Darcy jumped into the cab that stopped at the curb and gave the driver the address of her apartment complex. She leaned back into the seat and closed her eyes as the vehicle pulled out into the thick flow of the afternoon rush hour traffic, her mind hastily scrolling through the things that she had yet to accomplish before the weekend. It was an unending list and she let out a sigh as she opened her eyes and stared out the window determined that for one evening she would forget about business.
She was tired, both in body and mind, but her day was still far from finished. Her husband Perry was on a flight from London that was due to land in a few hours and she was intent on being at the airport to meet him.
He had been gone for three weeks negotiating a deal in Europe and though he hadn't wanted her to pick him up, she was intent on surprising him. She knew she would have to hurry if she wanted to make it to the airport before the plane landed.
Her stomach growled in hungry protest but a quick search of her handbag yielded nothing edible. She would have to wait until she got home before grabbing some food while she changed out of her business suit into something a little more casual. Impatiently she glanced at the expensive gold watch on her slender wrist, reminded that Perry had bought it for her after his last extended trip abroad.
Not wanting to waste a moment she hauled out her cellular phone and dialled up her answering service to check for any messages. She had just finished signing off on one deal and had only a few days to prepare before she was to enter in negotiations on a second deal.
After reviewing her messages, Darcy opened her briefcase and grabbed her day timer, flipping it open and jotting down some notes, noticing on the calendar that they were expected to meet her mother-in-law for dinner the next evening. She silently chided herself for forgetting about the birthday party and mentally made a note to send her secretary out to buy an appropriate gift.
She ended the call and dialled a second number, pushing her reading glasses back up her nose when they began to slide down her face. She knew that her colleague was out of the office but she left a message on the machine, knowing that her boss would get it first thing in the morning.
"Dom this is Darcy. I need to meet with you to discuss deal with Julius Murphy. I need some information from you. I am free for an hour tomorrow at lunch time. Leave a message with my secretary if you can't make it. I will be in the office by seven."
With that she hung up and glanced at her watch again. Traffic was slow and the cab hardly seemed to be moving. She thought of the hundred and one things left to do to prepare for the impending file but in spite of that she had cancelled not only a meeting but a dinner with her staff just so that she could meet her husband.
She turned to look out the window again her mind briefly acknowledging of how her life had changed in the four years since she had graduated from law school and joined the Sable Corporation. She could remember that first day on the job as clear today as if it had only been yesterday. It was a day where she had met two people who played prominent roles in her future.
Initially she had been hired to work in the legal department under Perry Saabo, the owner's son, but it was quickly discerned that her brilliance lay in acquisitions. She had an uncanny instinct for good deals that had proven valuable for the corporation.
The move in positions had not stopped the romance that blossomed between the corporate heir and her. From the moment they met Perry had singled her out, inviting her to dinner and taking her to the grandest of parties. They had quickly fallen in love and a year later they were married and settled into a hectic lifestyle of eighteen hour work days and glamorous social gatherings.
In the office she was envied by many of her colleagues and there were times when even she had to pinch herself to believe that it was all real for she had never expected to come so far so fast. At twenty eight she had everything she had dreamed about as a child. There was the luxurious upscale apartment, the weekend country home and the matching sports cars. Yet in spite of that there seemed to be something missing.
She sighed, chiding herself mentally for seemingly she had everything anyone would want. She was working hard and living the American dream of financial success. She had always known that she would achieve great things she just hadn't known it would come so easily or so quickly and for that she had to thank the owner of the Corporation.
William Saabo was a maverick in the business world. He was a man who believed in a hand's on approach to business. He had started the company as a young man and though his fortunes had risen he still liked to know everything that was going on in his firm. It was not unusual for the man to stop unexpectedly in some department and quiz the first person he ran into. He liked his employees to be as well informed as he was.
She had been the unfortunate victim that first morning and had been quite proud that she had been able to answer all his questions. He had been noticeably impressed when he learned that it was her first day on the job. As a reward he had invited her to lunch that afternoon and that had been the beginning of their unorthodox friendship.
Many in the company viewed the relationship with an envious speculation that she had ignored. In spite of the differences in their ages, they had found in each other a similar intelligence and interests. They spent most of their time together talking about his family and the various sporting teams he supported.
William was a lonely man, a widower who was still deeply in love with his dead second wife but who still enjoyed the company of beautiful women. There were no expectations on their relationship other than friendship and for Darcy it was like having a father to replace the one who had disappeared from her life when she was young.
If there was one sore point in their relationship it was the older man's reluctance to give his whole hearted support to the life that she was building with his son. Though he had accepted her into the family she had sensed a measure of disapproval and she was never able to understand why. It was one of only a few faucets of the man that she had not been able to understand.
All her dealings with the Saabo clan had not come without cost for there had been malicious rumours that said it was her relationship with the son and her friendship with the boss and not her skill that had prompted her promotions.
She had been selected over others with more experience and years of service with the company and it had caused many hurt feelings. But she had been aware of the honour that had been bestowed on her and had been confident enough in her ability to know it was her talent that had earned her every reward. She had learned enough about the owner to know that he did not play favourites in business.
The critics had quickly been silenced. More than once she had basked in pride at having bested an adversary. In a short period of time she created a reputation for being tough and aggressive and it had earned her respect from all those she came into contact with. It had only seemed logical that when William's oldest daughter had finally joined the Corporation that she was assigned the task of introducing the woman to the business.
Dominique Saabo was thirty four years old and just ending a successful amateur sports career that included competing in three Olympic Games. Many insiders hinted that the ex-athlete had no more intelligence than an average sports jock but she had quickly learned otherwise.
Darcy knew that while working to win her Olympic medals, Dominique had graduated with honours from law school, successfully passing the bar exam on the first attempt. She understood what it took to succeed under such circumstances and secretly admired the other woman's accomplishments.
From the first moment she had been on edge in the tall dark haired woman's presence. Dominique was an intense individual with a drive that far superseded her half-brother Perry and matched that of her father. She was intelligent and demanding but also charming and gracious and Darcy found herself the recipient of many acts of kindness by the other woman.
At William's request Dominique had taken over as head of the acquisitions department. Though Darcy had seen the appointment as a natural choice, it was a move that had caused dissension among several of the staff including Perry who had seen the move as a slight to his own talents. There had been many tense moments as a result when the two half- siblings clashed over various strategies. It didn't help matters that William generally sided with his daughter on most matters.
Darcy sighed again. If there was one dark cloud over her world it was that the two step-siblings couldn't get along. There was a personal animosity between Perry and Dominique that made her job difficult especially when she happened to take the woman's side on issues related to the business. Many times she had caught the brunt of her husband's discontent.
She shook her head, determined to forget about the office for at least a few hours. Their work was keeping them apart for longer periods of time now and they had to seize every available opportunity to be alone together. It took a huge effort to make their marriage work and she was determined for it to succeed. She had come from a broken home and had promised herself never to let that happen to her.
Darcy was pulled from her thoughts as the taxi finally reached its destination. She paid the fare and jumped out, rushing passed the doorman and through the security controlled gates and onto the elevator that whisked her up to the twenty third floor suite they owned.
She dropped her briefcase and keys on the table by the door and ran through the cavernous apartment to the bedroom. She tossed her clothes onto the bed and then slipped into a pair of woolen trousers and a cashmere sweater. Within a few minutes she was ready, pausing only long enough to fix her hair and make-up.
After a brief inspection of the spotless kitchen she selected an apple from the fruit bowl and then collected the car keys from the cabinet. She glanced around the suite as she walked back to the door. It was neat and tidy, the floors and tables brightly polished the way Perry liked. The maid had even changed the bed sheets. The place was perfect.
She opted to take the Mercedes instead of the Porsche knowing that Perry did not like her to drive his car. The traffic had thinned yet it still moved at a snail's pace making her impatient. After what seemed like an eternity she finally pulled into the parking lot at the airport.
She glanced at her watch and then at the board in the arrival terminal. The flight had landed early and most of the passengers were already making their way through customs. She could not see her husband anywhere yet the smile on her face grew in anticipation. She hated these lengthy separations because for days afterwards there was always awkwardness between them. She could never quite figure out why.
She broke through the waiting crowd and scanned the people slowly making their way out of the customs area. She spotted him and was about to call out his name when she saw something that made her smile freeze and her heart drop to her feet.
When Perry emerged from the gate he was not alone. His arm was casually draped across the shoulders of a familiar young woman. There were smiles on both their faces and Darcy watched mesmerized as the couple leaned their heads together and kissed.
It was not a friendly peck on the cheek that might pass between an old friend or family member; it was a kiss that hinted at intimacy and passion. There was a familiarity about the intimate action that spoke volumes about the pair's relationship.
Darcy automatically shrunk back into the crowd but at that moment Perry glanced up and their eyes met and in that one instant she guessed the truth. It was in the guilty expression in his eyes and the pink stain that appeared on his neck. She noticed how his arm quickly dropped from the girl's shoulders to his side.
There was just the slightest hesitation before her husband crossed the short distance that separated them and wrapped her in a huge embrace. But his response had been to slow and she had seen the guarded look he cast at the woman at his side.
"Honey, this is great, I didn't expect you," Perry attempted to be cheerful and made to kiss her but she turned her head away. She was too shocked to do anything else. Her mind was in a daze. The man flushed with embarrassment at the snub.
She had heard rumours that her husband was carrying on an affair. She had ignored the snickering innuendo's believing that people were just trying to cause trouble. Both had enemies in the company, people who were envious of their success. Besides she trusted Perry, he had often told her she was special.
Perry had had a reputation of playing around but she believed that he had changed when they married. Now in one sickening instant she realized everything she had heard about her husband was true. She felt like a fool.
"Honey, you will never believe who I ran into at the airport in London," Perry said gallantly as the other woman slowly walked up to them. "You know Lisa Woodley from accounting."
"Yes," Darcy acknowledged stiffly. She did not extend her hand in greeting. She would not make a scene and embarrass anyone but she would not pretend to be a fool.
Lisa Woodley had come to work for the Sable Corporation a year earlier. She was a pretty, young woman and all the single men in the department had been interested but the girl had rebuffed their invitations. In spite of her claims that she had a boyfriend she had always shown up alone at all the company functions. Now, Darcy understood why.
"I hope you don't mind sweetheart but I offered Lisa a ride home. She doesn't have anyone meeting her. I thought it was the least I could do for a colleague."
Perry was always the gracious one and Darcy remembered now all the other occasions they had given the woman a ride home from some function. At the time she had thought nothing about it and Perry had always made some pitying remark about feeling sorry for the girl but in hindsight she realized he had never needed directions to the woman's apartment. Not even after she had apparently moved.
Little things filtered through Darcy's mind as they drove along the darkened streets. She refused to relinquish the keys to her husband, needing to be in control. She was determined to remain polite and calm until they reached the privacy of their own home. She would not allow the other woman to see that she was completely shattered.
She waited in the car while Perry escorted the other woman to the door of her apartment. He had kept up a cheerful running monologue during the drive from the airport but when he returned to the car there was silence.
"Aren't you going to say anything?" He finally broke the tension between them once they were in their apartment.
"What do you want me to say?" She whirled on her heel to face him. "Do you want me to be happy you're having an affair?"
"I expect some kind of reaction at least," he retorted following her into the bedroom.
"Why, would that make you feel less guilty about cheating?" she flung at him.
"No, but at least it would let me know that you still cared," he said harshly.
"Me?" Darcy sputtered incredulously.
"Yes," he retorted. "Hell, lately you have been spending more time with my sister than me."
"Bullshit!" She was incensed by his words. "Don't try and blame this on me."
There was silence as they stared at each other. Darcy felt her heart hammering against her ribs. The pain she felt was incredible. Perry looked at her and then sighed in defeat, slumping on to the edge of the bed.
"Yes, I cheated on you Darcy but it was something that just happened. I didn't plan it." There was remorse in his voice. "I didn't know Lisa was in London until I bumped into her at the hotel. She has been flirting with me for weeks and I have been telling her no but I was missing you so much. I had too much to drink one evening and wasn't able to resist the temptation."
Darcy felt like throwing up. She didn't know whether she could believe him. There were too many unanswered questions and though he sounded convincing the image of the kiss was still too vividly burned into her memory. The intimacy of the embrace was more revealing than a one night fling.
"Do you want to marry her?" she asked stiffly.
"Oh God no," Perry looked across at her. "I don't want to marry her. I love you. I love you so much that it drives me crazy when I see you even working around other men. Hell, I go nuts every time I find out you have had a meeting with Dominique. She wants you and it makes me insane knowing that."
"Now you are being crazy," Darcy said sharply. "Dominique is your sister and she had never been anything but a friend and sister-in-law." There was an audible pause. "Do you want me to quit my job, stay home and have children?"
"No!" There was a flash of panic in his blue eyes. "You know I don't want that." There was another slight pause and an appeal on his face. "I screwed up Darcy, one time, I swear. It will never happen again."
She looked at her husband. It would not be easy for her to forget his betrayal. He had broken their vows and shattered her trust. It would take more than a simple admission of guilt and an apology for her to forgive.
"Can you forgive me Darcy?" He was begging.
"You hurt me," she said with anger.
"I know and I will never forgive myself for that," he said quietly. "I love you Darcy and I don't want what happened to change us."
"You should have thought of that before you slept with her," she snorted struggling to control the tears that threatened to fall. "Whatever happens to us we have changed."
"I don't want us to end," he was suddenly on his knees in front of her. "I am begging you to forgive me."
"I need to think," she said simply and grabbed her pillow from the bed. Without another word she stormed out of the room.
Only once she was alone in the guest room did she allow the tears to flow. She flung herself onto the bed and sobbed, aware that her fairy tale had collapsed. She knew there were people who would be delighted by her misery, but she was determined not to let them see how badly she had been hurt.
She applied an extra layer of make-up the next morning in an attempt to hide the circles under her eyes. She had not slept, tormented by her pain and thoughts of what she could have done to prevent his infidelity. She hated the feeling of failure that plagued her senses.
Darcy had often asked Perry if he wanted a more typical housewife and family but he had always denied the claim. He had made it clear that he didn't want children and that he was happy with their life. She wondered if she could believe that anymore. She wondered if she could believe anything anymore.
She was grateful for a busy calendar and was able to forget about her personal problems and concentrate on work. She threw herself into the tight daily regiment with a religious zeal, unaware that those closest to her knew something was wrong.
"I hope you realize that junk will kill you," Dominique remarked over lunch that day. They had scheduled their meeting around the meal and had ordered food into the office.
Darcy glanced absently at the cheeseburger and fries she had ordered and then at the other woman's plate of cold cuts, vegetables and fruit. Normally she ate a more healthy diet but today she was in a miserable mood. She shrugged indifferently.
"Eventually we are all going to die anyway."
Dominique leaned back in her chair and stared across at the woman. She sensed that her colleague was in a peculiar mood. They had worked closely enough for her to recognize when something was wrong with the other woman. Her blue eyes narrowed as she studied the smaller woman.
Darcy was incredibly beautiful even with the reading glasses perched on her nose. The first thing Dominique had noticed at their introduction was the way her green eyes sparkled when she was happy. There wasn't much the taller woman didn't notice about her sister-in-law as her eyes were automatically drawn in the woman's direction whenever she entered a room.
The older woman allowed her gaze to wander over the blonde woman's delicate features encased in the heart shaped face. The image of her long golden hair, now neatly tucked up in a severe business like bun, and slender neck was an inviting image that was imprinted on her memory. Even now she would visualize the other woman walking across the room, her narrow hips swaying to a rhythm uniquely her own.
Abruptly the dark haired woman halted her thoughts, harshly reminding herself that Darcy was married to her half-brother. A frown settled over her brow. She did not like Perry, she had never liked him, seeing the man for what he was and yet it was obvious that this woman saw something else.
Dominique silently cursed her feelings. It was useless for her to pine over a woman whom she could never have yet no matter how hard she tried, she could never get the blond woman out of her head. Even when she was with other women she would wonder what Darcy was doing.
The taller woman knew it was unnatural this obsession she had for the woman. Darcy had never given her any reason to think she ever thought of her as anything but her boss. The blonde woman was always professional and never allowed their conversation to become too personal. In that way she envied her father who had forged a strong friendship with the woman.
"You seem preoccupied today," Dominique said casually breaking the silence that had engulfed them.
Darcy looked up from her plate and stared at the other woman for a long moment. She shook her head in a distracted fashion and answered in a vague way so as not to reveal the turmoil that she was going through.
"I just have some things on my mind."
"Do you want to talk about it?" the dark haired woman asked gently and Darcy bit down on her lower lip.
For a brief instant she considered confiding her problems to this woman but then remembered the animosity between her husband and his sister. She knew that Perry would be irate if he found out that she had revealed their personal troubles to his sister. But more than that there was a part of her that didn't want Dominique to know that she had been unable to keep her husband happy; that she had failed.
"No," she finally answered the question shaking her head. She could not risk the embarrassment she would feel knowing that this woman knew the truth. She purposefully changed the subject by picking up the file. "Can we get back to Julius Murphy?"
Dominique conceded and it was nearly an hour later when her secretary rang that her next appointment had arrived. Darcy stood up to leave and she was followed to the door by the other woman.
"Darcy, if you ever want to talk about anything I want you to know that my door is always open."
The small blond lawyer paused to look up at the other woman. Dominique was beautiful with her long dark hair, high cheek bones and classical features. The eldest Saabo daughter was tall and muscular and she had seen many of the office personnel eye her with interest.
Darcy thought about what Perry had said the previous evening. She felt his words were spoken during the heat of the moment, hastily said and without basis. Though Dominique had made no secret of the fact that she was a lesbian she had never given her any indication that she was interested in anything but her mind and skill as a colleague.
"Thank you," she said briefly before exiting the room.
Dominique felt a strong urge to run after the woman but she had promised herself that she would never make a fool of herself over a woman. To approach Darcy on any level but a professional one would be pure stupidity and she was not the type of woman that went looking for trouble.
That evening as she dressed, Darcy considered every feasible excuse she could use to get out of accompanying her husband to his mother's birthday party. Unfortunately the occasion would not permit her to use the regular excuses. Her mother-in-law was celebrating her seventieth birthday and everyone was expected to attend the party, regardless of what trouble was occurring in their marriage.
She stepped back from the mirror and stared at the reflection. She was wearing a light green satin shoulder less gown that Perry had seen several months ago in the window of an exclusive boutique. It was the creation of a famous designer and the colour matched her eyes and the cloth clung to her slender but sensual curves. She left her hair down and applied only a light dusting of make-up. Around her neck she placed a single strand of white pearls.
"You look absolutely lovely," Perry breathed with genuine sincerity when he stepped into the room.
Darcy turned her head. He was dressed formally in a tuxedo with a dark cummerbund around his waist. She eyed him critically for the first time since they met. He was handsome but his advancing age was beginning to show. His waist was growing thicker and his once unlined face was fuller and creased at the edges of his features. She had the absurd notion that he looked like an aging playboy.
There was a smile on his face but somehow it seemed plastic. There was an aspect of his manners that seemed to smooth. She had thought she had known everything about this man yet wondered if she really knew anything. She had always given him the benefit of the doubt and had deferred to him in most matter concerning their marriage.
Perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps she had been too compliant but she had been relatively inexperienced and had assumed that because he was older and worldlier that he knew best. She knew now that was a mistake.
"I'm ready to go," she said absently reaching for the matching green satin purse that lay on the dresser.
Perry watched her every movement. They were stiff like a doll and her demeanour had not thawed. She was so beautiful and she was his. In time he knew that she would forgive him and all he needed to remain was patient. Nothing had changed.
"About tonight," he began hesitantly. He didn't want his family to see any discord in their marriage.
Darcy straightened. Their eyes met and Perry realized he had never seen them so dark or so cold.
"Don't worry I will act as the devoted wife in your mothers presence," she said knowing that he was about to say. She made to move passed him out the door but his hand reached out and grabbed her arm halting her progress.
"Are you ever going to forgive me?" he asked quietly.
"I don't know," she responded coolly.
"Come on Darcy even juries decide fates quicker than this," he pleaded and her eyes narrowed.
"The thing with juries is that they don't have any emotions invested in the outcome," she reminded him. "It's easy to be objective when you don't feel anything for the defendant. It's not so easy when the whole life you've known has been changed."
"Nothing has changed," Perry disagreed. "We have everything here. It's all the same."
"No," she shook her head. "Nothing is the same. I don't see you as the same man that I married."
"For God's sakes Darcy it was one lousy night," he growled, growing irritated with her continuing hostility. In the past he had always been able to charm her, cajole her into forgiving him.
"Was it only one night Perry?" she wondered coolly. "Or was it one night in a long succession of one night stands?"
The man was silent and he looked away unable to meet her intense gaze. Darcy felt sick and she shook her arm out of his grasp, no longer able to have him touch her. That question had plagued her with doubts and his reaction had been her answer. The expression on her face hardened.
"I just hope for both our sakes that you used protection," she said with a scowl as she walked out of the room, leaving him to follow more slowly.
Darcy didn't know how she would make it through the evening but she put on her best fake smile and pretended to be the same happy wife and daughter-in-law she had been twenty four hours earlier. She said all the right things and never once let on how her heart was tearing itself apart.
The party was a family affair held at an elegant dinner and dance club in one of the cities fanciest hotels. They had dined there often as it was a popular spot, frequented by the cities social elite. Many of the people seated at the surrounding tables were friends.
Their table was in the center of the room right next to the dance floor. They were escorted by a fawning maitre'd who then summoned a handful of waiters who arrived with platters of specially prepared dishes.
Another waiter delivered several bottles of champagne and wine, all chilled to the right temperature. A small orchestra played as a sparkling crystal ball spun around on its axis over the center of the dance floor.
Darcy tried to join in the ribaldry but found it impossible to be her usual spontaneous self. She was relieved when her sister-in-law asked her to accompany her to the ladies powder room. Julia was married to Perry's younger brother and though there was a ten year difference in their ages they had always gotten along.
"You looked peeved," the older woman remarked when they stepped in front of the gilded mirrors to freshen their make-up. Julia was never one to mince her words.
Darcy glanced cautiously at her sister-in-law wondering how she knew. She asked as much and the woman laughed.
"You are transparent my dear," Julia said. "Did you and Perry have a fight?"
"Perry had an affair." It was out before Darcy realized what she was saying. She felt she could confide in this woman.
"Is that all?" the woman sniffed and the younger blond was shocked by the nonchalant reaction. Their eyes met in the mirror. "I suppose it was his way of reacting to your affair with Dominique."
"I have been completely faithful to Perry," Darcy was incensed by the suggestion that she had cheated on her husband.
"Then it's your loss, I could think of worse things than having an affair with that woman," the older woman shrugged and casually proceeded to apply another layer of lipstick. "It could always be worse."
"How could it be worse?" Darcy felt her throat tightened, shocked by the casual reaction she was receiving from this other woman.
"He could want a divorce," Julia said and then paused, her brown eyes narrowing as she stared at the younger woman in the mirror. "Did Perry ask for a divorce?"
"Then count yourself lucky," the woman said in a flippant voice, but Darcy detected a slight edge to the tones.
"Has Paul ever had an affair?" She was suddenly brave enough to ask. She watched as the other woman straightened before putting her lipstick back in her handbag.
"Paul has been involved with several women that I know about," was the cool reply.
"You don't mind?" Darcy was unsettled by how the other woman could be so calm about her husband's infidelities.
"Of course I mind," Julia seemed slightly wrathful.
"What do you do?"
"I have an affair of my own," the woman said simply as if it was the most natural thing. "You might want to try it yourself. When they find out they go a little crazy but it makes them stay at home for a while."
Darcy was dazed. She had no concept that her in-laws were carrying on in this manner. She was not a prude but she did not condone such behaviour. Some of her thoughts must have reflected on her face for the woman smiled at her. It was a sad, twisted smile.
"It's time to grow up Darcy," Julia did not want to be unkind for she truly liked the younger woman but thought it was time to be honest. "You are in the big leagues now. You and me, we come from someplace else. If we want to keep what we have, we have to learn to play by all the rules, besides its just sex."
Darcy couldn't immediately believe what she was hearing. In the four years she had known this woman she had never seen this cynical side to her character. It was another staggering revelation and she wondered if her own morals would change with time.
"Are you happy?" she needed to know.
"No," Julia was blunt. She glanced at their surroundings and then back at her naïve sister-in-law. "But I am not about to give any of this up. I was poor once. I don't ever want to be poor again."
There was another moment of silence as the older woman studied her younger companion. She could not believe the girl had been married this long and still stayed so naïve. She almost hated to see the girl's illusions destroyed.
"Come on we better get back," the woman said turning to leave. She paused just for an extra minute and their eyes met once more in the mirror. "Do you mean all this time you have spent in Dominique Saabo's company she has never come on to you?"
"And you never thought to have an affair with her?"
"As long as I am married to Perry I could never think of being with anyone else."
"Pity," the woman sighed and walked away.
Darcy followed more slowly, moving as if she were in a fog. She returned to the dinner table glancing at the collection of people who had gathered for the occasion. It was as if she were seeing them for the first time. They were all elegantly dressed in designer gowns and tuxedos with expensive jewels glittering around their necks and on their fingers.
Despite all the beauty and glitz she could see that the smiles on their faces didn't always reach their eyes and she wondered what pain those masks hid. Suddenly she could smell all the wealth and the decadence that accompanied it. She felt sick to her stomach and unable to remain.
"I need some air," she said hastily excusing herself as she felt the need to escape. It felt as if the whole world was closing in around her.
"Do you want me to come with?" Perry asked genuinely concerned.
"No," she shook her head. "I will be fine. It's just warm in here and I think I might have had too much to drink."
She hurried away, rushing through the crowded room, not stopping until she stepped out onto the balcony. She paused breathing deeply, filling her lungs with the night air. For a brief instant she thought she might faint but the feeling soon passed.
She ignored the others on the second floor balcony and stepped up to the railing, staring out over the dimly lit grounds that surrounded the hotel. There was a full moon shining and several romantic couples were strolling through the garden at the far end of the lawns.
"Are you okay Darcy?"
The familiar voice startled her and she spun around to see Dominique standing only a few feet away. No, she wanted to cry out, but she clamped her mouth shut and wondered where the other woman had come from.
For a moment she stared at the tall woman. She looked so dark and a little brooding in the moonlight with her dark pantsuit and blood red silk blouse. Unexpectedly her heart skipped a beat as she remembered the earlier conversation with her sister-in-law. Just for a brief instant she wondered what it would be like to have an affair with this woman.
"Is everything all right Darcy?" The woman rephrased her question when there was no answer.
"Yes," she lied turning her face away. "I was just feeling a little dizzy from all the alcohol I've had. What are you doing here?"
"I came with a friend," the tall woman smiled benignly. "She was taking her parents out to dinner and her date cancelled so she called and asked me to join them."
"How very gallant of you," Darcy remarked with a twinge of bitterness. She was angry at this woman yet did not have the slightest reason why.
"Yes, I am a regular knight in shining white armour," Dominique agreed lightly but there was no humor in her voice.
There was an odd tension between them. It was something Darcy had noticed on several occasions. It was never there when they were in the office discussing business only when they met socially. It was nothing that she had thought about before tonight. She shook her head dismissing her thought as she turned to stare out over the gardens. She didn't want to think about what that meant. She had too much other baggage to worry about.
Dominique stared at the younger woman. The moonlight reflected off her blond hair and green dress creating a halo like aura around her body. Her heart contracted painfully as she wished for the hundredth time she had met Darcy before her half-brother had staked his claim.
She had been watching the blond attorney from the moment her party had arrived, unable to take her eyes of the younger woman. Her heart had turned over in her chest at the sight of how beautiful she was. Darcy looked absolutely stunning, and when she had fled outside Dominique had not been able to resist in following.
Dominique needed only to look at the younger woman to know that she was unhappy. The light had disappeared from her face and she wondered what Perry had done to destroy that glow. She wondered if Darcy had finally discovered the man's infidelities. She wanted to ask but knew that the other woman would resent any invasion of her privacy. She was a proud and strong woman and that was one of the things the dark haired woman liked about her companion.
"You don't look like you're having much fun," the taller woman remarked stepping up beside the blonde. She leaned her arms against the railing and followed her gaze.
"I wasn't really in the mood for a party tonight," Darcy admitted hesitantly. "I guess all the hard work I have been doing is finally beginning to catch up to me. I am feeling a little stressed."
"You should exercise," Dominique said not looking at her companion even though she could feel her gaze turn and stare at her profile. "Whenever I start feeling the pressure I take my boat out and row for a while. When I am done I always feel better."
Darcy looked at her companion. She had never seen the other woman looked stressed no matter how intense the situation in the office was. She could not know that she was the cause for most of the tall woman's moments of anger and anxiety. She could not know that Dominique used rowing as a way to exercise her from her thoughts. It was her way of venting the physical frustration of being near her without being able to touch her.
"Do you miss competing?" the blond woman asked thoughtfully. Dominique never spoke of her athletic career and she was curious how the other woman felt.
"Yes, sometimes," the dark haired woman admitted candidly. There was wistfulness in her voice. "I don't miss the training but I do miss the competition, the travel and the comradeship I had with the other rowers. We were like one big family. I made a lot of good friends."
"Why did you quit?" Darcy wanted to know. "You were young enough to compete in another Olympics?"
"I was past my prime," the woman was honest. "I was still good enough but my time was over. I had accomplished everything I wanted to achieve. I didn't want to take a spot away from someone else who could benefit from the experience of competing."
"That's rare," the blond lawyer was impressed.
"What's so rare about it?"
"You were willing to let go of something you love because you thought it was time," Darcy said quietly. "To often people like to cling to past victories in an attempt to recapture that glory and youth."
"Are we talking about something more than sports here?" Dominique asked softly and a blond head nodded even though she was unable to look at the taller woman. She was about to explain when she heard her name called. She turned and saw Perry standing by the doors. He was staring at them and there was a frown on his face. She couldn't help feeling her heart sink.
"I think I better go back inside, everyone will think I have gotten lost," Darcy said extending her hand. "Thank you I enjoyed our talk."
Dominique nodded her head slightly seeing her half-brother waiting impatiently for his wife. Instead of shaking the hand that was held out she grasp it and brought it to her bowed head, dropping a light kiss on the knuckles of the delicate hand.
A bolt of electricity swept through Darcy's entire body at the feel of the warm lips on her cool flesh. A shiver raced up her spine and an unfamiliar thread of emotion tugged at her heart. She stared at the dark bent head for a moment completely forgetting about her husband.
"Go back to your knight my fair maiden," Dominique whispered softly before releasing her hand.
Darcy took a deep breath to steady her trembling heart before turning and walking towards her husband. She could not see the look that the tall woman cast her brother or the smile of triumphant that flashed over Perry's face as he re-enforced his claim by putting his arm around his wife's waist and guiding her back into the ballroom.
Dominique turned and stared morosely out over the dark night. She looked up at the moon in its full brilliance and knew she would treasure these short, intimate moments that she was able to share with the other woman. She wondered how much longer she could torture herself this way. With a sigh she returned inside the ballroom to her own friends.
Darcy knew that Perry was angry at finding her outside with his half-sister. Though he said nothing she knew in his small mind he was thinking that she had planned to meet Dominique. He said nothing until they were in the car driving home.
"We can't go on living like this," Perry was the first to speak. Darcy did not look at him, continuing to stare out the window. "I screwed up and have apologized and now I want us to go on."
"I don't know that I can," she admitted honestly. "You hurt me Perry."
"And I will never forgive myself for that," he repeated an earlier claim. There was a thread of anger in his voice. He could not forget the image of seeing the way his half-sister had kissed her hand. "Hell its time you grew up Darcy. Marriage isn't a fairytale story. You should know that from your parents. We both make mistakes; a good marriage comes from moving on and learning from those mistakes.
"I'm not perfect. I never said I was. It was you who thought of me as that way but regardless, it doesn't change the fact that I love you or that you still love me. Do you want to throw all we have away because I made one mistake?"
Darcy was quiet. She didn't know what to say. Reluctantly she had to acknowledge that what he said was true. She did love him and in her heart she was not ready to give up on their marriage even though she knew that her feelings for her husband had irrevocably changed.
Darcy was silent as she thought of her own parents and how her mother had kicked her father out of the house for having an affair. Their situation had been precarious but her mother had been unwilling to give her father a second chance and so the man had left them. He had gone on with his life and was happily remarried while they had lived in bitterness and poverty. She had often wondered what her life would have been like if her mother had given the man a second chance.
"Do you want a divorce?" he asked finally when she didn't speak.
"No," she sighed heavily shaking her head and her husband inhaled a deep breath.
"Will you give me a second chance?" he asked and she nodded, aware that she would not let herself end the relationship. "I won't let you down again."
The promise he made sounded heart felt as did his actions later that night. Against her better judgment she allowed him back into her bed. He made love to her with a passion he rarely showed and Darcy believed that he was truly repentant. She was not a quitter and she would not quit on her marriage. She was determined not to make the same mistake as her mother had done.
In spite of her determination she still had doubts and she guessed that she would probably never completely trust Perry again. Despite the fact that she let him return to their marriage bed, she did not feel any joy in their coupling. She had never been completely comfortable with their love making.
She had been relatively innocent when they married. She had only had one previous lover in college and the experience had been such that she had not hurried to get another. Instead she had concentrated on her studies and avoided the usual social gatherings that most every college student enjoyed.
She had told Perry of her inexperience and he had said he would be patient. She had hoped that he would teach her yet after four years he still seemed more concerned with his own enjoyment than hers. Perhaps that had been the reason for his infidelity and for that she could not blame him entirely. She realized that perhaps it was partly her fault that he had gone in search of an affair.
She wanted things to be different yet she didn't know how to change them. She could not talk to Perry about this and she had no close friends that she could confide in. So she went on, hoping that things would eventually get better.
"How is everything?" Dominique asked casually several days later. They had just wrapped up a meeting and the tall woman was scheduled to fly to Europe the next day.
"Fine," Darcy assured with a smile though Dominique was aware that it didn't reach up into her green eyes.
"Good," the dark haired woman nodded briskly revealing none of the emotions that were swirling in her heart. "I hope you haven't given up the idea of exercise though."
"No," this time the smile did reach up into her eyes as the smaller woman gave her companion a mock salute before stepping out of the office. The tall woman's heart trembled. It was the first real smile she had seen on the woman's face in many days.
"Have a good trip," Darcy called over her shoulder.
Darcy was almost able to forget anything had happened to come between them as Perry was as attentive as he had been when he had first begun to court her. He took her out to dinner and away for the weekend when their schedules permitted and after a few weeks they were back to their old routine and any lingering doubts and fears that she had disappeared under the wealth of devotion the man showered on her as gifts of candy, perfume and flowers arrived unannounced at the office.
"You look much happier," Dominique remarked one afternoon when they met for a meeting.
"I feel great," Darcy was honest. Her marriage had never been better, reaffirming her belief that she had made the right decision in giving Perry a second chance.
"That's good," the tall executive nodded her manner almost abrupt. "Your work is better when you are happy."
"What is that supposed to mean," the blond woman challenged. She had never worked harder than she had when she had been fighting with Perry. She was unexpectedly hurt by the other woman's words.
"The job you did on the Murphy deal was only adequate," Dominique was brutal in her assessment. She had heard all the latest office gossip. Whether her half-brother and sister-in-law knew it or not their life was a constant topic of discussion around the water cooler.
It had been no secret that Perry had been conducting an affair with a girl from the accounting department. Their colleagues had almost taken a delightful glee in knowing that Darcy had discovered the affair and that there had been resulting turmoil in their once seemingly perfect relationship.
Dominique didn't know what the man had said to keep Darcy from leaving, just as she could not understand how the blond woman could trust and remain loyal to the man after learning the truth. If there was one saving grace it was that her brother had obviously broken off the affair. As much as it hurt she was glad to see that Darcy was happy again.
"You are much better than your performance on the deal suggested," the tall woman continued speaking aware of the silence that had grown between them. "I am glad that you resolved your problems and I expect the old Darcy to show up when we face the negotiators from the Bonhill Company next month."
Darcy stared at the back of the tall woman as she walked out of the room. She had thought she had hid her emotions well but perhaps she was as transparent as Julia had suggested. She tried to dismiss the other woman's words but was unusually bothered by them.
Since the moment Dominique had joined the company Darcy had wanted the tall ex-athletes approval in almost the same way as she had strived for her father-in-laws. She had never been able to figure out why she had wished for the other woman's blessings other than that she had found Dominique to be accomplished in much the same way as her father William Saabo was. They had achieved things in their lives making their own mark in very different ways. That was one thing that distinguished them from Perry and she wondered if that was the reason for the continued dissension between the siblings.
Darcy sighed, her thoughts troubled by the whole matter. She shook her head and dismissed the thoughts aware that they were too complicated to try and figure out. That night Perry came home with an announcement of his own.
"I have to go to Lima next week," he said. "William found an old mine outside the city that he thinks was abandoned prematurely. He wants me to go down with the some engineers and take a look at the company that owns the mineral rights to see what kind of deal we can swing."
Darcy felt her heart beat just a little heavier. They had not been apart since that last fateful trip three months earlier. In that time Perry had sent his assistants to do the leg work on their deals and for some unknown reason William had not made an issue of that fact.
"Will William be there?" she asked curiously.
She had not seen the older man since before her marital woes. He had gone off on one of the extended trips he took to scout out new business opportunities. Though she had not talked to him in that time she knew that Dominique had been in touch with her father on a daily basis.
"Yes, we will be scouting the site together and then flying back here," Perry said and any trepidation that Darcy felt about the trip disappeared. William was a moral man who believed in the sanctity of marriage and Perry would not dare tempt fate in the presence of his father. She took the afternoon off to accompany her husband to the airport.
"I love you Darcy," Perry said dropping a kiss on her lips before turning and strolling towards the departure lounge.
"Bye," Darcy whispered half-heartedly. Even though they had repaired their marriage she could not yet bring herself to utter those words that had once meant so much to her. She watched as he disappeared into the crowd.
Darcy was sitting in her office a week later when she had an unexpected visitor. It was a rare occasion when she had a free morning and she was spending it catching up on her correspondence. She didn't know what to expect when her secretary announced that Lisa Woodley was there to see her.
She stared at the younger woman as she walked into the office. In the last three months she had been polite and civil to the woman though she had mostly tried to avoid her even if it was impossible to forget what happened.
"What can I do for you?" The attorney kept her voice brisk and businesslike. The other woman hesitated, looking slightly ill at ease. Darcy noticed the girl was unusually pale and had lost weight.
"I'm pregnant," Lisa finally blurted out.
Her words were followed by a stunned silence. Darcy didn't have to ask the girl why she had come to her with the news. In her heart she knew. She swallowed and worked desperately not to lose her composure even though she felt like she had been hit with a two by four over the head.
"How pregnant are you?" she managed to ask with surprising calm. She suspected the girl was now admitting the truth because she would no longer be able to hide her condition.
All the air seeped out of her lungs and Darcy knew that if she had not been sitting down she would have collapsed. She tried to remain composed even as her thoughts and emotions were reeling over themselves in her head and heart. If she were to believe the girl than she would have to accept that Perry had lied to her and not ended the affair.
"Are you trying to tell me that my husband is the father of your child?" the small blond woman formed her words carefully hoping that there was some mistake in her thinking. She didn't want to believe that she had been so gullible as to believe her husband.
"Yes," the girl nodded, shifting nervously on her feet. "He knows I am having a baby but he is afraid to ask you for a divorce. He wants to marry me."
"Did he tell you that?" Darcy asked unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice.
