convenient for you."
"That's perfect, my ten o'clock run is in, Crystal City and the mall is only five miles away. I'll meet you there at eleven."
Their plans set, the women left to start their work day. As Simon headed towards the warehouse Rachel's voice stopped her.
She turned and walked back to the woman. "Yes?"
"I was just wondering... if they don't know you as Simon in human resources, who do they know you as?"
The tall woman stared into green eyes, trying to decide what to tell her. She couldn't believe she was contemplating whether or not to tell a total stranger what only a few friends and family knew... her name.
But there was something about this small slip of a woman that compelled her to be nothing but honest with her.
With her resolve firmly in place Simon gave up the information. "They don't know me by Simon because it's not the name on the paperwork."
Rachel was left confused. "Simon isn't your name?"
The tall woman shoved her hands into her pockets and stared down at the asphalt. She didn't want to make this more complicated by showing the distress in her eyes.
"Everyone calls me Simon, but my name is, Shea Yvonne Marceline O'Niall."
Rachel was confused. "Well, that's a mouth full. But why, Simon?"
Blue eyes looked at her from under dark bangs. "When I was seventeen I took the first letters from my name and formed a new one. >From then on I insisted that everyone call me, Symon."
Rachel thought for a moment until she could put it all together. "Oh, I see. You don't spell it S.I.M.O.N, you spell it S.Y.M.O.N."
"Yeah, kinda silly, uh?"
"No, not at all. As a matter of fact I like it, it's different. But why so many names?"
"Thanks." For some reason it pleased her that the small woman liked her moniker. "The Shea O'Niall is from my father's Irish mother and Yvonne Marceline comes from my French grandmother on my mother's side.
After a few moments of silent observation the women parted with a promise to meet later.
When Rachel arrived at work she met Erin and Stacy in the break room where she informed them she was going to take an early lunch and couldn't join them for their usual get together.
This piqued their curiosity, so they pulled her to a table and sat her down before starting their interrogation. Knowing how anxious her friends were to hear why she was backing out of their set routine caused Rachel's wicked streak to come out and play.
After taking her seat she quietly sipped her coffee and looked around the room without any intentions of offering an explanation. She could see that the waiting was about to cause an aneurism to burst in her friend's head, but she remained silent until Erin couldn't take it any longer and pushed her for an answer.
"Okay, out with it. Why are you going to take an early lunch?"
Mischief filled green eyes smiled over the rim of her cup as Rachel took her time swallowing before she answered.
Stacy narrowed her eyes and leaned forward. "Look short stuff, spill it or I'm gonna turn you upside down and shake the information out of you."
Rachel couldn't hold in her laughter at the threat, so she placed her cup on the table and folded her hands in front of her.
"Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when we were having lunch at Lowe's Café and a long grocery delivery truck parked in the lot across the street?"
Erin and Stacy racked their brains trying to call up the image, but raised their hands in confusion as they came up empty.
"Come on you guys, you remember. A tall dark-haired woman crossed the street and met up with her lunch date on the sidewalk."
Stacy snapped her fingers in recollection. "Yeah, you thought the two of you shared a 'moment'."
"Yes. Well when I went inside the café I overheard her conversation with the other woman, and it turns out they are just friends."
Erin wasn't sure she liked where this was going but remained silent, waiting for Rachel to continue.
"I kinda... well... I kinda hunted her down on her job and asked her out for coffee."
At that point Erin broke her silence and raised her voice in shock. "You did what?!"
"Calm down. Everything turned out okay."
"Yeah, you were lucky she didn't have you arrested."
Rachel rolled her eyes. "Well, she didn't. Do you want to here the rest of this or should I just shut up?"
Properly chastised Erin bowed to her tablemate and didn't say another word. Rachel went on to tell her friends about Symon and their first real meeting.
Because they were so caught up in the story none of them noticed Donna lurking around eavesdropping on their conversation. The junior associate was standing at the beverage table. She had arrived before her legal secretary's shift started and had to prepare her own coffee.
'Ah, what are the little lab mice up to now?' she thought to herself as she took her time preparing her morning a cup of caffeine. 'This sounds interesting. Maybe I've been torturing the wrong mouse. This one seems much meatier.'
When she was satisfied that she had heard enough of the conversation, a malevolent gleam shined in her brown eyes. A plan had already begun to take form in her mind and she knew exactly where she wanted to start. The junior associate finished preparing her hot beverage and left the break room unnoticed.
Duncan stopped Symon before she could step up into the cab of her truck and asked her if she wanted to meet somewhere for her first break.
"No can do, little brother. I have plans."
Blue eyes that were only a shade darker than her own went wide as he tilted his dark head. "Since when?"
"Since this morning." She turned once again and climb into her truck, before she could start the engine Duncan grabbed her arm through the window.
"Not so fast. What happened this morning?" He looked at his watch and noted the time. "It's only seven-thirty."
He wiggled his dark brows and started to tease his older sibling. "You finally met a woman that you decided to spend more than one night with?"
"No, dork, for your information a woman that I ran into a couple of weeks ago showed up in the parking lot this morning and asked me out for coffee." Symon saw no reason to tell him that Rachel was a stranger, she would save that for later.
"Are you trying to tell me that the player of D.C. met a woman that she didn't bed on their first meeting?" He didn't use the word 'date' because he knew that his sister didn't indulge in the practice.
For the first time in her life Symon didn't care for the unspoken word that carried quotations around it when referring to her treatment of women. This time it raised her hackles.
"Yes, Duncan. Believe it or not I am capable of having a conversation with a woman that doesn't lead to the bedroom." She settled in the driver's set and turned the key.
Confused by his sister's reaction, the tall man was thrown off balance and quickly tried to smooth things over.
"Hey, Symon I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."
Symon looked down into Duncan's distraught face and felt her anger drain away. Her brother was the only person in her family that she was comfortable with when talking about her sexuality and she knew she wasn't being fair to him. So she lightened the mood by falling back into her bravado.
"Don't worry about it, little brother. When you've had as many women as I have you'll stop with the teasing."
When he saw that familiar smile cover her face Duncan felt relieved and knew it was safe to continue with the affectionate ribbing they had always shared.
"I'd have to live two lifetimes to catch up with you, Symon."
She gave him a crooked smile before responding. "That's right and don't you forget it."
With their conflict settled Symon put the truck in gear and pulled out of the loading dock Before she reached the exit Duncan yelled to her. "What's her name?!"
Symon stuck her head out of the opened window before turning out of the driveway.
Rachel was counting the minutes until the eleven o'clock hour. Her morning had been very strange, to say the least.
For some reason Donna Whitmore had been giving her a hard time. The junior litigator was questioning the legal secretary about cases that she had nothing to do with.
After two hours of the abuse Rachel was finally fed up with the brunette asking her about file copies of cases that hadn't been assigned to her.
"Look Donna, I work for Mr. Hastings. The files that you are inquiring about are not a part of my case load."
She stopped just short of telling her to ask Mr. Rawlings' secretary about the copies, but chose not to because she didn't want the woman to start in on, Erin.
The brunette looked down at the small blonde. She was tall, about five-nine, nearly six feet with the heels she was wearing. Standing over the small blonde's seated body she seemed like a giant and it made Rachel feel a little intimidated.
In response to Rachel's answer the woman's brown eyes became hard as she sneered. "I thought that maybe you and your two friends shared your caseloads. Considering how much time you spend together I'd think you would help one another."
Before Rachel could say anything, the menace was gone. 'What bug crawled up her ass today?' she thought as she answered the ringing phone. "Mr. Hastings office, this is Rachel. How may I help you?"
Because of the early hour the Pegasus Coffee Shop was fairly empty when Symon arrived. She found a table in the back, settled in, and waited for her coffee date to arrive.
After a few minutes the door opened and the small blonde entered the establishment. Symon couldn't help but notice her grace and beauty.
She had to be no more than five-foot four, and as she gazed upon the blonde hair that cascaded around her shoulders, strands of gold were highlighted in the warm May sun revealing red highlights. She shook herself out of her revere and stood to alert the woman of her location.
As Rachel made her way to the table Symon couldn't stop her eyes from taking in the gentle sway of Rachel's hips as she approached the table and thought to herself. 'Now that's all woman.'
"I'm not late am I?" Rachel asked as she sat across from the truck driver.
"No, not at all. I'm early."
A waiter quickly came, took their orders and was gone just as quickly, leaving them alone.
Rachel was nervous and didn't know how to start, but knew that it was up to her to get the conversation going since the meeting was her idea.
"So, Shea, how long have you been driving a truck?"
Hearing someone use a name that she hadn't responded to in years was at first uncomfortable to the dark woman, so when she didn't answer right a way Rachel thought she had made a mistake.
"I'm sorry, that was presumptuous of me. Would you rather I called you, Symon?"
This was unexplored territory for, Symon. No one had even tried to use her given name since she was a teenager, so she had to let the name flow through her for a moment, reacquainting herself with it before she could answer the question.
Looking at the open honesty in the face across from her made long built up defenses lower a little and she decided it was safe to make this concession.
"No, it's okay you can call me, Shea."
The small woman sat up a little taller in her chair, feeling special after receiving a positive response. "Well, alright. Since you have given up something, it only seems right that I should give something in return if we want to get to know each other better."
Symon smiled and leaned back in her chair. "Sounds good to me." Then her brow furrowed in thought. "After you're done I guess I'll have to tell you some things about me," she said as if to herself.
The quiet comment reminded Rachel of the conversation she had overheard in the café and she remembered the part where this woman didn't make dating a habit. So the getting to know you stage had never been a part of the dark woman's 'hook ups.'
Felling like she needed to give her tablemate an out Rachel stopped the dark woman before she felt obligated to share something that made her uncomfortable.
"Whatever you feel like sharing about yourself will be fine, but don't feel pressured."
Symon nodded her head as the waiter returned with their order. After he left they sat silently looking at each other. So once again, Rachel got things moving.
"Okay, where do I begin? My name is Rachel Angela Fields. I will be twenty-eight on October second. I was born and raised in, Severn Maryland. I am an only child. I have been a legal secretary since I was hired at Rawlings, Jenkins and Hastings three years ago. Before that I worked in a few offices around the district.
Symon, listened to her tablemate recount her history and started to pick up on a few parallels in their past.
Neither woman had gone to college. They both grew up in the suburbs, and from listening to Rachel's monolog, she discovered that from a young age they both knew that they were attracted to the same sex.
After Rachel stopped talking Symon had to decide how much she wanted to tell her tablemate. She felt the same pull that had earlier made her tell the woman her given name, and like she had done before she gave in to it.
"You all ready know my name. I'll be thirty on December fifteenth. I have a brother that is four years younger than I am. Duncan. That's his name, and we work for the same grocery chain.
He is a loader at the main distribution center and as luck would have it, most days he loads my truck for my daily routes.
When I was fifteen and Duncan was eleven, our mother died from complications associated with breast cancer. Officially they said it was a blood clot to the lungs.
The sorrow that Rachel saw in Symon's blue eyes spoke to her soul and she wanted to offer the woman some comfort for the deep loss that she obviously still carried with her.
She reached across the table and held the woman's large hands "I'm so sorry, Shea. That must have been devastating for you."
The truck driver had to fight the loneliness that always consumed her when she thought about her mother's long absence.
For years she had always pushed away the feelings of what might have been where her mother was concerned.
Alaina knew of her daughter's attraction to other girls and had never turned her back on her, she always told her. "Do what makes your soul feel whole."
When she died, William, her father, tried to communicate with his oldest child, but he could never get far enough pass his own feelings of loneliness to truly hear her.
Symon smiled, letting Rachel know that she appreciated her words before she pushed on.
"When I was sixteen my father married my step-mother, Francis. >From the beginning I saw her only as a companion to my da.
When my father told her about my sexuality her Irish-Catholic upbringing set her on a mission to try and change my evil ways."
Rachel watched as Symon became more introspective, and sat silently as the woman worked through her memories.
"Over time her words made me grow to dislike her. Not so much for the things she said to me, but because of the way she made me feel about myself when she said them.
Rachel was curious and asked her companion to elaborate. "What did she say?"
Symon thought for a moment. "Okay, I'll tell you about one conversation I had with Francis when I was almost twenty. I was still living at home and it had been about three years since I had changed my name.
We were down stairs in the family room watching television. There was a program on about lesbians that chose to be called by a more masculine form of their name and the reasons behind it.
Francis obviously saw this as an opportunity to voice her displeasure of my wanting to be called Symon, so during a commercial break she turned to me and started in on a lecture.
"Your parents gave birth to one daughter and one son, but for some reason you have decided that no one can use the feminine name that you were christened with. I want to tell you how I feel about that."
Symon remained quiet, knowing that there was no need to protest. The redhead was going to have her say.
"When you insist on being called Symon you bastardize your heritage. You were christened, Shea Yvonne Marceline O'Niall in honor of your grandmothers. And what do you do with that legacy? You twist it into something unnatural."
Rachel couldn't believe what she was hearing. Granted, her parents didn't fully accept the life that she led, but they had never put a guilt trip on her. She covered her tablemate's hands and squeezed them in support. "I'm sorry, Shea."
For the second time she realized how special it was to be allowed to use the truck driver's given name and warmth enveloped her. "That must have been very painful for you."
The solitary woman felt more of her wall start to crumble at the compassionate touch. But she didn't know this woman. Yes, she felt something for her, something deeper than she had ever felt before, but she didn't know if she could trust it.
Duncan and Diane were the only ones that had never judged her. How could she let this woman in? But, it was already too late. Rachel Fields, just by her presence had staked out a place in her heart and in that moment she knew that nothing could change that.
"Does your dad feel the same way?"
Symon shrugged her shoulders. "I don't think so, he seems to be indifferent about the whole thing."
"Did you tell him about your conversation with, Francis?"
"No, I figured, why bother. It was a couple of years later that I moved out and started to live my life separate from them. I see them four times a month. Duncan still lives in the basement, so we have a family meal every Wednesday, when my da is off from work, I'm the only one that has to make a special trip to attend."
Their time together passed quickly and before they knew it, their break was almost over. They paid the bill and left the building to say their goodies in the parking lot.
Rachel's hand was on the handle of her car door when Symon stopped her. "Um... would you be interested in having dinner with me tonight?"
The smile that lit-up the smaller woman's face was radiant. "Yes. I'd be very interested."
She opened her purse and took out a piece of paper and a pen. "Let me give you my number. I should be home by six. Give me a call and we'll set something up."
Symon was debating with herself. Should she give this woman her home number? While still in thought, Rachel handed over the slip of paper and turned to get into her car before Symon knew what was happening.
A decision was made. Symon tore off the bottom of the paper and pulled a pen from the breast pocket of her uniform and quickly wrote down her number before handing it to the blonde.
"Here, it's only fair that you have my number too."
Rachel accepted the paper with a bit of awe. Instinctively she knew that this woman never gave out her number and felt humbled for the giving. "Thanks, Shea," was all she said before getting into her car and driving away.
Symon stood, watching the small Acura leave the lot and mentally reprimanded herself when she realized that she was waving goodbye.
'You might be in trouble here, Symon,' she thought. 'That one might be your kryptonite.'
Rachel was relieved when the end of the day came with no more visits from, Donna. She hoped that the bully had come to her scenes and would leave her alone.
She cleared her desk and turned off her computer with her head filled with happy thoughts about her date. That happiness was short lived when she walked towards her car and saw Toni leaning against it, waiting for her.
She pulled her keys from her purse with every intention of getting into her vehicle without acknowledging the woman's presence.
"Come on, Rachel. Are you just going to act like I'm not here?"
"Yes. That's exactly what I'm going to do."
An annoying thought crossed her mind. 'Six months of bliss and now this. The cosmos must be against me. That has to be the only reason she shows up today of all days.'
Toni tried to gain the woman's sympathy by sticking out her lower lip. In the past Rachel had always been a sucker for her pouty face, but this time the ploy only angered the secretary.
"That doesn't work anymore. Move out of my way so I can leave."
"Can't I just get a minute of your time? I've left you alone for six months, I just want to talk to you. I want to tell you I'm sorry. I made a mistake. Can't you forgive me?"
Toni had been free to date who ever she chose for the last six months, and during that time she realized that she had made a huge mistake.
Rachel had been a loyal, kind and generous girlfriend. The three months that they had shared was the best time of the police officer's life. Unfortunately she didn't discover that until it was too late.
The women that she had dated since the break up lacked the depth that she had found with the legal secretary and now she wanted her back.
"I'm over it, Toni. There's nothing to forgive. We weren't right for each other it's as simple as that."
She moved to her left, hoping to gain access to her vehicle, but Toni moved with her. "Please, Rachel. I'm begging you. Give me another chance to prove myself."
Rachel exhaled before raising her head to engage the woman's hazel eyes. "I'm no longer mad at you, Toni. Over the last six months I've moved on with my life, at this point you're a part of my past. As I said, I'm over it. I suggest you try and do the same."
As the cop continued to plead her case, neither one of them was aware of the person hiding in the shadows, listening to their conversation.
It wasn't until Donna saw the two women together that she realized that Rachel was the woman that had interrupted her sidewalk kiss with the D.C. cop six months before.
Toni had never told her anything about the woman she was cheating on, so this new information caused her to change her game plan into something much more sinister.
She had been dating the officer for two weeks when the small blonde had ended their impromptu make out session.
After that night Toni broke things off with her. Now that she could put a name and a face to the intruder she plotted her revenge.
After a string of failed attempts, when Donna met Toni she thought that the officer might be someone that she could plant roots with. That was until the cop's girlfriend caught them kissing. Immediately the blooming relationship came to an abrupt end and she never say Toni again.
The junior associate quietly backed away from the two women deciding to go back to her office until the coast was clear.
