Hostage of the Heart

By: Ambrosia


 


Disclaimers: Redone in Part 8.

Violence: Not in this part.

Feedback: Love it a lot. Please send your feedback to me at SumrBrezze@aol.com. Thank you very much. Once again I apologize for the delay.

Language: A couple of less than nice words.

Part 9- Never think youíve seen the last of anything- Eudora Welty

Piper forced herself to break away from the delightful kissing. She needed some answers, and she was determined that Desiree would be the one to give them to her. Piper reached a hand up and lightly brushed the younger womanís cheek, as she smiled at her tenderly. So much had happened and she could hardly believe that she was seeing this woman again. Sometime over the last few days, Piper had considered the fact that she would most likely die tied to that tree. She had not known what had happened to Desiree and she did not want to think about it. A part of her thought that the young woman was dead, because all she had to go on was being attacked by someone in the dark and then waking up tied to a tree with the stench of something burning in the air. Piper then had the feeling that the cabin was on fire, and all she could think of was that she had handcuffed Desiree to the refrigerator. What gave her hope that the young woman was alive, was that perhaps the person who had attacked her was good and had come to rescue Desiree and had managed to get her out of the cabin before the explosion. This was not true. A man named Victor Redding had put the cabin on fire and Desiree had been saved by Taj. So, who was the person who had attacked Piper?

Piper looked at Desiree wearing a slight frown. The young woman looked back at her gingerly. The blue-eyed woman took one of her hands in her own and squeezed it. "What happened, Desi?" Piper inquired.

The smaller woman took a deep breath. Oh where to begin? "What do you want to know?"

Piper shrugged. "Everything."

Desiree laughed humorlessly. "Could you be a little more specific for me?"

The dark-haired woman thought about it. "Okay. Who is Victor Redding?"

"He was a detective who took a monumental interest in you, and the murders you were accused of committing."

"Any reason why he and I have the last name?" Piper asked.

A nod from the strawberry-blonde. She looked towards the door hoping that anyone would come through it. Even Alec of all people would be welcome. Desiree did not want to do this alone. How can you tell someone that a brother they did not even know that they had wanted to end their life? This was not an easy task.

Piper waited for the young woman to speak, but Desiree remained silent. The blue-eyed woman took a deep breath. This was as hard as getting blood out of a turnip. "What is the reason, Desiree?" Piper asked calmly.

The smaller woman clasped her hands tightly together. "Heís your brother," she murmured. She suddenly remembered that she had brought the letters from Emily on the trip. She would have to go get them out of Dionís car so that Piper could read them. Thinking of the other woman, Desiree peered at her seeing the shocked expression on her face.

"I donít have a brother," Piper stated quietly. What was going on here?

Desiree ran a hand through her hair, once again looking back towards the entrance to the RV. "Yes you do. You also have a sister." She heard the other woman gasp but continued, while studying the top of the table. "Your father had another family before he even met your mother years ago. He just never told you two about them. Your brotherís name as you know is Victor and your sisterís name is Emily. Andrea the woman you met earlier is Victorís ex-wife and she has two daughters by him that are your nieces." Desiree stopped, waiting for Piper to speak. When the woman did not say anything for a minute or so, the strawberry-blonde looked up to see the woman staring at her incredulously.

"Piper?"

The dark-haired shook her head, as though she had been in a daze. "I have siblings. A brother and a sister." She fell silent for a moment. "My brother tried to kill me." Piper peered over at Desiree. "Why?"

"Because you killed his father. He blamed you for that, although he knew why you did it. He wanted you to pay for it."

"With my life," Piper replied more to herself than the other woman. "How did you find out about all this?"

Desiree replied, "He told me. He told me all of it before he set the cabin on fire. He was insane, Piper."

The dark-haired woman nodded. "Iíll say," she paused. "I just noticed that youíre speaking in the past tense. Is he dead?"

Desiree nodded. "Taj came in just in time and they scuffled until Victor was shot and killed. Taj then picked me up, because I was tied to a chair that Victor had put me in, and carried me outside before the cabin blew up. The flames were already going haywire," she explained.

"Where is my sister?"

The smaller woman looked down at her hands as if she suddenly found something fascinating about them. "Sheís dead as well. She came to cabin in the back of her brotherís car unbeknownst to him. Emily had been intending to stop him, before he could attempt to kill you, but her plan obviously failed. Thatís why we thought you were dead. While Victor was talking to me someone came through the door and he shot them. The person fell to the floor and I didnít get to see their face nor did he, but I thought it was you. It had to be, because who else would be in those secluded woods? I saw the long dark hair and I freaked out. I just knew it was you. Problem is I never looked at yourÖthe profile because it was face down, and I wouldnít have wanted to anyway. It would have hurt too much," she finished quietly. Desiree then felt a hand brush across her cheek and glanced up to see Piper looking at her tenderly.

"Iím sorry you had to go through that," the tall woman stated. "Emily must have been the person who attacked me, when I was coming back to the cabin. I was almost there when someone tackled me to the ground from behind. It was so unexpected I couldnít defend myself properly. I managed to see long dark hair but I didnít get to see the personís face clearly. The next thing I knew it a rock or something came flying at my head and struck me so hard that I lost consciousness." Piper gave a short laugh. "For a moment there I thought it was you, but then I noticed that the person was too big. It wouldnít have surprised me if it was you."

"Piper-

"No." The taller woman put a finger to Desireeís lips. "I would have deserved it," she halted. "Why donít you continue."

"Well thatís the basic story. I guess I should fill it in now."

Piper nodded. "By all means please do."

Desiree thought for a moment. "You know your lawyer?" she asked.

"Frank? He has something to do with this?"

The smaller woman nodded. "He was Victor. He was Victor pretending to be your lawyer Franklin Webb."

The other womanís blue eyes widened considerably. That was totally unexpected. Although, just about everything Desiree had told her thus far had been unexpected. All of this was so unreal. "Youíre telling me that Franklin Webb was Victor Redding?"

"Yes he was."

"And the point of him being my lawyer wasÖ?"

"He meant to make mistakes as your lawyer in the hopes that the jury would find you guilty."

Piper took a deep breath. Unbelievable. "So let me get this straight. My brother wanted to send me to prison and then when I got out he wanted to kill me. I assume that he was the one to commit all those murders."

Desiree replied, "All of the jurors died at his hand except for Michael Lowell, the last one."

"The one that was killed with the hammer?"

"Yeah. Your brother got Emily to do that one."

Both Desiree and Piper turned toward the entrance of the motorhome to see that Andrea had answered Piperís last question. The blonde woman smiled asking if she could join them. Both of the other women nodded, gesturing for her to come over. Andrea sat at the table and studied the two women in front of her. When Desiree had kissed Piper back where the blue-eyed woman had been found, Andrea had been shocked to say the least. But looking at them now she could tell that the two cared for each other deeply. Although they were women, it didnít matter to her. As long as they were happy that was all that mattered. Andrea had to admit that Piper and Desiree did make a cute couple. She briefly wondered if Desireeís parents knew about them. The blonde woman considered that they probably didnít.

Andrea took two folded sheets of paper that she had in her hand and gave them to Piper to read. The woman took them, thanking Andrea. After she opened one of the sheets of paper, Desiree leaned over to see that it was one of Emilyís letters. Andrea had evidently gone to Dionís car and retrieved them. Piper read the first letter without comment and then moved on to the next one. She read this one silently as well and then folded up both of the letters and handed them back to Andrea. The blonde woman shook her head, claiming that they were now Piperís letters since one of them were originally meant for her anyway. Piper folded up the letters and put them in a pocked located on her shorts.

Piper turned her attention to Andrea. "Emily gave you these before she left for the cabin?"

Andrea nodded. "She sent them to me. I read them after I found out what had happened and then I knew that I had to give them to Desiree. Reading the letters I concluded that you could very well be alive, since I had yet to hear word about Emilyís whereabouts."

"Thank you," Piper said, looking at her ex sister-in-law intently. "If it wasnít for you I might have died out there." She reached over and squeezed the other womanís hand before pulling away. The blue-eyed woman then turned to Desiree and gave her a peck on the cheek. The smaller woman smiled at her warmly.

"I just did what I felt had to be done," Andrea replied while noticing the affection between the other two women. She then took out a wallet and extracted a picture from it. She handed the picture to Piper, explaining that it was picture of Emily from last Christmas. Both Piper and Desiree examined the picture, right away seeing the definite similarities between Piper and her sister. They both had the same blue eyes, dark brown hair and Andrea informed them that Emily had been tall as well, almost reaching a height of six feet. Piper gave the picture back to the Andrea and watched the woman put it away in her wallet.

Piper looked down at her lap, clasping her hands together. "I had two siblings and I knew nothing about them." She laughed humorlessly, feeling Desiree put a comforting hand on her back. "One of them tried to kill me and the other tried to sabotage me. Dad sure did make some fine children," she stated sarcastically. "Weíre all messed up."

Desiree put a hand under Piperís chin and lifted the womanís face to her own. She didnít speak until the blue-eyed woman made eye contact with her. "Now you listen to me, Piper. You listen good. You are not messed up. Victor and Emily had problems, but you donít. I love the way you are. I wouldnít have you any other way, and I donít appreciate you talking about my favorite girl."

The dark-haired woman gave her a crooked smile. "Iím your favorite girl?" Desiree nodded adamantly. "Then we have something in common," Piper continued. "íCause your mine as well."

Just then, Larisa entered the motorhome again. She had her shades on again in the hopes that no one would see the pain and nervousness in her eyes. She asked for Desiree and Andrea to come outside so that she could tell everyone which automobile they were supposed to be in, in order for them to head back to Los Angeles. Both Desiree and Andrea nodded as they got up to leave the motorhome. Piper started to get up as well, but Desiree gestured for her to stay put, and told her to finish her lunch.

On arriving outside, Desiree and Andrea noticed that everyone was positioned once again in a straight line. Larisa asked them to join that line, and the two complied. Larisa had her clipboard in hand, as she began to tell the group that they would be switching vehicles. Therefore, those that had ridden in the motorhome on the way here were to switch with those that had arrived in Dionís car. Larisa asked if there were any problems with this new arrangement and everyone informed her that there wasnít one. It was fair.

Ten minutes later, everyone was in the right vehicle and they were ready to head back to Los Angeles. Larisa for one was glad that she would not have to ride in the same vehicle with Piper. That would have been too tense and Desiree surely would have suspected that something was wrong between the two of them. Larisa had silently promised herself that she would not ruin anything for her younger sister. This would only cause Desiree pain if she were to find out.

The bad thing about riding in Dionís car was that Larisaís father was there. He was supposed to be riding in the motorhome, but had swapped places with Alec, claiming that he would not ride all the way back to Los Angeles with that woman. Of all the people in the world, she did not want to deal with him right now. The first thing he did upon taking a seat was start talking rudely against Piper, calling her a "kidnapping female dog". Poor Richie had to be subjected to listening to the insults. The dark-haired woman merely rolled her eyes and tried to ignore his ranting. She sincerely hoped this wouldnít keep going until they reached Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, in the motorhome, Desiree, Piper and Andrea were sitting at the small table they had been sitting in previous to the group leaving the cabin. Out of everyone, Desiree was the happiest to leave. She did not care if she ever went there again. The young woman had enough nightmares as it was.

Desiree looked down as something suddenly brushed against her leg. The strawberry-blonde smiled when she saw that it was Tobias. She picked up the cat and began to stroke him, instantly turning on his purr button. The cat rubbed his head softly against Desireeís chin while enjoying the kitty massage.

Piper took a sip from her fourth glass of lemonade while watching Desiree fondly. She could not believe that they were together again. She thought back to their last moments spent together in that cabin and inwardly shuddered. What had come over her? Piper would never forget how she had so brutally hit Desiree with her fist, managing to knock the young womanís tooth out with force of her blow. The next image in her head was that of her father beating on her mother all those years ago. It took something like this for the dark-haired woman to realize that she was truly his child. Piper shook her head to rid it of the undesired thoughts. This was her chance to make it better. She wanted to make Desiree happy and she intended to do so.

"Looks like furball is trying to make me jealous," Piper stated with a grin.

Desiree looked over at her, smiling. "Is it working?"

The blue-eyed woman snorted. "Yeah. Iím really jealous of your precious Tobias." She leaned towards Desiree and whispered in her ear. "He may get your strokes but I get that and much more." Smirking, Piper sat back watching as Desireeís face went considerably red. Andrea frowned, wondering what it was that her ex sister-in-law had told the younger woman.

The blue green-eyed woman leaned towards Piper and whispered back, "Watch it, Piper. In case it slipped your mind my mother is in this vehicle."

Piper shrugged. "Sheís taking a nap. She canít hear me."

"Yeah, but still." Desiree looked slightly uncomfortable. No matter how proud she was of this woman, the last thing Desiree wanted was for her parents to find out about their relationship. If her father didnít like Piper now, the young woman would not be surprised if he came over with a shotgun after being notified that she was his daughterís girlfriend. Desiree admitted that it would sort of be funny to see the expression on his face, but it wasnít worth it. Eventually they would have to know but that didnít mean it had to be any time soon.

"So your parents donít know about you, huh?" Andrea inquired of Desiree.

The younger woman shook her head. "And I donít know when Iíll have the guts to tell them." Desiree glanced at Piper. "I thought I liked boys until she came along." She slapped her lover playfully in the stomach.

Piper chuckled. "Hey! What can I say? Iím good." She kissed the strawberry-blonde on the cheek, much to the young womanís dismay and delight. "Hello, Alec," stated Piper conversationally while looking straight ahead of her. Desiree turned around and saw that her ex-boyfriend was standing behind the dark-haired woman, wearing a curious expression. Andrea glanced at the man wondering what was going to happen now.

Alec scowled at the back of Piperís head. "How did you know I was behind you."

Piper clasped her hands together on her lap and without looking at him remarked, "Because I can see Leroy is in the drivers seat and Taj right by him, which leaves you to be the only," She snickered, "man in the motorhome. Plus, when they hugged me I could tell that they werenít wearing that cheap crap thatís supposed to be cologne." She turned around to regard him. The man was glaring at her now but Piper merely smiled sweetly. "Of course it had to be you, and letís face it. The only thing I think you have good taste in is women." She glanced at Desiree quickly, but managed to see the younger woman blush. "Your problem is you donít know how to treat them."

"Who died and made you a relationship expert?" Alec inquired snidely. "Desi and I may have had our share of problems but we belong together," he paused. "I donít think I like you hanging around her. Why donít you just leave Desiree alone?"

Before Piper could offer a reply, Desiree jumped in with, "Why donít you just leave us alone, Alec? Thank you for helping out in the search. Donít mess it up by acting like a jerk again," she managed to say in a rather pleasant tone.

Alec narrowed his eyes at her briefly. "You are so naïve, Desi." He shook his head sadly. "This woman is abnormal and you donít want anything to do with her."

The strawberry-blonde frowned up at him. "What do you mean sheís abnormal?"

The man glanced at Piper who was staring at him with an unreadable expression. He leaned down towards Desiree and answered. "Sheís a dyke. Iím sure of it by the way she was looking atÖ" He didnít get to finish because Andrea suddenly arose from her seat and pushed him so hard that he fell to the floor. The man looked up at her in shock.

"Donít you ever call my sister a dyke!" Andrea said between clenched teeth. "You may be a dick, but sheís not a dyke. As soon as you start having respect for other people, just maybe youíll get some back," the blonde woman finished before heading back to her seat. Now she knew why from the first moment she had laid eyes on this man that there was something she did not like about him. It was him plain and simple.

Alec arose from the floor first glaring at Andrea and then at Desiree because she was chuckling. Tobias, still in the young womanís lap even had something to say about with a hiss at the enraged man. Growling, Alec picked the cat up by the back of his neck. He started to fling Tobias across the motorhome but a severe blow to his stomach prevented him. He liberated the feline onto the floor as he doubled over in pain. Taking advantage of the situation, the cat reached up only on his hind legs and took a swipe at the manís cheek while he was bent over. Alec let out a little shriek as four thin lines trailed on his left cheek from the catís sharp nails. A hand enclosed around his throat and lifted him up until he was face to face with Piper. Her cool blue eyes had fire in them as they bored into his. Meanwhile, her hand on his throat tightened almost to the point where he could not breathe at all. Alecís face started to turn a slight reddish color.

"You listen to me," the woman started, "donít you ever put your filthy hands on that cat again." The hand tightened a little. "Donít you even look like you want to put your hands on him. On second thought donít you even look at Tobias," she paused. "And you know what else?" He shook his head as he was lifted onto his tiptoes. "Do not ever again try to get in contact with Desiree. Get it through your thick skull that she wants nothing to do with you. She doesnít want you and she doesnít love you. Just accept that fact okay? Itís over. Got it?" Alec nodded and she let him go.

The man took a deep breath while he touched his cheek with a finger. It came away with blood on it. Everyone in the motorhome was looking at him, except for Sandra who had somehow managed to still be sleeping in the small compartment in the back. Leroyís attention alternated between Alec and the road, until finally Taj told him to keep his eyes forward.

Alec looked from Desiree to Piper. He pointed at the dark-haired woman. "Is this what you want?" he asked loudly, causing Desiree to look nervously at the door her mother was napping behind. "Is that it, Desiree? No wonder you were sometimes hard to please in bed," he goaded, finally giving up all hope that he would ever have Desiree for his own again. He touched his crotch. "You didnít want my equipment. You wanted-

Alec never even got to finish before he was hit so hard in the face, that he fell to the floor once more. He looked up expecting to see the blue-eyed woman again, but this time it was Taj who was towering over him. A small mewling sound came out of Alecís mouth as he wondered what this man who looked as if his second home was a gym, would do to him. Taj grabbed Alec by the shirt and hauled him roughly to his feet, glaring at him all the while.

"You are the sorriest excuse for a human being that I have ever seen in my life. And I want you out of here now!" the Jamaican man demanded angrily. He continued to drag Alec towards the entrance of the motorhome and opened it, pushing the man in front of him.

Leroy from the driversí seat looked over at his older brother inquiringly. "Taj, what are you planning on doing?" he asked nervously.

Taj glanced over his shoulder and stated, "Iím going to throw this bastard out of this vehicle. You got a problem with that." At this moment, Alec began to attempt to get free from the other manís grasp, but got a hard squeeze on the both of his shoulders for his trouble. Alec yelped in pain as his kneeís bent slightly.

"I donít think thatís such a good idea," Leroy said, easing off of the gas just in case his brother decided not to listen. The slower the vehicle went the better off Alec would be injury wise. Not that Leroy liked the man. In fact he could not stand him from the little amount of time he had spent in his presence, but it would not do for them to have him thrown out of a fast moving motorhome and then to possibly loose his life.

"Well I think that itís a great idea," Taj replied, noticing from the pavement through the open the door that Leroy had slowed the vehicle down. He hadnít decided whether to be relieved or annoyed by this fact. The Jamaican man glanced back at the other passengers. Andrea was looking at them curiously, silently questioning if Piperís friend would actually go through with this. Desiree was peering over with a troubled look in her eye, but she had yet to say anything to stop Tajís intentions. Taj had to chuckle when he looked at Piper. The dark-haired woman had a big grin plastered on her face and winked at him. She glanced at Desiree noticing that the younger womanís attention was not on her, so Piper looked back to Taj and motioned with her hands for him to push Alec onto the highway. Valerie, Tajís girlfriend had yet to hear or see anything. She was lying on the floor facing the other way with earphones blasting in her ears while she read a magazine. Well she was previously reading a magazine. Now she had her head down on her folded arms fast asleep.

Taj turned his attention back to Alec, who was no longer struggling to get loose. The bigger man patted him on the shoulder. "Well Alec, I guess it is time for you to go," he paused. "Unfortunately, I canít say that itís been nice knowing you." Taj began to push Alec out of the motorhome, but was stopped when the man braced his hands against either side of the opening.

"Wait," Alec started. "You canít do this to me. I could get killed."

"Yes, I can and I will. And your possible death is a chance Iím willing to take." Taj leaned towards him. "Remember to tuck and roll." He then shoved Alec so hard in the back that the man fell out of the moving vehicle onto the road. The good thing was that they were in the lane closest to the side of the road and even if they had not been there were not a lot of cars.

As Alec yelled rolling on the pavement before he managed to stop the erratic movement, Piper appeared by Taj at the door looking back at him. She waved and flashed him a cheery smile. While getting up, Alec noticed both actions and gave her one of his own.

