otalia fan fiction
An Otalia Wedding
It's 2029 and there's an Otalia wedding brewing that features siblings Emma, Rafe, Ava, Francesca and Elena. 
Violating the Rules
Blis (Blake/Doris) tale that mirrors the Otalia story set during the '1 year later' timeframe of Guiding Light with Olivia and Natalia trying to play matchmaker to the couple. 
Best Man Speech
Olivia tries to get to the heart of why Rafe dislikes her so much. 
Carino
Nothing but some NC-17 sexy smut. 
First Kiss... Revised
Story from Natalia's POV as she confesses sleeping with Frank.  
Frienemies
Upset that Natalia left her without a word, Olivia heads to ladies night to pick someone up only to find Doris who saves her from a mistake...or does she?  
Funny Shapes or Rounds
Two lovers enjoy the 'morning after' until a daughter demands breakfast. 
Girls Night Out
Natalia returns from the retreat but Olivia wants nothing to do with her. So Doris offers to take Olivia on a buddy adventure.
I Get By With a Little Help From My... Enemies
Doris offers a little bit of friendly advice and prodding to help Olivia and Natalia jump start their relationship.
I'll Be Home For Christmas
Olivia's closing a major deal in the Northeast but bad weather keeps her from getting to Springfield.
Like I Always Am
This was an altered reality/ what if story I wrote for my friend Dragonwriter who proposed, "What if Olivia didn't 'wake up' after her heart test & Natalia kissed her?"
Loving You Both
Olivia finds a way to help Natalia balance their love and her lovers' faith in God. 
Lunch Counter Confessions
Olivia gossips with Doris and Blake about Natalia and the wonders of lesbian sex.
Matt? Really?
This story was written on a daily/weekly basis and used spoilers following Natalia's return from the retreat. 
It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Natalia reflects on a Christmas past and their first Christmas with newborn Francesca. 
Merry Christmas Baby
A sexy NC-17 sequel to my Christmas 2009 story, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” 
One Kiss
Otalia’s first kiss told from one of the character’s perspective. ‘Nuff said.
Pass The Potato Salad
In this tale, pregnant Natalia goes to the BBQ, not the retreat. 
Promises Promises
Set a year after the infamous Bauer Barbecue, Natalia tells Olivia she'll 'meet her there' when she ends up running late and it stirs up old feelings. 
Road Trip 
Story based on spoilers that Doris and Olivia were going on a road trip to find Natalia. 
Score One for Natalia Rivera
Olivia's ex's gossip about her prowess as a lover and a drunken Natalia joins the conversation.
This isn't Supposed to Happen
Our gals late night musings as they lie in bed. 
Tonight It Feels Like Home
Olivia is back in the farmhouse again and trying to find a comfort level she once had before Natalia's bolt to the retreat. 
Two Mommies (Take Two)
Rafe examines the relationship of his mother and Olivia. 
Supply & Demand
Olivia and Natalia take Francesca trick or treating and the youngster learns a lesson in marketing. 
Dimples
A collection of short stories about Francesca Spencer told from various family members point of view with each chapter representing a year from her life. 
Until Death
Dark tale of what might have happened if Natalia went through with the wedding.
 

Title: Matt? Really?

Author: CN Winters

Rating: PG-13 to NC17

Rating: PG-13 to R/NC-17'ish' stuff

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine – they belong to P and G. I'm just toying with them for our amusement.

Author note: Olivia decides to go out with Matt after Natalia has returned from her retreat, but Natalia has other plans for their evening. This story was a continuing effort I created based on spoilers of GL during the final weeks of the show. So you might say it's an 'alternate universe' to the canon of GL. 

Chapter One

"Matt? Really?" Natalia asked, unable to hide the incredulous tone in her voice. "You're going on a date with Bicycle Matt?"

Olivia and Natalia sat side-by-side at the counter at Company, each with a mug in their hand.

"You said it yourself, he's cute."

Natalia grinned devilishly at Olivia. "So…" she licked her lips playfully, "I gotta know…seat or handlebars?"

The seductive gesture wasn't lost on the older woman, but she pushed her budding arousal way.

"What?" Olivia asked instead.

"I was just curious. When he picks you up tonight for this date," Natalia went on, "do you have to sit on his seat or the handlebars?"

Olivia grinned. "I didn't ask."

"A gentleman would give you the seat. I'D give you the seat," Natalia teased. "I'm just saying…"

Blake came over with the coffee pot and freshened up Natalia's cup.

Olivia grinned wickedly. "Maybe I'd like the adventure of his handlebars. That way I can watch the world around me while being on top of his rod."

"What the hell?" Blake muttered.

Natalia laughed. "Oh please," she began as she ignored Blake's presence and looked at Olivia, "we both know you're not interested in Matt's rod."

Although her waitress duty was done, Blake still stood behind the bar listening to them both.

"What am I missing?" Blake asked.

"Olivia's trying to make me jealous by dating Matt," Natalia offered.

"Matt? Really?" Blake asked and then shrugged.

"Noooooo," Olivia began, "OLIVIA" she said stressing her own name, "is getting on with her life and she's dating a man who's eco-friendly. Anyway, I'm sure he has a car."

"It's probably a Prius," Natalia mumbled to Blake, who simply grinned.

"So he's a little…green. So what?" Olivia rebutted. "That's not a bad thing, Ms. 'Leave Every Light On in the Farmhouse' Rivera."

"Two lights! One in the kitchen and nightlight in the living room! That's it!"

"And like you really need that?" Olivia asked. She then turned to Blake. "It's like a 60 watt bulb that lights up the entire living room to the point that you can see the light under the bedroom doors."

"It is not!" Natalia argued her case. "It's a nightlight that's maybe 10 watts and I need some light since we live in the middle of nowhere."

"We? I don't live there anymore, remember?" Olivia jabbed.

"I'm working on fixing that, you know?"

Olivia didn't hear the remark because she was talking over Natalia. "I tried to come back, but you didn't want me." Olivia released a heavy sigh as if she regretted the words. Still, she didn't take them back. "I need to get ready for tonight," she said as she grabbed her purse and swiftly made her way out the door.

A moment of quiet passed between Natalia and Blake.

"You can't let her date Matt," Blake told her. "She still loves you, but she's hurting. She might do something you both regret."

"I know she loves me," Natalia answered. "She's said as much. The problem is she doesn't trust me anymore and really I can't blame her…I don't want her to date anybody who isn't me – Matt, or anyone... But what can I do when she's got her mind made up."

"Convince her otherwise. You have to fight for her, Natalia."

"And just how do I do that? Tap Matt on the shoulder and then let loose for 'hitting on my woman'?"

Blake grinned. "Well, I don't suggest you walk up and sucker punch Matt, no, but…"

"But what?"

"Why don't you knock Olivia off her feet tonight? Metaphorically, of course."

"How?"

Blake grinned wickedly.

Chapter Two

Olivia walked into Towers and immediately went to the bar. She noticed Doris sitting at the end and made her way over after ordering 'the usual.'

"So what brings you out tonight, Ms. Spencer?" Doris asked.

"I have a date," Olivia announced proudly.

"Finally," she sighed. "I was wondering how long it'd take before Natalia was out of the doghouse."

"It's not Natalia. It's Matt," Olivia replied. She tried to sound hopeful, but it came out more like a shameful confession.

"Matt? Really?" Doris asked.

"Why does everyone keep asking that? He's a nice guy."

"So is Frank Cooper, but I don't see you dating him. Oh wait – you tried and then ended up with his dad. And then-."

"Yes, yes," Olivia said sarcastically. "We all know the story."

Doris smirked.

"Look, Mike is a great man," Olivia insisted.

"You mean Matt," Doris correct.

"Right. What did I say?"

"You called him Mike. Rule number one – if you can't remember your date's name, chances are it's not gonna end well."

"It was just a slip-up, okay? I'm a little nervous, that's all."

Doris smiled. "You do denial better than most people. And that's saying something because I've met lots of liars in the criminal justice system and government. Now, you might not take first prize, Sweetie, but you ARE a ribbon winner for sure."

"You're just full of lines tonight, aren't you?"

Doris raised her drink. "And scotch," she added. The bartender brought Olivia her three-olive martini. "Now take Rebecca here," Doris continued as she motioned to the bartender. "I remember HER name."

Rebecca glanced up shyly and blushed. "Is there anything else you desire Mayor Wolfe?" she asked mischievously averting Doris's gaze.

Doris paused. She didn't answer immediately and it forced the younger woman to finally look her way for an answer. "Yes, what time are you off tonight?"

The bartender turned even redder. "Midnight," she replied. "Did you have something in mind?"

"Lots of things actually," Doris replied and then handed her a twenty dollar bill. "Put her drink on my tab please," she said motioning to Olivia's drink. "She's a friend – JUST a friend."

"A friend of yours is a friend of mine," the bartender told Doris as she reached out and shook Olivia's hand.

"See?" Doris told Olivia as Rebecca went back to work. "We're everywhere. You and Nat will fit in perfect."

"There is no 'me and Nat'," Olivia insisted. "She broke my heart. I love her but how can I live with her? How can I build a life with her not knowing that the next crisis means she'll leave me again? And Emma? It's one thing to rip out my heart, but… she was Em's other 'mommie' here, ya know?" Olivia sighed. "Maybe you don't know."

"I remember," Doris said, sounding far off in thought. "I had a 'special friend' once that Ashley really liked. Someone that I…well, it wasn't Brando worthy love like you screaming to the heavens, but…it was the closest I ever got. And maybe one day it might have been."

"What happened?" Olivia asked.

"I got scared," Doris replied. "I loved her but…she scared me – not physically or emotionally. She wasn't abusive. In fact, she was quite the opposite…I just…I couldn't let my guard down. I had to protect Ashley from the ridicule and the whispers and the stares – at least in my mind I did. Then, of course, in doing that I think I might have kept her from having a family…well, something besides just me. You know?"

"I'm sorry," Olivia replied.

"Me too," Doris replied. She seemed to shake off the memory and turned to Olivia. "Don't let fear ruin you, Olivia. Not like it did me. Nights with Rebecca are great, sure, but…I wish I was brave enough to have more."

"Olivia?"

The hotelier looked up to see Matt begin to make his way over. Olivia shared a glance with Doris who simply rolled her eyes and took a drink of her scotch and soda. As Matt and Olivia found a table Doris opened up her cell phone and pressed a button.

"They're here," was all she said before hanging up.

Chapter Three

"Doris called," Blake said as she shut her phone. "That means you're off to Towers."

Blake paused and looked up from her seat at the edge of Natalia's bed as if appraising Natalia. "You know, Sweetie, if this doesn't have any affect on Liv get a shovel because you'll need to bury her." Only the sound of Natalia's giggle could be heard. "Really. I'm straight, but… damn girl." Blake rose up and motioned for Natalia to follow her.

Shortly later at Towers, Matt and Olivia sat across from each other at one of the four seat tables, looking at the menu.

"How about mozzarella sticks?" Matt asked.

"Ehhh," Olivia replied, obviously not impressed. "Emma loves them, but I'm more of a stuffed grape leaves gal myself. I like my food a little more…grown up."

Matt chuckled. "Whatever the lady wants, the lady gets," he said with a smile.

"See Liv?" a voice said from behind Olivia. "There really is a man in the world who knows all the right answers."

"Hey, Natalia," Matt said, obviously happy to see her. "You look wonderful."

Olivia still hadn't turned around yet. In fact, she closed her eyes briefly as if trying to steady herself for what might be behind her. Finally getting the courage, she looked over her shoulder and her mouth dropped open slightly.

The bluish-purple dress had a v-shape neckline, which showed off Natalia's cleavage beautifully. However, the dress wasn't clingy and it flowed at the waistline. It took a moment, but Olivia realized she recognized the dress. Natalia had worn it to the 'Two mommies' presentation at Emma's school.

There were a few differences though in her appearance. Natalia's hair was down instead of up. Her long mane looked full as curl after curl tickled the woman's bust line. Her eye make-up was thicker than usual, creating a bedroom/smoke eyes effect and they bore into Olivia's with unspoken intent. Matt's voice, however, brought Olivia back to reality.

"It's been awhile," he said. "Frank mentioned you were at a retreat, right?"

"Yeah, I just got in a few days ago actually. I've spent most of my time today looking for a few extra jobs I might take. Not working for over a month has me playing catch up on my bills. Of course the farmhouse is safe since some wonderful, rich, anonymous benefactor paid it off in full." With the last sentence she distinctly looked at Olivia with a twinge of annoyance.

"You bought the farm?" Matt asked Olivia.

Olivia chuckled. "Overlooking the double entendre of that statement, yes. Yes, when it comes to Natalia, I bought the farm."

"Yeah," Natalia continued and then looked back at Matt. "Seems like every two years or so Olivia, decides, 'Hey, I'm going to buy Natalia a house.' It seems the better we know each other, the bigger the houses seem to be that I get from her." Olivia began to take a drink of her water, not commenting on what Natalia was saying. "At this rate, I'm convinced I'll get the Spaulding Mansion when I sleep with her."

Matt and Natalia both burst out laughing and Olivia began to choke on her water. Natalia rubbed Olivia's back and leaned down so her bust was level with Olivia's line of sight.

"You okay?" Natalia asked.

Olivia's eyes couldn't seem to make up their mind where to look – Natalia's 'come and get me' eyes or the tantalizing cleavage. She still sounded horse when she croaked, "Went down the wrong pipe." She then let out a small cough and sounded a bit more normal. "I'm good."

Natalia then rose and turned to Matt. "I've told her – at the very least – that I want to take her to dinner to say thank you. But she's such a good Samaritan that she'll have none of that."

"Well, we've got her captive now," Matt offered. "Have a seat Natalia."

As if it were even humanly possible, Natalia smiled even wider at Matt's invitation. Before she could sit down though Olivia moved to her feet.

"Will you excuse us a moment, Matt? You know how gals have to go to the ladies room in pairs." Before Matt could utter a response, Olivia had Natalia by the elbow, leading her into the ladies room.

"Okay," Olivia began once they entered. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"What?" Natalia asked in mock-innocence.

"You've invited your way into my date."

"Did you or did you not pay for our farmhouse?"