After a brief telephone conversation Symon confirmed her plans to pick Rachel up at the blonde's apartment.
Because Rachel lived in, Rockville Symon chose a restaurant that was close to the secretary's home.
They shared a delicious meal that ended too soon. When they finished their dinner and the check was paid the two women decided that they didn't want the night to end so soon, so they agreed to take a walk through the quiet neighborhood that the restaurant was located in to work off the meal.
During dinner their conversation had been as easy as it was in the coffee shop earlier and as they left the restaurant they knew that something very special was happening between them.
Symon knew that it wasn't going to be easy to give up the control that she usually showed with the other women that she spent time with, but something deep inside told her that Rachel was worth the effort.
As they walked down the deserted sidewalks she felt a small hand slip into her own and gave a little squeeze of acceptance.
The houses that they passed were lit from within, occasionally there was one where the curtains were left open and they could see the family that lived there.
One house in particular caught their attention and they stopped to observe the occupants. The family was obviously having a game night, the four family members were laughing about something the small blonde-haired girl had said.
Her older brother held a game piece over his head out of her reach, but returned it when his father instructed him to do so.
Symon and Rachel stood in silence as the mother left the room and returned with a platter of cookies that were greeted with excitement.
The scene continued to play out for several minutes until the couple instructed them to move on. Neither woman said anything as they watched, but they were experiencing the same thoughts.
'What would it be like to have a family of their own?'
Symon drove Rachel home and walked her upstairs to her door. For a moment they stood in an awkward silence.
Symon had never spent time with a woman that didn't end in the bedroom but she knew that this time would be different and she wasn't sure what to do.
Rachel solved the dilemma by standing on her toes and kissing her on the cheek.
"I had a really good time, Shea."
The small gesture made the tall woman blush and she shoved her hands into her pockets to hide her nervousness.
"I did too, Rachel. Um... how would you like to do it again?"
The immediate that bloomed the blonde's face made, Symon's heart beat faster and she felt good to have put it there.
"That would be great. Just tell me the time and the day."
"Um... well... how about, Wednesday? Wait, not Wednesday. I go to my da's house for dinner that day. Why don't we get together, Thursday, say about eight. We can see a movie and maybe go for dinner afterwards."
Again they stood in silence. "I... um guess I'd better go. My day starts early," Symon said.
Rachel didn't want the tall woman to leave, but knew that their time together had come to an end. Symon turned to walk away, but was stopped by a warm hand on her arm.
Deciding not to think about her actions and just go on instinct, Rachel rose up on her toes and placed her hand on the back of Symon's neck.
She leaned forward and took the dark woman's lips in a kiss. She had planned on giving her date a quick peck goodnight, but once their lips touched Symon's large hands dropped to her waist and pulled her closer.
Rachel's free hand joined its mate and caressed the soft hairs on Symon's neck, giving in to the pull that she had felt from the first moment she had laid eyes the tall woman.
When she felt the truck driver's tongue press against her lips she let her enter without hesitation. Deep moans filled the hallway as Rachel's fingers started to push their way through silky dark tresses.
When they heard a door slam closed somewhere on Rachel's floor they pulled apart and leaned their foreheads together. They were both panting and their warm breaths mingled together in the small space that separated them.
"I think I'd better go," Symon husked.
Rachel released her hold on the woman and stepped back on shaky legs. Symon started to back away, but never lost contact with the green eyes that called to her.
Rachel pulled out her keys and unlocked her door. Before entering she turned to her date. "Call me."
A lopsided smile pulled at Symon's mouth. "Count on it."
When Rachel's door closed the truck driver hurried out of the building and jumped into her truck. As she pulled away from the curb all she could think about was how soft Rachel's lips were and how sweet her mouth tasted.
Wednesday night at the O'Niall's started the way it always did. Francis was running around the kitchen voicing her concerns about the quality of the meal she was serving and William reassuring her that it would be fine.
After consuming an intestinally challenging meal consisting of stuffed cabbage washed down with a glass of whole milk, the family retired to the living room.
Because Francis had never given birth to children of her own her mothering tended to be a little antiquated, causing Symon and Duncan to spend many years trying to convince their step-mother that they didn't need to drink milk at every meal to maintain their bone density.
It never worked, so every Wednesday night after returning home Symon had to deal with a bubbling, gurgling stomach until Thursday morning. She hoped that this bout of gastro-intestinal problems would pass before it was time for her date with, Rachel.
She sat on the loveseat beside her brother and stared at the woman that had been her mother figure for the past thirteen years and wondered if the woman realized the duality of her parenting skills. On one hand, she was concerned about their diet and health habits, but on the other she could be extremely emotionally abusive.
Those thoughts were put aside when she heard her father inquire about her job. "Symon how's trucking life been treating you lately?"
Before she could answer Duncan piped in totally off the subject. "Monday, big sis went for coffee with a new prospect."
If looks could kill Duncan would be laid out on the carpet. William muted the TV and focused on his daughter.
"Is that so? After all of these years is there a chance that you might bring someone home to meet us?"
Symon held her hands up in the air as if defending herself. "Hold on, da. I had coffee and dinner with, Rachel. That doesn't equal brining her home to meet the family."
Duncan ignored his sister's dirty looks, shocked by the new information. "You had dinner with her too?"
William watched as his daughter tried to shut her brother up with a warning glance and was reminded of, Alaina.
Their children had inherited his height and dark hair, but their expressive blue eyes were a gift from their fair-haired mother.
Although they both had blue eyes, Duncan's were darker than his sister's. William chose to believe that it was the addition of his light brown orbs in the gene pool that had made the subtle difference in his children's eye color. That had to be the reason because Symon's eyes were an exact duplicate of his beloved, Alaina's.
Letting the conversation float around him, the large firefighter recalled the first time he met the small blue-eyed blonde, French spitfire thirty-one years before.
His station had responded to a warehouse fire near the wharf and he had suffered from smoke inhalation. The ER nurse that was on duty that day had captured his attention from the start.
As she took his vital signs and talked to him in a soothing voice he was instantly drawn to the slight accent that he heard.
"Well hello, lass. Where'd you get that accent from?"
Alaina raised a fair brow and stopped pumping the blood pressure cuff. "The same place you got that brogue from."
They would always say that it was love at first sight. It was more like love at first conflict. By the time William O'Niall was released from the hospital he knew that his heart had found a home.
It took little convincing on his part to get Alaina Renaud to accept his offer of a meal after work and from that night on the couple knew that their love was meant to be.
After a year of dating they got married and four months later, Alaina became pregnant with their first child. When their daughter was born they wanted her to reflect both of their heritages, so they named her Shea, for William's mother and Yvonne Marceline in tribute to, Alaina's mother.
The young couple felt like they were on top of the world and they had their whole lives ahead of them...
Francis was very aware of the moment when her husband's mind had slipped into the past. It always started the same way. First his eyes would glaze over and then his body would relax in a way that took him from his surroundings.
She had accepted long ago that she would never have his whole heart, but it still filled her with pain to see him so easily immerse himself into the past.
She never knew, Alaina O'Niall, but she had lived with the dead woman from the beginning of her courtship with the burly firefighter.
After seeing family pictures that showed how happy they were together she talked herself into believing that she could live with the fact that William would always carry her with him, but it wasn't long after they married that she realized that it wasn't true.
Symon was the exact image of her mother. Only her height and dark hair were different. If the combination of sharp features covered with delicate plains wasn't enough, those eyes told the story.
Those eyes were such a pure reflection of her mother's that Francis knew from the start that her jealousy would never allow her to fully embrace the teenager.
She had hoped that by condemning the girl's lifestyle she could somehow taint Alaina's memory. Maybe if William could see his daughter, who looked so much like her mother, as being flawed his love for his dead wife would lessen a little.
But it was not to be. William listened to Francis' rants against his daughter, but he never condemned the girl.
Looking at him now, after nearly fourteen years of marriage, and just as many of those years spent trying to erase a ghost, she wondered if it was all for nothing.
When Symon grabbed her brother in a headlock both William and Francis came back to themselves. "Alright you two. Stop before you break something," William said.
Symon released her brother with one final shove and stood up. "I'm out of here. I'll see you guys next week."
Duncan and William walked her to the door and said their goodbyes. William hugged her and kissed her cheek. "I'll see you next week, baby."
"Okay, da." She punched her brother on the shoulder. "See you in the morning, Dunk."
He punched her back. "Count on it, sis."
Symon drove home with the sense of longing that she always felt when she left her father's home. "I miss you, mère and I'm always thinking of you," she said to her empty surroundings.
That night she had the drowning dream again, only this time, instead of waiting for the hand to pull her up she sought it out.
When her head broke the surface she didn't awaken. She remained asleep the only sign of any interruption to her slumber was a slight maneuvering of her body to a more comfortable position before falling deeper into sleep.
The next morning as Rachel pulled into her parking space she sat in her car for a moment, remembering the kiss she had shared with the tall truck driver three nights before, and the phone calls that had followed.
Before she could become totally engrossed in her thoughts a light tapping was heard on her window. When she turned her head and saw who was waiting for her she slapped the steering wheel with both of her hands in frustration. She pushed the door open, hoping to knock the intruder out of the way.
"Whoa! Violence was never your thing, Rachel."
The small blonde collected her purse and briefcase before locking her door and heading to the elevators. "I guess you just bring out the worst in me, Toni. Are you stalking me now?"
The brunette had to run to keep up with her ex before she reached the elevators. "You know better than that. I just want to talk to you."
Rachel punched the buttons continuously, hoping to make the car arrive sooner. "When we talked on, Monday I thought I made myself clear."
"You did, but I still think that I can change your mind."
"Look, Toni. I don't know how many ways I can say this. Leave me a lone. I have absolutely no desire to become involved with you again."
Seeing the green eyes grow hard in rejection, the cop became angry and wrapped her hand around Rachel's bicep.
"Does this have something to do with the tall drink of water that picked you up, Monday night?" she said through gritted teeth.
Rachel snatched her arm away and took a step back. "You ARE stalking me."
She saw the dangerous glint in the officer's eyes before the woman stepped closer in a threatening manner. "Stop with the accusations, I told you that wasn't the case."
Before the conversation could get out of hand, Erin and Stacy appeared out of nowhere. Erin looked the woman up and down before addressing her. "I thought we hand seen the last of you six months ago."
The women had never liked each other and as far as Toni was concerned Erin was one of the reasons she could never get Rachel to talk to her after the kissing incident.
"This doesn't concern you, Erin. Stay out of it."
"Anything having to do with my best friend..." She was cut off when the elevator arrived.
The three women got on and pushed the button for their floor. But before the door closed Rachel left Toni with a warning. "Leave me alone or I'll report you to your sergeant."
They heard a scream of rage as the doors closed and the elevator started its ascent. Stacy noticed that Rachel was shaking and pulled her into an embrace.
"What in the hell brought her out from the rock that she lives under?"
Feeling more grounded Rachel moved away from Stacy and ran her hand through her hair. "I don't know. She was waiting for me when I left work on, Monday and again this morning."
"If she knows what's good for her this will be the last time," Erin said with anger.
Frightened green eyes looked at the furious woman. "I hope so, but I can't be sure. She told me that she saw Shea pick me up on, Monday night."
Erin and Stacy were at a loss. "Who's, Shea?" Erin asked.
"I mean, Symon. She picked me up at my place on, Monday and Toni told me she saw us."
The three women remained silent for the rest of the ride. A feeling of doom surrounding them.
This was not going to end well.
That night Symon parked in front of Rachel's building and ran up the stairs in anticipation of their date. When the small woman answered the door and followed her to the street she seemed a little anxious as they made their way to the truck.
Symon chalked it up to her being nervous. After all, seeing each other again for the first time in almost three days was almost like starting all over again.
But when they reached the street and the blonde head started looking around as if she were expecting an ambush, Symon became suspicious.
She stopped their progression with a hand on the smaller woman's shoulder and waited until she looked at her. "Is something wrong, Rachel?"
The legal secretary took a deep breath and told Symon everything Toni had been doing. After she was finished she saw a fire burning in her date's blue eyes that would have frightened her if it had been directed at her.
"You broke up with her six months ago. Right?"
"Has she ever done anything in the past that made you feel afraid?"
"Not until this morning when she grabbed my arm."
Symon unconsciously rubbed the smaller woman's arm as she thought about what to do. Blue eyes darted back and forth down the quiet street as she led Rachel to her truck.
After they had driven away from the building Symon picked up Rachel's hand and squeezed it in comfort. "Don't worry, Rach. If she comes anywhere near you again I'll handle it."
Fear gripped the smaller woman's chest. "No, Shea. She's a cop. She could cause all kinds of problems for you."
"And I'm a firefighter's kid. I can cause problems too."
Rachel's mind was immediately filled with images of Toni's car being set on fire and her eyes reflected that fear.
Picking up on her date's anxiety, Symon tried to ease her mind. "Relax, I'm not a pyromaniac, but my da is friends with a few upper level D.C. officers and I'm sure he can call in a few favors if necessary."
Feeling reassured Rachel relaxed and decided to put her ex out of her mind and concentrate on spending the evening with the mysterious woman that called herself, Symon.
Toni was in her home office reading over the data that she was able to obtain after running the licenses plate number of Rachel's date and she was not happy.
Aside from the woman's name, date of birth and address, the only other information that she was able to retrieve didn't amount to much. The dark woman didn't have a criminal record, not even a parking ticket.
So she stretched out her limbs and decided to go to the kitchen and get another beer. As she was popping the tab on her forth can she heard a knock at her door. After placing the can on the kitchen counter the cop went to see who the unannounced visitor was.
Looking out of the peephole, through her beer induced haze she opened the door to a woman that she had not seen in six months.
Donna didn't bother to offer a greeting, she just walked in and made herself comfortable on the sofa. The junior associate had decided to wait until the weekend to approach her former lover, and from the looks of things her timing couldn't have been better.
It was obvious that Toni had been indulging in her favorite pastime... drinking the night away. This pleased her. Toni's inebriation would only fuel the drunken woman's desire to help her.
"How are things going, Toni?"
Bleary eyes gazed at the uninvited guest and a lascivious smile covered her face. "Things are fine, Donna."
She walked back into the kitchen to retrieve her beer and asked the lawyer if she wanted one.
"You know I hate the domestic beers that you drink, but I'll make an exception this one time."
Toni handed the woman her drink and sat down beside her. "To what do I owe this visit?"
Donna took a sip of her beer before answering. "I think we need to talk."
"Oh, yeah. What about?"
The lawyer placed her can on the coffee table before responding. "About a certain legal secretary and her new found companion."
Toni's brain was too scrambled to wonder how Donna knew about Rachel's new relationship, but that didn't stop her from being interested in what the lawyer had to say. "Go on."
"Your ex has taken up with someone that is of interest to me."
"Really? How so?"
"Suffice it to say that, Symon. That's the woman's name. Came to my attention long before I knew that you or Ms. Fields ever existed."
Toni wasn't following. "Who is, Symon?"
"That is the woman that Ms. Fields is currently dating."
Toni waved a negligent hand in the air. "The woman that Rachel is dating is named, Shea O'Niall."
Donna grabbed her can of beer and took a swig of the bitter brew, giving herself time to contemplate this information. The woman that she had spent the night with told her that her name was Symon, but after hearing this maybe there was more to the story. "Tell me what you know."
Toni retrieved two more beers from the refrigerator before sitting down beside her guest. "I ran her license plate number. Her name is, Shea."
Taking on her best lawyer persona, Donna nodded her head. "Continue."
Toni went on to tell the woman about the limited information that she had discovered and after she was finished she waited for Donna's reaction.
The litigator drained the beer that was left in her can and almost threw up when Toni handed her another. Calling on all of her reserves she accepted the offering and took a big gulp before placing the can on the coffee table.
"Your friend should be very careful, this woman is a predator. Her exploits are well known throughout the lesbian club scene."
She knew she had Toni's full attention now, so she proceeded to tell the cop about the truck driver's love them and leave them reputation, feeling no guilt when she embellished a few details.
When she was finished accusing Symon of everything from de-flowering virgins just for the thrill of the conquest, to being the head of an underground theft ring, she knew that the officer would participate in any scheme that she brought to the table, as long as the end result culminated in her precious Rachel not falling victim to the lesbian lothario.
"I have a plan, but I'll need your help to make it happen."
By this time Toni's anger was so fueled by her drinking that she was willing to do anything that would put a stop to this parasite infecting another innocent victim.
"Talk to me," she said as she took another drink from her nearly empty can.
When she had drained every last drop she stood on unsteady legs, heading for the kitchen. "But first let me get a refill." She turned to her guest. "Anything for you?"
Donna held up her mostly full can. "No thanks, I'm still working on this one."
When the woman returned Donna laid out her plan. At first Toni didn't seem very receptive, after all, what the lawyer was proposing was illegal.
Donna felt that she was losing her ace in the hole and decided that it was time to change her strategy, so she encouraged Toni to finish her beer, knowing that she was already in a vulnerable state.
When the cop slammed the can on the coffee table signaling that it was empty, Donna made her move. She scooted closer to the woman and snuggled up to her before kissing her on the neck.
"I've really missed you."
Toni was thrown off balance by the move. She had heard nothing from this woman for six months and all of sudden she shows up on her doorstep unannounced asking her to participate in an illegal act and offering what appeared to be the start of a night of romance.
She was fighting with her libido. Sex with the brunette had always been... how could she describe it... adventurous. And her nether reigns were taking over her common sense.
A few kisses later and a skilled hand run across her erect nipples made the decision for her. She pulled the litigator into her bedroom and after a few hours of hot and heavy sex the deal was sealed. Toni would do whatever Donna desired of her... god help her.