Piper chuckled and hollered to Alec as loud as she could, "Didnít your mother ever teach you not to use that particular finger that way?"

Leroy sped up thinking that both of his brother and Piper had lost their minds. It had always been dangerous for those two to be together. When they were younger, they had gotten into all kinds of trouble with their impishness.

As Taj closed and locked the door with a faint smile on his face, Piper turned to see that Andrea and Desiree had a window open looking back at Alec. The dark-haired woman went over to them and put a hand on Desireeís back while she was leaning out of the wide window. Feeling a hand on her, the strawberry-blonde straightened up to turn around and see Piper standing there, doing her best not to smile. Desiree shook her head, wondering what she was going to do with this woman. It was then that their deal popped into her head. She gave a magnificent grin. What would she do? Anything that she wanted for the next six months.

Piper noticed the grin and grew wary. What was this woman thinking of now? Out of the corner of her eye, Piper saw Andrea close the window and walk back towards the small table, shaking her head in bewilderment. The dark-haired woman put her hands on her hips, regarding Desiree. "Care to tell me whatís rolling around in that pretty head of yours?"

Desiree smirked. "I will. Later."
 
 


*****


 






A little after three hours later, both the RV and Dionís car pulled into parking spaces at Desireeís apartment building. Sandra came out of the small bedroom after looking out of the window to see that they were back. She had been awake for over two hours but hadnít told any of the others. The last person she wanted to face was Piper. On entering the main part of the RV, Sandra saw her youngest daughter and Taj with their arms around Piperís waist, helping her out of the vehicle while ignoring the slightly weak womanís protest that she could walk on her own.

Sandra bypassed them and headed down the stairs to locate her husband. She found him stretching by the other vehicle. Sandra went up to her husband and kissed him on the cheek. He asked her how it was to ride with that "dreadful" woman. Before they had left from the cabin, Richard had informed his wife that she should switch vehicles with him, but Sandra told him that she could handle being in the same vehicle as Piper. She hadnít wanted to give up the luxury of the RV.

"It was fine," Sandra replied. "I was in the bedroom for most of the time."

They both turned their attention to Piper, Desiree and Taj as the trio headed towards the entrance of the apartment building. The judge had a scowl on his face as he watched the woman who had taken his daughter hostage. If he had it his way, Piper would never see his daughter again. He wondered not for the first time how his daughter could make friends with this woman. Like the rest of her family, Piper Redding was filth. No child of his should be associating with that.
 
 


*****


 






On arriving at the apartment, Tajís parents had informed him that they were going to head back to his house with Dion without coming up. Taj insisted that they come up to the apartment for a few minutes because he had an announcement. After they said that they would, the couple watched as Taj took Valerieís hand and led her through the double doors. By the time Nathaniel and Vivian had reached Desireeís floor, they were sure they knew what their middle son was going to announce. Desireeís door was wide open, so they walked in talking in low voices.

"Do you honestly think thatís what it is?" Nathaniel asked his wife. "They havenít been dating long. I courted you for two years."

Vivian linked arms with her husband. "Iím sure." She smiled up at the big tall man. "Our babyís getting married." They took a seat on the couch that Desiree had reserved for them. Sandra and Richard were sitting by them.

Vivian looked at her husband. "I like Valerie. When she came over to the house last night, we talked some. Lovely girl."

Nathaniel put an arm around her as he smiled revealing the deep dimples that Taj had inherited from him. Still speaking in a low voice he replied, "Well itís about heís settled down," he paused thinking. "I think that boy has dated over two-hundred girls over the years." He chuckled. "I canít keep track of them all."

"You think it was that many?"

"Remember his senior year? He must have brought home at least two girls a week for dinner." He chuckled again, shaking his head at the fond memories. "He was probably trying to figure out who he would take to the prom."

A few minutes later, everyone was settled waiting for Tajís announcement. The man was the only one standing up with Valerie choosing to sit on the floor indian style by him. She was looking up at him curiously, wondering what this was about, just like everyone else except for his parents. They both had knowing smiles plastered on. Taj didnít seem to notice this. Before the Jamaican man could get started, Sandra made a query.

"Where is Alec?"

At the dining room table, Piper put her hands over her face, desperately trying to smother the instant laughter. Sitting next to her, Desiree slapped the woman lightly on the arm, though she was smiling to. Across from them, Andrea just shook her head, though she found it necessary to bite her lower lip every time that she thought about the man being pushed out of the RV.

Valerie glanced up to her boyfriend. "Thatís a good question. I donít remember seeing him when you woke me up on our arrival. Did he leave already?"

With a straight face Taj said, "While we were still on the road back to LA, he stepped out." He heard Piper break out into a fit of giggles and almost lost it. "No. Seriously, he was acting like a jerk so I put him out. Iím sure that heíll be able to find his way home. Alec will be fine," he paused, looking around to see that everyone seemed to accept this. Taj rubbed his hands together. "Now for my announcement."

Not being able to contain herself a moment longer, Vivian stated, "I canít tell you how happy your dad and I are for you and Valerie, Taj." The older woman had tears in her eyes, and after a quick trip to her room while everyone sat in silence, Desiree came back with a tissue for Vivian. The woman took it saying, "Thank you, sweetie." Desiree smiled, thinking that her own mother had never called her sweetie, and went back to her seat beside Piper.

Taj stared at his mother curiously as Valerie peered up at him. "Mommy, what are you-

He never did get to finish, because Valerie let out a loud shriek as she jumped up from the floor and threw herself at him, sobbing. Taj put his arms around her, wondering what was going on. He glanced over at his parents who were smiling again. Next he heard clapping, and looked over to where Dion was. The man had come out of the chair he had retrieved from the kitchen and was clapping while wearing a bewildered expression.

"I never thought you would actually do it, Taj," Dion said. "Iím proud of you little brother."

Vivian and Nathaniel joined in on the clapping, and soon everyone, including Sandra and Richard were clapping as well. Tajís look of confusion turned to one of apprehension. No. They could not have thought that. Could they? Before he could set anyone straight, Valerie let go of her hold on him and looked at him with wet cheeks.

"This is so sudden," she started. "We just began dating but if youíre ready then so am I." She kissed him softly on the lips. "I would love nothing more." She chuckled softly. "In case you didnít know already, the answer is yes." As the applause died down Valerie stared at him lovingly. "You have made me the happiest woman on earth, Taj Maurice Potter." She hugged him again.

Taj thought about it, and then shrugged. Oh, well. This could work out. He was starting to love Valerie. In fact, he had never felt the way he felt about her with anyone else, and they had not known each other that long. Besides, he didnít have the heart to tell her that wasnít what he was about to say. He didnít have the heart to tell his mother either. Resigned, Taj got down on one knee, fully aware that he didnít have a ring to give her. That would look odd, but he didnít have to have an engagement ring.

Looking up at Valerie, Taj smiled. She was quite a beautiful girl, and at only twenty-four she was successful with only her own clothing boutique here in Los Angeles that received notable business. Valerie was a petite woman standing at five feet five inches. She had smooth creamy skin a shade darker than cocoa butter. Valerie had thick jet-black hair that fell to just below her shoulders and big light brown eyes that Taj found that he could drown in. Yes. He could marry this sweet young woman. It was amazing how things could change so quickly.

Taj took both of Valerieís shaking hands in his own, as he felt a breeze behind him. He turned around just in time to see Desiree hurrying into her room again so fast that one would think that she was being chased. Not saying anything, Taj just waited for her to come back. A moment later, the strawberry-blonde was heading in his direction with a small black velvet jewelry box in her hand. She handed it to the man.

"This is yours, Taj," Desiree said smoothly. "You left it here this morning when you were showing it to me. I put it up in my room." She winked at him while Valerieís attention was riveted on the box. Desiree then went to go take her seat and gave Taj an encouraging wave.

Over her shoulder, Piper whispered to the blue-green eyed woman, "Where did you get the ring?"

"It was my engagement ring," Desiree replied.

Piper then turned her whole body around towards the younger woman. "Alec proposed to you?"

Desiree replied simply, "No." She patted Piper on the arm. "Letís watch Taj and Valerie." Really, she just mainly wanted to get the dark-haired womanís attention off of her. Piper watched Desiree for a moment but then decided to let the subject drop for now. She turned back to the couple.

After clearing his throat, Taj looked up into Valerieís warm light brown eyes and said, "I know you already said yes, but Iíd like to make it official," he paused. "Will you marry me?" He opened the box and Valerie let out a little yelp. Taj looked at the ring and his eyes grew wider. It was a fourteen-carat gold ring with a half-carat Marquise diamond. He figured that it must have cost close to two thousand dollars. The Jamaican man glanced over to Desiree to see that the young woman was smiling at him widely. Clearing his throat again, Taj took out the ring and put it on Valerieís left ring finger. She brought it up to her face to get a closer look. Tears sprang to the young womanís eyes again as she knelt down on the floor and put her arms around her fianceeís neck.

"Iím so happy, Taj," she cried.

He smiled as he wrapped his arms around her. "So am I." He held her for a minute and then thought about his real announcement. Taj let go of Valerie and stood up, offering her a hand. She took it and he helped her up as well, ending up with putting an arm around her waist. He told everyone that he had another announcement to make. "You all are invited to a celebration at my house tomorrow. We will celebrate Valerieís and mine engagement, and Piperís reappearance. I hope that you all can make it." He continued to tell them what time the party started and gave everyone a business card with his address on it.

Everyone except Sandra and Richard was excited about that. Richard rolled his eyes, whispering to this wife that they werenít going. On cue Larisa came over and kneeled in front of her parents wearing an encouraging smile. She asked them if they were coming and they told her that they wouldnít, giving the excuse that they needed to rest up the day before their flight left back to San Francisco. Their daughter gave them an incredulous look and softly stated that they were indeed coming.

The judge frowned at his eldest. There was no way that she was going to make him go to this party for that Redding woman. "What makes you think that weíre going?" Richard inquired.

Larisa gave her father a smile that unnerved him. "Because if you donít," she began only loud enough for he and her mother to hear, "Iím afraid that Piper might somehow find out about that twenty-grand you miraculously got eight years ago," she paused, cocking her head to the side. "You donít want that to happen, do you?"

The judge swallowed nervously. He could never hate any of his children, but his daughter was making it really hard for him to like her. Richard nodded, almost imperceptibly. He shook his head at his wife, knowing that she was about to say something. Having taken care of that, Larisa excused herself politely and walked away.

It wasnít long after that, that everyone had taken his or her leave except for the Love clan. Larisa was about to be on her way, when she suddenly considered that her parents and Richie were staying here in Desireeís apartment. Since Piper was here, maybe she shouldÖLarisa shrugged. What the heck? This could be her good deed for the day. She deduced that her sister and Piper most likely yearned to be alone. The woman walked over to where her parents were sitting on the couch after having just turned on the television. Larisa punched the off button on the thirty-five inch Magnavox and regarded her parents. Her father frowned at her, which seemed to have become a habit.

"I think you two and Richie," she looked towards the kitchen where her brother was just coming out with a Popsicle he had located in the freezer, "should spend your last two nights at my place, since you were here with Desiree last night." She glanced at Piper who was still sitting at the dining room table. She offered the woman a smile, but was not surprised when it wasnít returned. "And mom," she looked at Sandra, "youíve been with Desiree for days now, so come spend some time with me. You guys will see Desiree at the party tomorrow. How Ďbout it?"

"I think itís a great idea," Richie said, while licking his strawberry popsicle. He didnít have a clue that Larisa was trying to make it so that Desiree and Piper could be alone. The young man was thinking about the fact that his older sister had a swimming pool in her backyard. Plus, sleeping on Desireeís couch wasnít something that he cared to repeat. "Iíll go get my stuff, okay?" Even if they werenít going, he would. When Larisa nodded his way, Richie made his way into the guestroom that his parents had been using. In there, he gathered his sparse belongings.

Larisa put her hands on her hips, looking at Sandra and Richard. They were still sitting on the couch. Richard frowned again. "Can you honestly say that you want us at your house?"

The dark-haired woman smiled at him. If nothing else, her father was perceptive. She considered that was what helped to make him good at his job. "Yes, I can," she lied easily. Actually, Larisa didnít mind her mother so much. It was her father who she had a problem with now. The way he treated Piper was not called for. He had exhibited traits the last couple of days that had been less than desirable. "Please come with me." She glanced over to Desiree who was standing by the dining room table gripping her hands together tightly. Larisa could tell that she wanted them to leave.

Richard looked at his wife after she tapped him on the shoulder. She whispered something in his ear, causing him to scowl. The judge looked at his eldest daughter. "Weíll get our stuff together." They both got up and headed towards the guestroom, passing Richie as he came out with the popsicle stick hanging out of his mouth and a small suitcase in his hand.

Desiree walked up to her sister and gave the taller woman a hug. She thanked her for what Larisa had just managed to do. The oldest disengaged herself from the embrace and smiled at her youngest sibling. "What are sisters for?"

A few minutes later, Richard and Sandra Love were ready to go. They each hugged Desiree, telling her that they would see her tomorrow. After considering it, Sandra smiled politely at Piper before following her husband to the front door. Richard had chosen to ignore Piper, like he had done the whole day. She could not have cared less. Richie hugged his sister and then walked over to Piper, who had started to get up from the chair, but he gestured for her to stay seated. He knelt down and kissed her on the cheek before following his parents and older sister to the elevator. Desiree waved at them and then closed the door, making sure to lock it. She stayed there for a few moments not turning around. She had wanted to be alone with Piper, but now it had finally happened. Butterflies began in her stomach as she realized that they were truly alone. Desiree silently admitted to herself that she was nervous. She had Piper alone, and her heart was beating so fast, that the young woman was sure that her lover could hear it.

Noticing that something seemed to be bothering Desiree, Piper arose from her chair and slowly walked over to the woman. Reaching her she put her hands on Desireeís shoulders from behind, and leaned in to take in the fragrance of her hair. The dark-haired woman closed her eyes at the wonderful scent coming from that strawberry-blonde hair. Over the days tied to the tree, a lot of her thoughts had focused on Desiree and how she longed to run her hands through the young womanís hair and stare into those blue-green eyes. Piper had missed the woman more than she thought she could ever miss anyone.

Piper began to massage Desireeís shoulders, causing the younger woman to moan faintly as she leaned her head back to rest on the dark-haired womanís ample bosom. Piper smiled as she increased the pressure of her long fingers.

"I should be doing that to you," Desiree murmured, indicating the massage.

She could feel the vibration coming from Piperís chuckle. The taller woman put her soft lips against Desireeís ear, causing the butterflies in her stomach to flutter more. Piper ran her slightly parted lips against the ridge of her loverís ear a few times before replying in a low voice, "There are a lot of things you could be doing to me."

Piper chuckled as Desiree turned around and slapped her playfully on the arm, before placing both arms around her waist and drawing Piper in as she leaned her back against the door. Piper put her arms around Desireeís waist as well. The blue-eyed woman wore a triumphant smile as she noticed the blush that had formed on Desireeís face. She briefly wondered if she should keep a record of how many times she was able to make the younger woman blush. Piper chuckled to herself. One thousand blushes a year easy.

"You are naughty, Piper Redding," Desiree stated. "You gonna keep teasing me?"

Piper gave her a peck on the nose. "Itís what I do best."

Desiree gave a low growl and kissed Piper with a passion that surprised the older woman. The strawberry-blonde forced her way into Piperís mouth and their tongues began a furious duel. The kiss ended way too soon for Piper, leaving both women breathless. Desiree arose onto her tiptoes and whispered into the taller womanís ear, "Thatís not what you do best." She quickly leaned back to see if the older woman had blushed, and was discontented to see that Piperís face was just as tanned as always. She had an eyebrow raised, but that was it.

Piper smirked and nodded. "I see that youíre learning."

"Well you are the Queen of Teasing. I learn from the best."

Piper smiled her white teeth sparkling although they had not seen a toothbrush in almost a week. "The Queen of Teasing? I like it."

"I like you." Desiree put a hand on the back of Piperís head and brought the womanís head down to kiss her again. This kiss was softer but just as insistent as the last one. The blue-eyed woman was overjoyed that it lasted it longer. Desiree finally ended it and placed her hand around Piperís waist again. She noticed that the taller womanís blue eyes had darkened considerably with her rising desire.

"You better stop doing that," Piper warned. "Or I might just decide to take you right here on the living room floor."

"I donít think so Miss Stinky." Desiree scrunched up her little nose, which Piper found endearing. She figured that everything about this woman was probably endearing. She loved the way Desireeís nose scrunched up. It looked so cute. It looked so cute that she kissed it again, causing her lover to grin up at her.

Piper then raised an eyebrow. "Miss Stinky?" She pretended to be offended. "Well you wouldnít smell so good either, after being tied to a tree for days." She smelled her shirt, her eyes widening as she let go of her lover. "Whew! How could you stand to hug me? I do smell bad."

Desiree smiled. "Thatís an understatement."

Before Piper could think of a comeback, there was a knock on the door. The strawberry-blonde squinted her eye to look through the peak hole and saw that it was her sister. She opened the door and noticed that Larisa was holding a very disgruntled Tobias. Desireeís mouth formed into an O as she remembered that she had forgot all about her cat. The feline meowed when he caught sight of her, and Larisa handed the cat over. She knew that Piper was standing behind her sister, but she refused to make eye contact.

Desiree made Tobias little round face level with hers. "Iím sorry, Toby. Mama is so sorry that she forgot you in the RV." She hugged his warm furry body to her and rubbed her cheek against his head. "How about some din din? Want something to eat?" Tobias meowed again as Desiree looked up at her sister. "Thank you for bringing him back."

Larisa waved her hand. "No problem. Mom and dad were following Richie and I in the motorhome to take it back when I heard a soft meowing. Richie went to investigate and found Tobias under the bed so we came back to deliver him to you. I imagine he is hungry after all these days." She rubbed him with a finger under the chin, causing the cat to lean his head back for more. Larisa chuckled and informed her sister that she would see her tomorrow. She said bye to Piper without looking at the woman. Piper didnít say anything back to her. Desiree glanced at her lover before giving Larisa a quick hug before they parted. She closed the door and headed into the kitchen with Tobias still in her arms. Piper followed her in there and sat at the kitchen table.

She watched as Desiree opened a cabinet and took out a can of cat food and rolled her eyes when the young woman reached into another cabinet and took out a crystal goblet. Tobias was one lucky cat. The feline busied himself with rubbing his body against his ownerís legs and crying nonstop. Desiree made cooing noises for him the whole time that she prepared his dinner. Finished she put the goblet down on Tobiasí own little forest green rug and watched a moment as he began to eat. She then filled a bowl that had the catís name on it with fresh water and put that down as well, before going over to sit at the kitchen table with Piper.

Desiree folded her arms and regarded Piper. "What is your problem with my sister?" she asked in a gentle tone of voice.

The dark-haired woman shook her head. "I donít know what youíre talking about. I donít have a problem with your sister." She looked at Tobias as she said this, trying to avert Desireeís blue-green eyes.

Desiree put a small hand under Piperís chin and made her face her. "You donít treat Richie that way. Whatís the problem?"

Piper leaned back. "There is no problem. How did I treat you sister?" she asked as if she didnít know.

"Like crap," Desiree replied. "She said bye to you and you didnít say anything. I know that thereís something going on. You care to tell me what it is?" She raised an eyebrow trying to mimic the other woman, and Piper started to laugh. She was infectious and soon both women were laughing so hard that tears rolled down their cheeks.

Piper gestured for Desiree to come over, still giggling. When the younger woman did so, she pulled her down until she was sitting on her lap. The dark-haired woman kissed her lover on the cheek and looked at her fondly. "You are so adorable," she stated.

Desiree had a feeling that she was trying to avoid answering her question about Larisa, but she decided to let it drop for now. Maybe she was just imagining it. Making a mountain out of a molehill.

Desiree squeezed Piperís shoulder and peered at her. "Are you hungry?" she asked.

Piper emitted a low growl and nuzzled the younger womanís neck, causing her to laugh. "I most certainly am," the dark-haired woman whispered in her loverís ear.

Desiree shook her head. "You know thatís not what I meant." She arose from the taller womanís neck and faced her, putting her hands on her hips. "Do you want something to eat?" Noticing her choice of words, the young woman went on before Piper could offer a reply. "Food, I mean."

