Title: There Is No Us

Author:

Phox

Email:

Phox333@aol.com (Feedback welcome.)

Fandom:

Guiding Light

Pairing:

Olivia/Natalia

Rating:

R (language, adult themes, sex)

Disclaimer:

Unfortunately these characters belong to TeleNext Media, not me, darn it. I�m just taking them out for a spin.

Author's Note:

This story picks up at the end of the conversation in the gazebo immediately following the WoD (the almost-wedding, aka the Wedding of Doom, 4/17/09) and heads down an entirely different path.

There Is No Us

by Phox

| Chapters 1-8 | Chapters 9-16 |

Chapter 9

Olivia�s face. Olivia�s hands. Olivia�s kiss. Natalia pressed a hand over her heart as though to slow its alarming acceleration. This is how you�re supposed to feel, she realized. It was a total revelation, first the overwhelming love and now this overpowering physical response. My god, she kept repeating in her head over and over. My god, my god, my god. Olivia�s arm around her waist. Olivia leaning against her as they stumbled up the stairway. Olivia�s eyes shining forth her love. Olivia�s smile. I can�t believe how you make me feel!

"Where...?" Natalia asked when they reached the landing.

"Mine�s closer," Olivia said, kissing her quickly before flinging open the door to her bedroom.

They both laughed, and Olivia pulled her inside and pushed the door closed behind them. Natalia leaned back against it, smiling up at Olivia. You look so happy, she thought, her own heart filling with gladness. In fact, she�d never seen Olivia look happier. Natalia realized she�d grown accustomed to Olivia�s somber moods and sad smiles over the past few months, making the contrast with this joyful Olivia all the more poignant.

As she labored to catch her breath, her eyes drifted away from Olivia and wandered idly around the room. She grinned when she saw the curtains pulled firmly shut�a testament to Olivia�s loathing of the early morning sun. The net effect was that it left the room in semidarkness, despite the fact it was midday. Thankfully there was more than enough light for her to see Olivia�s beloved features clearly.

Her eyes floated to the overnight bag in the corner. I�m so glad I was able to talk you into coming home with me to the farmhouse last night. You were so stubborn! But I convinced you, she thought with more than a little satisfaction, and you�ll see how right it was that you came. She smiled as her meandering visual journey around the room revealed the disarray that always seemed to surround Olivia in her personal space�clothes and shoes and make-up and whatnot strewn haphazardly about�despite how organized she was in her work life.

Natalia�s eyes moved past the clutter, came to rest on the queen-sized bed�and widened. Olivia�s bed. Her heart lurched. Suddenly the reality of what they were doing impinged upon her consciousness, and she felt a sickening knot of nervousness tangling itself up in the pit of her stomach.

******************************

Olivia watched in dismay as Natalia�s dimply smile and happy glow slowly faded. No, no, no! she thought frantically. What could possibly be wrong? She was painfully aware the atmosphere in the room had undergone a dizzying shift. Anxious to find the cause, her eyes followed the direction of Natalia�s gaze and settled on ... the bed. Aaah ... got it. Things were getting a little too real and somebody had gotten cold feet.

Her instincts, which were usually dead on when it came to sex, told her Natalia had never liked sex, not really. She had every intention of changing that, if she got the chance, but meanwhile she had a very skittish woman on her hands�gorgeous, sexy, tantalizing, but ... frightened. She noted the lines of worry marring Natalia�s forehead, saw her eyes flit restlessly everywhere but towards her, saw the tension in the lines of her body. Yes, that was it. Natalia was afraid.

Olivia gently placed her forefinger along Natalia�s jawline and slowly turned the nervous woman�s attention back toward her and away from the looming presence of the large bed. "Hey you," she said.

"Hey," Natalia said with a tiny dimple-less smile, her sweet face looking tense and worried.

We need to put a smile back on that pretty face,

Olivia thought. I can�t go too long without seeing that smile�and god help me, those dimples. Withdrawal�s a bitch! "Looking scary over there?" she asked.

"Maybe ..." Natalia shrugged.

"That�s okay. I kind of like it over here by the door." Olivia leaned sideways against the door, standing close to Natalia, but not touching.

"You do, do you?" Natalia remained with her back pressed up flat against the door and arms crossed over her chest, though her face was now tilted up toward Olivia�s.

"Yep. In fact, I got pretty well acquainted with this door once in a time of need."

Natalia laughed. "Oh, really?"

"Last night in fact."

"The door helped you last night?"

"Mm-hm. See, this gorgeous woman kissed me and made my knees so weak I couldn�t stand up, and the door..."

"The door held you up."

They both laughed, but Natalia�s smile slowly faded.

"Look," Olivia said. "It�s okay."

"I just feel really, really nervous all of a sudden and ... and shy."

"It�s okay. No worries, all right?"

"But I know you ... I�m sure you don�t ... don�t want to ..."

"I feel nervous, too."

"You?"

"Yes," Olivia laughed. "I told you I�ve never been with a woman."

"But I bet you have some idea ..."

God, do I ever!!! It�s all I�ve thought about for MONTHS!

"Oh, I might," she said vaguely. "But really, right now I feel kind of shy myself."

Natalia burst into laughter. "I don�t believe that. Olivia Spencer, shy?"

"It�s true," she whispered softly. And you�re no more surprised about that than I am, she thought. She tried to think of any other time she�d felt the least bit nervous and couldn�t come up with a single one, not even her first time, when it just so happened she�d been the aggressor, as she frequently was.

"Really?"

"Really." Olivia caught one of Natalia�s hands in hers and softly brushed her thumb back and forth across the back, her eyes trained on the only place they were currently in contact. I am so in love with you. If you only knew.

"It�s just ... I thought, you know ..."

"Oh, I know," she said with a lift of a brow. "I know I have a bit of a ... reputation, believe me." And it�s more than a little earned, she thought with a wince. "But honestly I do feel a little shy right now ... with you."

I�ve sure never felt shy like this before. I don�t know what�s come over me.

Christ, it�s like an alien ship swooped down and little green men scooped me up and gave me a personality transplant. And here she was cursing again. Shit! ... Oops. ... Damn it, it�s like I have Tourette's or something. Maybe the little Virgin Mary statue would cut her some slack if she could show she had a diagnosable condition to explain her ... colorful ... use of language.

With relief Olivia saw Natalia relax against the door.

"I�d never have guessed you�d be shy," Natalia said, looking at her in astonishment.

"Me neither," Olivia said with a roll of her eyes. She drew Natalia�s hand up to her mouth and pressed a warm kiss to the center of her palm. How she loved the feel of her skin. She turned Natalia�s hand over and brushed her lips lightly across the knuckles before clasping it to her upper chest over the small patch of skin left bare by the V-neck of her navy blue sweater. "I�m perfectly happy just to touch you like this," she said, giving Natalia�s hand a light squeeze while her thumb continued to stroke soft skin lazily, back and forth, back and forth.

That�s actually true

, she thought in amazement. What the hell�s happened to me? I feel like a lovesick teenager. A giddy, lightheaded, lovesick teenager. A teenager who needs to get laid sometime soon, darn it! Normally she just went after what she wanted, without a lot of preamble. See it, want it, take it�that�s me. But now she actually cared more about someone else�s needs than she did her own. Wow, that�s new, she thought. See? Gotta be a personality transplant.

She could see Natalia staring at their hands, dark eyes heavy-lidded and indecipherable. "Talk to me," Olivia said.

"I love when you touch me," Natalia replied quietly.

"Mmm ... me too," Olivia murmured.

Natalia turned toward Olivia, leaning her head and shoulder against the door. "It feels so right."

Olivia nodded. "We should definitely stick with what feels right."

"It feels right when you hold me," Natalia said, leaning closer.

"I could do that," Olivia said, wrapping her free arm around Natalia�s back, but still holding her hand against her chest. She sighed when Natalia leaned against her and nuzzled her face into the crook of her neck. They stood like that for a long moment, listening to each other breathe, smelling each other�s unique scent. If I were to die this minute�struck dead by a lightning bolt from above, no doubt�I could die happy because finally I can hold the woman I love, knowing she loves me back. Her feelings toward Natalia were so tender, she almost couldn�t recognize herself. You have changed me in ways you can�t even imagine, she thought. She almost felt like weeping, her heart was so full of love. Boy, I�ve gotten sappy�and ... I don�t care!

She looked down when she felt Natalia tip her head back.

"It feels right when you kiss me," Natalia said, her voice low and husky and tremulous.

Olivia leaned down for a tentative kiss, lips brushing lightly over Natalia�s. Kissing her was so different from kissing a man. Her lips were unbelievably soft and smooth and supple. Olivia ran her tongue over Natalia�s lower lip and then sucked on it gently. She feathered light kisses across her perfect bow-shaped lips and then pressed her mouth more firmly over Natalia�s, savoring the taste and the texture. When Natalia�s lips parted, she felt a vibrant thrill course from her mouth to her heated center, and she slipped her tongue into the warm, sweet depths and slowly explored the exquisite and unique universe contained within. There was no winter storm. There was no passage of time. There was only this�the miracle of their shared kiss.

******************************

Natalia clung tightly to Olivia. Her world was spinning. Her body was throbbing. Her head was reeling. One thought looped repeatedly through her mind: I love you. I love you. I love you.

She sighed in disappointment when Olivia finally pulled back from the kiss to gaze down at her with those smoldering emerald eyes. Strands of silky brown hair with glorious flaxen highlights framed her face, falling forward slightly as Olivia�s head was tipped down, and her lips appeared swollen and moist. Natalia reached up to sift her fingers through those soft silken tresses, something she�d often longed to do. Her lips ached. Her heart ached. Her throbbing center ached. I love you so much. All she wanted was for Olivia to kiss her again and again and never let her go.

But this ache�it was both heavenly and agonizing. It started in that most intimate place between her thighs, but it radiated upward and outward and everywhere. Her breasts ached. Her body ached. She ached. "Olivia?" she whispered.

"Mmm?" Olivia murmured.

"I feel ..." She blushed.

"Tell me."

"I feel... achy."

"I think I can help with that," Olivia said softly. "If you want."

Natalia nodded. She was desperate for ... something, she wasn�t sure what. She�d never felt like this and she didn�t know what to do about it. She only knew she needed to get closer to the breathtaking woman holding her in her arms. She felt Olivia�s hand gently graze her breast and then press more firmly against it, rubbing and squeezing the tender flesh, and she whimpered with arousal. "I think that�s making it worse," she breathed.

"I know," Olivia said, dipping her head to drop a small kiss on bruised lips.

Natalia inhaled sharply when Olivia pressed her mouth over her breast, using her teeth to gently tease the protruding tip through the material of her sweater. Her hand caressed the side of the swollen mound and then slid slowly down to her waist, glided over the gentle rise of her belly, moved irrevocably lower, until it finally slipped between Natalia�s legs. She could feel Olivia cupping her heated center through the denim of her black jeans, and then the heel of her hand rocked more firmly against a most sensitive area of her quivering flesh�and Natalia gasped and collapsed against her, breathing heavily, aware that if Olivia hadn�t grabbed her she would have simply crumpled to the floor. That was definitely making the ache worse, she thought, as her entire world suddenly contracted to the narrow area where Olivia�s hand held her poised on the precipice of passion.

******************************

Chapter 10

Olivia wrapped both arms tightly around Natalia when her knees buckled and thrilled at the response her brazen touch had ignited. As Natalia clung to her, panting, Olivia was beginning to realize the extent�and implications�of Natalia�s inexperience and na�vet�. She was flabbergasted the two men who�d been privileged to "know" her in that way, who�d loved her and touched her intimately, had obviously not managed to awaken her dormant passion�not even Gus!

If there was one thing Olivia knew something about, it was sex; and she was good at it, not just with mechanics, but also with instincts. Hers were acutely honed. She always seemed able to tell what someone wanted, when they wanted it, what they were willing and not willing to do; and right now her instincts were revealing some poignant information about Natalia�s past sex life. Christ, guys! Didn�t either of you notice? What the hell was wrong with you?

If Olivia wasn�t getting satisfied, she�d just let her sexual partner know exactly what he needed to do to fix that little problem. No shyness there, nope. But clearly Natalia had gone from being a very innocent schoolgirl from a strict religious home to becoming an innocent young woman�not knowledgeable and not aware�and now, despite the out-of-wedlock child, despite her two erstwhile lovers, despite her age, she was still at heart that same innocent girl. Olivia felt like weeping.