A month had passed, and during that time Symon had been introduced to Erin, Stacy and Stacy's lover, Tonya.
Tonya was the Executive Chef at one of D.C.'s most prestigious fine dining restaurants and would occasionally, on Friday nights, prepare a test meal for their group of friends to sample before adding it to the menu.
Sometimes the recipes were a hit, other times... not so much, but through their culinary adventures new friends were made.
But it was rough going in the beginning. After two weeks of Rachel dating the dark woman Erin made it a point to ask around about her, when she discovered Symon's infamous past she felt it necessary to warn her friend...
"Rachel this Symon person is a notorious player."
When the fair brows dropped Erin knew that she was in trouble. "And how would you know that?"
"I... I asked around."
Erin held her hands up in defense. "Before you get all protective let me finish. Everyone that I talked to knew who she was. They said that she picks up women all the time, beds them and never speaks to them again. They call her 'just one night'."
When Rachel didn't react with shock or anger it surprised, Erin.
"You're not telling me anything that I don't already know. Shea has told me about her past. She also told me that she hadn't been with anyone for eight months before we started dating."
Seeing her friend's mouth drop open in shock she couldn't help but tease her. "I guess your informants didn't share that bit of news with you."
"Um... no... they didn't, but who's to say that as soon as she gets what she wants she won't disappear?"
Green eyes bore into her with conviction. "I can. We've only gone as far as kissing and she never pushes for more. If she were still that person she would have dumped me long ago."
"It's only been two weeks, Rachel. You can't judge her intentions in that amount of time."
Rachel rolled her eyes. "You said yourself that she was only interested in one night. We have had several nights and she's still here."
"Yeah, until you give her what she wants."
As soon as the words left her mouth, Erin wanted to take them back, especially when she saw pain fill her friend's green eyes.
"I'm sorry, Rachel, I shouldn't have said that."
"No... you shouldn't have, but I'll get over it..."
Now as Rachel grabbed a soda from the refrigerator and took a look at Erin and Symon laughing about something, the secretary became introspective.
They had been together a month and a lot had changed since her conversation with, Erin. During that time Shea had won over her biggest critic without knowing it. Her playful personality and obvious devotion to the small blonde was something that Erin had never seen in her friend's previous girlfriends and was hopeful.
Rachel entered the living room and sat down beside her date. Symon temporarily broke off her conversation with Erin and draped her arm across Rachel's shoulders.
"Where ya been, short stuff?"
Rachel smacked Symon in the stomach. "I went to get a drink, Jolly."
A dark brow rose in question before the blonde responded. "Hey, if you're gonna call me, short stuff I'm gonna call you Jolly, as in Jolly Green Giant."
A bright smile lit up the tall woman's face as she leaned over to give her date a quick peck on the lips. "Point made."
Duncan, Diane and Calvin laughed at the couple's antics. Over the weeks they had been accepted into the fold and were often present when Symon went with Rachel to visit her friends.
When Duncan saw his sister kiss the small blonde he couldn't resist the opportunity to razz the couple. "Watch out Rachel those lips are lethal weapons."
Everyone looked at the warehouse worker with curious eyes. Realizing the implications of what he had said his face became red with embarrassment. "Not that I know first hand. I've only heard the rumors."
Diane's husband, Calvin, smacked the younger man on the back. "Glad to hear that Duncan. For a second there I thought your knowledge was first hand."
The room gave a collective 'eww' before Diane changed the subject.
"Tonya the meal was delicious. If that is an example of your restaurant's cuisine I'll have to convince Calvin to break into the vault and spring for a romantic dinner one night."
"We'll have to save for that," the lawyer piped up. "From what I've heard a night out at that particular restaurant can easily cover one of our car payments."
Tonya uncorked another bottle of wine. "Don't worry about it." She smiled conspiratorially. "The first meal will be on the house."
The friends laughed and talked until a news story that was being broadcast on the television caught their attention.
It was an update on the series of hate crimes that had been perpetrated in the D.C. area. The reports had been the lead story every night since the crimes had started.
According to the broadcast this was the fourth attack in as many months targeting gay men leaving, or in the vicinity of a gay club.
The reporter informed the viewers that once the unsuspecting victim was far enough from the club, where the attackers were sure no one could see them, the men proceeded to beat the target with sticks and clubs.
When the broadcast moved on to the entertainment news Stacy hit the mute button, leaving the room in silence.
Each person took the time to ingest what they had just heard. "How could anyone in the twenty-first century still hold on to such hate?" Erin asked.
The lack of concern on the police department's side is probably one of the reasons it has gone on for so long," Tonya added. "I mean just think about it. If they would park just one unit in the area it could make a difference."
Stacy backed up her lover's observation. "That's true. It's not like there are gay clubs scattered all over the city. It's a very concentrated area."
Calvin rubbed his wife's back. "That sounds so easy to do, but we have to face the facts. As politically correct as our society has become, the fact is, a portion of society acts as if they have no problem with the theory of homosexuality as long as it remains a theory. Once they have knowledge of same sex people actually showing each other affection, especially in public, that's when their true feelings start to come out. Usually resulting in them turning a blind eye when something like this happens. You can almost hear them saying, 'That's what they get.'"
The couples nodded their heads in agreement and held on to each other in silence. Duncan and Erin were left to comfort each other, so the tall man wrapped his arms around his new found friend and held her close, trying to convey the sympathy that he felt.
Diane broke the moment with an observation. "This isn't something that usually happens here. Washington is a pretty progressive city, I wonder what is going on."
Stacy burrowed deeper into Tonya's arms as Symon pulled Rachel tight against her. "I don't know why this is happening, but I hope they catch the bastards soon," Symon said.
After saying their good-byes, Rachel and Symon went back to the legal secretary's apartment. They were sitting in the living room talking about the news story while peppering their conversation with reassuring touches.
When the innocent touches turned into purposeful caresses, the women pulled away from each other, taking deep breaths to calm their overheated bodies.
Up until that point they had never gone beyond the heavy petting stage, sharing nothing more than passionate kisses and hesitant touches, but this time their emotions were quickly starting to escalate and their bodies screamed for something more.
After pulling in enough air Symon went back for more. Her tongue made a deep, sensual exploration of Rachel's mouth causing the legal secretary to pull away and grip the tall woman's shoulders.
"Wait," she said as she inhaled deeply trying to get her bearings. "If we don't stop now we'll end up in my bedroom."
Passion filled blue eyes held Rachel in place. "Is that a bad thing?"
Rachel dropped her head on Symon's chest. "No, it's not. I just want to be sure before we take the next step."
At first Symon felt rejected by Rachel's words, but then she remembered Rachel's last relationship and her own tarnished past and understood her hesitation.
She pulled away from their embrace and leaned her head back against the sofa. "Rach, I know that between your last experience and my past behavior that you don't want to make a mistake."
Symon saw the truth in Rachel's eyes before the blonde dropped her head. Long fingers took residence under her date's quivering chin and lifted the small woman's head.
"From the moment that our eyes made contact at the café I felt... something."
Rachel's heart leapt at the admission. Hearing Symon acknowledge their immediate connection was encouraging, but she remained silent, letting the dark woman finish her thoughts.
"I have spent more time with you than I have spent with any woman that I have come in contact with."
A lopsided grin pulled at the brunette's mouth. "Hell, I've never wanted to spend this much time with a woman without sleeping with her."
Rachel was filled with hope as she waited for Symon to continue.
"For the first time in my life I want to have a relationship with someone," Symon caressed a warm cheek with her hand as she stroked the soft skin with her thumb.
"I want more than one night with you Rachel, and if you'll give me the opportunity I'd like to show you how much you mean to me."
Rachel reached up and covered the large hand that rested on her face. "I want that more than anything, Shea. Over the past month I've come to trust and believe in you. If I have hesitated it's only because I wanted to be sure that you felt the same way."
Her index finger lightly traced over full lips as she mapped out the truck driver's mouth. The action set off sparks in Symon's belly and she had to take in a deep breath to stop herself from taking more aggressive actions.
Rachel saw the effort that the highly sexual woman was making and smiled. "I want you as much as you want me... maybe even more."
Dark brows rose in shocked surprise giving the woman a humorous expression that broke the tension. Rachel smacked her companion on the shoulder and laughed.
"Don't look so surprised... I'm not a prude."
Symon ran her hands through silky blonde hair and leaned forward to whisper in the smaller woman's ear.
"I never thought you were a prude, Rach. I just thought you had the willpower of a monk."
The hot breath that blew across her ear ignited the passion that she had been holding in check and before she could stop herself, Rachel took Symon's mouth in a hungry, sloppy kiss that encouraged their hands to roam, and their fingers to probe into previously uncharted territory.
When Rachel felt strong hands lift up her shirt and push her bra over her breast, moisture flooded her underwear in anticipation. When long fingers covered her and squeezed her bare breast she was lost to her desires.
She had been touched this way before, but this time was different. Her nipples felt harder, the skin around them seemed more sensitive and her thoughts were more sexually aggressive, almost to the point of wantonness.
Symon's confident touch washed away all of her inhibitions and left her feeling naked and exposed. The moan that escaped her lips wasn't the first that Symon had heard, but this one was different... this one spoke to her like no other had in the past.
Before Rachel, that sound meant that she had her conquest exactly where she wanted them. It fed her ego because she knew that she had been successful in her need to make the woman surrender to her, but this time it wasn't like that... this time the surrender was mutual... she had been conquered as well.
Symon awoke wrapped around a warm body that she didn't want to release. The night before had been a revelation. She had loved Rachel's body with a need that was foreign to her, and the small blonde had reciprocated in a way that Symon had only allowed one time before.
She had let the small woman enter her. It was only the second time in her life that she had allowed it, and the only time she had ever desired it. The first time had been just for the experience. Usually she preferred external stimulation, but wanted to try something different. After that experience she had no doubt... she most definitely was not a penetration kind of girl, so her seductions continued in the same fashion as before, she give women pleasure and took her own.
But when Rachel circled her swollen nub with her tongue and started to gently suckle it while running her fingers across her overheated entrance she gave in to the need that was unfamiliar to her.
For the first time in Symon's life her orgasm came with a yell instead of a grunt and she was left with a sense of fulfillment instead of the guilt that usually followed the act. This was also new to her.
In the past after her release she would always get up and leave if she wasn't at home, or rush the woman out of her apartment if she had brought them to her place.
But this was something that she had never experienced before. All of the strength was drained from her limbs and she couldn't move. With a start she realized that she didn't want to move, all she wanted to do was lay there and hold Rachel close, basking in the moment.
And before she knew it she had fallen asleep. Now, the morning after, she was experiencing another first... waking up with a body wrapped around her... but she loved the feeling.
Rachel had fallen asleep with her body plastered across the tall woman, so when Symon gave in to her need to caress the soft skin under her hands she had easy access.
Her large hands wondered down and squeezed the soft flesh of the round bottom that was easily accessible. Without thought she clamped onto the narrow hips and started to move the small body along her thigh in a rhythm that had become familiar to them during the night and she started rotating her hips, joining in the dance she had initiated.
Rachel slowly started to awake and when she realized what was going on the flames of passion roared to the surface and her movements no longer needed to be guided so she took up the rhythm on her own.
She started kissing Symon's neck as her hips thrust down on the strong thigh. Symon added to the momentum with an answering push. Rachel had never awakened in this state of arousal before and she was quickly approaching her climax.
She settled herself more firmly on her lover's body and fully gave in to her desire. When her lover entered her with two fingers she heard bells start to ring and thought that she was going over the edge, until she realized that it was the telephone.
Without thought she picked it up, and to Symon's surprise and great pleasure, her movements never slowed as she continued to ride the fingers buried deep inside of her.
She answered the phone with one had and planted her other on the mattress to hold herself up as her hips rotated with purpose.
"Hey, I was just calling to talk for a minute," Erin said.
Rachel tried to focus on the voice on the phone as her body refused to give up its quest for release. "W...what's up?"
The blonde felt herself nearing the precipice and knew there was no turning back. When Symon's breathing started to change Rachel knew that she wasn't the only one on the verge.
Erin continued with her conversation, unaware of what was happening on the other end. "You're gonna think I'm crazy, but last night when Duncan was holding me... I think I felt it move."
At that moment an orgasm ripped through Rachel's body with so much intensity that she had to laugh in an effort to cover up the scream that wanted to be set free.
When Rachel went rigid Symon went over too, tightening her jaw in a grimace in an effort to control her on own verbal response that wanted to join her lover's.
When their bodies calmed Symon joined her lover in laughter, both women seeing the humor in what had just happened. Sharing an orgasm while talking on the phone was a new experience for both of them and it made them feel a little... naughty, the end result being a round of laughter.
Symon rolled Rachel off of her and kissed the small woman before heading to the bathroom. Hearing the laughter followed by what was obviously a kiss, Erin changed the subject.
"Did I just hear laughter and a kiss? I guess you aren't alone."
"Yes you did and no I'm not."
"So you finally slept with her?"
Rachel pulled the abandoned pillow close to her and inhaled Symon's scent before answering. "Yes, I most certainly did."
Erin couldn't resist asking. The woman so reserved she had to know if that control spilled over into the bedroom. "Um...was she worth the wait?"
At first Rachel was shocked, it wasn't like Erin to ask such personal questions, but then understanding came over her. Erin had been alone for a long time and she was curious.
"How can I say this? Good doesn't start to describe what she is." Then after a moments thought. "I think Shea has ruined me for anyone else."
Erin's only response was a low whistle.
"You still there?" Rachel asked.
"Yeah...I'm still here." Instead of asking anymore questions Erin went back to the reason for her call.
"I was gonna tease you and make you think that I was gonna make a play for Duncan, but I guess that joke is dead in the water."
This was so much like her friend, always trying to think of new ways to shock and appall her. "You are such a brat Erin, but I love you anyway."
Just then Symon walked into the room in all of her naked glory rejoining her lover on the bed, her blue eyes shimmering with intent.
If Rachel didn't want her friend to become even more involved in her sex life she knew that she needed to end the phone call immediately.
"I'll call you later, Erin."
She quickly pushed the end button, disconnecting the call. Before the phone could be placed securely on the nightstand Symon pulled the covers away to reveal her lover's naked body.
"It's time for breakfast," were the last coherent words spoken between the women for many hours.
When the small pick-up truck was still parked in front of Rachel's apartment at five a.m., Toni started her car and left.
By then she knew all that she needed to know. In the past her surveillance ended watching the dark-haired woman leave her ex's apartment before midnight. The change in departure time could only mean one thing... they had slept together.
She was angry because she wanted to go to Rachel's apartment and confront the small blonde, but she had no choice but to leave. She was pressed for time, she only had two hours to get home, shower and change before it was time to start her shift.
When she arrived for roll call her mood didn't go unnoticed by her partner. Seeing her dark mood, Clay chose to remain silent.
It had been made clear to that he was a rookie and he learned early on not to question the woman about her private life, even if her disposition was going to affect their day together.
Previously he had made the mistake of asking his training officer about a date that she had been excited about the day before. Ignoring her quietly hostile demeanor the morning after, he asked how things went and immediately regretted it when she almost bit his head off, telling him to mind his business.
After she thoroughly chewed him out he never asked about her personal life again, choosing wisely to remain professional even when she volunteered information.
Toni didn't usually have a problem with weekend duty, but this seemed to be the longest Saturday shift of her life.
She knew that it was because she couldn't get the image of Rachel giving herself to someone else out of her mind, and not just anyone, she gave herself to that whore.
She hated the thought of her sweet Rachel being touched by that woman's filthy hands. Symon would pay. Donna's plan came to mind and for the first time that day she smiled, silently thinking, 'Soon you slut. Soon you'll get what's coming to you.'
Clay saw the wicked smile on his training officer's face and mentally cringed. Whatever was going on in her head wasn't good and he didn't want to know about it.
Symon sat in her delivery truck waiting for the dock crew to finish unloading their store's supplies. It was Monday, and she was remembering how hard it had been to leave Rachel's apartment that morning.
The weekend had been eye opening for the truck driver, her time with the secretary had been almost...domestic.
They had prepared meals together between their lovemaking sessions, and on Sunday morning they had laid in bed watching the political shows that aired and discussed the points that were being made.
She enjoyed the debates they had on the various subjects that were brought up for discussion. She was especially pleased when they realized that even if they agreed on a topic they took great pleasure in taking opposite sides of the argument just for the fun of it.
Symon had never met anyone with Rachel's intellect, but then again she had never taken the time to find out if the women she bedded even had a brain.
She was pulled from her thoughts when a grocery store worker called to her, letting her know that they were finished unloading.
After the rear door was closed and locked she started her truck and headed to her next stop with a big grin on her face.
Maybe her life was about to make a turn for the better... she certainly hoped so.
Rachel barely felt the floor under her feet as she made her way to her desk. Never had she felt such elation after spending time with someone. All of her previous relationships paled in comparison to what she felt when she was with the tall truck driver.
When Symon left that morning to go back to her apartment and change into her work uniform it felt like a dream was coming to an end.
The dark woman had not only awoken her body, but she had stimulated her mind in ways that it had never been challenged before.
The soft touches and sweet words that they had shared before Symon left her were almost painful. The only thing that made the separation bearable was their promise to see each other that evening after work.
Rachel turned on her computer before heading for the break room for her morning cup of tea. When she saw Donna waiting for the coffee to finish brewing her happy mood deflated. She hoped that their encounter wasn't going to be the start of another week of the litigator harassing her.
She breathed a little easier when she looked around and saw other employees in the area. The devious woman was methodical in her behavior, seeming to take precautions insuring that no one else was around when she tormented the secretary.