Twiddling her thumbs, the older woman said, "As a matter of fact I do." She grinned mischievously at Desiree. "Iím famished." Leaning back in her chair she asked, "What do you feel like having?"

The younger woman could see naughtiness dancing in Piperís blue-eyes. They were now light with playfulness. The dark-haired was most likely wondering if she would take the bait and respond to her question with a teasing reply. Well Desiree was determined not to do that. She smiled innocently. "How about pizza?"

Piper stuck her tongue out at her. She murmured, "Sucker." Louder she replied, "That sounds good." Piper chuckled to herself. "I donít even know what kind of pizza you like. Whatís your favorite?"

The strawberry-blonde crossed her arms over her chest. "Funny. You know everything else about me. And I heard you call me a sucker. Excuse me for not acting like a horny teenager like some people I could mention, but I will refrain from naming names."

The blue-eyed woman smiled broadly. Dang it! She loved this womanís cattiness. "First of all, I donít know everything about you. Most of what I do know I told you at the cabin. Second, am I supposed to be this horny teenager youíre referring to? ĎCause if I am," she was having a hard time keeping a straight face like Desiree seemed to be accomplishing. Piper wondered briefly if she was really upset, "excuse me, but I havenít had sex in a week. Hell yeah Iím horny. And you know I always act like that. Playing off of your words." She finally let her smile show. She couldnít contain it any longer. "I like to see you blush."

Desiree smirked. "Yeah. Iíve come to realize you like to see me blush. A week? Before that you hadnít had sex in at least eight years so I really donít see how that is an excuse."

Time for a subject change. "I like canadian bacon and pineapple on my pizza," Piper stated as she arose from the chair heading out towards the living room with a frowning and suspicious Desiree behind her. The younger woman called her name.

"Hmm?" Piper stopped walking when she reached the couch. She looked at the two doors. One of which was by the kitchen. She pointed at that one. "Thatís the room your parents were in so I assume thatís a guest room." She pointed to the other door. "I know thatís your bedroom. Your bathroom is in there too, right? I need to take a shower."

Desiree nodded as the older woman headed in the direction of her bedroom. Desiree continued to follow her. On entering the younger womanís bedroom, Piper removed her shirt and made her way into the bathroom, where she placed the shirt on the cabinet. Her lover stopped at the entrance to the bathroom and watched, mesmerized. The blue-eyed woman reached behind her, undid the clasp on her bra, and let it fall to the floor, leaving Desiree with the difficult task of trying not to stare at her breasts. With strength that she did not know she possessed, the younger woman managed to keep her blue-green eyes on Piperís blue ones. Leaning against the cabinet, Piper removed her shoes before straightening up to look Desiree in the eyes. The older woman grinned lasciviously as she hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her shorts and pulled them and her panties down simultaneously. There this almost six-foot Amazon of a woman stood naked as the day she was born. Desiree swallowed, desperately trying not to look. She knew if she did that, then it would all probably be over and she would never get her answers. At least not on this evening, she would.

Piper placed her clothing and shoes together on the cabinet and then turned to the shower to get it started. A few moments later the warm spray was coming from the showerhead. When Piper turned around Desiree had a blue towel and washcloth in her hands. She handed the washcloth to Piper silently and placed the towel on the cabinet. The woman took it and then regarded her young lover with a sensual smile.

"Care to join me?" the blue-eyed woman asked in a tone of voice that made Desiree ache with need. Oh, how she wanted this woman.

Desiree shook her head, although she would have loved to do the opposite. "Piper, can you answer a question for me?"

The dark-haired woman nodded. "I most certainly can try. Whatís up?" She already had an idea of what the young woman wanted to ask her.

"I noticed you left the kitchen in quite a hurry." Desiree cocked her head to the side in a way that Piper deemed was enchanting. "Care to tell me the last time you had relations with someone before me?"

Piper pretended to think it over. "Nope," she replied as she got in the bathtub and closed the flowered shower curtain. One thing she had noticed about the young womanís apartment. It was nicely done, just too colorful for her taste. Well at least her bedroom and bathroom were. The next thing Piper knew it the shower curtain was being pulled aside.

"Let me rephrase the question," Desiree said pleasantly, although the other woman could tell that she was irritated. "When was the last time you had sex before having it with me?" It has just dawned on her that Piper had been out of prison for a few months before they met. It was possible that she could have been with people during that time. The rational part of Desiree was saying that she had no right to be upset, but she could not help her feelings. She couldnít stand the thought of someone else putting their hands all over Piperís body. The strawberry-blonde shook her head. She didnít even want to think about it.

The blue-eyed woman picked up a bar of soap and began to lather her washcloth. "Shouldnít you be ordering the pizza? Iím really hungry."

Desiree sighed. This woman really knew how to evade something she didnít want to talk about. "Donít try to change the subject. Did you have sex with anyone after you got out of prison? Besides me that is."

The blue-green eyed woman was aware of the fact that her lover was now soaping the darkened area of her right breast ever so teasingly with the washcloth. She also noticed the tip enlarging. Desiree blew out a breath trying to maintain control of herself. "Are you trying to insinuate that Iím some sort of a harlot?" Piper asked though she was wearing a smile that made Desiree just want to give up and join her in the shower.

"No," the strawberry-blonde quickly informed her. "Thatís not what I meant. I just wanted to know if youíve been with anyone. Call it curiosity," she paused seeing that Piper was now moving on to her left breast. She sighed again. This was more difficult than she previously thought it would be. She should have known. "So have you?"

Piper smirked. "N.O.Y.B." Her movements were closely watched as the dark-haired woman moved the washcloth to her flat stomach and began scrubbing it using a circular motion.

Desiree shook her head in an effort to clear it. Piper was really working to distract her. She got a confused expression. What in the world was the woman talking about now? "Noyb? Was does that mean? Not on your butt?"

Piper chuckled. "None," The rag circled its way around her bellybutton, "of," It moved to her abdomen as the dark-haired woman watched her lover watching the washcloth, "your," The washcloth was now right above her dark curly thatch, "business." Piper propped her right foot up on the ledge of the bathtub and moved the rag further down. She then began to move it up and down. Growling, Desiree snatched the washcloth from her and glared at her lover.

"Stop that!" the strawberry-blonde all but shouted.

Piper regarded her with a look of innocence. "What did I do?"

"You were washing yourself."

The blue-eyed woman raised an eyebrow. "Isnít that what you wanted me to do? I thought you wanted me to be clean?" She asked knowing why Desiree was upset. The petite woman looked so cute all hot and bothered. Piper planned on fixing that later.

"I did," Desiree said between clenched teeth. "But youíre doing it allÖsexy like."

Piper chuckled again. "Sexy like?" She removed her foot from the ledge. "I have no idea what youíre talking about," she lied, trying to hide a grin.

Desiree glared at her more. "Whatever," she said in an irritated tone. "Are you gonna answer the question?"

"Tell me about the engagement ring." As far as she knew, Desiree had never been married before. Piper hated to admit it, but the business with the expensive looking engagement ring was bothering her. She had got a good look at it on Valerieís finger and had started to really wonder who have given it to the young woman if it hadnít been Alec.

The blue-green eyed woman stared at her. "Is that the only way youíll tell me?"

Piper nodded as she picked up a bottle of shampoo. She opened it and squirted some into the palm of her hand before rubbing both hands together and applying it to her hair. She massaged the scalp while looking at Desiree.

The strawberry-blonde thought about it. Two could play this game. "Fine. You tell me yours and then Iíll tell you mine."

Her lover shook her head. "I donít think so, Desi. You go first. After all, I did ask you that question before you asked me yours. Why should I tell when you didnít?" She stopped washing her hair momentarily. "Now does that seem fair at all to you?" Piper started washing her hair again.

Desiree shook her head. She never knew what emotion Piper was going to bring out in her from one moment to the next. She was used to being in control of her own emotions and here was her new lover throwing them all out of wack. It was driving her insane, but she wouldnít change Piper for anything in the world. For some reason unbeknownst to her, Desiree liked the older woman just the way that she was. It was a shame that she might have to kill her within a week.

Desiree admitted, "I guess it doesnít." She stood there silently for a second. "Iíll go order the pizza." She turned around to leave the bathroom, when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Desiree turned around and regarded Piper with a questioning look.

"I take it that youíre not going to tell me about the ring, are you?"

The smaller woman shook her head. She was determined that Piper would break before she would. Desiree could tell that the business with the engagement ring was upsetting the other woman. She smiled inwardly. Good. Now her lover knew how it felt not to be told something that one really was anxious to know. No, Desiree was not going to be the first of the both of them to break down.

Piper nodded. "Okay. Thatís just fine with me. I can be just as cryptic as you." She smiled. "Do you really want me to take a shower and get clean?"

Desiree nodded. "I would appreciate that unless you plan to sleep on the floor." She grinned at Piper.

"Nah. I donít plan on sleeping on the floor. On you, but not the floor." She got a slap on the arm for that one. It only caused her to chuckle. "Well can I have my rag then?" Piper held her hand out for it, and Desiree realizing that she still had it gave it to her. The older woman thanked her and closed the shower curtain. The strawberry-blonde picked up Piperís shoes and clothes and started to leave when Piper thought of something and called her back.

"Yes, Piper?"

The dark-haired woman poked her head around the shower curtain. "Do you have a spare toothbrush by any chance?"

Desiree bit her lower lip. She had not thought about that. In fact, she had not thought about getting any essentials for Piper. "No, I donít." The strawberry-blonde glanced at her own toothbrush sitting in a cup on the sink. She turned her attention back to Piper. "I guess you can use mine. I know itís not very hygienic, but itís better than nothing." She grinned. "If youíre thinking otherwise, your breath wonít keep you out of my bed."

The blue-eyed woman raised both eyebrows and gave a little grin of her own. "Well thatís good to know. Iíll just use my finger and toothpaste for the time being."

"Okay. We can get you one tomorrow morning."

"Great. See you in a few," Piper replied before she disappeared behind the shower curtain once again.

Walking out of the bathroom, Desiree heard her lover beginning to sing "More than a Woman" by the Bee Gees in quite a lovely voice. So Piper could cook and sing. Desiree grinned wondering if the woman knew anything modern.
 
 


*****


 






Piper walked into Desireeís bedroom from the bathroom dressed in nothing but the towel that the younger woman had given to her. Desiree was sitting at her computer writing something. Watching her, Piper could tell that she had a look of intense concentration on her face. The dark-haired woman smiled. She looked so adorable. Piper shook her head, wondering when she had become this mushy. It was when Desiree had managed to break through her defenses most likely. The younger woman made her feel alive and playful. Piper hadnít felt that wayÖwell since Jamaica. That was probably her last happy memory before Desiree came into her life.

Piper walked around so that she could look at the computer scene. As soon as she did so, Desiree minimized it. She scowled at the younger woman asking why she had done that. All that Piper had been able to make out was the date. It was todayís date.

The strawberry-blonde turned around in her chair to face the other woman, placing her arms on the arms of the chair. "Because itís not for you to read. Itís my journal." She sighed. "Unfortunately, I now have to start over."

Piper walked a few feet back and sat on the bed. "Iím sorry, Desi." The dark-haired woman shook her head. This was all her fault. She never should have brought Desiree to the cabin in the first place. When she thought of that though, Piper realized that they might have never met if she hadnít taken her hostage. What would her life have been like if she hadnít met this wonderful young woman? Would she still be running now? That made Piper think of the fact that she had to get her life back. She almost laughed at that. Before Desiree came into her life, she didnít have much of one. Now she had a reason to want to live.

Desiree arose from the chair and went over to sit on the bed next to the older woman. She put a small hand on Piperís bare knee. The towel didnít reach down that far. "Donít apologize," the petite woman stated softly. "I shouldnít have carried my journal entries in my purse." She smiled. "None of this is your fault."

Piper looked at her. "How can you say that? I nearly got you killed." She abruptly left the bed and started pacing. "I took you hostage for purely selfish reasons."

"You were being framed for crimes that you didnít commit. I might have run too in your situation. Donít blame yourself for your brotherís problems," she paused thoughtfully. "Iím the one who should be apologizing to you."

The blue-eyed woman stopped pacing and faced her. Desiree gestured for her sit down again, and Piper did so. The dark-haired started to say something, but her lover gave her a pleading look for her to remain quiet. Desiree took both of her hands between her smaller ones and looked the woman in the eyes. "I lost faith in you." Piper began to speak again, but the strawberry-blonde put an index finger against her lips. Piper nodded. "And I donít know how I can ever forgive myself for that. When Victor told me that he was the murderer, I felt like I could just die." She tried not to, but Desiree started to cry. Piper moved her hands so that she was now holding her loverís in between her own. "Part of me wanted him to kill me because I felt so horrible because of the way that I had treated you." Her voice broke and she couldnít go on. Piper enfolded the younger woman in her arms and made soft cooing noises in her ear while she rubbed her hair softly.

"Donít cry," the dark-haired woman spoke quietly. "Please donít cry, baby. Itís okay. Everything is gonna be okay now." Piper placed a kiss in her hair. "You donít have any reason to apologize. I donít blame you at all." Piper shuddered, thinking about her actions that day. "Iím sorry I hit you. Damn! I donít know what got into me. My father and I are two of a kind," she said disgustedly.

"No!" Desiree shouted as she pulled out of the comforting embrace. She wiped away her tears and sniffed. "You are not like that man, Piper. You were under a lot of pressure and stress and letís face it. I wasnít making it any better for you." She placed her hands on either side of Piperís face. "Piper, Iím so happy that youíre in my life. I donít know how I ever did without you. IÖ"

The blue-eyed woman studied her. "What?" she prompted. Her heart started to beat faster wondering if Desiree was going to say those three special little words.

"IÖthink you areÖbeautiful." Desiree turned her head away and rolled her eyes. Well that was lame. Sucker. She had started to tell Piper that she loved her, but had changed her mind at the last moment. What if the older woman did not feel the same way? They had not known each other long. Desiree decided to give it more time.

Piper put her hand on the younger womanís chin and brought her face back around so that she could see her. The dark-haired woman was wearing a crooked smile. "Youíre the one who is beautiful." She leaned towards the woman. "I bet if you were to look beautiful up in the dictionary there would be your picture." Piper chuckled as Desiree rolled her eyes again, but she had managed to make the young woman smile. Those werenít the words that she had hoped to hear but that was all right. They had plenty of time.

Desiree gave her two thumbs up. "Awesome pick-up line you got there." She giggled.

Piper feigned hurt. "Hey! Iíll have you know that Iíve never used that particular line before." She grinned and kissed the younger woman on the nose. It was quickly becoming a habit.

Desiree sighed. "That must be the third or fourth time youíve done that."

"I like doing that."

The strawberry-blonde whispered, "I like doing this." She then leaned towards Piper and trapped the womanís lips in a passionate kiss. Piper wrapped her arms around the smaller womanís waist and laid her down on her back. Desiree made use of her hands by entwining them in her loverís still wet hair. They ended up on the nape of her neck and Piper moved her mouth away from Desireeís and openly kissed the womanís neck causing her to moan. She bit the side of her young loverís neck gently while her hands began to move Desireeís shirt up.

"Okay. We can finish this later," the flushed younger woman stated as she gently pushed Piper away. Desiree sat up on the bed and looked at the dark-haired woman who was breathing as heavily as she was. Her blue eyes had grown darker again and she wore a slightly irritated expression. Desiree grinned as she kissed her on the nose. That initially earned her a scowl that changed quickly into a smile.

Piper got up from the bed. "That was cruel woman. Very very cruel. Youíre lucky Iím a gentlewoman." She grinned as she opened Desireeís closet. "As much as I love wearing this towel do you have anything big enough for me to wear?" Piper turned to look at Desiree who was still sitting on the bed. "I mean I know you and Barbie wear the same clothes, but-

She never got to finish because the blue-eyed woman was attacked. She ended up on her back on the carpet with Desiree straddling her. Piper raised an eyebrow. Now she liked this position. The smaller woman put her hands on her loverís broad shoulders and lowered herself until they were nearly nose to nose. Desiree was trying to pretend that she was angry but she wasnít convincing in the least. A smile kept playing on her lips.

"I hate it when people bring attention to my short stature." Desiree playfully growled only arousing Piper all the more.

"I didnít say anything about your short stature, Dino. What I was stating in a way was that you were small. Thatís all." Piper grinned as she put her hands on the womanís hips. "Did you order the pizza?"

Desiree nodded. "Should be here soon." She put on a mock frown. "What do you mean by calling me Dino?"

"Simply that you act like him. However, this is the first time that youíve been successful in knocking me down like he does Fred. I like it. Itís a cute nickname for you because you also have this cute little growl like Dino." She grinned again and said in a lower voice, "Growl for me, baby." She started to raise the shirt again but Desiree slapped her hands away. Piper stuck out her lower lip.

"Donít try the boo-boo lip routine on me. It doesnít work. And do I look like a pet to you? Iíll growl when I want to."

The dark-haired woman looked her up and down. "Well I donít know. You are cute and small." She moved so that Desiree now had her back on the carpet. She leaned over the younger woman and smiled like a hunter in the wild that had finally caught its prey. "And it feels nice to cuddle with you too." Piper leaned down and captured Desireeís lips in a searing kiss. It took all the younger womanís self control not to rip Piperís towel off of her. It didnít take long for Piperís lips to find their way to her neck again. Except that this time they were on the opposite side. Desiree began to moan and finally got the willpower to push her lover away again. "Okay, okay," Piper started as she sat back on her heels. "Weíll wait until later. But I donít know why we canít do it now."

Desiree got to her knees in front of Piper. "Anticipation is part of the excitement. Waiting can make it even better." The truth was that she was scared. They had made love more than once before, but now everything was different. The circumstances were different. They were no longer hiding out in the woods, but were free. It felt good but at the same time nervousness kicked in. This was reality and Desiree did not know if she could handle it. She hardly knew Piper and was already making plans in her head to have the woman live with her. She sincerely hoped that the dark-haired woman did not intend on going back to San Francisco. Obviously, she did not have to continue on her probation since not even Desireeís father had said anything about it. It seemed like Piper was actually a free woman. The question was if she was with Desiree long enough would there eventually come a point that she wanted to be free of her as well? The younger woman did not know if she would be able to stand it.

"I guess that could be true," Piper said grudgingly. "If the waiting doesnít kill me first."

Desiree smiled at her warmly before she kissed her chastely on the lips. "Iím sure you can wait a couple more hours." Maybe more.

Piper rolled her eyes. "Do I have a choice?" she grinned at the smaller woman as she again noticed the chain with the charm on it around Desireeís neck. From the first time she had noticed it back at the cabin grounds, the blue-eyed woman had wondered what it was about. "Whatís this?" Piper asked as she reached out to open the charm. "Is there a picture in here?" Before Desiree could stop her, she had opened the charm. A thimble full worth of ashes fell to the floor as the younger womanís mouth opened but no sound was forthcoming. Piper frowned. Of all things why had Desiree been carrying around ashes in a charm? Hair she could understand, but ashes? And wasnít it supposed to be a picture?

Piper chuckled slightly. "Are those from a memorable bar-b-que or something?" she asked, noticing that the strawberry-blonde seemed to be speechless. This was unusual. "Is something wrong, Desi?"

Desiree nodded mutely.

The other woman was now very concerned. Desiree removed the chain and charm from around her neck and closed the charm before laying both on the carpet. She looked at Piper after the woman called her name in a worried voice.

The blue-green eyed woman whispered, "You just wasted your sister."

Piper looked at the younger woman as if she had just stated that she was from another planet. The blue-eyed woman glanced down at the ashes on the floor and then brought her attention back to Desiree.

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Remember when I told you while we were still in the RV that Taj and I had spread ashes out in the ocean thinking that they were yours?"

Piper nodded and then it dawned on her where this was heading. She pointed at the ashes. "Do thoseÖis thatÖumÖEmily?"

"Yes. Thatís her." Desiree shrugged. "A little bit of her anyway."

The dark-haired woman peered at the ashes a moment in silence, before glancing at the other woman. "I wonder what part. A bit of an ear maybe." She chuckled. "A nose."

Desireeís mouth formed into a wide O. Before Piper could even think to stop her, the younger woman had reached out a hand and slapped her none too gently on the side of the head. Ignoring her loverís shocked expression, Desiree grabbed the chain and charm as she arose from the floor. She walked over to her dresser and placed both items in her floral designed jewelry box, almost lovingly. Desiree heard Piper asking her why she hit her, but did not offer a quick response. Instead, she kept her vision focused on the jewelry box, willing her temper to cool down some. Finally, sensing that she could control any outbursts, Desiree turned around to regard the other woman. Piper was now leaning against the wall close to the bathroom entrance with her arms crossed over her chest. It was clear from the expression on her face that she was waiting for an explanation.

