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Episode 6 – After The Damage Was Done

February 16, 2012

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DISCLAIMERS:

This romantic drama is an original story and all characters are created by me.

All characters depicted, names used, and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended nor should be inferred. Any resemblance of the characters portrayed to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

The registered trademarks mentioned in this story are (c) of their respective owners. No infringement of their rights is intended, and no profit is gained.

This story contains scenes of mild violence, but nothing scary this time. However, this story does contain a discussion dealing with the lead characters’ childhood abuse, both mental and physical. So, any readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

This story depicts a sexual relationship between consenting adult women. If such a story frightens you, you better click on the X in the top right corner of your screen right away.

* * * * * *

Many, many thanks to my beta-reader, Norsebard. Your help is very much appreciated and continues to be most welcome.

And thank you to all of my readers. Your feedback has been most helpful and encouraging.

This is the next installment in my series, After Montana, and is a continuation of the previous story, After So Long. I have to say that, to understand and enjoy the characters and situations fully, you should probably start at the beginning.

Comments and/or opinions can be sent to stagefreakmusic@hotmail.com or left at http://marshallcarson.wordpress.com

Basic edit – Dec 30 2014

Chapter 1

CJ Carson watched as Kate closed her eyes to savor the last moments of the evening sun on her face as it fell behind the mountains. As they sat on the back porch, CJ tried to comprehend what they were currently discussing. It seemed they were about to become the adoptive parents of two girls whom CJ had met through one of the worst cases in her FBI career.

Shannon and Lucy Davenport’s father, Charles, had been brutally murdered by the low-life boyfriend of their mother, Sheila, who had arranged the whole thing to get her husband’s insurance money. But Shannon and Lucy’s half-brothers had unexpectedly been present in the house with Charles Davenport at the time, and had been killed as collateral damage. After Sheila’s arrest, she hadn’t been able to handle the guilt and trauma of the boys’ death and had hung herself in her jail cell. Shannon and Lucy had been left completely alone except for their estranged aunt who didn’t want them anyway.

So now, CJ and Kate had come to an easy decision. They wanted to adopt the two precious girls who had formed a bond with CJ from the moment they met.

Kate opened her eyes, took in CJ’s expression, and knew she was deep in thought. “Tell me what you’re thinking now…” she requested quietly.

CJ pushed her foot off the wooden planks beneath them to restart the gentle sway of the bench swing. “I’m just trying to imagine how I’ll cope as a mom…if our application’s successful.”

“Didn’t Mark say it was just a formality now? The paperwork and all that?”

“I think so, but I would guess that this woman at Children’s Services will want to meet us, to speak with us at least,” CJ said, moving tighter against Kate’s side.

“Hmm. Possibly, but I can’t really think of a better parent for them than you, honey. I mean, you know exactly what happened to their family, and we’ll cope with any questions together.” Kate became quiet when she felt CJ tense beside her. “What?”

“I never even thought of that. Oh, god. What should we tell Shannon if she asks about them?” CJ asked. She was feeling slight panic about the idea of being a parent, never mind the whole background of Shannon and Lucy Davenport.

“CJ, it’ll be fine. I think if she asks, we should explain it in non-scary but truthful terms. But we also don’t know how much she already knows. She might have asked Helen about her dad and brothers already. We’ll deal with any questions she has about Sheila too. I know we can do it.”

“I hope Helen hasn’t told them anything. Judging by that woman’s attitude toward them, I can’t imagine what she’d answer to those kinds of questions.” CJ sighed and closed her eyes.

“Well you and I have been through a lot in our time together. I’m sure we’ll manage this,” Kate said with authority, kissing the side of CJ’s head making her open her eyes again.

“I know. It’s just such a huge deal, Katie. I know we talked about having kids, but I thought we meant in the future, like a few years at least. And didn’t you want to give birth?”

Kate chuckled sleepily. “I think I’d like that, but having Shannon and Lucy doesn’t mean we won’t want more in the future.”

CJ gasped. “Oh, good lord, let’s wait until I figure out how to handle these two. Please?”

Kate squeezed the body in her arms. “CJ, I’m in the middle of a very successful TV series and I just won an award. I’m not planning on us getting pregnant anytime soon. I think we’ll cope fine with the two girls for now, although I will have to speak with Tony to see if he wants to extend his duties.”

“Good point. But if he doesn’t, we could hire someone to help, right?”

“Yep, I think we’d have to anyway. He can’t do everything and drive me to work. I have a feeling he’ll want the job, though…and another pay rise.”

CJ laughed quietly. “Uh-huh. We’ll figure something out.”

The discussion continued for a while longer until they figured out how and when they would welcome the girls, decided which rooms Shannon and Lucy could have, and tried not to get too overwhelmed by the thought of becoming parents. After all, it wasn’t all signed, sealed and delivered just yet.

An hour later, despite their efforts not to let it get to them, Kate dragged an overwhelmed CJ up the stairs. Once she was tucked up in bed, Kate slipped her body under the duvet and moaned at the feel of her wife’s soft, warm skin against her own. She rested her hand on CJ’s chest and lightly scratched and tickled between her breasts. CJ sighed deeply, savoring the touch even though her mind was still full of what would happen in their future. She tried her best to clear it out and concentrate on Kate, but a frustrated sigh proved she hadn’t managed it a few minutes later.

“You need to relax, baby. Let’s forget about it tonight and start worrying again tomorrow, huh?” Kate whispered as she reached over to kiss CJ’s cheek.

CJ turned her head to capture the sweet lips with her own. “Mmm, OK. You talked me into it.”

“You’re so easy…”

“Only with you,” CJ breathed out as Kate’s hand gently massaged her breast.

She got up on all fours and hovered over Kate. She looked over the woman who had stolen her heart so completely: her long, blond hair slightly mussed with bangs sprinkled across her forehead, her beautiful, dark-green eyes that pierced into CJ’s very soul, her strong collarbone that reminded CJ that she had to nibble on it very soon, and the perfect valley between Kate’s glorious breasts, the sight of which made CJ weak with desire. She stopped her visual trail and decided on kissing instead. Starting with Kate’s full lips, CJ kissed her so gently to convey all the desire, passion, gratitude, and unconditional love she was feeling.

She began a slow trail across Kate’s cheek to her ear and delicately sucked the lobe into her mouth, making Kate moan with pleasure. CJ licked around the shell-like rim while inhaling the scent of Kate’s hair – her beloved coconut shampoo – and it gave her such a shiver that she felt the wetness gather between her own legs. Kate had her hands on the back of CJ’s shoulders and was running her fingernails in small circles, creating a plethora of goose bumps all over CJ’s body.

CJ made her way down to Kate’s neck, licking, nipping and suckling on the delicate skin there. She lowered her mouth to that wonderful collarbone before dipping her tongue into the hollow of Kate’s neck, and she moaned as she felt Kate grip her by the hair just to make sure she continued south.

Kate’s breasts were so very sensitive by this point that CJ had only breathed on her nipple and it stood to attention. Smirking at her effect on Kate’s body, CJ sucked the nipple into her mouth, batting her tongue over the tip as she tasted the surrounding flesh. Kate whimpered and began to squirm around underneath her, and she knew her lover was becoming very aroused.

CJ teased Kate’s nipple for a few more minutes, rasping her tongue and teeth over the tip to drive her wife crazy before heading over to make sure its twin got the same attention. She was completely unprepared for Kate to climax, and her blue eyes popped open as Kate thrust her hips up to meet her stomach. She kept her lips wrapped around the nipple and tried to look up at Kate, catching a glimpse of her open mouth and closed eyes. Kate’s hands gripped CJ’s back and head tightly, and CJ realized she had indeed made Kate come with her intensive foreplay. She let the nipple go with a slight pop and raised her dark eyebrow when Kate grinned.

“Well…that’s…new,” Kate gasped out, shivering as the little aftershocks rippled through her body.

“I’ll say,” CJ replied with a hint of wonder.

“That was amazing. The way you…were…oh, I can’t speak,” Kate said, slapping CJ’s shoulder playfully.

CJ laughed quietly and covered Kate’s body with her own. “Is there anything else I can get for you, my love?”

Kate laughed out loud. “You’re all I need, baby.”

“I like that.” CJ was incredibly aroused, but she knew by the look in Kate’s hooded eyes that she wasn’t done yet anyway, so she waited for her wife to dictate what was to happen next.

Kate kissed her passionately until they were breathless, their tongues dancing together until they both licked one another as they parted.

Kate held CJ’s face a few millimeters from her. “How about you sit up and slide your delicious clit onto mine?” she husked, curling her eyebrow when her wife blushed.

“Unn,” was CJ’s only verbal response. She was so very close to climaxing but she did what Kate asked and almost blushed again when she came simply from her sensitive sex touching Kate’s mound. Her body slowly rippled as the mild orgasm faded, and she leaned gently on Kate’s breasts to steady her upper body.

Kate watched intently as her goddess-like partner came back to her, and when CJ opened her eyes and smiled, Kate gazed at her intensely, completely spellbound by her beauty. CJ moved one hand to lean on the mattress beside Kate’s head and the other slid between their bodies. She spread the swollen, outer lips at her center and lowered herself onto Kate. She gently opened Kate up, and they both gasped when CJ began to thrust very slowly.

Kate lifted her hands to massage CJ’s breasts as little moaning sounds involuntarily left her throat. CJ’s tongue was only just poking out of her mouth as she concentrated on the wonderful sensations working through her entire being. Kate began to move against her every stroke, and they were both were lost in a haze of pleasure.

As they took their time to gradually build the intensity, their movements became faster and slightly erratic. Their passion was like the birth of a lightning bolt, sparking through the air between them, and as they drew close to their peak CJ opened her eyes to connect with the darkened emeralds beneath her.

“Ciara. Oh…oh…”

“Yeah…”

Kate’s orgasm exploded through her petite frame and she pressed her sex harder against CJ’s. The move was enough to push CJ over the edge, and she let herself go, falling into her climax with an almighty exhale and a strangled scream. Kate grabbed her wife’s buttocks to keep CJ connected to her as they rode out the pulsing aftershocks. The feeling of CJ’s wet flesh against hers was unbelievable, and Kate wanted to experience it for as long as possible.

“Mmm-mmm-mmm,” Kate murmured as if she had just tasted something heavenly.

CJ’s eyes were smoldering pools of spent pleasure when she leaned down and covered Kate’s lips with her own. They kissed for a few languid moments and once they’d parted, CJ rolled over onto the bed. Kate turned to her as she pulled the duvet up around them, and they settled into their usual warm ball of sleepiness.

“I love you, Katie.”

“I love you more,” Kate replied, waiting for the next line.

“Not possible,” CJ slurred sleepily.

Kate smiled. “I beg to differ.”

“Agree to disagree?”

“Absolutely.”

A few moments later, they were both snoring lightly.

* * * * * *

Getting into the studios at eight the next morning, Kate and her fellow actors knuckled down to some hard work. Once they’d gotten three full scenes in the bag, an incident halted production for the third time in two weeks.

Kate stood at the edge of the set with her arms crossed. “I can’t believe this place. They need to up the set budget for sure,” she muttered to her co-star, Nicole, as they watched the crew trying to clear up yet another pile of rubble after a fake wall collapsed.

Nicole stood with her arms crossed, mimicking Kate’s stance but shaking slightly with anger and fear. “It was too close this time. I’m not sure I can continue unless they do a complete rebuild.”

Kate looked at the dark-haired actress. She wasn’t close to Nicole, but they seemed to maintain a good working relationship even though they were the two lead females on the show. “Why don’t you talk to Phil? Maybe he can figure something out with the studio bosses.”

“I think I will.” Nicole shivered and gave her a nod before walking away.

“What’s she groaning about?” said a voice behind Kate.

She turned to see Jody Morgan standing with her hands on her hips. Jody was one of the other actresses on the show, a typical prima donna who was slightly taller than Kate was but very similar in her coloring. Her eyes were a sort of hazel-green but they held none of the sparkle and kindness that Kate’s did.

Kate assessed Jody’s my-shit-don’t-stink facial expression and body language. She mentally rolled her eyes at the incredulity. “Well she was almost flattened when the wall fell, and I think she got quite a scare. She wasn’t groaning.”

“Hmph. Sounded like groaning to me. Where’s Jack?” Jody grumbled.

“Um, I don’t know. Maybe the cafeteria…?” Kate answered, completely confused by Jody’s abrupt question and her attitude in general. Jody didn’t even respond to her and stalked off toward the studio doors making Kate shake her head in disbelief. So rude…and such a moody bitch.

A stark half-hour later, Phil Romaine and his crew had changed the shooting schedule, and they’d moved to stage twelve to film some other scenes while the damage was being repaired. Kate stood tapping her toe on her mark as the rest of the crew shifted the final pieces of furniture around in her set office.

A slightly pale-faced Nicole had been pulled off her scene again due to not being quite with it, and Kate was going to shoot the next scene out of sequence. Phil shouted “action!”, and she went into her dialogue with Jack. His character had been dumped by hers, and Kate was quite happy about that since it meant she didn’t have to kiss him anymore.

So there they were having an on-screen argument, Kate’s timing and dramatic performance perfectly portrayed as Jack responded in his usual exuberant fashion. A few moments later, just as Kate said her penultimate line of the scene, she heard a blood-curdling scream off to her left. She turned to see Nicole fainting and Phil jumping up out of his director’s chair with a look of complete horror on his face. Jack reached out toward Kate, but he was across the set by this point and he tried to get around the desk…but he was too late. The next thing Kate felt was a solid and unbelievably heavy thump to her head, sending a burning hot jolt of pain through her entire body as she crumpled to the ground. Darkness smothered her as the large lighting rig covered her body, ripping through her lab coat and pinning her to the studio floor.

* * * * * *

At the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, CJ tapped her finger on the phone handset while she waited to be taken off hold. Jamie plopped down in the seat opposite her and placed a hot coffee on her desk.

“Thanks, Penfold,” CJ said with a smile.

“You’ve been on hold forever, DM.”

“They’ve passed me through to the right department. I’m just waiting for…” She flicked the piece of paper in front of her. “…Marion Fletcher to pick up now.”

Marion was Mark’s friend at Social Services and she had called earlier, but CJ had been out doing some legwork for a case and missed the call. She sipped on her coffee, curling her lip slightly at the bitter taste of the office-machine drink. “Ugh. I think I’ll pop out for the good stuff after this call.”

Jamie nodded and waited, wanting to find out the latest on her friend’s adoption of Shannon and Lucy. She leaned her head on her hand and sighed. CJ perked up when she heard the droning, on-hold elevator music cease, and the line, click.

“Hello. This is Marion Fletcher,” said the feminine voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hello, this is CJ Carson. I believe you called earlier. I’m sorry I missed it,” CJ responded politely.

“Oh, Ms. Carson, I’m glad you got back to me. I wanted to discuss the adoption with you and your wife. Would it be possible to come and visit you in your home?”

“Of course. When did you want to visit?” CJ asked, feeling slightly nervous for some reason.

“How does Friday sound..? Say around 2pm?”

“That sounds fine. Can I call you back to confirm once I check with Kate?”

“Yes. If you can’t get hold of me, just leave a message. I’ll hopefully see you Friday then,” Marion said.

“Is…Is there anything we need to prepare for you…before you arrive?” CJ stuttered.

“No, Ms. Carson. I just want to come see you both and have a look at the house, but from what Mark told me, you are perfect candidates and have a great rapport with the children already. It seems Shannon raves about you to all she meets. And you’re saving me a lot of paperwork on this one…but don’t let that get around,” Marion replied.

CJ sensed the smile behind the words and took a deep breath. “OK, thanks. I just don’t know how all this works.”

“That’s why I’m coming to see you. Don’t worry. I’ll talk you through everything. I’ll see you Friday.”

“Right, Friday. Thank you. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Ms. Carson.”

CJ hung up the phone, feeling the blood rushing quickly through her veins. “Holy crap, why am I so nervous?” she said to Jamie.

“It’s a big deal, DM. Just take it a step at a time. You and Kate will do fine,” Jamie assured.

“God, you sound like Kate,” CJ muttered, running her hand through her raven locks.

Jamie smiled and got a few more details from her colleague before going back to her own desk. She was looking forward to watching them handle this, and she was also looking forward to meeting Shannon and Lucy. CJ had raved on about them every chance she got in the last few days, but Jamie could also see her apprehension and nerves. It was a huge step, after all.

CJ ran over the phone call a few more times in her head. The extreme conflicting emotions were making her so tired. She was super-excited about bringing the children home, but on the flipside of that, she was more than a little worried about being a parent. Thoughts of her father’s abuse flashed through her mind as her worries forced negative images to the surface, but she took a deep, cleansing breath and chose instead to think of her beloved mother. Alyssa Carson had been a devoted and loving parent who worked as hard as she could to make sure CJ had everything she needed. It had been hard for Alyssa to hold down two jobs as a single parent but she had managed it admirably, and CJ knew that any good traits she had developed as an adult were due to her mother’s guidance and unconditional love. It had been a tragedy that Alyssa’s life had been cut short. CJ truly wished she could be here to meet Shannon and Lucy, and of course, Kate. A tear forced its way out of CJ’s eye and she swept her hand up quickly to brush it away.

Thankfully Jamie hadn’t noticed, so with a nod CJ decided to finish worrying for now. Shannon and Lucy would have her love, but they would also have the most amazing parent in Kate, and that was all CJ needed to focus on. They would all take this huge, life-altering step together.

CJ shook away the thoughts and buried herself in her case work for a while before going out for the good coffee. She needed some time before she went out. Her slightly shaky legs had nothing to do with it.

* * * * * *

Inside stage twelve at the Olympian Studios, everyone seemed to be in a state of utter panic. Nicole was still out cold, and Phil was carefully lifting the lighting rig with the help of Jack and a few crewmembers. Someone had called 9-1-1 and the sirens could be heard outside the studio walls. Everyone else seemed to be flailing around, not quite sure what to do.

Phil tried to slow his breathing as he looked at Kate’s limp body. Her lab coat was sliced and there was blood seeping through her blouse beneath, which on closer inspection was also ripped. She had a few burn marks where the hot spotlights had pressed against her skin before they’d cooled, and a huge bruise was forming on her forehead and creeping up under her hairline. As the paramedics worked feverishly on Kate, getting her into a neck brace and carefully putting her onto the stretcher, one of the studio bosses arrived and told Phil that he was temporarily shutting down the Deadline studios. They were now under investigation due to the number of incidents in a short space of time. The police had followed the boss in and were ushering all witnesses into a room just behind the stage.

Jack rubbed his hands together in a nervous fashion at the sight of Kate on the stretcher being taken out the door to the waiting ambulance. He spotted a very stressed-out and worried-looking Samantha Morris running in from another direction, obviously having heard the news as the information traveled around these studios faster than the Internet. He made his way over to Sam to tell her what had happened. Just after he got the basic story out, a police officer approached them and directed Jack into the witness room. He told Sam to leave for now since she hadn’t witnessed anything.

Sam ran out the door and caught up to the paramedic as he was closing the ambulance’s rear doors. “I’m Kate’s best friend. I need to go with her.” Sam knew it wasn’t strictly true but she really wanted to go with her to the hospital.

“Well, I don’t-” the young man began.

“Please,” Sam pleaded. “I need to call her spouse on the way. I need to be there with her!”

The paramedic must have seen the worry in Sam’s eyes and he reluctantly gave in. “OK. In you go,” he said, holding the door open for her.

She jumped in and sat down inside, nodding once to the other EMT before looking at Kate’s pale face. She swiped a few tears off her cheeks as the engine growled to life and the sirens wailed as they exited the studio lot.

* * * * * *

It was time to go for the good coffee. CJ had managed to get a fair amount of work done even though her stomach had continued to churn over. When the phone rang, she picked it up, rubbing her eyes as she tried to focus after reading an especially long file. “Agent Carson…”

“CJ, its Sam.”

CJ’s stomach flipped aggressively and she immediately straightened up just as it seemed to drop to the floor. She knew something was terribly wrong. “Sam, what…what’s happened?”

Jamie also stiffened at CJ’s words. She looked up to see her eyes were open way too wide and she had a stricken look on her paling face.

Sam knew she couldn’t bullshit and came straight to the point. “CJ, there’s been an accident. I’m at the hospital with Kate.”

“Is she all right?”

“She’s been injured. You need to come here…now, CJ,” Sam stammered, not quite sure how she was managing to speak.

“Where are you?” CJ barked.

“Cedars Sin-”

“Right.” CJ cut her off, knowing she was at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. “Stay with her. I’m on my way.” She hung up the phone and grabbed her jacket. Jamie was about to open her mouth to ask what was wrong when CJ turned to her. “Tell Mark I’ve left. Kate’s been hurt. I have to go,” she said and ran out the door not waiting for a response.

* * * * * *

CJ drove like a maniac and arrived at the ER a surprisingly short time later. She quickly found Sam in the waiting area and found out that she had been sitting hoping for news since she’d arrived but no one had spoken to her yet. Sam quickly reeled off what had happened to Kate before nervously rubbing her palms down her slacks when CJ didn’t seem to register any of her words. CJ was on automatic pilot and went on the rampage, looking for a doctor to tell her where the hell her wife was. Sam’s attempts to calm her were futile and she realized it was pointless to even try to get CJ to focus.

On the inside, CJ was terrified. Her heart was…well, she couldn’t even feel it beating anymore. It seemed it was going so fast that each beat had just merged together into one long flat-line. Fear-based adrenaline pulsed around her body and it was the only thing keeping her on her feet. She eventually found someone who resembled a doctor and strode up to the man using her presence and height to get his attention.

“Are you a doctor?” she boomed.

“Oh,” the man said, spinning around to face her. “Yes.”

“I need to know where my wife is. Her name is Kate Carson…or Marshall,” CJ said, a small amount of reality seeping in as she realized Kate could be checked-in under either name.

The doctor recognized the extreme worry and stress in this fierce woman’s eyes and quickly changed his demeanor to deal with the situation. “My name is James Kyle. I’m Ms. Marshall’s doctor. Please come with me. I need to speak with you,” he said calmly, leading the way into a nearby room.

CJ allowed herself to be guided through the door. She felt like she might faint very soon, and once they were seated the doctor looked at CJ with concern.

“Are you OK? You look very pale, Miss…?”

CJ stared at him for a second as if she didn’t fully comprehend the words. “What? Oh, CJ Carson…and I’m fine. I need to know everything, Doctor. And I need to see my wife.”

“We’ll go and see her in a moment. She is very much alive but she has some injuries from the…” He looked at his notes. “Lighting rig that fell on her. She has some minor burns and took a pretty severe blow to the head. Ms. Carson, we’ve heavily sedated her due to some minor swelling on the brain. Thankfully, we didn’t need to induce an artificial coma-”

“Coma? Swelling? Oh my God, please tell me she’s going to be OK?” CJ said, throwing her face into her hands and leaning forward to try to stop the onslaught of hyperventilation.

“Please try to breathe deeply. We didn’t need to induce a coma. It’s a positive thing. She’s responding slowly to treatment. We’ll reduce her sedation when we’re satisfied she’s out of danger.”

CJ gulped repeatedly. She was going to throw up all over the doctor’s shiny, black shoes. She wanted to punch her fists through the walls. She wanted to scream so hard that every window in the place shattered. Instead, she sat and stared at this man who probably had to give people this kind of news every day. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath until Dr. Kyle leaned forward to touch her shoulder.

“Ms. Carson, do you need to lie down for a moment?”

“No…no, I’m fine. I need to see her. Please.”

“All right. Please follow me.”

As they walked the corridors, CJ couldn’t ignore the clinical hospital stench and tried very hard not to barf everywhere. Her stomach was doing its best to expel any and all of its contents, but she clenched her teeth together and willed her breakfast and the copious amounts of coffee she’d consumed to stay down.

Walking through the door into a small room, a few instant tears escaped and ran down her face as she looked at Kate’s small body in the bed. She was hooked up to all sorts of contraptions and her skin was so pasty-white it almost looked blue which did nothing to quell CJ’s fears or regulate her heart which she was now sure had stopped beating altogether.

She sat down in the chair next to the bed while Dr. Kyle checked his patient’s chart. CJ touched Kate’s cold hand with a single finger, feeling like she just couldn’t cope with more.

Dr. Kyle hung the chart back on the foot of the bed and came to stand on the opposite side to CJ. “She seems to be stable and she’s responding to the medication quite well. You can stay with her for a while.”

“What’s your prognosis, Doctor?”

“We won’t know much more until she’s awake. Her external injuries are comparatively minor.”

“What does that mean? Compared to what?” CJ said with some alarm.

“The swelling, Ms. Carson. Once she’s awake we’ll have a better idea of the damage, if indeed there is any at all. Please try to stay calm in the meantime,” he said gently.

CJ was usually the one asking people to stay calm and she nodded, knowing that anything bad happening to Kate was the worst thing imaginable, but that she also had to try to calm the hell down and focus.

Dr. Kyle smiled wanly. “I’ll leave you alone for a while. If you need anything just ask the nurse,” he added as he exited, not sensing a response from the distraught woman in the chair.

Just as he walked through the door, CJ threw a quick “thank you” over her shoulder, very much a delayed reaction caused by the information she had just received.

She fixed her eyes on Kate and slowly became aware of her heart beginning to beat again. One thing that gave her strength was that Kate was breathing on her own and her injuries seemed to be almost insignificant, save for a burn mark on her upper chest and the bruise on her head. The only potentially serious problem was the swelling.

CJ tried to stop the feeling of panic that seemed to be making her overreact to everything. Taking a deep breath, she swallowed hard and took the hand she was touching into her own. She rubbed her thumb slowly over the knuckles to try to warm the skin. Kate was so cold it was terrifying to her, and she finally stopped fighting her emotions. Hanging her head weakly, she let her copious tears fall onto the cold, sterile floor. They could take anything…anything away from her and it wouldn’t matter. But not her Katie.