Rachel grabbed a cup and put in a tea bag before filling it with hot water, hoping that the bully would ignore her, but that was not to be. In a voice that was too pleasant to be trusted Donna asked Rachel how her weekend had gone.
"It was great, thank you for asking."
Her cup filled with water Rachel turned to leave, not wanting to spend anymore time in Donna's presence than was necessary.
Before she could make her escape Donna spoke again. "Oh, by the way...I think we have something in common."
Against every instinct that screamed out to her Rachel turned with curiosity and asked the woman to repeat herself.
"I said, I think we have something in common."
After seeing the smirk on the other woman's face Rachel wasn't sure if she wanted the junior associate to elaborate, but she had to ask.
"What would that be?"
The lawyer turned to the shorter woman with a look of triumph on her face. "Why... Symon and Toni of course."
Rachel felt her stomach drop. The only thing stopping her from hitting the floor was shear determination and her refusal to satisfy the smug look on the lawyer's face.
"I don't know what you mean." But somewhere deep down she did know.
Adding a spoon of sugar and pouring a dollop of cream in her cup Donna delivered a blow that she hoped would cripple the secretary.
"A while back I overheard you telling your friends that you were meeting the infamous Symon for coffee."
She slowly stirred her drink as she observed Rachel's reaction. "Imagine my surprise. Here you are this sweet little nobody going for the ultimate prize.
A wicked gleam flared in her eyes before she spoke her next words. "Hell, I road that horse almost a year ago." She moaned and licked her lips as if recalling an erotic memory before continuing her verbal assault.
"Couple that with your interruption of one of the most sensuous kisses that I had ever experienced while I had Toni up against her car and I'd have to say that we definitely have some things in common."
Seeing the hurt that surfaced in Rachel's green eyes was worth showing this part of her hand and without saying another word Donna strolled out of the break room leaving the devastated legal secretary behind to deal with the information she had been given.
Rachel cautiously made her way to a vacant table on wobbly legs and sat down in a chair. She couldn't believe what she had heard, but thinking back to the night she had caught Toni kissing another woman she could clearly see the dark hair of the lawyer.
But that wasn't the worst of it. The knot in her stomach grew and she fought the tears that burned in the back of her eyes when she thought of her lover and this woman sharing a bed. Shea had slept with this... this creature.
She knew that there were many of them scattered throughout the city, but she never thought that she would run into one of them because of the circles she traveled in.
Maybe it was her naiveté, or maybe it was that unexplored part of herself that believed no professional woman would ever subject herself to the one night stands that fueled the club scene. Whatever the reason, she never imagined that she would be faced with working with one of them on a daily basis.
As for Toni, that was in the past. The hurt wasn't as profound. She had come to terms with that. Donna was nothing more than a face that she could put to the betrayal, but Shea was different, she had laid claim to this woman heart and soul and she had to admit, facing a past bedmate was hard.
She gathered her senses and determined not to let this news interfere with her job. There would be time to contemplate her feelings later, so with a newfound sense of purpose she walked out of the break room and laughed with scorn.
"Just my luck to work with a woman that has slept with not one of my lovers, but two."
She was reminded of her thoughts when Toni showed up in the garage after her first date with, Symon. "The cosmos most definitely have it out for me."
It was nearing lunchtime when Rachel's cell phone rang. "Hello."
"Hey, baby. How's your morning going?"
Before she could answer the deep, sultry voice filled her with warmth and coldness at the same time. "It's going fine. How about yours?"
Symon could hear the stiffness in her lover's voice and wanted to know why. "What's wrong, Rach? You sound angry."
Knowing that this wasn't the place to have the conversation that she needed to have with the truck driver, Rachel put her off.
"I'm fine, but I have a lot of work to do. I'm a little busy right now. Can we talk tonight?"
Symon was still very aware of the slight edge, but let it go. "Yeah, no problem. Um... so we're still on for dinner at my place, right?"
Rachel softened her tone when she heard the insecurity in the tall woman's voice. "Of course, I'm looking forward to it."
The change in the blonde woman's demeanor eased the knots in Symon's stomach. "I'm looking forward to it too. Look, I gotta get back on the road, but I'll meet you at my place at around six."
"I can't wait."
After hanging up Rachel returned to the files on her desk. She wasn't looking forward to the discussion that awaited them, but she hoped that looking into Shea's face as they talked about this new information would make her feel better and soothe her hurt feelings.
When Symon heard the knock at her door she went to answer it with a little trepidation. It added to her insecurities when the small blonde walked in without giving her a hug.
The only thing that made her feel like whatever was on Rachel's mind wouldn't end their relationship was the overnight bag the woman carried.
Feeling unsure, she greeted her guest with apprehension. "Hey. I'm glad you're here"
Rachel saw the caution in the blue eyes and knew that it was up to her to ease the mood, so she kissed her lover on the neck and pulled her close.
"I'm glad to be here too."
It felt like air was being let out of a balloon when the large body relaxed in her arms. Symon pulled back and stared into the smaller woman's eyes. "Really?"
Rachel rose up on her toes and softly kissed moist lips. "Yes. Really."
They made their way to the living room and sat on the sofa where Rachel was greeted with a tray displayed with cheese, crackers and fruit slices that Symon had sat out.
The truck driver poured them a glass of white wine and exhaled before leaning back on the sofa, waiting for Rachel to tell her what was going on.
"I've had a really crazy day," the secretary said.
Symon rubbed her companion's thigh. "Tell me about it."
First thing this morning Donna, she's one of the junior associates." Rachel waited to see if the name registered in her lover's mind. When it didn't she moved on.
"She felt like, after almost eight months it was time for her to fill me in on the identity of the woman that was involved in essentially ending my relationship with, Toni."
Blue eyes went wide. "Who was it?"
Rachel shook her head in disbelief. "It was her."
Symon's jaw muscles tensed in anger. "What a bitch."
"Yeah, well that's not all."
The tall woman waited to hear the rest.
"It seems that Toni isn't the only woman that we have in common."
Symon felt her stomach clench and prayed that she wasn't the other woman in this scenario. She closed her eyes and waited to hear the inevitable. 'Please don't let it be, please don't let it be me,' she thought over and over.
Rachel saw the distress on her lover's face and rubbed her arm. "I hate to say it, but the other woman is you."
The eyes that looked back at her were so pain filled that Rachel's heart ached for her. Symon hung her head and spoke in low tones.
"I'm so sorry, Rach. I hate that you had to hear that." Her mind went over the women that she had bedded. Most of them she couldn't remember and no matter how hard she tried she couldn't place the name, Donna.
But when Rachel describe the woman's features and the odd personality that prompted the sadistic behavior that took pleasure in persecuting the legal secretaries that worked at the firm, Symon knew who it was.
"Oh, my god. It's her!"
Rachel was thrown by the reaction. "It's who?"
"Do you remember me telling you about that psychotic bitch that I had to throw out of my apartment nearly nine months ago?"
Rachel remembered her well. She was the last one-night stand her lover had indulged in, causing her to remain celibate until they met.
"You can't be serious. Donna is the psycho bitch from hell?!"
"Yes, I think so."
Now that she thought about it Rachel could see the connection. The woman did seem to be unscrupulous in her work ethics. Add that to the vicious pleasure she took in lording her power over her subordinates and it made her appear to be somewhat unstable, but she was smart. Put together a psychotic personality and an advanced intellect and you came up with a sociopath, or in this case... Donna.
Fear and sorrow bloomed in repenting blue eyes, reminding Rachel of who her lover had been and who she was now trying to be and all she wanted to do was comfort her.
"I'm sorry, Rach. I can't say that enough. I wish that I could change my past so that there was a lesser possibility of you running into some... some nobody that I spent the night with, but..."
Rachel snuggled closer to the tall woman hoping the contact would ease her guilt filled mind. "We both have a past, Shea. I knew about yours before we slept together and I accepted it, but I must admit coming face to face with one of your conquest was a bit... disconcerting."
Then her vision tunneled. "When she told me that she had slept with both you and Toni it wasn't the most disturbing aspect of her cruel revelation. The most troubling thing about her disclosure was the joy that radiated from her when she let me in on her little secret. It was almost sinister, like there was more to come."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure but when she left the break room I could swear I heard a silent, 'you ain't seen nothing yet' cheerfulness in her voice."
"Do you think that she might try something?"
"I don't know, Shea, but recent events have shown that I have a lunatic in my past too. And now that we know that they know each other anything could happen."
Symon kicked off her shoes and leaned back mentally examining the information that they had shared. Now that they had talked about the problem at hand she felt it was time to put past lovers behind them for the rest of the evening and move on to more pleasurable endeavors.
"Um... Rach. Cheese and crackers aren't the only food I have for you."
The small blonde laughed. "I was hoping there was more."
Nothing else needed to be said. Symon stood up and retrieved her lover's bag that still sat at the entryway. She beckoned her lover to follow her down the hallway towards the master bedroom and the shower that awaited her.
After setting the bag down on the tile floor Symon pulled the smaller closer to her. "By the time you're done in here dinner should be ready."
Rachel rose up and gave her lover a kiss before turning on the water. When the spray reached the desired temperature she turned back to her lover, coyly dismissing the tall woman from the room.
Symon made her way back to the kitchen to check on their meal with a little more pep in her step.
"I think we're gonna be okay."
Donna smacked Toni's hand away from her breast trying to get the woman to focus. It had been a month since she had rekindled a physical relationship with the cop and she was growing tired of the constant pawing.
"What's wrong, Donna?"
"Nothing. I just don't want you pulling at me every time we're alone."
She saw the questioning look that spread over the woman's features and knew that she had to do something to derail the officer's train of thought, so she became demure and pouty.
She laid her head on Toni's chest and tried not to cringe as she snuggled closer in an effort to regain her control. "Is sex all you want from me, Toni?"
Still feeling rejected Toni pushed her off and left the room to go to the kitchen and get another beer.
"I'm sorry if you see my attentions as pulling at you, but I thought it was leading to other, more pleasurable destinations." She yelled from the kitchen.
Donna took a deep breath to center her thinking, and when the officer returned she made it a point to try and sooth her by running her fingers through her hair and whispering into her ear.
"Don't be mad, lover. I just want us to take our time."
The warm breath that encompassed her ear made Toni forget why she was annoyed and the cop easily fell under the spell that Donna was weaving.
"I forget. What were we talking about?" she slurred.
Donna looked at her drunken date with disdain. Reminding herself why she was subjecting her body to this torment she took a deep breath, and not for the first time and she was sure it wouldn't be the last, she once again took the time to bring her accomplice up to speed on the plan.
After she had filled in the gaps Donna held the woman's face between her hands, looking into her eyes seeking out understanding.
"Is it coming back to you now?"
"Oh, yeah. Now I remember," Toni blathered.
Donna watched her date closely as she tried to recall the conversations they'd had over the weeks and inwardly sighed as she saw her struggle to comprehend through the haze.
'It's going to be a chore keeping this one focused,' she thought. Then she remembered how Symon had humiliated her by callously throwing her out of her apartment and her resolve hardened.
'But I'll do what ever it takes to teach that whore a lesson.'
Rachel rolled off of the warm body she was laying on to check the time. The clock on the nightstand read two a.m., turning back to Symon she slowly ran her fingers through her lover's dark hair and smiled.
Even though they had talked about leaving the past behind, when Rachel was faced with joining the tall woman in a bed that she had shared with countless other women she couldn't bring herself to do it.
The truck driver had been very understanding and didn't have a problem packing a bag before following Rachel back to her place.
"You don't mind?" The small woman asked.
The sweetest smile she had ever seen appeared on the tall woman's face as she took the smaller woman into her arms.
"No, I don't mind." She turned her head and looked at her overly used bed and scrunched up her face. "To be honest, you said out loud what I had been thinking."
"Yes. It doesn't feel right to make love to you in a bed where I have fuc... "
Her mouth was covered before she could finish. "I get it," Rachel said. Then her eyes went wide when she realized what Symon had said.
"Is that how you feel, Shea?"
Symon looked confused. "Of course that's how I feel. Having you in this bed..."
Again she was cut off by a hand over her mouth. "Do you feel like we make love?"
The strong features softened as Rachel was pulled into a fierce hug. "Yes, it's pretty new to me, but that's how I feel."
The truck driver had been struggling with her feelings for weeks where the small blonde was concerned. The emotions started the first time she saw her, but having nothing to compare it to she was confused. The only thing she was sure of was nothing or no one in her life had ever made her want to change and become a different person just to feel worthy of their respect.
"What do you think that feeling is?" Rachel asked.
She needed to hear how Symon felt before she gave in to her own feelings. Since their first date the two women had spent everyday together. During that time Rachel had admitted to herself that she was falling in love with the tall woman, but knowing about Symon's 'bed them and leave' them reputation she dared not verbalize those feelings for fear of scaring the woman away.
Symon pulled Rachel closer and with a trembling voice whispered in her ear. "I... I love you, Rachel."
After the declaration she was left feeling weak and unsteady. Never had she put herself in such a vulnerable position and the response she was waiting for seemed to take hours instead of seconds to come.
The heart that was beating under her ear was pounding so hard that Rachel feared for the other woman's health. She rubbed the tall woman's back in soothing circles and gently kissed the rapidly beating pulse on her throat before pulling back a few inches and looking up at her lover.
The devotion that Symon saw in the green eyes that gazed up at her slowed her heartbeat down to a more normal level.
"I love you too, Shea."
Symon felt like a kid on Christmas morning as she spun them around the bedroom yelling, "Yes!"
Their joyous laughter came to a stop when their lips came together in heat filled kiss. "Let's get out of here," Symon said. "I want to go to your place so that I can show you how much I love you."
A slow smile bloomed on Rachel's face as she laid beside her sleeping lover remembering the intensity of the slow, passionate love they had made after arriving at her apartment.
She was brought out of her thoughts by distressful noises coming from her bedmate. Symon sounded like she was struggling for air and Rachel wasn't sure what she should do.
"Shea." She shook her lover. "Shea, wake up."
When that didn't work she grabbed one of the large flaying hands and pulled it to her chest. "Come on, baby. Wake up."
Startled blue eyes flew open and Symon began taking in large gulps of air. Relief filled the frightened woman as she covered the hand she was holding with kisses. "Are you okay?"
Symon turned her head and looked into the eyes of her savior. She pulled her hand away and cupped the secretary's face. "It was you, Rach. It was you all along."
Rachel was becoming frightened again. Symon sounded like she wasn't all there. "Who was me, Shea?"
The dark women took a deep breath and started to tell her lover about the drowning dream that had plagued her for the last year and how just before giving in and letting the water take her a hand would reach down and pull her back to the surface.
"You think it was my hand that saved you?"
Symon picked up the small hand and turned it over several times to study it. "I know it was." She kissed the knuckles and the palm before rubbing it against her cheek. "Yes, it looks the same." She rubbed her cheek one last time before releasing it. It even feels the same. It was you, Rach. I'm positive."
Love filled blue eyes looked at the stunned woman with childlike wonder. "You saved me from the life I was living and now you have saved me in my dreams."
Rachel still wasn't convinced, but if it gave her lover comfort who was she to argue? "Ah, okay."
Symon saw the uncertainty and wanted to make the blonde woman understand. "Before I met you I was ready to give up."
Rachel gasped at the meaning.
"Not in the way you are thinking. What I mean is I had grown tired of the life I was living. I didn't think I was capable of love, and the meaningless physical encounters left me empty. After that last fiasco I knew that I had to make a change. I thought I was meant to live my life alone."
Rachel kissed her lover's lips. "Oh, Shea, I'm sorry you felt that way."
"Don't be. I was fine with the decision. But when the dreams continued after I stopped sleeping around I didn't know what I was supposed to do. Now I know that I needed to be purified."
"Purified how, sweetheart?"
The endearment made Symon feel warm inside. "I had to make the choice to stop wallowing in the filth of the random bodies that I constantly shared myself with before you could pull me up out of the darkness."
Coming from anyone else this would have sounded crazy, but hearing the excitement of the new revelation coming from the notorious, 'Symon' made Rachel believe every word.
She rubbed her knuckles across her chest as if she were polishing them off and took on an air of pride. "Well, what can I say? Just call me, Rachel, reformer of ex players."
Symon rolled the smaller woman onto her back and held her hands above her head as she covered her chest with kisses. "I'll just call you, my love."
All playfulness left Rachel's body as she loosened her wrist from Symon's hold so that she could run her fingers through her lover's hair. "I am honored to be your love," she said with all seriousness. "But, know that you are mine as well."
For the second time they made love in a slow, sweet fashion before falling asleep in each other's arms. Afterwards their dreams took them away to a place of shared peace and happiness.
"Shea, Shea look at me."
"I'm sleeping, leave me alone."
"Shea Yvonne Marceline O'Niall, open your stubborn eyes and look at me!"
Symon hadn't heard that command, in that distinctive accent for years and her eyes opened immediately to what she knew had to be the second dream of the night. Only this time there was no fear.
"That's better. Since when did you become so disobedient?"
Blue eyes held a sight that she had not seen since she was a teenager. Standing before her in all of her five foot-four glory was Alaina O'Niall.
"Mère ... when... how?" Her words dropped off as she stood up and ran into her mother's open arms.
"Oh, ma petite fille (my little girl), you're not so small anymore."
Symon kissed her long absent mother's face several times and refused to loosen her embrace. "Je me languis de vous, maman." (I miss you, mommy)
"I know my little one. I miss you too." The smaller woman flexed a little, trying to loosen her daughter's grip. "You have grown so tall and strong."
Hearing her mother's words made Symon ease up on the pressure before she stepped back far enough to look at the only person who had always loved her without question.
The tears that rolled down the tall woman's face broke her mother's heart and Alaina wiped them away as fast as they fell.