"How can you be so callous?" the blue-green eyed woman asked in a quiet voice. "This is another human being we are talking about. Your own sister, Piper."

Piper scowled briefly. "Let me get this straight. You are defending a woman who tried to frame me for a murder that she committed? I donít have any sisterly feelings for that woman." She shrugged. "If that makes me seem cold-blooded then so be it."

Desiree mentally counted to ten. This was starting to become one difficult relationship, but the young woman was determined to make it work. Who am I kidding? This has been difficult from the start. She knew there was a heart of gold in this woman. "Sheís dead," Desiree stated simply.

The dark-haired woman studied her for a few seconds in silence. "Not my problem." Her blue eyes had turned ice cold, and the strawberry-blonde got the distinct impression that she was pushing her luck. Piper was speaking in a normal tone of voice, but Desiree knew that the woman was most likely seething underneath it all. Not exactly at Desiree herself, but at the whole situation with her siblings. Thatís something else that Iíll have to work on. She is way too hot tempered.

Desiree sighed. Should she just drop the subject for now? That might be in both of their best interests. "So you want something to wear?" She tried to ask brightly.

Piper nodded.

The younger woman turned towards her dresser again and opened the top drawer. After rummaging in there for a few moments and not finding anything suitable, she moved on to the next drawer. As Desiree moved the clothes around in that drawer, she felt warm hands on her shoulders. Next, she felt a pair of soft warm lips lightly touch the skin just beneath her left ear. "Iím sorry," Piper whispered in that ear. Desiree looked in the mirror in front of her and spied both her own and Piperís reflection. The dark-haired woman gazed at her through the mirror. "You make me want to be a better woman."

Desireeís face screwed up in thought. Now where had she heard that before? As it dawned on her where, the younger woman began to chuckle softly. Her lover raised a dark eyebrow, still looking at her using the mirror. "Is there something that you find particularly humorous?" Piper removed her hands from the shorter womanís shoulders and repositioned them on her small waist.

Desiree nodded as she finally managed to stop chuckling. "You stole that line from the movie "As Good As it Gets" and you know it."

Piper barely managed to keep from grinning. She had figured that she would be able to get away with it. "I donít recall Jack Nicholson saying that Helen made him want to be a better woman," she retorted.

The strawberry-blonde chuckled again. "You stole the majority of the line though." She turned around in Piperís arms to face the taller woman, smirking. "Donít try to pull one over on this Love girl. I live and breathe movies and that flick happens to be one of my favorites."

Piper tightened her hold as Desiree put her own arms around her neck. "So youíre a movie buff, huh?"

Desiree nodded.

The blue-eyed woman said, "Well, I meant it. Every single word, even thoughÖas you put it, I stole it." She leaned down and kissed her lover on the nose, receiving a low growl from the younger woman. Piper smiled. "Thatís my Dino."
 
 


*****


 






Ten minutes later, Piper was dressed in a tight fitting navy blue T-shirt that showed off her upper body quite well in Desireeís opinion. For the lower half she had on baggy white cotton workout pants that had belonged to Alec until the blue-green eyed woman had swiped them the last time she had washed the clothes. When the dark-haired woman asked her why she did that, Desiree had replied that the pants looked comfortable and warm since some nights she found to be chilly. Unfortunately, she had never got the chance to wear them because the next night she was abducted.

At first, Piper was adamant against wearing the pants, stating that she did not want to wear anything that had belonged to the other womanís ex-boyfriend. Desiree shook her head, wondering why this woman had to be so stubborn. Since Desiree did not have any underwear that would fit Piper, and the ones she had on previous to taking her shower had just been tossed in the garbage it was either the pants or nothing. The strawberry blonde told her that if she refused to wear the pants then she would have to walk around either with the towel wrapped around her waist or with her naked rear end sticking out. Not being in the least bit modest, Piper was all for the latter. Desiree shook her head. There was no way on this earth that she was going to allow this woman to walk around in nothing but a T-shirt that barely covered her abdomen. The strawberry-blonde decided to deliver an ultimatum. Piper was told that she either put on the pants or slept on the couch tonight. Alone. After mulling it over for all of a second, the dark-haired woman put on the pants in what must have been a record time. Desiree shook her head, chuckling as she showed her lover the blow dryer.

While Piper busied herself combing out the tangles and drying her hair, the other woman took a quick shower. Standing right next to the shower that the younger woman was in, Piper was sorely tempted to cease fixing her hair and join Desiree no matter how much she protested. If the dark-haired woman had her way, Desireeís resolve would break soon. Just as Piper finished with her hair, the other woman cut off the shower and asked her politely for the towel that was lying on top of the lid of the toilet. The blue-eyed woman got a mischievous glint in her eye. No way was she going to let this golden opportunity pass. Turning towards the closed shower curtain, Piper put her hands on her hips.

"Gee, I donít know if I can," the dark-haired woman stated in a sing song voice.

"What do you mean you donít know if you can?" Desiree inquired behind the shower curtain.

Piper could not see the younger woman but she could imagine what Desiree must look like. All wet and slipperyÖThe blue-eyed woman shook her head. Thinking like that was not a good idea, since her lover obviously wanted to wait. Piper could not fathom why she wanted that, but she was determined to respect the younger womanís wishes. Even though, the tortuous waiting was driving her completely up the wall.

Piper shrugged though Desiree could not see the action. "I just donít know if I can."

The strawberry-blonde mumbled something under her breath and the dark-haired woman asked her to repeat what she had said. "Nothing. I said nothing. Forget it. Listen. Piper, just hand me the towel okay? Please? Iím getting cold." Which was true. Desiree wrapped her arms around herself in an effort to retain some warmth. She shook her wet head. That woman was going to get what she had coming to her very soon.

"Then turn the hot water back on," Piper offered, grinning.

Desiree argued, "But I wanna get out."

"Sounds like a personal problem to me." The blue-eyed woman could hear her partner growling in frustration or anger. She couldn't tell which. Either way she was happy. Desiree was so cute when she was miffed.

"What do you want, Piper?" the strawberry-blonde asked in an irritated tone. Yes, her lover was definitely going to get it. She didnít know what "it" was yet, but Piper would most definitely be getting it.

The dark-haired sauntered towards the closed shower curtain until she was close enough to open it if she wanted to. Which she really wanted to. "Oh, you know what I want," Piper replied in a deeper voice that sent warm tingles through the other womanís body. Itís amazing how she can just turn me on with her voice.

Desiree pulled the curtain back just far enough for the taller woman to see her face. Piper had a good view since she was standing right outside the tub. If the woman managed to get any closer she would probably trip over the edge and fall in. Desiree raised a golden eyebrow. Suddenly her nervousness had disappeared. She wanted Piper and she wanted her now. "What is it that you desire, lover?" she asked in her smokiest voice, pushing the shower curtain back so that the other woman could see her entire body. She immediately saw Piperís blue eyes darken with her passion and the goofy grin she was wearing evaporate.

"You," the dark-haired woman answered in a whisper that Desiree could barely hear. However, Piper did not make another move. In fact, she was as still as a statue, waiting for the strawberry-blonde to make the next move. It was completely up to Desiree what occurred next. The dark-haired woman did not have to wait long for the younger woman to act.

Desiree wrapped her wet arms around Piperís neck and brought her lips to those of her partners in a light touch. The blue-eyed woman placed her arms around Desireeís waist as the kiss deepened. Piperís tongue asked for entrance into the other womanís mouth and was immediately let in. Their tongues danced together as Piper began to move her hands up and down her loverís smooth back. Desiree moaned softly as she broke the kiss and quickly moved her lips to the older womanís neck and bit the skin gently causing Piper to let out her own moan.

"Oh, baby, I want you so bad," the dark-haired woman whispered hoarsely. She moved her hands down to Desireeís firm yet soft buttocks and began to massage her cheeks. Desiree moved her mouth to Piperís ear and started to suck the lobe gently. The taller woman felt Desireeís hot breath on her skin and involuntarily shivered in delight.

Someone picked that precise moment to ring the doorbell. Piper growled in frustration as she took a step back, releasing the other woman from her embrace. Running a hand threw her hear, Piper told her lover that she would die if she didnít have her soon.

Desiree chuckled. "I donít believe deprivation of sex can kill someone."

The dark-haired woman gave her mock scowl in return. "You just remember this conversation when youíre weeping over my tombstone that reads, "Here lies Piper Redding. Died because she couldnít get any". Youíll be sorry then."

Laughing now, Desiree playfully slapped her on the arm, informing the woman that she should get the door. Piper headed towards the bathroom door, but then stopped and came back around to face the strawberry-blonde. The blue-eyed woman wrapped her arms around Desireeís waist and kissed her quickly before stating huskily, "Iím gonna rock your world tonight, Desi." She let go with a wink and hurried out of the bathroom to answer the door as she heard the doorbell ring again. Piper heard Desiree telling her that the money was on her dresser if that was the pizza deliver. The dark-haired woman quickly grabbed a twenty-dollar bill lying on the dresser before all but running for the front door. She hadnít had pizza in months. Not since she first got out and treated herself to one. After that one time, Piper had not allowed herself to splurge that much.

After peeping threw the peephole, Piper opened the door and greeted the deliverer with a bright smile. She could smell the delicious aroma coming from the rectangular box already. The young pizza delivery boy took one look at Piper and took a step back as he gasped. For some reason, the action caused the dark-haired to quickly look over her shoulder. Not seeing anything, she turned back to him with a raised eyebrow. Piper asked him if something was wrong.

The teen-aged boy nodded then shook his head. It was obvious that he was confused or frightened about something. Piper wondered briefly if he was high on some illegal substance by the way that he was acting. The dark-haired woman shook her head sadly. Some of these kids todayÖ He pointed at her. "IÖI knÖknow you. I know you," he stated in a shaky voice as jumped a little.

Piper raised an eyebrow again. "You do?" he nodded emphatically. "Funny. Because I donít think I know you. To be honest you donít look familiar at all."

The boy pushed a few strands of shoulder-length blonde hair out of his face. "Dude, I wouldnít. You donít know me but I know you." He moved towards her a step. "I thought you were dead."

It then dawned on Piper why he was acting the way that he was. She took a deep breath. Maybe answering the door wasnít such a good idea. "Youíre not the first person to tell me that today. So youíve obviously heard of me."

"Yeah." He chuckled and bounced some. "I canít believe that Iím staring you in the face." The next Piper knew it, the teen-ager had a hold of her hand was shaking it. He left go and looked at his hand as though he would never wash it again. He glanced at her and said, "I am a big fan of yours, Ms. Redding. May I call you Piper?" Before she could answer his question, he went on talking excitedly. "Iíve been keeping up with you since all this crap happened and I hafta tell you that I thought you were innocent of those crimes from the start. Sure it looked shady but I never gave up hope." He put the pizza on the ground and pointed at himself. "By the way, Iím Ice Cream." He shrugged. "Thatís not my real name but they call me that because Iím smooth, cool and sweet."

He gave her a look that caused the dark-haired woman to roll her eyes. Poor thing, little did he know he didnít have a snowballís chance in hell of wooing her. "Look, Ice CreamÖthank you for believing in me. I really appreciate." She glanced down at the pizza box. "May I have my pizza now?"

"Just a minute." Ice Cream removed his work shirt and showed Piper his T-shirt underneath. "Check this out. I had a friend of mine do it. Cool, huh?" The white cotton shirt sported a picture of Piper that was taken during her trial nearly nine years ago. She was sitting in a chair in the courtroom wearing a gray charcoal suit. She remembered that day. It was the day the jury had read the verdict. Underneath the picture in all capitals and bold writing was printed the word "INNOCENT". Ice Cream turned around and Piper read on the back of the shirt, "UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY". The dark-haired woman thought it odd that the boy would choose the picture that was taken the day she was indeed proven guilty. Ice Cream turned back around to face Piper with a huge grin plastered on his face. "Do you like it, Piper?"

She nodded although all she really cared about was getting her pizza. "May I now-

Ice Cream cut her off. "Ooh! Can I have your autograph?"

Both of the dark-haired womanís eyebrows shot up. "You want my autograph?" So, the boy saw it fit to give her the status of a celebrity. Well far be it of Piper to let him down. Besides, the quicker she got rid of him, the quicker she could sink her teeth into that mouthwatering pizza.

The delivery boy nodded. "Please?" He took out her receipt and turned it over on the back, which was blank. "Do you want this?" Ice Cream waved the small slip at her, and Piper shook her head. "Okay. You can put it on the back of here then." He felt on his pockets and then informed her that he did not have a pen.

Out of the corner of her eye, the blue-eyed woman saw Desiree coming out of the bedroom wearing green plaid pajama bottoms and a green tank top to match. The top showed off the smooth feminine muscles in her arms and Piper grinned in appreciation. The strawberry-blonde was drying her hair with a fluffy towel as she came over to the door wearing a curious expression.

"Whatís going on Piper?" the young woman asked as she looked at the pizza boy who appeared to be a little bit too excited about delivering pizza.

The dark-haired woman turned to her. "Ice Cream here, knows me." At Desireeís blank expression she continued, "He knows who I am and he wants my autograph." She shrugged and finished, "Heís a fan." Piper tried hard not to, but she could not manage to keep a grin off of her face. Thinking it over it felt good to know that she had someone else in her corner that didnít even know her personally. The dark-haired woman asked Desiree if she would get her a pen. The young woman left to retrieve the requested item and shortly came back. She handed it to Piper who asked Ice Cream for the receipt. Piper then asked him what he wanted her to write on it.

"Put to my greatest fan, Ice Cream. Yours always, Piper Redding. Oh! And thatís Ice Cream with a "K" not a "C"."

The blue-eyed woman nodded as she began writing the message on Desireeís back. Finished, Piper handed the autograph to the delivery boy. Thanking her, he folded the autograph and put it in his wallet. Picking up the pizza, Ice Kream handed it to Piper while announcing that it was on the house. She tried to pay him but he refused to take her money, so she and Desiree ended up getting a free pizza. The delivery boy shook Piperís hand and then made to leave when the strawberry-blonde called him back. Ice Kream looked at her expectantly.

"Now this is our little secret, right?" Desiree inquired. "You wonít tell anyone that you saw Piper here, will you? She really doesnít need the press hounding her right now. Sheís been through enough as it is."

The delivery boy nodded. "Of course I wonít tell anyone. I completely understand what you mean, MissÖ?"

Standing beside her, Desiree heard Piper chuckle. She resisted the urge to glare at the older woman, and instead turned a sweet smile on Ice Kream. So, he did not know who she was, eh? The strawberry-blonde did not know whether to be insulted or relieved by that fact. So what if the teenager did not ask for her autograph. It did not matter one bit to Desiree. What am I? Chopped liver?

"It doesnít matter, Ice Kream," Desiree replied. "Iím just a friend of Ms. Reddingís and she just came here for some peace and quiet before she resurfaces. So mums the word. Okay?"

Ice Kream nodded again. "Of course. You have my word that I will not tell anyone." He laughed. "I wonít even tell my own shadow."
 
 


*****


 






Desiree eyed the last piece of pizza in the box. It was not hot anymore, but she still wanted it. If there was one thing that the young woman excelled at, it was eating. From an early age, she had done it well. Piper, sitting next to her on the couch, smiled inwardly. At first, the strawberry-blonde had been turned off at the idea of eating pineapple on pizza, but she ate more of Piperís half than she did. She also ate her own which only consisted of pepperoni.

The dark-haired woman stretched her legs out on the coffee table. "You looking at my last slice of pizza?" she asked with a trace of amusement in her voice.

Desiree spared her a quick glance. "No." She turned her attention back to the old movie playing on television. She was full, but it tasted so delicious.

"Come now, Desi." Piper leaned towards her and whispered in the younger womanís ear, "You know you want it." Desiree gulped. "You can just taste it, canít you?" Piper quickly ran her tongue on the ridge of the other womanís ear, causing her to shudder. Piper leaned back into the comfortable couch and said in her regular voice, "Gíwan and take the pizza." When Desiree did not make a move she added, "Take it before I change my mind. You can have it." Giving in to temptation, the strawberry-blonde reached over and swiped the last slice from the box. She practically inhaled it while Piper looked on in amazement. How could such a little thing consume so much? Piper guessed it was probably one of the many mysteries of life.

Impulsively, Desiree reached over and kissed the dark-haired woman on the cheek and said, "Iím so happy to have you back, Piper."

The other woman smiled at her warmly. "Ditto."

Desiree grinned back and then maneuvered herself until she was stretched out on the couch with her head in the other womanís lap. Piper immediately placed a hand in the strawberry-blondeís hair and began to stroke it gently as she turned her complete attention to the movie.

A while later, as Desiree watched the credits of the movie roll, she wondered if Piper had fallen asleep since she had been quiet for the last fifteen minutes or so. The strawberry-blonde had learned something interesting about the other woman. Piper, to Desireeís great surprise enjoyed talking while watching a movie. Now probably with anyone else she would have been irritated, but not with the woman whose lap she was lying in quite comfortably at the moment. Piper liked to make comments, most of which were positive, though some of what she said caused Desiree to start laughing.

Enjoying where she was immensely, Desiree did not want to move, but it was time to wake Piper up and get her to the bedroom so that she could lie down and get some much-needed rest. Desiree sighed. The last thing she had on her mind was rest, but she considered that the other woman needed it, and as bad as she herself had been sleeping, Desiree had to admit that she should head to bed as well.

The strawberry-blonde reached for the remote and clicked off the television as she felt a drop of something wet fall on her cheek. It was followed quickly by another drop leaving the young woman to wonder if there was a leak in her ceiling coming from the apartment above hers. Another drop fell and Desiree turned so that she was lying on her back, with the back of her head on the other womanís lap. With widened blue-green eyes, Desiree noticed that Piper was crying. The dark-haired woman swiped the tears away and turned her head to the side.

Biting her lower lip to keep from laughing, the strawberry-blonde lifted a hand to turn Piperís full profile back to her. Piper refused to make eye contact.

"Piper, that is so adorable," the younger woman stated as she left her hand on the other womanís cheek and began to caress it softly.

The dark-haired woman glanced at her. "What is?"

"Desiree replied, "That youíre crying over the movie. At least I assume thatís why youíre crying."

Piper sniffed and quickly wiped at her right eye. "I donít know what youíre talking about, Desi. I wasnít crying," she retorted stubbornly.

Her lover smiled. "Yeah, right. So those things falling from your eyes arenít tears?"

The dark-haired woman lied, "I just got something in my eye is all. I donít cry over movies."

Yeah, sure, Desiree thought to herself. Did Piper actually think that she was fooling someone? Well Desiree was not about to press the issue.

The blue-eyed leaned over and kissed the strawberry-blonde on the nose. "Ready to hit the sheets?" she asked waggling her eyebrows.

The younger woman chuckled. Well rest could wait. "Yes, but you go on ahead." Desiree got up and stretched before starting to gather their mess from dinner. Piper offered to help her, but the younger woman refused, advising her to go wait in the bed. After thinking it over quickly, the dark-haired woman decided to take her up on her offer and all but skipped to the bedroom. Desiree could never be sure, but she thought that she even heard Piper whistling a little happy tune.

The strawberry-blonde gathered the empty pizza box and everything else, taking them to the kitchen. She washed the few dishes and glasses while Tobias rubbed against her legs while purring. After finishing and drying her hands on a dish towel, Desiree picked up the cat and scratched him for a few minutes as her thoughts traveled back to the sensual woman waiting for her in her bedroom.

Piper Redding was her girlfriend, and Desiree supposed live-in lover. That is if the dark-haired woman decided to stay. Desiree certainly hoped that she would. What if she wanted to go back to San Francisco? The young woman shook her head. No, that wasnít going to happen. She was sure of it. After all, there was nothing for Piper there. Her friends were here and Desiree considered that she didnít have anything to go back to. No commitments or family. The strawberry-blonde knew for a fact that she herself would not want to go back.

Desiree sighed. She would have to get working on her book again and get a job if she didnít want to get herself, Piper and Tobias evicted. She was sure that her parents would help out, but that was what she was trying to avoid. Desiree wanted to be on her own without their help. She was an adult and she was fully capable of taking care of herself. So, that was what she would do. If she had to get a job at a burger joint for the time being in order to pay the bills then so be it. You had to work your way up the ladder of success.