Darcy stared at the woman seeing her as if for the first time. She realized that she was not the only naïve one in this situation. Beneath the polished and sophisticated veneer Lisa was as innocent and trusting as she once had been.
She didn't doubt that Perry knew about the child but she was cynical about the claim that he would marry the girl. He didn't want the traditional home filled with children. The man liked his freedom too much.
"What do you want me to do?" she asked finally.
"Give him a divorce," the other woman said quietly.
"It's not that easy," Darcy shook her head. "Besides, I really don't think he wants to marry you. I know he doesn't want anything to do with raising a child. Now if there is nothing else I will ask you to please leave."
She managed to stay civil through the exchange even though her insides were roiling in turmoil. The other woman turned and fled in a cloud of tears but Darcy could not illicit any sympathy for the girl.
She sat still for a long moment consumed by her pain and the knowledge that Perry had lied. Even as he had been wooing back her trust, he had continued cheating on her. She felt shame and humiliation. Her desire to keep their marriage together had blinded her to reality. Perhaps for the first time she understood why her mother had not given her father a second chance.
Darcy had wanted her life to be different than her parents. She had wanted the stability and security that had been missing from her youth. She had run so hard from what she wanted to avoid that she had run head first into the same fate. She wanted to cry but no tears came.
As chance would have it her phone rang at that moment. It was Perry calling from Lima as he had done several times a day since he had left on the business trip. She mentioned nothing of the conversation with his mistress but there was a strain in her voice. She was not good at masking her pain.
"What's wrong honey?" Perry asked. From over the phone his concern seemed genuine and for a moment Darcy debated whether to tell him the truth. It would be so easy to rant and rave over the phone but what she wanted to see was the look on his face when she confronted him with the truth.
"I'm just tired," she said tightly.
"Then go home and rest. I will be back in two days and then we can go out to the country for the weekend," he said as she listened mutely.
Later she remembered what her sister-in-law Julia had said months earlier. She knew that it would hurt Perry if she were to conduct an affair of her own for he was a proud and possessive man. She wanted him to feel what she was feeling by his betrayal.
Darcy had a meeting scheduled with Dominique later that evening. She would sleep with the woman and then tell Perry. She knew the knowledge would hurt him just as much as he had hurt her. She would take control of the situation.
Dominique sensed something was wrong the moment Darcy stepped into her office. Her long blond hair was down on her shoulders and not up in its normal severe bun. She was without the usual efficient businesslike attitude. Darcy was almost flirtatious.
Dom physically caught her breath when she felt a small hand come to rest on her thigh. It was an intimate touch that wasn't accidental or innocent and her skin was seared by the heat of their contact. She could smell the scent of the other woman's perfume when she leaned close and she struggled to remain in control when small round breasts brushed up against her arm. Finally it was too much.
"What are you doing Darcy?" Dominique's voice was strangled as she physically jumped up from the sofa where they were sitting. She put some distance between them.
"I want to sleep with you," was the broken reply but green eyes were unable to meet blue.
Dominique stood absolutely still. Her basic instinct was to take the woman up on the offer and possess her right where they were but she didn't move. She knew that for Darcy to make such a suggestion something was wrong.
Blue eyes bored into the smaller woman's head as if trying to figure out what the woman was thinking. If she did not love Darcy so much she would have accepted the invitation without any questions but she was in love with the smaller attorney and if she was ever given the chance to possess her it would be at a time and place where she would not be thinking of revenge against her husband. Dominique wondered what Perry had done now to hurt the blond woman.
"As tempting as the offer is I won't make love to you to spite your husband," Dominique said in a rough voice. It was amazing that her trembling limbs were still holding her upright.
Darcy coloured pink. She had been attempting a subtle seduction. She looked shyly at the tall woman and suddenly felt like a complete idiot. She didn't know what she was doing. She was not an adulteress. Regardless of how badly Perry treated her, she could not behave in the same manner. She felt humiliated.
"I'm sorry," she stammered acutely embarrassed as she thought about the wanton way she had been behaving. She stood up and walked to the window.
It was raining outside and huge droplets of moisture were splattered across the glass pane. Night had fallen and neon lights now punctuated the darkness. From every corner of her vision brilliant signs flashed some advertisement. The whole scene mirrored the misery she felt. Tears threatened to fall but she held them in.
"I don't know what came over me," she tried to explain. She turned to look at the taller woman. There was a silent appeal for understanding in her watery green eyes.
"You are obviously upset about something," Dominique sighed running a hand through her thick hair.
"Can we forget about tonight?" Darcy asked nervously, biting her lower lip.
"It's already forgotten," the dark haired woman replied. "Under the circumstances I think we should call it an evening. Neither of us is in any shape to do any more work tonight."
"Thank you," Darcy whispered with heart felt appreciation.
She hastily gathered up the documents and dropped them into her briefcase. She was glad that Dominique did not press for a further explanation. It was only when she reached the door that she turned to look back at the other woman.
"I don't cheat on my husband," she could not leave knowing that Dominique might think of her in a bad light. "I don't believe in infidelity in a marriage."
"I know you don't," was the whispered response and without another word Darcy turned and fled
Later that night she lay awake too troubled to sleep. She could not be like Julia. She was a good person and wanted to keep her dignity intact. When everything was said and done, she had to be able to live with herself.
She was completely exhausted by the time dawn cracked the morning sky. She paced anxiously around the apartment. In spite of the sleepless hours she was not closer to a solution to her predicament. As much as she wanted to keep her marriage together she didn't think it was possible. Perry was unfaithful and she doubted that he would ever change.
She checked her schedule and saw that there was no need for her to go into the office. There was nothing important on the agenda and the few appointments that were scheduled could be re-booked. She rang her secretary to say she wouldn't be in that morning. In four years she had been with the Sable Corporation she had never missed a day.
There was a second more pressing reason why she did not want to go into the office that morning. She did not think she could face Dominique. Even now she flushed with embarrassment every time she thought of the way she had behaved in the other woman's presence. She didn't know how she would feel when they met next time.
For her part Dominique was not surprised when she learned that Darcy had booked the day off. Privately she was almost relieved. She had tossed and turned all night until she had sought relief in the only way she knew how. She knew that she had been right to reject the blond woman's advances yet she was still filled with self-doubts, wondering if she had missed the only chance she would ever get to possess the other woman.
Dominique buried herself in work hoping to forget about the previous evening. She stayed late for there was nothing at her apartment to return to and her father would not be home for several days. She was still in the office when the call came in.
The phone rang on her personal line. She frowned, glancing at the clock. It was after six in the evening. She wondered who was calling at this late hour. She picked up the receiver and listened as the operator connected her to Lima Peru.
"Dominique this is your father," William said unnecessarily for the woman recognized the man's voice immediately.
"What's up dad?" the woman wondered. She hadn't expected to hear from her father and the heaviness in his voice caused her immediately to sense that something was wrong. She listened mutely to what the man had to say.
"I want you to personally go over and tell her," the man said in conclusion.
"I will go right away dad," the woman agreed and then replaced the phone. She mind was still absorbing the shocking details. Her heart ached painfully as she thought of the small blond woman.
Darcy was surprised when Dominique called to say that she was coming over. She didn't know what was prompting this visit and a whole gamut of thoughts flooded her mind. She wondered if it had to do with what had happened the previous night. She answered the door after the first knock and escorted the tall woman into the sunken living room. There was a dark, brooding expression on the older woman's face that was frightening.
Dominique glanced at her surroundings. She had never been invited to her half- brother's home and was curious to know how the couple lived. The place was immaculate with not a piece of furniture out of place. It reminded her of the show houses she had seen, all precisely decorated yet cold and impersonal. She didn't know how anyone could live in such a sterile and ordered environment. Somehow she had hoped for something different.
"Please sit down," Darcy invited nervously. She felt awkward after the previous evening's events.
"No," Dominique shook her head. Blue eyes looked at the smaller woman and saw that Darcy was waiting for her to speak. She took a deep breath. There was no easy way to break the news.
"There has been an accident," she said bluntly aware that no words would cushion the blow she was about to deliver. "The plane that was taking an engineering group to the mine site outside of Lima crashed into the mountains. No one survived. Perry is dead."
Darcy stood completely still trying to absorb what she had heard. Perry was dead. She had wished many things on him but nothing like this. She slumped into the nearest chair, her mind in a fog. She didn't know how to react.
"Is William dead?"
"No," Dominique swallowed the lump in her throat. "One of the former owners of the mine called him for a last minute meeting. He didn't get on the plane."
Darcy felt happy for that one small consolation but she could feel nothing else. She was in shock. Perry was such a vibrant man; it was hard to think that his vitality had been permanently stilled. She looked up at her companion.
"I have to call his family," she said absently, thinking of the details that now needed to be looked after.
"Darcy, I will take care of it," Dominique interjected when the smaller woman moved to the phone. "Father will make arrangements from Lima once the authorities release the bodies. It will take a few days before they will be able to recover them from the crash site. I will let you know when we learn more details. Can I call anyone for you?"
Darcy was silent. She needed to do something but she couldn't think what. She moved around the living room her mind a flurry of thoughts. She paused and looked at the other woman at the question.
"Julia," she said quietly and Dominique knew without asking to whom she was referring. She hastily made the call explaining the situation in a low voice even as her blue eyes continued to track the small blond as she continued to pace around the room.
She had just replaced the receiver when she saw the smaller woman's body tremble and in an instant she was across the room enveloping her in a tight embrace, holding her close as violent sobs erupted from within the blond woman. They stood like that for a long time neither saying anything. Dominique waited until Julia arrived before taking her leave. Darcy had family with her and though she wanted to help there was nothing more that she could do here.
After the first crying jag Darcy was able to contain her emotions. In a numbing state of shock she went through the everyday motions of living. There were moments when she couldn't comprehend what was happening. It all seemed unreal and she almost expected Perry to come rushing in at any moment and announce that it was all a joke.
It helped that she was never alone, for there was always someone there offering their support. Sometimes it was she who acted as comforter when one of her husband's friends or relatives vented their grief. Each evening Dominique stopped around to see that she was okay. The tall executive would only stay a few moments but her visits were reassuring. On one occasion she brought William who embraced her tightly.
"I am so sorry Darcy," the man whispered and tears sprung to the woman's eyes as Darcy realized this was one more thing they had in common.
"I know," she whispered understanding how he was affected by the loss of his only son. There were deep lines etched in his weary face. It almost seemed that he had aged ten years in the last two weeks.
Dominique handled all the arrangements and for that Darcy was grateful for she did not know how she would have fared if the task had been left up to her. She mourned the loss of a husband but her sorrow was complicated by the knowledge of how the man had betrayed her during their marriage.
The night before the funeral she went to the chapel and spent a few minutes alone with the coffin in an attempt to sort through all the conflicting emotions. The casket remained closed for Perry's injuries had been extensive and she longed for one last chance to look at his face and tell him of the anger that accompanied her sorrow.
As expected the funeral itself was an elaborate affair. The ceremony was held in the same Catholic Church that they had been married and he was buried in the family plot just outside the city. While William divided his attention between herself and Perry's mother, his ex-wife, she was grateful that Dominique was constantly at her side.
A lavish buffet luncheon was held at the Saabo family estate after the service and Darcy was forced to endure several more stressful hours of condolences from friends and strangers. In the past week she had hardly slept and the black dress she wore accented the paleness of her skin. She was exhausted and ready to collapse and wanted nothing more than to be alone.
Dominique watched the small attorney while sorting through her own complicated feelings. She had never gotten along with her half-brother as there had always been a competition between them. Perry had lived most of his life under the guidance of his mother and had only come to know his father and his father's second family after he had reached adulthood. By than his behaviour was established and though it was evident that he resented the fact that their father had left his mother when he was a child he had never hesitated to use the Saabo name to his advantage.
She sighed, dismissing her own thoughts and concentrated on Darcy. She could see lines of strain on the blond woman's face and the pallor at the corners of her features. The younger woman had held up admirably under the pressure but Dominique was worried that to might be too much for her to handle.
"How are you doing?" the dark haired woman asked approaching the smaller woman when she was finally alone.
"I'm hanging in there." The response came with a sad smile. "If I have forgotten to say it, thank you for everything. I have really appreciated your support."
"Father worried that you might resent him imposing," Dominique said glancing at her parent who was standing at the side of his ex-wife talking to some friends.
"No," Darcy shook her head as green eyes followed the other woman's gaze. "I can't imagine how hard it if for him. It must be devastating for him to bury his son."
"Yes, I don't think I have ever seen him look so old," the taller woman conceded. She had worried about her father even though he had reassured her that he would be okay. She paused and looked down at her colleague. "I hope you know that if you need anything you just have to call."
"Yes," the blond head nodded and before she could say anymore they were approached by Paul, Perry's half-brother from his mother's second marriage.
"Sorry for interrupting but I need to speak with you in private Darcy."
The small woman nodded, excusing herself and following her brother-in-law to the privacy of the study. They were alone except for Julia who was already there sitting and waiting for them. Darcy was immediately filled with a strange sense of foreboding. By the grave expressions on the couple's faces she knew that there was more bad news to come. She sat down and prepared herself for what was to come.
"As you might be aware Perry made me the executor of his estate," Paul began by clearing his throat. He had not taken a seat but leaned up against the desk directly in front of her.
"Quit wasting time Paul, what it is you want to tell me?" Darcy said hoping to prompt the man along.
The man looked uncomfortable and she saw him glance briefly in his wife's direction. Julia refused to look up and Darcy had the impression that the other woman didn't want to be there. Paul cleared his throat again before speaking.
"As executor I feel it's my duty to apprise you of certain matters which have previously been kept private. You are not the only beneficiary to Perry's estate."
"What, did he have another wife?" she asked without amusement thinking that it were entirely possible the way her husband had been behaving.
"No," the man flushed, "but Perry has a three year old daughter."
The news slammed into her, physically knocking her back into the chair. Darcy felt as if all the air had been sucked out of her lungs. She looked from one face to the other aware how they avoided looking at her. She felt an intense stirring of anger and at that instant she hated these people almost as much as she hated her dead husband. It was suddenly clear that Perry had never been faithful to her.
"Why wasn't I told?" she asked in a dangerously quiet voice.
"Perry didn't want to upset you," the man tried to explain. "It was an accident and he didn't want it to affect your marriage."
"It seems Perry had a lot of accidents," she spat contemptuously jumping her feet. She began to pace anxiously around the room fighting hard to keep a rein on her emotions and close to losing her temper.
"What is the child supposed to get?"
"Perry was paying the mother two thousand a month in child support. He stipulated in his will that his estate was to continue paying that amount until such a time as some lump sum payment could be agreed on. I told Perry he should have paid off the woman completely in the beginning."
"What you should have told your brother was to keep his cock in his pants," Darcy sneered bitterly. "For a man who didn't want the complications of children he sure didn't take many precautions."
"It was one time Darcy, a mistake," her brother-in-law attempted to defend the deceased man but she abruptly cut him off.
"It was more than one time and we both know it," she snorted indignantly. "Hell, I would be surprised if there was any time during our marriage that he wasn't having an affair with some other woman. In that way I guess your whole family is alike."
"Darcy!" Julia exclaimed but she ignored the interruption.
"Don't Darcy me, why didn't you say anything?" she demanded of her sister-in-law. "I thought we were friends."
"Darcy," Paul interrupted smoothly attempting to inject some calming influence into the discussion but the small blond was in no mood to be reasonable.
"Perry was a liar and a cheat and you all helped with the deception. I don't know why he married me."
"Because his father demanded some respectability out of him," was the harsh reply that stopped Darcy cold. She stared at the man in stunned silence.
"William told him to marry me?" she didn't want to imagine that the older man was a part of this.
"No," Paul conceded, "But William was threatening to cut him loose if he didn't shape up. Perry never wanted to marry he loved the bachelor life but he wasn't about to lose his chance at the Saabo fortune."
"So when he found out about my friendship with William he saw me as the perfect opportunity to secure his future. He used me," Darcy finished what the man didn't say. She looked at the couple aware that neither could meet her gaze.
She was disgusted and felt the bile rise up in her throat. Her marriage had been a sham from the very beginning. She had been thoroughly dubbed by her husband and the revulsion she felt was unimaginable.
She could not tolerate being in the same room as these people that knew the truth and so turned and fled the room, tears blinding her eyes so that she didn't see the person she ran smack into in the hall. She would have toppled to the floor if two strong hands hadn't grabbed her arms and held her upright. It took her a moment to recognize that it was Dominique holding her. She didn't know where the woman had come from and she didn't care.
"Take me out of here," she pleaded and the tall woman immediately ushered her out of the house to her car.
"Do you want to go home?" Dominique asked quietly as she started the vehicle.
"No, any place but home," she vigorously shook her head, no longer able to hold the tears at bay.
Dominique grimly nodded before putting the car in gear. She remained silent listening to the smaller woman's quiet sobs. Her heart broke at the sound of the wounded cries. Before Darcy was able to dry her eyes they were stopped outside an unfamiliar high rise apartment building.
"It's my place," the dark haired woman explained. "No one will find you here. The phone is forwarded to my cell so there shouldn't be anyone bothering you."
Darcy stared for a long moment at the set of keys that her companion was holding out. Her gesture was generous but she didn't want to be alone right now.
"Where will you go?"
"I will go over to dads." Dominique said as if it were the most natural thing.
"No," the blond head shook. "Please don't leave me."
Dominique realized it might have been a mistake bringing the distraught woman here yet she sensed the smaller woman's desire to be away from everything familiar. She merely nodded her head and drove the car into the parking lot before leading her passed security and up to her penthouse suite.
Darcy wasn't sure what she expected but it wasn't what she found when she stepped into the apartment. It was huge but pleasant with a surprisingly warm feel. The furniture was dark but soft and the paint on the walls light. There were framed photographs on the shelves beside small trinkets and ornaments.
"Make yourself at home," the tall woman invited before disappearing from the room.
Darcy wandered around the room, seeing a whole new side to her boss. There were pictures of sportsmen but none that detailed her triumphs. There were no trophies or medals proudly displayed and nothing to indicate the woman's championship status. Dominique was a rich woman but the wealth was not openly exhibited. There was a feminine feel to the place that instinctively made her feel comfortable.
"Here," the dark haired woman said returning to the living room. She held out a bulky t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants. She had changed into a t-shirt and jeans. "I thought you might like to get out of those clothes. These aren't anything fancy but they are clean."
"Thank you," Darcy gratefully accepted the offering.
"Just go down the hall and into the first room on the left. The bathroom connects on the right if you want a shower. Towels are in the closet."
Darcy was bone weary yet she noticed the little details. The guest room had a lived in feel and was distinctively feminine. There were bottle of perfume on the dresser and further inspection found woman's clothing in the drawers and closet. A further inspection and she knew by the size that they did not belong to her hostess and she wondered if they belonged to the tall woman's girlfriend.
In spite of the sudden feeling of awkwardness she took her time in changing accepting the offer of a shower. The warm water felt good on her skin and she closed her eyes against the spray wanting nothing more than to wash away all the events of the day. She could have stayed forever under the water but after a long while stepped out and dried herself off. The clothes were loose but soft and comfortable and smelled of her hostess. She left her feet bare. She found her hostess in the kitchen.
"I thought that you might be hungry," Dominique said upon seeing her guest. Blue eyes automatically wandered over the slender frame and she thought how right it seemed that Darcy was wearing her clothes.
Darcy looked frail and childlike yet also incredible sexy. She shook her head reminding herself of what the day was. They had just buried Darcy's husband.
"Thank you, I am a bit hungry," the smaller woman admitted. She had not been hungry earlier but now her stomach rumbled in protest. She slipped into a chair by the table and almost instantly a plate with a freshly cooked omelet was placed in front of her.
"What would you like to drink?" Dominique asked moving across the room to the refrigerator.
"A glass of milk would be nice," Darcy answered as she took a forkful of the delicious smelling food that had been prepared. There was silence as the taller woman placed a cold glass of milk down on the table by her plate before slipping into another vacant chair a cold beer in her own hand.
"I hope I'm not intruding," Darcy said hesitantly thinking of the woman's clothing in the spare room. "I don't want to cause a problem with your girlfriend."
"I'm not seeing anyone," was the smooth reply.
"Oh," the blond woman flushed. "I just saw the stuff in the spare room." She hoped the explanation was enough for the woman not to think that she had been snooping.
A smile creased the corners of the older woman's lips. "My sister Sasha has laid claim to my guest room. She goes to school in Washington but stays here when she comes to town on the weekends."
"Why doesn't she stay with your father?" Darcy was curious and the taller woman gave her a lopsided smile.
"She is nineteen years old and likes to have a bit more freedom than pop wants to give her," it was an honest answer. "She's not a bad kid and isn't generally wild but father is a little old fashioned for her taste."
"I like the way your father is," Darcy commented sadly. "Being a bit old fashioned is nice."
Dominique was certain she knew what the other woman meant by the comment but let the statement pass. She glanced over the other woman's face. Her green eyes were red and void of any make-up. Several strands of blond hair had escaped from the ponytail and were hanging at the side of her face.
"Is the food okay?"
"It's great," Darcy was honest. She gave her hostess a small smile. "I didn't know you could cook."
"What you taste is the extent of my ability," Dominique replied with good humour. "I am afraid that carry out is what I do the best."
"I like cooking," Darcy admitted with a sigh. "But Perry preferred to order out. He said it was because he didn't want me working in the kitchen after a long day but in reality I just don't think he liked my cooking."
"Well he was crazy, I would love to have someone cook for me," Dominique saw the flash of pain in her guest's eyes. There was silence for a moment as the small blond finished the last of the eggs and pushed her empty plate aside. "Would you like some coffee?"
"Would it be a terrible imposition if I had a cup of hot chocolate instead?" Darcy asked tentatively as if the idea was childish.
"Certainly not," the taller woman agreed amicably. "Go sit in the living room and I will bring it in when it's ready."
Darcy mutedly nodded and did as her hostess suggested. She found a comfortable spot on the sofa and curled up feeling warm and strangely at home. She closed her eyes and heaved a deep sigh. She did not want to think, for the events of the last two weeks had completely shattered the concept of the life she had created.
In hindsight there was no one to blame but herself. It was her fault that she had not seen Perry for the type of man he was and if she had, she knew that she would not have been strong enough to make him change.
She hugged herself tightly. She had never felt more lonely than she did at this moment nor more sad. She could blame Perry for many things but she had to accept the blame for not being happy. For as long as she could remember she had seen herself as something that wasn't naturally her.
She was as hard as she needed to be in the boardroom but there was a softer and gentler side that she had ignored. Perry and their life together had only nurtured the harsher sides of her personality. She shook her head not liking herself for what she had done. She had allowed Perry to control every aspect of their lives from how they lived to who their friends were.
By the time the milk had boiled and the chocolate stirred she was asleep. Dominique stared at the smaller woman for a long time feeling an ache in her heart. She set the cups down and then carefully lifted the smaller woman into her arms, carrying her to the guest room and laying her gently on the bed. She pulled a light blanket over her sleeping form before gently laying a kiss upon her brow and backing out of the room.
When Darcy woke it was dark and for a minute didn't know where she was. Than the terrible truth came flooding over her senses and the sobs erupted from deep inside her soul. She wept loudly venting the grief she had locked so deeply inside.
Dominique heard the anguished cries and stood outside the door for a long time listening until she could take no more. There was no resistance in the woman when she scooped her into her strong arms and held her tightly. Darcy turned her head into the strong shoulder and sobbed harder. It was a long time before she finally stopped but when the dark haired woman made to release her from her arms she resisted.
"Please stay with me," Darcy begged in a dry broken voice. "I don't want to be alone."
The dark haired woman obliged lying down beside her on the bed and drawing her into a tight embrace. Darcy sighed with contentment. She felt like a child again with someone strong to take care of her.
She had looked at Perry to fulfill the role of the father figure that had been absent in her life but the man had been anything but fatherly. His affection had always had strong sexual connotations. He had never just held her in comfort.
She snuggled deeper into her companion's embrace. It felt so nice, the warmth that radiated from the long body and the way her hand so gently stroked her hair. She felt safe and loved in a way she had never felt with Perry.
"Perry cheated on me," she said and for a brief instant the hand paused but the woman soon continued the tender caressing. "He was unfaithful to me from the day we were married, probably even before, yet I was too blind to see."
"You loved him," Dominique said quietly. "Love makes us do stupid things some times."
"Yes but I will never let it happen again," the smaller woman declared in a soft but firm voice. "I am never going to love someone like that again."
Dominique felt like a knife had been plunged into her heart. It was as if all her hope had been dashed with one angry slash. She said nothing listening quietly while she breathed aware that Darcy had fallen asleep. She closed her eyes to weary to move.
Later neither of them would be certain how it happened yet both accepted that they had been willing participants. When Dominique woke it was still dark but something was different. Darcy was no longer lying beside her but was sitting on top of her and her hands were doing wonderful things to her body.
She closed her eyes and for a moment enjoyed the pleasure Darcy was creating but reality intruded upon her senses. It was only when she reached out and grasp the slender wrists to push the smaller woman away that she realized she was naked.
"Darcy," she said her name, aware that she had taken the ponytail out and that her hair was loose around her face. "You don't want to do this."
"Why not?" Darcy asked softly. There was an odd catch in her voice. "Sex is just a physical thing. Everyone told me it doesn't mean anything."
Dominique was momentarily shocked. She remained motionless and the smaller woman was able to escape from her grasp. She took one of her hands and put it up against her bare breast rubbing the palm over its soft pointed nipple.
"I need to be with someone now," Darcy whispered. There was almost a plea in her voice. "Show me I am as desirable as every other woman."
As much as Dominique wanted this to happen she was aware of the consequences. She grasped the smaller hands and held onto them her blue eyes flashing with the passion that had already been aroused in her.
"Darcy you will feel different about this in the morning."
"No," the smaller woman shook her blond head. She bit her lower lip. "If you care at all about me you will love me."
The words cut through to the taller woman's core and she reached up and gently cupped the small heart shaped face in between her hands before bringing it down to a point where their lips could touch. The meeting of their mouths was tentative at first but the kiss quickly became hungry.
Dominique knew what this was all about. It was not about loving; but the need for the smaller woman to feel alive and loved in a moment when death was so close by. Even though she knew it was wrong to take advantage of the woman she was only human. She had loved Darcy from the first moment they had met.
Gently she rolled them over so that she was on top, her body moving gently over the smaller body as her hands and mouth explored the tender soft flesh. A frenzy of passion overtook them and together they wrestled the clothes from her body.
For a moment Dominique paused, concern etched on her face and as if sensing a withdrawal Darcy arched her body, wrapping her legs around the slender waist and grabbing the firm buttock to guide the tall body back down on top of her.
The action shattered the last bit of the tall woman's resistance and she lowered her mouth and took pleasure in the flesh that was willingly offered up to her. She was slow and deliberate as she caressed the smaller woman stroking her body and kissing her with a gentle but controlled passion.
Darcy reveled in the touch of her companion closing her eyes and giving herself up to the gentle touches and caresses. She could feel herself get wet in a way that she had never done when she was with Perry and it shocked her how easily the other woman entered her. With Perry she had never been ready for his penetration and because of that there had always been some pain that did not exist with her current companion. As well Perry had never taken the time to touch her in the way Dominique now caressed her body and it was almost a shock when the powerful orgasm unexpectedly ripped through her body.
Dominique held the other woman until the orgasm had finished before gently laying her back on the bed. They lay silently together, their heaving bodies cradling each other. They fell asleep with their limbs still entwined.
By the time Dominique woke the next morning Darcy was already up. She was dressed in the jogging suit and though she had combed her hair, it still had that rumpled look. It was a glorious sight and the dark haired woman could imagine herself waking like this for the rest of her life.
Darcy returned the blue gaze steadily. It was strange how she felt this morning. There was a heavy sense of confusion filling her heart but strangely she had no remorse or guilt about what had happened the previous night. If anything it had been a bit of a revelation.
"Are you okay?" Dominique asked sitting up in bed careful not to allow the sheets to reveal too much of her nakedness.
"Yes," the smaller woman nodded her head before looking down at her hands. She saw the gold wedding ring on her finger. "I think I would like to go home now."
"Can I offer you some breakfast first?"
"No, I would just like to go home."
"Certainly," the taller woman agreed. "Just let me get dressed."
She nodded again, standing up and leaving the room. Less than an hour later they were in the tall woman's car driving back to her apartment. Dominique walked with her as far as the doorway to her suite.
"Darcy, if you need anything please don't hesitate to call," Dominique said when she turned the key in the lock. "What happened last night doesn't change anything between us."
"Thank you," the smaller woman was grateful. Even in her acute state of pain and confusion she had been afraid that their actions of the previous evening would change things between them. The one thing she didn't want to lose was this other woman from her life and she wasn't certain why.
"Thank you for everything."
Dominique nodded and turned to go taking a few steps before pausing. She looked back at the smaller woman. Her heart aching with a love she knew would never be returned.
"Darcy," the soft timber of her voice made the smaller woman look up at her. "Whatever happened between Perry and you wasn't your fault. Perry was a foolish man and any man would be incredibly lucky to have you."
"Thank you," Darcy managed to whisper hoarsely, her face flushed with embarrassment as she hurried into the apartment.
Darcy knew that William expected her to take time before returning to work, but just a week after the funeral she came into the office, eager for new assignments. There was no reason to delay her return, besides she hoped that work would take her mind off the pain she felt.
She took a deep breath and headed straight for Dominique's office. She did not have an appointment but the secretary buzzed her right through. She stepping to the private suite clutching the bag she held with both her hands. She stared down at the carpet momentarily embarrassed and unable to meet the intense blue gaze.
Dominique immediately rose from her chair and moved around the desk. Her heart trembled as she folded her arms across her chest and leaned back against the desk, afraid she would reach out to hold the smaller woman. She was glad to see Darcy yet was worried that she had returned to soon. She could still see the pain etched in the green eyes.
"I wanted to return these," Darcy said holding out the bag. The dark haired woman nodded and accepted the offering, remembering that the smaller woman had worn the jogging suit home that morning. She placed the bag on the desk.
"Are you okay?" Dominique asked with genuine concern. "There is no need for you to come back to work so soon. You could have taken as much time as you wanted."
"I know," the blond head nodded, "but I hated rambling around the empty apartment. What I don't need right now is a lot of time to think."
Dominique could understand how she felt. After her mother had died she had found her greatest solace in competition. She had performed her best, yet ultimately at the end of the day the loneliness had always been there.
She looked across at the smaller woman. She guessed that it would be much worse for her. Darcy had shared a life and a bed with a man who always seemed to fill the room with his presence.
"Alright, I understand that, but promise me if you change your mind, you will take some more time off."
"I promise," Darcy said with a small smile and crossed her heart with her finger.
As promised Dominique never referred to that night they had spent together. She was a true lady and Darcy appreciated that she had understood so clearly what it had all been about. Her graciousness made it easy for them to work together without any awkwardness.
However, the end of the day was never easy and Darcy hated going home to the empty apartment with all its memories. She had never taken an interest in making it a home yet now the place when she returned each night seemed cold and even more impersonal. Consequently she spent longer hours at the office, departing only after everyone else had gone home.
Her behaviour did not go unnoticed for she was aware that both William and Dominique were keeping a silent watch on her. It made her happy to know that she was not alone in her ordeal though she knew that she couldn't go to the older man with her problems. In spite of his faults Perry had still been William's son and she could not talk to him about the failure of the man.
It was different with Dominique and on more than one occasion she found herself heading down the corridor that separated their two offices, yet unfortunately the tall woman was always busy and so she was forced to take the long walk back to her own office.
Dominique paid special attention to how Darcy was doing. Like William she popped in unannounced on the other woman just to feel out how she was doing. She also knew that the small blond was staying late at the office, seeing her at her desk late into the night. She sensed the woman's reluctance to go home.
One night she could not leave and knocked lightly on the partially open door to her office. Darcy glanced up from the documents that she was reading, the glasses on her face perched precariously close to the end of her nose.
"I was wondering if you would like to join me for dinner," it was a simple invitation.
"Yes," Darcy agreed almost instantly.
Dominique was pleased by the acceptance but she was realistic enough to understand the blonde's eagerness. She chose a popular restaurant that was within walking distance of the office and was not busy so they were seated immediately.
"How is the Redding deal going?" She asked once they had given the waitress their order.
"We should be ready to present it to the board by the end of the month," Darcy replied.
They talked more about the proposed deal until their meals arrived. When Dominique spoke again it was about something general and Darcy listened intently as her companion gave her view on the current political situation and how it affected the running of their company.
She was surprised by how interested she became in what the older woman had to say. They discussed several broad subjects finding common interests on some points and disagreeing on several other issues. By the end of the evening Darcy realized that for a few brief hours she had completely forgotten her misery. Afterwards Dominique graciously offered to drive her home.
"Thank you," Darcy said once their reached her apartment complex. She was reluctant to end the evening and not just because she didn't favour the idea of returning to an empty apartment. She had genuinely enjoyed the evening.
"Anytime," Dominique smiled, happy that the smaller woman had enjoyed herself. "Maybe we could do it again."
"Yes, I would like that," the blond agreed and that evening set a pattern that saw them often going out for a casual meal after a long day at work. More than once instead of returning immediately to their respective apartments they prolonged the evening by going to see a movie or stopping by a lounge to enjoy some late evening entertainment.
One evening, after a particularly trying week, Dominique impulsively invited the smaller woman to her father's house for the weekend. It took Darcy only a second to say yes. She wanted to get out of the city but hesitated going alone to the country house she had shared with Perry. Besides William had been noticeably absent from the corporate offices and she longed to see and talk to the older man whom she guessed was mourning the loss of his son. William was pleased when his daughter brought the blond woman home.
"I'm glad you came," the man embraced the smaller woman tightly and Darcy could have sworn that the man had aged considerably since the last time she had seen him.
"How are you doing?" She wanted to know and the man gave her a sad smile.
"I am struggling through the best that I can," he was completely honest. He looped his arm into hers and led her from the vestibule calling over his shoulder as they made their way to the library. "Dominique, see that Darcy's things are put in the guest room in the west wing."
The tall dark haired woman nodded aware that they had already dismissed her presence. She watched for a long moment envying the closeness of the two. Though Darcy and she had been spending a lot of time together there was still an invisible barrier between them. Dominique wondered if it would ever go away. Those thoughts occupied her mind as she picked up the weekend bags and headed up the landing to the second floor.
"Tell me how you are doing dear?" William inquired when they were in the privacy of the library and settled on one of the comfortable sofas that decorated the room.
"I have good days and bad days," Darcy admitted. She wished that she could tell him of the anger that she also felt but knew that was something she needed to keep from him.
"It will get better," the man advised. "At first it seems like you can't go on and you force yourself out of bed each morning filled with the pain that you are never going to see the person you loved ever again. But slowly after a while it gets easier and it doesn't hurt so much."
Darcy said nothing, feeling slightly guilty. She had loved Perry yet she was afraid to acknowledge the source of her greater hurt. For all the pain of death she could not yet let go of her feelings of betrayal. Her marriage had not been prefect and sadly she was realizing that more every day.
"I thought that I knew what I wanted yet now it all seems different," she sighed.
"Death makes you take stock of what you have," William agreed solemnly. "I take comfort in the fact that I have three beautiful daughters for support. Dominique has been an angel and I know that it was not easy for her."
"Do you ever wish you had done something different?"
"No," the man shook his grey head. "If there is one thing I wish it was that Perry and you had had a child. I know that it is a selfish wish but a man has this desire to have a grandson that will bear his name, to carry on the blood line."
"Perry never wanted children," Darcy said quietly biting down on her lower lip. "He said neither of us had the time for them."
"What did you want?" William asked and for a moment blue and green eyes met.
"I would have wanted a child," the small blond was honest, admitting something for the first time that she had not allowed herself to admit. "But perhaps it is just as well. I don't know how I would have managed if I had any children to look after. I'm not sure I would be strong enough to do it on my own."
"You would have muddled through," William was confident. "None of us really knows the strength we possess until we face trials. It is only than that we know who we are and what we are capable of, besides Dominique would have been there to help you."
"She has been a godsend these last few weeks," Darcy agreed solemnly. "She almost instinctively seems to know when I don't want to be alone."
"She has always been sensitive that way," the man agreed. "But even if she wasn't there you would have managed. As awful as it may sound now, life does carry on and when you are ready you will go on. Perry would have gone on if the roles had been reversed."
Darcy had a hundred various unkind thoughts run through her head. Perry would have gone on alright, probably replacing her more easily than she wanted to believe. "Well, finding someone else is the last thing on my mind. I don't know if I will ever get married again."
A frown settled on the man's face. He didn't like what he was hearing from the younger woman and hoped that it was only raw emotion that was making her say these things.
"Give it time you are young with plenty of years ahead. Someday you will meet someone and build a new life with them," the man sighed and then gently disengaged himself from her embrace. "I hope you will forgive an old man for leaving you so suddenly but I have been wearier than usual lately."
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to wear you out," Darcy was immediately apologetic aware how emotionally draining talking about Perry was to the older man.
"You didn't," he said gently patting her hand. "Dominique and the other girls have been patient with me and listened when I needed to talk but I know it is difficult for them considering the strain there was in their relationship."
Darcy nodded, understanding the man completely.
"But there is no need for you to retire. It is still early. A walk on the beach might be the thing you need."
"That sounds lovely."
Darcy accompanied the man up to the second story leaving him at his room with a tender kiss on the cheek before hurrying to her own room to change into a pair of jeans and a thick sweater. It was summer but the wind off the ocean could be chilly in the evening once the sun went down.
It was more than an hour later when Dominique went in search of her father and guest. She was not surprised to find that the older man had retired early. It was hard for her not to look into his blue eyes and see the weariness that resided there. She knew that William blamed himself for what happened but she also knew that it wasn't his fault. She also knew that he blamed himself for the way the relationship with his son had turned out.
"You okay dad?" She asked quietly walking across the dimly lit bedroom after he had answered her summons. She settled on the edge of the bed and watched as he lowered the book on his lap and peered at her through his glasses.
"Just a little tired," William responded wondering if he would ever be able to make his oldest daughter know how proud he was of her. "I'm glad that you brought Darcy home, it was thoughtful of you."
"I figured that the both of you could talk," the dark haired woman shrugged.
"Yes, we had a nice chat," the man sighed heavily. "I worry though that Perry may have destroyed her spirit."
"You know then?"
"That he cheated on her?" William raised his eyebrows. "It was hard not to hear all the rumours."
"Why didn't you do something?" Dominique wanted to know, feeling a slightly thread of anger at her father for letting his son's behaviour go unchecked.
"What could I do?" the man wanted to know. "He was a lousy husband and I couldn't talk to him because he would always bring up his mother and how I left them."
"That was an easy excuse for him not to take responsibility for his actions," Dominique disagreed. "You shouldn't have let him get away with everything like you did."
"I felt guilty for not being there for him when he was growing up."
"He wasn't a child anymore," the woman reminded gently.
"No," William shook his head and sighed. "But in regards to Darcy you have no one to blame but yourself."
"How do you figure that?"
"From the first moment I met her she reminded me of your mother. I always thought the two of you would be perfect together. I even tried to set you up but the weekend I invited her here you refused to come home. I believe you stayed away in a fit of temper."
Dominique hated to be reminded of that event. She had been in training camp when her father had called and insisted she come home for the weekend. The old man had made it sound important and she had re-arranged her schedule to make the trip until her younger sister had confided that their father was trying to set her up with a woman.
"You have to remember I was thinking of all the other times you had tried to set me up," Dominique reminded and the man chuckled with the memory.