"We don't have much time, Celine."
Symon's soul cried when her mother called her by the name that only she used. It had been a little schizophrenic growing up in a household that was dominated by two distinctive accents, but in some ways it made it easier to know who you had pissed off.
When Symon heard, "Shea!" yelled in her father's Irish brogue, she knew that her da had a bone to pick with her, but when, "Celine" was used she knew that her mère's (mother's) French temper had reached its limit.
The sound of her mother's voice brought her back to the present. "Listen, little one. I am here to warn you. Troubled times lay ahead and now that you have opened your heart to love you don't have to face that future alone."
Symon had so many questions that she wanted to ask that she didn't know where to start and felt rushed because her mother had said that their time was short. "What do you mean, mère?
Alaina caressed her daughter's face and took a moment to bask in the warm memory of what it felt like to hold this precious child in her arms.
>From the beginning, Alaina knew that her first born carried a large part of her own spirit within her. In some ways that was a good thing, but in another way it wasn't. Upon her death the connection they shared had caused an emptiness in her daughter that she wouldn't allow to be filled.
She was aware of the barriers her daughter had built around her heart to protect it from the women that she shared herself with, fearing that they would try to gain access to a part of her that she kept protected... that is until now.
The after life had showed Alaina that her daughter was destined to meet her soul's mate. But Symon's freewill and strong nature was going to make it difficult for her to accept the gift when it came to her, so she sent the dreams and hoped that they would soften her child's heart enough to admit what she felt when her true love came to her.
"Your love will be tested, Celine."
Symon felt a tightness in her chest. "My love for, Rachel?"
"No little one. Your love for Rachel is unwavering, as hers is for you."
This information calmed her. She could see her way through any test as long as it didn't threaten her new relationship. "Then what?"
"There is another that you love, and that bond will be tested. You will need the strength and support of your mate to see your way through it."
Her mother started to fade away and Symon became anxious. "Don't go, mère, there is so much more that I want to say."
Alaina's features softened and her heart ached. "Don't be said, Celine. I know what you feel. Take comfort in knowing that I will always be with you. Live your life and be happy, believing that we will meet again... Je vous aime, ma petite fille (I love you, my little girl)... never forget that." With those words... she was gone.
Symon awoke in bed with tears rolling down her cheeks. Rachel was still asleep beside her, thankfully not disturbed by the tall woman's latest dream.
The dark woman eased out of the bed and headed for the bathroom with a mixture of love, sadness and trepidation, all trying to establish a place inside of her.
She splashed cold water on her face and looked at her refection in the mirror. "Hold on, Symon. I think it's going to be a bumpy ride," she said to herself before turning off the light and returning to lover's side.
The following week held a few surprises. The first being Symon's purchase of a new bed. So caught up in the excitement of change, the truck driver decided to throw a couple of coats of fresh paint on the walls, just to give the room a fresh feel. The first morning that she woke up with Rachel beside her in her own apartment made Symon feel renewed.
After she told Rachel about her mother's visit the drowning dreams stopped and the women fell into a routine.
Rachel would prepare breakfast for them before leaving for work, and at night Symon would either cook a meal or order out, regardless of which apartment they slept in.
Another Wednesday had rolled around and for the first time in her life Symon was going to bring someone with her to dinner.
As nervous as Symon was about the introductions was as uneasy as Rachel was about meeting her lover's parents for the first time.
After being informed of the extra place setting that would be needed at the table Francis was curious to see who could have enough influence over her commitment shy step-daughter to garner an invite.
"What kind of person do you think this woman is?" she asked her husband as she checked on the roast that was cooking in the oven.
The large man leaning against the wall watching his wife cook shrugged his shoulders. "I couldn't say Franny, but she must be really special if Symon is bringing her home."
After more than a decade together Francis still cringed inside when her husband used the masculine nickname that his daughter insisted on being called by.
"She's probably some floozy that was able to hold your daughter's attention a little longer than the others."
Symon had never discussed her dating habits with them, but Francis had heard through the grapevine about her step-daughter's one night stands, and as much as it filled her with disgust she was looking forward to being able to put a face to the kind of woman that would allow herself be socially linked to someone with Symon's reputation.
She huffed with judgment. "Special... right. I'd say the only special thing about her probably shouldn't be discussed in mixed company."
She didn't realize what she had said out loud until it was too late. The room was suddenly filled with a heavy silence. As she looked at William she saw a storm brewing in his usually calm brown eyes before he spoke.
"What does that mean, Francis? I know you have never agreed with Symon's way, but I didn't know that you thought so poorly of her."
William O'Niall had never voiced an opinion on his daughter's dating habits one way or the other. When, Alaina had sat him down and told him about their daughter's sexuality she had done it in a way that showed him to love her, not to judge.
After he married Francis they never had a negative discussion about his children, so he thought that like him, she accepted them for who they were, after all it was their life to live as they saw fit. But now he had to wonder.
"Aren't ya happy that the lass might have finally found some joy?"
She heard the accusation that was laced within the question and knew that she was on shaky ground. She realized in that moment that Symon had never shared their private conversations with her father, but she also knew that William wasn't one to suffer hours of deep, heartfelt communications, so her response to his question would be brief as she delved into new territory.
"Of course I'm happy for her, William. What I meant to say was maybe Symon had finally met someone that understood her."
When the firefighter relaxed his stance she let out an audible sigh. 'I gotta be more careful,' she thought as she wiped her brow.
They went on with their conversation, never noticing Duncan standing nearby listening to them. Although Francis had never brought up the subject of homosexuality with William, over the years she had spent many hours with Duncan, warning him of the dangers that gay people presented to the normal flow of society.
As he headed to his basement room the young man once again felt the pull of conflicting emotions that he had battled since Francis had come into his life.
>From the onset of her 'teachings' he was never able to place his sister in the same category as the people that his step-mother ranted against.
As a whole he could see Francis' point of view, but when it came to his sister he thought she was wrong. And since meeting Rachel and her friends, and seeing how happy the small blonde made his sister he really had a lot to think about.
He laid on his bed and tucked his arms behind his head as stared up at the ceiling deep in thought. 'Is it possible to love the person but hate their actions?'
He closed his eyes and exhaled. Oh yeah... He had a lot to think about.
The dinner was going well. After the introductions they had moved to the dining room and shared a hardy meal.
Rachel had been a little bewildered when a glass of milk was placed in front of her, although she found it odd to serve adults milk with dinner she rolled with it, not wanting to make waves on her first visit.
The after dinner conversation was moving along smoothly until Francis asked Rachel how her parents felt about her dating women.
She had watched the gentle, loving interactions between the two younger women and saw William's silent acceptance of the relationship and couldn't remain silent any longer.
Thrown off by the question, Rachel stumbled for a moment before answering. "Well... um... I guess they're okay with it. I mean they don't give me a hard time about it."
Rachel saw the storm start to gather in Symon's eyes, so she discreetly patted her thigh in comfort.
Never seeing the movement Francis continued with her questions, unaware of the slippery slope she stood on.
"So they don't have a problem with you being a lesbian? Or whom you choose to date?" she asked with accusation.
William saw the hurt and anger that welled up in his daughter, and decided to put an end to this line of questioning. He sat up abruptly to address his wife.
"Franny, have you forgotten your manners? This isn't proper dinner conversation, especially on a first meeting."
But it was too late Francis had reached her limit with the situation and refused to watch her husband continue to quietly accept his long dead wife's way of thinking. She had lived with the ghost of Alaina long enough.
If she were to ever be honest with herself she would admit where the source of her negativity stemmed from, and the pain that she felt every time she realized that after all of these years her husband's heart was still held by the French woman.
>From the beginning she thought that if she could paint the young woman, that looked so much like her mother in a negative light with her brother, she could somehow taint the dead nurse's memory in Duncan's eyes and the boy would convey those thoughts to his father so that William would see only her. But the boy never talked with his father about the pitfalls of homosexuality, leaving their discussions a moot point.
But this latest move had been a critical error on her part. William loved Alaina and always would. He had been willing to give what he had left of himself to Francis, totally, but he also loved his children and his wife's actions were making him feel protective of his daughter.
His children were a physical manifestation of the love he had shared with his French spitfire, and seeing how his spouses' rude interrogation was affecting Symon when she may have finally found someone, made the normally laid back firefighter's Irish temper start to rise.
"Stop it Francis. Shea is a good girl. I couldn't have asked for a better daughter!"
Rachel remained silent and Symon was dumbfounded. Her father hadn't called her 'Shea' for years, in respect of her name change. So to hear him using it now meant that he was passionate about whatever he was going to say next.
Duncan had never heard his father raise his voice to his step-mother and was stunned. Rachel became nervous and wanted to stop the blow up that she felt like she was responsible for just by her presence, and raised her hand to speak.
William waved her off and continued with his thoughts. "No, lass. I have something to say that is long over do."
He turned to his wife and held her gaze before speaking from his heart. "I know that you don't agree with Shea's way of living, Franny. I've always known, but I remained silent about it, hoping that she would find what she was missing."
His face became flushed as he spoke his next words. "What I never took into consideration was what she was looking for had to start with me. I never thought about how she would need me after the loss she suffered when her mother died."
His voice started to crack, but he pushed on. "Alaina was Shea's champion, and when she lost that support my little girl felt alone."
Symon couldn't believe her ears. How could her father know the depth of her pain? Sad light brown eyes captured moist blue that always reminded him of, Alaina. Symon had her mother's eyes and every time William looked into them he was filled with a mixture of joy and pain.
"I'm sorry, Celine."
When he used her mother's name for her, Alaina's recent visit came back to her full force and the dam broke as her tears flowed. Her only tangible link to the present was the warmth of her lover's embrace as Rachel held her close.
As the scene played out in front of him Duncan watched a display of feelings unfold that he had never seen before. His sister was quietly weeping in a woman's arms, his step-mother looked distraught because of the emotions that she had unwittingly set into action, and his father was finally giving voice to his knowledge of his daughter's painful existence.
William called to his daughter and waited for her to raise her head and look at him. "I've heard the rumors, love."
This made the truck driver cry harder.
"But I never judged you."
He looked at his stricken wife and apologized. "Forgive me for what I'm about to say, Franny."
He turned back to Symon. "The day your mother died I thought that I would die too. But you know what made me go on?"
Symon shook her head.
"One night she came to me. It was almost as if she were right there in the room, like I could reach out and touch her."
Remembering her recent dream of her mother, Symon understood.
"When I cried she held me, and after I finally got myself together she spoke to me. She said, "Willy-boy," he smiled, recalling the name she used when she was about to speak the truth.
"Life goes on. I know you'll never forget me, but our children will need a mother figure. They will need a woman's love to help them grow into the beautiful people that we hoped they would become."
Ignoring the emotions that tried to come to the surface, the firefighter finished the story. "She ran her fingers through my hair the way she used to when I needed comforting. Then she spoke her parting words."
"Morn for me awhile, Willy-boy, but don't close yourself off from love. If not for you, then for our babies."
Hearing those words shattered Francis. All this time she had been fighting the memory of a woman that had entrusted her with her most precious gifts... and she had failed miserably.
She was supposed to nurture, Alaina's children and show them that love conquered all. Instead she had filled one with hate, and the other with abandonment and self-loathing. Her shame was devastating.
"Gods above. What have I done?" she whisper to herself.
The two siblings knew what her words meant, and an understanding flowed between the three of them. Their step-mother had let them down in a way that would haunt her for the rest of her life.
Eventually the two lovers left the O'Niall home knowing that things had changed for all of them. Symon and Rachel would move forward with a new understanding of Symon's past behavior.
William and Francis would have to discuss the truths that had been revealed and Duncan had a lot of soul searching to do in order to change the path that he had been secretly walking.
Donna had made it a habit to follow Rachel when she left the law firm on her lunch break. It was now July and the women had been dating for two months.
Everyday since the end of June she observed the blonde woman's encounters with Symon in what appeared to be a specified meeting place in a parking lot not too far from the law office.
Once she felt confident that the routine the women had established wasn't going to change the attorney felt it was time to set the plan she had concocted with, Toni into action.
She had already made a late night purchase from one of the stores that Symon routinely delivered to. She received stolen boxes of grocery items from a nightshift stock clerk that was more than willing to make a few extra dollars by making a backdoor sale. Now the time was right to set everything in motion.
When Toni showed the attorney how to open the trunk of a car without the owner's keys, the officer had no idea that Rachel was going to be one of the targets.
When Donna lied to Toni about the different women she had observed Symon meeting with everyday in her truck for a sexual rendezvous the cop felt no guilt about bringing the dark woman down.
Between the alcohol that she constantly consumed and the sexual favors that Donna offered, Toni never cared who the patsy would be. Her main motivation was setting up the truck driver that she felt didn't deserve Rachel's attentions.
Remembering how she felt when she received the phone call from her lover, telling her the location of the delivery truck, she rubbed her hands together in glee as she directed Clay to the parking lot where she knew this Symon tramp would be having lunch with her latest seduction.
When they parked behind the large truck she waited until the rookie officer jumped out to make the arrest on the 'Tip,' she had been given. She wanted to have a clear view of the womanizer and her whore as they were taken into custody for receiving stolen goods.
Glee turned to shock, then fear when Toni saw Rachel being pulled from the truck along with her tall companion.
When she heard Rachel give Clay permission to search her trunk, Toni's stomach dropped. She knew what he would find.
When the items were discovered she had no choice but to assist in the arrest. There was no option to look the other way, not when she had an officer in training working with her. The explanation would only force Clay to report her for unethical behavior.
They handcuffed the women and put them in the back of the cruiser, but before Rachel got in she looked at Toni with hate filled eyes.
"I can't believe you have stooped this low. Using your position for revenge. But I promise you this. You won't get away with it. Before this is over I'll see to it that you're out of a job."
Toni was left speechless. She now realized that she had made a big mistake in trusting, Donna. Now she had to think of a way out of this mess.
When they arrived at the precinct Symon tried to call Duncan, hoping that he could bail them out. But he didn't answer his phone, so they had to wait in a holding cell after being booked.
"I'm sorry she has done this, Shea," Rachel told her lover.
As they sat side by side on the hard wooden bench Symon wrapped her arm around her lover's shoulder. "It's not your fault, Rach."
The blonde woman snuggled closer into her lover's warmth. "I knew that she was acting weird, but I never imagined that she would do something like this."
Before anything else could be said, Toni walked in and was immediately met with green fire when Rachel rushed the bars of their cell. Wrapping her hands around the steel rods, her eyes bore into the woman with an intensity that made the officer take a step back.
"Have you come to gloat?"
Toni held her hands up in defense. "I didn't know, Rachel. When she told me about her plan she didn't tell me that you would be involved. I thought it would be someone else."
"That makes it better?!" She bared her teeth and almost snarled at her ex. "You... an enforcer of the law thinks that your actions can be excused because you didn't know that I was one of the targets?"
"No. That's not what I mean." Toni exhaled a deep breath and ran her hands through her hair. "I know that none of this was the right thing to do."
She watched as the dark woman came up behind Rachel and placed her hands on the smaller woman's hips. The familiarity of the act caused her temper to rise and she reacted with anger. She pointed at the tall woman in accusation as spittle escaped her lips.
"It's her fault!" She returned her attention to Rachel. "Why did it have to be her, Rachel? You deserve so much better than, 'just on night, Symon.' If it had been anyone else..."
Rachel cut her off. "Who are you to judge?"
Toni's eyes became hard with the accusation. "That's another problem. You dump me for cheating then you take up with the biggest cheater in, Washington D.C.!"
Rachel felt her lover start to move forward and planted her feet to stop the motion. "Shea isn't a cheater, Toni. You have to be in a relationship to cheat on someone. And if I recall correctly. We were in a relationship."
Before Toni could defend herself more prisoners were being escorted in. Rachel and Symon were stunned into silence when Duncan and three other men were locked in a holding cell across from them. All thoughts of their present situation were forgotten when Symon saw her brother behind bars.
"Dunk, what the hell is going on?"
Duncan turned away from his sister and didn't answer her question. The officer that had escorted the men to their cell addressed Toni and told her why they were incarcerated.
"These are the scumbags that are responsible for the gay bashings."
Symon couldn't believe what she was hearing. Not Duncan. There was no way he would do something this despicable. She pleaded with her brother.
"It's not true. Tell them, Dunk. They've made a mistake. You would never do something like that."
Duncan never acknowledged his sister's plea, he just sat on the bench and turned his face to the wall in shame.
Symon's legs became weak as the strength drained from them and she dropped to her knees, burrowing her face in Rachel's stomach.
"No, no, no. This can't be happening," she said as she pulled her lover closer.
Seeing the distraught look in Rachel's eyes, Toni's brain came alive with an idea. If she could somehow help this man that seemed to mean so much to the tall woman, maybe Rachel would stop looking at her with disappointment and hatred, and possibly love her again.
She abruptly left the area with a purpose, never saying a word. She would do everything that she could to help the dark-haired man, and hopefully her actions would make Rachel see her in the light of forgiveness.
Over the years she had seen a lot of the darkness that lived in people and she had become hard, but when she saw the contempt in the green eyes that had once upon a time been her haven she made the decision to make the blonde woman see her as the peace officer she once was.
Two weeks had past since Rachel's first visit to the O'Niall's home. During that time she had made two more trips with Symon to her childhood home, and William and Francis, Francis especially, had done everything that they could to make her feel welcomed.
So when the couple arrived at the police station to make bail for not only their children, but Symon's lover as well. Rachel hoped that their view of her had not changed because of recent circumstances.
The older couple posted their bail and took the three detainees back to their home after making arrangements to retrieve their impounded vehicles as soon as possible.