That settled Desiree put Tobias down on the floor despite his meows of protests. The young woman began to walk out of the kitchen, but then turned back around and went to one of her cabinets rummaging around until she found a bottle of whiskey in the back behind a big can of coffee. Untwisting the cap and taking it off, Desiree tipped the bottle and took a few swigs of the alcohol. The nervousness had returned some but she needed Piper. She wanted her so much that she could taste it. Taking another long swig, Desiree put the cap back on and replaced the bottle in the back. Taking a deep breath, the young woman made her way through the living room and then quietly opened her bedroom door. The light was on and she could plainly see Piper in the bed, stretched out under the sheets and blanket with an arm across her face, covering her eyes some from view. First sighing, and then chuckling to herself, Desiree turned out the lamp next to the side of the bed Piper was sleeping on and then crawled in next to her. In her sleep, the dark-haired woman immediately rolled over and threw an arm around Desiree. Feeling her loverís warm deep even breathing on her neck, the strawberry-blonde succumbed to sleep.
 
 
 
 
 
 

She was dreaming and my, was it vivid! Someone was kissing her on the neck and she discovered that it was quite a delightful feeling that sent wonderful sensations through her body. She moaned as she felt a soft warm hand enter the waistband of her pants and roam down until it was covering her mound. The woman moaned again as a pair of soft lips covered her own. The tip of a tongue touched her bottom lip and the woman opened her eyes to find that this actually was not a dream at all.

Desiree blinked her eyes and then reached over to turn on the light. With her eyes narrowing because of the brightness, she squinted at Piper, who was lying besides her with their bodies in close contact. Desiree could all but feel the heat emanating from her lover. She could also feel Piperís index finger consistently rubbing at the entrance of her center, and she involuntarily let out a soft moan of pleasure.

"PiÖPiper, what are you doing?" What kind of idiotic question is that? What does it look like sheís doing?

The dark-haired woman chuckled low in her throat. "You know what Iím doing, Desi," she whispered. "I like to keep my promises." Piper covered a patch of skin on the younger womanís neck with her lips again. "If you notice the time," she went on between kisses, "itís not yet midnight, therefore itís still Sunday and I distinctly remember saying that I was going to rock your world tonight." She stopped to gaze into Desireeís eyes. "That is a promise that I wonít break." Finished with her short speech, Piper leaned down to capture the other womanís lips with her own. Desiree moaned as she kissed her lover back passionately. Far be it from her to prohibit Piper from fulfilling her promise.

Piper broke away from the kiss first and got to her knees. She reached down and began to pull Desireeís shirt off of her. Wanting to help very much, the younger woman sat up and shucked her T-shirt, throwing across the room. Piper growled low in her throat as she leaned down to take one of Desireeís rosy nipples into her mouth. The blue-green eyed woman gasped at the stimulating contact. Piper increased her sucking as she gently nudged the other woman to lie down. Desiree did so willingly due to sudden weakness that she was feeling.

The dark-haired woman crawled down to kneel besides the other womanís legs. She pulled Desireeís pants and panties off of her at the same time. Piper threw them onto the floor, as her darkened blue eyes raked over her loverís body. The strawberry-blonde began to fidget from the silent exploration. She wanted this woman to make love to her. Not examine her like a rare piece of art.

Desiree cleared her throat. "Are you going to just look orÖtouch?" she asked in a lowered voice.

The blue eyes glanced at her, before Piper hurriedly removed her own T-shirt and caused the bed to bounce some, as she pulled off the baggy pants and threw them in the general direction of the shirt. Now it was Desireeís turn to admire her body. Was it the younger womanís imagination or had Piper managed to look even better with her clothes off, then she had a week ago?

The dark-haired woman covered the smaller womanís body with her own and started kissing her soft lips. Desiree wrapped her arms around Piperís back and began running her hands over it as she melted into the kissing. The older woman began to grind her middle into that of the other womanís as she broke the contact of their lips and began to kiss along Desireeís jaw line.

"I want you so bad, Desi," Piper stated in a lowered voice. She began to kiss the younger womanís neck. The dark-haired woman could feel Desireeís heart beating as rapidly as her own was at that instant.

Before Piper knew what had happened, she was lying on her back on the bed with the strawberry-blonde straddling her hips. The older woman grinned, wondering what the other woman was going to do. One thing was for sure. Piper was not about to let herself be handcuffed tonight. Not that she had not enjoyed it up at the cabin, but tonight she wanted full usage of her hands. For some reason, she didnít believe that Desiree had any handcuffs lying around anyway.

Desiree leaned down and kissed her lover on her eyelids softly. She then kissed the woman on the nose, and then made a detour for one cheek and then the other. The strawberry-blonde passed those wonderfully full lips, and went for Piperís neck instead. She placed her lips over the spot where she could feel the dark-haired womanís racing pulse. Desireeís lips traveled to a collarbone that she gladly kissed along, as she felt Piperís long fingers run through her hair. She then felt the womanís hands on her shoulders, putting a slight pressure there, silently begging the strawberry-blonde to go lower.

Desiree smiled mischievously up at her impatient lover. "Did you want something, Piper?"

The blue-eyed woman growled low in her throat. "You know what I want, Desi. Please donít tease me tonight," she replied sounding earnestly desperate. There was pleading in Piperís eyes, and Desiree being a soft-hearted person, did not have it in her to tease when the other woman was being so sincere. Not that Piper did not deserved to be teased. The younger woman considered that she had every right to pay the woman back, but not now. Besides, Desiree was getting impatient herself.

One more ribbing wouldn't hurt anything. She could not resist. "You know," Desiree began in a conversational tone, fully aware that Piper looked like she might be getting ready to take charge of the situation, "this chick once told me that patience is a virtue." The strawberry-blonde smirked.

"Really?" Piper lifted an eyebrow. Rule #1of dating Desiree Love. One must watch what they say around her. For it could come back to them. "Well whoever she is, sheís crazy."

Desiree kissed her lover on the lips and grinned. "I couldnít agree with you more."

The dark-haired woman smirked. "Cute. Very cute." She gently but quickly pushed Desiree off of her and the younger woman landed on her back, with a gorgeous naked Amazon of a woman kneeling over her.

I canít believe sheís mine. "What are you doing, Piper?" inquired Desiree in a playful tone.

"Iíve decided," the blue-eyed woman started as she slowly lowered herself onto her younger lover. Piper closed her eyes at the exquisite contact of their bodies. Sure she was much bigger than this woman was, but they were a match made in Heaven. The blue eyes opened as a hand began to travel down Desireeís body, starting at the side of her breast. The strawberry-blondeís breath began to quicken, wondering where that hand would end up. Piper went on, "to take," the dark-haired woman began to kiss her small lover, starting with her chin and slowly going down her throat as her hand stroked the womanís thigh. Piper moved down the other womanís body until her mouth was level with her full breasts. Her tongue darted out and lightly flicked across an extended rosy nipple, as Desiree arched her back, beginning to moan softly, "matters," Piper whispered before she closed her mouth over the other womanís nipple, taking as much of the breastís into her mouth as was possible. She heard the younger woman call out her name as her mouth moved to give equal attention to the other breast. After a few moments, Piper ended the sweet torment and slid off of Desiree, making sure that their bodies were still touching. Her hand traveled up the inside of the other womanís thigh having a destination in mind, "into," Piper went on in a voice thick with desire as one finger slid into the strawberry-blondeís hot and moist center, "my own hands." Desiree cried out at the pleasure. The dark-haired woman began to move her finger in and out slowly as she reached up to place a feverish kiss on her loverís mouth. This was true bliss.

With the lights now off, Piper gently rubbed Desireeís back in a circular motion, while the womanís head rested on her broad shoulder in the aftermath of their lovemaking. Their breathing had returned to normal and the two women were quiet. Neither had said much in the last few minutes, and Piper felt the need to break the silence.

She began to speak in a quiet voice. "Desi, I donít feel like I deserve you. In fact, I know that I donít. You deserve to have someone that can give you so much more than I have to offer. Just look at the way we met. I kidnapped you." She bent her head and gently kissed the object of her affection on the forehead before lying back on the pillow. "Iím so sorry, baby," she whispered as a tear escaped her eye. Piper didnít bother to wipe it away. "But Iím way too selfish to just leave you. I canít do that. I donít wanna leave you. I need you. It frightens me that I need and want you so much," she paused. "I guess you could say that I desire you Desiree." Piper chuckled. "Iíve been waiting to use your name and that word in the same sentence," she paused once again. "If you were ever to decide that you didnít want me, and I wouldnít blame you one bitÖI might just die. Not actually, but I know that I might just die inside. Iím hooked on you now, and I have a feeling that that will never go away. That itís forever. Iíll always want you. Need you." Another tear fell as Piper whispered, "I guess what Iím trying to say is, I love you, Desiree Meredith Love."

Minutes passed without Desiree offering any comment. Piperís heart to began to beat faster. Oh, God. Iíve probably scared the poor girl. Good going, stupid. Should have just kept my mouth shut. "Desi, Iím sorry I said all that. Are you upset?" When the younger woman still did not answer, Piperís brow furrowed as she turned her head to look down at the woman. It was dark, so she reached over and clicked on the light. Getting a good look at Desireeís face, the dark-haired woman felt instant relief and a small amount of disappointment at the say time. The strawberry-blonde was fast asleep.

"Iíll be damned," Piper said good-naturedly. Oh well. Maybe Desiree was not meant to hear that now. The dark-haired woman clicked off the light and wrapped her arms around her young lover, closing her eyes. She had not been this happy in a long time and it was a great feeling. Piper had a slight smile on her face as she began to drift off.
 
 


*****


 






Yawning, Piper opened her eyes. She smiled when her eyes, with the help of the light shining through the blinds, landed on the other woman lying next to her. She could tell that Desiree was still in a deep sleep. Must have worn her out, Piper thought to herself as she grinned. Well after last night, it did not surprise her one bit. Speaking of sleep, Piper raised up to take a look at the clock. The woman was shocked to find that it was nearly eleven oíclock. She never slept that late.

Piper frowned. There was something warm and heavy on her back. Turning her head some, the woman noticed that the culprit was Tobias. She shook her head. This cat had some nerve deciding to rest on her, when usually he would not give her the time of day.

Still looking back at him and seeing that he was asleep as well, Piper said, "I donít understand you, furball." Tobias opened one eye peering at her in apparent boredom. "I know you donít like me, but you obviously donít find any problem with using me as your personal pillow." The feline opened the other eye and yawned. "Get off of me." Tobias did not move an inch. Piper shook her body a little thinking that that might make him leave, but of course it did not work. "I want you to get off of my back right now, furball. Thatís an order." Tobias stretched out his front legs and extended his claws, as if threatening his human pillow. Since Piperís bare back was exposed, those sharp claws could really do some damage if the cat chose to use them in a negative way. Piper raised an eyebrow. "You wouldnít dare." Tobiasí right paw was now close to the dark-haired womanís skin. "In case you forgot, I defended you yesterday, furball. Remember? Against Alec?" Piper shook her head again. She was trying to hold a one-sided conversation with a cat. Not only that. She was trying to reason with him too.

Both of Tobiasí front claws were all but touching Piperís skin now. "If you fancy keeping your tail, Tobias, get off now," Piper stated in a low voice. The cat then tried to stare her down, but after a couple of minutes gave up and jumped off the bed. Piper chuckled to herself as she laid back down on her pillow to gaze at Desiree.

She did not get to do that for long, because Tobias, now sitting on the floor right next to the bed, began to cry. Rolling her eyes, the dark-haired woman turned her head to the left and rested on her elbows. "What is it, furball?" Tobias continued to cry while looking up at her. "I suppose that you want to eat now?" It seemed as if his crying became louder after she asked the question. The blue-eyed woman could not understand how Desiree could continue to sleep through that noise. She glanced back at her lover noticing that the woman was either playing possum, or she was still very much asleep. Piper quietly got out of the bed and retrieved the pants she had been wearing last night. She put them on and then picked up her shirt, which was lying in Desireeís computer chair. Piper slipped on the shirt while telling Tobias to be quiet. Of course, the cat would not listen as he rubbed against her leg.

"Oh, now Iím your best friend, huh?" The dark-haired woman said, walking towards the bedroom door. The feline beat her out of the room and all but raced to the kitchen as if his life depended on this very meal. Piper took her time walking to the kitchen. She was not about to hurry to feed that little brat.

On entering the kitchen, Piper went to the cabinet the catís food was in. She took out a can of liver pate and opened it. Taking Tobiasí crystal goblet out of the dish strainer, Piper emptied the cat food into it before placing it on the catís rug. Instantly stopping his crying, the feline walked up to the goblet and began eating.

The blue-eyed woman ran a hand through her mused hair as her stomach grumbled. Well it was time to feed the human. Piper went to the refrigerator and noticed a box of cornflakes on top. Taking it down she found a couple of bowls in another cabinet and poured cereal into each. She then poured some sugar into each bowl from a sugar bowl that was in the shape of a kitten. Starting to whistle, the dark-haired woman took out a banana that she was delighted to find in the refrigerator and sliced it. She put an equal amount of slices into each bowl. After putting two pieces of bread in the toaster, Piper poured milk onto the cereal, and then added a spoon to each bowl. The toast popped up and the woman put margarine and strawberry jelly on them, before putting both on a saucer. Pouring orange juice into two glasses, Piper set them on the cabinet, before putting the saucer on top of one of the bowls and carrying the bowls of cereal to the bedroom.

Entering the bedroom, the dark-haired woman put what she was carrying on the nightstand, before hurrying back to get the glasses of juice. When she came back, Piper halted at the entrance to the door, watching in amusement as Desiree took a gigantic bite out of one of the toasts. The strawberry-blonde licked a spot of jelly on her upper lip before eating a spoonful of cereal with two slices of banana on it. Desiree had another spoonful ready when she heard someone clearing their throat. She glanced up in embarrassment. The young woman hurried to swallow the food in her mouth and rested her spoon in the bowl.

"Sorry," Desiree apologized sheepishly. "I woke up and saw the food. Being extremely famished, I couldn't wait for you."

Piper chuckled as she came towards the bed and handed her lover one of the glasses of juice, before putting her own on the nightstand. The dark-haired woman sat in the bed and picked up her bowl. She plucked the remaining piece of toast from the saucer now lying on the bed between them. Piper bit a piece of the toast and then kissed Desiree on the cheek. "No need to apologize, Desi. I know after last night you must be starving." The dark-haired woman grinned as the other woman blushed. First one of the day, Piper thought in amusement.

The two women ate in silence for a few minutes with the only sound being the clink of their spoons against the bowls. Desiree glanced at the time and informed the other woman that they should get ready soon for Tajís party.

Piper finished the rest of her toast. "I donít have anything to wear."

"Thatís not a problem," Desiree replied. "We can go shopping and you can change in the dressing room. We have to get you a toothbrush anyway. After that, we can head to Tajís house."

"Shopping?" The dark-haired woman was wearing a look of part distaste and fear. "You plan for us to go shopping?"

"Yeah," the other woman replied cheerily. "Itíll be fun." Desiree then studied Piperís face. "Whatís the matter?" The strawberry-blonde looked at her companionís cereal.

"I donít really care for shopping," Piper relied, noticing where the other womanís eyes were. "There are more cornflakes in the kitchen, Desi. Go get you some."

"I donít want your cereal," Desiree lied. She then drank the remaining milk in her bowl, emptying it. "Thank you for breakfast."

"Youíre welcome."

"Why donít you like to shop?" the younger woman asked after a few seconds of silence. She had always found shopping to be quite pleasurable. Desiree would enjoy spending a whole day strolling through the stores of a mall. "Itís so fun to do."

The dark-haired woman snorted. "Maybe for you. Not for me, though. I never liked it."

Piper thought back to the last few weeks of past summers. She had always dreaded them while growing up. It was not because she had to return to school, but that her mother would make a while day out of shopping for her school clothes. On that dreaded day, Piper would have to try on at least a dozen outfits in a dressing room. What eight-year-old wants to spend a summer day putting on clothes?

Though, her mother always meant well. Not all parents took that time with their children. Marie had always tried to make their shopping day lively, but her daughter had never enjoyed them. Although, at the end of the hectic day, Piper always ended up with a smile plastered on her face. After piling the bags of clothes into the trunk of the car, mother and daughter would take in a movie and then go out to dinner. Though sometimes that would be reversed, depending on when the movie started. That was worth the shopping experience she considered.

"How about this?" Desiree started. "We can just go right in, pick something quickly, buy it and you can change. Shouldnít take more than a few minutes."

The dark-haired woman pondered this for a moment. Why did she get the feeling that Desiree most likely loved shopping as much as she loved food? Marie would have enjoyed having her as a daughter. Piper sighed. Well she did need clothes. The older woman informed Desiree, albeit stubbornly, that they could go shopping. She made the young woman promise that they would not be in the department store no more than fifteen minutes unless the line was long. The strawberry-blonde agreed to the deal, though it was evident she was not overjoyed with it.

Desiree made to take the dishes in the kitchen, but Piper stopped her, telling the younger woman that she can just get ready. The strawberry-blonde kissed her on the lips and began to get out the bed when her lover pulled her back around and kissed her deeply. Desiree wrapped her arms around the other womanís neck and got to her knees in the bed in between Piperís spread legs. The older woman hugged Desiree to her as she broke the heated kiss and began to deliver light kisses to her collarbone.

"Piper," the blue-green eyed woman said in a faint whisper. When the dark-haired woman kept kissing her without replying, Desiree called her name again, a little louder.

Piper reluctantly stopped her pleasurable assault and looked the other woman in the eye. "Yeah?"

"Itís passed eleven oíclock."

"So?"

"So we have to get ready, go shopping for something for you to wear and buy a toothbrush, before heading over to the party. You know it starts at one."

"And?" Piper leaned forward and began to suck on Desireeís earlobe, almost achieving in distracting the younger woman completely.

"AndÖand we have to be thereÖcanít be late."

"And why canít we?" The dark-haired woman began to suck stronger causing Desiree to moan.

"Because itís Tajís wedding party and your welcomeÖwelcome back party, Piper."

Piper kissed her on the lips. "Iím sure that Taj wonít mind if weíre a little late."

Desiree hurried out of the bed before Piper could grab her. The strawberry-blonde stood by the bed with her hands on her hips. "Piper, we are going to get ready right now, because I do not want to be late for that party." She was wearing a look of determination, and the dark-haired woman knew she should give up.

Piper sighed. "All right." She waved towards the bathroom. "Then go on and get ready."

In all her naked glory, Desiree began her short trek to the bathroom wearing a victorious smile. She could practically feel Piperís eyes on her and could not resist shaking her hips a little, as she walked. The strawberry-blonde chuckled when she heard a faint groan come from behind her. Just before Desiree closed the door, she heard the other woman ask if she could join her in the shower in a few minutes. Now that was not such a bad idea.

"Iíll be waiting." Desiree winked and shut the door quietly.

Piper arose from the bed and gathered the dishes and glasses. She glanced at the bathroom room door longingly, as she left the bedroom. Walking into the kitchen, the dark-haired woman dumped the dishes into the sink and turned on the hot water. She was waiting for it to heat up when she heard the doorbell ring. Piper sighed, hoping that it was not Desireeís parents. The blue-eyed woman hurried to the door and opened it without asking who it was or looking through the peephole. She quickly found out that she should have done one of those or both.

On opening the door, Piper was greeted to five or six reporters with microphones, tape recorders and cameraís that they snapped in her face, causing the dark-haired woman to close her eyes briefly from the bright lights. All of the reports were attempting to speak at the same time.

"Miss Redding, how did you survive the fire?" one woman with frizzy bright red hair asked.

"What exactly is going on between you and Desiree Love?" a tall heavily bearded man asked as he thrust a mini tape recorder at Piper. She wanted to break the tape recorder as well as the hand holding it. How did they find out that she was at Desireeís house? How did they find out that she was alive? The dark-haired womanís eyes narrowed. Ice Kream. Why that big-mouthed pizza boyÖ

"What are your plans now, Miss Redding?"