* * * * * *

Out in the ER, Assistant Director Mark Mulroney went to the reception desk and flashed his badge. After being told about Kate’s current condition, he walked away and spotted a LAPD officer near the doors to the secured area.

“AD Mulroney, FBI,” he said to the broad-shouldered officer.

“Delaney, Sir. How can I help you?”

“Are you here because of the incident at Olympian Studios?”

“No, Sir. Do you need to know about that?”

Mark sighed. “It couldn’t hurt. I’d appreciate if you could find out what happened.”

“No problem. Give me two minutes,” he said before walking away to use his two-way radio privately.

A few moments later, Delaney told Mark all he could. Mark had already called the studios after talking to Jamie to try to figure out why one of his agents had disappeared from work so suddenly. He’d found out that an accident had halted production and that someone was injured, but that was all so far. Mark was worried about Kate. He knew she was hurt now. It would be the only reason CJ would run off without talking to him. Kate had captured his heart, but not in the way one might think. They just had a strangely easy friendship, and he cared for both Carson women greatly.

Mark dropped his shoulders and sighed. He couldn’t do anything more here so he thanked Delaney and headed back out of the ER. He had to get back to the office, and he knew he would talk to CJ when she was ready to call him.

.

Chapter 2

As the day progressed, CJ did nothing but sit beside her wife’s bed staring blankly ahead. Sometimes her eyes would drop shut and she’d suddenly jump, realizing that sleep was trying to claim her. She looked at Kate’s unconscious face and wept again without being aware of it. She leaned her elbows on the edge of the bed and whispered her thoughts.

“Katie, if you can hear me I just want to let you know I love you more than anything. You can’t leave me. I…I don’t know what I’d do without you. There is no life without you, Katie. Please…just come back to me. I know I’m being over-dramatic but I can’t help it. Just don’t leave me…” CJ broke down again and dropped her face onto the white sheet. She cried until there were no more tears, and faded in and out of something resembling sleep as she held weakly onto Kate’s hand.

* * * * * *

CJ was completely confused when she woke up with a painful neck, but she gradually remembered she had fallen asleep in a hideously crooked position. She looked at her watch and did a double-take when she saw it was six in the morning. How the hell did that happen? she thought dazedly.

She blinked away the sleepiness and stood to stretch her stiff body. When she looked at Kate, there seemed to be no change. She hadn’t even moved all night. Well of course she wouldn’t move…she’s out cold, you idiot. She sat down again and stared blankly ahead, much like before, until a slight knock on the open door to the room made her jump and spin around.

Jamie stood looking at her worriedly. “Hey, DM. Are you all right?” she asked, seeing CJ’s empty, exhausted stare.

CJ blinked and took a few seconds to figure out a response to the relatively simple question. “Fine.”

“How is she doing?” Jamie asked as she squeezed CJ’s shoulder gently before moving to the other side of the bed.

“Sedated…completely out of it,” CJ said quietly. “They’ll wake her when they think she’s out of danger.”

Jamie nodded and sat down on a nearby chair. “CJ, I have news. Sam and I worked together to find out what the cops were saying inside the studio. They were in there all last night.”

“Oh?” CJ said, her eyes never leaving the bed in front of her.

“Yes. Uh, the recent set failures at the studio…it looks like they, uh, were not accidents.”

CJ’s head slowly lifted and she glared at her colleague until Jamie gulped at the rising anger she could see – and feel – from CJ. “What did you say?” CJ almost snarled.

“Someone deliberately caused the rig to fall. The cops found that it had been messed with. The chains to the ceiling were loosened and the stabilizing ropes had been cut. The rig had been precariously balanced and would have fallen with a light breeze…or with someone shaking a nearby hoisting chain which is what the cops think must have happened. They dusted the chain in the hope of getting a print,” Jamie said, trying to stay in agent-mode in order to remain calm. She had to be honest, she was very angry at whomever had done this too, but it was nothing close to the rage she could see barely contained in her friend.

CJ got to her feet and ran her hand roughly through her hair. She began to pace the floor, and when Jamie didn’t say anything else, CJ stormed out of the room and down the corridor. As she made her way to the exit, people moved aside, seeing the ferocity and determination shooting out from her icy eyes.

In a Jekyll and Hyde moment, CJ stopped briefly to politely tell the nurse she would be back soon before she returned to the nostril-flaring, teeth-gritting warrior persona. Jamie followed her at a safe distance, concerned for CJ but not ready to get in her way just yet. It was when CJ pressed the remote to open the central locking on her truck that Jamie decided it was time to intervene. CJ was in no fit state to drive anywhere.

“DM! Wait!”

CJ turned around and balled her fists tightly, clenching and unclenching them in an effort to stop the destructive feelings coursing through her. “Don’t tell me to calm down! I don’t think I could stand it,” she growled, almost crawling out of her skin.

“I won’t…but please let me drive you wherever you’re going. Please?” Jamie begged.

“Is Mulroney at work?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been in yet.”

“Take me to the office.”

Jamie didn’t argue and intended to stick to CJ like glue for the rest of the day, or until she saw some sign that her friend had returned to a reasonable level of sanity. She drove them to the field office and did not dare attempt a conversation during the journey. CJ sat stock-still, her elbow wedged on the windowsill and her fingers roughly twisting her lips as she fought with her dark thoughts. Her brow was in a constant furrow and her cheeks continually jerked due to the grinding of her teeth. Once inside the building, Jamie remained in the corridor when CJ knocked on Mark’s door and walked straight in without waiting for an answer.

Mark stood abruptly behind his desk and frowned as his agent approached. He could see the rage and blind disregard for his authority immediately. “Sit down, CJ.”

She didn’t comply and leaned both hands on his desk in an intimidating manner. “I want to be put on the investigation at Olympian Studios,” she stated a little too calmly.

Mark knew how to deal with this and mirrored her stance. “You know I cannot authorize that, CJ, as much as I’d like to.”

“Bullshit! You would authorize it if she’d died! Goddamn it!”

“Enough!” Mark shouted. “That’s too far, Agent. Now sit down before you do or say something you might regret!”

CJ was livid and was struggling to control the rage that burned inside her. She stood there with her nostrils flaring for a few more seconds until the reality of what she was doing sunk in and she slowly lowered herself into the seat.

Mark straightened up and pursed his lips as he watched CJ staring at the desktop and gripping the arms of the chair with her hands so tightly that he could see her knuckles turning white. He sighed and tried to understand how incredibly scared CJ would be: a fear that was manifesting itself as anger. “Listen to me. I cannot authorize an investigation into this…” He raised his hand abruptly when CJ took a breath to intervene. “But I suggest you take two weeks of paid leave to be by your wife’s side. If you need any of us, we’re only a phone call away,” he said, raising his eyebrow and hoping that CJ would catch on to what he meant. “Jamie is due some vacation time, so I’ll see what I can do about getting someone in to cover her workload…if she wants the time off.”

CJ was lost in her icy glare at him, but as the words sunk in, she started to realize what he meant. “I…thank you,” she said quietly, still clenching her jaws together.

“If anything major comes up, I’ll need to call Jamie back in here,” he added sternly, not wanting to let CJ off the hook completely for her earlier outburst.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good.”

CJ stood up rigidly. “Is there anything else, Sir?”

“Yes. Do not self-destruct over this, CJ. Kate is tough. You know that as well as I do, and I don’t want to see you fall apart. You need to be there for her.” At those words, CJ’s eyes turned to fire again. Mark knew his tone was presumptuous and full of authority, but he’d done it to judge her self-control. When she snarled at him, he gave her a warning look, which made her rethink her actions and back down. Satisfied she had regrouped a little, he sat down behind his desk. “Now I suggest you go and calm down a little more before you leave. I’ll call Jamie.”

“She’s here, Sir. She wouldn’t let me drive from the hospital.”

“I can see why. I’ll talk to you later, Agent.”

CJ knew a dismissal when she heard one and stormed out of the room. As she approached Jamie who was standing at the end of the corridor waiting for her, she heard a cell phone ringing and knew it would be Mark calling her. Jamie concluded her brief conversation before CJ even got to her.

“Did he tell you what happened in there?” CJ said, looking directly at Jamie in slightly intimidating manner.

“No, but I’m taking the time off.” Jamie didn’t rise to the challenging look. Instead, she simply grasped CJ’s arm and led her back down to the parking garage. They drove to the hospital in silence, but in the passenger seat, CJ’s breathing had leveled out and her jaws had stopped clenching in anger. It wasn’t anywhere near calm, but it was a start.

* * * * * *

The next morning, Sam arrived at work early after all the drama yesterday delayed production in practically every studio as extra safety checks were undertaken. She crossed the lot, fretfully rubbing her forehead and worrying about Kate. She had called the hospital but there was no change in Kate’s condition, so now with her mind on everything but producing, Sam headed toward the cafeteria to get something to drink. She spotted a very weary-looking Jack Bannerman shuffling across the parking lot and decided to see if he knew anything further about what happened. On her approach she could see the exhaustion in Jack’s eyes, and had he been crying? Surely not…

“Hello, Sam,” Jack croaked.

“Hello, Jack. Are you OK?”

“No. I was here all night. The cops practically interrogated me.”

“Why would they do that?”

“I think they did it to everyone who saw what happened. Some of us haven’t been home yet. Being the gentleman I am, I let the others go first. God, Sam, I tried to get to Kate…I really did, but it all happened in a matter of seconds,” he blurted. “Do you know how she is?”

Sam was surprised to see sincerity in his eyes, but she also knew he was quite a good actor. “No change. She’s unconscious. That’s all I know.”

Jack rubbed both hands over his face in an effort to blank out the previous night’s horrible events. It didn’t work of course, and he shook his head slowly. “I gotta go check on Nicole.”

“Nicole?”

“Yeah. She went to the cafeteria to wait for me. We’re…you know, an item.”

“Oh? I thought you were going out with Jody,” Sam queried since she was aware of just about every piece of gossip around the studios.

“Uh, that ended. She was too…”

“Too…?”

“Too crazy. I’m outta here. Later, Sam.”

“Bye, Jack,” Sam replied. Frowning at this new information and the Police Line Do Not Cross tape on the studio door, she continued her own journey to the cafeteria and decided to investigate further. She knew the biggest gossip-mongers in the business and would use them fully in the coming days.

* * * * * *

Jamie had managed to persuade CJ to go home to grab a change of clothing for herself and fresh pajamas for Kate. When they arrived at the house, they found that Tony was out walking the dog and had been taking care of things while CJ and Kate were absent. When he came through the back door, CJ told him what was happening, but judging by the solemn look on his face he already knew, and he told her he would stay at the house to take care of the animals while she was away. CJ would have hugged him if she hadn’t been feeling so desolate.

About an hour later, CJ winced when they arrived back at Cedars Sinai Medical Center since she was beginning to hate the place already. As they walked toward Kate’s room, Jamie tapped CJ’s shoulder and told her she would wait outside to give her some privacy. CJ appreciated the thoughtfulness and nodded before she proceeded along the corridor alone. Dr. Kyle exited Kate’s room with a nurse in tow and almost collided with CJ as she rounded the doorjamb.

“Ms. Carson,” he said quietly, “I didn’t have your cell phone number. Could I speak with you in private?”

“Why? What’s happened? Is Kate OK?” CJ’s stomach hit the floor again as a million different worries ran through her head.

“Yes, yes. Please, Ms. Carson,” he repeated, gently nudging her towards the family room. Once they were inside, he turned to CJ. “We were very pleased with Kate’s response to the medication, and the swelling has gone down quite a bit. We reduced her IV meds only slightly and she somehow woke up. She’s a fighter, that’s for sure.”

“I…I need to see her. I need to see her now!”

“Please sit down,” the doctor offered.

“But I-”

“Please,” he said more forcefully. When CJ sat, he did the same. “Ms. Carson-”

“Call me CJ.”

“All right, CJ. As I said, Kate is awake but there seems to be some memory loss…”

At those words, tears streamed down CJ’s cheeks but she didn’t move a muscle and her expression didn’t change. “How much memory loss?”

“It seems to be retrograde amnesia-”

“What does that mean?” she interrupted.

“It means she has lost memories from before the accident. When she couldn’t recall what had happened to her or where she was, I asked her a few rudimentary questions, and she seems to think it’s roughly five or six years ago. She told me she just finished making a movie, and that she’s twenty-five years old…and single.” He paused when CJ began to shake. “CJ, she remembers everything before that time period, and I don’t see any reason why she won’t regain her memories, but there’s no way to be certain. We’ll have to scan her again in a couple of days, and I’d like to take you to see her, but I must ask that you don’t tell her of your relationship or your life together. It can be a very confusing time for head trauma patients, and I cannot have her experiencing high levels of stress. It could seriously affect her health.”

CJ had heard his words but couldn’t process them in any sensible way. Kate had forgotten her, forgotten their love, forgotten the incredible and special connection they shared and everything else in their life together. CJ’s heart was in shreds and her body was ready for giving up. She wanted to see Kate, to look into those familiar, green eyes and see if there was a hint of anything still there, but she didn’t think she’d be able to cope with the blank look Kate would give her if she didn’t remember.

“I need to think for a minute,” CJ mumbled.

“I understand. Take your time. I’ll be at the nurse’s station.” Dr. Kyle got up and left the room.

CJ’s mind was filled with confusion, and her conflicted emotions were over-complicating the simplest of things. How would she ever cope if Kate looked at her like a stranger? Would Kate even want her to stay in the room? If Kate didn’t know her at all, would she want CJ to leave and never see her again?

“Oh, no. I can’t handle this.” CJ was feeling dizzy and was glad to be sitting down. She wanted to hide in this room and never leave it again. That way, she wouldn’t have to know the answers to her questions. If Kate told her to leave, she knew she would go into a downward spiral that nobody else could rescue her from. It was a terrifying thought in its own right. But the thought of never knowing scared her just as much and even though she wasn’t sure she’d be able to walk, she wanted to to go Kate and find out for sure if it was over for them.

Standing on wobbly legs, she carefully headed toward the nurse’s station, approaching Dr. Kyle who was watching her with concern. When she reached him, she wet her parched lips nervously. “I…I need to see her,” she whispered.

“OK, but please remember she doesn’t seem to know anything from recent years, and she may not understand why I’m bringing you to see her. I need you to hold it together and take things very slowly. Do you understand?” Dr. Kyle asked as if speaking to a scared child.

CJ nodded and managed to follow him along to Kate’s room. When she walked in, she felt herself overcome with the emotional pain that she was sure would face her now. Her legs began to shake as Kate came into view, sitting up in her bed and looking a little healthier than the last time CJ saw her.

As the two people appeared in her room, Kate looked up at them and blinked a few times. She glanced at Dr. Kyle, recognizing him from earlier, but then she carefully studied the tall, beautiful woman with the reddened, tired eyes. Kate absorbed her black, shiny hair and the way she stood swaying on the spot. Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

CJ remained silent as time seemed to grind to a halt and she tried to prepare herself for the agony of not being recognized by her beloved spouse. She was just hoping she wouldn’t collapse into a pile of unconsciousness before Kate even said anything. The way her body was weakening, she figured she’d be down in about three seconds.

Kate rubbed her head to try and alleviate some of the throbbing pain as one word came out of her mouth in a croaked whisper. “Ciara?”

Dr. Kyle’s eyebrows shot up since he didn’t actually know if that was indeed the right name. He looked at CJ who was using every bit of strength left in her to stop her tears, but it seemed she just couldn’t do it. As she stood in the middle of the room looking like a lost soul, she let them fall silently, and Dr. Kyle decided to speak for her. He moved to stand by Kate’s side.

“Do you remember this woman?” he asked gently.

“I…” Kate narrowed her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could. “Yes, I know her.” It almost sounded like a question, but it was a ray of light that nobody had expected.

CJ was now at collapsing point. After building herself up in preparation of Kate not recognizing her at all, she now felt like she was falling from a great height. Kate had remembered her somehow. It wasn’t the all-passionate, laughing, bubbly, feisty Kate, but there was hope now that she was still in there.

Kate reached out her hand and looked at CJ beseechingly when she saw her tears. She could see this woman’s legs were about to buckle under her, and when CJ walked shakily towards her and dropped into the nearby chair, she tentatively took her large hand in her own. Kate curled her fingers around CJ’s and squeezed them as she turned to look at her doctor. “I don’t remember anything else yet, but I do know this woman. Could you leave us alone for a while?”

“Of course, Kate. I’ll be back later. Just call if you need anything.” Dr. Kyle nodded and smiled at CJ before leaving the room.

CJ had never been so afraid in her life. Considering what her daily work life was like, that may have been hard to believe, but this was a different kind of fear. She couldn’t do anything to control this. She also had no idea what to say, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Kate’s inquisitive side was still firmly in place, and as she studied CJ she could almost feel her emotional pain. “I’m sorry. I know this must be difficult because I can feel love here…between us, I mean, and I’m assuming you remember that love. I feel it, but I don’t know who you are to me or how I fit into your life. Your name is Ciara, right?”

CJ sniffed away the continual tears that seemed to have a life of their own. “Yes, but…” She faltered as an unannounced blush suddenly crept up her neck.

“What?” Kate asked with a frown.

“You don’t usually call me that in publ…” CJ abruptly stopped herself.

“Could you please stop trying to hold back and just answer me?”

“I’m sorry. I just can’t believe you’re sitting there apologizing to me…and you want to know everything so fast. The doc told me you need time to process, so I don’t want to overwhelm you,” CJ said while studying the floor intently.

“I want and need to know. If you know me at all you’ll understand that. When I saw you, I felt something powerful in here,” Kate said, pointing to her heart. “And I want to know what you are to me. Are we…are we together?”

CJ sighed heavily. “Is that what you feel?”

“Completely,” Kate admitted.

CJ gazed at Kate who seemed to be bonded to her in a way she would never understand. “Yes, we’re together,” she said, returning to her study of the shiny, floor tiles.

Feeling relieved, Kate nodded and wriggled her fingers around the ring on CJ’s hand. “We’re married?”

“Oh, Katie, I…I…”

“We’re married,” Kate repeated in a firm statement, becoming slightly frustrated at her lack of memory. She was feeling such familiarity, and it was like the facts were just out of her reach. “Dr. Kyle told me I’ve forgotten quite a few years. This feeling between us is very powerful, and that makes me even more frustrated. I want to remember our life. How long have we been together? And don’t hold back please, Ciara…oh, what do I call you anyway?”

“CJ. It stands for Ciara Jane. My name’s CJ Carson,” the weary agent said, feeling her stomach convulse at the fact that she was introducing herself to her wife. “We’ve been together for more than three years.”

“So, is my name Kate Carson?”

“Officially, yes, but you still use Marshall for work,” CJ said with a nod.

Kate smiled at the worried and sheepish look on CJ’s face, and she squeezed her hand to get her attention. When CJ looked up and their gazes locked, Kate was mesmerized for a few long seconds by the blue depths in CJ’s eyes. She blinked to break the hypnosis and cleared her throat gently, not wanting to exacerbate her headache. “I…I need to rest for a while,” she whispered.

CJ nodded again and began to stand. “I’ll be back later then.”

“Where are you going?”

“I was going to let you rest.”

“I don’t want you to leave unless you have to…or you want to,” Kate said, feeling a little scared at the thought of CJ leaving but not knowing why.

“I’d love to stay right here. Are you sure you’re OK with that?”

“Yes. Please stay.”

“All right. Is there anything you need?” CJ asked, wanting to make sure she was as comfortable as possible.

“Not right now, but I would like to brush my teeth sometime soon,” Kate replied, grimacing at the taste in her mouth.

“I brought your toothbrush,” CJ said before she realized she shouldn’t be leading any conversation about their life together.

“Oh?” Kate said, quirking her eyebrow. “What else did you bring?”

“Um…”

“CJ, no holding back, remember?”

“Oh, well, the doctor said-”

“I don’t care what the doctor said. I want to know. Don’t you want to answer me?”

“Of course I do. I just don’t want to tell you about your life. I want you to remember…” CJ shook her head in self-deprecation and started to pace the floor while pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Hey,” Kate said to catch her attention. When CJ looked over, she smiled to try to reassure her stressed-out partner. She’s my partner, she thought to herself. She smiled at CJ who now looked a little puzzled. “Don’t be so tough on yourself. Come sit down.”

CJ pressed her thumb and forefinger into her temples in a final attempt to release some of the tension. She sat in the chair next to Kate’s bed and slowly brought her eyes up to look at her beloved wife once more.

“Now, talk to me quietly and tell me where we live,” Kate suggested as she took CJ’s hand in her own. “Maybe it’ll ring some bells in my forgetful head.”

CJ gave up following the doctor’s advice for the moment, and began to give Kate a few brief details about their house, their animals, and her accident at the studios.

Kate had been told she’d had an accident, but not what type of accident. She watched CJ struggle to rein in her emotion as she spoke, and she tried to understand what it was about this woman that made her feel so alive, and so safe and loved. Well, she’s my wife, and she seems to truly love me…and God, she’s so incredibly beautiful, Kate thought.

As CJ’s smooth voice gained a little confidence, Kate contentedly drifted off to sleep. When CJ noticed, she panicked a little and pressed the call button for the nurse. She wasn’t sure if Kate was allowed to sleep so soon after coming round from a head injury. The nurse arrived a moment later and assured CJ that it was fine. She explained that Kate was wired up to all kinds of monitors, and if anything went wrong she’d know about it immediately. The nurse also told CJ that Kate had even struggled against being sedated when she awoke briefly in a confused state while lying on the gurney. CJ almost smiled when she heard that, knowing her Katie was tough and wouldn’t take anything lying down…literally.

After a while, CJ relaxed somewhat and began to doze off in the chair, still holding onto Kate’s hand. Her mind was slightly numb from experiencing just about every emotion in one day, and she was mentally and physically exhausted. As she fell helplessly into sleep, she sent a few positive thoughts out into the universe in hopes that someone might be listening and could watch over them to ensure things would somehow turn out for the best. At least now, CJ had hope, and it was all down to Kate’s stubbornness and determination to hold onto her memories.

* * * * * *

CJ woke up to an alarm going off, and after getting her bearings she panicked thinking something had gone wrong. Her wide, unfocused eyes landed on a nurse who was gently shaking a bag of fluid.

“Don’t worry. I’m just changing her medication and switching off a couple of monitors,” she said to alleviate CJ’s concern.

CJ nodded dumbly and rubbed her sleepy eyes. Finally feeling a lot more awake, she turned to Kate and found her lying on her side looking at her with a grin on her face. CJ frowned. “Are you OK, Katie?”

“Yes. You seemed to have a moment of panic there. Are you OK?”

“I’m fine. How do you feel?”

Kate took a deep breath. “Restless, frustrated, tired, my head is sore…” She lowered her voice to a whisper for CJ’s ears only. “But I really just want a decent cup of coffee,” she said, sending CJ a tiny wink.

CJ was a little puzzled at how relaxed Kate seemed to feel around her. Kate didn’t truly know who CJ was, and yet here she was grinning and joking around with her. Once again, Kate’s resilience and strength astounded her, and she shook her head slowly as she laughed quietly.

Kate watched her as she adjusted her pillow. “What was that for?”

CJ shrugged. “Nothing really. You just astound me, that’s all. But I don’t know why I keep being surprised by it because I know how amazing you are. You seem to be fine with the fact that you woke up married…among other things…even though you can’t remember. I just think you’re incredible.”

Kate gave her a sparkling smile. “Well it’s good to know you think your wife is incredible. I have to say, I think mine is too.”

CJ blushed and swallowed hard, not sure how to respond. “Uh…”

“CJ, can you try to relax around me? Stop worrying about saying the wrong thing. I’m sure you know if I have a problem with anything, I’ll tell you about it.”

“I’ll try. It’s just difficult.”

“I know. I can’t even imagine. I just wish I could make sense of some of the things that are floating around in my mind. I can see things, but I don’t know what they mean or if they’re actually part of my life.”

“Would you like to tell me about them and I can try to place them for you?”

Kate turned a little to face CJ. “Oh, that’s a good idea.”

CJ seemed to relax as she felt a slither of normality creeping back in. “Well I do have ’em once in a while,” she said, offering Kate a cute smile.

Kate laughed, and CJ almost bawled at the sight of her beautiful face until she winced and held her head.

“Hmm. No more making me laugh until this headache goes away.”

“Sorry, honey-” CJ slapped her hand over her mouth. “I mean, sorry.”

“See? That’s what I mean. Stop apologizing. I like hearing you call me honey…and Katie. Ooh, did you call my dad? Do you know…?”

CJ nodded, effectively silencing Kate mid-sentence. “I had a slightly incoherent conversation with Dad yesterday. I was kind of a mess and, well you know how he is at the best of times, but we muddled through, and he told me I must keep him and Jeffrey updated on a daily basis,” she ended quickly, deciding that she was beginning to babble.

Kate was gazing admiringly at CJ as she listened to how affectionately she spoke of her father, and she got lost in another dreamy gaze until she managed to blink to snap out of it. “I’m glad you two get on.”

“Since the moment I met him. He’s a great guy.”

“He sure is. I’m glad he and Jeffrey are still together. They seemed to be a good match. Anyway…oh, yes. Something that keeps appearing in my mind is a wolf, a black wolf. Does it have any significance?”

Dumbfounded, CJ stared at her. “Uh, yes. How does seeing the wolf make you feel?” she asked, trying to erase the thought that her great-grandfather was guiding them once again.

“Hmm, it feels fine. It’s the central image I keep seeing, and it’s almost like it’s trying to help me to see the other lost memories but they’re still out of reach. Do I sound like a complete crazy woman yet?” Kate asked worriedly.