"Your farmhouse," Olivia corrected.

"Oh fine, my farmhouse," Natalia said, not wanting to fight. "Did you or did you not-?"

"YES, I did!"

"Then I think you can at least let me buy you dinner. After all, I didn't ask you to buy it."

"Look you might have lost it in foreclosure. I couldn't let that happen. You love that house."

"No, I love the memories of what the two of us created in that house…" Natalia trailed off. "You do too, which is why you bought it."

Olivia seemed speechless again so she relented instead. "Yes. I have great memories there, but you still needed a place to live if you came home. You could take me to dinner any other night. You didn't have to horn in on my date."

"No, no, no, no," Natalia insisted. "Matt invited ME to join you guys."

Olivia ignored the remark and instead began to wave her hands up and down, pointing to Natalia's dress. "And really – what is this?"

"You like it?" Natalia asked as she adjusted her bust line. "First day you kissed me I was wearing this, remember?"

"Yes, I do."

"Although your reasoning for kissing me was a poor excuse, I have to say… it was still one HECK of a kiss."

Olivia seemed unsure of how to answer at first and she stammered a little before she said, "So the dress and the eyes and the hair and the…" she motioned toward Natalia's breasts but trailed off. "… this is how you dress when you go looking for odd jobs?"

"Depends on the job. Tonight I'm on a not-so-covert mission. It's covert to Matt, of course, but hopefully you're getting the message loud and clear."

Olivia let out a ragged sigh. "Please just go home. Please."

Natalia seemed to consider the request.

"Hmmm…no, not on your life. I'm not leaving you alone with Matt or any other man… or any other woman for that matter."

"Why can't you just let me be?" Olivia practically begged.

Natalia took a step closer to Olivia. "You know why…" She let the sentence hang for a moment and then she moved as close to Olivia's ear as possible without actually touching it.

"You belong to me."

Olivia swallowed hard and Natalia left the ladies room without another word.

Chapter Four

Matt rose up as he saw Natalia approach. She took the inside chair next to Olivia's vacated spot.

"Did you both order yet?" Natalia asked Matt.

"Just looking at an appetizer," Matt replied as he sat back down. The act of sitting though was short lived as he watched Olivia come back over. He rose in a gentlemanly fashion again, but this time Natalia followed suit upon seeing Olivia too.

"How gallant," Olivia said and then added, "…of you both."

It was Natalia, however, who pulled out Olivia's chair for her since she was closer. When Olivia sat down only then did Natalia and Matt each take their seats again.

"So appetizers, eh?" Natalia continued. "She wants grape leaves I bet."

Matt smiled. "Yes, actually she did mention that."

"She likes the calamari here too," Natalia offered.

"Why don't you just give away all my secrets?" Olivia commented.

"Not any different than you telling Frank all of my favorite foods," Natalia muttered from behind her menu at Olivia. "So tell me Matt," she said louder lowering the menu. "What's your favorite dish here?"

"I've heard good things about Towers, but I don't eat very much here," he confessed. "What do you ladies like?"

"Linguini," Natalia and Olivia both said at the same time and in the same matter of fact tone. The three of them then laughed.

"All together now," Matt said with a smile.

"All the pasta dishes are pretty good," Olivia added.

"Look at that," Natalia said as she pointed to Matt.

"What?" Olivia and Matt both asked.

"I never noticed before, but he's got dimples." She turned to Olivia and said, "You gotta thing for dimples, don't you?"

"Excuse me?" Olivia asked.

Natalia pointed at him while looking at Olivia.

"Matt's got dimples. Bill Lewis has KILLER dimples. Even Phillip has dimples too. Not sure about Alan though – has he ever smiled? Like a genuine smile; not something maniacal?"

Matt laughed and even Olivia had to laugh in spite of herself.

"Can we not talk about my ex's and dimples please," Olivia answered, "And for the record, Alan does have a dimple in his right cheek."

"You know. You've got dimples too," Matt mentioned to Natalia. "But yours look much more lovelier than mine," he complimented.

"Ya think?" Natalia replied but made sure to look over at Olivia. "So in the big 'dimple off' who wins, Liv? Me or Matt?"

"I'm-in-hell," Olivia mumbled so quickly it sounded like a single word.

"You know, Matt," Natalia said letting her off the hook somewhat. "Olivia has a little dimple in her left cheek," Natalia said to Matt as she pointed at Olivia.

"Really? I-I hadn't noticed," Matt confessed.

"Yep, right there," she said, gently taking Olivia's check between her thumb and her index finger.

"You're making me self-conscious," Olivia told Natalia in a singsong voice. "Please stop."

"Oh, don't act modest," Natalia said as she pulled her hand away, but still making a lingering, stroking motions with her fingertips. "You know you love the attention and adoration of everyone who finds you stunningly beautiful."

At that moment, the waitress walked up.

"Thank God," Olivia sighed quietly. "I'm starving. Do you guys know what you want?"

"Why don't we start with the grape leaves and the calamari?" Matt asked the duo across from him who answered in the affirmative. "And then Linguini all around you think?"

Olivia and Natalia both agreed and handed over their menus to the waitress.

"I, uh, I could use another martini," Olivia replied.

"Better make it a double. She seems a little tense tonight." Natalia leaned over to talk to the waitress. That gave her the mobility to caress Olivia's leg under the table totally unobserved by anyone else.

At least not until the table jerked upward and Olivia shot to her feet like she was on fire.

Chapter Five

"So how's it going?" Blake asked as she belled up to the bar, taking a spot next to Doris.

"Ms. Rivera is laying it on pretty thick," Doris replied. "Olivia just about jumped out of her skin when she put her hand on her knee – at least I think that's where her hand went. I really can't see from here. Of course, like most men in Springfield, Matt seems oblivious to what's happening in front of him."

Blake giggled as Rebecca the bartender came over. She looked Blake up and down appraisingly and then noted the close proximity Blake had with Doris. Although the entire bar was open, Blake opted to sit right next to Doris, elbow to elbow.

"You want something?" Rebecca asked in a short tone.

"Uhhh," Blake stuttered, unsure of why she was getting such an unfriendly reception. "Rum and coke, please."

As Rebecca walked way Blake pitched a thumb in her direction. "What's her problem?"

Doris just shrugged and watched as Olivia and Natalia walk toward the restrooms together.

The mayor smiled. "At this point I think Matt's going to wonder if Olivia has an overactive bladder," Doris quipped.

Blake grinned. "How many times have they left so far?"

"This makes the second time and they haven't gotten their appetizers yet. I figure by the third time perhaps Matt would get a clue and call it a night."

"I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the bathroom," Blake said. Then she paused. "That sounds pretty disgusting now that I think about it."

"Don't worry - I know what you mean," Doris assured her, patting her hand in support. "In fact…"

"What?"

"We could go… hang out, I mean."

"In the ladies room?"

"NEAR the ladies room."

Both women paused, not saying or doing a thing. Suddenly, they both jumped up at the same time, leaving their bar stools.

At the same time, Olivia and Natalia were in the ladies room.

"Josh Lewis!" Natalia exclaimed.

"What?!" Olivia asked as she followed behind her.

"I think he's got dimples too!"

"Would you forget the dimples?! My God, woman! You're trying to kill me, aren't you?" Olivia asked.

"No, but I know I've got two choices," Natalia told her talking Olivia's face in her hands. Olivia tried to turn away, but Natalia kept a firm grasp on her. "Listen to me please." Olivia didn't resist. "I could walk away and take 'no' for an answer. Orrrr…" she drawled out, "I can fight with everything I have to win back your confidence."

Olivia teared up, but Natalia pressed on.

"I know you Olivia; better than anyone. I know how much I've hurt you and how vulnerable you feel. It's much easier for you to put up a wall than let me inside again. But the bottom line is I AM coming in. Whether it's now or years from now. It doesn't matter… I'll work my way back in. The sixteen years I spent pining for Gus will be a drop in the well compared to what I'd do for you. And the reason is simple."

Olivia didn't speak, but her eyes pleaded for a response and Natalia answered the call.

"Because I love you – Olivia Spencer – with all my heart and soul and you, my dear, are by far the sexiest mother fucker that God put on this planet."

Olivia's mouth dropped slightly and the air in her lungs seemed to leave all at once.

"Wellll," Natalia amended, "you're not a mother fucker…at least not yet… but I'm workin' on that."

"Goodness alive," Olivia said finding her voice. "Who are you and where is Natalia Rivera?" Olivia asked in disbelief.

Natalia chuckled and took Olivia by the waist, pulling her closer. "She's right here for the taking – just like she's always been, Liv."

Olivia's mouth opened and closed three times before she asked, "What did those nuns do to you?"

Natalia giggled, but the next noise they both heard was the flush of a toilet.

"I don't think we're alone," Natalia whispered.

Olivia gave her a silent look of 'You don't say.'

Chapter Six

Upon hearing the cackle from behind the closed stall door, Olivia closed her eyes.

"Dear God no," she muttered.

The door swiftly opened and Reva strolled out. She walked over to the sink not saying a word as she turned on the faucet.

"One," Olivia told her as she held up her finger. "You get one crack, Reva."

Reva continued to wash her hands and finally asked, "Just one?"

"Just one," Olivia replied.

"I gotta think about this one carefully. So many ways I could go with this," she said as she dried her hands off with a paper towel. Suddenly it looked as though a light bulb went off and she said, "Ah ha!" She cleared her throat. "You know they say Olivia's slept with half of Springfield. I guess it's true when they say that she's finally working on the other half. Bam!"

Reva made a jabbing motion and Olivia just grinned and nodded.

"Not bad," Olivia complimented.

"You know they say-," Reva began again.

"Nah-ah," Olivia tisked. "Just one."

"But I've got so many now," the blonde whined.

"Save it," Olivia told her.

Reva looked at the two of them. "So… you and Olivia?" she said to Natalia.

Natalia nodded. "Yes, but she's here on a date with Matt tonight."

"Matt? Really?" Reva asked Olivia. The hotelier sighed heavily in response. "I don't swing that way," Reva went on, "but between the two of them… go with her."

Natalia grinned her thanks.

"Yeah, scoring points with Reva really doesn't work in your favor with me," Olivia replied to Natalia.

Reva smiled. "Besides if you go gay Olivia then I won't ever have to worry about you trying to steal any of my men."

"I'm not gay," Olivia insisted.

"The love of your life just happens to be a woman, is that it?" Reva asked.

Olivia didn't seem to know if she should answer that question or not. Finally she said, "Yes."

Reva pursed her lips and then nodded as she crossed her arms over her chest. "That sounds pretty gay to me," she retorted.

"Argghhh," Olivia growled. "My date is waiting for me."

Olivia briskly crossed the bathroom and opened the door to see Doris and Blake nearly fall inside the room.

"Hey," Blake said casually. "How's it going?"

"Out of my way," Olivia said as she moved between the spying pair.

"This isn't working," Natalia said sounding defeated.

"Hang in there," Doris said.

"Really, when you get thrown you gotta get back on the horse and ride even harder," Blake said motioning outside. Reva bit her index finger as Doris and Natalia shared a naughty grin. "Boy, I just keep saying the wrong things tonight, don't I?"

Doris got a far off look in her eyes. "Nat riding Liv…Sounds pretty… interesting… to me, I gotta admit," Doris replied and then she paused. "Annnd there's the visual. Yeah… yeah, that's – that's…wow…I need another drink. "

Blake blushed. "I'll join you."

"Count me in," Reva said following along.

Natalia watched them all leave and shook her head before she followed suit.

"Round Three – here I come," she muttered.

Chapter Seven

"I'm sorry Matt," Olivia apologized as she took her seat again.

"Is everything okay?" he asked. "If you're not feeling well-"

"No!" she said a tad too loud and quickly. She quieted herself. "No, sorry, I'm fine. It's been a really busy day and my work never seems to be done. I apologize."

Olivia did a double take toward the bar. What began with just Doris now looked like an audience with Reva and Blake on each side of her.

"So what's the story?" Reva asked conspiratorially from the bar. "I need the abridged version since my take-out order should be up soon."

Doris cleared her throat. "Okay, as short as possible: They fell in love during Liv's recovery at the farmhouse, but never said anything until Natalia nearly married Frank Cooper."

"Right," Blake agreed. "But then Natalia got some unsettling news and she went away on a religious retreat to sort things out."

"Which she did," Doris continued. "She came back, determined to start a life with Liv, but Liv is still feeling the sting of Nat taking off without a word and here we are – Nat with the wooing and Liv with the rejecting."

"What are you three doing?!"

All three women looked over to see Olivia next to the bar with a scowl on her face, watching them gossip.

Doris shrugged. "I just want to see you happy," she said honestly.

"I just want to see Natalia happy," Blake offered.

All eyes fell on Reva and she said, "I just want to see what happens next." Olivia groaned. "It's like drama unfolding before my very eyes – it's good stuff," she added.

"My life is not a spectator sport!" Olivia snapped in a hushed tone so, hopefully, Matt wouldn't hear it.

"Are you kidding?" Reva replied. "I haven't been this entertained in weeks. Months even."

Olivia turned around to see that Natalia had finally arrived back at the table.

"Go away," Olivia shooed using her hands.

Of course, no one did. They all stayed rooted in their spots at the bar and Olivia gave up, walking back to her table.

"So where's Colin?" Blake asked.

"Daisy's at the house," she answered. "She got hungry so I told her I'd stop out here for dinner." Reva went back to watching the trio at the table across the room. "Do you think you could do it?" she asked to no one in particular.

"Do what?" Blake asked.

"Sex with a woman – do you think you could do it?"

Doris raised her glass as casually as possible and began to drink without taking a pause to breath.

Blake shrugged. "I hadn't really thought about it."

"Never?" Reva asked.

Blake blushed. "Okay, fine, I have. I'd say more since I found out about Natalia and Olivia." Doris did a double take and Blake looked momentarily panic stricken. "Not with either of them!" she corrected. Doris simply nodded in understanding and began to take another drink. "They make too cute couple to mess that up. Plus, when Natalia told me about them..." Blake seemed to sigh. "She was so shy and bashful and…kinda like a teenager, you know? It was very sweet."

"I guess that makes sense," Reva replied. "It'd be like a second virginity kind of, right?" she said posing her question to Doris trying to draw her into the conversation.

