Subtext Disclaimer: There is subtext, or maintext as the case may be, here. This story deals with the deep, profound love and devotion between two people who happen to be of the same gender. Although there are some scenes depicting the physical expression of that love, there are no graphic scenes here. If that is what you are looking for, you might want to read something else.
Continuing Story Disclaimer: This is the sequel to my first story "Undeniable" and picks up about one week after its conclusion. You may want to read the previous story prior to reading this one, otherwise it will probably not make much sense to you.
Feedback: This is my second attempt at fan fiction. Comments are always welcome. Let me know if there's something you especially liked or didn't like. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Part 9Robin approached the closed office door, then hesitated briefly. The managing partner's office. It seemed so imposing, even forbidding, much the same as the principal's office had seemed during her younger school days. I've never been called to the principal's office before in my life. Nevertheless, here she found herself being summoned. But summoned why? She fervently wished that she were anywhere, anyplace, other than where she actually was. All right. She sighed. Let's get this over with. Now resigned to her fate, the young associate steeled her nerves and knocked lightly on the heavy wooden door. Upon hearing the muffled voice from the other side admitting her in, she slowly turned the knob and entered the office. Inside, she found both Gordon McDaniel and Harry Roberts seated formally at a small table adjacent to Gordon's large heirloom desk.
"Robin, please have a seat." The managing partner motioned her over to join them.
I wonder what this is about. The young associate surveyed the situation as she stepped inside the office and quickly confirmed her suspicions. Something definitely seemed up. The question was, just what was it?
As Robin took a seat at the table, Gordon continued. "Harry and I have a matter we'd like to discuss with you, Robin." He smiled somewhat deceptively, then produced a neatly typed document which he set in front of her. "As you know, the Management Committee has been deliberating this week regarding the status of Jessica Harrison's continued partnership with the firm." He paused very briefly, then proceeded. "However, in the course of those deliberations, the Committee has determined that a minor issue needs to be resolved before the Committee can render its final decision."
The young attorney glanced at the paper in front of her. This is a release. The pieces were now starting to fall into place. "Okay. What issue is it, exactly?"
Harry spoke up. "Robin, as you know, the firm has received a waiver letter from your father as to any potential allegations which he could possibly have made against Jess. What the Committee recognized in its review of the matter was that although it had a release from your father, it had no such release from you." Sensing the young associate's increasing discomfort, the head of the litigation department eased his posture and spoke in a more fatherly tone. "Robin, we like you here at the firm, and we greatly value your contributions. We certainly don't wish to make you in any way uncomfortable. However, the simple fact is that the firm as a whole must be protected against any potential liability with regard to….." He hesitated uneasily. "With regard to the relationship between you and Jess."
"I see." Robin nodded. But in truth, she really did not see, and was, in fact, steaming inside. All this time, through all the negotiations with her father and all of the Management Committee's theatrics at the hearings, putting she and Jess through intense stress and awkwardness in discussing aspects of their personal relationship which, to be generous, were nobody's business, it suddenly now all came down to whether or not the Committee had a release. And the real irony was that they sought a release not just from her father who'd made the original threats, baseless as they were, but also from Robin who'd made no threats nor had she even hinted at such. She sighed internally. Why do people always think the worst of me? And further, why hold hearings in the first place if all you need is another release? It made no sense. Then, it hit her. In fact, it was becoming all too clear. The Management Committee wanted to strong-arm Robin into signing a release, setting the firm free and clear, and then the Committee would do whatever it wanted to do to Jess, anyway. Well, not if I have anything to say about it. Robin made no comment, but rather just continued to listen.
"Robin….." Gordon cleared his throat. "The Management Committee hopes to wrap this matter up quickly and issue its decision before the weekend approaches, which as you know, would necessarily be tomorrow."
Pressure tactics. It was textbook coercion, through and through, and the young attorney didn't like it one little bit. She glanced one more time at the document in front of her. "Then, I assume you'd want the signed release prior to that time?"
The managing partner's slightly balding head nodded affirmatively. "We'd need it very soon, yes. Today would be best."
The screws tighten. Then, something occurred to Robin. Perhaps, there was more going on, here. She now took particular notice of Harry's uncharacteristically uneasy posture, despite his attempts to relax it, and Gordon's over-eagerness to obtain her signature on the release. Could it be that the pressure was actually on them and not on her after all? She thought about that. Liability insurance, perhaps? Malpractice insurance? Ethical concerns? Not that I'd agree that there was anything of an ethical nature to be concerned with regarding my relationship with Jess, anyway. But still, why else bring this whole release thing up at this late date unless it was being forced upon them? And if that really were the case, perhaps Robin could play it to her advantage. She smiled casually, giving nothing of her insight away. "Let me understand. Basically, if you have a release from both myself and my father, then the firm would be free of any potential liability."
"Yes, that's right." Harry answered.
"I see." They're afraid of something - - perhaps that I might really file a claim against them, or perhaps liability or malpractice insurance coverage issues. "And if the firm is free of any potential liability, then all of the firm's partners would be free of any potential liability, as well."
"Yes." Harry answered again, now knowing that Robin had indeed connected the dots. She's very perceptive. A true attorney. He was proud in spite of himself and let a small smile slip. To be sure, his first allegiance was to protect the firm, but Robin's intuition had given her, and Jess too, a potential win in this situation.
"So, if all partners of the firm would be free of any potential liability, then the firm would no longer be placed in any type of potential jeopardy arising from this situation." The young associate caught Harry's eye, reading from his expression that she, indeed, was on the right track.
"Yes." The head of the litigation department held her gaze and nodded affirmatively. "If that were the case, there would be no risk of jeopardy to the firm."
That's all I need to know. Harry was subtly telling her that all she had to do was sign the release and Jess would retain her partnership. It was that simple. It was that clear. It was that reasonable. And yet, it was blackmail just the same. Robin felt the stirrings of anger return. I will not be blackmailed. She didn't know, of course, that Jess had the exact same thought when Robin's father had threatened to reveal their relationship to the firm and file a complaint with the State Bar Association. Blackmail. Green eyes shifted once more to the document in front of her. Then again, the young associate reconsidered, she had to give Harry credit for maneuvering a way out for Jess, as she was now sure that he had done just that, coming up with this whole release issue and maybe even throwing in liability and malpractice insurance concerns as a way to enable the Committee to resolve the matter in Jess's favor. Maybe.
The managing partner interrupted her musings. "Will you need some additional time to review the document?"