“No,” CJ whispered as she shook her head in the negative to reaffirm her answer. “It sounds very accurate.”

“It means something important to us, doesn’t it?” Kate asked, but it was more of a statement than a question.

CJ nodded, and after Kate persuaded her to elaborate, she told her about her heritage and how the wolf could be symbolic. She stopped short of telling Kate anything about the vision of the wolf manifesting in Montana. She didn’t want to tell Kate anything about Montana…not yet. Keeping the conversation on basic stuff about CJ’s past, they both chatted over a rather weak cup of tea that the nurse had brought in.

Kate listened and watched CJ closely as she spoke in a quiet voice. Her green eyes momentarily fixed on CJ’s lips, examining how they formed the words and how she bit her bottom lip as she thought about what to say next. Kate felt herself settle even deeper into the bed and she began phasing in and out as her concentration wasn’t quite back to what it had been. But she suddenly focused as an image flashed into her mind when CJ said something about an orange sunset.

“Oh!” she gasped.

CJ was on her feet in a second. “What? Are you all right, Katie?”

“Oh, sorry, CJ. Please sit. I just remembered something…something silly, I think,” Kate said, tapping her finger on her nose.

“Nothing is silly. Want to tell me?” CJ offered as she sat back down and took Kate’s hand since it seemed to be permanently stretched out towards her.

“When you said orange.” Kate stopped to laugh a little. “I remembered a pool of spilled orange juice…in a kitchen? But I don’t know whose kitchen.”

CJ nodded and grinned. “Uh-huh,” she said, urging her partner to continue.

“The floor was wooden. A wooden floor in a kitchen?” Kate quizzed.

“Um, yes, but it’s treated wood, you know? Stain-proofed, waterproofed…”

“Is it our kitchen?”

CJ nodded again. “You’re doing so well, do you know that?”

“I am? I feel kinda silly remembering something so insignificant.”

“None of this is insignificant, Katie.”

“So who spilled the orange juice?” Kate asked even though she already had a good idea who the culprit was.

“Well, technically, it was Eddie,” CJ replied sheepishly.

“My brother? Hah! That sounds about right. But why do I get the feeling you were involved too?”

CJ pursed her lips, making Kate giggle quietly as she adjusted her head on the soft pillow. CJ curled her mouth into a half-smile. “Uh, well I kinda crept up on him thinking he was an intruder, and he threw the carton up in the air in fright.” CJ quieted when Kate tried to stifle a belly laugh. “Don’t hurt yourself, Katie,” she added seriously.

Kate held her head and stuck her tongue out to alleviate CJ’s permanently-worried expression. She had this overwhelming need to make CJ happy. It was amazing how much she felt for this virtual stranger. But she’s not really a stranger…and somewhere in my stupid head I know it.

CJ let out a big sigh and deliberately attempted to relax her tense shoulders. She shifted her body in the chair to lean onto the bed with her elbows.

“I get the feeling we’re very happy together,” Kate said: a statement, not a question.

“We are. Do you-”

“I feel it, CJ. Don’t question it. And I’m glad you didn’t say we were happy. I feel happy right now, and being with you just feels right. I…” She stopped speaking when she saw CJ shed a single tear. “Honey, please don’t cry.”

“I’m sorry. I won’t. I’m-I’m so relieved that you feel it, Katie. When the doctor told me you had lost your memory…” CJ paused and rubbed her thumb over the back of Kate’s hand. “I…the thought you might not know me almost killed me, but here you are making me the happiest woman in the world all over again. Sometimes I can’t comprehend how lucky I am.” She sniffed and wiped away the single tear.

“I’d say we’re both very lucky.” Kate paused, wondering if she should ask the question she desperately wanted to ask. “CJ, would you…would you do me a favor?”

“Anything.”

“Would you kiss me, please?”

“I…but I-”

“You said anything,” Kate reminded.

“I…” CJ looked into her eyes before dropping her gaze to the floor. “I don’t think I should. I don’t want to force the-”

“You’re not forcing anything, CJ. I asked you to do it,” Kate interrupted. “I just want to feel it. Just a quick kiss?”

CJ leaned forward tentatively, and Kate raised her pounding head slightly off the pillow. Their lips met so very gently, and CJ wanted to run a mile. She was so afraid that Kate wouldn’t feel what she felt and that it wasn’t the right thing to do at this moment in time. But Kate was kissing her back, and she suckled tenderly on CJ’s bottom lip until her breath caught at the familiar move.

Kate knew it was right. Nothing had ever felt so right to her, and she savored every second they were connected. She knew the instant she saw CJ that they were bonded in some unfathomable way, and she was mighty glad to find out they were married. She felt so safe and protected in CJ’s presence, and now she felt the softest lips ever mingling wonderfully with her own. Even though she still had the pain in her head and the frustration of forgetting, she felt a definite quickening of her heart and a hunger for more. Kate’s eyes popped open when CJ broke the kiss and abruptly got to her feet.

“What’s wrong?”

CJ couldn’t catch her breath. Everything was spinning. The passion, love, fear, panic, and many other confused emotions were swimming around inside her, and she paced the floor again in an attempt to slow her pulse. “Sorry, I…I…”

“Here.” Kate reached out her hand. “Please come sit here. I promise I won’t ask you to kiss me again.”

“Oh God, I love kissing you!” CJ blurted as she dropped down to take Kate’s hand in her own. “I just…it was too much, you know?”

Kate nodded sadly. “I know.”

They sat in silence for a few moments as CJ tried not to freak out and run for the door. Kate was lost in thought, hazily staring at her until CJ’s eyes lifted to focus on hers. Kate smiled, and seeing it returned hesitantly she realized that CJ didn’t know how she felt about the kiss.

“It was amazing, and it felt so perfect,” she whispered shyly. Her eyes never left CJ’s, and as the connection lingered, CJ knew it to be the truth.

“I…” CJ began. God, I’ve never had so much trouble talking in my life!

“Say it,” Kate urged.

CJ bit her lip. Her words were barely a whisper, but Kate heard them. “I love you.”

The dazzling smile that crossed Kate’s face made CJ curl a curious eyebrow. “I love you too. Not sure how I know that, but I do. We’ll be fine, CJ. I promise.”

“I think I realized that when I walked in and you remembered me. We’ve always had this weird-”

“Connection?” Kate nodded. “I know. I wanted to ask you to bring me something.”

“What do you need, Katie?”

“Well, they told me that when the accident happened I was doing a scene. I wanted to ask you to find my wedding ring because I guess I wouldn’t have been wearing it,” she said, looking at CJ though her sand-colored lashes.

CJ’s heart melted. “It’s here in your personal belongings.”

“Where?”

“In that closet over there.” CJ pointed to a small, white door across the room.

“Could you get it for me?” Kate asked. She watched as CJ retrieved the ring and handed it to her. She examined it closely before she smiled and turned back to CJ. “It’s beautiful…and it matches yours.”

“But of course,” CJ responded lovingly.

“Will you put it on me, please?”

“I’d love to, but I’m not sure you’re supposed to wear jewelry in here.”

Kate invited CJ closer with a flick of her finger. When CJ’s ear was next to her mouth, she whispered. “I don’t care.”

CJ laughed and shook her head. “I see,” she muttered. “Well, if you get into trouble, I want no part of it.”

“Agreed. Now put it on me, woman!”

CJ did as she was commanded, and Kate beamed from ear to ear. She grasped CJ’s hand and pulled her down for a quick kiss on the cheek. As CJ stood up again, Kate winked at her, and she could see the love in her eyes. She would never question their indescribable connection again.

CJ couldn’t help but chuckle at the absurdity of it all. Modern medicine didn’t really stand a chance against the two of them…head injury be damned. For a brief moment, she felt like they were invincible. If they could get through this and come out the other side together, she knew everything would be OK. They were meant to be.

After another hour of comfortable conversation, Kate ordered CJ home for a relaxing soak in the tub since she had been at the hospital constantly for god knows how long. CJ was finally persuaded and told Kate she would return forthwith, smelling slightly better, and got to her feet in a determined fashion which made Kate giggle again. She kissed Kate on the forehead making sure to avoid the dark bruise, and waved shyly as she walked out of the room.

As CJ left the hospital, she had a quick word with the nurses who told her that Miss Green had left a message. She took the piece of paper – having completely forgotten that Jamie had been there with her – and read it once she got into her truck.

Dangermouse, I didn’t want to disturb.

When I came to check on you, you were both sleeping.

Don’t worry. I’ll take a cab 😉

Call me when you get a chance. Love, Penfold x

CJ smiled and folded the note to put it in her pocket. She began the drive home with a glint of happiness sparkling from her bright-blue eyes.

.

Chapter 3

Jamie waited patiently at the studio gates. The guard had put a call out for Sam five minutes ago, and Jamie stopped picking at her fingernails when she saw her girlfriend walking quickly across the lot. Her heart skipped a beat when Sam smiled. Their relationship had been coming along quite nicely since CJ and Kate had intervened, and Jamie was thankful that she was finding it easier to open up. She was also grateful that Sam was being very patient with her.

“Hey, you,” Sam greeted as she tiptoed to peck Jamie on the cheek.

“Hi. May I come in?” Jamie asked with a cheeky grin.

“Of course you can. Jim, this is Jamie. Could you give her a badge?”

The young and rather handsome security guard nodded and proceeded to issue an authorized visitor badge to Jamie. She thanked him before the walked along the sidewalk into the lot.

Jamie’s eyebrows began to draw together when she thought about the guard and Sam noticed the change.

“What’s up, Jamie?”

“I just realized that the guard was really handsome and I never even noticed. I’m just not interested. Must be love,” Jamie said, nudging Sam’s shoulder.

“Love…?”

“Yes.” Jamie stopped walking and turned to Sam. With her hands on Sam’s shoulders, she added, “In case you hadn’t noticed, I love you.”

Sam became a little flustered. “I…oh, that’s the first time you’ve said that.”

“It’s OK, Sam. You don’t have to say anything back. This isn’t the most romantic place for me to say it, but I just wanted you to know.”

“But…oh God, I’ve wanted to say it to you but I didn’t want to scare you off. Funny, huh?” Sam replied nervously.

“Yeah,” Jamie murmured, moving her hand to Sam’s cheek. “Just say what you feel…what you want to say. Didn’t we agree that at the start?”

“Yes, but our start wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.”

Jamie nodded. “You have a point. OK, from now on, say what you feel. I won’t run away. I won’t freak out. I love you, Sam, and for the first time in my life I want to have a relationship. That’s a pretty huge deal to me.”

“I love you too, Jamie,” Sam said quietly, although she hadn’t made a move to touch Jamie yet.

Jamie realized it was because they were in the middle of the studio lots. All of Sam’s work colleagues were here, and since she didn’t think Sam was out yet, she decided it was best to ask for what she wanted. “Good. Now let’s discuss this further in private another time. May I kiss you quick while it’s quiet around here?”

Sam was immediately on her tiptoes again to kiss Jamie lovingly before she withdrew shyly. “I don’t want to be a spectacle around here just yet. Is that OK with you?”

Jamie smiled at the fact she was starting to read Sam a little better. “Yes. Now let’s go do some investigation.”

“Oh, I have some information. Let’s go to the cafeteria. It’ll be pretty quiet at this time of day.”

“Lead the way, my love.”

* * * * * *

As CJ soaked in the tub, she played with the faucet with her toes and tried to wriggle around to get comfortable and relax. It just wasn’t working. “Never realized a bath could be so crap without Kate,” she grumbled under her breath. She washed quickly, scrubbed herself dry, and walked into the bedroom. Her clean clothes were laid out on the bed, and once she had her faded jeans and tan shirt on, she repacked a bag for Kate with fresh pajamas, underwear, toiletries, and an outfit to wear if she got released. She slipped her feet into a pair of her favorite boots and headed along the upper hallway. As she glanced at one of the bedroom doors, it reminded her of the children. “Oh, shit! What day is this?” she muttered.

On her way down the staircase she finally figured out it was Thursday, and she slapped her forehead just as Tony walked in the door with the dog. CJ had forgotten he was staying at the house and forced a smile just for him.

“Hey, CJ. Are you OK?”

“Hi, Tony. Yes, I’m fine. Why?”

“Uh, you just slapped yourself and you look kinda lost. Anything I can do?”

“I just forgot what day it was. You’d think I had the amnesia.”

Tony looked down at the floor. “How is Kate?”

“Tony?” When he looked up, CJ smiled. “She’s OK. She remembered me. It’s hard to explain it all right now, but when I bring her home just be ready to be introduced to her again, all right?” she said as gently as she could.

“Sure, CJ. It’s great she remembered you,” Tony said, feeling a little more at ease.

“It sure is. She seems to get random pieces of information at random times. Who knows what she will recognize here at the house.” CJ paused for a moment to organize her other thoughts. “Tony, there is something we need to discuss with you, but I think I’ll wait and see if Kate gets better first. And right now, I need to make a phone call.”

“OK. I’ll go tend to the horses. Kamali, come,” he said to the dog who trotted happily alongside him.

CJ snagged her cell phone and dialed Marion Fletcher’s direct number. She strolled into the kitchen and stood at the island unit, tapping her nails on the surface until Marion answered. “Don’t go to answer machine, don’t go to answer machine,” she chanted quietly.

“Marion Fletcher, how can I help?”

“Hello, Marion. It’s CJ Carson…”

“Oh, CJ…is it OK to call you CJ?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I was waiting for your call,” Marion said with a tone in her voice CJ couldn’t quite decipher.

“Oh?”

“Yes. Mark called me. He didn’t tell me much but he did say there had been an accident. Is everything all right?”

“Uh, yes,” CJ said, feeling a little overwhelmed. “Kate has been injured, but I’m only calling to ask you for a slight delay in the proceedings,” she added, worried that they’d miss their chance at the adoption.

“CJ, please don’t worry. I took over this case personally when Mark told me about it. Your paperwork is all here. I checked on the girls yesterday by phone and I’ll pop out to see them tomorrow. They’ll be ready when you are…but please make sure you two are both fully prepared.”

“Oh, I will. Thank you so much, Marion. I was so scared we’d miss our chance.”

“No, CJ. It’s pretty obvious whom these girls should be with. Just call me when you are sure you can handle the transition, and I’ll come to visit you before you pick them up. They’re with a nice foster family and they’re together. Try not to add to your worries,” Marion said firmly but kindly.

“Oh, thank you. You really are very helpful. I…I don’t mean to sound rude…but I didn’t expect this much consideration,” CJ said, stumbling over her words.

“Well yes, we do get a bad rap from time to time. I suppose it helps that I’ve known Mark for years, and Shannon doesn’t quit talking about you,” Marion said.

CJ thought she heard Marion stifle a laugh, and she creased her lips in a genuine smile of her own. “Thank you. I’ll call you soon. I promise.”

“OK, CJ. Bye for now.”

“Bye.” CJ hung up the call and reminded herself to thank Mark – and apologize profusely for shouting at him – when she saw him next.

She picked up Kate’s bag and headed off to tell Tony what her plans were. Once in her truck, she took a deep breath and put the key in the ignition. A cell phone rang and since she wasn’t familiar with the ring tone, she figured it was Kate’s. “Hello?”

“Hello, Katherine?” said a stark voice on the line.

“Uh, no, but this is her phone. Can I ask who’s calling?”

“It’s Elizabeth Emerson. I want to speak with Katherine.”

“She’s not available right now, Mrs. Emerson. Can I take a message?” CJ asked, not realizing whom she was speaking with.

“Who is this?” the demanding woman barked.

“My name’s CJ. I could let Kate know you called and get her to-”

“Oh, you’re the wife.” The extreme disapproval was very evident in the tone.

CJ could practically feel the woman’s acidic look of disgust oozing through the handset. “Yes…” Suddenly, she remembered that Kate’s mother was called Elizabeth. CJ never pushed Kate for information since she seemed to avoid talking about her mother at all costs.

Mrs. Emerson confirmed it. “I want to see my daughter. I’m here in Los Angeles, for goodness sake, and I must see her. What’s her address?”

CJ decided that she would be shouting at this horrid woman very soon, and she figured ending the call would be best. “I’ll give Kate your message, and she can get back to you as soon as she can. Thanks for calling. Goodbye.”

She hung up before she said something she’d regret later, and her head fell into her hands as she let out a muffled groan. “What a day so far. Keep it together, CJ,” she told herself. She started the engine and began her journey back to Cedars Sinai Medical Center. Seeing Kate would make her feel much better.

* * * * * *

Kate sat in her hospital bed feeling sad, lonely, and a little lost. She couldn’t figure out why, but her face was a picture of pure misery. She pondered why her heart felt like it was lurching forward in fits and starts, like she was afraid of something. Maybe it was uncertainty, she decided. But when the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen walked in the door, her mood was forgotten and her face lit up like a beacon in the night. “Hi,” she said, suddenly smiling.

“Hi,” CJ responded softly. “Do you still remember me?”

Kate could see the uncertainty in CJ’s eyes…and the fear. “Like I could ever forget you,” she quipped to try to alleviate her wife’s concerns.

“You looked kinda sad when I came in. Do you want to talk about it?”

“I…hmm, I was sad and couldn’t figure out why, but I realized when you walked in…it was because you went home,” Kate said as her eyes filled with tears in another sudden change of emotion.

“Hey, hey,” CJ murmured quietly, leaning down to hug her. “It’s OK. I won’t leave you again, all right?”

“Oh, CJ, that’s not what I meant,” Kate whispered in her ear. “I just feel safer with you here, but I need to get over that if we’re going to have a semi-normal life. I feel like I’ve lost so much time, and it can be a little disconcerting to not know what has happened to me in the past.”

CJ pushed back and found the chair with her buttocks. She rubbed her hand over Kate’s face to remove the salty tears and looked deeply into the stunning eyes before her. “You’re going to be fine. Give it some time, Katie. Of course you’re feeling lost right now. You don’t remember the last few years…and boy, have they been busy. But I’ll be right by your side to help you every step of the way.”

“But you have to go to work sometime, CJ.” Kate’s eyes popped wide open. “Oh!”

CJ smiled and kept her face close to Kate’s. “What? Something else come to you?”

“Uh, yes…Special Agent Carson? Or am I just making that up?”

For some strange reason, CJ blushed profusely. “No, you didn’t make it up.”

Kate grinned, showing a flash of pearly-white teeth. “Wow, you’re in the FBI. It seems you’re the only person I remember from the last few years…then it’s just these random things that don’t make sense until you explain them to me or confirm why I know about them. The last thing I remember about LA…we are still in LA, right?” At CJ’s nod, she continued. “The last thing I remember is doing an acting job and being incredibly lonely even though I was surrounded by people. Do we have friends?”

“You and I were so similar before we met, Katie. I was the same way. We have a small group of good friends now. I’ll introduce you as we go along.”

“Sounds great. I feel like I’ve awakened into another world…but it’s a better one than before. I hope I remember more about us. It’s like I miss you all the time. Is that strange?”

CJ pinned her lips together to stop the tears she could feel building. “No, it’s not strange at all. I miss you every minute of every day when we’re not together. The fact that you can’t remember those days…well, that must be…” She couldn’t find the words to express what she meant, so she reverted to what she knew was an absolute fact. “I love you.”

Kate smiled and reached up to remove one of CJ’s errant tears. “I love you too. Could you…could you just hold me for a while?”

CJ returned the smile and sensed her beloved spouse was still feeling a little out of it. “Yes. Scoot over…carefully.” She climbed onto the bed next to Kate and almost…almost bawled again when Kate settled into her exact favorite spot under her chin. She turned her head to kiss Kate’s blond hair, and as Kate wrapped her arm around her stomach, she encircled her with both arms to complete the embrace.

“This is much better,” Kate said quietly.

“It really is. Do you need to ask me anything else?”

“Not yet. This is what I needed.”

“Me too.”

A few silent moments later, Dr. Kyle walked in to check on his patient. When he saw CJ on the bed – and the worried look that was now on her face – he held his hand up in the air. “Don’t worry and don’t move. It’s nice to see a smile on her face,” he said, nodding toward Kate.

CJ squinted to see that Kate’s lips curled into a contented grin, and her eyes were sparkling with contentment.

“Hello, Dr. Kyle. I feel much better already,” Kate murmured, not making any effort to move from her comfy spot.

“Excellent. I’m just in to check your chart. Do you have any news for me?”

“Yes. I just remembered I’m married to a federal agent,” Kate uttered with some satisfaction.

“Indeed.” Dr. Kyle nodded and read the notes the nurse had left for him. “You seem to be making some progress. I’m very pleased.”

CJ smiled and squeezed Kate gently. “I am too, Doctor.”

“Yes, it is nice to see you looking happier too. It’s not often I see something like this.”

“What do you mean?” Kate asked.

“Well, I don’t know what to call it. It’s not something I understand. You two just…fit somehow,” Dr. Kyle said, tilting his head as he looked at them. “And I can’t think of a better way to aid your recovery than for you to go home with CJ, if that’s what you want, Kate?”

“When can I go?” Kate said, excitement coloring her words.

Dr. Kyle laughed at her eagerness and impatience. “Not just yet. I need to scan you again. That’ll won’t be until tomorrow, but we could perhaps release you at the weekend. I’m not making any promises, though. I need to see the results first.”

CJ nodded in agreement and shot Kate a surprisingly familiar look. It was clear to Kate that she wanted to know everything was OK before they went home. As Kate gazed at her, their thoughts seemed to be transferred back and forth without words, and CJ knew when her message had gotten across loud and clear.

Kate pursed her lips and surrendered to the fact she’d be in her hospital room for a while longer. She sighed and relaxed back into CJ’s arms. “OK. I guess I can wait that long.”

Dr. Kyle had watched their silent exchange, and it had just confirmed to him that he hadn’t seen anything like their deep connection before. “Good. I’ll check in again later.”

“Thanks, Dr.,” both women said in unison.

Kate took a deep breath and snuggled deeper into the warm body that cradled her. “I feel a little sleepy now.”

“Just take a nap when you want to, Katie. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Will you talk to me for a while? I like your voice.”

CJ smiled. “What would you like to hear?”

“Maybe tell me about my current acting job?”

“I can do that. I know practically everything about it. So…the show is called Deadline…”

* * * * * *

Jamie stood quietly at the side of the set watching Sam work. She was amazed at the amount of people it took to make a TV show. Runners buzzed around behind the scenes, cameras were coming at the actors from all angles, and the crew members were everywhere. All were silent when they were shooting a scene, and most were barking commands and instructions after the director yelled “cut!”

They hadn’t managed to finish their conversation earlier in the cafeteria since Sam had to unexpectedly go back into the studio. So now Jamie waited patiently for her lover to finish up her working day. Their backup plan was to discuss the information they’d collected thus far over dinner. Jamie thought they made a good team. Sam got all the gossip around the lot, and Jamie used a contact in the LAPD to keep up with the investigation.

Jamie understood why Mark couldn’t put the SSHU on this case. They were a specialist unit, dealing with serial killers and other high profile cases. He wouldn’t be able to justify their involvement here with his bosses. It wasn’t even a federal matter at this point, but she was glad Mark had gotten around it by giving her some time off. She decided he really was a good boss, and his heart seemed to be in the right place.

“Ugh. Another day done,” Sam grumbled as she approached out of nowhere. “I’m ready for a nice meal with a beautiful woman.” She tapped her fingers on her chin and stood right in front of Jamie. “Now where could I find a beautiful woman?” she said, grinning and moving slightly closer to Jamie’s body.

“Oh, I don’t know. But you’re surrounded by actresses here, so I’m sure you’ll find someone,” Jamie drawled before sliding her tongue round her teeth.

“Hah! I have the perfect specimen right here. I just need the food now.” Sam said, surprising Jamie by kissing her briefly on the lips.

Raising her eyebrow in a decent CJ impression, Jamie decided to sneak another quick kiss and poked her tongue out to teasingly lick Sam’s full lips. “So…food?” she said as she moved away again.

“Uh…uh, yeah,” Sam stammered. She could still feel the tingle on her lips and the weakness in her knees. Jamie certainly had quite an effect on her.

Regaining her equilibrium, Sam took Jamie’s hand and led her outside. As they strolled over to Sam’s little office, Jamie was secretly smirking at the few people who glanced at their joined hands. She was so proud to be by Sam’s side, and even prouder because Sam was being so open about who they were to one another. With a big sigh of relief, Jamie waited while Sam tied up some loose ends and made a couple of phone calls. When Sam grabbed her coat and bag fifteen minutes later, they left the studios and drove the short distance to a favorite take-out joint to get some food.

Less than an hour later, they had almost emptied every food container, and Jamie leaned back on the couch patting her belly.

“That was good. How was yours?”

Sam barked out a laugh. “You ate most of it!”

“I did not. You gave me one forkful,” Jamie replied indignantly.

“Jamie, I’m not stupid. When I left to go to the kitchen you stole some of my chicken.”

Twisting her mouth into something resembling a pout, Jamie went for a suitably innocent look. “I didn’t…” she tried.

“My god, you’re like a big kid. Just tell the truth.” Sam settled beside her and crossed her arms over her chest.

Jamie’s puppy-dog eyes were almost convincing. “It was so irresistibly tasty, I had to steal it.”

Sam was ready for laughing out loud but she managed to restrain herself. “Well I’ll forgive you this time, but you’ll have to make it up to me later. Part of your punishment will also be…waiting until later.”

Jamie sulked, more at her acting skills than anything else. “So what can we do right now then?”

“You can tell me what you found out today?”

When Sam slipped her arms around her waist, Jamie decided this wasn’t so bad after all. “Hmm, OK. Danny down at the precinct didn’t have much info for me. He said that after the initial witness interviews, they didn’t have a lead.”