"I know what my plans are," a voice yelled angrily from behind the reporters. They along with Piper turned towards the voice. Larisa Love was standing there with both a shopping bag and a white plastic bag in hand. She had her shades pushed up on top of her head with her blue-green eyes blazing with ire. "Who the hell do you think you people are? Put yourselves in her shoes," she said pointing at Piper, who was staring at her with a blank look on her face. "This woman has been through enough crap all ready, and she doesnít need you vultures bothering her. I know youíre just doing your jobs, but why donít you look up the word "decency" in the dictionary and then try to have some. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves," she paused. "Now get on the elevator and get out of here now! The show is over."

For some reason, the reporters decided to take this womanís advice. A couple of them even murmured apologies to Piper as they made their way down the hall. Larisa moved out of the way to let them pass easily. After the reporters quietly shuffled into the elevator and the doors closed, Larisa looked at Piper not having a clue what she would read if anything on the younger womanís face. The blue-eyed woman was still looking at her blankly, but her jaw was clenching and unclenching.

"For the record, I donít need you to defend me, Larisa," Piper said as she walked back into the apartment, leaving the door open. Larisa took that as a good sign. At least the woman had not closed the door on her. Larisa followed the other woman into the apartment, and closed the door, making sure to lock it behind her. She noticed that Piper was briskly walking towards the kitchen, and followed her in there. Larisa saw the younger woman making dishwater. She took a seat at the kitchen table, sitting the bags on the floor.

"I know that, Piper," the older woman stated quietly. "I was only trying to help."

"Donít need or want your help," the other woman muttered as she picked up a sponge and a bowl.

Larisa sighed. This could not go on much longer. "Tell me how long do you think you can keep your thinly veiled animosity for me from my sister? You two are building a life together I presume."

Piper scrubbed the bowl with more force than it needed. "You got a problem with that?" She kept her eyes towards the sink.

The older woman shook her head, then realized that Piper would not be able to see the action. "No," she whispered. "Itís none of my business what you and my sister do," she halted, trying to gather her words. "Iím happy for you both."

The blue-eyed woman rinsed the bowl off and put it in the strainer, before reaching for the other one. Was that pain she heard in Larisaís voice? Did she care? "Are you really?" she glanced over her shoulder at the woman.

"Yes. I really am." Knowing that she should change the subject, the blue-green eyed woman had to inquire one more thing. She could not help herself. "Do you love her?" she asked so low, that Piper could barely make out the words.

In silence, the younger woman quickly finished up the dishes before turning around, leaning against the sink as she regarded Larisa with another blank look. "Whatís it to you?"

Larisa nodded. That answered her question. "Just curious is all. I hope you treat her right. She deserves to be happy. My sister has been through more than you probably know."

Piper replied, "Iíve come to the conclusion that we both do." More than I know? "Is there something I should know about?" she asked, her voice laced with concern.

"That is wholly up to Desiree to decide."

The younger woman glared at her. "Then why did you bring it up in the first place, dammit?"

Larisa sighed. Piperís temper strikes again. "Would you try to lower your voice and maintain a semblance of control, Piper?" she asked calmly. "I just thought that you should know that you arenít the only person that has had problems."

The blue-eyed woman crossed her arms over her chest. "Are you saying that Iím self-absorbed? I know Iím not the only one who has problems. Iím aware of that fact thank you very much." Piper leaned over to pick up Tobiasí empty goblet and tossed it in the still hot dishwater, before picking up the sponge to wash it.

Larisa bounded out of the chair and came over to stand next to Piper. The other woman refused to make eye contact with her and when Larisa put a hand on her arm, Piper shrugged it off. The blue-green eyed woman sighed to herself. If this kind of behavior kept up, it would not be too long before Desiree found out.

"Piper, we have to talk. We need to talk." Larisa glanced towards the entrance to the kitchen to make sure that her sister was not coming. The coast was clear.

The taller woman glanced at her. "I donít have anything more to say to you." She tried to get passed Larisa, but the woman stopped her by putting her hands flat on Piperís stomach. She felt the muscles contract under her touch. "Get your hands off of me," the younger woman demanded in a dangerously low voice. Larisa hurriedly did what she was told.

"You act like I have cooties or something, Piper."

"I just donít want you touching me," the other woman retorted. "Never put your hands on me again."

Larisa shook her head. This was not going well at all. "Okay. Iíll keep them to myself, but will you please try to talk to me? Please."

Piper let out a slow breath and nodded her head mutely as she leaned a hip against the sink, crossing her arms over her chest again.

"My main concern at this point is my sister," Larisa started. "Do you want her to find out?"

The younger woman shook her head. What would be the point? Nothing beneficial could come out of it.

"Well we agree, because neither do I. So this is what youíre going to have to do."

Piper narrowed her eyes at the shorter woman. "What do I have to do?"

Larisa moistened her upper lip with the tip of her tongue. "Forgive me," she whispered.

The younger woman regarded her with an unbelieving look. "I canít comprehend why you would ask me such a thing," she paused momentarily. "Thatís not an option."

Larisa ran a hand through her hair. She could feel her heart breaking all over again. "Well can you at least pretend like you donít hate me?"

Piper looked as if she was considering this. "Not sure if I can pull that off to tell you the truth."

Feeling her temper starting to rise, Larisa was silent for a minute. She was even angrier to discover that her vision was growing bleary. Donít cry you big baby. Donít allow her the satisfaction of seeing you cry. Larisa bit her lower lip. "Well can you try? Just try for her sake?" The woman wiped at her eyes, noticing that Piperís expression had not changed from one of boredom. "Letís get something straight. Desiree is my sister and I plan on coming around quite often. I will not allow you to keep me away from her, so youíll just have to learn to get along with me somehow, Piper."

"I would never attempt to keep Desiree away from her family."

Larisa nodded. "Well I refuse to stop calling and coming to visit just because of you."

Piper stopped leaning against the sink and stood to her full height in front of the other woman. She looked Larisa in her eyes, her blue ones cool. "I already told you that I will not try to keep you away. You can come around whenever you like," she paused. "I get the feeling that youíll be coming around a lot more often now."

The shorter woman stared at her. "What is that supposed to me?"

Piper shrugged. "Just an observation of mine."

Larisa chuckled humorlessly. "Well someone is full of themselves. Piper, I will be coming here because of my sister. It has nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing to do with you, you presumptuous bitch."

Piper raised an eyebrow. "My, my. Such language, Risa. Now, shouldnít I be calling you that? No." She scratched her chin thoughtfully. "I suppose we can leave the presumptuous part off."

Larisa came as close to Piper as she could before they would be touching. "Believe or not, I have an excuse. Youíre just too stubborn to hear me out."

The taller woman bent her head down. "There is no excuse for what you did to me."

"Get over it, Piper. Go on with your life." Their faces were so close now, that they could feel each otherís breaths.

"I have gone on with my life. I just donít particularly like that you are in it."

"Well get used to it if you plan on being with my sister," Larisa replied, staring into the other womanís hypnotizing blue eyes.

"Oh, I plan on it all right." Piper wanted to take a step back, but it was as if she was frozen to that spot.

"Go on and kiss already."

Both women quickly turned their attention to the entrance of the kitchen. Desiree was standing there in a blue robe and a towel wrapped around her head. She was wearing a playful smirk as she came towards the startled pair.

"You gals look like you just got caught with your hands in the cookie jar." Desiree studied the two women. "Okay. Whatís going on here?" She put her hands in the large pockets of the robe.

"Nothing," Larisa replied.

Her sister gave her an incredulous look, before the young woman looked at Piper. "So this is why you didnít make it for our shower date," she said, lowering her voice to a near whisper.

The dark-haired woman graced her with a lopsided grin. "Sorry Ďbout that." She glanced at Larisa, who stood there awkwardly. "Would have much rather been with you." Piper then put her hands on Desireeís waist and drew the younger woman towards her. She kissed her full on the lips as Larisa looked on. The kiss finally ended, with Desiree being a tad weak in the knees.

"Thatís not gonna make me forget my question," the strawberry-blonde uttered. "Whatís going on here?"

"I answered your question, Desi," Larisa stated. "Nothing is going on."

"Looked like something was going on to me. You were up in each otherís faces. Now what is it? I noticed something in the trailer between you two. There is some tension." Desiree carefully looked at each of them. "What I want to know is why? What were you talking about just before I came in?"

"Nothing, Desi," Larisa repeated. "Just silly stuff."

"Like what?"

Her sister sighed. Desiree could be persistent when she wanted to be. "Politics."

The strawberry-blonde raised an eyebrow. "Politics?" She turned her attention to Piper. "So youíre into politics?"

Her lover merely smiled at her. Desiree did not know what to make of that. She looked back to her sister. "I think youíre in lying to me. Now Iím starting to get anxious. Please tell me what this is about. I have a right to know." It was true. Her heart was beginning to beat faster. What in the world was going on?

Larisa looked over to Piper. The woman did not seem as if she would offer any sort of help. Fine. If Desiree wanted an answer, then she would give her one. "All right, Desi," Larisa started. "Iíll tell you the truth." Out of the corner of her eye, Larisa could see one of Piperís eyebrows going up, yet she continued to keep her mouth shut.

"What is it?" Desiree asked in a hushed tone.

"Piper used to be a stripper before her last bout with the law."

"She used to WHAT???" Desiree all but shouted. The strawberry-blonde glanced at her companion. Piperís mouth was slightly open now, but she was still silent.

Larisa nodded solemnly. "Itís true. We didnít think that you would ever have to know, but since youíre unrelenting there it is out on the table."

For a moment, Desiree had a difficult time finding her voice. "What was does that have to do with the tension between you?" she asked of her sister.

"Easy. I went to San Francisco a few months back and my car stopped. Found out that the battery was dead later. Anyway, I noticed that I had stopped next to this gay strip joint. So-

"Wait a minute." Desiree put her hand up momentarily. "A gay strip joint? Thereís a such thing?"

Larisa rolled her eyes. "Well of course, Desi. Where have you been? Anyway, so since I didnít have my phone with me, I decided to go in and use the phone so that I could call AAA. So when I went in, I asked to use the phone and they let me. Were very nice people. So I made the call and while I was waiting for someone to pick up, I saw someone out of the corner of my eye. I turned slightly and saw Piper walking out to the stage," she paused. "Piper, care to take it from here?"

The other woman shook her head. "You seem to be doing just fine on your own."

Larisa gave her a sweet smile. "Okay then. Anyway, her stage name was Leggy Lola and she dressed in a candy striperís uniform. You know, the ones at hospitals?"

Desiree nodded hurriedly, wanting her to continue.

"Yes, well thatís what she had on that night at least. So the phone was finally picked up and I talked to a guy for a few minutes. They would be there soon I was told. I hung up the phone and went to take a seat since I had a little time on my hands. Now donít get me wrong, sis. Thatís not my type of place. Especially a gay strip joint."

"Well youíre not gay. That would make perfect sense," her sister stated.

Larisa nodded. "Right. But since it was so cold outside, I decided to have a seat. So I sat down and my eyes became riveted on Leggy Lola. I wasnít attracted to her at all," Piper glared briefly at this point, causing Larisa to almost burst out laughing, "but she had the most gorgeous eyes." The woman shook her head. "They draw you in, you know?"

Desiree nodded, smiling slightly. "Yes, they do." She glanced at Piper, who to her surprise blushed. "So then what happened?"

"Well thatís about it. She danced and then left. Someone else came on and then I was not interested anymore. I spent the rest of the time doodling on a cocktail napkin until the AAA service came."

"Thatís it?" Larisa nodded. The strawberry-blonde frowned slightly. "So why the tension?"

Larisa shrugged. "Piper was just worried that I would use the information of her being a stripper against her. She didnít want you to find out about what she used to do. What Piper didnít realize was that I would never try to bribe or threaten her," she explained.

Desiree was silent for a few seconds as her gaze moved from her sister to her lover. "So thatís why you havenít been getting along? Larisa is right, Piper. She would never do such a thing." The dark-haired woman offered her a tight smile. "So now you donít have anything to worry about. I know what you did and Iím not upset. Sure I was shocked at first, but sometimes we have to do things that we would rather not do. It saddens me, but I understand, Piper. Itís okay." The woman then gave her a genuine smile and an arm squeeze. "So, everything is okay now, right?"

Larisa nodded and started to move towards her bags when Piper told her to wait. The older woman looked at her expectantly. "Yes, Piper?"

"You told some of the story, but you conveniently "forgot" to mention the rest," Piper replied coolly.

"I donít know what youíre talking about," Larisa stated slowly.

The blue-eyed woman smiled coldly at her. "You didnít mention the part where you called me a tramp. Sure I left the stage, but you know that I came back out. It was then that you called me that. I heard you loud and clear."

Larisa stared at her silently before shaking her head. "I didnít call you that."

"Sure you did. I know what I heard, Larisa."

"I did not call you a tramp," the older woman enunciated each word. "I called you a self-depreciating low-down dirty tramp."

Piper seemed to be taken aback for a moment. Desireeís blue-green eyes were wide with shock as she stared at her sister. The strawberry-blonde asked Larisa how she could say that about someone she did not even know.

"She was all over this customer," Larisa went on. "Dancing and shaking her half naked body on this chickís lap."

"It was a lap dance," Piper argued, glancing at Desiree, who appeared to be slightly peeved by hearing the information. Oh, thatís just great. "I was only doing my job."

"You had your breasts so far in her face that Iím surprised the woman didnít suffocate!"

Piper angrily replied, "I was only trying to giver her, her moneyís worth."

The older woman shook her head. "What did you do that for, Piper? A few measly dollars?"

The blue-eyed woman balled her hands into fists at her sides, trying to control her temper. It would not look good for her to deck Desireeís sister right here in the kitchen. Would not look good at all. "She paid me fifty dollars for that."

Larisa gave a short chuckle. "Oh, wow! Thatís a lot," she said sarcastically.

"To me it was. It meant food in my stomach and a roof over my head. It isnít like I was sleeping with the woman. I only gave her a harmless dance. Not everyone can be a successful caterer, Larisa."

"Okay, gals," Desiree interjected. Enough was enough. "Why donít we just forget whatever happened in the past, huh? Look to the future, because that is what matters." She looked at Piper. "Piper, Larisa is very sorry for what she called you." Her gaze traveled to her sister. "Arenít you, Larisa?" She gave Larisa a warning look.

The woman nodded. "Of course I am." She looked at Piper. "You have got to believe me, Piper. I really am sorry for what happened between us in the past. I never meant to hurt you," she finished quietly.

Piper studied her bare feet as if she suddenly found something very interesting about them. When she felt a nudge in her side given by Desiree, she glanced over at Larisa and shrugged.

"Does that mean that you forgive me?" Larisa asked hopefully. Her heartbeat started to increase.

The taller woman pursed her lips and was silent for a few moments before replying, "I suppose I do." She received another nudge from her companion. "I mean I do," she paused. "I forgive you, Larisa."

Tears welled up in Larisaís eyes as she put a hand to her mouth. The woman smiled at Piper as she resisted the urge to embrace her. The blue-eyed woman most likely would not appreciate that. As tears rolled down Larisaís cheeks, her sister studied her curiously. For her part, Piper kept glancing at the entrance to the kitchen, as if she wanted to escape.

Desiree reached out to put a hand on her sisterís shoulder and squeezed. "Hey, itís okay," the strawberry blonde said softly. "This really had you upset, didnít it?" The young could not for the life of her figure out why her sister would be so disturbed by a few undesirable words.

Larisa nodded as she retrieved a paper towel from the kitchen cabinet. She blew her nose before replying, "You have no idea."

Noticing that Piper appeared to be extremely uncomfortable, Larisa turned around and went to get the bags that she had brought with her. She picked up the bags and brought them to Piper. The blue-eyed woman took them, asking what they were. When Larisa told her that she had bought some clothes for her Piper tried to give them back, but the other woman put her hands in her pockets.

"I donít want them, Larisa." It was difficult to say the next part, however she did it anyway, so as not to make Desiree anymore suspicious then she probably already was. "Thank you, but I canít accept these. Desiree and I were going shopping before we went to Tajís party."

"Well now you donít have to. Please take them." Larisa gave Piper a pleading look. "In the white bag youíll find a toothbrush, comb, hairbrush and a razor."

"Thatís so sweet of you, Larisa," Desiree said, as she excitedly grabbed the Robinsonís May bag from her lover. Looking inside of the bag, she smiled in delight.

Piper inwardly sighed. She did not want anything from this woman. She looked over to Desiree, who had on a smile that would put a hundred-watt bulb to shame. Dang! "Thank you, Larisa. I appreciate it, and as soon as I get a job and make my first paycheck, Iíll pay you back."

The older woman waved a hand in the air. "Not necessary. I owe you."

Piper had to bite her lower lip to keep from saying anything snippy. Well it was time to get out of here. "Iím gonna go take a shower," Piper stated as she took her bag back from Desiree and kissed her on the cheek. "Why donít you and your sister talk?" She smiled tightly at Larisa as she walked out of the kitchen. She could feel both identical pair of eyes on her. Just as Piper reached the bedroom, she murmured to herself, "Man, Iím a good liar." Then again, so is she.
 
 


*****


 






"Come on, Piper. Open up for me, sweetheart."

"No way," came the stubborn reply.

"Yes way. Iím sure itíll look good. I bet youíll look sexy."

She heard the woman give a brief snort. "I highly doubt that. I cannot believe I let you talk me into this."

"Piper, open up right now!" Desiree pounded on the door.

"No, I canít do that," there was a slight pause. "Iím changing. She has some pants in here." The voice began to drift away from the door.

"No! Please, Piper. For me? There was only silence from the other side. "Just one day. If you donít like it, then you will never have to dress like that again."

"You promise?" Piper asked, sounding much like a ten-year-old.

"Now would I lie to you?"

The dark-haired woman winced at the mention of the "L" word. She tried to block it out. She had her reasons for being dishonest. Piper opened the bedroom door slowly to see Desiree standing on the other side of fully dressed and ready to go in a pair of blue jean overall long pants and a green T-shirt that was a close match to her eyes. The strawberry-blonde had her hair done in a french braid and looked quite adorable.

"I donít understand why you get to dress similar to a farmer and I have to wear a skirt," the dark-haired woman managed to state in a serious voice. She was rewarded with a slap on her arm as Desiree gave her a mock glare.

"Very funny, Piper."

The taller woman chuckled. "Iím only kidding. You look precious." Precious? Never in her life had Piper told anyone that they looked precious. The woman shook her head. Desiree was having quite an affect on her.

Desiree blushed. "Thank you. You look absolutely gorgeous."

Piper was wearing a sky blue skirt that went about mid-calf. It had medium-sized white flowers printed on it. She also had on a short-sleeved sky blue blouse. Her hair was held back with a white headband. On her feet wereÖ

"Sneakers?! Piper, Larisa also had a pair of dress shoes in that bag. I saw them."

"I donít like wearing dress shoes." The blue-eyed woman had on some white Nikes with socks.

"But they are flats," Desiree argued.

"Itís not the hills. I just donít like dress shoes. Sandals and sneakers are all I like. Now Iím wearing the skirt so try to meet me halfway, Desi."

Both women stared at each other, neither wanting to give in. The strawberry-blonde then came up with something and had to fight to keep the smile off of her face. She informed Piper that she would be wearing the dress shoes whether she liked it or not. The dark-haired looked at Desiree as if she had lost her mind. The woman leaned against the doorjamb.

"What do you mean Iím going to wear them?" Piper asked.

Smirking, Desiree leaned forward and whispered in the taller womanís ear. "I own you."

The blue-eyed woman raised both eyebrows at her, even as shudders of desire swept through her due to the young womanís breath on her ear and Piper had to admit that the words spoken stirred her arousal as well. She inwardly kind of liked the idea of this woman saying that she owned her. "And what makes you think something ridiculous as that?"

Desiree rocked on her heels. "Youíre my do-whatever."

The other woman stared at her blankly for a long moment before Piper realized what she was referring to. She thought back to that day at the cabin when she had made the deal while they were fishing.

Piper sighed. "Letís not get into that just yet. How about this? Weíll be in this as equals. You stay here with me a few more days, until I get this mess all straightened out. Just think of it as a little vacation. If everything works out according to plan then Iíll be your do-whatever for six months."

Piper sighed to herself. Me and my big mouth. Maybe there was a way that she could get out of it. "That didnít happen."

Desiree frowned slightly. "What didnít happen?"

"I said I would be your do-whatever if everything worked out according to plan," she paused for effect. "It didnít. Everything went haywire."

The strawberry-blonde put her hands on her hips. There was no way that she was going to let this go. It was too perfect a deal. "Now, Piper thatís not fair. My life was still in danger. Whatever happened doesnít change the fact that I was your hostage and I feel that you should go through with it. Itís not right that youíre trying to renege now."