"Maybe you better sit down," she said to a trembling Natalia.

"My legs do feel a little weak," Natalia said with a small smile.

"Come on then," Olivia said, leading her to the bed, where Natalia perched carefully on the very edge.

Olivia squeezed her shoulder and then leaned over to open the drawer of the night table. She got a safety match out and flicked the bloodred head against the side of the small box. When the tiny torch burst into life, she touched the blue-yellow flame to the wick of a large red candle sitting next to her abandoned alarm clock, a remnant of their first Christmas together, hers and Emma�s and Natalia�s.

As the shimmery glow of the candlelight lovingly caressed Olivia�s face, she glanced at Natalia, who was watching her intently. "It�s cinnamon," she said.

"I love the smell of ... uhm ..." Natalia giggled.

"I know," Olivia said with a grin. She knelt in front of Natalia, easing her body between Natalia�s thighs so she could get close enough to wrap her arms around her. "How�s that?" she asked.

"It�s good," Natalia said, drawing Olivia closer.

"So ... do you want to talk? Nap? Watch TV?" She could hear Natalia�s nervous breathing. "Or ... maybe go back downstairs? Sit in front of the fire? Watch a DVD? Take a walk in the blizzard?" Olivia flashed a breezy grin. She knew how much Natalia loved to go for a walk in freeze-your-butt-off weather conditions, but hey, if that�s what Natalia needed, then by god she�d just bundle up, suck it up, and hope for the best. Eventually someone would send out a search-and-rescue party if they got lost in a ten-foot snowbank out there, wouldn�t they?

Natalia shook her head slowly.

"Tell me what you want."

"I want you, Olivia."

******************************

Natalia felt like she was on a journey of discovery. Falling in love with Olivia had flipped her world upside down. At first it had shocked and excited and bewildered and frightened her to the point she almost married a man she didn�t love in order to avoid dealing with all her confusing and conflicting feelings about the complex hotelier she had at one time hated. That seemed like several lifetimes ago. How could I have ever hated you, Olivia? She could never have imagined back in those days that that exasperating woman would one day become the center of her universe. She wasn�t even sure exactly how it had happened. It seemed like one day she wanted to throttle her and the next her heart skipped a beat if Olivia so much as glanced her way.

She watched Olivia light the festive red cinnamon-scented candle and breathed in the spicy sweet aroma with hedonistic pleasure. When Olivia knelt down between her legs and pulled her close, she felt the incessant throbbing between her thighs ramp up a notch. Natalia wanted to hold her. She wanted to touch her. She wanted to kiss her. She loved her hair, loved her eyes, loved her smile, loved her kind and generous heart.

She was suddenly acutely aware of Olivia�s breasts pressing into her, aware of the softness of Olivia�s body, so different from a man�s. She pulled back to look at Olivia, as though seeing her for the first time�her perfect features, the soft curve of her shoulders, the swell of her breasts straining against the front of her sweater. Olivia was beautiful and curvaceous and womanly.

Natalia�s eyes zeroed in on the small vee of skin left uncovered by the navy sweater, and her imagination took flight as she imagined losing herself in all that feminine softness. She�d never thought about touching another woman�s breasts, but the idea of touching Olivia�s breasts, of kissing them, tasting them, caused a sudden wrenching twitch "down there," and she blushed anew, marveling at this fresh revelation.

"Are you sure?" Olivia asked.

"Yes, very," Natalia murmured.

******************************

Olivia�s hands slid around to cup Natalia�s buttocks, and she pulled her closer, fitting their bodies together snugly. When she heard Natalia�s gasp, she leaned forward to capture her lips in a long, slow, sultry kiss. She leaned back to look into Natalia�s glazed eyes as she deliberately covered both her breasts with her hands, held her gaze as she began to knead the tender flesh, watched her closely when her fingers trapped hard buds and began to tease them into even greater prominence as Natalia�s breathing quickened and head tipped back, exposing a slender throat. My god, you are so beautiful!

Olivia couldn�t resist that exquisite throat, and she leaned in to kiss her there, her mouth opening to bestow hot wet kisses across the soft flesh. "I want to see you," she whispered. Natalia nodded, and Olivia�s eager hands found the bottom edge of the purple sweater and with agonizing slowness pulled it up and over her head, revealing a sheer white bra made of lace with scalloped edging, feminine and pretty like Natalia herself.

Olivia ran her hands over lace-covered breasts, aware her own breathing had quickened, as had her brand-new heart. Natalia�s breasts felt amazing under the sleek material, but Olivia desperately needed to remove any remaining barriers as her hands were impatient to explore naked flesh�Natalia�s naked flesh�something she�d daydreamed about ... for months! She reached behind Natalia, released the catch on her bra, and pulled the filmy garment free, tossing it aside as her eyes roved hungrily over exposed flesh.

Natalia�s creamy tan skin was smooth and silky and looked gorgeous in the flickering light of the single candle. Olivia felt as though her senses were on serious overload from the sensual sight, and she realized she�d never felt so profoundly lightheaded from this dizzying rush of love and lust.

"My god you�re gorgeous," Olivia whispered. She�d fantasized about seeing her naked�she�d fantasized about that plenty!�but the reality of kneeling on the floor gazing at a half-naked Natalia�her chest rising and falling rapidly from her accelerated breathing, her heavy dark hair draping perfectly over her now-bare shoulders�eclipsed anything she�d felt from those heady fantasies that were so intense they�d driven her on numerous occasions to try to slake her agonizing need. Even after those frantic sessions in the dark, even after the physical release, she�d still lie in an agony of longing because nothing seemed to quell her obsessive desire for this glorious woman.

Mesmerized by Natalia�s sweet and perfect contours, she lightly caressed the undersides of her heavy breasts, her fingertips thrilling to the luscious texture as they slowly stroked the pliant flesh. She stifled a groan when Natalia grasped her shoulders as though to hold herself steady, and she felt even more heat radiating between her shoulders and the palms of Natalia�s hands.

She tore her eyes away from the visual feast of Natalia�s bare torso to gaze directly into dark eyes as she cupped her breasts in the palms of her hands, reveling in their voluptuous weight. She loved staring into Natalia�s rich brown eyes and seeing the excitement and the wonder revealed there.

Her thumbs teased tiny twin peaks, telltale signs of Natalia�s arousal, and finally she dipped her head to taste a dusky nipple, her tongue swirling around and around her intended target until finally she drew it in, sucking slowly, as if to drink in her flawless beauty. After a long moment, she covered the delectable mound with her hand, massaging it slowly and firmly and deliberately, and moved her mouth to the other tantalizing tip, lavishing attention there until it was as fully engorged as the first. "You taste so good," she sighed.

"I ..."

"Mm?"

"I feel ..." Natalia�s mouth worked to form words, but none emerged.

"Good?" Olivia offered.

Natalia nodded with a smile that revealed a brief flash of dimples.

There they are

, Olivia thought, suddenly even more lightheaded. What she wouldn�t do to see those enticing dimples!

She touched the metal button at the top of Natalia�s black jeans, and looked up at her questioningly. At Natalia�s nod she slipped the small disk through the buttonhole and lowered the zipper, the metallic susurration seeming unnaturally loud in the otherwise quiet room.

******************************

Natalia felt like a tightly wound coil whose tense metal loops might break at any moment. It seemed like the fever from her face was spreading down her throat and over her breasts�her naked breasts! And now Olivia was looking at her intently, her eyes smoky dark, and her loving scrutiny felt as though it were an actual physical caress on her exposed body. She felt vulnerable. She felt nervous. She felt ... excited. Her throat was suddenly dry while elsewhere was decidedly not!

And then Olivia was touching and squeezing and caressing her breasts, and all the while those intense green eyes gazed at her steadily, holding her gaze captive as Olivia elicited the most incredible responses from her body, as though Olivia were a musical virtuoso and Natalia the instrument she played with extraordinary expertise. She was feeling things she�d never felt, never imagined feeling, never knew you could feel.

And even as her body thrummed into a more vibrantly alive state than it had ever experienced, even as she flushed crimson under the steady gaze of the beautiful woman touching her in such a bold and intimate way, even as her heart thudded so hard in her chest she thought it might burst out, her body and her mind and her heart craved even more.

******************************

Olivia pulled Natalia into another dizzying kiss. She was more turned on than she�d ever been. She was more turned on than she�d ever known was possible. While she realized full well all the physical reactions Natalia was clearly experiencing were a first for her, Olivia also knew that her own emotional reactions were new to her. She thought she�d been in love before, thought she�d felt desire, but now she was enthralled; she was madly, deeply, passionately in love for the first time in her life, and all she wanted to do was make this woman happy.

"I think these�ll have to go," she said, reaching for one of Natalia�s black boots. Natalia smiled her assent, and Olivia tugged at the black leather to try to get it off. Damn thing is being difficult! She wrestled with it a moment and finally pulled it free and tossed it aside. "Hey, I said I was experienced. I never said I was smooth," she said with a jaunty smile. She felt fresh pools of liquid desire gather in her nether regions at the sound of Natalia�s snicker. Good lord, she loved this woman. How barren her pre-Natalia life seemed to her now. She kissed her quickly before attacking the second boot, which glided off smoothly. "See? Just needed a little practice," she said triumphantly.

They both laughed, but Olivia saw Natalia grow more somber when she grasped the waistband of her black jeans. "We still okay here? We can stop if you want. It�s okay, really." She looked at her questioningly, but Natalia braced herself with her hands and lifted her hips to allow Olivia to more easily remove the black denim, and Olivia felt a fresh throb of desire at her trusting acquiescence. Her eyes watched with fascination as the jeans glided down and more luscious tan skin was revealed.

Olivia shivered at the sight of Natalia clad now only in her white lace panties, truly the most beautiful sight she�d ever seen in her life! She started to move toward her, take her in her arms, take her to new places, but Natalia suddenly gripped her arm.

"Wait," Natalia said breathlessly.

No, no, no, no, no! Please no. Please don�t make me stop. Dear Lord, I�ll be good. I�ll even stop cursing, I swear to god!

She wanted to beg Natalia to let her continue, but instead she sighed and simply responded quietly, "What?"

******************************

Natalia was enraptured. Each touch, each caress, each kiss brought with it a new revelation. She felt as though she�d been whisked into an alternate universe of love and passion and unbearable excitement, and she�d been spirited away there by the amazing woman kneeling in front of her, the one who was now looking worried and tense.

"I know I�m inexperienced," Natalia began.

"Mm ... yes?"

"But I�m pretty sure I�m not the only one who should be undressed here." She laughed at Olivia�s sudden guffaw.

"You think so, huh?"

"Yes, I do," Natalia said. She reached for the hem of Olivia�s sweater and eased it up and over her head. Ironically she�d helped Olivia dress and undress many times back in the days when she was taking care of her in the aftermath of her heart transplant, though she�d never seen her entirely naked�and this felt WAY different from that anyway.

She�d done enough of Olivia�s laundry, both after her surgery and during the time they lived together at the farmhouse, to know all about her penchant for lingerie, so it was no surprise for her to see the sheer navy blue bra Olivia was wearing under her sweater�and knew there�d be matching panties to boot; however, seeing it on Olivia, seeing it barely concealing her womanly curves, affected her in a way she just had not anticipated, and she found herself laboring to draw in each shaky breath.

"Olivia," she breathed. "You�re just so beautiful." She tried to loosen the clasp on her bra, but her normally nimble fingers couldn�t seem to fumble through the task, and finally Olivia reached behind and unfastened it herself. Natalia pulled down the straps, though, eased the clinging material off her magnificent breasts, and drew a sharp breath as she soaked up the sight of Olivia�s elegant beauty. She�d never thought about wanting to see a woman�s naked body, never thought about wanting to touch a woman, but she wanted to look at Olivia, wanted to touch her, wanted to feel her in her arms, skin against skin.

Natalia tried to unfasten the button at the top of Olivia�s jeans, but her fingers were obstinately uncooperative, and she finally gave up. "I think you�re going to have to help me," she said with an embarrassed smile.

"Oh, I think I can do that."

Natalia watched as Olivia slowly removed her remaining clothing until she was just wearing the sheer navy panties Natalia had known she�d have on. She let Olivia guide her back on the bed, let her remove her remaining article of clothing, watched her rid herself of her own last garment, and then�finally and amazingly�they lay in each other�s arms, wrapped together, soft skin against soft skin, and Natalia was truly transported.