Again, green eyes tracked deliberately, first from the document, then to Harry, then to Gordon. Maybe Harry engineered this. Maybe. But I want more. Having determined that Gordon and probably most of the Management Committee were apparently worried that without a release, she might someday file a claim against the firm, Robin made a key decision. She'd press for one additional thing in return for her so highly sought-after signature on the piece paper sitting in front of her. After all, she had a card to play now. "Yes, if it's all right with you, I'd like to review it this evening and then return it to you first thing in the morning."
"Of course." Gordon was agreeable, sensing victory. He sat back in his chair and exhaled slowly, now visibly more at ease. "That will be fine."
Before anyone else could voice another word, Robin broached one more topic, in effect playing her card. She fingered the corner of the release, then spoke in a disarmingly deferential tone of voice. "I have a question, if I may ask it?"
"Certainly. What is it, Robin?" Harry asked easily.
Here goes. "As I mentioned before to the Management Committee, I believe that working with Jess has been very helpful to me professionally. Should the Committee decide to retain Jess's partnership, is it possible that something could be arranged where I may have the opportunity to work with primarily her again?"
The managing partner was quick to shake his head, dismissing the idea. "I'm sorry, Robin, but that would make her your direct supervisor, and as before, we simply couldn't risk the problems that such a situation would certainly create."
He's obviously not understanding me. Undeterred, the young associate tried to make her point once again. "What I'm saying is that I think that I have learned a great deal from Jess about the practice of law these past several months." She looked pointedly at Gordon. "I believe that if I were to resume working with her, both myself and the firm would definitely benefit greatly from that." Her expression remained inquiring, but her intent was clear as she deliberately glanced down at the piece of paper in front of her for maximum effect. Yep. I can blackmail, too, Gordon.
The room was eerily quiet as the full impact of Robin's statement dawned on the two older attorneys. The young associate didn't realize it at the time, but she had indeed learned a lot from Jess, and not just in the practice of law. Robin, herself, may not have realized it, but the head of the litigation department, mentor to Jess and surrogate father combined, sure did. Jess's protege had, in fact, turned the tables, and quite effectively, to say the least. And not only that, it bore noting that Robin had gained a great skill in the whole process. She had gone from being secretly angry and on the defensive in the beginning of their meeting, to being totally in control and on the offensive in the end. She didn't allow her anger and self-righteousness to cloud her perception of the situation, and she was bright enough to accomplish what she knew she wanted to do. In short, she played the game masterfully. Not bad for a day's work.
"All right, Robin." Gordon spoke slowly, realizing he'd just been beat at his own game. "I understand what you're asking. Let me confer with Harry, and I'll see whether something can be arranged." In truth, the managing partner didn't at all like being backed into a corner. Who would? But the again, it was his own fault. He'd apparently underestimated the young associate, and now the burden rested upon him to obtain that signed release from her one way or the other. The Management Committee was counting on it. His Management Committee was counting on it. Gordon sighed to himself, resigned to the situation as it stood now. He looked at Robin. "Okay. I'd like you and Jessica to come in first thing tomorrow morning so we can all put a welcome end to this saga."
I did it. I won. Robin quickly released the breath she was holding, then stood up, grasping the document from the table in front of her as she did so. "Yes, sir. We'll be here." And with that piece of business satisfactorily concluded, she turned to leave.
Harry and Gordon watched in silence as Robin exited the managing partner's office. Both men, interestingly, had the exact same thought.
Damn. She's gonna be one hell of an attorney.
Jess stared at her newly acquired Tasmanian Devil slippers and pondered the previous evening's events. The argument. It was true, she and Robin had made up. The slippers were tangible evidence of that. But still, something preyed on her mind this bright and sunny morning. Something all too familiar and all too common. Ever-present guilt. It was always there, always just beneath the surface, and never far from making itself known. At the very least, it was never far from making itself known to an audience of one. So Jess being Jess, it was only natural that her internal voices had ratcheted up quite a lively exchange on the matter. And, in typical fashion, Jess being Jess, it was only natural that she reluctantly and flippantly engaged the internal fray.
It's about time you showed up.
The alternate internal voice was quick to retort. 'Listen buddy, I've had a few other things on my mind lately, or don't you keep up with the news bulletins.'
My, my. We are grumpy this morning, aren't we?
Regardless, we've got quite a lot of work to do.
'Yeah?' The alternate internal voice grumbled. 'Such as?'
Quit playing dumb. If everything was fine, I wouldn't be here.
The alternate internal voice didn't miss a beat. 'Speaking of dumb, I have a particularly fitting suggestion for you, but I think I'll save it for now.'
That would be wise. So, what happens to be on your mind today?
'You tell me. You seem to have all the answers.'
All right, if that's the way you want it. It appears that you committed not one, but two, major faux pas last night, did you not?
'Maybe.' The alternate internal voice equivocated. 'But, if I did, Robin forgave me for that. See my new slippers?'
But that's not the issue, is it?
'I don't know what you're talking about.' It was a typical response, although not terribly honest.
This is growing tiresome, but if you must have everything spelled out for you, then fine. The issue in both of those cases is trust.
'Trust? The alternate internal voice assumed an indignant tone. 'What the hell are you talking about?'
Robin has to be able to trust what you say to her.
'Of course, she can trust me.' The alternate internal voice insisted. 'She can completely trust me.'
Oh really? Did you or did you not promise Robin that you'd never leave upset if you and she ever argued?
After careful consideration, the alternate internal voice responded with total confidence. 'Yes, and I absolutely have kept my promise.'
'Oh please, what?'
Don't even try it. The only reason you didn't drive off last night was because Robin stopped you. Admit it.
'I will not admit it.' The alternate internal voice once again turned indignant. 'For your information, pal, I wouldn't have left last night even if she hadn't stopped me.'
If you really believe that, then you're delusional. You had one foot out the door. Gone. Practically halfway down the street. Admit it.
'No. There is nothing to admit.' The alternate internal voice adamantly refused to even consider the obvious. 'I absolutely, positively, and most certainly would not have left. End of story.'
Denial doesn't suit you. Have you considered drug therapy?
'Listen, Dr. Freud, I know what I would and would not have done, and I'm telling you, I wouldn't have left the scene.'
The scene of the crime?
'Yes….I mean, no…..I mean, there was no crime.'
Just who are you trying to convince? You know full well how important the whole issue of leaving when angry is for Robin, and yet for some reason, you refuse to deal with what happened.