Doris didn't seem to quite know how to answer the question. She gave an uncomfortable shrug and said, "Yeaaaah, sure, I guess."

Blake agreed and then leaned over to Reva. "What about you? Could you do it?"

Reva looked as though she was considering the thought. "I don't think I could. I like men and all their… man parts."

"Parts can be simulated," Doris offered as she took another drink.

Blake and Reva both giggled.

"You don't say?" Reva said teasingly and gave a single laugh. "Speaking from first-hand experience, Doris?"

Doris coughed slightly while Blake laughed.

"I'm just saying…." Doris began. "If you love someone the rest is… superficial…" Then as if trying to convince herself of that statement said, "Yeah… That's it."

Back at the table, the trio was trying to enjoy their appetizers, in silence. When the 'quiet' got to be too much for him to take Matt asked, "Is there something wrong?"

"No, no!" Olivia insisted.

"Yes," Natalia said as she took the napkin off her lap. She stood up. "Last ditch effort. Hail Mary pass," she muttered.

"Oh boy," Olivia sighed quietly.

Matt and Olivia watched Natalia walk toward the end of the table and get down on one knee.

The ladies at the bar rose up slightly in their seats to see where Natalia had gone.

"What's going on?" Matt asked.

Olivia and Natalia were so focused on each other though that the question went unheard and unanswered. Natalia took Olivia's hand in hers and cleared her throat.

Chapter Eight

Natalia licked her lips nervously.

"I need you to hear me out," she began.

The three women at the bar were now trying to look over the top of the bar to see Natalia. Olivia, for her part, watched Natalia with a hopeful, yet anxious expression, while Matt looked totally dumbfounded.

Natalia tightened her hold on Olivia while her thumb caressed the back of the older woman's hand as she spoke.

"You've spent years trying to convince me to take chances, to aspire to greater heights. I've listened and it's made me a better person. You've told me countless times, 'Don't let fear and uncertainty rule your way of thinking or decision making.' You said that if I did -- if I let insecurity win -- then I'd miss out on wonderful things… So right now, I'm asking you – heck, I'm begging you on bended knee… follow your own advice."

Natalia brought Olivia's hand up to her mouth and planted a delicate kiss on the middle knuckle before locking eyes with her again.

"I could spend the rest of my life offering words of reassurance, saying that I would never leave you again. A-and I know these words might never convince you, but it'll never stop me from saying them. All I can give you is my promise, and swear before God, I'll always be open and share everything with you. I'm offering you my love and devotion. But it's up to you to have courage to accept it… so please, Olivia…for both of us… Will you be courageous? Will you walk out of here with me? Just come home and I promise you a night you will never forget."

The devilish smile wasn't lost on Olivia. She was certain what delights would await her. Natalia would do anything to have her – anything. For the longest time no one said a word and everything seemed to stand still. The only noise that could be heard was coming from the far-away kitchen. At least it was the only sound until Reva's voice broke through.

"For goodness sake, Olivia! Kiss the poor woman!"

Doris and Blake both smiled at each other. Matt still looked on with a sense of wonder. Olivia's face was a mask at first, but then uncertainty began to play across her features. Finally, the hotelier shook her head and quietly said, "No."

Olivia looked like she was on the verge of tears and the trio at the bar hung their heads in disappointment. Natalia turned her head away, unable to look at Olivia as she released a ragged breath. She let go over Olivia's hand, letting it gently fall from her grasp.

"Natalia," Olivia began, "I came here tonight to see Matt. I'm ending this evening with Matt. And I'm not sorry about that in the least," she said firmly.

Natalia nodded, resigned to her defeat, but she squared her shoulders and rose up. She looked over at Matt. She opened her mouth to speak, but not finding the words she began to nod and simply told him, "I'm sorry for interrupting your evening together."

Natalia then took a step behind Olivia, taking her purse from the chair before making her way toward the door. Olivia couldn't look at her. She simply looked down at the plate in front of her while Doris and Blake shared a concerned look.

"I'm gonna…" Blake trailed off as she motioned to where Natalia had just left.

"Yeah," was all Doris could say before releasing a heavy sigh. "Son of a bitch," she muttered to nobody in particular.

Suddenly a brown take-out bag with the Towers logo appeared at the bar, startling both women.

Rebecca said, "$35.62, with tax."

Reva handed over two twenties. "Keep the change," she told the bartender.

"Damn it," Doris sighed under her breath. "What the hell is she doing?" she wondered more to herself than to Reva.

Reva took the bag from the bar. "If you get the chance, tell Olivia if she…if she wants to talk to someone…"

"Yeah," Doris said short on patient. "I think I might call it a night though," she added and began to shake her head in disgust.

Back at the table Olivia began to grin nervously. "Guess you're wondering what all that was about, huh?"

Matt cleared his throat. "At first, yeah, but… It started sinking in. You, ah…You guys have been a couple for awhile, huh? I mean, at the BBQ you said you weren't looking for anyone. You were with her then, weren't you?"

Olivia seemed to consider the question.

"That's the problem. I don't think I was ever 'with her'," she replied, but then paused. "Actually, that's not true. I was with her; heart and soul… She just wasn't with me…not really."

Matt grinned, more in nervousness than any kind of merriment. "Well, it sure sounds like she wants to be with you now."

"Now's a little too late," Olivia replied with a far off look in her eye. For a short moment, neither one of them said anything and Olivia shook her head slightly. "I'm sorry for spacing out there."

"Why are you here Olivia?"

"I didn't use you if that's what you thought," she replied.

"Fair enough," Matt replied with a short nod. "But that didn't answer my question – why are you here?"

Outside of Towers, Blake looked left and not seeing Natalia looked right.

"Natalia! Wait!" she shouted and began to give chase. Blake had to jog to catch up and, when she finally arrived at her side, she sounded a bit winded. "Hey, wait up," she said trying to catch her breath.

"Tonight was pointless," Natalia replied as she stopped and faced Blake.

"You can't give up on her."

"I'm not. I'm just…I'm regrouping here, okay? I just…" Natalia bit her lip trying to hold back her tears.

"Oh, Sweetie," Blake said sympathetically as she opened her arms and brought Natalia to her.

The gesture was Natalia's undoing and it opened the floodgates. In the lonely shadow of a solitaire streetlight, Natalia cried and all Blake could do was hold her.

Chapter Nine

"So…why am I here?" Olivia repeated Matt's question. "Honestly?" He nodded politely. "I just want a friend. I don't think you came here believing you'd get a one-night-stand or find happily ever after, not really, right?"

Matt considered her comment. "I suppose you're right."

"And being a friend of mine would put you in a very exclusive group, seeing as I don't have many friends."

"I find that hard to believe," he responded.

"No, it's true. I know lots of people. I'd go so far to say that I even like a few of them and vice versa, but friends – people who I can really turn to – not so much. You mentioned you like hiking so I thought, what the hell? It's been years since I had a hiking buddy."

"And if dinner with me just happens to make Natalia jealous..." He playfully let the sentence hang.

Olivia gave him a guilty grin. "Okay, that thought did cross my mind too, but just as an added bonus, really – it wasn't the main event."

"I believe you," Matt replied. "So since we're being super honest here. I think I should be too. As a 'friend' that's my duty, right?" Olivia nodded. "Go to her – it's obvious that Natalia feels horrible that things aren't working out for you guys and she loves you tremendously."

"I love her tremendously too, but it's not that easy, Matt."

"Says who?" an annoyed, slurred voice behind her said. She turned to see Doris standing there. "She loves you – you love her. It really IS that easy."

"First of all, you sound drunk and second, no, it's not that easy," Olivia insisted.

"Is this about pride?" Doris asked getting increasingly exasperated. "My God, Olivia. The woman was on her knees. Her knees! What more do you want?!"

Olivia was becoming angry herself.

"I want to trust her. I need to know that she believes in us; that she believes in me. That she'll stand by me, but also that she'll let me in and share herself with me. And no, I don't mean just sex here."

"Olivia…she just got upset and had to go away and clear her head."

"Yes, but rather than tell me what was happening she just left. That's the problem, Doris. She left me without so much as a goodbye and she didn't trust me enough to tell me what was wrong. How on earth can I trust her now?"

"And how ON EARTH will she ever earn that trust if you don't give her the chance?" Doris asked.

Olivia looked over at Matt who simply nodded in agreement with Doris and waved toward the Mayor. "While it's true that she sounds a little drunk, she makes a good point."

Doris knelt down coming eye-to-eye with Olivia.

"You know, just as well as I do, she's your once-in-a-lifetime, Liv… Don't be so afraid that you toss it away." Olivia began to look away, but Doris took Olivia's hand in hers. "Don't make the dumb mistakes I've made. I can say, without a doubt, you'll regret it for the rest of your life and you don't want that. Besides, you love her, right? Regardless of the anger, fear, everything else aside… you still love her, don't you?" Olivia wore a melancholy expression, but nodded. "Look, pregnancy hormones make you a little nuts, okay? Heck, I remember when I was carrying Ashley there were pizza commercials that could make me cry. So while I'm not excusing what Natalia did, I'm just saying… maybe her leaving wasn't some pre-meditated act to hurt you or shut you out."

Olivia took a steadying breath. "So now what?" she asked.

"Lay it all on the line," Doris replied without hesitation. "Get your ass over to the farmhouse and start living the life you want – the one you deserve, right now."

Olivia closed her eyes. "Doris," she sighed. "I…I just can't."

Doris hung her head in exasperation and called out, "Rebecca, another round please!"

Back at the farmhouse, Blake was pulling into the driveway while Natalia sat in the passenger seat.

"It's finally sinking in," Natalia said almost absently. "She might never come back," she added as if realizing it for the first time.

Blake put the car in park and then turned to Natalia. "Well, you could always go back to Frank. I'm sure he'd take care of you."

"Frank's not the love of my life – he never was," Natalia replied. "I want it all Blake or I want nothing… I want Olivia."

"Life isn't always about what we want, Natalia."

"True," she agreed with a short nod. "But I spent a lot of my life settling – settling on low paying, labor jobs; settling on tiny apartments to raise Rafe in; settling on marrying a man I didn't love to avoid my best friend who I did…I'm just…I'm done. I'll raise this child with Olivia or I'll raise this child alone. Either way it's going to be on my terms – no settling whatsoever."

Natalia opened the door and got out, but she didn't immediately close it. Instead, she stuck her head inside the open door.

"Are you gonna be okay?" Blake asked concerned.

Natalia nodded. "Yeah, I will. And thanks for trying to help tonight."

"Don't lose faith Sweetheart," Blake said optimistically.

"If she didn't love me, I'd walk away. I'm not a complete fool. But I know that as long as love is there I've got a chance of winning her back. I'm not giving up."

"That's the spirit," Blake coached.

Natalia gave her a small chuckle. "Rah, rah. Go team?"

"You got it!" Blake said as she reached for the gear shifter. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Natalia waved and then shut the door. She walked up the sidewalk as Blake's headlights showed the way. Putting the key inside she gave Blake one more wave and walked inside. Upon entering and closing the door, Natalia rested her back against it, unmoving. Her bottom lip began to tremble and then she buried her face in her hands, unable to hold back the threshold of tears.

Chapter Ten

Natalia stood in the waiting room at Cedars. She held her phone in her hand and took a long breath. Then she pressed the name, 'Olivia'.

"Olivia Spencer," came the short response after two rings.

"Hey, it's Natalia. With all the chaos of last night I, uh, I just wanted to remind you the ultrasound offer still stands this morning. I've drank so much water I think I might burst at the seams," she tried to joke.

"Sorry, but I'm busy," she replied coldly without elaborating.

Natalia closed her eyes, trying to bite back the tears. "Okay, well if you change your mind I'll be here at Cedars..." An uncomfortable silence based between them and Natalia quietly said, "Bye."

"Bye."

Although she'd heard the unmistakable click of the line, Natalia still muttered, "I love you.' She stood still for a few moments looking at the open phone. Then she suddenly shut it briskly and threw it against the sofa. Another patient on the far end of the room saw the frustrated gesture and Natalia apologized.

"Sorry," she said picking the phone up. "Hormones and all. You're safe over there," she teased as she put it into her purse and took a seat.

The older man grinned at her and then stuffed his nose back into his magazine.

As Olivia was putting her phone back in her purse, Phillip walked into Company. He saw Olivia sipping a coffee at the bar. He walked over with a gentle smile.

"Rumor has it Natalia is back in town," he said hopefully.

"Yep," was all she said, not bothering to look up from her paper she was reading. She took a sip from her mug without adding more.

Phillip obviously tried to proceed cautiously as he slowly took a seat next to her.

"Did you find out why she left?" he asked softly.

"She's pregnant," Olivia replied casual. She then put the paper down for a moment and said, "Just so you know, I'm not the father," before putting it back up again.

"She's pregnant?" Phillip asked dumbfounded. "I'm assuming she slept with Frank before the wedding?"

"Yep."

"But I thought she loved you."

"She did."

"But she slept with him anyway?"

"Yep."

"Why?"

"Beats me. It was ancient history – or so we thought."

Phillip paused. "You're not very talkative today."

Olivia let out a long sigh.

"I'm not in the mood, okay? I woke up late, which made Emma late. I can't focus on work and I had a date with Matt last night that pretty much ended in disaster thanks to Natalia's confession of undying lurvvvve," she said bastardizing the word 'love.'

Phillip seemed to digest everything she said.

"Matt? Really?" were the first words out of his mouth.

"I swear the next person who says that, I'm gonna wring their neck," Olivia muttered and then took a calming breath. "I just want to move on, alright? Natalia's going to end up with Frank now so I might as well just walk away, you know?"

"No, I don't," he replied honestly.

"Hey, Phillip," Daisy greeted him from behind the counter. "Can I get you something?"

"Coffee black please, Sweetie," he told her before turning back to Olivia. "So that's it? Natalia chooses Frank then?"

"Yep."

"She told you that?" Phillip said still disbelieving.

"No, but I'm assuming."

"You're basing your decisions here on assumptions?"

"All I've had for a month and a half are assumptions!" Olivia said getting angry. "I had no idea why she left or if she'd be back."

"But she wants you in her life now, right? She's had time to think things through and she knows what she wants."