“That’s a shame. Couldn’t he give you any clues?”

“He said the only person who seemed nervous was Jack Bannerman, but that doesn’t really surprise me. He’s a shifty sonofabitch at the best of times,” Jamie said as she pulled Sam closer to her.

“Jack? Hmm…”

“Hmm?”

“Yeah. I thought he looked really nervous too, but when I spoke with him after it happened he looked genuinely worried about it and concerned for Kate’s wellbeing.”

Jamie thought about that for a moment. She trusted Sam’s judgment, but wondered if Jack could have another motive. “But do you think he would go so far as to hurt Kate just to try to get at CJ?”

Sam shook her head. “No. And I think he knows by now that CJ would literally kill him if she ever found out he’d hurt Kate. And anyway, I have some other gossip.”

“Do tell, my dear?”

“I was talking to Jim…here in my studio…who is friends with Phil Romaine. That’s Kate’s director. Anyway, Jim said he spoke to Phil on the phone after they’d finished with the police, and Phil said they’d changed the schedule because one of the actresses…Nicole…” Sam paused to look at Jamie. “Are you keeping up?”

“Of course,” Jamie responded immediately and nudged Sam with her shoulder.

“Right. Oh, yes…Nicole was all shaken up due to another set collapse the same day, so Phil changed the scenes around. So what I’m saying is that Kate wasn’t supposed to be standing there at that moment. Whoever has done this may not have been targeting Kate at all!”

“Well, you might have something there. Is there any way to find out who would have been on that mark if they hadn’t changed the scenes around? Was Nicole supposed to be on set?”

Sam sighed. “I don’t know. The studio is sealed off, and I’m pretty sure they would’ve locked up the offices too, which is where the scripts and director’s notes would be,” she said, rubbing her chin.

Jamie squeezed her gently. “Let me think it over, and I’ll get back in touch with Danny. Thanks for helping me with this.”

“Oh, I’m not doing much.”

Jamie turned Sam’s face toward her. “Oh yes, you are. The gossip from the studios will contribute a lot to the investigation. So, thank you.”

Sam smiled. “You’re welcome.”

“So…I’m gonna go see CJ tomorrow to find out how Kate is and catch up with her a little.”

“Ooh, I’m off tomorrow. Could I come with you?” Sam asked, hoping to at least see Kate for a minute or two.

“Sure. That’d be great. I’m assuming they’re still at the hospital, so maybe we should get CJ to come see us in the waiting room. I don’t want to overwhelm Kate.”

“Good idea. That’s settled then,” Sam agreed with a nod.

Jamie leaned in, holding her mouth ready next to Sam’s hair. When Sam sensed her there and turned around, their lips were mere millimeters apart.

“Do you want something, Agent Green?”

“Yes. I want you.”

Sam was overcome with the sensuous look she receiving from Jamie, so she slowly leaned back to lie on the couch and pulled Jamie with her. Jamie eagerly covered her body and let her lips melt into Sam’s. Good heavens, she loved those lips.

* * * * * *

After Kate had fallen asleep again, CJ had gone to get a decent coffee and something to eat. She had walked the whole way back from the café to stretch out her stiff body, and now sat in the chair next to her wife’s bed. She looked at her watch, noting the time at nine fifty in the evening. She yawned just as Kate’s green eyes fluttered open. Kate was lying facing CJ, and when Kate saw her beautiful, tired face, she smiled.

As usual, CJ waited to make sure that Kate recognized her before she spoke. She kept thinking that somehow Kate’s memories might disappear again. She knew it was just her being a tad paranoid and feeling a little insecure, so she rolled her shoulders in an effort to relax.

“Hey, you,” Kate mumbled. “You look tired. Did you sleep?”

CJ’s mouth broke into a small smile. “No, Katie. It’s only around 10pm.”

“Same day…?”

“Same day.”

“Wow, I feel like I’ve been out of it for a week. Have you just been sitting there?”

“No. I went to get some food, and I needed to stretch out my muscles so I walked for a bit,” CJ said, helping to lift Kate up on the pillows.

“That’s good.” Kate scratched gently through her unkempt hair. “Hmm, my head feels much better. Did they up my painkillers?”

“I don’t think so.”

“It must just be easing off then…thankfully. May I have a wake up kiss? Oh, no, wait. My mouth is-”

“That won’t stop me,” CJ interrupted as she leaned over and kissed her lovingly. She tenderly sucked Kate’s lip into her mouth before letting go. “Delicious.” She smiled and remained mere inches from Kate’s face, finding it too irresistible to leave. Kate’s hand landed on the back of her head, and she couldn’t move back anyway.

“You must really love me,” Kate murmured.

“I do,” CJ said quietly.

Kate’s heart swelled at the look in CJ’s eyes. She knew it to be the irrefutable truth. “I remembered something else,” she whispered.

CJ focused intently on Kate’s face as she waited for another revelation. “Tell me…”

Kate slowly ran her fingers through CJ’s dark hair while she spoke. “I remembered…a fight or an argument. It was me and you, right?”

“I don’t know. Can you give me any more details?”

Kate let CJ go and tapped her fingertip to the side of her head. “In a fitness center or a gym. You were on the floor?” She felt her heart lurch at the memory, but she didn’t know why.

CJ nodded and shimmied along the edge of the bed to get comfortable. “That was us. It was a really tough day, but as always, we made it through together,” she added as she squeezed Kate’s hand.

Kate seemed to pick up on where CJ’s train of thought would go. “And we’ll make it through this too. I’m sure of it.”

“I know. I hope they let you out tomorrow, Katie.”

“I do too. I can’t wait to see our house.” Kate grinned. “You’ll have to give me the guided tour. I hope you’re ready for that.”

CJ sighed. “It’ll be weird, I have to say. But yes, I’m ready for it.” She lifted Kate’s hand and kissed the knuckles. “Katie, when the doctor told me you had forgotten everything…that was the only moment I thought I wouldn’t make it. But when I walked in here, and you said my name…I knew then that we could get through this because we’d be together somehow.” CJ stopped talking and her face tensed.

Kate brought the larger hand to her chest to press it against her heart. “Did you think if I had truly forgotten you, that I would’ve turned you away?”

“It was a definite possibility. You would’ve had no idea who I was…I…”

“Hey,” Kate said, making CJ lift her head. “How could I ever forget you, CJ? I don’t think it would be possible. But even if I had, I think this feeling would have made me very sure I wanted you to stick around.”

“I’d like to think that, but…”

“CJ, I remember you. That’s all that matters right now. Even if I can’t remember the events in our life so far, I remember you, and I remember that I love you. I can feel it…so strongly. We can build on that, no matter what happens from now on. Let’s just live for each moment and stick together…I mean, if that’s OK with you?” Kate said with a hopeful smile.

CJ chuckled at her expression. “That is absolutely one million percent OK with me.” She leaned forward and kissed Kate again. She needed it like she needed air right now. “So do you need anything to drink? Or something to eat, perhaps…”

“Not right now, but when I get out of here will you make me some really nice coffee?”

CJ laughed. “I will, and I’ll join you, too.”

“Did you bring your pajamas?” Kate asked.

“Nope, but these sweats are very comfy,” CJ replied as she pulled at her pant leg.

“Then how about you get in here and spend the night with me?”

“I could do that.” CJ lifted the sheet and slipped in next to Kate. “Want to talk some more?”

“Hmm,” Kate moaned as she snuggled up to the warmth and comfort of her sweet-smelling wife. “Yeah. Tell me where you went for food…and what you had. I’ll try not to be jealous or drool too much.”

CJ’s mind inadvertently formed a mental picture of how she’d drooled over Kate in the past, and she almost made a lewd comment. She very quickly decided that it was entirely inappropriate for now, so instead she told Kate what she wanted to know in a very straight-laced fashion and continued to talk quietly with her until they both began to doze off.

.

Chapter 4

The next day brought a strangely-exuberant Kate being taken in a wheelchair down to the X-ray department for her scan. CJ had to wait. And while she waited, she paced the floor. And while she paced the floor, she fought with the sense of loss that encompassed her after Kate had left the room.

She wanted to ask the doctor about Kate’s mood. CJ knew there was nothing wrong with her wife feeling happy, but Kate was incredibly upbeat and excited about life. If she hadn’t been post-head-injury, CJ wouldn’t have questioned it, but she just couldn’t believe Kate knew who she was and wanted to be with her, it seemed, as much as before.

She sighed and strolled out into the corridor. She had a look to her left, seeing nurses bustling back and forth, and various patients either being wheeled to different departments or shuffling around with their IV bags on mobile stands. As she turned to her right, she spotted Special Agent Jamie Green flashing her badge to the head nurse who directed her down the hallway.

“Abusing your FBI powers, Agent?” CJ said, putting her hands on either side of her face and pretending to be horrified.

“Damn right, and you be quiet. You’d do it in a heartbeat,” Jamie retorted with a grin as she swiped CJ’s hands away from her face. When CJ gave her an innocent look, she shook her head before she sobered and got back to the main reason she was here. “How’s Kate doing?”

“She’s doing remarkably well, actually. She knows me but can’t remember our life so far. She gets little snippets of memories and asks me what they mean.”

“CJ…I…I’m so happy for you. It’s great that she remembers you. That’s really good news.”

“It is. I want to thank you for the other day, and I’m sorry I forgot about you,” CJ said, scrunching her nose.

“I think you had bigger things to worry about, DM. I came in to check on you, and you were sleeping like a baby. I figured you’d be calmer once you woke. Anyway, Sam and I are making a little progress on what happened, but I’ll tell you all about that when things have settled down.”

“Talk of the devil…” CJ nodded down the corridor. “Did you give her a badge too?”

“Uh, no, I just told them we needed to get in to talk to Special Agent Carson, and they never questioned it,” Jamie said, smiling at her approaching partner.

Sam stopped next to them. She hugged CJ briefly and asked the inevitable question. “How is she?”

CJ smiled wanly. “She’s OK. She-”

Jamie interrupted when she looked down the corridor. “Uh, CJ? Here she comes. Do you want us to leave?”

“No. It’ll be fine. Just let me do the talking.”

Kate frowned at the beautiful, blond woman who was talking to her wife, but then she spotted Sam and got a little distracted. “Hi, Samantha. Uh, what are you doing here?”

It took CJ a few seconds to realize that Kate had known Sam for a long enough time to remember her. She crouched down next to Kate’s wheelchair. “Honey, it’s good you remember Sam, but I’ve never heard you call her Samantha before.”

“I never called her anything else…oh, are we closer now? Oh, that’s great,” Kate said with a smile as she pulled Sam down for a quick hug. “And could you introduce me to…?” she added, gesturing to Jamie.

Jamie felt a pang of hurt go through her but she knew it was just because she felt a loss somehow. Kate had become an important person in her life and the fact that, in Kate’s mind, their friendship hadn’t happened, was a little hard to stomach. But she toughened up and forced a polite smile.

CJ caught the fleeting expression of pain on Jamie’s face before she stood up and slipped her arm around Kate’s shoulder to introduce them. “Katie, this is Special Agent Jamie Green. She’s my colleague and a very good friend of ours.”

Jamie moved in stiffly to shake Kate’s hand, but Kate had other ideas. “Good to meet you, Jamie, but if we’re friends, I’d really like a hug,” she said as she tugged Jamie’s hand to initiate the embrace.

Once she was released, Jamie smiled. “Thank you.”

“For what…?” Kate asked.

“For the hug.”

Kate could see the sadness in Jamie’s eyes. “I’m sorry I don’t remember you yet. I intend to fix that as soon as possible.”

“Think nothing of it. I’m just glad you’re OK.”

“I am that. Shall we go into my room?”

The orderly pushed Kate’s chair into the private room, and CJ helped her back into bed. Sam and Jamie stood aside while Kate got comfortable, and after a few minutes of easy conversation – mostly due to Kate’s inquisitive nature – Sam suggested they go and let Kate rest.

Kate protested a little, but CJ persuaded her she’d had enough excitement for one day. CJ also didn’t want Dr. Kyle to come in and kick her ass for over-stimulating his patient. She made arrangements for Jamie to come to the house once Kate was home in order to discuss the details she had uncovered. Once Sam and Jamie had left, CJ settled into the chair next to the bed to wait for Kate’s scan results.

“They seem to know each other,” Kate probed, glancing sideways at CJ.

“They do, Katie.”

“Do they know each other well?”

CJ grinned at Kate’s unstoppable and endless curiosity. “Yes. They know one another very well.”

Kate watched CJ’s face avidly and concluded that the twinkle in those bluer-than-blue eyes meant Jamie and Sam had something more intimate than just friendship. “Ooh, they’re together.” Kate smugly crossed her arms over her chest. “Well, I would never have pegged Samantha Morris as anything but straight. Hmm.”

“Hmm?”

“Yeah, hmm. So what else have I missed? Are they the good friends you talked about?”

“I’d say they’re our two best friends, yes. But there are a few others.”

“I know you don’t think you’re supposed to tell me things, but could you just tell me who the others are? Please?”

CJ studied the wide, begging eyes and the cutest pout she’d ever seen. She couldn’t stop the grin that curled her lips. “OK. Our other good friends are your driver, Tony, and my boss, Mark.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes, really. There are more, but those are the closest, and I’m not saying anything else. Let’s take our time with this, OK?” CJ requested hopefully.

Kate’s face was reminiscent of a spoiled child and her eyes had taken on a greedy look…greedy for information, but thankfully she gave in for now. “Oh, all right.” After a few moments of silent communication passed between them, Kate threw CJ a cheesy smile. “I feel good. I hope the doctor says I can leave soon.”

CJ opened her mouth to respond just as Dr. Kyle walk into the room. She took Kate’s hand in her own and waited for him to speak.

“So, ladies, do you want the good news?” He paused for dramatic effect. “Or the good news…?”

CJ’s shoulders drooped as she exhaled forcefully. “You have a sick sense of humor, doc,” she said, shaking her head.

“Sorry, CJ, but all I have is good news. Kate, I can’t see any permanent physical damage. The fluid around the brain is back to normal levels and should remain that way. We’ll keep medicating you until tomorrow morning. After that, I want to keep you in here for twenty-four hours for further observation. If everything goes as planned, you can go home on Sunday.”

Kate perked up a little. “Well I guess that’s something. I’d really like to go home.”

“You will. I just want to be absolutely sure before I release you.”

CJ was relieved but still a little concerned. “What about her memory?” she asked, feeling Kate squeeze her hand reassuringly.

Dr. Kyle pursed his lips before he spoke. “I honestly don’t see any reason why it won’t return, but this kind of thing is not an exact science. Every patient responds differently. Judging by what has happened so far, I’m fairly optimistic.”

CJ knew that was as good an answer as she was going to get. “Thanks.”

“Yes, thanks, Dr. Kyle. I really do feel good and I’m determined to remember everything,” Kate announced confidently.

“It always helps to have a determined patient. I’ll leave you two to talk.”

“Thank you,” they both replied as he left.

CJ put her hand to her mouth and squished her lips together in thought. Kate watched with narrowed eyes, knowing her wife was still worried about her. Kate took advantage of CJ’s distraction and gazed at her for a while. She wondered what it was about this woman that stole her heart the moment she saw her. Everything, I guess. I know her…and yet, I can’t remember knowing her. She chuckled to herself. Weird connection indeed… She blinked and focused back on CJ. “Penny?” she asked.

CJ twitched when her train of thought was broken. “Hmm? Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about what the doctor said.”

“It all sounded fine to me, but CJ, even if I don’t remember…I mean, if I don’t ever remember, will you be OK with that?”

“Of course I will. Why do you ask?”

“Honey, I know this must be incredibly difficult for you. You remember our life together and everything that entails. I mean, I even sense you holding back when you hug me because you think I might get uncomfortable.” Kate paused and tried not to get lost in those blue eyes again. “I’m not uncomfortable around you. Not one bit. I love having you wrapped around me and I know you woke up last night when I…when I was looking at you and touching your face. Why didn’t you open your eyes or say anything?”

“Katie, I didn’t…oh, damn. OK, I did wake up, but it felt so normal and I didn’t want to open my eyes in case everything became too real again.” CJ threw her head into her hands. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry. That didn’t sound right.”

“Please stop this. I knew what you meant, so stop beating yourself up. I’m guessing you do that a lot?”

CJ looked up and rubbed away the few tears of frustration that had escaped her tired eyes. “Um…sometimes I do, yeah.”

“Uh-huh, so can you quit it now? We’re gonna make it, you and me. Do you hear what I’m telling you?”

“Yes. I’m sorry. I’m just so scared of doing something that pushes you away. I know it’s silly.”

“It’s not silly. I’m scared too. I’m scared of the feelings I have for you. I’m scared that I might not ever remember our life together. I’m scared that any strain it puts on us could wreck what we have…and I know you won’t tell me when you’re upset in case you upset me. Oh, crap, this is too complicated,” Kate said, leaning back on her pillows.

“OK, OK. Let’s simplify it,” CJ suggested before she took a deep breath. “I love you, and you…love me-”

“See? That pause…don’t do that! I do love you.”

“All right. Please calm down or the doc will beat me up. I love you, and you love me. We’ll be totally fine,” she said with exaggerated determination. She stuck out her chin and nodded firmly. When Kate began to laugh, CJ just glared at her. Her glare didn’t last long because Kate’s face was so gorgeous when she smiled. “It wasn’t supposed to be funny,” she added sarcastically.

Kate continued to giggle and waved her arm to invite CJ to her bed. CJ just shook her head in a long-suffering fashion before she climbed in. Kate immediately snuggled into her strong arms, and CJ could now feel her amusement as she shook gently against her.

Kate finally managed to calm herself and sighed happily. “Well if we make each other laugh in a dire situation, I guess nothing can stop us.”

CJ squeezed her tight and smiled when she realized how right that assessment was. “I guess,” she said as she kissed Kate’s hair. Something shifted within her, and she knew now that with Kate’s determination and strength, they would get through this and come out the other side as one…the way it was meant to be.

* * * * * *

Two days later, Jack Bannerman paced the floor in his lavish, Beverly Hills home. Nicole sat on the hideous – but very expensive – white, leather couch playing with the tissue she held in her thin hands. Her long, dark hair was perfectly in place and her designer clothes were immaculate with not a crease in sight. But her face was covered in black makeup that had run as she cried her big, dark-brown eyes out. She had just confessed to Jack that she had received threats from Miss Certifiable, Jody Morgan.

“Did you tell the cops about this?” Jack bellowed, still pacing back and forth.

“Of course I didn’t. I told you I only just thought of it. I had thrown the note she left me in the trash. I didn’t think it was worth the paper it was written on. Everyone knows she stalks you, so what was there to worry about?”

“Jesus Christ, Nicole! That rig nearly killed Kate! You were supposed to be on set, remember? Then you got all…all weepy and shook up…” he trailed off with a puff of angry breath and ran his large hand through his hair. “Fucking hell! Where was Jody when this happened anyway?”

“I don’t know!” Nicole shouted back. But then her face froze and she covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh, no. I had just been in the restrooms with her not fifteen minutes before, and she said she had something to do. Oh, Jack…”

“Right. Keep this to yourself for now and let me think about it. I can’t afford to get all mixed up in this crap.”

“Jack, wait! Jody couldn’t have done it, could she? And surely she doesn’t have anything against Kate? Or have you…have you slept with Kate?” Nicole asked, putting a hand to her chest to emphasize her shock.

The question seemed to enrage Jack, and he stormed off to his study leaving Nicole with no answer. Her head fell into her hands again as she dramatically began to cry.

* * * * * *

Kate was feeling elated as she was wheeled out to CJ’s waiting truck. The prospect of going home excited her even though she couldn’t remember what it was like. She didn’t know where home was either, but she knew wherever it was it would feel right because CJ was with her. A much weirder feeling came over her when she saw the shiny, blue Dodge Ram. She squinted, as if trying to capture what was familiar to her, but she gave up and shook her head, turning to the orderly and nurse who had accompanied them outside.

“Thank you so much for all your help,” she said to the nurse as she stood up. “But I have to say, I’ll be glad to walk everywhere from now on.”

The nurse smiled. “I’m sure you will, Kate. Please take care of yourself and call Dr. Kyle if you need anything. That applies to both of you,” she added, looking to CJ and passing her a bag of pain medication.

After the goodbyes were complete, CJ helped Kate into the truck. As Kate settled into the leather seat and watched CJ walk around the front of the vehicle, things seemed so familiar to her, but in a very general way. It was driving her insane. Just as CJ got into the driver’s seat, Kate let out an almighty sigh.

“What was that for? You OK?”

Kate turned to her, trying to offer a reassuring smile. “I’m fine. I’m just so frustrated because I feel like I know something, but then I can’t pin down why. It’s so annoying,” she said, making a growling sound for effect.

“Katie, I think it’s your turn to stop beating yourself up. Just relax. I’m sure you’ll figure it out when it’s time,” CJ said, rubbing Kate’s shoulder.

“Yeah, I suppose I’d better practice what I preach, huh?”

“Oh, yes,” CJ said with a grin.

They drove home mostly in silence, CJ occasionally checking on Kate in case she was worried or…something. Kate was too busy watching the scenery go by to be too concerned about anything else.

As they drove along the approach road to the ranch, she gasped aloud. “It’s so beautiful out here.”

CJ nodded as she flipped the signal on. “I’m glad you think so because we’re home.”

“Oh, God, is this ours?” Kate asked, now peering out the windshield at the lake and house beyond. “It’s so perfect!”

“Well thank goodness you think so. We did pick the place out together, after all.”

“We picked well.”

CJ smiled and brought the large vehicle to a stop in front of the porch. She had to admit to herself that she was a tad nervous, but then she looked at Kate who was practically wiggling in her seat, and she had to chuckle at the most amazing woman she’d ever known.

“Ready?” she asked, half-smiling at her giddy wife.

“Yes.” Kate opened the truck door, and when she stepped outside she spotted the horses. “They’re beautiful…and familiar. Damn it, everything seems familiar.” Another growl sounded from deep in her throat.

CJ grabbed the bag from the back seat and walked over to slip her arm around Kate’s waist. As she guided her inside the house, Kate returned the gesture and curled her arm around CJ, tucking her thumb into the waistband of her jeans. Once they were inside, Kate let go again and wandered off through to the living area.

CJ dumped the bag on the floor when she saw Kate put a hand up to her mouth. She became worried again and followed her through the house. “You OK, Katie?”

“Yep. Just looking,” Kate managed to say

The tone of her voice had changed, and CJ went to her side to slowly turn Kate to face her. She saw her tears and immediately opened her arms. “Hey, come here. Tell me what you’re feeling.”

Once she was encompassed in CJ’s safe, strong embrace, she sniffed away the tears and answered. “I just want to remember.”

CJ took a deep, shaky breath. “I know, honey. I know.”

The last two days in the hospital had brought no other memories to the surface, and CJ shared Kate’s pain as she rubbed her hand over her blond hair. Maybe that was all they would ever get.

* * * * * *

Why do I feel guilty? It’s nothing to do with me. I just want to know how Kate is. Yes, that’s why I’m here. Jack tried to convince himself as he walked across the lot looking for Samantha Morris.

He checked inside the cafeteria, waving a quick hello to a few fellow actors and admirers. Not seeing Sam anywhere, he decided to check the Rise of the Phoenix studios since they should be filming today. He was just about to enter studio 7-C when Sam came out for a break with a few colleagues. She told the others to go on to the cafeteria and looked at the muscle-bound actor.

“Hello, Sam,” he said politely, trying to hide his nervousness. Jack Bannerman didn’t get nervous.

“Jack. Hello. What are you doing here? Did they start shooting Deadline again?”

“No, not yet…should be another couple of days before they let us back into the studios. I just came to see you.”

Sam noticed him picking at his fingers and shifting ever so slightly from foot to foot. “What do you need to see me about, Jack?” she asked, crossing her arms as she tried to read his mind.

“Well I just wanted to ask how Kate is doing.”

“Not much has changed as far as I’m aware.” Sam narrowed her eyes since she’d started to think Jack was hiding something, and she figured she would push him a little by giving him another thing to think about. “She has amnesia, Jack, so I’m not sure she’ll be able to come back to work right away. I’d say that’s pretty serious.”

“Oh.” Jack gulped…hard. “Amnesia? Like, she doesn’t remember anything?”

“That’s right. That blow to the head could have killed her, but instead, she can’t remember her life which is almost as bad,” Sam stated plainly.

“Oh, that’s…that’s awful.”

“Yes. Yes, it is. If you make that public knowledge, I’ll skin you alive.”

Jack blinked and was lost in his stare of disbelief for a second. “I wouldn’t ever do that to Kate. I…”

“You what, Jack?” Sam probed.

“Nothing, nothing…thanks for the update,” he said, straightening up and tugging on his shirt to keep his hands busy.

“Hmm. Well I have to go now, but if you think of anything that could help the police, I suggest you tell them. Goodbye, Jack.”

Sam walked away, and Jack actually blushed, but it was not through embarrassment. He was very worried that Sam thought he was guilty, and he realized at that moment that he might be, in part, responsible for Kate’s injuries.

“Oh shit,” he muttered as he turned and shuffled quickly toward his car.

* * * * * *

After the guided tour of the lower floor, Kate and CJ ascended the staircase. Kate nodded when CJ showed her the guestrooms, the en suite bathrooms, and the little room in the addition above the gym that had yet to be allocated a purpose. Kate had wanted to make it an art studio at one point, but never had the time to paint. They hadn’t gotten around to using it for anything other than a storage room.

CJ braced herself for the next room. It was their master bedroom, and before they got to the door she turned to face Kate. “Katie, I…I’ve put some of my things into one of the guestrooms. I thought when you got home…that you’d need some space and I…”

Kate stepped forward, causing CJ’s words to fade into nothing. “Do you want to sleep separately?”