The alternate internal voice, now in full righteous indignation mode, lashed out. 'Yeah, well she shouldn't have thrown all that David BS at me in the first place. I am nothing like David.'
I see. So, we're back to David again, are we? No real surprise. Listen, Robin needs to be able to trust you. You'd better understand that before all of this gets out of hand. And by the way, you seem to have more of a fixation on David than she does.
'What the hell is that supposed to mean! The alternate internal voice was now annoyed beyond belief. 'I'd be happy never to hear the man's name again, but every damn time I turn around, there he is.'
If you keep putting him in the forefront, he'll stay there. You'd be wise to keep him safely tucked in the background where he belongs.
'Right. Easy for you to say. You don't have a ghost following you around.'
Clever, but no cigar.
The alternate internal voice was confused. 'What in the world are you talking about?'
David isn't the issue here, and you know it. He's just a clever diversion on your part to avoid dealing with the real issue.
'And what, pray tell, is the so-called real issue?' The alternate internal voice snipped.
'Are we back to that again? I told you, Robin can trust me. I promised her that I wouldn't leave, and I didn't. I kept my promise.'
You didn't act on your own volition. Robin stopped you from leaving.
'I kept my promise.' The alternate internal voice repeated.
That river in Egypt is getting longer and longer by the minute. You'd do well not to sail it.
Unfortunately, it was like talking to a brick wall, as evidenced by the alternate internal voice's next statement. 'I have nothing more to say about this. My answer is my answer.'
You need to face the facts before it's too late. Nothing can replace lost trust. Nothing. You need to think about that. Don't pretend that the issue isn't there, because it is, and don't blame your own behavior on everyone and everything else but yourself. You'll only regret it.
A dismissive sigh. 'If I had wanted a sermon, pal, I would have gone to church. My answer stands.'
Fine. Then it appears you'll need a bigger boat. Next issue: Trust.
'Trust? Wait a minute. We just talked about that.'
You're very perceptive today. Grumpy, but perceptive. The previous issue was about Robin's trust in you. The issue now is about your trust in Robin. See the difference?
The alternate internal voice just couldn't help making light of the matter. 'What I see is that you're a cup and saucer short of a full place setting. That's what I see.'
Funny, but not constructive.
'Um…..two tacos short of a combo platter?'
Attempts at diversion by humor won't work.
The alternate internal voice, unfazed, kept going. 'One can short of a six-pack?'
Fine. Are you finished now?
'Nope, just getting started. A few clowns short of a circus? A joker shy of a full deck? A couple of peas short of a pod? One brick short of a full load? A few pickles shy of a whole jar? The alternate internal voice paused mid-thought. Is any of this working for you?'
No. Now, let's continue before yet another millennium starts, shall we?
Whatever you say. Do you trust Robin to be a full partner with you in maintaining the household? Answer yes or no.
'Yes or no.'
Cute. Make all the jokes you want, but your avoidance of the issues will come back to haunt you.
'Geez, can't anyone have a little fun around here?' The alternate internal voice now sighed, apparently unable to totally escape the self-psychoanalysis. 'All right, fine. Have it your way. The answer is yes. I absolutely trust Robin to be a full partner with me in maintaining the household.'
But you still consider the house to be your house, don't you?
The alternate internal voice grew slightly impatient. 'I presume you have a point, here?'
Figure it out.
'What? You want me to figure it out? You know that I hate riddles. This is your game, buddy, not mine.'
Well, it's a simple question. Do you still consider the house to be your house?
The alternate internal voice thought about that for a moment. 'If you're referring to the fact that I pay the mortgage, then yes, it's my house. I own it.'
And that's something that will always be hanging over you and Robin, no matter how hard you try to cover it over.
The alternate internal voice feigned ignorance, although in reality the implication was painfully obvious. 'What do you mean?'
Despite what you've just said, in actuality, you don't consider Robin to be a full partner with you in maintaining the household if you're, in fact, the one who owns the house.
'Technical ownership of the house is a small issue and doesn't matter. Robin knows that the house is her house, too.' The alternate internal voice did not sound convincing in the least.
Does she? She specifically heard you say that you know how to run your own house.
'That was a poor choice of words on my part. I apologized for that.'
And that makes it okay?
'Yes.' Guilt, however, was setting in. 'Robin understood that I didn't mean it the way it sounded.'
It may be hard for you to acknowledge, but you hold that very issue over Robin's head every single day. You believe that you alone should make the final decisions concerning the running of the household.
'No I don't. We have a joint account to pay the household expenses.' The alternate internal voice argued.
Minus the mortgage payment.
'Of course, minus the mortgage payment.' The alternate internal voice reasoned. 'It's my responsibility and my mortgage payment.'
And your house.
No response as the weight of the matter settled in.
Do you see now where this is headed?
'No. You're way off base.' The alternate internal voice, once again in denial mode, grew annoyed. 'That is not the way it is.'
Really? You don't even trust her enough to pay for part of the household expenses.
'Wait just a minute.' The alternate internal voice was now grasping at straws. 'I absolutely trust Robin. She deposits her share of money into the account, and I trust her to do that.'
And then you, yourself, decide not to spend it.
'That's not fair. I explained about that to her. I just thought we'd keep a little bit of a reserve for household repairs. That's all.' It really did sound like a reasonable argument, provided that someone bought it.
There you go again.
'There I go again, what?'
It all comes down to what you and you alone think because, after all, it is your house.
'Damn right it's my house.' The alternate internal voice snapped.
Aha. Your first totally honest admission today. Selfish, but honest.
'I resent that. I am not selfish.' The alternate internal voice tried once again to sound indignant, but failed miserably.
Whatever you say. But it's clear that you need to deal with these trust issues before they come back at you in ways you haven't even imagined. They're already coming between you and Robin.
The alternate internal voice sobered. 'It makes my heart ache when things come between us like this.'
Then you need to resolve the trust issues once and for all.
'I suppose you have the perfect solution for all of this?' Well, it couldn't hurt to ask.
That's where you come in. You're a bright, albeit currently suspended at the moment, attorney. You can figure it out.
'Could you at least give me a little hint?'
'Rats!' The alternate internal voice groused. 'You're no fun.'
That's a matter of opinion. Remember, if you refuse to deal with these issues, you'll come to regret it.
'I think you're being overly-dramatic.' The alternate internal voice downplayed the matter. 'I still maintain that everything's fine now. I apologized, Robin forgave me, and I even have my brand new Tasmanian Devil slippers to prove it.'
Fine. Have it your way. However, if drug therapy doesn't work, you may want to try a lobotomy.