Olivia appeared reluctant to speak. "Okay. Yes. Fine. She asked me if I'd go to her ultrasound appointment this morning, but it's not my kid, okay? Have her ask Frank. It's his baby."

Phillip ran his fingers through his hair in confusion and slight annoyance.

"So let me see if I've got this right. Natalia busts up your date with Matt last night to say she loves you. She wants you at the hospital today for her ultrasound. But somehow you interpret this as her picking Frank over you... Where did I get confused about her disregarding you?"

Olivia gave a frustrated sigh. "Look, this doesn't concern you, alright?"

Phillip looked worried and rubbed a hand over his face. "Yeah, actually it does," he said sounding impatient. "Your happiness is my happiness. A-and Emma should have two parents that love her."

"She does. She's got us."

Phillip didn't seem to know what to say at first.

"I just mean to live with each day. With you and Natalia together it gave her the stability that's so important. She needs that and you need that."

"Well, maybe once upon a time when I trusted her, but not anymore."

"So now what?" Phillip asked. "You just toss away the last two years of your life? You walk away from the one person that you said makes you happy to get up each day?"

"That was before. I'm beyond it now."

"The hell you are!" Phillip challenged. Olivia gave him a dirty look but he continued, "We both know what's going to happen here," he snorted. "You're eventually going to forgive her and when that happens you'll beat yourself up for not being there today…When's her appointment this morning?"

"Ten," Olivia replied.

Phillip looked up at the clock. "You've got ten minutes and Cedars is right across the street. You can still make it."

"Maybe, I don't want to make it," Olivia replied looking like she was about to cry. "Maybe no matter what I do, or what she says, this child will never be mine."

"It's not just flesh and blood that makes a family Olivia. It's those little moments like seeing an ultrasound together for the first time. Trust me. Don't waste these moments because they're precious. Some people never get these chances," he stressed. "And you'll never get them back, no matter what you do, so take them now." Olivia looked up at the clock. Phillip could tell she was strongly considering it. "I know what I'm talking about here and I know you can do it," he encouraged. "Whether you're this child's other mother or, at the very least, Natalia's friend – she needs you and the truth is you NEED this too." Olivia still seemed to be deciding, so Phillip added, "Besides, Rick told me Natalia followed you to Cedars more times than you could count. Isn't it time to return the favor, if nothing else?"

Olivia clinched her jaw. "Eight minutes. Think I can really make it?" she asked.

"If you hurry," he answered.

Olivia muttered, "Damn it," as she snatched up her purse and raced out the door.

Phillip smiled.

Chapter Eleven

Olivia opened the door wide as she entered Cedars. Directly in front of her was an information desk. She began to move to the right and pointed as she yelled out, "Radiology still down here? Third floor?"

"Yeah," the clerk yelled back and watched in slight confusion.

Olivia ran down the hall, turning a few heads in wonder.

Upstairs, on the third floor, a technician called out, "Rivera."

Natalia looked to the double doors of the wing, hoping that she might see Olivia arrive. Resigned to the thought that wasn't going to happen she raised her hand as she stood up.

"That's me," she replied.

Back on the main floor, Olivia rounded a corner quickly and took a spot inside the vacant elevator. She pushed the number 'three' and then pushed the 'close doors' button. When they didn't start closing automatically she impatiently began to push it repeatedly.

"Come on, come on," she coaxed. As the doors began to close she said, "Finally," as she looked at her watch.

Upstairs, in the radiology wing, Natalia and the technician walked side-by-side heading deeper into the department.

"Is this your first child?" the technician asked politely.

"In a way, I'm sure a lot's changed," Natalia answered. "I have a son who's 19." She smiled.

"Oh my," the technician replied, "That's quite an age gap."

"Yeah, this was far from being planned. But the first one wasn't planned either a-and I did okay on my own. I can do it again. I mean… the father is great. He's promised to be there for this child, so that's wonderful, but I fell in love with someone else and that person is…" Natalia paused.

"Looking to avoid it all, eh?"

"Well, we started dating before I knew I was pregnant and I…I left town to clear my head about everything, which only made everything worse and…here I am alone. But I-I have faith. I've prayed and I've asked God for support and to perhaps find a way to reach her …"

"Her?" the tech asked.

"Oh, did I not mention the fact I'm in love with a woman?…Yeah. My life is a soap opera."

The technician laughed and Natalia smiled. "I'm sorry. I wasn't laughing at you. It's just…"

"That's fine. You gotta laugh sometimes to keep from crying," Natalia reassured her.

"That you do Ms. Rivera," she said as they entered a darken room. "Okay, I'm going to have you strip to your underwear from the waist down, okay? You can keep your blouse on. There's a sheet here so just have a seat when you're done and I'll be back inside in a few minutes to get started."

"Thank you," Natalia told her.

Back in the elevator Olivia was watching the number change to two, but suddenly the elevator stopped.

"Son of a bitch! No!" she yelled.

A couple of seconds later an elderly man using a walker was taking agonizing slow steps toward the elevator as an equally elderly woman followed behind him, monitoring his movements like a hawk.

"You got to be kidding me," Olivia muttered under her breath.

The man was halfway in the elevator when he stopped and turned to the woman behind him.

"Did you get my prescription?" he asked.

"Your what?" the woman asked, obviously hard of hearing.

"Prescription?" he asked her louder. "Do you have it?"

"I think so," she replied. "Let me check." The woman began to look through her purse.

"Oh for the love…" Olivia muttered and rolled her eyes. Shaking her head at her luck, she worked her way around the old man saying, "Excuse me," as she exited the elevator. She looked down to the end of the hallway and saw a sign marked 'stairs.' Again, she took off into a run. She'd cleared the door and started to run up to the next flight.

Upon making it to the third floor, she stopped and looked at an arrow pointing to Radiology. Another set of double doors sat at the far end. With another roll of her eyes, she took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders before she broke into another run.

Breathing hard, she crashed through the double doors of the radiology department and looked around. She didn't see Natalia. The man that was in the room with Natalia earlier though was still seated there. He looked up from his magazine at the sudden noise and then looked back down again.

Olivia went up to the clerk at the check-in desk and simply panted, "Rivera."

The clerk looked confused and turned to a co-worker who was doing filing behind her.

"Do we have two 'Rivera's' this morning?" She then motioned with her hand toward the area where Natalia went moments before with the tech. "I know we've got one back there now," she said.

"Thanks," was all Olivia said as she began to walk through the doors.

The clerk looked startled. "Hey, wait! You can't go back there," she told her.

Olivia ignored the remark.

Back in the ultrasound room, the technician had returned.

"Are you all set?"

"Yeah," Natalia answered and pulled the sheet covering her lap and legs a little closer.

"Let's swing your legs this way and we'll get started, okay?"

Natalia nodded and then swiveled over as the tech helped place a pillow behind her head.

At the same time, Olivia was marching through the inner area of the radiology ward.

"Natalia!" she yelled out. "Where are you?" Not getting an answer, and with the check-in clerk now in pursuit, she repeated more impatiently, "Natalia!"

The tech and Natalia looked at each other, then looked at the door and then at each other again.

"Olivia?!" Natalia yelled out toward the door. "I'm over here," she added as she began to move from the table, wrapping the sheet around her waist.

Outside in the hallway, Olivia picked up the pace for two reasons - first, to outrun the clerk who was still in pursuit and second, to find the direction of Natalia's voice. Just as Natalia was stepping out from the room, Olivia began her approach toward her.

"You can't be back here!" the clerk said as she grabbed Olivia by the elbow and began to pull her away.

Olivia gave her arm a tug, breaking free.

"If you prevent me from being in that room I promise to slap this hospital with a gay discrimination lawsuit. Do you want that? Huh? Do ya?"

The clerk didn't know what to say so Natalia stepped up.

"I, uh, I don't think that will be necessary, okay?" Natalia said looking at both women. "I want her here with me," she reassured the clerk. "I asked her to come. Alright?"

The clerk visibly relaxed. "I'm sorry. I didn't know and she didn't say…" she tried to explain.

"It's okay," Natalia tried to reassure her.

"I would never do anything to discriminate against anyone," the clerk continued.

"Really, it's okay," Natalia said more forcefully. "No harm, no foul. Alright?"

The clerk just nodded and made her way back down the hall. Olivia made sure to watch until she was gone. Only then did she turn around to Natalia, who had smile on her face a mile wide.

"What?" Olivia asked.

"You made it," Natalia replied. "See? God listens and sometimes he delivers."

"Don't thank God," Olivia told her. "Thank Phillip."

"The man you were going to kill earlier this year?" Natalia teased.

Olivia gave her a sarcastic smirk. "Yeah, him."

"Ah ha."

"Anyway," Olivia continued, "he saw me at Company and he made a lot of good points, like if I miss this I might regret it. I-I can't say I'm ready for any of this, Natalia. I don't know what will become of us or if there even is an 'us' anymore but…"

"But what?"

"Phillip pointed out how you were always there for me when I had my heart issues. And I did promise you, no matter what, I'd always be your best friend. I meant it then and I mean it now, so I have to start acting like a best friend. So…" Olivia looked nervous. "If the offer still stands, I want to be here today for you."

Natalia took Olivia's hand in hers.

"I'm not going to pretend I don't want more, but I'll take what I can get for now…Oh, and for the record, who do you think put Phillip at Company at the right time, huh?"

Olivia acted like she was considering it. "His chauffer?" she finally retorted.

Natalia smiled and simply pulled Olivia by the hand into the ultrasound room.

Chapter Twelve

Olivia settled into a chair next to Natalia, who was laying on the gurney. On the opposite side sat the technician. The older woman looked down and saw Natalia playing nervously with the edge of the sheet that covered her legs and belly.

For a few moments longer, Olivia studied how the pregnant woman fidgeted. She took a deep breath as if in slight meditation as she reached under Natalia's hand intertwining their fingers. She then laid her other hand on top – capturing Natalia's hand completely. Almost automatically Natalia's body seemed to relax, even though she gave Olivia's hand a short tight squeeze in 'thanks' for being there.

"Are we ready?" the tech asked.

Natalia and Olivia both nodded and the tech pulled down the sheet and raised Natalia's shirt slightly. The appearance of Natalia's swelled stomach seemed to catch Olivia off guard. She wasn't sure what she expected exactly, but just the image of the protruding belly began to make the pregnancy all the more real.

"Not what you were expecting, huh?" Natalia asked self consciously.

"Honestly, no," Olivia answered as she started to grin.

Natalia licked her lips nervously. "I know pregnant women aren't exactly the picturesque model for sex and desire."

"I think you're beautiful," Olivia replied impulsively. She realized immediately she let the comment slip and averted her eyes. In doing so, she missed the growing smile on Natalia's face. "So," Olivia addressed the technician. "I'm assuming Natalia's far enough along that you'll be able to see the sex of the child."

"I'm glad you brought that up actually. I always say 'he' when I refer to the fetus regardless of the sex. But if you want to know, I can see if we can get a good shot."

"No," Natalia answered while at the same time Olivia said, "Yes."

The tech smiled. "It never fails – one wants to know and the other doesn't."

"I want to be surprised," Natalia replied.

"How about this?" Olivia offered to the tech. "You tell me after she leaves."

"Oh no." Natalia started to chuckle. "You can't keep a secret like this."

"I promise I won't tell you."

"No, instead you'll say something like, 'We really should paint the nursery blue' without saying it's a boy."

"Maybe I want to paint our nursery blue to fight gender stereotypes, huh?" Olivia asked. "Did you think about that?"

Natalia just gave her an incredulous look at first, fully aware that Olivia had no intention at all in fighting gender roles – at least not via decorating. But then she slowly smiled as another aspect of what she said hit home. "I'm just glad that you're considering it OUR nursery."

Olivia just smirked in response. Although it wasn't confirmation on Olivia's desire to be with her again, it was a step in the right direction instead of an outright refusal.

The tech smiled at their banter as she smeared the jelly on Natalia's stomach.

"Oh hey, that's warm," Natalia noted, "I was expecting it to be cold."

"Jelly warmers," the tech said proudly, pointing to the equipment. "A lot's changed in 20 years."

"No kidding," Natalia replied, but then motioned back to Olivia. "Anyway, back to blabbermouth over here."

"I am not a blabbermouth."

"Says the woman who couldn't wait to tell me what she got for my birthday."

"Okay, fine," Olivia relented.

Now the tech began to chuckle. "And you're sure you two aren't still in love? You argue like a married couple. It's cute."

"I've been doing my best to convince her I love her." Natalia then paused and turned to the tech. She was trying her best so she knew instantly there was something she could do then and there.

"You know what? Tell us," Natalia added. "It's important to her and she's more important than any surprise. So tell us the sex if you can."

"Natalia," Olivia began in a worried tone. "If you don't want to know…"

"I mean it, Olivia. Your happiness means more to me than any surprise in the delivery room. You're impatient. I get that." Both women smiled. "You want to know. So let's find out together."

Natalia tightened her hold on Olivia's hand and the older woman returned the gesture.

The image came up grainy at first, but then slowly came into focus.

"Oh my goodness," Olivia said leaning closer. "Look there! You can see all the fingers there." She pointed and mumbled as she counted them.

"Yeah," the tech said. "This child isn't bashful at all," she added as she continued to press a button nearby, taking image after image.

"That's just…that's incredible," Olivia said with wonder.

Natalia looked at the screen, but her eyes were focused more on Olivia. She was captivated as she watched Olivia smile, start to tear up a little and then omit a slight chuckle of delight. She knew she hadn't seen Olivia this happy since she'd returned.

"Thank you God," Natalia mouthed as she watched Olivia grow more and more awestruck by the images.

The tech took a still photo again and then pointed to the image. "You want to know the sex. Look right there," she told the pair. She then circled the area around the baby's waist. "What do you see?"

Olivia looked closely along with Natalia. The two women looked at each other.

"I don't see anything," Olivia told the tech.

"Exactly," the technician smiled.

Both women looked at each other. "It's a little girl?" Natalia asked.

"Yep!" The tech nodded. "Of course, mistakes have been known to happen so I wouldn't go wild on the 'pink' stuff. But this little lady's pretty much given us the Playboy shot here - front and center; spread eagle." Olivia snorted and Natalia playfully swatted at her arm. "There's not a lot left up to chance. Sounds like she heard you and decided to show you what you wanted."