"I wasn't very good about it was I?"
"No," the woman shook her dark locks and smiled at the memory of the women William had thought would make her a good partner.
"You have to give me credit for trying, most parents wouldn't."
"You are right about that," Dominique agreed with a smile. "I appreciate everything you have done for me pops though I don't know why you thought that Darcy would be interested in me more than as just a friend."
"Call it a father's hunch," the man said the smile fading from his lips. "And I believe that love has no boundaries."
"You are truly a man before your time," Dominique said fondly and patted the blanket were his leg was. She stood up. "I will let you get back to your book."
"You will find her out by the beach," William called at her retreating back.
Dominique thought for a long moment before returning to her room and changing into something more casual. She wasn't sure the other woman would welcome her company but she thought she would give it a try.
She couldn't find the smaller woman and so decided to build a fire in the hopes that the blond would eventually find her way over there. It wasn't long after she had gotten a roaring blaze going that Darcy appeared.
"Do you mind if I join you?" Darcy asked tentatively afraid that she might be intruding on the other woman.
"Come sit down," Dominique said catching sight of her in the shadows that surrounded the fire.
The small blond accepted the invitation and plunked herself down on the sand, her green eyes focusing on the dancing flames that played its silent music against the blackness that surrounded them.
"I'm afraid that I may have upset your father," she admitted hesitantly after a long moment of silence.
"Why?" Dominique frowned as she wondered what the other woman could have said to upset William. Quietly Darcy related the discussion she had shared with the older man.
"It's nothing that you said," the tall woman shook her dark head. "Dad still carries a lot of guilt for not being in Perry's life when he was growing up."
"Is that why Perry and you were never able to get along?"
"I think that was part of the reason," Dominique admitted. "He resented that dad was here for us when we were growing up. We did try to get along. I remember the first time Dad brought him home to meet us. Mom was ready to welcome him but he was in his late teens and angry about the world in general. He just naturally picked on me because I was the oldest."
Darcy was silent as she listened to the other woman speak. In hindsight she could see the reason behind the way Perry acted and his determination for them not to have children.
"At least your father tried to include him in your family," she commented with a sigh. "When my father remarried and had his new family he made it clear that there was no room for me in their lives."
Dominique could hear the sadness in the smaller woman's voice and her heart ached. "What about your mom? Did she remarry?"
"No," Darcy shook her head. "She totally gave up on men and joined a religious community in the desert as soon as I was old enough to move out of the house. I have never been welcome in her new life. I think she considers me as big a mistake as her marriage."
"She obvious doesn't know what she is missing out on," the dark haired woman said quietly. "I can't see a parent not being proud of you or your accomplishments."
"I don't know," Darcy shook her head her green eyes staring at the fire. "I can only imagine what she would be saying if she knew what a disaster my marriage had been."
"It wasn't that bad was it?"
"It was far from as good as I thought it was," the blond attorney admitted.
"You can't blame yourself," Dominique said. "His mother did what she could to spoil him and poison him against dad."
"That she did," Darcy agreed remembering all the times the woman had spoken in negative terms about William.
"Have you seen his mother since the funeral?"
"I haven't seen or heard from any of them since the funeral," the small blond snorted. "It doesn't surprise me though his mother didn't think I was good enough to be his wife. She never liked me."
"I'm sorry," Dominique wished there was more that she could do for the woman. "I am certain that in time you might feel a little differently."
"I don't know if I will," Darcy admitted candidly. "So much has happened and I have to want to forgive and right now I don't know if I will ever want to forgive."
"Perhaps in time that will change," Dominique whispered and though Darcy doubted that it would she remained silent tired of talking about her. She turned to look at the woman studying the classical profile for a long moment before speaking.
"Why haven't you got a partner?"
Dominique laughed. "A number of reasons I suppose. First, I was too busy and concentrating on my amateur career to bother with a relationship and now I just haven't found the person I want to share my life with."
"Are you actually looking?"
"Yes, why do you say that?"
"Well, these last few weeks you have spending most of your spare time with me."
"True but you are good company."
"I am," Darcy agreed with a smile. "But you aren't going to get anywhere with me."
"Damn," the dark haired woman pretended to be wounded in a good natured way hoping that her internal pain would not shine through her eyes. She sobered. "The truth is that I am in love with a woman but she doesn't know that I exist."
Darcy felt her heart dip at the other woman's admission without knowing why. She could tell that the other woman was no longer joking. "Well, she is a fool."
"She's not but thank you for the vote of confidence."
The weekend was a good respite and Darcy was glad that the other woman had invited her along but she had little time to think about it as there were other more pressing concerns weighting on her mind. Not only did she have a grueling week ahead at work but she had a meeting with the lawyers representing Perry's daughter.
She had not met the child or her mother and had no desire to do so. By the end of the interview they had managed to hammer out a deal that was acceptable to both parties. She dreaded the thought that she would have to go through the whole process again with Lisa Woodley.
The thought of the other woman made her physically ill. The girl continued to work at Sable Corp and was now making no secret of the fact that she was pregnant. Darcy was completely humiliated one morning when she overheard her colleagues discussing the matter.
Afterwards all she wanted to do was call Dominique. She needed to hear the other woman's comforting voice but as she reached for the receiver she stopped. She stared at the phone for a long moment. It was not that she remembered that she was at her father's having dinner that night it was that it suddenly occurred to her that she was beginning to lean too much on the woman.
Dominique had been terrific through everything, that wasn't the problem. The problem was that she was beginning to feel things she shouldn't. There was a confusing mixture of emotions going through her head and her heart. It was still too soon for her to feel anything. She didn't want to feel anything again.
She abruptly ran a hand through her hair. There was so much that she didn't want to acknowledge yet so many things to which she needed to come to terms. The hardest was the fact that she had missed her last period.
It was only when it failed to show up after a second month that she began to fear the truth. She hoped the doctor would assure her it was only a result of the severe stress she was under but he only confirmed her worst suspicions.
She wandered around in a daze the morning she received the news. She cancelled her appointment with Dominique unable to face the other woman. She didn't know what to do and this time she could turn to no one for advice. Perry had always used protection, an excessive amount on occasions when she was most susceptible to getting pregnant. They had been so careful with the exception of that last night they had been together; the night before he had flown to Peru.
She glanced down at her hands and saw the wedding bands. She had continued to wear them but now knew it was time to take them off. Perry had not wanted to have the responsibility of children and she was certain that if he had still been around than he definitely would have been pressuring her to have an abortion. She wished he had been as careful or adamant with his girlfriends as he had been with her.
She waited to absorb the news while attempting to sort through all the new emotions that she was feeling. She could not deny that she had chemistry with Dominique; she could feel it growing stronger every moment they spent together. She didn't know where it would lead and had never before considered having an affair with a woman. Not that it would come that far for she clearly remembered the older woman's confession to her that weekend she had spent at her father's home.
The more she thought about it the more she came to the conclusion that there was only one thing to do. Nothing was going right for her here anymore and though she knew that William would support her, she also knew that she could not rely on him.
"Miss Saabo asked if you could meet her tonight at her apartment," Angela, her secretary relayed the message when she returned to her office. "She needed to discuss the Urbana Deal with you before she leaves tomorrow for Europe. She thought you could go over it with her while she packed."
The suggestion was typical Dominique and though Darcy would have liked to cancel the appointment she merely nodded her head. She had formed a plan in her head. That evening she arrived at the other woman's apartment with briefcase in hand. She was totally unprepared for the woman who answered the door. The moment of jealously and hurt she felt at seeing the girl immediately passed when she recognized this girl as Dominique's younger sister. They had only met a few times in the past as Perry had not socialized with the Saabo side of his family. However, she was intensely aware of how she had felt until she had discerned the truth.
"Dom called to say she would be late. Her meeting is running longer than she expected," Sasha said motioning her to come in. "I didn't get a chance to say it at the funeral but I am sorry about what happened to Perry."
"Thanks," Darcy was surprised that two months had already passed since that day they had buried Perry. Time seemed to be moving so quickly.
"I hope you don't mind me saying this but I wasn't all that upset that Perry was killed," the girl prattled on without thinking as she lead her guest into the living room.
"Oh?" Darcy was a little taken aback by this honesty.
"Yeah, Perry was always so beastly to Dominique and all because she had a thing for you."
"Pardon?" Darcy was taken aback by the statement and watched as the girl smiled. There was innocence about her manner that did not make her revelations seem anything more than youthful exuberance. She thought back to all the times that Perry had said that Dominique was in love with her yet even now she had dismissed it as sibling rivalry. Perhaps there was more to it.
"You are the reason I can't get my sister to go out with any of my friends," the girl prattled on unaware of how awkward her guest was beginning to feel. "Surely you must know that Dom is totally in love with you."
Sasha finally stopped talking when she noticed that the colour had drained from Darcy's face. Suddenly she realized her mistake and flushed pink with embarrassment.
"Oh god, I'm sorry, I said too much," the girl apologized. "I better get going before Dom get homes. Forget I said anything okay."
"Okay," Darcy nodded and watched as the girl grabbed a handbag by the door and hurried out of the apartment. She stared at the door for a long moment feeling a confusing mixture of emotion. All thoughts of confiding in Dominique went out the window. She didn't even want to think about what the girl had said. There was just too much to think about and her life was becoming far too complicated.
"Sorry I'm late," Dominique's arrival abruptly stirred her from her silent revere. "Everything has just become too hectic. If you don't mind coming into my room, we can talk while I pack."
Darcy nodded mutely and followed the tall woman into her bedroom. She watched as the dark haired executive peeled off her jacket before tossing a suitcase on the bed. She would be gone for two weeks in Europe to close a deal for a new company the Corporation was purchasing.
She listened silently and watched as the tall woman packed her shirts and trousers. It was an intimate scene that she remembered from her marriage. She made all the appropriate suggestions even though she was only half concentrating on what was being said.
"Everything should be done by the time I get back," Dominique said in conclusion snapping the locks on the suitcase and setting it down at the end of the bed. She glanced up and green and blue eyes met as the air in the room became charged with electricity.
Darcy didn't know why and later she wouldn't be able to explain her actions. Maybe it was the memory of how gentle the taller woman had been when they had made love after Perry's funeral. Perhaps it was the feeling of loneliness that was constantly present. One thing she knew was that she was attracted to the dark haired woman and needed to kiss her.
Without a word she stood up and silently crossed the room, reaching up to cup the strong classical face between her hands and drawing it down to meet her lips. There was surprise and some hesitation in the response but it was swept away by a mutual hunger and desire. It was Dominique who finally gained control and gently grasped the smaller woman's upper arms and moved her away.
"Darcy what are you doing?"
"I thought it was pretty obvious," was the almost curt reply.
"I am not going to be a substitute for Perry," Dominique said in a heavy voice.
"Than what is this all about?" the taller woman strained to understand. She was already wet from the kiss and her body ached to assuage the throbbing pain in her core.
Darcy decided to be as honest as she dared. She looked down unable to meet the other woman's blue gaze feeling a little embarrassed. She had never been this brazen before not even with Perry when they were married.
"You were so gentle the last time," the words were whispered. "You made me feel so warm and wanted. I wanted that again."
Dominique dropped her hands and slumped to the edge of the bed. She ran a hand through her thick dark hair and closed her eyes in an attempt to think but the taste of the other woman's lips on her own was a powerful memory as was the night they had spent together. She shook her head knowing what she needed to do.
"I can't be a toy for you," the words were difficult to say out loud, the blue eyes pained. "I can't just sleep with you whenever you feel the need to be with someone." There was a long pause when green and blue eyes met again. "I care too much about you."
Darcy closed her eyes surprised by the tears that she felt there. Her shoulders slumped and she dropped to the bed beside the other woman, feeling like a fool.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me," she tried to apologize feeling a mixture of hurt and confusion.
"You are lonely and I offered you comfort when you needed it most," Dominique sighed. "You feel safe with me."
"I do," Darcy agreed. "You are so different than Perry was."
"And that is the reason you find me attractive now," the taller woman reasoned rationally. "But in the end you will see that you are just using me and that I am not what you really want."
"What makes you so sure?" the blond woman wanted to know and received a sad smile.
"Because I have been in this position before," Dominique replied quietly. "It happened when I was in university. I was about twenty at the time and thought I had the whole world figured out. I had this friend, whose boyfriend was killed in a car accident. She turned to me for support and naturally one thing led to another."
"What happened?" Darcy sensed the pain and hurt the other woman had experienced.
"I was reluctant to get involved with her but she swore up and down that what we had was the real thing. It lasted a year before she finally came to me and said that she made a mistake. Seems she had been cheating on me for almost six months with a man. Being with her taught me a lesson and I won't make a mistake like that again."
"What if I am different?" Darcy was surprised by the words that came out of her mouth. A sad smile decorated the older woman's face as she reached out and gently combed a strand of hair behind a small ear.
"If you came to me a year from now I might believe it, but not now," Dominique shook her head. "You are still hurting over Perry. He might not have been the best husband and you might not have had the best marriage but it is still too soon for you to get involved with anyone seriously and be happy. You might think otherwise now but I know in the future you will thank me."
The small blond covered her face with her hands knowing that the taller woman was right. In her heart she knew that it was too soon for her to be in any type of relationship other than friendship. She did still have issues with her marriage that needed to be resolved before she could move on. She had feelings for the other woman but she honestly wasn't sure they were real or just a result of the woman's kindness.
"Have I ruined our friendship?"
"No," the dark haired woman shook her head and placed an arm around the slumping shoulders. "But if you want to stay with me we don't have to do anything. I can just hold you."
Dominique wondered where she got the strength. Her heart cried out to be intimate with the small woman who was now sleeping quietly in her arms. She loved Darcy yet she knew that to pursue anything now would only lead to disaster. She wanted the smaller woman but she was ready to wait until the blond woman was ready and not before. She would not blow the chance for a relationship for a night of passion. Their relationship had already survived one night together; another night and they would not have been able to go back. She sighed and closed her eyes in an attempt to sleep. She would have to content herself to being a friend, at least for now.
The next morning Darcy walked her to the door and she memorized the way the smaller woman looked in her oversize clothes. Her blond hair was rumpled and her features still shrouded by the effects of sleep.
"I'll see you when I get back," Dominique said as she prepared to depart a crooked smile on her lips. "Maybe we can go out to dinner and a movie."
"I'd like that," Darcy said.
"Okay, I better get going," the taller woman said glancing at her watch. "You can go back to bed you don't have to be at work for a couple of hours yet. Just lock up when you leave."
Darcy did not go back to bed, her mind a whirl as she wandered through the large apartment. Last night had been wonderful and she was grateful that Dominique had not allowed them to go any further than the kiss. She realized she wasn't prepared for more. However doubts surfaced later in the day.
She was in the washroom when several of the secretaries came into the lavatory to fix their make-up. They did not know she was in the occupied stall and proceeded to gossip about her private affairs. They had snickered over her misfortune. Their words confirming what she suspected. Everyone in the office commonly believed that Perry was the father of Lisa's child.
She sat in the stall for a long time weeping, hurt by their callous conversation. She could not understand why so many people took pleasure in her grief. She tried to be kind to everyone but her position was such that she had to be aggressive. She knew than that she couldn't stay. She knew that William would soon learn that Lisa was expecting his grandchild and she could not be there when it was born. It didn't matter that she was also pregnant.
With the decision made she went straight to see William. The man listened quietly wishing there was something he could say to change her mind but understanding her predicament.
"Dominique will be unhappy to lose you," he said quietly. "I know that she has come to rely on you."
"The feeling is mutual," Darcy felt the tips of her ears burning as she thought of the dark haired woman wondering what this man would think of her if he knew the truth.
"If it's because of the Woodley girl, I can have her transferred to another company," he offered but she shook her head. It didn't surprise her that he knew the truth.
"It's not just about Lisa Woodley, it's about everything. Everyone knows what went on and it's just too hurtful."
"I understand," the man sighed. "I hate to lose you Darcy you are one damn good lawyer and if you ever change your mind you can always come back. You will always be welcome here."
"Thank you," she said softly as tears sprung up in her eyes clouding her vision. Even though she had doubts about her decision she did not change her mind.
Four years later
Dominique scanned the document with the official letterhead. Even though the firm represented by the bold lettering was small, the contents of the letter were no less serious. She scowled as she angrily tossed the sheet of paper across the desk. Her father had come up with a ridiculous venture and she had not been able to persuade the man to reconsider.
They had acquired a large parcel of land on the coast of Oregon for the sole purpose of reselling the tract to an industrial developer. The promise of a huge profit was completely lost when William had suddenly decided to keep the property. Dominique had been mystified when her father had detailed the plans he had for developing the land on his own.
"Just imagine an exclusive hotel resort with tennis courts and a professionally designed golf course." William had espoused the virtues of his decision over dinner one night. "We could market it as a place for executive retreats. With the ocean on its doorstep and the mild weather it would be ideal."
"But we aren't developers," she had protested, trying to remain patient even while she was trying to make the man see reason. She had actually wondered if her father was suffering some sort of dementia. At seventy four William was still in fine physical health yet lately he had become almost preoccupied.
"Dom, indulge me on this one, I am an old man and all my life I have been buying and selling other peoples visions and dreams," William said in a quiet voice. "Just once I would like to do something from start to finish. I want to build my own dream."
Strangely Dominique had understood the man's wish but that had not made her any happier. She knew the amount of work that would be involved in handling such a project. Nonetheless, in spite of her reservations she agreed.
"I will get Garrett Andersen to start work on it immediately," she had conceded defeat against her father's obstinacy.
"No, I want you to do it," William said in a firm voice. Though she was annoyed by the suggestion Dominique reluctantly agreed to the request rather than argue.
It wasn't until later that she fully understood the magnitude of what was ahead. No sooner had their intentions become public knowledge when the small community located adjacent to the project had launched legal proceedings to prevent the development from going through on the land.
"Why didn't you tell me that the community was opposed to the development?" Dominique confronted her father several days later. The man merely shrugged.
"I thought it would only be a token resistance."
"Didn't you talk to these people when you were out there?"
"I was too busy with the architects and general contractors," William sighed not meeting his daughter's intense gaze.
She shook her head angrily and paced up to the window behind her father's desk and stared out at the panoramic view of the city. She could understand her father's desire to leave some standing legacy to his existence but there were other things he could have done. She sighed.
"So what it is exactly that I am supposed to do?" Dominique wondered out loud, jamming her hands into her trouser pockets.
"I need you to go out there and smooth things out, make them understand that this will benefit their community."
"And how long am I supposed to devote to this mission?"
"As long as it takes," William said and then added. "It's not like you have anything holding you here in the city."
"You always have to rub that in," Dominique bit back, feeling a measure of anger at her father for bringing up the subject.
"I am just reminding you of the truth." The older man said quietly.
"I date," she defended herself.
"I have seen your dates, the few that you have had," William snorted. "They may be pretty but none of them are worth your time. When are you going to get serious about a relationship?"
Dominique sighed. "I haven't time for a relationship."
"That's absurd," the man scoffed at the suggestion.
"Is it?" the tall woman questioned. "Have you forgotten who is practically running this company?"
"No," the man shook his grey head. "But I had time to marry and have a family. It didn't affect the company's bottom line any."
Dominique bit back the words that came to her tongue. There was no need to remind her father that his first marriage had faltered because of the time he had devoted to the company.
"I just need you to go there and meet with the community's lawyers and maybe a few of the important townsfolk to explain exactly what we are doing and how it won't change their lifestyles."
"Okay I will do this if you promise me one thing?"
"Don't pressure me about getting into a relationship."
"I promise," William swore and watched as his daughter nodded satisfied before strolling out of the room. He hoped that after his daughters trip to the west coast he wouldn't have to worry anymore about her social life.
Dominique knew that her father hoped that she would find someone and settle down. William had often mentioned that he would love her to give him a grandchild but she had not met anyone whom she had thought she could spend her entire life with and for her any commitment was a lifelong one.
Her thoughts wandered back to a time when she had thought she had found the woman of her dreams but Darcy had been unattainable. It had been more than four years since the blond woman had disappeared from her life and though she was able to satisfy herself physically with other women, no one had come close to touching her in any emotional way. She sighed. Her father would have to accept that she would probably remain single.
She ran a hand through her thick dark hair. It had been a long time since she had been this restless. She had an uneasy feeling in her gut; a premonition about this project that her father had created. She didn't like the feeling, especially when she was about to embark on a journey. She found her colleague sitting in the waiting area outside her office when she returned.
"I got all the information you asked for and there is one little surprise that might work in our favour," Garrett Andersen said upon following the taller woman into her office. He placed a thin folder down on the desk as Dominique returned to her chair.
"The place is a quiet community with allot of retired individuals," the man quoted from the research he had done on the town. "It has several schools, a small hospital and a fully equipped community center with an indoor pool. Actually the place is perfect for what your father wants to build."
"Except that they don't want any major developments," Dominique said dryly as she leafed through the report.
She glanced at the demographics. It looked like any other town that didn't subsist on any one industry to survive. It seemed an ideal community that wanted to keep the rest of the industrial world away.
"Is there anyone besides the Mayor and the county Commissioner that I should talk too?" she wanted to know and the other man shook his head. "What about the law firm whose representing the county? What have you found out about them?"
"It's a local firm headed by Benjamin Walters. Most of his experience is in Wills and Estates however his partner D. Ryan has broad experience in real estate, civil and contractual matters."
"Is he going to be a problem?" Dominique frowned.
"That depends. D. Ryan used to work for the Sable Corporation, only she used to go under the name of Darcy Saabo."
"Did you say Darcy Saabo?" Dominique repeated interrupting the man. She was not interested in hearing any more. Garrett looked at his boss and saw that her entire body had stiffened.
Dominique expelled a deep breath as she leaned back in her chair. Already her mind was racing as quickly as her heart. For a moment she thought it might explode. She had never quite gotten over Darcy no matter how hard she had tried. She thought of her father and laughed, causing the man to look at her strangely.
"That crafty old devil," she murmured under her breath and then met her colleagues gaze. "I need to see my father."
It was as if William had been waiting for her return. He was silent as she entered his office and walked across the room placing the file on his desk in front of him. He noticed that his daughter did not sit down.
"What took you so long?" The man greeted her with a small smile. "I thought you would have been in here sooner."
"How long have you known?"
"You probably won't believe me but I only found out a few weeks ago."
"So what is this scheme all about?" Dominique wanted to know.
"Darcy gave birth to twins, Perry's children. I want my grandchildren back here before I die."
"You're not dying dad."
"I'm not getting any younger."
There was silence as the tall woman turned and walked to the window. Blue eyes took in the scenery and when she spoke again she didn't bother to turn and face the man.
"Why are they so important? There is the other child," Dominique said absently momentarily forgetting the name of the woman who had borne Perry an illegitimate daughter.
"You know the woman has made it impossible for me to have a relationship with the child," William retorted.
"Why don't you just go and ask Darcy to see the children?"
"I don't just want to see them occasionally and maybe once and awhile on the holidays. I want to be a part of their lives and I can't be that if they live across the country."
"What do you want me to do?" She wanted to know.
"I want you to do whatever it takes to get them back here."
Dominique was quiet, uncertain if she could fulfill his wishes. She was even more uncertain about her own feelings. The last time she had seen the blonde she had been in love with the smaller woman but that had been four years ago.
"I will see what I can do but I won't promise anything," she agreed.
Darcy shortened her stride just a little towards the end of her run, stopping only once she reached the beach in front of her ocean side cottage. She glanced at the stop watch on her wrist and felt quite proud. She had cut another two minutes off her time.
She smiled broadly pumping her fist in jubilation as she walked down to the water's edge and breathed deeply, filling her lungs with the fresh salty scent of the sea. She stood just out of the reach of the water's lapping touch, pacing back and forth as the tension in her muscles began to relax and her breathing returned to normal.
She gazed out across the horizon watching as nature was slowly waking to another day. There was no mist on the sea and the morning sky was clear and crystal blue. She whirled on her heel and strolled up the beach on to the grassy lawn in front of the house. She bound up the steps onto the veranda and let herself through the screen door into the kitchen. She went straight to the refrigerator and poured herself a glass of orange juice.
She had only taken up running to lose some of the weight that she had gained while pregnant but when she had reached her goal she had found that she didn't want to stop. She had become addicted to the sport and not a day went by without her taking a morning run.
She enjoyed more than just the well-being she felt from the physical exertion. She loved the solitude and mental peace she gained. So often she used the time to plan her day or work through some problem.
She glanced absently around the small kitchen. Her life had changed so much in such a short time that there were moments when she didn't even recognize herself. She had cut her long blond hair into a short sleek sophisticated style that was easy to manage. She exercised regularly to keep her body toned and shapely but the changes were more than physical.
She glanced again at her surroundings. Gone were the abstentious trappings of wealth and prestige. The place was not spotless as knickknacks carelessly cluttered every shelf and ledge. There was no maid to do the cleaning or the dishes and she cooked the meals that were eaten each day. She wondered what her old friends would think of her now.
It didn't matter anymore, she realized with a smile. That part of her life had changed as well. She had stopped caring what other people thought and had begun to live her life the way she wanted. Sometimes that meant a messy house with dirty dishes in the sink.
She spotted the clock on the wall and swallowed the last of her juice. She had an appointment that morning with a young couple who were planning on buying a house; then she had to go over to the courthouse to interview a young boy who had been caught stealing from the local hardware store. She had a busy day ahead and it didn't just stop when she left the office. Today was Tuesday which meant it was the day for swimming lessons.
She bounded noiselessly up the stairs onto the second floor and sauntered into her bedroom. She quickly slipped out of her jogging suit before stepping into the shower. Moments later she was out again and slipping on a pair of grey trousers and a white cotton shirt. On her feet she slid a new pair of penny loafers.
She glanced at her reflection in the mirror as she ran a brush through her damp hair and a smile appeared. Gone were the days of the repressively severe business suits and the fierce competitive nature that marked the working lives of most city lawyers.
At fifty five Benjamin Walker was an untraditional man, a hippie who had never quite given into the establishment despite his law degree. His wife Toni was the same and Darcy enjoyed the casual, relaxed way they ran the practice and their lives.
"Mommy," she was dragged away from her thoughts by the sound of a child's voice. Her eyes went swiftly to the doorway where a small girl was standing in her rumpled pajamas. She watched as the child rubbed a sleepy eye with one fist while the other hand clutched tightly to the arm of a worn teddy bear.
"What are you doing up sweetie?" Darcy was quickly across the room. She bent and scooped the child into her arms.
"I woke up," the girl said sleepily nestling her small head into the crook of her mother's neck.
"Well you can go back to bed for a while," she cooed softly as she carried the girl across the hall back into her own room. She laid the child back onto the empty bed and tucked the blankets around the tiny body before bending and laying a kiss on the child's forehead.
"Go back to sleep. Katie will wake you when it's time to get up," Darcy said and the tiny child instantly obeyed, closing her eyes and drifting off back to sleep.
Darcy didn't immediately leave. She found it impossible to rush away from either of her children. She turned her head and glanced at the other twin bed where her son lay undisturbed by the commotion. Her heart filled with love. Until she had borne these babies she had never felt such overwhelming and unconditional love for anyone.
Her thoughts momentarily darkened as she thought of her former husband. Perry had never wanted to have children and if he had lived she doubted that these two wonderful babies would have ever been born. Just the thought of what she almost missed out on was enough to cause an ache in her heart.
She sighed. If there was one worry about the children is what would happen to them if something were too happened to her. Often she had second guessed her decision not to notify the Saabo family of the children's birth. She knew that they would be supportive so there was no reason not to tell them but she hesitated. In fact she had made provisions in her will for the children to go to the Saabo family in the event something untimely happened to her. She just hoped it would not come to that, for she worried about her children going to strangers.
She bent and kissed her daughters brow once more before standing up and moving to her son's bedside. She kissed him gently, tucking the covers around him before quietly making her way out of the room.
She had been upset when she found out she was pregnant and that panic had turned to terror when she learned that she was carrying twins. Despite the fear and uncertainty she had felt, never once did she ever consider terminating the pregnancy.
It was hard being a single parent, the task doubled by the extra baby but she had managed and there had never been one moment when she had wished anything to be different. She was proud of her children and proud to be a mother. It even amused her to realize that she was pretty good at the job.
She grabbed her jacket and skipped down the stairs, grabbing the briefcase on the table by the door before hurrying out to her car. She felt safe leaving her children in the care of the nanny she had hired.
Katie Braxton was a student at the local college who Darcy had found through an agency. From a poor family in Seattle, Katie was used to taking care of her younger brothers and sisters and the experience showed. Most importantly she was good with the children.
Benjamin and Toni were already at the small, cluttered law office when she arrived that morning. It was the secretary's morning off so Toni filled in at reception, answering phones while she did the accounting books. A chartered accountant by profession, Toni was from a wealthy Eastern family but she had shed all vestiges of wealth when she had met and married her husband.
Darcy loved to listen to the stories they told about their meeting on the grounds of New York University and how they had marched in all the peace rallies during the turbulent seventies. They had been radicals but never law breakers. They had served around the world with the Peace Corps before settling on the West coast to raise their three children.
She had liked the older woman from the moment they had met and in the three years she had worked for Benjamin they had become friends. There wasn't anything these two people wouldn't do for her and the sentiment was returned in kind.
"The Matheson's are here," Toni said cheerfully when she stepped into the office.
At fifty six the older woman still had a shapely body that allowed her the luxury of wearing casual clothes like the jeans she wore that morning. Darcy nodded accepting the file before going into her office to meet with her first appointment.
The Matheson's were a newly married pair who were following the advice of their parents and planning for the future. When she was done Benjamin was waiting to speak with her.
"Did I do something wrong?" she asked plopping into a seat in his office. There was an ominous expression on the man's face. The hair on his temples was just beginning to turn grey.
"No, you're an absolutely brilliant lawyer Darcy, I still can't believe you are happy working here," the man said and she held her hand up laughing.
"You don't need to flatter me Ben, what do you want me to do?"
"It appears I have gotten us in over our heads and that is why I am calling on your expertise to take over," he said flashing a boyish smile before becoming serious once more. "You have heard about the project that has been proposed for the old Gillam place."
"I've heard rumours," she said vaguely.
"The town council has decided they don't want the project to go ahead but they can do nothing because the property is in the adjoining county and the normal zoning laws don't apply. The project is about to break ground and they want us to figure out a legal challenge to stop the construction."
Darcy was silent. Like the rest of the community she did not want to see any big projects move into the area and destroy the local ecosystem. They lived in a small Eden, away from the rest of the world and none of the locals wanted that to change.
"You know how these big operators work. You have played their game, so that is why I would like you to take over the case," Benjamin paused. "This isn't about money but about the changing of our quality of life."
Darcy didn't have to say anything to know what her answer would be. She had chosen this small community to raise her children because it had offered everything she had been looking for in a place to live.
"I don't know if there is anything we can do," Darcy sighed. "I've seen the initial paperwork and because the county has given their approval there isn't much the city can do. Do you know the company that is planning the project?"
"Vetec Industries but the parent company is something called the Sable Corporation," Benjamin put on his reading glasses, his one concession to age, and began reading from a file he had started. "They are a big eastern company owned privately by a William Saabo. I don't know much more than that. I have sent a letter to their corporate offices advising them of our intentions."
"Sable isn't into development," Darcy said absently, her mind racing with the possibilities. She tried to hide her surprise. She knew that someday she might run into someone affiliated with the company she only hoped it wouldn't be this soon. She noticed that Benjamin was staring at her over his glasses.
"You know of these guys?"
"More than that," she sighed. "I used to work for them. They hired me right out of law school. I probably would still be working there if my husband hadn't died."
That was a matter of opinion for Darcy had come to realize that her marriage had been doomed and that if Perry hadn't died it was likely that they would have divorced. She had gotten over his death surprisingly quickly. She shook her head to dismiss those thoughts.
Benjamin was silent as he contemplated this new turn of events. He knew that she had once worked in the corporate world, she had admitted as much when she come to work for him, but she had been surprisingly tight lipped about her past. Even though they had become friends he realized that there was probably a lot that they still didn't know about this woman.
"Do you think it will be a problem?" He asked tentatively.
"No," she shook her head confident she could remain unsentimental. She gave him a half-hearted smile. "Perhaps it could even work to our advantage. I know how they do business. I know William Saabo, I know their weaknesses."
"You sound like you might enjoy this?"
She smiled weakly; almost ashamed to admit the truth. "I guess a part of me does miss the intense haggling I was once involved in. I was good at my job and I guess a part of me wonders if I have lost the edge."
"I don't think you have lost anything," Benjamin said without bias. He removed his glasses and leaned back in his chair. "There are times when I watch you in the court and think you are wasting your time arguing the petty cases we get. I see flashes of brilliance that belong someplace else."
"But I want to be here," Darcy reassured him quietly. "I am not unhappy here, besides I have my children to think of. I can never be what I once was. I don't ever want to be that person again."
Benjamin wasn't certain she wasn't lying to herself. He knew of her devotion to her children and the love she felt for them was evident in the way she looked at them. They were first in her life and everything else took second place.
He paused to look at her now. She was a beautiful woman and constantly attracted invitations from the local single men. She had gone out with several of them but in the three years he had known her, she had never had a serious relationship. She preferred to keep her dates casual and never allowed anyone to get to close or intimate.
His wife had speculated on the situation and they had drawn several conclusions, one of which was her reluctance to get involved because of lingering grief over her husband's death. But Darcy had never expressed any overt devotion to the man and he suspected something else. More than once he had seen her in the company of different women.
"Anyway," he continued shaking himself out of his mental pause. "They are sending one of their people out tomorrow. I know its short notice but I figured you can handle it."
"I need to meet with the Mayor and the county Commissioner," she said decisively. "I have to know what they want."
"It's very clear," the man said. "They don't want any development in any shape or form."
Darcy nodded and glanced at her watch. She was already late for her appointment. She stood up to go, her mind already dwelling on the meeting next day. She didn't know how she felt about sitting on the opposite side of the table from a lawyer for the Sable Corporation. She didn't know how she would feel if she ran into Dominique Saabo again. Absently she thought about the last time they had been together.
Darcy had still been in mourning and in pain over her husband's betrayals. Over time she had come to realize that she had not been emotionally ready to enter another serious relationship and especially not something as new to her as being with another woman, but at the time she had only felt rejection. So feeling a hint of shame and remorse she had abruptly fled, running away from everything she knew to start a new life. Dismissing those thoughts she concentrated on the matters at hand.
She went home for lunch as she did on most days and sat at the kitchen table and listened as the children noisily told her about their morning. Alexandria was by far the more boisterous of the two and more physically active. It was Alex who wanted to wrestle and play games.
Dominic, the younger by three minutes, was more reserved and the deep thinker. He was more apt to be found playing with the computer she had bought them. He was a sensitive boy and she loved the little hugs that he always gave her at unexpected moments.
She loved them both the same yet they were special to her in different ways. She had often wondered what their father would have thought about them. Eventually her children would have to know more about the man but right now they were too young to understand anything other than that he was in heaven.
"What time will you be home?" Katie asked when the older woman gave her children a hug before heading out the door.
"I will be home by four, I haven't forgotten about their swimming lessons," Darcy called over her shoulder as she climbed into the car.
Dominique didn't know what to expect when she arrived in the small coastal town. She had flown to Portland the previous evening and had spent the morning in meetings with the Engineers and the General Contractor who had been awarded the contract to build the resort that William envisioned. The first ground was scheduled to be broken within the next month if they were to hit the opening target date.
From the meetings she had driven the rental car out to the coast to inspect the site and was surprised at how she could see her father's vision as he saw it. The environment was perfect and now it was her job to make peace with the local community so that the project could go on without interruption. The call she had received earlier in the day had not been encouraging as the company had received another letter from the cities lawyers that they were going to pursue an injunction in order to prevent any building.
She sighed, aware that her current feelings were dictated by the prospect that in a short while she would be looking again at the only woman that she had ever truly been in love with. It had not helped that Darcy had been married to her half -brother at the time. She had thought of the other woman often in the ensuing years and hoped that she was happy.
Dominique didn't know what to expect but it certainly wasn't the small cluttered office she was shown into. There were law books scattered everywhere and a stack of case files piled up on the floor by the door. She remembered the immaculate, almost sterile office Darcy had inhabited at their companies headquarters.
Darcy had been a meticulous person and her life had been very ordered. This room suggested that she had changed and that caused Dominique some trepidation. Four years was a long time.
Her initial euphoria gave way to speculation and doubts that sobered her thoughts. She had thought that she might be given a second chance yet she didn't know if Darcy was already involved with someone else. She had been afraid to think that the blond attorney might have remarried.
Dominique surveyed the small cubicle for some sign as to the type of life the younger woman now led and almost immediately her blue eyes fixed on a small collection of photographs perched on the corner of the desk. She picked up the largest and her heart dipped at the caption. It was a beautiful picture of a woman with two children, one perched on each knee. There were broad smiles on all three faces with the same familiar blond hair and green sparkle in their eyes.
The tall woman closed her eyes and took several quick breaths. She had never discovered the reason Darcy had taken off so suddenly though she was certain that the circumstances in the office was part of the reason. She had only learned later when Lisa Woodley had come to her for financial support that she was carrying Perry's unborn child. It had almost been a blessing when the woman had miscarried a month later, though her father had been distressed by the whole situation.
In hindsight she wished that she had handled the situation better. She had known of Perry's infidelity but she had never expected him to be so blatant that it would humiliate the woman he had married. But it was all in the past and it was clear that by leaving Sable Corporation Darcy had wanted to start fresh.
She glanced once more at the photograph and then carefully set it back in place before sitting down in one of the chairs in the room. The realization that Darcy was a mother did not change the way she felt. Sadly, she didn't think anything would.
"There is someone here to see you," Eunice, the secretary said as Darcy walked into the office. "She didn't have an appointment but she said it was very important."
Darcy frowned. She had no appointments scheduled for the afternoon and she had hoped to spend the time clearing a backlog of files she had on her desk. There were clients that needed to be billed and she needed time to prepare for her meeting tomorrow with the representatives from the Sable Corporation.
"Did she say what she wanted?" she was slightly annoyed. While at home she had changed into a comfortable pair of jeans and sneakers. The only formal attire she had at the office was in the closet in the next room where she supposed the woman was waiting.
"She said it was of a personal nature," Eunice shrugged and Darcy merely nodded before stepping into her private office.
"Good afternoon, my name is Darcy Ryan," she had only begun her introductory speech when she stopped in her tracks recognizing the woman waiting her arrival.
Dominique turned her head and then slowly rose to her feet. In one swift glance she took it all in from the short blond hair, slender figure and casual attire. Her heart flipped and she knew that she had never fallen out of love with this woman.
"Hello Darcy," there was a slight tremor in her voice when she spoke.
"Dominique, what are you doing here?" Darcy quickly regained her composure. She shut the door and hurried around the desk, swiftly putting space between them. "I didn't expect anyone from your office until tomorrow."
"I came early," the taller woman shrugged, unable to take her eyes off the attorney. "How have you been?"
"Good," the smaller woman was honest. There was a slight hesitation in her voice. She had never been intimidated by this woman yet all her senses were on alert. There was the slightest tremor in her heart. A feeling that was only enhanced by the knowledge of what she had only begun to discover four years earlier.
"You are looking great," the dark haired executive remarked casually trying to remain natural when all she wanted to do was take the smaller woman into her arms. She glanced at their surroundings and waved her hand. "This surprises me. The Darcy I knew was always a little more formal."
"I have changed," was the concession. "There are more important things in my life now than work."
"I noticed," Dominique said pointing towards the pictures on the desk. "Your husband must be very proud."