They sat quietly around the living room, no one wanting to speak first, so William, feeling like it was his duty as the head of the household to open the dialog spoke first.
"What happened today?"
Rachel, seeing that the siblings weren't ready to say anything told her and Symon's part of debacle. After she was finished William had a few questions.
"Did this cop that you used to date tell you who she was working with?"
It was then that Rachel realized that Toni had never told them who had put her up to the scheme. "No sir, before we could question her they brought Duncan in."
When he heard his name, Duncan flinched, knowing his time had come. William turned his angered glance to his son and asked for his explanation for being arrested.
"Well... you see..." The young man steeled his nerves in preparation of telling his father how he had ended up in the company of the men he was arrested with.
"I've known Byron, Travis and Josh since high school. Back then they were the 'tough guys.' that nobody messed with. I ran into them about six months ago at the Seven-Eleven when I stopped to get my morning paper and cup of coffee.
We started talking and Travis told me how he was working construction jobs along with Byron and Josh. When I told them where I was working and what my hours were they invited me to join them for drinks after work."
Although they were freshmen when she was senior Symon remembered how important it was to Duncan to be accepted by these boys when they were in high school, so she understood what it must have meant to him when he received the invitation.
Then she remembered her mother's words. 'There is another that you love and that bond will be tested.' She knew that this was the event that her mother was speaking of so listened more closely.
"At first we would hang out at the bars. When that became boring we started hanging out at Travis' place. We played pool, drank a lot and just fooled around. Then one night, out of the blue Travis started talking about how disgusting it was to be gay."
Duncan briefly caught his sister's eyes before going on. "I started to protest, telling them that my sister was gay, but Travis stopped me. He said that whatever women did with each other sexually was nothing more than masturbating and couldn't be taken seriously."
He looked to his father for a reaction, when he got none he continued. "He said that what men did with each other was unnatural. Wasting the gift of masculinity on another man was repugnant."
Francis cringed. Hearing the echoes of similar conversations she'd had with the young man over the years made her feel as much of a criminal as the men that had committed the act.
"After that, every time we got together Travis would start in on how repulsive gay men were. It wasn't long before Byron and Josh joined in. Then one night one thing led to another, and before I knew what it I found myself standing outside of a gay club with them, waiting for the men to leave."
His voice got lower as he went on. "It started with us verbally taunting them, trying to make them feel bad about themselves."
Symon's emotions surfaced, remembering how Francis' words had made her feel when she was younger, and had to swallow deeply to ease the turmoil in her stomach as she listened to her brother.
"Then one night one of the men told us to grow up and find something more productive to do with our lives.
This set Travis off and he went for the man.
Before he could reach him we dragged him away stopping his attack. He became irate and told us to let him go. He said there was no way a faggot was going to get away with talking to him like that.
I thought that we had calmed him down, but the next Saturday night we were once again waiting outside of the same club. Travis wasn't going to be satisfied until he got his revenge on the guy that had stood up to him.
As the night went on, the club finally closed. When everyone was leaving Travis saw the guy walking alone and before I knew what was happening, they were beating the man until he bled."
At this point Duncan tried to swallow the lump in his throat so that he could go on. "Afterwards we ran away like cowards. That was the night when things changed. The taunting stopped and became physical attacks. It didn't matter who they were, all that mattered was that they were gay."
Rachel had remained silent until she heard the whole story, now she had questions. "You say that 'THEY' waited outside of the bar. And 'THEY' beat the man. What were you doing?"
The rest of the room was interested in hearing Duncan's answer, so they remained silent, holding their judgment until he responded.
His shame was apparent. He had thought that because his cohorts didn't have a problem with gay women his acceptance of their actions wasn't a betrayal of his sister... Francis had taught him well.
When she talked to him about homosexuality the first time she backed off of the female aspect of the lifestyle when she saw that he wasn't open to hearing any criticisms about what his sister did.
So she decided to focus on the men in hopes that he would be so repulsed by his gender's rejection of their manhood that he would complain to his father, hopefully causing William to see his daughter's manner of living just as nauseating as the sodomites she associated herself with. But that never happened because Duncan never talked to his father.
Now, as he sat across from his father with three pairs of eyes looking at him in horror and another set looking at him in fear of what might be revealed, he held his head in his hands and sobbed with anguish as he answered the small blonde.
"I... I just stood there and did nothing. I didn't help them, but I didn't make an effort to try and stop what they were doing." His shoulders shook with each wave of guilt that passed through his body. "My god, what have I done?"
No one made a move to try and comfort him, not until Symon left her lover's side and knelt down in front of her brother.
"Duncan." She waited until he raised his head so that she could look into his swollen eyes. "You did a horrible thing. Even though you didn't participate you stood and watched without helping those men. Morally you are just as guilty."
All pretense of innocence crumbled and the dark-haired man wept until his throat was sore and his nose was runny.
When William saw how woeful his son was he made a move to join his children. Symon put her hand up to stop him. Trusting his daughter's instincts he sat back down, allowing her to handle her brother in the way she saw fit.
"Dunk, why did you think it was okay for those men to be assaulted? How could you allow it knowing that I was gay?"
His watery blue eyes tracked and held his sister's. "I... I love you, Symon and... I guess I never saw you as one of 'THOSE' people, so it was easy to separate you from them."
Symon couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Where on earth did that warped way of thinking come from, Dunk? There is no difference between gay men and gay women. We are all same sex people that love one another."
Without answering the question the grief-stricken man looked at his step-mother and Francis understood it was time for her comeuppance. When every eye in the room turned in her direction she knew that all would be revealed... her hidden truths would come to light.
Symon felt the fool for never considering the possibility of Francis manipulating Duncan with the same twisted truths that she tried to guilt her with. He was just a child. How could she?
"Gods above," William said with astonishment. "Franny, did you fill my son's head with those filthy lies knowing that his own sister was apart of the people you spoke against?"
The woman was speechless. Her mouth moved, but no words came out. She knew that her clandestine efforts were finally exposed.
"William, let me explain." She stumbled across her words. "I... when... when I saw that you could never love me fully because of, Alaina... and ... and Symon was a constant reminder of her... I... I."
Understanding bloomed in the firefighter's mind and he cut her off. "My son may go to jail because you were jealous?!"
The tall man started pacing around the room. Symon took her seat next to Rachel as they all waited to see what William would do.
"I have been a fool. Not only because I settled for the first woman that came into my life after Alaina visited me, but for trusting you with our children."
He turned to his daughter. "Shea, has she ever spoken to you negatively about who you are?"
When his daughter dropped her head and remained silent he had his answer. He raised his head to the ceiling and spoke out loud. "Forgive me, love. I failed you and our little ones."
Seeing the end of her marriage unfolding in front of her, Francis rushed to her husband's side and wrapped her arms around his waist in desperation.
"That's not true, William. Let me explain."
He pulled away from her embrace and looked at her as if she were a stranger. And in some ways she was. He looked into a face that was foreign to him and wondered if he had ever truly known this woman.
"Explain What?! How can you explain poisoning my son's mind and making my daughter feel like an outcast?!"
He started pacing again. "After our first meeting with Rachel and the bad behavior that you exhibited, I thought that we could work through this, but now that I see the depth of your deception there is no turning back from this."
Seeing her father's marriage unraveling right before her eyes Symon felt compelled to say something. She had no love for Francis, that much was true, but because she loved her father and wanted to preserve the history that he shared with her step-mother she felt like she had to do something to stop the dialog that could possibly end with him being alone.
"Da, maybe you should try and look at things from her point of view."
His body relaxed when he looked at his daughter. If it was possible, in that moment he loved her even more. To put her feelings aside in an effort to keep the peace spoke of the woman that had given birth to her. But this time he was aware of what was happening and he would not allow his wife's actions to continue to taint her sweet sprit.
"No, Shea. She doesn't have a side. What she has done is unforgivable."
Duncan started hitting himself in the head saying over and over. "This is my fault. This is my fault."
William walked over to his son and pulled him up into a full body hug. "No son. This isn't your fault, not entirely. Yes, you have to take responsibility for your actions, or in this case, your non-actions, but the seed of cruelty was planted long before you reached true understanding."
He pulled the young man closer to him and kissed the side of his head before leaning back to capture his eyes. "I failed you a long time ago, but never again. I'll do what I can to fix this. I can't promise you much, but I'll be by your side every step of the way."
Symon and Rachel watched as emotions were revealed. Unable to stay seated, they approached the men and joined them in a group hug. "I'm here for you too, Dunk." The dark woman said to her sibling.
Feeling the connection that had always been present whenever she was around her lover's brother, Rachel added her support to the declaration.
"So am I. We are behind you one hundred percent."
Francis stood alone as the group embraced, feeling like the outsider that she always saw herself as being, but this time she knew that it was because of her own actions that she couldn't be included. So she watched, accepting the fate that lie ahead.
Life as she knew it was over and she couldn't blame Alaina, Symon, Duncan or William. The road that she was about to walk had been paved by her own actions and she knew she would walk it alone.
Toni popped the tab on another beer as she paced around her kitchen. She felt like a fool. Taking three deep swallows from the can, she looked at the label in disgust.
Alcohol had played a large part in her downfall. Without taking another sip she poured the remains of the brew into the sink before falling further into her self-loathing.
"That was why I gave in so easily," she said while watching the last of the liquid spiral down the drain. "Well, that and my libido."
She now realized that both, Rachel and Symon were Donna's targets and she felt stupid for not being able see it from the start.
After the arrest in the parking lot she hadn't heard from, Donna, and all of her phone calls went to voice mail. Finally her police training kicked in and it didn't take much deductive thinking for her to realize that Donna had most likely had a past encounter with the tall truck driver.
She also realized that working so closely with Rachel and watching her develop a 'REAL,' relationship with the dark woman had obviously set off the attorney's need for revenge.
She walked into the bedroom and looked at the bed that she had shared with many other women after her break up with Rachel, and recalled one of the conversations she'd had with the small blonde.
They were lying together after making love and as usual the small woman felt like talking. "I think you may have been a soldier in a past life."
Surprised by the topic, but wanting to hear more Toni turned onto her side. "Why do you think that?"
"Because you have chosen a field where you protect the innocent. That's not a burden that everyone would take on."
Toni laughed at her lover's innocent nature. "If you think about it, Rachel. Not every soldier is an upstanding citizen."
Rachel ran her fingers across the officer's cheek. "You are. I can see it. You're one of the good ones."
A smile bloomed on Toni's face as she recalled the conversation, then it dropped away just as quickly. She angrily pulled the sheets off of her bed, wanting to erase the remnants of her most resent encounter with the attorney.
"What happened, Toni?" she said out loud. "When did you forget why you took the oath?"
She removed her clothes and climbed onto the bare mattress, feeling like she didn't deserve the comfort of covers.
As she laid there exposed she continued to ridicule herself before determining that she would regain her honor and become the person that she had set out to be when signed up for the academy.
"Even if it means me losing my job, I'll make things right."
That night she fell asleep with visions of sparkling green eyes smiling at her with approval instead of the hard glare of scorn.
Rachel held Symon close as the dark woman cried on her shoulder. They were laying in bed as Symon let out her emotions. She meant what she said about standing by her brother, but his actions still hurt.
"I can't believe it, Rach. How could he do it?"
Rachel shushed her and rubbed her head. "He was confused, love. Francis poisoned him long ago. I'm just thankful that his love for you stopped him from participating."
The dark head rose in question. "You think he really loves me?"
A fair brow rose with astonishment. "You doubt that? Shea, Duncan loves you more than anyone and if you would look pass your hurt you would see it too."
The words rang true and the truck driver felt her anxiety ease. "I know you're right, but my god, he watched as innocent men were attacked."
Rachel pulled her lover closer. "That's true, but he had his own demons to fight. Francis damaged him severely. But in the end his love for you stopped him from losing a large part of his soul. Once you cross certain lines it's almost insurmountable to come back from it."
Symon burrowed deeper into her lover's embrace, happy that she had someone that she loved and trusted to see her through what was most certainly going to be a hard road.
A few days later the friends gathered at Erin and Tonya's home to discuss the legal issues that now plagued Symon, Rachel and Duncan.
After being invited to the meeting, Duncan wasn't sure if he wanted to attend. But when Rachel informed him that she had spoken with her friends about the circumstances surrounding the arrest and Symon had talked to Diane and Calvin about the situation, they were able to reassure him that the group was willing to hear his side of the story before giving a verdict.
The warmth that greeted him when he entered the apartment almost brought tears to his eyes. These people. The very people that he had betrayed were willing to accept him as the person that they thought they knew until he told them different... his step-mother had been wrong about so many things.
After they all settled down with a glass of wine he knew that it was time to acknowledge the elephant in the room, so he tapped the side of his glass to get their attention and proceeded to speak from his heart.
"First I want to tell my sister how much I love her for sticking by me." He turned to Rachel. "I also want to let Rachel know how much I appreciate the support she has given me when she didn't have to."
Then he addressed the other people in the room. "Lastly I want to say thank you to friends old and new. All of you could be treating me like a pariah, but you haven't, and for that there are no words."
His speech was met with looks of warmth and acceptance, causing him to choke up. "I'm... I'm sorry for disappointing you, but if you give me the chance I'll prove myself to all of you."
Diane and Calvin had known the young man the longest, and although they were shocked by his actions they were willing to hear him out and try to understand his motives.
Erin, Stacy and Tonya didn't really know the tall man. Over the months he had visited with them on several occasions and they were getting comfortable with him and his sister's presence in Rachel's life.
But after this latest revelation of his extracurricular activities and Symon's reputation, none of them were sure if this was a family that their friend should be involved with. But this was an evening meant for clearing the air, so the women were willing to listen with open minds.
After his speech another round of wine was poured and Symon broke the silence first by telling them how their step-mother had filled her brother's head with her twisted view of things.
Revealing so much of her private life wasn't easy for the reserved woman, but she would do whatever it took to make these people see her brother as she did.
When it became obvious that her lover was struggling with the story Rachel took up the strand and filled in the parts left unspoken.
At some point during the telling Duncan took over, feeling the need to speak for himself. This wasn't the time to sit back and let others defend him. His standing in silent observation was what had put him in this situation in the first place.
"I can't allow Rachel and Symon to continue speaking for me. It's not their burden to bear. I made a mistake. A huge mistake. Even if I didn't help Travis, Josh and Byron beat those men I am just as guilty for not stopping them..."
Taking ownership of his part in the crime made a big difference in the way the other adults judged him. Rachel's friends also saw another side of Symon when the stoic woman opened up about their family life to explain her brother's actions.
Erin stopped Duncan mid-sentence and looked towards Stacy and Tonya before speaking her mind. "We get the picture Duncan and we appreciate your wanting us to understand. We believe your sincerity.
You and your sister have shared a part of your life with us that only a lover should have the privilege to hear, and we know it wasn't easy."
She looked to Symon when she said those words and the dark head nodded in thanks and appreciation.
"If everyone is willing I suggest that we end this and try to come up with a solution," Erin said.
"I agree," Stacy voiced. "We understand that you aren't the only one that has been charged with a crime." Her focus turned to Rachel and Symon. "The two of you were arrested as well, right?"
Rachel's face contorted into an angry mask. "Yes! That psycho that I dated set us up with stolen goods!"
She told them how Toni, with the help of her undisclosed accomplice, had interrupted their lunch and miraculously found stolen groceries in her trunk.
"I don't know how they got there, but I know she had something to do with it. She was talking to us about it when they brought Duncan in and she never finished."
Symon added. "Yeah, it sounded like she was about to confess."
Everyone was silent as the new information was taken in. "I have an idea," Symon voiced.
All heads turned to the blue-eyed woman, waiting for her to share her proposal.
She ran her hands down Rachel's arms and stared into her eyes hoping that the blonde would trust what she was about to suggest.
"Rach, how would you feel about calling Toni and inviting her over here to finish telling us what she started in the jail?"
Blue eyes sought out the owners of the apartment. "That is if Stacy and Tonya would agree to have her in their home."
Both women nodded their heads in agreement. They wanted to hear what the cop had to say in her own defense.
Rachel dropped her head and shook it back and forth. "I... I don't know, Shea. I don't want her to think that there is any possibility of me forgiving what she did."
Symon's eyes went silver when she thought about the peace officer's actions. "Don't worry, baby. If she comes, she'll soon find out that forgiveness isn't a part of the deal."
Rachel finally agreed and called, Toni. When she said yes, Rachel hung up the phone and the friends continued with their conversation.
During their chat Symon requested that no one let on that Calvin was an attorney.
That was information Toni didn't need to have, at least not yet. It might make her turn tail and run before they could get any answers out of her.
So they waited. Only a few words being spoken occasionally to cut the silence. Then they heard a knock at the door. It was go time.
Toni sat in her car berating herself for the amount of beer that she had ingested after vowing to never drink again, but she felt like she had a good reason.
Rachel's call came as a surprise, and before she knew what she was saying she had agreed to drive over to the building that she was now sitting in front of.
Rubbing her thighs, wishing that she had just one more beer to drink, but knowing it wasn't to be, she squared her shoulders, opened the car door and walked up the steps to face the inquisition.
She stood in front of the door and took in a deep breath before knocking. "Here goes nothing," she said out loud.
Tonya looked through the peephole. When she saw who it was she opened the door and was greeted by a disheveled, obviously intoxicated D.C. police officer.
As Toni entered the room her eyes immediately fell on two faces that she didn't recognize. She knew who Symon was and remembered her brother from the day of his arrest, but the attractive black couple was a mystery to her.
She wasn't surprised by the daggers that were being thrown from Stacy and Erin's eyes, and felt justification in her choice to down a few beers before coming over.