"She's beautiful," Olivia said proudly.

"Now Emma finally gets to be 'the Ava' - a big sister to a younger one," Natalia said as she watched the screen.

Suddenly realizing her impulsive words might upset Olivia, she quickly looked over. Olivia though was still mesmerized by the picture before her. It took a few moments, but Natalia's words finally registered and Olivia looked down at Natalia. She seemed unsure of what to say.

Recognizing Olivia's growing insecurity of how to reply, Natalia added, "You don't have to say anything. I'm just glad you're here."

Olivia seemed relieved and a bit smitten. She loved the woman because Natalia could read her so well and, when it mattered the most, she knew the right words to say. Olivia just tighten her hold on her hand and said, "Me too."

Chapter Thirteen

Natalia and Olivia walked toward Company.

"I'm so relieved everything looks okay so far," the raven-haired woman sighed. "I've still got more tests, but at least I'm not AS worried."

"Well, it's like the tech said – it's not like you were out drinking every night. You had a few glasses of wine and a beer or two. Big deal. Pregnant women in France probably go through much more in a week," she teased.

"And a shot - don't forget the shot too," Natalia added.

Olivia grinned sarcastically. "Oh yeah, that one put you over the top." Natalia bumped shoulders with her as they walked. "Still," Olivia continued, "it's not like you spent the last few months like I've spent the last few weeks." Natalia looked nervous. "I didn't mean that as a jab, okay?" she added quickly. "Besides, I was the one doing the drinking. I didn't…I didn't handle everything very well."

"It was the worst time to leave," Natalia muttered.

"Yes. Yes, it was." Olivia sighed. "But, regardless of you not being here, or even how you left, you'd think that after the past 25 years I might have learned something."

"Such as…?"

"Booze and sex don't solve problems – in fact, they make things worse."

Natalia bit her bottom lip. "Not that it's any of my business, but when I was gone, did you…?"

The sentence hung for a moment, but Olivia offered no help.

"I know what you're asking, but I want to hear you ask it," she replied without the slightest bit of merriment in her voice.

Natalia squared her shoulders. "Did you sleep with anyone – correction, did you have sex with anyone?"

Olivia paused and licked her lips. "You left me...Does it matter?"

Natalia shrugged nervously. "I was worth waiting for at one point, remember?"

"That was when I felt wanted too," Olivia replied. "I thought you loved me."

"I do love you Olivia. I do," Natalia insisted.

Olivia put her hands up in front of her. "Look, we had a good morning, okay? Can we just leave it at that?"

Natalia paused for a moment and the hurt showed on her features. Olivia opened her mouth as if to confess the truth, but before she could say anything Natalia just began to nod. The younger woman reached for the door. She turned to make sure Olivia was with her, but she stopped when she wasn't following her inside. Natalia looked confused.

"Aren't you gonna come in?" she asked. Olivia put her hands in her pockets and looked reluctant. "Too much too soon?" Natalia asked.

"I haven't really made a decision," replied Olivia. "I mean about us and the baby and everything. I'm sure Frank is in there and…"

Natalia took a calming breath, as if willing herself not to grow upset or agitated. Instead, she simply nodded. For long moment neither woman said a word. Natalia, however, closed the distance between them and pulled Olivia into a somewhat reluctant embrace.

While she still had the woman in her arms, Natalia softly whispered, "Thank you for being there today…and for keeping your promise."

Natalia still hadn't pulled away, so Olivia tightened her hold.

"Thank you for asking me."

Olivia closed her eyes and partially buried her face in Natalia's long hair, letting the strains caress her cheek, soaking up the sensation if only for a moment.

Natalia, as if sensing Olivia's desire to hold her, continued to cling to Olivia and asked, "Can I see you later? Please?"

Olivia looked on the verge of saying no, but she opened her eyes to see Frank Cooper staring at them through the window.

Her mind flashed to the night at the farmhouse. Frank proposed and she was the one watching them build a life together, a life that she wouldn't be a part of. She thought back to how much she envied Frank as she looked at him through the window, thinking she'd never have that with Natalia. But now, here she stood locked in the woman's firm embrace, knowing that Natalia did pick her.

"Olivia?" Natalia said, trying to get her attention although she didn't move.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same," Olivia muttered. Natalia didn't know how to take the comment. She felt Olivia move back, but not completely let her go. She cleared her throat and then nodded.

"Yes, I'll see you tonight."

Natalia tried to hold down her smile, but failed. "Can I call it a date? I never really got a chance to court you."

Olivia grinned. "You know if someone told me two years ago that a sexy, pregnant Latina will ask me on a date I never would've believe it. Okay, maybe I could believe the asking part, because please," she teased with a sexy, confident grin as she motioned over her own body. Natalia laughed. "It's the saying 'yes' on my part that would've throw me for a loop," she added.

Natalia pulled Olivia slightly closer by the hips. "Do I still throw you, Olivia? Make you off balance?"

"Dear, you will do that until the day I die - I'm sure of that," Olivia confessed.

"Hopefully it'll be a long, long time from now," she said as she caressed her face. "How about 7 PM? I'll pick you up at the Beacon?"

Olivia nodded and Natalia flashed the ultrasound pictures in her hand. "I'm gonna see if Frank wants to know how it went."

"I'm sure he will," Olivia told her. "He loves you, you know? He'd take you back if you asked."

"Perhaps, but if anyone's going to take me," Natalia replied with a sexy leer to her voice. "I want it to be you. I'm not giving up without a fight - even if the one I have to fight is you."

"I don't want to fight," Olivia replied in a soft, almost timid voice.

Natalia stroked her face. "Then don't. Start by having dinner with me tonight. Okay?"

Olivia only nodded and Natalia leaned in. Her lips puckered and she closed the distance between them. Olivia became visibly tense.

As if performing a delicate procedure, Natalia carefully planted a kiss on Olivia's cheek. Although to any outsider it might look incredibly chaste, it was the light pressure of Natalia's tongue on her flesh that burn into Olivia's soul, branding her. It was bold, yet at the same time amazingly subtle. Just like Natalia herself, Olivia thought.

"Thank you for today," Natalia told her softly. Not bothering to wait for Olivia to reply or reject her, Natalia walked over and opened the door to Company and walked inside.

Olivia didn't leave immediately. She slowly began to grin and her fingertips gently touched the area that Natalia had kissed moments before.

Chapter Fourteen

"Okay," Natalia said as she entered the office and began to pace. "Last time I asked for wooing advice I went to Blake and it blew up in my face, so now I'm going to an expert on women for advice."

Doris blinked twice and then looked behind her as if thinking perhaps someone else was in the room.

"Me?" she asked incredulously. "You want my advice on how to win over Olivia? How about not ripping her heart out for starters?"

Nat paused at the acidy in Doris's voice. "Okay, I would expect that from Liv."

"But not from her friends, is that it? You and I, Natalia, see... we are not friends. If anything maybe Olivia should stay 500 feet from you at all times?"

"But the other night…?"

"I was helping Olivia move forward – either with you or without you. It doesn't matter to me who she's with as long as she finds her happiness."

Natalia's jaw tightened. "If I didn't know any better I might say you're smitten with my girlfriend."

"EX," Doris stressed. "Your ex-girlfriend - the one you left without so much as a 'post-it note' alright? I mean, my god, Natalia. What the hell were you thinking?"

"I wasn't," Natalia admitted. "I didn't know WHAT to think, about anything."

"Did she tell you we went looking for you?"

"She said she looked, but she didn't mention…you."

Doris paused as if trying to find a starting place.

"She walked into my office and was just…a train wreck. She smelled like wine and she looked like she hadn't slept in days. So I told her if she promised to go home, eat and go to bed then the next day after work we'd go looking after pulling up a list of retreats. Place after place turned her away and when she reached her breaking point, when she couldn't get beyond the doors of any retreat she… she broke down. I watched her shout your name into the heavens in such pain and misery – the likes of which I'd never seen in my lifetime, ever. In fact, there was a nun that could have had her arrested. But thankfully, she had mercy. The tears were a good motivator."

"Olivia's crying touched her?"

"Not just Olivia. She saw me crying too."

"You were crying?"

Doris's eyes bore into Natalia's and cleared her throat. "You weren't there – you didn't see the shattered woman I saw." Natalia looked away in shame, her bottom lip trembling. "So did you find the answers that cost Olivia her heart and soul? Was the isolation worth it?" Natalia teared up and Doris's features hardened. "Oh come on, Sweetie Pie. You gotta do better than that. Olivia's got you beat by miles on the waterworks front. But then again, maybe she was the only one really in love, huh?"

"Damn you, Doris. You don't need to be a bitch," Natalia spat.

"Hey, don't damn me. I'm the one who stood by her. I'm the one who managed to convince her that she's still lovable. I'm not the one that left Olivia crying in a courtyard like a little girl, begging for attention. YOU did that! So tell me, who's the real bitch here, huh?"

"I didn't intend to hurt her," Natalia said as she began to cry. "I swear I didn't."

"You're a religious woman. You know what they say about the road to hell, Natalia." Doris gave her a sarcastic smirk. "You know when I said Olivia was the only one in love, I didn't hear a 'you're wrong' from you."

"I love Olivia!" Natalia shouted. Doris moved back, but only slightly. "I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I want to raise this child with her! But I can't do that if she never trusts me!"

"And why should she, huh?"

"Because I love her."

"Oh please tell me you didn't use that line on her." Natalia looked away. "You did? Oh jeeze. Let me ask you something… you loved her before the Barbeque, didn't you? Remember, the big coming out party that never happened because you left without a word? Does that ring any bells?"

"It's different this time," Natalia told her.

"Different how?"

"It just is!" Natalia insisted.

Doris chuckled. "Oh sure and we know how solid your word is, right?" She followed up with a frustrated sigh. "Dear, you need to figure out why it's different now. If you can't convince ME then how the HELL do expect to convince, Olivia?" After a moment of staring at the woman, Doris reached down and grabbed her briefcase. She walked to the door. Before she cleared the doorway, the mayor stopped and turned around. "I get off at five today. Come back then," she told her.

"You'll help me?" Natalia asked in disbelief.

"No," Doris replied. "But I'll help Olivia and I know the only thing that will ever make her happy is you. Why? I have no friggin' clue, but miracles never cease."

With that Doris walked out and slowly Natalia followed. She didn't see the satisfied and cunning smirk on Doris's lips.

Chapter Fifteen

Natalia looked at her watch - it was just past noon. Realizing she had plenty of time before her meeting with Doris that day, she walked inside the church and proceeded to light three candles, her lips mumbling in silent prayer.

She took a seat in the front row directly across from the large cross and cleared her throat as she held her hands in prayer and lowered her head.

"O God and Heavenly Father,

Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed,

and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

She released a heavy sigh.

"I knew that I'd be challenged, Lord. I did. And I knew that Olivia would be upset but…I didn't know she'd feel devastated."

Natalia tightened her hands together even more.

"You know I didn't leave to hurt her. If anything, I left so I didn't burden her with my insecurities."

Natalia paused and cleared her throat.

"You know as well as I do Lord that no one – and I mean no one - has ever been devastated by my absence. Ever… Not my parents. Not Gus. And, truth be told, not even Frank."

The sad expression Natalia wore for that revelation began to slowly turn into a grin.

"But Olivia…" She closed her eyes as if trying to picture the woman as she brought her hands to her lips. "My love and desire for her truly knows no bounds now and for the first time in my life I can see that you're blessing me with genuine love."

Natalia's happy expression began to dip and one of determination took hold.

"But I realize this gift isn't coming without a cost. I know I have to fight for her and I realize – now – just how devastated she is…Just how devastated 'I' made her feel."

Natalia shook her head rebelliously.

"But I'm not letting her go. I know you've chosen her for me. It is your will and it will be done. And although it breaks my heart to know the pain I'VE caused her, it confirms what I know to be true; what you've shown me. She and I belong together… for her sake, for my sake, for Emma's sake and for this child's sake."

Natalia licked her lips nervously.

"And Rafe… Please God, like I said grant me the serenity of mind to accept his… departure… if I can't change his mind."

Natalia began to tear up.

"I failed him. I know…I don't want to fail again."

Natalia said as she rubbed her stomach.

"I wanted the best for Rafe and in doing so I ended up with an spoiled, angry, short-tempered…bigot."

Natalia began to cry as she buried her face in her hands.

"So I gotta know Lord, please," she begged through her tears, "will you bring me the wisdom, and the strength, to walk away from him if that's what it takes?"

After a few moments of silence, Natalia sniffed and wiped her cheeks. She took a calming breath. When her breathing finally evened out and her eyes began to dry she cleared her throat again.

"I want to find a way to reach Olivia, Lord. I need to find a way to understand why my leaving was so painful, but I don't know where to start. I mean… I've had two relationships in my entire life and each one lasted less than a year. I don't have a lot of experience in this department, ya know? So what's my role as someone's partner?"

Natalia paused as if reconsidering the question.

"No…what I want to know is… what will it take to be the partner that Olivia needs? How can I succeed where others failed? Where do I even begin to find the answers when I have little experience in loving relationships outside of motherhood?"

Natalia took a shaking breath and lowered her forehead to her hands. A few seconds later she heard the rattle of the doors open and she turned around to see Josh Lewis standing there. Natalia began to tear up again and she looked at the looming cross again.

"Thank you," she whispered.

Chapter Sixteen

"I'm sorry for interrupting," Josh apologized.

"No, that's okay. It's nice to see a friendly face actually," Natalia replied with a slight smile. Josh grinned as he finished walking down the aisle. "So what brings you by in the middle of the afternoon?" she asked. "Some heavy questions perhaps?"

Josh ran a hand over his face. "I almost came in here the other day – I'm working on a site not far from here, so it's closer than my church."

"So what changed your mind today?"

Josh paused at first.

"I'm not sure. Today felt more right I guess….I, uh, I'm here because I, um, I think my actions might have caused unmitigated damage to a woman I love."

Natalia gave him a compassionate smile. "You too, huh?"

Josh snorted. "Yeah, small world huh?"