'Then, I'd be crazy.'
No argument there.
It was getting late. The sky had turned dark, and the office building had mostly emptied by the time the young associate hopped in her recently acquired metallic blue BMW and headed for home. She'd given Jess a quick call to say that she was on her way, but she hadn't elaborated much about her "negotiation session" earlier in the day with Harry and Gordon. A more private discussion with Jess was in order. Very private. She smiled to herself as she made her way away from the downtown streets and toward The Ranch.
Things were going to work out perfectly. The deal was set, and now much of the stress of the past several weeks would finally be lifted. She and Jess were going to be working together again. That was the important thing. Together. Robin grinned at the thought and remembered a revelation that had become firmly ensconced as truth. We're meant to be together. And further still, as an added bonus to her hard-won deal, she'd even gotten the impression that both Harry and Gordon, ironically, had developed a certain new respect for her as a result of their meeting earlier that day. On that particular point, the young associate wasn't wrong.
Finally, the BMW approached the driveway to The Ranch and pulled up into the garage. Its driver quickly closed the large automatic garage door, grabbed her briefcase from the front seat of the car, and entered the house. Inside, she found the junior partner nestled in the easy chair opposite the plush sofa busily reviewing the latest law review articles, and apparently totally absorbed in some nuance of a particular case she was reading.
"Hi." Robin came up behind her.
A bit startled, Jess snapped her head up. "Oh, hi kiddo. I didn't realize it'd gotten so late."
"Interesting reading there?" The smaller woman smiled knowingly and took a seat on the sofa.
Blue eyes twinkled. "Fascinating." Those same eyes now turned very playful. "For instance, did you know that a court has now ruled that residential house rules must be strictly adhered to?"
"Really?" Robin propped her chin on her fist. "Tell me more."
"Well it seems that failure to comply with any and all existing house rules can be a very serious offense."
"Oh my." The younger woman set down her briefcase on the coffee table and moved over to kneel in front of the easy chair and its alluring occupant. "Well, then I must be very sure not to violate any such existing house rules."
"You must, indeed." Jess gave Robin her best serious look. "Otherwise, according to the court case I've just been reading, the consequences could be rather…..dire."
She's so funny. "Ooooh, dire consequences. Sounds very serious."
"Yes." The dark head nodded somberly. "Afraid so."
"Well, then to avoid any potential violation of said house rules, I'll be sure to comply to the utmost with each and every one of them." Robin leaned forward so that she was just mere inches away from Jess's face. She raised a petite hand and rested it against the older woman's cheek, then moved in even closer. Tantalizingly closer. "For instance, so as to be in full compliance with house rule number seven….." Petite fingers brushed back and forth against the dark cheek. "I will mention the "L" word in connection with the other party occupying this residence."
"You will?" Jess almost croaked.
"Yes." Robin lingered, enjoying the effect she was having on her previously playful companion. She then placed a delicate kiss on the older woman's lips. "If you're ready for such full compliance, of course."
By now, with the tables having been so effectively turned for the second time that day, this time on Jess, the older woman couldn't bring herself to move even if she tried. "Um….." For some reason, she had trouble remembering whether an answer was due. "Um….." Robin's breath distracted her further. "Was there a question?"
That brought a grin. "No." The grin widened seductively. "How about if I just take it from here?"
"All right." It was all Jess could say, and even that took enormous concentration.
"Good." The kiss that followed was tender and slow and long and sweet, with a hint of other things to come. After a very long time, Robin pulled back, green eyes locking onto blue. "I love you, Jess."
Jess gave Robin a quick kiss in return, regaining her equilibrium. "And I love you, Sweetheart."
Just then, the front doorbell rang, breaking the moment. Damn. Great timing. "That must be our pizza." The taller woman stood up, helping Robin to her feet in the process.
"Yep. After you called from work saying you were leaving, I decided to order a pizza since it was getting a little late for us to cook anything." Blue eyes glanced at Robin. "Are you up for pizza?" A chuckle immediately followed. "Ooops. What am I thinking? When are you not up for food?"
That comment brought a playful swat. "You are so mean to me."
"Just stating the facts, kiddo. Why don't you go ahead and get changed from your work clothes, and I'll get the pizza and the table ready for dinner? Sound like a plan, Stan?"
"Yep. Be back in a jiff, Biff."
Biff? A dark eyebrow raised as Jess mouthed the word. Hmmm. "Don't hurry. Take your time." She watched Robin saunter down the long hallway, then retrieved the pizza from the delivery boy. And that's what he was, too, just a boy, barely able to drive and certainly not old enough to shave. Geez, the next thing you know they'll be sending preschoolers delivering pizzas on their tricycles. The taller woman spent the next several minutes busily tucked away in the kitchen, then she efficiently set out the plates and silverware on the table. Just as she was pouring sodas for both herself and Robin, she spied the smaller woman sporting more comfortable clothes entering the dining room. "Boy, that was fast." A quick wink.
"Yeah, well I'm starving."
"Is that so?" A suppressed smile. "How unusual."
"Watch it, Biff." Robin sat down.
"Biff? Whatever happened to Bucko?"
Petite hands opened the pizza box. "You're still Bucko, but now you're also Biff."
Jess appeared to contemplate that for a moment. "I see. Another term of endearment, I presume?"
A blonde eyebrow arched. "If you prefer to think of it that way."
"I do." Jess grinned happily
Green eyes now gazed at the pizza inside the delivery box. "Um….." A slight pause. Then a longer pause. "Jess?"
Innocent blue eyes focused on an imaginary spot on the placemat. "Yes?"
"What kind of pizza is this?"
"Um….." A long finger traced a non-existent line. "You know, regular pizza."
Regular pizza? "I see. And what toppings are on this regular pizza?"
Those same innocent blue eyes looked up. "Toppings?"
"Yes." The blonde head nodded. "You know, those little food items that you put on top of the pizza? What are they?"
The imaginary spot on the placemat now seemed very, very interesting. "Well, there's sausage, and ham, and mushrooms."
Sausage, and ham, and mushrooms. Sea green eyes tracked from the pizza to Jess. "Is that all?"
"Jess?" She is so busted. "Is that all?
It was amazing. That imaginary spot grew absolutely fascinating.
"Jess, let me tell you what I think. I think that maybe you might have added just a teensy weensy little something else to the toppings. Did you?"
Now, blue eyes focused on Robin, dark eyebrows lifting comically. "I don't know what you're talking about."
The younger woman was secretly amused. She's so hopeless. "I think you do."