The dark-haired woman sighed louder. "Okay. Iíll be your do-whatever," she mumbled. "But I donít want to wear the shoes. Please donít make me do that."

"That means your butt belongs to me for the next six months. Until October 19th," Desiree stated happily. This was going to be fun. "And youíre wearing the shoes, Piper. So, go change. Larisa and I are waiting."

Without another comment, Piper turned around to go change her shoes. October 19th. It seemed so long away. For the next six months, Desiree could tell her to do anything. What if she wanted to go shopping a lot? Oh no. Unlacing her shoes, Piper shook her head. Me and my big mouth.

Minutes later the three women were getting ready to go out the door when the phone rang. Piper advised Desiree to let the answering machine get it since it might be reporters. While Piper had been taking her shower, Larisa had filled her sister in on what had happened when she came over earlier. Desiree had found out about the reporters in front of her door.

The young woman had taken the news well, knowing that that was bound to happen at some point, when people found out that Piper was still alive. The only part that she was worried about was if the media discovered that she and Piper were lovers. If they knew then it would not be long before her parents found out and then all hell would break lose.

The phone rang four times before Desireeís cheery voice on the answering machine began. "Hello. I canít come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name, a short message and the time you called after the beep, I will be sure to get right back to you as soon as possible. Have a wonderful day!" Beep!

"Hello Desi, this is Alec. Itís a little passed twelve." The manís voice sounded tired. "Not that you care, but Iím home now. I just got here not too long ago and thought Iíd let you know. I had to hitchhike. If you want me to leave you alone then I will. If you rather be with someone with the wrong equipment then thatís your problem. Just donít come crying to me when you realize that this woman liking business of yours is just a phase," he paused, dramatically sighing. "Who am I kidding? I still love you and I want you back. You have my cell phone number if you ever need me. Bye." That was the end of the message.

All three women had different reactions to the message. Larisa, as she opened the front door rolled her eyes, wearing an expression of disgust. Desiree felt guilt that her ex-boyfriend had to hitchhike after he was pushed out of the RV. He might have been a jerk but that was taking it too far. Plus, he ended the message sweetly, which only added to her guilt. Piper had to bite her lip to keep from chuckling that the preppy boy had to hitchhike. Served him right for the way he had treated Desiree.

"Should we go, ladies?" Larisa asked as she walked into the hall.

"Letís," Desiree said as she followed her sister out with Piper right behind her. The three women walked towards the elevators with Desiree in the middle. She could still feel the tension between the other two and wondered if there was more to the story then what they had told her.

Larisa pushed the down button and the waited for the elevator to arrive. Piper put an arm around Desireeís shoulders and pulled the young woman closer to her.

"There is something wrong with your message," Piper stated in the quiet hallway.

The strawberry-blonde glanced up at her. "There is?"

The dark-haired woman nodded. "Yep. You told the caller to have a wonderful day."

Desireeís brow furrowed. "Is there something wrong with that? I want my callers to have a nice day."

Piper smiled down at her as the elevator doors opened and the three women walked in. "The point I was trying to make was what if someone calls you at night? You just told them to have a wonderful day."

Desiree put an arm around Piperís waist. "So what should I say? Have a wonderful day or night?"

"No." The blue-eyed woman thought about it. "Instead of saying have a wonderful day, say Piper is a wonderful lay." She chuckled as Desiree took her arm from around her waist and gave the woman a little push.

Desiree grinned despite her best efforts not to. "Youíre truly perverted, you know that?"

The dark-haired woman gave her a crooked grin. "Yeah, I know. You like me anyway though."

The strawberry-blonde stood in front of her, putting her arms around Piperís neck. "You know it." She then leaned up on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on her loverís lips as Larisa averted her eyes from them, trying to hold her tears in check.
 
 


*****


 






"I remember the last time I was in this car with you," Piper said as she stretched her legs out as much as she could in the small Honda.

"So do I. You scared the crap out of me," Desiree replied as she made a right turn with Larisa following behind in her own car.

Piper chuckled earning a glare from the other woman. "You knew I wasnít going to shoot you." She sobered up. "But Iím still sorry, baby." She took a hold of the hand that Desiree had resting on the brake and brought it up to her lips to kiss the back. "Iím sorry that I put you through all of that."

The strawberry-blonde brushed her hand lightly against Piperís cheek before she placed it back on the wheel. "Forget about all of that, Piper." She glanced over at the woman who was looking intently at her. "Iím glad you did that. Otherwise, we probably wouldnít be together. That only proves that good things can be born from bad ones." She gave the dark-haired woman a smile and Piper smiled back as she turned to look out of the window.

"Thank you," Piper whispered still looking out the window a few minutes later.

Desiree turned her head towards the woman thinking that she had imagined that. "Did you say something?" she asked.

The other woman glanced her way. "I said thank you."

The strawberry-blonde came to a stop in front of a red light. "For what?"

"For being here. For caring even though I act like a jerk at times. And Iíll confess that Iíll probably act like a jerk in the future." She shrugged. "But Iím working on changing. I want to make you proud of me. I achieve that and I know Iíve done something worthwhile in my life."

Desiree leaned over and kissed her lover softly on the lips. "Youíve already made me proud."

"Now how did I do that?"

"Youíve been through so much and yet look at you. You still have your sense of humor and you have kindness and warmth. Most people would be cold and standoffish. But thatís not you." She continued on the street after the light changed.

Piper raised an eyebrow. "You must be thinking of someone else. Kindness and warmth? I think the only people on this earth that I really like and care for are you and Taj." She was silent for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "I cared for, loved my mother but she left me. She left me of her own accord." Her voice caught as tears came to her eyes. Piper turned back towards the window.

Desireeís knuckles turned white as she gripped the steering wheel tightly. No, Piper. Your mother didnít kill herself. I just havenít gathered up the nerve to tell you yet.

"It was said that she committed suicide by hanging herself, but thatís not true." He faced the young woman. "Guess who did it?"

"Oh, God," Desiree groaned.

Victor laughed. "No, not Him. Yes, as you probably already know I did it. I made her write the suicide note and then I made her hang herself. I told her that I would sneak into the prison and kill her daughter if she didnít do it, so she did."

Desiree could feel the anger seeping into her as she thought back to how cruel and nonchalant Victor had been about killing Marie. She shook her head in an attempt to get the unwanted thoughts out of her head. She glanced over to Piper, who was wiping a tear away, that fell down her cheek and Desireeís heart went out to the woman. She had been through so much. Convicted of a crime that in Desireeís opinion she should not have been. And then sent to prison for eight years because the judge was paid off. Her own father had put the woman she loved with all her heart behind bars for Victorís dirty money. Piper did not even know that. I donít know if I can ever tell her how my father was involved.

Trying to lighten the mood, Desiree said, "I left something out that Iím also proud of you about."

Without turning her way, Piper asked, "And whatís that?"

"You have some guts lady! Iím proud of you for taking me on." The dark-haired woman looked at her. "That takes a lot of courage."

Piper raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really now? Seems safe enough to me."

Desiree gave a mysterious grin. "Well all Iíll say is youíve gotten in the car, now buckle up for the ride."

Piper stretched out an arm to turn on the radio. "Iím sure itíll be a fun one."
 
 


*****


 






Desiree parked her Honda in front of Tajís house and shut off the ignition. She was about to get out when she noticed that Piper was not moving. The strawberry-blonde glanced over to her, wondering what the problem was. She asked Piper if she was feeling all right. The dark-haired woman gave her a reassuring smile and unbuckled her seat belt before opening the door.

"Yes, Iím fine, baby. Iím just nervous about this."

"Because of my parents being here?" The young glanced around. So far, it did not look as if her parents had arrived yet. She hoped that they never would in order to avoid conflict. Desiree also saw Larisa park her car and get out, heading for the house. Her sister glanced at the Honda but did not make any move to come near it.

Piper nodded. "Yeah, that and Iím embarrassed. Thatís the main reason."

"What reason do you have to be embarrassed?" Desiree inquired.

"Because a week ago people thought I was a cold-blooded murderer. Now a party is being held because they found out that I was innocent." She peered at the younger woman. "Iím an ex-con. I remember that when I was younger, I used to go over Tajís house for dinner. His house was more of a home to me than my own and I loved going over there. I feel embarrassed because his parents are in there and before yesterday they had not laid eyes on me since I was a teen," she paused thoughtfully. "I havenít done anything with my life. I just got out of prison a few months ago because I killed my father. Thatís the biggest thing Iíve ever done and they know that. Vivian and Nathaniel were like my surrogate parents. There were times when I would lay awake at night, hearing my parents fighting and I would pray that I could be Tajís parents daughter." She bowed her head looking at her lap as a tear fell onto her thigh. Desiree put an arm around Piperís shoulders. Both were quiet for long moments.

"First, this party isnít being held because you are innocent. Itís because youíre alive. Thank God for that." She kissed Piper on her right temple. "Second, I donít know them, but I doubt Vivian and Nathaniel will be disappointed of you if thatís what youíre thinking. If anything, they should be proud. Proud that you were able to overcome all of that and keep living. You are beautiful, Piper. Inside and out. You have nothing, absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about."

The dark-haired woman stared at her for a silent moment. "I donít deserve you," she said in a near whisper.

"Kiss me."

Piper glanced out the window before capturing the other womanís lips with her own. Desiree wrapped her arms around her loverís neck as she increased the pressure of her lips. A moment later she stuck out the tip of her tongue and ran it lightly across Piperís lips. The older woman opened her mouth and Desiree entered as both women let out a small moan. Piper wrapped her arms around the smaller womanís waist and lifted her until Desiree was straddling the womanís lap. The strawberry-blonde kissed Piper passionately as her small warm hands began to massage the womanís neck. Finally, Desiree ended the kiss. Both womenís breaths were labored.

"EverÖever say that again," the blue-green eyed woman started, "and youíll be missing those kisses because Iíll refuse to give them to you. Got it?"

"Youíll never hear the words I donít deserve you come from these lips again." Piper leaned forward to kiss her again, but Desiree took that moment to quickly exit the car on the dark-haired womanís side. Piper growled in frustration as her companion looked at her from the sidewalk.

"What? Did you honestly think I was about to make out with you in broad daylight when my parents or anyone else could pop up at any second?"

"Desi, you canít give me that kind of a kiss and then jump out of the car. Itís cruel."

The strawberry-blonde chuckled. "Are you gonna stay in that car all day?"

"Iím seriously considering it." Piper crossed her arms deciding to pout.

"I donít think so."

The blue-eyed woman glanced up at her. "Huh?"

"I said I donít think so. Youíre not staying in that car all day. Now youíre going to get out and put on a happy face." Desiree grinned. "Now do as I say, Piper. You donít have a choice in the matter."

Piper muttered something as she reluctantly exited the vehicle and closed the door with more force then she needed to.

"And donít try to break my car door just because youíre ticked." Desiree smirked even as the other woman glared at her. "My Honda didnít make you mad. I did."

Piper wagged a finger at her. "You know what? I think youíre taking this do-whatever business a little far. In fact I think youíre power hungry."

"Power hungry? Iíve told you to change your shoes and get out of my car. And now youíre labeling me as power hungry?"

The dark-haired woman nodded. "If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck then it must be a duck."

Desiree narrowed her eyes. "You know what I feel like doing?"

Piper grinned lecherously at her. "I know what I feel like doing," she said in a lowered voice as she took a couple of steps towards the smaller woman.

The strawberry-blonde shook her head, chuckling. "Is that all you ever think about?"

The dark-haired woman put her arms around her companion. "That and you. That with you." She grinned as she nuzzled Desiree on the neck.

The smaller woman had to admit that she liked what her lover was doing, but this was neither the time nor place for it. She felt like getting in the car and going home to finish this now, but that would not be right. Plus she had been looking forward to this. Seeing Andrea again and meeting Piperís nieces. She also wanted to talk with Leroy about his doing some research for her. She felt as if they could make a good team.

Desiree hesitantly pulled away from the delightful contact and informed Piper that they should be going in. Piper reluctantly agreed and they began the walk up to Tajís front door. Desiree rang the doorbell, already hearing the music from inside. The door was opened a moment later by Dion. He smiled at them warmly and ushered the pair inside.

On entering, both Desiree and Piper spied the large "Welcome Back Piper" banner extending from one wall to another. Everyone was in the backyard except for a small child that was sleeping on her stomach peacefully on the couch. Dion gestured for Piper and Desiree to follow him to the couch. He caressed the babyís small chubby cheek with the back of his hand as he smiled adoringly down at her.

"This is my littlest one, Nina," Dion supplied proudly in his thick Jamaican accent.

Desiree knelt on the floor next to the couch. "Sheís so precious. How old is she?" The strawberry-blonde caressed the babyís smooth coffee-colored arm. Desiree had always been fond of children and she just wanted to wrap this tiny bundle of joy up in her arms.

"Thirteen months," Dion replied.

Piper patted him on the back. "Congratulations," she said. "No one could ever tell me that you would be married with children, playboy that you were." She grinned at him and he grinned back.

"What can I say? I saw her and I was hooked. I even burned my little black book."

The dark-haired woman winced. "Was that difficult?"

"Honestly? Yes." Dion laughed merrily. "I had collected a lot of numbers." He hugged Piper to him, suddenly serious. "Iím so happy that youíre all right and that this mess has been resolved."

Piper hugged him back. "Me too." She stepped back and smiled up at him. "Now that Iíve arrived, letís get this party started!"

Dion, Piper and Desiree ventured to the backyard to see Larisa sitting in a lawn chair talking with Dionís wife who was sitting in an identical chair next to hers. Both were sipping tall glasses of lemonade. Vivian and Nathaniel were sitting on a blanket in the grass playing a board game with a little girl. Over by a grill, Taj was demonstrating to Leroy, who still had his short braids, how to form a hamburger patty. The younger man made one and then put it on the grill. Taj happened to glance up and saw the trio standing by the sliding glass door. He grinned as he all but ran towards them.

"Pippy!" he exclaimed, lifting the woman up off of her feet and twirling her around. Piper chuckled as he put her down. The Jamaican man studied her. "Youíre wearing a skirt. Never thought Iíd ever see you in a skirt, Pippy. You look very pretty."

"Thank you, Taj," she replied.

Taj turned his attention to Desiree and gave her a charming smile. "Hello there, little one." He put his hands on either side of her face and kissed the young woman on the forehead. "How are you doing?"

The strawberry-blonde glanced at Piper. "Very well, Taj. And you? Did you and Valerie set a date yet?"

The Jamaican man barely kept himself from sighing as his long-time friend gave him a knowing look. "Iím fine, little one. And no, Val and I have yet to set a date." Taj then asked the two women if they would care for something to drink. Piper declined going over to help Leroy with the hamburgers. She claimed that she had a special recipe that would make them out of this world. Taj informed her that the grill was hers. When Desiree asked the Jamaican man if he had any beer, he hid his look of concern, remembering when she had drank so much that day at the beach. Instead the man ventured over to a cooler, took out a slim ice-cold bottle, and handed it to a grateful Desiree.

The young woman twisted off the cap and took a long swig before she walked over to where her sister and Dionís wife, Rochelle were sitting. The big man escorted her over. The other two smiled as they came near and made room for Dion and Desiree to sit on the long chairs. Dion did the introductions for his wife and the strawberry-blonde. The two women shook hands and exchanged smiles.

"You have a beautiful children," Desiree exclaimed as she glanced over to who she presumed to be their other child playing on the blanket with Nathaniel and Vivian.

"Thank you," Rochelle stated, lightly nudging her husband. "Iím trying to get him to work on number three. I would love to have a son."

Desiree smiled warmly as Dion interjected, "And what if we get another girl?"

"Then weíll keep trying," Rochelle replied happily patting her husband on the thigh as he grumbled. The other two women laughed.
 
 


*****


 






By half an hour later, everyone who was invited to the party had arrived. Richard and Sandra had been the last to arrive with their son. They out right ignored Piper, but both gave Desiree hugs and asked her how she was doing. The dark-haired woman did not let it get to her as she continued cooking with Leroyís help. Ten minutes into cooking with him, she had decided that the youngest Potter child did not have the Ďgiftí of knowing how to prepare food.

Grabbing a second beer from the cooler, Desiree went over to Taj who was putting paper plates and cups on a picnic table. The man smiled as he saw her. She asked if there was anything she could do to help, but he declined the offer.

"Taj?" Desiree started.

The Jamaican man looked at her as he straddled the bench. The strawberry-blonde did the same, sitting her bottle in front of her. "Can I ask you a personal question?"

"Sure. Go ahead."

"What do you do for a living? I notice that you have a nice car and a nice house." She shrugged. "Just curious and maybe wondering if you get me a job where you work." Desiree laughed good-naturedly.

Taj scratched his neck. "Iím a problem solver," he replied.

The woman waited for him to say more. When he did not offer anything, she asked him to elaborate. However, the man would not give anymore information.

"Oh, come on, Taj." Desiree was near begging. He was going to make his choice of employment a mystery? It would be nag at her to no end if she did not found out. "I wonít tell anyone. Girl Scouts Honor."

"You were a Girl Scout?"

"Well no," Desiree offered begrudgingly. "But Larisa was and Iíve learned a lot from her."

Taj raised an eyebrow. "Your sister was a Girl Scout?"

The strawberry-blonde nodded. "I think it was a phase. Please donít tell her I told you."

The Jamaican man shrugged. "Your secret is safe with me, little one."

"Great. "Yours can be safe with me too, you know?"

Taj chuckled as he arose from the bench. "Nice try." He squeezed her shoulder as he walked away, leaving the young woman wondering.

Whistling, Piper flipped a patty as Taj walked over to her. She offered him a smile after asking Leroy to get the cheese slices from the kitchen. Piper shook her head, chuckling as she once again looked at Taj.

"So, Taj, getting married, eh?"

The man nodded.

The dark-haired woman lowered her voice. "You werenít really gonna propose yesterday, were you?"

Taj shook his head. "Having a party for you was supposed to be the only announcement. But then I saw Valís face and I couldnít correct her."

Piper nodded. "But you do love her, right? Donít do this if you donít want to get married. Just tell Valerie the truth."

The Jamaican man was silent for a few moments. In that time, Leroy came back with the package of sliced cheese and put it on a small table for Piper to use. She thanked him, saying that he was free to go. Leroy was more than happy to let her finish the cooking as he left.

"I do love her, Pippy. And after careful consideration, after thinking it over last night, I want to marry her. Iím nervous about it, but I do."

The blue-eyed woman smiled at him and put her spatula down momentarily to give him a hug. "Well congratulations then. I wish you both much happiness."

It was time to eat about ten minutes later. They were having hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, chips, a different assortment of cookies and fruit salad. Everything was delicious, and Piper received much praise for her cooking abilities. That is from everyone except Richard. His wife however, managed to be coldly polite.

Afterwards, everyone separated and talked with others. Seeing some of the fruit salad left, Piper popped a watermelon ball into her mouth as she scanned the yard, studying everyone. Her inquisitive eyes came to rest on her oldest niece, Stacey. The little girl was sitting in the grass, plucking rich green blades up from the ground. The dark-haired woman made her way over to the nine-year-old and asked if she could take a seat next to her. Stacey looked up at her and nodded mutely.

Sitting down in the grass with her legs stretched out in front of her, Piper looked at the young girl. Stacey did remind of her of herself when she was a child. The same blue eyes and dark hair. They were both quiet too. Piper had earlier observed that Samantha was definitely the more outgoing of the two, and was now sitting at a small table playing a game with Alexis. The two seemed to hit it off perfectly only being a year apart in age.

Having woke up now, Nina was pestering her older sister and Alexisí new friend by trying to steal the pieces they were using for the game. After a few more useless tries, the baby gave up and toddled away to get into other mischief. She went towards him as fast her little plump legs would carry her, when Nina noticed her Uncle Leroy holding out a chocolate chip cookie to her. Reaching him, the baby put one small hand on his knee as she took the cookie with the other.

Both Leroy and Desiree, who was sitting conversing with the man watched as Nina munched contentedly on the cookie. The strawberry-blonde stretched out her arms and the baby threw up her own arms as she walked to her on the other side of the table. Smiling, Desiree picked up the small child and put her in her lap. Double happy now with the attention and the cookie, Nina felt generous enough to offer her human seat some of the now soggy treat. Chuckling now, Desiree shook her head and said something to her that Piper could not make out from the distance. Whatever it was, caused the baby to laugh.