When her eyes found Rachel she had to bite back the anger that welled up in her throat. The picture of her former lover snuggled in close to her tall companion's body was almost too much to take.
Hoping to lighten the atmosphere she made a joke. "You didn't tell me it was going to be a party." Staggering on her feet she added. "If I had known I would have come bearing gifts."
Because Diane and Calvin had no previous dealings with the women they laughed at her joke... they were the only ones that did.
"It's not a party," Erin said. "Find a seat and get comfortable."
Finding an empty chair, Toni sat, waiting for someone to start this thing off.
Seeing that no one was ready to confront the officer, Tonya spoke to her first. Against her better judgment she offered the intoxicated woman a drink. "Can I get you something to drink?"
The used wine glasses that were placed around the room indicated to the cop that drinks had been served before her arrival, so she accepted the offer.
She swung her arms around the room and said, "I'll have what they're having."
After Toni drank down her first glass and starting in on her second, the group passed the time in awkward small talk until the cop had made a dent in her second glass.
Feeling like the woman was finally primed for confrontation Rachel was the first to ask a question.
"Why did you do this?" she asked point blank.
Toni knew the time had come. All social graces were sat aside. Closing her eyes to clear her head, hoping that she could focus her alcohol riddled brain on the person in front of her, she opened her eyes and took in the beautiful face of her ex and smiled.
"I wasn't trying to get you in trouble, Rachel. I didn't know that the boxes would be planted in your car."
Calvin leaned forward, he wanted to hear everything that this woman had to say.
A shaky finger pointed to, Symon. "She was the target. If I had known that you were the woman that was going to be caught with her I never would have done it."
Before she could go on she drained her glass and asked Tonya for a refill. The chef looked to her companions for an answer. When they shrugged their shoulders in compliance she poured the woman another glass full.
They all sat and watched as she downed half the glass before starting again.
"When she told me about the plan I thought I was going to arrest her." She pointed at Symon again. "I thought that we would arrest her with one of her bimbos, I mean... come on, there was no way you could be the only woman she was bedding."
Rachel turned to her lover and saw the pain in her face. Toni's statement was having an effect on her. Blue eyes looked into green as Symon whispered. "I'm sorry."
Rachel stroked her cheek before kissing her lips. "How many times must I tell you to stop apologizing for your past?"
Long fingers ran through soft blonde hair. "I don't deserve you."
"Yes you do, you just don't believe it yet." She kissed her lover again. "But I'm a very patient person. I can wait."
In that moment everyone in the room saw the women's commitment to each other and was pleased... all but one, and she was furious.
"Even now! After all the trouble she has caused you show her love and understanding?!"
Rachel ran her finger tips along Symon's cheek one final time before zeroing in on her ex. "The trouble that we face now is not because of, Shea. This is all your doing."
Toni became nervous when she realized that the murmurs in the room were in support of Rachel's opinion, not hers.
The small blonde leaned forward and let her anger flow full force into the cop. "It's time for you to tell me why. Why have you done this?"
Before an answer could be given the secretary held up her hand. "I don't want to hear any declarations of love, your misguided sense of protection, or your cowardly reasoning's for using Shea as a scapegoat. All I want to know is who put you up to this."
Toni knew that it was time to tell Rachel the truth, and if she were to be honest with herself, she had to admit that this is what she had wanted to do from the moment she saw the blonde head emerge from the grocery truck.
She requested another refill and ran her fingers along the rim of her empty glass as she waited. She knew that she was drunk and shouldn't have another drink, but she needed the liquid courage if she was going to tell Rachel everything.
Tonya shrugged her shoulders and emptied the contents of the wine bottle in her glass. "I'll send her home in a cab."
The officer swirled the dark liquid around without saying a word. After gathering her thoughts and building up her nerve, she told them what they wanted to know. Actually she told them more than they wanted to know.
She started off with how she had cheating on Rachel and the women she had dated after their break up. She told them how during that time she had come to realize that she had lost the best thing that had ever happened to her.
She told them how she had found comfort in alcohol to mask the pain, and how it had caused her to take part in a plan that was ill conceived.
No one in the room felt any sympathy for her sad tale. Regardless of the extenuating circumstances she had made the choice to cross a line, and she needed to deal with the consequences of those actions.
After she was finished, glassy eyes looked to Rachel, and with slurred words she apologized to the legal secretary."
"I... I was w...wrong, and I'm sorry."
Rachel just looked at her. Who was this woman? Toni had never been a big drinker, but now she sat in front of her barely able to speak coherently. But she was losing patience with the woman. The only thing she was concerned with was who had set things in motion.
"Those are issues that you will need to deal with at a later time. At this moment all I want to know is who was your partner in this. Who put you up to it?"
Seeing that there wasn't anymore wine left in her glass, the officer knew that she couldn't put of the inevitable any longer. So she took a deep breath and filled in the last piece of the puzzle.
"It was, Donna. Donna Whitmore. She wanted to make Symon pay for the way that she discarded women after they had slept with her."
Before the small blonde could respond, Toni pleaded for understanding. "I didn't know when I taught her how to open a car trunk it was going to be yours... I swear it, Rachel."
Rachel was beyond understanding. "You helped that crazy bitch set us up?!"
The venom that rolled off of the small woman filled the room. "She has been making my life at the law firm a living hell, and you helped her?"
Hearing that this Donna person worked at a law firm piqued Calvin's interest. "Is this the same Donna Whitmore that is the daughter of Judge Charles Whitmore?"
There was shocked silence. "If it is there is a big problem."
Symon leaned forward and questioned her long time friend. "Why do you say that, Calvin?"
"Charles Whitmore isn't the most lenient judge on the bench. His way of ruling leans towards guilty until proven innocent, instead of innocent until proven guilty. If you come before him charged with a crime, that alone makes you guilty in his eyes."
He asked the drunk cop for more information. "Did she tell you anything about her family?"
"Oh yeah. She wouldn't shut up about the pull she had in the legal system because of her connections. Hell, a week and a half ago, moments after an orgasm I thought she would come again when she bragged about the influence she had over her father's decisions when it was time for sentencing."
A collective gasp was heard throughout the room, but none louder than Rachel's. It was then that Toni realized that her loose tongue had disclosed information that would most defiantly close the door on any possibility of her and the blonde woman ever being friends.
"Damn. Rachel. I didn't mean to say that."
The legal secretary was livid. "Sex? Was it the sex that made you go against everything that you believed in?"
The cop dropped her head in shame. The action spoke louder than a confession. They all saw the answer to the question in the way the officer's body fidgeted in the chair.
Symon's mouth twisted in disgust. "And you have the nerve to judge me."
The sound of the dark woman's voice accusing her brought Toni back to life. "Damn right I judged you! You prey on women, use them and then toss them away like trash. The clubs are littered with your discarded conquests!"
Being able to finally confront the woman that she felt stood between her and getting Rachel back fueled the cop's anger. "I cringe when I think about your filthy hands and tainted lips touching someone as sweet as, Rachel."
The look in Symon's eyes told Rachel that the situation was about to become physical, so she quickly intervened.
"You have balls the size of an elephant, Toni. Whatever Shea did in her past with those women, it was with their consent. They knew the rules before she ever took them to her bed. But you... we were a couple, and you cheated and lied... to me that's worse."
Toni was infuriated and wasn't about to let Rachel continue to look at the tall woman through the rose colored glasses that she saw her through. Her eyes narrowed with spiteful revenge.
"That's not what Donna said. She told me about a woman that this... this predator approached and made her think that she was interested in more than just one night, so the woman gave in to her advances.
The next morning, after she had used the woman, your precious Symon threw her out into the hallway telling her to never come back. That is the person you stand behind and support so blindly."
Everyone in the room went still. Could this be true. Has the tall women been stringing Rachel along until she was done with her?
To everyone's surprise Rachel laughed. "You are too gullible to be a police officer." she said. "That poor mistreated woman that Donna told you about was her."
Toni wasn't sure she was hearing correctly. She had figured out that Donna had probably slept with Symon, but the lawyer was too shrewd to think that anything more than sex would be the final outcome of any time they spent together.
"Shea told me all about her. The maniac knew the rules, but thought that she could change them When the morning came and she wasn't ready to leave she caused a scene and had to be forced out. End of story. Shea never betrayed anyone's trust. Can you say the same?"
Feeling duped and thoroughly chastised the cop built up her barriers and waited for the other occupants of the room to berate her stupidity. When it didn't happen she leaned back in her chair and gave in.
"What can I do to fix this?"
Three weeks went by and during that time, with help from one of William's friends on the force, the charges against Rachel and Symon were dropped after Toni admitted that the women hadn't been read their rights.
Both women had to explain the circumstances surrounding their false arrest to their superiors and their jobs were safe.
Rachel had to convince her boss, Mr. Hastings, that she had no desire to file charges against the District Police for false arrest, only because she didn't want to bring Donna's involvement into play.
She explained her choice of her none action by telling her boss that she didn't feel was unnecessary to hold the entire D.C. police force responsible for the actions of one officer's mistake.
That request caused her to have to go through another round of litigious conversations on why she should sue the lone office for her part in the false arrest. But thankfully Rachel's gift of verbal persuasion turned the man's thinking around.
She was able to eventually reassure him that she would deal with Toni in her own way, choosing to handle the events as nothing more than a lover's quarrel.
Now the only problem was keeping Duncan out of prison. They had a plan, but there was a glitch. If it worked Duncan's cohorts would also be set free and that didn't sit well with them.
As Symon and Rachel lay snuggled against each other in Symon's bed, quietly discussing the situation. The tall woman felt the need to share her internal conflict.
"Rach, I feel torn."
The blonde woman rose up on her elbow and swept her long hair over her shoulder so that she could get a clear view of her lover.
"I know that Dunk feels miserable about his part in the beatings and wants to be given the opportunity to turn it all around, but if we can figure out a way to do that it means the actual perpetrators could go free because of legal their connection with Duncan."
Seeing the turmoil in her partner's blue eyes, Rachel decided that it was time to let her lover in on what she had been thinking about.
"I have a suggestion."
Hope filled eyes looked back at her and it made a warmth flow through her. She knew that she was the only person alive that Symon would allow to see that much vulnerability and it made her feel special.
"Tell me what's on your mind," Symon requested.
"The accused share a public defender. If Duncan can afford to pay for his own defense, separate from the others, and agree to testify against them maybe he can get a lighter sentence. That way the perpetrators would be punished and he can learn a hard lesson without doing prison time, because believe me, prison is not the place for him."
The excitement that radiated off the long body couldn't be contained, so Symon jumped off of the bed and started to pace.
"That's a great idea, and I know just the lawyer to call."
Both women spoke at the same time. "Calvin!"
Symon moved towards the telephone with the intention of calling her friend when Rachel's voice stopped her.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna call, Calvin."
"Shea it's two o'clock in the morning, you'll wake them up."
Looking sheepish, the tall woman sat on the side of the bed. "I forgot."
Rachel pulled her lover back under the sheets and attached herself to her side, loving the feel of their naked skin pressed together.
"At least wait until the sun comes up."
Rachel could feel the small twitches that ran through her lover's body in anticipation of getting things started, so she caressed the soft skin under her fingers to sooth away the anxiety.
"We only have a few hours left to sleep, so relax and rest for now, the day will begin soon enough."
"All rise." The bailiff announced. "The fifth Circuit Court of the District of Columbia is now in session. The Honorable Judge Charles Whitmore presiding."
After the judge took his seat the bailiff gave the room instructions to sit. "Everyone please be seated."
Knowing that Donna would be furious when the charges against Rachel and Symon were dropped, no one was surprised when her father was the presiding judge over Duncan's case. Her scent was all over the appointment.
The bailiff placed the folders in front of the judge before announcing the case. Your Honor this is case number three-nine-two on the calendar in the matter of, The State versus Holloman, Reynolds, Carpenter and O'Niall."
Judge Charles Whitmore's authority was apparent and unquestionable. His aura demanded respect and his steely glare from his seat on the bench filled the courtroom observers with a little fear.
He waited until the room was absolutely quiet before giving the attorneys permission to announce themselves.
The prosecuting attorney spoke first. "Raymond Fitzgerald, representing the state, your honor."
Two men stood on the defense's side of the table. The three defendant's lawyer spoke first. "Thomas Kincaid representing, Mr. Holloman, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Carpenter, you honor."
Duncan's attorney spoke next. Calvin Nelson representing Mr. O'Niall, your honor."
The judge opened the folder and started the proceedings. "Mr. Fitzgerald, please start."
As the prosecutor read off the charges against the four men, the O'Niall family had to admit that things looked bleak.
During the arguments Francis didn't hear much. Her mind was filled with the current status of her relationship with her husband. William had been sleeping in the guest bedroom since the night of the arrest and avoided her whenever possible.
Duncan was rarely at home, choosing to spend his time with his sister and her lover, or with their new friends when there was an invitation.
During this time he had also been looking at the apartment listings to see what he could afford if he was set free. Whatever the outcome, he knew that he wouldn't feel worthy to share a home with his father until he redeemed himself.
One evening Francis overheard her husband and step-son talking about the younger man's finances. Duncan felt like his job was in jeopardy and didn't know if the company would keep him on even if he was found not guilty.
When she heard William tell his son if he was found not guilty and didn't have a job to go back to, if it was still his wish to move out, he would help him with the bills until he got back on his feet.
It made her angry. 'How dare William take money from our household to support a grown man,' she thought. Then her guilt took over, reminding her that Duncan probably wouldn't be in this situation if not for her.
She came back to herself when a recess was called. As the spectators slowly filled the hallway.
Symon and Rachel found a deserted corner away from the crowd and spoke quiet words to each other.
When Symon saw one of the men that had been attacked silently weeping in the arms of who she assumed was his lover, her feet seemed to have a mind of their own and she walked over to them.
Seeing the direction her lover was headed in, Rachel followed her and stood beside her when she reached her destination.
Symon was nervous, but felt compelled to speak to the man. "Forgive my intrusion, but I want... no, I need to tell you how sorry I am for the pain and humiliation that you have suffered.
The man was a tall redhead. He looked to be about forty years old and was a little overweight. He was standing beside a man just as tall as he was with graying blonde hair and suspicious blue eyes.
The redhead tried to compose himself as he gave the striking brunette a weak smile. It was obvious to him that that tall woman was somehow related to one of the defendants. The dark features that they shared could not be denied.
But if he was not mistaken, this tall woman was family. In the gay community definition of the word. The way her small companion stood close to her while rubbing her back with comfort and affection was a dead give away.
The fact that a gay woman was related to one his attackers and sought to gain sympathy through an apology fueled his ire.
"Are you here to plead those Neanderthal's case?"
Symon was taken aback. The last thing she wanted to do was condone her brother's actions. "Um... no. I'm related to one of the Neanderthals and I wanted to tell you how ashamed I am for my brother's actions."
The redhead didn't seem moved. "What do you want?"
Symon stepped away with every intention of retreating until she felt Rachel's warm hand on her back, grounding her. "What my brother did was wrong." She hoped that her sincerity showed in her eyes. "I just wanted you to know that."
The redhead and his partner looked at each other, and a silent communication passed between them. The blonde man stood tall and looked deep into Symon's eyes.
He scanned her features and had no doubt which one of the defendants she was related to. "Your brother didn't attack, David. But he didn't stop them either."
Symon dropped her head, she couldn't deny the accusation. Rachel saw her lover's predicament and spoke for her.
"Duncan was confused."
The men looked at her as if she was speaking another language.
"Let me clarify. Duncan O'Niall loves his sister and his family. She told them how Francis had poisoned Duncan's mind from a young age and how she had filled Symon with shame. When she was done, pleading green eyes begged the men to understand the circumstances.
"He's a good guy. That's why he didn't help those creeps." She tried to reach the men. "He just needs to see his way through this. I believe being put on trial is the catalyst necessary to help him breakthrough the veil of confusion that was instilled in him."
The blonde man looked disgusted. "Well wasn't David lucky to be his catalyst."
Rachel looked horrified. "No! That wasn't what I meant."
David interrupted before the misunderstanding could go any further. "I understand."
Those two words made a near sob well up in Symon's throat.
The redhead smiled at her in sympathy. "My story is very similar to yours. I have a sister that disagrees with my life, but I know that she loves me."
He held his hand up to stop Symon from speaking. "She doesn't roam the streets at night with thugs, looking for gay people to beat up." An introspective smile bloomed on his face. "But maybe that's because she's too small to do any physical damage."
He turned to his lover. "I know that Tammy loves me, you know it too, but she can't seem to morph that love into acceptance."
He returned his attention to the dark woman in front of him and extended his hand. "I'm David Thomas and this is my partner, Mason Carter."
Symon took the man's hand in gratitude. "I'm Symon O'Niall and this is my partner Rachel Fields."
After the introduction the two couples talked with one another until they were called back into the courtroom.
As they made their way to the front Rachel caught a glimpse of Donna sitting in the back of the room. When they made eye contact the legal secretary saw the undisguised look of triumph on the lawyer's face.
Donna had revamped her plan. Because of Toni's last minute show of conscious, the officer had used a loophole to get the charges dropped against her two original targets, so she settled for the next best thing. She would use her influence with her father to insure that Symon's brother would lose his freedom... after all, a small amount of satisfaction was better than none at all.
The case continued. Because the prosecutor didn't think that he could make a case for a hate crime he chose to charge the men with assault and battery. The lesser charge would carry a lighter sentence, but he felt that the jury would be less confused by the obvious assault that was perpetrated on the men instead of letting them hear arguments about some made up gay advances on the defendant's part.
As sad as it was to admit, there was still a portion of society that held on to the belief that if a gay man made a pass at a straight man that was grounds for physical retaliation.