"I'm not married," was the quiet reply. "But I think you know that already."
"No, I didn't," the taller woman admitted and then sank into a nearby chair. She watched as the other woman also sat down.
"Why are you here Dominique?" Darcy decided to be blunt. She began to suspect something more than just the future construction project had brought the other woman here to the city. She suddenly felt very protective of her private life and her children.
"Father saw this place and decided he wanted to build a hotel resort here," was the honest reply. "It was a total surprise when I found out you were here. If I had known sooner it wouldn't have taken me this long to get here."
Darcy's heart gave an unexpected lurch. She looked across the room at the tall woman studying her classical features. Four years had passed but she didn't look any older; her skin was a clear and flawless as it had always been.
"The reception would have been the same," she replied in the same quiet voice. "The Sable Corporation isn't welcome here."
"I wasn't talking about Sable," Dominique said, her nostrils flaring slightly.
"I know what you were talking about," Darcy answered and her green eyes boring into blue. "Have you forgotten that you were the one that rejected me?"
"No," the dark head shook. "If I had to do it over again I would do the same thing. Was I wrong?"
"No," the smaller woman conceded. "Is that what you want to hear? That you were right."
"No," Dominique shook her head again. "I just want to hear that you are happy."
"I am," the attorney revealed the truth. "It took me awhile to get here though."
"I think you know that I would have helped."
"Yes," Darcy agreed. "You were a good friend regardless of how I took advantage of that."
"You never did," the taller woman disagreed. "I just didn't want to be like him. I didn't want to do anything to hurt you."
"Then why didn't you talk to me before you left?"
"Because I was suddenly overwhelmed," the smaller woman admitted truthfully. "Within such a short period of time I was hit with so much all at once; Perry's infidelity, his death and then learning that he already had a daughter with another woman."
"And then learning that Lisa Woodley was pregnant," Dominique added when the other woman fell silent.
"Yes," Darcy sighed. "It was all too much to handle and I just wanted to get away to some place where I could start fresh and be the person that I really wanted to be."
"And you had the children," the dark haired woman pressed. "Didn't you think father would have wanted to know them?"
"I felt like I was a disappointment to him, to you all, but mostly to myself," the attorney said. "Besides I didn't think he would worry because Lisa Woodley was probably giving him the grandson that he wanted."
"Lisa Woodley had a miscarriage."
"That must have been hard on William."
"He was almost relieved," Dominique was brutally honest.
"Does he know about the other child that Perry sired?"
"Yes," the executive confirmed. "He knows about your children as well and it hurts that you haven't acknowledged that they are his grandchildren."
"I was afraid they would be taken away."
"William would never do that!" Dominique was angered by the suggestion.
"I didn't necessarily mean William," Darcy defended herself. "Perry's mother was desperate for grandchildren; Perry's children. She blamed me for not getting pregnant during the four years that we were married. I guess Perry never told her about his other children."
There was silence as the two women considered what had been said. It was complicated, Dominique realized, but not impossible. She looked across at the other woman and knew that she would do whatever it took to get the smaller woman back into her life, even if it meant that they would only ever be friends.
"William and I would have ensured that didn't happen," she said with a sigh.
"I know William would have but you?" Darcy raised her eyes with some skepticism. "Perry and you were not exactly on good terms."
"I would never blame his children for things he did," Dominique was hurt by the suggestion.
"No, you wouldn't have," the smaller woman sighed suddenly feeling very weary. She turned her gaze away no longer able to look at the other woman. She wanted to forget about the past, put it behind her. She didn't realize that she had spoken those words out loud until she heard the older woman inhale deeply.
"Listen, I didn't come here to fight with you."
"What did you come here for?" Darcy wanted to know.
"To see you again," Dominique was honest. "To let you know that I am still your friend."
"Even after the way I tried to use you?"
"I understand the circumstances, it was a difficult time."
"You are very forgiving."
"Only to people who I think deserve it," was the quiet response. "I also came to persuade this city of yours that we don't want to destroy it."
"New stuff changes things."
"Sometimes for the better," the executive replied. "It was nice seeing you again Darcy and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow at the meeting."
Without another word the woman turned and walked out of the office and Darcy made no move to stop her. She sat for a long time staring out the window and going over their conversation. Dominique had always had character and she had shown it often during the time they had spent together. Slowly she stood up and wandering over to her partners office. She would not jeopardize the case because of a conflict of interest. Benjamin put down the paper he was reading and leaned back in his chair, watching as she settling into one across from him.
"What's the problem?" the man wanted to know. He could tell by the expression on the woman's face that something was bothering her.
"I had a visit today from the Sable Corporations chief negotiator."
"Was he trying to intimidate you?"
"No," Darcy shook her head with a slight smile. "On the contrary it was more of a personal visit. Her name is Dominique Saabo and when I worked for Sable, she was the one I was directly under."
"Don't you think you can remain objective?" Ben asked pointedly.
"Not entirely," she didn't realize how difficult it would be to explain even to a good friend like Ben. She took a deep breath before continuing. "If it had been anyone else from Sable, I would have had no problem but I have a history with this woman. She was a good friend to me when my husband died."
"And it became more than good friends?" the man guessed and Darcy blushed.
Silence greeted the question and if the man was surprised none of it showed. He had already surmised that her attraction leaned more in the direction of women than men. He was a liberal minded man and it didn't bother him.
"Do you want to tell me about it?" he asked quietly.
"It's rather complicated," she said haltingly, worried what her boss would think. She respected the man and hated to think that what she might have to say would affect not only their working relationship but their friendship. "Like I said Dominique was a huge support to me after my husband died and one thing just naturally led to another. She was wonderfully kind and generous and didn't ask for anything in return. Before I knew it I started having feelings for her."
"She can't have been that wonderful if she didn't return them," the man commented dryly.
"But she was," Darcy disagreed. "She could have taken advantage of me but she didn't, she knew that I was in an emotionally fragile state. Not only had my husband just died but I had learned that he had been unfaithful to me and had a child with another woman."
"That certainly is a burden," Ben said marveling that the woman had not cracked under the stress. He said as much.
"That was mostly due to the friendship that Dominique offered. It was given without any strings attached and more special because I know she had feelings for me."
"You know this for a fact?"
"Yes," Darcy sighed. "But the timing was all wrong and then when I found out that I was pregnant I just decided the best thing for me was to leave and start fresh. That is how I came to be out here."
"Do you think she came to negotiate specifically because you were here?" Ben was curious.
"Yes," the woman nodded her head. "I don't want to jeopardize the case because of our personal history."
The man was quiet as he contemplated the predicament. He looked at her. In the three years he had known her, he had recognized that she was a fair and honest person who always served her clients best interests. That fact that she had come to him now was proof of that.
"Are you worried that you still have feelings for this woman?" Ben was blunt.
"Then we do have a problem," the man sighed. "I will be honest Darcy this case is beyond my skill. I don't have an idea where to begin and if this city has any hope at defeating this project than you have to lead us."
He paused, his grey eyes boring into her face. "If you tell me there's absolutely no way you think you can do this I will accept your word but if you think there is some way you can help than we need you."
"I just don't know." The woman was honest. She knew that Ben would not be pressuring her if he wasn't desperate. She was a relative newcomer to the city but she knew of the townspeople's unwillingness to open their community to any big industry. She shared their sentiments.
"I won't send you in alone," he promised. "I will be with you every step of the way."
"Do you promise to jump in if you think things are going wrong?" She needed his reassurance.
"I will." Ben agreed.
In spite of his assurances Darcy was still not completely happy with the situation. She knew how Dominique operated. She had worked with her long enough to know that the executive was cunning enough to use everything to her advantage. She left the office early that afternoon and briefly forgot about her worries. Not that she ever had much time to think about anything but the children when she was with them.
She had been lucky that both children enjoyed swimming, not that she would have given them any choice. Living in a community that bordered on the ocean she was determined to prepare them for any eventuality. Both were quick learners and a competition had been sparked between the two as they vied constantly for who was better.
Darcy dressed into her own bathing suit and then watched from the side lines as the instructor guided his small group of charges through their regular exercises. She sat back watching, proud of their accomplishments.
Dominique was too restless to sit in her hotel room and work, so she spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the town. It was a quaint place with small shops that offered many unique items. Notably absent was any of the chain stores that decorated most tourist places and she could see why the townsfolk were averse to seeing any large scale development in their county.
With time to kill she wandered into a clothing shop to purchase a bathing suit before walking into the community sports center. Since speaking with Darcy her body had been completely wound up. Even the walk didn't help and she knew that the only way to exercise the demons that possessed her was to physically exercise.
She saw Darcy the moment she glanced through the glass partitions that separated the pool from the lobby. The small blond attorney was standing at the end of the shallow pool with two tiny heads bobbing above the water beside her.
A glance at the schedule board, and she saw that private swimming lessons had just ended and public swimming had just begun. She hurried to the change room intent on getting into the water before the smaller woman and her family left.
Darcy was busy attending to her son so she didn't immediately notice when her daughter Alex started paddling towards the middle of the pool. It was only the sharp cry of help that alerted her attention. She turned to see her child floundering in the deep water.
Before she could react someone dived into the pool and within seconds Alex was held up out of the water. Darcy put Nick safely on the pool edge before accepting her daughter from the stranger's strong grasp.
"Thank you," she breathed not immediately recognizing Dominique as she focused her attention on the little girl who was now desperately clinging to her body.
"You are okay now sweetheart," she cooed softly stroking the child in comfort. "Mommy told you not to go into the deep end."
"But I swim," the girl insisted stubbornly as tears continued to stream down her face.
"Yes, but you are not good enough for the deep end," Darcy kissed her daughters cheek before glancing at the person who had rescued her child. She almost floundered herself when she saw who was patiently standing there.
"Dom, what are you doing here?" She was startled by the other woman's presence and suddenly very aware of the form fitting one piece bathing suit that was like a second skin on the taller woman.
"I came for a leisurely swim," Dominique said dryly masking the intense emotion she experienced at seeing the way the smaller woman held so tightly onto the child. "It's fortunate that I came along when I did."
"Yes, thank you," Darcy said quietly glancing at her daughter. "Alex knows she isn't supposed to go off alone. Now, Alex, thank this kind woman for saving you."
"Thank you," the girl mumbled shyly.
"You're welcome," Dominique smiled. "Next time mind what your mother says, for I might not be around to save you."
The girl nodded mutely and Darcy released her. She watched as Alex, recovered from her misadventure, paddled over to join her brother who was playing in the shallowest corner of the pool.
"I try to teach them but sometimes they just don't listen," she sighed watching them.
"They will," the taller woman was confidently her eyes following the blond woman's gaze. She knew that it would be dangerous to stare at the smaller woman. The simple white bathing suit clung to the slender body like a second skin, revealing the curves in all their sculpted beauty. They had only been together once but that night was etched in her memory.
"I wonder about that some days," Darcy sniffed. "Nick is a good boy and does as he's told but Alex, now she's a little hell raiser. I think she takes after her dad."
"Perhaps," the taller woman shrugged. "But I think she has a better mother than he did."
Darcy turned to look at her companion, seeing again the piercing blue eyes and classical features that gave the taller woman such a striking appearance. There was an unexpected lurch in her heart and instinctively, as if to protect herself, she folded her arms across her chest. She suddenly felt the need to get out of there, away from the other woman's dominating presence.
"Come on children, it's time to go," she turned her attention to the two children and quickly waded to where they were playing. She was relieved and perhaps a little disappointed that the executive did not make any attempt to follow them. When she turned to glance back over her shoulder she saw that the tall woman was smoothly stroking her way through the water towards the far end of the pool.
Darcy was up long after the others were safely tucked into bed. She paced anxiously around the living room trying to sort out her next move and wondering what Dominique was planning. She had half expected the woman to appear on her doorstep and had been almost disappointed when she didn't show. It was late when she finally stumbled into bed, to weary to think and deciding that she could not predict what the morrow would bring.
Dominique was tempted to follow the other woman and find out where and how she lived but she controlled her urge and finished the swimming exercises that she had set out to do. Afterwards she had taken a leisurely meal before returning to her hotel. She had attempted to work but her thoughts were focused only on Darcy. In the end she had closed her briefcase, put away her laptop and climbed into bed.
But even sleep eluded her as memories filled her thoughts. She had never regretted her decision to turn down Darcy's attempted seduction all those years ago. She had accepted the consequences of her action and knew that if she had a chance to do it all over again she would react the same way. What she needed to do was to think about a way that she could get the smaller woman back into her life.
It was while staring up at the ceiling that an idea came to her. It was a brilliant thought and she wondered if she would be able to pull it off or if the smaller woman would hate her for trying. The more she thought about the more she came to realize it would probably be the only way she could get Darcy back into her life.
"The people from Sable Corporation are waiting for you in the conference room," Eunice said when Benjamin and Darcy returned from lunch the next afternoon.
"It's time," the man said heavily before leading the way.
Darcy glanced around the small room. There were three men seated along with Dominique and all were dressed in the same severe dark business suits. Benjamin and she took the chairs on the opposite side of the oval table.
"We might as well get straight to the point," Ben began after all the introductions had been made and they were seated.
"Before you go any further I would like to say that I think I have come up with a solution that may satisfy both our parties," Dominique interrupted the proceedings. She ignored the puzzled expressions on her colleagues faces, her blue eyes were focused intently on Darcy. "But first I would like to speak with Miss Ryan in private."
Darcy stiffened as the room became completely silent. Benjamin glanced sharply at her, aware of the tension that suddenly filled the air. There was an unspoken question in his eyes and she silently nodded her head. She was capable of handling a private conversation so she would listen to what the woman had to say.
"All right gentleman, we can wait outside. I think my secretary just put on a fresh pot of coffee," Ben said before leading the others out of the room.
There was a long silence after their departure as the two women stared at each other across the table. Darcy calmly folded her hands in front of her. She swallowed, easing the aching dryness of her throat.
"What do you want Dominique?" she finally broke the impasse.
"The children," the executive said simply.
"No," Darcy shook her head forcefully. Her manner was defiant. "You are not taking my children away."
"I don't want to take them away from you," the taller woman clarified.
"Than what are you proposing?" the smaller woman was confused.
"That you and the children return to New York and in return we will drop all plans for the development and turn the property over to the community to make into a park."
"Alex and Nick are not some commodity to be bought and sold," Darcy was furious at the suggestion. "If you think I would trade them for some land deal you are crazy."
"It's a good trade," Dominique was precise in her plan and held up her hand when the smaller woman made to protest. "I am sure you looked over all the documents from the county commissioner's office. You must know that there is no way in hell that the city is going to be able to prevent us from building."
"That's not true," Darcy objected.
"Yes it is," the taller woman disagreed. "You are smart enough to know that."
"No," the blond woman stood up and stormed over to the window. "I am not going to let you blackmail me."
"Blackmail is such a harsh word," Dominique winced at the term. "I prefer to think of it as a trade-off."
"They are the same thing," Darcy snorted, barely able to control her anger. She whirled around and looked at the other woman who was still seated at the conference table. "Why are you doing this?"
"I am doing this so that your children know their family," the tall executive answered quietly.
"Bullshit," the attorney shook her head. "You can't tell me that William doesn't know about my children. If he had wanted to see them that badly he would have come to me himself."
"He wouldn't do that."
"Why not?" Darcy wanted to know.
"Because he doesn't think that you want him or any of us to be part of their lives," Dominique was blunt. "Hell you never even notified us when they were born. What is he supposed to think?" There was a slight pause. "He would make it worth your while."
"Money doesn't mean anything to me," Darcy rejected the claim.
"No, I guess it doesn't," Dominique said with a sigh as she stood up. "I want you to think about my offer. It would mean something to more than just you. It would make not only William happy but the people of this town. Think about it Darcy. It's a win, win situation for everyone. The children get to know their grandfather and extended family and the community gets a park."
Without another word the tall executive turned and departed leaving the blond attorney to stare at the space where she had been standing. She turned and gazed back out the window. She couldn't believe that Dominique would stoop so low as to attempt to coercer her into a deal and she wondered if William knew about this plan. She didn't think he did but she couldn't know for sure.
"Is everything okay?" Benjamin asked breaking the silence that echoed through the room. He had been surprised when their opponents had taken their leave without a word.
Darcy sighed and turned to face the man. She wasn't certain she could tell the man the truth uncertain how he would react.
"Miss Saabo made an offer that would prevent any development on the land," she chose her words carefully.
"What was it?" Ben knew it was too early to express joy. He wondered what the other woman had proposed.
"It was of a personnel nature and I would rather not say anything right now," Darcy said looking at the man. There was a plea in her eyes that begged him not to ask any more questions.
The man's eyes narrowed as he continued to scrutinize her features. The woman was usually more forthright. He remembered something of the conversations they had shared in his office the previous day.
"Is she trying to blackmail you somehow?"
Darcy cringed, surprised at how astute the man was. She didn't want to lie to him but she wasn't ready to confess the truth. She needed more time to process the situation and think over the ultimatum that she had been given. Ruefully, she realized that she was seriously considering the offer.
"Please Ben, don't ask me any questions right now," she sighed. "I will tell you when the time is right."
"Okay," the man sighed agreeing against his better judgment. "You are a good lawyer and I trust you will do what is best for everyone."
She watched as he turned and walked out of the room, wondering if his loyalty wasn't misplaced. When it came to her children, she placed their best interests ahead of everything else, including her own needs. She had a lot to think about.
Dominique returned to her hotel with the intention of getting some work done but no matter what she attempted to do she was unable to get her mind off of Darcy. After several hours of unproductive work she changed her clothes and went out for a walk, strolling through the town and admiring the various shops she had seen earlier. She made her way down to the park and the public beach finding a vacant bench where she could sit and enjoy the beautiful day.
The more she thought about it the more she wondered if she hadn't made a mistake by making the offer she did. Usually she never questioned her actions for normally she was confident that they would produce the results she was seeking. But this was somehow different. Instinctively she knew that she had crossed an invisible boundary.
She sighed and ran a hand through her thick dark hair. It was plain from the few brief interactions that they had shared that Darcy was just as important to her as she had been four years ago. She had never really been in love before and Dominique hated to think that she might have lost the smaller woman's respect.
She stared out over the ocean watching as a small sailboat slowly skimmed over the surface of the water its colourful sails puffed out by the stiff breath of the wind. Blue eyes tracked its journey as the business mind tried to figure out how she could change things. She knew there was only one solution and with that in mind she stood and slowly made her way back to the hotel.
That night Darcy watched her children at the supper table. The meal was a boisterous affair with both children vying for her attention. They were anxious to share news of their day and report their discoveries. She caught herself wondering how Dominique would fit into this noisy picture. Somehow she instinctively knew that the woman would adapt.
She sighed. She was a little disappointed by the offer that the tall executive had made. She knew that she could simply turn it down and hope things worked out but there was something more that was pulling at her conscious. She had only to look at her children and know the truth.
She had never gotten to know her own grandparents and having no siblings she was raised in a sterile environment. When her parents divorced, her mother completely severed all ties to her in-laws and moved them across the country away from her own family. She had never experienced the joy of a family and she wondered if she wasn't doing her own children a disservice by cutting them from their heritage. Perhaps they wouldn't feel that need now but once they got older things would change.
It didn't really surprise her when the dark haired executive turned up at her doorstep later that evening. She had just put the kids to bed and was about to head out to the beach to do some more thinking when there was a knock on the door. She didn't bother asking how the tall woman knew where she lived. Dominique had ways of finding out whatever she wanted.
"I was hoping to formally meet the children," the tall woman said a little awkwardly. She smiled shyly and held up the presents she had bought while walking that afternoon. A string tugged at Darcy's heart over the thoughtful gesture.
"They are already in bed," the smaller woman motioned her guest into the house.
Dominique didn't know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the cozy atmosphere of the place. There was clutter on the shelves and the furniture was slightly worn. The pillows on the couch were scattered and she watched as the blond attorney moved around the small room picking them up and putting them back in place.
"Please sit down."
"If the kids are asleep than maybe I should go," the older woman suggested. She wanted to stay just so that she could be near the other woman, but she didn't want to seem pushy.
"No," Darcy shook her head. "I was just about to go for a walk, perhaps you would like to join me. I think there are some things we have to discuss regarding your proposal."
Dominique bowed her head slightly, accepting the invitation. She had not dared to speak afraid to reveal her feelings. The offer for a walk caused her heart to swell, but her mind was also on the children.
"Will the children be okay?" she asked and Darcy was touched by the taller woman's concern.
"They will be okay. I have a young woman living with us. She looks after them during the day and at night when I go out. Just give me a moment and I will let her know I am leaving."
Dominique nodded and waited only until her hostess had left the room before continuing her scrutiny of the place. The coffee table was littered with small toys and on one wall there were a handful of photographs depicting different moments in the children's lives. She could tell that they were well cared for and loved and she felt like a heel to include them in any type of business proposal.
Darcy saw the dark haired executive standing by the photographs when she returned to the living room. Her heart lurched at the wistful expression on the tall woman's face. She wondered if Dominique wasn't feeling a loss by not having children of her own.
"Are you ready for that walk?" she asked breaking the silence of the room.
Dominique nodded and followed the smaller woman of out the house and down onto the beach. She allowed her hostess to lead and after a while she was glad that she had changed into casual clothes before coming over. They walked along in silence, listening as the water lapped against the sandy shore.
"Darcy, about that proposal," the tall woman spoke first breaking the lengthening silence. Darcy instinctively folded her arms defensively across her chest.
"What, are you having second thoughts?" the attorney quipped hoping to lighten the mood feeling a sudden tension develop between them.
"Yes, as a matter of fact," came the surprising response and Darcy stopped dead in her tracks to stare at the taller woman.
"What did you say?" She almost needed to hear what had been said to believe it.
"I was wrong to try and blackmail you like that."
"Now you call it blackmail, before it was a trade off," the blond woman couldn't help reminding the other woman.
"Yes," Dominique winced and shoved her hands into her trouser pockets. "Whatever you call it, it was wrong of me and I apologize."
"Then why did you do it?"
"It was the only thing I could think of," the tall woman confessed reluctantly. "William wants to see his grandchildren."
"Why didn't he just come and see me than? I would never have denied him access to the children," Darcy said not understanding.
"He was afraid that you didn't want him in their lives."
"It was a difficult time," the blond attorney defended herself.
"We could have made it easier," Dominique said. "You know you could have come to us for support. Hell, you didn't even deal with us in regards to Perry's Will, using your lawyer instead. What were we to think?"
"I suppose I did leave a negative impression," Darcy said running a hand through her hair. "But I was confused."
"But you're not confused now."
"No," the smaller woman agreed, pausing to turn and stare out at the ocean and watching as the sun kissed the distant horizon. There was silence as the two women watched the orange ball of flames disappear before they continued strolling.
"What are you going to do now?" The blond woman wanted to know.
"I don't know," Dominique shrugged ruefully. "William really sent me here to persuade you to bring the children back to the New York but I guess I have no chance of that."
"It sounds like you are giving up?"
"Maybe I am just seeing the true sense of things," the tall woman admitted unable to meet the green gaze that was directed at her.
"It's not like you to give up," Darcy said softly drawing another half-smile from her normally stoic companion.
"I don't like to lose," the dark haired executive agreed, "but I see what you have here. I spent most of this afternoon wandering around the city and it seems like a nice friendly place to live. It's a small, quiet community on the ocean, and probably a lot better place to raise kids than in a crowded, noisy and dirty city like New York."
"You shouldn't give up so soon," the smaller woman sighed.
"What are you trying to say?" Dominique wanted to make sure she understood what the other woman meant.
"That you shouldn't presume anything," Darcy reprimanded the older woman who glanced sideways at her with a startled expression.
"Are you telling me..."
"I am not telling you anything," the blond attorney interrupted hastily before the other woman could draw her own conclusion. "I am just saying don't make assumptions. I need time to think."
"Okay," the tall woman said somewhat meekly not sure where she stood yet privately pleased to know that the younger woman was considering her proposal. There was silence as the pair continued to stroll along the beach.
"I thought a lot of about what you said earlier," Darcy was the first to speak again. "I was watching the kids at the dinner table and I was remembering how much I missed growing up by not knowing my own father and grandparents. I can't get their father back but I can give them the chance to know their grandparents."
"What about your own parents?" Dominique was curious.
"I never had any contact with my father after my parent's divorce and when I told my mother about the children she didn't at all seem interested in meeting them. I suggested a visit but she said that there was no place for children where she was. I took that to mean that she had no desire to meet them."
"Dad wouldn't be like that," the tall woman said.
"I know he wouldn't," Darcy sighed. "I often thought about contacting him."
"Why didn't you?"
"For one I was afraid that I would run into Perry's other children," the smaller woman admitted reluctantly. "I know it's childish of me but I couldn't face that."
"That is understandable," the executive nodded her head thoughtfully. "But it's a non-issue William doesn't have any contact with Perry's other child."
"Oh," the blond woman was surprised by the news. She could almost understand his determination towards her children. "I didn't know what kind of reception I would get because as you said I never notified anyone when I had the children. For all I know William could have thought that I was trying to take advantage of the Saabo family for their money."
"He would never have thought that about you," Dominique shook her dark locks. "You must have known how special you were to him. He respected you and your decision to leave even though he didn't like it."
"There was a little more to it than that," Darcy sighed realizing that she was probably going to have to confess the entire truth.
"Whatever it was I am sure it could have been worked out?"
"Could you have been as understanding?" the smaller woman wanted to know. She paused now and turned to look up at her companion.
"Me?" Dominique was a little stunned. "What did I do?"
"Nothing you were just a good friend."
"And that was wrong?" The tall woman was confused.
"No, it wasn't what you did, but what I did or tried to do the last time we saw each other," the smaller woman confessed softly. There was silence as two separate minds went back to that night four years earlier.
"You were embarrassed by what happened?" Dominique knew to tread carefully uncertain where this conversation was going.
"Yes. You were right, I was emotionally overwrought by all the events that seemed to come together at once and you were so kind and understanding." Darcy tried to explain what she was thinking.
"I understood that," the taller woman shrugged and hung her head in the hopes that her long hair would shield her face so that the other woman could not see what she was feeling. "We were friends we could have gotten passed that."
"I didn't know that we could," the smaller woman was honest. "I had an idea of how you felt for me and I thought that I had hurt you."
"That didn't hurt me as much as you taking off without saying anything."
"And you can forgive me for toying with your affections like that?" Darcy wanted to know.
"Yes." Dominique nodded, aware that she would forgive the blond attorney anything. "Is that all that has been preventing you from coming back to New York?"
"No," the blond woman shook her head. "Like you said I have found a home for my family here and a new life."
The taller woman thought she understood. "So there is no amount of bribery, nothing that I can do to change your mind?"
"I didn't say that," Darcy said. "I just need time to think about everything. The kids have their friends here."
"They are young enough to make new friends," Dominique offered.
"What about my career?" the blond attorney wanted to know. "I love being an attorney but I also love being a mother and the children will always come first. I can make them priorities here."
"You can come back to work at Sable and even set your own hours."
Darcy looked at the taller woman whose features were beginning to fade in the lengthening shadows. Dominique had an answer for every one of her questions. It was as if she were trying to make it impossible for her to say no to the offer.
"Will you at least give the offer serious consideration?" the dark haired woman asked and almost against her will Darcy found herself nodding her head. If anyone had said this morning when she woke up she would be considering the idea of moving back to her old life in New York she would have told them they were crazy.
"It wouldn't be the same as it was," Dominique added when she saw the darkening of the smaller woman's features. She accurately guessed what the blond was thinking.
"How can you be sure?"
"Because things are different," the tall woman assured her.
Darcy nodded her head absently and silence fell between the two women as they turned around and walked back down the beach. It was only when they reached the small beach house that the attorney now called home that Dominique spoke again.
"I will be in town for at least the next week," she said digging a card out of her pocket and handing it over to the other woman. "When you make your decision call me, my personal cell number is on the back and if you can't get through you can reach me at the hotel I am staying at. It's called the Rosebury Inn."
The blond attorney nodded and looked at the small business card before looking up at the tall woman. They were standing on the front porch of her house. Strangely she didn't want the other woman to leave but she made no move to invite her to stay.
"Goodnight Darcy," Dominique said softly and leaning forward dropped a gentle kiss on the smaller woman's cheek. Without another word she turned and the blond watched as she climbed into the rental car and drove away. Unconsciously a small hand went up to touch the spot that still burned from the kiss.
Darcy was preoccupied the next morning as her was mind a whirl of thoughts. She hadn't been able to sleep the previous evening, tossing and turning in bed as her thoughts flowed back and forth in debate over the offer that had been made and the unexpected sensations and feelings the other woman's presence had evoked. By three that afternoon she still hadn't managed to get anything done. It was fortunate that she hadn't any appointments that day.
The knock on her office door made her turn in her chair. She had been absently gazing out the window in thought and had not noticed when Toni had entered the room. She flushed with embarrassment.
"Sorry I didn't hear you come in," she apologized accepting the cup of hot coffee that the other woman held out to her before plopping herself down in a chair.
"Ben says you have been preoccupied all day," the older woman said casually and Darcy knew that her behaviour had not gone unnoticed. She had a meeting with Ben in the morning and had rejected his offer of lunch so she suspected he had mentioned something to his wife.
"I've got some things on my mind," Darcy brushed the question aside. "Aren't you supposed to be doing someone's books?"
Toni laughed at the subtle hint to change the conversation but she was too persistent to let things go that easily.
"I'm finished with my clients for the day," was the answer. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Darcy sighed. She wasn't sure what she should say and if anything at all. Her thoughts were confused at best but looking at the older woman she knew that she could confide in her and get an honest answer.
"I don't know," the blond said running a weary hand through her short blond hair.
"I take it has something to do with Sable Corporation?"
"Yes," Darcy nodded. "I used to work for Sable."
"Ben mentioned that."
"Did he also mention that I was married to Perry Saabo, one of the heirs to Sable?"
"No, he didn't mention that," Toni was surprised by this new information. "I take it you didn't leave on good terms."
"On the contrary William Saabo, my father-in-law didn't want me to leave."
"Then why did you?"
"There were a number of reasons," the younger woman sighed again. "My marriage wasn't the greatest and then I learned about my pregnancy."
Toni studied the smaller woman's features instinctively guessing that the woman wasn't telling her everything. "Somehow I get the impression there was more to it than that."
"You should have become a psychologist."
"Don't try and change the subject," the older woman was determined not to be misled. She knew that Darcy was private with her thoughts and it took a lot of prying to get anything personal out of the woman.
"Yes, there was more," the blond attorney nodded. "There was a woman by the name of Dominique Saabo and she was my husband's half-sister."
Toni wisely remained silent waiting for the other woman to continue speaking.
"Even before Perry died we were becoming good friends, and after he died she was a godsend, so caring and gentle and always there when I needed someone."
"And she became something more," Toni astutely guessed the rest putting all the pieces together from earlier conversations that they had shared.
"Yes," Darcy admitted reluctantly.
"But it didn't work out," the older woman prompted when the blond once again fell silent.
"No. Dominique said that my feelings weren't real and the result of all the emotional turmoil that I was going through."
"It's not unusual to form emotional attachments in times of stress," Toni agreed.
"Yeah that's what she was trying to tell me," Darcy sighed. "Besides that she was a woman."
"And you had never felt anything for another woman?"
"No," the small attorney shook her head.
"How do you feel about that now?"
"I don't know," the attorney admitted. "Since moving out here to Oregon I decided to test things out. I went out with the men that you set me up with but I just couldn't get interested in any of them regardless of how nice they were, so I decided to go out with some women. I enjoyed there company but when it came to being physical I just wasn't interested."
"So she was right about your feelings?"
"I don't know," Darcy sighed again. "I had come to that conclusion."
"Why do I hear a hesitation after that sentence?"
"Because the moment I saw Dominique I began to feel all these things again, stuff I hadn't felt in a long, long time."
"Do you think it is still a residue of the past?"
"I don't know."
"Then find out," Toni said rising to her feet. "Love comes to us sometimes at the most inopportune time and if that is what happened to you than you would be fortunate if you got a second chance at it."
"How do I find out?"
"How would you find out with anyone?" The older woman raised her eyebrows. "Invite her to dinner; get to know her, become friends again."
Darcy was silent as she contemplated what the other woman said. She looked up to see the accountant heading for the door.
Dominique had spent the morning immersed in work and on the phone to the office back in New York. In spite of that she still had time to think about Darcy, wondering what she was doing and thinking. It came as a pleasant surprise when the smaller woman called with the invitation to dinner that evening. The rest of the afternoon she could barely contain her excitement.
By the time dinner rolled around that evening Darcy was doubtful about the whole situation. She watched the children run around the house for a moment and though they were not yelling, the noise was the level of that of a freight train. She had grown immune to the volume but she wondered how someone like Dominique would react to the constant din children made. The tall executive lived alone and was used to peace and quiet.
She finally managed to calm them down enough so that she could talk. They sat together on the edge of the sofa looking up at her with their doe like eyes. They both looked so innocent but she could see the mischief in their smiles.
She had dressed them in clean clothes only a short time before but already the cloth was rumpled. Their neatly combed hair was in disarray and their socks were down around their ankles. She sat down on the chair across from them. Katie stood by the kitchen door with an amused smile on her lips as she took in the scene.
"We are going to have a guest for dinner tonight," Darcy tried to explain in the simplest terms so they would understand. "Her name is Dominique and she is your auntie."
Silence greeted her announcement as both children struggled to comprehend what she was saying. She could see their confusion. She knew that their concept of family was not clear and her heart ached as she thought of the huge extended family that waited for them on the east coast.
"Do you understand what that means?" she asked and they shook their heads vigorously.
"Is that like Jennifer and Paul's aunt Peggy?" Nick asked referring to their friends from play school.
"Yes and she lives in a city called New York but is here for a visit."
"Cool," Alex bobbed her head with a smile on her face.
"Where is New York?" Nick asked with a thoughtful frown.
"It is a long distance away and Mommy used to live there once and it is a beautiful place with lots to do and that is where your grandfather lives."
"Is it by the ocean?" the little girl demanded.
"We have a grandfather?" Nick again was the one with the thoughtful questions.
"Yes and he lives in a big house with lots of rooms to play in and a gigantic yard with a swimming pool," Darcy tried to describe what she remembered from the few times she had visited.
"Cool," Alex clapped her hands gleefully. "Can we go visit him?"
"I don't know do you want to visit him?"
"Yes," both children answered in unison. "When can we go?"
"Maybe soon," came the response as the doorbell rang. "Right now I want you to get to know your auntie and I expect you both to be on your best behaviour."
The twins bobbed their heads in agreement and followed their mother to answer the door. As she had expected Dominique was standing outside with the presents she had brought the previous evening in her hands. The tall dark hair woman gave her a nervous smile that was endearing.
"Hi," Darcy felt suddenly shy but her tentativeness gave way as she felt the tugs on her pant legs. She glanced down at the pair of eager faces that were looking up at the dark haired stranger standing on their doorstep. "I think my children are eager to meet you so come in."
Dominique nodded her head and the smile on her face grew as she looked down on the little children who were almost glued to their mother's legs. They were staring up at her with curious green eyes that reminded her of their mother.
"Dominique this little girl is Alexandria and this young chap is Dominic," the small blond made the introductions. "Children this is your Aunt Dominique."
Instinctively the taller woman dropped to her hunches so that she was on eye level with the youngsters. She maintained her smile as she held out her hand in greeting.
"It is very nice to meet you Alexandria and Dominic," she shook their hands and then held out a present for each of them. "I know it isn't your birthday but I thought you might like these anyway."
The two children looked up at their mother who nodded her head before eagerly grabbing the presents and ripping them open. They shouted with joy at their gifts. Dominique had bought Alex a doll and Nick a dump truck.
"What do you say?" she prodded them when they scrambled to show her their gifts.
"Thank you," the children chorused in unison and Dominique looked up at Darcy and smiled tentatively.
"I guess I did all right," she said and the blond woman nodded.
"You did all right," she agreed as the taller woman rose to her full height. "That was very nice of you but very unnecessary."
"On the contrary I think they have missed enough birthdays and Christmas's to warrant something," the dark haired woman said and then glanced passed her hostess to the young girl that was standing further into the room.
"Sorry, I forgot to introduce you to Katie Braxton," Darcy remembered her manners. "Katie helps me with these two little imps."
"I hope they aren't the challenge they look," Dominique said pleasantly as she shook the young woman's hand.
"They are a challenge," Katie agreed immediately liking the older woman.
"Okay, kids, you can play with those things later but right now it's time to eat before dinner gets cold," Darcy said motioning them into the dining room where the table was set.
It took about halfway through the meal before the children got over their initial shyness and after that Darcy was unable to stop them from chatting. She watched quietly as Dominique divided her attention between the two, answering their queries patiently and asking them questions of her own.
She glanced thoughtfully around the table. The scene had a very domestic feeling that was both scary and heart-warming at the same time. She had always suspected that Dominique would be a good parent and her behaviour that evening only re-enforced that realization. She knew that the taller woman would be a good influence in her children's lives.
She stared across the table at the dark haired woman her green eyes memorizing every line and curve of the classical face. Dominique and her family had always been more than kind to her. She had seen glimpses of it during her marriage to Perry but because of the contentious relationship with his father and half-sisters Darcy had always just been on the outside of the warmth and loving she had seen in the family. She knew in that instant that she wanted that for her children.
She glanced at her children and then around the scene. She had not had a stable environment while growing up and she wanted that for her children. She knew that William and his family would welcome them and they would be included in the family.
It was a tough decision but one she ultimately knew that she needed to make. She loved her life here in Oregon but if something were ever to happen to her the children would be left alone without family to care for them. That would not happen if they moved back to New York.
She cleared away the dishes while Dominique took the two children out for a walk along the beach. Darcy watched them from the window over the sink and marveled at the way her children naturally responded to the tall woman. She had taught them to be leery of strangers and generally they were shier around newcomers but something about Dominique had captured their attention.
"Are you going to move back to New York?" Katie asked and Darcy turned to look at the young woman, surprised that the girl had read her mind. She had said nothing to her about the offer that Dominique had made.
"Yes," the blond woman nodded her head knowing in that instant it was the truth. "I haven't said anything earlier because I hadn't made my decision yet but I know it would be the best for the kids. They need to get to know the rest of their family."
By the time the others returned it was time for a bath and bed. Darcy was conscious of Dominique hovering over her shoulder watching the proceedings with quiet intensity. When the children were finally tucked into bed they retreated to the porch outside. It was a beautiful night and the two women settled onto the swing to stare out over the moonlight ocean.
"They seemed to have taken to you?" Darcy commented.
"They are wonderful children," Dominique shrugged. She had been surprised by how much feeling she had towards the pair of children she had just met.
"You would be a wonderful mother," the smaller woman continued. "Haven't you ever wanted children?"
"I did," the taller woman confirmed. "I still do but the problem is finding someone who wants to share those parenting responsibilities."
"You could have children of your own, you're not too old," Darcy prodded good-naturedly causing the other woman to laugh. It was a beautiful sound that warmed the smaller woman's heart. She had always liked the sound of the older woman's laugh.
"Can you honestly see me pregnant?" Dominique asked with raised eyebrows. "I'm afraid the mood swings would cause the company stocks to fluctuate to unbearable levels."
The blond attorney laughed. "I'm sure it wouldn't be hard for you to find a woman who would want to have a child with you."
"No," the older woman agreed. "I am sure I could find someone but I'm not sure that I could live with them."
"There isn't anyone special waiting for you back in New York?" Darcy asked and waited with baited breath for the other woman to answer.