“I…I think we should for now.”

“Why?”

“Uh, well…” CJ couldn’t really think of a good reason, but she knew she was very aware of their past and their passion. She also knew how much she wanted Kate and had to bury those wants and needs. Kate didn’t feel that right now. Or at least, CJ thought she didn’t.

“CJ, I can’t really explain to you what I feel because in truth, it’s all a little mixed up. What I do know is that I want you to hold me.” Kate lowered her gaze to the floor. “But I understand if you don’t want-”

“It’s nothing to do with want. I…we…oh damn, this is difficult.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’ll take the guestroom,” Kate mumbled.

“No way…and don’t apologize. This is not your fault. I just wouldn’t feel right about sharing our bed when you don’t remember who we are as a couple,” CJ replied sullenly.

Kate sighed and held back the tears that were stinging the back of her eyes. “Is that our room?” she asked, pointing to the door behind CJ.

“Yes. You can go look around by yourself if you want.”

“OK.”

CJ felt her heart rip in two and her stomach churn in a very unpleasant way. “I’ll go get you some fresh towels,” she said, desperately needing something to do.

Kate went into the room silently after CJ left. Her eyes filled with sadness when she saw the warm, earthy décor and the very obvious signs that this was the room of a couple who adored one another. The painting of the Rocky Mountains above the bed drew Kate’s eye, and she walked over to read the signature. “Wow, Eddie. Nice job,” she muttered. She looked at the image again, and her brow creased as another wave of vague recognition swept over her – not from the image itself, but of the mountain range.

On the nightstand she found a stunning picture of CJ with a microphone in her hand. She touched the glass with her fingertip and stroked CJ’s face slowly. Another tear fell as Kate realized she might never remember when or where the photo was taken. Sniffing and rubbing her cheeks, she walked around the bed to the other nightstand. This one had a few picture frames on it, and she picked up the one with her and CJ in it. They both looked blissfully happy with huge smiles on their faces and their heads squashed together at the cheek. Arms were tightly wound round necks and CJ had her tongue sticking out in a very mischievous manner. Kate giggled at the mischievous faces in the picture just as CJ came back into the room.

“What are you laughing at?” CJ asked, placing the towels at the foot of the bed.

“Us,” Kate replied simply. She put the frame down and turned to CJ. “Please stay here with me. It feels so wrong that we won’t be together.”

CJ pursed her lips tightly and realized she was going to have to tell Kate what she was feeling. “Katie, please sit down,” she said, placing her hands gently on her wife’s shoulders. Once Kate was seated, CJ lowered herself to kneel on the floor in front of her. “I wouldn’t feel right about it because you don’t remember us…I mean, our lovemaking and our life where that kind of thing is concerned. I do remember it, and I would feel like I was somehow taking unfair advantage. Oh, I don’t know how to explain it really. I just don’t want you to wake up during the night and I’ve somehow…well, let’s just say that sometimes I, um, touch you during the night while I’m asleep.” CJ blushed furiously and wanted to disappear into the deep pile of the carpet beneath her.

Kate took CJ’s chin in her hand and lifted her beautiful, compassionate face. “Please stay here with me. If that happens I won’t freak out because you’ve told me that it’s a possibility. I’ll be honest and say I don’t think it would have bothered me anyway,” she said, smiling when CJ’s eyes widened. “I love you. Stay with me?”

CJ was helpless and couldn’t argue with her heart. She wanted to hold Kate every minute and didn’t want to sleep apart from her beloved wife. “OK. On one condition…”

“What?”

“That you promise to tell me if you want me to leave. Deal?”

“Deal.” Kate put her hand out to shake on it, and CJ grinned at how easy it was for Kate to persuade her of anything.

Kate grasped CJ’s arms and pulled her toward her. “Kiss me,” she whispered.

CJ swallowed hard again and complied with the demand. Their lips met in a warm and loving kiss. When they parted, something passed between blue eyes and green. Neither of them knew exactly what it was, but it seemed to settle them both.

“Wanna eat something that doesn’t taste like sawdust?” CJ asked.

“Oh, yes!” Kate grinned and jumped to her feet.

Taking CJ’s hand, Kate led the way to the kitchen where they ate a light but tasty meal. Their conversation seemed easy, and while they sat on the couch afterwards enjoying the delicious coffee that CJ had promised to make, Tony came through the door with an exhausted German Shepherd at his feet.

He spotted the couple on the couch and stopped in his tracks. “Oh crap, sorry. I didn’t think you’d be home until tomorrow. I…I’ll leave.”

“It’s OK…Tony?” Kate said, fending off an over-exuberant black dog who clearly recognized his mistress. Kate patted him on the head in an attempt to calm him. “Good boy.”

CJ looked at Kate. “You remember-”

“No,” Kate said, shaking her head. “I guessed.”

Tony came closer to the couch with his hands clasped in front of him. “It’s good to see you’re feeling better, Kate.”

“Thank you, Tony. I’m sorry I don’t remember you, but CJ speaks fondly of you.”

“Aww, don’t tell him that,” CJ grumbled. “Now he’ll think I like him or something.”

Tony chuckled. “Yeah, don’t break the tough FBI façade.”

“Oh, I see. She pretends to be tough. OK, my lips are sealed,” Kate replied, pretending to zip said lips. When CJ pouted, Kate grabbed her stuck-out lip. “Does that usually work?”

“Nop weally…” CJ tried to answer.

All three of them chuckled at the silliness of the moment, and Tony was amazed at Kate’s relaxed manner after everything she’d been through.

“Well,” he said decisively, “I’m going to head home unless you two need anything else?”

“No thanks, Tony. You’ve been amazing the past few days,” CJ said. “Can we give you a call when we need you?”

“Absolutely.”

Once he had left, Kate seemed to get a little drowsy again, and CJ suggested an early night. After a rather mild protest from Kate, CJ helped her to bed with a promise to join her very soon. She tucked Kate in with a kiss to her forehead before heading outside to take care of the horses.

* * * * * *

CJ finished off brushing Nevada and led both freshly-groomed horses out to their field. “Goodnight, girls,” she said as she let them go. She stood for a few moments watching the animals as they rolled around in the dust undoing all her hard work. Idaho got up and shook vigorously, blowing a snort in CJ’s direction that seemed to say thanks for cleaning me, but no thanks. CJ smacked her lips together and returned to the barn with their halters. Quickly clearing out the stables of all things smelly, she wandered back indoors closely followed by Kamali.

She threw the plates and mugs into the dishwasher and decided to shower in the guestroom so as not to disturb Kate.

As she stood under the soothing jets, an image of her and Kate showering together flashed into her mind. She shook her head to try to erase the thoughts she knew had no business being there right now. Ugh, I’ll never get to sleep, she thought as her body responded beyond her control. She knew she had to get into bed with Kate and didn’t think it would be wise when she felt this way. She leaned her head against the cold tile that was above the reach of the hot water. “I need to get rid of this feeling,” she reluctantly admitted.

CJ leaned one arm against the wall. Resting her forehead on it, she let her free hand slide down her body. As it covered her breast she felt the heat settle in her stomach immediately. She twisted and flicked at the nipple, imagining Kate was the one stimulating her. It had the desired effect, and she gasped out an almost silent “Katie” as the nipple hardened. The tears ran from her eyes at the image of her wife in her mind. The hot water massaged her back and spilled over her shoulders, trickling down the valley between her swollen breasts. She gave the other nipple the same attention and knew she was getting very wet…and it wasn’t from the shower. She could feel her clit throb, and trailed her hand down over her firm abs to the thatch of dark, soaked hair at the apex of her long legs.

Sinking two fingertips into her engorged folds, CJ’s legs weakened and parted slightly, and as her touch sparked along her hardened clit, she began to stroke forcefully, knowing exactly what she needed. Emotions fought against one another inside her – physical need versus what she really wanted, quick sexual release versus making love to Kate – but her body took over, and as she neared her climax her fingers moved faster and more desperately. She could barely breathe as her orgasm washed over her, moving through her body like the hot water that tumbled over her skin. She cried out Kate’s name, and then bit her lips and prayed that Kate hadn’t heard her.

Taking a few deep breaths, she ran her hands through her raven hair and just wanted to cry. She didn’t want to be having a quick masturbating session in the shower alone. She wanted to make love to her wife, to make Kate feel safe and cherished; to make her feel the power of their souls uniting as they made love to one another. She clenched her jaws together and switched off the water. Drying her body and hair quickly, she snagged her T-shirt and pajama pants and pulled them on. She walked hesitantly along the corridor toward the master bedroom, her mind in tatters and her body partially sated.

CJ’s heart melted when she saw Kate curled up in a ball in the middle of their big bed, her blond hair spread out over the pillow making her look like the angel she was. Using the small amount of light from the hallway, CJ navigated around the blanket box at the foot of the bed and climbed in on her side behind Kate. She lay stiffly on her back wondering why she was so worried about this. The thoughts were quickly obliterated when Kate instinctively turned around grumbling incoherently under her breath and grabbed hold of CJ making her smile into the darkness.

Feeling Kate’s strong hand curve around the area just below her hipbone, CJ decided that it was a little too low and shifted her body to face Kate. The hand slipped up her back and rested between her shoulder blades.

“Smell nice…” Kate muttered sleepily.

“Thanks,” CJ whispered as she wrapped her arms around her wife.

Kate snuggled deeper into her neck and inhaled deeply. “Coconut?”

CJ’s lips curved into a grin. “Yes. I thought you were sleeping?”

“I was but I felt you come into bed. I missed you, Ciara.”

CJ held her breath for a second. Hearing Kate use her full name was a little strange when she knew Kate wasn’t aware of the intimacy it held. She made sure her response was gentle and light. “You did, huh?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“I missed you too. Get some rest, Katie. I’ve got you.”

“M-kay.”

CJ held Kate as closely as she could, and felt her resume the deep breathing of slumber. She rested her mouth on Kate’s hair, and the tiredness seemed to catch her unawares. She was asleep a few moments later.

.

Chapter 5

Kate awoke late the next morning. As she opened her eyes she had to blink a few times before she recalled where she was. My bedroom…our bedroom, she thought. “CJ,” she said aloud. No response. Flipping the duvet back, she swung her legs out of bed and padded into the bathroom. Once she was through the door, she turned around to look back into the bedroom. A feeling of déjà vu spread through her like she had done it a million times before. “Hmm, I guess I have,” she decided.

After dealing with a few biological necessities, she pulled on a large robe and assumed it was CJ’s as it trailed along the floor behind her. She descended the stairs, hearing her wife cursing to herself somewhere in the living area.

“That Goddamned woman…how dare she speak to me like that! Who the hell does she think she is?” CJ continued to growl.

When Kate entered the room – a little apprehensively – she saw CJ pacing back and forth, seemingly venting at the dog. Kamali wagged his tail when he saw his other human appear, and CJ swung around on her heels to see the cutest woman she would ever know. “Hey…”

“Are you OK, CJ?”

CJ sighed, knowing that Kate had overheard. “Yes. Sorry, honey. Come here,” she said, opening her arms in invitation.

Kate walked into the embrace and slipped her arms around CJ’s waist. “Why were you angry?”

“I didn’t want to tell you when you have so much going on right now…but your mother is trying to get in touch. She wants to see you,” CJ said as calmly as she could.

Kate stepped back and took CJ’s hands. “I’m assuming my relationship with her is no better than it was before?”

“I’d say, uh…no. She’s only spoken to you once in the last four years and that was when you called her.”

“Why on earth would I do that?” Kate asked, truly puzzled.

“Uh, well, something happened to you…please don’t ask me what…and you wanted to let her know you were OK. Anyway, right now she seems to want to see you and she says she’s here in LA. She can be quite…painful to talk to,” CJ said, wincing as she recalled the insults she had heard on the phone call and the thought of stressing Kate out.

“Yes, she can be. I’m sorry she upset you. I’ll call her back later. I don’t want to deal with her right now.” Kate sighed. “She could’ve given me a little more notice if she was coming to California.”

CJ frowned worriedly. “Yeah, she called the other day. I answered your cell, but you were in hospital, and I didn’t want to make things worse, but I didn’t know how you’d react and-”

“Stop,” Kate ordered. She moved back into CJ’s personal space. “Quit worrying and give me a good morning kiss.”

CJ sighed. “Oh, all right.” The kiss was sweet and tender and so full of love, CJ simply had to smile when they parted. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes. You?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“Why didn’t you wake me when you got up?”

“I figured you could use a nice, long sleep in a comfortable bed. I was actually just about to bring you breakfast when the phone rang.”

Kate grinned. “Ooh, maybe I should go back up there.”

“If you want to. How about breakfast in bed, and then I’ll draw you your favorite bubble bath?”

Kate’s eyes rolled back in her head. “That sounds heavenly,” she drawled. “Will you join me?”

“Uh…no, honey. I want you to relax. I have some stuff to do anyway,” CJ said, licking her lips nervously.

“OK, but I think it’s you who needs to relax,” Kate said before she headed back up the stairs.

CJ inhaled deeply and held it, wondering how she was going to cope with the everyday things she would normally do automatically. She now found herself being anxious about drawing a bath. Would Kate undress in front of her? Would her wife be shy about that sort of thing? And if she wasn’t, could CJ handle seeing her in her birthday suit? “Oh, for cryin’ out loud, CJ. Grow up!” she told herself angrily. She finished preparing Kate’s breakfast and steadily carried the tray upstairs to the master bedroom.

* * * * * *

An hour later, Kate was in the tub, and CJ had somehow managed to avoid her getting undressed. She’d hurried downstairs to call Jamie, using her as an excuse since Jamie was currently at LAPD headquarters trying to get more information on the investigation.

CJ sat down and took a slurp of hot coffee but almost spilled it all over her lap when the cell phone vibrated against the coffee table. She saw Jamie’s name on the display and answered the call. “Hey Penfold, what’s new?”

“Hey, DM… lots. First of all, how’s Kate?”

“She’s OK. Not much progress, memory-wise, but she seems fine.”

“And how are you?”

“I honestly don’t know. I seem to be freaking out at the simplest of things.” CJ sighed loudly.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, take this morning for instance. I drew Kate a bath. She’s in it now. But my God, Jamie, I was freaking out inside at the thought of seeing her naked. I mean, how ridiculous is that? I don’t know why I’m all weird about it.”

“CJ, of course you’re feeling unsure about things. She doesn’t remember everything you’ve shared, and it’s only natural that you’d react to her body. But how do you know she’s not feeling that too, or would welcome your reaction?”

“I don’t. That’s the point. But even if she is, is she feeling it just because she thinks she should? Oh, I don’t want to talk about this. My brain hurts. Tell me what’s going on with the studios,” CJ huffed, running her fingers through her dark hair.

“The cops didn’t get any prints from that chain I was telling you about, but they have someone they need to track down. Nothing concrete though…”

“Who?”

“Some actress called Jody Morgan. She was on the cast list, so she should’ve been there that day but wasn’t questioned in the initial witness interviews. Police are looking for her,” Jamie said.

“Is she missing?”

“I don’t think so. They just haven’t tracked her down yet.”

“Is there any motive for her wanting to hurt Kate?”

“Again, not sure. I’m still looking into it. I’ll have more answers for you soon. Danny’s been a great help.”

“I’m glad you have a friend in the LAPD. And thank you for keeping me posted, Penfold.”

“Always, DM. And give Kate a hug for me. I’ll pop over soon, if that’s OK?”

“Of course. Just gimme a call when you’re coming.”

“OK. Bye for now.”

“Bye.”

* * * * * *

After CJ went downstairs, Kate stepped into the bath and moaned at the feeling of the warm, strawberry-scented water as it soothed each muscle. Lying back and submerging her body, she started thinking about why CJ was so nervous around her. She knew how difficult it must be for her, but still, CJ had practically run out the door when Kate removed her robe. She continued to think about it as she rubbed her hand over her shoulder, spreading the hot water over her skin. Her hand moved down to her arm, then moved across her torso. Swirling her finger around in her navel, she chuckled slightly at the ticklish feeling before scratching lightly through the dark-blond hair at her mound. She sighed pleasantly and kind of wished CJ would touch her there. “Whoa, what was that?” she mumbled to herself. Do I want her to touch me there? Hmm, yes I do. Damn. A smile graced her features as she trailed her fingers lower.

Her hand suddenly stilled when she felt the remnants of a deep scar on her inner thigh. She hadn’t explored her body at all since the accident, and the nurses had washed her in her hospital bed and accompanied her to the toilet since she had been so unsteady on her feet.

Now, she traced the raised skin with her fingertip, and like a bolt of lightning she recalled how she got it. Her world began to spin as image upon image flew through her mind. She got incredibly dizzy, and the hot water of the bath just added to her nausea. The sweat poured from her body as she was faced with all kinds of memories and emotions.

She was lying on a floor, CJ was looking down at her with the kindest blue eyes she had ever seen. Oh, but the cave, Jason, the snow, so cold, so hungry, so painful…the black wolf!

The floodgates had opened and everything was becoming crystal clear. It was like an old-fashioned movie reel whizzing past her mind’s eye at the speed of light, and Kate tried to stand up in the bath, needing to free herself from the hot water. As she stood upright, her head spun even faster and she cried out.

“Oh God, oh…CJ! CJ!”

CJ heard the screams and jumped off the couch in a panic. Throwing down her cell phone, she took the stairs three at a time and was in the bathroom before she had even blinked. “Katie! What’s wrong?” She got to the side of the tub just as Kate collapsed into her arms.

Dripping wet and covered in little clusters of bubbles, Kate clung to her until she felt some semblance of normality creep back in. She tried to focus her eyes and stop her head from spinning.

CJ’s clothes were saturated but she didn’t care. She was too scared, and she carefully held the small body that was attached to her. “Katie, are you all right?”

Finally, Kate regained her equilibrium and stood up on her own again, revealing her body to CJ. She didn’t attempt to cover herself, and CJ tried to not look away, still not sure why she felt like she was invading her wife’s privacy.

Kate blinked deliberately a few more times and looked at CJ who was now holding up a towel in front of her. “CJ, I don’t need a towel. I need you to stop trying to avert your eyes!” she said forcefully.

CJ sensed a change and stared into Kate’s shining eyes. “What happened? Why did you scream?”

“I remembered.”

“Remembered what?”

“Everything, CJ, I remember everything,” Kate beamed.

CJ suddenly felt like the weak one as she processed what she was hearing. “Everything?”

Kate climbed out of the tub. “Everything,” she said quietly, sliding her arms around CJ.

“Oh…how did…I mean, how?”

“I don’t know, honey, but I think feeling the scar on my leg and the horrid memory of being attacked by Jason shocked all the memories out of me. But I think it was significant because it’s how I met you…and that is the most important thing in my life,” Kate said, squeezing the taller body.

“I…oh…you remember everything?” CJ asked again, needing to hear it one more time.

“Yes. Everything.” Kate tapped on her temple in a deliberate fashion while holding CJ with the other arm. “I remember Montana, the cabin, your job, Charlie and Jonathan, my job, Jack Bannerman…eww. I remember moving here, our horse’s names, Kamali, your truck…when I gave you the truck…on the hood. Oh my!” Kate blushed and coughed. “I remember the robbery, that time you got shot…oh, God,” she said, putting her hand on CJ’s chest. “Dad and Jeffrey’s wedding…so sweet…Valentine’s day, last Christmas, the Davenport case…oh! The girls!” she added with wide eyes. “What happened with the adoption? With…with Shannon and Lucy?”

CJ’s eyes were streaming with tears by this point. “They’re fine. We have plenty of time. Don’t worry about that right now.”

“Oh, CJ, this must have been so difficult for you. Oh, I’m so sorry,” Kate murmured, kissing all over CJ’s face. “And us…how did you manage to…I mean, we have so much passion. I felt it but I didn’t know how to mention it to you. I’m not sure why.”

CJ bit her lips…hard. “I wish you had. It’s been making me nuts, but there was no way I would’ve said anything to you. You were injured, and I felt really bad for not being able to bury my feelings and…urges.”

“Don’t be silly. Of course you’re gonna have urges. Holy crap, CJ! We’re hot, me and you!” Kate said with her eyebrows lifted so high CJ thought they might crawl off her head.

CJ’s face contorted strangely, and she realized she was about to laugh. She knew it was a combination of disbelief and a release of most of her stress, and she couldn’t hold it back. She held onto the most precious person in her life and laughed so much that Kate had no choice but to join in. They collapsed on the floor of the bathroom, Kate still totally nude, and CJ’s clothes still totally soaked through. But it didn’t matter. CJ leaned against the wall with Kate curled up between her legs using her chest as a pillow. They chuckled quietly after the initial outburst, and CJ kissed the soft hair in front of her, hearing a contented “mmm” from Kate’s mouth. A few more calm moments passed until Kate broke the quiet.

“God I love you, CJ,” she said between tiny bursts of giggles.

“I love you more, Katie.”

Kate smiled widely even though CJ couldn’t see it. “Not possible.”

Another tear escaped CJ’s eye, but it was a tear of joy. “I beg to differ…”

“Shall we agree to disagree?” Kate turned round and got to her knees in front of her beloved wife.

“I believe we shall.”

The proclamation complete, CJ leaned in for a kiss and couldn’t stop the feelings now coursing through her body and soul. She wrapped Kate in her arms and kissed her like she’d never kissed her before. Her tongue explored every part of Kate’s mouth. Kate hadn’t really given her a choice, having poked her own tongue forcefully into CJ’s mouth, demanding access and possessing her with ease. CJ tried to convey all the love, passion, and want through her lips. She could sense they were both ravenously hungry.

Kate had been feeling so much for CJ but couldn’t understand her passionate and arousing responses to her, especially since she’d come home. They were so intense, and yet she’d had no memory of how they got that way. But now…now she remembered, and she wanted to make love to CJ all night long.

CJ pulled back to take a much-needed breath. Her heart was pounding so hard and so loud that she wondered if it had perhaps relocated in her ear. “Slow down…Katie,” she gasped. She kept a firm grip on Kate’s naked, slippery body and looked deeply into her eyes that were mere inches from her own. “I love you so much,” she whispered.

“I know,” Kate replied, feeling a few tears of joy run down her own cheeks. “I love you more than I ever thought possible. I knew it when I saw you in the hospital, but I just couldn’t-”

CJ’s fingers silenced her. “Shh, it’s over now. I have you in my arms. That’s all that matters.”

“I know, but it’s so good to be back.”

“It’s good to have you back. I missed you a little bit,” CJ said, feeling guilty for saying it.

“Hey…I bet you missed me a lot. Don’t worry, CJ, I understand. I think I missed myself a little too,” Kate said, crinkling her face at how silly that sounded.

They sat on the floor for what seemed like forever, just holding onto one another and thinking how lucky they were. They conveying their relief through tender touches and loving words until eventually, CJ’s butt started to go numb and she wiggled slightly.

CJ tweaked Kate’s nose with her finger. “Maybe you should call Dr. Kyle and tell him the good news?”

“Hmm, that can wait until tomorrow. Right now, I’d like you to take me to bed…Ciara.”

CJ’s mouth suddenly went dry and her heart rate picked up again. “You sure?”

“Oh God, yes.” Kate stood up and held out her hand with a very broad smile on her face. “Please?”

“But…”

“CJ, I remember. It’s like I’d never forgotten. Please make love with me.”

CJ nodded and got to her feet. “Do you want to, uh, rinse first?” she said, grinning as she pointed to the remaining bubbles on Kate’s skin and hair.

Kate laughed. “I guess I could…but only if you join me.”

She tugged at CJ’s T-shirt and gave her a smoldering look which ensured she didn’t need to be invited again. She wanted to touch Kate. She needed it like she needed to breathe.

Kate undressed her slowly, enjoying every second of it. She gasped at the quiet noises CJ was making, and the beauty of the body before her. “Wow.”

“What?” CJ queried through heavy breaths.

“It’s like I haven’t seen you for years. You are…so beautiful!”

CJ looked incredibly bashful. “You’re beautiful, my beautiful wife.”

Kate smiled and delivered a searing kiss once more. In between some mumbled declarations and light touches, they made it into the shower where CJ switched on the water. Kate was nibbling at her collarbone, and she wondered briefly if she could remain standing.

“So…so…glad…to…remember,” Kate said between kisses.

CJ couldn’t speak. Her body and mind had blended into a pool of unending pleasure as her wife licked between her breasts. She ran both hands over Kate’s back and relished the feel of the smooth skin under her touch. Kate’s mouth covered her nipple, and the moan that left CJ’s lips came directly from her soul. She loved this woman so completely, and the fact that Kate hadn’t forgotten their love throughout this nightmare made this moment all the more profound for CJ. She pulled Kate up and kissed her so delicately, barely touching her lips before running the tip of her tongue around Kate’s and sucking her bottom lip softly into her mouth. She let go and opened her eyes to find Kate watching her.

As Kate gazed deeply into CJ’s eyes as she trailed her fingers downward, tickling her way over the thatch of soft, curly hair at CJ’s intimate mound. It caused CJ to whimper, and when the hand cupped her center, the middle finger pressing harder to explore the hidden treasure beneath, she moaned out her approval wholeheartedly.

Kate knew exactly how CJ liked to be touched. Another thing remembered, she fleetingly thought. “I missed you,” she whispered, feeling CJ’s arousal coat her fingertip.

CJ kissed her again since she still didn’t feel able to speak. Kate’s teasing finger was now poised to enter her, and she closed her eyes as she felt her body grow weak with anticipation.

“Look at me, Ciara. I need you to look at me…” Kate requested, sinking her finger further inside her. When CJ obeyed, Kate entered her while simultaneously brushing her breasts against CJ’s, which was only made possible by the fact the CJ was gradually sliding down the wall in her weakened state. “Come for me.”