With her own smile, the dark-haired woman reflected on how good a mother Desiree could be. She herself had never really given much thought to having a family of her own. Turning her attention back to Stacey, Piper instinctively knew that something was bothering her. She asked her niece if she was okay. The nine-year-old nodded her head unconvincingly.

"Hey you," Piper called softly. After a moment, Stacey looked up at her, meeting her eyes. "I know something is wrong. What is it? You can talk to me." Having virtually no experience whatsoever with children, the dark-haired woman vied to do her best to help her niece.

Stacey plucked another blade of grass from the lawn and studied it in rapt interest. When Piper began to believe that she was not going to answer, Stacey spoke up, saying, "Thereís something that I shouldnít feel sad about, but I do," she said in hushed tones.

"What is it, sweetie?"

Stacey looked down at the grass. "I know my daddy hurt you and Desiree, but I canít help but to feel sad over his death." A tear rolled down her cheek. "I feel bad for missing him."

Piperís heart broke for this child. She had never given any thought to the despair that Victorís children could be feeling over his death. Samantha seemed to be taking rather well. Though she was only six. It seemed like the younger you were, the more resilient.

"Stacey itís okay to be sad over what happened. What all did your mother tell you?"

"She said that my daddy hurt a lot of people, including you and Desiree. She said that it ended up costing him his life. Mommy also told Sam and I that daddy loved us but he was sick in his mind with hate for certain people."

The child began to cry more so Piper picked her up and held Stacey to her. The little girl wrapped her arms around the womanís neck and buried her face in her neck as well. The dark-haired woman told her it was all right to cry and made soft comforting noises as she rubbed the childís back. Moments later, Piper looked up after feeling a hand on her shoulder. Andrea was standing there, concern for her child evident in her eyes. The dark-haired woman mouthed that it was okay and after being reassured a few more times, Andrea gave them privacy.

Piper wondered if Andreaís children knew about their aunt as she began rocking back and forth, feeling the hot wet tears staining her neck. She had the feeling that this was the first time this child had allowed herself to really cry for her fatherís passing. After a little while, Staceyís crying subsided as she continued to hold tightly to her aunt. Piper knew that she had fallen in love with her eldest niece.

Pipe smiled to herself. This children helping stuff was not so difficult. The dark-haired woman asked Stacey if she were to ask Andrea if she could keep her, did Stacey think that she would say yes. The little girl laughed before she gave her aunt a peck on the cheek. Piperís smile brightened even more. She liked being an aunt.

Piper wiped away the remaining tears left on her nieceís cheeks. A song began to play over the speakers. The blue-eyed woman recognized it immediately, thinking that she had not heard that song in years. The song was "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison. Getting up from the grass and wiping the back of her skirt off, the dark-haired woman asked Stacey if she would like to dance. The child shook her head negatively, announcing that she did not know how to dance.

"Thatís not a problem," Piper said extending her hand down the little girl. "With me you canít look bad."

Stacey grasped the much larger hand. "Does that mean you dance real good?"

Piper shook her head. "Never said I was good at it. No matter how bad you are, I can guarantee that Iíll make you look great, Ďcause Iím horrible."

Stacey laughed and Piper joined in. "Girls can dance together?"

"Girls can do a lot-" Shut up, Piper. The woman cleared her throat. "Yes, they can, sweetie. Shall we?"

Her niece nodded in excitement. "We shall."

The dark-haired woman led Stacey by the hand further towards everyone else. She then picked the little girl up and began to dance with her. Stacey wrapped her legs around her auntís waist as she grinned, revealing a missing tooth in the front. The little girl told Piper that she was strong.

"Thank you, sweetie. I used to work out a lot. Have to start doing it again. Iím a little rusty."

"I take vitamins," Stacey offered proudly.

"You do? Why dontcha flex your arm for me?" Piper asked.

Stacey did just that, and the blue-eyed woman gently felt the arm. She then gave the girl an approving smile. "I can tell you take vitamins. Youíre very buff." This caused the nine-year-old to grin. "How Ďbout you hook me up with some of those vitamins?" Piper managed to inquire in a serious voice as she dipper Stacey, earning a laugh from the child.

"You canít take my vitamins, Auntie Piper. They are only for kids." She sounded much like those children in the Trixs commercials. The only thing was Stacey did not call her aunt a silly rabbit.

Piper deadpanned, "Iím big for my age."

Stacey let out a big belly laugh. "Youíre funny."

Three songs later the pair was still dancing. Andrea looked over to see that Stacey had fallen asleep with her head on her dancing partnerís shoulder. Poor thing had not slept well in the past few days after hearing the news of her fatherís death. Perhaps today she would begin to heal. Her mother sincerely hoped so. Like any loving mother, she hated seeing either of her children in pain. That was precisely why she dreaded telling them the news of their Aunt Emily. First their father and then their aunt. Andrea had wanted to be certain that it was Emilyís body that had been found in the cabin and not Piperís before she told Stacey and Samantha. Now she knew for sure and they would have to be told soon. The blonde woman figured it could wait until they got back to San Bernardino.

Andrea smiled warmly towards Piper and Stacey. She was partly surprised and wholly overjoyed that the two had bonded so quickly. It would probably be tough trying to get Stacey ready for the trip back home. Once she attached herself to someone, the child was apt to not want to let go.

Andrea walked over to Piper and Stacey. The dark-haired woman smiled at her as she stated in a quiet voice that Andrea was raising a terrific daughter. Delighted by the compliment, the blonde woman thanked her, asking if she could take the child to lay her down, since she had fallen asleep.

"Yes, I know," Piper replied. "Iím good at putting girls to sleep." She winked as Andrea shook her head, grinning. "Iíll put her down."

Andrea shook her head. "No, itís no problem."

"I know that. Let me do it."

The blonde woman shrugged. "Okay. Sheís all yours."

Piper smiled triumphantly as she began to walk towards the house with Stacey in her arms. She turned around when Andrea called her name. The blonde woman informed her that she liked her skirt.

Not very good with receiving compliments, Piper replied, "Thanks." She began walking again, thinking that she still did not want to wear a skirt ever again.
 
 


*****


 






"So Iíll bring over what I have of the story so far tomorrow for you, okay?" Desiree said as she bounced Nina on her knee. The baby was making happy gurgling noises as she raised her little arms in the air ever so often.

Leroy nodded. "I cannot wait to read what youíve written. Thereís just one little thingÖ"

"Whatís that?"

The young man asked, "Whatís it about?" That caused Desiree to sigh. "Whatís wrong? You donít want to answer the question?"

"Does any writer?"

Nina picked that precise moment to start crying. The strawberry-blonde considered that the child had wonderful timing and could not have been happier with the interruption. Ninaís hands balled into tiny fists as she wailed. "Fwed," the baby cried. "Fwed."

Desireeís face scrunched up in though. "Fwed?" she said looking across at Leroy. "Do you know what a fwed is?"

The young man nodded. "She wants her teddy bear. His name is Fred." Leroy got up from his seat. "Iíll go get him."

"No, Iíll do it," Desiree replied as she got up as well. "I need to make a trip to the little girlís room anyway. Where can Fred be found?"

Leroy replied, "Heís in her baby bag. I think her mother put it by the couch."

The strawberry-blonde handed the crying baby to her uncle and then began to walk towards the entrance to the house.

After she put the sleeping Stacey down on the couch and rubbed her cheek for a few moments, Piper got to her feet. Just as she was about to turn to go back outside Larisa walked into the living room from the hall. The other woman stopped walking when she laid eyes on Piper. Larisa offered her a smile that was not returned. Hurt but determined not to show it, the older woman started to go outside when her movements were blocked by the almost six foot woman.

"We need to talk," Piper announced. "In private right now."

Desiree walked into the living room, empty except for Stacey sleeping on the couch. The blue-green eyed woman knew she had seen Piper come into the house not too long ago with Stacey in her arms. She wondered where her companion had ventured off to, because she had yet to return to the backyard.

Desiree found Ninaís bag and unzipped it. Lying right on top was a teddy bear wearing a red sweater with a matching bow tie. She took the small brown bear out and looked at him. "So you must be Fred," she said to the stuffed toy, knowing that she was a little tipsy. She shook the bearís paw. "Itís very nice to meet you, my furry inanimate friend. Your owner requires your attention, sir. But first I need to make a pitstop." Standing back up, Desiree walked towards the hall, which she knew was the way to the bathroom. Nearing the hall, the young woman stopped as she heard voices speaking quietly. One of them she was positive was Piper. Deciding to hide next to the entrance to the hallway, Desiree did so, listening intently.

"What did you expect me to do, huh?" the other voice asked. Desiree identified this person as her sister. The young woman felt butterflies fluttering in her stomach nervously. She knew there must have been more to it than what they were telling her. "Tell her the truth?"

"It would have been better than that horrendous lie," Piper replied angrily.

"Well I didnít see you stepping in to tell her the truth."

The dark-haired woman did not give a quick reply to that. "We never should have done that."

"Well we did." Larisa shrugged. "I feel bad about it, but itís done now. There is no reason that she has to find out."

Piper shook her head. "I canít continue to look her in the eye knowing that we stood in her kitchen this morning and told her something that was completely untrue."

"What are you saying, Piper?" Larisaís heartbeat began to speed up. She did not want her sister to find out. It would most likely only cause her pain. What was the point?

The dark-haired woman took a deep breath as she leaned against the wall. "I think that we should tell her the truth."

The older woman shook her head. "Big mistake. We already lied about it. So then if we tell her than sheíll know we lied to her. Piper, please letís just keep this to ourselves. It was a long time ago."

What was a long time ago? Desiree thought to herself. And what had they lied about? It hurt that Piper and her own sister could not be truthful with her in the first place.

"Regardless, she has a right to know," Piper said. "I canít continue to keep this from her. And if Iím to be honest there is no way on this earth that I can be civil to you when I can barely stand the sight of you."

There it was. The hurt hit her like a large truck going one hundred miles per hour. Tears stung Larisaís eyes at the other womanís words. The truth really did hurt. "So that part was a lie too?"

"What part?"

"When you said that you forgave me. You were lying about that?" Larisa inquired, already in her heart knowing what the answer would be.

The younger woman nodded. "Of course. It was all for show. I didnít want Desiree to be suspicious. Oh and please stop with the tears. Donít do that again."

"What are you talking about? Youíre hurting me and you expect me to keep a stiff upper lip?"

Piper narrowed her eyes. "Iím hurting you?" She snorted. "What about what you did to me, huh? I guess youíve somehow forgotten about what happened in Jamaica. Iím the one that deserves to cry, not you. But Iím over it now. I grieved over it for a long time nine years ago. The way you treated me was cruel and brutal. How dare you say now that Iím hurting you."

"I never got the chance to explain," Larisa said quietly. "Iím sorry I did that to you."

Piper shook her head. "Too little too late, Larisa. You made me feel special and then you just dumped me for no good reason."

Dumped her? Desiree clutched at the teddy bear in her nervousness. She wished that the two would just get to the point.

"Will you let me explain, please?"

"I donít care to hear whatever you have to say. I just wanted to let you know that Iím telling Desiree the truth."

"So youíre planning on telling her that we were lovers? Do you think that bit of information will help your relationship any?"

Desiree did not hear any more of the conversation because she ran out of the house as quietly as was possible. Closing the front door behind her, the young woman took a deep breath as the tears began to come, blurring her vision. Fred still in her hand, the strawberry-blonde walked towards her car and got in the drivers seat. She took her keys out of her pocket and started the ignition. The young woman laid her head against the headrest and closed her eyes as a few tears fell down her cheeks.

Her own sister and Piper. They had lied to her and she had stood there like a naïve idiot believing every single word that they were telling her. Desiree put the teddy bear in the passengerís seat before pulling away from the curb. She drove down the street not knowing where she was going, but knowing that she had to get away.

The young woman was remembering when Larisa had went to Jamaica during the summer almost a decade ago. When she had come back, she had been abnormally quiet and reserved. When the teenage Desiree had asked what was bothering her, her older sister had told her that everything was fine. Evidently, based on the way Piper was treating her, Larisa must have been the one to end the relationship.

And in all these years, her sister had never confided in her. Had she not trusted Desiree? That was causing her pain as well, that Larisa did not tell her that she was gay. Desiree considered that she had known for at least nine years that was gay, yet she herself was not made aware of that fact. And of all the women in the world, Larisa had ended up being involved with Piper. Now what were the odds of that happening?

Desiree made a right turn as she shook her head in bewilderment. This all had to be a nightmare. She wished that she would just wake up and everything would be fine. Ignorance could be bliss.
 
 


*****


 






With Nina saddled on his hip, Leroy went inside of the house, passing Larisa who was on her way out to the backyard. The woman did not seem to see him as she walked pass. Piper was about to pass him as well, when the young man stopped her, asking if she had seen Desiree in the past few minutes. The dark-haired woman shook her head negatively.

Leroy frowned. "But I saw her come in here. She was supposed to be getting Ninaís teddy bear out of her bag and going to the bathroom. I saw you just came from the hall. You didnít see her?"

Piper became alarmed. "She just came in here?" she asked the man.

He nodded. "Just a few minutes ago." He went over to Ninaís bag and looked inside. "And the bear is missing."

The blue-eyed woman checked the kitchen. She was disappointed to find that it was empty. The dining room was empty as well, which meant the only way that Desiree could have gone without being noticed would be the front door. Using long strides, Piper walked towards the door and opened it. Going outside she saw that the Honda was gone. Oh, crap.

Leroy came outside still holding Nina, who was quiet now, but every so often she would say Fredís name. He noticed that Piperís face was etched with worry and asked what was wrong.

"Sheís gone," the dark-haired woman said barely above a whisper. She looked up and down the street as though the lilac car would appear at any moment.

"Maybe she had to go run an errand," Leroy offered helpfully.

"Maybe," Piper said. Or maybe she heard my conversation with her sister and took off.

Leroy shifted the baby to the other side. "Well wherever she went, I think she took Fred with her. Whatever called her away must have been important."
 
 


*****


 






Desiree pulled into the parking lot of a bar not too many miles from Tajís house. She sat there for a few minutes after turning off the ignition. Piper and Larisa used to be lovers. It was so unreal. And the worst part about it was that they had lied to her. The young womanís shoulders began to move up and down as she sobbed out her anger and pain. Desireeís hands tightened on the steering wheel as she lay her forehead on it.

Finally able to pull herself together some, the young woman got out of the car and headed into the bar. She needed a drink desperately. On opening the door to the building, Desireeís eyes had to adjust to the darkness within. Walking inside, her nostrils were assaulted by the stale and smoky odor of the place. Desiree sat at the practically empty bar and pulled a basket of peanuts in front of her. She did not have much of an appetite though.

The barkeep ventured over and asked Desiree for her license as he wiped an area of the counter with a towel.

"What for?" the young woman asked.

He eyed her curiously. "Iím not sure that youíre old enough to be in here."

Both were surprised when Desiree suddenly reached out her left hand and grabbed the barkeepís collar, pulling him towards her across the bar. Anger in her green-blue eyes, she balled up her right fist and drew it back as if to strike the man. The barkeep stared in fear, wishing that he had just called in sick today.

"And Iím not sure," Desiree began softly, "that I could knock your front teeth out if I were to hit you in the mouth." She brought her face closer to his. "Care to find out?"

The man shook his head and the strawberry-blonde let him go, wondering what had come over her. She looked at the man and quickly apologized. The barkeep appeared to be shocked but nodded, accepting the apology. Instead of asking for her license, he asked what she would like to drink.

"Anything with alcohol," she replied. "Iíll take a shot of whiskey."
 
 


*****


 






Walking out to the backyard, Piper scanned it until she found Taj. He was sitting on the bench, holding hands with Valerie. His parents were sitting on the other side as all four conversed. The dark-haired woman went up to Taj and asked if she could talk with him for a moment. Knowing that something must be wrong, the Jamaican man excused himself and led Piper inside the house. They went to the dining room and took a seat.

"Whatís wrong, Pippy?" Taj asked in a worried voice.

She did not answer right away, as she looked down at her hands on the table. "Desireeís gone and I donít know if she is coming back."

"Where did she go?"

Piper blew out a ragged breath. "Good question. I just donít have an answer for you."

"What happened? Did you have a fight?"

The dark-haired woman shook her head no. She glanced around to make sure no one was there and then asked the man if he remembered when she had that affair in Jamaica.

Taj shook his head. "With Larisa. Yes, I remember that like it was yesterday." He also remembered Piper crying on his shoulder on and off all night after she informed him that the woman had broken it off with her that afternoon.

Nodding, Piper continued on to tell him that she and Larisa had discussed how they had lied to Desiree this morning about why they did not get along. "And I think she might have overheard us."

Taj sat back in his chair. "Why did you lie, Piper?"

"I didnít want her to know that I had an affair with her sister."

"It isnít like you had it concurrently while seeing Desi."

The blue-eyed woman nodded. "I know. I just couldnít tell her. So I took the easy way out and lied about it."

"Lied about what?" Larisa asked as she came into the house.

Piper narrowed her eyes. "Why donít you mind your own business?"

Larisa bit her lower lip to keep from saying anything surly. Just keep walking. Larisa continued towards the front door silently. She stopped when Taj asked where she was going.

Turning around, Larisa replied, "Sorry, Taj. That was rude to try slipping out without saying goodbye." She walked over and shook hands with him. "That was a very nice party and I wish you joy in your marriage. Congratulations." She leaned down and gave Taj a peck on his cheek. "I have to be going now." She did not have to go. Larisa just wanted to. Nothing had changed with Piper and she no longer wanted to be here. The woman glanced at Piper. "Iíll be seeing you, Piper. And can you tell Desiree when you see her that I said bye?"

"Desireeís gone, Larisa," Piper stated.

Larisa frowned. "Gone? Where did she go?"

"That seems to be the million dollar question," Taj offered as he looked up at Larisa. "We have no idea."

"Is her car gone?"

Piper nodded. "I think she overheard our conversation and hightailed it out of here."

Sitting down at the table, Larisa muttered an expletive. "How did you come to that conclusion?"

"I found out from Leroy that she was in here at the time we were. She was supposed to be getting Ninaís teddy bear and never came back outside with it. She and the bear are gone."

Taj chuckled, not being able to help himself he added, "You think maybe this is payback? Desi took Fred hostage." The Jamaican man doubled over in his chair from laughing so hard. The laughter was infectious. Larisa found herself chuckling as well. Piper merely glared at the other two.

"Very cute, Taj," Piper said dryly. "I love it that youíre cracking jokes at my expense."

Getting himself under control, Taj replied, "Iím sorry, Pippy." He reached over to squeeze her shoulder. "Donít worry. Weíll straighten this whole mess out and everything will be fine. Youíll see."
 
 


*****


 






"Another pease."

The barkeep came over and refreshed Desireeís drink for the he did not know what time. The young woman picked up the shot glass and drank all of the burning liquid in one gulp.

A woman sitting at a booth watched Desiree asking for another drink. She shook her head as she finished her Pepsi. The woman sat there thinking for a few moments. Coming to a decision she got up and walked over to the bar. She asked Desiree if she could take a seat on the stool next to her. The young woman turned to see the one of the most beautiful women she had ever had laid eyes on.

This gorgeous Latina stood at about five feet seven and had a slim athletic build. She had deep brown eyes and straight dark brown hair that went a couple inches past her shoulders. She had soft full lips that practically said, "Kiss me". The woman had on a tight dark brown tank-top that showed off the delicate muscles in her bronzed arms and the gentle curve of her ample breasts. She had on a pair of tight blue jeans that had the ability to make one notice her round well-defined derriere. Just ask Desiree. She did.

Unable to speak at the moment, the strawberry-blonde nodded for the latin woman to sit down. With a small smile, the woman took a seat on a stool on Desireeís right. It was then that the barkeep came back with his now completely inebriated customerís next shot of whiskey. The dark-haired woman shook her head though, telling the man in a rich low voice that the woman sitting next to her was done. Desiree glared at her and mumbled that she should mind her own business.

The woman chuckled. "You are my business."

The strawberry-blonde stared at her without speaking for a minute. "You think so? Wuz make you think that?"

The woman looked her in the eye, wearing an expression of complete seriousness. "Because you just saved my life."

TO BE CONTINUED...


Taiko's Scrolls of the Xenaverse