"No," the smile disappeared from the taller woman's face. "There is no one special waiting for me in New York."
There was silence as the two women contemplated what had been said. The air between them had shifted and was no longer easy going but was filled with tension. The taller woman turned to look at her companion.
"Is there anyone special in your life?" Dominique was curious to know.
"No," the blond head shook. "With the twins I haven't had much time to meet anyone."
The dark haired executive felt her heart pound. She felt herself grow more attracted to her companion each moment they spent together. She didn't know how it was that the smaller woman's mere physical presence was enough to arouse her. She stood up. It was almost becoming physically painful not to touch her. She jammed her hands into her pockets and put some space in between them.
"I had a wonderful time tonight," Dominique said when she had regained her composure. "You have two beautiful children."
"You have done a great job raising them."
"I'm doing the best I can," Darcy breathed and then gave a half smile. "We'll see how they are when they become teenagers."
"With you as their mother they will be all right." The tall woman said thinking that it was time for her to leave. She looked intently at the small attorney. "I know I may have botched things terribly yesterday with my suggestion but I hope you will seriously give the idea some thought."
"I will," was the promise.
Darcy did almost nothing else but dwell on the offer Dominique had made. In the end there was only one thing that she considered and that was the welfare of her children. On previous occasions she had given thought to who would get the children if something happened to her and she had always come to the same conclusion. She called Dominique two days later and invited her over for dinner again.
After a pleasant meal and some play time with the children they put the twins to bed and then went out for another walk along the beach. There was a nervous energy between the women as they made small talk.
"When are you leaving?" Darcy asked.
"The day after tomorrow," the dark haired woman replied. There was a slight pause. "Have you given any thought to what we talked about?"
"Yes, that is all I have been thinking about," Darcy sighed, stuffing her hands into the pockets of the vest she was wearing. "If it was just me I would have turned down your offer but I have to think about the children. Without me they have nobody and if something should happen to me than I don't know what would happen to them."
"I would make sure they were taken care of," the taller woman quickly assured her companion.
"I know you would but you would all be strangers," the blond woman said. "I don't want them to be with strangers."
"Does that mean you are considering moving back to New York?" Dominique straightened up.
"Yes," Darcy confided.
"You wouldn't regret it."
"I hope not," the smaller woman sighed. "There is so much to do. I have to sell this place and then find us a place to live in New York."
"You could move in with me." The tall woman offered.
"No, I couldn't do that," the smaller woman shook her head. "I know you have a nice place in the city but it is hardly the place I want my children to live in."
Dominique tried to hide her disappointment. "Then move in with father; he would love it if you moved in with him."
"I couldn't do that."
"You could for the first while, until you got settled," Dominique offered. "Then you take your time to find a place that you liked. It would be a perfect place for the children."
"It probably would be but I don't think your father would enjoy having two little hellions underfoot."
"On the contrary they would keep him busy and out of my hair at the office," the tall woman smiled slightly. "Please consider it."
"Okay I will," the smaller woman finally agreed. It was a welcome offer for it would give her time to look for a decent place to live. It would also give her children the opportunity for them to get to know their grandfather on a more personal level.
"What is your father going to say about your offer, or does he already know about it?"
"No but I am sure he will understand," Dominique shook her head. She reached into her back pocket and withdrew a paper. She held it out and Darcy accepted it not certain what to expect.
"It is a written agreement from the Sable Corporation that the land will be handed over to the city provided they make it into a park. I personally signed it giving my guarantee as acting Chairman of the Corporation. It is a legal binding agreement."
"I hope you won't be disappointed if I don't think this is a victory," Darcy said quietly accepting the paper.
"I hope in time you will," the dark haired woman said, taking one of the smaller woman's hands in her own. "I hope in time you can think of this as positive turning point in your life."
"It is a turning point," the blond woman agreed readily. "The rest will have to be seen."
"I will personally make sure you aren't disappointed," Dominique said lifting the slender hand to her lips and kissing it softly. Darcy felt her heart skip a beat and for a minute she was breathless. Somehow she knew that the other woman would keep her promise.
Darcy knew that the town council would be delighted by this unexpected turn of events, though she wasn't certain how she would explain the victory. She showed Benjamin the document the next morning when she got to work. She wasn't sure how she would be able to tell him that she knew it was important to be fair and give ample notice.
"How did you do it?" The man reacted with surprise and suspicion. The blond attorney smiled blandly.
"You knew I was a hired gun when you took me on, you just didn't know how good I was," she attempted humour though she knew the man was aware that something was up. She could see the skepticism in his eyes.
"Why am I thinking there is something more," he said tossing the papers onto the desk.
"Because you are a smart man," she said lightly attempting to keep the mood light, but her smile faded. "There is no easy way of doing this so I might as well just come right out with it," she hesitated slightly, pausing to take a deep breath. "I am resigning. I won't leave you in the lurch but I would like to finish thirty days from now."
The man greeted her announcement with silence. His eyes narrowed perceptively as he studied her features closely. She had given no hint that she was unhappy. He said as much.
"No," she reassured him. "I am not leaving because I am unhappy. Actually I am leaving because I was offered another position. I am going back to work for Sable Corporation."
"This is a very abrupt decision," he commented dryly.
"I am not normally an impulsive person but as a lawyer I have learned to act on my gut instinct," she said positively.
"Are you sure it's telling you the right thing now?" He was genuinely concerned that she was being coerced into something against her will. "Even juries take some time to deliberate a verdict."
"I don't need any time," she replied confidently. She had expected to have doubts about her decision but nothing had materialized. There had been no second guessing and she knew it was the right one.
"Is she forcing you into this?" Benjamin asked bluntly.
"No," Darcy sighed. "I am doing it for the children. I don't want them to grow up like I did. I want them to have a stable family environment. I want them to know their grandparents."
"What about you Darcy?" the man wanted to know. "The children are young enough to adapt, but what about you?"
"You know that I put the children before anything or anyone including myself," she responded. "The opportunity to work for Sable Corporation again is just a bonus."
"It's funny but I never considered you the mercenary type," he said with a faint shake of his head and she winced at the comment.
"Until the children were born I really didn't know what I was capable of doing," she admitted with a half-smile. "Now I know I would do anything for them."
"They don't want you to sacrifice everything," he chided her gently. "They have to learn that they can't have everything."
"Giving them an extended family isn't a sacrifice," Darcy clarified. "You grew up with siblings, cousins and all the rest. Alex and Nick have that but they wouldn't be a part of it all if we stay out here. Returning to New York will give them an opportunity to know their extended family, something I was never allowed to do."
Benjamin was silent as he considered what the woman said. He could see that family was important to the small woman and on numerous occasions she had lamented the fact that she had grown up alone and had to struggle without the support of family. He couldn't really blame her for her decision yet he hated the prospect of losing her. She was a good lawyer but he would also miss her around the office for she was intelligent and had a good sense of humour.
"I hope you are making the right decision," he said.
"I hope so too," Darcy agreed quietly.
"If things don't work out you always have a place back here."
"I appreciate the offer," the blond attorney said even though she knew that she would never be back.
Darcy felt trepidation as the first traces of the sprawling city of New York came into view. The nerves in her stomach tightened even as the children's excitement grew. In a few short hours their journey would end and their new life would begin.
She took a deep breath and concentrated on the road, aware that the traffic on the wide highway was beginning to thicken. The kids twisted in their seats, chattered non-stop as they pointed out to each other the unfamiliar sights they spotted.
Her hands tightened their grip on the wheel. At the time it had been a good idea to drive across the country rather than fly directly to their destination. It had seemed like an ideal solution for making the transition from the old to the new.
They had been on the road now for almost two weeks and she was anxious to reach their destination. She was tired of living in motels and eating at restaurants. She knew the children themselves were anxious to be settled and back into a routine.
She stared ahead at the skyline that was looming ahead. She still wasn't certain how she would adjust to being back in the big Apple. She had been happy to leave the last time, promising herself never to return. She felt an uncharacteristic fear. There was so much of the unknown lying in wait for them.
Darcy thought back over the last two months. It had taken longer than she had expected for them to wrap up their lives in Oregon. Not only had she needed to close the cases she was working on but she had to pack everything up for the move and sell the house. She had not been alone for Dominique had returned to the coast on three separate occasions to help out.
Her thoughts went to the other woman. Dominique had proven invaluable with even the most mundane of tasks. It was the dark haired woman who had dealt with the realtor. It was the tall executive who had arranged for the moving van and storage facilities. She had even helped packing boxes. In between all that she had established a bond with the twins.
Her mind paused for a brief minute. It wasn't only the children that had benefited from the extra attention for she herself had felt a growing connection to the woman. On more than one occasion there had been flirtatious banter between them and on the last visit Dominique had been bold enough to give her a kiss goodbye.
Absently, her fingers moved to her lips. The soft embrace had left her reeling with an emotion she had not felt for anyone. She had spent countless hours trying to dissect and analyze what it all meant. In the end she came to accept that she had a growing affection for the woman; an affection that she was intent on exploring further.
Darcy dismissed all thoughts and concentrated on driving. Two hours later she was able to find a parking stall not far from the building that housed the Sable Corporation. She clutched the children's hands tightly as they walked down the crowded sidewalk passed the old familiar shops that lined the street. It was unnerving that so little had changed while she had changed so completely.
Even the Corporate offices themselves were as she remembered. Her heart beat quickened as they stepped off the elevator on the executive floor and approached the reception desk. She did not recognize the girl seated by the switchboard.
"I'm here to see Miss Dominique Saabo," she said and the girl glanced up with a polite smile.
"Do you have an appointment?" the girl inquired efficiently as she glanced briefly at the two children who huddled around their mothers legs.
"No but if you will just say that Darcy Ryan is here, I am sure it will be all right to see her," Darcy said.
The woman looked doubtful but picked up a phone and dialed a private number. She spoke so softly that Darcy was unable to understand what was being said. She watched patiently as the woman hung up the receiver.
"Miss Saabo is in a meeting at the present time and won't be free all afternoon. You may wait to see if she has a few moments available or if you would like to make an appointment."
"No," was the dry answer as Darcy counted slowly to ten. She was tired and impatient but knew that for the sake of the children she had to remain polite. "I know if you just tell her it's me it will be all right."
"I'm sorry she is in a meeting," was the same response.
"Is there some place where we can wait?" she asked instead.
There was a haughty expression on the woman's face as she took in with one glance the worn jeans and casual t-shirt Darcy was wearing. She looked dowdy compared to the receptionist and could feel the woman's disapproval.
"You can sit over there and I will call you if Miss Saabo can see you," the woman said politely.
"May I get the key to the washroom?" Darcy asked civilly. "My children need to use the bathroom."
For a moment it looked like the receptionist was about to reject her request but instead she grudgingly took a key from the drawer and handed it over. Darcy politely thanked her before shepherding the children into the bathroom where she washed their hands and faces. Though she still felt tired, she was a little more refreshed. She returned the key and then sat down to wait.
Garrett Andersen strolled briskly through the corridors and into the reception area. He was in a hurry but not too rushed to miss the unfamiliar sight of the woman and children sitting in the foyer. He could not help but notice that despite her casual attire she was quite beautiful. He nodded a greeting at the receptionist as he collected his phone messages.
"What's with them?" he asked casually nodding towards the lounge.
"The woman is waiting to see Miss Saabo," the receptionist said with a polite smile.
"Hmm," the man said thoughtfully and glanced at his watch. He was scheduled for a meeting with the woman himself in twenty minutes. He nodded, glancing again at the woman and for a moment debating his next move. Ultimately he decided against approaching the stranger. He was uncertain of the situation and didn't want to interfere if it was a private matter.
Dominique was barely listening to what was going on in the meeting, her thoughts were elsewhere. She had been overjoyed the previous evening when Darcy had phoned and said that they would be arriving in the city the next afternoon. She could hardly wait for it had seemed like an eternity since she had seen the other woman and her children.
Once again she allowed her thoughts to drift. She had felt trepidation over the announcement that they would be driving across the country instead of flying. She had felt worry but had expressed none of her fear in their nightly conversations. A smile came to her lips as she remembered the excitement her father had shown over their impending arrival. They were both waiting with the same impatience but for different reasons.
Dominique could not hide her relief when the meeting finally concluded. She collected her papers and then walked back through the hallways to her office. She had a meeting with Garrett and then another meeting with the Tokyo Group about a company they were planning to purchase. Her day was full and she liked it that way.
"What have you got for me today?" she asked upon entering her private office. She saw that her associate was already seated and waiting for her arrival.
The man immediately launched into the purpose of their meeting and it was more than half an hour later when they formulated their plan of attack. Garrett stood up to go, heading for the door before remembering another piece of business.
"It's been several weeks since Morrisey left," he said reminding his boss. "Do you have any plans to fill his position?"
"Yes, I already have his replacement," Dominique replied absently, not looking up from the documents that she was reading. "She's an ace and should be joining us in a few weeks. She had some other business to clear up first."
"She wouldn't happen to be a great looking blond with two small children," Garrett joked thinking of the woman he had seen in the reception room.
"Yes, as a matter of fact," was the startled reply, "how did you know?"
"Just a lucky guess," the man flushed. "Actually I noticed someone like that sitting in the reception area waiting to see you."
Dominique was on her feet and halfway out the door before her companion had finished speaking. Her secretary glanced up with startled expression as she charged across the floor to the reception area. Her heart ached when she saw Darcy sitting wearily in a chair with the children playing on the floor by her feet.
"Auntie Dom," Alex spotted the tall woman first. She jumped to her feet and rushed to embrace her leg. Nick was right behind his sister and Dominique bent to scoop both of them into her strong arms. Darcy slowly stood up, touched by the tender reunion.
"How are you guys?" the tall executive inquired of the children. "Did you have a nice trip?"
"Yes, we saw the mountains."
"And something called the big canyon."
Both stumbled over each other to fill the dark haired woman in on their trip and she listened attentively, laughing at their descriptions. It was amazing how much she had missed them. She glanced at their mother who stood quietly watching the proceedings. She gently set the children down on their feet and then took a step towards her.
"When did you get in?"
"A few hours ago," Darcy did not lie and watched as a frown darkened the taller woman's face.
"Why didn't you let me know you were here?"
"I tried," she said quietly and then watched as the tall executive turned and looked at the receptionist who was viewing the whole scene with growing horror.
"Miss Adams' how long has Miss Ryan been made to wait here?" There was a stern authority in her voice.
"About two hours," the woman stammered flushing with embarrassment.
"Why wasn't I told she was here?" There was a clear accusation and the receptionist's embarrassment deepened.
"Dominique," Darcy gently interrupted placing her hand on the taller woman's arm. "Please it was a mistake."
"One that I don't want to be made again," Dominique stated in a clear voice so that the receptionist understood.
"I thought you might have made some announcement that I was coming back," the blond attorney said.
"I wanted to wait until you arrived before saying anything," the executive explained.
"Didn't you think I would come?" Darcy asked softly.
"I did entertain thoughts that you might change your mind," was the honest admission.
"I thought you knew me better than that," the smaller woman said biting down on her lower lip.
"You ran away once," Dominique countered gently. "There was no reason why you wouldn't do that again."
"There are lots of reasons, and two of them are standing right here," the blond attorney disagreed, glancing briefly at the children.
Dominique felt ashamed for having any doubts, but knew that her fears were dictated by her emotions. She was suddenly aware of the curious looks they were receiving from the others in the office.
"Come on let's go to my office where we can have some privacy."
Darcy nodded and followed the other woman's lead. Dominique took hold of the children's hands and led them through the office towards her personal suite. The small woman was aware of the intense scrutiny of the staff as they walked across the floor. She could only imagine the rumours that would be circulating around the water cooler. That was the one thing she had not missed yet it was one of the pratfalls of working in a large corporation.
"Darcy I would like you to meet Audrey Dafoe, my assistant," Dominique paused to introduce her personal secretary. "Audrey, this is Darcy Ryan and her children Alex and Nick. Darcy will be joining our staff in the next few weeks."
"It's a pleasure to meet you Miss Ryan," the older woman smiled pleasantly.
"And that gentleman, hanging not so discreetly in the background, is Garrett Andersen my right hand man," Dominique introduced the man who was hovering curiously by the office door.
The man flushed but he recovered quickly, stepping forward with his hand extended. If he was surprised by this unexpected turn of events it did not show. His smile was genuine as they shook hands.
"Darcy will be joining our team," Dominique continued her explanations. "She used to work on our staff so she is already familiar with our basic operating procedures and policies. Garrett is in charge of the legal department."
"It will be nice not having to break in a rookie," the man said and then glanced at his boss aware that the woman seemed anxious to be alone.
Darcy smiled and watched as the man slowly backed away. She turned and followed Dominique into her private office. It was odd that in spite of all the years the place had a familiar feel. It was as immaculate as always.
"I thought you might have gone straight to the house," the taller woman remarked casually when she shut the door closing them off from view. She glanced at the children who were already giving into their curiosity and climbing around the furniture.
"I was kind of nervous about going up there alone," Darcy admitted. Even though she knew that William was opening his home to them she was nervous about the reception she would receive after all these years.
"There was no need to be afraid," Dominique said quietly stepping up to the woman. She gave in to her desire and reached out to cup the side of the blonds face with one hand, allowing her thumb to gently caress her soft lips.
There was a loud knock on the door and her secretary walked into the room. She was politely apologetic about interrupting but she was there to remind the executive of a group that was waiting in the conference room for her.
"Can you stand to wait another hour, than I can drive you all home?" Dominique asked quietly.
"Yes," Darcy nodded, her limbs trembling. She felt that ache again in her groin as she anticipated a kiss. She was not disappointed for Dominique bent her head and kissed her softly before turning and following her secretary out of the room.
Darcy whirled around and flopped onto a nearby sofa, her heart pounding unsteadily from the short exchange. Her entire body was quivering from the tender embrace. She had missed the tall woman's presence in her life and now her heart trembled with anticipation.
She glanced around the room. Little had changed in the intervening years. Perhaps it was the familiar surroundings with all the old attached memories that were suddenly making her apprehensive. She began to wonder if coming back to Sable was a good idea.
While there was many new staff working for the Corporation, there would also be many who would remember her past association with the company. As much as she detested the idea, she knew that her personal life would once again become fodder for company gossip. She was mulling over this realization when Audrey returned.
"Miss Saabo asked me to bring you some sandwiches and drinks," the woman said setting a tray of food down on a table. "She thought that you might be hungry."
"Yes, thank you," Darcy was appreciative of the generous gesture.
It was so like Dominique to be concerned about the welfare of others. She always considered the small details that others overlooked. Darcy watched as the children pounced on the goodies. The secretary smiled at their eagerness.
"How long have you worked for Miss Saabo?" the blond attorney asked eager to know about the woman that controlled the tall executive's daily work life.
"Three years," Audrey responded in a pleasant voice, "and I am not lying when I say she is the best boss I have ever worked for."
"I am sure she would be glad to hear that," the younger woman smiled at the loyalty that was displayed in the older woman. "I suppose in that time you have been privy to allot of her secrets."
There was silence as the secretary glanced sharply in her direction, a mask falling over her features. There was a look of thoughtful calculation in her eyes and Darcy knew that she had overstepped the boundaries. Her realization was only confirmed when the older woman spoke in a stiff voice with a heavy hint of caution.
"Miss Saabo has always been very private with her personal affairs," the secretary said. "She doesn't tolerate any other behaviour from those would work closely with her. After my last employer it was a relief to be able to come in and just do my job."
"I understand completely," Darcy scrambled for something to say. The last thing she wanted to do was make an enemy of this woman on her first day. "I wasn't trying to pry, it's just that several years ago I used to work for the Sable Corporation and there will be plenty of people who will remember me from then. When word gets around I have returned there will be plenty of rumours and speculations circulating about the relationship I have with the boss."
Audrey did not immediately speak. Instinctively she guessed that this younger woman had once been the target of malicious gossip. Already when she had been in the lunchroom she had overheard the cautious whispers. She understood what the woman faced.
"I don't pay attention to gossip Miss Ryan and I don't spread it," the secretary was very direct. "I enjoy my job and want to keep my position. I would never do or say anything that would jeopardize it."
"I am glad to hear that," Darcy sighed, her relief audible. "To many people think it is their business to know what is going on in other people's lives."
"Now if you will excuse me there is some work that I must finish," the woman said briskly and turned to go. She paused at the door and looked at the younger woman. "I sincerely look forward to working with you Miss Ryan."
With that the woman bustled out of the room. It was obvious that the secretary was efficient at her job. Dominique did not have patience for anyone who did not know their job. While she never expected perfection, she did demand competency. She liked the other woman and hoped they would be allies.
As promised Dominique was back within the hour. She had rushed through the meeting just so she could get back to Darcy. She stepped into her office and paused, her blue eyes drawn towards the sofa. Her heart lurched as she gazed at the trio curled up together on the bench. She moved quietly across the room and knelt at the head of the couch.
The tall executive allowed herself the luxury of gently reaching out and brushing her fingers against the soft skin of the smaller woman's cheek and through the short blond hair. Her skin felt like silk. She leaned forward and gently brushed her lips against the sweet tasting mouth, kissing her a second time when the blond attorney did not immediately awake from her slumber. She waited and watched as green eyes flickered open.
"Are you trying to take advantage of me," Darcy mumbled.
"Never," Dominique replied before leaning forward to kiss her again. "It's time to go home."
"Hmm," the small blond murmured enjoying the taste of the older woman's lips. She realized that she enjoyed being woken up this way.
Audrey paused at the open doorway. She was hesitant to intrude on the tender scene she had witnessed through the open door. It was evident to her experienced eyes that the tall executive was very much in love with the small blond mother. In all the years she had worked for the tall woman she had never seen this tender side to her personality. She had always been brisk and businesslike at the office and often she sensed the young executive was not as happy as she could be. It was nice to see this warmth and she was determined that she would not let any idle gossip come between these women. She tapped lightly on the door to announce her presence.
"Sorry to interrupt Miss Saabo but I need you to sign these documents before you leave," she stepped into the room and held up a sheaf of papers.
Dominique nodded and moved to the desk, glancing over each paper before scribbling her name on the lines that were provided for her signature. In the meantime Darcy carefully eased herself off the couch gently rousting the children from their naps. It would take several days for all of them to get back to their regular schedules.
"Shall we follow you?" Darcy suggested when they were alone again.
"No, I'll have Harvey drive your vehicle and then get Charlie to drive him home," the tall executive said.
It took a few minutes for Dominique to arrange the details. Harvey seemed like a nice young man when he came for the keys. Darcy described to him where they were parked and with a nod and a smile he was off to collect the vehicle.
Darcy was aware of the peculiar sight they made as they walked through the office to the elevator. They presented an oddly unfamiliar sight in the formal business setting, with each of them carrying a sleeping child. She could almost hear the whispers and the speculation.
She was determined not to be intimidated by the curious scrutiny. It was strange, in the past she had been concerned by the gossip but today was somehow different. She did not care about being the target of rumours but she did not want Dominique to be a subject of careless speculation.
The ride from the office to the Saabo family estate took a little more than an hour and took them from the hustle and bustle of the city to the quiet, hush greenery of Long Island. Darcy had only been to the Saabo home a few times during her marriage so today she looked at the place with fresh eyes.
The large property was populated with a dense stand of trees that surrounded its borders and the expansive and immaculately trimmed lawns. There was a colourful profusion of flowers that skirted the base of the house. The company limousine turned through a set of wrought iron gates and sped towards the large three story brick and stone manor. It was an exquisite house with elegant rows of French windows decorating the façade. Her vehicle was already parked in the drive.
The car had not yet come to a stop when the massive oak front doors swung open and a distinguished looked grey haired gentleman stepped outside to greet them. Darcy immediately recognized the patriarch of the family and the moment she climbed from the car, she found herself in his warm embrace.
"Darcy I am so happy to see you," William hugged the small woman with genuine affection. "I thought I would never see you again. You can't imagine my elation when Dominique called to say you were coming back here to work."
"Don't pretend to be surprised old man," the blond attorney tried to sound severe. "I know better. You sent Dominique out west for the sole purpose to get me back here."
"And it worked," the man laughed with a twinkle in his dark blue eyes. "You are more beautiful than when I last saw you."
"And you are as gallant as always," she laughed embracing him again. He squeezed her tightly and then glanced over her shoulder into the car.
"Where are my grandchildren?" he demanded gruffly embarrassed by the emotions he felt for the young woman.
"Sleeping," Dominique announced dryly, handing one limp body to its mother.
William peered anxiously at the sleeping child eager to see the product of this woman and his son. Darcy could see the excitement on the old man's face as she held the child out for him to see.
"She is beautiful," the man breathed in wonderment as he studied the girl's innocent features. There was a catch in his voice as he reached out to touch the girl's wispy blond hair. "She looks just like you."
"But she has her father's temperament," Darcy said quietly and glanced at the child that the tall executive cradled securely in her strong arms. "Your grandson is much more like me."
The older man turned to gaze at the boy. The child's features were so familiar and he felt an ache that his son had never seen the children that this woman had borne. He looked up at his eldest daughter not unaware of the tender way she cradled the boy. He could see in the expression in her blue eyes that she genuinely cared for the youngster she held.
"I shall never forgive you for keeping them a secret from me," he said. It was an admonishment that held only a little sting.
"At the time I thought it was the best thing to do," Darcy replied quietly unable to look at the man. Dominique sensed her quiet withdrawal and felt a surge of anger towards her father.
"It's all in the past now," she interjected tersely. "It's time to forget what has happened and concentrate on the future."
"Yes," William agreed aware of his daughter's ire. "Come you must be tired."
It wasn't until much later that Darcy had a chance to take stock of her new surroundings. The children woke soon after they entered the house and after touring their new temporary home they all sat down for a specially prepared meal in the huge dining hall.
Afterwards she was kept busy settling them into their beds. They had been filled with nervous excitement and had peppered her with dozens of questions. She was appreciative of Dominique's help in getting them bathed and into bed before leaving them alone. Darcy stayed with the children until they fell asleep afraid of their reactions in an unfamiliar place.
She sat in the darkness of the room and watched them sleep. She gazed at their innocent features sharing the same fear they must feel. Until now she had not allowed herself to dwell on the future, concentrating only on each day as it came. She refused to do anything but remain positive.
She wandered alone through the house aware that her mood was being dictated by her fatigue. The move and the strain of the whole situation were more overwhelming than she was willing to admit. She made her way to the sitting room and flopped down onto the sofa. It was here that Dominique found her.
The tall executive stood silently in the doorway and traced her features with her blue eyes. Her heart churned in her chest at the sight of the sad frown on the younger woman's face. She wanted to wipe that look away and see that sparkle that she remembered.
"Is everything okay?" she asked stepping into the room. Darcy hastily sat up as the tall woman lowered her frame into a nearby chair. She had changed out of her business suit into a pair of jeans and polo shirt.
"I am just tired," the small blond gave her companion a weak smile.
"Liar," the executive chided gently as their eyes met and held. "Are you afraid you made a mistake?"
"No," Darcy admitted candidly. She had seen the adoring look William had given his grandchildren and the way he had been attentive towards them over dinner.
"Than what is worrying you?"
"Everything," the smaller woman sighed. "Just a few minutes ago it suddenly hit me."
"Does it scare you?"
"Yes," Darcy did not lie unaware of the pain that her response caused.
"What are you afraid of?"
"I worry about a lot of things," Darcy sighed. "What happens when you get tired of us?"
There was silence as Dominique contemplated what the other woman said. They had discussed everything but what was happening between them. Over the past few months they had been growing closer. She was afraid now that Darcy was back in familiar territory she would change her mind.
Dominique wanted to assure the smaller woman that she would never grow weary of having them around but she was smart enough to know that the attorney was in no mood to be rational. She pushed herself out of the chair and knelt in front of the woman, gently clasping her hands between her own larger ones.
"I can't make promises about the future," she sighed heavily. "There are no absolute guarantees, but I do know one thing; I want to be with you to see where this thing we have between us goes. Who knows we might not even be compatible."
Darcy looked down at the tall woman and instinctively her hand went out to stroke her face. She played with the loose strands of dark hair, combing it behind one ear. She marveled how natural it felt with this woman, how comfortable she felt in the tall executive's presence. She had been married to Perry for four years but had never felt comfortable enough to discuss her fears with him. With her husband she had always been afraid of ridicule.
"I do know one thing," she finally said breaking the lengthening silence, a tired smile decorating her lips. "I am too tired to discuss this now."
"You're right," Dominique agreed, turning her face so she could lay a soft kiss on the palm before slowly rising to her feet. She held out her hand. "Let me show you to your suite."
She allowed the tall woman to lead her through the house and up the stairs, feeling comfortable with the fact that they still held hands. She was not surprised when she was led to a room that adjoined to the one where the twins were fast asleep. It was furnished with a large queen size bed and beautiful white provincial furniture. Her bags were sitting at the foot of the bed.
"This used to be Renee's room," Dominique said referring to one of her younger sisters.
"She won't mind me staying in here?" The last thing Darcy wanted to offend anyone in the family.
"No, she moved out when she went to college and never moved back," the dark woman shook her head.
"Anything you need please don't be afraid to ask for it," Dominique said shifting nervously from one foot to the next and Darcy had to smile at the bashful way the woman was acting. If she didn't know the woman better she would have suspected it was an act but she knew that with the tall woman there was no acting when it came to her feelings.
"Goodnight Darcy," the tall woman said hesitantly placed a light kiss on her cheek before walking out the door.
It was late the next morning when Darcy finally woke. She lay quietly for a long moment enjoying the peaceful solitude of the room. The bed was unusually comfortable and she would have liked to stay in bed longer but suspected the children would soon be getting up.
She sighed, sitting up and stretching her limbs. She was about to swing her legs out of bed when the door burst open and Dominique came striding in. She was casually dressed in jeans and a sweater and there was a breakfast tray in her hands. The strong aroma of freshly brewed coffee radiated from the pot.
"Good morning," the tall executive smiled broadly at the smaller woman's stunned expression and in a flourish set the tray on the bed across her lap.
"What is this?" the blond attorney wondered curiously looking at the mountain of food.
"I thought you might enjoy having breakfast in bed," Dominique explained easing her lean frame onto the edge of the bed.
"The kids will be waking soon," Darcy said but the dark haired woman shook her head. Though the idea of enjoying the luxury was appealing her thoughts were already on the children.
"No need to worry about them, they were up hours ago," the tall woman said easily. "They are dressed and fed and now being entertained by their grandfather. I think he has taken them on a grand tour of the grounds."
"They aren't too much for him?" the smaller woman worried.
"No, he was up early anxiously waiting for them to wake up," Dominique laughed. "It will be a toss-up as to who is going to wear who out."
"Thank you," the attorney breathed truly grateful.
"There is no need to thank me," the tall woman said. "You don't have to do it alone any more. I am their aunt and there is no reason why I can't help out."
"Shouldn't you be at work?" Darcy asked swallowing the lump that caught in her throat. She felt an unexpected surge of emotion flood her heart.
"I can afford to miss a couple of days," was the easy shrug. "It wouldn't be right for me to leave you all alone on your first day here."
The smaller woman felt her heart skip a beat. She knew the other woman's gesture had not been for any reason but to help them settle into their new home. She knew her companion was sincere in everything she did. Instinctively she leaned forward and planted a warm kiss on her lips, the action catching the tall woman by surprise and causing a flood of colour to wash over her face.
Darcy smiled, warmed by the reaction. It was refreshing to know that the taller woman wasn't always in complete control. She felt rather devilish at the moment and just a little bit aroused by the older woman's thoughtfulness.
"I don't think I am quite ready to eat yet," the small woman said impishly taking the tray and setting it on the night stand next to the bed. She turned to look at the other woman a twinkle in her eyes. "I think I need to work up an appetite first."
Dominique slowly sucked in her breath. She blue eyes searched the smaller woman's face daring to think that their thoughts were in tune. Her hopes were dashed when the younger woman swung her legs out of bed and bounded over to an open suitcase.
"You can show me some good running trails," Darcy said plucking her jogging suit from the bag.
"Yes of course," Dominique said in a tight voice as she straightened to her full height. "I will go change. Meet me in the main lobby in ten minutes."
Darcy watched as the tall woman moved swiftly out the door. The smile on her face faded as she realized that Dominique had been thinking of something else. She dressed slowly suddenly shy about seeing the woman again.
Whatever the dark haired woman was feeling, the woman did not show her emotions. She was a perfect lady as she showed the small attorney the different trails that she used to exercise. They ran for a long while through the countryside and Darcy was quite pleased with herself that she was able to keep up with the older woman, though she was certain that Dominique was holding herself back.
"That was great," she panted, gasping for air when they finally returned to the house.
"You did very well," Dominique was genuinely impressed with the smaller woman's stamina. She had gone at a quicker pace than normal just to test her companion's endurance. Darcy scrunched her face, aware that the taller woman was barely breathing heavy.
"I feel like I am almost dying," the blond attorney replied, her heart still pounding, "and you look like you could go again."
"I have had a few more years training," Dominique remarked dryly. "It would be a bitter blow to my ego if you ran the pants off me on our first outing together."
"Give me time," the smaller woman challenged and received a smile for her efforts.
"Are you hungry yet?" Dominique asked and the blond woman nodded.
After breakfast Dominique took them all for a ride in the car, driving them through the county so that they could become familiar with the area. For lunch they stopped at a local restaurant and after a quick meal they drove straight back to the house.
"I suppose after all the driving they did over the last few weeks, taking them for a tour this morning wasn't so smart," the dark haired woman commented dryly, when the kids tumbled out of the car and raced across the lawns towards the gardens were a swing set had been erected. "Why didn't you warn me?"
Darcy glanced across at the woman and saw the slightly harried expression on her normally stoic face. The children had been unusually restless and whiny. She knew that they were still tired from the trip.
"Would you have listened?" she queried and the taller woman shook her head.
"Probably not," the tall woman answered with a sheepish grin.
Within a few days the children had settled nicely into their new environment and Darcy was fortunate enough to get them back into their regular routine though she didn't have much help from the children's grandfather and aunt who had the tendency to want to spoil the children. They had been there a week when Darcy decided it was time for her to make some decisions.
Dinner that night was a noisy affair and though William and his daughter never seemed to mind the children's activity, Darcy had to wonder how long it would last before the pair got tired of having them around.
"William, could I have a word with you tonight?" The blond attorney asked as they got up from the table.
"Certainly dear, let's go to the library," William agreed with a smile.
"Is it all right if I bath the children and get them into bed first?"
"I'll take care of them for you," Dominique offered seeing an opportunity to bond even further with her niece and nephew. The blond attorney looked at her skeptically. "Come on how hard can it be?"
"Okay, have at it," Darcy didn't have to be asked twice though she was uncertain of the outcome of this adventure.
"Great, come on you little monsters," the tall woman stood up and grabbed a child in each arm and hoisted them over her shoulders. The children giggled as they were carried out of the room and up the stairs.
"So what's the problem dear?" William asked once they were alone and seated in the library.
"No problem really, I just wanted to ask for your advice and help," Darcy replied.
"Certainly what can I do," the man was positive.
"I am thinking that you might know of a good real estate agent or property in the general area," the small woman said.
"You want to start looking already, you just got here?" the man was surprised by her request.
"The sooner we will be out of your hair," Darcy said. They had only been there a week but already she was worrying about taking advantage of the man and his generosity.
"You're unhappy here?"
"No, of course not," the attorney hastily assured the man. "But I don't want to wear out my welcome. As you have noticed the children are a bit rambunctious and I am sure you are already looking forward to getting back your peace and quiet."
There was a long silence as the older man contemplated what the woman had said. There was a pensive frown on his face as if he were trying to determine something in his own mind.
"Did I say something wrong?" the woman worried when the man did not respond.
"No," William shook his head. "I was just trying to formulate a response."
"First thing Darcy let's get one thing straight, you and the children being here is in no way disturbing my life, in fact their energy is exactly what this tired old man needed to liven my existence," the man paused. "In truth I was hoping that it would be some time before we had this conversation but now that we are having it I want you to consider staying here permanently."
"We couldn't impose on you like that," Darcy shook her head.
"Nonsense," William disagreed. "This house is far too big for one person and the yard is perfect for the children. The area has excellent schools and day programs."
"Yes, but to live here with you, that is asking too much."
"Maybe it is too much for an old man to ask," the man sighed heavily. "I reckon that you will want to build your own life but you could do that here and I promise that I won't interfere with any of your dates."
Darcy was touched by the man's obvious concern and she was warmed by the fact that the man was treating her like one of the family. Even growing up she had never had this kind of concern or attention from her mother.
"I don't know if you truly understand what you are getting into," Darcy said quietly.
"On the contrary," the man disagreed. "I raised three daughters and believe me when I say there was relatively little peace in the house the whole time they were together."
"And you want to experience that again?" the woman was a little skeptical.
"Yes," the man nodded and reaching over patted her hand gently. "We don't have to make any decisions now. I want you to think about my offer."
"Okay," Darcy sighed and then gave the man a half smile. "I think I better get upstairs. I don't think Dominique quite realized what she got herself into when she offered to bathe the twins."
William laughed at his own memories and the smaller woman smiled leaning forward to hug the man before bounding to her feet and out of the room. She still had the smile on her face when she met the taller woman in the hallway on the second floor landing. Dominique had a naked giggling child wrapped in a bath towel under each arm. There was a harried expression on the older woman's normally stoic face.
"Are they always like this?" the dark haired woman lamented.
"Yes." Darcy had a hard time containing her laugher aware that the taller woman was dripping water from her hair. Her cotton shirt was plastered to her skin and her jeans showed evidence of being just as soaking wet.
"How come you never come out looking this way?"
"Lots and lots of practice," the smaller woman laughed. "Now let's gets these two little demons into their pajamas and into bed."
Dominique nodded before carrying her cargo into the next room and dumping the still giggling children on their beds before turning and retreating from the room to change her own clothes. In the meantime Darcy looked at her children and shook her head.
After settling the children into bed Darcy went in search of her hostess. She found that William had already retired for the night and that Dominique was in the library surrounded by paperwork from the open briefcase on the coffee table in front of her. She watched the taller woman for a long moment before knocking on the door causing the dark haired woman to glance up.
"You don't need to stay here," Darcy said and the taller woman flushed.
"I want to make sure that you are settled in," Dominique defended herself.
"Your father wants us to stay here permanently."
"That doesn't surprise me," the dark haired executive sighed. "He has been lonely since Sasha went off to college."
"What do you think of the idea?"
"I think it would be good for him to have people in the house," the tall woman said.
"I wouldn't be able to afford anything close to this on my own," Darcy stated the obvious.
"You don't have to convince me," Dominique said. "What's on your mind?"
"I'm not thinking entirely about myself," the blond admitted. "I am also thinking about you."
"What about me?" the executive just barely managed to keep her voice even.
"I know that you have an apartment in the city," Darcy said carefully choosing her words. "I don't want you to change your life just because we are here."
"I see," Dominique nodded silently pursing her lips together. "You don't want me around."
"I didn't say that," the younger woman disputed. "I just don't want you to disrupt your life because of us. You're missing work and staying up late to catch up."
"Would you believe me if I said I didn't mind?" the tall woman asked and Darcy noticed that a thick strand of dark hair had fallen across the woman's face hiding her expression.
"Yes," Darcy said softly before easing herself onto the sofa next to the other woman. She unconsciously reached out and combed the errant hair back behind a perfectly sculpted ear. "We haven't yet talked about what we started back on the West Coast."
"Well, if you think you are ready," Dominique barely managed to utterly her whole concentration on the tender stroke of the other woman's slender fingers as they caressed her cheek.