"Jess, honey." Robin's tone was sympathetic. "It's okay to tell me. Did you add something to the toppings?"
Maybe? A frank look. "Maybe yes?"
Having now been caught, Jess had no choice but to come clean. "Oh, all right. Yes, I added something to the pizza after it arrived, but just to half of it."
Green eyes scrutinized the pizza. "I see."
A dismissive sigh. "You don't have to have any of that half, you know."
Robin lifted a piece of pizza and put it on her plate. "I know." She took a bite. "I'm not."
In response, Jess took a slice of pizza from the opposite side of the box and began eating. "Suit yourself." After a few moments, she smacked her lips together, thoroughly enjoying her meal. "Mmmm. This pizza is very good."
The older woman took another bite. "Yes, but the half of the pizza that I have is exceptionally good today" She smacked her lips together again lightly. "Want some?"
"No." Robin resumed eating.
Long fingers grasped another piece of pizza and held it out to Robin. "Are you sure?"
"Okay." Jess playfully taunted, waiving the pizza in front of Robin. "But you're missing out."
That's it! The younger woman, with infinite patience, set her second slice of pizza on her plate and slowly wiped her hands on her napkin. She then looked down the table at Jess. "Let me explain something to you, just so you know. Sausage, ham, and mushrooms are perfectly normal toppings for pizza. Shrimp, on the other hand, is not. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Jess? Do you understand?" Robin asked again.
More silent contemplation.
With no response forthcoming, the blonde woman resumed eating. "You keep thinking about it, and I'm sure you'll eventually agree with me."
Contemplation over, Jess finally spoke. "I'll tell you what I agree with." A happy grin. "I agree that my pizza is very, very good tonight."
Good grief. A significant eyeroll. "Whatever you say, Jess."
The larger body then leaned in very, very close to Robin. "I think I should point out to you that shrimp makes me very happy." Jess gave the younger woman a knowing nod.
Very happy? The smaller woman, catching the nod, stopped eating altogether. "Um…..how happy?"
A long slender finger reached up and slowly traced Robin's lips. "Extremely, extremely….." The finger continued its path over the slightly parted lips. "Happy."
Oh. An audible swallow, then blonde eyelashes fluttered lightly. "In that case, I think you should definitely have another slice of your shrimp pizza."
Hearing that comment, Jess sat back in her chair, immensely satisfied with her victory. "Well….." She grinned widely. "I don't mind if I do."
Ooooh. I can't believe she got me again!
The early morning sun had long risen above the horizon, casting a glowing light through the large floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the litigation department chairman's office. Jess and Robin entered together, taking seats in front of the large wooden desk, as Harry perused the morning newspaper, his cup of hot coffee perched conspicuously in front of him. Sitting in complete silence, all three parties waited for the managing partner's arrival. In reality, it wasn't a particularly uncomfortable quiet for any of them. After all, the deal was already set. The outcome was known. There was no particular suspense, no need for further negotiation, no uncertainty, no jockeying for position. Nope. Just taking care of some unresolved and unfinished business. That's all.
Jess cast a glance around the office, settling her gaze on Harry's form framed by the near-glaring sunlight. As Robin had told the story, he had orchestrated a way out of this mess for all of them, and had convinced the Management Committee to accept a deal. It was a shrewd move on his part. Leave it to Harry to figure out a way to keep both me and the firm out of hot water. But at what cost? Well, certainly, the cost was a slightly damaged reputation for Jess. Perhaps she'd even suffer a loss of respect by certain of her colleagues, perhaps even by Harry, himself. Perhaps. Then, there was Robin's release. Damn. The junior partner really didn't like the idea of Robin signing such a thing. What do they call it in the business world? Oh, yes. A "love contract". Shit. Ten to one they'll ask me to sign the damn thing, as well. The worst thing about it was that the release reduced both her personal relationship and her business relationship with Robin to a common contractual matter, a kind of prenuptial agreement, just in case the relationship ended. Jess sighed internally. Ended. Could that really happen?
The junior partner had to give Robin credit, though. She'd used her wits and keen sensing of the situation to seal the deal in the most favorable light possible. Blue eyes glanced over at the young associate. She did a good job. Robin's sensing of how badly the Management Committee wanted the release was good instinct, a trait that would serve her well in the future. And using the Committee's weakness to her own advantage by promising to sign the release in exchange for assurance that Jess's partnership would be secure was shrewd in its own right. In truth, the junior partner was really quite proud of Robin. There would be no greater test of Robin's abilities than in handling a situation which so intimately involved herself and someone about whom she cared greatly.
Just then, the door opened and the managing partner stepped inside the office. "I see that everyone's here, so let's begin." He approached the large wooden desk where Harry sat and stood off to the side, leaning casually against a long bookcase filled with old statute books.
Harry quietly set his newspaper down and took a long sip of coffee, obviously preferring to let Gordon deliver the Committee's formal verdict.
Noting the silence, the managing partner continued. "Robin, do you have the signed document with you?"
Well, he didn't waste any time. "Yes, all signed and notarized." Robin placed the release on the desk. "I made one small change on page two, but other than that, I have no other concerns about signing it."
Gordon picked up the document and reviewed the change. "Yes, that's fine." He nodded his assent. Now, he could breathe a little bit easier. He had the signed release in hand. That was what he was really after. The firm was protected. Everything else was perfunctory. Pure mechanics. There was just one other little detail to take care of. His gaze fell on the junior partner. "Jessica, did you have an opportunity to review this document, as well?"
Here it comes. "Yes, I did."
"Good. The Management Committee requests your signature on page three." Gordon set the paper in front of the junior partner and handed her a stylish pen. "Right there." He pointed to the signature line and stared at her expectantly.
Jess took the pen, and without further comment, signed the document. A "love contract." It figures. She handed it back to him.
"Okay." Gordon directed his remarks to Jess. "Here is the Management Committee's final decision. You will be permitted to retain your partnership with the firm provided that you agree to the following terms. First, you must reimburse the firm for its legal fees associated with this matter. Second, you must forfeit your partnership distribution for one month, prospectively. Third, your suspension, which you have served for the past two weeks, is without compensation. And fourth, any other matter involving you, regardless of subject matter, which is serious enough to be brought before the Management Committee and for which you are found to be the responsible party, will result in the permanent, irrevocable severance of your partnership. Those are the terms."
Jess nodded. I suppose it could be worse. "Agreed."