"Have a seat," Natalia said as she slide down and patted the bench. "Misery loves company after all." Josh complied and took a spot next to her. "Now, you tell me your story and I'll tell you mine," Natalia added.

"I, ah, I have to confess. I actually know your story…or I should say one side of the story. I would like to hear the other side though."

"Oh no, you go first," Natalia replied as she good-naturedly shoved his arm.

Josh chuckled. "Alright," he nodded and then paused for a starting place. He grew solemn before speaking. "I helped Jeffrey plot a mission to draw out Edmund and it got him killed and Reva…She's not talking it well and I feel like it's all my fault."

"Not to many people are taking it well from what I hear," Natalia replied.

"No, this is…" Josh released a breath he'd been holding. "This is beyond mourning. Reva thinks she's having a mental breakdown and I'm scared. I'm scared for her. I'm scared for Colin…I came here looking for a little comfort; some direction perhaps. I…I made a promise to Jeffrey before he left that even if he didn't survive that I wouldn't make a play for Reva. And even that's becoming difficult because… I love her, Natalia. So I thought I'd come in, light a candle for her and ask the Lord for a little guidance here…Plus, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't come here to offer a prayer for you and Olivia too." Josh turned mischievously toward Natalia. "She's pretty shaken up…" he cued her.

"I'm assuming Olivia told you about us then?"

Josh nodded. "Can I be total honest?" he asked in a calm, quiet voice. Natalia gave a worried nod. "After Jeffrey died Olivia started hitting the bottle pretty hard. I did too. We spent quite a few days, and nights… inebriated. At the time I thought her drinking was like mine – all about Jeffrey. But it wasn't. In fact, I'd wager that most of the drinking had very little to do with Jeffrey and the fallout his death caused. Now that's not to say she didn't care. She told me once that when she wanted to die, after the transplant, he was the first person who actually made her smile. She never forgot that. But the drinking…it wasn't all about him."

"How-how bad was she?" Natalia asked.

"Well, one day, she forget to pick up Emma at day camp because she was drinking and lost track of time. But Christina stayed with Emma until Liv sobered up."

"She's been putting Emma at risk?" Natalia asked. "I know after the transplant nothing made her happy – nothing, but…I had no idea Josh. I-I had no idea."

"Well, wait then it gets better," he said sarcastically.

Natalia rubbed her temple. "I think I might need my serenity prayer again. Go ahead," she said as she dropped her hand and faced Josh again.

"This week she…well, we spent a lot of time flirting while you were gone – we always have because…"

Natalia nodded knowingly. "Olivia likes to flirt with attractive men and vice versa. I understand – believe me."

"Exactly," Josh said, "but this week she came to me and flirting turned into wanting a lot more." Natalia physically held her breath." Then when I asked why I was lucky enough to receive such an… amorous assault… her reply was to make her forget she was in love with you…"

"She couldn't go through with it," Natalia answered, sounding a bit relieved.

"She might have gone through with it, Natalia. She might not have. I don't know. But that IS what she does. Olivia is a very desirable woman and she'll use sex as a weapon…and as a crutch. But that day with me, you were the only thing on her mind. So when I heard her say that, well, things went from 90 to 0 real fast. And although the prospect of having Olivia Spencer in my bed is a delightful one I want her in bed because she wants me. But she didn't want me – she wanted you. Still does."

"I want her too."

Josh looked over at Natalia. "In every sense?"

"Yes," Natalia answered without hesitation. "But she doesn't trust me. I left without talking to her and she thinks I stopped loving her. That I gave up on us. But I didn't. That's not why I left. I had to sort things out; to figure out what path God wanted me on. And now…" Natalia wasn't sure what else to say.

"You know," Josh sighed.

"Yes."

"But she's not listening."

"No, she's not…And I don't know how to fix it." Natalia began to sniffle. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm a bit hormonal right now," she added trying to laugh it off.

Josh put his arm around her in support and she rested her head on his shoulder.

"Well, if I had to pick the one thing in this world that Olivia fears, it's abandonment – being alone," he replied. "Her parents died a few years apart when she was still in her teens. They, in essence, left her. As far as the men in her life, including present company, they all left for various reasons or in various ways that forced her to be alone. The only possible exception might be Buzz Cooper. I think he genuinely loved her for her, but even that wasn't enough."

"Why do you think that is?"

"Because although he accepted her shortcomings, I think she wanted to be more than what she was," Josh answered. "She knew she had some…. complex qualities, but she wanted someone to help her smooth out those edges and love her for her and let's face it, Olivia isn't an easy person to love."

"You're wrong," Natalia told him raising her head and looking at him. She didn't say it with malice or harm, just very matter-of-fact. "Loving her is very easy. It's living with the argumentative… pig-headed… know-it-all side that's tough. But if you stand up to her then she eventually tries to listen to reason and in some cases she actually does what you ask." Natalia got a far off look in her eyes and she began to grin. "That's it, isn't it?" Natalia muttered to herself. She shook her head and turned to Josh. "Anyway, for me loving Olivia has been one of the easiest things I've done in my life – it's the rest of the world that I have a problem with."

Josh grinned. "Perhaps this is it then," he replied. Natalia looked confused. "Maybe Olivia really has found THE ONE."

Natalia grinned and rested her head back on his shoulder.

"Now your turn again," Natalia told him. "Tell me about Reva."

Josh smiled uncomfortably. "Oh my, where to start…"

Chapter Seventeen

Natalia waved as Doris entered Towers bar. The mayor released a heavy sigh as she bellied up next to Natalia.

"Sorry I wasn't ready when you came by, but now I'm finally done with meetings. Given their department, you'd think the people at Parks and Recreation would be more…fun," she said upon arriving.

"Not the case?" Natalia asked.

"I've met catatonics with more personality."

Natalia giggled and Doris did a double take upon seeing that Natalia had a Bloody Mary.

"You're drinking?" Doris asked incredulously.

"No, it's a virgin," Natalia replied. "Although my morning sickness is much better now, tomato juice is actually one of the few drinks that hasn't made me feel nauseous."

"Really? With all that acid? Well, actually I can believe it," Doris added on second thought. "They say to stay away from greasy food when you're pregnant with morning sickness." Natalia nodded in the affirmative. "But with Ashlee, McMuffins and Taco Bell were all I could keep down, at least for the first few months."

A small silence passed between them.

"Have you seen Olivia's new assistant, Keira?" Natalia asked out of nowhere.

Doris grinned. "No. Is she hot?"

Natalia's jaw tightened. "She's a Norse Goddess – she's not a day over 25 and she's got these legs that go on forever." Doris chuckled. "This is not funny," she added.

"Don't worry - Olivia likes the heritage of her ladies much closer to the equator."

For a second Nat looked confused and then smiled. "'K, I get it - Puerto Rican."

"You have your own assets," Doris assured her.

"Perhaps," Natalia began, "but if you looked at the two of us side-by-side – me, the short, round Latina and her, the taller, YOUNGER, svelte, blonde princess, well…I might as well just thrown in the towel. I mean, I didn't think eyes could be THAT blue. I've been trying to avoid being in the same room with her when Liv might be around so she can't 'compare' us."

"Relax. Olivia loves you and that's more than half the battle," Doris replied. "If she just wanted to get laid she could walk into any bar and pick up someone. There are lotsssss of women who would take her home."

"This conversation isn't comforting… at all."

"You didn't come here for comfort. You came here for pointers."

"Speaking of…" she said looking at her watch. "I need to pick her up at the Beacon at seven and I don't want to be even a minute late."

"Yeah, you're gonna have to be Miss Punctuality for a very, VERY long time," Doris teased.

"Yes, I will and it's a small price to pay if I can win her back. So… what do I do?"

"Okay, first…See that bartender there?" Natalia nodded. "That's Rebecca. Now pay attention to everything I do."

"Okay," Natalia answered.

"Rebecca," Doris called over to her.

Rebecca turned and smiled upon seeing Doris and made her way over. "Not that I'm complaining, but coming here has become a habit for you Ms. Mayor."

"What can I say? I adore the service." Doris held her gaze on Rebecca for a few beats, examining her up and down. She then motioned toward Natalia but didn't take her eyes off Rebecca until Rebecca looked away. "This is another friend, Natalia, and yes, she's family too." Doris noticed Natalia's confused expression and chuckled as she turned back to Rebecca. "She's kind of a newbie," she added. "She doesn't know that 'family' means you're gay."

"But I'm not gay," Natalia said.

"If you're with Liv, Sweetie, the world will perceive you as gay, whether that's the case or not. Honestly, would I throw Brad Pitt out of my bed on a cold night? Oh, hell no. But trust me, I'm a lesbian, okay? I'm sure Rebecca here would agree," she added with a seductive grin.

Rebecca gave her a shy grin and leaned over the bar. "Doris is VERY good at being a lesbian," she replied quietly, as not to be overheard. Doris wiggled her eyebrows, and gently stroked the woman's hand with her fingertips. Rebecca snorted. "And she's a master at being a flirt," she added. "In fact, I'd never been with a woman until Doris."

Doris's smile got even wider and she smirked at Natalia.

"So you…deflowered her?" Natalia asked.

All three women laughed and Doris reached over and brushed her hand against Rebecca's.

"Can you get me one of those?" she asked pointing to Natalia's Bloody Mary. "Make mine with a kick though," she added and winked.

"Can do," Rebecca said and walked away.

Doris turned to Natalia.

"Now that she's gone, yes, I did…deflower her..." Doris giggled again at the term. "…and many other ladies over the years I might add. And the reason is because of everything I just did with Rebecca."

"Such as?"

"Well, I realize I'm not the most gorgeous woman in the world." Natalia looked like she was going to raise an argument, but Doris brushed her off. "Yes, I'm not bad, but I'm not a Hollywood scarlet either. However, I always – ALWAYS – look them in the eye and I never, under any circumstance, break eye contact first."

Natalia considered the words. "That's true," she replied.

"Yep," Doris said with a nod. "I don't look away, I don't get shy. I might be nervous as hell, but I show confidence. And confidence is sexy. It's reassuring. It's what got Rebecca, and lots of gals over the years, to make the leap they wanted, but never had the guts to do until me."

"Just how many women have you slept with?" Natalia asked.

"Oh Sweetheart," Doris sighed. "I've lost count."

"Really? And you're still in the closet? How is that possible?"

Rebecca returned and put the drink down in front of Doris.

"Thank you Sweetness," Doris told Rebecca. Again Doris didn't look away until Rebecca did. That's when Doris faced Natalia again. "It's really two worlds in this country for me," she replied. "Gay folks and those who aren't, but I have to admit, those lines are getting blurrier. I mean once upon a time there were clues you could look for, but now who knows?"

"Why's that?" Natalia asked.

"Straight people keep stealing our ideas," Rebecca replied rejoining the conversation.

Doris chuckled. "Like Reva Shane last night. She sat here talking about how straight she was. Did you see what she was wearing?" she asked Rebecca.

Rebecca considered the question then began to nod. "Yeah, actually. The thumb ring, right?"

"Bingo," Doris replied.

"Okay," Natalia said waving her hand. "Newbie getting confused again over here."

"Lesbians used to be the only women to wear thumb rings. You could tell who was 'family,' but now it's like the latest fashion. Single lesbians and even some married lesbians would wear them. But today, it's everyone. Kinda like multiple earrings a few decades ago," Doris asked. "We start something and the straight folks go and steal it. That then makes it harder to know who's WHO."

Natalia looked dumbfounded. "I have so much to learn," she mumbled.

Doris chuckled. "All you need to know now is that you love Olivia, but don't forget tip number two."

"Which is?"

"Touch," Doris told Natalia. "I touched Rebecca twice in a two minute conversation. Now I'm not saying you need to be that 'feely' but if the situation presents itself make contact."

"I've tried, but when I get within two feet of Olivia she usually steps back."

"Ohhhh, that's good."

"Why is that good?" Natalia asked.

"Because it means touch is ultra important to her. Come to think of it that makes sense because of when she kissed me the other day."

Natalia's mouth opened. "She kissed you!" she exclaimed.

"Not like that!" Doris said just as loud so the people above them having dinner heard the response.

"Sorry," Natalia apologized.

"No, she was feeling down and I cheered her up a little so before she left she kissed me on the cheek. Not a big deal, but it does show that Liv reactions to physical…stimulation." Natalia and Doris both giggled like school girls. "So even if it's just a hand squeeze as you walk by or a brush across her shoulder blades as you leave a room, go for it. That stuff will quickly start to 'add up' and work in your favor."

"You think so?"

"I know so. I wouldn't awkwardly reach for her, but if you happen to get close enough then… let your fingers do the walking… and the talking. If you do I promise that she'll be putty in your very lovely hands. But the question is…you think you're up to it? Just remember, you can't try to stuff that Genie back in the bottle once she's out."

Slowly Natalia began to smile. "I gotta rub her the right way then?"

Doris chuckled. "Sweetie, anyway you rub her at this point will be the 'right way' so you can't fail." Natalia joined her in the laughter, but she watched intently as Doris grew serious again. "It comes down to this…do you have the courage to truly love her because once you unleash that side of Olivia… they'll be no going back?"

Natalia smiled and then bit her lip. She began to nod. "Yes, I am," she stated confidently.

"Right there," Doris said pointing to Natalia. "That's the woman Olivia needs to see."

Natalia smiled.

Chapter Eighteen

Olivia and Keira were standing behind Olivia's desk, looking at a map.

"There're lots of areas you could do this, aren't there?" Keira asked as she pointed. "Chicago does a lot more convention work outside of the city now from what I understand."

"Yeah, that area might be a possibility," Olivia agreed. "Any of the properties in this area for sale might do nicely."

Before she could add anything else, Emma ran into the office. "Mommy!"

"Hey, Jellybean," she said. "Where's Jane?"

"Remember? She had to leave early today so she took me to Daddy's house."

Phillip followed in behind her. "Sorry we didn't call first," he apologized.

"No, that's fine. It just slipped my mind – I lost track of the day," Olivia said.

"We thought we'd see if you want some food," Emma remarked.

"Oh, well I've got a date tonight, Sweetie."

"Oh no," Emma sighed. "Matt? Really? Again?"

Phillip put his finger over her lips and knelt down to his daughter.