"I'm ready," the blond attorney said almost breathlessly as she considered how soft the other woman's skin felt under her palm. "I'd like to get back to work."
"Are you sure you are ready?"
"Yes, the children have taken to Mrs. Drayton and they are back into their regular routine," Darcy said. She was pleased at how the housekeeper and the children got along and knew that she would have no fear of leaving them in the older woman's care. "I have worked all my life and I realize that I'm not suited for a life of leisure."
"Okay," the dark head nodded and with a slight movement put some space between them. Darcy felt a sense of emptiness at the loss of contact. "I usually leave here at seven. Will you be ready?"
Yes." Darcy promised and she was.
She had bought several new business suits to replace the ones she had long ago discarded. It was unbelievable but she was more nervous than she ever remembered being. It didn't help that Dominique was at her side. She kept glancing sideways at her companion marveling again at how strong and yet beautiful Dominique looked in her dark pant suit.
Meanwhile the tall executive had a hard time keeping her eyes straight forward, aware that the rate of her heartbeat increased every time she looked at the lovely woman at her side. She had always thought that Darcy looked good in a business jacket with matching skirt yet for some reason the small blond looked even more beautiful in her eyes. She wondered silently if it was a good idea for them to work together. The first thing that Dominique did upon arrival at the office was turn the smaller woman over to Garrett Andersen to look after.
It was the man who ultimately made Darcy feel at ease. His manner was completely friendly and pleasant as he introduced her around the office to the other lawyers and staff employed in the legal department. Dominique was conspicuously absent and for that she was grateful. She knew it would have been more difficult with the tall woman's presence.
Darcy was surprised by how familiar everything seemed and how quickly she was immersed in the various legal dealings in which the Corporation was involved. In spite of the warm reception she received, she was not deceived. She knew that her relationship to the Saabo family would soon be made known and for that alone she would be treated differently.
The first day was spent mostly with introductions and a long visit to the Human Resources office where she filled out the necessary paperwork that made her once again a Sable employee. Garrett invited her out for lunch and the meal was spent talking about the company and what would be expected of her. She was surprised to learn that she would be acting as Dominique's assistant. It was a fact that the tall woman had not herself mentioned.
She wanted to talk to the dark haired woman about her day but was disappointed to learn that Dominique had left earlier in the day. Instead of sharing the taller woman's company she was forced to make the drive back to the Saabo estate alone that evening.
Dominique didn't return to the house that night and Darcy chided herself for saying anything. She truly enjoyed the other woman's company but realized that this was something that she had to learn to live with. The dark haired woman had her own life and probably had someone who was missing her company in the city. It was a few days before she saw the other woman again.
"How is everything going?" Dominique asked popping her head into the blond woman's new office. Darcy glanced up and the tall woman's heart did any unexpected flip. It looked so familiar and right to see the smaller woman sitting there behind a desk.
"It will take me awhile to get back up to speed," the blond attorney admitted with a sigh as the tall woman leaned against the door jam and casually folded her arms across her chest. Darcy was not immune to the beauty of her boss who was dressed in a dark pant suit with a white silk shirt that was open at the collar. Her dark hair hung loose over her shoulders. It was a style that the older woman preferred.
"Take your time, there is no rush," Dominique said and then glanced at her watch. "There is a meeting in my office at noon that I would like you to attend. It's one with all the department heads."
"Are you sure I should attend?" Darcy was hesitant.
"Father and I discussed the matter very thoroughly," the taller woman said in a firm voice that left no room for argument. "We both agreed that as regent for the Saabo heirs you should be privy to all the Corporation business. If something were to happen to me than running the company would fall onto your shoulders until one of the children was old enough to take over."
Darcy was stunned by the words. She had not expected to be placed in such an esteemed position. The Corporation had so many senior managers that could head up the business for the family in an emergency. She said as much.
"Sable is a family owned and you are a part of the family," the dark haired woman reminded pointedly. "This decision was not made lightly. If either of us had thought you weren't capable we wouldn't have said anything."
"What about the others?" Darcy asked in reference to the other woman's sisters.
"None of them are interested in working for Sable," Dominique sighed. "Father has been trying to get them involved and gave them shares in the hopes that they would take an interest but none of them want any part of the business. They have their own interests."
Darcy nodded, feeling a little overwhelmed by this new responsibility. There was also a hint of pride for she knew that William would not have come to this conclusion if he had not thought her capable of handling the business.
There were a few awkward moments at the beginning of the meeting when she was introduced and her position clarified. She could hear the questions the other executives had in their minds even though none spoke up when Dominique invited any one to voice their opinion on the matter.
Dominique immediately jumped to the business at hand and Darcy realized that in her position she would either sink or swim. Because she preferred not to drown, she listened intently and made notes on various issues that she would need to research. She would be busier than she expected yet undeniably she felt the anticipation and energy that began to race through her blood as it had in the old days.
"Have you got time for lunch?" Darcy asked following the taller woman from the conference room into her private office. She had a list of questions that had arisen from the meeting that she wanted answered.
"I asked Audrey to have sandwiches delivered in the meantime I thought we could go for a run."
"I didn't bring my gym clothes," the smaller woman groaned, genuinely disappointed.
"No need to worry," the dark haired woman clicked her tongue walking across the room and digging into a closet. She pulled out a pair of jogging shorts and a t-shirt. "I have an extra set of clothes, they might be too large but they still should fit."
"What about shoes?" the small blond asked wryly, lifting her foot to display the delicate high heeled shoes she was wearing.
"I have that covered as well," the tall woman said with a broad smile. She tossed the attorney the clothes and reached back into the closet. This time she pulled out a new pair of jogging shoes that were still neatly wrapped up in a box.
"They should fit," Dominique said bashfully. "I took the size off your pair at the house. They are the same brand as you already wear."
"You wanted to make sure I couldn't say no," Darcy smiled, the dimples in her cheeks appearing and setting off an irregular beat of the tall woman's heart.
"Damn straight," the older woman growled affectionately. "You can change in my private bathroom."
Darcy had always been aware of the exercise facilities located in the building but she had not known about the circular jogging track located on the roof. It was a fair size and surrounded by mesh wire so that no one could accidentally fall over the edge.
They ran together for more than half an hour and spent the time talking about general things including work and the children. It was an intimate time and though there were others using the track they were never disturbed. Afterwards she felt invigorated and just a little bit aroused by the sight of the tall woman's lean muscular legs and flat stomach.
"Do you mind if I use the shower first?" Dominique asked when they returned to her private office suite. "I have a meeting in fifteen minutes."
"No, go ahead," the smaller woman stammered unable to tear her eyes away from the tall woman's body as she peeled off her damp t-shirt and saw the muscles in her chest and shoulders ripple.
Dominique caught the gaze and for a moment their eyes locked and held. Her own adrenalin was pounding and it would take little for her to become aroused. Unconsciously they moved towards each other as if drawn by an invisible cord. Just as their lips were about to meet there was a knock on the door and Audrey walked in.
The secretary paused in mid-step and flushed with embarrassment at the scene that she had obviously interrupted. She chided herself and reminded herself in the future she would have to wait to be invited in. She had never had to worry about interrupting her boss in an intimate moment before.
"You asked for these for your meeting," she said hastily placing the documents on the desk before retreating from the room.
"I guess we are going to have to make sure the door is locked next time," Dominique commented with a lopsided grin. Darcy only nodded and watched as the tall woman turned and retreated into the adjoining bathroom afraid that her disappointment showed.
"I am sorry for interrupting Miss Saabo," Audrey was apologetic when they were alone together. Dominique had just returned from her meeting. "You have never had a woman here before so I wasn't even thinking."
"That's all right," Dominique smiled putting the woman's fears to rest. "You didn't interrupt anything important."
The secretary didn't believe her boss and could see beyond the smile that creased the tall executive's lips; she could see that it did not reach her eyes but she was wise enough to drop the subject.
Despite the small episode, nothing prevented the two women from running together again and each morning they scheduled an hour in their day for the exercise. It was a time when all the barriers were down and they could discuss whatever was worrying them, whether it was something involving the children or an issue at work.
In the days ahead Darcy began to look forward to those hours when they ran together. She used the time to quiz her tall partner about the various projects that Sable was currently operating and slowly she began to grasp the whole corporate picture. She could not know that her curious questions pleased the older woman who was proud of the way she was so diligently attempting to familiarize herself with all aspects of the company.
In spite of the heavy workload she was able to balance it quite well leaving her evenings entirely open to spend with her children who had adapted to their new environment without interruption.
William was a great help and Darcy was left with the realization that the twins had been missing a strong fatherly figure in their lives. With just a word the man was able to get the children to do his bidding.
"When is Auntie Dom coming home?" Alex asked one night when his mother was putting them to bed.
"Cause I miss her," the little boy answered.
"Yeah I miss her," Alex agreed with her brother.
Darcy was silent as she contemplated her children's request. It had been more than two weeks since the tall executive had returned to her apartment and even their lunch hour runs had been curtailed when Dominique was called out of town for several days.
After a few days of not being able to catch the woman in her office during the lunch hour she decided to run on her own. She changed into a t-shirt and shorts, a smile creasing her face at the remembrance of that first afternoon jog when she had borrowed Dominique's oversize kit. She was still smiling when she reached the jogging track but it was quickly erased when she noticed that Dominique was already there and running beside her was a tall redhead who was wearing the same gym clothes she had borrowed. By the way they were looking at each other she could tell that it was an intimate conversation.
Darcy knew that she had two choices. She could pretend nothing was wrong and do her usual run or she could turn around and head back into the building. She knew that the mature thing to do was proceed with her plans but at that moment she didn't feel to mature and before she knew what she was doing she had turned around and was headed back into the building.
For some reason that she couldn't understand Darcy was upset with the thought that Dominique was spending her noon time runs with another woman. It only made her more upset when she considered the possibility that the redheaded woman could very well be Dominique's girlfriend.
Angrily she changed out of her gym clothes and into her business suit. She had a meeting at two o'clock but until than she was free. With that in mind she hurried out of her office and left the complex intent on finding someplace where she could focus on something other than her boss and the redheaded woman.
"Sorry I can't hang around any longer Dominique but I have to be in court at two o'clock," the tall redhead said glancing at her wrist watch once she had emerged from the shower in the tall executive's office suite.
"I understand Dianne," the dark haired woman sighed dejectedly the slump to her shoulders apparent.
The other woman paused to look at the tall executive a smile on her lips. "Why don't you come to dinner tonight or are you going to the estate?"
"I am staying at my apartment."
"Than for god sakes come to dinner," the redhead persisted. "I don't know why you insist on locking yourself away. It does no good."
"You know why," Dominique offered in defense.
"No, I don't," the other woman shook her head. "All I know is that you have been a basket case since this woman came to work for you and you won't even go out with any of the women Jess and I try to set you up with."
"I'm not interested in meeting anyone," the dark haired woman said.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Dianne said shaking her head, "because you are interested in this woman."
"Yes," Dominique admitted with defeat. "I wanted you to meet her."
"So I could give you my opinion?'"
Dianne sighed. They had been good friends for nearly twenty years and in that time they had seen each other through the ups and downs in life, the strength of their friendship never diminishing even when she had found her own true love three years earlier. She wanted the same for the tall dark haired woman for she knew the kindness and love that Dominique would offer to a woman lucky enough to win her heart. There were dozens of women who were desperate to date the executive but Dominique wasn't interested in any of them.
"Why is it so important for you to get my opinion?" the redhead wanted to know.
"Because I need to know if I am being a fool or not," Dominique replied.
Dianne shook her head. Here was a woman who could go into a boardroom and bully anyone into a deal. She had never known someone as confident and strong as her friend that it surprised her she was so insecure in her private life.
"You're not a fool Dom," Dianne assured her friend. "Just follow your heart it won't lead you wrong."
Dominique thought of her friend's advice after she was gone. She hadn't managed to see Darcy for any length of time in the last two weeks and she had missed the noon hour runs they had taken together. The insecure part of her was worried that the smaller woman was avoiding her and the thought had only been reinforced that afternoon. For an instant while they had been on the running track she had spotted Darcy by the side of the oval. For just an instant blue and green eyes had met but before she had been able to call out the blond woman had turned and hurried away. The action had sent her heart plummeting to her feet and left her more dejected than she ever imagined she could be. It didn't help that she hadn't been able to find the smaller woman once they returned to the offices.
Darcy was unable to shake off the mood that had fallen over her. She didn't know why she should feel upset by the fact that Dominique was seeing someone. The tall executive was a beautiful woman and probably had a lot of women attracted to her it was only natural that she responded to their attention.
"You seem in a melancholy mood," William observed that evening when the small blond woman wandered almost aimlessly into the library and slumped into a chair.
Darcy merely shrugged not knowing what she could say to the man. The last thing she wanted to do was bring up the reason she was in an off mood.
"You know there is no reason why you can't go out," the man offered in an attempt to get the woman to confide in him. "I don't expect you to stay in and entertain me and you don't have to worry about the children I think Mrs. Drayton and myself can handle anything that might come up in your absence."
"Where would I go?" Darcy wanted to know. "I don't know anyone here."
"Why don't you call Dominique," William suggested.
"No, I think she is busy with a new girlfriend," the blond attorney replied not looking at the man.
The man's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. He didn't know that Dominique had a new girlfriend as she was pretty open about letting him know when she was involved with someone. He doubted there was a new woman in his daughter's life but he said nothing storing that information away for later use.
Darcy was glad that the man did not press the subject and jumped at his suggestion that they play chess. It was a game that the older man enjoyed playing and after being taught the basics she found that she had an aptitude for the game and was able to give her host a sporting challenge.
In the preceding days Dominique came to feel more and more that the smaller woman was avoiding her as their exchanges were limited strictly to business and her invitations to run over the lunch hour were met with objections. She had finally decided to confront the other woman when her father showed up unexpectedly at the office.
"Auntie Dom, Auntie Dom," two small voices hollered joyously as two small bundles of energy raced to greet her.
The smile on the older woman's face grew immediately as she quickly moved from behind her desk to catch the two children who ran to her for a hug. She wrapped an arm around each and lifted them in the air, burying her face in their stomach's alternatively and making them giggle.
"We missed you Auntie Dom, when are you coming to visit?" Dominic asked.
"Yeah, we need you to push us on the swing, grandpa won't push us very high," Alex explained patiently in a voice that made the tall woman realize that this was a serious matter for the children.
"Yeah, and grandpa says that we can't go swimming again until mommy or you are there," the little boy agreed in the same serious voice.
Dominique looked passed the two children in her arms at the older man who was standing just inside the doorway. William shrugged.
"You've given them a bath," he said dryly. "You know what they are like in water."
The tall executive laughed out loud remembering the occasion when she had first seen the children and had rescued a struggling Alex in the community pool. She often wondered how Darcy managed to keep control of them all on her own.
"Well, I'll see if I can come by this weekend, and if the weather is nice than we all can go swimming if your mom says it is okay," Dominique promised.
"Yes," the twins cheered noisily, clapping their hands in glee and the tall executive felt warmth in her heart. She had missed the children and she knew that by not returning to the estate as much as she wanted she was missing out on spending time with them.
"What brings you into town?" Dominique asked her father once she had set the twins back down on the ground.
"I thought it was time I took my daughter out for lunch," William replied with a shrug. "It's been awhile since I saw you."
"I have been busy," the executive easily shrugged off the man's implication.
"Not that busy I hope," the man said dryly. Dominique said nothing avoiding her father's gaze by turning her attention once more to the children who were bouncing around on their feet around her legs. Her height seemed a big fascination for them.
"Let's drop these two off at their mother's office and go," William said and because Dominique had no excuse to avoid the situation she mutely went along with the man's suggestion though she lingered outside the door of the smaller woman's office while the others went inside.
Darcy was surprised by her children's unexpected appearance and delighted by William's suggestion she take them to lunch. Though there was only a few minutes of interaction between them he was quick to notice some tension between the two younger women.
"So, when did you get a new girlfriend?" William asked bluntly once they had placed their order. They had selected a nearby restaurant.
"What new girlfriend?" Dominique was surprised by the question and the expression on her face showed it.
"I don't know but Darcy is under the impression that you have a new girlfriend," the man explained taking a sip of his drink.
The dark haired executive sighed remembering the afternoon that Darcy had spied Dianne and her running on the jogging track. She explained the situation to her father who nodded thoughtfully.
"Hmm, that's interesting I wonder why she was so upset."
"She was upset?" Dominique felt the beat of her heart increase and William saw the almost hopeful expression in his daughters blue eyes.
"I would say that she was," he said. "What exactly is going on between the two of you?"
"I don't know," the woman said after a lengthy pause. "I thought everything was going good and then all of a sudden she has been avoiding me. I got the impression that she rather I not hang around."
"Funny but I get the impression that she wants you around," the man corrected and there was silence as the waiter chose that moment to return with their food. When his daughter didn't speak the man continued. "I may be an old man but I can still see and I see that something is going on between the two of you."
"Yes, but what," the tall woman replied softly. "Just when I think we are getting closer she pulls away. I don't know maybe she can't handle being with a woman, after all she was married to Perry. I have been wondering if maybe I was an experiment to her."
William looked at his daughter seeing the dejected expression on her face.
"Do you know what your mother said to me the first time that I asked her out?" He asked and the woman shook her head. "She told me that she wouldn't marry a divorced man."
"Why?" Dominique was stunned at this information.
"Because she thought they were unreliable and unable to make a life time commitment."
"What did you do to change her mind?"
"I was very persistent," William smiled at the memories that came flooding through his mind. "I became her friend and love naturally grew from there, she was my second chance."
"What's you point?" the woman knew that her father was trying to tell her something.
"That people change," the man said.
"We're talking about lifestyles here," Dominique reminded her father who merely shrugged.
"Love doesn't ask the question of whether it's a man or a woman, it just appears." William paused. "You have to remember that she was married to Perry a man who was unfaithful to her. I am sure that she had been thinking about that. I wouldn't doubt that she was thinking about that when she saw you with Dianne."
The tall woman was silent as she contemplated what her father had said. She stared at her plate in thought mulling over her options for a long while before looking across the table seeing the wisdom in her father's blue eyes. She hadn't considered what Darcy might be thinking or feeling.
"How did you get so smart?"
"It comes with age," the man smiled.
"What do you suggest I do?" Dominique asked for his advice. She knew that this was important enough for her to ask for help.
"Come around to the house, ask her out, date her," William suggested and it was advice that Dominique decided that she would take.
That afternoon after her father had departed with the children she specifically sought out the smaller woman. She knew from Audrey that Darcy wasn't scheduled for any meetings that afternoon and would be in her office. She knocked lightly on the door and waited for the smaller woman to invite her in even though the door was open.
"How's everything going?" the tall executive inquired softly, leaning against the door jam in a casual pose. Green eyes looked up and Darcy felt that now familiar hitch in her heart at the sight of the older woman.
"Are you managing to bring yourself up to speed?" Dominique wanted to know.
"Yes, Garrett has been a big help," Darcy nodded. "Was there something you wanted?"
"Yeah," the dark haired woman cleared her throat and took the plunge aware of the butterflies in her stomach. "I was wondering what you were doing this weekend. I thought if you didn't have anything up we could maybe go out to dinner on Saturday night. Some of my friends invited me over to their place and I don't want to show up by myself."
"What about your girlfriend?" the blond attorney asked with a lump in her throat.
"Oh she would come, most certainly, if I had a girlfriend, but I don't so I thought you might like to come and meet some of my friends," Dominique said and then waited hoping to appear casual even while her stomach began to tie itself into knots.
Darcy was stunned as her thoughts went back to that afternoon on the jogging track. Maybe she had been wrong and the redhead wasn't one of Dominique's women. A crooked smile creased the taller woman's face.
"I know you probably don't believe me but I don't date a lot," she felt the need to explain.
From somewhere a butterfly appeared and began to fly around in Darcy's stomach. For a long moment green and blue eyes met.
"I will understand if you have other plans," Dominique said breaking the lengthening silence that was beginning to stretch between them.
"No," Darcy shook herself out of her stupor and jumped to her feet hurrying around the desk to stand in front of her boss.
"No, you don't want to come?"
"No, I don't have any other plans," the blond attorney replied a little breathlessly, her mind racing with possibilities and wondering if this was a date.
"It's nothing formal, just a couple of friends getting together for dinner," Dominique continued when the smaller woman stopped speaking.
"Yes," Darcy finally managed to untie her tongue long enough to answer. "I would love to go out to dinner with you."
Her answer brought an immediate smile to the taller woman's face that reached up to her intense blue eyes making them turn a deeper shade of blue. It was a look that almost took the smaller woman's breath away, so mesmerizing was the colour.
"What time and where do you want to meet?"
"I was going to come out to the house this weekend if you don't mind," Dominique explained hoping that her idea would be okay with the younger woman. "I sort of promised the kids I would go swimming with them. I thought we could leave together from there."
"That sounds good," Darcy agreed.
'Okay, than it's a date," the tall woman smiled and straightened.
The blond nodded and watched as the woman slowly made her way back down the hall to her own office. She couldn't know about the smile that was permanently embedded on the taller woman's face and she didn't care, as she almost skipped on her way back to her own desk.
Dominique barely made it into the house before she was overwhelmed by two small bouncing children dressed in their bathing suits. She was warmed by their affectation and hugged them tightly thinking she could get used to a welcome like this. She looked passed the children to see their mother standing a short ways behind.
"Hi." There almost seemed shyness in their exchange.
"How long have they been waiting?" the tall woman asked.
"They have had their bathing suits on since lunch," Darcy explained with a smile. "They would have changed into them straight from their pajamas this morning but I put my foot down with that."
"We have been waiting for you Auntie Dom," Alex confirmed.
"We are still going swimming aren't we Auntie Dom?" Dominic asked seeing that his second favourite adult was dressed in her clothes and not a swimming outfit.
"Yes, just let me go upstairs and change, I'll meet you all out on the patio."
"Yippeee!" The twins cheered in unison and then dashed through the house towards the sunroom with the French doors that led out onto the patio by the pool.
"Are you going to join us?"
"Do you want me too?" Darcy asked swallowing a lump that caught in her throat.
"Yes." The taller woman was sincere.
"I'll meet you outside," the blond said pulling down the strap of her sun dress to reveal the bathing suit beneath.
"I'll be right out," Dominique smiled before bounding up the steps to the second floor.
If the truth were told Darcy was almost as excited as the children. She could vividly remember seeing the taller woman in her bathing costume and it was a sight that she wished to see again. It wasn't more than fifteen minutes before the tall dark beauty joined them outside.
For the next hour the four of them splashed and played in the pool under the warm summer sky. The children didn't mind that they had to wear water wings for they both reveled in the attention they received from the tall dark haired woman, eagerly climbing into her arms so that they could be thrown into the air before landing in the water.
Darcy had held her breath the first time she had watched the action, afraid for her children. It had taken all her effort not to interfere waiting until the child came sputtering up out of the water and gleefully asking for more. It was only when she saw how much fun the children were having did she relax.
She watched from a short distance marveling at the way the dark haired woman interacted with the twins. She could see that there was genuine affectation on both parts and it warmed her to know that if anything happened to her the children would be well cared for.
They finally left the pool when Mrs. Drayton summoned them to tea and after changing out of their bathing suits and eating the children dragged their aunt back outside to play on the swing set with them. Darcy watched the trio race around the yard as she sat and sipped her cup of tea from the table on the patio.
"I always suspected that Dominique would make a great mother," William said interrupting the smaller woman's thoughts and Darcy turned to watch as the man stepped out of the sun room and slipped into a chair next to her.
"Yes," she simply agreed.
"She loves the children," the man continued.
"And they adore her," Darcy added. "Maybe you should suggest she have some of her own."
"I've tried but she has always dismissed the idea," William sighed and then gave a half smile. "I have been making the suggestion to all my daughters but none of them seem in a hurry to take on that responsibility."
The blond attorney remained silent. Though she had not yet seen the women since her return to New York she had been brought up to speed on their lives through her evening conversations with her host. Renee, the middle daughter, was the only one who was married, having done so three years previously, but she was concentrating on her career as a lawyer and not interested in having children yet. Sasha, the youngest, was busy traveling the world and not interested in settling down permanently.
"Give them time," she tried to encourage the man remembering her own situation. She often wondered if she would have ever had children had she not accidentally become pregnant.
"Yes," William nodded resigning himself to the possibility that he would not be a grandparent to as many children as he hoped. "I hope you don't mind but I have invited the girl's home for the long weekend and I was hoping to have our annual July 4th party."
"Certainly not, this is your home," Darcy said quickly. "Is there something you would like me to do?"
"I would like you to act as my hostess if you don't mind," the man said. "Normally I get Dominique to do the honours but she hates the task."
"Are you sure she won't mind?" the smaller woman was worried about what the other woman would feel.
"Absolutely not," William laughed, reminded of the many other times that his eldest daughter had acted as hostess and her discomfort in doing so. "She will probably jump for joy."
Dominique was a private person, Darcy knew that much about her boss, but she also knew that she was charming and charismatic and could work a crowd like no one she had ever seen. She wasn't sure she would be an appropriate substitute. She mentioned William's offer later that afternoon when the two women were driving back into the city for dinner.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Dominique asked glancing sideways at her companion.
"Only if you don't mind," Darcy was quick to remind the taller woman.
"It's all yours," the tall woman smiled. "You realize you are going to have to make nice to all of dad's old cronies and they will have a hundred and one questions for you."
That was one thing that Dominique despised about acting as hostess at her father's parties. She wasn't much for small chitchat and never interested in gossip and that was all the elderly dowagers that attended her father's functions seemed to be interested in.
"It's the least I can do for him opening his house to us," the smaller woman said.
"Darcy, you don't have to do this as some sort of repayment," Dominique was quick to say. "He doesn't want you to feel obligated."
"I don't," the blond was quick to assure her companion and silence fell between them as they continued the hour long drive. "Tell me about your friends."
"Their names are Dianne and Jessica and they have been together for three years," the tall woman said a fond smile appearing on her lips. "I have known Dianne since high school."
"What do they do?" Darcy was curious to meet these women who were obviously important to her companion.
"Dianne is a lawyer and Jess works for a bank," Dominique replied. "They are in the midst of discussing whether or not to have a child and I thought maybe you would be able to give them a first person account of what to expect."
Darcy was nervous about meeting the two women but was immediately put at ease the instant she walked through the door of their apartment and was introduced. Dianne was a tall redhead with an extroverted personality while Jessica, a similarly tall brunette, seemed to be content to stand back and let her partner take the lead. When they found out that Darcy was a mother of three year old twins they immediately peppered her with questions in an effort to learn anything they could.
Dinner was a casual affair and before long Darcy felt as if she had been a friend of the women's for as long as her companion. Afterwards they retreated into the living room to play a new board game that one of the women had brought home and the four played until well after midnight before Dominique made the decision to call it a night.
"She's a looker," Dianne commented when she managed to get her friend alone for a few moments. Darcy had snuck off to the washroom before they were to leave.
"Yes," Dominique agreed and looked hesitantly at her friend. "What do you think?"
"I wouldn't worry," the redhead said approvingly. "I think she feels something for you even if she doesn't know it yet."
"How do you know that?" the dark haired woman wanted to know.
"I watched the way she glanced at you all evening," Dianne replied. "She certainly wasn't averse to touching you either."
"She was just trying to get my attention," the executive sighed.
"Yes she was," the redhead laughed and hugged her friend. "Don't worry so much. Just keep doing whatever it is you are doing because given time it will all work out."
Dominique wanted to believe her friend but she was afraid to allow her mind to race with the possibilities. The ride home was quiet and for a while the tall executive thought that her companion had fallen asleep so she concentrated on the road ahead of them.
"Thank you." Darcy's voice suddenly broke the silence of the dim interior of the car.
"For what?" the dark haired woman was curious.
"For tonight," the blond attorney replied. "It's been a long time since I have had such an enjoyable evening."
"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself," Dominique felt unusually pleased and made a mental note to phone her friends and pass along the compliment.
"Yes, it's been such a long time since I have had an adult evening where I could relax and not worry about what the children might be getting into," Darcy sighed.
"I glad it wasn't too much for you," the tall executive said with a smile. "My friends can be a little overwhelming some times."
"No they were wonderful," the blond attorney replied.
"Do you think you could tolerate another evening of adult company?"
"I think so, why, what do you have in mind?"
"I have a business associate in town this week and I was going to take him out to dinner on Tuesday," Dominique explained not looking at her companion. "I usually take Garrett with me as it is normally a business dinner but my colleague is bringing his wife along on this trip and I thought to make it a social occasion instead. Are you interested?"
"I will have to ask William if he can look after the children," Darcy said.
"Well, let me know at work on Monday," the dark haired woman said as they pulled up in front of the house.
"Aren't you coming in?" Darcy asked when her companion did not shut off the car's engine.
"No," Dominique shook her head. "I have some business to take care of early tomorrow morning and I fear that I will miss my appointment if I stay here tonight."
"Oh," the smaller woman was disappointed. After the wonderful evening she had she wasn't quite ready for it to end even though she knew that it was late. She worried about the other woman driving back to the city at this late hour.
"I'll be alright," the tall woman assured her companion. "Have a good night sleep."
"Good night," Darcy replied before climbing out of the car. She walked to the door and opened it with her key before turning back and waving to her companion who waved in return before putting the car in gear and driving off into the darkness. With a sigh the smaller woman let herself into the house.
"You're home," William said and Darcy glanced up to see the man standing on the stairs in his dressing gown.
"You weren't waiting up were you?" She queried.
"I have been reading," the man replied. "I didn't realize how late it was. Isn't Dominique coming in?"
"She decided to drive back to the city tonight, she said she had an early morning meeting," Darcy sighed.
"Did you have a good evening?" William was curious. He had naturally assumed that Dominique would be spending the night and wondered if the two women had gotten into a disagreement.
"It was a wonderful night," the woman replied honestly. "Dominique has some very nice friends."
"Yes, she does," the man agreed. "She doesn't have many but the few that she does are good people. Will you join me for a hot cup of milk?"
"I will join you but I think I will pass on the milk," Darcy said crinkling her nose in a smile. She hooked her arm into the man's and walked with him down the hallway towards the kitchen at the back of the house. "How were the children?"
"They were absolute angels," William replied. "I think swimming in the afternoon wore them out because they barely lasted through one bedtime story."
The small woman laughed. She knew that her children adored their grandfather and were learning a lot by being in his presence. It was strange that none of the misgivings she had felt prior to returning to the east coast had appeared and now she was happy that she had allowed her better sense to dictate her actions. Having Dominique and William in her children's lives was a good thing.
"Speaking of the little monsters, could I impose on you to look after them on Tuesday evening. Dominique is hosting a dinner for some business colleagues and she asked if I would attend with her."
"That's a good idea and I certainly will be available to look after my grandchildren," the man was quick to assure her.
"Are you sure?" Darcy was still hesitant about imposing on the man and his hospitality.
"Darcy, you are going to have to learn that I adore my grandchildren and that I consider every moment spent with them a blessing," William said.
"No need to thank me," the man said. "I wasn't the best of parents to their father so perhaps I can make it up by being a better grandfather to his children."
"You really miss Perry don't you?" Darcy asked.
"Yes, I do," was the somber response. "We didn't always get along and I wasn't always there when he needed me but regardless of my actions I loved all my children equally and there isn't a day that doesn't go by that I don't think about him and the future that he was never able to realize. I am sorry that he never got to see his children."
Darcy sat down on a stool by the kitchen counter while the man went to the refrigerator to retrieve a bottle of milk which he then poured into a pan which he put on the stove to warm. She watched his movements realizing that he had aged greatly over the last few years. He appeared robust during the day but in the evening it was easy to see the extra lines in the creases of his face.
"You know Perry never wanted children," she said quietly not sure why she needed the man to know the truth.
"Yes, I remembered him saying that on more than one occasion," William sighed. "Most men feel that way until they catch first sight of their child. Then in one momentous instant everything in their life changes and that child now becomes their world."
Darcy could see that the man was reliving his own experiences of seeing his children for the first time after they were born. There was tenderness on his face that she had never seen on Perry's face in even the most intimate moments of their time together.
"Perry was a father." She reminded the man gently.
"Yes," the man acknowledged the truth and he looked at her intently. "But the child was not of you."
"It wouldn't have made any difference," Darcy sighed. "I know that you want to believe that the children would have made Perry a different man but I don't think it would have." She paused and took a deep breath. "I know why Perry married me."
"He loved you."
"No, I don't think he did," the small woman was honest. "I was someone who you approved of. Someone who would make him appear to be the perfect husband. If it had been entirely up to him, he would probably have never gotten married.'
"Do you blame me for that?"
"No, Perry was an adult."
William was silent as he appraised the young woman sitting there in the kitchen with him. He looked into her green eyes and saw that she had figured out the truth long before anyone of them had. He didn't like the way his son had treated this woman because she deserved better than that.
"Dominique cares for you."
"I know," Darcy said quietly. "I'm just not sure what it is I feel for her."
"There is no rush," William counseled. "Dominique's feelings aren't going to change."
"But is it fair to her," the blond woman wanted to know. "I don't know if I will ever feel the way towards her as she wants me too."
"That is only something that she can answer," the man said. "But if I can give you some advice I would say don't worry about it and just let things happen naturally."
Darcy smiled. "I can't believe that I am talking about this with you." The man laughed as she flushed with colour.
"There is nothing to be ashamed of," William said as he turned his attention to the now warm milk. "I have always accepted Dominique for the person that she is and I have only ever wanted her to find happiness and love. It never mattered to me that it might be with another woman."
"What makes you think I am that woman?"
"I don't know," the man admitted honestly as he poured the steaming milk into a cup. "There was just something from the first moment that I met you that I thought 'now here is someone that Dominique should meet'. As I got to know you the more I liked you. You have many admirable qualities, and there were times when I thought that you were maybe too good for my son but I kept hoping that you would change him."
"Marriage shouldn't be about trying to change someone," Darcy commented quietly. "It's about two people respecting each other and growing together."
"Two things that I was unable to instill in my son," William sighed.
"You can't blame yourself for the way Perry turned out," the blond woman said. "Maybe you weren't always there when Perry was growing up but ultimately each individual must take responsibility for their own actions.
"I didn't have the greatest upbringing. My father deserted me when I was a child and my mother all but ignored my emotional needs when I was growing up. I could have used it as an excuse for not making something of myself but I wanted to be better than that."
"You are," William confirmed. "You are a wonderful woman and an even better mother. You should be proud of yourself and I am proud to consider you as another daughter."
"Thank you, you don't know how happy that makes me feel," Darcy smiled. "I hope your opinion won't change if nothing happens between Dominique and me."
"My opinion won't change," the man assured her with a smile. "But you can't blame an old man for trying."
Darcy had reason to go to bed that night with a smile on her face. The evening she had spent with Dominique had been a pleasant affair and afterwards her chat with William had done a lot to confirm that her choice in returning to work for the Saabo Corporation had been the right decision. She thought about what her host had said about his daughter's feelings and the realization that the tall dark haired woman cared for her made butterflies move in her stomach. It was something that she would have to think seriously about.
She decided to take the man's advice and not worry about what might or might not happen. It wasn't until late in the afternoon on Monday that she had a chance to talk to her boss. Audrey said that Dominique was free and the door was open but she went to knock on the wood paneling anyway. She paused for a moment her green eyes taking in the sight of the tall dark haired woman bent over the papers on her desk a frown borrowed between the blue eyes.
The beat of her heart suddenly increased and she marveled again at how beautiful the older woman looked. She swallowed the lump that gathered in her throat and rapped her knuckles gently against the door. A pair of bright blue eyes glanced up and a smile immediately erased the serious expression on the executives face. Darcy felt her heart skip a beat and her legs shook unsteadily for a moment. She could never remember having anyone's face light up the way Dominique's had just done.
"Hey, are you alright?" The smile was suddenly replaced by another frown as the blue eyes looked with concern at the younger woman.
"Yeah," Darcy regained her sense of balance and stepped into the room hastily plopping into a chair across from her boss aware that her legs felt like were ready to give out. "How is your day going?"
"Busy," the woman sighed running a hand through her dark hair. "What can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to tell you that William agreed to look after the children tomorrow evening so if you still want me to accompany you I am available."
"Great," that brilliant smile appeared again and Darcy got the impression that her acceptance truly delighted the other woman. "I was thinking maybe you could bring your evening clothes in tomorrow morning. We go to my apartment to shower and change if that's alright with you?"
"That sounds fine," Darcy agreed and after a few more minutes of idle chatter let the tall woman get back to her work.
The next day it was so busy that the time flew by and before she realized it the day was over and it was time to leave. She gathered up her things and made her way down the hallway to her boss's office. Before she could say anything Audrey nodded for her to go straight through and Darcy realized that Dominique had probably told the other woman to expect her.
The older woman was bent once more over her desk a pen in her hand hastily scribbling words on a note pad on her desk. Darcy paused at the door and stared at the woman her stomach fluttering at the sight of the dark hair partly obscuring the finely sculpted face. She tapped her knuckles on the door.
"Hey, are you ready to go?" She asked when the older woman glanced up.
"Shoot, is it that time already?" Dominique asked with a frown. She glanced at the clock on the top of her desk. She mentally chided herself for not keeping better track of the time.
"Yep, everything is still on for tonight isn't it?" Darcy wondered out loud.
"Yes, Max and his wife arrived in town early this morning," the taller woman confirmed glancing at the paper on her desk. "Listen I promised the finance department that I would get this down to them before I left this evening. It will take me about half an hour to finish."
"I can wait," the small blond assured her boss who immediately shook her head before digging into the top drawer of the desk.
"I was going to give you my extra key and tell you to go ahead to my apartment," the dark haired woman hesitated. "That's if you don't mind."
"Are you sure you don't mind me being there alone?" Darcy replied hesitantly. The idea of having a chance to take her time to get ready was appealing.
"Why, are you intending on stealing the silverware?" Dominique asked with a hint of a smile. "Cause if you're thinking about it I hate to disappoint you but I have only the cheap stainless stain stuff. I don't entertain enough for anything expensive."
"Shoot and here I was thinking it might be able to finance a weekend getaway." The smaller woman answered in the same bantering voice and her companion laughed.
"Seriously though, I do have to get this done and I don't want you to hang around here and then have to rush once we get to my apartment," Dominique said rising from her chair and walking around the desk to stand in front of the smaller woman and held out the key. "You don't leave the bathroom in the same type of mess as the children do, do you?"
"No, smart ass, I promise to clean up my dirty towels," Darcy laughed snatching the key from the other woman's hand. "Now get back to work."
"Yes ma'am," the taller woman saluted. "I'll see you in a little while."
Darcy found the apartment complex without any trouble and was appreciative of the extra key that allowed her into the parking garage where she managed to find a stall marked for visitors. The elevator took her up to the top floor where the other woman's apartment was located.
The suite was austere in nature and immaculate throughout with nothing seemingly out of place. It was much as she remembered from four years earlier though she was certain that some of the furnishings had been updated. A peek into the other woman's bedroom showed that it had a more lived in feel as there were clothes draped over a chair and a small stack of books on the table by the bed.
With her curiosity satisfied Darcy made her way to the spare bedroom where she laid out her clothes before stripping down and making her way to the bathroom located down the hallway. She was not worried about running into anyone and so did not bother to cover herself with a towel.
A glance at her watch and she decided that she had plenty of time for a leisurely bath instead of merely a shower so she put in the plug and turned on the taps, adjusting them to the right temperature before sitting on the edge of the tub and waiting for it to fill. Once it was ready she sank gratefully into its warm depths closing her eyes and relishing the peace that she normally was not allowed to enjoy when at home with the twins who never allowed her the time to pamper herself.