"Good." He stepped around the desk. "You'll receive a copy of the written decision of the Committee, and you'll also receive an agreement setting forth the terms I've just outlined which you'll need to sign prior to your reinstatement on Monday morning." Upon seeing her nod in the affirmative, his business was concluded. The main thing was that he got his release. The firm was free and clear. "And, as to the working arrangement between you and Robin, I'll let Harry hash that out with the both of you. Now, if you all will excuse me, I've got a Historical Society board meeting to attend right now." He started to leave the office, but instead hesitated, giving Jess a curious look. He then glanced briefly over at Robin, then back again at Jess. I don't understand it. Why would anyone put their career in jeopardy for such a relationship? It makes no sense.
I know that look. The junior partner held his gaze. Not one word, Gordon. Her face was an expressionless mask. Not one word.
Robin, who had remained deferentially quiet during the interchange between Jess and Gordon, caught the look he gave, as well. What was that all about? It certainly was strange, and she made a mental note to ask the junior partner about it later.
As Gordon exited the office, both younger attorneys turned their attention to Harry, who hadn't said two words all morning. The head of the litigation department slowly and deliberately moved his empty coffee cup off to the side of his desk and folded his hands directly in front of him. "Well." He cleared his throat. "What am I going to do with you two?"
"Harry….." Jess began to explain, even though she didn't exactly know what she was explaining.
He quickly put his hand up. "Let me finish." His demeanor was stern, but his tone of voice held a hint of affection. "As Gordon indicated, it's now up to me to find a way for the two of you to work together."
Work together? Jess had assumed that Harry would be assigning Robin to work with Clay Taylor permanently. It was inevitable, and although it didn't make her happy, the junior partner knew it was the desired protocol in this type of situation. But what was Harry talking about now? The junior partner cast Robin a questioning look.
The young associate simply shrugged innocently. For whatever reason, Robin had chosen not to reveal to Jess the part of the deal that allowed both of them to continue working together. Robin, herself, didn't exactly know why she didn't tell Jess. Perhaps she wanted it to be a surprise. Or perhaps a bonus to the deal. Or maybe she just wanted Jess to be proud of her. On that point, she needn't have worried.
The junior partner shook her head, not understanding Harry's statement. "You're saying that you have to find a way for Robin and me to work together?"
He nodded. "Yes. Pursuant to the Management Committee's agreement with Robin, you two are going to be permitted to work together, and like I said, I now have to find a way for you to do that without raising any type of favoritism concerns. Not an easy task."
At this point, Jess looked over at Robin, raising both dark eyebrows appraisingly in the process. How did she manage that? A smile formed on her face. "Is that so?"
The young associate just smiled back sweetly.
Harry continued. "So, here's the way it's going to be. You both will operate a team. I will act as the team's supervisor and evaluate the team's overall performance, thereby eliminating any potential favoritism allegations. Each of you is dependent upon the other. If the team succeeds, then you both succeed." He glanced at Jess and Robin. "Can you both work within those parameters?"
Jess nodded enthusiastically, still not entirely believing how all this ended up. "Yes."
Robin, likewise, followed suit. "Yes, sir."
"Good." He then broke into a wide grin and shook his head in seeming amazement. "Son of a gun." He shook his head again. "You are the only two people I know who could've pulled this thing off." He leaned forward in his chair and barely winked. "Just don't do it again."
Jess grinned, very relieved. This had worked out better than she could have possibly hoped. "Don't worry, Harry. Robin and I will be perfect angels from now on." She arched a dark eyebrow in Robin's direction. "Isn't that right, Robin?"
"Absolutely." The young associate wholeheartedly agreed. "Perfect angels."
"All right, then. Now, I think some of us have work to do today." Harry turned his head and stared longingly at his empty coffee cup. "Robin, as you head on back to your office, could you please ask Betty to bring me in another cup of coffee? And Jess, will you stay for just a moment longer?"
"Sure." The junior partner gave Robin a wink as the younger woman stood up and left the office, then settled herself more comfortably into her chair. "Okay, Harry, what's up?" A knock at the door interrupted them, and Betty brought in a fresh cup of steaming hot coffee. Jess watched as Harry's secretary set the coffee mug down on the corner of the large wooden desk and then retreated back to her cubbyhole outside. "So, now what's up?"
Harry sipped his coffee, then got serious. "Listen, Jess, I'm counting on you. Don't do anything to mess this arrangement up."
"I won't." The junior partner studied her hands, contemplating her next words. "Robin told me how you put together this whole release deal in order to keep me around." Sincere blue eyes met his. "I want you to know that I appreciate your faith in me and your support, and I promise you that I won't let you down."
"Good." The managing partner leaned forward and rested his forearms on the desktop. "Jess, you're a damn fine lawyer and very good for this firm. I have always supported you, and I always will. But….." He looked at her pointedly. "I need for you to come to me with any problems you may have here, large or small, from this point forward. Are we clear?"
"Yes. You have my word." She smiled. Harry really was a good man. "Again, Harry, thanks for working out the deal."
"Well, I think you can thank Robin for most of that. I did what I could, but Robin recognized the dynamics involved in the Committee's thinking and then turned around and used their own concerns as leverage to get what she wanted. She's a very smart young woman."
The junior partner grinned broadly. "That much I had figured out."
Harry nodded. "She's going to be one hell of an attorney." He tapped two fingers idly on the edge of his desk. "I have to tell you, when she went for more than the original deal with her insistence that the both of you continue to work together, I about fell out of my chair." He shook his head, recalling the meeting the day before with Gordon and Robin. "I never saw that one coming, and I guarantee you that Gordon didn't, either."
"Really? I'm impressed." And Jess really was impressed. Very impressed. "I wish I could've seen that."
"She reminds me of you. You sure have taught her well." The litigation department chairman winked, then quickly sobered. "But I need for the both of you to behave, now. As much as I'm happy that things worked out for you this time, and I admire how you both pulled this whole thing off, the Management Committee will not tolerate anything further from either of you. Gordon may have been backed into a corner this time, but I guarantee you that it won't happen again."
"Good." Harry turned all business once again. "Now, I'll see you on Monday. All of your previous cases will be waiting for you when you arrive."
"I'll be there." The junior partner stood up. She glanced at Harry, then decided she might as well broach the subject that had been on her mind all morning. "Can you tell me the outcome of the Committee vote?" Actually, she was itching to know.
I'm surprised she waited this long to ask. "Yes." He paused briefly, then answered. "Four to one."