CJ gulped and licked her lips, trying to get some saliva back into her dry mouth. She felt so helpless…so unable to do anything but experience Kate’s love. Her heart was thumping, her blood singing through her veins, and it seemed it was all rushing to one particular spot between her legs. Kate continued to thrust as she leaned in to kiss CJ. Taking her lip into her warm mouth, Kate added her thumb to the stimulation, pressing it against CJ’s hard clit. CJ concentrated on the touch and the feeling of the fingers thrusting in and out of her body as her orgasm began to burn, spreading through her like a wave of pure fire.

Kate continued to tease CJ’s mouth with her tongue while she drove her through her climax. She could feel the velvety muscles gripping tightly at her fingers, milking them of every ounce of pleasure. CJ fell onto her as she thrust her body against Kate’s questing hand one last time. Kate smiled when CJ bit her shoulder, trying to hold back a scream that ended up working its way out as a muffled “Katie.”

As the water fell over them both, Kate held onto her exhausted lover. CJ’s breathing slowed, and as she looked at Kate, more tears fell. Kate was momentarily worried until CJ covered her mouth with a wanton kiss.

“Happy tears,” CJ explained once they’d parted.

Kate nodded. “I’m happy too. I love the feel of you in my arms.”

“I love you feeling me.” CJ grinned weakly. “But now I need to feel you…and I think I want to do that in our bed.”

“Take me then.”

CJ didn’t waste any more time and switched the water off. Grabbing a large fluffy towel, she dried Kate and herself quickly, and then swooped down to lift her into her arms.

“Oh, my.” Kate chuckled and threw her arms around CJ’s neck.

CJ was too busy kissing Kate’s shoulder and licking behind a nearby ear to answer. She placed Kate on the big bed and lit a couple of candles. Closing the drapes, she crawled up from the bottom of the bed and very gently covered the smaller body with her own, feeling the need to somehow protect her gorgeous wife. She kissed the burn mark on Kate’s upper chest and felt her heart constrict at the thought of the love of her life in pain. She moved upward and kissed her full lips tenderly.

Kate inhaled the scent of CJ. “Hmm, that feels incredible. How long since we…?”

“I have no idea. Too long,” CJ replied, too busy kissing her way along Kate’s cheek to think about it.

Kate moaned pleasantly and lifted her chin to give CJ more room as she licked a trail down her jaw. She grabbed handfuls of long, dark hair as CJ took her tongue on a journey across her collarbone and down between her breasts. CJ palmed one of them and felt the nipple harden under her caress. Her mouth found its way to the twin, and she poked her tongue out to taste Kate’s delicious flesh.

Kate gasped when CJ began to suck on the sensitive point. “Oh, Ciara, yes…”

CJ answered with a moan and was very aware of the dampened, blond curls that were pressed against her stomach. Her heart fluttered at the thought of what awaited her, and she took a deep breath before letting the nipple go. She kissed it lovingly before heading south. Kate’s hips left the mattress almost of their own accord when she felt CJ descending to her most intimate place.

CJ positioned herself between Kate’s thighs, and she could see the alluring clit glistening with desire in the glow of the candlelight. “Oh, honey, you’re so ready.”

“Yes…” was Kate’s only response. Her head lifted to look at her, but when CJ’s hot mouth covered her and began to suck lightly, she arched her back and threw her head back onto the pillow. “Oh, Ciara!”

CJ was in heaven. The taste, smell, and feel of Kate was like a balm to her soul…like some magical elixir that would replenish her spirit so completely. Sliding her tongue from the warm, wet opening to the top of Kate’s clit, she breathed in the scent and smiled at the reaction her touch invoked. Kate’s hips were already swaying very slightly as if to urge her on.

CJ needed no encouragement. She started slowly, flicking her tongue back and forth very lightly, barely touching the very sensitive clit. Kate cried out and pushed herself toward CJ’s face. Feeling the amount of wetness already there, CJ decided to quicken her pace and give Kate what she wanted. She added more pressure and swirled her tongue in small circles. When Kate begged for more, CJ upped the intensity, batting her tongue as fast as she could over the swollen skin. She brought her hand underneath her and paused in her oral task to suck her fingers. Returning her tongue to its most pleasurable duty, she entered Kate slowly, feeling the inner muscles resist briefly before welcoming the digits. CJ gasped as the flooding wetness quickly surrounded her causing the onslaught of her own orgasm.

Kate was there. CJ was inside her, and the hot mouth between her thighs was driving her insane. When CJ sucked Kate’s clit into her mouth, still manipulating it with her tongue, and continued to thrust her fingers into her, Kate could not hold back. Her hips bucked off the mattress and she cried out as her orgasm shot through her.

“Ciara! Oh, oh…yes!”

The desire ran out of Kate, and CJ hungrily consumed all that she could, making sure to get every drop of the delicious offering. She stilled her fingers as Kate fell back onto the bed. She barely touched her with her tongue, gently licking and kissing the tender flesh as the afterglow settled over them both. CJ inhaled gustily then blew her warm breath out slowly over Kate’s clit, drawing a whimper then something resembling a groan and a giggle from her wife.

Kate massaged CJ’s scalp once she’d rested her head on her abdomen. “You came with me, didn’t you?” she said quietly.

CJ chuckled. “Yep.”

“Nice.”

“It sure was.” CJ moved to lie on top of her. “That was so amazing. The thought of never making love to you again was too much to-”

“Hey,” Kate whispered. “There was no way we would never make love again, honey. I wanted you even without the memories. We would’ve made new ones. I’m certain of that.”

“I was just so scared…for us…about everything. Katie, I can handle the FBI stuff, the horrible murders, and all the crap I deal with in the Bureau…but I can’t handle the thought of losing you,” CJ said, still feeling a little worried about how she fell apart without Kate.

“You won’t lose me, CJ. You and I are too tough. I mean, look what’s happened to us since we got together. We could make a movie.”

“Uh-huh. As long as there’s a happy ending,” CJ replied, sporting a cheesy grin.

“Oh, yes, always a happy ending. But right now, there’s a long and wonderful love scene to be finished. Now where was I?” Kate said as she thrust her pelvis upward.

CJ rolled her eyes and laughed. “Oh, if I must,” she pretended to grumble.

They didn’t know how many hours passed before sleep claimed them, but those hours were spent with the two women constantly joined together in one way or another. They were the best few hours of their lives so far. Reconnecting was always a wonderful experience, and CJ and Kate didn’t care how many times they uttered the words “I love you.” They had to be said…over and over and over again.

.

Chapter 6

CJ awoke the next morning vaguely wondering what the noise was. She opened her eyes and looked at the clock, stunned to find that it was after ten AM already. “Wow. I must have been really tired.” She decided that the statement was absolutely true when she noticed she was in bed alone and hadn’t felt Kate leave.

She sat up and listened more closely to the noise. Hearing the water from the shower was one thing, but her face took on a whole new expression when she realized Kate was singing Michael Jackson’s Remember the Time very much off-key.

CJ laughed heartily and figured Kate was glad to have her memories back. Throwing off the sheet, her tall, nude form shuffled through the closed door into the bathroom where the singing was much more painful. But she decided it was the best sound ever. Kate was happy, and that was all that mattered.

“Do you remembah…when we used to talk? Ya know we’d stay on the phone from night ’til dawn. Do you remembah…” Kate belted out as she danced under the warm spray.

CJ snickered and coughed loudly to get her attention. Kate spun around and looked through the slightly misted, glass partition. She smiled and wrote Hi in the condensation with her finger.

CJ laughed again and decided she had to pee before her bladder burst and made a mess all over the floor. “I’ll be right in,” she said, sticking her tongue out.

“Hurry up or I’ll start singing again.” Kate chuckled as CJ sat down.

“Sing if you want to, baby. I love seeing you happy…no matter how painful it is for my ears.”

Kate squished her nose against the shower screen and gave her the evil eye before starting on Give In to Me by the same artist.

CJ grinned, and once she was done she decided not to flush until after they’d showered. As she stepped into the cubicle, Kate’s hand landed on her upper chest immediately. Kate watched the water as it hit CJ’s skin, and when she followed the droplets with an inquisitive finger, CJ knew they would be in there for quite a while. But what better way to spend the rest of the morning?

* * * * * *

Jamie drummed her fingers one the car door while she waited for CJ to pick up the phone. After about sixteen rings, she was about to give up when a rather out-of-breath federal agent came on the line.

“Hey…Penfold.”

“Why are you…? Oh, never mind. How’s Kate doing?”

“Uh, fine. Are you coming over today?” CJ asked.

“That’s why I was calling. Would it be OK for Sam and I to visit? We have some news.”

“Of course. Gimme a time, and we’ll be ready.”

Jamie sensed a smile but couldn’t figure out why. “About an hour?”

“Great. See you then. Ooh-”

The line went dead, and Jamie frowned at her friend’s strange behavior. She turned to her right and looked at Sam who was sitting in the passenger seat. “She’s acting really weird. I hope things are OK.”

Sam raised her eyebrow. “Weird? Like, more than usual?”

Jamie barked out a laugh and feigned shock at the question. “There’s only one way to find out what’s going on. Let’s get out there.”

* * * * * *

“Katie, seriously…Jamie is gonna think I’ve lost my marbles,” CJ said, holding off her wife’s tickling fingers.

Kate had her pinned to the couch and was not fighting fair over the last chocolate brownie. Tony had baked – yes, baked – a batch for her coming home, and they were almost finished already.

CJ decided enough was enough and used her full strength – while trying to stop laughing – to get on top of Kate. “OK, now I have you under control, can I tell you that Jamie and Sam are on their way? They’ll be here in an hour.”

Kate sighed and gave CJ her best pout. “All right…”

CJ leaned down and kissed the burn mark near Kate’s neck. “And we have to calm it down too. How’s your head?”

“It’s fine, honey. No pain, no dizziness. Tough nut, that’s me.”

“There’s a joke in there somewhere…”

“Uh-huh. Kiss me.”

“Haven’t you had enough kisses for one day?” CJ joked.

“Never enough when they’re your kisses, my love,” Kate purred, still submissively pinned to the couch cushions.

“Now…don’t get me all horny.” CJ kissed her softly, releasing her only when she stood up.

Kate followed CJ into the kitchen. “Do you think it would be too cruel to mess with them when they get here?”

CJ turned and looked at her devious little wife. “Yes. They love you. No messing.”

Kate huffed for a moment, but then relented. “OK. I just remember…ya hear that, remember…messing with Jamie at our party, and it was fun. But you’re right, this is different.”

“I’m glad you agree,” CJ said, wrapping Kate in her arms. “This thing was pretty serious, and it was your health that was at risk. They were very worried.”

“I know. I can’t wait to see them, actually. At the hospital, none of it made sense because I thought it was years ago. Back then I never knew Jamie at all, and Sam and I barely said hello to one another.” She sighed. “I’m so happy I got my memories back. Just think of what I would’ve missed. Everything we’ve done. I love my life with you, CJ.”

“Damn, you’re gonna make me cry again. If you’ll notice, I can’t seem to keep my hands off you…and I don’t just mean when we’re making love. I mean I want to hold you constantly. It could get slightly inconvenient.”

Kate smiled and kissed her tall, beautiful wife. “Let’s make a little snack for our guests. You can hold onto me while I work at the counter.”

“Great idea…”

* * * * * *

Jamie and Sam stood – slightly nervously – shoulder to shoulder as they waited for someone to answer the door. Jamie studied the chunky, antique door-knocker and was about to comment on it when a very smiley-faced Kate appeared.

Kate looked at the two women briefly before stepping toward them and wrapping one arm around each neck. Both appeared a little taken aback, but before long a tangle of arms held tightly around Kate’s body.

She let them go and smiled again. “Hey, you two. Come on in…”

Sam frowned. “You’re different. You’re…”

“Are you trying to ask me if I’m all better?”

Sam only nodded, not daring to hope for the best possible answer. Jamie held her breath and clenched her knuckles.

Kate took in a dramatic breath and held it for a few seconds. “Yes, I’m all better. I remember everything so come in, will ya? CJ is on the phone with Mark.”

“Oh gosh, Kate, that’s so fantastic!” Sam blurted, her eyes filling up with tears.

Jamie was biting her lips in an effort not to bawl her heart out. She shifted from foot to foot like she had so much nervous energy she needed to run a mile.

“Are you OK, Jamie?” Kate asked.

“I…oh, screw it. I love you so much. Can I have another hug?”

Kate was overwhelmed as she tried to figure out if she had heard Jamie correctly. Sam decided honesty was the best policy and told Kate she loved her too. All three ended up in a group hug in the middle of the hallway, and when CJ appeared from the living room, she saw the huddle and shuffled quickly toward them.

“Aww, hey! I’m missing out on groping three hot chicks. Lemme in!” she shouted, wrapping her tall body around the pile.

After many squeezes and chuckles and a few tears, they all moved to the couch. Once everyone was seated, Kate looked at her friends with a goofy grin on her face.

Sam was the first to speak. “Well, what a great day. We were so worried, Kate.”

“I know. CJ told me. Thanks, you guys. I remembered how fun it was to mess with you, Jamie, but CJ warned me not to…not this time.”

Jamie narrowed her dark-brown eyes. “I may have had to kick your ass if you had done that.”

“Pah!” Kate barked. “Kick my ass? I’d like to see you try, Missy.”

CJ interjected. “OK, give the violence a rest,” she said, sliding her arm around Kate’s shoulder. “I’m just so relieved we have you back. Let’s not have any mud wrestling for a while.”

“Mud wrestling?” Kate said as her eyebrow curled. “What goes on in that brain of yours?”

“Uh…” CJ fumbled for something to say, but as three women broke into a round of chuckles, her face reddened rather quickly. She rolled her eyes and licked around her teeth before responding. “OK, OK, so I got a mental image. I couldn’t help myself. Leave me alone.”

“Aww. Sorry, DM. So did I hear Kate say you called Mark?” Jamie said, giving her friend an out.

“Yeah. I had to apologize…and thank him. God, I hate groveling.”

“What did you apologize for?” Kate queried.

“Oh…well…I wasn’t very nice to him when I…uh…”

“What she’s trying to say, Kate, is that when she found out your accident wasn’t an accident, she went storming into the AD’s office and yelled at him to put her on the case-”

“Jamie!” CJ spat, semi-seriously.

“What? You did!”

Kate was pretty impressed and slightly appalled at the same time.

CJ turned to see her biting back a smirk. “What you grinnin’ at?”

“Nothing really. I just know how I would’ve been if it were the other way around… and I can only imagine how you coped. I know how stressed you must have been. Did Mark forgive you?”

“Actually, yeah, he did…kinda…then he seemed to do a happy dance when I told him you had your memories back. I’m assuming you updated him about the amnesia, Penfold,” CJ said, looking at Jamie.

“Yeah, he was really worried too. You have a lot of people who love you, Kate, including our boss,” Jamie said, squinting at how weird that statement was.

“I know that, Jamie. I’m very lucky. So what’s happening with the investigation?”

“Oh, well…do you know Jody Morgan?”

Kate furrowed her brow. “Yeah. She’s a bitch,” she deadpanned.

“Seems like the only suspect. And she seems to be missing,” Jamie continued.

“Are the cops treating her as a missing person now?” CJ squeaked.

“Looks like it, DM. But there’s more going on, and I want to know what her motive would be.”

Sam cleared her throat. “I think I can shed some light on that. Jody was seeing Jack Bannerman, but he dumped her…rather coldly, I’d imagine…when she got too clingy and crazy. Nicole’s been seeing Jack for a while now, and it seems the schedule change that day at the studios meant that Kate was on set instead of Nicole.”

“That’s true,” Kate said, pinching her lips with her fingers. “And we use the same set for Nicole’s character’s office, just with a few pieces of furniture changed.”

“I might have known Jack would be in the middle of this somewhere,” CJ grumbled. She still wanted to rip the guy’s throat out. When her cell phone rang and interrupted their conversation, she picked it up quickly. “Hello?”

“CJ?”

“Yes. Shannon?” CJ answered when she recognized the little voice.

“Yes.”

“Are you OK, sweetie?”

“I was a bit sad, and Mrs. Hunt said I could call you.”

“Mrs. Hunt?”

“The foster lady,” Shannon said, sniffing.

“Why are you upset, Shannon?” CJ asked. She was a little concerned at how subdued Shannon seemed to be.

Kate worriedly looked at CJ when she got up from the couch and left the room.

“Do you think Shannon’s OK?” Jamie said.

Kate sighed. “I hope so. It can’t have been easy for the two of them. We need to go pick them up as soon as possible, I think.”

“Don’t you need some more time to recover?” Sam asked her friend.

“The way our lives go, I think living in the moment is how we should do it, before the next adventure takes over. I feel fine, and once I’ve checked in with my doctor, we need to get the girls settled once and for all,” Kate said with a nod.

When CJ got off the phone, she had managed to cheer Shannon up a little by promising to see her soon. What Shannon didn’t know was that Kate and CJ were coming to pick both girls up and bring them home.

* * * * * *

Jamie and Sam stayed a while and had some lunch. An hour later, after promising to update the LAPD with the new information and keep CJ and Kate in the loop, the two of them left in Jamie’s car.

The rest of the day was filled with CJ making sure Kate got plenty of TLC and love. Kate called her director, and after finding out that the studio would be cleared for filming in a day or so, she told him she would be back by the end of the week. Phil suggested that she not come back until Monday at the earliest since he had meetings with the studio bosses lined up anyway.

Kate also called her dad and Jeffrey to give them the good news of her recovery, and as usual Eddie was over-emotional and constantly blowing kisses down the phone. He told her he was about to fly to Los Angeles, but she dissuaded him until the kids were settled. Of course, the thought of having grandchildren made him bawl again, and Kate had to hold the handset away from her ear until he calmed down. After the call, she sat back on the couch pondering her parents who were such polar-opposites to one another.

CJ came through the door from the kitchen and tilted her head to watch her partner. Kate was wearing an old pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt. Her hair wasn’t particularly tidy and she wore no makeup…and she was still the most beautiful woman CJ had ever seen.

“What are you thinking about, Katie?”

“Dad…and my mother,” Kate responded, staring at the blue material covering her knee.

“Want to talk to me about it?”

Kate sighed and took CJ’s hand as she settled next to her. “I don’t like talking about mother.”

“I know that. In fact you’ve never really told me why you two are so distant,” CJ said gently, giving Kate’s hand a squeeze.

“I guess…I guess you could say she mentally abused me. Even after I ran away to California, she still managed to get to me by phone or whatever…always telling me I’d amount to nothing and would never find love because I wasn’t worth anything. It was like that for years. I suppose that’s why I came to LA in the first place. I was looking for success and well…attention…to prove my mother wrong.”

CJ was angry with Elizabeth Emerson – without even meeting the woman – and wanted to make sure that Kate knew she was so very loved. “I don’t know how to say this strongly enough so that you never feel that way-”

“CJ, I know she was wrong. I mean, look at us. I’ve never heard of…never known a love like we have. But I was young and it cut deep, you know? My own mother never really loved me…or if she did she had a funny way of showing it. She’s always been so bitter and hurtful, and I, for the life of me, cannot figure out what I did to deserve it.”

“Nothing. You did nothing to deserve that kind of treatment. You are the most incredible human being I know, and I want to make sure your mother hears that from me. It’ll have more impact coming from someone she hates already. I can’t believe she doesn’t know how lucky she is to have a daughter like you. I bet if my mother…” CJ faltered.

Kate knew what she was going to say. “Oh, CJ, I’m sorry. Here I am rambling on about how awful my mother is, and you don’t even have…sorry, honey.”

“Don’t apologize. It’s just a shame your mother wasn’t more like Dad. I guess you should concentrate on how awesome he is,” CJ suggested.

“We’re quite a pair where parents are concerned. I have to say, from the things you told me about your mom, I feel closer to her than my own mother…and I never even met her,” Kate said as she rubbed her thumb over CJ’s hand.

“She would have loved you so much, Katie. I bet she’s looking down here thinking, wow, CJ, you got real lucky. And you know…she’s so right.”

“I love you, CJ.”

“I love you too.”

Kate sighed. “So do you want to talk about anything else? Would you tell me about…about your father?”

CJ’s face suddenly changed. She scratched uncomfortably at her forehead and tried to answer a few times before any words came out. “Uh, no. I don’t think-”

“CJ, look what just happened? You shut down. I can see it in your face. I’m not asking you about this to hurt you. There are two subjects we always avoid…my mother and your father. I know the pain runs deep for you, probably more than my mother hurt me.”

“I’ve managed fine so far by burying it and trying to forget-”

“But you haven’t forgotten. It’s part of your past. Listen, I’m sorry I asked. I…I’ll go clear up in the kitchen,” Kate said, feeling guilty for ruining their conversation.

As she got to her feet she felt CJ’s hand pulling her back. She turned around to find CJ fighting with her emotions. Kate sat on her lap and wrapped her arms around her neck. She kissed CJ’s dark hair since her head was now leaning against her chest, and remained silent until CJ was ready to talk.

“You’ve changed since your accident, Katie,” her quiet voice said, muffled by Kate’s soft, white T-shirt.

Kate tensed momentarily. “In a bad way?”

“No, of course not.” CJ looked up into the compassionate, green eyes of her beloved. “You just seem so open and direct about everything…more so than before, if that’s possible. It’s like every moment counts and you…oh, I don’t know.”

“You’re right, I guess. When I remembered everything again I didn’t want to waste another second with regrets or hidden heartache. Maybe it’s a blessing that my mother wants to talk. I can tell her to go to hell and move on.”

“I won’t tell you not to do that because even just speaking with her a couple of times was enough. I already dislike her. Sorry.”

“Don’t say sorry to me, CJ. What did she say to you on the phone?”

“I don’t want to repeat the insults.”

“Tell me…” Kate requested as she lifted CJ’s chin to make her look up at her.

“Let’s just say that she believes I’ve poisoned your mind, and I’m a disgusting, evil lesbian who must have you under some kind of perverted spell. And also, because I wouldn’t let her talk to you she said I probably had you held captive. She’s a strange woman.”

“I…God, I’m going to kill her…”

“No, you’re not. She just seems very cold-hearted and bitter…and incredibly naïve about the world today. I’m sorry you had to put up with her abuse when you were growing up.”

Kate sighed. “It’s amazing when you’re younger and someone you think should protect you and know everything about the world, tells you you’re a stupid, no-good weight for her to bear. And when she tells you you’re ugly and useless, you believe it.” A few harsh tears stung the back of Kate’s eyes, and CJ saw it.

“Don’t you dare believe that now, Kate Carson. It’s so far from the truth, I couldn’t even measure the distance in this universe,” CJ said firmly.

“That’s far,” Kate said, trying to joke and biting her lips to avoid crying. “I used to think I didn’t deserve you.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. I was the one who didn’t deserve you!” CJ almost screeched.

Kate shook her head. “Of course you do. We both deserve one another, and we’re perfect together. Let’s not forget that.”

CJ thought for a few long moments. No hidden heartache, Kate had said. Her own heart lurched at the thought of voicing the next words. “OK…I’ll tell you about my father if you want to hear it,” she said shakily. “What I remember anyway…”

Kate was still on her lap, and she cupped CJ’s face with one hand. “Tell me.”

CJ leaned her forehead on Kate’s chin, unable to look her in the eye right now. “He…he was physically abusive. He would wait until Mom went out. She had to work because he lost his job when I was little and didn’t get another one. He’d get drunk and use me as a punching bag. I was pretty small…and from what I remember, he threatened to kill me if I ever told Mom about it. It was terrifying. I would stand frozen still in a corner so that he would have nothing to get angrier about. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t and he would beat me anyway…” CJ trailed off into silence as she relived some of her old fear.

“Did he ever…I mean, did he ever abuse you…sexually?” Kate asked, her heart convulsing at the thought of her wife ever going through any kind of pain.

“No. He never touched me that way. But he would walk around…oh fuck…I can’t do this.”

“CJ, look at me,” Kate said, anxiety threading through her tone. “You can. Just tell me, and I’ll never ask again. I just want you to have talked to someone about this…to share the pain somehow. I bet you never talked to anyone, not even your mom, right?”

CJ shook her head in the negative. “When Mom found out he’d been beating me, she threatened to shoot him with a shotgun our neighbor had, but she never really spoke about it afterwards. She just got us out of there so that he couldn’t hurt me again.” Her voice quivered, and she paused to bury her face in Kate’s chest. She turned her head to the side and continued. “I never told her about him walking around…naked in front of me. I was a little kid then, but now I know he was…he was aroused. But he would never touch me, and he was always fully clothed when he beat me. That was different. Oh God…”

Kate held her as tightly as she could. “It’s OK, honey. It’s out now. I love you so much.”

CJ sniffed vigorously a few times and absorbed strength from her spouse. They sat for what felt like hours – but it was probably more like fifteen minutes – and CJ began to match Kate’s breaths as she calmed down. Kate never said a word. She just held onto CJ until the taller woman looked up at her.

“Thank you, Katie. Man, it really feels strange…talking about it, I mean. And now there’s nothing I haven’t told you. Feels…feels good.”

Kate nodded and looked into CJ’s watery eyes. “It does feel good, and we can talk anytime about anything. I want to be clear about that. And we’re about to be parents so we need to be stronger than ever. I’m always here for you, CJ.”

“I’m always here for you too. And we are stronger than ever, Katie.” CJ lowered her head again to rest it on Kate’s shoulder. “Wow. We’ll be parents. Scary, huh?”

“It is, a little. And we’ll do our best to be good ones like my dad and your mom. I think, from now on I’d like to think of Dad and Mom as those two people. It would help to heal my heart where Elizabeth is concerned. Is that OK with you?”