It was more than an hour later when Dominique finally finished the necessary paperwork and sent it off to the finance department for their perusal in the morning. The apartment was quiet when she entered and briefly she wondered where Darcy had gotten too. A brief glance in the guest bedroom confirmed that the smaller woman was still at the suite someplace. It was then that she noticed that the door to the guest bath was partially open.
"Darcy," she called but received no answer and so gently pushed the door further open.
She found Darcy sound asleep in the bath, the bubbles long since melted awhile. The tall woman moved silently into the room careful not to disturb the other woman so that she could selfishly have a moment to admire the almost flawless body that was submerged but visible in the water. Blue eyes wandered lustfully over the gentle curves that molded the swelling of her breasts and the neatly trimmed blond hair that covered her mount.
She felt a wetness spring at the apex of her own legs and slowly her tongue ran over the contours of her own lips. She longed to touch the near perfect body and find out if it felt as good as it looked. Memories of the one night they had spent together were never far from her thoughts. She suddenly stood up and hurried out of the bathroom before she acted on her desires, feeling the need to stand under the shower before she embarrassed herself.
Darcy swallowed and slowly opened her eyes. She had awakened at the sound of her name being called but had continued to pretend that she was sleeping, wondering what the other woman would do. She had a perverse thrill at the knowledge that the tall woman had been ogling her naked body. She felt an unusual excitement at the lust she had seen in the blue eyes. Gently she reached down and touched herself.
With a shake of her head she hastily washed and rinsed herself off before pulling the plug and standing up. She grabbed a towel off the rack and wiped herself down before wrapping it around her body and hurrying back to the guestroom. She could hear the shower in the master suite running and knew that the tall woman was in the midst of her own shower.
By the time Dominique emerged from her suite Darcy was dressed and sitting in the living room silently paging through a magazine as she waited for the other woman to appear. The tall woman did not pause as she entered the room she gave the smaller woman an apprising glance though she was careful not to make eye contact feeling guilty. With images of the small naked body in her head she had relieved her lust under the shower. She was afraid that her actions were written clearly across her face.
"Are you ready to go?"
Darcy nodded and followed the older woman out of the suite. They took Dominique's Mercedes to the restaurant where they found the other couple already waiting for them. The tall woman immediately apologized before making introductions.
"Sorry for making you wait," Dominique said shaking the man's hand when he rose to greet them. "I needed to finish off a small piece of business before I was able to leave the office."
"No need to apologize, we just arrived a few minutes ago," the portly man replied in a jovial mood. "Are you going to introduce us to your lovely companion?"
"I am forgetting my manners," the tall woman was quick to answer. "Max and Gladys, this is my sister-in-law Darcy Ryan. Darcy this is Max and Gladys Pepper."
Darcy shook the middle aged couple's hands before sitting down.
"Nice to meet you Darcy, I had hoped that you were someone else though." Max said.
"Who else were you hoping me to be?" the blond woman asked.
"Max has known Dominique since she was in college and he has yet to be introduced to the special person in her life." Gladys answered for her husband.
"Darcy is special in my life," Dominique said easily.
"But she is a relative," Max chided the woman. "I have known you so long I feel like a second father and I guess I hope that one day you will introduce me to the woman who has finally captured your heart."
"Max do you actually believe that will happen to me?" the tall woman laughed not offended by the couple's openness.
"Yes," the man nodded his grey balding head. "I have a feeling that it is going to happen soon."
Dominique only shook her head spared from making any response by the timely arrival of the waiter. After placing their drinks order the conversation turned to more general matters and Darcy was quick to notice that it only briefly touched on their mutual business interests. This she didn't doubt was out of respect for the older woman.
Dinner was a pleasant affair. The food was good and the company even better. Max Pepper had a wicked sense of humor which was effectively countered by his wife's effective sparring and Darcy found herself in the throes of laugher on more than one occasion. She was genuinely disappointed when their desserts were finished and the evening was over.
"Thank you for coming tonight," Dominique said quietly on the drive back to her apartment.
"Thank you for inviting me, I thoroughly enjoyed myself," Darcy replied with a smile. "They are a wonderful couple."
"Yes," the taller woman nodded her head. "Max and Gladys became big supporters of the Olympic rowing program when they learned that I was a member. Their support made it possible for many others to train full time."
"They seem like generous people," the blond woman nodded unable to stifle the yawn that came unbidden to her lips.
"You are tired," Dominique said. "You should have mentioned something earlier and we could have left sooner."
"I didn't feel tired until now," Darcy admitted reluctantly. "I don't relish the drive home."
"Then stay in town," the taller woman suggested. "I have a spare room."
"But if the kids happen to wake up and find me gone," the idea of spending the night at the apartment was appealing but her common sense told her to go home.
"They will be okay," Dominique assured her.
"I will have to ring your father first to see if it is all right," Darcy said.
As expected William was more than happy to keep an eye out on the twins and agreed with Dominique in that she should spend the night in the city if she was too tired to drive home. Night clothes weren't a problem as her hostess produced a clean t-shirt and jogging shorts.
"They might be a little big but they should be okay," the dark haired woman said.
"I could always sleep naked," Darcy said impishly and watched as a mirage of expressions flitted across the other woman's face.
"Whatever you feel most comfortable with," Dominique managed to utter as images of the other woman's naked body flooded her memories.
"What if I said I might not be comfortable sleeping alone?"
There was complete silence as her words hung in the air. She watched as the taller woman swallowed compulsively and her heart fluttered in her chest.
"I don't think that would be a good idea," the other woman managed to stutter.
"Because you don't know what you want."
"But what if I do," Darcy countered quietly as green and blue eyes met. "What if I knew that I wanted to be with you?"
Dominique was too stunned to answer immediately. She had longed for this day never quite expecting it to ever happen. When she didn't move the smaller woman made the first move, stepping forward and gently placing her hands on the other woman's chest.
"Will you kiss me?" Dominique only had to be asked once before she bent her head and lived the dream that had haunted her for so many years.
The kiss was soft and gentle, a tender caress between two people nervous about this first interaction. They parted with green and blue eyes locked together and where about to go in for another kiss when an unexpected noise tore their eyes apart.
"Sorry," the young dark haired woman said with an impish smile. "If I had known that you had company I would have found some other place to bunk tonight."
"Sasha, what a surprise to see you," Dominique was the first to recover her senses. "What are you doing here?"
"Once daddy told me about the wonderful babies who are now a part of our family I couldn't stay away," the tall woman's youngest sibling replied leaning against the door jam and folding her arms across her chest. "I didn't expect to find there was more to the situation."
"There is nothing more to the situation," Darcy hastily interjected taking a step away from her boss. "It's nice to see you again Sasha. How have you been?"
"I have been doing good Darcy," the younger woman nodded her head. "It was awfully mean of you to keep the kids a secret from us."
"I'd say from the way your father has been spoiling them it might not have been a bad idea to keep them away," the blond woman retorted with a small smile.
"Dad has been pining for grandchildren for ages so bless you, now there won't be such a push for me to get married and produce."
"Well, I am grateful I can help out," the smaller woman replied. "I'm sorry if we woke you."
"I was just tucking myself into bed," Sasha answered looking at her sister.
"Then don't let us keep you," Dominique said finding her voice.
"Okay, ladies I will see you in the morning," the younger woman immediately took the hint and disappeared back into her room, closing the door behind her.
"Sorry about that," Dominique apologized sheepishly. "I didn't know that she was going to turn up."
"It's okay," Darcy sighed.
"It's late so just let me get some things from my room and I'll take the couch."
"No," the blond lawyer shook her head. "I'll just drive home."
"No!" Dominique was adamant. "You're tired."
"Well I am not taking your bed from you," Darcy said and then took a deep breath and combing her fingers through her blond hair. "Listen there is no reason we can't share, unless you are a complete bed hog?"
"No," the taller woman afforded her companion a small smile. "I'm not a bed hog but are you sure you won't mind?"
"We are two adults," the smaller woman said. "There is no reason why we can't share a bed for one night."
"Okay," Dominique nodded her head. "Well, I will let you go and get changed first. I will be in after making sure the place is all locked up."
Darcy nodded picking up the clothes that the taller woman had brought out for her before heading into the master bedroom. She washed up and changed quickly before climbing into bed, instantly aware of the other woman's scent on the pillows and sheets. She buried her face into the material and breathed deeply a smile creasing her face.
Dominique fiddled with some small stuff in the kitchen. There was nothing really to tidy up but she figured that Darcy would like privacy while she readied for bed. She closed her eyes and silently prayed that her body would not betray her during the night.
"I'm sorry if I interrupted something," Sasha's young voice cut through her thoughts and Dominique turned to find her sister standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
"It's alright," the taller woman said.
"I wasn't thinking."
"I said it was alright!" the older woman repeated and sighed. "You probably prevented something bad from happening."
"From my point of view there was nothing bad going on," Sasha replied with a snort. "Do you want to tell me what's really going on?"
"Nothing," Dominique shook her head.
"I don't believe that," the younger woman was persistent. "You still like her don't you?"
"Yes," Dominique nodded knowing she would not get any peace until she had confided the truth to her sister. "From the first moment I saw her again I realized that I had never fallen out of love with her."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," she was honest. "One minute she responds and the next she can't move away from me fast enough."
"It didn't look like she was going to reject you tonight."
"She was just being polite and thanking me for the evening."
"I am polite but I would never kiss another woman on the lips in thank you, a hug maybe and maybe a kiss on the cheek but not the lips," Sasha gave her opinion. "I think she likes you."
"She might but that is not the same as being in love," Dominique said. "I want a relationship with her not a one night stand."
Sasha didn't know what to say. She knew that her sister had been in love with the other woman for as long as she could remember. Like their father she wanted her oldest sibling to find someone that she could be happy with. Silently she wondered if there was anything she could do.
By the time Dominique finally made it to bed Darcy was already sleeping, the light snore coming from between her lips causing the older woman to smile. After washing and changing into some bed clothes the tall woman gently eased herself into bed careful not to disturb her sleeping companion. She stared up at the ceiling and prayed for sleep to come and after a long while it finally descended over her brain.
During the night the two bodies unconsciously sought each other's warmth out and when Darcy opened her eyes the next morning she found that she was wrapped in a warm embrace by two long slender arms. She laid for a long moment considering what to do and then decided to give in to the warmth and comfort she felt in the embrace. She closed her eyes and snuggled closer to her companion burying her head into a warm shoulder while allowing her free arm and leg to drape themselves over the tall body.
Dominique woke to a pressing need to go to the bathroom but her second thought was of the warm weight that was pinning her to the bed. She glanced down at the golden crown that was nestled on her shoulder and her eyes misted with tears. She wanted to lie here forever, to enjoy the press of the other woman's body against her but she knew that Mother Nature could not be denied so she gently extracted herself from the weight and slipped out of bed.
"Where are you going?" Darcy mumbled in a sleepy voice instantly missing her comfortable pillow.
Dominique turned to see cloudy green eyes looking at her. She smiled softly. "I need to go to the bathroom and then I think we have to get up to go to work."
"I don't want to go to work today," the smaller woman sighed grasping the taller woman's pillow and embracing it. "Can't we call in sick and stay in bed?"
"As tempting an offer that is I don't think that it would be a good example to the rest of the employees."
"Can I have a few more minutes at least?" Darcy begged, her eyes already closing.
"Yes," Dominique nodded and watched as the younger woman went back to sleep her face buried in the pillow she had just vacated. She smiled before continuing onto the bathroom.
She didn't bother the other woman until after she had showered and changed. Breakfast was cooking in the kitchen when she went to roust the woman once more. She shook the younger woman's shoulder to awaken her.
"Just a few more minutes," Darcy mumbled sleepily.
"Afraid not sleepyhead," she ruffled the blond hair that was sticking up in all directions. "It's time to get up and go to work."
"Okay," the younger woman sighed and rolled over, lying there for a minute with her eyes closed.
"I mean now sweetie," Dominique said when the other woman didn't move again.
"I'm up, I'm up," Darcy replied without opening her eyes or moving.
"You have two seconds before I get a glass of cold water from the bathroom," the tall woman said rising to her feet.
"Okay I'm up," the smaller woman moaned as she bounded out of bed and hurried into the bathroom in front of the taller woman. Even in her sleepy state she knew that the threat was not an idle one.
Half an hour later she emerged from the bedroom to find her hostess alone in the kitchen finishing her breakfast and reading the morning paper. She plopped into the vacant chair and poured herself a glass of juice from the pitcher that was on the table. She downed it in one swallow enjoying the cool refreshing taste. She looked up to see amused blue eyes watching her.
"Good morning, Darcy, breakfast is warming in the oven," Dominique replied motioning to stove.
"I usually only have juice, toast and coffee," the small woman replied.
"You mean I slaved over a hot stove all morning for nothing?" the dark haired woman pouted.
"Okay," she stood up and retrieved a plate of eggs, toast and hash browns from the oven.
Dominique watched with some amusement as the younger woman dug into the food, filling her fork and moaning in delight with each mouthful. It was obvious that the smaller woman was enjoying her meal.
"Does it meet your standards?"
"Absolutely," Darcy replied with a smile. "You can cook breakfast for me anytime."
"I'll remember that."
"How are you with the other meals?"
"Better and I only need one finger to prepare it?" Dominique replied smugly.
"Only one finger?"
"Yep, I know by heart the numbers of every take out restaurant in a mile radius of the apartment and it takes only one finger to dial the numbers," the tall woman said causing her companion to laugh.
"That's not good, you need some home cooked meals," Darcy said when she had sobered up.
"I go see Dad a couple of times a week and Mrs. Drayton feeds me than," the dark haired woman shrugged.
"Well, make sure you come home on Thursday than," the attorney said.
"What's on Thursday?" Dominique was curious.
"Mrs. Drayton's night off we will need someone to dial takeout for us," Darcy replied with a laugh.
"Smart ass," the dark haired woman said with a grin before flinging a napkin at the other woman.
There was something comfortable and easy about their conversation but it wasn't until that evening that Darcy had a chance to dwell on it. She liked the playful side of the dark haired woman and it was curious that she was getting to see more and more of that side of the woman. She thought back to the evening they had shared and realized that she had felt completely at ease in Dominique's presence.
Finally she thought back to that instant when their lips had come close to touching. She had wanted the kiss and she wondered now what would have happened if they hadn't been interrupted. She glanced across the room to where her children were being entertained by their younger Aunt.
Like the rest of the Saabo family, the children had taken an instant liking to Sasha and after an initial shyness they were treating her like they had known her all their lives. The young woman in turn seemed charmed by the smallest members of the family and had entertained them most of the evening. In spite of the new attention the children still seemed to favour their eldest aunt the most.
"When is Auntie Dom coming to visit us again?" Nicky asked when Darcy was able to finally settle them down and tuck them into bed.
"I don't know why?" their mother said folding the covers around his tiny body.
"I miss her," the boy responded shyly.
"I miss her too," Alexandria chimed in not to be outdone by her brother.
Green eyes glanced from one child to the other wondering if they knew something that she was reluctant to admit to herself. In spite all her denials she realized that the tall dark haired executive was very much a part of their lives.
"You like Auntie Dom very much don't you?" She asked and watched as two small head bobbed in unison. "Well, how about I call and invite Auntie Dom for dinner tomorrow?"
"Can we go swimming?" Alexandria wanted to know.
"I'll ask," Darcy promised. "But in turn you have to behave yourself and go to sleep."
"We will," the pair of youngsters chimed together and as if to prove the point shut their eyes tightly and pretended to go to sleep.
Their mother laughed bidding them both a goodnight with a kiss before switching off the lights and exiting the room. It wasn't until the next afternoon that Darcy got a chance to talk to her boss. She knew that Dominique was tied up with the negotiations of a big real estate deal as papers for the project had already crossed her desk.
"You looked at the numbers, do you think it a good deal?" the dark haired executive inquired when they went for a jog on the buildings oval track.
"It looks almost too good to be true," Darcy commented. "I do wonder about why he is willing to offload a property with that much potential."
"That is the one thing that worries me as well," the taller woman admitted with a sigh. "It would be a true jewel in our corporate crown to get that property. The potential profit on it is almost to staggering to think about."
"So why isn't he doing the same thing?" the blond woman posed the obvious question.
"He says that he is too short of capital to develop the resources," Dominique repeated what she had been told. She had been as skeptical as her companion but Garrett had done all the appropriate inquires and had found nothing to disprove the claim. "I made some discreet enquiries and Davro Industries are in a financial bind right now."
Darcy nodded. She had heard the same stories but she was still suspicious. She swallowed, wondering whether she would be overstepping the boundaries of her position with her next question. Regardless she decided to ask anyway.
"Would you hold off for a while so I could do some background?" The blond attorney knew that she was asking her boss to possibly jeopardize a deal that could make the corporation a huge profit.
Dominique stopped her jogging and looked at her companion seriously for a long moment.
"You don't think Garrett has done a thorough job?"
"He probably has but I just have a feeling that something isn't right," Darcy tried to explain the objections she had.
The tall executive was silent as she considered the other woman's request. She had not had the time to do the background checks herself and trusted Garrett's opinion but she to experiencing some doubt of her own. It was nothing that she could explain just a feeling that was nagging at the outer reaches of her brain.
"I'll give you a week," Dominique finally announced and then continued jogging leaving the smaller woman watching her for a moment before running to catch up.
"Thanks," Darcy was appreciative of the confidence that the older woman was showing in her.
"No thanks are needed," the dark haired woman simply shrugged her shoulders. "You are a part of this company now and your opinions are valid especially when they coincide with my own."
"You have reservations about the deal?" the smaller woman was surprised by the admission.
"Yes," Dominique nodded. "As you mentioned it almost seems too good to be true."
Darcy nodded her head and they continued to jog. It was only when they were finished with their run that Darcy managed to screw up her courage and invite the woman to dinner. Dominique looked down at her companion and saw the hopeful expression in her green eyes.
"The kids would love to see you again," the blond attorney added by way of incentive.
"I have a late meeting, I wouldn't be at the house until six at least," Dominique replied knowing that Darcy usually left the office early on days that Mrs. Drayton had off.
"I think we could hold dinner until then," the blond woman replied.
"Okay," the taller woman smiled in agreement and then waggled her fingers. "Will I need these?"
"Nope, I will be cooking," Darcy said before leaving the other woman.
It wasn't like she hadn't cooked a meal for anyone before and since arriving to live with William she had taken over that household chore on nights when Mrs. Drayton was off but for some reason Darcy was nervous. She wanted the meal to be perfect for Dominique.
"Can I help?" Nick asked.
"I want to help too," Alexandria said and Darcy looked down at her two children. "How about setting the table?"
"Okay," the two jumped up and down with excitement. It was a chore that they knew well because Mrs. Drayton often got them to do the task for her. After carefully handing them the plates and cups that would be used she watched them go about their job while she turned back to the food that she was cooking.
She had decided to make a simple meal of pasta noodles smothered in a special cream sauce. It was one of her favourite dishes and she hoped the other woman would enjoy it as well. After cooking the noodles and mixing up the sauce she set the dishes aside. She had tossed the salad earlier and now hastily prepared her own special dressing to go over the salad. When it was done all that was left was to wait for their guest.
Dominique had lost track of the time and she knew that she would be late for dinner. In an effort to make up some time she had drove her car hard and a result was that not more than ten miles from the house she was stopped by a state trooper and issued a ticket for speeding. She explained all that when she finally stepped into the house and greeted the small family.
"You should have just called and let us know," Darcy chided the taller woman. "You could have gotten hurt speeding."
"Sorry," Dominique replied bashfully and then glanced about her surroundings. "Where is everyone?"
"Your father had dinner with some of his cronies and Sasha is out with her friends," the smaller woman replied. "The kids are patiently waiting for you by watching cartoons on the television in the den. You can get them to the table while I get the food."
"Deal," the tall woman flashed a smile before bounding down the hallways towards the den. She was greeted with shrieks of delight by the two small children and in moments they were scooped up and hugged. If amazed her how quickly the small pair had gotten into her heart.
She carried them to the dining room listening as each of the children tried to tell her about their week both at the same time. She nodded her head appreciatively and made the appropriate comments at the right time. Finally they were seated at one end of the table with one child seated on each side of their aunt while Darcy sat alone on the other side of the table.
Afterwards the twins insisted that their Aunt read them a bedtime story so while Darcy cleared up the dishes Dominique saw to getting the children ready for bed. By the time the smaller woman made her way upstairs the kids were tucked into bed and all that was needed was her nightly kiss.
"Thanks for putting them to bed," Darcy was appreciative of the help.
"No, problem, I kind of enjoy it," the taller woman admitted bashfully. "Dinner was really good, thank you. You are a wonderful cook."
"Thank you," this time it was the smaller woman's turn to be shy. "It's nice to be able to cook for someone who appreciates it."
"Doesn't dad appreciate your cooking?"
"Yes, your dad is wonderful," Darcy admitted softly.
"Then it's unanimous," Dominique smiled. "You can cook for me any time."
"Okay, than I expect you here every Thursday night," the smaller woman said.
"It's a date," the tall woman agreed.
"Speaking of dates, you don't have one this weekend do you?" the attorney took a deep breath and asked.
"Well, I thought if you didn't have anything else up, you would like to join kids and me for a trip to the zoo."
Dominique was silent as she considered the invitation. Her first response was to accept but she reigned in emotions in an attempt not to appear too eager. She considered any time away from work that she could spend with the smaller woman and her family a bonus.
"You think you need reinforcements?" She asked with narrowed eyes and Darcy burst out laughing.
"That wasn't the reason I invited you but now that I think about it that would probably be a good idea," the blond attorney said and this time it was the taller woman's turn to laugh. "The truth is the kids and I would just love your company."
"Well than how could I refuse," Dominique replied and noticed that the smile on the smaller woman's face grew.
"Great, I was hoping for an early start on Sunday, what do you think about coming here on Saturday evening and spending the night?"
"I will only consider it if you promise to cook for me again."
"I think that can be arranged," Darcy promised, feeling unexpectedly happy at the prospect that she would get to spend most of the weekend with the other woman.
Work kept them apart the next day but both women were preoccupied by the upcoming weekend. Both found their thoughts straying to the other and more than once Darcy found herself wondering what she really wanted from the tall dark haired executive. She knew without a doubt her feelings for the other woman were growing stronger with each day, yet she wasn't sure she just wanted a friendship or something more. She did acknowledge that she always felt much better when she was in the company of the other woman.
One thing she did decide was that for Saturday's dinner she would barbecue hot dogs for the children and steaks for the rest of the family. William was delighted by the evening and Mrs. Drayton was more than pleased to have an extra night off on the weekend. Though Sasha had plans to go out with her friends she postponed her departure time so that she could enjoy the meal with the rest of the family.
Dominique only found out that Darcy would be grilling their food when she arrived that afternoon. It was a beautiful day and a light warm wind was blowing in from the ocean. She offered to assist the smaller woman but Darcy chased her out to the backyard to play with the children, a task the older woman accepted with delight.
William sighed as he glanced around the scene surrounding him. He had ensconced himself on a chair on the patio not far from where Darcy was standing and barbecuing the steak. From his position he could watch as his two daughters frolicked around the yard with his two grandchildren kicking a soccer ball. It was a scene that he had imagined so many times and worried that would never become real. Privately he wished his wife was there to witness this family.
"What are you thinking about William?"
"What?" the man was jolted out of his revere by the question.
"You had a funny look on your face," Darcy said. She had been watching the man for a long moment and seen the serene expression on his face. "I was wondering what you were thinking."
"I was just congratulating myself on how lucky I am," the man replied honestly. "I have here everything I ever wanted, something money could never buy, the love of a great family. It's going to be hard when you all leave."
"You are expecting us to leave?" the blond woman was a little dismayed by the question and instantly she wondered if the man did regret them intruding on his quiet retirement by living with him.
"Eventually you will want to go," the man continued not daring to look at the young woman. "You are still young and are bound to meet someone who will take you all away."
"I'm not looking for anyone," Darcy assured the man glancing across the yard to where the children were now rolling around on the grass with their aunts. Her eyes honed in on the eldest of the women noting the way the twins gravitated towards her.
"That is usually when you find someone," William remarked glancing casually at his companion and noticing the direction of her gaze.
The woman was silent as she contemplated her response. Her initial reaction was to say no but the image of a woman popped into her head as her eyes continued to gaze at the small group playing on the lawn. A small smile touched the old man's lips. He suspected that he knew the answer to his question.
Before Darcy could form a response their private interlude was interrupted by the children who ran up begging her for the chance to go swimming. She glanced passed the twins to the women who had followed in their wake. Sasha and Dominique were both looking somewhat guilty.
"It's almost dinner time," she replied.
"Ahh mom," the pair whined, their voices joined by those of their aunts.
"Oh alright," the blond sighed dramatically. "I will wait to put the meat on the grill. You can go swimming but only if your aunts help you get ready."
"Yippee!!!" the twins shouted bouncing up and down on the balls of their feet. Instantly they grabbed Dominique's hands and dragged her towards the house. The quartet was back not long after dressed in their swim wear.
Darcy waited for half hour before putting the meat on the barbecue. Fifteen minutes later the food was ready and she called for them all to get out of the pool. She had set the dishes up on the patio table and within minutes they were all seated and enjoying the feast that she had prepared. Along with the meat she had chopped up potatoes and cooked up some corn on the cob.
"That was great," Dominique complimented her when they were cleaning up the used dishes.
"Thank you," Darcy was unusually pleased by the woman's compliment.
"Listen after you put the kids to bed, how about you and I going out for a drink," the dark haired woman blurted out before she changed her mind. "I know this great little pub not far from here."
"That sounds like a good idea," the small woman immediately agreed.
After washing up the dishes and tucking the children in to bed, she changed into a clean pair of khaki walking shorts and a matching khaki shirt. She found William in the den reading and asked if he could keep an ear out for the children.
"Darcy," he called out to her as she turned to leave. "What we talked about before dinner, sometimes the person most important to us is there right in front of us and we don't see them because we just weren't looking at them in the right way."
"What are you trying to say?" Darcy had a pretty good idea to whom the man was referring but she wanted to make certain.
"Dominique has all the qualities that would make her a good partner," he replied honestly.
"You don't have to tell me what I already know," the smaller woman replied.
"Then why do you hesitate?" He was curious.
"I guess because I don't want to make the same mistake twice," she answered honestly, "and I am not certain what it is exactly what I feel for Dominique."
"That's fair," William sighed. "I just didn't want you to discount her because she was a woman."
"No," Darcy gave him a small smile. "That isn't what is holding me back."
"Fair enough," the man nodded and waved. "Now go have a good time."
Darcy found the taller woman sitting on the stairwell waiting for her to appear. Dominique had seen that the smaller woman was talking to her father and by the low tones she sensed that they were having a serious discussion that she didn't want to intrude on. So she had settled on the steps to wait until they were done.
"Are you ready to go?" She popped up her blue eyes glancing over the casual yet dressy attire that clothed the smaller woman. "You look lovely."
"Thank you and yes I am ready," she nodded, taking note that the tall woman was dressed in a pair of tight fitting jeans and a white cotton shirt.
It was a short drive to their destination and Darcy was glad to find that the place wasn't busy. They managed to get a table near the jute box which was spewing out country and western tunes. She sat and waited until Dominique returned with their drinks.
"Do you come here often?" She asked when the taller woman sat down next to her.
Dominique laughed. "Don't you think this is my sort of place?"
Darcy was momentarily thoughtful. "No."
"Well, you are wrong," the dark haired woman replied. "Dad and I often come here for a beer when I am staying at the house for the weekend."
"I just didn't take you for a country and western enthusiast."
"Ah, I never said I liked the music," the tall woman corrected and laughed with the younger woman smacked her on the arm.
"You're teasing me."
"Only partly," Dominique smiled. "Dad and I do come here often. It's a quiet place where everyone leaves you alone. It's nice not to be bothered."
"Were you bothered a lot when you were in your sporting career?"
"Yes," the dark head nodded. "I still get recognized on occasion and asked for an autograph."
"Do you miss it?"
"Nope," Dominique shook her head again. "I miss the training and the high I used to get from it but I don't miss the attention that came with being a winning athlete. I kind of like the anonymity that I have now."
"Did you ever have a problem because you were gay?" Darcy wanted to know.
"It was never an issue," the tall woman shrugged. "I didn't flaunt my sexuality but I never shied away from who I was. Of course I was too busy with my training and wrapped up with my sports career to actually have a relationship."
"Why, so many others find the time to get involved?"
"Yes, but I never thought it was fair to bring another person into it and expect them to give up their life to be with me, which is what they would have had to do if there was to be any type of relationship. When I wasn't off competing somewhere in the world I was at the training center putting in long days exercising and studying." She paused. "How come you haven't remarried?"
"That's a simple answer," Darcy said. "I never found anyone that I was interested in and I was too busy balancing my career and the children to worry about going out and meeting someone."
"What about now?"
"I guess I am not really interested in meeting anyone new," the small woman confessed. "I kind of like my life the way it is right now."
"Don't you get lonely?"
"Sometimes but I don't want to get involved with anyone just because I am alone," the blond attorney shrugged and blue and green eyes met. "What is your excuse?"
"I have none," was the candid response. "Besides if I was seeing someone I would be able to enjoy myself like I have today."
"The kids adore you."
"The feeling is mutual," Dominique replied.
The two women sat for another two hours talking about anything and everything so that when it was finally time to go home both were disappointed that the evening had come to an end.
"I really enjoyed myself today," the tall woman said when they had returned to the house. "I hope we can do this again soon."
"Anytime you want," Darcy said and then before she lost her courage she stood on her tip toes and leaned forward intent on kissing the taller woman but once again the opportunity was lost when the front door burst open and Sasha bounded into the house. The two women hastily moved apart.
"Sorry," the younger woman said sheepishly knowing that her arrival had once again been untimely for her sister. She bounded up the front steps calling over her shoulder. "Maybe you guys should get a hotel room."
"That might be the only solution," Darcy sighed half-heartedly.
"No," Dominique shook her head and stepped forward wrapping the smaller woman in a tight embrace before bending her head down for the kiss that she had been waiting so long for.
Darcy couldn't help but think of how soft the other woman's lips were or how good the kiss tasted. Without consciously telling herself to she responded to the embrace, wrapping her own arms around the tall woman's slender waist as two large hands cupped her face. After what seemed like forever their lips broke apart but their bodies stayed in contact.
"That was nice," Dominique commented softly as she rubbed the pads of her thumbs over the bruised lips of the younger woman.
"Yes, it was," the blond attorney agreed and impishly opened her mouth and gently bit down on one of the taller woman's thumb causing her to illicit a soft moan.
"You're killing me," the dark haired woman sighed.
"I hope not," Darcy replied pleased that she could illicit such feelings in the other woman. "I'd hate to be out of a job."
Dominique laughed quietly. "As much as I would like to stay here all night I think we should go to bed. If I know anything about those kids we will need all our strength for tomorrow."
"Spoken like a true parent," the smaller woman quipped before leaning in once more for another quick peck on the lips before turning and bounding up the stairs to her room.
Dominique sighed and watched her go, wanting more yet knowing that she had to be patient.
To say that the children were excited about their upcoming adventure would be to put it mildly. They were up early dragging their mother out of bed in their eagerness to be on their way. It was hard for Darcy to settle them down enough to eat their breakfast but finally they were fed and dressed and ready to go.
Because Darcy's SUV had the car seats they took her vehicle and following directions from her adult companion they managed to avoid the worst of the traffic heading into the city. Finally they arrived at the Central Park Wildlife Center.
After paying the modest entrance fee they wandered through the Park stopping at the various displays to watch the monkeys swing from one branch to another before moving on through the area known as the Tropic Zone a place that housed all sorts of wildlife known to inhabit the tropics.
From the recreated rainforest they wandered to the Polar Circle to watch the polar bears frolic in the water. The tuxedo clad penguins made the twins laugh. They finished their tour in the Temperate Territory where they mused over the various animals found there. When they were done the children were hungry so they stopped at a snack kiosk and ordered hot dogs and ice cream for them all. By the time they headed home the children were happy but exhausted and not long after they had started driving before the twins were sound asleep in their seats.
Darcy glanced at the woman who was sitting in the passenger seat. Dominique had been the perfect companion never once complaining when the children's enthusiasm became too much. She had not rejected the children when they requested a ride on her shoulders. The dark haired woman had been attentive to the twins answering their questions with a patience that Darcy had rarely seen.
"You were great today," she felt the need to tell the woman beside her.
"Thanks," Dominique flashed a brief smile. "I don't know how you handle them on a day to day basis. They are exhausting."
Darcy laughed lightly. "I think I grew into it." She paused and became more serious. "But don't think that they still don't wear me out because some days they have me dragging my feet."
"Well, you don't have to do it alone anymore," the dark haired woman said as she stifled a yawn.
The blond attorney caught the action and smiled. "Why don't you take a nap?"
"That would be rude," Dominique said and silence lapsed between the two women. It wasn't more than a few minutes later that Darcy glanced at her companion and saw that she had fallen asleep.
She smiled to herself and felt a warm feeling in her heart that had been missing for a very long time. She knew without a doubt that she was beginning to have strong feelings for her companion; she just didn't know how to deal with them.
The others were still sleeping when she finally parked the car in the driveway of the house. Darcy turned in her seat and watched them all for a peaceful moment. She knew that the children would be cranky when they were first awakened and so she hesitated, her green eyes focusing on the sleeping profile of the dark haired woman. There was a twinge in her heart and she realized that she was beginning to fall in love with Dominique.
The realization didn't come as a shock. Instead it was a pleasant feeling that descended over her. With Perry it had been different and she realized that she had been too young to understand that love was more than just an emotion. It was a bunch of things combined and that a relationship needed more than love, it needed a friendship and respect. Perry had never respected her. He had never taken into consideration what her needs were. He had been selfish and she had been stupid to ignore all the signs.
Darcy knew that Dominique was as different from her brother as two siblings could be. The dark haired woman was a caring and considerate woman who was willing to put her own needs aside for those that she loved. Darcy knew that being with Dominique would never be a chore and that the other woman would treat her with respect.
With her mind clearly decided Darcy leaned forward and gently placed her lips on the taller woman's, moving back slightly as the other woman began to stir. She watched as cloudy blue eyes fluttered open and took a moment to register where they were at.
"Are we home?" The dark haired woman asked roughly.
"We're home," Darcy nodded and watched as the older woman glanced over her shoulder at the twins.
"They're still sleeping."
"All that walking exhausted them," the smaller woman replied.
"I guess we should get them inside," Dominique sighed straightening in her seat she flashed her companion an embarrassed smile. "Sorry I fell asleep on you."
"No worries, I knew that you were tired," Darcy assured her companion.
"Sometimes their mere energy wears me out," the taller woman confided and the attorney laughed.
"Welcome to parenthood."
"I wish I were their parent," Dominique replied shyly unable to meet the other woman's gaze.
"Would you like to be?" Darcy asked seriously.
"Parenthood just isn't about having fun," the small attorney replied. "It's getting angry with them when they mess up. It is disciplining them when they misbehave and then there is their mother to deal with."
"What do I have to know about their mother?"
"That she needs attention sometimes too," Darcy replied lightly.
"What kind of attention?" Dominique asked straightening in her seat.
"A cuddle and a kiss maybe to start," the smaller woman continued in light tones and it took the older woman a moment to decipher what her companion was saying.
"I think I could handle that," was the solemn reply as Dominique leaned forward and captured the smaller woman's lips with her own. The kiss was sweet and tender and after a long moment the two women drew apart.
"That was nice," Darcy murmured lightly running her tongue over her lips.
"I can do nicer," the dark haired woman replied and the blond woman smiled as she reached out and gently ran her hand up and down a slender arm.
"You probably can," she said and then green eyes met blue. "But I am not ready for that. I need to take it slow."
"I can go slow," Dominique promised her companion. The woman knew it to be the truth for she had already waited six years.
The taller woman was true to her promise and never once pushed the younger woman to deepen their budding relationship. Over the next few weeks they spent as much time as possible together when they were away from work. They played and entertained the children when they were awake and after settling them into bed they would spend the remaining evening hours together either sitting in the den talking or walking around the neighbourhood.
It was a pleasurable time for both women and as their relationship progressed Darcy slowly began to lose her inhibitions and the physical contact between them grew, their kisses deepening and lasting longer than ever before. Unable to prevent herself, Darcy found herself seeking out the contact of the other woman's body, an ache growing deep inside that she knew only the tall executive could assuage.
Her thoughts began to dwell on what it would be like to sleep with the tall woman. How it would feel to have their naked bodies rub against each other in the heat of passion. She did not have much experience before marrying Perry but she could never remember wanting to touch someone or hold them as much as she began to long doing so with Dominique.
For her part the tall woman struggled to maintain a distance between them, feeling close to losing control when they were alone together. She wanted nothing more than to caress the small woman and bring her to joy and ecstasy in her arms. But she waited for the other woman to give her the signal that she needed and knowing that patience would bring her reward.
At work things were just as good. After a lot of research Darcy found out what had been bothering her most about the property that the Saabo Company had been looking to purchase. She immediately went to Dominique's office to share the news.
"What did you find out?" the dark haired executive asked when the smaller woman came bounding into her office.
"I remembered what Garrett had mentioned about the place so I decided to follow up on what he had found out," Darcy explained. "There used to be part of a dumping site on the property when it was originally owned by the city. It hasn't been developed since because it doesn't meet EPA standards."
"Gods, I never thought of that," Garrett admitted his mistake. "I just assumed it had passed the necessary tests."
"I had assumed it as well," Dominique admitted as well. "How much will it cost to clean up?"
"More than we would make in the long run," Darcy said plunking a sheath of papers down on the taller woman's desk. "You can see for yourself."
The dark haired executive looked over the numbers before passing them over to Garrett who also glanced over them. Blue eyes met green.
"You did a good job," Dominique congratulated the blond attorney the smile on her face reaching to her eyes.
"Thanks," Darcy felt particularly proud of herself and warm from the praise.
The Fourth of July holiday was a spectacular affair as William hired people to transform the place; hiring caterer's to cook the food and a small circus to set up their tents for the children's enjoyment. There was a woman who made cotton candy and popcorn and a clown that wandered around the proceedings fashioning balloon animals for the children in attendance. Darcy was amazed by the effort that was put into the affair.
"Father and mother used to have these parties before she died. Afterwards he lost interest," Dominique explained. "With grandchildren now to entertain he has got the festive spirit back. I can only imagine what Christmas will be like this year."
"It seems rather extravagant," the attorney commented.
"Perhaps," the tall woman shrugged carelessly. "He has the money to spend so it doesn't really matter. For the most part all he cares about is whether everyone is having fun and by the expressions on the twins face I would say he succeeded."
"Yes, but I worry that the children are beginning to think of him as their own personal Santa Claus."
"Do you want me to have a word with dad?" Dominique asked and Darcy silently contemplated the question. She stared across the yard to where the twins were bouncing along from animal pen to animal pen, dragging their laughing grandfather behind them. She knew in that instant she couldn't deny him the pleasure of spoiling his grandchildren.
"No," she sighed and then smiled at her companion. "I think we are all enjoying being spoiled by the Saabo family."
The tall woman grinned and hastily leaned in for a kiss. "And the Saabo family loves to spoil you all."
In spite of her words Darcy still kept an eye on her children and made sure that they didn't have too much candy, yet despite her vigilance the twins ultimately had to many sweets and both ended up with tummy aches.
"I'm sorry," William apologized to his daughter-in-law. "I wasn't thinking."