Figures. Three guesses who went against me. As the junior partner turned to leave, she cast a fond look back at her long-time friend and mentor. "Hey, Harry?" At his glance up, she gave him a wry smile. "Thanks." He casually waived her off, maintaining his businesslike demeanor, but not fooling her for one minute. He's really a teddy bear. Her tall form left the office and stepped into the long hallway, closing the door behind her.
Now, let me find Matt Singleton. There's something I need him to do for me. Today.
"So, how you doing, Biff?" Robin snuggled against her taller companion on the plush living room sofa. The soft orange glow of candlelight surrounded them, the flames gently flickering to cast dancing shadows on the nearby wall.
"Biff is just fine, thank you." The dark-haired woman suppressed a grin, then kissed the top of the blonde head beside her. "Have I told you how proud I am of you?"
"Only about a million times, but I never get tired of hearing it." A petite finger traced random patterns on the cotton fabric of Jess's t-shirt. "To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure that my plan would work, but I had to go for it. I just couldn't let them get away with trying to get something for nothing."
"Your instincts were dead-on right, and you handled yourself very well." The taller woman brushed the bangs from Robin's forehead. "I have it on good authority that both Gordon and Harry were very impressed…..well, as impressed as they could possibly be under the circumstances."
The blonde head lifted up, surprised. "They were?"
"Absolutely. It's not every day that a relatively young associate gets the better of them. Harry, of course, did warn me that they won't fall for it again, but I think you gained a lot of respect from them."
"Really?" Robin's hand trailed down and slipped underneath the hem of Jess's t-shirt, stroking the silky smooth skin. "Well, I did learn from the best, you know."
"Um….." Jess was becoming a little distracted. Well, actually, more than a little distracted. "Perhaps you deserve a reward for your efforts."
A reward? "What a great idea." The younger woman leaned in and whispered into a very convenient ear. "Was there something in particular you had in mind?"
All Jess could think about at that particular moment was the warm, moist breath caressing the nape of her neck. There was no doubt in her mind that she was with the only person in the whole world who could evoke so many intense emotions from her all at the same time. And what she was feeling right now was very strong, indeed. "Well, there is one thing….." Her thought was cut off by a long, searing kiss that left her nearly breathless. "Um….." She was clearly a bit dazed. "Um….." Azure eyes somehow managed to focus. "Come with me. I have a reward to give you."
Sea-green eyes never left crystal blue as Jess led them both into the master bedroom. Robin's heart picked up its beat, her pulse racing, as the tall form knelt in front of her and long, slender fingers unbuttoned her blouse, tossing it aside. Soft lips placed gentle kisses on every inch of exposed flesh, while those same long fingers slowly and deliberately removed each and every article of clothing in their pathway, creating an explosion of sensation in their wake. It was amazing. And incredible. No matter how many times they'd done this very same thing before, it was always so unbelievably intense.
Finally, Jess led Robin over to the waterbed, guiding her down with infinite tenderness and kissing her sweet lips with such feeling that Robin didn't know where she ended and Jess began. Large hands roamed and caressed and massaged and stroked Robin's body freely, intent on their sensual task, until finally, the smaller body arched and surrendered itself in the all-encompassing and shuddering waves that followed. The reward rendered was very sweet, indeed.
As Robin's heart rate regained its normal rhythm, she held the taller body tightly to her own for several long moments, enjoying the unique closeness. Then, as the smaller woman shifted herself to rest on top of Jess, petite fingers intent on a task all their own, began a journey of love and adoration reserved only for the one person in the whole universe who held the essence of her soul. And like all the other times beforehand, the connection between them was very moving, very intense, and very beautiful as they each cradled the other's heart in love's tender embrace.
As they laid together in the darkness, the soft moonlight from outside cast an ethereal glow throughout the bedroom. Jess brushed her fingers back and forth against Robin's cheek in a feather-light touch. "Everything okay?" The younger woman had been silent for a very long time.
"Yes." Soft lips placed a delicate kiss on Jess's chin. "I was just thinking about how glad I am that this whole thing with the firm is over now."
An internal sigh. It's not over. It's just beginning. "Well, we're back to working together again, and that's a good thing."
Robin detected something in Jess's response. She propped herself up on one hand. "Are you worried about something?"
Good question, and just how, exactly, to answer it? After due consideration, the older woman decided to let Robin savor the day's victory. Besides, there might not be anything to worry about, anyway. "Well, I think we'll have to prove ourselves as a team, but you and I are going to do the best damn job that firm has ever seen." She grinned in the dark, partly to reassure herself, and partly to reassure Robin. "I guarantee it."
Gray-green eyes regarded Jess fondly. "We sure do make a good team, don't we?" That earned Robin a quick kiss, which in turn elicited a slight giggle from the younger woman. "I take that as a yes?"
"You betcha, kiddo."
After a few more minutes of contented silence, Robin spoke again. "I saw that look Gordon gave you today when we were in Harry's office. What was that all about?"
The older woman characteristically stiffened. Damn. She'd intended to avoid the issue completely, but despite her best efforts to direct the focus away from the unpleasantness, Robin kept circling around it. Jess swallowed, then tried to put as best light as possible on the situation. "I believe that there may be some people at the firm who might resent the way all of this has turned out." Well, at least, that was an innocuous enough way to phrase it.
Blonde eyebrows furrowed. That's not it, or at least not all of it. Everything in Robin's instincts was telling her that there was more going on. She focused intently on silver-blue eyes in the dark. "Tell me, Jess. You can tell me."
Jess grasped Robin's hand within her own and kissed the knuckles. "There are some people who may not….." She searched for an appropriate word. "Understand our relationship."
What is she really saying? Then, it dawned on Robin, and she understood completely. There could be a backlash against them. It really wasn't a surprise. She'd actually known it all along. The smaller woman tucked their still joined hands snuggly underneath her chin. "As one very, very smart person once told me, it's none of their business. No one could understand how I feel about you." They were Jess's exact words, said to her only months before. In truth, Robin's saying them was a testament to how far she had come in the past several months. It wasn't too long ago that she'd have been worried sick over what other people might be thinking.
The significance of Robin's statement didn't escape Jess. She recalled saying those words to the younger woman when they were first beginning their relationship. Now, Robin was saying them to her. How things have changed. "So, then you're okay about it?"
"Yes." Gray-green eyes twinkled. "I'm wonderful."
"Yes." Amused silver-blue eyes twinkled back. "You most certainly are."