******************************

Chapter 11

A turbulent wind roiled through the heavy snowfall, sending fleecy flakes swirling capriciously through the air like crystalline fireflies before their sheer weight bore them down to the already deepening expanse on the ground. Stark trees frantically flailed their spidery limbs in the blustery currents, as though to shake free of the thick covering, while the late-season blizzard continued to lay its frigid blanket over the isolated farmhouse and surrounding acreage, wiping away all traces of footprints, tire tracks, and any other sign that a living being had ever trod upon this pristine wintry landscape.

In contrast, inside the farmhouse it was warm and still and quiet, the only sounds the soft breathing and hushed whispers of the two figures lying entwined on a massive upstairs bed. A single candle flickered and glowed in the semidarkness of the room, casting playful shadows along the walls.

"How I�ve longed to hold you like this," Olivia murmured.

Natalia sighed and pressed herself impossibly closer, and Olivia reveled in the feel of soft, womanly curves and long silky hair. While one hand traced a lazy pattern over the smooth skin of her back, Olivia breathed in the sweet and spicy scent that was uniquely Natalia and then pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. I never knew it could be like this, she thought with wonder. To Olivia it felt, quite literally, as though it were own very first time.

Natalia tucked her face into the curve of Olivia�s neck, and Olivia could sense her shyness. "Feels ... kind of ... different, right?" she asked with a small smile.

Natalia nodded. "Very different, but ... uhm ... good."

"Good, huh?" One brow lifted, though Natalia didn�t see it. That sounds promising, she thought. She couldn�t quite shake off the feeling Natalia might bolt up off the bed at any moment, so any signs to the contrary were more than a little welcome.

"Very," Natalia breathed.

"That�s good to hear. I don�t want to pressure you into anything. You know that, right?"

Natalia pulled back so she could see Olivia�s face. "I know."

"You say the word, and we can just go back downstairs ... or just snuggle up here and take a nap. Naps are always good." They both laughed. Olivia had become a champion "napper" in the wake of her transplant surgery.

She sighed with relief when Natalia slowly shook her head. Okay, no napping. That�s good. I mean ... I�d stop if I had to, but Jesus, I so do not want to stop ... �cause I�m startin� to think my current condition could prove fatal if I can�t do something about it sometime soon. She�d waited longer for Natalia than she�d ever waited for anyone. In fact, as a general rule, she didn�t wait for anyone because, well, she just never had to. This whole "waiting" thing was new, not to mention ... difficult.

In the past Olivia had been completely, even arrogantly, confident when it came to matters of the flesh. She knew the effect she had on men and never doubted her ability to entice them into her thrall. In fact, she�d used that to her advantage on more than one occasion. She�d always been aggressive in bed�uninhibited, confident, imaginative, driven to satisfy her every carnal desire. Now she felt ... hesitant ... protective ... tender. I want this to be right for you, she thought. She still had a nagging worry that despite Natalia�s willingness to go this far, she might change her mind�or worse, regret anything that might happen between them.

The latter thought chilled Olivia to the bone. I couldn�t live with that. I just couldn�t! She�d rather have Natalia in her life in some way, even if they could never be together like this, than lose her completely, which seemed like a real possibility, all things considered. Maybe we�re rushing this. Maybe she�s not really ready. Maybe we should just slow the hell down here. Olivia felt emotionally naked and raw. The surgeon had once held her beating heart in his hands, and now it felt as though her fragile heart rested in Natalia�s hands.

It was frightening to realize how overwhelming her love for Natalia was and how vulnerable it made her feel. In fact, it was the most vulnerable she�d ever felt�and it was a completely new sensation for Olivia Spencer, business powerhouse and sophisticated woman of the world. She felt like a tightrope walker with no net and no pole, trying to balance precariously on a high-wire strung miles above the earth�and so she hesitated. She cradled Natalia in her arms, but she hesitated to do anything more.

As though sensing her uncertainty, Natalia reached up to lightly touch her face, gazed at her searchingly, and finally leaned in for a heartbreakingly tender kiss. "I love you, Olivia," she said, her breath warm on Olivia�s skin. "I�ve never loved anyone like this before."

Olivia couldn�t speak and so merely hugged her tighter.

"You make me feel things I�ve never felt before ... amazing things," Natalia continued. "It�s like I�d been sleeping all my life, and one day you just woke me up."

Olivia nodded. She knew what that felt like. You�ve got no idea what you do to me, just no idea whatsoever. You think because I�m experienced, I know what I�m doing here; but I feel like I�m in the middle of the forest with no map and no signposts�and it�s kinda ... scary. You never know what might be lurking in the woods ... and I just can�t believe I�m this nervous!

"And now..." Natalia continued.

"Now?"

"Now I feel this incredible ... longing and I ... I don�t know ..."

"Don�t know ...?"

"I don�t know what to do about it."

Olivia kissed perfect pink lips. "I think I do," she said softly.

******************************

Natalia shivered at Olivia�s sudden shift in tone. The sudden note of ... determination ... in Olivia�s voice sent the blood singing through her veins. She gasped as Olivia placed both hands on her face and pulled her close, and then Olivia was kissing her. She thought she�d never get over the wonder of it: Olivia kissing her. Olivia crushing her close. The incredible heat between their bodies as they pressed against each other. Olivia�s mouth over hers, demanding entrance. Instinctively Natalia parted her lips. Feeling the intimate invasion of Olivia�s tongue left her feeling weak and wanton, and she was only vaguely aware of releasing a tiny, involuntary moan. Olivia�s kiss was deep and passionate and breathtaking, and she never wanted it to end.

******************************

"Kisses sweeter than wine.

" The phrase from the golden oldie popped into Olivia�s head and suddenly took on greater meaning. "Kisses sweeter than wine." She never got tired of kissing Natalia, never wanted to stop kissing her, at the moment never intended to stop kissing her. "I found a girl. I kissed her and then ... Oh lord, I kissed her again." The lyrics were so fitting. Sweeter than wine ... That�s what Natalia�s kisses were�and Olivia did so love her wine.

When she heard Natalia groan, it galvanized her. She could feel her own arousal pooling between her legs. Had she ever gotten this wet? She didn�t think so.

She�d fantasized so many times about making love to Natalia�and in so many ways, maddeningly glorious ways. She�d imagined pushing her down on her desk at The Beacon during one of their many meetings, meetings in which Olivia had trouble concentrating around the unending barrage of erotic thoughts about her oh-so-tantalizing assistant. She�d thought about pressing her up against the wall in the upstairs hallway at the farmhouse�had thought about that just last night after that kiss, in fact. She�d imagined pulling her into the barn when they were out on one of their walks and flinging her down on a bed of straw to make mad, passionate love to her. She�d fantasized stripping her bare, lifting her onto the cabinet in her beloved kitchen, and then kneeling in front of her and pressing her mouth to her most intimate flesh.

That was her favorite fantasy by far. Natalia thought she loved her kitchen before; just wait�ll Olivia got done with her in fantasyland kitchen. In fact, Olivia had become obsessed with exploring this most secret playground, and longed to taste her there, exploring secret folds; but right now she needed to be able to look into Natalia�s eyes and watch her reaction to every intimate caress.

******************************

Natalia sighed as Olivia�s mouth left hers and began to brush tiny kisses over her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks. She felt a kiss on her ear, then Olivia�s tongue was tracing the edges before dipping inside. Natalia gasped. Oh my god. How could Olivia manage to turn her on even more by doing something as simple and unexpected as that?

"This is a very sexy ear," Olivia murmured, and Natalia could feel even more liquid heat pouring forth below.

"Shall we see if the other one is this sexy?" Olivia asked and then moved to the other side. She kissed Natalia�s other ear, teased it, pressed the tip of her tongue into the center. "Did I ever tell you I love your ears?"

Natalia shook her head. She was beginning to wonder why she�d fought this for so long, fought so hard not to acknowledge�and act on!�her attraction to this woman.

"I do love your ears. I love this, too," Olivia continued, moving on to kiss the slope of her shoulder, as Natalia struggled to keep breathing. "And this." She kissed her way back up to Natalia�s slender throat. "And these," she added, staring longingly down at her breasts.

Natalia could feel Olivia�s hand gliding down her back, over her buttock to her thigh, and then Olivia pulled her leg over her hip, leaving her center more exposed. Before she had time to think about that, Olivia dipped her head to lavish more attention on her breasts, until Natalia thought sure she�d explode from sheer arousal. She�d finally come to understand what that word meant; understood, too, how deliciously agonizing those feelings could be. She felt Olivia�s hand flatten over the planes of her belly and languidly massage the smooth skin there.

And then she blushed as she felt that hand slide lower and brush through the soft hairs below, until finally it cupped the aching flesh between her thighs.

"I especially like this," Olivia whispered into her ear.

She gasped as she felt Olivia press her hand against her�right where her ache was most intense�and the incredible sensation so overwhelmed her, it seemed to make the entire room sway alarmingly. And then Olivia was inside her�inside her!�and she could feel her body gushing forth more evidence of the unbelievable effect this beautiful woman was having on her.

******************************

Touching Natalia�s velvety slick flesh was the single most erotic act Olivia had ever experienced, and being inside her, feeling that satiny interior, made her body throb with unbridled lust. All she wanted to do was give Natalia pleasure. To that end she leisurely explored intricate flesh, taking her time, paying close attention to even the tiniest nuanced response, until she found just the right place, that special place that caused Natalia�s head to snap back into the pillow. Her gasp of shock and pleasure, her sharp intake of breath, nearly pushed Olivia over the edge, and all the while she watched�watched her face, watched her eyes widen, watched her lips part, watched her chest rise and fall faster.

"Look at me," Olivia whispered, breath catching when Natalia�s head lolled to the side and glazed black eyes turned her way. Natalia looked dazed. She looked disoriented. She looked ... aroused�and an aroused Natalia was the most beautiful sight Olivia had ever seen.

Somehow Olivia knew just where to touch, just how to touch, just how much pressure to bring to bear; and she loved seeing the effects of her touch reflected in Natalia�s eyes. Soon Olivia�s unerring instincts were rewarded as Natalia�s hips began to rock, as her breathing became more ragged, as she gasped and moaned and writhed, until abruptly all sounds ceased and her lovely tan body stretched taut as an artist�s canvas. And then, after a brief moment of utter silence, she cried out in blessed release and slumped back into the mattress, turning immediately toward Olivia and clinging to her as tears began to stream down her cheeks.

******************************

Dear Lord!

No words could capture what Natalia was feeling. I can�t believe ... Nothing had prepared her for this. I had no idea. She could feel Olivia stroking her hair, could feel her arms wrapped protectively around her shoulders, could feel Olivia�s love enveloping her�and then she felt Olivia�s fingers tentatively brushing away her tears.

"What�s with all these tears?" Olivia asked softly.

Olivia�s voice sounded worried, and Natalia knew what she must be thinking.

"They�re not �bad� tears. It�s just ... I never ..."

"Aaah ... okay, shh ... I know."

"Ever!"

"I know."

"I didn�t realize you could even ... feel like that."

******************************

Olivia nodded and drew her closer, idly stroking her hair. Her heart rejoiced. It was a perfect moment. Her eyes wandered to the curtains on the far wall. She was vaguely aware of the blustery winds outside and knew without doubt there�d be several more feet of snow, but all she cared about now was how Natalia was feeling. You should see how beautiful you look, she thought, as she watched candlelight glimmering on the closed curtains. What a privilege to be the first to bring Natalia such profound pleasure. She�d never been happier.

She soon became aware that two dark eyes were gazing steadily at her, and she looked down into them. They looked jet-black and intense, and before she could digest this abrupt change, Natalia�s slender hand was stroking her cheek, sweeping her hair back from her face, tracing a leisurely path down her throat; and then Natalia was pressing her lips to the hollow of Olivia�s throat. Natalia glanced up long enough to catch Olivia�s eye, and her expression was determined and ... knowing.

Oh my god

, Olivia thought, as her body suddenly slammed into agonizing awareness. Oh my god.

******************************

Chapter 12

Soft glow of candlelight, scent of cinnamon in the air, the sound of Olivia�s sharp intake of breath�Natalia trembled under the sensory overload. It was a day of revelations, not the least of which was Olivia�s current state as Natalia kissed her way from the hollow of her throat, along her chin and cheek and finally up to place a delicate kiss to her forehead. Just like I did at the hospital, she thought.