"Be careful," he whispered, "because your mommy said the next person that questioned her about going out with Matt, she said she was going to strangle them. So shhhhhh…"

Emma looked scared for a moment and it took everything for Phillip not to laugh.

"I'll make an acceptation to the rule this time," Olivia told them. "But nooooo, it's not Matt."

Phillip mouthed, "Natalia?" and Olivia nodded. He smiled. It looked like Emma was going to asking who, but he intercepted her.

"Hey, Emma, I got an idea." Phillip said. "Why don't I keep you tonight? I found out that your granddad really likes smores so maybe we can have a little campout in the backyard at the mansion? Make him a few treats? Whadda ya say?"

"Can I, Mom?" Emma asked.

"Your granddad and father don't seem TOO wacky lately," she sighed. Phillip smiled. "Sure, why not? Tomorrow around noon for a drop off?"

"Sounds good," Phillip said. "How about I take you both to lunch at Towers and you can tell me how the date went?"

"Lunch I can do. The rest? We'll see," Olivia replied. "Come here, Jellybean," she said pulling the young girl to her. "You have fun with Daddy and I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Love you mommy."

Olivia tightened her hold. "I love you too, Em. Behave, okay?"

Olivia and Phillip waved goodbye as he led Emma away.

"It's getting late," Olivia told Keira. "Why don't we call it a night? I'm sorry I had to keep you this long today."

"Honestly, I hadn't noticed," Keira replied. "I enjoy the work, and the company is pleasant."

"Well, the Beacon really is more like a family. Natalia brought a lot of… peace… that wasn't here before she arrived. It's nice to see you continuing that."

"Thanks," she replied. "But when I said 'company' I was actually talking about you – they say your reputation precedes you, but I have no complaints; only compliments."

The younger woman gave her a dazzling smile.

"Well, thank you," Olivia remarked blushing slightly.

The sound of someone clearing their throat made them both look over. Natalia stood there and gave a short wave.

"It wasn't locked so I thought I'd walk in and…watch you flirt with my ex," Natalia told Keira with a slight grin.

Keira looked like she was at a loss for words. "I didn't. I mean – I wasn't."

"Ex-employer," Natalia told her. "You're doing my job now - my former job, I should say."

"Oh," Keira remarked, beginning to relax.

"You seemed a little nervous when I teased you there about flirting," Natalia pointed out.

"I-I wasn't flirting. I-I just really enjoy working here at the Beacon."

"Olivia's a good boss, but she can get grumpy if you haven't noticed yet."

"I-I haven't."

Natalia chuckled. "Someday you will. Just try not to take any cutting remarks she says too personal. If you can manage that then you'll survive."

Keira didn't seem to know how to respond and the room fell quiet.

"And with that awkward pause," Olivia said, "I'll wish you a good night, Keira."

"Good night, Miss Spencer," she said relieved.

"Olivia, please," she insisted.

"Right, Olivia." On her way out Keira simply nodded her goodbye to Natalia.

Once she was totally gone Olivia shook her head and looked disapprovingly at Natalia.

"What?" Natalia asked, faking innocence.

"You are so bad." Olivia then chuckled.

Natalia smiled and giggled. "I am not. I'm a very nice person."

Olivia snorted. She then raised her arm and pointed to the ficus tree in the corner.

"You know Tigress, if you want to lift a leg and spray over there you can start marking your territory around my desk."

Natalia put her hands on her hips. "Hey, I'm not the one who hired a Norwegian supermodel, okay? You couldn't find someone talented and…unattractive."

"My assistant has to be talented and attractive. Clients like pretty people. Sorry but it's true."

"Is that why you hired me? I was eye candy for clients?" Natalia inquired.

Remembering Doris's advice, Natalia didn't look away. Olivia didn't look away either. She leaned over the desk and said, "Truthfully? You were eye candy for me."

Natalia leaned against the desk and pushed her hair over her shoulder, exposing her neck.

"Oh really, all the way back then you knew, huh?" Natalia asked.

Olivia's playful smile began to slip. "I loved you a long time," she admitted.

Natalia reached over and gently took Olivia by the chin.

"The first naughty dream I ever had about you was a few days after Emma's birthday party when she got a gift from Phillip and you freaked."

Olivia looked away, trying to place the time and event. With a sense of wonder she looked back. "That was when we first met, wasn't it? You came to the party with Gus."

"Yep," Natalia nodded and put just a little bit of pressure into her grip.

Olivia visibly swallowed. "A naughty dream, huh? How naughty?"

Natalia smiled and let her fingertips brush Olivia's bottom lip just slightly as she let her go. "If you're a good girl, I'll tell you about it. But for now, I'm starving. Let's eat."

Natalia didn't wait for Olivia to reply. She walked out the office not turning back, but she did have a playful grin on her face the entire time. Olivia touched her bottom lip where Natalia had brushed against it. Suddenly she realized she wasn't moving and she raced to catch up, grabbing her purse along the way.

Chapter Nineteen

"Ms. Spencer. Ms Rivera," the maître d' greeted them. "It's been awhile since we've seen you both here. How have you been?"

It was a modest Italian restaurant. Tables for two sat along the walls and a few round ones took up the center.

"Good, Jimmy," Natalia answered for them both. "Yourself?"

"I can't complain," he said as he grabbed two menus.

"Do you mind if we have some place a little private; toward the back?" Natalia asked.

"Not at all," he replied. "Right this way."

After they took their seats, Olivia asked, "Afraid to be seen with me?"

Natalia grinned and took off her shoe. "Afraid we might get arrest for lewd acts is more like it."

Although the tablecloth nearly went to the floor and Natalia's foot couldn't be seen, Olivia could certainly feel it as it trailed up her leg. Natalia smiled as Olivia took a shaken breath. The Latina's foot came to rest on Olivia's chair, firmly planted between Olivia's legs. Whether she liked it or not, Olivia realized she couldn't escape without doing damage to the table, her knee, Natalia's leg or all of the above.

"Look," Olivia began. "I don't want to play games."

"Who's playing?"

"I'm serious."

"So am I," Natalia insisted. "You're not getting out of here until we share at least one meal with each other. Agreed?"

"Move your foot."

"Does it make you uncomfortable?"

"Yes."

Natalia cocked her head and began to chew on her own knuckle. Her eyes refused to look away from Olivia's. "Why?"

Olivia swallowed hard and looked everywhere except Natalia. "It just does."

"Look at me," Natalia ordered gently. Obediently, Olivia looked across the small table and focus on Natalia. "Why?"

"You know why."

"No, I don't. I desire you and I don't care who knows. You on the other hand…"

"Fine. You want the truth?" Olivia asked with a touch of acidity to her voice. "I still don't trust you, okay? And what's worse, is you don't know WHY I'm so upset."

"I'm not a mind reader."

"You don't have to read minds to realize that the way you left me was pretty damn shitty. Crisis or not, you don't do that to someone you love. You just don't. Yes, I'm glad you apologized for worrying me, but how about telling me that you were worried FOR me, huh? What about that? I haven't heard word one from you about that."

"I said I was sorry," Natalia pressed.

Olivia snorted. "Yeah, sorry for worrying me; sorry for hurting me; sorry for staying away too long. In the end though, none of that matters because you…"

Olivia couldn't say the words and Natalia took a deep breath.

"Abandoned you," Natalia finished for her. "Like everyone else ever did, huh?"

Olivia looked away. "You weren't supposed to be like everyone else." Her voice sounded small; childlike.

"Yeah, well, here's a news flash for you, okay?" Natalia went on. "First, I'm human - I make mistakes; pretty big ones at times. Second, unlike everyone else I didn't intentionally set out to hurt you, Olivia. I didn't hurt you because of selfish desires. I left to figure out what was best for everyone."

"There is no BEST here," Olivia told her. "Just different degrees of misery. You're pregnant with Frank's kid. If I come back, he's gonna be a part of our lives for the next 18 years, minimum."

"Yes, he will," Natalia replied. "But Frank's not a bad guy. And this baby'll make both our families bigger."

"We could have made our family bigger, but on our terms and when we were both ready," Olivia insisted.

"That wasn't God's plan though," Natalia answered.

Olivia smirked and shook her head in agitation.

"God's plan," she muttered at first. "Let me tell ya, unprotected sex with a man you didn't love has very little to do with God's plan. But it does have everything to do with ignorance."

Natalia didn't let Olivia's words sway her. "This child is here because of you too, Olivia."

"Hey, I wasn't the one who fucked you that night, alright?" she replied in a heated whisper. "I've never HAD that honor."

"No, but you WERE the one I wanted to fuck that night. That's my point," Natalia told her.

Olivia seemed taken back by the vulgarity that seldom crossed Natalia's lips.

Frustrated Natalia shook her head.

"I didn't sleep with Frank because I loved him. You know that. I slept with him because I love you. I was running away from how I felt about you. I had to convince myself that I didn't desire you; that I was still straight as an arrow." Natalia squared her shoulders. "Now I'm going to tell you something about that night. Something I wanted to tell you that day you held me on the sofa and you might hate to hear it."

"If it's about your evening with Frank, please don't," Olivia nearly sobbed.

"You need to hear this. Because even if you weren't physically there, the night this child was conceived, I thought about you. I closed my eyes and imagined you."

"I can't listen to this," Olivia teared up. "It's only more fuel to my argument that you never truly loved me."

"How can you say that?" Natalia said growing angry. "You are the love of my life, okay? God didn't put me in Springfield two years ago to find Nicky. He kept Nicky and I apart for so long so that you and I would find each other when the time was right. And we did. And this child is truly a gift.

"If that's true - if I am the love to end all loves - then why did you willingly give yourself to Frank?" Olivia pressed on. "It's been six months since you told me you loved me and where are we? Huh? You still haven't shared yourself with me as intimately as you did Frank – a man you claim you didn't love. So really, Natalia, where does that put me? Where does that PUT US?"

Olivia's shoulders were rising and falling rapidly; her breathing now labored.

Natalia reached across the table and took Olivia's hand. "You need to calm down, Sweetie," Natalia said softly. "It's not good for your heart."

"Ha!" she said as she quickly pulled her hand away. "You should have seen me the day at the Bauer BBQ…oh wait, you couldn't. You didn't show up. You didn't care then about my heart, or the entire time you were gone, so why care now?"

"I do care," Natalia answered. "I never stopped caring – not for a second."

Olivia didn't reply. She quietly sat chewing on her nail until the waiter arrived and asked, "Can I start you ladies off with a drink?"

Olivia reached down under the table and pushed Natalia's foot away.

"Sorry," she said, "I've lost my appetite."

"Olivia, wait," Natalia said as Olivia stood up.

"You stay," she told the younger woman. "Get some food. You're eating for two after all."

Feeling helpless for the moment, Natalia watched Olivia walk away.

Chapter Twenty

Natalia sat silently staring at the vacant chair across from her. Unseen by her, sitting near the front of the room, were Daisy and Ashlee. In front of them, was a half eaten pizza.

"Question," Ashlee began. "Do we ignore what we just saw and finish our pizza or do we walk over and say hi?" she added pointing to Natalia.

Daisy turned around. "She looks pretty upset."

"Maybe we should just leave her alone," Ashlee replied. "I’m not sure what that was, but both of them looked pretty pissed. I’m not sure we should be in the middle of it."

Daisy continued to study Natalia, who was now playing with the condensation on her glass of water.

"Stay here," Daisy said as she rose and made her way to the back of the restaurant. She stopped at the end of Natalia’s table and it took a moment for the older woman to realize someone was there.

"Hey," Daisy greeted when Natalia finally looked up.

"Hey, Sweetheart. How have you been?"

"Good…" She nodded, but she seemed unsure of what to add until she blurted, "You’ve seen better days I bet."

Natalia snorted and gave a short nod. "That’s an understatement, but yes," she remarked.

"Can I sit down?" Daisy asked. Natalia nodded and motioned her to the chair. Taking a seat, Daisy remarked, "Olivia looked pretty mad. BFF troubles?"

Natalia released a heavy sigh. "Something like that," she replied.

"It’s not easy when you fight with people you love. I haven’t fought often with Ashlee, but when we do, it’s usually a doozy, like that. But in the end… we realize we love each other and we forgive each other a-and things are better. Sometimes you need to do a little yelling to clear the air. I don’t know. I’m rambling, huh?" she asked as she nervously pushed her hair behind her ear.

"Not at all," Natalia told her.

Daisy pointed behind her to Ashlee. "We’re having pizza," she told her. Upon looking over and making eye contact, Ashlee smiled and waved to Natalia, who returned the gesture. "You want to come over and join us."

Natalia at first looked like she was going to refuse. "Well, I just ordered some take out but, sure, why not? I’ll come over for a little while."

"Cool!" Daisy smiled brightly and motioned Natalia to follow her back to her table.

XXX

Olivia stood at her bar downing the rest of her glass. She reached for the vodka bottle and filled it three fourths full and then added just a splash of tonic water before putting in a few ice cubes. She was about to bring it up to her lips when she heard a knock at the door.

"Who is it?" Olivia called out.

"Janice, Ma’am," she heard a voice say.

With a confused expression, Olivia opened the door to see her front desk clerk standing there next to Natalia, who was holding a take-out bag.

"Thanks," Natalia told Janice. "Oh, and if she tells you you’re fired, ignore her." She gave the woman $20 and then walked into Olivia’s room, taking the hotelier with her and shutting and locking the door.

"You knew I wouldn’t open the door for you. God, you’re so damn sneaky," Olivia said with a laugh. "I love that. Ha!"

"You’re drunk," Natalia noted.

Olivia held her thumb and index finger about a quarter inch apart. "But just that much," Olivia told her. "But I’m working on ‘this much,’" she said as she held her finger to about two inches. "Want a drink?" Olivia asked as she went to the bar.

"I’m pregnant," Natalia reminded her.

"Hey, you drank for months after banging Frank. Like I said, what’s one more? Really?"

Natalia bite her lip. "I’m fine. Thank you."

"Suit yourself," Olivia told her, taking a drink from her glass, but not without raising it in a toasting fashion first. "Ahh," she added after the alcohol went down her throat. "How was dinner?" she asked.

Natalia raised the bag. "I figured you wouldn’t eat and you’d probably come back here to drink. It’s penne in marinara," she told her as she sat it down.