"It's all right," the small blond woman shook her head. "It was my fault I should have been watching them more closely."
"No," the older man sighed shaking his own head. "I have forgotten that children need limits. I'll take care of them if you want."
"No, you enjoy the party, I will take them to their room and put them to bed," Darcy said gathering the whining children together to take them back into the house. "They should be better after a nap."
"I'll help you," Dominique was immediately by her side and together they got the children up to the house and to the bathroom just in time for them to both throw up the contents of their stomach.
Darcy tended to Dominic while Dominique handled Alex, both holding the children over the toilet bowl as they puked. After cleaning them up they dressed them into their bed clothes and then tucked them into bed.
"They will be better tomorrow," Darcy said running a tired hand through her blond hair.
Unfortunately neither of the children was better in the morning and at William's insistence they contacted a doctor who came over and confirmed that the children had contacted a twenty four hour virus.
"Father will be relieved," the tall dark haired woman commented after the physician had departed. "He was worried that he had done something to cause the twins to be ill."
Darcy sought out her worried father-in-law to assure him that it wasn't his fault and that the twins would be better in a few days. Sure enough after several days in bed the children were as good as new and bothering their mother about going swimming. In between they kept their mother and aunt running with their various requests.
"I don't know how you did it on your own," Dominique commented later that evening after they had gotten both the children settled in bed for the night. The two women had retreated to the library and were slumped on the sofa enjoying a late evening drink.
"You get used to it," Darcy said and then looked at her companion. "I appreciate all your help."
"Like I said before you don't have to do it all by yourself anymore," the tall woman said taking a sip from her glass.
"No, and I appreciate that," the blond woman said and then felt an urge to show her appreciation with more than just words. She turned to her companion and leaned forward placing a tender kiss on the other woman's cheek.
"That's all I get?" Dominique complained with good humour.
"You want more?"
"Yes, mam," the dark haired woman nodded her head and blue and green eyes locked on each other for a moment. There was silence as the air between the two women suddenly became electric.
Nothing more needed to be said and quietly Dominique turned her body, gently taking the glass from her companions hand before setting them on the coffee table. Then with infinite patience she reached out and slowly traced the smaller woman's features with her fingertips.
The action was so intimate and erotic that Darcy felt herself unexpectedly growing wet with anticipation. It was an unconscious action that she realized was happening more and more often when the taller woman touched her. It was something that was unfamiliar for with Perry she had always needed allot of foreplay before she was ready.
After what seemed like an eternity Dominique slowly moved in placing her lips tenderly on her smaller companions, brushing them gently first before leaning in for a more passionate embrace. Darcy responded naturally, returning the kiss with more passion then she realized. It was a long while before the kiss was broken.
"Oh God I want you," the taller woman said in a low voice that was thick with passion.
"Then do something about it," Darcy replied almost shocking herself with the words. But she knew as soon as they were out that she wanted to sleep with this woman as much as Dominique wanted to sleep with her.
"Are you sure?" the dark haired woman croaked, blue eyes searching her companions face for some sign to know that she wasn't joking. She didn't know if she could handle it if the smaller woman was teasing her.
"Yes." The blond woman nodded her head and to re-enforce her words she stood up and held out her hand to the taller woman. She had seen the compassionate way that the older woman had treated her children in their illness and she wanted to be treated with the same tenderness.
Dominique led the smaller woman up to her room and then slowly and tenderly made love to the blond woman. She undressed her companion, showing patience by dropping kisses on her body as their clothes were shed on the floor. Only once they were both naked did she lead them to the bed.
Dominique took her time in loving the other woman. Slowly covering the smaller naked body with kisses and stroking her body lovingly before attempting to thrust into her. Darcy reveled in the attention responding in kind to each touch and kiss with one of her own.
When they finally came together it was glorious, each woman reaching their climax together as their bodies melded and molded together. When it was over they clung to each other, their sweating bodies wrapped together in a tight embrace from which either would be separated.
"Darcy, marry me," Dominique spoke the words without thinking and a long silence ensued. Blue eyes looked down at green orbs.
"Are you sure?" Darcy finally managed to speak. The proposal had caught her off guard and she hadn't been sure how to answer.
"I've never been more certain about anything then I am about this," the tall woman said, her hands stroking the smaller woman's frame. "I can be good to you. You know that I will treat you with respect and I love the children."
The blond woman was silent as she contemplated her response. Dominique had never been anything but good to her and she knew the other woman would treat her and the children right. She also knew that she was very fond of the other woman. More than fond she had to admit to herself. She was in love with Dominique and yet in spite of this knowledge she hesitated. She suspected it was because she had not yet learned to trust anyone again.
"You can trust me," Dominique said as if reading the smaller woman's mind. "I promise to be faithful to you, always."
"How can you promise that?" Darcy wanted to know.
"Because I know what kind of person I am and I know what kind of person you deserve," the dark haired executive replied. "I promise to love you for as long as I live."
The words were so passionately spoken that Darcy knew that the other woman truly believed what she said. Blue and green orbs met and held again for a long moment and the blond woman slowly nodded her head.
"Yes," she said feeling afraid yet certain she was doing the right thing. "Yes, I will marry you."
The only person more delighted by the news then Dominique was William who immediately set about arranging an engagement party. Any trepidation she might have felt was swept away by the excitement of the upcoming event. Even her children seemed to be happier with the news.
"Your mommy is going to marry Auntie Dom," Darcy tried explaining the situation to her children one day. "You understand she will no longer be your auntie."
"She won't be our auntie?" Both children expressed their concern in unison.
"No," the young attorney smiled. "She will be your other mommy. Would you like that?"
There was silence as the children contemplated what their mother had said and Darcy wasn't certain they understood.
"Aren't you going to be our mommy anymore?" Dominic asked with a deep frown on his young face.
"I will always be your mommy," Darcy said. "But you will have a second mommy, who will be your Auntie Dominique."
There was silence again as the two children looked at each other for a long moment before turning to their mother. There were still frowns on their faces and Darcy knew that they were still too young to understand what was going on.
"Can we still go swimming with her?" Alex wanted to know and Darcy laughed.
"Yes, and you won't have to ask me anymore." Her words brought a cheer from the twins for this was one thing they did understand.
Darcy didn't realize how much she had changed until the evening of the engagement party. She was standing in front of the mirror applying the last of her make-up when she paused to look at her reflection. It was the same face but there was something different in her eyes. It was like she was looking at a different person, someone familiar but also someone very new. She slumped down into a chair, violently shaking her head.
She had promised herself that she would never let it happen again but it had, sneaking up to catch her unexpectedly. She closed her eyes and tried to will away the truth but the gesture was fruitless as a cavalcade of emotions suddenly assaulted her senses.
She moaned softly, wondering what she was going to do. Since that night she had accepted the proposal she had not bothered to analyze the feelings that had assaulted her. Now, before possibly the biggest night of her life she was scared. Not because she didn't love Dominique, it had become apparent to her that she was in love with the other woman, she was afraid that her love would lead her astray once more.
"Mommy is everything all right?" a childish voice asked and Darcy opened her eyes to see her daughter standing next to her.
"Yes dear, why?"
"You look sad," the little girl was honest and Darcy reached over and lifted the child onto her lap.
"Mommy isn't sad," she tried to be honest. "Mommy is just nervous about grampa's party tonight."
"I wish I could come," Alex said with a pout and her mother squeezed her tightly.
"I wish you could too, but it's a party only for grownups."
"Are Auntie Dom and Auntie Sasha going to?"
"Yes," Darcy nodded, tenderly combing the girl's hair, its strands felt like silken threads on her fingers. "You like your Auntie's don't you?"
"Yes, very much," the child bobbed her head emphatically and twisted around to gaze at her mother. "Do you like Auntie Dom?"
"Yes, very much," Darcy nodded using her daughters own words. "That is why I am going to marry her."
"Does she like us?" There was a slight hint of uncertainty in the child's doe like green eyes.
"Yes she loves both Nick and you," she assured the little girl.
"I think she loves you too," Alex announced knowledgably. "She thinks you are very pretty mommy."
"How do you know that?"
"I heard her say that to grampa."
"Well, I think she thinks you are very pretty," Darcy said hugging the child tightly to her bosom, feeling an overpowering love for the little girl. She eased the child onto the floor. "Now sweetheart help me finish dressing before Auntie Dom comes up here to see what's keeping me."
Darcy saw Dominique standing at the bottom of the landing conversing with her son. The two turned in unison as she slowly descended the steps with Alex in her wake. She had bought a long blue satin dress with imbedded sequins that sparkled when she moved. Upon reaching the bottom she did a pirouette for their benefit.
"You look good mommy," Nicky was the first to offer his opinion and she smiled at her son graciously.
"You look more than good," Dominique breathed mesmerized by the sight of the other woman. Her heart skipped a beat. "You look absolutely beautiful."
She took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the subtle scent of the small blonde's perfume. She stared at the creamy white skin of her bare shoulders and arms, her heart pounding so loudly she thought it might explode. She didn't think she had ever seen anyone more beautiful.
"Thank you, you are both too kind," she curtsied, glancing from her son back to her fiancée. She felt a flutter in her stomach for Dominique looked gorgeous in a simple dark pantsuit with deep red shirt. "You look wonderful."
"Thank you," the taller woman beamed for she could tell by the expression in the other woman's eyes that she meant every word. At that moment she didn't want to go to any party. All she wanted to do was take the smaller woman back to the bedroom and make love until they could no longer move.
"We better get going," Darcy reminded gently. "Your father wanted us there by seven."
"Yes," the dark haired woman nodded regaining her senses though she knew that she would always be a little off balance in the other woman's presence.
Darcy gave each of the children another hug before following the other woman out to the waiting car. William had departed hours earlier, anxious to get into the city to ensure that all the necessary arrangements had been taken care of. Both women knew it was a big night for the old man.
Her stomach was a tightly knotted ball of nerves by the time they reached their destination. She clung to Dominique's hand as if she were a little girl, drawing strength from the taller woman's presence. She had never enjoyed large social functions and she didn't think today would be an exception.
Darcy remembered the Windsor room from years past and it was remarkable how little had changed. William had rented the entire dinner club and on this night it was packed with people. They entered the room to a thunderous applause and then were escorted through the throng to a table at the front where William was standing on a podium with a microphone. A spotlight came on bathing them in a brilliant glow of light.
"Welcome ladies and gentlemen," the older man hushed the crowd. There was a proud smile on his face. "First I want to thank you all for coming out tonight to help me celebrate this wonderful occasion.
"Most of you know that it was always my fondest wish that my eldest daughter Dominique get married. Well, she has finally found someone who was willing to join with her and be her life partner." The man paused as another thunderous round of clapping and cheering erupted. William had to raise his hands to silence the assembly. "I would like you all to join me in offering a toast of congratulations to my daughter Dominique and her fiancée Darcy Ryan."
There was a collective cheer as glasses were raised in honour of the couple. No sooner had the drinks been tasted when the familiar clanging of glasses erupted. Dominique responded without warning, taking the smaller woman into her arms and dipping her backwards to kiss her passionately. The crowd roared their approval even as Darcy flushed red with embarrassment, unaware that it only heightened her beauty.
"Enjoy yourselves," William exalted, the smile still beaming from his face. He motioned the band to start playing and then escorted the couple to the head table where the rest of the family sat waiting.
Darcy was introduced to an assortment of Saabo relations, Aunts and Uncles that she had not been privy to knowing during her marriage to Perry. She felt a little overwhelmed and welcomed the steady hand on her back as Dominique stayed close by her side. Finally they were at a table where her fiancée's sisters were sitting.
"It was about time you finally saw Dominique for who she was," Sasha admonished lightly as they embraced. "It was cruel of you to leave her hanging for so long. Her endless pining was getting a little sickening but one look at you and it is easy to see why she was willing to wait."
"I am sure you are exaggerating," Darcy was slightly embarrassed. She glanced sideways at Dominique but she was thoroughly engaged in a conversation with her brother-in-law. "I can't see Dominique pining over anyone."
"Then you don't know her will enough yet," Renee, the middle sister injected with an amused snort. "When you left she was absolutely miserable and nasty to all of us for a long time. She was such a pig it was quite impossible to be happy around her."
"She was so utterly in love with you," Sasha continued unaware they were making their future sister-in-law uncomfortable. "She lived like a nun and wouldn't date any of the women we set her up with. All she did was work and go out with her friends."
"The change that came over her when you got back together was incredible," Renee sighed. "You should have heard her when she told us you had two gorgeous babies. It was particularly cruel of you for keeping them a secret. It would have kept father from continuing to hound us about having children."
The sisters all agreed on that conclusion and Darcy was relieved when Dominique rescued her, escorting her to a chair.
"Don't mind them," her fiancée whispered in her ear. "They can be a little overwhelming when they get together."
Darcy didn't dispute that claim and instead concentrated on the food. William had gone all out for the occasion, ordering a six course dinner with roast duck as the main entrée. All through the meal people stopped by the table to wish them congratulations. She was introduced to so many people that after a while the names and faces ran together in one solid blur.
She didn't know how she managed to finish her meal with all the interruptions. She continually sipped on her glass of wine marveling that it never got empty even while she was aware that she was beginning to feel a little light headed.
It was disconcerting to realize how well connected the Saabo family was or how many friends her fiancée had. During their brief time together Dominique had not introduced her to many people and yet that evening she was conversing easily with famous people from her sporting days.
Her lack of family and friends was never more evident than when the speeches were made. It was after dessert was served that several of Dominique's friends took over the podium to relate amusing anecdotes about the tall woman. Darcy stared at her fiancée while the crowd laughed and applauded, aware that she really knew very little about the woman.
It was William who went up to the microphone and said a few words about her. The speech was so eloquent that she found tears welling up in her eyes.
Dominique was the last one up and she thoughtfully gave the small woman a toast before thanking everyone for coming. When she finished the band struck up a hauntingly romantic tune and the tall woman led the blond out onto the empty dance floor. Hundreds of pairs of eyes watched as they glided around the room together.
"I don't know you," she said softly, speaking her thoughts out loud.
"You know the most important thing about me," the dark haired woman disagreed in an equally quiet voice. Suddenly they were alone, oblivious to all else as their bodies moved in perfect unison to the music, their hearts beating as one.
"I know nothing," Darcy whispered the disclaimer as their eyes locked together.
"Then know this," Dominique said in a husky voice, stopping them so she could cup the heart shaped face between her palms. Darcy rested her hands naturally on her companions hips, her body settled against the taller frame. "Know that I would do anything for you and the children. Know that I would destroy myself before I let anyone hurt you."
With that she kissed her with a passion and tenderness that left her breathless and shaking. Darcy flushed with embarrassment as the room erupted with spontaneous applause. When the music started again she was in the arms of her father-in-law.
"You don't know how happy it makes me feel to see Dominique and you together," William said as they whirled around the room. They were now joined on the dance floor by others. "I was worried about her for a long time but now because of you I don't have to worry anymore."
"You are putting too much faith in me," she said quietly feeling uncomfortable with his adoration. "A year from now Dominique might have changed her mind."
"A woman like her does not cling to a dream for six years and then let it slip away when it is in her grasp," the man said solemnly. "When a woman loves you as much as my daughter loves you, she won't let it go."
"Perhaps she cares too much," she said softly.
"A woman can never love too much," the man disagreed. "She can love foolishly, carelessly or obsessively, but if she truly loves, it can never be enough."
There was a slight pause as the man's eyes narrowed. "What makes you afraid?"
"That I might never be able to care enough," she was honest and unable to meet his gaze.
"I don't think you realize how much you do care," the man said finally as the music ended.
Without giving her a chance to respond, he led her back to the table where Dominique was standing, talking to Garrett Andersen. Darcy paused in mid-stride, her heart thudding loudly as her eyes caught sight of the woman at his side.
"We just came over to add our own congratulations," the man said with a bright smile. "This is my wife Lisa. You might remember her from your last tenure at Sable. She worked in the accounting department."
Darcy felt completely numb as she politely extended her hand. Her whole body felt stiff. Lisa Woodley looked slightly embarrassed by the awkward moment and glanced shyly at her husband before accepting the greeting.
"Yes, I remember," she smiled politely and turned to Dominique. "If you will please excuse me, I think I have had too much to drink and need some fresh air."
Without waiting for her reply she turned and fled through the crowd, out onto the balcony. She gulped the fresh night air, breathing deeply to steady her shaken nerves.
"Darcy, are you all right?" Darcy whirled around to see Dominique standing behind her.
"How could you?" she demanded in a harsh bitter voice. "How could you invite her here?"
"I invited Garrett," the tall woman replied with an impatient frown. "I couldn't tell him to leave his wife at home."
"Why didn't you at least tell me?" she asked accusingly. "Why didn't you tell me they were married?"
"I didn't think it mattered," the executive replied softly, reaching out for her. Darcy pushed her hand away and stepped out of reach.
"Of course it matters," the smaller woman snorted contemptuously. "No woman likes to have her former husband's mistress at her engagement party."
Dominique pursed her lips together, her hands flexing into tight balls as she restrained her emotions. She knew that her fiancée still had some unresolved issues. Without a word she spun on her heel and marched stiffly back into the banquet room, leaving her alone. Though it was warm Darcy shivered uncontrollably. She turned to stare out over the lawns, tears moistening her eyes.
"Mrs. Saabo, I mean Miss Ryan," Darcy turned her head at the sound of her name. She saw the other woman standing a short distance away.
"What do you want?" The blond attorney asked with a hint of bitterness that made the other woman cringe.
"Garrett doesn't know what happened in the past," the woman said in a rush nervously twisting her fingers together. "I have never told him about what happened in the past with your husband."
"Why should I keep it a secret?" Darcy asked blandly. "Why shouldn't he know the truth about what kind of woman his wife is?"
"Because it would hurt our marriage," Lisa said anxiously.
"Would it hurt as badly as you hurt my marriage?" Darcy asked unable to hide her scorn. She shook her head when the woman didn't answer and turned to look out over the lawns.
"It wouldn't serve any purpose," the other woman said biting down on her lower lip. "It's over and in the past. Perry is dead and you are with the one you love."
"I loved Perry," was the heated reply.
"Did you love him as much as you love Dominique Saabo?" Lisa asked bravely and Darcy turned away. "You may have loved Perry but you weren't happy with him. I think you always loved Dominique and that's why Perry turned to me."
"Don't flatter yourself," Darcy was quick to correct the woman's naïve assumption. "The line Perry gave you was bullshit. Do you know how many paternity settlements I had to contend with after he died? Perry didn't know the meaning of love or faithfulness."
There was silence for a long moment as the other woman contemplated what had been said. Darcy stared at her feeling unexpected compassion, aware that the woman had been as naïve as herself. She sighed.
"I won't say anything to Garrett but please understand if I don't associate with you."
The woman nodded and turned to go but paused after taking a step. "Perhaps it was good for us that Perry died. We both ended up with the people we should belong too. Who knows if that would have happened if he hadn't been killed."
Darcy turned and watched as the other woman walked away, wondering if the woman wasn't right. It was all so complicated yet really so simple.
"She's right you know," an old familiar voice interrupted her thoughts and the smaller woman stared at the shadows, watching as a face from her past emerged, cigarette in hand.
"Julia, what are you doing here?" She was stunned to see her former sister-in-law.
"I am here in the company of a friend," the older woman said vaguely. "I was overwhelmingly curious."
The small blond watched as the woman walked towards her. In the artificial light she could see that the woman had aged. She was as beautiful but there was a harder look to her features. There was dullness in her eyes. The years of strain had begun to take its toll.
"The woman was right," Julia continued when Darcy didn't speak. She puffed on her cigarette. "You weren't really happy with Perry you were just living and acting as his little puppet."
"That's a lie," was the adamant reply but the woman laughed.
"Deny the truth if you want but in reality you were miserable with Perry. That's why you buried yourself in your work," Julia smiled dryly. "You were doing whatever he wanted just so that there wouldn't be any problems. You had yourself so convinced you were in love with him when truthfully you weren't or otherwise you wouldn't have dived into bed with someone else so quickly after he died. Why else did you get rid of everything that reminded you of him?"
Darcy was silent wondering how the other woman knew what had happened with Dominique so many years ago. The tall dark haired woman wasn't one to boast about their liaison. She looked at her companion and saw by the expression on the other woman's face she knew that Julia had been guessing.
"What makes you think you know me so well?"
"Because we are alike," the woman said bluntly. "If Perry hadn't died you would be married to him still and behaving the same as me."
"No," the smaller blond woman shook her head. "We are not alike and had Perry still been alive it would be highly unlikely that we would still be married."
"Keep telling yourself that," Julia snorted and then wandered away.
Darcy could not help feel sorry for the other woman. Suddenly she needed to see Dominique, to hold her and to say what was beginning to fill her heart. She knew something was wrong the minute she stepped back into the club.
There was a crowd of people gathered around the head table. But what stood out were the men wearing the recognizable blue uniforms and the stretcher laden with assorted medical aids scattered nearby. She pushed a path through the curious onlookers and saw to her horror that William was sprawled out on the floor.
Her eyes flew from the stricken man to Dominique who was kneeling by his side, holding her father's hand and talking softly as the attendants did their work. She didn't think about anything after that except her father-in-law.
She didn't remember how they got to the hospital. All she could remember was following her tall fiancée. She sat in the waiting room with the others, her eyes on her lover as she paced anxiously around the room. It seemed like an eternity before a doctor appeared.
"Your father has suffered a heart attack," the medical professional said. "We won't know at least forty eight hours the exact extent of the damage."
"May we see him?" Dominique wanted to know.
"Briefly," the doctor cautioned. "He is conscious but in a lot of pain."
A nurse escorted them to the man's bedside in the intensive care unit. The sight of the once vital man lying still on the bed, his skin as pale as the sheets that covered his body, caused an agonizing pain in her heart.
Tubes of all sizes were hooked up to the beeping machines which were attached to the man. Heaviness surrounded her heart. This man believed in her and she didn't want to think that he might be taken away.
She glanced at Dominique as she stepped up to the side of the bed and clasp her father's fragile hand between her own. She had seen fear and pain in the tall woman's blue eyes but now those emotions were masked. There was strength and confidence in her features as she squeezed the old man's hand tightly. The love between father and daughter was never more evident than at that moment, when all their affection was displayed in a simple touch.
For an instant Darcy felt like she was intruding and was about to silently back out the door when William turned his head and looked in her direction. Tears filled her eyes as he lifted his hand and instantly she was at his side, her hands gripping his.
"I'm sorry for spoiling your evening," he mouthed the words. She bent her head, tears glistening in her eyes.
"Don't apologize, just concentrate on getting better. Your grandchildren and I love you," she whispered softly in his ear. "You were right and I thank you for making me realize the truth."
She kissed him then and a slight smile appeared on his ashen face. They stood for a moment longer before taking their leave. Instead of immediately returning to the waiting room they walked along the corridor.
"Are you all right?" She asked quietly watching as the tall woman raked a hand through her thick dark hair.
"Yes," Dominique sighed and Darcy knew she was hurting. She knew that as the eldest that Dominique believed that she had to be strong. She wanted to help so she did the only thing she knew how. She stepped up and wrapped her arms tightly around the taller woman's waist.
Dominique stood stiffly for a moment and then relaxed, returning the embrace with an intensity that was both frightening and thrilling. They stood wrapped together for a long time.
"He will be all right," she said confidentially squeezing her fiancée. "He is not ready to die."
"No I suppose not," the dark haired woman said even though privately she was less certain. She released the smaller woman and raked her hand through her dark hair once again. "One is never prepared for the moment when they realize that their parents are mortal. I lost my mother years ago but some days it seems like only yesterday. I am not ready to lose my father."
Darcy didn't know what to say. She did not have the close relationship with her parents that Dominique had with hers. The last time she had spoken to her mother was at Christmas and it had been a brief conversation with a woman she had not seen in four years. As for her father she had all but lost touch with the man.
"I have to go to the office tomorrow and make arrangements to postpone the deal with the Tokyo Group. I was supposed to fly to Hong Kong this week." The tall woman commented absently, mentally trying to sort everything out in her head.
"Don't worry about the business," the smaller woman said quietly. "I will make sure everything is taken care of. You just worry about your father."
Dominique was about to protest but there was a determined look on the smaller woman's face.
"Let me help you," Darcy's appeal went straight to the taller woman's heart and she nodded. That night she stayed at the hospital while the smaller woman returned home to her children.
By Monday, William was better yet still gravely ill. Darcy stopped at the hospital with a fresh set of clothes for Dominique before continuing on to the office. In the tall executive's absence she took charge and though the others were initially surprised by this unexpected turn of events, her authoritative attitude brought no argument. By the end of the day she had come to a decision about the Tokyo Group Deal.
That night Darcy stopped at the hospital. The prognosis for William was good though his condition was still critical. She persuaded Dominique to take a break and drove her to a nearby restaurant.
Her heart ached at the sight of the tall woman's haggard face. Dominique had spent the last two nights sleeping in a chair at her father's bedside. Darcy wanted to hold the older woman tight and make things better but it was impossible. The most she could do was see that the dark haired executive was eating properly and not worrying about the company.
"I decided to close the Tokyo Group Deal," she said hesitantly towards the end of the meal. "I have read all the data and it looks pretty straight forward. I thought to take Garrett Andersen's team with me just in case."
Dominique frowned, though she was silent for a moment and it was as if the smaller woman could read her thoughts.
"I have done this before albeit a long time ago," the blond woman said hastily. "And you said William and you both wanted me to learn the business to takeover if ever needed. It's a chance for me to get my feet wet."
"It's too soon," the other woman shook her head.
"It's the perfect time," Darcy disagreed. "You said it yourself if the deal didn't close they would go elsewhere. The group has been shopping around and already has someone waiting. If we don't do it now we'll lose it all."
The tall woman stared at her, knowing that she was right. She tried to think of some other solution but her mind came up blank. If she didn't trust Darcy now she might never trust her.
"The deal is set," Dominique said looking down at her plate. "They might come to the table and want to change things, don't let them. Our profit is slim right now so we can't afford to lose any more."
Darcy nodded glad that she was being given a chance to prove herself. That night before she left the other woman at the hospital, they held each other for a long time. Their relationship hadn't been that physical but the more they touched the more they wanted too. The children were still awake when she got home.
"Is grampa going to be all right?" Nick wanted to know. He had become particularly close to his grandparent.
"Yes," Darcy assured them confidently. "He is just going to be sick for a while."
Both children nodded their heads gravely and she knew they understood the seriousness of the situation. She hugged them tightly and then tucked them back under the covers.
It was hard to leave them the next day and she wasn't certain they understood the reason. It had been a long time since she had travelled anywhere and her stomach was a twisted bundle of nerves. It didn't help that the whole company was watching. She was not afraid of failing for her colleagues. She didn't want to fail for Dominique.
She closed her eyes and leaned back in the chair of her first class seat. There was no use denying the truth. She was irrevocably in love with Dominique. More in love with her than she had ever been with anyone else.
It was a sobering fact but what Lisa and Julia had said was true. If she had truly been in love with Perry, as she thought, then she would not have fallen so quickly into bed with Dominique. She had been aware of her presence from the instant they had met. She had denied the attraction because she was married.
She made a resolution then that she would tell Dominique exactly how she felt upon her return. Whether the deal ended in triumph or failure she would reveal her love for the tall dark haired woman.
The Tokyo Group was imposing but Darcy did not allow herself to be intimidated. She carefully scrutinized their proposal immediately noticing that it had been changed from the draft that had been originally proposed.
"The changes are minimal," Peter Taki said with a brilliant smile. "It does not change the principle of the deal."
"No," she shook her head not allowing herself to be swayed. "We want the deal as agreed or we don't want anything."
"Miss Saabo would have agreed," her opponent tried to influence her decision.
She stared at the man and felt the first flicker of doubt. She glanced at the numbers. The changes looked attractive but she was suspicious. She glanced at Garrett who was nodding his head. She knew he liked the new deal.
"No," she remained adamant. She stood up and closed her briefcase, ending the meeting. "We will be back here tomorrow at ten o'clock and I want to see a new deal on the table. I want all the old agreements plus 10% decrease in the cost of the surplus line. Good day gentlemen."
With that she led the procession out of the meeting.
"Are you crazy?" Garrett wanted to know. "They are never going to do a deal like that. It was hard enough for us to get them down to that line we could have given them a little more."
"No," Darcy shook her head.
"Dominique wants this deal," he reminded in a soft voice. "It is important to Sable's future growth."
"Garrett, you have to trust me on this, Dominique did," she said quietly and the man knew that any further arguing would be futile. He thought of calling directly to Dominique for her opinion but at the last moment changed his mind.
Darcy pondered her decision later that night as she lay in bed. She had already spoken to the children. She knew she could second guess her decision but she had gone over the numbers carefully, she knew what she was doing. She had confidence in herself even if no one else did.
If the Tokyo Group expected a change of heart the next day, they were mistaken. They came to the meeting with the same offer and without saying a word Darcy stood up and motioned the other it was time to leave.
"We have other bidders Miss Ryan," Peter Taki said. "We don't need Sable."
"No," she agreed amicably, "but this is the best deal you are going to get from anyone. You go to someone else and you will lose what you hoped to gain. You see, Mr. Taki, you are breaking the agreement and therefore liable. I don't think I need to spell out the terms of that liability."
She turned towards the door. There was a moment of silence and for an instant she wondered if her bluff would pay off.
"All right, Miss Ryan," the man conceded defeat the instant she opened the door. A wave of relief swept over her but she remained calm. She turned slowly and looked at the man.
"We will rewrite the deal with the original agreement," the man assented.
"Plus the 10% decrease in the cost of the surplus line," she said and the man nodded. "And we want the Devo project thrown in."
"No, absolutely not," the man seemed incensed by her audacity.
"Think about it Mr. Taki," she said quietly. "You won't be able to sustain the project much longer, once this deal goes through, you will have money briefly but in the end you will end up losing it. Give it to us and we will make it shine. We have the necessary capital and the support structure to complete the project."
"No," Peter Taki shook his head.
"Think carefully Mr. Taki, when word gets out to your investors what you have sold off they are going to start to worry and maybe pull their money. They will be afraid of losing their money."
"How will giving you the project save us?" The man was curious.
"Give us controlling interest and Sable will ensure that the project gets completed, you save face with your investors and we get in on a capital project. It's a good deal for the both of us."
There was silence as the man contemplated her words. After a long moment he smiled, his eyes boring into her face.
"You are very quick, your boss must be very happy he has you working on his side," the man stood up and bowed. "My colleagues and I will discuss the matter and be in touch. The rest of the deal will be completed as proposed with the 10% decrease."
"Thank you," Darcy bowed to the man.
By Friday she was home with the deal secured and signed. She went immediately to the hospital and saw that William had begun the long recovery. Though he was still gaunt looking, the colour was returning to his features.
"I sent Dominique home," the older man said when she gave him a kiss.
"I wanted to see you before I went home," she smiled softly. "You are looking much better. You gave us all a horrible fright."
"Gave myself a bit of a scare as well," the man agreed. "I finally got the grandchildren I want and I have a heart attack. I want to get to know them before I take that journey to the hereafter."
"Well, you can take it easier from now on," she said.
"I will," he readily agreed. "I intend spending more time at home. With Dominique and you working together Sable is in good hands."
Darcy knew his words were a huge compliment. The man had started the company and watched it grow. It was a part of him like another limb, and she understood how difficult it was for him to relinquish control of the operation.
"You should go home dear and look after my daughter," William said with a weary smile. "I think it's time you told her how you feel."
"Yes," she agreed and then kissed him before moving towards the door. She paused and looked at the man. "You always knew where I was didn't you?"
There was a sheepish grin on the man's face.
"Not always," he confessed. "In the first few months I was able to track you but then you suddenly disappeared."
"How did you find me again?"
"Through the Law Association," William admitted unabashedly. "I knew how much you loved practicing law. It just took me awhile to find where that was."
"Then you bought that property and created the whole development scheme to bring Dominique and me together."
"Yes, it worked better than I expected," the man chuckled lightly and Darcy saw that it was a strain. The smile faded.
"From the moment I met you, I knew that Dominique and you belonged together. Perhaps in the beginning it wasn't the right time, perhaps you needed a little distance, but I always believed you belonged together."
"I believe that now too," she admitted quietly. "Thank you for believing when I didn't."
"Go home Darcy," the man said. "Go home to your family."
It was late by the time Darcy finally arrived home. The house was completely dark and she knew that everyone was in bed. She crept quietly into the children's bedroom. She tucked the blankets around their sleeping bodies and then kissed them on the brow, careful not to wake them. She did not use such care with her fiancée.
She stepped into Dominique's bedroom, happy to be home. Without switching on the light she walked across the room stripping off her clothes until she was only wearing a silky slip. She crawled onto the bed and leaned over the woman, tenderly dropping soft kisses on her face.
Dominique woke slowly, enjoying the pleasant feel of the smaller woman's lips on her skin. When their lips finally met, they clung together. The dark haired woman was happy to see the smaller woman and she reached up and combed a strand of blond hair behind her ear.
"Garrett called earlier, he said you closed the deal and even managed to get us into the Devo Project."
"I was just looking out for our interests," Darcy said kissing the other woman. "But I don't want to talk about business now. I want you to make love to me."
Dominique needed no further bidding. She waited only until the blond woman had discarded her slip before taking her into a tight embrace. She possessed the smaller woman than just as she had asked, sharing the passion and emotion that
electrified the air between them. An hour later they lay quietly, their naked bodies molded together.
"Can we talk?" Darcy asked quietly.
"About what?" the tall woman asked drowsily.
"About you and me."
Dominique was instantly alert. She sucked in her breath, afraid for what was about to come next. She rolled away, lying on her back to stare up at the ceiling.
"What about us?"
"I was thinking we make a pretty good team, both in business and in bed," the smaller woman said sitting up. "I've missed being with you."
"I missed you too," the dark haired woman whispered her heart pounding erratically. Their eyes met across the darkness.
"Do you love me Dominique?" Darcy asked in a serious voice.
"I think you know the answer to that already," the tall woman replied stiffly, her voice very quiet uncertain where this conversation was going.
"Say it," the blond woman challenged. "Say you love me."
"Darcy," the other woman was confused by her actions. "Why are you doing this?"
"Everyone had been telling me how much you love me but you have never said anything," Darcy said straddling the taller woman's hips. "Tell me how you feel."
"Darcy," the older woman was almost begging her not to ask.
"Tell me how you feel."
"I love you," Dominique finally blurted out her confession. "I have loved you since the first time I set eyes on you. Now does that make you happy?"
"Yes," the smaller woman was honest, the smile beaming on her face. "A girl likes to know that her feelings are returned."
"What?" For a moment the taller woman did not immediately comprehend what was being said.
"I am trying to tell you I love you."
"Please Darcy you don't have to do this."
"I know," the blond woman kept smiling. "I love you Dominique."
"You said you wouldn't ever love anyone again," the older woman reminded her companion of those long ago hastily spoken words. There was a caught in her voice.
"It was too late even then," Darcy said clasping the other woman's hand and resting its palm against her chest. "Feel how my heart beats. Every beat is for you. It was that way long before I realized it. Everyone else saw the truth but me. I think even Perry saw it."
Dominique sucked in her breath. She didn't want to believe what she was saying afraid that it might all be a dream from which she would awaken.
"You loved him."
"Yes," the smaller woman did not deny the truth. "But it was the love of an inexperienced girl who was looking for the comfort and security I never had in my youth. Perry was my first real boyfriend and I loved him but it wasn't something that would have lasted. Maybe if nothing happened it would have endured but," she paused taking a deep breath. "The love I felt for him is nothing compared to the love I feel for you.
"You thrill me and you terrify me. You bring me joy and you bring me fear. You make me secure yet also insecure. You make me feel more than I ever thought it possible to feel."
Dominique sat up, wrapping her arms around the slender waist. She searched the other woman's face and saw the truth and joy overwhelmed her senses. She reached up and cupped the heart shaped face but Darcy was finished, she needed to tell her lover the truth.
"I was in love with you while I was still married to Perry," Darcy confessed. "I didn't understand it then but after he died when we were together I couldn't deny the truth any longer.
"I left because I had fallen in love with you and I wasn't ready for that so soon after Perry. I didn't want to judge you by the way he had acted and I was afraid that if I stayed I would do that and destroy whatever we might have."
"Darcy," Dominique moaned gathering her tightly into her arms. "I love you."
"I love you Dominique," the blond woman responded just before the other woman's lips descended over her mouth with an intensity that she had not before experienced, secure in the knowledge that their feelings were mutual.
Darcy stepped through the French doors and out onto the veranda where afternoon tea had been set up. She lowered herself into the nearest chair relieved to finally be off her feet. She was unexpectedly tired these days. A smile came unbidden to her lips at the secret knowledge she held.
Her green eyes strayed to the lawn where her family was kicking around a ball. Nick and William seemed to make up one team while Dominique and Alex formed the opposition. She watched her father-in-law and marveled at his recovery. It had been two years since his heart attack and so much had changed.
She smiled enjoying the scene, aware the exact moment Dominique noticed her return. The tall woman left the group and sauntered to her side. She dropped a kiss on her forehead before slumping into a nearby chair. She had beaten her wife home from the office aware that Darcy had an afternoon appointment.
"How did your appointment go?"
"Good," Darcy replied trying to decide how to tell her lover the secret.
"Do you feel like a quick run before dinner?" Dominique asked, marveling at how beautiful her wife looked that afternoon. Her face seemed to shine.
"Not today," she grinned, a twinkle appearing in her eye. "I don't quite feel up to it today. I went to the doctor and he suggested that I take it a little easier."
"Why everything is okay isn't it?" Dominique was instantly concerned. "There isn't anything wrong?"
"Yes," Darcy said solemnly trying to hide her amusement, aware that she was being cruel to her lover. "Remember that procedure we did two months ago."
"Yeah," the taller woman immediately straightened, her blue eyes staring expectantly at the younger woman. "Tell me you're pregnant."
"I'm pregnant," the smaller woman smiled and watched as her companion jumped out of her chair and danced around for a minute. "I guess that makes you happy."
"I'm amazed," Dominique gushed settling down on the chair again, having drawn the attention of the others. "I thought that you might have had a miscarriage."
"That's why I went to the doctor," Darcy confirmed. "He said everything seems fine."
"What's all the commotion?" William asked strolling up to the veranda, a child clinging to each hand.
"Darcy is pregnant!" Dominique burst out and a wide smile spread across the older man's face while the children appeared puzzled.
"Are you having a baby Mommy?" Nick asked.
"Yes dear, we are having a baby, which means Alex and you will have a little brother or sister to torture."
The children were thoughtful for a moment and then seemed pleased with the idea that they might have a little baby to care for.
"Do you mind?" Dominique asked later when they were alone. "I know we talked about this but I can't help but feel you were pressured into having the baby."
"I don't mind," Darcy shook her head, entwining their fingers together and looking at her lover shyly. "I kind of like being pregnant, just be prepared to go searching for ice cream and French fries in the middle of the night when I get my cravings."
"Ice cream and French fries, I will make sure that Mrs. Dalton has a good supply of them on hand at all times," the tall woman laughed. "Is there anything else I should know about? I want to share this with you."
"Oh you will," the smaller woman assured her companion. "I will graciously let you do the two a.m. feedings and the diaper changes."
The tall woman laughed, her heart leaping at the sight of the twinkle of her green eyes. She never tired of seeing the other woman sparkle. The dark haired woman lifted her companions hand and kissed it.
"Do you have any regrets yet about being with me?" Dominique asked growing serious for a moment.
"No," Darcy shook her head. "I think I am learning that love is better the second time around."