“Well, I call your dad, Dad already. And I love the fact that you want to call my beloved Alyssa Carson your mom too,” CJ said, her eyes shining with devotion.

“Good.” Kate thought for a moment. “So Mom changed her name back after they divorced?”

“Yes. Mine too…and I’m so happy about that.”

“I am too, honey. I love that it’s my name as well,” Kate beamed.

CJ kissed her gently on the lips. “So Kate Carson, are you ready to be a mother of two?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be. You?”

“Terrified, but ready.” CJ grinned sheepishly, and received a kiss for her honesty.

“I’m a little scared myself, but we’ll be fine. So let’s set a date to see Marion next week…and we need to go shopping!”

.

Chapter 7

Tony drove up to the big, whitewashed farmhouse. CJ had called and asked him to come over as soon as possible. She hadn’t sounded worried or anything, so he just figured there were errands to be run.

When CJ opened the door she only got out a quick hello before her giddy wife skipped through the hallway. CJ turned back to face Tony who had a strange look on his face.

“She’s baaack,” CJ said with a grin.

Tony’s eyes widened as Kate approached. “She’s back?”

“Tony!” Kate exclaimed. “Come on in.”

“Hi, Kate. I…uh…”

CJ put her hand on Tony’s shoulder as he walked into the house. “Relax, Tony.”

Kate threw her arms around his neck. “It’s good to remember you, Tony!”

“Oh!” he gasped. “You’re back. You remember?”

“Yes. Everything. Isn’t it great?” Kate smiled.

“Fantastic, Kate. Oh I’m so happy for you guys.”

Both women could see Tony’s whole demeanor change, and they shared a quick glance at one another before CJ bit her bottom lip and smiled goofily at Kate.

“So, Tony…” CJ said. “We have things we need to discuss, so how about a nice cup of coffee?”

“Great, CJ,” Tony replied around a huge smile. He was so happy for his employers, knowing only too well how hard the past week must have been for them.

Everyone headed into the kitchen – Kamali following at Tony’s heels – and settled around the island unit to inform Tony about the upcoming new additions to the family.

* * * * * *

“Two kids? Wow,” Tony said, rubbing his chin.

“Yep, and we want to know if you’d like to help care for them while we’re at work,” Kate said, not sure how the young man would respond.

“Oh I’d love to help, but I don’t have much experience…except my nephew…and I have my other duties too.”

CJ smiled. “It’s OK, Tony. We just wanted to check with you.”

“Well when you’re at the studios, Kate, I could help out here. It’s really up to you. I tend to come back here to walk the dog anyway,” Tony shrugged and looked at them both.

“We’ll take it as it comes, I think,” Kate said with a nod. “We need to find a nanny. I’ll start looking.”

“Sounds sensible,” CJ responded.

Tony finished his last gulp of coffee. “I can’t get into the studios to collect your mail, Kate. Do you guys need me to do anything else?”

Kate thought about it for a moment. “Would you like to take me shopping, Tony? We need to buy car seats before we pick up the children.”

CJ coughed to interrupt. “Are you sure you should do that today, Katie?”

“Sure. I feel fine, and it’s only one store. Tony will take care of me. Right?” Kate said, looking at her driver.

“Yes,” Tony replied.

“And anyway,” Kate persuaded, “you said you wanted to go see Mark. Why don’t you pop into your office while I’m out?”

“Hmm. Clever tactics, Katie. All right, but if you need me you call me,” CJ warned.

Kate grinned showing a flash of white teeth. “Absolutely.”

Tony smiled at the interaction. “OK, I’ll go and give the Mercedes a wash. Then we can go. Is that OK?”

“Perfect,” Kate said. “CJ, want to come for a walk with me and Kamali?”

“Sure.”

* * * * * *

After a leisurely walk around the farmland with her beautiful wife, CJ headed into her office. She wanted to catch up with Ethan and Mikey, and apologize to Mark again. He would no doubt want a full update on Kate’s recovery too. CJ smiled and shook her head at Mark’s easy friendship with Kate as she drove into the underground parking garage.

A few minutes later as she knocked on Mark’s door, she recalled how she’d stormed in here not a few days ago. She cringed to herself in embarrassment and realized how much Kate being injured had affected her judgment.

“Come in,” Mark shouted from within the room.

CJ opened the door and walked in hesitantly with her hands up. “It’s only me, Sir.”

“Oh, CJ, please sit down,” he said, hiding his grin at her pose. “I didn’t expect you in today.”

“Ah, well I came to apologize again. I’m really sorry about-” CJ shut up when Mark held his hand up.

“No need for more groveling, CJ. I’m sure that phone call was enough. How is Kate?”

“She’s doing great, Sir.”

“CJ,” he warned, wiggling a finger in the air.

“Oh…she’s doing great, Mark,” she said, smiling sheepishly.

“Did she remember everything?”

Mark was being quite abrupt, and CJ thought that maybe she wasn’t completely forgiven after all. “It seems like it. She remembers our life together.”

“That’s the main thing then. Means I can get my special agent back in one piece. So have you been in touch with Marion?”

“Yes. She’s been very helpful, as have you, Mark. I need to thank you again for that.”

“Noted. And you’re welcome, but I have a lot of work to do so if there’s anything else?” Mark asked, raising his eyebrow.

“Uh, no. Sorry to disturb you,” CJ said and got to her feet.

“You’re not disturbing. I’ll see you next week, CJ. Have a good break.”

“Thank you.”

As she left the office, she wondered why Mark hadn’t disciplined her further. Perhaps the lack of conversation was her punishment. She was amazed to find that she didn’t like the feeling of letting him down, having never really cared about her bosses in the past. She sighed as she entered her own office and found only Ethan present.

“Hey, man. You all alone today?” CJ probed.

“Hi, CJ. Mikey and Connor went out to investigate something. How are you?”

“I’m good. Who’s Connor?”

“Oh, he’s the guy who’s covering for Jamie. He hasn’t done much yet…quiet week,” Ethan said, meeting CJ’s hand in a routine high-five. A quiet week meant no murderers. “How’s Kate doing?”

“She’s great. Got her memories back and her injuries are healing, so I’m happy. But we’re going for a check-up tomorrow, just to make sure,” CJ babbled, dumping her butt into the chair across from Ethan.

“So what you doing in here? Go be with your wife!”

“I will. She went with Tony to get stuff for the car. I needed to suck up to the boss since I was a little…uh, nasty the other day.”

“Yeah, I heard.” Ethan chuckled quietly. “I bet he understood, though.”

“Kinda. So do you know where I can find a nanny?”

Ethan blinked at the change in conversation and his eyes widened. “Are you looking? Are you definitely getting the kids?”

“Yes, and we need some help while we’re both out at work. Know anyone?”

“Congratulations, CJ, and well, actually…” he paused, wondering if this could help solve his financial problems.

“Out with it, Ethan,” CJ said, seeing the cogs in his brain turning.

“Um…do you remember Alice’s mom was really sick recently?” he asked, getting a nod from CJ in response. “Well, she never had insurance that covered her long stay in hospital, and she couldn’t afford to pay, so Alice and I are footing the bill.” He paused again, not sure how to word things. “You see, Alice was looking for a job because we were struggling a little, but we have the twins and it wasn’t going to be worth it if we had to get child care.”

CJ waited. “And the punch line is?”

Ethan fidgeted slightly in his seat. “Alice has a childcare qualification,” he said quietly.

CJ turned the information over in her mind and her eyebrows began to crawl up her forehead. “Ooh, that could work out. You mean Alice would be our nanny? But wait…could she cope with four girls at once?”

Ethan looked worried about suggesting it, but he answered quickly. “I’m sure she could. It would really solve our dilemma. Of course, she would be at your house, and I understand that you might not-”

“Quit rambling, Ethan. It’s a good idea in principle, and it helps us out too. Let me speak with Kate. If she agrees, we’ll get together this week sometime to discuss it. Does that suit?”

“Yes! Thank you for considering it, CJ. I’ll wait to hear back from you before I tell Alice.”

“OK.” CJ thought for a moment. “Alice’s mother is better now, right?”

“Yes. She’s fine. It just put a lot of pressure on us.”

“I can understand that. OK, I’m gonna head home. I’ll keep you posted, man.”

CJ pondered this new information as she drove home. Ethan’s proposition was a good one. And what’s more they trusted Alice, and that was a huge load off CJ’s mind. She wasn’t sure about getting a complete stranger to come and take care of Shannon and Lucy. This person would also have access to their house all day, and that thought had made her a little uncomfortable since they were quite a private couple. Yes, Alice working for them would be a good plan. CJ’s only concern was the young woman coping with four active children every day on her own.

“Hmm,” she muttered aloud.

* * * * * *

“That looks good, right Tony?”

“Yes. Looks great.”

Kate turned to the qualified assistant who had fitted the car seats for them. “Thank you for doing that. It saves me spending time with instructions.”

“Keep hold of the instructions, though. And here’s your receipt. If you have any problems, come back in and we’ll try to sort them out. And when the little one is ready to move to the next stage, I hope you’ll come back here for your purchases, Miss Marshall,” the smiling assistant replied cheerfully.

Kate nodded. “You’ve been very helpful. Thank you. Goodbye.”

As Tony got into the Mercedes, Kate decided she’d travel in the front passenger seat since the back seat was where the new child-safety equipment was fitted. “This is new. I guess I’ll have to get used to some changes around here,” she said with a grin.

“You could always squeeze in the back, in between the kids,” Tony offered helpfully.

“Ha-ha.” Kate thought about it for a second. “Sometimes I might just do that. Don’t you like having me up here?”

“Actually, yes…it seems more relaxed somehow,” Tony responded tentatively.

“Yeah, I like it too.” As the driver pulled out onto the freeway, Kate turned the CD player on to see what Tony had been listening to. “Ooh, the Killers…good choice.”

A short while later the Mercedes turned onto the long driveway at the ranch. Kate let out a contented sigh, happy to be back at home again. Her brows drew together when she spotted a car in front of the porch. It was an unusual sight – not a lot of people knew where they lived – and she didn’t recognize the vehicle which made her nervous.

“Were you expecting a visitor, Kate?” Tony asked, slightly concerned about his boss’s worried expression.

“No. I don’t remember that car. Have I forgotten-”

“No, you didn’t forget. I’ve never seen it before either.”

As they neared the dark, luxurious Chrysler, the uniformed driver stepped out. Kate got a bad feeling in her stomach and couldn’t shake it. She knew her gut instinct was spot on when the tall man opened the back door, and her mother appeared from the car.

“Oh, crap. I can’t deal with this right now…and how the hell did she get my address?” Kate said to nobody in particular.

Tony felt compelled to help. “Do you want me to turn around and leave?”

Kate glanced at him and saw his anxious face. She smiled wanly. “No. I’ll have to deal with her at some point. I just wish CJ was here.”

“Who is she?” Tony asked, removing his seatbelt.

“My mother. I’m sorry you’ll have to witness this, Tony. Just let me do the talking.”

“No problem. I’ll be right behind you if you need me,” Tony stated as he watched the cold, angry face of the older blond woman who was now tapping her foot on the ground. Boy, she didn’t like to be kept waiting.

Kate got out and approached her. “How did you get my address?” she blurted.

“Well I see the damage she’s done to you is more extensive than I thought! Not even a hello!” Elizabeth spat.

“Mother! How did you get my address?”

“I know people, dear. Money can buy anything,” Elizabeth said with a look of disgust on her face.

“Jesus Christ! What do you want?” Kate almost growled, feeling the prickles of hatred emanating from the woman, causing so much negativity and old emotion to rise from within her own body.

“What a foul mouth. I want to get you out of here and away from that abomination of a woman. She’s poisoned your mind, Katherine. It’s intolerable. I had to endure those awful pictures all over the press of you and your wife. It was not pleasant and it’s obvious she has led you astray…and lets you curse when you feel like it. Disgusting…” Elizabeth ranted, pulling at the ends of her white-gloved fingers.

Kate’s face was growing redder by the second. “How dare you! You need to leave…right now!” In truth, she was dying inside as the memories of her mother yelling at her came flooding back, but she’d be damned if she would cry. There was no way this god-awful woman would make her cry again.

“I can see my task will be harder than I thought. You’re wicked and delusional.”

Tony gritted his teeth together and stepped forward, only to be stopped by Kate’s arm coming up across his stomach.

“It’s OK, Tony. She’s not worth it.”

“Not worth it? Not worth it? Katherine, I brought you into this world and raised you to respect your elders. And you tell this…this attack-dog that I’m not worth it? You are the one who is not worth anything. Honestly, I need to give this wife of yours a piece of my mind. I will not be humiliated by anyone, Katherine-”

“I am not listening to your resentful and hurtful comments anymore. And you do this in front of an audience? And how dare you insult Tony! Leave now, Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth put her hand to her chest to emphasize her shock. “I am your mother!”

“No. A mother cares for her child. She does not tell her she’s useless and ugly and not worth anything. You are heartless and bitter, and you can’t stand the fact that I’m happy. I’m happy here. CJ makes me happy! I want you to leave, right now!”

Tony looked over his shoulder and spotted CJ’s truck coming up the drive. Oh shit! he thought. CJ will freak if this woman says stuff like that in front of her.

Elizabeth’s driver had quietly disappeared back into his car when the shouting had gotten a little too personal. He had seen a truck barreling up the driveway toward them, and now that Kate had turned to see what the noise was, she’d noticed it too. As CJ’s truck stopped behind the Mercedes, Kate tried one more time.

“Please leave. I don’t want CJ getting upset.”

“I don’t give a damn if she gets upset. I’m taking you out of her foul clutches. No daughter of mine lives with a woman like that!”

CJ had heard the last comment as she stepped out of the vehicle, and her face hardened even more when she saw the pain and distress Kate was in. “Katie, is everything all right?” she asked with forced calmness, putting her arm around Kate’s shoulder.

Before Kate could speak, Elizabeth butted in, her face a wrinkled mass of repulsion at CJ touching her daughter. “Of course she’s not all right. You are a predator and a deviant, and I’m taking her away from you. This is an abomination, I tell you…” Her voice trailed off when she saw CJ’s eyes turn to ice.

CJ stood protectively in front of Kate, and Tony knew it was time to back away. Kate held CJ’s forearm gently from behind but did nothing to stop her. CJ snarled and took a deep breath to control her anger. She didn’t want Kate upset anymore.

“Elizabeth, I presume?”

“Don’t even speak to me. I’m not interested in you. Lesbians are an affront to God. I will not have my Katherine under your influence. It’s bad enough her father is a complete failure at life, too. Katherine should have married that nice boy, Jason-”

“Enough!” CJ shouted, moving towards Elizabeth with her jaws grinding together. “How dare you speak his name! Don’t you know what he did? Now get out of here before I call the police. You wouldn’t want all your tight-ass friends to find out you have a criminal record, would you?”

Kate remained silent for the time being. She had flinched harshly at the Jason comment – having not told her mother who abducted her – but she decided that CJ was handling things just fine, so she let her continue.

“Don’t threaten me. I am powerful. And I know there is nothing to have me arrested for.”

“Lady, let me introduce myself again. I’m Kate’s wife…Special Agent CJ Carson…and we own this property. Quite frankly, I don’t want you within a mile of my land. I’m sure I can find a federal law to slap on your head. Shall I start looking for one now?” she drawled.

Elizabeth seemed to wince slightly, or maybe it was CJ’s hopeful imagination. She looked around the tall body to glare at her daughter. “Are you going to let her talk to me like this?”

Kate shrugged. “Yes. We own this property, and I believe you are trespassing. Nobody wants you here. You are free to go, but wait much longer and you won’t be free to do anything. Now, like I said before…please leave,” she said, stepping beside CJ and taking her hand.

Elizabeth saw the gesture and was very obvious about her disgust. She looked horrified and sickened, and if she didn’t watch out, her face may get stuck that way.

Kate moved her other hand up to grasp CJ’s forearm lovingly. “Leave, Elizabeth. I don’t want or need to hear from you again. And don’t ever speak about Edward Marshall in that way again either. He is a wonderful father. He knows what being a parent means. You do not. Goodbye, Elizabeth.” She paused to turn to Tony. “Tony, let’s go inside.” She guided a very tense CJ into the house, hearing her mother get the last word.

“I am disowning you, do you hear me? You are no longer my daughter. And what a relief that is. I have no daughter!” Elizabeth shouted as she violently pulled the car door open. “Get out and close this door!” she growled at the driver.

The Chrysler left, and Tony closed the house door behind his employers. “I’ll make some coffee,” he said, excusing himself quickly.

Kate could see that CJ was a mass of pent-up tension and anger, so she waited until she calmed before saying anything. She stood by the couch, turning her back to CJ to think about what had just transpired. Elizabeth Marshall-Emerson was indeed a very bitter woman. She had always told Kate she would amount to nothing and that nobody would ever love her. Kate knew that her mother seeing pictures of her and reading about her winning an Emmy, most likely induced a near heart attack in the older woman. And surely Elizabeth could see the strength of the love Kate shared with CJ even through the green haze of envy. It was a sad state of affairs. Her mother could be quite beautiful if it hadn’t been marred in a blatant veil of hatred. Kate sighed and used both hands to rub her face, trying to stop the onslaught of tears. She felt two long arms slide around her waist from behind, and CJ’s chin fell onto her shoulder.

“Are you OK?”

Kate sighed again, but this time with relief that CJ was calm. “Yes. I’m so sorry that had to happen.”

“You have nothing to apologize for. How did she find us?”

“I don’t know. She said she knows people and that money can buy anything,” Kate said, lifting her hand up to the back of CJ’s head and turning to kiss her cheek.

“Clearly, it can’t. She will never know a love like we have. I hope you didn’t take anything she said to heart, honey,” CJ whispered at Kate’s ear.

“Not this time, but it still hurts. I’ll never understand her way of thinking.”

CJ rubbed her cheek on Kate’s hair as she spoke. “I think I’m kind of glad we don’t understand that hatred, Katie. I hope we don’t see her again. I’m not sure I could stop myself from hitting her.”

“You have a lot of self-control, CJ. I thought you might hit her today, but you were amazing out there.”

“I wanted to punch her…I have to admit that. But it would have solved nothing, and I don’t want her to hurt you anymore. If I had hit her, she would’ve called the police herself. It’s over now, though, so can we put this behind us somehow? I hate seeing you hurting. I love you.”

“I love you too. And yes, with my new-found outlook on life, I won’t let this get to me. We have so much to look forward to, and I’m excited about our future,” Kate said as she caressed CJ’s arm soothingly.

“Good. But if you need to discuss it, we’ll talk anytime. Right now I need caffeine, and I believe Tony has the machine on.”

“Yes, coffee,” Kate agreed, pulling her beloved spouse into the kitchen.

* * * * * *

“I was amazed at your restraint, CJ,” Tony said before taking a gulp of coffee.

CJ laughed at his unsure face. “It’s OK to say that, Tony. I was too. I wanted to punch her lights out.”

“So did Tony,” Kate piped in, grinning from ear to ear. “He was ready to defend me in your absence, CJ.”

“Well, that’s good to know…not that you need defending, Katie. You’re tougher than I am! Still, it’s a shame it had to happen at all,” she mumbled around the half-muffin she had stashed away after Kate demolished most of the others. “These are awesome, by the way. When did you learn to bake?”

Tony smiled. “Oh, that’s my dad’s famous recipe. He taught me many years ago.”

“Your dad?”

“Yeah. He used to be a baker. Really good, too,” Tony said proudly.

CJ nodded, and Kate looked longingly at the last bite of muffin in her hand. When Kate licked her lips, CJ couldn’t resist the silent begging.

“Since I love you so much…” she said, reaching over to put the food in Kate’s mouth.

“Aww, you two are so cute,” Tony teased.

CJ punched him playfully on the shoulder. “And your lips are sealed, right?”

“Oh, absolutely. You’re real scary when you’re mad. I don’t wanna be on the receiving end of that!”

Kate laughed and took a slurp of coffee to wash down the muffin. “She is scary…especially when she’s in protective mode.”

CJ turned to argue and saw Kate’s bashful look. She softened immediately. “Yeah, well, I have a lot to protect.” She winked at Tony.

He gave an exaggerated nod. “And you’ll have more to protect real soon.”

CJ’s stomach flipped. “Yep.”

“What was that?” Kate asked, seeing her wife’s change of expression.

“I just got excited about it for the first time. I guess there’s been so much happening…”

“Aww honey, I’m sorry.”

“No, no. I didn’t mean it that way. None of this would be exciting without you, Katie,” CJ explained.

Tony got up to put his mug in the sink and decided to leave the two women to the rest of their day. “I’ll head off and let you two have some peace.”

Kate stood up to show him out. “Thanks for today, Tony. If you come over in the morning, I’ll make you breakfast before we go to the studios.”

“You’re going into work tomorrow?”

“Yes. I want to catch up with Phil, and I think they’re opening up three of the stages after Health and Safety cleared them. Don’t worry, CJ’s coming with me.”

“OK, good. I’ll see you at eight?”

“Eight sounds good. Bye, Tony.”

“Bye, Kate.”

After he left, Kate decided that she and CJ truly needed to relax and drew them a deep bubble bath. She wanted CJ to surround her, to wipe out the coldness of the afternoon’s events. But even though her mother’s words had hurt, Kate still felt surprisingly cheerful. She had so much love and light in her life…and there was about to be even more. She decided that sometimes, you can’t keep destructive people around whether they’re your family or not. It was a sad but true realization.

As she sunk into CJ’s arms under the hot water, feeling her loving wife kiss her ear, she knew she had done the right thing by telling her mother to never come back. She wondered briefly if Elizabeth felt any pain at the loss, but the thought was drowned out by a soft “I love you” from CJ’s healing lips.

.

Chapter 8

Jack stood nervously at the studio door. As he watched the blond FBI agent and Samantha Morris talking with a couple of officers, he felt oddly guilty even though he hadn’t done anything to hurt Kate. He knew they would be waiting for Jody Morgan. He had found out that she had gone AWOL after the rig had fallen, and the police were looking for her.

Nicole was in the studio already, talking with Phil about what would happen now. Until Jody was found, Nicole didn’t feel safe and she wanted to make sure her director knew that. Jack thought it was all a little over-dramatic, but then he was a self-obsessed, egotistical actor who didn’t really worry about the feelings of his women.

He suddenly became aware of the blond agent and Sam coming towards him. He shifted his pose to try and look cool, and smiled at the women. “Hello, Sam.”

“Jack. You remember Jamie?”

“Uh, yes,” he lied. “Hi.”

“Hello, Jack,” Jamie said, observing the nervous mannerisms that were a dead giveaway to the fake confidence he was trying to show.

“How is Kate doing?” Jack asked.

“She’s fine…although I think I’d avoid CJ if I were you. She knows about the investigation and Jody’s possible motive for causing the damage,” Sam said, slipping her tongue between her teeth and top lip.

“Why would I need to do that? I didn’t do anything to Kate,” he replied, sticking out his chest.

Jamie narrowed her eyes. “Perhaps not directly, but you dumped Jody, and you are the reason she wanted to hurt Nicole. See, we know everything Jack. No secrets around here.”

“Hey, hey, now hold on a minute,” Jack said, holding his hands up in surrender. “I didn’t force that lunatic into doing something stupid. She’s crazy.”

“Yeah…and you let her down gently, right?”

“Well, I treated her like I’d treat any woman.” Jack shrugged.

Sam’s nostrils flared. “Exactly. I’d say you contributed. Just stay out of CJ’s way. She should be here soon.”

At that, Jack made his escape without saying another word, sliding his large body round the wall and into the studio. Jamie and Sam shared a knowing look and went to get coffee before Sam had to start work.

* * * * * *

“I’m not sure why I feel nervous,” Kate said from the backseat – squeezed between the child seats – as the Mercedes entered the Olympian Studios lot.

“I don’t know either, Katie, but I’m right by your side,” CJ replied, patting the smaller hand on her shoulder.

Kate took a deep breath and got out with CJ in tow. Tony followed until CJ told him to go and chill out for a while. As the two women left the parking area and turned the corner, they spotted Jamie and Sam heading toward the Phoenix stages.

Kate waved. “Hey, guys.”

“Hi,” they both said together. Jamie smiled and gestured for Sam to speak first.

“What’s happening?” CJ asked.

“Not much. The cops are here, waiting to see if Jody shows up. Jack is hiding, and Phil, I believe, is talking with Nicole,” Sam replied.

“Why is Jack hiding?” Kate posed.

“Uh,” Jamie mumbled, “We kinda told him to make himself scarce.”

“Good,” CJ said pointedly.

“Well we’re going to see Phil, and then I’m off to the LAPD. They want to take my statement now that I remember what happened. Then it’s home to get the house organized for the girls’ arrival next week,” Kate said with satisfaction.

“What do you need to do in the house?” Jamie queried.

“We need to move the furniture out of the two bedrooms to make space for the new stuff we ordered for them.”

“Ah right. Do you want some help with that?” Jamie offered.

CJ slipped her arm around Kate’s shoulder. “That might be an idea. As much as Kate thinks she’s indestructible, I’d rather she didn’t move heavy furniture just yet.” She waited for her wife to chastise her for being over-protective again, but it didn’t come.

“I’ll agree this time,” Kate said, smiling at CJ’s surprised look. “But only this time…”

Jamie smiled too. “Great. That’s settled then.”

After a few more words to one another, they went their separate ways. CJ accompanied Kate into her meeting with Phil, and as they were leaving fifteen minutes later she spotted Jack Bannerman trying to make a hasty exit from the general vicinity.

“Jack!” she shouted.

He froze on the spot and muttered “Oh shit!” under his breath. “Yes?” he said innocently as he turned around.

Kate watched as CJ walked up to him and stood toe to toe. “May I make a suggestion?” she said snidely.