The assault trial wouldn't take more than a day of arguments, but in the end, Raymond Fitzgerald hoped that a guilty verdict would send a message to others that attacking innocent citizens because they were different from you would not be tolerated in the District of Columbia.
As expected the men were found guilty and the jury was dismissed. The judge asked if any of the men wanted to give a victim's impact statement before he retired to his chambers to contemplate the sentence he would render.
When David Thomas stood up Symon and Rachel were shocked. "Your Honor. I would like to say something."
The judge nodded his head.
David looked directly into the defendant's eyes before turning his focus on the judge. "Our life isn't an easy one."
He heard murmurs of agreement in the courtroom. "Some of us have had to leave our families behind because they couldn't accept who we are."
He looked at Duncan, and when he saw the sorrow in the young man's face he knew that he was truly remorseful and it reinforced his resolve that he was making the right choice.
"I can't speak for the other victims, but for me, I want to ask for leniency on behalf of Mr. O'Niall. He did me no physical harm. In fact he seemed a little shell shocked by their actions"
His eyes swept over the other victims before turning to the true perpetrators. "But the three of you seemed to take great satisfaction in your crime."
His stomach clench in fear when her saw a lethal smirk twist Byron Holloman's thin lips and thought it better to focus on the bench.
"Judge Whitmore, I want you to know that I carry no ill will toward Duncan O'Niall and if my words carry any weight on the sentence that you give Mr. O'Niall I want you to give him the minimum sentence that your authority allows."
Mason stood beside him as the spectators stood before the judge left the bench. No one ventured very far from the courthouse, knowing that a ruling was only hours away.
The O'Niall family, along with Rachel's friends and Diane, went to a sandwich shop around the corner from the courthouse, waiting for a call from Calvin.
They pushed a couple of tables together and ordered something to eat. The love and support that passed between the group made Francis really take a look at herself. Until that moment she felt like all she needed to do to make things right was to apologize and show her support.
But being surrounded by these people gave her a brief look into who they really were. They showed her no anger, or judgment and what really blew her mind was there were no acts of debauchery.
She mentally slapped herself. 'What did you think? Maybe they would throw each other on top of a table and go at it in public?'
Diane, who seemed to be 'normal,' really made her think. This woman was educated had children and was married to a professional. The fact that she had been Symon's friend since high school and accepted who she was without question was interesting. And her being able to sit comfortably with these people that were so different from her made Francis wonder.
Maybe they are like the rest of us. If she could take sex out of the equation, because just the thought of it made her sick to her stomach, if she could look pass that and focus on the emotion of love that bound them together, a part of her understood how wrong it was to try and deny them that gift.
She thought about how much she loved her husband and how she would feel if she woke up tomorrow and was told that it was an unacceptable passion. The unfairness and the anger that she felt at the possibility of being told that how she felt was not valid or no longer appropriate made her angry
Before she could follow that train of thought with further examination, Diane's phone rang. Everyone waited, knowing that Calvin was on then other end.
She disconnected and addressed the table. "That was, Calvin. He said the judge is ready to hand down his sentence and we should return in an hour."
Symon was terrified. She knew the possible outcome and she couldn't imagine her brother spending one night in a penitentiary. The thought of more time made her insides shake.
Rachel picked up on her lover's distress and comforted her as an idea started to take root in her mind. "I'm going back to the courthouse." She grabbed her purse and headed for the door.
When she reached the sidewalk she was surprised when she felt her lover's presence beside her. "What are you up to, Rach?"
The small woman continued walking. "I'm going to have a talk with the judge before he enters the courtroom and see if I can 'influence' his decision."
No more words were spoken until they reached the door leading to the judge's chambers. "What are you going to say?"
"I haven't worked out all the details, but after I'm done talking to him he may have a change of heart."
Rachel saw all of the questions that swarmed in Symon's mind and wanted to put her lover at ease, so she pulled the tall woman down and placed a soft kiss on her lips.
"Do you trust me, Shea?"
Symon answered without hesitation. "With all that I am."
"Then trust me with this."
With one more kiss Rachel straightened her clothes and knocked on the door. When she was given permission to enter she pulled in a deep breath and walked in.
"Good afternoon Judge Whitmore. I was hoping that you could spare few minutes."
The judge looked at the small woman, trying to place her. It only took a moment for him to remember seeing her sitting behind the defendant's table and it made him wish that he had not dismissed the bailiff from standing guard at his door.
"What can I do for you Miss...?"
"My name is Rachel Fields and I want to talk to you about, Duncan O'Niall."
Just the sound of the man's name made the judge feel weary. After Mr. Thomas' victim's impact statement and now this woman's appearance in his chambers he felt like everyone connected to this case felt a need to speak on this particular defendant's behalf.
He blew out an exhausted breath and motioned for her to have a seat. "There is nothing that you can say that I haven't already thought about Ms. Fields."
With unusual confidence Rachel leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs. "I wouldn't be so sure about that."
The judge stopped and reevaluated his first impression of the woman. She was small and very attractive. Her long blonde hair formed a halo around her head, making her appear almost angelic, but when her green eyes gazed into his own he saw a fire burning in them that spoke of her inner strength. This woman was on a mission and she would not be denied her say.
"You have five minutes."
"I'll only need three."
A small chuckle escaped the judge's throat. "Then you have three."
When Rachel exited the judge's chamber Symon stood up so quickly from the chair she was sitting in that she stumbled a little.
Rachel took her hand and led her out of the courthouse before she said anything, wanting to get as far away from the angry magistrate as possible before sharing the details of their conversation.
She walked them across the street to an empty Metro Bus kiosk where they sat down. "We don't have to worry about, Duncan."
Shock couldn't begin to describe the emotions Symon felt from hearing those few words. "Why?"
Rachel's face became a deep red as she thought about what she had just done. "Well... I kinda blackmailed the judge."
"Calm down." She placed her lover's large hand in her lap before explaining. "To make a long story short. I told the judge if he sentenced Duncan to serve prison time he had better clear his calendar to make time to see his daughter on visitation days."
"I don't understand," Symon said, thoroughly confused.
Rachel dropped her head. "I told him about Donna's attempt at setting us up, and convinced him that I could get the officer that helped her in her little scheme to testify about her part in the crime."
Blue eyes went wide. "You didn't?"
Rachel felt the pressure begin to build in her chest and she knew that the laugh she was trying to suppress would find its way out, so she went with it. "Yes I did!"
They looked at each other and doubled over, laughing even harder. As they calmed down a crooked smile pulled at the corner of Symon's mouth.
"Aren't you full of surprises?"
Rachel turned away. "Yeah... well when you're pushed against a wall you can cower in fear of come out fighting."
Symon turned the blonde head back around and caressed her lover's soft cheek with her thumb. "Have I told you how much I love you?"
Rachel's eyes became glassy. "Not in the last few hours."
Symon cupped the smaller woman's face with both of her hands. "Then let me rectify that. I love you Rachel Fields and I want you to be my wife."
The shocked reaction was heard in her quiet gasp and felt through the tension that filled the secretary's body. The tears that shimmered in her eyes fell free and tracked down her cheeks.
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Symon's love for her had never been in question, but for the worldly woman to want to commit to forever was beyond her comprehension. It was a fantasy that Rachel never dared to entertain.
There was a slight tremor in her voice as she responded. "You... you want to spend the rest of your life with me?"
Symon leaned forward and kissed her lover on the lips, hoping to show her heart in the simple gesture.
"You, and only you, Rach. Your love pulled me from a sea of despair. Before you my life consisted of moving from one meaningless encounter to the next. I had nothing to look forward to and didn't have the sense to care. When you came into my life I realized what had been missing."
Blue bore into green hoping to cement her words into the small woman's heart. "My life means nothing if you aren't there to share it with me."
She pulled her savior close to her and whispered into her soft hair. "You are my love. My soul's survival."
Sobs shook the small body and Symon held her until the emotions settled, then she decided to interject some humor.
"So what's your answer? Do you want to spend your life with this very unworthy soul, or do you want to cut your losses and run for the hills?"
Rachel wiped her eyes and smacked the well muscled stomach. "Despite my better judgment I'll consent to be your wife and curse you with a house full of little truck drivers to keep you in line."
Rachel couldn't read the look on Symon's face, so she silently went over the words she had just spoken. "Did I just say what I think I said?"
"Did you mean it?"
"Do you want me to mean it?"
A smile that rivaled the sun appeared on Symon's face. "Hell yes I want you to mean it! I've dreamed of having little blonde-haired green-eyed babies running around since we saw that family through the window months ago."
Rachel couldn't believe her ears. "Really?"
"That's amazing. That night the same thoughts went through my head, except I envisioned dark-haired blue-eyed babies."
Before their conversation could go any further the bus stop started to fill with people waiting for the next run, so the couple headed back to the deli to share the new development in the case with family and friends.
William pulled Rachel into a bear hug so tight that the woman's feet left the floor. "I don't know how to thank you, little one."
He looked in his daughter's direction. "If you let this one get away from you Shea I'm gonna put you across my knee."
When her father released her lover Symon draped her arm across the smaller woman's shoulders and looked up at her father.
"No worries, da. I asked her to marry me and she accepted."
Applause filled the deli and William ordered beers all around. He stood at the head of the table and toasted the newly engaged couple.
"To Shea and Rachel. May your love last a lifetime and beyond."
"Here, here!" the table echoed.
Francis raised her glass, but something deep inside her knew that this would be the last happy moment she spent with her husband and his children.
Some wounds could never be repaired and the hurt that she had inflicted on William's children was beyond forgiveness.
In her mind she had already called her sister in Denver to make plans to stay with her until she could get on her feet. Her eyes briefly connected with Symon's and silent apologies and forgiveness was passed between them.
Being women they understood that it was over, so Francis held up her drink and toasted to their future, wishing them a happy life as she condemned herself to an existence of regrets because of bad choices.
When the jury found the defendants guilty, Donna could barely contain her glee. She knew that her dark nemesis' brother would do time in the penitentiary, and that was enough to sooth her vengeful heart... that was until her father rendered his sentence.
Judge Whitmore returned to his bench and when the defendants stood for sentencing she became livid when she heard the decision.
"The four of you have been found guilty." He felt bile rise in his throat and had to swallow before he could continue with his ruling.
"Byron Holloman, Travis Reynolds, Joshua Carpenter, and Duncan O'Niall. You have all been found guilty of assault and battery by a jury of your peers. Therefore, my sentence is as follows. The four of you will share equally in paying punitive damages in the amount of five thousand dollars to each victim for your wanton and malicious activity and for the invasion their of personal security."
He inhaled deeply, his next words were not going to be easy to say. "In addition to punitive damages I am sentencing Mr. Holloman, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Carpenter to twenty-four month incarceration at Davis penitentiary with consideration for parole after nine months. Mr. O'Niall is sentenced to two months in-house monitoring, one year probation and he is to sign up for sensitivity classes."
Donna was beside herself. After everything she had told her father about the man's personal life, the majority of it being made up, how could he let him off?
When Rachel and Symon passed her on their way out, Rachel stopped to confront the litigator. "The next time you try to use your influence with your father, make sure that there are no skeletons in your closet that could be used against him."
In that moment if her head could have popped off of her shoulders it would have been a welcomed relief, especially when she saw the smirk pulling at the dark woman's mouth.
"You won't get away with this, Symon. I'll see to it that you pay."
As the people pushed pass the couple on their way out Rachel spoke to the lawyer with certainty, leaving no doubt to the truth her words.
"If you ever bother us again I'll see to it personally that you live to regret it." Then a sinister smile tugged at her lips. "Just ask your father. He and I have an understanding."
In the months that followed many changes took place in their lives. Symon and Rachel stood before their loved ones and made their commitment to each other.
Duncan started working for a gay tolerance awareness foundation as a counselor, and Francis moved to Colorado.
For awhile Symon felt grief for her father's loss, that was until a year later when the firefighter showed up at her and Rachel's new house with, Tabitha.
She had been the desk sergeant on duty when William had posted bail for his kids. Some months after Francis had had moved halfway across the country the firefighter visited the precinct and eventually got up the nerve to ask the seasoned officer out for lunch.
It only took a few weeks of dating for the big Irishman to realize that he had been living his life in a hold pattern.
The night before taking Tabitha to meet his daughter and her spouse he dreamed of his beloved Alaina one last time. She was sitting in a green meadow and he felt the warmth of her love as he approached her.
"Sit with me for awhile, love."
Never being able to deny the French woman anything, the big man sat in a field of wildflowers and basked in the manifestation of his lost love.
"The time has come for you to let me go, Willy-Boy."
The sting of tears were felt immediately in the man's eyes. She moved closer and her presence gentled his grief.
"Don't fret, my love. Time is everlasting. We will be together again. But not for a long while. For now you must go on. Tabitha will make the remainder of your life a joyous experience. She was meant for you."
William felt no shame for the tears that flowed down his cheeks. "You were meant for me, Alaina. No other."
"I'll always love you, William. Nothing could ever change that, but until we meet again I want you to live your life in love and happiness. Tabitha will give that to you. You have my blessing and my promise that next time around our life together will be to the end, but until that time comes I want you to live what's left of this life surrounded by love."
She pulled one of his big hands into her lap. "Our children have found their way. Celine has found her reason and Duncan will fulfill his purpose. Now it is time for you to be truly happy again. Give Tabitha all the love you have to give so that the two of you can live your lives to the fullest. She deserves it and so do you."
With one last kiss good-bye, William O'Niall walked away from his past towards his future, believing that it would all come around again.
TWO YEARS LATER
Friends and family gathered in William's backyard to witness his marriage to, Tabitha. After the priest pronounced them husband and wife, the firefighter's family rushed the couple to congratulate them.
The first person to reach them was, Symon. She kissed her new step-mother and then turned to give her father a one armed embrace while Rachel spoke to, Tabitha.
"I'm happy for you, da."
He ruffled her hair the way he used to when she was a little girl and laughed hardily when she scowled at him.
"You'll never be too old for me to remind you that you are still my little girl, Shea. So get over it."
"Well your little girl has a little girl of her own and I think she wants to congratulate her papa too."
William took the thirteen month old little blue-eyed blonde-haired girl from his daughter's arms and kissed her baby soft cheek.
"How's my little, Félice
Chubby little hands patted the sides of the William's face before a sloppy kiss was planted on his freshly shaved face.
"Papa, good," she said as short arms wrapped around his neck.
As he held his first grandchild William turned to accept a hug from, Rachel. The legal secretary was six months pregnant with their second child and looked miserable.
"How's my little one doing?" he asked his daughter-in-law.
"I'm doing fine, da. But I think your unborn grandson is going to be a handful."
Rachel and Symon had wanted to start a family soon after their marriage, so after much discussion they decided to go for it. With the help of a donor, Rachel's eggs and invitro-fertilization Rachel became pregnant. The end result being the birth of, Félice Kimberly O'Niall.
After her birth the couple decided to try again, this time using Symon's eggs to produce a child. Now they all looked forward to the birth of, Symon William O'Niall in the next three months.
William rubbed his hands over Rachel's extended stomach and gave it a loving pat. "Are you sure you're only six months along? If I remember correctly you were a lot smaller the last time."
Symon moved behind her wife and rested her hands on the smaller woman's large belly as she leaned back, giving the blonde some relief by supporting her weight.
Rachel gladly accepted her spouses' help without hesitation. "I'm sure it's only six months." Then she lovingly slapped the large hands that were perched on her stomach before intertwining their fingers.
"It's just that you O'Nialls are so big that this one needs more room to grow."
Félice wiggled out of her grandfather's arms and jumped towards her parents. It was only because of Symon's quick reflexes that she was able to dislodge her hands from around Rachel's waist and catch their daughter before she hit the ground.
When Symon had her securely resting in her arms the little girl reached down with her small hand and rubbed her mother's belly.
"I love, brother."
Symon kissed the child's head and held her close. "And brother loves you."
Innocent blue eyes looked up at her tall parent. "I love, mère." Then she looked to Rachel. "I love, maman."
The happy woman swung her daughter around before bringing her down for a kiss. "We love you too."
The festivities continued into the evening with a veil of joy surrounding the celebration. As day turned into night the party was moved indoors, leaving the clean up for the next day.
As the activity continued inside, an unnoticed guest walked around the empty backyard. Alaina O'Niall's spirit was filled with the love her family had found.
It had not been easy, and the road was rocky, but in the end they were able to find their way. Her son had met the woman of his dreams when Constance joined the staff at the gay foundation he made his permanent job. Her daughter's path had been reset when she accepted a simple invitation to have a cup of coffee, never knowing that it would end in her everlasting happiness. And William was able to finally open up his heart again, giving himself the opportunity to experience the blessings that only love can bring.
Alaina walked through the warm grass that blanketed the fenced in yard while holding the hand of a small dark-haired boy with green eyes.
"Grand-mère, will you visit me after I am born?"
The small woman looked down at her grandson with loving eyes. "No, Petit homme. (little man) I can never come this way again, but after you are born you will hear stories of me and your soul will remember."
The little boy tried to pick up a balloon, but his small hands passed through it like smoke. "Will my parents love me?"
She picked the small child up and held him close to her. "Oh yes. You will be loved just as much as your grande soeur. (big sister) When she was here she had the same question."
His green eyes looked at her with doubt. "I tell you true, Symon. I'll say to you what I said to her. Your life will be filled with wide-eyed discovery and there will be no limit to your imagination."
As they slowly walked away from the remnants of the party she began to tell her grandson a story about his mère.
"When Celine was four years old she decided that she wanted to make bubbles, so she filled the kitchen sink up with dish washing liquid and water...
A child's laughter drifted on the wind as he was told stories about a parent that he would come to cherish.
And the wheel keeps going round and round.