"A woman after my own heart," Olivia said as she looked inside the bag. "You are after my heart, aren’t you?"

"I am," Natalia replied honestly.

Olivia pulled Natalia toward the bed and made her take a seat at the foot. She then straddle Natalia’s lap and tossed the drink over her shoulder, not caring where it landed.

"Question is…are you after my body too?"

Olivia rested her arms lazily over Natalia’s shoulder as her hands gently played with the long, dark curls.

"I just brought the food, Olivia," Natalia told her. "I’m not looking for anything else. I don’t even want to talk. I just want to make sure you eat."

"What about three weeks ago?" Olivia asked.

"Excuse me?" Natalia asked.

"Did you worry if I was eating after Jeffrey’s funeral?" Natalia looked away with a guilty expression, but it didn’t stop Olivia from going on. "Did you wonder if I’d had breakfast that day I had to call Ava to tell her dad was dead? Did you worry if I took my meds that night? Did ya?"

"I didn’t know about Jeffrey," she replied quietly.

"What was that?" Olivia prodded. "You’ll have to speak up. I’m drunk, remember, so I didn’t catch that?"

Natalia’s jaw clinched and she said, "I didn’t know about Jeffrey!"

"And why is that, huh?!" Olivia said getting off her lap. "Ohh, that’s right. You had to go away and be with GOD while you left me here to DIE. Thanks Natalia. Thank you soooo much."

Natalia stood up and took Olivia by the hands. "Please. You’re drunk. Just sit down and have something to eat. We don’t have to say anything. You can just-."

Natalia stopped talking when she watched Olivia race over to the door and fling it open. She ran back over to the table and grabbed the handle of the food bag and tossed it out into the hallway. It landed against the other wall with such force that it fell to the floor scattering around. Olivia then slammed the door.

She turned slowly and in an eerie, calm voice said, "No thank you. I’m not hungry at the moment." Olivia began to take some deep breaths, as if trying to meditate. "You’re scared right now, aren’t you?" she asked opening her eyes. "Be honest."

"I am," Natalia replied and then swallowed hard.

"Don’t be. I won’t hurt you." Olivia walked over and caressed Natalia’s face. Natalia closed her eyes unsure of what to expect. Olivia studied the other woman’s features intently and started to grin. "Oh, Natalia…I can’t hurt you…you know why?" Olivia asked. Natalia opened her eyes as if looking for the answer. Olivia’s smile didn’t dip at all when she added, "You can’t be hurt because you’re totally heartless…In order to feel pain you need to feel empathy or sympathy. And you’re unable to do either…"

Natalia’s lip began to quiver. Olivia let her go and opened the door. She walked back to Natalia.

"Now get the hell out of my suite."

Wordless, Natalia got up. In mere seconds she pulled Olivia into a passionate embrace that caught the older woman off guard, both of their bodies shaking at the impact. Olivia struggled slightly, but Natalia held tight. She let one hand capture Olivia’s face roughly and she pulled her lips down to hers into searing kiss that only lasted a matter of seconds.

Shaken and still drunk, Olivia wobbled somewhat so Natalia pushed her back on the bed. She fell with a thud and struggled to get to her elbows. Before Olivia could stand or say anything coherent, Natalia was already at the door. Before she left though she looked over her shoulder.

"Call me after you sleep it off," she said defiantly.

Chapter Twenty-One

Natalia was smiling as she spoke on the phone. "Thank you Mr. Verdon. I'll be sure that Mr. Spaulding is aware of that…You too, sir. Goodbye."

"Natalia?" Alan called out from his interior office. "Can you bring me the Walters file my dear? I'd like to see the latest figures."

"Coming right up," she replied. She turned to the filing cabinet beside her and looked through it. Finding what she needed, she pulled it out and swiveled the chair around to stand up. But before she could rise Olivia was standing over her.

"We need to talk," Olivia replied.

"In case you haven't noticed," Natalia said shortly. "I'm at work."

"Alan?" Olivia called out toward the interior office. "I need Natalia. She's taking a break."

Olivia reached for Natalia, but she pulled away and Olivia seemed taken back for a moment. She sidestepped Olivia and made her way into Alan's office with the requested file in hand.

"Here you go, Alan," she said politely as she gave him the file with Olivia right behind her.

"Thank you very much," he told her sincerely. He then looked at Olivia. "Forget getting her back," Alan told her. "You tried to unload her on me, but the joke's on you because she's worth every penny." Alan smiled and Natalia turned to Olivia with a satisfied smirk.

"It's nice to feel needed," Natalia retorted.

"And I wish you two the best of everything," Olivia said sarcastically. "But be that as it may, I still need to talk with Natalia."

"About what?" Alan pried.

"None of your business. That's what," Olivia answered.

"My lunch is at two o' clock," Natalia told her. "Come back, and if I haven't left already, we can talk then. Right now, I'm busy." She then turned to Alan. "I should have that proposal for Ayers finished before then."

"Excellent," he told her happily. "Thank you very much, Natalia." Olivia still hadn't moved after Natalia had left the room. "Anything else, Olivia?" he asked. "As you see we're rather busy."

She simply shook her head. She walked out of his office closing the door behind her as she watched Natalia take her seat at her desk. The Latina didn't even look her way as Olivia paused to watch her. As Natalia began to type – still paying her no mind – Olivia made her way outside the office completely without a word.

XXX

"Glad you're still here," Olivia said as she entered the office and looked at her watch. "I'm ten minutes early. I hope you don't mind."

"Alan left already. He said I could go too, but I told him I would wait here since I told you two."

"Wanna take a walk?" Olivia asked.

"Not until you understand something," Natalia told her.

"Okay."

"What happened last night-."

"I'm sorry. It won't happen again," Olivia interrupted sounding remorseful.

"You're damn right it won't. Or at least I wouldn't be around to see it," Natalia told her. "I love you - more than anyone – ever. But what I witnessed last night…" Natalia trailed off. Olivia opened her mouth, but Natalia held up her hand. "Do you know what a functioning alcoholic is?"

"I don't think I'm an alcoholic," Olivia replied.

"Neither did my father. He paid his bills. Held a job. Never got picked up for drunk driving – not even once. But, although he never laid a hand on my mother or me, we were abused. I can't tell you how many times I watched him drink a six-pack and then saw his rage grow…He'd proceed to throw things. Shout. Yell. Scream...It was agony. You know to this day I sleep with a pillow over my head. You know why?" Natalia took an unsteady breath.

Olivia had tears on the brims of her eyes as she shook her head.

"It was the only way I could get to sleep. I had to drown out the noise of my parents fighting most nights to the point that I just… got used to it. Even now I can't fall asleep without a pillow on my head. So when I told you that my life with you and Emma was the most stable I ever had, well, it truly was …And what happened last night…"

"Oh God, Natalia," Olivia muttered.

"You asked if I was scared," Natalia went on. "Do you remember?" Olivia nodded uncomfortably. "It felt like I was 16 again – pregnant, scared with a crazy, drunk person throwing things and yelling at me."

"I can be a real bitch. I know," Olivia replied.

"Oh, believe me. I know." Natalia gave a nervous laugh. "But never, in all the stunts you've pulled, did I ever see THAT before. What I witnessed last night… that drunken venom…that was my dad, all over again." Natalia cleared her throat and squared her shoulders. "I love you. I wanna build a life with you, Emma and this child. But I REFUSE to give this little girl, or even Emma for that matter, the life I had. It won't happen Olivia. So you need to make a choice right now. Is what I saw last night the real Olivia Spencer or some ghost of the past come back to haunt us?"

"Honesty… Perhaps both." Olivia let out a ragged sigh and shook her head. "I-I didn't know about your dad. You-you never said…"

"I don't talk about my parents for a reason," came Natalia's short response. Then she added, "Although the life I made for Rafe wasn't perfect, I did everything I could to make sure it wasn't abusive. I won't bring a child up in that kind of fear. I didn't do it as teenager so I sure as hell won't do it now as an adult. I just won't…no matter how much I love you. I'll spend the rest of my life alone if need be."

Olivia hung her head and rubbed her temples.

"You need to tell me Ms Spencer… No more games…What's it going to be?"

Chapter Twenty-Two

"Natalia," Olivia sighed as they stood in Alan's office.

"I need an answer," Natalia replied. "I won't live with an alcoholic – functional or otherwise. I won't."

Olivia paused as if trying to pick her words carefully. "First, I don't think I'm an alcoholic." She paused for a moment and smiled. "For one thing, I never run out of ice, which proves I'm not drinking too much," Olivia teased.

"Denial and jokes. Two of the signs."

"Damn it, Natalia," Olivia replied growing annoyed.

"Anger when questioned about the drinking – that makes three signs now."

"Fine," Olivia replied throwing her hands up. "I will never drink again. Ever. But if you ask me – and I know you didn't – I think you're being hypocritical. I've seen you drink."

"Not as escapism. There is nothing wrong with alcohol."

"After all, Jesus turned water into wine, right?" Olivia prodded.

"Exactly, He did," Natalia answered. "But He knew when to stop. Alcohol isn't evil – it's the excess and abuse of alcohol that's the problem."

"And you've never had a rough day and needed a drink?"

"I'm not saying that," Natalia replied. "I just don't make it a habit or use it as my 'relaxer' of choice."

"Neither do I," Olivia countered.

"I know that," Natalia sympathized, "but you have the propensity for it, Olivia. I've seen how you get sometimes and I saw you last night. That woman yesterday…I don't even want to KNOW that woman, much less share my life with her."

"Well, as I keep telling you, I'm moving on," Olivia told her. "I don't want you anymore."

"If that's the case, why are you here?" Natalia asked. "Perhaps you didn't notice, but I didn't seek you out. You came to find me." Natalia snorted. "You even came back AGAIN after I wouldn't talk to you the first time."

Olivia turned swiftly and began to make her way to the door. She began to open it, but Natalia quickly closed the distance and slapped the door closed with her palm flat against it.

Olivia kept her hand on the knob and her eyes forward, looking at the fake maple wood in front of her. Natalia stood so close that her breasts were touching the back of Olivia's arm.

"You came," Natalia told her getting as close to her ear as she could, "…because you love me. You felt guilty about what happened and even though you can't bring yourself to say it…you still desire me… and you still WANT to trust me." Olivia closed her eyes and swallowed down any reply she might offer for fear of what might escape. "I'm telling you Olivia…you can trust me. I'm being more honest with you than I've ever been in the entire time I've known you – and that's saying a lot because we've never been a couple to pull any punches with each other, have we?"

Olivia's eyes fluttered open, but she didn't turn around. She knew if she turned in Natalia's arms then her lips and hands would betray her resolve and she'd no longer be able to hold back. So instead she continued to face the door and muttered, "We're-we're not a couple anymore."

"We are and you know it," she told her. "And as for the drinking, here's the score. You want to have martini's with Doris at Towers now and then – no problem. You want to relax after a 12-hour day with a glass or two of wine at home – that's fine. Just promise me you'll never reach for a bottle when you're upset or have more than three drinks in a row… Never drink so much as a drop to find 'courage' or to 'calm' yourself… If you promise me…I can live with that."

"I'm not living with you period," Olivia pointed out, sounding a tad more defiant.

Natalia's lips curled just slightly at Olivia's small show of force.

"No, you're not," Natalia agreed and then added, "Not yet anyway," as her lips lightly nipped at the area between Olivia's cheekbone and earlobe. She then reached down and opened the door for Olivia. She let her hand stroke Olivia's back until it made it's way to the older woman's backside. Giving her bottom a quick, but firm, slap she added, "Towers. Tonight. Eight o' clock."

Natalia grinned confidently as she walked away. Olivia for her part, stiffed at the spank and she felt her heart rate jump in response. It wasn't until the warmth of Natalia's body was completely gone that she finally turned around.

"Now just wait a second," she said putting her hands on her hips as she watched Natalia return to her desk, "you can't just smack my ass and order me to-."

"Eight o' clock," Natalia told her firmly, not breaking eye contact. "Towers. Be there."

Olivia realized that Natalia wasn't looking away, and she had to admit, she liked THIS Natalia. It reminded her of the women she knew during her recovery who wouldn't take no for an answer. It reminded her of all their spirited debates. It reminded her of how wet she got each and every time.

In spite of herself, Olivia began to grin and played with her fingernails. "Eight?" she asked, almost submissively.

Olivia missed the huge smile that appeared on Natalia's face if only for a second or two.

"Yes. Not eight o' one. Eight sharp," Natalia said firmly and picked up her purse. "Now, if you'll excuse me I have a lunch date I'm late for."

Natalia worked around Olivia and Olivia appeared rooted as she watched her go by.

"A date? With who?" Olivia asked concerned.

"Matt," Natalia answered stone-faced.

"Matt? Really?" Olivia asked somewhere between concern and skepticism. It couldn't be true, but why did Natalia looked so…serious.

Natalia couldn't hold back any longer and chuckled.

"No, I'm yankin' your chain." She chuckled. Olivia grinned too. "But that look on your face was priceless."

"The devil is truly in you, Woman." Olivia smiled even bigger.

"You really, REALLLLY don't know the half of it." Natalia smirked. "But I did tell Blake I'd have lunch with her at Company. So I do have to go."

Natalia was at the door when she stopped and turned around. "Oh, and wear your dark gray, lapel-less blazer with the matching gray pants." The sentence came out like an order and not a special request in the slightest. "You wore it the day we went wedding dress shopping. You know the one, right?"

"Yeahhhh," Olivia replied hesitantly and finally remembered. "But why do you-?"

"You look sexy as hell in it. That's why." Natalia smiled and then opened the door. She stopped for a minute and then said, "Okay, you'd look sexy in potato sack, but that suit…" Natalia released a noise that was a mix between a sigh of contentment and a groan of sheer pleasure. "I never got the chance to tell you about my dreams." She licked her lips and Olivia's breath caught for a moment that it was nearly audible. Then, without looking back, as she was departing again, Natalia said, "Eight sharp. Don't forget."

The door closed and Olivia stood still for a moment. She reached into the pocket of her pants and literally had to adjust her panties.

"Oh I'm in so much trouble here," she sighed.

Continue to Part II of III

 

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