“Uh…sure.”

“I’d advise you to keep your dick in your fucking pants for a while. If one hair on Kate’s head is moved out of place because of you or the results of your…sexual activities, I’ll be back to have more than words with you.” CJ smiled sweetly and took a tiny step back.

“Uh…”

“I thought you’d agree. Bye, Jack.”

She walked away with Kate who never said a word to the man. Jack probably still thought she had no memory of him when in fact she just didn’t have a damn thing to say to him right now.

Jack swallowed hard and raised his eyebrows. CJ did strange things to him, and he was caught between arousal and terror in her presence. Well that went well, he thought. At least I don’t have a black eye, which is what I was expecting. Hmph, maybe she does like me…just a little bit, after all.

* * * * * *

At home that evening, Kate made dinner while CJ waited for Jamie to help her move the furniture out of the bedrooms. They decided to put it in that storage space above the gym until they figured out what to do with it.

When Jamie arrived, she came bustling into the kitchen dragging CJ with her. “Guess what happened not long after you two left this morning?” she said, her brown eyes sparkling with urgency.

“What?” Kate asked.

“Jody came in and gave herself up to the cops!”

“What? Holy crap!” Kate said in astonishment.

CJ was mute for a few moments. “Uh…wow. Did she confess anything?”

“Kind of…she basically said she didn’t want to hurt you, Kate, and she didn’t know that the director had changed the scenes again. Then she said she wanted that, and I quote, “Nicole bitch, dead”. She also blamed Jack for her actions, but we all know she is responsible for those. Anyway, the cops have her in custody and will question her tonight.”

“Well that’s not the ending I was expecting, but it’s gotta be good,” Kate said, waving at CJ who seemed to be lost in the information.

CJ cleared her throat. “Yeah. I hope she confesses to it all. And thank god I wasn’t there. I may have throttled her.”

“Uh-huh, and Danny thanked me and Sam for passing info to him. So…what’s cookin’, Kate?”

Kate smirked. “Sesame chicken…your favorite, I believe.”

“Ooh, nice.”

CJ broke from her thoughts. “Right. Let’s go work up an appetite, Penfold. There’s furniture to be moved.”

Kate kissed CJ before the two agents left to go upstairs. Kamali looked up sleepily from his spot on the kitchen floor and sniffed the air longingly.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Kate chuckled, “I have a nice bone for you to chew on later.” She went back to her cooking and shook her head at Jody’s bad choices. The woman could’ve killed her. She tried not to feel anger toward Miss Morgan, but it didn’t work. “What a bitch,” she muttered.

* * * * * *

The next few days seemed to pass incredibly slowly. CJ’s time off was almost over, but Kate was already back at work. CJ had insisted she be allowed to go with her, and Kate accommodated her since she knew her protective partner was still feeling a little uneasy about her recovery. CJ actually enjoyed watching Kate do her thing in the studio. It was different to watching it on TV. She found it hard to drag her eyes away from Kate as she said her lines and played the forensic scientist with ease. CJ made sure to stay away from Jack, just in case she punched his lights out or accidentally tripped him, and he fell flat on his face as a result.

Marion had come to their home and loved the place, telling them that her visit was just a formality and that she believed the two girls would be incredibly happy there. She even went so far as to say she could feel the love in the household. She’d left after organizing the date when CJ and Kate would come to her office to pick the girls up. She left a file with all of Shannon and Lucy’s personal and medical information in it. CJ had gasped when she read that Shannon’s birthday was the day before Kate’s, and that Lucy’s middle name was Jane. Freaky coincidences really shouldn’t have shocked her anymore, but she laughed when Kate had the same reaction.

Change of name paperwork had been completed, with the two girls retaining Davenport until their related funds and policies were transferred. It could be a long process, but the girls would use their new family name from the beginning to assist with the bonding.

And now it was Thursday…the day before they would collect Shannon Anne Carson and Lucy Jane Carson to bring them home. CJ and Kate were both nervous but full of excitement. The children’s furniture had arrived, and after the deliverymen had taken it upstairs, Kate had fun positioning it where she thought would be best. CJ helped and agreed wholeheartedly with Kate’s decisions. Comforters and pillows, cuddly toys, and various other items to help them learn and grow were placed in each room. They put a spare, small bed in Shannon’s room, deciding to ask the girls if they wanted to stay together until they felt settled.

A few items of clothing were hung in the relevant closets. Kate had informed CJ – with glee – that another shopping trip would be required once they knew Shannon and Lucy’s exact measurements.

* * * * * *

Ethan and Alice left the twins with a friend and arrived at CJ and Kate’s mid-afternoon as planned. Once the tea and coffee was served, they gathered round the island unit in the kitchen and discussed the Carson’s proposal.

“So what we’re thinking is that four days a week, the girls will need someone here to look after them. Kate usually works four days, but her schedule can change,” CJ began. “What we’re worried about is that you would be looking after Shannon and Lucy, who are just settling in, and your twins too. Do you think you’ll manage, Alice?”

“Yes, I believe so. And this is such a wonderful place to have them. I don’t see any problem keeping them occupied all day.”

Kate nodded. “Well Shannon will be at kindergarten Monday to Friday, and we’ve worked out with Tony, my driver, that he’ll take her to school after he drops me off at the studios. Tony is keen to help out wherever he can and will be around during the day when I don’t need him. He’ll also pick Shannon up after kindergarten. We need to spend some time with Lucy and let you know what her needs will be.”

“How old is Lucy?” Alice asked, sipping at her tea.

“She’s almost three but she doesn’t speak. CJ and I want to spend time with her and figure out why. If you can start as soon as Monday or Tuesday, CJ will be here to help you out. Right?” Kate said.

“Yes,” CJ answered with a smile. “What I’m thinking, Alice, is that I’ll convert our spare room on the ground level into a kind of crèche of sorts. It’s right off the kitchen and over there, just under the staircase.” She pointed to the relevant door. “We thought you could have some of the twins stuff in there too, since they’ll spend so much time here.”

Alice and Ethan turned around to look at the door, and Alice nodded agreeably. “That looks great, CJ. It’ll be a good place for us to focus our day…that is if you want to hire me.”

“I think we do.” CJ received a brief nod from Kate before she continued. “It’s actually a really good setup for us, in that we trust you and feel comfortable leaving the children with a friend. It helps you guys too, doesn’t it?”

Ethan finally spoke. “It really does. You have no idea the amount of pressure it will take off us.”

“Well I’d say that’s a deal then. We’ll agree on a salary and shake on it.” CJ smiled. “Oh…there’s a guy coming in at the weekend to secure the fence around back. It will be completely child-proof, and there will be a safety latch on the gate so you can let them out in the back yard without worrying about the lake.”

“Good idea,” Ethan praised. He was glad they were thinking like parents already. He knew only too well how much they were taking on, having suddenly become a father of two not so long ago.

After only a little bartering, they agreed on a salary that the Carsons could afford – on top of Tony’s salary and everything else – and that the Matthews family was satisfied with. Kate’s recent increase in income after her Emmy win would help no end. They weren’t struggling for money by any means, but they were still careful and they knew monthly expenses could mount up. But CJ and Kate weren’t extravagant types and had plenty saved for the future.

They clinked their mugs together in celebration of a joint problem resolved. Once the details were figured out, Alice said she would start on Monday which meant CJ would be there to do the introductions and make sure the girls were happy and settled around her. Tony was only too eager to come by on Sunday for a quick visit to introduce himself to both children.

* * * * * *

When the evening finally arrived, CJ fell onto the couch after dinner, her stomach full and satisfied. Kate was popping a movie in the DVD player, and they lay together in a tangled heap in front of the TV for a couple of hours.

They let the dog out at ten o’clock and went upstairs to grab a shower before bed. Of course, showering together started the teasing and touching that would inevitably lead to much more as both women deliberately washed one another in a very sensuous way. CJ dried quickly and went into the bedroom to light a few candles. She was feeling very romantic recently and wanted to create a warm, loving atmosphere each time they made love…not that they didn’t have that before. She lounged on the bed to wait for Kate, her body pulsing in anticipation of their coupling.

Seeing a very naked CJ waiting for her, Kate exited the en suite and pounced on the larger body on the bed. She kissed CJ until she had to break for oxygen. She could send CJ into a frenzy with just a touch of those lips.

“I want you,” Kate whispered.

CJ shivered, feeling her sex throb and her entire body ache. “I think…it’s kinda obvious that I want you too.”

“Hmm, those nipples do look mighty perky,” Kate teased, rubbing her own breasts over CJ’s.

“Since…you’re being so open about everything now…” CJ drawled, kissing around Kate’s neck. “Tell me exactly what you want…”

“I…mmm…I want you… to lick me. Lick my clit,” Kate panted, almost unable to breathe at the thought.

CJ growled deep in her chest. She gazed deeply into the green eyes above her. “Put it in my mouth…” she purred.

“Oh God.” Kate grinned mischievously. “Are you sure? It’s really, really wet already.”

“Ungg…yes!”

Kate slowly crawled up CJ’s body and hovered over her head. Hearing CJ moan loudly, she lowered her sex onto her face, seeing CJ grin and open her mouth before Kate made contact with her. The feel of the warm lips welcoming her very sensitive flesh was exquisite.

“Oh, baby…your tongue. Oh yeah…”

CJ was loving every second of this and she could feel Kate’s clit becoming more engorged as she slid her tongue around it in a skillful rhythm. Kate began to thrust herself back and forth, riding her wife, and CJ almost came at the thought of what it must look like. She forced her eyes open to see Kate’s breasts gently swaying as she thrust, and the thatch of dark-blond hair moving right in front of her eyes.

As Kate’s thighs began to shudder, CJ grasped her buttocks in her hands and maneuvered her a little. Rolling her tongue, she entered Kate and maintained steady thrusts, moving smoothly in and out of Kate as she pushed against her.

Kate gasped loudly and repeatedly licked her lips to try and moisten them. She continued to grind gently and could feel CJ’s upper lip and nose tease her clit maddeningly. She concentrated on their contact and it soon became too much to bear. “I’m gonna…come. Oh…” she cried.

CJ didn’t change what she was doing, knowing it was just right the way it was. But Kate lost her rhythm as her orgasm took hold, so CJ slid her tongue out and drove her through the climax, alternating between stimulating the sensitive clit and entering Kate as deeply as she could. Kate cried out and gripped the headboard so hard she felt her hands begin to spasm. She released her anchor-like hold and regained the strength in her legs so as not to smother CJ completely.

Breathing erratically, she swallowed a few times and tried to catch her breath. “Oh…Ciara. Amazing,” she murmured shakily.

“Hell, yes, it was. You have no idea…how much you turn me on,” CJ managed to say while licking her lips.

Kate moved down CJ’s body and immediately took her nipple into her mouth. Her questing fingers settled in CJ’s swollen folds, and Kate moaned around the flesh in her mouth, feeling how wet CJ was and how huge her clit had become. “Oh, baby,” she husked, releasing the nipple for a second. “What do you want?”

“Any…anything. I’m there,” CJ whispered, pushing herself against Kate’s hand.

Kate sucked hard on the nipple, pressing it against the roof of her mouth with her tongue before she slipped her now-soaked fingers inside. CJ screamed – very loudly – and flooded Kate’s hand with her desire. Kate’s mind swirled around at the thought of tasting that desire and she began to lick CJ’s breast ravenously. CJ twitched as the sensations calmed within her body, and Kate carefully removed her fingers to kiss her way up to lock eyes with her.

“Hey, baby,” Kate purred with a very sexy grin on her face. “Here…” she added, holding her wet fingers up so that CJ could see. She kept her index finger straight and curled the middle digit. “You can suck that one…but this is mine.” Kate moved her mouth over the curled finger and sucked CJ’s juices off it, moaning as she did so. CJ also moaned and lifted her weary head, taking the other one into her own mouth and bringing their noses together in a kiss of sorts. Once they had finished sucking – the feel of which had aroused Kate again – she retracted her hand and their lips met automatically.

The kiss was sensuous and filled with desire and love. CJ inhaled deeply when they parted and smiled from ear to ear. “You’re not done yet, are ya?”

Kate giggled – again, being way too sexy for her own good. “No…we don’t have to get up too early tomorrow, so I want to make the best of tonight. Do you have any objections?”

CJ tried to hold back her laugh, her eyes widening as she pinned her lips together. She watched Kate stick her tongue between her teeth while waiting for a response. CJ snickered to herself. “I think you know me better than that. Now…what can I eat next?” she asked suggestively.

As CJ headed on a quest over her body looking for nourishment, Kate decided – like she did every day – that nobody in the world was better than her wonderful wife. The fact that they could laugh and have incredible sex, and had the most powerful connection she had ever heard of, reminded her once again that their love was unbreakable and endless. Wow…just wow, she mused silently, suddenly realizing she was lying on her belly and CJ was trailing a warm tongue up her spine. “Wow,” she gasped aloud.

CJ’s breasts pressed against her backside, and her pert nipples dragged tantalizingly across the rounded flesh making Kate grip the pillow under her as another flood of wetness trickled between her legs. She did not expect her lover to lift her hips and raise her onto her knees…and suckle at the wetness from behind. It was a new sensation for Kate, and even though the position made her feel vulnerable, the fact that it was CJ who was behind her made it very enjoyable. Kate knew they had discussed what she did and didn’t like, but it never stopped CJ from coming at her from various angles. However, this was a new one, and Kate’s eyes opened briefly when she felt CJ’s nose brush past the crease of her buttocks. Surprisingly, it did not dampen her desire at all. Once CJ had drank her fill she rose above Kate and slid two long fingers inside her which made her moan with delight at the feeling.

CJ had easy access and was enjoying the view she had of her hand as it pleasured Kate. “God, you’re so beautiful, baby.”

Kate arched her back as the incredible waves of arousal flowed through her petite frame. “I…oh!” she squeaked as she felt her climax building. And it was building fast.

CJ watched Kate’s body intently: the way her strong, finely-muscled shoulders flexed as she held herself up, how her alluring back curved and rippled in the throes of passion, and how her blond hair sprawled over those areas and also tumbled down the side of her face as she threw her head back with a rapturous cry. CJ was mesmerized for a few seconds before returning her gaze to her own hand, now glistening with Kate’s wetness as it thrust steadily in and out of her body. She felt the inner muscles clench and knew it was almost time as Kate began to move against her. She pressed her mound against the back of Kate’s thigh and wrapped her free hand around her waist, her fingers reaching the top of Kate’s clit.

Kate immediately pushed her leg back between CJ’s spread knees, knowing CJ would be close to her own orgasm and wanting to feel it paint her skin with arousal.

CJ did just that, groaning as her clit made contact with Kate’s warm thigh. She couldn’t hold back her audible gasps of utter pleasure. With her fingers still making love to Kate, she gyrated against Kate’s leg, overwhelmed by all the feelings coursing through her.

Kate felt CJ’s hard clit skidding over her skin and the long, skilled fingers inside her. Her mind went into overdrive, and she silently moaned to herself. She’s fucking me from behind. Oh god, yes… She couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Fuck me. Fuck me, Ciara…” she panted.

“Oh, yes! I’m gonna…I’m coming…”

CJ thrust deeper inside of Kate, and at the same moment she pushed her sex against Kate to trigger her own orgasm.

The combination of everything at once pushed Kate over the edge and she climaxed, her body gripping at CJ’s fingers so hard she thought she might break them. CJ fell onto Kate’s back, curling her body as the powerful spasms took over. Kate’s leg was soaked now, and CJ continued to slide slowly across the skin as she came back down from the high. Kate’s breathing was loud and forceful as she tried to hold the weight that had landed on her. She collapsed to the bed with CJ following.

CJ landed on Kate’s back, still inside her as they lay there unable to move for a few long moments. She felt Kate’s silky muscles clamping down on her fingers again. “Katie, are you serious?”

Kate’s body shuddered in a quiet giggle beneath CJ. “Maybe…”

CJ withdrew her hand and moved over to Kate’s side. “You are insatiable, woman!”

“I feel insatiable right now. I can’t get enough of you…but I think my body might protest if I come again so soon,” Kate retorted, kissing CJ on the lips.

“I think I like this brutally honest approach. In fact, I really like it.”

“Me too. I’m not even sure why we didn’t just say all those things before. It’s not like we’re shy around one another.” Kate sighed and snuggled deeper into CJ’s side.

“True.” CJ felt the kiss to the side of her breast and smiled. “Gimme a tiny break. I’ll be ready soon…”

Kate chuckled and pulled the quilt up around them. “OK. I’ll give you five minutes.”

“Oh, Jesus, I’m not gonna make it…”

.

Epilogue

CJ and Kate entered the children’s room in Marion’s office. The social worker waited out in the corridor and watched through the window between the painted animals and shapes to supervise the meeting from afar. Shannon was sitting on the floor playing with some building blocks, and Lucy was standing at a low table scribbling on a large pad with a crayon. CJ looked at Kate and then back at the girls. They were both very subdued, Shannon especially so.

“Shannon? Lucy?” CJ said, announcing their presence.

Shannon jumped to her feet but seemed to hesitate before speaking. “CJ!”

Both CJ and Kate were surprised to see Lucy smiling widely, but she still didn’t utter a sound. Shannon finally found some enthusiasm and walked over to CJ. She stopped in front of her long legs and looked up at Kate’s face.

“Hi, Kate,” Shannon said with a hint of sadness.

Lucy had made her way over to Kate and was now tugging on her jacket.

“Hi, Shannon…and hello, Lucy,” Kate said, scooping the smaller girl up into her arms where Lucy shoved Barney into her face before smiling again.

CJ was concerned about how quiet Shannon was and picked her up to bring all their faces to roughly the same level. “Shannon? What’s wrong, sweetheart?”

“Nothing. I’m glad you’re here.”

“You don’t look glad. Is there anything I can do to help?” CJ said gently.

“Not really. Did you come to visit us?”

“We came to pick you both up. How would you like to come home with us?”

Shannon’s big eyes instantly changed but she was still a little reserved. “We can come home with you? Me and Lucy?”

“Yes. Would you like that?” CJ asked, raising her eyebrows hopefully.

“Yes. How long can we stay? We don’t stay very long in people’s houses.”

CJ now knew what was wrong with Shannon. She sighed and looked to Kate who gave her a “go on” look. “Shannon, we want you and Lucy to come live with us…forever.”

Shannon’s blue eyes sparkled as she processed the information. “Forever?”

“Yes. Although, I’m sure when you’re a grown-up you’ll want your own house…but yes, you can stay as long as you want. We’d like to be your family now.”

Shannon looked at Kate. “Can we stay forever?” she repeated.

Kate nodded and smiled at the girl’s wide-open eyes and raised eyebrows. She was a mini CJ for sure. “Yes…you both can.”

“Lucy, did you hear?” Shannon squeaked, touching her little sister’s shoulder. “We can stay with CJ and Kate,” she added, clapping her hands.

Lucy quickly wedged Barney between her and Kate, and also clapped her hands.

Kate almost bawled as she watched CJ try to hide her emotion. “Well I’d say that’s a yes all round. Shall we go home now?”

Two little heads bobbed up and down in the affirmative, and Shannon gave CJ a very tight hug around her neck.

CJ took a deep breath. “OK, where is Piglet?”

“He’s in my backpack. It’s over there.” Shannon pointed as CJ set her down.

Kate decided to keep Lucy in her arms when a small fist grasped her shoulder tightly. CJ took the two backpacks Shannon had handed to her and accepted the hand that took hers. They turned to Marion who smiled at them through the glass, and they left the office after a few words of encouragement from their social worker friend.

* * * * * *

After a very exciting trip in the Mercedes, Shannon and Lucy arrived at their new home. A large, black German Shepherd came to greet them at the door, and CJ made him sit, then lie down. The girls approached the dog with CJ urging them on.

“This is Kamali. He’s our dog and he needs to know you girls are part of the family. You can pet him and let him smell your hand. He’s very gentle,” CJ said.

Shannon and Lucy patted Kamali’s big, furry head, and he was a perfect gent. As he just looked back and forth between the two new people, Shannon turned to CJ.

“Could you tell me his name again?”

“His name is Ka-ma-li,” CJ said slowly as Shannon watched her mouth.

Shannon turned back to the dog. “Hello, Kamali. Good boy.”

Kate chuckled as he rolled over to have his belly scratched. Lucy giggled in silence – her little shoulders rising up and her mouth grinning emphatically – and took his large paw into her hand. She tilted her head to observe his face, and the dog did the same to her, even though he was upside down. Once they were done, Kamali got to his feet, and CJ and Kate watched in astonishment as the dog followed Lucy on her journey to the living area, his head just behind her shoulder.

“He likes us,” Shannon said happily.

“He sure does,” Kate agreed. “Come on. Let’s go see the rest of your new house, huh?”

Shannon took her hand as CJ hurried to check on Lucy who had wondered off boldly towards the kitchen.

“So do you girls want a drink of milk before we go upstairs and see your rooms?” CJ asked.

“Yes, please,” Shannon replied politely while watching Lucy making a small hand gesture to her. “Lucy would like that too.”

Kate and CJ took note of the signal between the siblings, knowing that communication with Lucy would take some time. Kate wanted to ask Shannon if her younger sister had ever spoken or made sound, but that was for later. Right now it was time for milk and a trip to the bathroom to empty two small bladders.

When Shannon saw her room, she laughed and plonked herself into the big beanbag in the middle of the floor. Lucy ran after her – with Barney in her arms, as always – and squished her free hand into the furry material.

“You have one like that too, Lucy,” CJ said, smiling as the infant beamed with excitement.

Shannon looked around her. “There’s a picture of Piglet!” she exclaimed, pointing to the wall.

Kate nodded. “Yes. We know how much you love Piglet. And here he is,” she added, taking the soft toy from the backpack. She crouched down in front of Shannon who took the toy and shimmied forward to hug her. Kate felt tears rising, her emotion from the whole day getting the better of her.

When Shannon moved back a little, she frowned. “Why are you crying, Kate?”

“I’m just happy, Shannon…happy to have you both here with us.”

“I’m happy too. This is a good birthday,” Shannon said, nodding to reassure Kate that she was indeed having a good day.

Kate leaned in to whisper and when Lucy came over to join the huddle, she put her hands on the back of their heads. “We have a little cake downstairs for your birthday, Shannon. We’ll get you a gift when we go shopping soon, all right?”

Shannon thought about it quite seriously. “CJ, come over,” she requested. When CJ took a step toward them and knelt on the floor, Shannon giggled and spoke in a whisper. “I don’t need a present ’cause me and Lucy are here, and that’s the best birthday.”

CJ looked at Kate, completely stunned once again by the girl’s compassionate nature and her undeniable intelligence. “That is a wonderful thing to say, Shannon, but I think we’ll buy you both a little welcome home gift at the mall, OK?”

“Yes. Lucy needs new sneakers,” the caring big sister replied.

Kate and CJ laughed which in turn caused the girls to join them – Lucy was silent, but the two women hoped that she would find her voice and laugh out loud one day.

CJ felt her tears of joy sting at the back of her eyes, but she sniffed them away for now. She knew she would be crying later when the full realization of today hit her. “So Shannon, I know you take very good care of Lucy, and Kate and I wondered if you wanted Lucy to stay on this little bed in your room for a while…just until you both feel a bit better. What do you think?”

Shannon nodded. “Yes, just until Lucy is OK. I’m a bigger girl, but she can stay here for a while.”

“Good. We’ll go for a little walk with Kamali now, and then it’ll be time for dinner,” CJ said as she stood up and offered her hand to whoever wanted it. Lucy grasped at it with tiny fingers, and Shannon took Kate’s since she still had her in an embrace anyway. She used Kate as leverage to get out of the beanbag.

Kate smiled and turned to CJ who had a look of such love on her face that Kate couldn’t help but kiss her. Observing the kiss, Shannon giggled as they left the room. They went downstairs hand in hand to embark on their new life as a family of four.

Whatever hurdles or tribulations; whatever moments of joy and laughter CJ and Kate would encounter as new parents, they would face them together and share their unending love with their children.

The End…

©2016 StageFreak Productions

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8 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this episode. I’ve been sick and working ridiculous hours as well and this was just what I needed right now. Each episode has grabbed me, but this one had me crying half the time.
    I’m a hopeless romantic and the love between these two is what I think we all aspire to. I want to
    believe there is someone out there for me who will be my partner in life and in love always. I am
    blessed with four children and I’m glad CJ and Kate will get to share their love with these two precious children….A “family” built out of tragedy and wrapped in love. Amazing Wendy! Thank
    you for continuing to share your gift with us.


    • There’s nothing hopeless about being a romantic, Kathy 😉
      Can’t you tell I’m a bit of a romantic myself?
      I’m glad you enjoyed it. I must admit, when I read over this before posting, I felt a tear in my eye as well.
      Feel better soon xo


  2. Excellent, Wendy. Very enjoyable read, as usual. I hope the story will continue – I’m sure there is still much joy, fun and a little bit of angst to be had.
    As a writer, I suspect that you will find a new challenge in how to include two small children in your storylines while at the same time telling a gripping story with adult themes.
    Thanks for sharing.
    ianic.


    • Thanks, ianic. Glad you enjoyed it.
      And yes, a challenge indeed 😉


  3. Love this series. I keep calling it… “Keeping Up with the Kardash…” I mean “Keeping Up with the Carsons”. I don’t mean to do that but I used to work at E! and I had to monitor a show called “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”. When is the next episode coming? I’ve loved every ep so far… Can’t wait to see how CJ and Kate handle life with children! Most Excellent Job!


    • The next episode is at the beta reader right now. It will be up on this site very soon. Thanks for your comments and I’m glad you are enjoying the stories 🙂


  4. this one was my favorite so far. really really awesome.


    • Thanks, Vicky 🙂



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