She�d wanted to kiss her then, as she lay sleeping, touch her lips to Olivia�s tempting mouth, just one brief little kiss. At the time that�s as far as her mind went. She just felt an incredible urge to press her lips to Olivia�s. Olivia was deep in a drug-induced sleep�or at least Natalia thought she was still deep asleep. Olivia�s sudden awakening had startled her, and she�d jerked away, feeling embarrassed and ashamed�not to mention regretful that Olivia had roused before she could steal that secret kiss.

Thoughts of the near-kiss haunted her afterwards, teased her waking moments, stole unbidden into her shadowy dreams�dreams brimming with visions of smoldering looks from glittering green eyes and the near-kiss that often morphed into an actual kiss, albeit rather chaste. Even so Natalia often woke from those dreams disoriented, panting, body aching, wanting ... more. She�d make herself get up, start breakfast, fix Emma�s lunch, and then sometimes she�d turn around and there she�d be ... Olivia ... watching her from the kitchen doorway, eyes half-lidded and intense. What are you thinking? she�d often ask silently.

She was now beginning to get a glimmer of what Olivia might have been thinking, and it was an epiphany of major proportions. Natalia realized that while she was in the throes of a schoolgirl crush on Olivia, Olivia was already in love with her. While she simply longed to be near her�at the farmhouse, at The Beacon, at Emma�s school, anywhere�Olivia wanted her close enough to embrace. While she daydreamed of one little near-stolen kiss, Olivia was already hungering to hold her naked body and make love to her, a realization that stained her cheeks scarlet.

And Olivia had waited, had waited for ages, had tried to tell her how she felt more than once, but Natalia persisted in deflecting her attempts to confess how she felt. I�m so sorry I did that, she thought with genuine regret. I should�ve let you speak, should have let you tell me, but I was terrified�scared out of my mind about something I had no point of reference for. I didn�t know what I was feeling�and I was afraid to find out.

Indeed, she�d not understood the emotional aspect and certainly not the new and unfamiliar physical stirrings, so she�d tried to hide, deny, compartmentalize. Her dreams mocked her attempts and filled her sleep world with visions of the hotelier, vibrant and beautiful. Her waking mind betrayed her by constantly bombarding her with thoughts of Olivia�-Olivia running meetings, Olivia bundled up with breath emerging white into the frigid winter air, Olivia sleepy and grumpy in the early mornings and looking so adorable and sweet. Her body betrayed her with its reactions to Olivia, to the thought of Olivia, to the idea of kissing Olivia as she lay sleeping.

Now she realized that all through her agonizingly slow journey of self-discovery, Olivia had been waiting�waiting for her to wake up. From the moment she finally did ... just today; from the moment she awakened fully to her physical desire for Olivia, Natalia was in an agony of waiting, during just this one day, until Olivia had shown her what could be done about all those powerful and disturbing feelings; and Natalia couldn�t under any circumstances imagine waiting for months in that state of excruciating longing and need�as she now realized Olivia had done.

The realization pierced her heart, a tiny arrow of awareness.

******************************

Olivia was a quivering mass of nervousness, uncertainty, and lust. She was turned on so much and had been turned on for so long and needed to do something about it so badly that she didn�t know whether to cry, scream, or just beg for mercy. That sudden knowing expression in Natalia�s gleaming black eyes had positively turned her to putty, and all she could do was lie there staring up at Natalia, who was now propped on one elbow, gazing down at her pensively as one slender hand caressed her face over and over. Jesus, I think I�m going to explode!

How is it I�ve had sex with so many people�and pretty damned good sex, too!�and never even realized I had no freakin� idea it was possible to get this turned on? How come I never knew how unbelievably mind-blowing making love to someone could be? I feel like a ... like a ... virgin! How her former lovers would howl with laugher at that notion!

Olivia wasn�t at all sure how Natalia felt about touching her more intimately. She was painfully aware Natalia had been several beats behind her all the way along their mutual road of discovery. As much as she wanted Natalia to make love to her, as much as she NEEDED it, damn it, she didn�t want Natalia doing anything she still wasn�t ready to do. Better to die of terminal unrequited lust�which was starting to look pretty damned likely!

God, I�m going to hate myself for this, but

... "Hey you," she said, with a tiny smile.

"Hey."

"I just wanted to let you know ..."

"What?" Natalia stopped her pensive stroking of Olivia�s face.

"That ... uhm ... there�s nothing you have to do. I don�t want you to feel like you have to ... you know ... have to, like ... do anything, especially if ... if you don�t ..." Good god, it�s a damned good thing I�m not this incoherent when conducting Beacon business, she thought with an inward groan. It would�ve gone bankrupt years ago.

"If I don�t ...?"

"You know ... you don�t have to ..." Well, this is just goddamned freaking annoying not to be able to string words together in any kind of comprehensible way. She suddenly thought of the little Virgin Mary statue. This is my punishment, isn�t it? For all that cursing? She thought a moment. She took note of a very naked Natalia lying in her arms. Jesus, I�m in trouble for a lot more than just cursing, aren�t I?

Natalia kissed her lightly. "What in the world gave you the idea I didn�t want to ... I didn�t want to be holding you exactly like this?" She pressed herself closer to Olivia. "Or touch you?" She stroked Olivia�s cheek. "Or kiss you?" She kissed her again, and not so lightly.

"I ... uhm ..."

"And that�s not all I�m thinking right now."

"It isn�t?"

"No, it isn�t."

Natalia shifted position and rolled on top of Olivia, and Olivia ... could ... not ... breathe! Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! All she could feel was soft skin and soft curves, and she thought she might literally just pass the hell out.

"Am I hurting you?" Natalia murmured as she began to scatter small kisses down Olivia�s throat.

"No!"

"Are you sure?"

"Very sure."

"�Cause I could move."

"No, no," Olivia cried. "Please don�t move." She hugged Natalia closer, reveling in the heavenly feel of Natalia�s weight bearing down on her. Dear god, please don�t let this stop.

******************************

Natalia smiled. It�d never entered her mind Olivia might actually want her to move, and she sure didn�t want to move, because she�d just learned one more new thing: lying on top of Olivia, being "thisclose" to her, feeling her womanly curves, was exquisitely erotic, and it amazed her she�d never fantasized about it before.

Obviously I�m a real slow learner here

, she thought with no small amount of irony. If there�d been sex classes in school, Natalia knew Olivia would have been the gifted straight-A student, but she knew she herself would�ve been put in a class for slow learners. Maybe I could�ve gotten you to tutor me, she thought, smiling at the sudden images whirling through her mind. Clearly I�d have needed LOTS of extra help.

"What?" Olivia asked.

"Huh?"

"That smile ..."

"Oh ... I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"About you."

"Me?"

"Mm-hm."

"What about me?"

"I was thinking how much I want you," Natalia whispered directly into her ear.

******************************

Those words impacted Olivia like an actual physical blow. Not a "bad" blow, she thought. A very "good" blow. Those incredible words ... that look ... Natalia stretched out on top of her�she wasn�t entirely sure she could stay conscious. I�ve waited so long for you to want me back.

Olivia had tried to tell Natalia how she felt, but Natalia was like a bantamweight boxer, ducking and weaving, and it was just impossible to get past her defenses. Finally Olivia had given up. It was futile. Natalia would never be open to hearing how Olivia felt, would never acknowledge her own feelings for Olivia, which Olivia knew damned good and well she was having, would never be able to get past all her religious issues�and so Olivia had given up, had looked for a better option for Natalia, had dragged her resolutely toward said option. Gee, that worked out well. Obviously I�m a moron. She had no intentions of repeating that mistake!

And then suddenly Natalia was kissing her, and this kiss was different. The few other times Natalia had initiated a kiss, they were mostly sweet and brief and chaste, with a couple of notable exceptions, including the emotional kiss in the upstairs hallway just last night; but even then her kiss had only gone so far. Now, however, Natalia�s mouth was insistent, and Olivia�s lips parted in response�and then for the first time she felt Natalia�s sweetly questing tongue slip inside her mouth, and the resultant deep throb in her loins was the most powerful physical reaction she�d experienced thus far.

******************************

Natalia�s sexual revelations were proceeding along at a fast clip. She discovered it was amazing to explore the sweet sanctum of Olivia�s mouth, amazing to hear her groan of arousal, amazing to feel her body stir restlessly beneath her own.

She became hyper-aware of Olivia�s breasts pressing into her. She could only bring herself to end the steamy kiss in order to explore new "firsts." She kissed Olivia�s throat, kissed across her upper chest, and finally paused to tentatively touch her bare breast for the first time. At Olivia�s groan, she cupped it more firmly, traced over its rich contours as though to memorize each tantalizing inch, and finally leaned down to touch her tongue to its tip. Unlike her own dark nipples, Olivia�s were pale pink, and Natalia found them incredibly lovely and tempting.

Olivia gasped and, encouraged, Natalia drew in the tender bud, running her tongue lightly around and around until it was distended from arousal. She was beginning to get some sense of the power she had, and she rejoiced at this new knowledge. She moved her attention to Olivia�s other breast, kissing over the top, along the side, underneath, until finally her mouth found its peak and she sucked it into her mouth, once again astounded at how such an intimate act made her feel.

She pressed her face between both breasts�loving the feel of being there�and then kissed the top of Olivia�s wishbone-shaped transplant scar. Immediately she felt Olivia tense.

"I forgot about that," Olivia said in a subdued tone.

"What? What�s wrong?" Natalia asked. She glanced down at the razor-thin reminder of Olivia�s surgery. "Is it your scar?"

"Yeah ... I wasn�t thinking. You just got me all worked up and I ... I forgot about ... that." Olivia shifted restlessly beneath her.

You�re not ... embarrassed, are you?

she wondered. The pained expression on Olivia�s face told her something wasn�t quite right.

******************************

Damned scar!

The one time in her life she wanted everything to be perfect, and she�d forgotten about that damned ugly thing. She was used to being told she was perfect�her face was perfect, her body was perfect�and while she knew it wasn�t really true, it had still made her feel more than a little satisfied to hear it ... repeatedly ... and from lots of different sources.

Before the transplant surgery, she hadn�t thought about the scarring that was sure to follow; she was half dead, after all. She was more concerned with helping Emma understand Mommy might be going to heaven. It didn�t cross her mind in the first weeks after surgery either. You got used to things in the hospital�the total lack of privacy, the complete loss of control, the overwhelming pain�and your only goal was to survive. However, eventually as her healing progressed, she did think about it, thought about how she�d never again have that "perfect" smooth, blemish-free body that had lured and bewitched many a lover, and she grieved. She knew it was vain, but she grieved. How could I have forgotten that thing?

"Olivia!"

"What?"

"Tell me what you�re thinking ... please."

"Oh, I was just thinkin� I�m feeling a little carved up here." Well, that�s putting it mildly, she thought with a rueful laugh. "Uhm ..."

"Olivia, I love your scar."

"Yeah, right."

"I do!"

I bet. How could anyone actually love this thing?

Olivia knew scars could range from thick to thin, from light to dark. At least hers was pale pink and very thin, some might say not all that noticeable, but when she looked at her naked body in the mirror, it was sometimes all she could see�that pale, thin reminder of the transplant ordeal, of discovering it was Gus�s heart beating in her chest, of knowing her body had forever changed. "Well, nothing I can do about it now," she mumbled.

Olivia shivered when she felt Natalia�s tongue tracing over her scar. My god, the woman can turn anything into an erotic act, she thought in awe, as even her scar tingled beneath Natalia�s touch.

"I love your scar, Olivia. It�s the reason you�re here ... with me."

******************************

Natalia hugged Olivia tightly to her. She had no idea Olivia might feel any embarrassment or shame over her life-saving scar, and all she wanted to do was make it better. "You�re so beautiful, Olivia. The scar doesn�t change that, not at all." She shifted restlessly. "Are you sure I�m not too heavy?"

"Too heavy? No! You feel ... great!"

Natalia smiled at Olivia�s enthusiasm. "Really? �Cause I could move." She was well aware that was the last thing Olivia wanted, but she also thought distracting her from her feelings about her scar was a really good idea.

"Please don�t." Olivia tightened her hold.

"If you�re sure ..." Natalia kissed her, proud of her powers of distraction, and her hand began to explore leisurely. She was still giddy at being able to touch Olivia like this. Was it only this morning her thoughts hadn�t strayed beyond the fantasy of a tiny stolen kiss? Now she wanted to touch her everywhere, see and hear her reactions. Olivia was so passionate�about everything in life really. Her very passion aroused Natalia almost more than anything else, and suddenly she was anxious to do something about the ache she knew Olivia must be feeling, had most certainly been feeling for quite some time.