A petite nose twitched, then twitched some more as a delightfully delicious aroma emanated from the kitchen. Ooooh, coffee. It was rather late in the morning, after all, and it appeared that the proprietor of the household had been up for quite some time, no doubt concocting some infamous creation for breakfast. A green eye opened drowsily and surveyed the surroundings, instantly confirming the assessment. Bright sunlight streamed into the room through slits in the venetian blinds, and the older woman was nowhere to be seen.
Robin inhaled the tantalizing scents wafting in her direction, now detecting a hint of frying bacon in the mix. She's doing this just to wake me up. She knows I can't resist the smell of coffee and bacon in the morning. The younger woman sat up, languidly stretching her limbs to the fullest before climbing out of bed and diligently searching for her beloved bunny slippers. Thankfully, they were just where she'd left them the previous evening. For the time being, at least, her highly-prized footwear was all present and accounted for. She slipped the items onto her feet and padded down the long hallway toward the kitchen, intent on taking a sneak peek at just what her housemate was up to.
It was a familiar sight. The dark-haired woman stood next to the stove, occasionally turning the bacon, knowing full well that Robin would soon be up and about just from the delicious smells alone. In fact, it was a sure bet that at any moment, her sleepy companion would indeed be darting into the kitchen, attempting desperately to snatch a piece of bacon at exactly the precise split-second that Jess wasn't looking. It was an art that the younger woman had perfected in several months of living with Jess, and today was no exception. True to form, before the larger body could even turn around, petite fingers had deftly pilfered a crisp bacon strip sitting unsuspectingly on the stove warmer. Jess immediately noticed the missing object and grinned. Somebody's finally up. My plan works every time.
Robin sat innocently at the kitchen table munching on her hard-earned bacon. In truth, as she sat there, she marveled at the dark-haired woman. For all of Jess's tough exterior, she was just a cuddly bunny underneath. She was one who could pick people apart at inane committee meetings, and at the same time, she was as kind and considerate as any human being ever could be. And absolutely, positively, and without a doubt predictable. "Good morning." Robin managed to get out between munches.
Blue eyes sparkled. "Good morning, sleepyhead. If you didn't get up soon, I was going to have to scrap breakfast altogether and try for dinner."
Green eyes narrowed. "You are so mean to me."
A mortified look. "Moi?"
"Yes." Robin snatched another piece of bacon. "And I'm on to your little scheme, by the way."
"Scheme?" Dark eyebrows lifted comically, ostensibly to convey absolute innocence. "Why Robin, I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."
Another munch, then a frank look. "I think you do. You deliberately made coffee and bacon at the same time knowing full well that smelling them always wakes me up."
A shocked gasp. "I did?"
A petite finger wagged playfully in Jess's direction. "Yes, you did."
"Well, what do you know….." Jess cocked her head in thoughtful concentration. "I always wondered why whenever I fixed bacon and coffee, you always showed up."
Robin threw a bunched up paper napkin at Jess. "You're impossible."
"Yep. That's why you love me, kiddo." A wide, happy grin. "So, tell me, would you like eggs or pancakes with your bacon today?"
"Eggs, please, over easy." A slight giggle. "After your little shrimp pizza topping thing the other night, I'm not inclined to take any chances with your pancakes this morning. Who knows what could happen? As if your shrimp-shaped pancakes that one other time weren't enough…..I shudder to think what could happen next."
A very bored look.
"And really, who ever heard of putting shrimp on pizza, anyway? No one I know, that's for sure. I mean, ham and sausage and mushrooms, and even onions and green peppers and black olives, are perfectly normal toppings. But shrimp….." The blonde head shook in utter disbelief.
The very bored look continued.
"You know, you probably shouldn't order shrimp pizza out in public. Other people may not understand about your fetish the way I do."
Blue eyes blinked ever so slowly. "Are you finished?"
"Yes." Robin smiled sweetly.
The smaller woman poured herself a cup of coffee, then noticed a folded piece of paper resting on the table in front of her. "Hey, what's this?" She picked it up.
"Um….." Jess looked away. "It's your copy."
My copy? The younger woman unfolded the paper, noting the title printed in neat calligraphy across the top of it. "It's a deed." She perused the document further, also noting the legal description. "To The Ranch."
Jess remained suspiciously silent.
"But, what…..?" Green eyes widened. There, prominently displayed in black and white script, was Robin's name. She let go a quick gasp. "Jess….."
The taller woman approached the table and set a plate of bacon and eggs in front of Robin before sitting down next to her. "Listen, I've added you to the deed here. I had Matt take care of it yesterday." Azure eyes, unable to look at Robin, instead focused on the plate of food. "Is that okay?"
She wants to know if it's okay. In truth, Robin was speechless. She never expected this. It turns out that Jess wasn't so terribly predictable, after all. "It's….." Eyes the color of the sea moistened, then found brilliant crystal blue and held them in an intense gaze. "Yes." All other words at the moment escaped her.
"I wanted you to know beyond any doubt whatsoever that this is your house, too, your home, in every possible way. It will never be an issue." Jess was, of course, referring to their disagreement a few days before.
A petite hand grasped a larger one. "Thank you. It means a lot to me that you wanted to do that." The gesture of Jess adding her to the deed was more than merely symbolic, and Robin knew it. The older woman had worked so very hard to hold onto the house after James had cleaned out her financial accounts all those many years ago and devastated her life and her heart in the process. Now, here she was, sharing ownership of her most prided possession with Robin. "Are you sure about this?"
Jess's gaze never wavered. "Absolutely sure."
Robin squeezed the hand she was holding. "You are an amazing person."
That brought a smile. "So are you. We're each other's family now. This house, everything I have, is yours, just as much as it is mine. I want you to know that. What's mine is also yours."
The blonde head nodded. "And what's mine, whatever I have, is also yours, Jess. I want you to know that, too."
"Thanks." A pause, then Jess tapped a long finger against her chin pensively. "Hmmm. You know, Robin, it just occurred to me that if what's yours is mine….." She conspicuously peered underneath the table. "Does that mean that your bunny slippers are mine, too?"
Green eyes quickly narrowed. "You leave my bunny slippers out of this."
The older woman held up her hands in mock surrender. "Hey, I was just asking."
"I know what you were doing, and you can forget it, Biff."
Well, you can't blame a girl for trying. "Fine. Let's eat, then." Mischievous blue eyes suddenly twinkled. "Oh, and by the way, Robin….." A playful smirk. "It's your turn to pay the mortgage next month."
Now, that remark was entirely predictable.
Continued in part 10 (Conclusion)
© Copyright 10/05/2001