Natalia shifted her weight, so she was only partially lying on Olivia, and she began to stroke a path downward over soft skin until she finally eased her hand between Olivia�s legs and cupped her wet heat.

Olivia moaned.

"Am I hurting you?"

"Nnngh ..."

"I�ll take that as a no," Natalia laughed. She moved her hand slowly over Olivia�s very wet flesh, marveling at the surprisingly intricate landscape "down there." With a start she realized she�d never even touched herself this way, never explored, never thought about exploring her own body like that. In a sudden flash of intuition, she knew with certainty Olivia had. Slow learner, that�s me. Clearly she had a lot to learn.

She loved feeling Olivia writhe under her touch, loved hearing her moans of pleasure. She was astounded at what her inexperienced, exploratory touch could do to the voluptuous woman in her arms.

"Tell me what you want," she said softly.

"Uh ..."

"Sorry? Didn�t get that." Natalia just smiled. Olivia�s utter incoherence told her she was on the right track at least. "You know I�d do anything for you, right?"

Olivia merely moaned, but as Natalia�s fingers stroked, Olivia suddenly went rigid and her breathing quickened. "Right there," she said, voice hoarse. "Right there, right there ..."

Natalia held her breath and concentrated on "right there," and before long Olivia groaned loudly and grabbed her wrist, her body suddenly tightly stretched. Natalia drank in the intoxicating look of Olivia�s gorgeous face in her moment of ecstasy�and she was instantly addicted. When Olivia finally loosened her grip on Natalia�s wrist, Natalia wrapped herself around her trembling form, transfixed by Olivia�s erotic reactions.

******************************

Good god! It never felt like this before.

Olivia had known she was close, so close, but it surprised even her how little it took for Natalia to send her plummeting over the edge to bliss. She also knew she�d learned something new about human sexuality: The person you were with made ALL the difference, or at least it did if you were in love�and boy, was she in love! She was so in love that the slightest look, the slightest touch, could ignite a passion in her that was unbelievable!

She�d done some kinky things in her time, had been with some sexually adventurous partners, had been quite the little experimenter herself, but simply being with Natalia, knowing Natalia wanted her, feeling Natalia touching her, had eclipsed all that went before, making her climax seem not just a physical release, but a spiritual experience as well.

I am so whipped. I better hope she never realizes the effect she has on me.

It suddenly occurred to her Natalia might well have figured that out by now, and she flinched. God, if she does know, I just pray she uses her powers for good.

******************************

"You okay?" Natalia asked, not sure what that little grimace was all about.

"Mm ... very," Olivia sighed.

"So you ...?"

"Yes!" Olivia chuckled softly. "Never better. I never felt better. I�ve never felt like this with anyone else."

"Oh really?" Natalia asked skeptically. She really doubted that, but ...

"Really! You just have no idea."

"If you say so." Natalia grinned. Clearly Olivia was prejudiced�or perhaps suffering a memory lapse��cause she was pretty sure Olivia must have enjoyed encounters with far more experienced and competent lovers. Lovers! Oh my ... She suddenly realized that�s exactly what they were.

"And just think of all the fun new things we can do now," Olivia said with a sly grin.

"New things?" she asked. "You mean ... there�s more?" She saw Olivia looking at her with much the same expression of disbelief she�d had after the "My Two Mommies" presentation when she�d tried to get Natalia to understand that Emma�s teacher and the other parents thought they were a couple.

"God, is there ever!" Olivia said with vehemence.

******************************

Chapter 13

Olivia was flabbergasted. How had Natalia managed to remain so innocent? Clearly Olivia had found her own polar opposite ... and truthfully she could not be more smitten. Look at you, she thought. You�re so incredibly gorgeous and sexy, and when you look at me like that, I just want to� So many "want-to�s" began to ricochet around her head, she reeled from the sheer volume�not to mention the erotic details�of the images in her mental slideshow. "There is always more," she finally said.

Natalia blushed. "There�s always more," she repeated with wonder.

"Always!" And Olivia intended to spend whatever time it might take to illustrate her point. That is� She noted Natalia�s adorable blush and shuttered eyes. That is if you�re really okay with all of this. Please, please, please, be okay with this. "Come here," she said and pulled Natalia close. She grinned when Natalia snuggled up against her and pulled the covers more cozily around the two of them. "How are you doing?"

"Doing?"

"I know all of this is new ..."

"You have no idea."

"Oh, I think I have some idea."

Natalia giggled.

"Seriously, I hope you�re ... okay with everything ... no regrets?"

"How could I regret any of this?"

"Well ..." Sometimes I just wish I�d shut the hell up! "I know you have ..." No, no, no, don�t go there. Leave it alone. Ignore it. It�ll go away. It�s just an elephant in the room. Besides, it�s perfectly happy hiding under the carpet right now, so just leave it be.

"Have what?" Natalia looked at her curiously, clearly not following her rambling train of thought.

Olivia hesitated. She struggled. She glanced at the "elephant." That thing was not going to go anywhere, and at some point it was going to come shooting out from under the rug and trumpet its objections. "I know you have some ... religious ... uhm ... issues." Damn it! This couldn�t have waited? Maybe till tomorrow? Or next week? Or ... 2011?

"Oh."

Oh? That�s it? Just "oh"? That doesn�t sound good.

Olivia imagined Natalia jumping off the bed and hiking into town through ten feet of snow to confession. (She was sure it�d be impossible to get a car down the road anytime soon, but absolutely nothing stopped Natalia when she was in determined mode.)

Olivia could see Father Ray�s jaw drop�she wondered briefly if in some part of his mind he might react like a lot of men would at the thought of two women together�and she had no doubt Natalia�s first act of penance would involve permanently banning Olivia from the farmhouse and from her life. Olivia could just hear her now: "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee by lying naked with my best friend and kissing her into a state of near unconsciousness." Hey, I didn�t meet with Sister Anne for nothin�! I know stuff.

She became aware of Natalia staring at her with a bemused expression. "So ... just �oh�?" Olivia said. "I mean ... and believe me, I hate bringing this up, but ..."

"It�s all right."

"I just want to make sure you�re okay."

"I am."

"But what about ... you know."

"I know everything�s going to be all right."

"Really?" I�m not so sure. I mean you just spent the last several months pushing me away and trying to ignore your feelings for me. You even almost let me push you into marrying ... him! Olivia decided she�d be ecstatically happy if she never had to hear his name again. And if she never had to see him within fifty feet of Natalia, she�d be overjoyed! And if she never even had to see him again ... at all ... ever? That�d be some seriously tasty icing on the cake of her life. "How can you be sure?"

"Because I know ... in my heart ... that love is never wrong. The love I feel for you is ... right. I have no doubts. I believe you�re the person God had for me, and that�s why ... that�s why everything has happened the way it has."

This is just too good to be true. It can�t be true, can it?

Olivia was afraid to hope. Was it really possible that at long last she might actually get her happy ending? "So you�re really okay with ... us?" Olivia asked.

"So there is an �us,� right?" Natalia said, suddenly flashing a deeply dimpled smile.

On seeing that wide, white smile and those luscious, sexy dimples, Olivia thought she might actually swoon. Did people still do that? My god I have it bad.

"Right?" Natalia prompted, gently shaking Olivia.

"Right."

"There is an �us�?"

"Yes, okay, there is an �us� ... and a �we� and an �our� ... all that. Whatever you want."

Natalia giggled and hugged her, and then suddenly they were kissing again. Olivia wasn�t sure if the kiss lasted two minutes or two hours, but when they finally drew back to take a deep breath, every nerve in her body was screamingly alive, and all she wanted to do was make love to Natalia over and over and over.

******************************

I knew it, I knew it�I knew it that day in the gazebo

, Natalia thought with a rush of emotion. After her nerve_racking epiphany in the church, after running away from the intended groom, after finally making her gut-wrenching confession of love to Olivia at the gazebo, to hear Olivia say those words, "There is no us," had ripped her heart in two and left her life in utter and complete shambles. It was a tear that had to be mended, and she�d set about to do just that. Was that just twenty-four hours ago? Was it just yesterday I thought I�d lost you forever? Well, that was never going to happen again. She�d finally gotten Olivia to come home, home to their farmhouse, and that�s where she intended for her to stay.

Abruptly Natalia sat bolt upright on the bed, white linen sheets sliding down to her waist unnoticed, and she stared at Olivia with a look of determination.

******************************

Olivia�s jaw dropped at the sudden sight of a nude-to-the-waist Natalia. She�d always thought Natalia was beautiful�even when she hated her for it back in the days when Olivia had wanted to steal Gus away�but a naked Natalia was a glorious creature. Olivia�s mouth was suddenly devoid of any signs of moisture. She glanced frantically about the room. Where was the damned wine when you really needed it? And that expression of ... determination ... on her face� Uh-oh!

Amazingly Natalia seemed completely unaware of her self-exposure and oblivious to the effect it might be having on Olivia. Olivia swallowed. Hard. She�d just realized something else that was entirely outside the scope of her experience. In past relationships she�d pretty much managed to get and keep the upper hand. She picked �em and she left �em�sometimes at the altar. She was just never quite as invested as they, but now ... Christ, this is not good. Now she realized she�d never gotten the upper hand here and was never going to get it. She was just going to have to try to hang on and hope for the best. It was nearly impossible for her to imagine not being the one calling all the shots all the time, but Natalia just affected her in ways no one else ever had, and it left her feeling defenseless. Not good, not good, not good at all.

Meanwhile Natalia was staring at her steadily, as though she were some fierce jungle predator and Olivia her hapless prey. Jeez! What in the world is going on inside your head now, Natalia? This is going to be bad, isn�t it? Maybe she was going to need something stronger than wine for this.

Natalia continued to level that penetrating gaze at her.

"Uhm ... what?" Olivia finally managed to choke out.

"You need to move back."

"Move back?"

"Yes, move back ... here ... to the farmhouse, you and Emma."

"Here?"

"Yes, here. We can call Emma and tell her! She�ll be so happy."

"Wait, wait, wait ... tell Emma?"

"Of course! Of course we�re going to tell Emma."

"But ... tell her what?"

"That you�re both coming home."

Olivia frowned. Emma. What if this didn�t work out? What if Natalia changed her mind? What if any of a thousand things that could go wrong did go wrong? And with her freaking luck, they damn well would go wrong. "I don�t know. I don�t know if that�s such a good idea."

******************************

Natalia was unwavering. She knew Olivia felt vulnerable. She knew, in fact, that Olivia was afraid. However, she also knew in her heart they were meant to be. "I know, Olivia. I know it�s the right thing to do."

"But what if ...?"

"Olivia ..." Natalia stroked the side of Olivia�s face. She noted with a smile that Olivia�s eyes were flitting back and forth from her eyes to her chest, and filed that information away for possible future use. "Olivia, I know this ... us ... I know this is right. You need to have faith."

"Faith, huh?"

"Yes," she said softly. "You need to take a leap of faith�and you need to move back home. You need to get our little girl and move back home where you belong."

Natalia was still sitting up next to Olivia on the bed. Olivia looked worried and confused and� Is that a blush? Olivia�s eyes, growing darker and more glittery as Natalia watched them in fascination, were brazenly roving over her body now, and Natalia could see a faint tinge of pink infuse her cheeks. Natalia felt like her stomach had flipped all the way over, and ... and that ache was suddenly back and it was just as bad as it had been earlier.

Without thinking Natalia leaned down and kissed Olivia�s slightly parted lips, but suddenly found herself pulled down on top of Olivia, felt Olivia�s hands moving down her back and then cupping her buttocks. Then Olivia rolled her onto her back and it was Olivia on top, Olivia kissing her with passion. Olivia. Kissing her. She just could not get over the miracle of it.

******************************

Wow. Just wow. Who knew kissing could be like this?

Olivia was beginning to feel like all that "Olivia Spencer, woman-of-the-world stuff," was just a load of crap. Sure, she�d been around and she knew a lot about the nitty-gritty of sex, but Holy Mother of God� Oops. Where was that damned statue? See what you do to me, Natalia? Maybe the little Virgin Mary will take that into consideration. I mean ... it�s not entirely my fault. You have me in such a dither I just can�t think straight. And I�m also starting to find out that even though supposedly you�re the inexperienced one here, there�s just a whole lot I�m learning, too.

Olivia moved back so she could see Natalia�s face and her delectable, kiss-bruised lips. "You know what?"

"What?" Natalia asked, looking a little dazed after their heated kiss.

"I think it�s time for a shower."

"I ... uhm ... okay."

Olivia loved that Natalia was looking so bewildered at the abrupt change in topic. She guessed the last thing Natalia wanted to do was stop what that kiss seemed to be starting. I bet that pesky little "ache" is back, too, isn�t it?

Natalia sighed. "I should fix you something to eat, too. You haven�t eaten since breakfast. We need to make sure you take care of yourself. Why don�t you go shower first, and I�ll go fix us something. It�ll be ready by the time you�re done, and�"

"With me."

"What?

"I meant it�s time for a shower ... with me."

"With you?"

Olivia loved watching the slow dawn of realization spread over Natalia�s face. "Yep, I think it�s time for a shower ... together."

Natalia�s eyes slowly widened and her lips parted slightly, just enough to reveal a tiny glimpse of white teeth and pink tongue�and then there it was ... that gorgeous shade of crimson coloring her lovely tan cheeks.

Olivia grinned. My god, life has taken a major turn for the better. The WAY better.

******************************

Chapter 14

"A shower? With you?" Natalia blushed furiously. Olivia was just so unpredictable and impulsive and ... well, just so gorgeous. Natalia loved looking at her�and there was a lot to see at the moment, since Olivia was wearing nothing, nothing at all, and seemed completely unselfconscious.

"Yeah, you know ... water, soap, you, me ... shower?"

"I ... uhm ..."

"C�mon, don�t be shy. It�ll be fun. And just think of the money you can save on water."

Natalia laughed. Saving money was always good, and she was aware Olivia knew all about her careful budgeting�some might even say penny-pinching. She started to reply, but Olivia had already caught her hand and was dragging her toward the bedroom door.

"Wait, wait, I need a robe or ... shirt ... or something." Natalia was feeling very naked all of a sudden, and was looking all around for something to throw on to preserve some iota of her modesty. She�d never been one for traipsing around in the nude, for goodness sake.

Olivia grinned. "Why? You�d just have to take it off in two seconds anyway. Besides ..." Olivia looked her up and down. "You look great."

Natalia knew her cheeks must be flaming. "What about for after?" she asked.

"Don�t you still keep some of those Beacon guest robes in there?"

"Yes, but ..."

"But?"

"It�s going to be cold in the hallway."

Olivia abruptly changed direction, and instead of opening the bedroom door, she pushed Natalia up against it, leaned into her, and kissed her�thoroughly. "Warmer now?" she asked, when she finally pulled back.

"Mmmph ..."

"Good," Olivia said. She opened the door and tugged Natalia the short distance down the hallway to the bathroom, where she turned on the water in the shower to let it warm up. When she was satisfied with the temperature, she stepped inside the stall and turned to Natalia. "Coming?"

"Uhm ... okay."

"If you�re good, I�ll wash your back."

Natalia felt blood pumping hard through her veins. "Don�t you ... don�t you want a washcloth?"

Olivia stood there, head cocked slightly to the side, lathering up her hands with Natalia�s rose petal bar soap. "Not really," she said with a lift of one eyebrow.

Now I�m warm,

Natalia thought. Really, really warm.

******************************

Olivia waited patiently. I�m having way too much fun, she thought with amusement as she watched Natalia pin up her hair and then approach the shower somewhat uncertainly. "That�s it. Come on in. Water�s perfect."

"I�ve ... I�ve never ..."

"Mm-hm, somehow I guessed that."

They both laughed.

"You must think I�m hopeless," Natalia said breathlessly as she stepped into the shower stall and into the warm, wet spray.

"No, I think you�re beautiful," Olivia said softly. So beautiful I�m having a little trouble breathing right now, but I�m not gonna tell you that, nope. Can�t let you know all my secrets�especially the ones that�d let you know how easily you could wrap me around your little finger. That would NEVER do! Olivia might be feeling a bit "whipped," but she wasn�t going to share that little piece of information. It was a totally new feeling for her. She still hadn�t quite figured out what to do with it, so she sure didn�t plan on divulging it, especially not to the unwitting wielder of the "whip."

Olivia faced Natalia and reached around behind her to run her soapy hands languidly over Natalia�s smooth back. "How�s that?"

"Mm, good, feels good."

Olivia continued to rub her hands over Natalia�s back, slowly and firmly, before moving on to her arms, which she lathered generously. She smiled on hearing Natalia gasp when she began massaging her buttocks.

"Got to get everything nice and clean," Olivia explained. She found Natalia�s shyness endearing�and pretty damned sexy, too. She used to fantasize about doing this, but never really thought she�d ever get the chance. And oh my god, is the reality ever better than the fantasy, she thought. She should have just dragged Natalia into the shower ages ago. Probably would�ve saved them both a lot of time and trouble�and heartache�and it probably would�ve helped Natalia figure some things out a lot faster, too. Olivia glanced heavenward. Hey, I know that would�ve been wrong, and I didn�t actually do it, now did I? In fact, she�d actually been a "good girl" for a change, and boy, was that ever a strain!

Olivia knelt on the tiled floor of the shower and worked the lather down one slender leg and up the other. "Let�s see ... have I forgotten anything?" she asked, staring up the length of Natalia�s body from her kneeling position on the tiled floor. Mm, great view from down here. I really hope I don�t pass out.

Natalia gazed down at her with glassy eyes.

"Oh wait, I see I forgot the front." Olivia stood up, picked up the bar of soap, and lathered her hands up again; and then she began to smooth the suds across Natalia�s shoulders, around her stomach, until finally she concentrated on her chest. "Wouldn�t want to forget these," she murmured, massaging in the lather slowly. Good lord you look amazing like this, she thought.

When Olivia finally stopped her slow massage of Natalia�s breasts, Natalia swayed, dazed, and then started to move under the warm spray of water cascading down from the showerhead, but Olivia stopped her. "Where you going?"

"To rinse off?"

"I�m not done yet." Olivia lathered up her hands once more, and then slid one down Natalia�s belly and in between her legs. She smiled as Natalia sucked in a sudden deep breath and reached out to Olivia to catch herself when her legs threatened to buckle. Olivia held onto her with one arm, but continued her slow massage of Natalia�s most private area until she felt her hips begin to rock�and then she stopped. She smiled at Natalia�s little groan of disappointment. "Time to rinse," she announced cheerily, reaching for the handheld shower massager.

******************************

Natalia wasn�t sure if Olivia had purposefully made her all achy and then left her hanging, or if she just didn�t realize the effect her personal washing techniques were having on her. Her ache was not only back; it was throbbing in an almost painful way. She looked up at Olivia just in time to catch a wicked gleam in her eye. You did that on purpose, didn�t you?

"Olivia�"

Suddenly Olivia was rinsing her off with the shower massager. Feeling the warm water wash over her body felt so good and relaxing�until Olivia had it between her legs, rinsing her off thoroughly, and the net effect was further tension "down there."

"What?" Olivia asked.

"I think you know exactly what you�re doing."

"Well, yeah, I think I know a thing or two about taking a shower. I�ve taken plenty, you know."

"That�s not what I meant."

Olivia chuckled. "Sorry, no idea what you meant."

Natalia pinned her with a stern look, grabbed the bar of rose-scented soap, and began lathering her hands. "My turn."

******************************

Olivia�s smile was gleeful. Oh god, I was hoping you�d say that. She could hardly wait to feel those lathery hands, and feel them she did. Natalia�s hands, strong from years of manual labor, were suddenly soaping and kneading her shoulders, her arms, her back, her behind. Good lord, did she take a massage course somewhere along the line? Her hands seemed knowing and competent. That has to be it. She must have had a part-time job as a masseuse or something, in between waitressing and housekeeping gigs�

The more Natalia kneaded her tired and aching muscles�in her shoulders, her arms, her back, her legs�the limper she felt and the more difficult it became to think or even stand up. Good god that feels great! But then a strong and knowing hand was suddenly between her thighs, carefully lathering soap there, and "great" was no longer a strong enough word for what Olivia was feeling.

Just as Olivia felt herself giving in to the heavenly sensations, she realized Natalia was going to do the same thing she�d just done. Ah, damn it to hell! It�s payback time, isn�t it? Okay, it�s not quite as amusing now as it was awhile ago. She�d better write herself a note on her PDA: "Do not tease Natalia in the shower." Hey, it�s not like I wasn�t planning to do something about that little ache we got going again. It�s just sometimes it�s even better if you wait. I mean ... it�s all about the foreplay, right? But then she reminded herself Natalia evidently hadn�t experienced a whole lot of that, so she might not exactly be feeling all that appreciative about the benefits of prolonging it.

Olivia tried to back away from that insistent hand, but Natalia moved with her, and she found herself leaning up against the shower wall with Natalia pressing close. She was afraid to let go and just enjoy what was happening because she knew it was going to stop ANY SECOND. Oh god oh god, this is so going to be painful. Maybe if she tried to reason with her?

"Okay," she gasped, as Natalia�s hand continued its personal soapy ministrations. "I give."

Natalia stood on tiptoe to kiss her lightly.

"Really ... you can stop now." She�d rather Natalia stop now, than get her right on the edge and then stop. Jesus, that wouldn�t be good. And besides, in all fairness, she hadn�t taken Natalia that far along, so ... this just wasn�t right. Not right at all.

Instead of stopping, Natalia kissed her again, and not so lightly. In fact, she kissed her passionately, much like she had earlier that day.

That is so not helping

, Olivia thought from a haze of arousal. She was aware someone was gasping and making small sounds in their throat, and realized it had to be her. She tried again to pull away, because she was getting really, really close, but Natalia wouldn�t let her go, and then suddenly her nether muscles clenched and she came so hard she almost collapsed onto the shower floor. Only Natalia�s quick grab kept her standing. As she stood there, breathing hard, heart pounding, knees shaking, leaning heavily on the sexy body holding her, she was vaguely aware that Natalia was humming softly as she rinsed her off with the handheld shower massager.

******************************

Once Olivia was soap free, Natalia turned off the water, stepped out of the shower stall, and grabbed a couple of thick towels. "You�re right. That was fun," she said with an impish grin. She handed one towel to Olivia and began to dry off with the other.

"You don�t play fair."

"Me?" Natalia giggled.

"Yes, you."

Natalia laughed as she dried off and pulled on one of the terrycloth robes. She loved watching Olivia come. She loved watching her right afterwards, too. She looked very "un-Olivia-like" then. She sure didn�t look like the controlled, sardonic, ass-kicking owner of a multimillion-dollar hotel. She looked all soft and sweet and vulnerable, and Natalia loved it! It was highly addictive.

She noticed Olivia was just leaning against the bathroom counter holding the towel in her hand. "Olivia, you should dry off. You�re going to catch your death of cold."

"What?"

"Here, I�ll help." Natalia rubbed the towel briskly over Olivia�s body, and when she had her thoroughly dried off, she helped her into a soft white robe. "Better?" she asked.

Olivia nodded.

"Good." Natalia opened the bathroom door, and linked her arm through Olivia�s. "I think we should get dressed and go downstairs to get something to eat, okay?"

******************************

Oh, I don�t think so

, Olivia thought, glancing sideways at Natalia. When they reached the hallway, Natalia turned toward her bedroom, obviously intent on getting clean clothes. You�re not really planning on covering all ... that ... up, are you? Olivia much preferred her in the robe, because she knew there was little standing in the way of her being able to enjoy the delights hidden for the moment under the white terrycloth. She stood and watched as Natalia moved briskly toward her bedroom, and then she followed.

Natalia laughed when she realized Olivia was right behind her. "Hey, your room is down that way," she said, pointing in the opposite direction.

"I know."

"Your clothes are in your room."

"I know."

"Then why are you here in my room?"

Olivia untied the belt of Natalia�s terrycloth robe and let it fall open to reveal a narrow strip of lovely tan skin. "I�ll give you three guesses."

"Olivia, you need to eat."

"Exactly." Olivia arched a brow, but knew there was no way in hell Natalia would glom on to the meaning of her double entendre. She slipped her arms inside Natalia�s robe and pulled her close.

"Olivia?"

"Mm?"

"What are you doing?"

"I thought it was pretty obvious, but ..." She kissed her lightly. Kissed her again. Drew her down on the bed. Kissed her more thoroughly. "... I�ll try to make it clearer."

******************************

Chapter 15

Olivia relished the idea of making her intentions much clearer�clear enough that even the determinedly-na�ve Natalia would finally catch on. Truthfully, Olivia found her na�vet� endearing. She might even say sexy, but then she found virtually everything about Natalia sexy. She certainly loved the feel of Natalia lying beneath her on her double bed. She�d already pulled Natalia�s robe open, and now she pulled open her own so that they were once more bare skin against bare skin.

Olivia�s kisses became more heated as her hands leisurely explored soft flesh. "You feel so good," she whispered. She wondered if her intentions were becoming a bit clearer now. Surely even Natalia should have some idea by now where this was going. But if you don�t now, you will soon, she promised her silently.

She kissed her way down Natalia�s chest to her stomach and lingered there, nudged Natalia�s legs apart as her tongue teased her belly button. She kissed over the womanly curve of her hips, moved lower, kissed the inside of her thighs, spreading slow sensuous kisses over one and then the other. How she loved Natalia�s perfect, slender legs! She ventured lower, her breath blowing hot as her mouth skimmed over dark curls below.

"Olivia? What are you do�" Natalia gasped.

Olivia finally dipped her head to kiss intricate flesh, as she�d fantasized about for so long. She�d wanted her mouth exactly here, had wanted to hear Natalia�s moans of pleasure, and that�s precisely what she was hearing�the woman she loved moaning with pleasure. She could feel Natalia�s body moving restlessly, could sense her agitation, could hear her breathing become labored, could feel the evidence of her arousal when her hand explored her silky depths. It was a heady feeling�headier still when Natalia�s body finally jerked spasmodically, and Olivia could actually feel her climaxing under her mouth.

My god, that was amazing!

******************************

Natalia lay limp, completely incapable of thought or speech. She was only vaguely aware that Olivia had gathered her into her arms and pulled the country floral sheets over them. She�d been confused when she felt Olivia�s warm breath moving over the patch of hair concealing her sex, but she became downright alarmed when Olivia suddenly began kissing her "down there." The very next second, however, she forgot about any shock or hesitation because she was feeling the most amazing sensation she�d ever felt in her life, and there was just no room for anything else�only the feel of Olivia�s tongue and mouth on her most intimate flesh. Prior to this, she would never have guessed anything could possibly feel better than when Olivia had made love to her earlier that day and made her feel things completely outside her realm of experience, but this� All she could think was oh my god oh my god oh my god!

"Olivia?" she said when she could finally form a word.

"Hm?"

"I never ... ever ... I mean, nobody ever ..."

"Yeah, I figured," Olivia said, "but you know what?"

"What?"

"This is all new to me too. Remember, I�ve never been with another woman."

"Why did you .. how did you know ..." I wonder if I�ll ever be able to talk about things like this without feeling so flustered. She guessed ... probably not.

"Hey, I have skills," Olivia said with a chuckle.

Natalia tucked her face into the crook of Olivia�s neck. "You really do," she said, her voice somewhat muffled. "You really, really do."

******************************

The two women lay quietly in each other�s arms. Olivia tried to remember ever being in a relationship where she felt this happy and this complete. I got nothin�, she thought. She knew there wasn�t anything from her past that came even close. As much as she liked sex�and as much sex as she�d had�she�d just never felt like this, never felt so turned on, never wanted someone else this much, never cared about someone else�s needs and wants more than her own. Boy, that�s new!

I don�t even know how this happened, she thought. One minute I was living my life, the next I was dying, then I was waking up post-op and finding out I had a new heart�and it was Gus�s. And then that irritating woman was in my face 24/7 trying to get me to eat, making sure I took my meds, looking after my every need, and before I knew it my life began to revolve around her, her visits, her fussing, her beautiful smile.

I didn�t even realize at first what was happening, but one night when I came back to the farmhouse, she was standing outside leaning against a post, lit only by the stars and the moonlight glinting off the snow, and all I wanted to do was take her in my arms and kiss her. That�s when I knew. That�s when I knew I was in love with her.

******************************

Natalia was "thisclose" to falling asleep. She had no idea such a thorough state of relaxation even existed. She blushed as she recalled how this new elevated state of relaxation had come about. Oh, Olivia ... the things you make me feel.

In her mind Olivia was an amazing being. Her passion, her intelligence, her vitality, her unpredictability, her beauty, her humor and playfulness�all that kept Natalia off-balance and completely enthralled. She knew she didn�t just love Olivia. She knew she was in love with her, had probably been in love with her for some time, even though her fear and uncertainty kept that knowledge tucked carefully away from her conscious mind.

But now ... now there was no more hiding. She was in love. She was in love for the first time in her life, and instead of being fearful or ashamed anymore, she rejoiced. She loved Olivia Spencer, and by some miracle Olivia loved her back.

Natalia roused herself enough to open her eyes and check on Olivia. She�d suddenly remembered Olivia hadn�t eaten since that morning. Well, that just wouldn�t do.

"Olivia?"

"Mm?"

Natalia realized Olivia must have been dozing.

"I�m going to go downstairs and fix us something to eat. Are you hungry?"

"Maybe," Olivia slurred.

Natalia grinned. "Okay, you stay here and sleep if you can, and I�ll come get you when it�s time to eat, okay?"

"Mm-hm."

Natalia laughed softly, kissed Olivia�s forehead, and left her sleeping in her bed on her floral sheets.

******************************

Olivia groggily opened one eye�why could she never seem to get both of them open when she first woke up?�and saw the empty spot on the bed where the love of her life should be. Hey, where�d you go? Oh ... wait ... you said something about food, didn�t you? Guess I should get up.

She dragged herself out of bed and trudged down the hallway to her room. As she pulled on jeans and a white button-down shirt, she became aware of the faint sounds of music floating up from downstairs. She knew how much Natalia loved to play music when she was working in her beloved kitchen, and she could just imagine her happily bustling about down there.

As Olivia walked carefully down the stairs, she could smell the aroma of something spicy wafting through the farmhouse. She loved when Natalia cooked for her. When she made it to the kitchen doorway, she stopped to take in the provocative sight of Natalia standing in front of the stove vigorously stirring something in a large pot while her hips swayed in time to the driving Latin rhythm emanating from the CD player she always kept on the cabinet next to the coffeemaker. Olivia listened more carefully. Natalia was singing along softly in Spanish. She realized she�d never actually heard Natalia speak Spanish; she�d just always assumed she could.

Abruptly, as though sensing her presence, Natalia turned toward the doorway, and then she was smiling that beautiful, dimply smile that turned Olivia to mush. She could feel that smile wash over her, and damn, if it didn�t leave incredible tingly feelings all over everywhere as it went.

Olivia cleared her throat. Good heavens, that woman makes it hard to even talk. "Is that Ricky Martin?"

Ricky: La reina de la noche | La diosa del vud� ...

"Yes."

Ricky: Yo no podr� salvarme | Podr�s salvarte t�?

"I�ve never heard the Spanish version of that song. �Livin� la Vida Loca,� right?"

Ricky: La tela de la ara�a, | La u�a del drag�n ...

Natalia nodded.

Ricky: Te lleva a los infiernos ...

"And I just realized�I don�t think I�ve ever heard you speak Spanish." Olivia laughed. "You do speak Spanish, right?"

"Claro que s�," Natalia replied with a laugh�not to mention a flawless accent.

"Okay, I�m guessing that was a yes." Olivia had taken a couple of years of Spanish in high school, but that had been awhile ago.

Ricky: Ella es tu adicci�n.

"Hey," Olivia said. "I caught that last word. �Addiction,� right?"

"That�s right: �She�s your addiction.�"

"Hm, I think we may have found �our� song."

Ricky: Te besa y te desnuda con su baile demencial ...

"We have a song?" Natalia smiled happily.

"Yes, we do, and I think we should dance to it," Olivia replied, pulling Natalia into her arms. "Care to salsa?"

Ricky: T� cierras los ojitos y te dejas arrastrar ...

"I ... uh ... I don�t know how to dance."

"What?!?" Olivia was shocked.

"My parents wouldn�t let me learn or go to school dances. I always wanted to, though."

Natalia looked so woebegone, Olivia wanted to take her into her arms and just hug all the hurt away, but instead she flashed a breezy grin and said, "Well, then, I think it�s time you did."

Ricky: T� te dejas arrastrar ...

Olivia began to lead Natalia through salsa footwork basics: forward, two, three, pause; back, two, three, pause. Natalia was a natural, and soon she relaxed and her hips began to gyrate in perfect sync with the music. Oh my god that looks sexy, Olivia thought as she watched those talented hips rocking along to the beat.

Ricky: Ella que ser� | She's livin' la vida loca.

Once Natalia was relaxed and enjoying basic salsa steps, Olivia began some of the more intricate arm movements, twirling her, dipping her, leading her through spins and twists and arm tunnels. It was fun watching Natalia�s flushed and happy face and hearing her occasional giggle when she made a misstep.

Ricky: Y te doler�, | Si de verdad te toca.

They both burst into laughter as a mutual misstep brought them crashing awkwardly together.

"Where did you learn to dance like?" Natalia asked.

Natalia was breathless and flushed from the exertion, and Olivia�s heart swelled with love at the sight. "Spain, actually."

Ricky: Ella es tu final, | Vive la vida loca ...

"You learned to dance salsa in Spain?"

"Yeah, I went there on Beacon business, and took lessons from an instructor at the hotel I stayed at. He taught Cuban-style salsa; that�s the kind with all the fancy arm stuff."

Ricky: Ella te dir� | Vive la vida loca ...

"Is there anything you can�t do?"

"Not anymore," Olivia said, before pulling an out-of-breath Natalia closer for a kiss. "I love kissing you," she sighed.

"Me too."

Ricky: Vive la vida loca ...

"Are the Spanish lyrics the same as the English, like an exact translation?"

"No ... well, mostly they�re not, but the basic idea�s the same."

"I can remember most of the English version, especially one part that reminds me of you."

"Which part?"

"The part that goes: �Once you've had a taste of her you'll never be the same. Yeah, she'll make you go insane.�"

Gazing pointedly at Olivia, Natalia slowly nodded her head.

"I loved hearing you singing in Spanish. Say something else," Olivia said. She�d discovered that Natalia�s Spanish was beautiful and sexy, and she just wanted to hear more.

Natalia gazed at her for a moment and said softly, "Eres mi vida. Te adoro."

Olivia remembered enough Spanish to know exactly what that meant: "You are my life. I adore you." She sighed. "Me too."

Olivia pulled Natalia close, and they just stood in the middle of the kitchen holding each other and swaying slowly as the fiery Latin music reverberated around the room.

******************************

Chapter 16

The sound of chili bubbling a little too vigorously finally penetrated Natalia�s happy fog, and reluctantly she disengaged herself from Olivia�s arms to rescue their dinner. "Wouldn�t want the chili to burn, now would we?" she asked as she turned the burner off.

"Chili? Mm, love your chili."

Natalia grinned. She was well aware of how much Olivia enjoyed her chili, especially on cold, snowy days like this. She began to dip the spicy concoction into two large bowls. "You should sit down."

"Here, I�ll help."

"I�ve got it."

"Fine, I�ll just sit here and� Is that a wine glass?" Olivia laughed. "You didn�t let me have any wine last night. How come I get wine tonight?"

"Last night you were about to pass out. You seem much more ... energetic ... today."

Natalia poured them each a glass of wine, and they began to eat their simple meal. Natalia loved seeing Olivia looking so relaxed and happy and slightly flushed after their impromptu salsa. She was still astounded at Olivia�s dancing prowess�not to mention her prowess at other, more personal things, a thought that made her cheeks redden.

Olivia glanced up in time to see the sudden change in color. "What�re you thinking about?"

Natalia smiled, but just shook her head. There was no way she was going to answer that question. Best to just let it go.

Olivia shrugged. "Okay. So ... tell me why I never hear you speaking Spanish. I mean, we have Spanish-speaking visitors at The Beacon from time to time, and some of the staff are more comfortable speaking Spanish than English."

Natalia could feel her smile fading. "Because ... it reminds me of ... of my family, and that makes me sad."

"Sad? Why?"

Natalia laid her spoon down and pushed her bowl of chili away. "I left ... well, they made me leave ... when I was sixteen." She hated remembering that time in her life. It felt like a body blow then, and it felt no better now.

Olivia frowned. "Because of the baby, right?"

Natalia nodded. She could feel her throat constrict. It�d been a bewildering and difficult time, and she�d been so young. "They said I�d brought shame on myself and on them, said I�d sinned in God�s eyes, and ..."

"And they threw you out?"

"Yes, well ... they wanted me to give the baby up for adoption, but ... but I said no." Natalia choked back a sob. "Olivia, I couldn�t give my baby away. I just couldn�t do that. The only one on my side was mi abuelita, who was living with us in Chicago,"

"Your grandmother, right? So they kicked you out?"

"They sent me to a home for unwed mothers, and when the baby was born and I insisted on keeping him, they ... they wouldn�t let me come back home. They said keeping the baby was just one more sin, when I could�ve found a good home with a mother and a father who�d be able to care for him properly." Natalia could feel tears rolling down her cheeks. She�d been sixteen, she had no job, she had nowhere to stay, and her parents had turned their backs on her. It was the worst time in her life.

******************************

Olivia was stunned and furious and heartbroken. She wanted to book a flight to Chicago so she could tell Natalia�s parents directly to their faces what she thought of their inhumane treatment of their own daughter. Not to mention unchristian, she thought with disdain. The thought of a young Natalia completely alone in the world with a tiny baby to care for made her heart hurt.

"What in the world did you do?" Olivia finally asked.

"A lady who worked for Catholic Charities, which ran the home, took me in, but she, Esperanza, well, she didn�t have a lot of money, so I went to work. I worked at night, busing tables, waitressing, babysitting, anything I could find, and she took care of Rafe while I was gone. Then I took care of him during the day when she worked."

"And school?"

Natalia�s head dropped down. "I never went back. I ... I never finished high school."

"What about your family? Did your folks ever see the baby?"

"No. They were very strict and very religious, and they just didn�t want anything to do with me after what I ... after all that. I ... I lost my family, Olivia." She began to weep.

In a flash Olivia was kneeling at her side, enveloping her in the safety of her arms. "Shh, it�s okay."

Natalia leaned down into the embrace and cried softly for a moment, but then she sat up and wiped away her tears. "I�m okay. It�s just the way it was. I survived. We survived. And I never regretted keeping my baby!"

Natalia stood and began clearing the dishes off the table, and then the two of them fell into their old routine: Natalia washed and Olivia dried.

"I did regret not getting my high school diploma, though," Natalia added after a while.

"You know what? A diploma�s no big deal," Olivia said, but on seeing Natalia�s sad expression, added, "But you could still get one, if you wanted. I mean ... you can always get a GED. Lots of people do that."

"I don�t know."

"Well, it�s an option. Just think about it. You can do anything you want, Natalia. You�re smart and you�re hardworking. There�s nothing you can�t do." Hell, I�ll send you to college, if that�s what you want. She felt nothing but contempt for the family who�d thrown her out. How could they have done that?

Natalia turned to Olivia and hugged her, soapy hands and all, and the only thing Olivia wanted to do was make all the hurts go away. This unexpected information about Natalia�s past certainly explained a lot. I think I understand some things now that I just didn�t get before, she thought. I really get why our little "family" was always so important to you.

******************************

"That�s enough sadness," Natalia said, abruptly pulling away from Olivia and grabbing a hand towel to dry off.

"Okay." Olivia wandered over to the window and peered out. "Wow, you should see how deep the snow is out here. I guess you�ll be wanting to go for a walk?"

Natalia shook her head and laughed as she looked over Olivia�s shoulder. It was dusk, and the snow looked very deep and very white and very cold. "It�s so beautiful," she sighed, resting her chin on Olivia�s shoulder. She loved living in the country. It was the opposite of how she�d grown up. Chicago was all concrete and noise, and the farmhouse seemed like paradise in comparison. Having you here makes it seem like home, she thought, anxious to reintroduce the topic of Olivia and Emma moving back.

"Yeah, it really is. I think we should throw another log on the fire and get that stoked back up."

"That�s a good idea. Why don�t you do that, and I�ll finish putting things away in here." Natalia resolutely pushed away the sadness of her past, as she�d done so many times before, and focused her attention on the present�and the future, a future that would hopefully include Olivia and Emma and Rafe all living happily under one roof someday.

******************************

Olivia tossed a couple of fresh logs on the fire, which had burned low after the afternoon�s neglect. She stoked the embers to encourage things along, but then, getting impatient, she wadded up the sports section from that morning�s newspaper, stuffed it under the logs, and lit it with one of the long wooden fireplace matches. Soon the fire was blazing again and easily defeating the chill. Ha! That�s better. It�s not really cheating, is it? She loved watching Natalia stoke the fireplace embers and watch as new logs slowly caught fire, but personally she thought quicker was better. Well, for some things, she thought with a lascivious grin. For others ... not so much. Yes, she definitely thought some things should not be rushed.

When Olivia returned to the living room after brushing her teeth and washing up, the fire was roaring hot, and Natalia was sitting on the couch watching it. Olivia paused to just look at her. The fire�s not the only thing in here that�s hot, she thought. She loved how Natalia looked in the firelight. The soft illumination caressed Natalia�s face and skin, lending them a golden hue that Olivia found breathtaking. As she approached the couch, she could detect the faint aroma of Natalia�s favorite toothpaste, Crest Cinnamon Rush, and she grinned. How she wanted to taste that again.

When Natalia looked up at her, she smiled and it was dazzling, so dazzling Olivia had to try to catch her breath. What is it about you, she wondered. You make me feel alive and aroused and ... tender. Sometimes I just don�t recognize myself anymore.

"You�re back," Natalia said.

"Yep." Olivia plopped down on the couch next to her, and Natalia took her hand. Their fingers entwined as though they�d been doing it for years, and the two of them leaned back into the overstuffed cushions, shoulder to shoulder as they gazed at the dancing flames.

"You never answered me," Natalia said.

"Uhm ... answered what?" I�m sure there was no question. Was there a question? I know I get a little rattled around you�okay, a LOT rattled�but I would�ve heard a question, wouldn�t I?

"About moving back home, you and Emma."

Oh. That question.

"I don�t know, Natalia. I just don�t know if that�s a good idea." Sure, I�d love to move back in, but what if� There were just too many "what ifs."

"Olivia ..." Natalia turned sideways on the couch to face Olivia, but kept a firm grip on Olivia�s hand.

"Yes?" Here it comes. I�m about to get hit with irrefutable Natalia-logic, but I need to stay strong and try to do what�s right for everyone, and I�m just not sure if moving back here is the right thing.

"Olivia, I want you here, and I know you want to move back. Our little girl has sure been clear on where she wants to live, right?"

"Well, yes, but ..."

"You�ve got to stop worrying about all the �what ifs,� Olivia."

My god, there�s that psychic, read-my-mind thing again. The woman is downright eerie sometimes.

"It�s hard not to."

"I know, but sometimes you just have to have faith."

"You mean in God?"

"No, in us. You�ve got to have faith in us."

Olivia�s mind raced through the last year of their time together: their shaky, mutually-loathing beginning; their developing interdependence and support following her heart transplant; the budding friendship, a new experience for Olivia�who�d have thought?; the slowly evolving nature of their relationship; the finding of love in the most unexpected place. She tried to imagine her life without Natalia, but all that stretched out in front of her in a no-Natalia universe was blackness, a world with no color and no warmth�and no love. With a sigh she realized that no matter how high the pile of scary "what ifs," her heart had already made the decision, had made it a long time ago without her knowing.

Suddenly Natalia grabbed her in a fierce bear hug. "I knew it! I knew you�d move back home."

Well, goddamn! How the hell does she do that? My god, I think she really can read my mind.

That had some scary implications for the must-be-totally-in-control entrepreneur, but Olivia also knew how to accept reality, and the reality was her great big love for Natalia left her utterly defenseless. "Oh, fine."

Natalia giggled at Olivia�s grumpy tone. "When?"

"Well, not right now. I doubt we can get the front door open right now, let alone get movers out here."

"Okay, but as soon as the roads are passable?"

"Okay."

"We should call Emma and tell her. She�ll be so happy."

"Yes, she will," Olivia said softly. She knew Emma would be overjoyed to get to live with both her mommies again on the farm she�d grown to love. "I�ll have to call tomorrow anyway, �cause I doubt we�ll be able to pick her up till Monday at the earliest."

"But we can tell her, right?" Natalia insisted.

"Yes, we can tell her," Olivia laughed. Jesus, it was like trying to swim against the tide of raging flood waters. Might as well go with the flow here. What choice do I have?

Natalia hugged her. "I�m so happy," she said. "And you know what else?"

Olivia cringed. "What?" Yep, she�d definitely lost control here. Okay, okay, so I never had control. Damn. This is going to be ... challenging ... just trying to keep my head above water.

"I think we should let Emma get a kitten."

"A kitten?"

"Yes, you know ... pointy ears, tail, whiskers ... meows."

"I know what a kitten is," Olivia laughed, "but do we want to actually get one?"

"Jody�s cat had kittens and Emma really, really wants one."

"I had no idea she wanted a kitten." Well, clearly Jellybean knew which of her two mommies to go to with that little piece of information.

"Don�t tell me you don�t like kittens. I saw you playing with them over at Jody�s when we picked Emma up last week."

"Hey, I like kittens. Who doesn�t like kittens? I just ... never lived with one. Never thought about living with one either." Olivia�s idea of roughing it was giving staff the day off. She still couldn�t believe she was going to be living on the farm again. No staff. No room service. No Jacuzzi. No amenities. Christ almighty! How�s a girl supposed to survive under conditions like that? She glanced heavenward. Oh fine, yes, I�ve never been happier. Satisfied?

"Then maybe it�s time you did. I think it�d be good for you."

"Living with a kitten would be good for me?"

"Please," Natalia added, leaning closer as she waited breathlessly for an answer.

That�s not fair, that leaning thing, and neither are those dimples or that smile. Damn it, that�s really, really, really not fair.

"Oh fine. Next thing I know you�ll want to get Rafe a puppy."

Natalia lightly slapped Olivia�s thigh. "That�s a great idea! Rafe always wanted a puppy when he was little, and, of course, we just couldn�t get one back then."

Olivia began to massage the bridge of her nose. Oh joy. Little furry critters. She was going to live in the country�in a farmhouse�with little furry critters.

Natalia took hold of Olivia�s hand, pulled it away from its compulsive massage, and clasped it to her bosom. "You make me so happy."

Olivia couldn�t tear her eyes away from her hand nestled just over Natalia�s generous cleavage. Wow, that woman had some great cleavage. Before Natalia, Olivia�s only interest in cleavage was making sure she flashed her own at the right man to make sure she got whatever she wanted at the time. Her hand�s happy resting place reminded her there�d be some advantages to life on the farm. That�s right. I�ll be living with this hottie, so ... fine, I guess I can get used to spa-less, amenity-free country living again.

At least she now understood Natalia�s frantic need to gather her little family together under one roof. "You make me happy," she said softly.

Olivia smiled as she thought about making her many fantasies come true: making love to Natalia in the kitchen she loved so much�I bet I can make you love it even more; making love on a bed of straw in the barn�the horses will never look at us the same; making love to her at The Beacon on her big mahogany executive�s desk�I�ll never look at that desk the same.

"What are you thinking about?" Natalia asked.

"I�m thinking about that big staff meeting we have on Wednesday."

"You�re thinking about work?"

Olivia laughed. "I was thinking there are some additional ... uhm ... agenda items the two of us need to go over together afterwards."

Natalia shrugged. "Well, okay. Whatever you need."

Olivia laughed. You have no idea how much I need that.

******************************

My family.

Natalia�s heart was brimming. Very soon Olivia and Emma would be officially moved back into the farmhouse where they belonged, and in a few months Rafe would be home, too. It was the most content she�d ever been. See? There is an us, she thought happily. She�d known it in her heart ever since they�d talked at the gazebo and she�d finally confessed her love to Olivia. Was that just yesterday? She knew everything would be okay. They�d deal with whatever came up, and they�d do it together as they�d always done.

She noticed Olivia�s rich green eyes glittering in the firelight, and then Olivia was kissing her again, and this kiss was different. It was deep and intimate and passionate, but it was also tender, and Natalia could feel her love. She also felt the wonder of her body�s throbbing response, the liquid heat, the deep ache that she now understood only Olivia could assuage. She became even more aroused when Olivia pulled her down on top of her, as they both stretched out on the couch in front of the warm glow of the hotly burning fire. And then Olivia was making love to her, and it was sweet and loving and romantic in the firelight. There were no more worries, no more sadness, no more doubt; only the kisses and caresses and love of the woman she adored.

THE END

 

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